Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Assange vs Snowden: A Tragicomedy. And the war on science gets explicit.

First, a bit that says it all, from a top Republican factotum: Science is a Democrat thing.”  Um. They say it proudly, even explicitly, as when DonaldTrump just this week attacked meteorologists. "Trump ridicules weather forecasters for getting it ‘wrong the most’ when they made a spot-on prediction." 

They have to. Disdain geniuses who predicted the paths of every recent hurricane with uncanny accuracy 5 days out, saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Because virtually all of them (along with every Naval officer) confirm global warming.

Yes, science, but also every fact-based profession. Including medicine, law, teaching, journalism and the "deep state" enemies of the Intel/FBI/military officer corps (who are fleeing the GOP in droves, despite their crewcuts, because, well, fact and science (and climate change) are real. 

There is some guilt to go around. Any and all liberals who reject crewcut refugees from this madness, know this -- you are doing Putin's work. But if you head forth to lure just a couple of RASRs (Residually Adult-Sane Republicans) into the light, then you are doing your part to save civilization.

== Assange Theatrics and WikiTantrums ==

What a tragicomedy. We needed something like WikiLeaks (which I predicted in The Transparent Society). But this jerk turned it into a tool wielded by Putin against the west. He meant us harm. As we'll discuss below, In contrast, I don't believe that was ever Edward Snowden's aim.

What's astonishing is how little actual damage Assange and Snowden (two very different men, I avow!) did to U.S. processes or government or even officials. In a few cases, light caused some ruction followed by incremental reforms (more below). Which somewhat-guardedly pleased Snowden and drove Assange absolutely nuts. But no surprise there. Read about his behavior at London’s Ecuadorian Embassy.

Says Albert Gross: “Somebody has to write a farcical screenplay  (or TV series)  about this. The comic potential is too great. Sort of a mixture of two classic plays: The Man Who Came To Dinner and Molière's Misanthrope.”

And yes, some of my agency friends may fume about a few wikileaks harms… some spy methods revealed, some sources endangered or compromised. (There was one pretty bad steal from NSA.) But on any grand scale, it was reassuring to see how little “heinous” was going on… much less than Assange raved, or than many fevered folks expected. Take this discussion of “harms”:

“On the diplomatic front, WikiLeaks shared many examples of U.S. diplomats writing in unflattering terms about foreign leaders, causing the U.S. embarrassment.”

Um… I followed all this at the time. The Chelsea Manning leaks revealed a quarter of a million State Department cables and that was not good. Yet, what “unflattering” things were our diplomats saying? They were caught privately dissing vile dictators like Hosni Mubarak, despising tyrants and wishing they did not have to deal with them! These cables were outed just before and during the Arab Spring, proving that these vile dictators were not U.S. agents, but actually hated by our diplomatic corps. 

Result? Amid all the Arab Spring protests by students and liberals across that region, no American flags were burnt.

Thanks Chelsea! (Should she get a medal?) Seriously, that musta really stuck in Assange’s gorge. That and the fact that light seems only to help us, never to bring us crashing down. (Though I hope some “leaders” get seared into dust, by light. One of our innovations -- the leader is not the state. Much as the present Louis crise "l'etat c'est moi!" See "Trump team sues Deutsche Bank and Capital One to keep them from turning over financial records to Congress.")

What Snowden’s better-targeted leaks did was cause a partial (I admit insufficient) overhaul of the FISA process, turning the 'FISA Court' into an actual court with adversarial ombudsmen to speak against each filing. It's not enough! But it was a step in right directions and hence Snowden has some cause to call himself an “Ellsberg.” Moreover, Snowden openly avows his civil disobedience merits some punishment! (Showing a rare understanding of “civil disobedience,” which only counts if there’s some punishment! We'll blog about this, soon.) 

That punishment must be satiable and proportional in a free and improving society, especially if our standards change because of the civil dispobendience, as ML King changed our standards. 

And no, I am not calling them equivalent. I will not pre-judge, but will leave it at this: Assange and Snowden are two very different cases. Two very different qualities of men.

== A metaphor for the perennial liberal problem ==

Watch this biopic about Hannah Arendt.  (I was visiting scholar at the Hannah Arendt Center at Bard College. My father sat next to her, at the Eichmann Trial.)

