Saturday, October 24, 2020

How Borat&Rudy prove my point about blackmail. Plus the dreaded chapter on WAGERS! (It works!)

Last time we skipped past my long familiar chapter on the 8 phases of the US Civil War and gave instead a cluster of zingers you might use on any remaining undecideds... or to at least get your yammering uncle to shut up.  

This time? Chapter 15 of Polemical Judo offers in detail my call for wagers! Demanding a cash bet always, always, always  sends MAGAs running for the hills! Not once has any of them shown the guts to back up his yammered faux-memes with escrowed stakes and a clear matter to be resolved by an impartial panel. They absolutely always run away with their mach -- the thing they value most (the reason they love Trump) -- shredded.

A variant on this, devastating to polysyllabic ratiuonalizaers, is the Name One Exception Challenge! It truly leaves them stammering and befuddled and shamed. Like they deserve. See further down.

But first...

== The real truth that Borat showed you! ==

Borat’s sting on Rudy Giuliani is hilarious of course… it couldn’t happen to a worse guy. But there’s a blatant sub-text which I doubt anyone else will comment on. This stunt reveals how easy it can be to lure a male politician — especially Republicans, it seems — into a blackmail trap. 

I've railed about this for 20 years. Blackmail was always the #1 KGB tool, all the way back to the Czarist Oprichina and forward to today’s slightly relabeled KGB/FSB, in which the same guys with the same goal (our downfall) use all the same old methods with far greater success than ever.

 DC is filled with men (mostly) and (some) women whose behavior is inexplicable except in light of blackmail. With Lindsey Graham, it’s as obvious as gravity! But what else can explain what Anthony Kennedy did to our republic? Or the craven-howling reversals of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and so many others who weren’t even up for re-election? The very notion that Pompeo and Barr are pumping their treason to such levels only because of ideology is absurd!

If Giuliani fell for this obvious come-on lure so easily… and the guys who went with Epstein… and those who lie awake fearful of the contents of David Pecker’s safe… then why is it so hard for you to picture expert agents pulling it more subtilely and plausibly and effectively on large numbers of movers and shakers - each of them convinced he is alone in the world, trapped and helpless? Why would our enemies NOT do this, during an era when the FBI and counter-intel have been deliberately hamstrung?

Oh, I have pleaded for some patriotic billionaire to put out a fund to lure blackmail victims into the open. I pray Biden will do so with calibrated offers of some clemency, in exchange for light. But above all, read my article cited here on how the NEW wave of reformist politicians heading for Washington, in January, NEED TO WATCH OUT!

They must take care because each and every one of them, especially the males… or the male relatives of the females… likely WILL be targeted with the same methods… (only executed much better)… as snared poor old Rudy.

Only now on to my chapter on wagers! This is the version in Polemical Judo, as of November 2019 I've refined my challenges later, to account for the methods used by squirmers to wriggle out of any fact-challenge. So I'll offer an updated and distilled version in COMMENTS, below. But the essence is the same. And what a pity no democrat or pundit has had the guts to try it.



Chapter 15


Hammer Their Macho With Wagers!

And The Name-an-Exception Challenge



During a televised debate in late 2011, while seeking his party’s presidential nomination, Mitt Romney challenged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to put some money-where-his-mouth-is. “Rick, I'll tell you what,” Romney said, extending his hand. "Ten thousand bucks? Ten thousand dollar bet?" 


Perry declined, snarling, “I'm not in the betting business.” 


Now, many ironies abound here. First off, Perry was part of the Republican wave who enabled and empowered the vast expansion of gambling in America, till casino moguls now rival even Rupert Murdoch, or the Mercers or Saudis, or even Vladimir Putin in party influence. So yes, he was in the betting business


Also ironic; Perry would have trivially won a wager over whether Romney had supported Obamacare-style individual mandates.[1] Of course Romney – with a $200+ million fortune, came off as a bullying rich man. Here’s what one pundit railed,[2] at the time:


“Twitter lit up with jokes about what $10,000 could buy for non-millionaires, and … that Iowa’s per capita income is about $38,000. Before the debate was over, Jon Huntsman's campaign bought the domain, and other GOP rivals were quick to pounce, too. How badly will this off-the-cuff wager hurt Romney?”[3]


Um, not at all? Perry faded after that evening. Romney, undamaged by the “Wagergate Gaffe,” handily won the sought-for nomination, though he later lost the general election to President Barack Obama. Note that Romney’s notoriously ham-handed $10k bet stunt raised his cred across the Republican base, but more broadly discredited an entire general approach to dealing with lies and liars… almost as if that had been his intent. It also – if considered closely – helped point to possible solutions.

Stop relying on what doesn’t work.


We are not handling well the right’s war on facts; it’s proved every day. Those who are spurring the all-out campaign against evidence-based reason laugh at all our efforts to fight back with nerd-stuff…


… like long lists of Trumpian lies[4]… or “fact-checking services”[5]… or reports signed by all top experts in a field… or condemnations by scores of past eminent states-persons against lunatic behaviors at the top… or exposés by top journalists. 

Yes, those are grownup methods – and there are ways (discussed in Chapter 5) to improve them greatly. But alas, our elites of politics, law, journalism, punditry and science seem obstinately incapable of lifting their gaze: to realize their “sumo” methods aren’t working. 


Fact-checking services range from Snopes to to The Washington Post – and none of them even nibble along the edges of Republican base support. They fail before a convenient Fox counter-narrative: 


“These so-called fact-checkers are just more fake-news. They reveal their bias when they point out far more falsehoods by Republicans than Democrats!”


Do you find that “logic” infuriating? Well, your impotent frustration is their food. How often must you slam your head against the same wall, before admitting the power of “Sez you”? Again, from Chapter 5: if you offer a cogent, fact-filled link as evidence, your “red” cousin will flood you with counter-links! And who are you to claim yours are better? If you cite experts, you’re a slave of conformist authority (Chapter 2.) 


There are endeavors that might bring rationality back to discourse – like competitive Disputation Arenas[6] and the Fact Act – but none will work quickly enough, across a near-term electoral time scale. Meanwhile, we need rapid and effective ways to pound through the obstinacy of Sez you! So let me put this in both boldface and italics:


There is one area where your “red” uncle, cousin, colleague or neighbor still admits the primacy of fact. A wager. One that’s fair, well-parsed and tightly framed with clear stakes and an accepted, neutral judge.


The most clear-cut example is a sports bet. And for the sake of this one point, in this one paragraph, let’s drop any pretense of gender neutrality, shall we? We’re talking Neanderthal-hormonal preening, here. A real man has the guts to slap cash on the bar to back up his bluster-claims. It’s how to separate a fellah with cojones from a blowhard, or a coward.


Sure, when you expand from sports into areas like science or politics – and get less explicitly sexist – things become complicated. There are ways for wager-challenges to stumble, like the Romney Stunt of trying to bully with deep pockets. Or agreeing over who holds the stakes.[7] Or zeroing in on exactly what facts to bet upon. (See the next section.)


Yes, for politicians and public figures, this is a bit of a minefield.[8] It helps to make the wager’s beneficiary “my chosen charity versus yours.” That can work if it’s an amiable encounter, like when late night host Jimmy Kimmel took on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in one-on-one basketball. No one formula will work in all situations, so here’s a general way to pose it: 


“I’ve tried getting you to commit to a position (say on climate change) and you keep slipping aside. So will you negotiate some way to make this a fact-based wager? Is there any stake we might all deem fair? Any august sage you’d accept as arbiter? Any way you’d let this narrow down to something clear-cut, we all can judge, yes-or-no?”


It’s the core challenge to throw down before a fact-evading cult: “Is there any way you’ll stop squirming, so we can nail this down, one verified fact at a time?”  


(Earlier I offered a version having to do with fact-checking that I’d love to see an eminent personage like Paul Krugman, Robert Reich, or George F. Will hurl at Sean Hannity.[9])


Want examples? Let’s start with very simple bets that offer your confed no wriggle room, because they do boil down to clearly verifiable fact.


– Are the oceans getting more acidic, to a potentially deadly degree? And is it because of human generated greenhouse gas?


– Would you put money on a randomly chosen Trump accusation of “fake news?” From the past or some random day in the near future? Or randomly chosen items from WaPo’s list of  40,000+ lies? [10] 


– Have any Republican “supply side” tax cuts for the rich ever resulted in the promised vast increases in capital investment, millions of high-paying jobs, sustained GDP growth and plummeting deficits? Ever?


– The Caspian and Black Seas are almost dead. The Mediterranean and Caribbean appear to be dying. Is preventable pollution to blame? Put down a wager, or else shall we decide together to save them?


– Who crafted nearly all the key provisions for what came to be called Obamacare, Democrats or Republicans?


– Which political party generally leaves U.S. defenses, alliances and resilience in better shape than how they found them? Which party nearly always leaves the American military worse off than before they took over?


– Are glaciers retreating or “setting records”?[11] Or I bet you can’t prove any allegations of busloads of fake voters swarming the polls.  Or the “biggest inauguration, ever,” or hours spent on golf. Or Those ‘birther’ claims. Or….


Have any five other presidents (combined) been “betrayed” by as many appointees as Trump? Officials and aides whom he earlier called “great guys?” And what does this say of Donald Trump as a judge of character?


Those challenges offer examples of the needed traits for an aggressive wager-challenge. They are clear and simple, selected for low “squirm factor” – or ability to weasel… say by demanding “define acidic!” They come from a very long list sampled in other sections. 


Don’t try to tell me “We’ve already challenged Republicans on all those things!” No. You have not. I repeat; you have not. You have whined about them. You’ve done it in ways they can simply shrug off, while relishing your frustration. 


Okay, now comes the kicker, again in both boldface/italic:


Almost never will they accept any kind of wager! 

Efforts to pin them down will fail. 

They’ll writhe and squirm and ramble and “whatabout”-distract.[12]

They will not agree to actual stakes over a clearly defined matter of evidence, with impartial arbiters.


Um. So. Brin. Did you just admit this entire “wager” thing won’t work?


No, I did not admit that. 

What I said is they’ll refuse to bet! 

And if you’ve learned anything at all about polemical judo, you’ll see what an opportunity that opens.


Dig it. The research of cognitive linguist George Lakoff proved that roughly half of Americans prefer a “strong father” over the liberals’ “nurturing parent.” Fundamentalists idolize a man who is opposite-to-Jesus in every way, because he galls the same people they hate. Every GOP convention and rally is now a festival of macho puffery. Even a third of U.S. Hispanic males revere Trump’s caudillo bluster, despite all the offensive racism. 


