Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Can we 'de-radicalize' our neighbors? Will AI help? Are are we in a "cool war"? And are we resilient?

Are we teetering on the edge of some kind of war? From "cold war" to crackling "cool" (See The Cool War by Pohl), to simmering warm, as undersea cables are sabotaged? Or even...

... Well, well, I've been posting possibilities on social media. But here on-blog, I'll stick with a pre-prepared topic that is sadly related, as Fox watchers bobble-nod to Tucker Carlson's nightly recitation of Kremlin memes. And so....

How do we confront growing extremism?

Let's start with the unmentioned player looming on the horizon: artificial Intelligence or AI, which some see as a factor that, if fully weaponized, might end the very enlightenment experiment that gave birth to it... 

...or else AI might become the very tool we need in order to layer upon our many-layered caveman brains, and thus grow up, at long last!

Compare these trends in Part 1 of a wide-ranging interview I gave about AI and the future. And part 2 on January 31.

Meanwhile, let's not wait around for 'em. Old fashioned humans of goodwill and sapience can solve and resolve our problems... starting now.

== Is de-radicalization possible? ==

Christian Picciolini, a famous ex-neo-Nazi who has spent twenty years weaning individuals from far-right radicalization, has thrown in the towel. He's burned out; he says one-on-one deradicalization is too slow and inadequate to the problem. Those who are genuinely interested in assisting extremists in leaving white-power groups can follow the "blueprint" Picciolini has established, he says.


But his concern is that even for those with the best intentions, "It cannot scale to meet the need." ... Picciolini says he will now focus on administering the antidote for the poison of racism, white supremacy and far-right violence" "long term prevention."

See also Christian Picciolini's book Breaking Hate: Confronting the New Culture of Extemism

"Cultivating a society that diminishes the viability of hate organizations and demolishes the ideologies they promulgate will require a mass political movement, he believes, to reorient public policy toward community, equality and solidarity. Progressive economic policies, expressed through reliable social services, such as education, health care and vibrant public institutions, will create healthier and happier people. "Healthy and happy people do not join hate groups." ... The consequences of failure are potentially catastrophic. "If they believe there's going to be war, they will make sure of it."

Having offered you that glimpse, I must demur! 

We don’t have to lure all MAGAs back into the light. Their demographic collapse is so bad that they depend absolutely on cheating to amplify atom-thin, gerrymandered local majorities. And they count on help from our own far-left, who can be counted on to betray the Union Coalition, as they did in 80, 88, 94, 2000, 2010 and 2016. 

Let's be optimistic, though. Certainly Stacey Abrams, Bernie,Liz, AOC and DNC Chair Jaime Harrison are striving every day to keep that wing wing inside the tent... inside the only coalition in the worlds that's broad enough to (maybe) save civilization.

If those heroes can manage it, then the key is…

…to peel away as few as half a million Republicans at the saner end of the Fox-realm, who now stare at that Kremlin agitprop station in desperation to maintain the incantation “I know the right has gone mad... but... but... but democrats are even worse! Yeah, that's the ticket! Those commies...”

Find these wavering conservatives, who have been lured into betraying every traditional American value! Corner them! 

The “wager thing” works, if you nail it down. Demand that you and that borderline GOPper together fact check ONE evening of Tucker vs ONE evening of Maddow, before a panel of senior retired military officers. 

Peel away even just one and heaven (and America) rejoices.

== Resilience or nuttery? ==

Returning full circle.... If some kind of cool or warm or even hot war is coming - including acts of economic sabotage like the severing of undersea cables, then it's time (again) to talk RESILIENCE. I’ve long pushed for moves that might improve civilization’s overall robustness.

In this interview I covered a list of things we can (and must) do to help our nations, civilization and families be more robust against the batterings of fate. Example, Long ago I denounced (to the sound of chirping crickets) the cult of “just-in-time” manufacturing and the tax laws that punished on-site inventory, a nutty notion that helped lead to today’s fragile and easily disrupted supply chains.

Another of my complaints had to do with today’s delicate cell phone systems, which are guaranteed to go offline when we need them most – when storms or disasters or sabotage render the cell towers offline. I promote the notion of a backup peer-to-peer text passing system, that could work even if every tower across a continent were down, allowing (say) the U.S. to maintain the equivalent of a 1940s telegram system in even the worst conditions (as in The Postman.)

Naturally, the big Telcos ignore this problem, even though Qualcomm chips would easily allow this critical contribution to our general robustness. There have been various attempts to bypass the telcos and do this via “mesh networks” – such as this latest attempt. Putting aside the ripe sanctimony wafting from the announcement, a mesh-bypass that requires special apps and efforts is not ideal. But if the Telcos have no imagination or patriotism, then it will be up to guerrilla innovators.

== And further pertinent miscellany ==


The German Defense Ministry is using SF stories to predict future wars.  Their Project Cassandra has already successfully predicted conflict in Algeria. University researchers would use their expertise to help the German defense ministry predict the future. I participate in similar things in the US each year.


Pentagon program that delegated management of a huge swath of the Internet to a Florida company in January -- just minutes before President Trump left office -- has ended as mysteriously as it began, with the Defense Department this week retaking control of 175 million IP addresses.  At its peak, the company, Global Resource Systems, controlled almost 6 percent of a section of the Internet called IPv4. The IP addresses had been under Pentagon control for decades but left unused, despite being potentially worth billions of dollars on the open market. Adding to the mystery, company registration records showed Global Resource Systems at the time was only a few months old, having been established in September 2020, and had no publicly reported federal contracts, no obvious public-facing website and no sign on the shared office space it listed as its physical address in Plantation, Fla. 


