Saturday, May 14, 2016

Will some conservatives support Clinton? Or a third party run?

 == A newer generation of rationalizer gets it ==

Out of all the post-Indiana-mortems, expressing stages of grief among sane or quasi-sane U.S. conservatives, probably the most realistic and helpful is offered up by Jennifer Rubin, who proposes a two phase approach: “Stop Trump, then remake conservative politics.”  

Meaning this senior conservative columnist urges any not-insane republicans out there to hold your noses and help elect Ms. Clinton... and even a new democratic majority in Congress… then take the GOP ashes, stir them, and come up with a new plan for the movement. A model better suited to the 21st Century. Perhaps even a conservatism that no longer drives away all of the scientists and other knowledge folks.

Ms. Rubin offers examples proposed by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) and others and concludes:

“Somewhere in that mix are the contours of a platform that is contemporary and conservative and for which there is arguably a broader demographic and geographic appeal. It should not include (for there is no political appetite for these things, and they are unattainable and/or unwise from a policy standpoint): opposition to gay rights; large tax cuts for the rich; protectionism; expelling women from combat in a volunteer army; rooting gays out of the military; obsessing over bathroom assignments; fixating on local ordinances about wedding services; keeping the status quo on entitlements; cutting out (as opposed to reforming) the safety net; never, ever raising taxes on anyone; and mass deportation.”

“…Along with all of this, conservatives have to end their intellectual isolation and self-delusions. They need to stop pretending that climate change is not occurring (the extent and the proposed solutions can be rationally discussed) or imagining that there is a market for pre-New-Deal-size government. Conservatives must end their infatuation with phony news, crank conspiracy theories, demonization of well-meaning leaders and mean rhetoric. It’s time to grow up, turn off Sean Hannity, get off toxic social media and start learning about the world as it is. (Read a book authored by someone without a talk show, spend time with non-Republicans, take an online course in economics.) Confirmation bias has become pathological.”

To be clear about the source: Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn conservative column for the Washington Post. Indeed, over the years her apologias have helped to justify the "see no evil" refusal of decent folks on that side to admit their "side" has been hijacked. Of course it was, long before Trump, who is merely channeling and focusing the inchoate rage stoked by Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity and the rest. 

They are now like characters in a Tex Avery cartoon who have obstinately charged ten paces beyond the edge of a cliff and now face a dawning realization that they... must... look... down...

 Still, confessions like this one offer hope! A germ-line or seed stock for a sane conservatism that might grow from the coming self-immolation. A new, more grownup version that can ditch the never-ever-negotiate “Hastert Rule” concocted by the GOP’s perverted former headman, in the 1990s. A new version capable of noticing, at last, that Supply Side "voodoo economics" has failed every predictive test and cannot ever work as anything but a destroyer of markets. 

A new version of conservatism that might instead become a worthy partner in negotiations about moving ahead, across the 21st Century.  

Only first? Before you can stir and seed those fertile ashes… the current lunacy must burn down.

== New Directions? ==

Oh, we are in for fascinating times. For example: Trump veers to suggesting more tax on the rich? Okay, open question: can you name anyone else who predicted this, as I did, repeatedly, going back to last year?  Just askin'. There will be several populist Reset Surprises during the Clinton-Trump debates, I promise.

Oh, but see how the tenor has changed re President Obama's recent appointment to the Supreme Court: Suddenly, a wave of conservatives are calling for the Senate to confirm Merrick Garland, lest Prez Hillary pick someone both more liberal and younger. Or President-for-Duration Trump goes for gonzo appointments.

Hey, I have no objections to GOP senators deciding suddenly to do their jobs. But... But what was all that guff about "let's let the next president choose"? Hypocrisy after hypocrisy, on down the line. 

Okay, let's zoom in. The logic behind some elements of the right supporting Hillary Clinton is clear:

1) If Trump wins the presidency he will re-forge the GOP, top to bottom, in a replacement purge not seen since the Night of the Long Knives. The party of Rupert Murdoch will be no more.

2) The oligarchs' investments are in serious danger amid a Trump instability. They know that democratic presidents administer well and run smooth executive government, and that economic outcomes are always, always vastly better across democratic administrations. Self-interest can "trump" dogmatism. 

3) Also, growing radicalism in both parties would frighten any smart mogul. The brightest are probably resigned to reforms like an end to Supply Side Voodoo and full regulation of Wall Street and a Court that shatters gerrymandering and Citizens United. With Clinton, they’ll be heard enough to negotiate over the details, hoping that incrementalism will fix the mess they made.

(Yes, I know that angers some of you Sandersites, out there. But history shows incrementalism can lead to more incrementalism.  Look up a fellow named Franklin Delano Roosevelt.)

4) The GOP moguls will be pouring cash into congressional campaigns and especially keeping state assemblies red. If they lose those once, they lose many of them forever. 

Hence there will be arguments over how to get Trump-hating conservatives to the polls.  A third party campaign? Possibly. See this article about desperate backroom efforts, as we speak: "If they are serious, they have only a couple of weeks to launch a credible bid. But these Republicans — including commentators William Kristol and Erick Erickson and strategists Mike Murphy, Stuart Stevens and Rick Wilson — are so repulsed by the prospect of Trump as commander in chief that they are desperate to take action."

(Quick litmus of seriousness... are they hiring the consultants that Michael Bloomberg used, before he dropped all thought of a third party run?  Are they approaching Bloomberg himself?)

But I am betting these efforts will collapse.  A far more likely gambit: the Kochs will pour money into the Libertarian Party, even though it's hopeless and they cannot control likely nominee Gary Johnson. Because a push for the LP may get a few million more Trump-skeptical Republicans to the polls.

5) Want the biggest reason some goppers will support Clinton? History shows it is very hard for a party to keep the presidency for three terms. Post FDR, only Reagan-Bush did it. But the score is zero for four straight terms. Hence, I bet some of the GOP moguls are already looking to 2020, deeming it a shoe-in for their chosen boy, likely Paul Ryan. Meanwhile they'll be pumping vitamins into Justices Roberts, Alito and Thomas.

But to get there, they must keep Trumpism from seizing the party and transforming it into something populist, uncontrollable and hostile to oligarchy. Hence they may view HC as a bearable place-holder - and to get through it they must sacrifice things like Supply Side, that have run their course and now threaten the health of the republic and to radicalize the nation.

The alternative - Unite the Party! 

Craven, much? Congressional leaders rushing to make nice with Donald Trump

Look, the logical elements that I laid out in the previous section will be clear, as well, to a sharp mind like Donald Trump's.  He will be making deals and promises to prevent all of it!

Even more telling? 

The masters of the masters of Macao's casino empire have okayed their bag-man, Sheldon Adelson, to channel millions into Trump-supporting super-PACs. Don't you believe for a minute that all the cash he's conveying is his own.  He is way too smart for that. 

The amazing thing is how easy it seems, for foreign powers to launder money through casino "profits" and convenient front men to influence U.S. politics. I mean, what are the odds that I'm the first to think of it?  Nil.

== Hypocrisy abounds ==

We mentioned him earlier, regarding his famous "rule" forbidding any republican office holder from ever negotiatint with the opposition over anything, even national needs. Now...

Among the prominent Republicans who still support convicted liar and revealed child molester Dennis Hastert: count convicted electoral cheater Tom DeLay, weepy tobacco spokesman John Boehner, plus Ayn Rand fanatic and perfectly accomplishment-free Paul Ryan… these are the annointed leaders of the legislative wing of the Republican Party, across the last 20 years, overseeing the most radically partisan and by-far laziest U.S. Congresses in a century, passing less legislation and holding fewer hearings than almost any other. (Though holding a record number of fundraisers.) 

By comparison, Newt Gingrich - though twice divorced and a (shudder) science fiction author - was a comparative giant, who - between bouts of lunatic culture war - actually strove to negotiate some pragmatic bills to move the nation forward. And hence they crushed him.  A giant. By comparison, that is. So is Tyrion Lannister. Compared to Lannisters.

This is what you get, when the majority party in Congress is content to do almost nothing, in the laziest, most corrupt and worthless national legislatures in a century. “The North American bison is the national mammal of the United States.” Yippee. Obsessed with symbolic nonsense like this, GOP senators and reps have also obsessed on the minutia of naming Naval Vessels in as petty and spiteful a fashion possible.  


Treebeard said...

So basically this Rubin is arguing that Republicans should get back on the reservation, be good Demopublicans and play their part in the Globalist Uniparty game that has been giving middle America the finger for decades, and we should continue voting for them. No thanks, I'll take my chances with Trump.

Also note that Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos, and Bezos is apparently concerned that Trump has said amazon might have anti-trust issues, so we can expect a lot of anti-Trump hit pieces from them, along with the rest of the old media.

The axis that matters going forward isn't left vs. right, but globalist vs. nationalist. For a long time, we had a globalist uniparty with two wings; Trump is offering the possibility of nationalism that is neither left nor right, and it's about time. If neocon pseudo-conservative frauds like Rubin are fleeing back to the Democratic party where they began, I say good riddance to them.

David Brin said...

That was actually well-expressed! For drooling-insipid paranoic delusional silliness, that is. Someone's been taking vitamins.

Pierce said...

Well, I said Trump would alter course on taxing the rich, but only as part of a hypothetical wherein I was trying to illustrate how he's going to put pressure on down-ticket candidates to choose a side. Mostly I was basing this on the description of the titular subjects' rise to power in Alan Bullock's excellent Hitler and Stalin—while they were worlds apart politically, at least in the formalities, they shared a flexibility in their tactics. Hitler kept ever option open, except an actual putsch; Stalin hid his resentment and need for recognition, and became the master of taking over the infrastructure and wooing the younger generation of Communist leaders while his rivals worried about intellectual and philosophical matters. I had also just read a Thomas Frank column at on how Trump was using ordinary Americans' dissatisfaction with recent trade agreements in his rhetoric.

I posted it on Facebook. I think three friends liked it. Your predictions may have more reach.

Dominic said...

I can see many semi-sane conservatives decrying the fact that Trump has taken over their wingnut farming outlets, but like they said a few years ago "they built it," Trump just took it over. He may be a bully and buffoon and a complete raging arsehole, but he knows how reality TV works and most US cable news is essentially reality TV now, and he of all people knows how to deal with TV reality hosts.

Besides if republicans put aside the bigotry, the anti intellectualism, the fanatical devotion for tax cuts for the rich and all the hatred and meanness they've developed for the last couple of decades they'd have nothing left. Take that away and you're left with a blue dog conservative democrat.

Earl Tower said...

I still think if the conservative movement in American would bother to resurrect the progressive conservatism of Theodore Roosevelt, revamp it for modern times, just like Dwight Eisenhower did, then the conservatives would have most of the answers to American's modern problems socially and fiscally. Unfortunately, the leading lights of the self called conservatives are the so called 'social conservatives' who seem to have trouble understanding their own logic or seeing past the end of their nose.

