Wednesday, September 05, 2018

The polemical power we don't use. Wagers and Exceptions!


Alas, we have poor generals. One thing that Dems and libs never seem capable of understanding is the importance of polemical technique, a skill displayed daily by the Kremlin/GRU, by Rupert Murdoch’s expert manipulator-shills, and by Donald Trump. Take for example the way that social media bots and Russian trolls have been spreading disinformation about vaccines on Twitter to create social discord and distribute malware.

As we speak, top officials of Facebook, Google and Twitter are testifying before Congress about their near helplessness before tsunamis of manipulative lies. Wringing hands, they explain that they are trapped between those lies and the accusations of bias and censorship that whirl, each time they try to cull away the worst of them. The most orwellian enemies of freedom will accuse them of acting as a "Ministry of Truth." 

There are countless ways to counter the oligarchy’s mastery of this manipulative art. But liberal or moderate pols and pundits – even neutral-minded or independent grownups -- seem obdurately incapable of even noticing how bad they are at it! 

Take the recent attempt by several dozen prominent news outlets to link arms and denounce Trump’s war against the profession of journalism, calling it "fake news" and an “enemy of the people.” Talk about falling for a blatant and obvious trap!

All right, you ask what methods might work? Let’s dial in here. 

Try to grasp the top Foxoid tactic.  When we trot forth a myriad facts, members of the alt-right cult deflect them with irrelevant anecdotes and assertions.  And, to your endlessly repeated blinking astonishment, it keeps working, as you stammer “But… but… I just showed you facts that…”

Look, I’m all in favor of enlisting facts as soldiers in this fight. Take my proposal for a twelve-part FACT ACT that a new Congress could enact, using neutral, competitive techniques that nimbly evade any accusations of “Ministry of Truth.” Good methods…if we ever had a Congress. 

But 99% of today’s confederates are already immunized against every such effort with magical incantations that have playground-level purity.

“Oh yeah? Well I say YOUR the liar!”

That’s all it takes. And fie on stupid dems/pundits for not realizing they need better tools of seriously pragmatic polemic! There are dozens, even hundreds of possible riffs that could work better than announcing “pants-on-fire” and “pinnocchios” or joint editorials that only reinforce the notion of a “Fake News" conspiratorial community. 

One trick, above all others, has real potential, and forgive me for repeating a point I’ve belabored ad nauseam:

Wagers. Bets. Dares. Challenges. Sure, we saw Mitt Romney try it, once, only to get shot down as a rich man trying to bully truth. So? There are ways to set up a bet that stand firm, in the face of deflections. 

The fact remains that a wager is still the one place where a good-old confed will admit the vital importance of objective reality — that factual evidence matters.

It may take care and experimentation. But this could be a chink through which ten thousand facts and truths might pour. It’s certainly worth more than one try

== How to counter the immunity against all facts ==

Again, demanding “put up or shut up” - with cash on the line - is the one realm where even a confederate admits that objective reality and facts still matter.  In confronting your neighbor or mad uncle (MU), you are free to pick any of the 7000+ outright Trumpian falsehoods listed by the Washington Post’s “Fact-Checker” Glenn Kessler. 

Start with giant howlers that offer your confed no wriggle room.  Like Donald Trump’s assertion that ice caps are “setting records” when photographic evidence shows that much of the world’s ice from the Alps to the Andes is melting amid global warming. As we saw after the “biggest inauguration, ever!", photography can be deflected, except in a wager.

Or demand that your mad uncle accompany you to the beach with a simple Ph meter and measure for himself ocean acidification. (It has only one possible cause: human-generated CO2, which is why Fox-heads quickly change the subject, instead of denying it.) When your MU shrugs and calls it an exaggeration or exception, answer “tell our grandchildren that!” And then demand he actually, actually pay the bar bet! Then corner him with another. Taking his money helps to make it all worthwhile!

See: "Greenhouse gases aren't just warming the planet. They're also acidifying our oceans."  

(The best example of a Fox-incantation and stunning intellectual dishonesty was the catechism of the right for decades that "There's been no warming for 15 years!" Then "There's been no warming for 16 years!" Then 17 years.  And I grew curious why so specific? If this one is tried on you… come to me.)

Choose carefully, and learn to recognize in advance wager matters that have any ambiguity, that leave any room for squirming. And remember how to phrase it: “You’re so sure of this crap that you’re willing to bet the lives of our planet and nation and children, but not a hundred bucks?”

Why bother? Because “Heaven rejoices at a sinner, redeemed.” Seriously, there is nothing more damaging to the Putin-Murdoch-Oligarch cabal than a wakened RASR (Residually Adult-Sane Republican.) If you waken one such “ostrich” enough for his head to lift out of sand-of-denial, that oasis of roused sanity and loyalty to America will infect and vaccinate others. 

(Lefties are fools to ignore this central fact about phase 8 of the American Civil War – that some of our neighbors are decent citizens who are clinging desperately to an obsolete loyalty, and can be talked -- some of them -- back into the light.)

== Devil in the details ==

Okay, okay. I hear the objection: "All the confederates I know will wriggle out of any wager with a million excuses!"

 I agree that any wagering system is unlikely to work at all with confed squirmers who, when they see they are being cornered by hated “facts” will fall back upon magical, murdochian incantations. But you can make it harder on them by saying:

1) “Let’s pick agreed-upon neutral parties who will adjudicate the terms of the bet, making its language clear, unambiguous, and in-advance what it will take for either side to win.

2) "Those 3rd parties will hold the stakes in advance, and distribute them according to agreed rules." 

If the confed you are cornering is a friend or relative, you can probably find a respected friend or relative.  If the red-reb is hostile, demand to talk to his lawyer, after $1000 has been deposited with said attorney. And it’s agreed that the loser pays all lawyer bills. And you can taunt -- 
"till I hear from your attorney, it is simply given that you do NOT believe the nonsense you've been howling at us. Because if you truly believed it, you'd be willing - eager! - to test them with facts and take... my... money! The fact that you are squirming and evading is the behavior of a coward and a liar. And till I hear from your lawyer, we'll leave that as the central, proved fact."

Dig it. Almost never does it reach the point of actual wagers. The hostile ones run away and hide. More importantly, the somewhat friendly, residually sane ones start squinting at the notion, at the outlines, and some of them start to get a dawning sense of realization, how far out a limb they have let themselves be drawn by the madmen and hypnotists on Fox. Before it gets to actual money on the table, they start to budge.

That is the actual objective! To be so confident, so sure that the facts support you, that you are the one pushing for a test, a trial, and they are the ones constantly squirming away.  If you can get an ostrich to realize this, then maybe… sometimes… often enough… one of them will lift his bleary head out of the insanity, blink, and rejoin civilization.

== Name an exception! ==

Another approach to wagers is challenging your RASR to Name An Exception!

This one is more sophisticated, but also more effective. Think about this, carefully, because it applies well beyond politics.

If I make a specific accusation, say about a particular crime, then the burden of proof is on me. Fair enough. 

But when I challenge you to disprove a General and Universal Accusation, well, it should be easy for you to do, by finding one exception. And hence, your failure to do so proves me right!

Not in a court of law. Indeed, if they can name exceptions, then the argument falls back under rules of preponderance of evidence. Any member of the Denialist Cult can cite weather examples that seem to violate global warming, hence it cannot be proved by Name an Exception, only by tediously showing the overwhelming factual basis for why 99% of scientists agree about climate change.

 But when a general accusation is very broad, and your opponent cannot name even one counter-example, it has profoundly effective import. Then the generality enters territory like “the sun always comes up at dawn,” or “a rock thrown in the air will always come down.”  

