Friday, August 25, 2017

Cheating, gerrymandering and other threats

I penned an important article on gerrymandering, offering new insights, and I'm waiting to hear from various journals and zines.  Alas, in this hyper-political era, editors choose according to their polemical tastes and pals... so you can expect it will likely be posted here, soon.  Meanwhile...

Ed Burmila, in Rolling Stone, makes a cogent point that we should pay less attention to Donald Trump and more to what the confederacy is doing to our fellow citizens, down at the state level, where the GOP’s lock on more than 30 out of fifty statehouses and 65 out of 98 state legislature chambers, has set then to work doing no less than re-establishing feudalism:

“Donald Trump's presidency has been a disaster, but he has succeeded beyond his wildest expectations in one key way: getting attention – attention that fills the void where the rest of us have a soul…. (But fighting back) begins with winning back the state legislatures that draw electoral maps and make the rules that shape elections.”

In other words, this is no time for timid appetites. The Bernie Bros etc. want us to concentrate on shifting 25 swing Congressional seats, but that number should be 125, even 225! Moreover, even that will be a hollow victory without a thousand State Assembly wins.  This coalesces three themes that I’ve pushed for some time.

1: Don’t impeach! Not yet. Our civil servants are now fully alerted to the insanity and they should be able to protect us, for the time being. For now, Trump is the Republicans’ nightmare. Impeach, and the  confederates will just rally behind a President Pence and march with savage discipline. Leaks will end, as those manics plot - sincerely - to bring on the end of the world.

Last week I offered up insight into the 25th Amendment, and how it might offer even worried Republicans a way to safeguard the Republic, without even removing an unstable president from office.

2: Gerrymandering and other electoral cheats are central. They have metastacized till even Samuel Alito and John Roberts cannot ignore them, anymore. (Or else they are simply not Americans.) But we need clever and strong backup plans. More on that, soon.

3: Retaking many of those states will not be done by running Santa Monica liberals in deep red districts.  Go ahead and run liberals and Bernites etc in swing constituencies. But in districts that are deeply conservative by personality, we need candidates who are pro-science, pro-rights, honest, logically fact-loving and un-bigoted… but who can also relate to locals… by personality.  Elsewhere, in a 3-part series, I talk about the richest possible source of such candidates.  Men and women of rectitude who can compel even the reddest voter to actually listen to a democrat, possibly for the first time in his or her life.

(That is what retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate achieved, in my own district. Republicans who had never listened to a democrat gave him their ear, and he came within 1,150 votes of toppling the infamous Darrell Issa.)

But how should you allocate your political time and energy?  Yes, national issues matter!  Give money to the fight against gerrymandering, and Arnold Schwarznegger will match your contribution!

But Burmila adds:

“The payoff of being politically active simply is greater in down-ballot races. House and Senate races are of course important, but the marginal benefit of adding one more volunteer to those campaigns is small compared to what an activist can contribute to a local race. Throwing your donation and evening volunteering hours into the miasma of money and noise that is a modern congressional race is like spitting into the ocean. In a local race, the time and money you can donate will be much more impactful. Knocking on doors and speaking to a few hundred voters on behalf of an unknown candidate in a state assembly primary could make a real difference.” 

Give the rest of it a read. Then give some thought about that retired officer you know, who happens to live in a red district.  It’s arm twisting time. 

== Vote cheating ==

The new "election fraud commission" has demanded information - including social security numbers - of every voter in America, without even setting up a secure and vetted site and infrastructure to receive and secure the information. And that sets aside the Orwellian aspects of the plan.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said about his own commission’s request for voter roll data from every state: “Frankly, if a state like Kentucky or California won’t provide available information, one has to ask the question, ‘Why not? I mean, what are they trying to hide if they don’t want a presidential advisory commission to study their state voter rolls?”

What are -- *choke * – they trying to hide?  How loud would you have screeched if Barack Obama had asked for that information, sir?

To be clear, my resistance is not purist or reflexive. I would happily allow a major beefing up in voter ID if it were part of a negotiated deal that included:

(1) massive 
compliance assistance to help poor people, divorced women, the elderly etc to actually get proper ID. (Without providing assistance to comply with a new burden, every single person shouting about Voter ID is a pure hypocrite. A. Pure. Hypocrite.)

(2) a national agency to 
vet and inspect every voting machine, ensuring that it is both secure and paper-trail hand-auditable

(3) weekend voting! 


(4) registration in parallel with drivers licenses. And finally

(4) an 
end to gerrymandering.

Democrats should say: “Fine. You give in on those five honorable and reasonable things and we’ll consent to a massive, five year program to ensure all votes and voters have proper ID!

Refuse those reasonable things and all you prove yourselves to be is hypocrites.  Well... that and outright cheaters.

== Those voting machines ==

Mark Anderson concisely describes the scandalous situation: “Prior to Obama's first election, multiple testimonies from various qualified experts proved that changing voting totals in U.S. states was easy enough for a smart middle-school hacker to accomplish. In one demonstration, a champion of the fallibility of the Washington State system showed, on live TV, how local results of election returns were collected and stored on unprotected PCs using flat text files. In a matter of a couple of minutes, she was able to use Microsoft Word to pick up the file, reverse the results, and repost it.

“In the same year, a security expert testified before Congress that the Diebold machines used in many states were completely hackable. He provided proof, and demonstrated the techniques for taking close elections (typical 49% vs. 51% elections) and just switching the numbers.

“Since all of this was ground truth over eight years ago, it beggars the imagination to understand how senators today (???) can try so hard to assure the American public that, yes, Russia has just hacked into 39 states' election systems, but, NO, no, no, they didn't change any votes.”

An article on NPR asks: “What would it cost to protect the nation's voting systems from attack? About $400 million would go a long way, say cybersecurity experts. It's not a lot of money when it comes to national defense — the Pentagon spent more than that last year on military bands alone — but getting funds for election systems is always a struggle.”

At a Senate intelligence committee hearing last week about Russian hacking during last year's election, Jeanette Manfra , the acting deputy under secretary for cybersecurity at the Department Homeland Security recommended that election officials have a paper-based audit process to identify anomalies after an election.  While that's the advice most cybersecurity experts give, right now more than a dozen states use electronic voting machines that have no paper backup. 

 == End the travesty! ==

High on the list of Republican nightmares is the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court might issue its long-overdue ruling against gerrymandering — a blatant cheat and crime against the people and constitution of the United States.  The court weaseled out, back in 2004, by throwing up its hands and proclaiming, “we don’t see a clean solution, so we won’t even try.” But there are signs that, in this new case, Justice Kennedy at least is reconsidering.


One difference, this time, is that mathematicians and statisticians have given the anti-gerrymandering forces a new, legal argument based not on maps but upon each voter’s proportionate likelihood of ever having a vote that matters.  
A second difference is that the maps have gotten so much worse and so spectacularly egregious that it should “shock the conscience” of even John Roberts and Samuel Alito. (To be clear, it is time for those two gentlemen to decide, at last, whether they are with the people and the great American Experiment, or rationalizing enablers of a feudal-oligarchic putsch.)
 One potential solution, offered on Slate by Jordan Ellenberg, would certainly help: increase the number of state legislators in each state.  Doubling the number makes gerrymandering much, much harder. There are drawbacks, of course, since this adds expense to state government, though miserly New Hampshire does fine with a House of Representatives with 400 members, each one representing just more than 3,000 people.