Jumper said...

Tying Rubin to Bezos is fatuous nonsense. Rubin was there long before Bezos came along, and is known mainly for half-baked right-wing propaganda that always spins right-wing Israel's way.
The Kochs will punt, hoping to move the Overton window a few yards reliably and crank up the ratchet more later.

Tom Crowl said...

This is just anecdotal... I don't comment too often on news sites. But I couldn't resist.

From Politico...
Ben Sasse under fire
The Nebraska senator has become the most prominent elected Republican to embrace the “#NeverTrump” movement.

My comment:

"I believe we're seeing the beginning of the collapse of both Party Establishments. It won't happen overnight but its coming. The NeoCon/NeoLib groupthink which dominates both Washington, Media and Finance will be slow to realize it and will not likely go easy. But its coming."

Agree or not its interesting that it got 25 "thumbs up" within hours. Most comments were from Repubs... essentially "yeah... screw Sasse" or "screw Trump"... and not really any disagreement with the basic assertion. (and sadly, the level of debate to the extent it exist at all is abysmal which is why I generally don't comment on those things._

But I take it as a fairly minor indicator that these problems are deeper than realized. (I get similar results on Facebook and the Democrat's side. I believe these problems are deeper than realized on both sides.

Btw, I know you have some feeling about this as well... But I honestly don't know how to answer the question "Are you liberal or conservative?"

What is that supposed to mean?

Tradition vs. change?
Authoritarian vs. non-authoritarian?
Big gov vs. small gov?
interventionist vs. non-interventionist?


How the heck does one answer that question? In what context? What function of government? What level of government? In what circumstance?

I know people have a tendency to identify one way or another... and I know Parties aren't going away. But I really wish they would. It really confuses debate and thinking.

For instance in your previous post on religion a few were curious about how some can take the same religion and be so evil and others so good.

I contend that ALL such intellectual constructs can virtually be rationalized into pretty much anything. Hence while they have utility as guidelines that are useless w/o being strictly connected to measurable results.

Let's take Walmart... largest employer in the country.

The Walton's make billions... and the employees get food stamps.

In a very practical sense... this is a result of a myriad of 'compromises' between Repubs and Dems (overly simplified: Repubs pro Biz... Dems pro worker)

But the result is a system which conforms to NO rational economic or political logic of any stripe. And in the long run is very bad for the economy and politics (in my opinion)...

Yet... satisfies the needs of both Parties' and citizens' interests... BADLY... for a time.

Yes, Dems are better than Repubs... but the result is bad nevertheless. I contend its worse longterm... and is a result of the parameters of debate being narrowed because of big money... and is ultimately bad for BOTH conservatives and liberals.

(and I believe its hurt the Dems and liberals more)

If for no other reason that is tends to discredit both... as we're seeing now.

LarryHart said...


Trump is offering the possibility of nationalism that is neither left nor right, and it's about time.

Following in Hitler's footsteps.

If neocon pseudo-conservative frauds like Rubin are fleeing back to the Democratic party where they began, I say good riddance to them.

First of all, I'm surprised you seem to speak for the Republican Party instead of a complete disaffected outsider. But to the extent that you are speaking for the Republican Party, you've been "good riddancing" everyone for the past three decades, until not only Eric Cantor and John Boener, but even Paul Ryan are considered RINOs. The serpent really is eating its own tail, and it won't be long before the one remaining Republican (no doubt wearing a Reagan mask) will have to turn out the lights.

David Brin said...

Sorry Ton C I refuse all attempts to make parallels between the Dems' situation and the GOP's. It does not wash at any level.

Sure, the dems are ASSOCIATED with a vague "left"... though the vast majority are economically mild liberals who want capitalism to function and stop drifting toward oligarchy. But that does not explain a thing about the comparison to the GOP's recent dive down a rabbit hole, wherein the "moderate" -- a fanatic right wing Bushite John Kasich -- was unable to garner 15% against two tsunamis of crazy.

No. "They are similar" is just drivel. There is only one mapping that explains it all. Union versus Confederacy. It maps almost perfectly.

Tom Crowl said...

Here's another way to view what I see as the problem driving this political disillusionment.

Both Parties virtually always claim... with what I believe is at least some sincerity... that one of their most important goals is to grow and strengthen the middle class...and have been marketing on that goal for decades.

And any kind of objective look at it has to conclude that this somehow hasn't gone as intended.

Maybe if they could claim that "Well that meteor strike that wiped out Los Angeles has made it harder for everybody." we could understand.

But that's not the case... rather its been a massive re-distribution to the political class and their moneyed supporters! (this is real and measurable).


SO how could this have happened? It wasn't a conspiracy. I actually believe that most on both sides actually believed that the middle class would grow.

W/o objective goals and targets.. which when not met prompt serious review and an honest consideration about where the problem lies.

David, I've repeatedly said I believe that the Dems are better than the Repubs. But I will continue to say that they are UNABLE to fight with sufficient strength against the forces of concentration BECAUSE of their dependence on big money donors... whatever their ideals and intentions.

And I assert if that dependency was ended... results would be very different.

I guess we'll see what happens and how it evolves over time.

Tom Crowl said...

If the Dems weren't dependent on big money and could fight fire with fire:

Would income tax be more Progressive (like FDR understood was needed)
Would more infrastructure work have been done?
Would the income cap on Social Security contributions been higher?
Would the approach to tax havens been different?
Would we have private prisons?
Would we have had higher wages instead of Greenspan and cheap consumer credit?*

*Greenspan (et al) was the perfect economic fabulist for both sides for decades.

And what is the effect over time of those things NOT getting the heat they've needed and deserved?

Just some things to think about. But that's why I, like John Stewart...find myself more disappointed with the Democrats.

To touch on a Biblical parallel... They are the lost sheep... and cause me the greatest concern.

Tim H. said...

Not a good year for conservatism, "Third way Democrats" are looking more like third rail and conservatism is too tied to enormous money to take effective advantage. This may be their largest "Charlie Foxtrot" since the Democrats effectively ditched the new deal coalition and the Republicans couldn't find the intestinal fortitude to pick it all up, saving the Democrats from near oblivion.

David Brin said...

Baloney. Dems have been in no position to do a thing about any of that. They had Congress two out of the last 22 years and were frenetically busy during that time. A period when all the codes pushing money at least partly to the sidelines were erased by the Bushite supreme court. No, you are definitely in the "They're the same with teensy differences" cult, Tom.

Doug S. said...

As I've said before, the US does not have a liberal party and a conservative party. It has a conservative party pretending to be liberal and a crazy party pretending to be conservative.

Tom Crowl said...

This would be my advice to everybody... including myself... and everybody here.

Never let your ideology become your religion. Always assess goals and results... and then re-evaluate either your ideology... your methods of implementing it and promoting it... or both.

This is why science ISN'T an ideology... it constantly re-evaluates... and is based on evidence.

Now evidence is pretty clear that 'reward for innovation and hard work'... as well as good public infrastructure... are good ideas which produce good results.

And I know the Dems and most Repubs (except the complete luddites.. again I prefer Dems generally) understand and suppport that.

But here we are.

I don't believe that ideologies are the original root of this problem. Its about narrowly directed political heat (big money)... and its effect on political decision.

Flypusher said...

Seems to me the GOP has gone well past the odious Hasert Rule, not only do you not negotiate with the other party, you basically do nothing of substance lest that other party possibly get a bit of the credit. I'm very scornful of any GOPer who gripes about executive action on matters like immigration. So where is the legislation they drafted and then get vetoed? What, there isn't any, and your failure to do your jobs left a bit of a political vacuum?? And you're shocked that Obama acted after you declined to do so? You can't figure out that repeatedly voting to repeal the ACA without actually drafting a replacement isn't working? How many years have you had to work on this?

I have heard a few sane GOPers say that they will vote for Hillary because Trump is an unqualified disaster. There may be more who will do so without admitting to it. But the lack of enthusiasm among some of Trump's supposed supporters is both pathetic and hilarious. The speech given by TX governor Abbott at the state GOP convention was a prime example. He dropped quite a few names- those of Obama and Clinton quite frequently, as those scary liberal bogey-people who WILL TAKE YER GUNS !!!!!!! And also Ted Cruz as that valiant warrior for real conservative values who fought the good fight, but came up short. But need anyone guess whose name he didn't say? What verbal gymnastic routines will these hypocrites come up with to deal with questions about the Presidential nominee who must not be named?? I expect to be very entertained. But also terrified, as long as there is a greater than zero chance of that vulgar man-child actually being elected.

Tom Crowl said...


"Dems have been in no position to do a thing about any of that."

Of course they haven't! (please, I'm very much a realist)

But... and you may disagree... but I believe that's because they found no replacement for the money from labor that the unions and more local political organizations once offered (I'm sure you've seen the movie "The Last Hurrah" with Spencer Tracy lamenting the death of neighborhood based politics)

The loss of that dependency is bad for the political balance.

This weakened their ability to both promote and implement those sorts of ideas.. and their ability to fight interests on the other side.

So the repeatedly "compromised" in ways that have increased concentration and relied on identity politics instead of argument... so as to keep getting the money to support their elections at every level.

This is very much behind my belief in the need for technologies to provide a pathway for replacement for that moneyed support which does not depend on the Lessig approach which I don't believe will work as hoped if it should ever happen at all (which I doubt)

And they're very foolish not to realize that. If they can't ban money from politics (and they can't) then they need to do an end run.

This is actually necessary for a better and saner business sectro. FDR understood that you had to balance forces within the society (i.e. listen to the bottom in that case)... in order to save the top.

The top is very well listened to.

Laurent Weppe said...

From the previous comments section:

* "That's the flaw in the argument that we (white westerners) are losing the reproductive arms race to Latinos/Muslims/whoever, and that our only hope is to crank out more babies than they do. The underlying assumptions are that the babies stay within the fold."

Remember that "The Mongels/Plebs are outbreeding us!" crowds do not want the children of immigrants/minorities to resemble their own: well integrated Latinos/Muslims/whoever become competitors with the skills and knowledge to earn a chunk of the global wealth much larger than their parents', which is anathema to racist nutjobs who want the children of the downtrodden to remain downtrodden: that's why many Europeans freaked out and started supporting genocidal antisemitic demagogues when Jews started leaving the ghettos, why french racists target the successful children of arabic immigrants the most often, why many White Americans felt an existential dread when an obviously smarter than them black man said "I'll be the next US president"...
Telling racists that integration is working is not going to reassure them: they are pissed because integration is working and the number of successful migrants is on the rise.


* "Except that Iain Banks’s Culture Series and many others show how you can have a gentle and kindly INNER civilization while maintaining lots and lots of invigorating challenges at the periphery."

