Thursday, December 07, 2017

Flawed models of society... (Some kinda work). And why our worst foe is certainty.

I plan to be more general and deal with bigger-broader issues this time since, well, we have to pause now and then. Take a breath, saying (about today's political ructions) "this, too, shall pass."

Still, before diving into "social and political "charts" and the theory of totalitarianism, I will throw out there two vital and timely news items. First...

You must read the text of Sen. Jeff Flake’s speech, declaring that he can no longer stand by, while American discourse, politics, and even civil peace are wrecked byreckless provocations, most often for the pettiest and most personal reasons, reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with the fortunes of the people that we have been elected to serve."

Another excerpt: “Leadership lives by the American creed, “E pluribus unum.” From many one. American leadership looks to the world and just as Lincoln did, sees the family of man. Humanity is not a zero sum game. When we have been at our most prosperous, we have been at our most principled, and when we do well, the rest of the world does well.”

The Arizona Republican does a humble mea culpa about having been too quiet in the era that led up to Donald Trump, and he implicitly calls Trump a devastating symptom of a deeper sickness in his own party. 

So, then… might this lead to what the Republic desperately needs? A critical mass of grownups who will disown the whole Murdoch-owned maelstrom of lies and cheaters, coalescing instead to form a Party of Sane American Conservatives, or PASAC? Elsewhere I show that this sort of thing sis happen in the past. See "The Miracle of 1947."

Alas, we have been waiting for such a gathering of sane conservatives for at least a decade. If it were going to happen, would they not have saved us from the nation-rape of the recent Tax Bill?


Seriously, the GOP political caste is cowardly. But if I am wrong about the Officer Corps, then we are well and simply screwed. 

If I am right, then we have powerful allies who want the American Republic and the Great Enlightenment Experiment to succeed. And they are caught in a terrible, terrible bind. God bless em.

Do your part. See how to take advantage of the revulsion-momentum and help reduce the Hannity-Fox ad revenue.

== “Charting” politics? ==

I have long inveighed against the absurdly lobotomizing so-called “left-right political axis,” which crams all issues together along a scale that no one can even properly define.  Others have agreed that one-dimensional politics is unworthy of a sapient people. My recently departed colleague, Jerry Pournelle, was among those who have tried to offer an improved landscape.

One problem with most such models – like the "Nolan Chart" often handed out at Libertarian gatherings – is that the two axes all too often overlap, meaning that there will be a tendency for persons traveling along one coordinate to automatically travel along the other. In other words, using the terminology of science, the variables are neither independent nor orthogonal. Also, many of these mental calisthenics have been created with a specific political message in mind. In other words, they suffer from tendentiousness, a gross logical sin that occurs when the arguer claims to be seeking a neutral process, but is driven all along to reach a foregone conclusion.

Their very purpose is not illuminating but polemical, to lure others who are viewing the chart to drift toward the corner that the chart-makers want you to go. Or - in Jerry's case - to a definition of "moderate centrist" that happened to be his view on everything. Jerry's 2-D chart is better than the tendentious "Nolan Chart," though alas, it is still non-orthogonal and "rationality" is a judgment call. e.g. I deem Randians to be spectacularly irrational. 

My own 2D (and 3D!) charts use measurable metrics that are truly orthogonal and the resulting landscape is not tendentious... not designed to lead you to my favored direction.They also happen to eviscerate the standard assumptions that you are used to. So be prepared to re-evaluate!

As happens even more thoroughly, if you dare to try on the socratic probings of my Questionnaire on Ideology, which speaks to none of today's hot-button issues. None at all. Still, you'll go huh!

== Stuck in a rut ==

Let me illustrate the stupidity of our current “spectrum” simply: Many of our supposed "left-right" rigor mortises collapse if you ask the right questions. e.g. Competition is clearly a mighty generative force and "right" people claim they are defending it from being stifled by lefty meddlings.  

But Adam Smith, Hayek and common sense show that competition is best when regulated to maximize the number of confident, skilled and ready participants!  Well, nothing ever expanded that pool of competitors more than liberal interventions in mass health, education, infrastructure and rights.

And keeping things flat-fair. After 6000 years, we know that brief eras of open-fair competition are always ruined by oligarchic cheaters. Regulations (e.g. anti-trust) that keep competitive markets flat-open-competitive are not "stifling."  They ensure a fair game, as do regulations and referees in sports.

For these two reasons, it is insane to call liberals "leftists" who want socialism, just because they want some socialist interventions that increase the number of skilled participants and regulations to keep competition fair.  In fact it is the exact opposite!  Liberals are the only friends that a fair and open market system have! If he were alive today, Adam Smith would be a Democrat. And the folks at Evonomics show this by citing Smith more than anybody. 

In contrast, most "libertarians" today seldom mention or have read Smith, and the C-Word... "competition" ... is never mentioned at all, amid the idolatry of unlimited aristocratic property.

Those five paragraphs, alone, show how insane "left-right" is, since it does not even mean what it claims to mean in the narrow realm of market economics! Not while the "right" is the chief force destroying flat-fair competition today.

== A flawed but improvable system ==

Lawrence Lessig is at it again.  Last year he tried to get on the Democratic Presidential debates — not aiming to win nomination, but to elevate the conversation, trying to discuss corruption and the poisonous effects of Big Money in politics. Among the many huge mistakes made by Democrats was squelching such participation in the first few debates. They missed an opportunity to draw in viewers and make themselves decisively the party of thoughtfulness, by bringing in diverse voices, at least for a while.

(I was so disappointed Jerry Brown didn’t run… not to win office, but to bring his stunning mind onto that stage and shattering all the standard models.)

Regarding Lessig’s anti-corruption campaign - let’s be clear: Republican Congresses are not only the laziest in the history of the Republic - holding the fewest hearings, votes or days in session and passing almost no bills, including none of their proclaimed priorities… but they are also the most corrupt, spending nearly all of their time doing “fund-raisers.” 

Democrats do some of that, too! But much less and (crucially) most of them would vote for Lessig’s reforms.

Now, while continuing his efforts on campaign funding. Larry is pushing another endeavor, filing a lawsuit against a major distortion of our political process, the “Winner Takes All” apportionment of electors in 48 states, in presidential elections.

The Electoral College itself is in the Constitution. But “Winner Takes All” is not! It is a corruption instituted by party hacks - like gerrymandering - to cheat American voters.

I know Lawrence Lessig has seen my essay on this matter, first circulated in the last century and posted on my site in 2008.  

To be clear, this is no panacea. Ending “Winner Takes All” will generally ensure that the Electoral College is apportioned closer to the popular vote… but there is an inherent advantage to the GOP in the plethora of low population red states, each of which has two senators and hence two bonus electors. (We need two Dakotas? Seriously? Read up on how that came about.)

Still, fairness will improve some if we do this simple reform. And candidates will pay attention to more than just a few swing states. So I urge your support.  Here’s the fundraiser for Larry’s effort. Do sign up! Though also circulate my 2008 link, since… well… fair is fair.

== Monstrous Certainty ==

Let me finish with a riff on the nature and roots of despotism.

One of the more important unsung corners of our renaissance is the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College, where director Roger Berkowitz runs the “Amor Mundi” (love of the world) Newsletter, offering many off-angle modern insights.  Here he discusses the way that many on the far-left have chosen to veer their passionate interest away from traditional topics like class warfare and economics, over to critiquing the way the masses have been hypnotized into false cultural beliefs.  

'This “cultural left” has specialized in “what they call the ‘politics of difference’ or ‘of identity’ or ‘of recognition.’ This cultural Left thinks more about stigma than about money, more about deep and hidden psychosexual motivations than about shallow and evident greed.” Losing interest in labor unions and laborers, the “academic, cultural Left” this wing argues that “the system, and not just the laws, must be changed.” And by “system” they mean the programming that combines racism and classism with the memic repression cult called science.'

Here’s a link to Roger’s excellent and informative missive. And before I continue, let me make clear that this critique is qualitative.  In any quantitative sense, this wing of “leftism” is minuscule, compared to the mad cults that infest and have hijacked America’s currently jabbering-loony right.   Shills like Sean Hannity point at far-lefty shriekers and claim “See? All liberals are like that!” Um, not. In fact, we are able to critique our own fanatics. You confederates cannot. 

