Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Attention henchmen! Voting machines and other flawed conspiracies

After some introduction, my remarks this time will swerve specifically toward a special set of individuals out there called "henchmen." But the rest of you may find it interesting. 

Will the next U.S. election be stolen?  And if it is... can the theft be reversed?

Given the abysmal reputation that President George W. Bush earned -- even among conservatives -- there is no doubt that most Americans would send a warning back in time, to prevent the theft of the election of 2000, if only they could. 

Another nail-biter election will be upon us in a week. The contest is not so much left vs. right, or Democrats vs Republicans, or even Red America vs. Blue America in Phase 3 of the U.S. Civil War. It is, rather, a crucial stage in the latest oligarchic putsch to reverse a 250 year experiment. And possibly a return to the way of life known by 99% of human societies.

What will happen if the outcome teeters close, as it did in 2000?  Can we expect sudden, surprising shifts in vote counts from crucial precincts, as happened in that fateful year? Shifts that coincidentally always err in one direction? Or weird anomalies from the early-voting tallies?  Or from absentee ballots?

Of course we can.  Other writers have analyzed the potential for fraud that has been building for years, whether through voter roll purging, vote suppression or direct shenanigens by the companies who own and operate most of the nation's electronic voting machines.  I urge you to get educated; Look at reports by an NSA analyst and others about these incredibly brazen campaigns to outright cheat the process we rely upon as citizens and heirs of the Founders, who counted on us to carry forward their Great Experiment. 

== The blatant examples are one-sided ==

I'll offer just one detail here, though it screams the travesty.  In most blue states (e.g. California) the voting machines are either fed a hand-marked paper ballot to read, or else they provide a printed receipt that the voter can inspect and drop into a separate box. Either way, all votes made in that precinct can be audited.  No matter how many back doors and cheats might be built secretly into the machines or programs, no one will dare pull a major electronic switcheroo, if enough precincts will be randomly hand-counted and audited.

The same is not true in many red states, where GOP-run legislatures gave voting machine contracts to a trio of companies alll of whom have strong Republican Party connections. (The address of one of those companies?  ES&S: 11208 John Galt Blvd. Omaha, NE   I kid you not.  John Galt Blvd.)

Moreover, in most red states that use electronic voting, the process does not involve a separate box of auditable paper ballots. No way for anyone to catch a glitch or falsified result.  Now why... why would they do that? Why would anyone do that, except in deliberate furtherance of fraud?

This potential theft will be exacerbated by the fact that news organizations and polling firms are cutting down on exit polls, this year.  Exit polling has proved to be a major deterrent to cheating, because of its high degree of accuracy.  In precincts that are neither exit-polled nor auditable by paper receipts anything -- including skullduggery and cheating -- can happen.  And many folks expect that cheating will happen... say in Virginia or Florida... if the election is tight.

Now, at a macro level, this says an awful lot about the deep and growing difference in philosophy and psychology in Blue viz Red America. An attitude of win-at-any-cost prevails as a way of life in one realm, while the other moves deliberately in the opposite direction, toward accountability and adult behavior.  Want backup for that assertion?  Only in blue states have citizen revolts ended the foul practice of gerrymandering, returning a meaningful choice to voters.  In California, for example, districts are now compact, reasonable, and are much more competitive, giving citizens some real leverage, for a change. Even if you are a republican living in a largely democratic district, as the Berman-Sherman run-off shows, you now have a chance to be heard and heeded, as never before, because gerrymandering, a blatant crime, is gone in California.

No red state has done this.  The picture is complete; and I will say it even more starkly, below.

But first... I must now stop talking to the majority of you and address the bulk of message to a very small subset. (The rest of you are welcome to listen in! This involves you too.)

== Henchmen, pay attention ==

* There is an old saying. 

When you're playing poker, if it's not immediately evident who the patsy is...

...the patsy is you.*

I have something to say to a very special audience.  Those of you out there who are actually involved in endeavors to game or cheat the electoral process.

Yes, I am talking to you guys -- the henchmen (because that really is the word) of those conniving Blofeld types who plan to manipulate voting machine results, or who are purging voter rolls or arranging for "accidental" losses of ballots or biased disqualifications or any of the other shenanigens at issue here.

You know that we know it's going on. And despite that, you've already decided on your path. Perhaps you've let Roger Ailes convince you that your fellow citizens cannot be trusted with a decision this vital. Or that we have a muslim, commie, satanist-usurper in the White House and you are cheating for the nation's good. Or else you are being very well paid! Or you're being blackmailed. Or some combination of the above. You know that, in this day and age, it is vital to keep conspiracies small, but have you ever sat down and thought about why?

(Elsewhere I've made clear I'm an equal opportunity skeptic. I opposed the USSR's evil empire and frequently inveigh against some of the idolatries and stupidities we sometimes see from the extreme left, such as "Loose Change" conspiracies about the tragedy of 9/11. Stupidities so awful that across any year they add up to a whole day's worth of the spew we get from Fox. Yes, that bad.)

I discuss the difficult situation of henchmen in both my novel EARTH and in my nonfiction book The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom?  For in this modern era, with cameras and recording devices getting ever smaller, the chances that you'll get caught with firm evidence showing you committing illegal acts will grow with every passing day.

Indeed, if you have discussed details in meetings with co-conspirators, you had better assume the other fellow was recording you, and stashing the record somewhere, in case he ever needs it.  To blackmail you.  Or to offer in a plea bargain.

Moreover, if you have not already done this -- recorded your compatriots in secret, in case you will ever need leverage -- then you have proved you are the patsy, the stupid one, the pawn who will be sacrificed, if things ever fall apart.

This lesson applies to all conspiracies, not just to present efforts aimed at stealing the U.S. elections.  If you are a henchman, but do not want to be sacrificed like the hundreds who die for the villain in every Bond film, then you had better prepare a little blackmail of your own.

== The henchman's dilemma ==

If you are going to play, you really must read up. Be knowledgeable, an intellectual henchman. Because you're doomed otherwise.  Read about positive sum versus zero sum games.  And especially the type that fascinates scientists today, called "Prisoner's Dilemma." To save time, do a first-cursory wiki before coming back here.  Go ahead, I'll wait. Understand what it means! It applies to you.

You are in a prisoner's dilemma with other members of the conspiracy. So long as the cabal stays very small and is richly motivated, there's a chance that everyone will hold together. But consider... what if someone breaks?

Suppose some news reporter, or FBI agent, or unhappy spouse or younger brother, gets wind of the conspiracy well enough to start bugging the meetings?  Or to threaten one of your comrades and get him to turn states' evidence?  Or someone decides they are sick of being blackmailed that that it's time to be a man. Or suppose there's a counter-offer on the table that's hard to refuse?  (I'll talk about just such an offer, in a bit!)

What's to stop one of your colleagues from blabbing? Consider the tradeoffs.

