Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Trump, Tribalism and Diatribes

Both Fareed Zakaria and 538’s legendary Nate Silver have issued apologias and post-mortems for having failed so utterly to predict Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.  Interesting reading.  And yet they seem determined to double down on mistakes.

1. Voters are more tribal than I thought.
2. GOP is weaker than I thought.
3. Media is worse than I thought.

Oh, certainly these have some general truth. And yet, does Donald Trump’s triumph in GOP primaries reflect on all “voters”? Or on the 6% or so of qualified U.S. citizens who cast ballots in his favor in primaries, so far?

More significant is the fact that another 4% or so backed raving reactionaries like Ted Cruz, with very few supporting the mainstream GOP pols whom Rupert Murdoch is used to having at his beck and call.  Sure, Trump is appealing to “tribalism.” But he has swayed a subset of a subset, so far.  

It will only be fair to impugn American voters, in general, if the supporters of Bernie Sanders prove too “tribal” to see the practical value of joining the general democratic alliance.

Is the media “worse” than Nate Silver thought?  Oh sure. But the tribes supporting Donald Trump are not swayed by general media, rather by a subset that was fine-tuned, at great expense, by the Murdochian machine, by Clear Channel svengalis and by Heritage/AEI  incantation-rationalizers. After inciting millions into a resentful, grievance-driven froth that includes a bilious war against science and every other “smartypants” profession in American life, the owners of that specialized wing of media now blink in astonishment at what they have wrought. Having whipped their horse into a populist frenzy, they cannot believe it when an expert rider hopped aboard their already-raging beast and snatched the reins right out of their hands.  

(As happened to the so-smart 1930s German Junkers lords who thought they could control racist populists because “we own the newspapers.")

Nate Silver blames the “weak” GOP on a failure of coordination, ignoring the fact that the 21st Century Republican Party was - until very recently - the most tightly disciplined political entity in the history of the republic.  

For a couple of decades no major GOP officeholder dared utter a word that did not comply with talking points issued by Roget Ailes. And woe unto any who violated the (Dennis) Hastert Rule by negotiating with democrats over matters of public substance. It was for that sin, rather than his divorce scandals, that Newt Gingrich suffered exile into the political wilderness. (And contemplate Newt's possible revenge.)

Sure, that formerly tight discipline appears to have been shattered, this year.  But look underneath. House and Senate republicans are still marching in utter lockstep, with no one breaking ranks, except a few gutsy senators daring to diss Trump. As far as policy is concerned? Sticking to the GOP method of doing almost nothing for the republic? Anything at all?  No change.

No, Nate, the fault does not lie in GOP "failure of coordination." My own theory is that Murdoch and his ilk deliberately bent their wills and massive resources to re-igniting our 250 year old, ever-simmering American Civil War. "Red" America is gray, and we have been down this path before. And setting fire to this match was not just treason.  It was spectacularly stupid.

== How does Donald Trump do it? ==

Scott (Dilbert) Adams has analyzed how DT's most outrageous or fact-free statements aren't meant to convince, they are designed to move the Center of Narrative, so that we're arguing over how much or little DT has exaggerated a core truth. The essence is "there must be some fire under all this smoke I am blowing, right?"  Now see an even closer analysis of Trump's polemical method, which is brilliant. While it seems he's babbling, a simple word analysis reveals fiendish precision.

Watch this video! Share widely this appraisal of how Donald Trump’s polemic is so skillfully planned and executed, down to the number of one, two and three syllable words. A brilliant svengali! It will not persuade a single fervid Trumpist. But it can affect fence-sitting conservatives. Above all, it will show the True America of Jefferson and Franklin and Clemens and decent argument and of science and of people who can talk at a tenth grade level... that this truly is a fight worth taking very seriously.

After that amazing decryption of DT’s method, Nerdwriter then analyzes how news media and politicians and citizens helped make the Trump phenomenon. Though I'll warrant only for the 40% who are confederates. The greater number of blue/Union Americans will send him packing as we did Jeff Davis. 

See this: a guide to the almost-endless list of conspiracy theories espoused by Donald Trump.

== Vice Presidential choices ==

Recently I posted my own quirky take on the factors that Trump must consider in picking his running mate... a choice made far more problematic by the fact that few seem to want the job... and that whoever he does select may betray him for political advantage, either before the election or else - in the unlikely event they win -- very soon after. If you haven't seen these almost-scifi scenarios, go see how plausible they are, and how closely DT himself should pay attention to the minefield.

In this parsing of possible Democratic VP picks, I lean strongly toward Al Franken. Also Virginia’s TIm Kaine. Both reach out beyond their obvious traits, are sharp-witted and truly substantial minds.

As for the other veep choice? Okay I'll dip back in, since it is so fascinating.  This article from The Washington Post shows how, with Trump, the spread is so wide, it’s like an entire Dr. Seuss bestiary -- alas most of it similarly nonsensical.  Does he want his veep choice to help shore him up with the establishment? That is starting to seem likely. Only then that will mean he’s NOT planning a hard veer to the center. 
If he does veer toward the middle (and I elsewhere called that a potential benefit for the country, if (say) the GOP presidential candidate were to publicly drop insane voodoos like supply side and climate denialism) then in that case he’d need a veep from the radical right who would protect his base, while he performs his centrist feint.

A deciding factor between those two options? Donald Trump always thinks of #1 first. And picking a mainstream, establishment republican politician would be political - perhaps even real - suicide.  Follow the logic. If he chooses an establishment republican who is in Rupert Murdoch’s pocket (meaning nearly all of them), then the gopper lords could solve their Trump Problems by getting rid of DT on any pretext, after the inauguration. Forget the “JFK” scenario. Just impeach him! On any excuse at all. Most dems in Congress would go along (possibly foolishly) so Murdoch would not even have to supply his own majorities.  And then? DT fades into an historical footnote. Your establishment puppet is in and you get all the Supreme Court picks and possibly a re-election.
What a perfect plan! What on Earth could prevent it? DT will provide some pretext, early on. And the dems would never have the discipline to stand back and tell Paul Ryan: "do your own dirty work." Indeed, if the election looks lost, this betrayal could happen a month or so before the November polls.  (Okay, I repeated some of my earlier argument. But see it all laid out clearly here.)