“Enlarging state legislatures obviously wouldn’t do anything to solve the problem of gerrymandering U.S. congressional seats (though lots of people think the House of Representatives, too, should be a lot larger).”
Also: “In some states, Wisconsin among them, increasing the size of the legislature would require amending the state constitution.”

And none of this changes what I wrote several years ago, about gerrymandering here.

While democratic politicians are very very different from republican ones, the DP pols used to buy into the criminal voter-rape of gerrymandering… till voters in many blue states rebelled! California, Oregon, Washington and others — blue voters slapped their preferred politicians across the face and said “stop it!” And the Goppers cheered, knowing with certainty that they’d gain advantages… but it didn’t happen!  Democrats did BETTER after the cheat was removed!

But the sheeplike confederate masses have never lifted their heads to rebel against this travesty. Nor will they.  

Lest I get repetitious... it’s down at the state level where all the political power lies… and where the confeds are most vulnerable. Examples: Two members of the Oklahoma legislature were forced to end their time in office prematurely. State Rep. Dan Kirby (R) had a nasty habit of making unwanted sexual advances toward female members of his staff, while State Sen. Ralph Shortey (R) allegedly had an even nastier habit of paying for sex...with children. So, they're both out.
Recently, Sooner State voters went to the polls to choose replacements and, in a surprise, both seats went to Democrats.

Elsewhere I have urged “Don’t Impeach! At least not yet.”  Those reasons still stand, and this article agrees… with a disturbing cavil that reminds us: “There are dozens of terrible things Trump could do on his way out of the door: He could pardon accomplices or ignore court orders. He could incite violence or start a foreign war. So, by all means, let us rejoice that Trump is weaker today than he has been at any previous point in his presidency. But let us also remember that the immense danger he poses to the American republic has not passed as long as he occupies the White House.”

60 comments:

locumranch said...


A premature onward:

I have argued that 'Intelligence equals Life' in the manner that Maxwell's Demon is synonymous with Intelligence. As we know it, only LIFE is capable of the anti-entropic, coordinated & non-random action of stimulus-response, but Alfred is too focused on the nuts, bolts, neural tubes & notochords of the so-called 'higher (vertebral) intelligences' to see his category error, much in the same way that many academics assume literacy to be the sole measure of IQ.

Yet, Catfish almost appears to understand that 'intelligence' differs from (and is non-identical to) brain size, tool use & language proficiency WHEN he says that "humans (...) are capable of switching strategies according to environmental conditions", an idea that an unusually perspicacious PaulSB seems to share when he says that "you have to adapt to your circumstances to survive, and nothing, even intelligence or fecundity, are off the evolutionary negotiating table". Esolb_N comes even closer by comparing intelligence to a peacock's plumage.

What we call 'intelligence' is merely an adapted genetic strategy intended to increase biological fitness & species survival, the equivalent of sexual display by peacock tail or the exorbitant antlers of the Irish Elk. Rather than being the be all & end all of Human Magnificence, our overly generous human intelligence serves one purpose & one purpose only: To increase human BIOLOGICAL FITNESS, and it is merely ONE strategy among many intended to increase human biological fitness & species survival.

And, like the overly exorbitant antlers of the now EXTINCT Irish Elk and the GIANT BRAIN of our EXTINCT Homo Neanderthalensis & Boskops ancestors, too much of any evolutionarily advantageous trait can become very very bad for SPECIES SURVIVAL if taken to a ridiculous & inappropriate extreme.

Most specifically, the BIG BRAINs of the Neanderthal & Boskops were thought to be an obstetrical disaster, being too large to pass safely through the female pelvis during childbirth, whereas the Homo Sapiens variant was thought 'superior' only because their smaller & easily compressible brains could be pooped out-of-pelvis easier during childbirth with a lower maternal-fetal mortality rate. Glory, glory, glory.

To make this point first biblically & second scientifically:

(1) "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"; and/or
(2) "How does it serve the human species to gain INTELLIGENCE at the expense of BIOLOGICAL EXTINCTION.


Best
______
Don't let the Death Cult Dominionists of the Singularity fool you. They are cut from the same cloth as the Book of Revelations Dominionists. They both share the same cold-hearted god under a different name; and they both are all too willing to trade the survival of an imperfect human species for the promise a perfect Trans-Human, Artificial, Angelic or God-like Intelligence.

David Brin said...

Locumranch is trying. No life does not reduce overall entropy. It SPEEDS UP entropy creation. But it does use energy gradients to push entropy out of isolated regions. I have discussed this in at least 5 novels including my 1st one, SUNDIVER.

Only he goes on to do what reactionaries and Marxists always do… proclaim teleology! Intelligence has this or that purpose!

In fact, he is trying hard, really hard to parse intellectual thoughts here. It’s at times like this that my heart jerks in empathy for his limitations. Just as he cannot conceive of positive sum., so he cannot grasp that one of the strengths of human agility and intelligence is being adaptive. We are able to adjust between high-r and high-k reproductive strategies, for example.

Humans in grinding poverty whelp lots of kids in hope that a few might make it. Those who are comfortable and safe have few and invest fantastically in them. That adaptability is a pure sign of intelligence.

Right now, humanity is deciding whether it will be intelligent enough to get out there, build a spectacular/wealthy solar system civilization and then swarm out to the galaxy. It will not happen if this civilization collapses, either in a Soylent Green eco-disaster or into dullard-stupid feudalism. Either way, populations will surge and then plummet in Malthusian collapse. The only way will make it is by squeaking by the coming crisis with error-correcting, non-feudal and grownup-reasonable, scientific institutions and by limiting our population below ten billions.

Doing that does not require zero reproduction. It requires getting everyone into High-K mode for a while. If we choose to do this… it is called intelligence… then we’ll make it out there and get to do some moderate-r.

That is what he called “Death Cult” and it is hilarious! Like Ayn Rand calling her cult the “life-oriented” philosophy when not a single randian super character ever even remotely looks at a child, let alone produces or cares for one.

Show us, goombah. Show us how we’re a “death cult.” Yours seeks to destroy all that we have built.

===

dang I type fast!

Marino said...

False equivalence aside (Marxists and reactionares both engaging in teleology? Meh. Dr. Brin, please...), loco sounds a lot like Spanish Francoists, "viva la muerte, abajo la intelligencia".

But, about gerrymandering and voter registration, why don't do you look at continental Europe? Voters are registered automatically by the town hall office and most voting systems use modified PR or runiff giving voice to most opinions. Why are you so stuck with first past the post? Also, why hasn't anyone proposed a parliamentary system at state level? It would require multiparty coalitions and therefore adult negotiation and compromise

David Brin said...

Reactionaries tend toward CYCLICAL teleology. Marxists and libertarians tend to inevitable progression teleology Religious fanatics choose for-ordained end times. Doc Brown followers belive nothing is written. The future is what you make of it, so make it a good one.

LarryHart said...

Marino:

Why are you so stuck with first past the post? Also, why hasn't anyone proposed a parliamentary system at state level? It would require multiparty coalitions and therefore adult negotiation and compromise.


You might have just answered your own question there. :)

A semantic question, not particularly directed at you. Why is the system in which the candidate with the most votes, no matter how small a total that is, referred to as "first past the post"? To me, that phrase implies that there is a post--some concrete target such as 50%--that the winner needs to pass before the others. Which would be a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ, re Arpaio pardon:

Are we there yet?

Zepp Jamieson said...

