Friday, March 25, 2022

It’s primary season. There’s a trick to multiply your citizen-influence.

I have (with others) inveighed mightily against the cheats that have come close to ruining American democracy. For example, elsewhere I oft claim blackmail is the sole plausible explanation for the behavior of so many in Washington DC. I recommend easy ways to find out if I’m right.  

Even worse is gerrymandering, abetted by the wholly-treasonous Roberts Doctrine, that has warped US politics, shifting power from the General Election to primaries, where radicals exert vastly amplified influence.

See “Radicalization by primary has driven the GOP mad.” Though - at risk of being accused of ‘both-side-ism’ - the same thing has happened (to a lesser degree) on the U.S. left. 

In a hurry to learn the ‘trick’ to amplify your vote-power? 

Then skim down past the following explanations, to the *** part...

... where I describe a practical way that YOU… and maybe 50 million Americansmight restore your sovereign power as a citizen.

 == Why do I keep trying? == 

My own past efforts to urge judo tactics on our ‘generals’ leading the Union side in this phase of U.S. Civil War include a book — Polemical Judo -- containing almost a hundred agile tactics to break a gone-mad Republican Party’s hold on many institutions, states and 40% of our neighbors... asking: “Have you noticed a path past those trenches and around that mountain?” 

Alas, among political castes and pundits — even good guys! — new ideas and methods are not-welcome. Oh, there are paladins like AOC, Stacey Abrams and DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, who must spend inordinate time corralling flakes eager to repeat their betrayals of 80, 88, 94, 2000, 2010 and 2016, spurning the only coalition that stands any chance of stopping the forces of darkness. See Five devastating rebuttals to use those who would split our coalition.

If November 2020 was our Gettysburg, turning the tide from Trumpism, science-hating idiocracy and treason, remember that it took another 20 months from Gettysburg to Appomattox and America’s rebirth of freedom.

So here’s my top suggestion for how citizens like you might help fight the wave of Holnists trying to wreck our Great Experiment.

== The essence of this crime ==

The Roberts majority on the Supreme Court has one mission, above all. Not abortion or corporatism, but to preserve gerrymandering - the sole thing keeping the GOP relevant in the House and in state legislatures. Without it, there might still be a Republican power in the U.S. Senate. But the party would collapse almost everywhere else.

Crucially, gerrymandering lets politicians choose the voters, instead of voters choosing politicians. It creates mostly ‘safe” districts in which the General Election is a farce. 

The only balloting most reps and assembly members fear is their party’s primary, explaining much of today’s riled-up radicalism of U.S. politics. See how the New York Times made a game to help you understand it

And the sole top priority of John Roberts is to protect this situation.

Do you live in such a district, frustrated that you will never, ever get to help elect someone you like, or thwart representatives you despise?  Then skip ahead to the next section ***

Only first… how does this foul cheat endure, in the face of a vast American consensus against it? John Roberts even admitted that it’s loathsome and inherently wrong. In order to protect it, he concocted the Roberts Doctrine, that the U.S. Supreme Court has no business ruling on the processes and procedures adopted by sovereign state legislatures. Not even when they are cheating voters in order to maintain power that large majorities want to take away from them!

Of course this ploy is an absolutely stunning sham! Since the Supreme Court has intervened countless times in such matters. In fact, Roberts avows that Congress could overcome gerrymandering, if it chooses, via the Voting Rights Act. Hence, a top priority of McConnell & co. has been to stymie that.

In defense of his Doctrine, the Chief Justice contrived an even more amazing rationalization — that while gerrymandering is ‘regrettable,’ alas ‘no remedy” had been presented without flaws of its own.  

Okay, sure, giving the job of forging fair districts to a neutral commission can pose problems too, maybe 1% as bad as letting legislatures do it!  But… what if Biden sent the Solicitor General back before the Court with a fresh approach? One that cancels all of JR’s rationalized excuses? 

If you're curious, see the Minimal Overlap Solution that I offered in Polemical Judo, and summarized here.

There is pushback against gerrymandering! Barack Obama is trying to persuade Democrats in Illinois and Maryland to join a swell of fellow blue states in banishing gerrymandering, even if that would briefly disadvantage a few local, DP politicians. The nasty cheat would hence become a universally Republican crime. The same way that blue states have been leading the way out of the thrice-damned Drug War. The fight continues at many levels, with GOP led state legislatures (as in Texas and Ohio) aggressively applying the Roberts doctrine, using power gained by theft and cheating to empower themselves to cheat and steal more.

Late news:  A state court in Maryland has struck down the Democratic-drawn congressional map as an illegal partisan gerrymander, ordering the state legislature to redraw the lines for the 2022 election.  Of course! These MD judges were Democrat-appointed and hence professionals, not hired shills. Any sane jurist would rule against this cheat, even by his or her own party.

Alas, some of the same lawyers are blocking reforms of gerrymandering in Texas.

Reforming this travesty through normal processes will take forever. And hence my key point. You don’t have to wait for politicians to solve this!  

== To hell with labels! Register in the party OF your district! ==

All right, that was a lot of hot air. Lots of words and tl:dr details. 

Will you finally get to the point, Brin? 

How can I get my voting power back, 

even if I live in a gerrymandered district?”

*** Okay here's the fundamental: 


Consider: Gerrymandering lumps birds-of-a-feather till each district is “owned” by one party or another. Democratic voters in a Republican-owned district – or Republicans in a Democratic-owned district – will never cast a legislature vote in the only election that matters: the majority party’s primary.

Unless… you hold your nose and re-register with whatever party owns your district.

This holds true whether you’re a Democrat in a Republican district, or vice versa.

If your district is gerried to contain mostly Republicans, then maybe it should be represented by a conservative person! 

But, as a district resident, you deserve to have some say in which variant of conservative it will be! 

 - A Tea Party radical? 

 - A slavish oligarchy-servant, or Nazi, or Roy Moore-style pederast? 

 - Or else perhaps a genteel negotiator, like a Goldwater or Buckley? Such a person may not be the AOC-type you'd prefer. But sanity counts! As does a willingness to negotiate. And to be fed up with Trumpism.

Conservative radicals will scream if they detect former Democrats or Independents doing this! Non Trumpites who attempt this kind of judo must be aiming to sabotage the Republican primary! But any large numbers who switch will have one goal: to recover a meaningful say in a district that had disenfranchised them. 

 - To vote in the only election that matters.

 - To vote for candidates they disagree with less – or who at least aren’t perverts or crooks. 

 - That's a reasonable criterion.

Would it stick in your gorge to register Republican?  

(Or would it gall a conservative in Ilhan Omar’s district to register Democrat?) 

Does a label change your principles? 

Remember Republicans of yore – Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower – and sign the damn card! 

In fact, this tactic has a century of precedents – generations of Republicans registered as Democrats in the old-time “solid south,” for exactly this reason: to vote in the only election that mattered, the Democratic Party’s primary! 

They can hardly complain now.


Picture the majority party primary in each gerrymandered district becoming the de facto general election, with all voters participating. Screamers and radicals would lose potency. Representatives could no longer pick which citizens to ignore by their party registration. 