This is why - for his own protection from both kinds of lynching - I am putting $5 on him nominating a maniac.

Though given how DT thinks?  A woman for sure. He’ll think that helps. Wait. Did I just describe Sarah Palin? Eep!  Far better… Ivanka Trump?  Oooooh. This year is giving me a headache.

== Paul Ryan embraces Trump ==

This stunningly Orwellian puff piece for Paul Ryan proclaims: “Paul Ryan in many ways is the antithesis of Donald Trump; he’s everything that Donald Trump is not. He’s a decent human being. He is a conservative. He is steeped in public policy. He cares about ideas. He’s a person who conducts himself with civility and grace in public life. He doesn’t put down his opponents.  He’s aspirational in his message and philosophy. He’s inclusive. He’s an admirable human being, and Donald Trump is not.”  

What stunning malarkey! Mr. Ryan may be softer-spoken, but he has been an utter partisan warrior on behalf of the pro-oligarchy madness that has transformed American conservatism from a movement containing some real intellect, respect for science and willingness to engage in adult negotiation into what we now see – a frothing frenzy of fervidly intransigent dogmatic hate-peddling.

The last Republican leader to actually engage in “politics” – or argument aimed at advancing policy in service to the American people – was Newt Gingrich who – while a sometimes-offensive culture warrior – would also pause now and then to negotiate with Bill Clinton, getting actual bills and debt-reducing budgets passed.*

Gingrich was toppled by a cabal of neoconservatives led by Dennis “role model for all boys” Hastert, Tom “convicted felon” DeLay, Tearful John Boehner and Paul Ryan, who combined to establish the Hastert Rule that any Republican who ever again negotiated with a democrat would be harshly punished. Their dedication to electoral cheating – e.g. gerrymandering – was unprecedented even in Tamany Hall days. 

The Congresses they led were not only the most dogmatic but also the laziest and most worthless, not even trying, feebly, to pass long stated Republican goals – not even when the GOP owned all three branches of government and could do anything they wanted (2001 to 2007).  All that passed during that span were gifts to Wall Street and the uber-rich and resource extractors. That… is… it. That and utterly absurd wars.

The rest of this insipid rationalization by Mike DeBonis is worth scanning if only to make sure that you don’t exist in an isolation booth. You blues are better than confederates because you are willing sometimes lift your gaze to hear other sides. At least you should be.

More from Ryan: “It’s a question of how to move ahead on the ideas that I — and my House colleagues—have invested so much in through the years. It’s not just a choice of two people, but of two visions for America,” Paul Ryan said today in endorsing Donald Trump. But unlike every other commenter or pundit, I care less about  surfaces like this endorsement than the utter gall of Ryan, contending that he has a "bold and clear vision" of ambitious actions on the GOP agenda.

What a towering liar. Okay, this bears repeating. The Republicans have held the House for 20 of the last 22 years and both houses for 16. For 6 years (2001-2007) they owned every single branch of government, Congress, the Courts and the presidency and could have passed anything they chose.  What did they choose... from their long, long list of ranted grievances?

Did they deregulate or banish any departments? Not a-one. (In contrast, democrats have deregulated many things, the ICC, CAB, AT&T, GPS and the whole freaking Internet.) Did twenty years of GOP Congresses cancel environmental regs? Did they do a push on abortion?

Nope, except for the Bushite disaster trillion-dollar wars, all they did was pass gusher arterial wealth transfers into the open maws of Wall Street, bankers, resource extractors and other parasites. That... is... it. NAME another major thing they did with all that power!

Again, because no one else will say it -- the last five GOP-run Congresses have been the laziest in the history of the republic. Members spend nearly all their time fund-raising. Or passing futile-bizarre retractions of Obamacare. They achieved not only record breaking lows in legislation proposed or passed, but lows in the number of days in session, hearings held, subpoenas issued.  And if you subtract frippery Benghazi and Email hearings, almost none at all.

The utter nerve and Chutzpah of Ryan, to use an "ambitious agenda" as his reason to support that screaming svengali Donald Trump?  Hypocrisy exponentiated, as we would expect from an apprentice to Dennis "role model for all boys" Hastert, convicted felon Tom De-Lay and Tearful-John Boehner.

When I assert they are all traitors, that is political polemic. But when I call them, lazy perverts, that is a matter of record.

== Splitting parties ==

Conservative columnist Thomas Friedman calls for a “New Republican Party” to become the healthy center-right movement in America. He’s not the only one. Elsewhere I describe how Jennifer Rubin, the “Right Turn” columnist for the Washington Post, has said similar things, citing Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb) as a (rare) example of sanity on that side, who might serve as a crystallization seed for such a reborn conservatism, rising from the well-earned ashes of the mad confederacy ignited by Rupert Murdoch.

Alas, if Friedman and Rubin and their ilk weren’t so blinded by stereotypes, they’d realize that the party they’re calling for already exists. It's HALF of the Democratic Party.

Let me explain. Today's Democratic Party is not a center right party... It *contains* America's center right party.  The DP is - in fact - the entire spectrum of moderate politics in America. It is where people who truly want to argue and negotiate pragmatic mixes of state and private and corporate views gather to try to concoct solutions to 21st century problems. Want to see this in every detail?  Look at California, where the 3/4 democratic majority has resulted is far more vigorous debate, not less. The far-more-moderate-than-national republicans in the state assembly are very influential, using their votes to horsetrade between the DP's liberal and moderate wings.  Oh and by the way, California under Jerry Brown is the best-run, cleanest and most effective state in the Union.

Hence the DP is ill-disciplined and hard to typify… a good thing!

In effect, the Democratic Party is the House of Commons and the GOP is the House of Lords and when the Lords have a majority they have just two priorities - to perform rip-offs of the people and (2) to prevent politics from functioning at all.

If the GOP vanished tomorrow, Thomas Friedman's wish would instantly come true as the DP would then almost instantly split in half. San American moderate conservatives would get a party that loves science and the Earth but is also pro-enterprise and flat-fair business competition... one that argues like adults with the somewhat pink wing of slightly socialists.

If the GOP vanished tomorrow. Oh, not till November.  Then make it so.


Unknown said...

I do wish people wouldn't attack Trump for speaking at a "4th grade level" sure, let's attack him for having dumb policy ideas and being a bullshit artist.

