Monday, July 27, 2015

Worrisome Politics

Following the elevated and philosophical tone of our previous posting about our variable human HORIZONS of inclusion, worry and hope...

... this next new one may seem a melting pot of rants!  Still, it adds up.  First:

What's this?  What's this?  Talk of actually enforcing anti-trust and anti-collusion and competitiveness laws?  The Justice Department has sent subpoenas to several major airlines as part of an investigation into "possible unlawful coordination" to limit capacity increases, and thereby keeping ticket prices high. Huh.  How very 20th Century!  Even Rooseveltean!

== The manifesto of the (next) front runner ==

Remember 2012, when each week featured a different Republican surging to the front of the pack, only to fade when folks got a closer look?  Well, as of this writing, that GOP poll leader is Donald Trump.  But you can count on that fad to fade -- the Republican Party establishment has it in for him, and you can depend on his braggadocio to send him blundering into one trap or another. (Still, I'll post about Mr. Trump soon, with some surprising insights.)

Who's next? Well, we all know it will settle eventually on Jeb Bush, but along the way, the fashionistas are predicting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. And… wow… what an appropriate choice! Walker said at the Conservative Political Action Conference that his experience battling labor protesters in Wisconsin has prepared him to take on Islamic State terrorists.  Moreover "the most significant foreign policy decision of my lifetime" was then-President Ronald Reagan's move to bust a 1981 strike of air traffic controllers, firing some 11,000 of them.

Um, “foreign policy”? Still, he brings up an interesting point.  Even if you approve of the way Ronald Reagan handled the Air Controllers’ strike (and I mostly don’t), is it sapient of you to ignore the differences between 1981 and today? 

Let’s see.  In 1981, labor unions were still a force to be reckoned with, in American life. 

Today? Except for the dockworkers, unions are pallid, shrunken and withering away. Nothing proves confederates’ vacant minds more than the fact that they nod, when Fox rants about unions as great big boogeymen.  Organized labor is plummeting, while the power and influence of a Wall Street and Carbon oligarchy is skyrocketing. Yet fools screech at the former, to avoid noticing the latter.

Is “socialism” the excuse? American labor was the most fiercely anti-communist force in the world. (And if you doubt that, then you know zero history. I mean it. Look up a fellow named George Meany.) 

Moreover, the heyday of U.S. union power coincided with the very decades that conservatives themselves call the greatest period of American enterprise — the 1950s and 1960s.  The American “decline” that the right rails about commenced in perfect timing with the decline of labor, along with wave after wave of supply side tax cuts benefiting the rich.  A correlation that no one seems willing to point out.

Were there problems with unions? Sure! Even today, the unions representing some of our greatest heroes, school-teachers and police, need to be taken to the wood shed till they finally admit just one simple tenet: that “bad teachers and bad cops should be fired fairly quickly.”  Um…. duuuuh? Decide to accept that principle and watch how many problems for the majority of good cops and good teachers start to melt away.

Still, Elizabeth Warren recently got it right:  "If Scott Walker sees 100,000 teachers and firefighters as his enemies, maybe it's time we take a closer look at his friends." 

== Climate Change is Happening ==

2014 was the warmest year, worldwide, in recorded history. The third time the record has been broken in the last decade or so. And there are still denialist morons out there... but not  in the U.S. military, where they simply cannot afford to allow dogma to over-rule science.

"Military readiness is already being impacted by sea-level rise," says Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who mentions that with all the flooding, it's becoming difficult to sell a house in some parts of Norfolk. If the melting of Greenland and West Antarctica continues to accelerate at current rates, scientists say Norfolk Naval Base and dozens of other major installations could see more than seven feet of sea-level rise by 2100."

Let's be clear.  One reason that senior U.S. military officers have been dropping old affiliations with the Republican Party like a live grenade is the same reason that the fraction of U.S. scientists who register GOP has dropped from 40% to under 5% in the last 20 years. Brilliant and pragmatic - if inherently conservative - officers cannot afford the litany of delusion that has hijacked American conservatism. (See: How Climate Deniers Put National Security at Risk.)

(And watch that flood turn into a tsunami, as the mad right continues insulting men and women in uniform, with conspiracy-gonzo mania like the "Jade Helm" craziness.)

These soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines watch as the Russians develop twelve new bases in an Arctic that is increasingly ice free. They know climate change is real and they despise the denialist cult.... as they (most of them) despise the family that sent them into trillion dollar wars, costing thousands of American lives… wars whose sole winners were Bush-Cheney companies and ... Iran.

Enough Said?  "Limbaugh: Climate Change ‘One Of The Biggest Scams Ever Perpetrated On The People Of The World’ "  

Well, well. You who have backed these monsters, step back and see where that now leaves you.  Oops, you can't step back.  You are painted in a corner called crazy-town.

