Saturday, December 30, 2017

The pattern: from Jim Crow to Smog, Tobacco, Ozone, Leaded Gas... and now...

First: I am told I should announce: “Just so you know: there are no 3rd party ads on my site. No guest posts. No one can buy a slot or a referral. I try always to attribute quotations, especially lengthy excerpts. And yes, I write this much. Phew.”

Meanwhile... alas... there is so much that's "political" that mass media doesn't cover well. That's why you come here, right?

== Step back and see the "always wrong" obstructionist pattern ==

In 1987, 197 countries signed the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to stop releasing chemicals that were eating away at our planet’s ozone layer. And now, in a rare scientific triumph, the hole in the ozone layer has just about returned to the size it was at the time of the protocol’s signing: at its peak size in September, NASA reported that the hole was about 7.6 million square miles wide, the smallest it has been at peak since 1988.

As I pointed out, in EARTH (1989), we are capable of seeing problems, appraising them with intelligence and science, negotiating a mix of priorities, and then solving them. Contrary to the dogma of gloom spread today by the far-left and the entire-right.

Alas, this sapience is most often blocked by dogmatists and cheaters. As Jared Diamond reveals in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, a majority of past cultures hewed to rigid “traditional” hierarchies (most often feudal or theocratic) that made them brittle, unable to adapt to changing times. The great historian, Arnold Toynbee, surveyed hundreds of historical cultures and found that those with resilience were the ones who continued to invest both confidence and resources in their “creative minorities.”

We have plenty of examples in both directions. The same portions of society - in some cases the same people - who tried to block desegregation of the U.S. military, based on lies, then the ending of Jim Crow, also shouted “Cars don’t cause smog!” then “Tobacco is good for you!” then "dumping in streams and lakes is harmless!" then "Who needs oil well regulations?" and “the so-called Ozone collapse is a myth and those wanting to do something about it are commies who aim to destroy market capitalism!”

Let's zero in on one of those --

== Perfecting the methodology of delay-obstruction and outright murder ==

More than half a century ago, American media was saturated with tobacco advertising. Cigarettes were the most advertised product on TV and tobacco companies sponsored hundreds of shows. Decades after they were banned from the airwaves, Big Tobacco companies return to prime-time television this weekend - forced to advertise the deadly, addictive effects of smoking, more than 11 years after a judge ruled that the companies had misled the public about the dangers of cigarettes. See Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes.

This is about more than Tobacco. The villainous shills who fought, obfuscated and delayed regulations to remove lead from gas and paint killed hundreds of thousands and were directly responsible for extending America’s worst era of crime. The very same ad agencies and law firms howled “hoax!” at scientific proof that cars caused smog, or that dumping into waterways caused lethal illness. They got their biggest contracts and refined their methods delaying any action about the tobacco plague.

Sometimes they fail quicker than others. The very same ad agencies and law firms used the same methods to delay action on the Ozone Hole, but this time humanity acted swiftly. Thirty years ago, the world signed that Montreal Protocol. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) credits that agreement with for preventing an estimated 280 million additional cases of skin cancer, 45 million cataracts, and 1.5 million skin cancer deaths between its signing in 1987 and the year 2050. Without the Montreal Protocol, the planet would have been about 4 degrees warmer by 2050 (resulting in more extreme weather events like droughts, floods and hurricanes).

In all of those cases, it wasn’t so much “liberalism” that proved right, as that liberals paid attention to the evidence presented by science, which clearly showed that something needed to be done. Elsewhere I talk about my own role in one of these struggles… to get the lead out of gasoline. The delaying tactics that we fought down then caused immense human tragedy, till smart, sapient legislation finally made the poison go away. It resulted later in a steep plummet in the U.S. rate of crime. (New York now has its lowest rate since the 1950s.)

Today we have bald eagles again, because we limited DDT, and folks fish along sweet riverbanks in downtown Pittsburgh, and every species of whale still exists… all because we acted on warnings… and no communist hell descended.

Again: no… communist… hell… descended. Innovative enterprise markets boomed, and their only major enemy hasn't been "government regulation"... (though excess regulation can cloy!)... but old foes that our parents in the Greatest Generation knew well. Monopoly, duopoly, oligarchy and cheating.

No communist hell descended from any of these reforms... though there was a plague of amnesia, as our rightist neighbors forget they were wrong about every single one of those issues. Every single one.


== A perfected method... and not-quite perfect record being wrong ==

How many times must this happen before we see a relentless pattern? The same morons and cheaters forecast doom to the entire U.S. auto industry, if new efficiency standards were imposed, originally in the 1970s and upgraded in 2011. The actual result? Across the board improvement in our cars, which now have vastly higher quality in every category while actually dropping in adjusted price, compared to other costs of living, while saving consumers tens of billions at the pump.

Of course I’ve been dancing around the big one. Climate Change.  But we've talked about that, plenty. Here, we need to point out that the pattern is the same. The special interests and lobbyists and ad agencies are much the same, as are the messaging and delaying tactics.

After all of these examples, should the conservative position always be discredited?  

Nonsense! Criticism makes us better and sometimes a conservative assertion proves correct!  

Take the greatest mistake of modern U.S. liberalism, which hurt the movement grievously and helped re-ignite the confederacy across America, an insanity called desegregation by forced school busing. A lefty “innovation” of pyrotechnic stupidity in which it was the “reformers” who stubbornly ignored every bit of evidence that their position was pigheaded and wrong!

 Elsewhere I criticize some other liberal policies such as basing legal immigration on family reunions. Sounds nice. In fact it's evil. And don't get me started on liberal/democratic political stupidity!  But none of these exceptions fit a relentless pattern.

As you've seen, the relentless return of U.S. conservatism to hatefully anti-science error always turns out to have been bought and paid for by cynical oligarchs. Manipulators who are never brought into account for the countless lives their delaying tactics wrecked.

No, it is the process of denialism itself that merits our contempt and hatred. When conservatives stop this lunatic-dogmatic war on science and every other fact profession, then yes, I am sure they will have something to contribute to the national negotiations toward a better future. I want Goldwater types at the table!

But that will entail jettisoning... well... start with Clear Channel ravers. And Fox.

== Will the bubbles pop? ==

“The US stock market as a percentage of GDP is now far bigger than it was at the housing bubble’s peak, and it’s rapidly approaching the dot-com bubble peak. That ought to make us a little nervous as we watch the Dow hit new all-time highs.” Says John Mauldin.  I’m not saying it will pop tomorrow… nor does John. But just look at the chart. And note it was a month ago. The bubble is bigger now.


== The times demand it ==

Grad Students Would Be Hit By Massive Tax Hike Under House GOP Plan. The war on all fact professions - not just science - is thus made utterly explicit. Use stuff like this. Go after your uncle. Your obstinate friend. Above all, your aunt who doesn't dare speak when "he" is around, but who has a vote. As for student debt, ask if they have any justification for the Republican policy that student debts can never  be refinanced?

And yet. Can we try to be fair? Mocking Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife for posing with the first sheet of dollar bills with his signature on it? Seriously? And what would you do, if you had that honor. but pose with a first sheet, and buy it for the wall? Reflexive lefty twits! Choose… your… battles! There’s plenty to hate about these confederate plantation-lords. Control your rage and aim it at the unbearable real offenses, not harmless and natural stuff. You are supposed to be the sapient ones. All you accomplished, by shrieking at this, is making it harder to attract conservative defectors.

And finally...  In a book entitled “America Against America,” based on his travels in the U.S., Wang Huning, a top Chinese communist party ideologist just elevated to the seven-member Standing Committee of the Politburo that rules the Middle Kingdom, “compares American democracy and elections to shareholders in a corporation. In theory, he observes, all shareholders have a say; in reality, minority shareholders control the company.”

Following China’s Confucian tradition, [Wang] also calls for moral education to raise the moral standards of the whole society and especially of officials who he believes must ‘internalize’ ethical behavior.”

153 comments:

Steven Hammond said...

I agree with you, Dr Brin, regarding the major benefits science has provided in correcting errors we humans have made. Most of the examples listed have been examples of technology gone awry: lead in gasoline, CFCs, DDT, and...climate change. Others are based more on politics and culture such as segregation and de-segregation.

I want to focus on technology in this comment. We have our work cut out for us getting humans to recognize good science that says (for example) that putting lead in gasoline was a bad idea, causes great harm, and should be stopped. Anytime a new technology such as lead in gasoline, CFCs in underarm deodorant or DDT to kill mosquitos is adapted, it is SO much more difficult to stop than it was to start.

How can we stop "bad" technology from ever being implemented on a wide scale? Are the watch-dogs doing an adequate job? Are there areas they do a good job and others they don't, such as biotech vs energy technology? Reacting to increasingly powerful technological invention in a laissez-faire manner--especially that done by private corporations--and then coming down hard after damage is done seems to be a recipe for disaster. How can we minimize that risk while still allowing really beneficial technology to filter through?

David Brin said...

Steven H: my answer is the same always. Light. We have the tools. We have the habit - a reflex toward criticism. We have the FREEDOM to criticize, which was the core innovation of our Great Experiment. If we refresh all of these along with a devotion to competitive-adversarial and GROWNUP fact-based accountability, then we'll spot a lot of errors in-process and navigate the minefield.

Alas, we may be killed by "innovations" now done secretly in labs in Siberia, Sinkiang, Lahore and the Caymans.

Steven Hammond said...

@ David Brin:

I like that answer, Dr. Brin. LIGHT.

Unfortunately, so many of the most harmful technologies were developed and promoted " in the light"--with findings available to anyone interested. But no-one was interested. The harm a technology causes may take awhile to become apparent.

There are obviously safeguards for that such as the process for approving new drugs through the FDA. Want to bring out a new GMO crop? Definitely looked at by very smart scientists to determine if it may cause harm, (though often wrong). Come out with a new App or new chemical? Certainly some data regarding toxicity and carcinogenesis on the part of the chemical is required for commercial production, but none for the App,I would suspect.

The technologies that will cause the most harm in the future are those that fly under the radar, those that seem innocuous, those that are trivial. Those like Facebook.

Bit dramatic there, I admit, and FB and other social media may redeem themselves in the future, but the harm done by FB etc is a big threat and what do we do to avoid that? This may be akin to someone asking "what can we do to keep our language from changing?" I don't know. Are changes in computer technology similar to changes in human languages--but more artificial?

Steven Hammond said...

Correction: I mean to say the FDA is often wrong in approving drugs as "safe", not approval of GMO crops. I haven't seen any direct harm from GMO crops as of yet, i.e. GMO crops causing human illness/disease or direct harm to other organisms. The potential for major harm to human society and farmers may be very real in multiple ways (and I think it is) but is not something easily anticipated or measured early on.

David Brin said...

SH: Light is only effective with another ingredient, competition. And there should be rewards for finding errors competitively.

Steven Hammond said...

David Brin said:

SH: Light is only effective with another ingredient, competition. And there should be rewards for finding errors competitively.

Ah, that's so true, and as you've pointed out before, exactly what makes open science so "self-correcting"! I have no idea whether this process exists to "correct" applications of technology. As far as I know that aspect of science and knowledge is very secretive because...well dollars are at stake.

It would be interesting if competitors were part of an advisory panel to determine if some tech application should be licensed or not. They might, indeed, be able to foresee longterm problems with the tech, but, alas, might be discounted as biased.

locumranch said...


Light (especially a 'lack of') also seems to be the main cause of the 'Hole in the Ozone Layer', not hydrofluorocarbons as previously claimed, as studies indicate that the North Pole 'ozone hole' (much dreaded in the 1980s) is the naturally occurring result of the absence of light during those cold dark 6-month polar winters rather than human malfeasance.

And, remember the 1970s Acid Rain scare that precipitated the whole clean air act? It now seems that all those damned precipitates of carbon & sulfate actually served to cool our global environment, so much so that many of our most prestigious scientific climate change scare-mongers are proposing the deliberate release of those EVIL particulates into our atmosphere in order to reverse global warming.

One can only conclude that 'We have always been at war with Eastasia'. Or, was that East Anglia?

The scientific shills for our corporate elite must think the common man is moron without a memory.


Best

David Brin said...

If it's found that US agents fomented the Iranian riots, then we have our Tonkin Gulf/Reichstag provocation, leading to the clampdown the mullahs want, and a brief, poppety-tomahawk war till the Russians step in. And win.

I hope it's not so! That US hands are clean and that our adults are taking wise courses... and that the Iranian people do their thing with alacrity and great effectiveness, resuming their place as one of the great centers of civilization.

And all the warmongers on every side are stymied.

Zepp Jamieson said...

On the Mnunchkin thing: yes, it's silly. But if you want popular support, you need to avail yourself of such imagery. Sure, some people are howling in genuine outrage over the image of them and their sheet of money, but others are using it in a calculated manner to stir public disgust with the parasite class.
And the thing is, Doctor, you know it yourself. Taking an example from your world, could the Gnomes of Zurich have been overthrown if someone had not first been able to successfully characterise them as gnomes?
We liberals like to reject propaganda because it is dishonest, and slimy, and usually destructive. But in war, you don't throw away your most powerful weapon because it looks ugly.

locumranch said...


