Saturday, August 01, 2020

Faithless electors? Revisiting the Electoral College

Folks on both right & left rejoice over the near unanimous decision that states can force 'faithless" electors to vote as the state's voter majority declared, for president. Well, you'll not be surprised to learn that I have a more complicated opinion. This decision might - maybe - scotch scenarios where -say- Wisconsin GOP legislators try to steal the state's electoral votes from Biden. And yes, as-is the Electoral College is a travesty, not behaving like a "college" of sages, at all. 

OTOH, for Kagan to write that electors were never meant to be anything other than mathematical conduits is disingenuous. The very word "College" suggests that in the ideal case they might meet and deliberate to choose the very best person as Chief Executive.

Distance made that ideal impossible, in olden times. Today, it's a mockery because parties assign slates of names as electors pledged to their candidate... and in most states voters never even see the electors' names. But that doesn't have to be so! Especially in these modern, cyber-times. One could envision a dozen different ways that electors themselves might be chosen with voter input, making them more than honorary rewards for party service.

But something else. Back in late November 2016, I tried to circulate a notion... that one moderately rich person might rent a luxury resort hotel somewhere, provide extra security, and simply declare: 

"All recently elected Electors may come at free business class travel and stay for two weeks, unbothered by anyone except hotel service staff. They may do or say anything they like, relax, argue, be a 'college' or not. Hands-off."

Three sentences that would rock the nation. 

If more than 270 did show up, there'd be a 'quorum' of sorts for conversation and argument, though the voting would still come back home in each state capital, in mid-December. And sure, the electors would mostly be party loyalists, even hacks. Still, faced with the intolerable, a deal might be struck.

Still, picture it. Envision this had happened in 2016... and the subsequent Kaine-Pence Administration...

Oh, I agree with most of what Lawrence Lessig and his colleagues at EQUAL CITIZEN try to accomplish re electoral reform. Even when I disagree a bit, as in their Electoral College endeavor, I still urge you to swing by and give it a close look. 

Oh finally note this case was actually very specific: "Monday’s ruling upholds a $1,000 fine against Peter Chiafalo, one of three Washington state electors who cast their ballots for Colin Powell rather than for Democrat Hillary Clinton, who won the state’s popular vote." 

Hence the Court declared that states may “punish” electors who decide to go their own way. It still doesn’t prevent the actual act of voting for someone other than their party’s candidate. Hence, an elector might vote against a monster as a willing, sacrificial act… or else take the penalty as the cost of a bribe. As usual, the Court has ‘clarified’ almost nothing.

== What this cathedral stands for, really ==

The new, 6 billion ruble Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, in Moscow, is a grand statement of Vladimir Putin’s vision of what is most important in Russia: Russian Orthodox faith, national pride and the armed services. Steps are made of steel from captured Nazi tanks.

And yes, Papa Stalin was a wise leader and father of the nation who never signed any pacts with Hitler! Try to put it all together. Putin's glorification of the Eastern Orthodox Church while keeping the Soviet KGB intact, except for its name, and filling the ranks of Russian government and billionaire oligarchy with former commissars who were raised for decades reciting Leninist catechisms as sacred scripture. Putin once declared that the fall of the USSR was "history's greatest tragedy."

What do these contradictions mean? It's simple. Marxism-Leninism was always just another "potemkin" surface of symbols and incantations to justify a streltsy-feudal system - augmented by secret police - that has gone unchanged since the czars. So they switched symbols and incantations quicker than a Vegas magician backstage between scenes? So?
They had tried and utterly failed to suborn the Western left and trade unions for 80 years. But switching emblems and chants to "traditionalism," with strong mafia flavors and by flattering/blackmailing western aristocrats, they have swiftly and completely take over the Right in America and Europe.

Again, these are the very same men, using the same tools aimed at the same end, with different lipstick. And the western Right has thrown themselves at their feet. 

Alexis de Tocqueville predicted - long before there was a Karl Marx - that the final struggled over humanity's fate would be between Russia and America. It was understandably narrowminded to leave out China! But impressive, nonetheless.

PS... Get and read Sorokin's amazing short sci fi novel "Day of the Oprichnik."

Here’s a link to the Obama Administration’s pandemic guidance booklet - and then to a line by line comparison vs. the fumbled, murderously incompetent actual behavior of the entire GOP establishment and Fox-zone.

== They are on our side, get used to it ==

My longstanding assertion that we can count on the US military officer corps is backed up in powerful stuff by Luncian Truscott IV - a West Point graduate - who is scion of five generations of American military heroes (including one featured in the movie ‘Patton’). He’s also a Jefferson descendant (like many black folks). This Truscott article about the military’s loathing of Trump concludes with:

“It's getting serious out there, folks. The word "treason," as in giving aid and comfort to the enemy, is being thrown around not only on op-ed pages but in Congress. This may turn into yet another Ukraine aid scandal, in which Trump commits impeachable offenses and simply gets away with it because Republicans refuse to confront his treachery, let alone  do anything about it. But he's surrounded by people in important, powerful positions who are privy to big, important secrets, and they want him out of office. With their leaks about the Russian bounties, they have in effect put a bounty on Trump's head. He has been wounded by the coronavirus, he's wounded by the economy, he's wounded by Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the streets and he's getting grievously wounded by this. 

“You know he's desperate when he starts calling a real threat to the lives of our soldiers fighting on foreign soil a "hoax." Trump is a threat to our national security. He's not a president. He's a co-conspirator with dictators who are enemies of this country. He's a traitor, and he needs to go."

Oh, it's not just Kremlin "bounties" on US soldier lives, or the endless "deep state" insults or the slavish devotion and kowtowing to Putin or the relentless destruction of our alliances. The officer corps is furious that this miserable narcissist ordered an entire valuable, irreplaceable West Point graduating class to congregate and risk infection by a disease with longstanding CHRONIC repercussions just so he could yammer at them for 20 minutes then stumble down a ramp.

Any of you lefties who kneejerk refuse to accept as allies the brave women and men who wear crewcuts and hairbuns... you are too stupid for words.

== Last chance for unusual tactics? ==

We're getting locked in to the campaigns for November. I have tried everything to get my book of political ideas - Polemical Judo - before the eyes of anyone who might be interested in agile, new tactics (any one of which could have made a big difference, this year), and have got nowhere. Alas.

Well then, some humility. I'll do what I can, like urging many of you to step up, across the next few months. For example, this site offers not only ways to donate, but direct methods  for you to volunteer. Voter registration, for example. Phone banks. (Now you can do however many hours you feel like, from your own home.)  Or watch Trevor Noah who will give you links to volunteers as a poll worker, thus helping to thwart the coming wave of cheating.

== And finally… ==

A professor in Shanghai has offered a controversial solution to two major problems in China, an excess of 34 million males, plus a reluctance of Chinese women to have more than one child. The “solution”: allow women to have multiple husbands, and they will have multiple babies. What starts out almost sounding woman-liberating soon gets spoiled, however: “Plus, it would just be more efficient, he continued, suggesting that women would have no trouble meeting the physical needs of multiple husbands…. It’s common for prostitutes to serve more than 10 clients in a day,” Ng wrote, before taking off on another offensive tangent. “Making meals for three husbands won’t take much more time than for two husbands,” he added.

Okay, one starts to see a pattern why Russian, Japanese and Chinese women have been going on a low-simmer reproductive strike.


Mark Olbert said...

I enjoyed reading the section on the Electoral College since I was an elector (in California) in the 2016 Clinton/Trump election.

Personally, I'm fine with binding electors to the popular vote. The concept of the Electoral College was heavily influenced by fear the populace might choose a President who would bring down or otherwise seriously damage the republic. The French Revolution, which started around the time the Constitution was being drafted, demonstrated the risks of popular rule...particularly in the minds of those persons of property who had the most to lose. Which included many of those supporting the Constitution.

Letting electors, even transparently chosen ones, use their own judgment is pretty fundamentally undemocratic, IMHO. Jefferson said it best: democracy doesn't guarantee good government; done right, it guarantees representative government. If the people want to tear up a constitutional compact and do something stupid they're going to be able to, one way or another. The system can't defend itself from itself. That's up to each and all of us, by choosing to follow the rule of law and agreeing to accept the laws the rule of law enables us to codify. At least up until such time as we agree to change them :).

The duty of our chosen leaders to maintain the rule of law is why, personally, I fear Trump. As an individual he's not much more than a low-grade idiot who wouldn't have gotten where he was without his daddy setting him up for life in exchange for becoming the kind of sociopath his father apparently wanted. But his narcissistic personality and belief in his own destiny undermine the rule of law...which, if enough people become attracted to (for whatever reason) will doom us all when a competent Trump comes along. The rule of law rests on a shared belief, and beliefs are subject to change, sometimes rapidly.

The only thing we can depend on is each other. There is no divine presence (IMHO) that will come along to rescue us from ourselves. We all need to be willing to admonish each other when one of us goes off the rails (which, let's face it, we all do from time to time). It's the social part of being a social primate.

The interesting thing is that history -- for all it's horrors -- shows that's enough. If we remain committed to building a better shared future for all of us.

- Mark

p.s. -- Funny sidebar: When the Constitution was being pitched to the public many supporters referred to it as part of an ancient Western tradition, tracing back to Plato's Republic, which supposedly demonstrated how the desire to found a self-governing republic was a deep-seated desire of humanity. Which caused one supporter (I forget which one) to write another and say (updated to 21st century English), "Dude, have you actually read The Republic? It's about breeding and training a group of philosopher kings, and is about as far away from a democratic political system as you can get!" :)

DP said...

