Saturday, October 03, 2020

Yipe more news! ... and the rest of Chapter 10 of Polemical Judo... does 'government" destroy or enhance freedom of creative competition?

Today: the second half of Chapter Ten of Polemical Judo, offering you all some agile and (I think) devastating refutations vs. the core catechism of American conservatism, since Reagan - that government bureaucrats are somehow the worst threats to individual liberty, prosperity and progress... despite freedom and markets and creativity having been squelched above all - across 99% of history - by inheritance oligarchy.. 

Still, in a busy week of news, let's start with a trio of more recent urgencies.

First: FBI Director Christopher Wray needs to say loudly - "Any police agency that stands back while thugs threaten or loom over voters at the polls will be thoroughly investigated. Your job is to make people feel safe, and that includes keeping your own presence near polling places protective, gentle and discreet. And yes, voters have cameras now."


It must come from the FBI director! Since that position has retained some respect despite every attempted sabotage. And it must be addressed not at the thugs themselves, but at local constabularies across the nation, spurring them to do their jobs... and do them right. Aiding and abetting (even passively) voter intimidation is a federal crime. And many police departments have public trust to rebuild.
 

Second: regarding the covid storm ripping the upper ranks of the national GOP... I really have very little to add, except a recommendation to avoid schadenfreude... except if it's Giuliani. Hey... I'm human.

Third: a potentially effective polemical point. Critics need to shout the obvious - that today's GOP is by far the most tightly disciplined political entity ever seen in the U.S. Indeed, the tightest outside of a communist/leninist state. That's not just a potentially rocking zinger. It also gives a glibly brisk shut down to almost any Kremlin-generated, QAnon "leftists conspiracy" meme. I mean, which party is likely to do a dictatorship? The utterly disciplined, lockstep one? Or Democrats, who are harder to herd than cats? The thing that makes this a zinger is that it shows your typical MAGA that he (almost always male) is no individualist, at all.

Oh about the title of this piece... Debate #2 may not happen! Trump won't get his chance to stalk Joe across the stage at a town hall, till he's punched in the nose. (Oh, what an image and likely!) In fact, the covid thing suggests the debate feature booths!  Ostensibly to prevent infection but how terrific to shut off the mic and see him gesticulating until... but naw. Even he isn't that dumb.

And now...  Resuming where we left off last time… 

 

Chapter 10

 

Government is the problem?[1]

 

The second half

 

 

 

GOVERNMENT, COMPETITION’S BIGGEST FRIEND

 

Another figure who is – like Adam Smith – both worshipped and heretically misinterpreted by the right is Nobel Prize winning economist Friedrich Hayek. For all his many jeremiads against the stifling effects of excess regulation, Hayek returned to a core point that markets work best when they have a maximum number of skilled, knowledgeable and empowered participants. Only then can wisdom of the (broadly informed) crowd overcome the inevitable biases and incomplete pictures clutched by smaller, controlling elites.

 

Ponder a moment how that outcome is diametrically opposite to the central aim of oligarchy. [2] Then consider this. 

 

At least half of the government ‘interventions” we’ve seen, across the last 80 years, were aimed at uplifting countless members of disadvantaged or repressed castes high enough so they can compete.

 

Minorities and women who get rights can enter the marketplace as skilled, knowledgeable and empowered participants, whether as competitors or savvy consumers. Appalachian children – or those in ghettos or native reservations – who get enough food, sanitation, health care and education can enter the marketplace as skilled, knowledgeable and emboldened participants. Infrastructure helps too, bringing them water and Internet and letting them travel. Likewise research into medical or other problems that hold so many back from skillful, joyfully brash competition. Equal justice and monopoly-prevention keep competition avid. And a basic safety net encourages entrepreneurs, workers and small business owners to take risks, knowing their children won’t starve and they can find their way back, in case of failure. There are second chances.

 

At least half of all liberal government programs need no “moral” justifications at all! The pragmatic reason – to stop wasting talent – is sufficient. It bears repeating, so here’s that pro-competition criterion again:

 

Will this government intervention expand capability and opportunity, helping to increase the number of skilled, vigorous competitors?

 

Some liberal programs fail that test! Some do try to “pick winners and losers” without a compelling, long range need. Others do try to “equalize outcomes, not opportunity.” Those exceptions can be scrutinized by libertarians or libertarian-minded Republicans, and fiercely subjected to criticism or negotiation by other standards. Still, the most towering hypocrisy is to reject those government interventions that Adam Smith demanded – and that Hayek often grudgingly accepted – that increase the number of capable participants in wide open markets. At least non-hypocrites would show plans for replacing those interventions with non-government ways to expand participation – to stop wasting talent – in practice, not theory.

 

Should much of this have gone into the chapter on Economics? Maybe. But here’s where the point distills most clear. Government is a tool. It can be applied by the mighty against the People – and that fear is expressed in the Suspicion of Authority messages of countless Hollywood films. 

 

Or else it can be applied as the Founders – including their mentor Adam Smith – intended, as a set of openly negotiated rules and referees that actually help citizens to get on with their lives and ambitions, free from the cheating and oppression that constrained all our ancestors before. The Greatest Generation crafted an equilibrium that involved a lot of rules and taxes! That equilibrium was an immense success and subsequent assaults upon it have resulted in horrific failures. But it’s possible our ten billion highly educated and perceptive children – armed with AI modeling tools and bursting with individual confidence – may find good results with something looser.

 

Toward that end, there’s a place for libertarians and conservatives applying pressure always to re-examine and re-justify government and its rules. But you folks must first concede the oligarchic calamity of 6000 years. You must admit the calamities you’ve thrust upon us. Earn back some credibility. Start by opening a book you rave about, without ever reading a word, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations.  

 

 

=====

 

Have I struck you as reticent and shy? Too demure to speak out when something bothers me? Well, I’ll try to correct that. Especially regarding the innumerable times that liberal/democrat/blue leaders fail to exploit weaknesses on the mad right.

 

One of the most infuriating has been allowing that shill-for-oligarchy movement to expropriate countless virtue-symbols as their private property. We’ll discuss the right’s symbolism obsession at several points – ranging from Confederate statues and flags to ship-names to “strong father” preening. But possibly the most stunning of all failures in liberal-moderate generalship was allowing the so-called “Tea Party” to glom a claim on the American Revolution.

 

At risk of repetition, in Chapter 14 I’ll show that the revolution was almost entirely a “blue” uprising and what I call Phase One of the U.S. Civil War. Crum, will anyone bother to read Jefferson’s prose in the Declaration of Independence? Or perceive why it was maritime commercial cities, like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia that expressed fury at the king-crony monopolists, whose mafia protection racket forced all colonial trade to pass through their ports and docks, extorting bribes every step of the way? Another top grievance was the oligarchy of absentee lords who owned two-thirds of all the land in the colonies and refused – under feudal privilege – to let it be taxed, as did the lords in 1789 France and our own oligarchs, today. [3]

 

It was a revolution against owner-caste oligarchy and cheating! Adam Smith recommended the remedy of democracy, plus openly negotiated and deliberated laws that are evenly enforced by transparently accountable civil servants. And our markets got better – more creative and productive – each time those rules were adjusted to expand our circles of democratic inclusion. Yet fools on our side in this latest phase have allowed that great rebellion to be hijacked by pro-aristocracy propagandists, letting stand their claim that our Revolution was against “government.”

