Sunday, December 13, 2015

Wait for the Ryan Express

It appears that the Republican Party establishment  is coalescing around a White Knight who might save them from multiple, self-inflicted disasters, in 2016. The scenario is a surprising one -- and yet eerily familiar.  But first...

Newly selected House Speaker Paul Ryan is crowing about a spectacular accomplishment… getting his GOP majority to allow debate and then passage of a bipartisan transportation & infrastructure bill.... the first in ten years. As noted in one of my earlier postings, Republicans have strenuously blocked any substantial sums being used on infrastructure repair for one simple reason....

 .....such funds stimulate jobs with high-velocity money, instantly spent by lower middle class workers, as opposed to super-low-velocity cash transfers to aristocracy, in vain hope they'll invest it in productive “supply side” industry. (They don't.) I'll talk more about the Infrastructure Bill, below.  

Also my weird scenario for how Paul Ryan might yet become the Republicans’ 2016 presidential nominee. Sound far-fetched? Preparations are being made, as we speak, due to the Donald Trump Effect. 

"Republican officials and leading figures in the party’s establishment are now preparing for the possibility of a brokered convention as businessman Donald J. Trump continues sit atop the polls and the presidential race. (With almost-equally unacceptable Ted Cruz and Ben Carson picking up most of the rest of support from the GOP base.) More than 20 of (GOP power brokers) convened Monday for a dinner held by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus...the party’s establishment must lay the groundwork for a floor fight, in which the GOP’s mainstream wing could coalesce around an alternative...."

To be clear, Mr. Ryan, who as speaker will also serve as chairman of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this summer, said he would strongly support any Republican nominee. Yet he said "he believed that congressional Republicans must set a policy agenda that offered a clear contrast to the angry insurgent refrain blasting into the winter primaries." 

In other words, seizing the till-now vacant niche in Republican politics, that of being the adult-in-the-room.  So, let's start with Ryan's opening moves.

== Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. ==

Upon taking up the gavel as Speaker, Paul Ryan’s first act was removing a portrait of Dennis Hastert from the Speaker's lobby outside the House floor. Hastert, who served in the same position - second in line to the presidency - from 1999-2007, pleaded guilty in a $3.5 million hush money case last week.  

“Two sources with knowledge of the federal investigation told CNN in June that Hastert was paying a former student to stay quiet about allegations of sexual abuse from when he was a wrestling coach and teacher in Yorkville, Illinois.” The plea bargain means that no details will come out in open trial.

You’re kidding, right?  The same Dennis Hastert who called the Clintons the “most-corrupt” politicians of our lifetime? (When not one Clintonite wound up even indicted for malfeasance of office, the first time after a two term presidency.) The Dennis Hastert who screeched at Bill Clinton’s immorality for consensual-adult, hetero-rubbing in a hallway? Who denounced previous speaker Newt Gingrich for the twin sins of divorce and actually negotiating (shudder) with democrats to pass legislation for the good of the nation? 

The Dennis Hastert whose “Hastert Rule” (punish any republican who works on
 compromise with a democrat) did more than even Fox News to destroy politics as a problem solving methodology in the U.S.?  Thus wreaking more harm on the republic than anyone since Josef Stalin? In other words, Dennis Hastert the deliberate traitor… and now exposed as perjurer, briber, pervert and hypocrite?

Oh… this could not have happened to a more apropos guy. And making that contrast plain by disowning Hastert from the start proves Ryan's ability to grasp the obvious.

Now let's add another factor Ryan must contend with. On the near horizon is a possible limit on electoral cheating. For example, blue Maryland (with a red governor) seems poised to finally end gerrymandering.  Once a cheat performed equally by both parties’ political castes, the practice is now being dumped by ever-more voters in democratic-leaning states.  Republicans are rubbing their hands because not one red state has followed suit.  But that glee is shortsighted.  Yearly, the foul practice is becoming more and more identified as a republican crime, lined up along with rigged voting machines and voter suppression.

And now it looks as if reddish-turning-purple Virginia may do the same. If democrats win, in 2016, there may be a full-court press against these cheats.  And if cheating goes away, then the GOP's demographic problems, failing popularity and starkly horrific governance Outcomes Metrics could add up to disaster for them.

== Presidential politics: The Paul Ryan Gambit? ==

Okay, so the table is set. On to the main topic. I don’t believe in prediction. But I do think folks should offer wagers!  If you think something has a substantial – say 20% -- chance of happening, then offer 1:4 odds!

Here’s one of mine: There is only one ‘mainstream’ Republican office-holder of stature to whom the secret masters of the GOP can turn, if they want to keep ahold of the reins. That’s Paul Ryan.  The new Speaker of the House has gravitas and is growing a Lincolnesque beard… and in the classic GOP pattern, it’s his “turn” as the most-recent Republican Party vice presidential nominee. (Recall I made this point a year ago.)

Oh, sure, it’s too late for Ryan plausibly to enter the debates and primaries.  But that didn’t stop Ryan from recently delivering a major stump speech that one observer said “amounted to a delayed inaugural address.” 

As columnist E. J. Dionne put it: “the most striking aspect of Ryan’s speech is that for all its emphasis on progressives relying on old ideas (they “are stuck in the past,” he said) and conservatives supposedly being more in tune with changing times, his arguments were rooted in the nostrums Washington Republicans have been offering for decades. The angry Republican working class rallying to Trump to express its disillusionment with the status quo will find little in Ryan’s homily to make it reconsider.”   

Having delivered absolutely nothing for working class whites who make up the core of Trump support, you can bet the Cheneyite-Murdochian-Saudi owners of the party are already lighting candles in hope of a brokered convention.  If Donald Trump can be kept below 40% in the delegate count, then it will be a Sumo Match. Those deal-makers versus the big casino deal-maker, with both blocs sifting for swing delegates, and boy will the bribe offers flow! (Hint to all GOP delegates in Ohio, this summer; take recording devices! You’ll get bigger deals!) 

Oh sure, Trump might still prevail! But never underestimate Dick Cheney in a knife-fight. And the Saudis have lots more bribe money than even Donald could come up with.

== The Great Ryan Hope ==

Okay, let’s go with this. Suppose the SMORPs (Secret Masters of the Republican Party) hold the line. They get the 60% non-Trumps to stand fast and throw the convention into a fifth ballot, when it all shifts to horse-trading. And let’s suppose Ryan is the obvious, go-to compromise nominee, unsullied from the previous year of awful gaffes, mud-slinging and hate toxins spewed by the debate participants. Then what?

If by then the fundie-teaparty wing has coalesced around Ted Cruz, then odds are Cruz would get Ryan’s nod to be the ticket’s running mate. 

That would, after all, be in keeping with the GOP’s other grand tradition – of almost never choosing a VP candidate who is remotely qualified to be president. Almost always they choose an unqualified caricature, to pander to the crazy wing and to make the main nominee look sage, by comparison.  That is, after all, how we got Richard Nixon.  All right, except Romney chose Ryan. That jury is still out.

(Democrats have a different tradition.  Their VP nominees are always extremely well qualified and moderate... and stunningly boring.)

Yes, some are asserting that Ted Cruz's growing punch among fundie-tea-partiers and his big war chest make him a strong contender for the #1 spot. I disagree, offering 1:3 odds that Cruz -- despite the fact that most GOP politicians loathe him intensely -- will be the VP pick of any GOP nominee. Moreover I reckon that has been his goal, all along. In that case - win or lose in November 2016 - he becomes the presumptive heir.

Which leaves the Donald. What will he do,if the SMORPS pull the nomination out from under him?   

Under those conditions, he’d naturally teeter toward an angry, third party run! (Oh, please?) The bluster and anger will be volcanic! 

And yet… my guess is the fix will be in. Under the table. Only to calm down Trump will require - literally - billions.

Again, I give this whole scenario 20%.  Which is huge, given how many dice are in the air, right now.  Less than likely? Sure. But you can bet there are moguls on golf courses discussing exactly this.

== Do you think it actually matters? ==

Dig this well.  Choosing among the whole bestiary, from Rubio and Cruz to Carson and Jeb, any Republican president - except maybe Donald Trump - will enter office accompanied by the entire panoply of Cheney-Bush factotums.  Period.  Their cabinet and sub-cabinet functionaries -- and bill-writing lobbyists -- will be drawn from the same well. Almost all of them either crooked or else compliantly banal, and determined to use the citizen-taxpayers as cattle.

