Friday, March 29, 2024

Do the Rich Have Too Much Money? A neglected posting... till now.

Want to time travel? I found this on my desktop… a roundup of news that seemed highly indicative… in early 2022!  Back in those na├»ve, bygone days of innocence… but now…  Heck yes, a lot of it is pertinent right now!

Like… saving market economies from their all-too-natural decay back into feudalism.


First, something a long time coming!  Utter proof we are seeing a Western Revival and push back against the World Oligarchic Putsch. A landmark deal agreed upon by the world's richest nations on Saturday will see a global minimum rate of corporation tax placed on multinational companies including tech giants like Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. Finance ministers from the Group of Seven, or G-7 nations, said they had agreed to having a global base corporate tax rate of at least 15 percent.  Companies  with a strong online presence, would pay taxes in the countries where they record sales, not just where they have an operational base.

It is far, far from enough! But at last some of my large scale 'suggestions' are being tried. Now Let’s get all 50 U.S. states to pass a treaty banning 'bidding wars' for factories, sports teams etc... with maybe a sliding scale tilted for poorer states or low populations. A trivially easy thing that'd save citizens hundreds of billions.

The following made oligarchs fearful of what the Pelosi bills might accomplish, if thirty years of sabotaging the IRS came to an end: 

ProPublica has obtained a vast trove of Internal Revenue Service data on the tax returns of thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, covering more than 15 years. The data provides an unprecedented look inside the financial lives of America’s titans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Rupert Murdoch and Mark Zuckerberg. It shows not just their income and taxes, but also their investments, stock trades, gambling winnings and even the results of audits. Taken together, it demolishes the cornerstone myth of the American tax system: that everyone pays their fair share and the richest Americans pay the most. The results are stark. According to Forbes, those 25 people saw their worth rise a collective $401 billion from 2014 to 2018. They paid a total of $13.6 billion in federal income taxes in those five years, the IRS data shows. That’s a staggering sum, but it amounts to a true tax rate of only 3.4%.  

Over the longer run, what we need is the World Ownership Treaty. Nothing on Earth is 'owned' unless a human or government or nonprofit claims it openly and accountably. So much illicit property would be abandoned by criminals etc. that national debts would be erased and the rest of us could have a tax jubilee. The World Ownership Treaty has zero justified objections. If you own something... just say so.

And a minor tech note: An amazing helium airship alternates life as dirigible or water ship. Alas, it is missing some important aspects I could explain… 

== When the Rich have Too Much Money… ==

“The Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ilya Prigogine was fond of saying that the future is not so much determined by what we do in the present as our image of the future determines what we do today.” So begins the latest missive of Noema Magazine.

The Near Future: The Pew Research Center’s annual Big Challenges Report top-features my musings on energy, local production/autonomy, transparency etc., along with other top seers, like the estimable Esther Dyson, Jamais Cascio, Amy Webb & Abigail deKosnick and many others.

Among the points I raise:

  • Advances in cost-effectiveness of sustainable energy supplies will be augmented by better storage systems. This will both reduce reliance on fossil fuels and allow cities and homes to be more autonomous.
  • Urban farming methods may move to industrial scale, allowing similar moves toward local autonomy (perhaps requiring a full decade or more to show significant impact). Meat use will decline for several reasons, ensuring some degree of food security, as well.
  • Local, small-scale, on-demand manufacturing may start to show effects in 2025. If all of the above take hold, there will be surplus oceanic shipping capacity across the planet. Some of it may be applied to ameliorate (not solve) acute water shortages. Innovative uses of such vessels may range all the way to those depicted in my novel ‘Earth.’
  • Full-scale diagnostic evaluations of diet, genes and microbiome will result in micro-biotic therapies and treatments. AI appraisals of other diagnostics will both advance detection of problems and become distributed to handheld devices cheaply available to all, even poor clinics.
  • Handheld devices will start to carry detection technologies that can appraise across the spectrum, allowing NGOs and even private parties to detect and report environmental problems.
  • Socially, this extension of citizen vision will go beyond the current trend of assigning accountability to police and other authorities. Despotisms will be empowered, as predicted in ‘Nineteen Eighty-four.’ But democracies will also be empowered, as in ‘The Transparent Society.’
  • I give odds that tsunamis of revelation will crack the shields protecting many elites from disclosure of past and present torts and turpitudes. The Panama Papers and Epstein cases exhibit how fear propels the elites to combine efforts at repression. But only a few more cracks may cause the dike to collapse, revealing networks of blackmail. This is only partly technologically driven and hence is not guaranteed. If it does happen, there will be dangerous spasms by all sorts of elites, desperate to either retain status or evade consequences. But if the fever runs its course, the more transparent world will be cleaner and better run.
  • Some of those elites have grown aware of the power of 90 years of Hollywood propaganda for individualism, criticism, diversity, suspicion of authority and appreciation of eccentricity. Counter-propaganda pushing older, more traditional approaches to authority and conformity are already emerging, and they have the advantage of resonating with ancient human fears. Much will depend upon this meme war.

