Monday, June 29, 2015

Political Polarization...and Cheating

The Supreme Court has just allowed to stand the independent redistricting commission that the voters in Arizona established, to take rabid partisanship out of the drawing of state and federal districts. Republicans who control the AZ legislature say the Constitution gives them the right to draw congressional districts, and they cannot be cut out of the power.  California is the only other state that has diminished the legislature’s role similar to Arizona, but 11 other states have created commissions that have some sort of say about reapportionment.

I have long railed against gerrymandering, which is only the most blatant of a dozen ways that modern political parties have found to cheat voters. Nothing more spectacularly proved the stunning dogmatic partisanship of justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito more than they way they have blocked (till now) any serious judicial review of these hijackings of sovereign citizen will.

While both parties commit such crimes, the cheating is not balanced or equally distributed.  While yes, there are blue states where gerrymandering creates contorted, illogical and nasty district boundaries – Maryland and Illinois rise almost to the level of creativity of Texas and Georgia – it should be noted that it is in blue states that mostly democratic-leaning populations have rebelled against the practice, rebuking their own favored party's pols. Of the 13 states where voters have pushed back against gerrymandering, twelve are blue. 

(A ratio similar to those states that have been pulling out of the insane Drug War. Powerful examples of the "name an exception" challenge.)

So, why has the Court only taken tepid measures against a supremely blatant crime?

The Supreme Court has largely stayed out of partisan gerrymandering cases, unable to agree on a test that would allow the court to discern when expected political maneuvering rises to the level of being unconstitutional.”

But it does not have to 'get embroiled'!  Nor is there even a need for impartial redistricting commissions!  All that is called for is one simple rule, that can be expressed in a single sentence. This one rule would not completely end gerrymandering… but it would render it moot and useless as a rampant method for stealing sovereignty and choice from American voters. It leaves a state legislature as the locus of boundary drawing, yet would render them ineffective at robbing citizens of their rights. 

THE RULE: District boundaries shall be drawn in such a way that (1) strives to minimize the ratio of perimeter to area and (2) minimizes OVERLAP between the districts for the state assembly, state senate and U.S. Congress.   

What this means is that a state legislature can gerry their own state assembly districts to benefit the majority party… go ahead! But all this will do is ensure that the boundaries for state senate and Congress are not optimized for partisanship.  Your state senator will have to consider different sets of neighborhoods and needs and alliances than the assemblywoman, making democracy more thoughtful and prone to negotiation.  The upshot? They can only be callously cheating-partisan in one of the three houses.  The others will represent the people in inherently different ways. At least one of which will turn out to be fair.

Above all, this reform does not require a grinding process of establishing one “commission” after another, or “agreeing on a test that would allow the court to discern when expected political maneuvering rises to the level of being unconstitutional.” 

Think about this win-win... only then also take note of this.  NOTICE which party cheats far more than the other.  Ask yourselves why it’s been arranged that all the companies that make voting machines are controlled by rabid GOP partisans.  And why is it that – in red states – there usually is no provision for those voting machines to leave an independent record that can be precinct-audited. Hence, the programmers of that machinery can arrange for any outcome they desire.

 Sure, there are corrupt democrats!  But they have not turned cheating into a passionately-dedicated matter of party principle, policy and disciplined practice.

== Cheaters – cheaters – cheaters ==

What America would look like without gerrymandering? Not just congressional but also the insane system of gerrymandering state boundaries. (We have two Dakotas? Seriously?  Why? Except that Republicans were cheaters in the 1890s, as well as now? And why don't we have Kansaska and New Mexizona?) In fact, this map and the writer’s kind of algorithmic approach is flawed.  It ignores too many human and geographical factors. 

A coming Supreme Court decision might remove nonvoters from consideration in district boundary creation -- gerrymandering on steroids? States currently count the entire population - rather than just eligible voters - to create congressional districts. 

Now here’s an interesting take on the matter: conservatives often demand that we take into account the Framers intent, when interpreting the Constitution. Indeed, the Framers clearly and decisively meant for non-voting persons in a district to be counted in determining representation!  Not only women citizens – who could not vote - but also 3/5ths of any non citizen… which um meant slaves.  

Am I actually citing the heinously cynical “3/5ths Rule” in arguing FOR the enumerating and counting of non-citizens in modern districting?  Yeow! I really don't know where that dog will hunt. But it makes my head hurt with unusual implications.  And I always like that sensation.

Try it, some time.

== Funding Political Campaigns ==

The dilution of fairness and election rules during Republican rule was exacerbated by recent court decisions that opened US politics to the highest bidders. "Citizens United v. FEC, allowing corporations to make unlimited expenditures on behalf of federal candidates. Already, the Associated Press reported, spending on this off-year election has topped $1 billion — and it may exceed $4 billion by the time the votes are in."