Finally, amid the news that Justice Breyer will retire… I feel honored to have Judge David Tatel as my friend, well deserving of the attention in this article as he retires from the Appeals Court bench. If we still lived in an era of some bipartisan consensus and professionalism, instead of each party* caring above all about youth/health and partisan litmus tests, he would be on the Supreme Court right now.  A fine mind, and a judge who could see much farther than almost anyone with working eyes.  


Treebeard said...

Mainstream "liberal" American society is extreme in a thousand ways by any world or historic standard, so it’s not really in a position to lecture anyone about extremism. Corporate hyper-capitalism is extreme. Big Tech intrusions into everyone’s lives is extreme. 800 military bases around the planet is extreme. Drone strikes, coups and invasions are extreme. Rates of obesity, drug use, depression and medication are extreme. Normalization of gay marriage and transsexualism is extreme. Ubiquitous pornography is extreme. Removal of religion from public life is extreme. Aesthetic ugliness and cultural depravity celebrated as progress is extreme. Transhumanism is extreme. Giving whole populations experimental genetic cocktails is extreme. Industrial agriculture is extreme. Big Pharma is extreme. Pervasive advertising and propaganda is extreme. Social media replacing normal human community is extreme. Elite wokeness is extreme. And the list goes on. So this idea that “right-wingers” are the extremist menace to civilization is comical, in light of all the extremism it takes for granted as normal. It ain’t normal. YOU are the extremists, from any global or historical perspective. The biggest culture of extremism is YOURS.

By the way, I was amused by this clip of a famous Chinese dissident artist who was being interviewed by a PBS journalist. She tries to get him to equate Trumpism to Mao’s authoritarian personality cult, but he points out that authoritarians need a system behind him, which Trump never had. He then compares developments in the USA to the Chinese Cultural Revolution, says “in many ways, you are already in the authoritarian state, you just don’t know it”, and says that “people trying to be unified in certain political correctness” is “very dangerous”.

That’s the kind of elite extremism people are worried about, not the largely bogus or greatly exaggerated Emmanuel Goldstein menace of right-wingers. You are living in upside down world.

matthew said...

The "German Defense" and "Fantasy Maps" links are missing.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Some of what appears to be links in your main post aren't actually working as links, including "Fantasy Map of the Internet".

Paradoctor said...

Dr. Brin:
I looked at the site. No mention of Russia there.
Ten megatons? Nature doesn't fool around.

David Brin said...

Ten megatons for a volcano is not high end. In fact this one was brief and compact in certain ways... and severed an undersea cable... that seem suspicious at least to a sci fi POV.

Gawn, has Treebeard been taking whatever locum takes?

"Corporate hyper-capitalism is extreme."

Dope. It is Adam Smith liberalism that calls for breakup of concentrated, unaccountable power of all forms. It is your cult that has stymied all such efforts.

" Rates of obesity, drug use, depression and medication are extreme."
Now you are doing it deliberately. You know damned well that - excluding Utah - rates of every turpitude are wors overall in Red states than in blue ones. Have your atty contact me to attest you have escrowed major wager stakes.

"Removal of religion from public life is extreme."

Feh. The decline has been well-earned. WAGER on rates of turpitude among "pastors."

The rest is just yowls and yammerings from an ingrate who wknows he is coddled and utterly safe.

duncan cairncross said...

Dr Brin

JIT is not the evil that you believe!

The old system with on site and between stations "safety stock" served to hide the problem - NOT to make the system more resilient!

At its greatest the stock would represent a couple of days production - in value a lot more but that is deceiving as you need all of the parts to build something

The sort of supply issues that you are talking about take weeks or months to fix
The old pre-JIT system would be just as bad!

JIT is incredibly useful as it removes the short term "safety stock" that poor management hides behind
That "safety stock" does NOT help - it just permits people to keep on using bad processes

Back in the 90's when my company was moving that way we had a LOT of backpressure from middle management (including me)

The plant manager set up a number of "games" simulating the operation of our plant and the grumpy beggars (like me) ran those games/simulations

They were incredibly eye opening

JIT is amazingly useful in making your processes MORE resilient

Which does not mean that the bloody MBA's cannot screw the process up and BLAME JIT

MBA training is horribly short sighted and "Me" focused

But JIT is an incredibly useful tool
We doubled production while reducing defects to a 20th of previous - and JIT was the main tool

David Brin said...

I understand that JIT teaches good habits. You could keep that while eliminating the dreadful bad effects by telling companies "You will be taxed on any parts inventory during a specific 60 day period of your choice." Every year they would run that inventory down to zero in a "drill" that seeks JIT efficiencies. The rest of the year they'd be incentivized to store for resilience.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

That "safety stock" does NOT help - it just permits people to keep on using bad processes

Well, that's a kind of helping, Your Honor.

Just sayin' :)

Seriously, as with most methodologies, JIT has both its benefits and its drawbacks, better than the alternative in some situations, worse in others. The "evil" isn't JIT itself so much as the notion that JIT is always appropriate and always preferable to anything else. Which (to me) is like saying that you should never have enough food in your house for more than your next meal--that having a stocked refrigerator just lets you hide the fact that you'd still be out of food in three or four days.

Larry Hart said...

I said last time:

"Southern" part of the galaxy?! LOL!"

That's actually in the opening "Captain's log" monologue for the episode. Talk about hitting you over the head with the message.

I may have misspoke. It looks like that is not in the opening Captain's log, but rather mentioned when the fugitive, Lokai, is taken aboard the ship and tells them which planet he is fleeing from (Charon). Kirk then remarks that the planet he mentioned is "in the southern part of the galaxy."

