Saturday, January 20, 2018

Science Updates!

== We are still busy, even while sabotaged ==

Among my messages that get the most buzz, is proclaiming that we need to be militant and proud! This spectacular and near-miraculous, scientific civilization can only be defended by folks who start by admitting it's wonderful. That the incessant campaign to undermine science - and every other fact-using profession - is an existential threat... not just to our nation, civilization and survival... but to something that may even be crucial to our galaxy.

Make no mistake, among all of the fact-using professions, science is the one that most stands in the way of an oligarchic-putsch. And hence, see how "Trump has tried to restrict science almost 100 times already."

A lot more than that, since I know of many cases not listed in this daunting compilation.

In sharp contrast, see my TED-style talk where I castigated the theme song of whining Baby Boomers ("I'm mad as hell and not going to take it anymore!") and called for it to be replaced by something vastly smarter and more useful.

== Worrisome news ==

Each year a  report, titled Global Catastrophic Risks, is based on the latest scientific research, and contains contributions from leading academic experts all over the world, detailing major global risks, and provides a summary of what actions are being taken to manage them. Of course nearly all of them can be addressed by a confident, transparent and scientific civilization. Failed models like “traditional” feudalism will not work.

But danger can be stunningly beautiful! Hurricane Harvey as a ball of swirling sea salt. Hurricane Irma scooping up the sands of the Sahara. Hurricane Ophelia, bizarrely, taking smoke from Portugal and pulling it up to the coast of Ireland. A new visualization from NASA shows the hurricanes from 2017 season from a new perspective — that is, their impact on particles carried in the wind.” 

Dig it, the folks doing this are smart and know stuff.  Alas, in 2017 that makes them the enemy, at least according to those who cry: "ignore all the category 5 storms that used to be rare!"

Ah but.. The planet just had its hottest 4 years in recorded history, while confederates fiddle in denial, Earth burns.

== Ah, the future (sci fi) is here ==

Tentatively, we may have edged forward a notch in understanding the origins of life. Scripps chemists found a compound, diamidophosphate (DAP), that seems to have played a crucial role in the formation of cell-based biochemistry, allowing for the combining of three ingredients that are critical to early life forms — short nucleotide strands to store genetic information in, short amino acid chains to carry out the majority of cell work, and lipids to form cell wall structures.. It was even shown to phosphorylate simple sugars, which could have led to the creation of carbohydrates that supported the formation of early life.

And now this... Mail-order DNA CRISPR kits allow anyone to hack DNA: Some would call this the Beginning of the End and the solution to the Fermi Paradox.  In EARTH and EXISTENCE, I called such desktop gene splicers "MolecuMacs": Desktop kits will enable hobbyists... biohackers to edit bacterial DNA (for only $170 -- now on Amazon).

== Biomedicine ==

Researchers have experimented with psychedelics with more rigor lately, including LSD and psilocybin the main ingredient in magic mushrooms, which seem likely to be added to treatments for depression. After the treatment, there was less blood flow in the part of the brain that is involved in emotion processing, called the amygdala. 

Weird. Men who received blood from women who had been pregnant were more likely to have died after three years, compared to men who received blood from a male donor or from a woman who had never been pregnant. Well, I’m doing my part. I just reached my 11th donated gallon.  That’s over 40 liters, to you modern folk….

In a small study researchers found that most dyslexics had dominant round spots in both eyes - rather than in just one - leading to blurring and confusion. They discovered differences in the shape of spots deep in the eye where red, green and blue cones - responsible for colour - are located. In non-dyslexics, they found that the blue cone-free spot in one eye was round and in the other eye it was oblong or unevenly shaped, making the round one more dominant. But in dyslexic people, both eyes had the same round-shaped spot, which meant neither eye was dominant.

An Australian-made 3D-printed  titanium and polymer sternum and ribcage has successfully been implanted into a 20-year-old. The movie KickAss was prophetic.

I always suspected this: “Death just became even more scary: scientists say people are aware they’re dead because their consciousness continues to work after the body has stopped showing signs of life.  That means that, theoretically, someone may even hear their own death being announced by medics…. (T)here’s evidence to suggest that there’s a burst of brain energy as someone dies.

== In other news ==

These people have one thing in common  ... they don't exist.  These face images were generated in NVIDIA's research lab by an artificial neural network.  These people don't seem to be residents of Uncanny Valley to me.  

Unlucky dinosaurs! Scientists estimate that only 13% of the Earth’s surface would make the perfect target for the 10km asteroid that struck Earth 66million years ago. Anywhere else, and the gases and aerosols spewed into the atmosphere would likely have been a bit milder, allowed some dinos to survive the ensuing winter.

Underwater archaeologists return to excavate the Antikythera Shipwreck.

Urban quadcopter taxis will arrive soon. The software for quadcopters is very well-developed and AirBus is betting that the battery energy density is improving fast enough. Expect to see more flying taxis and services within the next few years as the technology is further developed and tested.  Especially in LA, where, until last year, all high rises had to have flat-tops and heliports.  That rule ironically ended just before this new era!

== And back to the war to save us ==

VITAL (non-Brin) Weekend reading: The most recent edition of The World Post (carried on the WP site) is one of the most important ever, compiling a dozen links about how not-helpless we are, to deal with climate change.  Hope can be more disturbing and demanding than "all-is-lost" nihilism! But in fact, we may be able to turn the corner on this, if our ship's tiller can be yanked out of the hands of rich morons.

--- EXAMPLES: "From the oil belt of California’s San Joaquin Valley, Bridget Huber reports that climate policies are not killing jobs, but creating them. Through the prism of on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs of the ironworkers’ and electrical workers’ unions in Fresno, she traces the return of robust job and wage growth to what had become a depressed economic zone. This is largely thanks to state mandates to meet requirements for renewable energy production. “Solar saved our bacon,” one veteran ironworker told her. Also contributing in a major way to high-wage employment, she reports, are the construction jobs associated with California’s massive high-speed rail project running through the region.

"Brian Barth reports from farms in eastern North Carolina where pork production giant Smithfield Foods — the largest producer of pork in the world — has rolled out efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of its meat production “According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” writes Barth, “agriculture accounts for about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, roughly the same as the combined total for electricity and heating, and well above the transportation sector, which contributes just 14 percent. Add emissions from refrigeration, shipping and other activities required to get your dinner from farm to plate, and the food system’s share of global greenhouse gases climbs to roughly a third, making it easily the most climate-unfriendly sector of the global economy.”

"Barth discusses Paul Hawken’s book “Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution,” in which the environmentalist lays out the top 100 solutions to climate change. Of these, “11 are related to food systems, seven to energy systems and none to transportation systems. Electric vehicles are #26, while ‘tree intercropping’ — planting strips of apple trees throughout a corn field, for example — is #17. The top food-related practices — reducing food waste (#3) and switching to a plant-rich diet (#4) — are largely consumer-driven solutions.” Yet Barth’s reporting suggests that farmers and producers play a crucial part in reducing emissions as well. Barth also discusses silvopasture — a “mashup of forestry and grazing” — which is the highest-ranked agricultural solution to climate change in Hawken’s analysis.

"The challenge for all these distributed cases of climate action is how to scale them up to realize the potential for massive change as the clock ticks. The political roadblocks of vested interests which always resist change aside, what has been true throughout history is that, in the end, scale and resources follow cultural commitments. That commitment will only grow deeper if society becomes more fully aware of the whole picture of what it is already doing."

First a pro-forma announcement: “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.”


Jon S. said...

On the other hand, it looks like humans might be resistant to CRISPR-style retroviral editing.

Tim H. said...

I think there's a link between carbon emissions and the economy that's not obvious,as spending power increases inefficient tech is retired earlier.

Winter7 said...

There is American government shutdown...
Waw. I am impressed ... The Democrats are fighting for the rights of undocumented students ... And they have not given an inch. Donald Trump is probably rolling on the floor, screaming with anger ... This is the beginning. Now, others will know that it is possible to resist and fight.
¡Yes! ¡This is how it is done! ¡Bravo!
Thanks to all the Democrats who made that moment of glory possible. Formidable. The Democratic congressmen said: NO.
Thank you. Thank you.

TCB said...

I just saw this item from last May, and I cannot believe we didn't hear of it sooner. It's like something out of the Onion.

President Trump Wants Gerald Ford Carriers to Use ‘Goddamned Steam’ Catapults Instead of ‘No Good’ Electromagnetic Launchers



Old Man Yells At Cloud, indeed.

Paul SB said...


You're quite right about that connection. Ratty old gas-guzzlers will be curated much longer among the poor, while more efficient (ironically therefore less expensive in the long run) cleaner technologies are adopted by those who can afford the initial cost. It was very clever making the Tesla, changing the image of electric car from one of sacrifice to one of prestige. This is a good argument for reversing not just Grope's tax deform but going all the way back Reagan's, which is where the trends turning America into a third-world country really took off (our host put up a graph a few threads back that made that very clear).

However, culture has a way of circumventing even that much progress. There are a whole lot of people out there whose idea of self-worth is very tied to the vehicles they drive. For a huge number of them, efficiency is for sissies, Real Men drive monstrous gas-guzzling abominations that sound like tanks at idle and can be used to run down those sissies who drive more sanely-sized vehicles. Then there's the permanent adolescents who insist on sports cars, their manliness expressed as speed rather than power, but fuel efficiency is equally valueless, and the rich shits driving around in their diesel Mercedes sticking their noses up at everyone else, their manly complexes contained in their wealth displays. Change is coming, but it will be much, much slower than the world will be able to tolerate, especially in the more wealthy/spoiled nations and classes.

TCB said...

Perhaps you have heard of Rolling coal, in which drivers of large diesel pickups and trucks deliberately generate clouds of black smoke.

Don't worry, guys, we already thought you were goons.

Tim H. said...

Paul, look at the bright side, this year's "Does this make me look studly enough?" car or truck will be as economical as yesteryear's sensible choice. And as you noted, electric cars are becoming desirable.
Another bit of potential savings would be to replace the old 60% efficient home furnaces and update insulation... But we likely have to wait until the .01% work out that class warfare is also war on their customers.

LarryHart said...

And here I thought I just made this one up, but I see it's already out there on twitter:


Tim H. said...

TCB, I have heard of "Rolling coal", they don't seem to have worked out that a notorious Dennis Leary song was meant as humor, not instruction.

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, that fits, the easy way to tell when he prevaricates, his lips move.

LarryHart said...


There are a whole lot of people out there whose idea of self-worth is very tied to the vehicles they drive. For a huge number of them, efficiency is for sissies, Real Men drive monstrous gas-guzzling abominations that sound like tanks at idle and can be used to run down those sissies who drive more sanely-sized vehicles.