It seems an impervious castle that no gambit by enlightenment forces can penetrate,[13]because any appeal to fact or reason makes us seem the weakling whiners! A strong father doesn’t need to be right, only strong! Objective refutation won’t undermine him, though compromise might. So he’ll never compromise.


Above all, any sign of weakness is lethal. So his one aim will be to avoid showing any. 


Did you think I was talking about Donald Trump, just now? If so, you miss the point. Macho bully-bluster is the core foundation of today’s entire rightist populism. It has always been the soul of the confederacy.


Which is where wagers come in. Because the substance of the bet is less significant than their refusal to ante-up.  It opens our real opportunity – to hammer with ridicule, undermining that delusional image of virile strength. Of manliness. They base their brand upon it. So that’s where to aim savage kicks, and repeat over and over.


The refrain is “coward!”


It can work. It already has.


How many of you have followed the lawsuit in which Alex Jones, the infamous conspiracy-spewer and purveyor of perverted paranoias, was finally chased down by victims of his insanely vicious Sandy Hook attacks? Dig it, the Sandy Hook parents' lawsuit was essentially a forced wager! Oh, how Jones backpedaled from his rants that the mourning parents were all actors, grieving over nonexistent lost children. He swerved, first claiming he was innocently mistaken, then that his slanderous lies had simply been a ‘stage performance.’ Finally, he’s been pleading insanity! All to no avail.


Yes, it’s time for a great many more such lawsuits and forced wagers. But that misses the point of this chapter. Because it is the very act of cornering them, and seeing them refuseto bet, that gives this method power.


My favorite is ocean acidification – O.A. – because it has every trait we need. O.A. sidesteps all the narratives of distraction over climate change. In fact, Fox et. al. avoid ever mentioning it, since the cause is inarguable, the symptoms are easily measured by non-experts, and the deadly effects are indisputable. Start with a glass of water and a straw and two swimming pool test strips. Just blowing bubbles from your CO2-rich lungs will turn the water acidic. Then offer to go down to the shore with a pH meter… or visit the chemistry teacher at a community college… or… 


Choose carefully. Learn to pick a challenge that has no ambiguity, no room to squirm. Share tips and videos with each other. When they try to dodge, dare them to help pick arbiters and stake-holders who – even if “conservative” – are reputably adult and judicious. And if they demur, then chide: “Oh, your cult can’t supply any?”


When they waver and hedge and quibble and try to claim they never bet, remember to taunt: “Of course you bet! You’re so sure of this Foxite crap that you’re willing to bet the lives of our planet and nation and children, but not a hundred bucks?” Slap a sawbuck on the table and demand “If you’re so sure, come and take my money!


At which point we reach our final boldface/italic riff:


Your effort to pin them down – offering real stakes – shows YOUR confident strength, by THEIR standards. When they refuse to bet, it will result in either backpedaling or else frantic flight. Either way, you win something for all fact people. A small victory for this civilization.


If they backpedal from one climate-denial position to a slightly less-insane one, then you may be dealing with a RASR… a Residually Adult-Sane Republican… who could be worth the effort of pursuit, chopping away rationalizations, one by one, aiming toward the greatest possible reward. Redemption of a useful fellow citizen, who might then influence others.


And if he flees? 


Then you have turned the macho tables. Chase his quivering manly heinie with “coward!”


I mean that, and nothing less. Enjoy the immaturity, because it’s their language! And your immature enjoyment is something that playground bullies deeply understand. They made this a variant of war.[14]


NOEC: The Name One Exception Challenge [15]


Here’s a related approach that’s more sophisticated, but it can be effective with a different kind of person – generally someone who makes a show of seeming logical. You may have to think about this one carefully, but it applies well beyond politics.


Consider. If I make a specific accusation – say that you committed a particular crime – then the burden of proof is on me. Fair enough. But what happens when I make a universal assertion?


Say: “The daylight sky is always blue!” 

…or: “The ocean is always wet!”

…or: “Snails never deliver Hamlet soliloquies.” 


Do I bear a burden of proof then? Well, that depends on “always” and “never.”


When I challenge you to disprove a Universal Assertion, it should be easy! Just find one exception. If you cite even one, then the statement might still be frequently or generallytrue, but it’s not a universal. For example, anyone can point to days when the sky’s another color. Blue sky is a general truth that’s proved not to be universal.  It’s the “always” part that’s disproved by a single counter-example.


The wet-ocean generality is universal, unless the argument dissolves into definition quibbles. But when it comes to Shakespearean gastropods, well the burden of proof falls on anyone who claims the universal “never” ain’t so. Your failure to find even one slimy-shelled melancholy Dane proves me right![16]


Not in a court of law. Indeed, if your opponent can name exceptions, then the argument falls back under rules of preponderance of evidence. “Never” just becomes “hardly ever.”


Applying This To Politics. Any member of the Climate Denialist Cult can cite weather examples that seem to violate global warming, hence it cannot be proved by Name an Exception, but by tediously showing the factual basis for why 99% of scientists agree that global warming endangers all our children. This Name An Exception riff isn’t applicable to that hard fight.


But when a general accusation is very broad, and your opponent cannot name even onecounter-example, it has profoundly effective import. At that point the generality enters territory like “the sun always rises at dawn,” or “a rock that you throw in the air will always come down.” One counter-example – even one – will destroy the word “always.” But failure to cite any counter-example makes “always” powerful! 


Especially when the assertion is in history or politics. Jiminy, almost everything in those fields has exceptions! If you can’t find even one, then it means you are wrong, wrong, incredibly wrong.


For the following general assertions, a burden of proof falls on your conservative friend to show how the accusations have any exceptions, any at all! And if your RASR fails to find even one, then they are true.


Moreover, if any of these Name One Exception Challenges (NOEC) – even one of them – cannot be refuted with a single counter-example, then your opponent’s movement is not a political party. It is a dangerously insane and incompetent cult.


(At this point in the book, you’re already familiar with these dares and challenges. I make no apologies, as the chapters of this tome are compiled from many articles. In any event, perhaps by you now see the value of repetition.)


1-   NAME ONE fact-centered profession of high knowledge and skill that’s not under attack by Fox/Trump and cohorts. Teachers, medical doctors, journalists, civil servants, law professionals, economists, skilled labor, professors… oh, yes and science.[17] Thirty years ago, 40% of U.S. scientists called themselves Republican. Now it’s 2% and plummeting. They are voting with their feet, the smartest, wisest, most logical and by far the most competitive humans our species ever produced. 


Now? As I’ve repeated many times (and so should you) the Republican enemies list includes the FBI and law professionals, the vast variety of civil servants, plus the U.S. military and intelligence officer corps. All are dismissed as “deep state” foes conspiring against goodness and freedom. Oh no, this is not your mommy’s or daddy's conservatism. Name one exception.[18]


2- NAME ONE major GOP leader between Reagan and Ryan who was even mentioned at the 2016 Republican Convention. Except for Newt Gingrich, all were brushed under the rug, including both Bushes, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Dennis Hastert, Tom (convicted felon) DeLay, Boehner. In fact, name a republican top leader between Eisenhower and Ryan who was even mentioned by the party at the 2016 RNC, other than Reagan and Newt! This shows how writhing ashamed Republicans are, of their record at governance. And if you disavow those past Republican administrations as incompetent, Russia-hating, enterprise-destroying, warmongering liars, then where is your party’s credibility?


3- NAME ONE of the dark fantasies about Obama, from black UN helicopters to taking away all our guns, that provably and verifiably happened, or was even tepidly tried. Heck, let’s throw in the Kenyan birth and Sharia Law stuff. Indeed, after 25 years and half a billion dollars of Clinton-Obama investigations… well… see #5.


4- NAME ONE time when supply side (voodoo) “economics” made a successful prediction? Ever? One time when slashing taxes on the rich led to reduced deficits, to vastly stimulated economic activity, or even much investment in "supply" capital? Or increased money velocity or middle class health? Once when the outcomes weren’t diametrically opposite to all promises. One time when this cult religion actually delivered? (Chapter 11.)


A related riff we saw in Chapter 3 might also be used as a NOEC: When was “America Great”? While we’re sending probes past Pluto, and rovers across Mars, discovering thousands of planets across the galaxy, curing diseases, raising billions of children out of poverty around the world and so on. But sure, tell us when you think it was all better! The 1950s? Run by the Greatest Generation who adored FDR? They knew the dangers of oligarchy and passed many rules to control it. Rules like forbidding companies to waste money on stock buybacks, where nearly all of the recent Trump Tax Cut was frittered away, without tangible investment in R&D or factories. In fact, every major move away from the Rooseveltian social contract resulted in lower growth, wider wealth disparity, shorter commercial ROI horizons, declines in R&D and increasing dominance by a crazy MBA caste. Name an exception!


5- NAME ONE time in American – or human – history, when an administration spanning eight years had zero – or close to zero –  scandals or indictments concerning proved malfeasance in the performance of official duties. It happened twice in American – or human – history. The administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Name another! There was one four-year U.S. administration that had no malfeasance-of-office scandals… that of Jimmy Carter.  (Yes, there were a few scandals outside that description, “malfeasance in the performance of official duties,” though fewer overall than any month or week of a Trump or Bush administration.)


Let’s be clear. The Reagan, Bush and Bush administrations looked hard for evidence, some smoking-gun, to pin on Carter, Clinton and Obama. They sifted like crazy when they owned every federal department and ran dozens of investigatory committees, wasting hundreds of millions looking for something – anything.  “W” ordered federal agents transferred from counter terror duties to join this hunt before 9/11… arguably costing thousands of American lives. And they found, what? A husband fibbed about infidelity… then a wife made the same email mistake as both Bushes, Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Jared Kushner.  


In contrast, GOP administrations – all of them – were rife with indictments, convictions and pardons. We’ll elaborate on this one in the next “pause” section.

 But for now… name an exception.


6- NAME  ONE counter-example to Republicans damaging every strength that won the Cold War. Almost every thing that bolstered us during that struggle is being systematically dismantled, from our alliances to science, from dedicated intelligence and law agencies to the moral high ground and the rule of law and the respect of the world. There may be exceptions, though I know of none.


The next one has become iffy amid the “great Trump economy!” But I choose (in September 2019) to include it here because it was generally true ever since Reagan, and by the time you get to these words, it (sadly) may be true again.


7- NAME ONE major metric of U.S. national health that did better across the entire spans of any completed GOP administration, than across the spans of the Clinton and Obama terms.  Nearly all such metrics declined - many plummeting - across both Bush regimes. (See Chapters 10 & 11.) Nearly all of them – from scientific accomplishment to world reputation – rose, many of them by a lot, across both terms of the last two Democratic Administrations. That includes every sane conservative desideratum like rate of change of deficits (Chapter 11) and even military readiness!  The condition of our alliances. Small business startups. Entrepreneurship. 


