Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Perspectives and politics

Today is a roundup of some wider perspectives that've piled up.  After a couple of news blips:

1-  Jared Kushner was in Riyadh, consulting for a whole day with the Crown Prince, just days before the latter staged a major putsch, toppling every power rival in Saudi Arabia. No one in media seems to consider this as a precursor to the long-planned war vs. Iran. See how many forces want this, from the Saudis and Trump/Breitbart to Putin and even the Iranian mullahs, themselves.

Still, the image of an orthodox Jew dickering with the Saudi leader... might a silver lining to this be an Arab-Israeil rapprochement? I'll discuss all this in a future missive.

2- The Democrats' sweeps in Virginia, New Jersey, Washington State and elsewhere  show not only Trump's unpopularity and liberal vigor, but the vital importance of down-ticket races.  Finding candidates to take on "safe-seat" incumbents has paid off. Hence leave no office - state assembly or even dog catcher - uncontested in 2018. In an earlier three-part series I described how to do this.

== Wider Perspectives ==

Steven Pinker - the rascal who uses facts to defeat defeatism - points out that 2016 was not as bad as it seemed:  

War deaths have risen since 2011 because of the Syrian civil war, but are a fraction of the levels of the 1950s through the early 1990s, when megadeath wars and genocides raged all over the world. Colombia’s peace deal marks the end of the last war in the Western Hemisphere, and the last remnant of the Cold War. Homicide rates in the world are falling, and the rate in United States is lower than at any time between 1966 and 2009. Outside of war zones, terrorist deaths are far lower than they were in the heyday of the Weathermen, IRA, and Red Brigades.”

He admits that: “Several awful things happened in the world’s democracies in 2016, and the election of a mercurial and ignorant president injects a troubling degree of uncertainty into international relations. 

"But it’s vital to keep cool and identify specific dangers rather than being overcome by a vague apocalyptic gloom.”

Pinker adds: “More generally, the worldwide, decades-long current toward racial tolerance is too strong to be undone by one man. Public opinion polls in almost every country show steady declines in racial and religious prejudice­ — and more importantly for the future, that younger cohorts are less prejudiced than older ones. As my own cohort of baby boomers (who helped elect Trump) dies off and is replaced by millennials (who rejected him in droves), the world will become more tolerant.”

Yesterday I spoke to several classes at a nearby high school, and was impressed with the eye-contact, strong voices, confident attitudes and diversity. Though propaganda - especially Hollywood - has convinced them that the world is going straight into the toilet, when that's just not true. But back to Pinker.

He reiterates a distinction: “between complacent optimism, the feeling of a child waiting for presents, and conditional optimism, the feeling of a child who wants a treehouse and realizes that if he gets some wood and nails and persuades other kids to help him, he can build one. I am not complacently optimistic about the future; I am conditionally optimistic.”

Finally... Echoes of 2014: Margaret McMillan writes that we should fear one thing… a pattern that centuries begin their themes a decade and a half in. 

I wish I could stop, but I find myself thinking of 1914. The world then had seemed so stable, so manageable…. That confidence was dangerous because it meant that people didn't take the warning signs seriously enough.”

See where I wrote about how the pattern of each of the last several centuries seems to have begun about a decade and a half in...and the election of Donald Trump, along with meme-war depredations by our enemies, appears to bear this out.  But which theme will prevail until 2115? The Putin-Saudi-Trumpist re-ignition of our civil war?  Or our sound and decisive rejection of this putsch, reclaiming pragmatic confidence?

== Semper Ubi Sub-Ubi ==

Universal basic income (UBI) is a concept that was pushed by - among others - Robert Heinlein in several of his novels. A century ago, JM Keynes predicted we would see so much automated production that the average work week would fall to twenty hours. He was a hundred years premature, but many harbingers suggest we’re verging on that era, at last. UBI could be a way to ensure that it happens with decency, keeping the spirit of an egalitarian civilization.  The snarl by cynics is that this is “welfare” encouraging a generation of lazy, demanding lotus-eaters, is a cliché that’s been tested in the last decade, when some experiments in the developing world have shown that giving raw cash to poor families can be more effective than closely supervised-paternalistic versions of aid. And almost none of the cash is used on fripperies.

Now such experiments are arriving in the US. Y-combinator is pursuing a UBI project. In a new blog post published on the company’s website this week, they reveal their plans to pick 3,000 individuals from two states at random to receive a monthly cash handout. 1,000 participants will receive $1,000 per month for a period up to five years, while the other 2,000 will receive $50 per month, serving as the control group.

== Free Speech ==

Who favors free and open speech? Who fought against the Fairness Doctrine and all the rebuttal rules requiring broadcasters to offer a few minutes of rebuttal each night?  

Rupert Murdoch howled over letting on-air anyone who might refute his hired gas-bags. At his urging -- and the radio hypnotists at Clear Channel - the GOP rescinded it, and Fox hollers at any hint of its return, knowing just 5 minutes per day of factual rebuttal would tear them open like a dim-witted matador.

Funny: the "fake news" mainstream doesn't fear a rebuttal rule. The UK still has one. The Murdochs are lobbying like hell to get rid of it.

== You’re kidding me, right? ==

I'm not always a fan, but Thomas Friedman; in the New York Times is very smart and he can be pointed: "Having just traveled to New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, China, Taiwan and now Hong Kong, I can say without an ounce of exaggeration that more than a few Asia-Pacific business and political leaders have taken President Trump's measure and concluded that - far from being a savvy negotiator - he's a sucker who's shrinking US influence in this region and helping make China great again.

"These investors, trade experts and government officials are still stunned by a... Trump's decision to tear up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade deal ... without having read it or understanding its vast geo-economic implications. (Trump was so ignorant about TPP that when he was asked about it in a campaign debate in November 2015 he suggested that China was part of it, which it very much is not.)"

== Miscellaneous! ==

The percentage of adolescents in the U.S. who have a driver's license, who have tried alcohol, who date, and who work for pay has plummeted since 1976, with the most precipitous decreases in the past decade. Teens have also reported a steady decline in sexual activity in recent decades, as the portion of high school students who have had sex fell from 54 percent in 1991 to 41 percent in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control statistics.  “According to an evolutionary psychology theory that a person's "life strategy" slows down or speeds up depending on his or her surroundings, exposure to a "harsh and unpredictable" environment leads to faster development, while a more resource-rich and secure environment has the opposite effect, the study said."

Okay, put on your list of ways to help the Earth... limiting your subsidizing cow farts. One more reason to eat less beef. And to invest in these great new veggie-burgers they're developing. And vat-grown meat.

This fellow says we could cut methane from beef by 70% by adding 4% seaweed to their diet. He estimates that to farm enough seaweed to cover Australia's livestock, we'd need to establish roughly 6,000 hectares of seaweed farms, which isn't going to be easy to find. But let’s start a pilot study.

The good news? U.S. greenhouse gas production went down last year. Solar/wind have skyrocketed. And climate change is proved. And the denialist cult has been proved wrong about absolutely everything.

Oh. Peaktu San. The highest peak in Korea (and the alleged birthplace of Kim Jong Il in official state mythology) is also an active super-volcano, one which, if it erupted, would obliterate most of North Korea and China too. 

== Colorful Political Miscellany ==

Dang. Some of you thought I was a bit... fierce... in taking down that traitor-toady George F. Will. But I'm dry toast compared to Jim Wright. Go read his choice fury ... 

And yes, we will only end this phase of the American Civil War when several million residually sane American conservatives realize that enough is enough. That this is not the conservatism of Barry Goldwater – whose grave spinning now supplies most of the power to Arizona.  

So what will it take? Pence’s chief of staff floats ‘purge’ of anti-Trump Republicans to wealthy donors. Oh, please. Oh do this.  The moderate sane conservatives of America have been frozen in stunned disbelief and cowardly inaction for years, unable to do their duty – to America and to conservatism – and form a new party not defined by Rupert Murdoch. But this could do the trick.

Nothing signals Melania Trump’s effort at independence more than this

White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner has used both a private email account and an official email address to communicate with other government officials, his attorney says.  So… the very worst thing that Hillary Clinton was ever confirmed to have done wrong… is the very smallest piece of almost daily insane-malfeasance pouring from this White House. 

Disturbing insights into anomalous voting patterns.

Do you doubt there’s a lot going on that runs below what we see bandied about?  A third of rural whites, and 40 percent of rural white men, are resigned to believing that their children will grow up with a lower standard of living than they did, a far higher proportion than people who live in cities (23 percent) or suburbs (28 percent), a survey by the Pew Research Center found.   In addition to other problems, rural areas contend with drug and mental-health issues, poverty, and a lack of high-speed access to the internet. “This has become a cultural phenomenon. It’s not an educational phenomenon,” Fluharty said. Encouraging a rural student to go to college instead of doing the same work as the adults in a community, he said, is like “suggesting that that child should not do what I have done…” Among other insights: “Disdain toward rural people, which he called commonplace on campus, “is the last acceptable prejudice in America.” 

