Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Perspectives on the more distant human past

“A century ago, on July 26, 1916, a viral disease swept through New York. Within 24 hours, new cases of polio increased by more than 68%. The outbreak killed more than 2,000 people in New York City alone. Across the United States, polio took the lives of about 6,000 people in 1916, leaving thousands more paralyzed. Although scientists had already identified the polio virus, it took 50 more years to develop a vaccine. That vaccine eradicated polio in the U.S. in less than a decade. Vaccines are one of the most effective modern disease-fighting tools.

“As of this writing, the fast-spreading COVID-19 has already infected over a million worldwide, and has killed over 22,000 patients. There is an urgent need for a vaccine to prevent it from infecting and killing millions more. But traditional vaccine development takes, on average, 16 years. So how can scientists quickly develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2?” (From a primer on vaccines reprinted on Philstockworld. Dated last month.)

Let me add that in the 1950s the most popular living American… replacing the record holder Franklin Roosevelt, was Jonas Salk. The Greatest Generation adored him... a scientist who ‘saved childhood...” and science in general, and not a reality TV star.

Even if Covid-19 proves not to be a slippery devil, like HIV or a rapid-changeling like the flu, there are other reasons to go through the full scope of human pre-testing with a few tens of thousands, before rushing out a vaccine. Earlier I described Antibody-Enhancement by which some vaccines - like that for Dengue Fever - have proved devastatingly harmful, if not properly deployed.

== Speculations on human origins ==

Amazing. Apparently early modern human ancestors seem to have dispersed into the Levant and even Greece about 170,000 years ago… an early dispersal that “failed” as those early human populations then vanished, replaced by Neanderthals (who stretched from Europe to mid-Asia for 400,000 years.)  

That knocked humans back into only Africa…

...from which later versions of Homo sapiens burst forth about 70,000 years ago, spreading first due east and south into Australasia, where they were better adapted to the heat...

... then finally north into Europe for the famed late encounter with Neanderthals - about 45,000 years ago - when fortunes were decisively reversed. And roughly simultaneously with the end of Neanderthals (except some genes till in us) came humanity’s rendezvous with the first great Reprogramming Renaissance, as I describe in Existence.

It may be that humans were simply no match for the stronger Neanderthals, who kept us limited to the African homeland unti... perhaps a mutation enabled us to reprogram. At least that's the speculative theory that seems pretty obvious to me.

Something else amazing from the CARTA conference. While non-Africans tend to have from 2-3% Neanderthal DNA, each of us has a slightly different Neanderthal introgression. And in surveying a variety of these segments from many individuals, experts guesstimate that about 40% of a general Neanderthal genome is circulating in modern humans. Say what???? Given that much of the rest has been interpolated from fossil DNA, it seems we are getting ever closer to the sci fi (but inevitable) situation also depicted in Existence, where Neanderthals are resurrected and walk among us again.

The same can only be done at a 10% level for Denisovans, almost all of it coming from Melanesian populations.

And while we're talking possible brain mutations that led to us... Meanwhile, though few news articles refer to Uplift: “Scientists have grown larger monkey brains by giving marmoset fetuses a gene that's unique to humans.”

== Ha ha. We're all inter-breeders ==

As I've linked elsewhere, it now seems that Africans aren't purely human either. We see gene relics of a 'ghost population' of outsiders - a third kind - in many African populations.

Indeed. Around 700,000 years ago, multiple hominin species apparently shared the Old World: “It is now looking like Africa and Eurasia were inhabited by a whole range of hominin species just a few hundred thousand years ago. While H. naledi was living in South Africa, H. heidelbergensis was surviving in South-Central Africa, and H. sapiens was emerging in Morocco and Ethiopia. At the same time as all this, H. neanderthalensis was evolving in Europe, the Denisovans were developing in Asia, H. erectus may still have been clinging on in Indonesia, and two diminutive hominins, H. floresiensis and H. luzonensis, were living the island life in Southeast Asia.” And a bit earlier: “H. antecessor could be a kind of “basal” species to the “emerging humanity formed by Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans.”

== And more surprises ==

A scientist  found that Himba – a Nambian tribal group - have the highest recorded rate of what researchers call "extra-pair paternity." The term refers to an instance in which a child is born to a married couple, but the husband is not the biological father. The rate of extra-pair paternity found among Himba is 48%, far exceeding the 1% to 10% range previously thought to be typical for humans. Having children with non-marital partners was widespread among this group. A high percentage of couples (70%) had at least one child who was fathered by someone outside the marriage. Socially this did not seem to affect paternal care or Himba relaxed sexual attitudes.

Neuroscientists scanned the brains of lifelong bullies and found something grim: Bullies’ brains appear to be physically smaller than other brains. “Our findings support the idea that, for the small proportion of individuals with life-course-persistent antisocial behaviour, there may be differences in their brain structure that make it difficult for them to develop social skills that prevent them from engaging in antisocial behavior.”

== Fascinating… and Uplift-related ==

A non-scientifically rigorous experiment, but visually persuasive, shows a dog having learned to press twenty different buttons with a variety of meanings that do seem to situationally correlate. Our current pet is the smartest dog I ever had, making me wonder about those “neo-dogs” I wrote about, long ago.
Interesting look into “dendrochronology” or the use of tree rings to establish a clear timetable of events across the last 6000 years. In this case possibly establishing the exact year of the Thera explosion (that pummeled the Minoan civilization and possibly led to the Bronze Age collapse) at 1560 BCE. 

== And some more science news of interest.... ==

NASA animation
Kinda kool video by NASA draining the oceans… showing the shallows and then middle depths and the great abyssals. Truly impressive things stand out. Like how shallow most of the Arctic is, and what sheer drops surround Africa on all sides and line the west side of the Americas. And how the deepest trenches go on and on, ever downward. (Abyssals of the kind I portray in INFINITY'S SHORE.)

The hydrogen production industry is growing at an accelerated rate. Just last year saw a 40 percent increase in shipments, raising total energy production to 1.1GW. Particularly given lithium-ion battery limitations, alternatives in the storage realm will grow increasingly vital for our renewable energy future.  Now comes “a method for synthesizing hydrogen from sunlight. The process uses a rhodium molecule as a catalyst to store electrons and create hydrogen.” This plus new cheap kinds of hydrogen fuel tanks starts to make a dream seem more likely.  (Via Abundance Insider)

== And finally... ==

One of the best (among many) of my recent podcasts: The Big "UNLOCK" What Next? examined 9 topics with 9 panels over 9 hours by 40+ futurists, thought leaders and industry experts to examine how best to reopen global economies and venture back into our communities purposefully and safely.  


Larry Hart said...

matthew in the previous comments:

nteresting - both Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio have come out today with forceful reminders to wear a mask in public.
Romney is not surprising. Rubio is utterly shocking to me. He's been such a loyal GOP servant that hearing him contradict Trump on this matter is amazing.

It might have something to do with Florida being a hotspot of new infections.

Tony Fisk said...

As Sarah Kendzior's book was an (uncommented upon) feature of the last post, I would like to point to her weekly podcast series "Gaslit Nation", which has Yale historian Dr. Timothy Snyder as guest speaker this week. Some snippets:

Kendzior: "Did the US win the Cold War?"

Snyder: "Oligarchy won the Cold War. Americans did not win the Cold War. The post-Soviet oligarchy won the break-up of the USSR, and that oligarchy went on to disproportionately influence a complacent US."

I'm inclined to think that complacency was settling in pre '89 (check out Supertramp's "Child of Vision" '79).

Anyway, our neo-dog is applying his master training to procure a walk. I-must-be-obeyed...

TCB said...

Re: Covid-19. I have seen an estimate that, if you could gather up every single Covid virus on Earth, they would not even fill a bucket. A big troublemaker for being so small.

... all Covid virions, plus Donald Trump, would probably fit in a 55 gallon drum. Which could then easily be airdropped into an active lava flow. Just spitballing here.

Coronavirus Dashboard says that there are currently 147 vaccines in development. It would be nice if that meant an effective one was available 147 times sooner, but we all know that's not how that works. Do remember, however: previous generations would say "Perhaps this disease can be cured in our lifetime." And now we're all "Hurry up and make it available by Christmas!"

Cari Burstein said...

Heads up, the first 2 paragraphs of your blog post have a bunch of blue underlined text that is not linked. I assume that's not intentional and was probably due to some copy/paste effect from the original text (not sure if you meant for them to link or not to be formatted that way in the first place).

TCB said...

Re: brain scans of bullies. I've been advocating for several years that there ought to be a worldwide popular movement to demand testing of anyone who wants to serve in government (or be in charge of anything important, even including CEO's of large corporations, etc.) to weed out the bully/sociopath/psychopath/highly-authoritarian candidates. Let them be house painters or bakers, but not presidents. There are objections to this idea, but I think they can all be overcome.

