Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Steps toward openness


I was recently on NPR's "To The Point" with Warren Olney, debating privacy/transparency matters, soon. So it seems appropriate to do a posting on the issue. And no, we'll put aside one political cult's eagerness to end fact-based accountability in America -- and human -- life. Back to politics... and cool science... soon! But now, instead...

The Panama Papers have actually had some effect. The giant spill of documents from a Central American law firm has revealed a vast, international network of shell corporations that hide much of the oligarchy’s lucre, facilitating tax-evasion and organized crime. Now – in part thanks to the efforts of Transparency International - it seems it’s led the EU to actually clamp down on banking secrecy and declare substantial whistleblower protections, and about 40 other nations have pledged at least partial measures. Alas, while the U.S. has been among to top complainers about offshore banking havens, it remains one of the worst offenders when it comes to shell corporations. Especially in Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware.  Joe’s an okay guy, in my book. But he is often a decade behind, and he needs to get in front of this.

Some of my blogs go...bacterial? If you missed my careful decryption of myths about "central planning" and those who support/oppose it without adequate knowledge, see it re-posted on Phil's Stock World.

== Gerrymandering gradually gives way! --

The Equal Citizen campaign of Lawrence Lessig & co. deserves your support. But in wake of John Roberts's decision to choose party over country, the straw Lessig co. now cling to is hope for a 'bipartisan" anti-gerrymandering bill. Huh? You expect GOP defectors from the never-negotiate Hastert Rule? Good luck with that. Meanwhile, you'll find my own proposal what to do next, in the fight against this outrageously criminal cheat, in POLEMICAL JUDO.

In a major upset and victory for the enlightenment, Virginians just voted to leave the Confederacy and go deep blue, which will of course lead to gerrymandering's demise in that state. And let this be a lesson, the most important fight, next year, beyond getting Putin's grip off of Washington DC, is in the state legislatures. Pick a local battle at that level and you can do some real good.

Still, Virginians - there’s one reform you mustn’t overlook, because history shows you may not hold onto power. And when the confeds retake Richmond they will re-establish every crime… unless you enact something they dare not take back. A true referendum process like many (especially western) states have long had, and that many citizenries used to overcome gerrymandering. Create such a full-process in VA and the GOP won’t dare try to end it.

Meanwhile, President Obama and former Attorney General Holder are leading the charge to at least end gerrymandering in the few remaining blue states where it's practiced. So here's one IDEA: Obama and Holder etc. should arm-twist the legislature of Maryland to make an OFFER to TEXAS.

"We'll stop gerrymandering, if you will."

It's plausible! MD legislators will go along because they know TX republicans would refuseTexas will refuse, but it will be a black eye. Texas pols will sneer: "All we have to do is wait. Most blue state voters have been forcing an end to gerrymandering anyway, leaving red states with this cheat advantage, hurrah."

Sure. But that statement will come back to bite them.

In fact, my MINIMAL OVERLAP solution to gerrymandering is designed to get around John Roberts's excuse of "legislative sovereignty." It has the approval (informal) of a friend of mine who sits on a federal bench. (Also in Polemical Judo.)

Summary extract: "Moreover, even if this method has flaws, it is a clear limiting case that deprives the courts of any “we see no clear remedy” excuse. For all its faults, Minimal Overlap is palliative, equitable and enforceable. It also gives a nod to state sovereignty and legislature privilege, by allowing the legislature to continue complete, discretionary control over one chamber, while the other two are set by a neutral computer reacting to their assembly boundaries."

It does an end run around Roberts. Checkmate - in just three sentences. Except there's no way in heck that any of the supposedly clever goodguy lawyers will even look at it.

 == Fact-checking ==

Trump says cities are ‘a mess.’ They’re actually enjoying a golden age. Many city neighborhoods have become the most coveted places to be. Even in Detroit, long a symbol of blight, urban spaces are roaring back.

See this from The Washington Post: “For Trump and his cronies, draining the swamp means ousting experts.” 

== The cleansing power of light ==

Spain is being rocked by a huge scandal that might benefit us all, especially the civilization we dream of achieving. The agency of redemption is the one I’ve long touted — light. A senior Spanish police official has been arrested with terabytes of recordings revealing his nested web of blackmail and his service for years as a secret fixer for Spain’s rich and powerful, spying on their rivals and smearing their enemies.

I've long maintained that the core element of the worldwide oligarchic putsch to end the Enlightenment has to be blackmail. Mere corruption would not be enough to explain to total subornation we see in so many places. (*cough* William Barr.)

The Spanish revelations illustrate the nightmare of the worldwide blackmail cabal -- that a breakdown somewhere - perhaps anywhere - might lead to a cascade of searing-cleansing light.

Before we dive too deep into the next election cycle, it's important to get some perspective. What values do you prioritize above others? Do you have a clear idea where/how you got those values? See my “questionnaire on ideology” where I ask some pretty fundamental questions that probe underneath the comfy reflexes. Example: Do you believe humans knew a natural idyllic condition at some point in the past, from which we fell because of bad, inappropriate or sinful choices, thus reducing our net wisdom? (The Look Back View.) Or do you consider such tales mythological. Wisdom is cumulative and anything resembling a human utopia can only be achieved in the future, through incremental improvements in knowledge or merit. (The Look Forward View.)

If you hold to the Look Back View, then whatever the details – Christian, Hindu, Von Daniken – you will resist having your tenets scrutinized and possibly refuted by evidence. Most of our ancestors had that view, which is one reason progress came slow, and was bloody.

63 comments:

mudpuddle said...

should be another category: those who thought the past was bad, the future will be worse, and the present non-existent...

Jon S. said...

That's just a variant on the Look Backward view - sure, the past was bad, but the future will be worse, and there's no way to improve it. It has the same problem as the view of a past Golden Age; its holders are resistant to any attempt at getting them to re-examine their base beliefs that led to this conclusion.