You liberals pretend to reject the propaganda that you indulge in liberally.

As David admits, the 1987 Montreal Accords accomplished NOTHING because "the hole in the ozone layer has just about returned to the size it was at the time of the protocol’s signing". Yet, he calls this nothing "a rare scientific triumph" !

He attributes the reduction of crime to the elimination of lead-based petrol -- achieved in the US in 1991-- yet he completely ignores how the US incarceration rate has gone up 500% during this particular 'triumph', even though (1) increased incarceration explains this criminal decline all by its lonesome and (2) the US incarceration rate should have plummeted by now if lead exposure was the sole etiological cause of crime.

Likewise, the Paris Accords are a big nothing with less than 40 out of 140 signatory countries in compliance.

Lying liars on parade, announcing 'triumph' in the face of contradictory fact.

Maybe 'W' Bush can loan David his celebratory 'Mission Accomplished' banner after California secedes from the Union.


Best

Lloyd Flack said...

Locum, the ozone layer deterioration was a a danger fixed by prompt action. It did not fix itself. Your claim is willful blindness, as are your other claims.

Tony Fisk said...

When contrariness becomes attention seeking. Meh.

Lloyd Flack said...

People warn others against a danger and reccomend a course of action. Others listen to the warning and advice and take the reccommmended action. The danger is averted. The successful avoidance of the danger is then taken as evidence that the danger never existed.

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

Want to bring out a new GMO crop? Definitely looked at by very smart scientists to determine if it may cause harm, (though often wrong).


I suspect scientists find harm such as "this chemical is a carcinogen", but not the harm that is caused when a particular modification of a crop supplants all other variations on that crop, and then falls victim to a parasite. Or the harm caused when the parasite is the corporation who insists that farmers must pay for each successive year's crop instead of planting seed corn from the previous year.


The technologies that will cause the most harm in the future are those that fly under the radar, those that seem innocuous, those that are trivial. Those like Facebook.

Bit dramatic there, I admit, and FB and other social media may redeem themselves in the future, but the harm done by FB etc is a big threat and what do we do to avoid that? This may be akin to someone asking "what can we do to keep our language from changing?" I don't know. Are changes in computer technology similar to changes in human languages--but more artificial?


Facebook may turn out to be self-correcting. I realize that, to people of a certain age, Facebook seems as ubiquitous as "The Circle" in the book of that name, but as I've mentioned before, my daughter's generation thinks FB is for old fogies. A few years back, I would have said they only use Instagram and Snapchat, but I'm not even sure that information is up to date.

Steven Hammond said...

LarryHart said:

I suspect scientists find harm such as "this chemical is a carcinogen", but not the harm that is caused when a particular modification of a crop supplants all other variations on that crop, and then falls victim to a parasite. Or the harm caused when the parasite is the corporation who insists that farmers must pay for each successive year's crop instead of planting seed corn from the previous year.

This is exactly what I'm implying. The potential short-range and obvious harm is now looked for, but the systemic harm is not. In the example of GMO products, we could also include the loss of older crops strains selected for their hardiness to particular climates and resistance to diseases and pests. Thankfully there are seed banks started by far-seeing individuals though the amount of funding is negligible.

You may be right about Facebook being self-correcting. My kids also use other forms of social media. What is the platform of choice for terrorist organizations these days for recruitment and training? Are they still using Facebook or have the FB algorithms become adept at identifying and stopping posts? Maybe it's Youtube and Twitter these days? I really don't know.

LarryHart said...

Apropos nothing, a thank you shout-out to WLS-FM radio in Chicago for ending the year with a replay of Casey Kasim doing the top 100 songs on the charts from 1977. The vast majority of the songs I remember from my formative teenage years must come from that one year.

A relatively sucky year at least gets to go out on a high note.

BTW, some of you eastern hemisphere residents are already in 2018 by now, so this is a communication from the past. Hapoy New Year.

locumranch said...


By declaring that "the ozone layer deterioration was a a danger fixed by prompt action. It did not fix itself", Lloyd_F is like the self-deluding man who declares that a single sandwich has ended world hunger.

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/WorldOfChange/ozone.php

"Year-to-year variations in area and depth are caused by variations in stratospheric temperature and circulation. Colder conditions result in a larger area and lower ozone values in the center of the hole."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2089537/Ozone-hole-Arctic-actually-caused-COLD-weather.html

'We found that further decrease in temperature by just 1°C would be sufficient to cause a nearly complete destruction of the Arctic ozone layer in certain areas,' says Dr. Björn-Martin Sinnhuber, main author of the study.

'Mission Accomplished', indeed.


Best

Twominds said...

@LarryHart

One of the big countrywide radiostations is doing something similar here. The Top2000, it's a tradition by now. Started in 2000, as a one-time program, now for the 18 time. 2000 pop songs (as broad as you can think of), gathered by the listeners, aired between Christmas and New Years' Eve. #1 to be played just before 0:00.

Great listening!

Guten Rutch ins neue Jahr, as the Germans say!

TheMadLibrarian said...

Locum, I'm afraid that article from NASA you linked to confirms the exact opposite of your hypothesis. The article from the Daily Mail says that the ozone hole in the Arctic was aggravated by extremely cold temperatures in the stratosphere that accelerated the action of CFCs, not that humans had nothing to do with it. Or were you just hoping no one would bother RTFA?

Cherry picking and taking information out of context does not help your cause.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm not sure locumranch knows how to read a science article and I'm not saying that to pick on him. Many don't. It's not a simple matter of stringing words together. The structural concepts referenced by a paper have to be in your head (mostly) before you begin.

For example, does he know about the arctic vortex that spins up during the dark season? Where is it? Why is it? I'm skeptical and without some of those concepts seeded in his mind, the notion of a small amount of catalyst acting in narrow conditions over a long time period might be beyond him.

LarryHart said...

TheMadLibrarian:

Locum, I'm afraid that article from NASA you linked to confirms the exact opposite of your hypothesis.


That would have been my first guess.

Paul SB said...

Steven and Larry,

If you assume that Facebook is the only source of trouble with our world of electronic communications, then the idea that young people are getting tired of it and migrating to other platforms might mean something. But Facebook is just the most famous platform, the problem is that the entire system is a supernormal stimulant. It doesn't matter whether people are letting Facebook think for them or Snapchat or any other. The problem is that they all affect brains in ways that aren't so good. Sure, not everyone who gets addicted to video poker ends up raining bullets down on the crowds, but that is just the most extreme example of what these things do. Probably we have all had the experience of surfing the net and finding that hours have gone by and we have nothing to show for it. Doctors talk about amotivational syndrome with respect to illegal drugs, but that's only the tip of the iceberg.

But somebody is paying attention to this stuff. The World Health Organization plans to list Video Game Addiction as a mental disorder in next year's ICD. Hopefully they have something to say about social media as well.

https://qz.com/1168780/who-video-game-addiction-will-become-a-recognized-mental-health-disorder-in-2018/

We're back to responding to a compulsive liar, I see. We can play whack-a-mole with him forever, and we will as long as we are willing to play the game. He doesn't need that, he needs treatment. Just like the alcoholic principal I had years ago, he won't overcome his pathological compulsions when we facilitate his addiction.

GMOs and other new technologies, as Steven points out, are much less a reflection of the errors of science than they are a consequence of the profit motive. Any new discovery that comes along that appears to do cool and exciting things and does not have side effects that are immediately obvious will be taken up by the parasite class and pushed on the rest of society to profit the parasites. Science is doing its job just fine, thank you. Like all processes, the process of discovery is never consistent, so when something is discovered neither its benefits nor its dangers are known right away. It's oversight that needs to be monitored much more carefully, by people who have no financial stake in the game.

Look at that stock market chart again. You can see how the stock market blows bubbles, pops them, then starts blowing the next one. If you look at it on a larger scale, the economic and technological growth that came with the Industrial Revolution looks as much like a bubble as our stock market graph, except that the bubble is a whole lot bigger.

Catfish N. Cod said...

One doesn't have to condescend to point out that "Cold temperatures can create ozone holes" is a big leap away from "All ozone hole effects are caused by cold temperatures".

For instance, there is the slight problem that ozone is itself a greenhouse gas, meaning that ozone holes cause colder temperatures. This is not a chicken-and-egg problem, because the temperatures are in different locations: cold in the stratosphere breaks down ozone; ozone holes cause cold in the troposphere (ground-level atmosphere).

Another is that the standalone statement "1 degree C of cooling would destroy the ozone layer" doesn't pass the smell test. If that were true on its face, we would expect the Earth to have had no ozone layer at all during the Ice Age. Things have to be more complex than that, and a more in-depth interview confirms this:

The interesting question is what will happen in the next 20 to 50 years. As the ozone-depleting substances are flushed out of the stratosphere, we expect the ozone layer to recover. However before this can happen, the stratosphere may become colder due to the increase in greenhouse gases in the troposphere below it. What we discovered in our recent study is that cold winters are getting colder in the stratosphere on the order of about 1°C per decade. This cooling would be sufficient enough to significantly postpone the recovery process for the ozone layer.

Over the long term, at the end of the 21st century, if the Montréal Protocol continues to be followed and we don’t produce any more ozone-depleting substances, we expect that the concentrations of these substances will be so low that colder temperatures in the stratosphere won’t matter as much. As ozone-depleting substances are flushed out of the stratosphere at a rate of about 10% per decade or so, Arctic ozone depletion could still be an issue in 2050 if the stratospheric cooling trend continues.


There's lots more in there: for instance, why the Arctic and Antarctic behave differently in terms of the ozone layer.

It's just so *easy* to fool yourself without checking if your theories work out correctly. "Cold, not CFCs, causes ozone hole" sounds so good, so simple and clear and guilt-free. But it just doesn't make sense when you go through all the implications.

But now that we have debunked that chestnut, there is a real point locum has made, though I'm not sure it's the one he meant. The study suggests that due to tropospheric global warming, the ozone hole may close slower than anticipated. And that's a real problem, that deserves more study and attention.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Also: can anyone defend the statement "the US incarceration rate should have plummeted by now if lead exposure was the sole etiological cause of crime"? My understanding of the theory said that lifelong changes to the brain are caused by prenatal and childhood lead exposure. Therefore, there should be a curve showing that rates of crime among teenagers and young adults should be dropping, rapidly.

Oh look! NCJJ Report Shows Juvenile Crime Keeps Falling, But Reasons Elusive

It's hard to get really good statistics over a very long time period, but beware any curves that end around 2000-2005. The peak was in the mid-90's, and you need the data up to near today to see the whole pattern.

TCB said...

>What is the platform of choice for terrorist organizations these days for recruitment and training?

Why, that would be the Republican Party Platform.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re-Lead and crime

The US numbers appear to relate lead in petrol to crime quite well
But the New Zealand numbers appear to show that as well as lead in petrol there was something else that caused a bulge in crime rates

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2017/12/new-zealand-study-provides-more-support-for-lead-crime-hypothesis/

Lloyd Flack said...

Locum is completely unwilling to recognize integrity in those that he has designated as enemies. He just wants to score points. And that is a moral failure.

David Brin said...

Everything confederate is about incantations. Recall how I pointed out that they spent more time figuring out how to giggle over shivving Democrats out of having aircraft carriers named after them, than holding hearings about genetic science policy.

Assertions and incantations. The latest one from Fox can ward off bullying facts... and even better, stymie the ten million Smartpants Americans who are in fact-using professions, ALL of whom are - according to confederate desperation - rendered unwise and conformist-illogical by the sheer fact that they went to university.

Steven Hammond said...

David Brin said:


Everything confederate is about incantations. Recall how I pointed out that they spent more time figuring out how to giggle over shivving Democrats out of having aircraft carriers named after them, than holding hearings about genetic science policy.

Too true, but the way to get confederates on board with hearings about genetic science policy is to put "research on human embryos" on the agenda. That's a real "Judo chop!" (to quote Austin Powers with a nod to our host) ;)

locumranch said...


The problem is that too many of you confuse correlation for causality.

The Ozone Hole is a perfect example, first discovered in 1984, correlated immediately thereafter with CFC use, dealt with by Montreal Protocols in 1989, but absolutely not 'settled science' in terms of causality because (1) nobody knows how long that 'newly discovered' ozone existed before its discovery and (2) nobody will know if CFC elimination will repair said hole until well after 2040 when CFC levels are expected to drop below pre-1980 levels.

The same issues hold true for the Tetraethyl Lead. Yes, we know that lead is toxic, causing mental retardation & behavioral issues and, yes, we can correlate behavioral issues with crime; but, no we cannot prove a causal relationship between lead exposure & crime rates, especially in the presence of other uncontrolled variables like poverty, social spending, unwanted children, abortion, cocaine use & sky-rocketing incarceration rates.

Of course, David would resort to TWODA (an end-justifies-the-means argument) in order to justify the elimination of CFCs and Tetraethyl Lead from our global environment -- a pragmatic approach to which I do not object -- but even this does not approach the Scientific Standard for Causal Proof.