You aren’t voting just for the top guy — (though any Bush is automatically a cadet member of the Saudi Royal House) — you are voting for their whole community. At least 10,000 of them, the same stunningly corrupt and incompetent ‘brain trust’ that sent steeply downward every single unambiguously attributable metric of US national health, across both Bush administrations.

== Oh… about the Infrastructure Bill… ==

… the legislation that Paul Ryan is so proud of?  So why has the GOP-dominated House finally passed an infrastructure bill?  Two reasons.  Delay any longer and bridges will start collapsing, and people will know whom to blame.  Also, they now realize it is too late to sabotage the economy anymore.  They managed to slow recovery for 7 years, hoping to pin it on Obama.  Now the rate of improvement is so high they might as well give up and turn to other tactics.

But don’t worry, they are still true to form, as when the GOP passed Medicare Part D, the only entitlement without provision how to pay for it. On this occasion, rather than raise the 22 year old gas tax — which has always paid for roads — they “funded” the transportation bill by raiding Peter to pay Paul:

“Transportation traditionally has been funded by the federal gas excise tax, on the sound reasoning that people who drive on highways should help build and maintain them. Yet this tax, stuck at 18.4 ­cents per gallon since 1993, no longer raises sufficient revenue. And for political reasons the House leadership ruled out an increase — blocking Democrats from even bringing the issue to a vote on the new, more open House floor. Instead, the six-year bill cobbles together financing from expedients: one-time strategic petroleum sales; ostensibly improved tax compliance; and, most dubiously, a raid on the Federal Reserve’s capital.”

Selling our petroleum reserve? When oil prices are low? Say what? 

That is the diametric opposite of how governments are supposed to behave.  Ask any Pharaoh or Caesar.  They knew — you stockpile the warehouses when grain or other resources are cheap — both building a reserve and boosting producer prices when farmers etc are in pain.  Then you sell when prices are high, both lessening scarcity and re filling the Treasury to do it over again. But for twenty years, the GOP has made a concerted effort to do the diametric opposite, selling not only from the petroleum reserve precisely at market-bottom, but nearly all of our strategic reserve of helium and other resources in sweetheart deals, at dirt-cheap prices.  

The helium thing was so egregious that people should have gone to prison.


Tony Fisk said...

Ryan for Prez? Well, we now have Turnbull for PM. (an outcome just as unpalatable to le Murds.)

(As you're playing with acronyms, might I suggest "Secret Masters Actually Underwriting the Gop"? It would appeal to their vanity. ;-)

Whatever the outcome, I think the Republicans need a long spell in the wilderness to think about what they've done.

Treebeard said...

That's why Trump is such a phenomenon. He threatens the corrupt and lying GOP establishment, isn't afraid of the media smear machine, isn't a fundamentalist fanatic, speaks like a nationalist patriot rather than a globalist shill, and doesn't bow to the shibboleths of the leftist opinion-makers. He also energizes a vast, neglected and demoralized constituency, whose energy can quite possibly “make America great again”, but only if is freed from both the leftist demoralization machine and the GOP plutocratic deception machine. Paul Ryan can't do any of that, nor can any of the other GOP candidates.

bigsteve said...

If the white working class ever realizes they have more in common with those others than the snake oil selling GOP elite's whole house of cards will tumble. That would be a working majority and some leader would emerge that would actually serve that constituency. This is the nightmare scenario (for them) that the masters of the Republican party fear.

David Brin said...

That was actually a well-parsed and decipherable crystallization by our normally-insane and usually-misogynist ent. He made his case concisely and clearly. Alas, his attempt to cast our political landscape as dominated by two demonic and equally treasonous cults is only half right -- and therefore completely wrong.

The "leftist demoralization machine" exists... in a few hundred university soft-studies departments and amid some pathetic dopes like Chomsky...

...who have zero influence over the vastly pragmatic and moderate liberal constituency of the Democratic Party. Indeed, that is where you'll find all the optimists in America. All the scientists. Most of the inventors. All the teachers slogging every day to open up young minds. Nearly all of the folks who actually know and build stuff.

"make America Great Again?" Bugger off. America IS great! Our pax has allowed the greatest fraction of humanity to live in peace, develop and raise fear-free kids in world history. We just had by-far humanity's best year in space exploration. And per capita we are hugely safe. The 'demoralizers" are those ranting that we have fallen, when we are merely hobbled, around the ankles, by confederate assholes screeching "no-o-o-o-o-o!" at the future.

Jumper said...

Why does Trump get so much slavish love for saying the same nasty things about Republicans that progressives do? I can think of one reason.

locumranch said...

To witness the end of politics as usual, we are a privileged generation:

In France, Le Pen's far-right National Front struggles to hold on to a 40% majority (by due democratic process, no less), while Sarkozy's UMP and Hollande's PS openly conspire to prevent the Right from taking power regardless of popular will. Across the EU, a rising democratic tide of nationalism, xenophobia & religious intolerance threatens to sweep political progressives from office, yet these same progressive politicians pause on their way out of power to condemn the US's Donald Trump for religious intolerance, mostly out of the fear that Trump's brand of US Isolationism will leave them defenseless (without US support) in the chaotic face of their own failed progressive policies.

And, back across the Atlantic pond, US Democrats now quake at the thought that this same Donald Trump may gain the Republican Presidential nomination, so much so that they loudly voice their (liberal; progressive) support for Paul Ryan (a man who stands to the far right of the Xmas-stealing Grinch) as a 'More Reasonable Option' because of a wistful belief that their own 'Great White Female Hope' can still beat Ryan (but not Trump) in a national election.

Yet this rising democratic tide of nationalism & xenophobia waits for no progressive, and 'The Donald' just gets more popular for his bold stance on Muslim Immigration restrictions (one shared covertly, btw, by Evangelicals, Labour Unionists, Hispanic Catholics, Liberal Jews & Black Christians alike), and our career US Republican & Democrat politicians stand united in fear at the imminent demise of their vacuous One Party system.

(mustache twirl & evil laugh)


LarryHart said...

The main post:

And yet… my guess is the fix will be in. Under the table. Only to calm down Trump will require - literally - billions.

I've often wondered if the billionaires are getting their money's worth investing as much money as they do in politicians who will lower their taxes. At some point, wouldn't they have been better off (financially, I mean) just paying the darn tax?

I understand the philosophy of "Millions for defense; not one cent for tribute!", but applying those roles in this case doesn't bode well for an appearance of patriotism.

Tangential question...the stock market was down at 6000 something (and some were predicting a slide below 1000) when President Obama took office, and now it's heading for 20,000. Wages have stagnated, but corporate profits are through the roof. So, why does Wall Street so viscerally and so unanimously hate him?

I'm really asking the question.

LarryHart said...


Why does Trump get so much slavish love for saying the same nasty things about Republicans that progressives do?

I've started to wonder if Donald Trump is "doing" Steven Colbert to the next level. In any situation, if you try to think "What would be so over the top offensive that even a Republican would scarce dare give it utterance?", he goes ahead and says that thing, and his ratings go up. If the prospect of him actually winning the office weren't so terrifying, it would be hilarious stand-up comedy.

Now, if that really is what he's doing, I can't yet figure out whether he's:

1) purposely playing the Republican Party for fools, intending to do harm to the brand.
2) demonstrating by his own actions that Republicans can take the kid gloves off and gain support by offending people who aren't their rabid base.
3) simply playing a part and stubbornly refusing to break character, no matter where it leads (even to the White House itself)

LarryHart said...


Does anyone besides myself remember where that line that I misquoted above comes from:

"A thought strikes me, so terrifying I scarce dare give it utterance."

Followed shortly by:

"The sum of the angles of that rectangle are too numerous to contemplate."

LarryHart said...


And, back across the Atlantic pond, US Democrats now quake at the thought that this same Donald Trump may gain the Republican Presidential nomination, so much so that they loudly voice their (liberal; progressive) support for Paul Ryan...

I listen to liberal talk radio (it exists in Chicago, if nowhere else), and I haven't heard of any Democrats expressing either one of those positions. If anything, they underestimate Trump's chances of winning the general election and practically salivate at him being the Republican nominee, assuming Dems would not only take the White House but the House and Senate as well if Trump is the nominee.

On the other hand, Democrats seem to despise Paul Ryan. The ones who treat him like some great white hope are the "centrist" journalists who need someone on the right they can point to as being a reasonable negotiator.

Democrats may be misreading the board, but not in the direction you claim.