Here’s hoping this last one breaks the pattern, with America doing well all the way to Trump’s finish. But I’m sadly sure we’ll get to cite this one too, and demand that our Residually Adult-Sane Republican friends name one exception.


Okay, Part 2 of this chapter was a whole lot more complicated than the macho-targeting missile of Part 1. The Name One Exception Challenge is more for use with your logical (or at least pretending to be) RASR cousin. 


Sure, they are still koolaid-slurpers. They’ll shout “squirrel!” and point offstage at some assertion or distraction, concocting scenarios and excuses to explain why they cannot answer any of those NOEC challenges. 


And yet, on rare occasion I meet the real McCoy – a genuinely sincere conservative “ostrich” willing to lift his or her head, when tugged by these dares. I have seen them budge. 


Please understand the value of that. Because sanity, like insanity, can be infectious. 


It can spread.


Ian Fleming knew what to make of this.


All right, this chapter was about something that most blue Americans have given up as hopeless, breaking through the seemingly impenetrable walls that Fox and Putin and Trump have built to protect their red-confederate base. You may call it futile and useless. But you have only to look at how much treasure and effort they are pouring into shoring up those walls, to realize how any breach terrifies them!


As I’ve repeated. They know they’ll lose an occasional election, like 1992 and 2008. But history shows they can come roaring back (1994 and 2010) so long as the base is secure. Moreover, even if that base diminishes, but stays riled enough, our enemies can still harm America by unleashing floods of lava hot Timothy McVeighs.


Yes, the methods in this chapter are worth trying. Someone must. The obstinate refusal of our blue ‘generals’ – pundits, politicians etc. – to ever try anything except what never worked has to be overcome, the way Lincoln sought, and finally found, warriors who could fight.


We must recall the wisdom found in good fiction:


Fool us once? Shame on you.

Fool us a million times? Then fire all our incompetent pundits!


Better yet, let’s go to the font of wisdom, when it comes to dealing with skullduggerous plots and schemes.


Goldfinger’s Rule:  [19]

 “Once, Mr. Bond, may be happenstance. 

“Twice could be coincidence.

“Three times is enemy action.”


[1] He had. Obamacare was based largely on “RomneyCare” in Massachusetts, which was cloned from the GOP approved Heritage plan, as described elsewhere in this book. And the individual mandate was a centerpiece, the pride and joy of its authors… till Obama gave it cooties.


[2] Romney’s ‘bet’


[3] Romney’s ‘Out of Touch’ $10,000 Bet.”


[4] 12,000 Trump lies as of August 2019.


[5] From The Washington Post:


[6] For a rather intense look at how "truth" is determined in science, democracy, courts and markets, see the lead article in the American Bar Association's Journal on Dispute Resolution (Ohio State University), v.15, N.3, pp 597-618, Aug. 2000, "Disputation Arenas: Harnessing Conflict and Competition."


[7] I often demand that the red-capped fellah escrow funds with a reputable lawyer, before I’ll waste my time working out proofs. 


[8] Which is why this might best be implemented by some liberal/moderate millionaire, making it her ‘thing’ to hammer wager challenges relentlessly, perhaps at some oligarch peer, spending what it takes to pin him down.


[9] “Will you pick half a dozen widely respected conservative eminences to serve on a panel to advise which fact-checking services are partisan? I’ll pick as many respected-moderate liberals. They can together choose some libertarians. Not a ‘Ministry of Truth,’ but a panel of sages who might help us struggle out of this mess. Or are you afraid they’ll conclude you are the fake news?”


[10] Pick – even randomly – any five of the 12,000+ outright Trumpian falsehoods listed by the Washington Post’s “Fact-Checker” Glenn Kessler.


[11] Glaciers.


[12] How many times have you seen a Republican legislator evade questions of climate change with “I’m not a scientist” and Trump with “windmills cause cancer!” The Fact Act would nail all that, but this method works, too.


[13] Indeed, they generally assail the wrong fort, even the wrong mountain!


[14] Sherman did not invent slash-burn during the Civil War. The Confederacy did, though Sherman finished it. Likewise, they think we cannot learn; but some of us (those with the requisite predatory knack, underneath our civilized values) are able to adapt. Our goal remains “with malice toward none and with charity for all.” But in order to get there – to save America – we’ll fight.


[15] Earlier version of “Name an Exception.”


[16] At least until slimy aliens arrive, or the gene labs get very busy, or the Society of Secretly Speedy Shakespearian Sea Slugs gets angry at this tome, and finally finds the guts to step up.


[17] From New Yorker:


[18] Although I led the list with this one, having wracked my brains for years and exposed this challenge to a community of fierce minds, let me admit that there might be a couple of exceptions here. Knowledge/skill/fact professions not under assault by Fox & co. Only, I won’t reveal them here!  Even if your RASR comes up with one, the fact that he/she had to really think about it hard proves the point. Their “side” has gone insane.


[19] Goldfinger’s Rule:



Larry Hart said...

matthew in the previous comments:

It's not so much the value of the hundreds of billions of profits for the fossil fuel industries. It's the trillions of dollars of "potential value" still under the ground. They've leveraged against that potential value *heavily*, making Trump look like a paragon of prudent investment in comparison.

Again, that explains the attitude of the oligarchs themselves. It doesn't explain the man on the street who engages in "rolling coal", or who thrills to slogans like "Drill, baby, drill!" because it encourages harm to the environment. Sure the oligarchs and politicians use propaganda to rile their base, but that propaganda has to appeal to something inherent in those people.

The oligarchs and politicians are motivated by money and power, but many of their voters are motivated so much by hate for "others" and for those who care about them that they are not only willing to ignore their own personal interests but to actively harm themselves as long as it makes "those people" feel bad.

Acacia H. said...

Jim shows the wagers don't work. I offered a wager and he refused outright while still spilling out his drivel and lies.


The reason why there are similarities in religious stories most likely is not genetic. It is due to ancient events that were depicted in myth and then crafted through religious stories. If you have new people who are never exposed to those myths and those stories and religion then why would we have stories of a Great Flood or a Tower of Babel or other such tales? No, mythological stories are drawn upon human experiences. Without experiencing those "great floods" of old or how sea rising back at the end of the Ice Age, we'd not have that tale being told. Other stories would be instead.

You could still have a "burning bush" but it would be based off of a real-life event that they have shown happens. You could have cities destroyed but it would be from natural disasters being crafted as the "punishment of the divine" and the like. That is humanity's tendency to tell stories, not because the Gods exist. And I say this as someone who is spiritual and believes in a Goddess and who has seen far too many unlikely coincidences happen to discount this all.

The stories would still change. And yet if you strip away all of scientific learning and have a new people start to learn of science through experimentation and the like, they would still learn the same things because science is based off of fact. The wavelengths of infrared radiation is still the same and can be reproduced.

A look at the variety of Bibles in the English Language alone show that religion is not reproducible. It is story, and thus alters with each new telling. It is suspect, while the elements of science that have been reproduced are not... and those elements of science that we are still hammering out are subject to proper research until finally we have the truth.


Der Oger said...

While the Borat & Rudy tape was a fun thing, a better example is the Ibiza Affair of 2019. It toppled Austria's government and influenced two elections. It will set the benchmark for info/media guerilla operations for a very long time.

David Brin said...

Acacia, the Wager Gambit "works" in that it shrivels the macho of cult-incanting MAGAs, shaming them as they flee. The benefits include influence of this shaming upon onlookers and reduction in the ranters' credibility.

Larry Hart said...

Acacia H:

The reason why there are similarities in religious stories most likely is not genetic. It is due to ancient events that were depicted in myth and then crafted through religious stories. If you have new people who are never exposed to those myths and those stories and religion then why would we have stories of a Great Flood or a Tower of Babel or other such tales?

You're obviously not a fan of Dave Sim's Cerebus comic. :)

Cerebus's world of Estarcion was supposed to be way back in our past. In fact, one stray comment actually established that the real-world 1969 moon landing was "exactly 6000 years" in the future of that story. So for all intents and purposes, Estarcion had no connection to our history. It was a semi-mythical setting, originally inspired by Conan's Hyborian Age.

But when Dave Sim became religious, he suddenly established that the Jewish Torah existed in Estarcion, complete with the exact stories that the Bible actually has. In commentary, he explained that he believed the Big Bang had happened many times over and over again, and each time, the events of the Torah play out exactly as always, with history diverging only after that point.

Since I'm on Cerebus anyway, I might as well mention that Dave also claimed to have solved the Unified Field problem which eluded Einstein et all. Because he told it in story form rather than essay form, I was never exactly clear on what the solution was, but it seemed to be something along the lines of particles being sexually attracted to each other, causing them to mass together into inescapable entanglements. Being trapped in a mass like the sun was supposed to show the folly of interpersonal relationships. His goal was to unencumber himself from others to the point where, upon death, he'd be more like a neutrino, immune to gravitational pulls.

I'm not kidding.

David Brin said...


Der Oger said...

"That is humanity's tendency to tell stories, not because the Gods exist."


One could even say: Storytelling has it's own divine power ... if enough people hear and believe it, religions and other belief systems are born ... and people will change the reality according to it, for good or for bad.

So, to make the world a better place:

Which story do you want to tell? :-)

scidata said...

We only get snippets on the US election up here (and I've been banned from watching Excited State channels). But we do see repeated pleas from the mango (becoming a frightening color) for suburban women to "please like me". Perhaps he could assure them that he won't grab them by the privates, at least for now. Wee bampot.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

One could even say: Storytelling has it's own divine power ... if enough people hear and believe it, religions and other belief systems are born ... and people will change the reality according to it, for good or for bad.

This is very true. Religions do have power, but it is not supernatural power. It's the power that stories have to persuade and inspire. The same Dave Sim I mentioned above, a comic book writer and artist, likened what he did to a kind of hypnosis.

I keep going back to that line from Dr Brin's novel Earth about the guy saying he didn't care if the stories he was hearing were "bull semen" because they were "great bull semen!" I've been saying that Trump supporters don't care about his lies because he has been giving them what they consider great bull semen. The same seems to apply to religion.

Larry Hart said...


But we do see repeated pleas from the mango (becoming a frightening color) for suburban women to "please like me".

On the leaked interview with Leslie Stahl, he says he was kidding. And the news media are being hostile by acting as if he was "begging." You know--if reality isn't making him look good, then reality is biased against him.

Having cats at home is like having babies which never grow up. Having Trump in the White House* is like that too.

* Back around the 1972 election, Mad Magazine had a bunch of parody campaign songs for all of the candidates. George Wallace's song was to the tune of "Oh, Suzanna", and ended with the line, "If he gets in, one thing's for sure / He'll keep the White House white". The same applies to Trump.

scidata said...