See: Campaign contributions should be anonymous. This article from The Washington Post is wrongheaded in many ways but still informative.  

We used to try to reduce the role of raw money by  (1) regulating contributions, (regulating campaign spending, (2) offering free access to some media, rules equalizing access by and, finally (3) - transparency… at least allowing the public to see the money flows and take them into account. The cynical author says: "But has transparency ever been an effective corruption-fighting tool? Many people deeply involved in electoral politics don’t think so."

The piece turns into stunning sophistry when it proposes that donors should be hidden, in order to eliminate their quid pro quo influence on politicians: "What if we made all campaign contributions and independent expenditures anonymous — and made sure they stayed anonymous?"

Does he honestly believe any reader would swallow such titanic malarkey?  That Sheldon Adelson cannot take "credit" for a contribution to a pol, in a myriad ways? This is one more spectacularly bald and shameless hired-rationalization by a court shill, to rationalize our march back to feudalism.

Of all the efforts to deal with the money-taking-over-politics problem, the most cogent and deserving of you support is probably Lawrence Lessig's rational approach.  Have a look.

== thinking less like citizens, more as “sides” in a war ==

The growth of partisan polarization has transformed US politics in recent decades, and the effects are especially visible in this graphic. It’s especially depressing, but also makes clear what we have to do.  To end gerrymandering and all the other cheats that have turned us into a nation of bile-spitting partisan radicals.  

Most partisans treat politics like sports rivalries, instead of focusing on issues. A report showed that 41 percent of partisans agreed that simply winning elections is more important to them than policy or ideological goals, while just 35 percent agreed that policy is a more important motivator for them to participate in politics.”

When it came to uncivil attitudes, 38 percent of partisans agreed that their parties should use any tactics necessary to "win elections and issue debates." When those who agreed with this view were asked what tactics they had in mind, the most common ones they offered were: voter suppression, stealing or cheating in elections, physical violence and threats against the other party, lying, personal attacks on opponents, not allowing the other party to speak, and using the filibuster to gridlock Congress. Democrats and Republicans were equally likely to express this opinion.”

Really? Things have sunk so low that now BOTH sides think this?

 To which I respond impulsively that this is terrific news!  That democrats and Blue Americans are finally realizing negotiation and persuasion and compromise will not work, during a re-ignited phase of the American Civil War.  That the forces of the Union are at last willing to take off the kid gloves, as they finally decided to do, in 1861, after nine years of violent bullying by the nascent confederacy. 

All right all right… not really. I don't mean that.

In fact, I deplore this trend at all levels and in every way, especially condoning cheating.  But wrath toward the gerrymandering, vote-suppressing, vote-machine warping cheaters who started this dismal phase of American life? Right on. Their “team" cheats. It has elevated cheating to an art. And they have zero regrets.

== Finally…  ==

The fact that Dick Cheney is admired by even a single American is appalling proof of the delusional willpower of schizophrenia. Watch Jon Stewart's hilarious rant - tribute to Cheney laying the lying hypocrisy so bare that even the most-delusional among you Fox apologists will have to admit... this one should long ago have been given the boot. If not a ride on a tumbrel. 

“George Bush: 'God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq'…” Yeah… well… if by “God” you mean his masters in the Saudi Royal House. Whose orders he and Dick Cheney followed, to the letter, in all matters and top to bottom.  And who own and operate Fox News.  And who own and operate the GOP. And who are the actual “caliphate.”  

Oh, but it is all going according to plan.  We’ve entered the era of the New Pyramid, when society’s top aristocrats have nothing to spend their money on but status.  A Pablo Picasso masterpiece smashed the world record for a painting sold at auction, fetching a fraction over $179 million (£116m).”  That same month, Christies handled a BILLION dollars in art sales.

 Eep. I blame you, Rupert. A nascent feudal oligarchy that is too stupid to read science fiction or history... and willfully ignores the blatant horizon (of pitchforks and tumbrels and designer viruses) where all of this must lead ... has already proved itself WAY too stupid to qualify for leadership over this century.  In EXISTENCE I show a scene portraying what smart oligarchs might do. Even those who (at an alpine meeting) do want a quasi feudal social order... but who also want to live. And I see no sign of this scenario coming true.

The truly smart bazillionaires -- who earned it with creative-innovative products and services -- know better.  They are willing to negotiate, in order to keep the enlightenment healthy.  They want to be rich all right, but in a vibrant and mostly-fair civilization that lifts all boats.  They are not on Rupert's team.


raito said...

While The Rule is certainly what ought to result from redistricting, I think you might agree that the rule as stated is a bit too simple to not end up being contentious. That's because words like 'strives to' and 'minimizes' are too fuzzy for today's politicians. And they cheat such that they aren't really 'striving to' even while saying that they're 'striving to'.