Objection: that we'd lose out on some talented leaders. Reply: maybe, but I'd wager that other talented-but-not-sociopathic leaders are in good supply. And that the bad apples do so much harm, we'd be better off in aggregate even if this objection were true.

Objection: it's discriminatory. Reply: imagine a perfectly fair world where every decision is made instantly by angels with smartphones on a direct line to God. Who gets the parking spot? Who gets the kidney transplant? Who gets into Harvard? The fairest possible answer is always instantly made and enforced. Would anyone still complain that they got shafted? Yes. It would be the people who wanted more than their share. The very people I advocate screening out! I think this thought experiment shows that a totally non-discriminatory world isn't possible, and if it were, some would malign it anyway; therefore we should discriminate against the right ones, the ones who probably cause 90% of our problems.

Objection: no test or tests can be 100% accurate; we will let some bad apples in, and screen out a lot of people who were no danger. Reply: Perfection is not necessary. We gain much simply by driving down the portion of sociopaths in government or other positions of power; those that get in find fewer crooked allies; and we can update, test again, and remove those who got through the screen the first time.

Objection: who does the testing? This becomes the new priesthood of power, so to speak. Reply: True, that's a peril, but the scientific community is better at self-policing than the police are. Get smart people to bulletproof the system as far as possible.

Objection: we need strong, tough leaders to protect us from the bad foreign despots. Reply: this is why it must in the end be a worldwide popular movement. We have heard that "democracies do not make war on each other" but what we are learning the hard way is that sick democracies, or democracies falling into despotism, do make war on each other. It seems to me that any war between nations begins with at least one leader without conscience; there must be one leader willing to fire the first shot. As long as that leader can plausibly claim that the leader of the other country might fire first, war is always possible.

Do you see it? I assert that, had every nation a reliable system of testing its candidates for leadership, weeding out the bullies and sociopaths in every government, it might be game-theoretically possible to achieve that seemingly unreachable goal: a world where war has been cured.

David Brin said...

Sorry a bunch of links were lost in thee 1st 2 paragraphs.

Gator said...

Re Shane's observation of tribalism.
I've seen similar things. We moved to a very hispanic area and put our kids into the local schools. My kids (ethnically white, European heritage) doubled the population of non-hispanic kids. 90% of the school was receiving free lunches and had English as a second language. Yes, my kids had a hard time there due to tribalism. We were only in that neighborhood and those schools for a few years.
But longer term -- my kids are fine. We have all that white privilege and middle class family to back them up. They've traveled, have access to computers and books, and have examples of success around them. They don't get targeted by police, they'll get into college, they won't be redlined or have trouble getting loans.

Tribalism is prejudice. Racism is institutionalizing prejudice. We can't legislate away prejudice but we should be working to eliminate racism.

Re renaming everything. I would agree that at some point renaming everything becomes a largely empty exercise. I'm seeing memes posted saying things like "I didn't riot about the syrup, I'm rioting about not getting killed by the police." To me this is one of those moments to be an ally by shutting up and listening. Black Lives Matter.

David Brin said...

Yes, it is from the Daily Caller. Oy! I can't believe I am offering click bait for them! Somone verify this story and offer another link?

David Brin said...

Here's a better link:

When statue-toppling mania reaches this point, it is clearly time for grownup, decent, thoughtful leftists to take a hand and prove that they exist. And can say to the hot-blooded “enough!” I say this as one who was denouncing the New Confederacy a dozen years ago, demanding that the names Stennis and Vinson be taken off two mighty aircraft carriers. This isn’t mealy-mouthed compromise with evil, but a demand that these folks respect past figures who strove to do good! Who helped defeat evil. Who were better than their times.

And hell yeah, I can accept the possibility that this was likely the work of Confederate provocateurs trying to split our coalition. They desperately need Wisconsin electoral votes to survive and escape justice for their treasons.

Larry Hart said...

From Dr Brin's Madison link above:

Protesters knocked down two statues Tuesday evening, one that has come to represent women's rights and the other honoring an abolitionist.

I'm having a real hard time finding any signal among all the noise at that link, so I'm asking anyone who has more knowledge of this incident at the University of Wisconsin--It doesn't look to me that the toppling of those particular statues can even pretend to the the work of leftists. Without understanding any more details, I wouldn't even suspect that confederate agitators did this to implicate George Floyd protesters for rioting. I'd suspect that confederates just did this because they oppose the causes those people stood for.

If it's a false flag operation, it's a pretty stupid one. They might as well try, "Black Lives Matter protesters topple statue of Martin Luther King. Claim he owned slaves."

Larry Hart said...

From their lips to God's ear, I hope...

A Washington Post story about human weather vane Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) begins with a gale, namely Dorothy Gale, the young heroine of the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz." Dorothy and her new friends were captured by the guards loyal to the Wicked Witch of the West. When said witch was about to set the scarecrow on fire, Dorothy grabbed a pail of water to put out the fire, missed, and melted the witch. To her surprise, the captain of the guards then said: "Hail to Dorothy!" The message is that when you rule by fear, the loyalty of your subjects is about a millimeter deep.

Now back to Graham, who was once best friends with the late senator John McCain and no fan of Donald Trump. Once Trump became president, Graham pivoted 180 degrees and signed up to become Chief Toady, ever fearful of the tweet of death. However, now that Trump's poll numbers are in free fall and Graham has won his primary, he has nothing to fear from Trump. Consequently, we are starting to see some signs of the old Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. In particular, he was more than a bit miffed that Trump fired the head of the SDNY, Geoffrey Berman, without even consulting him. In revenge, he has announced that he is reinstating the blue-slip rule, meaning that the two Democratic senators from New York, Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, will be given a veto over Berman's replacement. In practice that means that the acting head of SDNY, Audrey Strauss, is safe until January at least and can continue to investigate Trump's friends and cronies.

Graham's sudden discovery that his spine was merely misplaced, not lost permanently, could be the canary in the coal mine. With Trump's reelection prospects looking increasingly dim, every Republican senator whose primary has passed is going to start thinking about what is good for his or her own reelection, not Trump's. If that means opposing Trump on various issues, so be it. Every senator knows that Trump is never going announce support for the Democrat in a Senate general-election race, so he has been de facto de-clawed. Once the fear is gone, there's no telling what Republican senators up for reelection might do, but it could well involve finding out what is popular in their states and supporting it, no matter what Trump's view is.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Good morning to the room.

Followup from the previous post: I am genuinely of two minds on renaming the USS Stennis and the Stennis Space Center. On the one hand, it's unquestionable that he was not just a segregationist, but one of the primary leadership driving the Dixiecrat cause. On the other hand, he was also the person who was most responsible for driving NASA centers forward and for their nationwide distribution with the South emphasized, specifically to drive industrialization and education in the region. Cape Canaveral was driven by physics considerations, but Houston and Huntsville as we know them today -- "Rocket Cities" -- is Stennis' doing. And that has had major positive effects for the host states.

So.... it's tough. It's a subset of the general problem: at what point do sins deserve damnatio memoriae? Where should the line be? Should it be broad or narrow and why? The past was terrible by our standards: that is part of the price of progress. We must not lie about that -- but we must not pretend people are 100% evil any more than we pretend people are 100% good. Jefferson was a hypocrite but he still wrote the Declaration. Lincoln didn't believe in racial equality but freed the slaves nonetheless. LBJ was a rude, crude Texas b*****d who shoved the Civil Rights Act down a reluctant Congress' throat. History is complicated.

The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interrèd with their bones. Some are so vicious or grevious that they clearly deserve to be pulled down: Calhoun, Davis, Stephens, and so forth. But what do we do with the problematic, who were important to our advancement in some areas while regressive in others?

We don't have good answers right now. And we need to. Overreaction breeds overreaction.

Tacitus said...

The notion that the latest out of Madison was caused by right wing agents is considered laughable by most in Wisconsin. This particular incident was triggered by the arrest of a guy who entered a restaurant and started haranguing customers with a bull horn. While carrying a baseball bat.

It is widely felt that the intent to topple statues was known in advance and that the authorities opted to not intervene. This alone makes right wingers implausible...even if a batch of well organized such could be gathered on short notice. Capturing a few would be a huge political coup!

Nah, its the mind of a mob. Or rather the mindlessness of it.


David Brin said...

Catfish, it is well-known that LBJ pushed for NASA use to bring science and industry to the South. Yes, especially his home Texas.