Moreover, if enough Democrats and independents re-register as Republicans, it will screw up their calculations, their polls, and the data they use to gerrymander! That, alone, will be citizen revenge upon a cynical political caste. 

And it has no effect on your freedom to choose in the general election.

Can’t stomach registering as a (pick your poison) Democrat/Republican? Get over it! Partisan labels made this mess. Grin at your friends’ shocked reactions. 

Then recruit them, rebelling against a political scam. 

If fifty million Americans do this, we’ll show the politicians: “you can’t take us for granted, nor fool all the people, all the time.”

== Finally: This sort of trick should not be necessary! ==

I did this in California, back when we had classic primaries-by-party. Then, in a terrific reform pushed by the Berggruen Institute and others, CA voters establish the best electoral process in the nation, turning to a universal-open primary that's in-effect a first round general election, so that in November the top-two vote-getters face each other.

 It is in fact a crude version of preferential or rank choice balloting, which is starting to gain traction in some places. Positive effects abound, including a decline in primary-driven radicalism and an unexpected empowerment of minority party voters in many districts.

But that's a discussion for our lively comment section, below.



[1] In some states (AL being one) you don’t have to register a party affiliation to vote in their primary! Just tell them you want the other party’s ballot. It does mean you have to stay in the same "lane" in any runoffs, of course. But it also means you can influence the real election, without having to actually join a party you detest! 


LATE NEWS: The Supreme Court stays out of key state rulings on partisan gerrymandering, for now.  Within the last month, state courts in both North Carolina and Pennsylvania drew new congressional district maps after finding that their state legislatures failed to adopt plans that met state constitutional and statutory requirements. Republican-aligned groups then asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the state court decisions and adopt a newly advanced — and some say radical — theory that would bar state supreme courts from ruling on election disputes involving federal offices.

On Monday, the court declined both of those challenges, a relief to voting rights advocates but likely only a temporary reprieve, as four of the court's conservative justices indicated their desire to intervene.


duncan cairncross said...

To Ilithi Dragon's comment about the USA having fallen behind on the potentially carrier killing hypersonic weapons

That could be because the USA does not need such a weapon as its enemies do not have useful carrier forces

David Brin said...

Ilithi Dragon's review of balanced forces was a solid, professional insight. I do believe that infanty protecting armore will need wider coverage zone and hence will use both accompanying ground & hover drones and likely ELV Extremely light vehicles on a par with ATV+ motorcycle. I agree that the so-called 'gap' of US hyperweapons entirely misses the point.

GMT, there are 3 levels.

1 sousveillance that is thoroughly applied to all elites prevents Big Brother and tyranny from above... which leaves us vulnerable...

2. social credit systems that USE transparency to sic the majority on any minority, stifling it openly and democratically and legally. Mob enforced repression of deviance from conformity is a legitimate fear, portrayed in many media...

3. ... that is countered by deciding which VALUES the majority will enforce, above all. If it is a value system of MYOB! or mind your own business, while admiring all forms of non-harmful individual eccentricity, then the kind of act that will cause swarm repudiation is... busy-body conformity-pushing bullying. And transparency becomes a tool for extolling individuality.

That last bit is SO natural to all we believe, but because each of us thinks we are the ONLY one who thinks that way, amid a vast herd of sheeple, we never, ever consider the possibility.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

See “Radicalization by primary has driven the GOP mad.” Though - at risk of being accused of ‘both-side-ism’ - the same thing has happened (to a lesser degree) on the U.S. left.

I'd say that it is not symmetrical. It happens to the Democrats as a result of the policies that the Congress and the courts have created. Whereas, Republicans are the ones who make those policies deliberately.

It's similar to the asymmetry surrounding corporate donations. Much hay is made over the fact that both sides take corporate donations and are beholden to their big donors. But Democrats are all for campaign finance to make corporate donations less of a necessity. Republicans are in favor of big money being in charge, and the supreme court has always backed them up in that, even long before the current crop. Democrats play the game by the rules as they find them (or else lose altogether). Republicans set the rules of the game such that they always have an advantage. And then, disingenuous Republicans point at the Dems and go, "See, they play by the same rules too!".


Unknown said...

The problem with switching party registration to have a say in your district's primary is that the problem then dissolves into trying to figure out WHICH primary matters. School board? State Senate? US House?

Don Gisselbeck said...

There was the Swedish submarine that "sank" the US carrier Ronald Reagan.

Alfred Differ said...


But I worry about what happens when some poor schlub’s embarrassing story goes viral and the tens of thousands of hostile people fill up social media with attacks.

I'd add to David's points one more which I think he points out in the book, but I'll do it as a little story.


I knew a young lady who made a video and released it on a social media site at what turned out to be the worst possible moment. She meant it to be semi-satirical, but we know how well people understand written sarcasm... right?

The bad timing for her video had to do with some news event that landed at the same time. I don't recall exactly what it was and don't want to describe it well even if I did. Instead, imagine making a 'black face' joke about the same time a black man gets shot by white cops in a district you know won't convict the cops. (That's not what it was.)

In my opinion, her 'joke' was was in poor taste. Unfortunately it arrived at a sensitive time and was judged much worse. She got the viral treatment along with death threats where some of them had the potential to be credible. She was tracked down. So was her father and his businesses. Both she and her father went into hiding for a while and hired private security to both protect and advise them. After a couple months, it blew over and life began to return to normal. Her fathers friends, though, divided into two camps where one of them was upset enough to help point out where they had tried to go to hide. You might imagine that things did not return to the way they were before the video release.

Was she one of those poor schlubs? Mmm. Well... Sorta. Two things are worth noting before making that decision.

1. We do NOT live in David's transparent world right now, yet the various factions had no trouble operating. This goes to David's point that we are already dealing with 'inevitable' events.

2. Those of us not caught up directly in the fury... learned a thing or two about how to avoid such a mess. Their trauma taught us. This goes to David's point throughout the book explaining that we shall adapt. We have ample historical evidence of this ability. We shall do it again. We ALREADY ARE.


I'm sure there have been and will be many poor schlubs, but we shall learn and adapt. Relying on this well established skill leads (potentially) to a far better future than all the other options available to us.

Nothing is assured, but when is it ever?
Who would we believe offering us assurances? Heh.

David Brin said...

Agreed, LH, that Dems who commit these political crimes generally do so in order to stay in the game under current rules. They are also the ones who want to CHANGE the rules that now favor cheating.

Unknown. right.

Alfred, what's needed is arenas that compare apples to apples.

David Brin said...

Unknown don't forget you STILL have the general election to help make a final choice. What voting in the EFFECTIVE primary does is let you help choose who goes to the general with a chance of winning.

Bill Seymour said...

We have open primaries in Missouri, so registration isn’t an issue.  When you show up at the polls, you declare which ballot you want.

Also, the presidential primary is its own separate election, so I was able to vote for Sanders while voting on the Republican ballot for the state and local primary.

Unfortunately, the technique doesn’t always work.  I tried to find the least disagreeable candidate in each race, at a minimum checking out all their Web sites if the had them, but found it difficult to distinguish between them.  They were mostly all about guns for Jesus.

Also, I confess that I’m at least partially responsible, in my small way, for our disgraced governor, Eric Greitens…I thought that “Rhodes scholar” meant something.  (I still think it means something; but it can’t be used to guage any individual’s morality, or even rationality.)