Many on the religious right love Putin and see him as a defender of White christian civilization from surrounding brown hordes of Muslims (or Hispanics). He has shown his willingness to slaughter Muslims in Chechnya and Syria while including the Orthodox faith as part of the government while instituting oppressive laws against women (and emphasized increased child births) while persecuting gays.

To the religious/cultural right Putin's Russia is their utopia.

How Russia Became the Leader of the Global Christian Right

The former speechwriter for Richard Nixon and intellectual flag-bearer of paleoconservatism—that authoritarian strain of thought linking both white nationalists and US President Donald Trump—wrote that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “entering a claim that Moscow is the Godly City of today[.]” Despite Putin’s rank kleptocracy, and the threat Moscow suddenly posed to stability throughout Europe, Buchanan blushed with praise for Putin’s policies, writing, “In the culture war for the future of mankind, Putin is planting Russia’s flag firmly on the side of traditional Christianity.”

Why the Christian Right Shares Trump’s Affection for Putin

In almost every case it has been his distinctive combination of homophobia and Islamophobia that has made Putin one of the Christian right’s favorite international figures. The cultural conservative preference for authoritarian Christian Slavs who are fighting Muslims has, as Beinart notes, carried over from the Serbs to their traditional sponsors in Moscow, and most especially to the former KGB officer who has revived Russia’s pre-communist tradition of militantly traditionalist Christianity.

Putin’s attacks on “gay propaganda” have been particularly heartwarming to Christian-right folk, probably because of echoes they hear of their own longtime warnings about a sinister “homosexual agenda” pervading U.S. politics and culture.

scidata said...

Don't know which is cooler: 150m hop or 1st crewed splashdown in 45 years. Both could happen tomorrow.

Larry Hart said...

Mark Olbert:

Which caused one supporter (I forget which one) to write another and say (updated to 21st century English), "Dude, have you actually read The Republic? It's about breeding and training a group of philosopher kings, and is about as far away from a democratic political system as you can get!"

That reminds me of my reaction to the foreword in George Bernard Shaw's "Man and Superman". For someone writing at turn of the century (19th-to-20th), he sounded awfully progressive in his ideas that men and women should be free to choose who they reproduce with without artificial constraints like class and race and religion. And yet, his desired end of this experiment was to produce superior demigod-like "supermen" who would theoretically be wise and strong enough to be fit rulers of humanity.

Ahcuah said...

Dr. Brin wrote: Hence the Court declared that states may “punish” electors who decide to go their own way. It still doesn’t prevent the actual act of voting for someone other than their party’s candidate.

With all due respect, this is incorrect. On the same day, they also decided Colorado Department of State v. Baca, in which the petitioner presented the case as:

Like most States, Colorado requires its presidential electors to follow the will of its voters when casting their Electoral College ballots for President. In the 2016 Electoral College, one of Colorado’s electors violated Colorado law by attempting to cast his presidential ballot for a candidate other than the one he pledged to vote for. Colorado removed him as an elector, declined to accept his ballot, and replaced him with an alternate elector who properly cast her ballot for the winner of the State’s popular vote, consistent with Colorado law. The removed elector later sued Colorado for nominal damages.

The Supreme Court reversed the 10th Circuit's decision that that was not allowed. Thus, States also have the remedy of removing a faithless elector and substituting the vote of a faithful elector. So, as long as it is part of their state law, they can prevent the act of voting for somebody else.

Larry Hart said... actually printed and answered my question about why everyone suddenly agrees that the the Speaker of the House doesn't have to be a House member.

The last part of their response makes two points. "The first is that the Framers made a point of spelling out requirements for several offices (presidency, Senate, House); if they had requirements in mind for speaker/pro tem, they presumably would have done the same." Well, if they thought that it was self-evident that the Speaker would be a House member, then there'd be no reason to lay out separate qualifications for the position. The bit immediately after about the British House of Commons and about the Senate parliamentarian and sergeants at arms not being House members is a bit more compelling. But I'd also ask, if it's such a no-brainer that the Speaker doesn't have to be a House member, why has no such case ever happened in 240+ years of history?

A: Let's start with the question of "who is qualified" to be Speaker/President Pro Tem:

Article I, Sec. 2 says: "The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment."

Article I, Sec. 3 says: "The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States."
The wording is almost identical, and includes no limitations on who might serve in those positions. That means that if the speaker need not be a member of the House, then the president pro tem need not be a member of the Senate.

As to L.H.'s assertion that it is "a qualification that goes without saying," we disagree (and nearly all legal scholars are with us on this). We've all spent the last 3+ years learning that there is a wide gulf between "what the law actually says" and "how we expect people to behave, based on common sense, civility and tradition." Ir the law does not actually lay out rules that "go without saying," then those rules do not exist.

Further, there is a strong argument that the Framers did not wish to limit these positions solely to the membership of the chamber they serve. Two arguments, in fact. The first is that the Framers made a point of spelling out requirements for several offices (presidency, Senate, House); if they had requirements in mind for speaker/pro tem, they presumably would have done the same. The second is that the models they were looking at (most obviously the Speaker of the House of Commons in the U.K.) were largely not partisans, and were not always elected members of their chambers. It was (somewhat) expected that the speaker/pro tem in Congress would perform mostly functional roles, and not that they would acquire actual political power. It's worth noting that most other functional roles within the two chambers (parliamentarian, sergeant-at-arms, etc.) are performed by non-elected non-partisan individuals.

And as to Pat Leahy, yes, we were being a little tongue-in-cheek when we wrote that. If the presidency really hung in the balance, the senators would take their choice very seriously. And it is quite likely they would choose Biden since, again, the pro tem need not be a member of the Senate.

David Brin said...

Mark olbert thanks and you are welcome here. Very interesting stuf & well-written.

Alas, the Electoral College is so badly flawed by the inherent gerrymandering of the distribution of states re rural vs urban that simply saying "you must vote along with the state voter plurality" is not much of a partial solution.

BTW since you clearly have political connections, I hope you'll get some of them to read Polemical Judo - my new ‘political book - is filled with 100+ original and effective tactics that no pundit or politician seems yet to have come up with. And if you really want better generalship in this political phase of Civil War, then get folks in high places to read it. You can download free chapters (!) at

And I'll gladly send full pdfs/

David Brin said...

And yes, Plato was a monster.

DP said...

The most immediate problem with the Electoral College is the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, which fixed the number of Representatives at 435.

This created all sorts of distortions in the EC and congress, and is why the Wyoming delegation has proprtionally 4x the power in congress, and 4x the power to elect a president, than California does.

If we adopted the "Wyoming Rule", where the state with the smallest population (in this case Wyoming) gets one representative and becomes the basis for assigning congressmen and electors, then the total number of representatives would increase to 567 (328.2 million / 579,000) - with most of those increase going proportionally to states like California (from a current House delegation of 52 members to 68 members), Texas and New York.

For those who say that this would hurt small Red states I would say of course it does, but the House was always supposed to be democratic. It's why each state, large or small, gets two senators in the intentionally undemocratic Senate - and two extra electors - no matter what their population.

DP said...

As for the EC (which was intended to protect under populated slave states and now protects underpopulated Red states), that can be neutered by the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Simply put, the member states of this compact have pledged (once enough of them have joined to equal the minimum 270 EC votes needed to win the presidency) to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia no matter what the vote was in their own state.

As of July 2020, it has been adopted by fifteen states and the District of Columbia, which have a total of 196 electoral votes counting Colorado, or 73% of the 270 votes needed to give the compact legal force.

It is pending in 5 more states with a total EC delegation of 64 - making a total of 260 votes, only 10 votes shy of the 270 needed to trigger the compact.

That leaves only one more blue state (Michigan?) or son to be Blue state (Arizona, Texas?) to put it over the top and make the EC the political equivalent of the human appendix - an necessary relic of early evolution.

It is perfectly constitutional as the constitution leaves it up to the individual states how they assign electors and how they vote.

P.S. And grant statehood to DC and Puerto Rico, making 52 states. The stars on the flag can be neatly arranged in 4 alternating double rows of 7 and 6 stars (13 x 4 = 52) = and give Blue states permanent control of the Senate. Something for President Biden and the Democratic majority in the senate to approve once they get rid of the filibuster (like the EC, another racist relic of slave/segregationist state protection).

P.P.S The populations of rural prairie red states (like Nebraska) are falling. There is a certain minimum number of people a territory needs to become a state. If the population falls below this minimum, does it revert back to being a territory?

TCB said...

@ Larry Hart, your answer makes it clear that the House could choose a Speaker who is not a member, but history indicates that they never actually would. It's the job they all want and it's all but unimaginable that they would ever have a sufficient motive to choose outside their own.

Re: Putinism and fascism, I'm sure I have mentioned the 1997 book The Beast Reawakens by Martin A. Lee. It details how fascists survived World War 2, laid low for decades while making money and cultivating conservative friends in high places all over the globe, and by the late 1990's were finally becoming bold enough to emerge from the shadows. When I read it, I found the chapter on Russian neofascists to be the least interesting part... but I should find a copy and read it again. It turned out to be important.

Zepp Jamieson said...

First, I'm delighted "Good Omens" won the Hugo for best television broadcast. It's a delight to watch, true to the spirit of the Gaiman/Pratchett collaboration, and David Tennent is an absolute joy.

If the officer class aren't "on our side" America is finished. I've been saying all along that with Trump, it's going to be Us or Him. And sometime between now and January, the military will play a deciding role.

