Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dangers pile up. The Court, the foreign meddlers... and our oppressed military.

Studies of gerrymandering show that this horrific crime by the political caste against U.S. citizens won’t die easily. As described in Quanta Magazine, mathematicians have dialed in on the problem in such a way that the Supreme Court can no longer use its longstanding rationales for ignoring the problem.

From The Washington Post: Gerrymandering is the biggest threat to democracy: “In the 2016 elections for the House of Representatives, the average electoral margin of victory was 37.1 percent. That’s a figure you’d expect from North Korea, Russia or Zimbabwe – not the United States. But the shocking reality is that the typical race ended with a Democrat or a Republican winning nearly 70 percent of the vote, while their challenger won just 30 percent.”

Last year, only 17 seats out of 435 races were decided by a margin of 5 percent or less. Just 33 seats in total were decided by a margin of 10 percent or less. In other words, more than 9 out of 10 House races were landslides where the campaign was a foregone conclusion before ballots were even cast. In 2016, there were no truly competitive Congressional races in 42 of the 50 states. That is not healthy for a system of government that, at its core, is defined by political competition.” -- writes Brian Klaas.

Justice Anthony Kennedy - on whom the fate of the republic resides - can no longer claim there's no metric for harm done by this foul cheat. Mathematical models of "voter efficiency" have settled that. If he is also reluctant to demolish "legislative sovereignty" with apportionment commissions, he can always point to my own Minimal Overlap solution to gerrymandering, which largely eliminates any need for such commissions and allows state legislatures sovereign power over one chamber. A senior federal judge I know deemed it interesting and impressive.

The need is paramount. Andrew Reynolds - an elections expert who has consulted in over 25 nations on issues of democratic design - wrote recently in the Charlotte Observer that governance in his home state of North Carolina had struck a new low: “When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received. North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project.”

Of course Reynolds was referring to gerrymandering and other cheats, perfected not just in North Carolina but in all but two other Red States. (In fairness, two blue states are almost as bad, in rigging contorted districts.)

But there is a key outcome from all of this. As Reynolds points out:
“Seventy-six of the 170 (45 percent) incumbent state legislators were not even opposed by the other party in the general election.” (This is the unforgivable crime of the democrats, who should be recruiting retired military officers to run, in every red assembly district in the nation... and decent sane republicans should be doing the same, in the GOP primaries.)

Reynolds concludes: “Respect for democracy is not a partisan issue. In America true Republicans are as loyal to democratic principles as are Democrats.”  And I agree.  But where will you find these “true Republicans, who put country ahead of dogma, facts ahead of emotion and adult behavior over playground fury?

They used to be called “Eisenhower Republicans.” But nowadays, I have another term for them: Eisenhower Democrats.

Prove me wrong McCain, Murkowski, Collins, Corker and so on. Are you ready, at long last, to stand up to Rupert Murdoch, put a stake in the heart of the undead were-elephant, and start a party of sane conservatism?

== The war on the military and all other smartypants ==


Then what about all the generals DT is hiring?  Donald Trump is enlisting generals for the upper ranks of his administration to a degree uncommon in modern politics — and that has some lawmakers, diplomats and former national security officials worried that the president-elect will be relying too heavily on military leaders to shape foreign and security policy,” reports Politico. 

I have to repeat things, till at least one other person in media or politics notices, too. But the one common thread, since 1995, has been the Murdoch-Koch-Fox-etc war on all fact-using professions.  Not just science, teaching, medicine, law, economics, journalism... but now the "deep state" Intelligence Agencies, FBI and military officer corps.

There is a strain of fact-hatred on the far-left, too! I would make a big deal of it, if it controlled liberalism, the way confederate-romatic hatred of brains and knowledge have completely taken over the American right. See where Robert Heinlein predicted all of this!

Looking back at Heinlein's Future History - coming true before our eyes.

How can any modern person rationalize going along with a drum beat of hatred toward people who know stuff? I've dissected this before. The right's insanity is based upon taking truisms and conflating them prodigiously.  

Example: We all know that; "Being smart and knowing a lot does not automatically make you wise."

THAT IS TRUE!  But what this has become, on the American right, though never stated with this explicit absurdity, is: "Being smart and knowing a lot automatically make you unwise."

When stated that way, baldly and openly, it is spectacularly stupid.  And yet, that is the implicit lesson that underlies the outright war against science, journalism, teachers, civil servants, economists, diplomats, medical doctors and nearly all other knowledge castes in American life... a list that now includes the Intelligence Community and soon will assail the U.S. Military Officer Corps.

Yes, some senior officers of the CIA let themselves be bullied by the President (G.W. Bush) into bending the truth re Saddam's WMDs.  There were reforms to make that less likely. Now? DT screams: "They flubbed WMDs so we should pay no attention to all our entire range of intelligence agencies!  The CIA, DIA, NRO, FBI... ignore them all if they say something I don't like!"  Are... you... kidding me? 

Because one GOP president bullied defense officers into lying on his behalf... we want another GOP president to do the same exact thing? Parse this out.  

== Populism vs wealth ==

Nassim Taleb (author of The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable) - always both brilliant and stunningly cocksure weighs in on wealth inequality, which he agrees is bad and getting dangerously worse. But he is skeptical of how it’s dealt-with by his colleagues. Taleb proposes that: “what people resent – or should resent – is the person at the top who has no skin in the game, that is, because he doesn’t bear his allotted risk, is immune to the possibility of falling from his pedestal, exiting the income or wealth bracket, and getting to the soup kitchen. Again, on that account, the detractors of Donald Trump, when he was a candidate, failed to realize that, by advertising his episode of bankruptcy and his personal losses of close to a billion dollars, they removed the resentment (the second type of inequality) one may have towards him. There is something respectable in losing a billion dollars, provided it is your own money.”

Interesting fellow. Wrong far more often than he thinks he is. But that is why we need an open society.

In The World Post, Julian Baggini asserts that a consolidating “populist international” binds the anti-establishment revolt across Western democracies together with the strongman approach to governance favored by Putin.

“(To view the Trumpists and other right wing) populists as hapless victims of Kremlin manipulation is to underestimate the genuine admiration they have for the qualities Putin represents. It may well end in tears, but this is no marriage of convenience: this is true love. If we want to know why so many voters have fallen for the populists, we need to understand why the populists have fallen for Putin.” 

This might sound perverse, given that one of the only things populists agree on is their disdain for elites, and as an ex-KGB man with almost absolute power at home, Putin is hardly an outsider. But populist resentment has never been directed at all elites ― just at the wrong kind, those who comprise the political mainstream, who have led Western democracies for the decades since World War II. That is why the rich and powerful Donald Trump can be seen as anti-elitist: he belongs to an elite, but not the Washington or Brussels one. Putin similarly belongs to a Russian elite, but not to the Western liberal establishment.”

Alas, Mr. Baggini is close, but misses, probably because he thinks that this is all about politics. It’s not. Yes, the deep reflex that has been exploited is Suspicion of Authority (SOA) - the theme conveyed in every single Hollywood film and a core element of the western enlightenment revolution.  The enemies of that revolution, who seek to re-establish 6000 years of feudalism, know they can only succeed by doing what the Confederate plantation lords and Prussian nobles accomplished, in 1860 and 1932, divert populist rage toward *other* authorities or elites. 

Baggini thinks it is the Washington establishment of centrist politicians, but no, demographically it is a much larger tsunami of hatred toward every profession that deals in knowledge and facts.  Like scientists, teachers, doctors, statisticians, economists, journalists... for years I’ve demanded of any confed to name an exception. One knowledge caste not attacked by Fox and alt-right? Name one?

There are three exceptions. The financial-CEO elite, the doctors of divinity, both of who do know a lot about their fields… and until recently the military/intelligence officer corps.  That last group, though hard afflicted by every period of republican leadership, had not been attacked openly.  

