Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Court steps up? Oregon shenanigens! And the meaning of July 4.

For starters: Peter Denning interviews me about “resilience” of our critical infrastructure, from the power grid and cell-phones to transportation, food supplies and solar roofs, in the new issue of Communications of the ACM (CACM). I offer a dozen measures - some of them incredibly easy/cheap - that could improve robustness against shocks, by orders of magnitude, preventing us from ever facing a “Postman” situation. 

For those of you who aren’t ACM member-nerds, I’ll post a version some time. And yes, I’m qualified as a physicist, electrical engineer and longtime consultant on these matters with corporations and agencies. But frankly, it’s the science fiction. Of course it is.

== Three Court decisions that will change America and the World ==

Cardinal Richelieu - recalled as the "Three Musketeers" villain - is quoted as saying, “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him.” 

Now the conservative U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Richelieu’s favor. Well, in favor of police who arrest you over any minor thing, even if it is clearly in retaliation for something you said. This eats away at what was the leap in citizen rights we experienced — (without press notice) - in 2013 when the courts and Obama administration ruled that citizens may record the police in public. We must add this to our list of reasons to be active!

Still, there is a court that is higher than the Supremes! Jury nullification. Talk your neighbors into saying “no way is that right.” Then talk all of them into voting.

== A birthday gift to the nation? ==

Of course the most-important American, right now is Chief Justice John Roberts. He has already used a technicality to reverse Republican cheat-gerrymandering in Virginia, allowing that state's rising majority of smart people to finally get a fair vote. But it's the looming Court decisions re Wisconsin and Maryland that could truly end that blatant travesty, returning democracy to America.

These matters combine with a third constitutional crisis before us... whether Congress truly is an equal (indeed Constitutionally foremost) branch of government, able to compel testimony under its inherent powers of investigation and oversight. Powers the GOP used for 25 years to harry Obama and the Clintons, uncovering zilch. Now that light is pouring the other way, and money-laundering revelations are about to burst the dam, Trumpist-Foxites hypocritically aim to castrate that power, forever. 

There is ample precedent that Congress has this power: Under the 1934 Jurney vs. McCracken decision, the Supreme Court says Congress can detain people who refuse to provide information. Adam Schiff is talking about fines. This article lays it out

These separate issues revolve around one principle: legislature sovereignty. John Roberts earlier admitted that blatant political gerrymandering was wrong, but refused to intervene in the “proper domain” of state legislatures, a stance so clearly bogus.... But indeed, my 'Minimal Overlap' solution to gerrymandering would nullify the 'legislative sovereignty' excuse perfectly! Plaintiffs in gerrymandering cases should refer to it.

Okay, let's suppose Roberts favors acceptance of 'legislature prerogative' as an excuse not to rule on gerrymandering, then how can he rule against the U.S. Congressional prerogative of oversight? Someone needs to make that explicit.

Note: In fact, I know a way Congress might bypass the Supreme Court, by appealing to the fourth branch of government. I spoke to a few Congressional aides about the idea. It would work... once... and then likely always. If only Democratic politicians had as much brains as heart. (There is also a way to make every House member (including Republicans) fiercely protective of subpoena power - by granting every member - majority or minority - one-per-year. I explain elsewhere.)

Amid one of the most crucial Supreme Court seasons ever, look up Roger Taney, who goes down as one of the most despised names in American history - a posterity Taney wouldn't have imagined, when named Chief Justice. But before he died – knowing Lincoln would be re-elected by a landslide - he saw ignominy and infamy would be his fate. You should spread word so modern Americans know about that horrid man, who ensured there would be no way out except violent convulsion. Will what happened in phase 4 of the U.S. civil war occur again, if our current phase 8 goes hot? It will, if blatant cheats empowering the New Confederate Treason are left in place.  America’s destiny is largely in the hands of the man currently sitting in the same chair.

== Oregonian goings-on ==

You've seen reports out of Oregon, how Democrats have super-majorities and the governor and plan to enact climate change legislation for the sake of their grandchildren... but need two Republicans to show up to make a quorum. And so, GOP state senators are fleeing to Idaho, chased by state police ordered (legally) to collar them back to their jobs.

What theater! The NPR and other reports are interesting... yet I've heard none that pull back to recall a similar case back when Tom DeLay's GOP took over Texas, vowing to rip redistricting out of the hands of bipartisan commissions and gerrymander like hell. In 2002, Democratic state legislators fled to Oklahoma, rather than give DeLay a quorum. Rick Perry used a series of tricks to bypass them and the era of GOP super-cheating -- emulated everywhere the party got power -- began.

Does that sound like a tit-for-tat similarity. Both sides do it?  Well except that:

1) The dems in 2002 Texas were protesting spectacular cheating aimed at a raw power rape, ending fair elections. The 2019 Republicans pulling this quorum trick in Oregon are trying to prevent a cap-and-trade system that's proved to work well in California, helping save the world... because some oligarch-owned coal plants in Idaho and Utah might have to close. Both times, the stink of evil-brimstone points in the same direction.

2) In both cases, right wing armed militias threatened violence against Democratic legislators.

Well. Except for that... and everything else... similar cases. It's history that deserves to be remembered.

And finally... worth the wait. You'll gasp!

== July 4 musings... take inspiration form the Declaration ==

In light of the looming American anniversary... and efforts by a pompous pretend-king to hijack it... I was just re-reading the U.S. Declaration of Independence (USDI) - a worthy step in humanity’s climb out of darkness, though with many painful steps left to go.

Elsewhere I discuss how the USDI is about the colonies’ “patient sufferance” and fruitless efforts at negotiation with British oligarchs - which the 1860s secessionist oath-breakers never did. This time, I want to point at just one of the indictments against King George III. It leaped out at me!

"He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.'

Whaaa? Re-read that. Especially in today's context. Oh sure, many aspects of the USDI read as brutishly imperfect from our later perspective… as we will seem brutes to our better descendants, I hope!

Still, as we approach July 4 -- and insipid attempts by confederates to hijack it -- let’s recall that it is the direction of progress that matters - keeping the arc of history bent toward justice. 

Moreover when confederates and their foreign allies and would-be kings are driven out of Washington, and our temples cleansed of treason, we will lift our eyes to a shared future of amiable-adult argument -- actual fair politics -- over how to keep improving, with charity for all and malice towards none.


Don Gisselbeck said...

I wrote this to the Missoulian during the second Bush administration. It's still true.

The Republican party has been overrun by people who hate civilization. This is the civilization, you might recall, that recognized that physics and biology trump ideology, that gave mere laborers a voice in their affairs, that made it possible for "but a mechanic" to live the good life. It is the civilization that believed in the common good and the general welfare . It is the civilization that was starting to realize that violence should not be the option of first resort, that the power and wealth of private tyrannies should be strictly limited, and even that wealthy thieves and murderers should be punished, not richly rewarded. All of this progress has been deeply hated by the few. They wish to return us to the days of the robber barons, before the nanny state. The days when workers worked 90 or 100 hours a week for bad room and board with no safety net, no recourse against negligent or criminal bosses; when private tyrants could accumulate unlimited wealth and act with utter impunity. Modern propaganda has become so good that it looks like they will succeed. We can, however take some bitter comfort in the knowledge that their triumph will be short lived. If the many they are trying so hard to enrage do not destroy them first, the laws of physics (absorption of infrared radiation by CO2) will. Unfortunately, the civilization they hate so much will go down with them.

David Brin said...

Well-said DG. Except the castes they are warring against include almost every fact-knowing profession. How is that supposed to work for them, seriously? We know where every bolt hole and Patagonian refuge is and we are the ones who know how to build and do stuff. Do they think we would find revolution difficult, if they push us past a certain point?

The smart ones know this. Except for a couple of Randian, the smart zillionaires are all now democrats. Alas, the dumb ones are a big majority and spending lavishly on cheating and driving us to the edge.

Bruce Campbell said...

That is a great and true piece of writing. Is it available on Social channels for others to share? It should be.

scidata said...

I see a close link between 'resiliency' and 'generalists'. And the greatest pool of generalists are citizen scientists. Searching for ETI, pulsars, gravitational waves, pathology mechanisms, 'useless' mathematical solutions, etc are tasks often left to scientifically literate amateurs due to the merciless time, resource, and scope constraints on academia. The big telescopes coming online now and in the near future will benefit hugely from such distributed computation (both machine and human!). Things like software-defined radio (SDR) and massively parallel computation enjoy vast amateur support and enthusiasm. Not all GPU sales in the last two decades have been made by gamers and cryptocurrency miners. While most point out the benefit to science, I prefer to focus on the benefit to the citizen. Science doesn't need to be vulgarized or popularized. It needs to be internalized by the citizenry. Johnny must code. That is our quickest path to the stars. Hyper-specialization is un-Asimovian. We're not bees. We're something much, much, much better: billions of highly intelligent generalists that can talk, listen, and learn.

For example, a generalist-based navy is taking shape in San Diego:

TCB said...

Here I post (perhaps not for the first time, in this forum) one of the most depressing TV opinion pieces I have ever seen. In it, Keith Olbermann weighed in on the "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission" when it was decided in January 2010.

He said that the Republican majority of the Supreme Court had finally got Roger B. Taney off the hook by passing an even worse decision, and he has since been largely proven correct. Listen to the litany of horrible results Olbermann says Citizens United and unlimited campaign money will make possible. Not all his dire predictions have come to pass; many have.

David Brin said...

Bruce C. Thanks! But which piece of writing are you talking about? This blog posting? Can't you share it?

scidata, I've spoken often about how the 20th Century was about the Professionalization of Everything... but toward the end this was countered by a rising Age of Amateurs. See one place where I discuss this shift regarding national defense...

... and culturally.

scidata said...

CACM is a bit undisciplined in its free/paywall assignments. Try googling "CACM Brin" or directly:

No guarantees, but try it. But anyone not subscribing to and reading CACM is a trog in my estimation :)

@Dr. Brin
I think I've posted before (as Mike Will) this old Canadian joke:
We could have had British culture, French cuisine, and Yankee (American) know-how.
Instead we got British cuisine, French know-how, and American culture.

It's missing out on the Yankee know-how that is most lamentable.

duncan cairncross said...

"He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.'

and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands

And THAT was the main reason for the rebellion -

The bloody cheek of it!
Parliament requiring the Colonies to actually KEEP the treaties that they have signed with the "Native Americans"
The Nerve! expecting them to actually keep their sworn word

Larry Hart said...

On a recent Bill Maher, show, Maher pointed out some statistic that by (I think) 2040, half of the US population will reside in 11 (largely urban) states. Which means that half the population will be represented by 22 Senators, while the other half has 78. Bill's guest, who likes the way apportionment of Senators and Electoral Votes works, saw no problem with this.

It seems to me that it will be long past time for "When in the course of human events..." again.

Larry Hart said...

Benedict Donald continues to conflate Sanctuary Cities with crime, as if the two are self-evidently related. Yes, the nightly shootings in Chicago are horrific, but they tend to occur in traditionally black neighborhoods, and the perpetrators, of whom many bad things can be said, are not immigrants, illegal or otherwise.