Isn't the Culture more of the gentle and kinky kind, though?
More seriously, the Culture isn't the best of examples, since they should have sublimed millennia ago, yet muleheadedly refuse to face that challenge and prefer to remain in their own comfort zone: the tiny corner of the universe where they are the strongest by default after all the civilizations more advanced than themselves left.

Tom Crowl said...


"Sorry Ton C I refuse all attempts to make parallels between the Dems' situation and the GOP's"

I can only suggest taking another look at that... though there are certainly differences in their specific situations... and differences in the degree of fragmentation...

If for no other reason that its at least curious that Trump and Sanders are both only nominally connected to the Parties they're running with (either ideologically or historically) and both are catalyzing considerable excitement on many of the same issues (trade, money in politics, constituents feeling ignored, distrust of political institutions)

it seems to me that there are some parallels. I think they're neither meaningless nor temporary.

But... you know... evidence! We'll see what happens in the next few years. And I'll listen to the evidence.

@financequant said...

Either a to-Clinton- or a to-Libertarian-vote strategy accomplishes the same thing: Stopping Trump. Given the strategic objective of bringing down the GOP so it can be cleaned out and reborn, the to-Libertarian-vote approach appears more effective because, although Clinton wins, she does not win with an inflated level of support that might give her more power in office. As a political independent I fully agree with your criticisms of the GOP but find little in the Democratic Party to generate much attraction. When both alternatives are unacceptable, questions of preference become irrelevant.

Alfred Differ said...

@treebeard: Trump is offering you no such thing. Political promises are worth less than toilet paper because one still has a use later.

Ask some 2008 Obama supporters. I saw them sell themselves a plate of election hype du jour.

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch: (1) Fecundity springs from Chaos, (2) Sterility results from Order and (3) All Things Creative & Vital arise from the Interplay & Conflict between the two.

This isn't going to convince a lot of people who do not see Order in the crystalline sense you are probably imagining. Order need not imply rigidity for many of us. It's even worse when one deal with the connotations of Chaos. If there are no rules you don't get much beyond a fizzing sound except by very rare accidents.

Order need not imply periodicity, rigidity, or even predictability. All one needs is Rule coupled to a Boundary Condition Set. If the set elements aren't just right, it is easy to describe an indeterminate universe leading to Order within Chaos within Order within...

Alfred Differ said...

@Tom Crowl: Good intentions from both sides are fine and likely to be real, but their failure has been discussed for many years among the libertarians. We refer to both parties as statists and understand that they can't see the forest for the trees.

Fortunately, the middle class has been pretty good at helping itself no matter who governs. No doubt the bourgeousie could do with some help that includes terminating enforcement of stupid ideas and supporting smart ones, but what those are depends on one's views. I'd start with looking at the ideas we are trying to end-run and putting a knife in them (e.g. The Drug War).

I may be too much of an optimist on this, but I'm not that worried about big money anymore. We seem to be developing a kind of immune response to it. What I'd prefer to focus upon is what the bourgeous are doing relative to that state we've built. I'm inclined to listen to the wisdom of my neighbors once they reach consensus. I might not agree with them, but I think we SHOULD listen.

Alfred Differ said...

@treebeard again:
In general, I'd say without gods human civilization is in uncharted waters. So far, the results don't look too encouraging (see Communism). Those who make triumphal claims about religion's inevitable demise might not like where that would take us.

You should back up in your history a bit. The European trend away from faiths showed its face in the 17th century after wars of religion left many believers either dead or disillusioned. Look at the English Civil War for example. You'll find some of the folks who started it did so over religious differences with their king. Two decades later, they were horrified by the forces they'd help unleash. The trend really got going in the 18th century, though. They went so far as to try to demolish a whole wing of philosophical theory involving virtues and ethics adopting instead a simplistic mono-virtue approach instead. We are still dealing with the consequences. Look around at how many people believe our markets can't be about anything more than prudence... by definition. Pfft!

I think Western civilization is still free-riding to a large degree on its Judeo-Christian foundations, and as Nietzsche predicted, when those are more fully destroyed, things will get rather crazy. I sometimes think of this as the Wile E. Coyote civilization: it has jumped off a cliff and hangs over an abyss, and thinks it's all upward to the stars from here.

Meh. Western Civ's intelligentsia tried to wash away a lot of that foundation long ago. They didn't do it completely, though, which in my opinion makes Nietzsche a doom and gloom predictor with a weak premise.

I DO like your Wile E Coyote analogy, but it seems to me like he sucked in a lot of helium before jumping and is falling into the sky instead. Shortly before stepping off that cliff, the richest people on Earth had a life expectancy of less than four decades that has now doubled. Shortly before he jumped, the VAST majority of people lived on a modern equivalent of $3/day, but most today do far better. No doubt this wasn't his intent. Flying too high, after all, is obviously dangerous. Surely something must go wrong!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

I must apologize to you because I got the idea about the “name all the animals and fowl” from a video of yours I saw several months ago. I should have credited it to you in the beginning. I just used your idea and took it to what I saw to be the logical conclusion.

You asked me to write a bit more about my development experience and so I will. When I was there, I sometimes found myself in truly absurd situations and this is one of them. Our job was to conduct a survey of the water quality of wells in the rural areas. One team set up a Microbiology lab in Marrakesh and the others of whom I was one, would take samples of the water and send them to Marrakesh for analysis. After the results came we would go back to the villages and inform them if it was safe to drink or not. Some wells were good but others contained about every pathogen known to Man so we decided to expand the program to the digging of new wells in the areas that were just too far gone. None of us had any experience in this matter so we asked for help and Washington send us an expert. He was professor from Stanford and was also a Palestinian and he was very smart. He put the four of us in a room, pulled out two bottles of Johnnie Walker and said let’s get to work. By the end of the night we had come up with a good plan but for the budget we needed to know the cost of digging the average well. He said that the only way to get that is to go out into the field and ask an average village well-digger. He said he would ask the embassy for a car and a driver. A colleague and I would go with the expert to a particularly bad well and get prices to dig a new one.

The next morning the car and driver came to our door. It was not just a car, it was the hugest jet-black, tinted-windowed limousine I had ever seen and the driver was wearing a suit that looked like it cost more than my annual salary. By pushing buttons we found that the limousine contained a bar with various alcohols. We vowed to empty it but we were thwarted by the driver who slyly restocked it every time our back was turned. We drove in scandalous luxury from Rabat to Marrakesh, slept there and the next morning drove over the High Atlas Mountains to Ouarzazate on the Sahara side. From there we took a bumpy dirt road for about twenty miles to the village we had targeted.

Now imagine the villagers seeing a monster-like black car driving up and stopping with three Westerners stepping out and asking to talk to the village well-digger. Talk about a “What the Fuck?” moment. The well-digger arrived dressed in a worn djellaba mustering all his dignity and said, “I am the well-digger and I also maintain the irrigation canals. How can I help you?” We talked for three hours all the while drinking mint tea as he explained his job. We got the figures, estimated that he had jacked up the price by about 400% and were able to finish the budget to send to Washington. It was a strange situation for us and an even stranger one for the villagers but I remember thinking at the time that I would not want to be anywhere else in the world for any amount of money. It was a unique moment.

Paul SB said...


"Never let your ideology become your religion."
Good reason not to have an ideology. You could argue that ideologies started to become 'religious' (in the sense of demanding blind faith) when the centuries of blood-letting convinced a lot of people that religion should not have the prime role in civic life it always had in all civilizations. Separation of church and state left a power vacuum to be filled by politics, and the ever-social hominid accepted the substitute because hominids are instinctively driven to conform to a social group one way or another. The easiest way to deal with an addiction is to substitute another one. I thought the Cold War made that pretty clear. It would be nice if people could just be pragmatic and flexible, but it is rare among hominids to have that kind of social backbone. If religion is too rigid, and ideology has caught the same arteriosclerosis for essentially the same reason, is there some other drug we can substitute? Something else we could blindly conform to that would not lead to the same tribal partisanship?


Shouldn't "the Presidential nominee who must not be named??" be "The Presidential Nominee Who Must Not Be Named"? ;)

Alfred, perhaps the coyote will run out of air up there. He might bring an air tank, but you know how reliable Acme products are...
Your comments are entirely apropos. While most people have some modicum of the big events of history, thanks to our very simplistic focus on rote memorization in social studies curricula, few grasp the truly powerful demographic factors that have made the last couple centuries almost incomprehensibly different from the entire rest of history. I try to point this stuff out to my students, like the fact that before we had effective antibiotics 50% of women died in childbirth (from the rise of agriculture - hunter/gatherers didn't crank out as many babies, so placenta previa rarely affected them) or that before there were antibiotics half of all babies didn't see their third birthday. It takes some imagination to get just how different the past was, but imagination fails when you don't have the actual facts to build on.

I was having a similar conversation with my biology students last week. I went over the AAA Statement on Race, explained what a cline is, then went a little into the history of the race concept and where it leads us today. Once you ask the Cui bono question, it becomes obvious that the rich are using race as part of a divide and conquer strategy. I laughed (bitterly) when the governor of Texas announced that he would accept losing millions of dollars in federal education assistance over the transgender bathroom bullshit. They don't want poor or even middle class people to get good education, they want the masses poor, ignorant and in-fighting. Withdrawing federal education money is playing right into their hands.

Tom Crowl said...

On Conservatives and Clinton:

From The Young Turks

"Trump Isn't Conservative Enough For Wall St. Journal... Hillary Is."

Mr. Differ... thanks for the comments.

RE Libertarianism: there's much of value there. But the purist "Randian" Objectivist... needs to acknowledge the effects of altruism on decision... where the decision making group is disconnected (a result of scale and the effects of social proximity) and largely Non-dependent on those their decisions impact.

Self Interest vs Altruism: Problems in Scaling the Decision Process

Issues in Scaling Civilization: The Altruism Dilemma

Jumper said...

The more I read by and about Nietzsche the more he seems like Holden Caulfield.

Anonymous said...

Over the last year? Hmm, hmm, how about this predictor—

Now, are we not in an Age of Reason? What should one who reasons make of such an image? What arguments does it advance, and what conclusions can be drawn? Who else was such a flattering process applied to, and what does that indicate?

Flypusher said...

I know some of the people who request this blog have also commented on Chris Ladd's blog, but for those who haven't seen it, here is a real-life center-right GOPer taking a stand against the short-fingered vulgarian:

Unlike GOPers such as Romney, who would at best ignore the xenophobia and racism festering in the base of the party as long as it wasn't too overt, Mr. Ladd has an Internet track record of calling it out. His denouncement of Trump actually rings morally true, but he unfortunately is not a big national figure in the GOP. People like him are among the sane-conservatives who could pick up the pieces in the aftermath, but it will be a very scary journey to that point. I'm also rooting for people like former SC Congressman, Bob Iglis, who had his "Paul on the road to Damascus" moment regarding science, and paid for it (and the TARP bailout) by getting primaried by the RWNJs.