But that has changed, as Donald Trump prepares the way for what bodes to be mass firings in the intelligence and military communities. And the promotion of weirdos and fanatics. Watch. 

62 comments:

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin quoting Nassim Talib:

There is something respectable in losing a billion dollars, provided it is your own money.


But in Trump's case, even that part isn't true. He loses money he borrows from other people and then weasels out of paying back.

Steven Hammond said...

I post this with thoughts of Tom Petty's recent death and thoughts about our host's reflections on the current feudalist/"Rebels:. This is a song I rarely listened to by an artist I loved growing up and heard only in passing on the car radio as I grew older. His songs were fun and easy to sing along with, but that was the extent of my thought.

With his recent death on the same day as the Las Vegas Shootings, I was surprised at the depth of my sadness and the loss felt. It may be because his early albums were constant listening for me when I was in HS, college and shortly after. It may be that his persistent identification with the "losers" in society even after he'd made it big was right up my alley.

No matter, listening to him now I realize depths I never heard. The song I'm presenting , "Rebels", is interesting as I always avoided it given the confederate conniptions. TP had a very heart-felt and (IMO) honest apology for associating the confederate flag with this work. I hear an homage to The Band's song with Levon Helm singing "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down" in the horn on the track, but the lyrics depict a character thrown in a drunk tank, bailed out by his woman and thrown "in the thicket" in her anger and outrage who nevertheless, blames the "blue-bellied devils" for his plight.

TP did not mean this as endorsement of the Southern cause--in fact, the very opposite, despite comment on youtube. It's a very artful counterpoint to the romanticism of The Band's song, 120 years later. TP has a heart full of understanding and love for the southern protagonist of the song, but the culture that made the "rebel" what he is drove Tom Petty to California and other songs express that as well.

In any event, I thought it might be worth expressing that here. Of course Tom Petty had a role in The Postman, so that's a connection with our host. :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RN7lv9Xn2I

Steven Hammond said...

Lyrics for "Rebels"

Rebels
Tom Petty
Honey don't walk out, I'm too drunk to follow
You know you won't feel this way tomorrow
Well, maybe a little rough around the edges
Or inside a little hollow,
I get faced with some things, sometimes
That are so hard to swallow, hey!
I was born a rebel, down in Dixie
On a Sunday morning
Yeah with one foot in the grave
And one foot on the pedal, I was born a rebel
She picked me up in the mornin', and she paid all my tickets
Then she screamed in the car
Left me out in the thicket
Well I never would of dreamed
That her heart was so wicked
Yeah but I keep comin' back
Cause it's so hard to kick it, hey, hey, hey
I was born a rebel, down in Dixie
On a Sunday morning
Yeah with one foot in the grave
And one foot on the pedal, I was born a rebel
Even before my father's father
They called us all rebels
While they burned our cornfields
And left our cities leveled
I can still feel the eyes of those blue-bellied devils
Yeah, when I'm walking round at night
Through the concrete and metal, hey, hey, hey
I was born a rebel, down in Dixie
On a Sunday morning
Yeah with one foot in the grave
And one foot on the pedal, I was born a rebel
Songwriters: Tom Petty

Steven Hammond said...

Here's a link to TP in the Postman. I think his acting was better in Mary Jane's Last Dance, but he would totally be on board with what the Postman was fighting for. :)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDRa8FDL2ts

David Brin said...

Thanks Steve. A real trip down memory lane. Sigh.

Steven Hammond said...

I'm glad you appreciated that, David.

I 'm so sad to lose the art TP made, but also that real understanding/empathy with the "confederates" along with a definite siding with the "unionists" (what are we calling ourselves here? I forget though I am going to order a blue kepi We need a memorable name!)

TP would have made a great bridge crosser between right and left if he chose to be political, though I doubt he would have.

We need to look for folks ike that who grew up in the "confederate" camp but switched side. They are out there. They know what buttons to push and if they are major public figures, their thoughts and opinions will sway millions. Add this to the Colonels running for election and we've got a whole-sail change in American politics.

Changing American politics is, perhaps, less dependent on facts than we would like to think. It's a matter of getting people to think of Democrats as the "Party of the People" who understand them and "Feel their pain"(To misquote Bill Clinton) . I hope to God that the Supreme Court rules against gerrymandering as it currently is, but we need more than that. Jon Tester in my state is a good example of a democrat winning in a Red State. We'll see how he does in the upcoming election, but I'll bet he wins. I don't agree with him on so many things, but he's so much better than the opposition.

Tim Wolter said...

Greetings all.

I wander by once in a while to see if there is anything new going on. Usually wander off again...

Supreme Court decisions are interesting. For most Americans these represent the Final Word. But I'm sensing a little difference on this depending on which side of the (admittedly imperfect) political spectrum you are standing on.

Conservatives who - in theory - hold the system in high regard generally accept a ruling they don't personally like. Roe v. Wade. Yes, I know there are a fewe who regard this as state condoned murder and feel they must answer to a higher call. But even there they "mostly" confine themselves to trying to convince individuals not to have abortions.
On the Progressive side, alas, it seems that a SC decision that you don't like is an outrage, something that must be undone. Citizen's United for instance.

I don't care for Gerrymandering. It debases the coinage of our public discourse. But it is a complicated issue. How much could/should the full power of the State be used to change something that has developed organically over time? Citizens choose where to live, in the process "self gerrying" to the detriment of a party. A party then makes policy decisions based on this and makes some very stupid ones. I don't think it is a slam dunk for the SC to rule on this at all.

But if they do, I'll accept it. This is the system and I retain considerable faith in it.
I also think, and here I apologize for darkening some days, that in a non gerried system Conservative viewpoints would still prevail. The degree to which not just parties but individuals isolate themselves from the nature of the total electorate is impressive. How would you all feel if in a non Gerrymandered election the Democrats still got a drubbing? What new corrective measures would you advocate?

Musings after a week where ISIS has been booted out of their capital and the stock market hit a record high. Sure, mideast peace and the markets are always headed for another plunge but this is the moment we are in.

Tim Wolter/Tacitus

Anonymous said...

I'm remembering Tom Pettys look in his eye singing I won't back down after September 11. The good and bad of America all in one look.

Also thinking of when I visited my gerrymandered congressman office in 2007 after the murder of the marine turned pacifist quaker Tom Fox in Iraq. Warning that something like ISIS was happening / going to happen even more. The staffer feigned interest and her eye lids were fluttering like Nixion during a watergate speech. No interest at all in another point of view. After 17 years in office he only won 1200 votes last year and started to give a $&@ about the voters. Sending out questionnaires and saying how great he was. I think it's kind of stupid and evil to put me is the same district as someone 20 miles away. just so some political hack can have a safe district. I don't care if he is Republican or Democrat I just want someone who has a open mind. It's no wonder people ignore elections.

I like Talib Nasim mocking the bell curve myth. asking for simple solutions like putting skin back in the game. But sometimes I think he just likes to hear himself talk. Enjoying his philosophical theories rather than solving real problems.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

Conservatives who - in theory - hold the system in high regard generally accept a ruling they don't personally like. Roe v. Wade. Yes, I know there are a few who regard this as state condoned murder and feel they must answer to a higher call. But even there they "mostly" confine themselves to trying to convince individuals not to have abortions.


And on congressional and presidential campaigns promising to appoint Supreme Court justices who will overturn Roe v Wade (or obstructing those who won't). I'm sorry but overturning Roe v Wade is a Republican plank even though the decision has supposedly been "settled law" for over 40 years. I don't see how you can believe conservatives accept anything they don't like as final.

On the Progressive side, alas, it seems that a SC decision that you don't like is an outrage, something that must be undone. Citizen's United for instance.


It helps (such as that word applies) that the USSC has skewed Republican for so many years. So there aren't going to be many recent decisions that conservatives find outrageous.