If I were Trump, I wouldn't bandy the words "high crime" around too much. The phrase might come up soon in a different context.

For years, Chicago has been a Trump target.

”Some cities are going to fight it,” Trump said Saturday before his reversal. “If you notice, they are generally high-crime cities. If you look at Chicago, they are fighting it and if you look at the other cities that are fighting it, many of those cities are high-crime cities and they are sanctuary cities.”

Alfred Differ said...


I think your link between resiliency and generalist completely gets it wrong or I'm completely missing your point.

Distributed capability doesn't occur because we are generalists. It occurs because we are numerous. The resiliency that DOES come from this is because we don't all do it (whatever 'it' is) the same way. Some of us are doing it over here. Some over there. Some do it slightly wrong, use a different code base, alternate algorithms, or whatever. Because we are numerous and disinclined to copy each other exactly, this variation is practically ensured. In this, though, we are specialists. We are numerous, varied specialists who trade all sorts of things to pull it off without starving to death while we enjoy our hobbies (age of amateurs indeed) and possible career paths.

We certainly aren't bees in the sense that our specialities are largely destined from birth. The basic human animal is a generalist, but we specialize our plastic brains as we grow older and get away with it because we are numerous and willing to trade through our social institutions.

There ARE adult generalists among humanity today. They are mostly impoverished from growing up in places where trade was not possible or highly discouraged. They HAD to remain generalists. The rest of us did not and we are richer for it.

Human specialties by themselves aren't enough to make us what we are today. They must overlap to some degree and result in outputs that can be substituted for each other in trade. For example, I do not grow my own food. I must trade the outputs of my skills in order to eat unless I want to divert time away from my specialities to farm. I don't much care, though, precisely what I eat. If people who specialize in growing food are willing to trade with me for what I have, I can substitute rice for wheat, apples for oranges, X for Y, and even purchase a mixture basket. As long as I see to my nutritional needs, the other specialists are roughly equivalent to me. THAT is how we accomplish resiliency. It's not enough that there are specialist farmers with Z square miles of corn in the ground in various places. There must also be corn substitutes available. THAT's why it is such a frickin big deal that we are so numerous now.

Our robustness comes from many tricks we've learned in our extra time we've found to grow our specialties.
Our anti-fragility comes from the substituitability of our skilled outputs.

Alfred Differ said...


I remember seeing your Canadian joke last time around. This time I told it to my wife while we were driving down the California coast. She got the 'funny', but then noted all the Canadian TV we've been watching lately. Her sister lives near Seattle, so we recognize a cold, rain forest landscape when we see it in the backdrop of shows. It's not hard to spot Vancouver as a result. So... I'm not sure there is a distinct American culture that you can fully blame on us. I may annoy some of your neighbors, but my experience says there is a lot of bleed-over.

Yah... I'm taking it too seriously. Kinda undermines the point of your joke. Yah. i do that a lot. 8)

The more I think about it, the more I see Canadians in the mix of my professional life too. Sometimes I can hear accent differences, but I lived in North Dakota for a couple years, so that prairie accent we usually associate with Minnesota doesn't phase me. That means my Canadian peers occasionally have to point out that they ARE Canadian. Yah... I know there is more than one relevant accent, but it's not my growing deafness that makes me miss them. I think our 'know how' has a lot of bleed over too.

From where I sit, the only thing y'all are missing is enough people to capitalize on your skills. We've got them and many of us want more. You've got fewer people in your whole nation than we have in my home state. The numbers are close, but that's just one state.

David Brin said...

"There ARE adult generalists among humanity today. They are mostly impoverished from growing up in places where trade was not possible or highly discouraged."

Well, um.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: Distributed capability doesn't occur because we are generalists. It occurs because we are numerous.

Read that Atlantic piece about the Pacific Fleet (see what I did there?) - it explains it far better than I can. Especially the 'expert bias' that prevents specialists from adapting or even seeing the obvious.

One of the reasons I like Asimov, Brin, and a lot of other SF is the 'enclosed ship' tale. These side stories often describe the wonderful ingenuity and productivity of small groups of humans - Gilligan's Island in space. Some of the most glorious episodes in history involved small bands of brainy apes valiantly pulling together for survival or exploration. And some of the darkest episodes involved mass hive-like behaviour (as bemoaned in BNW and 1984). Skill substituitability (great term, I'll steal it) works best at the individual level (polymath). At the multi-national level, it can be quite a cruel and painful process.

Re: that Canadian joke (British, French, American)
In true Jim Carrey and Norm Macdonald form, I'll further beat that dead horse.
British cuisine: greasy fried fish and chips soaking through an inky newspaper wrapping comes to mind.
French practicality: picture the puffery of Versailles, or the extreme mathematical abstraction of the Bourbaki, who probably don't own a single calculator between them.
Old French joke - Sure it works in practice, but will it work in theory?
American culture: I was reading in Wikipedia that the term 'Yankee' was first used in writing by the British general James Wolfe. Note that it refers to 'all Americans' in the outside world, not the blue 'Union' as it does domestically in the US. Wolfe was killed at the Battle of Quebec in 1759, and he's either a Canadian hero or a villain depending on one's heritage. We don't call it our civil war (long predated confederation), but the French and Indian War sort of was, way back when you guys were still loyal to the king. Perhaps those days are returning...

Larry Hart said...


Note that it ['Yankee'] refers to 'all Americans' in the outside world, not the blue 'Union' as it does domestically in the US.

An old MAD Magazine gag had a busload of American tourists in some South American country confronted by a crowd carrying "Yankee, Go Home!" signs. The tour driver apologized to the group, who assured him that they aren't offended at all. "You see, we all are from the south."

Alfred Differ said...


You can do many things, but you aren't a generalist. You are financially secure enough that you can afford to break away from your specialty and engage in pleasant hobbies, expand your specialty while seeking innovations, and optimize for something more human than the contents of your savings and investment accounts.

It's one thing to be able to figure out how to do a zillion things and another to actually live that life. Win-win trades make both parties better off and you trade a lot. Being good at that in the US requires specialist knowledge. It's not just general knowledge of how to specialize, though. Think about how few people you know can get up in front of a crowd of strangers and explain things to them. That's different than explaining things to a small, familiar gathering and different again from explaining to one person sitting across a table from you. There are substitutable overlaps among those three, so there are price correlations in the market for those skills, but they aren't the same.

Enjoy the bees and everything else, but without a pack of dittos, you must choose. In choosing, you specialize if you learn and future choices are influenced by what you learn. Kinda hard for humans NOT to specialize.

I better go read scidata's link now since it appears likely I just missed something. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Ah. The LCS class ships. The people I work for provide support to them, so I'll limit comments. What I will say is there are a lot of people on-shore. Very smart people with impressive skills and access to a deeper network of skills. The sailors on board aren't really generalists, though. The Navy is tasking them with the job of doing what humans do best. BE human.

It's kinda strange, but I saw a decent explanation of it on CSPAN once when an admiral tried to explain to a Congress Critter why there were certain differences between the Army and the Navy. The admiral explained that the Army equipped men while the Navy manned equipment. For our purposes, the point is that equipment is desgined to do one thing well and maybe a few side things just so-so, thus sailors receive specialist training and function much of the time as automatons. One of my co-workers served on submarines back in the day when they used 16 hour 'days'. If you weren't sleeping, you were working or training and it was hard to tell the difference between the two. You were supposed to be able to do the correct thing without having to be fully awake. Rote muscle memory. Automaton. On YOUR equipment. You got trained on other equipment as part of a succession plan because humans in war are the soft points to attack when fighting our Navy.

The LCS class breaks with this old approach AND the Army's approach. A ship is a collection of equipment serving a set of functions. The sailors are part of the equipment, but not as automatons. The LCS plan requires that they be human and that means they must be social learners. We finally have enough automation and communication tools to enable this because we can leave the deep skill pool on-shore and share them between ships and missions. The specialists/automatons still exist, but they aren't on the ships. Some of them aren't fully human either. I think of them as centaurs. A bit of this and a bit of that headed by a social learner mind.

I think the author of the piece stood to close to the thing being examined and missed important stuff. It is true that the skills required of LCS sailors are more general, but that's largely the result of us not trying to make automatons of them. In my opinion, they are being integrated into the ship like any of the other equipment, but AS humans. Time will tell if this is a good idea. I think it is, but I'm already sold on the notion that AI will arrive through efforts to augment us. Manning equipment is limiting. Integrating is very different.

David Brin said...

Good stuff, Alfred. Still, I don't think it's doing everything. It's being able to adjust to do anything.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: tried to explain to a Congress Critter

That is the soft underbelly of democracy. Like Fermilab's Robert Wilson
Once you start moving away from small groups and up into representative hierarchies spanning thousands, then millions, then billions, then trillions, humanity becomes something very different. Olive groves and agoras become distant memories. You can get Socrates' mobs and demagogues.

One solution is to strive for utopian order, or just plain order. Thus world history.

Another is to transcend humanity with technology. Thus a lot of good SF and intense philosophical debate.

Another is to continually expand, like a human universe, thereby keeping the local population density low, and maintaining that secret sauce of Gilligan's Island intact.

In any solution, the key is fair, positive-sum competition as our host frequently expounds. That's why I like the Scottish Enlightenment (a version of the American Enlightenment, but more familiar to me). That's why I tinker with Forth - it's a near perfect skill substituitability engine, a sort of LEGO in Backus-Nauer form (context-free sandbox). That's why I read so much Asimov and Clarke growing up. That's why I read this blog today. I learn a lot in here, from everyone.

scidata said...

That's Backus-Naur Form (BNF). I once wrote a line-oriented BASIC in BNF (using Forth naturally).

Tacitus said...


Fascinating "inside baseball" stuff on the LCS.

And, as all posts are at least a bit political these days...

I regard Dr. Brin's take on the current Republican Party to be in many ways overheated, repetitive polemic. But I strive to be fair and when evidence backing part of his premise appears it should be noted.

I read yesterday of a substantial shake up in the Vegas casino industry. The assertion that the GOP is overly fond of gambling interests has to date mostly been based on the Wynn Casino chain and the Adelson family. But the Caesars takeover attempt looks to be driven by a certain Carl Icahn who does have pretty close ties to the current administration. Or at least, he being a classic Corporate Raider, when he opts to fly colors other than the black of the Jolly Roger it is likely to the The Red Elephant.

So there's that.


Larry Hart said...

@Tim Wolter,

I appreciate your civility, and hope you are open to differing opinions.

While I agree about "repetitive" (and I presume that is because our host has to address new readers as well as those who have been "here" for over a decade), I happen to find his rhetoric not overheated enough. Considering the present circumstances, it is important to keep reminding ourselves that This Is Not Normal, and there is a danger in accepting the narrative that opposition to authoritarian dictatorship is mere Democratic partisanship.

Tacitus said...


Of course. But also, of course, a degree of reciprocity is appreciated. I know that our Genial Host is writing in a fashion designed to catch interest and to spark discussion. But hinting at ways that the Supreme Court can be defied is dangerous stuff to those of a Conservative bent.

