Saturday, September 25, 2021

Transparency, talk of tradeoffs - and pseudonyms

Returning to the topic of transparency...

An article about “Our Transparent Future: No secret is safe in the digital era” - by Daniel C. Dennett and Deb Roy - suggests that transparency will throw us into a bitterly Darwinian era of “all against all.”  What a dismally simplistic, contemptuous and zero-sum view of humanity! That we cannot innovate ways to get positive sum outcomes.   

Oh, I confess things look dark, with some nations, such as China, using ‘social credit' to sic citizens against each other, tattling and informing and doing Big Brother’s work for him. That ancient, zero sum pattern was more crudely followed in almost every past oligarchy, theocracy or kingdom or Sovietsky, where local gossips and bullies were employed by the inheritance brats up-top, to catch neighbors who offended obedient conformity. 

Indeed, a return to that sort of pyramid of power, with non-reciprocal transparency that never shines up at elites – is what humans could very well implement, because our ancestors did that sort of oppression very well. In fact, we are all descended from the harems of those SOBs.

In contrast, this notion of transparency-driven chaos and feral reciprocal predation is just nonsense.  In a full oligarchy, people would thereupon flee to shelter under the New Lords… or else…

 

…or else, in a democracy we might actually innovate ways to achieve outcomes that are positive sum, based on the enlightenment notion of accountability for all. Not just average folk or even elites, but for  those who would abuse transparency to bully or predate.  If we catch the gossips and voyeurs in the act and that kind of behavior is deemed to be major badness, then the way out is encapsulated in the old SF expression "MYOB!" or "Mind Your Own Business!"


Yeah, yeah, Bill Maher, sure we have wandered away from that ideal at both ends of the political spectrum, amid a tsunami of sanctimony addiction. But the escape path is still there, waiting and ready for us.


It’s what I talked about in The Transparent Society… and a positive possibility that seems to occur to no one, especially not the well-meaning paladins of freedom who wring their hands and offer us articles like this. 

== Talk of Tradeoffs ==

Ever since I wrote The Transparent Society (1997) and even my novel, Earth (1990) I’ve found it frustrating how few of today’s paladins of freedom/privacy and accountability – like good folks at the ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) – (and I urge you all to join!) – truly get the essence of the vital fight they are in. Yes, it will be a desperate struggle to prevent tyrannies from taking over across the globe and using powers of pervasive surveillance against us, to re-impose 6000 years of dullard/stupid/suicidal rule-by-oligarchy.


I share that worry!  But in their myopic talk of “tradeoffs,” these allies in the struggle to save the Enlightenment Experiment (and thus our planet and species) neglect all too often to ponder the possibility of win-wins… or positive sum outcomes.


There are so many examples of that failure, like short-sightedly trying to ‘ban” facial recognition systems, an utterly futile and almost-blind pursuit that will only be counter-productive. 


But I want to dial in on one myopia, in particular. I cannot name more than four of these activists who has grasped a key element in the argument over anonymity - today's Internet curse which destroys accountability, letting the worst  trolls and despotic provocateurs run wild. 


Nearly all of the privacy paladins dismiss pseudonymity as just another term for the same thing. In fact, it is not; pseudonymity has some rather powerful win-win, positive sum possibilities. 


Picture this. Web sites who are sick of un-accountable behavior might ban anonymity! Ban it... but allow entry to vetted pseudonyms. 


You get one by renting it from a trusted fiduciary that is already in the business of vouching for credentials... e.g. your bank or credit union, or else services set up just for this purpose (let competition commence!)


The pseudonym you rent carries forward with it your credibility ratings in any number of varied categories, including those scored by the site you intend to enter. If you misbehave, the site and/or its members can ding you, holding you accountable, and those dings travel back to the fiduciary you rented the pseudonym from, who will lower your credibility scores accordingly. ...


... with no one actually knowing your true name!  Nevertheless, there is accountability.  If you are a persistent troll, good luck finding a fiduciary who will rent you a pseudonym that will gain you entry anywhere but places where trolls hang out. Yet, still, no one on the internet has to know you are a dog.


I have presented this concept to several banks and/or Credit Unions and it is percolating. A version was even in my novel Earth


Alas, the very concept of positive sum, win-win outcomes seems foreign to the dolorous worrywarts who fret all across the idea realm of transparency/accountability/privacy discussions. 


Still, you can see the concept discussed here: The Brinternet: A Conversation with three top legal scholars


== Surveillance Networks ==


Scream the alarms! “Ring video doorbells, Amazon’s signature home security product, pose a serious threat to a free and democratic society. Not only is Ring’s surveillance network spreading rapidly, it is extending the reach of law enforcement into private property and expanding the surveillance of everyday life,” reports Lauren Bridges in this article from The Guardian.


In fact, Ring owners retain sovereign rights and cooperation with police is their own prerogative, until a search warrant (under probable cause) is served.  While the article itself is hysterical drivel, there is a good that these screams often achieve… simply making people aware. And without such awareness, no corrective precautions are possible. I just wish they provoked more actual thinking.


See this tiny camera disguised in a furniture screw! Seriously. You will not not-be-seen. Fortunately, hiding from being-seen is not the essence of either freedom or privacy. 

Again, that essence is accountability! Your ability to detect and apply it to anyone who might oppress or harm you. Including the rich and powerful. 


We will all be seen. Stop imagining that evasion is an option and turn to making it an advantage. Because if we can see potential abusers and busybodies...


...we just might be empowered to shout: ...MYOB!


67 comments:

GMT -5 said...

This is a hard issue to deal with. I don't want to be a hypocrite...I post anonymously here (though I identified myself to Dr. Brin so he knows precisely who I am).
I have a unique name; if I behave rudely it will haunt me much more than it would haunt someone named John Smith. By the way, has anyone noticed that the primary villain in the Amazon series: MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE was named John Smith...as was the hero of THE A-TEAM.
One problem I have with this kind of transparency comes from the randomness of when someone's bad behavior goes viral. Maybe a thousand people may commit the exact same bad action that is caught on video...but for some reason one of them goes viral and that person becomes the focus of a viral shame storm. Many of the people who pile on during these events do it publicly; they don’t hide their identity. You have people trying to take the most advantageous position by proposing the harshest denunciation and punishment for the offender.
I think Dr. Brin wrote about this a few years ago; he suggested a study about whether people experienced a kind of drug-like/endorphin rush when they engage in this kind of shame storm. No doubt I am remembering this in a low-resolution way; hopefully Dr. Brin can provide a citation to his post.