But it's not any decisions I "don't like" that stoke my liberal outrage. It's decisions that the Constitution says something it clearly doesn't say. Citizens United is a good example of that--the same people who deny that freedom of the press protects images they disapprove of see equivalence between money and speech? And sure, I understand how social conservatives might see a similar problem with Roe v Wade finding rights that don't exist in the text. I'm not saying liberal decisions are always right. I'm only taking issue with your assertion that conservatives are better at accepting a question as settled permanently when they don't like the outcome.


I don't care for Gerrymandering. It debases the coinage of our public discourse. But it is a complicated issue. How much could/should the full power of the State be used to change something that has developed organically over time? Citizens choose where to live, in the process "self gerrying" to the detriment of a party. A party then makes policy decisions based on this and makes some very stupid ones.


Have you seen the way some districts are drawn? It's not a question of people living near like-minded other people. Were that the case, then there'd be no need to gerrymander.

I don't think it is a slam dunk for the SC to rule on this at all.


I don't either. For one thing, the courts hate to get involved in micromanaging the political system. But also because gerrymandering tends to favor Republicans, and the court is majority Republican. It's sad in and of itself that we now have to put a -D or an -R after the names of Supreme Court justices, as if we'd want to watch a baseball game refereed by two Yankees umpires and two Dodgers umpires, but that is indeed the world we live in.

continued...

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter (continued) :

How would you all feel if in a non Gerrymandered election the Democrats still got a drubbing? What new corrective measures would you advocate?


That's a somewhat legitimate question, but the hypothetical is hard to imagine happening. It's as if I asked "How would conservatives feel if a Democrat won the electoral college but lost the popular vote?" I happen to believe that the electoral college would be eliminated overnight in that case after the public's anger had been aroused as to the Dems "stealing" the White House. But the true answer to the question is that it's a trick question because the situation has never come up and never will come up.

A better question might be how conservatives felt when Republicans got a drubbing in 2006 and 2008. And apparently, the corrective measures they advocated included more gerrymandering and voter suppression.

Musings after a week where ISIS has been booted out of their capital and the stock market hit a record high. Sure, mideast peace and the markets are always headed for another plunge but this is the moment we are in.


For a self-identifying conservative, you seem awfully accepting of the metaphorical equivalent of ignoring a termite infestation because the house hasn't yet visibly fallen apart. "And look how much money I'm saving by not paying for pest control!" Not to pick on you personally, but in my day, one of the virtues of conservatives was that they cared about things like maintenance and upkeep. Our own locumranch likes to trot out the "ants and grasshoppers" story, labeling liberals as the grasshopper and fantasizing over how his ant-self will let the lazy grasshoppers die miserably. But Trump is the Grasshopper In Chief, and we're losing credibility with the ants of the world by the day.

I think you used to be a strong fiscal conservative who worried about what the national debt meant for our grandchildren. Does it bother you at all that the Republican Party is now trying to pass "tax reform" designed to add 2 TRILLION dollars to the national debt? Is that only a problem when Democrats do it? Or is it only a problem to borrow and spend during a recession?

LarryHart said...

@Steve Hammond,

Wow! You give new meaning to the name "Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers".

Peace, man.

Tim Wolter said...

LarryH
Lots to catch up on I guess.

Briefly:

-With affectionate respect it is not for LarryHart to decide what the Constitution says and does not say. I believe we have a high profile group that is tasked with that.

-I think of the Supremes as being much less D or R but rather Prog or Cons. This is perhaps as it should be.

- I try to wrap my head around the concept of abolishing the Electoral College, and figuring out what it would mean for our society. I find it like the old Calvin and Hobbes comic strips in which the rules of gravity or of perspective or of time and space are nullified. Anything can happen by the end of the strip! Another day on that one.

- The lack of any fiscal seriousness bothers me a great deal. Without entitlement reform there is no way we are not gonna get a serious shock in the next ten to fifteen years. It has been delayed so far only by low interest rates and cheap energy. For the latter, All Hail the frackers and those who helped make it happen*. For the former....can't go on forever. Tax reform is not by itself a bad idea but when you only work one side of the equation things will never balance. Never ever.

TW/Tacitus

* I will also in the spirit of geniality give a subdued Huzzah to those who have found ways to make solar panels cheaper.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

-With affectionate respect it is not for LarryHart to decide what the Constitution says and does not say. I believe we have a high profile group that is tasked with that.


With respect right back*, does a 5-4 decision really mean that the Constitution says what the five say it does and that the four dissenting justices are mistaken? Until the balance of the court changes and then those four (and a new fifth) were right after all? How did the text of the Constitution change between Plessy v Furgueson and Brown vs Board of Education?

* Hamilton and Burr:

I have the honor to be
Your obedient servant,
A dot Ham.
(A dot Burr.)



-I think of the Supremes as being much less D or R but rather Prog or Cons. This is perhaps as it should be.


Maybe it should be, but the court has become way too politicized since 2000. The decision to hand the election to W wasn't "conservative", it was Republicans using their position of authority for partisan advantage. Katherine Harris, as Florida secretary of state did the same thing. The clincher is the fact that everyone involved insisted that the final say had to be in the hands of the Florida legislature (which was Republican) rather than the Florida Supreme Court (which was Democratic). In the general case, wouldn't an impartial decision have to say that the Florida Supreme Court gets final say over Florida affairs, just as the US Supreme Court does over federal affairs?

Clarence Thomas then, and Neil Gorsuch now, actively campaigning for Republican candidates is not "conservative". It is partisan Republican.

Citizens United wasn't a conservative decision--it was one that benefits Republicans running for public office, just as the decision that God saved us from by rapturing Scalia in which "whole number of persons"--words with clear meaning which have always included non-voting women and children--was about to be re-interpreted to mean "Either eligible voters or registered voters, we haven't decided which one yet". That's so radical an interpretation that I doubt many True Conservatives go along with it on its face, but it does benefit the Republican Party.

- I try to wrap my head around the concept of abolishing the Electoral College, and figuring out what it would mean for our society. I find it like the old Calvin and Hobbes comic strips in which the rules of gravity or of perspective or of time and space are nullified. Anything can happen by the end of the strip!


Really? You can't wrap your head around a popular vote for president? I would bet good money that before the year 2000, most Americans didn't know the electoral college existed, and if they did know, it was a triva question answer. Political junkies would know that it was possible to lose the popular vote and win the electoral vote, and that it had happened as recently as 1888, but for the most part, the electoral college merely ratified the same result that the popular vote produced, and 1888 was the exception that proved the rule.

Your "anything can happen by the end of the strip" more accurately describes the situation if 34 Republican-controlled states get their way with a new Constitutional Convention.

Tim Wolter said...

OK Larry, this is on YOU....as we probably hijack the thread entirely!

A world post Electoral College. Lets walk it through from one end of the process to the other. btw, I am thinking and typing at the same time...so I don't know what the last panel will have in it!

The Candidates for President.
Coastal. Urban. The chances of a President from any state other than CA, NY, FL drop rapidly. It would close off a section of society from the highest office in the land. Unless of course the up and coming pols from ND and IA decide early on to pack their carpet bags for the Coast. All though as an afterthought, keeping most politicians from eyeing the Big Prize might be a slight upgrade.

The Primary System.
Fewer. Confined to the bigger states unless a flyover alliance decides to have mega primaries that lump five or six together in a bloc. Probably more money spent and more ads run overall. Neither party can write off the big states. Both write off the little ones.

The outcome.
It would seem at first glance to seriously favor the Democrats. But would it? Our voter turnout is so pathetically low. Who would up their stats by 10%? Urban Democrats? Flyover land that feels they are being swindled under the new system? Both? And who would push just a bit past 10%?

The Senate
Ah, changing that would be a bit much even for progressives. Expect small states to push very, very hard for Senators who would promise to be frustratingly obstructive when their interests were not upheld.

