Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Political Delusions - Do we just rationalize our emotional decisions?

I've long maintained that humanity's greatest gift and greatest curse are one and the same - our prodigious talent for delusion.  For believing things - passionately - that are belied by both logic and evidence. This is the wellspring of great art. Indeed, as a novelist* I cater to the desire of my own customers to - temporarily and knowingly - believe they are experiencing other realities and the thoughts of credible characters, engaged in barely plausible adventures.

This gift is what we study at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

Alas, the same gift has brought us endless pain. Across time nearly every human culture was dominated by narrow castes of men who ruled according to fiercely-protected delusional systems, crushing voices that might speak up with criticism, or alternatives, or inconvenient truths. Those mostly-feudal societies were very badly governed. All of them combined never accomplished the tiniest fraction of what we have, in just a few generations. We who finally found a (tentative and contingent) way out of the Delusional Trap. 

Gradually, we developed enlightenment methods to reduce the severity of delusion, not by changing human nature but through the simple but daring method of competition. You may not be able to see through your own beloved errors, but your rivals often will! Indeed, they'll willingly (if irksomely) point those errors out to you. And you'll return the favor! This is the magic of our five competitive "arenas": markets, democracy, science, courts and sports. 

Alas, cheaters will always try to ruin these arenas and take us back to olden ways. And so I present to you some of the modern hallucinations that are shared by our fellow citizens.  

Make no mistake, your deluded neighbors are not your foes! The real enemy that threatens your nation, world, species and children is the all-too human drive to clutch (desperately) to reassuring mirages.

Delusion #1 – that authoritarians are your friends.

One of the top cognitive scientists in the world, George Lakoff, scrutinizes the appeal of Donald Trump, showing how finely tuned his positions are, to the “strict father” foundations of American conservatism.  

Consistent with Lakoff's assertion is this other research suggesting that the #1 predictive trait deciding whether you or your neighbor support Donald Trump is Americans’ inclination to authoritarianism.  People who score high on the authoritarian scale value conformity and order, protect social norms, and are wary of outsiders. When authoritarians feel threatened, they support aggressive leaders and policies. Authoritarianism and a hybrid variable that links authoritarianism with a personal fear of terrorism were the only two variables that predicted, with statistical significance, support for Trump.  

(How ironic that "red" Americans in the volcanically re-ignited Confederacy) proclaim quivering fear of terrorists, when a majority live in rural or suburban zones that are utterly-utterly safe.  While "blue" Americans (the Union) largely dwell in cities that are great big terror-targets. Yet, New Yorkers famously stood atop the 9/11 rubble, faced east and shouted: "Iz dat all you got?")

Sure, this much seems obvious. Though I find it hard to believe that Cruz and Rubio supporters are one scintilla less authoritarian than Trump-lovers. And mind you, in my experience, yearning for authority also separates the generally non-authoritarian liberals in America vs. the much smaller but significant clade of actual leftists. The latter share with the right more traits than...

But that’s a separate discussion. For after we deal with the immediate crisis at-hand.

== The Trillies (Alas!) Aren’t Smart ==

Delusion #2: Because you are rich, you think that means you're smart.

Yes, even if your wealth was inherited, that just tempts you to insist that IQ is genetic! This is the rationalization embraced by all feudal oligarchies, across time. So, so convenient and self-serving... and human. And so, so disproved by the blatant historical record of 6000 years, across which insipidly stupid governance was the norm. Indeed only when those flat-fair competitive arenas finally were set up, did that dismal record start to shift, and human civilization really begin to take off.

So, is it that simple?  Oligarchy = dumb and enlightenment arenas = smart?  Well, first, those arenas (markets, democracy, science etc) take real effort to maintain. Left unattended, they'll soon get warped by cheaters... as is happening right now.  It is our job to do another fine-tuning... the kind of gentle, moderate "revolution" last achieved by our parents in the Greatest Generation, led by their beloved hero, the living human they adored above all others, Franklin Roosevelt.

But what if we fail? The way those brief, enlightenment experiments of Periclean Athens and Republican Florence were snuffed out? If we are doomed to go back to oligarchy, is it too much to ask that our new lords at least try to find ways to govern better? To rule with less self-serving delusion?

In Existence I portray an event taking place in the year 2040, high in the Alps – a meeting of the “trillionaire clans,” at which the top planetary aristocrats (and their hired boffins) ask: can we do feudalism better, this time?

It’s a vital question that I never have seen asked, by the forces which are now striving so hard to re-establish the normal human pattern – oligarchy. The facts are blatant, and yet I have to repeat-reiterate them here, for utter clarity.

 The fundamental truths about feudalism are:

(1) that it dominated 99% of human societies and thus seems inherently hard to avoid.

(2) Almost all of those owner-oligarchies governed very badly, bringing progress, science, justice, creativity and adaptability to a near standstill.

(3) The last 200 years offered up an alternative – open/competitive/cooperative/flat-fair enlightenment systems e.g. science, markets, democracy – that has achieved many orders of magnitude more than all feudal societies, combined.

(4) If the Enlightenment Experiment is doomed (as the oligarchy’s boffins keep telling us), then shouldn’t the New Lords be earnestly exploring how to do feudalism much better than before? Is there any hope of getting Medicis and Tangs and Plantagenets - who at least tried - instead of the more typical, stunningly delusional Bourbons, Hapsburgs, Murdochs, Kochs, Hohenzollerns and Romanovs?

Alas, that doesn’t seem likely. There are no such meetings. (I'd have ways of knowing.) Only unsapient reflex-gatherings to scheme short term power grabs and rent-seeking. And those gatherings must seem desperate, right now, as the steed they had been riding -- confederate culture warriors -- has broken loose from their control.  Like the dismayed Junkers lords of Germany in 1933, they are blinking in dull surprise that the beast they cynically whipped into hydrophobic froth has been skillfully yanked away from them by a savanarola-hypnotist.

I could have told them. I tried to. Others have tried. For example, former Treasury Secretary Robert Reich makes this clear in his most cogent missive yet, suggesting to the GOP-owner caste that they have made a series of devastatingly short-sighted and foolish mistakes.  

What Reich leaves out is mention of one portion of the billionaire clade... maybe a quarter of them - who actually got rich by developing great new products and services. In other words the real entrepreneurial capitalists. Almost all of whom are now... democrats. (With a few libertarians.) They already know what Reich wrote here. Given the stunning disparity in outcomes across democratic vs republican administrations, no sapient person who actually believes in competitive enterprise and Adam Smith would touch the GOP with a ten parsec light saber. (Oh, Reich has endorsed Bernie Sanders. Interesting "establishment" figure.)

As Machiavelli wrote, when he surrendered the dream of the Florentine Republic to work for the Medicis…. If we must be ruled by domineering lords, may they at least be smart ones?

Apparently, there’s not much chance of that..

= Are truthy-truisms subject to fact? “Taxes make a state unfriendly to business" =

More delusions?  Got a million of em. 

For example, here's central right wing Catechism 101: “taxing the rich or increasing workers' wages kills jobs and makes businesses leave the state.” 

Ahem? California disproves this year after year, decade after decade.

In sharp contrast, Kansas doubled down on Supply Side voodoo, slashing taxes on the wealthy and giving monopolists everything they asked. The result? State’s finances and services plummeted below the level called “hellish” and businesses are fleeing Kansas in droves.

Now look at Minnesota. “When he took office in January of 2011, Minnesota governor Mark Dayton inherited a $6.2 billion budget deficit and a 7 percent unemployment rate from his predecessor, Tim Pawlenty, the soon-forgotten Republican candidate for the presidency who called himself Minnesota's first true fiscally-conservative governor in modern history. Pawlenty prided himself on never raising state taxes .... as head of Minnesota's state government, he managed to add only 6,200 more jobs.  

Then Minnesotans wised up. “During his first four years in office, Gov. Dayton and his legislature raised the state income tax from 7.85 to 9.85 percent on individuals earning over $150,000 (raising) $2.1 billion. They also raised the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2018. Republicans like state rep. Mark Uglem warned "The job creators, the big corporations, the small corporations, they will leave. It's all dollars and sense to them."

Except… Minnesota now has the fifth lowest unemployment rate in the country at 3.6 percent. According to 2012-2013 U.S. census figures, Minnesotans had a median income that was $10,000 larger than the U.S. average.

Compare your favorite incantations to actual outcomes.  

It's not that all conservative nostrums are always wrong. I am a fan of Adam Smith. Barry Goldwater had some interesting conservative-libertarian suggestions to try and there are others. Heck I have some libertarian-ishproposals! 

But start with this pure fact: every single metric of U.S. national health does better across the spans of democratic vs republican administrations. Every single one. If you are clinging to GOP loyalty, what does that make you?

Probably someone who recites mantras and incantations.  And clings to delusions.

== Political Notes ==

And finally... let's bid fond farewell. His calm-toned demeanor notwithstanding, Ben Carson had a disturbing fixation with knives. He started losing ground in the GOP race after describing attempted stabbing murders in his youth. Now, leading a new Christian Voter drive, he gives as his motive preventing democrats from appointing judges who will "knife our children in the heart."

Yipe! That some obsession.

Why pick on Carson now? Hey, it's not all about the raging lunatics who are still in the GOP nomination race. (And that describes all of them.) Or the raging lunatics who are sniping at Trump from the sidelines - or endorsing him - after spending a generation veering US conservatism down cliffs of anti-science, hate-drenched, corrupt and lazy insanity. No, no. Pay heed to the whole panoply of political rabies.

Arizona is tapping 17.3% of its electrical power from the spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave.

* Note we are in the final week to pre-order my new story collection INSISTENCE OF VISION, at steep discount.  Official pub date is next week and your first-week order is appreciated... as well as those Amazon reviews! ;-)  Show the world there are Good Delusions!


Acacia H. said...

Two bits from the last thread:
You were right again, Dr. Brin.

Boehner has endorsed Paul Ryan for President in the case of a brokered primary. He stated "if none of the candidates win the primary, then none of them should be the candidate." In short... your theory of Ryan as the Right's Savior is looking quite accurate. Though it would be amusing to see the finagling going on to ween away Electoral votes from Trump should he barely squeak over, just to GET a brokered result.

My prediction? Massive outcry, claims of "stealing the election," and the populist base that backed Trump would choose not to vote, giving Hillary the election. And possibly the House and Senate, but due to low voter turnout.


And on a science-related note: While abstracting a science journal, I had an interesting thought.

One of the problems with sending satellites into space is they have a limited lifespan... but need to have sufficient power to be able to transmit information back to Earth. But there is in fact a way around this.

What we need to do is create several satellites that serve three purposes. First, they retrieve radio signals from other satellites... and then they transmit them to specific locations, probably toward Earth. Third, they can also store data in case there is a reason transmissions cannot be sent to Earth (say we're behind the Sun at the time).

We then can send multiple Cubesats to a location to do research. The cubesats use less power, especially if they don't need a high-power transmitter, and can send data to that central dedicated communications satellite. And additional cubesats can be sent via solar sail or the like for a reduced cost compared to traditional larger satellites.

Such a system could even be used to send missions to Uranus and Neptune - an initial investment in the larger communication satellite and several Cubesats, and then each nation could send any additional smaller mission as needed or desired.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rob great things are being done with low-power lasers to transmit data. Even between cubesats.

If the Democratic Party nominating race truly is winding down -- and let me be clear that nothing better could have happened to the DP than Bernie Sanders livening things up, the way he has -- then liberals and moderates face an interesting question. In many states, like California, they can cross party lines during a primary.

Oh, sure, accusations always fly, that rabid partisans from the Other Side plan to pull dirty tricks by interfering in a party's internal process. Without question there are agents provocateurs. Heck, I accuse Ralph Nader of harming America worse than almost anyone.

(Indeed, all Sanders-ites should seek True Names from those who scream hatred for Hillary. If they refuse to ID themselves, then they are probably Koch-paid shills. Heck it is open knowledge that the PACs are shifting much of their spending from TV to social media.)

Nevertheless, a Democrat in California can be forgiven for feeling that not-Trump is a more vital issue than yes-Bernie or yes-Hillary, especially that late in the game. Mind you, Cruz and Kasich are also bona fide monsters. So? right now the dream (probably futile) is a contested GOP convention. Oh, the fireworks and entertainment! Oh, the discomfiture and collapse of Rupert Murdoch's Tower of Lies. And you people in western states, you can help make it happen.

Acacia H. said...

Oh, I know (about the transmission of data between CubeSats).

I'm just not sure how effective that would be for interplanetary distances. Could a CubeSat laser reach the Earth and provide useful data?

Thus the concept of a well-built and shielded Science Communications Satellite for each planet, and having data transmitted to that satellite and retransmitted to the Earth. The primary cost of such a satellite would be redundant features to ensure it lasts (and for the satellites around Neptune and Uranus (and perhaps Saturn as well) radioisotope generators so it continues operating for several decades.

In fact, these satellites could be Command/Control centers, not only receiving and retransmitting data from small science satellites, but also sending signals to specific science satellites in return. Basically these satellites would be internet nodes (and I believe NASA and some other groups are considering an "Internet of Space" though I'm not sure of the specifics of it).