 

Hello?

=====

 

 

SCIENCE THIS

 

Let’s zoom back to Mick Mulvaney’s assertion – supported by far-right rationalizers like Matt Ridley[4] – that government supported science is useless and counter-productive, that the forward march of technological discovery is fore-ordained, that competitive markets allocate funds to develop new products with greater efficiency than government bureaucrats picking winners and losers, and that research without a clear, near-future economic return is both futile and unnecessary. 

 

Former Microsoft CTO and IP Impressario Nathan Myhrvold issued a powerful rebuttal to Ridley’s murdochian call for amputation: 

 

“It’s natural for writers to want to come out with a contrarian piece that reverses all conventional wisdom, but it tends to work out better if the evidence one quotes is factually true. Alas Ridley’s evidence isn’t – his examples are all, so far as I can tell, either completely wrong, or at best selectively quoted. I also think his logic is wrong, and to be honest I don’t think much of the ideology that drives his argument either.” 

 

Woof. Nathan’s rebuttal can be found here, along with links to the original, and Ridley’s response. [5]

 

Expanding from Myhrvold’s points, let’s put all of this into those 60 centuries I keep citing. During most of that time, independent innovation was actively suppressed by kings and lords and priests, fearing anything (except new armaments) that might upset the stable hierarchy. In his monograph, “Entrepreneurship: Productive, Unproductive and Destructive,” economist William J. Baumol tells a story widely repeated among classical sources like Pliny and Petronius, of an inventor who presented the secret of unbreakable glass to Emperor Tiberius, only to receive death, instead of a reward, because the invention was viewed as destabilizing… a tale reset in China by Ray Bradbury in “The Flying Machine.” Baumol cites earlier words by M. Finley: 

 

“Technological progress, economic growth, productivity, even efficiency have not been significant goals since the beginning of time. So long as an acceptable life style could be maintained, however that was defined (by the ruling castes), other values held the stage.” 

 

Those “other values” – critiqued by Smith– included rent-seeking, noble privilege, monopolies, cartels or (in Baumol’s more modern analysis) state corporations and commissariats and organized crime. With rare exception, parasitical cheats were more privileged than competitive innovation.

 

Moreover, across nearly all of history, innovators felt a strong incentive to keep any discoveries secret, lest competitors steal their advantage. Hence, many brilliant inventions were lost when the discoverers or direct heirs died, from Heron’s steam engines and Baghdad Batteries to Antikythera-style mechanical calculators and Damascus steel – from clear glass lenses to obstetric forceps – all lost for millennia before being rediscovered after much needless pain.

 

History does offer rare examples when innovation flourished, with spectacular returns. In most, state investment and focused R&D played a major role: from the great Chinese fleets of Admiral Cheng He to impressive maritime research centers established by Prince Henry the Navigator, that made little Portugal a giant on the world stage. Likewise, tiny Holland became a global leader, stimulated by its free-city universities. England advanced tech rapidly with endowed scientific chairs, state subsidies and prizes.

 

Of course none compare to the exponential growth unleashed by late-20th Century America’s synergy of government, enterprise and unleashed individual competitiveness. One result was the first society transforming itself from the feudal pyramid of privilege to a diamond shape[6] whose vast and healthy and well-educated middle class proved to be the generator of nearly all our great accomplishments. 

 

This slams a steep burden of proof upon Mulvaney and others who assert we are the ones doing something wrong. Or that innovation will just zoom ahead as if by natural law. But then, their aim is not what they claim – to release us from thralldom to shortsighted, oppressive civil servants and snooty scientist-boffins. It is to discredit all of the modern expert castes. And by now we know why. 

 

== What happens when regulations go stale?  ==

 

About that thralldom to officious bureaucrats. Yes, classic conservatives and libertarians have a point – there will always be a danger that umpires may be corrupted, or for referees to get sluggish, or suborned, or to meddle unnecessarily, thwarting the whole purpose of the game. It’s not wrong to focus SoA in that direction! The last generation’s reforms will always need re-scrutinization. Admitted. 

 

Okay then, here’s a question: who actually de-regulates, when appropriate? 

 

Ayn Rand followers howl over “captured” agencies that serve only major industry players, throttling, not fostering, creative competition. Rand’s favorite examples? The railroad regulating Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) and the market stifling Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).[7] Alas, her followers never pause to notice what became of those bureaucratic traitors… decades ago.

 

Democrats banished them! Moreover, AT&T was broken up and the Internet was unleashed by legislation authored and pushed through Congress by Al Gore, two regulatory openingsthat had absolutely stunning market consequences. 

 

Now add Bill Clinton’s deregulation of GPS, Al Gore’s paperwork reduction “reinventing government” campaign and Barack Obama’s declaration that citizens may record police (and the list goes on). Whereupon one has to ask…

 

… where were Republicans in all this? Does anti-regulatory polemic matter more than effective action? Despite their railings – and holding most of the political cards for all but two of the last twenty-five years – “conservatives” never delivered major deregulation on the scale of those Democratic unleashings.[8] Except repeatedly in two particular industries – finance and resource extraction – with historic results they want us to ignore or forget. Please name another example.

 

Libertarians like their aphorism: Liberals want freedom in the bedroom. Republicans want freedom in the boardroom. We want both! Then they shrug, hold their noses theatrically and vote Republican. Sure, the GOP favors the boardroom – members of the Wall Street and CEO castes. But not competition, or entrepreneurship, or healthy markets. Or delivering even on core promises.

 

====



WE ARE DIFFERENT. 

AND DIFFERENT IS DIFFICULT

 

I’ve asserted that the Rooseveltian reforms might have been too successful. Historians credit them with saving western capitalism by vesting the working class with a large stake. Indeed, they were so successful that the very idea of class war – rampant across almost every other nation and time – seems not even to occur to American boomers. [9]  But as boomers age-out, is that grand time of naïve delusion over?

 

Forbes in 2016 announced that just 62 ultra-rich individuals have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity.[10] Five years before, it took 388 rich guys to achieve that status.[11] Which raises a question I’ll repeat ad nauseam throughout this book. Where the heck does this rising, proto-feudal oligarchy think it will all lead? 

 

To a restoration of humanity’s normal, aristocratic pyramid of power, with them on top? Or to radicalization, as a billion members of the hard-pressed but highly skilled and tech-empowered middle class rediscover class struggle, alongside five billion angry workers? (I portray both possibilities in a near-future novel, Existence.) The last time this happened, in the 1930s, lordly owner castes in Germany, Japan, Britain and the U.S. used their mass media ownership to stir populist rightwing movements, hoping to suppress activity on the left while allowing business as usual. Not one of these efforts succeeded. In Germany, Italy, Spain and Japan, their pet monsters rose up and took over, leading to immense pain for all and eventual loss of most of that oligarchic wealth.