David Brin said...

I have no love of Ryan. He does appear to be sane, which marks him apart from the top 7 current GOP contenders. But sane as a far-rightwinger who refuses to notice that none of their nostrums have ever, ever worked.

Trump and Cruz are making it clear at last. It's the Confederacy, stupid.

Tom Crowl said...

My concern is that the "Establishments" of both Parties have become too biased and frankly too isolated from the real world by an insular environment and big money.

Yes, the Republicans are bigger idiots... (half of them believe the earth is only a few thousand years old... or are at least willing to say it).

But the current climate may not put sufficient pressure on the Democrats to keep them from continuing on a path of Wall Street appeasement and wealth concentration.

It's important to remember that Bernie Sanders actually has more supporters than Donald Trump!.. But gets scarcely any attention. (My understanding is that its about 80 to 1 in terms of time of media coverage).

I believe the result will be an easy election for Clinton... but without her having to face any pressure from her Left. This is very unfortunate in the long run. And may well lead to a weaker (or eventually fractured) Democratic Party. Unless rapid steps are taken in things like minimum wage, progressive taxation, infrastructure and jobs programs... and campaign finance and electoral reform. (as if they couldn't have done it before if they had really wanted to).

I don't hold my breath.

P.S. Enjoying "Abundance"... a point relevant in this context:

In politics its "relative" wealth (or poverty) that counts with the particular social body of concern... not necessarily the absolute level. I still have a long way to go in the book but a focus on the second while not addressing the first could throw the whole endeavor for 'abundance' into a stall.

I don't have doubts about the technical potential for global affluence. In fact, if it weren't for political problems we could have done it a long time ago though at a more modest level.)

If we don't get some serious "diamond-shaping" of the wealth/income distribution fairly fast things could get ugly and open up the gates of greater demagoguery by the time of the next election.

LarryHart said...

Tom Crowl:

It's important to remember that Bernie Sanders actually has more supporters than Donald Trump!.. But gets scarcely any attention. (My understanding is that its about 80 to 1 in terms of time of media coverage).

That is a separate problem that is also working to undermine democracy, but maybe not with intent.

Television stations no longer do news for news's sake. Instead, news shows are just like any other show--they succeed or fail based upon ratings and advertising revenue. So decisions on how to cover debates and other run-ups to the election are made more on entertainment value than on the sacred mission of the fourth estate.

Donald Trump gets coverage and deference because he's a cash cow.

More generally, tv stations aren't going to push for overturning decisions like "Citizens United" that cause more money to be spent on campaigns, because they are the recipients of that money.

Tom Crowl said...


I agree with you 100%.

I don't suspect some conspiracy. That's not needed for political decay. Rather that(in a way).. its natural human motives that bring down good government (as has often happened in the past).. often more so than 'evil' intentions.

and re: "More generally, tv stations aren't going to push for overturning decisions like "Citizens United" that cause more money to be spent on campaigns, because they are the recipients of that money."

Of course! This is why "un-natural" remedies are required (i.e. remedies that those accumulating wealth/power are unlikely to impose by themselves w/o external push).

And don't hold your breath for either Party to implement them. Its too comfortable to just "let it ride"... until it breaks completely.

That's why what's needed are remediation tools NOT dependent on either a Political or Financial elite to be implemented. They won't.

P.S. This is not because I believe Sanders has all the answers... but its about both Parties needing to 'feel the heat' from the bottom before they drift off into Neo-Fantasyland and Empire dreams.

Tom Crowl said...

Keeping on my theme of Bi-partisan wrongheadedness... and failures of mainstream media:

From Foreign Policy Magazine:
The Unbearable Lightness of America’s War Against the Islamic State

This also speaks to a problem of what happens when a ruling class gets too comfortable. (Dems being less insane than the Repubs isn't enough)

Don't get me wrong... I'm not depressed about all this (at least not usually). I'm pissed off and frustrated.

David Brin said...

The Democrats' overlap with Blue America is strong, but also misleading. Democratic politicians and media are preferable by orders of magnitude, but by nature not hugely admirable. Jerry Brown and a few exceptions. But Blue America is a real civilization, advanced, optimistic, ever-improving, forward-looking, scientific. I brook no superior attitudes from Europeans except that the Union has been WAY too patient with this phase of the Confederacy, trying to reason with it instead of recognizing that's impossible. The fever will only break when it is rendered powerless to harm the Great Experiment anymore. Then, many of our neighbors will shake it off and resume being mere;y conservative voices in our ongoing, noisy family argument about practical ways to make a better world.

Unknown said...

"Make America Great Again"

Why do they hate America?

As Dr. Brin says, America is great.

The guy who wears that hat can live anywhere in the world he wants, he's free to find someplace greater. Illegal immigrants die in the hundreds crossing our southern border. They must think America great enough to risk their lives to get here.

Deuxglass said...

Paul SB,

The PEW report has some surprising figures when you dig down into it. It is true that the middle class is shrinking and that the percentage of poor and the wealthy have risen since 1971 but that doesn’t tell the whole story by far.

Let’s look at the percentage of households who are considered upper-middle (from $126,000 to $188,41) plus wealthy (above $188,412) on page 15 of the report. In 1971 they were 14% of households but in 2015 they make up 21% of households. That is a big increase of 7 points! Please note that this is a percentage of households so it is not skewed by the uber-rich income numbers. If you look at their assets, one number stood out to me. A big part of their assets is in business assets meaning many of these people own part or all of their own businesses. What this shows is that a significant part of the middle class shrinkage comes from some of the middle class moving up to the upper class.

Let’s look at the lower end now. In 1971 the lower-middle ($31,402 to $41,860) and the poor (under 31,402) made up 25% of all households and by 2015 that percentage has risen to 29%. That is a 4 point rise and although not good is less than 7 point rise in the well-off households.

If we go further down into the numbers, we find that there have been some big changes in income by ethnic group (page 22). Hispanics are large losers (in 1971 34% were low income but in 2015 43% were low income) but that loss comes completely from those not born in the USA. The heavy Hispanic immigration contained a lot of low educated individuals and that skewed the low-income group numbers.

Although all ethnicities showed significant increases in well-off households, one group stands out. Whites made out like bandits moving from 16% in 1971 to 25% well-off households in 2015!

As expected, the hardest hit are those with no high school diplomas, high-school diplomas or those with some college. This group used to be able to get decent-paying jobs but can no longer do that. The collapse in construction especially penalizes this group but hopefully, with the rebound some will move back into the middle class.

We can draw some political conclusions in this report too. Clearly, Trump’s support comes from the less educated, that’s not a scoop but if we look at the growing educated well-off group then this is where the Democrats (and Br. Brin) will find their most solid support.

When I studied the report, I actually became more optimistic. Perhaps I am wrong but maybe, just maybe, there are seeds there that could see a reverse in the trend of the shrinking middle class.

The full report is here:

duncan cairncross said...

Hi David Hill

It is true there are much worse places to live than America,

But until relatively recently 70's?, 80's?
The USA was simply the best place in the world to be a normal (non millionaire) person

There are probably 20+ countries where a normal person will have a better lifestyle than in the USA

I had my chance - and decided to move to New Zealand

America is still "Great"
But it is not "The Greatest" any more
And it is still dropping down the list
- it's not irreversible
but I am not at all sure that "The finest Democracy that money can buy" can actually stare down the 0.1% and fix it

Paul SB said...


I noticed all those numbers you pointed out (esp. those related to education & ethnicity, unsurprising given my career). What I thought was this: if the trend continues, we'll be back to feudalism in a generation. There will be many more lords and masters than any past civilization, but we will definitely be in a world of extremes. From a political perspective, it looks like the policies implemented during the Republican administration have had the effect of enriching the rich and impoverishing the poor, and Democratic administrations have been unable to change those trends or even slow them down. Not good news, given that we, as James Burke once said, only tolerate 2 flavors of politician. But looking at it as a biologist I see something very different. The trends seem to be moving consistently, decade by decade, regardless of who's in office. Perhaps what we are seeing is that we are bumping up against the carrying capacity for our post-industrial economy. (I know what Alfred would say here, but I'm not quite finished.) It's looking more and more like the Kaibab Plateau in 1922. This view would spell doom, and I know there are a couple people here licking their chops. But looking at it as an archaeologist I would say that humans have bumped up against K before. Sometimes they crashed, other times they pulled off a trick no other animal is capable of. They created technologies that allowed them to overcome the barrier. There are a lot of interesting technologies that may be affecting this. In fact, it's not too hard to see in that report that it was technology - mainly Silicon Valley stuff - that allowed the 7% increase in the wealthy classes, and politics may have had very little to do with it at all. So there is some hope here, but not certainty.