Quite the opposite: TWODA is a cop-out, an admission of non-causality & moral assumption.

These are 'Things We Ought to Do Anyway', says David, according to the imaginary dictates of some Flying Spaghetti Monster sporting a mail-order Union Kepi.

Union Spaghetti Monster, meet the Confederate Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.


Best

David Brin said...

"The problem is that too many of you confuse correlation for causality."

Bark, bark ... bark! Bark!

90% of us here know vastly more science than you do, fellah. You assume that fact people are like you, conformist, reflexive, and incapable of dealing with competitive criticism. Alas, fact users invented the very phrases (and the actual meaning underlying them) that you bark at us.

You know nothing about standards of evidence, nothing at all, except that phrases like "standards of evidence can be hurled at evidence-users as convenient incantations.

LarryHart said...

Ok, having just seen the new Star Wars, I'll say goodbye to the old year with some spoiler-free observations.

First of all, anyone who likes Star Wars should see this one. It was more enjoyable than any of the series since the original two. And although there are requisite predictable echoes of older films, the plot is not a retread.

Aged Princess Leia continues to evoke aged Hillary Clinton in both face and voice, which I suppose makes it appropriate that the vice admiral reminds me of Elizabeth Warren. :)

The villain being named "Snoke" sadly follows in the tradition of the less-good movies with villains having childish names like "'Mall'" and "Dooku".

Also, having easily confused character names like "Rey" and "Ren" evokes the confusion the older movies caused me with "Syfo-dias" and "Sideous". (I suppose I'm supposed to know or remember who these people are.)

On the other hand, both Rey and Kylo Ren (I have no idea of spelling) are much more interestingly-handled characters than I was expecting.

I suppose it would have been out of character, for the person as well as for the franchise, but at one point, I was really expecting the next line to be "No, I'm here to kick your ass!" You'll know it when you get to it.

As someone else already mentioned, some of Luke's dialogue seems to be an implicit admission of the failures of the Jedi order. There's also much more acknowledgement of the limits of demigods and the importance of regular people in this film's plot and dialogue.

If you lean out the window, look over to the left, and squint just right, the film's climax owes something to the finale of The Postman. From a certain point of view, anyway.

Last but not least (see my next post), I understand why the alt-right hates the film. That makes it even sweeter.

LarryHart said...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/page/ct-perspec-page-star-wars-luke-skywalker-richard-spencer-20171229-story.html


...
A shadowy self-described alt-right group, calling itself “Down With Disney’s Treatment of Franchises and its Fanboys” in a Facebook page, claimed responsibility for flooding Rotten Tomatoes with negative reviews.

Huffington Post quoted a “moderator” for the alt-right group, who did not want his name revealed, as saying the group has been using bots to significantly bring down the film’s Rotten Tomatoes user score. Rotten Tomatoes denies that, but what I find more unsettling is the group’s promotion of what looks to me like its own version of political correctness, even as its members criticize the “PC” of those who disagree with them.

According to HuffPo, the group is upset with “Star Wars” for “introducing more female characters into the franchise’s universe” and putting such manly heroes as Poe Dameron (the star fighter corps pilot played by Oscar Isaac) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in danger of being “turned gay.”

Men should be “reinstated as rulers of society,” the “moderator” reportedly said, adding that’s why he voted for President Donald Trump.

Although the “moderator” would not give HuffPo his name, the website said, his sentiments follow closely those of alt-right leader Richard Spencer, who infamously organized the notorious Tiki torchlight march in August in Charlottesville, Va., that began a weekend of racially charged clashes and resulted in one woman’s death.

In a video chat that went viral on YouTube, Spencer mocks the mega-hit movie as the latest product of liberal “SJWs,” aka social justice warriors, and the entire “Star Wars” series as “racialized as it never was before.” Among other gripes, he knocks the movie for featuring a “girl … who acts like a man” in its lead (Daisy Ridley as Rey), a “black guy with a heart of gold” (John Boyega as Finn) and villains who are all “men, mostly white and ancillary.” Message? “Wise SJWs,” says Spencer, “can’t trust these high-testosterone flyboys.”

Everyone has his or her opinion, but hearing Spencer’s opposition to “The Last Jedi” made me enjoy the movie more.
...


Emphasis mine, because #MeToo !

LarryHart said...

TCB:

>What is the platform of choice for terrorist organizations these days for recruitment and training?

Why, that would be the Republican Party Platform.


Heh. I was going to say Donald Trump's Twitter feed.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart: "The villain being named "Snoke"..."

Did you notice how much he resembled a Alan Rickman character with a very similar name?

I also saw Blade Runner 2049 over the holiday. That is superior SF! You need to focus on the plot, but it's worth while.

Zepp Jamieson said...

locumranch, you are, to put it generously, playing fast and loose with the facts regarding ozone depletion. It's presently at about one third of 1977 levels.
You can read up on it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone_depletion. If you don't trust Wikipedia. do what I do when I'm on a page where I think the Merchants of Doubt have been busy, and read the footnotes.

Alfred Differ said...

The neat thing about the ozone hole 'fix' isn't that it takes a while for us to collect the mountain of evidence to convince amateur skeptics. It is that one of the the arguments against the fix was an economic one. Some PC board makers wailed about their costs since they used the 'bad stuff' as a solvent in some of the manufacturing steps. Whatever shall we do to replace this? We will incur terrible costs! As usual, though, this is not how it happened. Turns out the substitution was relatively easy and it... ahem... kinda cleans up after itself. And it is cheap. And we already produce it in industrial quantities.

Beware of economic counter-arguments that sound like doom and gloom. There MIGHT be a problem to consider, but it is worth reserving judgement until someone actually tries proposed solutions at scale. Hydrogen Peroxide isn't friendly stuff to be around, but it doesn't hang around much to create long term problems either.

As for the tetra-ethyl lead correlation, it is much more than that. It was phased out at different times in different locations, thus one could argue for a delayed response in whatever it caused... which is exactly what we see in the numbers. Multiple correlations are legitimate grounds for calling a correlation a causation.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | We're back to responding to a compulsive liar, I see. [snip] ...he won't overcome his pathological compulsions when we facilitate his addiction.

I'm not inclined to fix him. Without a face-to-face interaction, I don't think that is possible. WITH that interaction, I'm still doubtful it can be done. He has to want it first and if he did he wouldn't need us.

The point is to dispel the incantation he spins here so others aren't ensnared. I understand that you don't want to do that work. That's fine. Plenty of others are up to the task and we learn from it.

Steven Hammond said...

@ LarryHart:

I appreciate your thoughts on the latest in the Star Wars series as well as the comments on the reaction from the alt-right. This has a particular resonance to me as I took a vacation of 10 days this Christmas season to spend with my family (4 kids, 2 that came home for the holidays, our two dogs plus one my oldest daughter was caring for and brought over, one daughter's boyfriend visiting and my younger son's friend spending a couple days here) All good, but as the younger folks stayed up late and I went to bed early plus the bitter weather here in MT and snow, I ended up on a marathon film and TV watching binge.

I caught up to the latest Doctor Who episode before the Christmas special with Peter Capaldi's transformation, I watched Rogue One, I watched about 6 Marvel Universe films. (Your mention of 70's music is felt here in my rankings of the MCU films.) #5 The Avengers (1st movies) #4 Iron Man Three, #3 Spiderman:Homecoming, #2 Guardians of the Galaxy #1 Guardians of the Galaxy 2.

I haven't seen Thor:Ragnarok, but I'm dying to see it now that I've caught up, but especially because two of my favorite movies are What We Do In the Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, also directed by Taika Waititi. I have immense love for those films.

So, I've been immersed in a vat of popular super hero and space opera and I'm finally seeing not only the draw, but the role they play in modern America, at least. These stories serve the same role as those of the Greek gods--Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Athena etc., the roles of Coyote and Iktomi in certain Native American stories. I could throw in the Norse Gods which we've co-opted into the modern theatrical god universe.

We moderns see the ancients and "primitives" as naive and credulous, but I suspect they viewed stories about their gods much as we do these modern gods on the screen. They are both an inspiration for us as well as a barometer for our society in that the character, motivations , and values of our heroes reflect those of our society as does the racial and gender aspect.

Attacks by the alt-right )or other confederates) on Star Wars or Star Trek, Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy are an effort to change the very Mythos that underlies our culture and nation. There are also attacks by the left and more diversity in the "pantheon" is a result of that. Both sides serve to guide that mythos. It's very interesting, I think.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfed
Your remark about the manufacturers saying that it is going to cost tons reminds me of my time in the Automotive Industry
Every new reduction was impossible - would make us bankrupt - cost too much
And we just kept on doing them!

Steven Hammond said...

Alfred Differ said:

The neat thing about the ozone hole 'fix' isn't that it takes a while for us to collect the mountain of evidence to convince amateur skeptics. It is that one of the the arguments against the fix was an economic one. Some PC board makers wailed about their costs since they used the 'bad stuff' as a solvent in some of the manufacturing steps. Whatever shall we do to replace this? We will incur terrible costs! As usual, though, this is not how it happened. Turns out the substitution was relatively easy and it... ahem... kinda cleans up after itself. And it is cheap. And we already produce it in industrial quantities

Excellent point! The cost for the alternative, less harmful technology was less than anticipated, but there was probably a financial cost to these companies/corporations to make a switch and their instinct, nay, mission was to fight this switch as hard as they could for the stockholders etc.

Companies and corporations are not humans, or animals or any living thing. They have no interest in the planet, in continuation of life. They have a simple mission and humans are coopted to accomplish it. Make money. Period. Who needs malevolent AI when we have corporations?

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

These stories serve the same role as those of the Greek gods--Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite, Athena etc.,...


From what I've read, that was explicitly what Stan Lee and Jack Kirby had in mind creating superhero comics.

I personally like Dr Brin's take that the Nazis had Wagnerian Norse myths and we had Captain America and Superman. Our myths would have kicked their myths' asses and spit them out!


I could throw in the Norse Gods which we've co-opted into the modern theatrical god universe.


Again, going by what I read in the 70s, when Stan Lee created Thor (after previous successes with the Fantastic Four, Hulk, and Spider-Man), it occurred to him that the next logical step would be a superhero comic about God. Acknowledging that the audience (and their whiny parents) would never have gone for such a thing in 1962, the next best thing was a superhero comic about a god.

Originally, "Thor" was just another mortal man (Dr Don Blake) who found the hammer of the mythical Thor and thereby acquired powers. But it didn't take long before the entire Norse pantheon became part of the backstory. And then the Greek gods and other pantheons as well. Some paradigms just force themselves upon the writers, and some stories can't help but write themselves.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Steven Hammond: "I caught up to the latest Doctor Who episode before the Christmas special with Peter Capaldi's transformation,"

David Bradley did a brilliant job of playing William Hartnell, the first Doctor. People forget what an utter jerk the first Doctor was, arrogant, condescending, contemptuous of humans, and a bit of a squeaky coward, along the lines of "Lost in Space's" Doctor Smith. (None of this is a reflection on Hartnell himself).

I'm going to miss Peter Capaldi. I thought he was a great Doctor. Nonetheless, I wish Jodie Whittaker the best of luck.

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

Companies and corporations are not humans, or animals or any living thing. They have no interest in the planet, in continuation of life. They have a simple mission and humans are coopted to accomplish it. Make money. Period.

Which is why the notion that corporations have the same rights as people is dangerously absurd. People are presumed to have morals, empathy, and a sense of citizenship as well as economic self-interest. They also suffer pain. Laws concerning how people interact with each other take all of that into account. Corporations don't fit the role.


Who needs malevolent AI when we have corporations?


Back around the time of "Citizens United", I suggested that some enterprising novelist write a story in which a corporation "came to life" (like Pinocchio or Frosty the Snowman) and had to decide how to behave as a real human being, complete with conscience. Most people here took my suggestion as that of a computer system coming to life, which is understandable, but not what I was going for. More of a fantasy exercise than a sci-fi one, I wanted to explore the consequences of a corporation itself (not its computer systems) actually being a person in fact as well as in Constitutional law.

It sounds as if you get it.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

David Bradley did a brilliant job of playing William Hartnell, the first Doctor. People forget what an utter jerk the first Doctor was, arrogant, condescending, contemptuous of humans, and a bit of a squeaky coward, along the lines of "Lost in Space's" Doctor Smith.


Going off on a tangent, I recently read many of the very first James Bond novels--the ones that were written a decade or so before the Alfred R Broccoli* movies made the character so famous. In those books, James Bond was not the suave, sophisticated, "in charge of every situation" playboy that the movies turned him into. What he was was a kind of dull but quite competent civil servant who barely noticed the glamorous women and high powered world his adventures thrust him into. In some ways, that's a much more interesting character.

* I'm also reminded that a 1967 Batman villain (The Minstrel) demanded that his extortion payments should be wired to "account number oh-oh-seven at the Broccoli Bank in Geneva Switzerland."

Steven Hammond said...