And gerrymandering happens not only for electoral districts. In WI, the state just struck down an annexation as being non-contiguous. The annexation only existed because the city's ordinances on frack-sand mines were less strict than the town/county ordinances. And more than 1 village has incorporated into a city so that they wouldn't be annexed against the will of the people living there.

Mike said...

A similarly simple approach to campaign financing that I've been thinking about:

1) Anyone may contribute any amount to any candidate PROVIDED
a) the source and amount of the contribution is made public soon after the contribution is made (I'm thinking 24 hours, and in all cases before any of the money can be spent, and "made public" means essentially "publishing in an easily accessible and human readable form on the Internet"), and
b) the source is eligible to vote for the candidate (this would get rid of contributions from corporations, unions, PACs, etc). I could even see requiring proof of registration in the appropriate jurisdiction before a contribution can be accepted.
2) No candidate may accept a donation within 14 days of an election in which they are involved.

They could still spent $zillions on the Presidential election, I guess, but at least this would do something about tons of outside money coming into House races in remote districts and such.

Pmathews1939 said...

We don't have Newmexizona because we here in New Mexico don't want to be ruled by the sort of people who think Sheriff Arpaio (sp?)is a fine sort of a fellow.

David Brin said...

raito... the "strive for" is wholly adequate It is not necessary for the perimeter to area ration be anywhere near some mathematically defined optimum. All that's needed is for it not to be blatantly preposterous in the eyes of a jury of average folks, when someone files a suit if the boundaries are toruous.

. At which point rule #2 kicks in. And that one is not "strives for." Once the state assembly boundaries are set, the other pair truly do have to minimize overlap.

Patricia, register all the Native Americans! The states have similar climates and problems. Infect the arizonians with mountain zen!

Alfred Differ said...

Nebraska would need a special rule since they have a unicameral legislature and three congressional reps, but that’s just nit picking, right? States with one rep diminish the value of the overlap rule, but who cares? They don’t get to say much in the House. 8)

Any arbitrariness to rules like this one should be judged by juries. As long as a State plans properly for an appeal process, the Local Court can amass enough cases decided by The People to give Local Meaning to the fuzzy rule. We will learn more from these local experiments than we could possibly plan for through proper design of non-fuzzy rules meant to catch all possible exceptions. Software developers (like me) should keep their hands off the design plan and let the testers (local citizens) catch the issues.

Dave said...

For me to teach rhetoric or empathy to Brin is definitely a case of teaching granny to suck eggs. But I can't help feeling this post could speak to non-democrats more effectively. I haven't voted for a republican presidential candidate since Reagan (now I hold my nose and vote libertarian usually), but even I'm tired of the scolding. Sure republicans deserve it. Does he want to scold them or convince those who can be convinced? Has he just given up on anything but choir preaching?

Maybe I am part of the problem, since I have such trouble voting for democrats. Or maybe I'm part of the solution, since I live in a blue state. Does that count as voting with your feet out the wrong side of your mouth? (Penalties for putting metaphors in the blender.)

Jumper said...

On a radical gun law: make NRA rules law.

Paul451 said...

Fixating on the shape of the districts misses the point. Those salamander shapes exist to prevent the number of districts won by a party from fairly reflecting the overall voter intention. Therefore focusing on undermining the result of the gerrymandering instead the method will be much more effective, IMO.

Thus the "one rule" to reduce or eliminate the effects of gerrymandering is that the district boundaries are be shifted so that the result of the election in number of districts would reflect the result of the election in total number of votes. (Or as close as possible, allowing for the winner of the overall election to still receive a majority of seats. The mix of safe, unsafe and genuine swing seats should reflect the closeness of the overall state-wide tally.)

Eg, if the final overall tally across a state is 55% to 45%, then an election held with the new boundaries should result in as close as possible to a 55/45 distribution of districts. Note, this shift doesn't alter the results from the previous election, so some reps may find themselves suddenly thrown into opposition-leaning districts, but they don't lose their seats until the next election.

The result is that any changes in the next election reflect genuine shifts in voter preferences. (So if our unsafe rep retains his seat, it's because he or his party genuinely turned the district around.)

[AIUI, constitutionally in the US, district boundaries can only be moved after a national census. But I believe the same principle can still be applied.]

David Brin said...

Paul 451 that is a good point.

David Burns I appreciate your perspective. But seriously. The sheer number of travesties against the American experiment that are being committed by the undead were-elephant is what I am hammering home. The absolute and disciplined consistency is ignored by everyone, especially by well-intentioned libertarians, like you, who shrug and assume -- "Well, both parties are equally corrupt, so whatcha gonna do?