“Of course, much will also depend upon short-term resolution of current crises. If our systems remain undermined and sabotaged by incited civil strife and distrust of expertise, then all bets are off. You will get many answers to this canvassing fretting about the spread of ‘surveillance technologies that will empower Big Brother.’ These fears are well-grounded, but utterly myopic. First, ubiquitous cameras and facial recognition are only the beginning. Nothing will stop them and any such thought of ‘protecting’ citizens from being seen by elites is stunningly absurd, as the cameras get smaller, better, faster, cheaper, more mobile and vastly more numerous every month. Moore’s Law to the nth degree. Yes, despotisms will benefit from this trend. And hence, the only thing that matters is to prevent despotism altogether.

“In contrast, a free society will be able to apply the very same burgeoning technologies toward accountability. We are seeing them applied to end centuries of abuse by ‘bad-apple’ police who are thugs, while empowering the truly professional cops to do their jobs better. I do not guarantee light will be used this way, despite today’s spectacular example. It is an open question whether we citizens will have the gumption to apply ‘sousveillance’ upward at all elites. But Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. likewise were saved by crude technologies of light in their days. And history shows that assertive vision by and for the citizenry is the only method that has ever increased freedom and – yes – some degree of privacy.

A new type of digital asset - known as a non-fungible token (NFT) - has exploded in popularity during the pandemic as enthusiasts and investors scramble to spend enormous sums of money on items that only exist online. “Blockchain technology allows the items to be publicly authenticated as one-of-a-kind, unlike traditional online objects which can be endlessly reproduced.”… “ In October 2020, Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile spent almost $67,000 on a 10-second video artwork that he could have watched for free online. Last week, he sold it for $6.6 million. The video by digital artist Beeple, whose real name is Mike Winkelmann, was authenticated by blockchain, which serves as a digital signature to certify who owns it and that it is the original work.”

From The Washington Post: The post-covid luxury spending boom has begun. It’s already reshaping the economy. Consider a sealed copy of Super Mario 64 sells for $1.56M in record-breaking auction. That record didn’t last long, till August 2021. Rare copy of Super Mario Bros. sells for $2 million, the most ever paid for a video game. 


== Addendum March 30, 2024 ==

What's above was an economics rant from the past. Only now, let me also tack on something from spring 2024 (today!) that I just sent to a purported 'investment guru economist' I know. His bi-weekly newsletter regularly - and obsessively - focuses on the Federal Reserve ('Fed') and the ongoing drama of setting calibrated interest rates to fight inflation.  (The fellow never, ever talks about all the things that matter much, much more, like tax/fiscal policy, money velocity and rising wealth disparities.)

Here, he does make one cogent point about inflation... but doesn't follow up to the logical conclusion:

"This matters because the average consumer doesn’t look at benchmarks. They perceive inflation when it starts having visibly large and/or frequent effects on their lives. This is why food and gasoline prices matter so much; people buy them regularly enough to notice higher prices. Their contribution to inflation perceptions is greater than their weighting in the benchmarks."

Yes!  It is true that the poor and middle class do not borrow in order to meet basic needs. All they can do, when prices rise, is tighten their belts. Interest rates do not affect such basics.

