Saturday, March 17, 2018

Resist (Carefully!) the Parade Nonsense: Confidence speaks louder than symbolism


Nothing expresses lack of inner confidence like bluster. Sure, we all know — and even supporters avow — that our president blusters, like no one else. So the latest imperative from the Commander-in-Chief should come as no surprise; a direct order to the Pentagon. To march.

(Note: This missive is cross-posted on MEDIUM, where I'll put up some of my items meriting wider coverage.)
Of course, showy military displays go back millennia, to ancient Egypt and Greece and beyond. Yet, the U.S. has no consistent tradition of big military parades, especially since the Second World War. Why is that?
Ask any senior officer. She or he will explain that it’s because a confident Pax Americana never felt any need. Strutting and preening is, in fact, the surest sign of an inferiority complex.
Americans saw no point in grandiose expense and display — until now. Rather than boosting pride, such a gaudy spectacle will be a sad milestone indicating our fall from leading superpower status.
May I illustrate with a very telling anecdote? During World War II, we were the one nation rich enough to supply each soldier with two uniforms. One was for travel, office work and business — okay-looking, but not tailored for show. And it was stored away near the front, as each fighting man donned olive drab combat fatigues. Our adversaries — and yes, allies — mocked how ugly the ensemble was, then shut up when they saw how it allowed free, agile movement and easy maintenance. The combat uniform was purely functional and saved many hours of upkeep, as G.I.s seldom had to spit and polish or brush it for inspections.
George Marshall -- who should have been Time’s Person of the 20th Century — made this decision, in part for practical reasons, but also because obsession with symbolism has always been the surest sign of second rate thinking. We had a world to remake, and we weren’t in it for show.
For contrast, do you recall the Joseph Heller novel Catch 22? How Lieutenant Scheisskopf — nemesis of all recruits at the training base — demanded that they march? And later in the book, General Scheisskopf made the whole European Air Force waste time in parades? Heller’s satiric tale bitterly contrasted Marshall’s spirit of pragmatic competence with a symbolism-mania that — alas — has become rife in the Republican Party. (See how this obsession went overboard in the naming of aircraft carriers.)
Still, at another level, this parade nonsense is damned clever! Indeed, it’s a canny political trap. Picture a half million liberals gathered along the route, protesting and jeering, a rabid few even spitting on Vets and Soldiers and Marines. 

Can you imagine anything more counterproductive for the “Resistance”? Anything more perfectly guaranteed to push our wavering service members, their families and supporters back into Republican arms?
Right now,the mad-right is losing people of skill — every single fact-centered profession — in an arterial gusher that now includes scientists, teachers, journalists, doctors… name an exception! And now, members of the reviled “Deep State” — the FBI, the Intelligence communities, and the U.S. Military Officer Corps. The lords of the Confederacy know this is a recipe for long term disaster… unless they can find a way to keep the “crewcut” fact users grudgingly loyal to the GOP. 

Sure enough, if anything could push them rightward again, it’s getting spit upon while on parade. Yep, that’d do it. 

Spread the word — this… is… a… trap. 
One we could evade if protesters wave signs saying: 
“We love our skilled defenders!” And...
“We’ll defend YOU against fact-hating loonies!” And...
“You look great! Now back to work keeping Democracy sane and safe.”
What terrifies Ryan, McConnell, Trump and their oligarch and foreign despot masters? Democratic candidates like Conor Lamb, a retired Marine officer who just won one of the deepest-red districts in Pennsylvania, Proving me right in my call for a "Year for Colonels." There's more than one way for our dedicated defenders to defend us, like at the ballot box. But luring lefty splitters and spitters into tearing up the Big Tent could shatter this new, tentative alliance of maturity and hope. 

No. We should resist this parade nonsense for better reasons. Because an America that’s still confident leader of the world — or ‘great’ — doesn’t need to show off. Our overwhelming ability, professionalism, science, technical skill and calm assurance speak for themselves. Or... they have, for 70+ years.
In fact, nothing will more profoundly advertise our plummet from paramount confidence than this silly dive into wasteful symbolism/obsession.




121 comments:

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

David Brin:

If the intentions of the Manchurian president are to create a confrontation between the army and the citizens, then, I suppose that a good countermeasure could be that the democrats make sure to be the first to arrive throughout the parade, occupying all the frontline of spectators, even forming a triple line of "cushioning". All Democrats should be ordered to shout "Long live the army" "Long live the soldiers who are with the people".
Another precaution that is convenient is to make sure that people will not be too close to the soldiers. It would be convenient that the soldiers can not hear the screams of the provocateurs infiltrated by the Republicans. Therefore, it would be convenient for the Democrats to place vehicles with powerful loudspeakers that synchronously reproduce a song pleasing to the soldiers, a song that drowns the screams of the provocateurs.

“Knowing that a trap exists is the first step in avoiding it”
Frank Herbert, Dune

Winter7

Sue Bursztynski said...

Or you could always simply not turn up? I assume attendance is not compulsory. Just a few photographers to make it clear that, despite your Twitter President’s no doubt caps-locked claim of BIGGEST PARADE ATENDANCE EVER! there weren’t that many people along the route. .

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, it is possible that the parade is seen as a clear sign that the nation has become a militaristic tyranny, which would cause ordinary citizens, affected by the elimination of ObamaCare (imagine all the people who have died by missing the medicines and medical care that kept them alive). Not to mention all those who have been affected by the attacks of neo-Nazis and supremacists. And that's not counting the millions of people who are smart enough to realize that they are victims of electoral fraud, so their anger is understandable. A just and understandable anger. But certainly, that anger could be very counterproductive if it causes a division between the army and the American people.
In this regard, it would be good to publish this issue in the magazines that the soldiers read, to make them understand the situation. The more officials know clearly the true situation, the more likely it is that ordinary soldiers will receive a more conciliatory explanation in case of disturbances.

Winter7

Gregory Byshenk said...

Alfred Differ wrote (in the previous discussion...):
The gradient can be climbed at least partially within one generation. Within three it is possible to go from the bottom to the 10% mark at least. [...] It CAN be done and DOES get done. I’ve seen it too many times to be convinced otherwise.

Maybe you already recognize this, but many people don't, so I would want to point out the danger of survivorship bias. Yes, climbing the socioeconomic gradient can be done, sometimes significantly, and indeed does get done - occasionally. But this is not something that is, or even can be, applicable generally.

Indeed, even a lot of those who "refuse to stay down" end up going nowhere in the end. Success in such difficult situations as you describe requires, as in the title of the Horatio Alger story, a great deal of 'luck' as well as 'pluck'. Without that luck, a lot of lives, even of strivers, end up nasty, brutish, and short.

Anonymous said...



Sue Bursztynski:
¡True! ¡It could be another solution!
If the Democrats do not attend, Undoubtedly, the Republicans will be herded in droves to attend. That is very common in Mexico. And if only the Republicans come, dressed without the red cap, what will they do? And, what will the Russian sleeper agents do?
Certainly, one option is simply to ask people not to go, and to cross their fingers so that Republicans do not commit aggression.
Yes. Create huge campaigns of "# We will not go to the parade"; to ask the people to ignore the parades could be the best way to deflate the megalomania of Donald Trump.

Winter7

Improbus Liber said...

BIGGEST PARADE ATTENDANCE EVER!

This parade will be on Veterans Day, November 11th. It should be entertaining considering the mid-terms will be 5 days before that on November 6th. It will be a little embarrassing if the Republicans become the minority in the House of Representatives and lose control of the Senate.

I hope Trump wears a nice warm coat and fur hat just like the old Soviet leaders when they reviewed their military parades. No tanks, sad. While there be missiles?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to leave the topic, but ...
¿Why is the radiation of the large fluxes in Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) increasing?
Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-space-increasingly-hazardous.html

Winter7

Sue Bursztynski said...

Anonymous: why would people even need a huge campaign? If you don’t think it’s appropriate just don’t go. Big boycott campaigns would let him know he has your attention. People like your Pres hate being ignored. They hate it! Just as they hate being laughed at. We had a Premier here(you’d call him a Governor, but we also have a Governor, who doesn’t actually do anything) who was a narcissist of that kind. He had a huge photo of himself put up on the way from Melbourne airport. People laughed! The photo was removed.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Gregory
Have you ever read any of those "Horatio Algers" stories?

Read one with a cynical eye on dog whistles and the way they talked about things back then,

The youngster is always "well favored" and "good looking" - and his older male patron looks after him well

In the UK we call them "Rent Boys"

Anonymous said...

Sue Bursztynski:
Corrupt politicians retain power because they play dirty in the game of politics. It is assumed that citizens can participate in the game; Well, there's supposed to be democracy, but ... Anyway. Of course we can expose many reasons to do nothing. But not doing anything only produces a result. Of course, if there are clean ways to play the game, at least we must participate. Honestly, but with cunning. No evil, and firmly. It is the least we can do. Play the game.

Winter7

TCB said...

@ Duncan, it was a more innocent time (publicly, that is) and "Ragged Dick" was not as suggestive as it would be now.

TCB said...

Oh hell, the young Alger hero's given name is Dick Hunter. That's no better.

LarryHart said...

@TCB and @Duncan,

Just a few years ago, I finally read Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations" for the first time. It actually has a character called Master Bates.

Tony Fisk said...

re: parades. My turn for a little anecdote, told to me many years ago by a senior IBM manager.

Back in the day, the IBM sales force prided themselves on their turnout, and were sticklers for suit etiquette. However, in Australia at least, mores were changing and hats were going out of fashion. If you think about it, fronting up to a prospective client in yesterday's style hardly gives the impression of being the representative of a high tech solution provider, so the hat part of the uniform had been discarded.

This was the situation that confronted a new area manager fresh from the states. Furious at the lapse in standards, he issued a decree that *all* staff were to present themselves on a Monday morning for a full dress inspection.

**Hats were to be worn!!**

The staff duly presented themselves, neat as pins. And wearing hats.

This is where a certain vagueness in instructions became evident. Hats had been stipulated, but which type? Party hats? Fireman's hats? Thinking caps?
...Sombreros?