Bob Neinast said...

The NPR podcast of "To the Point" with Dr. Brin in it is here:

https://www.npr.org/podcasts/381444877/k-c-r-w-s-to-the-point

Bob Neinast said...

Dr. Brin has advocated giving every member of the House (even minority members) one subpoena. I note that Republican members of the impeachment inquiry are talking about sending a subpoena to the whistleblower, whose name has been floated around by the Republicans for some time now. There are always unintended consequences.

BTW, on his facebook page, Dr. Brin passed along a reader's suggestion that many in the intelligence community ought to claim: "I am the Whistleblower", along the lines of "I am Spartacus". In response, a TrumpTroll commented with the name of the purported whistleblower. An example of transparency, I guess. It all comes out.

Larry Hart said...

Jesus H! What does it matter at this point who the whistleblower is or what his/her agenda might be? "He's a never-Trumper" might be a way of discrediting his information when his word is all we have for anything. But by this point, everything the whistleblower warned about has been verified, much of it by Trump and Guiliani themselves.

It's like "Reality has a liberal bias." In this case, "Reality has an anti-Trump bias". If the whistleblower really did have personal feelings against Benedict Donald, then the facts have borne out that his suspicions or concerns were indeed warranted. Rather than never-Trumpism discrediting the whistleblower, reality is lending credence to never-Trumpism.

There's a reason why so many of Trump's own selected "best people" suddenly become never-Trumpers who are "biased" against him. It's because they see what is actually going on. Trump is a clear and present danger to our country, and everyone knows it. The only difference between supporters and resisters is that the supporters like the fact that he's a clear and present danger to our country.

Larry Hart said...

Ok, I'm asking the question because I might be blinded by my own bias. But it's pretty standard operating procedure for prominent people who run afoul of the right-wing narrative to receive threats and intimidation, including death threats. My question is, does this happen from the liberal side too? Or is the bullying strictly from the right, as I perceive it to be?

Back on the old "Cerebus" list, there were conservatives who were seemingly-genuinely fearful of black riots should Obama lose either of his elections. I'm sure those same guys are fine with white Brownshirts saying that they will riot if Trump loses.

scidata said...

The shiny object media circus is all they have. Next week, the other side starts pulling those levers too. Hold onto your butts.

Larry Hart said...

Perspective...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/06/opinion/trump-corruption.html

The problem with being a frog in a beaker is that you may not notice the water temperature rising to a boil.

Humans, too. In New Delhi, people get used to air that is filthy. In Syria, to checkpoints. In Angola, to corruption. In China, to propaganda. And in America, we risk becoming numbed to a political, social and moral breakdown.

Scandal and dysfunction dribble out from Washington day by day, numbing us so that we may forget just how unprecedented and outrageous the trends are. It was only five years ago that Fox News was deploring a “shocking” and “desperate” presidential scandal that Republican Representative Peter King described as inexcusable: Barack Obama wore a tan suit! Now we can’t even keep track of how many countries President Trump has asked to do him political favors.

I’ve been traveling abroad, so I’ve been asking journalists and officials how they see America, and from a distance they offer blunt assessments. “If your president isn’t a Manchurian candidate,” one senior European official said, “he’s doing a pretty good imitation of one.

...

Bart Massey said...

Supporting transparency and Larry Lessig at the same time seems to be counterproductive. Here's his thoughts on Epstein's donations to the MIT Media Lab: "IF you are going to take [criminals] money, then you should only take it anonymously. And if you take it anonymously, then obviously you will take the many steps detailed [in an editorial] to keep it secret. Secrecy is the only saving virtue of accepting money like this. And rather than repeating unreflective paeans to 'transparency,' we should recognize that in many cases, secrecy is golden."

David Brin said...

BN I will err toward openness, including subpoenaing those who subpoenaed the Whistleblower to determine their aims in violating the whistleblower act and theoretically endangering him, deterring further whistleblowers. Get it out there. A good chance to make it clear that the initial (WB) tip is now irrelevant and hence their only goal is intimidation.

LH exactly: demand that Goppers explain how the WB is repotely relevant.

Weird justification rationalization by Larry Lessig! One can follow his logic... to the edge of a cliff.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: The right wing is convinced that Antifa will murder every conservative in the country if they don't get their way, and that there are secretly millions of them and they are conspiring to bring down Trump.
You'll notice they never use the full name of Antifa: Anti Fascist. There are probably thousands of Antifa members of the dozens of different groups operating under that umbrella across the country, but millions upon millions of people who think of themselves as anti-fascist. That would include a large majority of the people on this list, to be sure.
But it's mostly propaganda: nobody has ever been killed by antifa, and the best known casualty that can actually be attributed to an Antifa protester was Richard Spencer, who got punched in the nose. Antifa exists, but it's no particular danger to anyone, not even the fascists.
In the 30s, German propaganda was chock-full of lurid stories of "loyal Germans" (brownshirts) being ambushed and attacked by roving gangs of Jews, unionists, and Communists. The Nazis had to form the SA just to defend themselves from these murderous leftist thugs. We're seeing the same thing again. And it's about as honest: a recent meme showing a man in Germany being kicked as he lay, curled in a protective circle, by "Antifa thugs": the truth was the man being kicked was Antifa, his attacker neo-Nazis.
But Right wingers are right to fear the rest of us: if they continue, the country will rise up against them.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH exactly: demand that Goppers explain how the [whistleblower's identity] is repotely relevant.


Unfortunately, they have a response. "Fruit of the poisonous tree". The party of law and order, who sneers at protections like Miranda rights, is arguing with a straight face that the investigation is tainted because if it weren't for someone who had ulterior motives against Trump, the crime would have never come to the attention of Congress, and therefore the evidence is inadmissible.