This could even allow for some interesting and esoteric experiments in the future that normally wouldn't be conducted. For instance, consider a miniature greenhouse orbiting Jupiter to determine what impact Jupiter's radiation and magnetic fields may have on planets (seeing we'll eventually, hopefully, be colonizing further and further out). Or sending a half dozen small satellites to Jupiter... each one intended to orbit a specific moon to start widescale and continual research of these astronomical bodies.

Another benefit of sending out multiple small satellites that utilize a central communication source is that the amount of science can be expanded... while the loss of a satellite (so long as it's not the communication satellite!) doesn't doom the entire scientific venture.

Similar could also be done in the future with Martian rovers, for that matter. One of the problems with Curiosity is the wheels are suffering decay at a faster rate than anticipated. I have to wonder if part of that has to do with weight - smaller rovers would "climb" small rocks rather than push into them and slowly damage the wheels. And for how spectacular it may have been to lower an SUV onto Mars using a rocket-powered crane... a lot of research could have been lost if it hadn't worked. Multiple smaller rovers could diversitize functions... and allow for more science to be done at the same time.

Rob H.

jonathan said...

I think you're right on all of these. And I think the current GOP governorships of Kansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Michigan should be instructive about the fallacies of right-wing economic orthodoxy. On the other hand, the job creation rates within one state are fraught with complicating factors. I don't know if Minnesota under Pawlenty is a good proof, or if the nationwide near-Depression of 2007 is too much noise for the example to really work.

Acacia H. said...

I think what Republicans need to learn from Kansas is this:

Low taxes are desirable to businesses. However, without a working infrastructure, businesses will leave. Cutting taxes so low that the infrastructure suffers is thus a bad thing.

In the future they might try to totally eliminate social services that benefit the poor, but still keep up services... and that might actually be a valid method of ensuring businesses stay in state as their own services will remain valid. And on a cynical note, by leaving the ultra-poor in a bad state without any recourse, crime will rise, the poor will be arrested, and the private for-profit prisons will have new people to put to work in their company stores.

Rob H.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin - "As Machiavelli wrote, when he surrendered the dream of the Florentine Republic to work for the Medicis…. If we must be ruled by domineering lords, may they at least be smart ones?"
Or hire smart advisors? "The Prince" is the best-crafted job application of all time, but it's the "Discourses on Livy" where Machiavelli's real political theory comes down. Alas, no one reads it these days.

As for the "central right wing Catechism 101: “taxing the rich or increasing workers' wages kills jobs and makes businesses leave the state.” Ahem? California disproves this year after year, decade after decade. -

Burger King did just vote to relocate their corporate HQ from California when they couldn't extract tax concessions to stay here. So with many other major corporations, moving their headquarters to "more friendly" states without income tax (Texas, among others). Taxing the rich DOES lead to some job losses, but caving into the demands of the rich for tax and other subsidies changes ALL jobs that remain. When those in power know they have the power to tell legislators what to do, then jobs washing their Maseratis or decorating their homes will become the only remaining options. Most Americans don't like kowtowing, but deep down, many of us are so afraid and angry that we yearn for authoritarians to tell us it'll all be OK ("Now lick my boots again or I'll kick you!" "Yes, Massa!" "Now say how much you hate Obama again or you're fired!" "Yes, Massa! Him an evil dude!" "Very good, little apprentice...")

donzelion said...

Since Dr. Brin started it by quoting a professional psychologist, let's revert to a political psychologist, the estimable Dr. Trump, re Ben Carson:

"It's in the book that [Carson's] got a pathological temper. That's a big problem because you don't cure that....You don't cure a child molester. There's no cure for it. Pathological, there's no cure for that."

OK, so Trump calls Ben Carson a child molester. Ben Carson endorses Trump. Now personally, I'd smack Trump on the face for the suggestion, but then, if Carson did so, it would prove Trump's point. So, instead, like a good little apprentice, he'll redirect his anger at Democrats. I guess because none of them called Carson a child molester, and they have less money, so that means they pose a serious threat to our children.

Every time a prominent Republican calls out Trump as a liar, cheat, fraud, etc. - then says they'd vote for Trump anyway, they're disclosing that their party leaders and candidates take no principle seriously (buh-bye Rubio).

David Brin said...

I await the day when several charismatic and determined governors call the Governor's conference to negotiate a treaty to limit corporate extortion.

donzelion said...

"Oh, the discomfiture and collapse of Rupert Murdoch's Tower of Lies [in the event of a contested Republican Convention]. And you people in western states, you can help make it happen."

Alas, I do not see it playing out that way. The effect will be more like a typical WWE wrestling bout - where "ancient enemies unite to stop an evil far bigger and worse than their rival" - the Hillarizer and her band of evil PC do-gooders, with their big books of convenient facts and science and other blasphemy - who are coming to murder your Christian babies.

donzelion said...

"I await the day when several charismatic and determined governors call the Governor's conference to negotiate a treaty to limit corporate extortion."

Ack...we'll have dolphins writing haiku before that ever happens.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ last thread:

There is also this little thing some of us say at funerals. The deceased person is survived by… family, friends, and other loved ones. We generally don’t list people the deceased person loved unless they loved them back. If someone loves you in the copying sense, they really COULD fulfill the ‘survived by’ duty. That’s the only way they could… because they remember.

Oh, maybe I misunderstood the direction you were looking in. I didn't see so much that love was a desire to copy my wife, but a desire to have a copy of me in her head? Yeah, I'm down with that.

In fact, every time my wife or daughter comes forth with one of my favorite catchphrases from "The Simpsons" or "Batman" or whatever, I sit back and say "My job is done!" I mean I really say that out loud. So yeah, I get what you're talking about.

Cererean said...

It would be interesting to see an analysis of *why* the tech elite skew Democrat. Is it because they think they'd do a better job of running the country? Or is it because the Republics tend to focus more on the social conservatism side, thus causing anyone who is a social liberal to affiliate themselves with the party that is considered the socially liberal party...?

I definitely get the sense that most of them have strong libertarian tendencies. I'd like to know what they're economic tendencies (views on taxation, regulation, welfare etc) tend towards. Would they be closer to the Liberal Democrats of the UK than the Democrats of the US? Or possibly more like the Pirates?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ last thread (again):

There is also this little thing some of us say at funerals. The deceased person is survived by… family, friends, and other loved ones. We generally don’t list people the deceased person loved unless they loved them back. If someone loves you in the copying sense, they really COULD fulfill the ‘survived by’ duty. That’s the only way they could… because they remember.

I always took "survived by" in its literal (French) sense as "outlived" by. But I love the poetry of your way. You just blew my mind.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Nevertheless, a Democrat in California can be forgiven for feeling that not-Trump is a more vital issue than yes-Bernie or yes-Hillary, especially that late in the game.

Two years ago in Illinois, I took a Republican primary ballot for the first time ever in order to vote against Bruce Rauner for governor.

Didn't help.

LarryHart said...


It would be interesting to see an analysis of *why* the tech elite skew Democrat.

It might be as simple as, they probably learned to hate bullies as kids, and the modern-day Republican Party celebrates bullies.

Alfred Differ said...

@Robert: Doesn't the MRO fill the roll you describe as a communications hub at Mar's? I've seen network proposals to support deep space missions, but the details are usually expensive and not science related. Getting funding for engineering constructs is often seen as competing with the science to be done out there, so political coalitions of the past have shown fault lines.

I'm all for building a robust network out there. It's one of the few things I would open the cash-gusher for to fund government space efforts. It is infrastructure and well outside any profit motive for commercial market participants absent a government demand for the services such a network would provide.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Heh. It wouldn't be the first time English speakers have mangled a translation from French. It would be doubly amusing since Hofstadter's most recent book is written in English and French. It looks like two complete books, but both he and the co-author point out that one isn't a translation of the other. They are two halves of the same book, but even an American (defined as monolingual person) can read it. 8)

Love is the ACT of copying, though, and not the desire to copy. It is something we do almost all the time we pay attention to another person. Desire would emerge from evolution in support of successful behaviors. "Mirror neurons" could be given a more poetic name I think.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

In Existence I portray an event taking place in the year 2040, high in the Alps – a meeting of the “trillionaire clans,” at which the top planetary aristocrats (and their hired boffins) ask: can we do feudalism better, this time?

It's probably about time for a third reading of that book. I've read it twice, and I know the scene you're referring to, but I can't for the life of me remember learning in the book itself just what the goal of that conclave was.

I'm not sure if that's your fault or mine.

Alfred Differ said...

@Cererean: I self identified as a fiscally conservative California Democrat for a number of years even though I disagreed with many CA Dems about the role government should play in our lives. I did so because I disliked the social conservatives more than the authoritarian leftists. I'm technically a classical liberal, so I'm probably holding some old grudge against 'the church' and it's entanglement with 'the state'. We are disestablishmentarians to the core no matter what our personal faith positions are.

I left the CA Dem party in 2012 because with the end of gerrymandering here, they didn't need me anymore. Classical liberals can easily ally with Libertarians or moderate Republicans, but I'll risk sitting next to a Randroid before I'll support the political aspirations of the Confederates.

Alfred Differ said...

I remember that scene and being a little more than freaked out at the idea of enforceable fealty oaths. ugh. Where is my long gun?

donzelion said...

@Cererean - "It would be interesting to see an analysis of *why* the tech elite skew Democrat."

Simple: rents v. productivity. In any economy, the "productive" are challenged by the "nonproductive" rentiers - "old money" (Dr. Brin calls those folks "feudalists" - but the term is intended more generally and without regard to noble titles).

I'd like to know what they're economic tendencies (views on taxation, regulation, welfare etc) tend towards.
On tax, Warren Buffett expressed a prevalent consensus among the "Democrat" leaning wealthy - criticizing the tax system for ensuring that he pays lower taxes as a percentage of income than his own secretaries. Buffett was directly criticizing rents, which are the favored form of income for most American elites. Most rents come through real estate deals, capital gains, and dividends, and legacies/inheritance - but Berkshire Hathaway pays out no dividends at all to its shareholders.

To Waltons & Kochs & Trumps, who inherited their money and earn nearly all of it through rents, this as blasphemous. They'll tolerate a modest tax cut for the non-elites (e.g., the Bush cuts), but only as a sweetener to get through their precious rental tax cuts.

Now, technologists are actually "all over the map" - and some technology firms are much more rent-dependent than others (IBM, Dell). Bloomberg is a good example: the terminals and news service he runs are primarily targeted at rent-seekers (and their pool of robots, who read most of the stories crafted from the terminals and then trade seconds later accordingly) - he started as a Dem (during the production stage), and shifted to a Rep (once he was entrenched and needed to maintain his clientele). He's still something of a Rep outlier though.

All issues of "regulation" and "welfare" are best seen through that "rent" v "production" prism. What looks like a series of "all over the place" policies typically breaks down to "which rents are more lucrative than producing something newer/better?"

David Brin said...

Cererean you are right that many scientists, engineers, civil servants, economists and even journalists have conservative tendencies. So why have nearly all of the knowledge castes fled the GOP like a plague ship? SImple. The Republican Party has become a wholly owned tool of the interests who are waging outright war on science… and every other “smartypants” clade.

 Let there be no mistake. Thirty years ago, 40% of US scientists called themselves Republican, now it is 5% and plummeting. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 

And not just science!  Can you name for me one profession of high knowledge and skill that’s not under attack by Fox & its cohorts?  Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science. 

David Brin said...

On radio, a GOP congressman talking about putting forward a 3rd party nominee, hoping to (1) thus motivate the 40% of republicans who loathe Trump to vote and thus help down-ticket races and (2) praying to throw the election into the House of Representatives. Oh the cynicism and manipulativeness is so bald-faced! Yet he expresses puzzlement at the confederate anger behind Trump! As if HE and his manipulators had not deliberately stoked it for 30 years.

donzelion said...

@Duncan - previous thread, medical discussion - "$750,000/year for an office and a nurse - those costs are way too high"

Maybe, but it's not all that unreasonable in many hospitals in America. Top of my head, those costs break down as follows -
$200k/year - doctor salary in US (average is actually $210k)
$100k/year - equipment/computers/medical kit/diagnostics/meds/etc.
$100k/year - nurse's salary and associated costs (nurse probably gets $65k or so)
$100k/year - doctor's insurance (an ex-girlfriend Ob-Gyn thought this insane, but it was the best she could find unless she joined a hospital which paid it on her behalf)
$96k/year - rent at $8000/month
$50k/year - medical biller salary (actual salary of $35k or so)
$45k/year - receptionist (actual salary of $29k or so)
+power, electric, and other services at the hospital

$750k seems astronomical, but isn't so far off. An actual professional would give a much more comprehensive breakdown, but the purpose is to defend the numbers and suggest I'm not smoking Trump-meth.

How much would a screw-up cost?
In California, if you kill someone as a result of medical malpractice, that's capped at $250k in liability, all of it borne by the insurer. Doctor pays only by lost time to defend in court, and reputation costs. Many states have adopted something like the California rule (always to cut insurance costs - but that never actually seems to happen).

"In fact that time and cost is built into your model as it will have to be paid anyway"
The point of the "time crunch" story not to say that the costs will be avoided, but to say how they predictably, qualitatively affect medicine as it is delivered to result in frequent cases of overworked doctors and nurses - regardless of the total cost system. Some variation on this story recurs everywhere there are professional doctors seeing a pool of patients. Good doctors or bad doctors, smart or stupid managers - the time crunch will recur.