Whoever blabs first will get:

-  Amnesty or a pardon.  Or else (at worst) a wrist slap.

-  A big fat book deal.

-  Appearances on a hundred talk shows.

-  A top "security" job some California tech billionaire who hates Roger Ailes.

- A new identity, if you want one.  (It won't be needed.)

- Admiration & adoration from grateful citizens. Positive mention in history books.

-  To be on the inevitable winning side.

All the other members of the Cabal will go to prison. For conniving to steal elections, they will be reviled and their names cursed, not only in this generation, but in tones now used for John Wilkes Booth and Benedict Arnold.  Some will simply die, as the top guys cover their tracks.

Oh, yes, some of the top folks may have insulated themselves.  They are the ones who have already recorded you making incriminating statements and actions, but have been careful, themselves. They already have contingency plans and know who the patsies are, who will be tossed to the wolves if anything goes wrong. Be assured, you are one of them.

In fact, I believe these top fellows are wrong about their own insulated safety, this time. Transparency is likely to skewer them like bugs, when the light starts shining. But that's a future thing, driven by coming technologies. I admit that, in past times, Blofeld often got away.

He did so by sacrificing pawns. And that's your role in Plan B. Furthermore consider this. The very best way to sacrifice a pawn is to make sure that the pawn both takes the blame and is dead, so he can't squeal. What? You think they wouldn't do that to you? Gosh, there's one born every minute.

== Happy with the position you are in? ==

Oh, but if I have planted uncomfortable thoughts, you can still shrug it all off.

 "Brin wants me to be the squealer.  He's trying to talk me into being a whistle blower, so he can help that Blue America filled with scientists and intellectuals and city folks and evil muslim-satanic-commie presidents!"

Go ahead and rationalize all you want.  But the fundamentals of what I've said here apply, no matter who is saying it, and you know that's true.  They apply to all conspiracies. And yes even to good ones! Those that are working against tyranny.

Well, except for the part about book deals and talk shows and being a hero and getting to party with starlets and the rest. That will only happen if you blow the whistle on nasty stuff. And the public will call your cabal of vote stealers nasty. Sooner or later, even a century from now, they will hate you.

Oh, there's one more thing.  I know some of those tech billionaires.  And take my word for it - they will match whatever you are currently getting from the conspirators!  If you spill the beans convincingly on a nasty cabal that is stealing elections -- or anything similar -- you will be paid at least as much as the Blofelds are now paying you to help them cheat. Double... triple! And Blofeld can't offer you the book deal, talk shows or starlets.

In fact, I am letting a cat out of the bag. (I have permission to say this much.) If we see a repeat of 2000, with an election -- even a local Congressional race -- stolen by weird electoral veers in suspicious precincts that stink to high heaven, those billionaires will go public with their offer! Millions in exchange for proof that is iron-clad and solid. 

Now look at your co-henchmen in the conspiracy. Consider that they have already recorded you. They have such proof, stocked and hidden away. While you twiddled your thumbs. They are positioned to take advantage of such offers, while you are not. And only the first one to blab will get the bonanza.

I'd get busy, if I were you.

== Other ways of stealing the election ==

Enough talking to henchmen. Now back to you regular readers.  

Of course, the problem is about more than electoral cheating. This putsch is being waged across a broad front. By far the biggest part is the tsunami of money, the insane degree to which our democracy is being bought.  The very same Supreme Court that gave us George W. Bush and the plummet of America that followed, has opened the floodgates of private cash -- and even secret foreign lucre -- to inundate our electoral process.

Who bought your candidate? See the top corporate donors for each candidate for the house and senate... and remember, we don't get any of this info re the real graft... the super-PACS. Are you happy with this?

There are some incredibly smart and wise suggestions for how we could get most of the money out of politics. (Currently, legislators spend HALF of their time fund-raising.  Think about that.) Professor Lawrence Lessig, in particular, has a set of well-backed changes that are deliberately NOT socialistic, but that would still level the playing field and make politics about competing fairly for our votes, again. Ah, but can it happen during Civil War Part III?

Not only are corporations people, but the tradition of One-Person-One-Vote will be replaced by Wallstreet-style "corporate democracy" in which votes are tallied according to the number of shares that you own.

Make no mistake, that is the objective.  We have seen that they cannot claim competence at war... or at peace... or at fiscal management... or science.  Every "social" issue from abortion to religion to flag waving... all of those things are secondary, mere ways to marshall emotion from Red America. The way slave-owners marshaled a million poor whites to march and die for the oligarchs' privileges, during the first phase of the American Civil War.

== The Chief Result: an America that no longer negotiates ==

The utter demise of the species "moderate republican" is best illustrated in this fantastic graphic from the XKCD online series. It demonstrates the blatantly obvious -- how the GOP has become the most tightly disciplined and partisan political force in US history, marshalled and commanded by one man... Roger Ailes... at the behest of several petro-princes and foreign billionaires.

== What can the rest of us do? ==

Send emails to the news networks and polling firms, demanding that they beef up exit polling this year, instead of letting it decline.

Volunteer to do poll watching and/or get-out-the-vote.  And tell your friends who despise both major parties to go have a look at Gary Johnson.

Write about this online and maybe viral this posting you are reading now.

Start talking to others about the notion of a "henchman's prize" to accomplish much the same good work that is being done by whistle blower laws.

Tell especially any henchmen you know! Or anyone who might know a henchman. They need to read this. To think about it. Hard.

Talk about how angry you will be, if 2000 is repeated, and how vigorously you will resist, if the election is stolen.  And -- if it is -- come back here.  I'll have suggestions.


Stefan Jones said...

I know it's hard to believe, but The Onion started out as a humorous newspaper full of made-up satirical stuff!

Nation Suddenly Realizes This Just Going To Be A Thing That Happens From Now On

Alfred Differ said...

David: There is one aspect of our CA elections that doesn't appear to be vulnerable to an audit by officials, but is open to a sousveillance approach. When we go into the polls in a few days we will self-identify and not be asked for ID's. It is quite possible for someone else to beat us to the polling place and vote in our names. This won't get discovered until we show up and note that the books say we've already voted. If the fraudsters are moderately careful to pick people who aren't likely to vote, they could cast a number of illegal ballots and get away with most of them.

Imagine a conspiracy scenario. Someone really wants a particular candidate elected for their own personal reasons. Maybe they have blackmail material on them. If they can raise a bit of money they can pay people to try to cast an illegal ballot. Their money would be better spent if they bought the voter registration list in advance and did a bit of research on us. This can be done. The people who get hired to vote would be told to show up early, act as though they are in a bit of a hurry to get to work, and if there are any issues with the name assigned to them they would leave saying they will return later.

