Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Honoring the losing majority (redux). And what each of us can do.

Today I will offer a proposal that would be a sensible act of healing for any newly elected president, whether winning by a landslide, a squeaker, or on technicalities. But first...

== This started with a banishing of facts == 

And so it begins. As the GOP-led House of Representatives votes to gut the Congressional Ethics Office. Yes, they backed off, under a tsunami of harsh reaction. But it was a clear shot over our bow.

Moreover, this was not the beginning. Look up the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), whose scientific and technical staff advised Congress since the Truman Administration - formalized during Nixon's term - appraising the plausibility and practical implications of legislation. The 1995 Gingrich GOP "revolution" flat out banished OTA and sent all the techies packing, without replacement, on claims that OTA was "partisan.
If that had been true, the problem could have been corrected by adding skilled and convincingly smart conservative scientists. But that would have created an awkward situation. If they were primarily scientists, then evidence and argument would draw them away from GOP doctrine. If dogmatic, they risked becoming laughingstocks. 

Alas, it was not OTA that was "partisan" but objective reality. And so, on a party line vote, Congress voted to banish inconvenient "facts" from our nation's Capitol. So don't be shocked when the party that gave Speakership of the House -- the third highest office in the land -- to Dennis (convicted felon) Hastert, Tom (convicted felon) DeLay and Newt (censured) Gingrich is now banishing ethics, as well.

== Only this time, a majority is watching ==

Amid the crowings that "we have a mandate to change everything!" in fact, large majorities of Americans voted against both the incoming President and the incoming Congress.

According to a Gallup poll released January 2, Americans have significantly less faith in Donald Trump than they had in his predecessors. Only 44% said they are confident Trump will avoid major scandals in his administration, 46% said they are confident in Trump’s ability to handle and international crisis and 47% said they trust him to use military force wisely. When the same questions were asked at the start of Barack Obama’s, George Bush’s and Bill Clinton’s terms, roughly three-quarters of Americans said they had confidence in the newly elected president in these areas.

What would you do, if taking charge under such conditions? 

A sane grownup would be humbled and seek to forge consensus, as I discussed in a long ago missive called: “Honoring the Losing Majority.”  It was written after the last time cheats and technicalities robbed the American people of their clear choice. Then, as now, George W. Bush might have reached out…

He might have invited his defeated opponent, whom more Americans wanted, to offer input on some crucial cabinet posts, as FDR did with Wendell Wilkie (though Roosevelt had walloped Wilkie at the polls.)  He might have sought his predecessor’s advice on appointments, As Eisenhower  did with Truman and JFK did with Eisenhower. 

While most Republican officeholders seem gleeful, anticipating a Sherman-in-Georgia approach to power over all three branches of government, some wiser GOP leaders are at least questioning whether exploiting their majority to maximum effect would be good for the country or, for that matter, the party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has stood out among Republicans for his warnings against overreach. “It’s certainly no time for hubris, because all majorities are never permanent.” 

Indeed, I know something that a real adult might do, with victory and power. I put my proposal on the table after Bush snuck past Gore… and I repeated the suggestion when Obama decisively beat McCain and Romney! Alas, it got no traction. But the idea is so simple and elegant, allowing any president -- even one who wins in a landslide -- to reach out, giving the losing 40% some feeling of involvement. Of being listened-to. What's the idea?

Give your defeated opponent control over the president’s meeting agenda, one afternoon a month.  

That’s it. That’s all.  A trifle. And yet it would prove…

… oh, but read the original. The act, so modest and easy, would have vast effects and implications, helping to soothe our divides. And thus marvel that our political caste (yes, democrats, even) are so stodgy and rigid that they cannot even imagine anything so blatant and simple.

== So what can you do? Yes, you? ==

In another earlier missive, I talked about things that each of you might do, to help revive civil society at the ground level, while we still have some power over our lives. In the Atlantic, Eric Liu offers suggestions for post-election malaise - for how folks depressed by the prospect of stunning levels of mal-governance can deal with the resulting funk… with civic involvement.


For example start or join 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. It could be as simple as a book club, or becoming a school volunteer. Donate to schools in need. Engineers or businessfolk: help mentor in your local High School, e.g. its FIRST Robotics club. Or join your local political party’s club, and help pick candidates for the next round. A hunger program or Habitat for Humanity construction. 

One of my own activities for years has been CERT - our local Community Emergency Response Team… all that is left of Civil Defense in the U.S. 

Even if you're cheap and lazy, there’s the method I describe as Proxy Power activism, so simple and inexpensive there’s no excuse. Participate online on CrowdPac - a platform for political participation. Or petition the White House about issues you care about through We the People.

Want something especially effective, if enough folks do it? Chip away at the oligarchic putsch by glancing at the advertisers of Fox News and enterprises owned by the Kochs who seek to be our feudal lords. At your own convenience, just choose to purchase products made by other companies! Or do purchase from companies Breitbart hatesSee also: What Can I Do... to live more sustainably? by Jon Foley.

Sure, it’s hard to shift life to revolve around a boycott list; so don’t! No one purchase will alter history. But you can make a tickler-reminder on your calendar to at least scan the list once every three months or so. 

That’s all it will take, to at least lean a little in your buying habits. And that can go a long way. Above all, spread word about this.

== Up the Rebel Alliance! ==

Here’s another, very interesting take on a survival and an activity guide for the coming time of trial for us and our nation. Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda. It offers a lot of detail, especially lessons learned from the effectiveness of the Tea Party movement. 

Face it, we’ll have to learn some such lessons. Not how to be delusional haters of science and fact! But yes, how to get busy at the local level, and fight for our country. As they – sincerely but delusionally --  thought they were fighting for theirs, while (in fact) obeying their plantation lord masters. 

I would alter this “practical guide” in dozens of ways – like including not only your Member of Congress (MoC) but especially your state Assembly and Senate members – Republicans long ago realized that the states are where real power lies. And I will soon be making a Big Proposal about that. But this advice page is a great start. Along with the boycotts.

== Movin' on? ==


Oh. You confeds who are repeating this... you actually think it will work? That we aren't awakening to the literal and absolutely true word to describe this... and that describes anyone who tries to repeat it?

Treason.


== Political Miscellany ==

An amazing graphic and sign of our times, showing who Donald Trump has insulted with his tweets, across the last 18 months.  Yes, it can be charted.  In fact, it’s an amazing data trove that could lead to modeling and computer instantiation of “meta-Trumps.”  Watson could do it tomorrow.

Economist Ed Dolan shows in charts how rejecting trade will not help, but hurt, America. He argues that the lower-skilled, less-educated and older workers who voted most heavily for Trump would almost certainly be among the losers of Trump’s trade plans.

Oh, Moses & the prophets. Read up about Donald Trump's son-in-law, who some of us had envisioned and hoped and prayed would be - along with Ivanka - a possible "mind" and source of wisdom. OMG. OMG. OMG. Oh, but you heard it here. Apparently DT doesn't intend to live much in the Gold (formerly White) House. The People's House. Oy. 

And finally... an amazing story – apparently verified – that Richard Nixon once wrote to a young Donald Trump predicting his rise to the White House. See: How might Nixon's 'madman theory' apply to Trump?

All right, enough for now. But just a hint re upcoming shows. Watch how we see the dissing of the entire US Intelligence Community and (soon) the US military officer corps. Something I predicted (alone, I think) long ago.  It has surprising implications, more surprising outcomes... and some amazing repercussions.

154 comments:

Paul SB said...

On the subject of Nixon, I suppose most people have heard by now bout the Johnson Tapes that show Nixon tried to shoot down the Paris peace talks because he didn't want a Democrat taking credit for ending the Vietnam War.

On giving a little to the losing majority, the one meeting agenda a month will hardly satisfy that majority as it becomes increasingly obvious that we are returning to kleptocracy. Grope will make Cheney look like Honest Abe.

Jumper said...

Evagination is a thing.
https://www.researchgate.net/figure/47644793_fig1_FIG-1-In-vitro-bile-stimulated-evagination-of-cysts-Cysts-of-T-solium-were-cultured

It's also a rather clever, rather new technique for permanent removal of persistent cysts medically. Instead of cutting out the cyst and sewing up the hole, the cyst is removed and the base of the hole is evaginated - kept open until skin grows up, from the bottom, as opposed to over the top.

It also brings to mind a curious model I ponder on closed 3-manifolds. Several of the simplest ones involve inversion, either the frame twists 180 degrees up-down, or mirror-twin. In either case the manifold is a twistor requiring two full circuits to find its original orientation. The evaginating manifold twists the frame inside out upon one complete transit. The second reverses it to the original.

I'm an amateur so this last is probably nonsense.

Alfred Differ said...

Getting out and helping a non-profit in person does wonders for morale. Helping the ones who oppose the winning minority can work even better, but I strongly encourage the interactions to be face-to-face. All sorts of other things happen that way too.

Alfred Differ said...

The medical use of 'evagination' describes a process or the result of the process.
In latin, the verb is 'evaginare' apparently. To unsheathe.


One small non-profit group that I supported recognized their limited supply of labor and money, so they tried to amplify the effect of their effort with ideas. The sneaky ones that get in under someone's defense were called 'cultural cruise missiles.' I suspect we need one for David's transparency ideas to penetrate.

Using sousveillance is a good start, but David is asking for more than the ability to look back in his book. He is demanding that we have the power to use the system established by authority figures to look back at them (within reason of course). Looking at them would be a reversal of the cameras. Using their own system would be an 'eversal' except the word doesn't show up in my dictionary. When that happens, it is time to fall back to older terms and modernize them. Thus what David is proposing is an evagination of their surveillance system... within reason. The implied threat is easy to see. If they resist, we will deploy our own that they can't control easily.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

David is proposing is an evagination of their surveillance system... within reason. The implied threat is easy to see. If they resist, we will deploy our own that they can't control easily.


If they won't allow us to evaginate them, we'll have to penetrate instead.

:)

Zepp Jamieson said...

That Nixon committed treason is unforgivable. But after five years of war, 25,000 American deaths and two million Vietnamese deaths, he settled for the very same terms Johnson was prepared to accept at the Paris Peace Talks. In other words, he killed all those people and wasted all that money for nothing at all except an inept and corrupt presidency.
A pity we can't dig him up so we can hang him.

LarryHart said...

@Anonymous, I'm getting sick of you jumping in and diluting the effect of my funny punchlines.

We don't care.

dennisd said...

@Alfred Differ
Yes! Face to face interactions are essential for building robust networks among fellow citizens. Plus there's the advantage of getting to know folks in person which helps to round out their digital personae.

dennisd said...

@Larry Hart
Thanks for the tart comment on our anonymous troll. Mockery and/or silence are the best responses for its ilk.

David Brin said...

Blogger makes a stupid 3 or 4 step process to delete comments. Is it okay with you guys that we just assume the nasty little ankle-biting troll is a mosquito whine we can all ignore?

It does remind us that we are a diverse species, and that diversity includes the deeply sick and stooooopid.

Ilithi Dragon said...

So, some insight for the group. One of the guys in my division is an almost stereotypical, deep south, rebel flag, hard-core, racist redneck. Self-avowed and everything. That is who he is, who he wants to be, and he's not ashamed of it in the least. He tones it down at work, and a lot of people outside the division thinks it's more joke than anything else, but it's not.

The thing is, he's not a bad person. He makes questionable life decisions, and is stereotypical in his love of beer, working on cars and trucks and his bike, and guns, and his lack of skills with computers and books. And he is a racist, and something of a wanna-be white supremacist. But he is not a malicious person, and he actually gives a shit about a lot of things, more than likes to let on or sometimes even admit to himself.

The culture and attitudes that he favors are wrong, and they are slowly dying. They must die off, if our children are to see a bright, Star Trek-like future. But he is still a person, and he's not evil in any measure.

The challenge is distinguishing between the person and the cultures and ideals that they hold, and also making them understand that we are earnestly making that distinction, and also convincing them to make that distinction within themselves. Because my redneck coworker is also a very proud individual, and he will bristle fiercely if he feels slighted. While not all trump supporters are as stereotypical as this guy, that same element of human pride is still there, and if they feel they are being slighted as people, because there is an insufficient distinction between the person and the culture or ideas or policies, etc., they will rile up and fight back, as we saw with the election.

David Brin said...

Ilithi, pride is indeed key. Watch some of the riffs of the "Redneck Comedy Tour." The humor is hugely self-effacing and self-mocking... but after a while you get that it is bragging. There's an implication under every jest about good-ol' boy dumbness that it is more genuine and "real" and vastly preferable over being a smartass college boy.

Indeed, this is what won Trump the election. Clinton thought that the things that 55% of Americans and all the smart people found deeply offensive would pile up on scales against DT. But the fact THAT the smart folks were offended turned every outrageous Trumpism into a point added to his side. Indeed, they wound up being the only things necessary. The angrier and more upset we got, the better the reflexive response from what can only be called the Confederacy.

No other theory can explain why fundamentalist Christians rallied behind the most unchristian and most opposite-to-Jesus candidate ever to run for high office in the United States. None of those traits mattered! Not so long as he satisfied the one great, rallying criterion: "Trump hates the same wiseguy nerds and lectury chiders I hate!" A shared enemy is all it sometimes takes. Indeed, it is the only diagnosis and explanation that correlates, across the board.

Anyone who thinks it was a decline in white middle class incomes has paid no attention to statistics or studies showing that many Trump supporters are doing just fine and - in fact - have done vastly better across the spans of democratic administrations than republican ones.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"Anyone who thinks it was a decline in white middle class incomes"

Not so much an actual "decline" as a comparative decline -
YES - they are still doing better than the "other"
But not by nearly as much and they can see that their kids are NOT going to do as well as they did (still better than the other)
And some of them can see that damn furriners are doing better than they are

Most of that decline is not recent - the last decade has not been too bad
BUT it takes time for change to percolate into the general mind

We are still in the "crime is increasing" mindset 20 years after it peaked and started to decrease
And we are still reaping the fruits of the massive decline in the 80's and 90's

Paul451 said...

David,
"Anyone who thinks it was a decline in white middle class incomes has paid no attention to statistics or studies showing that many Trump supporters are doing just fine"

No. Real median incomes have been flat for thirty years. Against GDP, they have been falling for thirty years. Trump's voters have been getting robbed. The fact that other groups have been getting robbed worse doesn't change that.

And for thirty years, they have been trying to vote against that trend. But only one side of politics is telling them who to blame in clear, unequivocal (and angry) language. Unfortunately, it's the same side that wrecked the system in the first place. But they've been repeating their message, their memes, directly to the average American for forty years, hammering the same ideas over and over.