== Finally... ==

Conservatives continue push for probes of Clinton and her campaign. And it’s the theater that matters!  24 years and half a billion dollars spent seeking "smoking guns" on the Clintons, the most thoroughly probed humans in the history of our species. Every document scrutinized, every micro assistant grilled. The Kochs offered rewards for whistle blowers to rat out the "secret deals and travesties." And what did we wind up with? Nothing but 
(1) a husband fibbing about some 3rd base consensual-adult infidelity in a hallway, and 
(2) a cabinet secretary making the same mistake with emails as all of her predecessors and the Bushes all made.

Face it. Either the Clintons are decisively proved to be clean... or else the lynch mob that wasted all that time and money is beyond incompetent.

112 comments:

Jon S. said...

"Either the Clintons are decisively proved to be clean... or else the lynch mob that wasted all that time and money is beyond incompetent."

In the wise words of the little girl in the taco-shell commercial, "Why not both?"

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

You might need to fix the link to Stonekettle Station. It looks as if there are two "http" bits in the link as posted, which doesn't work.

http://www.stonekettle.com/2017/09/ship-of-fools.html

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

In the wise words of the little girl in the taco-shell commercial, "Why not both?"


Or as Mayor Quimby of "The Simpsons" once put it, "It can be two things."

Twominds said...

The call Onward came in Dr.Brins reaction to my question, so I react to it here.

Two minds, I lived in the Uk in the 1980s and that’s what germinated my ideas for The Transparent Society. In Britain, the cameras are mostly owned by the police. The US city has as many cameras, mostly privately owned and the police come to you with a request… or a a warrant. When the people WANT to help (e.g. after the Boston Bombing) the results are the same. When they are offended by police conduct (e.g. the Seattle pepper spraying) the results are very different.

I do wonder, is there already an effect visible in the rate of street crime/violence? Are cameras deterring that directly, or are they mainly useful in solving crimes afterwards? Or is their usefulness there more limited than it seems? Thinking now of TV programs where the police asks the people for their help in solving crimes. Often, camera footage is shown, but more often than not, no useful tips come in about them.
Not saying that there shouldn't be cameras in the public space, but neither seeing them as a panacee.

Do you think the UK or US situation would be better for society? Cameras in hands of the police, who are or should be restricted by laws and rules, but do have the force of government behind them for good or ill? Or cameras in the hands of civilians and (much more I'm sure) business and corporations who will be restricted less easy?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post;

Disturbing insights into anomalous voting patterns.


http://www.votesleuth.org/

Of the six races we have analyzed, there are four strongly positive statewide deltaM_S values (favoring Republicans). All four of these are in “swing states”.


So the math is telling us what we already know. Those last minute discoveries of tens of thousands of Republican votes in Waukeshaw County aren't random occurrences.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Among other insights: “Disdain toward rural people, which he called commonplace on campus, “is the last acceptable prejudice in America.”


Really? I'd say that disdain toward urban progressives (tm) is so commonplace as to not even be considered prejudice, but just conventional wisdom. Same with disdain for public employees, unions, and trial lawyers. The fact that these cohorts tend to be Democrats must be pure coincidence.

Tim H. said...

Considering 1914, can't help but think of Barbara Tuchman's "The Proud Tower" that described the heights Europe had achieved before war fever swept it away. One of my worries is The United States, while still powerful, has dispersed a lot of industrial infrastructure world wide and it might be interesting to bring war production up to speed if it must be done without the cooperation of other nations and "Herr Drumph!" is no diplomat.

Berial said...

Want to second LarryHart's post about the Stonekettle link. It no workey as is. (Funny that we both noticed that one!)

If it doesn't get fixed this one should work.
http://www.stonekettle.com/2017/09/ship-of-fools.html

Tony Fisk said...

I have a recollection that there was an experiment where the public were given access to some of London's street cameras. It was a while ago, though. Does anyone one else recall it?

While I'm here, I'll just repeat the reference to some folk who are restoring wifi communications in Puerto Rico via a solar powered mesh system.

David Brin said...

Responding to Twonmind final remark about the novel, The Circle: the hypocrisy of The Circle is that it VERY skillfully maligns transparency-accountability by having ludicrously exaggerated versions of the arguments pour in tsunami gushers from blatant villains and sickos.

Then it turns out the system is corrupt precisely because reciprocal accountability does not shine on the Masters.

Then the problem is resolved and the day is saved BECAUSE light shines on the masters. Indeed, almost every abuse shown in the flick, like people hounding the shy fellow, can be solved if hounding a shy fellow is deemed to be bad and others hound the hounders. Which would have happened! And is illustrated in a story in CHASING SHADOWS.

It will take heroes and geniuses to make light shine upward.

David Brin said...

Stonekettle link fixed, thanks.

LarryHart said...

Twominds in the previous thread:

I find I move less 'loosely' when I know a camera is pointed at me. I can live with that if the advantages are clear and big enough, but not when I only get the drawbacks.


We act differently--we literally "act"--in public than in a private setting where we let our hair down. Cameras were forbidden in courtrooms for a long time because the participants are supposed to be speaking freely, not "acting" for the outside audience.

If we have to be "acting" as if we are in public all the time, it's bad for us psychologically. Besides that, it blurs the line between public displays of whatever and private behavior. What happens when we're "caught" and shamed for doing embarrassing things in public when they are only "in public" because the public is peeping into our bedrooms?


I read the Circle, and the main reason I found it unconvincing, is that in a real society, there would be counter forces and resistance from large groups. And much more inertia from bureaucracy (the voting per Circle account for instance). The book and the warning both could have been much stronger than they are.


I agree that the book wasn't well-written, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have been well-written with the same message. I actually think the author had some points which went over the heads of most readers. I'm not clear that we ever felt the motivation of the character who insisted on combining all of the species in the shark tank, but that was a metaphor for everyone on earth being combined into the Circle. Not sure how clear the metaphor was to the average reader.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Then the problem is resolved and the day is saved BECAUSE light shines on the masters.


You must be talking about the movie. At the risk of a spoiler to the book, if anything like that happened, I missed it. :)

But your point is correct (and I meant to mention it above) that privacy is allowed at the discretion of the masters, although they take pains not to mention it as such--almost as if it would be impolite to bring it up.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Reading Dr. Brin's essay, I was thinking of a book I read many years ago, "Riders of the Purple Wage" by Philip Jose Farmer. He envisioned a future in which everyone had a guaranteed minimum income, and while there were some lazy layabouts, the majority of people took advantage of their economic freedom to express themselves in all sorts of ways, including through Fido, which bore a startling resemblance to today's internet. Farmer was ambivalent about his world. On one hand, the central character was a businessman whose venture was crushed by the government. On the other, his population revelled in the individual freedoms they enjoyed. There was an artistic and literary renaissance.
I lean toward Farmer's view. People want to create things, to make things, to leave a mark. They want to influence, to delight, to matter.

David Brin said...

"Riders of the Purple Wage" by Philip Jose Farmer was wonderful. It's why I named the Universal Income in EXISTENCE the 'purple wage.'

In it, expansion of rights had reached a point where the cops had to ask permission to come onto a guy's lawn to arrest a felon. I love "let's be opitimistic for a change and see what problems emerge" kind of fiction. It's so rare.

Zepp Jamieson said...

That darn science strikes againg:
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/nov/08/scientists-grow-replacement-skin-for-boy-suffering-devastating-genetic-disorder#comment-107951022

Zepp Jamieson said...

" I love "let's be opitimistic for a change and see what problems emerge" kind of fiction. It's so rare."

Agreed. It informs my own writing, except when I'm being sardonic. (Pessimism for comic effect--I -must- be Scottish!) But I think humans are and always will be problem-solving animals, and there's an optimism inherent in that.

bigsteve said...

Myself and wife are boomers. Neither of us voted for Trump or want his addenda. Both of us are white, born and raised in the deep south. People are complicated. About half of my family see it my way and the other Trump tranced. There is a segment of voters who voted for Trump who also voted for Obama. They can be reached if you have a message of sharing some of the economic gains with them. If Democrats can reached out and include rural people especial poor whites in the general prosperity the GOP and it's Feudal seeking donors can be politically undone.

David Brin said...

Hi bigsteve and welcome. You are on the battle lines for the republic.

Economics is a hard issue because both sides will claim it. Liberals make a mistake when they talk "programs" to help, because the right exploits a legitimately grounded but exaggerated suspicion of Big Government.

What works, I find, is to talk about how America has been the most innovative and inventive nation in history. Half of our economy came out of scientific discoveries and inventions and entrepreneurialism. Hence point out that all the tech folks who got rich that way are either democrats or libertarians, and they are almost all saying "raise taxes on the rich, like me!"

The billionaires backing the GOP are gambling lords and mafiosi, inherited wealth and those getting lavish breaks to extract resources out of public lands. And Wall Street parasites. And they want a return to 6000 years of inherited feudalism. And they are financing a war not just on science but every single fact profession, science, journalism, teaching, medicine and now even the FBI! (Ask em to name an exception.)