One counter-example – even one – will destroy the word “always.” 

But failure to cite any counter-example makes the “always” very powerful.  Especially when the assertion is in history or politics. Jiminy, almost everything in those fields has exceptions! If you can’t find even one….

== Use it in our political civil war ==

For the following general assertions, the burden of proof is on your conservative friend or MU to show how these six general accusations have any exceptions. Any at all! And if your RASR fails, then they are true. 

Moreover, if any of these cannot be refuted with even a single counter-example, then your opponent’s movement is not a political party, it is a dangerously insane and incompetent cult.

1-  Can you NAME ONE fact-centered profession of high knowledge and skill that’s not under attack by Fox/Trump &cohorts?  Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science. Above all, science. Thirty years ago, 40% of U.S. scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 2% and plummeting. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 

And now?  The FBI and law professionals plus the U.S. military and intelligence officer corps; all are dismissed as "deep state" enemies. Oh no, this is not your daddy's conservatism.  Name one exception.

2- NAME ONE major metric of U.S. national health that did better across the spans of GOP administrations, than across the spans of the Clinton and Obama admins.  Nearly all such metrics declined - many plummeting - across both Bush regimes.  Nearly all rose, many of them by a lot, across both DP terms. The record of almost perfect mal-governance would make any sane or scientific-minded person flee the GOP screaming and never trust them again. 

Clinton& Obama scored better in every sane conservative desideratum, including rate of change of deficits and military readiness!  The condition of our alliances. Small business startups. Entrepreneurship. Name one exception.

The next is a doozy.

3- NAME ONE MAJOR GOP LEADER between Reagan and Ryan who was even mentioned at the 2016 Republican Convention. Except for Newt, all were brushed under the rug, including both Bushes, Cheney, Rumsfeld, former House Speaker Dennis (friend to boys) Hastert, former GOP majority leader Tom (convicted felon) DeLay, former Speaker John Boehner.

In fact, name a republican top leader between EISENHOWER and Ryan who was even mentioned by the party at the RNC, other than Reagan and Newt! This shows how writhing ashamed Republicans are, of their record at governance.  And if you disavow those past Republican administrations as incompetent, Russia-hating, enterprise-destroying, warmongering liars, then where is your party’s credibility? Name one exception.

4- Name one of the DARK FANTASIES about Obama, from black UN helicopters to taking away all our guns, that happened or was even tepidly tried.  Indeed, after 25 years and half a billion dollars of Clinton Investigations… well… see number 6. Name one exception.

5- NAME ONE TIME WHEN SUPPLY SIDE (Voodoo) "Economics" made a successful prediction?  One? Ever?  One time when slashing taxes on the rich led to reduced deficits and to vastly stimulated economic activity, or even much investment in "supply" capital? Or increased money velocity or middle class health? Once. One time when this cult religion actually delivered?  Name one exception.

A related riff? When was “America Great”? I say it's great right now! While we’re sending probes past Pluto, and rovers across Mars, discovering thousands of planets across the galaxy, curing diseases, raising billions of children out of poverty around the world and so on, as we're inventing like mad, ending the insane Drug War, and creating generations who are vastly, vastly nicer and smarter than Baby Boomers. 

But sure. You fox-folks please tell us when you think it was all better!  The1950s? Run by the Greatest Generation… who adored FDR? They knew the dangers of oligarchy and passed many rules to control it. Rules like forbidding companies to waste money on stock buybacks, on which nearly all of the recent Trump Tax Cut was frittered away, without tangible investment in R&D or factories.

“Supply Side” is doing exactly what it was designed to do, stealing from the middle class that the Greatest Generation built and augmenting the oligarchy that great generation defeated. Every major retraction away from the Rooseveltean social contract resulted in lower growth, wider wealth disparity, lower money velocity, shorter commercial ROI horizons, declines in R&D and increasing dominance by a crazy MBA caste.

Name an exception!

6- Name one other time in American — or human — history, when an administration spanning 8 years had zero scandals or indictments concerning malfeasance in the performance of official duties. It has happened twice in American — or human — history. The administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.  Name another!

You can’t. There was one four year U.S. administration that had no malfeasance-of-office scandals… that of Jimmy Carter.  (Yes, there were a few scandals outside that description, “malfeasance in the performance of official duties,” though fewer than any month of a Trump or Bush administration.)

Let’s be clear. The Reagan, Bush and Bush administrations looked hard for evidence, some smoking-gun, to pin on Carter, Clinton and Obama. When they owned every federal department and record, they held endless hearings, rifled every filing cabinet, sifted like crazy, wasting hundreds of millions looking for something — anything.  “W” ordered FBI agents away from counter terror duties to join this witch hunt, before 9/11… arguably treason that cost thousands of American lives.  And they found… nothing but a husband fibbing about some 3rd base infidelity and a wife making the same email mistake as both Bushes, Colin Powell, Condi Rise and Jared Kushner.  

Howl away "lock her up!" But not a single Hannity-shouted accusation was ever, ever, ever proved. Not one, ever. In contrast, GOP administrations – all of them -- were rife with indictments, convictions and pardons.

7- Name a counter-example to the pure record of Republican damage to every single strength that won the Cold War. Almost every thing that bolstered us during that struggle is being systematically dismantled, from our alliances to science, from dedicated intelligence and law agencies to the moral high ground and the rule of law and the respect of the world.  There may be exceptions, though I know of none. Name one.

Oh, winning these bets takes you to the next bulwark of insane treason. Watch out for the last resort of the RASR, who admits: “I know my side is crazy and has done nothing right at all! I know everything they say is a lie and that all their outcomes were negative and they act like cranky 4 year olds. But… but… but liberals are just as bad or worse!!"

Treat it as another cause for a wager. (Admitting that the lib-side does have some stunningly awful lefty flakes.  Some.)

It still comes down to one thing. Take their money.

== Outcomes? ==

Okay, I’ve had limited success in my own wager demands. Generally, when I confront folks with these challenges, they shout “squirrel!” and point offstage at some assertion or distraction, concocting scenarios and excuses to explain why they cannot answer any of these… or dozens of other… challenges. 
Or else they run away. 

Still, there is one more riff you can hurl at their retreating, cowardly backsides.
When something happens relentlessly, systematically, and without recognized exception, it is time to invoke Goldfinger’s Rule:


Goldfinger’s Rule: 

“Once, Mr. Bond, may be happenstance. 

"Twice could be coincidence.

“Three times is enemy action.”








54 comments:

Chris Heinz said...

I think I have posted to you on this before. I tried to engage a libertarian gun-nut friend in wagers. The devil is in the details. Adjudicating who has won the bet is very hard, when the 2 bettors who completely disagree on where the truth can be found.
I will continue to try.
Have you ever actually succeeded in getting a bet down with a RWNJ? If so, please provide all the details. This really seems like an opportunity for a web entrepreneur to set up a site to manage these bets, but, it will probably come under the venue of betting sites, which I think involves a lot of overhead.

donzelion said...

While doubtless intentional, the spelling here makes me frown:

“Oh yeah? Well I say YOUR the liar!”

How many times have I read 'your' in precisely this context? Yet the top Foxoid tactic is not "you're the liar!" but a "scrambled subject stew" discourse - shifting topic while orienting broadly on the recurring trope, delivering less 'news' than 'dogma' connected to newslike evidence. A staple originally perfected in protestant mega-churches. Done with enough changes that no one can keep track of the steady slurs and orientation being sold.