David Brin said...

Answered GMT's late comment in last thread. But reminded I very seldom go backl to earlier threads after the "onward."

locumranch said...


I also accept Transparency as inevitable, nearly inescapable & mostly beneficial but, unlike Dr. Brin, I do not believe that the Light of Transparency is sufficient to destroy immorality and evil in & of itself.

This is why I subscribe to the principle of Mutual Complicity wherein those who sin overlook & whitewash the sins of others, lest they condemn themselves by drawing attention to universal human failings.

A form of reciprocal blackmail, Mutual Corruption & Complicity is the glue that holds society together, and the so-called liberal virtues of tolerance, mercy, charity & open-mindedness cannot exist without it.

Of course, many deny this reality, as we now live in an Orwellian era where words are now used to suggest their opposite:

The term 'tolerance' now involves the rejection of all those who deviate from a newly-defined norm; the term 'inclusivity' is now used to require the exclusion of all who think differently; and the term 'diversity' still involves a difference of appearance but now demands an oppressive uniformity of thought & behavior.

I respect Dr. Brin. He is a man of strong moral belief, yet he is not a 'live & let live' liberal in the sense of practicing liberality & forgiveness. Quite the contrary. He is quick to condemn any who violate his moral code.


It is yet another example of a longterm bipartisan US social institution built on the back of Mutual Complicity & Corruption.

With 18th Century British origins, it has been practiced with equal zeal by both US Republicans & Democrats for 200+ years, most recently by US Democrats in contested swing states:

Says Dr. Brin:

1 sousveillance that is thoroughly applied to all elites prevents Big Brother and tyranny from above... which leaves us vulnerable...

2. social credit systems that USE transparency to sic the majority on any minority, stifling it openly and democratically and legally. Mob enforced repression of deviance from conformity is a legitimate fear, portrayed in many media...

3. ... that is countered by deciding which VALUES the majority will enforce, above all. If it is a value system of MYOB! or mind your own business...

In a global panopticon with a social credit system, Dr. Brin fails to see the inherent contradictions of kinder & gentler majority mob rule by an enlightened MYOB mob that MINDS ITS OWN BUSINESS while seeing all, knowing all & exerting control over everyone.

Or, as Larry likes to say, "He thinks that he can control them", this all seeing, extremely moral & rule enforcing mob who 'mind their own business' while simultaneously minding the business of everyone else.

These are irresolvable contradictions.


David Brin said...

While I will encourage (as this time) any occasion when locum’s vitamin intake seems to anchor him in a semblance of sanity, he is still strawmanning.

My ‘morality’ is primarily pragmatic based upon the principal human sickness, subjective delusion, which L manifests every single time he comes here, and that the mighty always dive into, whenever they can repress open and reciprocal criticism.

Were that practice to return in command of human affairs – as Putin shows and other depotic powers – exponentiated by modern technologies – humanity would simply self extinguish, as likely happened to most other sapients in most galaxies. I am hence not driven by ‘moral sense’ as much as the fact that we lucked into a social model that actually applies reciprocal accountability to delusional ruling castes.

“A form of reciprocal blackmail, Mutual Corruption & Complicity is the glue that holds society together…”

Abso freaking lutely not. Those are the methods of feudalism and that form of governance is utterly, utterly proved to be worthless and suicidal.

The rest was actually slightly interesting. Wrongheaded and obdurate. But who are you and what have you done with locumranch?

Alan Brooks said...

For LoCum, let’s use the eighties as an example—the 1980s, not the 1880s.
The ‘80s were before LoCum’s time, so though he’s read about the decade, he didn’t experience it. Dr. Brin and others can explain, better than I can, what happened during the last forty years. And LoCum’s responses will be illuminating—the sparks will fly.

The standard reason bloggers give for visiting a blog they don’t cotton-to much is:
to avoid being in an intellectual echo chamber.
It could possibly not be so much who what when how or why—but, rather, Where. Say someone such as LoCum lives in a pleasant suburb of Bugtussle or Turkeyshoot; he is influenced by the kindlier people there. Yet he visits CB out of curiosity, and maybe profound confusion.
An example is, we’ve all visited houses of worship, and it is tempting to find common ground with the religious without being sycophantic. But can we do so? An open question.
When I lived in rural areas, it was quite tempting to say yes, I believe in God and the Gipper and guns. Especially guns; you tell a rustic that you like guns and their eyes light up. “He’s one of us,” the guy thinks. But the guy sees through the smarm eventually, he knows how the city slicker doesn’t know what it’s like to live close to nature. The city slicker doesn’t know what it’s like to kill animals with a gun; and perhaps once in a blue moon to shoot a trespasser...

David Brin said...

Feh. The fastest growing population of new gun owners is liberals and especially blacks,

Alan Brooks said...

Agreed. Am going by my decades-past experiences, as LoCum goes by his being stuck to some degree in the past. He must not be aware of Today, or else he wouldn’t write as he does; and being outdated myself I can relate-to-but-not accept what he’s presenting here.
LoCum has definite possibilities...however—again—WHERE he is may be constraining him greatly.
If you were to spend this summer in a swamp-fever location, out in the sticks, you’d have MAGAs pressing in on you so much you’d have to show them your books to change the subject. They’re not terribly interested in what we have to impart.
Their comfort zones are in the distant past; some can remember the late ‘40s.
Mentioning this because it appears highly likely LoCum lives in a backwater, or is getting bad advice from frenemies. Perhaps both.

scidata said...

I'm concerned about the L2 point. China's Queqiao relay station has been there for 3 years. Now Webb. It might get crowded soon. Even worse, it may bring in the lawyers, which could destroy astronomy (as they're doing already in Hawaii). I rank lawyers as one of the top Fermi explanations...

David Brin said...

Scidata. space (even L2) is big. You wouldn't believe how big.

Alfred Differ said...


The Lissajous orbits they use are at least half the size of the orbit of the Moon around Earth. Huge. 30 Earth radii minimum.

Also, the L2 orbits are unstable. Debris created isn't likely to remain in the vicinity for very long periods. Long enough to be annoying, but it clears out. How fast depends on how energetic a collision is. Very little dv is needed to escape those quasi-stable orbits.

Alfred Differ said...

...but, unlike Dr. Brin, I do not believe that the Light of Transparency is sufficient to destroy immorality and evil in & of itself.

Definitely a man stuffed with straw.

The book is pretty clear in describing it as the better path, but not one leading to utopia.

Light is searing, but cockroaches will run somewhere safer.

Even with lots of light, it's still not utopia.
It's just cleaner if we choose to look and care.

scidata said...

Ok, feeling better about L2 spatially. However, the legal worries remain. Very very little dv is needed to set entire law firms on the war path. Also, the radio spectrum's behaviour above the ionosphere is largely unknown, so interference between devices could become an issue. It's sort of like the early days of sea exploration where tides, currents, and shoals were unmapped. I'm becoming a fan of the 550 AU idea.

I know almost nothing about US primaries, and the civics, or lack thereof, down there gives me hives, so that's why I'm talking about astronomy. Sorry, as we Canucks like to say often.

Alan Brooks said...