But for thirty years, Democrats have failed over and over to show - in terms that the average American understands - that they understand the decline in the heart of America even exists. They certainly haven't shown they know how to reverse it.

Yes, you and I know about supply-side economics, we know about the deliberate lies from the Republicans, because the only counter-message to the Republican-roar has always been crafted for us.

Trump had one line in the debates that destroyed anything Clinton could say, "So why didn't you do something before". Clinton herself may not have been in power through most of that, but her husband and the party leadership that so aggressively supported her had been inside-the-system for that thirty year. Clinton was the symbol of the existing system, and she never once had an answer to that.

You did. In your posts leading up to the election, you "told her" what to say.

But Clinton, with all her debate prep, with thirty years of experience behind the curtain, did not. Even the one time she made a sort-of-general-attack on Republican policies, trying to point out that Trump's economics were just the same Republican theft from the nearly forty years, the best she could come up with was her "Trumped up trickle down..." line. Ignore the lame alliteration, and childishness of making-fun-of-his-name, the term "trickle down economics" is a shibboleth of the moderate-liberal through to left-wing. It is instantly recognisable to us and doesn't need to be explained. But it means nothing to the average American. It means nothing to the people who have been hurt by the utter failure of trickle-down economics.

You repeat the answer in many posts. You say, "...that has never once achieved a single one of its claims" (or variants). Clinton didn't.

You repeat the line, even in your comment here, "...have done vastly better across the spans of democratic administrations than republican ones." But she didn't.

Sanders, OTOH, did seem to have the language that the average working-class and owner/operator-class could understand. He stuck to his message like a limpet and was ridiculed for it by the too-clever Dem-leaning commentators. But he was answering 40 years of Republican propaganda. His message wasn't aimed at the too-clever political insiders. Her message was.

They criticised Sanders because he appealed to working-class white voters from rural and rust-belt states. They criticised that. That was supposedly his weakness. I mean, for fuck's sake. How can the Democrats hope to win if they see that as a bad thing.

The moment Clinton got the nomination, the Democrats signalled that they were proud to be the party of the existing system. That meant they owned its failure, even if that failure was caused by the Republican Party.

The Democrats hadn't even learned the lesson of Obama's win. Ironically, they hadn't even learned the lesson of Bill Clinton's win.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Dr Brin
You seem to have a lot of spam recently
The other main blog/forum I use is DIYELECTRICCAR.com - (I'm Duncan)
We had big problems with spam a while ago - the Forum identified a few hard core members and gave them Admin rights
We managed to cut the problem down quite fast - I think I had the highest "kill" rate - but I have the advantage of my time zone

Can you do anything similar?

Tim H. said...

Paul451, I wonder if what were seeing with U.S. politics is excessive deference to large donors? A populist candidate might campaign effectively on small donations, but a campaign manager might be aghast at the prospect of being cut off from the enormous money, and so advise candidates, leaving us with a minority government, just as much as Rhodesia was, if more corrupt.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I happen to be one of Hillary's paid assassins. I've personally killed 350 on her behalf. I'm saying this in the interest of full disclosure, with the acknowledgement that my profession may influence my opinions.
I have learned that all of Hillary's opponents are in fact, aliens. Not other countries, mind you. UFO-type aliens. All of them. Their disguises are very clever, but I can always spot one. They smell different, you know. I am killing them out of love for humanity.
Anonymous, I would love to meet and we can discuss our respective hobbies. Lunch at Sardi's, perhaps?

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Real median incomes have been flat for thirty years. Against GDP, they have been falling for thirty years. Trump's voters have been getting robbed. The fact that other groups have been getting robbed worse doesn't change that.

And for thirty years, they have been trying to vote against that trend. But only one side of politics is telling them who to blame in clear, unequivocal (and angry) language. Unfortunately, it's the same side that wrecked the system in the first place. But they've been repeating their message, their memes, directly to the average American for forty years, hammering the same ideas over and over.

But for thirty years, Democrats have failed over and over to show - in terms that the average American understands - that they understand the decline in the heart of America even exists. They certainly haven't shown they know how to reverse it.


Man, you are on a roll. Yes, Americans have a right to be angry and ready to revolt, but they're pointing their guns in the wrong direction. And you've done a good job of articulating why that is beyond just "because we're stupid."

Bill Clinton won by going "Republican lite", accepting the GOP framing of issues but declaring that Democrats could do that well without the meanness or the voodoo math inherent in the Republican Party. Liberal/Progressive framings were scrupulously avoided and disavowed, because they were seen as losing strategies in the 1980s. This might have been necessary politics in the 1990s, but it's 25 years later now, the political landscape has changed, and the DNC was playing the old game. This is a problem when your entire bench has been around in politics for decades, and there's no new blood to refresh the pool.

Voters today don't want Republican Lite--they want someone who feels their pain and indicates a willingness to mitigate it. Kinda like Bill Clinton in 1992. Trump was able to appropriate that role because the wife of that very same Bill Clinton didn't step up.

LarryHart said...

dennisd:

Thanks for the tart comment on our anonymous troll. Mockery and/or silence are the best responses for its ilk.


Y'know, I usually just ignore. Like Scotty in "The Trouble With Tribbles," we can be man enough to take a few insults.. But then, just after I had posted what I thought was a clever, funny one-liner sure to generate some applause, he jumped in right after that and hogged the then-bottom post.


And that's when you hit the Klingon?
Not because he insulted me, but because...

Well, sir, this was a matter of pride!

Paul SB said...

Paul 451, have you considered writing a book? Or better yet, given the low reading skills of so many of the people who need to hear this most, starting a radio talk show? Or is that too old-school now? A pod cast?

It's too late to save this election, but to keep this from happening again, what we probably need is for memes like your to be distributed by people who do not have PhDs, people who do not have college education and people who have family connections to the Rust Belt, the Deep South, the Bible Belt and other areas that have been so easily duped by the right-wing rhetoric. As I have often said, establishing armed camps that mutually hate one another just makes it worse (I could be eggheaded about it and mention a specific social science concept here, but that would just get me labelled a snarky, arrogant, college-educated smartypants, like what we see in TV shows like The Big Bang Theory).

A few years ago I "read" a novel by Barbara Kingsolver called "Flight Behavior." The author grew up in rural Kentucky but is educated, and the novel basically shows how people of the region tend to view (and deny) environmental issues while demonstrating their reality. It was a well-written story, though hardly an action-packed adventure. I don't know how well it was received in the kind of communities the author hails from, but it strikes me as a step in the right direction.

"Well, sir, this was a matter of pride!"

Rather than take a scorched earth, smite your enemies approach, the Sane Wing needs to be more mature than that, and allow those who voted against them to retain some dignity. I don't know enough about Southern culture, or the Rust Belt (I am pretty familiar with the Bible Belt), but someone who does would do the world a favor by listing out all the good qualities those people have, and brainstorming ways to drive a wedge between the decent people who hail from those regions and the blatant kleptocrat liars that they vote for. Our natural tendency is to roll our eyes, palm our faces and shout "Doh!" every time we hear what the Republicans are doing this time. At least the "Doh!" was loud enough over the House Ethics Committee this time it slowed the kleptocrats' down a few months - maybe we can run with that. Build bridges instead of make enemies by showing that those kleptocrats are all of our common enemies, not just enemies of the snobby, eye-rolling educated.

If the Democratic Party is going to represent a real challenge to the Republican thieves, they are going to have to start ignoring their old-school advisors, and even their old-school selves, and change who they talk to and how they talk to them. If they won't change, they will go extinct and the US will become a one party system like some other countries we could name.

This elf you who hail from other lands where you have similar issues with right-wing ethnonationalist movements, I hope my words hear are of use to you there as well. I haven't spent enough time in any other country to know what ideas are being tossed around, but it is probably true anywhere that most people are reasonably decent (like Illithi's redneck crewman) but flawed, and can be persuaded by appeal to common decency, if they can be distanced emotionally from the most extreme, neo-nazi types. As the old saying goes, you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Antonym said...

The embrace of Donald J. Trump by 81% of evangelical Christians has less to do with hating us nerds (though the rurals so despise us dandified city folk) than good old fashioned racism. For many White Conservative Christians, the last two terms are just cultural baggage. What means the most is their Whiteness. Before their opposition to Row v. Wade materialized out of thin orthodoxy, it was Desegregation that riled them up. It is the same reason why they still despise Jimmy Carter, the most Christian president we have probably ever had. His administration was cracking down on whites-only Christian private schools that wanted public financing.

Paul SB said...

And on the subject of anonymous drones, to the guy who calls himself Health Warrior (or something like that - it was in the previous thread) I would recommend taking that as a handle and clicking on the Name/URL button instead of posting as Anonymous.

I am totally on board with critiquing the disaster that is the Western Diet. And while many of the points you make are real and valid, you might tone down the rhetoric a little, because you come across as a bit of a crank. I spent enough time in health food stores in my youth to know why most people won't go near them. So many of the people you meet there act as if they are members of a cult. While there is much to discuss on dietary issues, if you sound even remotely like one of those, not many people are going to take you seriously. No offense intended, here, just hoping. Our host is a true believer in the First Amendment and the importance of open discourse (as am I), but he may have to start wielding the Anonymous Ax at some point.

donzelion said...

LarryHart/Paul451: "...for thirty years, Democrats have failed over and over to show - in terms that the average American understands - that they understand the decline in the heart of America even exists."

In part, the problem is that under Bill Clinton, and to a lesser extent, under Obama, there was far less of a "decline in the heart of America" - or at least, in the wallet of the heart of America. Yet the people who benefited from averting that decline were also the most angry and alienated - and least likely to perceive actual improvements in real-world conditions.

If the Democrats have failed, it hasn't been a failure in positing effective solutions to real world problems, so much as a failure in creating and resolving 'fake' problems. Voters do not want someone to tackle the real problem of "can I afford cancer treatment?" or "can I find a steady job" or "can I find a home that will be secure despite global warming" - such concerns require immense investment in complex mechanisms, policies, and machinations. Fake problems, like saving Christmas from illegal homosexual media immigrant elites plotting to steal your guns are far more compelling.

Perhaps "Voters today don't want Republican Lite" - but that is precisely what millions of them voted for.

David Brin said...

I don’t agree with Antonym. Yes, many Trumpists are racists and many more are engraged by any talk of race. But a majority of republicans look in a mirror and genuinely believe “I’m not racist.” Sure, many are fooling themselves. But still, that lets them resent the chiders who finger wag “racist!” at them. Their chief grievance against Progressives is “stop nagging me!” And they have been taught to extend that hatred to every profession that nags.

LarryHart said...

@donzelion:

erhaps "Voters today don't want Republican Lite" - but that is precisely what millions of them voted for.


No, they voted for "Republican Genuine Draft".

Anonymole said...

What else can we do? Quit disparaging government.

This single myth, that government is bad, has been the tool of the conservative right for decades. That a free-market system is superior to government systems. That we should shrink, defund, or deregulate social systems in lieu of corporatism -- this is what we must stop doing, or supporting.

Government is society; teachers, cops, firemen, administrators, civil servants of every stripe and occupation ARE society. Corporations are profit. They are not society. If corporations could do away with society (employees) they would (and will with the automation of all labor).

Stop disparaging government.

donzelion said...

Antonym: "The embrace of Donald J. Trump by 81% of evangelical Christians has less to do with hating us nerds (though the rurals so despise us dandified city folk) than good old fashioned racism."

Actually, I think the urban/rural element is primary, with the racist considerations an outgrowth of anti-urbanism. The underlying ethos for Christian evangelicals is that their identity /faith is constantly under siege by 'the world' - esp. the economic world. 67% or more of the American economy exists in the 50 largest cities - to which their kids are drawn every year as they seek work. The folks who are 'left behind' construct an identity as stubborn survivors who persevere in the face of temptation; FauxNews supports and reinforces that faith, constantly reiterating the evils of the 'other.'

Duncan hits it on the head here - "We are still in the "crime is increasing" mindset 20 years after it peaked and started to decrease" - but the belief of the folks who were 'left behind' is that some things may be 'better' where they are - or at least ok - they must be getting worse 'everywhere' else - just turn on the TV, and you'll see how bad it is getting...those who are preconditioned to view 'outsiders' as threatening may not even realize the racial implications of the threat-defense posture they've adopted (members of minorities, however, are far more likely to pick up on that).

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Duncan hits it on the head here - "We are still in the "crime is increasing" mindset 20 years after it peaked and started to decrease"


Likewise, we are still in the "News media are liberal" mode 30 or more years since that has been the case.

David Brin said...

Antonymole, while I despise the "all government is evil" cult, I refuse to go with "Stop disparaging government." Government is an authority center (and has guns) and therefore deserves and needs relentless scrutiny and critique. People know that...

...and that knowledge is used to promote a sick exaggeration, that govt is the ONLY threat and potential abuse of power. When 6000 years tell us that feudal inherited aristocratism and oligarchy are worse.

Defenders of govt need to show that regulation is the absolute necessity in order for markets to remain flat-fair-competitive and productive.

Paul451 said...

Duncan,
If David wants to appoint anti-spam admins, I nominate Zepp. He has a certain set of skills...

Jeff B. said...

Chris Ladd at Political Orphans is a vocal proponent of the racism= big cause of Republican victory idea, and while I personally think he overstates his case, he raises a point that I don't often see- that the real problem is that racism is an in-built, structural part of American culture. The dominant assumptions of white culture really don't allow people to respond well when challenged with other (equally American) viewpoints.

So the growing voices of Blacks and Hispanics and the Disabled and Women and LBGTQ, all saying, "hey, we're Americans, too" strikes an unconscious chord and causes a lot of discomfort. Until the cultural mixing creates a new balance or a new blend that displaces "dominant white culture", then the visceral reaction to being challenged is going to continue.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "Likewise, we are still in the "News media are liberal" mode 30 or more years since that has been the case."

With respect to the myth of the 'liberal media,' it seems a large number of conservatives who believe this nonsense must also believe one or more of the following:
(1) The media isn't owned, financed, operated, or broadcast by large corporations (in which case, these conservatives are simply stupid);
(2) The corporations that finance the media are suicidal/insane/incompetent/unaware of the 'liberal biases' they finance (in which case, why do they entrust these fools with power?);
(3) The media is 'urban' focused - and like anything else from outside their rural zones, they distrust and dislike it without further reflection.

I believe (3) is the most potent factor, and the most subtle: media, governance, education, science - these are 'urban' creatures that 'left them behind.' Institutions that didn't 'abandon' them - churches, military bases, the GOP, corporatized outlets - command loyalty from this crowd because they are 'part of their community.'

Jeff B. said...

