Thursday, February 18, 2016

Cynicism vs problem-solving - and a coming film about our civil war

“Humorous” columnist Dave Barry just delivered a riff that is stunningly dumb, declaring that 2015 was nothing but bad news. Incredibly insipid dreck, even in the guise of satire. 

For every bad item on  his list there are ten good things.  In part because that is the rough ratio of human beings who have been gradually improving their lives and those of their children, vs. every one whose luck went worse.  Should we attend to the latter?  Sure! But one reason we care is that technology allows us to see suffering everywhere, in images that tweak and tug at human empathy. The same burgeoning technologies that are now empowering the Black Lives Matter Movement. So that, too, is a kind of good news.

It does not matter if cynical snarks are "supposed to be funny."  Maybe you don't remember that excuse by playground bullies but I sure do.  Whatever his intentions, he contributes the generally insane trend of our times -- disparaging even glancing thoughts toward can-do optimism. 

We face horrid problems, not least of which has been the deliberate effort by fanatics in the U.S. to destroy politics and negotiation as a problem solving methodology.  And gloom merchants feed into this vileness, by getting everyone nodding cynically that things are worse, when they are not.

See below where I decrypt how - blatantly - the Koch-Adelson-Saudi-Murdoch schemers seek to spread this poison among even young liberals.

Make no mistake, cynicism is the tool of playground bullies who have attacked enthusiastic problem solvers ever since we each were six years old. The curled lip sneer and shrug of knowing-nihilism. Anyone promoting that attitude does not deserve to claim they are progressive or eager for a better world. Heck, they're not even conservative.  They are lazy bullies.

This is why dogmatics of both the far left and the Entire Right so hate Steven Pinker's clear statistical proof that per capita violence and poverty have been steeply declining across most (not all!) of the world.  A sane person would look at these facts and feel encouraged that a can-do spirit might accomplish so much more.

== Young Sandersites, yay for you! But this is not the Sixties (thank God) ==

Bernie Sanders is a real scrapper.  While I am not in complete tune with all of his proposals, he is saying many things that need saying and he has sparked excitement among millions of smart, young Americans... enthusiasts who really need to listen closely, e,g, when Sanders  finished the generally excellent pre-NH debate with this:

 "It's important to remember, no matter what that we both (he and Clinton) are 100 times better than any of the candidates the Republicans are offering." 

I have a feeling that we older folks are going to need to use that quote a lot to keep the True Believers from taking us off the rails. The over-wrought wing of the Sanders camp takes me back to my own youth in the 1960s... and that's not all good.  Note, Bernie is sane and he will embrace Hillary, either way.  Remember that. And here are a couple more points:

1- Young folks should be trying hard NOT to be like the sanctimony-addicted Baby-Boom generation. We're a bunch of screaming assholes! Have been since the 1960s, refusing even to notice when the stuff we fought for actually worked or came true! 

Gen Ys and Millennials are supposed to be more logical than us cranky boomers. Self-righteous indignation is a drug high that liberals cannot afford.  They are the last continent of sanity on Planet America. And this... is... not...fucking 1968.

2- Just win.  And by that I mean win the Supreme Court and end gerrymandering and limit money in politics, get a sane Congress filled with grownups who appreciate science and who don't pray for the world to end soon. If we get those things, it does not matter which democrat. Sanders? Hillary? A yellow dog? I... don't... care.  (Much.) Just win.

 3- Please, please everyone look up the phrase "agent provocateur." I’ll bet you that a good fraction of the most-shrill voices attacking Hillary are not "pro-Sanders" in real life. 

Think about it. The Koch-Saudi-Adelson-Murdoch PAC money is not doing them much good anymore through TV ads and such, so I betcha they are shifting a lot of it into social media.  Their billions can buy a lot of anonymous and pseudonymous trash-talkers.

They cannot buy Sanders himself. So take Bernie’s word for it, young zealots.  Calm down, fight for your guy. And whether or not he wins the nomination, come out of the convention arm-in-arm. 

Not in love with Clinton? Fine! Shift your attention to local Congressional and state assembly races! That is where the real difference can be made by young activists.  Change Congress and your state house!  That is the only way that some of Bernie's reforms will happen.

== What gets in the way of problem-solving? ==

 In many ways, our rationality is stunted by the fact that we remain "prisoners of our evolutionary past," as Rich Shenkman argues in his new book, Political Animals: How Our Stone-Age Brain Gets in the Way of Smart Politics. We are swayed as much by emotions and gut instincts as reasoned analysis of information - with a brain wired back in the depths of the Stone Age. 

Returning to our starting theme...

In "11 Reasons Why 2015 Was a Great Year for Humanity," political economist Angus Hervey marvels that, "We re living through the most astonishing period of human progress in history. And nobody's telling us about it. Hervey notes advances in universal education, access to clean water, and progress in the battles against disease, hunger, poverty and childhood mortality, concluding, "It's easy to be cynical and maintain that nothing is ever getting better. The empirical evidence flatly contradicts this view; looking at what we've already achieved as a species should give us confidence going forward into the future."

Indeed, 2015 was far and away the best year for human exploration of space and the cosmos?  Better than the lamented 1960s yet the taxpayers who funded it all, with pennies, seem unaware. Of that or the myriad other fields where rapid advances are accelerating, and this despite a clearcut and open War on Science, declared by the far-left and the Entire Right.

There is good news and bad.  And the good will not reduce our felt need to save the world. We enlightenment moderate-pragmatists who believe in can-do problem solving, in negotiation and progress must (I'm afraid) become militant. 

Our enemy is not left or right or radical Islam but the underlying hatred of hope that propels so many of the cynical whiner-bullies out there, who would rather wallow in declarations of despair than lift themselves up to cooperate/compete/negotiate/innovate and actually help.

== Militia Spirit? ==

This coming Matthew McConaughey film (watch the trailer) is based on the true story of a county in the deep south that stayed loyal to the Union in the Civil War -- poor white farmers and escaped slaves who rejected the propaganda that they should sacrifice everything for plantation lord aristocrats.

I first learned about the Free State of Jones from Ken Burns's wonderful CIVIL WAR series, where it's revealed that every state in the Olde Confederacy -- except traitor-to-the-bone South Carolina -- saw whole regiments of volunteers march north to fight for their true country -- America -- keeping oaths that they had sworn, instead of breaking their word, just because the slave-holders lost an election.  Indeed, there were loyal counties and swathes of territory flying the stars and stripes all through the South....

... just as there are sincere American conservatives, today, who reject the tsunami of Fox propaganda that they should hate their own, freely-elected government, and kowtow to the new feudal oligarchy that has hijacked the Republican party. The "job-creator" caste of Koch-Adelson-Murdoch-Romney aristos who are fomenting phase 8 of the American Civil War and re-igniting the class conflict that we thought our parents, in the Greatest Generation had ended, at long last.

Will this film rouse sane white conservatives to reject the New Confederacy?  Or will they view it as a call to start militias, on any excuse at all?  And I have to wonder... is anyone in southern Oregon - where I set The Postman - re-reading my book about where this militia "spirit" eventually leads?

I am not the only one aware that we’ve entered a new phase of the American Civil War... While Blue America clings to notions of negotiation, the red-gray portions have long known and participated in re-igniting this 200 year old, recurring national sickness.  And now it is no longer easily-dismissed whackos talking about turning it violent. A former Republican Congressman talks about rekindling the Civil War.

== a lagniappe ==

And finally, a crackpot side-issue I keep returning to. Some lunacies span the entire global community.  One of them is the world’s insistence on supporting the chaotic and deadly-failed city of Mogadishu as the essential core of a united Somalia.  While the last 5 years has seen some progress in expelling the Al Shabbab terror group and restoring basic order, at this rate Mogadishu might be open for real national business by 2060, perhaps.  Meanwhile, the northern 1/3 of Somalia… the historically independent Somaliland … has been flourishing in peace for two decades, despite receiving almost no help from abroad. Hey, here's an idea. Start building south from there.


Treebeard said...

The problem is these unmanned missions to other planets don't have nearly the same cultural impact as the sight of humans walking on another world. It's not even in the same league. And sorry, but Bolden's call for “a diverse new generation” (i.e. not too many white men) to go to Mars fails to inspire.

This whole hostile PC message coming down from the Blue power centers now is THE PROBLEM that is tearing Amerika apart. Red Tribers may not like you guys, but the Blue Tribe's hostility is no less relentless. Sorry, but another movie from the Hollywood Blue propaganda mill about a white farmer who fights for the Union isn't going to change anyone's mind. Do you really think people can't see through that? The entire Amerikan propaganda apparatus has become so heavy-handed and obvious that it's lost credibility, just as Soviet propaganda did in its later years. Fox and Drudge are certainly propaganda, but so is your Blue Amerikan media – it just isn't *your* propaganda.

Amerika will probably continue to diverge into separate civilizations, with separate propaganda, values, etc. That's fine with me, and I don't understand why it isn't fine with you. If you agree that Syria and Iraq were poorly conceived by coastal Anglo-French imperialists, who failed to consider the deep ethnic and religious divides when they created these artificial states, then something similar true of the American empire. Why not admit defeat and let it disintegrate peacefully?

Xactiphyn said...

These are actual Sanders supporters saying some of this stuff. I say that as a Sanders supporter. The idea that Sanders supporters are worse than other, though, doesn't actually hold true if you look at any comment section where both Sanders and Clinton supporters discuss and yell at each other. Such is the nature of the internet.

I think it was true a couple months ago when Sanders was coming on strong but Clinton was just expected to win. Now that it is a real contest and Clinton might lose, though, it seems all balanced out.

I don't think this is like the 60's. Or, perhaps it is from the point of view of the Tea Party. For liberals, it is more like Reagan. At this moment in time, the most practical, pragmatic thing to do is shift the Overton Window back to where it was in the FDR era, roughly. It was the "Reagan Revolution" that shifted us away from that. We've been mostly playing defense ever since. (Economically, at least.) No specific proposal matters as much as a paradigm shift like this.

(All that said, I'm still not 100% sure I want Sanders to win the primary. I think so, but the paradigm shift is happening anyway, it isn't required. Clinton is largely defined by the conventional wisdom of the day.)

David Brin said...

Amazing. A cogently-stated plaint, in reasonable-sounding tones, couched in terms that he actually meant to provoke sincere response. Who are you and what have you done with our mad ent?

In fact, of course, even this simplistically reasonable-sounding plaint leaves out:

1- Those who have fueled and incited the Red Rage were oligarchs who are no more friends of poor and ill-educated whites than the plantation lords were, when they incited a million poor southern whites to fight and die for their feudal privileges.

The clue is that this rage has always been directly associated (not entirely but demographically) with low education levels -- the brightest sons and daughters of red america rush to join blue america fast as they can. And THAT is the ultimate rebuke that likely hurts the most.

In fact, it is simply stupid to fight and die for your class oppressors, who treat you as tools and who do not even deliver promised scraps from their table. The oligarchs have kept poor whites poor! While the Blue neighbors have poured 150 years of aid and beneficence... which, naturally, is resented. At least the blue universities gave the BRIGHT sons and daughters a place to go, to prosper. That's a huge positive... that's deeply resented.

2- Do not even pretend that it is equal. Yes, some lib-tards and lefties and urban comics mock down-Earth folks and I am sure it hurts. But Blue America has never railed and ranted that Red Americans are deeply and inherently damned immoral beings, the way blue Americans are portrayed EVERYWHERE across Limbaughland. When I reply with statistics that prove that blues do better on every practical metric of moral living, it is not out of hate but in order to REFUTE the baseline red calumny.

3- The 1852 pre-confederacy was an evil force that aggressively raided northern states, using its ownership of the federal government as a bludgeon. States right was a northern cry.

The 1860s full-confederacy was outright evil in every conceivable way except one: the martial courage and brilliance of its soldiers. Evil is worth fighting. Period.