When the costs of an assembly line shutting down are significantly greater than the costs of a doctor killing a patient - then much stronger protections will be put in place. However, after the initial capital outlays, assuring quality on an assembly line can often be reduced to a certain number of bodies requiring far less experience than the engineers who built the line itself - often, it's just a set of hands (or robots) sorting "good" and "bad." One needs a pool of good mechanics, usually, rather than a high-end team of engineers (or a handful of good engineers to operate a team of less expensive robots) - the solutions are cheaper than the original construction of the assembly line. But that's not so for medicine - we cannot replace a doctor with a nurse, or a nurse with an orderly - for each function, it can only be fulfilled with someone possessing equal human capital. Hence, the solutions in a factory do not work in medicine.

donzelion said...

Oh, and as for scientists and Republicans (Dr. Brin's point to Cererean) - a second rate scientist or doctor, unable to find other employment, can for a time ensure himself (it's so often a 'him') of a job simply by denying tobacco has any link to cancer or addiction, or by denying that climate change is happening. Most scientists prefer to practice science. But everybody's gotta pay the mortgage.

Of the professions Dr. Brin cites, well-paid lawyers are the most likely to endorse the Republicans (our principles are a bit more malleable than scientific principles, by and large). Teachers and other civil servants are the least likely to defend the Republicans (except again, in some districts, you better teach what they tell you to keep your job).

Given that essential fear over their jobs, many Americans will predictably embrace an authoritarian figure "to protect them." Even if that figure has been exploiting them for decades. In the Confederate South, one always found "house slaves" who defended their masters (and kept the rest of the slaves under control), and one found hundreds of thousands of non-slave owners who fought and died to defend the rights of the elites.

But they lost then. They will this time too.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

On radio, a GOP congressman talking about putting forward a 3rd party nominee, hoping to (1) thus motivate the 40% of republicans who loathe Trump to vote and thus help down-ticket races and (2) praying to throw the election into the House of Representatives

I have heard of that strategy.

Two possible unconventional counter-strategies:

1) Crank this up to 11 as a campaign issue for congressmen, motivating people who are opposed to send Democrats to the House.

2) If the electoral math looks as if Hillary won't get to 270 electors, that is if the "third party" Republican is going to take states away from Hillary as well as from Trump, then run another liberal as a fourth candidate. Let's call him Bernie Sanders. If the top three electoral vote getters are Hillary, Bernie, and Trump, that would leave a Republican congress an interesting choice.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "The Trillies (Alas!) Aren’t Smart"

That is not a delusion: to qualify as a delusion, a preconceived idea has to be sincerely believed.
That is a self-serving lie: given how often rich heirs and their lackeys try to sabotage public education, I don't believe for one second that -apart from the most imbecilic inbreds among them- the "IQ is Genetic!" spewing oligarchs actually believe their own bullshit about inherited intelligence:
A patrician cheater knows that many among the plebs surpass him and his heirs intellectually: that's why he cheats in the first place.

Delusions can be beaten by convincing people that they're wrong.
Self-serving pro-oligarchy lies are beaten by a very generous use of the Churchilian pile-diver: "Many rich fuckers are inept parasites who owe their wealth to the nepotistic rigging of the competition and will deliberately kick down as many smart plebeians as possible because that's the only way for them to retain the undeserved material comforts they've grown used to": Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time, then a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth-million seven-hundred forty-three thousand nine-hundred fifty-eighth time and keep going again and again and again and again and again and again. Keep repeating that, until the Sybarites stop laughing, start shouting "Will someone rid us of this pesky tribune?", and thus involuntarily concede your point.


* "shouldn’t the New Lords be earnestly exploring how to do feudalism much better than before?

I think they don't because they can't.
Literally can't.

The thing is, It is likely that the very way the human brain is shaped makes breeding smart aristos a self-defeating endeavor: sociopathic geniuses are actually pretty rare outside the realms of fiction, and the reason why IQ and emotional intelligence are correlated is because the parts of the brain that deal with abstract notion measured in IQ tests are intimately interlocked with the parts of the brain that deals with socialization.
In other words, the "smarter" you are, the more easily you can tackle complex abstractions, the more likely you'll have more empathy than average.
So, I posit that if the hyper-rich tried to pull the trick you imagined in your novel, they'd only end up breeding an army of capitalist Gorbachevs: people who could actually perceive the human suffering behind the numbers and abstraction they'd crunch and who'd end up crashing the system by trying to make it more fair and benevolent.


* "I could have told them. I tried to. Others have tried"

French philosophers spent a whole century trying to warn Versailles that the way it governed would end up blowing in the king's face.
Versailles didn't listen.
Versailles ended up being ransacked, and many of its inhabitants beheaded.

It's almost as if unearned privileges and advantages turned most of their beneficiaries into muleheaded intellectual sloths blind to the obvious and deaf to counsel.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "And on a cynical note, by leaving the ultra-poor in a bad state without any recourse, crime will rise, the poor will be arrested, and the private for-profit prisons will have new people to put to work in their company stores."

And then, one of the company stores' boss will be found dead along his family in his family home, and fools will scratch their head when the killer is turned into a folk hero, even if he turns out to be a murderous psycho as bad as his main victim.


* "I await the day when several charismatic and determined governors call the Governor's conference to negotiate a treaty to limit corporate extortion."

I await the day when the European Parliament is finally allowed to pass legislation without constantly having to beg the European Council for permission and outlaw corporate extortion once and for all.
(What? I'm a French Jacobinist: I distrust local fiefdoms. Sue me.)

donzelion said...

@Alfred - " Remember that I’m talking about this stuff relative to the notion that loss of someone close to us is analogous to an amputation....Love is the ACT of copying, though, and not the desire to copy. It is something we do almost all the time we pay attention to another person."

OK...condensing to less than 600 words...I'm still unconvinced, and will explain why on Sartrian grounds, as I think that's untrod terrain in these discussions about what AI would be.

To Sartre, trying to "internalize" another person (in love or any other context - e.g., hateful vendettas) - to "copy" another into ourselves - is a form of self-deception. We never actually "copy" - rather, we "construct" something in our own minds, using features of the Beloved - as we apprehend those features. Every action we do to try to internalize that Beloved is an emotional attempt to bypass the tragic reality that we will never "possess" them - never actually have a "copy." Nor can we transform ourselves into an Object of Desire for them - because we are subjects, never objects, at least in our own minds. If we could actually "capture" another and "copy" them into our own minds, our minds (unless we suffered from severe disorders) would ultimately treat the Other as a tumor and expel them. Pretty grim, but that's existentialism.

Fromm started his "Art of Loving" from this framework - most of what we call "love" is actually a set of narcissistic behaviors, destined to fail, as there is no chance of ever 'possessing' the Beloved for any lengthy relationship. However, if rather than trying to "internalize" an other, we focus on "integrating" our self (living productively, in harmony with self needs, family needs, and global needs), we can experience relationships that are not striving to copy (or possess a copy). By his logic, the presence of children - or the explosion in population - does not signify love - not unless the parents are healthy enough to actually love their children (and not to see them as projections of themselves, or as a means to the end of providing food in old age). Similarly, people did this thousands of years ago (although few then, as now).

The trade analogy is also fitting to illustrate the distinction. It is not the increase in trade volume, but the change in "quality" among participants that matters - "I" trust, therefore I trade. "I" choose a professional specialization, therefore I become a professional. This is not a matter of 'copying' at all, so much as one of choosing. If the choice fails, I do not experience an 'amputation' - but only a trauma.

There are certain advantages to perceiving human love in these terms, rather than as "copying" an image of another into ourselves.

First, how to treat the problem of loss. For an amputation, you look at the stump and determine if/how to fit a prosthetic replacement. But in human relationships, attempting to replace one lost Beloved with another will hurt both parties.

Second, how to form bonds in the first place. A human male, looking at a prospective mate to become "his right arm" - will seek someone with certain characteristics fitting the arm he desires to have (esp. obedience): most of us, however, try to look at a partner who is not an extension of our self, but rather, compatible with us. We do not "copy" at all - we "cohabitate" - occasionally adjusting behaviors, but never becoming the other.

David Brin said...

There is a spectrum of oligarchs. Of course the vast majority are utterly delusional, concocting rationalizations rooted in cojones that want to have huge harems, even if - in this day and age - such reproductive success does not happen, even for billionaires.

And there is the opposite extreme. tech-goods-services-innovator billionaires who are mostly onboard with Gates/Buffett and let's hope these guys get very active this year.

But in between are some who are genuinely smart by some measures. Who might, maybe be talked into either (a) seeing self-interest in sacrificing half... to make sure they get to keep half. (The reason Joe Kennedy supported FDR)... or else (b) noticing that if they are destined to rule, then ruling WELL may take some improvements in methodology over the utter-insipid dullard dumbitude of 99% of feudal societies.

duncan cairncross said...


"But that's not so for medicine - we cannot replace a doctor with a nurse, or a nurse with an orderly - for each function, it can only be fulfilled with someone possessing equal human capital. Hence, the solutions in a factory do not work in medicine"

Now there you have identified what is wrong with medicine - that is NOT how most thing work

Example - I was Quality manager at DEP - we built and tested 250 engines/day
90% would be passed by the computer
leaving 25 - about 23 of those would be checked and fixed by my technicians
I would rule on the remaining two
So as the "Doctor in charge" I saw 250 patients a day and still had nearly 8 hours left over for my other duties

The medical profession should use a similar Pareto system
20 people need attention
15 should be sorted by the nurse - possibly assisted by an expert system
The 5 remaining should see the doctor - who should probably send one "upstairs" for further tests and examination

The old Chinese and Kenyan "Barefoot Doctors" solution
You identify the four or five diseases that cause most deaths
You train up villages in the diagnosis and cure of those conditions
That covers 80% of the sick villagers - the remaining 20% get sent to the big doctor in the town

For the western world we would not go down to the peasant with 6 weeks training level!

This ties in well with Alfred's comment

Jon S. said...

Duncan, engineering principles really don't work well for biological systems, particularly humans. We just have way too much variance in the systems; the manufacturing tolerances are impossibly broad. One person's "deathly ill" is another person's "doing okay".

If automobile engines were manufactured with the tolerances of biological systems, half the cars in existence would explode the first time you turned the key.

Kain said...

I would be very interested to hear more about on your theory about how the Leftists are authoritarian as the right-wingers and feudalists are.

donzelion said...

@Duncan - Did any of the 250 patients you saw "talk back to you"? How many of them raised "this other problem down here that also hurts?" How many of your patients DEMANDED to see you? ;-)

I am not in any way deprecating engineering. I'm just skeptical about the feasibility of transferring skills from one context to a different profession - cross-fertilization is rarer than one would expect, and when it does occur, it's typically a creative reinterpretation in a new context, rather than implementation of a process originating elsewhere.

15 years ago, I saw a doctor in California without insurance - 10 minutes of doctor time, 10 minutes of nurse time, and a $100 prescription ran me a total of $2400. I thought that was insane. Then, working abroad, occasionally for insurance companies, I discovered that the global health providers treated America as a whole the same way they treated Afghanistan and Iraq, since medical costs relative to risks were comparable. I don't think most Americans know that.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Jon, donzelion

What you should be doing is grading
Easy ones, then moderate difficult, then difficult

All of the patients get seen by the nurse (probably needs a different title)he/she either fixes the issue (90%) or passes it up the chain
Then the junior doctor asses and either fixes the issue or passes it up to the senior doctor

It's a cascade system - makes use of the fact that a relatively small number of issues will comprise a large proportion of the problems

Yes some of the patients will DEMAND to see you - They will be part of the 10%! (and should be charged accordingly)

On your costing the $100,000/year insurance is to cover the mistakes - but that doesn't cover all of the costs just your external ones
A mistake will cost you a month? maybe
As well as the actual dollar cost

American medical costs are simply insane - especially as you get worse overall performance

donzelion said...

@Duncan - the doctor/nurse triage system already works much as you say, with the nurse checking the symptoms, and the doctor only intervening when 'necessary.'

I don't think there's a process to advance from junior doctor to senior doctor, so much as to refer to a specialist with deeper knowledge about specific conditions. The time-crunch, in many practice areas, remains (particularly since the time range varies dramatically - a certain number of patients take a few seconds to diagnose, others take many hours - and it's not always clear which is which without more medical knowledge than I possess).

"American medical costs are simply insane - especially as you get worse overall performance"

I do wish more Americans realized that our system costs as much to operate here in the best possible conditions as it would cost for the worst war profiteers to gouge in the middle of a war zone. That would shift the expectations about what is feasible a fair bit. In my own numbers (which again, are not "unrealistic" so much as simplified) - aside from the salaries (which aren't even all that generous), there is
(1) the rent the doctor, nurse, and staff member's pay (a residence, interest on student loan debt)
(2) the rent paid to the computer/medical systems providers
(3) the rent in the form of insurance premiums that are not paid out if the doctor doesn't actually cause a serious injury
(4) the rent for the actual clinic/hospital room

It's quite conceivable that 50+% of the medical cost in America is driven by rents. With a national health care system, the national government can quash that to 30% - not actually that much - but the effect changes every underlying transaction, and results in medical costs that are half what they are here (or less in many countries).

duncan cairncross said...

Hi donzelion

and the doctor only intervening when 'necessary.'