As far as the "cities are evil" memes, that stretches a long way back in the American experience. Jefferson's agrarianism vs. (ahem, paging LarryHart) the policies of Hamilton played on this tune. More directly, there was a booming business in pamphleteering and magazine articles in the late 1800s and early 1900s designed to scare "proper young girls" about the city's depravity, with all the familiar dangers- prostitution of course paramount among moral failings.

And this probably never really died away in certain more evangelical and other rural elements of Christianity. Nowadays this doesn't manifest as much in direct attacks on cities and city life as such as on degradation of "urban culture" and "multiculturalism". It's still the city-fear in other guise.

Jeff B. said...

Donzelion,

(3) The media is 'urban' focused - and like anything else from outside their rural zones, they distrust and dislike it without further reflection.

In some cases it perhaps goes beyond just distrust of all cities, and focuses on "coastism". While certainly most of the population on the left and right coasts, the vast majority of media time ignores the rest, even the smaller cities. I'm guilty of a bit of (conscious) resentment myself at times as a dyed-in-the-wool Pittsburgher- it just gets tiresome sometimes!

LarryHart said...

Jeff B:

Jefferson's agrarianism vs. (ahem, paging LarryHart) the policies of Hamilton played on this tune.


Well, this bit of Jefferson's dialogue in the musical could have been part of last year's debates:

Every action has an equal, opposite reaction.
Thanks to Hamilton, our cabinet’s fractured into factions.
Try not to crack under the stress. We’re breaking down like fractions
We smack each other in the press, and we don’t print retractions.
I get no satisfaction witnessing his fits of passion,
The way he primps and preens and dresses like the pits of fashion.
Our poorest citizens, our farmers, live ration to ration,
As Wall Street robs ‘em blind in search of chips to cash in


To the extent that this accurately describes the politics of the 1790s, we're not watching anything new here.

Paul451 said...

(Damn, it's meant to be "a very particular set of skills".)

Paul SB,
"Paul 451, have you considered writing a book?"

It occurs to me that this could be a very subtle insult. :)

"what we probably need is for memes like your to be distributed by people who do not have PhDs, people who do not have college education and people who have family connections to the Rust Belt, the Deep South, the Bible Belt and other areas that have been so easily duped by the right-wing rhetoric."

Not necessarily. Sanders showed that even a classic, almost sterotypical "Clever NY Jew", from New England, speaking almost entirely in statistics, can get the attention of the people that the Democrats have lost. But because you are facing down a set of rightwing memes that have been honed and perfected for forty-plus years, repeated until they turned into a part of cultural identity, you need to be particularly monotonous to get through. Sanders repeated the same arguments over and over like a machine, hammering away at the deep assumptions of his audience.

And the media and the Democratic leadership held him in contempt for it. He didn't appeal to them.

That's why the Dems will fail. Their core audience, themselves and the media, wants them to be the clever insiders.

Hence...

"the people who need to hear this most"

are the Democrat leadership.

As Sanders' example showed, it's pointless trying to get through to the people on the ground, if the Democratic Party is going to brand itself The Party Of The Current System.

"As the old saying goes, you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar."

Actually, flies like the smell of vinegar. As long as it's not too concentrated.

And the right-wing memes weren't established by being happy and supportive. They were established by relentless attacks and contempt and mockery.

And the Dems don't need to patronise "decent" folk. Being blunt is actually a bonus.

(Speaking on Neo-Nazis. One of the tactics used by their leadership to motivate their rank'n'file is to say, "Do you know who is responsible for the destruction of the White Race?", and the audience expects them to say Jews, liberals, etc, instead they say, "You!" Le Gasp! "All of you... for allowing the Jews and liberals...")

Paul451 said...

Donzelion,

"f the Democrats have failed, it hasn't been a failure in positing effective solutions to real world problems, so much as a failure in creating and resolving 'fake' problems."

No. It's because Democrats think the fake-problems are things they need to "relate to" or "consider". Half the party takes the rejection of the fake-problems as a reason to reject all problems of conservative/white/rural voters, the other half thinks they have to take a "centrist" stance between the actual centre and the fake problems created by the rightwing. Both halves of Democrat politics elevate those fake problems.

That's why I keep referring back to Sanders. He didn't apologise and underplay his politics, he proudly called himself a "socialist". But he hammered on the economics, to say "this is the thing that matters".

And that's what Democrats have failed to do. Every time they focus on social issues, they reinforce the idea that those issues are actually important.

Clinton bragged about what "We" were going to do on climate change and gun control when she won, but failed to touch on the economics of average Americans.

She bragged that "We" were going to hurt "Them".

She effectively said, "Yes, it's true, I really am your enemy, just as the rightwing media and the fake-news spammers have said. So you can believe the other things they say about me too."

donzelion said...

Jeff B: Seems to me that the concept of 'coastism' is much like the 'culture war' - a framing device, rather than a real world description of anything that is actually occurring.

A series of rural/urban struggles manifests everywhere that tax revenues are accumulated and then paid out based on 'need' - can you justify $1 million for road/hospital/airport in a town with 1000 people taking priority over the same investment in a place where it will serve 500,000? And yet, once one takes 'need' out of the equation, all that remains is 'benefits to powerful elites.'

Thus, within the coasts themselves, you'll find millions of Californians who despise LA/SF, Washingtonians who despise Seattle, Oregonians who despise Portland. Within the other states, you'll also see Pennsylvanians fighting against Philadelphians, Illinoisans fighting Chicago, Texans disdaining Houston, Floridians disdaining Miami, Nevadans disdaining Vegas, etc. In every corner of America, where you see a red/blue divide, it matches a rural/urban divide - the correlation is far stronger than any coastal/flyover divide.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451,

No, not even a very subtle insult, or Freudian slip. I'm serious. You explain things very well.

"Sanders repeated the same arguments over and over like a machine, hammering away at the deep assumptions of his audience."

So you are saying that what we need is our own Ad nauseam to counter those right-wing mantras. Some of us would see that as stooping to low tactics, but then, sometimes what works ... works.

In the exchange above between our host and Antonymole (not sure if that's the same as Antonym) Dr. Brin took the nuanced approach, but unfortunately most people don't seem to get nuanced approaches. They want simple, bumper-sticker slogans, like "Four legs good, two legs baaaaad!"

But then, people do seem to be getting more educated and more people are able to parse more nuanced arguments. It makes it hard to figure strategy, when there is so much difference between people (a bit like being a teacher in a classroom - all the things people say about what kids are and how they act and what they need are true for some kids, absolutely wrong for others, and more or less true to varying degrees for still more). Multi-pronged approaches seem more likely. Blunt, yes, contempt and mockery, yes (though we have to be careful about who we target - if its all about racism and nothing about kleptocracy, well, we saw what happened in the election) but also some calm, rational voices, if they can manage to balance on that fine line between angry rant and haughty out of touch.

Paul SB said...

I have another post that keeps disappearing. In this case it was short but contained a link to a youtube video. Why is it anonymous drones can do it but I can't?

Alfred Differ said...

@David: I don't mind skipping over the anonymous mosquitoes. I'd also understand if you deleted comments that appeared to be purely about gaming Google's page ranking algorithm. Letting them stay teaches others to use your blog for such a purpose.

Of course, it's not really YOUR job to protect Google's algorithm. I can fold up every anonymous comment easily enough. I respect your preference for showing we are a diverse species, but I'm probably never going to follow a link an anonymous person offers with what looks like a page-ranking gaming effort.

Jeff B. said...

I'm afraid that we're fast approaching a point where strategies to win over the rural vote will be wasted, if we're not there already. The right-wing noise/"news" machine has as Larry noted been hammering home relentlessly for 40 years the same simple "truths":
Liberals want to take away your freedoms
Liberals are unpatriotic
Liberals are communists and/or Nazis
Blacks/Hispanics are lazy moochers who depend on Govt. Handouts
Atheists want to eat your children

...ad nauseum. And as the noise continues, it forces more people to choose sides. There's probably only 10-20% of the voters who might still be swayed by reasoning; the rest of Trump's followers will only renounce the cause under great shock. They've constructed an ironclad worldview such that anything Liberals or the Democratic party says is instantly dismissed.

It's not hopeless, yet. But to change course will require the Dems to finally get smart and build a ground machine that actually is willing and able to reach out to people on their own level wherever they are, and isn't afraid of repeated rejection. A machine that challenges the Republicans at every turn. A machine that carries the fight to every district, every precinct, every race. No more unchallenged runs for House or Senate or statehouse.

Jeff B. said...

Donzelion,

The thing is, there's just enough truth buried in common (coastal) urban attitudes that it's easy for the flyover country to buy into all the lies attached onto it. Like I said, the media is geographically biased; the overwhelming majority of stories are about the biggest megalalopolis', and as their reporting resources dwindle coverage of the in-between lands sometimes lapses into stereotyped or cliched.

That's enough to breed the contempt for the media that the right-wing noise machine feeds on.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

She bragged that "We" were going to hurt "Them".


So did Trump, and it didn't hurt him.


A.F. Rey said...

Clinton bragged about what "We" were going to do on climate change and gun control when she won, but failed to touch on the economics of average Americans.

She bragged that "We" were going to hurt "Them".


Except that "they"--most Republicans--happened to agree on what she wanted to do regarding climate change and gun control.

The special interests--the NRA and the Oil Companies--were the "they."

But somehow "they"--the racists, the special interests, the energy conglomerates--because all the Republican Party.

donzelion said...

Jeff: "I'm afraid that we're fast approaching a point where strategies to win over the rural vote will be wasted..."

Strategies focusing on facts, reason, logic, history, tradition, and systems will fail. There are other strategies that could have been tried...

When you say Dems need to reach out to people "on their own level" - I think, "when people are not swayed by reason, other means are necessary." How many of the evangelical Christians knew anything about the strip club at the Trump Taj Mahal? How did Trump get his beauty pageanteers to put on skimpier bikinis? How many Trump voters have ever heard a tally of escorts visiting Trump Tower - Las Vegas?

Putting a ground game into rural areas makes sense (and will reach more people than many advertising campaigns, pundits, and websites ever will). However, think how the Republicans achieved that - churches that go back decades have been sponsored, cultivated, and captured over that period: one must both plant seeds AND uproot the weeds that are already in place. An activist paid $30k/year who will probably only be around 1-2 years at most will never challenge a local businessman/church elder making $300k/year through state government-financed real estate projects (with 4-5 other local employees in his small business, each of whom will counter your lone activist). A whole different order of 'ground game' is called for...

Alfred Differ said...

@Anonymole: Government is society

Not even close.

Government is a subset of society to which we delegate coercive powers so that we might avoid wielding them, thus live in a society that respects the Rule of Law. We minimize government not because it is bad, but because we'd like to minimize coercion.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"If David wants to appoint anti-spam admins, I nominate Zepp. He has a certain set of skills... "

...and I've never been imprisoned for them!

I do moderate a political discussion ground, "The Lying Socialist Weasels". The remarkably long-lived group has been around since 1993, and I've moderated it since 1997. My moderation policy is essentially, "You're adults. Work it out yourselves." We had some real blood baths in the early days, but like Brin's blog, it has turned into a remarkable civil and informed setting.

David Brin said...

Alfred, you, too are only partly right. Yes, it is libertarian doctrine that the primary job of government is to remove coercion from relations among citizens. Randians say that almost the only acceptable coercion is to enforce contracts and eliminated violence. But --

-- you leave out joint projects. Marx says we should lop off our right arm of competitive individual ambition and private groups (companies) and capital. Rand would have us amputate the left arm of shared projects, agreed via negotiated consensus and resources pooled as a giga-tribe. Both are loonies who know little about how humans work.

The biggest project is the set of arenas that enable us to compete fairly! Markets, democracy, science, courts and sports only flourish when well and openly regulated in order to keep competition flat-open-fair. These regulations CAN FESTER or go sour or be captured! So? We use politics to criticize and improve them. And democrats are the ones who toss out festered regulations.

But other joint projects are validated by their spectacular success. Dams, Interstates, rescuing the railroads, space, investments in research. The most galling thing about the ingrates of appalachia is their inability to recall what life was like in the "hillbilly" era that many of them can actually remember! Before the War on Poverty and other projects yanked them into the modern world.

I have libertarian instincts and I've spoken at Libertarian gatherings. I know how govt can go rotten or dangerous. But I know that 99% of today's civil servants would help us fight Big Brother. Right now, oligarchy is the worse threat.

Paul SB said...

Alfred, the problem with minimizing government coercion is that you maximize robber baron coercion. As long as the mantra remains Big Guvumint is Evil, the scum that rises to the top of industry will continue to lick their chops.

Balance

Donzelion, given how many people were not appalled by Grope's "locker room talk" but were actually emboldened by it, I doubt that revealing how many hookers he rents or strip clubs he owns would sway very many conservative Christians against him. They will speak of forgiveness for him, while hypocritically demanding the oppression of anyone who by virtue of birth is anything less than a skirt-grabbing, bear-swilling alpha-male wannabe.

Jeff B., I have said this to Loci and the Twig many times. There simply aren't enough people in rural America to account for all the card-carrying Republicans. Rural/Urban is only part of it. I live in an outgrowth of one of this countries largest cities, and I meet right-wing troglodytes at every turn. Reaching out to the rural communities would be a good move, certainly. But there are a hell of a lot of people in the cities who are just as swayed by right-wing lies, fake news and ad nauseam propaganda. As long as people by the bull that domination and alpha-male baboonery is "natural" they will always be swayed by the kind of arguments put forward by the Party of Hastert.

donzelion said...

Jeff: "the media is geographically biased"
Absolutely true. It's also racially biased (pro-white) and economically biased (pro-middle class/upper-middle). The right-wing noise machine is just as biased. Both are riddled with cliches and flimsy reporting - both offend audiences with their intentional and unwitting contempt. But only one side has traction outside the cities...

That suggests something else is in play other than the structure or nature of the media. Something about the narrative.

As I see it, the right wing is quite effective at framing discussions - "war on christmas/culture wars" - "war on crime" - "war on drugs" - "war on terrorism" - "partial-birth abortion." The rightwing in other countries has similar successes, drawing frames that connect to deep fears. Since contempt is on the fear/hate spectrum, it usually invites racism and intolerance (the closest the left gets to intolerance is narrow-minded repudiation of anyone deemed 'insensitive' - and a rush to make that judgment).

Hence, even when an "us/them" bifurcation matches with no facts whatsoever, it will still be proposed and fed (e.g., the rightwing's fears that Dems are coming for their guns feeds off of the flimsiest of narratives) - and it will take root, until uprooted and displaced with something new. This cannot be achieved by new messaging: to get out the roots of nasty psychological weeds, one has to lower oneself into the muck (hence my suggestion of fixating on the Trump strippers - not the paper-thin nothingness of his policy positions).