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Larry
The pre-JIT "safety stock" was usually less than one shift's worth - what it did was to enable the rest of the operation to keep working
Which sounds like it would keep the numbers the same - but in practice it did not!! - you still lost production numbers but now the actual reason that you lost the numbers became obscured
With JIT the line stops and you work on making sure it does not happen again
Short term "pain" (not actually worse just more focused) leading to medium and long term gain
Having YOUR part of the operation stop the whole factory tends to focus you on fixing it properly
Your stocked fridge
JIT would say that if you do a weekly food shop then you should have a weeks worth of food in your fridge - two weeks is bad and a month is terrible
Which is good practice and stops you from having to throw food out

One of the problems with British, American and Kiwi managers is that you can twist their arms and get them to SAY "Quality is Important"
But like the horse to drink you can't get them to BELIEVE that "Quality is Important"
(Germans and Japanese understand this)
So JIT is a form of Judo to get the beggars to BEHAVE as if "Quality is Important" even if in their black hearts they don't believe it

The actual financial gains from less inventory are miniscule compared to the gains from the increased quality that JIT drives

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger, (from last thread)

One common misconception about Iran is that it is all about religion.

Many of us know, but we are American barbarians inclined to oversimplify.

—But they aren't monolithic!

Truth is Iran's rulers need an external enemy which we foolishly provide. Without one they'd fight among themselves and many sort things out. I'm not hopeful they would, though, because none of the factions are large enough to rule without an external threat. It's just that I'd rather that threat wasn't the US or The West.

(Their Republican Guard is a faction worth squishing, though. Somehow. Preferably without pissing off the entire Muslim world.)

The Turks will be back in a generation. Roughly. People made similar mistakes about Germany and Russia in the 1920's. It would help if the Turks gave up on some of their problems far to the east, but that won't be easy for them.

Alfred Differ said...

Two things about AI's reading our fiction besides the usual "I never thought I'd live to see the day"…

1. Fiction was the source of economic data that McCloskey said shows best the rise in real income as the Great Enrichment got underway in parts of Europe a few centuries ago. Writers describing scenes of people doing what they do wind up detailing useful data. What could a pound sterling buy in 1814? Go read it in a period piece. What did the common merchant man have in his house in Amsterdam in 1712? Go read it in a period piece. It works better after industrialization dramatically changes the price of paper and more stories get written, but earlier data just requires more sleuthing.

2. Hang around a bit over at DeviantArt and you'll find a whole lot of amateur alternate history writers and map makers. They can't get enough of it. A lot of it is lame or the equivalent of nationalism-porn, but they are actually writing details for how they think the world might work. It's too much for sleuths to process because 21st century digital paper is even cheaper than 19th century presses handled, but AI would make short work of it and spot trends. What trends? Well… even with my human eyes I can see ideas being swatted back and forth about how Ukraine will be divided and whether it should be. I'd be very curious to track those ideas back toward cultural groups and look for social connections. Who likes who? Social network stuff.

We leave a lot of unintentional evidence around. Mental dander.

Paradoctor said...

More XKCD snarkery! This time with flying saucers and Bigfoot! Yum!

David Brin said...

darnit paradoc! Now I am back into XKCD! I start with the latest and work backward to one seems familiar. Then I go cold turkey till someone links to another must see!

Don Gisselbeck said...

"If everybody skied there would be no more war." If we structured the laws and social mores of our society to make it possible for everyone to live decent lives, there wouldn't be conflict. Decent lives (for the "if you can't compete, die" people) means comfortable clothing and housing, nutritious food, adequate medical care, reasonably safe and fulfilling jobs, access to the internet (this is not the 19th century), access to public lands for recreation, and the means and opportunity to pursue a passion. I make this assertion comfortable in the knowledge that this course of action will never be tried so I won't worry about being proven wrong.

duncan cairncross said...


I have a page open and every now and then I hit "Random" - its almost always worth it

Jon S. said...

JIT has me shop every two weeks, and keep precisely two weeks' worth of food on hand. Sounds efficient, right?

And then, the day before that two-week shopping trip is scheduled, a blizzard strikes. You won't be able to leave your house for at least three days, and the store won't be open for over a week. Your "efficient" system is going to leave you pretty hungry, by and by...

A real-world example happened here in WA. Most of our grocery deliveries come across I-90, through Snoqualmie Pass. There was a terrible winter storm, of the sort we don't generally get around here, and commercial traffic was literally frozen in place for over a week. Store shelves still haven't recovered fully...

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Writers describing scenes of people doing what they do wind up detailing useful data. What could a pound sterling buy in 1814? Go read it in a period piece.

I always find the mentions of specific dollar amounts interesting in It's A Wonderful Life. Families needing $5000 to buy a house. The Bailey's $2000 honeymoon cash being used to forestall a rush on the bank. The missing $8000 which would lead to the firm's bankruptcy and ruin.

Howard Brazee said...

The politics of blame is an effective way of gaining power. But it is a case where the "slippery slope" is hard or impossible to avoid. It's easy to keep adding bad guys until it includes most everybody.

Alfred Differ said...

I have to agree with Duncan here. I've been in non-academic work almost 30 years now and worked for only one program manager who believed that quality matters. He had a hard time sticking to it because the higher bosses and customers rarely consider it worth the expense, but they weren't accounting for other expenses properly. Especially opportunity costs.

It's not just quality products and services. Processes have quality too. On a project, the big bosses will often think they have three independent variables when deciding scope, quality, and time. Truth is they get to pick two at best. BUT if the work being done is repeatable that enables quality to become semi-independent. It's a BIG deal to work out processes that repeat.