@ Zepp Jamieson:

Peter Capaldi really grew on me. Fabulous actor and a great Doctor. David Bradley is one of my favorite character actors. His role as Filch in the Harry Potter movies is iconic. My kids (who are part of the Harry Potter generation) love him. I think he did some voice work for the HP video game as well and remember (as I was assisting my children) the Filch character yelling , "Intruder alert!". It was chilling--my kids tell me...

I knew about the transformation of the Doctor from Capaldi to Jodie Whitaker awhile ago, but, unfortunately, I caught up just after Christmas, and... it may be late February before I actually see that episode.

What I really like about Doctor Who (beyond the non-violent approach to conflict--for the most part--which is SO very needed), is the momentum it has and the ability to shrug off the criticisms of the day regarding the writing, production and actors. It's a veritable juggernaut just bashing along. It's not affected much by the whims of fandom as far as I can tell.

I really love it.

Tim H. said...

On Tetra Ethyl Lead, the automobile industry wanted it for the cheap octane increase and making integral valve seats something less of a longevity issue. Thanks to some very good engineers, it's no longer needed for the octane effect and any American car less than 45 years old either has steel seats or induction hardened valve seats, so good riddance to TEL. Has anyone thought much about the vast amounts of TEL dispersed over Europe by the USAAF?

Alfred Differ said...

@Tim H. | From what I've heard, much of that lead is sitting on the ground now. Don't stir it up is the rule that minimizes our exposure to it.

Alfred Differ said...

@Steven Hammond | instinct, nay, mission was to fight this switch as hard as they could for the stockholders etc.

Mmm. Yah. I've heard people say that, but they so often leave off a bit of context that Friedman did NOT leave off.

Their mission is to maximize value for their shareholders consistent with social norms.

What I think is lacking when corporations deliver a knee-jerk response and claim huge costs for switching their processes is respect for standards by which we judge character in the people around us. It really ISN'T all that hard to say "We will look into this and keep you all informed of our progress." One doesn't have to give one's competitors a useful edge in doing so. Just stay calm and judge which norms apply. It is something any decent PIO should be able to do.

Corporations certainly aren't people, but we still judge the people within them. We expect them to be of good character, don't we? 8)

Treebeard said...

You have it backward there Mr. Hammond. It is the PC cultural engineers who change and colonize our mythos for their own agenda. They insert various racial and gender warriors for our traditional heroes, feminize and homosexualize us, etc. It is an intentional campaign of cultural, mythological, gender and racial warfare designed to emasculate us, that really got rolling in the last several decades. The "alt-right" are the people who dare to notice this agenda, decided they don't like where it's going, and openly oppose it. This of course makes them evil Nazis. The rest have been marinated in this campaign most of their lives and either never broke the spell, believe it's not a threat or are masochists. This is probably the dividing line that will break what is left of the West: those who accept the aggressive PC mythology-hijack, and those who reject it and look for the exits from that hostile system of propaganda by any means necessary.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | There are days when I think they are faking it in order to buy time or throw off competitors. Those days are pretty rare, though. I think (most of the time) they are just panicky because they were caught by surprise. Of course it is never easy to change a big process, but !#$% happens and they should have the reserves to buy enough shovels to cope with it. Besides, big changes like that can be used to suck up blame for all kinds of other inanities. They should be treated lovingly by those who want to point the finger at anything/anyone else besides themselves.

Our host made a comment a while back about the evils perpetrated by MBA's who leave our companies as lean as super models. I think it was spot on. Now when I read financial analysis documents for equity trading decisions, I look at what they call a 'moat'. I think it would be cuter to call it a 'beer belly', but the analysts are thinking about defense against competitors instead of durability through shocks to the supply of calories. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard | The attack is much older than just a few decades. It's been going on for about 400 years now. You are pointing only to the latest phase.

You've already lost it in the hearts and minds of the next generation in the US.

Steven Hammond said...

@ LarryHart:

That's some excellent background information regarding Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and the Norse gods in the comics and movies based on them. Thanks!

You said:
But it didn't take long before the entire Norse pantheon became part of the backstory. And then the Greek gods and other pantheons as well. Some paradigms just force themselves upon the writers, and some stories can't help but write themselves.

Ah, that reminds me of Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I loved the book, and actually, the Sandman series was how I got into comics recently. His use of the Norse myths and sagas is "just another example of paradigms that force themselves upon the writers." And "some stories can't help but write themselves."

How many times have Shakespeare's themes and plots been used? Oh, and where did he get his plots from? I saw this little bit in National Geographic recently which was eye opening. Several common stories have been traced back to antecedent stories several thousand years ago. I suspect there are many more. Fairy Tales Are Much Older Than You Think

David Brin said...

Notice the ent can only make broad assertions. The simple fact that 99.9% of oppression across 6000 years was done by priests and feudal owner lords devastates everything he stands for... so he responds with anecdotes and vague assertions of specifics (that are never true.)

Likewise, re this posting, he knows that the oligarchs who paid shills to delay action on Jim Crow, smog, tobacco, lead in gas, the ozone hole, river dumping, DDT, and every other case I mentioned... and dozens I didn't... are directly and knowing murderers who harmed us all, out of greed.

LarryHart said...


This of course makes them evil Nazis.


No, they just are evil Nazis.

There are no good Nazis.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

You've already lost it in the hearts and minds of the next generation in the US.


I was going to say "We will bury you", but your way is probably better.

Treebeard said...

There was nothing resembling modern PC 400 years ago, or 100 years ago. And the "latest phase" may be coming for you old boy. Beyond that I won't attempt to explain something that you wouldn't understand. It's our thing, for our kind. You either feel it in your soul or you don't.

David Brin said...

Oh, and my open and willing avowal of left-wing insipidities was not an act of weakness, as zero-summers think. It is the act of an honest and sapient and practical man.

Happy new year all! May it be our Gettysburg, when the Union roars back and the future is renewed.

Randall Winn said...

LarryHart/Steven Hammond: It seems to me that a CI (Corporate Intelligence) might be as unlikely to want to imitate HI (Human Intelligence) as an AI does. That is, you can get an AI to act sort of humanlike, but they seem much more interested in figuring out which coupons to send you based upon your buying habits at Target or which stocks to short when there's a plane crash in Somewheresville. If they ever figure out that they can manipulate the stock market by messing around with the air traffic control system, we may all be in a lot of trouble.

Citizen's United was well-funded nonsense of course since IIRS it was continued a century-old confusion of two entirely different concepts of "person" (human and corporate), a more recent fiction that corporate speech is merely the accumulation of the speech of the incorporating individuals, and a charmingly naïve assertion that unlimited corporate money in politics might not lead to corruption since the Internet would make it easy for people to see who sponsored ads and discount them accordingly. The CIs got what they wanted out of the Supreme Court and didn't even have to write an interface.

Randall Winn said...

Oh it's so hard not to ignore the local troll, but I got such a good laugh out of the suggestion that acid rain might not have been so bad because, although it killed forests it temporarily slowed global warming. The same might be said of burning cities in WW2.
What's next? Treating brain cancer with a guillotine?

LarryHart said...


Beyond that I won't attempt to explain something that you wouldn't understand. It's our thing, for our kind. You either feel it in your soul or you don't.


As Dave Sim put it, "It's not that we don't understand what you're saying. We understand what you're saying. We just don't agree with it. And we won't agree with it no matter how many times you say the same stupid thing."

Dave was talking about feminism, but if the jackboot fits, wear it.

Dr Brin:

Happy new year all! May it be our Gettysburg, when the Union roars back and the future is renewed.


Our side would prefer a peaceful solution, but as Treebeard makes clear, either them or us are going to have to die. I vote them.

Regarding the new Star Wars above, I meant to mention that the blood of an awful lot of patriots is required to water the Tree of Liberty in that one. Maybe in real life as well.

I don't remember any regulars here being on America's east coast, but there's only a half hour of 2017 left there. 90 minutes here in Chicago. The Europeans, Australians, and NZers are of course already reading this in the future.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Randall Winn:

I like that and CI as analogous to AI and differentiated from HI is a wonderfully informative insight. I suspect an entire novel or movie script could be written by an interested and talented writer to bring this very real threat (CI) to the forefront of our frontal lobes. Thanks!

LarryHart said...

Randall Wynn:

What's next? Treating brain cancer with a guillotine?


Maybe not exactly the way you meant it, but probably yes.

LarryHart said...

Randall Winn:

The CIs got what they wanted out of the Supreme Court and didn't even have to write an interface.


You're talking about a conscienceless corporation being treated as a human being. I was going for something else. Suppose a corporation literally came to life, having human motivations, feelings, and conscience. What consequences follow?

A side purpose of the experiment is to reveal current-day corporate personhood as a farce. "If corporations were people, then real life would be like this. Since real life is a different thing, in fact the opposite thing, then corporate personhood is a false premise."

Zepp Jamieson said...

David Bradley was also Walder Frey in Game of Thrones (instigator of "The Red Wedding", died while eating a finger sandwich) Three extraordinarily memorable roles, on actor. Truly amazing.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Their mission is to maximize value for their shareholders consistent with social norms.


As Apu on "The Simpsons" once said, "Perhaps in some Shagri-La, but not here, sir!"

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin and the other Californians,

I'm communicating to you from the future year of 2018.

The Force is with us. Happy New Year.

TCB said...

From the Case Files of Robert Mueller: The Whole Tooth, and Nothing But the Tooth

Actually, I don't know what's going on here, except the investigator is as implacable as the Terminator, and the plot is as complicated as le Carre.

LarryHart said...

Steven Hammond:

How many times have Shakespeare's themes and plots been used? Oh, and where did he get his plots from?


It's not just fairy tales. The details of Julius Caesar or Anthony And Cleopatra were known to educated people in Elizabethan England, just as the details of Alexander Hamilton's lifetime are known to students of American history. Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton doesn't reveal new facts--it just makes the story elements into its own unique presentation.

Shakespeare was like that too. Contemporary audiences weren't unfamiliar with the stories behind Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet or Macbeth. They were seeing Shakespeare's version of the story, in much the same way that you or I can see a new version of A Christmas Carol, but we still know how it's going to end.

LarryHart said...

Let's drink a cup of kindness yet for Auld Lang Syne.

...And to all, a good night.

locumranch said...


In order to argue that CFC use causes ozone depletion, one must either assume a pre-detection negative proof that the ozone hole did not exist prior to CFC use or a positive proof of ozone hole absence after the elimination of atmospheric CFC (which won't happen until 2040 per NOAA models).

Similarly, the claim that lead-related mental retardation causes criminality requires the assumption that law obedience & morality are tantamount to intellectual health, a teleological absurdity analogous to Fukuyama's 'End of History', that somehow fails to explain all of those highly moral & law obedient Good Germans from WW2.

Happy New Year, Goodnight and Have a Pleasant Tomorrow.

Best
_____

Have a good laugh, Randall_W, as you read this humble proposal from MIT, as your guillotine awaits:

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/511016/a-cheap-and-easy-plan-to-stop-global-warming/

David Brin said...

Woof-woof-wooooooof!

There's something else, called... science.

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard | The Dutch were busy redefining some of the virtues long before WE were born. That is what is at the core of PC attitudes.

I'm okay with people coming for me. I already know which side I'm on.

Lloyd Flack said...

Locum, what you are doing is claiming that observational science can never prove anything. Ozone deletion was predicted on the basis of the known properties of CFCs. Observations were made that were consistent with the predictions. Actions were taken. The results were predicted and the results are the predicted ones.
The danger was real and you are looking for reasons to believe it was not so you can score points against those that you see as members of an opposing tribe. This is irresponsible and immoral.

Alfred Differ said...

Considering I just spent a couple hours with my trading journal documenting my thoughts behind last week's trades and what I plan for the next couple weeks, I'm not so sure there is much difference between AI and HI motivations. If I had an account from which I could do short trades, I probably WOULD think about which stocks to short for the next plane crash. Hrmm... I CAN trade options, so I'll take part of that back. Time to go write up my plan for a few disasters. I promise not to hack Air Traffic Control. 8)


@LarryHart | Some of us behave. I know from experience. Some of us even read Friedman's quote in context. 8)



Alfred Differ said...

Locumranch is probably using the definition of 'proof' appropriate for a doctor while thinking we are using the one appropriate for a mathematician. There is one between these two that has a 'good enough' quality to it that is being applied. It is a bit like the distinction between 'beyond a shadow of a doubt' and 'beyond a reasonable doubt.'

@locumranch | You are simply wrong, dude. IF you could convince an entire community to use your standards, you'd have a chance. You never will, though. Science standards for 'proof' are emergent things and not for you or me or anyone else to state. They come out of a consensus.

Please recall that the theory of evolution was already pretty solid long before anyone understood the mechanism for it. There are examples like this all through science.

@everyone | Happy New Year. May it be an interesting one! What? The last one was more interesting than you like? Pfft. Life speeds up when life gets boring. The years zoom by. I'd rather they slowed down a bit. 8)

Tony Fisk said...

CSIRO were looking into CFCs causing ozone depletion over forty years ago.
They hadn't observed any polar holes at that time. They just knew that CFCs could disrupt ozone in the lab, that CFC atmospheric concentrations were increasing, and so were looking to see whether CFCs were doing the same thing in the atmosphere. That would require two things:
- rising CFC levels at the ozone layer.
- lowered ozone concentrations at the ozone layer.