There is the rub - the doctor has to "sign off" each time,
If you could rely on the nurse to make the decision on the easy ones you would save a lot of time

That is happening now here but the doctors are being very very slow to allow the decisions and some simple procedures to be made at a level below an MD

Think of how much more each of my engines would have cost if it had to be individually "signed off" by a Chartered Engineer"

Actually there were engines that required to be individually signed off - Lloyds for instance.
In practice I just looked at the results, signed the paper to say that I had done so and we charged an extra couple of thousand dollars - unfortunately I didn't get the money

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

Please define “Confederate”. You seem to use it as a grab bag for anyone you don’t like and that is ok with me. We all do that but for me a Confederate was someone who fought on the side of the South during the Civil War. They are all dead now as are the Whigs, the Planter Class and the Carpetbaggers. I know what are Oligarchs, Neocons, Keynesians, Supply-siders, Communists, Socialists, Ayn Randians and so forth because they exist today but a “Confederate” is something that no longer exists and hasn’t existed for a long time. Can you please give me a concise definition of what a Confederate is in your mind in the context of today? I am not criticizing you. I just want to know what you really mean when you say “Confederate”.

Acacia H. said...

Tangenting into science again: A planet's early magnetic field is important for retaining an atmosphere and life. So it seems if a planet's magnetic field isn't strong enough, you could end up with a situation like with Mars. (I am curious as to Venus, however - it is closer to the Sun, and lacks a magnetic field if I recall correctly.)

Size may be a factor important as to determining what planets can sustain life... but moreso, if life can escape its planet once it achieves intelligence and technology. After all, the heavier the planet, the denser the atmosphere - which may increase turbulence and the strength of winds and storms.

At what point does early rocket technology fail to lift a species into orbit with enough of a vector to escape its own planetary gravity well? (Does having a sizeable moon help with these efforts? The ability to use a moon as a gravitational "slingshot" has helped our own exploration efforts.)

For that matter... at what point does atmospheric density end up blocking out the stars at night? (Though there would still be the occasional comet, I suppose.) If there is nothing "above" but a sun (or a pair of suns or whatever) then what incentive is there to study the heavens... and to escape the bonds of the soil and go into space?

There may very well be millions of worlds out there with civilizations that may have even reached our own level of technology... but never bothered looking into the heavens because it just is too difficult to get out there.

With the Earth, we may have the Goldilocks Syndrome - Earth is "just right" - large enough to retain an atmosphere, far enough out to have liquid water, small enough that the gravity well can be escaped from, and far enough out from the galactic center that exploding stars don't irradiate the surface.

And in the future... we may very well find other civilizations out there, trapped on their surfaces because they never bothered to "look up."

Rob H.

A.F. Rey said...

In many states, like California, they can cross party lines during a primary.

Eh, but apparently not for Presidential nominations in California.

Qualified political parties in California may hold presidential primaries in one of two ways:
•Closed presidential primary - only voters indicating a preference for a party may vote for that party's presidential nominee.
•Modified-closed presidential primary - the party also allows voters who did not state a party preference to vote for that party's presidential nominee.

If a qualified political party chooses to hold a modified-closed presidential primary, the party must notify the California Secretary of State no later than the 135th day before Election Day.

The Democratic and American Independent parties notified the Secretary of State that they will allow voters who did not state a political party preference to vote the presidential ballot of their parties in the upcoming June 5, 2012, Presidential Primary Election.

Note that the Republican Party is not included in the list. :(

So people will have to change their party preference to Republican to vote against Trump in California, if I'm reading it right. And Democrats will be shut out regardless.

LarryHart said...

I'm torn on the idea of open primaries.

Just as only American citizens have the right to vote in American elections, so (it seems to me) only people affiliated with the Republican Party should be in on the selection of the Republican nominee (and ditto for the Democrats or any other party).

In practice, "party affiliation" is harder to pin down. What are the qualifications?

The citizenship thing tries to approximate "those who have the best interests of American at heart" being allowed to vote, despite the fact that there is not a 100% correlation. There's a kind of built in presumption that the number of citizens who want to harm American or otherwise do mischief is small enough to be noise compared to the signal of good faith Americans. Likewise, it seems that those whose interests are in doing the best for each party should be the ones with votes in the party primaries.

Again, the devil is in the details. How do you tell who those people are, and (more importantly) who doesn't qualify?

Acacia H. said...

The solution is of course having completely open primaries where the two top vote-earning candidates, regardless of party, are the ones that appear on the general election ballot. Thus you vote for whichever candidate you want.

Rob H.

locumranch said...

"American medical costs are (not merely) insane", they are NON-representational as 'Billed Charges' bear no relation to Insurance Charges, Approved Charges, Real Costs, Reimbursements or Payment Schedule.

It breaks down something like this:
(1) The US consumer gives $100 to Third-Party Insurance;
(2) Third-Party Insurance keeps 40% (fees) & allocates 60% to health costs;
(3) Third-Party Insurance pays off Health Costs to Hospitals & Providers at a negotiated contractual discount rate (typically more than 50% off for Medicare & an 80% discount for Medicaid), but only on 'Clean Claim' Approved Charges, minus all other discounts, after a 3 month to 5 YEAR waiting period;
(4) Hospitals & Providers need to cover 'Real Costs' (expenses, supplies, salaries, etc), so they increase 'Billed Charges' until TIMELY Reimbursement is equal to or greater than the Real Cost of doing business;
(5) Third-Party Insurance 'shifts' additional costs back to consumer in the form of 'Billed Charge' deductibles & co-pays, meaning that the consumer pays an (est) 80% mark-up, spending $100 to buy $20 of Real Cost healthcare; and,
(6) So on & so forth, taking into account that Third-Party Payers NEVER LOSE because they are Monopolies (in fact) with which individual Consumer, Provider & Physician cannot negotiate.

As to "Do we just rationalize our emotional decisions?", the answer is an unqualified YES. I made this same assertion in the last thread & many others:

Using Items of Enumeration, we RATIONALISE & justify our Qualitative (Either-Or) Emotional Decisions, whether they be love, hunger, fear or desire, and modify our emotionally-driven actions according to the rules of Supply & Demand, tending to "disdain what is plenteous & value what is scarce, even though scarcity and (or) plenty are not enough to determine value in & of itself, the key being desire".

Although true in Politics, Business & Science, this is especially true in Healthcare whose value is debatable (academic) when we do not require it but becomes near INFINITE in value when we require, have 'want of', lack & desire it.

It's 'The Best in the World', after all, if (regardless of cost) the right medical intervention is available when you & your loved ones require it.


Anonymous said...

Primaries are not pure democracies and are not ment to be. They are the way parties decide who will represent them in the presidential elections and each party decides on the own rules and I don't have a problem with this. They are not general elections but if the party rules are defective and can't present a viable candidate then that is their own fault and not the fault of democracy in general. If a party screws up and becomes incapable of presenting a string of good candidates, then it disappears as it merits. We tend to equate Primaries with popular will when that is far from the case. It is just the will of a constricted class of party members and that is all. Read nothing else into it.

LarryHart said...


My point was that "crossover" primaries which allow anyone to vote for either party's candidate are not compatible with what you just described above.

I may like the fact that I can vote against someone I don't like for governor, or that I can vote against Donald Trump this year, but there's no good reason that my wishes should have any sway over the Republican Party one way or another. The party has no way of knowing if I'm voting for the Republican I like best out of all of them, the Republican I expect will lose in November, or the Republican who is the funniest punchline. That ambiguity is a bug, not a feature, of the primary system.

Jumper said...

Donzelion, I will disagree with you and Sartre inasmuch as we are not referring to a conscious attempt to "try to internalize that Beloved." The internal "modeling" is seemingly completely unconscious. It isn't willed. It grows unbidden mostly, over time.

David, I'd be wary of attributing our modern ideas of intelligence to past ages. I'm not even sure what they had would recognizable as such. As pride, yes. And I would posit that rulers had the best sources of certain kinds of information about the world. How many ships and men the rival kingdoms hold, who had a crop failure in faraway lands, who used unusual military tactics recently. Not that such information was great, but it all came together in the royal chambers better than elsewhere.

Of course concepts of "wisdom" were extant in the old days. I suppose that's a different aspect.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass I have repeatedly defined “confederate” as the romantic side of America’s recurring culture war. Romanticism encourages demonizing the other, obeisance toward inherited authority, hostility toward change, much closer horizons of tolerance and inclusion, obsession with symbolism, propensity for macho violence, and extolling passion over negotiation or facts. (In other words… Lord of the Rings.)

All of these came into play during phase one of the civil war, when the British knew they would find more Tory support for the King down south. And the 1830s phase and the 1852 phase sending platoons of southern irregular cavalry raiding northern states.

And the 1860s phase, a million poor whites marching to fight and die for the interests of their plantation lord class enemies.

Name one of those traits that does not STILL differentiate Trump-Cruz-Fox followers from Blue America?

Robert the moon plays almost no role at all in planetary exploration. It’s “slingshot” is minimal and rarely used.

A far bigger factor is likely the fact that most life worlds are covered by ice roofs, blocking the sky and excluding use of fire.

“The solution is of course having completely open primaries where the two top vote-earning candidates, regardless of party, are the ones that appear on the general election ballot. Thus you vote for whichever candidate you want.”

That is exactly the situation in California (except the presidential and governor races.) And the results have been amazingwith GOP voters in heavily democratic districts GAINING influence in runoffs between 2 democrats. Moderation was the winner and radicalism the loser.

Locum was so cogent this time that it felt weird. Except he won’t go all the way and admit that Canada has a better health care system than ours. By far.

Acacia H. said...

Well, Dr. Brin, that still kind of makes my point. If a species has no concept of the stars (outside of their sun) then they aren't likely to try and explore space.

I'm not quite sure that an iceball world would be without fire, however - it's just the fire would be in select areas (volcanism). And given such an environment, there may even be areas of air pockets that form, and life that can utilize those air pockets and even flourish within.

At which point does atmospheric density and gravity from planetary size make it so rockets can't leave? Worlds such as those will likely become an odd form of oasis - areas where life can thrive, but never leave. (And it's another reason not to colonize planets in the future - asteroids don't suffer from that problem!)


As for Lord of the Rings... you might consider looking at both the final couple of chapters of "Return of the King" and the appendices. While Gondor itself (and Rohan for that matter) remains a monarchy, the realm that Tolkien envisioned as England, The Shire, remains fairly democratic.

Sure, there was a disturbing tendency of the Hobbits to keep re-electing the same candidates over and over again, but it was human (and Hobbit) nature, and also those leaders were actually effective and responsible with their duties.

The War of the Ring was in fact a war against authoritarianism and tyranny. The seeds of future tyranny exist as there were no constitutional monarchies in Rohan or Gondor (and wouldn't that have been a fascinating element to incorporate into the stories - Aragorn having to negotiate with the Lords of Gondor and establishing limitations to his power and even the creation of some form of representational government, in exchange for allowing an exiled lineage of Isildur to return to the throne of Gondor - sadly, Tolkien either didn't think of it, or think of a way by which it could be incorporated while keeping readers interested), but that does not mean democracy does not exist.

And when you get down to it, Tolkien laid a foundation from which other fantasy novels have been built. We are now seeing fantasies in which the foundations of government within these novels can be built. One such story had people from our world end up transported into the fantasy world (as fantasy characters they were roleplaying) and end up creating a democracy among refugees that utilized firearms and technology to make living conditions decent for that realm.

Interestingly enough, the seeds of democracy in fantasy were planted by Samwise Gamgee, a gardener turned hero and eventual politician, and a character considered by many to be the true hero of Lord of the Rings. Those seeds, much like the mallorn seed he'd been gifted by Galadriel, have grown - in this case, in stories that sprouted up from the seeds sown by Tolkien decades ago.

That far too many fantasy writers have squandered those seeds and tried to rebuild their own versions of Camelot (with kings and low levels of technology and deus ex machinas to solve their woes) is the fault of future writers. Not of Tolkien himself.

Rob H.

raito said...

I'm pretty close with Robert on this one. Having a primary to cut down the number of candidates on the ballot so that there must actually be something resembling a majority to win is fine. Having a non-profit corporation use my tax money so that it can figure out (indirectly) which of its slate of people I don't want in office it wishes to force in front of me in the general election is not.

There's another variation of 'rich means you're smart' I've run into time and again. It's the 'I got lucky knowing someone with a need a pile of money, and that makes me smart'. These are usually people I end up working for. They are people who had some skills. But they made their nut because someone who they knew with a need for something dumped a pile of money on them and said 'make it'. So they did. But they then believe that they were successful because they made the thing, rather than because they happened to know the right person. And having worked on those things, I can tell you they weren't that great. Good maybe, but not great enough to have required any sort of genius to build. But now they think they are.

Anonymous said...

There have been a few articles popping up that say the US is reaching to a "French Revolution" scenario. The National Review came up with an article entitled " Trump’s Support Suggests The French Revolution Is Finally Hitting America", a paper that I don't like but I follow nevertheless to get a diversity of opinions. It was wrong to 75% however, some parts should be examined because they do have a germ of reality in what we see today.