And the GOP was filling government with that type long before Donald Trump. And the Murdochs only lie.

Alfred Differ said...

@Jon S | (carried over from last thread
THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES SHOULD NOT BE A WAR ZONE. Living in stage 3 when you're at home is PTSD.

Yup, but I’m not advocating you all live in state #3. That would be dumb AND insane. I get that your friend is screwed up by the war. I’ve seen it myself in some folks I know. One Vietnam vet would flash from #3 to #4 over the weirdest things… or so I thought when I was young.

You are committing a simple error, though, if you think gun advocates (especially fools who want guns in churches) are advocating #3. THEY want to remain tuned out so they can trust all the rest of us to protect them… and go insane doing it. THEY are making the same error the rest of you make when you think the police are in the business of protecting you. Neither makes any sense if you care to look at them closely.

Most gun owners I know (who haven’t been through the trauma of war) can manage peacefully to transition from #1 to #2 and then #3 as needed. The gun usage training classes aren’t what teaches them, though. It’s a different class.


However, if y’all want to take guns away from people who can’t relax out of state #3, I’m all for it. They don’t actually kill all that many people, but when they do it is very traumatic for the rest of us. THAT leads to more cases of PTSD, so I’d support stopping that vicious circle.

Alfred Differ said...

@greg.byshenk | Carried over from last time too.
On the other hand, what many anarcho-libertarians seem to mean is that they want to be able to remove themselves from the public contract. …what it seems to mean for some is "freedom from the constraints of", and this is a very different sort of thing. This is very much not a purely "private choice".


Ding! This is the right one for most of them. They want freedom FROM the public contract because they don’t think you have the right to coerce them into it in the first place. That does not mean freedom from the laws we enact, though. It means they don’t agree to a communal approach to law enforcement.

And on the gripping hand, what at least some anarcho-libertarians seem to desire is the complete removal of the public contract.

Yah. Some of them want this, but it is pretty nutty. That approach basically rejects the Rule of Law as far as I’m concerned and they can all go stuff it in my opinion. If the rest of you want a communal approach to law enforcement, we shouldn’t be able to prevent you up until you force it on us. Beyond that, it’s fighting words. 8)

Personally, I’m mostly okay with the communal approach to law enforcement. I WOULD rather the police were not unionized, though. Who exactly are they protecting themselves from, hmm? A public approach is good enough most of the time, though. I suspect my transaction costs would go up unacceptably if I tried a private approach.

Alfred Differ said...

@TCB | Dude. I get that contract preferences have nothing to do with statist structures. That’s the point I was making in my last line. IF my friends are defined as outliers simply because of those preferences, then it is the people defining them as such who are at risk of being the authoritarians. My friends aren’t hostile to actual people… just what some people do to them.

I know the argument in the book. I’ve seen it paraphrased elsewhere. I’ve even seen it myself. Unfortunately, I’ve even lived it. It was hellish getting back out of that paranoid state I was in. However, I’ll happily get a copy of it for myself and read it. Don’t be shocked if I just nod my head, though, and agree with the premise.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | How does this not lead to the law of the jungle, where whoever's security thugs can outfight other security thugs gets to do whatever they want?

Well… that’s exactly where it would go with an attitude like that. 8) Seriously. If you want to hop, skip, and jump down the path TCB described, then we’d be in the jungle.

You obviously haven’t thought enough about this to be able to imagine a world where we don’t send our hired thugs against people. You remind me of people who made the argument that the Common Man could not live without a King. It would be Chaos! Pfft! It turns out most of us can manage the feat rather well and we are far less violent than our former masters who were raised to believe that the virtue of Courage required violent risk of them. Our version of Courage is more forgiving because it demands far less bloodletting.

Ponder this. What would the world look like if most of us could hire small private police forces to protect us IF they can, but mostly to defend us from people who break the laws we create through our social institutions? How would these police/security forces interact with us and with each other? Remember that one of the important ways they protect us is by reminding us to conform to our obligations. Failure to do so might trigger a response from someone else’s police force against us. Can you imagine how a world like this might work?


The prevailing theory at least is that society reserves the use of force to itself as manifested through police and military forces.

Yah. Replace ‘society’ with ‘king’ and it sounds about the same. The big difference is ‘society’ is faceless up until you meet someone who claims to speak for it. Such people are dangerous. We should probably burn them at the stake. 8)

Not if you're viewing Infowars or FOX News. Their entire raison-d'etre seems to be keeping their viewers continuously in State 3 if not State 4.

State #3. They should be severely punished for this, but I don’t know how to do it without breaking the Rule of Law.

raito said...

Zepp Jamieson,

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FidoNet

I would be unsurprised if the name derived from the story.


And it seems as though those high school graduates aren't necessarily escaping to the bright lights, doesn't it?

Jon S. said...

"What would the world look like if most of us could hire small private police forces to protect us IF they can, but mostly to defend us from people who break the laws we create through our social institutions?"
Well, I'd wind up kicked around even more than I am under the current system, because I can't afford to hire my own private police. Anyone who had their personal force could easily decide that my owning things, or even continuing to exist, was an affront to their personal laws, and send their force to put a stop to this intolerable state of affairs.

Without a state-controlled police force, who would there be to stand up for me?

Thing is, Alfred, this has been tried before. Hell, it describes most of history. And historically, it's only worked out well for the aristocracy.

TCB said...

Re: Riders of the Purple Wage. I read this in high school (it's a novella, maybe? in the Again, Dangerous Visions anthology (Harlan Ellison, Ed.) and that anthology blew my mind almost completely open (some other stuff opened it some more, later on). I disliked Riders the first time because I couldn't understand it. Later on I found out how much it is patterned after James Joyce (Winnegan's Fake!) and then it sank in. Yes, it's so great. But you have to be ready for it. If you aren't, you'll just think half of it is gibberish.

@ Alfred Differ: funny thing about contracts and the corporate oligarchs, many of whom call themselves Libertarians: a lot of these guys say they want weaker government and yet they also want a government that can enforce contracts. I.e. they want the government to be their contract-enforcement muscle, but they don't want it regulating or limiting what kinds of contracts they can get it to enforce; specifically, they don't want the government telling them they can't use force and fraud to entrap people in unfair, lopsided contracts...

Student loans are a perfect example: the bankers lobbied, some years ago, to make sure that even filing for bankruptcy did not remove this burden, once contracted; and yet, the 'product' being so expensively purchased need not necessarily meet any stringent standard of quality (Trump University, anyone?)

Small-L libertarianism, however, is something I can get behind. Heck, one of my favorite characters in fiction is a right-libertarian anarchist (and the farthest thing from an authoritarian) named Hagbard Celine. He's basically Captain Nemo crossed with Andy Warhol. And yet, for all his unconventional and hedonistic behavior, he never dodges responsibility for his deeds, as he views karma as a law of the universe. After he engineers the deaths of some Nazis, he avows that (notwithstanding their character deficiencies) he will have to atone, and so goes to a meeting with someone he knows came to kill him...

Twominds said...

@Alfred Differ

I WOULD rather the police were not unionized, though. Who exactly are they protecting themselves from, hmm?

A myopic government that tries to get the police's services at a penny?

Duncan Cairncross said...

I WOULD rather the police were not unionized, though. Who exactly are they protecting themselves from, hmm?

Political interference?
Lack of training?
Bad Procedures?
Fractured and inconsistent police departments?

Samirah Karida Isa said...

thanks

TCB said...

From Vice: 17 STEM Politicians Won Elections Tuesday

"Scientists have long remained apolitical, but the Trump administration has emboldened many STEM experts to speak out, including organizing marches in defense of science and taking public stances on political decisions.

Now, all eyes are trained on 2018, where dozens of STEM-background candidates are running in the midterms. Naughton said November’s results bode well for next year’s challenges.

“If this year is any indication, 2018 is going to be a big year for candidates with STEM backgrounds,” Naughton said."

TCB said...

Re: police unions. The anti-abortion crowd like to say that abortion is 'sui generis', i.e. they mean that although it uses the tools and techniques of medicine, it should (in their view) not be seen as medicine since it ends life instead of healing. (For the record, I think they are full of shit).

But let me suggest that in a way, police unions are sui generis. Along with many normal functions of a trade union (wage negotiation, etc.) they also do some things other unions don't. Your union electrician cannot kill you and claim it was done in the line of duty. His union will not defend him if he does. And so on.

As for whether police should even have unions, mark me as a reluctant yes. I don't like how they operate. But... everyone who wants a strong union should have it. It'd sure be nice if the cops supported other people's unions too.

Tim H. said...

If a union exists, it's a safe assumption that somewhere in it's history is an inept management team.

Paul SB said...

