Sunday, March 14, 2021

Politics Post Trump

Out of all the post-impeachment theater, one moment stood out for me... as Republican Party committees and caucuses all over rallied for Trumpism by attacking defectors, like the (slightly) Magnificent Seven senators who (for a brief moment) put country and honor above lickspittle cravenness, what stood out was this news from Utah.

The Utah Republican Party released a statement Monday accepting the different votes of the state's Senators Mitt Romney and Mike Lee in last week's impeachment trial, marking a stark contrast with how some other state and county GOP party operations have pursued censure against Republicans who voted to impeach or convict former President Donald Trump.

"Our senators have both been criticized for their vote," the Utah GOP wrote. "The differences between our own Utah Republicans showcase a diversity of thought, in contrast to the danger of a party fixated on 'unanimity of thought.' There is power in our differences as a political party, and we look forward to each senator explaining their votes to the people of Utah."

Set aside the almost certainty that Sen. Lee is just another Foxite nutjob shill for Putinism and treason. The fact that the Utah GOP is even willing to entertain the possibility of anything other than pure Nuremberg-rally discipline in support of treason is actually quite telling. I said it in Polemical Judo and repeat it... Democrats should reach out to Utah! 

"We know you will never be majority-liberal. But you represent the kind of conservatism we can negotiate with and that will negotiate with us, dropping the demonization... an almost vanished American conservatism that's ethical, moral, principled, and willing to test its polemic against things called actual facts. 

"Your dilemma isn't unprecedented! In 1947 the Democratic Party split over whether or not to continue believing the monstrous lies of Joseph Stalin. We passed that test (with flying colors!) and we pray that American conservatives will pass this one. If enough of them do - sufficient to save the movement of rational citizens like Barry Goldwater and Robert Heinlein, then we expect one major center of that rejuvenation and rebirth of sane conservatism to be Utah."

== Stop Sweating Joe Manchin ==

Everyone's talking about the Senator from West Virginia. The deal-maker who sends liberals tearing their hair out... but who has mostly been there, when needed. And yes, he represents a state that is culturally deep, deep red, even when that runs against the actual best self-interest of WVa voters. Luring them back into the Union that their ancestors so bravely joined, in 1861, will take savvy and effort and we need to make allowances for Manchin's role in that project.

And yet, we also need for him to keep stepping up! So, get him to truly commit to the filibuster 'compromise' he spoke of, on-and-off:

 1- All future filibusters must be talk style like in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with no yielding to colleagues or breaks... and the chair can force the speaker to "stay germane."   Manchin might agree that saves face, because that's what the public already thinks 'filibuster' means.

2- Adjust rules so that cloture (stopping debate) must be assertively STOPPED by 41 senators of the minority, instead of demanding that 60 senators to actively invoke cloture. The burden is on them. Do that and we'll manage.

3- Each Senator gets one per session, or per year.

These are measures that Manchin could get as part of his deal to "save" the filibuster. And yes, he has a point about 'minority rights... or would have a point, if McConnell's GOP ever intended to play fair, ever, even once, at all. Ever. Of course they don't.

But hen, let's test Joe M's sincerity. Do you actually want to ensure minority rights for legislators in a way that reduces partisan discipline and enhances the old American tradition of autonomous representatives and senators? Possibly freeing more Romneys and Murkowskis to grow the kind of courage shown by Adam Kinzinger? Well then... Included in my long to-do-list of proposed judo moves is this one that Nancy Pelosi could use to change Congress in ways that benefit us all. And especially Democrats... whether in the majority or some future minority.

Give every member of Congress a permanent right to issue one subpoena per session, to use as she or he sees fit!

Sure, some would donate theirs to their committee chairs. Most would hoard theirs to summon some witness for 3 hours of testimony to impress voters, back home. 

But many would use this power to investigate some unsual thing. And it would mean that Democrats would never again be unable to probe while in the minority. And it would be seen as utterly revolutionary and there will be no way for Foxites to bad-spin it.

 (Will goppers try to use it to clog things while they are in the minority? Sure, a bit, but surprisingly little. LIGHT unevenly helps justice. Anyway, many members will hoard their subpoenas, regaining a habit of defying their party leaders.)

Just... think about it. Someone. (Anyone?) It's in Polemical Judo.

== Simple. Un-Redact! ==

ONE THING Biden's folk can do right now that will have aggressively political effects without seeming ostensibly aggressive will be to without much fanfare just UN-REDACT the MUELLER REPORT! Or rather, leave redacted only those parts that the intel community and prosecutors actually asked to have redacted. Let us all see the portions William Barr chose to exclude, in service to his  patrons!

In a terrific twist, this move would call attention exactly to the parts Barr wanted to hide. They would leap off every page. And prosecutors would be asked to think again about their redactions, too.

Time for this delayed-fuse bomb to go off. Now.

== The Russian Connection ==

An ex-KGB agent spills the beans about how early Trump was groomed for his role, as detailed in Craig Unger's American Kompromat. Though I yawn at how “of course” it all is. What’s more significant is how few defectors we get these days. Ex-KGB colonel Putin knew that was a fatal flaw in the old Cold War and he has systematically terrorized potential defectors and used agents like Trump to wreck our biggest draw... the moral high ground.

Robert Mueller - whose nitpicking to evade decisive results caused us so much frustration... while unleashing other prosecutors to charge and convict a myriad trumpists... said repeatedly that he would have charged Donald Trump, if he had not been president. Here he also says decisively that the Russians had plenty of material to blackmail Trump, even without a ‘pee tape” or the Deutsche Bank money laundering papers. 

== And political miscellany ==

A U.S.-bound caravan thwarted in Guatemala as pressure against migrants continues. 

One win-win aspect to Biden addressing immigrations problems would be simple. Go after the oppressive ruling elites and the criminal gangs in Honduras and other mafia states, who terrorize their people and turn many into refugees. Assisting local democracy activists to establish justice and rule-of-law would help make up for past US crimes in the region, it would burnish our rep, it would do tons of pragmatic good…. and it would dry up sources of refugees, thus luring some others of our own US neighbors out of their paranoid “MAGA” funk.