Bettega said...

Gerrymandering is cheating, importing whole constituencies of leftwing voters from latin america and asia is just goodwill and you are a racist if you oppose it. Funny how that works.

Unknown said...

"importing whole constituencies of leftwing voters from latin america and asia is just goodwill and you are a racist if you oppose it."

In which one of your fever dreams did that happen?

Deuxglass said...

Paul SB,

It is always dangerous to extrapolate a trend whether it is a good or a bad one because at least In social issues they have the habit of reversing. One encouraging trend I saw is that the percentage of households joining the well-off has been rising steadily as has the percentage of the college-educated. The middle class shrinking because some are being absorbed into the upper classes and that is a good thing. By looking into where their net worth comes from it looks that many of these people have their own businesses (stock ownership is not included in this figure). If households are leaving the middle class by going up then I don’t have a problem with that. If I read the figures right it seems that the poorer class has grown too but less than the upper class in percentage of households but this growth looks to be due to two factors. One is that there are still too many who lack the education but there is another factor that is overlooked by most people and that is the very large immigration of people who have little education, not many applicable skills and probably language problems as well into the US during this period. If you read another PEW report:

You see that a very large part of the percentage increase in the poor has come from this group. I am not for cutting off immigration or anything like that but in 1971 only 5% was foreign-born but in 2011 it is up to 14%. This mirrors the period of around 1920 where the foreign-born population also reached 14% and then declined. Then the new immigrants were mostly in the poor group but their children were able in most cases to enter into the middle class because they had learned the ropes. I think in the end, the same thing will happen giving the possibility that in the future, the middle class can start to grow again as their children learn the ropes in their turn.

I am an optimist by nature but when I dug down into the raw data, I did find reasons to be optimistic.

David Brin said...

Facts don't matter to folks like Bettega. Like the fact that illegal immigration skyrockets across republican administration and plummets under democratic ones. In fact, immigration flows with Mexico are now NEGATIVE! Let me repeat negative. If these assholes had two neurons to strike together, and really did hate illegal immigration they would always vote democratic.

It is LEGAL immigration that the dems opened up. That provides new DP voters. Yet rightist flakes never complain about that. It is republicans who love love love illegal immigration because of cheap labor.

Deuxglass said...

Duncain Caincross,

It is good you are happy in New Zealand and I still plan to visit this wonderful country.

It is a nice place to live but it is small and isolated and in no way can you compare the US to New Zealand. The important difference is that New Zealand like all small countries will never be in the position to influence the direction in which the world and civilization in general goes where large countries like China, Japan, the EU and the US will make the future. For a good personal life, a small country can be nice but if you want to do important things and influence the world then you have to be in the makers and doers. 2,400 years ago Thucydides said in History of the Peloponnesian War “The strong do what they have to do and the weak accept what they have to accept.” It was Sparta and Athens that shaped the future and that has not changed. The small countries can only hope to tag along while large, strong countries decide their fate.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Facts don't matter to some people and especially to politicians but in the end, facts do matter. Some people will deny that the climate is changing to their last breath but nevertheless the climate will change and the same goes for the big, important facts. Facts are reality and you can ignore them only so long until they come and bite you in the neck.

Jim Baca said...

This is not far fetched. But still a rightwinger comes for you straight between the eyes.

locumranch said...

"Blue America is a real civilization, advanced, optimistic, ever-improving, forward-looking, scientific..." [DB]

Even through the tightest lips, a little truth must Freudian Slip. The above quote reveals how David manages to simultaneously rationalise his blue urban progressive agenda & deny the cyclic history model. He argues, almost by definition, that all 'real' human civilisations must necessarily be coloured Progressive Blue, implying (through the Fallacy of Opposition') that all non-progressive, conservative or traditional cultures do NOT qualify as 'real' civilisation.

Ergo, he can conclude that (1) all 'real' human civilisations must exhibit 'ever-improving' progress as defined by historical non-cyclicity, (2) only 'blue' (or, at least, 'bluish') cultures qualify as de facto 'civilizations' and (3) all non-progressive, conservative or backward-looking cultures are (by definition) barbarously uncivilised which (in turn) allows him to indulge in self-congratulatory hubris by assuming that his urbanised 'Blue America' is the One & Only 'real' civilisation that has ever existed or will ever exist.

"Brook(ing) no superior attitudes from (those) Europeans", he then reveals himself to be cultural bigot who spits on the accomplishments of other (more mature) non-American societies, especially those that do not meet his particular definition of 'blue' progressivism, which is why it always seems to be 'Pax America this' & 'Pax America that' AS IF his "Blue America" is the 'end all & be all' (sum-total) of Human Achievement.

He can then ignore the FACT that his beloved US of A has collapsed & reformed multiple times as it has 'progressed' from British Colony to Independent Republic to Federal Sinecure to Functional Oligarchy as if these changes NEVER EVER happened because, by his rather partisan estimation, the USA has never ever been BLUER. In turn, this allows him to support (without qualm) the continued existence of an increasingly corrupt, 'blue-blooded', aristocratic US Ruling Caste, as long as these tyrants appear to support his Blue Progressive Agenda.

All Hail Hilary Clinton, Blue America's Heir Apparent or, at the very least, a Certified Bluish Princess.

New Zealand is great BECAUSE it is relatively agrarian & undeveloped: Been There, Done That !!

matthew said...

LOL at Douglass calling NZ small and Japan large. So somewhere between 377k km^2 and 268k km^2 is the dividing line between large and small nations?

Interesting article in Slate on the Paris Climate talks

One of the most insightful parts? Talking about the driving force of markets on technological innovation and why competition is good for society. Hits many of David's core tenants without using his terminology.

Anonymous said...

Wow Locum that is enough Strawmen that if you burned them, it would send us way over the 4°C that will kill us. "Ergo" nothing; you know not much more and pretend to know even less. Those who pine for simple times, have simple minds. We will beat the Grande Olde Confederate Party into dust, reinstate proven Keynesian economic programs, transition to sustainable energy sources, and make America greater, not with guns and belligerency, but with space probes and win-win diplomacy.

Suck eggs,

Deuxglass said...


It is not area that counts but population and development. Japan has 127 million and is at the pentacle of technical development while New Zealand has 4.5 million whose major exports are Concentrated Milk ($7.19B), Sheep and Goat Meat ($2.32B), Rough Wood ($1.89B), Butter ($1.79B) and Frozen Bovine Meat. You can't compare the two when it comes to the influence with the world.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Douglas

While it is very true that the USA will have much more influence in the world than NZ
The question is
"How much influence will "I" have?"

According to a number of studies a normal (non millionaire) person in the USA can make no difference to any policies

Here I can make a difference - I have already contributed directly to some legislation
(OK it was technical stuff about DIY electric cars - my hobby - nothing earth shattering)

I can live in a large country that "leads" the free world but have no say at all in what direction
I can live in a small(population)country with an influence much greater than it's size and have a significant input into it's direction

To the comments about college education

I have a graph of
"Median earnings of men with a bachelor's or more"
(which I don't know how to attach)
It shows this rising from 1991 to a peak of $82,000 in 2000 and then falling to $76,000 in 2013

As far as I can see having a college education does NOT mean that you can rise with the "tide" of increased prosperity
Just that you are sinking slower

I've just looked at that report about the US middle class,
It defines the middle class in terms of the median income so I will stick to my interpretation that in the USA a college education does NOT help you to float - you are just sinking slower

Deuxglass said...

Duncain caincross,

It's just the question of being an alfa in a small troop or a beta in a large troop. It's is a personal choice and I don't judge that. If you are in a country where you can make a difference then go for it. I am just saying that it will be the large powerful countries that will write history.

You read the study so you know that college graduates since 1971 held their position but did not advance much but those with even higher diplomas did advance so education does matter. The fall from 1991 to 2013 came for the most part from the Great Recession of 2009 where most people suffered in drops of income and assets. Keeping your rang with the globalization is no small achievement. Education matters.

David Brin said...

I disagree with Douglas Fenton about Duncan’s relative leverage. He is in a far greater position to nudge the momentum of thought in his small, progressive country. And thus get one of the world’s 200 nations to utter some words that perhaps he partly influenced.