GMT -5 said...

I like your idea of a "vetted pseudonym." It would allow a range of anonymity for people like me that we can maintain as long as we stay on our good behavior.

But you had better hope that the group ANONYMOUS does not get pissed at your group. They might hack access to your database and make it public for all to know.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/09/25/epik-hack-fallout/

(I am sorry, but that report is behind a paywall). Many of the people posting on Epik appear to have been very vile, but the report suggests that most of the company's clients were innocent...but that did not matter to to the hackers at ANONYMOUS who put the entire database online.

David Brin said...

GMT if we had vetted pseudonymity more sites could ban anonymity.

Tim H. said...

Someone else anticipating the less than delightful prospect of GOP candidates claiming every lost election a crime for the foreseeable future:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/23/robert-kagan-constitutional-crisis/

https://rudepundit.blogspot.com/2021/09/democrats-should-be-having-five-alarm.html

I suppose it's possible the republic survives with extra unpleasantness, but it's not the way to bet.

matthew said...

How does "Vetted Pseudonymity" ensure that the oligarchs / captured governments cannot break through the anonymity?

In arguments about surveillance tech and transparency, our host argues that oligarchs abusing surveillance tech will themselves be caught by surveillance tech. And, if a society is transparent, then the oligarchs will be shamed (or possibly punished) for the surveillance. I agree 100% with the idea that radical transparency is the only way to get to a free society when the power to surveil costs so little per capita.

I do not see how "Vetted Pseudonymity" could be made to work.

Oligarchs and governments would *still* have access to the true name identities of the customers of the vetting organization. Average citizens would not have the access to true names.
Backdoors and man-in-the-middle type attacks would infest any attempt to build a VP system. Heck, the first such commercial system would probably be started and operated secretly by either a government agency or an oligarch, just so that *they* would be the first to get to see the true names. Dark web lists of true names would be available for purchase, just like social security numbers are.

I don't see how to get past the chicken and the egg problem for what I think is a pretty good overall idea.

Have you any thoughts on how to implement VP and keep it safe from the same power imbalance that we see in other surveillance tech? Or is "vetted anonymity" another name for "the wealthy and governments know but media and the little guy cannot know?"

David Brin said...

Does Matthew ever, ever back up his wild assertions? Yes, rich elites will try to access True Names. Duh. And that is a potential failure mode that merits continuous scrutiny. But given that Suspicion-of-authority (SoA) reflex, what is to stop say the ACLU or EFF from setting up (with a few philanthropic $) their own pseudonmy vetting fiduciary services? The actual infrastructure for setting one up will be modest.

(And yes, there might be so moany such fiduciaries that there could be a layer of vetting for those fiduciaries who keep vetting through blantant trolls.)

While pointing at potential dangers worth investigation, Matthew's final 'conclusion' is always "It's hopelesss so give up!!"

Fact, those cryptic elites are already poisoning our discourse now by subsidizing a tsunami of anonymous trolls with the aim of lowering discourse to that of baboons hurling feces. Pseudonymity through vetting by a rich diversity of COMPETING intermediary fiduciaries could enable hosting site (like this one) to reduce shit hurlers while still letting though pseudonymic posters who are less obsessed with defecation.

TCB said...

Not to forget, the cryptic elites also use their money both in direct contributions to political candidates and the creation of sundry astroturf groups, and anything else 'dark money' can think to do with itself. This is a part of the long-march conservative/oligarchical strategy going back to the days of Nixon and Lewis Powell, as the Republicans patiently packed the courts with judges who would allow more and more (corporate) money in politics, and eventually rule to permit oligarchs to flood the whole of politics with anonymous money.

https://billmoyers.com/content/the-powell-memo-a-call-to-arms-for-corporations/

This forced the Democrats, over time, to depend on corporate contributions as well, and even now the Dems don't have a really effective strategy to clean up the mess the GOP spent fifty years making.

David Brin said...

Unheralded has been the clear decline in money as a political driver. TV ads have plummeted in effectiveness and money spent on 'organizing' goes to grass roots folks.

Robert said...

Unheralded has been the clear decline in money as a political driver.

I suspect it's still a significant driver, just most effectively spent in different ways.

duncan cairncross said...

Money as a political driver

Yet another good reason for a UBI

reason said...

Duncan - yes and another reason for higher taxes.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Money as a political driver

Yet another good reason for a UBI


So more money would be available to shovel to the media via politicians?

Not sure I get the connection.

Larry Hart said...

The sad but honest truth...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Senate/Maps/Sep27.html#item-4

It used to be that Democrats and Republicans differed on taxes, spending, immigration, etc., but now the big divide is whether to have honest elections or not. This debate is not terribly good for democracy.

Peter said...

So last week I saw George Will on MSNBC's 11th Hour with Brian Williams. I previously didn't connect that face to Dr. Brin description of evilest man alive (not direct quote). But now I see exactly what he was talking about! What a bunch of revisionist BS he was pushing. If Trump gets back into office I predict he will publish a new book about how he predicted everything. I'm basically a lurker on this blog but just want to say I always enjoy reading the discussions.

David Brin said...

Peter, always welcome here. I never called GFW the "evilest". but rather the Worst American. Because he deliberately and with brilliance and open eyes and without blackmail or coercion or even corruption as an excuse, chose to offer excuses and rationalizations for tens of thousands of powerful and intelligent men to say: "I was worried that our side had gone insane; but Will's incantations are enough to keep me loyal to the GOP."

scidata said...

Re: GFW
Heh, remember, scidata = Mike Will
I'm not an expert on his politics, baseball is the only thing we really have in common (plus a mutual interest in Isaac Asimov). I enjoyed watching his sparring matches with Paul Krugman on ABC way back.