Zepp Jamieson said...

About two years ago I wrote a thought experiment on how to reduce the disproportionate representation in the Senate and the EC inherent in the Senate gerrymander. And yes, it is a gerrymander, even if enshrined in the Constitution. In an effort to reduce the inequality, I worked with the notion that the ten most populous states be given a third Senator (and EC vote) each, and the ten least populated reduced to one senator. I then compared it to the Senate and relative populations of the states as existed in 1800, and discovered that with my scheme implemented, the disproportionate array of vote weights was still greater than what the Founders came up with to protect the South. If anyone is interested, I can link to the article in which I show my math.

Jon S. said...

"And sometime between now and January, the military will play a deciding role."

Or, more importantly, will decline to play a deciding role. We do not want a military coup, no matter what some folks have been saying lately. Those seldom work out well.

Ahcuah said...

Here's an article from the History News Network that gives the background on how we ended up with the Electoral College. Short answer: there was a lot of vacillation before they settled on what they did. What the Faithless Electors Decision Says about SCOTUS and Originalism. Also, while they were a "college", it was never intended that they meet, or even do any sort of coordination. This was supposedly to reduce "intrigue". Obviously, they never even guessed at near-instantaneous communications. (Or Facebook :-) )

David Brin said...

"And sometime between now and January, the military will play a deciding role."

If they must do so openly or loudly or overtly, then real damage will be done.

Far more likely, they will use retired officers to approach eminent Republicans and hint strongly that enough is enough. Ideally, we'll never know the details... as we'll never know how they finally got rid of that monster, Donald Rumsfeld.

Zepp please offer up the link to your experiment. Each of you should feel free to do an occasional blog that we can point people to, when appropriate.

TCB said...

I liked Good Omens, buuuuut Watchmen on HBO is a masterpiece and it got robbed. (It was nominated twice in the Dramatic Short form category and lost to what I assume is the final episode of The Good Place, of which I haven't seen the last season yet. Maybe it's that good, too, but I find it hard to imagine how.

Donald Rumsfeld... now there is a name I have not heard in a long time. (strokes chin Kenobi-ly)... My position is that Dubya and his crew were stage 3 cancer, Barack Obama was a temporary remission, and Trump and his minions are stage 4 with metastases everywhere. At this point the doctors all say "If we throw everything we have at it, chemo, surgery, radiation... 50/50 is the best we can do."

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jon S: A very important distinction, that. Ideally, the military will quietly refuse to carry out illegal and unconstitutional orders. Anything else brings us into the realm of milltary coups.

Robert said...

Jon, remember Lord Falkland's rule. Declining to decide is still a decision.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Thank you, doctor. I'm happy to take you up on that:
Senate reapportion article here:

Larry Hart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

FYI, this is what I get when I click on that site using Chrome:

Here’s why could be risky
We scanned this site and found that it’s not as secure as it should be. Please click with caution.

About this site
Website category:

A German Nurse said...

Apparently, Deutsche Bank started a review of some of the DeBa/Trump/Kushner Deals...

Perhaps they hear the clock ticking.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Yipes! Thanks, Larry. I'll try and track that down.

Larry Hart said...

On my fourth reading of Earth, this bit struck me. It's on page 117 of my paperback edition, just after the old gremper Joseph tells Remi, Roland, and Crat how girls used to be back in his day--that they would do anything for a boyfriend as long as he promised he loved her.

Remi suspected Joseph was exaggerating. But that didn't matter. Even if it was all a load of bull semen, it was great bull semen.

And that, I suspect, is precisely the attraction his followers feel toward Donald Trump. They love his narrative, even if they don't entirely believe it to be factual.

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

Thanks Zepp. (I had no Chrome sign-in warnings.)

AGN I know how a mid-upper management person could rise rapidly in a company like Deutsche Bank, that has an already-ruined reputation. Step up and announce:

"I was up for a big promotion." (It helps if you were.) "But I was told that no one gets into higher ranks in this company unless they have given the puppet string holders control over them with blackmail ammunition. I was told that I would be invited to a certain place at a certain time and given opportunities 'to enjoy myself' in ways that might prove devastating, if the video were released. Then, knowing I could be trusted, they would give the promotion. I have since then delayed complying and tried to find a way out. And doesn't this method of control explain so much in the news? But it is now clear I have no choice. I love this company. I love my honor even more. We deserve better leadership that is beholden to stockholders and customers and our fellow citizens, not to secret mafiosi."

Imagine the reaction? Of course he'd be fired, but would management’s frenetic denials be believed by anyone? And there'd be a good chance he'd get that promotion when a housecleaning seeks honest employees to put up top.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry: Couldn't replicate the issue, including Windows version of Chrome, and my malware scanner came back clean. Nor did I spot any "potentially unwanted programs", security is good and the usual irritants (cookies and trackers) tightly controlled. You ought to be safe to proceed. If you or anyone else experience any such warning, please let me know.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Deutsche Bank is up against the wall, and looking for scapegoats to save their skins. Not a good time for a junior employee to wave arms and shout, "I'm a potential adversary who needs to be discredited and can be easily dismissed as a disgruntled employee!"

Larry Hart said...

Zepp Jamieson:

Larry: Couldn't replicate the issue, including Windows version of Chrome,

I think the warning came from McAfee, not from Chrome itself. In any case, it's good to "know" someone well enough for a certain amount of trust. I clicked through anyway.

duncan cairncross said...

I thought this would be interesting

From the "Political Orphans" - skullduggery from the White House - what a surprise!

Larry Hart said...

I said:

"Remi suspected Joseph was exaggerating. But that didn't matter. Even if it was all a load of bull semen, it was great bull semen."

And that, I suspect, is precisely the attraction his followers feel toward Donald Trump. They love his narrative, even if they don't entirely believe it to be factual.

My next question was going to be what we can do to fight this? Can we come up with our own narrative that is more compelling than Trump's?

For me personally, the answer is obvious, and perhaps why I'm immune to the Mule's charms in the first place. The narrative I love even if I don't entirely believe it to be factual is the myth of what America is supposed to be. Hamilton, Camelot, Casablanca, All The President's Men, Yankee Doodle Dandy, heck even Superman and Captain America are the stories which instill a reverence for democracy and justice and freedom from tyranny. All of which inoculates me against any temptation to pine for someone to "Save your white suburbs", especially since, in the era of "suburban housewives" he evokes, neither Catholics nor Jews were allowed in those suburbs.

But for those midwestern white Trump voters who don't share my reverence for the American Ideal, what stories can we give them to wean them off of the willing suspension of disbelief that allows them to buy into Trumpism? I'm really asking the question.

David Brin said...

Zepp there comes a time when the writing's on the wall and you have a lot more upside by pulling a stunt like that than the downside of having to move on.

Alfred Differ said...


Depending where that disgruntled employee lives, they could push for a wrongful termination lawsuit. If they line up the legal advice early and make a side deal with a willing manager to ensure they are 'wrongfully' fired, they'd split the winnings with that manager who would (of course) also get fired.

This scenario happened with one of my early employers when a performance eval was doctored after the employee signed off. That employee was fired for something they didn't do, sued, and won since they had their own dated copy of the eval. The manager was fired too. Later, they met and split the award. [Obviously they had to trust each other, but the award was pretty decent... and motivating.]

Never underestimate what employees will do when trust gets broken or doesn't exist. Someone revealing what is going on at DeBa could probably open a GoFundMe site and get quite a payday.

Zepp Jamieson said...

LH: "I think the warning came from McAfee, not from Chrome itself. In any case, it's good to "know" someone well enough for a certain amount of trust. I clicked through anyway."

That trust is appreciated, and I hope earned. These days you can't be too careful.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr. True that. It's a quandary faced by nearly anyone who mounts a high-profile challenge against a powerful opponent. Cue Karen Silkwood.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Bit surprised your employer was foolish enough to give the employee a dated true version of the eval. I have a sneaking suspicion they got away with it often enough that they felt immune to possible consequences. Kudos to your erstwhile fellow employee!

A German Nurse said...

@Electoral College:
I just wondered if, in a Sci Fi scenario, the Electoral College system might see a revival if there were two set conditions: Faster-Than-Light Travel allowing to colonize other stars, and the absence of a technology to communicate directly between the member worlds of the governing interstellar republic. Normally, this situation is used to explain neofeudalism, especially with "slow" FTL travel times (for example, traveling from one system to another taking days or weeks, and possibly months for a tour from the center of the republic to the fringes). Perhaps it would take a year or so to determine who becomes the next interstellar president, the post ships carrying the electors to the capital world where the actual presidential election would take place.

A German Nurse said...

"Imagine the reaction? Of course he'd be fired, but would management’s frenetic denials be believed by anyone? And there'd be a good chance he'd get that promotion when a housecleaning seeks honest employees to put up top."

Hmmmh. If he made it loud enough, he might get fame for a few weeks, getting invited to talk shows and such, perhaps even get the opportunity of publishing an autobiography, the public opinion would either see him as a hero or a narcissistic self-promoter. His days in normal banking could be over, but, with a bit of luck, he could enter politics and re-enter the Deutsche Bank via the Supervisory Board when he retires from politics.

Or, even better, is elected as a parliamentary secretary to oversee the Finance Department's regulatory agency. It takes a thief to catch a thief, as they say.

But otherwise ... the chances for ever working in the financial sector are dim. Your idea of benevolent, enlightened billionaires offering a prize and protection for whistleblowers sounds better and better each day. But where are they?

