Saturday, April 11, 2020

Which US presidents oversaw more military deaths? Why is John Bolton "the last neocon"? And our need to keep an eye even on allies.

==  How many “papers” and “leaks” will it take? ==

In Earth I allude to the “Helvetian War” when a coalition of developing nations use the belligerent powers allowed them under formal declaration of war to go after the trillions that had been looted from their peoples by former ruling elites. There’s a whole chapter about this potential technique in Polemical Judo. Now see how Angolans are trying to recover $2Billion from the daughter of their former despot. There are clever and agile ways to do this that no one has yet tried.

"The Luanda Leaks investigation is a landmark moment for Angola (Revealed: how ‘princess’ of Angola built $2bn fortune, 20 January). It should be a landmark moment for the world. The revelations should inform the criminal investigation into Isabel dos Santos that is already under way. This investigation must follow due process (Angola vows to force Dos Santos to return, 21 January)." -- from The Guardian.

Noteworthy... they need to go after even bigger kleptocrats from the POST-colonial era.

== A propensity for war? ==

An interesting collation indicates which party goes to war more readily, spending the lives of our military men and women. My source gives Active Duty Military Deaths due to “Enemy Action“ or “Terrorist Attack” Since 1988.

Ronald Reagan 1981-1988 295            37/yr average*
George H.W. Bush 1989-1992 189       47/yr average**
Bill Clinton 1993-2000 75                        9/yr average***
George W. Bush 2001-2008 3,830     479/yr average****
Barack Obama 2009-2016 ?              390/year during 1st 2 years, then dropping quickly to about 40/yr average.
Donald Trump roughly same as Obama

* Reagan had many little, easy ‘wars” like Grenada… and one humongously stupid loss of 200 Marines due to flubbed security in Lebanon.

** GHW Bush was the worst president of the 20th Century by far, blowing the aftermath to the end of the Cold War and leaving Iraq a shambles for all future generations. But his massive Iraq War was so one-sided that US casualties were low.

*** All but 1 of the losses under Clinton are labeled as “terrorist,” not “enemy action.” Not sure that’s proper since it includes “Blackhawk Down.” But Clinton’s ratio of cost versus effectiveness was unsurpassed, as the Balkans Intervention finally ended 6000 years of European war.

****GW Bush set us on course for our longest quagmire wars, exactly what an enemy would wish for us. Unable to extract, Obama turned things around, but his losses should be partly credited to Bush.

**** My source for yearly data stopped mid-Obama. The Obama Trump year totals can be gleaned from a chart here. Under Obama the rates steeply declined from 300+/yr in 2010 to low double digits by 2014, a rate maintained by Trump. And let's be clear that this is a category that has NOT been made worse by Trump... though military readiness is now a mess. Now who would want that?

== Putting John Bolton in context: the last Neocon standing ==

Yes this is several news cycles back. But all the more reason for a reminder and some perspective!

While I am glad the John Bolton book-leaks are devastating the Foxite paradigm — (respond to every scandal with “don’t look! Don’t let anyone see or hear anything!”) — I do believe we want to keep this man in context. 

Bolton is The last Neocon. Not one of the russophile, Putinist oligarchy-worshippers who infest today’s mad right, or their apocalypse-yearning drones, but a true American imperialist. And you ought to have some context.

Neocons were followers of a mad emigre "philosopher," Leo Strauss, who fled the horrors of WWII Europe only to rail at gullible American students like Wolfowitz, Perle, Nitze, Adelman, and Frum that happy successful America should drop its uniquely benevolent American Pax and be more like those failed European empires. 

His followers finally got their day in the sun... for three years under Bush Jr., till it became clear that the Iraq II war was built entirely on lies, theft and cosmically self-destructive policies. Worse, some of them started complaining about Cheney Clan giga-buck ripoffs, whereupon Rupert Murdoch ordered all the neocons sacked and sent into exile, leaving only John Bolton standing with a Fox platform to push the Olde Faith...

…plus hybrid/mongrel/monsters like Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, who shout some imperialist slogans while essentially spearheading Putin-"traditionalist" oligarchism, the bald-faced new religion of the right.

offered perspective on this some good while back. 

If that sounds complex, just backtrack a bit to the seventies. For the neocons were made much worse by campus leftist radicals, who trashed the offices of university conservatives and giggled at their "victories,” chasing guys like Wolfowitz away from campus-collegial give and take and intellectual accountability. They fled to echo chambers like AEI and Heritage and soon became complete whore-shills for the Kochs, Cheneys etc., concocting all those 2003 war rationalizations on demand. No, the far-left does not have clean hands in all of this.

To be clear, there are others who would define terms differently than I did here, and with perhaps better erudition. See for example Paul Miller’s decryption here. While more thorough and erudite, Miller, I think, misses the point. While many neocons might have started out as civil rights liberals, and were unfairly maligned by campus radicals, they coalesced at Heritage and AEI into court intelligencia prostitutes, wholly owned by and subservient to classic far-right oligarchy. A loyalty that was not returned when that oligarchy crumpled up the neocons and tossed them in the trash, turning instead to embrace today’s unabashedly troglodytic Confederatism, allied with Saudi, Russian, gambling and drug mafias.

Oh, I’ll accept any help, nowardays, including gifts from these dangerous madmen. Frum is now a vociferous anti-Trumper, and other neocons are starting to exact some revenge… as now so is Bolton. Fine.

Just be wary. For these are variations in essential madness. 

One lesson is to seek out any possible seed for a saner American conservatism… I’ve mentioned Utah, where at least their conservatism' doesn't translate into tsunamis of moral turpitude, domestic violence, stds gambling, teen sex/pregnancy and scores of other ways that Red America outscores blue... and reach out with a hand of collegially competitive negotiation. 

The other lesson is not to trust our own farthest fringe campus radicals. who don’t have a great sanity track record, themselves.

== Getting down to fundamentals ==

My general political essay in four parts - about  the insipid/lobotomizing left-right "axis"- how history betrayed competitive creativity, and what libertarianism might look like, if it ever grew up. (Currently popular versions are truly wretched, offering "axes" that are not even remotely independent or light-shedding.) Some folks complain that the old host site has gone dormant. Or out of reach.  I can now offer better versions via my own site. You can start with:
Part 4: Political Metaphors Part IV 

But vastly more important for this current crisis remains POLEMICAL JUDO. If even 5% of the tactics there were used...


Acacia H. said...

It seems our President's ego and need to have positive economic numbers are parts of the reason for Trump's inept response to COVID-19. He wasn't able to spin this as he wanted and thus he dug his heels in and refused to act. I seriously wonder if those folk in Contrary Brin who are taking a less adversarial view as to him and the Republican Party's response to this pandemic will continue to blindly support their leader as more and more evidence of his incompetence becomes apparent.

Then again, given my mother is drinking the Koolaid and blaming Congress and the news media for "changing" Trump's efforts to combat this, no doubt any who aren't anti-Trump on here will probably likewise blame Democrats in Congress and the news media for scare-mongering and making things worse rather than Trump's own incompetence.

Acacia H.

David Brin said...