Argue with an ardent conservative, and they'll defiantly change subjects a half dozen times in as many minutes, ignoring their own logical inconsistency while maintaining the steady flurry of disdain, ""You liberals don't understand about the flag! Keep your big government hands off my medicare! Stop with your crazy taxes and crazier deficits! I like my Wal-Mart and hate your globalization!"

Democracy is a numbers game, and for years, the numbers of strong partisans have declined: neither Democrats, nor Republicans, but mostly, 'disaffected' non-joiners who shrug both parties aside and stay home. That's who we need to arouse to action: not Uncle Johnny, who needs to be taken down a notch by having his idiotic, internally contradictory notions laid out for all to see - but Uncle Tom, who works hard for others, and just wants to come home to rest, but can, with some effort, be called up to win a war that otherwise cannot be avoided (or maybe just Uncle Tom Hanks, who can see both sides and respect them enough to speak to each in its own language, though he'll probably not be running for office).

Larry Hart said...

Could it be...?

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/lodestar-mike-pence-anonymous-new-york-times_us_5b905dd5e4b0511db3dec1e1


The New York Times’ scathing anti-Donald Trump op-ed, which the paper attributed to “a senior official in the Trump administration,” has inspired a parlor game among people trying to figure out the author’s name.

Some online commentators are leaning toward Vice President Mike Pence based on just one word in the piece.

The unidentified author singles out the late Arizona Sen. John McCain as “a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue.”

The word ― which Merriam-Webster defines as either “a star that leads or guides” or a person who “serves as an inspiration, model, or guide” ― isn’t that commonly used. But Pence apparently says it a lot,

...

Of course, the key piece of evidence suggesting that Pence is not the author may be his own fawning, obsequious praise of Trump.

However, it should also be noted that Scott Roos, a former college classmate of Pence’s, said the future vice president once said that “God told him he would be president,” according to CNN.

Theoretically, he could have written the op-ed to jump-start the dream.

...

donzelion said...

Larry Hart: Pence? Unlikely. As I see it, the OpEd in question is

(1) 50% probability - an elaborate game, intended to oust certain sources in the Trump administration, largely by establishing who reads the OpEd (and when), who responds (and how), etc. Flushing moles is tricky; this could be part of that set of tricks.
(2) 10% probability - an earnestly believed claim by a would-be 'Residually sane adult Republican'
(3) 10% - a cynical game by someone who desires to be perceived as a 'Residually sane adult Republican' - but actually isn't, and recognizes the benefits of playing it both ways (aka, a 'cowardly weasel')
(4) 10% - a forgery foisted onto the NYT that the stumbled into, mistaking it for the work of a government source known to them, but in fact generated fictitiously for any number of reasons (e.g., bring disrepute on NYT, among other things)
(5) 5% - someone trying to suggest Pence is disloyal (e.g., anyone on Pence's twitter feed who knew he used the word 'lodestar' would deliberately select that term for this purpose to shift attribution...)
(6) 5% - something else

Assign your own percentages; mine are rough guesses with insufficient facts. These aren't the sorts of things wagers are easily set up to handle.

Of all the possibilities I see, (2) bothers me most: a 'residually sane adult Republican' who is NOT trying to remove Trump, but to contain and manage him, is exceptionally dangerous in a very different way. While claiming to 'serve the nation' rather than the president, they violate oaths to both nation and president - twisting them based on personal beliefs. The 'residual sanity' manifested, if this is indeed the case, is a Randian depravity - someone extremely dangerous, and all-too-equipped to make others suffer for their own benefit, while believing it's all in the 'national interest.'

David Brin said...

ChrisHeinz, good thoughts. I have found my biggest actual successes came not from the wagers, themselves, but by engaging the RASR with "what would it take for a wager with you to actually corner you?"

The fellow soon saw my point and so talking AROUND the wagers, about what it would take, let me put forward a dozen examples of things he'd squirm away from... and so doing, he started to grimace in realization of what he does.

---

LH that's amazing! Though it would also be a simple thing for a different (clever) high official to borrow as a distraction. Don't forget that the NYT would not have published without at least two witnesses verifying (under pledge of confidentiality) affirming that it IS a high official. Pence would not give two journalists such power over him, methinks.

---

donzel, see above

---

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: I am intimately acquainted with NYT's editorial rules and safeguards.

In my view, the 50% possibility (a mole flushing exercise) assumes NYT got it right, verified that the source is indeed a senior official, but has no knowledge of the actual purposes and intentions behind writing the oped. I assume as professionals, there's ONLY a 10% chance that this is a forgery (and again, that's being charitable - Dan Rather and his entire team could be misled on one or two details, so that even if they got every other fact right, a single lapse invalidated every other accurate claim).

The game is cruel, and the players paid to craft forgeries far better compensated than the ones tasked with detecting them. The only way that a system with such asymmetric incentives in place can ever start approximating truth is when transparency works: here, it does not.

Alfred Differ said...

After watching Maddow tonight talk about a need to make use of fiction to cope with situations for which there is no historical precedent, I was thinking about TASAT again. Instead of speculating on the name of the author of the Op-ed, she speculated about the purpose of it. Who was the intended target? What was the author trying to accomplish? To do this, she was comparing the situation to story elements.

Sounded very familiar. She didn't come right out and call those stories self-preventing prophecies, but she described around the bush a few times with supporting facial expressions. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | (from last thread)

There once was a time when paper checks were considered to be of no value to most people. There was little confidence in them because they struck people as easily forged. One might as well accept Xerox copies of $100 bills, hmm? The system worked out a way to change public opinion that worked moderately well. The residue of fraud left behind by what the system could not prevent was made highly illegal with newly invented names for the crimes, the innovation took hold, and money moved about with a bit more freedom.

The Randian belief in the valuelessness of fiat currencies is a Luddite approach to innovation. Just Say No. Their belief makes sense in a nation where the leaders are frauds stealing from everyone as quickly as they can. It makes less sense in a nation where the thieves are more methodical and patient. As with checks, we can handle some fraud, but not too much fraud. For a national currency, the fraud is 'inflation by design'. The Rand followers are correct to call that theft, but too ideological in their objections to it. We can manage if inflation isn't too high, but we might have to steal some of the money back from the wealthy later since they can protect against inflation in ways the rest of us can't. Obviously, Rand followers would object to THAT, so they have to object to the initial theft too.

My preference is for a basket of currencies to be used. Difficult to do without digital agents authorized to make trades for us, but we have computers in our pockets now and the early hints of how it could be done using crypto-currencies. The currencies available today are highly unsuitable, but the sketched vision can already be seen. Your pocket agent will trade for you using a strategy designed to protect AGAINST volatility.

matthew said...

The big question about the anon op-ed is "Why now?" To me it reads as a senior executive member trying to make Trump MORE paranoid, or to push Trump to make one more big rash move. Mueller's apparent concession to Trump allowing written answers to some questions is another such move. Who wants the end game to start now?
Trump is the most likely beneficiary, imo. He wins by getting his opponents to make their critical move too soon?
I dunno yet but the pace of events just picked up again...

Larry Hart said...

donzelion:

Pence? Unlikely.


I agree, but then someone deliberately used the word "lodestar" as a red herring. No way that's mere coincidence. There might be other, less obvious, examples of misdirection in there as well.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Pence would not give two journalists such power over him, methinks.


I don't really think Pence is the author, but someone certainly used his word choices as a distraction. It's also interesting that of all the potential "suspects", Pence is the one whom Trump most certainly cannot fire.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

For a national currency, the fraud is 'inflation by design'. The Rand followers are correct to call that theft, but too ideological in their objections to it.