Re: anonymity
Intensive attempts at privacy and security may actually attract attention. This is one of the tenets of steganography, which may soon come into vogue because quantum computers can't recognize patterns well at all. They're all about dumb brute force.

David Brin said...

Scidata, I exp[ect quantum computers will surprise us in many ways. Especially since it's likely... well not 'likely' but increasingly plausible - that our own pattern recognition operates at the level of intrcellular micro-tubules with entanglement effect.

scidata said...

Dr. Brin: quantum computers will surprise us in many ways

Perhaps, but without even an inkling of a theory of mind, QC engineers are fumbling around for a black cat in a dark room that may not even be there and is probably antisocial like most cats and the room is vast and cold and engineers don't go for long without beer. Stars have (almost) infinitely more qubits, but they're not doing much recognizing. It takes more than a windstorm and a junkyard to construct a 747. And Deepak (Quantum) Chopra.

GMT -5 said...

I am all in favor of collecting more taxes from the wealthiest. But the wealthiest (the top 0.1%) have a devious way of misdirecting us away from them and focusing our attention on the rest of the top 10%. At some point we need to move our focus away from income taxation (much that this pains me; I love the income tax...it is the best tool in my tool box) and onto other forms of taxation.

I also worry that our zeal in going after tax revenue might create other problems.

David Brin said...

I care much more about my Ownership Treaty than tax specifics. If all ownership were transparent, the uber rich would pay more for their own safety's sake.

Stars likely are poor quantum computers as any entanglement will decohere in an instant, in that heat.

dimonic said...

Income taxes on earned income are a tool that exacerbates inequality. Taxes on wealth, and capital gains are what we need. There is no good reason other than campaign contributions that my earned income is taxed at a higher rate than Bezos/Musk/Buffet/Gates/... billions.

Verified Pseudonimity is a fine feature, and notwithstanding Matthew, if you are going to worry about nation state hacking, that cat is long out of the bag. It would (I think) also slow down the tendency to launch people into instant infamy over some moment of indiscretion, and halt down the very unproductive search of people's internet lives for any slight indiscretion when they are looking for their first job. If you are fundamentally a decent person, it will average out and get lost in the noise. If you are a jerk, well - that stain won't wash out so easily.

scidata said...

Dr. Brin: Stars likely are poor quantum computers as any entanglement will decohere in an instant, in that heat.

Good point. There was a possible explanation for the Great Silence (maybe it was yours?):
All the intelligent life has gone dormant, waiting for the universe to cool down to the point where their vast quantum computers will work properly and they'll be able to do worthwhile stuff.

Lorraine said...

"intrcellular" is a delightfully ambiguous word, I'm assuming intentional, sounds like a good description for a site of quantum action.

TCB said...

A cri de coeur from an besieged anonymous member of a fact-based profession (tenured college professor).

There is a special perversity in pursuing a vocation that hinges entirely on the premise that knowledge matters while obliged to deny what knowledge shows. As a scholar, I could not do my job if I accepted the sort of “reasoning” we are given for the cruel arrangements under which we labor. And that is the fundamental bullshit on which all the bullshit sits. The very thing my job has made me is the thing my job no longer wants.

https://whatifitsallbullshit.blogspot.com/2021/09/what-if-its-all-bullshit.html

TCB said...

scidata says "It takes more than a windstorm and a junkyard to construct a 747". This is a line (as scidata surely knows) originally concocted by creationists as an argument against evolution. Just want to say that this metaphor is a bit off.

The way molecules actually gain biological complexity is a bit like "Windstorms in a planet-sized junkyard, full of magnetic Lego blocks, over millions of years, could eventually construct a Lego 747." Especially if some accidental arrangements could make copies and incorporate the occasional improvement in self-copying efficiency. Atoms and molecules behave exactly as if they WERE a kind of magnetized Lego. The basic units are fully interchangeable and identical; they stick together or stay apart because of their magnetic charges; they REALLY want to combine in certain ways and not others.

I only mention this for the next time you hear a creationist use this line.

Paradoctor said...

TCB:
Oh wow... that's searing...

The crass exploitation and overt injustice is bad enough; the demagogic contempt for learning is worse; worse still is the gaslighting; and even worse is the depraved indifference to human life.

She asks; if this is not a space of reason, then what is it? Answer: one of illusion, disguised as power and money. Therefore it is also a space of suffering.

And infliction of suffering. I am reminded of George Carlin, warning his cheering audience (so relieved to hear plain truth) that their Owners don't care about them, don't care about them, at all, at all, at all, at all!

These are the stakes.

scidata said...

The strawman of evolution as the impossibility of design from pure randomness is, as TCB points out, a creationist concoction (William Paley for one). Richard Dawkins' "The Blind Watchmaker" explains evolution. My personal favourite is Dawkins' "River Out of Eden", which not only explains evolution, but also delves into the 'It's not nice to anthropomorphize Mother Nature' theme that Laplace thru Planck thru PZ Meyers championed. Here's a programmer's version:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0

I don't ramble on about Forth and WJCC just because I'm geeky. I may make my own 'Shorten the Darkness' T-shirt. Ok, I guess I am a little geeky.

giblfiz said...

Responding to Mathew:
You could build a V.P. system that allowed feedback to percolate thru without revealing identities using zk-snarks (a pretty recent cryptography technology)

Of course given that we can't even get most institutions to adopt cryptographic signing to prevent forgery this might be a lot to hope for

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman finally admits I am right :)

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/27/opinion/biden-centrist-democrats.html

...
But I was struck by something Eric Levitz of New York magazine said in a recent article on this subject, which helped clarify a point I’ve been groping toward. Namely, some Democrats seem to have formed their perceptions about both economics and politics during the Clinton years and haven’t updated their views since.
...
Specifically, some Democrats still seem to believe that they can succeed economically and politically by being Republicans lite. It’s doubtful whether that was ever true. But it’s definitely not true now.
...
Instead, the voting behavior of white working-class voters seems more driven by racial resentment than ever. And such voters can’t be won over by trimming back social spending; they want their racial hostility served raw. Trumpists can give them that; Democrats can’t without effectively becoming Trumpists themselves.