Tim,

If a corporation exists, it's a safe assumption that somewhere in its history is an inept management team. If a government exists, it's a safe assumption that somewhere in its history is an inept management team. If a religion exists, it's a safe assumption that somewhere in its history is an inept management team. This is a case where I agree with Dr. Brin about competition, or with the Founding Fathers about balance of powers. I don't agree that balance of powers and competition inevitably leads to improvement, any more than evolution does. More often they lead to extinction, but humans have some ability to learn from past failures. Think about how many people were mesmerized by Reagan's bullshit economics back in the '80s, but how many fewer people now buy the bullshit. Sure, enough bought the bullshit to get an inept corporate thief onto the throne, but there are enough people who learned that lesson that the Grope is getting some pushback.

Progress isn't inevitable, but neither is regress. What is inevitable is variability. The hope is that the ups and downs can be smoothed out a little and those cases of inevitability can be countered by constant vigilance and perpetual self-examination.

Paul SB said...

Private police forces

I hope Alfred can understand why few people buy into the idea. I grew up in a town about 60 miles from the scene of a massacre committed by a private police force hired by a big corporation. The little town of Ludlow was a company town built by C.F. & I Steel to house the coal miners who provided the energy the steel plant needed to produce. The miners were making so little money they were effectively trapped working for the Company, unable to make enough money to save up and escape. When they went on strike for higher wages the management team kicked them out of their homes, so the workers and their families built a little tent city on nearby public land. C.F. & I. then hired the Pinkerton Agency to protect their factory from the striking workers. The Pinkerton Agency set up machine-gun nests around the tent encampment where the wives and children of the striking workers were, not around the factory they were supposedly protecting. One day the Pinkertons opened fire on the tents, massacring the wives and children of the striking workers. At the trial the captain of the machine-gun crews said he was "just testing the range." The striking workers heard their families being slaughtered, got a hold of a few rifles and shotguns and seized the factory. The National Guard arrived a few days later to put an end to the ensuing siege.

If anyone who has money can hire their own muscle and there is no force that can hold that muscle accountable, what you will get is not some wonderful, theoretical equilibrium. You will get the Ludlow Massacre over and over again, until the average person learns that resistance is futile and it's better to be a meek and obedient slave than to be mowed down. This is just the "an armed society os a polite society" lie on a larger scale.

greg byshenk said...

I wrote: On the other hand, what many anarcho-libertarians seem to mean is that they want to be able to remove themselves from the public contract. …what it seems to mean for some is "freedom from the constraints of", and this is a very different sort of thing. This is very much not a purely "private choice".

Alfred Differ responded:
Ding! This is the right one for most of them. They want freedom FROM the public contract because they don’t think you have the right to coerce them into it in the first place. That does not mean freedom from the laws we enact, though. It means they don’t agree to a communal approach to law enforcement.

Again, this seems to be saying at least two different things at once.

If the scenario is that someone may contract for their own security -- but remains subject to public law enforcement -- then the situation seems to be the status quo. After all, right now person (individual or corporate) can contract for private security to do whatever that person desires (within the constraints of the laws we enact, of course). This freedom exists right now.

On the other hand, if the scenario is that someone should be free from the constraints of public law enforcement, subject only to constraints of their own privately contracted law enforcement, then the scenario is one of -- at least potentially -- no constraints at all. That is, the proposed scenario may "not mean freedom from the laws we enact" -- but if the enforcement of those laws is to be done only by one's own personal retainers, then it is easy to see how this may mean 'enforcement' that is largely (or wholly) toothless.

To be clear: I am not suggesting that everyone thinks (or would think) like this. But this scenario seems tailor-made to be exploited by the most sociopathic members of the community.

Tim H. said...

Paul SB, I suppose I need to be more verbose, I meant an inept company management created the need for the union. It doesn't matter that those teams are now dust either, humans with a knack for dominance tend to overlook the damage they do.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

@LarryHart | How does this not lead to the law of the jungle, where whoever's security thugs can outfight other security thugs gets to do whatever they want?

Well… that’s exactly where it would go with an attitude like that. 8) Seriously. If you want to hop, skip, and jump down the path TCB described, then we’d be in the jungle.


Alfred, friend, you do me a disservice. You seem to be arguing from a religious point of view--that if your system doesn't work, it's because of my lack of faith. Everything you are saying could also be argued in favor of communism or supply-side economics--that if we believe ruthless people won't game the system against us, it will work out better for all concerned. I'd like to believe that, but I also have to keep one foot in the real world.



You obviously haven’t thought enough about this to be able to imagine a world where we don’t send our hired thugs against people.


I don't think we're dealing with a failure of imagination on my part. If we don't send them against people, what are they for? To protect us from those who do send them against people? If we take your thought experiment to the extreme, there is no need for physical protection or contract enforcement at all. We simply must dare to imagine a world in which people don't engage in force or fraud.


You remind me of people who made the argument that the Common Man could not live without a King. It would be Chaos! Pfft! It turns out most of us can manage the feat rather well and we are far less violent than our former masters who were raised to believe that the virtue of Courage required violent risk of them. Our version of Courage is more forgiving because it demands far less bloodletting.


The issue at hand is "Who watches the watchmen?" In a world in which kings were never corrputable, we wouldn't have had to invent democracy. In a world in which municipal police forces and national armies were never corrputable, we wouldn't have to invent alternatives such as your own. But you are mistaken if you think your own doesn't simply shift the problem the same way. Unless private security forces and those who pay for them are incorrutpable, we need to ask the question what constrains them when they do bad things?


Ponder this. What would the world look like if most of us could hire small private police forces to protect us IF they can, but mostly to defend us from people who break the laws we create through our social institutions? How would these police/security forces interact with us and with each other? Remember that one of the important ways they protect us is by reminding us to conform to our obligations. Failure to do so might trigger a response from someone else’s police force against us. Can you imagine how a world like this might work?


I can in the same way I can imagine communism working. In theory, a system in which everyone is mutually better off is one that no individual should work to undermine or weaken. In practice, there is always someone who will work to game the system, and if the system doesn't protect itself from such individuals, then it is at best an unstable equilibrium.


Not if you're viewing Infowars or FOX News. Their entire raison-d'etre seems to be keeping their viewers continuously in State 3 if not State 4.

State #3. They should be severely punished for this, but I don’t know how to do it without breaking the Rule of Law.


"If the Rule of Law says that, sir, then the Rule of Law is an ass!"
:)

LarryHart said...

From today's www.electoral-vote.com concerning Dr Brin's representative:

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is usually a reliable vote for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), but who is also staring down the barrel at a tough re-election campaign, announced on Wednesday that, "I cannot endorse changes that may make the tremendous burden felt by California taxpayers even worse. Tax reform should lower taxes for all taxpayers, regardless of where they live."

LarryHart said...

Again from today's www.electoral-vote.com , again what we already knew:

Politico Magazine has a long piece on why Donald Trump will never lose his core supporters. Its reporter spent time in places like Johnstown, PA, a depressed coal mining town that went solidly for Trump because he promised to bring back coal and steel jobs. Now 10 months into his presidency, the people there see that he is never going to bring back those jobs, but they don't blame him for it. When the reporter asked people how they would feel if, after 4 years, nothing changed, they said they would still love him. When pressed about what his has done for them, the answer was that he hates and battles people they hate, including Democrats, establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives protesters, and most of all, kneeling NFL millionaires, whom they see as ungrateful and disrespectful. In other words, it is all about the culture wars, not economics or even policy. It's all about hate and he hates the people they hate. You can't eat hate, but it is a good second choice after food.

LarryHart said...

That article I just posted above describes why I despair for the future. Approximately a third of my fellow Americans are motivated more than anything else by hatred.

I understand why Kurt Vonnegut said (during the W administration) that he was a man without a country.

LarryHart said...

And finally (really, the bottom of the article) from today's www.electoral-vote.com :

Many of the respondents don't have a clue what they are talking about. One of them said: "Everybpdy I talk to realizes it's not Trump who is dragging his feet. Trump's probably the most diligent, hardest-working president we've ever had in our lifetimes. It's not like he sleeps in till noon and goes golfing every weekend, like the last president did." When the reporter told him that Trump golfs a lot more than Barack Obama, he was surprised. He added that 99% of his TV time is on Fox News. He thinks CNN is definitely fake news. Interviews with many more people gave the same impression, with others saying that his declarations of success are what matter, not actual success. For people who don't understand why his supporters aren't shaken by anything Trump says or does, this article is valuable reading material.


Alfred, this is your private security scenario being played out in the media world. Because there is no mechanism by which "society" can separate real information from fake news, individuals essentially purchase their own information outlets and protect themselves equally from real or made-up information based upon whether dissemination of that information helps or hurts their agenda rather than upon whether the information is true or false.

Seeing how this plays out in the real world, do we really want to implement a similar system around the legitimate use of force?

LarryHart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/08/us/politics/suburbs-revolt-trump-republicans-congress.html


One White House official blamed congressional Republicans, asserting that swing voters on Tuesday embraced Democrats because they were frustrated that lawmakers had not moved on the president’s agenda.


