Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Chapter 2: "Underlying beliefs that most of us share" - And why that may help... even during a 'civil war.'

 As many of you have noticed, I've grown fierce about our current phase of "civil war." The issues seem stark, especially what I deem to be #1: rediscovering the core value of facts. That facts-are-things. All other issues - from racism/sexism to freedom, to governance and economics, to saving the planet and rebuilding world alliances - all would swing sharply if our arguments were still swayed by objective reality.

So yes, while I'm pretty vehement... and some of the chapters in Polemical Judo push harsh themes... and even as the stunning Republican convention hurls venomous hatred at every fact-using profession and all reason... nevertheless, I want to offer something that may cheer you up!  

Because the divides that separate Americans may not be as deep as they appear!

Here, as promised, is the next chapter of my book, wherein I point out something crucial. that the best way to draw folks back into the light may be to start with things we share, in common.

And so, before getting to practical methods, any “judo” manual explores what’s most important. Understanding your adversary. And yourself.



Chapter 2

of Polemical Judo


Below the Surface

Underlying beliefs that most of us share



This phase of the U.S. Civil War was not of our choosing. But we’ve been complicit. First, by accepting many indolent assumptions, then by ignoring history.


Take the lesson of the Greatest Generation. As we’ll see in Chapter 3, our Roosevelt-era parents and grandparents overcame a mélange of would-be plutocrats, populist tyrants and communist commissars to craft a social contract that unleashed a confident, burgeoning middle class, spectacular universities and science, vast infrastructure and entrepreneurship – plus a too-slow but ponderously-growing momentum toward justice. 


That social contract was so successful that we forget how rare and special it all was! Our parents were so successful at crafting a middle class dominated society that we members of the Boomer Generation largely assumed (and still assume) that age-old cheater plagues like oligarchy and feudalism – dominant across nearly all of the last 6000 years – were banished for good.


They weren’t. Today’s worldwide oligarchic putsch – propelling America back into Civil War – is both lethally dangerous and boringly predictable. As Hannah Arendt taught, evil can be oafish and banal, while also feral-canny. But one thing villains are instinctively good at is setting decent people against each other.


So let’s dig down to undercurrents that most of us share. Our enlightenment experiment is founded on some notions and practices that were never extensively practiced till recently – common threads that are masked by our dismal obsession to couch everything in left-right terms


For example, if pressed, most Americans would avow:


– that liberty is desirable;


– that men and women of goodwill should negotiate in good faith – either directly or through representatives – each giving a bit in order to achieve positive-sum[1] outcomes;


– that leaders are not the same thing as the state; they can and should be frequently replaced;


– that the rule of law must be applied evenly, fairly and transparently… though we can also change faulty laws – fairly and transparently;


– that money and power often corrupt, and it can happen from any direction;


– that a mature/sincere person should at least consider the foremost - even sacred – tenet of science: I might be wrong;


– that prejudices believed by our parents – and those clutched by us today – might be disproved by facts, at which point it’s time to let them go;


– that expertise and intelligence don’t guarantee wisdom, but knowledge and skill merit respect;


Further, couch it right and you can also get folks across a wide-spectrum to admit:


– that competition and cooperation are not opposites. Humans are inherently competitive beings and competition engenders creativity… but competition is nearly always wrecked by cheating, unless we cooperatively come up with rules and referees to keep it fair;


– that whatever is not explicitly forbidden – via duly deliberated laws that can always be questioned – is automatically allowed;[2]


– that most ‘liberal’ endeavors – at least those aimed at uplifting children – need little more justification than “stop wasting talent”;


It’s a safe guess that you’d credit yourself with holding all those views… while denying that your opposition-neighbors do. 

But try asking: 

Aren’t they just as likely to claim that you don’t?


In fact, all of the nostrums listed above are fundamental to our new kind of society, though you’ve likely not seen them expressed that way. Which is the point here. The first step in bridging our chasm is to escape loaded terminology.





Now let me surprise you by saying other themes run deeper than those above, distinguishing America and its allies from the rest of human history. For starters, can you name any other society that raised its own children to relentlessly criticize their own tribal elders?


The way that you – yes, you – have a powerful reflex to criticize?


A relentless stream of propaganda has poured from the indoctrination system known as Hollywood, pushing themes you agree with! Doubt that? Quick then, can you name a popular film you’ve enjoyed, across decades, which did not promote the following?


 Suspicion of Authority



 Personal autonomy and individuality



Above all, suspicion of and resistance to unfair authority figures. These are traits of a successful Hollywood film. They are also the very traits that enable and empower criticism, of the sort that you – as a politically active person – apply to your nation and its mistakes. It’s all part of a critical self-improvement campaign that enabled us to thread (sometimes just barely) a minefield of potential disasters across the last century, achieving many kinds of progress. It is also the trait that – despite every effort of the oligarchs – may yet win us the stars.


Right now you may be simmering, offended by the notion that you imbibed such values from movies, novels and songs, instead of inventing them yourself. Even worse, the effrontery to suggest that your opponent-neighbors might share those same deep reflexes. 


Get over it! We don’t have time for self-indulgence. Nor is this the place to explore philosophical implications of such a strange propaganda campaign, so unlike the mythologies of any prior culture. Though elsewhere I’ve called it The Dogma of Otherness.[3] What matters now is the calamity that’s befallen us! Because these memes, which underlie much of our success and our strength, are now being used against us.


Suspicion of Authority (SoA) is reflexive in both liberals and conservatives.  Both denounce Orwellian plots against freedom and light. But they part company over which groups aim to be Big Brother.


 – Conservatives fret about power grabs by snooty academics and communists and faceless government bureaucrats. 


 – Liberals see cabals of conniving billionairesracists and faceless corporations.[4]


But when you put it that way, isn’t the answer Duh? All power centers are inherently dangerous! At various times, cheaters and would-be tyrants used corporate, or bureaucratic-socialist, or owner-elite centers of power… and if you’ve spent time at any university, you saw mini-despotisms in many departments. Exploiters and cheaters will fester and plot wherever they feel they can. It’s why we finally invented habits and tools of accountability.


Ideally, we’d warily guard each other’s backs, with liberals grudgingly admitting “all right, I am more worried about plutocrats, while you fear bureaucratic excess. Tell you what. I'll listen to you a bit if you'll listen to me.” 


Ideally. I’ve seen it happen! Though not in 21st Century America. Alas, that synergy shatters amid re-ignited civil war, when each side tells its partisans that freedom can be harmed only from one direction. This political fused-spine disease leaves us unable to turn our heads. A form of tunnel vision, it’s one reason we get trapped into grunting sumo-shoving, instead of thinking two or three dimensionally… helping our neighbors do the same.


If these matters truly interest you, I recommend a brief Socratic questionnaire on ideology[5] that might reveal added dimensions. I promise you won’t view the hoary-insipid-lobotomizing “left-vs.-right axis” the same way again.


Our key point here is simple. The putsch-masters need us at each other’s throats, so they exploit the most inherently American meme – SoA – getting us denouncing each other as authoritarian elites!


This book offers many ways to thwart them. The best and most honorable approach? Get our cousins and fellow citizens to admit: 


Yes, we share the same instincts and underlying fears. 

We differ over particulars. 

Might there be some way we both are right?

And perhaps both wrong?