In the novel Atlas Shrugged, the residents of Galt's Gulch consider Dagny's Taggart Transcontinental stock to be of zero value. That's ridiculous. Even if the value might be stripped out of it over time, it could easily be traded at any given moment in the book for other items of tangible value. "We can't know the exact value of a thing," does not imply "The value of the thing is zero." In fact, logically, the two statements are incompatible.

Inflation is theft of currency that is held over time, but it has lesser effect on currency that is earned and then spent, which is more like what currency is actually for. The fiat currency that I earn each month will pay my mortgage for the foreseeable future, despite some inflation. The fiat currency that bought me last night's dinner is not affected a whit by inflation.

Inflation eats away at workers' earnings over time, but that's a result of wage stability rather than of currency itself. Cost of Living Adjustments are one explicit way of dealing with that aspect of inflation. Gold can also be subject to inflation, though not at the whim of a government. But if a new mine floods the market, the value of the gold in your basement will be lessened. If you are being paid a fixed wage of (say) twenty gold pieces a week, you would need a cost of living adjustment for that as well.

And to the extent that inflation is "by design", it's more like a game that everyone is playing than a scam. We build in some expectations of inflation into our financial decisions.

Finally, a tangential thought, considering our earlier discussion of how Oliver Twist didn't depict reality, but might have been meant as a 1984-like prophecy of where nineteenth century London was heading. I wonder if it's possible to read Atlas Shrugged also as a self-preventing prophecy, with the final scene of the industrialists re-writing the US Constitution after their fashion being every bit as creepy as "He loved Big Brother." That certainly wouldn't have been the author's intent, but sometimes these things write themselves.

Darrell E said...

Regarding using "lodestar," it could turn out to be someone close to Pence rather than Pence himself or someone leaving suggestive crumbs to confuse things. People that interact regularly often pick up speech mannerisms from each other.

David Smelser said...


Questions regarding the OpEd:
a) How does the assertion that there are GOP adults in the administration that are opposing Trump affect change the narrative presented in Woodward's book Fear?
b) With 60 days until the election does this change anyone's vote or likelihood to show up and vote? Looking at the narrow victories of some elections, it wouldn't take much to change an election.
c) Will the fascists use this as a "confession" from the "deep state" to justifying new loyalty policies or department purges?
d) How much of this is a distraction from the Kavanaugh confirmation? There was a lot less Kavanaugh coverage on this morning's news.

Ken Baker said...

But even using the wagers and exceptions polemics, and you show them irrefutable facts, they still just say "nuh-uh" to any fact that contradicts their point.

donzelion said...

David Smelser:
a) How does the assertion that there are GOP adults in the administration that are opposing Trump affect change the narrative presented in Woodward's book Fear?

It mostly supports that narrative. Or at least, it appears to. CNN and others have suggested Trump is mounting a witch hunt to find Woodward's sources, isolate and discredit them. I see an Op-Ed like this as being a straightforward tactic in that kind of process. Trump knows his base won't trust the NYT or be much affected by anything it writes, so releasing an oped there costs him little, but does create opportunities to study his staffers and see how they respond.

b) With 60 days until the election does this change anyone's vote or likelihood to show up and vote? Looking at the narrow victories of some elections, it wouldn't take much to change an election.

Not much. The Republicans I confronted before were nonplussed by anything Trump; they weren't wearing MAGA hats in public, but were quite aware. The general public...is not obsessed with Trump. Indeed, by this point in October, they're gonna want the whole thing to just go away (which is usually a sign of apathy and evidence of decreased probability of actually voting - good for incumbents).

"c) Will the fascists use this as a "confession" from the "deep state" to justifying new loyalty policies or department purges?"
They don't need to justify loyalty policies or department purges: they've been doing them all along anyway. But really, they expect 90% of Obama and even Bush/Clinton holdovers to be disloyal, and are trying to isolate that disloyalty systematically. They're painfully aware of how disloyalty works: Clinton's EPA was stymied by Reagan/Bush holdovers in their staff who enforced reasonable regs in unreasonable manners to send material to Fox/Limbaugh.

"d) How much of this is a distraction from the Kavanaugh confirmation? There was a lot less Kavanaugh coverage on this morning's news."
A lot. But Kavanaugh is safely in the Senate majority's hands: he's not Harriet Miers, and has been groomed for the Supreme Court for decades. There's no imperative driving Trump to generate distractions there; only to identify disloyalty and purge it.

Larry Hart said...

@donzelion,

This is the second time you've said this about Trump voters being "nonplussed", and I still can't tell whether you mean "stunned silly by Trump's outrageousness" or "impervious to being swayed by Trump's outrageousness".

Googling the word points to both definitions being possible, even though they're essentially opposite things.

donzelion said...

Larry Hart: Drat, if I ever write an anonymous oped using my eccentric word choices, you'll figure me out. ;-)

"I still can't tell whether you mean "stunned silly by Trump's outrageousness" or "impervious to being swayed by Trump's outrageousness".

I suppose I mean both. A handful of words can mean their own opposite, e.g., 'sanction,' and yet remain useful despite the inherent ambiguity. Today's Republicans are indeed both
(1) 'surprised and confused' (as attested by Woodward, et. al.), and
(2) 'nonchalant/impervious' (as attested by the poll numbers staying so steady)

Internal contradiction is a central theme of many religious groups. I'd alluded to the "Keep your big government hands off my medicare!" line; you'll find other Republicans asserting, "I love my country enough to destroy it in order to protect it!" or "Freedom of the speech means I can silence your speech!" 'Residually sane adults' would probably be less comfortable with those sorts of contradictions, but desperately affecting nonchalance in the face of persistent confusion takes a toll (as does the silliness of the oped writer, who thinks he can tame a beast he's riding).

David Brin said...

Ken Baker, I agree that any wagering system is unlikely to work at all with confed squirmers who, when they see they are being cornered by hated “facts” will fall back upon magical, murdochian incantations. But you can make it harder on them by saying:

1) “Let’s pick agreed-upon neutral parties who will adjudicate the terms of the bet, making its language clear, unambiguous, and in-advance what it will take for either side to win.

2) Those 3rd parties will hold the stakes in advance, and distribute them according to agreed rules.

If the confed you are cornering is a friend or relative, you can probably find a respected friend or relative. If the red-reb is hostile, demand to talk to his lawyer, after $1000 has been deposited with said attorney. And it’s agreed that the loser pays all lawyer bills. And you can taunt -- "till I hear from your attorney, it is simply given that you do NOT believe the nonsense you've been howling at us. Because if you truly believed it, you'd be willing - eager! - to test them with facts and take my money! The fact that you are squirming and evading is the behavior of a coward and a liar."

Dig it. Almost never does it reach this point. The hostile ones run away and hide. More importantly, the somewhat friendly, residually sane ones start squinting at the notion, at the outlines, and some of them start to get a dawning sense of realization, how far out a limb they have let themselves be drawn by the madmen and hypnotists on Fox. Before it gets to actual money on the table, they start to budge.

That is the actual objective! To be so confident, so sure that the facts support you, that you are the one pushing for a test, a trial, and they are the ones constantly squirming away. If you can get an ostrich to realize this, then maybe… sometimes… often enough… one of them will lift his bleary head out of the insanity, blink, and rejoin civilization.

Larry Hart said...

donzelion:

"I still can't tell whether you mean "stunned silly by Trump's outrageousness" or "impervious to being swayed by Trump's outrageousness".

I suppose I mean both.