You are one up on the average libertarian, in fact. At least you don't say "I have to hold my nose and go home to the GOP every election because democrats are worse."

See the agenda at Freedom Fest for how this is exactly what the oligarchs are aiming for --

This is why so many of my talking points aim at libertarians, like you. Like "name the industries that the GOP (for all their talk) ever actually deregulated. I can then name TEN that were deregulated... by democrats.

This is not the place. Suffice it to say that I feel the republic is in peril and that the perfect litany of destruction of US metrics of national health under both Bushes cannot have been accidental. Does that make me paranoid?

I send money to the LP every election, hoping they will break 1%.

greg byshenk said...

This struck me as in some ways aligned with your thoughts, David:

David Brin said...

greg b thanks. Excellent article!

I like this passage: “O rancid sector of the far left, please stop your grousing! Compared to you, Eeyore sounds like a Teletubby. If I gave you a pony, you would not only be furious that not everyone has a pony, but you would pick on the pony for not being radical enough until it wept big, sad, hot pony tears. Because what we're talking about here is not an analysis, a strategy, or a cosmology, but an attitude, and one that is poisoning us. Not just me, but you, us, and our possibilities.”

She goes on: “An undocumented immigrant writes me: "The Democratic party is not our friend: it is the only party we can negotiate with." Or as a Nevada activist friend put it: "Oh my God, go be sanctimonious in California and don't vote or whatever, but those bitching radicals are basically suppressing the vote in states where it matters." And: “People who told me back in 2000 that there was no difference between Bush and Gore never got back to me afterward.”

Do read this essay! Pass the link around and keep it in your pocket to read alous to these flakes, in fall of 2016. Nevertheless, I have a way to say it all more fiercely and penetratingly, with just five words:

“It’s the Supreme Court, stupid.”

Our entire civilization teeters around getting Citizens United reversed, so that we do not descend into some kind of cyberpunk version of feudalism. One party wants that to happen. The other does not. And you prima donnas out there who think there is any justification for “they’re all the same”? They are stupid-crazy people.

Tacitus said...


to the extent that you actually engage in dialog with those who hold opposing opinions you have often charged them to - at least consider the possibility - of their being seriously, horribly wrong. This is appropriate and useful. I have personally adhered to this principle.

So when you write: "Does that make me paranoid?" I have to say...I don't think so but I should consider that possibility. As a plausible theory it does seem to me more likely than a Bush/Saudi/Fox treasonous conspiracy.

As to Supreme Court rulings there are some that I think are better public policy than others, and some that appear to have legal reasoning more comprehensible to my admittedly non legal trained mind. But they are all the law of the land. The appropriate response to such rulings as you find wrong is to work through the legislative process, as it appears the the judicial branch is increasingly being asked to do the work of the other two branches by default.

But that is just the world as I see it. I will also entertain with good humor and bemusement the possibility that I am crazy!


locumranch said...

The legitimization of the Independent Redistricting Commission highlights a number of important (but often overlooked) characteristics of US-style Democracy: First, it recognises the tyrannical limitations of popular sovereignty; second, it emphasises the importance of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) (aka 'independent bureaucracies') in activities of daily living; and, third, it acknowledges that the excessively centralised modern federal government is functionally bankrupt.

Many people (especially the self-styled progressive) forget that many of the most treasured US Civil Institutions, from the Public Library, Educational System & Emergency Services to the Banks, Post Offices & Federal Intelligence Agencies, started as Privately Managed NGOs which were never intended to be subject to popular will or become vast 'Big Government' monopolies & sinecures, but were instead intended to service the needs of a select population of share-holders, subscribers & participants. Up until the 1920's, that is, when most of these private bureaucracies were 'democratised', 'governmentised' & 'modernised', even though many of them still possess a private (non-democratic; hierarchical) corporate structure (aka 'New Deal').

Finally, it is important to note that our host's increasingly vitriolic condemnation of "cheaters" everywhere betrays typical (delusional; magical) progressive thinking: That BIG Human Government is 'perfect'; that this perfection is being sabotaged by preventable 'human imperfections' (aka 'cheaters'); and, that the solution to dysfunctional government is (mandatory; planned) Human Perfection, the problem being that 'human perfection' is an (unrealistic; unachievable) fantasy and non-starter.

What we need, instead, is REALITY, a general acceptance of (deep-seated; immutable) human imperfection & imperfectability, with the recognition that 'Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely', and a non-centralised government specifically designed to ameliorate the greatest possible number of (common; preexistent) human imperfections.

We need Balkanisation; we need to disband; and the Mighty USA, DoD & EU need to go the way of the Dodo & the USSR. Where the EU leads, the USA will most certainly follow, so 'Stay Tuned' and 'Don't touch that Dial'.