 

In Britain and the U.S. 1930s reactionary fomenters dragged us all-too-near the same path… till moderate reformers accomplished what neither Karl Marx nor the fascists deemed possible – adjusted the wealth imbalance and reduced cheating advantages, so that a rational and flat-open-fair capitalism would be moderated by reciprocal competition, under transparent rules and stimulated by investments in a healthy, educated population. None of that even slightly damaged the Smithian incentives to get rich through delivery of innovative goods and services. That brilliant, positive-sum moderation led to big majorities in our parents’ middle class Greatest Generation adoring one living human above all others: Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

 

(Again, ask MAGA folks: “When was America great?” Chapter 3.)

 

Some billionaires aren’t shortsighted fools, ignorant of historical lessons. Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and many tech moguls want wealth disparities brought down through reasonable, negotiated Rooseveltian-style reform that will still leave them standing as very, very wealthy people. Heck, even Glenn Beck[12] can now see where it all leads, declaring recently (in effect) “OMG what have I done?”

 

The smart ones know where current trends will otherwise lead. To revolution and confiscation. Picture the probabilities, when the world’s poorest realize they could double their net wealth, just by transferring title from 50 would-be gods. In that case, amid a standoff between fifty oligarchs and three billion poor, it is the skilled middle and upper-middle classes who’ll be the ones deciding civilization’s course. And who do you think those billion tech-savvy professionals – so derided and maligned by murdochian propaganda – will side with, when push comes to shove?

 

It’s time to look again at the most successful social compact ever created – the Rooseveltian deal made by the Greatest Generation – which we then amended and improved by reducing race and gender injustice and discovering the importance of planetary care. Throw in a vibrantly confident wave of tech-savvy youth, and that is how we can all move forward. Away from dismal feudalism.  Toward (maybe) something like Star Trek.

 

 

This article ran originally as a special report in the January 2016 newsletter of Mark Anderson’s Strategic News Service.[13] 


 


FOOTNOTES

[1] This chapter comes largely from an essay in Evonomics circa 2016. https://evonomics.com/david-brin-ultimate-answer-government-useless/

 

[2] Hayek drummed hard against the foremost, inherently ignorant controlling elite - government regulators. But if pressed, he admitted the dismal record of two-score centuries of far more inbred-ignorant aristocracies. Moreover, it’s doubtful that investment and resource allocation will be more “market wise” if the transparency rules of 100,000 diverse and accountable civil servants are replace by the self-justified, conniving whim of a few hundred secretive CEO/Wall Street lords.

 

[3] Yes, lefties, the whole birth of our nation was tainted by original sins like slavery. But the Revolution was propelled far more by states that had banned it and ardent abolitionists like Adams and Franklin, plus other ‘great men’ who at least expressed hypocritical homage to getting rid of it. In Chapter 14 we’ll go into why the British knew they’d get more support against the rebellion in the South. No, you should reclaim the Declaration of Independence for what it was – a major step forward along a terribly long and hard road.

 

[4] ‘Worth of basic science attacked as a mere "myth"  https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.5.8146/full/

 

[5] Myrhvold rebuttal: http://www.wsj.com/articles/where-does-technological-innovation-come-from-1447258125?tesla=y

 

[6] For more on the diamond-shaped society. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2011/09/class-war-and-lessons-of-history.html

 

[7] Dissected in detail in “Atlas Shrugged: The Hidden Context of the Book and Film.” http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/aynrand.html

 

[8] This challenge stood the test of time, until Donald Trump began the wholesale demolition of agencies in ways that did not attempt to changelaws, duly legislated, but by blatantly violating them. To be clear, for much of the last 20 years the Republican Party owned and operated all three branches of U.S. government. They could have deregulated by changing laws. They chose this approach, in contempt for the Founders and Adam Smith.

 

[9] “Class War and lessons of history.” http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2011/09/class-war-and-lessons-of-history.html

 

[10] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/global-wealth-inequality_us_56991defe4b0ce4964242e09?ir=Impact&section=impact&utm_hp_ref=impact

 

[11] See: The 500 Richest Individuals in 2015 and commentary. http://www.forbes.com/sites/chasewithorn/2015/03/02/forbes-billionaires-full-list-of-the-500-richest-people-in-the-world-2015/#3df88bf316e3367f7a8b16e3

 

[12] Re Glenn Beck http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/27/magazine/glenn-beck-is-sorry-about-all-that.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fmagazine&action=click&contentCollection=magazine&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=7&pgtype=sectionfront

 

[13] Strategic News Service: https://www.stratnews.com/

 

76 comments:

TCB said...

Debate suggestion: Prestige booths. Watertight and locked until the end of the debate. Every time you interrupt the other candidate, two inches of water is added.

As for Giuliani, he's probably coming to an Amazon Prime near you. That's right, Baron Sacha Cohen has a new Borat movie coming out this month, and Giuliani is (reportedly) one of the people he interviewed. (I'm hedging because sometimes things end up on the cutting room floor. But I expect to see this.)

Trailer on Youtube.

Russ Abbott said...

You have so many good ideas. But (and you knew there would be a but), they tend to get lost in all the words.

I suspect that one reason Polemical Judo wasn't the run-away success you expected is that you wrote a book rather than a dozen blog posts. A dozen punchy posts, with highlighted insights, would be very powerful. The text of a book, even on a computer screen, can't match that.

You know that you write very well. But I read Contrary Brin for the ideas, not the writing. I want the ideas to jump out at me. I don't want to have to dredge through even elegant prose to find them.

Make your readers' lives simple. Forget about being a writer and just get the ideas out.

David Brin said...

RA... I thought that was what I was doing! PJ is made up about 75% of reworked blog entries.
How do you think I got it out so fast?

Acacia H. said...

Ideas are useless, Russ, without spark, without soul. You get that spark and soul through writing instead of just writing down basic ideas. You inspire. You draw them in. Anyone can be an idea man. But the best ideas are ones with stories behind them.

Acacia

David Brin said...

And I DID offer a summary of judo methods just in front of Chapter 2.

David Brin said...

Thanks Acacia. I am old fashioned and expect people to want nice words srung together well. But no one has patience for that, anymore

Acacia H. said...

It's not that no one has patience anymore. It's that it is so quick and easy to pump out a rapid response of "just the facts man" that the quieter among us who enjoy taking time and seeing how things fit together end up ignored while those who would drain the soul and humanity from us end up sounding like they represent everyone.

Fortunately, I'm a loud-mouthed bitch who loves stories and ain't afraid to tell folk that. ;) Also helps that I'm a storyteller myself. ^^

Acacia

Der Oger said...

Dr. Brin:

For future essays, don't forget the arabian / persian / andalusian scholars and their patrons, as well as the monks who tried to preserve what was lost to the rest of mankind, and improved on it. Avicenna, Ibn Firnas, Roger Bacon ... they deserve part of the credit, too.

David Brin said...

Der Oger, could you connect the dots? I am unclear how that links to what I said.

Der Oger said...

Dr. Brin, I referred to this one:

"History does offer rare examples when innovation flourished, with spectacular returns. In most, state investment and focused R&D played a major role: from the great Chinese fleets of Admiral Cheng He to impressive maritime research centers established by Prince Henry the Navigator, that made little Portugal a giant on the world stage. Likewise, tiny Holland became a global leader, stimulated by its free-city universities. England advanced tech rapidly with endowed scientific chairs, state subsidies and prizes."