So, yes, blaming the guys following orders for this is silly. Remember that resistance is not just for the onlookers. When it comes to military parades, the participants are highly trained and disciplined in many things, including the interpretation of orders. Remember the Fort Bragg incident where the troops did as they were told, and George W Bush died on the podium? The planning phase has already seen a reluctance to include tracked vehicles (although a *full* reenactment of that scene from Tiananmen Square would have provided an interesting counterpoint)

I wonder what the choices of band music will be?

Anonymous said...

The construction company of the bridge collapsed in Florida has been receiving large contracts thanks to the Republicans:
https://www.politico.com/newsletters/florida-playbook/2018/03/16/bridge-collapse-another-horror-the-political-power-of-mcm-about-that-red-tape-mr-president-desantis-defense-contractor-landlord-survey-says-stonewall-jackson-school-needs-name-chance-255181

http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/munilla-family-firm-behind-collapsed-fiu-bridge-are-major-miami-political-players-10176950

Winter7

Alfred Differ said...

My wife's first comment about 'the trap' is that they will plant the spitters along the parade route anyway.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | such a story would be considered so shameful it would effectively end any chance of his being able to work for a living within the law

Yes. Such a story might have made it difficult for me to get a security clearance for my current job. Fortunately for me, all involved passed away leaving no one who can be harmed that would be sensitive to blackmail attempts. As for me, I would LOVE for someone to try that ‘sins of the father/parent’ crap on me. I’ve had a juicy tirade all scripted out and haven’t been able to use it for 25 years. Sigh. 8)

As for unions and Dickens, I’m going to skip dissing unions for a while. My personal view of them is not reflective of what others need from them, so I should stand aside. I’ll do that until they form picket lines or negotiate closed shops. I don’t like either of those and my dislike is strong enough to risk annoying those of you who might otherwise be supportive of things I like. Closed shops are a fundamental violation of market freedoms. Dickens, though, presents an interesting situation. McCloskey has a thing or two to say about him. Seems she thinks he crafted propaganda. Seems she thinks the situation wasn’t like he described. Do current readers realize this? Nah. Was he fighting something worth fighting? Sure… and he was successful at fighting them. He didn’t use the truth, though. I’ll stand aside and let her tell that story too.

Finally, there isn’t much melanin ‘in the cast’. I don’t think my maternal line is from Ireland, though. My maternal grandmother was a mix of English and Italian. The story for her father is he crossed the border late one night one step ahead of the law. The way he told it was someone messed with his sister and he messed with them back. I’m not so sure there was a sister involved. He was probably the one messing with someone’s sister. Who knows, though. That was the 19th century and Italy was only recently unified. Did I mention he was from southern Italy and we don’t know quite where? Heh. No surprise.

My father’s line might have some Irish, but it would be 17th century maybe. My mother’s side was in a class above the Irish (seriously…who wasn’t?) and my grandmother knew it. She rebelled in many ways, but when it came time for everyone to piss on the Irish, I’m pretty sure she did. In later years when she visited us and saw me and my siblings cutting our spaghetti to eat it (kids have to learn the twirl the stuff and we hadn’t yet) she accused us of eating it like the Irish. Her voice had that special sneer to it too, so she was just as much inclined to pass the stress downhill when she could. I seriously doubt she restricted her thievery to the richest either. Life doesn’t work that way.

(To be continued tonight)

Anonymous said...

I guess they already knew about "Analytica" That issue seems important:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/17/data-war-whistleblower-christopher-wylie-faceook-nix-bannon-trump

Winter7

Anonymous said...


This seems to indicate that Republicans organize premeditated attacks near the GOP rallies:

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-assaults-spiked-trump-rally-days.html

Winter7

Tim Wolter said...

Regards the Conor Lamb election the lesson to be learned is obvious. Run better candidates, by which I mean candidates in sync with a district and who have actual accomplishments to run on.

Whether this becomes generalized and also scaled up to greater offices will remain to be seen.

Congressman Lamb will be under some pressure to vote on the principles on which he ran. This is ever the dynamic once politicians become office holders.

T.Wolter/Tacitus

Paul SB said...

Hi Tim,

The hard part about the idea of running candidates who are more in sync with a district is that what that actually means is a moving target. 20 years ago any candidate who openly favored gay marriage would not have been in sync much of anywhere outside San Francisco, and even there a whole lot of folks are just as right-wing business thieves as elsewhere in the country and would not have voted for a Democrat under any circumstances. Slowly the average in the US has been shifting more toward personal freedom and public safety, and away from rigid social conformity and hierarchy. The most extreme of the right wing are having their day right now under President Grope, but their extremism is driving more and more of those persuadable people in the opposite direction. Unfortunately these kinds of things tend to result in overcompensations, which might drive a swing in the opposite direction several years down to road. It reminds me of a line from an old Echo and the Bunnymen song that goes:

We don't know our left from right, but we know we love extremes,
Getting to grips with the ups and downs because there's nothing in between.

If so many lives and livelihoods weren't at stake we could just roll our eyes and ignore the fray. Achieving a sustainable balance is going to be very hard when it serves the interests of our leaders to monger extremism.

Did you notice the parallel between Lamb and Grope here? In both cases their opposite numbers were assumed to be shoe-ins, and the upset was a pretty small margin. I suspect we are going to see more of this over the next few years, on both sides.

Tim Wolter said...

Paul

I have only paid passing attention to this special election. The circumstances are, as usual, special. The seat became empty when the R congressperson resigned in disgrace if I recall rightly. Hardly a good jumpstart to retaining a seat. And with the redistricting recently handed down - or imposed if you like - this is a very temp job, new and more D friendly district boundaries within the year.

But heck, what I have seen of Lamb looks good. I'd probably have voted for him.

The Moving Target problem.....it is a tough one. There is a tendency for extreme partisans to look at the actions and statements from decades back and to damn people for them. It is pretty hard to say that "I held some opinions then that I don't hold now". Voters wonder how long the candidate turned office holder will stay true to their current opinions.

This is of course utter nonsense but it takes a very good politician to thread this needle on the hot button issues of the day.

We don't have that many good politicians around any more.

T/Tac

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Dickens, though, presents an interesting situation. McCloskey has a thing or two to say about him. Seems she thinks he crafted propaganda. Seems she thinks the situation wasn’t like he described. Do current readers realize this? Nah. Was he fighting something worth fighting? Sure… and he was successful at fighting them. He didn’t use the truth, though


You've said this about Dickens before, in a different context (the French Revolution). I have to differ (heh) to you for lack of my own independent knowledge of the details of both eras.

I wonder, though, if the nineteenth century labor situation wasn't like he described, if it was heading for what he described, or in imminent danger of becoming what he described. Did he write self-defeating prophecies in the fashion of 1984. I mean, strictly speaking, Orwell wasn't using truth either, in the sense that he didn't portray a system of government that existed either in 1948 or in 1984 or even today. Still, it would be wrong to conclude that his warnings about very real trends and probabilities were anything but true.

With A Tale of Two Cities--a novel written more than half a century after the events described--I wonder if the correct model is Arthur Miller's The Crucible, ostensibly about the Salem with trials, but allegorically describing what was going on at the time with McCarthyism and the HUAC hearings. In that sense, it was likely not an accurate portrayal of the events of 1692, but a story "torn from today's headlines" set in that fictional era. The line in Dickens's final chapter about the inevitable consequences of sowing such a crop of oppressed humanity again is instructive.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

Whether this becomes generalized and also scaled up to greater offices will remain to be seen.


Heh. I was going to ask if you were willing to concede "all exceptions duly noted". Sounds like maybe you are.


Congressman Lamb will be under some pressure to vote on the principles on which he ran. This is ever the dynamic once politicians become office holders.


Yes, but...

Again, we've got someone sitting in the White House who violates the "run better candidates" and "uphold the principles on which he ran" philosophy. While your advice is duh-obvious for Democrats, I always have to wonder how Republicans get away with violating it and winning. The same with "You have to be for something, not just against the other party," or "You can't insult you way into the office." Why don't those admonitions apply to Republicans?

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

We don't have that many good politicians around any more.


Is that the fault of the politicians? Or are We The People reaping what we've sown, as far as which candidates survive and thrive in the Darwinian stew of campaigns and elections?

An applicable line from "Star Wars":
"Who's the more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?"

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Did you notice the parallel between Lamb and Grope here? In both cases their opposite numbers were assumed to be shoe-ins, and the upset was a pretty small margin.


Well, the victories were by small margins, but when you talk about the "upset", I think of the difference between expectation and outcome, and in that sense, Lamb's upset was yuge! A district that went for Trump by over 20% elected a Democrat. That's a huge swing, even if Lamb's win was only by (essentially) 0%.


I suspect we are going to see more of this over the next few years, on both sides.


I suspect there's some psychohistorical reason for this. Dr Brin has remarked previously that there are laws of biology which force the populations of males and females to be roughly equal (or maybe more accurately--that make any other distribution unstable). I'm wondering if the same doesn't hold true for conservatives and liberals--that over time, sociological forces will insure that the support for both philosophies becomes roughly 50/50. What better explains why the close races like Florida 2000, Michigan/Wisconsin/Pennsylvania 2016, and the recent Virginia legislative race (that had to be resolved by pulling a name out of a hat) are becoming ever so common?

This has a profound impact on the effects of cheating. If races are decided with 70% or 60% or even 55% victories, then a few individual instances of election fraud aren't enough to change the outcome. The signal-to-noise ratio is too large. However, if races are more commonly decided by tiny margins, then the noise can overwhelm the signal. The races may end up turning on whoever cheats best.

LarryHart said...

Tim/Tac:

The Moving Target problem.....it is a tough one. There is a tendency for extreme partisans to look at the actions and statements from decades back and to damn people for them. It is pretty hard to say that "I held some opinions then that I don't hold now". Voters wonder how long the candidate turned office holder will stay true to their current opinions.

This is of course utter nonsense but it takes a very good politician to thread this needle on the hot button issues of the day.


It's a difficult political problem, because "flip flopping" has been made into an issue itself, implying that the candidate has no moral compass but simply pretends to believe what will get the most votes. W made a point of never changing his mind on anything, no matter the evidence or circumstance, which I didn't see as a virtue. Trump does exactly the opposite--changes his mind even from one sentence to the next in the same speech--and his supporters don't seem to mind any more than the crowd at the speech in 1984 where the speaker changed from "We've always been at war with Eurasia" to "We've always been at war with Eastasia" without batting an eyelash. Needless to say, I also don't consider that a virtue.