Go Crazy?? Don't mind if I do!!!

David Brin said...

Who ARE you and what have you done with locumranch? (Took his pills, obviously.) A cogent passage with solid points... leading to a calamitous conclusion.

Yes, too much centralization is stifling, at best. Unification was the worst mistake the Chinese ever made. Europe took off because of reciprocal competition. See Ian Morris's WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR. In EARTH I portray humans achieving a next-layer Overmind, but wise enough to forego the simplistic version offered us by Asimov and Clarke et al. One based on diversity of thought.

And yet, if centralized imperium is dangerous to the pace of progress, then fractious division is usually much worse. Lacking a pax peacekeeping power, most era were utter misery and hell for average folk. And petty local tyrants were usually far worse than the distant king and his bureaucrats.

Had the Confederacy prevailed, this continent would have fractured into at least five petty nations, jostling and bickering with expensive armies patrolling and crossing heavily fortified borders. The normal human pattern. In this world, most Americans went their whole lives never seeing a soldier except in the July 4 parade.

The comp[romise federal-state-local- company-individual system *IS* broken up! It *IS* an attempt to get a win-win sum of the benefits of consolidation while omitting the costs. But grouches will never see light.

Tacitus there is a place of Low-Odds but no-implausibility wagers. If my life or home was at stake, at even odds, I would not proclaim "The Bush family and Cheney deliberately betrayed us at Saudi command!"

But you give me 5 to one and I will put real money into that bet. Because there are ZERO inconsistencies between that theory and the litany of actual events. A litany that - by the way - no other theory accounts for, anywhere near as well.

It makes no sense, most of the time, to declare "I think THIS is what happened!" What makes sense is to lay down perceived odds.

Andy said...

"We’ve entered the era of the New Pyramid, when society’s top aristocrats have nothing to spend their money on but status."

This reminded me of a short video I watched last night from the excellent School of Life, started by Alain de Botton. It is called "What do the Rich really Want?" My mind immediately jumped to your advocacy of "Judo moves" - using the power or motivation of an enemy and harnessing it for the better. You might want to add this to your list of ideas on how to improve our society :-)

Anonymous said...

You are right that next step after demolishing the Gerrymander is tackling issue of state size. Puerto Rico deserves statehood, all our Pacific territories deserve full representation, and every large state deserves more than 2 senators. The last one is real tricky, as there is no real Constitutional limit on what constitutes a "State". Would it end up being a race to carve up partisan states into ever smaller ones for greater influence? Would we have to do a horse trading scenario where Texas and California each get carved into smaller states or "senatorial districts"? Maybe we should as some sort of provision to the Constitution giving large enough cities a senator or two to represent the whole metropolitan entity. That would solve the issue of DC lacking proper representation.
A lot of the more innovative ideas out there would devastate conservative power, thus be near impossible under the current detente. I have been tinkering around with a thought experiment whereby "excess" Blue State voters agree to move to Red States for enough time to significantly effect a few election cycles. This kind of program would be best suited to those capable of telecommuting to work. Living in a "low cost of living" region would be a great way to save up for a nice home in a properly civilized Blue State. Swing states would be easy pickings, as well as low population states like Wyoming. The best part of such plan is that it would be damn near impossible for the Grande Olde Confederate Party to do the same to us as their constituents are rurally diffuse and far more immobile. Well, except those whose homes are on wheels!


locumranch said...

Puerto Rico deserves bankruptcy, but the Saudis deserve much worse.

After maintaining 'plausible distance' from the funding they supplied to Moslem terrorist organisations for years, the Saudis choose to renounce their non-combatant status in favour of direct military intervention in Yemen, so it is only a matter of time before one of their equally well-heeled neighbours provides similar plausibly deniable funding to an Anti-Saudi group as like payback, until what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Mecca to be born.

David Brin said...

Eeep what is in those pills?

AtomicZeppelinMan, there were efforts to entice libertarians to move to New Hampshire to "take over." Far better would be for blacks to target just a couple of carefully located towns in Mississippi and South Carolina, demolishing all the carefully made gerrymanderings and gaining power in both states.

That one still has a certain plausibility. Someone look it up and see if it's still on someone's back burner?

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

I understand your point, but I prefer to try to keep things out of the courts.

And while I may believe that both the current parties are 'equally corrupt', I do not believe that they are 'the same'. Though I do believe that they agree on one thing -- no viable third party.

It appears as though you don't believe in anonymous political speech. Is that correct? (not that I think money is speech, at least not they was SCOTUS does). Your rules also keep minors from contributing, as they don't have the vote. Was that your intent? (or is it just a side effect?)