Not to say that there is no middle ground. We've allowed Congress to shirk too much of their duty. I'm quite happy with having the Court toss controversial matters back and say "Write a Law, Slackers". And I'm not pleased with the degree to which the Executive Branch and the nomenklatura have taken on powers that Congress has declined to exercise because doing so might - horror of horrors - compromise their re-election. In this light allowing enhanced investigative powers to Congress and expected them to be used seriously is a nicely conservative notion.

'Course these days the middle ground is like No Man's Land circa 1915 when the occasional truce to retrieve wounded and get a decent day's rest was quietly declared. Ignored by the battalion commanders and never mentioned to the top brass.....


jim said...

I think that the situation in Oregon is a good example of why I am so pessimistic (realistic) about the climate emergency. Even after winning enough legislators to pass a moderate response to the climate emergency the fossil fuel interests prevented a vote and threatened violence against those who want a governmental response to deal with the issue.

So we have one party dedicated to supporting fossil fuels and damning the climate. And on the democratic side we have 2/3rds to 3/4ers who want to talk about climate change and put in place policies that are completely inadequate to deal with the problem. They don't want to take the steps needed because that would require a change in lifestyle that upset a lot of people. (Just try telling retiring liberal baby -boomers that they can't fly all around the world for fun because we are in a climate emergency and you will get to experience an explosion of angry whining about why they deserve to do so. )

And in other news
we added more CO2 to the atmosphere last year than ever before.
CO2 levels 415ppm CO2equvalant for all greenhouse gasses 500 ppm
(that is 2.5C degrees of warming in the atmosphere already)
The arctic is having really really bad year. If the weather in the arctic for July is like the weather has been in June we will have a record breaking low sea ice and a small chance of a blue arctic event (I would guess 5%).

David Brin said...

Tim/Tac, you are always welcome here. Though as you'd guess, I must respond.

"We've allowed Congress to shirk too much of their duty."

Who's "we" Tim? Across the last 24 years, the dems had the power to act for just two, and they worked hard... as they do in California and are trying to do in Oregon. Otherwise - either with GOP majorities, or blockage by presidential vetores or King McConnell - we've had the laziest legislative period in US history, bar none. Subtracting Clinton 'investigations" that found nothing, GOP committees held almost no hearings. Members spent far more time fund-raising than at business.

While a decent conservative might legitimately fret about the opposite problem - Democratic frenzy to ACT NOW! - California and New York and WA and OR show no sign of sinking into manic-insane hell. Governors like Jerry Brown & Jay Inslee (who deserves a closer look) may be key.

" allowing enhanced investigative powers to Congress and expected them to be used seriously is a nicely conservative notion."

Um... maybe YOUR quaint notion of "conservative." So, you are saying wanting to see the financial statements that might reveal billions of Russian mafia money laundered through Trump Enterprises isn't... 'serious'?

I grasp your complaint that I am not evenhanded. The FACTS are not evenhanded. The GOP is trying to end the congressional powers of oversight that they used to harry the two most honest presidents and administrations in US history, but no way the same powers should shine on THEM.


David Brin said...

Time was, conservatives despised divorce, infidelity, gambling, addiction, etc. But when Reagan became GOP nominee, suddenly his divorce, Gingrich's gruesome several, Trump's innumerable 'grabbings' and the vastly higher divorce rate among GOP pols became shruggables. But it's GAMBLING where hypocrisy screeches today. First Trump casinos - (there's no doing business without mafia ties) and slumlord partners. Then Wynn & Adelson, whose Macao clubs' improbable "profits" let the PRC funnel $$ directly into the GOP... and now DT's pal Carl Icahn consolidating the Caesars' empire. A predatory industry using science to rob hapless addicts is now just fine with Fox America.

Add chumminess with the moguls who spread the opioid epidemic, while red states keep waging war on marijuana tokers. And an initial probe of Southern Baptist pastors found 500 - just SO FAR - who were sexual predators. You think this list can't go on and on?

No wonder their sole moral stance is on abortion. They need an on-off switch for virtue, since no other litmus of moral decency - e.g. teen sex rates, teen births, STDs, divorce, alcoholism, domestic violence, racism, local corruption, electoral cheating and complicity with Saudi/Kremlin/Pyongyang despots - offers reds any right to wag fingers.

Indeed, their parents in the Greatest Generation - who overcame Depression, toppled Hitler, contained Stalin, got us to the moon, built vast infrastructure, educated the world, began tackling their own prejudices... and adored Franklin Roosevelt... are spinning in their graves.

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

But hinting at ways that the Supreme Court can be defied is dangerous stuff to those of a Conservative bent.

I know you used "Conservative" in a less partisan manner, but it does seem to be a particularly Republican trait to clutch pearls over defiance of conservative court decisions, but find it so obvious as to be without controversy that liberal decisions are more like suggestions.

From my point of view, the Republican Party has un-democratically stolen presidential elections, and thereby court appointments, thereby making it easier to hold onto Congress and many states through voter suppression and gerrymandering. All strictly legal, but in defiance of every norm of comity that you condemn Democrats for lesser violations. And all that is left for the disenfranchised majority to do is to remember "When in the course of human events..."

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: automatons humans centaurs AI

Humanity has escaped the Malthusian Trap. Bacteria, plankton, and bees have not. It seems clear to me that this resiliency due to distributed capability results from generalists (or at least cross-pollination), not numbers. Aren't you basically saying the same thing? I'm enjoying your thinking. Please elaborate.

David Brin said...

Apologies Tim. I misread your comment: " allowing enhanced investigative powers to Congress and expected them to be used seriously is a nicely conservative notion." I see you are agreeing we should investigate... though in a grownup manner. Fine.

You are among those who make me believe a soul seed of US Goldwater conservatism may be possible.

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman states the obvious (emphasis mine) :


While rural Americans often tell reporters that they feel neglected and ignored by big-city coastal elites, the people preventing them from getting health care aren’t in New York or D.C., they’re in their own state capitals. And these state politicians hold power in large part thanks to the strong Republican leaning of rural voters.

But why are Republican state-level politicians so determined to punish their own base? As I said, it’s not about the money: Rejecting the Medicaid expansion actually costs a state jobs and hence revenue.

Some of it may reflect the general meanspiritedness, the embrace of cruelty, that was already infecting the G.O.P. even before Donald Trump, and has now become one of the party’s defining traits. Yes, that’s harsh, but you know that it’s true.


Tacitus said...


Apology not necessary but accepted.

Congresscritters can pursue investigations that explore matters in the public interest and deserve credit for doing so. Or they can grandstand in an undignified fashion. I have enough confidence in the electorate that the difference is easily discerned.


Alfred Differ said...


Once you start moving away from small groups and up into representative hierarchies spanning thousands, then millions, then billions, then trillions, humanity becomes something very different.

Mmm… yes… and no. The individuals do not change much. The social entities do. There is no doubt that the bigger they get, the less human they are. Oddly, though, some of the bigger ones went and invented things like the internet, which we have been using to bring down hierarchies. Flattening the world is a project engaging its second generation of humanity and the results are astonishing to those of us who recall the older world.

Utopian order is fiendishly difficult to define. Try it and try to get people to make it happen and you will find the fiends. Amazingly predictable. As natural to us as the feudal attractor. Thus world history. 8)

We have been transcending ourselves for at least 1000 generations and undergone phase changes instead of singularities. The difference, of course, is that a phase change IS a singularity in the first derivative. Agriculture, Industry, etc. If the innovation is not part of your immediate genetic consequences, it is part of your technology. Fish hooks, nets, ocean going canoes, adaptable language, writing, money, etc. Make a list of nouns for the stuff we have invented and another list of verbs for processes we have invented and you will have a decent first cut at human technology. That is how we beat Malthus. Phase changes are transcendings.

That we are numerous is a very big deal. That we change ourselves socially is a much bigger deal. It is obvious we could not do today even a fraction of what we do with the population we had as the ice was melting last time. More importantly, we can do it today because most of us are not in the nomadic, hunter-gather phase anymore. Earth could not feed eight giga-humans in that phase, but the condensate we become in urban settings creates an entirely different situation.

More than 50% of humanity now lives in cities and the percentage is climbing. Think of the movement as condensation and think about the different properties liquids exhibit that you would never guess from the behaviors of gases. To stretch the analogy further, think about the dangers we face in solidification and crystallization. Is that not the feudalist dream? Utopian order defined by the winners at the top of the (crystal) pyramid? They tried and tried for thousands of years and demonstrated the failures. Shock fragility (Here come the Mongols… or a Plague… or climate change). Structures vulnerable to contaminant disorders (heretics and zealots). Plain old biological limits (frequent first cousin marriages among royals to produce good rulers). Bee-like specialization risks solidification or ossification, but that is not what we are doing. The feudalists tried. It does not work. Their whole system is at risk of failing because of a shock delivered by Dutch merchantmen copied imperfectly by more rowdy Englishmen, Scotsmen, and then many others.

Our resiliency… our anti-fragility… does not come from our avoidance of specialization. It is a result of specialization forced to face evolutionary pressures. Evolution as a theory did not start with biology. Its pedigree traces back to economics. Read Smith in Wealth of Nations and you will see stories of specialization. You will also see him advocating for pressures that force evolution… in the markets. Is Idea A viable? Do people trade for it? Yes? Then A is viable. Might not stay that way when Idea B hits the market. Extinction is rare, Substitution is more likely. That leaves some of us supporting A and some supporting B. See the specialization? It is sustainable only in large markets. Numerous participants all facing pressures. That is what we are doing and occasionally we transcend ourselves.

scidata said...

@Alfred Differ

Thank you sir, for your generosity of time. Appreciated. Let me ruminate and digest.
One quick thought: "invented things like the internet" I'm not sure that was due to huge numbers or deep hierarchies. Aren't things like the lathe, automated loom, transistor, ethernet, internet, etc actually developed by small groups, even sometimes individuals, who have a very interdisciplinary bent? For sure the background technology ecosystem needs to be there, but vast empires are notoriously bad at innovation. That's why they fall. (I see everything in "Foundation" terms)

David Brin said...

Tim: "Congresscritters can pursue investigations that explore matters in the public interest and deserve credit for doing so. Or they can grandstand in an undignified fashion. I have enough confidence in the electorate that the difference is easily discerned."

That last sentence. Seriously? Only if the discerning 60% of the electorate is allowed to have their votes actually count.

As is? The 40% whose votes count obey hypnotists and believe 25 years of Clinton hearings found stuff. Anything. Anything at all.

Alfred you are half right. Yes, population allowed more development which allowed more population and the first form of AI... a society that actually grows more sophisticated, despite the eventual death of every expert.

But there's a lot more than population involved. The memic structure of the West encourages individualistic creativity and competitiveness - which can metastacize into sanctimonious delusion and rage and violence. That cancer is promoted by our enemies via some of our media. And thus, the emperors of the East proclaim that the price for our creativity is too high. Chaos.

We'll see. Look back at my China posting a ways back. While the attitude is utterly alien to me, I have seen again and again proof that most cultures hammered their youth into conformity and that we are the weird ones. Whether that means the AI-culture we create will be more agile and problem solving... or terminally insane (as the Chinese believe) remains to be seen. But 6000 years suggests that anyone supporting the crushing of humans into conformity bears a steep burden of proof that this time, at last, it will lead to wisdom

TCB said...