Oh, I clearly believe one side in our current culture battle is wrong far more often than the other. I will prove it, in Chapter 6. Still, there’s a habit of obstinacy that is all-too humanly shared also on the left.


Example: we all know how American conservatives spent decades ignoring human-generated Climate Change, sneering at the leading role that conservation must play in resolving this peril. Refusing to let efficiency and sustainability become urgent projects, they pray instead to the "problem-solving magic of markets," the way natives of Rapa Nui beseeched big statues to restore their ravaged isle.


But it’s arguable (elsewhere) that the Left has its own incantatory nostrums, e.g. rejecting any role for nuclear power, which helped lift millions out of poverty worldwide without adding appreciably to greenhouse emissions. Three generations have seen high benefit-to-harm ratios from fission reactors. Despite Chernobyl and other scary cautions. Despite pollution that – while frightening – has always proved containable. (This outcomes-ratio stands, astonishingly, even if you include Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) Yet, liberals won't even debate adding carefully designed, next-generation nuclear plants to our toolset for crossing a potentially Earth-killing Greenhouse Gap.


Did you fume at one paragraph while nodding at the other? Step back. Can you see a common reflex? To ignore contrary evidence and automatically say no? These "opposite" party lines share an underlying trait – a reflex to prefer distrust over the can-do spirit of modernity and science.


Only dig it… many liberals can be argued out of their reflexes. 

Conservatives can too, on occasion… but not during any phase of our 250 year civil war.





Alas, the honorable approach won’t work if anyone using it is already an “enemy.” I’ll return often to the mad-right’s all-out war on facts and all fact-using professions, a vendetta that diverts the SoA reflex of red Americans toward smartypants “elites” – the scientists, journalists, teachers, doctors and “deep state” officers –who stand in the way of oligarchy’s rule. We’ll get to that in Chapter 5. 


But here we’re exploring our neighbors’ underlying assumptions. And the strongest – that they almost always fall back upon – is: Everything’s a matter of opinion.


Let’s say you gather powerful evidence to support your argument – e.g. regarding climate change. Nowadays, your links are instantly canceled with counter-links, and outraged opponents denounce any claim you make for ‘credibility.’ If you cite specialists, that only makes you a lackey to authority. And don’t you know that “experts” are all conformist lemmings? Every fact-checking service is a would-be Orwellian Ministry of Truth.


As Thomas Paine put it, in The American Crisis: “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.” 


But then, that too is citing an authority.


I’ll offer several ways to fight these well-tuned defense mechanisms. But only a few of them are potent enough to overcome the final bastion[6] of defensive relativism, one that our parents and grandparents knew all-too well:


“Oh yeah? Sez you!”




And some things flow even deeper, below conditioning and culture, to a level that’s biological.  


Elsewhere, I’ve both spoken[7] and published papers[8] about the very worst and most damaging addiction to vex humanity – especially America – a plague of self-righteous indignation. Each year, evidence accumulates that sanctimony-rage is a physically addictive state, flooding the body with endorphins, serotonin and the kind of pleasure rush that draws many people to return – relentlessly – to this voluptuous high. The high of feeling so, so wrathfully right. Each of us, if we are honest, can look in a mirror and admit there’s truth to this. 


That doesn’t make it wrong to be indignant! Often, only outrage can stoke enough courage and drive to fight a powerful foe who flat-out deserves it. Heck, this volume is propelled by my own righteous anger over what’s been done to a nation, world, species and children whom I love. I’m furious!


But we’re supposed to be the calm, rational, sapient ones, able to choose when the self-righteous rush may take us… and when to say “hold, enough.” Above all, self-control may let you do as Sun Tzu recommends, controlling your passion, while letting the enemy’s draw him into errors.




I won’t quibble with George Lakoff’s diagnosis of Trumpism. Lakoff is correct that many “red” Americans – yes, even deeply religious Christians – admire a man who is opposite-to-Jesus in every way, because he projects confidence (“I am the chosen one”[9]) and an appearance of macho strength.


Trump’s bravado – absent any sign of past physical or moral bravery – is that of a 7thgrade playground bully. Perhaps some followers look back fondly on that time of life, when nerdy guys weren’t successful or attractive to women. Lakoff says it’s the symbolism of confident strength that counts over reality. (We’ll discuss Republican symbol-obsession in several places.) I don’t disagree, though I suspect that something else is even more important to them.


Despite his dismal record at governance, a myriad character faults and his endless spew of lies, Donald Trump delivers on one vital count. He enrages the very people his followers most hate.[10]


Recall our discussion above, about suspicion of authority (SoA.) Each of us worries about one or another variety of scheming elites. But as commentator Thom Hartmann put it: “When liberals talk about 'elites', they mean rich people. When conservatives talk about 'elites', they mean smart people.” 


Okay, that’s a self-flattering meme. And it should terrify us all. 

[1] No concept is more urgently important than that of positive-sum versus zero-sum (or even negative-sum) thinking. It is the underlying principle of our civilization, distinguishing it from all others. And it is not my purpose here to explain it. Try Robert Wright’s wonderful book Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny.


[2] A vast proportion of complex human cultures, perhaps a majority, taught: “whatever isn’t expressly allowed is assumed to be forbidden.” Picture a cop demanding: “Who said you could do that! Show me the permission!” You and I assume – if there’s no apparent way we’re hurting or bothering any people or interests, or imposing any burdens – that we can reply: “Who am I hurting? Show me where it’s disallowed!”


[3] “The Dogma of Otherness,” in Otherness, by David Brin, 1994. 


[4] And yes, I suppose – with some reluctance – that makes me a ‘liberal.”


[5] Questionnaire on ideology. Try it!  http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/questionnaire.html


[7] See a talk on “The addictive plague of getting mad as hell." http://tinyurl.com/wrathaddicts


[8] And the scientific background to Indignation Addiction: http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/addiction.html

[9] “I am the Chosen One.” From Forbes


[10] In popular parlance The goal of the administration is to “own the libs.”


Russ Abbott said...

There is one point I'd suggest you re-think.

that whatever is not explicitly forbidden – via duly deliberated laws that can always be questioned – is automatically allowed;

That premise is Donald Trump's not-so-secret weapon. He has spent his life looking for not-explicitly-forbidden loopholes--and then exploiting them.

We can't live by rules alone. As he has so forcefully demonstrated, we also need community-accepted institutions and norms.

Alfred Differ said...


Stonekettle's medical misfortunes remind me of Alfred...

You mean with my cancer surgery? His 'surgery' sounds like it is a bit simpler, but similarly likely to resolve simply. I had to surrender a part of my colon (hence my reluctance to use that punctuation mark anymore), so I got to sit in a hospital bed as though I had given birth by c-section. Turns out healing up for both is very similar... except for what they cut into. I was up and about pretty quick and sent home. It's messy and scary for newer nurses, but VERY routine nowadays for old-timers.

Stonekettle said today (before he went in) that his procedure probably wouldn't involve an overnight stay. That means something like "Snip and watch for bleeding to stop." No doubt he'll be back at the airlock controls by tomorrow late bourbon in hand.

The battle against cancer continues, but a whole lot of us who get it are also getting early detection. We don't make the news often, but we are the evidence showing the battle is being won.

Alfred Differ said...

Russ Abbott,

The constraint on us isn't supposed to be written rules. That's what the rule of thumb is really about. Whatever is not expressly forbidden (in writing) is allowed... short of violating community ethics.