To me, I'm fine with a candidate who changes his position after careful consideration of the facts. It helps if he "shows his work"--demonstrates what changed his mind and what he might have misunderstood previously. It also helps if he sincerely apologies to those whom his earlier policies harmed and tries to make actual amends. All of that shows that the new position is sincere, and not just campaign rhetoric.

Troutwaxer said...

I think Gary Trudeau has been reading your blog:

http://doonesbury.washingtonpost.com/strip/archive/2018/3/4
http://doonesbury.washingtonpost.com/strip/archive/2018/3/18

Tim Wolter said...

Yes. It's why there is still a Robert Bryd courthouse in Washington DC despite his early KKK membership. And why there are still a few odd Mussolini inscriptions on buildings in Rome. I don't think the current fervor for applying modern standards to judge the distant past makes any sense. But in the case of Rome its likely that somebody has "cover the Mussolini stuff" on his work list and will get around to doing it in about a decade....

A memo from the Department of Really Obvious: We don't fully comprehend the forces that made an orange haired huckster our President. It has to be regarded as an exceptional situation.

T/Tacitus

Jon S. said...

Sue, I don't know much about Winter's president - he's Mexican. I assume you were referring to Donnie, though.

Re: the Parade - last I heard, Pentagon officials, having concluded that Pennsylvania Avenue can't take the weight of armored vehicles and besides the troops are kind of busy in Iraq and Afghanistan (among other places), wanted to have a "parade" featuring various period uniforms from US history. In short, a cosplayer's march. (Hopefully they'll stick to the US, and won't use CSA uniforms...)

LarryHart said...

Tim/Tac:

We don't fully comprehend the forces that made an orange haired huckster our President. It has to be regarded as an exceptional situation.


I'm not sure where you're going with this. "It's so unusual that we'll just never know what happened, so stop thinking about it?" I mean, I'm no professional scientist, but it seems to me that the proper response to an important question that we don't fully comprehend is to try harder to comprehend it.

That's not as daunting a task as it sounds. I think part of the solution involves ignoring some willful blind spots. Liberals who were convinced by social media that Hillary was too flawed to support of that there was no difference between her and Trump have to acknowledge that they were duped. Conservatives who think that character flaws in the office of the presidency are inconsequential as long as their policy agenda is enacted have to acknowledge that the dismantling of American institutions and the loss of American leadership and prestige in the world might be a high price to pay for corporate welfare and Neil Gorsuch. People like me who aren't captivated by reality tv and never watched an episode of "The Apprentice" in their lives have to understand that Donald Trump was a familiar presence from tv in many people's lives.

Important as well is to recognize that Billy Bush (as a guest on Bill Maher's show just last week) nailed Trump perfectly with an anecdote about how, as an NBC host last decade, he finally couldn't take Trump's claiming that "The Apprentice" was #1 in the ratings when it had not been so for over four years. Off camera, Trump supposedly counselled Billy, "You just tell them...and they'll believe it." That's Trump's core philosophy, and it explains much, from Sean Spicer and Sarah Huckleberry Saddlebags to the flap about inauguration crowd size to most of Trump's campaign promises. He's a classic con man, which usually only works when the victim is on board and wants to be sold. The ones who buy into Trump's cons must be especially needy, because he's so bad at the mechanics of the con, and they buy it anyway.

LarryHart said...

Twitter reply to Trump's firing Andrew McCabe from former CIA director John Brennan...

@JohnBrennan :

When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you.

LarryHart said...

Even better...

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Mar18.html#item-1

Trump might not even get the revenge he desperately wanted. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), who just so happens to be a staunch Trump critic, has offered McCabe a job in his office as an election security consultant. While it's not a slam dunk, most experts on federal personnel policy concur that if McCabe holds that job for a day (or, even better, a whole pay period), then he'll accrue the service time that Donald Trump tried to stop him from accruing, and will get his full pension after all. Given the separation of powers, there is nothing the President could do to stop the hire. Who knew revenge was so hard?

rGiskard said...

Regarding close election outcomes, they should always receive great scrutiny because if an election is stolen in America, then because of the frequency of polling, it's vital to make it as close to the polls as possible to avoid suspicions of fraud. Thus, a side will steal only the amount of votes needed squeak out a win.

Tim Wolter said...

I don't know if we are fated to have an endless string of too close to call elections because of some "gyroscope" in the political system that keeps things close to 50:50. It is an interesting idea, one I had not considered.

But these nail biters are hard on all of us. If nothing else a really close election casts into relief those grey areas - and they are different for opposite viewpoints - where a half a percent or so might tip the balance of a race...or of the Senate.

In a 60:40 outcome nobody talks much about a few illegals voting, or about "walking around" money, or hanging chads, or about wards where implausibly not a single R vote gets recorded, etc.

Well, living in a democracy is messy. Or so I hear, we live in a Republic.

T/Tacitus

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Regarding the big pit, I’m on your side. I have no issues with regulations meant to prevent cheaters from doing what you describe. I can even use economic terminology to describe it instead of moral terms. It’s all about negative externalities when I’m willing to support ‘cheating’ regulations/legislation. I’m even willing to stay flexible and not demand ‘tobacco’ standards of proof for who-dun-it. What I ask for in return, though, is acceptance of standards of the times. Back when people didn’t know benzene was a cancer causing agent, rules for dumping it could be liberal without intending harm. Do it now and I’ll help slap people in irons.

The path I was worried about was your connecting previous civilizations and their typical method for self-destruction to ours. If you are just going tor a self-preventing prophecy, I’m not overly concerned. In your gloomier moods, though, you sound too much like you are making actual predictions.

'm sure you remember what Sapolsky had to say about testosterone, right?

Yup. I don’t know if McCloskey knows, but I haven’t forgotten. Amplification of tendencies already present and beliefs in mind. In the case of the executive clade, though, I think we can reasonably claim a selection effect exists for behaviors that are more aggressive as a form of competition. [I’ve known a few CEO exceptions, but not many.] Whether testosterone is to blame isn’t the point, though. It’s a male thing (mostly) according to her. Whether we do it because we are raised that way, born with tendencies, or whatever doesn’t much matter. The behavior itself, if measured by the standards of bourgeois virtues, is a mistaken view of Courage and often a violation of Justice not to mention rather unLoving.

I don’t recall if she actually tries to blame testosterone. I don’t think she does, but I may e wrong. I recall her being more focused on what ‘courage’ means in the sense of ethics.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | if it was heading for what he described

Yah. When I read what she said about Dickens, I cast it in terms of what I’ve learned here about self-preventing prophecies. I don’t know if she thought about that angle when considering him. She used her numbers to demonstrate that events in his stories weren’t as awful as he described as a way to dissuade current readers from holding to an erroneous view of history. Her accusation that he wrote propaganda, though, might be vulnerable to a self-preventing prophecy objection. I don’t know Dickens beyond the stories he wrote, so this would be a matter to be taken up by his biographers. My sister was the English-lit major… not me. 8)

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

In a 60:40 outcome nobody talks much about a few illegals voting, or about "walking around" money, or hanging chads, or about wards where implausibly not a single R vote gets recorded, etc.


That was my point also, about signal-to-noise ratio. When the signal is tiny, the noise can overwhelm it. Then the "signal" doesn't mean what it purports to mean.

Also, democracy theoretically depends on the "wisdom of crowds" having merit more often than not. In a race as close as PA-18, is the "crowd" really saying something that different depending on which way 600 votes go? Same with Bush vs Gore, Hillary vs Trump, and the Virginia legislature. In that last case, the voice of the "crowd" was represented by a random drawing. I'm not sure how you get around this, but it's not a well-functioning democracy.

LarryHart said...

...continuing the point...

In theory, a very close race tells us that the "wisdom of the crowd" thinks there is not much difference between the two candidates. Either one will do, as they have roughly even support. If the system makes a "mistake" and elects the one with only 49.999% support instead of the one with 50.001%, it shouldn't matter.

But in practice, that's seldom the way it works. You typically have a Republican against a Democrat, or (in the primaries) an establismentarian against a radical (Tea Partier or Bernieite, depending on party). The choice between them is binary, and the outcome with one winner will be much different from that of the opponent. If the match between them is very close, that's not the crowd saying "Either one is good enough." Rather, that's evidence of two very different "crowds" with separate interests and agendas fighting it out in the margins for which crowd gets to force its will on the others. That's tribalism, not democracy.

Alfred Differ said...

I’ll make a prediction here for Tim’s sake.

With this mid-term election the following will happen

Democrats will over perform by about 17% which is bigger than in 2006. Therefore…
House will flip Democrat when they gain 32 +/- 2.
Senate will flip Democrat by one.

In many state legislatures, there will be a blood-bath for the GOP because Democrats will run opponents and the over performance will help them even if no one knows their names.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred Differ,

You have a very interesting definition of "for Tim's sake."

Tim Wolter said...

Alfred

House turn over likely. Improved standing in state legislatures, nearly certain....current state of Dem fortunes there has nowhere to go but up.
Senate stays Republican.

Or maybe not, much conventional wisdom has gone belly up in recent years.

T

LarryHart said...

This is interesting, though not sure what it means for us...

http://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2018/Senate/Maps/Mar18.html#item-5


The more interesting question is not whether Putin will be reelected, but whether or not he is still running the country. Exiled oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky gave an interview to the BBC in which he declared that the Russian president is actually in the thrall of about 100 thugs and hoodlums that surround him, and that this "criminal gang" effectively runs the country. Khodorkovsky has reason to lie or exaggerate, so take that claim with a grain of salt, but there's probably at least a little truth to his claims (and maybe a lot). That also squares with claims, made by a number of Russia-watchers, that Putin will mysteriously turn up dead not long after he leaves office.

locumranch said...


By preferring quiet competence over worldly extravagance, David indirectly bemoans the demise of both the Puritan Work Ethic & the Protestant Renunciation (Reformation) which emphasized a humble aspect, modest dress, a spartan diet, demeaning effort, noble poverty, utilitarian minimalism, a belief that honest labour provided spiritual fulfillment, and the rejection of worldly comforts & material rewards.