But having a high Flesch-Kincaid reading level is a bad thing. Not a good thing. This article breaks down and shares some basic information and ideas.
There are better articles about the subject I am sure, but this one isn't bad at all.


But the thrust of the matter is things like the tax code are written at a 13th grade level. Hemingway wrote around the 5th grade level. Writers we collectively adore and shower billions of dollars on generally write around the 6-8th grade level. Clinton's book was around 11th grade level.

I don't know what grade level Mr. Brin's works would score at, but I wouldn't be surprised if he does, and without analyzing them in a serious way I'm going to guess he comes in around the 8th grade reading level. Which is quite good for works which attack complex ideas and situations. (The actual score given to his works by a machine might be higher, because it might the language specific to certain novels to be a sort of jargon.)

Paul SB said...

Host for the End,
I looked over that article and much if the gist was not very surprising to me, but then, I have been through grad school, so I have an experience not shared by most people (though a fair number of readers here). Good writers know to adjust their exile levels for their audiences. When you are writing for lawyers - which is what you are doing when you write legislation like The Affordable Care Act - you need a high exile level, because lawyers are BS artists trained to manipulate words. When you write an academic paper, the expectation is that the audience will share your academic background and already be familiar with the highly specialized jargon of your trade. This increases the lexile level.

When you write (or speak) for a general audience, you need to achieve a level of easy comprehensibility. The average adult only has about a 20 minute attention span (why good teachers don't just stand and lecture, they break the class period up into multiple activities), so if a writer or speaker has to spend too much time explaining, they lose their audience. Donald Dunk's 4-grade lexile level strikes me as being too low. It gives the appearance that he is talking down to people, that his intended audience are those poorly educated voters he claims to love so much - the kind of people whose ignorance makes them easily persuaded/manipulated. Thus I disagree that ridiculing his lexile level is misplaced. It reveals an aspect of his strategy for manipulating the voting public.

Most people in America are high school graduates, so you might think a 12th grade lexile level would be ideal, but most people do very little reading after high school, unless they go to college. I suspect that 8th grade is probably within the Goldilocks Zone for general audiences. It is easy for most people to understand without sounding like you're talking down to them. Trump often sounds like a bad nanny.

Another thing I noticed, though, is that the article isn't accounting for the Flynn Effect. That is, many of the older, revered authors are score low probably because of lower education standards in their times.

David Brin said...

Grade level in reading is a rule of thumb that breaks down when you go multidimensional. Sure, I strive hard to keep my prose accessible by a very wide range of customer readers. There are skills involved that require real subtlety. Especially since I am trying usually to expose folks to complex and unusual concepts.

atomsmith said...

Surely phrases like "fourth grade reading level" are meant as a metaphor for being intellectually and temperamentally juvenile and not as an actual calibrated evaluation (or diagnosis)...

Is your objection that we shouldn't use that metaphor any more, because it unfairly disparages simplicity/accessibility?

Paul SB said...

Writing science fiction (the good stuff more so than simple space opera) makes for a subtle dance where it comes to lexile level, a dance that is not well reflected by the kinds of algorithms used by computers to assess lexile levels (lexile level is the term used by the professionals, so if anyone want to investigate the concept you will probably find more using that term than searching "reading level") . Most of the prose has to be fairly accessible, but since science fiction tends to involve a lot of technical concepts, there has always been a need for some sort of "expert witness" to explain these things to the central characters, or if the central characters are scientists themselves, ample opportunity for them to explain the issues to non-specialists (in keeping with Einstein's adage about being able to explain it to a six-year old - which seems to be Host's point). I have been trying to get through "Earth" and there are some great places where the author uses a number of different ways to get technical details across without it feeling like a data dump.

Zepp Jamieson said...

The simpler the language, the more complex a plot you can get away with. To pick an example readers here will be familiar with, "Kiln People" is one of Brin's most approachable novels--simple language, engaging characters, lots of humour. It also has the most convoluted plot, but people glide through it effortlessly and reach the end barely aware that they just went through a complete tesseract of a story.

Now: Trump. I'm going to bring up Hitler, but don't stop reading: I'm not about to cross Godwin's Law.
Hitler had a similar grasp of using simple, direct language, and not caring if 90% of it was nearly incoherent as long as simple, punchy words and phrases got through to his audience, over and over. Hitler was crafty, a salesman, and even wily. But he was neither knowledgeable nor bright. Those would have just gotten in the way. It's important to know that Trump kept a book of Hitler's speeches in his bedstand and studied it intently. He may not share Hitler's beliefs (let's hope not) but he wants to emulate his success.

Treebeard said...

These house intellectuals you cite like Friedman (“conservative” – LOL good one Brin), Rubin, Zakaria, Silver, etc. probably aren't the best sources for insight into Trump, Brexit, etc. One, because they're part of the bloated class of “experts” who live in some kind of elite bubble world and have little idea what's going on outside it – hence their many failed predictions and constant surprise. Two, because they are ideologically and/or financially committed to opposing Trump, Brexit, etc. so their objectivity is highly suspect. It's amusing to imagine a buffoon like Friedman in his gated mansion saying “Hey it's a flat world, ain't this globalism great! What's wrong with these Trump supporters anyway? Are they a bunch of racists?” These guys are the Marie Antoinettes of our time.

Deuxglass said...

Pollsters are very good at explaining why they got it wrong and that it wasn't their fault but instead it was the fault of those who they are polling. They believe it is a science on the level of mathematics and physics but it is not. Many people these days give bullshit answers to polling companies. After all, the pollsters are just using them to make money selling their results without giving anything in return to the ones polled. Politicians use polls as a way to avoid actually talking to the people in their districts to find out what they really think. It is so much easier and fun to attend cocktail parties and talk to people who are basically like himself than to go down to speak at length with the Great Unwashed. The only polls that are truly reliable are those taken at the polling places. These are called elections.

Deuxglass said...