Again, I believe “Much better than his times” and “moved progress forward” are adequate for forgiving Jefferson, Grant, Teddy Roosevelt and especially Ben Franklin. But an interesting case can be made for a total bastard… Andrew Jackson. By our standards he was an evil sonovabitch at almost any level, a slaver and betrayer of his native allies and murderer and so on. But —

— but he was seen as an icon of democracy, in his time and many decades after! Why? Because in the context of the 1820s, he fought to expand the middle class of white males from an eastern, landed elite to give political power to small farmers and the like. The raw percentage of US citizens who felt empowered doubled… from maybe 20% to 40%, a substantial step, similar to the Founders expanding the circle of power from 0.1% to 20%.

And yes, Jackson did that while helping repress the other 60% of women and slave and indigenous peoples. History is filthy, like that. And Lincoln, who took things much farther, still wasn’t perfect and left so much undone, as did Grant, who prosecuted 20,000 KKK members and enforced black voting rights (till Hayes and the GOP betrayed them). Welcome to the human race. Name another nation that had such a self-improvement campaign, as grinding and horrifically slow as it has been.

Larry Hart said...


It is widely felt that the intent to topple statues was known in advance and that the authorities opted to not intervene. This alone makes right wingers implausible...

Unless I'm missing your point, I have to disagree. The police routinely opt not to intervene in right-wing protests. From the many disruptive gatherings on Chicago-area bridges with "Impeach Obama" signs to the Bundys pointing guns at federal agents to the armed protests at the Michigan capitol, police looking the other way is so common as to not even be noticed.

even if a batch of well organized such [right-wingers] could be gathered on short notice. Capturing a few would be a huge political coup!

Depends on the agenda of those doing the catching. If the idea is to support the Trumpist narrative that left-wing protests equates to violence and crime, then no, capturing a few right-wingers would be an embarrassment to be avoided.

Nah, its the mind of a mob. Or rather the mindlessness of it.

Mindless to the extend that they just toppled statues at random without knowing who those statues represented? Or is there some reason I'm missing why left-wingers would purposely target those particular statues?

mythusmage said...

Were the nalidi human? What about their thumbs?

Larry Hart said...

If I ran the zoo, I would limit the tearing down of statues to two categories:

* Those erected specifically to commemorate (treasonous) Confederate actions against the Union in the war

* Those erected specifically for the purpose of insulting or intimidating victims of oppression

I can broadly forgive complex human beings who have some good and some bad in them. I would have less tolerance for monuments erected for the express purpose of giving a middle finger to blacks, other minorities, and northerners. And of course, monuments to wartime actions against the United States should not stand any more than would a statue of Benedict Arnold (the 1960s Batman tv movie notwithstanding).

I also do realize that getting liberals and leftists to agree on a consistent standard would be like herding cats.

Ahcuah said...

Larry, regarding the statues:

Protesters explain why they tore down statues at State Capitol.

Protesters say they took the statue down because they don’t feel the state is moving forward.

“We’re not moving forward, we’re moving backwards,” said Ebony Anderson-Carter. “This (statue) doesn’t need to be here until we’re ready to move forward.”

Anderson-Carter says she and the other protesters want to see something done about racial injustice in the state, and speak with the state’s Black youth.

“The Capitol is where we solve problems, and nobody’s coming here to solve problems,” said Anderson-Carter.

Still doesn't make any sense to me, but it does not appear to be right-wingers. Maybe more like that there are ignorant people among all groups.

David Brin said...

I rarely dip into the spam filter where anonymous postings always go, but I did today and found one by a non-loon and clicked publish... and apparently it didn't go through.

We need to make clear that we know the FAR edges of the Union movement CONTAIN some fanatic jerks. We'll discuss dealing sensibly with those. But the Confederate side of this phase of civil war ENTIRELY CONSISTS of fanatic jerks.

FAR is not the same as ENTIRE.

CONTAINS and CONSISTS are different things.

jim said...

Lets see, in the past bad men were complicated and sure they did a lot of bad things but also some good things. See the violent, slave owning, corrupt genocidaire Andrew Jackson.

But now in the present things are fortunately much more simple, bad men just do bad things.
See Donald Trump (disregard the vast numbers of working class folks brought back into the political process and important policy goals like the end to globalization.) All you need to know is Orange Man Bad.

On a different note, this quote from 1984 seems surprisingly on target.
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered, and the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. Haistory has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which The Party is always right.”

Larry Hart said...


“The Capitol is where we solve problems, and nobody’s coming here to solve problems,” said Anderson-Carter.

Still doesn't make any sense to me, but it does not appear to be right-wingers.

It sounds as if they were tearing down any convenient statues as an act of protest, without regard to who the particular statue represents.

I'll grant that the sources you and others cited seem to back the "not right-wingers" theory, but then the only thing that makes sense (to me) is that the individual honoree was not considered an important element in the protest.

Tacitus said...


Mobs do irrational things. It is their nature.


Larry Hart said...


But now in the present things are fortunately much more simple, bad men just do bad things.
See Donald Trump (disregard the vast numbers of working class folks brought back into the political process and important policy goals like the end to globalization.) All you need to know is Orange Man Bad.

No, it's not that Trump can't occasionally stumble into doing something that happens to be good. It's that he's done so much bad to our democracy and our civility and our alliances (among other things) that the bad he's done outweighs the good by orders of magnitude.

On a different note, this quote from 1984 seems surprisingly on target.
“Every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street building has been renamed, every date has been altered, and the process is continuing day by day and minute by minute. Haistory has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which The Party is always right.”

I'd actually agree with you here if I thought you were talking about the Republican Party, but I suspect you're blaming this on the other one.

I have thought for a long time that the job of re-writing all of history the way it was done in 1984 has been made easier now that everything is on the internet.

David Brin said...

Anyone who claims I was letting Andrew Jackson off the hook is certifiably insane. Worse, saying so is deliberate evil and kinda pathetic, given that everyone here knows it.

Understanding the details of why Jackson was popular in his era might be scholastic quibbling. Or else a necessary insight into HOW grinding progress at inclusion expansion happens.

I made clear that Jackson was an evil jerk and whether or not he pushed horizons outward for his own constituency, he does not pass the "much better than his time" test.

Others do. I hope my vigorous efforts across a lifetime will make folks in 2200 say I did too. I'd like to know what evidence ol' jim will leave for those future folks. Ooh, he snarked! What an accomplishment for progress. Har. No wonder he yearns for apocalypse.

Larry Hart said...


Mobs do irrational things. It is their nature.

There's usually some motivation, though, whether or not it makes sense to a rational observer.

I'm willing to buy that the motivation was "Pull down some statues! That'll show how far we're willing to go!" And that the person the statue depicted wasn't important. That's pretty much what I've already concluded.

I'm not willing to buy that left-wing protesters targeted those particular statues for the things those particular people symbolized.

Phaedrusnailfile said...

Speaking only to the statues and not to the protests broadly, i would venture to say there is a performative element to the pulling down of statues that the mobs do to be put on TV. I dont mean to demean any of the relevant issues at hand and say that it is only performative, just that it is one of many ingredients that are in the finished product.

Gator said...

“And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? ... It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

At what point does complaining about tearing down statues become splitterism?
No one was talking about actually fixing anything before things were broken. No police officers were actually being charged with crimes until things were broken.

The pendulum swings, and it's probably going to swing farther than one may wish it would, but I don't see how anything changes without. Think #metoo for another example.

Tacitus said...


I have a bit more time to address this now.

Firstly, please don't call this sort of thing a protest. It was a riot. Peaceful protests be they of left, right or the Raving Monster Loony Party (a real thing in the UK) should be allowed to continue unless there is danger to the public. I'm not a big fan of blocking highways for instance...

That there is a direct connection between the arrest, the protest at the jail, the assault of the State Senator and the pulling down of the statues can't really be argued. I'll put up a few links at the bottom, but a key take away (and from a L friendly source) is this:

"By early evening, protesters gathered outside the Dane County Jail, where Johnson is being held, and began marching Downtown. Roughly 300 protesters blocked traffic, yelling at drivers and telling them to join the demonstration. A few drivers drove through small crowds of protesters, leaving at least one man injured.

Organizers stood on top of a tow truck, vowing that the night would not be peaceful.

“This is not a peaceful protest, so if you came out here for a peaceful protest, you missed it,” one organizer said. “We’re done being peaceful. Now we demanding justice.”

Their targets were those of convenience. I'm pretty sure if they knew that Senator Carpenter was a Democrat (and openly gay, not that it matters) they might have cut him some slack. But hey, his bad: "Protesters earlier that evening ordered media to leave the scene and not take photos or videos as the night unfolded, but Carpenter had apparently not received the message and lifted his cell phone to record."

As to statues, well, this is Madison Wisconsin. There are no controversial statues. No Confederate Generals anywhere. So you take what you can find.

There's plenty of video out there. I'm no expert on Black Bloc stuff but masks, lots of people on bicycles, orders not to film....perhaps this may sound familiar to our correspondents out in Seattle/Portland.