== The "Specificity Alarm ==

Before the 2014 data came in, Ted Cruz declared on TV that satellite data demonstrate for the last 17 years, there’s been zero warming.” And immediately my Specificity Alarm went off.  

What? You don’t have a specificity alarm? Well you need one, because it helps you to detect when damned liars are at least trying to weasel a way out of speaking direct falsehood. Like a kid proclaiming: “Who broke your window half an hour ago, Mrs. Smith? Well it can’t be me, 'cause I’ve been waaaay over here for 26 minutes!”

Seventeen years? Hm… why did Cruz specify 17 years?  And why “satellite data”?  Read this article. It proves this fellow to be far, far worse than a damned liar. He’s a damned, lying lawyer.

 Oh... by the way... ocean acidification... 

You cannot escape that one. It is blatantly happening.  You can measure it yourself. It can have zero possible causes other than human generated increases in atmospheric CO2, and it is killing fisheries and coral reefs and helping spread jellyfish everywhere. And it could trigger a catastrophic tipping point re: methane-hydrate ices...

Those who shrug that off, slipping their minds elsewhere to clutch denialist chants, are vastly worse than cynical liars like Cruz. They are simply loco.

== OTHER maters! ==

Swerving overseas… Interesting on the background of the Sunni-Shia-Kurdish mess.  

One for the Predictions Registry: remember when I claimed Terminator’s “Skynet” would not come from the military, but rather from high frequency stock trading systems that are designed from scratch to be pathological, parasitical, predatory and utterly secretive?  Proof comes at us from the News!  

Calling it a major breakthrough that will significantly expedite and streamline its daily operations, Wall Street financial firm Goldman Sachs revealed Thursday it has developed a new high-speed algorithm that is capable of performing more than 10,000 ethical violations per second. ‘With this new automated program, we’ll be able to systematically deceive investors, engage in conflicts of interest, and execute thousands of other blatantly unethical dealings in the time it takes to press a button.’” -- from The Onion!!  And satire can be dead-on true.

Why are republicans trying to gut their own “No Child Left Behind” Law?  Beneath all the jabber of “states rights,” etc, you can see the real reason that some states like Texas and Utah and North Carolina -- where the program is working well, with Common Core and other reforms -- seem to favor making mild adjustments, while retaining NCLB’s rigorous standards.  

But most red states despise the testing requirements that used to be the holy grail of Republican dogma. Why the sudden veer into hating testing?  

Simple.  Their schools are flunking. The solution, instead of paying for good teachers? "Stop testing us!"

And now that the ACA has passed another Supreme Court test?  “The fight against Obamacare isn't just political. Rather, it's become a cornerstone of conservative governance — and it's left red states poorer and residents of red states sicker.  The irony of all this is that Republicans warned that Obamacare would wreck health insurance markets, do little to help the uninsured, and leave everyone else paying hefty taxes to fund a rolling disaster. In fact, Obamacare has covered millions of people at a much lower cost than expected, with the rate of rise of insurance premiums and medical costs at their lowest levels in a generation. 

But as a byproduct of their tactics against Obamacare, Republicans are making their predictions come true, at least for their own residents.”  See: The Anti-Obamacare movement is making red states sicker and poorer.

Oh, some sophistries just leave one speechless.  “Gay marriage will lead to 900,000 abortions.”  Read this… it’s not an argument, or even an assertion… but a magical incantation.  Like “The Gostak distims the doshes.”  Seriously. You must decide now that 2016 will not bring Nehemiah Scudder to power.  

 == And Finally ==

OMG. America's perennial nominee for the world's worst person is at it again: Ann Coulter proposes bringing back literacy tests so voting will be more difficult.  But let's not revile.  Instead let us counter that scientific literacy is necessary, in an age such as ours. In which case, perhaps five Republicans would still have franchise.  

Oh, but it continues…. Karl Marx favored free public education for all… and therefore we must oppose free public education for all!  Yes, that is the notion being pushed in… guess where?  The Confederacy's rush to lobotomization continues to accelerate.

Okay... rant-mode off!


Acacia H. said...

You talk about the state of labor unions.

One thing you have not done that I recall at least is talk about methods of bringing the Labor Union to the 21st century. How can labor unions be revived and rescued from the scrap heap? What are some suggestions you would make for existing unions... or for an organization trying to create a new union?

What organizational structure would you recommend? What methods would you suggest for integrating social media and online social networks into the functioning of the union?


And as an aside? As I said in my last post which you'll ignore with your "Next Post" comment because you're already casting that last post aside? Review and analyze "Prelude to Axanar" and talk about what you like about the current Axanar film idea... and what you feel doesn't work... and suggestions on how future grassroots movies based on science fiction can learn from the Axanar Project.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

In some areas of life, I am simply ignorant. Labor organizing is one. But in SNowcrash Neal Stephenson suggested folks create online affinities that stand up for each other. Pondering that, it seems to me that a LARGE such affinity might be able to boycott a corporation that it deemed unfair to its workers... someof whom are in the affinity. That might be more effective than mere striking...