Paul SB, you are so right about Patrick, Abbott and their close-minded ilk. I do want transgender people to be treated fairly, but I think the bathroom fight is just not the way to go. You should not be drawing any lines in the sand unless you are willing to follow through; that's one of my major criticisms with how Obama has dealt with Syria. Drawing this line here over bathroom access has no good outcome. If you're only bluffing, and you get called, you aren't doing trans people any favors. If you aren't bluffing, well the NWNJs aren't either, and they already have a track record of being willing to screw over constituents for the sake of "principle" (People's exhibit A, the health insurance situation in TX).

There's an easier solution to the bathroom battle, go around it. There are already unisex single bathrooms being built, and a variety of valid reasons to use them- a father out running errands with a very young daughter who doesn't want to send her to the ladies room alone, someone who's a caretaker for a disabled person if the opposite sex, etc. Just have these available for anyone to use for any reason, and move on to a more substantive battle.

As someone who lives in TX, I will be voting, but my impact will be minimal. Unfortunately neither of my worthless obstructionist Senators is up for reelection this year (but in 2018, I am so volunteering for whomever looks to be the strongest opponent to that scumbag Cruz!), and TX probably still stays red. But I'm thinking of going to the local Dem HQ and offering to drive voters who need a ride to the polls. Even though the Electoral College decides it, a strong popular vote tally does send a message.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - the Lannisters were morally superior to Donald Trump. After all, "A Lannister always pays his debts."

"The oligarchs' investments are in serious danger amid a Trump instability."
Actually, let's divide up the oligarchs, who overwhelmingly receive their money through rents (or inheritances based on rents).

Rental-property barons: Trump is one of them, a first in a very long time. What's not to love?

Oil-based American land barons: Kochs & more - they have a more malleable, pragmatic view of 'property rights' than most people believed: property's great, until it becomes a liability, at which point, the strong shift their costs upon the weak. In an ordinary election year, when the money is flowing in, they'd disdain Trump, as they did in 2015. In 2016, as they approach bankruptcy and the leverage escalates, they (begrudgingly) like Trump - as the best candidate to help them discharge their own debt onto others (let young students bear the debts these guys incurred).

Both of these sides are prepared to wheel and deal with any Republican who wins office. However, no Democrat will be beholden to their agenda.

All talk about values, walls, outrageous statements, emails, and everything else is merely a circus side-show.

"I bet some of the GOP moguls are already looking to 2020..."
Actually, they're looking to 2018, when a large number of red states hold their senatorial elections, and a fair number of Democrats who survived Obama 2012 will be running without a presidential ticket "lifting" the number of votes. The strategy is voter suppression, discouragement, and distraction - for it to work, they need Trump to energize a base, but for anti-Democrat (and anti-evidence) disdain to remain widespread. Unless things change in the oil economy (unlikely, unless China or India greatly expand consumption) - these guys are going to be hungry for someone to sit back and watch as they discharge their debts.

Now if only the Republicans had a few clear-headed Lannisters...

Duncan Ocel said...

I have been pondering Jon Stewart's talk at University of Chicago from last week. Generally, Jon advocates against us being too worked up come election time, because elections will keep on happening and, approximated to one significant figure, they are all the same. He urged the audience to take a wider view, to recognize the other opportunities for productive action, and to be wary of the distraction of overcoverage of the candidates' campaigns. This last part is definitely influenced by my lenses, but I felt an argument that our current system has reached an unnaceptable equilibrium state that is the result of the direction and magnitude of the force vectors applied, and that a remedy exists outside of the current framework.

Now, I know you enjoy very small-scale analysis of political ongoings, as you demonstrate with your occasional 6-12 month predicitons. You also don't allow election-bustle to completely overshadow your writings on this blog, as evidenced by the occasional space or tech update. Finally, you advocate very strongly for functioning within the current governance framework, levering existing levers, and constitutional cognizance. Heck, The Postman is all about restoring the existing system. However, will you admit the possibility for profound changes to the country/world? Nations rise and fall, and eventually, California may be its own nation, or the public University system of the USA might evolve into the most powerful decision-making body therein. One of the more common mistakes when it comes to power-dynamics is the assumption of immutability. Sure, The fall of Rome took a long time, and it was arguably only transmuted into some of Europe and the Americas, but we irrefutably no longer have Roman Emperors.

So, I ask you to grace us with a longer-term prediction (fuel enough for an upcoming blog entry?). The computational singularity is an easy way to justify a reorder of the ol' hierarchical diamond/triangle. But can you smell the irrelevance of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches? What about the development of a trans-currency society?

David Brin said...

Duncan Ocel, hi and thanks for a cogently written appeal for us to take the Big Perspective, from time to time. I quite agree! What confuses me is how you chose to lecture... um... *me* about that particular topic?

Were you perhaps unaware that I am more than a blogger? That I have -- from time to time -- taken readers on extrapolation trips just a wee bit out side the comfort zone of the here and now?

As perhaps illustrated here:

Or in my recent piece about "currency" and economics in the Internet of Things:

Just checking.

Duncan Ocel said...

David, I am indeed a follower of your larger works. I have read all your novels except for Transparent Society and Kiln People, but not many of your short stories. Admittedly, big-picture topics are, by nature, big topics, and, now that you mention it, better explored as stories than as blog entries.

I therefore rescind my earlier argument, given the suitability for blogging over the writing of larger works in exploring current events.

I unfortunately have not yet read Insistence of Vision, as it has not yet come to the Corvallis library and I am a "poor" college student. I will jump on it when the opportunity arises.

RavenAscendant said...

Did you give the election of '48 to Dewy? Or does 'post fdr' not start immediately after his death?

Jumper said...

Jon Stewart has an aversion to telling people to get out and vote. Or a track record of distinctly never doing it, ever. He may be funny but that's downright peculiar. His current advice is dubious. The best thing for most people is to elect Democrats. If they then have to hold their feet to the fire, then so be it. They can leave the lever for president untouched for all anyone cares. Their local and state races are crucial. And, by the way, that's how I see it. Two doddering seniors and a pre-senile runt idiot angertainer. Just great. However, I'm voting.

David Brin said...

Duncan O. That's fine! ;-) BTW I may be speaking at Corvallis fall or winter. In The Postman it's the center of civilization!

Paul SB said...


We discussed the bathroom thing a number of posts back, and I had made essentially the same suggestion. Single-use toilet facilities with complete privacy instead of the cheapy stalls we have everywhere. Keep the sinks multi-use to save money, but make sure the actual toilet facilities have complete privacy. I likened it to the Americans with Disabilities Act. It cost money and took a few years to get full compliance, but now that it is accomplished and has been for some time, it is taken for granted.

But ultimately it is one of those silly 'culture war' issues that really shouldn't be an issue. Give people the respect they deserve until they give you a solid reason to take that away, which pretty much means the commission of a crime. That's mature, rational policy. But as long as they can stoke childish fears, people are distracted from more consequential issues, like getting big money corruption out of politics, or moving us away from dead-end energy systems and untold harm done by chemicals rushed to market without adequate testing. Or how about ensuring that our education system comes a little closer to matching actual human nature rather than some Harvard economics professor's pennywise-pound-foolish model of 'efficiency.'

It's good you have the time and energy to push back. It's too easy for people to shrug their shoulders, roll their eyes and give up (the weather has been overcast for the past couple days, so I'm probably more of a gloomy gus than usual today).

LarryHart said...

@Paul SB et al...

On bathrooms, the Chicago radio host Wayne Bessen nailed it perfectly on last Saturday's show. The argument isn't really about bathrooms.

First of all, the pro-HB2 side doesn't know or (probably) doesn't care to know about scientific evidence of people having a functional gender identity opposite to their genitalia. To them, transgenderism is a joke or a perversion. Some think that the Biblical phrase "He made them man and woman" settles the argument in their favor, although I don't see how one could fail to see the interpretation that a single individual might be made "man and woman." These are the descendants of those who thought that left-handedness was an abomination, and so forced both of my grandmothers and my wife's mother to pretend to be right-handed, messing up their senses of direction forever.

Perhaps more importantly, the pro-HB2 arguments about protecting girls from men in their bathrooms is never actually about transgender people. The argument is that "if you allow" man-to-woman transgender people into women's bathrooms, then (hetero) men will dress up as women just to gain entree into ladies rooms.

As if they can't already do so anyway.

As if the transgender people aren't also (quietly) using public bathrooms of their choice anyway. ("It's not a question of letting, Mister!")

The argument comes down to "We can't allow transgender people to use the "wrong" bathrooms, because doing so enables perverted heterosexual men to get away with "dressing up as" transgendered to facilitate their perversions." As opposed to now when they have to "dress up as" women to do so instead.

It makes as little sense as the phrase I once heard, "A lesbian trapped in a man's body."

Zepp Jamieson said...

Hillary does strongly resemble the "New England Republicans" of the 1960s; socially mildly liberal, fiscally conservative, but not doctrinaire about it. They tended toward the status quo in most matters, so were considered "conservative" in the way the term was meant to apply.
The right wingers who like to call themselves "conservative" today--the nihilists and fascists of the far right--were in the John Birch Society, and moaning over how Goldwater was selling out to communism.
So: by normal criteria, Hillary is a conservative. An actual conservative, which means sane and capable of working with others.
Trump isn't a conservative, neither in the traditional sense of the word, or the perverted adoption of the Birchers. He is, simply, chaotic, a Loki in the body politic. Nobody, including Donald, knows what he stands for, or what he really believes.
So yes, in this race, the likely Democratic nominee is a conservative, and the Republican nominee isn't.
Trust me, if you remember that distinction, this campaign will make a whole lot more sense than the fantasy we'll hear from the right wing media about how Hillary is a socialist liberal, and Donald will safeguard the interests of business and faith.
An even easier distinction is this: Sane versus Insane. If you can't figure out which is which, you're probably in the insane party already.

Unknown said...

I have one problem with the "big picture" vs. "incrementalism" debate. It assumes that by having big ideas Sanders is not willing to compromise. But his history in Congress says otherwise. He has gotten his issues addressed not by demanding "his" bills get passed and making sure his name was associated with them, as so many legislators do, instead he chooses to go the amendment route. That is the art of compromise, including agreeing to support other bills he might not otherwise support in return for his amendments becoming law. But the key to the value of the Big Picture approach, and this is what people miss by including Roosevelt as an incrementalist, is that by taking the broader more far reaching argument the resultant compromise is likely to be far more productive, and in this case progressive, than by moving unilaterally to the middle and assuming your opposite numbers in the debate will be so impressed they'll compromise more to your liking. The real outcome of such incrementalism is for Republicans to take whatever position the Democrat assumes as "radically liberal/socialist" and then drag the Democrat even further right. Thus Republicans get most of what they want (or nothing if they refuse to even participate) and the Democrats lose out on 2/3 or 3/4 of what they want. That's a recipe for falling "right" off the cliff, which is what is happening now.