In this election, independents or swing-voters if you prefer, will probably make up at least 35% of voters and they will decide the election. Although individually they have right or left tendencies, they are not tied hand and foot to ideologies as are card-carrying party members. They are the pragmatic ones and tend to look at the broad picture and are less side-tracked by secondary issues. Party leaders hate independents because they can’t control them so they generally ignore them and make believe that only those in their respective parties really count. The primary system in any case narrows down their choice to only two people and that is just fine for the party members. This time it looks different. Many of Trump’s supporters are from the independents as are many of Sander’s and they counted for the surge in new registrations for the primary elections. You cannot predict for whom they will vote this time around in the general election. The independents look like they have decided to throw the dice because both parties have blotched badly in addressing the really important issues. They took a chance with Sanders but Clinton managed to just scrape by and are now faced with a continuation of the same old thing. There is no surprise with her but Trump is the unknown. I think enough of them will throw the dice and choose the unknown over the known and swing the election. I would like to thank the Democrat Party elites for doing everything to push the worst possible candidate on us and passed over much better ones because they simply decided that it was "her turn".

The resentment comes from the fact that the two parties have failed through their own actions and not because of right-wing propaganda. The media, the evangelists and the fake think tanks did not created this perception of failure. The failure is real and evident for 80% of the population. Murdock may have ignited and stoked the fire but the fire is going towards him and his friends instead of away. Lincoln said “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Anonymous said...

Or one could study history, and note what Toynbee has to say about Dominant Minorities so delightfully clueless as to the plight of their Internal Proletariat. Doubling down on mistakes is just what such Dominant Minorities do, even well past the point they discover their britches more earthwards than about their corpulent waist-lines (assuming they even notice). As for the civil war nonsense, that is per Spengler intellectual babble one should expect from a state ripe with decay, frippery that ignores such indicators as 1 in 10 Cal State students being homeless, and 1 in 5 not having steady access to food. Why is housing so unaffordable in states that are bastions of blue? And why is only "Trump 2016" or "BERNAYS" being scrawled about the campuses, and not any of the corporate 'H'awks?

RFYork said...

The underlying issue throughout the industrialized west is the total and absolute betrayal of the middle and working classes by the elites of both the Right and the Left. At least since NAFTA, the only benefits (if they really are benefits) that the average person has received from "free trade" and "globalization" are cheap prices at Walmart and its ilk.

The current financial crisis facing individuals and families all over the west has generated a a justifiably high level of fear and uncertainty. (And, let's not even talk about automation.) Fear is the mother's milk of demagogues. Scott Adams' analysis fits right in with George Lakoff's thinking. I am rather surprised that few of my fellow liberal/progressive types have not acknowledged how completely the Right has mastered the tools of propaganda to dominate what little political dialogue goes on in this country.

Glenn Greenwald pretty much nails it here.

Just Another Dave said...

David -

Great essay - but I think you might benefit from taking a look at the coverage of the aftermath of Brexit - AKA "WTF did we just do?"

Yes, Trump is exploiting a larger-than-previously-realized slice of voters. And yes, these people were warmed up for his demagoguery by 30-plus years of Murdoch, Limbaugh, Steele, Alex Jones, et al. But there's some context that has been lacking from most of the analyses that was brought out by the Guardian and the Economist.

Basically, back in the Thatcher years, the unions were destroyed and manufacturing jobs started being replaced by automation and relocation to 3rd-world countries. When Labour tried to agitate on behalf of these blue-collar workers who were now unemployed, they were tarred with "sticking up for a bunch of lazy moochers" -- and worse yet, the Tories were able to motivate the angry blue-collar workers into voting against Labour (in the U.S., the Democrats) by using abortion, crime, Robert Mapplethorpe, etc. etc., to distract these short-sighted people into voting against their own interests.

The Left saw the destruction of communities through the lens of racial politics, and pivoted to becoming about catering to minorities and policing language. Meanwhile, the moderate/centrist Labourites learned to love Big Finance (see: Blair, Tony), and embraced the magical Free Market Fairy in return for campaign donations sufficient to buy enough TV ads to get re-elected.

Abandoned, the blue-collar workers turned into the pathetic rats in lab experiments about the addictive properties of cocaine. They keep pulling the lever frantically for the reward that they're promised by the GOP, enticed by the promises and disappointed by the results. Are they so deep down Murdoch's rabbit hole that they cannot even see a way out? Is there any way for reality-based humans to reach out a hand to them in a way that they would accept?

We will see in the next year.

David Brin said...

Interesting perspectives - Another Dave. You are welcome here.

Treebeard (note that I use his true-fake coward’s name, when this happens) stated his contempt for establishment commentators very well. Only then… what am I? I am poking at non-established views and nonstandard perspectives all the time. and while I definitely am taking sides - for the Union against a mad confederacy - I skewer the left, all the time.

I have no vested interest in parroting any party lines. If I agree with a generality - that Trump is a spectacular svengali who would endanger civilization… I also point out silver linings! e.g DT’s likely at the debates to DROP standard reflex insanities of the Fox-run right, like denialism and supply side, leaving guys like treebeard gasping and grasping for rationalizations for their own required veer.

So… I know you are (a dogmatis) but what am I?

Deuxglass, I have seldom seen this, but you are wrong in every conceivable way. There’s hardly a single sentence that was not wrong. In many cases diametrically.

David Brin said...

RFYork just doubles down with the right’s last rallying cry: “I know my side is entirely corrupt insane assholes… but…. but… ALL politicians are like that! Yeah. That’s the ticket. Cynicism! Yeah, they are all the same. THAT should keep some republicans voting. Our candidates are all jerks and thieves… but they’re OUR jerks and thieves! VOTE GOP!”

Sorry. One party voted in the CFPB and the other fought it tooth & nail. One will (when it gets congress back) allow former students to refinance a trillion dollars in student loans, the way their parents can refi mortgages… the other fights that pro-middle reform to the last. One supports science and the other hates it. I could go on all day. One party gave use two entire 8 year administrations without a single official indicted for malfeasance of office… the other see’s hi pols trooping into prison almost daily. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.

Indeed, the worst problem in America is not the re-ignition of the Civil War. We can solve that, as our forebears did… no, we are hobbled around the ankles by whining, mewling, snarking playground cynics, whmipering “I don’ haveta lift a finger cause they’re alll… the same!”

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard: You are welcome to doubt the characters of the people David offers up in his posts, but you are probably off the mark with Silver. I know (and was good friends with) one of his (former?) business partners. His love of stats for the purpose of prediction in baseball was down-right nerdy, but he advanced the field and got a physical sciences guy like me interested in his technique for dealing with information gaps. Teaming up with Silver wouldn't have been possible if Silver were as you describe him with such a broad brush. I know my friend well enough for that prediction to be a good bet.