1. All you mentioned did not come out of nothing; emerging civilizations built upon their predecessor's achievements. The Greeks built libraries the Romans and Arabs used; the Arabs and Persians shared their knowledge of numbers, medicine at navigation with the mediterranean people, monk orders as well as with the far east; while the muslimic nations declined or were reconquered, the European sciences blossomed and a New World was discovered; the New World became independent, developed their own empire-civilization that managed to put men on the moon and split the atom (previously assumed by Democrit). (And I did leave out the Phoenicians/Cathargians, Persians, Babylonians, and countless other empire-civilizations.) When the Dutch became a naval power, Avicenna's Canon of Medicine, written in the 11th century, was still THE medical encyclopedia used at their universities.

2. All those cultures were wealthy and powerful first and had the possibility as well as the inclination to invest in knowledge and education; by this, they became even more powerful. The Dutch had the gold in the HRE, which enabled them to resist the Habsburgs and secede. Then, in this spirit of liberty and with all their wealth, they became patrons of science and arts (at least, until the other European nations closed up). Same with England. Once Britannia ruled the seas, they had the money that would transform their country into the world's first industrial power, which allowed for even more military might to be projected etc.

3. Another indigrients are one-in-a-million leaders and scientists, though I can imagine that the creativity and genius needed to stimulate a breakthrough in any area can be increased by a certain atmosphere ... just like the Dutch university cities, the Cordoba Courts or the Library of Alexandria.

4. Speaking of stimulus: While liberal societies can provide this stimulus, another one was warfare. Think of nuclear research or Turing and the cryptographers during WWII. The technological race between the NATO and Warsaw Pact states during the Cold War. English spies stealing the secret of gun construction in the Elisabethan Era. Greek Fire. Some of these researches (such as the ARPANet) lead to civilian uses.

Der Oger said...

Just found this one...

https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2020/09/29/science-and-scientists-held-in-high-esteem-across-global-publics/

David Brin said...

Der Oger.

The Yong-le emperor was a one in a million who bilt the Forbidden city and sent out Cheng He's flees. But his heir reverted to type. Likewise, unless there are powerful cultural incentives for meritocracy, egalitarian opportunity and curiosity and justice, nations that have religious and nobility hierarchies will revert to enforcement of rigid roles and limiting state sponsored research to military purposes. Very few nations realized it was a PATTERN and tradition of competitive innovation that made for progress lasting more that a couple of generations.

A.F. Rey said...

FYI, you got a shout-out on last Saturday's episode of Reveal on NPR.

Check out the episode "Who's Vote Will Count?" at 49:35. Your book gets a better mention than Costner's movie. :)

https://www.revealnews.org/episodes/

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

What the Dutch did was of a different order because of how they did it. Every civilization contributed knowledge the next one used, but the Dutch altered their virtue system a bit and liberated the minds they needed to resist the Hapsburgs. Without much of a nobility class of their own to do the directing, they had to do it themselves. NO OTHER center of civilization tried this and succeeded the way the Dutch did. Yes... Athens... Pericles. What the Dutch did was spread it at a time when Europe was catching fire. England went Dutch. Scotland took it further. Then it spread to colonies like ours.

What the Dutch did was of a different order. Like a phase change. Wealth exploded SO FAST that women couldn't have babies fast enough to keep us at a Malthusian limit. Population in Europe began to boom before the industrial revolution, but couldn't keep up. Wealth stacked up. Just look at the paintings showing life in the times.

BOOM went the revolution.

Two tiny changes the Dutch tripped across while fighting off Hapsburgs.

David Brin said...

Yeah nice mention on REVEAL.

Alfred did you ever read my Holland-cenered story "A Professor At Harvard"?

The 1632 series takes the rebellion against Hapsburgs in new directions.

The dutch were the biggest beneficiaries of Cortez & Pizarro. Wealth flew into Madrid and got spent on Dutch crafts, building the latter.

George Carty said...

Dr. Brin, How significant was it that (as a Chinese Muslim) Zheng He effectively had a foot in two civilizations (the Chinese and the Islamic)?

Larry Hart said...

This NY Times article talks about how Trump supporters on Twitter are encouraging his medical team to provide him with hydroxychloroquine, or are questioning why that does not seem to be part of Trump's treatment.

I think their sarcasm detector is badly out of tune. :)

https://www.nytimes.com/live/2020/2020-election-misinformation-distortions

Over the weekend, other Twitter users also posted that Mr. Trump should use hydroxychloroquine, with some calling it a “miracle drug.” The hashtag #hydroxychloroquine popped up frequently on Twitter, with others posting under the hashtag #HCQWORKS.
...
"I wish they’d just give him #Hydroxychloroquine!!!"
...

Larry Hart said...

Seen on Stonekettle's Twitter feed:

And don't forget... Hope is contagious!

Sorry, couldn't resist.

A.F. Rey said...

Not to steal Larry's thunder, but Electoral Vote.com linked to an article about a new book where the authors postulate that Democratic small towns are run like feudal states, where those who are in charge bestow benefits to their followers, but not to their opponents, and so corruption is tolerated (by those followers). So Trump is not an aberration to these people, just someone who is following the norm on a national level.

https://thebulwark.com/the-other-democratic-party/

It is an interesting idea, if nothing else: that we can have national liberal democracy surrounding pockets of boss-run semi-feudal communities. Two different attractors, one under the other.

David Brin said...

Reciprocal accountability is supposed to palliate and reduce that stuff down to a dull roar, AFR. Same with citizen cameras.

duncan cairncross said...

Local "Democracy" is always going to be a problem as too few people care enough!!

It's made worse in the USA with the daft idea of voting for people who are meant to be doing things
Sheriffs, Judges, Town Clerks, Dogcatchers

Part of the solution is to vote for the "leaders" - Mayor and councilors and have the rest as part of the Civil Service

Another part is to have the "Council" being required to do various things and to report on how they are doing

Here (NZ) the council is charged with "Maintaining the AGE" of the infrastructure - this is very powerful requirement

The idea is to prevent a council from "saving money" by reducing maintenance/replacement of the hidden infrastructure

Its a bit of a Red Queens race - you have to run quite fast to stay in the same place
Every year your infrastructure is one year older so you need to be replacing those old pipes with nice new ones

Alfred Differ said...

David,

I did, but too soon after the creepy story right before it involving Martian libertarians. So... I re-read it just now. 8)

I like Flint's Holland, but I think he's dodged an important thing about them. They were mercantilists. The Americans were obvious competitors. Also, they should have reacted strongly to what England did in uptime history through the House of Orange. Flint dodges that with the French betrayal and Hapsburg semi-victory, but that really shouldn't stop a strong Dutch response. After all, in our history, they were a world power.

What the Dutch truly accomplished shows up in the wealth of the average person. In our history, they didn't just fend off the Hapsburgs. They made the average man about 3x richer in doing it... with 'it' being a global fight. What they did survived their retreat in the next century.