The biopic is a fascinating story about a rift in most progressive movements -- the choice between  complexity (moving progress forward by analyzing how things work, including the obstacles ahead) and ideological purity (mobilizing the forces of progress with simplified incantations.) I sometimes get in trouble for doing the former, though I understand the need for the latter.  

Unfortunately, the latter impulse results in the Good Side of this struggle often eating their own, and I fear it may do us harm in 2020.

A moment in the film struck me. Arendt has fled to America. She is critical of many of our flaws. But when asked what she thinks of us, overall, she sighs, remembering Europe, and says "paradise."

Compare her to another Jewish emigré Leo Strauss, who ranted that America should be more like the Europe that had just committed suicide with imperialism and madness.  Strauss trained most of the "Neocons" who fed the right's Bush-era imperialist ravings.  ... till Rupert Murdoch decided he could do without any intellectuals at all, and flushed them like toilet paper.

I guess my point is that we don't have to motivate our reform efforts by saying all is crap... or that there's equal amounts progress and crap... or that we've fallen backwards.  Clearly, every generation of (especially) Americans has taken on new issues of inclusion and with some exceptions (the 1870s and 1920s) risen to the challenge of widening the circle at least a little.

The classic liberal worry is that any admitting of our prodigious progress might lessen the imperative to forge ahead. But each plateau only shows us how desperately urgent is the need to keep going.  May I attempt a metaphor?

We're like allied prisoners escaping a sunken U-Boat, rising 90 meters, then nine, then 0.9...  and each stroke brings us closer to the light that feels like it is receding!... Because each stroke upward feels a more burning urgency and a sense that we're running out of time.  And meanwhile, some damn nazis are grabbing at the ankles...

Yipe, what a metaphor. But the point is that urgency doesn't vanish if you admit that you've come a long way. Indeed, that admission empowers! Try it.

And speaking of metaphors…

“I told you once before that there were two times for making big money, one in the up-building of a country and the other in its destruction. Slow money on the up-building, fast money in the crack-up. Remember my words. Perhaps they may be of use to you some day. 
Rhett Butler from Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind

In contrast, this SMBC cartoon makes a seldom mentioned point. That consumerism is hard on the planet… but has lifted more humans out of poverty, elevated more children, and enabled billions of women to rise up enough to control and limit their birth rates… which has in turn fundamentally saved the planet. Ironies abound. But simplistic anti-globalism is not an answer. And the American consumer, especially, may be recognized someday as an agent of hope and salvation. 


jim said...

“That consumerism is hard on the planet… but has lifted more humans out of poverty, elevated more children, and enabled billions of women to rise up enough to control and limit their birth rates… which has in turn fundamentally saved the planet”

Dios Mio what a load of caca!

Saved the planet???? Past tense????

You know as well as I do that the ecological danger we are in is accelerating not diminishing. And the mountains of useless shit Americans bought in an orgy of consumerism did not help the environment at all, that mountain of crap is very much at the heart of the environmental crisis. And the vast majority of the benefits from globalization when to those already wealthy only the crumbs fell to the poor along with toxic pollution from making that mountain of crap.

Larry Hart said...

From the linked article about Trump dissing meteorologists:

But Trump insisted he had heard a storm was en route, claiming his team cautioned the event may be canceled. “They said ‘we may have to cancel.’ I said ‘like hell we’re gonna cancel.' People were standing out there 24 hours ago, 32 hours ago outside.”
Meteorologists weren’t happy about being thrown under the bus. It’s one thing to be shamed for a bad forecast. It’s another to be called out for a really good one.

“After my initial eye roll, I would be interested to hear from the (nameless) meteorologist who insisted the rally be canceled,” wrote Jacob Wycoff, a meteorologist at WBZ-TV in Boston. “My guess is that person doesn’t exist.”

Reading more closely, I don't think any meteorologist told Trump he'd have to cancel the event. One of "his team" told him that. Almost by definition, that wouldn't be anyone who actually knows stuff.

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman makes plain what we already know:



What the right’s positioning on inequality, climate and now Russian election interference have in common is that in each case the people pretending to be making a serious argument are actually apparatchiks operating in bad faith.