Alfred Differ said...

@RFYork: ...the only benefits (if they really are benefits) that the average person has received from "free trade" and "globalization" are cheap prices at Walmart and its ilk

Back to Econ 101 for you.

That benefit you doubt exists is the very thing that has fundamentally changed the human condition over the last three centuries. Many progressives doubt it, but try living on $3/day and see how far you get as an example of an average human over the last 1000 generations. Real price reductions are the most important thing we have EVER done to lift humanity out of grinding poverty. All our charitable actions don't even come close to doing as much.

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

Thank you for your critique but if you have the time, could you explain to me which of my statements was the most wrong? Is it the role of swing-voters in deciding elections or that enough of them may go to Trump in the election? I do hope I am wrong on that but the possibility of that happening is high. I do blame the Republicans for most of the mess we are in but I also blame the Democrats for abandoning the middle class. I can go line by line but I do appreciate your opinions nd I am not being sarcastic. I just want to know where and how my arguments are faulty if they are.

Alfred Differ said...

@deuxglass: The only polls that are truly reliable are those taken at the polling places. These are called elections.

You might start with this. It is a broad statement you probably can't support with evidence. I doubt polls are as unreliable as you suggest above it, but I can't support that well either. No doubt some ARE offering BS to pollsters, but how many and how much impact do they have? Evidence rules.

Whether David chimes in with details or not, I'd be curious to know why you think the Dems have abandoned the bourgeoisie. From where I sit they are almost entirely bourgeois, so I don't see it.

occam's comic said...

I am pretty sure that whoever wins the election in 2016 will only be a 1 term president. The reason is pretty strait forward, before 2020 we will have another global recession caused by a spike in oil prices. The oil price spike will be caused by the greatly reduced investment in new oil production combined with the natural depletion of existing oil wells. (the only thing that can prevent the spike in oil prices is a global recession)

So if Clinton wins, but the republicans hold onto both the house and senate Democrats are totally screwed. They will get very little productive action done and get blamed for the recession.

If Clinton wins and the Dems get a majority in the senate but don’t control the house, about the only long term accomplishment will be to move the federal courts in a slightly more liberal direction. The judges will likely be more liberal on women’s issues and racial issues but still pretty pro-business.

If Clinton wins and the Dems get the house and senate, we will get the slightly more liberal federal court and…..?
a higher minimum wage?
What other legislation does Clinton want to pass?

If Trump wins and the repubs keep the house and senate we will get a much more conservative federal court and rash of stupid shit that gets signed into law and used as a basis for foreign policy.

If Trump wins but the dems take the senate the federal court will get slightly more conservative and most of the stupid legislation will be stopped, but the executive branch and foreign policy will led by a bunch of yahoos.

Alfred Differ said...

Does anyone know if the Juno folks tried to time their Jupiter Orbit Insertion maneuver for July 4 as a birthday present for us? I recall a certain Martian probe being timed for the bicentennial, so I'm wondering if they are as stuck for plots as Hollywood seems to be. 8)

Annabelle said...


Count the numbers. 27 Democrats. 18 republicans. P = 0.002 with coinflip distribution.

Unless of course you believe that federal officials may sell votes and judgement freely as long as they maintain their private virtue.

Alfred Differ said...

Do long range oil futures reflect this prediction of a price spike yet?

Lots of things can happen in four years, so I'm not convinced oil will be the cause of the next president being in office only one term. Recessions are mostly about a phase change in confidence levels in the market. Lots of things could do that... or not.

Deuxglass said...


I wanted to say that in a reasonably close election polls cannot predict the outcome because of statistical error. I also wanted to underline what pollsters already know and try to overcome with little success, that is enough people do not tell them the truth.

I said the Dems abandoned the middle class. The term bourgeoisie is a 19th Century term describing the upper middle class of Europe at the time and never did accurately apply the US. Nevertheless the Dems strongest base is now the upper middle class when before they drew their strength from the middle class as a whole.

Deuxglass said...

occam's comic,

You asked what legislation Clinton wants to pass and she has recently come up with a detailed wish list that is lengthy and detailed. It looks good on paper. You can find it here:


occam's comic said...

10 of the last 11 recessions in the US were preceded by a spike in oil prices.
With oil prices currently so low not much money is being invested in new oil extraction. About the only country in the world that can profitably increase its extraction of oil at today's prices is Iran. Venezuela and Nigeria are both facing big internal problems that may greatly reduce their ability to extract oil. And the depletion of current oil fields is an on going problem for all others.

We currently have a large amount of oil that has been pumped out of the ground and sitting in storage, but it is apparently difficult to get an accurate figure on how much oil is in storage. Oil futures will be rising once we have worked through this ambiguity. (unless a recession is caused by something else, like the election of trump)

occam's comic said...

Holy sheep shit !!!!
As many of us know one of the effects of global warming is that the jet stream will get weaker and meander more as the poles warm. Well something unexpected just happened, the jet stream in the northern hemisphere went so far south it jumped over the equator and joined up with the southern hemisphere jet stream.

Acacia H. said...

Occam, your theory would seem valid except the amount of oil being pumped in the U.S. has only declined a moderate amount, the number of rigs being used to make new wells has stopped dropping and may be starting to rise, and there is still a significant glut in oil supplies. Oil prices will not likely spike for another four years at least, and no doubt some parties will keep oil reserves handy to sell off in anticipation of such a spike to make a good profit.

What would be more important is Clinton's health after four years of extreme stress of being President. Obama has aged a good 16 years at least in his eight years of office. He entered office a young-looking man. Now? You can see how the Presidency has not been kind to him. It will not be kind to Hillary... who is older than Obama.

Yes, I kind of did just suggest Clinton would win. My dream is that we have a hung Electoral College due to the Libertarian ticket getting just enough electoral votes to screw things up, and then the House and Senate electing Johnson and Weld as preferable to Trump. ;) Hey, Bush got in without a majority. Why not Libertarians? ;)

Rob H.

Rob H.

bigsteve said...

"if the supporters of Bernie Sanders prove too “tribal” to see the practical value of joining the general democratic alliance."