Amanda Gustafson wrote on my FB thread: “I recently learned that Fox News gets a big part of its funding by being part of cable channel bundles. What if a bunch of us reached out to our cable providers and said we don't want it as part of our bundle and that we do not want to pay for it? and that we will shift cable unless they take us seriously? what if Fox news was something that people had to pay extra for like the fringe it is?”

It’s not too soon for at least some of us to note the lineup that is forming for 2024, and there is zero doubt in this observer’s mind that Nikki Haley sees herself seizing the helm of the Republican Party, whatever the anointed prince-in-waiting – Paul Ryan – has to say about it.  

One of you observed that “totalitarianism in general is predicated on the assumption there's one born every minute - and I suspect we won't find the folks with whom the BS is originating putting up stakes.  In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of the folks in whatever constitutes the 'QAnon Core' have been making a bit of side money betting against their own prophecies.”  

And it’s all of a similar mindset overseas. Rob Atkinson offers a cogent comparison of Germany’s trade predation 1900-1945 to similar tactics being used today. The number of blatant overlaps makes for riveting reading. “In writing about Germany in 1941, Douglas Miller, former U.S. commercial attaché to Germany, could easily have been writing about China today: “We must get this straight once and for all: There is no such thing as having purely economic relations with the totalitarian states. Every business deal with them carries with it political, military, social, propaganda implications.” 

The economy has fared far better under Democrats. The gap, as one academic paper puts it, is “startlingly large.” A key element: Republican presidents over the past 40 years have pursued one economic policy above all other — tax cuts, skewed heavily toward the affluent — and there is little evidence that they do much for economic growth. Find it all here.


Dwight said...

For several years, I’ve been trying very hard to NOT buy products made in China. It’s difficult but it’s the least I can do to punish China for its deadly authoritarianism.

David Brin said...

I do not vouch for the following... it was an email-sent circulation meme. But if true, dang, we've made even more progress than I thought...

The population of Earth is around 7.8 Billion. For most people, it is a large figure, that is all. However, if you condensed 7.8 billion in the world into 100 persons , and then into various percentage statistics. The resulting analysis is relatively much easier to comprehend. Out of 100 :

11 are in Europe
5 are in North America
9 are in South America
15 are in Africa
60 are in Asia

49 live in the countryside
51 live in cities

12 speak Chinese
5 speak Spanish
5 speak English
3 speak Arabic
3 speak Hindi
3 speak Bengali
3 speak Portuguese
2 speak Russian
2 speak Japanese
62 speak their own language.

77 have their own houses 23 have no place to live.

21 are over-nourished
63 can eat full
15 are under-nourished
1 ate the last meal, but did not make it to the next meal.

The daily cost of living for 48 is less than 2 USD (2 USD).

87 have clean drinking water
13 either lack clean drinking water or have access to a water source that is polluted.

75 have mobile phones 25 do not.

30 have internet access 70 do not have conditions to go online

7 received university education 93 did not attend college.

83 can read 17 are illiterate.

33 are Christians
22 are Muslims
14 are Hindus
7 are Buddhists
12 are other religions
12 have no religious beliefs.

We need to solve the food thing asap.... and also internet access! OTOH, the water access thing seems better than I had thought as is literacy.

David Brin said...

Oh, and English is the 2nd language for half the globe. Or more.

Jon S. said...

Of course, with "Chinese" another difficult aspect is - which Chinese? There are between seven and fourteen major dialects, depending on how you count them, and some of them are unintelligible to the speakers of others. :)

Alfred Differ said...

It would have been interesting to see stats for 'can speak language X'. Obviously that would add to more than 100, so it would be what portion of 100 can do it.


75 have mobile phones?! WE #$%@ing WIN!

LOE Internet constellations are arriving right now!

One is up in large enough numbers to reach the impossible places where indigenous populations live. Right now!

Earlier this morning a Falcon 9 first stage flew and landed for the 9th time.

It's not rock throwing.
To Engineer is To Be Human.

duncan cairncross said...

Of course, with "Chinese" another difficult aspect is - which Chinese? There are between seven and fourteen major dialects,

And how many dialect of "English" are there??
Could you understand a Glaswegian ?
A Geordie?

I would be OK with the Glaswegian - but the Geordie ?????

Paul451 said...

Speaking of political judo moves:

A leaked policy proposal from the Biden administration suggests they are looking at inviting Iran to take over security operations in Afghanistan (allowing the US to withdraw after 20 years.)

If they could pull it off, it would be an extraordinary move: It avoids the power vacuum of any other proposed withdrawal. It re-engages with Iran, signalling to them and to the world that the US is back in the hands of adults. It removes the easiest recruiting tool against the Afghan government (that they are US puppets,) resulting in an immediate shift in stagnant internal Afghan politics. It forces the Iranian military to actually do their jobs; right now they are more a political power, hell a business, than a military one. The burden of fighting terrorists and regional warlords completely changes the criteria for being a successful military commander. Ironically, this could reduce the power of the military leadership.

By contrast, the need to negotiate the mess that is Afghani power structures, plus deal with Pakistan, means a greater need for Iranian diplomatic types, increasing their power and influence back home. Being simply handed the role by a grateful US government should also seriously erode the perceived threat of US attack, something which is used by the Iranian regime to justify "unity" and the destruction of opposition groups. (I mean, if you want to cement their hold on power, drop bombs on them. If you want to actually shake up the power structures, drop external responsibilities on them.)

If they can pull it off, it would be breathtaking.

Of course, given Democrats gotta Democrat, it will be interesting how they pull defeat from the jaws of victory.

 Ashley said...

Since the previous post has moved on, please forgive my late reply to alien question.

I think biology will shape psychology, and our limited understanding sets down a large number of unknown unknowns.

I suspect that we're not alone, but might as well be, because I suspect that our understanding of the universe is constrained by our biology that defines our psychology.

What if evolution doesn't lead to the technological future we imagine, but something outside of our ability to imagine that is constrained by our biology.

Robert said...

which Chinese? There are between seven and fourteen major dialects

Calling them "dialects" is a misnomer, because it implies there's a single 'Chinese' language with different accents. It's like viewing Spanish, Portugese, French, and Italian as dialects of the same language.

David Brin said...