A German Nurse said...

@Alfred Differ: Might work in the US, but not here. Compensation for job loss is fairly limited (usually 1/2 monthly wage per year of company affiliation), and the money is subject to taxes and social insurance payments.

Some conspiracy theory:
Since the government is somewhat entwined with the DeBa, I could also think of the review as a threat: "Let's talk again about your withdrawal of troops from Germany, Donnie, or we might 'review' your other deals with us."

Alfred Differ said...


A dated true version isn't hard to get. Just demand it to get your signature.
Of course, it really helps when your manager is in on the game with you. 8)

It was all a big fraud, though. I learned of this case and a few others from a sys admin who overlapped me while were were there, but many years later when we overlapped at a different, better employer.

A German Nurse,

Perhaps. For the trick to work in the US requires some guts and a jury inclined to righteous indignation when assigning punitive awards. The employer settles out of court to avoid court costs and the risk of loosing big.

For the possible DeBa employee, they should consider how thankful many Americans would be. Some of us would pay for the pleasure of watching the @#$@ hit the fan. Seriously.

TCB said...

Where are the benevolent billionaires? There are roughly 2000 billionaires in the world and I'd be surprised if more than about five or ten are actually benevolent. Of the 95%+ remaining, most are monsters and some are monsters with good public relations. (For instance, it is my view that a world with Saint Bill Gates in it is actually worse off, because his vaunted charitable acts could all be done by common effort in response to popular demand, perhaps done better, in a more egalitarian and free world with no billionaires at all. There's a podcast called Citations Needed that devotes two episodes to tarnishing his halo).

scidata said...

AGN: in a Sci Fi scenario... "slow" FTL...

Ursula K Le Guin wrote a lot about such a situation. I don't recall explicit discussion of an EC, but inter-world politics certainly. "The Dispossessed" is a must read (although tangential to the interstellar civilization). The Ansible communication device is at the core of these tales, and it always seems to be right at the edge of the local technology. As a cluster computer geek, I've dealt with a 21st century technology that uses the Ansible namesake. Margaret Atwood wrote a short tribute to her in 2018:

Larry Hart said...

For 3½ years, Donald Trump has had an iron grip on the Republican Party. However, given his deteriorating position in the polls, some Republican politicians are beginning to envision a post-Trumpian world and want to make sure they have a prominent place in it. Tom Davis, a former chairman of the NRCC, put it like this: "His weaker poll numbers and off-the-wall tweets plus his flexible, day-to-day ideology empower and in some cases encourage dissent."

Well, the only one of those things that is new is the poll numbers.

Jon S. said...

"...his vaunted charitable acts could all be done by common effort in response to popular demand..."

And yet they weren't. Ever. Gates isn't especially evil - by the standards of the extraordinarily wealthy, he's a downright Good Guy - the problem is humans. We're just not wired to understand problems on the far side of the planet. Some of us are working through that, but take a stroll through your local grocery store (assuming you live in the US) and note how many people can't even be bothered to protect their immediate neighbors by the minor inconvenience of arranging a bit of cloth on their faces. These people are not going to contribute money or other resources to rescue Bangladeshi farmers whose fields are currently underwater, or to prevent diseases in central Africa that they're smugly sure will never touch [i]our[/i] shores.

Hell, I think the only reason even Gates is doing it is because the amount of money involved doesn't inconvenience his billionaire ass in the least.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

pops back into the room

Apologies, folks; between work, pandemic, and Kittenfish, I can't always respond in realtime. I had comments for the previous thread, on the return to considering The Fourth Turning and Strauss-Howe generational "theory".

Dr. Brin and I are not in fundamental disagreement on this subject, but we have different emphases. He's incensed -- properly so! -- at the attempt to use this as a deterministic model, a means of not only making predictions but claiming them to have almost certain probability despite the predictions (and input data!) being so vague as to permit almost no end of fudging and post hoc rationalization.

In other words, it resembles nothing so much as another pseudoscience based on solid observations, but with a fairy castle of overlaid theory: astrology. Astrologists made highly accurate, reliable observations of the moon, stars, and planets... and then engaged in a whole host of logical fallacies to turn that data into whatever story they wished. Stories that just happened to mesh with, or oppose, particular personal and political events!

Strauss and Howe are not Platonists, claiming to derive Truth from Pure Reason (and therefore unacknowledged bias); but they do fit the description of Aristotleans, who make observations and hypotheses, but never bother testing them in the harsh crucible of falsifiable predictions and skeptical statistics.

The patterns they have observed are real! And many of the "predictions" have, in some vague senses, come true. In their poetic telling, the events of 2007 began our Crisis period. Bannon falsely believed himself to be part of the regeneracy that would define the next era of American politics and history, but was actually part of the catalyst that created the crux-problem that re-solidifies the American story around an opposing narrative. And as all problems come to be facets of one huge problem, we approach the climax that will resolve the Crisis and create a renewed society....

It makes an enchanting story -- or, from another angle, an incantation. And just like astrologists, it was a lucrative set of memes for its authors. But as a theory of history, it falls apart at a touch.

Even their core data set contains an unexplained anomaly: the Civil War is a discontinuity in their theory. Does this disturb their claims of certainty? Not a bit.

I admit, I got excited for a bit back in grad school when I came across this thesis. Eager to extend the theory, I tried to fit the patterns against other historical examples. After a little while, I could see the epicycles inside epicycles starting to appear to make the theory fit increasingly inconvenient data. It just doesn't work.

And if it can't explain the past properly, how can it explain the future?

Fourth Turning proponents in the 2000's spoke of a Phony Fourth, as the theory predicted that the events of 9/11 should have crystallized the Fourth Turning social changes. Instead, they did not develop until the Great Recession was well underway a decade later. Strauss and Howe never even theorized a reason for this discrepancy, handwaving it away as just part of the wide error bars on the theory.

Any number of things could have thrown their observed patterns off: longer lifespan, better communications and technology, cultural shifts... but to test any of these hypotheses, you must make the guesses, to admit that you still know very, very little of any Laws of Humanics (TM Asimov) that would permit a science of psychohistory.

But that's a step enchanters are unable to take: it would vaporize their spells.

Alfred Differ said...

I was never a fan of Gates when he ran Microsoft. Didn't like his approach to competition. One thing I never doubted, though, was his belief that he was doing it right. I didn't agree, but I never doubted that he believed what he said he believed.

My view of his approach to competition softened a lot after watching Ballmer run Microsoft. Gates did one thing far better than Ballmer. Gates was aware of who he served and it sure as @#$ wasn't shareholders looking for dividends. Gates played a long game with the cards he had been dealt or could buy cheap while Ballmer played the short one and tried to monkey with the rules of the game. Of the two, I prefer the approach used by Gates even though I'm now an investor through ETF's and index funds.

Under Gates, Microsoft made some poor business decisions regarding open and free software. Since then, they've turned a corner and admitted the rest of us were mostly correct. They lost so many battles that they are now constrained. It may not look like it if one measures them by their market cap, but it is true. They cannot compete in certain segments of the software space. Important segments.

So… I consider the battle largely complete. Time to clean up, sign the peace treaty, and move on. That is effectively what Gates has done with his move into philanthropy. He has managed to produce stunningly harsh reactions in that space too, but that should surprise no one. Heh. Some of my libertarian friends expect him to chip us all and destroy our freedom by controlling the vaccination rules and community spread tracking apps. I'm doubtful Gates actually wants that, but the reaction of my friends is OH SO familiar.

In his new niche, though, I am once again certain that Gates believes what he says he believes. I'm quite certain he thinks he is doing good for the world. This time… I am inclined to agree. He's no Saint and I don't expect him to be. I think we are fortunate he isn't. Humans can reasonably be doubted, questioned, and opposed. The community can doubt him… and doubt his doubters… and doubt the fence-sitters… etc. We can do all that because we too are human.

So bring on the next competition. Want to doubt Gates and his 'good intentions?' Go for it. Show me, though, that you aren't ankle biting or just complaining because he chooses to serve this interest over here instead of that interest over there. Also… most importantly… show me that you haven't tried to persuade him and his people to do it different. They ARE human. They CAN be persuaded.

Alfred Differ said...

Yes! Yes! Yes!

Someone using geocentric astronomy models correctly to point out the primary danger of the scientific method! Epicycles on epicycles on epicycles. The theory CAN'T be wrong if it can be fixed with another epicycle. 8)

The only thing missing from Catfish n Cod's post is a reference to Kuhn pointing out paradigm shifts when the house of cards collapses.

As I worked my way through school I began to notice how physical theories re-used models generated for earlier theories. I was taught in Calculus how to expand a real function in terms of polynomials around a particular point, but a while later saw the connection with epicycles in Ptolemy's cosmology. Perturbations around an equilibrium for a physical system were more of the same. Different expansions, but the same idea. Over and over and over. Fourier transforms get used our digital networks. Over and over and over.

It's not just the way we expand around a point we think we know to extrapolate motion. We re-use all our models. Quantum field theory starts very much like springs in a mattress. General Relativity starts very much like fluid flows. Over and over and over. It's as if we invent an idea and then apply to everything to see if it works.

It's also as if we don't actually have all that many good ideas for basic models. Make a study of them and build a catalog and you'll find they are NOT numerous. Our civilization has figured out a lot of things about how it all works, but the toolkit of viable theory abstractions is actually pretty simple. Seriously. There is a really good reason the financial sector hired physicists and engineers to run their prediction models. We already knew them.