France at that time had many people who knew that something had to change in all classes of society. Winston Churchill in his History of the English-Speaking Peoples” said that in that period, the French were the most talented people in the world and they were. You can see that in their contributions in science, economics, philosophy, diplomacy and politics and is very well documented. Nor were conditions in France much worse than in England but there were differences. In France, the political system was in a logjam. The elites were incapable of making changes because of an interlocking system of power, which prevented any change even though all classes knew it had to change. The need to change was fife throughout French society but the problem was how to do it. Louis the Sixteenth, a weak king, decided to convoke the “Estates-General” which last met in 1614 over a hundred years before specifically to address the question of taxation. The “Estates-General” consisted of elected representatives of the clergy, the nobles and lastly of the all the others. The Clergy consisted of 10,000 people and owned 5 to 10% of the land and they paid no taxes. The nobles consisted of 400,000 people, families includes, and paid no taxes. The third Estate consisted of the other 25 million and they are the ones who paid all the taxes. By law, each had the same vote but the king gave double votes to the Third Estate, those who paid the taxes, but in reality, that double vote was removed as they found out when they got to Paris. So you had with the Clergy made of 10,000 individuals, the nobles of 400,000 and the rest made up of 25 million having the same vote as a class and not as individuals. The underclass, even though vastly outnumbering the others had just one vote as did the nobles and the clergy. Does this sound similar to something we see today?

Many people in all classes saw the injustice and most of the clergy joined with the Third Estate as well as many important nobles seeing that something had to be done and that that the present system was unsustainable. The new assembly came up with some of the most important measures in Western Civilization and included the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizens, freedom of religion, legalization of divorce, decriminalization of same-sex relationships, civil rights for Jews and black people and the abolition of slavery. France was way ahead of any other country even the United States. But what went wrong? This is where history books gloss over the facts and jump directly to the “Reign of Terror” instituted by the Committee of Public Safety (Comité de Salut Publique). What happened between the Revolution and the Robespierre? One important thing happened, foreign invasion. The War of the First Coalition (1792–1797). The surrounding powers invaded France from the north, the east, the west and the south and provided the money to rebellions in Vendee. The Committee of Public Saftey was set up in extremis to coordinate the defense of the country and was soon taken over by the Jacobins who were the most conservative but the most ruthless of the factions. To protect itself France came up with the first mass conscription in modern history, beat back the invading armies and invaded them in return. Before then Napoleon a minor figure but by a masterful plan he forced the English who were occupying Toulon, to evacuate and made his name and career and we know what happened after. Europe had a world war that lasted 20 years and even dragged in the US.

Anonymous said...

I went a bit long in this but I want to say that foreign intervention in another country can bring grave unintended consequences. It may seem like a good idea to bring stability and reestablish the natural order of things but it is a very shortsighted view. We in the US have been playing the role that the European Royalist powers played with France. We want to impose our views by force on other countries and rationalize it as progress when it is in reality just maintaining the existing order. A Union officer once asked a Confederate prisoner why he was fighting for slavery. The prisoner responded that he didn’t care about slavery. The officer said then why are you fighting? The prisoner said “I am fighting because you are down here”. An American officer asked an Iraqi why he was fighting the Americans. The Iraqi said “before, there was peace then you came and since there has been only war". Many people may agree with some of your values but when you come to their country with a gun in your hand, they will resist. It is human nature. For you, your intensions are good and noble but to those in the country, you are just an invader.

Sorry for going on so long. I got carried away.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

Thank you for your precise definition of "Confederate". Now I have a good idea of what you mean to say and it will help me in further discussions.

Acacia H. said...

Amusingly enough, the Economist is all for Hillary and against Sanders. Their reason? America needs to be more interventionist. In the article I read, it implied that early intervention by America in Iraq against ISIS and in Syria would have prevented all the problems going on in the world.

In short, the Economist wants a Hawk as President, not Sanders (who is against interventionism).

I've been seeing some interesting articles recently suggesting that Hillary's lead is going to start declining now that March 15 is past, as the next group of states are far more inclined to support Sanders over Clinton... and this will give Sanders the momentum he needs, much like Obama defeated Clinton with all those smaller campaigns. It probably won't be nearly as easy as the Sanderistas like to claim, but there is one real benefit to this: there are Democratic political machines being established in each of the 50 States. Given that Sanders has promised to support Clinton should he lose, and given he seems smart enough to realize retaking the House and Senate is vital, it could be this long war will ultimately benefit Democrats on the State and Federal levels.

The Republican field is far more... volatile. Nor does it seem Trump is bothering to build a groundwork. He's using name recognition rather than developing a grassroots. As such, even if Trump beats Clinton, he could end up in Washington looking at a far different political situation than Obama is looking at. (And I must wonder. If the Democrats win the House and Senate, would the next congressional body be able to approve of Obama's Supreme Court pick before Trump is sworn into office, and thus deny him the pick? That would have Republicans fuming, but it is what they deserve.)

Oh, there was one other interesting quote I saw. Clinton is a thermometer, showing what the current political clime is like. Sanders is a thermostat, adjusting and changing the political clime. In that case, I suspect Trump is also a thermostat - one that is broken and will push temperatures as high as possible unless shut off.

Rob H.

Jim Baca said...

A new method of Reapportionment must be made law so that candidates don't pick their voters, but voters pick their candidates in legislative and Congressional races. Our nation is now run by dumb people elected by bizarrely drawn districts that gives red dummies an advantage. Help.

If you want another state to add to those ruined by rightwing political philosophy, just look to my home state of New Mexico. The old and gas industry elected their Governor who immediately cut taxes for them and others and now state government barely functions and school kids are being robbed of educations.

donzelion said...

@Jumper - "I will disagree with you and Sartre inasmuch as we are not referring to a conscious attempt to "try to internalize that Beloved. The internal "modeling" is seemingly completely unconscious. It isn't willed. It grows unbidden mostly, over time." Leave the dirty laundry about in a relationship, disregard your partner, repeat that for a year or two - and see what grows. ;-) I cannot clean up the house unconsciously, nor can I maintain a relationship without constantly choosing to do so.

I do not rule out the possibility that there are unconscious aspects of a partnership bond - expectations, habits, and interaction - akin to two dancers in tune with one another - only that those unconscious aspects can ever describe the extent of the bond itself, as opposed to one aspect of that bond.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: From my own personal experience (too small to be more than anecdotal), the doctors DO have a grading system from junior to senior that happens to involve the nurses. About three years ago I got sick and my family doctor tried what she knew how to do. Antibiotics didn’t clear up fluid in the lungs, pain in my joints increased, started to look more and more anemic, etc. One day she gave up and sent me to the ER. In hindsight, what she did was hand me off to a group of doctors who start with a different approach. Her task was to assume I was basically healthy, but needed help with an external issue like an infection. When her scripts failed to improve things, she handed me over to doctors who started from the assumption that I was dying and their job was to delay that long enough to figure out why. They tried with all their scripts, but couldn’t think of what it was and I got hospitalized. Once I was in THAT system, I saw a third type of doctor who also assumed I was dying, but they left the stabilization tasks to the nurses. They focused on getting detailed information out of me, performing medical tests unlikely to help the average patient, and then looking at rare disease possibilities. The third set of doctors were essentially tier 3 doctors who would be wasting heaps and gobs of time if they saw me first or second. The third set figured it out, treatment started, and I’m alive today having survived a rare auto-immune disorder that is one of the few they know how to fix.

What I experienced was fairly well designed from an engineering perspective. There was room for improvement, of course, but I suspect the pace of change will remain slow since a patient isn’t valued the same way as an engine. The tier 1 doctor had her own nurses doing some of the information gathering that doesn’t require advanced education. The tier 2 doctors had a more complex arrangement with the nurses and especially the triage nurse. At tier 2, the nurses were info gathering and sorting patients. Tier 3 was the most complex with a range of nurses at different skill levels and task focusing that included lab techs and nurses who watched 24x7. The different teams weren’t hard to spot for someone with an engineering background.

Where I thought the most improvement was needed in my case was on the backend of the process. Once I was stable enough to send home, they somehow magically thought I’d be able to negotiate the mental gymnastics of dealing with the pharmacy that wasn’t expecting me to show up and ask for rare medications. No patient who stood on Death’s doorstep should be sent home unescorted. I was back in the ER the next day.

I don’t think the engineering effort is as simple as Duncan makes it sound, though. Health care regulations make that very unlikely. Still… I got to see some of it happening.

Anonymous said...

For “Lord of the Rings” you have to put it into the context of the time of the writing between 1937 and 1949. It was a time where Great Britain and by extension, Western Civilization was fighting for its very existence and consequently things had crystalized in either all good or all bad and nothing between. In “Lord of the Rings”, there are no good orcs or goblins. There is no way to negotiate with them. There is no win-win option there. It is not even conceivable to do so let alone with Sauron. Elves and dwarves are troublesome but they look like us so you can agree. Frodo was chosen in a brokered convention since none of the others had a majority but otherwise Hobbits never entered into the fight. Arnor had collapsed and Gondar was clearly in a long-term depression that mirrored the situation of the British Empire at the time. At the end of the war I wonder how many men were left in Gondar and Rohan. I bet they lost 80% of men of fighting age and they never did kill all the orcs, goblins or Southrons. Eight of the Nazgûls escaped. When Sauron was kicked out of Middle Earth, his forces were disorganized but not defeated. The elves knew something which is why they all high-tailed it out of Dodge after the war. They knew it would start all over again.

donzelion said...

@Locum - interesting points, save this one, which since ObamaCare, is no longer accurate -

"(2) Third-Party Insurance keeps 40% (fees) & allocates 60% to health costs;"
One of the most controversial elements in ObamaCare is a component that obligates insurers to spend at least 80% (or 85%) of their premiums on actual medical care. Most good insurers already did so, but some did not (esp. if they could spend it on management/marketing fees).

This is one of area in which market controls will NEVER prevent abuses. If a scoundrel runs a health insurer and rejects a large number of good claims in bad faith, eventually, the reputation MAY catch up to that insurer, forcing it to liquidate. Salaries and secured debtholders take their cut, leaving a smaller pool to actually address the outstanding claims - and leaving any party (reinsurer) stuck with a poison pill.

Democrats have done a lousy job pointing out this obvious market failure. Republicans don't need to look at reality, because these sorts of failures are extremely complicated, and the leading presidential candidate gets a free pass on his own pattern of bankruptcies.

David Brin said...

Deuxgalss the parallels of France, 1789 with today are rife. Watch Start The Revolution Without Me! Napoleon was a tragic example of what happens to geniuses when drawn by lordship. Everywhere France invaded got freedom for serfs, Jews, etc and land rights for peasants and some kind of voting (for homeowners).

What I never have grasped is why he invaded Russia, when he could have accomplished all his goals by offering the Tsar – who was terrified of Napoleon – to jointly attack Turkey. Napolean through the Balkans, liberating Greece and becoming the Hero of Christendom, and Russia from Crimea. In exchange for the Tsar letting go of Poland and finland and Estonia. There is very… little… snow… in… Greece.

David Brin said...

Rob H I do not disagree with the Economist.

Pax Americana delivered more hope and betterment to the world than all that came before. It should gradually retire into Star Trek... but remains indispensable.

Our generals and admirals may viscerally be conservative but they know Clinton and Obama treated them with respect and listened. See

I like Bernie in many ways, but he fits a more classic liberal image of pacifism that will not engender confidence. Sorry, I am grateful to the synergies that kept me out of my generation's World War.

Acacia H. said...

Actually, the Nazgul were all destroyed. When the One Ring was destroyed, everything wrought by the Rings was undone. This includes everything done with the Three, which Sauron had never touched, the Seven (the majority of which had been destroyed), and the Nine, which gave their wielders extreme life and great power.

In short, the Nazgul died of old age in a matter of seconds.


A very simple way to destroy the current gerrymandering system exists as a result of the U.S. Constitution. A properly-phrased lawsuit could force mass elections... in Article One, Clause Three of the Constitution it states "The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative...."

In short, we need to increase the number of representatives according to the Constitution. Another approximately 10,300 Representatives need to be elected. Naturally, it would be infeasible to have all the Reps paid at the level they are currently receiving, so dividing the existing system among 10,740+ Reps would give each Rep a nominal salary. They are part-time employees in any event, so they can hold down some other job - maybe flipping burgers.

Technology exists to bring all these people together. It does not even need be video conferencing - just audio streaming. That may help eliminate some racism seeing that no one will see who is talking, and thus not see the color of someone's skin. Anonymity could also be enacted so that all each Rep knows is that Representative #X from State XX is speaking. (Political party could still be given, but seeing 30K people would elect each Rep, there is a good possibility of dozens of third-party Reps getting into power.)

If the voting and telecommunication technology was using a black box without peripherals or access to the Internet (basically using an Intranet for communication and voting), then you don't have nearly as great a chance of hackers disrupting the system.

The beauty of this is that it is Constitutionally mandated. They never passed a Constitutional Amendment altering the population requirement.

Rob H.

donzelion said...

Ack, want to leave health care discussions and join Middle Earth discussions...more fun. ;-)

@Alfred - My original point in discussing the problem of "time crunch" in medicine was to turn thoughts away from simplistic solutions (e.g., "it's all because the management is stupid/greedy" - they should hire more people to double check, or adopt more processes like X, Y, or Z, which work in different contexts). I know they have many strategies to try to mitigate the problem (one of which is to shift the time/cost of negotiating with the pharmacy onto a patient - or to refer the patient, as you report in your own case) - but the existence of this problem does not arise from a defect in system design.