As another blogger I follow said " Most of Bernie's support is in very blue states Hillary will win anyway." But recent polls are showing that they are mainly pragmatic progressives who will work with the Democrat nominee.

Alfred Differ said...

@deuxglass: The Bourgeoisie is a clade composed of pretty much everyone who works for a living that earns enough to not be owned or indentured. It doesn’t apply well in the US because that clade contains essentially all of us. That is the result of our Revolution, though. We rejected the Aristocrat clade Europe kept and refused over a few generations to treat anyone as a peasant… at least in the legal sense.

What has been happening over the last few centuries is the bourgeoisie has been consuming the peasant and aristocrat clades. The so-called middle class is the widest part of David’s diamond shaped society and they are all bourgeois. As our clade grows we like to recognize three distinct layers within it, though, and some mistake one of the layers for aristocrats. The haute bourgeoisie still work, though, and no respectable aristocrat will treat them as equals. The petite bourgeoisie (sometimes called the working class) are where the peasants/proletariats join us as we shift from a pyramid to a diamond society. In the thick middle, though, is a rather finicky clade some call the Intelligencia and McCloskey calls the Clerisy. They are educated guns for hire and might serve bourgeois or aristocrat interests.

The Democrats serve all segments of the bourgeoisie. A small donations politician is likely to be better in tune with the petite bottom. The Clintons might be better in tune with the bosses and clerisy, but that doesn’t mean they serve the aristocrats. The Party’s strongest base, though, isn’t from the top of the clade. It wasn’t the people at the top who got Obama elected even though Clinton looked like the heir apparent. I encourage you to think of it as more than one party that happens to go by one name. Do that and you’ll have a chance at seeing the fuss and tumble they engage in with every election cycle.

David Brin said...

Deuxglass you are a treasured member of the community so I will spend the time. By far most GOP and DP voters in the primaries had been GOP & DP voters before. There is no “pragmatism” among GOP voters, who split between dogmatist Cruzites and rage-junkie Trumpists, none of whom was able to point to facts to back up their incantations. Their inchoate certainty that the GOP leaders and molochs have betrayed them is true enough. But they are unable switch off Alex Jones and return to a vigorous labor movement.

Sandersites have a somewhat stronger claim to pragmatism in that some aspects of globalization and trade pacts have cost American jobs. But there is no trend toward actually appraising how that happens or what the major effects are. For every US job lost to NAFTA there are (I’ve seen) 3 to five middle class jobs made in Mexico - with downstream stimulus to the mexican lower middle class. Likewise, TPP will erect the beginnings of a solid gate around China’s coming phase of jingoist ferment. These tradeoffs would be discussed and compared… by “pragmatists.”

Pragmatists would sniff at HC and stop the bashing, wagging a finger at her, saying “Okay, Bill and Obama each had just 2 years of a friendly Congress and they used that as an excuse. We’ll give you a F#%#king Congress. You’ll have not excuse, so deliver. Bitch.

That is what passionate but pragmatic activists would say/ It is what Bernie will ask them to say. And it does not fit your description at all.

Also Deuxglass. The dems draw support from the lower middle class… the parts of it that are either nonwhite or female.

David Brin said...

Occam most of my economist newsletter pals think a recession is inevitable. This is already to 2nd longest recession-free recovery in US history. OTOH it was also the shallowest, with very little boom exuberance to work off. Hence, if an Infrastructure Bill is rapidly passed, I am not so sure about that forecast. Likewise, I am not so sure about a big oil shock. Cheap nat gas is causing a return of manufacturing and that might raise prices, but that cause for higher price is not recessionary.

There are very many capped well, ready for re-use as prices rise.

NEVERTHELESS… the single term forecast is supported by history. Only FDR and Reagan were followed by a president of the same party and they had just one elected term. It truly depends on whether the GOP re-aligns against crazy.

David Brin said...

If HC has a DP Congress you’ll see instant action on:
student loan refinancing - a trillion bucks.
Congressional fundraising disclosure + Some initial steps to reverse Citizens United.
Strengthening the CFPB
Re-funding the IRS and other sabotaged agencies, including NSF and other science.
Attempts to expand Medicare to include all children up to age 25 and all adults older than 60. That shot across the bow will then get the medical and insurance industries talking about serious reform. lest the next year those ages become 30 and 55.

I have a long list of things I want! One is for Nancy Pelosi not to be speaker. She had her run and did not do well.

If Ryan holds on to the House, then the agenda is simple. Get some billionaire to fund a campaign to get every democrat in a gerrymandered Republican district to re-register GOP. That will end the primary challenge phenomenon that made every gopper rep a reflexive fascist. When that happens, peel away 20 or 30 sane ones and get on with the nation’s business.

David Brin said...

For a second there, I thought “anabelle” was gonna argue fairly and intelligently. That ratio of dems vs gops convicted looked strong… till I had a closer look and subtracted the events that were 1980 or before. That removed 15 democrats and ten republicans. What a spaz article! It leaves out congress. It leaves out all state officials… ALL of the top goppers in ALabama are CURRENTLY under indictment! And all the last four democratic governors of Illinois were indicted.

I was willing to listen, if a real compilation was in the offing. Alas. We are left with the plain fact. One party gave us two entire 8 year administrations without a single official indicted for malfeasance of office… the other see’s its own high pols trooping into prison almost daily. Oh and Spitzer and Weiner were kinky, but not child molesting perverts, like Hastert and HALF A DOZEN recent GOP pols.

Alfred Differ said...

@occam’s comic: I remember the oil spikes, but mostly as confidence manglers. People fret about gasoline prices, though, yet those prices haven’t really moved far once one corrects for inflation. The motion shifts about $1/gallon around a base price of $2.50/gallon. It’s been doing this for decades, so I’m unimpressed with a belief that oil spikes cause recessions. It is our lack of aggregate confidence that does.

As a gambling man, however, I can see your point. If I see an oil price spike, I’ll get my 401(k) ready. Of course, that belief in widespread form would probably be enough to make it happen, so I might move instead to cash and wait for you all to go bearishly insane. 8)

When looking at oil futures, don’t forget to notice that some North American production is sitting idle at the moment because current prices dipped too low. There is storage above ground, and there is storage below ground in well-developed fields. If you really believe in your predictions, though, you should bet on them in the futures options market. Pick up those $100 bills lying about you on the ground. 8)

David Brin said...