I have acquaintances on the GOP side who argue that this is happening in certain small state offices where a few people can make a difference. To back up their concerns they offer to volunteer at polling stations and observers and poll workers and then later to observe the counting process regarding mail-in and provisional ballots, so they aren't 'just' complaining because they are being emotionally driven by FOX commentators. One told me to pay attention on Tuesday for the voter list that gets posted on the wall. Some people read those lists and THEN got state their name to the poll worker with the book. I'll be doing that.

I've been thinking about this stuff in terms of your transparency book and wondering if it is an opportunity for ubiquitous cameras. I don't know what CA state law says about me carring video equipment into my polling station, but recordings of actual events might shine the light needed to either prove the concerns my friends have, show them to be over-blown, or cause the state officials to pay enough attention to reduce the fraud risks. No matter what, it seems like the next step we should be taking after putting an end to gerrymandering.

David Brin said...

Stefan, that one is really dry and wry.

Alfred, we should simply ink-dye the index fingers, the way they do it in the developing world.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. The ink dye would stop me from voting twice at the polling stations, but I could probably still manage it mail-in ballots. 8)

Still... I like the ink notion. I wear the stickers we get at the polls saying we voted, but they only last a day. I'd wear the ink for longer and be proud of it.

Paul451 said...

This regional contest you are running for "Leader of the Free World" would apparently be somewhat more lopsided if the rest of us had the vote:

David Brin said...

unbelievable: I thought that at least Romney was a good Mormon...

Jay Gischer said...

I'm fine with ink-dying. But I think that it would be really, really hard to tip any election via voter impersonation fraud. You'd probably have to limit each agent to one appearance per polling place. That's just not that many votes. Hiring lots of agents leaves you very, very exposed.

Access to the rolls beforehand might give you a good idea of who's going to show up and who's not, but it isn't a guarantee.

Vote by mail is a bit harder. But how does one get access to the ballot, which is mailed to you by name, although that is removed from the ballot that is returned. But it can be audited, and you sign the darn thing.

I think it's very hard for voter impersonation fraud to have any statistically significant effect.

I think that certain of the henchmen have been promoting it as a smokescreen and motivation for poorly-written voter ID laws that have the effect of reducing the ability of Democratic constituencies to vote.

Anonymous said...

In Canada we are still using paper ballots marked with pencils for our federal elections. Not that our system is perfect, but it at least cuts out issues with voting machines being hacked, or hanging chads, or whatever else. Good luck to the Democrats.

Acacia H. said...

While this is rap (for the most part), it's rather amusing and interesting to listen to (and watch): Hayek vs. Keyes, Round 2.

Rob H.

Over50Cycling said...

As to the mail ballot mentioned above. Those can really impact a small local election in urban areas. How much money do you think it would take to have someone on welfare vote the way you ask them to? $10, $20, $50? In local elections often the total vote count is in the low thousands and an additional 500 votes guaranteed makes for an easy victory.

Anonymous said...

I find it humorous that you still think there is a difference between the two candidates. Talk about a low info voter.

Anonymous said...

I find it humorous that you still think there is a difference between the two candidates. Talk about a low info voter.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Here is a very intelligent reaction to Obama and Romney from a 4-year-old resident of a swing state that is constantly bombarded with obnoxious advertising everywhere.

Anonymous said...

So now "viral" is a verb, too? BTW, your given span at the beginning, 2011-2009 is a negative two years.

David Brin said...

No question. Our allies should all get a 15% vote for President of the US and every person on Earth should get a 1% vote. Given what they have at stake. And right now it'd be enough to get us past the psychosis..

Stefan Jones said...

I mailed in my Oregon ballot this morning. I wish that this would magically exempt me from getting political mailings or seeing political advertisements on TV.
* * *
There is one upside to Disney's marketing machine getting its claws into the poor abused Star Wars franchise: The possibility that Jar-Jar Binks' image will -- like other Disney characters -- appear as a character stamped onto toddler's training pants. ("No! Meesa wet and stinky!")

Dave Rickey said...

Honestly, I'm not worried about this election. Although the corporate wing would do just about anything to see Romney in office (usual short-term focus on the windfall tax benefits they'd get to grab), they don't have the foot soldiers to make it happen.

The religious playing for all the marbles, not the short term, and I don't think they trust Romney enough. He's not one of their own, and they can't have any confidence that he'd follow through on any promises made to them.

We'll see a dress rehearsal at the tactical level, seeing how much they can get away with in isolated pockets, and a continuation of their super-gerrymandering of state legislatures. But I don't think they're prepared to move together, and as a result they won't move at all.

matthew said...

I think ask the shouting about "skewed" polls is preemptive cover for massive electronic fraud by the republicans. When romney wins in a landslide, the righty mouthpieces will say, "See, we told you that Nate Silver was wrong on his turnout numbers."
David: I hope that your tech-loving billionaire friends have good security. Offering a henchman prize after the election is stolen could be very very dangerous.

Tony Fisk said...

Some here might think it appropriate, but my mind is boggling at the thought of small, green Yoda on toddler's training pants ("Poo! Or poo not! There is no 'dry'.").

(Have already seen Vader commenting that the Force is strong with this one!)

Lorraine said...

Gerrymandering has become a case study in fractal geometry.

Jonathan Stover said...

Great piece. One thing -- there's a typo near the beginning ("Name one unambiguous metric of US national health that improved across the span of 2011-2009 GOP rule" -- I assume that's supposed to be "2001-2009 GOP rule".

Tacitus said...

Lets get Contrary.

No arguments with your enthusiasm for stamping out voter fraud, although you must admit the D side has a bit of a backstory. One of their bases is large urban political machines. In some places it is still ok to issue "walking around money". In theory to pay cab fare, but it would be so very easy to just pay voters.
Other ancient quirks still exist. In Minnesota one registered voter may "vouch" for the bona fides of up to 15 others without paperwork. It used to be 30. Sure, if caught doing so fraudulently it is a felony, but almost impossible to prosecute.
And the opportunities for fraud in absentee ballots, and for paper ballots to be mishandled are both to be noted.

None of this matters of course in deep red or deep blue states. Only in the close contests.

While I find little to quibble about regards content, the tone of the post sounds a little like, like an angry child taking a deep breath preparatory to a tantrum.

The election is close. Either side could win it.

If the Democrats do less well than (some) polls suggest I would think fraud less likely than the fact that polls are faulty.

Some are flawed by partisan discussion of any numbers should exclude the partisan mix of the sample. Some are flawed by sample size or by simple incompetence.

But I propose that there is a systemic under count of conservatives. My goodness, we are 40% of the population. In swing state Wisconsin my phone rings several times a day with various political callers. I refuse them all. I would think that my progressive friends would be eager to talk up their currently flagging candidate. My silence - remember my moniker means quiet - along with those of similar mind, might skew the polls a few critical percentages.

I do hope that you will do as I have after elections that went "the other way"...wish the new Admin well and become a member of the Loyal Opposition.