But there is another reason that is seldom mentioned. Had we allowed secession... and the confederacy would soon have split... all hope would have vanished for a truly continental nation, allowing its citizens to thrive in peace. As-is, most US citizens have always lived their lives never SEEING a soldier, except in a parade, or now on TV. Fools who take this for granted know nothing of normality in most human societies.

Secession would have filled North America with heavily armed borders and armies and conscription and paranoia and jingo-chauvinism and high taxes, making us just another silly continent like Europe or Asia. As-is, most Americans grew up thinking of armies and governments as fairly distant, vague and not relevant to daily life much. AND WE ARE STILL LIKE THAT TODAY.

And all of that would have died without Lincoln's iron will.

4- Who gets to drift away? The 40% of the population in southern states who despise the cheating confederates today? And who would fight and die for their true country, as those patriots did in Jones County?

Will you expel the blacks and liberals and all the people with a college educations? In fairness, I suppose you could let the blacks have Mississippi in exchange for a lilly white Alabama. To be honest with you, if you'll pay the resultant expenses and moving costs, I have a feeling most fed-up Americans will gladly let the resulting congealed mass of hate go. Let So Carolina swap for the anger addicts in neighboring states and just go?

Where can I sign?

David Brin said...

Mark whether Bernie makes Hill his running mate or vice versa, you'll hear FDR mentioned a lot.

Zen Cosmos said...

I am, at least at this point, so early in the too-long campaign season, going to write in Sanders name if he is not the nominee. I recognize and actually agreed with the arguments over voting for Clinton vs. ANY GOPer. However, since I do live in a blue state where a write-in of a living person will be counted, i am going to exercise that right. I am deeply tired of voting for a lesser of two evils just to keep things as "liberal/sane" as possible. Not working. If I lived in a truly competitive red or purple state where my vote counted for more I might look at this issue differently. But until the gerrymandering is outlawed nationwide, the money is public taxes in ALL elections, and compromisers and moderates rule in both parties, I am going feel good about voting FOR somebody as opposed to voting against or for the lesser of two bad choices. What this country REALLY needs is a universal on-every-ballot additional choice or either NONE OF THE ABOVE and/or ABSTAIN.

bigsteve said...

One of the things that made the Civil War so bad was it broke up communities and families. I am the descendent of both a Confederate War Veteran and a Union War Veteran. Both were southerners. And most of my family of the Confederate Veteran fought on the Union side. The Union Veteran was an under ground rail-road conductor before the war. So what you are writing about Mr. Brin is family history to me.

My family has been here on both sides well before the Revolutionary War. They mainly came fleeing feudalism. I don't see any of us submitting peacefully to Feudalism now. So it is either going to be ballots or bullets. The Civil War was settled by bullets. Teddy Roosevelt and FDR brought change by ballots.

If change does not come the unrest of the sixties will come back. People are that ticked off. During the sixties we were close I believe to Civil War. If not for leaders like Dr. King and President Johnston that would of happen, So this is an important election.

I just changed party affiliation from Republican to Democrat so I could vote in the Democratic primary for Hillary. I just could not vote for any of the GOP candidates in the primary and plan anyway of voting for who ever the Democrats nominate in the general. But for anything to get done we also need to swing the Senate Democrat and narrow the majority of the Republicans in the House. That means young voters you need to show up in the mid-term elections not just vote in presidential election years.

Tom Crowl said...

There's been a rough 2-Party consensus on foreign policy and economics which we've had at least since Reagan but actually with some roots going back to the overthrow of Mossadegh in '53 and the McCarthy xenophobia which came with it.

Yes, the Republicans are worse... but the Democrats from Viet Nam in foreign policy... to the Greenspan, Rubin, Geithner et al economic shared pathology have happily gone along... and at time led this march in the wrong direction.

I support Sanders because I believe he recognizes this to considerable extent... and wants to address it.

I'm not crazy about his personality... he's no Roosevelt in charisma or connections... but he's closer to him in policy than Hillary will ever be.

I don't believe this will change if we get another "Neo" Conservative/Liberal of either stripe.

Tacitus said...

Your description of "cynical snarks" and the excuse that "its supposed to be funny" pretty much sums up my attitude towards Jon Stewart. Most of the time anyway. Ah well, free speech and all.

I think the chances of Hillary accepting VP are low. But it is such an odd year that I suppose anything could happen. More likely a younger, non east coast female would be Sander's better pick. If it comes to that.


David Brin said...

Zen & Steve you are both solid.

I've been reading (in manuscript) a new novel by Sean T. Smith about a near future hot American civil war. Washington and San Francisco get nuked pretty early. TEARS OF ABRAHAM is a page-turner filled with vivid, believable action and characters you care about, along with sober, thoughtful insights into what it may mean - when the chips are down - to be an American.

David Brin said...

Tom C your position is very fragile, give that actual, measurable outcomes are spectacularly different between the two parties WH tenures. That alone is enough to show that your position is (sorry) more posture than logical. See:

Vietnam? Here's the difference. Dems learn from mistakes. They have opposed Vietnam like quagmires ever since, while goppers rush into them. Do dems wage war? Yep. We're an empire. But they do it very very very differently and that too is worth a vote:

Tacitus, Bernie has a great inducement for Hillary. The fact he's likely to be a one term president.

Alfred Differ said...

I was going to point out to Treebeard that we can't let you all go because we would be dividing families, but bigsteve beat me too it. I used to snicker at the stereotypical behavior's ascribed to rednecks until I looked up their typical heritage and my own father's background. Turns out I'm one of them even if I grew up elsewhere. One should be more respectful of family, so I shut up. No PC pressure needed.

...and NO. They may not have Alabama and/or South Carolina either. No armed internal borders. Period. That would be a sure path to slaughter.

On the original article, though, I'll admit Dave Barry doesn't bother me much. It is an old comedic art form he is using that makes use of the fact that we laugh at things that hurt. The danger, of course, is when we don't laugh. When we fail to see the humor in a joke (a constant risk all comedians face) it is time to eject the joke teller or examine our own pains and seek the solace we need. Maybe my optimism is better armored than many, but the frequent pokes at Brady and Belichick had me chuckling along. Besides, I really WOULD like some of the hours I've wasted on FB back.

Yes... I like watching good football (US) too even though it is obviously a gladiatorial sport. Hopefully the next generation will be more sensitive to the preservation of the quality of human life. If they are, they won't watch US football and the problem will go away. They won't like Dave Barry either and that punch-throwing comedic art form will die too.

Jumper said...

This is a good read:

Alfred Differ said...

So is this one. Cheerful thoughts about basic research. 8)

donzelion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom Crowl said...

David, you don't need to be sorry... I don't mind disagreement. If I'm wrong I'll change.

I agree Dems have been better than Repubs and have said so many times. But I'm not so sure about learning from mistakes.

Yes, somewhat more reluctant about intervention... but we still got bi-partisan support for the Iraq invasion (for an attack which Iraq had nothing to do with)... and then on to Libya.

Economically, even when they had the whole govt... Presidency and both Houses... still no serious attention to the minimum wage... no increased Progressivity in income taxes... no attention to campaign finance reform or lobbying... and bad trade policies.

I also suggest that a lot of the Reagan and Clinton economic "success" was built on a reliance on reserve currency status (which gives a country an almost unlimited import/credit line with the rest of the world)... which is sort of like living on a national "Home Equity Loan"... which ultimately comes home to roost as we saw with the second Bush. Yes... the Repubs exasperated the crash with the stupid war but the financial de-regulation... well, in fact the war as well... were again bi-partisan.

donzelion said...

"We enlightenment moderate-pragmatists who believe in can-do problem solving, in negotiation and progress must (I'm afraid) become militant."

Militant? As in, take up guns and stick it to the cynics? Surely not your meaning.

I see at least three tribes of cynics at play, two in loose confederation, and a third, abstaining. (1) Playground bullies, esp. the TV ads (like Fox, a 24-hour Republican attack ad) variety. (2) Economic/religious parasites (profiteers who recognize that deploying religious claptrap extends their wealth and power - cheaply). (3) The disappointed compassionate, guarding their lingering hope behind isolationist escapism and/or a snark lacquer (Roddenberrians - in the sense of folks who hide within other worlds, rather than using this world as a source to raise projects - and/or Jon Stewartites - in the sense of people embracing vestiges of anti-hypocritical fury, without doing anything beyond shrugging off).

Externally, each may manifest the same behavior (e.g., screeds that 'Obama is a weak fool!') - but internally, the first tribe will attack anyone after others give them permission to do so, the second tribe will attack anyone who might take their power/wealth away (preemptive strikes), and the third group will attack anyone without necessarily despising them, simply because they feel weak fools themselves, and by pointing out the human frailty, recall kinship.

I'll interpret your meaning and purpose as mobilizing the third group (as well as any leftover true optimists, of which, surely some remain) - not a "call to arms!" so much as a "wake up!" "Remember!" And perhaps, 'rejoice!"

Tom Crowl said...

And let me address a touchy subject: illegal immigration.

Now I support a path to citizenship... because I'm a realist and frankly these migrants were more-or-less invited with a wink and a nod... and can not seriously be blamed. I'd have done the same thing if I was faced with the possibility and stuck in a stagnant economy.

But it has to be admitted that BOTH Party elites... though for separate reasons... had no interest in seriously addressing how that would effect domestic conditions over time.

I paid my way through college working in canneries and as a janitor... but those jobs are largely gone... so.. in line with a financialization model preferring low taxes and cheap credit to banks for issuance of private debt over higher taxes and public support for education (including vocational)... we have a generation starting life in perpetual debt.

And... mark my words... a debt bubble in student debt (and car loans btw) is still ahead and will eventually pop.

Antonym said...

Killer Mike - Reagan


donzelion said...

Tom C - long winded, point-by-point response. Apologies for verbosity, my purpose is to respond to the instinct to disregard by citing a list of horribles, rather than thinking each one through.

(1) "on to Libya" - but in a manner very different from Iraq, in which 4-5 Americans were killed, as opposed to 4-5 thousand. Libya is a 'science fiction' war - drone strikes and email servers played a bigger role than (American) boots on the ground. Dems like to bring down evil dictators as much as Reps do - they just prefer different means (compare ousting Milosevic with Saddam). Support for the use of force does not entail parity among all those who use force.

(2) Economically...concur that Dems deemphasized minimum wages over health care. But that's realistic - health care costs rising 10%/year drain income and drive more people into bankruptcy than any other factor in America - despite the 100% certainty that we'll all die at some point, and the extreme probability of losing the entire life's savings in the last months to try to prolong the inevitable. 'Health care' is a component in 'minimum wage' (we'd all prefer to make more money, but what good does a $5/hr raise do to someone who experiences a $10/hr increase in health care costs - and no effective means of lowering those costs except dying?

(3) "No increased Progressivity in income taxes..." The highest increment increased from 35% to 39.6% under Obama - a 4.9% increase in progressivity. Is more necessary? That's a different debate.

(4) "no attention to campaign finance reform or lobbying..." Um, "Citizens United (2010)." Scalia may have attended to this - and a new court, with one less conservative justice might just make this feasible.

(5) "bad trade policies." I'll draw ire from the Left, but Obama is being very wise with the Trans Pacific Partnership. In the 5 years after NAFTA, the U.S. labor actually grew. Labor hates NAFTA - but when rules exist, American workers benefit; absent rules, American capitalist/plutocrats benefit (China hurt American workers far more than NAFTA did). Similarly - those "bad trade policies" contributed to the incredibly positive economic outcomes David cited elsewhere (which, objectively, reflect a broad number of really good changes).