People are viewing Trump's pardon of the swinish Arpaio as a signal that he is prepared to use the power of pardon to kick the props out from under the Mueller investigation--the reasoning is he wants people to feel free to lie under oath, knowing he will preemptively pardon them and they'll never see a day in jail.
In the meantime, Pence is already pushing his agenda from a position of relative obscurity, knowing that Trump will work with him because all that remains of Trump's base are plutocrats and the trash christian right.
In short; Trump is doing tremendous damage, and Pence is using the shade to already do tremendous damage of his own.
So how is shying away from impeachment helping?

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

And yet, what will replacing Trump with Pence help either?

And until/unless there are enough Republicans in congress to go along with impeachment, including the 19 Republican Senators who would have to vote to convict, impeachment would simply amount to "attempting to kill the king, and missing."

I don't have a better suggestion, mind you, but even our bad options are becoming extremely limited. Locumranch may soon get his wish that we all lose. In fact, there might be so much losing that we get tired of losing.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Paul SB (from the last thread)

So, why did I like Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma? It's an in-depth exploration of where the ingredients in four different types of meals come from. There's an industrial agriculture based meal, an "industrial-organic" meal, a meal where the ingredients are from small-scale sustainable farming and finally one from hunting and foraging for the ingredients. Doesn't sound nearly as interesting as it is. I was expecting a preachy, moralistic book, but it's far from that and he treats all the individual food producers quite fairly. We learn of the economic forces derived from government farm policy, near monopolies like ADM and Cargill as well as the meat packing monopolies. The pluses and minuses of Industrial organic are laid out as well as those of small diversified family farms such as those Wendell Berry extolls. Each meal is really a journey as he meets with the various farmers, learns about the science involved and explores the trade-offs involved. All in all, it was an enlightening (and even entertaining) read.

After reading the book, I can see opportunities for democrats to push for policies and legislation that could get largely red Ag people on their side starting with eliminating the meat packing monopolies and the power of the big three processors of commodity crops--ADM, Cargill and ConAgra. I think about how prohibition era legacy legislation helped keep us limited to just a few boring lager beers until craft brewing took off in the 80s.

Your point about people moving to more populated areas because of better marriage prospects is a good one. Some of that may be fulfilled these days by our colleges and universities, though. :)

I'm not to sure about stopping or reversing the flow from small towns and rural areas to large cities, but I do think that small cities (say 50 to 100k population) can be vibrant and desirable places to live for people . A city that size can provide almost everything a larger city can plus lower cost of living, housing, shorter commutes etc. I suspect it mainly comes down to jobs available there. But in my state, Montana, we see the continued growth of places like Bozeman and Missoula as well as my city, Billings.


Jumper said...

Few midsize cities have "official" sizes that match reality, due to flight just outside the tax limits. Annexation has been ended by the right recently also.

Steven Hammond said...

Interesting point, @Jumper.

Just came across an article I hadn't seen outlining a rural agricultural strategy for democrats that looks promising. Democrats Can Win Rural Voters by Taking on Big Agriculture. https://www.thenation.com/article/democrats-can-win-rural-voters-by-taking-on-big-agriculture/

From the article:
There’s a misconception that Democrats have to abandon their principles to win in rural America, Joe Maxwell believes. He’s a fourth-generation hog farmer and former lieutenant governor of Missouri, and he thinks the key to success in farm communities lies in speaking to their specific circumstances. “People know they’re getting screwed, that the system is rigged, that wealth is being extracted from rural communities,” Maxwell said in an interview. “We can bring about economic justice for all.”

Paul SB said...

Steven,

Actually, the structure of Pollan's book sounds interesting. It's different from what you would expect, which would be a straight up pros and cons analysis. It makes me wonder if Pollan was inspired by Mary Louise Oratt's classic "Grammar of a Meal" or maybe the writings of Diane Ackerman. I think your idea of Dems appealing to rural voters by emphasizing the busting of agro trusts is good, and it could potentially turn more rural people into reliable Democratic voters, but they tend to have a number of social litmus tests that any candidate has to pass to get their ears, and some of those litmus tests would not fly with the Party more generally. I think this speaks volumes about both human nature and about the balance any democracy has to negotiate between honoring the majority will and not trammeling the minority. Hopefully the economic issue will be a powerful enough motivator to get a substantial proportion of rural people to break ranks with the party that has courted their loyalty with lies for the past several decades.

"Your point about people moving to more populated areas because of better marriage prospects is a good one. Some of that may be fulfilled these days by our colleges and universities, though. :)"
- A lot of farmers and ranchers these days are sending their children to colleges to learn sciences connected to their livelihood, so the average level of education is rising. And time spent in cities getting those degrees to make themselves better, more competitive farmers might very well result in a number of them bringing home spouses. But then, probably as many will elect to stay in the cities because their spouses will not be willing to live in such isolation. I've seen both happen, and the way rural and urban people are stereotyping each other, the flow toward the city is likely to outweigh the flow toward the country. It's much easier for a person of rural background to blend in with the diversity of a city than for a city person to blend in with the uniformity of the country. I knew a woman from Denver who was excited to marry a Montana rancher and spend her life on the ranch, but between the relative absence of people and the hostility she got from the people she did interact with, mainly at church, she ended up giving him the same ultimatum my mother gave my father, with the same result. She moved back to Denver without her rancher husband.

I grew up in a city of around 200K, if you count its suburbs, and one of the primary reasons I left was the lack of jobs. Friends who stayed behind told me that the economy started to take off a couple years after I left, but that only lasted about a year. The place never really recovered from the Great tock Market Crash of '28. Jobs are critical, whatever the social conditions.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart asked, "And yet, what will replacing Trump with Pence help either?"

I think he's more containable than Trump. He's a more careful kind of crazy, and a bit of a coward.

I think the GOP congress has finally realized that some of their more vicious platforms are NOT playing to the American public, as well.

LarryHart said...

The headline no one has the cajones to print
"ARPAIO ACKNOWLEDGES GUILT BY ACCEPTING PARDON"

Contrary to blustering rhetoric coming out of Trump's ass, a pardon is not a statement that the person in question did nothing wrong. It is an act of mercy regarding the legal consequences of guilt. "He's already suffered enough"--that sort of thing. Acknowledgment of the guilt itself is implicit in the pardon. There are prisoners who have refused pardons because they maintain their innocence, and accepting a pardon would be an implicit admission of guilt.

I agree with Zepp Jamieson above that Trump is signalling to the targets of the Russia investigation that they should commit perjury on his behalf, and he will pardon them for any fallout. For this reason alone, it might be a good idea to impeach Trump right away, as that's the one policy a President Pence would probably not continue. But without the backing of the Republicans in congress, especially the Senate, I'm afraid that point is moot.

I'm also afraid that this genie is out of the bottle now, whoever is president in the future. The executive branch is not constrained by federal law in any meaningful way. Tell me how this ends well.

Jumper said...

With Arpaio losing his house due to civil lawsuits.

LarryHart said...

Jumper,

That was the next thing I was going to wonder about--whether there is any pardon power over a civil lawsuit. I'm thinking not. So maybe law enforcement and the courts have to get creative in how they pursue targets of a federal investigation.

I've heard that some, including Jared Kushner, might be in violation of Virginia state law over their money laundering. #SoCalledPresident has no pardoning ability there.

Paul SB said...

I think our faux rancher has been bitching for so long that he can no longer keep track of his bull. Now he is arguing that intelligence is stupidity (an argument I have often heard from religious looneys) while maintaining that he is the smartest person here, and anyone who isn't his dittohead is stupid. What was it Douglas Adams said about proving that black is white, then getting run over at the next zebra crossing?

Jumper said...