Loyally yours
the flawed not fraud


Ian said...

Latest polling looks very favorable for Obama and there's not much time for Romney to catch up.

Assuming Obama wins, there should be some interesting rationalizations from those claiming massive fraud by Republicans.

Tacitus said...

My sentiments regarding acceptance of the result of course apply to either outcome.

Anybody know if walking money is still used in Philly? In the 08 primary cycle both Obama and H.Clinton declined to supply the moolah but as to current status I am unclear.


David Brin said...

Tacitus, the consistency of gerrymanders, non-auditable voting machines and voter suppression efforts in Red states constitutes one thing. Systematic cheating.

The elimination of gerrymandering in many blue states and auditabl voting and transparency in blue states suggests that cheating, if it happens, is small conspiracies, not systematic, across the board and cultural.

Tacitus said...

Ah, so there is no culture of Cook County politics? Silly me.

I think it is getting harder to cheat than in times past, and it is only in cases that are razor close that these considerations come into play.


Acacia H. said...

The cynic in me suspects that if Romney won but it was discovered that the Diebold machines were used to "cheat" that an "investigation" would show that computer hacking was responsible with no idea of where the hacking originated. The final decision would go to the Supreme Court which would rule there was no way of truly knowing which way the vote went, and uphold the Romney Administration with a 5-4 split (unless a Supreme was replaced on the liberal side in the meantime, in which case it would be a 6-3 split).

Rob H.

Sports-Inside said...

superb nice blog

Ian said...

There's a shibboleth - primarily but not exclusively found on the political right - that society is a couple of meals away from anarchy.

We're told that post-Katrina New Orleans is an example of what the US and indeed the world would look like after a major disaster.

This is sometimes linked to veiled racist theories about how "the urban types:, once they've picked the bones of the cities clean will start in on the small towns and rural areas.

Hurricane Sandy just provided a field test for that theory. so far, it's failed spectacularly.

David Brin said...

Wow... Chris Christie has just made himself the candidate of the GOP's attempted revival (in so many ways) in 2016. He thus has 4 years to do a mitosis into a regular-sized male candidate Christopher (for president and a smaller side (double x) named Christie for VP!. Fully vetted! The two will add up in mass to the current CC.

But that's just being immature. Seriously. If the GOP were to have any future... but first, it must wake up from delirium. And that will take a trouncing.

Tacitus, Cook County is bad, but it is an anecdote. It is local. Show me the crime that spans all blue America systematically. Show me one. I'll name TEN that span ALL of Red Amer.

Paul451 said...

Other Paul,
"How much money do you think it would take to have someone on welfare vote the way you ask them to? $10, $20, $50? In local elections often the total vote count is in the low thousands and an additional 500 votes guaranteed makes for an easy victory."

And how much money would it take for one, or two, or ten of those 500 welfare recipients you recruited, to nark on the whole scheme to authorities and/or the media? No, the best way to buy votes is the same way politicians have always bought votes, promise selected interest groups very specific gifts from the public purse, "if I am elected". Best of all, it doesn't cost you any of your own money.

Real voter fraud is always the kind committed by people on the inside. From old fashioned ballot stuffing (speaking of Cook County) and gerrymandering, to modern variants of voter roll manipulation and machine- or count-rigging.

Jerry Emanuelson,
Re: The unhappy future voter.
There must be a whole generation of these kids whose idea of "parent" is someone continually filming them for material for Youtube.

[I don't have kids, but I can't imagine that my first reaction upon seeing my child crying would be to fire up my camera-phone.]

Paul451 said...

13 minutes well spent. Or 26. Or 39...

Tacitus said...

"Tacitus, Cook County is bad, but it is an anecdote. It is local. Show me the crime that spans all blue America systematically."

I will argue, on a future occasion, that the under funding of public employee pension and future health care costs would qualify for fraud on a grand scale. It is not simply bad investment strategy when said pension plans expect taxpayers as a whole to pony up.

There are some ugly numbers peeking out here and there.....

Another time.

I like Chris Christie too. It is a pity that you judge him adversely by his physical appearance. But I have to admit that I do too.


rewinn said...

The henchmen may not be bothering to be subtle anymore:
"Will "experimental" software patches affect the Ohio vote?"by Bob Fitrakis and Gerry Bello
October 31, 2012
Why did the Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted's office, in an end run around Ohio election law, have "experimental" software patches installed on vote counting tabulators in up to 39 Ohio counties?..."



I require no convincing that the systematic underfunding of pensions represents a slow fraud, but it's not on the part of the people who champion (however intermittently and fecklessly) the workers receiving those pensions.

sociotard said...

Evidently some of Sandy's target states are considering delaying the election. Why? E-voting. If they just had paper ballots, the way sensible states like Idaho and Oregon do, they wouldn't have this problem.

LarryHart said...


There's a shibboleth - primarily but not exclusively found on the political right - that society is a couple of meals away from anarchy.
Hurricane Sandy just provided a field test for that theory. so far, it's failed spectacularly.

Thom Hartmann says that liberals think human beings are generally good while conservatives think human beings are generally bad (and therefore must be governed by elites).

I'd modify that a bit and say that I think human beings are generally good, but as they become hungrier, colder, more scared, and more desperate, they are more likely to take anti-social actions they would not otherwise consider.

I think liberals and conservatives both kinda/sorta agree with that sentiment, but come to separate conclusions.

I agree with a wealthy German guest on Thom Hartmann's show who said about high taxes, "I don't want to be a rich man in a poor country." Even poor people generally respect law and property as long as the law seems fair and they themselves are not TOO hungry, cold, scared, and desperate. So, as a liberal, I think it makes sense for society to supply a certain floor to keep people from becoming an angry mob circa 1789 Paris.

Whereas it seems the conservative approaceh is to use police and military forces to protect the "rich men in a poor country" FROM the hungry, cold, scared, desperate mobs.

Stefan Jones said...

Well, all of my NYC area friends and relatives are accounted for, but of three siblings and my parents only one household has power. The story for NJ and Long Island friends and relatives is similar. An unholy mess.

Which is all leading up to:

NYC's Mayor Bloomberg has endorsed Obama on the same day that Bloomberg Businessweek put on its cover:

It's the Global Warming, Stupid

Will any other conservatives, or the business community, get on board?

LarryHart said...


As a lifelong Chicago-area resident, I understand the irony of asserting that the Republicans are now the party of election fraud. Nontheless, even the more recent Mayor Daley didn't have the dictatorial power his father had. This is not your father's (or grandfather's) Cook County.

From here, it seems that Waukeshau County (WI) has learned from the master.

Dr Brin is correct when he points out that Republican policy is to make voting harder, whereas Democratic policy is to make it easier. Each side may see partisan advantage in their own policy, but as an American who actually believes in democracy, I think that removing barriers to voting is an objective good, and that if doing so favors one party over the other, that's a lesson to be heeded, not an effect it is legitimate to suppress.