David Brin said...

Fron the Strategic New Service (excerpt):

The Global Footprint Network each year attempts a rough estimate of resource use worldwide, culminating in the Earth Overshoot Day. Overshoot Day is that day of the year when it is estimated that we've used up one year's worth of resources that can sustainably be reproduced. A rough metric, it still serves as a useful tool for imagining whether our current level of consumption and technology allows for our population.

This year, Overshoot Day was August 22, three weeks later than in 2019, in part due to the positive effects of the pandemic slowdown. In fact, for developed nations, a significant part of estimated "use" of the planet lies in carbon emissions. The BBC notes that

according to the Global Footprint Network, the world's population is currently using not one, but one-and-a-half Earths.

That's because it takes account of carbon emissions. The forests and oceans of the world absorb a lot of carbon dioxide, but we are currently emitting more than the planet can handle - and Wackernagel's team has calculated how much extra land and sea we would need to absorb it. They estimate that we need an extra half a planet.

If we now look again at the average American footprint - two-thirds of that is made up of carbon emissions.

This, too, paints a different picture of population and sustainability than what is often described in the media. If a significant amount of overshoot lies in carbon emissions, then the strides being made in renewables today would conceivably alter the potential sustainable population of the earth. The increase in renewables in the global energy mix can be seen in the chart below. The trend is striking, though still in its early stages.

This year, for instance, the United States produced more energy from renewables than from coal. Similar trends can be seen around the globe in other developed countries. If expansion of energy generation in renewables can be matched with further declines in emissions through the entrance of old holdouts into agreements like the Kigali Accord (an agreement to cease production of damaging hydrofluorocarbons), massive drops in carbon emissions per capita could allow for a much larger sustainable population in the future than is possible today.

Larry Hart said...

Latest outrageous talking point by right-wing media: That "Secret Service agents know they might have to literally take a bullet to protect the president" is equivalent to "There's nothing wrong with Trump recklessly exposing Secret Service agents to COVID-19." An ex-Secret Service agent I saw on TV last night put it as "Their job is to protect the president, whether from a bullet or from a pandemic." As if their exposure to Trump in a hermetically sealed vehicle somehow protects Trump from a disease he already has.

Perhaps more insulting is the comment on Stonekettle's Twitter to the effect that "Liberals who want to defund the police are now pretending to care about Secret Service agents." Jim Wright correctly retorts that we (and he doesn't even consider himself a liberal) want the police to stop killing people--we don't want them to die of a disease.

That brings to mind a more general dialectic I am noticing lately--particularly but not exclusively around supreme court nominations--that goes something like this:

+ Democrats expect both sides to follow decorum and precedent. Republicans argue that if you lean way out and look to the left, you can interpret the letter of the law in way much different than it has been previously applied, but which benefits them politically. Ironically, Democrats are being "conservative" here while Republicans are monstrously "progressive."

+ Republicans win because they are the ones refereeing the contest. Whatever the contested thing is gets done their way.

+ A new situation arises in which following the same rules just established by Republicans manages to favor the Democrats this time,

+ Republicans argue that their new rule doesn't apply, and that we should go back to the time-honored way of doing things which just happens to favor them this time.

+ Republicans pour salt in the wound by snarking that Democrats wanted to do things one way when it served their purposes, and now they want to do things the other way, as if the fact that "the other way" became precedent has no bearing.

Not sure what to do about this sorry state of affairs. It just disgusts me, which I suppose is the point from a party whose only value is "owning the libs".

A.F. Rey said...

Reciprocal accountability is supposed to palliate and reduce that stuff down to a dull roar, AFR. Same with citizen cameras.

The problem is that this "winner takes all" attitude negates reciprocal accountability.

I recall OSC writing a few years ago how, in NC politics, funding for areas that did not vote for the winner would be reduced and would be increased for those areas that did. And he talked about it as if it was the way it should be. I was, and am, very offended by this attitude. Government is to serve all the people, not just the party that wins. But that is not how he saw it.

How can reciprocal accountability work when the people don't believe that the laws and norms apply equally to everyone? That once you win, you control the resources and distribute them however you like? That the rules only apply to the losers, and the winners can do as they please? Then hiring your children is natural, a perk if you please, because you won. Using your office to help your re-election is what any good politician would do. Changing the rules to suit your agenda is a right you gained by winning. And, of course, preventing your opponents from winning the next election is the number one priority, since they will use their power to keep you and your party out of power for as long as they can.

So cameras showing police chocking blacks is no big deal. The police are in control; they can use whatever means they have to keep in control. Presidents can pressure foreign countries to investigate their political rivals; it goes with the job. Preventing Supreme Court nominees from being voted on months before the election, and rushing through another weeks before an election, is SOP.

If a significant number of small towns in the U.S. are run this way, then a majority of their inhabitants would believe that non-reciprocal accountability is the way politics is supposed to work. And no amount of preaching or video documentation will make them see anything wrong with it. It's not in their best interest. As Anthony Quinn said in Lawrence of Arabia, "The Turks pay me a golden treasure, and yet I am poor, because I am a river to my people!" Who will want to dam that river because of some silly reciprocal accountability?

What do you do when the citizens don't believe in reciprocal accountability?

Jon S. said...

"Latest outrageous talking point by right-wing media: That 'Secret Service agents know they might have to literally take a bullet to protect the president' is equivalent to 'There's nothing wrong with Trump recklessly exposing Secret Service agents to COVID-19.'"
Instant rebuttal, of course, is that the agents know they might have to take a bullet for the President - but that doesn't mean they have to take a bullet from the President, and what Donnie did was roughly the equivalent of insisting that a Secret Service agent balance an apple atop his head while the prez readies his bow and arrow.

john fremont said...

@Larry Hart
Perhaps more insulting is the comment on Stonekettle's Twitter to the effect that "Liberals who want to defund the police are now pretending to care about Secret Service agents." Jim Wright correctly retorts that we (and he doesn't even consider himself a liberal) want the police to stop killing people--we don't want them to die of a disease.

Considering the fact that the people rallying to the Blue Lives Matter banner won't acknowledge the biggest killer of peace officers this year. It's over half of the officers felled in the line of duty this year.

Total Line of Duty Deaths: 214
9/11 related cancer 4
Aircraft accident 1
Assault 1
Automobile crash 18
COVID19 117
Drowned 3
Duty related illness 3
Gunfire 37
Gunfire (Inadvertent) 4
Heart attack 5
Motorcycle crash 2
Struck by vehicle 7
Vehicle pursuit 2
Vehicular assault 10

Officer Down Memorial Page

Honoring Officers Killed In 2020

https://www.odmp.org/search/year/2020

Larry Hart said...

Are they freakin' kidding?

No one remembers "Dewey Defeats Truman?"???

https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/10/05/trump-defeats-covid-commemorative-coins-on-sale-gift-shop/3628383001/

The $100 “Trump defeats COVID” coins are for sale on the website of the White House Gift Shop, which is not affiliated with the White House.