Alas, the decline in discourse in American life is, I believe, rooted in something biochemical. The bilious rage of extreme partisans - of all stripes - has a component that's entirely orthogonal to the actual merits or faults of the cause, itself.  That driver is the addictive high of self-righteous indignation.

I've been writing and speaking about this for a long time... once even at the National Institutes for Drugs and Addiction. Barbara Oakley included my piece in her terrific tome PATHOLOGICAL ALTRUISM.

The word "addiction" should be expanded to include so many of the fine and good things that we do, that are reinforced by chemical feedback loops in the brain -- e.g. love of music, or skill, or our kids.  Sanctimony is a mental state that - like many religious experiences - can tap into these reinforcement systems, triggering release of endorphins and dopamine and getting the user to repeatedly return for another hit, another high.

One understands why indignation can do this. Across our evolution, there have been a myriad times when some added force-of-will made the difference between success and failure. Even life or death. Moreover, there are many things - like injustice - that are worthy of volcanic ire! In no way am I implying that liberal activists should back off from their causes.

Still, we have all seen how the passionate can take over advocacy groups and causes. And then there comes a race-to-the-top in competitions to show who is most passionate -- comparison contests that leave many movements under command of the angriest, the most-intense, those least likely to accept partial allies, those least able to negotiate half-step-forward, pragmatic compromises.


== Certainty is the core enemy of our renaissance ==

Of course this flame is stoked by many Hollywood-modern memes, like the relentless lesson of Suspicion of Authority (SoA) that's preached in every film and in so many songs. So many of the passionate proclaim (in effect) "I invented indignation at injustice and suspicion of authority!"  

No, in fact you suckled these lessons from the very society that you've been trained to despise.

Where this relates to the Berkowitz missive is the fact that polemical passions are endangered, whenever they focus on realms that might be amenable to factual analysis, wherein even being right is likely to lead to some tepid, 90% validation, calling for at-least a little compromise and pragmatic negotiation. This quandary means the farthest left can no longer focus on economics or matters of law or governance -- these call for focus on hard and gritty reality, wherein the detested pragmatists can trot out their hated and feared weapon of oppression -- facts.

The postmodernists' war against fact-users - especially science - is thus rooted in exactly the same elements of human nature as the War on Facts waged by the Mad Right. And while of course these two polemical wings are very different -- blatantly the entire U.S. right is far larger and more dangerous for now -- it is not untoward for reasonable people to bear in mind that there are more dimensions here, than just the hoary-lobotomizing "left-right axis."

It was not any calmly-parsed argument of Marxism that made Lenin and Stalin willing mass murderers. It was the thing that Jacob Bronowski denounced in the very last episode of his fantastically wonderful "The Ascent of Man."

Monstrously passionate certainty.

If you binge on anything this year.... binge on that show, which set the template for COSMOS and so many others. 

(And compensate for the 1970s less-PC language; it's worth it.)


== And finally, here is my incantation ==

Try repeating it, aloud.

I am a member of a civilization
It’s good that we have a rambunctious society, filled with opinionated individualists. Serenity is nice, but serenity alone never brought progress. Hermits don’t solve problems. The adversarial process helps us to improve as individuals and as a culture. 

Criticism is the only known antidote to error — 
Elites shunned it and spread ruin across history. We do each other a favor (though not always appreciated) by helping find each others’ mistakes.
And yet — we’d all be happier, better off and more resilient if each of us were to now and then say:

“I am a member of a civilization.” (IAAMOAC)

Step back from anger. Study how awful our ancestors had it, yet they struggled to get you here. Repay them by appreciating the civilization you inherited.
                                                                               

69 comments:

Treebeard said...

The would-be priest of progress offers another sermon, complete with a mantra for the congregation. He warns against deviation from the straight path, notably leftist immoderation, yet has already been colonized by it (witness the warning about the "less-PC language of 1970" -- the horror!). You are always good for a laugh, father Brin.

David Brin said...

Criticism hurts when the salvoes are aimed in at least your general direction. Since the ent clearly did not read, grasp, or comprehend any of this missive, his screech has nothing to do with either the content or with me. Wipe the spittle off your mirror man, it's disgusting.

Alfred Differ said...

@raito | (from last thread)

I worked for The Money Store back in ’97, so I might have been on the other end of that arrangement. Hopefully not. I was (officially) just a lowly IT geek at the time, but I was learning the business model. I don’t recall us being caught at having numbers that bad, but I DO remember a big shake up around that time. The Russian Ruble collapsed and bond buyers went home for a while. SE Asian finance markets imploded and cashflow halted. A lot of our competitors couldn’t make payroll because they had nothing to loan. Liquidity 101 problem. We survived by being purchased by First Union somewhere around then, but when our competitors returned, they had a much more modern business model. They were doing your internet thing I suspect. With us under the regulatory umbrella of a national bank and facing new mammals as competitors, we didn’t last long after that. 8)

I don’t think the experts know much more today except (maybe) a few things they shouldn’t do. Loan originators are loan flippers and no one should ever forget that. We might package them in polished containers, but our job is to sell the loans and then sell the securitized package. My employer was reasonably decent at sticking to the original plan of helping people repair their credit ratings, but we bought loans wholesale too so we had little control over the ethics of those originators. I know some stories about our own originators that suggest we weren’t clean either. Good intentions always come face to face with unintended consequences, right?

My take away lesson from that period was a business perspective of the creditor who doesn’t have much skin in the game. Loan flippers are basically playing musical chairs. The music stops every time the bond markets seize. Some have a chair and some don’t. Some can meet payroll and some are too leveraged. After a shakeup the music starts again and new players join the dance thinking they can do it better. Maybe they can. If I were to jump in, I’d make damn sure I had a pile of money off-shore and little skin in the game so when the inevitable bankruptcy occurs, I’d laugh from my resort property in a foreign, tax haven beach somewhere. Unfortunately for my bank account, my code of ethics forbids that. 8)

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

The Arizona Republican does a humble mea culpa about having been too quiet in the era that led up to Donald Trump, and he implicitly calls Trump a devastating symptom of a deeper sickness in his own party.

So, then… might this lead to what the Republic desperately needs? A critical mass of grownups who will disown the whole Murdoch-owned maelstrom of lies and cheaters, coalescing instead to form a Party of Sane American Conservatives, or PASAC? Elsewhere I show that this sort of thing sis happen in the past. See "The Miracle of 1947."

Alas, we have been waiting for such a gathering of sane conservatives for at least a decade. If it were going to happen, would they not have saved us from the nation-rape of the recent Tax Bill?


You just answered your own question, and the answer was "No, of course not."

Some remaining sane Republicans talk a good game about decency and decorum and such, and how revolting they find Trump, or Moore, or tax bills that explode the deficit. And then they fall in line. "At least we get our judges appointed." "At least we get our tax breaks and deregulation." "At least we didn't get Hillary Clinton as president!"

They'll back any popular candidate and use any means necessary to project power, and feel justified in doing so, because the alternative--that the 99.9% might end up enforcing a more fair playing field in which they 0.1% don't always get their way on everything--is unthinkable.

Laurence said...

The big issue with the left/right spectrum is people usually take "right" to mean "pro free market" and "left" to mean "pro statism" (Hence why the political compass website argues that fascism was an ideology of the centre) However, look at that origin of the term, the meeting of the estates general, who was on the left then? The delegates from the bourgouise, in other words, the capitalists! On the right sat the aristocracy. There is a simple principle which can distinguish the left from the right, which both applies to the original meaning of the term, and puts most political factions in the places we comonly asign them to (I.e. Fascists on the far right, most anarchists on the far left) That principle is equality. The left support it, the right oppose it. Then we have another dimension, liberty versus authority. The right subdivides into an authoritarian wing which believes certain groups are superior to others, and a libertarian wing which holds certain individuals are superior. This leads to a fundemental distinction, if you're in the former category, you're likely to believe that your chosen superior group (believers in the one true God, master race or whatever) should seize the reins of the state, and that the state should be streangthened, whereas if you're with the later category, you're likely to hod that the state should be rolled back, so as to free individuals to achieve their full potential.