... so I guess I do have an opinion after all.

Axanar is way-cool. After TNG and DS( bent over backwards to portray Klingons as lovable macho good old boys... it will be nice to see the bullies get their asses handed to em!

Jonathan S. said...

What are the "plans" for Axanar? I mean, aside from attempting to make a movie about the turning point of the Four Years War between the UFP and the Klingon Empire? I don't recall any scripts being released or anything...

I mean, as a "challenge" in the context of the blog posts you've attached it to, it's pretty much a non sequitur.

(As a side note, there are people upset by Prelude To Axanar - because it shows the first two heavy cruisers, Constitution and Enterprise, being built at the Axanar shipyards, rather than Utopia Planitia, as the "official" documents have long stated.)

David Brin said...

I think it is wonderful that Trek fans and Paramount BOTH care about continuity and consistency... traits absolutely missing from Star Wars.

DP said...

"Well, as of this writing, that GOP poll leader is Donald Trump. But you can count on that fad to fade -- the Republican Party establishment has it in for him, and you can depend on his braggadocio to send him blundering into one trap or another."

Dr. Brin I have to disagree. The Donald is going to be a force in the GOP primaries right up to the end. He has tapped into the darkest corner of the GOP base (angry, poorly educated and poorly paid, racially resentful, old white males) and they make up a huge chunk of the GOP primary voters.

Citizen United has also ensured that Trump doesn't have to care about the GOP establishment (neither does any other candidate who has a private billionaire backer or two). As someone who is unelected, Trump can say what he pleases without reprisal (unlike Cruz who just got smacked down by McConnell for calling him a liar on the Senate floor). Rush Limbaugh, the Base's prophet, is supporting Trump as its Messiah.

Trump will be in it until the end. In such a dived field, he could even win.

And to sum up this phenomenon now led by Trump I give you all a new word to ponder:


This slur goes beyond merely calling another republican a RINO and sums up everything wrong with the GOP in one neat, ugly word:

The GOP Base hates the Establishment, which is why the Base loves Trump. The Tea Party dog bank rolled and astro turfed by the Koch brothers and other GOP money men has turned on its master. And they are afraid of it.

Tony Fisk said...

Former Grist and now Vox columnist, David Roberts, continuously states that Trump is popular because he reflects precisely what the RW base believe. The question will be whether the RW base vote in Republican Primaries.

While you may laugh at Trump's deranged antics now remember that, five years ago, I was laughing at a political prospect so awful that he was clearly ridiculous. That prospect is now Prime Minister of Australia, so my advice is to laugh softly, and carry a large whacking stick.

OK Robert, I've been caught by 'new post' syndrome a few times as well. Axanar looks to be most intriguing (seen the new 'Vulcan' scene that's just gone up?), and will be an interesting topic for future discussion.* (I already have a couple of ticks and crosses)

Why *Labor* Unions, though? I think it relevant to discuss how Unions, as a concept, can/ought be brought into the 21st Century. In an age of automation, Labor seems less relevant. Is that untrue, or is the defence a case of that 'tribalism' under discussion last post?

Australian Labor Unions, in contrast, are decidedly left-wing on the whole. They still dominate the make-up of the ALP, as can be seen in the way Bill Shorten was elected leader (under new election rules that Rudd introduced to try and break the dominance, Anthony Albanese got the popular vote, but Shorten *still* got the 51% Union ticket... unsurprising since, like Hawke, he was an ACTU leader.)

* wrt amateur movies in general, "I's" was kickstarted a couple of years ago now. Don't hold your breath, but development is still quietly chugging away.

Acacia H. said...

By the way, Dr. Brin, I apologize. You did not ignore the comment on Axanar in the previous thread, and integrated it into your "Next Post" comment. I tip my hat to you and admit: I was wrong. I should not have disparaged you in this fashion.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Robert, you are way too serious in both directions. CHill. All's good.

Zen Cosmos said...

Labor Unions are victims of their own temporary success. All big power centers attract corruption and megalomania. It was and is how the CEO class has been able to successfully demonize labor over the past few decades since 1979 plus or minus. One way to give back a balance of power to working class citizens may be to abolish unions of any kind. In return for this, the CEO class agrees and enshrines in all corporate charters, these actions: 1) all employees are made 51% or more voting stock owners of the company that hired them. The amount of an individual's stock would be based on skill and education level, training level, tenure at the company and level of responsibility. 2) the entire company agrees to be governed by the so-called Ben and Jerry's Rule. Whereby the lowest paid employee- wages and benefits-- is given no less than 10% or 7% of the CEO's pay and benefits. 10% if an NGO, 7% if a for-profit. Do both of these things economy wide and unions stop being necessary since all workers have representation on all boards in and a working majority at any stockholder's meeting or proxy vote. Already done and successful in Europe, a thing we should emulate. This also ends pay theft on the part of the oligarch class.