It's a wonder our limited supply of models works as well for us as it does. Astonishing. Really! We don't know why it does, but we do know that some of our attempts to use them result in shockingly incorrect predictions. If we have to courage to look, we can see just how bad some of them are. What to do? Apply an epicyclic approach to improvement? Why not! We know that model! Well… it's another model and we are modeling ourselves this time. Might work. Might not. Might end in wonder or in a spectacular crash forcing an eventual paradigm shift.

Want to do something wonderful for humanity? Invent a new model.
It's damn difficult, but success causes EVERYTHING to change as if the universe itself changed.

Robert said...

There are roughly 2000 billionaires in the world and I'd be surprised if more than about five or ten are actually benevolent.

It's not especially new news that money changes how you empathize with others, and how entitled you feel.

It is no surprise in this post-2008 world to learn that wealth may cause a sense of moral entitlement. A UC Berkeley study found that in San Francisco—where the law requires that cars stop at crosswalks for pedestrians to pass—drivers of luxury cars were four times less likely than those in less expensive vehicles to stop and allow pedestrians the right of way. They were also more likely to cut off other drivers.

Another study suggested that merely thinking about money could lead to unethical behavior. Researchers from Harvard and the University of Utah found that study participants were more likely to lie or behave immorally after being exposed to money-related words.

And of possible interest to those here:

Here we show that employees of a large, international bank behave, on average, honestly in a control condition. However, when their professional identity as bank employees is rendered salient, a significant proportion of them become dishonest. This effect is specific to bank employees because control experiments with employees from other industries and with students show that they do not become more dishonest when their professional identity or bank-related items are rendered salient. Our results thus suggest that the prevailing business culture in the banking industry weakens and undermines the honesty norm, implying that measures to re-establish an honest culture are very important.

duncan cairncross said...

I now have a cat - its been living here since my wife offered to look after it for a month ten years ago

I never thought of it as being "mine" and it was quite sure it belonged to or "owned" Thomas my son
With Thomas away at Uni - it has decided that I'm its owner/property

This is a preamble to the fact that I found it was not "chipped" - I'm trying to control its weight and I am ending up feeding half the local cats who come in the cat flap
I have ordered a fancy cat flap that reads the cats "chip" and stops the furry scroungers

When I went to get it chipped for an additional $20 it got a temperature chip!

How many other useful sensors can be put on that tiny chip?
I'm tempted to ask my doctor if I can have one of those chips as well

David Brin said...

Our dog has a fitbit. He's fit!

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

How many other useful sensors can be put on that tiny chip?

If the cat goes outdoors, a GPS locator would come in quite handy. I wish my cats had those, so I could know where they disappear to all day and sometimes night.

Robert said...

Larry, sounds like you need a catcam.

Larry Hart said...


Larry, sounds like you need a catcam.

The problem is that they are proficient at "losing" collars.

Catfish 'n Cod said...

Alfred, it's a matter of computability and mathematics. We reuse models because we know how to do the math, or can readily figure it out. Physics as we know it emerged at the same time as calculus, and that's not an accident.

Mathematicians invent weird models all the time, but they're so esoteric even most physicists don't get what they're saying. The genius arrives when a crazy math idea can get married to a new way to imagine patterns in reality. Those are the big paradigm shifts. From the Hellenistic geometric paradigm to the Arabic symbolism of algebra. From the tyranny of incremental estimation to calculus and differential equations.

The mathematical fudge of "renormalization" haunts our physics today, a gaping hole in the center of an elaborate theoretical web that screams the need for a paradigm shift. There's a better model out there. We just don't know how to get to it.

There are probably some actual limitations to our ability to model based on our cognitive design. Quantum theory hints at what some might be: our brains rebel against wave-particle duality and nonlocal variables. We have a lot of onboard software optimized for a planetbound, locally Euclidean, low-velocity, macroscopic, Pauli-limited experience. Moving beyond that takes *work*.

But for now, it's our ability to link math to model that limits us.

David Brin said...

Catfish, that was said so eloquently.

Look up Stephen Wolfram's new book and theory that "Everything is Computation." He told me aboutit some years ago and sent me his book. But while I understand any particular page I am looking at, the amount of concentration that it takes to hold onto the model hurts my head. In contract, Roger Penrose and I talked happily about his Conformal Mapping Cosmology and I understand it in all directions and even made suggestions. Ostensibly far more weird than Wolfram! And yet weird in ways that don't overwhem my ability to process.

scidata said...

The universe is a realm of evolution and computation. There's no reason why a 3-lb Terran ape brain should be able to comprehend it. I think we're doing quite well, actually. Also, we don't need to synthesize every model. We can just watch ants to get good ideas on logistics, or build vast neural networks (adversarial works best) that hum along at light speed, and observe. Good artists borrow, great artists steal. Platonic mathiness is but one road among many.

Robert said...

As long as we're talking math (or at least arithmetic), let me recommend the book Count Like an Egyptian by David Reimer.

The mathematics of ancient Egypt was fundamentally different from our math today. Contrary to what people might think, it wasn’t a primitive forerunner of modern mathematics. In fact, it can’t be understood using our current computational methods. Count Like an Egyptian provides a fun, hands-on introduction to the intuitive and often-surprising art of ancient Egyptian math. David Reimer guides you step-by-step through addition, subtraction, multiplication, and more. He even shows you how fractions and decimals may have been calculated—they technically didn’t exist in the land of the pharaohs. You’ll be counting like an Egyptian in no time, and along the way you’ll learn firsthand how mathematics is an expression of the culture that uses it, and why there’s more to math than rote memorization and bewildering abstraction.

scidata said...

The 150m 1-Raptor hop is in the books, next up is the 20km 6-Raptor flight. Surely that will have a nosecone.

Alfred Differ said...

Catfish n Cod,

Computability is definitely a big deal, but I think it goes deeper than that. We think in terms of our languages and our models are language structures. Ptolemaic astronomy has a kind of consistency that rings true in our bones because we know things like 'center', 'circle', 'line', 'arc', and so on. Try to figure out when you first learned those terms and you'll have to dig back into your misty pre-memory past as a child. For example, we learn the word 'circle' later than we learn the concept. Chances are you teethed on one and built a tactile and oral understanding of 'circle' and 'torus' long before the words or drawn shapes made any sense.

Our models aren't just computable. They are intuitive. They build on critical pieces of our understanding of the world. That's a big part of why quantum theories bug people so much. One has to work quite hard to build any intuitive sense for quantum theories… and most of them get trashed when tested against experiment. Entanglement? Oof.

I agree that physics exploded with the invention of calculus, but its roots are in Euclidean geometry. That's where our intuitions still reside even though we need a non-Euclidean metric to cope with something as simple as special relativity.

As for mathematicians inventing weird models all the time, I actually disagree. They invent weird systems now and then, but the applied mathematicians are usually right in line with the rest of us, just way out ahead. For example, modular arithmetic looks weird, but makes perfect sense for digital arithmetic with computing devices. When you calculate using 8 bit numbers, everything gets done a byte at a time. Multiply by two is a left shift with a lost of the most significant bit if one isn't careful. Modular arithmetic! It's intuitive IF one sketches the memory buffers and processes.

My PhD work was about linking new-ish math to physical models. W.K. Clifford died of TB in 1879, but if he hadn't, y'all probably would never have had to learn about vector cross products. Clifford had a better way that would have caused us to trip into a correct non-Euclidean metric for special relatively decades earlier… and Dirac's gamma matrices more than a generation early. Maxwell's four equations for electromagnetism look like two equations if you have differential forms… and one field equation if you have Clifford's tools*. So… yes… mathematics matters and getting it used is difficult work. However, what my advisor was doing when he taught us all that didn't involve any new models. We were trying to use a new math tool to point out that the old models had a lot more in them than people realized. **

The problem isn't linking math to model. It's about forming a model. We use math as the language for that effort, thus the description becomes the model and the model self-describes. Very much boot-straps.

* This is when I finally grokked electromagnetism. It's stunningly simple when the mathematics doesn't get in the way. If currents obey a continuity law (like conservation), E&M simply falls out of the symmetry. Can't be any other way. Literally can't.

** Turns out the integrals we fudge when renormalizing looked a little different to us. Vac Polarization was still a monster, but we didn't have a good way to do geometric calculus (with Clifford's tools) at the time. What we COULD do was get the perihelion shift for Mercury and bending path for light without curved space-time. Heh.

Alfred Differ said...


There's no reason why a 3-lb Terran ape brain should be able to comprehend it.

True, but that's not what we are trying to do. What we actually attempt involves a few million of those 3-lb brains. Soon to be more. And now we can off-load the computation (thus simulation) tasks to dedicated devices that don't get bored.

I recall one of my professors talking to us first year grads about our futures. Someone asked if he took students and he said he didn't anymore. Turns out his specialty got completely owned by computation devices. I think he was one of Bethe's students and helped push QED calculations forward back when we made estimates and calculations by hand. He pointed out that no human had to do that anymore. (This was the early 80's and it's MUCH more true today.)

Years later, his story made more sense to me in terms of centaurs. I may not be an active researcher, but I'm both the 3-lb brain and the computing devices I call 'tools'. Half human, half computing device. Centaur. The best chess players today are centaurs… not that I'm among them. 8)

When we collaborate, each of the centaurs merges a bit into something else. That's the 'organism' comprehending the universe around us. A single ape brain knows itself better than the non-organic parts do, but it is just a component. One of many. Wonderfully capable… and integrable to a greater and greater degree as the generations pass.

duncan cairncross said...