The distiction between authoritarian and libertarian leftists is a bit more vague, but generally the authoritarian left indetifies only one form of inquality as important (usually class, but sometimes race, see Mugabe as an example of the later) and thus argue that all will be well if their chosen oppressed group siezes the reins of power. The libertarian left on the other hand indentify multiple forms of inequality, and thus argue that power shold be devolved to the lowest level, so as to ensure every group's voice is maximised.

As you might notice, the authoritarian left and right look awfully similar, hence the famous "horseshoe theory". So do the libertarian left and right. Abolishing the state and devolving it to its lowest possible level amount to more or less the same thing: an ultra-libertarian world would have no means of stopping the weak from co-operating to protect themselves from the strong, while an anarchist world wound not be able to entierly prevent the strong from enriching themselves at the expense of their neighbours. In other words the political spectrum is best represented by a figure of eight, in which Hitler and Stalin sit closest together at one end, and John Zerzan and Timmothy McVeigh sit side by side at the other.

LarryHart said...

Laurence:

The big issue with the left/right spectrum is people usually take "right" to mean "pro free market" and "left" to mean "pro statism" (Hence why the political compass website argues that fascism was an ideology of the centre)


See, I was around in the 60s, so I cut my teeth on the authoritarian "law and order" types being the right, and the "Do your own thing, man!" filthy hippies being the left. The current conception of the left as embodying the force of law and the right being for personal liberty seems (to me) to be one of the biggest public relations coups in history.

Then again, the right really co-opts the word "liberty" to mean something diametrically opposed to the freedom of the individual to act as he will. Instead, we have "religious liberty" meaning that a religious institution is allowed to exercise its right to force others to act in accordance with its values. That's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing of what I think of as liberty.

Jan Eringa said...

Jordan Peterson had a good discussion with Jonathan Baird. Covered the big 5 personality traits as a good predicted of voting patterns and disgust sensitivity. https://youtu.be/4IBegL_V6AA

Anonymous said...

I don't see how Dr. Brin can continue to fantasize about "sane conservatives" in the GOP. I might have counted as such a thing once: the first campaign I worked for was Rockefeller's failed primary run in 1968. The litany of crazy choices by the GOP since then is long:

- the "Southern Strategy" (saved the Party, killed our country)
- the Deal with the Devil (Jerry Falwell)
- Reagan
- Supply-side / Trickle-Down / Voodoo Economics
- and overheating the US economy, leading to the bust of 1987
- the bloody game in Central America
- the triumph of "We're Number One" nationalism
- kickstarting the careers of the creeps who brought us the Invasion of Iraq
- Newt Gingrich
- Demonization of Bill Clinton
- Pretending that they cared about the Deficit
- Right-wing Hate Radio
- George W. Bush / Cheyney Regime
- Invasion of Iraq
- Turd Blossom
- the Lesser Depression ("Great Recession")
- et-f'ing-c
- Demonization of Obama
- Demonization of ACA (originally a GOP plan)
- Blocking Federal spending which would have shortened the Recession
- Pretending that they cared about the Deficit
- Trump
- $1T tax Cuts for the Rich

...and that's just a start. What kind of "sane" person could excuse all that? My List isn't a bunch of little steps (Boiling the Frog). Several of them would justify my undying hatred of the GOP on their own.

And I don't count Flake as a truly "sane Conservative". I think he's positioning himself for a Presidential run in 2020 under that banner. But any truly sane & moral person who is paying attention would have had to leave the GOP long ago.
-elkern

Smurphs said...

Dr. Brin, sorry I'm late, this is from your last post:

Signs are all there - especially among the Mormons - that vigorous conversations are afoot about holding a convention of Sane American Conservatives.


I hope you do a post on this soon, because I'm missing all the signs you are seeing.

And, I don't care what Sen. Flake et. al. say, it's the actions that count.

Lloyd Flack said...

The Nolan Chart does call attention to the ways in which libertarians differ from conservatives.
But it is not very useful for the reasons that David has given. Libertarians have a narrow base to their moral principles giving liberty, as they see it, priority over everything else. And so the two axes are just different aspects of liberty. That is not enough. To use the chart is to put everything in libertarians terms.
Their chart puts them directly opposite fascists. But ironically many are allying themselves with fascists, in part because they are bad at recognizing them. They see fascism in economic terms missing what it is really about. So they don't recognize Bannon for what he is.

LarryHart said...

Anonymous (elkern) :

And I don't count Flake as a truly "sane Conservative". I think he's positioning himself for a Presidential run in 2020 under that banner. But any truly sane & moral person who is paying attention would have had to leave the GOP long ago.


He doesn't even have to leave the party. He could have not voted for the tax cuts. It's not like they can threaten to primary him if he's leaving anyway. But when it came down to the vote, he did what McConnell and Ryan wanted.

That's why #ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans . Because the ones who play sane and responsible on tv all do that same thing.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

Just a friendly suggestion: when you talk about the addiction aspect of self-righteous indignation, I suspect a lot of people will assume that your use of the word "addiction" is an exaggeration, just like some people claim to be addicted to basketball or philately or their spouses. If you brought up the idea of supernormal stimulation and explained how dopamine acts as the agent of all addictions, then it would show to people who are unfamiliar (which would be most of the human species) that there is real science here and not just hyperbole.

Alfred Differ said...

I’m reluctant to model people’s beliefs anymore. The more I look into it, the less I believe in the notion that they can be mapped in a Cartesian sense. Raising my autistic son has broken a few beliefs I once held and this is one of them.

When I was in grad school (physics), they showed us that about half of us wanted to be theorists and half wanted to be experimentalists. They pointed out that by the time we graduated, the actual split would be about 10/90. That was due a little bit to theory work being harder, but mostly about it not being fruitful in the way experimental work was. Of course, most of us stubbornly refused to believe we’d change from a theory path, but many did. I didn’t, but in hindsight, my career would have followed a better academic course if I had.

One thing I learned working theories is how hard it is to construct decent ones. They have to be testable or the experimental folks ignore you. No citations result from that attitude. Mostly, though, they had to be falsifiable. You can write up a decent idea and still not get your name on it. The person who reworks it to be testable and falsifiable will be the one remembered… and cited.

None of the political-axis ideas strike me as testable, let alone falsifiable. They aren’t hard science ideas, so I can cope with that, but when they are so flexible that they can be altered a bit to explain anything, I lose interest. I’ll take the little quizzes now and then to help someone try to understand my positions, but I’m currently of the opinion that anything less than about 50,000 dimensions is a crock.

One idea I’ve seen makes a bit of sense to me and that is where I get the 50K number. It is an ‘eyespot’ model. Imagine yourself as an ancient critter back before Terran life had developed anything that could be considered eyesight. If you had a light sensitive patch on you somewhere, you had a potential advantage over others who did not. You could detect along a dimension or sorts. Threats from above might shade you and you could respond appropriately. The physics of sunlight and detecting it don’t matter. You could evolve a belief that certain stimuli meant certain things. It is these beliefs that are triggered, so your detection domain depends on how many beliefs you hold. As an ancient critter, these beliefs might be encoded in your genome, but for critters like us, the situation is far more complex. We can learn language and encode things like ‘sour’, ‘grapes’, and ‘sour grapes’ with the latter having little to do with ‘sour’ and ‘grapes’ most of the time.

I tend to think of each element of our languages as an eyespot. It detects something and we encode beliefs that respond to those stimuli. We cram as many of these things into the minds of our children as they grow up. Our communities add many, many more. We modern humans have an awful lot of eyespots and they surely aren’t orthogonal, normalizable, or arranged in any way similar to a Euclidean space. Such a space is, in my opinion, a TERRIBLE analogy for what is actually happening in our minds. I suspect it is far more likely that a model of proximities and linkages similar to our physical brain structures is going to prove to be far better. If we want to model someone, therefore, it would be better to ask which eyespots they have and test the linkages between them. If I say ‘sour grapes’, I’m sure most of us know the fable well enough to know the meaning, but which politician comes to mind in a free association, hmm? Which boss? Which relative? Which other stories fit in close proximity? And finally, which behaviors result from your detection of the concept? None of that fits on a graph we can draw. Eyespots CAN have responses that vary with input, so each could be given one dimension that is potentially non-linear in scale, but finding orthogonal ones requires quite a bit of testing. 8)

Paul SB said...