Having said that, it's easy to mis-use JIT. Focusing on the bean counting misses what should really be happening.

David Brin said...

I still think a postitive sum solution to JIT would be to tax and discourage it 9 months a year and allow warehousing tax-free... then let each company pick as three month stretch when those policies reverse!

Companies would get that 'exercise' in lean, perfect assembly line flows, then go back to storing resilience supplies 'for winter.'

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. That falls squarely into my concern with using tax policy to adjust social behaviors. I'd rather find what is prompting people to behave stupidly and deal with it from the other end.

For example, what taxes are being levied on them that discourage stocking up a bit? Maybe we can reduce a cost from the other side instead.

An interesting counter example involves stuff I see every day at work. The Navy stocks material for possible wars. They have reserves and reserves to the reserves. A lot of the land around where I work is occupied but stuff that's just rusting out there, but it serves a very distinct purpose we hope never to need. Their 'warehousing' land isn't taxed by anyone, but what about commercial entities who might do something similar. Their properly likely is.

Another example is found in the wholesale electricity market. The customer thinks they pay for electrons flowing, but the actual price goes more to the reliability of that current. Distributors pay for power and resell it to us, but they also buy reserve capacity and reserves for those reserves. Generators sell each type at different prices on the market. These capabilities cost money, use land, and all that. How is it all taxed, though? I don't know. Probably varies by region and state. Change incentives a bit in one corner of the market and there might be impacts in another corner.

The evidence for JIT being misused is strong, but I'd like to see what incentives are really driving it. The bean counters are counting something big enough to move them. What?

scidata said...

I worked at GM 40 ya when JIT was the latest rage (Saturn plant mostly). I like to say that GM was making billions when I worked there, but went bankrupt (for 40 days) after I left. Anyway, that's where I got my "Doctrine is the mind killer" line.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Another example is found in the wholesale electricity market.

That's exactly the kind of thing I was thinking about concerning the downside of JIT. I wouldn't be comfortable knowing that my electricity supplier received just enough fuel minute by minute to keep the turbines running for that minute. A hiccup in the supply line means a blackout? I'd much rather know that there's a day or several days worth of capacity between deliveries. The fact that it only masks the problem--what if the supply line is down for a month?--isn't a mitigating factor in my eyes. The odds of a month-long interruption or even a week-long one are much, much lower than the odds of any interruption.

I realize that this is not the same situation as, say, a plant whose job is to receive, package, and ship widgets. If their supply is interrupted, they just stop work until it is back on line. The fact they could have continued shipping their backlog for another few hours if they had a backlog is (to me) not a problem.

Which only goes to show that, as with anything else, JIT is not "good" or "evil", but appropriate in some instances, not so much in others, and disastrous in still others. Just as free market capitalism is great for producing and selling I-Phones, but disastrous at delivering emergency health care.

TheMadLibrarian said...

The supply system, more than inventory or lean running, needs resilience. Hawaii is an example of what happens when the supply chain gets disrupted; a longshoreman's strike or hurricane means that within hours store shelves are bare of necessities like rice and TP. COVID also shows what happens when too much JIT creates supply gaps. Consumer goods and food alike aren't replenished in a timely fashion, from computer chips to plywood to TP (again!) JIT requires many moving parts to mesh together perfectly, and inventory requires bookkeeping to make sure stock doesn't stall, but keeps moving (anyone who has worked fast food knows about 'first in, first out', to prevent foodstuffs from going off.)

DP said...

If you all are worried about supply chains breaking further and failure of brittle JIT delivery networks, may I suggest you stock up on a year's worth of food at your friendly neighborhood Home Storage Centers operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

Prepackaged 30 year stable shelf life with a year's supply per person for about $300.

The Mormons have this down to a science.

It's a bargain whether civilization collapses or not.

Larry Hart said...

Personal aside...

Of all of the COVID countermeasures, I credit my new habit of excessive hand washing to be the most effective at keeping my wife and me from the disease. We also mask when feasible and we're vaxed and boosted, but I know of plenty of vaxed and boosted people with "breakthrough" infections, though none who needed hospitalization or intubation. And I suspect that ridiculously-often handwashing has saved us more than anything else.

I base that on the fact that I also have had only two mild colds (and no flu) in the entire time since the March 2020 lockdown. In a normal two-year period, I would have had closer to twenty colds. Needless to say, even after COVID is over with, I intend to continue a routine of excessive handwashing as a way of avoiding most contagious diseases which costs very little in money, effort, or comfort compared to the benefit of not being sick.

The Trumpists would doubtless say that I should rather risk disease than so live "in fear" as to wash hands more than is perhaps required. And the Bill Mahers/Bari Weises of the world would insist that once vaccinated, hand washing is contrary to the science. They can all kiss my ass. Well, not literally they can't, but, y'know.

Larry Hart said...

Under the heading of "Do [they] still think [they] can control [him]?"...

But while [Tucker] Carlson* is holding on to his American audience, he has been so over the top in expressing pro-Russia positions that he is losing one part of his fanbase: The Kremlin. It would seem that he's been so careless with his pro-Russia verbiage, and that he's undermined his credibility in so many other ways, that officials in Russia think he's not so useful anymore. In fact, they worry that he's actually harming them, since anything he says can be easily dismissed as the position of foaming-at-the-mouth white supremacist cranks. So, Team Putin might need to find themselves a new and less tarnished media mouthpiece. Hmmm...we hear that Joe Rogan is an idiot. So maybe him?

* P.S., Malcolm Nance says to refer to Carlson as "Tuck-yo Rose".