In turn, American Protestantism & the Renunciate Mindset led to the coarse can-do thrift of the stereotypical US Citizen -- which European dandies tended to dismiss as boorish provincialism -- leading to the creation of first truly 'classless' society wherein both the US rich & the US poor eschewed ostentatious displays of wealth while affecting the same demeanor, dress, diet, educational system & society.

Unfortunately, that horse is dead and progressive materialists like David & I have killed it. Quite inadvertently, we have systematically devalued all things spiritual & mystical, leaving only crass commercial materialism in its wake. Whereas generations of both men & women once laboured side-by-side in the shadows for scant material reward, that's now a sucker's bet as only fools sacrifice themselves for empty kudos & platitudes.

Money, Rewards, Status & Bitches: This is what it takes to motivate the men & women of today !! And, when none-of-the-above are immediately forthcoming, our population expends little or no effort, regardless of the relative importance & indispensability of said task.

Our crops rot in the fields because their harvest entails too little reward; our infrastructure decays because their repair & upkeep is a thankless low-status job; our mercenary protector caste cowers behind their vehicles during 'active shooter' events, protecting themselves rather than protecting others; and, our public officials prioritise their pensions above their duties & responsibilities to he polity.

David plasters his picture all over his books & blog, jet-sets from speaker's podium to speaker's podium & celebrates his opinions as more relevant than any other, yet he concludes that a Military Parade presided over by the US Commander-in-Chief is ostentatious, grandiose & therefore 'sinful'. This is a statement rich in irony.

Market Failure occurs when the cost of even necessary action exceeds the potential reward, resulting in inactivity.


Best

TCB said...

Great article on the controversy over Wicker Man control.

Treebeard said...

That's pretty funny locum. There does seem to be a lot in common between the egocentric, grandiose, "we're the greatest ever" rhetoric we often hear around here and Trump's rhetoric. There's not much difference between Trump and any other American celebrity, even scientists—what is that de Grasse Tyson guy if not the Donald Trump of science? Tom Friedman is another total huckster. Go down the list; there are so many Donald Trumps. It's like I said before about the bad red pill pick-up artists (bad) and good nerd scientists starting to be attractive to women, they're operating on the same level. Same with the idea that more clever political machinations, better propaganda and demonization will solve America's problems. This whole mentality is the problem; it's spiritual bankruptcy on display. And I doubt it's what made America great. What probably gets a lot of people so riled about Trump is the way he holds up a mirror to Americans and shows them what a collection of arrogant, hustling assholes and suckers they've become. So maybe this is the price of progress: by defeating the old religions that made people humble, communal, ascetic, willing to sacrifice, etc. and gave us Trump nation. But whatever; 6000 years of feudalism, bullies, kibble, etc.

Paul SB said...

As amazing as it may seem, I actually agree with a little of what the Ent is rambling here. There are several huge holes in his spiel, holes large enough to pilot a supertanker through, but there is a kernel of truth in there. One of the better history professors I had was big into the old-fashioned paradigm of focusing on the "great men" of history, but then one day made a comment that led to me changing majors. She said that the leaders - the kings, priests and generals - are always at least 20 years behind the people. That told me right away that if we really want to understand society we are looking at the wrong people. The leaders are just holding the people back. That was a big push that got me to trade history for anthropology. Anthropology isn't totally absorbed with the leaders, it looks at all of society.

Of course our fake plant makes a completely false equivalency argument here, and ignores the fact that he has chosen one side and one set of leaders while his false equivalence denigrates his side as much as the opposite. As our host has pointed out so many times before, when you look at actual facts, we do better overall under Democratic administrations at all levels, and very substantially. All those demographic maps that show pretty much all aspects of human health and happiness being dramatically better in Blue regions than Red - with some exceptions, of course - reveal the overall delusional thinking.

A nation is a complex thing, and its leaders are far more capable of jacking up the works than they are of making it better, or even repairing the damage that has already been done (as should be clear from the inequality trend lines since Reagan Hood stole from the poor and gave it all to tax-dollar sucking military contracting industries (anybody remember when they were bilking the system by changing the names of ordinary things from "hammer" to "kinetic application device" and charging the Air Force $150 each?).

But comparing scientists, whose careers depend on them rigidly adhering to standards of honesty, to politicians, whose careers depend on creative rhetoric, is truly moronic. Trump certainly holds up a mirror to some Americans, and there are certainly Americans on the other side of the aisle who are just as guilty in a different way. But the real dangerous trickery is coming from the big businesses who truly have evil intentions, as opposed to the more naive sorts who have good intentions but usually not very well thought out answers. And it's ironic that he emphasizes the importance of humility and community, the willingness to sacrifice, when the ideology he holds out is one of ruthless self-interest and oppressive order. This is what happens when people spout without thinking.

locumranch said...


Exactly, Treebeard:

Self-Promotion & Celebrity has become the New Substance -- powered by the ruinous Self-Esteem Movement, I suspect -- whereas the puritanical Protestant Reformation accomplished great things by deferring personal gratification until after death & the so-called heavenly reward.

We saw the same pattern with the decline of the Roman Empire. First, their Generals & Armies conquered the European Continent for scant rations & honour alone. Second, they demanded fine uniforms, ribbons & cash money. Third, they demanded huge celebratory parades, orgies & monuments. Fourth, they tore holes in their own battlements for grand triumphal entrances & demanded the title 'God King.

And, finally, the Romans-in-Decline eschewed military accomplish & skipped straight to the orgies, parades & material rewards, leaving the actual task of self-defense & military conquest to foreign mercenaries, much in the way that the West now leaves its activities of daily living to outsourced industry, foreign nationals & immigrant labour.

The West is spiritually bankrupt, and Trump's preference for self-aggrandizement is merely a symptom of the disease rather than the disease itself.

I think it was Heinlein who said "“[T]here seems to have been an actual decline in rational thinking. The United States had become a place where entertainers and professional athletes were mistaken for people of importance. They were idolized and treated as leaders; their opinions were sought on everything and they took themselves just as seriously-after all, if an athlete is paid a million or more a year, he knows he is important ... so his opinions of foreign affairs and domestic policies must be important, too, even though he proves himself to be ignorant and subliterate every time he opens his mouth.”


Best
_____

Ultimately, it's our Self-Aggrandizing Entertainers who demand more & more Noble Sacrifice from others, while they line their own pockets, live lives of luxurious indolence & diddle who they may. Pound(#)Metoo, indeed. Gimme, gimme, gimme. And the imminent Basic Minimum Income plan is the new Purple Wage.

David Smelser said...

Isn't Duverger's law sufficient to explain 50-50 split between two parties?


Anonymous said...

In a year and a half, infernal heat waves are expected in California, because of global warming.
A climate like in the movie Soylent Green. I remember the old man pedaling in the generator, to make the fan work. I imagine that if the Republicans steal the elections again and again and if the other oligarchs of the world do the same. Everyone will one day be fed with Soylent Green.
Link:
https://phys.org/news/2018-03-human-climate-fuel-extreme.html

Winter7

LarryHart said...

Winter7:

In a year and a half, infernal heat waves are expected in California, because of global warming.


Global warming/climate change is starting to hit agriculture in the pocketbook. I wonder if that will convince rural red-staters that they've been backing the wrong party--that their faith in the hoax theory has been misplaced.


A climate like in the movie Soylent Green


Isn't that almost on schedule? IIRC, the movie takes place in 2022, or something close to that.

Alfred Differ said...

@Locumranch | …wherein both the US rich & the US poor eschewed ostentatious displays of wealth while affecting the same demeanor, dress, diet, educational system & society

Har. Only in your mind dude. We still love our ostentatious displays of wealth. I can look out the office window and see the houses peppered along the hillsides around me. Each demonstrates an owner who thinks themselves above others and willing to pay for the view. We may all dress in a manner that looks outwardly similar, but a view of the labels would pierce that illusion too.

that horse is dead [snip] I have killed it

You think too much about yourself here. You also give yourself too much credit for a power you don’t have. The Puritan Work Ethic is still alive. The Bourgeois Virtues still dominate here. The ‘crass’ commercialism and many others point out is a result of the common man actually having money to spend. Oh Boo Hoo. They spend it on things we-think-they-should-not. When has it ever been different through history? The common man was referred to as ‘vulgar’ man by those who thought they knew better for a reason.

Money, Rewards, Status & Bitches

Ah yes. The blind claiming to see further than everyone else.

This is a statement rich in irony.

…and there it is. A demonstration of a mind failing to understand the need to grant dignity to others to receive it in return. Justice is a reciprocal virtue among the bourgeoisie.

Alfred Differ said...

@Treebeard | There's not much difference between Trump and any other American celebrity, even scientists

Sounds to me like you have never strived to achieve greatness and have a small envy problem regarding those who have tried and met with some success. Perhaps the truth hurts a bit.

Sure. There are hucksters out there. There are also successful people who have made something of themselves without violating our code of ethics. Two Scoops has certainly made something of himself. So has our host. Their approaches are rather different, no?

Two Scoops DOES hold up a mirror to us. During the election season I saw him described as the GOP Id. Appropriate then and now. We aren’t a collection of hustling assholes, though. What we are really are young barbarians. The id on display is for one of our older, more racist, elitist, and nationalistic clades.

the old religions that made people humble, communal, ascetic, willing to sacrifice, etc

That’s a very rosy view of the old religions. The monotheistic ones helped define in-groups better leaving those on the inside with a moderate breeding advantage. All you had to do is give up your will. All you had to do was accept domestication like the sheep being tended as someone’s property. For those who failed to acquiesce, or become one of the rulers, or grew up in an out-group, life around these people could be hellishly short. Willingness to sacrifice could easily mean the sacrifice of those around them.

Agriculture gave us huge numbers and brought us together in trading communities, but it also gave us the Y-chromosome bottleneck and the @#%ing idiots who still want to live in societies structured as if that catastrophe was still underway. News Flash! We beat it! Time to move on!

Darrell E said...