Twominds,

I think I was going to write something to you a couple threads back, but I might have forgotten. Anyway, always glad to have another follower of the application of the arcane to the contemporary. I forgot what you said about the difference between European and North American archaeology, but the main difference I have observed is that in Europe you are studying mostly people who you consider to be your own ancestors, whereas in the US most archaeology is about the native peoples, less about the direct ancestors of the majority of the population. Since most Americans believe the centuries-old lie that there are multiple human "races" and presume that the native people are not related to them in a any way, there is a whole lot of indifference here. And any time archaeology looks like it might slow down business by even a day, we are fighting a losing battle to preserve things that can never be replaced.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

I like your eyespot analogy for visualizing stimulus/response relationships. In complex critters like you humans it gets more interesting, though, because humans take early inputs, which they cannot remember in any great detail, and turn them into general operating procedures. These general operating procedures then act as filters for new stimuli, modifying their perception to make them conform to previous expectations. I have to presume that the Ventro-Tegmental Area has thresholds beyond which an individual hominid stops placing new information into old categories and creates new categories. The lower that threshold, the closer to reality your perceptions are. And that may have something to do with why American scientists have mostly emigrated from the Republican Party, as that is a group of people who generally do not value diversity, change, new data and/or interpretations, all modes of thinking that are anathema to the scientific method.

On Cartesian modeling of people's attitudes, of course individual people are much more complex than any 2D or even 3D model can convey. How could they not be with that many neurons and synaptic connections? The ease with which they stereotype even themselves speaks to a very powerful instinct to conform, an instinct I think is not so hard to understand when you look at how people naturally vary in terms of the oxytocin response. But the idea of these Cartesian models is to simplify. Humans do such a lousy job of understanding even their own complexity, how can you expect a bunch of hairy bipeds to understand over seven billion of them? That makes these models heuristic, meaning that they are a useful beginning to understanding but not the end of understanding.

With the kind of computing and statistical modeling we can do today, it would be possible to come up with a questionnaire with hundreds of questions (not 50K simply because no one would finish such a long questionnaire) then use cluster analysis to break people down into more meaningful categories and examine the patterns to see what commonalities they have. That would be a very useful kind of study that might help to break people out of the simple-minded left-right thing. If it wasn't for the fact that I haven't designed a questionnaire since the last geological era, I would be tempted to do this myself. There is both an art and a science to designing good surveys. It would be better, however, to do this on a web site, like Fisher did with her temperament typology questionnaire. In her case she attached it to an internet dating site, which was guaranteed to bring in a whole lot of data (though not without sampling issues, to be sure). What might make a good site for this kind of survey?

raito said...

so much to say tonight...

Dr. Brin,

You may get your wish as far as former officers running for office, but, at least in WI, I don't think you'll like what you get. I certainly don't. There's no one more fanatic than a convert. But he isn't a Colonel, only a Captain. I won't mention names here, as in cypberspace citations feed eyeballs, but he's in the Senatorial race on the GOP side.

As far as the 'Certainty' of the current article's title suggests, it reminds me of The High Ones by Poul Anderson. In that story, a crew of mixed Americans and Soviets on a colony ship finds the ultimate Soviet society. Completely certain. And completely stagnant. When you have the 'perfect' society, there's no growth.

And as far as the War on Knowledge, here's a little skirmish. Apparently, our lovely Governor decreed that all departments ought to attempt to reply to FOIA requests within 10 working days. So the right-wing Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty decided to see if the government was able to do this... by making requests of School Districts. No, not actual government agencies, but School Districts. By making requests not because they actually wanted any data, but because they wanted to time how long it took to get responses. Half the districts made the deadline. But wait, there's more! You'd also have to understand that the GOP governor is up for re-election, the head of the Department of Education (rules by the State Suporeme Court to be separate from the rest of the government) is a challenger, and that the Governor's AG insists on defending the Superintendent in a lawsuit about whether the Department is subject to the Governor's office. Yes, a guy who has publicly sided with the plaintiff insists on being able to defend the other side in the case.

raito said...

(continued)

Alfred Differ,

I think you may have not given sufficient weight to my comments about 'that internet stuff'. It was a cheat, plain and simple. These guys were going to lend to anyone and sell the loan. They didn't want actual approvals, they wanted an out when it all fell over. But they got caught, and since they weren't too big to fail, they failed.

But you're right about there not being credit available at the end, when those sub-prime loans should have been convertible to conventional terms. The credit had been extended in large amounts to dodgy loans.

The whole thing was a greedy cheat on something that could have worked. Subprime loans are not evil. The debtor pays more interest because he's more of a risk. But it's a cheat to tell the buyer of such a loan that the risk is less than you knew it to be. Derivatives are not evil. They just aggregate risk. But again, it's a cheat to tell the buyer that the risk is less than you know it to be.

But since many of the cheaters were 'too big to fail', they got away. And we'll see them again.

But here's where the streams cross between subprime loans and political dimensions.

Paul SB,

The technique I would have used to approve loans is a type of clustering called a self-organizing map. It won't tell you what the dimensions are, just what a new test case is likely to be close to. It worked well for the loans, because the data that we had was all the loan applications, and all the performance/payment data for every loan.

How it works is that you determine the number of data items per case you have. This is your number of dimensions. You construct a space with that many dimensions, and seed it with small random values (the technique does not work with a uniform space). The you apply your tests cases to the data. Each test case slightly biases the space. The more test cases, the more pronounced the bias in the space at the end. You can then tell where in the space your actual case will fall, and what it is close to (though close isn't exactly a Pythagorean distance, but easily calculable).

If you do this a number of times, because of the randomness of the starting space, you'll get a different space each time through the data. But you will get statistically predictable clustering of cases. The technique was new 20 years ago, and though I predicted that the formulae for those statistics would eventually be used, no one had thought far enough ahead at that time to know. I gather that such is done now. But it could have been done then, too.

And because of the characteristics of the space, it does not matter whether the dimensions are independent or orthogonal. Indeed, that was seen as a feature of the technique.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

If I say ‘sour grapes’, I’m sure most of us know the fable well enough to know the meaning, but which politician comes to mind in a free association, hmm? Which boss? Which relative? Which other stories fit in close proximity? And finally, which behaviors result from your detection of the concept?


Sounds like "Darmok" to me.:)

Jon S. said...

"Sounds like 'Darmok' to me.:)"

Sokath, his eyes uncovered!

Twominds said...

@Paul SB
think I was going to write something to you a couple threads back, but I might have forgotten. Anyway, always glad to have another follower of the application of the arcane to the contemporary. I forgot what you said about the difference between European and North American archaeology, but the main difference I have observed is that in Europe you are studying mostly people who you consider to be your own ancestors, whereas in the US most archaeology is about the native peoples, less about the direct ancestors of the majority of the population. Since most Americans believe the centuries-old lie that there are multiple human "races" and presume that the native people are not related to them in a any way, there is a whole lot of indifference here. And any time archaeology looks like it might slow down business by even a day, we are fighting a losing battle to preserve things that can never be replaced.

The difference I mentioned is that American archeology is more tied to anthropology, while the European one is more focused on the material remains of the cultures and societies that we can excavate.
Yes, we do feel they are our ancestors, but actually, only the last couple thousand years there's a direct connection. Further away in time, there are too many migrations and replacements between us.
I had an interesting experience once: I worked at the archeological theme park, at the bronze age farm, and a boy, a teenager from Morocco or more probably of Moroccan descent(*) challenged me asking why he should find this interesting, they were after all not his ancestors. I said: nor mine, it's too long ago, but it happened here, where we live. He accepted my answer.

I can't elaborate further now, need to go to my work, and tonight I sing Bach's Christmas Oratorium with our choir. I hope to find time this weekend, even if our discussion is completely unrelated to the post we're commenting in. I keep your complete comment copied here, so I can find it again.

*we'd say second or third generation Moroccan, or second or third generation immigrant, which says something about how far we see them as part of our society. Not all immigrants are called thus, not the Chinese and Indonesian who came here in the '40's and '50's, nor the Italians who came in the '70's. That's a whole other interesting discussion, for another time!