What I mean by that is that in each case those making denialist arguments, while they may invoke evidence, don’t actually care what the evidence says; at a fundamental level, they aren’t interested in the truth. Their goal, instead, is to serve a predetermined agenda.


All of this is or should be obvious. After all, it’s a pattern that goes back decades. But my sense is that the news media continue to have a hard time coping with the essential fraudulence of most big policy debates. That is, reporting about these debates typically frames them as disputes about the facts and what they mean, when the reality is that one side isn’t interested in the facts.

I understand the pressures that often lead to false equivalence. Calling out dishonesty and bad faith can seem like partisan bias when, to put it bluntly, one side of the political spectrum lies all the time, while the other side doesn’t.

But pretending that good faith exists when it doesn’t is unfair to readers. The public deserves to know that the big debates in modern U.S. politics aren’t a conventional clash of rival ideas. They’re a war in which one side’s forces consist mainly of intellectual zombies.

Mike Will said...

Just got back from a lecture by the Vector Institute on "Creativity in the Age of AI". We looked at the 'dreams' of a huge, vastly trained neural network. Quite unsettling. We delude ourselves thinking that deep, deep AI is decades away - it isn't.

Re: HCI patents: cool. We discussed AR, VR, gloves, etc in my LinkedIn Asimov&Psychohistory group three years ago in regards to the Prime Radiant. Again, it's later than you (we) think.

David Brin said...

jim utterly ignores (as usual) the actual actual words of my actual, actual sentence. I won't even both, this time. Calm down. Wipe the spittle and drool and actually, actually look at the sentence... then take a stress pill and try again. Maybe the fifth time you've understand.

David Brin said...

Frankly, I don't expect it's even remotely possible. Sanctimony is a lobotomizing drug.

Alfred Differ said...

David, (from last time)

...I have patents in human-computer-human interface that never went anywhere...

Yah. I ran across you talking about them in a SL chat session a few years ago. They had that ugly, fire hose chat system. Ugh. You got me to come back here and de-lurk.

I worked on airship tech related patents for a previous project, but didn't quite get them completed. We were having a hard time pitching things too, so I stopped short. I had a neat idea or two, but no obvious customer.

I seem to remember something Edison pointed out that we are supposed to find the customer and funding before creating the invention. 8)

Alfred Differ said...


And the vast majority of the benefits from globalization when to those already wealthy only the crumbs fell to the poor along with toxic pollution from making that mountain of crap.

Sure. That explains all the dead babies who never get to grow up because they starved or died of diseases like most children through history did.

What? Extended lives don't count as benefits of globalization? Education doesn't either? Mere crumbs? Pfft.

Sue Bursztynski said...

“Science is a DEMOCRATS thing? Sounds like your loonies running the place are like ours. We no longer have a Minister for Science, the CSIRO has had finding cut and the crazies up the top are talking about having a Royal Commission into the Bureau of Meteorology because of, get this, it’s implications about climate change, which they refuse to believe in because it might be bad for business! The current nutter occupying the role of Prime Minister once brought a lump of coal into Parliament to make a point. We have an election in a few weeks and with luck they may be out after that, replaced by a saner team.

I really don’t want to claim Julian Assange for one of us. Whatever he did in the past doesn’t make up for what he has done recently. And I really would not have wanted to be his host in the Embassy. But he doesn’t deserve a potential death penalty he might get if taken to the US.

David Brin said...

S.B. thanks for the Oz perspective.

Death penalty has been waning for a long time over here, except in a few southern states. The notion of a federal execution of Assange is (as things stand) simply absurd.

Still, no one ever gave Snowden the vore promises (and open-court trial and limits on outcome) he asked in order to come home and face the music. Politicians see no benefit from making such a deal.

Alfred Differ said...

Classified Information Markings
Top Secret (TS) - Such material would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security if made publicly available.
Secret (S) - Such material would cause "serious damage" to national security if made publicly available.
Confidential (C) - Such material would cause "damage" to national security if made publicly available.

Controlled Unclassified Information Markings
For Official Use Only (FOUO) - [Not to be used on material explicitly covered by FOIA.]

None of these are supposed to be used to hide "embarrassing" information.
The person assigning the marking must be able to state the damage done or why FOIA would put the information in reach of the public.