It's that last part that a simple-minded approach doesn't handle. There ARE unwritten rules. [Take the 3-0 pitch with runners in scoring position when your team is way ahead because... Mercy.]

They are unwritten, so we can't bring criminal charges, but we CAN bring other civil consequences. If we have to do that too often, THEN we write them down.

Alfred Differ said...

Okay. At the risk of being misunderstood... (typical of a libertarian)

I've been a long time supporter of getting the US out of the business of delivering the mail. There are some terrible ways to do that that leave people hanging and allow cheaters to... well... cheat. However, I AM of the opinion that it's time has come.

Obviously, the way the GOP is trying to dismantle it right now is unethical. I'll grant that. I'll support preventing them from doing so, but not because I want the USPS to survive as it is.

Its primary purpose was to connect us. Well... we've found another way for many of the things we used to rely upon them to deliver. I've got a filing cabinet drawer full of correspondence I inherited from my professor when he passed. No one would do it the way he did anymore. In fact, they began avoiding all that by the 80's. Four decades ago, roughly. I remember seeing some of us emailing each other across the network in the 70's. Time to admit that function is better served electronically, end support within the USPS for it, and connect people digitally. If y'all want to have some branch of the USPS do THAT instead, I'm okay with it. However, I think the orbiting constellations going up are going to make that all moot. EVERYONE will have access soon enough. Subsidize them if you feel the need, but 'out with the old and in with the new.'

There certainly ARE physical objects that have to be moved about the old way. I'm familiar with the bandwidth problem. Personally familiar. If y'all want to keep supporting that, be my guest. Consider drone delivery, though. Amazon is. Consider contracting for services too... and DON'T prevent competition.

Also, recognize that defined benefit pensions are a helluva promise to make to people in a world where health care costs are exploding. Most of us in the commercial world don't get that kind of offer from our employers. Try being an employer and you'll see why. So... consider shifting to a different kind of retirement plan if you want some version of the USPS to survive. Our civil service folks aren't stupid. They CAN learn how other programs work. They might also come to understand the difference between an empty promise and a funded/vested one.

Finally, I suspect the USPS that survives into the future should be the result of an inter-state treaty much like how we handle Notaries and UCC. Certain states need the USPS more than others. Some can fund a drone fleet better than others, but they probably shouldn't. The changes I think possibly make sense don't unemploy many. The last mile is always the challenge... and someone will have to operate the drone hub.

Deck out the drones so they look like small ponies.

Yah. I know there is a lot of infrastructure in which we've already invested. My mail arrives in a locked box down the street. No simple process swap will work, but that shouldn't trap us. There are better ways to do what we do and better ways to treat the people who help us do it. It SHOULD be open for discussion... after we trounce the current batch of cheating cheaters.

Alfred Differ said...


...and help start the disastrous civil war in Libya.

ha ha ha ha!

Start it!? Pfft!

George Carty said...

Zepp Jamieson commented on the previous post:

I believe I mentioned this before, but I"m mindful of the fact that in the event of an electoral blowout, Trump's rabid supporters will vanish, much the way the Nazis in Germany did after April 1945. The allies, the Russians in particular, feared an underground forming, a resistance similar to that in France and western Russia, with ambushes, sabotage, and general fomenting.

Outside of a few isolated incidents, it never happened. I think a big part of it was that the truth of Hitler's crimes was shown to the general population of Germany. Most Germans didn't know about the death camps, all of which were outside of Germany, beyond horrid suspicions, most of which were dismissed as conspiracy mongering. Also, the allies brought some of the worst to trial, in fair and open cases.

Wouldn't the biggest factor in the lack of post-VE-day German resistance to the Allies, be that the Nazi leaders themselves (in line with their fundamentalist Social Darwinism) had through their Nero Order declared the German people to be unworthy of life?

George Carty said...

How much is the media misleading us about the root of Trump's support when they describe his supporters as "white working class" with "working class" defined as "no college degree" (rather than anything to do with actual economic status)?

IIRC Trump's strongest supporters tend to be whites without college degrees who are nevertheless making over $90k/year. That's not working-class: when they speak of "economic anxiety" it may well not be a case of "I'm afraid an immigrant will take my job" so much as "I'm afraid the immigrants working for me will get uppity and demand a raise".

Why else are ICE raids concentrated mostly in cities, when it is farms and the food processing industry that rely most on illegal immigrant labor? Could it be that the purpose of ICE (like the KKK in the previous century) wasn't so much to get rid of the racially-"inferior" population so much as to ensure they were where the landed elite wanted them to be: working on the elite's estates for peanuts?

Larry Hart said...

I didn't see an "onward" and I posted this article under the old comments. Basically, according to the article, Portland police get to be "tired" of interfering in violent altercations, as long as the right-wingers have the upper hand in the violence.

Rather than repeat the same excerpt, I'll quote a scarier part:


Local right-wing protester Skylor Jernigan, who attended a conservative “flag wave” demonstration in Portland earlier this month alongside Swinney, allegedly shot at Black Lives Matter protesters from inside a car. (Nobody was hit.) He was later arrested and charged with two felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon. During the same event, Swinney was seen spraying protesters with chemical irritants and shooting them with rounds from a paintball gun. He faced no immediate consequence for those displays or for pointing a pistol at protesters this past Saturday.

Long before this month’s events, the Proud Boys and other local Portland groups had been emboldened by governmental inaction during their rallies. Proud Boys leadership admitted at a rally last year that one of their stated goals was to continue such demonstrations in order to waste taxpayer dollars, overburden city resources and embarrass Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler. (For his part, Wheeler released a statement Monday saying he was “closely reviewing” the PPB’s “strategy to limit their intervention.”)

Now it appears that the Proud Boys enjoy not just a broader arsenal at their rallies, but a tacit promise from the city that they’ll face little to no police intervention.

Larry Hart said...

George Carty:

Wouldn't the biggest factor in the lack of post-VE-day German resistance to the Allies, be that the Nazi leaders themselves (in line with their fundamentalist Social Darwinism) had through their Nero Order declared the German people to be unworthy of life?

I expect that the lame duck president and Senate will do something at least metaphorically similar should they know they've lost the election and will soon be out of power. The way the Wisconsin legislature stripped all power from the governorship after a Democrat was elected. On the grounds that their own governor (Scott Walker) had grabbed too much executive power, and it was time for a push-back. Walker then enthusiastically signed the push-back into law.

jim said...

David you are being ridiculous in thinking that I am gleeful because we have entered the Time of Troubles. For a very long time I have seen this is where we have been heading and I desperately wanted us to avoid the situation we are now in. But you know, most of what happens in the world is far beyond my ability to control or even influence. Lots of bad things are happening now and worse things are coming down the road at us. Now I have already gone through the grieving process for this and have come to accept that we are in a world where one crisis cascades into next crisis and on and on. But as a matter of fact, I am a bit surprised at how quickly it is going bad.

Larry, The fact the both the democrats and republicans will not accept a lose in this election is a recipe for violence this fall. You may want to think about want that could mean for you, your family and friends. Are there things you can do now to prepare for the probable violence this fall? Do you have a bug out bag ready? Contingency plans? Do you have food and medical supplies on hand? Should you buy guns, body armor and bullets?