Every story I read or view gets matched against Kurt Vonnegut's story graphs. There's an almost exact fit for each tale. However, this pandemic year has brought an old film to mind again and again, and I'll be darned if I can make it fit. It's similar to H.G. Wells' "War of the Worlds", but it has no ultimate victory, only the disturbing feeling that we are much less in charge than we think we are - no protector, no savior, a somewhat nurturing Mother Nature, but not really, with only a few meagre blades and arrows pounded out on the anvil of science. I thought it might follow Vonnegut's straight line for "Hamlet", but it doesn't. Much is learned, fortune ebbs and flows, but little final progress or resolution is achieved. The person who pushed me hard to go and see the movie never recommended any other movie to me ever (my dad, a Presbyterian minister). Haunting. It's "The Andromeda Strain" (1971).

Russ Abbott said...

David, I love what you write. I clicked the link to the blackmail article. I read and tweeted about it. Great stuff.

Regarding wagers and the NOEC: more great ideas. I'm puzzled about why you don't actually do it. (Or do you in some forum that I don't see?)

Construct a list of bets with, say, Sean Hannity, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Tom Cotton, etc. Post them at the bottom of every one of your blog posts. Encourage your readers to tweet about them. I suspect that will get lots of attention. Let's do it!

David Brin said...

Thanks Russ. It's a great idea... that I have tried again and again. I've often thought that if I had podcast these missives by video they likely would have gone farther. As-is, the printed word seems obsolete. You know "tl;dr"?

I have almost 24000 FB followers and more on twitter... and that's pathetic if you want to roll viral or be noticed by EITHER Hannity or Maddow. The closer I get, the more likely to b dismissed as a threat to the penumbra hangers on surrounding the influencer. Alas.

Alfred Differ said...


Heh. Physics IS about stories, but if one writes it in English one will have a great deal of trouble doing physics as a science.

For example, neutrinos are affected by gravity. Even back when we thought they might be massless, they were still affected. Curvature and all that. You have to be outside our universe to avoid gravity. Beyond an event horizon... but maybe they have gravity over there too. Who knows.

Meh. I decided a while ago you were describing an author who fell into insanity. Still feel that way.

Alfred Differ said...


A quick glance at some of the people in Maddow's orbit shows their follower count is roughly an order of magnitude higher than our host's follower count. One of the guys I follow who shows up occasionally on her show or in mentions is a mere 5x above our host. Heh.

Occasionally she makes someone big that way when her team has to add an expert not on their list of expertise, but relying on that for our host would lead to him being tapped for something other than current politics. It would be for just about anything except the bit currently between his teeth. 8)

At this late stage, it probably behooves us all to contemplate ways in which a transition can go awry and try preemptively to defend the next administration as it forms.

Larry Hart said...


Haunting. It's "The Andromeda Strain" (1971).

Y'know, toward the start of this pandemic, I wondered if COVID-19 might end up mutating to a less deadly strain, the way the disease in The Andromeda Strain did.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The closer I get, the more likely to b dismissed as a threat to the penumbra hangers on surrounding the influencer. Alas.

What you seem to need is to get one of those penumbra influencers to see the value of your ideas. Once that person believes that he can score points by passing your ideas on to the candidate as his own, then you're golden!

I keep being reminded of Rabo Karabekian, doing the general's portrait while all the time convincing the general that the general's own idea is obviously to put painters and artists in charge of camouflage for all of the armed services.

Larry Hart said...

Y'know, it's already too obvious for comment that as soon as a Democratic president is elected, the Republicans will start howling about the deficit again. But I'll find it more interesting to hear all the right-wing pundits who have been arguing for unitary executive power ("God and the Founders gave us executive orders to combat legislative gridlock.") do a "We've always been at war with Eastasia" and tout the benefits of checks and balances and divided government.

Jon S. said...

In fact, a relatively large portion of the Twitterverse has been discussing how the Borat incident shows how easily Giuliani was lured into a compromising situation, raising questions about some other incidents in his past. (Also a hilarious sequence regarding "tucking" - "when I was a teenager, I had the neatest shirt in the world; sometimes I'd tuck it in three or four times in a day!")

As for Graham, if he's letting himself be blackmailed over this "Lady G" thing, he's even more pathetic than I thought. And I thought he was pretty damned pathetic to start with.

Larry Hart said...

A very strange coincidence (which took no careful planning at all)...

No politics on this one, just something that came to mind while discussing Dave Sim's Cerebus comic yesterday.

Long before Dave turned religious, he was an atheist and somewhat liberal, although skeptical of liberal quirks in the way that Bill Maher is. Irrespective of politics, however, was Dave's notion of having the Cerebus series span 300 issues and read as a consistent story of the life and death of the title character. Thus, the number 300 always loomed large and significant to fans and readers.

In the aforementioned scene in which a supposedly-omniscient being reveals that the (real life) moon landing will take place in "exactly 6000 years from now", it is pretty well established that the Cerebus character is 29 years old. Now, Dave was apparently aware of the theory of Bishop Ussher which put the beginning of our history at 4004 BC, which would make the moon landing take place in the 5973rd year of our history. Assuming that the history of Estarcion gives way to the beginning of our history, that transition would be set to happen in less than 30 years, which jibes with the same character's statement that Cerebus only had "a few more years" to live.

As Dave turned more conservative and religious, the "few more years" thing seemed to go by the wayside, and it was established that talking aardvarks (of which Cerebus was one) had incredibly long lifespans. A few different ages went by in the course of the storyline, there being a 50+ year gap between the final two arcs of the comic, and a 30 year gap between the third and second to last arcs. Rather than "a few years", decades turned into centuries.

But a funny thing also happened. Readers noticed that Dave had become aware of the Jewish calendar, in which the moon landing happened in the year 5729. If we assume that Estarcion transitioned to our history at the start of the Jewish calendar, then at the time of the "exactly 6000 years from now" pronouncement, there were 271 years to go before the end of Cerebus's history. Since we already know he was 29 at the time, that meant that his history was set to end when Cerebus was 300 years old, which he was in the final, 300th issue of Cerebus!

That coincidence could not reasonably have been planned by atheist-Dave who wouldn't read the Bible for almost ten more years and who seemed to be planning the character's demise in a much shorter period of story time. And yet, it turned out to be one of those things that is so elegant that it has to be, with or without the author's intent.

Sometimes these things really do write themselves.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Meh. I decided a while ago you were describing an author who fell into insanity. Still feel that way.

I agree, although his more rabid fans would consider me a traitor for saying so. I don't think Dave is dangerously insane, but I do think he became so fearful of religious penalties that he had to twist himself into pretzels to rationalize some beliefs with known facts. This is incredibly ironic, because he made a big point of saying the men get led astray when their infatuation with women causes them to betray their rationality--to believe "six impossible things before breakfast" in order to preserve a sexual relationship. And then he fell in love with the Bible and did the same thing to himself.

Young atheistic Dave was quite the womanizer before he foreswore sexual relationships in his forties. And he seemed to think his life was an example to industrious young men to stay away from the "gravitational pull" of women and stick to their work, as if a forty year old man who had grown disenchanted and tired with the many pre-marital and extra-marital and post-marital affairs he indulged in had anything to say to twenty year old incels still hoping for their first lay. Like a man regretting having gorged himself at a banquet telling a starving homeless person that food isn't all it's cracked up to be.

But nonetheless, there are lessons to be learned from Dave's probably-not-to-be-repeated experiment of the same guy writing and drawing a single title for 26 years, intending it to read as a consistent story of a life (unlike, say, 300 issues of Superman or Spider-Man which do not).

First of all, religious conservative Dave-2004 was such a different person from iconoclast atheist libertine Dave-1977 that it is unreasonable to expect consistency in style and plot across that length of time. Only in the strictest literal sense of the word "same" can the entire series be said to have been written by the same person. This helps explain why 1980s-Foundation books are so different from 1950s-Foundation books, despite all being written by Isaac Asimov. "You can't go home again."

Also, I think we learned that it is not possible for a story to read like a life, because a story and a life are two very different things. Kurt Vonnegut mentions that stories are artificial constructs, and that much human misery is caused by people perceiving their lives to be stories. I'd say there is a Heisenberg uncertainty principle at work in which the closer a story gets to accurately describing a life, the less it works as a story, and vice versa. Better to pick one or the other than to try fruitlessly to nail down the exact position and velocity of a subatomic particle, as it were.

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

As for Graham, if he's letting himself be blackmailed over this "Lady G" thing, he's even more pathetic than I thought. And I thought he was pretty damned pathetic to start with.

I've said for months now that, for the sake of Graham's soul, I hope what they've got on him is something more than just proof that he's gay. Because if that's the secret he's protecting, I'll have to resort to another comic book line, from the Saga series.

In the middle of a battle, a character frantically needs to cast a magic spell, which requires his wife to provide a secret--something she's never told anyone before. She blurts out, "I'm not as tall as I tell people I am!"

To which the husband replies,

"Do I really have to explain what a 'secret' is?"

Tacitus said...

Staying well clear of politics...

I like the word penumbra. Often times when I comment here I remind myself not to "take umbrage". The two words are linked. Both are from the Latin "umbra" or shadow. A penumbra is a partially shadowed area. To take umbrage is to view things in the darkest possible fashion. Related phrases: To take a dim view of things. And possibly to "Throw shade"!

Yes, the written word is in decline of late, but what a glorious thing it is.


Larry Hart said...


Yes, the written word is in decline of late, but what a glorious thing it is.

I remember when I first sussed out that the two seemingly-different definitions of "swearing" --swearing an oath to God and saying "bad words"--were really the same thing. Swearing in the derogatory sense used to mean calling upon God to curse someone or something ("Damn you!" or "Go to Hell!", that sort of thing), which is using the Lord's name in vain. Also, "in vain" seems to have two distinct definitions which are really the same. When you call upon God to do your bidding, you do so "vainly" in the sense that God probably doesn't follow your orders, but also "vainly" in the sense that you think an awful lot of yourself.

One I have not yet determined fully is the adjective "infernal". I always thought that the "fer" referred to the French word for fire, which makes a lot of sense. Yet upon further review, "infernal" is just part of a series with "terrestrial" and "celestial"--respectively "below the earth", "on the earth", and "above the earth". That makes it sound as if the sense that the "infernal" means "under ground" comes first, and the fact that Hell is supposed to be down there is a derivative meaning.--that the word "infernal" itself has nothing to do with fire. And yet, there's that pesky French fer there in plain sight.

Der Oger said...