There are lots of other markings used in the US, but they deal more with categorization than classification. These are in use at DoD. DoJ has a few of their own names that serve similar roles with "national security" swapped out for law enforcement terms.

As for the death penalty here in the US, it’s being overblown. Assange isn’t worth that. Let him stew in prison for what he did if they can convict him. He is NOT being charged with high level espionage that might provoke such a high level punishment. Last I checked, he’s just being charged with assisting in the theft of classified material.

For espionage convictions, we must demonstrate classified information was involved (it was), the accused acted with intent or reason to believe that the US will be harmed or to help a foreign government (?), and that communication of the information was willful (it was).

My beef with Assange is that he appears to have intent for the damage to the US to be done. However, my belief isn’t enough for prosecutors. They have to prove it. Absent that, they have to prove he intended to help a foreign government. I’m not sure I believe that about his original act with Manning, but I do when it comes to the 2016 election. However, that’s still not enough. Proof in court is the standard. Because of all that, they aren’t likely to charge Assange with espionage. They can stick with easier charges since he isn’t a spring chicken anymore.

Snowden appeared to have different motives and had more impact on us than the FISA thing. Look at how he collected the information he leaked. That was the real embarrassment, but we don’t talk about that much in the open. It’s been a real PITA. 8)

duncan cairncross said...

IMHO There should be similar penalties for "incorrect classification" as for breaching that classification

I would even say that there should be a level of Auditing - checking that the correct classification has been applied - and Auditing the Auditor!

At the moment the "Default" is to classify - we need to invert that

Larry Hart said...

Sue Bursztynski:

But he [Assange] doesn’t deserve a potential death penalty he might get if taken to the US.

Death penalty? I don't see how that would happen. Liberals don't like the death penalty. Conservatives owe him their political lives.

David Brin said...

LH... when has a conservative ever let gratitude enter into it?

Tony Fisk said...

At the time, I think Assange rightly feared being passed on to the US by Sweden. He wasn't actually charged with anything, and the prosecutor could have easily interviewed him in the UK, and the US Grand Jury had a sealed affidavit on him. It was a flimsy ruse, badly botched, and led to a ridiculous situation. It may well have encouraged WL to release some chance met Democrat campaign emails without too many questions (like "Wot, no beans on Trump then, Vlad?").
Whatever the actual circumstances, it didn't take a mathematical genius to identify a compromised institution at that point.

btw, just prior to Assange having his protection withdrawn, Manning was called in to answer questions in Court. She refused to do so, and is currently being held on contempt.

@Sue, the Climate Council just released a report that is ...

"... a detailed overview of the Australian government’s approach to climate change since the election of the Liberal-National Coalition* government in 2013. The period is characterised by slashing climate science funding, cutting effective climate change programs, rejecting the expert advice of national and international bodies, senior ministers making publicly misleading claims, a lack of credible climate policy, and consistently covering up poor performance.

This is the defining policy and leadership failure of the last decade."

Brew yourself a large kettle, as it's 60 pages long.

* Increasingly referred to as "the COALition".

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

* Increasingly referred to as "the COALition".

I wish I had said that. :)

jim said...

Sorry no sanctimony on my part, just an accurate understanding that it is the size and material throughput of the economy that is causing the ecological problems we face.

And I am totally calm, although it seems to me you are a bit distressed. It might be because part of your brain recognizes the bullshit that other parts of your brain spew. The cognitive dissonance has got to be fairly intense for someone as smart as you are.

Darrell E said...

This place is becoming less and less pleasant to visit lately. WTF is it with all the assholery?

Larry Hart said...

@Darrell E,

There's probably a psychohistorical law that explains it. In layman's terms, the a-holery causes others such as yourself to drift away, while the a-holes themselves don't care.

David Brin said...

I notice jim made zero effort to re-examine the sentence that triggered his denunciation, so let's make it explicit. The thing that has save us all, far more than other things like even our rising ecological awareness, has been the rate as which human women have defied Malthus by having just (roughly) two kids. Had they obeyed Malthusian expectations and had MORE children with increasing wealth, then we'd be doomed no matter how much we spent on eco- R&D and all that. But because women do that, we have a real chance to bring other potential wisdoms to bear.

Now most of you saw that's what I meant. In his reflexive hostility, not only did jim ignore that, he doubled down and refused to even consider the possibility that a second reading might actually change his mind.