The 150 meter one engine hop looked weird
Just one engine blasting out of that "grain silo"

Alfred Differ said...

They did get something to explode in the Raptor flight. Not sure what it was, but it was on the ground. It blew up after the rocket was in the air. 8)

Tim H. said...

This was a pleasant change from the usual news:
James Lovelock at 101.

scidata said...

@Alfred Differ.

Yup. Agreed and well said. I should move back a few rows, I'm really not contributing much profundity in here. Hans Bethe and Gary Kasparov are strong comment-bait for me, but it's not my blog. Dr. Brin is so generous and welcoming that I sometimes forget that.

I re-read "Why Johnny Can't Code" for the umteenth time. I get a dopamine hit from trash talking the MIT Media Lab and big computer companies. I've added 'hifalutin' to my everyday writing vocabulary. Someday I'll write the story of the time I came close to buying a commercial Logo implementation, and even closer to bankruptcy after the lawyers got paid. We Canadians are slow adopters when it comes to rampant litigation, but we are learning. Neil Young is suing the orange campaign for repeated breach of copyright:


Larry Hart said...
Trump at 48:46

"And we have cases...because of the testing."

then at 49:53

"And because we do more tests, we have more cases!"

Ok, someone has to have the balls to ask him point blank, "So, are you saying that if Herman Cain just hadn't been tested for COVID-19, he'd be alive today?"

matthew said...

scidata- Don't bother much with trash talking the MIT Media Lab.
The Epstein fallout is taking care of that for you.

Dirty Russian rubles fueling MIT, all in the service of blackmail and oligarchy.

And lots, lots more to come.
This story is still young. Receipts.

Alfred Differ said...


but it's not my blog

Heh. Some of us push that line, but I think our host has already pointed out how he wants things to work here. Just read that scene in Existence where the reporter is relying on her distributed team of expertise to extend her. If we do anything that turns our little community in that direction for our host, I'd bet he'd let us. 8)

Absent Ditto tech, the best he can do to be bigger than one human is to encourage an expertise team like he described in the book. It's an old human technique where most of us use family to do it, but with digital networks other options are available.

Robert said...

Larry, you might find this fun:

(mashup of Axios interview with Trump arguing with himself)

Tony Fisk said...

@Alfred, you've piqued my curiosity now. What are these tools of Clifford's that you refer to?

Those portions of lectures in condensed matter physics my brain can still retain recall a lot of mathematical presdigitation to get around the inconvenient fact that the integral of a gravitational potential well is infinite.

What's been interesting me about numbers of late is how our version of math can't cope with *really* big numbers, for very physical reasons.

eg: 10^80 is a measure of the number of particles in the observable universe. Big number, obviously, but we can express it precisely with 80 digits.

When I was messing with RSA key generation about 25 years ago, I gather key sizes were typically 4096 bits, which works out to be a number with around 1300 digits. Wa-ay bigger than the universe, but still workable.

So far so good, but how about something like (10)^10^80? That's a number with as many digits as there are particles in the universe. How can you work with a number like that precisely? How can you prove whether or not (10)^10^80-1 is a prime? (OK that was a trick question, but what about (10)^10^80+1?) Of a more fundamental interest, do such large numbers still have relevance to the physical universe?

SF writer and mathematician Greg Egan contemplated this question in his short story 'Dark Integers'.

Larry Hart said...

Cheating in plain sight. Or Who Would Have Thought That The Office Of Postmaster General Could Be So Important In A Power Grab?

Voting in person is difficult or impossible for some people due to their age, frailty, or lack of transportation. For them, absentee voting is the only option and if the ballot doesn't arrive on time, they can't vote. For example, Michigan voter Claretha Doggan (70) requested her ballot at the beginning of July but she didn't get it until the day before the election. That's a month. Theoretically, she could have brought it to her polling place, but she had no transportation. Additionally, at 70, she is at high risk for getting COVID-19. Many other voters in multiple states had the same story to tell.

The USPS isn't even denying the problem. It sent the city of Detroit a notice that it could not deliver the mail-in ballots on time. One mail carrier who spoke to the Post anonymously said that his manager told him to leave mail at the post office rather than delivering it after his shift was over. He delivered it anyway, on his own time, but there is no guarantee that mail carriers will do that in November, especially if their managers specifically forbid them from doing it—most likely in heavily Democratic areas. When the Post asked the USPS spokesperson for Detroit to respond to the story, there was no reply.

Tim H. said...

Thomas Frank has a new book, Matt Taibbi has a review:

Life would be simpler if factions of the .001% would acknowledge that they were part of the same economy as everyone else.

Larry Hart said...

Last month, President Trump ordered the Commerce Department to do what it legally could to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count used to redraw congressional districts. Then on Monday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that the constitutionally mandated 2020 census would end a month early.

The obvious intention of both moves, and earlier efforts by the Trump administration to affect the census, is to undercount minorities who lean Democratic and to skew the tallies to improperly redirect federal money and congressional representation to Republican-friendly states.

Constitutionally speaking, undercounting is not an option. Yet the current administration has turned dereliction of duty into a means of reinforcing its own power. Note that in at least two cases now, we are seeing in plain sight that the Trump administration with the complicity of the Republican Senate enhance their own power by not doing their jobs.

By not delivering the mail they can disenfranchise Democratic voters.

By simply ending the counting, they can reduce representation of Democratic states

This is really a continuation of the strategy by which Katherine Harris allowed W to win Florida and by which a supreme court seat was held open for a year after God saved us from Antonin Scalia. But the cheating has become even more blatant in the meantime.

At what point does winning by malfeasance make their win illegitimate? For me personally, the line has already been crossed, but I'm asking about others. Some of you know who you are. :)

A.F. Rey said...

Here's a scary essay from FiveThirtyEight that asks the question: is our partisanship leading to tolerance of tyranny?

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart,

I don't know that I could pin point when or what caused me to decide the line had been crossed, but it's been quite a while. Looking back, it was definitely during the Bush Jr. years and it was probably becoming aware of Karl Rove's activities that did the trick. He is one seriously evil fuck. The foundations that he laid are what gave us Trump. Not entirely by himself of course, but he is about as close to "the evil master-mind behind it all" as real life gets.

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

...asks the question: is our partisanship leading to tolerance of tyranny?

I'd say the answer is self-evidently "Yes."

Larry Hart said...

@Darrell E,

As to Karl Rove, this bit from the Tabbi article that Tim H links to is instructive:

A sort-of populist, William Jennings Bryan, became the Democratic nominee in 1896, only to be slaughtered by a mediocrity named William McKinley. The Republican was backed by mountains of corporate money and the dirty-pool genius of his campaign “generalissimo,” Mark Hanna (whose media-dominating, cash-gobbling wizardry in suppressing voter preference ironically made him the hero of Karl “Turd Blossom” Rove).

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

I don't know that I could pin point when or what caused me to decide the line had been crossed, but it's been quite a while...

It's been decades since I felt the Republican Party became anti-American and evil, but that in itself doesn't subvert the democratic process. If anti-American, evil politicians win fair and square, what can we do (except blame the voters)?

I was asking about something very specific--when they went out of bounds to the point that their electoral wins no longer counted as legitimate.

If Trump loses the election (or postpones it past Jan 20) and refuses to leave office when his term is up, I suspect that Alfred and Ilithi Dragon would consider him to be truly illegitimate--by the letter of the law.

But what if he wins the election, but because the Post Office failed to deliver absentee ballots to or from certain targeted districts? Even though Trump's office is allowed to direct the Post Office? What if Republicans gain outsized representation in the House next decade because the bureau which conducts the census stops short of counting residents of certain targeted districts? Even though Trump's office is allowed to direct the bureau? what if Bill Barr purposely refuses to prosecute Trump or friends of Trump who could implicate him? Even though Bill Barr technically reports to Trump.

In all of these cases, one could argue that the letter of the law has not been broken, but there is some kind of innate, natural "law" that everyone knows--the part of you that knows cutting in line is wrong even if that is not stated explicitly--which screams that intentional failure to do ones job should not be a path to advancement.

Zepp Jamieson said...

I've absolutely no intention of entrapping anyone into a response to this link, least of all our host (an absolute no-win for him!) but it is worth reading and contemplating this review of the Hugos and GRRM.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Zepp
My own take is - what a LOT of bollocks!!

If you invite a 71 year old to do something like that you are going to get HIS or her viewpoint
That is what you have asked for!!
If you want a Lion's roar you get a Lion
If you want a bleat you get a sheep

Zepp Jamieson said...

Duncan. No argument there. I'm perpetually puzzled over the people who are outraged by attempts to ban Mark Twain or TKAM, yet simultaneously want to punish and even ban people like JK Rowling or GRRM for disagreeing, even if mildly, with present-day heterodoxy. If I could implant a germ of wisdom in the youngsters on that blog, it would be "At least a third of your most cherished beliefs are things you'll regard as arrant nonsense fifty years from now, should you be so lucky to live that long. Nothing you believe is Holy Writ. Especially not stuff believed to be Holy Writ."

David Brin said...

Could someone describe to me GRRM's point in maybe 5 sentences? I have known him for 30 years, back when he didn't have lunch money. I love the guy but have no interest in actually watching or reading the speech.

Alfred Differ said...

Tony Fisk,

I'll try to keep short since I'm way off topic now. If you want more, we can pick up the topic on my blog instead.

In a nutshell, Clifford's approach is about making geometry algebraic. Vector spaces have a few rules and two operations. Scalar multiplication and vector addition. Clifford's algebras have one more. Multiplication. Not the inner, outer, or cross products people are taught with vectors, but something closer to matrix multiplication.