Ah, I see Duncan made that point. Good on you, lad.

Locum whines that I express some militance for my civilization, in the face of unrelenting hostility and threat from troglodytes who would tear down everything we built. F’koff buddy. The worldview you represent is an existential threat to me and mine and to everything we have accomplished. Were the Enlightenment Experiment to give way to your desired outcomes, most of the members of this community would be dead or in camps or enslaved. In contrast to the stunning tolerance that a confident EE shows to other points of view. As we tolerate (with sighs) you.

To call the cycles of challenge and adaptation that the EE and the US have gone through “collapses” is the most chickenshit rationalization conceivable. But even if we accept that absurd definition, all it proves is that WE are the ones with guts and resilience to recover stronger, after “collapse.” Feh.

Acacia H. said...

One thing to remember is this: At this point in time in the 2008 elections, Hillary Clinton was going to win. Barack Obama was just wasting his time and everyone knew he'd lose big.

Sanders has more of a popular base now than Obama did, his small-donor fundraising is greater than Obama's at the same point of time... and he is dismissed by the media and most voters, much like Obama.

In half a year, we will see if Clinton learned the lessons of the past... or if she is unable to overcome the same flaws that sunk her in 2008. I suspect while she may have learned from her past mistakes... those flaws are just too great to overcome, and after eight years of Hope and Change, people want genuine change. From someone who has walked that walk and talked that talk without changing his views at all during that time.

In other words, Sanders is going to start beating Clinton. How she responds will be telling.

Rob H.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Douglas

"college graduates since 1971 held their position but did not advance much but those with even higher diplomas did advance so education does matter"

"Held their position" - that is my point - they held their position relative to a sinking marker

The "higher diplomas" rose - but again relative to the same sinking marker

The way to compare would be to use the average as the marker - not the median
As the average shows what the society as a whole has achieved
Since 1990 the median wage has gone from 71% of the average wage down to 65% of the average wage
So if comparing to the median you need a 10% rise to stay in the same position!

Incidentally this is talking about wages - recently a much higher percentage of societies earnings have been "taken" as dividends and rent and the amount going to wages has reduced so the actual amount of "sinkage" has been greater

Paul451 said...

Re: Trump "real" motives.

Trump isn't subtle enough to play a game. What you see is what you get. And that's why the Republican base supports him.

Trump is the Republican base. He believes the same message and memes and tribal shibboleths that they have been trained on for decades. That's what terrifies the Republican leadership.

I made a comment somewhere else when the Planned Parenthood shooting occurred, on a story about the Republican candidates' reactions, that it showed that the claims that foetuses are the same as babies, that abortion is murder, etc, are lies. No-one who says it actually believes it, except people like the shooter, crazy people.

Because if any of us saw a baby being killed, we'd act (probably violently against the killer). We'd certainly praise and defend a person who did act. If we saw a place that not only murdered babies, but cut up their bodies to sell for parts, we wouldn't stop until there was nothing but ashes. If all those claiming that "abortion is murder" actually believed it, they'd all be doing what the shooter did. The PP shooter's actions were perfectly sound if you believe PP is a chain of baby-murder body-part factories. His insanity is merely believing the words that his side of politics says. The Republican candidates ran from the shooter because he believed them.

In the same way, the Republican leadership's horror at Trump and his supporters is that he and they actually believe the words that the other Republican candidates say. Particularly, their fear is that Trump himself actually believes the Fox/etc lies and memes and tribal shibboleths. Because, like the PP shooter, it's the actual believing this stuff that makes you crazy.

"Holy nightmare, Batman!"

Paul451 said...


I said,
"Trump is the Republican base. He believes the same message and memes and tribal shibboleths that they have been trained on for decades."

Which makes a lie of the idea that it's some kind of voiceless, poor white America. White, yes. Thin skinned, sure. Voiceless? Poor? Clearly not required.

LarryHart said...


Trump isn't subtle enough to play a game. What you see is what you get. And that's why the Republican base supports him.

I'm not sure I buy it. Sure he's a bully and a demagogue, but he can't be as stupid as he pretends to be. He says what will gain him support, not what he actually believes himself (unless all of those things just happen to be identical in every way). It's just that he has a different take on "what will gain him support" than most mainstream politicians do.

I'll give him props for reading his audience, but that's hardly the same thing as honesty or sincerity.

Trump is the Republican base. He believes the same message and memes and tribal shibboleths that they have been trained on for decades. That's what terrifies the Republican leadership. Particularly, their fear is that Trump himself actually believes the Fox/etc lies and memes and tribal shibboleths. Because, like the PP shooter, it's the actual believing this stuff that makes you crazy.

As Kurt Vonnegut put it in (I think) the introduction to "Mother Night", "You are who you pretend to be, so be careful who you pretend to be."

"Holy nightmare, Batman!"

If that's your shot at my challenge above to guess where two quotes came from, then yes, they were indeed spoken by Commissioner Gordon in the Batman movie of the 1960s.


LarryHart said...


His insanity is merely believing the words that his side of politics says. The Republican candidates ran from the shooter because he believed them

This is similar to the Republicans' reaction when President Obama essentially repackaged (as Dr Brin says) "their own damn plan" as Obamacare. You could almost see the comic-book thought balloons over their heads. "That was just the BS argument we made in opposition to Hillarycare. It was never supposed to be taken as a real plan. Heck, we knew then that it could never work."

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB: Heh. I can’t resist your invitation to poke at your biology analogy. 8)

We’ve seen tech upheavals since the arrival of steam power that come on the market so fast that people did not fully adopt and adapt to them in one smooth motion. Steam power arrived, altered the availability of certain commodities, and then arrived again after more rails had become available. Electricity did something similar by penetrating industry as it was the first time and then as it became next. There is a simple mental picture for anyone who has ever flown a model rocket. Some engine starts experience a chugging effect as overpressurization drives the combustion rate up which beats the back pressure emptying the chamber which drops the combustion rate temporarily. Heat within the pressure chamber doesn’t clear out as fast, so pressures eventually stabilize and the rocket flies. (Too much chugging blows the little rocket apart, so we learn to place our igniters carefully.) The question to consider is whether or not our economy can chug. I believe there is good reason to believe it can and that this is quite typical in the Industrial Era. Boom and Bust is an example of a cycle we know well even if it isn’t exactly predictable and suffers from competing explanatory narratives.

I’m not trying to convince you my model is better, but I will point out that it is difficult to distinguish from a secular trend when the chugging frequency is low. How long did it take for electricity to penetrate industry and have its full impact regarding process and technology changes? How long for Rail? Container Ships? Airplanes? What variables are we watching to see cycles? Which ones AREN’T we watching that would suggest something else? The pressure inside the little rocket swings wildly, but the temperature doesn’t so much. Look too narrowly and one misses what is actually happening.

The economic equivalent for K focuses less on people and more on how much more depth remains for a new technology to change what is. Can we really argue for no change since the 70’s? No. Something very, very important happened about then. The world that had been demolished by war had managed about one generation without destroying its infrastructure again. The world that had been under colonial rule essentially wasn’t anymore. The ‘Third World’ started up the hill to catch up. The Chinese found a way to avoid starving to death. I suggest that OUR incomes are experiencing a long duration pulse because the labor supply in the global market has exploded. THEIR incomes are surging in response. The bigger picture to consider here is what is happening to the middle class world wide.

Alfred Differ said...

Bettega’s comment is classic fear-mongering. It’s a well-established tradition in the US, though we pick different ethnic groups every couple of generations. I suspect we will stick with Latinos toward the end of this century, but pick on Muslims for a while longer.

Horizons of Inclusion – We’ve all got them.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: Your comment from last thread about civilizations collapsing to make way for them to rise again appears to be in your mind still. Let me offer a small adjustment that might help.

Belief in a cyclic model for history is for most people founded upon a desire for history to be predictable. It wasn’t long ago that history was studied for exactly this purpose. The academics assumed the study of history was essentially an effort of prophecy. At its core, such an approach treats history as a kind of science where predictions can be made and tested. This is historicism.

Such models fail miserably, but the more important point to consider is that they result in rationalization systems that support highly immoral actions. Just about any human behavior can be justified if one argues they are acting according to the rules of nature. The ‘weak’ can be culled. Wars can be waged. Who can deny the necessity of such things if that is the way the universe works? The flaw should be obvious, though. WHO gets to say how the universe works? Who should I believe? You? Pfft!