Acacia, while Treebeard was fabulating when he called this an "echo chamber," thinking of his own side's disciplined Nuremberg rallies... nevertheless, let's be fair. No one here is making excuses for Trump and only a couple are trying the false-equivalence defense. Oh how I wish we would be visited by some fact-curious conservatives for some argument based on such things!

scidata said...

David Frum should join CB. He'd add a Canadian conservative perspective. A rare yet intriguing bird.

David Brin said...

I'd be happy to welcome him. Alas, he likely nurses delusions of self-importance, even after all of that. And the monster he's fighting is one he helped to birth.

scidata said...

"the monster he's fighting is one he helped to birth"

Frankenstein is the seminal AI science fiction book. The strange connection between Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, Ada Lovelace, and Charles Babbage makes it even more compelling.

yana said...

Cari Burstein, in previous thread, thought:

"I have found the moderation delay does tend to impact how well the conversation flows here"

Agree. If we all donate a bit, Dr. Brin could hire a servant in a diametric timezone to moderate during his human daily block of sleep/shit/shower/shave. Or, more fun could be to divide the chores like any functioning household. Trade off every week, rotate whose job it is to keep the rightwingnuts on observation and under the firm thumb of rebuttal.

yana said...

Now on the other hand, rational people still do smart things. A pound of cheese is still four bucks. Stores are not accepting returns so hoarders will take a hilarious haircut on their "investment." Chirps are showing a little more panic, but this is not the Great Depression. We're not going to see 25% unemployment for several years in a row.

It's not the Great Recession caused by integrating insurance with banking. This economic shock is not structural, it is external. When the outside force is removed (via medical therapy in under a year), the economy will snap right back. We'll call it the Great Pause.

Tricky year for it to happen, though. Just read "Everything Twerp Touches Dies" and "Running Against The Devil" but now they're more useful on a hook in the outhouse. All the analysis of blue strategy is out the window, even as circumstances hasten Wilson's predicted shift of the middle, the rational. 2 hours of orange guy every day, has dropped approval by 8 and shifted Nov preferences by 4.

The batshit stuff was happening regularly at "rallies" but nobody outside the bubble paid attention. Now it's in the glare of light. Now everyone knows that nutter's off his biscuits. Bernie's out but still has room to pout, Ole Joe had better have the nerve to ghost him. There's no more pandering to the hard left a-scared that tha Bros might sit home. They know, by now, some of this is their fault, not Jill Stein's.

The real key is tough rurals in Penna, Wisc, Ohey and Mich. In '16 they thought they had the luxury of a protest vote, "sure let dragonlady have her win but i'm agonna let her know that she cain't take me fer granted."

Tariffs crushed the rurals, and the corruption has become so legend and legion in the new Twamp... RustBelt hardheads know, by now, that they fncked up real good.

A German Nurse said...

@Marxism vs. Pure Capitalism: My stance is that the best approach is one of compromises. Free Markets, yes, but also a healthy social insurance system, worker's rights and participation in entrepreneurial decisions, and protecting areas of public interest - law enforcement, health care, education, critical infrastructure, even media (provided it grants access to reliable, unbiased, and uncensored information.)

This all comes at a price, yes - but the price of a chronically indepted, uneducated, unhealthy electorate with massive existential fears is even higher, I think.

DP said...

Neither Trump nor Biden are spring chickens.

What happens if the flue kills one or both right before the November election?

DP said...

Official definition of an economic depression:

"A depression is a severe and prolonged downturn in economic activity. In economics, a depression is commonly defined as an extreme recession that lasts three or more years or which leads to a decline in real gross domestic product (GDP) of at least 10 percent. in a given year."

Official definition of a economic recession:

"Two consecutive quarters of economic decline, as reflected by GDP in conjunction with monthly indicators like a rise in unemployment."

We are heading for a depression complete with bread lines and soup kitchens:

Larry Hart said...


...rotate whose job it is to keep the rightwingnuts on observation and under the firm thumb of rebuttal.

IIRC, moderation was not imposed to throttle opposing viewpoints, but to manage spam-bots--one in particular--which would otherwise create a noise-to-signal ration so high as to make the comments unreadable.

Acacia H. said...

Trump has the luck of the damned. He's not going to catch it or will be one of the asymptomatic carriers. As for Biden, he is going to select a female VP who could be president the day of the election. He knows he's at risk. And is most likely isolating himself so he won't become infected so to deny Trump that out.


We're not going to see a "bounce back" from this. Supply chains are going to start cracking in the next couple of months. If the social isolation is lifted, over a million people will die, and that will seriously damage the economy. Prisons are going to see massive death rates which will decimate the private prison industry and force massive reforms of the prison industry, especially as a lot of people in prison are just waiting for their trials and are innocent until proven guilty. (Thus a lot of innocent people will die.)

A lot of older people will also die. As people flee to the rural areas, you will see sudden outbreaks in these rural areas which cannot handle them and entire households will end up dead - some from the husband deciding "I'm not going to let my family suffer" and killing them all (despite the fact they probably would survive if given a chance and some care). Farms are forced to destroy crops, milk, and the like which will result in scarcity of food in the next few months.

Vital people in companies will die, which could cause those companies to fold or lose out on important projects requiring those specialists. Companies will run out of funding and go under. Restaurants will likely not see a return to the way things were... and will compensate by spreading out the existing tables and hiring fewer waitstaff or shift to a to-go venue that doesn't need waitstaff. Thus more people will permanently lose their jobs.

Things are not going to go back to the way they were when this is over... and it won't be over for another year in all likelihood.


A German Nurse said...

The ticket mate runs (Pence vs. ???)?

Gator said...

The Right
*mainstream political power
*destroying the country, literally and figuratively
*handing what's left over to oligarchs
*conspiring with foreign enemies

The "Looney" Left
*was mean to some people 50 years ago

Yeah, we'd best keep an eye on those lefties!

Jon S. said...

"There's no more pandering to the hard left a-scared that tha Bros might sit home. They know, by now, some of this is their fault, not Jill Stein's."

Available data tend to indicate that this is an overly-optimistic take. Simply put, the BernieBros with which I have been in contact refuse to believe that they had anything to do with the 2016 outcome, and insist that the only possible response to the Dems not being far enough left for them is to punish the party even further by not participating in the November elections. No reasoning, on any tack, seems to get through to them. (I'm personally of the belief that many of the hard-liners on this are in fact either Republican activists or Russia-backed agitators, wolves in sheep's clothing, but have no hard data with which to back this up. It's just a feeling I get.)

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

I'm personally of the belief that many of the hard-liners on this are in fact either Republican activists or Russia-backed agitators, wolves in sheep's clothing, but have no hard data with which to back this up. It's just a feeling I get.

A more charitable view might be that they're susceptible to being stirred up on social media by Republican activists and Russia-backed agitators (pardon the redundancy).

Larry Hart said...

A German Nurse (concerning a presidential candidate dying before the election)

The ticket mate runs (Pence vs. ???)?

I doubt the state ballots work that way. My guess is that it would be up to the states to handle an election in which one of the candidates on the ballot has already died. Perhaps there is precedent in the Missouri governor's race where John Ashcroft's Democratic opponent died shortly before the November election. His name remained on the ballot and after he won (yes, the dead guy beat John Ashcroft) the party appointed his wife to fill the position.