I told you. Much of this is cultural. Look at how easily doctors in the Olde Confederacy sell out.

Alfred Differ said...

No doubt. I suspect some of the rank-n-file have legitimate complaints in the War-Against-Smarytpants, but they are being channeled against different targets by their Overlord’s purposes.

[Don’t like the way that elitist teacher spoke down to you about your religious beliefs? Well! Obviously you should help us in our war against Climate Science!]

I’ll admit I’m willing to take a swing at the members of the Clerisy who still think Socialism is a good idea, though. Treason against the Enlightenment gets me riled up. I’m not an olde confederate, but there are some smartypants who need a good smack.

Anabelle said...

>It leaves out congress.

So this congress thing is separate from the house of representatives and the senate?

> subtracted the events that were 1980 or before

With cherry picking you can reduce the significance to the same level as your
"plain fact"

Annabelle said...

Oh and "two administration without an indictment" requires ignoring The president being disbarred for perjury.

Tony Fisk said...

Annabelle, you should bear in mind that, while Wikipedia articles are useful for quick topic summaries, they are for finding citations, not for citing in themselves.

Post-Brexit, Philip Pullman pointed this article out:

"Why elections are bad for democracy"

It's an interesting analysis and worth the read, although I'm not totally sold on the conclusions (... have we really not learned anything since Athens? 'Sortition' is already used in the legal system, of course. It might work better for smaller jurisdictions than larger. Anyway, folk here are quite capable of forming their own opinions.)

David Brin said...

For malfeasance of office, twit. I made that very clear. And Bill Clinton had among the highest approval ratings in US history, on leaving office. And notice how the list leave out Hastert and Tom DeLay?

No humans ever were so closely scrutinized as the Clintons for 22 years. Any person with the slightest sense of honor would look at two decades and many tens of millions of dollars and the diversion of scores of federal agents away from anti-terror duties... only to be able to peg a popular president for fibbing "who me" about some nookie in a hallway that his wife forgave? And some emails without a scintilla of security pertinence?

Is Dat It? Any decent person with a soul would sigh and admit... "okay, I don't like em but they're clean."

Which is why it's safe to say that "annabelle" is a dogmatic ass, without a scintilla of credibility.

Hey! How about finding the $12 BILLION in raw cash that Dick Cheney flew into Baghdad and immediately "lost track of?"

Hypocrite. Stunning jibbering hypocrite.

Acacia H. said...

Annabelle, Dr. Brin can tell you how much I dislike the Clintons. I hate their arrogance and the dumbass things they have done. Seriously, with every stupid thing Hillary has done with the Foundation and all that, she should NOT be the Presidential candidate presumptive.

This whole Benghazi thing is bullshit, a witch hunt, and a waste of taxpayer dollars that should be paid for fully out of Republican politician wages and retirement funds (and not as a tax-write off or other such redeemable expense).

Clinton does not appear to have done anything wrong. And Trump is far far worse for this country than Clinton. That said I am hoping for a tied Electoral College so the House and Senate can elect the only candidates that are decent and reasonable - that being the Libertarian candidates. ;)

Rob H.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Big Steve:
Recent polls suggest between 75 and 80 of Sanders supporters will support Hillary, if tepidly. Less than 5% will support Trump, and slightly larger numbers will support Johnson or Stein.

Zepp Jamieson said...

David Brin:
If you limit the definition of dirty vs clean to administrations, then Bill Clinton and Barack Obama had two of the cleanest admins in history. Reagan's was the worst, followed by Nixon. Honorable mention must go to George Bush, who undermined gigantic cases against admin figures thought last minute pardons in the final day of his administration, and George W. Bush, whose people willfully destroyed servers containing some five million administration emails in a successful effort to thwart justice.
Just one reason why I don't take the squeaks of moral outrage from Republicans over Hillary's emails very seriously.

Annabelle said...

>And some emails without a scintilla of security pertinence?

Some of the emails indicated the targets of drone attacks. That is incredibly valuable information to the enemy if viewed in a timely manner, which would have been easy if they found the server.

And there were the illegally destroyed emails.

>Hey! How about finding the $12 BILLION in raw cash that Dick Cheney flew into Baghdad and immediately "lost track of?"

If the republicans were to nominate Rove or Cheney...

>This whole Benghazi thing is bullshit, a witch hunt

It is clear that video claim was a conscious lie. No law against that though maybe there should be. The rest is run of the mill incompetence/ 20/20 hindsight. Obviously not illegal, but not nothing.

DP said...

"It will only be fair to impugn American voters, in general, if the supporters of Bernie Sanders prove too “tribal” to see the practical value of joining the general democratic alliance."

No problem there. Berni suporters now support Clintonover Trump by 81% to 8% (much higher than 2008 Clinton voters supporting Obama in the genreal election)

duncan cairncross said...

Hi annabelle

It is clear that video claim was a conscious lie.

Is it? - Not to me it's not
That video caused big violent demonstrations in a lot of places around the world
The CIA told Hilary that the Benghazi attack was linked to the video

What in hell was Hillary meant to do? - look at her crystal ball and see that in a couple of days the CIA was going to change it's mind????

Incorrect - yes - a Lie - bollocks!

Tony Fisk said...

>Hey! How about finding the $12 BILLION in raw cash that Dick Cheney flew into Baghdad and immediately "lost track of?"

If the republicans were to nominate Rove or Cheney...


Zepp Jamieson said...

Tony Fisk:

Meaning Republicans are to be considered culpable of crimes only if non-pertainant conditions are met. Oh, if ONLY Dick Cheney where running for president! THEN we would see the full wroth of her unchecked moral outrage at his crimes!

Paul SB said...

A couple threads back, at the very tail end of the discussion, you linked to an article about where young college grads were going. Did you read my response? It was about #109 in the chain. You had said that you thought the argument between Dr. Brin and Locumranch about red states vs blue states was silly. As the article pointed out, many of the cities young graduates were flocking to are in red states. But that is not what the banter between those two was actually about. Loci is obsessed with drawing a distinction between rural people, who he believes are all Red, and urban people, who he believes are all Blue. Dr Brin's point is that there is a real 'brain drain' flight from rural to urban habitation - not so much a red/blue as a rural/urban issue. The rural/red, urban/blue distinction is a gross oversimplification that can't explain the data. While it is possible that rural populations might be predominantly conservative, their numbers are far too small to account for consistent Republican election victories. Cities are huge pools of very conservative people, so in that sense, he should praise the cities, as they breed more people who think like him. you're getting your stereotypes crossed.