“...and the civics, or lack thereof...”

The US no country for gentle-men. We have c. 8x your population, so it’s no longer Morning In America. (If there ever was a MIA.)
Just today a MAGA said, “you don’t see people clamoring to emigrate to Canada, do you?”
True, but it’s because Canada is x-tra cautious about who it lets In.

Alfred Differ said...


Inverse distance squared is your friend out there when it comes to interference. For one vehicle to interfere with another, they'd sorta have to plan it by aiming a high-gain transmitter at the other one.

Remember, typical distances are measured in several earth radii and RF tends to be line-of-sight out there. Straight on out to the stars until SNR buries it.

(Most interference takes the form of one module on a satellite harming another on the same satellite OR the Sun blasting the satellite with a proton wind.)


The governing 'law' is the Outer Space Treaty and case law for it. Launching nations are liable for harm one party does to another. Liability gets passed down to launchers and owners IF the launching nation chooses to do so.

OST is the reason the US licenses launches around here. Once the license is issued, the US is saying they are liable if foreign entities are harmed. Well... up to a point.

Listen to one of the SpaceX launch webcasts and you'll hear them thank the FAA for licensing support near the end of the segment. That's what that's about.

GMT -5 8032 said...

So the NY Times decides that the laptop really did belong to Hunter Biden. What to make of those 50+ intelligence experts who declared that it was Russian disinformation? What to make of Twitter and Facebook blocking the NY Post story? What good is transparency if the people "in the know" deny that information is real and if transmission of the information is blocked.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Just today a MAGA said, “you don’t see people clamoring to emigrate to Canada, do you?”

Uh, you most certainly did when Hong Kong was about to be repatriated by China.

Larry Hart said...

GMT -5:

So the NY Times decides that the laptop really did belong to Hunter Biden. What to make of those 50+ intelligence experts who declared that it was Russian disinformation? What to make of Twitter and Facebook blocking the NY Post story?

Well, there's this:

The New York Post reporter who wrote most of the article refused to put his name on it because of concerns about its credibility, two Post employees have said.

The resurfaced Hunter Biden story is getting bizarre, but so far, I haven't seen anything that shows that the laptop means anything useful, even if it somehow is really Hunter's. Didn't Giuliani claim to have images of child porn that were on that laptop? I don't see any corroboration of any of that sort of accusation. The worst I could find is an e-mail from a Burisma executive thanking Hunter for getting them a meeting with then-VP Joe Biden. And my feeling is that that might have been an assumption on the part of the Ukrainian.

And even if it wasn't--even if Hunter somehow really used his influence to arrange a meeting between Burisma and the vice President, that hardly merits the way this story is being played--that it somehow vindicates the whole "Biden criime family" Q-Anon meme. Plus, given the likes of Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliana who are making the accusations, it comes across a bit like they're accusing the Bidens of copyright infringement. Like using political influence for personal gain is something they've got the trademark on.

Or is this the part that sounds sinister to you? :

In some of the emails, Mr. Biden displayed a familiarity with FARA, and a desire to avoid triggering it.
In the same April 2014 email, Hunter Biden indicated that Burisma’s officials “need to know in no uncertain terms that we will not and cannot intervene directly with domestic policymakers, and that we need to abide by FARA and any other U.S. laws in the strictest sense across the board.”

So being careful not to break a law is somehow a problem? Like, if you suspect a patrol car is monitoring your speed on the highway, so you're careful to stay just a notch under the speed limit, you should be arrested for that?

Larry Hart said...

With Russia distracted, Azerbaijan moves troops into disputed region where it fought with Armenia.

I don't know who to root for.

David Brin said...

My answer to "Hunter Biden" is:
1- demand to know what statute they are even asserting that he broke. Which explicit law. They never do!

2- demand a wager comparingHB's entire life - all accusations - to any random month of the Trump sons.


While USA has taken in more immigrants than the rest of the world, combined, Canada has the best record per capita.

David Brin said...

LH The Balkans remain utterly complicated. Turkey supplied dealy drones to the Azeris, motivated that they're Turkic and also by lingering dislike of Amnenians.

The refutation of the Hunter laptop baloney is appreciated.

Alan Brooks said...

the MAGA in question said,

“you don’t see Americans clamoring to emigrate to Canada; but Canadians want to come here.”

Don’t know about that, so I replied:

“Canada has a fraction of our population.”

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

The refutation of the Hunter laptop baloney is appreciated.

When both the New York Times and the Washington Post put up paywalls, I opted for the Times as the one I'd subscribe to in order to know what's really going on in the world.

I'm about ready to switch horses. All of the best breaking stories seem to come from the Washington Post. And the Times, like Bill Maher, seems determined to demonstrate that it is not being controlled by the Left, to the point of treating right-wing gibberish as if it is credible.

Tangentially, here is a clip of Bill Maher and Ben Shapiro discussing the lead-up to Putin's invasion of Ukraine. Who'd have thought I would ever agree with Ben Shapiro while simultaneously disagreeing with Maher? But Bill Maher is arguing that NATO should have dissolved the moment the Soviet Union disappeared, and that it's continuation and expansion forced Russia into a cold war posture against the West. Shapiro correctly notes that ex-Soviet countries' desire to join NATO was in direct response to the ongoing threat from Russia, and that without NATO, Putin would have not only re-taken Ukraine and the Balkan states, but also former eastern bloc countries like Poland and Hungary. Hey, even locumranch sometimes says a true thing, and when you're right, you're right.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Turkey supplied dealy drones to the Azeris, motivated that they're Turkic and also by lingering dislike of Amnenians.

When they fought before, I sympathized more with Armenia because of that whole 1915 genocide thing. Also, Azerbaijan is Muslim, and I do tend to equate Muslim warriors with terrorists, unfair as that might be. Hey, I admit I know very little of the intricacies of the former Soviet Union.

But at the moment, anyone who forces Putin to look in a direction other than Ukraine gets my vote.

David Brin said...

Maher pisses me off because he harms himself with excesses and the other night comics haven't the guts ever to criticize when the left's TACTICS hurt the cause.

I'm wondering if a silver lining could be an end to Russian meddling in Libya. RF forces are being recalled from there, especially the mercenaries wh kept that civil war going. Italy should NOW lead a major EU (not NATO effort to get the Libyan government running - with the side effect of getting Libyan oil & gas onto markets and reducing refugee flows.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Just letting you know that my daughter may attend your talk at U of I on human augmentation. She's a biology major--at least for the moment--and is interested in the subject matter.

Furthermore, if my wife and I can arrange our mid-week schedules, we may also drive down from Chicago.

David Brin said...

LH Your daughter is entirely welcome and if there's the slightest problem she shoul say she is my personal guest. Also to th sci fi writing seminar, if she likes!

For you & wife I'll be giving a pair of weekend talks in Chicago.
4/23 7pm talk to the Mensa regional group at the Rolling Meadows community center.

Der Oger said...

Russia has gained influence in a couple of other African countries besides Libya, like the Republic of Central Africa and Mali.

Here is an DW article about it.

IJV said...

Some unsolicited political advice from an Australian. If you really want to eliminate Gerrymandering and related problems like voter suppression...

Making voting compulsory.