In other words, if there was ever a time when individual Democratic members of Congress could hope to swim against the tide by positioning themselves to the right of their party, that time ended long ago. It doesn’t matter how much they force Biden to scale back his ambitions; it doesn’t matter how many pious statements they make about fiscal responsibility. Republicans will still portray them as socialists who want to defund the police, and the voters they’re trying to pander to will believe it.

So my plea to Democratic “moderates” is, please wake up. We’re not in 1999 anymore, and your political fortunes depend on helping Joe Biden govern effectively.

David Brin said...

That missive from Krugman... the part quoted... is so wrong on so many levels, it qualifies as temporary insanity. There are zero sentences that are wholly true and most are generally or specifically false.

David Brin said...

We recently marked the 50-year anniversary of Milton Friedman’s famous declaration that the only social responsibility of business is to increase shareholder profits. Of course it was no more than a rant-incantation to make the US and European oligarchies feel justified rolling back every element of accountability or foresight in a campaign to reverse the Roosevelt-Eisenhower rise of the working classes. (Which was the very thing that sent Karl Marx - temporarily it seems - into history's dust bin.)

The simplest and entirely sufficient refutation of Friedman's evil and insane incantation is manifest in "ROI Horizon," which shrank steadily from 15 to 10 then 5 a years and finally to each quarterly reporting period.

By concentrating power into the hands of business majors bent on raising quarterly stock prices to earn out their golden parachutes, they devoured the seed corn of R&D and building productive capital... after promising to invest in those things under "supply side" Friedmanism... but never, ever doing so. Mighty names like Sears, Xerox, Kodak, Boeing and so on collapsed under the rubrics of greed-masters who despised product people and engineers.

The exceptions, like Elon Musk, ARE doing what was promised, investing in long ROI horizons, and benefiting mightily! But the vast majority of inheritance brats and parasites and would-be feudal lords did exactly what Adam Smith said they always do... pouring their trillions in Supply Slide tax breaks into rentier properties, asset bubbles, capital preservation, short-term equities gambling, political cheating and... now... non-existent "art."



To be clear, if you do want flat-fair-creative-competitive markets, then first destroy the party of the oligarchy who Adam Smith denounced as the enemy of competition in 99% of human societies for 6000 years. Destroy the Republican Party.

All of which leads to a statement about the Friedman anniversary that I have some problems with: "After half a century of living under Friedman’s dictum, it’s time to issue a new declaration: the only responsibility of business is to maximize the equitable distribution of its economic returns. IFTF's Equitable Enterprise initiative will lay out the steps to this future."

Oh certainly read their riff! But it does us no good to go to the diametric opposite of Friedmanism, making it ENTIRELY about social responsibility, as judged and declared by some uber committees.

How about as a baseline we remake the incredibly successful Rooseveltean social contract... with all the advances in social justice, of course? And tax breaks for R&D?

https://iftf.us12.list-manage.com/track/click?u=49da7011bde2a35c4a5d151f5&id=7311859ee8&e=b7393182b7

scidata said...

Pendulums, trends, and karma: the day may come when getting (re-)elected will require a capital 'D' in front of one's name because unlike fizzing, fickle donkeys, elephants never forget. Forbearance is not fecklessness. Americans are a sturdy lot, I'm not panicking yet.

My vocab is becoming a strange brew of Brin, Leacock, and Will.

scidata said...

And reversing those two proves my dyslexia :)

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

That missive from Krugman... the part quoted... is so wrong on so many levels, it qualifies as temporary insanity.


Really?

It sounded like self-evident truth to me.

GMT -5 said...

Curses to Friedman for that declaration. It reminds me of the wisdom one of my professors when talking about how the accounting profession deals with complex variables that are difficult (or impossible) to measure...it ignores them.

Likewise, Friedman's declaration misses the point that there are a lot of variables involved in benefits to shareholders that (maximizing the profits) ignores.

David Brin said...

Sorry LH. I looked again. Almost every sentence in the quoted Krugman passage is drivel. Too bad. Smart guy. Wanted to be Hari Seldon.

duncan cairncross said...

I agree with Larry Hart

GOP light is NOT a winning strategy for the Dems

"the voting behavior of white working-class voters seems more driven by racial resentment than ever"
Don't think I agree with that -
I think its much the same as it always has been - SOME working class voters are driven by racial resentment
The difference is that its not hidden any more

The rest is true - the GOP will call anything "socialist" - so back in the old English

It's better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb

https://www.theeditorialcartoons.com/editorial-cartoon/Clay+Bennett%27s+Editorial+Cartoons/2010-02-11/44065

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Almost every sentence in the quoted Krugman passage is drivel.


I still don't see it. It's not incumbent upon you to prove anything to me of course, but I wish you'd mention at least one specific item you are in such disagreement about.

From the piece:

some Democrats seem to have formed their perceptions about both economics and politics during the Clinton years and haven’t updated their views since.


Sounds like truth to me.


some Democrats still seem to believe that they can succeed economically and politically by being Republicans lite. It’s doubtful whether that was ever true. But it’s definitely not true now.


Again, sounds right. Maybe hyperbole, but not the opposite of true.


Instead, the voting behavior of white working-class voters seems more driven by racial resentment than ever.


I can see the issue you (and duncan) have with this one, but again, it's not the diametric opposite of true. It perhaps goes too far in ascribing racial resentment to a larger subset of Republican voters than is warranted. Still, the next bit is accurate, even if racial resentment isn't the entire cause:

And such voters can’t be won over by trimming back social spending; they want their racial hostility served raw. Trumpists can give them that; Democrats can’t without effectively becoming Trumpists themselves.


Whether "such voters" are racists or just resentful tolerance and hateful toward people who know how stuff works, the assertion that such voters can't be won over by conservative economic positions is correct. They'd literally vote for Satan (or Putin) rather than a Demonrat.


It doesn’t matter how much they force Biden to scale back his ambitions; it doesn’t matter how many pious statements they make about fiscal responsibility. Republicans will still portray them as socialists who want to defund the police, and the voters they’re trying to pander to will believe it.