Republicans keep saying this, and it doesn't make any sense. They failed to pass health care destruc...I mean "reform" in large part because their constituents bombarded them with calls begging, cajoling, or threatening them not to kill or bankrupt their families. So they claim what?--that these same constituents would be more inclined to vote Republican if Republicans had gone ahead and done what those constituents are insisting they not do? That disgust at Republicans failure to do what those people didn't like caused them to vote for Democrats?

Isn't it more plausible that people voted for Democrats because, unlike Republicans, Democrats aren't trying to kill them or bankrupt them or undermine the institutions of our country?

Even from the Republicans' own perspective, I don't get how this argument is supposed to work. Unless it's simply a matter of "hard to convince someone of a thing when his salary depends on him not believing it."

David Brin said...

“When pressed about what his has done for them, the answer was that he hates and battles people they hate, including Democrats, establishment Republicans, the media, Black Lives protesters, and most of all, kneeling NFL millionaires, whom they see as ungrateful and disrespectful. In other words, it is all about the culture wars, not economics or even policy. It's all about hate and he hates the people they hate. You can't eat hate, but it is a good second choice after food.”

What I've been saying...

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

"...In other words, it is all about the culture wars, not economics or even policy. It's all about hate and he hates the people they hate. ...”

What I've been saying...


That's exactly why I cross-posted it here.

Tim H. said...

Something interesting on the proposed new tax swindle
https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/11/7/16618038/house-republicans-tax-bill-donors-chris-collins
Campaign money is life's blood for "Congresscritters" and it will be withheld if they don't deliver a tax cut. I could almost feel sorry for them.

LarryHart said...

@Tim H,

That's exactly why they are so hot to pass bills that no one likes, not even their own voters. Their donors demand results for their support.

MadLibrarian said...

Ah yes -- the best government money can buy.

LarryHart said...

New York Times columnist Charles Blow is on a roll worthy of Jim Wright.

The whole article is worth a read.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/09/opinion/resistance-trump-virginia-republicans.html


...
For me, there is no middle: If you are supporting Donald Trump, you are supporting Trumpism and all that goes with it. That means that you are supporting a modus operandi that attacks people of color on every term, but keeps white supremacists safe. You are supporting Trump’s demeaning of women. You are supporting his bullying. You are supporting his corruption. You are supporting his pathological lying.

It is not the job of the resistance to drag you out of that. It is the job of the resistance only to be there when and if you tire of the darkness and crawl out into the light.
...

Bob Neinast said...

Back a ways, Dr. Brin said:

Liberals make a mistake when they talk "programs" to help, because the right exploits a legitimately grounded but exaggerated suspicion of Big Government.

I suspect it is much more than that. The right exploits a fear of poor people (or anybody except big business) getting something without working for it. They think that if people get anything handed to them then they have no incentive to work.

To some extent this is true, but it seems that these days a lot of that truth is located, you guessed it, in rural areas that are being propped up by the Blue States. Somehow there must be a balance in there.

And I supposed it is also related to the old Puritan haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. (H.L. Mencken)

Catfish N. Cod said...

@LH: I would want to see VoteSleuth do more states and release a more complete data set before believing their claim of systematic voter fraud. But it is.... interesting.

@David: "Riders of the Purple Wage" was, I thought, meant to be a dystopia (though a far better one than most, even Huxley's). It was a more adult version of the Axion from WALL-E. I find it odd for you to call it hopeful. (Though WALL-E wound up hopeful, too: Earth was recolonized and humans became more responsible and respectful in their second Edenic phase.)

@Tim H.: We may be at the bitter end of this paradigm. The demands of the donors have now reached the point where even well-to-do suburbanites, the upper-middle and lower-upper classes, are being screwed that the 0.1% may get further advantages. Remember, revolts usually start with the Outer Party...

This is another reason gerrymandering must be destroyed. The only reason they can play these games is because of their insulation from general election challenges; they can take their majority so for granted, that they only need spend money on turnout and avoid being primaried by some other, more obsequious servant.

@Alfred: Anyone can hire private security today; there's no law against it. But they are subject to the public forces of the State. And that was their origin, for it was by having King's Men wielding the whole power of the Crown that the peasantry was freed from petty oppression by local tyrants who wielded their "private security" in an arbitrary manner.

And who keeps the police honest? The courts and the FBI. I suppose there might be a stable world in which local police are hired neighborhood by neighborhood -- still technically government, but enacted by local volition into locally organized "police districts" akin to volunteer fire districts or pest control districts, rather than be aligned with the cities and counties directly. That would be a more voluntary system with a more explicit social contract (the district charter) than what we do now.

But without the State's forces, there would have to be posses to enforce laws on rogue police districts, and inspectors from some other source than the police districts, adding more layers and complications. I prefer having Feds come in to nab corrupt cops than having to have little private wars every time a local police district is found to have become a mini-mafia; and the other benefits just aren't enough of an improvement over the current system to be worth the hassle. Every layer of communal oversight you strip away from the State makes it more likely that force will have to be used to keep private forces honest. Moneyed and corporate interests would find a hundred ways to create petty tyrannies and then arm their company-town or rotten-borough police districts to the teeth to avoid consequences for cheating.

Maybe with more transparency in coming decades, it would become possible to reorganize in this manner; I don't know. I do know it would be a disaster if tried today.

LarryHart said...

Bob Neinast:

The right exploits a fear of poor people (or anybody except big business) getting something without working for it. They think that if people get anything handed to them then they have no incentive to work.

To some extent this is true, ...


I agree that to some extend this is true. OTOH, saying that as if it's a self-evidently bad thing presumes that human labor is essential to the functioning of society. As long as the problem is not "people too lazy to work", but "no jobs available for them to do", then incentive to work is not the issue. Rather, the issue is how much of the common wealth belongs as someone else's private property and how much is co-owned by all of the citizenry.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

@Tim H.: We may be at the bitter end of this paradigm. The demands of the donors have now reached the point where even well-to-do suburbanites, the upper-middle and lower-upper classes, are being screwed that the 0.1% may get further advantages.


The paradigm breaks down when all of the donor money isn't enough to convince voters to vote for those guys. The donors might as well be saying, "Either shoot yourself in the head, or we won't give you any more bullets." The threat doesn't work.


This is another reason gerrymandering must be destroyed. The only reason they can play these games is because of their insulation from general election challenges; they can take their majority so for granted, that they only need spend money on turnout and avoid being primaried by some other, more obsequious servant.


Even gerrymandering has its limits when enough voters turn, as demonstrated by the Virginia House of Delegates election. The state house had been gerrymandered such that Republicans had a 2/3 majority, and now the recount will determine which party has control.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Larry: No, it is still worth it to gerrymander. Virginia's voters were 54/45 in favor of the Democrats, and the Governor had long tails: the generic delegate ballot showed the same nine-point spread.

In a fair districting system, one where the partisan lean was a tossup in each district, that would mean around 55 Democratic delegates in a hundred-member chamber. Maybe a few more or less. Instead, the wobble is around 50. That's still five delegates -- and possibly control of the chamber -- made safe by the effort. (Cold comfort to the fifteen or so who lost seats, though.)

I imagine North Carolina's legislature is terrified today. They have been using a similar trick to maintain supermajorities and block the Democratic governor. They might keep chamber control, but if this mood persists, those supermajorities will go bye-bye. The gerrymander is still worth it though: they'd keep control, whereas in a fair election, North Carolina would become a totally blue state next year. In fact, a state-level wave could upend the rubrocracy in a number of states -- not enough to ensure de-gerrymandering nationwide, but certainly enough to destroy any notion of a Constitutional Convention that would almost certainly result in civil war.

matthew said...

A democrat that joined Trumps Voter Fraud Commission is suing them alleging routine violation of reporting practice law.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/11/trump_s_voter_fraud_commission_is_imploding.html

The final para is golden.
"Dunlap could have responded to the commission’s fundamental fraudulence by simply quitting. Instead, he has done something far more admirable, asserting his right to determine what, exactly, his colleagues are up to—what secrets they are so anxious to hide from his eyes. Dunlap helped to legitimize this commission. Now he appears eager to blow the whistle on its duplicity."

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

@Larry: No, it is still worth it to gerrymander. Virginia's voters were 54/45 in favor of the Democrats, and the Governor had long tails: the generic delegate ballot showed the same nine-point spread.


I agree that they still gain an unfair advantage by gerrymandering, but my point was that it's not foolproof. The way gerrymandering works, you can't give yourself (say) a 70/30 split in every district. You have to spread your own voters around through many districts. I've heard that an ideal number is to get yourself a 55/45 advantage in most districts, and then have a very few where most of the opponent's voters are crammed in.

But in a wave situation, where (say) the Democrats are energized and the Republicans are demoralized or actively dislike their own candidate, it doesn't take all that much to turn a 55/45 advantage into a 49/51 loss. And if that trend is statewide, then suddenly you lose all those "safe" districts.