Anonymous said...
"Sorry to leave the topic, but ...
¿Why is the radiation of the large fluxes in Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR) increasing?
Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-space-increasingly-hazardous.html

Winter7"


Same reason the Puppeteers were gone before Beowulf Shaeffer even got back from his test drive of the Long Shot.

LarryHart said...

Doesn't this come under a sarcastic "Who could have known???"

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/technology/uber-driverless-fatality.html


A woman in Tempe, Ariz., has died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber, in what appears to be the first known death of a pedestrian struck by an autonomous vehicle on a public road.
...
The fatal crash will most likely raise questions about regulations for self-driving cars. Testing of self-driving cars is already underway for vehicles that have a human driver ready to take over if something goes wrong, but states are starting to allow companies to test cars without a person in the driver’s seat. This month, California said that, in April, it would start allowing companies to test autonomous vehicles without anyone behind the wheel.
...

Anonymous said...

Darrell E:
And this subject reminds me of the novel "the currents of space" by Isaac Asimov.
I hope that some huge black hole has not started to vomit radiation towards us, starting somewhere in space and time, the period of feeding a supermassive black hole. For when black holes are fed, the energy that flows through the currents of space increases. And if that is happening, ¿should we hide that fact, to all the oligarchs, and begin to create an "ark of Noah" that can sink into the protective atmosphere of Jupiter ?. (only up to a bearable pressure).
A few years ago, the theory of space currents was highly discredited. But recent images of a kind of flows that connect all the supermassive black holes in the universe, seems to confirm the existence of "the currents of space". Of course, no physicist would dare to say that the currents of space exist, then, the reputation is something very appreciated in high academic circles. It seems that only profane individuals like Galileo Galilei would dare to suggest new ideas.
And, speaking of astronomers ... ¿Did you notice that the black and white drawings of Nicolaus Copernicus are identical to Kylo Ren's face?

Winter7

Anonymous said...

LarryHart:
And that's because the AI of the cars has not been developed to a degree of operational perfection. It's more. I do not even think that an AI was involved in the matter. They probably used very basic programs that use information from the internet. Autonomous vehicles are not ready yet.
As for the issue of drought and agriculture, I suppose that Republican farmers will not make cause-effect connections unless the matter is repeated again and again. (A thousand times, but trying to convince a Republican that global warming exists, is like trying to convince me that Donald Trump is not a Russian agent)

Winter7

LarryHart said...

Winter7:

And that's because the AI of the cars has not been developed to a degree of operational perfection.


It doesn't surprise me that self-driving cars are not perfected.

It surprises me that states and localities are willing to overlook that fact, to the extent that damage by driverless vehicles will soon be considered "Acts of God" like hurricanes and tornadoes and school massacres are now. Just one of those things that happens a few times a day, tragic for the ones harmed, but "no one's fault".

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry
The measure should not be
Can I make a PERFECT driverless car
But
Can I make one that is BETTER than current human drivers

A much lower bar to get over!

I don't think "perfect" is even possible - how do you stop a pedestrian from running out in front of you?

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

The measure should not be
Can I make a PERFECT driverless car
But
Can I make one that is BETTER than current human drivers


I'll grant you that. I still don't think we're there yet, and I cringe at the localities and corporations who want to pretend that we are.

Sure, human drivers cause accidents. When that happens, someone is liable to the victims. How does that work with driverless vehicles?

David Brin said...

On the road... but...Distinguishing between examples. A true American conservative – Tim/Tacitus worries that the Dem resurgence might not be strong enough to seize the Senate – and hence the 2018 pyre may not burn hot enough to save US conservatism, by burning out the Murdochian fever…. Yes. But that is where McCain/Romney/Grham/Flke etc come in. Their cowardice has been legendary – they should by now have summoned a grand convention of party moderates, as the dems did in 1947. If they ever do, then one can picture a 2019 Senate where 6 or7 True Republicans join dems in passing things vital to the nation. One can envision. But I’m a sci fi author. I can also envision flying pigs.

The opposite kind is more realistic, if pathetic.

“By preferring quiet competence over worldly extravagance, David indirectly bemoans the demise of both the Puritan Work Ethic & the Protestant Renunciation …” So? Your cult is the betrayer of all that. Especially your treason against calm negotiation and rejection of any recourse to fact.
“Quite inadvertently, we have systematically devalued all things spiritual & mystical, leaving only crass commercial materialism in its wake”

Stunning bull puckey! There are more varieties of mystical experience than at any previous era, including especially his lamented vast swathes of brutal feudal and theocratic repression of the slightest diversity or divergence from uniform-homogenized, rote-parroted catechism. Stop pretending you represent diversity and tolerance! Every single person here knows the opposite.


Gregory Byshenk said...

LarryHart said...
Sure, human drivers cause accidents. When that happens, someone is liable to the victims. How does that work with driverless vehicles?
Don't driverless cars have to carry insurance just as traditional ones do?

Anonymous said...

¿Do Americans really hate Robin Hood?

Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-americans-economic-inequality-robin-hood.html

Winter7

LarryHart said...

Gregory Byshenk:

Don't driverless cars have to carry insurance just as traditional ones do?


Good question. We don't have them yet in Illinois.

LarryHart said...

Winter7:
¿Do Americans really hate Robin Hood?


Ayn Rand and her fans certainly do.


Jon S. said...

Everyone seems to forget that the "driverless car" had a human driver. He was there because the vehicle was being tested, because it wasn't perfected yet. The human was supposed to override the computer if it made an error (such as not seeing a human jaywalking, which the victim here was doing). The human failed.

If a new cosmetic were being tested, and it were to be deployed on humans because the person responsible for noting its ill effects on test animals just blew off his responsibilities, is it the fault of the cosmetic when said ill effects hit humans? Or the fault of the human who failed?

LarryHart said...

@Jon S,

Good point, but I wonder how quickly one has to react after seeing a person in front of the car and realizing that the car isn't going to handle the situation by itself.

It might simply be that a proper reaction can't be done quickly enough to matter. Which isn't the human's fault, but it does argue that the concept of self-driving cars is flawed to begin with.


is it the fault of the cosmetic when said ill effects hit humans?


In your hypothetical, the liability would probably fall upon the manufacturer who went to market on the basis of skipped or faulty testing. Which is what I'm saying about self-driving cars.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry
It's possible that the "driver" was goofing off - it's also possible that the accident happened too fast for either the car or the driver to do anything

If somebody jumps out in front of you what can you do?

LarryHart said...

@Duncan et al,

I'm not trying to argue that self-driving cars should be impervious to external factors. If a person was trying to get hit, or just so ridiculously careless as to put herself in harms way, that doesn't necessarily reflect on the car.

What concerns me--and not just about this one incident--is the idea that the technology is being evaluated on the basis of how it reacts in what computer folks call the "happy path"--the test in which no exceptions rear their heads. They may function acceptably on clear, dry roads in daylight when every obstacle is clearly identifiable and acts predictably. But in real life, s*** is going to happen. There will be snow and black ice on the road (not in Southern California, but here). There will be close encounters with bikes and pedestrians. There will be tight spots where there is no room to perform the optimal move.
Until self-driving cars show that they're able to handle those kinds of things, I can't see them as more than a novelty, to be used on "closed course--don't try this at home" venues.

I haven't seen anything to convince me that the technology is ready for prime time yet.

Anonymous said...

LarryHart:
A primitive automotive AI has murdered a woman. I guess we'll have to bring Detective Elijah Baley to solve the case.
Personally, I think it is clear that, if there was a human on the wheel, and he did not react in time, the culprit is that human. Because that human failed in his only mission: Prevent a tragedy. But the guy confided and was probably watching a YouTube video on his cell phone.
And the company is guilty for not watching the one who watched the machine. In the same way that a state is guilty for not watching what the police do.
In any case, this accident is inexcusable. If we know that something can go wrong, then forecasts must be made. Above all, if the life of many is at stake. What if an AI truck is hacked by Russian terrorists? Hooo. Yes, it can happen. Three teams of scientists from several countries have already done it; but only to see if it was possible. But I do not think that is being planned. Because we are human and we learn based on falls, basically. (Above all, in a civilization that values ​​quick results more than the lives of millions)

Winter7

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Larry

The problem with that is that on your "happy path" human drivers kill a lot of people

So if say "happy path" human deaths are 50 and robotic "happy path" deaths are 10

Non "happy path" deaths are 30 human and 50 robot

So we get 80 deaths and 60 deaths
At that point the robot is better than the driver even though it is WORSE bad conditions

But the robot will continue to get better!

And it won't even come to that - robots don't get impatient so the robot can drive at a much lower speed when the conditions are bad

Anonymous said...

Note: The Google Translator's AI, in the previous message, translated badly. He put: "Planned" instead of "anticipated".

Winter7

Paul SB said...

Luis,

There is a huge and obvious flaw in that "Robin Hood" article (aside from the fact that they did not provide the actual data). The stakes were trivial. The inequality was between $25 and $75. Of course people will behave very differently when the figures are so low they will have very little impact on anyone's quality of life. I wouldn't tale it too seriously. It's a badly design experiment.

Anonymous said...

Paul SB:
True. After all, each mind is a different world (with the exception of the Borg hives that have the oligarchs as leaders). (Resist the feudal-feudal advance is perhaps futile, but the democrats will never surrender) Even though everything seems lost, at the last moment, with a clip, a pair of cables and a gum, we will save the day.

Winter7

Cari D. Burstein said...

It was clearly going to be only a matter of time before there was a self-driving car related fatality. I had hoped it would be longer. I'm sure we'll learn a lot more later about the details of what went wrong- how much was human error of the driver monitoring the car, how much was due to the current technical implementation's limitations, and how much might have been due to other factors.

We'll now have a natural re-evaluation of how strict to make the policies regarding testing and liability. This is probably a good thing- the approach that's being taken so far seemed a bit lax in some places. But I really do hope that this doesn't lead to a severe overreaction that pushes back the progression of the technology out of proportion to the needs of safety. In the long run autonomous vehicles will likely save far more lives than they cost, in addition to the many other benefits they can provide (such as more mobility for people who can't drive, less cars needed on the roads due to more cost efficient driving services, less traffic due to less accidents, etc). But we're more prepared to accept the idea of a human driver making a mistake and killing people than a death due to imperfect technology.