If you can't be bothered getting off your back side to vote, cop a fine, don't vote repeatedly, spend some time in jail meditating on your sins.

Some advantages of compulsory voting:
1. It makes Gerrymandering more difficult, as you have to account for the whole of the electorate, not just those likely to vote.

2. It eliminates voter suppression in the most efficient way possible. By punishing the victims. I won't sugar coat this aspect of it.

3. It reinforces the legitimacy of the winner. After all, if close to 100% of the electorate voted, the winner must be the actual voters choice (baring cheating).

4. It relegates the loony left & right fringes to where they belong. On the fringes. To win under a compulsory voting system you have to appeal to a broad section of the electorate, not just your base. Its no accident that Australian politicians are bland and boring compared to their US counter parts. The same likely holds in any country with a high voter turn out.

More unsolicited advice, in case you haven't had enough. :-) Shift you elections to a Saturday.

reason said...

David - I have always thought that the obvious gas pipeline for Europe would be from Libya. If only it wasn't a political nightmare.

David Brin said...

IJV Australia has several features making it more civilizaed than the central power of today's civilization/pax. Some states are trying to institute the preferential or rank-choice ballot that's been standard, down under, for decades. And guns... oh, my. Few people are stronger individualists than aussies. Yet you lack that insane gun fetish.

But some reforms are within reach. TWO supreme court justices and we could eliminate gerrymandering. Compulsory voting is not in the cards.

Smurphs said...

Damn, and I used to live in Rolling Meadows, only 35 years ago.

"Missed it by that much!" ;)

Alan Brooks said...

Did you see this?:

scidata said...

There's a lot of stuff about sousveillance and transparency in the context of AI at the Asimov Institute in Netherlands.

David Brin said...

scidata thanks. Not a lot of detail re sousveillance at that Dutch site. But nice surfaces/ Hope their efforts go well.

scidata said...

Yes, their content is a bit serpentine, and takes you to other places like, ie here's a list of podcasts on various 'veillances':

Also, they seem to be uber-dry-academic types, which is a serious barrier for me. Asimov's Neutrino book was a masterpiece of science popularization. You're pretty good at it too :)

GMT -5 8032 said...

@Larry Hart: very good point and I agree with you; asking legal counsel about the boundaries of the law should never be taken as proof of guilt. But also be aware that self-serving statements by a defendant have very low credibility.

@David Brin: Trump's potential crimes are irrelevant; the real issue is whether Hunter Biden and his father were committing crimes of their own. I loath Trump, but I dislike Biden almost as much.

As for what crimes may have been committed by Hunter or Joe, that depends on what the authorities find on the hard drive...assuming the Justice Department shows any interest.

Larry Hart said...

The obvious...

At this point, there’s very little distance between the fringes of the modern Republican Party and the elites who lead it. Superficial differences of affect and emphasis mask shared views and ways of seeing. In fact, members of the Republican elite are very often the fringe figures in question.
For Democrats, and especially for Democratic leadership, the upshot of all of this is that they should give up whatever hope they had that the Republican Party will somehow return to normal, that the fever will break and American politics will snap back to reality. From its base to its leaders, the modern Republican Party is fully in the grip of an authoritarian movement animated by extreme beliefs and fringe conspiracy theories.

Democrats can’t force Republicans onto a different path. But they also can’t act as if they’re above the fray. That appears to have been the plan so far, and if the current political state of the Democratic Party is any indication, it’s not working. The only alternative is to confront the Republican Party as forcefully as possible and show the extent to which that party has descended into conspiracies and corruption.


Larry Hart said...


Also, they seem to be uber-dry-academic types, which is a serious barrier for me. Asimov's Neutrino book was a masterpiece of science popularization

Yes, that's a big part of Asimov's charm. That he can write about hard science and still make it accessible and interesting to the general public.

Larry Hart said...


I loath Trump, but I dislike Biden almost as much.

Words fail me.

You might as well go back to the "Grand Moff Tarkin" thing.

David Brin said...

GMT I am seriously curious if you can offer us a clear list of assertions to support your "Biden dislike."

- ideally assertions that are known to be factual by widespread consensus... like Trump's list of 35,000 false statements while in office, or the long list of convictions or Trump associates like Paul Manafort.

- If not known-to-be factual by widespread consensus, then checkable by preponderance of accumulating evidence, sufficient that one would be willing to bet cash on the discovery trend lines. "I'd give 1:2 odds that it will be found that this crime was done by..."

- assertions that if 100% true would NOT be trivial, if ranked next to any single day of the Trump scions.

Let me be clear. I have a one-word diss of Jobee. That word is "Delaware." It implies a baseline level of corruption that is FAR lower than the current oligarchy-monstrous-treason of the right... but still a simmering stew of SATIABLE corruption that we need to get to, eventually, if our civilization is saved.

I have absolute confidence that Jobee is on our side, in that he and his clade utterly depends upon a western enlightenment civilization that's alive and creative - and that wastes less talent - not killed-dead like today's right aims to accomplish.

scidata said...

Larry Hart: write about hard science and still make it accessible

This skill cannot be overestimated. Here in 2022, it's vital that people stop their mindless, knee-jerk, dogmatic stupidity for a moment and reflect with astonishment at the age we live in. This morning, I was looking for the blog search engine I used to use for finding stuff on CB. Couldn't find it. I tried a brute force Google search just for fun - it worked. 99.999% of all knowledge that's ever been stored on a computer is fully indexed and available instantly, world-wide, for free. Google's search facilities are each Memory Alpha-like facilities. I once worked for one of the early indexing companies. Nobody back then ever imagined what would happen in two short decades.

There are many common misapprehensions that don't rise to the level of full-on delusion. For example, the eternal and poetic 'dark side of the moon'. There isn't one. The far side of the moon gets just as much sunlight as the Earth-facing side does. Maybe even a tad more because there are no eclipses to worry about. Pointing out such 'micro-delusions' is a safer way to deflate dogma. Although I have received hostility by saying that salt and fresh water do mix or that spaceflight is not a hoax (both easily demonstrated), so safer does not mean completely safe. These micro-delusions can be pierced in moments by anyone who cares to simply look it up. It must keep oligarchs up at night with worry. Tucker's presidential hopes hang by a gossamer thread.

Larry Hart said...


Trump's potential crimes are irrelevant; the real issue is whether Hunter Biden and his father were committing crimes of their own.

Trump's crimes matter in the sense that all of you who are anxious to investigate and prosecute President Biden for possible motes in his eye have already made clear that you are fine with the Justice Department acting as Trump's personal defense attorney relative to the obvious beams in his.

Robert Mueller all but said, "Trump has committed multiple crimes and violated the Constitution, but as the Justice Department policy is not to prosecute a sitting president, I can't actually recommend prosecution." This was taken as #VINDICATION! So you are on shaky ground insisting that Merrick Garland prosecute a sitting president when you apparently don't care whether or not they prosecute the former guy.

It's been pointed out many times on this list that rules, decorum, and law are meant to protect Republicans and to constrain liberals, never the other way around. But for most of my lifetime, it was not considered prudent to mention it out loud in quite those terms. Lip service generally had to be paid to the rule of law and equal justice. In recent times, the right-wingers seem to feel that protection of white Christian privilege and prosecution of white Christian grievance against woke liberalism is sufficient reason to openly advocate for cheating over democratic law. But I'd be curious to know what your own reasons are.