Ashley it's long been a "rule" in sci fi that an alien race may have culturally and genetically shifted from its old, baseline personality, but that baseline revolved around what and how they ate. herbivores = paranoid. Stalking carnivores=empathic but unsympatheitc, etc.

Robert except all Chinese understand the same writing.

No need for Iranians in Afgh. Just give the Taliban their damn Pahtunistan with tgwo rules.

- women may leave if they want
- if they export violence we come and take it away.

They know we don't do guerilla prevention well. But we do take-away a standing government extremely well.

Robert said...

David, not exactly. It is arguable that written and spoken Chinese are effectively two separate languages* which share grammatical elements and linguistic congruence. Certainly being able to read characters doesn't help you speak, and vice-versa. Unlike, say, English, where despite a crazy 'system' of spelling most people can sound out words most of the time — if you see a new character you can't figure out meaning or pronunciation from looking at the strokes.

Also doesn't change that the differences between Chinese "dialects" are at least as great as the differences between Romance languages.

There's multiple Chinese scripts. In the PRC everyone learns the simplified characters in school, so yes they know those — although they also learn potonghua (essentially Beijing Mandarin) so have some familiarity with a common spoken language. Traditional characters are harder to learn** but still used in Taiwan and overseas. Think of trying to read German fraktur alphabets — you can usually puzzle them out, but it's not easy.

Some of my nieces can't read traditional characters well enough to read a book (unless it's a children's book) because they don't know the more complicated characters, although they are fully literate in simplified characters.

Older periods had other scripts. Running grass script looks elegant, but it's harder to read than a doctor's handwriting :-)

*I knew an Austrian engineer in Beijing who's written Chinese was much better than his spoken. We travelled together a bit, and he would often pull out a small notebooks and write something and show it to someone, who would write an answer. He said that he found the writing easier to learn than speaking, and it was more useful.

**Simplified characters are essentially the shortcut versions that were in common use which were standardized as part of a mass literacy campaign.

David Brin said...

Yes Robert, I knew most of that but you put it in very strong context.

Paul451 said...

Re: Iran/Afghanistan

I'm less interested in the effect in Afghanistan as I am in the possible effects on Iran.

Tim H. said...

Imagine how different American english might be if the evening news was read in a Bronx accent, instead of a midwestern one.

David Brin said...

The middle east needs one major simplification. If Israelis and the US told the Saudis "We will only protect you from Iran if you pony up a $trillion for the Palestinians you insisted must stay in camps for 80 years instead of resettling in Arab lands, the way most refugee crises have ebbed-away in the past."

If that were to happen... and Israelis decisively turn away from the grabby-loony "settlements" (bought out with some of that Saudi cash)... then the Iranian mullahs would lose their surface rationalization for repression of their own educated people -- being the (Shiite) 'protectors' of (Sunni) Palestinians.

At which point the Iran vs Saudi rivalry would boil down to (radical version) Shia vs (radical version) Sunni. And with that clarity there might come some kind of negotiated settlement. Ideally with less-radical voices on both sides gaining sway. Of course that's what MBS and the mullahs most fear.

But to be clear, I do not deem the Iranian people to be anything but victims.

Treebeard said...

Re: Afghanistan, here’s a wild idea: let them govern themselves as they see fit. I know, it sounds totally wacko, but the nation-bombing then -rebuilding in your image program hasn’t worked too great. And letting Shiite Iran run Sunni fundamentalist Afghanistan sounds equally misguided. One thing I give China credit for is they aren’t trying to remake the whole world in their image; they just don’t want to be remade in anyone else's image. It’s funny how often the exceptionalist-imperialist mindset prevents Americanists from doing the one thing most likely to bring better relations with other nations: minding their own effing business. Maybe after 2 or 3 more lost wars they'll figure it out, but I doubt it.

David Brin said...

A microcephalic tardigrade could see what's wrong with Treebeard's proposal. Ask almost any Afghani woman or girl or would be member of any profession or art or holder of unconventional views.

Larry Hart said...


Re: Afghanistan, here’s a wild idea: let them govern themselves as they see fit.

I suppose we should have let Nazi Germany govern themselves as they see fit too?

One thing I give China credit for is they aren’t trying to remake the whole world in their image; they just don’t want to be remade in anyone else's image

Any muslim nation is by definition going to try to remake the whole world in its image. And you don't seem to have a problem with that. Why the invective only toward the West?

Larry Hart said...

Can't believe I didn't think of this parallel already...

In 1957 Isaac Asimov published “The Naked Sun,” a science-fiction novel about a society in which people live on isolated estates, their needs provided by robots and they interact only by video. The plot hinges on the way this lack of face-to-face contact stunts and warps their personalities.

After a year in which those of us who could worked from home — albeit served by less fortunate humans rather than robots — that sounds about right.

Larry Hart said...

Ari Fleishcer, formerly of the Bush administration, puts it right out there on Twitter, rhetorically asking, "If allowing people to vote helps Democrats, then voter suppression helps Republicans, so why is one side allowed to help their own cause and the other isn't?"

If every one of these measures is “voter suppression of Democrats”, wouldn’t the opposite also be true? Every time the law in question was enacted, it was a “voter increase of Democrats”. I guess Ds can change the rules to benefit Ds. Rs can’t reverse what Ds do.

jim said...

Even a microcephalic tardigrade might notice that sending a trillion dollars down the insatiable gullet of the US military industrial complex so that you can boast about some schools for girls in Afghanistan is a rather inefficient use of limited resources. (just take a minute and think what could have been done with the trillion dollars we wasted in Afghanistan)

In other news i see that Bolivia has reversed the coup that Elon Musk supported. I wonder if they can bring criminal charges against him?

Jon S. said...

"Could you understand a Glaswegian ?
A Geordie?"

If the accents in the "Creature Comforts" videos on YouTube are anything like accurate, sure, I could understand a Geordi. There's a lot of repetition in what the person says, but the accent itself isn't really any more difficult than, say, Cajun or rural Southern.

I'm guessing I'd probably understand a Glaswegian as well, as I find the Scots accents in general quite lovely to listen to.

Smurphs said...