Though in the presidential case, it might come down to what the state electors are allowed to do or decide to do anyway in that situation.

David Brin said...

yana is really ‘on’ today. Not that I agree with everything, But almost-poetical and (we hope) fact based speculation.

German Nurse, yes, and those compromises are made by those infamous Europeans. Only it’s NOT a ‘compromise.’ Liberal safety nets and investments in poor children are entirely defensible in market-enterprise terms, since whatever increases the overal number of skilled, confident competitors makes market competition work better.

I despair that the moderate left and liberals don’t get this - that THEY are the defenders of flat-fair-creative-competitive productive market enterprise. And the factual outcomes prove it.

“What happens if the flue kills one or both right before the November election?”

Like a chimney flue? Argh who am *I* to leap on typose?

Yeah, that militates against Warren as my fave VP choice and toward Harris, who is solid but I do have mixed feelings. In your scenario, she would become a “black” president the way we all thought the nation would first have one. Though if Biden collapses before the convention, my guess is they’d make Bernie official kingmaker and nominate Cuomo.

Will Two Scoops dump the bowl of mayonnaise? They’d have to get something huge on him, for Pence to go quietly, perhaps with a feigned illness as DT brings in Nikki Haley.

If DT collapses pre-convention? Then ALL the old hands would call in princeling in waiting Paul Ryan. It’s not even a question, it’s the reason he left the Speakership, Of course I have a whole CHAPTER on all this in the book.

Acacia’s gloomy predictions trigger me as contrarian. New York is bending the curve and California is doing so well that wing nuts are concocting weird conspiracy theories, and that’s without pervasive testing. They might even let beaches re-open in a controlled way. Newsom refused to shut down infrastructure projects and they are going great. Yeah, yeah, he inherited one of the most functional ‘nation states’ on the planet. Still, if Trump is re-elected (by cheating of course) we truly do have options.

scidata said...

John Conway died yesterday of Coronavirus.

"Conway said to the numbers, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’"
- Donald Knuth

Acacia H. said...

I've noticed a new line of attack. People are calling Biden a rapist more and more and saying "you're asking women who were raped to choose between one rapist and another!" They know that only the absolute hardcore Bernie Bros will refuse to vote and now they're going after women voters by saying "Biden raped women and molested even more and he's horrible!" to try and get people not to vote for him.

Don't suppose there's anything out there to outright disprove these allegations?

Acacia H. who doesn't believe them but wants facts to overcome these new lies

David Brin said...

The accuser claims she told everyone when it happened. So far, no former staffer of Biden has come forward to confirm ever hearing it and many have said they never heard a wor.

Tacitus said...

The notion of presiding over military deaths is of course flawed. No president, no leader of any sort gets to chose whether there is a maniac plotting away in a beer hall or an Afghan cave....or in a nice Paris cafe in springtime. America has actually started very few wars. Spanish American and War with Mexico come to mind.

And to focus on just military deaths or even just American deaths is a bit provincial. If you want to have a serious discussion on the topic it would be better to look at the admittedly slippery concept of "avoidable deaths from war(+)".

There will be no easy answers as history is the study of "what ifs".

Sometimes it is botched intel. FDR did not look the other way so that Pearl Harbor would conveniently happen. But he evidently could not imagine that the "inferior" Japanese might strike all across the Pacific and so left the unprepared garrison of the Philippines to suffer the Death March.

A case could be made that all the Iraq misfortunes could have been avoided by better, earlier and more emphatic diplomacy on the part of the GHWB admin.

Eisenhower looks pretty good. We made it through the worst of the Cold War in one piece. I can't think of much reason to fault Carter. So far Trump has not started anything new.

All time Worst (modern history division)? A shared prize for the Great Powers of 1914. 10 million military deaths. Another 10 million civilian deaths. 50 million from the 1918 flu(e) because the Horsemen never ride alone. And of course the Armistice was just a 20 year cease fire...


David Brin said...

Tim points out many reasons why it would be logically flawed to draw major generalized conclusions from the short comparison of military death rates under recent presidents. I totally agree... and I made no such claims. Standing alone, that list does little...

...except to DISprove blatantly dumb assertions that Republicans are the soldier's friend.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

..except to DISprove blatantly dumb assertions that Republicans are the soldier's friend.

My formerly-sane conservative buddy on the old "Cerebus" list, who actually volunteered for military service to go to Iraq, would point out that this is one of those things where conservatives and liberals don't speak the same language.

Liberals think of being "soldiers' friends" as keeping them safe--well equipped, cared for after service, and most of all, putting them in harms way as little as possible.

Conservatives think of being "soldiers' friends" as staying out of their way, letting them do the job they signed up for, and not judging what we can't possibly know about afterwards.

Trump in particular courts the support of the "tough people", those soldiers who don't care so much about their own safety as about their freedom to be warriors. Their method of keeping score would be less about American wartime dead under each president and more about enemy wartime dead.

David Brin said...

Perhaps LH. But any sane warrior also cares about both efficient use of force and outcomes.

Reagan and Bush Sr used massive sledgehammers to win teensy "wars" in Grenada and Panama that accomplished little... then used up our vast Cold War victory superiority to win Iraq#1 ... for the Saudis and Kuwaitis... and planted poison seeds for almost universal regional hatred of the US.

Clinton's Somalia training exercize used minimal force that was TOO minimal. Lesson learned, his Bosnia intervention was by far the most efficient and effective war of all time, accomp;lishing all war aims and Europe's first peace at cost of zero US lives lost and very few others.

Iraq#2 was built on lies, top to bottom. All right, warriors loved it - yeehaw! -- till it became a crippling quagmire that torched military readiness.

Obama efficiently used surgical warriors to kill Osama. Period.

David Brin said...

See what people are buying. Bread machines have seen a 625% increase!

duncan cairncross said...

When we lived in America we had a bread machine - apparently you can buy edible bread in America - just not from the big stores - not in small town America

If the smaller places are shutting down a lot of people may be discovering what supermarket bread tastes like in the USA and buying bread machines

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Perhaps LH. But any sane warrior also cares about both efficient use of force and outcomes.

I wasn't taking the side of the "tough people". Just pointing out why what looks like a slam-dunk argument that Democrats are better friends to soldiers doesn't necessarily work with them, even when backed by facts.

Iraq#2 was built on lies, top to bottom. All right, warriors loved it - yeehaw! -- till it became a crippling quagmire that torched military readiness.

Yes, and notice how quickly it then became something we were "tricked into by Israel". It boggles my mind how the Republican Party can simultaneously be the party of unwavering support for Israel and the party of the Daily Stormer and the KKK.

Tony Fisk said...

Clinton's Somalia training exercize used minimal force that was TOO minimal.

Actually, I think Clinton inherited Bush's/UN mess in Somalia. Recall that the first UNITAF marines arrived on Dec 9, 1992 (before Clinton was sworn in). It was described as 'a media circus' at the time, since the press were waiting on the beach to receive the invaders.