Acacia H. said...

Why should companies do that? They already are winning. More and more U.S. States are putting out anti-Labor Union laws and laws that basically neuter the ability of Unions to operate.

What I think Labor Unions need is to become decentralized. Instead of a top-down system of power, they need to become more democratic and use online social networks to allow full participation of members. And I think Unions should also be willing to accept that companies can hire non-Union workers... and not complain if those workers aren't paid as much as Union workers so to help deal with the free rider problem.

I just don't know what form it could take. I know Unions need to change and evolve in order to survive. But the Unions refuse to accept this and consider alternative forms, and no one else is interested in determining what form a 21st century Labor Union could take to survive and flourish.

Rob H.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Robert

The US right wing (and the UK Tories) are winning their battles against the working man

But everybody isn't losing
Germany, France....
Lots of other countries have active Unions
We should look to there laws and rules to see why they work and the US ones don't

From the outside
US Unions have a reputation for
Lack of democracy
Involvement with organized crime

Are those reputations correct?
How do you fix any problems - and more important how do you fix the reputation?

raito said...

Ah, a political post. And germane to this morning's commute's radio listening.

No wonder the Dems are having troubles. They have nitwits running their press.

This morning's moron was a regional press secretary for the DNC. And he was here to tell us how bad Walker would be for president, because he takes policy cues from lobbyists.

But he doesn't say why 'their' lobbyists are worse than 'our' lobbyists. Nor did he bother to draw any substantial lines between the lobbying, policy, and outcomes. And he also tried to pass off single anecdotes as data.

This guy couldn't even use the opportunity Trump handed him on a silver platter to any effect, so blinded was he by dogma. Trump recently stated that Walker would be a lousy prez by citing current WI conditions. TDNC hack says, 'even a blind pig occasionally finds an acorn'. Wouldn't it have been just a tad more effective to say, "See? Walkser sucks so bad even the other GOP candidates know it!"

One the one hand, I agree with Dr. Brin that Trump doesn't have a chance of winning the nomination. On the other, I agree with Danial Duffy that he'll remain a force at least through the convention.

Zen Cosmos is right in his (re)assertion that power corrupts. But personally I think that abolishing unions is unconstitutional, as it removes the right of people to freely assemble, among other things. I'm rather surprised that I haven't heard of laws like WI's Act 10 being challenged on that basis.

The whole labor thing has many dimensions. I laugh every time I hear the phrase 'employee-owned'. All that means is that the owners work there -- nothing else. I currently work at a place that's employee-owned, but there's only a couple of owners. Non-profit is another one that makes me laugh. Non-profit only has to do with distribution of profits and nothing else, certainly not the ability to make profit. Most of the places I've worked at were companies at which the founders still worked. And they worked hard. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea that they need to give away half of what they built themselves. Then again, I'm not all that comfortable with the idea of a corporation being its own legal entity. And how would it change hiring decisions when hiring someone is essentially identical to bringing in a new partner? I've known plenty of people who I'd trust to do a job who I'd never go into business with. Or were we only speaking of public companies? Then it gets even weirder, because anyone can own a part of those.

As for 'affinities', those are already starting to crop up, and will probably grow. All you need is a meme. But since corps. are people, are the laws against online harassment going to apply to instances where someone calls for a boycott of a company?

Paul SB said...

Poly = many
Ticks = blood-sucking parasites
Politics = ?

I understand the obsession, but it is a quagmire of interests and corruptions and most especially obfuscations and canards, making it hard for an honest person to make even broad statements with much certainty. I went beyond taking what I hear and read with a grain of salt decades ago. Now I carry mental buckets. Raito's commuter radio encounter is just one example.

Duncan asked about the perception that Unions in the US are associated with organized crime. While this was true to some extent in the past (most famously in Chicago, but Chicago is famous for corruption all around), I haven't heard of a major conviction in a very long time. I think it is much more perception than reality, but the perception feeds the propaganda machine of one side. Still, once organized crime gets its tentacles into something it can be hard to root out. Probably a more serious problem for the Unions is that they seem to be stubbornly conservative, trying to act as if it were still the 1950s. They will need to adapt to a changing economy and be able to negotiate the very different labor markets for skilled and non-skilled service-sector jobs. As Zen Cosmos reminds us, power corrupts, and it is probably that corruption more than anything else that keeps the Unions frozen where they are, losing the war against the oligarchs.

Duncan, I was once shown a video of a German company board meeting in which two American execs negotiating for their company were involved. One fellow began to speak about the workers and one of the Americans inquired who the guy was. When he was told that the fellow was a representative for the workers, which is standard practice in German businesses, the Americans stormed out of the meeting accusing them of being a bunch of Communists. While I think you are right, I doubt American business culture will be willing to make the kind of changes it most needs to make. Unions helped prevent big business oligarchs from sinking the US into financial ruin back in the 19th Century, but they, too, have become too set in their ways.