My own field (law) compelled many of the most extreme changes to engineering practices in the 20th century - e.g., products liability doctrines, like the notion that 'liability should rest with the cheapest cost avoider' (e.g., in the context of "should auto manufacturers be compelled to install seat belts?" - the question becomes, "is it cheaper to force auto manufacturers to install seat belts, or to compel all drivers to drive more safely?"). Engineers can work with that, and design better products, but doctors (and medicine more generally) cannot work that way.

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, you are wearing rose-coloured glasses when it comes to Pax Americana.

Our current interventions across the world are stirring multiple hornets nests and encouraging people to join terrorist groups against us. Our drone strikes alone have done tremendous harm, especially seeing that civilian casualties continue being the result.

Sanders is no idiot. He won't let Russia roll across Europe. He very likely will continue to support NATO and building up a presence there, and work with allies in the East to find a way for us to maintain a presence without being a bully.

And that's what the American Military is considered far too often. We're the bullies. We've taken Russia's place in Afghanistan and our butchery in Iraq is part of the domino pattern behind ISIS.

My hope is that Sanders would pull back such operations. Drone warfare will continue... but may very well require verification and ensuring that the drone isn't about to bomb a wedding or a funeral. Hell, drones should be used to back up our troops, not become our troops.

Lastly, he will be in power for four years in all likelihood. He's not going to dismantle the military or the like - just reduce its excesses. It is about time we let peace have a chance to take hold.

Who knows. The world may like it.

Rob H.

donzelion said...

@RobH - "A very simple way to destroy the current gerrymandering system exists...we need to increase the number of representatives according to the Constitution. Another approximately 10,300 Representatives need to be elected."

Where do we see the ugliest manifestations of gerrymandering today? At the school district level. There are probably about 10,000+ school district officials already serving. Merely extending the sphere by adding a larger number of representatives STILL doesn't fix the real world problem. Think we're stuck with just fighting it out, forever, without any simple solution. (We did get a long ways toward it with Baker v. Carr and the idea that electoral districts should NOT be drawn to favor rural districts over populated districts - but that doesn't solve the matter...)

David Brin said...

Yipe! See how desperate is the clutching -at-straws among GOP "intellects"! This scenario suggests that several states have their (GOP controlled) state legislatures choose their presidential electors, instead of letting it be decided by the state's voters. Talk about sparking riots in the streets. These guys have been progressively more detached from reality as Fox poisoned their minds. They are now in lala land.

David Brin said...

I get your position Rob H and it is stunningly ungrateful for how different this pax... and the last 75 years... have been from all other places and times across all of the history of our species.

Acacia H. said...


If our current system of drone warfare against various populations and our refusal to verify targets rather than bombing weddings and funerals is at fault, we need to stop. Otherwise, we become what you have railed against - the worse excesses of previous empires.

It doesn't matter that the British Empire killed so many many more people than Pax Americana. It doesn't matter that the Russian Empire was even more bloody, or that the French Empire was quite nasty. What matters is this: people are dying, they are blaming the United States, and they are taking up arms against perceived allies of the United States and against this country itself to fight back.

You are saying "well, at least the thugs only killed your son and broke your bones - back 100 years ago they'd have raped your wife and forced you to watch, and then cut off your hands so you couldn't fight back."

I'm no bleeding heart liberal, or one of these fuzzy-headed anarchists who seems to believe dismantling government would mean everyone lives in peace. But I also look at the current system of nonstop attacks against terrorists and people who live in the same areas as terrorists, and see that it needs to stop.

Why can't Pax Americana be the one to stop, rather than wait for the Federation to emerge from the ashes when people have had enough and rip down Pax Americana? Why can't America be great without it being at the expense of lives in third-world nations as we continue a nonstop war?

That Pax Americana has caused fewer percentage of deaths than any Empire that came before is not a reason to celebrate. It is a reason to look at what is broken, fix it, and reduce the deaths until there are no more.

Rob H.

Anabelle said...

Tolkien's views on monarchy were weird. TOlkien was very hostile to authority, especially faceless bureaucratic authority. He wanted something like British monarchy A monarch who is theoretically absolute but in practice does nothing but collect stamps or something. This doesn't really come across well in Lord of the Rings.

Gondor has been in existential crisis for a long time and has effectively degenerated in a absolute totalitarian Monarchy. We can see that Tolkien did not think this would work; Denethor goes mad.

The Shire theoretically had a monarch in the form of the Thain. But since The Shire had not had a crisis of any kind on hundreds of years, most hobbits just thought of the Tooks as a wealthy family rather than a royal one.

Too many of Tolkien,s imitators did not get the nuances and wind up writing things far less Authority ambiguous.

Tolkien was going to write a sequel where Aragorn's descendants degenerated into "mere governors" but found it far too depressing to write.

Treebeard said...

Rob, how are you going to prevent all the evil-doers and backsliders from trying to start up all their backward, regressive regimes of theocracy, monarchy, machoism, etc. if you aren't willing to bomb the damn savages? You need to realize that *our pax is different from all other places and times across all of the history of our species*, and has therefore *earned* the right to kill the ingrate troglodytes! Plus, we have SCIENCE, and we damn well better use it!

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: Okay. Since Sartre has been included here, I get to express my contempt for some of the assumptions built into existentialist arguments while greatly appreciating their laser-like focus on what we mean by certain statements. Some of the real downer stuff, though, is just crap dished up by cynics as if it was a gourmet meal.

I don’t mind someone wanting to blur ‘copy’ and ‘construct’. Personally, I’m an atheist, so I’m not assuming a supernatural soul, so I doubt there is an experimental way to know the difference between copy and construct. I’m an engineer and know full well that a very detailed construction might as well be treated as a copy if the artisan intends the reproduction to be high fidelity. Absent some mystical soul, there is no reason to make a distinction.

I also don’t mind the ‘Tragic Reality’ problem associated with the fidelity of the copy never being high enough to truly capture another. That’s pretty obvious, though I’ll capitalize the phrase because of the built in assumption. What if it isn’t True? What if we can get close enough that it’s hard to spot the difference? Shouldn’t there be a Turing-style test that applies here? Having said that, I DO suspect we will always fail this test if we rely strictly upon evolution to determine our physiology because the effort to grow the space to hold another creates the space into which we grow. We are chasing our tails as evolution reworks us into minds of growing complexity. I don’t see anything tragic in that, though. We now have large brains, high density neurons, and languages capable of a high degree of compression.

As for disorders, sure… that is certainly a risk, but I think I can set aside the notion that we cannot be Objects. Consider Adam Smith’s “Man in the Breast” from the Moral Sentiments book. Our internal judge is obviously a construct and probably an amalgam designed to be a harsh critic of our own delusions. Who can that judge be if not us? We are both subject and object in a tail chasing exercise if we are to interpret Smith in modern terms. An existentialist might dismiss this judge as a self-deception, but even in that act we are both subject and object. Who am I lying to? I would certainly qualify it as a disorder if the copy of another took over the host, but it DOES happen suggesting something got constructed in the first place.

Alfred Differ said...

cont'd: Now... on to possession. Yes. Grim. That stuff doesn’t undermine the point, though. The ACT of love can be one of copying while the PURPOSE of the act could be possession. The subject could have other intentions in mind, though, including none at all. For example, my intent in copying you from what you write here is to provide myself a CITOKATE sparring partner in between lengthy posts. I don’t need a high fidelity copy of you to accomplish this. It just has to be good enough for me to swap him in to play a role similar to Smith’s internal judge. Is it you, though? Nah. I only have to intend it to be like you and then work at it. That copy is best used (by me) as an integration that extends me. If I do it right, I become more like you, but never you. I chase my tail and accrete others as I do.

I think you might have missed the point of the Platonic chain. I was trying to point to the need for trust if one is going to use population as a proxy the way Malthus did. There are people here who like to talk about a carrying capacity for a world full of humans and buried in their argument is one Malthus made. I’m trying to explain there is some tail chasing recursion going on when people choose to trust other specialists. Economists of every school will agree that one doesn’t need to know other market participants perfectly to succeed at trade, so high fidelity copies are not part of my argument. All one needs is people who understand the virtue of Prudence as Smith understood it.

I suspect I should expand on ‘to copy’ to make headway. Think of it as a process similar to what an artist does when they portray a scene and NOT the way a photographer would. One starts with a sketch and progresses toward more detail if one is attempting to be realistic. Pigments get applied at some point, but the artist understands the representation won’t be perfect because they have neither the senses nor the tools to make it so. What they CAN do is get close and force a Turing-style test if they wish. Even photographs fail at perfection, but focusing on perfection misses the point. Love is something like what the artist does. How does a human male know their potential mate is compatible? Sketch them as a structure in the mind and try them on.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: My original point in discussing the problem of "time crunch" in medicine was to turn thoughts away from simplistic solutions…

Oh. Heh. Then we are happily arguing about things on which we agree. Nuff said. 8)

Acacia H. said...

Oh, you are correct, Treebeard. I am totally wrong, Dr. Brin is correct, and we need to bomb those savages. Thank you for pointing out the fallacies of my argument and setting me straight.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@Rob H: My hope is that Sanders would pull back such operations…

I’m not trying to convince you to change your vote, but history suggests this is an unlikely hope to see. Presidents all tend toward the geopolitical requirements of the nation/empire as they grow into the job. GWB was something of an odd exception it seems, but an argument can be made that his people couldn’t distinguish national and clan needs. Even if we elected a fool who wanted to let Russia roll over Europe, it probably wouldn’t happen. The US is led by a President, but its actions derive from millions of us. We would probably bypass the fool. Obviously, Sanders is no fool. He will probably face the same learning curve Obama did and discover the need to make similar decisions. That’s actually an argument for Clinton, though, since she has already traversed that curve as SoS.

And that's what the American Military is considered far too often. We're the bullies. We've taken Russia's place in Afghanistan and our butchery in Iraq is part of the domino pattern behind ISIS.

Meh. Some like to think we are and some profit from the effort to convince others we are. I’ve heard of domino theories, though. They are likely fabrications designed to bypass critical reasoning in those who hear them. Beware of any such theory with more than three dominoes.

duncan cairncross said...

Robert, Dr Brin

"Sanders won't let Russia roll over Europe"

Sanders won't need to stop them - The NATO forces - minus - the USA are still a LOT bigger than the Russians,
Russia has a bigger military than any one European power - but a lot smaller than a combination

Russia currently could beat Poland - but I don't think it has the force preponderance to actually conquer Poland - then there is Germany, then France and the UK

US intervention would undoubtedly be welcome in that extreme condition but it's not necessary

The European armed forces do not represent as large a proportion of the EU GDP as the US ones do but the EU is an economic superpower and the smaller proportion that they do spend on the military is enough to make it the second largest in the world (after the US) - and by a big margin

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

The US is led by a President, but its actions derive from millions of us. We would probably bypass the fool. Obviously, Sanders is no fool. He will probably face the same learning curve Obama did and discover the need to make similar decisions.

I'm reminded of the scene from the tv show "The West Wing" when President Bartlet agonized over having to order the assassination of a foreign diplomat who had helped terrorists strike a US target. He asked Leo, his chief of staff, why he had to do such a thing, and the ever-practical Leo responds, "Because you won."

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: I remember that line. 8)

The paraphrased version I like to use is for people who are annoyed at the headaches of the world we've 'inherited' in the last three generations. I smile and remind them we won the Cold War. Be Happy.

David Brin said...

Alfred, how can you discuss people “copying” without referring to KILN PEOPLE? ;-)

Duncan that is why things have reversed. It used to be NATO that held tactical nukes as an option to stop superior conventional forces. Now it is the Russians, especially scared now that they have lost Ukraine.

Our ent has never once shown a sense of irony… though abounds with sarcasm. The fact that he rails at our pax by referring to standards that have been held ONLY by our pax cannot pass through his skull. ALL other empires would have read his sarcastic sneer and answered sincerely “damn straight! Let’s go kill em all!” Only ours can be guilt tripped the way he tries.

Of course the irony redoubles. Because he loathes PA precisely BECAUSE it holds those higher standards. If given his way, he’d re-establish exactly the kill-em-all mentality.

Paul SB said...

"The fact that he rails at our pax by referring to standards that have been held ONLY by our pax cannot pass through his skull."
Or through his bark, as the case may be.

Lloyd Flack said...

Duncan, Robert,
The biggest difficulty in defending Europe during the Cold War came from the lack of defensive depth. That problem no longer exists.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

LarryHart: I remember that line. 8) [from "The West Wing"]

Then you might also remember that Donald Trump's thing about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue was prefigured in that show as well.

The same diplomat/terrorist I mentioned before is in conversation with Leo, and he says he knows how difficult it would be for President Bartlet to disparage him during an election cycle. Leo responds something to the effect of "On the contrary, all he'd have to do to guarantee re-election is to shoot you in Times Square and then walk across the street to Nathan's and eat a hot dog."

Jumper said...

Alfred, did you just take a swipe at Malthus? I'm shocked!
Seriously, see Sea of Slaughter for a survey of what used to live in the sea.
By extension there are Malthusian problems all around us now. Polluted breast milk. Fisheries depleted, spawning grounds dead and dying. More plastic in the ocean than fish flesh. Pollinators stressed. Groundwater depleted and polluted. Air pollution deaths. Lead. I could fill volumes.