Alas, Darrell E is right. There's been a lot of short tempered silliness here, of late. I apologize to the extent that I am at fault.

I'll start by retracting: "LH... when has a conservative ever let gratitude enter into it?"

In fact it is a matter of "horizon" boundaries. When you are inside a conservative's boundaries of inclusion, they exhibit gratitude and empathy and generosity to a greater average degree than liberals, in my experience. If I need to borrow a lawnmower or help fending off post apocalyptic road warriors, I will turn to my conservative neighbors. Under the latter conditions, I'll probably have shorter horizons, anyway.

jim said...

I responded to what you actually wrote (I even quoted it in full.)

And even now I am not sure what you mean when you write this
“The thing that has save us all,”

Did you mean to say “the thing that has saved us all”?

Or “the thing that will save us all”?

The fist statement is totally wrong.
The second statement is at least partially wrong. We can have a stable population and sill cause increasing amounts of ecological destruction by growing an economy like ours.

David Brin said...

jim, you cut and pasted in a paragraph you did not understand in the slightest and showed no interest in re-reading, despite my entreaties for you to do so. Cutting and pasting-in does not constitute understanding, or cogency or "response." It is (as I said" nothing more than doubling down.

Moreover, I explained in detail, in a followup. You know exactly what I meant in that followup, yet ignore the point. You are not an honest person (we knew that) and I am done speaking to you on this matter.

Alfred Differ said...


There IS a review process for changing classification levels and another for dealing with information that should not have been classified. We get trained on it each year to remind us to take FOIA seriously and to mark documents correctly. I don't have the juice to classify anything, but I do know the folks who do have to put their names to the decisions and own the consequences. Failure to do so among the civil servants has career implications.

Every one of us who can read them is taught to judge the markings and own the consequences of our parts of the processes even if we don't initiate the markings.

Alfred Differ said...


Looks to me like you are making a 'limits to growth' argument involving the flow through the pipes and maybe another involving limited sinks. Am I close?

David is pointing out that we'd already be toast if women had not made certain choices and then extends it with a suggestion that doing it once implies they can do it again.

The first question is whether you can see the beneficial choice women made. The second is whether you can admit that doing it once implies the possibility of doing it again. If you can't do either, there isn't much to talk about on this topic.

jim said...

No David I am being honest and truthful.

Your problem is that you are just wrong.

The demographic transition that occurred in China was nothing at all like the process you describe.
The birth rate fell long before China’s massive economic growth, the exact opposite of what you said.
Nor has the immense wealth of Saudi Arabia greatly reduced its population growth.

And if you look at the growing ecological destruction caused by china it is the growth of the economy that is responsible for the vast majority of the increase in ecological destruction not its population growth.

jim said...


Population growth is only part of the problem.

sociotard said...

Huh. My liberal rag of choice just ran two articles that mildly praised President Trump.

Silicon Valley is awash in Chinese and Saudi cash — and no one is paying attention (except Trump)

Workers in Mexico just won the right to organize real labor unions. Trump helped.

Alfred Differ said...


Defusing that bomb doesn't demonstrate something to you?

The whole world was exploding in that sense and most of us did not impose limits to the number of children a woman could have. The women did it themselves across most of the world.

David Brin said...

Goodness, at least now he is arguing with me and against my point, instead of leaping to howl and scream without understanding my point at all. Notice jim doesn't admit or refer to this change, even though he knows it happened.

But okay, NOW he is arguing that reductions in population growth and elimination of Malthusian runaway population catastrophe don't matter as much as the Amplification Effect... that humans pollute and use up resources much faster when they become wealthier.

Notice this first, that I just paraphrased jim. And pretty damned successfully, I bet. Paraphrasing is what grownups do, both to honor their opponents and to prove they understand what the other guy said... and that they are arguing at what the opponent ACTUALLY MEANT. jim never does this. ever.

But put that aside. Yes, it is arguable that children who are lifted out of grinding poverty, sent to school and given healthy prospects will have amplified immediate effects on the environment, while the Mother's Choice to have only two kids (because those two will thrive) will take 20 years to affect Earth impact. But that reproduction reduction will have ten times the impact, 20 years after that. And another ten times a generation after that. The simplest squint will tell any sober person which effect is more important, over the long run.