Re: Las Vegas moguls.

I saw a video a while back of Don Rickles reminiscing about Vegas in the Old Days. He thought the Mafia actually ran the place better than Wall Street. Reason: the old mobsters were content to make profits off the casino, and if they didn't make money off the comedy clubs, live music, or drinks, they didn't care. When Wall Street management took over circa the 1980's, they expected every part of the operation to turn a profit: the casino, the comedy club, the drinks, the sandwiches, the coat room, everything. And if it didn't turn a profit they cut it, cheaped out on the service or the quality.


Alfred Differ said...

I remember some of the Vegas old-days. Shrimp cocktails at $0.50 weren't intended to make money. They were intended to bring you in so other parts of the joint made money. It worked moderately well. Wall Street doesn't do it that way. If they can make $10 on the same cocktail, they do... and then they find other ways to make the other parts of the joint make more money... too.

The transition was underway in 1981 when the old MGM burned. The Bosses didn't run the place better, though. I remember a car bomb one had arranged for another. The cheap shrimp cocktails weren't worth that.

Alfred Differ said...


I'm not in disagreement with you on more than (maybe) 5% of all that. I'm just not inclined to go past your 4096 character limit in my pontifications. This is YOUR community. Not mine. 8)

I get your Chaos argument, but that is probably were I'm most skeptical. Time will tell indeed. I didn't see the late 60's the way you did, so my viewpoint is probably too rosy. It's just that I don't see it as a combat between attractors. It looks more to me like phase changes. The feudal attractor coincides with agriculture, but it wasn't perfect. It contains within it the instabilities (admittedly low probability) that broke it. Ignorant masters is the big one and your obvious concern that they could learn this time around is worth attention, but I think it is too late. Agriculture (absent industry and the new communications tech) isn't something we CAN go back to anymore. Too many would die in that conversion and before they went they'd burn the planet to the ground. IF we survived, we'd roll all the way back to nomadic hunter-gatherer I suspect.

You could be right. I don't want to leave any impression that I see our progress as inevitable. However... humanity is condensing into the cities. If we do something really stupid in the near future, I suspect it will be something new. Our deep ancestors would not have predicted all the dumb things we did when we shifted to agriculture. Growing your own food and domesticating every possible animal willing to do it might make sense to them. Living in our own filth and obeying masters to the point of failing to reproduce in large numbers would not... yet we did exactly that.

The only mildly nice thing I'll say about the feudal attractor is that in spite of it, humanity continued to grow and invent. We could have done so much more had we chosen otherwise. We did serious harm to ourselves through selection affects related to the Y-chromosome bottleneck. We got out of all that, though, and plodded ahead.

Our huge numbers matter, but not as much as the way we've phased changed along the way. I point out numbers mostly because I believe there would have been no phase changes without them.

David Brin said...

I get all that Alfred. Alas, I see our memic approach as a fluke that may not be replicable anywhere else in the galaxy, a way to bypass all the execrable delusions and faults of the feudal attractor state that otherwise gets reinforced via the harems of brutal males.

Yes, big urban populations change much from when lords needed many hands in the fields. But cameras everywhere and "reansparency" do not equate to a population of liberated minds, if the ruling meme is fearful conformity, and that is what is pounded into children in school, in most nations on this planet.

Hollywood has spread an alternative meme of tremendous power! I'm not sure it's enough.

duncan cairncross said...

This is going to be an interesting few decades

If Alfred and Dr Brin are correct about a mind-set and the value of trading then we will see the "Command Economies" (Like China) with "conformity" taught at the schools fail to advance.

My "Theory" is that the reason that previous societies were static was due to the lack of the "toolbox" that was built up over history and reached a "critical mass" in the late 1700's in Britain - physical tools and materials but also conceptual tools to handle modeling the physical world

If I am correct then we will see China continuing to advance in technology

Alfred Differ said...

I haven't given much thought to whether our approach will prove to be a galactic fluke. I doubt it, but I don't have your experience trying to imagine non-human intelligence and semi-intelligence. I have enough trouble with the human variety, so I'll happily defer to you.

A population of liberated minds relies on two new tricks we learned. When those fail, our civilization fails.
1. We have to dignify each other in the basic ways that we choose to be.
2. We have to free each other to act on what we believe we know best.

There are corollaries that line up with your pitch for flat, fair, free markets, but I go with those two because they are the ones that bring us back toward the liberal heritage of our nomadic, hunter-gatherer past, thus closer to something we already know in our bones. It's not a glossy, polished thing appropriate for a new utopia concept. It's closer to what we used to do before agriculture. Pursue liberalism's deep roots and I think you'll find those two concepts and a deep connection to what we were before the ice melted... before the y-chromosome bottleneck.

When I think about your worries, I don't assign those possibilities very low probabilities. I look at them and whisper to myself 'could be'... then I look at the kids and say 'but probably not'. They ARE pounded to conform, but many aren't obeying and it's getting easier to disobey in much of the world. Sure. China is working hard at preventing it, but I don't think they'll hold back the tsunami.

scidata said...

Feudalism must prevail everywhere, at least within its sealed borders and controlled media. Humanism only has to persist anywhere, even on a remote mountain top. The more generalist that 'Shangri La' is, the more viable and resilient the seed is. Portable too. Phase changes must be survived for them to work their magic.

Tacitus said...


Your statement about only 40% of votes counting is a bit cryptic. I suppose it alludes to apparent over representation of smaller states via the Senate. But that is our system. And it is equally fair to say that places like Wyoming are significantly under powered in the House of Rep. But hey, its our system, a system that has mechanisms for change if you have the support of the electorate. But if you ignore WI, MI and PA again in your pursuit of change it may again go badly.*

I prefer to address areas of consensus. I think it is great the Mueller will be testifying. I don't know what he'll say but lets have both sides asking hard questions please.


* if you had another meaning my apologies. I suppose you could also lob these numbers as a reflection of voter turnout. Another area where we agree, that higher participation means greater legitimacy of the outcome.

Darrell E said...

Alfred Differ said...

"A population of liberated minds relies on two new tricks we learned. When those fail, our civilization fails.
1. We have to dignify each other in the basic ways that we choose to be.
2. We have to free each other to act on what we believe we know best."

I'd add at least one more.
3. We have to invest in each other so that it is as easy as we can contrive for each individual to realize their potential. (Note that I use invest specifically in the sense of committing resources in the expectation of getting more back than was comitted.)

It seems to me that a key thing that has enabled avoidance of what David calls the feudal attractor state and never before seen in human history levels of innovation, scientific & technological advance and economic power is investment in the individuals that make up the society. Providing by various means a certain degree of security and a certain level of education for as many people as possible. In the US if we wish to continue along the path of innovation, scientific & technological advance and economic power then we need to get rid of the assholes who have been steadily dismantling those means of investment in individuals we had previously managed to arrange and then figure out how to significantly increase that investment.

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

Your statement about only 40% of votes counting is a bit cryptic. I suppose it alludes to apparent over representation of smaller states via the Senate.

And the Electoral College, but yes, that's how I took the comment.

But that is our system. And it is equally fair to say that places like Wyoming are significantly under powered in the House of Rep.

Depends what you mean by "under powered". There are fewer people there, so they have fewer votes. That seems no less fair than the fact that any random 10 people have fewer votes than any random 10,000 people.

Now, if the point is that "Wyoming" as an entity has specific needs which get steamrolled if "California" is able to outvote them, then the set up of the US Senate makes more sense, and I believe that was the presumption back in 1789--that States had distinct interests which required addressing regardless of relative population. It seems to me, though, that in the current world, it's not States which have those disparate interests as much as specific interest groups. And in that sense, "Christianists", "Republicans", or "White Nationalists" are overpowered because they control more less-populated States. In that sense, Wyoming has nothing to be concerned about.

But hey, its our system, a system that has mechanisms for change if you have the support of the electorate.

Again, on Bill Maher's show, he cited some statistic that indicated by 2040, one half of the US population will be represented by 22 Senators, while the other half will have 78 Senators. That may be our system, but mechanisms for change require that the ones who benefit unfairly be willing to give up that advantage voluntarily. The British colonial government had mechanisms for change in the 1770s too, but ultimately, a revolution was required, and might be again.

But if you ignore WI, MI and PA again in your pursuit of change it may again go badly.

Again with Bill Maher, but he keeps bringing up the fear that Trump will not concede if he loses the election. Recently, he mentioned the possibility that Republican controlled state legislatures (like Wisconsin and Michigan) could theoretically assert their right to send whichever electors they choose to the Electoral College, regardless of the popular vote within the state.

I'm not betting that such a thing will happen, but I am asking the hypothetical question of if your state were to pull something of that sort, would you finally acknowledge that the game is rigged? Or is that "just our system" too?

Tacitus said...

Larry, the concept of state legislatures sending Electors that defy the vote in their states is something I would condemn. That goes past the Faithless Elector concept which is in the grey zone to me. You recall quite a discussion along those lines a while back.

An Elector who truly votes her/his conscience and takes his/her lumps for it, OK. One who does so and then gets a juicy gig at Fox or CNN....mmm, less so. One who took payment or was proven to have lined up a gig/book deal/think tank position and then switched their vote...over the line.

Any President who does not accept the outcome of a close election deserves opprobrium. I give a little slack to their partisans who have difficulty accepting said outcome. Not that I actually know any such individuals.


matthew said...

Tim, I believe you are being willingly blind to the warning signs all around us that Trump and the GOP will not honor a fair defeat at the ballot box. You may not "actually know any such individuals" but you certainly do know *of* said individuals. One of them is "Individual #1" and he tweets almost daily that he will not accept defeat.

jim said...

This discussion about how our collective brilliance is what has created our current prosperity reminds me of how Donald Trump describes his brilliant deal making abilities as the source of his wealth. It kind of leaves out the most important part. He inherited a vast fortune, we have a society literally powered by the vast, yet still limited, unearned potential of fossil fuels.

Tacitus said...


"...almost daily..."

That's a pretty strong claim. Got a dozen or so examples from the month of June 2019?

I don't spend much time on politics and am not on Twitter. But I think I'd have heard...

Politico picked this topic up last week, called it far fetched and attributed it to "chattering in the halls of Congress".

Unimpeachable sources in other words.


David Brin said...

The essential differences between pyramidal (feudal-etc) systems and ours is how competitive situations get resolved. In traditional societies, the dispute is shunted higher and an authority rules.The parallel in th west in not government, but the feudal order within corporations.

By emphasizing lateral processes of both cooperation and competition, the enlightenment nations built arenas - markets, democracy, science, courts and sports - wherein accountability and choice and negotiation and competition are applied laterally, with vastly more individuals contributing decision-making and thus bypassing that limiting effects of allocation decisions by just one - often delusional - entity.

It’s incredibly powerful, encouraging dispersed wisdom as Pericles recommended and then Smith and then Hayek… and I call for CITOKATE.

Alas, enemies of this experiment know they can poison our system by taking something wholesome — opinionated individualism — and drugging it up into solipsistic rage.

Hence I do not feel that the essential vastly greater creativity of Athens WILL win over Sparta. Especially not when Sparta quickly steals anything we create.