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey

I recall OSC writing a few years ago how, in NC politics, funding for areas that did not vote for the winner would be reduced and would be increased for those areas that did. And he talked about it as if it was the way it should be. I was, and am, very offended by this attitude. Government is to serve all the people, not just the party that wins. But that is not how he saw it.


When Reagan was president, I heard an anecdote about something that supposedly happened when he was governor of California. He was asked about cutting funding for the University of California system, and his response was something to the effect of "Why should I give money for people who are going to protest my policies?"

My reaction at the time was schizoid. On the one hand, it seemed such a natural rhetorical question to ask as to be self-evident. But at the same time, I realized that that very perception was already being colored by 1980s Reaganism, Without realizing the full extent of what I was thinking, I was revulsed at the idea that government would withhold service based upon political leaning of the recipient.

And Reagan was a piker in corruption compared to Benedict Donald.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

Instant rebuttal, of course, is that the agents know they might have to take a bullet for the President - but that doesn't mean they have to take a bullet from the President, and what Donnie did was roughly the equivalent of insisting that a Secret Service agent balance an apple atop his head while the prez readies his bow and arrow.


I gather that the right-wing apologists I've been hearing would simply insist that that was part of the job as well.

Larry Hart said...

john fremont:

Considering the fact that the people rallying to the Blue Lives Matter banner won't acknowledge the biggest killer of peace officers this year.


I'm on a neighborhood mailing list which I joined when one of our cats briefly went missing. It's supposed to be for notices of events or lost/found pets or "Did anyone else hear that loud noise--what was it?" They mostly try to avoid politics, but inevitably, someone snarks about liberal protesters or some similar outrage, because--you know--right wing comments aren't "political".

A day or so back, someone posted about some protest going on at a particular intersection with people wandering into the street. The original post was about safety, but it became an excuse for people to scream about lawless liberals and antifa, until someone mentioned that the event was a Blue Lives Matter rally (which had then turned into a pro-Trump rally). Oh, that's very different. Nevermind. Anything they were doing became ok.

After 40 or so years of liberal adulthood, I should be used to it by now.

matthew said...

Speaking of "Creative Competition," Eddie Van Halen has passed away today.

There was a time when almost *every* aspiring guitarist tried to sound like Eddie, and you still hear echoes of his style in everything from music commercials to movies to the samples used to make pop music. Not my favorite style, but, damn he made an impact upon the world culture.

RIP Eddie. I hope you've gone somewhere loud where the sun shines every day.

Daniel Duffy said...

Re: Earth Overshoot Day

If you have Netflix, you all must watch this movie by Sir David Attenborough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=64R2MYUt394

If you don't have Netflix, get it so you can watch this movie.

gregory byshenk said...

David wrote:
Reciprocal accountability is supposed to palliate and reduce that stuff down to a dull roar, AFR. Same with citizen cameras.

A.F. Rey responded...
The problem is that this "winner takes all" attitude negates reciprocal accountability.

The thing to remember (if I am understanding David's point correctly), is that neither transparency nor reciprocal accountability are magic - things that guarantee success. Rather, they are necessary (but not sufficient!) conditions for preserving a free, fair, developing society. They are necessary because they are the only things that can actually work.

But they are not sufficient on their own. Also required is a population (or at least enough of the population) who actually cares about accountability and is willing to act to preserve it. If, on the other hand, enough of the population simply doesn't care, and is willing to let some groups be unaccountable, then there is no solution.

Tim H. said...

The toxic notion that conservative politicians are only responsible to conservative voters needs to die, soon, lest the Nation become unrecognizable. This trend has been noticed elsewhere:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/06/british-democracy-democratic-values

Not so much evil as new ideas being scarce, humans tend to do the old ones faster and harder, often without close examination for incompatibilities with contemporary society, looking at the shade of William F. Buckley there.

Darrell E said...

Van Halen 1.0 figured prominently in the music-scape of my formative years. Still love quite a bit of their music. And Eddie was one of the giants of guitar rock.

Makes me feel really old. Also brings to mind my first cool car sound system, I saved up for a pair of Jensen Triaxial speakers and a nice Pioneer stereo. Tested them out with Van Halen 1, on 11. Thought life was good and I was cool. Within no more than 2 weeks later I returned to my car one afternoon to find a broken window and my new stereo and Jensen Triaxials gone.

Still listening to Van Halen though. So long Eddie.

Zepp Jamieson said...

In its way, Sir David's capstone achievement. He shows just how dire our position is, and then offers hope that we can yet avoid the worst.

David Brin said...

"The toxic notion that conservative politicians are only responsible to conservative voters needs to die, soon, lest the Nation become unrecognizable. "

Which is why gerrymandering is the most toxic of all the many GOP cheats. Not JUST because it cheats and lets politicians choose their voters, but because it transferred a pol's peril from the General Election to the primary. I tried HARD to spread a meme that victims of gerrymandering should re-register in the gerried party ... and no one listened.

The Supes dodged this incredibly obvious cheat with the Roberts "non-justiciable" doctrine which should be used against Roberts FIERCELY... but it won't be, because dems have zero imagination and are stuck in trench warfare.

My MINIMAL OVERLAP solution to gerrymandering might work. But alas, who listens to me? JUST enough folks to keep me ranting instead of slumping back and doing what I am good at.

David Brin said...

Gregory B nailed my assertion, though I'd insert:
"But they are not sufficient on their own. Also required is a population (or at least enough of the population) who actually cares about accountability -- AND AN ETHOS OF MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND PROTECTING EACH OTHERS' NON-HARMFUL ECCENTRICITIES -- and is willing to act to preserve it. If, on the other hand, enough of the population simply doesn't care, and is willing to let some groups be unaccountable, then there is no solution."

If we see everything, including all done by the mighty... AND oppressing others or enforcing orthodoxy is deemed a worse social crime than most of those eccentricities... then light will be used to ENFORCE PRIVACY. It's the only reason we ever got any, in the first place.

David Brin said...

Played 1984 and other VH classics last night. 1984 came in 2nd that year to THRILLER... and guess who played guitar on that?

Wowzer. Bill & Ted should still time travel and get him to cut a riff for their triumphant video!

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I tried HARD to spread a meme that victims of gerrymandering should re-register in the gerried party ... and no one listened.


Well, doing that is better than nothing, but still doesn't overcome the problem. Dems are safe in Illinois, but let's pretend I live 50 miles north in Wisconsin. I could register as a Republican and try to help nominate a less-deplorable Republican over a more-deplorable Republican in a primary, but I still only have my pick among Republicans. There's no way to get a Joe Biden or a Kamala Harris or a Bernie Sanders to be the Republican nominee from Wisconsin, even if a majority of Republican primary voters are really Democrats.

I did something like what you say in 2014, voting in my state's Republican primary to keep Bruce Rauner from getting the nomination. It didn't work, as he still not only won the Republican nomination, but the governorship as well. I cringe at the thought that he might have been re-elected in '18 and we'd be dealing with the pandemic under a Scott Walker wannabe.

Darrell E said...

A little something that blends the news of Eddie van Halen's death with a common urgent topic here, US political leadership. A quote from Pete Townsend about EVH . . .