Of course, that's all said with a nod and a knowing wink, which means, "That's our story and we're sticking with it." Because what they all know they really mean is "There's no such thing as 'abuse of power' by Republicans, because power is the Republicans' birthright."



Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

LH: The right wing is convinced that Antifa will murder every conservative in the country if they don't get their way, and that there are secretly millions of them and they are conspiring to bring down Trump.


When Trump took heat for saying there were "good people on both sides" of the Charlottesville protests, he defended the remark by mentioning Antifa. So I guess what he really meant was that there were bad people on both sides. Of course, only the bad people on his side actually murdered anyone.


and the best known casualty that can actually be attributed to an Antifa protester was Richard Spencer, who got punched in the nose.


And I'm bad enough at being a liberal that I actually take satisfaction in that incident. How can I sleep at night? On satin sheets with many beautiful ladies.


But Right wingers are right to fear the rest of us: if they continue, the country will rise up against them.


From your lips to God's ear.

Darrell E said...

Larry,

I'm not sure exactly what you are asking regarding liberal bullies, but there certainly is a segment of the left that routinely practices bullying these days. Terms used to identify this segment range from far left to alt-left to woke-culture to cancel-culture, and many others I'm sure. What I'm not sure of is if it makes sense to think of this category as being on the left. I suppose we have to own them but the old circle concept in which the extremes reach around to meet each other does seem to have some merit to me.

This segment of the left seems to me to be the final fruits of post-modernism. The ideas and attitudes common in the group come out of university humanities departments. Various incarnations of Gender Studies seem to be ground zero. The philosophical roots of the group derive, in the formal academic sense, directly from Post Modernism. Graduates of such programs seem to make up a disproportionate percentage of university administration positions and increasingly the human resources departments of organizations ranging from government entities to public and private companies.

This segment of the left does things like destroy peoples' careers and reputation for things like suggesting that college students should be capable of dealing with Halloween costumes themselves (search on Christakis Yale 2015) or for a professor declining to cancel classes for a day at the request of some students (search on The Evergreen State College Weinstein). Or for having the nerve to own a store in which 3 African-American college students stole stuff from your store and got caught by the police (search on Oberlin College Gibson's Bakery).

The reach of this segment of the left is not limited to college campuses or just the US. One particularly nasty thing about it is that it is a new reservoir of antisemitism and is well represented in journalism and politics at various levels in both the US and Europe. It is also openly and strongly anti-science and anti-free speech (except for themselves of course). A key aspect of their philosophy is that they think they have the right to disrupt, harass, bully and commit physical violence against people that are wrong or bad, and that they get to decide what and who is wrong or bad.

Yes, it's true that this segment of the left is not currently remotely as dangerous as the right. And yes, it is a minority of the left. But yes, there are moronic, anti-science, anti-free speech, righteous, sanctimonious bullies on the left (or are they?) and they do cause some significant damage. And they do have some political influence. For example, many of the democratic presidential nominees have made comments aimed at appealing to this segment of the left.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"And I'm bad enough at being a liberal that I actually take satisfaction in that incident. How can I sleep at night? On satin sheets with many beautiful ladies."

Interesting. I must be doing the satisfaction thing incorrectly. How do I improve my satisfaction level for the satin sheets and so on?

Larry Hart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

Pardon my swiping of a line from an old Simpsons episode. The McBain character--an obvious Schwarzenegger homage--had said or done something outlandish, and someone asked him the question, "How do you sleep at night?" What I said up above was his response.

Alfred Differ said...

Larry,

My question is, does this happen from the liberal side too?


Yes. All sides since there are more than two. Some are more energized and visible. Some are probably bigger threats. Some libertarians throw cream pies at their candidates who aren't pure enough. Some want to throw cream pies at the pie throwers.

There is a huge difference between perceived threat and actual threat. When 'those people' outside your identity group issue a threat, it is easy to perceive it as larger and more dangerous than it really is. It's also easy to underestimate it too since you probably don't have close contacts with them to use for measuring risks.

Most importantly, though, is we tend to walk around life in a semi-tuned-out fashion. You pay attention to what matters to you and then get surprised by outside forces. Snapping from tuned-out to OMG-Danger! is likely to cause an emotional overshoot. There are lots of examples of this overshoot (think about car accidents you don't see coming until the split second before they happen) being worse than the actual danger. The only way to avoid making it worse also happens to give you a chance of correctly gauging the risks. Just look up occasionally from whatever it is that holds your attention. There is much less distance between calm-outward-facing-attention and OMG, so the overshoot tends to be smaller.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

Yes, it's true that this segment of the left is not currently remotely as dangerous as the right. And yes, it is a minority of the left. But yes, there are moronic, anti-science, anti-free speech, righteous, sanctimonious bullies on the left (or are they?)


I guess what's more pertinent to my question isn't whether the bullies are "the left" or not, but whether those on the right are threatened by bullies the way those on the left are.


and they do cause some significant damage.


You're both confirming and refuting my point. Not an easy thing to do. :) It seems that those who violate leftist orthodoxy do have reason to fear real consequences, but that it doesn't quite rise to physical violence or death the way it does from the other side.


And they do have some political influence. For example, many of the democratic presidential nominees have made comments aimed at appealing to this segment of the left.


And Bill Maher explicitly warned those candidates not to campaign for approval on Twitter. He's afraid, with good reason, that attempting to ingratiate themselves with the "woke-verse" will alienate too many real people.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Some libertarians throw cream pies at their candidates who aren't pure enough. Some want to throw cream pies at the pie throwers.

There is a huge difference between perceived threat and actual threat.


Ok, I'm getting the point that it's not only right-wingers who threaten opponents, and even that the damage that can be done to one's life and reputation can be worse than just a cream pie.