David Brin said...

The Co-vid and NIGHT-vid appear not to transmit via fomits... physical objects. We lucked out. But just wait for the DAY-vid.

(nyuck nyuck...)

Saw the trailer for the new CYRANO. OMG how wonderful! In so many ways. This re-configuring of a classic makes far MORE (tragic and triumphant) sense than the original play or in fact the real life tale it's based upon... and I featured the historical Cyrano in one of my stories. The bits shown in the trailer were terrific and wow, a perfect vehicle for Dinklage. I haven't looked forward to a flick this much in years.
Oh, and after the trailer we stayed for the 2.5 hour, terrific, wonderful, delightful and sad Spielberg West Side Story. And okay, okay, he's wonderful too and so was this version, esp Rita Moreno and a great cast. I expected no less.

Alfred Differ said...

Discussions around JIT reveal underlying assumptions in our markets.

My wholesale electricity example is active practice in a market thats actually much more complex. What each market maker calls the 'products' varies, but there is one special class of current some call 'black start' that never, never gets needed. It's the one you buy to start generation capacity on grid connected systems that need a kick to keep or get going when outages occur. People don't pay much for it because it doesn't get needed… except when it is REALLY needed. Guess which type of current wasn't available at Fukushima after the tsunami? Yah. That's exactly the reserve on reserve on whatever they needed to keep the spent fuel cells cool. They couldn't get the black start power to those systems. Melt followed shortly after.

The thing is we DO buy reserve and reserve on reserve current through our electricity retailer even if they don't tell us they are. They have little choice since supply and load MUST balance on the grid. There is no reserve current ON the transmission lines until load becomes too high. The grid operator simply switches it in and whoever won the bids HAS to supply. This shows that the wholesale electricity market is really a futures market.

If I visit the local pizza parlor, though, I don't buy reserve or reserve on reserve pizzas. Do I? Well… sorta. They've got reserve pizzas in the back on an assumption they can sell them. Their freezer creates a 'futures' capability. Chances are pretty good their costs for reserves are embedded in the price I pay. It might not be much per pizza, but businesses aren't in business to lose money. They'll find a way to make me pay.

For the bananas coming into the port near me, they likely supply futures contracts too even if those aren't traded at the big trading hubs. A lot of farmers are in exactly that business. Sell a futures contract now on a bushel of wheat and deliver later the wheat later… or else.

For JIT discussions, therefore, I invite people to consider whatever process it is that appears fragile and ask how customers pay for reserve and reserve on reserve capacity. Bean counters WILL sell us this capability IF we demand it. Before turning to tax policy, consider other policies that might be impacting prices of reserve capacity. If the bean counters can't see the profits for selling it, they certainly won't want to make it. Such things are called costs and minimized for a reason.

DP said...

Because of war fears, Russian oligarchs just lost $28 billion in a sell-off that is ongoing.

The oligarchs are unhappy.

When Biden makes a mistake his poll numbers go down.

When Vlad makes a mistake the wolves in the Kremlin start to circle.

Don't be surprised if Vlad has an unfortunate heart attack and is given a state funeral worthy of a Hero of the Motherland.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

If you all are worried about supply chains breaking further and failure of brittle JIT delivery networks, may I suggest you stock up on a year's worth of food at your friendly neighborhood Home Storage Centers operated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

No one is saying that JIT is so evil in all situations that the opposite extreme is always the right thing to do.

Just that it's not always the right thing to do.

A year's worth of food is an extreme reaction. Having a few days worth in case of bad weather or violent attacks on your store by anti-vaxxers seems prudent, though.

Bill_in_the Middle said...

A thoughtful essay on the Webb--

Der Oger said...

But like the horse to drink you can't get them to BELIEVE that "Quality is Important"
(Germans and Japanese understand this)

I see "Quality Management" as implemented here as something as a cult that started 20 years ago. Suddenly, all aspects of work had to be redesigned to get the approval of certifying companies ... whether those changes made sense or not, greatly increasing the "hydrocephalus" of all areas of work and not particularly increasing quality of work.

duncan cairncross said...

Der Oger

We have moved from about one fault per hundred being "normal" to the "faults per million" level
That has happened BECAUSE this is all proceduralized these days

This "cult" has made an absolutely HUGE difference in reducing waste and increasing quality - and we are only part of the way there

Robert said...

A year's worth of food is an extreme reaction. Having a few days worth in case of bad weather or violent attacks on your store by anti-vaxxers seems prudent, though.

Excrement occurs. Having enough food on hand to deal with things like unexpected weather events, car breakdowns, personal illness, etc. is prudent (assuming one can afford it*).

For years I used to shop on the way home, several times a week, because I was passing by the grocery shop anyway. After the early-Covid panic-buying/supply-chain-problem shortages** I switched to weekly trips, and was glad I kept a good-sized supply of non-perishables so I never ran short. I now shop every 1-2 weeks, as I run low on perishables, but could survive longer if necessary (eg. if I needed to self-isolate for 10 days) at the cost of some variety.

*I know people who can't. One of the costs of poverty is the stress of living hand-to-mouth because there literally isn't any money/space to keep a stock of food 'just in case'.

**Reason for the empty shelves doesn't really matter.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

I see "Quality Management" as implemented here as something as a cult that started 20 years ago. Suddenly, all aspects of work had to be redesigned to get the approval of certifying companies

In the US, we have some strange cult beliefs which occasionally take over boardrooms. A recent CEO of Sears was an Ayn Randist who decided that every individual department in the company had to turn a profit and compete with each other for resources. So for instance, if it wasn't profitable for the IT department to serve the needs of the sales department, the IT department would be incentivized not to do so. The fact that this would cause Sales to lose money was a good thing from IT's point of view, because Sales was a competitor, not a client.