Raito, you suggested that abolishing Unions is unconstitutional, but when did that ever stop Congress? What generally happens is that Congress passes laws that are unconstitutional and someone opens a law suit. Years later it works its way up to the Supreme Court, where it may or may not be struck down. Likely most never make it that far. And as soon as the Supreme Court does its job as defined by the Constitution people start to whine about "legislating form the bench." The whole purpose of the judiciary branch is to act as a check on the power of the legislative branch, but a lot of people don't seem to get it. They think that democracy simply means that a body of elected officials decides everything, and since Supreme Court justices are appointed rather than elected, they are seen by many as dictators rather than a democratic institution.

That's probably enough blood-sucking parasites for me, today.

Paul SB said...

Jonathan, looking at how long some of Dr. Brin's threads are, and how many links they contain, it probably takes him quite some time to put one together. So if any of us make a suggestion for a new thread close to the day he switches over, it would likely be too late for him to change subjects. But he does take suggestions, so maybe next time. The Axanar thing might be kind of short, though, by itself.

Alex Tolley said...

Don't German companies include all stakeholders at board meetings - the owners and managers, unions to represent the workers and bankers? This is the stakeholder model of capitalism, rather than the shareholder model that has become dominant in the anglo-speaking countries.

I recall reading a discussion about trying o rebuild unions in the US. IIRC, all the participants were very downbeat on being able to do anything. My only experience of belonging to a union in the US is via the university. It was the most ineffectual organization I have seen, crowing about improvements in pay and conditions that were barely keeping pace with inflation. It was hard not to believe the unions were in bed with the administration. Not rocking the boat seemed to be their MO.

Our citizen collective bargaining power in the US is supposed to work through our legislature. But they have swapped their allegiances to those owners of capital, so most of what we see as legislation in the US is reducing the constraints on owners. The Democratic party has sold out leaving just a few legislators actually working for citizenry. Our senior senator in California is a DINO and has been at least since I paid attention to her voting since 1996. 20 years of serving corporations and the state security apparatus for the important decisions. If Republicans would put up a sane, moderate candidate I would vote against DiFi if only to end her reign and send a message to the DNC that they need to be legislating for the majority of the population. Clinton is similar to DiFi, sooth saying her base, while selling them out to her corporate backers. If she wins the presidency, I see her as another Obama, just more experienced.

Tim H. said...

One of the reasons German labor does better is FDR's "Second bill of rights" got more traction there than it did here. Funny how the serious people here manage to argue with success.

locumranch said...

There are times when David & I agree on things and times when our opinions diverge. One of the things we agree on are Unions, how indispensable they are for protecting the interests of the working class, at neutralising the ever-present oligarchy and maintaining the pretense of political egalitarianism and/or balance. But, as evidenced by the current despicable tactics of unionised French Farmers, the US Unions were victims of their own power & success, as best described by the historical truth voiced by Zen_Cosmos (power, esp centralised power, corrupts absolutely), a truth that David tends to downplay (imo) but I implicitly accept, bringing us inexorably to the point were our opinions diverge:

Centralised federal government.

Centralised government (in both the EU & USA) has reached the highest concentration ever, becoming the most powerful and unstoppable force (the Leviathan) in the history of the world, meaning that it has also become the most corrupt, being increasingly unanswerable, dictatorial & tyrannical to the democratic polity that once created it, some much so that the historical political divisions (republican, democrat, whig, tory, lords, labour, socialist, communist) have ceased to have any meaning or influence over either government action or the expression of government power.

Yet, despite this glaring reality, David continues to push unity, consensus and centralisation through hierarchy as the solution to all of humanities growing problems, and he would use whatever social means possible to form an inclusive global humanity in the proverbial 'Tip of the Spear' for which to conquer the universe, believing against belief that an even greater concentration of power will somehow overcome the time proven truism that 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely'.

I do not. In the attempt to avoid this (classic) 'power trap', I prefer not to "squeeze the universe into a ball (and) roll it towards some overwhelming question". I prefer balkanisation. I would have humanity fracture into thousands of smaller (manageable) groups and, like seeds of a dandelion, scatter in a million different directions, knowing that this tactic holds humanities best chance for success even though it promises failures without number.


Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin, I would like to have your opinion on the EmDrive which has recently caused a lot of interest. It seems perhaps to work but no one has an idea why. It promises to be a game changer when it comes to space exploration. I am sure you have close contacts in this area. What do you think of its possibilities or is it just another "cold fusion" idea?


David Brin said...

Jerry I agree that de Soto in Peru is one of the most interesting figures in recent economics history. Promoting the use of quasi-socialist methods... land reforms and vesting poor farmers with title... with encouragement of competitive small and medium enterprise. It should be a no-brainer. And when our revolution comes, I hope it will be similarly moderate.