I had a premonition you were going to say that. :)

But seriously, you were describing conversations you had with actual Republicans. I was trying to suss out whether you were saying "Don't worry, they're beginning to give up on Trump" or "Don't hold your breath--they're solidly in his camp no matter what." It can't be both at the same time, can it?

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | I’ve had stock certificates stripped of all value, but that had nothing to do with the fact that they were printed on paper. It had everything to do with no one believing they had any value. The notion that there is an objective approach to assigning value to ANYTHING is pretty silly except for the value WE assign when we trade the stuff. Even the value I might assign to a pizza in front of me is relative to a trade. If I eat it now, I satisfy my hunger. There is a trade in that. 8)

Inflation is more than a theft of currency. It is a theft of all forms of capital. You describe earing a wage and spending it relatively quickly. High velocity money. That is the classic defense against inflation no matter what the thing is being measured. However, living a life strictly dependent on high velocity commodities is not advisable. You need a mix. Your house (if you own one) is stored capital that can occasionally be measured in USD’s. Your education is stored capital that can occasionally be measured in USD’s. (Every time you offer your resume for a job and they look at your education, they are assigning a value measure as a component of the offered salary.) Your retirement savings/pension (if you have any) are an obvious form of stored capital. Landlords have obvious forms of stored capital too. Inflate the supply of one commodity against which we measure all the stored capital and we have a problem.

Part of why libertarians prefer gold is that it can’t be inflated on a political whim. You have to dig up the stuff and get it to a futures or spot market. Crypto-currencies try for something similar by connecting mining operations to maintaining the ledger to limiting supply, but they don’t have anything more complex that a spot market… yet. Once they work out rules for the obvious frauds happening, things will stabilize and then the big exchanges will figure out how to do futures contracts. WHEN they do, cryptocurrencies will fill some of the role gold and silver does today. They will still be INFLUENCED by political whim, but they won’t be dominated the same way fiat currencies are today.

COLA’s are a weak defense. They are suitable for people who don’t own much property or have other forms of stored capital that can’t be sold/rented in terms of a wage. We do it, though, because many are deathly afraid of deflation and would prefer to err on the side of mild inflation. This whole thing is a conceptual error, though, that ties back to the notion than an economy is something one tunes. It is a modeling error with few day-to-day drawbacks, but occasional catastrophic corrections. Look at Trump’s desire to prop up local auto and steel industries as an example. An Austrian economist would call that a market distortion that will lead to a misallocation of resources that will lead to a local boom and then a bust some day when the market corrects. The bust is caused by the misallocation. We do similar misallocations in money supply when we desperately try to avoid deflation. They eventually catch up to us and we look for people to blame. Such people often exist since cheating never really goes away, but it’s less than obvious that the cheaters CAUSED the bust.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | Regarding Dickens, you have a long memory. I brought that up a while ago. Heh. My suspicion, though, is that fiction in general serves the purpose of enabling us to imagine what isn’t because it might be what isn’t… yet. Or many it is what could have been. Or maybe it is… etc. We have lots of verb tenses that cover ‘what might have been’, ‘what might have been but wasn’t’, ‘what could be’, ‘what might be’, and so on, but I think fiction is the richer extension of that expressive need in our languages. Self-preventing prophecies are just one aspect of that need. What Maddow was doing was fishing around for a story that might instruct us on how to interpret the op-ed and the general situation we find ourselves in. When history can’t offer examples, fiction might if it is speculative fiction and not fantasy. She referred to a book she was encouraged to read by a historian who obviously understands the limits and it helped her phrase what she wanted to say last night. Anyone who read the novel would ‘get it’ because they’d have the ‘language macro’ she was trying to use. She knew most of us had not read it, though, so she had to summarize and then hint that maybe we should read it.

Dickens is guilty of writing propaganda from a certain perspective. He’s guilty of writing reasonable warnings from another. Doesn’t matter who is right at this point because we’ve digested his stories and incorporated them into English. When my wife makes her veggie chili, which I happen to like a lot, I often come back for a second bowl holding is carefully and begging for seconds. Guess which story is going through my mind when I do that. The first time I did, she knew the reference in a split second and corrected me so I quoted it correctly. 8)

David Brin said...

Bets? It's Kellyanne.

matthew said...

I think it's Dan Coats.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

However, living a life strictly dependent on high velocity commodities is not advisable. You need a mix.


Oh, I know that. I'm the one who thinks my life's savings should be stored in dollar bills inside a mattress. And I used to be outraged at anything that would reduce the value of hoarded dollar bills. But in my older age, I realize that that would just be my personal way of gaming the system--great if it works, but nothing I have a particularly inherent right to demand of society. Dollar bills are meant to be spent.


Your house (if you own one) is stored capital that can occasionally be measured in USD’s. Your education is stored capital that can occasionally be measured in USD’s. (Every time you offer your resume for a job and they look at your education, they are assigning a value measure as a component of the offered salary.) Your retirement savings/pension (if you have any) are an obvious form of stored capital. Landlords have obvious forms of stored capital too. Inflate the supply of one commodity against which we measure all the stored capital and we have a problem.


One of those things is not like the others. You make your point best with the savings/pension from which inflation really does leech value. The house and the salary an employer would expect to pay? Wouldn't both of those go up with inflation? My parents' house was worth an order or two of magnitude more dollars when they sold in 1991 as it was when they bought it in 1960, and the salary I thought was a great starting salary in 1988 is well below the poverty line now.


Part of why libertarians prefer gold is that it can’t be inflated on a political whim.


I know that, and I used to agree. But I realized (on my own, without formal training) that a stable currency has to maintain a certain relationship to the supply and demand of goods and services available to buy and sell with that currency. Not being available to increase or decrease the money supply in response to changing supply and demand is just as bad a situation as being too able to adjust it.


She referred to a book she was encouraged to read by a historian who obviously understands the limits and it helped her phrase what she wanted to say last night. Anyone who read the novel would ‘get it’ because they’d have the ‘language macro’ she was trying to use. She knew most of us had not read it, though, so she had to summarize and then hint that maybe we should read it.


Is there some reason you're avoiding saying the name of the book?


Dickens ... When my wife makes her veggie chili, which I happen to like a lot, I often come back for a second bowl holding is carefully and begging for seconds. Guess which story is going through my mind when I do that. The first time I did, she knew the reference in a split second and corrected me so I quoted it correctly.


I only know the movie line, which I assume is close enough. "Please sir, I want some more." My favorite line to quote from that story is "If the law presumes that, sir, then the law is an ass!" Actually, that's a misquote. Years later, I had it pointed out to me that the actual line from the book is "The law is a ass", not "an ass". But that just doesn't roll off the tongue, so I say it the way it should be, not the way it is.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Bets? It's Kellyanne.


I dunno. Immediately after the election, possibly influenced by SNL, I thought Kellyanne might regret her role in bringing Trump to power, but as time went on, I saw zero evidence that that was the case.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I'm guessing it's one or more of Pence's top staffers. He's far too much of a coward to pull something like this off, but I'm guessing his relations with his staff aren't much better than Trump's is with his staff.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Larry and Alfred

I STILL think the best definition of currency/money is Heinlein's

The money supply should increase as the economy does Which if you think of money in the economy as similar in function to blood in a body makes perfect sense
The other side of this is that the increase in money supply is normally added directly to the basic living stipend (We could simply mail a cheque to all citizens)

Directly from the book
"We call the system “finance” and the symbols “money”
The symbolic structure should bear a one to one relationship to the physical structure of production and consumption .
It’s my job to keep track of the actual growth of the physical processes and recommend to the policy board changes in the symbol structure to match those in the physical structure"

These two simple rules are the opposite of what we do Money supply is NOT linked to the physical economy
The increase in money supply goes to those who hold assets (the 0.1%)

David Brin said...