Now you have choice do you spend a lot of time and effort trying to change or influence things far beyond your control? Or do your accept that you can’t change the cascading crisis we are in and instead do you focus on changing your own behavior and expectations (the things you can actually control) and try to adapt (maybe even thrive?) to the new situation we are in?

Jon S. said...

Alfred said,

"I had to surrender a part of my colon (hence my reluctance to use that punctuation mark anymore)..."

Has that made you more partial to semicolons?

OTOH, email, while handy, is hardly a universal solution. It's very difficult to transmit medications by email, for instance (did you know that the VA strongly discourages in-person receipt of medication, and TRICARE would very much like all dependents with long-term medical needs to also receive their meds by mail?). And of course there's the question of the Digital Divide - such a solution would completely cut off some folks who either can't afford an internet connection (which certainly wouldn't be freely available under a libertarian regime!) or live where it's impractical for ISPs to provide anything more than the minimum possible service (cf John Scalzi, who lives in rural Ohio, and who liked going to cons while they were still a thing because the wifi on the plane was faster than his home connection).


On yet another topic, Doctor, we've learned since you first wrote this chapter of Polemical Judo that one of the "agreed-upon" items is no longer agreed upon. Supporters of Donald Trump no longer seem to separate the man from the government, and agree with him that he should be permitted to be President of the United States in perpetuity (presumably to be replaced by one of his large adult sons should he prove not to be immortal after all). Listen to him, and them, chant about "twelve more years", and when pundits say he's "joking" remember that so far as science has been able to determine, Donald Trump has no sense of humor. The only thing that's ever been seen to make him smile is the sight of other human beings in misery.

Larry Hart said...

Intentionally double-posting on both comments sections..

@Dr Brin,

You never posted an "onward" to your Chapter 1 blog, so some of us were still posting there, while others were already on Chapter 2. I think the "missing" comments from jim posted on Chapter 2's comment section.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Okay. At the risk of being misunderstood... (typical of a libertarian)

I've been a long time supporter of getting the US out of the business of delivering the mail.

I agree that the USPS should not be constrained to a particular technology (including paper in envelopes) when that technology isn't relevant. However, I think the Constitutional mention of the Post Office requires the federal government to provide a connection of last resort between Americans. If we can handle most of it privately via e-mail and cell phones, then so be it, but the people who fall through the cracks (either financially or technologically) should not be left without a backstopping government agency whose mandate is service, not profit.

IMHO, that is.

Larry Hart said...


Now you have choice do you spend a lot of time and effort trying to change or influence things far beyond your control? Or do your accept that you can’t change the cascading crisis we are in and instead do you focus on changing your own behavior and expectations (the things you can actually control) and try to adapt (maybe even thrive?) to the new situation we are in?

A fair enough question.

You know how, when the home team is batting in the 9th inning, the winning run is on third base, and there are not two outs, the outfielders come in close to devote their entire effort to getting the runner on his way home? They essentially cede the long fly ball because even if they could catch one, the winning run would still score, so the catch is meaningless. That strategy doesn't prevent the long fly ball--it just accepts the fact that they're helpless in that case, so they cover the short hop instead where they can make a difference.

That's a metaphor for the fact that I am not suited to survive in a Mad-Max, survivalist post-civilization world. To me, worrying about how to do so is akin to worrying about the long fly ball in the above situation. If that becomes our world, the game is over (for me) anyway, so I concentrate my efforts on covering the short hop, i.e., maintaining American civilization as best we can.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

John Scalzi, who lives in rural Ohio, and who liked going to cons while they were still a thing because the wifi on the plane was faster than his home connection

Heh. That reminds me of a kid in my old neighborhood. I realized how poor he must be when he had to go to the hospital and afterwards raved about how good the hospital food was.

Larry Hart said...

There's way too much in this one for a mere excerpt to do it justice. In a nutshell, polarization is dangerous to democracy, and polarization benefits Republicans way more than Democrats.


“In the classics of democratization research,” Svolik writes, “the public’s disapproval is assumed to serve as a check on incumbents’ temptations to subvert democracy.”

In polarized societies, however, “this check fails” because the strength of partisan loyalty, for many voters,

makes it costly for them to punish an incumbent by voting for a challenger. Incumbents exploit this lack of credible punishment by manipulating the democratic process in their favor. A mass of centrist voters provides precisely the kind of credible deterrent against manipulation that polarized societies lack.


In an email, Svolik raised the next logical question: “If supporters of both parties oppose/tolerate authoritarianism at similar levels, how come it is the Republican Party that is primarily associated with authoritarian tendencies today?” In reply to his own question,” Svolik writes, “The quick answer is Trump.” But

The deeper answer is that the opportunities to subvert the democratic process for partisan gain have become asymmetrical. Because of the biases inherent in political geography and demographic partisan patterns, the two most easily implementable means of gaining an unfair electoral advantage — gerrymandering and voter identification laws — only offer opportunities for unfair play to Republicans.


Joshua Greene, the Harvard psychologist, closed his email with an addendum: “P.S. I think that Biden will probably win and will probably be the next president. But the fact that I can’t say more than ‘probably’ is terrifying to me. I fear that we are witnessing the end of American democracy.”

A German Nurse said...

"Wouldn't the biggest factor in the lack of post-VE-day German resistance to the Allies, be that the Nazi leaders themselves (in line with their fundamentalist Social Darwinism) had through their Nero Order declared the German people to be unworthy of life?"

No. I don't think so.

First of all, a general uprising was unlikely, since the population as a whole was exhausted and done with the war - as well as scared. While the Allies, all of them, executed apprehended "Werewolf" resistance group fighters, there were simply not enough persons left who were willing and able to plan and lead a resistance campaign.

Some major bureaucrats and military officers were recruited by the Allies (like von Braun) or by the new federal government (Like von Gehlen. Most of the surviving judges and the departments of justice and the exterior, too. Hence the german saying "They hang the small fishes and let the greater ones go").

Others who had the capacity to incite the flame of resistance where dead or imprisoned- either on the various battlefields, by the Nazi executioners themselves, or afterwards, during the Nuremberg trials. Some fled to South America and the Near East.

Second, Germans are traditionally obedient and hesitant to rebel. It is part of our culture. (In my home area, in 1918, the citizens politely asked their monarch if his majesty would allow them to make revolution, or so the story goes.) Those who had the capacity to incite the flame of resistance where dead or imprisoned- either on the various battlefields, by the Nazi executioners themselves, or afterwards, during the Nuremberg trials.

Third, the churches. The remaining structure left in the country not totally owned by the Nazis, their influence on post-defeat society was considerable. They may have been socially conservative, and to some degree hindering the progression into a more liberal society, but they were pacifistic. (Though their privileges go back to 1806, they have still their separate law and their own tax.)

And lastly, I don't believe the majority of people knew about Hitler's orders in the fast few weeks. Or cared, afterwards.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

Has that made you more partial to semicolons?

Yup. I'm that guy who thinks he discovered a joke and tells it again and again while everyone else grimaces because they've heard it a zillion times. 8)

You know how someone wearing a cast has to explain the injury to concerned onlookers over and over? At work I knew I was going to have to explain my absence & hospitalization to co-workers who had known me for years. We have these little white-boards outside our cubicles we can use for short messages like "be right back" or "off for the day". I put this on mine.