ALSO The rich do not borrow. Because, after 40 years of Supply Side tax grifts, they have all the money! And now they are snapping up 1/3 of US housing stock with cash purchases. What Adam Smith called economically useless 'rent-seeking'. The net effect of Republican Congresses firehousing all our wealth into the gaping-open maws of parasites.

That's gradually changing, at last. The US is rapidly re-industrializing, right now! But not by borrowing. The boom in US manufacturing investment is entirely Keynesian - meaning that it's being propelled by federal infrastructure spending and the Chips Act.   Those Pelosi bills are having all of the positive effects that Austrian School  fanatics insanely promised for Supply Side... and never delivered.  

That old argument isnow  settled by facts... which never (alas) sway cultists. Pure fact. Keynes is proved. Laffer is disproved. Period.

But in that case, what's with the obsession of the Right upon the Federal Reserve? What - pray tell - is the Fed supposedly influencing, with interest rate meddling? The answer is... not much.

If you want to see what's important to oligarchy - the core issue that's got them so upset that the they will support Trump? Just look at what the GOP in Congress and the Courts is actually doing, right now! Other than "Hunter hearings" and other Benghazi-style theatrics, what Mike Johnson et. al are doing is:

- Desperately using every lever - like governemnt shut-down threats and holding hostage aid to Ukraine - to slash the coming wave of IRS audits that might affect their masters.  With that wave looming, many in oligarchy are terrified. Re-eviscerating the IRS is the top GOP priority!  But Schumer called Johnson's bluff.

- Their other clear priority is obedience to the Kremlin and blocking aid to Ukraine.

Look at what actually is happening and then please, please name for me one other actual (not polemical) priority? 

== And finally ==

Oh yeah, then there's this. 

Please don't travel April 17-21.  

That's McVeigh season. Though, if you listen to MAGA world, ALL of 2024 into 2025 could be.  

God bless the FBI.


Alfred Differ said...

That airship looks like it would be... um... fun in the wind often found near seashores.

I THINK the NFT craze died down. My inbox doesn't have as many scam invites and I usually treat that as a good sign from above.


For the next craze, though, my DoD employer is thinking of toying with AI's. Every meeting where that gets mentioned, someone does the TASAT thing (without calling it that) by mentioning SkyNet. It's a wonderful thing to witness how science fiction gets used in real life.

locumranch said...

Firstly, Net Worth is not subject to Income Tax as it does not constitute Income;

Secondly, energy storage systems that are better, stabler, more efficient & more cost effective than hydrocarbons have yet to materialize;

Thirdly, Urban Farming techniques assume the availability of a cheap & unlimited energy source; and,

Fourthly, NFTs have been functionally worthless since November 2023.

For all intents & purposes, Alan Bloom's tome on 'The Closing of the American Mind' has been entirely vindicated, especially when it comes to the corrosive effects of value relativism & false ideologies.


In the Red States, we have a phenomenon known as the Dirt Poor Millionaire. It refers to the farmer with little or no income, who can barely make ends meet but could realize a million dollars if he sells off his land, water & livelihood.

Would you put these hard-working farmers out of business forever because of their potential-yet-unrealized 'net worth', all while depriving yourselves & your families of food?

It's insanity.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: thinking of toying with AI's

It's fun to watch A.I. come into and out of fashion. It's like the old joke about young people who think they're the first to discover sex.

I was deep into computer chess in the 1970s, a professional PROLOG programmer in the 1980s, and formed an A.I. corporation in 2000, so I have some perspective. I got half of my interest from Shelley, Asimov, et al. and half from my machinist grandfather (slide rule, radio, analog 'computers' like magnetos & governors).

Alfred Differ said...


Thirdly, Urban Farming techniques assume the availability of a cheap & unlimited energy source…

I'd worry more about water. Energy isn't likely to be the critical factor.

Fourthly, NFTs have been functionally worthless since November 2023.


…we have a phenomenon known as the Dirt Poor Millionaire…

We all have something similar. There are plenty of people here in CA sitting old high valued property who couldn't pay the property taxes if not for a revolution many years ago. Little old ladies on fixed incomes choosing between eating dog food and paying taxes so they didn't have to move OR selling out and then having to leave the state because they wouldn't be able to afford property taxes most anywhere else. That was the political image that helped drive the ballot proposition to victory.