Not only is this self-evidently ridiculous, but it is especially jarring coming from a supposed acolyte of Ayn Rand, since it was her villains at the Starnesville factory who ran a plant in such a manner, not her heroes.

Robert said...

Der Oger, I've noticed over my career that fads come and go, and what generally happens is that people adopt the vocabulary of the fad favoured by those in charge rather than buying into it. Whether the fad is Quality, or Diversity, or Equity, or Customer Focus… all that matters is that you say the right incantations and make the right pious noises.

In some cases the fad is based on something real, but invariably taken out-of-context and applied in cases where it shouldn't be.

In SF terms, most working professions need someone to be Speaker-to-Management — someone who can explain things using the vocabulary and buzzwords an MBA expects and is looking for. I had a colleague who was excellent at this. It is possibly coincidence that his degree was in criminal psychology… ;-)

locumranch said...

Merit (Superiority) is literally the opposite of Equality.

When President Biden specified the bloodline (race; gender) of his next SCOTUS nominee, he couldn't have validated my recent assertion better if he had specified the selection of a first-born Hapsburg, Windsor, Romney or Clinton:

The US expert managerial caste has abandoned all meritocratic pretense and degenerated into yet another self-selecting feudal aristocracy.

The US expert managerial caste has forgotten that they are PUBLIC SERVANTS, insomuch as they now fancy themselves as our betters & our rulers.

US Meritocracy is DEAD, murdered by a politically-correct arbitrary social selection process that has everything to do with trendy equalitarian fantasy and absolutely nothing to do with the selection of intelligence, ability, experience, competency or the best possible candidate.

Race, gender, affiliation & wealth have become the sole measure of the modern expert.

Educational credentials that once provided 'Proof of Expertise' are now available for purchase at any number of Ivy League university diploma mills where the new aristocratic ruling class goes to matriculate without even the possibility of failure.

It's called 'Credentialism' and it is a pretentious swindle.

Try googling 'Failing out of Harvard' if you doubt the reality of Credentialism.

The mood is getting real ugly out here in Fly-Over Land, now that we know that our so-called 'betters' are merely legacy cheats & frauds, and we are just sick & tired of cursing this darkness. The solution starts here with a single candle to light you to bed, followed by the traditional "Here comes the chopper to chop off your head".

Enjoy your false sense of superiority while you can because the chopper does not care about what-ever-it-is that you think 'makes you special'.

(Equality) The chopper makes us all equal.


JIT inventory is only 'efficient' or 'resilient' in the best of all possible worlds. In our real & imperfect world, however, it can only lead to shortage & scarcity, as evidenced by the proliferation of empty grocery shelves, a deficit of computer chips and our collapsing infrastructure.

I've railed against JIT for years, especially in reference to healthcare, but now your concern is too little & too late, because the whirlwind of which I've warned you is already here. The chopper, she comes.

David Brin said...

I try to swallow my girge and admit when locumranch makes a point. I agree that compensatory prejudice is - in abstract and in itself - wrong. AffirmativeAction -all the way to Biden's litmus test for a black woman justice - is excusable onl;y as a temporary measure, a pragmatic way to end vastly worse injustices forever. And it is never acceptable if such pool-=narrowing will elevate the unqualified.

Fortunately, there are plenty in that narrowed pool who are brilliant juristsand who will do just fine. Also fortunately, the public had made it clear that there are stages of normalization, beyond which those overcompensation measures must vanish.

Alas, locum always, always then tips into loony rants and it did not take long this time.

Above all, we just had THREE justices appointed on the litmus of "The nominee must come from an aristocratic white family with oligarchy credentials and aromas of blackmail control."

I did not bother rading further. Skimming revealed fulminations of true nuttery.

Howard Brazee said...

I will note that Reagan fulfilled his campaign promise to put the first woman on the Supreme Court.

I suspect many Republicans would call him a RINO if he was president today.

Treebeard said...

Locum, the "Freedom Convoy" in Canada suggests that the discontent is not limited to the American heartland. They are getting a lot of support from across the Western world. Canadians are absurdly polite, so I don’t expect anything too dramatic to happen, but just the fact that so many Canadians are doing something like this is rather telling. And the fact that the Deep State media is trying to bury the story and smear the protesters as fringe deplorables is also telling; another example of their bizarre mania to control the narrative around covid at all costs. But I think the authoritarian hysteria is finally losing its grip and will soon be over (even Elon Musk is supporting the truckers and insulting Biden now, and I don’t think they’ll be able to cancel him—Musk the Russian puppet is a stretch, though as a South African he undoubtedly has White Supremacist skeletons in his closet, so they’ll probably pursue that angle).

As I predicted all along, covid is endemic and none of the measures did much good; the whole campaign was a misguided failure, except to the drug lords of Big Pharma. In a year or two I expect the whole thing will be memory-holed in hopes that people forget about it, like so many other failed ruling class campaigns (wars on poverty/drugs/terror, shooting wars abroad, exporting democracy to [wherever], etc.). It’s almost like this class has given up on succeeding at anything important and are retreating into a fantasy world of virtue-signalling, fear-mongering and name-calling—surely the behavior of a regime approaching its end. I’m starting to think that “doomers” like Morris Berman and John Michael Greer might actually be right, and the USA and the world are going to look very different by 2030. It’s not something I really want, since the status quo isn’t too bad for me and it goes against my conservative instincts, but it’s looking more and more likely.

Larry Hart said...