[ : —> ; ]
Back in a few days

It got a few curious looks, but I could tell when people got it.
Their wince told me. 8)


I studied the package transportation industry a few years back when I was working on an aerospace start-up. Talk to space advocates and you'll eventually run into someone proposing point-to-point delivery services. Realistic projects are usually far more complex than they'll admit… especially with systems that routinely break the sound barrier.

One thing I got from that study effort was an understanding that one shouldn't spend much time thinking about exactly what was to be transported at a particular price. The value of the objects transported varies by time, location, and what it is. Whether it is a heart transplant needed in a particular location now or a software patch on a remote system needed now, the value of the 'thing' depends on what the customer stands to lose when a delivery fails. Medicines, ballots, and post cards from grand parents on vacation cover a spectrum of possibilities.

What decent analysts pointed out is that you can build a system that enters the market at a particular price point and know roughly who your competitors are, but you won't know what needs transporting for more than the short range future. USPS is a competitor, but what they transport varies by price point.

What I'm pointing out is that we don't need USPS to be a competitor in every field it once served. We really don't. We shouldn't demolish them either because some sectors don't have a viable alternative. We can ponder what is working and what isn't… and adapt for the future. We can do it in a way that lets USPS employees understand what is coming too. They can probably adapt too.

matthew said...

All NBA playoff games canceled today after the Milwaukee Bucks refused to take the court after last nights shooting by a white nationalist militia member. Some games might have continued, but LeBron came out against it.

Things moving quickly now.

matthew said...

The Portland Police Bureau's close ties to the Pro*d Bo*s have been a contributing factor to the continuing riots. The reluctance on the part of Mayor Wheeler (who is also Police Commissioner) to hold PPB responsible for their affinity for the local neo-Nazis is also a big part of the problem.
To be fair, the large gutterpunk anarch population (Block Bloc) has a big effect as well. They are a long-time and long-term problem, and much of my utter disdain for libertarian anarchists come from watching the gutterpunk community for 25 years locally.

There is a lot of local journalism on the subject. I suggest Willamette Weekly or The Mercury as a starting point.
Ignore Andy Ngo - he is a neo-Nazi provocateur aiming his sights on getting Trump's notice and blessing. He has supplied the Pr*ud B*ys with "kill lists" of other journalists (and activists) and was embedded with the PBs on their "missions."

TCB said...

Russ Abbott said: That premise is Donald Trump's not-so-secret weapon. He has spent his life looking for not-explicitly-forbidden loopholes--and then exploiting them.

I read this about Wall Street execs in general: a corporate trainer said it was futile to create team-building challenges for these guys. They would ALWAYS find a loophole that met the letter but violated the intent of the exercise.

TCB said...

@ Alfred Differ, speaking as a USPS employee, I don't mind fair competition. Really. I'd like the USPS to once again compete fairly in the banking sector.

Alfred Differ said...


Funny thing about what the Constitution mentions and doesn't mention… try finding where it says how Senators are not to be chosen in such that their terms expire together. How we choose them has changed over time, but the requirement for an overlap isn't written in the Constitution. It is custom born of a decision made shortly after we had to admit the first new states.

The Constitution also says Congress declares war… not the Executive. Been a long time since we followed that one too.

There is also no provision for Congress to delegate its legislative authority to the Executive, yet they do. The alphabet agencies write regulations that aren't technically statutes, but they work the same way much of the time.

There was good reason to mention the Post Office in the Constitution. They clearly wanted the federal government to have the authority to create one instead of leaving it to States. For much of its history, though, it was one of the spoils to be handed out by the winner. Trump treats it that way, so it's no shock that the reward recipient behaves the way that used to be common.

Sure. The federal government should act to ensure we remain connected through communication tech as a nation. That would be covered under the commerce clause nowadays if the USPS wasn't mentioned explicitly. But there is more than one way to cover the cracks. Cheap first class mail is one. Cheap broadband is another and that IS around the corner.

Look up one night and see if you can spot one of the Starlink satellites fly by. Won't be long now and you won't be ABLE to avoid them unless you want to live on an ice cap or ice sheet. The antenna you need to connect is about the size of a pizza box. Every living being on the planet (except the scientists at the South Pole) will be in range. Every one with at least one bird over them in low orbit. Everyone… not just Americans in rural districts. Everyone. All the time.

What do you think will make more sense when it comes to spending your tax money? Support cheap first class mail to and from US rural districts… or support broadband access for those same people? Sure. That doesn't cover transportation of packages, but that same broadband network will likely support drones provisioned properly. Everywhere. All the time. With cameras, microphones, and GPS tracking!

TCB said...

What follows is shamelessly stolen by me, without permission, from Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon on Metafilter, because why shouldn't it be seen somewhere else, and enter at least one or two more brains?:

> Shouldn't there be, at some point, a full-bodied denunciation of fear mongering based on lies?

so back in 1988 international pressure forced chilean fascist augusto pinochet to hold a plebiscite on whether or not his dictatorship should continue. initially the election was widely viewed as a sham; for one thing, the opposition campaign was only given 15 minutes of airtime a day for the month before the election, scheduled from midnight to 12:15.

instead of using their airtime to expose and denounce pinochet's use of murder and torture to suppress dissent, they brought in a soda company adman and ran stuff like this. the opposition won and pinochet was forced from office.

this isn't like a totally happy story: the pinochet administration left behind a constitution that to this day makes undoing much of the damage that pinochet did to the country impossible — the removal of this constitution is what the current chilean uprising is about. but nevertheless, silly upbeat nonsense got the fascist out of office.

as i see it, the job of the democrats is to make voting against trump look happy and fun and all-american. it's our job to denounce fascism, provoke unrest, and establish broad-based societal change.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:02 AM on August 25 [72 favorites]

Alfred Differ said...


As someone who used to work in the financial sector, I'd like that too. I really would. People without access to banking are damn near homeless.

matthew said...

@TCB - Heh. Good one. Postal banking is a 1% richie-rich nightmare scenario.

Alfred, as you know, the post office was enshrined in our constitution. If you think America will agree on getting rid of it in favor of overpriced commercial competition, feel free to push the amendment to the constitution. You always argue for giving in to the political will of the super-majority. Go ahead and build your coalition to show you have super-majority support. But be aware, I and many others will fight you every step of the way.

Alfred Differ said...

Oops. Looks like they intend to cover high latitudes to some degree too.

[Another flight planned for Aug 30 and two more for September. Sixty at a pop with Falcon 9 AND valuable engineering data about the launch vehicle and launch procedures. Hmpf. 8)]

If y'all aren't thinking about what this kind of coverage will do to the economy, you shouldn't be investing in anything more complex than an index fund.

Phase. Orbit shells-km. # of birds Inc. Half size. Full size.
1 550 1584 53.0 MAR 2024. MAR 2027
540-570 1600 53.8
540-570 400 70.0
540-570 374 74.0
540-570 450 80.0
2 335.9 2493 42.0 NOV 2024. NOV 2027
340.8 2478 48.0
345.6 2547 53.0

Alfred Differ said...


Don't be silly. I'm an incrementalist. No amendment necessary or desired.

Y'all can legislatively establish 'post offices' as pretty much anything you want without changing the Constitution. Changing regulations likely would be needed, but I'd prefer to keep that to a minimum as well.

I don't expect to win battles on this, though.
I'm pointing out change is already afoot and y'all should be preparing to adapt.
Even better... adopt.
How about co-opt?

duncan cairncross said...