Thinking these effects must be very dramatic before they're significant is an error. There are few famines anymore, but starvation is well masked. Hungry people die of exposure more easily if the heat fails and they're old. Air pollution deaths are written off as pneumonia without being a lie, exactly.

The more that capitalists try to stall development of economic models and realities that provide economic growth in the face of no more population growth, the more they'll screw things up worse.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "In the article I read, it implied that early intervention by America in Iraq against ISIS and in Syria would have prevented all the problems going on in the world."

A foolish notion: it's an early intervention against Assad that could have pulled the rug from under the Salafists: Daesh materialized because the Assad regime deliberately released the extremist militants it held imprisoned, focused its fire on the secular rebels and the civilian populations which supported them while giving assistance to the fundamentalist militias in order to force the secularists to fight on two front at once.


* "this will give Sanders the momentum he needs, much like Obama defeated Clinton with all those smaller campaigns"

Very doubtful: Clinton already has nearly 3 million more votes than Sanders, and given that the democratic primaries eschew winner-takes-all shenanigans, Sanders would not only need to win in these states: he'd have to win in a landslide and beat Clinton in several large states that had already favored her in 2008.


* "Napoleon was a tragic example of what happens to geniuses when drawn by lordship"

Genius? Napoleon was a mediocre schemer next to Thomas Dumas, just another member of the long line, from Charles Martel to Sarkozy, of mediocre little Frenchmen who stabbed their betters in the back in order to secure power they knew they didn't deserve.


* "What I never have grasped is why he invaded Russia, when he could have accomplished all his goals by offering the Tsar – who was terrified of Napoleon – to jointly attack Turkey

Because the Ottoman empire had entered an Alliance with Great Britain after Napoleon failed to give them Moldova and Wallachia as promised: Had Napoleon attacked the Turks, Britain would have joined the war on the Ottoman side.

Laurent Weppe said...


* "Our current interventions across the world are stirring multiple hornets nests and encouraging people to join terrorist groups against us"

It's not simply the military interventions: it's the military interventions plus context: the invasion of Iraq came after decades of support for "anti-communist" dictatorships, overthrow of democratically elected governments, and in more immediate terms, 12 years after the US deliberately allowed Saddam to slaughter his people into submission despite having a UN mandate to stop him from doing so (oh, also the fact that the American Powers That Be keep pretending that they're not aware that the State of Israel is ruled by a mob of white supremacists and fundamentalistic nuts who are doing to the Palestinian People what the perverse wing of the White Bourgeoisie dreams of doing to their own minorities in Europe and America). It's the staggering duplicity that caused bad blood to reach historical highs in the region.


* "These guys have been progressively more detached from reality as Fox poisoned their minds."

"These guys" are suffering from the terminal phase of the Lake Wobegon Syndrom: they spent decades saying "We are the Intellectual Übermenschen destined to forevermore lord over the moronic plebs" behind closed doors: that led them to believe that they could eternally manipulate voters with crass demagoguery, now it leaves them to believe that they can blatantly game the system and simply say "It's the Law" to get away with it, and eventually, they'll reach the conclusion that they can privatize armed forces and order them to shoot at the crowds until they learn their place.
Poisoned their minds are, but Fox News itself wasn't the poison: it merely was one of its byproduct.


* ""Sanders won't let Russia roll over Europe""

As other mentioned Sanders doesn't need to: if Russia were to try to invade the UE, it would freak it enough to invoke Article 42 of the Lisbon treaty (merging all the member-states armies into a single command structure): we have more than twice the troops and budget that Russia has, a much larger economy, better tech (why do you think Russia buy its warships to France?) and our soldiers aren't underfed teenagers suffering from stunted growth beaten and molested "into shape" par perverted officers.

The red army is no more: what remains is noxious for those who still live in Moscow's shrinking sphere of influence, but once outside...

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

French ideas of equality and fairness spread throughout Europe and changed the continent forever. After Napoleon fell, the Great Powers imposed what they sincerely believed to be the natural order of things on the Continent. “The Concert of Europe” was set up supposedly to keep the peace but the real goal was to keep the lid on the aspirations of the common people but it didn’t work. The monarchs were under continual pressure from their own populations to grant them more and more rights and the monarchs had to concede or risk revolution.

Why Napoleon invaded Russia has been discussed again and again and no one has found the real answer because we don’t know what he was thinking at the time. Sometimes a very small event can trigger world-shaking consequences and we can use Napoleon as the best example.

Napoleon was a genius in many areas and not only in military matters. In military school, he was taught by Pierre-Simon Laplace who is considered today as one of the greatest scientist and mathematician of all time. He ranks up there with Newton. Laplace described Napoleon as by far the most brilliant student he has ever taught and had a natural grasp of the subject. In his spare time at school, Napoleon wrote poetry, plays and published discourses. He was like 20 years old at the time! He was very good at politics and psychology too. When he took over the government, he did not do it by staging a coup. He maneuvered the Committee of Public Safety into begging him to take over which he “reluctantly” agreed to for the “good of the country”. Masterful!

Napoleon had one weak point but it was a big one. Her name was Joséphine de Beauharnais. She was 10 years older than him, not very pretty at all and had bad teeth yet he was madly in love with her for years. Every time he went on a campaign, she would be in bed with a lover or two. Napoleon knew very well what she was doing, he had an excellent intelligence network in France and outside, but he kept forgiving her time and time again. He didn’t forgive her lovers of course but he didn’t just shoot them, that would have upset Josephine, but he did give them a fate worse than death. He ruined them slowly sometimes taking years (shades of “The Count of Monte Christo”. Josephine came from the planter class of Martinique and when France freed the slaves their profits took a drop so they set up a ”special interest group” and lobbied Joséphine to convince Napoleon to reinstate slavery. Napoleon knew it was a bad idea, the islands were calm and still pumping out wealth in sugar and spices, but he just couldn’t say no to Joséphine. Napoleon reinstated slavery and the ex-slaves in Haiti revolted. Napoleon sent an army but most of the soldiers died of Yellow fever. Haiti was lost. He saw that without Haiti as a base, the English in the next war would easily take over Louisiana. He had to sell Louisiana before the British took it. When the American envoys met Napoleon to discuss buying only New Orleans, they were flabbergasted when he proposed to sell them all of Louisiana. However he set two conditions, first it had to be an all-cash transaction and secondly, it had to be done quickly.

The US didn’t nearly have the $15 million Napoleon demanded. Our credit rating at the time was akin to Greece’s today. Enter Baring Brothers which was the Goldman Sachs of the time. They sold bonds to the British public to raise the hard cash but in the meantime, war between France and England had broken out again. The British prime minister pleaded with Baring Brothers to nix the deal but profits are profits so Baring Bros. went ahead. To get the money to Napoleon, Baring Bros. had to transfer it through an offshore banking center using a third party. That offshore banking center was Amsterdam.

Anonymous said...

The result was that the US doubled in size and started its march to the Pacific and beyond, Napoleon got some badly needed hard cash to finance his wars and Goldman Sachs, sorry, Baring Bros. pocketed a cool $3 million on a $15 million deal. The loser was Great Britain who lost its only way to contain the US expansion as well as losing out on acquiring valuable territory for colonization.

The important thing is that when you follow up the decision tree to the original, vital element, you find that the future of the world was radically changed because when Josephine smiled, Napoleon’s heart would melt.

LarryHart said...


On Monday, Donald Trump will address AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and a group of about 40 rabbis are organizing a boycott of the event. One of the leaders, Jeffrey Salkin of Florida said: "Jewish history teaches us that when hatred is unleashed, it takes on a life of its own." Trump's spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, responded that Trump is a strong supporter of Israel and has made significant contributions to Jewish causes over the years.

(emphasis mine)

Someone on the radio yesterday said that women voting for Trump would be the equivalent of "Jews for Hitler". It occurred to me that there probably were groups akin to "Jews for Hitler" in his early days, badly as that would turn out later. Two years ago, there were labor unions in Illinois who supported Bruce Rauner for governor because they felt let-down by Governor Quinn. They must feel a bit like "Jews for Hitler" would have by now.

LarryHart said...

Laurent Weppe:

The important thing is that when you follow up the decision tree to the original, vital element, you find that the future of the world was radically changed because when Josephine smiled, Napoleon’s heart would melt.

Kurt Vonnegut's "Deadeye Dick" has a character touring Europe before WWI (not II), befriending the young artist Hitler, and preventing him from starving.

I wonder how much of history really depends on such things.

Anonymous said...

Hobbits are profoundly not the very model of the modern military-industrial producer-consumer, for they do not like "machines more complicated than a forge-bellow, a water-mill, or a hand-loom." No mountaintop-removing mines attached to supply chains longer and deeper than the Endless Stair for them, oh no. This may, in part, help explain the low standing of the Lord of the Rings. One may also note that it was Saruman who introduced progress and industry to Rohan and the Shire; modern disciples of that same passenger-pigeon extirpating progress can hardly oppose Saruman while cheering on precisely the same relentless resource extration and development as Orthanc saw. Strike two against Lord of the Rings. For strike three, the "have your cake and eat it and the leftovers, too!" school of thought dovetails nicely with the rejection of plain white for all the colours and sizings and options and accessories and trimmings embraced by—you guessed it—both Saruman and the modern military-industrial producer-consumer. Life in the Faust lane, so to speak. If you do not do so already, it may be educational to walk to an Interstate, and sample the water, observe the soil, smell the air, and ponder whether that experience is more akin to the gardens of Ithilien, or somewhere else in Middle Earth.

Acacia H. said...

Anon, I wasn't talking about technological progress in LotR. Tolkien was decidedly against technology in the series. For that matter, he was also rather against magic - for instance, the Palintyr (or however they're spelled) in Gondor is corrupted so all it shows is burning hands, while the ones in Mordor are assumed lost. So really, once the elves and Gandalf leave Middle Earth, magic pretty much fades away. (We never did hear about what happened to the Blues, while our hippy wizard was pro-wildlife and avoided humans anyway so he's not about to teach any humans magic.)

No, I was talking about was government with the Hobbits. I'd forgotten about the Thain being a form of nobility (I've slowly been working through it, but I've not read the end with retaking the Shire in over a decade), but Samwise becoming mayor and Pippin and Merry leaders of their own family-clans is mentioned in the appendices and it suggests a tendency toward democracy among hobbits.

Interestingly, Dale had an elected monarchy with Bard being elected leader for having killed Smaug. In the movie at least it was suggested Bard was descended from the lineage of Dale's rulers, but I've not been able to read The Hobbit (it is entirely too sparse for my liking - in some ways it feels like an early draft of a later novel) to determine if that was the case in the books. (And in any event after Dale was restored, Bard's line continued to rule without being elected to power.)

Going off on a tangent, while the Robert Jordan "Wheel of Time" series was entirely too unwieldy and needed massive editing through the middle, one thing that was interesting was when Perrin met with Faile's parents... who had no concerns that he was a blacksmith. Because the line of kings started with someone who was not of noble birth but rather someone who stepped forward and did what needed to be done, and then took on a leadership role as a result. That could be said as to how Bard became king of Dale... and for that matter how Aragorn came back from exile to become King of Gondor - he saved the city from the forces of Mordor and the existing government was in shambles.

For that matter, Samwise became mayor because the existing government of the Shire was in disarray after Saruman's takeover, and he was the visible hero retaking the Shire.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...


Another lesson to learn from Napoleon is to never elect someone who is madly in love with his wife, mistress or whatever because he will fuck you just to keep in her good graces.

LarryHart said...


...unless you can get the wife to be madly in love with you. Then you've got it made!

(Until he finds out, that is)

Alfred Differ said...

@David: I'm a firm believer in the role authors play in augmenting the compression algorithm that is a spoken language. For example, when someone leaves the team at work, we go out and have a couple beers. If one us us mentions that he has to ask his wife first, I tell him to check with his dit.wife first before bothering the rig. I'll mention your book if he looks confused. It's amazing how much trouble at home can be avoided by checking with the copy first. 8)

I didn't get to read Kiln People until after I had read Hofstadter's books, so by that time I had a different perspective on your work. I interpreted your standing waves as emergent structures from recursion and the laser made sense in context.

David Brin said...

Lloyd Flack: Eurrope’s defensive depth got MUCH deeper when Russia lost Ukraine from its sphere of influence. That loss is never, ever mentioned by those screeching “Crimea! Syria! Putin’s a genius!”

Sorry Laurent, but study Napoleon’s battles. He was very very very smart… and fell into very human traps.

Napoleon would have had little to fear from a British expeditionary force in Turkey. And liberating Greece would have been huge public relations. And there’s no snow.

Deuxglass your details re Haiti and Louisiana mesh with mine. The racist refusal to extend the revolution to Haiti was multiple ways ironic.

Jumper said...

Thanks, Deauxglass, for good reading.

LarryHart said...

re: tribalism

Liberals like myself often make the mistake that everybody is comfortable with and tolerant of differences--that even the racists know that they are behaving shamefully. The ones who are not like us then inevitably resent the attitude, which is why it feels good (to them) when a Trump "tells it like it is".

The reverse is also true. Tribalists like Treebeard make the equal and opposite mistake in thinking that everybody is most comfortable surrounded only by "their own kind"--that even the tolerant liberals know they are lying for ideology's sake when they pretend to consider others as equals. Their assumptions are just as wrong as the ones they rail against.