A Constitutional Convention?
Right now I would say, not happenin'. Nuking the Electoral College while still having a fundamentally center right mindset in America? Now THAT would bring on the Convention. And I agree, Calvin goes soaring off into crazy new adventures if that happens!

TW/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter/T2:

OK Larry, this is on YOU....as we probably hijack the thread entirely!


I can't tell if you're angry or not. I'm not.


A world post Electoral College. Lets walk it through from one end of the process to the other. ...

The Candidates for President.
Coastal. Urban. The chances of a President from any state other than CA, NY, FL drop rapidly. It would close off a section of society from the highest office in the land.


I'm not so sure of that. Remember, without the EC, there's no such thing as "winning California". If 35% (or whatever) of California votes Republican, those votes would contribute to the Republican candidate's total, regardless of who got more votes in each state. Same with all of the Democrats in Texas. In the current system, those votes don't count at all, but in a popular vote, any Republican from Massachusetts and every Democrat in Mississippi at least has a voice.

The reason no presidential candidate campaigns hard in California now isn't because of its size, but because all of their EVs are almost guaranteed to go Democratic (although not historically as far back as it seems). If California and New York were swing states, they'd consume much of the campaign budget of both parties in the current system.

As has been pointed out here before, Trump actually won the popular vote in "Everywhere but California and New York", so there are a lot of Republican popular votes to be had in flyover country.

Remember for the entire 20th Century, the EC winner also won the popular vote, including Missourian Harry S Truman and Arkansan Bill Clinton and Georgian Jimmy Carter. I'm not sure eliminating the EC would be the psychological game-changer you think it would. I'd wager most Americans before 2000 thought the popular vote was the vote.


The Primary System.
Fewer. Confined to the bigger states unless a flyover alliance decides to have mega primaries that lump five or six together in a bloc. Probably more money spent and more ads run overall. Neither party can write off the big states. Both write off the little ones.


Except for the first in line Iowa and New Hampshire, that's becoming very close to the way things are now. Super-Tuesday was designed to give the South outsize influence in primaries. I hear California is trying to move theirs up to March, which would force any viable candidate to campaign there (costing a fortune). That's all happening with the EC in place.

In fact, I don't see that the primary system and the EC are related issues at all. Hillary won delegates from many Southern states whose EVs she didn't have a snowball's chance of winning in November. I forget who won Puerto Rico's delegates, but again, no relation to the November election. You might want to think this portion of your argument over again, because I don't think the primaries and the EC system are related in any serious way.

(continued...)

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter (continued) :


The outcome.
It would seem at first glance to seriously favor the Democrats. But would it? Our voter turnout is so pathetically low. Who would up their stats by 10%? Urban Democrats?


I favor a popular vote because it's more small-d democratic, not because it would help the Democrats. However, I do think the EC system helps the Republicans, and that that fact alone guarantees it will never be abolished.


Flyover land that feels they are being swindled under the new system? Both? And who would push just a bit past 10%?


Again, why "being swindled"? Ok, Nebraska or Wyoming might be upset that it loses its outsized voice in the process to more-concentrated urban voters. But the way things are now, it's Georgia Democrats and Illinois Republicans who are being swindled. They'd be happier with a system that at least counts their votes toward the total.


The Senate
Ah, changing that would be a bit much even for progressives. Expect small states to push very, very hard for Senators who would promise to be frustratingly obstructive when their interests were not upheld.


Did I mention the Senate? Sounds like you've got a guilty conscience. :)


A Constitutional Convention?
Right now I would say, not happenin'. Nuking the Electoral College while still having a fundamentally center right mindset in America? Now THAT would bring on the Convention. And I agree, Calvin goes soaring off into crazy new adventures if that happens!


If you were my old conservative friend Chris, I could quote from Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" and say, "I keep track of these things, Clark. One of us has to." That "not happenin'" from your lips to God's ear, because from what I hear, one more state is all it will take to start it off, and they're aching for it.

David Brin said...

Found a reply I never posted. One of you asked:
“Has any industry other than the nuclear industry collapsed or stagnated because its regulators were captured by a rival industry…”

There have been many captured agencies and it SHOULD be the role of the business-enterprise-competition-loving party to oppose that. In fact, the Republicans yatter about over-regulation but only ever actually deregulate three specific industries wherein regulation works and is desperately necessary.

Ayn Rand’s archetype of an over-regulated and captured regulatory agency was the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) which did, indeed, commit many of the crimes against competitive enterprise which she portrays in ATLAS SHRUGGED. Only there’s a rub. Randites are so stoked on righteous rage that they think the goppers “words” about “deregulation” matter, but never actions.

Deregulation does happen! The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) became captured eliminators of fair competition… and DEMOCRATIC Congresses abolished them! AT&T was broken up.  Or take Bill Clinton’s deregulation of the GPS system, freeing it for use by all, everywhere in the world. And the unleashing of the Internet — the greatest deregulation in history. Oh, and every one of those deregulations was done by democrats. The complainers - Republicans - never deregulate a thing, when they get power, except Wall Street and Banking and resource extraction. (With well-known results.) Oh yes and gambling.

LarryHart said...

@Tim Wolter,

Ok, many hours later, I think I misread what you meant about the Senate--that Senators from disenfranchised states would fight back.

I think I'm still right about the primaries though, that they have very little if anything to do with whether there's an Electoral College or not.

However, I think you're more protective of the EC as a concept than even most Republicans are. My sense is that almost everyone thinks it is unfair, but those who benefit from the unfairness don't want to lose that benefit. I'm not sure there's an objective case to be made for the concept, though. If most Americans live in California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois, then why should the residents of those states have their vote diminished? Affirmative Action for rural states? Why is it more important to give extra weight to voters from less-populated states than, say, to give black people or Jewish people extra voting power to compensate for their minority status?

I mean, within states, we have counties that are more populated and others that are not so. But in elections for governor or state senator, we don't give each county a number of electoral votes to compensate the rural counties for their lack of voters. Every vote for governor counts just as much as every other vote for governor, despite the fact that (in your state) more people live in Madison and Milwaukee than in the rural areas of the state. So why does that same model scream of injustice when applied to presidential elections at the national level?

David Brin said...

Welcome back, Tim/Tacitus! We missed you.

Alas, it is painful to watch you twist in pursuit of rationalizing a lifelong political loyalty:
“On the Progressive side, alas, it seems that a SC decision that you don't like is an outrage, something that must be undone. Citizen's United for instance.”

Yes, it “seems” that way to you. But show us any evidence of concerted disobedience, or indeed the slightest difference? Both parties have tried to find ways around a hated ruling, while generally obeying it.

There is a difference, though. One of those two SC decisions altered the entire PROCESS by which further deliberations can take place. One of them empowered cheating so that the people lost sovereign power to argue against and eventually change laws they don’t like. (e.g. eventually changing laws on abortion.) Citizens United did that. The only way Roe v Wade did that was by REDUCING the number of voting democrats. Think about that.

Any whingeing effort to get out of calling gerrymandering a wretchedly evil and deliberately treasonous-foul crime, does not merit even a glance. Perhaps you did not read my earlier MINIMAL OVERLAP prescription, but it even does away with most boundary writing by “commissions” and allows for state sovereignty! There are no excuses here, man. This is good guys vs cheaters. Pure. Simple.

ISIS was defeated by Obama. The long tail was about reducing civilian casualties.

Seriously Tim, why are you doing this, instead of the job that history demands from you (and for which you’ll have the support of us, your community of friends)? Why are you not among those saying “The Republican Party left me” and helping to start a new Party of sane American Conservative Adults? PoSACA! We need a sane-adult American conservatism! You could be part of that, but Fox-ism with have zero overlap.

“The lack of any fiscal seriousness bothers me a great deal.”