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


@raito | I know there were cheaters out there in large numbers. Whoever sold my neighbor a $450K loan on an income stated for a broken-down coffee cart should be hung. My neighbor should have been smacked too. Both were greedy, but one was obviously more knowledgeable and had less skin in the game. That loan got sold pronto, I'm sure. I don't know if it was orginated across the internet or from mailbox spam that promised free money with loans financing more than the value of the home on the oh-so-obvious future of continued growth and stated income. Argh. It doesn't matter, though, I suppose. They were all greedy cheaters. I'll accept your view of the ones who got torn to shreds and keep the bat wrapped in barbed wire for them all should we ever get a chance at them.

Yah. Subprime loans are NOT evil, but like all loans, they are forms of leverage, thus temperamental. Fools and cheats can do a lot of damage with seemingly small changes. I remember my employer being called out by name from someone pounding on a podium in the House of Representatives. I was channel surfing and flipped by C-SPAN at just the right time. A few days later, our parent bank was writing off part of our operations and I was looking at a pink slip in the near future. Our sin? We targeted minority neighborhoods, thus we picked who we raped. Pfft! That congress-critter obviously didn't understand why we existed let alone selection effect and how it was not a good thing to need to be one of our customers. Of course our loan origination clustered in some neighborhoods. Any student of history could predict that.

As for your self-organizing map, you've moved onto my list of people I'd like to meet if I ever get a chance. 8)
If I ever get a chance to retire, I won't take up fishing. I'll be playing with math.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I thought that was one of the more tedious episodes when I first saw it. I wasn't impressed, but I got it years later while trying to figure out how to teach my son any kind of expressive language. Nouns he got. Verbs took MUCH more work. Getting him to express his internal state was nearly impossible. Are you hungry? Need to go to the restroom? We eventually learned a few tricks like 'leading', so I could see the 'eyespots' were there. Getting behaviors tied to them is proving to be a long term challenge.


I never expected to have a need to learn this stuff 30 years ago, but the challenge is fulfilling. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@treebeard | Father Brin's incantations are defensive spells most of the time. They ward us against an ancient evil.

Smith Mill Creek Notes said...

Franken was framed.

There, I said it. I don't feel sexist or partisan at all about saying this either, and a pre-emptive honi soit qui mal y pense to those who think it.

It feels just like when they swift-boated John Kerry but gave the draft-dodging George W. Bush a pass, and treated talking about that like a conspiracy theory. ROger Stone knew about this before it went public, for fuck sake. Tom Arnold says Leeann Tweeden was coached, she has appeared on Fox News, and is a birther

AND

here is video of her 'behaving inappropriately' on stage in the same USO tour.

And how many of the other accusers ("He groped me during a photo op!") were also right-wing and recruited by the same hit squad?

That's why Franken asked for an investigation and Tweeden said "No thanks!"

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

LarryHart said...

Smith Mill Creek Notes [?] :

Franken was framed.

There, I said it. I don't feel sexist or partisan at all about saying this either, ...


I agree completely. Democrats have been falling for this crap at least since ACORN, and probably long before that.


And how many of the other accusers ("He groped me during a photo op!") were also right-wing and recruited by the same hit squad?


You noticed that? Roy Moore's first accuser insists she's not in it for any political reasons and notes that she's a lifelong Republican who voted for Trump. So is Franken's first accuser. Funny that.

"In Russia, you are also free. You can also say 'I don't like Ronald Reagan.'"

It feels just like when they swift-boated John Kerry but gave the draft-dodging George W. Bush a pass, and treated talking about that like a conspiracy theory


I feel your pain.

I know that Tim/Tacitus2 feels his conservative viewpoint to be marginalized here, but I often feel the same way from the other direction. We're supposed to be too polite (i.e., "Politically Correct") to mention obvious breeches of decorum, custom, and even law when the Republicans engage in such things, because to threaten the winning (cheating) side's legitimacy puts us in scary uncharted waters. Maybe it's just because I have my whole life behind me now, but I find scary uncharted waters less threatening than the charted waters we're in now.


#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans


Thanks. As far as I know, you're the first person ever to "re-tweet" that one.

Jon S. said...

Smith, Franken doesn't appear to agree with you. (One does not retire from Congress because one has been "framed"; hell, if one is a Republican, one does not retire from Congress if one is caught in the act!)

Alfred, that episode helped me understand my daughter a lot better. For instance, now I know that when we're preparing to go to an appointment, a shout of "Cinderella! Midnight! The ball!" means she thinks I'm moving too slowly and we're going to be late. Most of her communications these days are via quotes from movies or TV shows. (And I often want to throttle the middle-school teacher who refused to endorse the idea of getting her an assisted-communications device on the theory that "she would become dependent on it." What, did you think she was going to suddenly have an epiphany and start spouting complete sentences in iambic pentameter when left on her own? Sadly, without that endorsement we couldn't get a device subsidized, and they're quite expensive.)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I thought that ["Darmok"] was one of the more tedious episodes when I first saw it.


I did as well, especially as it followed on the heels of that action-packed season cliffhanger resolution with the Klingon civil war and the mystery of Denise Crosby with pointed ears.

I think it was the second time I saw it when I realized how cathartic the final scene is when you the viewer realize you understand the conversation in the alien milieu. The details of the plot aren't nearly so important as the fact that the story sets you up for that scene. I also realized that many if not most viewers won't "get" that, and that if they don't, then the episode won't mean nearly as much to them.

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

(One does not retire from Congress because one has been "framed"; hell, if one is a Republican, one does not retire from Congress if one is caught in the act!)


That statement supports the earlier post rather than disagreeing with it. One only resigns from Congress for impropriety if one is a Democrat. And that's what Franken is (okay, DFL, but same difference). Your argument only makes sense if you think there are more revelations lurking about Franken that involve worse behavior than what we've already seen.

What Franken is accused of comes nowhere near the level of mendacity as what either Trump or Moore have already admitted (before un-admitting it). The squishy liberal argument is that it's not a game of comparison--that someone else's bad actions is no excuse for one's own. That's fine, but why should the lesser evil be treated more harshly than the greater evil?

Radio host Norman Goldman suggested that what Franken should have done was to pledge to resign on the day that Donald Trump and Roy Moore also resign. His recent slogan: "One standard, applied to all even-handedly" is appropriate.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

That's an eternal dilemma for anyone who tries to communicate through creativity, be it literature, visual arts or any other way. If your procedure is subtle it can be incredibly powerful for those who get it, but lots of people won't get it. If you are too obvious, the slower thinkers will get it but too many others will se it as preachy and trite and dismiss it. There's no one size fits all. I can give you a Cerebus example. Remember when the Pope sent those two lackeys of Weishaupt to the top of the hotel to denounce Weishaupt to the crowd? The first one gave a long-winded speech, then jumped to his death. The second one shouted "Weishaupt sucks wet pigeon farts!" then jumped to his death. Okay, something of a caricature, but the point should be clear enough.

(And to the sapling who thinks that reading comics automatically puts people into the category of idiot, not all comics are written for the consumption of 12-year old boys. Funny how he demonstrates his status as one in doing that.)

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB,

"Cerebus" got so political toward the end that I sometimes forget how comic-booky (in a good way) the earlier issues were. Dave Sim was a genius at the craftsmanship of his medium, and that sadly gets overlooked now.

Thanks.

LarryHart said...

In all fairness, I am forgetting the one misbehavior that does cause Republicans to resign. When they are found to have encouraged or demanded that their mistresses have an abortion.

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

It's not 'my' technique, it's Teuvo Kohonen's, one of the giants of latter-day (post-Minsky) AI. But I am capable of understanding and using it. And like most non-expert system AI, the kernel of the code is pretty small and simple.

But I was never going to have been allowed to implement it anyway. The company I worked for was founded by a guy who got his PhD in AI in 1974. He was an expert-systems expert. But I'd pretty well concluded and documented that the problem could not be solved by a conventional expert system. The loan approvers could not explain at all how the approved the loans (I suspect that their primary criterion was 'an application was submitted'). No experts, no expert system. These days, systems exist to inductively figure out the rules from the decisions, but that was some very nascent stuff back then.

Larry Hart,

On political correctness, my wife got some astonished looks last night when she referred to one of the new elementary schools, as 'the rich, white school'.

Re: Darmok

At my previous employment, I (all too often) felt the need to confide to a particular colleague who 'got it' 'his face black, his eyes red'. One thing that sometimes gets overlooked in that episode is that Dathon thought that the issue of communication was important enough to risk, and ultimately give, his life for. I will say that I think Memory Alpha has a different idea of what many of the Tarmarian phrases mean than I do.