(6) "reliance on reserve currency sort of like living on a national "Home Equity Loan"... not a helpful analogy. First, in terms of the sources of wealth - esp. trade - unlike real estate, the balance shifts quickly and in response to tax and other incentives in ways very different from your home equity loan (e.g., Microsoft - Seattle doesn't lose Microsoft Office when it sells it to Microsoft Ireland and then 'imports' it to avoid taxes - nor does it change the flow when the product is produced in 20 countries). Second, in terms of the uses of wealth - no individual owns a home while planning on sharing it with others - but currency only has meaning when shared.

(7) "but the financial de-regulation... again bi-partisan." Not even Bernie believes that restoring Glass-Steagal would have averted the 2008 crisis. Progressives have to learn that it's not 'deregulation' that created the problems - it's something new. Or rather, the 'problems' were 'solutions' to other problems - e.g., how does one get more people to buy houses, despite decreasing real wages (and increasing fixed costs like health)? One securitizes the mortgages - driving down prices for building certain types of homes - making them affordable to a larger pool of buyers. Then, what seemed like a good idea, gets extended, and extended again, and suddenly, what seemed like a smart solution to a problem creates new problems of its own that nobody had considered.

Tom Crowl said...

I'm glad we agree its an empire.

Empires aren't inherently bad... and so long as we've got a divided world are pretty much inevitable.

But empires don't have a very good history of avoiding the traps that empires offer the empire's leadership... which ALWAYS has some sort "Left/Right division within it but nevertheless ends up going down a similar road... enriching the top, overreach in foreign 'adventures'... and taking the bottom for granted.

This is why formalized avenues for "heat-from-the-bottom" is so important as a corrective. Note I don't say wisdom... I say heat.

David Brin said...

A bullet list of my points about Pax Americana and why this "empire" has been different.

For one thing, it relishes being top dog but does not relish actual conquest. And Marshall's trade policies uplifted the entire globe.

Oh, one little thing. The US went whole hog into Afghanistan, which is called "the land where empires to to die." And came out alive. (Unlike the Soviets.)

It's not over. But no democrat will ever go back in with divisions. There's your incentive inthis election, if you needed more.

David Brin said...

donzelion said...

(8) illegal immigration...this is the one subject where optimism and hope are necessary to think properly. In general, who benefits from competition? Who is hurt by it?

In practice, you'll find the strongest enemies of a 'path to citizenship' benefit from being able to exploit 'illegal' immigrants (to make their lawns prettier and their hotels cleaner more cheaply, without having to pay their worker's health bills). This group also has the option to hire 'lower class' natives - but prefers not to do so (again, price differentials). So the game (for the plutocrats) has to be to blame the immigrants themselves (break up their families, deport the evil Latin grandmas because if they're permitted to stay, they'll enable their children to work while grandma tends to the grandkids).

Since that's the vast majority of immigrants, the plutocrats need to call attention to the minority of drug thugs and criminals among them. They can criminalize immigrants by emphasizing criminal enforcement against them (e.g., focus on the immigrant criminals, rather than the banker criminals) - and by inventing new crimes (BTW, that's the original structure underlying Prohibition - anti-German/Irish/Italian immigration policy).

"But it has to be admitted that BOTH Party elites... though for separate reasons... had no interest in seriously addressing how that would effect domestic conditions over time."

Freed of the 'illegality' trap - immigrants will likely be as successful as the same German/Irish/Italian/Chinese/Anglo-etc. immigrants of a century ago. But they'll no longer be cheap and easy tools to exploit for entrenched property owners.

"I paid my way through college working in canneries and as a janitor... but those jobs are largely gone..."

They're not gone. It's just easier/cheaper for a "janitorial services company" to hire 10-20% of its janitors as illegal immigrants, and then fire them any time they mention a raise (and replace with another illegal immigrant, then repeat).

(9) "a debt bubble in student debt (and car loans btw) is still ahead..." Concur. Amazing that a university will outsource its janitorial services, along with so many others - thereby reducing its administrative costs - yet will apply that savings to hire additional administrators - thereby generating shortfalls that drive up tuition. More amazing still that a university that never had any of those costs can still charge tuition as if it did (the online campuses) - all while paying faculty a pittance. Such structures reflect a power imbalance - a once grand institution gets bastardized into a parasitic, ugly creature.

David Brin said...

donzellion the ironies re immigration only begin there. They double back and bite ALL constituencies... see:

Brin's crackpot (but true) immigration insights

Acacia H. said...

One of the big arguments against Sanders is that he wants too much too soon. That he dreams too big, that his ideals and ideas can never come about - at least, not in the short term.

Well, I'm reminded of something else that went along that lines: Gay marriage.

For the longest time I told feminists, gay people, and the like "don't overreach." To put it in Japanese terms: Don't be the nail that sticks up. My belief, and that of other "slow but steady" people was that if gradual rights are enacted, then eventually equality would be achieved without massive resistance from the Right.

I was wrong.

The entire concept is wrong.

The Gay Marriage movement proved my theory fallacious. Here we had a bunch of people who the Right detests. This is a group that you see homicides against and attempts to call it "justified" because "I found out he was gay and it scared me" or other bullshit like that. No matter what, the Right would resist gay rights.

And the LGBT community said "fuck this" and seized the moment. Through court cases, referendum, laws, and more, they seized more and more states until the U.S. Supreme Court, under a fairly conservative bench, saw the writing on the wall and gave LGBT people the right to marry. The same right as straight people.

And yes, there's blowback. Yes, there's resistance! But I was wrong! You cannot achieve effective social change through slow gradual efforts. Telling black people "ride in the back of the bus - at least you're allowed on the same bus as white folk!" is bullshit. Telling gay people "equal but separate is fine!" is also bullshit. They knew that. And they seized their rights.

Saying "Bernie Sanders cannot achieve his aims, we need to go slow and gradual" is saying "sit in the back of the bus" and "separate but equal is fine." Well, it's not. It's time to seize back our society. Not inch our way back. Not go with "good enough Hillary." No. We need to act.

And Sanders is willing to do this. He isn't saying "gradual" - he's saying "now."

Rob H.

Tom Crowl said...

Thanks for response donzellion.... let me see if I can offer any kind of rebuttal:

1. Libya: lower U.S. body count is certainly a good thing... but doesn't change the fact that its left Libya a mess and hasn't in any way improved our global security. More efficiently making things worse isn't the best way forward.

2. Healthcare over minimum wages: If that were a necessary tradeoff... you are right! However I argue that a single payer system is more efficient and in fact cheaper for a nation (given a desire for universal coverage)... and that Obamacare... while an improvement in coverage... was a sop to insurance, pharma, etc... which perpetuates a bad system bleeding more of national income than pretty much anywhere else w/o providing better outcomes.

3. I guess I just think much higher marginal rates are needed which we may disagree on... and that w/o them wealth concentrates.

4. Yes, can't blame either Party for Citizens United... but I can blame them for not instituting practical remedies which are available... and in fact is my focus... (happy to try to address criticisms on this and why I think it will lead to better govt.)

A One Click, Low Threshold Contribution Capability: Why It's Necessary for Advocacy

5. I'm open to hearing more on this argument though I'm not there yet. And would suggest that a hollowed out rust belt and dying cities (which btw could and should have been ameliorated by needed infrastructure programs which lacked any serious support because of a fixation on privatization and lack of drive by Dems for more public works)

6. not sure I got your argument here... but I don't think I made my argument so well either... I'll think about it.

7. I have personal experience with this one... and will try to address the problem with securitization and the politics of the mortgage industry as it relates to the "Big Bank vs. Small Bank" question and Wall Street more fully soon. SO I'll take a pass on this one for a couple of days. Diving into it will take some time. But re "new problems of its own that nobody considered"... I think there were quite a few who saw it coming... just as there are many seeing it coming in student loans.

Alfred Differ said...

If you want to pop the student debt bubble earlier than later, find a way for the faculty being paid a pittance to organize competing institutions. We have a de facto guild structure making this cost prohibitive. Online offerings are an obvious component, but student loans are really about buying credentials. How does one get ahead with a crap degree?

Alfred Differ said...

@Rob H.: You had me smiling and nodding in agreement until you got to the last full paragraph. Lot's of people were wrong about gay marriage here in the US. I was an incrementalist on that until CA passed Prop 8 (which I fought). After that embarrassment, I was advocating for public displays of affection to force attention onto the fact that we had just stripped the liberty from a large fraction of our citizens. They found a better way through the courts for which I am thankful.

The problem with your last few words, though, is that it is not YOUR society to take back. It is OURS and the people in it are human beings. When you advocate a take back, you are setting the stage for THEM to make the same argument next time for their side. You are part of them civil war at that point. I don't see anything in what Sanders advocates that justifies handing your opponents the very weapons they need to fight us. You don't have to like them, but you are going to have to figure out how to live with them unless you seriously want to start a shooting war. I don't think Sanders wants that. I sure don't.

Acacia H. said...

You are correct.

Alfred Differ said...

Umpf. So many details. Can't resist urge to respond. 8)

1) Libya was a disaster waiting to happen. The only way to stop the bloodshed was the historical solution involving a strongman or king. Kings work better for long term solutions if you are optimizing for stability. Strong men die and so do their power structures. I seriously doubt there WAS a way we could have made it better. David advocates for muscling Egypt and Algeria into working our will, but I suspect that would have spread the damage.

2) I'm unconvinced that a single payer would improve things. I suspect it would make it worse. If I can't see the prices actually charged, I can't do what consumers typically do. We price shop in a free market. How does that work with a single payer?

3) Balance marginal rates against deductions. Close loopholes and progressivity should be reduced. Add loopholes and you are attempting to engineer society. Anyone here think they are smart enough to improve things at that scale? Hah!

4) Yah. Scary stuff. I suspect Americans will find a way to cope, though.

5) Outcomes matter. 'Aristotelian' economic theory supported by people motivated to protect what they have is suspect. Can you say 'Conflict of Interest'?

6) Reserve currency status DOES give us an advantage... until the bond markets get annoyed. Bond buyer are the real financial power in the world.

7) I looked for predictions ex ante and they WERE out there. There were some social T-cells pointing to the dangers. What I didn't find, though, were predictions that covered the scope of the damage. Predictions made ex post facto, as usual, were quite good and spotting the problems in embarrassing detail.

8) At its root, I see the immigration problem as a xenophobia problem. No one wants to face it directly. They cast it in other more palatable terms. Crime. Jobs. Disease. Faith. It's just Us VS Them. Help people feel more secure in their possessions and this problem will move to another horizon. How? The Hapsburgs knew.

9) The student loan bubble will be a problem. Better lance it early.

donzelion said...

David - just read your "8 stage civil war" concept (linked to earlier). Interesting; have my reservations - the West (conceptually, geographically, and historically) complicates a "civil war" lens.

Do like your immigration post (though bear in mind, the history can't go back further than Eisenhower, when the modern system was created). I'd propose different terms though: elites always benefit from the presence of 'illegal immigrants' (cheap labor with easy leverage - the more obstacles to citizenship, the better). Labor unions are ambivalent (they like growing membership, but immigrants rupture the seniority systems among workers - and corporations loved to bring in immigrants who didn't speak English to make it harder to organize and unite). Racists always hate immigrants (but to hell with them).

That said, numbers and interpretations in this field are quite problematic - the laws that render immigrants 'illegal' are spliced and diced to ensure that elites still get their preferred numbers of 'deportable' workers, in each system. Reagan gave 'amnesty' to anti-Communist immigrants; Bush Sr., Clinton, and Jr. did not, and instead ran a 'catch and release' program - Obama limited that, and implemented a more 'process-based' practice (which renders it susceptible to both anti-immigrant claims of 'failing to enforce the law' vigorously, and pro-immigrant claims of 'draconian enforcement' - trying to make sure a judge actually hears each claim and makes a decision before removing someone 'slows things down' and irritates everyone - even if it's a basic principle most people would endorse in other contexts).

David Brin said...