Baloney. I have shown you time and again the chart that shows that EVERY Democratic president tries for fiscal responsibility and EVERY GOP one plunges into reckless spending and insane tax cuts gifts to rich folks who do NOT spend it on production or R&D, but inflating asset bubbles. This correlation is absolute, universal and always happens.

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

But glad to have you around.

Alfred Differ said...

I occasionally like to imagine a US without an electoral college. it is good speculative fun. Most of the time, though, it is a distraction. Recall how many States have to ratify an amendment and then ask how many of the small states have a GOP dominated state legislature. It simply isn't going to happen short of a revolution. Changing the EC is THE most tried amendment subject in US history, so it's not like we haven't already thought about it.

There is one thing worth noting, though. I think it unlikely CA and NY and other big population states would rule the game. The 40 million people here in CA aren't monolithic. Abolish the EC and you'd open up possibilities that are frozen out right now. That isn't going to happen in my lifetime, though, so I'm more interested in the cancer called gerrymandering. It almost has us to a place where there ARE enough GOP controlled State legislatures to cram an amendment down the throats of the big states. If THAT happens, SCOTUS decisions won't matter much. There will be blood in the streets since it is really The People who are ultimately responsible for saying what our documents mean.

Tim H. said...

Lately I've heard talk about the GOP splitting and wonder how much future the party has. Given the indigestibility of libertarians and dixiecrats, it might break into three pieces, without a unified GOP threat, the Democrats might fracture. Those of us who wanted politics to favor minor parties may get our wish, harder and faster than we wanted.

LarryHart said...

@Tim H,

The only "danger" the Republican Party seems to be in is the danger a predator species encounters when it is so successful that it outgrows its prey. The demise of the GOP into a merely regional power has been predicted for years now, and in the meantime, they've come to control 33 states and all three branches of the federal government.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I occasionally like to imagine a US without an electoral college. it is good speculative fun. Most of the time, though, it is a distraction. Recall how many States have to ratify an amendment and then ask how many of the small states have a GOP dominated state legislature.
...
There is one thing worth noting, though. I think it unlikely CA and NY and other big population states would rule the game. The 40 million people here in CA aren't monolithic. Abolish the EC and you'd open up possibilities that are frozen out right now.


I tried to make that last point above. The EC empowers small states, but it disenfranchises the minority party in every state. If there were no EC, it's not as if whoever "won" California and New York would win the presidency, because the popular vote totals include all of those California Republicans (and Texas Democrats) who currently might as well go fishing for all their vote is worth.

But above all of that, it's easy to get lost in the long back-and-forth above, that I didn't call for the Electoral College to be abolished. I responded to Tim/Tacitus's hypothetical "What if Democrats got a drumming in a non-gerrymandered election?" which I took to mean Democrats were scapegoating the practice as an excuse for their own ineptitude. I offered as a counterexample, "What if a Democrat [did what Trump did and] won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote?" If that ever happened (which it never has ever, and doesn't seem likely to), I contend that Republicans would scapegoat the practice and abolish the EC immediately. I point to citizen-Trump's tweet back in 2012 when he briefly thought President Obama had done just that against Mitt Romney and called for a popular uprising.

In my hypothetical, the Republicans only support the EC system because it benefits themselves, and if it ever seemed to disadvantage them, they'd agitate to change it in a heartbeat. My point was,"You think Democrats are talking out both sides of their faces, but it seems to me more likely that Republicans would do so whenever the rules break against them." Somehow that got turned into an argument over the social revolutionary consequences if Democrats dared to overthrew the EC system.

Alfred Differ said...

@Tim | Without entitlement reform there is no way we are not gonna get a serious shock in the next ten to fifteen years.

That's just one of the time bombs. Every Congress likes to tinker with our institutions thinking they need fixing. Unintended consequences result. Some of those lead to arbitrage opportunities that work until a necessary shock ends them. The financial collapse in 2008 was one of these with the doing-good cause going back to ensuring more Americans could buy into home ownership. There are others ticking away right now. My favorite one for this year involves North Korea.

I'm not sure ANYONE is into entitlement reform once they are elected. Some are into partial reform, but which part matters.

As for future shocks, just plan on it. They are going to happen as long as people think like Keynesians. "This engine needs tuning" they say. Vroom, vroom! Oops. Unintended consequences. Cough, sputter! Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"As for future shocks, just plan on it. They are going to happen as long as people think like Keynesians. "This engine needs tuning" they say. Vroom, vroom! Oops. Unintended consequences. Cough, sputter! Lather, Rinse, Repeat."


As opposed to - Captain there is an iceberg ahead! - or a cliff! but never mind we are just going to keep on doing what we have been doing


The engine tuning approach may be two steps forward and one back - but it's better than the "we don't need no stinking oil" approach to engine tuning

David Brin said...


Alfred etc, recall years ago I railed that the Electoral College might be made much less intolerable if we end “winner takes all” allocation of electors. Now Larry Lessig has stolen ANOTHER of my ideas! ;-)
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/10/13/forget-gerrymandering-lets-fix-electoral-college-lessig-painter-column/757448001/

As for entitlement reform, a deal was on the table, ready to go, in 1995… when the goppers had a revolt on their confederate right, ousted Gingrich and turned to Dennis “friend to boys” Hastert.

Alfred Differ said...

@David | I remember. I'm just not optimistic that we can end winner-takes-all elector assignments.

At present, I think gerrymandering is the cancer in the later stage of development. You've pointed out the need to look at state legislatures before. The worry I have isn't safe districts. It is the capturing of an amendment majority. I'd rather the States actually had to compromise with each other to get amendments to our Constitution.

As for entitlement reform, I'm not hopeful that anything meaningful will happen in the near future. I'm NOT saying both sides are the same, but at present I don't think anyone is really in the mood to negotiate. Since markets usually like gridlock, I'm investing with that in mind.

Tony Fisk said...

State representation is via the Senate.

Not that I have any say in the matter, but I do not get why you need an EC to elect a nation-wide candidate. Nor do I buy the idea that a candidate will only get their state's backing.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | I don't think it IS two steps forward and one backward. From where I sit it is assigning an engineer to fix an ecosystem. No one has written down the rules by which the system abides, but we do know a few heuristics. We think we know a few more, but probably don't.

I don't mind efforts aimed at avoiding icebergs. I really don't. I don't think we have much control, though. 'Steering' assumes we do, but I think 'stimulating' is the more appropriate term.

It takes some humility to admit our heuristics are useful in limited problem domains. Worse, though, is that we don't have a lot of experience using them to know what they actually do. For example, think of the people who believe in the trickle-down voodoo. We have enough evidence to know that heuristic fails and why. We know that the kinds of economic rules that apply in families where goals are well defined work, but fail in communities where it might not be possible to even define goals. The heuristics we know best are the ones that say what CANNOT work like price controls and mercantilistic protectionism.

Maybe one step forward and one step backward. That's closer to how to feels to me. What seems to work best is when we collectively chose to step forward in whatever directions we individually think are best.

The Ensemble need not act with coherence.

Alfred Differ said...

State representation via the Senate kinda died with our Civil War and the later amendment that forced a popular vote of Senators.

We DON'T need the EC. The problem is we are stuck with it because it is nearly impossible to amend our Constitution. My fear is that amendment attempts at present are more likely to produce changes I don't like than ones I do like because gerrymandering has given a large edge to one of our factions.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
I'm pretty sure that it is at least two steps forwards
And the reason that I'm sure is our host's
http://davidbrin.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/so-do-outcomes-matter-more-than-rhetoric.html

We can look at two different philosophies of "steering" and count the icebergs

People like me will say that we are still bumping along in the right hand ditch - but that is still better than exploring the fields and ravines off the right hand side of the road

The engine tuner does not have to get it right first time - he can keep adjusting until he has gone too far and then back it off a bit

Alfred Differ said...