Granted all that, I still see threats of violence and death to be a right-wing tactic. Again, correct me if I'm wrong, but where are the woke fanatics driving cars into crowds at a MAGA rally? Where are the mass shootings inside an NRA gathering?


(think about car accidents you don't see coming until the split second before they happen)


I was in one of those less than six months ago. On a residential street. And I still can't figure out how that other car was that close to the intersection without my noticing it.

Larry Hart said...

Still as relevant as in 2014:

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/06/the-pitchforks-are-coming-for-us-plutocrats-108014?o=2

...
The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn’t believing that if the rich get richer, it’s good for the economy. It’s believing that if the poor get richer, it’s bad for the economy.

Darrell E said...

Blogger Larry Hart said...

"I guess what's more pertinent to my question isn't whether the bullies are "the left" or not, but whether those on the right are threatened by bullies the way those on the left are."

Unfortunately what seems to be more common is not people on the right being threatened and persecuted by left-bullies but rather other people on the left. Cannibalism.


"You're both confirming and refuting my point. Not an easy thing to do. :) It seems that those who violate leftist orthodoxy do have reason to fear real consequences, but that it doesn't quite rise to physical violence or death the way it does from the other side."

Well some degree of physical violence by the far left segment I'm talking about is not unheard of. A great example is what happened at The Evergreen State College I mentioned above. Students threatening administration, students holding administrators hostage, students roaming the campus with weapons in groups looking for specific people to assault.

But yes, you are correct. Extremists on the right are a whole other level of violent and have a monopoly on killing.

David Brin said...

The danger from left wing violence is of course much lower, as has been the danger from leftist treason -- the Kremlin tried for 60 years to suborn the US left with almost no success, then flipped the US right simply by dropping hammers and sickles and calling their commissars "billionaire oligarchs!

Still, left-radical putzes have done execrable harm, first by seizing most university soft-studies departments and thus making those departments just mastrubatory centers of useless yowling, instead of centers of liberation through actual truth seeking. Second, in their hatred of science fiction that's anything but litmus PC.

But in fact, there have been horrifically tragic consequences: The entire “neocon” movement, which connived to justify both Iraq wars, had its roots in men like Nitze, Perle, Adelman, Wolfowitz etc., former students of a mad, ingrate-mesmerizing im- perialist named Leo Strauss. When they were university professors, their views ranged from conservative to – well – unpleasantly right wing, but at least they faced arguments and reality checks by colleagues and students.

But when their offices were trashed by jubilant activists, it proved counterproductive to chase them off-campus. Fleeing to faux academes like Heritage Foundation – echo chambers of servile oligarchic rationalization – these bright fools concocted fairy tales of prodigious insanity. We – and peoples of the Middle East – paid a steep price for those gleefully trashed offices. Congratulations on such ‘victories.’

Oh, I'll accept alliance with zero-sum postmodernist twits against the far worse dangers of an oligarchic worldwide putsch and resurgent feudalism. But my eye remains wary. For they would concoct reasons to put me against a wall, if they ever got the chance. They won't! But they surely will weaken our alliance with splitterism, while claiming credit for every victory achieved by the positive-sum, liberal majority of our Union Army of enlightenment salvation.

jim said...

Just to complete the discussion we have been having about positive sum thinking/acting.

It occurred to me las night that THE TRAGETY OF POSITIVE SUM THINKING is a variant on the classic THE TRAGETY OF THE COMMONS. In the tragedy of the commons you have individual commoners acting rationally to expand the benefits they take from the commons leading to the destruction of the commons. With the tragedy of positive sum thinking, the rational individual is replace with an interacting group of rational people looking for positive sum interactions that lead to expanding the benefits they take from the global commons. Thus causing the global environmental problems we have today.

jim said...

How long before the Republicans take a page form the Democrats and demand that we Impeach and Move On?

Maybe the democrats will cooperate and put up narrow articles of impeachment centered around the Ukrainian quid pro quo and send them over the senate before thanksgiving. Mitch can hold the trial in the senate just before Christmas, the republicans won’t convict. And we move on in the new year.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jim: First off, you're mischaracterising "Moveon.org". They wanted to "Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation", as opposed to impeaching him. Nor where they formally Democrats.

Basically, Trump has an entire galaxy of crimes that can be proven in court. Why settle for one count that the Republicans might bat down, and then end the country altogether by keeping him as President? Do you really hate America that much?

Jon S. said...

Allow me to provide a local perspective on one of the above tales:

Evergreen State College is not, despite its name, a state college. For several years, it couldn't even get accredited. It's widely known in the region as a weirdo college for people who can't get a degree at any school with anything even approaching academic rigor. Taking actions there as representative of "the left" is akin to taking the actions of the Trump family as representative of New Yorkers.

Basically, it's where we keep the far-far-left nutburgers who aren't legally incompetent. Yet.

kiwi said...

Hey David, cast your sci-fi eye on this if you haven't already: New game by legendary game developer: Hideo Kojima called "Death Stranding" Here's a short description and a link making a connection that I though as soon as I heard the general idea:


Sam (Norman Reedus) works as a porter for the BRIDGES organization, transporting cargo from settlement to settlement. Sam gets tasked by the President of the United Cities of America to try and rebuild the country’s shattered infrastructure. To do this, he’ll have to travel across the entire continent, uniting the scattered settlements and bringing them all back online one by one. It’s essentially The Postman, with Reedus in the Kevin Costner role.


https://collider.com/death-stranding-review/

scidata said...

Listened to podcast.
The officious wonk from the ACLU reminded me of many meetings I've sat through in my citizen science advocacy over the years. Forget exponential technology curves, we're way beyond those quaint 20th century notions. If technology is a tsunami, then AI is a speeding asteroid ELE. Legislating fences around the elites won't work anymore (if it ever did). Educate, encourage, and unleash the citizenry. Do any ACLU types ever read Jefferson or Franklin? It seems the 'woke' left isn't really so woke.