Taking that approach was Obama's biggest failing, the ACA would be a far better health care solution had he honestly started from universal coverage and public option instead of giving away the farm at the get go and thinking Republicans would negotiate honestly.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

To be honest, the trans thing is pushing the envelope for this 65 years old lifelong champion of tolerance. Oh, I am fine with live n let live and all rights equal! And if you do the transfer with full vigor, biologically, then 'nuff said! That is real commitment. And if you want to do transvestism then show us all 'To Wong F'u and we'll adapt! (Please just try not to be too overly pushy in folks faces, though? That's not a demand... just a mild courtesy request, person-to-person.)

My problem is in "I am whatever I say I am! And I don't gotta prove nothing! I insist you call me whatever I demand you call me!"

And yes, there are folks demanding to be called aliens and animals.

Look, I am a great believer in the top American mythology that we can all re-invent ourselves! Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in THE CLOSING OF THE AMERICAN FRONTIER that he felt that zeitgeist might vanish, when there weren't any longer new places to settle and change your name. Today people worry that in our future of biometric instant ID that re-invention collapse might finally happen, after a 120 year delay. But so far, each decade seems to ENHANCE our eagerness to re-invent! You've seen me praise the spectacular renaissance of new and old hobbies and pastimes and passions! Hey, I know where this is coming from and I am generally supportive!!!

It's just that... there comes a point where - speaking as a sci fi author and a weaver of incantations and spells and subjective worlds - you finally have to admit that objective reality exists. It is the final arbiter. It is bitchy, too. And simply declaring something sometimes isn't enough to make it so. It just isn't.


Oh, if you ask me to refer to you as "she," while wearing a long, flowing beard, I will try to comply. Moreover, I admit that part of it might arise from having been born (barely) in the 1st half of the 20th. I will continue voting and fighting for the general trend toward tolerance, diversity and individual autonomy. My request for some courtesy and return-tolerance of my limitations is just a request. I will fight anyone who tries to make it law. Still...

... over the long haul it is just a losing proposition to scream "no!" at objective reality. And screaming at me for saying it won't change the fact of it, even if it cows me into backing down.

David Brin said...

Tom E... Obama's big mistake - of many - was not Making Medicare apply to all children up to 25 and reducing the upper age to 55. He could have got that. Those are the "helpless" constituencies and the Gop would have fought it at their peril.

Paul... what the heck? You don't get: " "A lesbian trapped in a man's body."??? Yipe, it is one of the first things to do if you find yourself in John Varley's Nine World's Cosmos!

duncan cairncross said...

Re the Bathroom nonsense

There is another very good reason to go for the "common wash-area and private stalls" approach
If you go to a sporting event or similar with insufficient toilets there will be long lines at the Ladies Toilets

It simply takes longer!

Having three times as many Ladies as Gents will not fly

The "common wash-area and private stalls" approach enables maximum use of the facilities to get minimum inconvenience


Jumper said...

I have to use the same bathrooms as Libertarians and Baptists. I guess I can avoid arguments about a few others too.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

My problem is in "I am whatever I say I am! And I don't gotta prove nothing! I insist you call me whatever I demand you call me!"

And yes, there are folks demanding to be called aliens and animals.

Granted, there are those who will push any envelope way too far. That wasn't what I had in mind when I threw my two cents into this topic.

It's just that... there comes a point where - speaking as a sci fi author and a weaver of incantations and spells and subjective worlds - you finally have to admit that objective reality exists. It is the final arbiter. It is bitchy, too. And simply declaring something sometimes isn't enough to make it so. It just isn't.

Agreed. And I'm only a slight bit younger than you (late 50s). And for a long time, I was all "If you've got a penis, you're a man. Deal with it." But the more I hear about how brain chemistry is affected and all that, the more it reminds me of left-handed people being forced to pretend to be right-handed, which I know from family experience does real and permanent harm. My mother-in-law literally can't give directions to her house without saying it all backwards. Both of my grandmothers also had left-handedness beaten out of them, and they had other difficulties because of it.

So the sympathetic, liberal part of me can't help but wonder if someone whose brain functions as a woman, but is forced to act in the socially acceptable manner dictated by genitalia, might be similarly affected.

It's not a denial of reality, but an acceptance of "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

Oh, if you ask me to refer to you as "she," while wearing a long, flowing beard, I will try to comply.

Isn't that a parody image. I was under the impression that the ones who insist on being referred to as "she" are trying to look more feminine than they actually are, not less so.

And finally, my argument against HB2 isn't even about how far I agree with anyone's right to declare himself anything he wants to be. It's about "live and let live" benefit of the doubt until there's reason to suspect a problem. HB2 suggests a "Show me your papers, please" police stop at every restroom entrance. And that's not the kind of society I wish to live in. Heck, I don't wish to live in a society that obsesses about bathrooms in the first place.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Paul... what the heck? You don't get: " "A lesbian trapped in a man's body."???

That was me, actually.

And ok, I get that it's funny. If there's a more specific reference involved, then no, it goes over my head. I think I heard the line in a Woody Allen movie.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jumper wrote, "I have to use the same bathrooms as Libertarians and Baptists. I guess I can avoid arguments about a few others too."

Hmm. Do Libertarians use the urinals, or do they just pee anywhere in a non-government-approved manner?

Acacia H. said...

Dr. Brin, I should hope you would consider a person who identified as female but had a beard to be considered a woman, seeing there are women with facial hair, and some cultures don't insist those women shave or pluck their hairs. For that matter, some medications can cause facial hair growth in XX-chromosome individuals with ovaries, a womb, a vagina, and who may in fact have given birth to one or more children. And some of those "identify-as-female" individuals may have a bit of facial hair.

You will of course handwave and say "of course I know they're women" but here's the thing: suggesting a person have to conform to specific values of feminine appearance in order to be considered a woman is an insidious and degrading aspect of our society today, and the specific wording of language can sometimes reinforce those views even among those who say "of course I'm not racist/genderist/specieist/whateverist.

And for that matter, I know a young individual over the internet who identifies as both male and female. And for a while I thought that person physically male, until they posted a video which revealed a very attractive person who was born with two X chromosomes and who has to fight for their right to identify as they see themselves - as having both male and female selves. (That person actually identifies with snails as snails likewise are both male and female. It's a metaphorical identification, but even so, I respect their views on their own self.)

For that matter, a friend of mine (the one who is quite conservative but whom I've slowly managed to admit at least that Republicans are as bad as Democrats - baby steps!) enjoys telling this tale of being in a car with two friends and seeing a long-haired person ahead. Thin, shiny hair, the two friends started making comments on how attractive she looked, while my friend on a snark went "that's a guy." And then when they passed the long-haired individual? Definitely a guy.

Hair length and shininess is not a determination of gender. Clothing style is not a determination of gender. Genetics have ended up not being a definitive determination of gender. Sometimes we need to step outside the binary and admit to ourselves that gender... is something we make for ourselves.

Then and only then will we, as a people, as a society, be able to accept all of ourselves, no matter what form they may take. It takes education for this acceptance to spread... just as education was responsible for the current youth of America to say "enough" and insist gay marriage be allowed... and so many other choices for society that will be coming in the near future.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Hmm. Do Libertarians use the urinals, or do they just pee anywhere in a non-government-approved manner?

That would make my cat a libertarian.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Didn't you know? All cats are libertarians.

David Brin said...

LarryHart do you get that the Lesbian joke isn’t just funny, it is also very sexy and temptin!

Zepp… what I hate are the NEW URINALS they’ve been installing right next to the sinks! The ones with open sides and no apparent drains, and they blow my piss everywhere! Who the hell comes up with such awful contraptions!

Rob you not only flared without comprehending my remarks, you deliberately took an extremum to strawman. I do not feel compelled to answer your lecture any further.

See and thanks for unintentionally and perfectly illustrating my point.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. Brin: Zepp… what I hate are the NEW URINALS they’ve been installing right next to the sinks!

Hmm. Haven't had the pleasure. In northern California, they don't replace urinals until they fall off the rotted wall and break, and in the redneck bars, sometimes not even then.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
Just read you new article in Evonomics - Great, Excellent,

If anybody hears of a startup or kickstarter using that concept I would love to contribute a wee bit

Paul SB said...

Don't feel too bad, Dr.Brin, we are living in transitional times, and as open minded as we would like to be, our culture hasn't really prepared us for the rate of change we are experiencing. It never had to before. In this case, it isn't human culture generally, but Western culture more specifically that is especially unprepared. Other cultures around the world do not equate gender rigidly with biological sex, but ours do. An equivalent might be trying to explain Temporal Isolation to many humans. Humans do not experience this. They are fecund pretty much 24/7 from the onset of maturity. We don't have the kind of seasonality that almost the entire rest of the animals kingdom (not to mention plant kingdom) has, so we have a hard time imagining having those hormones switched off for most of the year.

It's harder with this one, as the equation of two anatomical forms with two social roles falls very easily into binary thinking, and the trend in the evolution of social complexity for thousands of years has been that as civilizations grow in size, social roles become much more constrained and rigidly codified. Unfortunately that rigidity doesn't match our biology. We share a majority of both hormones and all our neurotransmitters across the biological sexes - it is the relative amounts that makes much of the difference between male female. But for all sexually-reproducing organisms gene shuffling and the Law of Independent Assortment means that the boundaries are actually quite blurry and the overlap quite huge. And if the difference between means is less than one standard deviation, what you have is a single population that has been artificially separated.

Live and let live, sure thing. But I wonder if our tendency toward simple binary thinking is causing harm now we have the technology for sex-reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. If we as a society accepted more than two genders, or better yet, if we accepted that gender is as much a social category as it is biological, and that the biology blends pretty substantially, we probably would not have some of the issues. And, likely, we wouldn't have people getting their plumbing rearranged, either. If a young boy finds he is interested in babies or fashion or other "womanly" things, the assumption has always been that he is "gay" or that he is a 'man trapped in a woman's body.' In reality most of them probably aren't either, they just have a mix of hormones that is a deviation or two from the mean for their biological sex. It gets down to what Ernst Mayr called "typological vs. population thinking." On the most superficial of levels we look like we come in two basic types, but underneath that skin there is a whole lot more going on than such simplistic thinking would suggest.

And I would suggest we apply 'live and let live' equally to ourselves, but that requires a whole lot of 'know thyself.'