The satellites are in low orbit - they will only be in sunlight for a few minutes at dawn and dusk
The rest of the night they will be dark and invisible

The Post Office should not just be a mail carrier
It should also be the Bank - everybody should automatically get a bank account - too many Americans do NOT have a bank account

TCB said...

I don't consider the post office to be some sort of sacred artifact that must never be altered. That ain't the thing.

The thing is, somewhere behind most proposals to privatize a public service, or 'disrupt' an existing private industry, 'to do it more efficiently,' is that the thing it will most efficiently do is take income from millions of workers and give it to a tiny handful of guys who masterminded that privatization/disruption. Like, workers don't deserve defined-benefit pensions, workers don't deserve secure jobs that will still be there in twenty years, but Jeff Bezos sure does deserve that 196 billion dollars!

These billionaire parasites are turning me into a damn commie.

TCB said...

Adding to my outburst about billionaires: I have read that "In our society, nothing much gets done unless someone with a huge amount of money wants it done." I find this generally true.

Forty years ago, Amory Lovins and others had already worked out basically all we needed to know in order to move our civilization away from fossil fuels, and perhaps avoid a runaway climate catastrophe. Most of what he recommended still hasn't been done; people with a huge amount of money (largely in the energy industry) didn't want it done. No defense of great personal fortunes can change this fact, nor reduce its importance by even one part in a thousand.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

try finding where it says how Senators are not to be chosen in such that their terms expire together.

Article I, Section 3:
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year

The Constitution also says Congress declares war… not the Executive. Been a long time since we followed that one too.

Well, the Executive still doesn't declare war. We just don't declare war at all any more. Pretty sure that 1941 was the last time we did that.

The executive simply decides to use the military without declaring war.

Not saying that's a good thing.

Larry Hart said...


These billionaire parasites are turning me into a damn commie.

In the same way, right-wing militia types are turning me into an anarchist.

jim said...

Larry, I think that a Mad Max situation is very unlikely this fall (Or even this decade). It is far more likely we will be somewhat worse off this fall but still very far from having war bands roaming the country.

For me, I am making sure I have extra dry food goods, some medical supplies, I am trying to get my parents medication stocked up by November, stocking up on things like toilet paper, cleaning supplies a couple of gallons of bleach, some water filters, batteries, a solar charger, a new LED head band.

On November 3 I will have a full tank of gas in the car and a 5 gallon container of gas. I will have a 1000 dollars in cash and a bug out bag ready and safe places to go if trouble comes to my neighborhood.

Hopefully this exercise will be like buckling my seat belt – not a lot of trouble to do and if nothing bad happens I am not really worse for ware, but if trouble does come I will be very happy that I made some preparations.

jim said...

In other new Mother Jones has a great article on the mega flood that will hit California’s central valley sometime in the next few decades. The whole central valley floods every 100-200 years, the last one was in 1861. This white swan will do incredible damage to California and the food supply. And global warming will likely make these types of events about 3 times more likely, so rather than happening every 100- 200 years they should happen every 40 -70 years. (this could easily be a Trillion Dollar disaster.)


Larry Hart said...

Mike Pence last night:

"Let me be clear: the violence must stop—whether in Minneapolis, Portland, or Kenosha. Too many heroes have died defending our freedoms to see Americans strike each other down. We will have law and order on the streets of America."

Somehow, I doubt he means that the violence against black people which precipitates the protesting and subsequent violence in the streets must stop. He certainly doesn't mean that an assault-rifle-armed Hitler Youth from Antioch Illinois must stop going up to Wisconsin to shoot protesters.

If they would just stop killing black people for no reason, there would be no protesting and then there would be no opportunity for rioting and looting. But I'm coming to the conclusion that some of these police killings are "Turner diaries" type incidents by which the perpetrators actually intend to create an excuse for racial violence. Something about happenstance, coincidence, and enemy action comes to mind.

Larry Hart said...


"The Biden-Harris ticket is the most radically pro-abortion campaign in history."

That must come as a surprise to the radical pro-abortion liberals who are disappointed that only the Republicans seem to be talking about abortion at all. I mean, in four days of DNC speeches, I don't think it came up at all. Kinda like Russia at the RNC.

"They, and other politicians, are Catholic in name only."

Setting aside the fact that it's not the job of politicians to be advocates for a particular religion...

Really? You're going to smear Biden for not being sufficiently religion while praising Donald Trump???


Larry Hart said...


On November 3 I will have a full tank of gas in the car and a 5 gallon container of gas. I will have a 1000 dollars in cash and a bug out bag ready and safe places to go if trouble comes to my neighborhood.

The thing is, I don't know of any safer place to go to. I don't know about where you live, but my neighborhood is probably as safe a place to be as any.

Larry Hart said...

Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw at the RNC:


"Heroism is self-sacrifice. It's not moralizing or lecturing over others when they disagree."

While I'm sure that's aimed at leftist moralizing and lecturing, I'd say there's a bit of pot-meet-kettle there.

"Heroism is grace, not perpetual outrage.

This is in defense of Donald Trump and Republicans? I mean, I'm not sure that was a good one to mention.

"Heroism is rebuilding our communities, not destroying them."

Ok, at least I know who he's attacking here and why.

"Heroism is renewing faith in the symbols that unite us, not tearing them down."

Confederate monuments unite us. I see.

A German Nurse said...

TCB: Imho, regulations to keep critical infrastructure (including postal offices, but also healthcare providers, among many others) out of the hands of shady public-private partnership pirates, fostering a strong social network and applying the principle of human dignity to the workplace is not communism, it is raison d'etat. (Yes, I get that in the US those sane politics are framed differently. But ... it is what it is.)

In a way, it is the only cure for political radicalism (of any shade), as it removes fear, desperation, divisiveness.

Scenario: Trump and Bezos (and some others) aren't best friends. What if Trump remembers how Putin treated Chodorkowski and other oligarchs who fell out of the line? 196 billion won't help much if you are in Guantanamo. Or dead. I am not sure, but since Donald, first of his name, king of the vandals and the fifty states, has not shown any ideology he follows, I won't bet on him not choosing that route for a while.

Jon S. said...

Duncan, my roof is dark, but it's hardly "invisible". The Starlink satellites will still occlude the sky, whether they're brightly-lit or not.

A German Nurse said...

Just curious:

What would happen if the Congress declared a war the Executive opposes?

For example, if the Republicans had the majority in both houses, and forced a blue President to invade Iran, or a blue Congress forced Trump to invade Syria?

A German Nurse said...

@ Larry Hart:"But I'm coming to the conclusion that some of these police killings are "Turner diaries" type incidents by which the perpetrators actually intend to create an excuse for racial violence."

Suddenly remembered to this Game of Thrones dialogue between Lords Varys and Baelish: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxlIraEV8n4

For some, Chaos is a ladder.

Larry Hart said...

@A German Nurse,

You may not have been here long enough to know that I was a HUGE GoT fan through Season 6, after which it went south, and I still haven't bothered to finish Season 8 yet.

But oh, what a ride it was for a while.

Larry Hart said...

I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Like Remi listening to the old gremper's tales of the Helvetian War in Earth, Trump supporters don't care if what he's saying is bull semen, because it's great bull semen.

That more than anything else seems to explain his support.

mythusmage said...