David Brin said...

"It boggles my mind how the Republican Party can simultaneously be the party of unwavering support for Israel and the party of the Daily Stormer and the KKK."

It takes a special mental twist. But it revolves around Fundamentalist-dominionist end times obsession that Apocalypse must be preceded by a dominant Israel rebuilding the Temple, then getting beset by enemies, then amid triumph a few thousand Jews see the light and lead the flow of the righteous to heaven while all the rest suffer first earthly and then eternal torment.

Needless to say, this "support for Israel makes quite a number if Israelis etc... wary.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

I guess I should be more specific. I do get why the Evangelicals would align with vocal support for Israel, even if they themselves don't particularly like Jews.

I don't get why powerful and influential Jews themselves--Sheldon Adelson, Steve Mnuchin, even Stephen Miller--can think fascism ends in any kind of good way for them.

Darrell E said...


Not sure how long ago it was that you lived in the US, but these days most supermarkets have a bakery in the store and many of them make some very good bread. And they commonly have a decent variety too. Now, granted, the schwarzbrot at my local Publix supermarket bakery can't compete with the little bakery my mom would send me to at 0-dark-thirty every morning when we lived in a tiny little town in Germany, but it's pretty good. And their croissants can't compete with a fine french bakery, but they are also pretty good. However, their Chicago Italian, 5 grain Italian, French country loaf with pecans, ciabatta, Chicago hard rolls, and several other breads are excellent.

And, standard bread machine bread is not very good at all. You can get excellent results but you've got to do your research. The standard box mixes for bread machines and the standard recipes won't give you good results. You need to find recipes by expert bakers tweaked for your specific bread machine. They will include tweaks on both ingredients and techniques that make all the difference in getting some good bread out of your bread machine. We've found that the actual baking is pretty much always better done in an oven rather than the bread machine. The bread machine is great for making the dough though.

A German Nurse said...

"Yes, and notice how quickly it then became something we were "tricked into by Israel". It boggles my mind how the Republican Party can simultaneously be the party of unwavering support for Israel and the party of the Daily Stormer and the KKK."

I noticed a pecking order/ hierarchy of racism: Muslims are discriminated by white racists, Jews by muslimic and White racists, and Black people by everyone else.

Israel is applauded by the far right for it's closed border policy and their approach to the Palaestians. It puzzles me somewhat that a nation descending of victims of millenia of discrimination resorts to the same behaviour - nationalism, xenophobia, racism.

With the recent upswing of nationalism in China, there are also signs of racist patterns on the rise. The Uigur reeducation/concentration camps are one consequence of it.

Larry Hart said...

I've trottted out this quote before, but from the season finale of the sixth season (the last good one) of Game of Thrones:

"Cersei knows the consequences of her absence, and she is absent anyway! That means she doesn't intend to face those consequences. The trial can wait--we have to get out of here now!"

The line seems applicable to Trump and his lickspittle congressional Republicans, whose actions seem to indicate that they don't feel the need to face the voters in November. It may also apply to Adelson and his ilk who maybe feel that they can benefit short-term from allying with fascists and don't expect to be around when the inevitable consequence occurs?

Jon S. said...

"It puzzles me somewhat that a nation descending of victims of millenia of discrimination resorts to the same behaviour - nationalism, xenophobia, racism."

There's a proverb I read once - can't recall the source right now - that said, approximately, that the knife is just as sharp in the hand of the oppressed as that of the oppressor. (For that matter, the Who song "Won't Get Fooled Again" has much the same point - "Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss...")

Larry Hart said...

A German Nurse:

I noticed a pecking order/ hierarchy of racism: Muslims are discriminated by white racists, Jews by muslimic and White racists, and Black people by everyone else.

As a 1960s Tom Lehrer song has it:

Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.

The reason that the line is (darkly) funny is the reason that all Jews should be wary of xenophobia in any form. It never turns out well.

Deuxglass said...

Larry Hart,

I prefer to quote a famous person who is now dead because the quote still benefits from the reputation of the departed and since the author is dead he cannot say I used it out of context. It's win-win for me. By quoting a line from the Game of Thrones you risk having George R. R. Martin call you up and chew you out. At worse he could name an uber-villain after you thereby blackening your name and reputation forever.

Tacitus said...

For Quarantine Entertainment I recommend The Death of Stalin currently on Netflix. Dark comedy at its finest.

Probably can be appreciated by those of all political persuasions.


Darrell E said...

So, uhhh . . . The President of the US just claimed to have "absolute power." To any one still holding out, still believing that DP, RP, Trump, their all the same, does this qualify as a red line for you?

I'll be morbidly fascinated to hear rationalizations for why Trump didn't say or mean exactly what it seemed. Or better yet how, yeah, POTUS does have absolute power. At least if they're Republican.

Tacitus said...

Wisconsin election update. The only race of consequence, for Supreme Court, has been called for the (apparently) progressive candidate.

People who cared made the effort to vote absentee or to take precautions and vote in person.

You should have more faith in the system folks.


scidata said...

I'm glad I didn't order that bobblehead. It seems that science has been waylaid by a Faucian bargain.

David Brin said...

“I don't get why powerful and influential Jews themselves--Sheldon Adelson, Steve Mnuchin, even Stephen Miller--can think fascism ends in any kind of good way for them.”

Like all fascists they think, “oh, now we can arrange for my kind of superior people to be welcomed among the aristocracy! As if that ever happened EXCEPT in the most liberal of worlds… Hollywood.

Darrell, I once had a great sourdough starter yeast. I left it in care of a friend while in Europe. You can guess the rest.

“The line seems applicable to Trump and his lickspittle congressional Republicans, whose actions seem to indicate that they don't feel the need to face the voters in November. It may also apply to Adelson and his ilk who maybe feel that they can benefit short-term from allying with fascists and don't expect to be around when the inevitable consequence occurs?”

1. Adelson is a bag man for the Chinese politburo, laundering cash from his absurdly “profitable” Macao casinos into Republican PACa.

2. Putin must have a plan, since the consequences otherwise…

"It puzzles me somewhat that a nation descending of victims of millenia of discrimination resorts to the same behaviour - nationalism, xenophobia, racism."

Had Palestinian Arabs shunned the Nazi Grand Mufti and welcomed their semitic cousins home after a true apocalypse, the whole Near East might be paradise now. Decalring all Jews must dies… then repeating it in every Salafist-financed Arab textbook at all grade levels for 7 years while herding the Palestinians into camps as political pawns hardly puts anyone in a superior position.

Tim I loved “Death of Stalin!” And touted it here!

Acacia H. said...

Sanders just endorsed Biden.

So. I wonder what the Bernie Bros will do now. If they stick to their guns and insist they can't vote for Biden then they are betraying "their guy" Bernie. If they speak out against Sanders endorsing Biden they out themselves as Russian bots and trolls. Hell, I think this may also help torpedo efforts to label Biden as a rapist seeing that the trolls can't claim Sanders is avoiding endorsing a "rapist" or the like.

Acacia H.

David Brin said...