Tell me and I forget
Teach me and I remember
Involve me and I learn
- Ben Franklin

duncan cairncross said...

Jim

When I rearrange a production line and change some of the tools and we double the output then where is the "THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS"

When we do some training - and reduce defects by 50% where is the "THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS"

When we introduce a new component that does the same job but uses half the material where is the "THE TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS"

Larry Hart said...

jim:

In the tragedy of the commons you have individual commoners acting rationally to expand the benefits they take from the commons leading to the destruction of the commons.


Except that it doesn't happen that way in real life. "The tragedy of the commons" is up there with "trickle-down economics" as a theory that may sound like it might be sound, but doesn't hold up to the real world. The myth is generally promulgated by a private individual or corporation as an excuse for appropriating the commons as their own private property, thereby themselves bringing about the "tragedy" they ostensibly wanted to stave off.


With the tragedy of positive sum thinking, the rational individual is replace with an interacting group of rational people looking for positive sum interactions that lead to expanding the benefits they take from the global commons. Thus causing the global environmental problems we have today.


You've got some cahones laying the blame for global environmental problems at the feet of positive-sum thinkers like scientists and liberals (pardon the redundancy), whereas so many of those problems are caused or exacerbated by the Party of Climate Denial, which is also the party that doesn't believe in the commons.

It does finally occur to me that you really do think in zero-sum terms all along if the only way you can imagine a positive sum interaction is if it is actually sucking excess value away from some external source. Dr Brin is correct that you just can't conceive of a positive-sum interaction, even as a concept.

David Brin said...

“It occurred to me las night that THE TRAGETY OF POSITIVE SUM THINKING is a variant on the classic THE TRAGETY OF THE COMMONS. “

Yes, of course that occurred to you. You are an intelligent person who – when confronted by a dozen or more intelligent and accomplished folks who tell you repeatedly that you don’t get a concept – quashes any impulse of curiosity and instead keeps doubling down on efforts to reframe the concept in terms you do understand.

Faced with repeated efforts to show you what positive sum means, and terrified, all you can do is reframe and repeat, repeat, repeat zero sum interpretations that your neurons are capable of perceiving. I do not hold this incapacity against you. In fact, witnessing it in you and your two fascist-leaning counterparts here, I feel the debt of gratitude I owe to someone who roused me to shatter preconceptions and accept unpleasant truths. Alas, you are incapable of this, but I am capable and I now recognize that grasping some concepts, like PS, may be orthogonal to actual intelligence. It may actually – not just methaphorically – be organic.

My response is curiosity. Yours is determination to use repetition to evade curiosity. I have enough self-doubt to ponder whether I am being at all fair – or just smug – to experience the emotion of pity.

Though in fairness, LarryHart, stealing from the commons and from descendants does happen. It is a terrible problem. One that many institutional systems have been set up, lately, to reduce or eliminate. What ‘jim’ asserts is that such efforts are illusory or impossible. A cynic’s excuse for sloth, largely. But based on something real.

David Brin said...


Yeah, kiwi, all sorts of folks are writing in about Death Stranding.

David Brin said...

Pertinent and kind of interesting about the positive sum thing: "ABOUT THE WIZARD AND THE PROPHET
From the best-selling, award-winning author of 1491 and 1493–an incisive portrait of the two little-known twentieth-century scientists, Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, whose diametrically opposed views shaped our ideas about the environment, laying the groundwork for how people in the twenty-first century will choose to live in tomorrow’s world.

"In forty years, Earth’s population will reach ten billion. Can our world support that? What kind of world will it be? Those answering these questions generally fall into two deeply divided groups–Wizards and Prophets, as Charles Mann calls them in this balanced, authoritative, nonpolemical new book. The Prophets, he explains, follow William Vogt, a founding environmentalist who believed that in using more than our planet has to give, our prosperity will lead us to ruin. Cut back! was his mantra. Otherwise everyone will lose! The Wizards are the heirs of Norman Borlaug, whose research, in effect, wrangled the world in service to our species to produce modern high-yield crops that then saved millions from starvation. Innovate! was Borlaug’s cry. Only in that way can everyone win! Mann delves into these diverging viewpoints to assess the four great challenges humanity faces–food, water, energy, climate change–grounding each in historical context and weighing the options for the future. With our civilization on the line, the author’s insightful analysis is an essential addition to the urgent conversation about how our children will fare on an increasingly crowded Earth."

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/220698/the-wizard-and-the-prophet-by-charles-c-mann/?fbclid=IwAR1s96kcamz_M5KmLwsg2qyWGMQZrsKW5tCfw6IdqLh0K3hOW4Ana_LyROg

Though either way, we gotta win against the negative sum feudalists so spread word about Polemical Judo!

George Carty said...

The reason we are endangered by climate change is because the owners of oil and gas resources were so wealthy that they were able to suborn both halves of the political spectrum: their stooges on the right deny that climate change is even happening, while their stooges on the left fight tooth and nail against nuclear energy: the only controllable, energy-dense and geography-independent alternative to fossil fuels.

Big Oil's dirty war on nuclear power began long before the first nuclear power plant even went into operation, when the Rockefeller Foundation suborned geneticist Herman Muller. In the late 1920s Muller had been fired from his position at the University of Texas for working on an openly communist student newspaper The Spark, and ended up migrating several times in a way that prevented him from building up any savings or pension assets. First he moved to Germany in 1932, then he fled the Nazi takeover the following year and sought refuge in the Soviet Union, only to have to flee again four years later (this time to Scotland) after getting caught up in the Lysenko affair.