Tim you keep coming up with these weird “See? both sides are the same!” stuffs. Citizens of Wyoming gets the same House representation as I get. They get a zillion times more Senate and court representation and a lot more in the presidency. And you ignore my real meaning, which is about gerrymandering, which is NOT in the Constitution.

(After the revolution, there will be just one Dakota.)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

After the revolution, there will be just one Dakota.)

The issue is that the U.S. was conceived and structured the way the United Nations currently is, where countries rather than individuals get votes. No one seriously thinks that the billions of Chinese and Indian nationals should be able to run roughshod over smaller countries on account of "one man, one vote". It is taken for granted that countries have their own POV and interests.

That's what States were taken to be in 1789. The problem as I see it is that interests aren't divided up that way any longer. Senators from Wyoming aren't looking out for local Wyoming issues and making sure they don't get lost among those of Texas or North Carolina. Rather, they join their counterparts in Texas and North Carolina and elsewhere to vote for Mitch McConnell and his agenda. It doesn't seem right (or at least democratic) to me that the party which represents more states around the country gets to force its will on the party which represents more people around the country.

Larry Hart said...

Furthermore, it seems to me that the problem might not be as much the allocation of Senators as it is with the partisan way both houses of Congress are run, with the majority party controlling most of everything and the minority party having no power at all. That does not seem to be what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

There's a similar problem within each state (except Maine and Nebraska) with the way Electoral Votes are allocated. Illinois is 35-40% Republican, but those Republican voters have zero representation in the EC, just like the Democratic voters in Texas.

jim said...

David, do you realize that by including Pericles you undercut the premise of what you said?

The values you say are unique to modern industrial nations had parallels to the values help by maritime city states that engaged in a high percentage of maritime trade, like ancient Athens, medieval Baltic city states, Italian City states in the renaissance, and there probably are several other good examples from outside Europe but I don’t know their histories well. And it is no accident that our modern values emerged from maritime trading societies like the Netherlands and England.

Whereas my point, that what is unique about modern societies is that they are powered by fossil fuels instead of the meager surplus energy provided by subsistence agriculture really does pinpoint the uniqueness of the modern world. No other society has ever had access to the amount of surplus energy we have had. And that has allowed our civilization to enable the vast majority of its people to do other things besides subsistence agriculture.

reason said...

Alfred we haven't beaten Malthus. Plenty of parts of the world are Malthusian. It is just that if you make childhood expensive (compulsory schooling), make space limited (live in cities) and socially support people in their old age (pensions), and reduce child mortality then people invest more in fewer children because the cost/benefit analysis works out that way. Agriculture didn't do it, civilization did.

David Brin said...

"it seems to me that the problem might not be as much the allocation of Senators as it is with the partisan way both houses of Congress are run, with the majority party controlling most of everything and the minority party having no power at all. "

Which is why my top reform can be expressed in one sentence. Every House member gets one subpoena per session, to compel anyon to testify for 2 hours before a committee he or she is part of.

It would transform everything.

Jim you need to actually read Pericles's Funeral Oration... as brought to us by Thucydides. The expansion of argument and meaningful deliberation from an insulated-delusional 0.001% oligarchy to 20% of the population unleashed vastly more effective creativity than fossil fuels. Yes, instabilityu, too, when the polity panics.

DP said...

Please forgive me, I know I am off subject and rehashing an old argument, but does this change anything about using he moon for space industrialization?

Quintillion Tons of Metal or Dense Oxides Found on the Moon
Two Quintillion Tons of Metal or Dense Oxides Found on the MoonBrian Wang | June 24, 2019
A large mass of material has been discovered beneath the largest crater on the Moon, the South Pole-Aitken basin, and it may contain metal from an asteroid that crashed into the Moon and formed the crater. If this is a massive metal resource then it would make lunar colonization and the industrial development of space far easier.

It could be a pile of metal five times larger than the Big Island of Hawaii.

jim said...

I find it utterly bizarre that you think a funeral speech (even a very good one) is more important than access to vastly more surplus energy in enabling people to be more creative.

Without fossil fuels how do you transition people out of subsistence agriculture and into other activities?

David Brin said...

"I find it utterly bizarre that you think a funeral speech (even a very good one) is more important than access to vastly more surplus energy in enabling people to be more creative."

Yes of course you do, since it displays stunning denseness and obstinate inability to grasp the simplest concepts. I asked you to read... actually read... the... speech... for... its... content. For its potential to show you what a different, positive-sum way of group error correction thinking might achieve. Plus the fact that Athenians DID follow his advice and - for two generations, utterly stunned the world with their massive creativity and endeavor.

And yes, they did all that -- as did the later Florentines and as did Jefferson's America -- without Fossil Fuels. But yes, industrialization made a huge difference. And while it did, I do not have to knuckle under to your braying a single-cause dogma. Feh.


DD did you notice how deep that lunar massif is buried? And oxides, what energy is needed to split them?

David Brin said...

One might... shudder... actually choose to read such a fascinating historical speech that so influenced the world, out of... um... curiosity?

DP said...


"Morale is to material as 3 is to 1" - Napoleon.

So yes, inspiration is far more important then energy or resources.

Alfred Differ said...


100’s of km deep.

Interesting but hard/expensive to get to it.

duncan cairncross said...

Why is some asteroid dust at the bottom of a hole more valuable than the same asteroid dust still together as an asteroid and not down a hole?

To me a lunar base is more difficult to build and has all sorts of problems like night time

A moon based colony may be a good idea - but NOT Lunar

David Brin said...

Oh, I do hope to see lunar cities. But Their first industry will be tourism. Industry seems unlikely. Though over the LONG run...

Alfred Differ said...

The thing under the south pole crater isn't dust. It could be a fragment of a planet core that didn't sink all the way before the Moon froze up a bit too much.

Still... very deep. Big enough to be interesting. Deep enough to be expensive to mine.

What 'might' be more interesting is having a closer look at the ground immediately above it. Look for fragments of the fragment. Closer inspection might be needed to see them. As a private investor, I wouldn't risk much. As a government taxpayer, I might be willing to support it as science or technology readiness missions.

Alfred Differ said...

Darrell E,

I have seen many suggestions for extending those two tricks, but I can usually find a way to explain the next trick in terms of the first two combined with basic human nature. I am not against your extension, but I see it as a corollary.

Here is how it works. Investments in each other are what we do naturally WHEN it makes sense to us. If my neighbor wants to split costs on a fence between us, I am inclined to think they understand the value of a good fence for keeping us both on good terms and on how our combined investment might pool more money than we could afford alone. I would consider investing in the relationship with that neighbor whether I dignified them or not. The same is true whether I liberated them from my inclination to coerce certain behaviors out of them. Add the two tricks, though, and my neighbor is more inclined to reciprocate directly (I get access to something they know) and indirectly (I benefit if they talk me up to someone else).

You are arguing that investment caused our enrichment. I am arguing that our two new tricks caused the investment. If I grant dignity to my immediate neighbors and they reciprocate, we form trust chains that enable other relationships. If we free each other to act on what each believes they know, we liberate all our imaginations. Together, both tricks allow us to act, risk failure, and survive it to act again another day. If we did not dignify each other, failure at anything that cost us would terminate future options to invest in what the loser learned from the experience. Knowing that was possible would terminate the first risk attempt for many of us. Look around at all the people who are too afraid to risk an entrepreneurial life. They understand there are reputation risks associated with failure. Granting dignity to people who give it a good try anyway gives us more than investment opportunities. It gives us access to what they … might … get right.

Dignity & Liberty with a dash of human nature is how we are killing the feudal attractor. Human nature you get free. The other two require a lot from us, but by golly they work magic when we do them right.

Alfred Differ said...

Hence I do not feel that the essential vastly greater creativity of Athens WILL win over Sparta. Especially not when Sparta quickly steals anything we create.

This is a possibility, but....

What appears to be happening after Sparta steals the ideas is they become more Athenian. It takes a generation at present and it isn't perfect, but a culture cannot swallow the benefits of liberalism without facing liberalism.

Go ahead. Steal our ideas. See what happens.

Every ideological purist knows the danger of heretical ideas.
Mao certainly did.

David Brin said...

Alas, it will take a while for Chinese teachers, raised by Chinese teachers, to stop smashing impudence (independent thought) among their students so they can become more encouraging teachers. Hence, just watching Hollywood movies that encourage impudence will not be enough.

Alfred Differ said...


Numerically I think liberalization will be more interesting in Africa where population is still booming. They probably won’t face a stifling, practiced bureaucracy over their eventual billions.

duncan cairncross said...

While I have worked in China I have not worked in Chinese Schools

But I have worked in schools in the UK, the USA and NZ

Out of those the USA was by far the most "conformist" - massively more so than the other two

jim said...

Ha Daniel

I prefer the more famous quote from Napoleon
“An army travels on its stomach.”

It is like he understood that dissipative energy structures (like humans, armies and societies) need regular access to energy to maintain themselves and accomplish their goals. The need for energy is both fundamental and ubiquitous. It is monocausal in the sense that in order to do work you need to expend energy. But I would not say that fossil fuels caused industrialization, I am saying that industrialization could not have happened with out fossil fuels.

jim said...

I am pretty sure the Spartans were more interested in stealing the slaves from Athens than taking their ideas. ;-)

jim said...

In a moved that is not surprising but still distressing, the radical right wing on the supreme court dealt another blow against democracy and its own legitimacy in the new gerrymandering case.

Every democratic candidate needs condemn this ruling in the strongest terms possible and vow not to let this illegitimate court destroy democracy. This is the New Dred Scott Supreme Court.

matthew said...

Well, the GOP just killed gerrymandering reform in the most naked power grab since Citizens United. Cheating in the 2020 election will be rampant since the winners get to lock in a majority for 10 more years. Read Kagan's dissent for pathos.

matthew said...

Tim, since you are not on twitter, you are dependent on other's perspectives on the President's words. Here are those perspectives from across the political spectrum.

Here are articles on what the man has been saying regarding not leaving office.

I note with amusement that you have given me the homework that you refuse to do yourself. You have shown yourself to be remarkably incurious about researching facts that do not align with your worldview, and remarkably resistant to persuasion when given those facts.

Tacitus said...

Aw c'mon Matthew, I was just trying to check your hyperbole a little. I don't spend, or actually waste, time on Twitter but did read about the June 16 quote that is the basis of three of the four items you cite. The fourth is a bit nebulous, something about the camera lingering on a picture back in April?

I know you don't regard these as jokes, or more likely, as a way to annoy political adversaries and/or grab attention ahead of the Democratic debates.

But to review, your statement was: "... he tweets almost daily that he will not accept defeat. "

Our obligations as citizens do not require constant vitriol. Enjoy summer in Wisconsin. A beer if so inclined. Your family and friends.

The biggest factor in whether Donald Trump is re-elected is, in my opinion, the degree to which the Democratic party can appear calm and competent to Indie voters in states like ours.

Not being harsh, I enjoy your perspectives on things. Wouldn't hurt to dial them down a bit.


scidata said...

13 quotes about the future of AI

The only thoughtful one was by David Brin.