Paul SB said...

Trying it again,

Earlier this morning I tried to post a youtube video link. It is a 9-minute clip from a National Geo video I have recommended here for quite a long time. I found it and figure that if people don't have time for an hour-long video, maybe they can take 9 minutes. It is uplifting in the sense that it shoots down the idea that certain behaviors are inevitable.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4UMyTnlaMY&t=2s

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Regarding Paul451: No, not even a very subtle insult, or Freudian slip. I'm serious. You explain things very well.

Yah. He even got something through MY thick skull. No simple feat. 8)

@Paul451: "the people who need to hear this most"

are the Democrat leadership.


Yah. I was taught to be suspicious any time someone says 'They know X to be true.' if the 'they' being referenced is a group or institution. My comeback is always 'who is they?' but many people don't get it. I'm asking them to finger a real person. You have even if it is several someones.

Democrats don't learn from election to election. Democratic candidates learn. The institution called 'Democrats' probably does learn some things, but not complex lessons. In the days of strong party bosses, we could equate the institution with the bosses and due to boss longevity, gloss over the difference. Party bosses were usually local phenomena, though, so I'm doubtful national parties are so smart.

I see this among the libertarians in my county. When certain members are running the county-level party, we are different than when others do. We literally have different capabilities and not just different foci.

So... thank you for fingering the people and not leaving things nebulous. I encourage others to do the same.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: ...the problem with minimizing government coercion is that you maximize robber baron coercion.

No. That is very zero-sum thinking. You can do better. 8)

You are describing a possibility. Our history over the last couple centuries shows how to prevent nibble away at it and leave room for other possibilities. We are actually pretty good at it lately.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: I understand your point, but my interest was beating back the concept of equating government with society. That is a path that leads to absolute kings and no king-unapproved innovations. Even our ethical concepts wind up being approved/disapproved by royalty. If we even start down that path, I'd rather have an English king over a French one, but I'd much rather whack people with a clue bat and avoid the whole mess.

I'll tolerate joint projects as long as we are moderately inclined to avoid giving people in them any of government's coercive powers. That is VERY difficult to do. Even without saying it, there is often an unspoken, implied ability of government to intervene in the market where the joint project takes place. The unspoken threat chills private investment and private innovation.

The participant-of-last-resort should be a joint project. For example, no commercial provider has any reason to explore Pluto. Go for it. I would have said no commercial provider would have wanted to map the whole human genome back before they demonstrated my failure to grasp their willingness to support long term investments, so we should always be cautious.

You are dead right about ingrates in Appalachia, though. My father didn't talk much about it, but he remembered hunger during the 30's and FDR's rescue of them. His sister scratched out an income and kept a roof over their heads as a domestic servant if I recall correctly, but it was those joint projects you describe that fulfilled the bottom layer of Maslow's hierarchy by enabling the whole family to find work eventually.

Just be careful. That's all this libertarian asks. If the market will provide, let it. People who are "government is society" won't let it.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "I doubt that revealing how many hookers he rents or strip clubs he owns would sway very many conservative Christians against him."

Had it come up in March/April instead of October, had other Republicans jumped aboard and made these arguments instead of Hillary, I suspect the effect might have been quite different. Instead, it came out late in the cycle as part of a left-wing media-led anti-Trump gambit. Which failed.

Still, the broader point is that when a significant population is fact-adverse, trying to reach them by pounding them with additional facts can't work. One either speaks their language, or one does not reach them.

Which leads to Anonymole's point as well: when government itself is perceived as evil, then voters perceive their function as choosing from the "lesser of two evils" - which means (1) for conservative Christians, that comes down to pro-choice/pro-abortion, and (2) young people vote infrequently if at all.

When government is perceived as good, or at least as 'necessary' (i.e., to avert a massive depression), voters MIGHT temporarily be swayed to embrace someone who is 'more good' than the other. The price that is paid for even valid, conscientious criticism is that those who are immune to reason will exploit a few critical sound bites to confirm their preexisting biases - rather than recognizing it as an effort to make something that is 'good' a little better.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: re the baboon story - quite interesting, and thanks for sharing.

In terms of applying lessons about human potential from the video though, I find it disturbing that socially reconstructing the troop occurred only after 50% of it was wiped out by a calamity (in this case, the most aggressive males fought over meat in a dump, only to die when it proved to be riddled with tuberculosis). Yet the Black Death did open the door, in part, for the Renaissance - and small pox, cholera, and other diseases also paved the way toward functional water systems, sewage systems, medical systems. I suppose we mammals aren't so different in the end.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

My memory may be flawed, but I do remember this coming up even before Grope became the frontrunner, and long before the "locker room talk" leak. It didn't matter, because so many of the people who voted for Grope were really voting against Clinton, who they had been told would repeal the Second Amendment and uphold Roe vs. Wade. One of these is not possible, the other is just a matter of maintaining the status quo. The pro-choice thing is one I did hear over and over, and on your #2, the youth vote turned out for our last president because he was a minority, but sexism is much more deeply ingrained, so no surprise they did not turn up for a woman. As far as soundbites and preexisting biases, well that has always been the case, whether the bogeyman of the day is government or some ethnic minority, foreign powers, witches in league with Lucifer, etc.

Big difference between humans and baboons is that we have a whole lot more in the frontal lobe department. If a bunch of baboons can do this, what excuse do we have? Well, the problem with our frontal lobe sis not that they aren't big enough, but that we organize them into categories and then treat the categories as if they were real, rather than the real things those categories represent. Thus things like politics, religion, philosophy, tribe, ethnicity and other abstractions get in the way of doing things that should be obviously the right thing to do. We justify our own stupidity. But if we can do that, we can also justify ingenuity, too. There is some hope, at least, that we can do what those baboons have done without the carnage. But to do that we have to memetically defeat the troglodytes who are sure that violence is our "nature."

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

I get the difference between zero-sum and positive-sum thinking. However, my understanding of history has been that any source of power, whether economic, military, legal, religious or what have you, if left unchecked will tend to elevate a handful to the detriment of the majority. And yes, markets have the potential to raise all boats, but more often than not they raise a tiny few spectacularly while grinding the rest down to servitude.

I'm sure you can provide counter examples. I still prefer to have a gun leveled at anyone who is pointing a gun at me, rather than having faith that the shooter will be rational and decide it is in his best interest not to shoot me.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: re the 'youth vote' - after watching an execrable movie over the break, I noticed something really odd: why do so many recent young adult films feature prominent 'evil blonde' villains?

-Twilight series: Dakota Fanning as an evil blonde
-Hunger Games: Julianne Moore, a redhead who died her hair blonde to play a primary villain, "President Alma Coin"
-Divergent series: Kate Winslet as an evil blonde
-The Golden Compass: Nicole Kidman, bleached her strawberry blonde hair to look 'more evil'
-The Maze Runner series: Patricia Clarkson as "Ava Paige," another evil blonde politician (note that each book ends with an email from her...)
-Narnia series: Tilda Swinton as the White Witch

These evil blonde villains started popping up in the last 10 years or so (2005 for Narnia, but that's more oriented toward children than YA anyway) - they'd feature prominently in the minds of young adults.

I know of no comparable pattern for "adult" fiction - for every Cersei Lannister, there's an equal number of Daeneryses/Furiosas (Mad Max) - and female villains may have any hair color.

So why exactly would evil blondes start getting churned out to young adults in the last 10 years (the same period that Hillary Clinton began her push to the White House)? Really, just a coincidence?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

@David: I understand your point, but my interest was beating back the concept of equating government with society. That is a path that leads to absolute kings and no king-unapproved innovations.


I think the concept expressed was more like equating society with government, more specifically with democratic government. As in democracy being implemented as a way to perform the functions of government without resorting to kings. In other words, "That's a different thing, in fact, the opposite thing."


@Paul SB: ...the problem with minimizing government coercion is that you maximize robber baron coercion.

No. That is very zero-sum thinking. You can do better. 8)

You are describing a possibility. Our history over the last couple centuries shows how to prevent nibble away at it and leave room for other possibilities.


What Paul is saying is that when you neutralize the referees and umpires, then the cheaters are empowered. Yes, we are capable of playing sandlot ball and working out our grievances ourselves, but that system requires a certain level of commitment to the rules by all (or at least most) parties and a willingness to shun repeat cheaters. As long as cheating is allowed to be a winning strategy, the game without referees doesn't work.

Paul451 said...

Donzelion,
Re: Blonde female villain.

That's just the high-school trope of the pretty mean-girl. Almost always blonde.

Before YA fantasy/SF become the thing, movies for that demographic tended to be set in high-schools.

(For the film makers, the trope might also be the dominatrix fantasy, who is also often a "cold" blonde. From Police Academy to Bond's deadly Russian female adversary.)

--

PaulSB,
"the youth vote turned out for our last president because he was a minority, but sexism is much more deeply ingrained, so no surprise they did not turn up for a woman."

Clinton was loathed by the young-left because she was an insider. The same group loves Warren. So it's not a chick thing.

--

Paul451: "She bragged that "We" were going to hurt "Them". "
LarryHart: "So did Trump, and it didn't hurt him."

Because he was speaking to the white/rural/rust-belt voters.

As did Sanders.

Clinton was speaking to her friends (or at least speaking in language they approved of), and when she bragged about what she and they ("We") were going to do on those signature social issues, hence she seemed to be speaking about white/rural/rust-belt voters. That's why her "deplorables" comment was so clumsy. (As was Obama's "clinging to their god and guns" comment in 2008.) It validates the rightwing media's accusations, so lends credence to their other accusations.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: back to Trump -

His morality "came up" - but no Republican really focused on that. Rubio, Cruz & Co. attacked Trump like he was a regular politician for the most part (Cruz referred to "New York" values when alluding to Trump's playboy past - a feeble slap that Trump countered with a nasty uppercut). After that, nobody really shined a spotlight on his morality (and Hillary tried to use the Alicia Machado stuff as an anti-bullying, never touching on Trump's other peccadilloes - she's hardly well-suited to harshly judge given her own experience - but harsh judgment is the language of the evangelical community).

"on your #2, the youth vote turned out for our last president because he was a minority"
Nobody had ever invested billions of dollars in attacking Obama until he ran for president (that came later, but it certainly came) - same applied for Bernie Sanders. I'm not so sure youth turned out BECAUSE he was a minority (or for Sanders either) - so much as because he was new, exciting, and not a figure they'd been preconditioned to despise/distrust.

"Big difference between humans and baboons is that we have a whole lot more in the frontal lobe department."
A tool that we can use either in service of baser instincts, or for higher aspirations.

But at the end of the day, you're right: there is some hope. Violence may be 'in our nature' - but it is not the totality of our 'nature' - and thus, it need not be our destiny.

Paul451 said...

Paul451: "Sanders repeated the same arguments over and over like a machine, hammering away at the deep assumptions of his audience."
LarryHart: "So you are saying that what we need is our own Ad nauseam to counter those right-wing mantras. Some of us would see that as stooping to low tactics, but then, sometimes what works ... works."

How is it a "low" tactic?

I'm saying that to tunnel through 40 years of lies, you need persistence and repetition. The Democratic leadership, and their sympathetic commentators, prefer to appeal to their own in-group, which is easily bored by repetition and enjoys the feeling of being clever.

So they assume they have to trick the out-group into voting for them (as the Republicans are doing.) But they don't. I don't think Sanders lied about anything he believed in. (He stumbled plenty of times, and wasn't polished, but I don't think it was because he wasn't saying what he believed.)

Dems lack a persistent message that says "We understand that someone has robbed you. And they have: look, we have proof. We know who it is, these guys here, here, and here. And this is what we're going to do about it."

And the thing it, they do know it, which is why Clinton thought she only needed to say "trickle down" and everyone would understand that Trump's economics were just more Republican theft. Because amongst her in-group, that's all she needs to say, "Trickle down". But to the rest of country, she didn't even attempt to explain it. Didn't spell it out, over and over and over. You are being robbed, and these guys are the ones doing it.

--

Likewise I'm not suggesting, as Donzelion did: "one has to lower oneself into the muck (hence my suggestion of fixating on the Trump strippers"

You don't need to answer muck with muck. It's the economy, stupid. Just tell the truth about that, over and over, and the muck will find its own way to stick. But unless you counter the opposition's lies, any muck you throw is meaningless.

I don't care about how many whores my General screws. I only care that he attacks the enemy well.

But if I can be convinced that he is the enemy, it doesn't how chaste he is either.

--

Re: Gummit is evil.

The size of US government, relative to GDP, has been falling for some time. Therefore if government were the cause of the pains of the working and middle-class, things would be getting noticeably better for them.

Repeat that over and over and you do two things, you establish the meme "The size of US government has been getting smaller", and "Government is not causing the problems" to counter the endlessly repeated opposites. You won't defeat the constant message of government hatred, but you are just trying to create a sliver of doubt.

But if you don't repeat this over and over, it's not as if the opposite memes stop being repeated, you just allow them to go unopposed.

Paul SB said...

Too bad the villains weren't fat guys with hair pieces!

BTW - that clip was from a National Geo video called Stress: Portrait of a Killer. It's one I show my students every year since I found it, and it's something I think most people should see. American culture is destroying its own people for the sake of its abstractions. The video hits some of the major themes. I know you're a busy hominid, but it is worth your time to understand something really important about how you (and everyone else around you) work.

Here's a link to the whole thing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYG0ZuTv5rs&t=306s

Paul451 said...

LarryHart to Alfred,
"Yes, we are capable of playing sandlot ball"

But only when the players have roughly equal power. Enough for even a small group to gang up on a cheater.

Libertarianism assumes roughly equal power. (Two roughly equally empowered parties negotiating in good faith.) And when that's patently untrue in realistic scenarios, they invent ideas like "security insurance" to create the balance, ignoring that the "security insurance" companies then become the power.

Libertarianism only works with roughly equal power. Since that doesn't apply in the real world, libertarian concepts of competition only work in narrow artificial fields created by externally imposed rules.

Paul SB said...

Paul451,

You wrote: "LarryHart: "So you are saying that what we need is..."
- That wasn't Larry, that was me. And it's a low tactic if you are committing fallacies to make your point, especially if you know you are doing it. But I still agree with you on all of this. You're not really arguing for use of Ad nauseam so much as fighting their ad nauseam with persistent repetition of good arguments.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

Maybe the game we need to be playing is Keekorok!

donzelion said...

Paul451: DenofGeek has a useful listing of the "27 meanest high school girls" - and yes, 15 of the 27 are blondes. I'd have to do some more research to trace the trope, but there seems to have been a 2007 shift among 'blonde = evil' in films set in high school as well (or at least, ones that got listed on this ranking, which is probably more weighted towards recent stuff).