The cheater is still ahead of where he would be without cheating, but that's like outperforming the stock market when the Dow loses 20% and you only lose 16%. You can do better than you would have and still lose.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Larry Hart
That is not my understanding

By spreading your supporters evenly across lots of districts and packing the opposition into a couple of districts then if the swing is large enough you lose ALL of the seats

In a normal "non gerrymandered" state then you each have strong and weak districts so even with a large swing you keep your "strong" districts

If both sets of supporters are perfectly evenly distributed whoever has over 50% wins all of the seats

LarryHart said...

@Duncan,

We might be having two different conversations. I'm not sure you're saying anything at odds with what I said.

Keep in mind that the point of gerrymandering is usually to preserve an electoral advantage for a party who would otherwise have a minority of voters. If there are more Democrats in the state than Republicans, you can arrange districts so that Republicans win more seats than Democrats, but you can't do so by having a Republican majority in all of the districts. You have to make efficient use of your voters, getting a small majority in as many districts as possible.

The bigger majorities you engineer in the districts, the fewer districts you can do it in. There's a mathematical trade-off between the number of districts you can capture and the spread by which you can capture them by. The smaller the spread you give yourself, the more districts you can grab, but then you're more vulnerable to losing them when voter sentiment shifts.

If you could guarantee yourself big wins in all districts, then you are probably winning anyway, even without cheating.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Roy Moore, twice-fired state supreme court justice and senate candidate, was accused of molesting a 14 year old girl some thirty years ago. The Washington Post and Breitbart both broke the same story simultaneously.
Most national-level Republicans are responding in an appropriate manner -- variations on "If the allegations are true, then Moore must step down".
State Republicans however, are utterly demented. Along with the usual noises of dirty tricks and conspiracy theories, they are saying the woman should be arrested for taking advantage of a god-fearing man, and that what Moore did was OK because the bible permitted sex with girls as young as 12.
Moore's wife is threatening to sue the Post for defamation, but not Breitbart, which I find interesting.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp,

Maybe you don't know the answer,but...

Why did B-bart break the story at all? I mean, Moore was their guy. Right-wing media usually pretends that stories like this don't exist.

Are they spinning it along the "nothing to see here" line? Or are they trying to encourage Moore to step down before he loses to a Democrat?


David Brin said...

They know Moore might lose.... or else be a screeching embarrassment for 6 years.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I went to Breitbart and looked, and I trust you're going to pay someone to come by and clean my computer.
They scooped the post, putting the story up before the Post did. It says there,
"UPDATE: After this Breitbart News piece, the Washington Post released its story.

***

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The Washington Post is imminently planning to run a piece targeting Judge Roy Moore, claiming that he engaged in inappropriate conduct with four teenage girls 34 years ago."

matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
matthew said...

Doc, I think this Iran war is happening a lot sooner than I gave you credit for.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/10/saudi-arabia-orders-citizens-to-leave-lebanon-as-tensions-rise

I think the Saudis are going into Iran soon.

Dang, you called it. I *certainly* didn't think the time was so short. Hard to not see this action any other way than an immediate precursor to war.

Twominds said...

@Dr.Brin

It seems my question was overlooked: do you think there are already results from the UK experiment with cameras in public space?

And the other one: which way do you think is more beneficial to the public, the UK system of cameras in police hands or the US system of cameras in civilian and business hands?

I hope you will write a line about it, as you have thought more than most about the issue.

Anonymous said...

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David Brin said...

Twominds I prefer the US approach, as I wrote, because people cooperate quickly and hand over the footage when they approve of the police (e.g. the Boston Marathon bombing) and demand warrants in the case of the Seattle Pepper Spray Incident.

But it won't last. Cameras will get so small and cheap, BOTH citizens AND police will have unlimited sight, outdoors. See p 160 of The Transparent Society .

David Brin said...

Thanks Matthew. Surely some in our military and intel communities are putting these puzzle pieces together, about our looming War With Iran. DT's sudden swerve on K Korea and China preps the way, along with Kushner's Riyadh visit to the Crown Prince, followed immediately by the CP's putsch to eliminate all opposition. Then there's the coming tete-a-tete between DT and Putin, to take place without cameras in a communist dictatorship, and now the Saudis ordering all their citizens out of Lebanon... and quietly out of several other places, as well. I'll post about this tomorrow. But meanwhile remember who wants this: DT needs a distraction, the Saudis want all-out war, some Israelis (not the smart ones), Putin's economy will be rescued by skyrocketing oil prices, then he'll just step in with his umbrella and get Iran as a protectorate, while the mullahs crush their young modernists. Oh, please let me be wrong!

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/nov/10/saudi-arabia-orders-citizens-to-leave-lebanon-as-tensions-rise

Catfish N. Cod said...

I don't know if *military* action is imminent, but this cannot be interpreted any other way than as an intervention by the new Saudi crown prince into Lebanon. The proxy war is accelerating now that ISIS, the only thing everyone agreed on (if only because they foolishly declared the entire world to be their enemy), has one foot in the grave.

Donald Gisselbeck said...

Why not Universal Basic Employment? Everyone works 20 hrs a week for decent food, clothing, shelter, medical care, access to the internet, and recreation. If the Free Market (in its infinite goodness, wisdom, and whatnot) refuses to provide such work, it gets taxed for the money to do so. There is plenty that could be done. Rebuild the pyramids, set up a backcountry ski hut system in Afghanistan, go to Mars, etc.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Make it 20 hours, two days, and you cut commuting by 60%...

Twominds said...

I think this artice The Fragmented Surveillance State is germane to our discussion.

Do you notice the change in tone between this article and the one, on a possible ban on capturing police action on smart phone? That one was rather superficial and pessimistic, this one looks at both the advantages and the drawbacks, and presses the need for participation to make sure it will benefit ordinary people, not draw them into a dragnet.

But, to pester Dr.Brin a bit: would you say that there are already concrete results from the UK camera experiment, as compared to continental Europe for instance?

Alfred Differ said...



@Paul SB | I didn't want to leave you with the impression that I didn't read your response on the last thread suggesting I haven't learned what Sapolsky was pointing out about PTSD. I assure you I was thinking of Sapolsky when I partially defended anarcho-libertarians. It's just that I don't think some of you can distinguish between state #2 and state #3 for situational awareness and how our social contract works in group settings for this.

My wife occasionally relates a story from her college years where a party she attended was crashed by ‘skinheads’ who proceeded to get very violent. People got seriously hurt. Her story is one of those “people are really bad sometimes” stories where a husband is supposed to nod sympathetically and listen. We aren’t supposed to offer solutions or man-splain things. Each time the story comes around I get a little better at shutting my mouth, but after about 5 years ago, I’ve listened to it from a situational awareness perspective. Her friends were having a good time and tuned-out to potential dangers… until the party crashers got violent. That means her friends snapped from #1 to #4 and often to #5 in a flash. Sapolsky describes this in the early chapters. The forebrain doesn’t have time to act and is out-weighed anyway. Run! Hide! Strike Back! At the party, some of the women who ran were chased down… and hurt. The guys who fought back did so against opponents who were prepared. Things did not go well.

The police can’t protect us from these things. They simply can’t. WE can, though, and it is a simple thing to do. In a large social setting, it only takes a few people sitting in state #2 to notice the thugs walking in the door. It’s not that thugs are expected, though, so those few people are safe in state #2 AND KEEP OTHERS SAFE by staying in state #2 for a while. After a little while, the folks doing that slip back into #1 and a few others step up to #2. No one gets exhausted this way. IF the thugs walk in the door, those few in #2 shift up to #3 and nudge a few others to move to #2. If the thugs get violent, the folks in #3 can smoothly shift to #4 without danger of overshooting. If they’ve done the proper nudging, many people will make a smoother upward transition and there will be less panic. Instead of a bunch of thugs thinking they get to beat up a bunch of sheep, they’ll face people who have already thought about where the knives are in the kitchen and what is heavy enough to throw.

This defense is the kind of thing social animals do. It doesn’t require that we all exhaust ourselves watching out for danger. It requires that we TRUST each other to do our parts. In a law-of-the-jungle world, that is an obvious bad choice, but that’s not the world in which we live. Most of us DO trust each other enough for this. Unfortunately, we might be a bit too trusting and especially so of the police. Self-protection is OUR job and it’s not difficult. It just requires a little training.

LarryHart said...

@Donald Gisselbeck,

Well, that was basically the setting of Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, "Player Piano". But it was kind of a dystopia. Go figure.

Seems people need more than money; they need to feel valued.

David S said...

LarryHart & Duncan,
You seem to be describing the results of our winner take all election system. Suppose a state has 100 districts and the population is split 51% R and 49% D and all districts are split the same way. With our winner take all system you end up with 100 Republican seats. This is not very representative of the population.

What I think should be done is to group the districts into 20 larger districts and have ranked choice voting and the top 5 get in each new district get a seat. Looking at one district you would have 2R, 2D, and one toss up seat. Over the entire state you would have 40R, 40D, and 20 toss up. This is much more representative. Every district will both an R and a D that constituents can go talk to. In addition with multi-seat elections, there is a higher chance of 3rd party or different flavors of the major parties winning a seat.