I've always hated driving- to me it seems most people drive as if cars are toys, not seriously considering just how dangerous they can be. It's probably the easiest way you can kill someone by accident from just a few seconds of inattention, and yet people are constantly texting while driving and behaving in other risky ways. I look forward to the technology improving enough to protect me from those drivers but I also worry about whether we can do a good job of enforcing quality autonomous software.

Paul SB said...

Luis,

I hope you're right about saving the day, but it's looking pretty dark for the good guys these days. The Dems often do more harm than good. What we need are alternatives to the North-Going Zax and the South-Going Zax. Dr. Seuss built the highway right around them and life went on for everyone else, but Americans insist on putting those two bozos in charge. Dr. Brin's forum seems to mostly attract the non-Zax, except for a few South-Going hecklers. Unfortunately the platform (or soapbox, if you prefer) isn't big enough.

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin,

A couple comments on your chastisement of our South-Going Zax (how would you make "Zax" plural? Zaxnen?):

"Your cult is the betrayer of all that. Especially your treason against calm negotiation and rejection of any recourse to fact."
and
"Stop pretending you represent diversity and tolerance! Every single person here knows the opposite."

This is a pretty standard ploy used by door-knockers and Bible-bangers, as I've said before. The dishonesty is so blatant they think they are clever and that no one will notice how long their noses are. It tells us something about the circles these folks swim in, if they not only use these tricks unreflectively but fall for them just as easily.


"Stunning bull puckey! There are more varieties of mystical experience than at any previous era, including especially his lamented vast swathes of brutal feudal and theocratic repression of the slightest diversity or divergence from uniform-homogenized, rote-parroted catechism."

The point here is that no Zax wants variety, they want conformity. The fact that there is a variety of spiritual lives - especially varieties that refuse to bend the knee to their preferred imaginary prison warden - offends them. There are a couple neurological phenomena I can see at play here. One is hostile attribution bias. This is the delusion that anyone who doesn't come to you with all smiles must necessarily be an enemy who is, if not actively plotting against you, at least disposed to despise and ridicule you. HAB goes a long way to reveal why our Zaxen are so fond of the straw man argument - then genuinely believe these ridiculous caricatures of their opponents.

Paul SB said...

Con.t,

The other relates to Fisher's work on temperament types. The right-wing is largely composed of S-type and T-type personalities. The T-types are the hyper-competitive type who want to dominate. These ones don't really care much about conformity, they care about results, but the results they want is their own personal domination over everyone else. These are the types who are attracted to the business world and especially to politics. To them it's all an arena where they can prove how much better they are than everyone else. A T-type Zax actually can change course in minor ways if they see it getting them more power. The S-type Zax, however, is rigid and convinced that their way must be the right way for all. These ones are more typically attracted to conventional, hierarchical religions, though any philosophy applied with a sledge hammer will do. The central features for them are stubbornness, conformity and loyalty. We see that very clearly in the dittoheads that have characterized the Republican Party since at least the age of Newt. These two types make for a pretty unholy alliance, as the T-types look down their noses at the S-types, who they find so easy to manipulate to their own advantage. The S-types, inclined to obsessive/compulsive thinking, rabidly support their leadership, who are mostly the T-types who are laughing at their own followers to their offices.

We can contrast the other two, who tend to be either attracted to the Democrat side or to eschew politics generally. The E/O-types are peacekeepers who want everyone to come away happy or at least accepting. They find the stubbornness of the S-types unfathomable but don't go to the extreme the S-types do in wanting to seriously harm them. E/O-types don't lead pogroms or shove people in front of firing squads, they want everyone to just get along. For the same reason they despise the T-types who want to dominate, manipulate and steal from everyone else. The D-type, if they can be bothered to pay attention at all, are very much bothered by any efforts to limit their freedom, or anyone else's for that matter. To the D-type life is about exploring your options, and they despise those who want to limit their options. This is why they rarely tolerate S-types (the feeling is mutual, of course). The smarter ones recognize that the T-types also limit everyone else's freedom, because they hoard all the power and wealth for themselves, making it impossible for anyone else to "pursue happiness" as the Declaration of Independence notes.

As a trivial aside, I recently read one of your stories in "Limit of Vision" - the one with the elepents, and couldn't help but chuckle at the station named Porcorosso. Flying pigs indeed!

Paul SB said...

About all I have to say about the fatal accident with the self-driving car is that we all knew this would happen, just as Henry Ford knew that his cars would kill people. That won't stop the technology from being developed any more than it did the automobile. After a period of frothing at the mouth humans will usually normalize anything that sells well. The market will make it happen, with or without regulation, and will improve safety until they come to dominate the market. Without regulation the manufacturers will slack off on safety in the name of cost-cutting (so their T-type executives can hoard more millions to display how much better they think they are than everyone else) and do their best to cover up rising death tolls.

Paul SB said...

It's early, and I think I got the name of the book wrong. It's "Insistence of Vision" I think. The book is in my trunk (not my elepent's trunk) or I would go out and check. The other title was another author (Linda Nagata). I have been off caffeine for just over a year now ...

DVGill said...

As Duncan suspected, it looks as though the woman walked out from the shadows of a median onto traffic.

https://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/03/police-chief-uber-self-driving-car-likely-not-at-fault-in-fatal-crash/

The tendency to anthropomorphize the AI is so strong, even in the vernacular language of "fault" and "accident."

LarryHart said...

DVGill:

The tendency to anthropomorphize the AI is so strong, even in the vernacular language of "fault" and "accident."


That speaks to my actual point. With human drivers, someone is responsible for the results of bad choices, and that fact informs their choices. I may be wrong about this, but I'm getting the sense that accidents with self-driving cars are treated as if no one is responsible. I've seen what happens in the IT world when developers are charged only with getting something into production by a deadline and not with how well the thing operates. The results are not good, and very predictably so.

Somehow, I'm looking like the luddite arguing that just one unanticipated death means that the entire technology has to be scrapped. What I'm saying in reality is more like: I don't see that society has thought out the angles well enough to charge ahead yet. My original statement was to the effect that "We knew this was coming," about which we seem to all be in agreement.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:
I have been off caffeine for just over a year now ...

Have you considered going back on?

:)

LarryHart said...

A very Brin-like opinion piece:

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/19/opinion/what-holds-america-together.html

...
When you are lost in that sea of varied humanity, you think: What on earth holds this nation together? The answer can be only this: Despite our differences, we devote our lives to the same experiment, the American experiment to draw people from around the world and to create the best society ever, to serve as a model for all humankind.

Unity can come only from a common dedication to this experiment. The American consciousness can be formed only by the lab reports we give one another about that experiment — the jeremiads, speeches, songs and conversations that describe what the experiment is for, where it has failed and how it should proceed now.

One of my favorites of these lab reports is Walt Whitman’s essay “Democratic Vistas,” published in 1871. The purpose of democracy, Whitman wrote, is not wealth, or even equality; it is the full flowering of individuals. By dispersing responsibility to all adults, democracy “supplies a training school for making first class men.” It is “life’s gymnasium.” It forges “freedom’s athletes” — strong and equal women, courageous men, deep-souled people capable of governing themselves.
...

Berial said...

This isn't directly tied to the AI driven cars but to computer science in general and the Cambridge Analytica story specifically.


(((Yonatan Zunger)))

Darrell E said...

LarryHart said...
"@Jon S,

It might simply be that a proper reaction can't be done quickly enough to matter. Which isn't the human's fault, but it does argue that the concept of self-driving cars is flawed to begin with."


I don't think it does. I can't see how you (general you, not you personally) could get to that conclusion without a prior that isn't evident to me. Something like an expectation or demand that self driving cars must be perfect, in which case what does perfect mean? Never be involved in the death of a human? Not possible. The car doesn't have enough control over reality to assure that. Problems assigning blame or liability? I don't see why we can't figure that out. Ethical issues with using machines to do something that involves risk to humans? I don't see it. And we already do that, a lot.

There is going to be a learning curve. New methods for dealing with liability, new regulations governing self driving systems and so on. I'm sure there will be deaths & scandals involved, though I bet most of the growing pains are due to human failings, like the typical business interests above public interests greed that is always a problem. But self driving cars are coming and they are going to significantly reduce driving related deaths.

LarryHart said...

Darrell E:

"It might simply be that a proper reaction can't be done quickly enough to matter. Which isn't the human's fault, but it does argue that the concept of self-driving cars is flawed to begin with."

I don't think it does. I can't see how you (general you, not you personally) could get to that conclusion without a prior that isn't evident to me. Something like an expectation or demand that self driving cars must be perfect


I think I already clarified some of this after the post you responded to. I'm looking for responsibility and accountability more than perfection.

But the quoted portion above might make more sense if it's not the concept of self-driving cars per se that is flawed, but the idea that a human driver taking over (quickly enough) when the car is about to do something bad is a workable solution.

DVGill said...

LarryHart:

...accidents with self-driving cars are treated as if no one is responsible. I've seen what happens in the IT world when developers are charged only with getting something into production by a deadline and not with how well the thing operates.

If the errors are egregious enough, or if there is malfeasance, people are held to account for incompetence or malpractice. The blame gets shifted around in the corporate culture, of course. The greatest public blame falls to those knowing there was a problem and ignoring it, or selling their stock before revealing it.

I'm not a neo-luddite either, but what surprises me the most is the headlong pursuit of automated systems like AI cars and flying taxis despite the daily reveals of vulnerabilities in computer security, and the apparent impossibility of securing networked computer systems from unwanted intrusion.

matthew said...

Facebook whistleblower asserts that covert data harvesting is rampant on the platform. I'm sure Dr. Brin will have a blog posting on this subject and the larger subject of the nexus between Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, but I thought I'd bring this to attention before the Doc does to start the conversation.

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/mar/20/facebook-data-cambridge-analytica-sandy-parakilas

This reinforces the central tenet of The Transparent Society - as we get closer to the panopticon, the wealthy or large corporations will always be able to cheat and are constrained only by an empowered citizenry looking back on their behavior.

It's long overdue to be having the conversation of what sort of controls we want US citizens to have over the ever-growing capabilities of the wealthy and large corporations.