AT: Sorry, but given that the world has many hopeful things going on, my top agenda is to fight the worst things. And even Blue Dog democrats -- or your "DINOs" -- will do the basics. Support science. Appoint Supreme Court justices who will (eventually) end gerrymandering and Citizens United and other cheats. Put people to work on infrastructure. Strengthen the Consumer financial Protection Agency. Do at least a little anti-trust. Wage war less stupidly. Admit the climate is changing. Make modest moves toward supervision of state security.

Is that insufficient, from your perspective? Fine! Agitate for more! Perhaps, when the undead were-elephant self destructs, the Blue Dogs will absorb American (sane) conservatism and the left will spin off a party more to your liking. Till then? That rampaging elephant is damaging the nation that I love.

Douglas I have looked at EmDrive a bit. It strikes my physicist instincts as 80% likely to be hokum. But the sci fi guy in me hopes there's something to it. The good news is that the process is fairly simple. They promise "orders of magnitude" better thrust very soon. So I guess we'll find out.

Locum is expressing himself well today and in clear prose. Alas, he is strawmanning as much as ever, given that my entire life and work has been about dispersal and division of power and opposing hierarchies... Moreover, in any given week I am more effective at that, than he will be across the entire span of his life.

That I am a friend of hierarchy is a hysterical fantasy woven out of cloth spun in pure delusion. It is the confederacy that is the purest essence of oligarchic tendency in American life. Though we must always aim skeptical light (as I do) at potential Big Brothers looming in every direction.

I actually rather enjoyed his final sentence, though. Very science fictional. even eloquent.

Robert Sandstedt said...

Aren't unions, political parties, clubs, professional societies, etc, just variations on tribes?
I think there's a lot to be learned by exploring these groups through the filter of Dr. Brin's horizons model.
From my point of view the various groupings tend to be rather exclusive. This in my mind would contribute to their shrinking influence.

mk045 said...

My read of Stephenson's "Snow Crash" and "Diamond Age" were a more complete breakdown of the nation-state model, different only in degree. Online communities were certainly part of it, but a tool instead of a cause. That SF gives a thought experiment where the result should be avoided, not a model for a possible better future. The characters succeed in spite of that situation, not because of it. I find that a consistent approach from Stephenson.

Anonymous said...

What worries me is there will be another big scary incident. A 9-11 would push us into being an empire really fast. It comes to me that I live in a place suited to be a demonstration target. We're a major city 500 miles from anywhere else with a majority population that is not mainline protestant. Gee wouldn't it be a shame if somehow a Iranian Nuke happened here? Of course I live in the biggest red state not in the south. Now to other things. I'm having a problem seeing how with primary industry being about 10% GDP how labor could be a big enough political force to matter. Some how I cant see that all the sales clerks etc in the service economy could have enough common interest to form unions.

David Brin said...

Robert S... we are fluid and can identify with a close-in tribe (our sports team) then with a larger one. It is keeping that fluidity that matters. That and recalling that competition is as important as cooperation. When we are actively holding each other accountable within clear rules on a flat-open playing field, that is when obligate hierarchies (and their calcification) are prevented.

Jonathan S. said...

There are experiments which seem to show some results from the EmDrive. However, there are similar results from a setup designed not to work, so...

locumranch said...

"When given a choice between privacy and accountability, most people tend to choose privacy for themselves and accountability for others." So it is for federalism, the Company Store, TWODA and most climate change solutions:

Our elected officials avoid accountability by invoking 'representation' when little or no representation exists; our financial system offers inequality misrepresented as 'easy terms', manipulates currency and criminalizes the debtor; TWODA determines 'things WE ought to doing, anyway' and generalizes the 'ought' to the not-WE; and most climate changes solutions take the form of hierarchical commandments replete with penalties.

By definition, the term 'Accountability' refers to an obligation enforced by an outside entity, authority, government or god, coming to us from 'a count (a narration) requiring judgment', just as the term 'judgment' presupposes the existence of that same higher authority, god or central government.

Sui Generis: The Individual (and/or ANY collection of individuals) as the Ultimate Authority, slouching toward Bethlehem to be born, occasionally known by the alias 'Diversity' ;)


Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, what you said to Robert S. about how identity can shift from a small tribe like a sports team fandom to a larger tribe (like a nation, religion, ethnicity) reminded me of something Sapolsky brought up in that National Geo video. He points out that people who are in stressful, subordinate positions often adapt to their stress by taking on influential roles in smaller social groups (he gives being captain of the company softball team as an example) and making that identity prime. If that is the case, would you expect that people higher on the totem pole would have fewer tribes to which they belong? Also, would blogging be another such stress outlet, with the advantage of being able to form our own improvised tribes, like what Raito was saying about communication in the last thread?

David Brin said...

Anon... that is exactly what 9-11 was for. It only worked a bit.

David Brin said...

Paul are you saying I run a blogmunity out of frustration at being so minor?

A.F. Rey said...

Donald Trump will doubtlessly not win the Presidency, but he would win it for Hillary if he decides to run as an independent.