David and others of us will rail at you for such nonsense and not just because it is nonsense. It is toxic nonsense and many people don’t have well developed immunities. Spreading historicism is a bit like having open sewers in a city. People can survive it, but there is a cost to establishing a defense.

There is a way to look at your cycle idea that works, though. Civilizations are born, live, and eventually die. They are part of Life. When they die, it is possible another will rise making use of some of the same people, but history suggests THAT cycle usually takes longer than one human lifespan. Sure, the removal of one makes room for another that might be better adapted, but life usually sucks for the humans involved with the collapsing one.

What I don’t get is why anyone would advocate a cyclic theory. If this civilization dies this century, BILLIONS of people will die. Considering the possible ways we could go, there might be NO cycle. We could take ourselves out entirely. Who would want to be right about that? V.Vinge referred to such a desire as the “Transcendence Death Wish” in one of his novels. If that IS where we are heading, I’d want to know. If that is where someone is trying to drag us, I’d want to shoot the SOB.

Anonymous said...

When thinking about Ryan as a Presidential candidate, I can't help but remember the opening SNL skit just after the 2012 election. 'Mitt Romney' is mainlining cartons of milk in despair out on the porch. Then his son rushes to him and says, "Father! Paul Ryan is performing feats of strength in the living room!" 'Romney' replies, "Too bad he couldn't carry Wisconsin!"

But then, I'm a Hillary feminazi myself, and have no problem with that part.

Tom Crowl said...


RE "Abundance"... enjoying the book. But another point to consider:

He makes a good argument regarding the exponential growth of technology... actually observable and consistent via a variety of metrics over time despite wars, depressions, etc.

I agree! It has a certain relentless force of its own.

Moreover we all agree(the author, yourself and me)that our cultural/social evolution has also made improvements.

Now we can't assign a number to that social progress in the way we can to data storage, computations per second, hours of work necessary to light a room, etc... but nevertheless we assume (rightly) that a real improvement has been made.

We don't quite have Asimov's psychohistory to give us a numerical precision in that area.

But if we could... would it matter that tech is moving exponentially... while our social progress (our ability to live together in a complex society w/o sabotaging it in one way or another)... is only advancing arithmetically?

Again... Does it matter?

This is the core of my issue... that it DOES matter. Perhaps fatally... and that our "technologies of social interaction and feedback" which lead to that evolution (votes and gerrymandering being two oppositely intended technologies).. are entirely inadequate for developing that evolution by themselves. (How'd voting work out in Iraq and Egypt?)

There are many, many factors. But one I think can be addressed (and needs to be) is this:

I argue that money (a technology critically dependent on mutual belief... a social technology) has always had an Achilles heel related to its creation, means of distribution and hypothecation. This is not about good guys and bad guys... money could hardly have been developed any other way.

But it's obsolete as currently operated... (and Financial Capitalism is ruining Capitalism)

However, this must change (in my opinion). And the network (a User Internet "wallet" outside the banking system though not opposed to it) is a needed PART of that process... despite not being nearly as complex a 'physical' technology as the simplest chip. I don't suggest its a panacea... but it will change the Internet and social/political landscape (in my opinion)

People can disagree... or think I'm nuts. But that's what I think. And the micropayment... aside from whatever benefits or risks it itself has... is the lever to get that network built.

One user... one account... a co-op structure... also usable for other eventual currencies.

The "Twitter Revolution" was not enough... its not only about gadgets... social/political/financial structures need attention.

I believe this can integrate with existing structures w/o opposing them but allow and facilitate a needed social evolution.

Maybe I'm wrong... but I see it as a very needed, beautiful and missing "social invention".

As for pessimism... the author also discusses Kurzweil's Singularity... which even he admits may not be altogether a good thing. It seems that others from Musk to Hawking also have some concerns about this. I'd hardly call then simply evolutionarily driven pessimists! Its simply about trying to anticipate what may be some very serious bumps in the road.

locumranch said...


The cyclic history model is time-honoured & respectable, well used in Asimov's 'Future Histories' & Vinge's 'Deepness in the Sky', not because of either predestined futility or prophesied death wish, but because civilisations do appear to rise, senesce & produce cultural offspring in manner quite analogous to the biological life cycle, so much so that cultural obsolescence is not to be feared as 'The Beginning of the End' but welcomed as 'The End of the Beginning', in the same way that David's 'Holy Holy Singularity' is indistinguishable from Vinge's "Transcendence Death Wish”, wherein cyclic death & rebirth is much preferable to the veritable 'death in life' of Struddlebug cultural pseudo-immortality.

As for the rest of you, I am shocked, shocked I tell you, by the lack of social outrage at the blatant Blue American ethnocentrism advocated by David. Why no pissy condemnations, especially when David appears to be a white-privileged cis-gendered enlightenment apologist of the worst sort? How dare he be allowed to discriminate on the basis of political colour or evangelical religious preference? And, where oh where are the ever-present demands for cultural & moral relativism?

It appears that the flag-bearers of cultural pussification have all but buggered off, scared off by the Anti-Republicanism that is Trump (doubtful), or (more likely) co-opted by the Enlightenment's Burden of civilising the savage climate change denier & anti-intellectual aborigine (all for their own good, of course), so they may be remade in the enlightened image of a New Age organ-grinder's monkey.


David Brin said...

I will double down. Cruz will be kingmaker. Either he accepts the VP slot under Trump... or he holds out and then accepts the VP slot from Ryan on the fourth or fifth ballot after. Each component I give 1:4 but Cruz as VP? If he keeps momentum I will lock that in at 1:2.

David Brin said...

“because civilisations do appear to rise, senesce & produce cultural offspring in manner quite analogous to the biological life cycle” --- “appear to” is correct. To silly-ass 19th century romantics… and 21st Century dyspeptic romantics who cannot point to anything consistent as an example.

“David's 'Holy Holy Singularity' is indistinguishable from” a strawman having nothing whatsoever to do with my beliefs.

“David appears to be a white-privileged cis-gendered enlightenment apologist” Ditto… and for this guy to accuse ME of white-privilege is hilarious.

But I truly waste time. The old guy is back.

David Brin said...

This time it's different... Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow on mass shootings

Deuxglass said...

Hi Duncan,
I never meant to put down small countries or belittle the influence individuals can achieve in them and if I gave that impression then I apologize.

Small countries can make a difference in some issues and do contribute to our civilization but I do contend that the overall direction, whether for better or for worse, is determined by the large, populous and technically advanced ones such as China, the US, Japan and the EU.

Individuals do not need to be millionaires to make a difference in the US or in any other country large or small. There are many examples of ordinary people starting a chain of action that ended up changing major policies. The Volkswagen kill chain started with Peter Mock of the ICCT who is hardly a millionaire yet his initial action lead to widespread regulation changes that will improve the health of hundreds of millions of people. In this case, it wasn’t necessary to be in a large country to start the chain. It could just as easily have started in New Zealand.
On the other hand, in some situations being in a big, advanced country provides you with certain, critical advantages such as a large market, the availability to a pool of qualified people and access to financing that can make a big difference. If Elon Musk had stayed in his natal South Africa, he would probably still be rich, but it is doubtful he could have built Paypal, Telsa Motors or SpaceX.

Concerning your comment on college education, the graph you gave shows that there has been a drop between 2000 and 2011 in the average income of new college graduates but it also shows that most of that drop came between 2005 and 2011 which roughly coincides with the greatest recession since the Depression so it is rather normal that wages for new graduates took a hit. The study I cited starts at 1971 and the comparison is with this date and not with 2000. You need to compare what is comparable. If you look at this link:
The graph there uses your metrics but starts in 1979 and ends in 2010 so it covers better the period of the PEW study. It shows that new college graduate income is up a bit over the whole length of time and confirms what the PEW study said. It also underlines the fact that college graduates have a much lower unemployment rate, which is also very important. A stagnation in real college graduate earnings is not fun but it is better than having wages drop remarkably as those who have less education have experienced. Having a degree does not guarantee prosperity for everyone but it sure helps.

You said “Since 1990 the median wage has gone from 71% of the average wage down to 65% of the average wage. So if comparing to the median you need a 10% rise to stay in the same position!”

That’s why the PEW study uses household tranches rather than average earnings per person. It gives a much clear vison of what most people earn as is not skewed by a few ulta-high earners except in the highest tranche of those making $188,412 and above.

Deuxglass said...