Libertarians, time to live up to your name.
Liberals, time to live up to your name.
#ThereAreNoGoodRepublicansWithAFewExceptions - time for the exceptions to stand up too.

locumranch said...


Google's autonomous AI vehicle works perfectly despite the recent pedestrian fatality, the REAL problem is an imperfect jay-walking humanity that fails to obey pedestrian traffic laws but, no worries, David's Pinkerian Brigade have plans to transform & perfect humanity into rule obedient autonomous vehicle compatible biomachines who are incapable of cheating or rule violation.

Only then, once the human spark of creativity has been exterminated, will our roads & highways be deemed safe for our perfect machines of artificial intelligence.

It also appears that Alfred has stolen a trick from our autistic spectrum flibbertigibbet by attempting to misinterpret the figurative as literal, for when I said that 'progressive materialists like David & I have killed (...) all things spiritual & mystical", I was referencing all those LIKE you, me & David who have helped eliminate want, deferred gratification & suffering from our society, leaving little for which to pray.

In essence, we have 'Banned the Beyond', never waiting for our heavenly reward, but demanding instant gratification in this life: We appeal to the government teat when hungry; we kneel before the medical industrial complex when mortality thretens; and we pray to science when we desire deliverance from climate change armageddon.

Heaven is closed until further notice.


Best

Berial said...

Perhaps this YouTube video can help some of the posters here to understand WHY they too should see the world in a 'positive sum' way.


A Selfish Argument for Making the World a Better Place – Egoistic Altruism

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Garbage. I know you weren't being literal. I stand by my position, though, because you think far too much of your capability to kill it figuratively. What some of us have done is more like a change of faith. This particular thing you want us to wait for? No. This other thing you haven't considered? Yes.

I'll admit to being imperfect at interpreting intended connotations, but doing so from the written word leaves us all in that situation. If you want to be interpreted correctly, you'll have to be a bit more explicit when writing. You are too far away for my telepathic skills to work. ["WHAT skill?" says my wife.]

I'll also admit to having a dim view of your likely view of heaven. I was raised atheist. That means I'm a bit like the kid who grew up on the streets never learning to read. As an adult, he will look at you and think it a worthless skill to know how to read fancy literature. All he needs is the basics and he knows it. That also means I'm not the guy who reacts badly around theists like some former smokers do around current smokers. I mostly don't give a damn what you profess to believe. Strikes me as a colossal waste of time.

We appeal to the government teat when hungry; we kneel before the medical industrial complex when mortality threatens; and we pray to science when we desire deliverance from climate change armmageddon.

Some do. That too is a waste of time, but you are talking figuratively again, right? That just makes this dumb. The phantom society in your mind does all these things. The real one mostly pays people for food and medical needs. In practice, many medical payments are made by stealing money from other people first, but that's a different problem.

As for Science, you are just projecting again. The science vs faith trope is tiring for those of us who have done science. There ARE some aspects of science that are like faith, but they aren't exclusionary unless you like to use the propositional (modern) definition of faith. If you stick to the older definition (concerning loyalty), it's obvious they can be mostly compatible. Only Commandment #1 remains as an issue... for some. [By the old definition of 'faith', I'd probably qualify as polytheistic. Only the monotheists make the mistake of thinking we are atheists.]

Alfred Differ said...

matthew,

You aren't suggesting we go fake academic credentials to acquire large FB databases are you? 8)

The libertarians I know would probably argue for privacy and fail to understand David's primary point about the futility of the fight. We ARE Libertarians after all. Look in a thesaurus and I think you'll find that 'libertarian' is a synonym for 'futile' in the sense of tilting at windmills.

Seriously, though, what ARE you suggesting we do?

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | ¿Do Americans really hate Robin Hood?

Never forget that Robin Hood was fundamentally a thief.


In a well designed experimental you'll find we have two inclinations.

1. If we feel someone acquired their money through hard work or luck, redistribution is a form of thievery.

2. If we feel someone acquired their money through abuse of others, redistribution is justice.

For many Americans, it depends on HOW you got your money. We are occasionally tempted to redistribute luck and occasionally confuse hard work for abuse of others. It gets complicated.

Anonymous said...

Alfred Differ:
So I guess we're talking about option 2, which is when we talk about interaction between individuals like Robin Hood and, for example, President Vladimir Putin.
Certainly, it depends on the circumstances. When the rulers (Prince Juan) break the law and steal, automatically, citizens have the moral right (not legal) to recover the stolen property. Of course, Robin Hood had to settle accounts only Prince John, unless the nobles were involved in the plundering of the nation, which is very common. It is a matter of ethics and justice. Only that. For when rulers are thieves, everything is lost.
¡Time to dinner!
Winter7

Anonymous said...

Paul SB:
Hooo. I get it. You say that the Republicans are a Zax that will keep the nation stagnant while the rest of the world continues to advance after major trade agreements and great scientific advances. The Republicans are the immovable Zax who stole Christmas; the national budget; Freedom and ... Everything.
¡Time to dinner!

Winter7

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

These two types make for a pretty unholy alliance, as the T-types look down their noses at the S-types, who they find so easy to manipulate to their own advantage. The S-types, inclined to obsessive/compulsive thinking, rabidly support their leadership, who are mostly the T-types who are laughing at their own followers to their offices.


So, more "Sneetches" than "Zax", eh?

Paul SB said...

Larry,

No, not seriously. I can't stand coffee, I've never cared much for tea, so my primary caffeine source has always been soda. Many aspects of my health improved dramatically when I went off the bubble water, and I seem to have just missed getting diabetes. However, I never would have kicked that habit with the work stress I was living with for the previous 14 years. I'm not making much money now, but I'm in much better shape for it. I have seen work stress do pretty horrendous things to perfectly decent human beings who just weren't lucky enough to be born into the Executive Caste and weren't dishonest enough to try to claw their way into it.

Luis,

Remember that there were two Zaxen - the north-going Zax and the south-going Zax. There's witless stubbornness and tenacious group-think on both sides, R and D. If the Dems were truly our saviors, they would have at least tried to reverse the damage done by Reagan's tax apocalypse - and I know some of them have tried and were stymied by the south-going Zax. When you are being ravaged by a mad elephant, you need to get an elephant gun, or at least an atlatl. You might not have to actually shoot the thing, scare it off. The donkeys have been too distracted fighting some of the fights while ignoring some of the more necessary ones. If they really want to help our floundering minorities as well as majority poor, they would take W.E.B. du Bois more seriously, instead of whacking us with Martin Luther King all the time. No offense intended to MLK - he was really important - but Du Bois understood that in the long run the right to vote wouldn't amount to a whole lot as long as the powers-that-be can corrupt the government into making the rich richer and the poor poorer. This is exactly what has happened since St. Reagan, and Democratic administrations haven't even slowed it down.

Paul SB said...

Larry,

We can find a lot of Sneetch as well as Zax there, to say nothing of Grinch. The Grinch aspect has been really on display since the current administration took power. I can't think of a Dr. Seuss analog for the more democratically-inclined D- and E/O-types. The Cat in the Hat seems to combine both, but with a higher E score, while Thing 1 and Thing 2 seem like the opposite.

Having said that, though, you do have to admit that there is some snobbery and stubbornness to be found on the other side of the aisle, too, but it's not nearly so pervasive. Sneetchiness is practically the defining feature of the T-type, while Zaxish behavior is the foundational symptom of the S-type. (D-types, OTOH, suffer from impatience, and E/O-types from being too willing to compromise. What does this sound like? Bernie Bros and Clintonians).

Anonymous said...


Paul SB:
Sometimes I wonder if both the GOP and the Democratic Party have an agenda to benefit only the rich. The difference, I suppose, is that Republicans benefit sinister and malignant billionaires and Democrats benefit multimillionaires who are just greedy. But I do not know. I'm not aware of the Democratic Party connections with the billionaires. If that problem exists, then, the citizens should demand from the democratic leaders an explanation of that crime.

Winter7

Anonymous said...

¡Eat beets! ¡For a long time I suspected that this plant is full of powerful antioxidants!
A plant more added to the list of plants that make us smarter.
Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-03-vegetable-compound-key-role-beeting.html

Winter7

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | Even with option #2, you'll get different answers from us depending on whether we work for companies or own our own that we built. Even among the worker-bees there is some variation. Working for a small company is different than working for a large one. Look at some of the responses from people here who feel they were effectively raped by their large employers. There is a good chance that what they call 'justice' is different from my definition.

Paul SB has a good point about these experiments. If you use small $$ values in the 'game' and who gets what depends a lot on luck, you'll get something different than when the players believe another player is abusing them. There is a game the behavioral economists like to use called the Ultimatum Game because it shows how some people are willing to take a loss just to punish someone who isn't playing fair by their sense of what 'justice' means.

Also, Larry pointed out that Ayn Rand followers are a little different. That is definitely true. However, many other Libertarians will side with them when thinking about Robin Hood. Always remember that Robin Hood was a nobleman. He was a 'good guy' because he stole for a particular group of people, but that is what most noblemen do. They are mostly thieves, but each of us get 'our own' to use against the others. It's really a kind of protection racket and the thieves will quietly collude when they realize the win-win portion of the system. Those who don't collude should be killed off by those who are willing. You'll see some of the same dynamics going on in your country. Just swap 'nobleman' with the people who run the cartels. Our organized crime folks understand this game too. So... Libertarians might easily take a dim view of Robin Hood.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
The difference is between "found wealth" and "created wealth"

I would argue that any wealth that we "create" is so totally bound up with the "found wealth" that the creator claiming ALL of that wealth is inherently unfair

In a company the product is created by engineers and the shop floor workers - salesmen are necessary but they don't "create" the income or even the profit from their sales

TCB said...

A NC Congressional candidate puts the parade in perspective.

Might be good to print out for posters along the parade route.

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

I see your point about created wealth being bound up with found wealth. It's basically a matter of having the capital to turn an idea into a product. If you were born dirt poor you can come up with the most brilliant ideas in the world and you will never be able to bring them to market because you just don't have the means - especially when every day of your life you are struggling just to avoid homelessness. Its the old catch-22 of "You have to have money to make money" and "You have to have experience to get experience." The deck is stacked heavily against the SES underdog in today's technological world. This is why taking ideas from people who were famous 200 years ago, or 2000 years ago, is often very inappropriate and can even be deadly. Tally up the percentage of people who died from factory wastes and air pollution before the Clean Air Act was created in 1976 and the their families that government should never be allowed to interfere with business. Now count the number of people who die every year from colon cancer because they can't get healthy food in their neighborhoods (places referred to here as "food deserts") and tell them that they are responsible for their own miserable deaths.