It's been painfully clear recently that the right-wing no longer argues that a certain level of harm is necessary for economic reasons, but rather that the harm is itself the policy goal. They're actually willing to suffer an economic cost as long as they achieve the end of making liberals feel bad.

This is not something that "both sides do". Liberal policies might make conservatives feel bad, but that's not the goal. We'd be just as happy achieving equal treatment under the law and a habitable environment (to name a few) if no one cried about them.

Remember "Drill, baby, drill!". That wasn't just a call to utilize more sources of energy. The fact that land and water would be despoiled was part of the appeal.

It's like the parody of a Lee Greenwood song says:

And, I'm proud to be an American
Who gets just 5 MPG.
I live alone, but the car I own
Can seat a hundred three,

And I'll gladly park right next to you,
So when you look out, you can't see.
Oh, I'll never trade my Escelade.
God bless my SUV!

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LarryHart said...

The Donald's talent at bending people to his will, his way of seeing things, and his style in expressing himself is undoubtedly a big—and probably overlooked—part of his meteoric rise to vast political power.

Another way of saying Trump's rise is best explained by his having "Mule" powers.

LarryHart said...

Something else that "both sides" just don't do...

During the debate over the Obamacare repeal, many members of the GOP developed ninja-like skills when it came to avoiding their constituents. That included sneaking out of town halls, avoiding public events, and finding ways to surround themselves exclusively with donors and/or sycophants. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) has taken things to a new level, however, sending some of his constituents cease-and-desist letters in which they are instructed never to contact him or his office again.

The particular letter that landed this story in newspapers was sent to Stacey Lane, a Democratic activist and member of resistance group Ozark Indivisible, who is in the habit of calling her senator's office whenever a key vote comes up. Largely, she and Cotton's staff do not disagree on the sequence of events that led to the cease-and-desist: Lane called regularly, and used salty language, possibly including the word c**t. Team Cotton found her verbiage offensive, she says that it's no worse than the language the President uses.

Lane is, apparently, not the only constituent to receive such a letter. Further, the Senator also maintains an extensive do-not-call list of people who are to be disconnected if they try to reach his office. At best, this looks weaselly and cowardly. At worst, it is illegal. Cotton has a legal right to take action if he feels that he (or his staff) has been threatened, but that clearly did not happen here. He can also, in theory, take action against slanderous language, but that does not apply either. Consequently, what he appears to be doing is stifling political speech, something that he—as part of the federal government—is forbidden from doing, thanks to a minor federal code called the First Amendment. As a Republican in red Arkansas, Cotton should have a job for life if he wants it. But between this and his dubious defense of Trump during Shitholegate, he's doing just about everything he can to make things interesting. He's probably lucky that he's not up again until 2022.

Lorraine said...

Good God, David, are you trying to recruit me into PETA?

In 2013 researchers at the University of Michigan looked at the electrical signals inside the brains of nine anaesthetised rats having an induced heart attack.

Winter7 said...

David mentioned that the "DIY Bacterial Genome Engineering CRISPR Kit" is already on sale. I suppose that kit increases the danger that some people try to create intelligent animals by adding human DNA to animals. (By the way, that kit does not seem complete)
I do not think it's right to mix human DNA with animal DNA. There are two other alternatives to make animals intelligent. (I would mention it, but that information is in the X files section of my brain).
We can remember with horror, the terrible experiments of Ilya Ivanovich Ivanov. And given that the KGB does not consider Russian women as human beings with rights, but useful objects, it is easy to deduce that the KGB performs without any moral restraint experiments of hybridization of humans with animals. And worse things. Combination of insects with humans; combination of bacteria with humans. And in the future: Combination of humans with insects from the caves of Mars.
It is strange how the simplest technologies can create a very strange future.

Jon S. said...

"Then there's the permanent adolescents who insist on sports cars, their manliness expressed as speed rather than power, but fuel efficiency is equally valueless, and the rich shits driving around in their diesel Mercedes sticking their noses up at everyone else, their manly complexes contained in their wealth displays."

That's where the first model of Tesla, the Roadster, comes in. With a starting MSRP of $200,000 USD, it can do a quarter-mile in 8.8 seconds, a 0-100mph time of 4.2 seconds, and a top speed of 250 mph. It outperforms a lot of those gas-sucking speed machines, and with a maximum range on full charge of almost 600 miles, it can do it for longer. And the incredible price tag means it's about the most blatant display of excessive wealth this side of a gold-plated Lamborghini Countach.

Winter7 said...

As I said before. If the idea is to make all the humans of the planet respect the ecological balance of our world, I think it makes sense to create a utopian city that can serve as an example. A city self-sufficient in food and renewable energy. A city full of electric vehicles loaded by induction of hidden coils under the roads every certain amount of kilometers. A green city A city with zero carbon emissions.
A city where vote counting machines can not be altered by hackers. A city where medical service is free. A city where all education is free (teachers would have higher salaries than salaries of American mayors). Etc etc.
I must go to an issue. Bye!

LarryHart said...


If the idea is to make all the humans of the planet respect the ecological balance of our world, I think it makes sense to create a utopian city that can serve as an example. A city self-sufficient in food and renewable energy. A city full of electric vehicles loaded by induction of hidden coils under the roads every certain amount of kilometers. A green city A city with zero carbon emissions.

If I recall correctly, that was the original concept intended for Disney World's EPCOT center, the initials standing for "Experimental Prototype City Of Tomorrow".

solarthermal said...

Large scale-glasma gasification waste disposal which uses the elemental gases to generate electricity and the slag used for concrete. Coal-fired power plants and steel plants can use the fly ash and slag to make geopolymer cement.
Combine the two building materials to sequester CO2 into new elevated, solar-powered high-speed rail infrastructure and smooth new roads for auto-driving vehicles. Give the old roads to the Tesla delivery trucks, construction and emergency vehicles.
Use the new elevated transportation support structures to carry the new super conducting power grid and possibly other utilities.
Build dedicated retirement communities with surface area for solar power and sell the excess power to the government to offset the power grid for the local school districts needing electricity during the day. There is only 100 million empty-nesters in the US.

David Brin said...

Ah, so easy... if we retain an ambitious civilization, maybe. TCB thanks for that one about the steam catapult and "old man yells at clouds!" I'll use it.

Ilithi Dragon said...

General observation I've noted:

During much of Bush's presidency and through much of President Obama's presidency, the Democrats/left side of the aisle held dominance in the field of memes. The Republicans/right side of the aisle made many infamous attempts at generating memes that repeatedly fell flat or hilariously backfired, while the Dems/left dominated the battlefields of the MemeWar.

But at the tail end of Obama's Presidency, with the rise of Trump, the Reps/right started to gain ground, figured out meme culture, and created their own, to great success, being one of the big driving forces behind Trump's success.

It's interesting to consider. The Dems/left were definitely an earlier arrival on the tech scene/internet meme scene than the Reps/right as a whole (the philosophies of the two groups led the former to be earlier embracers of tech, etc.), but the Reps/right are surging in, and taking advantage of all the easy ways to sow confusion and disinformation.

The big-wig political leaders on the left, who I suspect have grown complacent in recent years as a lot of their job for political strategizing, etc. was carried for them by the early advantage in the meme field, are going to have to figure out how to counter that effectively, and employ real and effective political strategy if they want to see real success in the future.

It's also worth noting that the Rep leaders seem to not actually be doing that much better on the political strategy side, but rather to be capitalizing on the right's surge of success in the meme field, and I suspect are going to be complacent / incorrectly attribute their success from that.

But I might be reading the whole thing wrong.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Addendum to the above: Dems/lefters who are used to near-unrivaled dominance in meme conflict also seem to be suddenly finding themselves caught flat-footed in the face of the unexpected successful and skillful parry and riposte from the right, as I've seen an increasing number of left-sided memes fall flat or backfire.

There is also a disconnect between the two sides, and often what one side considers a great jab or solid blow is considered a compliment or running joke by the other.

LarryHart said...

@Ilithi Dragon,

Well, "The Cut Cut Cut! Act" fell short, and I suspect "Schumer shutdown" won't fare much better.

I'm not disagreeing with you in total, but it's also not like Republicans have been hitting them out of the park all the time.

I'll grant they've been successful with "Fake News", turning a description of social media accounts which largely supported Trump into a term that means "News that the president doesn't like."

I think #LugenPresident might be a slogan worth promoting.

LarryHart said...

Jon Cleese expounds on Trump's America:

"Have you noticed America's different now that Trump's in power?"

[Hysterical laughter]

Does the pope shit in the woods?

It's completely mad. And people don't want to admit how mad it is.

David Brin said...

Alas, Ilithi, your diagnosis ignores the core fundamental... that the core constituencies diverged. The right stopped even trying to make a case to the half of America that is well-educated or professional or ethnic. They ceded all of those castes and concentrated their meme development upon rousing vigorous enthusiasm among a constituency that I - for polemical and tactical reasons - have insulted as "confederate." And yes, I believe my appellation is apt in countless ways. But the core fact is division of the memic landscape.

Knowing that their constituency maxes out at 40% and more like a third of the population - (the GOP won the popular vote in just one of the last 5 presidential elections) - that one third cannot be a route to power without leverage. Much of that leverage comes from the inherent gerrymandering in the distribution of senate seats and the inherent disadvantage of concentrated urban populations. Add to that rigged gerrymandering and a dozen other cheats, and they keep squeaking by, while a majority hates them.

But the key memic effect is hate. It must be intense and tribal, in order to maintain a coalition vs all fact-using professions.

Yes, the liberals are also waging meme war. But their efforts to breach that hate wall are ineffectual. One reason I keep trying to come up with currently under-used polemics. The chief point is that their view of the tribal nature of Americans is inherently different, ecumenical and aimed at negotiation. This has made them seem weak, reinforcing the determination of their opponents to double down on tribalism.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Mail-order DNA CRISPR kits allow anyone to hack DNA: "

Did I mention my room mate Fred? Speaks seven languages fluently, sings opera, brilliant physicist.

Best dog I ever made...

TCB said...

Zepp, an early episode of Rick and Morty had a dogs-get-intelligent episode.

"Where are my testicles, Summer?"

TCB said...

(Egad, what a poorly edited episode of a sentence).

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Where are my testicles, Summer?"

I remember that one. R&M is one of the most scientifically literate shows on TV. In addition to its other features. I love it.
Brilliantly funny new show on the BBC; "Quacks" About four surgeons in the mid Victorian era. Think Blackadder with some Python thrown in.

Alfred Differ said...

@Ilithi Dragon | the Reps/right started to gain ground

I see it a little different. The regular Republican core did not, but they were so weak that the populist vultures who came to feast upon them took over. The people who gained ground are the ones who would pull the GOP to pieces and it turns out they have an interested constituency.

People forget that Ron Paul almost did in 2012 what Trump did in 2016. Ron Paul made a lot of headway in tearing into the carcass with his own set of memes.