I like the symmetry of the idea, but if there is anyone who knows that "Afghanistan is place Empires go to die", it is the Persian Empire.

Robert said...

Could you understand a Glaswegian ?
A Geordie?

Speaking somewhat tongue in cheek, I have trouble understanding many Americans. I understand all the words, but they seem to mean different things to what I'd expect… :-)

matthew said...

Periodic reminder that treebeard has repeatedly self-identified as a White Nationalist, expresses admiration for Putin, has threatened violence against others here on this blog, and likes to brag about causing violence on LGBTQ folks.
Of course they don't see a problem with letting Afghanistan return to a misogynistic feudal state - TB advocates for the same thing here.
Crawl back under your rock, nazi-boy.

David Brin said...

Matthew, I haven't interpreted Treebeard's remarks (generally vague) as QUIT that bad. But sure. Main reason he's tolerated here is because he's not NASTY. And offers a glimpse of our dyspeptic side.

matthew said...

I've argued not to ban treebeard from here in the past when it has come up.

But while I'm OK with him being here, I do remind people that haven't been here for years and thousands of posts about treebeard's past comments and threats.

Context for the dyspeptic stuff - treebeard likes to brag about how tough he is and how much he likes to beat up people, especially LGBTQ.
He worships Putin and other authoritarian leaders with all the admiration of a wannabe fanboy. He has self-identified here as a White Nationalist.
He has threatened real world violence to other posters here.
And he particularity seems to despise any sort of equality under the law and the Enlightenment.

He is an all-too familiar breed of jackanapes, cavorting around almost like someone pays them to dance here.
Or maybe he just likes Nathan Holm, I dunno.

I like to give out background on the history of egregious posters since we don't have any sort of online reputation service. And I don't like fascists. It's all context.

Tony Fisk said...

Geordies are from around Newcastle-on Tyne area in NE England. The old Danelaw. Not the midlands tone favoured by Aardman. Geordies are almost better understood as a Scandinavian dialect.

Oh, it seems Louisiana has plans afoot to divert the Mississippi. Who knew?

Treebeard said...

Matthew is like one of those crows who flies around for years afterward, cawing at the guy who trapped him as a warning to the rest of the flock. Except in this case there’s no actual affront, just some words on a blog that he misinterpreted as terrible thoughtcrimes. It’s comical how human beings can be dumber than birds, who are at least smart enough to know when they’ve actually been aggressed. Fortunately I don’t need to worry about him; I’m here to talk to the host and any other non-birdbrains who are more interested in conversation than in crowing at people who tick off too many imaginary bad-guy boxes in their heads.

David Brin said...

Matthew, had Treebeard's remarks been explicitly as you describe them. he would have been banned. YES! I believe he has deliberately danced along the ambiguous edge of such awful things, in order to giggle as fellows like you took "obvious" interpretations. He is giggling now, in his latest highly stinky and repulsive... but not explicitly culpable... posting.

WTF I can afford to put up with puerile antics, especially since I suspect he's less bad than he'd like us to think. And again, he's not nasty, so...

Oh! That reminds me. It's over a month -- two? -- since locumranch's exile period lapsed. He can return signed, instead of those sneak-bys (which I permitted). Only this. Do... not... ever... ever mention my famility again. Not in any context or in any way, fellah. I am 70% sure that those spews of yours were just meant for shock value. But I will take any such in-future as threats. And I know people.

That understood... allee allee outs-infree.

Oh, thanks Tony.

Is it noteworthy that the state of Louisiana is planning to divert the mighty Mississippi River into new paths, to rebuild protective wetlands and to counter mistakes of the past… an event that I portrayed happening all at once, by terrible accident, in my 1990 novel EARTH? Of course it is better that such things happen in stages, by sapient care, than waiting for nature to have Her revenge on the unsapient. Still, I think many of you will agree that my depiction of the Father of Waters freed, rampant and un-vexed -- unleashed by an uber-feminist-eco-warrior -- was kinda cool?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

That understood... allee allee outs-infree.

On the other hand, I will continue not to hear the words of traitors.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

unleashed by...

I know the book is 30 years old, but if you want to attract new readers, you might at least want to give spoiler alerts.:)

That said, the fact that Daisy's geographic location was so essential to the climactic events of the novel was almost Dickensian in its coincidentalness, and was one of the few elements which forced me to grudgingly suspend disbelief in order to stay in the storyline (whereas gravity lasers and artificial black holes were relatively easy to accept).

scidata said...

For anyone who has spent their life creating (art, literature, inventions, etc), the Non-Fungible Token (NFT) may be an express train to untold wealth. Elon musk is selling one of his early tweets in NFT form for $2 million. The age of the struggling artist may be over.

David Brin said...

The... rich... have... too... much... money.

jim said...

If you remember the Treasury department is coming up with new regulations about shell companies because they are so widely used in white collar crime. The high end art market is like the high end luxury apartments and is heavily used in money laundering operations. I suspect that the creation of these NTFs are a technological innovation for money laundering to help get around the new regulations that are coming out.

And yes the rich have way too much money.
We really need a maximum income and a maximum wealth level.
I suggest 150,000$ as maximum income (10X the minimum wage) and 3 million as maximum wealth (20X the maximum income).

Slim Moldie said...

Not disputing "it's long been a "rule" in sci fi that an alien race may have culturally and genetically shifted from its old, baseline personality, but that baseline revolved around what and how they ate. herbivores = paranoid. Stalking carnivores=empathic but unsympathetic, etc."

Just having a bit of fun brainstorming aliens in fiction that fall outside that rule. I'd have to re-read...but don't the aliens in "The God's Themselves" feed on energy? And Asimov also has rock creatures in those Lucky Star books he was writing as Paul French. P.J. Farmer has some interesting aliens, leaning toward the more fantastical: there's this radioactive stone eating creature in Dark of The Sun called Phemropit and the "Stone God Awakens" has a sentient tree creature. Fred Pohl has the Kugel Assassins that are energy based + that whole series moving toward a cloud-based AI consciousness. Vernor Vinge has the entities in the transcend. Pk Dick has unintelligent spores in "World Jones Made."

Sure I'm forgetting a few obvious ones.

David Brin said...