Goodness, there's a lot of shallow shiny object hype around AI.

David Brin said...

scidata thanks. And yes, my quotation was the only one that offered an actionable recommendation that could make a difference. Could have done without the exclamation points!


Tim... "The biggest factor in whether Donald Trump is re-elected is, in my opinion, the degree to which the Democratic party can appear calm and competent to Indie voters in states like ours."

Oh, I agree, as far as that goes, which is why I am desperately eager for E. Warren to run for Veep, letting the top of the ticket be some reassuring guy who'll then empower her.

But no sir, you are the problem. You clutch desperately at straws to keep afloat an illusion of normalcy and that "both sides are problems" when treason is running amock, ALL fact-using professions are under open attack, Mitch McConnell openly guffaws over open and outrageous cheating, and your own state has given up even pretending to be a democracy.

Men like you are needed by your republic and civilization. Now. Right now. But your hands are over your eyes, ears and mouth.

TCB said...

I just finished my third beer. These days I drink to tolerate people, and I make no bones about it (this is, verbatim, what I told my doctor at my physical).

Yes, I heard about the Superfluous Court's gerrymangling decision as soon as I left work and turned on my car radio. No, I am not surprised. Bad faith is drearily predictable after a while. These five 'conservatives' like the results and will therefore let the villainy stand.

At bottom, I blame voters who were too lazy or stupid to consider how Presidential elections shape courts, or were too vile to care. Like global warming, nuclear proliferation, and many another evil, the signs and portents have been there for decades for those who would only look... on the other hand, my daughter just reminded me that she and I are mutants who think about things most of the tribe will not, and we pay that freight by having scant neurons left over for more quotidian tasks like remembering names and birthdays.

A three pound brain was not made for this! But I digress.

To Tim Wolter, I guess I just want to say the following:

T͙ͬ̆̓͒͟h̥͉͈͍̼̠̙ͫ̆̎ͦ̆̑͑e̢̳̻͙̹͇ͦͭ̍ͣ̓̐̚ ̸̱ͪg̫͍̫̉͋̓ͭͣ̊r͉̦̭̠͚̋͒ͭ͜e̎ͣ̍ͬa̞͚͇͉̩̮̾̒̃̂̍̃̃t̹̳̮̂e̻͓̼̘̓s̻̝̠̗̤̙̘͂̅ͥ̓̐ͭͩt̢̞͎̄̔̌̓ͦ̚ ̱̾ẗ̝̗͟ȑ̦̥͇ͯ͋i̩̒ͯͭ͒̂̿͘c̣̯̝̪̰͓̣͆̂̋ͤk͋͆̈́̚҉̼̰ ̢̻͉t̷͓̹̠̀̿̈̀h̸͓̬̦̼̹̼̫ͫͤe̥̯̝̜̗͞ ̵̦̩̞̆̈͛ͮ̇͒D̸̤̜̣͚͗͗̿ͧ͒̓̄ȅ͈̗͓͙͔ͦ̈́͋ͪ͢v̧̳̺̐͑͑̒̔ͤi̯̜͙̣͕̓̕ͅḽ̬̺͔̼̰ͪͯͯ̇̈́͊ ̧͔̝̝ͣe̼̰̻̗̣ͮͫv̐͒̇̈́̉ͤ҉͇͕̫̞̪ẽ̞̼̹̦̼̎ͮr͑̏̊͆̉ ͍̲̦́p̘͖̬̼̾ͪ̚ͅl̮͒͗ͣ̾͒̓͊͝a̘̬̭͊̉y̺̭̜̐ͤ͆̎ͧͨ̌è͎̞̰d͈ͭ̀̊͛ͦ̈́ ̬̙͚̓w̻̽̑͊̈́̓̾a͉̖̺̜̤͈̕s̮̟̹͈̕ͅ ͇̭͚̣̯͂ͨ͑t͉̟̪͖̻̖̐ͤ́̉̈́́͘o̶̩͙̬̰͈̰̬ ̍ç̰̖̺͚ͪ͋̾o̳̣̤̫̭͉̔n̡̪̺̪͎͕̰̮͒̍v̩̭̝ͫi̜̬̭̫̼͓͆ͦ̅͂̓͐͞n͓͐ͨ͐c̪͉̯͙ͤ̾̋e̡̖̹̺͆̍ ̊҉̘̠M̅ͥ͘e͚͇̯͉̲̖̱͆̈̃̾̃n̯͍͚̯̯̆͗͑̒̄͆̊ ̗͙͓̜̝̹̳̉t̠͇ͣ̓ͫͩͦ͛̚h̠̫̤̠̖̖͇̍͋͋åͩ̆ͥ̏ͮ҉̱͈̟t̤͘ ̙̟̪̪̽ͦ͢h̹͙ͣe͇̠ͬ ̺̫̫̺͉̞͉̊w̎ͣa̶̭̰ͯ͊s̼̪ ̯̲͈͠ͅt̀h͕̰͍͕ẻ̗̮͈̖͇̤͎͊̋̋̽ͥ ͍̬͈͙̖̄͗͛͌͊ͭͦt͓̓ͯ͟r̳̥ͯͤu̧̯̥̠͆̿͋͌͌ͣḛ̵͔̝̱͈̰ͭ̏͆ ̵̳̮̳ͯ̓̚G̺̙̗̤͕ͤͯͮͅö̭̣̺̌̈̓ͅď̯͖̭̭ͦͪͯ ͕̟͕̹̰͒̽̋̍a͈̘ͬ̓ń̽͐d̪͙̔͌ͨ̅͌̋̋ ̺̜͉͍ͣ̂͑t̆ͨ̊҉h̲̙̼̍ͩ̈́̑ͪ̚͜ä͓̯̠͇͍̟͛͐t͚̃́͝ ̘̾̀ͩĖ͋̽̓v̼͎̳̼͎͋ͪi̸͔͆̀ͅl̗̩̤̬͂͒ ̘͖͕͇̦̞w̠̣̣͕̆ͫ̏͗ả̼ͧ̔ͨ̐͟s̥͔͚̭͈ͩͥ̈́̿͊ͥ ͚͙̺̉̔͊̄͋̀͞V̻͎͖̼͇̭̱̌ͥ̽͗ͪͣi̗̣̥͚ͧ̌̽ͬ̾ͧr̙̳̳͓̒̂̾̎t̡̞͔u̸e̶̠ͯ̓ͪ̍.̝̪͓͚̬͜

TCB said...

P.S. Yes, Roger B. Taney is peeing himself with laughter right now, again, how can a dead man even do that?

TCB said...

Oh yes, here's a live example from the field!

Concern trolling from the Liberals' Inexplicable Republican Best Friend, i.e. "I, your Republican Best Friend, advise you not to veer too far left, and you should totally listen to my advice even though my entire agenda is NOT to help you succeed!"

DP said...

Warren was obviously the smartest person in the room and she would make the best president enacting much needed reforms> But she's a woman and Trump supporters are misogynistic as well as racist and homophobic, we don't want to motivate them.

And Warren is Hermione Granger - the girl in the classroom who always raises her hand and has the answers to all the teacher's questions.

But if Hermione ran against Malfoy for Hogwarts class president, Malfoy would win.

Because nobody ever likes the smart girl who always raises her hand in class.

So I am still going with Biden, a safe old white guy who won't frighten Trump supporters into voting. They won't be threatened by him the same way they are threatened by a Hispanic, Gay, Black or a woman or a black woman (looking at you Kamala Harris).

American politics today is all about frightened old white people who can't cope with how the country is changing with all of those Hispanics, blacks, gays, and uppity women.

By the next election cycle enough Trump supporters will have died out to not worry about them as a voting force. But for now things are still too close because old people vote. If Millennials had voted as much as retirees, Hillary would have won in a landslide.

So let's run and old, affable, moderate white male who has shown that he's not hyper sensitive about gender or race so as to not scare Trump supporters into voting.

These "gaffes" by Biden in regards to women's personal space and fond memories of working with segregationist senators is all part of his long plan branding so that Trump supporters aren't frightened of him in November 2020.

And Warren should be Biden's running mate.

TCB said...

A Biden/Warren ticket sounds perfectly fine to me, if this is 1976. It's not.

Sanders/Warren is my preferred scenario. Sanders draws enthusiastic crowds even in the reddest areas, a seeming impossibility made possible by the fact that even people reared on Fox News can see he's not full of shit, nor is he selling expired goods. One reason Trump rolled right over the other GOP candidates in 2016 is that they were all pushing tired retreads of previous GOP policies to voters who wanted something new, even if it was egregious. GOP primary voters flocked to him because they were in a hanging mood, ready to trash the status quo, and only he offered to do it with them. If they did not know what he'd do, they at least understood it wouldn't be the same old same old.

And so it is with Sanders. Even voters on the far right know that he's not chasing fashion. For good or ill, he will do what he's been saying he would for decades, and even in red country, they're curious to see it tried.

Tacitus said...

I did watch a few minutes of the second debate. You'll rarely see me express sympathy for politicians but that was a difficult format.

The sheer numbers on stage, the peculiarity of our nomination process that forces candidates to play to their party's activists and then later hope to tack to was hard to watch.

Too soon to form opinions really. I suspect the 20 will be culled to 6 or 7 by Labor Day.


DP said...

Sanders/Warren is too far left to win next November (people like being able to choose their own health insurance, e.g.).

After the last election one of my favorite comedians Trae Crowder (aka "The Liberal Redneck") appears on Bill Maher's HBO show. One of the other guests was a Dem party women who bemoaned the fact that Hillary was the most capable and best prepared presidential candidate in history and how could America reject her?

Trae just looked at her and said: "Lady, do you want to be right or do you want to win?".

You want Trump re-elected? Then by all means be pure and ideologically perfect. Be politically correct. And be outside the main stream of American opinion.

Nothing matters except beating Trump. NOTHING!

And we can still blow it.

So I will ask you:

Do you want to be right or do you want to win?

scidata said...

TCB: I drink to tolerate people

I find comedy to be a healthier substitute:
Kamala Harris: Trump believes more in Science Fiction than Science
Stephen Colbert: Yes, that's why his hair was shaved from a Wookiee's ass

Harris went to an English high school in Quebec. Those people are scary, strong, and contrarian. If Warren is Hermione, then Harris is Luna.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

people like being able to choose their own health insurance, e.g

In America? Most people with decent health insurance get it from their employer. They don't have a choice except sometimes when the employer offers more than one. And the rare few who buy insurance individually only get to keep it if the insurance company doesn't unilaterally drop them.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

You want Trump re-elected? Then by all means be pure and ideologically perfect. Be politically correct. And be outside the main stream of American opinion.

A slight correction. The more progressive Democrats no longer seem to be outside the main stream of American opinion. They're outside the opinion of crotchety old white people. Unfortunately, that clade has more Electoral Votes than the mainstream of American opinion does. So your advice has merit, but it's not because Democrats don't appeal to a broad consensus. It's because they don't appeal to an entrenched elite.

Nothing matters except beating Trump. NOTHING!

Agree with the sentiment, although I'll take it further and include defeating Senate Republicans as well. Given a binary choice, I'd rather take the Senate than the White House, but as that seems even more of a longshot, I'll agree with you.