To keep up with current events there has also been an alleged hate crime where a "biracial" woman claims someone attempted to set her on fire with lighter fluid. Minimal to no injury. Horrific if true. But it has the whiff of Smolletism about it.

I repeat, because it is important. Mobs do irrational things. They keep doing them until their demands are met or they are dispersed. I'd love to have prominent Democratic politicians condemn this. If I've missed any, please put them forward to receive my accolades.


Robert said...

Larry, I read an interview with someone who said she was speaking for the protestors. (How much of that to believe I have no idea.) She said the reason for tearing down those statues was that having them makes it look like racism is a solved problem in Wisconsin, and that's not true so they shouldn't be there.

(Paraphrasing, and I can't find that story again.)

Keith Halperin said...

@ Everyone: Doesn't it seem rather curious that while OGH puts up quite interesting posts, we continue to mainly discuss current politics?

Well, I'm a-gonna talk about some of the posts- try and stop me if you dare!

The skull shown appears to be that of one of the neo-Confederate militia members (a bit worse for wear) who went to the Idaho capitol a few weeks ago (
Paranthropus boisei

I like learning about human prehistory and precursors/relatives to humanity.
It pleases me that there are more and more types of pre-human, nearhuman/human pecies added.
(I hope we may soon identify the "ghost species," find more fossils of Denisovans, et al, and look forword to more discoveries of this type.) However, there are some who are vehemently opposed to the addition of these species, and get into very aggressive arguments with those who proceed in this area, believing them guilty of an "Add Hominin Fallacy".

RE: UPLIFT and Hominina: I think it would be interesting (if a bit creepy) to re-create our
lost Hominina relatives by genegeneering great apes. IMSM, our sibling-Homos Naledi, Florensis, and (I think) Luzonensis had quite small brains, but still were tool makers. What if we tried to recreate their brains and put them in chimps?

RE: A suggested rule for Uplift:
What NOT to Uplift-
Anything you might eat.
Anything that might eat you.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Sudden movements tend to overreach in a form of intragroup oneupmanship. "You're committed to the Cause because you want this! Well, here's something outlandish that shows I'm even MORE committed! The result is that you see ludicrous events like the attacks on the statue of Churchill in front of Parliament, or the attack on Heg in Madison. "You want to take down confederate statues to promote Black Lives Matter? Well, I want to destroy ALL statues, showing I'm taking it even more seriously!" And yes, that's a simplistic way of putting it, but it does generally describe the mindset at work here. It's not this movement in particular--all social spasms like this one have that same form of fallacious reasoning--call it the Committed Patriot Guillotine Syndrome.
I see serious talk of removing all slave owners from the money, and in the case of Andrew Jackson I can think of no reason to honor that man. He committed crimes against humanity. In the case of both Jefferson and Washington, both men developed moral reservations about the institution even as it served them, and Washington manumitted all his slaves upon his death. Ben Franklin, however, was a bit more evolved. Not only did he manumit his slaves before his death, but went on to be a leader of his state's Abolitionist movement.

David Brin said...

Keith interesting... though what's OGH?

Gator, you strawman me. When did I call tearing down confederate statues splitterism? Tearing down GRANT is um STooopid, and possibly Kremlin agitprop. But you need to try prying into your skull what "splitterism" means.

It means wrecking our coalition when it need uniity -- POLITICAL -ELECTORAL unity in order to defeat worse evil.

Renaming military bases from nasty confed monsters helps unify us and offends confeds. Better yet, it scares them. It shows we are fed up. They went way too far. They are gonna (politically) pay. And tell me your damn strawman again?

Gator said...

Dr. Brin, I knew mentioning "splitterism" would sting a bit -- I apologize for needling you.

Some people are all "equal rights for everyone" as long as protests are quiet and peaceful. I think experience shows that MLK is right and sometimes unfortunately some windows have to break and some statues have to come down before change happens.

I wouldn't have pulled down those statues in Wisconsin, but I'm a white guy in California. I'm not going to let the actions of those people there split me off of the wider coalition.

Acacia H. said...

When the police fire tear gas and rubber bullets into groups of demonstrators who are not causing damage or harm, then a demonstration becomes a riot - but the instigators of violence are in fact the police. We saw this time and time again... in the Arab Spring movement. We saw groups of mostly peaceful demonstrators who had the government decide to use force to end rather than sit back, let the protesters speak their piece, and then settle down after a bit. Essentially, Trump and the police became everything the U.S. decried against autocrats in the Middle East during the Arab Spring.

Trust me, there is confirmed knowledge of what happens when people are allowed to march without violence being used against them... as it happened at the start of the Trump Administration when a LOT of women marched. They were not attacked. They were allowed to speak their piece. Things settled down afterward and Trump continued to be the monster he was but people did get to speak their piece and thus didn't do widescale demonstrations afterward.

The difference this time is that it's non-white minorities that started these demonstrations. The police and Trump could not abide by that and turned on them. Unfortunately for Trump and the police, today's youth has had enough and a lot of younger people turned out in force along with more and more other folk who realized this is our one moment to take a true stand and make a lasting impact.

There should be zero debate on whether you can put your knee on someone's neck for ten minutes until they stop breathing, and if the person who did that is guilty or murder or not. Police Unions insist that "taking a knee" is perfectly fine and will protect their police charges until the death. Many people in the police who protest this action and make any sort of waves will be let go and persecuted. The bad apples ARE the police, and those among the police who disagree have learned that if you speak up? You will lose your job and be hounded as enemies. And even the most decent of police officer can turn hostile if you put them in a mask, wearing armor, and in a battle line against a group of people. If you gave those protesters masks, armor, and weapons? They'd probably turn nasty as well. It's human nature when given anonymity.

There are in fact psychological studies that reveal taking normal people, stating they are "guards" and giving them masks to conceal their identities, will bring out the worse in even the nicest of people. Yet we continue to "shield" riot police and the like and then wonder why demonstrations turn into riots after the police attack without cause? And we blame the protesters. Why? Because they're not white.

When armed white men storm government buildings yelling in the faces of these same police officers over being forced to wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19, there was not a single hand raised. Odd that. It's almost like being a white man gives that white man a shield to lessen the likelihood the police will act against them. If only there was research about this....


In the previous blog discussion, I mentioned that teenagers are blocking their parents from being able to access Fox News or other right-wing media groups, and unsubscribing them from right-wing disinformation. In return, those parents stopped being so... anti-liberal. This is an experiment we here can do. I would be interested if some of the conservatives among us would agree to completely cease watching Fox News or accessing ANY conservative news media or other conservative information sites for one month. We can witness if there is in fact any change in behavior. Just consider it a form of citizen science.


Larry Hart said...

Keith Halperin:

Doesn't it seem rather curious that while OGH puts up quite interesting posts, we continue to mainly discuss current politics?

I've always come here for the politics. Others' mileage may vary.

What NOT to Uplift-
Anything you might eat.
Anything that might eat you.

Uh, you apparently never saw that episode of The Simpsons in which Lisa became a vegetarian. The one with the chart of the "food chain" showing every animal pointing toward the human?

"Next, we'll visit the killing floor. Don't let the name fool you. It isn't really a floor. More like a grating that allows material to sluice through to be collected and exported."

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Keith interesting... though what's OGH?

"Our [something] Host", i.e., you, although I admit I'm not sure what the G stands for. "Good" maybe?

Gator, you strawman me. When did I call tearing down confederate statues splitterism?

I think you misread his comment. He wasn't accusing you of calling anything splitterism. He was asking (rhetorically) whether vandalism had become a necessary part of protests (because peaceful protesting apparently accomplishes nothing) and therefore condemning the vandals might be a form of splitterism--a wedge between liberals and protesters.

Larry Hart said...


Firstly, please don't call this sort of thing a protest. It was a riot. Peaceful protests be they of left, right or the Raving Monster Loony Party (a real thing in the UK) should be allowed to continue unless there is danger to the public.

I fault the likes of Trump for ruining the lives of peaceful protesters (i.e. Colin Kaepernick) or gassing them (Lafayette Park) and then "instructing" more active protesters that they should have remained peaceful. In other words, "Keep it to where we can ignore or demean you without changing anything, and you can protest all you want. Well, maybe not even then. But how dare you escalate!"

I'm not a fan of violent rioting. I'm not a fan of the French Revolution either. But the way not to have a Reign of Terror is to address legitimate grievances before it gets to that point.

Understand that the details of whatever went on or is going on in Madison aren't getting much play in the rest of the country. I live less than three hours drive from there, but I've only heard about this incident here on this list.

David Brin said...