First though, I missed Charlize Theron on 'Snow White & the Huntsman.' Guess that qualifies as YA stuff (never saw it).

There are certainly no shortage of blonde mean girls (Carrie, Heathers, Mean Girls, Easy A), but up until recently, there seems to have been more variety (e.g., blonde villains, blonde heroes, blond 'dead girls' in slasher films, blonde survivors). Take Heathers: 1 evil blonde, 1 evil brunette, 1 non-evil-in-the-end blond, and I don't know whether Veronica (Winona Ryder) is good or evil.

Or Sarah Michelle Gellar, who darkened her hair from Buffy blonde to portray evil Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions (1999). Probably more to affirm the distinction as a new character and avoid confusing audiences.

Reese Witherspoon, the blonde sweetheart in that film, became the blonde villain in Election (1999) - others have suggested that film influenced mindspace, but I'd suspect more in 2008 than 2016.

Speaking of 'Election' (the movie, not the reality), this line in that article caught my eye:

"It wasn’t until this year that I picked up on the brief, but heartbreaking, moments depicting the idealistic teenager’s wounded confusion when she does everything she is supposed to do, but discovers that everyone hates her anyway."

Yep. Sounds about right.

Paul SB said...

I just remembered something interesting I saw this morning. I had looked up Sapolsky to help my daughter write the finale to her comic book, and youtube throws a bunch of other videos at you, trying to bait you to click more. There were several videos that were recordings of Sapolsky lecturing at Stanford, and I downloaded a couple of them and listened while washing the dishes and doing laundry (exciting vacation!). One of the lectures was on depression, which is absolutely epidemic in our modern world. I already know a bit about how it works neurologically, but he made a point I hadn't heard before, and it was a point that made me rethink certain neighborhoods, as well as our ongoing immigration issues.

Most people use the word /depression/ to refer simply to the feeling of being bummed out, the normal reaction to disappointment, loss or tragedy. In medial terms /depression/ is something more serious. The ordinary depression that we all feel when things in our lives go wrong lowers the levels of several important neurotransmitters for awhile, but we usually get one bit in a few days and those levels go back to normal. Some people are more susceptible to these lowered levels and they don't go back to normal. This much I knew. But he also said that if a person has a traumatic event, they feel the drop for awhile and then it gets back to normal. Then another bad thing happens - same deal. But after three or four major life events, the neurotransmitter levels stop returning to their normal base levels. It's as if the system can only repair itself so many times before it becomes permanently broken.

Now imagine living in some horrible gang-infested ghetto, where violence is a daily ritual and a social norm. It's been established for some time that children growing up in neighborhoods like this suffer from PTSD. Now add major clinical depression. The more bad things happen, the less likely their brains will be able to recover (while Richie Rich only has to contend with losing his favorite diamond toothbrush). What you get is a vicious circle. The more bad things happen, the more dysfunctional the people get. Now think about immigrants fleeing a civil war or drug violence. Not a pretty picture. But the rich mostly insist that they were just born genetically superior to everyone else.

I think these are among the kinds of facts people need to know. They might not be so impressed with (and inclined to vote for) millionaires if they understood that the propaganda they use to justify their power is scatology.

donzelion said...

Paul451: "You don't need to answer muck with muck. It's the economy, stupid."

In 1992, perhaps. In 2008, indeed. In 2000 or 2016, the economy wasn't wrecked and we weren't looking at disaster (a downturn in tech stocks started in late 2000, esp. around election season, but the bear market and dot-com crash didn't go whole hog until 2001).

The thing about muck is that's where an awful lot of people live. One can try to elevate people out of the muck - but a lot of folks still read the Enquirer.

"I don't care about how many whores my General screws. I only care that he attacks the enemy well."
Two thoughts there:
(a) You're not one of the muckdwellers, so what you care about will be quite distinct from them. And
(b) When you're in the midst of a battle, probably so. Once the war is over, others will use 'whoremongering' to tear down even the best generals - as Petraeus learned, and Caesar before him (though neither was really a whoremonger, and assuming one believes his liaison with Cleopatra contributed to his assassination).

David Brin said...

Eeep, I hadn't thought of the movie "Election" in context of the one we just went through. Evil blondes indeed.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB:And yes, markets have the potential to raise all boats, but more often than not they raise a tiny few spectacularly while grinding the rest down to servitude.

Goodness no. No, no, no. History shows markets DO elevate a select few including some who innovate in ways we find to be immoral, but in the last 300 years or so market have been raising everyone where they have been allowed to operate fairly.

When most are being ground down, the markets are not even close to fair. That is so spectacularly NOT the case of us right now and hasn't been for some time.

...if left unchecked will tend to...

This is the zero-sum belief you have. It is very true in a feudalistic society. It is very NOT true for us. We have made this so by being so VERY paranoid about our would-be oligarchs. You and many others here are excellent examples of this.

The peasant version of this phrase: You get two loaves if someone gets none.
The aristocrat version of this phrase: If I don't rule you, someone else will.
The burgher version of this phrase in trade: My gain is your loss.

None are necessarily true and our civilization is a spectacular demonstration of this FACT.

Alfred Differ said...

LarryHart: "That's a different thing, in fact, the opposite thing."

That's not how I read it.

The original material from Anonymole does a bit more than hint at Hobbes' Leviathan which is a thing I place on the list of Unholy Monsters. I find it difficult to imagine a more awful, evil thing that anyone has ever written about in a way that suggests they think it should be how we arrange our affairs.

Evil... and the path is paved with good intentions.


Go ahead and live in a liberal democracy. I'm supportive. Don't for a moment think that most of us care to arrange the affairs of government, though. Society is a much larger set and has to be so for all these amazing things we've done since beheading or effectively castrating the ancient regime.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: But only when the players have roughly equal power.

If so, how did a French King lose his head near the end of the 18th century and an English King lose his in the mid-17th? How is it the Hapsburgs had so much trouble with the Lowlands in the century before that?


We out-number those who would rule us. We always have.
The power we wield depends on how much we want to wield it.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Paul451 said

Libertarianism assumes roughly equal power. (Two roughly equally empowered parties negotiating in good faith.) And when that's patently untrue in realistic scenarios, they invent ideas like "security insurance" to create the balance, ignoring that the "security insurance" companies then become the power.

Libertarianism only works with roughly equal power. Since that doesn't apply in the real world, libertarian concepts of competition only work in narrow artificial fields created by externally imposed rules.

Is it OK I use this as may times as I can!
This is a perfect summary of the problem

Deuxglass said...

The Democrat leadership has forgotten that they are in competition for votes and that they cannot just set up a “city on the hill” and expect the voters to buy into it simply because the Dems feel it is a good idea. They have forgotten that the majority of people are a mixture of conservative and liberal notions. The hardcore Republicans and the hardcore Democrats together make up less than 50% of the voters and to win you have to convince the people who might like some of liberal values but not all of them to vote for you. In this election the Democrats insisted that you must take all of their values and if you don’t then you are unworthy people. Essentially they treated them as heretics because they do not strictly follow the accepted rites and dogmas as defined by the DNC. For some unfathomable reason they saw the economy as a secondary issue and to those who live on the coasts that might be partially true but to those in between the economy was the only issue that mattered this time around. Sanders correctly hit on that issue and was able to tie it to progressive ideas such as universal health insurance, Wall Street reform, free college tuition, changes in trade and several other issues that are very progressive. I can’t say if he would have won against Trump or not, that is now in the realm of political fiction, but he did prove that there is widespread support for some very progressive issues that have been completely ignored by the DNC who preferred to concentrate on social themes. They put some of his ideas in the party plank but only as an add on which didn’t convince the people in states that are hurting economically. Unfortunately they seem to still be in the same mindset. I am starting to worry that maybe the DNC is incapable of changing

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

That's not how I read it.

The original material from Anonymole does a bit more than hint at Hobbes' Leviathan which is a thing I place on the list of Unholy Monsters


Ok, I just looked back and what he said was "Government is society". And we're both imposing our personal templates on--forgive me--what "is" means.

You're reading "is" as an equals sign: "Government = society". A transitive operation which implies that society and government are the identical thing; that when we participate in one, we are also de facto participating in the other.

I read it more like "The levers of government (that is, democratic government) rest in the hands of society rather than in self-proclaimed monarchs or cabals of CEOs.

To me, the legitimate function of government, besides common defense, is administration of the commons. Unless and until society matures to the point where it can metaphorically play sandlot baseball without umpires and refrain from cheating, some sort of administration of the commons is necessary. I'd rather see those tasks coordinated by the voters than by kings or corporations.

I suppose we'd have to put it to Anonymole himself as to what he actually meant.


LarryHart said...

Paul SB to Paul451:

You wrote: "LarryHart: "So you are saying that what we need is..."
- That wasn't Larry, that was me. And it's a low tactic if you are committing fallacies to make your point,...


I think numeric-Paul was quoting you addressing me.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

I don't care about how many whores my General screws. I only care that he attacks the enemy well.

But if I can be convinced that he is the enemy, it doesn't how chaste he is either.


That's why this Russia thing might have legs. It casts Trump himself as the enemy, or at least sleeping with the enemy. Not all Republicans are comfortable with that.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

@Paul451: "But only when the players have roughly equal power."

If so, how did a French King lose his head near the end of the 18th century and an English King lose his in the mid-17th? How is it the Hapsburgs had so much trouble with the Lowlands in the century before that?


The poor have the power to revolt and metaphorically upset the chessboard. That's not the same thing as having equal status as a player in the game.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

Not zero-sum thinking, but vigilance, in exactly the way our host here has argued for so many, many times.

"When most are being ground down, the markets are not even close to fair. That is so spectacularly NOT the case of us right now and hasn't been for some time."

Just how fairly the markets operate at any given time is very up and down. Yes, the average standard of living went up quite dramatically through most of the 20th Century. This was mostly a result of science and technology, but of course the fruits of science and technology need the market to distribute them (strictly government distribution systems failed pretty spectacularly in the 20th C.). But the nation keeps vacillating between electing kleptocrats who rob the nation to fill their own pockets, and well-intentioned fools who either can't do anything about them or are allowing themselves to be used by the CEOligarchs.

"Evil... and the path is paved with good intentions."

But who is driving, careening down that path and dragging most of the human species down with it? The CEOligarchs, the greedy bastards who want to deny what their industry is doing to the planet because they don't want to pay to fix it, the same bastards who perpetuate the myth that those who are fabulously wealthy are smarter, better, morally and genetically superior to all the rest of us throwbacks, creating a social system that is toxic to human life.

It could be worse, but it could be a hell of a lot better. At one extreme, a hyperactive immune system kills you with autoimmune disorders. At the other end, immunodeficiency fails to defend up against disease and we're toast. But are these two extremes equal? We know that every square inch of our skin has around a million bacteria crawling over it. Most of those bacteria are harmless, and some are beneficial to us because they keep the bad bacteria (germs) in check. But we know that an awful lot of those bacteria will be more than happy to kill their host for the sake of their own prosperity. Autoimmune disorders, on the other hand, are either uncommon (like Type 1 Diabetes) or common enough but not fatal (Rheumatoid Arthritis). So if you must err, err on the side of caution. Better to live with arthritis than to die of tuberculosis.

"If so, how did a French King lose his head near the end of the 18th century and an English King lose his in the mid-17th?"
I have to call bullshit on this one! That's two kings in 6000 years? If it were purely a matter of choice, then why not many, many more despots going to the chopping block? Probably because the despots have massive coercive power to protect them, and only very rarely do "the people" manage to get together with enough force to overcome that power.

Remember those 3 horses you never bet on?

Vigilance is not one of them.

Deuxglass said...

donzelion,

The new “Evil Blond” idea if combined with the traditional “Dumb Blonde” meme that has been prevalent for generations just might have handicapped Hillary Clinton. Maybe she should have dyed her hair to a dignified grey to tap into the “kind but stern” grandmother look. In any case the person who counseled her wardrobe choices must have been a closet Trump supporter or perhaps a Russian sleeper agent. She was really badly dressed throughout the campaign.

Jumper said...

Here's a link to the same video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4UMyTnlaMY

Notice it's a different link than PaulSB's above, which is

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYG0ZuTv5rs&t=306s

I am not sure why. I do know some links contain referents to where they came from. I often try to find a link with these shorn. Especially if the original is from a dodgy site. Perhaps they use a disreputable tracker. From YouTube if you copy the title and then search for it, (which might seem silly) you will get a cleaner link than the one that got you there, or so it seems.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

In any case the person who counseled her wardrobe choices must have been a closet Trump supporter or perhaps a Russian sleeper agent. She was really badly dressed throughout the campaign.


I wondered about the debates in which Trump wore blue ties and Hillary dressed in red. Did they actually coordinate?

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

I am sure Trump waited to see what she was wearing before putting on the tie. It would just take a minute to do it. Actually I know some people who do choose the tie at the last moment before going on stage. If she was in blue he would have a red tie and vise versa.

Darrell E said...

Paul451 said...

Clinton bragged about what "We" were going to do on climate change and gun control when she won, but failed to touch on the economics of average Americans.

This isn't really true. Perhaps she can be blamed for not figuring out a more effective way to do it but she touched on the economics of average Americans quite frequently. She spent significant percentages of her time in the debates outlining policies specifically intended to improve the economic lot of the poor and middle class, white working class demographics, and referring people to her website for even more details. She also frequently talked about those policies during public appearances and in TV ads. She talked about these policies frequently. Not enough people cared or paid attention. Neither in the press or among the public. Not enough people are swayed by policies. Too many are swayed almost entirely by appeals to emotion rather than reason. HC did a poor job of that.

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

Not enough people are swayed by policies. Too many are swayed almost entirely by appeals to emotion rather than reason. HC did a poor job of that.


It's becoming clear to me that too many jingoistic Americans really do hate America. I mean they "hate America" in the sense that you can hate your job but keep it anyway because you want the income and perks. "America" as a concept involves self-government, and many people just don't want the bother of governing themselves. They just like the self-important cachet of being "Americans".

A.F. Rey said...

Perhaps she can be blamed for not figuring out a more effective way to do it but she touched on the economics of average Americans quite frequently.

It suddenly occurred to me what Hillary's problem was.

She wasn't outrageous.

It's come to a point where the American public only pays attention to the outrageous, the special, the entertaining. Only the spectacular makes an impression. We are so inundated by voices, facts, images that it takes the outrageous and the unique to pique our interest and makes us remember.