I hold that truth to be self-evident. You disagree?

dwibdwib said...

“ If you misbehave, the site and/or its members can ding you, holding you accountable, and those dings travel back to the fiduciary you rented the pseudonym from, who will lower your credibility scores accordingly.”

How does one avoid a planned “credibility attack” by troll organizations?

Alfred Differ said...

We recently marked the 50-year anniversary of Milton Friedman’s famous declaration that the only social responsibility of business is to increase shareholder profits.

Ugh. Problem is that's not what he really said. There is context to the quote that when left out makes him sound rather evil.

What he actually supported has problems enough related to maximizing profits, but not the evil ones. He was pretty clear about that social responsibility being consistent with social behavioral norms. If I spin up an Assassins-R-Us and maximize profits for my shareholders to reap as dividends, he still would have objected.

Sorry. The real problem with Friedman's approach is that the maximal profit notion denies the humanity of the participants. Profit is a byproduct of Prudence. Real Humans optimize across a range of virtues. Only Homo Economicus optimizes on Prudence and Friedman's school taught that as ethically correct.

On top of that flaw, there is the notion of optimizing anything at all. To do that, one has to have a model of the system that permits a state function. His school kinda assumed one exists. I'd bet everything I've got on the conjecture that such a state function will never be knowable.

David Brin said...

dwib... (and I don't care if your courteous question was a ploy). The answer is that hosting sites would be able to ban actual anonymity at that point, and only let in True Names or else vetted pseudonyms. And if you buy a pseudonym from a vetting service and act like a troll, then that feedback goes to the vetting service and either they stop doing business with you or else (in extremis) they tattle on the real you.

--

LH I don't know where to begin.

>>Specifically, some Democrats still seem to believe that they can succeed economically and politically by being Republicans lite. It’s doubtful whether that was ever true. But it’s definitely not true now.

What stunning bullshit that only helps splitters to justify the REAL problem, which is always, always disunity and failure of tactical thinking by Democrats. The reason I wrote Polemical Judo, by David Brin: http://www.davidbrin.com/polemicaljudo.html

1980, 94, 2000, 2010, 1016... all were GOP victories that did not have to happen. And "republican lite" is one of the core memes in every case.
...
>>Instead, the voting behavior of white working-class voters seems more driven by racial resentment than ever. And such voters can’t be won over by trimming back social spending; they want their racial hostility served raw. Trumpists can give them that; Democrats can’t without effectively becoming Trumpists themselves.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, bullshit, and bullshit!

While races and genders are HURT by Republicanism, the fraction of that movement motivated primarily by race is very small. By FANTASTIC margins and orders of magnitude, the MAGA crowd feels vastly more rage toward nerds, doctors, scientists and all fact professions. Try actually sampling Fox some time! Accusing all working class whites of racism feeds their sense of being under seige for things they deny doing or feeling.

Are many of them PRACTICALLY racist, even if they delude themselves with black candidates and heores? Sure. Fight it waith agility, not screaming "racist!" at folks who cannot recognize that in the mirror. This bullshit plays into the Fox game.

>>In other words, if there was ever a time when individual Democratic members of Congress could hope to swim against the tide by positioning themselves to the right of their party, that time ended long ago. It doesn’t matter how much they force Biden to scale back his ambitions; it doesn’t matter how many pious statements they make about fiscal responsibility. Republicans will still portray them as socialists who want to defund the police, and the voters they’re trying to pander to will believe it.

UTTER bullshit! Utter utter utter! We have a democratic senator from F%#$ng West Virginia, reddest in the nation! Try recognizing a miracle. Manchin has made Chuck Schumer majority leader and a dem chairs every Senate committee, issuing subpoenas. If he feels he must calibrate, you can try talking him into shifting that calibration... and yes, helping end or shorten the filibuster... I am sure Biden has.

But dismissing his need to represent his state's citizens and to survive, politically, is ingrate yowling and patronizing... um... what's the word again? Oh yeah... bullshit,

>>So my plea to Democratic “moderates” is, please wake up. We’re not in 1999 anymore, and your political fortunes depend on helping Joe Biden govern effectively.

CRAP!!!! while the sentence is correct, try aiming some of it at the splitters and preening asses tormenting Nancy Pelosi from the other side? She has earned some trust and support. AOC and Bernie, Stacey and Jaime are all desperately fighting to keep the coalition together.

And guess what? If the Reconciliation Bill winds up only being 1.5 added Trillions THAT BECOMES THE NEW FLOOR. And if we hold together and fight tactically, we can win better in '22 and go further FROM THAT NEW FLOOR.

I don't know what Krugman took but he needs to detox.

Treebeard said...

I’ve noticed this phenomenon of the “deranged liberal boomer”, who maybe fantasizes that it’s still 1968 and he’s a righteous young radical, when it’s 2021 and he just looks and sounds like a massively entitled old crank yelling at kids. These guys have become a punchline in online circles. Strangely, many of them seem to be getting more, not less deranged, despite Trump being out of office. Certainly a detox is in order. To be fair, I have a Fox News-watching, Trump-supporting boomer uncle who isn’t much better, except that he’s old school and hasn’t wasted his brain online. Have you guys been this way since the 1960s? Damn, what a damaged generation.

Paradoctor said...

Brin:
Your critique of Krugman and his defenders here is passionate, but cussing is not informing. I share your frustration, and I agree to the need for tactical cunning - an age-old political virtue which Pelosi has in abundance, to my lasting gratitude.

I also agree that the enemy is doublethink and up-is-downism. Two plus two is four; not five, not even if you bribe me, and not three, not even if you threaten me. Two plus two is four, anywhere, everywhere, forever and ever, amen. That's my version of the nerd's creed.

My view is that the voters desire clarity and commitment. The R's are committed to anti-reason, and there is no way to compromise with that. So taking a stand is essential. It also feels a lot better than selling out, even a little. And Krugman is right that the R's will call us baby-eaters no matter what. So why not stand clearly with Biden?


Jon S. said...

"But dismissing his need to represent his state's citizens and to survive, politically..."