Do you want to be right or do you want to win?

I want to win, and I want to still be the good guys when we win.

Larry Hart said...


I find comedy to be a healthier substitute:
Kamala Harris: Trump believes more in Science Fiction than Science
Stephen Colbert: Yes, that's why his hair was shaved from a Wookiee's ass

I think Hillary could have turned around that debate where Trump stalked her like a gorilla on stage if she had just channeled Princess Leia by throwing up her hands and saying, "Will someone get this big walking carpet out of my way?"

Larry Hart said...

Charles Blow continues to agree with me:

I am simply disgusted by what’s happening in America.


For me, the reason is that the country, or large segments of it, seems to be acquiescing to a particular form of evil, one that is pernicious and even playful, one in which the means of chipping away at our values and morals grow even stronger, graduating from tack hammer to standard hammer to sledgehammer.


Larry Hart said...

The increasingly irrelevant supreme court knocks down another pillar in Tim's argument that our system holds the means of change if the voters want it. How so, when entrenched politicians now have an inalienable right to choose their voters rather than the other way around? This is why I see an inevitable Constitutional Crisis coming--because the means of peaceful change and petition for redress are being systematically removed, just as they were for the colonists in the 1770s.

Larry Hart said...

If the state court holds that Republican gerrymanders violate the Constitution, I expect there will then be calls to get the Supreme Court of the United States involved, for example by arguing that the state court is interfering with the Legislature’s constitutional prerogative to draw congressional district lines as it sees fit. An argument that the State Supreme Court is usurping the Legislature’s powers in an election case has echoes of the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in Bush v. Gore ending the contested Bush-Gore presidential race.

This is an argument I have never understood. In just about any other situation, the US supreme court has ultimate power to override decisions of the legislative branch by declaring them unconstitutional. Why then do State supreme courts not have the same prerogative over their own state legislatures?

Larry Hart said...

And as for the citizenship question on the census, I know from past experience that the Census Bureau is required to track down and count everyone who dallies in turning in the forms. So if the Trump-ublicans are attempting to trick people into not turning in their forms and the Bureau simply fails to count them, they are already being willfully derelict in their duty.

SO my question is, if it's a given that the administration can violate its constitutional duty and willfully undercount Hispanics in cities, then why bother with a citizenship question? Why not just throw returned forms from certain neighborhoods into the trash can? Or just make the numbers up? I mean, if you're going to cheat, why bother with half measures?

Larry Hart said...

And Paul Krugman tells it like it is:


One might even argue that the G.O.P. stands out among the West’s white nationalist parties for its exceptional willingness to crash right through the guardrails of democracy. Extreme gerrymandering, naked voter suppression and stripping power from offices the other party manages to win all the same — these practices seem if anything more prevalent here than in the failing democracies of Eastern Europe.

Oh, and isn’t it remarkable how blasé we’ve become about threats of legal persecution and/or physical violence against anyone who criticizes a Republican president?

So it’s really something to see Republicans trying to tar Democrats as un-American socialists. If they want to see a party that really has broken with fundamental American values, they should look in the mirror.


Larry Hart said...

Sorry, but am I the only one who sees the obvious inherent problem in this line of reasoning?

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion, with the four other Republican appointees on board with him. His argument was that the Constitution gives the power to draw the districts to the state legislatures and that the federal courts have no role to play. If the voters don't like what the legislatures are doing, they have the power to replace all the members.

Lloyd Flack said...

No, you're not.

Darrell E said...

Watched most of the 2nd debate. I don’t know much about any of these candidates. Several I’ve never heard of before and several I’ve only seen a total of a few minutes of over the past year or less. The only ones I knew much of are Biden and Bernie.

After this debate I am currently sure about Bernie. He definitely is not a good choice. I appreciate his enthusiasm and largely agree with his points, but he apparently can’t tell you anything about how he plans on making any of the things he says need to happen actually happen. He never answers any questions put to him. No matter the question he goes straight to pep-rally mode and completely ignores the question. I can only think that he doesn’t have any real plans about how to make any of it happen. And he is too old. All in all he came off as a crank that you largely agree with but don’t want on your side because he appears to be slightly nuts.

Similar with Biden. Biden is far from awful and I think he did OK last night, but we would be much better off with one of the others from a younger political generation. I also view his age as a negative.

I agree with Jerry about Kamala Harris. I was not impressed. Rather I was turned off. Every time she spoke she played the victim card, blatantly, aggressively. I couldn’t disagree more with the press that she won this debate. I think it sucks if the public feels that way too. To me it means they can’t see when they are being played. She really turned me off.

My two favorites in this debate were Peter Buttigieg and then Michael Bennet. Bennet is not as good a speaker as Buttigieg is but I liked what he said. I liked what both of them said and what they didn’t say.

Swalwell was OK but I didn’t like how he went after others on several occasions. At least once when he did so he had a good point (Biden’s claim about working on a particular bill with McConnell in the past). But other times it was simply a cheap shot. I’d like to see the Democratic candidates do better than taking cheap shots at each other.

Kristin Gillibrand was so-so for me. Nothing particularly negative or positive in this debate.

Marianne Williamson, bless her heart. I don’t dislike anything she had to say and I think it’s probably good to have people like her in the mix at this point for various reasons. But she is not a serious candidate.

I was a bit put off by John Hickenlooper. He is one that I knew zero about prior to the debate. It sounds like he did some good things in Colorado, or at least was there when they happened, but he kept pounding on socialism as being a bad thing. Which I take to mean that he classifies much of what the other candidates propose as socialism. At least for the purposes of soliciting votes. I think that’s a pretty shitty thing for a Democratic candidate to do. Leave the fear mongering about “socialism bad” to the Republican and Libertarian parties.

Andrew Yang strikes me as a smart and decent human being. He also spoke very well several times last night. And though I agree with his motivations and purposes I am not yet convinced that a UBI is a good idea.

And with all that it can’t be said enough, I would have no issues at all in voting for any of these people, even the author, against Trump.

Dennis M Davidson said...

Tim Wolter:

Trump's Jokes:
My comments aren’t directed to you personally. Rather, I’m reacting to the notion that Trump’s jokes are simply jokes.

Since before he was elected, Trump has been saying things that, collectively and consistently, undermine the integrity of our national elections. Sometimes Trump jokes about a third, fourth or fifth term in the White House. Usually he tweets this nonsense. More often it’s a staple at his rallies.

Does he joke about this every day? No. Monthly? More likely. How many times, specifically? (I can’t say for sure. Maybe Daniel Dale knows. He’s the journalist that tracks Trump’s lies.) Does it matter how often? In my view, no. Trump jokes about breaking election laws more than any president should. That Trump jokes about presidential elections at all should be alarming for every citizen.

Why? Because along with his jokes, Trump lies about our elections (claiming Clinton’s 3 million win in popular vote cheating). Along with his jokes, Trump threatened the American electorate by refusing to say he’d accept the 2016 election if Clinton won. Along with his jokes, Trump continues to threaten political opponents at his rallies (lock her up chants). And along with his jokes, Trump has obstructed efforts to ensure fair elections in 2020 (Russian interference in American elections is a hoax!).

Taken out of context, Trump’s jokes can be funny to some, annoying to others. Just jokes. But there’s nothing funny about what Trump is doing to our country, our institutions, and our fellow citizens. I don’t believe that Trump will serve a third or fourth term in the WH. He’ll talk it up. Joke. He might even try some silly-ass, feeble attempt to change the 22nd amendment. Trump doesn’t need a third term to undermine the notions of fact, honesty and rule of law. Joke by joke, he’s been quite a success at that in his first term.

Tacitus said...

Darrel E.

Well stated.


Jon S. said...

Daniel, the only thing that needs to be done to rally Donnie's base is for an election to be held. Their Dear Leader will order them to the polls, and they will obey.

It's the rest of the electorate that Dems need to aim at, because they're never getting the Trumpistas. Remember that the narrow electoral victory in 2016 was made possible in large part by disaffected Dems who refused to even bother voting because their favorite candidate wasn't nominated - those are the people we should be desperate to bring in.

Trying to be "centrist" will not attract Trumpistas, who aren't even pretending to examine alternatives to Screamy Orange Grandpa (they like that he's performatively cruel and cozies up to dictators), but it might well drive away anyone who'd like to see some progress made in this country.

matthew said...

So far in this month Trump has "joked" about serving more than two terms as POTUS a total of five times on Twitter, counting his retweets of others making the same type of comment.
Today is the 28th. Averages to a comment every five days and change this month.

It's also an applause line at his rallies. See transcript from May 21st. and April 18th

Compare and contrast to all other POTUS's since passage of the 22nd Amendment.

David Brin said...

Jon S what malarkey! You are like Field Marshall Montgomery in A BRIDGE TOO FAR. Concentrate all our forces in a narrow front and chaaaaarge! But.

We win across a broad front, taking them on almost everywhere. Sure, we can exclude the most extreme confederate-putinists. But what made Nancy Pelosi speaker, hm? Was it AOC doing a primary toppling of an old line democrat in a safe blue district. Um... no? The left is welcome to do that. But it was blue-dog, crewcut military veterans who took thirty seats away from republicans in swing districts, who seized the House.

No one is asking you to persuade hard core Trumpists. Where we DO need to fight is (yes) foremost getting registration and GOTV among young people/minorities/women, sure. Top priority.

But ALSO go after the RASRS - Residually Adult Sane Republicans who already know and admit their side has gone corrupt and utterly insane amid a volcano of treason and cheating... but who rationalize "at least we're getting judges and tax cuts, and preventing communism.

They are getting putinist judges, supply side tax cuts that double down on an insane, utterly disproved 'theory,' and their side is the pack of KGB-obedient Moscow servant enemies of freedom who seek high oil prices to serve Russian and Saudi and Koch oligarchs. Oh and enterprise markets always do better under democrats.

Every RASR we win into the fight is worth TEN lazy ass grumblers who get collared on election day and cattle-prodded to the polls. In some cases twenty or a hundred. They are worth fighting for.

jim said...

Well its starting to look like creepy uncle Joe is not going to win the nomination and that is a very good thing. Maybe he should be vice president again? ;-)

DP said...

Given the haters of Trump on the left I don';t' t think they will stay home and not vote just because the Dems nominated a centrist like Biden.

If they do, then they deserve another 4 years of Trump.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Given the haters of Trump on the left I don';t' t think they will stay home and not vote just because the Dems nominated a centrist like Biden.

You'd think so, but what makes you think the laws of psychohistory have changed from what they were in 2016? Because that's exactly what did happen then.

If they do, then they deserve another 4 years of Trump.

Well, ok, but the problem is that we don't deserve four more years of Trump.

jim said...

if the best that the democratic party can do is nominate a "lets return to the glory years of the Obama administration" they deserve to loose.

Here are some slogans

Protect the Bankers!
Subsidize the Frackers with cheep credit they will never pay back!
Mandatory, shitty, expensive, for profit insurance!
Global War of Terror for ever!
With regards to crimes by the powerful Look Forward not backward!!!!

Larry Hart said...


Those are reasons why the rich and powerful should support Democrats instead of Republicans. If they don't, then they deserve four more years of Trump.