That's why Trump won. Because his outrageous behavior made people look, and then they heard what he said. And the calm, collected, controlled Hillary was too much like the background noise to stand out. So the public heard and believed Trump and didn't even know what Hillary said, except for those who already agreed with her.

A majority of Americans may still listen to even the quiet voices. But this election wasn't decided by the majority. It was decided by the minority. And they were swayed by the big, the flashy, and the outrageous, because that's what got through the noise. :(

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

I didn't realize there was an issue with different variants of the same youtube video. Since I own the dvd, I never thought to archive any related youtube versions, so if I bring it up here, I just go to youtube and copy the first version I see.

Hope you enjoyed watching, though. It's not likely any one video will change a person's entire perspective, but it's a step in the right direction. All the politics and macro-societal stuff that gets discussed here rests on a foundation of billions of individuals, and if a majority of those individuals are being screwed by all the macro stuff, that social order has an expiration date.

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

Thanks for the link to that baboon video.

I love the fact that new joiners to the tribe actually do adjust to the idea that "We don't do that sort of thing here. We're different." That's America at its best too. True, the baboons could build a wall around themselves (and make the outsiders pay for it), but they wouldn't convert any more baboons that way.

LarryHart said...

from Paul SB's video:


"...where that sort of drive and ambition and type-A-ness dominate..."


Type-A-ness??? (say it out loud)

Gotta find a use for that one.

:)

Paul SB said...

A.F. and Larry, between jingoism and Jerry Springer, it sounds like we are suffering from a consequence of scalar stress. Too much information running through our brains - as an old song went. And neurologically, you have a point. Human brains (all brains, really) are made to adapt to changing conditions. If the amount of excitement we feel goes up and up, the things that excited us become less exciting. Mechanically what happens is that the receptor proteins in our synapses start withdrawing inside the membrane, which is our body's way of saying "enough is enough." This is exactly how drug addicts die of overdoses. The first hit makes them high as a kite, but after a couple years they need to double, then triple, then quadruple the dose. And at that point, it's not even making the addict high anymore - they have to keep upping the dose just to feel normal.

The more outrageous the media circus gets, desperately trying to capture eyes and thus profits, the more the audiences build tolerance for outrageous. Self-defeating system, like unregulated capitalism. This just furthers my point about how the macro-societal stuff rests on the foundation of billions of individuals. The "invisible hand" is not moving to ensure everything is fair or equitable, it is moving everything toward deeper dysfunction.

Having said that, though, it took the kind of society we have (and not just in the U.S. - many nations participate) to raise up the sciences that have the ability to show us what is really happening.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I can think of a lot of uses for that one, unfortunately most of them would likely lead to the termination of my employment. Sapolsky is, of course, referring to the Type A personality, which he confesses to be himself. However, Type A-ness usually means asshole, and he doesn't strike me as that at all, just a really obsessively driven worker. I doubt I could manage a doctorate in neuroscience myself. I have my drives, but I'm nowhere near that relentless. Still, I could see devoting my life to this stuff.

In one of the lectures I have on CD, Sapolsky tells the story of where the term came from. A cardiologist had to call an upholsterer to repair the arms of the chairs in his waiting room, and the upholsterer commented on how many of the patients in the waiting room seemed to grip the arm rests like they were holding on for dear life. The cardiologist found himself calling on that same upholsterer over and over again, and the guy commented that he had no other customer who needed their arm rests fixed with anywhere near the frequency. It was the anecdote that started a whole series of investigations into how stress affects the cardiovascular system, and eventually nearly everything else within the human body.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Sapolsky is, of course, referring to the Type A personality, which he confesses to be himself. However, Type A-ness usually means asshole, and he doesn't strike me as that at all, just a really obsessively driven worker.


I really doubt he meant "type-A-ness" as a pun, but it works so well, I can't un-see it.

Agreed that a type-A personality can be used for good or for evil. Dr Brin's Dena character made that point in "The Postman". My wife's whole family is type-A; the epitome of "too many chiefs and not enough Indians". When we began getting serious together, she made me promise to remind her to slow down sometimes and enjoy life. She certainly wasn't getting that at home.

But she does very well in the business world, and some of that is because she is very aggressive at the sort of social interactions that the low-stress baboons engaged in. Her manner lets her clients know that they're in good, competent hands.

Funny, my wife and my mom are very different personalities, the one taking charge in all situations and the other always hanging back to see what everyone else will decide first. But they share something in common--both are the type of family member or co-worker whom nobody dislikes and everyone gets along with.

Jumper said...

I did like the video. The new stable social order reminds me of many similar phenomena outside social anthropology/mammalian social study. Different attractors can be stable.

I am not sure the "type a, type b" classification system is completely accurate. Circular pecking orders among chickens seem to arise sometimes. This, I posit only half-joking, is the function of the artist: to close the loop. In the gathering of the rich, the successful artist is the leader of the room. In his or her normal life, away from these brief encounters, the artist is poorly housed, clothed and fed.

Paul SB said...

Larry,
It sounds like you have gotten very lucky with the women in your life. I hope your wife doesn't groom like a baboon, though! ;] And what you are saying here points to the importance of diversity. As much s we want to ridicule those Type A people, a lot of them provide some real driving force in society. It gets to be a problem when the Type A's decide that they are better than everyone else and start doing the "Will to Power" schei├če. And this probably goes badly just as often with both sexes.

When I first learned about the Type A personality, 20 some-odd years ago it inspired me to write a short story about a businessman who had blown his career and went off to some failing resort around Saturn to try to revitalize his life. My daughter made that one into a comic several years ago, but she changed it to add a tiny bit of gender issue to it that hadn't occurred to me at the time. As usual, she always manages to do this stuff much better than I can.

If you're up for a 20 minute video, I just listened to another Saplosky while doing other things. This one os about the relationship between religion and mental disorders. It's straight up lecture, so there isn't really much point watching when listening is what matters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJM5mipwebw&t=191s

More food for thought, while I still have a couple days of vacation.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

As much s we want to ridicule those Type A people, a lot of them provide some real driving force in society.


In that Star Trek episode, Bad Kirk got all of the type-A characteristics, and Good Kirk had trouble functioning as captain without them.

TheMadLibrarian said...

As a librarian, I have input on what books go onto our shelves. I would like some ideas for recently published conservative political writers who could counteract the screeching flood of Republican crazy that seems to be most of what gets traction in bookstores these days. Sorry, Dr. Brin, but as valuable as your commentary is, I couldn't sell it to someone looking for a recognizable conservative voice. I'm hoping for some overlooked gems that haven't made the Fox News circuit.

Jumper said...

If type As are torn down, but type Bs encouraged, what happens then? Often along with the clawing of the As goes clawing at the Bs who seem to want to be As. What if that isn't justified?

Paul SB said...

I think the Good Kirk/Bad Kirk thing kind of illustrates the point that most people are neither Type A nor Type B, but mix. It is only a small subset that goes to the extremes, either way. Unfortunately, business culture tends to bring out the Type A in a lot of people, and cultivate it for short-term gains. That cultivation usually results in very, very bad long-term consequences, and not just for the upholstery.

Jumper, I would love to hear about the parallels you see.

matthew said...

@ TheMadLibarian
I think highly of Reihan Salam as a conservative voice, even if his speaking voice (like Dr. Brin's) is damned annoying. Sorry, Doc, for the diss, but the both of you have a nasal whine in tone that just drives me nuts. Still, interesting ideas.

Jeff B. said...

MadLibrarian,

I was going to recommend David Frum, but find that he's not authored any books since his "road to Damascus" moment or movement since c.2011 or so. I can't think of anyone else offhand, although Rod Dreher (at the American Conservative) might've authored some books in the last few years. His focus is mostly cultural, though, especially re: conservative Christianity in an increasingly secular society.

Jonathan Sills said...

I thought Anonymole was fairly clear. Disparaging, demonizing, and denigrating the government is not a useful thing, because at least in theory in the US, we are the government, and the government is us. We aren't (supposed to be) ruled over by a cabal of hereditary aristocrats, but rather (are supposed to) select some of our own numbers to represent our best interests.

Separating out "Da Gub'mint" as a distinct and hostile entity is not at all conducive to the concept of "civil debate", nor proper self-government. We can debate the proper sphere of influence which our government should have; we can, and must, watch those representatives like the proverbial hawks to make sure they aren't enriching themselves at the expense of the country, but when we deny that we are, or even can be, part of the government, we start to lose something basic to what the United States is supposed to be.

Jumper said...

Don't listen to Robert; he's sonically in error. Dr. Brin needs a voice lesson to relax the vocal chords and still achieve speakers' volume at lower pitch. This professor is free:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YL3ccwVVg5A

Jeff B. said...

Paul SB:
There simply aren't enough people in rural America to account for all the card-carrying Republicans

I agree, and was not implying such one-dimensionality to the issue. Yes, of course there is a large suburban/urban component to the Trump/Republican vote.

However, that is completely irrelevant in the one matter that seems paramount given the results of the Presidential and state legislative elections. As long as gerrymandering means that the rural (Republican-dominated) voter has a hugely overwhelming % of state and national votes,turning suburban or urban voters will be completely ineffectual. It matters not one whit in the scope of things if 10,000 NYC voters are persuaded to switch from R to D- it doesn't affect outcomes at all. Like the Rotten Boroughs in England's past, these "Rotten Districts" because of the gerrymander control much of the nation's future.

Likewise, Democratic/Liberal thinkers have for quite some time been looking at and writing about the changing voter demographic with the coming groundswell in the young, who are by a giant majority liberal/democratic. The hope is that this growing tide will soon sweep away the conservative core as they age out.

But this is largely a false hope- 1., because most of these will be urban residents, so in Gerrymander World as stated above it doesn't matter at all, and 2. because of Gerrymandering, the growing numbers of Latino and immigrant voters in non-urban areas also won't matter, because it's simple to slice and dice their areas so their vote is minimized. Not to mention active voter suppression.

Without the foundation of gerrymandering being threatened, then little change can be expected in many parts of the country.

Jeff B. said...

Donzelion, from way upthread:
Absolutely true. It's also racially biased (pro-white) and economically biased (pro-middle class/upper-middle). The right-wing noise machine is just as biased. Both are riddled with cliches and flimsy reporting - both offend audiences with their intentional and unwitting contempt. But only one side has traction outside the cities...

I agree wholeheartedly- this is exactly what I was driving at. The media's focus (and perceived contempt) for the middlelands plays right into the rightwing noise machine's memes about liberal bias, and liberals being disconnected with "real America."

greg byshenk said...

I've been telling myself to stay away from issues about the US election (not my circus; not my monkeys, as they say). But a general-ish comment about reported preferences.

I think people should be very careful when claiming that Sanders (or someone else who was not actually the candidate) would have been more successful than another (who actually did run), particularly based on reports of people who "would have supported" him. Not only do you have the general problem of stated preference, there is also a problem of self-justification.

If in fact there were a yuge number of people who 'would have' voted for Sanders, why was he unable to capture even a majority of voters in the primary? There is no way to lay the numbers at the feet of so-called "cheating" by the DNC; the loss is too large. The evidence suggests that Sanders had a small-ish core of very strong supporters, and not a great deal else. What I see (at least in some quarters, though I can't say how widespread it is) is self-justificatory reporting by those who know that Trump was the wrong choice, but made it anyway: "Well, you know, I would have voted for [someone else], but it was 'crooked' Clinton so I just had to vote for Trump." And at least some of these people, had Sanders been the Democratic nominee, would be saying: "Well, you know, I would have voted for [someone else], but it was 'socialist' Sanders so I just had to vote for Trump."

I don't think I've seen this referenced here. It's not perfect, but it raises some good points, I think: The dark rigidity of fundamentalist rural America.

Jumper said...

I just returned from alternate Bernie universe, where he was nominated. They're tearing their hair out over the unprecedented, filthy torrent of foul lies that poisoned Bernie and got Trump elected. The Clinton supporters are purple with fury.

Or is that too improbable?

Paul SB said...

Greg, I clicked on your link and it's dead. Bummer, dude!

As far as people not voting for Sanders b/c he's a socialist, I called that one months ago. He would have gotten a lot of the youth vote that did not turn out for Clinton, but then, he would probably not gotten as much of the minority vote Clinton got, so who can say? He just wasn't outrageous enough, I guess. The thing that gets me is how many people voted for Grope who would have absolutely despised him if he were their boss.

Paul SB said...

Jeff,

Your take on gerrymandering and the rural right is deeply depressing. No offense, but I really hope you are wrong, as there is little hope that a Grope Administration would do anything about gerrymander cheating. Look at how he's reacting to Putingate! Total denial, like any good (crooked) businessman!

Jeff B. said...

Greg/Paul SB,

The story's elsewhere on Raw Story, but they I think picked it up here:

http://forsetti.tumblr.com/post/153181757500/on-rural-america-understanding-isnt-the-problem

I agree with Greg that it's not perfect, but some of it directly gets at exactly some of what I've been struggling to put to words- esp. about how the situation seems so bleak. It goes a little too far in emphasizing how much responsibility for rural America's decline falls on rural voters themselves, but this very point is something I've not considered before. These very voters for 30 years have put in state and federal reps that have caused much of the devastation of the hinterlands...

Jeff B. said...

Paul SB,

I'm an optimist by nature, but I'll admit the picture looks grim, at least for the immediate future. Barring the SCUS shocking everyone and going against hundreds of years of precedence, and actually ruling that Gerrymandering deliberately and unconstitutionally deprives voters of their rights, I see little possible short-term recourse.

Longer term, such deep change requires the proverbial "short, sharp shock." From a historical perspective, in a political sense this country is very conservative and reluctant to change unless absolutely forced to. What exactly that shock would mean I don't know. A taxpayer revolt? Civil disobedience on the scale of millions? A real, serious "sovereign citizen" revolt?

But I'll repeat, gerrymandering is the lynchpin- remove that, and the bastardization of American politics falters and fails. Without gerrymandering, fair electoral districts at all levels of government begin to force conservatives back into the marketplace of ideas, tames the idiots, moderates the extremists, and allows reason to again begin to grow. Fair electoral districts would, like in CA, force politicians to begin to represent all their constituents.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: And we're both imposing our personal templates on--forgive me--what "is" means.

Okay. I enjoyed a good smile out of this. It won't save either of us from being impeached, but I can see where you are going on this now.

until society matures to the point where it can metaphorically play sandlot baseball without umpires and refrain from cheating

Heh. The problem with this is that it will never happen as long as we are human. This means it fails as a test of when we are mature enough to try something. As a libertarian, I will demand a trial run long before the stars go cold. 8)

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ:

What I said was...


Unless and until society matures to the point where it can metaphorically play sandlot baseball without umpires and refrain from cheating, some sort of administration of the commons is necessary. I'd rather see those tasks coordinated by the voters than by kings or corporations.