As far as the in-your-face behavior, that's just what happens with any spurned minority. When the stigma goes away and the novelty wears off, it will just become part of the background. It might take a few decades, though.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB: " But I wonder if our tendency toward simple binary thinking is causing harm now we have the technology for sex-reassignment surgery and hormone therapy. "

Someone already suggested John Varley. I'll back that recommendation. He was discussing this stuff back in the 80s. Anthony Burgess was in the 50s, although between British attitudes of the era and the fact that his worlds were heavily dystopic, he's attitude toward gays and others was neither friendly nor accommodating. Unisex cultures are a fairly common theme in SF, and cover an extraordinarily wide philosophical gamut. I always thought Brin could revisit Kiln People and explore some of the possibilities suggested by the fact that his some of his golums were asexual. Did they read "Claymate" and if so, was it for the articles? And of course, you could have a high-end number, fully anatomically functional, in either gender, or several.

David Brin said...

Paul there are many aspects and one of them has nothing to do with gender assignment but the fact that many people want to stand out and are searching for some way. Hey, I'm okay with expanding from binary! But notice the vast amount of attention currently going to an utterly minuscule fraction of the population. So shall ALL of us have to beat our chests in mea culpa confessions of intolerance when we're surprised that a small sub sub group of a dozen makes a case that we should all accommodate? Because I guarantee there will be another and another.

I am fine for accommodating! Ending oppressions for sure! But can we not ask that folks look at the extrema and ponder... can you meet us halfway?

If there are ten handicapped spaces in front of my grocery, and only three, max, are used at any time, can we reduce the number to five and we're good?

David Brin said...

Zepp... the urinals thing was a joke. Referring to the new low-sited hand dryers.... heh... okay. Sophomoric.

Unknown said...

I've long said that I'm a lesbian in a man's body, and loving every minute of it. ;)

As for the transgender thing, I have no idea what equipment the next guy over in the bathroom is packing, and less interest. And honestly, if you know what I'm using in there, I don't think it's me who should be labeled a pervert, ya know?

Tony Fisk said...

Mildly amusing conversation that reminds me of a scene in the public facilities on B5 where Sinclair and Garibaldi are covertly checking out the Pak'mara section while holding a conversation (I don't recall what it was about: not socks). They concluded it was all too much information.

And, of course, Heinlein liked to channel Confucius in conflating the state of public urinals with the imminent collapse of civilisation (so, with all the extra attention, this debate may yet lead to a good outcome!?)

Paul SB said...

I'm with Fisk, Sinclair & Garibaldi on the TMI Interpretation. Having a media circus just feeds the WeeWeeGate Shock Jocks. But then, the Jerry Springer Press is probably a price we have to pay for not having some commissar deciding what we need and don't need to hear. As long as there are right-wing xenophobes who will flinch at anything that doesn't sound like what they did when they were growing up, we'll get this sort of attention-seeking behavior. Give them private facilities and this one will go away.Someone, somewhere, will come up with something crazier to claim their 15 minutes of fame.

Zepp, I wish I had time to read more fiction!

Flypusher said...

I recommend Andrew Solomon's book "Far From the Tree" for stories/ explanations of what it's like to be trans from trans people and their families. Even after reading it I cannot completely grok it, but I can conclude that I am fortunate to be comfortable in my own skin/ gender on my birth certificate. The solutions are indeed simple, but extremists on both sides are always looking for proxy battles to fight.

Flypusher said...

"If there are ten handicapped spaces in front of my grocery, and only three, max, are used at any time, can we reduce the number to five and we're good?"

Accommodation is good, but it is often taken to extremes. I saw that with a bad interpretation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when I was working at MD Anderson eleven years ago. The lab had just moved into a brand new shiny building, and as we are setting everything up I notice that there are no soap dispensers by the sinks. That's a problem, as we were doing BL1 work, and frequent hand washing is needed. So I call up Facillities Management to get this corrected, but the person on the line says, no we can't do that because a person in a wheel chair couldn't reach them. Never mind that there was a total of zero people in wheel chairs in any of the labs or admin staff at the time, or that there were some tasks in the lab that a wheel chair bound person just could not do, no matter how you configured the place, this lady was insistent that because a purely hypothetical handicapped person couldn't have soap, nobody got soap. So after 5 minutes of a circular argument, I hung up the phone, grabbed a screwdriver, and removed the soap dispensers from the old lab, as a stopgap measure. Not long afterwards, the safety inspectors come by and it's Aha! You have no properly installed soap dispensers! I referred them to Facillities Management, and in a few days, they got installed. I always felt extra victorious when I managed to pit one arm of the vast bureaucracy against another one. But these things shouldn't be so complicated!

raito said...

Dr. Brin,

Putting on my semi-sarcasm hat...

Sure, you can reduce the number to 5. All you have to do is keep people from driving those awful nasty cars everywhere. Then the grocery can do useful things with that unused parking space, like putting up more boutiques serving up junk that nobody really needs.

Hat off...

You already know this, but the number of handicapped spots is determined by things like the total number of parking spaces and the size of the stores. Don't like it? Get the law changed. Good luck.

I don't often see handicapped spots getting used by people with detectable handicaps.

On the other hand, I've often seen those who obviously have some trouble getting around NOT using them. In one case, it was a WWII veteran who didn't use them because 'someone else might really need them'. And the guy was walking with 2 canes!

And on another topic, since it hasn't come up yet, there's Comey's latest opinion on cameras.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Hillary does strongly resemble the "New England Republicans" of the 1960s"

Because that's what's she was in the 60s: she jumped ship to the Democratic Party when the GOP jumped the shark about Vietnam and Civil Rights.
And, by the way, to answer the post's main question: I suspect that history will repeat itself: just like the number of Republicans like Hillary who switched their party affiliation when the GOP pursued the southern strategy was dwarfed by the number of resentful Dixiecrats who went to the GOP, I expect the number of sane conservatives to jump on the Hillary Bandwagon this year to be much smaller than the number of vexed Bernie Bros who'll vote for Trump. (First it will be about punishing their country for "not being as progressive" as themselves, but after a few years I expect these entitled white little bourges to have completely embraced the racist, authoritarian and in fine parasitic outlook of the Trumpist party).


* "I have one problem with the "big picture" vs. "incrementalism" debate. It assumes that by having big ideas Sanders is not willing to compromise."

Sanders himself is perfectly able to compromise: it's part of his fellowship that's not.
Anyway, the two big problems with "incrementalism" is that the term has been countless times co-opted by impostors who never wanted any change to the status quo that benefited them, no matter how small, and moderate, and incremental it was, and the fact that many center-left politicians are so petrified by the fear of being accused of being radical demagogues themselves that they never dare to call out the do-nothing oligarchs and their lackeys, never dare to openly say "The inept heirs who are currently on top of the food chain thanks to their dynastic wealth and nepotistic networks will never gently accept reforms that would eventually lead to the dismantlement the very system that allowed them to reach higher than they deserved"


* "Oh, if you ask me to refer to you as "she," while wearing a long, flowing beard, I will try to comply."

The Lord of the Ring lacked a scene where Gimli cleave a man's head after said man called his mom "Sir".


* "That person actually identifies with snails as snails likewise are both male and female."

But snails are delicious. And as a Frenchman, I Demand that this individual immediately cease to identify themselves with tasty treats and choose another, non-succulent hermaphrodite animal as their totem, unless their attempt to taunt me into cannibalism turns me violent!


* "Didn't you know? All cats are libertarians."

Soooo, Libertarians worship themselves and crave to enslave Humanity, huh?
Thank you for this confession of guilt.


* "So shall ALL of us have to beat our chests in mea culpa confessions of intolerance"

Given the freakishly large ratio of suicide, murder and abuse trans people are victims of, while we mundanes went on with our lives without paying attention, some mea-culpa for having been for too long nonchalant toward the human lives broken by our bigoted peers might be in order indeed.

Robert said...

Doug S.- You're right! The real Republicans took over the Democrats in 1992, and abandoned their own party to Strom Thurmond's fourth party. I've always considered real political conservatism to be an extension of non-political conservatism into politics. For details, read Rationalism in Politics by Michael Oakeshott. Dominionism and neo-Confederacy obviously don't qualify.

I'd like to see the Kochs pour money into one of my causes rather than theirs, but since they know that Gary Johnson is his own man, and will almost certainly be nominated (I think David's completely right about that), they may go for Senate races, or do something that's actually smart, like reinvest their profits in other forms of energy.

As for Dominionist refugees from Trump, why on Earth don't they support the Constitution Party? Do they really want go up to a Libertarian imam and two other witnesses, and recite: "A is A! A is A! A is A! There is no God, and Ayn Rand is His Prophet!"

I hate the wall dryers, too. I almost want some fool to mistake one for a urinal and short-circuit it. I definitely don't want David to do it, at least if there's anything to the anecdote about dogs pissing onto electric fences. Maybe Trump could be tricked into it?

On transgender issues, I've come to a few conclusions:
1. No surgery on sex-indeterminate newborns - but, on the other hand, no surgery for transgender children, either; it's a fully adult decision, if there ever was one.
2. Non-gender bathrooms everywhere, with lockable stalls. This is actually the simplest issue of the lot, requiring the smallest changes.
3. Maybe we'll finally get over our nudity phobia.
Somehow, I think this will all go through in Northern Europe without a ripple. Almost as good a reason to move as Trump winning.

Speaking of moving. My Dad, who's now 89 and is clearing out his books, sent me a copy of the German Constitution. So I asked him if he thought Trump was going to win.

Bob Pfeiffer.

Jumper said...

How do biology and physiology form essential character?
Everyone pees. Girls when in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, are at a slight disadvantage; having a slight loss of freedom; from not being able to pee standing up.
Events of embarrassment over menstruation.
Events of embarrassment over breast development.
Tension over possibility of pregnancy.
Emotions over having an abortion.
Size and weight issues of confidence or lack of it over personal safety and autonomy.

Alfred Differ said...

Cats are fermions.
Dogs are bosons.
We libertarians are composite no matter how pure we like to think we are.

Okay. I was taken in by the new urinal joke. 8) I couldn't think of any being placed so close and wondered if it was a San Diego thing. Now that I get it, I'll admit I've wanted to piss on those things a number of times and maybe even on the people who use them. All those things are WAY TOO LOUD. I'm pissed off (the connection) before I leave the restroom. Watch what they do to autistic boys trying to use the place. It ain't pretty.

Alfred Differ said...

@Flypusher: If you can't convince your neighbors to go blue, at least work on them to have their primary early enough in the season to draw them into the polls. Cruz skated by in a way that should embarrass them.

Anonymous said...

I do not think that Herr Drumpf will get anywhere close to the Oval Office and will likely crater a good chunk of the GOP congressional delegation. But such public implosion will not remove Drumpfism from the GOP or give any power back to the Olde Guard. History is filled with cults that started with massive disappointment, where the embarrassment quickly morphed into reactionary zeal. Conservatives will break into several camps with zero chance of being on the same side ever again.