Acacia refers to the Stanford Prison Experiment: “There are in fact psychological studies that reveal taking normal people, stating they are "guards" and giving them masks to conceal their identities, will bring out the worse in even the nicest of people.” Hrm yes that was disturbing. Till followup studies showed it was way exaggerated and special case where the "guards" were still immersed in coplay and assumed the victims would be the ones to call it off. In countless cases later studies have shown a wide variety of folks calling off things that violated their personal standards.

MIND YOU I am rewriting The Postman for the 1st time in 35 years (bright young feller wrote it!) and yes, I am well aware that there are human males who should never be allowed anywhere near any women or children or innocents, ever.

Acacia we are on the same side and I believe almost all of the same things including going after the badged monsters. But this is Contrary Brin and hence let me also say you way oversimplify. A source of real discussion in some circles has been the very large numbers of black and hispanic cops nowadays and how confidential polls show them disdaining certain… “types” in their own communities. THAT EXCUSES NOTHING! It only shows that there are currents and then eddies and counter currents.

And it all must start with something we agree on. The cop unions must be shattered and rebuilt. And any cop who doesn’t have the copcam turned on is docked pay (at least) for every minute it’s off and triple if it is during an arrest.

Oh note also a MAJORITY of demonstrators almost everywhere have been white. So many that a black op-ed writer said “Why now, white people?”

Um, my dad marched with MLK and I marched too. But yeh. Sorry. Can we make up for it now?

“I would be interested if some of the conservatives among us would agree to completely cease watching Fox News or accessing ANY conservative news media or other conservative information sites for one month.”

Um what conservatives? We had a couple of confeds - one now banned for lying and the other (ent) a nut job but welcome here whenever he likes. And we had a doctor-gentleman who said he was wandering off and maybe back later.

We ARE the types who have GOP friends! So your experiment is still valid. But I’d rather say: “I’ll watch Fox next to me on Mondays if you’ll watch MSNBC with me on Tuesdays. And we’ll talk.”

Smurphs said...

Remember, jim wants to save the planet by killing 2 to 6 billion people.

Just how fast would a future generation tear down his statue, assuming one was ever erected?

Alfred Differ said...

Our Gracious Host (probably)

Sorry. Can't get into the politics tonight. Just watched an amateur astronomer live-stream Jupiter from his scope while he played with filters and took images. I'm envious, but otherwise happy.

I'll be back to teeth-grinding annoyance regarding our national embarrassment tomorrow.

Acacia H. said...

That's the problem, Dr. Brin. They don't talk. They insist that "liberal media" is biased and unfair, because they are taught through Fox News that it is. This is why you need to cut them off entirely from Fox News and the like for several weeks. And this is also why it's horrific that so many VA offices will have Fox News playing on all the TVs when veterans come in for various reasons. This is the whole point that these teenagers are making by making it so TVs won't turn onto Fox and they stop getting e-mail from the Drudge Report and the like.

Think of it as akin to an alcoholic. If you tell an alcoholic "you have to go sober but one day a week you can drink all you want" then you're not curing them. You're getting them to binge drink. And they'll likely start sneaking drinks at other times. No, you cut them off entirely, and if it's done quietly so they aren't finding the station? Then they might not even realize it after a long tiring day at work. You act subtly. You redirect the blow rather than block it, and they may not even realize you acted.


David Brin said...

Acacia you are right about some, but wrong about a minority, who stay glued to Fox precisely because they desperately fear any crack will break the trance. I have (oh, laboriously!) managed to get a few to open their eyes to the consistent madness and they truly do start to develop a disgust with Hannity & co.

Wagers have been my top tool. They always run! But after the tenth time concocting excuses to run, a few of them notice what they are doing.

Here's the deal. Some of these are men and women of respect to all who know them. Save one(!) and the cracks spread from them in all sorts of directions.

Tony Fisk said...

Depending on the time of day, 'OGH' could be either 'Our Good Host', or 'O God of Hangovers' (one of Pratchett's better creations IMHO, whatever that means...)

My understanding of passive resistance is that it aims to remove the energy from the room. Enforcers have nothing to work with, and if they try to do some enforcing, they end up looking like bullying thugs, and that would have bad consequences.

What we've been seeing of late is a perception (enforced by thumbs up in the White House) that being a bullying thug has no consequences... in the current timeframe. However, there are signals that is starting to change. Apart from the military saying they're having none of it, there are increasing calls for police departments to be defunded, even abolished altogether.

Dave Morris said...

Talking of those smart pets, I had a cat who liked to bask in the afternoon sun at the front of the house, but his basket and blanket were on the back porch. One afternoon he gave up trying to get comfortable on the hard ground at the front, came and got the blanket in his teeth, and dragged it around to the patch of sunlight where he wanted to laze away the rest of the day. That strikes me as requiring some real planning, but maybe cats are smarter than I thought?

Larry Hart said...

The question, then, isn’t why “America” has failed to deal effectively with the pandemic. It’s why the G.O.P. has in effect allied itself with the coronavirus.
I’d suggest, however, that the G.O.P.’s coronavirus denial also has roots that go beyond Trump and his electoral prospects. The key point, I’d argue, is that Covid-19 is like climate change: It isn’t the kind of menace the party wants to acknowledge.

It’s not that the right is averse to fearmongering. But it doesn’t want you to fear impersonal threats that require an effective policy response, not to mention inconveniences like wearing face masks; it wants you to be afraid of people you can hate — people of a different race or supercilious liberals.

So instead of dealing with Covid-19, Republican leaders and right-wing media figures have tried to make the pandemic into the kind of threat they want to talk about. It’s “kung flu,” foisted on us by villainous Chinese. Or it’s a hoax perpetrated by the “medical deep state,” which is just looking for a way to hurt Trump.

Robert said...

Larry: "I fault the likes of Trump for ruining the lives of peaceful protesters (i.e. Colin Kaepernick) or gassing them (Lafayette Park) and then "instructing" more active protesters that they should have remained peaceful. In other words, "Keep it to where we can ignore or demean you without changing anything, and you can protest all you want. Well, maybe not even then. But how dare you escalate!""

Back during the Days of Action protests in Ontario we saw exactly that from Global (a right-wing news station).

The first day protestors banged picket signs on the hood of a car that was driving into a crowd, and it was reported as a shameful display of violence that obscured any message (Global criticized the protestors, not the chap who decided to push his car through a crowd). The next day there was no violence at all, and Global reported that the lack of violence and presence of children in strollers proved that the protestors weren't serious.

You're either unimportant and ignorable, or you're a dangerous threat. They don't seem to have any other mental boxes available.

Tacitus said...

I don't want to continue to pull the conversation back to politics, although the grav well for it seems so strong these days. But I will say that any discussion about how brain imaging predicts behaviour patterns is scary on multiple levels.

I've known far too many radiologists. You can get radically different reads on the same images from different readers. Making them the gatekeepers for elective office is straight up dystopia. Put them in charge of selection for darker purposes and you get a chaser of Nightmare Fuel.

Larry's comment that Madison is not getting much play nationally or even regionally is astute. It does not fit the narrative. Which is exactly why it should be studied. That our media is incurious is hard to dispute*. Also that they are partisan but I'm ok with that. For most of our history you'd pick up a copy of either the Daily Democrat or the Republican Railsplitter. You made allowances for their perspectives.

Today of course things are different. The immediacy of modern media that reaches directly into the subsystems of our brains has changed our perceptions of many things including our politics and our fellow citizens.

This has already destroyed the Republican party as a functional organization. (Quick and no Googlies, who is the chairperson of the RNC?). It is imho about to destroy the Democrats in equal measure albeit in a messier fashion given the unstable nature of their current coalition. (public employee unions vs minority votes on the Social Justice front, Silicon Valley remote workers vs laid off blue collar and shuttering small businesspeople on the Covid front).

As a conservative I regard progressive principles as important, no, as crucial to our nation. It is vital to balance what must be Preserved and what must Change. I think conservative ideas persist, quietly and in general**, in the current environment. The Progressives seem to be "eating their own" of late in a race to the left. This bodes ill for them in the short term, and for all of us down the road.

The problem with ideological bubbles is that within them everything makes sense. Us. Them. Good. Evil. It makes bubble dwellers lazy and, yes, incurious. For all the considerable work ahead to create a better conservative party I'd opine that there is every bit as much work, or more, that is needed to create a better progressive party.


*when appropriate I have insights on Minneapolis that I think would be of interest
**with the horrible exception of looking at our crushing national debt burden of course.

jim said...

It is kind of a weird phenomenon that happens repeatedly. A person identifies a problem/ predicament faced by a group and that person thinks the group should respond to the problem/ predicament. And then someone else in the group says the person who wants to deal with the problem is actually in favor of the problem. I guess it is where the saying “kill the messenger” comes from.