The Republicans do have a good reason to fear him.

Paul SB said...

That would be one way of looking at it, Dr. Brin. :) You're certainly the biggest fish here in this pond, if you don't mind the Milton. :| I thought it was more of a smartmob, but maybe that's (plural) self-flattery. :[

I was thinking that we usually assume that more affluent people will have larger social networks, but maybe quality of network (how important your tribe is to you) can be important in its own way.

BTW: have you thought about that Tribe Brin t-shirt crest? I like the space dolphins - it would be better than a No Green Oven Mits logo.

Tony Fisk said...

Locum's final remarks remind me that the Shadows of Babylon5 turned out to be not entirely malevolent in their intentions for the 'younger races', just as the Vorlons were not entirely benevolent.

Tee-shirts? How about a wrap-around panorama of a cityscape?

David Brin said...

I recall a group designed some Uplift Institute logos.

see also

David Brin said...

Sorry.Here's the complete set of Uplift related schwag that one guy offers!

Care to go for a bulk order?

Paul SB said...

Some cool looking stuff! That walking dolphin costume looks like it took a whole lot of work. I thought some of the best artwork were the covers for the GURPS Uplift rpg supplements. However, I think I'm going to have to get my daughter to read Glory Season and commission something from her (or a hypothetical sequel, maybe call it "Glory Skies"? Airships are enjoying a resurgence in popularity with the steampunk genre so popular right now).

Alex Tolley said...

@db Is that insufficient, from your perspective? Fine! Agitate for more!

If Feinstein would step down, we could choose a replacement more like Boxer. It seems the only way to shift her is vote in another party then switch back in 6 years. It is a risk to be sure, because DiFi has voted the social issues appropriately. It is her voting on key corporate issues that is problematic. If a Green Party candidate could win, I would vote that way.
TPP was the final straw for me, blatantly voting against what the majority of her constituents want.

Acacia H. said...

I disagree with Dr. Brin over Trump. I believe he's going to make it to the Republican Convention... and the only way he will lose the Primary is if they pull a Teddy Roosevelt on him (as in when Roosevelt lost the Republican Primary through backroom dealings). You see, Trump has realized two things: first, people enjoy a show. He's putting on a damn fine one that has people wincing and unable to look away. Hell, he doesn't even have to advertise. Each time he opens his mouth every news media organization and half of the comedians jump. And second? He's preaching hate to a group of hardcore voters who always vote and always vote Republican... but also have seen the Republican Party screw them over time and time again and renege on all of their promises.

If it were just, say, Trump and one or two other candidates and one of them was a strong candidate... he'd lose. But with a massively divided field, he's going to get the majority of the vote for each state primary. You will see the other strong candidates take their states... but not much else. And while his speaking shit all the time would seem likely to make him "self-destruct" it also helps make him into the one candidate who will speak his mind and speak the truth as he sees it.


Likewise, I don't see Clinton having the election in the bag. There is tremendous enthusiasm growing over Sanders. And Sanders has a couple things that benefit him over Clinton and over the non-Trump Republican candidates - he's not a dye-in-the-wool Democrat and thus not part of the Establishment, he is far more trustworthy than Clinton (or the Republicans), he isn't a Clinton, and he's an old white man.

As you've pointed out, Dr. Brin, Congress is about tribes. Obama was an Outsider. Clinton is also an Outsider. But Sanders? He looks like one of the old-guard Republicans - he's an older white-haired man. Subconsciously they are going to accept him far more than Clinton, and definitely far more than Obama. Republicans will negotiate with Sanders because of tribalism and because in their subconscious mind, it's okay. He's not Other. He can be negotiated with.

This also has the added benefit that it'll rip apart the Republican Party as the Young Turks and Tea Party politicians, mostly younger men, see this negotiation as treachery. The Republican Party will devour itself and quickly become a regional party within a couple of election cycles after Republicans negotiate with Sanders. (And this may be why Republicans refuse to work with Obama for just about everything - they realize if they do, then their own radical reactionaries will foam at the mouth and devour the GOP.)


As for my apology, Dr. Brin... if I hold you to a higher standard and criticize you when you start sniping at others and acting in a fashion that I consider churlish, then I would be a hypocrite to accept that behavior in myself. I was wrong in how I spoke and thus apologized. You may not consider it a big matter... but it's a matter of principle for me.

If that seems too serious? Well, everyone knows the Internets is serious business.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@Alex: Don't worry much. Both our Senators are getting a touch old. We will be replacing them soon enough. DiFi does manage to represent a large number of us by serving a sector Boxer does not. Both do things I don't like, but I kind of expect that from Senators. They are supposed to think about State level interests and not so much constituents no matter what the amendment says about how they are chosen.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm sorry I missed the social models thread. Family business called and I had to answer. 8/

I think it is very important to make sure our models work for pre-agricultural humans. They should also extend to cover our break with our cousin species too. The simple arguments for us being smarter or more violent or lucky don't make much sense to me. We do something they didn't and our tribes were more prosperous as a result. Instead of thinking of it in terms of inclusion, I tend to think of it as trade since that's probably what we did as a first step. Fear has to diminish if you rely upon a stranger for a resource you want or need or you don't trade. Inclusion grows from that seed I suspect.