I was pondering life's ability to accelerate/catalyze chemical reactions and steal some of the resulting energy, [negentropy] and it occurred to me that a lot of the availability of the raw materials to do that is due to volcanism and crustal plate tectonics. Probably applies to the Fermi question.

LarryHart said...

From an earlier discussion about language and its effect on human history,

A individual's brain stores memories and allows his past experience to accumulate into wisdom. The ability to relate history and to invent stories with meaningful lessons allows that accumulation of experience to occur collectively within a family or tribe, so that important life lessons survive the individual who directly experienced them. Formal language, especially written language, essentially allows experience to accumulate across the entire human species.

Isn't that what causes there to be such thing as "humanity", a gestalt which is capable of progress and accomplishment and society collectively? Ayn Randists claim that society doesn't exist--that it's just a bunch of individuals who happen to co-exist as happenstance forces them to. Reality would seem to show otherwise, and I think one of the reasons for that is language and the subsequent ability to form collective memory of lessons taught by experience.

locumranch said...

David puts it quite eloquently when he says "Reactionaries tend toward CYCLICAL teleology (while) Marxists and libertarians tend to inevitable progression teleology". It should come as no surprise to anyone that David, as a self-proclaimed 'social progressive' (an euphemism for 'Marxist') and self-identified libertarian, would favour the 'inevitable progression teleology', so much so that we see this his teleological bias in all things.

For the last few hundred years, it is then important to note that human technological process (via industrialisation, infrastructure construction, specialisation & centralisation) has favoured the Urban Setting of a concentrated human population supported by a diminishing number of increasingly productive rural resource providers. By confirmation bias, this is 'Progress' as far as those who embrace the 'inevitable progression teleology' are concerned.

Unfortunately, the 21st Century now says otherwise. As mentioned by David in many of his posts, human technology (with the advent of the Internet, 3D printing, the Rise of the Amateur & the demise of heavy industry) no longer requires the PHYSICAL centralisation of population, infrastructure & socioeconomic resources that once favoured urbanity and, slowly but surely, the industrial middle class urban economy has been replaced by an economy of SERVANTS that many refer to as a 'Service Economy'.

Like Detroit & Chicago, the Raison D'Etre of these once indispensable urban centres has all but vanished, disappearing along with failed industry, failing infrastructure & a non-existent economic need for physical centralisation, wherein an unemployed & unemployable urban servant underclass rot & riot to demonstrate their utter dependence on government bread, circuses & handouts.

This is why 'social progressives' & false libertarians everywhere are so offended by the current reversal of urban social, economic & political fortunes. They are offended by Political Gerrymandering, the Electoral College & the Executive Branch because these techniques, which were once thought of as progressive policies that empowered urban political dominance during the 19th & 20th Centuries, now appear to be enabling & accelerating urban political decline.

To those who indulge in 'inevitable progression teleology', this apparent reversal of centralised Urban Political Dominance appears to be the ultimate OBSCENITY.

So how does the Social Progressive respond to Urban Decline?

They 'double-down' on failed 20th Century policies & INSIST that urbanisation is our 'One & Only' option if we desire teleological progress. From pollution to climate change to over-fishing, they attempt to blame the Rural Minority for all of the environmental problems caused by the all-consuming Urban Majority, mourning (as they do) the potential loss of rural agricultural acreage to climate change while simultaneously celebrating the potential loss of rural agricultural acreage to urban horticultural self-sufficiency.

As Steven_H mentions, "People know they’re getting screwed, that the system is rigged, that wealth is being extracted from rural communities", and the inherent contradiction of these new 21st Century facts has driven both the Urban Marxists & False Libertarians INSANE as they confront (or, fail to confront) the incredibly oppressive, tyrannical, oligarchic & corrupt nature of their once 'socially progressive' Urban Service Economy.

And so, like the many failing civilisations that have preceded them, the Social Progressives now dither helplessly in their urban ivory towers as they await the Barbarians, unable to deal with even the simplest of their internal contradictions, terrified by this the most threatening idea of "economic justice for all", and hoping against hope for the continuation of their corrupt urban status quo.


Best

locumranch said...


No, no, no. NEVER did I argue that 'intelligence is stupidity' as claimed by an Intellectual-Yet-Idiot PSB. In the words of Father Vito Cornelius, what I said was "Only life is important". 'Life is Intelligence', I say again because Intelligence WITHOUT LIFE is meaningless & utterly WITHOUT VALUE'.

It's like 'destroying a village to save it', this fool-hardy pursuit of transhuman intelligence for-its-own-sake at the probable cost of human extinction. I really LIKE intelligence, almost as much as I like eyes, lungs, organs, hands & feet, but again I say that Intelligence 'is merely ONE strategy among many intended to increase human biological fitness & species survival'.

Read A.E. van Vogt's 'The Battle for Forever' -- you Ylem Worshipping Nihilists, you Death Cultists who would kill us all for the sake of bigger brains -- before you wax poetic about massive intelligence for-its-own-sake.

Jumper said...

You made several errors.

David Brin said...

Define stupidity — relentlessly and proudly doing and saying stupid things: “It should come as no surprise to anyone that David, as a self-proclaimed 'social progressive' (an euphemism for 'Marxist') and self-identified libertarian, would favour the 'inevitable progression teleology', so much so that we see this his teleological bias in all things.”

Babble-babble drool fizz froth drool-drool-drool lookit me! I can string words together!

It gets a little better when he asserts that urbans and fact-users etc are “offended by the current reversal of urban social, economic & political fortunes.”

Except um, most cities are doing better than ever. Detroit fetishism notwithstanding, the assertion is just dumb. When urban farming takes off with local manufacturing, what’s to stop folks from living where the lights are? Or, indeed, out in the country? Or both?

Yammer this new distraction fellah. But it’s not about urban (except that we steal rural children to transform them into hated fact-users.) No, it is about your frantic need to hate anyone but the real oppressors. Monsanto. Mercer/Koch/Murdoch… the agri-giants.

As for the screech that followed… try actually answering the hi-r vs hi-k discussion. We are in a period when hi-k makes sense, so that those kids’ grandchildren can increase “r” out among the stars. You will kill the planet we still need to get out their. You are the life-haters.

Jumper said...

You should answer the teleology question (again!), David, as I think it's sort of the opposite of efforts you think need to be made, as opposed to a kind of inevitability I have never parsed from your simply hopeful stance.

Erin Schram said...

locumranch said,
David puts it quite eloquently when he says "Reactionaries tend toward CYCLICAL teleology (while) Marxists and libertarians tend to inevitable progression teleology". It should come as no surprise to anyone that David, as a self-proclaimed 'social progressive' (an euphemism for 'Marxist') and self-identified libertarian, would favour the 'inevitable progression teleology',...

Likewise, in this comment I find locumranch eloquent at pointing out many of our assumptions. His errors jar by contrast. David Brin argues that progress is likely but not inevitable. We have to work for it, and he cheers us on with his excellent novels.

locumranch said,
Like Detroit & Chicago, the Raison D'Etre of these once indispensable urban centres has all but vanished, disappearing along with failed industry, failing infrastructure & a non-existent economic need for physical centralisation, wherein an unemployed & unemployable urban servant underclass rot & riot to demonstrate their utter dependence on government bread, circuses & handouts.