Alfred Differ said...

@Jon S | The more my wife gets into the special needs education field, the more convinced I am that those devices are as necessary as books are to other students. They might not help much, but I REALLY doubt the kids will get hooked and stop progressing. They are actually kind of annoying to use IF you can think and express yourself progressively faster. There comes a time when the UI is a hindrance.

Either way, though, anything that gives a parent a bit of hope beats back the despair and I'll gladly pay my taxes to achieve that. I'd prefer to donate directly, of course. Since it is that time of year, do you know of a non-profit that would pursue getting those devices into the hand of the kids who need them?

Alfred Differ said...

@raito | But I'd pretty well concluded and documented that the problem could not be solved by a conventional expert system.

So you are telling me you did original research without getting credit for it? I’d bet your research conflicted with his work or at least his hunches. If so, you had a very steep hill to climb to win. Maybe even a cliff. It is a rare science professor who can handle conflicting evidence from a student’s research and they are supposed to be in the business of cultivating that. I’ve never seen it in the commercial world.

The (supposedly non-cheating) loan approvers I knew of always wound up relying on their guts. They’d look you in the eye and try to understand whether you understood the gravity of your situation when you took on a loan valued at 10x your yearly income with monthly payments around 50% of monthly income. If one doesn’t understand that danger, one should not take on the debt. I don’t know why people think they can figure something like that out from looking at a bunch of numbers. If I already have a decent credit track history, I’ll have those numbers to my name, but I won’t need to talk to a sub-prime lender. 8)

My first serious exposure to AI was about when Hofstadter was making it clear he wanted to pursue what humans actually did instead of systems that could imitate us in limited domains. His meaning for AI wasn’t what others were saying it meant, so the field was going to bifurcate. Both forks are interesting enough, but for different reasons. I was drawn more to Hofstadter’s side, but that might be because I got to see his speak on a book tour while I was still young. It appears obvious today the money to be made is on the other path, but who cares. It’s all fun to learn. So… it's time to go read about Teuvo Kohonen. 8)

sociotard said...

Science Fiction as self-preventing prophecy? Maybe.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HipTO_7mUOw
Slaughterbots


STUART RUSSELL:It started with a thought that I had. We were failing to communicate our perception of the risks [of autonomous weapons] both to the general public and the media and also to the people in power who make decisions—the military, State Department, diplomats, and so on. So I thought if we made a video, it would be very clear what we were talking about.

So just to give you one example of the level of misunderstanding, I went to a meeting with a very senior Defense Department official. He told us with a straight face that he had consulted with his experts, and there was no risk of autonomous weapons taking over the world, like Skynet [the runaway artificial intelligence from the Terminator movies]. If he really had no clue what we were talking about, then probably no one else did either, and so we thought a video would make it very clear. What we were trying to show was the property of autonomous weapons [to] turn into weapons of mass destruction automatically because you can launch as many as you want.

So I wrote a one-page treatment of how I thought a short video would go. I happened to meet some people who were capable of producing the movie, and we exchanged a few ideas. Eventually they produced a script, and reiterated the script—I would say not much of my original treatment remained. The idea for the CEO presentation came entirely from the production company. So then once we had roughly agreed on how a script might look, we got funding from the Future of Life Institute, and then we did the production.


TCB said...

@LarryHart: it was I, TCB, posted that SmithMillCreek comment about Al Franken (someone else was logged onto Gmail on my computer and so it used their ID.)

#PainInTheButt

but yes, I agree that

#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans

(Now that John Anderson has died).

David Brin said...

I disagree about John Anderson, who helped bring us Reagan. I hoped we'd get a death bed confession out of him.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

...about John Anderson, who helped bring us Reagan


I didn't think about it that way at the time, but do you remember it as Anderson splitting the Democratic vote? Funny how that works. Even when two Republicans are in the race, it helps the Republican. When two liberals are in the race (Nader and Gore; Hillary and Jill Stein), it also helps the Republican. Yeah, funny how that works.

LarryHart said...

@TCB and @Dr Brin (and @Tacitus2)

I didn't say there were never any good Republicans. Just that there aren't any left in the party.

The ones who have any power or influence sometimes talk a good game in favor of decorum, but then they vote with the crazies.

And the ones who don't have any power or influence are irrelevant. I read that in a sci-fi novel somewhere.

LarryHart said...

Funny, this is what arch-conservative Dave Sim used to claim this bottomless pit of demands was something bad that was done by women:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/07/opinion/the-gop-is-rotting.html


...
Now it’s clear that middle ground doesn’t exist. That’s because Donald Trump never stops asking. First, he asked the party to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a routine liar as its party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance and his politics of racial division. Now he asks the party to give up its reputation for fiscal conservatism. At the same time he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, alleged sexual harassment and child assault.

There is no end to what Trump will ask of his party. He is defined by shamelessness, and so there is no bottom. And apparently there is no end to what regular Republicans are willing to give him. Trump may soon ask them to accept his firing of Robert Mueller, and yes, after some sighing, they will accept that, too.

That’s the way these corrupt bargains always work. You think you’re only giving your tormentor a little piece of yourself, but he keeps asking and asking, and before long he owns your entire soul.
...

TCB said...

I get why Dr. Brin may say that; a Republican running as a third-party independent, John Anderson ran to the left of Carter (those were different times!!!) And yeah, I voted for Anderson. Knowing what I do now, I'd vote Carter, but it was Massachusetts and so Carter had that state in the bag anyhow...

While we're on that topic, I do not agree with blaming those who vote for the 'nonviable' third candidate. The game is bad, the choices are bad, and so we blame people who make the bad choice?

Give them better choices dammit and then they'll ya know MAKE better choices because they HAVE better choices sheesh. Range voting, ranked choice voting, Condorcet whatever but first past the post SUXXX.

Science did not understand that in 1787 maybe but it does now (ever notice that political systems contain fossils of the science and philosophy available to their first theorists? So for instance Marxist thinking is big on Darwinian evolution but does not incorporate information theory [100 years in the future] while US Constitutional thinking is based on what was understood 100 years before that... which is why it's so stupid to pretend the framers of the Constitution had all the answers...

LarryHart said...

Heh. I just had occasion to see an episode of the old 1960s Batman tv show called "Hizzoner, The Penguin" in which The Penguin ran for mayor. This show would have first aired around the time of the 1966 mid-term elections in which (I believe) Ronald Reagan won the governorship of California.

The Penguin's campaign eerily prefigures Donald Trump's. Batman tried to run a boring campaign based on issues, and The Penguin counters with brass bands and slogans and dancing girls* The only difference with today's reality is the unbelievable tacked-on happy ending in which The Penguin loses the election.

* Something I never knew before...Little Egypt and Paul Revere and the Raiders both appear as themselves during a Penguin campaign rally.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

I do not agree with blaming those who vote for the 'nonviable' third candidate. The game is bad, the choices are bad, and so we blame people who make the bad choice?


If someone really thinks that there is no difference between Hillary and Trump--that neither one is acceptable--and voted for Stein or Johnson instead, I don't blame them.

The ones who want progressives making policy, but voted to punish Hillary--I do blame them. They knowingly acted in a way to bring about the exact opposite of what they wanted, and caused massive harm in the process.

Your mention of states in the bag leads me to wonder if Anderson actually helped tip any states from Carter to Reagan. I did some research a while ago in which I discovered that both Illinois and California have voted Republican more than Democrat (for president) in the 20th Century. In fact, IIRC, since 1912 or so, both states always voted the same way except for one time: in 1960 when California went for native son Nixon and Illinois went for JFK.

If I am remembering right, then Illinois must have gone for Reagan in 1980. Would that have been different had native son Anderson not been in the race? And would it have made a difference nationally? I don't know the answers.

TCB said...

>Little Egypt and Paul Revere and the Raiders both appear as themselves during a Penguin campaign rally.

Because Ted Nugent was on tour?

LarryHart said...

...Also, in the 20th Century, the popular vote winner always also won the electoral vote.

Did "Carter and Anderson combined" beat Reagan in the popular vote? If not, then it's unlikely Anderson stole the electoral vote from Reagan either. As to whether that did in fact happen, I don't know that one either.