David, I am not yearning for apocalypse, I recognize that we are deep into ecological overshoot and that we would be much better off if we recognize it and deal with it rationally. If we would actually choose de-growth we would deal with our predicament in a way that is much more just and rational. But that does not look like what we are going to do. It looks like the top priority will be to try to get the economy growing again and use lies, propaganda and distracting emergences to cover up the economic withering that is actually happening.

Smurphs- it is kind of pathetic to accuse me of advocating genocide. What I have actually advocated in dealing with our situation of ecological overshoot is for the wealthy people (like everyone on this blog) dramatically reduce their consumption. Is that why you lied about me? If we don't face our predicament we will just cascade from one crisis to the next.

David Brin said...

Pachydermis2 The smartest on the left (e.g. AOC can see their way forward is not to attack the Biden wing nationally but to use primaries to increase their share of state and national legislative bodies and the Democratic caucuses therein. They can see their influence is growing, so why should they want the larger coalition to fail? If she's as smart as she seems, she'll be riding herd.

But yes, coalition busting is now Putin's last gasp to prevent an overwhelming Union victory over his traitor tool the GOP. Now is the time for our "Deep State" agents to rip masks off that network. I pray for their competence and fidelity.

jim lectures us about surface and subliminal polemics and strawman attributions, then commits several. Sure, he has not openly sought a vast death wave across the planet and Smurphs perhaps went too far. jim has only declared that he EXPECTS it, in tones of righteous, triumphal When it happens I will SO shout I told you so!" That's not the same as "wanting" it. I suppose.

What IS 'wanting it" is his refusal to answer repeated challenges to support his desire to end the global economic system that uplifted half the world's population out of poverty, feeding and educating billions including vast numbers of children. Each time he's challenged about that, he stalks off and lurks until the coast is clear.

Oh, he knows we all here know there's a dangerously insane/stupid world oligarchy that must be curbed in order to save any hope for the world. Maybe the sole major difference of jim is that he'll help in the big fight... while moaning and whining and carping "This'll never work!" Having his cake and eating it. Maybe that's all it is.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

jim has only declared that he EXPECTS it, in tones of righteous, triumphal When it happens I will SO shout I told you so!" That's not the same as "wanting" it. I suppose.

No, it's more like "Expecting it with certainty, which colors every other issue." Nothing else matters in the face of the need for reduced energy usage. In that paradigm, Biden is as bad or worse than Trump because while Trump is only dismantling our democracy, our alliances, and our civilization, Biden would continue trying to grow the economy.

That focus on a potentially-devastating issue is familiar to me as I used to have the same obsession over the any-time-now certain devaluation of the American dollar. I finally noticed that it somehow never happens. Not to say it never will, but I no longer feel so constrained by that one issue that it overpowers all other considerations.

jim said...

Let me once again explain my opposition to globalization.
1) It empowers the oligarchs
2) It reduces the power of local democratic governance.
3) It targeted American working class folks for income reduction.
4) It comes with a much larger ecological footprint
5) It creates more distance between action and consequence

And most importantly going forward it creates a system that is brittle.
The pandemic spread around much of the world within days. So will future pandemics if we continue with globalization. A tightly coupled global economic system will transmit problems from one part of the world to the entire world. We are now in a time when many specific parts of the world have acute problems, there are enough growing problems to overwhelm the whole system. With a loosely coupled system some geographical areas of the earth could avoid collapse

Cari Burstein said...

Regarding cutting off the Fox supply approach, I think that'd depend entirely on the person. I'd also note that most "conservative" news sources aren't conservative so much as right-wing, which in this country means something else entirely sadly. I'd say cutting off most television news in general would be a benefit, news broadcast on TV tends to trend on the sensationalist side and goes more for the emotional centers of the brain and is consumed so passively you don't even give it much thought.

I can't stand watching news on TV and stick to reading articles, where you are actively consuming the information. You can write bad articles (and I tend to avoid most things with clickbait headlines), but the medium doesn't lend itself as much to poor quality reporting.

I think everyone could do with a bit more balance of news sources, but I think it's better to get the news from sources which are better done than Fox. I read the Flip Side daily, which is a great source of curated stories from left and right sources, and they tend to pick articles which are higher quality. I may not agree with most of what I read from the sources on the right, but the better articles keep me informed on what they're talking about and also sometimes raise good things to consider. If you only read stuff from people who agree with you, you'll never really be equipped to deal with complicated issues (which most are).

I have a friend who is conservative, but consumes Fox not at all. He was raised conservative, became liberal in college, had an ugly falling out with his liberal friends, then mostly tuned out from politics and news for years (mainly due to PTSD-like response from the falling out). He has recently re-engaged in news and politics just in the last year, and has become pretty conservative again. He doesn't watch Fox at all and isn't a big Trump fan (but doesn't see him as the big danger we do), but he does consume a variety of podcasts and has joined some conservative private chat groups.

For him the big danger he sees is from the left and he fears two things, socialism and cancel culture. From his perspective, those things are far more of a threat than Trump, and sadly I believe he'll be voting for him in fall.

I won't say conservative media has indoctrinated him since he mostly has been seeking it out as he became more engaged in news again. But I have noticed that the more of it he consumes, the more he tends to sympathize with GOP positions on issues and quote their talking points. But I think a lot of this boils down to trust- if you align with a side, you tend to learn to trust the things they say more, and distrust the things the opposing side says. This naturally trends towards aligning yourself more on issues over time just because of which inputs you'll allow to be processed into your worldview. In his case I think his trust levels were so low with the left from his previous experiences that he was predisposed to trust conservative sources more when he started to re-engage.

I'm not sure how we bridge the gaps to build trust, but I feel at core this is where the problem is. Profit motives in media, power motives in politics, external sources seeking to exploit divisions, these all add up to exacerbating our trust differential. It's not that before these things weren't a problem, but they're on steroids now.

David Brin said...

Who is this "jim" and what did he do with our own bizarrely hysterical version? Seriously, that's a very good list of criticisms of globalization, concise and effective! In fact, I'll repeat it here:

1) It empowers the oligarchs

TRUE. Though different ones, utterly dependent upon the Rule of Law, while undermining the OLD oligarchs of feudalism and local tyranny who oppressed people vastly vastly worse for 10,000 years. And the new oligarchs fostered education for a better work force.
Alas, jim knows nothing about Marx's stages of proletarian development, or he'd know that Marx would consider this an absolutely essential intermediate phase.

Nevertheless YES! I oppose the same enemy and campaign for international transparency at unprecedented levels. And forcing the New Oligarchs to be naked and constrained.

2) It reduces the power of local democratic governance.

It reduces the power of local governance by cheater, lords, gangs etc. The TPP would have forced all the nations of the Rim to comply with international standards for Labor law and environment.

3) It targeted American working class folks for income reduction.

Targeted? Well in some ways, sure. We need to stay at the forward tech edge. It's what worked for 80 years. And that means dealing with China's rape of our IP.

4) It comes with a much larger ecological footprint

Yes, which is why 20th century version of globalization must end! Local sourcing is clearly king and becoming the next big thig as the giant freighters get sold off to Sea State.

5) It creates more distance between action and consequence

But vastly more LIGHT shining on action and consequense. So? we need to get better at modeling.

And yes, the list ignores every BENEFIT, like half the world population lifted out of grinding poverty and death. Two billion children who will have enough food and education to think environmental thoughts.

Just all that.

Larry Hart said...

Cari Burstein:

news broadcast on TV tends to trend on the sensationalist side and goes more for the emotional centers of the brain and is consumed so passively you don't even give it much thought.

Many years ago now, my brother pointed out to me that aside from right-wing bias, FOX News is all about keeping the audience rapt with fear and suspense. The particular example he mentioned was a story about a train derailment in Nebraska. The news story kept implicitly wondering whether the derailed train might be leaking toxic chemicals, and if so, why weren't the nearby residents being evacuated. Even though there was no particular reason to suspect such a thing in the first place.

Smurphs said...

Thanks, Doc. You defended my admittedly hyperbolic statement better than I ever could. Always best to leave it to the professionals.

And jim, a question. Are you expecting the world to go back to horseback and sailing ships?

duncan cairncross said...

Hi guys i'm re-reading Existence - something our Host mentioned that I could not remember

Jim said that Globalisation

1) It empowers the oligarchs
2) It reduces the power of local democratic governance.
3) It targeted American working class folks for income reduction.
4) It comes with a much larger ecological footprint
5) It creates more distance between action and consequence

As well as Dr Brin's response I would say that all five are NOT an issue with "globalisation" but are side effects of "Globalisation while massively unequal"

And each of them is improving as we reduce the inequality - another more important consequence of Globalisation

Remember when Japan and South Korea were poor and "cheap Labour" - cheap and nasty products??
Now they are affluent consumers
China has nearly moved the same way - not quite as far YET

America - then the rest of the West - pulled them out of the mire of generations
Now Japan and South Korea are on the other end of the rope helping to pull China up
Soon - very soon - China will also be pulling on that rope

As the Nations become better off THEN those five "Problems with Globalisation" will go away


3) It targeted American working class folks for income reduction.