Of course, if 8 billion people get a middle class lifestyle like contemporary Americans, then Earth is screwed in the short term! Point well-taken. But jim's second pathetic absurdity is to posit that I -- as author of EARTH -- am somehow unaware or unconcerned about that. Seriously fellah. You are so silly that you'd actually assert that?

In fact, the Dutch and Japanese have shown how one can run comfortable, middle class households on a quarter of the land/energy/resource/pollution footprint of anverage Americans. Moreover technologies -- and laws -- are arriving rapidly, even against resistance from Koch-Fox jerks. (Reminder, jim, we are allies against them?)

Furthermore, note that it is only kids who were raised with some degree of safety-satiation-education who BECOME ENVIRONMENTALISTS. Those who are still scratching to survive do not. Period.

Ah, jim's other point. (Paraphrasing again, like a grownup does.) Yes, China started reducing population before achieving middle class. Seriously. jim said that, as if it ... um... was a rebuttal? Oh lord. Seriously. Yes, China's one-child policy helped save the planet. But it is an entirely separate phenomenon, with zero overlap, to the Mother's Choice phenomenon. Oh lord. Seriously. What is your assertion, sir?

David Brin said...

Um, I left out one more matter. The moral question that, in order to save the planet, we should leave three billion poor kids in abject, grinding poverty? Fortunately, that is not the actual tradeoff.

Daniel Duffy said...

"Amplification Effect... that humans pollute and use up resources much faster when they become wealthier."

But they have much fewer children when they become wealthy. Short term pain, long term relief.

"China started reducing population before achieving middle class."

Reducing population (one baby policy) helped them achieve middle class status by reducing the dependency ratio (number of children and elderly vs. number of workers). It gave them a demographic sweet spot from the 80s through the 10s. However, as their population ages, the dependency ratio increases and the Chines lose this demographic advantage.

David Brin said...

It also let them catch up in re decent housing and services for the children that were born.

Anonymous said...

When I was last in China (over a decade ago) the One Child Policy was still going strong, but they had noticed that in places like Shanghai there were a significant number of couples choosing not to have children, because they couldn't (or didn't want to) afford to raise them (Shanghai being particularly expensive, especially if you were middle class). Shanghai was petitioning the national government to relax the OCP because of this.

Alfred Differ said...

Let the economists run the numbers and I'd place my bet on the fact that the Chinese re-entered the world market as the leading factor in them achieving middle class. By a lot, I suspect.

David Brin said...

Well, sure. But they were surprised when relaxing OCP had very little effect.

duncan cairncross said...

IMHO the One Child Policy enabled China to jump forwards at least one generation

China was bigger and poorer than India - now its smaller and richer

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In fact, the Dutch and Japanese have shown how one can run comfortable, middle class households on a quarter of the land/energy/resource/pollution footprint of anverage Americans

Good point. It's not the comfortable lifestyle that endangers the planet, but the seemingly-uniquely American attitude that combines "No one tells me what to do!" with the right-wing sentiment that it is desirable to actively harm anything that liberals care about, including the planet we share.

Maybe we should be putting a stop to all Americans coming into the earth until we figure out what's going on.

David Brin said...

Well, sure. But they were surprised when relaxing OCP had very little effect.

"... the seemingly-uniquely American attitude that combines "No one tells me what to do!" with..."

Hey, we got rich first (in the middle class sense) when it was spectacularly energy intensive and there was plenty of energy and land to be had. So it felt natural to spread out and give middle class folks homes that would have suited a petty lord in times past, and cars, cars, cars. Which is more significant? The fact that humans did that? Or that they raised within ONE generation waves of young people who could see problems and eagerly denounced them?

Alfred Differ said...

I think most of us were surprised in how the population bomb fizzled,

... and then crushing poverty collapsed,
... and how lifespan in most countries climbed and saturated near western levels,
... and how we didn't nuke ourselves off the planet. 8)

We now have living proof it is possible for people to pick themselves up out of war and starvation and within a generation place most of their people squarely among the bourgeoisie.

For an encore, we must figure out how to keep 10 billion bourgeois citizens alive without collapsing our environment.