I agree with you that we're not there yet, and maybe never will be. Therefore, "some sort of administration of the commons is necessary." Given that, "I'd rather see those tasks coordinated by the voters than by kings or corporations." If you are disagreeing, what alternative are you proposing to democracy? You "will demand a trial run" of what?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dog trainers (and large cat trainers) recognize a third type: Type Z, or Zeta. They tend to the at the bottom of the pecking order, and in some species would be outcasts. This is vividly demonstrated amongst great apes and various types of monkeys. They tend to be dangerous amongst canids and cats because they'll often stage sneak attacks and sabotage against leaders (dominant, type A sorts) as a way of gaining status and power.
Unfortunately, the business environment brings out the worst in those, as well.

Paul451 said...

Jumper,
"Here's a link to the same video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4UMyTnlaMY
Notice it's a different link than PaulSB's above, which is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYG0ZuTv5rs&t=306s "


They are actually links to two different videos.

v=eYG0ZuTv5rs is the full hour long video.

v=A4UMyTnlaMY is the 9m section on the baboons.

The extra bit on PaulSB's link (&t=306s) isn't a referral-tracker, it's just a time-code meaning "Start playback from 5 min 6 secs".

(That reminds me. PaulSB, I noticed you have the start time-code on all you YouTube links. When you open the "share" tab in YouTube, make sure the "Start at" checkbox is unchecked.)

Paul451 said...

Jeff B,

Forsetti's mistake is that Trump didn't get elected just because of "rural, white, Christian" America. They always voted Republican. They didn't change their vote in this election.

If Trump only appealed to rural/white/Christians, he would have lost in the predicted "blue wall" landslide.

Trump won because Clinton lost non-college educated urbanites as well. She lost urban workers. Hell, she had a lower result amongst women and Latinos than Obama.

She lost because the moment the Democrats picked her, they effectively took ownership of the system that had failed the majority of Americans. Trump could deflect blame for everything the Republicans had done because he had just taken over the Republican Party against the strident opposition of the Rep leadership, and Clinton utterly failed to show that he was just a repeat of Republican failures.

Alternative Jumper,
That's why I don't think Sanders would have suffered as badly. He wasn't party-approved. Yes they would have thrown dirt at him, just as Dems threw everything they could at Trump. But the fact that the media and party elites disliked him was a bonus. That undermines Trump's advantage as an outsider. That then lets Sanders paint Trump more clearly as part of the problem, "Guys like this" who don't pay taxes, who exploit workers, etc, without having to defend past Democrat policies (like NAFTA/etc).

Maybe he had something big, but I doubt it. And without the pre-existing anti-Hillary hysteria, there was so much less foundation for the mud to stick to (mixing my metaphors.)

--

Paul451: "But if I can be convinced that [my general] is the enemy, it doesn't how chaste he is either."
LarryHart (I think): "That's why this Russia thing might have legs. It casts Trump himself as the enemy, or at least sleeping with the enemy."

Only if you can convince them that Russia is the enemy. It would have worked during the Cold War, but America's oligarchs admire Putin. Hence the Putin-loving rightwing media will not turn against Trump because of his ties to Russia, and will play down the accusation. In response the Dems and their apologists will need to hype it even louder, making themselves look hysterical. The average voter, who dislikes politics, just sees it as another political squabble where "both sides are as bad".

A few individual Republican politicians like McCain will feel a cold chill, but the election machinery created by the oligarchs will either keep them in line or undermine them.

That said, I'm not saying don't use it. It's true, so use it. (Repetition, repetition, repetition.) But don't rely on it.

--

Alfred,
Re: Hobbes.

Haven't read Leviathan/Behemoth, but his ideal society seems closer to Cromwell than either Charles. Like Marx, his explanation of the problem seems reasonable to me (humans is complex, yo, society can't satisfy everyone), his solution is where he goes full-retard. Like Marx he assumes that people can't find another path through the inevitable contradiction of wants (Hobbes) or concentration of power (Marx). To borrow David's terms, if Marx and Rand want to cut off our arms, Hobbes wants to cut out our frontal lobes.

Paul451 said...

Paul451: [libertarianism only works] "when the players have roughly equal power."
Alfred Differ: "If so, how did a French King lose his head near the end of the 18th century and an English King lose his in the mid-17th?"
LarryHart: "The poor have the power to revolt and metaphorically upset the chessboard. That's not the same thing as having equal status as a player in the game."

Heh, it took me a two pages to say the same thing. You covered one page in a single line, PaulSB covered the other page in a paragraph.

"I should write a book" really should be an insult.

Speaking of...

Paul SB: "You wrote: "LarryHart: "So you are saying that what we need is..."
- That wasn't Larry, that was me. And it's a low tactic if you are committing fallacies to make your point ...."


Do you know how long it took me to realise that PaulSB wasn't actually upset with me, and was just changing subjects...

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "The thing that gets me is how many people voted for Grope who would have absolutely despised him if he were their boss."

I have a few friends who worked under Schwarzenegger, who actually liked him as a person (but hated him as a governor). When I am hopeful, I imagine that Trump/Clinton '16 will turn out the same way Schwarzenegger/Davis '03 did: old structures of gerrymandering broken, a reversion to good governance, and a state that has rebuilt itself from a 'hopeless basket case' in 2008 to a triumph in 2016.

Especially as Schwarzenegger displaces Trump on 'The Apprentice'...

donzelion said...

Jeff B: Did you know it was a crazy governor from California who concocted the "one person, one vote" standard in Reynolds v. Sims (1964) (Earl Warren)? Yet it still took 50+ years for us to clean up our act (to the extent it's clean now).

Three linked components make it work here, two of which are now greatly disfavored by Republicans:

(1) Term limits (enacted in the '90s) - making it much harder for a specific politician to invest decades building ties into a specific set of communities and control loyalty through spoils
(2) Non-partisan primaries for statewide/federal positions - it's ironic that it would have had this effect since it doesn't affect state representatives, but the old system rewarded extremists through a feedback loop - given term limits, a state representative either gets 'promoted' into a state senate or federal congressional seat - or goes back into private life. In practice, the old system (the norm in America) rewards extremists - the easiest way to secure a 'promotion' path was to avoid achieving anything and simply towing the party line. Now, the federal and statewide steps are not quite so easily accessible.
(3) Citizen Commissions. Backed by Schwarzenegger and Charles Munger (both moderate Republicans who calculated they would mainly hurt Democrats), once the commissions obtained the power to actually draw the maps themselves, both houses in California shifted toward the Democrats.

Arizona also tried to move forward with citizen-driven districting, BUT that was delayed by gubernatorial interference. Note how it seems to be playing out:
2012: 53.5/44.5 Romney/Obama.....Arizona's Congressional Reps: 6 GOP/3 Dem
2016: 49.5/45.5 Trump/Clinton....Arizona's Congressional Reps: 5 GOP/4 Dem

Note that both the "nonpartisan primaries" and the "citizen commissions" were advocated by prominent Republicans and fought by party insiders from both sides. I do not expect Republicans anywhere else in the country to take such positions now given what's happened in terms of state offices in California. But it's possible.

donzelion said...

Paul451: re Hobbes

"Haven't read Leviathan/Behemoth"
You can reduce it down to a couple of interesting chapters and ignore most of it. An hour or so will draw out the bulk of the argument.

"his ideal society seems closer to Cromwell than either Charles."
Hobbes wasn't really interested in 'ideal' society, but was definitely very attentive to Cromwell (and the benefit of ending the English Civil War, one way or the other, over the continuation of anarchy). As an exile to France, he took a somewhat nuanced line (in part seeking to return to his homeland by proving that he wasn't blaspheming).

Hobbes merits an hour or two of familiarizing yourself, but Locke merits many hours: he is at least as important as Adam Smith to our intellectual, rationalist tradition (although Adam Smith is important to study to liberate him from misapplication). Locke, by abandoning assumptions about human villainy, sets a foundation that makes our own constitution a worthy experiment.

"To borrow David's terms, if Marx and Rand want to cut off our arms, Hobbes wants to cut out our frontal lobes."
Hmmm...perhaps better would be "Hobbes fears we can't help ourselves from cutting off our neighbor's frontal lobes" - and therefore all else follows.

Or, in another context, Hobbes says "obey Negan or else the zombies will kill us all" - Locke says "humans aren't exactly zombies, so we can contract better terms than that."

Paul SB said...

"Zepp Jamieson said...
Dog trainers (and large cat trainers) recognize a third type: Type Z, or Zeta. They tend to the at the bottom of the pecking order, and in some species would be outcasts."
- I know this terminology usually refers to males, at least in the primatology lit, but strangely enough, the first thing that came to my mind when I read this was Ally Sheedy's character in "The Breakfast Club." That's especially weird, as I have only actually seen that movie once, and that was right after I got out of high school. Memory is, indeed, a really weird thing.

Type Z humans, at least in American culture, seem to get elevated to hero status.

Paul SB said...

Paulenheit451,

"Do you know how long it took me to realise that PaulSB wasn't actually upset with me, and was just changing subjects..."
- I'm not an easy person to piss off. And normally I would say that taking 2 pages to say what someone else does in a paragraph or a single sentence would indicate a need for heavy editing, but in this case, your two pages were perfect. You laid things out in a way that someone who only halfway pays attention to politics (which would include both myself and a huge percentage of the voting public) could get. Not needless verbosity, but carefully-worded explanation. In short, a keeper, and a spreader. When I try I either go verbose and bore people to death or cut out vital info trying to shorten it.

I'm not easy to piss off, but I would love you more if you sent me a couple pounds of St. Nectaire... ;]

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

the Putin-loving rightwing media will not turn against Trump because of his ties to Russia, and will play down the accusation. In response the Dems and their apologists will need to hype it even louder, making themselves look hysterical. The average voter, who dislikes politics, just sees it as another political squabble where "both sides are as bad".


Hmmmm, I'm not sure about that last part. The average voter who dislikes politics thinks "Russia" still means communism, or at least "enemy". Americans who might turn a blind eye to Trump's personal outrageousness might bristle at evidence that they were had.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

I can see you on Arnie. The guy can actually be rather charismatic/charming at times. But I would probably require major application of alcohol to envision the U.S. coming out of being sacked by Donald Grope for four years as well as California has fared as a likely outcome.

On John Locke, oh yeah, he is well worth a read for anyone interested in understanding what brought about the move toward democracy in the 18th C. But, like Smith, he has to be read in context. It's too easy to read lit from hundreds of years ago and see it through the eyes of today. You did bring up his most important innovation, though - freeing Western thought from the tyranny of Biblical assumptions about evil being human nature. Rousseau tried to do the same thing, but Rousseau made the mistake of all reactionaries - he tried to counter one extreme with tis opposite extreme. As Rocky the Flying Squirrel would say, "That trick never works!" And without the benefit of modern science, Locke stumbled on a notion that was much closer to the truth (not the Truth) than either of those two.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Heh, it took me a two pages to say the same thing. You covered one page in a single line, PaulSB covered the other page in a paragraph.

"I should write a book" really should be an insult.


Well, Charles Dickens was paid by the word, so you've got that.

Seriously, I'm usually the one complimenting others for saying in a sentence what took me a term paper.

Paul451 said...

Previously, Antonym mentioned writing a story where a good (military) AI was at war against a bad (Wall Street) AI.

There may be a third player: http://www.cw6sandiego.com/news-anchor-sets-off-alexa-devices-around-san-diego-ordering-unwanted-dollhouses/

A morning show was doing a story where a young girl ordered a dollhouse and four pound of cookies by talking to "Alexa", the Amazon home-AI-thing. One of the hosts said something like "I love how this little girl says, 'Alexa ordered me a dollhouse' "... at which point viewers starting ringing in to complain that the host's own comment caused their Alexas to try to order dollhouses...

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: If the condition can't be met, advocates of government management of the playing field get to have their way en perpetuity. There will never be a tests determining how far we can go without them and to that approach I will object.

I too would rather a government of the people than one of kings and mercantilists. There are many variations on the former, though, including those where government is very light-handed. I want lighter variations tried.

I suspect there are ways to administer the commons that don't involve princes and priests. My more remote ancestors would have thought that daft. It obviously isn't as we've been proving. I suspect we can go further than we have.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: This was mostly a result of science and technology...

No. The numbers don't support this argument. Science in the narrow sense follows engineering and technology and improves after the economy improves. It's a matter of investments. We invested more in science AFTER we started to become wealthy enough to wonder what we were going to do with all this extra capital hanging around.

The average standard of living improved dramatically in the Netherlands in the 17th century and then England (then Scotland) in the 18th. The average person saw their real income double BEFORE the industrial revolution in those regions. Technology followed this. Industry is an effect of an earlier, enriching cause.

But the nation keeps vacillating between electing kleptocrats who rob the nation to fill their own pockets, and well-intentioned fools who either can't do anything about them or are allowing themselves to be used by the CEOligarchs.

You mean us in particular, right? It was worse in the 19th century when the political spoils system was in place. While I'd much rather none of them were robbing us, the economic numbers suggest they couldn't rob us fast enough to prevent two doublings of our real income. In the 20th century, they didn't stand a chance of keeping up. How many doublings have we seen since WWI, hmm? It's hard to state the value today because the quality of what we buy has vastly improved. Without quality adjustments, we are up about 40x, so that is three more doublings. With quality included, we are up at least 100x, so that would be seven more doublings.

You all are paying too much attention to the CEO's, I think, and missing what is happening on the ground. It's not just that we have a diamond shape society today instead of a pyramid. It's that the entire pyramid lifted off the ground and went floating away in it's new shape.

bastards who perpetuate the myth

You don't actually believe them, do you? I've never met anyone who did. I've met a few that said they did, but I think they just wanted the money and lifestyle. That is more about envy than belief. Big whoop.

On the immune system balance, your example fails with me. I was diagnosed with Wegener's about three years ago. Damn near killed me. Chemo-drugs are terrible things. One of my sisters has a more common one that is simply taking longer to kill her, but it will without a lot of luck. I get your point (and I'm not fishing for sympathy), but both extremes are deadly.

As for two kings, I thought two would be enough to show that the concept of balance is an illusion. Both thought they had a God given right to rule. Both died because they pissed off the people they ruled. Many other kings were not killed, but peasant revolts and aristocratic upheavals in Europe are common historical occurrences. Old school liberals know revolts are common even if they fail. We also know they start with asymmetric applications of force and then others decide which way to jump. The failures are usually examples of failures to attract the forces needed.

donzelion said...

Paul451: Caught my eye here:

"Previously, Antonym mentioned writing a story where a good (military) AI was at war against a bad (Wall Street) AI."