But why bother explaining this to someone whose only interest these days is to stir the liburls?

Global warming? Ozone depletion? Lead petrol? Plate tectonics? Evolution? Germ theory? Heliocentricity?

Snark all you want, Locum. Nevertheless, the world moves on.

Speaking of which, have a happy new year, folks. I'll be travelling a bit for the next week or two, so will only be dropping by occasionally.

Lloyd Flack said...

When a statistician says "Correlation does not imply causation." they are using the definition of "implies" from formal logic. There "implies" means "is a sufficient condition for". But in common usage "implies" can mean "suggests". This can cause confusion about what is meant.

Marino said...

Happy New Year to everyone (beginning with the lucky Californians allowed to buy recreational cannabis...:-) )
Anyway:
@treebeard, aside having spoiled forever for me a lovely character in LOTR and deserving eternal punishment and torment for that...

"by any means necessary"? nice cultural appropriation from Malcom X, dude. I engage in another one, from Harry Callahan... "Do you feel lucky, punk? go ahead, make my day"

"You either feel it in your soul or you don't." .
Da, tovarisch O'Brian, "oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc". Did you get a Room 101 in your basement?

Therefore I disagree a bit with dr. Brin:

"May it be our Gettysburg, when the Union roars back and the future is renewed."

I'd prefer Shenandoah, Marchin' thru Georgia and the Swamp Angel "with the thick Afric lip" firing at Charleston in retribution, "with extreme malice to them and no charity at all" (sorry, Mr. Lincoln...).

Marino

TCB said...

But, lest we forget, causation always creates correlation. The correlation is what alerts people to the possible presence of causation, and then the game is to design an experiment which eliminates every other possible cause. Absolute certainty isn't generally possible in this world; but there are many questions that have been settled with near enough certainty to convince anyone who is not a fool.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

@LarryHart | Some of us behave. I know from experience. Some of us even read Friedman's quote in context. 8)


I'm not denying that, but the culture is still shaped and influenced more by the ones who don't behave. As long as cheating is a competitive advantage, that will be the case. The only way for cheating to not be a competitive advantage is for society to create and enforce rules of conduct such that the economic cost of cheating ends up outweighing the benefit.

LarryHart said...


There was nothing resembling modern PC 400 years ago, or 100 years ago.


Really? Social pressure to conform didn't exist in the past?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Please recall that the theory of evolution was already pretty solid long before anyone understood the mechanism for it. There are examples like this all through science.


According to a James Blish story, this is the year that gravity will be discovered, having been simply postulated for millennia before.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

Snark all you want, Locum. Nevertheless, the world moves on.



But of course, the whole world didn't stand still. The world grew.
In a couple of years, the new highway came through.
And they built it right over those two stubborn Zax,
And left them there standing, un-budged in their tracks.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

To be 100% frank, I don't much care if the sicko is ever cured. If he were just placed in a rubber room where he had no communication with the outside world, that would be good enough. If he were run over by a bus today I would go find and Arthur Murray's so I could at least tappity-tap adequately on his grave. I have spent more than enough time shooting down every ludicrous thing he writes, as have a lot of people here. That's not the point. I enjoy a good debate - it's always good to win them, but it's a waste of time if I come out the other end, win or lose, without having learned something new.

The point is that he is a distraction. Instead of discussing real issues, the site gets bogged down in swatting away his phantoms. Nothing he says is real, and everyone who visits this place regularly knows it. Is he persuading anyone of anything? I very much doubt it. The Sapling is the only one here fool enough to parrot back his delusions. With those two exceptions the site is full of intelligent people who have more useful things to do with their minds than exercise their knee-jerk amygdala reactions. Do you have to actually see him in a straight jacket to see what a waste of energy it is? Wash your hands of him and be done with it.

Paul SB said...

Larry said:

"...but the culture is still shaped and influenced more by the ones who don't behave. As long as cheating is a competitive advantage, that will be the case. The only way for cheating to not be a competitive advantage is for society to create and enforce rules of conduct such that the economic cost of cheating ends up outweighing the benefit."

- And therein lies the rub. When the Founding Fathers created the Corporate Charter they were operating under the assumption that America would forever be a nation of gentlemen farmers, a small community where reputation matters and anonymity is rarely an option. They assumed that human decency would always have the power to counteract depravity. Scalar effects were unknown to them. Just as they could not imagine the automatic rifle and saw little danger in the Second Amendment, they could not imagine how American business could become so corrupt that it endangers our very survival. There is an inherent morality in any social group that will be expressed by a majority of its members, but capitalism provides a way for its least moral members to rise to the heights of power and shape society, including its morality.

As an example, we could look at the idea of race. Before the African slave trade became commercially important to the West, the idea of race just wasn't out there. I've mentioned Shakespeare and Herodotus before. But once it became commercially valuable, the idea that superficial adaptations in different human populations amount to vast, insurmountable gulfs in human intelligence and moral virtue began to spread. Why? Profit motive. Once that ball got rolling, the politicians seized on it as a way to divide and conquer, assuring that they would always have a base that would support them fanatically, because they had given them a dreadful bogeyman to fear. Fear makes humans stupid, and fear makes them conformists. Now race is too politically useful to give up, either side of the fence.

The Cold War exacerbated the situation, giving us a new bogeyman, and out of that crucible came the "greed is good" meme. Now, because we "honor the merchants" vile deeds are recast as higher morality, and we approach ever closer to the poverty that sparked the French Revolution. Dr. Brin posted a graph recently that shows the rich started getting seriously richer and the poor seriously poorer under Reagan's watch, a result of policies that were made to promote the interests of the wealthy, and believed by many Americans to represent some higher morality. Shameless exploitation, cutting the majority off from any chance of improving their lot in life, distributing products that destroy their users and hiding those facts from them, at least until they have become dependent on them. The failure mode lies in the sacred Profit Motive itself.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Though there was a plague of amnesia, as our rightist neighbors forget they were wrong about every single one of those things.


Worse than that--long after the fact, the conservatives lay claim to those ideas as their own. The "reasoning" is that liberal ideas are disruptive to the status quo and therefore bad on their face, but once they've stood the test of time, they've become conservative ideas, and therefore good.

There's a line that was repeated twice in the new Star Wars movie (I've only seen it once, so the wording might not be exact) that goes, "Funny, every word you just said was wrong." That line is appropriate to most right wing arguments against liberals. It's also appropriate to just about everything locumranch posts here.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The point is that he is a distraction. Instead of discussing real issues, the site gets bogged down in swatting away his phantoms.


What "instead of"? We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Paul SB said...

We can walk and chew gum at the same time, but we don't. We start out walking, locum spews some lies, half-truths and outright distortions, then we sit here chewing gum, blowing bubbles full of hot air, and all forward motion stops. Serious discussions of issues get derailed. Even trivial but amusing conversations go by the wayside once the feeding frenzy begins, and while we are distracted by some puny minion of the Adversary, the good ideas fail to be developed. I couldn't say if anything we talk about here will ever have a significant impact on anything but ourselves, but you never know.

Randall Winn said...

LarryHart:
Suppose a corporation literally came to life, having human motivations, feelings, and conscience. What consequences follow?
Imagine its Tindr profile. "I am witty, considerate, wealthy and patient. I won't be able to reciprocate your affections physically but can arrange surrogates. Swipe right to get onto my calendar."

---

Our resident troll is playing The Argument Clinic. It amuses but the original was better.

David Brin said...



Dang. Lloyd Flack was more cogent in-reply than my doggie sounds. He gets post-of-the-day. For New Year’s eve.

Though thanks Marino, for that Swamp Angel reference.

David Brin said...

“Correlation is not the same as causation.” This is a core catechism that is drilled into most of us scientists, along with “I might be wrong,” and “build your competitive science rep by demolishing the half-baked work of those bums at MIT.”

Alas, “Correlation is not the same as causation” has become an incantation parroted by Fox-Watchers, as part of the Murdochian campaign to undermine science and claim that nothing can ever be proved. (And hence, only pay heed to feudal lords.) In fact, sifting for correlations is how experimental science begins. A strong correlation demands: “hey, check this out!”

But it’s more than that. A strong correlation shifts the Burden of Proof. When we see a strong correlation, and the matter at-hand is something with major health or safety or security implications, then we are behooved to at least begin taking preliminary precautions, in case the correlation proves to be causative. Sometimes the correlation is later demonstrated not to be causal and a little money has been wasted. But this often proves worthwhile, given long lead times in technology. Example, we were fortunate that work had already begun on alternative refrigerants to CFCs, when their role in ozone damage was finally proved.

Another example: terrorism experts sift for correlations and apply intelligence resources to follow up, while giving potential targets cautious warnings. Many correlations don't pan out. But a burden falls on those saying "ignore that."

Parse this carefully. Strong correlation demands both closer examination and preliminary precautions.

But the underlying narrative of the crazy, anti-science right is : “Correlation is not the same as causation… and any ‘scientist’ who talks about a correlation can thus be dismissed as a fool. And since that is most of science, this incantation lets me toss out the whole 'science' thing. Yippee!”

Those who spout this incantation aren't 100% fools, but you can tell by watching to see if they follow “Correlation is not the same as causation" with... curiosity and acceptance of both precaution and burden of proof. Those who do that are "Skeptics" and welcome to the grand, competitive tussle known as science. Those who use “Correlation is not the same as causation" as a magic incantation are fools holding a lit match in one hand and an open gas can in the other, screaming "one has nothing to do with the other!"

David Brin said...

Reprising an earlier posting on this: Another central mythos: We all know that:

*"Just because someone is smart and knows a lot, that doesn't automatically make them wise."*

It's true. But in the same way that Suspicion of Authority is wholesome, till it metasticizes, this true statement has been twisted into something cancerous:

* "Any and all people who are smart and know a lot, are therefore automatically unwise."*

The first statement is true and we all know it. The second is so insanely wrong that anyone believing it is hence a stark, jibbering loony. And yet, the latter is now a core catechism of the confederacy, because they have been allowed to leave it implicit.

Of course, blatantly, the average person who has studied earnestly and tried to understand is wiser than those who deliberately chose to remain incurious and ignorant. When cornered, even the most vehement alt-righter admits that. But cornering them takes effort and - above all - careful parsing of the meme. It is a logical corner they’ve painted themselves into! But their memes are slippery.

Hatred of universities and smart people, and people with knowledge and skill now extends from the war on science to journalism, teaching, medicine, economics, civil servants… and lately the “deep state” conspiring villains of the FBI, the intelligence agencies and the U.S. military officer corps. This is bedlam. It is insanity that serves one purpose, to discredit any “elites” who might stand in the way of a return to feudalism by the super rich, which was the pattern of 6000 years that America rebelled against.

Jon S. said...

It's interesting - the Fox-zombies are perfectly content to let correlation not only imply, but actually indicate, causation - when it comes to them there Ay-rab muslin terr'ists. "We know they're going to come try to kill us all in our beds, 'cause the government [not the gub'mint, that's what we call them when they do things we don't like] says there's 'more chatter'. I don't know what that means, but it don't matter."

locumranch said...


When he states that "Science standards for 'proof' are emergent things (that) come out of a consensus", Alfred declares that science (in its modern incarnation) has become a popularity contest wherein consensus is more important than empiric truth and those dissenters who stand in the way of consensual progress are 'fools' who deserve to get run over:

Poor Galileo Galilei must be spinning in his grave just about now.

PaulSB takes David's 'mental retardation equals criminality' argument & doubles-down, consigning all of those mentally-retarded thought criminal disagreebles to rubber rooms & institutions where they may have no communication with the outside world -- "that would be good enough", he says.

Some of us remember what 'redefining a differing opinion as evidence of mental incompetence & criminality' leads to, you Blue Kepi-wearing PC Nazis. You're planning on exterminating us, believing as you do that God is a progressive social democrat bent on global 'happy happy joy joy' domination.

Your Golden PC Future promises to be a 'Real Gas' of Zyklon B variety, just like Germany's new Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz (NetzDG) Law, wherein everything old is new again.


Best

LarryHart said...

First they came for the Nazis, and I did not protest, because I was not a Nazi.

Then they came for ISIS, and I did not protest, because I was not a radical Islamic terrorist.

Then they came for the KKK, and I did not protest, because I did not approve of lynch mobs.

Then they came for the Westboro Baptist Church, and I did not protest, because I was not a radical Christianist terrorist.

Then the long national nightmare of peace and prosperity began, and there was no one left to come for me.

Tim Wolter said...

The quote "...and then they came for..." is tossed around a great deal. The man behind it was interesting. Martin Niemoller was a U-boat officer and later captain in World War I. As such he was responsible for many deaths.

Post war he was a farmer, later a pastor. He initially thought well of the Nazis and they of him. Later he developed misgivings and had the courage to express them. This landed him in the Camps, which remarkably he survived.

Post war we went far to the left, reaching out to Russia and other Communist regimes. He actually won the Lenin Prize in 1967. And, it should be noted, the West German Grand Cross of Merit four years later.