Recall that Heinlein grew up within living memory of the Free Silver movement, when the oligarchy tried to limit any altrernative to gold, which they hoarded, stifling the money supply.

Donald Gisselbeck said...

Here is my proposed wager to be sent to the Missoulian.
I will bet any one of you who think climate change is a liberal hoax my last weeks wages against your last weeks wages that on September 20, 2019 the following will be true:
1) the 10 year running mean of global temperatures will be rising
2) the 10 year running mean of Arctic ice extent will be falling. (Both as given by NASA.)
I will also bet $50 that at least once before then I will be unable to find 100 vertical meters of firn to ski in Montana in October.
Wagers will be left in escrow with a mutually accepted party.
Offer expires at the end of the month.
Any suggestions?

donzelion said...

Larry Hart: "But seriously, you were describing conversations you had with actual Republicans."

Honestly, there weren't that many, and it was typically husbands who wanted to answer on behalf of their wives. They weren't giving up on Trump, so much as angry at (1) Nancy Pelosi, (2) immigrants, (3) assorted other random talking points. We don't try to engage with them, but mainly to listen and be polite. A few did say that they didn't care for Trump (which fits the demographics - Hillary is the first Dem to win that congressional district since FDR). At fairs and other functions when they approach and engage, the talks last longer and are more confrontational since the sorts of people who come up want to do so - but a few Republican candidates have also mostly shrugged off Trump (nonplussed = unperturbed), and a few diehard Republicans, when pressed, had trouble linking 'free market' and 'tariffs.'

"Don't worry, they're beginning to give up on Trump"
I have not seen a single MAGA hat on display in the district. Two years ago, they were everywhere in the OC. So...that's something. BUT -

"Don't hold your breath--they're solidly in his camp no matter what."
The conversations suggested people not interested in debate or discussion (but that's sort of normal, and I wasn't really looking for debate in the first place - this won't be won through reason, except maybe if there's a close, preexisting relationship).

David Brin said...

DG... go for it! We all need to get out there and try such confrontational bet-offerings!

donzelion. I am disappointed. There are wagers that can be offered in a quiet tone, with a smile, that nevertheless rock back the foxoid arrogance.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | Novel=Night of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel. He also co-wrote 'Seven Days in May'. Maddow referred to the book, the movie, and (of course) 'The Manchurian Candidate'. The two movies were connected by a director. One author connects a movie and book. [The reason I didn't name them earlier was I was at work and disinclined to search those topics on a work-related computer.]

One of those things is not like the others.

Not really. If you look at the housing market in California, supply is intentionally limited by voters who want it that way. It props up our property values. If the markets were free-er, more houses might get built leading to an over-supply leading to issues later like house value deflation. Such a thing happened in Vegas. Inflation/deflation can happen in any particular commodity, but there are often checks imposed by physical reality. Houses don't get built by magic. Educations don't get acquired by magic. Distort the value of any of them by making money to buy them essentially free, though, and you get misallocations of resources. It is the intentional distortions that get my attention.

When I was unemployed in 2009, I got to see the true costs of my health care insurance when the COBRA bill showed up. Yikes. I knew then I could pay my mortgage or pay my health insurance (using unemployment insurance) but not both. Either way, my family would have been left hanging, right? I was making the decision to pay the mortgage when Obama's offer showed up in my mailbox. Pay 35% of your Cobra and the Feds would pay the other 65%. What a deal! Even as someone inclined to be a libertarian, I really had no choice. Only a zealot leaves his family hanging medically when he has options and I'm not. What I did instead is learn about the inflation rate for health care insurance at the standards I wanted for my family. It was running at about 17% at the time. WTF I thought! Disaster looming on the horizon. 8/

I often use 'real wage' as a way to demonstrate that the world is doing pretty damn good in the historical sense. The typical progressive come-back (very reasonable too) is that Some commodities/goods/services do not follow the same trend as real wage. Some suffer imposed distortions that lead to misallocations that serve particular interests. Health care insurance is one. Education costs like textbooks are another. Have you seen inflation rate for a decent college education? Yikes. That's worth another WTF!

The neat thing about paying attention to the numerous, smaller scope inflation rates is they point precisely to where our attention should be directed when it comes to innovations. If the currency you want to use to denominate your retirement savings is inflating (meaning your savings LOSE value relative to other measures), you should be tempted to switch to something else. If you have your money stashed in a mutual fund that gleans 1%/year in fees, you should be tempted to switch to an equal performance one that gleans 0.1%/year. If you regularly include pizza in your menu and the price of cheese goes nuts, you should be tempted to swap to pasta or something. Economics is all about these substitutions and it only works well when we SEE the prices. Do you know what you pay for health care insurance? It's probably not reported on your pay stub (assuming you get those benefits). You'll see part of what you pay. Few employers report to you your fully encumbered cost to them. Mine does (including health care plan information) and it alters my expectations when negotiating with them. Knowing the inflation rates for the various parts of the encumbered cost is key to my expectations because I can connect my reality to theirs.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | The money supply should increase as the economy does

I'm generally supportive, but recognize that people game the numbers for their own purposes. I also have concerns when the people who get to decide such things are voted into office by people who don't understand basic economics. Even worse is when they vote the way the golf buddy clade wants them to vote. Ugh.

I wouldn't just free silver. I'd free it all. If you can digitize a commodity, you can use it a bit like money or use it to hedge other forms of money. Basically, I don't think the US should be able to state what is a 'legal' currency. They SHOULD be able to fit people for orange jump suits when fraud is provable, but if I want to issue my own fiat currency they shouldn't be able to do a damn thing about it. The markets will value my paper about where it belongs most likely by demanding some transparency about my reserves. No one will buy it (or should) if I don't conform to basic accounting standards.

Yet people buy 'Tether'. Amazing. 8/

Ultimately, at the very root, money is a debt instrument. It DOES grow with the economy when we trade debts with each other. The folks who demand it take the form of gold are violating a basic human inclination. If I trust you enough to accept your debt, we both create money the moment I accept it. The money vanishes when you pay up. If enough of us do this and agree on a basket of common commodities, we can trade the debts. Historically, that basket included gold and silver, but among the Chumash who lived where I currently live, they used other stuff that looks like certain types of sea shells. The particulars don't matter, though. What matters is what goes on the the heads of those trading. It ain't the gold or silver. It ain't the greenbacks or bitcoins. It's just traders having reasonable expectations with respect to those around them.

Freeing silver isn't enough. Freeing money is the ideal. Figuring out how to do it without being robbed blind is the challenge. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | One thing from last time...

I put 'reasonable' in quotes because what is reasonable depends a great deal on the people thinking about it.

Reasonable people can have reasonable objections over what constitutes reasonable expectations. 8)


If we are going to bet on the author, I'd have to know the odds being offered. I wouldn't but any money on KellyAnne unless the odds were long. I just don't see it. I would accept even money on Coats and Pompeo, though.

To me, it looks like the Op-ed is signaling a few in Congress that the author does not wish to be treated as one of the culprits when this all hits the fan next year. That person should be able to come clean and claim authorship after the election trauma and come out smelling better than some others. They should be able to carry a few people with them when they name the others in the resistance. So... I see it partially as a legal defense strategy.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

When I was unemployed in 2009, I got to see the true costs of my health care insurance when the COBRA bill showed up. Yikes. I knew then I could pay my mortgage or pay my health insurance (using unemployment insurance) but not both.