I think what caught the Dems flat-footed was the collapse of their long-time opponent. If one pushes against a brick wall for years, one might reasonably be surprised (and fall in an embarrassing manner) when it gives way.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Then there's the permanent adolescents who insist on sports cars

Your mind was humming along on all cylinders when you wrote that paragraph.
I am quite entertained. 8)

Is it something special about 6 AM?
The only worse time for me to touch the keyboard than 'too early to be human' is when I've had too much to drink. 8)

Winter7 said...

Ilithi Dragon:
A question. Ilithi ... If Donald Trump needed one of the admirals of the fleet to do something dishonest. ¿Should the chief of naval operations have to be aware of that? ¿Can Donald give direct orders to the admiral by skipping the chain of command?

Winter7 said...

As they were talking about "Rick and Morty", I searched and found it on YouTube. I did not know that television show. ¡For the gasses of Quetzalcoatl! ¡That television show is not for children! If they eliminate scenes with sex, that television program would be suitable for the whole family. The one who writes the script for that television show is crazier than me. Interesting television series.

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
You wear a Union army hat. ¿Do you participate in those recreations of historical battles of the civil war? ¿Was that hat used during the war by one of your ancestors?

Winter7 said...

And, speaking of the North American civil war. I understand that the whole problem was caused by a strong difference of opinion on the issue of slavery. And the war began with a treacherous attack by the Confederates on Fort Sumter.
I have read on Twitter some very violent comments from the current Confederates; and I see Donald Trump adopt a rather strange attitude ... I wonder if it is possible for the Confederates to attempt a surprise coup using some army faction. I imagine that some of the generals are republicans ... If something like that happened, it would undoubtedly be something that nobody expects to happen. It would be a terrible thing to be surprised by a treasonous attack.
But if that happens and the Confederates militarily occupy Washington ... ¿What kind of government would they choose? ¿Would Pálpatin - Trump become the emperor of the first galactic empire?

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | to create a utopian city

Oftentimes illustrated
Few withstand criticism
None survive reality

Do you have a pet idea for one?
It is the classic challenge for each generation.
Can you do it better than we did? 8)

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
It is not critical. I think your hat is great. And I know that Americans recreate historical facts.

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
¿Did you think I was attacking you? No. My apologies

duncan cairncross said...

"Then there's the permanent adolescents who insist on sports cars"

Guilty as charged!

But at least "Duncan's Dubious Device" is electric

Winter7 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
¡Ho! ¡You were creating a Haiku poem! I'm really not good at poetry.

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | recreations of historical battles

Heh. That was the assumption people made... until after the 2016 election here in the US. Some still do, but it is a mix now with the real point I'm making.

Which is...if we keep this up, this is where we are going... and I already know which side I'll take.

one of your ancestors

No. My father's father came with his family from Scotland in 1928. My English mother came over after marrying my father in 1961. Like other immigrants, my father's family started at the bottom, but not in New York. My father's father was a coal miner in SW Pennsylvania until the Depression reduced them to living off the little money my aunt made as someone's domestic servant.

I know a few people who have family trees that go much further back here, but most Americans are quite recent additions in the historical sense.

As for the history of our war, it is complicated. I would recommend watching Ken Burn's PBS series on it. It is an old rift in our nation that still exists and even with recent immigrants, it pulls families apart. If we ever do start fighting each other with guns again, I'm pretty sure my extended family would not agree on what to do.

As for Trump doing something stupid, a dark part of my soul looks forward to it. There is one thing he could try that would be both disastrous and ensure our military did not split evenly or sit on the sideline. When the sun comes up, of course, I sincerely hope such a thing does not occur.

As for a coup, that is so unlikely as to be laughable. Someone could try, I suppose, but far too many Americans are armed for it to work. We have an attitude about being ruled. The fool who tried would be plugged full of lead in short order. It would take a truly massive army to keep the fool alive.

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ
Brin mentions that a new civil war has already begun. Maybe it's a cold war now. But over time, perhaps some factions will initiate armed attacks. The democrats would not do it. It is obvious. Hence, if a war begins, the first attack will probably come from the Republican side. I see a lot of division in the United States. But if the army remains neutral, everything will be fine.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | Not Haiku, but I was going for something other than prose. The worst grade I got in college was for my second English class. It was taught by a poet who thought I couldn't write and had a poor vocabulary. I (of course) did not agree. Years later, though, I began to see his point and eventually agreed. I'm no match for one of my sisters, but I can see that particular flaw, thus I can do something about it.

Haiku has a 5/7/5 structure if I remember right. I went for 7/7/7 with a many-to-none flow. No doubt my old English teacher would still mark me down with a comment that I sound more like a math geek than anything else. He'd be right. 8)

One of the great things about getting older is that no one grades me anymore.
Eventually I learned they never did.

Alfred Differ said...


I bought the blue kepi at our host's suggestion.
He has a lot to say about the phases of our Civil War if you read deeper into this site.
I don't agree with all of it, but I think he's close enough to justify people paying attention to his concerns.

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ
Then you are Catholic. (Your family comes from Scotland) And I suppose Duncan Cairncross is also Catholic, because he claims to be from Scotland.
However, I guess everyone here does not really take religion very seriously. But I suppose it is always possible to unify religious beliefs and science. I believe more in science. But I guess everyone should have different ideas about it.

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
A war against another country is something bearable. But a civil war is the worst type of war that exists, because it is very difficult to survive in that kind of war. In a civil war, it is very difficult to know who to trust and who not to trust. I guess most of the population would prefer to remain neutral. And maybe that's convenient. But the Confederates, who are very aggressive by nature, would undoubtedly organize more numerous militias. (but that would only happen in the event that the Confederates decided to support a mad coup d'état led by Donald Trump)

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Winter
I'm sorry your knowledge of Scottish history is sadly lacking!

The Lowland Scots became "Protestant" - Calvin, John Knox - very early on (1500s) and fought wars against people trying to mess with their religion

Look up "The Covenanters" for a typically bloody minded lot

The Highlands stayed Catholic - which is where we get the damn stupid Jacobians - but they were never any more than an annoying minority

At the moment you will find that Scotland is as agnostic as most places in Europe

It says something about the Scots that the chief official of the Scottish Kirk is called "The Moderator"

Jon S. said...

Winter, the one thing that keeps me from fearing a coup is that I know the Oath of Enlistment for the Armed Forces (having taken it myself in '86), and I know that the vast majority of personnel, both enlisted and commissioned officers, take it very seriously.

One's allegiance is sworn, not to a flag, not to a political office, not even to the Republic, but to the Constitution of the United States. Further, the Oath of Enlistment calls upon one to obey the lawful orders of one's superiors; in Air Force basic training, at least, we received an entire class on what exactly that meant, and what to do if given an order we believed to be unlawful. (While I'm not as familiar with the oath officers take, the form I was able to find online doesn't even include the part about obeying orders. Rather, it calls upon the officer to "well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office".)

The President of the United States is at the top of the chain of command - but, unlike many other nations, his authority is superseded by that of the Constitution, and of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The President can issue certain, shall we say, unethical orders, such as ordering a rear admiral to lie to the press about the results of his annual physical, but when he issues an unlawful order, such as, say, deploying the Army to ensure only certain people are allowed to vote, it's expected that such an order would be disobeyed. (That's why the USSTRATCOM commander was willing to go on record as saying that any order to launch a nuclear first strike against a minor foe like the DPRK would be unlawful, and he would not follow it.)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

No doubt my old English teacher would still mark me down with a comment that I sound more like a math geek than anything else. He'd be right. 8)

My high school poetry text book tried to make a point that poetry required more than form (rhyme and meter)--that there is a quality to the words themselves that are different from prose.

In order to illustrate the point, the book went so far as to imagine a physics text written in rhyme and meter, and tried to argue that, despite this, what came out wasn't poetry because the words simply related dry fact. I'm not sure that the poetry book succeeded in its argument, because most of us students thought this did constitute a poem.

And hence, no force, however great,
Can draw a cord, however fine,
Into a horizontal line
Which shall be absolutely straight.

I suppose it means something that I can still quote the poem 41 years later.

Zepp Jamieson said...

R&M isn't meant for children, is it? There's no shortage of programming for eight year olds and bible bangers on American television, and it's refreshing when shows for grown-ups come along.

Zepp Jamieson said...

The Air Force might be capable of treason against the United States, hagridden with Dominionists in the officer corps like it is. The Army, Navy and Marines are less of a threat.
A Confederate regime would be falangist in nature: Christian/fascist.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Winter7, I think you're a wee bit out of date regarding Scotland. Less than 16% of the population are RC, and only 53% are Christian of any sort. Over a third (36.7%) have no religious affiliation at all.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Duncan wrote: "It says something about the Scots that the chief official of the Scottish Kirk is called "The Moderator" "

It also says something about the Scots that the preferred mode of attire regarding the kilt is "Regimental".

Paul SB said...


6 am has always been among my more creative times of day. I'm not sure I would go so far as to count myself lucid at any other time of day, for that matter. No one else in my family is awake yet, and at that hour most likely my somewhat OCD frontal lobes haven't quite fully energized, so a little bit more creativity seeps through. I wonder if anyone else here has a similar experience.

As far as city planning goes, we have been doing it for quite a while now, and the world is a much better place for it. Reading about the Bronze Age town called Akrotiri on the island of Santorini, one of the excavators pointed out how none of the streets are straight, the houses seem to be placed randomly. That works out to help break up the winds on a very windy island, and since the fastest technology of the times was horse-drawn wagon, speed wasn't much of an issue. Washington DC, on the other hand, was planned out to have a straight grid of roads, long before the invention of the automobile. But even then, the wagon and buggy traffic could get pretty intense, and random, crooked roads would have snarled city traffic so badly the city would not have been able to grow. There are scalar effects that make failing to plan disastrous.

Sure, we all know about the Law of Unintended Consequences. But does accepting the fact that we can never know absolutely everything mean we should never plan absolutely anything? Let's see that skyscraper go up without an initial plan for what it should look like. City planning is like science, we start with some knowledge, try things out, sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, and we learn from the experience either way. Knowledge is additive. If we refuse to plan and just let everything happen at random, we would still be living in grass huts, but with billions of starving people because we never planned to plant crops that we couldn't harvest for several months. Bummer, dude. : /

LarryHart said...