"That makes it sound as if the sense that the "infernal" means "under ground" comes first, and the fact that Hell is supposed to be down there is a derivative meaning.--that the word "infernal" itself has nothing to do with fire."

The Word "Hell" itself is taken from the nordic and germanic mythology - Helheim, which was the official Realm of the Dead, ruled by the goddess Hell, daughter of Loki and Angrboda. It wasn't actually a place of punishment (at least, if you had been a decent person in life), and Hel was only cruel to murderers and thieves. That changed when Helheim became equated with Hades, and later the christian hell.

Robert said...

as if a forty year old man who had grown disenchanted and tired with the many pre-marital and extra-marital and post-marital affairs he indulged in had anything to say to twenty year old incels still hoping for their first lay

Sounds a bit like Augustine…

Lorraine said...

Likewise, intelligence in the IQ sense and intelligence in the CIA sense are the same thing. Intelligence equals advantage, and to those of us who don't possess it it is frightening af.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

It [Hell] wasn't actually a place of punishment (at least, if you had been a decent person in life), and Hel was only cruel to murderers and thieves.

Even though I don't believe in an afterlife, I did come up with a theory of what one might be like, and it's sort of like what you describe. In my version, Hell and Heaven are the same place, and everyone goes there. In the afterlife, you perceive yourself clearly. If you've made yourself into the kind of person who can look clearly at yourself and be contented, then that feels Heavenly. If you've made yourself into someone who would be ashamed of himself, then you'll feel like you're in Hell. Imagine going through eternity knowing every day that you are Lindsey Graham.

Der Oger said...

@Larry Hart: Since we expect him to be blackmailed, every day on earth must feel like hell for Graham now.

Some additional thought about Hel and her treatment in later centuries: Church officials demonized her ... perhaps, because she was depicted as an outcast woman with a great inner strength. That did not suit the oriental-roman-franco patriarchy, so they condemned her. She survived as a being in folklore, as a mythical woman of many fairy tales (Like Frau Holle), that had a rewarding and friendly as well as a punishing and cruel side.

Larry Hart said...

The Leslie Stahl / Trump interview on "60 Minutes"

IMHO, Trump demonstrated why--irrespective of policy--he is not qualified to hold the office of the presidency. He actually whines about getting tough questions. In fact, he complains that her first "question" was "I'm going to give you some tough questions." Most presidents would expect that as a matter of course, and would project confidence by asserting that The American People (tm) expect their president to be able to handle tough questions and welcome the chance to clarify his plans and policies. Instead, this man-baby goes, "Wah! Wah! You never ask Biden tough questions."

You would think his "tough people" would be ashamed of such behavior, but of course they will continue to support him and blame the media for attacking him by showing reality. Which makes me doubt that even Dr Brin's betting strategy would ever work with these confederates. They are immune to embarrassment because they have no shame or principles.

Larry Hart said...

A shorter clip from the same Leslie Stahl interview.

She recalls an earlier conversation with then-candidate Trump in which he reveals that he calls the news media "fake" in order to discredit them when they report on him. Similar to his comment that Billy Bush talked about on Bill Maher's show, which was, "Billy. You just tell them. And they believe you."

jim said...

Acacia H. said...
“Jim shows the wagers don't work. I offered a wager and he refused outright while still spilling out his drivel and lies.”
I am sorry Acacia is that you speaking or are you quoting David? Because I don’t recall you wanting to make a wager with me. It could have happened, but I did not see it (I stay off the internet during the weekends).

If it was David, he is probably taking about some ridiculous bet involving our houses. In which he gets to determine what the bet is and I have to accept his ridiculous terms. Sorry, I am not going to do that. If we could mutually decide on what to bet on, I would to bet on things I believe.

For example, David goes on and on about how the democrats in California are so awesome.

But look at what Gov Newsom is doing. Promising to end fracking after he leaves office and OKing it when he is in office. Another typical crap sack corporate dem.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

Some additional thought about Hel and her treatment in later centuries:

I'm mainly familiar with Norse mythology through the Marvel Comics version of Thor. When the comic began in the 1960s, it was pure superhero stuff with only a passing resemblance to the real myths. But in the late 1970s, the book was written by Roy Thomas who was very much into Norse mythology and Wagnerian opera, and his version of the comics characters resembled the mythological ones much more than they had previously. That was when I first learned of the Norse "Hel" and that it was different from Valhalla.

David Brin said...

Piss n' moan. And lie. I offered jim all sorts of wager topics and stakes. But truly I have little interest in the gambit re leftists, since they generally have no money, accuse you of cash-bullying, and have no macho to shame over the un-manly cowardly unwillingness to back up their assertions.

Newsom & fracking is utter cherrypickin. jim will ALWAYS find something to zero in on, no matter how many other things are vastly better with a democrat. That is why engaging with him is just a tedious bore. It does no good to use facts to disprove some assertion. Where a normal person might either concede a point or express curiosity, he will just move on to the next fetish-zoom. And in THAT he is identical to a MAGA.

jim said...

More pissing and moaning from David. Those corporate dems produce a whole bunch of cherries so it doesn’t take much effort to find them.

How about this for a bet.
The Paris climate accords call for a 7% per year reduction in fossil fuel use.
If old corporate Joe gets to be president and the democratic party controls both the senate and house, will the US average 7% less fossil fuel use per year of his presidency?
I am willing to bet that will not happen.
Are you willing to bet it will?

Alfred Differ said...


Sounds a bit like Augustine…

Sounds like my grandmother. She didn't fall down a religious rabbit hole in her final days, but it was similar. Rhymed even. She was trying to convince herself she'd been a good person. Well... as good as possible. Rationalizations ensued.

Life sucked for her social class in London when she was young. She survived it by being at least a thief/prostitute. Maybe worse. My takeaway lesson is not to judge people much for what they do to survive. When the best alternate choice involves starvation, I'll forgive a lot.

(Note: These people aren't hard to spot in European cultures. They grow up to be about 4'8" in a community that averages 6" higher. My mother topped out at 5'0" and my shortest sister was a couple inches taller again. Malnutrition leaves evidence physical and psychological.)

Alfred Differ said...


Norse mythology through the Marvel Comics version

Heh. Which was about as accurate as DC's version of Greek myth. Or AD&D versions.

Christians are very much attached to their dualism. Good/Evil. Give an ancient story to a Christian author to be retold and it often morphs toward the dualism.

Of course Marvel and DC couldn't touch that topic after WWII.
Censors would have had a cow.

(Yah. I remember learning Wonder Woman's origin. It's a wonder they didn't burn all the evidence later.)

David Brin said...

Dope tries a sucker bet. I have no idea what goals will be achieved and jim deliberately chooses a very difficult reach. How about we bet whether Major steps are taken toward ending carbon subsidies, increasing them for sustainables, ending cheating, sending inspectors back to stop methane venting and stuff like that. Fool.

Alfred Differ said...

Yah. That is a sucker bet.

Maybe not in every State, though. Some are already trending down when one measures energy-related CO2 emissions.

A better bet would be how many States that are currently trending flat on that measure will begin to trend down by joining the effort. NY is already trending down, but will CA? (I think it likely due to the drive toward renewables and energy storage out here, but it may take longer than a Biden administration would govern.)

matthew said...

While I do believe that quite a bit of blackmail does take place in Washington, I certainly don't need blackmail to explain away everything.

Lindsey Graham was *always* an awful toady with no soul.
Marco Rubio has *always* been a lying PoS.
Ted Cruz has never had the backbone to defend his wife or his father against someone that Cruz perceives as his superior.
Anthony Kennedy went seeking for chances to show that he was the centrist vote because he liked the power of being the swing vote.

Blackmail happens, but it's not the root cause of the GOP shitshow.

The root cause is and always has been performative cruelty.
If they can push someone down, a certain subset of Americans will think they are tough.
If they break a rule publicly, then they show that segment that you have power above the rules.
If they can make more money by hurting people then by not doing so, then they deserve the wealth even more.
If they can burn down the planet, then it shows how much they love God, because only He can save them.
It all comes back to being little, and mean, and ugly. Some wise soul might even call them "deplorable."

You don't need blackmail to get crappy people to do crappy things.

Now, don't get me wrong, I think there is a lot of blackmail. Blackmail helps keep the criminals from talking to the cops. Blackmail helps keep the enforcers from going after the "wrong" type of target. All true.

But I don't think that it is necessary as a root cause when so many of the players were downright evil all along.

David Smelser said...


If I understand you correctly, you seem to be suggesting that corporate democrats are hypocrites on policy in that they implement growth of fossil fuel instead decline. Is that correct?

If that is your position. I'll take the other side.

I find Brin's 2nd derivative test persuasive when it comes to answering questions about the whether policy is creating an acceleration vs. causing breaking in a measurable phenomena.

1. Would you be willing to wager based on a second derivative test comparing the Trump term vs Biden term?

2. Can you point me to a site that shows the historical trend that we could later use to resolve the bet?

Der Oger said...

Larry Hart: "I'm mainly familiar with Norse mythology through the Marvel Comics version of Thor."

Table Top RPGs led me to a variety of interesting fields to explore, and Norse mythology was one of them. I read an Edda compilation years ago, and I recommend looking into it. Even the stories not dealing with the Aesir directly are worth to explore.

Wagner ... well, they say, you either love him or hate him. I tend to belong to the latter group, because a) I am really not into romantic, sultry opera marathons (16 hours for the tetralogy, over 4 days!), and b) because of the Hitler-Wagner Clan link. Plus, I read the Nibelungen Song a few years ago, in a modernized version, and was mostly disgusted by the "heroes" appearing there.

Der Oger said...

Dr. Brin, Jim: When exactly did your feud start?

Der Oger said...

A CNN article mentioning a study that has researched that leading political parties have become more autocratic in the past years:

The linked briefing paper:

David Brin said...

matthew, didn't we used to fight? Whatever vitamins you've taken, please send some to jim? You have been posting fine stuff.

Acacia H. said...

Okay. Dr. Brin, that was just petty. Seriously. Rather than bringing up "we used to fight" and "send your vitamins to jim" you could have just let it lie rather than drag matthew into your little disagreement with jim. If you've made peace of sorts and seen someone actually start posting intelligently frequently, you really shouldn't use that person to throw stones as someone else.


matthew said...

Doc, we fight over the fine print. We're usually on the same page.

I'll quibble and pick at your arguments but it's in the spirit of strengthening both of us in the long run.

Don Gisselbeck said...

Obligatory Bill Nye quote: "Wagner’s music, I have been informed, is really much better than it sounds."

David Brin said...

Acacia is wise and I apologize. I also rhyme every time.