As a result, it is possible to multiply vectors to get things of higher rank. Multiply two non-parallel vectors and you get the plane segment described by the parallelogram you already draw to add them. With three vectors, you get volume segments. With addition, though, you can add these things and get mixed rank sums. For example, a quaternion is really the sum of a scalar and three plane segments.

Going down this path requires one to be rather formal about what we mean by tangent spaces, but we already know how to do that from differential geometry. In fact, if you know that subject, you'll recognize many things in a geometric algebra. What you won't recognize, though, is a mixed rank sum. They are REALLY useful, though.

What we did with gravitation was stay formal and try to write 4-currents with all our options open. From quantum theory, we had already been looking at multi-ranked 'charges', so my advisor got curious about what each piece might do on its own. Scalar charges lead to theories that look like E&M when done in an algebra with a 3+1 (or 1+3) signature. Nothing new there. When the 'charge' is a vector, though, weird things happen. Gravitational mass is usually treated as a scalar, but for slow speeds it is indistinguishable from the temporal component of your 4-momentum. What if the momentum was the actual charge being carried by a current? The current density would be symmetric exactly as GR requires.

One of my prof's students worked out the related theory a little before my arrival at grad school. My friend worked on it more trying to create a linearized version of it to test better. At slow speeds, the theory is very Newtonian as it has to be. At moderate speeds, though, there is a 'magnetic' component to forces that has nothing to do with E&M. It's just enough to correctly predict apsidal precession for Mercury. *Without space-time curvature. It also gets light to bend around gravitation objects. Both have 4-momenta, so they interact classically.

I got to work on the theory for a tri-vector charge carried by the current density. Never found any physical evidence for it, but if it's out there I offered a couple of predictions. Things with 'spin' would couple classically. It would enable us to try a classical model for the shock front of supernovae. All those neutrinos. 8)

*We weren't try to ditch curvature. Gravitation has to be non-linear since its 'field' carries the charge. What we noted is that there were options to be considered that simply hadn't been considered.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

If you invite a 71 year old to do something like that you are going to get HIS or her viewpoint
That is what you have asked for!!

Kinda like when Rush Limbaugh was made an announcer on Monday Night Football, only to be removed after one week for making racist comments. I mean, anyone who tuned in because Rush was announcing would have been disappointed if he didn't make racist comments.

Darrell E said...

Larry Hart said...

"It's been decades since I felt the Republican Party became anti-American and evil, but that in itself doesn't subvert the democratic process. If anti-American, evil politicians win fair and square, what can we do (except blame the voters)?"

I think many of the things the Bush Jr. administration did qualify as subverting the democratic process, such as running a maskirovka on the houses and the public to establish a pretext to take us into a war that was unjustified, unnecessary and just plain stupid (except as a means to enrich Cheney and his pals). And then there's all the various successful gambits to take power away from the other branches of government and gather it to the executive, such as having sycophants in the justice department produce judgements saying the executive had the legal authority to snatch anyone they wanted and hold them for as long as they wish with no due process or oversight, and as a cherry on top to torture them too. I think "subvert the democratic process" rather precisely fits all that.

"I was asking about something very specific--when they went out of bounds to the point that their electoral wins no longer counted as legitimate."

I think the Bush Jr. campaigns went way out of bounds and I'm still not sure that his 1st electoral win was legitimate or "fair and square" even just in terms of the voting. But how should we measure "fair and square?" I could argue pretty well that none of the presidential elections from Bush Jr. through Trump were fair and square. Does it have to be an overt highly visible specific incident to qualify? How about numerous not so visible incidents, like termites dining, that individually might not seem very serious, might be put off as just playing hardball or dirty politics as usual, but cumulatively they result in the perpetrators winning more often when they lose the vote compared to winning when they win the vote?

I may indeed be misunderstanding what you are asking. Or it may be that I see a line given less provocation than others. Or it could be something like the difference between "soft illegitimacy" and "hard illegitimacy," analogous to soft power vs hard power.

To my mind our system of government was designed to deal with a certain amount of illegitimacy without breaking, as it were. The problem becomes determining when illegitimacy becomes such a problem that it threatens to break the system and deciding when it becomes ethically permissible to take action not within the normal bounds of what the system allows in order to try and save the system.

In real life what tends to happen is that while people wait around for some specific incident that demonstrates illegitimacy to a degree that passes that line they've drawn the myriad smaller illegitimate behaviors they said "not quite, let's wait and see" about, cumulatively they have seriously undermined and damaged the system. In some cases in history fatally. Even worse is that doing something drastic, something outside the rules of the system, to remove an illegitimate ruler or group itself quite often severely damages or breaks the system. Damned if you don't, damned if you do.

The best way to prevent a dictator from taking over your government is working within the rules preemptively, i.e. not letting things get that far in the first place. Some people seem to think that calling a president illegitimate is a no no unless the degree of illegitimacy is so high that rebellion is warranted if they aren't removed from office. I think that view is dead wrong. Illegitimate behavior / people in government is normal. The people who designed our government knew this well. We need to call it when we see it all the time. I think that is our duty as citizens of a society with a government that is supposed to be for the people and by the people. It is also supposed to be a major function of the press, which duty they seem to have abdicated.

Zepp Jamieson said...

GRRM didn't actually offend by making points. To quote the blog reporting all this, "Many people watching worldwide, including finalists and winners, were horrified by Martin’s hosting, in which he repeatedly mispronounced names, waxed rhapsodic about exalted figures from SFF past who are now rightfully called out for their racism and sexism, made “gender essentialist” jokes, and in general rambled on past the three-hour mark." He was apparently guilty of "90% of what i've heard so far is him praising... ye olde racists robert silverberg and john campbell and noted sexual harassers harlan ellison and isaac asimov??" And worst of all, he apparently mispronunced the name of "FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction."
Doctor, would I be remiss in assuming you've had some of this sort of verbiage aimed at yourself?

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

I may indeed be misunderstanding what you are asking. Or it may be that I see a line given less provocation than others. Or it could be something like the difference between "soft illegitimacy" and "hard illegitimacy," analogous to soft power vs hard power.

That's probably what I'm getting at. I'm pretty far to the side willing to call "illegitimacy" for things like Katherine Harris winning Florida for Bush by not doing her job (stopping the recount), and it sounds like you're even further on that side. What I'm trying to establish is when the line gets crossed for those with less of a hair trigger. At what point does the Republican gaming of the rules make it clear that their victories are illegitimate, despite their not technically breaking the rules?

I suspect there's a continuum. Alfred probably comes over to my side before Ilithi Dragon would, and Tim W would be even harder to convince. Just trying to get a feel for what the continuum looks like in my head.

I think many of the things the Bush Jr. administration did qualify as subverting the democratic process, such as running a maskirovka on the houses and the public to establish a pretext to take us into a war that was unjustified, unnecessary and just plain stupid (except as a means to enrich Cheney and his pals). And then there's all the various successful gambits to take power away from the other branches of government and gather it to the executive, such as having sycophants in the justice department produce judgements saying the executive had the legal authority to snatch anyone they wanted and hold them for as long as they wish with no due process or oversight, and as a cherry on top to torture them too. I think "subvert the democratic process" rather precisely fits all that.

I know what you're saying, but to me that's not "subverting the democratic process" of elections in the way Trump is doing. It certainly counts as undermining the way our Constitution is supposed to work.

Republican grabs for executive power are at least usually tempered once a Democrat would be the one holding that power. In Wisconsin, it was blatant and right out front. A Democrat won the governorship, at which point the gerrymandered Republican legislature decided that Scott Walker must have gone way too far in grabbing authority for himself, so it was time to "remedy" that by stripping the governorship of its powers. Walker signed that bill into law.

It reminds me of the "Simpsons" episode where Sideshow Bob runs against Mayor Quimby, saying that Quimby is so soft on crime that he even let Sideshow Bob out of prison.

David Brin said...

A DEVASTATING COMPARISON: Most Foxite narratives would implode if any dem-pol or pundit had a clue how to use FACTS as surgical weapons*. Take the Red incantation:they’re more moral than city dwellers and Democrats, a line pushed by Trump, drawing mostly lame responses. Many MAGAs claim he’s the “flawed but devoted instrument of God, ‘chosen’ to restore moral life to America.” Sure, the Obamas, Clintons and Bidens all recited the Apostle’s Creed by heart at Bush Sr’s funeral while Two Scoops and Melania didn’t even try to read it. But it’s not about him anymore. Because simple stats indict the entire GOP political caste! Take this never-used observation:

Among 9 official heads of the Republican Party since 1980, holding top executive or Legislative office - Reagan, Bush Sr., Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert, Bush Jr., J.Boehner, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump - we count:
marriages: 16
divorces: 7
Felony prison sentences involving sexual predation on minors: 1

Among 7 official heads of the Democratic Party, holding top executive or Legislative office since 1980 - Tip O’Neill, Jim Wright, Tom Foley, Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Barack Obama, Chuck Schumer - we count:
Marriages: 7
Divorces: 0
Felony prison sentences involving sexual predation on minors: 0

Zero is a pretty strong number.

I'll happily take wagers on relative rates of child predation and serious sexual perversion among GOP vs. Dem politicians.