Congress belatedly answers a question I've been asking rhetorically all week (emphasis mine) :

This is obviously a situation in which the self-proclaimed greatest dealmaker of all time could be meeting with Democrats and Republicans and making great deals, but he is basically missing in action. Reportedly, Donald Trump had a deal in place with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and on very favorable terms to the Republicans, but then the President backtracked. At this point, the members of Congress have begun to accept that they are better off figuring things out themselves. "I just don't think it helps for him to be involved at all," said Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Meanwhile, there is no question that the shutdown represents a massive failure on the part of the President. At least, there is no question in the mind of the man who, during the last shutdown in 2013, said this: "A shutdown falls on the President's lack of leadership. He can't even control his party and get people together in a room. A shutdown means the President is weak." The speaker, of course, was Donald Trump, who was (naturally) sitting for an interview with Fox News at the time.

occam's comic said...


What Would A Russian Puppet Do?

Would he try to take health care away from millions of Americans?

Would he decimate the state department?

Would he try to bankrupt the country by increasing the national debt by trillions?

Would he constantly pit one group of Americans against another?

Ask your conservative friends and relatives WWARPD?

Is Trump's behavior consistent with WWARPD?

Ilithi Dragon said...


Just as the captain of the ship can come down to the torpedo room and give me orders directly, so, too, can the president technically go to any member of the armed forces and issue them a direct order. It rarely works that way, though. The chain of command exists for many reasons, mostly because it's the most effective way of doing things, but also because it's damn convenient. CO issues orders to the XO, issues orders to the COB/Department Heads/department chiefs, issues orders to the Division officers / division chief's on down the line. President issues orders to the secretary of state / defense issues orders to the secretary of the Navy issues orders to the joint chief's / CNO and MCPON, etc. Some of this steps might be skipped here and there, but it's rare that the top talks directly to the bottom, and skipping the chain of command (in either direction) is heavily frowned upon.

LarryHart said...

occam's comic:

What Would A Russian Puppet Do?
Ask your conservative friends and relatives WWARPD?

That might work for friends and relatives who genuinely care about the integrity of American democracy. It won't work for Putin-worshipers for whom the end justifies the means of promoting authoritarian oligarchy.

Consider an analogous case--religious Jews and Christians who like Netenyahu and his right-wing rule in Israel. They'd probably favorably view someone in this country working as an agent (or puppet if you prefer) for Israel's interests over our own. Likewise, the only problem Trump supporters have with his portrayal as a puppet of Russia is that it looks bad when you point it out. Their reaction is to punish (investigate) the messenger of such information rather than to consider the consequences of the message.

David Brin said...

WWARPD includes many things seldom mentioned. Sure, some mention sabotaging science and the ability of any fact-profession to be believed. But others don't make the news much:

- demolishing our alliances

- hobbling our intel services from recruitment of overseas contacts by verbally destroying America's moral high ground. (MHG was our chief intel asset in the Cold War, helping to make up for superior Soviet spycraft.)

- aiming our space efforts at the Moon, where there are no prospects of accessing any resources that might threaten the interests of oligarchs, leading to a "joint mission" down the road that gives away all our technology.

- Run up to a war that will boost oil prices while giving the WWARPD sponsor every advantaged outcome.

- Brain drain every federal department , not just State. But especially the IRS, devastating its audit and enforcement and accountability departments.

Oh... how I could go on. Shorthand for WWARPD is "Siberian Candidate."


Winter 7, more Scots are traditionally Presbyterians, though today highly secularized. In any event, here is a link to my article about “pahses of the US Civil War.

Just to show you guys that I do scan around and deliberately visit sites that are (ahem) “outside my comfort zone,” here’s a far-right blog (that did mention me) that - for all its loathsomeness, offers up some perspective that made me blink a couple of times.

Learn, even from your enemies.

occam's comic said...

Larry -
That might work for friends and relatives who genuinely care about the integrity of American democracy"

I am pretty sure that is true most republicans (elected republicans - not so much.)

Trump come out with a new atrocity every week, so keep asking the question over and over until your republican friends and family start asking that question themselves.

Would A Russian Puppet want a government shutdown? (this weeks variation on the question)

I am telling you, once you start asking that question, Trumps behavior makes total sense.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

Not knowing anything about the blogger, I wouldn't have called that a particularly far-right blog post. The most right-leaning thing I found there was the headline of a different post called "How Being Not Politically Correct Has Helped Trump Beat The Opposition". And the t-shirt pictured with "Thoughts and Prayers" crossed out would have made me think he was more of a leftist, as do these comments at the end:

Wasting a nation’s resources on military adventurism such as George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq does nothing but waste resources.

Iran, North Korea and The Soviet Union towards its end have far more in common than they do with The Fremen of Paul Maud’dib on Arrakis. The romantic dream of a punisher arising from the wastes to flay the decadent rot of The Evil Empire is exactly that. It is a dream. It is a wish fulfillment. Our path out of our current decadent rot cannot be correct as simply as being conquered and put under proper Sharia by some heroic barbarian from days of yore.

LarryHart said...

Speaking of Dune, I never noticed until after 9/11 that one of Paul's nicknames was Usul, which translated to "The base of a pillar". Which in real-life translates into Arabic as al-Qaeda.

Winter7 said...

Ilithi Dragon:
Thank you. Then, it is possible that the president speaks directly with the admirals, to give orders. That explains why a terrible incident happened recently. (I know you are not aware of a certain incident that occurred, and I would explain the details of that incident, but I do not want to be persecuted by Jason Bourne's former colleagues the rest of the month.
I thought you would change the subject, but you said the truth. Thank you. ¡Well, we need to know the truth!

Winter7 said...

Paul SB:
¡Yes! Exactly. The only option is to try to improve everything. No choice. Well, if we who are honest do not build a better world, we will be leaving the way free to the villains.
My strange cold continues, which could explain my offensive mistakes in my words. At least, the migraine has disappeared. I hope my flu is not really a zombie virus; created by the Republicans.

Winter7 said...

Jon S:
I live in Mexico, I know that when the top political leaders create a culture and politics based on corruption, after a certain time, nobody respects the oaths. No one. And the process of state decomposition has begun in the US government, faster than I expected. It is only a matter of time before the sacred oaths are seen as an ornament and not a rule. This is the case in my country. When I was a teenager, I did not know that. And when someone from the oligarchy proudly told me the truth, I did not believe him. That was not possible! That went against what all of us in the town knew. But over time, I was able to find the truth in the most difficult way.

Winter7 said...

Zepp Jamieson:
¡Hoo! So, R & M is like Family Guy. A cartoon television series for adults. By the way. Since you have seen more Family Guy TV shows, maybe you know if Seth MacFarlane is a Republican. ¿It is?.

Winter7 said...

David Brin:
Yes. We must take what is useful even from the most unsuspected places. We should only be careful to know how to select carefully, when searching in sinister places
It has occurred to me that the US Navy may be more interested in participating in the colonization of the asteroids if we talk about how convenient it would be for American naval forces to obtain those gigantic deposits of titanium in the asteroids.
Currently, only the Russians have abundant deposits of titanium, for that reason, the Americans build submarines of steel alloys. As a result, Russian submarines can submerge at great depths and Americans can not.

Winter7 said...

I suppose Frank Herbert did not intend to be a moral guide for human civilization (I suppose). I think Herbert's goal was simply to create adventure stories. And the fact that he was in Egypt when writing Dune, was undoubtedly what influenced the ingredients that Frank chose to cook the "stew".
¡Ray! A relative wants me to help repair something. Which means making room for repair. I will have to mobilize many things and put them safely. It seems like it's going to rain. Sometimes I get the impression that it is the family that decides most of what people do with their time of life.
I think I'll leave the internet for a while.

LarryHart said...


I wasn't accusing Frank Herbert of anything more than being prescient about the kind of name a populist Arab might use.

Zepp Jamieson said...

According to Hollowverse, Seth MacFarland "like most American atheists, [is] forced to choose between two and only two parties, MacFarlane is a Democrat. He’s given over $92,000 to the Democratic Party and Democrat-associated special interest groups."

TCB said...

Seth MacFarlane also was the prime mover of the new version of Cosmos, the original miniseries having been done by Carl Sagan. In modern context, that is as far from Republican as you can get.

Incidentally, Winter7, no man who exclaims ¡For the gasses of Quetzalcoatl! is entirely lacking in poetry.

And yes, Rick and Morty is one of a number of cartoons not intended for children; animation makes it easy to explore adult themes without being 'taken seriously', and also makes it easy to portray all manner of fantastical and science-fictional events without a huge budget. R&M is very intelligently written (and VERY bleak!) and I can think of some other animated shows that also very smart.

For example, there was (for a year or so) The Drinky Crow Show.

The episode about the Well of the Gods still cracks me up. Insane but also ridiculously clever (or at least that's what my monkey brain tells me).

Alfred Differ said...

@Winter7 | I figured I’d let the others speak to the religious history of Scotland. Turns out you are close, though. My father’s family was/is Catholic, but they aren’t recently from the Highlands as far as I know. The portion of the family born in Scotland before emigration remained Catholic. The portion born in the US… not so much. My father was the last child and a bit of a black sheep. He kept his distance from all things religious and once he was an adult made it permanent by marrying my mother who kept a much larger distance for them and their children. The one exception was for me. The way the story was told to me is my father’s mother’s dying wish was that I at least be baptized. My parents gave in on that one, so I was but my siblings weren’t. Whatever the Catholic tradition is for that was tolerated by my parents and then that was the end of that.

Whenever you think of immigrants to the US, there is a decent chance this kind of thing happens as they are assimilated. The original immigrants might display the cultural norms of their original homeland, but their children are less likely to do it. Sometimes, they are MUCH less likely. The exception to this rule… is Mexico. Immigrants who cross northward are likely to retain cultural behaviors into the next generation and the next and this really irritates some of our people who demand assimilation/Americanization. Pfft. Tough cookies I say.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I quite agree that there is more to poetry than form. Even if I can’t produce it easily in English, I know when I see it to some degree. I feel the same way about music, art, dance, and all that. There are different kinds of communication that once abstracted are common across the expressive media involved.

Physics is mostly prose, but I’ve seen it in poetic form. One has to be fluent in mathematics to have a chance to see the high art involved. When we speak of ‘beautiful’ theories, we hint at a numinous experience.

Prose isn’t enough, but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that our reaction to poetry has a prosaic origin related to ease of construction of memories. Your quote probably supports that. 8)

TCB said...

By the way, I heard a radio segment once about an organization which conducts DNA tests upon bodies found in the desert along the border with Mexico, to identify people who died (often of thirst and heat) while attempting to cross into the United States. When possible, they contact relatives back in Mexico (or other countries farther south) to let families know what became of their relative who was never heard from again.

The thing that struck me was that in a very large percentage of cases, those who could be identified were at least partly Indian in ancestry. These are the descendants of the people who first walked into the Americas through Beringia more than 13,000 years ago. Until the last couple of centuries there was no border, no imaginary line that was illegal to walk across. And the land was theirs until it was stolen at sword and gun point by Europeans. Now, in North and South of the border alike, Indian people are the conquered and marginalized, poor and landless, and in years past have come North to find opportunity and escape the corruption and persecution back home. Very few people leave home for no reason at all!