Was only ever very slightly caused by Globalisation
MOST of that was caused by the Vampire "Rentiers" stealing the money and using the political power of their wealth to stand on the face of the workers

Catfish 'n Cod said...

@jim: There is a difference between someone doing some right things by accident in the service of a fatally flawed and pernicious worldview and someone doing some right things because they had to compromise and couldn't do more. That's what distinguishes a Jackson from a Lincoln, a Johnson from a Nixon, a Romney from a Trump.

As for globalization, you've hit the right criticisms, but are you sure de-globalization will achieve your goals? Consumption of resources can be reduced by efficiency gains and by smarter choices. It can't be achieved by a universal reduction of demand -- not on the scale required. You're not going to be able to save the world by cutting frivolous luxuries en masse, and many costs go to warm beds, clean food and water, transportation and communication -- which are too vital to give up, or even settle for lower quality.

@Acacia, Dr. Brin: Don't forget the Lord of the Flies effect, too. Many things thought "human nature" turned out to be nurture when tested on non-W.E.I.R.D. cultures. Humans, especially those in the same or close-kin tribe, do NOT naturally tear each other apart; that's something that must be "carefully taught".

@Larry: That's a great way to articulate it. Many years ago I saw some Faux being screened at a veterans facility. Without even comprehending what it was talking about, it gave me the creeps. That's why. It's DESIGNED to give you the creeps -- and make you addicted to fear and anger. Yoda may have been a toxic mentor but he wasn't wrong about what those lead to.

@Duncan: the problem with that theory -- which isn't new -- is that there are a LOT of nations, and a LOT of people within nations, that aren't out of the mire. It has taken decades to get to where we are, and centuries more at the rate we've been going. That's too long to wait for everything to even out.

But you've pointed out the reason we haven't been able to even things out as well -- rentiers sucking away all the gains of competitive advantage leaving everyone else ("labor", though that's not really the right term anymore) high and dry.


Aaaand on the topic of a multi-humanoid Earth: do you think mythically transmitted memories of there really being different beings survived to become the sources of legends like elves, dwarves, fairies, Bigfoot, banshees, etc.? Or did we make them up once we got lonely, long after we out-competed the rest?

TCB said...

@ Catfish, it has been adequately shown (from what I can tell) that certain folk tales do seem to date to the last ice age and perhaps even before. A prime example is the 'sky chase' myth concerning the constellation Ursa Major, aka the Big Dipper. If this story, and others such as the Cyclops story in Homer (which has a very old Swiss counterpart of the 'master of animals' herding them into a mountain cave each night) can date back to before the Bronze Age, then why not tales of giants and "the others" who did once exist?.

Alfred Differ said...


I don't think you want billions dead. I think it is more like you preferring that there be fewer billions of us. That means not having children. That IS happening in many places, but the current prediction for peak involves 10 to 11 billion of us. There is no 'human' way to reduce that quickly short of slaughter and plague. Even then, women tend to have more children when the believe their offspring are less likely to survive, so the impact is short-lived.

The problem with your position is that 'de-growth' WILL lead to giga-deaths. You can deny the logic of it, but that doesn't alter our perspective that you 'choose' death for billions. Much like I 'chose' poverty while attending grad school, consequences follow behind causes including consequences we prefer not to think we caused.

Now… on to your bullet list stating your opposition to globalization.

1) The oligarchy you imagine as the enemy isn't static. If it were, I'd be tempted to call it The Oligarchy. Truth is more complex. Some of the richest manage to fail to remain rich. Others climb into their ranks. Just because someone is filthy rich doesn't make them the opponent for which you have a reasonable fear.

SOME families are remaining rich and certainly qualify, but they often don't get along with each other. We can and do pry them apart and pull them down.

2) Heh. I think you are laboring under a bad assumption. It's as if you believe local democratic governance had more power in the past. Pfft. Don't confuse YOUR local with MY local or all the other localities.

3) Our working class was targeted? BS. SOME of the big employers recognized our labor was expensive compared to labor elsewhere, but for many of them, their move overseas was driven by a dose of desperation. They couldn't compete in a global market if they relied on expensive local labor. The facts are pretty clear on this. Post-1980, the nations of The West were essentially recovered from the economic impacts of WWII. Markets were going to go global whether the US wanted it or not. We DID want it as it made an excellent Cold War weapon against the Soviets, but it wasn't going to be stopped short of another big war. Our big employers HAD to adapt… or die. US labor WAS/IS expensive.

4) The ecological footprint is larger. Yes. No debating this point. What is questionable, though, is whether we will continue at the same intensity. I'm optimistic there.

5) You are laboring under another bad assumption here. It's as if you believe that the distance between action and consequences was more local earlier. The strongest driver of consequences for business is access to credit. Screw that up and your business dies. Most employers rely on local credit sources. Larger ones have access to the big bond markets. Finance companies and big banks have access to global sources. Most of us face local consequences, though.

What DID change is how correlated the local consequences can be. There used to be more disconnect due to market segmentations. That has been reduced. The impacts you face are still local, but the stimuli that drive local credit decisions are larger in scope now.

6) Brittleness? Pfft! That is YOUR belief system. Some of it is and some of it isn't. Large markets are well known to be robust in ways tiny ones can't be. Local crop failures don't cause starvations anymore. That's a HUGE FREAKIN' deal since for most of human history, the opposite was true.

Sure. The virus spread quickly. No doubt about it. So did our response to it. Read the science journals and sites. Reaction among the knowledge clade was swift.

Loose coupling won't save our behinds in the future. Anti-fragility will. That requires a stronger coupling to lift more of us into the knowledge clade.

Alfred Differ said...

Catfish 'n Cod,

Or did we make them up once we got lonely, long after we out-competed the rest?

Probably both. We imagine agency in practically everything. I don't think that is a result of loneliness, though. I suspect it is more from our need to explain, thus predict. The only pre-science model we understood well was that of a mind much like our own. Thus pantheism and grand mythologies. They were our early cosmologies.

Alfred Differ said...


The alternate narrative to vampires that I was driving at earlier goes like this.

There are essentially two civilizations on Planet Earth right now. The West and China. Through most of human history, our civilizations have stuck to the feudal attractor and China is still there. We aren't, but that is a very recent change. Only a few centuries.

Something interesting happened in the 1970's, though, besides the end of recovery for WWII stricken nations in The West. Something quite large happened that began to alter the behavior a billion human beings. The other civilization changed course. They are still stuck on the attractor, but in the midst of a famine, they could see us walking on the Moon.

The other civilization changed course.

If they keep it up long enough, there will be only one civilization on Planet Earth. A merger of sorts will happen. If so, the historical impact will be thunderous. The Chinese civilization is the oldest living one. It survived while ALL others failed… and they've changed course. In our direction.

These things are hard to see if one is looking at the small details. Rentiers stealing money is small potatoes. PM's and Presidents getting elected are small things. Civilizations changing course are not.

There is more to the other civilization than just the current nation of China. Take a step back and look at how people think. There are many factions over there that barely get along with each other, but they often think alike.


In and around the '70's. Some a little earlier. Some a little later.

Nixon screwed up in so many ways it's hard to count, but this part he got right. He found a way for OUR civilization to offer THEIRS a way forward… in our direction. It has been working and the world is changing as a result.

duncan cairncross said...

Look at the numbers we started out with 200 million Americans pulling four billion others up 20:1

Today we have 2 Billion well off pulling up five Billion - 2.5:1

In a couple of years we will have 6 Billion pulling up 3 Billion - 1:2

The process will go to completion in a couple of decades

Lord of the Flies
Was always fantasy
Did you see in the news there was an actual "Lord of the Flies" case?
Some schoolkids stole a boat and managed to maroon themselves on a deserted island back in the 60's
They were rescued years later unlike the fantasy they had cooperated and helped each other

duncan cairncross said...

About the "folk memories" going back to the ice age

We have an example here - NZ

The Maori - they have their tribal tales going back to "the beginning"

But how accurate ?

They had completely forgotten the Moa

Timeline (rough)
Arrived - 1100 AD
Expansion - free food
The Moa were eaten - camps were set up to utilise this resource
Moa extinction - 1400 AD
Europeans started finding traces of Moa - 1700's

In less than 300 years the Moa had disappeared from the Maori verbal history

I'm a bit sceptical about the ability of verbal histories over thousands of years

That theory founders on the rocks of Germany and Scandinavia - and the rest of Europe
They continued to ADVANCE the wealth of their working classes

If the "the surge after WW2" theory was correct then while the US working class reached a plateau the other nations would also reach said plateau - they would catch up and close the gap that that was there when the USA was the best place in the world
BUT not go roaring past the USA!