Would you put these hard-working farmers out of business forever because of their potential-yet-unrealized 'net worth'…

Mostly… yes. The world moves on and we don't need as many people doing what they used to do. (We need them doing something else.) I'd make exceptions for the old and disabled (meaning I'd help them with their incomes or help them find better options), but the youngest should be doing what their ancestors did. Pack up and chase opportunity where ever she can be found.

Your false dichotomy about us starving is political bullshit.

Alan Brooks said...

I’ve read ‘The Closing Of The American Mind’ more than once, and you are simplifying. (Btw, there’s two ‘l’s in his given name. You don’t want anyone misspelling your name, Whatever your name is.)
Energy sources—not “source.”
If someone of your intelligence is going to be a bit sloppy about these things, whose problem is that?

Bloom said in an interview he felt insulted when critics tried to place him in an ideological category. He became irritated when he was termed a conservative.

Another book to discuss is
Paul Kennedy’s work on imperial overstretch.

David Brin said...

Jeez Alan. Bloom? Scanning up I see L also mentioned that shrieking, dyspeptic harpy who has been proved wrong in every particular, top to bottom and inside-out. Might as well cite Oswald Spengler and John of Patmos. Ay Carumba.

He wasn't a 'conservative.' he was an insane-polysyllabically articulate-delusional ingreat-grouch.

Some of you might notice I spliced an addendum onto the main posting.

DP said...

Speaking of helium airships, dd the "air-ship-to-orbit" concept ever work out?

Alan Brooks said...

Didn’t say I liked his book, but learned a few things—read ‘Mein Kampf’ (all of it) to see Hitler’s take on Darwinism/social-Darwinism; doesn’t mean anything.
What struck me re ‘The Closing Of The American Mind’ was an anecdote concerning a college professor who admonished a group of anti-war protestors:
“You don’t have to intimidate us.”
Inference was (unintentionally) We are already intimidated.

Naturally, it’s not what people say, it’s what they do not. In this case, Bloom neglected a mention of how as soon as conscription ceased, so did antiwar protesting.
Youth were drafted, they rebelled; the draft ended, many, very many, pursued the Opulent Life.

Alan Brooks said...

(...actually, it was a university president, not a prof.)

Tim H. said...

I would suggest splitting the difference with a "Newer deal", allowing absurdly large wealth to buy the whole thing risks utter failure*.

*Like what's liable to become of our trade advantages if trading partners decide treaties with the United States aren't worth the paper they're written on?

Alfred Differ said...


Speaking of helium airships, dd the "air-ship-to-orbit" concept ever work out?

[After a spit take]

Uhm... No.

Anyone who thinks Musk's engineers haven't made all that moot is gonna waste your money if you support a development effort.

We honestly thought it would be an easier path to re-usability. For the record, I admit we were wrong.

scidata said...

Alfred Differ: For the record, I admit we were wrong

Don't burn the drawings and logbooks. The "air-ship-to-orbit" idea may still make sense on some of the Jovian planets and exoplanets. Even the ancient catapult has its modern explorations. Pruning diversity is a different thing than learning - in fact the opposite thing.

Larry Hart said...

Some sanity on the "Biden's age" issue...

We should also call nonsense on many of the people who signal or say that Biden’s age is propelling them toward Trump. Obviously, that’s a dynamic for some of them, but it can’t be all that common because it defies common sense. Voters who’d be content to back a version of Biden with more spring in his step and less stammer in his voice have values, priorities and policy leanings that would probably render Trump an unconscionable choice. They’re not going to throw in with Trump because he throws himself around more forcefully.
No, many of these Trump supporters like what he’s selling — maybe the lower taxes for corporations and wealthy Americans, maybe the promised crackdown on immigration, maybe the nihilism, maybe just the vitriol — and have found a way to defend a vote for him (Biden’s decrepit!) without fully owning up to it.

In an age of rampant falsity, let’s be honest about that.

Alfred Differ said...


I think we SHOULD keep around the ideas that don't work so students can understand what tech exploration is really like. Without the failures, it looks WAY too much like everyone knows what they are doing. 8)

But no. I don't think the ATO idea is viable.