What I find most infuriating is that, if someone in Honduras or Guatemala, for example, tries to organize and form unions or resist corruption and tyranny by the wealthy few, they may be arrested, even killed, by police, soldiers, and military who got money, weapons, and training from the United States. And who, in the United States, supports and votes for this support of tyranny? Why, it is the same far-right corruptors who demand a border wall and want to deport all the 'illegals'.

If such corruption were rooted out from the United States, would that mean it would then be easier for people in Latin America to root out their own corruption? Well, it sure wouldn't make it any harder.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Prose isn’t enough, but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that our reaction to poetry has a prosaic origin related to ease of construction of memories. Your quote probably supports that. 8)

We've all heard that people who lose the ability to speak words because of a stroke or something like that can be taught to sing intelligibly instead, because singing comes from a different part of the brain. Dr Brin even used that as a plot point in one of the Uplift books. Well, I suspect that poetry comes more from the musical part of the brain than from the sentence-speaking part.

I have very clear memories of my high school junior year English course 41 years ago (my daughter just happens to be the age that I was that year). That term's poetry unit is when the penny dropped and I first understood that poetry was not just sentences and stories set to rhyme and meter. Before that year, I'd have said I didn't particularly like poetry, although what I really would have meant was that I didn't see the point of it. My opinion completely changed that year, and never went back.

In addition to that silly physics thing above, I remember that we did "Ozymandias", and the one about "Some say the world will die in fire / Some say in ice. I particularly became enthralled by the Andrew Marvell poem called "To His Coy Mistress". In deference to Dr Brin and the rest of you, I won't fill up the blog comments with the whole thing, but I could if I felt like it without looking up a word. It's not just something I know now--it's something I am.

gator said...

Re the Amerika blog. The author doesn't seem to understand either Dune or Iran. 75% of the population is urban! The whole country is NOT one big desert.

Look at some of the other articles on that site. They describe themselves as "Ult-Right" which means they believe in a hereditary monarchy sitting on top of a caste system. Lot's of talk about how "the Left" always fails. Doesn't seem super relevant.

Zepp Jamieson said...

He's also the face and mind of "The Orville" which does a good job of capturing the liberal and idealistic sensibilities of the original Star Trek series.
Animation isn't just home to some of the finest and biting satire around, but some of the finest drama. Sometimes simultaneously.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Does anyone believe the Republicans will have an open debate and up-or-down vote on DACA before February 8th?

LarryHart said...


Look at some of the other articles on that site. They describe themselves as "Ult-Right" which means they believe in a hereditary monarchy sitting on top of a caste system

Once I poked around, I could see that the guy is usually a right-winger, but that particular post didn't seem to make that point.

Zepp Jamieson:

Does anyone believe the Republicans will have an open debate and up-or-down vote on DACA before February 8th?

The Senate could easily do so, knowing the House wouldn't vote on the measure. That was the same kind of "promise" not to touch Medicare that Susan Collins hid behind in order to switch her vote for the tax break.

But I was angry at Susan Collins because she had a chance to make a difference, and she threw it away for an empty promise. I don't see Senate Democrats in that same position. They aren't in a situation to make a difference if the Republican majorities hold firm against DACA. Probably the best Schumer could do is to force them to make their intransigence plain, and let the voters decide come November. Blaming and then punishing minority Democrats for not doing enough is like a stand-up comedian yelling at his audience because so few of them showed up. He's taking it out on exactly the wrong people.

Jon S. said...

"...the one about 'Some say the world will die in fire / Some say in ice.'"
Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice". I once got a B in English 101 for a comparison/contrast essay of Frost's poem "Fire and Ice" and Pat Benatar's song "Fire and Ice". The instructor put that topic in as a joke; he never thought anyone would take him up on it... :)

"I particularly became enthralled by the Andrew Marvell poem called 'To His Coy Mistress'."
Which (speaking of poetry and physics) gave the form to Michael Bishop's poem "For the Lady of a Physicist", a poem that was originally intended as a parody of Marvell using Hawking's theory of black hole radiation as a basis. It turned out to be pretty good as a serious poem in its own right, though.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB| Heh. 6 AM has never been my time to be anything more than semi-human if I have to be awake, but I'm familiar with being able to do different things depending on which parts of me are fully awake. Productivity vanishes after a meal, but I can still process the inbox. For the kind of work I like to do, though, I need the OCD lobes and lately that means mostly after dinner until about 1 AM.

It is easy to confuse the usefulness of personal planning and even city layout planning with the uselessness and dangers of social planning. (Here I would prefer to use a narrower definition for 'to plan.') My first experience with the importance of city planning came in a history class where they showed how some European cities changed once defenders needed to move cannons around. The outer walls changed in obvious ways, but the streets had to change too. Growing up on military bases gave another lesson on internal movement ease and traffic control at a boundary. Later years growing up in Vegas I could see the Mormon street plan copied from Salt Lake City where wide streets double as planned flood paths to spare all the other structures. Such planning is important and backed up by decades or centuries of experience. Social planning has a much worse track record, but I don't think I have to convince you of that.

Knowledge is additive.

It is also subtractive and it takes great courage to cut away what did not work. That courage is easier to find when the additions are small and watched as if they might become tumors. Plan as best we can to ensure they are benevolent and I'll pay attention. Include in the plan the actions to take if they prove malignant and I'll likely smile and offer support.

One can never know everything needed in advance short of godhood. I'm not a believer even though that is the path we collectively walk. As long as it remains collective and we take many small, uncoordinated steps, I'll help and see where it goes. Anyone who claims to be able to see the path, though, gets a derisive snort from me. 8)

TCB said...

LarryHart said: "Blaming and then punishing minority Democrats for not doing enough is like a stand-up comedian yelling at his audience because so few of them showed up. He's taking it out on exactly the wrong people."

I get the sense that many Republicans WANT to keep the Dems where they are, more or less for that very use. They get the benefits of a de facto one-party dictatorship (much of the time, anyway) while still having someone to blame. A Goldstein Party, if you will.

TCB said...

@ ALfred Differ, I think social planning is much more common than you may be inclined to think; it simply isn't labeled as such. All religious texts, with their shalts and shalt nots, are attempts to engineer a particular sort of society (if only to buttress its status quo).

The sort of social engineering we hear about, with Five Year Plans and so forth, is overt and frank, and thus its failings are also overt and frank. The creeping and half-improvised kind of social engineering goes unnoticed because, like fish in water, we're already swimming in it.

Paul SB said...


I think TCB said it very well, but there is still more to think about.

"Anyone who claims to be able to see the path, though, gets a derisive snort from me. 8)"
- Some of them need more than a derisive snort. Some of them need Mussolini's meathook. Many of those are in Congress today, to say nothing of pulpits and corner offices all over the nation.

That being said, sometimes radical action is necessary. Other times it becomes a tragic mistake. The only way we learn the difference is by trying.

Knowledge is also subtractive, but huge numbers of people refuse to subtract. The kind of "Wild West" mentality that colonized the continent should have been subtracted by 1900, but we're still dealing with it.

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

"...the one about 'Some say the world will die in fire / Some say in ice.'"

Robert Frost's "Fire and Ice". I once got a B in English 101 for a comparison/contrast essay of Frost's poem "Fire and Ice" and Pat Benatar's song "Fire and Ice". The instructor put that topic in as a joke; he never thought anyone would take him up on it... :)

It may sound like a joke, but I seriously ascribed my proficiency in high school English and vocabulary to Marvel Comics. We covered both "Fire and Ice" and Shelley's "Ozymandias" at just about the time that I acquired back issues of Avengers which incorporated both poems into the story. The same thing happened in other years with "Xanadu" and "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came". Enemy action?

Also, when I started reading Shakespeare in high school, I was amazed at how many times I thought, "So that's where that Batman line came from!"

LarryHart said...

...also, "So that's where that Star Trek came from!"

Paul SB said...

Alfred (again),

Your reference to Five Year Plans does place your generation pretty well. This isn't the Cold War, and most people who have some wits about them got the lessons of the era. That doesn't making planning, even by government, an evil thing. You live in Ventura, I'm in the San Gabriel Valley, our host in the San Diego area. We have seen the effects of climate change on the number and intensity of wildfires, and the annual tragedies they cause. You would think people would look at all those wooden homes and go, "Duh!" but hardly anyone does. They just build and buy what everyone else is building and buying. There are fireproof alternatives. The problem with them is mostly obscurity. Not only do home-buyers and construction companies know nothing about them, but local offices that issue building permits don't either. If a smart person does know about one of these systems and wants to build one, they aren't likely to get permission to do so.

So here's the plan: build s few demonstration models in places that have recently burned and advertise them widely. Let people tour them and show them the benefits. Then budget some money to teach the engineering bureaucrats how to evaluate their safety so people can get them permitted. The few construction companies that know how to build these things will probably get a whole lot more business when intelligent people start to see this as an alternative to watching their house burn to the ground, and the market will handle the transition. Sure, we don't know every bad thing that could happen. My guess for worst-case scenario is that some people will confuse the idea of a fireproof building with a fireproof anatomy and not evacuate, baking in their nice fireproof homes. That might happen once and the news will get around. Planning does not automatically mean planning like Mao Zedong.

David S said...

I often feel that politics is just playing iterative prisoner dilemma games (or iterative ultimatum games). The best long term strategy is for both to cooperate. Unfortunately, the democrats seem to play "always cooperate" and the republicans have realized this so they play "always defect".

So from a game-theory perspective, how to get back to cooperate-cooperate?

Does the tit-for-tat strategy suggest that the democrats should defect?

LarryHart said...

@David S,

I think there's a difference between politics and prisoner's-dilemma because it depends on what "winning" looks like. There are two separate games being played simultaneously: The contest for votes/seats and the contest for policy. The outcome of the former helps with the latter, but the games are not identical. Republicans are playing the game for votes/seats, and seem to think of policy as an afterthought--something they have to win every so often to please their donors--but winning elections is their most significant goal. Democrats are playing the game with the goal of governing America.

I acknowledge that my bias is showing, but I believe that to be the case.

It's not sufficient to ask whether the Democrats should play the Republican's game to win it. One must also consider whether winning that game would satisfy their own goals. Dems essentially did win the Republican's own game with Bill Clinton, but that led to a voter attitude of "There's no difference between R's and D's", which led to losses in 2000 and 2016.

sociotard said...

Australian birds know how to spread fires to drive prey out. Evidently, this was already known in Aboriginal lore, but now we have video evidence of it happening.

matthew said...

The Dems got 6-year CHIP funding by threatening a shutdown through the Senate filibuster. They "caved" and allowed a 3-week period to have a debate on the Dreamers. What the Left and immigration activists seem to forget is that the Republicans will need Democratic votes again in three weeks to pass either a budget or a continuing resolution. If Ryan / McConnell refuse to allow a clean DACA (or even a reasonably dirty one), then the government shuts down again.