Big government isn't perfect, and we all know that (even the ones who preach that). That's why we have to keep on our toes. All sabotage is not preventable, but most is. Cleaning up afterward is vital. Balkanization isn't necessary. For some of us, the union is all that keeps some of the more egregious problems from happening.

What we really need is for the bottom of the pyramid (where all the votes are, or could be) to get active and vote in every way possible. The ballot box is only one way to vote. The economy is another (for a while, at least).

And I still want to see 'none of the above' on every ballot.

David Brin said...

raito, as it happens, I do believe there should be methods and venues for anonymous political speech. In fact, I think it is essential.

But most folks who croon love odes to anonymity haven't begun to think it through. There should be "wild west" sectors where anyone can be certain they will be able to sample wild shit posted by anonymously safe rascals... because that is a vital way to be sure tyranny is kept squelched. But MOST realms on the Internet should feature more accountability than they have at present.

Registered pseudonymity, through bonded and fanatically protective reputation management systems, that's a billion dollar industry that would provide 99% of the benefits of anonymity while eliminating 99% of the drawbacks.

StopTheHate said...

It’s fascinating to watch the manipulative, arrogant mentality of our blue state betters at work, plotting against the citizens of other states as if they’re in some sort of civil cold war. I remember when Americans were most concerned about foreign powers, communists, terrorists, etc.; now it seems that the white citizens of ex-confederate states are public enemy number one of our progressive friends.

But why the urgency? It all seems rather hysterical and unwarranted to me. Are progressives sensing that their program is falling apart, that a backlash is coming, and they’re looking for scapegoats? Or does it just go to show that hate and racism infects everyone, even our liberal blue state friends?

David Brin said...

StopTheHate, of all the hypocritical whining! You confederates have been howling and chivvying at us for ages, calling blue/city/university folks evil and immoral and bragging how much more real and moral and genuine and American "bubbas" are...

...when your states score worse on every conceivable metric of moral living, from teen sex and pregnancy to STDs, divorce domestic violence... all the way to sucking in vastly more taxes than you pay and then bitching about taxes!

Dig it, SHOW US ONE unambiguous and attributable metric of US national health that improved markedly across the span of either or both Bush presidencies. One. Even on. Just one. If a foreign power had done us as much harm as that family and party had, it would be cause for war.

Now show us more than a couple such metrics that did not IMPROVE across both the Clinton and Obama spans of office. These aren't polemical or left-right assertions. It is flat-out comparison of OUTCOMES!

"Falling apart" my ass.

I do not hate you. I often poke at the lefty fringe. And I want this phase of our Civil War to end the way the others did, with the Union folks who want a scientific and enlightened civilization reaching out to our more conservative fellow citizens, once they calm down enough to stop POISONING american politics with hate. We need Goldwater conservatism at the table, lest the far-left get too much influence. (And I often say they are dangerous, too.)

Alas, today the monstrous-drooling insanity is almost 100% your side. The GOP declared the "Hastert Rule" to never ever ever cooperate with a democratic president, even for the good of the country. Not even to pass the bridge-repair infrastructure bill. ( The recent TPP exception was because the fat cats wanted the trade pact passed. ) And when Newt Gingrich dared to negotiate with Clinton one year, getting us the Budget Act and Welfare Reform? The GOP punished and destroyed him. You guys NEVER negotiate.

In contrast, every Republican president has negotiated deals with democratic Congresses, who dicker and deal and give him some of what he wants.

So do not pretend it is suddenly Blue America waging war on Red. Prove you are reasonable by stopping waging war on science. By recognizing the tsunami of lying bile that is Fox News, owned by oligarchs and Saudi sheiks.

Paul SB said...

I'm not sure the vitriol here is worth the effort. Chances are the guy will never read it, nor post here again. He probably thinks he's very clever, using a handle that seems to turn the tables on people who have always worked against hate, but doesn't have enough awareness to see his own hate, or how extremism makes people see extremism in everyone else. Classic flamer - not worth even the slightest rise in blood pressure.

Duncan Cairncross said...

David said
“Duncan, sorry. The US Navy was the most advanced at the true killer app... steam power. BOARDING? A steam powered warship? urhgggh.”

What is so difficult about boarding a steamer?
90% of boarding actions were undertaken at full sail – the attacker simply comes alongside

Now if “steam” gave a miraculous burst of speed…..

But the Monitor was a 6 knot ship.
Merrimac was a 12 knot ship but that was with its sails working with it’s engine and mast and sails were long gone
It was probably also a 6 knot ship under steam alone

Very useful but not enough to keep frigates and sloops from coming alongside

Later with machine guns and main guns that could destroy a ship quickly you could keep would be borders away
Back then the main guns could destroy another ship – but not quickly!