Except that polling data from West Virginia shows that he's not representing his state's citizens, who by and large are in favor of Biden's proposals. He's "surviving politically" by catering to massive donations from WV's coal industry, which hasn't yet realized its own obsolescence.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Neither of us wants to monopolize your blog for that Krugman column, so this is my last word on the subject. I think you and I are feeling different parts of the elephant on this one.

You see him saying Democrats should all go lefty, even if they're from red districts.

I perceive him saying that some Democrats are avoiding progressive issues which are popular even in their own districts because they incorrectly perceive them as being too progressive to succeed politically.


David Brin said...

paradoctor, "there are FOUR lights!"

And I AM standing clearly with Biden! He will soon have to compromise and support a 'half" reconciliation bill. And sane progressives would say "We'll take it and build on that after we kill off the GOP next year." They won't. They will fulminate in rage and justify betrayal of the coalition like in 80, 94, 2000, 2010 and 2016.

Manchin is calibrating and if carbon subsidies are slashed in half in coming bills, instead of completely, then get use to the pragmatics of INCREMENTAL Progress! Take it and then demand the rest, next year. Is that so hard to comprehend?

Heh, it's funny how the spam filter passes Treebeard right on through. I think because he is linguistically rational, even if his content is drivel. Nice that you see Foxites are crazy. It's a step. Now dig this. MOST liberals are not the same as their worst nut cases. The Fx-raved examples of woke-pilice you cling to with "all libs are like that!" But the same is not true on the right. Those suckling from the Fox teat are pretty uniformly insane.

David Brin said...

Jon & LH: Polls on issues are factors politicians consider. Soe is money, alas, though I think there's some decline there, and supporting dem political reforms is vital to reduce it further. And political reform will only happen if we KEEP Congress.

Other factors include the passion gap. Just because public polls favor issue A doesn't mean voters will come out over it.

In any event, I am sick to hell of the hate spews aimed at Manchin. WHAT do you expect it to accomplish? Seriously? What it will accomplish is making Mitch McConnel majority leader again. Enjoy those ashes. Tasted good in 80. 94, 2000, 2010 and 2016?

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

In any event, I am sick to hell of the hate spews aimed at Manchin. WHAT do you expect it to accomplish? Seriously?


Now, see there I agree with you. Which is why I asked for specifics. And also why I think that we're arguing over differing perceptions of what Krugman meant instead of his actual words. Neither you, nor I, nor Krugman mentioned Manchin (before now).


What it will accomplish is making Mitch McConnel majority leader again. Enjoy those ashes.


But that's why the new voting rights act is important enough to pass, even if doing so involves going nuclear on the filibuster. Because Republican legislatures have already signaled their intent to take control of elections and even to substitute their own judgement for the results. Next time, there won't be a Brad Raffensperger refusing to "find" voting irregularities when a Democrat wins. So if Democrats won't do whatever it takes to pass that law, they're sealing their own place as the permanent minority, even if they personally do get re-elected.

As to Kirstin Sinema, even more than Manchin, these lyrics from the Bangles seem to apply, with Joe Biden cast as "he" :

If she knew what she wants
(He'd be giving it to her)
If she knew what she needs
(He could give her that too)
If she knew what she wants
(But he can't see through her)
If she knew what she wants
He'd be giving it to her
Giving it to her

But she wants everything
(He can pretend to give her everything)
Or there's nothing she wants
(She don't want to sort it out)
He's crazy for this girl
(But she don't know what she's looking for)
If she knew what she wants
He'd be giving it to her
Giving it to her

David Brin said...

Do I favor going nuclear on the filibuster, LarryHart? Sure! And to make that happen, Manchin & Sinema need to feel kinship with fellow dems and harried and frustrated by Republicans, and NOT the other way around! It is worth sacrificing a Trillion from the Reconcilliation Bill and getting only half of the political reform bill, if the half that remains puts us in a strong position for 2022 and thereupon getting more. Especially if that sacrifice persuades those two to change the filibuster...

... and it won't happen any other way, Especially not with the sanctimonious howls like those Ted Kennedy and Nader and Stein and their fop-preening followers used to betray us all, in the past.

I still nurse hopes that Manchin & Sinema are calibrating and will give us that half. I have NO hopes that the monsters of our left will play along. That won't happen. Zero chance, no matter how hard Berni, Liz, AOC, Stacey and Jaime are fighting to keep them in coalition.

The ENTIRE right is jibbering insane now. But enough of the left is crazy to make Crazy the real governing coalition in America.

Larry Hart said...

Presented without further elaboration...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Senate/Maps/Sep30.html#item-5

New York Times columnist Tom Friedman is not everyone's cup of tea, but he just wrote a column that makes a very good point. Friedman recently interviewed Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), with whom he disagrees on virtually every policy issue, but he came away impressed. Cheney is risking everything to save democracy. Then he asks why can't Democrats give up a little bit of their preferred policy to save democracy? He views progressives as saying: "If I can't get free pre-K for all kids, then the hell with democracy. It's not worth saving." And he views centrists as saying: "If I have to vote to increase the national debt by 3%, I'm not going to do it and the hell with democracy."

Maybe everything going on in D.C. now is all grandstanding and Democrats will eventually come together. Friedman's point is that the biggest threat to the country now is that not related to pre-K school or the debt but that Cheney is willing to risk her whole career to stand up for democracy and few, if any, Democrats are willing to even concede a little on their political wishes in order to try to save democracy at relatively little cost to themselves. Friedman also notes that Cheney and Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) seem to be the only members of Congress willing to take a big risk. The others (in both parties) are too busy trying to get (or block) some policy issue to have time to worry about saving democracy.

Another Times Columnist, Jamelle Bouie, makes a similar point. Bouie says that when Trump announced his campaign in 2015, no one took him seriously. Now he's tried to pull off a coup, has the support of nearly the entire Republican Party behind him, and still no one is taking him seriously. Bouie's view, like Friedman's, is that haggling over details of the budget when democracy is in grave danger is ignoring the huge threat in front of the country. He also notes that failure to see the big picture isn't a new thing. Even after Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, few people saw secession and a very bloody war to prevent it as a real possibility. After all, the North and South had been bickering about slavery for decades, so what was new now? He doesn't bring up Germany in the 1930s, when it was confronted with a guy nobody took seriously until it was too late, but he could have. Sometimes the problem is in front of your nose and you still miss it.
...