This is what the fair representation act tries to accomplish. http://www.fairvote.org/fair_rep_in_congress#why_rcv_for_congress

Alfred Differ said...

@Jon S (&LarryHart & others)| When I asked Larry what the world would look like if most of us could hire small private police forces, I was laying down a trick question for him. You set off the trap, so I’ll address my response to you and others who jumped into it.

(If you think the trick question/trap was set of by me instead of you, think again. I'm a libertarian. I've been thinking about these things a while and imagining a world where our ideals prospered. It's not that different from our modern western world because that appears to me to be where we are heading.)


The world I was describing is the modern world in the US with one small change of terms. The private forces I’m referring to are our city police forces. The difference between them and what the anarcho-libertarians want is just the small matter of monopoly on the use of coercive force. Some of our city police ARE viewed as thugs, but most of them aren’t and somehow they manage to not go to battle with other groups very often. Why? Because we don’t want them doing that and our legislators have written what we want into law. Most of the time it works too because (amazingly) we aren't inclined to be violent with respect to each other. The city police where I live have jurisdiction over much of what goes on relative to me, but others can intrude in certain situations. Hot pursuit, state-border crossings, and many other situations have rules that our police are expected to follow (when we demand it!) to avoid us having them do battle with each other.

What I’m trying to point out is that what the anarcho-libertarians want isn’t all that different from what you already have. You all might think it is because the nuts who want to abolish the public security forces now speak loudly enough that you confuse them for the norm. The not-so-nutty ones want the option to vary the theme and SHOW that their way is better. They dream of a world where their example demonstrates to all of you that there approach is an improvement and then YOU will abolish the public police forces much like we’ve done with the Noble class. There was once a time when social leveling was thought to be a sure path to the destruction of civilization, yet the US and many other nations are doing better than coping without them. Libertarians of all stripes ask you to consider the possibility that we can go further… and should. We owe it to our children to continue the liberalization experiment.

From a classical liberal (me) to a modern liberal (many of you), I offer an invitation to remember your ideological roots. WE were the barbarians who leveled societies. Don’t underestimate your power.

Alfred Differ said...

@Twominds and Duncan (regarding why we have police unions)

Both of you are describing bad employers. In the private market, employees would leave that employer and sign on with another. If I had the freedom to contract for security services and replace the services provided by my local police, they would have other employers available to them, would they not?

Public legislated monopolies are sometimes necessary, but we should revisit our assumptions now and then and ask if any have changed. With the arrival of the internet in our lives, many transaction costs have plummeted to near zero. I put to you that there might be a better way that our police would actually prefer.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi David S

I prefer the system we have (NZ) with one vote for your district and one for a party

This gives voters the choice of both - for my "district" vote I vote for the Labour candidate as he/she is the only one that has a chance against the National candidate (very rural here)

But I put my party vote where I think it will do the most good - I'm normally wrong but I do have that choice

Alfred Differ said...

@TCB | (regarding goons who pretend to be libertarians)

Yah. I'm with you on that... with one small caveat. There are times when people enact legislation with less than an overwhelming majority. If those laws direct the business of government, I'm okay with that much of the time. If those laws determine what is and isn't just behavior, I'm very NOT okay with that. Simple majorities are not enough to decide what is and isn't ethical behavior.

When a company organizes to do something illegal, I'll look at what they plan to do before judging. I spent my college years in Nevada where prostitution is legal in much of the state. It's ain't legal much anywhere else in the US. I have qualms with the industry's typical business model, but there was less than an overwhelming majority of Nevada residents who cared to change it, so I learned to let it go. Someday, they might change their minds after some egregious incident, but until they do, actions against those corporations would be unjust in Nevada.

I'll admit to being a little squishy on certain corporate powers when it comes to contract enforcement, but when I'm not I flip to becoming medieval. If we really DO decide they are abusing us, off with their heads!

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ,

Well, in my defense, I said that your solution to replace corruptible municipal officials with corruptible private security only kicks the can down the road. That's not all that different from saying that the two are the same thing.

I don't have a problem with rethinking our assumptions. I don't even have a problem with private security. I take issue with private security forces being answerable only to themselves and their private employers.

Alfred Differ said...

@Catfish | But without the State's forces, there would have to be posse’s to enforce laws on rogue police districts, and inspectors from some other source than the police districts, adding more layers and complications.

I suspect even thinking about this in terms of police districts is the wrong way to do it. It IS how we do it today with our city and county police forces and we have exactly the layers you describe. IG’s and higher authority police can intervene. Internal Affairs units can intervene. Those layers are present already.

What keeps our police honest today? Those layers do, but so do we… when we do our civic duty. One of the issues the BLM folks point out is that we don’t. Juries don’t like to convict police very often. They aren’t supposed to like it, of course, but some have set some stunning examples of our inclination to abdicate our duty to our fellow citizens. I get that the anarcho-libertarians are guilty of being utopians to some degree, but I still think they have a useful point to make.

I prefer having Feds come in to nab corrupt cops

There is no reason why we couldn’t still have something like this layered on, but there is the not so small issue of what to do if the Feds are corrupted. It can happen.

I do know it would be a disaster if tried today.

Anything tried in a non-incremental way would be a disaster. If a dead whale lands on the beach, it can cause quite a stink before we marshal the forces to dispose of it, right? Our ancestors would have carved it into tiny pieces and feasted. I suggest we do the same for every social problem we care to fix and not beat ourselves up for the ones we leave to our children to finish.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ (again),

Y'know, the more I think about your worldview, the more I think I might agree with it if we were further out of the jungle already. If we lived in Ayn Rand's "Galt's Gulch", I might be ok with self-protection without falling into the assumption that enough fellow-citizens will run roughshod over the rest of us.

Actually, my personal living situation isn't so far off of that. I live in a suburb which is pretty darned safe. When my daughter was younger, a friend of hers accidentally left her bike out on our lawn all night, and not only was the bike still there the next day, but that fact wasn't a surprise. But I wouldn't be so naive as to advise residents of certain neighborhoods of Chicago or Los Angeles that they could be safe doing the same thing.

That's really all I'm taking issue with you. Metaphorically, you're arguing that the rules that apply in Arlington Heights apply generally, and that suspecting otherwise is a failure of imagination.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Private security would never be able to avoid answering to other security forces. We don't tolerate that today and won't tomorrow unless someone has a bit of magic that makes us something other than human.

Arguing strictly from a prudence perspective, it is bad business to have our security forces fighting each other without a damn good reason. We don't tolerate it today, so when it DOES happen, it stands out.

All people are corruptible, but few people with lots of power are far more dangerous WHEN they are corrupted. it's the old liberal argument. Divide power and set the blocs against each other. Pay attention occasionally (Sit. Aware #2) for the possibility that they are colluding or the balance isn't working. YOU don't have to be sit aware #3 very often if we are willing to share the load. (David's social T-cells are usually in state #3.)

This is where science fiction can do real wonders. We can write stories of a future where we've tried to set up some of the libertarian experiments and then imagine what happens next. Perfect fodder for speculative fiction, right? Yah. It's been done, but I argue it hasn't been done enough. To imagine a world where private security forces are answerable only to themselves and their employers is a failure to imagine a society with real humans in it. I would classify such a story as fantasy. Much as David imagined a world where people did NOT abandon civilization in The Postman, we would not abandon being answerable to each other when unjust behavior occurs. Justice is, after all, one of the classical virtues described by the Greeks for a really good reason. What counts as Justice has changed, but its contribution to what we call 'good character' has not.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Larry Hart

In the UK and NZ we have police that appear to work a LOT better than the US model
And that is by the exact opposite of the local control that you and Alfred appear to think will make things better

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | The path out of the jungle is walked by those who imagine themselves walking it.

In the town where I went to grad school, we usually left our front door unlocked. When I moved to a bigger city a few years later, no one did that, yet no one came by and tested whether we had. When the thieves entered our apartments, they didn't come through the front door. 8)

One of the classic causes for incorporation of new cities is for one group of people to get out from under another. Whether it is taxes, law enforcement, or zoning rules, we already live in a world of 'private' rule enforcement and demonstrate why it has some lower limits on viable group size. Insurance works in a similar way. All public options (not just health care) should have to compete for our participation... and should be allowed to compete among an educated population.

Okay... I'm drifting into my own idealism again. A world of educated people doesn't exist yet even if other seemingly utopian futures are already here. We will get there, though. And Man said 'Let There Be Light and The Internet Appeared.'

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan

I have no issue with people trying the NZ model as long as they can't force others in their community into the contract. Would the NZ model survive that? (Honest question.)

LarryHart said...

A separate issue, a caller to Norman Goldman's show pointed out that a normal person who attempts to meet someone in person who represents "herself" as a 14 year old girl can go to prison for years and be branded a sex offender for life, even if no actual 14 year old girls were abused in the process. Anthony Weiner is in prison right now for texting sex pictures to a 15-year-old, without actually touching anyone.