Tim, thanks. Hope springs eternal. And we can agree that if the GOP goes to its deserved resting place, it will be a good thing that something new and "conservative"... in all the admirable or neutral ways that YOU are... will rise up and join us at the table, negotiating based upon facts... and goodwill.


Oh, locumranch tried to post something about "I'm going to take a break from Contrary Brin for a while" -- then blathered something about a past British PM or something. Good lord. Enough.

A German Nurse said...

Dr. Brin:
@Nazi-Mufti: Yes, but that is only one part of the problem. Apparently, in Israel, there is not only discrimination against non-jews, but also against non-Ashkenasi Jews. Young liberals start to migrate to other countries.

Israel is still the only stable democracy in the Middle East, though.

@Putin: Every passing day, the domestic pressure on Putin increases. All victories in foreign countries are vain if your people rises up to depose you. Also: The unanswered and postphoned question of his succession.

Yet, he may already have won. The US and the EU are in political shambles.

@Larry Hart: YES! Tom Lehrer... Almost had forgotten about him...Thank You!

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Like all fascists they think, “oh, now we can arrange for my kind of superior people to be welcomed among the aristocracy! As if that ever happened EXCEPT in the most liberal of worlds… Hollywood.

Even in Hollywood, that plot usually involves that sort of hubris leading to a predictable and inevitable fall.

My point was that, while it was understandable that people might think they could get away unscathed like that prior to the 1940s, I would think the lesson would have been learned after WWII that one's assimilation status is never safe within that sort of system. Universal equality and rule of law are the only safeguards for minorities, especially despised minorities like Jews. "Let's you and I discriminate against those who aren't me," never ends well.

Darrell E said...

David Brin said...

"Darrell, I once had a great sourdough starter yeast. I left it in care of a friend while in Europe. You can guess the rest."

A tragedy! I can imagine that starter yeasts inspired plenty of intrigue, strife and heartbreak over the centuries.

A.F. Rey said...

Off-topic (perhaps?), a comic to add to your Adam Smith collection (care of P.Z. Myers):

john fremont said...

@A.F. Rey

"Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all."

-Adam Smith, The Wealth Of Nations Book V, Chapter I, Part II, Page 775

David Brin said...

Yep JF. I was among those pushing rediscovery of Smith long ago.

(and earlier…

Acacia H. said...

Here's an interesting vlog article on understanding conservative mindsets and at the end why fascism often tries to subvert conservative movements (because they have more in common with conservatives and thus can argue from a mindset conservatives understand better).

It's around 20 minutes but I strongly recommend watching it.


David Brin said...

Yes and this artcle says facts will never sway Trump voters.

And that's bull. There is a way to make them retreat. I have used it and it ALWAYS works. And not a single dem politician ever uses it.

Acacia H. said...

Barack Obama just endorsed Joe Biden. Major shots fired on the Republican Party. Obama did not let sleeping dogs lie, he called out the Republicans on their bullshit and idiocy, he did not call to work with them, he called to VOTE THEM OUT OF OFFICE. And while I don't normally listen to political speech and the like, it was really nice to hear Obama's voice right now in a time of crisis. This is our President. Not the Clown in Chief.

Acacia H.

scidata said...

"Dead Stock" is one of the greatest terms ever. It employs metaphor, turn-of-phrase, elegance, and humour. It is a tome in a nutshell.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Tim W., Dr. Brin: I also enjoyed "Death of Stalin".
(Too bad about Jeffrey Tambor, though []. Lesson- "Don't be a jerk.")
Though I haven't yet seen "Avenue 5"(
it's hard to go wrong with Armando Ianucci (

Stay Well

john fremont said...

@Dr Brin

I believe I first found my way to this site from Mike Huben's webpage, Critiques of Libertarianism. The other valuable website for Adam Smith was Gavin Kennedy's blog, Adam Smith's Lost Legacy which I believe is gone now

David Brin said...

Restaurant closures-->a madmax apocalypse among urban rats! Hence previous health laws (+some corrupt inspectors) were problems to fix when we restart. Better food recycling/disposal. Better anti-corruption. Better cats. Recall Black Death? We're warned.

Larry Hart said...

Acacia H:

it was really nice to hear Obama's voice right now in a time of crisis. This is our President. Not the Clown in Chief.

It's bittersweet, remembering what a president can sound like.

A while back, I watched a 2014 special about the musical "Hamilton" which had then-President Obama and then-ex-president GW Bush speaking at various times. Bush sounded so much more intellectual and eriudite, I kept shouting at the screen, "Where was this guy when you were president?"

David Brin said...

See the "Council to Reopen America>" OMG.

David Brin said...

Never ascribe to 'incompetence' that which is proved (by a consistent history) to be treason.

David Brin said...

JF do repost at the Huben site some of my challenges to my libertarian friends. Especially why they ignore the one word that ought to be core to their entire being... the "C-word" Competition. They never speak it, because saying it aloud will make them realize that the true enemy of flat-fair-open-creative competition for 6000 years was not sappy socialists or 'beureaucrats.' It was oligarchs, kings, priiests, mob bosses, feudal lords and inheritance brats.

The P-Word that the Kochs and Forbes and Cato whores have talked them into worshipping - "property" - is necessary to promote competition... up to a point! Whereupon it becomes toxic.

A.F. Rey said...

Restaurant closures-->a madmax apocalypse among urban rats!

If it's any consolation, we have taken in some refugee rats in this time of horror: therapy rats from the San Diego Humane Society. They are kept safe, fed and warm, even though the cat does eye them from time to time. :)

David Brin said...

We should breed hunt er-killer rats, the way we developed dogs who protects us from wolves.

Meanwhile... Two years before the novel coronavirus pandemic upended the world, U.S. Embassy officials visited a Chinese research facility in the city of Wuhan several times and sent two official warnings back to Washington about inadequate safety at the lab, which was conducting risky studies on coronaviruses from bats.

“The idea that is was just a totally natural occurrence is circumstantial. The evidence it leaked from the lab is circumstantial. Right now, the ledger on the side of it leaking from the lab is packed with bullet points and there’s almost nothing on the other side,” the official said.

TCB said...

We once had a pet fancy rat named Houdini, because he was a talented escape artist. He ended up living free-range in the cellar, and would come when I called, just like a very small dog. Hand him a morsel of steak, watch him trot away. Rats are excellent mousers. Mice would come and try to steal Houdini's food, and he would murder them.

Acacia H. said...

Hunter-killer rats...

You mean like weasels and ferrets?


David Brin said...

Our hamsters were named Houdini!

scidata said...

I've noticed that the taunts and ridicule of science fiction have dried up in here.

TCB said...

Harry Houdini, the man who reincarnated as a horde of rodents. Genius.