Chuck Schumer is playing the game to win both hostage negotiations - DACA and CHIP. He's letting the "We are running for President in 2020" crowd set their bona fides in order for the race by being the firebrands on DACA, while also allowing cover for the five Senators that are running in races in 2018 in states that Trump won (these Senators are not playing a smart game, btw - they should be trying to energize the Left, not playing to the middle, but, sigh, you can lead a horse to water...) I predict the Dems *will* shut down the government again in early Feb. and this time explicitly for the Dreamers.

We'll see how polling on this plays out in the next three weeks.

LarryHart said...


What the Left and immigration activists seem to forget is that the Republicans will need Democratic votes again in three weeks to pass either a budget or a continuing resolution.

What they also seem to forget is that Republicans are for government shutdowns. They just don't want the blame for them. The best Schumer was able to do was embarrass the Republicans by making it clear they don't know how to govern. An extended shutdown would not have gained concessions from them--in fact, it would probably backfire as Dems would take the blame.

Chuck Schumer is playing the game to win both hostage negotiations - DACA and CHIP.

The thing is, most voters are in favor of both of those things. Republicans in congress therefore can't be too openly against them. The shutdown battles at least point out who is on which side of those issues. Republicans eventually will have to pass something, not to keep the government from shutting down, but to keep from being replaced by Democrats in 2018.

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

Those of my paternal line that claim to come from Scotland stayed Catholic. Thus my hate-filled grandmother's dislike of my mother (who isn't). Oddly enough, my mother (a Bohemian) was Presbyterian.

One other thing that may happen with immigration is that the immigrants hold onto traditions long after the mother country has given them up. A friend's Norwegian relatives find it quaint that the US Norskes have anything at all to do with lutefisk. Apparently, Norway embraced refrigerators and non-alkali-based preservations of food.

As for assimilation, I'm for it to the point where the law is followed and strife is reduced. One friend of mine had to (several times as a policeman) return 12 year old girls to their families, and explain that in this country, you are not allowed to sell a human being. This naturally caused problems if the payment wasn't returned.

Dr. Brin,

As for oil, no mention of the solar panel tariffs? One other fact from elsewhere (that I have not verified)... The record DOW does seem to mean less if you take into account that the its % rise in Trumps' first year is less than its rise in Obama's first year. Something like 28 vs. 33.


Let's not forget the social planning built into the US tax system. Want people to own homes? Allow them to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes (oh, wait...)

Paul SB<

I think you may have meant Manifest Destiny mentality.

LarryHart said...

Shutdowns have never “been an effective way to pressure the other side into concessions,” the longtime political reporter Ron Brownstein tweeted yesterday. “If anyone should recognize that it’s Democrats who watched R’s flail and fail to move Clinton & Obama.”

Cathleen Decker of The Los Angeles Times put it this way: “In all the anger coming from liberal Dem groups today,” she wrote that she had “yet to see a scenario under which a longer shutdown would have resulted in a more positive outcome from their point of view.”

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ; Paul SB:
You are right in saying that it would be very difficult for me to succeed in creating a perfect civilization. Because to achieve this, we would first have to modify the brains of all human beings in order to diminish the tendency towards the evil that we all have. But I do not think anyone agrees with that, (me either) so ... It will have to be another solution to political problems. There are many other possibilities; but there is no doubt that these other options will not be to the liking of many. Let's hope that humanity has time to experience different kinds of new varieties of democracies; Otherwise, if the oligarchs take humanity to a point of extinction, it may be necessary to fix the problem in some unconventional way. Or worse: It would be necessary to apply conventional solutions. (By unconventional solution, I mean less painful solutions).
I believe that, in order to achieve perfect democracy, we will first have to answer some questions that nobody asks: ¿Is it possible to impose true democracy by force? ¿continually?; ¿What could eternally keep democracy away from the hands of power groups?
If those questions can not be answered, then humanity may have to make more difficult decisions.

Winter7 said...

TCB; Zepp Jamieson:
¡So, Seth MacFarland is a good person! ¡That is magnificent!; Because I like your television series. A lot.
The fact that MacFarland supports the continuity of the television series Cosmos, indicates that he supports science, which means that he is interested in getting young people to become intelligent people. And that is important.
¡Hooo! And, if I'm not mistaken, "MacFarland" is Scottish surname. Which indicates that Seth MacFarland is a distant relative of Alfred Differ and Duncan Cairncross.

Winter7 said...
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Winter7 said...
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occam's comic said...

This is interesting
"A new Pew Research Center survey shows that the divide between Democrats and Republicans regarding their support for Israel over the Palestinians is at its largest in the past four decades.

The report shows that while 79 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel, only 27 percent of Democrats do. "

This may spell the end of the "special" relationship between the US and Israel.

I think that Netanyahu and the Likud party have pissed off enough democrats that maybe we can stop providing them with military, diplomatic and economic help when democrats get back in office. (Democrats should do public financing of elections first ;-)

sociotard said...

A Saudi Arabia beauty pageant kicked off a dozen contestants suspected of using Botox.

This was a camel beauty pageant.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Which indicates that Seth MacFarland is a distant relative of Alfred Differ and Duncan Cairncross."

And myself. I'm the first member of my family not born in Scotland.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Re: Botox at beauty contest
And now that you mention it, aren't those humps a bit larger than nature would suggest they should be?

Twominds said...

A writer I liked and whose books I loved to read is dead, Ursula Le Guin.The Origonian has a piece about her. I liked the atmosphere of the Earthsea books, and that little was straitforward in the end.

It's long ago that I read them, I hope I find time to browse them, get into that world again for a couple of hours.

LarryHart said...


I think it would be convenient for the Democrats to paralyze the Donald Trump government to the fullest. That's what Republicans have always done in one way or another.

I disagree. The reason that strategy works for Republicans is that they hate government, and they want to privatize everything. So they consider the normal government operations--what we refer to as "keeping the lights on"--as a favor for which Democrats must give something in return. Democrats can't threaten the reverse. Dems shutting down the government while simultaneously taking all the blame on themselves is a win-win for Republicans.

john fremont said...
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Winter7 said...


All right. I guess you're right. I will delete my previous comment. Maybe I exaggerated a bit.

Acacia H. said...

Reposting this essay I wrote over on Facebook about the Democratic playsheet:

I don't think Democrats did the wrong thing in ending the shutdown.

Let's look at facts. First, they managed to get funding for a health program for children that had been /ignored/ by Republicans (despite previous bipartisan support) for six years. This is six years even if the government shuts down again. Republicans can't use this as a "Democrats are punishing little kids" theme.

Second, they got a promise from the Senate Majority Leader to allow Dreamer legislation onto the floor. If he ends up refusing to do this... then what do you have? Democrats having negotiated in good faith and Republicans spitting in their faces. We also have Republicans *gloating* about how Democrats just caved... while Democrats got a good deal with funding a program for low-income mothers and children, don't forget that, so Republicans are looking even more crass and juvenile while Democrats look mature and responsible.

Third, they have three weeks to try and get a deal out there. If Republicans keep refusing, then it shows Republicans will not negotiate in good faith. Now they've helped low-income families, they will no doubt push hard to continue funding the military (and they attempted this before the first shutdown! So you know they'll urge this again!) and they showed that they are not responsible for the shutdown.

After all. They stopped it. They were holding the cards and they offered an olive branch. Republicans are gloating and dancing and saying "Democrats have no spine!" but you have several Republican Senators who already are stating "we're not running in 2018" and are offering to reach across the aisle... and who were offered things by the Republican leadership. Things that very likely won't come to pass.

Now I'm not a Democrat. I don't vote Democrat. But I am looking at the two sides and what do I see? Democrats being reasonable and decent... and Republicans churlish and selfish. If Republicans refuse to play ball... in three weeks the government will shut down again and Democrats will be walking into this with a stronger position and the moral high ground.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

As an aside, this also gets them more of the military vote.

Trust me when I say the average soldier has a decent idea of what went on... including the fact that Democrats offered to continue funding soldier pay during the shutdown and Republicans said "no." So, what does this say to the average soldier? Republicans don't care about them or their families. Democrats do.

Further, they know that Democrats negotiated in good faith and ended the shutdown before it could hurt soldiers too badly. Three days without pay is troublesome especially as soldiers weren't allowed leave or transfers... but now that can recommence. They know that it was Democrats that ended the shutdown... not Republicans.

If there is another shutdown in three weeks (and there likely will be), you will see Democrats once more offer to fund the military. You will see Republicans smirk and say "no." And this time the shutdown will continue for longer... weeks even. Because Democrats got the CHIPs program funded. Now they are seeking to help the Dreamers knowing that Republicans want to ship all of those people out of the country. Hell, some Republicans want to ship their kids born in this country out of the country as well.

Soldiers know Dreamers who are in the military... who are going to be forced out of the service and denied citizenship they were offered to go into the armed forces. Do you think they are going to say "they deserve it" or are they going to say "Trump and his cronies don't give a fuck about us."

This isn't saying they will go Democrat. But I could see a wave of new Republicans entering into the House and Senate in the next 20 years that came from the Armed Forces... and will be entering with the view of "we protect the military, we do our job, we don't do bullshit like shutting down the government because some billionaire has their panties in a bunch."

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@TCB | much more common than you may be inclined to think

Not really. I already agree that those other types of social engineering count. I've felt the attempt to 'design' me by members of my community. This here fish has noticed the water.

@Paul SB | Here is where the definition of planning is too wide again except the shoe is on the other foot. I don't mind people adjusting to what we've learned the hard way and writing into our building codes the lessons we acquire from fires, mud slides, and all that. It would be insane not to adapt to life's harsh lessons. What concerns me is people trying to pre-adapt. We have to do that too, but we need a strong dose of humility while doing it. We could be wrong. I'm willing to take those risks, but I'm most cautious when the possible errors get encoded as legislation and regulation.

It's true we don't have many people pushing for 5 year plans anymore. What we have instead is goofy notions that create tariffs. We have a few people acting on a very poor understanding of the economics involved possibly because they confuse politics with economics.

David Brin said...

I agree with Matthew’s analysis.

Occam: “The report shows that while 79 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel, only 27 percent of Democrats do. "

That depends on the question! Many Republicans “support” Israel rebuilding the Temple in order to fight a devastating final war and for all Jews to then have to choose between Jesus and damnation. Israelis accept the “support” bu know what they are dealing with. Most want the Al Aqsa mosque to stay exactly where it is.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Some sad news, folks: Ursula K. LeGuin is dead:

Zepp Jamieson said...