Pappenheimer said...

a betting challenge can bring people up short. I told a group of fellow USAF weathermen in 2002 that I'd take bets that no operational WMD would be found in Iraq. Nobody took me up on it - even the ones who had just been loudly using WMD as a casus belli.
I don't think I changed any minds, but it worked as an injection of doubt.

Of course, gambling on duty is not favored by the UCMJ, so that might have been another reason.

Pappenheimer said...

re: Norse mythology, I highly recommend Neil Gaiman's book on Norse mythology. Particularly the bit where Thor's wife's hair is gone when she wakes up and Thor immediately blames Loki. When asked why Loki is to blame, Thor replies that if anything goes wrong, he usually starts out by blaming Loki, as he finds this a great timesaver.

B.J. said...

I'll make a (rather timely!) shout-out to magician and paranormal skeptic James Randi, who passed away last week. The James Randi Educational Foundation offered one million dollars to anyone who could prove a paranormal ability, using a scientific test with conditions agreed on by both sides. The challenge was open from 1964 to 2015, and nobody ever successfully collected.

Hats off for someone who put his money where his mouth was in the interest of scientific inquiry and debunking false claims.

Tony Fisk said...

I think the point about the wager is that the self-servatives *won't* accept it, because all facts are fake. The rest of the base will nod along to this. It's the few conservatives that are left at the bar that may purse their lips at the backdown.

The extent of the filter bubbles is quite something. John Christopher described a very similar scenario in 'When the Tripods Came' (a prequel to his more famous trilogy). It described a psyops assault that nudged people into the joys of 'Trippie/Trumpiedom' and the caps they subsequently distributed to 'seal the deal'. I wonder if someone could hack Qanon to speak of circuitry found embedded in the lining of maga caps...?

What caused me to doubt the WMD story, apart from (real) journalist Robert Fisk's scepticism, was the Iraqi Foreign Minister's tone of voice when he said they didn't exist. He could have been a consummate actor, but he sounded desperate to stop the US juggernaut.

I second Pappenheimer on Gaiman's tome for ready access (although there are a few others about).
Gaiman also started his understanding of Norse mythology via Marvel. He offers an interesting insight, which surprised him when he started his research: some of the original stories are *funny*.
It seems that, beyond a couple of sources like the prose Edda and a few Icelandic sagas, there is surprisingly little background on Norse mythology remaining.
It is quite possible that what we have in Odin, Thor, and Loki is, not a reverant narrative, but a sort of antique version of the Three Stooges. (RagNukNuk!?)

This reminds me of one of Arthur C Clarke's stories ('Expedition to Earth'?), set in a distant future where an alien race visits the frozen ruins of Earth, and try to make sense of the original inhabitants via a Donald Duck cartoon.

Acacia H. said...

Well. And now we see how the Republican Party plans on winning the 2020 election. They plan on disenfranchising voting by mail in its entirety. Any ballot that arrives after November 3rd will not be allowed under the Republican Supreme Court. Kavanaugh shows his true colors. I truly hope that the number of people showing up to vote in November 3rd is so massively overwhelming that the Republicans cannot use this tactic because the Will of the People is such that not even they dare speak out.


Larry Hart said...

The NY Times says what is so obvious is shouldn't need to be said...

It was never about fighting “judicial activism.” For decades, Republicans accused some judges of being legislators in robes. Yet today’s conservative majority is among the most activist in the court’s history, striking down long-established precedents and concocting new judicial theories on the fly, virtually all of which align with Republican policy preferences.

jim said...

(So, if you are engaged in a little bit of political judo and you have calmly proposed a wager and your opponent responds with insults, take it as a good sign that your opponent has a weak position and knows it. You get the most flack when you are over the target.)

Oh yes David it is so underhanded of me to suggest that old corporate Joe should actually be held accountable for the promises he makes. He has repeatedly claimed to want to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords, and that calls for a 50% reduction in fossil fuel use by 2030, that is an average of 7% less per year.

Now is a 7% per year reduction in the use of fossil fuels really (really, really) hard? You bet it is. That is why I think old corporate Joe is lying sack of crap, he will promise it, but not do what is necessary to achieve it. But of course you have repeatedly talked about how cheap solar and wind power is, why don’t you think solar and wind can’t do it?

(and remember one of the main goals of using bets in political judo is to show your opponent’s position is full of crap because he will not bet on it.)

So David what annual % reduction in fossil fuel use are you willing to bet that old corporate Joe and the democrats will be able to achieve?
3.5%? (twenty years to reduce fossil fuel use by 50%)
1% ?

Or is the only thing you would be willing to bet on is old corporate Joe and the democrats will use the climate crisis to employ members of the professional managerial class and subsidies some corporations that claim to be acting in response to climate change, but not actually reduce our use of fossil fuels?

Larry Hart said...

Explain this to me again, 'cause I didn't get it in 2000 either. At the federal level, the USsc can apparently override congress at will. Yet, the same USsc dictates that at the state level, the State Supreme Court has no authority to override the State Legislature. And even though elections are state procedures, the supreme court of that state has nothing to say about them, but the federal USsc does.

Am I missing something?

Indeed, Kavanaugh cited Bush v. Gore in his opinion, in particular a controversial section by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist joined by only two other justices saying that the authority of state legislatures should supersede the rulings of state courts. (Kavanaugh, Roberts, and Barrett all worked on the Florida 2000 recount for George W. Bush.) This matters greatly because last week, the Supreme Court deadlocked 4-4 on whether to overturn a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling giving voters until the Friday after the election to return their ballots as long as they were sent by Election Day.

Larry Hart said...


When asked why Loki is to blame, Thor replies that if anything goes wrong, he usually starts out by blaming Loki, as he finds this a great timesaver.

I find the same timesaving benefit in blaming Republicans.

That's not a joke.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

Wagner ... well, they say, you either love him or hate him. I tend to belong to the latter group, because a) I am really not into romantic, sultry opera marathons (16 hours for the tetralogy, over 4 days!),

My wife is a musician. When we were first dating, she "threatened" to take me to an opera, and because I was familiar with the story through comic books, I suggested the Wagner ring cycle. That was a bridge too far for her, so we saw Carmen* instead. :)

I was unfamiliar with the ring cycle until I read it in various forms in comic books. The aforementioned writer Roy Thomas apparently saw the opera in the mid 1970s and decided "That's what I'm going to do with my life!" Well, that and continually writing comics in the style of the 1940s. :)

In reverse order--in the late 90s or early 2000s, he wrote a graphic novel version of the opera themselves, making carefully sure not to step on Marvel's trademarks. For example, not only did the thunder god go by the Teutonic name "Donar" rather than "Thor", but he even spelled it as "Donner" because he--Roy Thomas--had already used "Donar" in a Marvel comic I will get to in a bit. As a bonus, "Donner" made me realize that "Donner and Blitzen" were not just random names for Santa's reindeer, but referred to Thor and lightning respectively.

In the late 70s, as I already mentioned, Thomas's story arc leading up to Thor #300 was a story in flashback of Marvel's Thor, Odin, etc. essentially establishing how the ring opera stories fit into the continuity of the 20th century Marvel gods. To this reader who wasn't yet familiar with the opera version, there were some elements of confusion, such as the thief who steals the Rhinegold being a handsome rogue in the beginning and showing up later as a misshapen dwarf. But all in all, it was an engaging story for its time, and a fitting lead-up to the 300th issue.

But even earlier than that, around 1975--probably just after seeing the opera for the first time--the same author began writing a title set in WWII--"The Invaders"--with a story in which our heroes are confronted in Germany by aliens who take on the form of the teutonic gods, including Donar. This was stright superhero fare, nothing like the plot of the opera, but the title of the issue was "The Ring of the Nebula", and the four chapter titles--"From the Rhine, a Girl of Gold", "Valkyrie Rising", "Beyond the Siegfried Line", and "Twilight of the Star Gods" kind of give the game away.

* My beef with Carmen in this modern day is that the plot could be so easily resolved. "I no longer love you. You no longer love me. So let's just stop seeing each other." I have to really stretch credulity to believe that in the day and age of the story, "So I have to kill you." is a credible corollary. Almost as much as I have to stretch credulity to know when to cheer and boo during an Ayn Rand novel.

David Smelser said...

Did anyone have "Ransomware disables Georgia county election database" on their October surprise prediction bingo card?

David Brin said...

I do not have a crystal ball. I will bet over what Biden and Congress are likely to actually do. I have not worked out on paper which rates of decline in carbon emissions are likely, nor have I the time. But if jim escrows actual, actual stakes that are worth my time, I will have a look at what seems likely. I do know that him wagging fingers at me, when I have done more for the environment in any month than he will across his entire life, is kinda pathetic.

jim said...

How pathetic,
Rather than actually responding to the bet we get the Brin Brag again.

Larry Hart said...

Stonekettle on Twitter:

If you have to "persuaded" to choose between fascism and not-fascism, if I have powder your little pink ass so you'll stop whining and do your goddamn duty as a citizen, if you need a fucking unicorn, then you've come to the wrong guy.

David Brin said...

I responded directly, oh, jim. I said I would have to study the odds before betting real stakes on the particular outcomes you propose. You, in turn whine that due diligence is cowardice. Escrow the stakes and I will do that work. You are the coward. And you are teetering on the edge of being banned.

Alfred Differ said...

California carbon emissions tied to energy generation within the CAISO boundary are drifting downward. That's one big piece of the CO2 emissions puzzle out here, but not the only one. The transport fleet is still emitting until we switch over to EV's.

Our current plan to reduce the energy-related emissions piece to 50% looks like a 25-35 year plan. A Biden administration really can't do much about that except stay out of the way. That means a reduction of between 2%-3% yearly and NOT the 7% listed in the Paris agreement. At 7% it would be a 10 year plan and the electricity industry would probably sue our pants off.

Actual practice is statistically noisy. We've tracked data since 2014 and during some months we've already seen a 50% reduction over 7 years. That's a 10%/year reduction. For most months it is closer to 30% over 7 years. During the holiday months (Nov, Dec) the reduction is almost 0% over that span. One particular thing really stands out though. The emissions curve drops dramatically during the middle of the day. Not hard to understand why. Renewables are providing for a significant fraction of the load near local noon. I updated my blog entry for this to show what the emissions curves look like for part of today and all of yesterday.

Tacitus said...

Acacia (and earlier Der Oger)

Dr. Brin has a contentious streak. I doubt it is evident in real world encounters where he is always described positively. But the internet tends to make communication argumentative and stark. I'll admit that he is even handed. He is brusque at best with those who use harsh language as well as those - I make an effort for instance - who take a generally courteous approach. Similarly, he feuds with those with whom he holds general political agreement (for Der Oger "im einvernehment mit") just as vehemently as the few Contrarians who disagree with him on matters of substance.