Merit (Superiority) is literally the opposite of Equality.

"No i'tisn't."

May-be if I say one syl-ab-le at a time...?

Equality, in the sense that anyone here except you uses it, means one benefits according to merit, rather than for irrelevant reasons such as race or height. Someone who produces value to the community receives value back from the community. That's not "the opposite of equality." The opposite of equality is when a black man who produces value is not allowed to receive any subsequent benefit on the grounds that all value belongs to those of a different race from him.

You've cited the fable of the ant and the grasshopper often enough to understand. The ant deserves to live because he did the work necessary to allow for his survival. The grasshopper deserves to die because he brought it on himself. The ant has greater merit than the grasshopper. But that's not inequality. Had the grasshopper done the work when he needed to, he would also survive, and deservedly so. It's not a case of discrimination against grasshoppers.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Above all, we just had THREE justices appointed on the litmus of "The nominee must come from an aristocratic white family with oligarchy credentials and aromas of blackmail control.

Even if you reduce that to, "The nominee must be on the approved Federalist Society list," it still requires much Rchutzpah for Republicans to clutch their pearls over any preconceived subset from which Biden chooses a nominee. More so to assert that he is doing so at the behest of "the radical left," and that that is self-evidently bad, whereas cramming the court with young right-wing ideologues is a good thing.

Biden will pick a black woman who is also an exemplarily qualified judge. The complaint from Tuck-yo Rose and his ilk is not that Biden will elevate a less qualified candidate to the position just because she's black. It's essentially that he's narrowed down the field of eminently qualified candidates ahead of time. Employment discrimination. Well, unless previous Republican (or Democratic for that matter) presidents have always considered every single qualified candidate and made an objective hiring decision without regard to politics, then ... well, the only way to end that sentence is with profanity, and I already did that once today.

David Brin said...

Again. Three levels:
- 1) Inequality of baseline opportunity to reach adulthood with a fully myelinated brain, low fear levels and high education levels, ready and confident to compete without handicaps of baseless prejudice...

- 2) Either (a) Inequality or (b) artificially mandated equality of outcomes imposed upon the competitive arenas, preventing the benefits of flat-fair, competition. (Mandated outcomes)

- 3) Inequality at the top, as happened in 99% of human societies as those with property and power imposed cheater rules that ensured their sons would always win/

Locum and his cult want three of these: #1, #2a and #3. They know all that is stupid, historically repudiated and flat-out evil... so they accuse US of those things. Bah.

In fact, there ARE some lefties (a few) who prescribe things like #2b. But not the vast majority of liberals, who are today's ONLY defenders of Adam Smith and the real Tea Party.

ent, on the other hand, will refuse to bet real wager stakes whether the events he's talking about are anything of statistical import other than symbol fetishisms.

David Brin said...

In case I wasn't clear. Healthy liberalism opposes all four of those warpings of Adam Smithian creative flat-fair competitive arenas.

Yes, on occasion things like Affirmative action seem a bit like 2b. We need to be wary and demand they be as temporary as possible. Fortunately, that seems to happen. But short term, Affirmative Action is necessary to fix the worst of the four... which is #1.

Stop... wasting... talent.

Slim Moldie said...

Dr. Brin:

RE the blog topic. I believe wagers are most effective between friends. Which means I’d imagine a direct, confrontational political wagers approach would be less effective (in giving a person and opportunity to change their mind) than a let's do this like degenerate gamblers from a small town in Texas drinking buddy approach. If I were to pick a buddy I disagree with politically and want to discuss race, wealth, inequity? How about setting a line and making some prop bets on a high school football game between a public school with lower income kids where the coach makes a couple grand, and a suburban school where the booster club pays the coach 6 figures on top, of that couple grand. And you get your buddy to bet on the dog. If I want to argue about abortion. I don’t know, make it weird. Place a bet on how many packs of diapers get stolen every month at your local Walmart.


How can US Meritocracy possibly be DEAD when you have Clarence Thomas standing over your corner of the ring?

BTW for some reason, your post makes me think of Neil Peart's mindset when he was writing they lyrics to “The Trees” when he was 26 years old.

Alfred Differ said...

Merit and Affirmative Action.

I know some are triggered over Biden's statement about limiting his choices. I'm generally favorable to merit choices and suspicious of affirmative action. I get the need to right past wrongs and tolerate reasonable attempts to do so, but some of what I see from people demanding merit is (in my not so humble opinion) just veiled racism.

When it comes to judicial merit, I don't think we can quantify it all that well. We know when certain people do NOT belong on the bench and have a feel for who should be, but if we select among all the ones who are good at it and should be there we will probably have to engage in a bit of scientism or bogus statistics to distinguish between then.

I used to teach. I told my students that the typical midterm and final I gave wound up with an average score somewhere around 55% of the points. I looked at standard deviations off that average and assigned grades accordingly. I had to warn them of this because taking a test like that is often a brutal experience for students expecting averages around 75%. They always asked why and I had to tell them it was so I could differentiate between A's and B's fairly. It should never be the case that the letter grade point difference is in the statistical noise of my grading skill. They should NEVER have to argue that getting one more point from me would turn one letter grade into another since I might assign numeric scores with an element of randomness. For ME it worked. For them it was brutal.

So… with judicial candidates I suspect there ISN'T a good way to distinguish between the best at the top of the sample. As long as one is picking from the top, it doesn't really matter who gets picked because merit is being used fairly. Well… it wouldn't matter except when historical trends show that white guys get picked unusually often. No matter the social groupings we treat as valid, we can look at the top candidates and pick any of them, right? Shouldn't it work out statistically fair then? If it isn't, then we are are NOT choosing on merit.