"The report shows that while 79 percent of Republicans sympathize more with Israel, only 27 percent of Democrats do. "

I wonder what would be the results if the poll focussed on Netanyahu and the Likkud Party. There's a lot of people like me who support Israel but absolutely hate their current government.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

What makes you think that poll doesn't reflect attitudes toward Netanyahu and Likkud?

I think you'd see more convergence in support for Israel across party lines if Israel's moderate faction was in charge.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: "What makes you think that poll doesn't reflect attitudes toward Netanyahu and Likkud?"

Well, that's just it. I don't know. That's why I would like to see a poll.
I wonder in particular what Jewish American attitudes are toward him. He seems to be a political captive of Putin, his son hobnobs with neo-Nazis, and more and more he is trying to enslave America.

Alfred Differ said...

@raito | Had my father's mother lived long enough to see my birth, I'm sure my own mother would have had a more challenging time ahead of her. Emphysema took her, so she was the grandparent I never met. The Black Lung took my grandfather on that side later, but he as a lot tougher. The only time my family went to church was when he visited and that was a challenge with us living on air bases all across the country. I am quite certain both my parents steered conversations to avoid religious conflicts with my relatives. No doubt some challenges are too large. 8)

So your policeman friend intervened in their marriage tradition? Terrible! Okay. Seriously, though, that isn't so unusual for the first generation immigrants. It's not that bad either as there is usually and end to it. The next generation (born here) rarely sticks to the customs that are likely to cause those of us who have been here longer to get upset. The next generation is more of a hybrid and often 'exotic' enough to be drawn into mixed marriages. Of course, it might suck to be sold off at 12 or be pushed into an arranged marriage, but that's often the end of it. Assimilation works pretty fast.

...except for the borderlands here in SW America. I live in California which used to be part of Mexico which used to be a freer Alta California which used to be populated by reasonably prosperous natives. Around here it was the Chumash. I feel no urge to push any of them into what my eastern relatives would define as American. I'm more inclined to learn Spanish and help them all change what it means to be American... a bit.

duncan cairncross said...

Re - Scottish Catholics

I sort of coasted through childhood not really being aware of anybodies religion - my Mum was a bit more religious than Dad - but not really noticable

The first and only time I remember any friction was when my brother was going out with a Catholic lass - and a number of previously innocuous aunts started grumbling
I literally had not heard anything until then!

A bit later as my brother and I showed no signs of marrying (we both married in our late 30's) I got a changed message from the aunties that ANY girl would do!

Marino said...

"Some sad news, folks: Ursula K. LeGuin is dead"

I've read it too, (it made to the first page of the web edition of La Repubblica, sci-fi is becoming literary canon)

The Dispossessed, the Left Hand of the Darkness, and the deep morality tales as "Those who walk away from Omelas" (In our world our happiness depends from not one but hundreds of thousands suffering children) and "The lathe of heavens" (beware of simple, clearcut solution for complex problems) will stay with us. Sit terra levis


Paul SB said...

I remember LeGuin leading protests against that vile Iraq War of W. Shrub's. She was wise, smart, and knew how to see through the bullshit that mesmerizes most people. It's sad she didn't live long enough to see the latest vile monster deposed from his throne.

The "K." by the way, in Ursula K. LeGuin was Kroeber. She was a daughter of Alfred Kroeber, the California anthropologist. She was acquainted with ideas like segmentary opposition and structural inferiors, and it showed in the depth and wisdom of her writing. We lost a good one...

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

H: "What makes you think that poll doesn't reflect attitudes toward Netanyahu and Likkud?"

Well, that's just it. I don't know. That's why I would like to see a poll.

I see your point, but how would such a poll be worded?

"In a hypothetical alternate history in which Israel was governed by a Labor coalition..."

Even if that's the correct way to start the question (and I'm not at all sure it is), I can't figure out how to end it, let alone what would govern people's responses.

You could try to separate out general support for Israel from support for Likud, but I'm thinking the polarized responses to the one are because of the other. Democrats have low support figures because of Israeli apartheid. Republicans have high support figures because of Israeli apartheid.

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

A bit later as my brother and I showed no signs of marrying (we both married in our late 30's) I got a changed message from the aunties that ANY girl would do!

Heh. It's like you looked into my life and wrote about it!

During my freshman year at the University, my first serious girlfriend was Catholic. Religion had simply never been a part of what I was looking for in a relationship. While I was home for the summer, my grandmother's parting words to me were not to get too involved with a non-Jew; to "stick to [my] own kind."

Cut to almost twenty years later. By then, all of my first cousins have married Christians, and my brother has outdone them all by marrying a Hindu. I'm the oldest of the bunch, and still not married, but finally engaged--to another Catholic. By now, the line has become, "Thank God he's not gay after all."

My wife tells me a hilarious story of our wedding reception where that same grandmother, a bit in her cups, thanked my wife profusely for taking me, as if my wife had drawn the short straw and done her duty for the good of my family.

Paul SB said...


"Planning" is a pretty broad, general term. If you want to be more specific about government planning, you will need to be more specific. Your mistrust for planning done by government seems a bit absurd. How can a government not plan? Would we want a government that never plans anything? So when the Russians invade we have no defense because we didn't plan for it? When the economy collapses half the country starves because we had no plan for it? When it becomes obvious that maladaptive behaviors are going to bring a nation to its knees, we don't do anything about it because government isn't supposed to plan things? And how does government work except by legislation? Without the rule of law, we would blow ourselves back into the Stone Age. And laws are not permanent things written in stone. They can be repealed and replaced if a government finds that they do not work as planned. In practice it doesn't happen a lot, but that's because we are stuck with this ludicrous two-party system that encourages loyalty and partisanship over actual problem solving. Even a constitution can be changed (the amendment process) though the bar is high for that one.

You still want to work from an evolutionary model, but remember that evolution has led 99% of all life that has ever existed to extinction. That's the point of having extra-large frontal lobes. Likewise traditions evolve, and sometimes they are adaptive, sometimes they are not. Are we supposed to follow our democratic traditions that we have had for a couple centuries, or our more despotic traditions that are millennia older? Which is more adaptive? One thing that is clearly maladaptive is clinging to traditions that don't make the environment in which we live. How many times have you been told that the King has come, that we must praise King Jesus and bend our knees? Who voted for a king? I sure as Hell didn't. But as long as people cling to ancient traditions of despotism, people will still vote for tin-pot dictators, because they think despotism is godly. Traditions are not always good. Take the ancient Indian tradition of suttee. It was only practiced among the Brahmin and Kashatriya classes (priests and warriors, which for all of history made government), and is obviously an aspect of conspicuous consumption, but one that consumed lives. Or how about all the religions that treat ordinary and healthy human behaviors as mortal sins for which we should feel guilty and become neurotic over? How much human misery has been caused by uncompromising traditions that were meant to favor the wealthy? How many people murder and/or commit suicide over love and/or sex? Traditions are not things to worship.

LarryHart said...

Among those who was unimpressed with the evangelicals' prevaricating was former RNC chair Michael Steele, who appeared on MSNBC's "Hardball" and declared:

"I have a very simple admonition at this point. Just shut the hell up and don't ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don't want to hear it. After telling me how to live my life, who to love, what to believe, what not to believe, what to do and what not to do and now you sit back and the prostitutes don't matter? The grabbing the you-know-what doesn't matter? the outright behavior and lies don't matter? Just shut up."


Zepp Jamieson said...

Let's see:
Do you approve of Netanyahu policies toward the Palestinians? (Have list handy)
Netanyahu is viewed as one of America's most influential allies. Do you view this as a positive thing or a negative thing?

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

I think you're missing my point--or maybe I missed yours all along.

You could ask any number of questions to gauge support for Netanyahu, and I believe you'd just see the same results as the generic "support for Israel" question showed. Because I think Republican support (and Democratic lack thereof) for Israel reflects attitudes toward Likud.

What I'm trying to get at is, how can you word a poll to establish how support for Israel sorts out separate from that of right-wing Likud policies.

Let me put it this way, and Godwin be dashed: In 1942 or so, questions about "support for Germany" and "support for Hitler" would probably yield very similar breakdowns to each other. Someone might wonder if "support for Germany" might show a different result if Hitler were removed from the equation, but what would be the point?

Zepp Jamieson said...

I don't see as difficult at all.
Imagine an international poll:
"Do you approve or disapprove of the United States?"
"Do you approve or disapprove of Donald J. Trump?"

You would find a divergence.

LarryHart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

Yes, but "The United States" has connotations in world affairs which have not (yet at least) been completely co-opted by the Trumpists. For the moment, at least, the two are different things.

Israel has been dominated by Likud policies for long enough that I believe "Israel" and "Likud" have similar connotations. My point in all this in the first place was that the difference between Republicans and Democrats appear to represent the respective parties' opinions about Likud and Israeli right-wing apartheid. Well, that question was asked about "support for Israel". What could you ask about "support for Likud" that you expect would produce a different result?

Or do you expect that even more Republicans and/or even fewer Democrats would support Likud specifically?

Zepp Jamieson said...

Actually, yeah, I do expect a wider dichotomy if you specify Likkud rather than "Israel". Especially amongst American Jews, over overwhelmingly support Israel as the Jewish homeland but have much more reservations about Netanyahu.

Winter7 said...
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Winter7 said...

I have a solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict:
The Saudis have a lot of money. They could build beautiful cities for Palestinians (and for Syrian refugees) on the west coast of the Arabian peninsula. The Palestinians would have a better place to live, and in that way, most of them would be evicted from Palestine. The Saudis are currently seeking foreign labor, because Saudi citizens prefer not to work, because the government gives them a share of the profits from the sale of oil, money that they usually invest in creating their own businesses, instead of working for others. (I like the idea of a government sharing profits with citizens)
Of course, some will stay for religious reasons and all that in Palestine. But if the new Palestinian cities in Saudi Arabia prosper, then I believe that 80% of Palestinians will prefer to live in the new cities. And that can facilitate some changes in Israel.
Yes. I know. It is an incomplete and strange solution. But nobody said it would be easy.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Actually, yeah, I do expect a wider dichotomy if you specify Likkud rather than "Israel". Especially amongst American Jews,...

In honor and deference to our host, I will attempt to paraphrase what I think you're saying. Let me know if I'm getting it wrong.

Actually, I'm torn between two interpretations of what you're saying, so I'll list them both.

A) "I expect more support for Israel as an entity than for the current right-wing government of Israel"

B) "I expect greater polarization between Republicans and Democrats over support for Netanyahu's government than there would be over support for Israel as an entity."

Both positions make a certain amount of common sense. The problem I have with either is that we saw what looks to me like a huge amount of polarization already when the question was asked about Israel. I don't see how you can ask a new question about Netanyahu instead and expect a different answer, unless you expect the polarization would increase further. Even if that were true, that wouldn't lessen the fact that the polarization is still pretty darned high to begin with--when asked about Israel.