Paul SB said...

Alfred,

While I appreciate you pointing out one of my contributions, I hope you realize that the Ultimatum Game has the same problem. When the stakes are as low as they usually are, there will be people who will accept unfair offers because they aren't taking it very seriously. Offer them such raw deal on financing a car or a house and they will walk away from it (if they understand how they are being ripped off - most people don't and don't have time to learn about it in our high-stress, helter-skelter work culture).

I knew a woman ages ago who decided that car prices gave way too much profit to the dealers and felt like they were all rip-off artists, so she decided on what car she wanted, found out what it cost to manufacture the car, added $1000 and started calling dealers with that amount as an offer, set in stone (and she was stubborn enough that not even the slickest professional liar - a.k.a. salesman - could get her to budge a penny on the price). After calling over 100 dealers she finally found one willing to make the deal. She was rich enough to have enough money to pay cash so she didn't have to pay any interest. Then she had to get a buddy (not me) to drive her 80 miles to where she found someone willing to make the deal. Being a typical, right-wing bastard, she insisted that anyone could do the same thing if they were "smart" like she was. I wanted to smack her. If she thought more like an epidemiologist and less like an ideologue she would have to admit that she was born to a level of advantage and privilege that most people don't have, and even if other people had the idea they would be unlikely to actually do it because they were working three jobs just to stay in debt while trying to raise their unwanted pregnancy their boyfriends left them with when they dashed across the state border, leaving them to live in dangerous ghetto neighborhoods where they virtually need to escort their children to and from school in an armored car, only to have them mown down in school anyway.

Capitalists pretend that they are practical people focused on results, but step back, look outside their bubble and you will see they are just as much ideologues as the religious right who they manipulate and the lefties they despise.

Paul SB said...

TCB,

Nice, but where was this guy when Draft-Dodging W was running? These fat cats always claim to be "real men" - a meme that most people associate with the military, but they are mostly draft dodgers, and as soon as they get into office they cut budgets for veterans and even salaries for the troops (but not so much the officers). Yet people still fall for it, and virulently. Once the association between the Party and the military has congealed in many people's minds, no amount of fact will dislodge it. Yet another case where the Sunk Cost Effect reigns.

That is not to say that your suggestion is not a good one. If I were in D.C. or could afford to fly out there, I would do it. Hell, I would get a projector and shine the image up on the side of the Washington Monument or some such obvious location - though I would probably be risking arrest on some trumped-up charge.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

The Grinch aspect has been really on display since the current administration took power.


As I said before, during that first Christmas season when Trump wasn't yet in the White House, and it was possible to imagine that the weight of responsibility of the office might impress itself upon him, the refrain going through my head was:


And what happened then? Well, in Whoville, they say
That the Trumpster's small hands grew three sizes that day.


Would that 'twere so.

LarryHart said...

Winter7:

But I do not know. I'm not aware of the Democratic Party connections with the billionaires.


A billionaire (J.B. Pritzger) just won the Democratic primary for the governor's race in Illinois. He will go up against sitting Republican billionaire governor Bruce Rauner, who essentially bought the last election with his own money.

There's much understandable complaint on the D side as to "If billionaires are the problem, why are we running one ourselves?" I'm willing to cut Pritzger more slack. I see it as "It takes a billionaire to beat a billionaire."

Wealth functions as a kind of super-power, enabling its possessor to accomplish goals that normal people cannot. I don't think of wealth in and of itself as a reason to vote against (or for) a candidate. The question is whether he uses his powers for good or for evil.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Always remember that Robin Hood was a nobleman. He was a 'good guy' because he stole for a particular group of people,


Just remember that the most famous Robin Hood movie--the 1938 Errol Flynn version--skewed the narrative so that the funds Robin's band stole were actually misappropriated in the first place. Prince John collected extra taxes to pay King Richard's ransom, and then kept the money for himself and his cronies, and Robin liberated the money to use for its truly intended purpose. Libertarians who root against that Robin Hood really show that they value property over justice.

I realize that other versions of the legend are not quite so black-and-white, but as that is one of my favorite movies, I'm willing to cut it a lot of slack.

LarryHart said...

Paul SB:

Being a typical, right-wing bastard, she insisted that anyone could do the same thing if they were "smart" like she was. I wanted to smack her.


You tell this story to emphasize that she was already privileged enough to spend time and effort that others didn't have available. But I also note that right-wingers often conflate "Anyone could do this" with "Everyone could do this." A lottery winner can't reasonably claim an expectation that everyone should just win the lottery like they did. Likewise, Germany likes to make the ridiculous claim that all other countries have to do is to become net-exporters like they are. We like to think in a positive-sum manner, but not every situation works that way.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan | While we could debate what is ‘found’ and what is ‘created’, I don’t think it is worth much effort. We are likely to delve into principles to which each of us holds in an almost religious fashion. Let’s just say that I CAN see the distinction you are making, but I think of it a bit like the distinction between fate and free will. What is what depends on your perspective.

What I will point out is that wealth creators who claim they get to keep it all are delusional. They are doing pretty good if they keep about 2%. Most of the value they create with an excellent innovation goes to the people acquiring it from them when they buy it or to the people who copy the idea and innovate on it when they compete with them.

Also, a company with no salesmen dies. You all create the products on the floor, but you can’t do that for a decent living if someone doesn’t sell the stuff. The modern corporation is like an animal in the sense that it needs all its parts to function properly. It might get along without some of them as a degraded competitor, but what it can tolerate depends a great deal on the ecosystem around it.

Oh… one principle about found and created that I will mention is this. The world has many of us advocating each nuance. I think it best that we all continue to do so and that no one in particular wins that debate. I don’t think it is clear who is actually correct, so a mixed strategy is the best option for this game right now.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Sorry. Even the Errol Flynn version is problematic. Robin’s band stole from thieves. Yes. His intent was to pay the King’s ransom. True. They are ALL thieves, though. Every one of them. The moral lesson in the story is that Prince John violated the nobleman’s code of ethics and should be punished. What the libertarians will point out is that the nobleman’s code is itself immoral by today’s bourgeois standards. It’s not enough that King Richard was ‘our’ nobleman thus one of the ‘good guys.’

Not to worry about your movie, though. What I’m doing here is similar to the annoying folks who point out the flaws in every science fiction movie. While you watch these things, you have to suspect parts of your analytical mind. I CAN do that for the 1938 film, but once I come out of the audience trance, that part of me kicks in once again. It happened to me most recently with the Black Panther movie. Fun to watch. NOT fun to contemplate afterward.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | I completely agree with your view of the Ultimatum Game. Stakes matter. Relevance matters. Skin In The Game matters. Generalizing from their results is a risky thing open to easy objections. A $100 phone card is moderately useful to some of us in the US, but a huge deal to people who make $10/day.

Your right-wing bastard is missing an important point besides the ‘I can do it so you all can too’ nonsense. The price of a car doesn’t depend on what it cost to manufacture. It depends on what people want for it. There is a bid-ask spread on everything. The company making the car is going to start with an ask price above their cost for obvious reasons, but a downstream dealer might not. She might have found a motivated seller who needed to get something off his lot.

Once one pays the costs of producing an item the money is sunk. It is best to ignore it or avoid being too emotionally attached to the number. What matters at that point is what price was can get for it. Play the game right and Price>Cost + [interest one might have earned with a safer investment]. Even so-called safe investments are risky, though, and one only has to win in the aggregate to do well.

Capitalists pretend that they are practical people focused on results, but step back, look outside their bubble and you will see they are just as much ideologues as the religious right who they manipulate and the lefties they despise.

I’m inclined to agree.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | Germany's prosperity isn't the result of them being a net positive exporter even though they might think it is so. They do well mostly because of their internal trade. The vast majority of prosperity in any nation comes from what they do among themselves within their borders.

One guess for where I learned that. 8)

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

While you watch these things, you have to suspect parts of your analytical mind. I CAN do that for the 1938 film, but once I come out of the audience trance, that part of me kicks in once again. It happened to me most recently with the Black Panther movie. Fun to watch. NOT fun to contemplate afterward.


Hey, I like action/adventure movies and can enjoy them on that basis alone...to a point. Some of the Marvel Movies (the second Captain America comes to mind) don't meet my threshold of plot that makes me care enough to enjoy the action. The original "Star Wars" just barely did.

I can even appreciate Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" as a comic book adventure story, even though I cringe at the philosophy that drives the plot, and I have to remind myself that we're supposed to feel good about the ending.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Germany's prosperity isn't the result of them being a net positive exporter even though they might think it is so.


All I know is their rhetoric. It sounds as if they blame other countries for not emulating them and all becoming net exporters. You'd think it would be obvious why that can't happen.

The company making the car is going to start with an ask price above their cost for obvious reasons, but a downstream dealer might not. She might have found a motivated seller who needed to get something off his lot.


15 years or so ago, my wife and I lucked out looking for a used car because we can both drive a stick. The dealer we went to happened to have a car he was trying to move off the lot, and when he looked at the paperwork and said, "Oh, you probably don't want that one. It's a stick shift", we just smiled knowingly at each other. That car ended up lasting us more than 10 years.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi PaulSB

My point about "found wealth" was not about the capital required
It was a bit more central than that
We can only make a new invention because of all of the previous "inventions"

You design a new spade (for example) it then relies on the base knowledge of how to make the steel - how to make the press to stamp it out - how to paint it - how to transport it and how to sell it

The base idea of the new spade is a thin veneer over the total knowledge that makes that new spade useful

And most of that basic total knowledge is "common property" - any patents having long since expired

LarryHart said...

Looks like we have a virtual "onward!"

Interested Observer said...

What circle of Hell have I stumbled in to where Treebeard and Locumranch are speaking in coherent, congent sentences? Is the mothership within range? Did Ann Rand stir in her deathless slumber? Doom I say.