BeowulfShaffer said...

Re: Political bets and pundits putting their money were their mouth is.

LarryHart said...


I like Chris Christie too. It is a pity that you judge him adversely by his physical appearance. But I have to admit that I do too.

I haven't liked Chris Christie because he seemed emblamatic of the "bully" wing of the GOP--that semsibility that scores political points by being mean to people that his consituents don't like.

But I have to admit that Christie 2.0 (post-Sandy) seems to have shaken the Etch-A-Sketch.

Someone at The Nation magazine pointed out that "Sandy" is a nickname for "Cassandra", the Greek prophetess who was tragically destined to make correct predictions which no one listened to. Sounds like what's been happening with climate change.

Alfred Differ said...

The general accusation used for vote buying isn't the one where welfare recipients are picked up off the street. It is the one where union organizers tap their membership to vote more than once. Such voters aren't likely to sell-out the conspiricists because they face possible retaliation from other members who can be given detailed personal information about the informants. There is historical precedent for this. It doesn't take a great imagination to construct a similar conspiracy for the other side.

rewinn said...

"...the conservative approaceh is to use police and military forces to protect the "rich men in a poor country" FROM the hungry, cold, scared, desperate mobs."

IIRC the most serious outbreaks of violence during Katrina came from cops murdering unarmed civilians trying to cross a bridge to safety. Stories of chaos were mostly unsubstantiated but feed a narrative justifying vigilantism. See "Rumor to Fact in Tales of Post-Katrina Violence"

David Brin said...

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Senate Republicans applied pressure to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) in September, successfully persuading it to withdraw a report finding that lowering marginal tax rates for the wealthiest Americans had no effect on economic growth or job creation.

"The pressure applied to the research service comes amid a broader Republican effort to raise questions about research and statistics that were once trusted as nonpartisan and apolitical," the Times reported. Democrats in Congress, however, have resurfaced the report and published it in full. It can be read below.

Republicans told the Times they had issues with the tone, wording and scope of the report, but they clearly objected most strongly to its findings, which undermine the governing fiscal philosophy of the party, that tax cuts for the wealthy will spur growth and benefit everybody.

rewinn said...

Doesn't it seem that fact-checking politicians is now normal, expected and ENJOYED?
As recently as the last election, and it was hard to compare claims to the truth in a timely manner; today's it can be done ALMOST in real time. It is popular too!

Now, this hasn't stopped Romney from being the lyingest candidate in my lifetime. (Holy cow, he makes Nixon look honest!) But Romney is probably going to lose Ohio if only because of his lies about Jeep.
Even if those mysterious software patches award Ohio to Romney, fact-checking is now normalized AND ENJOYED, and that's got to be a positive development.

Image a world in which all politicians ... and indeed all authorities ... endured fact-checking as a matter of course.

There would, of course, have to be meta-fact checkers on the fact checkers.....



Once you have voted, you may download an app that zaps any political ad playing near you. Just think what this would do for your personal peace ... and what it would do to increase voting rates!

David Brin said...

This from one of the tech-economics pundits I respect most, Mark Anderson:

"In my view, Obama and his team should have received a Nobel – not the Peace Prize, but the Economics award, for saving the world from a Depression much, much worse than that of the 1930s. Rather than criticize the incumbent for spending and debt, we should all be erecting monuments to the efforts of those who prevented a complete global meltdown at the hands of villains and fools. With over $600T in high-risk instruments floating around above the fray, this was almost certain to have been a cardiac arrest for the world. Trying to attribute lingering growth issues to Obama during the turnaround may be good politics, but it is inaccurate economic history.

"While Obama deserves full credit for this work, he gets a near-zero for the issue of banking regulatory control. To the degree that the bankers caused this debacle, they have managed to continue to use their lobbying muscle to avoid any serious regulation. Specifically, they have avoided the critically important reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act, so mistakenly rescinded by the Clinton administration, paving the way for the disasters of 2007.

"Those who claim that the Obama administration is either owned by, or beholden to, big banks, are probably right. The larger problem: they own everyone else, too – in both parties."

David Brin said...

Let me add that the Economist today endorsed Obama above all for one thing. "America's banking system is now completely healthy, a strong economic underpinning, while Europe's banks are a complete mess."

Frank Black said...

You sir are engaged the noble work that we desperately need more of these days. I salute you. I also wanted to let you know as soon as this crap economy gets better and I have more money to buy books again, I will be diving into yours.

Anonymous said...

So, if the Democrats do something that helps economic fraud and promotes instability (rescind Glass-Steagall) its just a mistake, but if the Republicans do it (lower the investment tax rates) it constitutes conspiracy... If Obama wins the election, it is a victory for democracy, but if Romney wins the election, it is conspiracy... Dr. Brin, your credibility is getting a bit thin... On the election side of this business, I know that I and many of my friends have joined the "Send Them All Home" party. We can no longer see much difference, if any, between those who hold office and those running to replace them. None of them are interested in representing the electorate, only in representing themselves. So, is it not possible that enough of us will vote agains ALL incumbents, no matter the party affiliation, just to clean house?

Sure, we'll put Romney in office this year, but we'll throw him out in four years. And we will continue to through them ALL out after one term until we can get some sanity in our representation.

Tim H. said...

Anonymous, the problem is when the fresh new congress-critters show up for work, there's helpful lobbyists, waiting to help them vote "correctly". Campaign finance reform would help, if it ever happens in a meaningful way, even the politicians we're stuck with now would be quite different if they weren't in thrall to enormous money, yes, even the republicans.

Acacia H. said...

None of them are sane any longer, Anon. And the problem is, you're going to recycle REPUBLICAN candidates until you find the one you like. Look at the xkcd graphic linked further up in this thread: the only Republicans left are "Right" and "Far Right" rather than Centrists. And they are embracing policies that will kill the Republican party as a whole.

The largest voting block is women, and Republicans are determined to enact policies that strip rights away from women - health rights, medication rights, equal pay rights, and if they could get away with it, voting rights. The largest GROWING voting block is immigration... and Republicans are rapidly against it, to the point that whenever a Republican stands up (Huntsman) and states "whoa guys, we NEED those immigrants!" they get voted out of office and replaced with more rapid anti-immigrant politicians. This is despite the fact immigrants drive the economy - an increasing number of entrepreneurial immigrants are going to Canada and other countries instead because it's harder to get into the U.S. and they meet anti-immigrant sentiments.

So. You're going to vote out everyone and try to find someone sane... and yet you're working against a tide of anti-immigrant anti-women voters who are giving you worse and worse candidates. The end result will become a regional gerrymandered party that has no real power while Democrats take control and eventually split into two larger parties, one of which will absorb most of what was left of the Republicans.