I grew up north of Detroit. The race riots were in 1967. Life support followed, appeasement handouts and attempts at urban renewal, but the death blow was the departure of the auto industry, Detroit's Raison D'Etre, to other states a decade later. The riot had occurred while the auto industry was still strong. The blacks in Detroit were not receiving a fair share of the city's prosperity.

locumranch said,
They 'double-down' on failed 20th Century policies & INSIST that urbanisation is our 'One & Only' option if we desire teleological progress. From pollution to climate change to over-fishing, they attempt to blame the Rural Minority for all of the environmental problems caused by the all-consuming Urban Majority, mourning (as they do) the potential loss of rural agricultural acreage to climate change while simultaneously celebrating the potential loss of rural agricultural acreage to urban horticultural self-sufficiency.

I don't understand vertical farming in the cities, when the countryside provides perfectly fine horizontal farming. Paul SB said above, "A lot of farmers and ranchers these days are sending their children to colleges to learn sciences connected to their livelihood, so the average level of education is rising." We ought to consider whether the benefits of urbanization are passing. I have seen the business of downtown move out to the edge cities (urbanization along major freeways). The future might change even more. As David Brin said while I wrote this, "what’s to stop folks from living where the lights are? Or, indeed, out in the country? Or both?"

Paul SB also said,
It's much easier for a person of rural background to blend in with the diversity of a city than for a city person to blend in with the uniformity of the country. I knew a woman from Denver who was excited to marry a Montana rancher and spend her life on the ranch, but between the relative absence of people and the hostility she got from the people she did interact with, mainly at church, she ended up giving him the same ultimatum my mother gave my father, with the same result. She moved back to Denver without her rancher husband.

My wife followed the opposite path, from a small city of 10,000 to the suburbs of Washington D.C. We moved into a former small mill town to avoid the hussle and bustle; yet, she still spent a month each summer with her parents in rural Michigan to unwind from the crowds. Now the nearest village to us has a population of 520, Ithaca NY is half an hour away for small-city amenities, and she is much happier.

As for the unwelcoming church, I am distressed at what passes for Christianity in the United States. Our doctrine says to reach out to everyone.

David Brin said...

If there's any teleology, it is the strong attractor state of feudalism, which trapped nearly all of our ancestors, oppressed and squelched freedom, science and hope. I have always said that the odds are against us! That isn't "progressive teleology." I do have a goal, but I don't think "history" will deliver us to that better place, nor God.

If we get there, by hard work, we might be the first and thus save everyone else in the galaxy.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin quoting locumranch:

“It should come as no surprise to anyone that David, as a self-proclaimed 'social progressive' (an euphemism for 'Marxist')..."


The term "social progressive" (or "social conservative" for that matter) is usually meant specifically to distinguish from economic theory. Libertarians, for instance, often present themselves as economic conservatives but social liberals.

Marxism is strictly an economic theory. A Marxist would be more of an economic progressive than a social progressive. It's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

LarryHart said...

I don't know whether to take it as a comfort or to be concerned for the future.

No one else here thinks a new and dangerous threshold was crossed with the Arpaio pardon? Not a threshold which causes him to lose support from congressional Republicans (I wish!), but just rather one which empowers his crazy even more?

Paul SB said...

Okay, so locum wrote:

"No, no, no. NEVER did I argue that 'intelligence is stupidity' ..."

but earlier wrote:

"How does it serve the human species to gain INTELLIGENCE at the expense of BIOLOGICAL EXTINCTION."

Intelligence is stupidity, because it will lead to extinction. This doesn't sound too different from the crazed mother of my Jehovah's Witness friend who shouted that only assholes go to college because the only thing that matters is the Bible and spending your time learning anything else is stupid.

"For the last few hundred years, it is then important to note that human technological process (via industrialisation, infrastructure construction, specialisation & centralisation) has favoured the Urban Setting of a concentrated human population supported by a diminishing number of increasingly productive rural resource providers."

Yes, and the point?

"Unfortunately, the 21st Century now says otherwise. As mentioned by David in many of his posts, human technology (with the advent of the Internet, 3D printing, the Rise of the Amateur & the demise of heavy industry) no longer requires the PHYSICAL centralisation of population, infrastructure & socioeconomic resources that once favored urbanity...

The problem here is that he assumes anyone actually cares, that the two-ton chip on his shoulder has any meaning to anyone else but him. If he were as perspicacious as he claims to be, he would realize that it would be all those evil city people that would spread out into the rural landscape to become his neighbors in this 21st Century.

"... and, slowly but surely, the industrial middle class urban economy has been replaced by an economy of SERVANTS that many refer to as a 'Service Economy'."

This situation is not something the majority of people wanted, it was created by the long campaign of the Republican Party to destroy worker's unions in favor of the bloated robber barons. Our faux rancher would have us vote for exactly the people who just as willingly exploit his rural brethren as his supposed urban foes. Big Agro is not supported by benefits heaped upon them by Democrats. The Republican Party has been the friend and willing servant of big business since the Cold War. It's a lucrative partnership in the short-term, though in the long run could destroy the nation.

"... wherein an unemployed & unemployable urban servant underclass rot & riot to demonstrate their utter dependence on government bread, circuses & handouts."

Those people would not be rotting and rioting and dependent on government handouts if the Republican Party hadn't so easily fooled enough people into believing their superficial claims to moral superiority by including the names "God" and "Jesus" several times in every speech while they stole the nation's wealth for themselves.



Paul SB said...

This one is especially looney:

"They 'double-down' on failed 20th Century policies & INSIST that urbanisation is our 'One & Only' option if we desire teleological progress. From pollution to climate change to over-fishing, they attempt to blame the Rural Minority for all of the environmental problems caused by the all-consuming Urban Majority, mourning (as they do) the potential loss of rural agricultural acreage to climate change while simultaneously celebrating the potential loss of rural agricultural acreage to urban horticultural self-sufficiency."

Is anyone, anywhere saying anything at all about urbanization but him? All these things he claims are being blamed on the rural minority are things that everyone knows are being caused by big businesses, not farmers.

"They are offended by Political Gerrymandering, the Electoral College & the Executive Branch because these techniques, which were once thought of as progressive policies that empowered urban political dominance during the 19th & 20th Centuries, now appear to be enabling & accelerating urban political decline."

No. Gerrymandering has been seen as cheating since the original Gerrymander. The Electoral College has been seen with suspicion by all sides for a very long time, now. The Executive Branch is held in turn by both Republicans and Democrats - you have to go way back to get Whigs & Torries) and is a necessary part of the balance of powers. And "urban political dominance" is just his own paranoid fantasy. All nations have their cities and their rural communities, and cannot survive for long without both.

"... and the inherent contradiction of these new 21st Century facts has driven both the Urban Marxists & False Libertarians INSANE as they confront (or, fail to confront) the incredibly oppressive, tyrannical, oligarchic & corrupt nature of their once 'socially progressive' Urban Service Economy."

More of the same. Once again, the incredibly corrupt, oppressive, tyrannical, etc. is the creation of the very Republican Party that he seems to think will save his golden rural race.

"And so, like the many failing civilisations that have preceded them, the Social Progressives now dither helplessly in their urban ivory towers as they await the Barbarians, unable to deal with even the simplest of their internal contradictions, terrified by this the most threatening idea of "economic justice for all", and hoping against hope for the continuation of their corrupt urban status quo."

Barbarians aren't the issue. Big businesses, which are mostly located for convenience in urban centers, are the corruptors of the system. Economic justice for all means for all, and thus includes those rural parts of the nation as much so as urban parts - basically anywhere you have citizens. And it should be pretty obvious that none of us are very happy with the status quo. This guy is plain delusional.

Paul SB said...

Erin,

Where you wrote:

"We ought to consider whether the benefits of urbanization are passing. I have seen the business of downtown move out to the edge cities (urbanization along major freeways). The future might change even more. As David Brin said while I wrote this, "what’s to stop folks from living where the lights are? Or, indeed, out in the country? Or both?"