Sounds do-able.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Mother's Choice phenomenon... it's because raise modern children is more expensive. No miracles in it. And no hope (in it alone), because it means shrinking gene pool and slower/staggering evolution.

Darrell E said...


You are right.

Apologies for the outburst.

Larry Hart said...

You go, girl!


Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) was particularly harsh. She called him a liar, said he should resign, and declared: "Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrificed their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office."

Larry Hart said...

The "him" in the above item is #SoCalledAttorneyGeneral Bill Barr.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I saw thought and felt the same. Last night watching some news with the family I must have blurted out "It's called lying" half a dozen times. I'm getting fed up with journalists and politicians who can't bring themselves to say "they lied" or "that's a lie." They'll spend dozens of words sinuously approaching that word but never actually touching it. Just not proper decorum I suppose. Long past time for straight talk. Barr is straight up a liar and has lied many times. It was already a matter of history that he has no issues with lying to cover his political masters asses. He is also a worm. It needs to be shown and said plainly, clearly, repeatedly that he is a liar.

It is said that Mueller and Barr are friends, that their families do things together. This makes me wonder about Mueller. It seems improbable to me for someone to have been friends with Barr for decades and not see him for the dishonest, ethically challenged sycophant that he is. Mueller is claimed to be a paragon of honor and professionalism while Barr has been notably very dishonest and unprofessional since at least his first stint as Attorney General.

In other news, Lindsey Olin Graham seems to be making a break for the lead in Worst Person in the US over Mitch McConnell. Cliche I know, but I really do wonder how people that behave like that can sleep at night.

Darrell E said...

I've no idea why that 8:49 comment posted as "Anonymous." It was by me, Darrell E, posted the way I always post things.

jim said...

To paraphrase your argument:
“You argue that the American consumer culture and globalization led to the empowerment of women in the third world. And that the increase in their power and income results in women choosing to have fewer children. And that this process of increasing wealth leading to reduced population growth, greater environmental concern and that is the key to solving the ecological problem.”

Now the reason China is such a good counter example to this argument. its population growth rate and the number of children per woman fell dramatically before economic expansion. And the lower birth rate did not lead to solving the environmental problem in china. Sense 1990 the population of china has increased by ~25% but the economy of china grew more than 800%. The environmental destructiveness increased by about 800% also.

It is not the poor people in the world having babies that is at the core of the problem it is consumption of people in the wealthy countries of the world that is at the heart of the ecological problem.

Larry Hart said...

@Darrell E,

Mueller seems to think he made clear that his hands were tied as far as prosecuting a sitting president, and laid out the evidence for Congress to do so (their job).

He apparently doesn't understand that congressional Republicans and the Justice Department are now part of Trump, Inc. This is the definition of a Constitutional crisis.

jim said...

And although the population growth of poor people in the world is not causing nearly the problem that increasing consumption of the worlds middle class and wealthy is, the population bomb is still going off.

About 82.5 million more people at the end of 2018 than at the beginning, and an expectation of growth in the total population size for at least the next 30 years. And all that is occurring in a world already deep into ecological overshoot.

Larry Hart said...

We're discussing two topics which seem unrelated, but maybe have more in common than we think--Republican perfidy and environmental catastrophe. Is it possible that the wealthy and powerful, with their own sources of information available to them, know that life on earth is doomed no matter what we do? That this is why they're determined to be as hedonistic as possible for the short term, and care nothing about the effect on the future?

David Brin said...

Jim your effort to paraphrase is appreciated and never again let me say "jim never does this." Moreover you did it fairly well. Lesson learned, son? ;-)
Though one item... even if you accurately paraphrase, do not use quotation marks unless quoting.

Your second para is wrong because it assumes I said that increased wealth and safety are the ONLY ways to limit population growth. But I never said that and that would be silly since Malthus assumed there were many limiters that kick in when pop exceeds carrying capacity. Mao saw that crisis coming and imposed several limits in advance. One of them, mass starvation, was desperately evil (and perhaps unintended.) The other -OCP - I freely admitted helped save the world. But morally and overall it is best to use Mother Choice.

And yes, it is a miracle. There is no reason to have expected human females to defy repro logic and shift voluntarily from high-r to high K reproductive strategy with such alacrity. Moreover, it can only last 5 to 10 generations as women who DO feel compelled to have many fill the gene pool.