I loath Trump, but I dislike Biden almost as much.

Seriously, dude? For what?

Larry Hart said...


For example, the eternal and poetic 'dark side of the moon'. There isn't one. The far side of the moon gets just as much sunlight as the Earth-facing side does.

I always took "dark side" in that sense to mean the side that we can't ever see. It's dark to us.

Still, point taken.

or that spaceflight is not a hoax

How else would the Jewish space lasers get there? :)

Although I have received hostility by saying that salt and fresh water do mix

Is that in question? I thought it was water and oil that popularly don't mix.

Alan Brooks said...

“I loath Trump, but loath Biden almost as much”

What’s been a great relief since January 20th of last year, is waking up in the morning not having to worry about Trump. Now he’s in Florida, near alligators—who share some of his personality traits.
Re the dark side of the Moon: last night I watched Apollo 8 filmclips. Borman said the same thing. What’s amazing regarding Apollo 8 is how it was such a success less than two years after the Apollo 1 fire. (Btw, many astronaut wives wanted their husbands to quit after the fire—as they felt the Grissom team had been placed in an oven.)

Larry Hart said...


These micro-delusions can be pierced in moments by anyone who cares to simply look it up.

I have always wondered how human beings could have spent millennia insisting that heavier-than-air flight was impossible when every one of those humans would have seen birds doing it multiple times. Even without Charlton Heston making a paper airplane.

David Brin said...

Dark side of the moon is an expression. At least half used by folks who know, but use it figuratively.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Biden was my law school commencement speaker back in 1985. He was full of himself and did not realize that he lost the audience and was making a fool of himself with his “inside baseball” stories about the Senate. He made a few jokes about how fat Ted Kennedy was (those are the only things I remember now from that speech). Later, I watched with interest as he flamed out of the 1988 presidential race when he stole a speech from British Labor Party leader Neil Kinnock.

Biden always stuck me as the model of a modern, corrupt politician. He made his fortune through influence peddling, which makes him worse in my book than an arrogant, sleazy, failed, NYC real estate mogul who lied his way to the top of the political heap.

David Brin said...

GMT - sure...

...By my subjective (and pre-hostile) impressions I shall judge him... and not even remotely by his works or the things that he stands for, let alone any documented crimes."

You don't know squat about his fortune or influence peddling, sir. And were it true, your last sentence indicts you far more than it does either of the men you are comparing.

Carumba. I wanted and we got one thing from Jobee... appointment of 5000 skilled and dedicated people to replace 5000 shills, monsters and traitors. Bet me now that the rate of turpitude among members of GOP administrations is not FIFTY TIMES that of Democrats. Certainly the rate of actual criminal convictions is close to that.

For his appointments, alone, I would forgive vastly more than you have pointed to.

duncan cairncross said...

Joe Biden's "fortune"

I'm a furriner - and I know that Biden has released his tax returns going back a LOOONG way
And I know that he made his "fortune" by buying some houses - and later selling them at a profit

Its NOT rocket science!

Larry Hart said...


You to your religion, and me to mine, but I am at a loss to understand your value system, and my remaining life is not long enough to bother trying.

A.F. Rey said...

He made his fortune through influence peddling, which makes him worse in my book than an arrogant, sleazy, failed, NYC real estate mogul who lied his way to the top of the political heap.

Just don't forget that that arrogant, sleazy, failed NYC real estate mogul also tried to take away your vote. ;)

Larry Hart said...

Stephanie Miller often reminds us that "I will die mad about Hillary". I can understand why. It pains me to contemplate how different the world would be for having this woman in the White House in place of the orange monster.

Hillary Clinton speaking of the late Madeline Albright:

Madeleine rejected the criticism, renewed recently[*], that NATO’s expansion needlessly provoked Russia and is to blame for its invasion of Ukraine. As the Princeton historian Stephen Kotkin has noted, that argument ignores Russia’s centuries-long efforts to dominate its neighbors. Madeleine would be quick to add that it also erases the aspirations and autonomy of the former Soviet bloc countries that threw off their chains, built fragile democracies and rightly worried about Russian revanchism. She would encourage us to listen to the insights of leaders like our friend Mr. Havel, who said the message of NATO expansion is that “Europe is no longer, and must never again be, divided over the heads of its people and against their will into any spheres of interest or influence.”

* cough...cough...Bill Maher...cough

Larry Hart said...

Still fuming over a tv ad for the Republican primary candidate for Illinois governor, Richard Irvin. He's the current mayor of Aurora, and he's black. So the pitch on today's tv spot was:

"The Democrats' worst nightmare is a Republican who looks like me, and thinks like us."

So first of all, there's the implication that the "us" is conservative, and that liberals and Democrats are some scary "other". And of course, the back-handed dog whistle that Democrats fear a black Republican because he defuses the charge of racism (as if black voters can't see through a Herman Cain or a Clarence Thomas).

But worse than that is the idea that "Democrats' worst nightmare" is a good thing and a selling point. As if anything liberals would be wary of must be good for Illinois. The logical conclusion is that Illinoisans should vote for David Duke or Ann Coulter because if liberals don't like those people, then "us" must be in favor. It reminds me of the old billboards advertising AM 560, a righty-talk radio station, whose only copy was big capital letters: "LIBERALS HATE US", as the entire selling point.

GMT -5 8032 said...

On to a less heated topic, the move to the new house is mostly finished. We won't finish unpacking until after tax season is over.

Speaking of taxes, I can't wait to see the details of the President's proposed billionaire's tax. As a tax lawyer now in private practice, the devil will be in the details. I think they would do better by making it an alternative minimum tax on steroids than taxing unrealized gains on capital assets. What happens if a person has a year of gains followed by a year of losses? Does that person get a refund? Some politician made a complaint last year that Elon Musk did not pay enough taxes...but we later learned that he will have paid $11 billion in income taxes for TY2021. But I agree that the scheme where the wealthy borrow money using their appreciated capital assets as collateral is an abuse that deserves to be reformed.

Any thoughts about Will Smith slapping Chris Rock? That was most definitely a crime, battery (in Ohio it is called assault). Under the circumstances it was probably a minor misdemeanor. Rock says he won't file a criminal complaint, but that is not required in order for the police to make an arrest or for the LA County Prosecutor to bring charges. But George Gascón probably won't file charges; the LA County DA is not prosecuting minor misdemeanors this year.

I think I have stirred things enough this week. I don't think I stated any insults towards anyone here. I will go back to quietly lurking here and posting friendlier comments.

David Brin said...

- Yes, LH, while there are all sorts of ways to cheat that should be on the agenda to go after, we START with politicians showing their tax returns. And it is the evil party that refuses. And while there may have been some nod and wink price boosts to the homes Jobee flipped, that kind of shit is intrinsically LIMITED.

I am fine with going after the Delaware style satiable side-scam-crooks... AFTER we deal with tsunami-level traitors and trillion-dollars thieves and monsters. Deal?