LarryHart said...

Yes, I know Bush won the EV in the 20th Century. But he wasn't inaugurated until 2001. Ok?

TCB said...

Nah, I just looked it up. If you give Anderson's 5.7 million votes to Carter's 35.5 million it still falls short of Reagan's 43.9 million. Hard to see how that could flip the electoral either.

No, blame Reagan and his crew for treasonous collusion with the Iranian mullahs to hold the Embassy hostages until after the election. Without that, Carter most likely wins.

David Brin said...

"Did "Carter and Anderson combined" beat Reagan in the popular vote?"

There was a multi-front assault, the biggest being colluding with Tehran to keep the hostages. Treason.

LarryHart said...

Republican candidates colluding with America's enemies goes back to Nixon's campaign negotiating with the North Vietnamese in 1968.

I've wondered what Mike Pence could see in Trump which "reminds me of Ronald Reagan", as he said during the campaign. I suppose in this way, there's a resemblance.

LarryHart said...

Paul Krugman tells it like it is:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/08/opinion/facts-have-a-well-known-liberal-bias.html


...
So what’s the basis for claims that, say, PolitiFact is biased? Hey, The Weekly Standard itself has explained the criteria:

"Surveys done by the University of Minnesota and George Mason University have shown that the supposedly impartial 'fact checking' news organization rates Republican claims as false three times as often as Democratic claims and twice as much, respectively."

Notice the implicit assumption here – namely, that impartial fact-checking would find an equal number of false claims from each party. But what if – bear with me a minute – Republicans actually make more false claims than Democrats?
...

CP said...

On a slight tangent...

I'm hardly a supporter of the electoral college--if I could "wave a magic wand" I'd abolish it and make the whole system structurally nonpartisan (getting rid of closed primaries, first-past-the-post voting, winner-take-all...).

But, after skimming his site, I wonder if Lawrence Lessig's new effort might produce unintended consequences?

In a couple places he refers to "48 states" suggesting that he might find the "allocation by congressional district with statewide bonus" system currently used in Maine and Nebraska acceptable. But, that wouldn't help much. It would still be winner-take-all in each district. And, if applied nationally, it would increase the winner-take-all jurisdictions from 56 to 486, all subject to voter manipulation and legal challenges. Plus, it would greatly increase the incentive for gerrymandering.

In his FAQ, however, he explicitly rejects the Maine/Nebraska model, arguing for allocating electors proportionately based on the state-wide vote. He apparently hopes to convince the supreme court to establish that as a national standard using a, "one man, one vote" argument. That's fine, as far as it goes, but...

A pure proportional system in which the electors are bound to their candidates would throw any election in which a candidate wins by less than 50% into the house, invoking the byzantine procedures of the 12th amendment. Probably not a good idea.

A pure proportional system in which the electors were not bound would set up an informal bidding war for the support of electors allocated to minor parties. However, that would give disproportionate power to those parties. And, if their electors are unbound, how long before others would start to shift? Who ends up winning as a result of such a relatively chaotic process?

One solution would be to mandate that the electors vote by instant runoff/ranked vote. A sympathetic court might be able to rationalize that. But, a slightly less sympathetic court would probably conclude that it violates original intent.

The other solution would be to mandate a semi-proportional system in which the states would divide their electors proportionately between the top two candidates based on the state-wide vote. That would force the result to closely align with the popular vote (both Clinton and Gore would have won). But, proposing it would undermine the pure "one man, one vote" argument he's presenting to the court.

Anyway, just a few quick thoughts...

TCB said...

Why the devil does Lessig think we still need electors? One man, one vote, numerical winner takes the job, end of story.

I MUST be taking crazy pills.

LarryHart said...

@TCB,

We need electors because it's in the Constitution, and changing that would require approval by the very states which would have the most to lose.

LarryHart said...

I said:

... followed on the heels of that action-packed season cliffhanger resolution with the Klingon civil war and the mystery of Denise Crosby with pointed ears.


That reminded me, I had a unique experience with that particular season cliffhanger.

At the time, I was living alone in a small apartment with no tv, and therefore no cable. At some point, the woman I was then dating gifted me with a very old b&w tv (I think it had vaccuum tubes) which barely displayed a sparkly image. I caught just the very end of that season cliffhanger episode, and while I could make out that a woman stepped out of the shadows and had Romulan ears, I could not make out that it was Denise Crosby. I actually thought that the Romulan being revealed was the judge character from "The Drumhead", a few episodes prior. I spent all summer thinking that was how the season had ended.

By fall, my brother had left the state and bequeathed me the much better tv set that we owned in common. So when the first half of the cliffhanger was re-run just before the new season, I was just as surprised as I should have been the first time at the revelation. Maybe even moreso, since I was expecting a completely different surprise.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

I think the reason that the few remaining sane members of the Republican Tribe still end up voting with the Republican Jihad is easy enough to explain: the Sunk Cost Effect. I first encountered this explained in one of those "Great Courses" lectures, but I'm pretty sure Dan Ariely discussed it in "Predictably Irrational." Once people have decided to take a side, toe the line and stake both their reputation and their self-concept on something, most people will not change their minds no matter how obvious it becomes that their idea is wrong, or that things have changed and their idea is now wrong. Changing means admitting to having made a mistake in the first instance. In the second, changing is admitting that all of your friends are making a mistake and probably embracing your enemies. In one case the ego cost is too high for most people, in the other the social cost is too high.

It takes some real moral fortitude to overcome either of these barriers, even more to overcome both simultaneously. Maybe, given how many of the most self-righteous right-wang loonies are religious, the left would do better by emphasizing religious values or peace, compassion and forgiveness rather than playing the identity politics game and being silent on religion for fear of offending people of different faith backgrounds )Jews, Muslims, Hindus & Buddhists). Spouting the Sermon on the Mount won't persuade too many of the right-wang Jihadis, but even in the Deep South, weaned on Hellfire and Brimstone, most people don't have that much hate in their hearts. They just go where the wind blows, and you get some mighty hot winds blowing under those revival tents. If the Democrats put some of their PR money into quoting Mr. Nice Jesus on billboards all over the country, especially in the bloodiest of red states, the message they would be sending just might start the needle moving away from anger mismanagement into sane voting behavior.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Once people have decided to take a side, toe the line and stake both their reputation and their self-concept on something, most people will not change their minds no matter how obvious it becomes that their idea is wrong, or that things have changed and their idea is now wrong. Changing means admitting to having made a mistake in the first instance. In the second, changing is admitting that all of your friends are making a mistake and probably embracing your enemies.


I get that. In fact, it almost goes without saying.

But what I have trouble understanding are the ones who seem to have the worst of both worlds. Jeff Flake, for example. He's already made a speech on the Senate floor lambasting both Trump and his fellow Republican Senators who empower Trump. He's already acknowledged that he can't win re-election after having made that speech, and isn't even going to try. So it would seem he'd already given up whatever benefit derives from being a member of the tribe in good standing. But then he votes for the tax bill, even after expressing concerns which have not been addressed except to be made worse.

While I have no respect for Mitch McConnell or Ron Johnson, I get what they're doing. I don't get Flake or Susan Collins or John McCain. To what end make yourself persona non grata in the party, and then enable them to pass their bad legislation anyway? To what end?

LarryHart said...

Ok, it's not just a matter of being sneaky about their cartoon super-villainy any longer. Now, they're reveling in it, and daring us to take notice:

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2017/Senate/Maps/Dec09.html#item-1


After the Citizens United decision, millionaires and billionaires were free to spend as much money as they wanted to on political campaigns. If someone like Sheldon Adelson decided to spend $100 million helping Republican candidates, that was up to him. Now imagine if that donation were tax deductible. The new tax bill might just allow for that, including donations of "dark money," which cannot be traced to the donor.

The issue began with the repeal of the Johnson amendment, which forbids churches and other nonprofits from supporting or opposing candidates for office. But negotiators from the House and Senate are considering changing the language to allow political donations, even secret ones, to be tax deductible. [Emphasis mine]

Since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, an estimated $800 million in dark money has been funneled through 501(c)4 groups, which can accept unlimited anonymous donations but which are not tax deductible. The bill may allow donations to flow through 501(c)3 groups now, and these donations are tax deductible. Previously, 501(c)3 groups were religious, educational, charitable, scientific, or other groups working for the public good, but were not political. If the proposed change goes through, it will completely change the nature of these nonprofits and inject politics into groups that previous stayed above the fray. Making political contributions tax deductible would be Citizens United on steroids and change American politics enormously, giving millionaires and billionaires even more clout than they already have.