What still might make sense is the floating launch platform. Look into the details around our ATO concept and you'll find a high flying station. It's essentially a Stage 0... which Musk's engineers simply put on the ground for the BFR. For Earth, putting it on the ground appears to be the smarter choice at least until we have a space elevator.

The point of all that work we did was system re-usability. SpaceX found a better way to do it for orbital flights. Others were working on similar suborbital ideas, but Musk had the $$$ to solve the bigger problem that has an actual market with actual customers.

Paradoctor said...

Alfred Differ, 1:16 PM:
I hear that water is no problem with indoor farming, in fact it's extremely water-efficient. The real concern is economic. It's pricey in capital (I expected that) but also labor (I didn't expect that.) The trouble is that indoor farming needs highly skilled workers.

Alfred Differ said...


It will all have to be automated for it to make economic sense. I suspect it will be, though. Quickly.

Being able to manage the water cycle IS a big deal, but it is still a LOT of water. City guys like me look at farms and see the dirt. Farmers look for the water.

When I lived in North Dakota we got regularly drenched AND could move water around through irrigation. Lots of surface area for collecting it is all around. Cities will have to work harder at it even if all they do is move food production back closer to their borders instead of into them were land prices are high.

Water is everything until we desalinate the oceans.

Unknown said...


I remember Pournelle expanded one of his old novels* to tack on a ending where a planet that had to get a person into orbit (or lose its sovereignty to the encroaching Empire) resurrected the OLDEST method, Verne's, and built a big cannon. (Actually, to reduce the g that would kill a human, it was a series of tubes, iirc.) Pournelle knew his stuff but I wondered how likely that was to have worked - they couldn't run a test flight with a crash test dummy first.

*found it. King David's Spaceship

I don't expect rich people who want to extend their sweet rumpt-era tax cuts to vote for and donate to rumpt, no matter what they think of him personally. I don't have to expect it. It's already happening. My father, who finds him disgusting, is very likely to find some way to square the circle in his own mind ("I'm doing it for my kids' financial well being.")


Larry Hart said...

Pappenheimer: for and donate to rumpt, no matter what they think of him personally.

The article I excerpted above wasn't disagreeing with your observation. It was pointing out that Biden's age is a red herring, but one that is used by people who (like your father) want to vote for DJT, but don't want to acknowledge what they're excusing to do so.

I can understand those who prefer his policies (or those he'd enable) not caring what think of the man personally. Our side did as much with Bill Clinton. What I find fault with is those who think small--tax cuts or deregulation--without considering the effect on their own interests after Trump metaphorically cuts down every law in England and then turns against them. What are their retirement funds going to look like after Putin overruns Europe? How comfortable will life be for Vivek Ramaswamy or Peter Theil or Clarence Thomas in white nationalist Gilead?

David Brin said...

“Speaking of helium airships, dd the "air-ship-to-orbit" concept ever work out?”

While launching from a higher altitude can be helpful, this ignore the fundamental thing needed for orbit, known since Newton, which is LATERAL velocity – more than 7 km/sec.

“No, many of these Trump supporters like what he’s selling —”

Hatred. Races/genders, sure. But above all nerds. EVERY kind of nerd.

The stunning effectiveness of the Falcon 9… some have flown 15 times! – transformed our access to space and has funded the development of Shotwell’s Great Big Launcher. And if THAT flies equally well, and can be re-used, then ERM can go full Howard Hughes, for all I care. He’s still done epic net-good.

Irrigation for 10,000 years spread deserts unless they had drainage to the sea. Future cities should have the south sides of all buildings be hanging gardens.

Pappenheimer, ask your Dad if he’ll bet on comparative actual, actual economic outcomes? Or whether wealth disparities skyrocketing past French Revolution levels will be ‘good for the kids.”

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin,

I'll try. Should point out, though, that most of his career was spent in India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. He's quite comfortable with massive inequality, as long as he and his are on the 'right' side of the divide.

My brother raved about the movie 'Crazy Rich Asians' when it came out, because we knew these people.

A quick touch o' the Google reveals that Indian income inequality is actually worse today than it was under the mercantilist British Raj. Holy Unbridled Capitalism, Batman!


Alan Brooks said...