So why isn't Roy Moore, who actually did sexually molest an actual 14-year-old girl in prison, let alone how can Christian Republicans defend what he did as no big deal?

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ,

Serious question...back in 2016 had expressed fear or dismay over the damage that might be done if then-Republican-nominee Donald Trump was actually elected to the presidency, what good would it do to imagine a world in which the voters wouldn't do that?

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | So you are accusing me of being an optimist? Heh. 8)

What good would it do? Well... Turn the question around and you'll see it. What harm would it do to NOT imagine it?

It's a Vision thing. If you can't paint a rosy view of the future, why should anyone follow you on your path forward?


Ultimately, cynics will do more damage to us than our lying President.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

If you can't paint a rosy view of the future, why should anyone follow you on your path forward?

Ultimately, cynics will do more damage to us than our lying President.


Really?

Who do you think is painting the rosy picture of the future that others are following?

LarryHart said...

@Alfred,

First of all, I do consider you a friend, at least as much as someone I've only "met" virtually can be so considered.

Also, it's not incompatible with my philosophy to say that we need each other, or at least that society needs both of us. As you say, it is important to have someone who can imagine a better world and lead us on the path to it. But it is also important to have someone who foresees possible pitfalls, gauges their likelihood, and imagines ways of avoiding or mitigating the worst outcomes. And with all due respect, your philosophical opposition to anticipating problems is as anathema to me as my refusal to believe in the power of optimism to affect the material world is to you.

Balance is important.

Alfred Differ said...

Our President tries occasionally and some have fallen under a spell that makes it difficult to see through his illusion.

A number of people here paint rosy futures too, but of a different nature. Some advocate for UBI, some for universal education, and some for flat/fair/transparent competition. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | But it is also important to have someone who foresees possible pitfalls, gauges their likelihood, and imagines ways of avoiding or mitigating the worst outcomes.

Definitely. In my experience, the people painting rosy visions are often trying to lead away from pitfalls. Prophet and Social T-Cell rolled into one.

your philosophical opposition to anticipating problems

Heh. Only on the internet would someone believe that of me. If we met face-to-face, you'd find I'm somewhat conservative BECAUSE I try to anticipate problems. It's just that I think it is the height of hubris to think we CAN anticipate them beyond a meager number that fit our preconceived notions of how a future might turn out. A 19th century visionary might have tried to imagine eradicating smallpox through treaties and royal decrees. In the 20th century, we did it with the UN and NGO's and a number of governments that weren't anything worse than a constitutional monarchy. Solving 21st century problems will probably be done in ways we can't imagine and our ideas will seem quaint to our grandchildren doing it.

The future is going to be weird from our perspective. It can't not be. Feel free to imagine it, but we should remain humble if we wish our grandchildren not to laugh at us. Feel free to balance it, but even I'll laugh a bit because I already know we can't have the information we need to know if we are balanced or if balance is even possible. You are trying to balance in a solution space of a bazillion dimensions. Good luck.


(When I imagine a train car with coal heading down the track to a site that generates electricity, I try to imagine how someone three generations from now will view it. I suspect they will wonder why in the world we burned the stuff a bit like many of us are beginning to wonder why we burn trees. Coal is for hiding carbon underground they'll say. What a stupid idea it was to burn it. What was the matter with them!)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

The UK and NZ model woks BECAUSE nobody can back out of the contract
And it works much much better than the US model where the rich can back out of the contract

It's like driving on the left - it works because everybody does it

David Brin said...

Donald Gisselback welcome! And sounds good to me.

LarryHart, the thing that made PLAYER PIANO a dystopia was the unaccountable gathering of power at the top. The unrealistic thing was his assumption that all that automation wasn’t producing vast amounts of wealth that the “reeks and wrecks” would consume.

Duncan over the long run, we’ll simply gather 500,000 like minded folks and get a representative. Those who don’t join such a consortium will vote in the remaining geographic constituencies,

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

If we met face-to-face, you'd find I'm somewhat conservative BECAUSE I try to anticipate problems. It's just that I think it is the height of hubris to think we CAN anticipate them beyond a meager number that fit our preconceived notions of how a future might turn out.


So you can't imagine that someone is better equipped than you might be to handle the important task of thinking several chess moves ahead?

See how that works? :)


What good would it do? Well... Turn the question around and you'll see it. What harm would it do to NOT imagine it?


To channel John Bohner: "Are you kidding me?!!" I daresay most people imagined a world in which Donald Trump could not be elected, right up until the night of Nov 8, 2016. What harm did it do? Too many on our side were comfortable staying home or casting protest votes against Hillary Clinton with the full expectation that she'd win either way.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LarryHart, the thing that made PLAYER PIANO a dystopia was the unaccountable gathering of power at the top. The unrealistic thing was his assumption that all that automation wasn’t producing vast amounts of wealth that the “reeks and wrecks” would consume.


With all due respect, I think what made that world a dystopia was stated in dialogue within the text--that human beings are not content to merely have their physical and spiritual needs taken care of. They need to feel useful.

I've read that book literally more times than I can count, and the older I get, the more I appreciate the message.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Feel free to balance it, but even I'll laugh a bit because I already know we can't have the information we need to know if we are balanced or if balance is even possible. You are trying to balance in a solution space of a bazillion dimensions. Good luck.


I'm not trying to balance the future itself. I'm trying to balance your presumption that the happy path is sure to work out as long as we don't allow ourselves to believe otherwise. I agree that we can't anticipate all pitfalls, but that doesn't mean that some aren't more obvious than others.

I have trouble believing that you don't see your own optimism about the future as hubris equal-and-opposite to believing we can fix potential problems.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

we should remain humble if we wish our grandchildren not to laugh at us.


If we wished that, we should have elected a different president. :)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
the number here is about 30,000 - maybe we have too many MP's!
But I like the idea of being able to have my geographic vote as well as my "consortium" vote

And with our 5% rule a consortium would need to get 150,000 votes but it would then get five seats

This 5% rule was brought in when we went to PR with the idea that it would keep out the loonies - I don't agree, I would rather have the loonies in parliament and voting

Tony Fisk said...

Sweet Mary and Joseph...

The conservative expressions of support for Roy Moore and his loblollying is starting to sound like anything, *anything* is permissible, so long as it pisses off the libtards.

It reminds me of that unfortunate young fen in "Startide Rising" whose slide off the atavistic deep end began with an increasing urge to shriek out epiphets in base Trinary.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
The Kiwis strike again!

http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/security/news/a28999/chatbot-spam-emails/

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

Sweet Mary and Joseph...

The conservative expressions of support for Roy Moore and his loblollying is starting to sound like anything, *anything* is permissible, so long as it pisses off the libtards.


Yeah, they don't even seem to remember the part about 14-year-old Mary being a virgin.

LarryHart said...

Bill Maher on the difference between liberals and conservatives:

"We arrest our alleged rapists. They elect them."

Dave Werth said...

@Alfred| If a dead whale lands on the beach, it can cause quite a stink before we marshal the forces to dispose of it, right? Our ancestors would have carved it into tiny pieces and feasted.

Just don't try to dynamite it. Here's what happened when the Oregon Department of Transportation tried that (pretty humorous).

A Whale of a Tale

Zepp Jamieson said...

They probably are the same ones who scream Mohammed was a pederast because his bride was 13.

Watched Moore on Hannity, where Sean was intent on giving the judge a handjob. His defence amounted to, "Oh, there were so many little girls. I don't remember that one."

Even Hannity has abandoned him now.

But you know? I bet Alabama elects him anyway. They ain't right down there.

Tim H. said...

The accusations surrounding Roy Moore reminded me of the first half of an old Cheech & Chong bit;
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=fl-todKuWhQ

Laurence said...

" Oh. Peaktu San. The highest peak in Korea (and the alleged birthplace of Kim Jong Il in official state mythology) is also an active super-volcano, one which, if it erupted, would obliterate most of North Korea and China too."

I brought this up in an earlier thread.Is it possible Kim's behaviour is motivated by a belief Peaktu San is about to blow? What would a regime so consumed by hate do if they thought they were all about to die? Perhaps take as many of their enemies out with them, in a kind of intercontinental mass shooting.

David Brin said...

onward

The next posting is a big one... please recruit readers, it's important!

onward

Jon S. said...

Thing is, Alfred, we don't have to ask "what if". As has been pointed out, there was a time in this very country's history when we did permit those who could afford it to employ their own security forces to enforce laws. It, ah, didn't work well, as you might be able to tell by the fact that we have official police forces now.

Unless you believe the essential nature of humanity has changed dramatically over the past 150 years or so, you should acknowledge the results of the experiment we've already run.

David Brin said...

onward

The next posting is a big one... please recruit readers, it's important!

onward

drf5n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
drf5n said...

Have you seen the Russian twitterbot-tracking site http://dashboard.securingdemocracy.org/? It seems like much of the traffic in intended to fuel the outrage instinct.