We do need to keep in mind that there are those who just fret and whine. Our media's fascination with audience and ad revenue doesn't help matters any. We can only hope that our current pandemic will ultimately mean the elimination of the fools and the worry warts from our gene pool. Just remember that evolution is a bitch.

duncan cairncross said...

Jon S

Consider the angles a satellite mayby 10 meters across 500 miles above you will not "occlude" anything!!
The only way that it will be visible at all is if it is still in sunlight -

Here is a paper confirming your view


"Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence."

Note this is from a paper done in 2014 using data from before before that - most of the data was from BEFORE the "Citizens United" decision opened the floodgates to dark money

TCB said...

@ A German Nurse, the US constitution gives Congress more power than the president, but this is usually not apparent because the congress is like a herd of bison. Most of the time it's wandering all over the place. Once in a while, however, the bison all stampede in the same direction and the herd cannot be stopped. Nobody dare stand in the herd's path. All who defy them will be trampled to dust. And then, as suddenly as it began, the stampede ends and they go back to wandering all over.

Re: the Kenosha shootings, I saw this fascinating video last night. Kenosha Police Caught On-Cam Working With White Militia & Teen Shooter At Protest

In this video (WARNING: VIOLENCE) we see stills from the shooting of three BLM protesters, two of whom died, by a 17-year-old Trump supporter and police fan who had driven 20 miles and across a state line from Antioch, Ohio. All he had to do was stay home; now people are dead and he's on the hook for murder in the first degree, at age 17. What makes the video fascinating is the context we learn: cell phone video shows the police "appreciating" the armed white militia being there "and giving them bottled water" while ordering BLM protesters to disperse. We see young Erostratos given water from a police armored car. A line of police then push BLM protesters TOWARD the armed militia because the police "knew [the militia] could deal with them and then we're gonna leave". This is told to BLM protesters on video by a young man who is with the militia! It looks like he (and a few others) are finding out they were lied to and used.

Come over to the Rebel Alliance, we have better parties than the Empire ever had.

Alfred Differ said...


Art 1 Section 3 describes how to do it for the first election. It says nothing about new states added to the union later. What we chose to do is a logical extension, so no one will quibble about it, but it wasn't required. A state could reasonably challenge it some day if they wanted to shift the balance of power in the Senate. It is a loophole that would enable cheaters to shift an election to a time more favorable to them. All you need is a new state to test this. 8)

There are a lot of people who carry around little copies of the Constitution as if understanding it was like knowing Scripture. The real document is so short, though, that you'd think they'd understand that most of what it 'means' occurs elsewhere in the form of case law. Few do, but it's easy to prove with almost every phrase of the Constitution.

gregory byshenk said...

Just a note: I am pretty sure it is Antioch, Illinois, which is just over the Illinois-Wisconsin border. Antioch, Ohio is much further away: near the Ohio-West Vrigiana border.

Larry Hart said...


we see stills from the shooting of three BLM protesters, two of whom died, by a 17-year-old Trump supporter and police fan who had driven 20 miles and across a state line from Antioch, Ohio. ...

That's Antioch, Illinois. It's a far north suburb (exurb?) of Chicago. And literally spitting distance from Wisconsin. Not to undermine your point--it's just that this is almost a local story for me.

A line of police then push BLM protesters TOWARD the armed militia because the police "knew [the militia] could deal with them and then we're gonna leave"

While I still think "Defund the Police" is a terrible slogan for gaining support and not losing support to terrified suburbanites, I'm appreciating more and more that "bad apples" is an excuse, and that police departments nationwide (and their vocal supporters) seem to embrace the "occupying army" characterization over "to protect and serve".

Even ignoring for the moment the overt racism that seems to be an essential part of policing (which is hard to ignore), the Bill of Rights is supposed to guarantee Americans certain freedoms to engage in certain activities, no matter how unpopular, without interference or harassment by authorities. Trumpism encourages Brownshirts to engage in violence against people they don't like. And if the authorities are backing them up, then I'd say defund them back to the stone age!

Larry Hart said...

Ya think?

The Republican message seems to be "If Joe Biden is elected, the stuff you hate and fear about Trump's America will happen. Only Trump can stop it." #VoteForSideshowBob


Later in the evening, there was a "law and order" tag-team with President of the Police Benevolent Association of the City of New York Patrick Lynch, followed by former New York mayor (and current Presidential TV lawyer) Rudy Giuliani. Both of them made the same exact argument, namely that New York City has become a scary place in the last year or so, thanks to trouble-making thugs and a spineless liberal mayor. Lynch and Giuliani agree that only Donald Trump can fix it. Somewhat unclear: (1) Didn't the alleged decline happen under Donald Trump? and (2) If he can fix it, why isn't he working to do so already? Those questions might well be asked about many of the litany of things wrong with America that Republicans spent four days complaining about.

Larry Hart said...


Come over to the Rebel Alliance, we have better parties than the Empire ever had.

I like that one! Much more uplifting than "If we burn...you burn with us!"

David Brin said...

One thing I like about the new blogger is the auto-spamming feature doesn't even give me a brief glimpse of the crap. But I hope it's not sweeping is some of you, along the way. Maybe someone can volunteer a disposable email address folks can write to, when that happens?

scidata said...

Advancement of civilization is not a smooth curve, but rather a sawtooth as described by Steven Pinker among others. What seems to be the key factor is how much knowledge survives from before periods of feudal stagnation or fascistic cleansings. This is the premise of Hilton's "Lost Horizon", Asimov's "Foundation", and lots more (I'm not a Brin authority yet).

I'm a very slow reader (mild dyslexia), so I must choose my books carefully. I'm interested in William Shatner's Tek series, particularly anything that revolves around 'Memory Alpha'. Does anyone have a recommendation? Thanks.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Art 1 Section 3 describes how to do it for the first election. It says nothing about new states added to the union later. What we chose to do is a logical extension, so no one will quibble about it, but it wasn't required.

You may be right. I could have sworn I saw--just recently too--language to the effect of "...but no state shall have both its Senators in the same class", but I can't find it now.

There are a lot of people who carry around little copies of the Constitution as if understanding it was like knowing Scripture. The real document is so short, though, that you'd think they'd understand that most of what it 'means' occurs elsewhere in the form of case law. Few do, but it's easy to prove with almost every phrase of the Constitution.

That was most evident when the newly-empowered Tea Party congress decided as their first act to read the Constitution into the Congressional Record. They didn't notice how underwhelming it was until they were doing the reading--many of them likely for the first time.

It would be laughable if not so dire when they assert with a straight face that "God and the founding fathers" gave us Executive Orders in order to overcome Congressional gridlock. Of course, that didn't apply to President Obama.

I have to admit that until very recently, I thought the presidential succession order was in the Constitution, but it is not. If it ever comes to the Speaker of the House becoming president--especially if that means a change of party--I suspect it will be challenged on separation of powers grounds.

Jon S. said...

"Consider the angles a satellite mayby 10 meters across 500 miles above you will not "occlude" anything!!
The only way that it will be visible at all is if it is still in sunlight"

One satellite that size won't occlude anything significant.

The number in orbit so far is 558, and they say they're just getting started.

Larry Hart said...


One of the speakers for the second night of the Republican National Convention was pulled from the program after The Daily Beast surfaced a tweet from her, earlier in the day, urging her followers to investigate a supposed Jewish plot to enslave the world.

I'm confused. Are we supposed to like Netenyahu and Sheldon Adelson because they will save us from the Jewish plot to enslave the world?