After a stint in the International Brigades in Spain (where he developed a technique for recovering the blood of killed soldiers for use in transfusions) he wound up back in the United States in 1941. As his past made him ineligible for a security clearance, the Rockefeller Foundation arranged for him to get a teaching job, filling in for professors who were now working for the war effort. He wasn't a very good teacher however, and his contract was not renewed at war's end. Worse still he had found a young wife (a German refugee from Nazism) and by 1946 he was 56 years old, in financial dire straits, and with his wife along with a 2-year old daughter with expensive health problems to deal with.

It was at this point that the Rockefeller Foundation made him an offer he was no position to refuse, to front a propaganda campaign about the dangers of genetic mutations caused by ionizing radiation. Not only that, but he somehow managed to be awarded a Nobel Prize in spite of basic errors in his research: the blackmail potential there was obvious.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Though in fairness, LarryHart, stealing from the commons and from descendants does happen.


Sure. Voter fraud does happen too, occasionally. But "does happen" is a far cry from "will inevitably happen", which is what is usually meant by "The tragedy of the commons".

Larry Hart said...

The losing Republican Kentucky governor may contest the election and throw the decision to the Republican legislature...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/us/kentucky-governor-election.html

...

The State Board of Elections has until Nov. 25 to certify the results, including whatever changes arise from a recanvass. State law gives each candidate 30 days to formally apply to contest the election in the Legislature. The application must state specific grounds for objecting to the outcome.

The contest is heard first by a panel of 11 randomly selected lawmakers — eight from the House of Representatives and three from the Senate — who sit like a board of inquest, hearing testimony and gathering evidence about the reason for the contest. Then the panel recommends to the whole Legislature whether to order a new election or declare one candidate or the other the winner. Finally, the House and the Senate each decide by majority vote whether to accept the panel’s recommendation.

...

The General Assembly, which would decide a contest, is safely in Republican control, with majorities of 59 to 39 in the House and 39 to 9 in the Senate.

It was not clear whether Mr. Bevin would pursue his challenge that far. At a news conference on Wednesday, he seemed at times to be laying the groundwork, saying that there were “a number of significant irregularities” in the election (though he gave no specifics) and observing that “there’s more than a little bit of history of voter fraud in our state.”

...

jim said...

Larry
Doesn't happen in real life? Maybe you are unfamiliar with this thing called climate change? The atmosphere is a global commons.


It is not that I don't understand the concept of positive sum, I just think that it is wrong.

You guys are making the claim that you can get something for nothing.
I am saying everything comes at a cost.



Larry Hart said...

jim:

It is not that I don't understand the concept of positive sum, I just think that it is wrong.


I think you do misunderstand the concept. You think we're saying "Burning fossil fuels gives us energy for nothing. That's a positive sum!" Wheras I'm using "positive sum" in the sense that I have something that's not as valuable to me as it might be to you, and I can trade it to you for something you have that I want, and we both win. The fact that either or both of us might be harmful to other entities is entirely incidental to the value of that transaction.


You guys are making the claim that you can get something for nothing.
I am saying everything comes at a cost.


You're saying that there's no such thing as a profit. It must always be offset by a loss somewhere else. I wonder, do you feel the same way about the reverse? Is there no such thing as a loss or a negative-sum transaction, because some other part of the universe must be gaining?

Jon S. said...

On the plus side, Larry, Kentucky state law apparently requires that the complaint be specific - and the Kentucky GOP's official position has become, "If Mr. Bevin can't demonstrate what in particular the irregularity in the election is, and why we should believe that all the third-party voters would naturally have voted for him, we should let the results of the election stand."

Apparently at the local level it's still possible to find power-grabs that choke even the Republican Party's ability to swallow.

Darrell E said...

jim said:
"You guys are making the claim that you can get something for nothing."

That is not remotely what positive sum means. You've clearly demonstrated yet again that you don't understand the concept. You've got target fixation. You are determined to make a point and for some reason, I suppose to push back against David (?) you are determined to force fit positive sum into it even though it doesn't fit. Why bother? I don't think anyone disagrees with the basic point you are making, what everyone is disagreeing with is your use of positive sum. It's wrong, simple as that.

"I am saying everything comes at a cost."

Yes, we do understand that that is what you are saying. And it is accurate, it is important to realize, but what it isn't is a refutation of positive sum because with respect to positive sum it is a non sequitur.

David Brin said...


I’d have to guess the national GOP is begging the KY legislature not to go that far. Because it would be a last straw for many outside of KY.

“ stooges on the left fight tooth and nail against nuclear energy”

George, other than anecdotes, SHOW us this ‘tooth and nail” fight please. Sure you trawl around, you’ll find some anti-nuke groups. But the sort of rabid thing you imply? At NIAC we fund some nuclear. Have you heard of Stewart Brand? He and the techno libs support it.

Big Oil may be anti-nuke and have some money slipped to a few left groups. But it’s otherwise silly/anecdotal.

It’s not so much the dangers as the COST and TIME, and those could go down if libs were offered a DEAL. "Give us smoother regs for half a dozen experimental New Gen reactors and we’ll give you a nationwide mandate for solar roofs.

LH “Sure. Voter fraud does happen too, occasionally. But "does happen" is a far cry from "will inevitably happen", which is what is usually meant by "The tragedy of the commons".”

Hm, well… It’s more like cheating in elections ALWAYS happens unless vigorously prevented.
Stealing from the commons ALWAYS happens unless vigorously prevented.

Where jim collapses is his inability to grasp that it CAN be prevented. He lives wallowing in the positive sum results.

“It is not that I don't understand the concept of positive sum, I just think that it is wrong.”

And yet every example he gives shows an utter inability to even grasp the concept. Denial can be an ugly thing. A flatlander howling “I know what ‘UP” is! And frantically pointing to the left.