Im, hey Slim Moldie... what about my vastly more plausible magnetovores in SUNDIVER?

It is not energy per se but energy GRADIENTS that life requires, along with some kind of medium that acts LIKE a liquid that can allow complex interactions. Only when energy gradients are TOO steep you get disruption that tears such environments apart.

---jim we are allies in the broadest sense, in that we perceive the same threat to liberty, only I see elite owner-oligarchs as the enemy of creative market competition across 6000 years, that Adam Smith denounced and the Founders rebelled against. You lack that broader context.

But a maximum wealth effect is too blunt an instrument. Wealth serves a function as a motivator for positive investment and innovation. But your SECOND billion should be HARDER to get than your first, not easier, as is the case today, and subject to more tax.

All of that is getting way ahead of ourselves. What's needed first is transparency of wealth, so all wealth is openly declared... or else abandoned. If that happened, then nations would get windfalls of abandoned wealth to erase their public debts. Secondly, CURRENT tax laws would be allowed to actually WORK and thus provide a baseline for further tweaks. Law abiding folks would likely see tax CUTS.

Slim Moldie said...

RE Sundiver. "Sure I'm forgetting a few obvious ones," he said, snubbing the host on his way out.

Energy Gradients reminded me that I forgot Larry Niven's Outsiders.

Can't think of any aliens in fiction based on motion, sound or elastic energy.

jim said...

Well David,
I know you will be shocked by this, but I disagree (LOL).

Simple, blunt limits on income and wealth are very hard to game against.
Limit extreme inequality (and all the negatives that go with extreme inequality) by limiting extreme wealth. It is good for democracy and good for the planet and is probably better for the economy.

(it would likely be very beneficial to the wealthy themselves. After reaching the maximum income or wealth the wealthy people would be free from the tyranny of constant competition from their peers to make ever more money, they could do things like be a good parent – so many children of the wealthy have terrible relationships with their parents because the parents are out chasing money rather than being parents.)

Smurphs said...

Dr. Brin regarding jim's post

"But a maximum wealth effect is too blunt an instrument."

At first I had the same reaction to jim's post. But on second though, he made actual, concrete, measurable suggestions.

Now we can just haggle over the details.

David Brin said...

"Simple, blunt limits on income and wealth are very hard to game against."

Absolutely STUNNINGLY naive. It is far better to keep powerful folks in the game than to drive them underground. Your approach guarantees some of the smartest humans will innovate ways to stay entirely out of view.

Yes, we should encourage satiability. Gates/Buffett show (1) that's possible and (2) Even when their MAIN objectives move on to "legacy-reputation and honor"... they STILL spend efforts maintaining momentum of their nest egg, if only to continue honored generosity at a high level.

jim said...

Nah just confiscate all the wealth over 3 million per person and put strict limits on maximum income.

You would be reducing the wealth of the oligarchs by 3-5 orders of magnitude and reduce them to mere single digit millionaires. I am quite confident that even if these oligarchs go Gault they will not be able to do nearly as much harm as they are doing today.

David Brin said...

Yes, I get it Jim. You are "quite confident" of many things you say. This one is dizzyingly clueless about history or human nature. But sure.

matthew said...

I like the imagery of the crow, but I laughed out loud at the "trapped him as a warning to the rest of the flock." Yeah, sure buddy. I'm trapped.

Tim H. said...

Jim, wouldn't it be more fun to split the difference between the interests of the 1% and the 99%? Rather than risk exchanging one bunch of parasitic oligarchs for another? And, ideally, do it in such a way that doesn't create festering resentment... again.

TheMadLibrarian said...

jim, you will be driving those same people to find other ways of creating wealth for themselves that will be even less discoverable. Getting wealth is an incredibly addicting drug, and many multibillionaires have been hooked for decades, with platoons of lawyers, financial wizards et. all dedicated to building and protecting their fortunes. Trying to make them go cold turkey without palatable alternatives will likely have poor consequences.

David Brin said...

Also, both art and philanthropy play legitimate roles I got nothing against a guy who developed re-usable rockets having liquid capital... or another funding unusual vaccination programs or another building a museum. One billion - if watched closely - isn't gonna warp civilization. But each next billion should take bigger efforts and contributions and innovations. And if some genius takes that challenge and succeeds? In order to reach 50B$ he better end cancer and seel us all the ability to fly like Superman.

duncan cairncross said...

The only argument that I have ever heard that makes any actual sense is that the very very rich individual can "do things" that simply won't be done by a committee

The ONLY individual that I know of that is stretching the envelope in that way is Elon Musk!

Bill Gates is doing very valuable work with his vaccination programs - but that is essentially helping out things that are already happening

So does a single case prove or disprove argument??

IMHO Musk with his electric cars and reducing the cost to orbit has already done enough to justify his existence

So while I agree that it should be MORE difficult to get your second Billion (not a LOT LESS as is the case today) - I'm not sure that the $50 Billion = end cancer

locumranch said...

I'm thrilled to be welcomed back into the fold & all but, as I am now fully retired, relatively well-heeled and fully engaged in parasitic mode, I see little reason to cast cautionary pearls except on an academic or rhetorical basis.

Post-Trump politics has exceeded the majority of my expectations, rendering me almost speechless, as to how quickly progressive Democrat Party control has manifested itself as a foreign occupation, replete with a militarized US Capitol, a tyranny of good intentions, an undefended US border & the repudiation of the Bill of Rights.

Even Jim's hyperinflationary wealth redistribution scheme is unsurprising, par for the course & barely worthy of comment, as it mistakes money (an arbitrary proxy) for actual negotiable wealth in a false analogy that has been thoroughly debunked by the 2 million Venezuelan Dollar cup-of-coffee (circa 2018, add a croissant and watch Jim confiscate it) and almost any Spider Robinson 'Saloon' story.

No longer a mad Howard Beale, I have scant reason to 'Network', less skin-in-the-game with every passing day and little reason to care about any potential future.

We know things are bad – worse than bad. They’re crazy. It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is: ‘Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms.

Just let me have my toaster, my steel-belted radials, my quarter horses, my fulsome retirement account, my comfy houses, my gas-guzzling automobiles & the occasional prostitute. Or not.

You can't have no idea how little I care.