I have taken a special interest in the mismatch between the COVID-19 stats in Unistat and South Korea. Let's go to the Coronavirus Dashboard! We in the US have now seen 29,798 COVID-19 deaths. Holy shit. Over 6000 in a DAY??? South Korea has seen a total of 222 deaths. Recall, there are about 51 million people in South Korea. If the US had the same per capita death toll we'd still be around 1,400. I personally blame the excess 27000+ deaths on Donald Trump. And the whole country is shut down. People are going broke left and right. A real Depression is near guaranteed. And South Korea? The Week has a good breakdown, I recommend reading the whole thing.:

Both countries saw their first corona­virus cases on the same day, Jan. 20. By April 2, the U.S. had more than 240,000 cases and more than 5,800 deaths. Most businesses were shut down or crippled, and more than 10 million people had filed for unemployment in two weeks. In contrast, South Korea on April 2 had fewer than 10,000 confirmed cases and 169 deaths. The disease rate there appears to be both low and stable, yet no South Korean city has gone under a full lockdown, and the main economic losses were in the tourism industry. Few people lost their jobs. The difference is that South Korea sprang into action with early mass testing, tracking and isolating all contacts of those infected. It started developing and stockpiling test kits in early January, as soon as Chinese scientists released the virus's genetic code and before a single Korean had been infected.

South Korea responded aggressively, and in ways that may seem privacy-invasive, but in a sane manner.

222 deaths compared to almost 30,000. Few people lost their jobs. Sanity.

Mar-A-Lago Delenda Est.

TCB said...

Huffpost has an article: Donald Trump Wants To Fight Coronavirus As A ‘Wartime President.’ He Can’t.

I note this because the illustrator placed Trump riding atop a Nazi Tiger 1 tank, not something newer or American. Military historical ignorance (a tank's a tank, this one works for the picture), or sly historical commentary (der Fuehrer who was so bad a strategist that the British decided not to eliminate him too soon)?

TheMadLibrarian said...

TCB, are you suggesting raze the Prez's hotels and sow the ground there with salt?

David Brin said...

The distinction is that S Korea rushed to use even the imperfect tests of the time with great effectiveness.

yana said...

This stuff gets better every day. There's a new prophecy every day, if you've got a big glass church nobody comes to anymore. There's got to be a Plan Fulfilled, humble servants please use the link at the webpage since now we can't get you all fevered up before a physical plate circulates.

Guessing that the reg readers here don't get out much to the evangy fringes for leisure reading, so a report from the stigmatic edge...

Thinking goes, from Luke 2: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David; To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child."

Obviously, that's a census. We got one now, check that box. But also that means people returning home and hunkering down, and thanks to SARS-COV-2 we got that. Another checkbox.

Bear with me, but 2000 years ago it was: "we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him." (Matthew 2:2) "and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." (Matthew 2:9)

And lawdy lo, what happens in March 2020? Jupiter, Saturn, Mars and Venus line up with a crescent moon. If you missed it, pity, it was a really nice celestial show. But the salient point is that it happened in the West, and that's got a buttload of esoteric significance.

Think sunrise/sunset, alpha/omega, winter/spring. The inclusion of the crescent moon means (as the story goes) that the Mahometans will be shriven from apostasy and married to the lamb, if you know what i mean, and in apocalyptic evangelism that's a real big thing. And it lends me the delight of using the word "shriven".

A true buttload of significance, for people who are already pretty keen on signs. Fleshed out by combining astronomy with astrology, just like any prophecy oughtta. Even if half of them are pagan in origin, a sign is a sign dammit! The vangys are expecting the Muslims to de-apostasize during the Tribulation, raising the voice of mankind (man, not wo-) to over 50% seeking redemption, which is also a magic number, as far as we can tell, since 144,000 is already taken.

So, as the thinking goes, the king of kings is born a few weeks ago. Previous incarnation started his ministry at age 30, but (bear with me) the calendar is wrong and Nativity was actually 4 B.C. which means +2,000 years +30 years is our year 2026. If the 7-year Tribulation starts in 2026, which it has to, because it's the black-mirror image of The Ministry and the Salvation Plan... then it will complete when a child born in Spring of 2020 will be at bar mitzvah age.

Neat, right? It's clean. I like a new Doomsday Plan as much as anyone, and this one has more horses in stalls than most of the biblical ones.

True christians are therefore called to be like Sarah Connor and protect The Child from rapacious evil, and the narrative has got the pleasing undertones of that Golden Child movie with Eddie Murphy.

Personally, i liked the one where the Tribulation starts in 2009, because Obama you know, then culminating after 7 years of gnashing and roan-horse antics in 2016, with the antichrist finally taking power. Heh, they don't crow that one so much anymore. You know, because Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, and gotta keep the donations up.

Alfred Differ said...


Most modern stuff called science fiction is fantasy and terrible at that.
Or YA drivel.
OMG... I have so much angst. How CAN I go on?

I'll get started on my strawman story writing bot next.


Cari Burstein said...

I think it's fair to say that even with the best leadership, we wouldn't have had the kind of success with the virus that a country like South Korea had. We don't have a culture that lends itself to the kind of sweeping actions that they took, we're not as centrally organized, we didn't have past history that would have trained people to be ready for this kind of experience. The sheer size of the country and the number of major international interchanges we have would have made locking things down more difficult. So I do think we have to be realistic about the fact that even with a much better leader, we would have not been a model country for this virus.

Some of this is just about human nature- we are bad at planning for things that "might" happen and certainly bad at paying for planning for such things. We're especially bad at it if we think we've dodged the bullet enough times that the danger doesn't feel real anymore. All of us have seen or read many versions of this terrible movie we're living through. How many of us actually thought this really was going to be the one back in January? We want our leaders to be willing to invest in planning for these emergencies, but we also don't like to spend the money it costs to do it.

That being said, there's a lot of things that could have been done way better within the framework of what we had to work with, if we had better leadership going on currently. The test failures, the state of our epidemic preparedness, the consistency of messaging and organization and planning are all obvious areas that can be at least partly blamed on Trump. We had a long lead time to get prepped for this and he blew it all.

Acacia H. said...

There is another factor. South Korea worked to isolate people who were infected and prevent a widescale spread of the virus. When people listened to the Social Distancing requirements, it was very successful. The one woman who did the most spreading of the virus failed to listen to those requirements and was effectively a Typhoid Mary (despite the fact she got ill with the virus as well).

The United States did not isolate people. Thus the virus spread to public places and you had instances of people going to grocery stores, infecting the grocery store workers, who spread it to other people, and ALSO SPREAD IT BACK TO THE INFECTED. When that happened, people got larger and larger doses of the virus and thus were hit harder by it. This is why doctors and nurses are more likely to die from this - they get exposed multiple times to the virus and it overwhelms their immune system.

There's also been evidence that if you have someone on a ventilator and put them on their stomach, they have greater uptake of oxygen. You can't just put someone on their back with a ventilator and then just sit on your hands. These people need to be moved around so that they don't just drown in their own lungs.

Donald Trump allowed his ego and arrogance control the situation and thus the U.S. is now a major source of the virus. And if he has his way and opens up the nation again? You will see a new spike in cases and deaths. But we won't hear about it because there's no tests to be had and thus these deaths will be "unrelated causes" despite the impact it will have on the economy.

Acacia H.

David Brin said...

yana, I assume you never saw this posting of mine about apocalypse fetishism and why we had beetr resolve all this before the 2030s

One of the worst problems of the Gospels is that there was never any such "census." The whole purpose of that story was to show that Joseph - a Galilean from Nazareth, was ACTUALLY of the House of David and the tribe of Judah (Bethlehem) and hence Jesus - who was genetically unrelated to him - would be of the right prof=hecied lineage.