Or compare Red vs. Blue states in metrics of moral turpitude from STD rates to teen sex/pregnancy, to domestic violence, addiction, gambling… and yes, parasitical dependence on taxpayer largesse. The contrast gets huge when we remove outliers like deeply-moral Utah and problematic Illinois. The gambling thing especially bites - wasn’t that sinful, in olden times? (Now casino lords own the party.) Along with relentless lying? Tsunamis of proved lies.

*The failure of any dem-politician to show any eye for tactical streetfighting is why I wrote Polemical Judo… which has gained zero traction anywhere. Alas.

Alfred Differ said...


Alfred probably comes over to my side before Ilithi Dragon would…

He (I'm assuming male) better be the last one to come over while he's active duty. There is no soft middle ground between silence and accusing your commanding officer of issuing an illegal order if he uses an active voice. Shade? Yes. Passive resistance? Yes. Saying some decision was illegitimate? No.

This is why I kept pushing for you to hold back a bit. Let the commander have a bit more rope to hang himself in their eyes. Betrayal instead of illegitimacy. You'll get the first thing from them long before the second. They know what betrayal means and have ways to cope with that.

As for Katherine Harris, I'm of the opinion that she made the Florida count illegitimate in the 2000 election. I suspect Gore still lost by a very slim margin, but she destroyed the legitimacy of the vote. That does NOT make GWB's win illegitimate, though. We have a procedure for that at the level of the EC and then again when the House validates the EC's choice. Unfortunately, we improvised with the SCOTUS. It should have stayed with the Florida high court and then gone through the EC and House procedures. SCOTUS should have dodged the opportunity to say anything at all. We would have been upset, but they would have preserved their own legitimacy. Instead, they weighed in politically. Dumb.

WE can have a continuum for legitimacy, but I don't recommend it. I'm much more inclined to treat it as a phase transition where the transition temperature varies or is unknown. You are either in a liquid or solid state, right? Heh. That metaphor fails, though, and in an epic fashion. Lots of solids flow under enough pressure. So… when we get to the bottom of things, I'd rather just call them cheaters and explain which rule(s) they break.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

This is why I kept pushing for you to hold back a bit.

I understand your position, and formally, I even agree with it. It just disturbs me that we seem to be the frog in the cooking pot, accepting incremental degrees of warming without noticing that we're being boiled. There's a meme going around showing two gravestones, presumably deaths from COVID, congratulating each other for "owning the libs!" I don't want to be those two gravestones congratulating ourselves that we were right all along how bad a Trump presidency would get.

As for Katherine Harris, I'm of the opinion that she made the Florida count illegitimate in the 2000 election. ...We have a procedure for that at the level of the EC and then again when the House validates the EC's choice. Unfortunately, we improvised with the SCOTUS. It should have stayed with the Florida high court...

And it would have, had the Florida Supreme Court been Republican. Since it was majority-Democratic instead, the idea was pushed that the (Republican) State Legislature (representing "the will of the people") had the final say and the state Supreme Court could not overrule them. Even though that is the exact opposite of the way the analogous institutions work at the federal level. Then, the US supreme court made their infamous ruling in Bush v Gore which included text to the effect that their ruling should not be taken as precedent for anything else. In retrospect, those were the first rumblings of evidence that the Republican Party was operating under the 1984-ish principle that Reality was whatever the Party said it was, even if what they said was nonsense.

20 years later, here we are.

TCB said...

In the 2000 election, Florida's governor Jeb Bush and his Secretary of State Katherine Harris removed so many rightful likely-Dem voters from the rolls that an illegitimate president (his brother Dubya) was installed by his family friends in the Supreme Court. In addition, many who voted did not get their votes counted:

Florida's Gadsden County has the highest percentage of black voters in the state — and the highest spoilage rate. One in 8 votes cast there in 2000 was never counted. Many voters wrote in “Al Gore.” Optical reading machines rejected these because “Al” is a “stray mark.”

His study of the 2000 election, in collaboration with the BBC, indicated that a clean and honest Florida count would have given that state to Gore. Palast says as many as 77 THOUSAND Florida Gore votes ended up in the garbage.

January 2020 interview with Greg Palast: How Trump’s going to steal the 2020 election.

Here's an important thing to understand, that few people really do: how Republicans steal elections is NOT one method. They do not do This One Amazing Trick. That would be too obvious; that's how you get caught.

Imagine you want to steal a truckload of sliced bread from a large guarded warehouse. Do you drive right in and load it up? Busted.

Now imagine you have a clever gang of thieves and your mastermind figured out a way to steal once slice unnoticed from every loaf in the warehouse. You drive away with multiple truckloads and nobody even knows what happened! Unless someone starts weighing the loaves. This is what the do. They Jim-Crow minority voters, install plenty of machines here and very few there, they hack the machines, and there are about five other methods they've used. Each ploy may prevent thousands from voting, thousands more from being counted, or switch just a few hundred votes in a close election. Like bread slices. You can't prove that this one or that one made the diff. Taken together, however, they put Trump in the White House and Brian Kemp in the Georgia governor's mansion.

That's how Republicans steal Florida in 2000, Ohio in 2004, several close states in 2016, and maybe America 2020.

P.S. Louis DeJoy just did a Friday Night Massacre of Postal Service management. Look for R ballots to get delivered and D ballots to get lost until the counting is done.

Larry Hart said...

It's about time someone said something like this out loud...

Q: You wrote that you switched from "black" to "Black" when referring to people of that ethnicity, because the former "implies something that is merely descriptive, whereas the capital implies a shared culture or identity." I read your site daily and don't recall when you've capitalized "white" the same way, even when the adjective is in the same sentence as "Black." Why? J.X., Suzhou, Jiangsu, China

A: There are two reasons, and they are highly correlated. The first is that white people do not have a shared experience or a shared identity in the way that Black people do. Indeed, until fairly recently (the last century or so), it would have come as a surprise to a Russian, a German, and a Frenchman to learn that they are all the same race.

The second reason is that white supremacists argue that white people do have a shared experience and identity, and that identification should be just as important a signifier as "Black" or "Latino" or "Asian" or "Jewish" or "American." Consequently, the white supremacists do capitalize "White." As a general rule, we try to do the opposite of what the white supremacists think is correct.

Jon S. said...

Zepp, it should be kept in mind that GRRM wasn't live with those presentations - the whole thing was prerecorded. Someone decided not to do retakes with correct pronunciation, nor to edit out the long, rambling, irrelevant asides. It was a choice, and one of the prime suspects for making that choice would appear to be GRRM himself.

David Brin said...

LH stunning hypocritical rationalization in that quote. But I won't rave about it because the DIRECTION we need to go in can withstand some egregious rationalizing excess. Indeed, the only way to thwart the truly mad extreme lefty fringe is to rob them of recruits by showing progress is real and inexorable.

David Brin said...

Jon S. Indeed. CITOKATE. Even I, the perpetrator of that aphorism, often just blab before the filters are in.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jon S: GRRM should have cleaned up prononciations but we live in an age of Yo-Semite, so I can't condemn him for that.

duncan cairncross said...

Jon S

Someone decided not to do retakes

You are I believe assuming too much in the way of "studio skills" and experience

If I was asked for a recorded speech I could do one - editing it is a skill I don't have - why would you assume GRRM would have the skill and the software and the time to faff about editing a speech

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH stunning hypocritical rationalization in that quote

The one about capitalizing "Black", but not "white"? Maybe, but I do see a big difference between the NAACP and the NAAWP (there is such a thing), the former being dedicated to equal rights for a subgroup, and the latter dedicated to enshrining superior status for a subgroup. Grammatically, they might be the same thing, but one is in fact the opposite thing.

Indeed, the only way to thwart the truly mad extreme lefty fringe...

Whatever else you may think of the guys at, they are not lefty fringe. Until Trump's election, they strove for a very neutral editorial voice on everything they reported on. They started getting snarky after Trump with an implicit point being "This is too egregious for us or anyone to pretend it's just normal politics." And I applaud them for that. If they sometimes go a bit overboard in that direction, well, extremism in opposition to Trump is no vice. :)

Jon S. said...

Zepp, if GRRM lacks the studio experience to edit and retake (as I do, for that matter), he should not have been doing it without the assistance of a crew (who need not have been in the same room, or indeed on the same continent). The World Science Fiction Society isn't exactly a one-room operation of inexperienced amateurs.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Jon S: Yes, that was amateurish. That makes him inept and perhaps clueless, but not a villain.

duncan cairncross said...

Jon and Zepp

Any idea how much was GRRM paid for that speech?

It's a valid question -
If it was in the tens or hundreds of thousands then it would warrant the sort of studio work that Jon is talking about

It it was "for the honour" or few a few hundred - then it would NOT warrant the studio work

Our host may be able to tell us the sort of sum that is "customary"

Larry Hart said...

@Zepp Jamieson,

My McAfee software is now giving me weekly warnings that I have visited your "potentially dangerous" blog site. Just FYI, you might want to look into what that's all about. I'm not going to worry about it until something bad happens to my computer, at which point you'll hear from my lawyers. :)

Larry Hart said...

In other news, someone recently brought up the idea of a Trump "enemies list". Fortunately, should that be a real concern, I've been sent an Executive Membership Card from the "Trump Make America Great Again Committee". It has Trump's illegible signature on it. There's even a number to call for a replacement card should it be missing or damaged!

Mr. Hart, you have earned this card due to your exemplary dedication to our nation combined with your willingness to fight for our timeless American values.

So when DHC comes knocking on my door, if my plan-A of whispering "Hail Hydra" to the arresting agent doesn't work, I can show them this card.

TCB said...

By now, you ought to know how to uninstall McAfee Antivirus.

David Brin said...