Gregory said...

Sometimes I wonder whether Republican politicians are really stupid or only pretending to be. I suppose it makes no difference.

Paul SB said...

Hi Alfred, good to have you back!

The model Dr. Brin seems to be constructing did not mention trade explicitly, but you can see that as an important element, in a Maslovian sense. That is, the horizons of inclusion he writes of are only likely to expand when lower order needs are secure. Since humans have to a great extent become H. economicus, that would imply that trade relations would have to be stable for that to happen, and when trade breaks down there would be a tendency for inclusion horizons to contract. It is a synergistic effect, depending on a number of factors, which would include trade.

Social models (at least in anthropology, which I am most familiar with) tend to include trade as major factors. Renfrew & Cherry's Peer Polity Interaction, Wallerstein's World Systems Theory and even Crumley's Heterarchy Model all examine the roles of trade in relationships between human social groups. The simple arguments you mention, that humans are smarter, more violent or more lucky, what are called "hydraulic" arguments, are mostly tautological. They mainly come from non-experts or people who are experts in other fields, so they tend to be founded on (and founder on) a lot of unquestioned assumptions.

It might be premature, but maybe Dr. Brin should come up with a name for his model of inclusion dynamics.

raito said...

Paul SB,

As far as Constitutionality goes, I remain optimistic. Even though it hasn't ever stopped anything.

As for checks and balances, various parties seem bound and determined to both remove them (in favor of themselves), and convince us (in true divisionist manner) that the other side isn't keeping up their end and/or shouldn't have any power at all.

Also, I've run into a LOT of people for whom an unreal identity was prime. Unfortunately, the usual problem was that they were mostly failures in their real lives, and used their petty prime identity to take it out on others. You'll mostly find them in small-scale social settings of various sorts. These people are distinct from the ones who make people miserable in their real lives and bring that into smaller groups. There are those golden few out there who user their small-scale identity to do good. I wish I knew a better way for those few to get a larger scale to their actions.

Paul SB said...

Hi Raito,

What you said about checks and balances is exactly what is going on when they whine about "legislating from the bench." I imagine you probably heard some of the horse puckey they were saying about the gay marriage decision awhile back.

I probably know some of the people you refer to in terms of their unreal identity being primary. There's lots of that with sports clubs, gamer groups, fans of various TV shows and movie series, anime fans, etc. I used to go to Star Trek conventions when I was younger and not yet endowed with offspring. They aren't all petty, but some people certainly bring their petty issues with them to the smaller arena. It does not negate the value of Sapolsky's suggestion, though it does mean you might have to shop around, and once you find an identity arena where you feel comfortable, defend it against petty intruders.

Alex Tolley said...

@Alfred Are you familiar with this book?
The Company of Strangers: A Natural History of Economic Life

Alex Tolley said...

OT: @DB - isn't this what you have been asking for?
Messaging App Weaves Smartphones Into an Alternative Internet

David Brin said...

Mr. Clifford, most Fox talking heads & blondes have advanced degrees from Yale, yet pretend not to know any three syllable words. They are not stupid. They are cynical sellouts. In contrast, the GOP members of the House Science Committees appear to be sincere morons.

Raito: Those whose prime identity takes them to sea combatting whalers and criminal rogue trawlers… what does it take to distinguish them … or weekend home builders for Habitat… from D&D players?

David Brin said...

New posting is sure to stir emotions!


Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Connecting low order needs to small horizons makes some sense, but I’m not convinced which is the horse and which is the cart. With reliable trade, one’s lower order needs are generally met at less expense. It’s entirely possible some people lucked into a successful model the same way some wolves lucked into a symbiotic relationship with us. Their inclination toward xenophobia was naturally lower due to biology. Once started, though, the lucky humans would replicate the meme and the world would change. Accidental inclusion first for some then lower order needs met easily for many.

Thank you for the term. Hydraulic argument. As a physics guy I’m sure I’ve been guilty of my share of them when pontificating outside my field. 8)

@Alex: I’m not familiar with it. I’ll go look it up and the material Paul SB mentioned. Thanks!

A.F. Rey said...

Speaking cares! This is crazy!

Phil Gramm is outraged that his CEO friend only got $75 million when he retired.

"It’s the one form of bigotry that is still allowed in America, and that’s bigotry against the successful … My friend Ed Whitacre at AT&T, if there’s ever been an exploited worker, even though they made a big deal about him getting $75 million when he retired, the man added billions of dollars of value, he was exploited, it was an outrage!"

If only I could be exploited like that! :)

siska said...
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