I was in a similar situation in just the last year or two. My contract was not renewed at my old employer as of Oct 2016, so I was looking for work just as the Trump election happened. Not a great time for a job search. I was fortunate that my severance package gave me four pre-paid months of COBRA, but I ended up paying for it almost the entire remaining 14 months that I was eligible. For me, it was almost an extra two mortgage payments.

(Got a heck of a tax refund, though.)


Only a zealot leaves his family hanging medically when he has options and I'm not. What I did instead is learn about the inflation rate for health care insurance at the standards I wanted for my family.


I have no problem with someone learning and evolving from exposure to new aspects of reality. What I have a problem with is someone who, when reality runs roughshod over ideology, sticks to the ideology with respect to everyone else, but conveniently carves out a need-based exception for themselves. Rush Limbaugh continuing to demonize drug users even though he is one. Paul Ryan hating on Social Security after being raised on it. Pro-life zealots insisting their mistresses have abortions. I've got no patience for such hypocrisy.

And no, I'm not including you in that group. You actually learn from your uncomfortable brushes with reality.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Novel=Night of Camp David by Fletcher Knebel. He also co-wrote 'Seven Days in May'. Maddow referred to the book, the movie, and (of course) 'The Manchurian Candidate'.


Guess I'll have to find that one, then. I've read both of those other novels and seen both movies. I don't remember much difference between the movie and book versions of "Seven Days in May". "The Manchurian Candidate" is a rare instance where the movie seemed much better than the book.

I'm not a fan of modern remakes of older movies, but I'd kinda like to see a reimagined "Seven Days in May" for today's world in which the audience is on Burt Lancaster's character's side. :)

jim said...

Here is a link to a good article that jives with what I have been seeing on the ground.

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/09/trump-midterms-working-america/569452/

Here is the good news for the short run :
“Since Trump’s election, Working America’s organizers have conducted about 400,000 more conversations with voters at their doorsteps. These discussions, says Matt Morrison, the group’s executive director, show that voters are “experiencing … a very different America” as the Trump presidency unfolds.
In more affluent and better-educated communities, he says, voters are heavily consuming news about the daily maelstroms engulfing Trump. The perpetual chaos and conflict, he says, is powerfully energizing the college-educated voters most repulsed by Trump, especially women. And that undertow is so strong that it is tugging others around them away from the GOP: “If you live in a college-educated community, you are moving with that overall community,” Morrison says.”

And the longer term problem:
“The core of the Democrats’ problem, they believe, is that while many minority voters see Trump and the GOP as hostile, they are not convinced Democrats have ideas to meaningfully improve their economic condition. White blue-collar communities are even more skeptical. Among these working-class voters on both sides of the color bar, Morrison says flatly, “it is not credible to see the Democrats, broadly speaking, as a change agent.” The ominous result for Democrats? In all parts of the country, families that cite the economy as their top concern during Working America’s door-knocking visits prefer Republicans”

So things look good for democrats in the mid term but much more problematic in the next presidential election. If the Corporate DLC maintains control over the Democratic Party and the Ocasio-Cortez wing of the party is sidelined don’t count on winning the 2020 election.

David Smelser said...

On knowing the full cost of employee paid heal insurance: One the provisions of the ACA is that companies with 250+ full time employees (or 250+ full time equivalent) have to report the cost of health insurance on the employee's W-2 in box 12DD. This information is purely informational -- it doesn't affect what you own in taxes.

David Brin said...

A persuasive line of reasoning suggests the anon-op-ed writer was US Ambassador to Russia John Huntsman. I hope so, since his axing would be no real loss. What the article shows is how hard it is to mask your own identity in a long missive where your style of writing and specific concerns are sure to betray you, even despite tossing red-herrings like the Pence fave-word: "lodestar." (Unless the true author did that by laying clues that it's Huntsman!)

The next 'adult in the room' should take note. Still, see what I wrote in my earlier, longer FB posting. These people need to look in a mirror and murmur: "The amoral toddler appointed me. That speaks ill of me. I'll repent and do pennance. That doesn't make me a hero. And the policies I push are suspect."

See: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/09/new-york-times-op-ed-anonymous-writer-trump.html

Scott Schroeder said...

I have had the wager discussion with a friend who absolutely does not believe in climate change. I said I would be happy to wager. And he replied: "You claim to be 95% certain about climate change. Therefore you ought to give me 20:1 odds in this wager." I responded that he claims to be 95% certain about it NOT being real, would he be willing to give ME those odds? He disagreed. Maybe I should have taken the wager. However, my uncertainty is not in the science, but in the possibility of demonstrating the outcome to his satisfaction. And no, I'm really not interested in having a lawyer involved in disagreements with a friend. I do not envision an outcome where my friendship survives a contested wager. The friendship survives today because I no longer have such discussions with him.

David Brin said...

Scott, thanks for sharing your dope's writhing excuse. Your answer:

"This is about whether science should affect public policy. You say no, I say yes. You are willing to bet my childrens' future on the loony notion that we should ignore not only almost all scientists but also the US Navy and every other fact-using profession.

"You are sure enough to do that to my children, but too craven to put down a hundred bucks? The the country and planet and future go to hell, but clutch your wallet?"

jim said...

On Betting

Well my major disagreement with folks on this site has to do with what has really been the source of our current prosperity. Many seem to believe that our inventiveness is the source and it has put us on a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop to our current prosperity and will soon lead us to the stars.

My contention is that our prosperity has been made possible by the High EROEI (energy return on energy invested) of fossil fuels and our willingness to impose the costs on the rest of the living world and that our inventiveness is basically an extender to these sources of our prosperity. The problem is that are limited supplies of high EROEI fossil fuels and limits to how much damage the living world can take and for how long it can keep taking damage.

EROEI is clearly decreasing and the rest of the living world is clearly suffering from human activities but we also have many more scientist and engineers and educated people than ever before.

So any takers on “in 10 years the non-human living world will be in worse shape than today”?

Or “in 10 years global warming will be worse with at least one Blue Arctic event in late summer, and at least one drought that reduces grain production by 30% in an important agricultural exporter.”

Or “There will be another global financial crisis like the one that happened in 2008 due to debts that can’t be paid or an international currency crisis.”

Larry Hart said...

@jim,

I think most of us here would take the same side of those bets.

Although the first is kind of given. I know I'll be in worse shape at close to 70 than I am at close to 60. The United States and the living world will probably be worse off for much the same reason, irrespective of climate change.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

The best example of a Fox-incantation and stunning intellectual dishonesty was the catechism of the right for decades that "There's been no warming for 15 years!" Then "There's been no warming for 16 years!" Then 17 years. And I grew curious why so specific?


Well, that one doesn't work any more. I suppose at some point, they'll be able to start over with "no warming for 1 year", but even that isn't the case yet.

It reminds me of a very early "Simpsons" episode where Homer drove way out into the countryside to visit a waitress turned country music singer at her trailer park. The trailer park had one of those signs that said something like "[14] Days Without a Tornado" where the number was replaceable. On his second visit, a few days later, it said "[2] Days..."

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Jim

So any takers on “in 10 years the non-human living world will be in worse shape than today”?

30 years ago nobody would have bet on ANY of the whale species still being alive in 2018
We are making progress - slowly - a local town is discussing banning house cats

10 years? - IMHO things will still be "worse" - but by a much lesser amount
20 years? - we will have turned the corner

We have already reached the point where solar and wind are CHEAPER than the cheapest dirtiest fossil fuels so even if your contention that cheap fossil energy fuelled our advance is correct (and it's NOT) then we are over that part of it

Alfred Differ said...