From my POV, though, even with all that bad stuff you mention, I would suffer it gladly if it meant zero more years of Trump. Yes, he's that bad.

David Brin said...

LH, Agreed. Stymied for 24 out of 26 years, Obama and Clinton at least ran executive branches filled with skilled, intelligent people trying to administer well. For 2 of those years, Obama and the dems furiously passed bunches of good things that the "bankers" hated.

But jim ignores all that. Masturbating to his cynicism, he renders himself utterly useless to a civilization that is fighting for its life.

Hey jim, where were you in 2010, when we lost congress, rendering Obama impotent except as an administrator? Jibber-on.

DP said...

For those lefties who are appalled that the Dems may nominate a centrist who is not perfectly pure in all of his historical actions or perfect in his pure, politically correct ideology - remember FDR.

He campaigned on not sending American boys over to fight a war in Europe knowing full well that we would have to fight Hitler one day - but also knowing full well that the American people were still isolationist.

A political leader cannot get to far out ahead of the American people.

Darrell E said...

LarryHart is on a roll. Agree with all your recent points. A bit sad they need to be pointed out. All the same divisions among the "lefter" side as in the last presidential election are cracking wide open again. I keep hearing the same threats.

"If you don't appeal to "middle America" (aka softcore Trumpers) then I'm voting for Trump again and it'll be your fault."

"If Bernie (or whichever the person's favorite candidate that isn't Biden is) doesn't win the Democratic nomination then I'm voting for Trump again and it'll be your fault."

I can't help but think that anyone who isn't a legitimate Trumper who votes for Trump is either a moron, an asshole, or possibly both.

TCB said...

I'm probably the farthest "left" in this forum (remember, that left/right terminology is, per the good Dr. Brin, oversimplified, antiquated, lobotomizing and French). In any case: I wanted Bernie, got Hillary, and I VOTED. I ALWAYS vote. I want Bernie now, but if we get Biden, I will vote for Biden over Trump, you bet your buttery ass.

This does not change the fact that the old "electable moderate Dem" paradigm is dead and fucked and mummified and fucked again. As in, how's that workin' for ya? Do you think a hypothetical President Bernie Sanders would have let Mitch McConnell get away with the shit he pulled in 2016? Obama did. As the Onion put it in 2012: "President Obama works out an agreement to have Republicans in Congress kick him in the balls in exchange for nothing."

We need, need, need to start talking about the REAL political continuum: Open versus closed.

What's an open society? What's a closed one? Wellllllll... here's an example. If you're a reporter, and you piss off the government in an open society, they may grumble about you behind closed doors. In a closed society, government agents lure you into an embassy because you need some documents to get married, and you get dismembered.

In an open society, if the government is making bad policy, you can... VOTE DA BUMS OUT. In a closed society, there are no elections... or the ruling party can manipulate them to its wishes... say, by redrawing districts until opposition parties can never win.

In an open society, the leader cannot use his office as if it were a business.

In an open society there are no concentration camps holding innocents under degrading and dangerous conditions.

And THAT is my BOTTOM LINE. More open society? Yes, I want that. Whether it were a 'left' open society, or a 'right' one, I would want it... although I oppose the political right: largely for the simple reason that when the right say they advocate an open society, I say they lie.

Everything Dr. Brin advocates can be placed under the heading, Open society. Free, flat, fair, open and transparent. Closed societies, whether fascist, Saudi, Stalinist, are never free, flat, fair, transparent... and they don't make good policy. Closed societies can, and probably will, kill us all.

TCB said...

@ Tim Wolter

Today. Today, just today, pResident tRump sat with his handler Vladimir Putin and joked about election interference and 'getting rid' of journalists. Which Putin literally does.

Trump Jokes With Putin About ‘Fake News’ On Capital Gazette Shooting Anniversary
The U.S. president lightly suggested “get[ting] rid of” journalists.

lightly suggested

lightly suggested

List of journalists killed in Russia / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It is a LONG list.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

LarryHart is on a roll.

Heh. Sorry for hogging the blog this morning, but sometimes you just gotta.

Agree with all your recent points. A bit sad they need to be pointed out.

That's exactly my reason for posting. Pointing out obvious, even self-evident truths that somehow can't seem to be perceived until I try to force someone to explain how I'm wrong. BTW, it's not about ego. If I am wrong, I'd be relieved to have that pointed out.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

I can't help but think that anyone who isn't a legitimate Trumper who votes for Trump is either a moron, an asshole, or possibly both

A Neil Gaiman "Sandman" issue had a story in Ancient Rome being narrated by a character living in the time of Nero. The story he was re-telling was one of Augustus Caesar, and toward the end of the comic, the narrator recounts:

And in his will Augustus also appointed Tiberius as his successor. Our divine rulers, since then, have been successively evil, mad, foolish, and now all three.

That came to mind with what you wrote above.

duncan cairncross said...

This is an interesting attack on Biden

During the second Democratic debate on Thursday night, Rep. Eric. Swalwell (D-CA) delivered a pointed attack line against Joe Biden, quoting the former vice president from 32 years prior:

I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California democratic convention and said it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans that. That candidate was then-Senator Joe Biden

David Brin said...

"A political leader cannot get to far out ahead of the American people."

Let me quote Frederick Douglass's eulogy to Lincoln: "I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen.
Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless.[...] Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined."

TCB I respect your disagreement with me, which is based upon cogent understanding and not reflex.

TCB said...

Thank you, Dr. Brin. This seems like a good context to link the story of Benjamin Lay, "the Greatest Abolitionist You’ve Never Heard Of" via Smithsonian Magazine.

I'd like to see Peter Dinklage play him in a movie.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin quoting Fredrick Douglass:

Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined."

Similar sentiments could describe President Obama.

Larry Hart said...


although I oppose the political right: largely for the simple reason that when the right say they advocate an open society, I say they lie.

Can't argue with that.

scidata said...

Dr. Brin: a civilization that is fighting for its life

The US is hugely powerful and important. Much is riding on your 'civil war'. And the UK implosion continues. However, it's going better on other fronts, such as the Rational West and world wide increase in scientific literacy. When cures for cancer, diabetes, and dementia arrive (probably soon), everyone will be forced to make a clear-cut, personal choice between their delusional tribalism and life itself. Then we'll see who's who and what's what.

Larry Hart said...


everyone will be forced to make a clear-cut, personal choice between their delusional tribalism and life itself.

A few years back, Republicans suffering from Obama Derangement tried to tell each other to boycott both the (2010) Census and flu shots. Too bad that didn't stick. They might have self-deported out of our way.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

Do you want to be right or do you want to win?

One must be careful about the varied meanings of this question.

To Democrats, it's usually phrased to mean, "What good does it do to insist on ideological purity if your ideologically pure candidate loses the election? Better to get someone elected who will at least do better than the other party will." In that sense, I tend to agree.

However, I'd caution against the related sentiment that "Only by appealing to the other side's voters can we win, so we have to become more like them." Or even worse, the voters who answer your question with, "I want to win. So I'm going over to the winning side!"

scidata said...

The first insulin caravan is arriving at our border. We will treat these Americans in need with dignity and respect. They are our brothers.

David Brin said...

Dems need to be positive sum. It is not BETWEEN AOC-type socialist rebels and DNC-type market believers. Sure, it will be that way in individual primary fights in blue districts across the nation, and AOCs are welcome to fight to take over seats as she did, from old-line DP pols...

... so long as, win or lose, they come back together where it matters. And remember that Pelosi is only Speaker now, and wee're getting hearings, because thirty crewcut, rifle-owning, military veterans stepped up and took purple and red districts away from confederate traitors.

And hence I will (before saying "onward") repreint my list below, of CONSENSUS GOALS that nearly all dems want. Suggesting maybe we should delay any splitting till we first run through that list?

David Brin said...

The crux: There is only one path to true victory... and that is Big Tent. Huge Tent. Welcome in more of the retired military folks who tipped the balance for Congress last year. Run tons of them in every purple and red district! While we let safely deep blue districts go full AOC, great! Run a Pres. ticket that will crush it with RASRs (Residually Adult-Sane Republicans) destroying the Fox-Putin confederate coalition so that the GOP party of treason gets smashed into pulp.
Will the DP then split into wings: socialist vs. enterprise-purple? Hell yeah! But only AFTER we get –

Electoral reform ending gerrymander and other cheat travesties,
Election money transparency,
Restore our alliances and deter acts of war against our nation & institutions,
End voodoo "supply side" vampirism by the aristocracy we rebelled against in 1776,
Infrastructure, boosting money velocity, paid for by ending supply side voodoo,
Anti-trust breakup of monopoly/duopolies,
Medicare for all Children (a start that the GOP can’t dare refuse),
Climate action,
Restore science, R&D and technological leadership as national strengths.
Consumer protection,
Emoluments supervision,
At least allow student debt refinancing. Start discussing more.
Restore some of the social contract set up by the FDR-loving "Greatest Generation" (GG),
Restore postal savings bank for the un-banked,
Basic, efficient background checks,
Restored rebuttal rules on "news" channels,
A revised-throttled War Powers Act and presidential emergency powers, plus
Restored respect for the existence of things called facts and support for professions that use them.
(And yes, a few lefty nostrums will get drained along with almost every single thing said by the Putin-Fox treason cabal; live with it.)
And dozens more overlaps and shared wants . (Do you have a favorite consensus-intermediate reform?)

Is that a long list? Well dig this fact about it – a fact that is the absolute core fact of our resistance. All democrats, almost all independents and a whole lot of RASRS want all of those things! So why not do them first? Anyone who screams "socialism!" at that list is screaming at our parents, the GGs who crushed Hitler, contained Stalinism, took us to the moon, loved science and built the world's greatest middle class.

Are there things you want that are "more socialist" than those 19 huge steps? Fine! Push for those politically!

Only first Do The Things That All Democrats -- and By-Far Most Americans -- Agree Upon!
It's a long list, and if we managed to get all that, won't you then be better placed to push further? Or at least make a fair case, based on facts?

Close your eyes and picture all those shared agenda items completed by a Huge Tent alliance that includes almost all sane Americans. Whereupon, after all that is done, AOC can lead then lefty forces against her Blue Dog allies! Fine, knock yerself out! (She – and you -- will find them surprisingly willing to negotiate.)

That is when America will be at least basically sane again, and from that launching point, fact-based debate can ensue, amid negotiation among adults.
You radicals, stay vigorous and volcanically active! Make clear your long-range goals, fine. But also prioritize dammit! Rank order your opponents and defeat the worst first. Control yourselves and show some discipline. Don't let Kremlin trolls incite you (again) into splitter-purism and eating our own. And stop wallowing in voluptuous-orgiastic sanctimony. We don’t have time for it.
Let's work together on the long list of Shared Agenda Items first. Then things will be so much better, and maybe the country will follow you further left.

PS If one of the DP candidates made her agenda Priority Listing Consensus Actions, starting with the things all sane citizens want, then I would follow her through hell.

Except Gillibrand or Williams or Tulsi... each for different reasons. Funny thing, that.
Harris for Attorney General! She has a nose for blood.

David Brin said...