Group 1: Drumpfiteers who will blame the GOP for his/their (inevitable) loss. They will become more and more addicted to right-wing radio and heroin. Herr Drumpf will go on to make millions of these rubes before type 2 diabetes and opioid overdose kills most of them.

Group 2: Neo-Confederates who, after being traumatized by the election and reelection of President Blackenstein, will be driven over the edge by the election of That Woman. They will have permanently lost their respect for Democracy and the American electorate. Many will turn to symbolic violence.

Group 3: Neo-Liberals, Neo-Conservatives, and their Donors will slowly flock to the Democrats causing a rift between the pro-corporate Schumerites and Democratic-Socialist Sanderites. With any luck the DNC will just split into these two factions, thus filling the vacuum from the GOP implosion.

Then in 2020 Hillary will lose to a moderate Republican, who will then lose in 2024 to Elizabeth Warren. In 2026 SkyNet will become "President for Ever" and we all live happily ever after under a benevolent cybernetic dictatorship.


bigsteve said...

Dr. Brin:

"There is only one mapping that explains it all. Union versus Confederacy. It maps almost perfectly."

I live in Orlando Florida. As Hispanic and other groups have moved into my city and county, we have become a minority majority city, county. The area was not long ago very southern redneck and red. Now we have turned blue. The whole southeast and southwest is slowly being assimilated into an emerging new culture. I really think and I am child of the south, that the confederacy is really this time heading to extinction. The whole southern culture was about oligarchy tending towards Feudalism. I will not mourn it's passing. Hillary winning and reshaping the Supreme Court will speed up this change. But I think it is inevitable due to demographic change.

LarryHart said...


I hate the wall dryers, too. I almost want some fool to mistake one for a urinal and short-circuit it. I definitely don't want David to do it, at least if there's anything to the anecdote about dogs pissing onto electric fences. Maybe Trump could be tricked into it?

*Spit take*

Seriously, that would be an appropriately anticlimactic ending to this sorry political episode. If life was a tv show, I'd bet on it ending like that.

Alfred Differ said...

'Tis the season to be predicting it seems.

I suspect the alliances under each major party umbrella (in the US) will shift around with the next three elections, but it won't be until 2028 that the supply-side advocates will be figuratively knifed by pretty much everyone. The younger generation will take control about then and they'll have none of that nonsense.

Your social upheaval is just getting started, though.

Paul SB said...

A seriously funny sci-fi novel I read back when I was in grad school that deals with our gender obsessions is "Commitment Hour" by James Alan Gardner. It's about 400 years in the future, in a remote village in Northern Canada, where a bizarre experiment has been going on. The people of the village change their biological sex every year until they reach the age of 20, when they have to commit permanently to one or the other. Seriously funny stuff, and great for poking fun at our stereotypes (though no transgender people).

Creigh Gordon said...

Back in February, Reihan Salam had a much clearer and blunter prescription for the GOP than Jennifer Rubin's. (

Here's his key paragraph:

"The GOP can no longer survive as the party of tax cuts for the rich. It must reinvent itself as the champion of America’s working- and middle-class families. In every campaign, Democrats and Republicans talk about getting the working class and the middle class back on their feet. Those are almost always empty words. The GOP must now become a genuinely populist party, putting the concerns of voters ahead of those of donors."

He goes on to list specific strategies for immigration, trade, the social safety net, and taxes. He concludes:

"What defenders of the Republican status quo fail to realize is that unless the party speaks to the interests of working-class voters, they won't just face slightly higher capital gains taxes or more wasteful spending under a Hillary Clinton administration. They will face a backlash from within that threatens to profoundly damage a party that, at its best, is a champion of core social and economic institutions that made America great in the first place."

Laurent Weppe said...

* "The GOP can no longer survive as the party of tax cuts for the rich. It must reinvent itself as the champion of America’s working- and middle-class families"

Already done: Trump reinvented the GOP as the Champion of America’s White working- and middle-class families by basically promising them first dibs of the scraps that will fall from the dynasts' overfilled banquet tables.

Flypusher said...

"Already done: Trump reinvented the GOP as the Champion of America’s White working- and middle-class families by basically promising them first dibs of the scraps that will fall from the dynasts' overfilled banquet tables."

The Trumpkins might settle for even less. Lots of Americans are into living vicariously through others, and Herr Drumpf is the ultimate reality TV star. This guy is doing everything his fans wish that they could do, and so they will support him no matter what he says or does. Did anyone see that video of Ted Cruz trying to reason with one of them? The funny thing to me was, while everything Cruz said about Trump was true, the Trump supporter was also correct is using the "Lyin' Ted" epithet. Arsenic or cyanide, the end result is the same.

A.F. Rey said...

Stepping off topic for a moment, P.Z. Myer on Pharyngula linked to an interesting article on aging. Basically it argues that aging is inevitable simply from thermodynamics--after a number of years, cells and DNA inevitably will be bashed to pieces from thermal heat.

As for allowing transsexuals in bathrooms: pfft. I went to U.C. Santa Cruz back in 1979, and the dorms already had dual-sex bathrooms. (The dorms were designed for only one sex per floor, so when they went co-ed, it was easier to let everyone use the same bathroom rather than build new ones.) We never had any problem with them that I heard of.

Of course, it was kinda odd to see a gal's feet in the shower stall next to yours. But no odder than seeing both a gal's and guy's feet in the same stall later on. :)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jerry Emanuelson said...

For A.F. Rey:

The author of the article on aging (that you linked to) seems to be totally unaware of the work already being done in this area. For example, the Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence (SENS) Research Foundation was founded in March of 2009 primarily for the purpose of treating human aging as a problem of engineering maintenance that is largely a solvable problem.

Also, as Josh Mitteldorf and Dorion Sagan point out in another article in the same issue of the same publication, some species just don't seem to age at all, and the physicist doesn't seem to be able to explain this.

It is also going to be very interesting to see what happens with Liz Parrish, who underwent a genetic engineering procedure on her own body last September which has apparently extended her average chromosomal telomere length by an amount equal to a reduction of about 20 years of human aging. She is just an experimental subject of one, and more independent testing needs to be done on her telomere length. Still, this is an important result, and entirely consistent with our present knowledge about the aging process. It also means that the human maximum lifespan limit of 92 to 122 years may have been broken. We won't know this for many more years. More research is needed, but such research is impeded very greatly by the FDA in the United States. Liz Parrish had to go to Colombia to have this genetic engineering experiment done on herself.

matthew said...

I'll say it again - while I see signs of the Republican united front crumbling to some degree, they are uniting behind Trump. The big schisms are happening in the Democratic Party. The Progressive wing is peeling off from the Corporate wing.

I have no doubt that Koch money is behind many of the anti-Clinton memes circulating through liberal circles. I also have no doubt that they are working very, very well for the Koch's. The depth of disdain for moderate Democrats only has one recent analogue - the Tea Party.

The Democratic convention will be a mess. Hillary can try to blunt the effects by making Sanders or Warren her running mate, but I think that the #NeverHillary folks will hand the election to Trump.

It's depressing, watching so much damage being done to party unity.

David Brin said...

Matthew, that might've been so except for some factors. Trump. The fact that Bernie will hug Hillary and denounce splitters. Trump. The Supreme Court. Trump. A clever good VP choice. And Trump.

Ioan said...


What you say is partially correct. In urban Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Texas the Confederate culture is on its way out. However, that doesn't mean the culture is dying. Why?

1. Those states aren't the entirety of the old Confederacy. I left out Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Those states aren't changing in the same fashion.

2. Appalachian culture is evolving into a more Confederate model. Remember, Trump's base of support is Appalachia. Appalachian culture is significant in states such as Kentucky, Tennessee, W. Virginia, Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, among others. From my perspective, Confederate culture isn't dying, it's simply migrating from the Old South into Appalachia. As an aside, I am concerned how little attention is paid to this phenomenon in the media, probably one of the biggest cultural changes since the GOP's Southern Strategy.

3. Traditional Southern culture will still survive in the rural areas. This won't be as big a problem as the other two, since the rural areas will have a smaller percent of the vote. Except that a lot of Red States have gerrymandering in the state legislature as well.

donzelion said...

Flypusher - "Accommodation is good, but it is often taken to extremes."

Not often, but occasionally, yes. However, your call to Facilities Management to request soap dispensers sounds much more like a pretext than like an accommodation - someone wanted to hand a contract to some specific person or company, and was stalling (this is quite common in bathroom dispenser arrangements - you'd be surprised how much property managers pay for the company that puts in the soap, even as that company pays its janitorial services operators the minimum).

"this lady was insistent that because a purely hypothetical handicapped person couldn't have soap, nobody got soap.

My read is that this has nothing to do with the ADA, and everything to do with the facilities operator (or her boss) having a "friend" who has a "certification" that operates as a pretext to charge 2-5x the cost and justify NOT getting the soap installed for you today. Free market at work: those who are working it, always use the government and the law as a pretext. (E.g., Trump & bankruptcy - "I just used the law that exists, it's not my fault I broke those promises, it's the law's fault! But I can negotiate better with Iran than I could with New Jersey bankers...because I'm Trump!")

"But these things shouldn't be so complicated!"
Most things are rendered complicated by certain players who are trying to shift costs to someone else. It's how billionaires become billionaires. The less oversight the government imposes, the easier it is for them to shift those costs onto you without recourse - and the easier to blame someone else for what they were "forced" to do.

donzelion said...

@Matthew - I mentioned earlier the cause of the apparent friction in the Republicans: one faction of puppeteers earns rents differently from another faction. However, oil/resource extraction barons are hurting right now - they'll fall into line behind Trump because anyone who talks "tough" will spook markets (and help them escape the astronomical mountain of debt - or rather, shift it to someone else). A billionaire oligarch at risk of losing his fortune may dislike Trump on some grounds, but will always fall into line.

Oh yeah, and they can talk about abortion and homosexuals on the side - gotta toss some red meat out there. And political correctness, and similar 'evil plots' (Christmas under siege, et. al.). It's all a threat (which costs them nothing). Much more important than stiffing taxpayers for a few trillion dollars to make rich people stay rich when their bets change.

Among Democrats, it's a generational struggle: Clinton is the "old guard" - insiders, connected city activists, a political machine that very nearly prevailed in 2008, but ruptured given Obama's (1) charisma, and (2) pragmatism. Running as a progressive, but adopting much more moderate positions than Hillary (e.g., his health plan cost several hundred billion less than hers, and was intended to raise coverage to 85-90% of America, while hers was intended to reach 90-95% - moderate Dem leaders cited Obama's charisma, but were more interested in avoiding new taxes - a lessen Hillary may have learned too well).