- Hell yes! Unrealized gains are a truly gigantic scam! Especially since the rich BORROW against the high value assets, tax free. Are you kidding me, GMT? YOUR taxes are higher because of the oligarch tax cheats and your children's debts too.

EVERY prediction made by Supply Side came false and not one even remotely true.

Democrats are ALWAYS more fiscally prudent and Biden's bill is another example.

- My only takeaway from my glimpses of the Oscars slap thing was that WS is clearly terrified of J P-S. And an overprivileged prince. And CR can take a hit! Otherwise... like I should care?

Alan Brooks said...

Could the Oscars slapping incident have been a publicity stunt?
The current state of the disunion goes back a long time, but we can trace it proximately to the late ‘70s and the Moral Majority, who were instrumental in ‘win one for the Gipper’. Many do think of politics as sort-of football matches; they root for their team no matter what. ‘Go bears, beat the RINOs’.
Living in a MAGA area, the rationalizations are constantly, angrily verbalized. The economics are too complicated to describe, but politics are ‘redneck’: suspicion of ‘intelleckshuels’; interest in hunting and watching Clint Eastwood films. A belief that things don’t matter because Christ shall return—the world is temporary but Paradise is permanent.
They can misconstrue jests. I joked about the government fluoridating our bodily fluids, yet a guy took it for Real. “Yes,” he replied, “everything government bureaucrats touch goes bad.”

gerold said...

I often hear people say things like all politicians are the same, all politicians are crooks, there's no difference between Republicans and Democrats ...

I find either they're Repub shills or, more often, just too lazy to understand the issues. This is their excuse for why they don't vote.

David Brin said...

"They're all the same" used to be an anthem of lazy cynicism. Now it is the top meme of "ostrich" republicans, in their millions, who know their party has gone totally corrupt and insane, steeped in turpitude and cheating... yet desperately seek an excuse not to admit their patriotic duty to change sides.

"Democrats are even worse! That's the ticket!" Even though they cannot actually point to any proved or even likely scenario to support it.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

I am fine with going after the Delaware style satiable side-scam-crooks... AFTER we deal with tsunami-level traitors and trillion-dollars thieves and monsters. Deal?

Crimes and crime-adjacent activities committed in private life are almost beside the point. Trump committed offenses against the constitution as president. He also undermined American alliances and would have disastrously withdrawn from NATO given the chance. And of course, he participated in the country's first non-peaceful transfer of power, setting a precedent that the Republican Party as a whole seems set on following from now on.

How anyone can equate this with, "But Biden makes jokes that fall flat with his audience at a commencement speech" truly boggles my mind.

"Democrats are even worse! That's the ticket!" Even though they cannot actually point to any proved or even likely scenario to support it.

They point to the Democrats' "socialist agenda", which apparently is scary enough that even fascism looks good in comparison.

* * *

Alan Brooks:

A belief that things don’t matter because Christ shall return—the world is temporary but Paradise is permanent.

I know there's no mechanism for enforcing this, but in my mind, anyone who believes that "things don't matter" for whatever reason is disqualified from a governing office. The whole point of governing is that things do matter. I mean, in the private sector, if a potential CEO expressed a belief that "profits don't matter because they are temporary", do you think the board of directors would see that as a selling point?

It's not a matter of my judging their beliefs. It's just that if their beliefs are really that way, then why do they seek political office in the first place?

They can misconstrue jests. I joked about the government fluoridating our bodily fluids, yet a guy took it for Real. “Yes,” he replied, “everything government bureaucrats touch goes bad.”

One of Stephanie Miller's technos claims that when people sarcastically ask him why he's wearing a mask, he replies that it fools the deep state's facial recognition software. That usually gives them pause.

Jon S. said...

"Could the Oscars slapping incident have been a publicity stunt?"

I've seen the still of the moment just after impact (far more than I'd ever wanted to, to be honest). Rock's face is still moving from the force of the impact. I've seen his movies, and frankly he's not that good an actor. (Also, Smith's career has been built on being, in the words of one TikToker, "America's token black friend". Is he going to risk that in the hopes that Rock might be able to sell a few more tickets for his standup tours?)

Beyond that, all I'll note is that I, generally the epitome of peaceful wimpdom, once tried to put a man through a wall by his neck because he harassed my wife, so maybe Rock got off light...

GMT -5 8032 said...

Dr. Brin, you forget that, when it comes to making the rich pay more taxes, I agree. I just don’t know if the President’s proposal will work. However, one detail would make it much better and would bring me on board: if the scheme of borrowing against your stock holdings is treated as a realization/recognition event, then you can tax those gains….treat it as if that stock was actually sold rather than just borrowed against.

I’ve spent most of my career as a government attorney devoted to enforcing tax laws. I’ve gone up against taxpayer lawyers in court and I have had to deal with the consequences of poorly thought out tax statutes. I like going into court and stating the obvious when a judge asks me a direct question about how a tax law works. It is a lot easier to state a principle than it is to convert it into statutory language that works the way you intend it to.

Another proposal would be to create a national property tax. But trying to make an income tax work like a property tax is going to fail.

Larry Hart said...

Heard on Stephanie Miller's radio show:

"Anonymous, if you're listening, I hope you are able to find the seven and a half hours missing from Trump's phone logs."

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin redux:

"Democrats are even worse! That's the ticket!" Even though they cannot actually point to any proved or even likely scenario to support it.

Well, there's this...

The Republicans are a party without a platform these days. For the 2020 presidential election, they literally copied and pasted the 2016 platform, not even bothering to update the references to years until someone pointed it out. For the 2022 elections, the Republican leadership is assiduously trying to avoid a platform of any sort, despite Sen. Rick Scott's (R-FL) maneuvering to the contrary.

No, what defines the Party these days is the things it is against. That list includes, in no particular order, socialism, the Democratic Party, abortion, wokeness, the Democratic Party, most immigration, the Democratic Party, Critical Race Theory, mask mandates, and the Democratic Party.

David Brin said...

"They point to the Democrats' "socialist agenda", which apparently is scary enough that even fascism looks good in comparison."

Which is why I have yammered that dems should STARKLY compare actual OUTCOMES. As here:
So Do Outcomes Matter More than Rhetoric? - CONTRARY BRIN -

GMT now you are negotiating and with some validity. A middle ground would be to demand realization-taxation for gains that secure loans going BACK in time. If a loan on collateral exists, that collateral was realized. Sure.

I was in the UK when thatcher ended ALL property tax - the "rates" and thus secured family estates for the nobles forever. And made it sound populist.

If you include as "property" investment accounts and shares of shell corporations in the Caymans, right on.

But the key thing is that you negotiate. And hence are no Republican.

Der Oger said...

Maybe this could be of interest to some of you guys:

Apparently, there are reports that the massive convoy threatening the Ukrainian capital has been slowed not by regular forces, but by a special unit named Aerorozvidka. This gang is more or less a club or band of drone, engineering, IT experts and hobbyists with some military training and gear and repurposed civilian stuff. In other words, nerds who made look the big bad bully in the Kremlin look bad.

They even have their own website where you can donate and interact with them.

Which brings me to a neat little formula: Morale x Ingenuity = interesting stuff that happens in desperate situations.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

A middle ground would be to demand realization-taxation for gains that secure loans going BACK in time. If a loan on collateral exists, that collateral was realized. Sure.