Why are you shocked that Dr. Brin and others advocate a type of civilization in which they strongly believe? Would you prefer them to have no opinion at all? I think what shocks you is that your views and arguments are not making a dent in their political and social opinions but that is not their fault. It is your fault if you can’t present convincing arguments to support your ideas.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Douglas

My point is that society as a whole has advanced a good bit
The total "wealth" is greater now

Unfortunately since the 70's the top 1% has stolen almost all of that increase
(As a specialist in "process improvement" I can definitely say that it is the 99% who have created that increase NOT the 1%)

Graduates have increased their wealth - BUT by less than the total wealth has increased
Which in my reckoning means that they have effectively dropped downwards
They have dropped less than those without degrees BUT they have dropped relative to the total wealth

In 30 years they have increased from $19.99 to $21.77 - 4.5%
During that time productivity has nearly doubled
They should have increased from $19.99 to about $40!

Up until the 70's wages kept pace with productivity - since then the median income has effectively flat-lined

I see an increase of 4.5% over a period when productivity has doubled as a massive decrease in real terms

You can see this if you compare the US worker to the German
Back in the 70's the US guy was a LOT better off - nowadays! he is a LOT worse off

If you ignore the "ultra high earners" you are ignoring the ones that have stolen the improvements we all worked on

Deuxglass said...

Hi Duncan,

I totally agree with you on that. The increases in productivity haven't befitted the lower 99% and it is a very worrisome situation. It is the major failure of our form of capitalism and this trend doesn't look to be reversing all by itself. Recapturing the fruits of productivity gains has to be done by political means.

Tacitus said...

If David is "doubling down" on a Cruz VP prediction I suppose it is only fair to toss out my own thoughts on the matter.

Modern political campaigns (hmmm, wars might be more apt, fighting on many fronts at once) have become more about images than realities. I can't predict the Republican nominee other than to say it will not be Trump or Carson.

Rubio, Cruz, a brokered choice? All possible. You could do worse than Ryan but I think his aversion to the big chair is genuine.

My prediction is that the GOP ticket will contain a Hispanic and a female. This is the only logical counter to a high probability Hillary-Julian Castro ticket. (and btw David, do you consider J. Castro "qualified"?).

There are of course a few "twofers" such as Suzanna Martinez. Nikki Haley is another person who should not leave her phone turned off next summer.

My two cents worth.


Jumper said...

I was all set to demolish the "cyclical history" hypothesis, as it's an attempt to impose order on chaos, and Alfred came along and did a decent enough job of it. I ought to add that Asimov's view of things, I discredited long ago. He's a perfect example of a guy who clings to theory out of a sense of safety, rather than admitting the inability of people to predict much of anything historic.

Larry Hart, I have a strong suspicion Trump is playing some sort of game. Your breakdown of the situation is as good as any I might come up with.

Tim H. said...

Last week I heard Karl Rove on the radio promoting his new book "The Triumph of Willian McKinley, why the election of 1896 still matters" and thought how much more attractive the GOP used to be. Even as recently as the Eisenhower administration it was a legitimately moderate party, if only they had the will to mine their past...

Jumper said...

Just for the heck of it, I'll throw out a couple of names of who I feel is qualified to be President. My qualifications include a certain amount of youthful vigor, as I don't want any lazy people working for me, and old folks need their sleep. Biden, Clinton, and Bernie are getting up there. I don't trust bureaucracy to run itself all that well, whether it's industry or government.

Howard Dean is qualified, and so is, although barely, Al Franken. For that matter, Russ Feingold could handle it, if not so well as some.

raito said...

The statement about image is only too true. And I find the media pretty complicit in it. The vast majority of reporting on election races has nothing whatsoever to do with the candidates stand on various issues. Instead, what's substituted is endless wanking over whether what any statement they make will do to their changes. Meta-reporting at best. But what do you expect? Disagree with a candidate and be denied access.

Part of the problem is the political immaturity of both the candidates and their constituencies. Candidates don't want to make definitive statements because their constituencies can't handle it. Constituencies claim to want definitive statements, then attack if it's not exactly what they believe (as though any candidate not themselves will exactly align with their views). So what we get are a lot of non-statements. And part of the result is a lack of the ability to compromise on anything.

I'm still trying to figure out who sabotaged Howard Dean the last time around. It did seem that when he'd make a statement, it was pretty much what I would have said.

I'm less sure of Al Franken. I'm not entirely sure that Feingold wants it, though you can be sure I'll be voting for him again. I'm still trying to figure out how WI went from Feingold and Kohl to Baldwin and Johnson. There's only a few issues where I agree with Baldwin (but that's been true since high school) and nearly none with Johnson. Anyway, an awful lot of it depends on how the Congress shapes up (or not).

matthew said...

Cruz and Rubio will not get the Republican nomination because the nativists in the party will not vote for them. Fiorina will not get the Republican nomination because the misogynists in the party will not vote for her. Carson will not get the Republican nomination because the racists in the party will not vote for him.

That now out of the way, all of the above are viable VP candidates. The subtle psychological reinforcement of having a woman or minority second on the ticket will come into play. The woman or minority "knowing their place." Reinforces the social message to the intended audience - older, white, male. And still gives the conservatives the ability to point and say that they are not racist or misogynistic.

Ryan will not be a white knight. Romney will not be a white knight. There will be no brokered convention. The loss of control, the loss of face, and degradation to the authority that the Right worships would be anathema.

There will be a slog, piling up delegates. It will be a nasty election season. But the party will rally around whatever old white male that manages to cudgel the others into submission.

The nominee may well be Trump. The party will rally to him if he starts stacking the delegates. They will prefer Trump to a brokered convention. If not Trump, I think it will still be Jeb. He is polling between 3rd and 6th, but Cruz, Rubio, and Carson are non-starters to about 50% of the party.

Kaisich is too reasonable.
Sanatorium and Huckabee are selling books and have had their chance already.

If not Trump, then he will run as a third party independent.
But I think Trump will win the nomination.
As long as he can continue "winning" and the field does not narrow too soon.

The mask is off. Fascism has been the Republican brand at least since 2001. The base gets it and loves it.

Jumper said...

The Libertarian Party is awful quiet lately...

Anonymous said...

One could certainly blame present Republicans for gas tax receipts unchanged through several years of Clinton rule. Another view is just how hilariously and inhumanely and insanely broken your system of stroads is.

Wouldn't it be nice to be able to walk around America without the fear of being mowed down by some car sitter? (This morning, nearly, by a quite dazed-looking gentleman in a very expensive looking vehicle.) I might also via the Allison Liao case remind the reader that striking and killing a three year old child is simply not a criminal act in America--provided the murder weapon is a car--or that that most quintessential of car sitter crimes, the hit and run, was penned into the Great Gatsby some ninety years ago now.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: Cyclic history theories ARE time-honored, but they are about as useful as geocentric theories of astronomy. They can be MADE to fit the observations ex post facto and are decent prediction schemes for certain features, but they EXPLAIN nothing. Predictive models and explanatory models are not the same thing.

The novel I’m referring to is the one before Deepness. The scene involves Ravna and Pham. She is trying to figure out if he is going to take himself out. She is wondering if the transcendence lure is too strong for him to overcome. It’s an early scene before she knows what he is. In a modern setting, we would wonder if a suicide bomber could be talked out of their rosy view of the afterlife they would have once they’ve ended the life they have. If it’s rosy enough, they might wish for death so they can transcend this miserable life they have now. I’m not a big fan of labeling any idea as inherently toxic, but some ARE virulent and require considerable effort from us to prevent harmful consequences. The religiously frothy form of nuttiness associated with this death wish is founded upon historicism, so I’m tempted to mark it as toxic.

The cycle of Life as applied to cultures and civilizations DOES offer predictive capabilities, but not ones that offer opportunities for improving precision. Yes… things are born, grow up, and then die. So? Who knows what the life span of a civilization is? You? The Egyptians kept one going for quite a while. The Chinese are pretty good at it too. I wouldn’t want to live in any of our historical ones, though, except that they were better than not living in one at all.

This civilization we have today is an oddity. It is the only one where industrialization took place. It is the only one where wealth accumulated faster than could be consumed by the birth rate. It is the only one that produced large, self-sustaining knowledge models that DISPLACED our mythical gods by offering better, more useful explanations. It is the only one that made extinct a microbe our ancestors suffered from the dawn of time. It is the only one that has brought ALL of humanity within its scope. If you think old cyclic models apply well to this incarnation, you haven’t reflected much upon your faith. Constraints experienced by old civilizations DO still apply to this one, but not all of them. Do you know which ones do? We are still human no matter what the transhumanists would like to suggest, but are we the same or similar enough to our ancestors for ALL constraints to apply? I rather doubt it.