@David Smelser | My employer gets quite specific and it all comes out as a stand-alone report mailed to each of us each year. Health care, vision, dental, social security, unemployment insurance.... etc. He covers it all. Using that report, I can see precisely what I cost him. I can then compare that to what I think he is making from me (I'm a US Navy contractor) and calculate the difference. It's not a good margin, but defense contracting is like that.

First time I saw one of those reports I wondered if there was a new regulation requiring it. I'm still not sure, though, because they started when my employer was working hard at growing the business, thus his financial reserves were 'in use' to put it mildly. I wondered a few seconds afterward if he was working to avoid having us all ask for raises. THAT made some sense. 8)

Having tried to start a couple of businesses, I'm even less of a fan of the burdens the states place on them than I am of paying lots of extra personal taxes. I'd rather separate my health care insurance negotiations from my employer, but I won't for now because they make it way too easy for me as an employee to use my employer. That use has a cost, though, and I can see some of it on my yearly report and the rest of it in the wages he pays to people in the HQ group. I'd rather split my vision and dental plans out too, but the insurers aren't set up to deal with that approach. I'd still be inclined to buy into a co-op for purchasing power, but my employer is doing a decent job of it, so I have no complaints. He bears the costs, I bear the lower wage. Why change it, right? For control. I shouldn't have to revert to COBRA because of an employer change.

I was very interested in the ACA debate in 2009. I didn't see the options I wanted being debated, but at least there was some discussion going on. Maybe the subject will come up again within my lifetime. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

@jim | You'll probably have to be more specific before I'd take any bets.

1) "In 10 years the non-human living world will be in worse shape than today" leaves 'worse' as too loose. Dig into that and we'd have to get specific about parts of the non-human living world too.

2) a) Blue arctic even in late summer within 10 years? I'd probably take that. I don't think it is going to happen, but not because I think global warming is a hoax. I just don't think the arctic will melt through in that time frame. I expect the next solar cycle max to be a dud and that matters.

b) One drought that reduces grain production by 30% in an important agricultural producer? You'd have to list the producers first. Second, there is the small problem with distinguishing between weather and climate when looking at a single event. I'd probably pass on this bet simply because it is ill-formed.

3) 'Global financial crisis in 10 years? I'd probably take you up on that, but we'd have to get specific. I expect a regional crisis, but not a global one. For example, the meltdown in SE Asia in the late 90's was regional. The meltdown in 2008 was global. There should be a recession between here and 2028 (maybe two), but I would bet against a 2008-style financial crash. Think back to the last time one of those happened. It was NOT when the Depression started. The 2008 event is more like 1907 than 1929.

Larry Hart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

We are making progress - slowly - a local town is discussing banning house cats


Cat jokes aside, in what way is that progress?

David Brin said...

Jim, we are well familiar with arguments like yours and their basis in something you’ll not like to hear. There are some very intelligent and educated people who are nevertheless unable to grasp pivotal concepts. One of those concepts is the Positive Sum Game.

Oh, I’ll wager you could run off a definition and claim to understand it. But this is to no small degree a matter of personality. And I might be jumping to conclusions. But your dismal assumptions are consistent. You avow that we built our civilization by discovering vast new energy sources. But you assume it is all zero-sum, that no benefit comes without an equal cost.

I’ll not argue with this religious doctrine, since all my evidence and examples would not budge such a firm dogma. Suffice it to say that I, instead, perceive the universe consisting of a series of slopes and plateaus, and carbon fuels enabled us to reach a level of sophistication from which we can reach the next level and then abandon them. There’s no way you’ll see it this way. Alas. But will that be an excuse for you not to invest and fight for it to be so?

Wouldn’t you RATHER I be right? That’s a core question. Because if you’d rather be proved right than wrong about this, then something is, indeed, very wrong.

Oh, regarding bets. If this were 1985, around the time of Star Trek IV… be honest… how many species of whale would you have wagered would still be around, in 2018? Hm? Oh, I see Duncan made the point.

We are losing a lot of species and I – the author of EARTH – have fought this harder than you have. But ecosystems suffer with the loss of genuses, not species. There’s still time.

===
Alfred, I despair of ever figuring out why NOBODY ever mentions that the ACA was based on Heritage-Romneycare. Seriously? No democrat and no republican. WTF?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

NOBODY ever mentions that the ACA was based on Heritage-Romneycare. Seriously? No democrat and no republican. WTF?


It was mentioned many times during the 2012 presidential campaign. Romney's primary opponents tarred him with "Ob-omneycare", and when he won the nomination anyway, he campaigned on disavowing his own plan. Republican voters simply don't care about consistency--they're fully into the whole "Two plus two is whatever Donald Trump says it is" thing. And Democrats don't like the Romneycare aspects of Obamacare--they want Medicare For All.

Speaking of the most recent President of the United States, he knocked one out of the park with a speech at my alma mater, the University of Illinois. Of course, Benedict Donald gave a juvenile response during a speech in North Dakota about Obama putting him to sleep. Too bad there were fewer people in North Dakota than there are in Champaign-Urbana.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding Romneycare, I'd argue that horse left the barn long ago. I accept the similarities, but that never really interested me. I was mostly concerned with people seeing the real costs. Price inelasticity is expected in catastrophic need situations, but I suspect there is some elasticity left IF people could see the costs for smaller things that might be within the reach of a savings plan for some of us.

For example, my vision care needs are usually quite predictable. I really should be using a savings plan. If y'all want to make those tax deductible, I'd appreciate it. I don't do it, though, because the cost of the insurance plan through my employer is cheaper IF all I measure is the deduction they take from my pay. If I measure that deduction plus the encumbered cost contribution, though, I'm paying more for vision care by relying on the insurance plan. Why would I do that? Because not taking the plan doesn't bump up my paycheck by including their encumbered component. It only rakes back 'my share'. My actual share is both parts, but I can't have them both. Thus... I make my employer bear the burden and the costs are somewhat masked to me.

I was quite impressed when my health care insurer passed the bills through to me after a hospital visit in 2013. I didn't owe anything, but for some reason they let me in on how much they were charged, what they actually paid, and who they rejected for erroneous charges. I was in a little over a week and the raw charges were about $98K. Of that, they decided $4K was is error. Of what remained, their deals with the actual providers left them with a bill around $32K. I paid $250. THAT's what catastrophic care coverage should be about. Had I been stuck with no provider, I've no doubt I would have done the inelastic thing and paid whatever including the errors. I would have been selling the house to do it, but I'm sure I would have. It makes no sense to do that for less-than-catastrophic care, though. I can tape my glasses back together or use superglue for a while. Been there, done that, but that trick doesn't work for a hyperactive immune system intent on perforating your blood vessels. 8)

I don't believe there is an easy plan that will work for all of us. Whether it is government backed or not, we need to be able to afford it, innovate new techniques and drugs and equipment, and cope with situations where there isn't much to be done for the unlucky. I don't see how we can do all that without the market playing a VERY important role, but I'll accept that it might not play all the roles. For it to play ANY role, though, we need price visibility from end to end. Where price elasticity is still available, we need it. Badly.

Larry Hart said...

David Axelrod on Bill Maher's show speculates that the anonymous op-ed was "like Murder on the Orient Express. Everyone got to write one sentence."

That's so crazy it just might be true.

David Brin said...

Heh LH, that'd be parsed quickly by the comupter linguistics programs.

But cute.

onward

onward