I would mostly concur. Too much crowding is very unhealthy for hominids, and they would likely be better off if they were less clustered than they are. It's economics more than anything else that causes this clustering, in spite of what I wrote earlier about mate choice. Ports are hugely important geographical resources that attract that kind of clustering. I am hopeful that a distant future would involve a greater spreading out, but as long as there are goods to be shipped that can't be 3d printed, there will be clustering for economic reasons.

It sounds like you and your wife have found a good situation for yourselves. Personally I would like to live in the mountains and have to travel a mile to my nearest hominid neighbor. If I have to be woken up at 4 in the morning, I would rather it be by the chorus of birds than the chorus of Asian teens on crotch rockets and trailer trash in pick-up trucks blasting down the avenue. of course, I would want to be close enough to a city to easily enjoy its amenities. I know, I want to have my cake and eat it, too. :]

Steven Hammond said...

@ Locum
You said:
As Steven_H mentions, "People know they’re getting screwed, that the system is rigged, that wealth is being extracted from rural communities",...

This was actually a quote from Joe Maxwell in the article I linked to, not me--though I do agree with him.

I have a hard time following your posts, TBH, but if you REALLY want to see small farmers and ranchers thrive, you should be sending money to Elizabeth Warren. :) She's one of the few Dems really focused on fighting monopolies and consolidation of power.

As David said: "But it’s not about urban (except that we steal rural children to transform them into hated fact-users.) No, it is about your frantic need to hate anyone but the real oppressors. Monsanto. Mercer/Koch/Murdoch… the agri-giants."

This is truth and, yeah, the democratic party has forgotten the importance of fighting monopolies (and there still seems to be some infighting about focusing on economic issues like this vs doubling down on identity politics), but the republicans are NEVER EVER going to to fight monopolies. Not going to happen..

David is right-on in wanting a "Big Tent" approach to the Democratic Party. As I've mentioned, even in a Red State like my own, Montana, Dems CAN win if the message and candidate is tailored to the people voting. (see Jon Tester and Steve Bullock) Doesn't mean that liberal social issues are unimportant, it's just that they may not be as important tactically. After all, if you're not in office, you can't make the laws.

Here's a link to an article I found enlightening, but the smart people here may well be familiar with what it contains--I'm learning. Basically it describes the rise and fall of the Democratic Party's opposition to monopolies and the "golden age" that many Trump supporters look back to correlates well with the results of "Trust-Busting" etc from FDR et al and the New Deal. Basically reinforces what David has said time and time again.

Here's a representative paragraph:
What is most needed is a new way of understanding how our political economy works, and for whom. Democrats, at last, are beginning to see the need to aggressively restructure the marketplace and decentralize both economic and political power. To win elections on an anti-monopoly platform, however, the party must abandon its penchant for technocratic prescriptions and frame its new agenda in broadly inspirational terms. Here again, they should take a page from Brandeis and the reformers of the Progressive era, who couched their opposition to monopoly in terms of economic common sense and bedrock American values, like competition and community and democracy. To oppose monopoly, by definition, is to support an independent citizenry against financial autocracy—and few things are more American than that. Antitrust means protecting the family farm from Monsanto, free speech from Facebook, the community from Citibank.

https://newrepublic.com/article/143595/return-monopoly-amazon-rise-business-tycoon-white-house-democrats-return-party-trust-busting-roots

Jumper said...

It's clear anyone who knows stuff knows if "blame" must be assigned to social and resource problems, the middle urban classes are part and parcel of those problems. Who filled trains full of dandies who shot buffalo out the train windows? It wasn't "the rurals" who were the Indians at that point. Add a few tongue-meat harvesters from back East. Progressives don't deny this. A progressive is far more honest than locumranch. Willingness to criticize one's own tribe's history when they clearly chose dark sides of issues is a feature, not a bug. But a progressive is also smart and knows that Monday morning quarterbacking the past with the benefit of hindsight is too easy and proves nothing about the value of backwards blame-casting except that it's likely useless. Whether casting blame, on those in the present who refuse to learn from history, is worthwhile, is a different story.

Steven Hammond said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steven Hammond said...

Since Locum is so focused on Urban vs Rural, it brought to mind this very funny and surprisingly insightful article from Cracked. I think this dovetails very well with David's "Suspicion of Authority" point in some of his posts. Very much worth reading and it made me think about some of my unconscious values... Awesome title as well. ;)

Here's the intro:

"I'm going to explain the Donald Trump phenomenon in three movies. And then some text.

There's this universal shorthand that epic adventure movies use to tell the good guys from the bad. The good guys are simple folk from the countryside ..."
http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-reasons-trumps-rise-that-no-one-talks-about/

Jumper said...

That's a great article Steven. Recommended.

LarryHart said...

I'm torn after reading that Cracked article, which I think I read back when it was published before the election.

Yes, he does a good idea of translating rural frustration and desperation to urban readers--why non-deplorables might have supported Trump as a drowning man grasps at straws.

But why does no one feel the need to translate urban concerns for rural readers for whom "Well, the perception back then was that those city folks were all turning atheist, abandoning church for their bisexual sex parties." And if rural downtowns are devastated when a corporation moves its plant off-shore or mom-and-pop stores are devoured (specifically) by Walmart, is that the fault of urban progressives, or of the Republicans who these despairing rural folk reflexively vote for because of social issues and because liberals are demons? If rural whites are now consumed by a drug problem and effete liberal elites seem insensitive to their plight, might we have learned that insensitivity to the plight of victims from them?

These people would seriously be in better shape if the country wasn't governed by Republicans. But they'd rather cut off their nose to spite liberals, and then want us to sympathize with the pain of their disfigurement.

LarryHart said...

That article let me to this one which contains (among much else) a rebuttal to locumranch's doom-and-gloom about human reproductive success:

http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-helpful-answers-to-societys-most-uncomfortable-questions/


...
That's a world population graph dating back over the last 2,000 years. Just look at it! Around 200 years ago, a freaking switch got flipped, and shit exploded. There is no comparing humanity over the last couple of centuries with anything that came before. It's like if you were driving home one day and saw that while you were gone, your goldfish had grown large enough to flatten the entire neighborhood.

But make no mistake: What you're seeing on the graph is humanity winning. Winning so hard that we're not even sure how to handle it. That up there is what every single species only wishes it could do. That kind of success requires utter mastery of the environment, food, health, and predators -- humanity just absolutely dunking over all we survey.


Tony Fisk said...

Jumper said:

I was pondering life's ability to accelerate/catalyze chemical reactions and steal some of the resulting energy, [negentropy] and it occurred to me that a lot of the availability of the raw materials to do that is due to volcanism and crustal plate tectonics. Probably applies to the Fermi question.

Flannery discusses life's effect on crustal composition in "Here on Earth", positing that a couple of billion years of action by early life a) leeched the primordial seas of heavy metals (useful in certain metabolic reactions, and now sought avidly by organisms) and b)created concentrated ore bodies.

Steven Hammond said...

@Larry Hart quoted an article:

"But make no mistake: What you're seeing on the graph is humanity winning. Winning so hard that we're not even sure how to handle it. That up there is what every single species only wishes it could do. That kind of success requires utter mastery of the environment, food, health, and predators -- humanity just absolutely dunking over all we survey."