Again though, your rebuttal is not clearly thought out. Middle class life styles impose an immediate but one-time eco-cost, as houses etc are built, but new technologies enable subsequent lifestyles to be quasi sustainable. But a population boom would take us to Malthus in no time and kill us all.

Finally, you did not answer my question re what you propose. Leaving millions in grinding poverty? Dig it, humanity was already hurting the Earth for 15,000 years since we learned to herd goats and do primitive irrigation. Our path is forward.

Only note, this is how I treat a fellow who switches from reflex wrath to arguing and criticizing well.

David Brin said...

Darrell E I could tell your anonymous posting was made by a cogent person. This is why I want to leave the posting parameters loose... and I hope that I can.

Jon S. said...

"There is no reason to have expected human females to defy repro logic and shift voluntarily from high-r to high K reproductive strategy with such alacrity."

Actually, there is a reason. Women weren't cranking out babies as rapidly as possible until they just wore out because they loved wiping those snotty little noses so much - it was in order to ensure that at least a couple of them lived to adulthood, so the parents could pass on what they knew and perhaps if they were lucky enough to get old the children could help care for them.

When the lifespan of the children increases, the urgent need to make replacements suddenly fades; instead, a woman can concentrate on raising one or two (or, sometimes, a few more) children well instead of simply pumping out spares. This also means that there's more wealth available to lavish on each child - it's not that raising children gets more expensive, it's that spending money on the children makes more sense when they'll almost certainly live.

Larry Hart said...

The New York Times's Charles Blow enunciates what is tragically obvious:



America naïvely believed that the presidency was for honorable men (women, shamefully, still haven’t been given a shot), that the president of us would always in some form be the best of us. Few could conceive that a character who lacks character would get the chance to sit in that seat. And now that he’s there, it has been painfully underscored that removal is nearly impossible and that power can go nearly unchecked.

Yes, we may as well say the eulogy for the enigma we assumed was modern America and quickly turn to the truth: No one is coming to save us. No one is coming to restore this country and it won’t self-resurrect.

This is all up to us.


David Brin said...

Jon S yes, the tradeoffs are obvious. But it still remains a mystery why - if all is comfy and well, women do not feel an evolutionary imperative to move comfortably to a 3rd, then 4th. I suspect it is because of a fluke, that the obligate-evolved thing we feel compelled to do is sex, and we can separate it from reproduction. I doubt it is prevalent among sapient races and I rank this fluke in my top ten "Fermi Paradox" hypotheses.

jim said...

If you look at the global poverty rate and use the equivalent of 10 dollars a day as the level for poverty, 80% of the world population falls at or below that level. That is more than 6 billion people.

And as far as something like middle class life style becoming sustainable, I think that might be theoretically possible but I really don't see that happening in the real world. and by that I mean the data does not show that we are becoming sustainable, it shows things getting worse.

And I think that you are wrong about a one time eco cost. Carbon emissions are cumulative and extinctions are for ever.

David Brin said...

jim you sre arguing well. But ignoring the curves of how sustainable techs are arriving. Also cost of living is so low in many countries that $10 gets you a roof, toilet, electricity, fridge and kids in school.



Sel said...

Is there an ecological carrying capacity for the planet that 8 billion people could crash by their sheer numbers? Even if all were consuming at survival rates?
Can technology mimic and/or fill in such a set of natural functions?
How well are those functions understood?

Jon S. said...

There are far too many variables unaccounted for in your question, Sel. It can't be answered meaningfully as phrased.

David Brin said...



Sel said...

Ecological carrying capacities have been measured for smaller regions and for keystone species. The population counts that ebb and flow due to measurable variables.
I just wonder how clean air and clean water cycles can stand up against 8 billion people.
If, as has been studied and postulated, the plankton and phytoplankton in the sea provide 1/3 of the O2 in the atmosphere and the seas are undergoing heat death in many areas, etc.
I'm asking because I suspect even technology that doesn't stave off basic cycle collapse is an exercise in futility.
And I obviously think 8 billion people represent overpopulation.

Sel said...

Yes. The only thing to do. And I apologize for being pulled so far off topic.
Your father sat next to Arendt at the trial......amazing.
I appreciate your blog and the thought you pour into it....and the time it takes.