Better to just vote Democrat now, get candidates who, while not to your satisfaction, are still more likely to listen to the people... and work to reform the Democratic party from within.

Rob H.

Tacitus said...

Your invocation of "health rights and medication rights" fascinates me. It is the unquestioning expansion of "rights" that has brought us to this pass. Instead of making policy by what is best for all we are enshrining as legally actionable some unattainable ideal.
Do we even see any more a discussion of generic medication, or of the societal cost benefit analysis of various cancer screening strategies?
Make no mistake, as one who in a small way is part of this medical Disneyland we are creating I benefit from all this. But you stretch "rights" to cover entitlements.
And of course anyone who asks sensible questions (how many breasts removed needlessly for cancers that would not progress) is anti woman.
Health care will be reformed, probably in ways you will not in the end like, or it will bankrupt us. I see no middle path.
Remember that I am a conservative who would much prefer a spartan single payer plan with extras over and above either by a "Harley Street" private supplement or by other means. But we have to regard some things as extras, not as rights.


rewinn said...

"Do we even see any more a discussion of generic medication, or of the societal cost benefit analysis of various cancer screening strategies?"

Generic medication = limiting access to medicine = "Death Panels"!

Cancer screening = preventive care = Obamacare = socialism!

".... It is the unquestioning expansion of "rights" that has brought us to this pass...."

Surely you're referring to the right to use taxpayer money to ship jobs to China?.

Compared to Germany, a very healthy economy, our United States has a very very weak healthcare "right". Healthcare is good for the economy for the same reason oil charges are good for a car. Certainly there's a point after which more frequent oil changes don't help, but we are way short of that.

Tacitus said...

"Certainly there's a point after which more frequent oil changes don't help, but we are way short of that."

ReWinn I am not so sure.

For a look back at the topic of South Dakota, plus the state of modern health care. And other stuff...

Which Valley?

I promise, no crystal figurines but perhaps a smile in these tense times....


Acacia H. said...

Actually, Tacitus, I have a remarkably cynical view on one of the big no-nos of the Republican Party at this time: mandating that insurance companies provide free birth control to women. The Republican Party has taken this as a battle call, linking it to abortion and government overreach, when in fact it's a fairly simple method of reducing costs both for insurance companies and for society as a whole.

Consider for a moment the medical costs for an unintended pregnancy. Assume that the woman skimps on prenatal care because she cannot afford it... and manages to cut medical costs to a minimum for the pregnancy so she's only in the hospital for delivery. It still would cost thousands of dollars for delivery of a baby and initial checkup to ensure the baby is healthy. If she has insufficient insurance, then she has to pay for this... or the hospital has to absorb costs. And this is just the initial cost.

Now factor in complications to pregnancy - blood clots, preclampsia, problems with fetal development, accidental miscarriage (which under some "well-meaning" laws in the South would need to be proven an accident or the mother goes to jail as a murderer), and so on. Costs have gone up further.

Contrast this to the cost of birth control pills or patches (or of IUDs and other forms of birth control). A medication that costs maybe a couple hundred dollars a year. And yes, there are side effects to birth control, but not usually as severe as complications for pregnancy.

Now let's factor in the social benefits: fewer unwanted children, fewer abortions (estimates are that Obama's birth control policy would reduce abortions by 75%), and over time, reduced crime because we have fewer poor children and those children who do enter this world are often due to design and desire by the parents.

Why are Republicans so against this birth control policy when it has so many benefits? Not only does it reduce crime and lower a potential Democratic voting block in the future (reduced poor people), but it even results in a massive reduction in abortion, which they want to outlaw!

So yes, I do consider Republican policies about this to be anti-woman. And I state this as a moderate conservative. I've stated on more than one occasion my belief that Dr. Brin is going off the deep end on his own embracing of various conspiracy theories - the Voting Machine post being but the latest in such beliefs. In this way, Dr. Brin reflects one of his characters in "Existence" (the author who was initially helping the Aristocrat clade) from the other side of the mirror.

Getting back to whether these are "rights" or not? No. Actually they aren't. We have no rights outside of those written into the Constitution. And even those are ambiguous and can be handwaved away. So my wording is faulty. Say rather that these are sound policies that should not be thrown away and that would benefit society and women as a whole.

Rob H.

Tacitus said...

I think we mostly agree. Your last paragraph in particular is well said and very true.
I suppose in a cynical mood myself I might observe that blighted economic times have done most of the reduction in birthrate.
Your cost/benefit analysis regards prenatal and by extention early childhood care is correct. And I can honestly say that in 30 plus years of medicine I have yet to see a woman who was denied any reasonable care during pregnancy for financial reasons. Society, at least in somewhat enlightened upper midwestern states, has this figured out. The message to physicians, and lets not slight midwifes, is "do the right thing, we will work out the finances later". And most in my field would just do the right thing anyways. It feels right.
Now, a little help on the liability front would make this even more true.
Of course I can't speak for areas of the country that are less, or perhaps more, Uplifted.


Jumper said...

At present, health care is a government-controlled monopoly, a far cry from a free market, so anyone who agitates for a "free" market but upholds bans against practicing medicine without a license is, in my view, being a bit unanalytical.
In my state you cannot even buy a pair of glasses without paying for an MD to look at your eyes. Of course it's illegal for anyone to clean your teeth (but you) except in a licensed dentists' office. And drugs and prescription laws, of course.
BTW I accede to most of these laws, but I don't see any free market operating.

Tacitus said...

To anticipate criticism of my prior post I can of course recall pregnant women not getting needed care for reasons that "might" be amenable to government help. Substance abuse for instance, although with treatment programs and incarceration both getting considerations as options it is a touchy one. Mental health issues similarly can be a factor and it is difficult to mandate compliance in a society that places such a high priority on individual freedom.

For the non pregnant we come down largely in favor of allowing individuals to do damn fool things.

For this special case it gets tricksy.


Stefan Jones said...

I'd like to interrupt the political discussion to urge everyone to donate to the Red Cross:

The situation in New Jersey and New York is REALLY, REALLY BAD.

While transportation and power to the cities are coming on line fast, huge swathes of outlying suburbs and boroughs are in serious shape.

I AM DONATING $1,000.00 to the Red Cross in a few minutes. Can you candle $10, or $100?

Anonymous said...

"Send them all home" would severly undermine the effectiveness of lobying since lobying is based upon personal relationships. A lobyist will have much more sway over an 18 year incumbent than over an 18 month freshman. It would also undermine the power of committee chairs, who are very senior. It would also expose machine politics -- if we started seeing the same two candidates from each of the two major parties, would it not be obvious? It would also tend to open the electorate to more political parties -- if everyone is going to be new, why not try out a libertarian or a green?