Rob H right and wrong on several counts:
1- yes the dems were too cautious in 2009-2010. They should have pushed through more stuff.
2- They know that. Few fault Sanders for wanting to do a lot and Hillary is adapting. The problem is getting a Congress to do that.

3- We could have had Gay Marriage 5+ years earlier, if activists had been willing to TEMPORARILY compromise on just the WORD “marriage.” Get all the functional aspects utterly equal under “partnership”. That would have eliminated half of the opposition. And then follow up five years later by converting-in “marriage.” Would have worked fine. The right isn’t the only side sometimes made impractical by ideological purity.

TC Obamacare is a wretched cludge that is only good by comparison to what we had before. It is LOTS better than that, but truly ridiculous. No surprise. It was the GOP’s own… damn… plan.

Donzel: the main distinction is that unions like LEGAL immigration which expanded under dems, but that rightist racists dare not attack openly, so they screech instead at Illegal immigration, which dems always try to shut down!

Dems are not pure guiltless here. Their chosen legal immigration path – reuniting families including siblings and uncles – sounds sweet but in fact is stupid and downright evil.

donzelion said...

I've spoken too much, but returning to David's first thoughts about cynicism - I'll touch on the 'single payer system.' And where to look for 'bullies.'

I think many people migrate to cynicism to hide pain at real choices that confront them. The most painful such choice can be, "How much is my son's life worth? How much is my mother's life worth?"

In a true 'free market,' I would set a value. I would (1) make a rational judgment as to my son's/mother's economic value, (2) apply knowledge and skill to guess the probability that any specific treatment will save his/her life, (3) know the total price in advance of starting the transaction, and (4) negotiate the 'best price' with a variety of suppliers.

In the real world, none of that happens. Ask me what my son's life is worth, I'll probably tell you it's 'priceless.'

That means every "free trade" is really a disguised act of extortion - some "other side" holds a gun to my son's head, demanding I pay the price for his life, without telling me what that price might be. There will never be consent.

Doctors tend to be very ethical people - they try to practice medicine, not extortion. But they don't set all prices for their own inputs - they rely on a third party to do that. Private insurance companies 'might' play that role and keep costs down - but why would they if they have the same profit incentive the suppliers do? (Esp. when they can disingenuously blame any third party - ObamaCare, greedy lawyers, smokers - for raising rates?

Every player in the 'health game' claims it is being coerced. I'm being coerced (because I say my child's life is priceless). Doctors are coerced (because time spent seeking a free exchange is time not spent practicing medicine). Insurers claim to be coerced. Suppliers claim to be coerced. And on and on...yet somehow, the exact same treatment will cost far more in America than it will in any other country (even with same quality care).

This, my friends, is the work of the cynical bullies David is railing against. Single payer MIGHT rein them in; ObamaCare might do it as well. But however it's done - the first step is to acknowledge that every "irrational" person (who claims a loved family member's life is priceless) will be extorted if market operates for health the same way it does for other goods.

Unknown said...


"Zen & Steve you are both solid."

Read Steve's full post again he's saying the opposite of what you think he's saying. I read his first paragraph and assumed he was a crazy person but he's actually arguing in favor of liberalsm he just worded it poorly. Just read his last paragraph.

donzelion said...

David: A quibble, but a meaningful one: unions, historically, have been quite ambivalent even towards legal immigration.

Certainly, "illegal immigration" is always a problem for unions, without exception. Yet even legal immigration raises challenges when some portion of any given workforce is racist. Why would one reasonably anticipate that racists will crop up in a large number of unions? Managers do the hiring - and cynical managers get a bonus for keeping wage costs down. One way a (cynical/venal/stupid) manager could do that is to pair a bunch of angry, white, Confederates with a pool of immigrants - making trust difficult among union members (and weakening the union in any collective bargaining context). Another is if/when unions themselves divide (e.g., many firms contend with a number of different, competing unions - and play them against one another).

"Dems are not pure guiltless here. Their chosen legal immigration path – reuniting families including siblings and uncles – sounds sweet but in fact is stupid and downright evil."

On pure economic grounds, the utility of an extra uncle/aunt can be remarkable. Sure, there's a case for bringing in the "best and the brightest." But there's a strong case for bringing in extended family too - if I am myself among the 'best and the brightest' - then an extra sibling/aunt/uncle might help by looking after the kids, so I can work more hours. Either way, net gain.

reason said...

you think Bernie Sanders will have Hillary Clinton as his running mate or vice-versa. Why would this be a good idea? Have you looked at their birth years and really thought about what a VP is for?

reason said...

David - I think you need think about 2020.

reason said...

Much as I like Elisabeth Warren for Bernie, I think she is too old as well. There is no sense in my view of having a party whose support is younger than the average American running with a gerontocracy. I think Bernie has to have a woman as a running mate so I guess Wendy Davis would be number one pick. Cory Booker for Hillary.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Why do you put down your own generation so much? Look at what own generation has accomplished.

Let’s make a list.

1)Civil Rights. It was my generation through rank-and-file consistent action that made it a reality. Our attitudes toward race were not those of the “Greatest Generation” whom you admire so much. We were more open to diversity and above all willing to break with what our parents thought was the normal state of race relations. Separation and subservience were their normal. When we came in we changed that and with a vengeance.

2)Women’s Rights. My parents idea was that the women’s place was in the home and subordinate to the husband. Men didn’t cook or clean or help out with domestic chores. The roles were completely separate and that was believed normal. Our generation broke that model and worked diligently to give women what they should have long before.

3)Gay Rights. The “Great Generation’s” view of gays was worthy of the Middle Ages. They were arrested, put into psychiatric institutions, forced them to take drugs to “change them”, fired them and black-listed them. Giving a gay a good beating was considered manly. Our generation accepted them and fought to protect their rights and brought them into the mainstream. For us, being gay is no big deal.

4)Immigration. Our generation witnessed the largest flow of immigration ever seen and yet we did close our borders and allowed them in even when it depressed wages and changed the ethnic composition. The result was that we went from 200 million Americans then to 325 million today and are stronger than ever before. It brought diversity in ideas, a new hard-working group people and a lot of first-class minds to our shores.

Deuxglass said...


5)Technilogical advancement. The “Great Generation” started many of the tech industries but our generation took it to new heights. Sure they built the Moon rockets but we built the means to explore the Solar System and the Universe. Baby Boomers are the engineers, the scientists and the business people who changed the world. Look at all the tech that was invented, developed and spread from here to the world. We had the Bill Gates, the Steven Jobs and many, many more who in the ‘80s made Silicon Valley and the American tech industry what it is today. We are dominant in tech because of these Baby Boomers. Who produces the majority of the Nobel Prize winners in just about all areas and how many are Baby Boomers? We lead in tech and science and the rest of the world is behind.

6)Military. The US military is the strongest by far in the world today. How did that come about? In the late ‘70s and early 80’s, Baby Boomer young officers who had fought in Vietnam and saw the disastrous condition of the armed forces pushed and pushed hard for deep reform. They are the ones that came up with new ideas and concepts that revolutionized warfare and they put them into practice. The result is that no other country comes near to us in the ability to fight a conventional war whether it be Europe, Russia, China or anybody else. These Baby Boomers put us back on top and have kept us there. I should also mention that the Baby Boomers were the grunts during Vietnam fighting a war they didn’t start yet they still went. Two-thirds of the soldiers who served in Vietnam were volunteers. Compare that to the fact that two-thirds of the men who served in WW II were draftees so which generation is more patriotic?

7)Culture. Need I have mention the great music that our generation created when we were young? The Millennials still listen to it today. Don’t forget about the great directors and producers who made and still make some of the best movies today. There is a reason why Hollywood dominates the world movies industry. And let’s not forget the mass of good literature that comes from people of my generation and who are appreciated by much of the world.

I could go on and on about the accomplishment of the Baby Boomer generation. We are not perfect and could have done better but when you come down to it, we did pretty damn well. So we bitch a bit more than the “Great Generation” and are a bit more materialistic but we have done some amazing things is our lifetime. I am proud to be a Baby Boomer.

reason said...

Douglas Fenton
I'm not of one for generationalism in general, but you have a point. But as I see it you are both looking at different aspects of the same thing (the blind men and the elephant?). But my general point is that generationalism should be regarded like sexism and racism as an unacceptable attempt to put a large and diverse group into a single uniform bucket.

reason said...

P.S. I am much more willing to criticise cultures though than many PC strictures would allow. Cultures to some extent ARE uniform and what is more they are chosen.

Acacia H. said...

Doctor Brin, you are wrong about gay marriage.

What you are advocating is "Separate but equal."

You would have some church-operated hospital refuse to allow a gay partner in to see his or her legally-joined partner and for the courts to uphold it on 1st Amendment grounds. You then would have gays demanding marriage but they lost their momentum and you'd have ten or more years of struggle while LGBT people were denied their rights.

Separate But Equal did not work with our school systems. It did not work for the military. It does not work for the people of Flint, Michigan, where a predominantly minority population lives. And it would not have worked for gay marriage.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

I think I have seen few arguments about U.S. immigration based on high birth rates outside the U.S., the zero-population-growth achieved here (except for immigration), resource depletion and ecological damage of greater numbers, and the need to find sustainable economies and economic growth independent of population increase. I find those factors impossible to ignore.

While I believe Mexico and Canada deserve special consideration as next-door neighbors, if Mexico is a "failed state" it needs to be made official, however it enrages Mexican elites.

We have a problem with inner cities and flight to unsustainable suburbs (for the uninformed, this means that infrastructure maintenance of roads, sewers, etc. are higher than the inhabitants realize) not to mention the destruction of farms and water quality on suburban land. All this is increased by immigration.

next door Laura said...


I have never heard of a hospital ever, under any circumstances ban a visitor that a patient indicated as being somebody they wanted to see. 35 years plus in the medical system. Big city, small town, Sacred and Secular. I think this approaches Urban Myth status.

David's point is that most of the positive aspects of gay marriage were already in place or were easy fixes. Civil Partnerships. Directives of Care. Some minor tweaks to insurance law and so forth, sure, but purposely offending those with traditional values? I don't think that was necessary for a collective Self Esteem project.

Having said that I am not an Opponent. It is a minor issue for our society. In my world there have always been gay people. They formerly were just less vocal about their personal lives. Everybody just got along. I don't want to hear about the personal lives of heterosexuals either.

If there is a downside to the New Reality it lies in the future a ways. We still are sorting through the inevitable Gay Divorce issues. And while sympathetic to the legitimate issues of transgender, etc, some of this Next Frontier is pushing the limits of collective versus individual good. If I still had high school aged kids would I want them to be showering with those whose internal world view and external reality were discordant?

And what frontier is beyond that? Does the map have no edge?


raito said...

(intentionl sarcasm here) Of course things aren't better! Don't you watch the news?

Good news doesn't seem to be widely reported.

But I think the media is a bit hypocritical. One example is NPR constantly decrying political 'horse-race' journalism, while still indulging in it at every opportunity.

I saw the mortgage problem coming down in about 1998 or so. It became plain that the aggregators wanted to be able to approve every application and fob off the risk on others. And that's my personal experience, having been asked to work out a system for doing so, which I (sort-of, it would only approve applications that might perform as well as some top % of historic loans). But at that time, the company doing so got caught and penalized heavily (Fannie Mae cancelled their contracts and made them buy back the bad loans).

Student loan debt is a conscious or unconscious collaboration between the government, the banks, and the colleges to indenture succeeding generations. The government lifts restrictions on loans (when I was in college, I could not have borrowed the equivalent of today's student debts), so the banks lend more. And the colleges raise their prices because the money is out there. About the only thing I've been wrong about is that the tuition money generally isn't paying for construction. That's most often money given specifically for the purpose.