Larry Hart said...

Humorous aside...

I've used too many column inches of space here already, but this article is not behind a paywall, and I recommend reading the entire thing for a "What was he thinking??" humor break.

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Senate/Maps/Sep30.html#item-9

Corey Lewandowski, one of Donald Trump's top aides and the person in charge of Trump's main super PAC, Make America Great Again Action, seems to have spent too much time around his boss and picked up some of his bad habits. At a charity event in Las Vegas this past weekend, he got the hots for Trashelle Odom, the wife of Republican donor John Odom. At a fancy dinner, he tried to hold her hand and she pushed him away. He touched her leg and she pulled her dress over it. He touched her back and she tried to get away. He touched her about 10 times and she rebuffed him every time. He also talked about the size of his genitalia, described his sexual performance, and showed her his room key. He also bragged that he controlled the fate of people in Trump's orbit and can control who gets elected and who gets taken out. Even this didn't impress Odom. When she left the room, Lewandowski followed her and said she had a "nice ass." Finally he gave up and threw a drink at her. Four people who were there corroborated this report to Politico. Many others saw it.
...


A.F. Rey said...

It is worth sacrificing a Trillion from the Reconciliation Bill and getting only half of the political reform bill, if the half that remains puts us in a strong position for 2022 and thereupon getting more. Especially if that sacrifice persuades those two to change the filibuster...

The question is whether sacrificing a trillion from the reconciliation bill would put us in a strong position for 2022, or would it shoot us down. :(

Electoral-vote.com pointed out today that Biden needs "something unusual" to counteract the typical loss of seats in Congress of the President's party during the midterm elections. Something inspiring to the voters. Something like "big, bold legislation in some area."

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2021/Senate/Maps/Sep30.html#item-3

Biden especially needs this "something unusual" after the Afghanistan withdraw fiasco. If he doesn't have anything else to be remembered for by the next election, we're sunk.

Another trillion cut from the reconciliation bill won't be inspiring. Half of the voting rights bill won't be inspiring. ("Look. We saved [i]half[/i] of your votes from being tossed in the trash!") Giving the Devil half of what he wants is still too much, and is not inspiring.

Yes, if the alternative is getting nothing, we should take that and be grateful. But don't expect it to win us the next election. We have to show the voters that voting for Democrats means that we achieve something, something BIG. Something worthwhile. Something that will change the voters' lives and give them a reason to go out and vote. To feel like they really accomplished something by voting.

The last election had that. Democrats stopped Donald Trump. And even then, we only barely did that. But what will we offer them this election? If we can't accomplish something dramatic when we have both Congress and the Presidency (albeit barely), then what will it matter if we only have one house and the Presidency, or maybe just the Presidency? Half of nothing is still nothing. ;)

Yes, we know it isn't true. That some accomplishment is better than none, or even worse, than handing over power to those who will undo your accomplishments. But American voters are a lazy bunch, and need to be emotionally involved in the election. What will the Democrats give the electorate this next election to be emotionally involved with?

David Brin said...

"Electoral-vote.com pointed out today that Biden needs "something unusual" to counteract the typical loss of seats in Congress of the President's party during the midterm elections."

Hell yes he need something unusual. He needs coalition loyalty from thye monstrously treacherous sanctimony junkie traitors on the far left.

Sheeet. If he gets $3trillion instead of 4.5 trillion, he's a traitor to liberalism? Get... a... grip! If we get the $3trillion INSTEAD OF NOTHING it will be because we have a democratic senator from the deepest red state in the union. TAKE the #$#@ victory! Make citizens used to the good stuff they do get and use that to win in 2022.

And hell yes, I care even more about getting HALF of the political reform bill! Dig it over and over. Half is better than nothing, and you can build from there next year.

Half is better than nothing, and you can build from there next year. And we should be sick and tired of fair weather all-or-nothing ass-allies.

matthew said...

I know that we as a nation are not used to seeing negotiation in Congress. What we are seeing right now regarding the infra bill and the build back better bill is negotiation. Remember that the Democratic caucus has as wide a political spectrum as the entire Congress did just 20 years ago. Wait for results (and call your MoC) before deciding that someone is betraying the cause.

Prediction?
Manchin will get his pound of flesh, watering down climate changes and preserving pharma profits, but he will be on board for...something...in the end. He likes the spotlight and he is playing a long game. Just make sure his personal interests are taken care of.
Sinema? Someone just needs to find out her price. She's an old school crooked pol, which means she can be bought. She will be bought one way or another. Raise the bid, Schumer. She is leaning heavily toward corporate interests. Left-leaning corporations could really sway her if they got involved. She, and not Manchin, is the linchpin.

We'll end up with a 2.5-3T total between the two bills, I suspect. The price of getting Manchin's buy-in will piss off anyone with GCC as their #1 priority but absent getting a new family business for him and his clan we're stuck with it.

I *really* hope that the price for buying off Manchin and delaying the US response to GCC is his vote to end the filibuster for voting matters. Same with Sinema, but I'd be worried that she stays bought.

Paradoctor said...

Politics is the art of compromise, but it is fueled by principle. Fueled, in the sense that you need to have principles to do any work, and you do that work by setting those principles on fire, which uses them up. Sometimes you get to compromise, so you use up only half of a principle, and keep the other half. That's where the artistry comes in.

So what to do, compromise beliefs or stand on them? The Republican party has consistently chosen option 2, and have thus gained power, but power corrupts. Power corrupts not only sex and money; it also corrupts thought. The Right has passions, but no good ideas.

Some of the Left have good ideas. Others have passion. This is a dilemma. I agree with your strategy of tactical cunning, for the sake of stability and incremental change, in the short run. So compromise and build on that, if you can. But the long run needs vision as well as cunning.