Lord! What a great quote and rebuttal to Locum! :)

I am also torn after reading the other article. I think that's a good thing. A very human thing. I suppose part of it, on my part, is coming from a family with quite a few Trump supporters and recognizing some of the same feelings and biases I had when I was younger.. I didn't mean for anyone to see the article as a justification for people who voted for Trump, just as insight into the minds of (at least some) Trump supporters and thus lead to some Judo action from wise people to reverse things.

David Brin said...

You guys are paying too much attention to him. On the other hand his tweaks do provoke you all to express real pain & thoughts.

The Cracked piece was okay. But shallow. It ignores:

1- the real trauma is that Urban-University America steal;s their children! Every single year. The best and brightest.

2- Trump hates and infuriates the same people they hate. And it isn't (mostly) racial. It's smartypants. . They hate fact-elites so much that they'll willingly ignore their real oppressors. Cargill. Monsanto. The local land barons who keep buying up each distressed farm.

Jumper said...

Tony, I think on a planet without vulcanism and tectonics early life would still have much opportunity to thrive and duplicate the successes we see happened here, as you mentioned. But later on all the low hanging fruit would be used. Can the influx of solar energy operating on the otherwise static equilibria of surface minerals create other pathways for negentropy - life = to steal that energy? If so, how?

LarryHart said...

Ah, so I'm not the only one who is thinking along these lines...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com (emphasis mine) :

It is widely understood that Mueller's game is not to get Michael Flynn, per se, but to catch him as a "small fish" in the net in hopes of getting him to flip on the "big fish." The same is true of Paul Manafort, on whom the walls are also closing in. Mueller now knows, thanks to the Joe Arpaio situation, that the President has no hesitation in using his pardon power to spare friends and supporters (particularly those with dirt, presumably). So, the special counsel will likely try to find a way to charge this as a state-level crime, ideally in a Democratic-controlled state, so that Trump's pardon power does not apply. Flynn's residence is in North Carolina, where AG Josh Stein (D) might well cooperate and Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) is unlikely to issue a state pardon. Another possibility is New York, where meetings might have taken place. If that can be proven, New York AG Eric Schneiderman—who aspires to be Gov. Eric Schneiderman—would undoubtedly be more than happy to prosecute.

LarryHart said...

Ok, one more from today's www.electoral-vote.com :

Yesterday, we used The Godfather to make sense of American politics. Today, it will be Star Wars. In those movies, a young whippersnapper named Anakin Skywalker comes along and is expected to bring "balance" to the force. He presumably does (we still have two more sequels left before we know for sure), but by turning into the evil Darth Vader, killing everyone, and then getting himself killed. This is presumably not what the Jedi had in mind when they predicted that "balance" was coming.

...

Part of what led to the ascendancy of Donald Trump was voters' sense that Washington was "broken" (a fair assessment) and that the outsider from New York could "fix" it (a much more dubious assessment). Wouldn't it be ironic if The Donald did help get things running smoothly again, not though any action of his own, but by causing partisans on both sides to unite in their shared opposition to him? In other words, voters may get the end result they wanted, but in a completely different manner than they expected. Maybe, by the end, we'll even be calling him Darth Trump.

Paul SB said...

It is a very common thing for people to hate those who appear smarter than they are. It's pure jealousy, of course, since intelligence is one of the most valued human traits. People love to shoot down the know-it-all, trying to make them appear to be stupid and themselves smart to boot. It's a common meme that anyone who appears intelligent is actually just arrogant and stupid.

However, the economy has been changing in ways that are very frightening to those smug people who hate smart people. As technology becomes more and more integrated into human lives, the value of real intelligence (as opposed to the ego defense reflex that pretends to be smart by ridicule) is spread to all corners of life. It is becoming harder and harder make a living without training your brain to be smart. Machines have been replacing muscle and manual labor for a long time, and the trend reaches into more and more low-skill jobs. Automation is to the point where we don't need pimply high school drop-out behind the counter at Mc Donalds, robots can do most jobs that the undereducated have always done in hotels, and autonomous vehicles means an end to both taxi drivers and that staple of the drop-out economy - truck drivers. Is it any wonder that so many people are so upset?

It's not just the rural part of society. The cities produce stupid people every school year. As long as schools work so profoundly against human nature, they will create huge numbers of people who hate to learn, hate to read, and have no intention of seeking higher education. These drop-outs and graduates by the seat of their pants are a huge element of society, and they see their livelihoods disappearing, and the only way to success requires them to do the thing they hate most - go back to school and learn. That's a hard thing for people to do who have been telling themselves since they were 13 that they are smarter than their teachers and their parents, they already know everything they need to know, and they are better people than those brainy kids they beat up after school. eat change isn't going to happen until we radically alter the school system, because it is the school system that creates the haters of intelligence - both urban and rural.

Jumper said...

I would say people dislike those who wear a facade of superior intelligence. That includes idiot know-it-alls as well as know-it-alls of average abilities.

LarryHart said...

Jumper,

Trump wears a facade of superior intelligence and pulls it off with the very people you mention as disliking such people. What explains this dichotomy?

First of all, Trump is an alpha-ape, or at least plays one on tv. Remember the debate at which he was literally stalking Hillary all over the stage. There's an element of "We don't take that [facade of superior intelligence] off you skinny nerds, but the fact that a strong father can pull it off is just one more mark of his superiority!"

Maybe also at work is the concept of "spitting upon genius" as described in this passage from "The Fountainhead", one of the few times Ayn Rand was spot-on in her observations (there are a few). Imagine Donald Trump and George W Bush in place of Gordon Prescott and Gus Webb; and I dunno...Ronald Reagan or Richard Nixon maybe as Guy Francon and Ralston Holcombe. Praising the genius of Trump then is not an elevation of Trump, but an attempt at destroying the very concept of "genius":


> He had given up trying to understand. He knew dimly that the
> explanation of the change swallowing the world was of a nature
> he preferred not to know. In his youth, he had felt an amicable
> contempt for the works of Guy Francon or Ralston Holcombe, and
> emulating them had seemed no more than innocent quackery. But
> he knew that Gordon L. Prescott and Gus Webb represented so
> impertinent, so viscious a fraud that to suspend the evidence of
> his eyes was beyond his elastic capacity. He had believed that
> people found greatness in Holcombe, and there had been reasonable
> satisfaction in borrowing his borrowed greatness. He knew that
> no one saw anything whatsoever in Prescott. He felt something dark
> and leering in the manner in which people spoke of Prescott's
> genius; as if they were not doing homage to Prescott, but spitting
> upon genius. For once, Keating could not follow people. It was
> too clear, even to him, that public favor had ceased being a
> recognition of merit, that it had become almost a brand of shame.

Steven Hammond said...

It's also fair to say that there is a strong anti-intellectual streak in American fundamentalism and evangelicalism with these folks (who are a high percentage of the population in red areas) taking verses like this one below as an argument against scientific and evidence based knowledge:

"For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.1 Corinthians 3:19

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin, I don't know how closely you are following Hurricane Harvey, but Houston sure looks much like it was said to periodically look in "Earth".

locumranch said...


The Stars_Wars cast of villains is a large one: First, we have the Royals, supported by the magical Jedi Aristocracy; second, we have the Galactic Republic staffed by squabbling self-important do-nothings; third, we have the ruthless interstellar business-oriented Trade Association that prefers automatons to people; fourth, we have the dark Jedi Aristocracy & their Emperor who aspire to rule them all; and, fifth, we have various clades of fact-using bureaucrats, scientists & intellectual-yet-idiot collaborators who support whatever parasite class that seems to represent the Status Quo. And, ALL deserve destruction for their villainous complicity.