We're already seeing the negative effects. Persons who might normally pursue a college career are being advised to not do so, to go to community colleges is anything at all, or forego it altogether. And that in an environment where even mediocre jobs require a 4 year degree. (Slight aside, I failed to graduate because I ran out of money. And was told explicitly by the student aid office that because I was a white male who'd supported himself for a decade, there was no money for me. At my last job, I got told [after 14 years] that they really shouldn't have hired me without a degree. In a company founded by a college dropout. I now work at a place where they regularly turn down guys with advanced degrees. Living well is really the best revenge. But I digress) Gee, this won't cause much harm to the middle-class, will it?

And in your Wisconsin Oligarchical news...

The same people who insisted we needed voter ID at the polls to prevent (nonexistent) fraud, have now slipped a bit into a recent bill, without hearings, a clause allowing the state to use electronic voting machines that have not been certified. On one level, it's reasonable because I don't think certification means squat. On the other, how can having less-secure voting means result is any less fraud? This was added to a bill allowing online voter registration, but eliminating the special deputy-type people who were able to go door to door and register people.

reason said...

"I have never heard of a hospital ever, under any circumstances ban a visitor that a patient indicated as being somebody they wanted to see. "

Not all patients are conscious, and some who are not cannot talk intelligibly. People will also want to visit them.

reason said...

P.S. re running mates - that doesn't mean that I don't think some sort of public rapprochement between the candidates wouldn't be a good idea. Maybe a firm offer of an appropriate cabinet post (or even something less strenuous).

Acacia H. said...

Hillary isn't going to accept a cabinet post again.

And giving Sanders a cabinet post means removing him from the Senate. If he loses to Hillary, we want him to remain in the Senate to prevent the Republicans from possibly snagging a seat.

And if it could happen in Massachusetts (with the seat formerly held by Kennedy), it could happen anywhere.

Rob H.

Tom Crowl said...

RE Clinton vs Sanders and Electability..

Pay close attention to the national poll analysis below:

Bernie Sanders Is Beating EVERYONE

Sure, polls change. Draw your own conclusions.

reason said...

they can always turn it (regretfully) down (it might even be nod, nod, wink, wink) expected.

Tim H. said...

Thomas Frank has a book out next month "Listen Liberal" looks to be about DINOs.

Acacia H. said...

The electability of Sanders is a political ploy by Clinton to try and convince voters not to follow their hearts. After all, they followed their hearts in 2008 and look where it got them... Hillary not getting her coronation.

Rob H.

reason said...

By the way, whichever candidate for the Democrats is chosen they will be older than any democratic president since Woodrow Wilson when first elected. Republicans are on average older.

occam's comic said...

So David
Would you feel the same way if the rest of us were determining whether or not to let jewish folks get married instead of letting gay folks get married?

Robert said...


On Somalia - I think Somaliland, which I know about mainly because I subscribe to The Economist (yes, this a plug), is in good shape because it absolutely refuses to have anything to do with the viper's nest to their South. I think they would reject your proposal completely; fortunately, they're reasonable enough to let you live for having suggested it, unlike many of their neighbors.

On Bernie - Who do you think a real conservative would consider more radical, a reformist democratic Socialist like Bernie, who also happens to be a nice old Jewish guy who reminds me of half my neighbors when I was a kid in New York, or the Christian Taliban, excuse me, "movement conservatives"? So, yes, I like Bernie the best of the candidates who are actually out there, though I'd certainly vote for Hillary over any Republican except, maybe, Kasich. But I wouldn't have to hold my nose for Bernie.

It's becoming increasing clear to me that our big problem, worse than Gerrymandering, is low youth turnout in midterm elections. I hope that either of the Democratic candidates, if elected and then obstructed, runs a full-bore, Truman-style "give 'em Hell" congressional campaign in '18.

Speaking of Truman, if you want to bring over people like many of my relatives, mention him, not Roosevelt. Whether or not you're actually right about FDR. Much later, you could say that Truman wholly supported, and to a considerable degree implemented, FDR's domestic program.

On the Civil War - One of my favorite comeback lines to the folks who stole the Republican Party is "My family were Republicans in the 1860s - were yours?" It has the added benefit of being true, right up to an ancestor who died at Antietam.

Once upon a time, back when Teddy was President, there were many radicals - not just liberals or moderates, but Left radicals - in the GOP. But then Teddy's cousin Hoovered them all up. Come on, that can't be any worse than "Jijo, Jijo, it's off to war we go!"

Bob Pfeiffer.

Acacia H. said...

It just dawned on me why I'm not accepting Dr. Brin's excuses for not wanting Bernie Sanders.

He has stated several times "...and he reminds me of this old neighbor" (or was it family?) and then tries to say "and while that's not a reason against..." except it is.

Dr. Brin, you are allowing your personal feelings to override your rationality. You are ignoring poll after poll showing Sanders doing better against Republicans, you are dismissing his doing well against Hillary, you refused to even consider him as a serious candidate prior to Iowa and New Hampshire... because of personal bias.

And I'm arguing against this in a twisted mirror reflection of how you argued me to stop the knee-jerk reaction against Bill Clinton's presidency and instead to think rationally.

Well, even as I admit the Clinton Presidency was not nearly as bad as I assumed, I still have a personal dislike of the Clintons. (I've even tried to consider what it is about Hillary that I dislike as it's best to discover if a problem is emotional or rational - I think part of it is her actions are not those of a trustworthy individual, and her behavior in taking various actions that have legitimately weakened her viability as a viable Presidential candidate speaks poorly of some aspects of her character.) So I will have to accept that while you may find rational reasons as to why Sanders winning the Democratic nomination is not a death cry resulting in a Republican President, you just aren't going to be able to view him without that little voice of doubt in the back of your head.

It is human nature after all.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

WF you misunderstood what I meant by “solid”… I meant okay/ Firm.

Doz: there is no moral case for preferring extended families over best and brightest and especially random newcomers. People already prospering can send money home to relative and visit them. Why should that already lucky uncle be luckier than some random poor person in the same country? It is vile.

2020? Hillary could run as a siting VP with those advantages.

DF look at those boomer accomplishments to point to. Great stuff, but all achieved by the top boomer trait screeching sanctimony. And along the way we’ve polarized the nation and ruined practical, negotiation politics. (Mind you all this is in re politics. We have other areas, like science & culture & military.)

RobH stop cramming meanings in my diametrically opposite words. If gay could have had all – and I mean all – traits of marriage but agreeing to call it ‘garriage” for just five years…. They could have had it all at least five years ago. And words are fluid. They are the easiest thing to change. Just start using “marriage” and it then stick. Separate but equal, my patoot.

Tacitus while I agree that the left can easily get over-wrought, I think you minimize how many tragic and unnecessary insults and harms gay couples suffered. There needed to be an across the board and sweeping equalization. I just think that a tactic could have helped, throwing a bone – a word- to honestly decent conservatives who could see the injustice but were fretting over a word.

Raito have you a link for that voting machine news?

Occam I forgive you for utterly misreading what I said.

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, you are saying they should have Civil Unions. Marriage by any other name. And it is entirely likely you would have a Christian Hospital refuse to acknowledge this "Civil Union" as accepting it violates their religious beliefs. And that would have been upheld by the Supreme Court in all likelihood.

You advocated Separate But Equal. Which never is.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rob H you are channeling locumranch... screaming at a strawman who has nothing to do with me or anything I said.

Sure, Bernie reminds me of my dad, and that's not all bad. But BFD, it's an offhand thing. I have expressed ZERO hostility toward Sanders. Zero at all. Stop judging ME according to YOUR reflexes.

He is unconventional and that invites extra scrutiny. His "socialist" self- labeling makes me worry about drawing the millions of sane, economic conservatives we'll need, for a blow-out. And I prefer senator candidates who have done something beyond long ago mayoring as administrative experience.

Those are QUIBBLES! And sure they may make me lean a bit toward HC. So? B... F... D.

You know I was also the guy trying to get a youtube video mocking dynasties!

You -- and the other Bernites -- need to chill, man. This is a time for iron will and logic, and less wrath. That's the other side's thing.

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, you owe locumranch an apology for saying I'm channeling him. Yes, I understand that locu can get on your nerves, but that? Tsk.

Rob H.

Unknown said...

@Dvid Whoops my bad. Anyways I really think Obama should start funneling more money into gathering intelligence on domestic right-wing militia groups. In this next election it's very likely (though not certain) the GOP is too dysfunctional to win, and as such would lose the White House, the Senate (, and the Supreme Court all in one go. This could make some wingnuts desperate enough to start doing some stupid stuff, and more "popular" radio hosts like Limbaugh or Michael Savage going full Joe Walsh in terms of rhetoric.

donzelion said...

David: "We enlightenment moderate-pragmatists who believe in can-do problem solving, in negotiation and progress must (I'm afraid) become militant." A strong call to (angry, forceful) action.

David: "[Sander's] "socialist" self-labeling makes me worry about drawing the millions of sane, economic conservatives we'll need, for a blow-out." A strong call to prudence.

A cynical sophist might fixate on that - "let's get militant, but only in a popularly acceptable manner." A fanatic might fixate on that too - and attack ("You're being irrational by not liking my guy as much as I do!") - hoping to redirect anger and channel it toward an endorsement.

A believer in hope, by contrast, would (1) decide, on faith, that such thoughts originate from a worthy intellect that merits respect, even if dissented, (2) that the dissonance, if any, merits further exploration, point by point, issue by issue. My interpretation of the comments is that most participants here have acted as believers in hope (or like me, are at least trying to believe).

occam's comic said...

Whenever you mention your wife on this site, I always smile to myself, because it is so obvious that you have a great deal of love and respect for her. And that your relationship with her is incredibly important to you.

Which is why I wanted you to imagine how you would feel if a “militant moderate” told you that your wonderful, loving relationship with her wasn’t a “real” marriage, just some sort of legal partnership. And hey, maybe sometime in the future we will change our mind and recognize that your relationship is actually a marriage. (be patient, accept the half loaf, you can sit in the middle of the bus or the back of the bus, and maybe someday, if you are good, you can sit in the front of the bus)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

I'm unconvinced that a single payer would improve things. I suspect it would make it worse. If I can't see the prices actually charged, I can't do what consumers typically do. We price shop in a free market. How does that work with a single payer?

I'm reminded of a discussion I had on another board concerning the notion that "health care" covers a multitude of different things, some of which should be market driven and some of which are more like the way we conduct police and fire protection. We don't haggle at the point of sale over how much to pay for police or fire protection at a moment of crisis, and neither should we be expected or required to do so when one suffers an agonizing or life-threatening injury.

OTOH, I have no trouble with something like Viagra not being covered by a single-payer system. If someone feels the desire to pay $10 a pop for the benefit derived, that's an individual economic decision which the market will handle quite nicely.

Not being a woman, I can only say caveat emptor, it is my opinion that birth control should be covered, but I don't see why it has to be free. I'm open to argument on that one, especially from possessors of two X chromosomes.

Point being, the debate is muddled by a murky definition of "health care" which combines elective and emergency procedures and asserts that a single method must be used to handle all of it.

Jumper said...

I remember I tracked (agreed with) David, and Obama at the time, to call them "civil unions" (mainly to calm ruffled feathers of the bigots and get it passed.) It was reading here on this site I finally changed my mind. Someone noted here that a separate term showed lack of respect. I agreed, and changed my mind.

I think David has every right to support Clinton. I think each candidate has strengths and weaknesses, and I see Sanders as weak on foreign policy. I also think there are advantages to a President who is, forgive the expression, a swinging d**k on the order of LBJ. This has its obvious risks. Hillary, to add irony, has this political power. The downside is compared to Sanders' ethos, I deem him superior. And I have bad feelings about their age. This is why I dream of President Al Franken. He'd be a workhorse, as I see Obama is.

LarryHart said...


You said everything I ever thought about health care in a concise post!

LarryHart said...


On the other, how can having less-secure voting means result is any less fraud?