A fascinating biography.

TW/Tacitus

Lloyd Flack said...

Eh, Locum, science is to a large extent a communal activity. Ideas have to be checked out and because we can fall in love with our own ideas we need to have others as part of the checking mechanism. A consensus of the relevant experts is an indication that an idea is somewhere near the truth. This is a consensus of confident opinions, not supporting an idea because nothing better has come up yet. What underlies a confident consensus is usually consilience of evidence, multiple lines of evidence pointing in the same direction.

David Brin said...

Interesting, Tim!

TCB said...

Not sure why, but I am reminded of Leonardo da Vinci. Everybody knows he was a genius, but more than that, he was practically the perfect human being, or near to it. He was reputedly the strongest man in town. He was a vegetarian: his favorite food was minestrone soup, which is a remarkably balanced vegan food. Long before a Silicon Valley entrepreneur invented "Soylent," minestrone achieved much the same mission. He would buy caged birds just to set them free. Before the 20th Century, kindness to animals was just about unheard of. He had a systematic approach to self-improvement, another idea we usually associate with modernity. There are multiple books about how to emulate his methods. Um... he designed weapons too. In those days, an artist was also an engineer/architect/armorer/jack of all trades. He was probably gay. The local Locums would have killed him for that, and felt closer to God for having done it.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart version of "First they came for..."

Brilliant!

David Brin said...

Well, TCB, Leonardo had flaws. But the series "Da Vinci's Demons was a total hoot! Every single "imagined" thing in his notebooks actually was built! It would have been nice if he passed along genes. Maybe he did.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Here you go, Doctor Brin: How to be a Futurist

http://www.gocomics.com/basicinstructions/2018/01/01?ct=v&cti=1382438

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

But the series "Da Vinci's Demons was a total hoot!


Was that the one that showed how you can hold a mirror up to his paintings and, by sliding the mirror slightly off-center, the squished "faces" then appear to be those of space aliens?

TCB said...

LarryHart, lots of Earth people have done anamorphic paintings. Holbein did it. Even cave painters seem to have done it. But sure nuff, LEonardo is the first definite modern example.

Yep, da Vinci wasn't perfect. (Had trouble finishing things, in particular!) (And then there is the matter of Salai.) But nobody else is, either. (Jesus, sure. But he's probably fictional.)

dennisd said...

@Paul SB
I agree with you about locum. I've been following David's blog and its 'commenting community' for several years now. For much the same reasons as yours, I skip locum's posts and the responding comments. Saves me time and mental grief.

Jon S. said...

Apparently, being a Futurist now requires one to subscribe to a comics site...

LarryHart said...

@Jon S,

If you're referring to the pop-up screen on the gocomics site linked above, I was able to just close that pop-up and read the comic without doing anything else.

Dave Werth said...

Regarding the ozone hole and its discovery here is an interesting story from Gavin Schmidt (head of NASA/GISS) on RealClimate about it:

What did NASA know and when did they know it

So locum says the ozone hole was a made up danger but as Lloyd Flack said above:
"People warn others against a danger and reccomend a course of action. Others listen to the warning and advice and take the reccommmended action. The danger is averted. The successful avoidance of the danger is then taken as evidence that the danger never existed."

Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I suspect if we did the research, we'd find the culture is mostly shaped by those of us who DO behave. Those who don't stand out and tempt us to a less virtuous path if they do so unopposed. Seriously. Look around you at the every-day business people. It is expected that they will pursue a competitive advantage, but will they do so when doing it reduces their character? Some will. Many won't. Look them in the eye and see if you can see it.

I worked for one employer where cheating was part of the culture. I was rather blind to it myself, but it was explained to me later by someone far less blind. The manager who edited a performance review after his direct had already signed off that caused the company to get sued and settle out-of-court met with that employee later to split the winnings. Neat trick. Another involved a fraud that would have resulted in a share-holder lawsuit at a minimum and likely jail time for a few if it held up. When our parent bank dissolved 2/3rds of our operations, they wrote off quite a bit more than they spent buying us. So... yes. Cheating does occur and it makes some quite rich.

No doubt many of us can tell these stories, but what about the context in which they are set? What about all the stories of well-behaved people and companies and contracts and so on? Without the context, it is easy for us to think the world is shaped by bad people, but in doing so we are guilty of a particularly harmful variety of cherry-picking. There is a selection effect at work here.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Dude. You are supposed to capitalize those words when you say them that way. Empirical Truth. You say them as if they sounded like Revealed Truth. 8)

You obviously haven't read much about Galileo and his motivations for doing what he did. The K-12 science gospel as taught in the US isn't close. He was no Saint pursuing Truth For The Greater Good. Nah. Few of us are. It is much more typical for us to be Human and Galileo was no exception.

Sorry if you were sold on the idea of Science As A Noble Cause when you were young. I was too. It isn't. It is a Human Cause with a very specific responsibility. In the Garden of Knowledge, Sciencia does some weeding while EveryMan scatters new seeds.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Sorry! Didn't realize they paywalled it!

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | To be 100% frank

I DO get it. On other sites, I've reached the conclusion you have regarding other people. After that, I usually tuned out the folks who wasted my time. I fully encourage you to do the same. However, some of us are learning useful things when we interact with him. Just scroll past us while we do it.

I don't know about everyone else, but my responses to him do not diminish my inclination to respond to others. I've held back a bit with you because we've gone a few rounds already and keep coming back to roughly the same conclusions. Until I have something new to offer you that justifies your time, the honorable thing for me to do is keep learning. I DO read what you write even if I don't say much in return.

the site gets bogged down in swatting away his phantoms

There is some truth to this, but without him I think many of us would mostly agree with each other and have little to say except about minutia. Occasionally David brings out one of his ideas that a few of us find objectionable or just nutty, but there is only just so much we can do about that, right? From what I can tell, everyone holds to at least one nutty idea. 8)

Yes. We are guilty of knee-jerk amygdala responses on occasion. On the flip-side, though, we are pretty civil with each other most of the time. Part of that could be the result of having outsiders here. For example, I'm at least moderately libertarian and inclined to disagree with many progressives here, but in the presence of actual confederates, it is pretty obvious to me that I have MUCH more in common with progressives than I have differences.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if OGH is going to write on the subject (and I am aware he is GENERALLY optimistic about technological trends), but I've just read and carefully re-read a truly scary post put up by Charlie Stross a few hours ago on his blog. Well worth perusing, unfortunately.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Key quote from that excellent Stross piece: "My recipe for fiction set ten years in the future used to be 90% already-here, 9% not-here-yet but predictable, and 1% who-ordered-that. But unfortunately the ratios have changed. I think we're now down to maybe 80% already-here—climate change takes a huge toll on infrastructure—then 15% not-here-yet but predictable, and a whopping 5% of utterly unpredictable deep craziness."
John Brunner and Anthony Burgess were pretty good at factoring the element of futurism that sometimes entire societies and cultures go mad. Unfortunately, both the US and (to a lesser extent) the UK are in that position right now.

David Brin said...

“The successful avoidance of the danger is then taken as evidence that the danger never existed."

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

That is the story of Jonah, in a nutshell. One of the most fascinating books in the Bible. And the one that proves that (1) He changes his mind, (2) hence no “prophecy” is locked in stone, and hence (3) the hysterical-screeching threats of the Book of Revelation were recanted and the whole thing is utterly refuted.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Zepp: Stross has, in many ways, recapitulated the argument of the Unabomber Manifesto, simply replacing "machines" with "corporations". The ultimate message is the same, to wit, that there are no current reliable barriers to the dehumanization of humankind except humans themselves.

The immediate obvious counter is that there never were in the first place. The second point is that humans hate to have their free will overridden, and if you aren't either (a) providing them with a pleasant environment or (b) providing them with an evident means of improving their environment or (c) clearly picking winners and losers by arbitrary means... they notice fairly quickly that something is wrong.

This is why disadvantaged people in the US did not accept civil rights as a complete solution to race relations, and it is also why the rural confederates attempted to rise in electoral revolt. A number of them will soon counter-revolt as they see the evidence that the government they emplaced is betraying them. It is also why there is increasing interest in socialism in the United States: people are noticing that our current economy is increasingly unhealthy.

Stross is a socialist, of course, and is making a case for the abolition of capitalism. That's not a necessary condition to avoid his dystopia. What *is* a condition is that "paperclip optimizers" are overtaken by entities that can think better than they can, care more about human affairs than they do, and amass sufficient resources to defend against and damage or destroy out-of-control "paperclip optimizers".

The Progressive movement intended for government to be the tool to do this. But government must also be bound, lest it become a paperclip optimizer for power.

Corporations are still composed of humans and software. Humans and software should be able to control or out-compete them, if the right design can be found and nurtured.

Paul SB said...

Funny, Dr. Brin, most people I talk to about Jonah say it's a story about what happens when you don't obey God, but I like your interpretation better.

Alfred,

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

I read what you write tom our trolls, and I have yet to see anything that suggests you are learning anything from them that we don't already know. If you think there is something to be learned there, that's fine, but all I ever see is the same scatological thinking I grew up surrounded by.

"There is some truth to this, but without him I think many of us would mostly agree with each other and have little to say except about minutia."
- Ah, but aren't God and The Devil both in the details? I can remember a number of discussions in which the people of this blog came up with some very important details without any interference from our bridge lurkers. I have a pretty spotty memory, so I am sure it must happen more often than you think. Don't mistake amicability for triviality. Remember when we were discussing the idea of covering the California Aqueduct to make it into a bike path, with elevated PV panels? One justification offered was that covering the canals would dramatically reduce evaporation, making more water available for farms and cities. But someone else who had the appropriate skills actually calculated the rate of water loss and showed that it would not be very significant. This is what Dr. Brin means by a "smart mob" - diverse voices able to meet in cyberspace and share the fruits of their skills. It's not just a bunch of people being nice to each other here.

"On the flip-side, though, we are pretty civil with each other most of the time. Part of that could be the result of having outsiders here."
- Law of Segmentary Opposition, of course. But then, don't you think it would be worthwhile to discuss those differences, rather than simply joining the shield wall against the greater threat to humanity. We need to beat off those whose short-sighted selfishness threaten our very existence, of course, but that isn't really happening here. That happens mostly at the ballot box, and the ballot box often contains things that are too subtle to simply label with "Good" or "Evil." They require more in-depth discussion to get at ramifications. That doesn't happen when our time is mostly spent denying the obvious lies and distortions of The Adversary (for a demon, he isn't all that crafty).

"| I suspect if we did the research, we'd find the culture is mostly shaped by those of us who DO behave."
- Absolutely true, but Negativity Bias (the selection effect you are talking about) is so built into human neural architecture that it is incredibly easy to miss all the everyday good that happens around us and focus only on those evils that need fixing. I also suspect, though, that if we did the research we would find that the evils committed by ordinary business people are much more than business people would have us believe. One of the most fundamental differences between the right and the left is that the left wants to fight those evils while the right wants to relabel those evils as goods. Over time, the balance changes. Every time we have Republican administrations in the US, or any other business-friendly administration around the world, more of the natural environment is destroyed beyond recovery. When the more liberal types take over, they try to fix the damage done by the regressives, but with each generation more is lost beyond recovery. As I have mentioned before, Lebanon was once famous for its cedars. The whole Middle East was once much more lush and livable than most of it is today. Why? Civilization has been there longer than anywhere else. Look at all the places where civilization took root early on and you see the same pattern, even with Egypt, though it is easier to miss.

Paul SB said...

Alfred con.t,

It reminds me of something my daughter was complaining about last night. She was complaining about fantasy stories that lack dragons, quoting Tolkien that a fantasy story is not really a fantasy story without dragons. She blamed D&D for that. In D&D characters are constantly growing, gaining experience points and becoming more powerful. Eventually they reach a point where slaying dragons is no longer out of reach, they get the XP and become more powerful, then they need even more powerful monsters to fight. Eventually dragons become pieces of cake, not to be taken seriously. In a very trivial way, this is exactly what factional competition does to a human civilization. Competition intensifies with each generation, the sides become decreasingly reasonable as the propaganda ratchets up to greater extremes. With D&D, people just get tired of playing the game. It virtually disappeared from the shelves for a couple decades, until it became the new old thing as the generation that mad wit popular as teens aged into he nostalgia years. What happens when we get bored with civilization and stop playing?