Until we can get a popular constitutional congress going (not a state driven or federal driven one) and can add proper term limits (how about twelve years per chamber?), transparency (all conversations about the public's business must be recorded, transcribed and published on the internet -- skip the publish on the internet for legitimately classified discussions), taxation (you can't tax lack of commerce...), our voting method (throw out one-person-one-vote for a ranking system -- yes, mathematically, all voting systems are flawed, but ranking has the better trade-offs), and our budgets (except in time of DECLARED war, the federal budget cannot exceed either the previous certified receipts or next year's receipt projections, which ever is lower), I don't think we will get a handle on our representation any other way.

Acacia H. said...

Try telling the Tea Party freshmen that lobbyists are ineffectual against newcomers. There are proven statistics that show that a freshman congressman or congresswoman who fails to make effective contacts among lobbyists to build a financial base for reelection will often fail to achieve a second term. This has been shown time and time again. Trust me when I say lobbyists are armed with these statistics and reveal them to freshmen congressmen and congresswomen... which leaves these new politicians with a dilemma: try to go it alone with the statistical likelihood they'll be toppled in the primary or general election, or work with lobbyists to ensure they return for another term and then some.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Anonymous... bah! Glass-Steagel removal was a GOP proposal and bill. Clinton did not veto it and that was a shame, but it was a situation like Obama allowing the Bush tax cuts to go two more years, in 2010, a horse trading deal. GOP Congresses habitually hold national business hostage to get things they want.

You can try your one-term revers thing with congressfolk of either party. I ain’t risking letting the Bushites back in power. They harmed America to a staggering degree.

In fairness guys... all the XKCD graphic illustrates is the degree of party DISCIPLINE. Yes, we all know the GOP is also insane and corrupt. But the graphic only shows the utter lockstep obedience of their congressional membership. It does not deal with the corruption, or the insanity.

Tacitus. the revolution in medicine is coming. In five years you’ll unwarp a plate, smear patient blood on it, and get 100 bio-indicators that computer correlate with a vast range of markers and conditions.

Back to anon... we must get the cash out of politics. Yes, Democrats wallow in it too! But Among dems is a very very strong constituency for reform and many like the LEssig Proposals (look em up) that would cut the money flow by 95%

Anonymous said...

Your naming the economic nobel prize reminded me of an article I read about a month ago.

The source is a quite self-declared lefty-partisan one, but some quick fact-checking seems to confrm it.

I did not know that the Nobel economic prize was not a "true" Nobel prize, and was instead created as a vehicle to legitimize right wing economic theory... but it does sound quite typical, and suddenly explain many things that left me perplexed seeing the names of some that won that prize...

Geoffrey A. Landis said...

Alfred Differ worries about in-person voter fraud, that is, somebody showing up and claiming to be a different person.
The reason that this isn't a problem is that this is a felony that has to be done one vote at a time, has to be done by the criminal in person, and is very likely to be detected. Doing this would mean taking a very real risk of getting caught. Two or three fraudulent votes, sure, that's quite possible. Ten or twenty fraudulent votes-- well, maybe. Twenty thousand? You're gonna get caught. No question.
It's not the possibility of one or two fraudulent votes we need to worry about. It's the wholesale election fraud. If a voting machine can change its tally, and erase all evidence that it was done and all audit trails to check it... THAT''S frightening.

Hank Roberts said...

Got billionaires? Might be worth hiring expertise to check this claim:

rewinn said...

@Tacitus - thanks for the amusing link!

I suppose it's a data point showing that when we make health care a for-profit operation, it optimizes itself for profitability, not for health ;-)


Meanwhile, Oregon's GOP is doing election fraud the old-school way, having a temp worker change the ballots. Maybe this was just a rogue temp, maybe she can narc on higher-ups. Who knows? Either way, I'd really like to know how she got caught, and whether she's merely chaff obscuring a more organized and professional effort to mess with centralized vote tabulation servers.

Paul451 said...

Re: "Send them all home", and lobbyists.
If, however, freshmen congressmen knew they stood almost no chance of reelection, many wouldn't bother to run for a second term. That frees them from having to spend 75% of their time raising money for their campaign, which dramatically reduces the power of lobbyists.

[However, I consider all such "protest" votes to be nonsensical and any blind voting strategy to be self-destructive.]


Re: Johnny can't code, but Rahel can read.

OLPC has been trying an experiment in child learning. They have left tablet computers with a village in Ethiopia, still in the packaging and with no instructions, then checked the logs to see if and how the computers were used by children.

"I thought the kids would play with the boxes. Within four minutes, one kid not only opened the box, found the on-off switch … powered it up. Within five days, they were using 47 apps per child, per day. Within two weeks, they were singing ABC songs in the village, and within five months, they had hacked Android. Some idiot in our organization or in the Media Lab had disabled the camera, and they figured out the camera, and had hacked Android."

("Hacked Android" just meant that they had gotten into the settings to turn on desktop customisation, as well as unlock the camera. Not quite as hyperbolic, but impressive nonetheless.)

[Two links broken over two posts because Blogger likes spam-links more than legitimate ones:]

Paul451 said...

Second link, article by Nicholas Negroponte,

[Not hard for a SF fan to see this becoming a new education paradigm in the west as well. An end to formal schooling, kids just use devices to self-learn, with access to self-selected peer groups (clubs) for special interest further learning.]

[[Also not hard to imagine a dictator using this technology to brainwash kids to enforce his rule.]]

sociotard said...

I wonder how long it took the Ethiopian kids to find porn. And if giving kids access to computers without supervision makes the 'do gooders' guilty of showing porn to kids.

Tacitus said...

"Tacitus. the revolution in medicine is coming. In five years you’ll unwarp a plate...."

David I suppose you meant unwrap. Warp field tech seems a little farther off.

And realistically, various cool tricks notwithstanding, when I retire in a few years I will still on my last day of work be trying to convince people with runny noses that they do not need broad spectrum antibiotics.


Ian said...

"Your invocation of "health rights and medication rights" fascinates me. It is the unquestioning expansion of "rights" that has brought us to this pass. Instead of making policy by what is best for all we are enshrining as legally actionable some unattainable ideal."


Australia has "rights" far in access of those in the US but we're not in anything like your mess. (Seriously, peopel here are screaming because now they'll only get a $3,000 government hand-out for their second and subseuent children. (As opposed to the previous $5,000 hand-out - introduced by a man who considered hismelf Australia's most right-winrg Prime Minister ever.)

Maybe something else is at work in the US.

Doug S. said...

There's a problem that all would-be whistleblowers will have to face: if they come forward, are they going to be believed?

Example #1: Michael Connell

Example #2: <a href=">Sibel Edmonds</a>

Ian said...

"I did not know that the Nobel economic prize was not a "true" Nobel prize, and was instead created as a vehicle to legitimize right wing economic theory... but it does sound quite typical, and suddenly explain many things that left me perplexed seeing the names of some that won that prize..."