Here’s the thing. If told by many smart folks that I don’t seem to understand a concept, that elicits in me CURIOSITY!
There’s not a trace of that from jim, just panic.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Hm, well… It’s more like cheating in elections ALWAYS happens unless vigorously prevented.
Stealing from the commons ALWAYS happens unless vigorously prevented.


Ok, but the stealing isn't usually done by the masses. It's done by the powerful privatizers in the name of protecting the commons from the masses.

Say we're back in the Garden of Eden, and all we have to do to eat is to pick fruit from the apple tree. What's more likely--that everyone is going to grab and hoard so many apples that the tree can't sustain the supply? Or that someone is going to declare that since the tree isn't anyone's private property, he's claiming it as his own, building a fortified wall around it, and anyone who wants apples has to pay him for his private property?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I’d have to guess the national GOP is begging the KY legislature not to go that far. Because it would be a last straw for many outside of KY.


Hopefully, they'll treat the "faithless elector" scenario the same way when its time comes.

And there's also this to consider...

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/07/us/kentucky-governor-election.html

...

There is a 120-year-old precedent in Kentucky — but an ill-omened one — for the apparent loser to successfully contest a close race for governor. Passions over the effort to overturn the result of the 1899 election ran so high that armed partisans poured into the state capital, and the ultimate winner was shot on the street. He died of the wound three days after being sworn in.

Treebeard said...

Well if you expand your “horizons of inclusion” wide enough, nothing is positive sum, so these two ideals are contradictory. Include the whole universe, and everything is zero sum, (or maybe negative infinity sum, calculated from the present moment). So for me “positive summers” are myopic troglodytes spinning fairy tales, like flat earthers.

Smurphs said...

SQUIRREL!

Wow, not even part of the conversation and you went right for Heat Death of the Universe.

We know that's your go to.

Just like we know you're a Nazi.

Tell us something we don't know. (or better yet, don't)

Treebeard said...

It is my go to, cuz it's the simplest refutation of Progress worshippers, much like the existence of evil is the easiest refutation of monotheists. When people beat you over the head with their religious abstractions, especially self-contradicting ones, you have every right to refute them, no? And I fail to see how reductio ad Hitlerum is anything but yelling "squirrel!" in this conversation, whereas reductio ad Heat Death clearly is relevant.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Ah, yes. Cynicism. What stupid people think wisdom sounds like.

A.F. Rey said...

Ah, yes. Because of the heat death of the universe, caused by entropy, nothing can be positive sum. QED.

By the same token, evolution could not possibly happen because it is anti-entropic. Therefore God must have created life. QED.

"'Oh, that was easy,' says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing." ;)

Alfred Differ said...

jim,

It is not that I don't understand the concept of positive sum, I just think that it is wrong.

You guys are making the claim that you can get something for nothing.
I am saying everything comes at a cost.


You are simply mistaken. Costs that they perceive are incurred by players of a game and used (hopefully) in advance to shape their decisions. If they miss them the first time around in a repeatable game, they'll use them later.

If you want to argue that there are ALWAYS costs associated with gains, you are taking a god-like perspective suggesting you have future or revealed knowledge. A priori knowledge. Do you want to go that far? I doubt it, but that is the ONLY way you can defend your position from us pointing out your error.

everyone else,

I'm inclined to think Jim DOES understand what positive sum means, but rejects it as an element of our reality. He's not alone in this. Most humans through history understood intuitively that every gain comes with a loss. It really IS a weird transition we've made in rejecting that old, intuitive understanding.

Alfred Differ said...

treebeard,

it's the simplest refutation of

It's not a refutation of anything mentioned here. It's an incantation. One of those "Circles of Protection" meant to ward off some otherworldly foe.

"Heat Death of the Universe" can be used in certain physics arguments as a limiting case counter-example, but in philosophical arguments it is a weasel-like way to avoid the claim.

Besides, one of my profs showed how the heat death has already happened. It was neat trick that involves trying to account for everything in the universe. Baryonic matter like us is just a tiny slice of what's out there.

David Brin said...

WOw LH that's some Kentucky story!

ent: ". So for me “positive summers” are myopic troglodytes..."

yes, we know that's your go to. Poor flatlander.

Roger Penrose... smarter than all of us here... has answers to the Heat Death of the Universe.

And yes, I know that human history gives little reason to expect that positive sum thinking would ever have arisen, under conditions that were nearly always zero sum... unless you count parenting. I am more amazed that 60% of Americans seem capable of it, to some degree, than I am suprised at jim or locum's incapacity. But what astounds me is their frantic evasion of curiosity and urgency of blanket denial... not disagreement over evidence or particulars, but a desperate need to deny what they absolutely and purely cannot comprehend, at a level that appears to be organic. That has come as a true surprise.

duncan cairncross said...

Jim has not answered my points

When I rearrange a production line and change some of the tools and we double the output

When we do some training - and reduce defects by 50%

When we introduce a new component that does the same job but uses half the material

Where are the COSTS of these changes?? - costs that somehow equal the benefits?

Is my few hours of "skull sweat" somehow worth more than the thousands of hours of wasted labour that was saved??

Jon S. said...

An example.

When I enlisted in the Air Force, my first (and, as it turned out, only) duty station was at Offutt AFB in Nebraska, at HQ SAC (now USSTRATCOM), in the software section of Force Timing and Deconfliction (XOXPC if you're interested in the alphabet soup - also dually assigned to JSTPS/JPPPC). One of the responsibilities of the most junior person in the section was the production of the monthly JPIC report. (Interim changes to the nuclear plan, or JPICs, were issued as needed; once a month, we sent a report containing all the JPIC numbers each base was supposed to have received, so they could make sure they got the right info.) This report was produced by reading the table that all the entries were checked off in, then typing up the number ranges in a particular format (to fit physically in a particular way on a reel of tape). This report was sent to Admin to be typed, back to Software for proofreading, back to Admin for corrections, and so forth.