Which story?

I've actually been working on a story on those lines for years (multiple AIs - evolved from Google, FB, Wall Street, Pentagon, medical, and a few others)...my thought had been that a human civil war (lurking as others discuss the Pacifica v. Confederacy) would run in parallel with an AI struggle (as the AIs calculate which environment is most auspicious for their own devices). I'd pictured a sort of a Coriolanus story as the connecting frame...

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding Leviathan, Hobbes was reacting to the horrors he saw associated with what the English Civil Wars unleashed. He wasn't alone. Many who started it all regretted it when the truly crazy people started pushing for what THEY wanted. Leveling of the social classes? Heaven forbid!

Hobbes's Leviathan doesn't just rob us of our prefrontal lobes. It robs us of what makes us human. Every virtue besides prudence gets sacrificed for the sake of social order.

Hobbes approached social theory as an amateur geometer. The thought he could prove in the mathematical sense what our social order should be. His result likely would work if we desired order that much (he most certainly did), but the people in that order wouldn't be human in any sense we would recognize. At least communism is modeled on the social rules of Family. Leviathan would make programmable ants of us all.

It is useful to remember that he went to his grave thinking he also had a proof for how to square the circle. All these things came together for him under one intellectual umbrella. Many intellectuals are seduced by the rigor of Geometry and think to design/prove other forms of order. Even the Jesuits fell for it, though they had little else in common with Hobbes.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

"Dog trainers (and large cat trainers) recognize a third type: Type Z, or Zeta. They tend to the at the bottom of the pecking order, and in some species would be outcasts."
...
Type Z humans, at least in American culture, seem to get elevated to hero status.


The hero is the "Type Z" who proves to be uniquely indispensable at the crucial moment.

The green rox in "Kiln People" comes to mind.

greg byshenk said...

My apologies for the broken "Dark rigidity..." link earlier. It seems an extra quote sneaked in. If you follow the link and then remove the quote mark at the end, the proper page will load.

Or follow this one

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

A morning show was doing a story where a young girl ordered a dollhouse and four pound of cookies by talking to "Alexa", the Amazon home-AI-thing. One of the hosts said something like "I love how this little girl says, 'Alexa ordered me a dollhouse' "... at which point viewers starting ringing in to complain that the host's own comment caused their Alexas to try to order dollhouses...


That is thriller material. How about an action/suspense novel in which ISIS performs some outrageous act on video that is sure to be replayed on tv sets around the world. Embedded in the sound is an Arabic (or maybe Russian?) phrase which means "Alexa, shut down the power grid," or "Alexa, bomb China". And assuming a tv is playing in the right location...

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

"Science in the narrow sense follows engineering and technology and improves after the economy improves. It's a matter of investments. We invested more in science AFTER we started to become wealthy enough to wonder what we were going to do with all this extra capital hanging around."

That's an argument that does make a lot of sense. The Enlightenment was a pretty much 18th C. phenomenon, and what was happening in the Low Countries certainly played a role. But I don't see this so much as cart-before-horse argument. Rarely does this idea truly apply when you are dealing with human social systems. The dynamics of a social system are so intertwined that changes in one level (structure, infrastructure and superstructure) tend to set up feedbacks in the others. It makes sense that having extra money and time would allow people to invest it in the pursuit of science and technology (progress), but except for a few brief periods, there had always been people who had the time and money, and some of whom did invest in science and technology. Going back to Medieval times, the priesthood considered it their duty to God to try to learn as much as they could about God's Creation. A the time they called this pursuit "Natural Philosophy" but it was essentially science (the word /science/ wasn't actually coined until 1834).

You can talk about doubling of income, but income, but income doesn't do you a whole lot of good when you are dead. The mortality rates before the 19th C. were spectacular - and, in fact, were pretty much the same as most animals in the wild, with one major exception. Before the 19th C, which benefitted from the kind of basic, inductive, exploratory research that caught on in the 18th (still mainly among the aristocracy - by this time the Church had turned more of its efforts to staving off heresies) 50% of babies didn't make it to their third birthday. It was advances in chemistry and medicine that started to dramatically reduce the infant mortality rate, as well as transportation technology that helped to distribute high trophic-level foods better than at any previous time. But there is another problem that is pretty much unique to humans that tended to cut lives short - placenta previa. Up until effective anesthetics (starting with ethyl ether in the 1840s), 50% of women died in childbirth. Generally it was not the first birth that killed them, but the fifth or sixth - the more babies a woman has, the more likely she dies in labor. Orphans are such common characters in literature up to and including the Victorian era precisely because they were so common, with so many mothers dying and so many impoverished fathers abandoning their babies. It is very hard for people living the lives we live today to imagine just how different life was like for most of human history, before science and technology began to seriously chip away at so much of human misery.

This, along with the switch to an industrial economy, created the Demographic Transition. And this continues to happen in places like the Soviet Union, where a command economy rather than a market economy ruled. Markets are part of the picture, but they are not the whole picture. Maybe they are among the horses drawing the cart, but this cart has more than one horse.

Paul SB said...

As far as the inevitability of doubling goes, how many times has average income doubled since WW1? Funny you should mention WW1, given what happened afterward. We had the Roaring 20's, when prosperity was growing wildly, followed but he Great Depression, when prosperity tanked, to say the least. And it took another world war to pull us out of the downward spiral. Think about the nature of a positive feedback loop (or deviation amplification loop, if you like the older terminology). While you are in the loop, it looks like you are going to Infinity and Beyond! But these loops invariably hit a limit - some level beyond which the loop cannot go. When they do that, they rarely remain at a stable plateau, what they tend to do is collapse back down to a much lower level. That is exactly what a boom-or-bust cycle is, and that's exactly what we saw with WW1-Roaring 20's-Great Depression-WW2. We are fortunate that the bust of the 1970s wasn't as bad as the bust in the 1930's.

But think about what kleptocrats, and economists of all kinds, always try to promote. Growth! Growth! Growth! If the economy isn't growing like it did just before Black Thursday, the regime in charge doesn't get re-elected. Our economists, paid henchmen and-or dupes of our kleptocrats, constantly harangue us about growth, keeping it as high as possible. "It's the economy, stupid!" But while the superstructure promotes growth, which feeds the .001%'s Veblen addictions by skimming most of that growth for themselves, they risk flatlining the whole system. This is why I think things have been pretty good under Obama. The economists complain of tepid economic growth, but what they want will most likely collapse the system entirely, and our whole way of life goes into the dustbin of history.

You think too much about jealousy. That's a common right-wing argument, intended to shame the victims of an excessively unequal distribution system. I am thinking about long-term survival. Civilizations collapse, and bad economic management is a key culprit. Following the interests of the .001% is a failure mode

Zepp Jamieson said...

PaulSB wrote: "Type Z humans, at least in American culture, seem to get elevated to hero status."

Usually they tend to be unrecognized type As. People with focus, drive and determination who start out as ignored, rather than incapable.
About the only true incident of a Type Z becoming a hero is Kubrick's brilliant "Being There."
That, and comedies like Dumb and Dumber or Animal House were such types succeed despite themselves, and it works because it defies reality.

Jumper said...

If you operate a water-powered mill you don't need much money or leisure time to start making improvements. Spreading the word may be faster or slower.

On all the Trump dissections who is analyzing the meth epidemic and how it affects thinking? Plenty are talking of the opioid epidemic, which likely ties in, but the paranoia, cognitive failures, Dunning-Kruger syndrome, all pushed by intense, babbling enthusiasm of stimulants, has led to what I am starting to think of as "Morgellons politics."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morgellons

Note how the internet has amplified this (Morgellons) phenomenon.

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

You don't even need something as serious as meth the totally F up a person's thinking. Around 15% of all adults suffer a major depressive episode at least once in their lives, and chronic depression is epidemic.

It also serves a purpose. All the bull about rich people being "smart" and deserving their wealth has the effect of making everyone else look like fools, feel like fools, internalize failure as a feature of their personalities, and depress their self-esteem. This leads to a downward spiral that multiplies human suffering enormously, but it does one glorious, golden thing for the rich - it cuts a majority of people out of the competition. And I don't just mean in business terms. As long as we by the horse pucker that we live in a meritocracy, where people get what they deserve (whether its the older God-based superstition or the more modern, scientistic abomination of Social Darwinism), a majority of people who might have protested or even revolted against them feel too worthless and hopeless to try.

That's the function of inferiority. For many people this leads to the bottle, or to meth or other attempts to take the bad feelings away. But the root cause is social inequality, and the crap spewed out by the rich to justify it (to say nothing of tax laws and other ways they monkey the system to screw the rest of us).

Paul SB said...

Zepp,
If a Type Z is really a Type A that starts out unrecognized, would that suggest that they really were a Type Z to begin with, but changed to a Type A because of how society threaten them? Human life is not all genetics.

Jumper said...

Yeah, Paul. Agreeing. Look at the studies where students were split into "superior" and "inferior" groups and told which group they were in, and how they, even knowing it was play-acting, began to take on the roles arbitrarily assigned. Similar to the Milgram experiments with somewhat different parameters measured.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ:

Science in the narrow sense follows engineering and technology and improves after the economy improves. It's a matter of investments. We invested more in science AFTER we started to become wealthy enough to wonder what we were going to do with all this extra capital hanging around.


Are you sure it works that way? I ask because I read a book on entropy 25 years ago which changed my mind about certain historical transitions. The book talked about both the transition from hunter/gatherer to agriculture and the transition in Europe from wood to coal. In both cases, the author argued that humans don't initiate such transitions because of a surplus of wealth, but rather out of necessity once the old method has been exhausted. When the supply of the means of survival fails to meet demand, new methodologies have to be implemented to fill the gap, but those new methods are less efficient, not more. For example, you can burn coal to heat your house when there's no wood, but you can't build your house or a bridge out of coal, and roads that were built to transport wood won't handle the weight of coal.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB wrote: "Human life is not all genetics."
True that, and it shows the fundamental problem with trying to sort humans into just three hard and fast categories.
I have a friend who teaches the Enneagram. It starts out by sorting humans into three very general groups, but each in turn are subdivided into Types for a total of 9 (thus the name). I'm a type Six; Donald is a type Eight. But it doesn't stop there. Everyone has a "wing", a predilection for adjoining types that pick up some of their traits and characteristics. But I can also either be a paranoid or non-paranoid six, which isn't as bad as it sounds; it just means a paranoid six addresses challenges reactively rather than proactively. There's similar delineations for the eight other types, of course. So you end up with at least 54 subdivisions just to provide personality guidelines.

donzelion said...

Alfred/Paul SB: "We invested more in science AFTER we started to become wealthy enough to wonder what we were going to do with all this extra capital hanging around."

My picture is more a series of feedback loops than "capital came first" - or "science."

Throughout the Middle Ages, as in ancient eras, we have always had a handful of patronized scientists offering ingenious ponderings. Leonardo of Pisa (aka Fibonacci) in the 12th century, ongoing gunpowder advances (at least from the 13th century), navigation advances, and more.

Until the 15th century, the primary investment by feudal leaders would be churches and castles - massive, defensible masonworks. Canals, ditches, aqueducts, roads, etc. - all the stuff that creates prosperity - would simply invite an enemy to attack and strip it from you. Every gold piece invested in infrastructure would not be invested into currying favor with larger lords or paying for military defenses. Large works tend to cost a large amount of money, paid for out of cash-on-hand, effectively disarming you for years until the investment is recouped - during which you would be known to be vulnerable.

Once a yeoman force with muskets (possibly bolstered by temporary mercenaries) could withstand a much more expensive fixed military - investments into the means of producing anything could be converted rapidly into weapons. Local lords started investing far more in the infrastructure to obtain/deploy the fruits of science to repulse larger lords.

Capital followed, science gradually accrued, to produce more minds that could learn means of using both capital and science. Since literacy was essential to playing either gambit, universities and educational systems added much broader studies to what had been ecclesiastical fixations...and onwards.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

That Enneagram sound like a number of other schemes to sort people out into personality types, though I haven't seen any that end up with as many as 54. The greater number of types makes it better than most in terms of providing more useful detail, but it runs into the problem of scalar stress - or TMI as most people would say. Too many categories becomes cumbersome and the heuristic stops being useful. The difficulty human brain have with large data sets is exactly why systems with only 3 taxa are so common.

Whenever you see something like that, ask yourself exactly what question it is trying to answer, and how is it defining the variables it is using to get at the answers. I'm not dissing this system in particular, just giving a general bit of advice. The social and psychological literature is littered with schemes that try to make taxonomies out of everything (my former field of archaeology is especially bad about this), reifying those taxonomies, only to discover years later that they missed some important thing that invalidates most of the idea. usually it is someone else who shoves it in their faces.

It makes me wonder sometimes if any sort of classification is worth all the thunder and does, or if we might be better off attending more to human flexibility and commonalities.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

My history days were so long ago, but the picture you paint here passes my smell test. It's more about small changes that ripple through recursive relationships in ways that are rarely very predictable, and almost never have one single cause - however much cultural capital a concept has in the society trying to analyze those changes. In other words, it's complicated - always more complicated than what you can get on a bumper sticker.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Paul451 said...

greg byshenk,
Re: Dark Rigidity

As I said earlier, the mistake the author makes (which is the mistake so many commentators are making) is trying to explain why the red-neck deep south voted for Trump.

But they were always going to vote Republican. No-one expected anything else.

They certainly didn't vote for Obama, twice.

It achieves nothing to treat the psychology of the small-town Confederate bigot as the explanation for why Clinton lost, except to probably reinforce the sense of liberal contempt for the people who voted against Clinton who don't fit into this category.

The people who voted for a black urbane liberal Democratic candidate in 2008 and a black urbane liberal Democratic President in 2012, but didn't vote for Clinton in 2016.

The women who swung away. The Latinos who swung away. The urban workers who swung away. The traditionally Democrat states which were lost.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

The women who swung away. The Latinos who swung away. The urban workers who swung away. The traditionally Democrat states which were lost.


The women and Latinos, I honestly don't understand. I can't imagine what they were thinking.

The urban workers are the ones who are seen to have swung the election.

Some of the explanation for traditionally blue-wall states might be attributable to outright voter suppression. Wisconsin certainly. North Carolina as well, not a blue-wall state, but was in play. Michigan and Ohio, both with Republican state governments, I would suspect as well.

LarryHart said...

Oh, I see Dr Brin did announce...

onward!

onward!

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

A very good reason why the big expanding happened - allied I believe with the fact that our "tool kits" had expanded to the take off point
The people had tools available that meant that they could change the physical world - make concrete changes, build things to an extent that previous generations simply couldn't

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