The Union Ships lost were rammed or run aground

Other more experienced (and original) captains would have taken the losses to get their ships alongside the ironclad – with a boarding party on-board it would be trivial to drop bombs into the gun ports

The Union Navy was caught by surprise and the Union ships did not cooperatively attack the Merrimac.
But I bet from then on all competent captains would have thought about this encounter and been ready to apply the lessons learned

Reinforcing my point-
Lloyd Flack said
One point, the union did not have a naval advantage in steam power. Its engines were inferior to British and French ones leading to American vessels being considerably slower than their European counterparts. Even Union naval technology was behind that of Britain and France. Naval technology is an interest of mine, especially when it comes to times of change, so I've done a lot of reading on the matter.

Tacitus said...

The language used by a recent poster is so inflamatory that I suspect he (seems a bit unfeminine in word choice) is actually an individual who does not at all espouse conservative leanings but rather is making an effort to sound like a stupid conservative so as to get a rise out of folks. So, if agent provocateur...get lost. If genuinely apologies and condolences.


Lloyd Flack said...

Murdoch, like the Koch brothers and quite a few others has swallowed flattering myths about what they contribute to society. They, as far as I can tell, don't have much of a life outside their work and see that as all important. So they support an economic and social program that maximizes opportunities for them.
I don't think they are the originators of the program. I think that is mostly the economists in the think tanks. What drives them? I'm not sure but I think some of it is the temptation to magnify the importance of their own work by putting far too many issues in economic terms. That and the temptation to over simplify;

Paul SB said...

A couple years ago a large meteor crashed into Russia. I remember checking the net to find out about it, mainly to show my earth science students, and saw some interesting exchanges. English-speaking Russians were posting factual accounts of the event along with pictures and video. Americans were going to these sites and posting things like: OH Y GOD THE WORLD'S COMING TO AN END!!!!!!! Some of the Russian commentators replied that they thought Americans must be the stupidest people in the world. A little rock falls out of the sky - it happens all the time - and they panic and think it's the end of the world. I would be tempted to say The Book of Revelations is to blame, but that wouldn't explain the differences between the US and other countries. It seems to me that this is a nation where hyperbole has been so overused in public discourse that many people can't tell what is hyperbolic anymore.

Tacitus, I wouldn't be concerned over whether he's a 'true' conservative (or a true scotsman) or not. I think we will probably see a lot more of this stuff in the next year regarding both the Confederate flag and gay rights.

Tacitus said...

Paul SB
Yes, I know. But in a thread about polarization I thought a bit of chiding for what I believe to be malicious baiting was not out of line.
It is going to be a long year ahead, isn't it?

Paul SB said...

NBD (a.k.a. No Big Deal). I had a thought while taking a walk in the park this morning (since I lost my outdoor career, my physique has come to more closely resemble the Laughing Buddha): those of us who have been following Dr. Brin's blog regularly are pretty familiar with his stances and arguments, but people like this last troll or that Hewitt fellow from a few threads back tend to be snipers - they shoot once and run away. But then, you never know if someone might just be knew and a potential contributor. So rather than getting our stress hormones up every time someone new comes along with a flamethrower, maybe we can try the old angry girlfriend tactic. Just respond with "I'm ignoring you!" and see how they respond, if at all. This would be another place where it would be great if we could attach audio files. Nothing beats that rising intonation at the end of the sentence for annoyance value!

locumranch said...

Inarticulate as it was, 'StopTheHate' has a point: There is a War against conservatives in this & other western countries, but it is a nebulous kind of 'war' does not fit into any of the traditional metrics, the battlefield being 'gender', the losers being men and the 'enemy' being one of unintended consequences.

It all started innocently enough. First, came the oral contraceptive pill, freeing women from the consequences of sexual activity. Shortly thereafter, women entered the labour pool en masse and diluted the value of all (male) labour by 50%. Then, came increased mechanisation, no fault divorce, welfare, aid to women & children, educational parity, tougher prison sentences and globalisation, leaving men of all races marginalised, relatively unemployed, stripped of their children, disenfranchised from the future, criminalised and betrayed by the paradise that they helped build.

In the US alone, men currently suffer higher rates of homelessness, violence, incarceration, unemployment and suicide than women. Women live longer, work less hours and now outnumber men in every university setting. Women are said to suffer more poverty, but even this statistic is misleading because male poverty is not enumerated (homelessness) and numerous governmental programs exist to ameliorate female poverty.

The traditional social fabric is literally under attack and, as this process accelerates, more & more men will identify with conservative Red State values because Blue State progressive values disproportionately favour women (in the short-term) and disempower men (in the long-term), leading (one way or another) to TUMBRILS, as men who lack a future (or have their futures snatched away) are especially dangerous.

A Big Backlash is 'a-coming' and I predict that PSBs "angry girlfriend tactic" will prove ineffective: Can anyone say ISIL?