Sounds as if the law is designed to insure that only the right side can perpetrate fraud.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Yes the Boomers have and still use "screeching sanctimony" to get change and it has run its course and caused deep divides but let's hope that the young who are now reaching positions of power will use better means an I think they will. We Boomers tend to think we are the possessors of all wisdom and knowledge in our conceit but the younger ones (those under forty) see us, with justification, as passing away. They focus on what is important to them and not what is important to us. They will have to live in the new world and not us so let us pass the torch and trust that they will do the right thing. We think that we are still in power but we are not. We are fighting the last war when our youngsters are preparing for the next. Look at what is happening in politics. They are saying "Fuck this Shit" and we are wringing our hands not comprehending that they are different and not following our carefully crafted scenario. Face it. They are the future and we are not so listen to them.

Geeze, I am starting to sound like locum. I should start taking meds.

donzelion said...

@Larry - my thanks. "Concise" is hardly my strength.

I find this board fascinating: David Brin pens a call to 'arms' against cynicism, a community of readers (10 members? 20? 1000?) immediately turns toward their (many) issues of serious concern (each of which could be explored as a struggle between hope and cynicism - e.g., health care, a struggle to live past the fear of death, in a world of cynical bullies trying to monetize the 'love' that others feel).

Wanting to be 'heard' by one we respect, we bask in and exchange mutual regard.

[For me, participation is partially a nostalgic indulgence - Startide/Uplift/Earth were formative books for me back in middle/high school; I read them, alone, after my Dad picked them up to entertain himself while managing naval fleet signals on watch. I miss him. I miss the experience of adolescent conviction. I strive to add something constructive, to participate. I wonder how David might feel, knowing that his books played that role, informing/entertaining one person relaying signals to our Pacific fleets - and a little boy who grew up after digesting them, to become a man who quibbles with him over immigration and health care on a public board.]

Alfred Differ said...

I think there is a bit more at stake than our ideological purity when it comes to gay marriage. I couldn’t stomach the separate but equal comparison, but that’s because I’m an atheist and there is history regarding us too. Marriage licenses are a government function today because of restrictions placed upon them in the past. It wasn’t all that long ago that I would have had difficulty getting an ‘equal’ marriage. There are still people I know who do not see my marriage as the same kind as theirs, but at least the government doesn’t make a distinction. Equality under the law is what it is all about. I get the motivation to compromise to win part now and part later, but I don’t think it is safe to compromise regarding due process. I can respect those who do, but I can’t side with them.

Regarding the evilness of an immigration approach that unites families, I’m going to strongly disagree. It is potentially stupid IF one runs a quota system and bright, self-motivated people lose out to siblings and uncles. The solution is to limit the quota system. Since this opens the gate for family members, we should alter immigration rules to make those families financially responsible for people they sponsor into the country. Limit access to benefits for a while to place the burden where it belongs. How much can be a political compromise. People who arrive under the older best-and-brightest system follow older rules. We can adjust those too if needed and even use a quota tied to the amount of funding provided to an insurance fund meant to cover states who accept them into their health systems.

Regarding the motivations for immigration rules, some of them are quite ancient and wrong. The high birth rates outside the US don’t really exist anymore. People who cling to that one are mentally stuck in the 60’s and 70’s. The Population bomb fizzled.

Deuxglass said...


I ran into Dr. Brin's with "Star Tides Rising" in about 1985. I was browsing around a bookstore in Paris and ran across it. It was a revelation for me and I knew that I found one of those rare authors that make reading worthwhile. Since then I have read every one of his books except one, "The Transparent Society". I am sure he will kick me for missing one of his key works but I will get around to it soon. Keep up the good work br. Brin. You have made my life richer.

David Brin said...

Occam I am a militant-pragmatic incrementalist. If calm stages will get me everything I want SOONER then it is preferable over passionate screaming that will at best give me victory at the same time, while leaving a wrathful, fired up opposition ready to oppose me on the next issue.

You have never (clearly) read The Art of War. Leaving your enemy a face-saving out is a great tactic, especially if that out is doomed to be temporary anyway.

Donzellion, I am bemused but was unable to parse your point. I am glad my works inspired. I see no inconsistency in my ornery-contrary nature, that I am an idealist who has lived to see VASTLY more good done in the world via militantly-moderate, ponderously determined but judo agile pragmatic incrementalism. I am from the 1960s and found a deep loathing for purist dogmatists of every stripe.

My blog has a name.

Jumper said...

Mexico population currently increases 15 million per decade.

locumranch said...

As a sanctimonious 'screaming asshole' of a Baby Boomer whose admitted opinions are cranky, self-righteous & possibly valueless, I am always amused when another Baby Boomer of my particular ilk screams that his opinions (and only his opinions) must be thought worthy of serious consideration.

I agree that in 'rough ratio' (on average) that the lives of every human being on the planet have been 'gradually improving' due to first-world technologies, but the same does not hold true for all the first-worlders who have witnessed their quality of life, traditions, freedoms & purchasing power in a steady and (possibly) irreversible 50-year decline.

Our current system harbours a positive-sum lie because, if truth be told, what is good for the goose may harm the gander, a strong minority demands & presupposes a weakened majority, and the deliberately scuttled boat is NOT lifted by any tide (rising or otherwise).

Equity is a wonderful thing, but at what cost?

(1) The Syrian Refugee finds wealth & privilege in Germany, yet the native German only finds alienation & financial obligation;

(2) Gay Marriage seems like a great victory for the LGBT community, yet it also reflects the devaluation of Traditional Marriage to the point that is now avoided by 70% of heterosexual males under 34; and

(3) Industrial Outsourcing has increased the economic health of the third-world (without exception) while decimating first-world industry & eviscerating the vanishing blue-collar middle class.

All this, and more, is one of the reasons that I have been caucusing in support of Bernie Sanders & Universal Socialism because 'Equality', so that all human beings, governments & ships can share the same level of 'positive-sum' success in their Race to the Bottom.


David Brin said...

locum, in a cogent phase, decries many “first-worlders who have witnessed their quality of life, traditions, freedoms & purchasing power in a steady and (possibly) irreversible 50-year decline.”

In fact, statistically, the decline in the fortunes of the US middle class began with their hero, Ronald Reagan, who began the pullback from the Rooseveltean social compact that created the American middle class, in the 1st place. The incredible inability to put two and two together makes me wonder if there’s been something put in the water.

EVERY stage in “supply side” voodoo economics promised that vast tsunamis of largesse for lords would make the middle class better off. And EVERY such step only worsened deficits and widened the yawning gaps. How many times must this happen, for any sense of causality to break through?

I will shock by saying THAT is not “positive sum.” It is oligarchs treating guys like locum as cattle… but like a good yess-massa confederate the last person he’ll blame in the feudal lord who finances the koolaid propaganda that Locum guzzles, daily.

Given that they cannot make a case on economics or governance or science or causality, it absolutely HAS to be on “values” which are amorphous enough to be subjective. All, all, all is subjective to these guys. If you absolutely prove that they have no morality advantage and generally do a crappy job as parents compared to college folks, all it does is ramp up the raving subjectivity.

But sure, if anyone alive will remind folks that FDR was a hero to the people… it will be Sanders.

Alfred Differ said...

Mexico fertility rate: 2.27
US fertility rate: 1.87 (from CIA fact book)

If it weren't for our neighbors to the south, we would be in deep doo-doo wrt our tax base as the boomers retire. We need them up here earning wages and paying taxes and to prop up the property values for homes the boomers are going to sell off in the next decade or so. Without them, we face a serious property valuation bubble burst in the very near future.

'Africa' is still growing quickly, but not evenly. There is a strong correlation between fertility rate and child mortality rate.

Tom Crowl said...

RE Incrementalism:

Generally a good idea... except when it isn't. I suppose there's disagreement about whether its the workable way forward now or not. That may be the more pertinent question.

While its certain that there's been incremental change in many areas, isn't it also possible to point out periods of more sudden shifts in culture and society (or at least relatively sudden)?

The birth of agriculture? The discovery and invasion of the New World by the Old World?

I wouldn't suggest these shifts are exactly common...(in fact are very rare) but there have certainly been a few... and I tend to believe we may be facing one whether we like it or not.

I keep thinking about incrementalism in terms of evolutionary theory... and punctuated equilibrium keeps popping into my head.

Jumper said...

I'm sure a billion immigrants would keep that serious bubble away.

Jumper said...

Until we get fusion or antigravity we'd better keep plugging away at incremental change.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: At a moment of crisis, one should not be haggling. The point of insurance is to prepare in advance an acceptable price point. In a crisis, one merely executes. Rational market participants mostly optimize prudence and that’s the wrong way to approach health costs in a crisis. So… I’m all for getting people insured. Mandate it if necessary, but in that case the insurers need to be regulated a bit like utilities. We can do that, but I don’t see the need for utility monopolies. As long as someone is insured, they should be able to shop around, form buyer co-ops, or whatever works to help expose them to prices.

Regarding Viagra and other ‘predictable’ costs, those should even be part of insurance. A savings plan is the minimum required and those should have lower administrative costs. Anyone capable of managing their own should be let alone to do so. For an example from dental insurance, my twice yearly visits are predictable. A cracked tooth needing a crown is not. Savings should cover the former. Insurance should cover the latter. One regulation I WOULD support would be to separate insurers from savings plan managers. Birth control is a predictable expense, so let it be covered… but under a savings plan.

There is also the need for tort reform. Insurers are involved in malpractice insurance and those policies contribute a lot to medical prices, thus health care insurance policy prices. We place limits on how much an airline can be sued when a jumbo jet falls out of the sky. Without these limits, the airline business model wouldn’t work for most of us. Ticket prices would be too high because the airlines would be paying a lot more for insurance. We should consider something similar to cap malpractice awards. That will drive away some of the vulture lawyers and leave people who have truly been harm rather upset, but it will slay the malpractice policy price. It’s not a pleasant thing to consider, but our desire to enable civil actions by those who are harmed is harming everyone else.

Alfred Differ said...

pfft! Billion immigrants. Where do they come from? You'll have to comb the entire western hemisphere to find that many nearby. They won't ALL come here. There aren't enough jobs and they have family at home. Some of them probably don't like the way we smell... or worship... or whatever.

We need our anthropology knowledgeable people to chime in here. What is the maximum historical percentage of a culture that emigrates to a another nation with an extant culture? What kind of pressures are necessary to produce that percentage? Does it matter if they have to cross oceans to get there? Set aside war refugees for a moment, though. They count in a different way.

I suspect we could let families bring family members over without too much trouble IF we made it clear that they are sponsoring them AND the new arrivals won't receive federal or state benefits for a number of years unless a state wants to make a local offer. Make them legal and all that to start collecting social security and other taxes, but phase in benefits after they prove their intent to stay.

Laurent Weppe said...

Aaaaaaaaaaaand SHIT
Umberto Eco is dead. Learned it while typing this comment.


* "And yes, there's blowback. Yes, there's resistance! But I was wrong! You cannot achieve effective social change through slow gradual efforts."

The problem when it comes to oppressed groups -blacks, gays, migrants, und so weiter...- is that the goal, the endgame, of those who oppose reforms is to forever keep the downtrodden below them in the food-chain.
Therefore every attempt at improving the lot of downtrodden will be perceived as an existential threat and will be viciously fought no matter how watered down it is.

When the french government introduced PACS (civil unions opened to gay couples, that give less rights than actual marriage, by the way) in 1999, the opposition went into a frenzied shrill. When gay marriage was finally voted for good in 2013, we got the same insane displays of raving homophobia: over a decade of civil unions between gays hadn't dulled the homophobes' resolve to deny them the full extents of the citizenry's rights.


* "How does that work with a single payer?"

Okay, my father recently suffered three strokes, which forced me to pick up a lot of slack and deal for him with the "dreadful" socialized french healthcare-system.