I'm glad you are getting something out of the book recommendation, as well as a couple others. I have often pointed out that it is hard to understand what is going on at the politico-economic scale without understanding what happens between the ears of individuals (and vice versa). Too much of the ardent posturing of opposites comes from both sides having very questionable ideas about what constitutes human nature, and the solutions they recommend, even the things they see as problems, are often way off-base because they assume much more than they actually know.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Catfish N. Cod: I don't know if Stross has prescribed any action to be taken about corporations. He's merely pointing out their danger to a free and open society, and unlike the Luddite fantasies of the Unabomber, he is pointing to a social danger that is real and manifest, and given a new perspective on why it is the danger it is. (A documentary in the 1990s described corporations that are sociopathic by definition, very powerful, and very nearly invulnerable, and are beyond the grasp of the law.)
It's a mistake to assume that wishing to kerb corporate power is "anti-capitalism", especially when corporations themselves are the greatest danger to capitalism. Corporations that adhere rigidly to their charters want regulatory capture, they want laissez-faire or non-existent policies regarding worker rights and welfare, and to externalize as many costs as possible. And they fight viscously to kerb competition. I know there's all sorts of conspiracy theories around, the pill to make gasoline from water and all that, but there's plenty of actual evidence: the big push from the Pharmaceutical industry to get the Republican Congress to prevent the government from soliciting competitive bids on drug prices for Medicare; the six states that have outlawed Tesla's direct-sales model, four states that penalize solar power use, including Florida and Arizona. I could give you dozens of other examples.
Regulated capitalism is great. Unregulated capitalism destroys economies and societies.

Paul SB said...

Catfish,

I'm not 100% certain you'll find this relevant, but I got a book for Christmas this year by a Nobel Laureate who has an interesting idea that sits somewhere between our two political extremes. So far I have only read a little bit of it, but it's looking promising. The book is called "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness." In the introduction he makes the point that the right wing is constantly complaining about the nanny state taking away their freedoms, while the left wing insists that since people makes pretty consistently stupid decisions they need to be restricted for their own good. The idea in the book is to ease off on restrictions but take advantage of psychological and marketing research that shows how things can be presented in ways that will encourage more people to make better decisions - to nudge them in the right direction. I haven't gotten to an explanation of how this can work in practice, but the idea is intriguing, anyway.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

I read what you write tom our trolls, and I have yet to see anything that suggests you are learning anything from them that we don't already know. If you think there is something to be learned there, that's fine, but all I ever see is the same scatological thinking I grew up surrounded by.


If I may, I think your own bias shows there. You may have no need to learn more about what you were exposed to for your entire life, but others don't have that same experience. Many Americans who grew up Christian probably had nothing more to learn from the quad preachers I first encountered as a college student, but I did actually learn a few things that I never knew before from interacting with them.

More to this blog itself, I thought it was quite worthwhile to discuss exactly why "White Lives Matter" is not just the same thing as "Black Lives Matter" for a different identity group. That would not have come up in discussion between a bunch of people who all already know the difference, but it's important for us to understand the sentiments that are out there among the voters and influential people in the world. That requires discussions with some of them who don't necessarily share our point of view.

I get that you personally have hit the point of diminishing returns. I'm about there myself, as you might have noticed. But that doesn't mean everyone here is at the same place.


We need to beat off those whose short-sighted selfishness threaten our very existence, of course, but that isn't really happening here. That happens mostly at the ballot box, and the ballot box often contains things that are too subtle to simply label with "Good" or "Evil." They require more in-depth discussion to get at ramifications. That doesn't happen when our time is mostly spent denying the obvious lies and distortions of The Adversary


I just don't see what you seem to--that right-wing propaganda sends this list into a paroxysm of diverted resources similar to the Star Trek episode in which Jack The Ripper is forced to compute to the last digit the value of pi.

Maybe more importantly, you seem to be under the impression that this blog would be better spent with dry scientific discussions devoid of the elements of story. I find those sorts of internet discussions to get old and uninteresting rather quickly, and that participation drops off when there's nothing on-topic going on at a particular moment. Discussion on the Cerebus list kind of trailed off when it became clear that discussion of the 2012 election was not welcome.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

What happens when we get bored with civilization and stop playing?


That's not a hypothetical question. It's happening in real time. You've got people on the left and the right voting to do intentional harm to the system because they feel any change is preferable to the current system.

Although one source of this attitude is the disgruntled old people seeing their way of life being swept away, that's not the whole story. Some of it also seems driven by what Kurt Vonnegut referred to as "living in an epilogue". He theorized that people mistakenly view their lives as stories, and that living too long in what feels like an epilogue to the story--after the main conflict has been resolved--becomes unbearable. In his view, the climax of the story of the United States was WWII, and we've been living in a epilogue ever since.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Unregulated capitalism destroys economies and societies.


Trying to run an economy on unregulated capitalism makes as much (little) sense as trying to run a car using unregulated combustion.

locumranch said...


Lloyd_F argues that "science is to a large extent a communal activity (wherein) A consensus of the relevant experts is an indication that an idea is somewhere near the truth". Perhaps in the neologic sense of 'Janitorial Science' this is so but, definition-wise, not so much:

The term 'science' refers' to a methodological activity rather than a state of being, and that which is determined by "A consensus of the relevant experts" is an established TRADITION.

Sadly, the term 'science' has been bowdlerised into a mere endorsement of Tradition. We now use the term 'science' willy-nilly to legitimise a mere consensus of opinion in order to 'make it' unquestionable. Ergo, we now talk of 'Culinary Science' rather cooking, 'Political Science' rather than politics, and 'Climate Science' rather than Climate theory.

Science as 'a thing; a state of being' is mere credentialism. whereas a scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested, in accordance with the scientific method, using a predefined protocol of observation and experiment.


Best

_____

Theory: "The successful avoidance of the danger is then taken as evidence that the danger never existed."

Analysis of theory: Presence implies proof of absence but absence cannot imply proof of presence' insomuch as the absence of a danger cannot prove that said 'avoided' danger actually existed. If you believe otherwise, I have two sticks to sell you that will prevent tiger attacks when banged together, offer valid only in areas certified to be tiger-free & void where tigers are proven to exist.

Jon S. said...

What happens when we "get tired of civilization" and stop playing?

One possibility is what happens to longtime D&D campaigns. We don't all stop playing just because the game makes it possible for the PCs to become godkilling ubermen, after all. Some of us notice that while the combat rules are elaborate, they're not all the rules in the game, and start constructing adventures that don't revolve around everyone being murder-hobos. (The original intent, after all, was that after about level 10 or so, your character would become landed gentry, with a home turf that needed both defending and tending...)

I think some folks are beginning to notice that the rules of civilization, while they do have a lot to say about cutthroat competition, can be used for other ends too - say, improving the lot of "players" on the other side of the world, which can raise our own fortunes along with theirs. And we're starting, in our own fumbling fashion, to play that part of the game as well.

Jon S. said...

Of course, some players, like loco there, still want to stay in "Chapter 3: Combat".

Probably due to all the lead in gasoline and paint when he was younger.

raito said...

LarryHart,

Re: Star Wars

The plot is a retread, though more subtle than the 'blow up the big weapon' plots. Specifically, a retread of the original Star Wars. In particular, the Jedi Master sacrifices himself to ensure the continuation of the Rebellion. And some other more minor points.

Interestingly, I found most cogent criticism of liberal Reagan-era films in a review of Prayer of the Rollerboys. It pointed out, for example, that Amerika aired only 2 years before the wall came down.

As for computer humanity, one of my favorites there is Hogan's The Two Faces of Tomorrow. Randall Winn might like it too, starting as it does with an unintended consequence. And Charlie's statement about AI's that employ dark arts finds echoes in Saberhagen's The Octagon (and SWATting, come to think of it).

And the literary Bond has as his only useful qualities his toughness and recklessness. These were specifically why he was chosen as the agent to use in Casino Royale -- none of the other double-O's would have gambled as they needed to. He's not a very good agent. Several of the novels (including Casino Royale) have him surviving solely though the intervention of others.

Steven Hammond:

I've been working my way through the Netflix version of the Marvel heroes. Though I'm really not buying a PTSD-filled Iron Fist nor zombie Meachum.

Also, the process of unearthing the origins of stories, etc., can be fascinating. At one time, I'd inherited a cassette of a folk singer giving the history of the song Gypsy Davy. A few hundred years long, and jumping across the Atlantic. Fascinating, as also a decent blueprint of how culture moves.

Dr. Brin,

As far as paid shills go, one of my favorites is Toxic Sludge Is Good For You, which is a history of public relations. Apparently, the author was contacted by the agents of the Milorganite association, because they thought the title maligned their patrons (which it did, deliberately).

As for 'correlation is not causation', the counter proposal is 'where there's smoke, there's fire'. Those who throw out science for the first do forget that 'causation causes correlation'.

Treebeard,

My, what a revelation! Some party or parties attempt to hijack culture to their own purposes! Such outrage! Geez, that's been going on since culture began. The Romans mined Greek culture. The Nazis mined Aryan and Norse culture. Te British mined their own culture (the Victorian Arthurian revival)! The Japanese extolled as ancient cultural values values that never existed in ancient times. The US mined Cowboys throughout the 50's (though as early as the Wild West shows).

Randall Winn,

I hope your corporate posting was sarcastic. There was no confusion nor naivete on the part of Citizen's United. They knew exactly which corruption they were going for. And they got it because SCOTUS used the wrong legal principle, in my opinion.

Alfred Differ,

Hacking ATC is harder than it looks, though that's mostly accidental rather than actual security precautions. In a pinch, the controllers don't even need radar, and a handoff between controllers is literally handing off a piece of paper from one to another. And it can even be done without radio, if need be. At the time I was having to learn that stuff (mid-late 90's), in order to emulate it, heavy security concerns were just starting.

raito said...

I think that the most cogent of Charlie's point is that the past has a horizon. Racism is a bit of a case in point. *I* recall the Civil Rights Movements, if not their immediate antecedents. And my elementary teachers were old maids to whom a child was just a child. Yes, it was an all-white, Midwestern, middle-class elementary school. Still, all that stuff was current and we lived it. I do remember when the first black child started at the school. While the adults were having their conversations, we were having ours. Mostly consisting of 'Does he play ball? What sports does he like?" It may be that the current crop of racists in their 30's suffer in that none of it seems relevant because none of it happened in their childhoods, and they're learning from those who never accepted those changes in the first place.

Going back a couple articles, it's plain that some people have never come in contact with the people they despise. How many of you know people for whom welfare is their sole income? I lived in that neighborhood, and I come in contact with people on substantial assistance fairly often (usually while on one of those school district committees). It's a lot harder to hate someone you know, isn't it?

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Paul: But our own host points out that leftism and restriction of freedom are not inextricable. I can't agree with the prospect that "the left wing" is all about coercion for the greater good. Murmurs of hooded group: The Greater Good. Nor does the right wing really mean it about the nanny state when it comes to, say, abortion or immigration.

So the good professor is only trying to strike a 'balance' between statism and libertarianism. Good for him, but that is not necessarily an optimum in the greater space of political possibilities, nor is it really about 'left' or 'right', which is usually understood in America today as being about either economic or cultural policy (the rhetoric of Republicans notwithstanding).

I'm all for encouraging better decisions by hacking our rather dumb midbrain subconscious mind as a replacement for blunt regulation -- it's less coercive -- but that too is a Second-Foundationist attitude unless the goals are openly and freely chosen, and the mechanisms open to inspection. And even then there will be ornery coots who hate anyone preventing their stupidity -- either a cherished one, or else on general principle.

But it would certainly be better than the current paradigm where most of the hacking-of-the-subconscious is being done for either the profit motive or for outright tyranny.

@Zepp: Of course 'corporations are the greatest threat to capitalism'. Smith could have told you that. But the system got measurably worse as soon as one little-noticed control mechanism was altered, to wit: business school paradigms. The pernicious "theory of shareholder value" was not introduced until the 1970's. Once there, however, it proceeded to free paperclip optimizers, not only from duties to people other than shareholders, but to give an excuse for even shareholders to relinquish all demands of the corporation except one: extract value.

Whether the value was extracted from production, or vampirically sucked from other companies, was irrelevant; thus the merger binge that started in the early 1980's and arguably has not ceased since.

There is no reason whatsoever that a corporation must be structured as a centralizing force of ravenous consumption. That's a choice, and it can be changed.

Looked at by Stross' description, the economy can be thought of as an ecology: creative businesses that soak up light or nutrients and yield new value; herbivores that consume this value and move about to form the life of the world, before yielding back value to scavenging companies that reuse the capital, knowledge, and experience; and carnivores that devour other companies, as 'vulture capitalists' and hedge-fund managers do. Right now we're letting giant carnivores rule the world, like a Jurassic Era of enormous dinosaurs.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Darwinian evolution works by environmental change. Make it so companies that neglect human welfare die, and you will naturally have a world moving more and more towards benevolence.

Now how do we do that? Further deponent sayeth not.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@raito: The locations of white supremacy are changing. For most of American history, the worst racism was where there were lots of minorities. Then civil rights happened and the kids actually met each other — something the old race codes worked hard to prevent. Today, racism is strongest where the minorities are *not*.

However, this may prove fleeting. Most areas have, by migration and private schooling, self-segregated again (sometimes by religion or class rather than race).

Marino said...

Re big corporations as Jurassic era dinosaurs, I remember a funny metaphorical story by a Soviet sci-fi author, Anatholy Dneprov. A group of scientists release on a small island some crablike von Neumann self-replicating devices. They evolve from small, nimble predators to one enormous crab unable vene to move. I bet it was also a metaphor for the Soviet state...

The full text is here:

http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/arvindgupta/15r.pdf


David Brin said...