It's a failing of the internet mostly. And of course this being his site he can make it anything he wants. A welcoming and thoughtful discussion forum it ain't.


David Brin said...

The rest is arguable... but... "A welcoming and thoughtful discussion forum it ain't."

Ouch. Dat herts

Larry Hart said...

Well, personally, I've found it to be welcoming and thoughtful.

I see what the dissenters react to, though. Interactions with some specific people seem to become that scene in "The Simpsons" where baseball player Steve Sax gets pulled over for a routine traffic stop, and every innocuous comment escalates the angry police response. "You just don't know when to keep your mouth shut, do you Saxie Boy?" There are indeed times when I think our host escalates the antagonism too quickly. If this were actual meetings in real life, I would chalk it up to incompatible pheromones. Maybe there's some internet equivalent.

Then again, there are also times when the antagonism is aimed at those whose "discussion" is aimed at replacing Enlightenment democracy with authoritarian feudalism. And to anyone who gets the movie reference, "...and that, I do not forgive."

Jon S. said...

I wrote jim off long ago as somebody trying to "do" what Locoranch always seemed to think "liberals" were really like. I've not seen anything yet to convince me otherwise.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

Yah. He's an existence proof.

gregory byshenk said...

I would suggest that the right description is "welcoming to thoughtful discussion". The forum seems "welcoming", but not to just anything

Der Oger said...

@Pachydermis 2: "Dr. Brin has a contentious streak."

To be honest, you are not wrong. Then again, I wrote it of as a general online behavior of Americans. Different culture, a polarized society and all that stuff. But there may be more to it. And that is why I asked how and when it started.

Tim H. said...

I like John Gruber's take on the Supreme Court:

The player of games... played.

Larry Hart said...

Trump is apparently pushing the meme that the votes must be counted by Election Night itself--that late-arriving absentee ballots and presumably late hand counting of ballots should be tossed out. Someone here recently posted an article about Brett Kavanaugh signaling the same from the supreme court. The "reasoning" is supposedly that late-arriving changes to the outcome ("flipping") will delegitimize the election.

This position by "originalists" is confusing me. I don't see anywhere in the text of the Constitution that the result of an election must be known by Election Day, and the 18th Century framers would have been surprised to learn that they had set such a requirement in the days when fast communication was by pony express.

Larry Hart said...

Is there any sentence in this op-ed that isn't a lie or a complete reversal of the facts? It could have been written on that cube-shaped Bizarro Earth we discussed a few days back.

This is where newly sworn-in Associate Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett comes in. And also President Trump, who kept his promise to the American people to appoint constitutional originalists to the high court.

Because if there’s anything that can keep the republic together, it’s reverence and respect for the Constitution, and Supreme Court justices who don’t shape and interpret the text to satisfy their political passions.

That conservatives appoint "originalist", "texutalist", "Constitutionalist" judges while liberals prefer judicial activists is one of those big lies that is repeated as fact until it becomes conventional wisdom, despite being incorrect. The "principles" behind the Citizens United decision or the one to defang the Voting Rights Act are nowhere to be found in the Constitution, or even in the writings of the founders. Conservative judges pull shit out of their asses and no one calls them on it. Kavanaugh just advocated a standard that the election results must be finalized by midnight November 3. Where in the friggin' text do conservatives think he's getting that from?

And if anything will tear us further apart, it would be packing the Supreme Court, stripping it of legitimacy and independence, turning it into an auxiliary of the legislative branch, as Democrats are still threatening to do.

No, the Republican machinations to hold seats open for their side to fill has done both of those things already--stripped the court of any respect for the legitimacy of its decisions and turned it into an arm of the Republican Party.

Expanding the court (and leaving the possibility that Republicans do the same later) might strip the court of its importance in the political process, but that's a good thing, and probably more like what the founders had in mind than the current legislation from the bench.

Zepp Jamieson said...

This isn't intended as an attack on anyone here, nor do I have any reason to believe the problem Krugman describes applies to any individual here. I'm just leaving this essay of his that describes the intellectual rot that has always lurked on the edges of libertarianism:
When Libertarianism Goes Bad

jim said...

I would like to point out how ineffective David’s strategy of using betting in political judo actually is.

The strategy is to use betting to separate people from the stuff they say is true from things they are actually willing to bet are true. Things like I believe that Iraq has nuclear weapons or Renewable energy is solving the climate crisis. But it works through embarrassing / shaming your opponent into admitting he is a hypocrite.

But you know people don’t like to admit that they are hypocrites or uninformed so instead they react with insults like Dope Fool, they say I don’t have a crystal ball, you need to put an unknown amount of money into escrow before I will think of responding, you are a bad person and I am a good person etc. etc.

It is a just an ineffective technique to change people’s minds.

Larry Hart said...

Presented without further comment:

Adding judges would be a political response to a political act. But the extremes to which Republicans have been willing to go leave the Democrats no other choice. Not for revenge or because turnabout is fair play, but as the only way back to a less politicized process.

This is a lesson we learned decades ago from economists and game theorists: Once cooperation breaks down, the only play to restore it is tit-for-tat. It’s the only way both sides can learn that neither side wins unless they cooperate.

President Trump and the Republicans are unapologetic about discarding longstanding cooperative rules for making judicial appointments. Should they lose the election after succeeding in putting Judge Barrett on the court, it becomes incumbent upon Democrats to respond in kind. Paradoxical as it sounds, tit-for-tat, hard ball for hard ball, would set the stage for, for constructing a judiciary we can once again respect.

scidata said...

Boca Chica

SN8 completed an engine swap-out and needs one more static fire test (maybe today or tomorrow). Looks like the first window for 15km flight is Nov 4. Hmmm.

Larry Hart said...


I would like to point out how ineffective David’s strategy of using betting in political judo actually is.

I actually agree with this, but not for the same reasons.

The strategy is to use betting to separate people from the stuff they say is true from things they are actually willing to bet are true. Things like I believe that Iraq has nuclear weapons or Renewable energy is solving the climate crisis. But it works through embarrassing / shaming your opponent into admitting he is a hypocrite.

I don't think that's what Dr Brin has been saying. He expects them to run away from a bet. Which is intended to convince onlookers of their cowardice. The strategy is aimed at those third parties, not at the lost cause himself.

But I agree that it is not an effectual strategy, because those in the right-wing bubble won't even stipulate the same facts. Or even a consistent set of their own (alternative) facts. For instance, they can apparently hold in their mind that Trump has already made American great (thus "Keep America Great", and that the country is still in a state of carnage that Joe Biden will not eliminate, but that Trump will, even though it's happening under him. Or they can believe simultaneously that China is a deadly enemy who attacked us with COVID-19, and that COVID-19 is really not that bad, that it hardly affects anyone any more, and no one is dying from it.

We cannot convince these people by any means. We must crush them at the ballot box and then ignore their whining for the next four years. Or recognize that they've cheated to win and ignore their governing for the next four years. I haven't sold my guillotine futures yet.

Larry Hart said...

Tim H:

The player of games... played.

After all this, what if Clarence Thomas is the next to pass off this mortal coil with a Democratic administration and possibly a Democratic Senate? Sure, that would still leave a 5-4 majority, but with institutionalist Roberts as the swing vote, the right-wingers might not have won as much as they think they have.

David Brin said...

1. The wager thing has some effectiveness because it shames MAGAs when they flee from factual refutation of their slogans. I hardly ever use it with lefties because they plead poverty. Also reds promote gambling (used to be a vice, go figure.

2. jim raves in almost random directions and is not worth my time. But for him to whine about my "insults" is truly kettle-pot absurd. He has been deliberately offeinsive with tedious relentlessness and has never been known to act friendly, to concede a point or show a scintilla of curiosity. When utterly refuted, he sulks away for a few days and then resumes as if nothing happened.

3. Calling me out for not wagering about contradictions that I never made is sheer sophistry. A wager is over matters that the two parties have agreed to disagree over! I never said a damned thing about 7% per year, and in fact deem that unlikely. I did say that the dems would pass efficiency standards, switch subsidies from carbon to sustainables, push electric cars, send enforcers against methane venting, and re-engage the world... and above all unleash science. Those are things I actually said and I will bet on them.

If jim wants to pose other matters explicitly, as falsifiable-verifiable either-or positions that he believes I would strongly take the other side on, then he is welcome to do so, asking: "Do you confidently disagree and will you back up that confidence with cash?"

He did nothing of the sort, instead behaving like a whiney child.

Larry Hart said...

Spock on Edith Keeler:
"She was right, but at the wrong time."

That's how I view liberals and leftists who try to shift the conversation to whether Biden will be any better than Trump at enacting their own preferred policy. To me, whether Biden will enact a Green New Deal or defund the police or isolate militarily pales in comparison to what we know he won't do that Trump will--destroy alliances and undermine Constitutional democracy.

Furthermore, Trump's fervent supporters including those in Congress and the courts know this to be true, and support him because of it, not in spite of it.

Defeating Trump and retaking the Senate are all that matters. Disappointment with Biden for other reasons is at best, "right, but at the wrong time."

jim said...

Well you know David it is not about your hurt feelings.
From your response and Alfred’s response it seems quite clear that you are unwilling to bet that we will even come close to reducing our fossil fuel use enough to prevent the world from shifting into a new climate regime. And that was my goal to show that you don’t really believe that we will stop climate change. We are a fossil fuel powered civilization and we are headed to Hot House Earth.

The ice in the arctic is having a lot of trouble growing back this year, it is about a full month behind where it should be. And there is a fair amount of methane bubbling up from the Siberian side of the arctic. The positive feedbacks in the arctic are kicking in.

Alfred Differ said...


I knew a few libertarians who fit Krugman's description. Their argument is that government shouldn't have the power to force them without due process... which hasn't occurred. I usually counter with how silly that is in an emergency and they counter that with a statement that it is in emergencies when this is most important. They have a point in the last claim, but I'm inclined to argue that they can instead sue for having their due process rights trampled. We would see how juries see things in those cases and have done with the whole mess since juries are NOT government.

It's really the anarchists among us, though, that defend these positions. Most of us don't want to get sick or cause someone else to get sick... let alone suffer and die.

I'd say my local group is split on this issue. From the outside, our most vocal members are opposed to mask mandates. The quieter ones outnumber them, though. I'm not sure what the ratio is, but I think at least 3 of 4 support mask wearing even if they are uncomfortable with having out Governor mandate it.

I'd agree with Krugman if he qualified things a bit. It's the anarchists who see no legit role for government beyond a VERY tiny footprint.

David Brin said...

Every time I am tempted or try to get formal with jim, he foes ahead and posts utter crap like this one above. A combination of yowling things that I agree with, posed AS IF I disagree(!) with strawmanning other things out of the blue. And so again. In any one month of my life I do more to fight the good fight - for planet, freedom posterity and civilization - than you have done are likely will do across your entire noisy life.