David Brin said...

Oh, what have I done! Poor locum must have been saving up cause that pile of drivel makes Jim seem like Mister Fact!

Wow, 2000 children... two... thousand... children constitue an "undefended border. And someone who supported Supply Side always-diametrically-opposite-to-fact "economics" is in any position to lecture Keynsians?

Hoo-hah. Well, as loong as the very loose rules on nastiness are followed, all are welcome.

Quarter horse? My favorite? Talk about them, some time.


Duncan Ididn't say $50 Billion = end cancer. But if you end cancer I won't yowl if you get $50 Billion. Any more than that and I start sounding like Jim. In fact any more that $5B and you should live in a glass house under 24 hour scrutiny... while free to invest in further cool stuff.

Alfred Differ said...

Vernor Vinge has the entities in the transcend.

... and I've never been able to look at fungi and molds innocently since.

Non-Fungible Token (NFT)

If you can milk the nipple, it might be worth trying. I wouldn't recommend investing much to arrange for it and your creations, though. All put my neck out and call this a fad that will be oversupplied very shortly. SOME might retain value, but most won't. The bulk of the money to be made is by the people setting these up for buyers and sellers. Middle-men.

I'm keeping my distance.

Alfred Differ said...

I suggest 150,000$ as maximum income (10X the minimum wage) and 3 million as maximum wealth (20X the maximum income).

Ugh. No. I'd take up arms against this kind of stupidity.

There is a huge difference between rich people who have their $$ socked away in treasury bonds compared to entrepreneurial efforts.

Risk. Market evolutionary forces. Whatever one calls them, there are ways to balance compensation to people who benefit us as a whole against the dangers the become by being wealthy.

Yah. Regulation too, but I'll be picky about whether other methods can work better. I'd want sunset clauses, ex ante predictions for efficacy, tests of efficacy, and continual process improvement phases.

There are damn good REASONS humans invented markets and OLD AS DIRT reasons why princes and priests want to control them.

Alfred Differ said...


The ONLY individual that I know of that is stretching the envelope in that way is Elon Musk!

Dig around my friend. Many others push that envelope. Musk is just one of the obvious ones doing it in a big way. The smaller efforts rarely capture a fan-boy base as large and an obvious anti-fan-boy counter group, but they DO exist.

It doesn't take huge piles of money to do it, but it CAN help. 8)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Ididn't say $50 Billion = end cancer. But if you end cancer I won't yowl if you get $50 Billion.

End the cancerous Republican Party, and you can have all the money you want.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Alfred
There are as you say many people doing that on a lower level

But up there in the stratosphere there is only Musk

Which was in answer to Dr Brin's limitations - you can't do a "Musk" on one Billion

I agree with his "in a glass house" strategy - and I agree with a rapidly increasing tax rate

But I'm swithering about how we permit the "Musks" - or even IF we do

Don Gisselbeck said...

That sounds about right. Human abilities in anything measurable span less than a factor of 10. E.g., any non handicapped person could ride Le Alpe d'Huez in less than 390 minutes, score less than 600 on a golf course, have a chess rating higher than 300, etc.

Don Gisselbeck said...

But this is still giving effectively unlimited power to sociopaths.

Jon S. said...

Given that NFTs simply point to URLs, which will be around only as long as the server is supported, paying huge sums of money to own nothing seems like it's not really going to be much of a portal to wealth in the long run. I'd bet on comic books instead; if you're wrong, at least you still have comics to read.

Larry Hart said...
"On the other hand, I will continue not to hear the words of traitors."


jim said...

Ha that is quite the empty threat Alfred.
We both know your love for your wife and son will prevent you from taking up arms against the government.
Although your comment made me think about a potentially hilarious sitcom :
Geriatric Guerrillas from The 1% :
The show takes place after the wealthy and income of the 1% is reduced.
think pinky and the brain but with the Koch brothers and Bezoz.
Their attempts to take over the world get waylaid by the lack of depends underwear.

David Brin said...

Heh. Spitting Image already ran a satire. Three space billionaires depart for Mars and screw up, almost dying. Doesn't keep Elon and Bezos from picking on Branson and deriding him as a wannabe.

I fret about much worse rich morons who create prepper enclaves and yearn for the romantic adventure of riding out the fall of civilization. I've publicly taunted "we know ehere these enclaves are, and we have all the folks who know nuclear, bio, chem and cyber. So don't make us mad."

Who knows? Maybe all of you owe me your lives! ;-)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I fret about much worse rich morons who create prepper enclaves and yearn for the romantic adventure of riding out the fall of civilization. I've publicly taunted "we know ehere these enclaves are, and we have all the folks who know nuclear, bio, chem and cyber. So don't make us mad."

Irrespective of the defensibility of such enclaves, what kind of a life is that going to be?

I'm probably more able than most humans to live for a long time eating frozen dinners, watching old movies, and re-reading comic books, but even I have my limits.

David Brin said...

I have personally been asked by a couple of such folks about the problem that vexes them most and may have delayed their fuse-lighting.

"I have my mountain and 100 years of stuff. But how do I maintain the loyalty of my security staff?"

My answer: "I know how... and I sure as fuck am not gonna tell you."

Kinda insulted actually. Instead of following up on my taunt by offering ramped up bribes... (satiability is sanity and I'd refuse, but it's nice to be offered)... they replied: "Gotcha, yeah, I thought of control-collars too. I don't think it'll work." And they wandered off.

Whaaaat? 'Control-collars???' (Or implants.)
Talk about the stupid assuming that others are just as dumb.
'control collars,' my shiny metal butt!

Alfred Differ said...


Fair point. I knew one of the XPrize competitors who was in the multi-millionaire range with lots of free time, but Scaled Composites had a deeper bench and range of experience.

The thing is that Musk didn't have a ton of money up front either. He actually struggled bringing investors in. SpaceX almost went belly up. Tesla has had funding issues too.

What Musk is doing is a combination of hype and 'letting it ride'. He STILL doesn't have a lot of cash. He has people who believe and they are supporting him using one company to bootstrap another. If anything serious goes wrong with one, the whole thing could collapse for him.