The engine tuner does not have to get it right first time - he can keep adjusting until he has gone too far and then back it off a bit

IF it is an engine. If it isn't, then what?

David likes to credit Democrats with periods of negative curvature in the public debt.
I like to note that this is a correlation, but I'm not convinced credit is due to the politicians.
That doesn't diminish the impressiveness of the result, though.
I don't care who gets credit. I'm just tempted to prefer Democrats and hope the heuristic holds.

As for the fields and ravines, I'm generally happy enough with where people want to steer, as long as it isn't just a few of us trying. Markets look like they are steered, but it is more of an emergent thing than a planned/designed thing. We wind up going somewhere, but those 'steering' need not have been doing it coherently.

Duncan Cairncross said...

If it isn't an engine?

I don't see the problem - EVERYTHING reacts like an engine

You have a "Thing" (with bug eyes and tentacles) bimbling along
You apply a change
the options are -
(1) nothing happens,
(2) it goes the way you want,
(3) it goes the way you don't want

if (1) or(2) apply a bit more
if (3) reverse the change

You can "kill" your thing - but if your inputs are small you probably won't - and if you do it was probably going to die anyway

In some sort of strange universe where there was no change other that the ones you make then you could argue that you should not apply changes when you don't know the answers

But in the real world your "thing" is being battered with changes all around and you biggest issue is not your changes killing the beast but determining which way your changes have made it go

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

recall years ago I railed that the Electoral College might be made much less intolerable if we end “winner takes all” allocation of electors. Now Larry Lessig has stolen ANOTHER of my ideas! ;-)


Well, I don't like the "forget gerrymandering" part of his thesis. The EC affects just one office every four years (not that its effect is small), but gerrymandering affects congressional races and state legislatures across the country.

That aside, while I like in theory the notion of proportional EC allocations, there would be an unintended consequence in close races which was already played out in the 2008 Obama/Hillary primaries in (IIRC) Pennsylvania districts. Both candidates knew they were polling at a virtual tie in most districts, so the strategy to rack up delegates became a focus on picking districts which provided an odd number of delegates. If they tie in a district with four delegates, they each get two (a wash), but if they essentially tie in a district with five delegates, the one who is slightly ahead gets an extra delegate.

This makes mathematical sense, but is no way to run a railroad. It creates the ridiculous extreme where if one candidate gets just over 50% in two neighboring districts, one with 5 and one with 3 delegates, then that candidate "wins" 3-2 and 2-1 respectively, picking up a net gain of 2, but if the line had been moved slightly over so that each district had 4 delegates instead, then the two candidates tie 2-2 and 2-2.

I'd hate to see the contest for electoral votes among states come down to a distinction between states with odd an even numbers of EVs.

David S said...

I think better representation is the right value we should be striving for and proportionality is the right principal we should be striving for. Banning the EC may the right policy for solving the problem of presidential elections if done correctly. The proposal to allocate EC by who wins the house district plus the 2 senate electors going to popular vote in that state is NOT a good solution (it is more representative because it isn't winner take all, but suffers from the gerrymandering problem).

In any case, this only solves the presidential election problem and does nothing to fix state and local representation problems. I much rather establish a value and principal that can be applied to these other problems as well. I'm in favor of STV (single transferable vote) combined with consolidating districts so that multiple candidate from the larger consolidate district get elected. It solves gerrymandering, 3rd party spoilers, and allows for minority party representation.

atomsmith said...

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-supreme-court-is-allergic-to-math/

Metric looks unlikely.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | I don't see the problem - EVERYTHING reacts like an engine

Ah, my friend, if only that were true. Unfortunately, it isn't and those of us who believe this are in good company with all the other people who confuse maps for terrain. The Existentialists tried to beat this out of us, but humans cling tightly to our perception models.

There are things like hysteresis, non-linearity, indeterminism, butterfly effects, and even Taleb's unknown unknowns. There are problems with hidden dimensions, huge numbers of dimensions, impossible data to collect along some dimensions, and all sorts of other hairy beasts out there that occasionally make for better models when we have the courage to face them. I'm sure you've seen some of them when dealing with fracture predictions.

Your engine model is a popular one, but it is at best a collection of heuristics that are essentially impossible to test until after the fact and fundamentally unfalsifiable. You can use it much like astronomers can keep using Greek geocentric models for planetary motion, but what you tweak doesn't really do what you think it does. You might think your change made it go a particular way, but I'd argue you don't REALLY know that most of the time.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@atomsmith: As long as five justices are *not* allergic to math, it doesn't matter that the other four are.

But if people with computers can dictate the makeup of legislatures, manipulate the turnout of elections for the executive, while the judiciary needs fainting couches lest they be overcome with the mental anguish required to contemplate complex mathematics...

...the Republic as we have known it is over, and we have become a computocracy. Whoever can do better psychohistorical analysis, wins. If you can predict enough behaviors, you effectively control all branches of government.

And if that becomes the case, the Digital Revolution may have to become a bit more literal.

@Alfred: The dubious National Popular Vote Interstate Compact might be an end-run enabling effective elimination of the Electoral College.

Or it might not. It would almost certainly cause a constitutional crisis winding up with a Supreme Court decision. And as we see, the SCOTUS is chancy.

As for entitlement reform, I think I can sum up our generation's opinions rather succinctly:
"You had fifty bloody years to do something. You chose to cut taxes and give the money to the wealthy, in the hopes that they could grow the economy so much that it would pay for your retirement.

"So. You can either try and get that money from the wealthy. Or you can take your cut in funds. Or you can work a few more years. Any way you slice it -- try to raise our payroll taxes to fund your relaxation and there will be trouble."


There was a Reader's Digest article once basically pointing out that one day the old would try to impoverish the young.

@David S: Yes, the Maine-Nebraska plan for the EC can only be executed in concert with gerrymander reform. Otherwise it is just handing the Executive to the same computocrats that have claimed the legislatures.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
You seem to be under the misapprehension that all of those factors are not involved in engine tuning!

And yes you don't know the exact effects - all data is fuzzy! - exact numbers only exist in the mind

But you can use that - keep tweaking and watching - you will build up a database of the effects - which we have!
We have a very good idea of the effects of small changes at the moment

This is like our engine - we know or can determine the effects of small changes
This does not meant that we know the effects of large changes - we can shift from
Too Lean - to Too Rich - and reverse the effects of small changes

And while we are trying to tune our engine (with as you say very limited knowledge) the world is disturbing it in other ways

On your engine model - Nowadays with the computer models that we have we actually CAN predict the effects of small changes inside the cylinder head

But this is actually very recent - only in the last decade or so

All of the "tuning" that went into engines up until then (and 95% since then) was done with models that were extremely flaky - probably not quite as flaky as economic models - but close

TCB said...

@ Catfish:

"There was a Reader's Digest article once basically pointing out that one day the old would try to impoverish the young."

May be, but did you know that Reader's Digest is a well-camouflaged old right-wing propaganda magazine? Really. That's what it was designed for. Go through some old issues, and look at the mix of articles and features. Most of it is anodyne Norman Rockwell-ish prose, a mix of G-rated articles and mild humor (including Humor In Uniform). Stick a "Condensed Book" in the back. Okay. But there's 5 or 10 percent of any given issue that can be characterized as explicitly political in some way: praise for a new weapon system. A glowing bio article about a conservative politician. An appalling account of the horrors of Castro's Cuba or somesuch. Occasionally an article about labor unions (BAD! VERY BAD!) Socialized medicine. (BAAAD!) Back when Senator Proxmire was using his Golden Fleece Awards to mock scientific research as a waste of taxpayer money, the Reader's Digest made sure to include his newest list. Need I go on?

But all this conservative spin is carefully stirred in so you don't see it straight unless you know to look.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

The dubious National Popular Vote Interstate Compact might be an end-run enabling effective elimination of the Electoral College.