David Brin said...

Eloquently put, Alfred. I can see all of that.

Indeed, of all feudal-oligarchic, "pyramid-shaped" hierarchy systems, China's was always moderated by both a meritocratic civil service and relentless chidings for paternalistic obligation by rulers. If we are doomed to sink back into the Feudal Attrctor, then it is among the least-bad. Capricious domination will be moderated by some rule of law.

But it will still be feudal-oligarchic, "pyramid-shaped" hierarchy. Transparency - fiercely shining into all of those below will be used as an instrument of conformity and control, not reciprocal accountability and protection of eccentric diversity.

I believe the argument in favor of the New Approach can be based upon vastly superior actual outcomes. But these conflicts are never determined by logic, evidence or comparison of outcomes. We will simply have to win by succeeding an being vastly creative.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. If we sink back, jim will get his giga-death scenario with us staying in overshoot until we get back under one billion. That's a prediction I don't want to live to see. I don't think it will happen, though. If I were to live long enough to collect on such a bet, I'd bet against for the next 200 years.

We will simply have to win by succeeding an being vastly creative.

I think we already have won.

These things certainly aren't determined by logic, evidence, and all that. They are determined by reproduction. It's not the crude genetic type since we are all practically the same. It's the memetic type. We are being crudely copied just as we crudely copied Englishmen and Scotsmen. Copy is reproduction while crudeness ensures variation. Both of the ingredients for evolution are present and wildly active. So, we've won. QED.

Heh. As if finality was ever possible with evolutionary arguments. 8)

Alfred Differ said...


They continued to ADVANCE the wealth of their working classes

You make that sound as if it is a refutation. It really isn't.

Let me start by saying I don't expect you to like the alternate narrative. Vampire stories require heroes. Mine doesn't. Vampires make for decent villains. I don't have any. Even my feudal overlords make poor villains since since EVERY civilization had them and we non-heroes still managed to cheat the cheaters just enough to get where we are today.

I'll also add that I've never felt the US was doing this the best way. The whole point of having lots of States with local governments was for us to experiment both in dividing powerful elites against each other and in dividing rulesets so we see what wins and fails. Countless little communes have been tried at the local level and they usually fail for the same set of reasons. We run bigger experiments too.

Now… as for Sweden… you realize they are pretty tiny, don't you? I respect each of the Scandinavian countries and their social experiments for the fact that they've demonstrated there are forms of socialism that aren't out-right evil. I'm not convinced they have a better approach, though, because they are so much tinier than we are. On top of that, we don't have their social cohesiveness. That won't magically appear with monetary redistribution. We have a heck of a time tolerating each other at times, so all those government subdivisions help us avoid killing each other. Inequality is quite real and quite a problem. Money is NOT the problem, though. WE are.

Germany is a better example. They are much bigger. However, much of their success comes from an ability to export to their neighbors and swamp those economies. If German Princes knew then how to do what they've learned now, Europe would speak German from Brittany to the Urals. Seriously. Look at their numbers. There WILL be a sustainment problem.

Neither example counters my narrative, though. I have no issue with people saying there are better ways than what my neighbors are trying. Of course there are. My issue is with the belief system that assumes vampires because of a belief that productivity increases MUST show up as money in bank accounts in The West. That belief system relies on a labor theory of value for produced goods and services. We know better than that. That vampires exist isn't up for debate. Of course they do. That you can blame them for our 'ills' CAN be reasonably challenged. Some? Sure. Not enough, though, to tempt me to engage in wholesale wealth redistribution to deprive them of the blood they stole.

gregory byshenk said...

Alfred Differ wrote...
Of course there are. My issue is with the belief system that assumes vampires because of a belief that productivity increases MUST show up as money in bank accounts in The West. That belief system relies on a labor theory of value for produced goods and services. We know better than that. That vampires exist isn't up for debate. Of course they do. That you can blame them for our 'ills' CAN be reasonably challenged. Some? Sure. Not enough, though, to tempt me to engage in wholesale wealth redistribution to deprive them of the blood they stole.

Two things.

1) It seems clear that productivity increases do "show up as money in bank accounts" - just as they have over the last 75 years (if not longer). It's just that, over the last 20 years or so, they have shown up almosts entirely in the bank accounts of the top 1% of the population (rather than being more broadly distributed). It is not at all obvious that the results of productivity "must" necessarily do so, but I don't see that as the argument.

2) What would convince you that the vampires are a problem?

A German Nurse said...

I have to contradict you partially. Germany lives from it's exports, yes, but European neighbours do profit from it, in various ways. In the early 90s to 2000s, many industrial production facilities have been shut down in the FRG and reopened in Poland and other eastern countries, providing work and economic development there. Also, Germany pays the lions share of the bill when it comes to EU subsidaries, which are invested in lesser developed countries.

The Schengen laws allow free travel and work allowance in all parts of Europe, and they can access all social security systems that are open to Germans. Even Kindergeld (children support money). Much of the money is send back to the country of origin and spend there.

Yet, it has a dark side: Most East European workers earn below minimum pay, made possible through technically legal systems of subcontractors and providing living spaces through vastly inflated prices. (Ironically, COVID-19 could put an end to this practice; with the current resurgence of the virus in the Tönnjes factories, and the company being under federal scrutiny now, all other meat-producing companies hurried to end the so-called Factory Treaty practice until the end of the year.)

Oh, and there is one historical precedence for your "German Princes": The Hanse. A federation of so-called Free Cities with elected governments first building a network of trade fleets, then challenging the crowns of England and Scandinavia and hunting down the Frisian pirate kings. At it's height, it's influence reached from the English ports to Novgorod and from Bergen in Norway to Cologne.

Alfred Differ said...

A German Nurse,

I'm pretty sure my view isn't opposed to what you've just said. Your nation can't force trade on your neighbors no matter how much they complain about trade terms. They CAN decline unlike in the days when military conquest was all the rage. One of the neatest discoveries from Economics is that trade done voluntarily is win-win. The only debatable point is how lopsided the ratio is between traders.

The sustainability point is simpler to explain. Eastern Europe will eventually recover. Southern Europe will eventually recognize what has to be done to be a more potent partner in the relationship. All of that will eventually happen assuming the EU continues to exist. That will change the landscape for your nation, but I'd be stunned if you all don't adapt to it and quickly.

It will all depend on your sense of identity. Are you German or are you European? Is your trading partner Polish or European? And those annoyed Greeks who don't like to pay taxes to a (likely) corrupt government? Are they European too? Identity is crucial in working out the rules that determine ratios. I've lived in California for almost 40 years now, but I'm an American first.

As for your history, I'm slightly better educated than the typical American. I can do a bit more than find you on the map. (Heh.) I was aware of your free cities and some of their history as independent entities during the HRE. Your pre-unification history, though, I barely know except as a footnote to the drama Napoleon inflicted. However, my off-hand comment regarding past aristocrats actually applies to most of Europe where petty princes had dynastic ambitions. The take-away lesson from recent history is that open trade is far more effective in the ways of conquest with much less blood.

The Hapsburgs imagined (correctly) that marriage would grow their domain, but failed to notice the real lesson. Marriage of our markets goes MUCH further. They weren't petty princes, but compared to the power we wield today, they might as well have been.

Alfred Differ said...


It seems clear that...

I respectfully disagree. For productivity change to show us a profit change (especially in a linear relationship), you need to hold a number of other things constant. Price for example.

The price of labor changed dramatically when the Chinese changed course. I don't know how to state it more simply than that. One Billion People changed direction.

You don't have to convince me that vampires are a problem. I agree that they are. Where I disagree is with the belief that they are responsible for the fact that productivity improvements haven't fattened my wallet. For some of it, I'm sure they ARE responsible. Not all of it and not even most of it... I think.

You ask a reasonable question though. What would it take to convince me otherwise? Well... what it would take is someone from the camp that McCloskey is in nowadays to surrender the point. I'm not the pro, so I'm dependent on people who are. Who isn't, hmm? What I CAN do is recognize a weak argument offered by amateurs and pros alike. Short of one of the pro's surrendering, I'll ask for a better demonstration of the understanding of all the variables involved. For example, for productivity gains to show as profit, what are we assuming? What other variables are in play? Who influences them.

I will admit up front that I'm not a fan of macroeconomics. It looks too much like geocentric astronomy to me. It kinda works, but is miserably incorrect as an explanatory narrative. Try micro on me and you might make headway.

David Brin said...

Good discussion

but onward


mythusmage said...

Any video of the Bering Straits draining?