Sanders Democrats are not splintering over health care - they want 100% (Hillary is willing to expand the existing system). Sanders Democrats are not splintering over minimum wage - they want $15 (she's targeting $12, Republicans prefer this not to be discussed at all). They know that they're pushing Clinton toward more progressive positions than she's advocated (e.g., on the Trans Pacific Partnership), and they know they're doing good if they can move her at all - but none of them see Hillary as "evil" (they just don't really love her, which is ok - no law requires one must love one's president).

donzelion said...

@Flypusher - "Arsenic or cyanide, the end result is the same."

That is a very fair depiction of the choice confronting Republicans in 2016.

Outside of politics, while both can kill you, which are you more likely to actually encounter, and under what circumstances?
(1) Arsenic poisoning is quite common in groundwater in the American southwest, and is common in certain agricultural practices (the bigger the agri-corp, the more likely they are to be spending some money to mitigate the risks, and the more likely they are to balk at government trying to force them to spend still more money to do so).
(2) Cyanide is a common tool in certain mining circles (esp. gold).

Again, both the 'farmers' (who are now mostly land barons, with a handful of small farmers they deploy as spokespersons) and the 'miners' (including oil, gold, and other extraction industries) will unite behind a candidate who promises to keep the 'government off their backs.' Both of them are dependent on an electorate that is too stupid to know about arsenic and cyanide risks (or where they come from) - they need voters who hate 'big government' (and preferably taxes too), because that's the only real threat that will force them to pay money to clean up.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "notice the vast amount of attention currently going to an utterly minuscule fraction of the population [the transgendered community]"

Think about it this way: our system uses the minority fringe to expand freedom and privacy for everyone. In a public restroom, a bit more privacy would be nice: show me a corporate boardroom that operates bathrooms with a public pissing trough. The more elite one becomes, the more private bathroom facilities become. However, no other group in our population has such a strong incentive to ask for privacy in a context that most of us hold our noses and do our business as we must.

We do the same thing in criminal law (which is where your focus on the 6th Amendment comes into play) - nobody but an accused felon has an incentive to challenge police searches and conduct, but those challenges protect all of us. Our system is ingenious in part because we convert the needs of small parts of our community into tools to expand the freedoms for us all.

"Can you meet us halfway?"
The 'halfway' point in a discussion will often be set by extremists on both sides contending for their position, while the responsible adults determine what constitutes an adequate compromise for now. We do this for racial integration, and every other right and freedom. It's all fair game.

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

@Dr. Brin - the other side of the transgender discussion, and less of a positive case: bullying is the fastest, easiest, surest route to power in a group. In a culture rife with signals, the bully conveys strength and conviction that will impress a substantial group, who will entrust that bully with authority, creating a vicious biofeedback loop.

A fantasy author probably would lack much awareness of oligarchy, but the standard playbook of those in power (or trying to assume power) is to find a minority - an individual they wish to dislike publicly - heap abuses at that person, and tell others this must be (for their own good too).

"I wouldn't need to dispossess you of your crops and raise your rents, but that dastardly witch just caused the rains not to fall - kill her and I'll give you another month to pay."

"I refuse to pay the extortionate bond you demand of me - you're Jewish!"

"I haven't a clue what to do about the economy, but those homosexuals are definitely the greatest threat! If they ever get married, then marriage itself will disintegrate, and the economy along with it!"

Whatever the merits of the transgender claims may be, there's serious merit to penalizing folks who play by those rules. Always, the party playing the power game this way seeks to amass greater power, and will practice the art of heaping abuse, which when perfected, they will hurl at any other adversary. Such is the Murdoch path that so many of us despise: it is a worthy path to oppose on principle.

Laurent Weppe said...

Off Topic, but there's a "souveillance"-related event I want to mention here:

Later today, french cops are going to march to protest against... being "misrepresented" by the internet.

See, there's been a lot of protests against the Hollande administration lately (technically, protests are supposed to be heavily regulated because of the state of emergency, but the protesters didn't give a fuck about that and protested anyway, because France), and during the marches, and the sit-ins that emulated the occupy movement, many protesters, including high-schoolers, got beaten-up by cops... who were filmed... and of course the videos were immediately put on the internet, most notably through the app Periscope, which went from something only nerds knew about to widespread cultural penetration in a matter of days if not hours.

So of course, as a result, the reputation of the french police has suddenly taken a dip: parents who at first didn't believe their kids when they told them that cops had, without provocation, charged and beaten the shit out of them watched the videos and immediately after sided with their kids, the french social networks are filled with pictures and videos and policemen's misbehavior, not only in the protest marches but pretty much everywhere, and the opinion that the police is becoming less and less of a public service and more and more a pretorian guard tasked with beating the plebs into submission has never been so widespread.

The interesting part is that the Police's response to this has been, to say the least, disjointed.
At an individual level, we are seeing what I personally hope is the first step of a ruthless but much needed darwinian selection: some cops react to visible recording devices by attacking those wearing them (thus being filmed either by their target of by a bystander), while their smarter colleagues are more and more often heard telling their colleagues "T'es filmé, reste calme!" ("you're being filmed, keep calm!")

At the collective level, while some unions are openly claiming that the police is a victim of a campaign of disingenuous propaganda (hence the march against the "misrepresentation"), others are reminding their members that taking away protesters recording devices is illegal, and a few days ago, something weird happened: in an interview, the leader of the CGT Police (left) openly accused the government of ordering them to not arrest violent rioters trying to infiltrate the demonstrators processions, in order to later justify the police charging protesters, wounding several of them and arresting others for spurious reasons (recently a man was presented before a judge: he was accused of being a rioter, because he wore red shoes, and cops had seen a couple of hours prior the arrest a guy in red shoes breaking windows). Now some dismissed that interview as a left-wing cop trying to defend left-wing protesters he sympathizes with, but when asked about that, the leader of Alliance (the main, right-wing, cop union, which by the way is behind today's cops' protest against the aforementioned "misrepresentation")... confirmed his cégétiste colleague's claim. And THAT is what is truly fascinating: we often see, after violent protests, the protesters accusing cops of deliberately allowing the situation to degrade in order to justify their later heavy-handed repression, and, with technology's help, protesters more and more often provide evidences of their claims, but here, on top of that, we get to see law enforcement itself coming forward and answering "Yep, the higher ups totally ordered up to screw the pooch"

Jumper said...

Laurent Weppe, that story cuts another simultaneous arc: how do the police detain violent rioters before they riot? Shortcut the various street freedoms? Do the cops recognize them before it starts? Are you saying they needed arrest?

donzelion said...

Thanks for posting, Laurent. I was surprised to learn the state of emergency continues in France. It's been six months now since the last attacks, and while investigations are ongoing, I can't see the justification for emergency powers (let alone for police beating up protesters generally - I've seen my share of hooligans with knives and razors in Egypt - but wasn't aware of violent protests in France).

"the opinion that the police is becoming less and less of a public service and more and more a pretorian guard tasked with beating the plebs into submission has never been so widespread."

I haven't heard or read about that sort of mass protest in France for a couple generations (well, protests certainly, but not a mass movement of protests). Are the police protesting against a specific cadre of media (e.g., a niche owned by a non-police friendly union)?

"T'es filmé, reste calme!" ("you're being filmed, keep calm!")
That sort of sousveillance may be an important tool, esp. amateur citizen activism. In other countries (significantly less tech savvy than France), I've seen that sort of coverage turn out to be propaganda (e.g., the rock-throwing preceding the truncheons/water cannons was omitted, or the camera holder missed purely as a result of the angle from which they were filming). Perhaps body cams for riot squads are in order too...more cams can be better than less.

Jumper said...

More cams are definitely good. One cam records the other cam. For too long the people behind the camera have enjoyed the most anonymity of all. That needs to stop.

David Brin said...



i_/0 said...

Watch 'Democracy' in-action: (Nevada Democratic Convention being stolen, on video)

And that's just the Dems.

spiralx said...

I'll say it again - while I see signs of the Republican united front crumbling to some degree, they are uniting behind Trump. The big schisms are happening in the Democratic Party. The Progressive wing is peeling off from the Corporate wing.

They're mostly holding their nose and standing generally downwind of him, so far it's about as tepid a show of support as I've ever seen. Big Donors like Adelson coming forward will make it easier for some to support Trump, but indications are that lots of big hitters will sit the whole thing out - GHWB, GWB, McCain and Romney are skipping the convention, and Romney especially has been openly scathing of Trump - I actually feel kind of sorry for him given how his whole campaign went.

I have no doubt that Koch money is behind many of the anti-Clinton memes circulating through liberal circles. I also have no doubt that they are working very, very well for the Koch's. The depth of disdain for moderate Democrats only has one recent analogue - the Tea Party.

Ah yes, the Green Tea Party, aka the #BernieOrBust and #BernItDown 'movements'. If you ever wanted to know what the effects of a massive multi-decade witch hunt and smear campaign, then these guys (I'm guessing it is mostly guys as well) are it - at a time when Republicans had almost seemed tired of the whole thing, Bernie's supporters have discovered it afresh and fervently embraced it, blaming Hillary for anything that goes wrong for them.

It seems an obvious consequence of Bernie's populist demagoguery, with its dystopian us-vs-them narrative that casts 'Wall Street bankers' and the 'billionaire class' as the Establishment that keeps everyone else down, that Hillary would have been attacked on this during the primary. However political naivety has led to Bernie's supporters combining the worst of the left's smug moral superiority with the worse of the right's prejudice and xenophobia, and produced a ideologically inflexible, conspiracy-based mindset.

After all, they view Hillary Clinton as being both a) a key member of the Establishment, which she uses to crush democracy, trample third-parties, overturn votes and control the media; and b) a pawn or lackey of the Establishment, owing them quid-pro-quo for the scraps that she gets disguised as either 'corporate speaking fees' or 'the Clinton Foundation' - she will repay the Establishment by reversing progressive change, starting wars and generally not being Bernie.

The Democratic convention will be a mess. Hillary can try to blunt the effects by making Sanders or Warren her running mate, but I think that the #NeverHillary folks will hand the election to Trump.

Nah, there just aren't enough of them to worry about, there are far fewer than there were PUMAs in the previous Democratic primary cycle, and the most aggressive are probably not Democrats - just far-left independents caught up in the moment. Plus Hillary doesn't even need independent voters to win the election, Romney and McCain won them, and the white male vote, and lost to Obama - and Hillary has the same voting bloc behind her, plus Hispanic voters who absolutely hate Trump right now.

Sanders and Warren are both Senators, so they would be unlikely to get picked for VP, as it would risk losing their seats to a Republican candidate. Realistically it'll be someone who boosts her appeal to moderate Republicans - people who despise Trump so much they are considering voting for Hillary, and just need an excuse to do so.