I did this the "correct" way once, having been told that it was "impossible" to write a COBOL program to do it. After that experience, I went through the manual, found how to write the program, and did so. The procedure went from taking three man-days to one man-hour, including waiting for the printout.

So, there was a cost - about six man-days of a junior software engineer's time, once. There was a value received - three man-days of time split between two sections of an office, each and every month. That seems to me to be a positive-sum exchange; the Air Force got an accurate monthly report, and I freed up a programmer's time in perpetuity to work on more important factors (like, at the time, accounting for the newly-introduced rail-mobile Peacekeeper missile - you'd need ballistic calculations for multiple locations along the rail-path).

Show me, please, how this exchange is negative-sum, or even zero-sum. Invoke the heat death of the universe if it pleases you, as I don't see how that affects the figures one way or the other.

David Brin said...

Wow Jon S. An impressive life experience and service, independent of its value as an argument example!

Zepp Jamieson said...

Alfred: I would love to see the details on your prof's "Baryonic matter" speculation on the heat death of the universe. Especially given the amount of dark matter out there.
As for positive sum arguments the notion that entropy defeats all doesn't work on a planetary level, let alone in an economic or societal level.
An example from the early days of BBSes, when the god botherers saw a fertile environment for prosetylising to the unclean unaware that their prefabricated arguments were about to be subject to unlimited scrutiny. Life on Earth, they proclaimed, was impossible without God, because a) you cannot build order from chaos and b) you cannot create energy to build order from chaos. Therefore gawd.
Well, you can build order from chaos by TAKING away energy: just take some water vapour and freeze it. Snowflakes, the apothesis of order! And as for 'creating energy' you can add existing energy, and you can credit god provided your particular god is Ra, ie, the sun. Energy isn't created, but it is added, locally. Not a closed system.
Reason, of course, had mixed results. These were people, after all, who believed it world-wide floods that rose the sea level by 10,000 metres, but not in sea rise of millimeters caused by global warming.

David Brin said...

Just today I was interviewed by BBC World Service on my "Lift The Earth" concept for rescuing our planet from gradual solar temp increase, 100Myr from now. At (comparatively) minuscule cost, Earth could be moved outward faster than the sun's warming, extending lifespana billion or more years.

The Heat Death guys will answer... "and then???"

Obviously I've dealt with such concepts for a long time! e.g. in HEAVEN'S REACH. But eventually even those living in suspended time at the edge of black holes face evaporative demise... and yet Tipler, Penrose and my friend Freeman Dyson have all showed ways to extend things incredibly. In the Penrose case, the extension... by conformal mapping onto a new big bang... is infinite.

So bite me, cynics. Our ob is to make heirs whose minds and souls and civilization are enough better than ours that THEY can fret about such things. And zero summers are no help in that project. So yeah, bite me.

David Brin said...

Still, the neuronal deficiency might be addressable with this!
https://www.newscientist.com/article/2221743-europes-first-home-brain-zap-device-for-depression-launched-in-uk/

scidata said...

Asimov's own personal favourite story was "The Last Question", which had a stunning solution to heat death. A less 'spiritual' method for delaying it would be to use stars' own power to propel them back towards the mother world.
https://www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2018/6/20/how-an-advanced-civilization-could-stop-dark-energy-from-preventing-their-future-exploration

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Jim has not answered my points

When I rearrange a production line and change some of the tools and we double the output
...
Where are the COSTS of these changes?? - costs that somehow equal the benefits?


I think his point is that when you improve productivity, you hasten global warming, which will make us all die. When you improve people's lives, allowing them to work less and have more free time, you free them to do destructive things that contribute to global warming, which will make us all die.

A Dilbert punch line once had the boss counseling, "Job satisfaction is like stealing from the company." I think that's similar to what jim is arguing. Improvement in one's life is like stealing from the universe.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

Show me, please, how this exchange is negative-sum, or even zero-sum. Invoke the heat death of the universe if it pleases you, as I don't see how that affects the figures one way or the other.


C'mon, this is too easy.

Those man-hours you freed up allowed someone to drive a car or fly an airplane or do something with plastic bags which ended up contributing more to global warming which will make us all die. If only you had left well enough alone.

David Brin said...

"Those man-hours you freed up allowed someone to drive a car or fly an airplane or do something with plastic bags which ended up contributing more to global warming which will make us all die. If only you had left well enough alone."

In fact, there is a point to this, that non-feudal systems are more complex and squishy and parasites will find many points of entry to exploit and many unexpected side effects and consequences will accompany every good move.

So? We become agile. We have transparent-responsive systems. We get better at using diversity and reciprocal accountability. It's a dance, all right, enabling us to keep rising and seeing better. We have to keep dancing, and slothful cynics deem that exhausting.

Jon S. said...

Military regs - all those man-hours had to be spent in an office four stories underground. (That was my one complaint. I joined the Air Force, the service with airplanes as part of the basic mission, and I was assigned to fly a computer console in a room in the fourth sub-basement of a building - which they then had the temerity to call the Air Room.) So no, nobody's time was freed up to do anything that didn't involve making sure that our nuclear weapons were on the bleeding edge of readiness - and that our enemies knew it, because Soviet doctrine [i]required[/i] that if they saw an opening to destroy the West, they had to take it.

(Former Colonel Putin of the KGB is an excellent case in point on that, BTW. And not just with Cheeto Mussolini, either - they've apparently been mucking around in the financing of some British politicians as well. Thank Eris for the strides we've made toward transparency already, or we might not have learned about this until after they renamed the country "Airstrip-One"!)

David Brin said...

onward

onward