Hence, you are not the judge of me, you deeply dishonest person.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Every time I am tempted or try to get formal with jim, he foes ahead and posts utter crap like this one above.

I think it's a matter of jim coming from an entirely different place from me and (I think) you on priorities. Why is a bet on climate change even relevant in a discussion about Trump vs Biden? Because to him, if Biden doesn't fix climate change, he's just as bad as Trump, so there's no point voting for Biden. From that POV, who cares about Constitutional democracy or foreign allies or white supremacy? Because we'll all be dead soon anyway. The leftist equivalent of James Watt saying essentially that environmentalism isn't important because the Lord will be returning soon, making it all moot.* Or Woody Allen as young Alvy Singer who won't do his homework because "The universe is expanding!", and therefore, "What's the point?"

I might have agreed in my twenties when I thought the world would end soon in nuclear fire. Or in my forties when I was sure that deficit spending would soon cause the US dollar to be worthless. In my...gulp!...sixties, I've found that we somehow peskily manage to survive impending doom after impending doom, and that the quality of life in our country and on our planet do actually seem to matter. And life under Trump is going to suck in so many ways that life under Biden simply won't.

* I know, he didn't actually say that. Anecdotally, it makes the point. Work with me. :)

jim said...

I am sorry David,
But are you now saying that:
Yes we have failed and will continue to fail to reduce our fossil fuel usage enough to avoid climate change and now it is almost impossible to avoid going into a Hot House Earth?

if so then we have nothing to argue about on this issue.

for those interested here is a link that you might fine interesting.
Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene

duncan cairncross said...

Re "tit for tat"

That is not how you answer the people who break the rules

You don't simply move to the same position - you MUST escalate - ensure that they know that breaking the "rules" will make them LOSE harder than they win

Der Oger said...

While I would point out that I side with jim in the question that the climate change is a most urgent problem globally, I'd say that discussion would be moot if the US descent into chaos and open bloodshed, or are ruled by an autocratic regime that imprisons and murders internal dissenters, which would include almost anyone regularly posting here. Hence, getting rid of Trump would have a higher priority. Also I'd like to point out that, considering the restarted nuclear arms race, hurricane clouds are a more hopeful sight than mushroom clouds. We can worry about the climate again when it is ensured that the nuclear football is back in the hands of grown-ups.

Yet, a few days ago, the Zeit (centrist-left) posted an article about Trump, dubbing him "The more honest candidate". In short: The danger is that Trump becomes society's scapegoat, and everything bad in the US is projected onto him (and, by extension, the Republican Party.) So, while he might be gone in a few months, nothing fundamentally would have changed - the US would still be a society where everyone has to fight for everything and against everyone to obtain a job, food, a home, healthcare and so on.

I assume the real challenge is not conquering the White House and Congress. It is to change a culture that emphasizes the (white, male, cis-het, protestant) individual over common welfare, domestic tranquility, justice, and a more perfect Union. And the real danger is congratulating yourself if Trump is defeated and removed from office, and not addressing the roots of the larger problems that allowed Trump to rise, in the first place.

But, I think we can agree on this, the bear must be slain first before you can divide up his fur.

David Brin said...

"I am sorry David,
But are you now saying that: "

You lie. You utterly lie. You knowingly and despicably lie. And you are banned for a month, you truly nasty person.

You do no "argue." You bait. You parents must have been something.


Dan Eastwood said...

Your first link, to "chapter on the 8 phases of the US Civil War" is wrong.

David Brin said...

Dan E I hope I just fixed that, thanks.

gregory byshenk said...

Even from the single view of climate change, I don't understand the argument that there is no difference. The choice is between candidate B, who will take action against climate change but maybe not "enough", and candidate T, who actively fights against doing anything - and indeed is happy to take actions that increase climate change.

It is like someone who has been gunshot saying that, because neither is a fully-equipped and trained EMT, there is no difference between a person who will provide first aid and a person who will shoot them a second time.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. My question for the magic 8-ball this morning was...

"Will jim do the escalating 'round-for-round' thing with the guy who can ban him?"
"Seems Likely" was the response.

Should have been "Does a bear shit in the woods?"

Yet another person who can't quite work out how to imagine how another person actually thinks. In my book that's a glitch in their 'love' functionality. Paraphrasing helps to test it, but if one can't imagine life AS the other that's a serious glitch.

For the record, I think getting fossil carbon emissions down to 50% in the US is a 25-30 year project. On average, that's a little better than 2.4% and a little worse than 3%. Some sectors will shrink quickly. Some won't. There will be ups and downs. NO President will ultimately be responsible because it will take a few of them AND our Governors AND a cadre of CEO's who choose to see the benefits to be gained instead of the lawsuits to be submitted. Mostly, though, it will take us... The People... and we haven't bought into the danger just yet. (Even though the fifth hurricane this year just hit Louisiana. Not the fifth hurricane. The fifth to hit Louisiana.)

I also suspect this next sunspot cycle will be pretty mild. [No magic 8-ball here.] A low maximum is generally useful if you want the Earth to stay a little cooler and the Arctic ice not completely melted away in summer. I think we will luck out and not get a full melt during this cycle, but we won't be so lucky in the next one. That's not a reprieve, though. That's just a bullet whizzing by our ear. We have to keep at this no matter how gloomy guys like jim are about it.

Alfred Differ said...

Der Oger,

As the third most populous nation on Earth AND sporting a huge economy, the world is toasted if we descending into chaos. Many of us know that. Don't fret TOO much, though, if our government(s) don't appear to have their act(s) together. Most of what we really do is done by the actions of our people. Government follows at all levels.

For example, in disaster situations where humanitarian aide is needed, our government usually contributes little while our people contribute more through NGO's or directly. That makes it a little difficult to track how much we care, but that's sorta the point with us. We'd rather do a lot of things ourselves avoiding efforts that tell us what we should and should not care about.

I strongly suspect our response to climate change will work the same way. I used to worry years ago that a more organized response was needed. I used to work at helping to make that happen and found it very frustrating not to make any real progress. One day, though, I found it difficult to buy the old-style lightbulbs I wanted to replace. The store had a few, but mostly they had the newer halogen ones. Nowadays I don't even find those. It's all about LED's of various types. I did a back of the envelope calculation the other day and realized that the LED shift made two particular dents in the problem. The obvious one was we got light without using as many Watts. The less obvious one is we didn't get the infra-red. I used to keep a special 250W bulb over my desk for use in winter as both light therapy AND space heating. No more. They are too expensive to replace. Now I have a 40W equivalent that actually draws about 7W… and I keep my socks on. heh.

Conservation goes a LONG way to buying us time for things like light-bulb tech to change. It DID change while I wasn't thinking much about it. The writing is on the wall for most niches currently filled by internal combustion engines too. Tons of work to do, of course, but government won't be needed for most of it. I suspect most of it will happen out of range of our collective attention too.

What we need of government is mostly preventative actions blocking people who would prevent changes. We might get that in the US with the next administration. I certainly hope so.

Larry Hart said...

Brett Kavanaugh might want to be careful about an edict that vote counts must be final on Election Night.

If the presidential election in Florida is close, as it often is, the deciding factor could be absentee ballots from service members deployed overseas. In 2016, one out of five overseas military ballots was in Florida, for a total of over 50,000.

Florida has many military bases and no state income tax, so many service members who were assigned there claim the state as their permanent address and thus are allowed to vote there. This could have serious implications for when the race is called. In Florida (and some other states) military voters overseas (and usually American civilians overseas as well) have different deadlines for getting their ballots in. Florida's deadline is Nov. 13 for arrival of the ballots. This means that if the election is close, the results won't be known until after Nov. 13, to allow the overseas ballots to arrive and be counted.

Larry Hart said...

And the rift is deeper than just policy. The two leaders now really despise one another. McConnell called Schumer's allegations of impropriety "outlandish" and "utterly absurd." Schumer said that McConnell's speech was "very defensive." They are not going to work together on anything come January. If the Democrats take charge, the Senate will become like the House, where the majority leader does whatever he or she wants to, without asking the minority for its opinion—on anything.

Reporting like this always talks about how the Democrats will change the cordiality of the Senate. Tell me, how is the situation described above not already the case? Is it only seen as a problem for the majority to run roughshod over the minority when Republicans are the minority? Is the prevailing wisdom that no matter who is in control of Congress, Republicans must have a say in everything?

Larry Hart said...

Anyone see the irony in demanding that nine un-elected judges on the supreme court declare that un-elected members of a state board of elections have no jurisdiction over a state elections matter?

In the Supreme Court, the Trump campaign urged the justices to intercede.

“This case involves an extraordinary attempt by an unelected state board of elections to rewrite the unambiguous terms of a statute enacted in June by a bipartisan state legislature to set time, place, and manner requirements for absentee voting in response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the brief said.

Larry Hart said...

“President Trump won’t have to recover from Covid,” Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida gloated. “Covid will have to recover from President Trump.”

Heh. I don't think he meant that the way I take it.

Larry Hart said...

This guy is saying everything I've been feeling for four years:

Some 46 percent of the Americans who cast ballots for president in 2016 picked him, and as he moved into the White House and proceeded to soil it, most of those Americans stood by him solidly enough that Republicans in Congress didn’t dare to cross him and in fact went to great, conscience-immolating lengths to prop him up. These lawmakers weren’t swooning for a demagogue. They were reading the populace.
Trump snuffed out my confidence, flickering but real, that we could go only so low and forgive only so much. With him we went lower — or at least a damningly large percentage of us did. In him we forgave florid cruelty, overt racism, rampant corruption, exultant indecency, the coddling of murderous despots, the alienation of true friends, the alienation of truth itself, the disparagement of invaluable institutions, the degradation of essential democratic traditions.

He played Russian roulette with Americans’ lives. He played Russian roulette with his own aides’ lives. In a sane and civil country, of the kind I long thought I lived in, his favorability ratings would have fallen to negative integers, a mathematical impossibility but a moral imperative. In this one, they never changed all that much.

David Brin said...

Just to show how 'unfair' life is, I just flushed a screech by "jim" (the mildest yowl was "crybaby") and will continue flushing for a month, after which comes probation.
So why do I even mention it?
Just to say:
"Get your own damn blog!"

It's free and you have plenty to say... start it up and post away! I will even tout it a couple of times and urge members of this community to give it a try. A couple of times. Be really interesting and maybe you'll buid a community.

This one is MY home and while I like a lively crowd (one of the oldest and best on the web!) I draw the line on liars who shit on the rug, but who are, above all, boring.

David Brin said...