Is this article correct?:,(6.96%20miles)%20per%20second.

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Is this article correct?

Are you asking if escape velocity really decreases with altitude. Yes, I remember the sense of the formula (if not the exact figure) from high school physics.

In layman's terms, you need less velocity to escape at higher altitude because you've already accomplished some of the escaping by being that high. It also makes horse sense considering extreme examples. Something a trillion miles above the surface of the earth doesn't need much velocity to escape earth's gravity.

duncan cairncross said...

From memory King David's spaceship was not a Jules Vern "cannon" - it was a down Tech "Orion".

They could not build the rocket engines, but they could use a series of explosions behind the ship to propel it.

Alan Brooks said...

The article says escape velocity at close to 7 m/s—but that’s not lateral ev, is it?

David Brin said...

Alan you can (briefly) RUN that fast!

duncan cairncross said...

From that article (and it seems right to me)
Escape velocity is proportional to the inverse of "R" (distance to the centre of mass)

On the earth's surface that is about 4,000 miles - so if you increase your height by 40 miles then you have increased "R" by 1% and decreased escape velocity by 1%

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

The article says escape velocity at close to 7 m/s

Dr Brin:

you can (briefly) RUN that fast!

That would be true if we are talking 7 meters per second, which comes in at around 15 miles per hour.

However, what the linked article says is 7 (actually 6.96) miles per second.


duncan cairncross said...

So 6.96 miles per second on earth and 6.89 miles per second at 40 miles altitude

David Brin said...

LH, no one uses "m/s" to mean miles per second!

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

I wasn't criticizing your interpretation. Just clearing up that that's not what the article actually said. It said "about 11.2 km (6.96 miles) per second". No abbreviation.

locumranch said...

Dr. Brin is more correct than most realize:

It's HATRED, sheer hatred, that motivates the modern reactionary, not necessarily for NERDS but for all those who deliberately infantilize other adults by acting in loco parentis, as if they were parents who can subjugate other adults without leave, consent, authorization or consequence.

In medical circles, we refer to this (patronizing) (domineering) (dictatorial) (autocratic) mindset as PATERNALISM.

Paternalism is the interference of a state or an individual with another person, against their will, and defended or motivated by a claim that the person interfered with will be better off or protected from harm; (and/or) the policy or practice on the part of people in positions of authority of restricting the freedom and responsibilities of those subordinate to them in the subordinates' supposed best interests.

It's TYRANNY with or without the best of intentions and it's something that a free people in a free society will never tolerate, even if their surrender & submission would win them the world.

This is what some smart-but-unwise nerds fail to understand:

They wish to lead, compel & command an unwilling populace towards some Glorious Golden Future of their imaginings without first obtaining the Consent of the Governed, and this makes them tyrants who must then share the tyrant's fate.


Units matter as 1 km/s = 1000 m/s = 0.621371 mi/s

Der Oger said...

The stunning effectiveness of the Falcon 9… some have flown 15 times! – transformed our access to space and has funded the development of Shotwell’s Great Big Launcher. And if THAT flies equally well, and can be re-used, then ERM can go full Howard Hughes, for all I care. He’s still done epic net-good.

As long as he or his descendants do not go full Peter Weyland, Eldon Tyrell, Hugo Drax or Jules Mao...

Tony Fisk said...

... or Ted Faro

scidata said...

Industrialists do seem to embrace him as one of their own, but Musk may see himself as more of a true outsider in the ilk of Captain Nemo. Howard Hughes is a good (yet frightening) comparison.

Tony Fisk said...

No harm in investigating helium airships. Even if they've been elbowed out of the ship to orbit market now, they might one day have a use in providing trim to a space elevator's gravity anchor. Stationing such a thing in the stratosphere cuts out a lot of the wind shear stresses.
Of course, there's all those Starlink satellites to avoid...

Darrell E said...

I doubt there will ever be a space elevator on Earth. Cable material strength is only the most obvious, most mentioned issue. Stability is also a very difficult problem, one of several others. Though it might one day be technically feasible to build one, by that time I think it will be a solution looking for a problem that doesn't exist because it will be significantly more resource intensive than other options. Perhaps at some point when we are so resource rich that such projects can be done just for fun, but not likely before that.