Alfred Differ said...

Rove is seriously offering McKinley's election as a good example? McKinley's nomination was purchased by some VERY wealthy people to avoid having a progressive in the top office. They succeeded and did it again in 1900 with one small mistake. The stuffed the progressive from McKinley's party in as a VP in order to kill his career. Didn't quite work out for them.

Jon S. said...

Even Asimov admitted, tacitly, that his "psychohistory" was not sufficiently predictive, thus the need for hidden forces to "correct" history whenever it went awry.

This "cyclical history" nonsense is just silly.

locumranch said...

I must apologise to David in regard to our 'failure to communicate', for just as I have mistakenly attributed his words to his 'belief system' (hence the 'straw-manning'), he appears to have committed a similar error by assuming that my words reflected a similar degree of sincerity when, more often than not, my rants reflect little more than an elaborate set-up for bad puns (as in the case of the US Democratic Heir Apparent being Blue America's 'Bluish American Princess').

Although said halfway in jest, the pertinent points of my most recent posts are that it is disingenuous, at best, (1) for a self-admitted US democratic party apparatchik to discuss the 'best' US republican presidential candidate to vote against and (2) for the denizens of this site (who express frequent intolerance for the religious beliefs of the political right) to condemn Trump for similar religious intolerance against Muslims.

Also, I wish that point out that your ongoing (collective?) desire for a White Knight Rescuer is irrational, especially when much of the current Middle Eastern, ISIS & EU Refugee crisis stems from that same meddlesome White Be(K)nighted desire, and, generally speaking, it is always a mistake to send our nicest & most nuturing citizen to do the most brutal & traumatic of jobs.

Instead, I wish to nominate a Black Knight who, like the occasionally unpleasant Donald Trump, is willing to (1) ride into battle as the Selfish Champion of Western (Enlightenment Experiment) Culture, (2) do only that which is required by the most selfish interests of that Enlightenment, and (3) put aside the problematic banner of Multicultural Relativism for the time being, at least until we can set our own house in order (which crumbles).

Finally, I wish to agree with Alfred when he says 'Predictive (ex post facto) models and explanatory models are not the same thing' so, most assuredly, I am quite willing to concede that the Cyclic History Model may be of limited usefulness as it appears predictive but not explanatory, as opposed to climate change theory which appears explanatory but not predictive ;)


LarryHart said...


Howard Dean is qualified, and so is, although barely, Al Franken. For that matter, Russ Feingold could handle it, if not so well as some.

If only the grass roots picked a candidate instead of the candidates themselves being the ones to decide whether running is worth their while.

I thought it was Jefferson who insisted that a president should be dragged kicking and screaming into the White House, but once there, would do a good job to earn time off for good behavior. But recently, I re-read Arthur Clarke's "Imperial Earth" and saw the quote there. So maybe it was original with Clarke.

The idea that the winner of an election is the one who "wants it" enough to put up the best fight seems to have a built-in conflict of interest. Ideally, we'd be electing to high office the candidates we thought could best handle the difficult job, not the one who wants the office badly enough to finance the best campaign. Ideally, "wanting it enough" would be a disqualification, much as appearing "too needy" doesn't endear one to a potential mate.

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

how much more attractive the GOP used to be. Even as recently as the Eisenhower administration it was a legitimately moderate party, if only they had the will to mine their past...

Heck, if they were still the Party of Lincoln, I'd be a Republican.

LarryHart said...


I'm still trying to figure out who sabotaged Howard Dean the last time around.

Radio host Thom Hartmann has a good theory. He says he saw Dean on one of the Sunday shows blithely mentioning that, if elected, he'd re-instate the fairness doctrine or something to that effect. Thom says he said to his wife something like, "That's it. The guy is toast." The next day or the next week or some time very soon was the "scream" incident, and that was that.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Rove is seriously offering McKinley's election as a good example?

I think Rove himself has made clear that someone high in McKinley's administration--his campaign manager of chief of staff or something of that sort--was who Rove himself wanted to be when he grew up.

LarryHart said...

Jon S:

Even Asimov admitted, tacitly, that his "psychohistory" was not sufficiently predictive, thus the need for hidden forces to "correct" history whenever it went awry.

Psychohistory worked much better as a fictional plot element than it does as a real theory.

LarryHart said...


2) for the denizens of this site (who express frequent intolerance for the religious beliefs of the political right) to condemn Trump for similar religious intolerance against Muslims.

While I might personally smile at the fantasy of not letting any Christians into the country (since something like 354 of the 355 mass shootings this year were committed by Christians), no one here would seriously suggest such a move or support a candidate who ran on it. We're intolerant of politicians trying to force Christianity on the rest of us with force of law, not against their personal religious beliefs per se.

Trump and his followers are rightly vilified for promoting religious bigotry as national policy, not for their personal bigotry.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: It won't be a Knight of any shade that rescues us. Such an idea is Romance. I've no doubt many people WANT such a thing in theory, but Americans are a little two-faced about it. Give us one and we castrate him later when he tells us what to do. Believers in the Enlightenment know we don't need such men to achieve lofty goals. We need people to be free enough to act on what they know even if that means serving their own interests. It's often best if they serve their own interests. The trick is to ensure no power blocs grow large enough to skew the rules and reduce the number of independent, knowledgeable players in the game.

You are misdirecting us a bit by turning back to the climate. If you want to be effective, surrender historicism completely. If you want to debate climate theories, stick to the non-defendable parts that involve economic predictions. The science is in good shape. The economics is where their models are vulnerable.

LarryHart said...


Also, I wish that point out that your ongoing (collective?) desire for a White Knight Rescuer is irrational,

Republicans are looking for a White Knight, if nothing else, to save them from Trump. I haven't seen anyone here pining for one.

Alfred Differ said...

Oof. I've disliked Rove for many years. He's one of the few people who if he had a flat tire, no spare, and was stuck out on a long desert road, I'd think seriously about driving on by. He has done harm to this nation and should be shunned at best.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, I see little fault in your suggestions. Julian Castro would be qualified and a fine pick, though slightly less well-qualified than Gore or Biden were. Martinez might help win a small blue-purple state, but her moderation makes her unsuitable except as an utterly futile gesture if the top nominee is a radical like Trump or Cruz. Moreover, you are ignoring that it is an iron rule in the GOP – that the VP nominee is almost always a horror whose job it is to keep the radicals mollified.

Except two times: Bush Senior and Ryan. I hate Bush SR with volcanic fury, but he WAS on paper qualified as was Ryan. So the Iron Rule has exceptions.

As for Nikki Haley? Oh rich! South Carolina. Let’s make Fort Sumter completely explicit, at long last.

As for the drivel… the notion that a raving loony-aggressive “Selfish Champion of Western (Enlightenment Experiment) Culture” who does the bidding of feudal enemies of enlightenment diamond while weakening the West the way Bushite wars did – that such a spectacular disaster would be “our” knight? Diametrically wrong. That’s the confederacy. If/when they win, the Experiment is over. And humanity may die.

David Brin said...

I have to say that purely logically, the closer Trump gets to either being nominated or running a third party bid, the more I fear for his life. There are ruthless men with unlimited funds who will stop at nothing. Transforming him from a huge headache into a martyr would appeal to such men.

David Brin said...



Pappenheimer said...

There is SOME good news about the Trumphenomenon. Some people in my circle of co-workers who were poxing both houses last presidential election are waking up to the fact that one house has a fascist (or someone trying to sound fascist) as its leading (most newsworthy) politician.

Unknown said...

Hello David, Your ideas are cutting edge and artistic. But keep in mind that animal rights activists are not crazy. They deeply care and they live their lives from that mindset. I get the impression that you are brushing us off as nay sayers. I am a total Yes saying person and I do everything that I do from the mindset of the mother bear. When you use the word sapient in the context of highest minded I must object to that idea. I don't see anything special about homo sapiens at all. Matter of fact dolphins have higher cognition and higher ethical reasoning. So because of that I would not use the word sapient to describe higher sentience. I would describe them as Able to think and communicate in abstract, highly sentient and cognitive forms. That is what describes dolphins and whales. Even elephants and some other mammals as well.