How it works is pretty simple: I called the SAMU (think 911 except only for medical emergencies), which sent an ambulance brings your father to the nearest hospital with a neurosurgery department, where his brain was scanned. Once the hematomas were located, he was trepanned and the excess blood drained from the cranial cavity. When one empyema was detected after the second surgery, experts from another hospital with an infectiology department took over and gave him a (rather potent) antibiotic regimen.
Once the hospitalization period is done, I'm given his drug prescription, with which I went to the pharmacy to get the needed medicine.

Neither the hospital, nor the ambulances, nor the pharmacy, nor the people who came to install a clinic bed at home, nor the nurses who come twice a day every day, nor the physiotherapist demanded that I or my father pay them, and they did not attempt to drown me under a flood of paperwork: the surgery and other cares cost money, of course, but these are shouldered by the organism my father spent his adult life contributing to, and there's a ton of paperwork and red tapes involved, but dealing with is part of the hospitals, convalescent homes, nurses, etc's job.

And to be honest, not having to worry about hospital bills nor red tape is a blessing for my nerves: I wouldn't have had the energy or patience to "price shop" for the best ambulance and hospital or haggle prices with surgeons.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Leaving your enemy a face-saving out is a great tactic, especially if that out is doomed to be temporary anyway.

It can become a problem when saving face is the reason the enemy picked a fight in the first place: the current Brexit psychodrama is a good exemple: London's elite have spend the last 40 years telling the public opinion that the European Union sucked and that unless "Bruxelles" completely surrendered to London, then Great Britain would leave and splendidly crush the continent under its manifest superiority...
So now we get the 27 "partners" of the UK proposing a compromise that weakens the Union's institutions, yet won't satisfy the english public opinion because it's not the abject submission the punditry they listen to has been vociferously demanding for decades, which means that the likely outcome is the UK leaving the Union... and ceasing exist because there's no way Scotland will remain in the Kingdom if it leaves the UE and Northern Ireland functions only thanks to European subsides, leaving only a weakened England filled with people who suddenly have to face the reality that on its own, their country is little more than a cold & wet oversized Porto Rico. All that because Cameron promised a referendum to get reelected and is now throwing tantrum after tantrum to save face in front of his constituents.

donzelion said...

David - "I am bemused but was unable to parse your point..."

If you are bemused, then you've parsed a point poorly expressed.

"I see no inconsistency in my ornery-contrary nature..."

Nor was I really suggesting the existence of such an inconsistency. Rather, I am 'bemused' by the flow of discourse so far (or more accurately, exhilarated). A cynical bully would fixate on any perceived dissonance (real or imaginary) - assert its existence with what wit s/he could muster - use it as a platform to judge and mock to illustrate, "See! The good doctor is muddled (just like I am!)" Someone striving to adopt 'hope,' by contrast, might respond to your call for 'hopeful incremental pragmatic militancy' by raising diverse issues, concerns, personalities - then 'testing' those notions to see how/if you respond.

As for my disclosure (of the meaning of your works in my life), one kind thought by Larry inspired an embarrassed deflection in the form of a kind thought in your direction. I'd like to be critical without becoming a jerk; should I fail, at least I'd like you to know that respect underlay the effort.

"The incredible inability to put two and two together [the causal link between Reaganomics and the decline of the middle class] makes me wonder if there’s been something put in the water."

More like, something was put into the air (or at least, the cable networks, and thence into the brain).

Alfred Differ said...

The ratchet says... click, click, click

Sacramento – Assemblymember Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) released the following statement regarding phone encryption and court orders:

"Like many Californians, I am appalled that after two months and a federal court order the manufacturer of a phone used in a terrorist attack is unwilling to help law enforcement access crucial evidence.

I introduced AB 1681 precisely to help law enforcement continue to protect the public. My bill preserves the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and ensures that a time tested, judicial process of obtaining a probable cause search warrant, remains intact.

As a retired law enforcement officer with 30 years of experience and as the former Commander of the Sacramento Valley High-Tech Crimes Task Force, I have worked tirelessly to protect the public and our children from sexual exploitation. We cannot sit idly by while pimps and pedophiles are exploiting our children by intentionally using unbreakable encrypted phones to shield their illegal activities from law enforcement. We have a responsibility to keep our children safe and to combat human trafficking."

Alfred Differ said...

If you are shopping for best ambulance prices during the crisis, it is far too late. I am fully supportive of those who do NOT want to see prices at that point. However, if you do not see them earlier, you cannot do what you must in a free market. Customers must be aware of prices being charged because they are the only participant with a real incentive to lower them.

David Brin said...

“The birth of agriculture? The discovery and invasion of the New World by the Old World?”

The first spanned thousands of years of glacially slow increments. The second? It too the English 150 year… that’s a century and a half… after Columbus to even try a colony.

And did I say MILITANTLY moderate incrementalism?

donzellion I tried hard to follow the logic of your main paragraph… a second time. I am sorry but I could make no sense of it. Perhaps I am getting old. Sorry.

Re apple blocking the FBI… theater. See where I talk about the ratchet effect in The Transparent Society.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Yah. I think I got that backwards. Ratchets don't really make any noise when they move forward.

A number of my friends are already asking why the FBI doesn't use the resources they already SHOULD have. They correctly understand that passcodes are a fig leaf.

locumranch said...

Aside from his mistaken assumption about my GOP membership, it appears that David (not-Frost), Frost (Robert; not-David) & I agree that (1) "Good fences make good neighbors", (2) Nationalism & Labour Unionism complement each other (as in 'peas & carrots'), and (3) Globalism is an oligarchic tool designed to destroy the middle classes, devalue labour, perpetuate the Federal Company Store & maximise corporate rent capture.

Sadly, though, he did not realise that my comments in support of Sander-style Socialism were partially facetious (neither literal nor littoral) as socialism (in general) has been proven to encourage the lowest common denominator, disincentivise competitive exceptionalism & lead directly to the metaphoric oceanic 'bottom' where all self-scuttled boats go, forever unaffected by any rising, mutually beneficial or positive-sum tides.

Nominating Sanders is, IMHO, is our best hope to ensure the utter FAILURE of both US political parties & the Establishment that they represent:

Confederacy, Si; Federalism, No.


donzelion said...

@Alfred - on health care only (we agree significantly on immigration) -

"The point of insurance is to prepare in advance an acceptable price point."

Yes, in theory, the insurer is supposed to earn its money by acting as my 'advocate' and keeping prices in line with what we agreed when I bought the policy. However, in practice, (1) insurers are still private entities seeking to maximize profits (even 'nonprofit' providers), and (2) it's much easier for them to maximize profits by squeezing policyholders than it is to squeeze the suppliers.

ObamaCare is a gamble that the government can drive a convergence of interests through manipulating competition (e.g., in exchange for a subsidy, insurers refrain from dumping policyholders the second they look likely to cost more to the insurer than the profits the insurer takes from their payments). Since it was enacted, the pace of price increases for health care has slowed considerably (but will that hold?). 'Single payer' COMPELS convergence (Laurent's description of what his father went through in France is how it's supposed to work).

In a true "free market" - prices on health should be lower in America for the same procedures then in Europe because, frankly, we're better at deploying economies of scale (compare any goods other than health care, and the European price is always higher unless it's offset by subsidies, as with solar power). But for health care, prices are 2-6x HIGHER in America than in Europe for the same procedure. To me, that is evidence of "bad faith" by insurers (or cynical bullying). It's not that these companies don't do their job in America - it's that their job is ultimately to earn as much as possible - and they earn more at policyholder's expense than by keeping supplier prices down.

"There is also the need for tort reform."
California set a medical malpractice cap at $250,000 back in 1975 - and despite the most important reform already being in place, health costs kept escalating without restraint. Either the insurers didn't realize that tort reform had already been achieved - or they raised their prices regardless of any unexpected liabilities, simply because they could.

A more cynical take: Advocates for 'tort reform' today are often the same people who advocate 'voodoo Reaganomics' - and for the same general reason: 'supply side' theory cuts their tax bill, and tort reform cuts their insurance bill. In both cases, the middle class derives minimal benefit over time, but so long as they believe they got 'something' - they overlook the fact that the real benefits flowed to a handful of well-positioned (and very cynical) elites.

donzelion said...

@Alfred - to respond to your subsequent point -

"if you do not see [health care prices] earlier, you cannot do what you must in a free market. Customers must be aware of prices being charged because they are the only participant with a real incentive to lower them."

Health insurance in America always permitted you to negotiate the 'price of the ambulance' in advance. Just not the 911 access surcharge, the fuel surcharge, the parking surcharge, the ambulance driver fee, the gurney rental fee, the defibrillator fee...

In this context, more than most others, 'price' is a moving target that reflects power at any given time. The insurer MIGHT earn its money by negotiating forcefully with the ambulance driver to include all those costs. But that is hard - ambulance drivers have strong bargaining power when they respond to a crisis. The insurer MIGHT earn its money by squeezing the policyholder - much easier (esp. once the crisis arises).

The ultimate effect of that power imbalance, multiplied by every supplier in the health system (and many hundreds could participate in a single health procedure) - is that the same procedure costs 2-6x in America what it costs in Europe. Pharmaceuticals get the most attention in this story (the same drug typically costs much more in America than elsewhere) - but the problem extends through every single health supplier - from the hospital janitorial services contractor through the billing/records subcontractor - the insurer always has an easier time exploiting the policyholder than any single supplier (and pocketing the savings themselves, rather than passing them on to the policyholder).

David Brin said...

Yeah yeah... "globalism" is how oligarchs ripped us off. It could NEVER be the trillions of dollars of tax and other gusher gifts that the GOP has given to the oligarchs... noooooooo not that. Never that.

donzelion said...

Ah, I'm starved for intelligent debate.

Locum - "Globalism is an oligarchic tool designed to destroy the middle classes, devalue labour, perpetuate the Federal Company Store & maximise corporate rent capture."

Hmmm...when Walmart buys and resells goods from China, they buy from the cheapest supplier, passing savings to Wal-mart customers. A legitimate manifestation of globalization. Some American suppliers lose; other American suppliers win (e.g., contractors installing Wal-Mart parts into homes/vehicles). It can balance out.

When Walmart negotiates with Wal-Mart (non-unionized) employees, they buy labor from the cheapest suppliers, and also pass on savings to the middle class. Also (mostly) legitimate.

HOWEVER, Walmart goes one step further - by paying employees less than they can afford to live, those employees draw public assistance to make up shortfalls (esp in health care). Works like this: rather than 1 employee for a 40-hour workweek, Wal-Mart hires 2 employees for two 24 hour workweeks. Although Wal-Mart pays for 8 extra hours of work, they save on health care costs. Better still, so long as Wal-Mart can reschedule shifts to meet Wal-Marts "needs" - those employees cannot seek other gainful employment to make up the extra 16 hours they needed to work. The workers are trapped and dependent (further increasing negotiating leverage). Indirectly, THAT practice sends billions into the Wal-Mart shareholder's pockets every year - from taxpayers to Wal-Mart.

Globalization gives them billions. But exploiting power differentials gives tens of billions.

Tom Crowl said...

Again re Incrementalism...

I suppose its a question of perception and scale (as it relates to time)...

In terms of the evolution of man and his long period of hunter-gatherer small group existence... I call the shift to agriculture very rapid... the New World shift maybe a factor of ten faster... and if we consider that cultural evolution accelerates in line with technology... then we might expect that similar large adjustments could also increase in speed of impact... which might bring us down to ten or fifteen years when another occurs.

The concept that the speed of cultural change accelerates is worthy of consideration... and I stand by it. (e.g. consider the example of gay rights and the speed of change which is here being discussed).

I stand by it.

LarryHart said...


Confederacy, Si; Federalism, No

Are you throwing out a quote from..."Head Office"?

duncan cairncross said...