I'm not bothered by Biden's statement. If he wants to pick someone good, that's good enough for me. Obviously there is an affirmative action angle here, but it's not be enforced by coercive law. It's just the POTUS doing his job. If she's good enough to be at the top of the sample, good enough.

Der Oger said...

RE: Cassandra Project: Feels like an early form of psycho-history. What a shame they closed it down. It might well be possible that they closed it down because of it's effectiveness ... or sheer interdepartmental spite. The Defense Ministry is a snakepit, so I've been told, and the job of running it includes an ejection seat.

What score would Maus get in the US?

Would an overall analysis put you into the green, yellow or red zone? (Maybe they did exactly that ...)

Also reminds me of Thrawn, that Star Wars Extended Universe Imperial Grand Admiral who studied the art of a species to analyze their psychological makeup ... to defeat them.

Robert said...

Locum, the "Freedom Convoy" in Canada suggests that the discontent is not limited to the American heartland.

Given the number of MAGA hats and Trump flags in the convoy, as well as the credentials of the people organizing it, it's imported trouble rather than home-grown. With a large amount of foreign funding, too.

Most entertainment media in Canada is American. A huge chunk of our news is controlled by American companies. It is unsurprising that we pick up American attitudes. Our politics tends to follow American trends, lagging about a decade. Our rural racists fly Confederate flags. Our internet racists forward screeds about immigrants, although they sometimes miss a "Mexican" and don't change it. Our anti-public-education activists use American talking points (totally missing that our school year is longer than your's, and our school days are different). Etc etc.

Getting back to the convoy, 80% of our population is fully vaccinated (that's population, not eligible recipients). The convoy doesn't have much support, just as the anti-mask protestors hassling restaurant patio patrons last year didn't have much support. But it's noisy and in-your-face, and Canadians generally don't get noisy and in-your-face back at people — especially when they look unhinged. We tend to avoid counter-protests, especially when confronting protestors means going face-to-face with an un-masked, unvaccinated yelling guy.

Treebeard said...

@Robert, I watched a little of a livestream of the protest in Ottawa; I saw a lot of Canadian flags, 2 or 3 American flags but no MAGA stuff. Looked pretty homegrown to me. Are you sure you aren't just parroting Big Media propaganda? This protest seems to be part of a pattern, repeating in many countries, complete with an elite that responds by trying to ignore them, calling them names and blaming anything but themselves. That response of course has a lot to do with why the pattern keeps repeating. Technocratic feudalism just ain’t that popular with the commoners, it seems.

reason said...

yes and of course there is the blatant hypocrisy of the other side. But there is another point. The Supreme Court is a team supposed to judge the merit of complicated cases as agents of the entire electorate. Diversity (as it is also in the management of large firms) is positive in that in enables different perspectives to be available to the team making the decision. Even if there was a league table of judges there still might be that the best individual may not be best enhancement of the team.

(Of course this is all moot given the complete and hopeless politicization of the supreme court, which has become a joke. And the supreme court is only so important because the US legislature has become completely dysfunctional. I'm only commenting on the merits of the issue in principle not arguing that it makes much practical difference.)

gerold said...

It's amazing to see MAGA-trumpy fellow travelers in other countries like Canada and Germany. Apparently the cult of the strongman strikes a chord among certain kinds of people everywhere. It seems if children are beaten and abused they can develop authoritarian personality disorder, driving them to seek out an abusive father figure who can protect them from aliens or whatever.

The whole thing is so preposterous they need to have a high tolerance for lies. No idiotic nonsense is too noxious to be swallowed. But as DB noted, demographics and reality are stacked against them. We just need to get through the next decade or so before they dodder off into oblivion.

David Brin said...

Treebeard, you jest, surely. There are far more commonalities between Canada and US than differences, including their own "red" belt which... like ours... is farm more steeped in turpitudes and craziness.

duncan cairncross said...

Re the MAGA exports

Here in NZ we have our share of anti vaxx loonies - and yes they use American MAGA "stuff" - mostly made in China

scidata said...

Re: 'Red' Canada

No real Canadian, of any stripe, would desecrate a statue of Terry Fox. Similarly, I'm sure the US gov't has the DNA results of the excrement that was wiped on the walls of the capitol during the 'tourist' visit. Symbolism is one of those spears that can be quickly turned around on its wielder.

David Brin said...

I demur Duncan. While China likely finances the agitprop and does the coding, I bet a majority is Kremlin basement _ MAGA teams to get the culture right.

duncan cairncross said...

MAGA junk really is international!

Designed in Moscow, ordered in the USA, Made in China - and then shipped to loonies all over the world

Alfred Differ said...


That is a fair point. I saw the same thing considered in hiring new faculty. Merit wasn't everything. A functioning team made for a better department suggesting the potential to hire 'near best' made sense.

Of course, some schools had a different understanding of what 'functioning team' meant, but the point still stands. I had better creds as a teacher than a researcher (because my research creds weren't established early), so a teaching school was more likely to have a faculty that wanted me. I had some potential on the research side, but I would have had to demonstrate that the usual way that assistant profs do. [I wound up doing none of that, but that's a different story.]

So... that implies we should be asking ourselves who would be a good fit with the remaining 8 on the court. Who would improve on Breyer and work with the team?

David Brin said...

Keep at it guys.



Robert said...

I demur Duncan. While China likely finances the agitprop and does the coding, I bet a majority is Kremlin basement _ MAGA teams to get the culture right.

I suspect he meant "Made in China", as in that's the label you'd find on it.

So like your iPhone — made in China, even if designed elsewhere.