Collapse wouldn't be the end, though. That would just mean the second or third owner would be the one that got rich. Like all that dark fiber laid across oceans in the late 90's, the later owners would up putting it to use.

Alfred Differ said...


I do NOT want to give the impression I'm a violent guy. I'm not. I'm pretty mellow in face-to-face settings. I'd even buy you a beer. However…

1. I'm quite certain I'd need them for defense if you and your allies managed to get such rules passed.

2. I wouldn't be taking up arms against my government. I'd take them up against you and your allies. You'd be the actual threat.

3. My son is autistic and I could convince my wife to defend him.

I don't have an enclave and a hired army, but I'm not so old that I can't lay down cover fire.

The last election had some uber-silly definition of socialism the GOP used to try to scare people into voting for their side. It was a REALLY dumb definition. Kinda like a 4-yr old's temper tantrum version.

Your version isn't dumb. It would be the real thing. I'd fight to save our civilization from monsters.

Treebeard said...

The obvious way to ensure the loyalty of your security forces is through inter-marriage—your daughter marries your chief of security, etc. Kinship bonds trump every other abstraction; when constitutions, empires, governments and currencies go away, we’ll still have bonds of family, clan and tribe. If that’s your big secret, and these billionaires can’t figure it out, then they’re fools who will be separated from their wealth pretty easily after an apocalypse.

Alfred Differ said...


The one I learned from security-aware folks is the thing terrorists SHOULD be doing to hit us at home, but aren't. Maybe it hasn't occurred to them.

Not gonna help them figure it out, but I won't forget it either.

Alfred Differ said...

Jon S,

Comic books are an excellent example of what can happen. 8)

I recall a collection craze a few years ago. Used to see kids showing up at the comic store to spend every dollar they had. They BELIEVED!

The vast majority of what they bought was and still is worthless. Suppliers over-supplied them. The suppliers that didn't overbuild survived. The suppliers who also BELIEVED! went belly up later. Glut. Gorge. End-of-fad puke.

People who collect anything over a long enough period of time learn the rules regarding what makes a thing valuable to others like them. The rules are pretty strict, but leave enough room to pillage the newbies now and then. 8)

Der Oger said...

"I have my mountain and 100 years of stuff. But how do I maintain the loyalty of my security staff?"

"Irrespective of the defensibility of such enclaves, what kind of a life is that going to be?

I'm probably more able than most humans to live for a long time eating frozen dinners, watching old movies, and re-reading comic books, but even I have my limits."

You know, there is a story in there ... a group of rich preppers surviving doomsday, locked eternally in the past, while their staff finds a way to rebell against whatever "loyalty maintenance idea" they might have been forced into ...

Also, I have to think of Verne's Propeller Island as well as Captain Nemo (both books).

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

"I have my mountain and 100 years of stuff. But how do I maintain the loyalty of my security staff?"

My answer: "I know how... and I sure as fuck am not gonna tell you."

You've discussed this before, and while I think I know the gist of your solution, I'm also sure as eff not gonna say it out loud either. :)

But that wasn't my point. Even granted a fully-secure enclave away from marauding masses of poor people or zombies--what are they planning to do with the rest of their lives to keep from being so bored that there's no point even getting out of bed?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

"Gotcha, yeah, I thought of control-collars too. I don't think it'll work." And they wandered off.

Hey, I'd give points there for thinking that that strategy might not work. That's more sapience than I would have expected.

scidata said...

Re: loyalty of survivalists

The most vivid depiction of this is found towards the end of "Mutiny on the Bounty" (1984). We don't have film of the uprising and devastation that happened to the real life Pitcairn survivors, but it was probably scary beyond description. Civilization is precious and delicate. Only fools discard it.

David Brin said...

Treebeard actually has a stab in the right GENERAL direction, but these guys do not have enough daughters to go around and no traditions to ensure the security guys don't go "We'll take the mountain AND your daughters." Feudalism stood in a context of traditions and church and laws these fellows are COUNTING ON being entirely trashed. So while your grenade was tossed in the right general direction, (this time) you still miss by a mile.

Alfred's taking to the streets won't be necessary. The excessive approach promoted by Jim would get little support. UNLESS the oligarchs truly dig in their heels.

Treebeard said...

Well yes, you'd probably have to recreate feudal conditions to make it work. That's the great thing about feudalism: it's a time-tested, robust package that emerges naturally anywhere there are humans--in other words, the polar opposite of what we have now.

Pappenheimer said...

Re: bodyguards/"security" - there's a reason the Popes have Swiss Guards, and Lenin had, IIRC, Latvians - but that assumes the guards themselves are a minority in a larger society, which is not the case if there is no (post-apocalyptic) society.

I am reminded of the minions in the novel "The Jennifer Morgue" who explained that they were participating in an IPO, which confused the character who finds himself occupying James Bond's narrative slot. The minions explained that it meant "Install Planetary Overlord".

David Brin said...

Exactly, Treebeard! It's very likely that alien racesescaped from the feudal trap as seldom as we did. More seldom. Moreover, since feudal regimes almost ALWAYS govern execrably wityh spectacularly horrible outcomes, this may explain why we don't see anyone out there.

Again, those who fantacize they'd be Top Dogs would very likely become kibble.

Robert said...

the character who finds himself occupying James Bond's narrative slot

Minor quibble: Bob wasn't occupying the Bond slot. (He thought he was, but he was the Bond Girl instead.)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Again, those who fantacize they'd be Top Dogs would very likely become kibble.

Not all believers in feudalism (or authoritarians in general) think that they'll be the top dog. The guy hanging upside down in the dungeon while proclaiming, "Great race, the Romans!" in Life of Brian is a good example. Some simply believe that they'll do well for themselves by sucking up to a strong father figure, being willing to harm their peers on the leader's behalf.

Apparently, there were Jews in Nazi Germany who sniffed other Jews out of hiding in exchange for their lives. I presume that many civilized people would never stoop so low even at the risk of death, while others might regrettably "do what they had to" in order to survive. But a certain type would have responded to the job offer with, "Yeah, I can do that!" TB strikes me as belonging to that last category.

Pappenheimer said...


Fair enough. The Persian cat wasn't what it appeared to be, either.