And, the Rebel Alliance? It's a loose, largely ineffectual, freedom-loving confederacy of libertarians, country bumpkins, malcontents & the defeated castoffs of older failed power structures who owe their ENTIRE existence to the schemes, conflicts & betrayals that the above-mentioned villains inflict on each other.

That's why so many voted for a DISRUPTOR like Trump: It's a vote against the Unholy Totalitarianism of all-of-the above.

You can take your modern-equivalent royals, your vainglorious military officer corps & its standing army, your do-nothing congress of Grahams, McCarthys. Ryans, Pelosis, Warrens & Shumers, your international trade association of Agri-Business, Davos financiers & corporate wage-slavers, your dark horse Antifas & extremist candidates, and your clades of super-smart academic lick-spittles & deep state collaborators and STICK THEM where the sun don't shine.

Feel free to scheme, backstab, betray & murder each other -- assuming that you & your villainous overlords remain in your oh-so-superior cities -- and feel free to burn you & your cities to the ground for all we care.

Fight amongst yourselves, pretty please, for only then can our new rebel alliance of freedom-loving, libertarian, country bumpkin malcontents & the castoff confederates rise from your unholy authoritarian ashes.

March On, you Happy-Go-Stupid Soldiers!! Self-righteous glory awaits you!!


Best

Marino said...

"freedom-loving confederates", given the support to the peculiar institution, is truly the mother of all oxymorons

Jonathan Sills said...

Cracked articles can offer valuable insights - but remember that above all, Cracked is a humor site, and will willingly abandon deep insight in favor of a good gag. (At their best, as with the quote about "humanity winning", they combine both insight and punchline. Just don't depend on David Wong for all that much in the way of breakthrough thinking. John Cheese and Luke McKinney are better bets for that.)

The "Darth Trump" line is interesting, particularly in light of the Legacy of the Force novels (which are not in line with the canon of the movies, having been sequestered from the movie universe while SW VII was in development). In them, Jacen Solo, son of Han and Leia and trained by his uncle Luke, has a vision in which the polities of the galaxy are united, and an age of universal peace begins - but only if he turns to the Dark Side. At first, he believes this is because only mastery of both sides of the Force will give him the power necessary to bring his vision to fruition. In the end, though, he does unite the entire galaxy - against him.

I strongly doubt that Donnie's doing this deliberately, however. I don't for a moment believe he's got the necessary degree of self-sacrifice in his nature, for starters.

LarryHart said...

You like Trump because you dislike authoritarians.

What a maroon!

My take-away from the Cracked article (and locumranch, come to think of it) is as follows, "Yes, we are deplorable, but there's enough of us strategically placed to mess you up, so unless you put our goals first and everyone else's a distant second, we will take you all down!"

Yes, the article is not written as to excuse their mindset, only to explain their point of view. Well, what would be the reaction to someone publishing a similar explanation of the mindset of al-Queda or ISIS members? Why is any explanation of their motivations trashed as liberal/progressive sympathy for terrorists?

In fact, I fail to understand why locumranch is against al-Queada and ISIS? Why build a wall to keep terrorists from nuking cities, when that's your goal as well? You want government to protect traditional gender roles from atheists and homosexuals? They do too!


Paul SB said...

Of course, it takes someone really moronic to miss that, Marino. He has gotten to the point where he can't even parse an argument, all he can do is dribble curses on his keyboard. Dementia, or just frustration with the fact that every argument he spits out gets shot down easily by people here. Not one of his arguments has withstood the onslaught of people who are mature enough to deal with him and the world in general fairly. He has never been particularly honest about his attacks, and having found that cheating and lying has not helped him, shouting curses is all that is left to him. Pitiful...

Steven Hammond said...

I think I've figured you out, Locum. You're nihilist.

From The Big Lebowski:

Donny: Are these the Nazis, Walter?
Walter Sobchak: No, Donny, these men are nihilists, there's nothing to be afraid of.
Nihilist: Ve don't care. Ve still vant ze money, Lebowski, or ve fuck you ups.

Link to the nihilist parking lot scene:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AEMiz6rcxc

Paul SB said...

Larry,

"If rural whites are now consumed by a drug problem and effete liberal elites seem insensitive to their plight, might we have learned that insensitivity to the plight of victims from them?"

Remember the bit about conservatives having a higher sensitivity to fear (amygdala hypersensitivity), and the tendency for serotonal personalities, who don't like change or anything unfamiliar, to congregate? There's a certain amount of biology here, though it's anybody's guess how much off that biology is inborn and how much a matter of habituation. They are behaving with simple-minded ethnocentrism, assuming that they way their tribe does things is right and anyone different from them is evil. Stock brokers all chant the mantra "diversify" but these are people who are not very well equipped to deal with diversity. That makes them very easy to manipulate. They have very easy buttons to push. When the buttons are that easy, logic drops out of their pants.

David Brin said...


Locum: “and, fifth, we have various clades of fact-using bureaucrats, scientists & intellectual-yet-idiot collaborators who support whatever parasite class that seems to represent the Status Quo.” That’s your insertion fellah. Show us a single scene in SW that shows a puerile, mewling scientific caste. Even if you did, so? George Lucas preaches evil, anti-civilization messages!

He didn’t used to! This pod-person replaced the fizzing-joyful fellow who gave us the science and civilization-loving YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES. And if he ever went back to that spirit, I would welcome home our prodigal son-genius.

Feh, L just whines and moans, trying to lump all the smart folks (and those who are smart enough to see that smart folks are needed) together with the oligarchs and bankers and radio screamers… and… it… is…a… lie.

Jumper: “I would say people dislike those who wear a facade of superior intelligence. That includes idiot know-it-alls as well as know-it-alls of average abilities.”

Yes, which is why Fox etc strive so hard to blur the distinction between such people and folks who are sincere and capable fact-users. Everyone knows that: “Knowing a lot doesn’t automatically make you wise.” But they subtly twist this to: “Knowing a lot MAKES YOU unwise.”

I’ve just read Theodore Kac zynski’s new book and I am struck with the similarities in tone and obsession and incantation with Bannon and Gorka. All strike me at the “angry B+students” who are very bright with stringing polysyllabic phrases and coming up with chains of pseudo syllogistic assertions and anecdotes to support them… and could never quite grasp what the A+ students were doing with actual comparison of statistical metrics and evidence and falsifiability. Assertions and anecdotes make for tempting incantations that always (surprise!) “prove” that the arm-waver’s kind of folks are the best kind of folks.

Smart people do that to. But the best of them are trained to at least try to pay attention to falsifiability. But then the magic happens, with reciprocal-competitive criticism and accountability. And something called maturity. And another thing called actual - not parrot - intelligence.

David Brin said...

LH thanks for that link about Mueller strategies.

As for Fountainhead, it is by far Rand’s best work, actually interesting and a bit dramatic! And he philosophy actually seems applicable to the subjective and inherently deceitful realms of art, which should be about competitive genius but all-too often is about cheating.

OH, thanks for the reminder about drowned Houston in EARTH! I just posted about it, so onward!

David Brin said...

onward

onward

reason said...

@Steven Hammond
"I'm not to sure about stopping or reversing the flow from small towns and rural areas to large cities, but I do think that small cities (say 50 to 100k population) can be vibrant and desirable places to live for people"

As someone who lives in a city that size, I will say YES and NO. The problem is that in an age of increasing specialization, and gender equality, you need to have access to jobs for two people not one. A town that size can work very well if it is networked with other towns of that size. This is an argument against sprawl and for transportation planning not for small settlements.