Zepp Jamieson said...

If we could get 70% of Americans to recognize that all the statements on the attached list are true, 90% of our problems would go away.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1720206784677592&set=gm.1821216114608103&type=3

Paul451 said...

From the main article:

Re: Grinding political axes.

Given the different axis choices chosen by different "political spectrum" advocates, we quickly run out of useful dimensions for them all. Hell, even three axes is hard to represent. So perhaps you need a system like the personality "matrix" that ebbs and flows into popularity every so often. Letters for characteristics: INTJ or ESFP or whatever. Or James White's Sector General classification system, DBDG, ELNT, etc. That way you can run as long as you want. Prioritise the top three or four traits you care about, with others extending further into obscurity as minor elements.

(Aside: In the case of not entirely orthogonal axes (like personal freedom vs property worship/economic freedom vs state authority) instead of the usual 2D graph, perhaps a interdependent-variable triangular representation? You have a total amount of "rights" you allocate. 100%. How you allocate the three variables reflects their ability of one to override another. Ie, you split the total allocation between your personal freedom (movement/speech/etc), your right to control your property, and the authority of the state to control either. Ie, 100,0,0 for a classical anarchist. 0,0,100 for pure totalitarianism. 0,100,0 for pure propertarianism. Or a star-graph (or "radar" plot), where you can have as many axes as you wish, placement on each axis is your strength of that trait, everyone ends up with their own shape.)

--

Re: Franken

I get the feeling that the original accusation was, not fake, but truth wrapped in a lie. The accuser's stage routine was precisely what she accused Franken of, the kiss-gag that he suggested was repeatedly performed by them on the tour after her supposedly warning him "never to do that again". However, Franken is clearly a groper. That's real. There are way too many other women (from multiple backgrounds, politics, etc) reporting the same pattern (being groped during photo-ops.)

Similarly, I think Franken was going to challenge the original accusation (because it was crap), but when it triggered the flood of legitimate complaints (which he knew were true), he gave up.

--

(Aside: Aussia actor, Geoffrey Rush has been accused of sexual assault by a local Murdoch rag. While I have no respect for the paper, they do get props for the headline: "King Leer".)

--

Larry
Re: "I don't get Flake".

You are assuming that by not running, he is "free" from party/donor influence. But he is probably thinking of his post-political career. That well-lubricated revolving door between corporations/politics/lobbying/advising/appointments. He now has a reputation as someone who rejected Trump, thus clean of whatever comes next, but still a party loyalist.

Paul451 said...

Re: "Darmok".

Thing that always bugged me about that episode was the idea that a metaphor-based language was somehow unlearnable for a hundred years -- in spite of both species clearly wanting to -- without Picard and Dathon having one evening and morning of adventure. (In the case of the Tamarians, wanted badly it enough to risk war with the Federation by not only abducting the senior officer of the Federation flag-ship, but firing on a shuttle sent to rescue him.)

The idea that linguists from both races couldn't figure it out in a short time is ridiculous. Or that if both sides are that earnest about establishing communication, they wouldn't spent more than a few minutes per encounter trying to communicate. Hell, after a hundred freakin' years, if it really was that hard (which it clearly wasn't), both sides would have teams of professionals dedicated to the task, doing nothing but working together on the problem, for the simple fact that it's interesting. Both civilisations have to teach their children to speak their languages, we all get the idea of "teaching"; and the Tamarians not only have to teach their kids the meanings of the words, but also the stories that make up the cultural memes that anchor their language.

And two warp capable civilisations on each others' doorsteps, both wanting peace but clearly capable of war, would not let such a situation fester for a century.

Had the story been about a first contact, no prior history, it probably would have worked. But the moment they expositioned that it had been a century since first contact, my bullshit filter killed the rest of the episode.

(Note: not tedious, as Alfred-the-younger found it, but a good concept let down by poor execution. The bane of ST.)

LarryHart said...

Paul451:


Had the story been about a first contact, no prior history, it probably would have worked. But the moment they expositioned that it had been a century since first contact, my bullshit filter killed the rest of the episode.


"It hurts when I do this."

"Well, don't do that."

"Darmok" is saved for me by the fact that I never paid that much attention to the "hundred years" part of it.

I think the point they were trying to make was how the breakthrough depended so heavily on the unique characteristics of the particular players, especially the alien captain. The aliens collectively thought another story was the appropriate one, but only Dathon had the vision to understand that "Darmok and Jilad" was the appropriate vehicle.

I don't see a case of lack of trained professionals, but rather that the trained professionals were trapped in an orthodoxy that pointed in the wrong direction. A creative dissenting opinion (and the fortitude to see it through) was necessary to the process.

Paul451 said...

Larry,
"I don't see a case of lack of trained professionals, but rather that the trained professionals were trapped in an orthodoxy that pointed in the wrong direction."

For a hundred years?! That's enough for researchers to have spent their entire careers working on nothing else.

The Federation had made contact with thousands of species (Data mentions it in the same episode), they have centuries of linguistic studies, and this new species has something new. You know that's catnip to scientists. Every PhD student in the field would be trying to get assigned to work with their Tamarian equivalents.

It makes no sense that something you can learn in an afternoon would escape understand for decade after decade.

--

I actually have a fan-theory (well, an anti-fan theory, really) to explain, in-universe, all the writing/plot weaknesses and inconsistencies of the various Star Trek series: Star Trek is set in a hi-tech post-scarcity version of the Idiocracy. Everyone is stupid, but really well educated, in a society that has effectively unlimited wealth. And the Great Dumbening is a nearly universal process, so most species are the same. We're seeing the best and brightest of a Federation of Dunces.

NuTrek just takes it to a new low, "You are an expelled cadet", "No I am captain!", "Okay, you can be captain."

Jon S. said...

"I've wondered what Mike Pence could see in Trump which 'reminds me of Ronald Reagan', as he said during the campaign."

Encroaching senility.

Zepp Jamieson said...

The season finale of The Orville had a silly but good hearted episode about first contact and the ensuring cultural contamination. The crew land on a planet that appeared out of nowhere, and the first officer violates first directive by treating a scalp injury of a young girl. They leave, and the planet flies into a different dimension because, well, that's what planets do. It reappears 11 days later, only 700 years have passed on the planet, and quelle surprise! There is a doctrinaire and cruel religion, the central figure of which is the first officer! The crew are properly horrified and the brass is unamused. 11 days/700 years later, the church is still there, but there are signs of a renaissance. 700 years later, and science and rationality have triumphed, and they all have a laugh over drinks over the millions that got slaughtered in the name of religion.

It was very silly--perhaps the silliest episode of the series--but it had its moments. And it was arguing for the good guys.

Tim H. said...

The Star Trek universe seems like it could be an alpha version of The Culture, and I suppose it'll have to do, since a miniseries of "The Hydrogen Sonata" seems unlikely.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Star Trek is set in a hi-tech post-scarcity version of the Idiocracy. Everyone is stupid, but really well educated, in a society that has effectively unlimited wealth. And the Great Dumbening is a nearly universal process, so most species are the same. We're seeing the best and brightest of a Federation of Dunces.

NuTrek just takes it to a new low, "You are an expelled cadet", "No I am captain!", "Okay, you can be captain."


Star Trek treats science with more respect than (for example) Star Wars does, so it's easy to miss this, but Star Trek, especially TOS, is not primarily a show about science. It's action/adventure, drama, and (in a few shows) comedy with science-fiction trappings. That the scientists, doctors, and technology of the future are depicted plausibly is a tribute to the show, but let's not forget that those details are story elements, not the story itself.

TOS owes much to adventures of naval vessels set in space, with planets substituting for countries, continents, and lost civilizations. I think Star Trek works better if you allow yourself to think of the stories that way rather than trying to map out a complete chain of cause-and-effect as to how those stories follow from the real world in our time.

LarryHart said...

I meant to finish with...

NuTrek takes it from action/adventure and drama to outright farce and self-parody.

David Brin said...

Great stuff.

Now onward

onward