As for covid... does anyone have any word from Florida?

reason said...

I don't believe the figures from Florida. Seems they are testing a lot and so the identified cases might be comparable with other states, but based on those their "deaths" counts seem too liw, especially allowing for their population demography. But I don't really trust the "deaths" statistics from anywhere. I want to see a comparison of deaths from this year to last. In Ecuador I read of 1400 sead being collected from houses and the Streets and a total corona toll of 370. Not credible.

TCB said...

@ TheMadLibrarian, we can turn the hotels into low income housing and sow the golf course fairways with salt. Or, you know, community gardens.

Tacitus said...

Cari Burstein asked:

"How many of us actually thought this really was going to be the one back in January?"

I went back and checked. It's a bit difficult with the format to pin down exact dates, so I'm just giving dates of the main post which change about every three days.

22 Jan
- Daniel Duffy notes 5 Chinese cities on lockdown.
- Brin observes that the Chinese will probably blame us.
- Locumranch asks "why would anyone believe anything the inscrutable PRC has to say?
- Zepp Jamison notes that the US has started evacuating our citizens from Wuhan.

25 Jan.
An anonymous poster quotes prelim data that seems to have been borne out. 2 wk incubation, R0 of 2.6 fatality rate 1-5%
Deuxglas has the best Oracular Pronouncement:
"Sorry to ruin your day but in my opinion everything else is going to pale in comparison to this"

Being otherwise occupied in January and early February I missed my chance to have laurel wreaths or rotten fruit thrown in my general direction.


Darrell E said...

I'm in Florida. The county I'm in has had very few confirmed cases, about 80, and just 1 death so far. We are on a sort of partial lock down. Non-essential businesses are closed. Of course the trick is in what is deemed essential.

Authorities have actually enforced the rules on occasion. Such as closing the occasional restaurant that was seating people instead of doing take out only and at least one small gym that had about 5 people in it working out. Of course, church attendance is still strong and no churches have been closed for having gatherings of people.

We've seen no significant shortages in, well, anything so far as I've seen. Of course grocery stores were getting stripped bare on occasion but they've always stocked right back up. Liquor stores are open and their inventory is good. No fuel or utility issues. I've had no problems getting propane.

How serious people are taking all this is a mixed bag. This area is a strange mix of very wealthy (one of the highest concentrations of wealth in the country on the beaches) and rednecks. Lots of rednecks. Commie pinko scumbags like me (actually small l liberal who used to mostly vote R until Bush Jr) are few and far between in these parts. What's funny is that the rednecks and the rich people seem to have the same attitude about this crisis. Neither group, on average, is taking it very seriously. They tend to completely ignore the guidelines. No keeping their distance, no wearing a mask in close conditions, going proudly about their business just as they always have. Fools. If they suffer lung damage or die, that's so be it. But if they cause other people permanent damage or death? That really pisses me off. They are willing to risk killing others so they can keep their macho self image intact. Losers.

My family is staying home except for infrequent trips for groceries. Mostly we are getting those delivered. We do go out to exercise, walk, run, bike, but we stay away from others. We've been binge watching The Great British Baking Show on Netflix, and baking. We've made some really good stuff. Which means my diet has gone straight to hell and I've gained back the 10 pounds of fat I recently managed to lose. The one thing that I really miss is the gym. I'm trying to find exercises to replace the weight training I usually do, but it's not enough and not the same. I load up a back pack and do push-ups, squats and pull-ups by the hundreds but it just doesn't replace deadlift, squats, bench, etc. with serious weight. I'm going to lose significant ground and at my age it is much harder to gain it back. Ah well. If that is the extent of my hardship when this is all over I will count myself very lucky.

Larry Hart said...

The NY Times states the obvious, Trumpians don't consider him a role model so much as an attack dog on their behalf:

During a 2017 interview with the similarly controversial podcast host Sam Harris, Murray said:

One of the things that struck me most were people who say, “You don’t understand. We don’t particularly like Donald Trump. We are not defending his character, or anything like that. He’s our murder weapon.” And I think that is a pretty short and accurate way of saying what function Trump served.

Darrell E said...

Regarding South Korea, some key differences between them and us in the US. First, the one thing we had in common is that SK and the US had their 1st confirmed cases on nearly the same day. January 20 for SK and January 21 for the US.

In January, as soon as China released genetic data on the virus the SK government mobilized several relevant companies and started making test kits and stockpiling them. At the time they only had 4 confirmed cases. The US government did not. The CDC began work on a test but had problems that delayed it. Manufacturing efforts were uncoordinated. An entire month was lost compared to SK.

By late February SK had drive thru testing centers and was testing thousands of people every day. The US was testing less than 100 a day.

The immediate and continuously high rate of testing enabled SK to quickly identify people with the virus, investigate their recent histories to identify other people they had been in contact with and isolate them all appropriately. The US wasn't able to do this to any significant degree. Instead, to save face we argued about whether or not testing was of any real utility at all, swapping rationalizations to explain why it wouldn't make a significant difference.

SK didn't lock down their economy to the extent that the US has, let alone Italy or the worst areas of China. Their economy has been much less impacted compared to our own. Some people in SK have lost their jobs, but nothing remotely close to what is happening in the US. More people have been able to continue working. They've managed to do this because they quickly find and isolate sick people, they all wear masks and follow other sensible safety measures, they have people cleaning and disinfecting everything from streets to public transportation regularly. The US hasn't done any of these things with regularity and some not at all.

I don't think that the US is fundamentally incapable of doing what SK has done. Our size is not a fundamental problem. Our numbers and distribution are not fundamental problems. Our many independent governmental jurisdictions are not an insurmountable problem. We are not somehow special in some way compared to SK that would make it impossible for us to achieve the performance they've managed. The one characteristic that the US has that plausibly does put us at a disadvantage compared to SK is the often stupid but proud attitude of automatically bucking whatever the government tells you to do. The often stupid but proud attitude that "I" know better than the experts and "I" have the right to do what ever the fuck I want.

Of course the one enormous elephant in the room, the one Brobdingnagian difference between SK and the US in the face of this crisis is leadership. Our government really sucks. (It's National That Sucks Day! No, really, it is!) The US government has been negligent or worse, including criminal, every step of the way. Every response to the crisis has been used as an opportunity to give some of the money allocated to it's own personal interests in underhanded ways. This is about as low as it gets. Trump, his cronies and the RP slugs enabling him and participating in these schemes to rob the public coffers of resources that are supposed to be used for saving lives and livelihoods in time of great crisis should all be stripped of their wealth and put in jail. After all due process of course.

DP said...

Dr. Brin ther were several censuses.