Alfred - donzelion

In health care - who are the customers?

The way it works here (NZ)is like a union - all of us are members of the "union" and "union officers" negotiate on our behalf

The "union officers" are called PHARMAC - they look at the effectiveness of medicine and negotiate with the drug suppliers

Something similar happens with the rest of our health care, our elected representatives appoint people to obtain those services for us

They can always achieve much better terms than an individual could, they have the advantage of volume plus more and better data

locumranch said...

In response to an expensive entitled empowered workforce, the would-be oligarch eliminates tariffs, trade protections & borders, exports industry to undeveloped climes, exploits cheap foreign workers under the pretense of economic UPLIFT (White Man's Burden), and reintroduces cheaper foreign imports at home to take profits, suppress the local economy & hasten industrial flight which reduces (in turn) local employment opportunities, real wages & creates a relative oversupply of labour while driving down worker entitlement, expense & bargaining ability.

The would-be oligarch also promotes EDUCATION as a false solution to local worker unemployment, especially if education is a limiting factor in worker supply (and/or expense), leading to a relative educational oversupply which drives down local wages further.

In the most extreme cases, the would-be oligarch gains singular control of the local currency (aka 'Company Scrip'; the 'Euro'; the USD) and manipulates its relative value to control worker behaviour by incentivising worker saving & spending habits, encourage wage slavery through the accumulation of worker debt and maximise corporate profits by exploiting the differential between the manipulated retail price & fair market value, a process that some refer to as either 'The Company Store', the Walmart Game or the British Colonial Model.

This process is reversible, though not easily, as reversal requires the reinstitution of nationalism, tariffs, trade protections & borders which (in turn) empowers native workers by forcing the local economy to reindustrialise.

Hard examples of this reversal include the 'Boston Tea Party' to protest the Colonial American Tea Tax, 'Burning British Wool' to break Britain's textile monopoly over Colonial India, a ban on imported automobiles that led to the 'Volkswagen' & the Third Reich, the 'Wine Wars' between France, Italy & Spain, and many examples of militant 'Buy Local' Trade Unionism.

And, yes, Globalism is not the only villain in the Rise & Rise of so many oligarchic Reginald Perrins. There is also Currency Manipulation (as above) which serves as the Velvet Glove; and, then, there is the Iron Fist of paramilitary enforcement as the systemic means to perpetuate injustice, wage slavery, rule obedience and victim-blaming.

Good 'Head Office' pick-up, Larry_H: "Authoritarian, Si; Totalitarianism, No!" wherein even the best 'El Presidente' can be corrupted by a large enough donation from Goldman-Sachs.

donzelion said...

@Duncan - forgot non-Americans were also participating here.

America has a very different system from NZ. We're both equally capable of using scale + data to curb health care costs. But we don't; while you do. Why?

The “extortion effects” I asserted earlier were patently obvious in every industrialized country - save America. Why? Well, it's supposed to work as Alfred posits - ‘negotiating the price of an ambulance before the crisis hits’ - but that never really happened. Instead, private insurers found myriad convoluted measures to pass the buck around, ultimately sticking it to the patients. Costs kept spiraling out of control here, far beyond inflation. Meanwhile a few players extract (extort) impressive profits (as rents - sometimes patent royalties, often real estate).

How do they do it here? Carefully deployed cynicism.

In 2016, the "debate" on health care in America often proceeds roughly as follows:

Q: Why does it cost 2-6x as much to get the same medical care in America as it does in any other developed country?
A: We have the best health care in the world! 'Merika rules! Freedom! Damn the Muslim communist Kenyans and lying blond vixens who say otherwise through their secret email servers and corrupt conspiracies! She’s a liar! Damn the (epithet for homosexual men), up with flags! I have a plan that will fix everything (through rainbows and fairy dust and God's blessing) – you can read it on my website! Christians are being persecuted by pseudo-scientists praying to Darwin! Damn the trial lawyers!

In 1968, the “answer” would have included, “I won't pay a penny for medical care to help some poor [minority slur]’s child! I have to take care of my own!" The unstated (in 2016) notion lies near the heart of the matter - racial politics at play.

In 2016, there's a lot of ground for hope (in America). Hillary hopes to improve Obama's basic structure, and 'goad' the 'free' market into curbing costs. Sanders hopes to overhaul the system, and eradicate extortion the same way you (and nearly every other industrialized country) did it. The Republicans, meanwhile, scream that it's all an evil plot.

Deuxglass said...

Laurent Weppe,

I live in France too and have used the health care system and it works well. It does ease your mind not having to worry about having your life savings wiped out and in debt by a catastrophic accident or illness or even lesser ones. It isn’t perfect but in general it is very good.

We lost a great writer in the death of Umberto Eco. He will be missed.

The EU is very dysfunctional and just about everyone sees it now. Some parts are worthwhile such as the free trade zone and having some common rules and regulations but in a real crisis, Bruxelles is more than worthless, it is actively harmful. It is no wonder because for 25 years or so the EU was a place where you sent second-rate and over-the-hill politicians. Not all were bad, some were top-notch, but they were just a handful.

In my opinion, the problems of the EU stem from the spirit of compromise run wild. When there were only a few members it worked but as the membership rose the pressure to get a deal, any deal done, resulted in watering down the important EU decisions so much that they became meaningless and dangerous. They set up a single currency and central bank without the corresponding budget and banking controls. They set up a parliament without law-making or taxation powers and to make matters worse they split it between two cities. They abolished frontiers without setting up an EU-wide border control. The created an EU president and foreign minister who have no authority whatsoever to do anything. The EU needed a constitution so they made one which is 70,000 words long and is so obscure in its language that even constitutional lawyers can’t understand what it actually says. All this came about because the objective was to make a compromise and get a paper signed at whatever the cost. It was the process that was important and not the content of the result. I guess their idea was to get an institution created and then hope that it will eventually do something.

Maybe we should allow the EU to burn down and build back on its foundations. The US allowed the Articles of Confederation to burn down and what they build on its ashes was much better. That is what Europe should do.

You said only one thing that is true of England. It is cold, wet and has the worst weather. Napoleon described England as a “nation of shopkeepers” but those shopkeepers kicked his ass all the way to Helena so don’t underrate the English.

Deuxglass said...

Alfred Differ,

On your immigration issue, I looked into it a bit and it seems that when the foreign-born reach up to around 15% of the population, strict immigration laws are put in place. This can vary depending on the cultural closeness of the immigrants and the host nation.

Jumper said...

Alfred, my comment of "billions" entering the U.S. was, I'm thankful, a reductio ad absurdum, intended to force you to admit what exactly might be bad about that were it to occur. I did find it disheartening that you appear to align with the faction that ignores the carrying capacity of earth in favor of short term economic growth. Improving economic conditions without population growth is a "hard" problem, and needs badly a more focused effort. As a conservative economic progressive, I believe in change phased in gradually to avoid shock. (For example, I'd like to phase out home mortgage deductions but over a 25-year period.) Your fear of real estate bubble collapse, however likely, should be reduced as it's possible to do this slowly. (There are some little-known provisions in valuation rules that help lead to price pumping; allowing valuations to include future price rises into current valuations - not a good idea! And financial regulations should be employed when clear conditions indicating bubbles exist.)

Also, birth rates are sadly not very indicative of population increases. Africa also has, besides high birth rates, high population increase. But I'll note a few biggies: Egypt, India, Pakistan. Large already; growing larger.

More generally to all, I'll note that whether we like nationalism or not, we have a world system which is organized by it. We can no more abruptly discard it than we should shed our dermis.

I disagree that free trade is dangerous only to selfish protectionist interests. In too many cases worker protections are seriously unequal. I'm not the first to propose tying favored-nation status to those protections. Certain forces, it seems, prevent it.

Anonymous said...

globalism is oligarchism. Very interesting. Best regards Stefano Donno

Tim H. said...

Jumper, if I had my way, favored nation status would be tied to wages, job safety and environmental standards. Nations with first world standards would get the best trade deals and there would be little incentive for poorer nations to poison the already impoverished to get business. I should say, half a lifetime ago I worked in a battery factory, something that now happens in Mexico, I don't feel that bad about the job going away after all this time, but I wonder how the Mexicans feel about the lead dust.

LarryHart said...


Good 'Head Office' pick-up, Larry_H: "Authoritarian, Si; Totalitarianism, No!" wherein even the best 'El Presidente' can be corrupted by a large enough donation from Goldman-Sachs.

Back when I was a college student in the 1980s, cable tv was relatively new, at least where I lived. Somehow, that movie in particular became a sort of cult favorite among my roomates. My brother's girlfriend (now his wife) used to berate us terribly for having such low cultural standards, insisting there were dozens of other, better examples of that same sort of humor. Didn't matter--that one caught on.

The thing is, at this late date, I'm having trouble remembering the plot or the ending or anything that made "Home Office" seem so great at the time. The "Authoritarianism, Si..." line is one of the few I can actually remember.

LarryHart said...


Hard examples of this reversal include the 'Boston Tea Party' to protest the Colonial American Tea Tax...

Almost. Actually, the protest was against the exemption from the tax given to the East India Tea Company which allowed them to undercut local competitors.

The modern-day Tea Party is being unintentionally ironic when they use the imagery of the Boston Tea Party to protest on behalf of tax breaks for monopolistic corporations.

locumranch said...

I'm not sure if'Globalism is Oligarchism'.

I think globalism contributes, predisposes & lends itself to oligarchy, by disempowering labour, outsourcing economic opportunity, eliminating local competition & catering to monopoly formation through resource concentration.

Defined as 'government by the few', there are many paths to oligarchy formation, including (but not limited) most hierarchical systems which concentrate resource control & decision-making in the hands of the few, regardless of the nobility of the selection criteria or the relative merit of said ruling caste, as human beings are wont to make the temporary advantages of high office, authority, power, wealth & privilege permanent and even inheritable (and, conversely, to convert permanent unpleasantness into a temporary situation).

This desire to make the 'temporary, permanent' is self-evident in most 'progressive' concepts, including Empire Building, Incrementalism & Metathesiophobia, as evidenced by our current cultural obsession with securing non-Struddlebug Immortality for ourselves, halting 'Climate Change' & preserving pre-existing Status Quo.

Much has been made about the Rise of Anger as a political movement, in the USA & abroad, as evidenced Pediga, the US Tea Party & other 'Hate Groups'; however, this type of Populist Anger is both inevitable & natural as 'blow back' against an entrenched ruling caste establishment, as the disenfranchised attempt to covert the permanent unpleasantness of their disenfranchisement into a temporary situation.

Arising spontaneously, these are essentially leaderless hate groups of angry individuals who are looking for an outlet, intent on upsetting the entire establishment apple-cart, in order to redistribute power, wherein opportunists like Trump, Sanders, Le Pen & the Koch Brothers are engaged in the rather dangerous game of 'running to the parade front' with a baton, so they may pretend to lead.


Jumper said...

locum, it's imperative to separate justified anger from free-floating habitual or existential anger. Brin is correct about this. "There's just no pleasing some people."

"Fear of Change Phobia – Metathesiophobia." Nice!

David Brin said...

Yadda. Armwaving at the vaguest things possible, like "globalization" about which he knows nothing. And sure, that overall-positive trend (raising 4 billions out of poverty) is stuffed with favors for oligarchs, but...

... but notice the LAST thing he will ever look at is the things that actually, verifiably, clearly and inarguably fueld skyrocketing wealth disparity and secret-master oligarchy.

Many, many trillions in direct tax gusher gifts to the rich. Sweetheart commodities deals letting them haul trillions for free out of public lands. Wall Stree loosenings to let CEOs steal from stockholders. And banking secrecy around the world.

Those he won't even glance at. Why. Because HIS oligarchs did all that.

Yes Massa! Yowza Massa!

David Brin said...

New posting is up