Or it might not. It would almost certainly cause a constitutional crisis winding up with a Supreme Court decision. And as we see, the SCOTUS is chancy.


Hmmmm, I disagree that there's a federal Constitutional issue there. States are free to set the rules for their elections as they see fit. There's no Constitutional problem with Maine and Nebraska splitting their EVs.

The only issue I can see that would come before the USSC is if one of the states involved in the compact violates the compact.

But the impediment is the same as the impediment to amending the Constitution in the first place--in order for enough states to be on board to make the compact useful--270 electoral votes--some of the small states who currently benefit from the EC system would have to be a part of the solution. Remember, even if all of the pre-Trump "Blue Wall" states bought in, that was only 242 EVs.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

There was a Reader's Digest article once basically pointing out that one day the old would try to impoverish the young.


That may be true of the childless elderly, but most "old" who have children and grandchildren care about their welfare, perhaps even more than their own. That's why Paul Ryan's old plan to preserve Medicare for those already over 55 but start phasing it out for everybody else was not as popular as he thought it would be.

Smurphs said...

Larry H said:

Hmmmm, I disagree that there's a federal Constitutional issue there. States are free to set the rules for their elections as they see fit.

That is exactly why I expect the Supremes to do nothing about Gerrymandering.

You can't have it both ways. The Sates are OK when they do something I like, but evil if not. Bad logic. Bad law.

I hate gerrymandering, but the SC won't help us.

Catfish N. Cod said...

I didn't think of it as "propaganda". It was, simply, conservative and archaic. Even then.

The fact that it was in the collection of a lifetime NRA member (distant relation) and I was only reading it because I was bored out of my skull was a clue.

And yes, they were childless.

Alfred Differ said...

#Catfish | The crisis will come when one State wants to withdraw. That threat could be used as an election gambit. I'm interested in solution attempts, but we should be playing through the scenarios where one or more states in the compact decides to leave implied threats hanging in the air. There is only so much one state can do to another before the Feds get involved.

I still think gerrymandering is the 'now' problem in need of a solution. The damned government can't get the trains to run on time, so we'll vote in someone who can! Argh. There is a Road to Serfdom chapter that speaks to what is going on right now. A couple of them are close enough to annoy me.

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

@Duncan | exact numbers only exist in the mind

True enough. We all get taught this in our first lab class, right? 8)

What gets glossed over, though, is that there are experiments were improving data precision does not improve result precision. These things happen and we see them in later labs, but there are a number of ways to model it all. One involves hidden/unknown dimensions. For example, if heat input doesn't change the temperature of a fluid and we decide to preserve our energy conservation concept, then it must be leaking into some dimension 'interior' to the problem. Aha! Phase changes do that and once properly accounted for we are back to a model that links input and output precision improvements.

What really gets glossed over, though, is that this approach doesn't work for everything. Physicists had to face up to that in the early 20th century. Engines are macroscopic, though, right? We shouldn't have to worry about indeterminism. Well... No. The problem 'space' has a bazillion dimensions for the domain and much of the input information is simply unknowable and likely fundamentally unknown before the system iterates a step forward in time. For example, if I have a box of A widgets and you have a box of B widgets, we might come up with a way to value each such that we can trade with each other. Whatever the method, the result will be a 'price' of one in terms of the other. Probably two prices actually much like bid and ask prices in equity markets, though they might converge. If someone enters our mini-market with a box of C widgets, everything would go into turmoil until we found new ratios. The existence of C widgets changes what we know about A and B widgets and this all begins to look like Bayesian probabilities. It's all very subjective.

Are an engine's behaviors subjective? Are they a mix of objective and subjective at the same time? (Conjective I think I've seen this called.) Bayesian probabilities help us cope with subjective changes as new knowledge arrives on our doorstep though no objective changes appear to occur. Our markets are a mix of objective fact and subjective belief, so I'm going to through out engine models except in very limited analyses. Markets contain humans who don't even know what they want tomorrow until they get there. We construct beliefs about our desires, but these are fundamentally probabilistic which brings in indeterminism. Physicists had to face the music on this some time ago. Economists will have to do the same if they want to get on with the project.


I do love the fluid dynamics models you describe for what happens in front of a cylinder head. Computation power has come a long way turning really hairy PDE's into intricate FE models and artistically crafted algorithms to run the numbers. I've taken a crack at one for many-body problems to see if the math I learned would help. There is a joy to be found in this kind of pure puzzle solving. These models are only a small slice of what must be considered, though. Just because economists live and die by simple PDE's doesn't mean their models actually represent the terrain. In very tiny ranges in very limited domains some of them are interesting and useful. Economic policy, however, takes those tidbits and applies them to the world. My mind boggles at the hubris.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Economic policy, however, takes those tidbits and applies them to the world. My mind boggles at the hubris.

The same "hubris" that we used to develop steam engines and then IC engines very very close to their theoretical efficiency

YES we can't "predict" the results - but we do have a good idea! - just like the way that everything else was developed

The "Economic World" is not some pristine delicate creature that a tiny wrong move will cause to curl up and die
It can't be as there are all sorts of inputs crashing into it all of the time and from all different directions

So we have the "Economic World" which we are trying to do two things
(1) Alter its behaviour
(2) Understand it

As an engineer I'm all for (1) -
(2) would be good (there is nothing as practicable as a good theory)
But (1) is primary

We used to do this all the time - "Lets see what happens if....."
So we would test, make the change, test again - and if we were sensible return to the start and test again

This is how we developed the current very efficient engines - sometimes we had a "theory" sometimes we didn't - and occasionally the theory was right - more often another effect that we thought was minor would rise up and swamp the effect we thought was prime

We don't know what the "People" are going to do in economics - and when we were developing today's engines we didn't know what they were going to do either


J.L.Mc12 said...

Dr brin, is there anything that nassim taleb has written that you think is right? And else do you think he has said that is wrong?

LarryHart said...

Smurphs:

That is exactly why I expect the Supremes to do nothing about Gerrymandering.

You can't have it both ways. The Sates are OK when they do something I like, but evil if not. Bad logic. Bad law.


You certainly have a point. And it may be the very logic that the USSC uses to stay out of the gerrymandering issue. It all depends on Justice Kennedy.

In my own defense, I want the courts to decide that states aren't free to cheat, whereas the interstate compact isn't "cheating". That may not be a legally defensible distinction, but it doesn't just hinge on whether I like or don't like the outcome.

I think part of any legal decision will hinge on the arguments being made by whoever brings the suit against the states. Democratic Party voters in Wisconsin are the aggrieved party in the current case, and argue that their voice is being silenced. Who would bring suit against the interstate compact, and on what grounds? Republican voters who want all of their state's EVs to go the other way? Maine and Nebraska already establish that there is no inherent right to a winner-take-all system.

It's interesting to muse on just what it would take to force a court involvement in local elections. There are currently (IIRC) 33 states controlled by Republican legislatures. What if they entered into a compact, not to allocate their EVs to the popular vote winner (that would never do!), but to allocate their EVs according to the wishes of the state legislature rather than by a popular election? Or by the winner of the combined "popular votes" of just those 33 states? Is there a line that can't be defensibly crossed?

raito said...

(from lat time)

LarryHart,

The other suburban area I'd put around Pierce county -- just across the border from the Twin Cities. Because suburban presupposes an urban area to be subbed from. But I was incorrect. Those counties went GOP. The one I saw was LaCrosse county, which I would not call suburban. Silly maps, not showing the information in the way I want...

Also, you point on Trump is one I made many times during the campaign. Assume he's never declared bankruptcy. But he's lost a pile of other peoples' money. Therefore, I don't want him handling mine.

And...

I think of the Supremes as not being R or D or Prog. or Cons. but Motown.

LarryHart said...

raito:

Because suburban presupposes an urban area to be subbed from. But I was incorrect. Those counties went GOP.