You say 1.5 terabux will do as a floor. Maybe, maybe not; and maybe it will become a ceiling. For more than a floor, the incremental changes must continue, to add up to be more than an increment. So this will require a sustained effort.

Maybe there will be haggling. (1.5 trillion + 4.5 trillion)/2 = 3 trillion, how about that? Plus some money going towards the states of two holdout Senators. Bernie Sanders will back it but say it's not enough, the entire Republican cult will say it's too much.

How to balance passionate principle and rational compromise? The philosopher Plato likened the mind to a chariot pulled by two horses: the white horse of Reason and the black horse of the Passions. If the charioteer can make them run in the same direction, then the chariots flies far and fast. It's a charming tale, and maybe useful. My main problem with that tale is that Plato did not identify the charioteer.

David Brin said...

Matthew who are you and what have you done with Matthew? All right, that was snarky. Apologies. But you are in the lead for Post-of-the Day.
Great stuff and on target down the line.

Paradoctor asks good questions but whether it's a floor will depend on whether we can win the phase of civil war tearing us apart. That battle must be won in 2022. If we win, then it's a floor.

One thing ensures defeat. Getting NOTHING this year because we refused the gift of a Democratic senator from the reddest state in the nation.

And yes, Matthew. David's autumn (doonesbury) daydream is that Manchin will declare "I tried SO hard to bridge the gap, but today's GOP is the most tightly disciplined partisan machine in US history and Moscow Mitch cannot be left with the power of the Filibuster."

It won't happen. But maybe something?

Slim Moldie said...

Something to chew on...maybe as a corollary to the topic. This piece in the Atlantic frames the idea of facebook as a "supranational regime." https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/11/facebook-authoritarian-hostile-foreign-power/620168/?utm_source=copy-link&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=share



Pappenheimer said...

On the subject of daydreams, Governor Beto or Gov. Mcconaughey make pleasant ones.

I haven't read Jamelle Bouie recently, but the antebellum United States were already fighting an undeclared war in Kansas by 1860, and John Brown's wake-up call/raid was in 1859. Most Americans might not have clearly seen the coming war, but "As early as October 1859, the army's Commanding General, Winfield Scott, an opponent of (Pres.) Buchanan, warned him that Lincoln's election would likely cause at least seven states to secede from the union. He recommended that massive amounts of federal troops and artillery be deployed to those states to protect federal property" (from Buchanans's wiki.) No such forces were actually available at the time.

Scott, at least, knew what was about to happen, and what would be needed to prevent it. It is no fun being Cassandra.

Larry Hart said...

Cassandra indeed...

https://www.thebulwark.com/democracy-cannot-survive-the-fracturing-of-the-democratic-coalition/

In the early days of the first Trump presidency, our organization cohosted a “Summit for Democracy” at which the keynote speakers were a Democratic senator, a Republican senator, and opposition leaders from Russia, Poland, and Egypt who had experience facing off against autocrats. At the end of the event, the foreign opposition leaders were asked to each give one piece of advice to Americans now facing the specter of authoritarianism. The Polish MP Agnieska Pomaska said this: “Don’t let the opposition fracture.”

Her advice was born of experience. In Poland, the increasingly autocratic ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), initially rose to power in 2015 on only plurality support (35 percent in the first round of voting) because the opposition could not stay united. In Hungary, the autocratic Fidesz Party managed to translate its own plurality support into legislative supermajorities in large part because the Hungarian opposition fractured in the lead-up to both the 2014 and 2018 elections.

Once in power, both PiS and Fidesz then engaged in a program of dismantling democratic institutions and checks and balances.
...

Larry Hart said...

The conclusion of the Bulwark article I just linked above:

...
In their book How Democracies Die, the Harvard scholars Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt compared four countries’ experiences in interwar Europe. In Belgium and Finland, far-right extremist parties gained some traction after World War I. In both countries, the center-right united with the left to block those anti-democratic parties from ascending further to power.

In Italy and Germany on the other hand, the center-right in both cases chose not to do that, and instead sought to co-opt the political appeal of rising far-right movements by incorporating them into their ranks. We all know what happened next.

Thus far, most pro-democracy Republicans have chosen to try to tame, or co-opt, the rising authoritarians in their midst. This is a mistake. Stopping the next authoritarian attempt will require a broad, united opposition.

This unity of purpose is more crucial than any legislation.

matthew said...

We just found out Manchin's price. The Clean Energy Act must go through the committee he chairs and *only* thru the committee he chairs, no work-arounds. That is his big demand.

Schumer should pay Manchin's price. Manchin has shown that he'll stay bought and it's cheap at the price.

Sinema left town this morning. Biden should find out where there are triathlons this weekend and have a senior aide stake each one out. High probability that's where she bugged out to go do.

David Brin said...

Good stuff LH. Will quote. Matthew good point too.

Biden needs to not just pay Sinema, but also bluff "We have the blackmail info, too. So pick the side that stands a chance of protecting you and your blackmailed male relatives."

scidata said...

To appropriate one of Spock's best lines:
Blackmail secrets are the most fleeting of all.

David Brin said...

scidata I wish. If there were a program to help blackmail victims set things right... like bancruptcy... but they feel alone and controlled.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

William H Calvin said...

Hi David--back again.
A late comment on pseudonyms and transparency: consider the two-hat problem, where one person has two reputations--say, as a scientist analyzing facts but also as a political commentator analyzing opinions. Examples like Noam Chomsky, David Brin, Paul Krugman, etc.

There are others, say climate scientists, who might seek to protect their scientific credibility (or their institution's reputation in the state legislature) by adopting a pseudonym. The pseudonym need not be a secret, erecting a firewall. Even if well known who it really was, the semi-pseudonym would at least keep the media from providing a "Harvard professor" preface to one's name when referencing their politics. For example, "the scientist William Calvin" could become "the commentator Calvin Williams" were there not a famous NFL player by that name.

Call it "just sufficient transparency," something like lightly frosted window panes.

Cheers!

David Brin said...

Terrific comment Bill. Honored that you visited us here. I generally close down previous discussion threads so I will transfer the body of your remark to the latest blog entry and answer there.

onward

onward