I believe anyone who thinks that control collars are the answer should watch the first Kingsman movie.

David Brin said...

Oof. Kingsman. I want my 3 hours back. (Yes I saw #2... on a plane.)

Pappenheimer said...

My perspective on social inequality was formed by growing up in Calcutta in the 60's. The caste system there had endured for thousands of years, and its stability rests on nearly all participants having 1) a guaranteed place in society and 2) someone for (almost) everyone to look down on. Ghandi got in trouble by trying to raise the Untouchables' status to that of fully human. Race in America is nowhere near that codified, but it gave me some unpleasant twinges when I started to live in the States for the first time.

It also gave me a rather socialist outlook on economics. Plenty of people around me weren't getting what they needed to survive, and right over the wall were luxury golf courses I could visit. I'm no revolutionary - the odds of getting "fooled again" are very high - but boy do I understand the anger and despair. Leguin's "The Dispossessed" is a clear statement on all this.

Alfred Differ said...

UNLESS the oligarchs truly dig in their heels.

Heh. Yah. In that case I'd buy twice as many guns.

I assign a probability for the alt.future path where Jim's ideas get support in the US below 1% over the next century. After that, defending this civilization is someone else's problem.

The odds my ideas get needed support are down around that same level, so I'm not claiming much.

Collars have been tried. Don't work. Collar owners die.

Intermarriage has been tried. Works a bit better, but it's unstable over a few generations. We eventually whelp idiots and hemophiliacs.

Religion has also been tried. Quite a bit more stable, but not over many centuries. Language drifts and then traditions do. Slowly. Gets owned by Dynasties... who eventually whelp idiots.

It's not so much a solution as an attractor. So... I'm with our host in suspecting it kills and prevents multi-planetary civilizations.

V. Vinge might be right about long-term viability of civilizations too, but not in a way that would forbid us the stars.

jim said...

Well thanks for that reply Alfred, it really does fit with my understanding.

I would like to point out that I did not advocate socialism, I advocated for limits to income and wealth. And in response (to paraphrase) you said if people like me tried to do that people like you would murder people like me.

Now I am not worried that you are going to come and try and kill me. But your response is classic for a person in the thrall of the Wendigo. Those being possessed by the demon Wendigo are quick to use violence against any who stand in the way of their unending greed. And the last several hundred years of history shows how dangerous wealthy, powerful demon possessed people can be, they crushed, murdered or co-oped all the opposition they faced.

It is far more likely that the demon possessed elites will not allow limits to be placed on their greed and they will continue to use violence against the less powerful and the natural world until their greed makes them turn on each other in a cannibalistic orgy of self destruction.

scidata said...

Re: The Dispossessed

Many of us see only what we're looking for. For me, it was all about the Theory of Simultaneity and the Ansible.

Phaedrusnailfile said...

Dr. Brin. I do wonder if an individual such as yourself, that has more insight, thinks the species closer to the stars now than say in the late 60's. My less informed self thinks that without some Will Durant type of legislation to redistribute wealth our new commerce kings will possibly make it to Mars but instead of it being a stepping stone to exploring the stars as a species it will only be the tomb of our modern pharohs.

locumranch said...

Rule #1: Those who fantacize they'd be Top Dogs would very likely become kibble.

Yet, the typical progressive reformer from Danton to Robespierre forgets this rule the moment they seize power, just before the chopper comes to chop off their heads.

Of course, these are same intellects who also assume the everlasting protection of the system that they've happily dismantled.


David Brin said...

Adam Smith himself called for limits to the kind of oligarchic economioc power that he saw ruining flat-fair markets and letting cheating prosper, and the US founders to seize and redistribut 1/3 of the land. But Jim's level is chosen out of simplistic (or decades out-of-date) notions of what it means to be "rich" without much subtlety orattantion to what deeply competitive folks do, when bored.

locumranch is just back to logharea.

Der Oger said...

Don't kill the Wendigo, but don't let it run free, either. Chain it and siphon his power off to be used for the common good. Check once in a while if the chains are still strong enough or if they strangling the beast. But never put them off.

Paul451 said...

Jim's idea wouldn't work without David's demand for transparency of ownership, too many ways to hide wealth. But with transparency of ownership, most of the ways that Jim worries about the potential gaming-the-system without hard limits would also be eliminated, making the hard limits unnecessary.

David Brin said...

Paul451 summarized the situation better than I could.

FMK said...

Hi everyone!

On and off lurker, here. I just thought I’d chime in to make a couple of points


Handing Sunni/Wahabi Afghanistan to Shia Iran would exacerbate sectarian tensions and further inflame the Saudi/Iranian rivalry. Just the optics of Infidels handing a Sunni country to the Shia would play very badly in the Muslim world.

Neither would putting Iran on a war footing weaken the military. Typically, states that are at war become more militarized not less. That said, I do understand your point that forcing the military back to the battlefield might draw them away from their many business interests through out the country, but I’m sceptical that they will concede anything on that front.


“Also doesn't change that the differences between Chinese "dialects" are at least as great as the differences between Romance languages.”

This is true of Arabic as well. Iraqi Arabic is pretty much incomprehensible to a Moroccan but both vernaculars as still considered Arabic. I would think that, pretty much by definition, for it to be said that two individuals are speaking the same language, they must be able to comprehend each other. For whatever reason, the Arabic definition of ‘language’ is something different. I think it’s a more cultural/historical definition.

David, Alfred et al.

Couldn’t proposals like Jim’s still be useful tactically? If there is a fear that Jim’s scenario could conceivably become a reality, then the oligarchs might come to the negotiating table and accept some variation of David’s as a compromise.


“No need for Iranians in Afgh. Just give the Taliban their damn Pahtunistan with tgwo rules”

Interesting proposal…except they have an inordinate appetite for combat over there. I’ve read a number of firsthand accounts expressing astonishment at the sheer thrill the tribesman experience when in battle. Combine this with their conviction that their women are personal property over whom they will not hesitate to shed blood as a matter of honour and I think you’ll have a very hard time getting such an agreement. Not saying it’s not worth a shot, but I suspect culturally it would be a very hard sell.

David Brin said...

Bunch of interesting and concise bullet points from FMK.

David Brin said...