Catfish raised the Unab - omber. I am almost finished reading an advanced publisher copy of Theod Joh n Kac z ynski’s new book, “The Anti-Tech Revolution, Why and How,” in which he offers both fascinating insight into the revolutionary mindset and… what I call the Tragedy of the angry, B+ student. That’s the student in class you remember — and each of us was him, on occasion(!) — who was erudite, well-read, articulate, passionate and utterly, righteously convinced that you can prove grand assertions with quotations, incantations and anecdotes. And, upon never getting the expected top grade, he's convinced the reason is conspiracy and oppression, rather than his obstinate refusal to learn tools of falsifiable hypothesis testing.

TJK does supply evidence that there are dangerous trends that get exacerbated by science and technology. Anecdotal correlations can point to hazards! And a much better scholar - Jared Diamond - provides (in “Collapse”) a stronger case that human tech-enhanced insatiability has toppled empires, before. Heck, fire and stone-tipped spears enabled us to guard goat herds that left deserts in our ancestors’ wake. And while TJK calls for 7 billion people to die - in order to resume that level of balance with nature - he doesn’t touch upon how that will only mean a slightly slower planetary death sentence.

Even Diamond is blinkered. In his pessimism, he fails to note what Toynbee did, that many civilizations innovated their way out of crisis, and that only we have risen far enough to use science to perceive and address destructive mistakes, sometimes in real time. Neither of them consider that - over time - there would be no renunciatory or low-tech stable condition. Not when future kings will see powerful advantage in resurrecting large portions of the technological state.

Of course the Fermi Paradox factors in. But so? Renunciation is not even remotely logical at offering any solutions. History shows it being tried repeatedly, with zero positive outcomes. Sure, charging forward might also be lethal. But at least it offers a chance. New kinds of wisdom, engendered by science, have ended many of the talent-wastes of the past and created error-discovery processes that might - just maybe - open new doors. The past offers us nothing.

But TJK gets interesting as he dives (for 90% of the book) into the history and theory and violent, conspiratorial revolution, speaking glowingly of methods of Lenin and Mao. Ignoring how much of those successes depended on raw luck, and parting with them on the end goal, he offers plenty of anecdote-based advice for radical rebel movements. And while it’s all anecdotal, it does certainly fill in lots of assertions and examples (while I scribbled blatant counter examples in the margins!) He earned his B+. And he earned his cell.

Twominds said...

Marino, thanks for the link.

These crabs only evolved to the lines of ever more predatory, each one for itself. If one line of small crabs would have learned cooperation, the big one wouldn't have had a chance.

I wonder, what modelling has been done on how quickly cooperation evolves? I know of some primitive programs like Daisy World, and that they became much more sophisticated, but I haven't followed it.

David Brin said...

Okay, I overcompensated far too long, reading his predictable howls in order to say: "see how I face criticism and live by my creed?" That prideful motive caused me to waste far too much precious time on someone who is not offering criticism, but just howls.

locumranch has grown simply boring. He never alters the same yammer that: "you pro-tolerance, pro-diversity guys are anti-tolerance and anti diversity!" His strawmen increasingly grow so separated from any of us that the salvoes don't even land in range of my binoculars.

Okay, a New Year's Resolution. I'll skim his first sentence. If it contains the phrase: "Attempting to paraphrase:" ... and if it is followed by a serious attempted paraphrasing of what we blatantly MEAN, and not a strawman... then I'll read sentence number two.

Otherwise, I will try to preserve my time for other exercises in reciprocal accountability.

Twominds said...

locumranch has grown simply boring.

Yes, he used to contribute to the comment pages, but no longer. A pity.


I read his comments diagonally for a while, and stopped even that. Unless an answer from another made me curious.

LarryHart said...

raito:

Re: Star Wars

The plot is a retread, though more subtle than the 'blow up the big weapon' plots. Specifically, a retread of the original Star Wars. In particular, the Jedi Master sacrifices himself to ensure the continuation of the Rebellion. And some other more minor points.


Plot elements were rehashed, but the overarching plot was not so predictable. Without spoiling too much, the scene you describe is at a different point in the story than it was in the original Star Wars, and that makes quite a difference. Because of that, it wasn't quite so apparent what Luke was up to until well into the scene.

And while some lines were repeated within the film, I didn't notice any of the worn out cliches like "I've got a bad feeling about this" or "Nooooooooooooooo!"


Interestingly, I found most cogent criticism of liberal Reagan-era films in a review of Prayer of the Rollerboys. It pointed out, for example, that Amerika aired only 2 years before the wall came down.


You're reminding me of something I haven't thought about for decades. IIRC, Amerika was mocked on my college campus for being conservative propaganda. It was the answer to anti-nuclear shows like "The Day After" which seemed to assert that we should do anything to avoid a nuclear exchange. Amerika was saying "Oh, yeah? If we give in to anything to avoid a nuclear exchange, this is what we'll get!"

The miniseries also seemed to be very badly written, and the plot seemed to be changing from one episode to the next, as if it was being edited by focus groups in real time.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

There is no reason whatsoever that a corporation must be structured as a centralizing force of ravenous consumption. That's a choice, and it can be changed.


Time to drag out the Three Laws of Corporatics again?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Catfish. There were a lot of changes in the corporate culture in the 70s and 80s, and we can probably have a lot of fun discussing which where causative and which were subsequential, but they are elements that back your assertion. For example:
The rise of the CEO to near-god status. As has been pointed out in many places at many times, this either attracted or created sociopaths. It's terrifying to think that we've put one of those creatures in the Oval Office, but Trump is a fairly good example of the stereotype: limited competence augmented by sociopathic contempt for others, the rules, or basic decency.
The rise of the efficiency managers--your paperclip augmenters. This, in turn, lead to the breaking of the social contract (the fealty, if you will) with workers. It became acceptable to put even small profits ahead of the loyalty and responsibility to workers.
The mounting mergers you've already mentioned, and exists most frightingly in our media, where 5 corporations control over 90% of our news.
It's had 40 years to metastise and ossify, and I believe it will take radical measures to dislodge it. And I say that as someone not temperamentally suited to "Unabomber solutions".

LarryHart said...

Breaking news.

I'm no supporter of Mitt Romney, but in this case, maybe "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/02/us/politics/orrin-hatch-retiring-romney-trump.html


Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced on Tuesday he will retire at the end of the year, rebuffing the pleas of President Trump to seek an eighth term and paving the way for Mitt Romney, a critic of Mr. Trump’s, to run for the seat.
...
Mr. Hatch’s decision clears the way for the political resurrection of Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee who is now a Utah resident and is popular in the Mormon-heavy state. Mr. Romney has told associates he would likely run if Mr. Hatch retires.
...
Mr. Romney repeatedly assailed the president during the 2016 campaign, calling Mr. Trump “a fraud,” and Mr. Trump returned the favor, stating that Mr. Romney “choked like a dog” in the 2012 race. The two had something of a rapprochement after the election when Mr. Romney was briefly considered as secretary of state, but White House advisers are uneasy about having such a well-known critic in the Senate.

As the president prodded Mr. Hatch to stay, voices in his home state were urging him to go. On Christmas Day, The Salt Lake Tribune named the senator “Utahn of the Year,” but not for flattering reasons.

“It would be good for Utah if Hatch, having finally caught the Great White Whale of tax reform, were to call it a career. If he doesn’t, the voters should end it for him,” the editorial concluded.
...


Zepp Jamieson said...

Yeah, Mittens is an improvement over Whorin, but gawds, what a low bar that is!

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

With a 51-49 balance in the Senate, I'll take what I can get, including a Republican who has reason to dislike Trump.

But your point is well taken. I feel like the Indians in George Carlin's bit on Indian Sergeants, "Just because they started off in Manhattan and wound up defending Santa Monica doesn't mean they were bad."

Zepp Jamieson said...

I wonder if the Dems can persuade SLC Mayor Jackie Biskupski to run. She's a relative newcomer, but very popular and has strong social democratic credentials.

Cari D. Burstein said...

I'm not sure it's all that likely that if Romney takes the senate seat he won't just knuckle under like the vast majority of other Republicans. I'd like to hope so, but most of the people standing up to the man either aren't in office, aren't up for re-election anytime soon, or don't plan to run again.

I also read that Michelle Bachman may run for Franken's seat (if God tells her to that is). Hopefully she won't win, but that'd be a pretty awful trade.

LarryHart said...

Cari D. Burstein:

I'm not sure it's all that likely that if Romney takes the senate seat he won't just knuckle under like the vast majority of other Republicans. I'd like to hope so, but most of the people standing up to the man either aren't in office, aren't up for re-election anytime soon, or don't plan to run again.


That's a valid concern, and Trump's Republican detractors do indeed have a habit of voting the party line (Jeff Flake, Susan Collins) if not turning into fawning sycophants (Lindsay Graham). I'm beginning to actually believe that Trump has Mule powers. It's the reason I've been using the hashtag #ThereAreNoGoodRepublicans .

OTOH, I'm not praising Romney as if he's a Democrat or anything like that. The fact that Trump made a point of publicly humiliating Romney might be enough to keep the guy ornery. That and the fact that Mormons, unlike Evangelicals, seem to really have religious problems with Trump. I'd rather have a Democrat, but that's not going to happen in Utah.


I also read that Michelle Bachman may run for Franken's seat (if God tells her to that is). Hopefully she won't win, but that'd be a pretty awful trade.


I think Michelle's time has passed, and I think her running would ensure a Democratic victory in Minnesota.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Since you brought up the 'smart mob' concept, I'll phrase my hopefully short response in those terms.

1. My role here helps most if I don't try so much to 'win' an argument or come out on top of a debate, but to represent a position in the argument/debate. As this is David's site and essentially his smart mob, my duty is to augment it by being one of many AND take up an undefended position.
2. My role here helps ME if I don't try so much to persuade you all, but to learn to see from others what I cannot see myself. This is relatively easy to do if I stick to #1 as a duty as I'll be exposed to many ideas and encouraged to match wits. I can try harder ways to get what I want, put I recognize that the well-marked path gets me there too.
3. The cost/benefit analysis is for each of us to make individually... and I have. I wouldn't expect others to produce identical analysis for their own cases, though.

Look a bit upthread and you'll see that David has learned something from all this. In our first roles, we've delivered whatever it was he needed. He says HE has learned something, so I don't mind the work. We shall see how things go this year.

It's not just a bunch of people being nice to each other here.

Believe me when I say I've noticed this. I take up unpopular libertarian positions, remember? I've been on the receiving end of some interesting responses. It has even been said I must have been born on a different planet if I remember right. It's just that we learn form each other and make adjustments. As time goes by we learn what each other knows and where we can reasonably treat each other as local experts. For example, some of my early, simplistic assumptions about Paul451 received a proper beating and are now broken and discarded to be replaced by other assumptions that might (maybe) stand up a little better. Same goes for ratio, you, Duncan, and many others. I KNOW most of us are doing this with respect to each other...

...except locumranch and treebeard.

Heh. In their failure, though, they are taking up an important [distasteful] position for (1). I know you've seen it a lot, but the arguments we have aren't complete without that position being represented.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | One of the most fundamental differences between the right and the left is that the left wants to fight those evils while the right wants to relabel those evils as goods.

Okay. Now I'm going to disagree with you for a while. I'll take up my duty as opposition and point out that I think you are demonizing your opponents. I get that you are tried of fighting them, but they are merely human and so are you.

Lebanon was once famous for its cedars.

Yes. There is no reason to doubt that humans who left nomadic HG life seriously altered several biomes and are continuing to do so. Life has found no way to balance us off against worthy adversaries... and then we industrialized to make it even harder. It's pretty obvious that higher order life on Earth survives if WE want it so in large enough numbers to create the coherent social institutions necessary to curb those of us who don't.

Be careful, though. You sound a bit like a supporter of the notion that we are a cancer on the world. We aren't, but even if we were you aren't going to win useful converts with that kind of talk. You'll win zealots and you've already proven you dislike that kind of shallow thinking.

I think you are making a fundamental error on this, though. You are using a ratchet as your analogy for harm done. Lost beyond hope of recovery? Nah. Check your mood and see if you've fallen into despair. If you have, you wouldn't be able to see a positive result as such. You wouldn't even look for one. Consider this... Who stripped the cedars of Lebanon? Which social class?

Alfred Differ said...

oops. onward. 8)

LarryHart said...

Today's www.electoral-vote.com tells Cari Burnstein not to worry:

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Jan03.html#item-1


...
Another consequence of a Senate win for Romney will be the likely end of Trump's agenda. Romney is a conservative Republican and will vote for lower taxes and less regulation of business, but he is also an orthodox Republican. He will not vote to build any walls or impose tariffs or hinder free markets in any way. Even if no Senate seats flip this year, Romney will vote "no" along with the 49 Democrats on any bill that isn't what establishment Republicans have always wanted, so all it will take is one other defection to sink it. In short, Hatch's plan to retire is bad news for Trump since it will almost certainly give the President a high-profile opponent with a big bullhorn.
...

LarryHart said...

oops, missed the onward!


onward!

alaa ammar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.