The only path I can see toward the distinction you are trying to make is to interpret the results of that poll--70some percent Republican support and 20some percent Democratic support for Israel--as really being about Likud and Netanyahu, and then asking "Now really, answer the question again assuming Israel wasn't run by a right-wing apartheid government." Which seems like a cynical and clumsy way to run a poll.

As I think I agree with your politics, I'm trying to get to the bottom of what point you're trying to prove and how to get there.

Do you think Democratic support would be higher if the question wasn't about Netanyahu? If so, how would you phrase a follow-up question, given that the original question wasn't about Netanyahu?

Do you think that Republican support (or the spread between the two parties) would shrink if the question wasn't about Netanyahu? If so, same question as above.

Do you think Republican support (or the spread between the two) would actually increase if the question was about Netanyahu? Even if that's true, I don't see how that softens the existing spread between the parties much.

Do you see what I'm having trouble understanding?

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart| done her duty for the good of my family

My siblings say something similar about a brother-in-law who married one of my sisters. With tongue firmly in cheek, we refer to him as St Michael. I love my siblings dearly, but anyone who chose to marry any of us took on serious challenges. 8)

Winter7 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Winter7 said...

I wonder what the majority of Israelis would prefer to do, if we could ask them one by one. To all. Without having to take into account the opinion of the leaders of the political parties.
Perhaps in the future, the AIs will make decisions based on common sense and the direct opinion of the people. Democracy at a more perfect level, maybe. If it is that the AIs can manage to keep the hands of the power groups far from the electoral mechanisms. Maybe it's possible someday. When AI can read everyone's mind, and know everyone's secrets. Based on this, the AIs will know what steps to take to preserve democracy. But ... ¿Will the AI have the determination to do what needs to be done? (My comment seems like a prologue to a novel, Je, je, 8)
All right. I must go to continue with a project. Bye

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Traditions are not things to worship.

I’ll start at the end and point out that I couldn’t be in more agreement with this position. Worshipping them is dumb. It would be more accurate, however, to say that I give some of them a begrudging respect and then turn my ire on the ones that others worship too much.

Next up, I suspect that if I could properly define the type of planning I respect and the type I don’t, you and I would find once again that we don’t disagree all that much. We’d probably nod at each other and recognize that the differences are in the short fringes of what we’d prefer. I doubt I’ll properly get across what concerns me, though, because Hayek had the same difficulty to his end days and I haven’t found a better solution/explanation.

How can a government not plan?

It is less a matter of whether it should. It is more about how it should. An oligarch might argue that it shouldn’t, but that is like asking one’s opponent in a game not to plan responses. Anyone foolish enough to do that would be at a tactical disadvantage in the game. On a personal level, I have to plan each trade I make or risk that I’m not serving my best interests. I still might fail to do so in each trade, but the odds of failure are higher if I don’t plan. How I plan matters, though. How a government plans matters even more as it has the power to coerce that I do not have. If my plans avoid coercion and other behaviors you might see as cheating, I can reasonably claim that my plans are my own and no one would be morally justified in pushing me to change them. If a government plan avoids coercion as best it can and behaviors that create ‘unfair’ biases in the market, I’ll accept it with one important condition. It must leave room for it to be undone in the event that the planners failed to accurately predict the future. I leave that kind of room in my personal plans for trades and I expect (demand!) something similar for government plans.

They (laws) can be repealed and replaced if a government finds that they do not work as planned.

True, but I argue it is better to build into them sunset clauses and other phrases that bring them down without the need for a legislature to repeal them. Build into them measures and controls that detect planning failures and bring about termination of the attached rules and I’ll be MUCH happier. I might still fret about people gaming the metrics, but I’ll accept a step in the right direction as what it is… an improvement. In stock market terminology, we might call a sunset clause a ‘contract termination date’. We might think of a ‘control’ as a ‘stop’ or ‘stop limit’ order. For complex legislation the metrics and controls would be more complex, but the concept is not foreign to the lawyers. I’ve read plenty of contracts that address severability of some of the terms in certain conditions.

The problem with relying on repeal and replace is that your friends might govern today and your opponents might govern tomorrow. Legislation that lacks these built-in controls creates the potential for long-lasting failures propped up by political pressures. If we are going to plan, let us plan wisely by planning FOR failure and then hoping it doesn’t happen.

(to be continued)

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | … remember that evolution has led 99% of all life that has ever existed to extinction.

Thankfully so. In our current setting, though, it isn’t the people or species that would die in the evolutionary process I see. It is the ideas and traditions themselves. I’m all for the death of traditions, but they are the survivors on the ancient field of social behaviors. They won’t die easily and that might be so because of things we do not yet understand about any single one of them.

Consider the ‘tradition’ of slavery. It has been an integral part of what it means to be human since the ice melted. We rightly abhor it today, but only a fool thinks it is truly gone from the world. It is a survivor. Why? What is it about that institution that makes it so hardy? One can study it and learn interesting things that go way, way beyond any desire to eliminate it. One might trip across an explanation of a social problem that it solved. Eliminating the institution, therefore, might re-open the problem. It might still BE open, thus act as a demand that explains the hardiness of the institution. Are human traffickers immoral monsters? Sure. Are they solving a problem we don’t like to face? Probably. What brought about the alteration that drove them to the fringes of society? Heh. An evolutionary change that NO ONE planned. This Enlightened Civilization emerged and provided the tools the abolitionists needed and effectively used to wage cultural war.

Are we supposed to follow our democratic traditions that we have had for a couple centuries, or our more despotic traditions that are millennia older?

Only our trolls would side with the latter, but your question misses the point. The fact that we are even in a position to ask it is historically astonishing and not the result of any person’s plan, let alone the plans of despots. No doubt the despots would have tried to prevent it had they properly seen it coming. Frontal lobes are fine things, but they are NOT what got us the Enlightenment and there is a definite danger that they could undermine it instead if used in particular ways.

praise King Jesus

Yah. I’ve heard it a lot, but I’m fairly optimistic about it all. The next generation appears to be less tolerant of this stupidity than the one before mine. I’ll accept incremental success and worry about other dangers instead. If you want me to focus on these (including the non-western ones you described), I’m willing to do it for a while. However, I am likely to ask what problem they solved because it makes no sense to attack them without this information. We know the abolitionists made little headway until after the value of slaves was undermined due to unrelated economic innovations. That bit of history should teach us to ask after what bit of the foundation under slavery got undermined. I’ll look beyond the moral outrage, put my frontal lobes to work at understanding why a tradition still survives, and not accept a demonizing argument about the nature of the people involved. Slave holders were human after all.

How much human misery has been caused by uncompromising traditions that were meant to favor the wealthy?

It takes a lot more than the desires of the wealthy to create long lasting traditions. David likes to point to the aristocrats of olde when pointing to dangers we should comprehend from the post-writing history of humanity. I go a step further and point to the behaviors of the peasants too. They were NOT blameless because their own traditions contributed to the failure. It was the bourgeois class that rescued them from their misery. The Enlightenment is a Bourgeois victory.

occam's comic said...

The polling results about Israel should be making Israelis nervous. And when you combine those results with electric vehicles and fracking tight oil effectively ending the US dependence on the middle east for oil, Israelis might just start to see that the USA doesn't need them. And maybe all the racist bullshit that Israelis in general ( and Netanyahu and the Likud party in particular) directed at Barrack Obama will be deeply regretted when President Oprah recognizes East Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State with the 1967 borders.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I love my siblings dearly, but anyone who chose to marry any of us took on serious challenges. 8)

One secret of my wife's and my success is that we were both--"ashamed" is too strong, but certainly wary--of having the other meet our respective families. And once we did, each of us found the other's family's quirks much easier to get along with than those of our own family. "What were you worried about?" That sort of thing.

Apropos nothing, but I'm suddenly reminded of an incident when my daughter was very young--no more than three or four. We were talking about people on my side of the family and my wife's side of the family, and my toddler got all upset and demanded, "But who is on my side of the family?!!"

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Winter
Re your Saudi solution
The Arab nations don't want a solution!

After WW2 there were 20 million displaced persons in camps - some of their countries had disappeared a lot more were now places that did not want them back

Within 2 years they had all been placed somewhere and were making their lives again

The Arabs that fled Israel in 1948 - when the Arab nations told them to go so that they could kill everybody there - Are STILL in camps - or rather their descendents are

Winter7 said...

Duncan Cairncross:
I get it. There is no possible solution, until the Saudi dictatorship is replaced with a democracy. But the Saudis will need a leader who transforms the religion and politics of the entire Arab nation. Someone who establishes a new democracy and maintains peace with other peoples. Maybe a new Lawrence of Arabia. Or, maybe someone else ...
Duncan. In the ancient Gaelic language of your people; ¿What do they call the shadow of the mouse on the moon? 8)

LarryHart said...


¿What do they call the shadow of the mouse on the moon?


BTW, I haven't seen an "onward!" yet, but there is a new main post up. Caveat emptor.

Winter7 said...

¡Yes! But I was just kidding. Actually, the problem in the Arab countries is too big. It does not seem to have a solution, not even "Muad'Dib" could solve the problem. (But that being the emperor god would be very fun)

LarryHart said...


If it has a solution at all, it's going to be something that no one had thought of for thousands of years. It won't be something obvious. If you're familiar with the tale of Alexander the Great with the Gordian Knot (or the plot of "Watchmen")--it will have to be something like that.

duncan cairncross said...

the shadow of the mouse on the moon

scáth an luch ar an ghealach

te atarangi o te kiore i te marama

Not as compact as - Muad'Dib

But as far as I can remember from the book Muad'dib was the name of the mouse - nothing to do with moons or shadows

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

But as far as I can remember from the book Muad'dib was the name of the mouse - nothing to do with moons or shadows

One of the two moons of Arrakis had the image of Muad'Dib the kangaroo-mouse on it. That's what Paul took the name from.

David Brin said...

Winter7, after the 1948 war, the Saudis specifically coerced all muslim nations to ban immigration by Palestinian refugees and to declare they had to stay in camps, as pity targets for public opinion. Consider that. It is the only time in history that a people (Arabs) refused to help their relatives or let them try to build new lives. That SAME year, the very same number of Jews were kicked out of Arab countries and their homes could have simply been given to Palestinian families. That same year, India and Pakistan exchanged several million Hindus and Muslims, amid chaos and pain, but no efforts were made to stop them from building new lives, where they wanted.

70 years. The evil plan sort of worked. And yet... it forged the Palestinians into a distinct people, vastly better educated and more urban than most Arab populations. More ... like Israelis. If only a way can be found past the obstinacy and pain on all sides.

onward indeed


Paul451 said...

"when President Oprah..."

{sigh} Democrats will not fucking learn.