It started out that way but

a. all the laureates regardless of their political affilation deserved it; and
b. if you look at recent years that bias has pretty much disappeared.

David Brin said...

That's why my repeated emphasis was on the henchman's need to start NOW taking recordings and evidence to use, if nothing else, for his own safety.

LarryHart said...

Doug S:

There's a problem that all would-be whistleblowers will have to face: if they come forward, are they going to be believed?

Example #1: Michael Connell

Seriously, how many times can enemies of the Republican Party die in plane crashes before suspicion sets in?

Anonymous said...

I still don't understand, Dr. Brin. Rescinding Glass-Steagall was Pandora's Box, the key to unleashing the whole sub-prime mortgage mixed banking bomb that nearly destroyed the US, and you dismiss the lack of a veto from Clinton as horse-trading? What rational President with the nation's best interest in mind would trade a horse for that? Must have been some horse.

As for "send them all home" being blind voting, I read several national (of all political persuations) and foreign news papers (for a some-what unbiased look at the US) trying mightily to stay informed about the issues, local, state, national, and international facing me. I try mightily to be informed about who the people are who are both in office and running for office. Do you know what I find? Not much to go on. News articles on all sides that actually belong on the op-ed pages. Conspiracy theories, lies, innuendo. How informed are you about these people or is it good enough for you that they label themselves "democrat" or "libertarian", or anything but "republican"? How informed are you about the actual issues and about how to solve them?

"Send them all home" is saying that I have seen many different people run this country and I have never seen any of them do anything to promote the future of this country. The Clinton years? A wild ride through a bubble economy based upon lax enforcement of corporate law and a lot of Enronesque voodoo accounting. Yeah, we paid down some of the debt off of the largess, but does anyone remember when the bubble popped? The underlying structural and legal problems that are draining the economy were still there. Has anyone of the new crop of contenders told you what these problems are and how they want to fix them? I haven't seen it from either party.

What real choices are there right now and how do you get the message across that we want real change, not just a lot of smoke called hope, other than to change the people in office constantly until we get it.

I can tell you that hanging onto the same Senator for 40+ years has not been the answer.

Anonymous said...

30I will remind all of you that we are a representative democracy. Our influence over our governance is through how we choose that representation.

David Brin said...

In fact, the effects of Glass-Steagal rescision are vastly over-rated. A few banks folded and were absorbed and the vast majority steadied themselves (with major -temporary public health and no depositors were harmed an iota.

FAR worse was:

1- removal of limits on hedge bets and derivatives. Both parties did sin on this. Again, led by the GOP

2- unleashing foul mortgage practices --- ditto!

3- crippling the SEC and other agencies. Entirely GOP doing.

4- all the other stuff at:

Anonymous said...

President Bill Clinton publicly declared "the Glass–Steagall law is no longer appropriate."

"Money, power, and Wall Street: Transcript, Part 4, (quoted as "The Glass–Steagall law is no longer appropriate—")". PBS. April 24 and May 1, 2012; encore performance July 3, 2012. Transcript of Clinton remarks at Financial Modernization bill signing, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Newswire, November 12, 1999 (“It is true that the Glass-Steagall law is no longer appropriate to the economy in which we lived. It worked pretty well for the industrial economy, which was highly organized, much more centralized and much more nationalized than the one in which we operate today. But the world is very different.”)

I have read the prior post already. In fact, I have been reading your blog for quite some time. Everything in that post points back to Glass-Steagall, which has been steadily undermined by both parties since the 60's.

So let's look at things anew -- either the Democrats are strong and competent legistlators and Presidents protecting the future of the country like you wish to protray them, or they are incompetent patsies who roll over and do the evil bidding of the Republican party even when the Republicans are minority representatives or only hold the Presidency like you wish to protray them...

Am I missing something here? Please understand that I am not defending the lunacy that has become the Republican party, but I have a difficult time seeing the Democratic party as the white knights who would save the world if those damned Republicans would just give them the chance...

Anonymous said...

So who is among the 1% who won the largess that was the repleal of Glass-Steagall? Let's see:

$878,500 is the average net worth of a congressional Democrat, 21 of them with over $10 million in assets, largely old money, largely investment income...

$957,500 is the average net worth of a congressional Republican, 35 of them with over $10 million in assets, largely new money from the 90's tech economy, largely investment income...

Not much difference here.

Tim H. said...

Most contemporary Democrats are the functional equivalent of the "Country club" Republicans of yesteryear. Also embarked on the highway to hell, just not as far gone, with perhaps a chance to change direction, their GOP brethren have pretty much crossed the event horizon.

Paul451 said...

By "blind voting", I meant an automatic strategy that is not based on the candidate/party/issues, or anything else. Just based on a pattern, always vote for the challenger, always vote out the incumbent. ("Blind" in the sense of "justice is blind", or "blinding" in a medical trial.)

If you want to advocate a single-consecutive-term-limit, then you might have a good argument for a referendum. I might even vote for it, just to shake things up, assuming we shared the same continent. But as a voting strategy, any blind strategy can always be exploited by the dishonest.

"The Clinton years? [....] but does anyone remember when the bubble popped?

Errr, yes, 1999/2000. Mild by ordinary recession standards, and barely noticeable by the standard of the-worst-recession-in-our-lifetimes. So what's your point? That you need a Clintonesque President, but with better regulation, and a Fed Chairman who wasn't a literal disciple of Ayn Rand. That's a careful strategy, one that requires you to pick amongst the current incumbents and available challengers for those most likely to achieve that goal, and to keep voting for it, against those opposed to your goal. It is not going to be achieved by saying "Right! New term! Everyone in, is out; everyone out, is in!"

Or as someone else put it...

" Our influence over our governance is through how we choose that representation. "

Jumper said...

Look at Colorado's voting system now:

Jumper said...

BTW, David, I wanted to comment on your point of random statistical sampling of election results. This is something I definitely recommend where possible. What I wonder is how to select a random precinct in such a manner as most would believe is truly random?

I have toyed with this thought experiment and have considered public dart boards or the sort of machines used for lotteries (the "ping pong ball" blower) or having a select audience throw slips of paper in a can, rolling dice, and pulling that number of slips, multiplying them, rounding the result - ugh; think I prefer the dart board or lottery-machine...

The point being that the public has no idea how to choose something randomly, and a bogus pre-selected precinct could be chosen under the rubric of "random" fairly easily. (see Ohio recount!)

One does not trust the innumerate press to help, either.

David Brin said...


Unknown said...

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Nick Smith said...

The general accusation used for vote buying isn't the one where welfare recipients are picked up off the street. It is the one where union organizers tap their membership to vote more than once. Such voters aren't likely to sell-out the conspiricists because they face possible retaliation from other members who can be given detailed personal information about the informants. There is historical precedent for this. It doesn't take a great imagination to construct a similar conspiracy for the other side. flex seal reviews