I like that. If you receive negotiable cash, then that is income. To make it fair, I offer one of two possible offsetting options:

1) A loan received is taxable income. Repayments of the principal are tax deductible, even if you don't itemize deductions. For loans which are fully repaid, this would be a wash. It's only a net gain for the government if you receive "loans" that are not going to be repaid.

2) A loan received which is secured by unrealized gains is itself a realized gain. Then the tax basis for a future sale of the asset is increased by the amount already taxed. In other words, it's not a government trick to tax the same gains multiple times.

It seems to me that either of these could be applied universally, not just to billionaires, and would make the tax code simpler and fairer.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Going back in time could (not necessarily would) be problematic. Ex post facto taxation is frowned upon but it has been done. And I absolutely agree that shares in shell corporations should be counted.

Look up "James Oelsner" and the US Virgin Islands. I was part of the legal team that prosecuted him. He brought undocumented laborers from the Philippines to work in his shipyard in the USVI. He paid low wages and did not collect any withholding taxes. He pled guilty and we got a hefty payment from him.

He used shell corporations in Panama to hide his property holdings. The bastard is STILL suing the USVI trying to get some of his money back 20 years later. One of the best compliments I ever received was from Federal Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Resnick. He walked into a settlement conference for the Oelsner case, saw that I was on the prosecution team, and said, "Oh, [GMT-5] is here. Good. We will get something done today."

David Brin said...

Wow, serious think tank level stuff!

David Brin said...

"For all their posturing about defending children from abuse, their record tells another story." At last! A point I raised in Polemical Judo. The GOP hurls slurs to cover the pure fact they are VASTLY worse in every metric of turpitude. The long list includes far, far more sexual perverts and predators, including several who were TOP leaders of the party. One of the top reasons you can assume at least 25% odds any high level Republican is being blackmailed.
FINALLY someone with a megaphone is saying it.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Technically you are correct, I am not currently a Republican. I have not registered in a partisan primary in over 15 years. I identify myself as a traditional conservative (though I score close to Bernie Sanders on the Hidden Tribes political identity test).

The two most important rules for me are (1) don't tear down a fence unless you can explain why it is there and (2) build a wall around the Torah.

GMT -5 8032 said...

As for Larry Hart's proposals, they address my concerns; I think they would be workable.

Alfred Differ said...

I can easily forgive GMT-5's profound dislike of Biden in exchange for his willingness to negotiate. I have a few dislikes that are unlikely to be supported if I knew the people better, so I get it.

I'm not particular concerned about going for ex post facto taxation on the loans. Starting to treat them as realized gains would be enough to cause upheaval.

Obviously I'm not a fan of taxation in general, but if you're going to tax property, please do try to keep it simple enough I don't need lawyers to fill in my paperwork. A complex scheme keeps it a golf-buddy clade practice. A simpler one allows smaller fish to play in the pond and expose how it all works to market forces... and transparency's searing light.

gerold said...

DB: ostrich republicans is a good term. They're very good at lying to themselves. It shows how tribal politics really is; they see all the insanity and treasonous criminality in the Republican Party but they just can't defect from their tribe.

Somehow they're more willing to betray their country than deviate from their voting habit.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Alfred Differ, I agree. Tax laws should be simpler. I will propose a change that would vastly simplify the code: eliminate special treatment for capital gains. However, I would replace the capital gains rules by allowing taxpayers to adjust basis for any property sold by inflation.

One justification for capital gains is the idea that you don't really have income if the increase in value on the sale of property is entirely due to inflation.

Of course, you still have to factor in depreciation. When you sell property used in a trade or business, you mark the basis down by the amount of depreciation previously deducted. You don't get a depreciation deduction for non-business property.

Alfred, decreasing the complication of the internal revenue code usually goes along with lowering rates. Politicians generally increased the code's complexity as a way of offsetting tax increases. There was a rule of thumb back in my law school days that you could vastly increase tax revenues if you lowered the top rate to 34%. If you look at the 1986 tax act, it lowered the top rate to 28% while abolishing most of the popular tax dodges available at the time. Simple compliance went up. 28% is higher than the 20% proposed by the President with his Billionaire's Tax. What say you all? A top rate of 30% along with basis adjusted for inflation, inclusion in income of amounts loaned on appreciated property to the extent of that appreciation, and elimination of almost all deductions. The vast majority of taxpayers these days take the standard deduction anyways.

Larry Hart said...


1) don't tear down a fence unless you can explain why it is there

The way the supreme court did with the Voting Rights Act? With Citizens United? With overruling COVID restrictions?

How about a corollary, "When you tear down a fence and then it becomes obvious that the fence had been a really good idea, you don't escape responsibility by going, 'Who could have guessed?'"

Alan Brooks said...

agreed. Attempting to even communicate with them is automatically talking past them; the exaggerated rights of the individual is paramount to them. Only way I can communicate with them is via religion, in discussing subject-object dualism.
They misinterpret ‘abundant life’ to be material, when they know such is not at all the case. They can justify it by invoking the rights (their rights) of individuals, temporally: they claim to be ‘in this world, but not of this world’—though there’s no evidence for the latter clause.
More mumbo jumbo woo woo.
DB is correct, we have to fight no matter what the odds; there’s no longer any choice. MAGA is a warning signal, clear and present.
Naturally, the GOP will sweep the midterms. However in the two years from this November to the ‘24 election, they’ll make many mistakes.

duncan cairncross said...

Larry Hart

You are forgetting - the "problems" with "tearing down the fence" are all massive PLUS points to the fence demolishers

David Brin said...

GMT the GOP always promises fewer tax dodges in exchange for lower rates... then brings back the dodges or adds news ones and underfunds the IRS so it cannot audit.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Perhaps David, but that is not a complete history of what happened after the 1986 tax reform act. First, Bush the elder agreed to increase taxes and the increased the top rate from 28% to 31%. Then Clinton increased the top rate to 39.6% and added a new category of capital gains: middle term capital gains, to increase the complexity of capital gains taxation. Bush the younger then made series of tax cuts (that were time limited to 10 years under the reconciliation process).

Long story short: top rate was increased from 28% to 39.6% and presidents from both parties added dodges and “planning opportunities.”

Larry Hart, I don’t think any of your examples fit the Chesterton’s Fence principle. Regarding Citizens United and the COVID Restrictions, neither ruling was overturning long standing traditions or laws. Indeed, the Court was preserving existing laws with its rulings.

David Brin said...

GMT and Clinton paid down debt and got surpluses and restored some, not all, of the Rooseveltean social contract that benefited us all after 1945 and inarguably led to the most rapid advances of any civilization in all of history. ALL such metrics declined after each and every Supply Side 'reform' and not one predicted benefit ever happened.



GMT -5 8032 said...

David, you are correct. There was a surplus by the end of the Clinton administration. He deserves credit for that. What I wonder about is whether the increase in tax law complexity contributed to the surplus/deficit decline. We call this issue “dynamic scoring” and it is controversial. I think that some dynamic scoring makes sense, but not to an extreme degree.

Again, I wonder. I don’t necessarily dispute. I would love for some post doc economics PhDs to study this and argue for an against this.