"“As he got older he became more generous and amusing and self-effacing about his enormous gifts. He shared so many tricks through guitar workshops, online and on TV shows. Immense talent. The Great American Guitar Player. I was hoping he might be President one day,” Townshend says."

Hey, if it was between Trump and EVH right now, I'd vote for EVH with no hesitation.

jim said...

Ecological overshoot is truly a horrible situation for a species to be in. Unfortunately, ecological overshoot happens fairly often in ecosystems.

“Overshoot
When a population surpasses its carrying capacity it enters a condition known as overshoot. Because carrying capacity is defined as the maximum population that an environment can maintain indefinitely, overshoot must by definition be temporary. Populations always decline to (or below) the carrying capacity. How long they stay in overshoot depends on how many stored resources there are to support their inflated numbers. Resources may be food, but they may also be any resource that helps maintain their numbers. For humans one of the primary resources is energy, whether it is tapped as flows (sunlight, wind, biomass) or stocks (coal, oil, gas, uranium etc.). A species usually enters overshoot when it taps a particularly rich but exhaustible stock of a resource.”

It is the use of fossil fuels that enabled our economy and population to grow to enormous size and the real reason Earth Overshoot Day was move back this year is because of the reductions in consumption due to the economic slow down cause by our reaction to the pandemic. It really has nothing to do with renewable energy.

David is correct that electricity market has changed a lot in the last decade. Coal use in the USA has declined substantially, from about 40% to about 15% of the total electricity market. And he is also correct that total renewables did increase in the last decade from about 13% to about 21% of the electricity market. But natural gas has gone form about 30% to 40% of the total. Now natural gas burns much cleaner and is potentially more efficient fuel than coal but in terms of its climate change impact it is actually worse than coal when you include the leaking methane. These changes probably have made the US electrical system slightly less environmentally harmful with the big gains from less coal being burnt being balanced out by the increased methane from natural gas and increased toxic releases from the manufacture of solar panels and wind farms. But in terms of ecological overshoot we are still deeply dependent on non renewable stores of fossil fuels and the renewable sources are being accessed only because solar panels and wind turbines are made using fossil fuels.

This is related to something David said in the comments of the last post
“Hence I'll simply answer that the fracking industry is going bankrupt in large part because sustainables have dropped in price far faster than even the wildest optimist predicted.”

That statement is just hilarious in its combination of arrogance and ignorance. David seems to think that electricity produced by solar panels and wind farms is in competition with oil. It is not. Oil is its own marketplace in which the expensive to extract fracked oil is competing against the cheaper to extract conventional and off shore oil.

matthew said...

Here's a little interesting history on Eddie Van Halen and Thriller, since the Doc brought it up:

https://apnews.com/article/music-eddie-van-halen-us-news-quincy-jones-michael-jackson-37e17538a03efbbd2c789be08bfe3fc5

The tl;dr - Eddie did the solo while Michael was out of the room, and asked the producer (Quincy Jones!) if he minded changing the song arrangement. It took about 10 minutes to move around the verse / chorus structure in the middle of the song. Michael came back in, and Eddie sheepishly showed him what he'd done, expecting MJ to lose his temper over the meddling. Instead, MJ declared it cool that this "stunt guitarist" felt so free to try something new and this version was the one.

Eddie asked for no payment, no credit, save a case of beer. He wasn't even in the video.

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

Hey, if it was between Trump and EVH right now, I'd vote for EVH with no hesitation.


It's possible that both of those candidates might be...y'know...by the election.

I don't think that's where you were going, but it's what my diseased mind immediately jumped to.

("Jump"-ed. See what I did there?)

David Brin said...

jimactually argued cogently this time. Some good points.

But methane venting is vastly more a matter of enforcement than anything else. Trump stopped the inspections. Biden will send out fleets of drones and issue steep fines for illicit venting. It may be too late. But that fact alone is more than enough reason to be active for the next month, instead of sitting around, eagerly anticipating a future satisfaction of sneering "I told you so!"

George Carty said...

Larry Hart, wouldn't gerrymandering only be an issue for state legislature and US House elections, not gubernatorial, US Senate, or Presidential elections?

duncan cairncross said...

Re Ecological Overshoot

Our JOB as engineers and as humans is to

Do More With Less

The only question is "can do that fast enough"?

IMHO we CAN

But we really do not need the likes of the Orange Cockwomble slowing us up

Tim H. said...

Heard a reference to Eddie Van Halen on the local classical station, Eddie playing "Fur Elise":
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fhFyshH2xQ

Every bit as much fun as when I heard Frank Zappa play "Flight of the bumblebee" on electric guitar.

David Brin said...

Oh, the short term effect of natural gas was energy independence for the US and the ability to get OUT of the Persian Gulf... which Trump refuses to do. It has weakened the salafists and KGB agents and Kochs. Enough? Not yet.

GC: The Senate is INHERENTLY gerrymandered. Expect DC and Puerto Rico statehood immediately.

duncan cairncross said...

Re your Senate

Its inherently not democratic - and its set up that way

Could its role be changed?

In the UK the House of Lords has significant oversight powers - but it can only delay legislation not stop it

The US system would be more sensible if your upper chamber had that power and not the power to stop legislation completely

Is that possible with the US Constitution?

David Brin said...

Fewer approved comments seem to be showing up here than I am approving. Best guess it is folks commenting on earlier threads.

Larry Hart said...

George Carty:

Larry Hart, wouldn't gerrymandering only be an issue for state legislature and US House elections, not gubernatorial, US Senate, or Presidential elections?


Yes, I was making a metaphorical comparison, not an exact one. My reason for voting in the Republican primary for governor was for three reasons, because the Democratic governor was not seriously opposed in the primary, because it was more important to me to vote against a particular Republican than it was to voter for a particular Democrat, and because there seemed to be such an anti-incumbent sentiment at that time that the Republican nominee was likely to be elevated to the office.

That last reason is what made it like Dr Brin's gerrymandering example.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:


Fewer approved comments seem to be showing up here than I am approving. Best guess it is folks commenting on earlier threads.

Sometimes, for some reason, comments show up up-thread. I don't know if that's going on now, but it has in the past.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

In the UK the House of Lords has significant oversight powers - but it can only delay legislation not stop it

The US system would be more sensible if your upper chamber had that power and not the power to stop legislation completely

Is that possible with the US Constitution?


I don't see how. For legislation to pass, it has to pass both houses. That means either house can obstruct.

I think Senate rules should be changed so that they vote on everything that the House sends them, not just whatever Mitch McConnell feels like calling a vote on. But I don't think the requirement that a bill pass both houses can be easily changed.

One thing that can't be changed, even by Constitutional Amendment is the equal representation of states in the Senate. The part of Article V which describes the amendment process specifically prohibits amendments from altering that.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The Senate is INHERENTLY gerrymandered.


While I agree with your metaphor, I don't think that's what George Carty was asking. A state can't gerrymander the electorate in a way to bias its own choice of Senator, because that election is state-wide.

duncan cairncross said...

Expanding on modifying the Senate

A simple change would be to have a mandatory time frame

The Senate should HAVE to act on any legislation in a fixed time frame - that would stop Moscow Mitch simply sitting on bills

A majority could Pass a bill or Delay a bill or send it back for amending
After the delay the bill would have to be passed or a supermajority would be needed to STOP a bill

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle is too good!