From Durant's "Caesar and Christ"

Both Matthew and Luke assign Jesus' birth to "the days when Herod
was king of Judea"- `032627 consequently before 3 B.C. Luke,
however, describes Jesus as "about thirty years old" when John
baptized him "in the fifteenth year of Tiberius"- `032627a i.e.,
A.D. 28-29; this would place Christ's birth in the year 2-1 B.C.
Luke adds that "in those days there went out a decree of Caesar
Augustus that all the world should be taxed... when Quirinius was
governor of Syria." Quirinius is known to have been legate in Syria
between A.D. 6 and 12; Josephus notes a census by him in Judea, but
ascribes it to A.D. 6-7; `032628 we have no further mention of this
census. Tertullian `032629 records a census of Judea by Saturninus,
governor of Syria 8-7 B.C.; if this is the census that Luke had in
mind, the birth of Christ would have to be placed before 6 B.C.

As for returning to you hometown to register for the census, that was standard in the Roman provinces like Egypt. As Marchant (1980) states:

We do have one historical parallel, found in a papyrus copy of an edict of C. Vibius Maximus (c AD 104), eparch of Egypt. This order (see Appendix) was issued to prepare the people for an upcoming census and reminded them that everyone who was away from “his own place” was required to return home for purposes of the census. Although we cannot say that the Egyptian procedure necessarily held for Palestine, it is clear that it was at least a permissible option for the praefect to use in taking a census.

It was generally understood that Roman law instructed property owners to register for taxation in the district where they owned land. However, “…a papyrus dated to A.D. 104, records an Egyptian prefect who ordered Egyptians to return to their ancestral homes so that a census could be taken. In the first century Rome, since the Jews’ property was linked to their fathers (i.e. patriarchal), the Romans would certainly have allowed them the custom of laying claim to their family estate for taxation.”

David Brin said...

Darrell E thanks for both updates. Very interesting, especially since FLA and SKorea are shaped pretty much the same... pendulous peninsulas with drip islands..... and why that matters?

"Trumpians don't consider him a role model so much as an attack dog on their behalf:" ExactlyAnd that's why I try to make it explicit that it is every nerdy fact-using profession they hate, including the so-called Deep State" of skilled pros who defeated Hitler, Stalin and bin Laden. WHY does no one actually say that? Make it clear? This has nothing to do with deficits, which soar under Republicans, or defense; military readiness is always better under Democrats. It is not about flat-fair-creative market enterprise, which always does better under dems. Nor about America's alliances, sciences or respect in the world, which Trumpists have trashed.

It is about a Junior High School grudge against the nerds who stopped letting themselves be bullied and instead went on to do better in every aspect of life.

TCB said...

Thank you, Darrel E, you've fleshed out what I was trying to say in a way that my worm-eaten brain could not manage. What the South Korean government did wasn't magic, it was simple competence we Americans used to take for granted.

Personal history tidbit: In February and March of 1960, when I was an 18 month old babe, the mountains of Western North Carolina were hit with an absurd amount of snow (for the South, anyway). I was too young to remember but I know that we, up in the really remote mountains, were airdropped food from Army helicopters. How did the government know anyone up there needed food? Did people call or drive down the mountain and apply for it? No, I'm guessing they simply loaded supplies into the whirlybirds proactively and flew out looking for houses to drop them at. Like a real government does.

Some of the mountain folk would have had home-canned food sufficient to last another month or two, but it wasn't the Army's job to figure out who needed it and who didn't. Everybody got it. And nobody back in Washington had the nerve to say "But who will pay for it?"

TCB said...

... while my back was turned, Florida's population exceeded New York's. Hmmm. The Florida COVID numbers are not as bad as New York's, YET. They will catch up in a couple of weeks, I'm thinking.

One often sees people arguing that the Bible must all be true because it gets a lot of historical details right. But that's a fallacious argument; lots of fictional works get plenty of historical details right. Why wouldn't they? You can learn a lot about 18th Century history from watching Outlander, but the main characters never existed.

Larry Hart said...


But that's a fallacious argument; lots of fictional works get plenty of historical details right.

I've been saying that for years now.

The Bible is a kind of mix of history, historical fiction, and training manual. One big problem is that those are three very different things. It is difficult if not impossible for the same book to be 100% all three of those things at the same time, yet that is exactly what its fiercest adherents claim.

David Brin said...

Except that countless historical details are plain wrong. The "census" is one of the worst. Moreover, while the Gospel of Mark kinda could have been written by an eyewitness, since linguistically it seems era-appropriate, the others, especially Matthew, use all sorts of language and wordings and attitudes not seen till two centuries later.

Especially telling is the "jailhouse scene," where Mark says "the crowd" asked for Barrabas's release instead of Jesus. In Matthew it is "The Jews" who then go on to proclaim that the resulting curse should be on all Jews and their children for all time. Um, who would say such a thing, ever? In Mark's time, Christians considered themselves one more subset of Jews and the Jerusalem Christians, including Jesus's brother James (a character in my story "71"!!) all died defending their section of the Wall, in 71 C.E. (Leaving the exiled strange-man Paul wholly in charge of the movement, in faraway Greece.)

But by Matthew's time, the sects were bitter rivals, hence his nasty piece of slander.

scidata said...

TCB: You can learn a lot about 18th Century history from watching Outlander, but the main characters never existed.

Math vs Physics, Universe vs Multiverse, Scripture vs History, Belief vs Knowledge, Locality vs Universality, AI simulation vs Reality, etc, etc, etc. The map is not the territory. Anecdotal, or even sampled, super-precise agreement is not proof of equivalence. It's only evidence of an underlying connection/overlap/perspective/process. I think I've used my Minecraft just-in-time world generation argument in here before, so I won't repeat it.

Anonymous said...

a character in my story "71"!!

Where might one find this story? I don't think I've read it, and I'd like to…

Darrell E said...

Regarding conditions in Florida, I forgot to mention. There are several hot spots and they are exactly where you would expect them to be. The largest / most dense cities. The continuous sprawl of the greater Miami area up through Palm Beach is in the lead with Cases/Deaths of 12,340/278, followed by the greater Orlando area at 1,625/20, and then the Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg area with 1,292/29. There are 2 other counties with cases over 600 before numbers drop off sharply, Duval county which includes Jacksonville and Lee county which includes the cities of Cape Coral and Ft. Myers.

Total numbers reported for the state are currently 21,367/524.

Of course these numbers are what has been reported. For all sorts of reasons, most which having nothing to do with intentionally false reporting, how accurately these numbers reflect reality is hard to guess right now though we can be sure that they are somewhat less than 100%.

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everyone: re Christianity:
I'd guess there're lots of SF stories about Jesus (Hell, I even wrote one for Jack Williamson's SF class when I was 18: Jesus was an alien anthropologist or social worker or something- it's been a LONG time.), but I don't recall any about Paul. I'd find an AH story where Jesus does his stuff but Paul doesn't do his interesting...
Hey, Harry Turtledove: you on this blog?

Stay Well, Folks

David Brin said...

My story "71" was an unusually canonical contribution to Erik Flint's "1632" series via this book cited here. It did not make it into my recent collection INSISTENCE OF VISION, so Ring of Fire IV is your best bet.

David Brin said...

BTW the cover illustration is directly about my novella... and Flint called it great!

David Brin said...



TCB said...

So the South Koreans have a better government than the United States. But how do they achieve this?

It's... not easy to explain. You have to see it for yourself. Be sure to enabled Closed Caption and auto translate.