Jumper said...

locum, men are probably more apt to say their ignorance is as good as knowledge. If that's untrue, why the fall-off in college education? How many internet trolls are women?
I expect you to strap on a suicide bomb any moment, or join ISIL, or somesuch. I urge you to not do it.

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

I'm more undecided on whether there should be anonymous political speech. And like so many things, the ideal and the acheivable are very far apart. Ideally, there would be no anonymous political speech -- and any person's views would not be used (illegitimately) to harm them. (A legitimate harm would be to not patronize those with some particular views. An illegitimate harm would be to fire someone because of their views.)

On the one hand, I want to know where that speech is coming from, because then I can analyze it against other speech from the same source. On the other, I should also be able to analyze any speech by itself. A conundrum.

I'm also less certain that 'registered pseudonymity' is the answer. That depends entirely on whether the pseudonymity is adequately maintained, and what the damage is when it is not. Unfortunately, with these sorts of things, once the information is out, there's no way to put the cat back in the bag. And no one lets the cat out because they're trying to be helpful.

David Brin said...

Paul, yeah. I grabbed a few slugs of standard text and plopped them in. By blood pressure is... eeep... flop... crash...
;-) no sweat.

As to whether the fellow was a "sniper?" No matter. My aim is to arm all of YOU with bullet-points that can be used in quick encounters. That is why the "name an exception" tactic is sometimes effective.

As for a "war on men" what hogwash. Males exist in order to compete vs each other, not as a tribe to compete against women. Look at nature. Even when males are aggressively exploiting females, it is for their own PERSONAL genetic advantage, not in order to benefit some tribe or type called "males." That has got to be the dumbest thing that I have yet seen this week,

Anyway, American males AND females do better - in actually measurable outcomes - across democratic administrations than republican ones. ABSOLUTE disparity of outcomes. It is total and overwhelming. And ranting won't change that.

raito... I agree that pseudonym-reputation management services would have to start with utter paranoid security. Complete clarity that the connection between true name and pseudonym CAN be revealed but only with an explicit court order and short of that, the connection is only enciphered. Especially fine would be for the pseudonym to be scored with your real-life credibility and reputation scores, allowing you entry into sites that ban actual anonymity. Reputation FEEDBACK then ensures that pseudonyns will not be used for trollish behavior.

A billion dollar industry.

Paul SB said...

Hi Dr. Brin,

re: blood pressure, the no sweat is a good thing, but I think there are very few regular contributors here who qualify for membership in the spring chicken club. And even for them, it's never too soon to chill out and start lowering glucocorticoid levels. Regarding little loci's "war on men" schei├če, he only discredits himself by showing us how bigoted he is. But he's done that a number of times already in the last year or so. Of course he'll deny it, but then will go on to claim that his bigotry isn't really bigoted because it represents our true, inherited nature. Anthropologists call this "naturalization": the tendency for people to assume that the prejudices of their tribe are really nature, and that anyone who doesn't match their assumptions is "unnatural" wrong, evil, stupid, etc. He is so focused on his narrative that the point of my "angry girlfriend" suggestion went right over his head.

This guy's ability to seek out clouds for every silver lining reminds me of the article that Greg Byshank shared with us. The author talked about the futility of despair, and though I agree with most things she wrote, I have to point out that despair is an easy thing to fall into. If you look at the stats on the number of people who suffer from depressive episodes that are severe enough to warrant treatment, the numbers are pretty staggering. It's not something people are born with, though our baseline levels of several neurotransmitters can make some people more susceptible than others. Rather our brains are made to respond and adapt to circumstances. the 1% rarely suffer from these problems, while the rest of us, because of life's circumstances, the economy, the prejudices we deal with, and especially the toxicity of so many of our colleagues filling our thoughts with dark memes of anger and despair. Mirror neurons ensure that just hearing garbage like this will make them echo in our subconscious thoughts. People like that are actively hurting all those they come in contact with. But then, this is just what the rich and powerful want, for the same reason they want bad public education, racism, sexism, religious prejudice and simply spreading despair among the "unwashed masses" keeps people from competing with them and their clans.

David Brin said...


raito said...

Yes, we've moved on. Still...

Given the current ability to correlate data, using any real-life scores is going to result in someone figuring out which pseudonym is which real-life entity. Count on it.

That you believe in anonymous political speech is interesting in light of your insistence that surveillance is going to continue and get more invasive.

A large part of big data isn't statistics, it's the ability to tease out an individual from the deluge of data.

And the only thing worse than teasing out the correct individual is teasing out the wrong one.

Unknown said...

I live in NC, and the 4th, 9th, 12th, and 13th simply scream CORRUPTION and render the Tarheel State the laughingstock of the Union.

siska said...
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