@realDonaldTrump

Was just briefed on Hurricane Delta, and spoke with @GovAbbott of Texas and @LouisianaGov John Bel Edwards. Please heed the directions of your State and Local Officials. We are working with them very closely — please be prepared, be careful, and be safe!


@Stonekettle response:


You can['t] let hurricanes control your life.

After the hurricane, you'll feel ten years younger.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

After the delay the bill would have to be passed or a supermajority would be needed to STOP a bill


Beware of unintended consequences. If a supermajority is required to STOP a bill, then a minority can PASS one. Which would be good for me right now, when the Democratic minority could force passage on a bill sent by the Democratic House, but it won't always be thus. I wouldn't have wanted the Republican minority to have that power when John Bohner was Speaker.

Acacia H. said...

The winner of the Vice Presidential Debate?

The fly.

Seriously. No one is going to remember the debate. Everyone is going to remember Pence having a fly on his head, not noticing, and think about how Revelations this shit is getting.

That said, Biden's having fun with it, including a picture of him with a smirk and an extra-long fly swatter in his hand....

Acacia

David Brin said...

Geez are we all Lord of the Flies now?
Exodus 8:24 Then the Lord did so. And there came great swarms of flies into the house of Pharaoh and the houses of his servants and the land was laid waste because of the swarms of flies in all the land of Egypt.

duncan cairncross said...

That picture of Biden with fly swatter is GOLD!

I am really really impressed with somebody who had that idea and got it into play in time

Jon S. said...

"That said, Biden's having fun with it, including a picture of him with a smirk and an extra-long fly swatter in his hand...."

His official campaign store is also selling a $10 flyswatter that says "TRUTH over FLIES" on the handle. :D

Darrell E said...

I saw that Larry! It jumped right out at me.

You did help me clarify things in my mind though. I now realize that in any possible combination of dead / not dead I would vote for EVH over DT. For president or any other function that requires a human being. Heck, I'd vote for your cat over DT.

Larry Hart said...

Heh. I didn't make long enough to witness the fly. I gave up in disgust again after 20 minutes or so.

It was annoying enough that both candidates continued to talk over each other and the moderator, but what I couldn't stand was Pence's smug insistence that Harris was somehow being offensive by asserting things that were true, but which didn't fit the rugged-individual jingoistic narrative that Republicans like to hide behind. That and his out-and-out opposite-of-reality world view which has Donald Trump tirelessly working on behalf of the downtrodden.

I turned it off after "We (Republicans) stand for freedom!" The idea that Democrats are all about mandates whereas Republicans "trust the American people to make the right decisions." First of all, the American people have self-evidently not made the right decisions on how to handle a pandemic. But that aside, conservatives are usually the ones who think that fallen mankind will do the wrong thing unless forced to stay on the straight and narrow by an authoritarian leader. How the f*** do they get off running on leaving individuals to their own choices and trusting those individuals to know what they're doing?

Larry Hart said...

I've said this before, but it bears repeating, especially in the "Trump beats COVID!" era.

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 continued support.

Don Gisselbeck said...

The sanctimonious twit was just channeling his inner Beelzebub.

jim said...

Ok the penny dropped and now I know how to better communicate with David. Whenever I tell David he is wrong , I need to also need to say something about what he got right. I will endeavor to do that in the future, it will not be too hard David is correct on a lot of things.

Duncan said
“Our JOB as engineers and as humans is to

Do More With Less

The only question is "can do that fast enough"?”

Although Duncan is completely correct that doing more with less is part of solution, it is not the main goal we should shoot for. For example, being more efficient in the use of fossil fuels still leaves us completely dependent on a non renewable stock that is getting more energy expensive to extract.

We need fundamentally change how our economy works. We need a steady state economy (in terms of energy and material flows) that is powered by renewable flows of energy and keeps a circular flow of the materials used. On top of that things like limited democratic government, free press, freedom of religion, free association, a fair court system and a mixed economy are all both compatible and affordable from an ecological standpoint. But what is not compatible, is our expectations for ever greater levels of material wealth. And that is what I see as our fundamental tragedy, we likely do have enough resources to make a good sustainable society that provides a sufficient material wealth for its members to pursue a path of self- actualization but it does not look like we will even try. Instead it looks like we will try to keep trying to grow the economy for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful and that will lead to further disaster.

Larry Hart said...

Yes, this was my takeaway from (the first 20 minutes of) the debate as well.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/08/opinion/mike-pence-vp-debate.html

And his [Pence's] evasions were the rival of hers. He never did offer any explanation of how the United States ended up the world leader in recorded deaths related to the coronavirus. He instead tried to suggest that Harris, in calling out the country’s failures on that score, was insulting Americans.

No, Vice President Pence. She was insulting you and your boss.

jim said...

Now for something completely different.


Does anyone else read The Babylon Bee: Your Trusted Source for Christian News Satire?

https://babylonbee.com/

It can be really funny. And they don’t just make fun of liberals / progressives / non Christians.
They also have some biting satire about Christians like this Article:

ATLANTA, GA—Veteran Atlanta Falcons linebacker Tim Millikan has lived the dream of having a full, prosperous NFL career, and is now looking toward what’s next as he approaches his retirement at the end of this season. Sitting down with various local news outlets Thursday, the big man revealed that he—like many pro athletes do—plans to enter the world of business after his football days are behind him, and has narrowed his options down to opening and operating either an upscale strip club or a large prosperity church in the Atlanta area.
“After so long in the league, of course I’ve grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle, and just because I stop playing football doesn’t mean I want to stop earning millions of dollars every year,” Millikan told reporters. “After a lot of research and talking to several mentors of mine who used to play [football in the NFL], I’ve narrowed it down to opening either a top-of-the-line gentleman’s club or one of those big health-and-wealth churches. It’s going to be one of those two—but between them, I’m torn.”
Explaining that each business has its advantages, Millikan admitted that the “tax-free part” of the prosperity church is a real draw for him.
“I have more experience in the world of strip clubs than the world of churches, honestly, but that hasn’t stopped a lot of these other guys,” he noted. “Retired athletes are starting these name-it-and-claim-it churches, and they’re just making a killing. Sometimes more than they made on the field. And I’m told the business plan is very simple.”
“I don’t know, though—I really like strip clubs,” he added. “I might just have to do both.”

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

Heck, I'd vote for your cat over DT.


That makes two of us. :)

A.F. Rey said...

Heck, I'd vote for your cat over DT.

That makes two of us. :)


Send me a bumper sticker, and I'll put it on my car. :)

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

Send me a bumper sticker, and I'll put it on my car. :)


It would read "Hamilton for president!" Seriously, that's the cat's name.

A.F. Rey said...

It would read "Hamilton for president!" Seriously, that's the cat's name.

Great. People would think I was advocating a $10 bill over Donald Trump.

Which would still work... :)

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

People would think I was advocating a $10 bill over Donald Trump.


Apparently, the $10 bill is worth more than Donald Trump is.

David Brin said...

onward

onward