Suburban areas going Republican is fairly standard. What's unusual is if they go for Trump in particular.

The Chicago area used to have a very clear distinction between the city itself being heavily Democratic and the surrounding suburbs being solidly Republican. In the past 20 to 30 years, though, the suburbs have become more like the city, and it's more of a wash between D and R. My unofficial take is that suburbanites tend to have lifestyles to protect (hence fiscally conservative), but lack the tribalism and resentment that closes in one's horizons (hence socially liberal).

Darrell E said...

Trump filed chapter 11 six times on six different companies. There is also a long list of Trump "enterprises" that simply failed but for which no bankruptcy filings were made. I don't know how that compares to other shady big business types. But together with all the various evidences of his lying, cheating and stealing in the course of his business dealings, his reprehensible character as displayed over the past 40 years of media appearances and the point that Warren Buffet made about Trump's over all success, I wouldn't trust Trump with anything let alone my money.

The idea that a government should be run like a big corporation is ridiculous.
Even if it were a good idea to run a government like a big corporation, that Trump would be a great choice for doing so is even more ridiculous.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Found an interesting breakdown of political alignments on NPR. Turns out there's eight main groups. As follows:
http://www.npr.org/2017/10/24/559774933/2-party-system-americans-might-be-ready-for-8

There is a political crackup happening in America.

There remain two major political parties in this country, but there are stark fissures within each. There seem to be roughly at least four stripes of politics today — the pragmatic left (think: Obama-Clinton, the left-of-center establishment Democrats), the pragmatic right (the Bush-McCain-Bob Corker Republican), the populist right (Trump's America) and the populist left (Bernie Sanders liberals).

But a new political typology out Tuesday from the Pew Research Center, based on surveys of more than 5,000 adults conducted over the summer, goes even deeper. It finds eight distinct categories of political ideology (nine if you include "bystanders," those not engaged with politics).

They are as follows, from most conservative to most liberal (in part based on how many of them crossover between the two major parties. It also mostly tracks with their approval or Trump):

1. Core Conservatives — 13 percent of the general public

2. Country First Conservatives — 6 percent

3. Market Skeptic Republicans — 12 percent

4. New Era Enterprisers — 11 percent

5. Devout and Diverse — 9 percent

6. Disaffected Democrats — 14 percent

7. Opportunity Democrats — 12 percent

8. Solid Liberals — 16 percent

I'm a mix of market-skeptic Republican and Solid Liberal, it seems.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

I score as "Solid Liberal", which doesn't surprise me all that much, but in some cases, it was hard to distinguish between the two choices in the question. For example, I answered that corporations make too much profit (the other choice being that they don't), but not because I believe in a dollar amount limitation on profit. Rather, my belief is that too many corporations make their profit by cheating, bribery, and fraud; and that if a corporation becomes filthy rich by honestly trading value for value, I don't have a problem with that.

Neither of the choices truly reflected that position.

Anonymous said...

Certainly, a government should be led by the experts; mostly, scientists. The plutocrats lack a sense of responsibility and give justice to the people. The plutocrats are only interested in crushing all those who stand in the way of the interests of the plutocracy. Here is the great similitude between the plutocrats and the wealthy members of the English monarchy, who oppressed the settlers in America. I found a commentary from 1787 which clearly explains why:

As our president bears no resemblance to a king so we shall see the Senate has no similitude to nobles. First, not being hereditary, their collective knowledge, wisdom, and virtue are not precarious. For by these qualities alone are they to obtain their offices, and they will have none of the peculiar qualities and vices of those men who possess power merely because their father held it before them.

Tench Coxe, An American Citizen, No.2, September 28, 1787
Sincerely: I, the one who advocates the experiment of sending messages across time. (to save Anne Frank)

David S said...

Zepp, thanks for the link. I'll need some to time to digest and compare to the study on kinds of trump voters. Researchers found five types:
1. Staunch conservatives -- 31%
2. American Preservationists -- 20%
3. Free marketeers -- 25%
4. Anti-elites -- 19%
5. The disengaged -- 5%

https://www.voterstudygroup.org/publications/2016-elections/the-five-types-trump-voters

The more I study solutions to the problem, the more I like the Fair Representation Act solution (combine existing districts into larger districts, allow ranked choice voting, accept multiple winners from the larger district). Here is what the california map would look like: https://fairvote.app.box.com/v/FairRepCalifornia

In CA, most districts have five seats. Any candidate getting more than 17% of the vote gets a seat. (For the one 3 seat district, the threshold is 25%).

Alfred Differ said...

I'm lumped in with Opportunity Democrats. Regarding foreign policy and social values, that's not a bad fit. Some of my economics and business answers would put me in the core conservative group, though.

I'd probably still be a Democrat if it weren't for some of them being so solidly against the one thing that I think helps people more than government ever will... or can. I'm generally FOR helping people, but there are times when I think government directed projects are doing actual harm.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ,

A serious question that will sound snarky, but isn't meant that way...

Is yours a Libertarian position, or is that just you?

I realize I'm just thinking of the Ayn Rand Libertarians, but they don't believe in helping people. Not "they don't want to do it", but they literally don't believe "helping people" is a thing that can be done.

Alfred Differ said...

I think the Rand followers are mistaken or misguided. The philosophy they've adopted advocates for inhuman treatment of human beings.

I also think the folks who think Government should be helping us with everything are mistaken or misguided. Their hearts are in the right place, but their brains are not. Some of what gets proposed and enacted does more harm than good. Worse yet, some of it prevents other options that could potentially be more helpful.

If you were to do a poll of libertarians, you'd find only a moderate percentage of them are Rand followers. Most aren't, but the Randians are more vocal. Most of us believe in and hold to a wider set of virtues as necessary elements for our character. Prudence is important, but the others do not reduce to it.


I usually self-identify as a classical liberal who is aligned with the Libertarians at present. California Democrats don't need my vote and aren't all that interested in adopting changes I think would be helpful. I'm moderately supportive of what they want to do and occasionally supportive of what their opponents want to do. That is a recipe for being mostly ignored by both groups and I'm okay with that. I've advocated in person in Sacramento a couple of times for things I believe in, so I know a bit of how things actually work. More importantly, I know I'm not doing any harm by working with Libertarians now and pointing out to other classical liberals that we really should be banding together somewhere rather than splitting our votes between the major parties.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I think the Rand followers are mistaken or misguided.


Yeah, I knew you weren't a Randist, but it's one thing to have a disagreement within a movement and another to believe in something that the movement is diametrically opposite on. I was just checking, much as you might if I said I was a feminist who thought we'd be better off if women weren't allowed to vote. :)


The philosophy they've adopted advocates for inhuman treatment of human beings.


The first time I read "Atlas Shrugged", I was more horrified than one might expect at the scene in Galt's Gulch where one guy borrows the used of another guy's car, and they make a point of deciding on a price that he owes (a quarter). I couldn't articulate exactly what was wrong with that, but it would be as if I was expected to pay my mom when I ate at her house. Something about the fact that all favors are expected to be compensated in full, so that no one ever "owes" anyone anything. The diametric opposite of the "pay it forward" and "positive sum game" philosophies.

I like the way you put it. Inhuman.


I also think the folks who think Government should be helping us with everything are mistaken or misguided. Their hearts are in the right place, but their brains are not. Some of what gets proposed and enacted does more harm than good. Worse yet, some of it prevents other options that could potentially be more helpful.


As a liberal who thinks society is in the business of helping people, I'm not clear on how we got tagged with the belief that government is responsible for everything. Conservatives say that they favor freedom for businesses, not that they believe government should favor and protect the freedom of businesses. They do believe that, but it doesn't get characterized that way.

To me, the distinction seems to be that liberals consider government a valid tool in the box, and conservatives don't. Not that liberals consider government the only tool in the box.

David Brin said...

onward

onward