David Brin said...

scidata I am always suspicious of "patterns" folks see in history, even smart guys like Pinker. Though I do admit some sort of exist. What is paramount is ATTRACTOR STATES. like feudalism, which self reinforce by the darwinian advantages that bully thug males get when they call themselves "kings" and "lords" and cheat to suppress criticism and competition. We're all descended from their harems.

Knowledge that was spread a bit is never lost. But methods that were close-held by a family... certain steels, clear glass, batteries and anthekithera machines and steam engines... all were lost for the lack of a patent system.

scidata said...

Dr. Brin suspicious of "patterns"

That, in a nutshell, is my problem with mathiness. Daisies and snails know nothing of Fibonacci. Ascribing such deep 'plans' to Mother Nature is anthropomorphism, plain and simple. Computation is so much more important than mathematics.

A clarification of my Shatnerian question: I vaguely remember a blurb about Shatner and Memory Alpha. I did a search on 'Tek Memory Alpha', but all I got was a long list of references from a site with that name, not specific mentions of it in Shatner's books. Of course "Foundation's Triumph" is perfect, but I've already read it. BTW this is the theme I'm always on about when I quip about bullets vs transistors or 2020 not being 1933 redux. Every grifter thinks they invented cheating. Every tin-pot dictator thinks they invented demagoguery. Yawn. The only mechanism that reliably moves forward is science. Double-bind detection/handling and rational self-correction are neat tricks. I've always liked stories where the participants realize that they're in a time loop and take steps to escape.

David Brin said...

scidata email me and I'll share with you a piece of fan fiction that's pretty good followup to F.Triumph.

Snails obey fibonacci because overlapping 'influence" - say from growth hormone secretion sites - can form standing waves and thus influence where the next growth site develops etc. If that standing wave results in more offspring, then that set of influences is rewarded.

Larry Hart said...


I've always liked stories where the participants realize that they're in a time loop and take steps to escape.

There was a funny Star Trek TNG episode about just that subject, although I got the sense that it was making fun of fans watching the same Star Trek episodes over and over again.

A German Nurse said...

Dr. Brin: "But methods that were close-held by a family... certain steels, clear glass, batteries and anthekithera machines and steam engines... all were lost for the lack of a patent system."

Ah, the Baghdad Batteries ... wonder how history would have developed differently if the Parthians or Sassanids had developed electric light and heating two milennia earlier ...

The Caliphs might have dined in the light of electric lamps, telegraphed their orders to the farthest reaches of their realm ... or perhaps, there wouldn't have been caliphs at all, only the Sassanid Shahs and Zoroastrians or the Byzantian Emperors and the Orthodox Church.

And thinking about your sentence: The patent system we have nowadays might be a great achievement of the modern civilization in itself, underappreciated and overlooked. And misused, at times.

But, just perhaps, the Ancients had such a system ... and it was destroyed when Alexandria's library burned down. Wonder what that what-if story would look like.

David Brin said...

Thanks Sci data. I had to hunt, but here's the amateur Foundation fan-fic novel that's actually pretty thoughtful and readable!


TCB said...

Yeah, later in the day I saw Antioch, Illinois in a newspaper article. I'm very good at US geography EXCEPT the Upper Midwest/Great Lakes region, which to my brain is an amorphous blob. It would surely help if I had ever been there... but clearly it isn't just me having this problem.

@ Larry Hart, yep, this is the problem with police. Go find any old lefty activist anywhere in America and ask them whether the police play favorites. The fuzz have worked with the political right since long before I was born, and never with the political left going back at least a century.

Which would be FINE if the pinkos were all really as bad as the conservatives say. But, myself, having been born and raised in a pretty right-wing corner of Unistat, and having left for Massachusetts as I came of age (recalling Dr. Brin's oft-repeated comment on colleges stealing the hearts and minds of Middle America's children)... well, I discovered that the coolest and smartest and truest people I met were, ummmm, NOT on the political right... ever...

And it became obvious that the fuzz were always dangerous for the little people and never dangerous toward the very rich, even when the very rich were as crooked as you can get...

(incoherent sputtering)

scidata said...

Fan fic: Thank you Dr. Brin. I will read it ASAP. Did a quick Ctl-F search for 'Memory Alpha' before remembering that Foundation is not Trek :)

Re: Patent System
How about a tale about an unknown young patent clerk who revolutionizes physics. Nah, nobody would believe it.

duncan cairncross said...

Jon S
40,000 - or more satellites of that sort of size and 500 miles up will still not occlude anything

The visual field is VAST - 500 miles is a damn long way

The only ones that will be visible will be the ones still in sunlight - 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset

Because they will be accurately positioned people with serious telescopes will be able to simply filter them out

Alfred Differ said...


I could have sworn I saw--just recently too

Yah. I had to be taught that one. I was waxing pedantic about the amendment creating 'separation of church and state' when I encountered someone who knew a lot more than I did. Simultaneously embarrassing and enlightening. 8)

I remember being at a local libertarian meeting when some Tea Party folks spoke to us. They were 'teaching' the Constitution back then. Mostly we smirked and poked holes in their explanations. By the end of the event, we were offering to help all of them instead. Nothing came of it, though, as I'm sure they were NOT interested.

It was a bit like two missionaries from slightly different sects meeting face to face. Each one was pretty sure of their facts. A few years after that the irony finally hit me. Both missionaries were incurious and ignorant. I won't carry a pocket Constitution as a result.

The 'meaning' of the Constitution was determined later by successive generations who keep to it… as Hamilton said we would.

Alfred Differ said...

The Starlink constellation currently numbers 653.
60 more go up this weekend if weather permits.
Two more groups of 60 go up next month.

Occasionally the number flown is less than 60. That happens when some other satellite is flown on the ride share plan. Maybe someone here would like to loft an amateur astronomy satellite?

Satellite occlusion of the sky is not the issue. The problem is that many of us still have older hardware for imaging the sky that relies on long duration exposures. The modern way involve many, many short exposures laid on top of each other digitally. The modern way enables software to detect satellites in the field of view and delete their impacts digitally.

This problem will solve itself shortly with a technology refresh. Until then, the solution is to refrain from using the older tech for parts of the sky where the phase one 500-600 km orbits are still in sunlight. The phase two orbits are lower, but with many thousands of satellites planned for them. Seriously… this isn't hard to do as it is just a matter of some calculation to determine the risk.

Airplanes and meteors are an annoyance we've learned to work around. The Starlink birds don't have blinky lights on them and don't leave a burning plasma trail very often. The newer ones DO have optical laser links they point at each other, but lasers are trivially easy to avoid imaging.

Alfred Differ said...

I seriously doubt an earlier release of tech advances would have made much difference to humanity. Many, many inventions were recorded first in China… and suppressed or not exploited.

It's not the tech that matters. It's the barbarian's belief that they can change the world that does. There is a reason our current explosive growth came out of the Dutch rebellion against the Habsburgs. Only barbarians would think they could self-rule, let alone fight off a Power possessing a great deal of control spanning oceans.

David Brin said...

Lots of fine discussion guys. But I am trying to get the book out to many eyes so...



Arun said...

This political genre of books is more my grandpa's choice. I am more into sci-fi, fantasy and tech-related books, which is why he will relate more to "Below the Surface" that I will. His parents belonged to the Roosevelt era, and he would've loved to join this debate.