Paul SB said...

As far as Nakoula's "Innocence of Muslims" video goes, the fact that it triggered riots is clear enough, and should have been predictable. You have to wonder what was the point of making the video, aside from egotism - stoking hate with hate. Did he want there to be a violent backlash against Copts? But then, you also have to wonder about the insecurities of people who would riot because someone stuck their tongues out at them. You also have to deal with the obvious fact that not every Muslim on Earth felt the need, nor did every Coptic Christian try to incite riots, in spite of being treated as second-class citizens.

As to our own issues in the US, this is just another case where fiscal conservatism follows the "penny wise but pound foolish" pattern. The Republicans cut the security budget, then tried to blame the lack of security on their political opponents. Big surprise there! Same thing with the tainted water supply in Flint, where budget-cutting Republicans caused serious harm by trying to cut corners with the very roles government is there to play. If you take them to their logical conclusion, you end up with America looking a lot like Somalia. Budgets have to be managed, and I can roll my eyes at some of the things the government spends our taxpayer dollars on, too. But when the party platform is to eliminate exactly what you are (the government, which exists to govern) there is a serious problem of taking an idea too far. Our diplomatic personnel in Benghazi paid the ultimate price for conservative fiscal posturing, and in Flint thousands of people are suffering from lead poisoning and probably brain damage because of conservative fiscal posturing. The beliefs we espouse, and the sides that we take, have real-world consequences for real, living people.

matthew said...

The "war on science" meme is spreading through the media.


Nice article on how Herr Drumpf is not running a campaign, but re-building his brand.

David Brin said...

I've got a new posting up. But cover your ears here, cause I am letting loose:

Annabelle’s hypocrisy abounds! A few dozen HC erased emails with not even a sniff of possible actual actual offense… versus FIVE MILLION emails that the Bushites erased, that were directly under subpoena for investigating the illegal firing of five federal prosecutors who were investigating other Bushite corruption. That is illegal and corrupt – knowingly – on at least four different levels and on a massive scale.

You are a monstrous, monstrous hypocrite, desperately clutching at straws in order to maintain a screeching narrative of clintonite ‘corruption,” when they are absolutely proved to be the cleanest politicians in the nation’s history.

Prove something! 22 years of witch hunts in the tens of millions of dollars often using vast amounts of taxpayer funds and diverted resources. Prove something, you horrid wretch. A wretch who whines… “the monsters and traitors and perverts and corrupt pols who USED TO be the essence and heart and soul of the GOP and who I adored aren’t running for office this year! Yippee! They're gone so no effect on our cred then!"

Except even D Trump will – if elected – re appoint most of the 10,000 Bushite apparatchiks and thieves in that utter utter rat’s nest. Any sincere and decent conservative would want to see the nest burned out, the ship beached and cleaned out and scraped and utterly overhauled, before ever putting it back to sea.

Hypocrite and shill-for-evil. Traitor.

David Brin said...



Annabelle said...



Clinton would have had to change her mind several times over the course of two days always deciding "The Video!" before a public statement and "Ansar Al Sharia!" before all private statements.

I have "adored" no politicians.

Do you have any evidence at all about who Trump will appoint? Do you really think somebody with Trump Ego would decide to mindlessly submit to those who tried to destroy him?

Annabelle said...

>Anonymous Paul SB said...

>A couple threads back...

Ah, I see. Seems right.

David Brin said...

Aaaaaand we are left with the sales pitch. "I admit my party's leading family and entire network of appointees -- meaning root and branch of the entire republican party, were monsters, corrupt to the core and that nothing even slight has ever proved out in 22 years of vastly expensive, resource-hogging probes of the Clintons... But! ... But...

1) The Bush-CHeney clan is gone! I promise! And... and... let's count on Donald Trump's petty anger to ensure that none of the 10,000 utterly corrupt Bushite apparatchiks will get their claws back into the republic!


2) ... but Hillary made a mistake thinking that a tragedy in Benghazi involved a furious lynch mob - like those erupting in some other cities, before realizing that it was masterminded by terrorists! Yippee! We found something on her! She made.... a mistake!!!!!!!! Death!

That's it. We have no idea WHO DT would appoint to those 10,000 administration posts -- presumably Trump University graduates. But Annabelle assures us he is such a petty, vengeful egotist that he won't go to either the GOP or the democratic expert pools. So be happy and confident everyone! Vote republican! Because... well... track record means nothing. The past means nothing. The failure to point at ONE actually meaningful positive outcome from decades of misrule mean nothing. Trump 2016!

David Brin said...

ack. Okay okay... I'll ignore the creature. Sorry.


Zepp Jamieson said...

I remember Mittens had an extremely ill-advised presser exploiting the attacks the next morning, and condemned Hillary for not doing enough to condemn the video! Given that a couple of hours latter, that nasty piece of hate video had sparked riots in Cairo, it's not too surprising that people thought they triggered unrest in Libya, as well.

Annabelle said...

>Aaaaaand we are left with the sales pitch. "I admit my party's leading family and entire >network of appointees -- meaning root and branch of the entire republican party, were >monsters, corrupt to the core and that nothing even slight has ever proved out in 22 years of >vastly expensive, resource-hogging probes of the Clintons... But! ... But...

My refusal to divert the conversation into debates on decade-old scandals is NOT an admission of this.

>made.... a mistake!!!!!!!!

She would have had to repeatedly change her mind in rapid succession in a highly specific pattern without at any point realizing that repeated contradictory information comes out to "I don't know."

>ONE actually meaningful positive outcome

The fracking revolution that gave us oil independence was seeded by Bush deregulation.

Trump will appoint the most competent people(within his ability to detect competence) who don't try to control him or insult him.

I'd prefer Johnson unless I find out some horrible thing that hasn't been revealed yet. But hes not winning.

Unknown said...

In the UK a leaked email has shown that one of the leading contenders to be the next Prime Minister is in bed with Murdock.