Thus, Trump only "tells it like it is" from a certain point of view. He is no more an objective truth-teller than is Ayn Rand or Hillary Clinton.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "LarryHart said...
Laurent Weppe:

That's not me! Deuxglass is the Napoleon fanboy who blames everything on Josephine


* "Sorry Laurent, but study Napoleon’s battles. He was very very very smart…"

I'm not saying Napoleon wasn't a capable general: I'm saying he sucked at politics that Thomas Dumas surpassed him both in martial prowesses (granted, part of it came from the fact that he was a goddamn Terminator who could win entire battles on his lonesome) and in political acumen: whereas Napoleon foolishly went from one war of conquest to the next, Dumas realized from the onset that allowing military exactions in the name of expediency would jeopardize the Revolution.

So I'll cast my vote on Alexandre's dad at the True Great Man of the French Revolution.

Jumper said...

I don't even think people are capable on a sufficient level to even determine intelligently who's like them or not. Visual and stylistic factors confuse the dull.

Anonymous said...

Laurent Weppe,

I am not a Napoleon fanboy and I just blamed Josephine for only one thing and not all the errors he made. Napoleon was a total cynic and saw both sides in the Revolution as equally vicious, stupid and self-serving. Read his letters after the Battle of the Tulleries. After the Napoleonic Wars, France was totally exhausted both economically and morally. It took Her 30 years to come back and She never regained Her former dominate position on the continent. Napoleon was bad for France in the medium and long-term. Nevertheless he was a man like Julius Caesar (there are striking similarities between them), very flawed but they both made history in a big way.

A.F. Rey said...

Article, The Genealogy of American Demagoguery. Sounds like the latest stage of the Civil War started with George Wallace.

Alfred Differ said...

@jumper: Taking swipes at Malthus is enjoyable to me. I remember being taught to fear the population bomb, so I think the partial failure and success of arguments supported by Malthus is instructive. HOW the arguments fail should give biologists concern.

I agree that there is some masking going on regarding starvation and other things we’d rather not believe. I get a snoot full of this every year when I have to do the human trafficking training required of all DoD staff. Slavery isn’t gone or even suppressed much. We’ve managed to remove the economic incentive to possess others for many activities, but not all. While I’m usually in a foul mood after the training class and want to shoot the people still doing it, I calm down later with the realization that they can’t usually make use of government to protect them. That is progress and I’ll take it.

I’m doubtful that the stalling of population growth is going to kill economic growth, though. It WILL stall the growth of the tax base, but there are still a bazillion problems for entrepreneurs to solve and people willing to pay them to do it.

Acacia H. said...

Except in the case of for-profit prisons in the United States where people are tossed into jail and forced to work in a company store situation, and the prisons can sue states that fail to keep sufficient numbers of prisoners to populate their factory-prisons. Oh, and these same private prisons lobby extensively against legalization of marijuana because that would reduce drug convictions and their work base.

Slavery has once more reared its head in the United States. It has dressed itself in the cloak of Law and Order. And the primary source of prisoner-slaves? Blacks and other minorities.

Funny, that.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

@Rob H: Yup. You know what to do if you serve on a jury that can impact this, right? 8)

David Brin said...

Weird. It seems that Donald Trump performed the best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.

Paul451 said...

Duncan Cairncross said...
Re: Streamlining doctor's visits.
"All of the patients get seen by the nurse (probably needs a different title)"

"Physician's assistant". Already a profession.

(I agree with your assessment. I'd prefer your system. I mean, for prescription renewals, referrals to other specialists, etc, it would be a boon. However, I've noticed that doctors cling to their privileges like pitbulls, even while complaining about overwork on trivial routine issues leading to short consult times for complex cases.)

AF Rey / LarryHart,
Re: Top-two open primaries.

At some point this just turns the primary into a low-turnout general election, and the current general election into a run-off election. Parties will then create another layer of selection before the primary to choose candidates for that new pseudo general election.

In which case, you might as well bite the bullet and switch over to either a IRV/ranking or an approval/scoring voting system.

Paul451 said...

"In short, we need to increase the number of representatives according to the Constitution. Another approximately 10,300 Representatives need to be elected."

10,000 people debating legislation? Making amendments? No. That is way too many people to work practically, even using tele-conferencing remote-attendance. At some point they are no longer Representatives, you've merely created a two stage direct-democracy system. You'd still need a smaller group to do the actual "sausage-making" of writing of the legislation; referenda can't really replace that.

However... I'll throw in my own preference for a renewed variant of the Venetian Doge election/sortion hybrid. Your 10,000+ Representatives would simply be the first pool. Group them into 100-200 equal-population (potentially multi-state) super-districts. Each group of 50-100 or so Representatives would select/elect/draw a regional super-Representative via the Venetian system to work in the (now smaller) House.

If it works even half as well as the Venetian system seemed to, you'd have a vastly improved quality of House (super) Reps, and vastly less partisanship at that level.

Note the Constitutional cheat: the guys physically sitting in the House are not the "House Representatives", they merely represent the 10,000+ true Representatives. There doesn't seem to be any Constitutional language preventing Representatives from proxying their vote to a super-Rep, nor a restriction on how that proxy is assigned. Article 1, S2, p5 seems to allow it. The super-Reps would be "officers".

The Speaker could likewise be chosen the same way, but as a single "Doge" starting from the entire 10,000+ Reps; which would (judging by the Venetian example) result in them selecting a widely respected "wise elder".

Perhaps committee assignments could be doled out the same way. You could even have a different group of super-Reps for the committees, they wouldn't need to be drawn from the same 100-200 super-Reps selected to vote on legislation/etc. You could have "legislative officers", "oversight officers", even a separate group of "budget officers" than the legislative ones. I mean, the skill for writing and negotiating laws is going to be different from the skills for agency oversight, from the skills for creating/negotiating a budget, from the skills for investigative hearings, etc. With 10,000 people to draw from, there's no reason to skimp.

(I just noticed that, while Article 1 Section 3 paragraph 1 says "and each Senator shall have one Vote", there's no Constitutional equivalent for House Reps. You could rebalance the implicit gerrymander by giving Reps a vote proportional to the population of their district. I'm sure no-one would complain about that. ...What?)

Re: Sanders vs Clinton.

It's all over bar the shouting. While Sanders seems to be gaining in popularity the more people hear him, he's missed the window. Clinton learnt from the Obama victories and denied Sanders oxygen for too long. Sanders just isn't getting the turn-out he needs to flip states, unlike Obama. Disappointingly, this means that the Democrats overall are seeing low voter turn out; which bodes ill for the general election.

LarryHart said...


Re: Sanders vs Clinton.

It's all over bar the shouting.

I first read that as "It's all over but the shooting", which of course is the Republican primaries, not the Dems. :)

Disappointingly, this means that the Democrats overall are seeing low voter turn out; which bodes ill for the general election.

That's only the case if primary turn out prefigures General Election turnout. I'm thinking there is a "silent majority" of Democrats (not likely represented on internet comment sections) who don't have a great preference between Hillary or Bernie, but who will come out to vote for the Democratic nominee against Trump, Cruz, or Paul Ryan.

Look at it this way...what was the turnout at Democratic primaries four years ago? That didn't cause Obama to lose in November.

Likewise, if Hillary is the nominee, the states she loses to Bernie are not destined to be lost to a Republican in November.

locumranch said...

Russia won't have to invade Europe: They'll be invited in by Vichy French Surrender Monkeys like Hollande who would eagerly trade Putin's Iron Boot for the pending EU Muslim apocalypse , as they have already done in the case of Syria.

These self-same Vichy (who suspended French Democracy * & declared an 'État d'urgence' in response to a single terrorist attack against the Bataclan theatre 5 months ago) are so quick to condemn the State of Israel (which has been under siege by near-identical Muslim fundamentalists for greater than 50 years) as "white supremacists and fundamentalistic nuts", while simultaneously throwing themselves on the militant mercy of white supremacists nuts like Putin.

Cowards All, they cling to their Pro-Diversity platforms & flaunt their Moral Superiority as their countries descend into anarchy, against the time when they will turn to those self-same hated Nationalists for succour, as is their wont.

Not all Nationalists are Racists, nor are all Racists nationalists, nor are all Nationalists 'Hitler', because neither Vichy Cowards nor Islam are a 'Race'; Nationalism is as Nationalism DOES; and, Trump is no more a 'Hitler' than Sanders is .


Rather than being 'better', Canadian healthcare is 'different' than the US system. The Canadian system emphasises prevention & primary care more (which is cost-effective'), spending very little on aggressive last minute interventions like chemotherapy & dialysis, whereas the US system spends to little on both primary care & prevention, but pounds & pounds on last minute 'cures'. Canada is best for 'prevention of illness', but the US system is far superior for those with illness who desire a 'cure'.

David Brin said...

After a lurid and maniacal rant... he then signs over to a cogent elucidation of something that he actually knows something about. See why I cannot help some affection for the guy? Still, why not build the interventionist expensive US system ATOP a basic care and prevention system like Canada?

In fact, is that not ACTUALLY what Canada has? You can spend more for interventionist insurance in Canada. Meanwhile though, general health and calm service is taken care of in sensible and cost-saving ways. Now this. Democrats and liberals would vote for that NOW! Instantly. And goppers would screech commies! And refuse to negotiate a balanced mix of sensible solutions.

Given that Putin is accomplishing nothing against his own muslim problem, and he lost Ukraine and has a tanked economy and Russian women refuse to breed... um... I doubt the French are as surrenderist as you feel comfy proclaiming. In fact, the French have been cooperating with NATO exercises and planning betterthan at any time since the Berlin Airlift/.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Guys
Apparently "Swarm Troopers" is free today and tomorrow

I thought it was a very interesting book - excellent in fact - but I had to buy my copy!

Paul SB said...

I've been too busy to keep up, but I've been trying. There are a lot of interesting things being discussed (not to mention some of the usual witless wind whistling through leafless branches), but I only have a little time to comment (and I imagine Alfred can already guess what that will be).

Famous names from long ago are easy to drop, but it is also very easy to do this anachronistically. Father Thomas Malthus lived and wrote centuries ago, and while he was an innovative (if cynical) thinker for his time, his ideas have not been simply and slavishly parroted for these past couple centuries. The father of demography is not the children of demography, nor the grandchildren, etc. Some of his ideas have been confirmed by generations of specialists in multiple fields, and other have been disconfirmed by at least tens of thousands. Modern demography is about as Malthusian as modern psychology is Freudian - though perhaps not in the popular imagination. Genetics is way past Mendel, Evolution has evolved beyond Darwin, Western religion isn't quite the Cult of Baal anymore. There are certainly important underpinnings, but it is pretty simplistic to assume that you know the state of the science because you know its ancestors.

I read the little article Dr. Brin linked to about the Caucasian death rate. It's not hard to see this in terms of K. The economic system of rural America simply can't support the number of people in it - not, at least, if they remain inflexible and unwilling to adapt - thus the fact that most of Trump's supporters are among those who have very little education. High rates of addiction to dangerous drugs, suicide rates, alcoholism, unsafe sex practices (which really track addiction) and out-migration are indicators that the J-curve for that economic system has overshot K. That does not mean that K could not change, but that would require people to change their lives, and many people are unwilling to do that (the very definition of conservative - or what Bush II called being a 'dead-ender").

Paul SB said...

I forget to say - as my daughter was nagging me to get pet food right away - that although I disagree with Alfred about his easy dismissal of a very useful concept, I agree with him that the dire predictions coming from economists about shrinking populations are misconstrued. Much of the world is in for a period of adjustment, and that adjustment could go well or it could go badly, but we can't simply assume that the aging baby-boomers are an unqualified disaster. Certainly the next 30 years will see unprecedented growth in medical fields, which will create job opportunities, especially for those who are not unwilling to educate themselves. There will be other problems for clever people to find solutions for - as Alfred says. There will also be plenty of opportunity for scam artists to prey on that aging population. But exactly what the future holds can't be predicted. The Demographic Transition hasn't been going on for long enough to effectively use past experience to model future trends (one of Erhlich's mistakes in writing "The Population Bomb").

Optimism or pessimism? How about a dose of humility - a willingness to admit that we don't know what we don't know.

David Brin said...



Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

You said "In fact, is that not ACTUALLY what Canada has? You can spend more for interventionist insurance in Canada. Meanwhile though, general health and calm service is taken care of in sensible and cost-saving ways. Now this. Democrats and liberals would vote for that NOW! Instantly. And goppers would screech commies! And refuse to negotiate a balanced mix of sensible solutions."

I agree completely with what you say. I think that there are only two really important issues in this election that most people want settled, the economy and true healthcare reform. All other issues are secondary in this election. The candidate that can convince voters on those two issues will have across the board support from both démocrate and republican voters. Sanders is strong in the area but Clinton is not. She is too tied to Obamacare to change it. She can only tweak it a bit when what we need is a deep reform that every developed country has instituted and has shown to work. Trump is an unknown, but if he makes deep healthcare reform a major issue, people will give him the benefit of the doubt because of his business experience. Clinton would get killed on this issue.

I sincerely wish for a brokered convention on the Democrat side. Clinton is a huge liability now but who will be the white knight?