Airships might make a come back. There are at least 2 or 3 outfits with prototype hardware that are hoping to bring airships to market for specialized tasks. The niche they are hoping exists for them to fill is heavy lifting into remote and or unprepared locations. It seems to me like there could be something to this. If they can get the performance necessary at costs that are sellable.

The hard problems with airships seem to me to all come down to controlling something so large and lighter than air with the precision and responsiveness necessary for landing and maneuvering in close quarters. As a teenager I once spent a couple of seasons crewing for a hot air balloon and experienced just how energetic collisions with a seemingly weightless balloon really are, how at the mercy of the wind they are, even barely noticeable wind, and how imprecise altitude control could be.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Do the rich have too much money (wealth)? I think they do. Many of the more famous tech billionaires accumulated their wealth from the contributions of their employees. Things would have been much better if executive compensation were lower and employee compensation was higher. How do we accomplish this? I don't know. Some people argue that we should use the tax system for this. That did not work too well.

Many of the tax avoidance strategies used by the wealthy today came about during the high tax rate days after WW2 when the top marginal federal rate was 91%. I don't think that the lowering of tax rates that started during the JFK administration is the primary reason for the increasing wealth divide...but it certainly is a factor. But there was also a change in attitudes of business leaders that happened between the 1950s and the 1980s. I found that the book BARBARIANS AT THE GATE by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar gives a great history of some aspects of this change. We watch how F. Ross Johnson changed the culture of the companies he he seduced executives and managers with higher compensation and perks and focused on increasing stock value with tricks rather than by just creating and marketing better products.

Regarding the ProPublica release of taxpayer information, I am concerned at the breach of taxpayer confidentiality. Selective disclosure of investigative files, whether in criminal or administrative cases, has a tremendous potential for abuse. Tax returns and taxpayer books and records disclosed during audits are filled with information that can be presented in various ways.

David proposes greater disclosure. I see some merit in this but I also see a lot of problems.

Enough for now. Work beckons.

DP said...

Quick change of subject. Just finished watching "The 3 Body Problem".

Excellent, superb and amazing especially when you consider it came from the same two guys that screwed up the last season of Game of Thrones.

Quite a few changes from the book, almost all for the better (some characters and events from the second and third books of the trilogy, I've only read the first book) which made the story much better for a visual medium.

Dr. Brin: how do you feel about the film/tv adaptions of your novels? Were you pleased or pissed off?

Larry Hart said...


the same two guys that screwed up the last season of Game of Thrones.

Last two seasons.

scidata said...

I was encouraged by the public & critical success of OPPENHEIMER, but "The 3 Body Problem" only lasted at #1 for a couple of days before being topped by "Testament: The Story of Moses" - yikes. Still, two steps forward and one step back is progress.

DP said...

I'm not sure of the basic premise of "3 Body Problem": that a technologically primitive society is doomed to defeat.

The Zulus armed only with spears defeated British armies armed with repeating rifles.

The Sioux defeated Custer at the Little Big Horn.

The Viet Cong operated with impunity out of their tunnel systems until Saigon fell.

The Taliban fought both superpowers and are still in charge of Afghanistan.

My father was 18 years old in 1945 and was on a troop ship crossing the Pacific to join in operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese home islands. He and all of his green buddies fresh out of boot camp would have been slaughtered on the beaches by fanatical Japanese resistance against invaders of their sacred islands. His job during the occupation was to survey their system of underground tunnels, bunkers, firing ports, pillboxes, storage depots, command centers and fortifications - all of which were immune to American conventional bombing and battleship gunfire.

These underground fortifications were more or less dug by hand.

The more primitive society often does get defeated, but only after repeat attempts combined with successive waves of colonization (Spanish conquistadors, American pioneers, Boer Trekkers, etc.) The San Ti have only their initial invasion fleet and when they arrive they will be as hopelessly outnumbered as Custer.

GMT -5 8032 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GMT -5 8032 said...

Hey DP, I watched 3 BODY PROBLEM too. And I read the book. Spoiler alert...the San Ti arrive in middle of Book 2 in the series, THE DARK FOREST and....that would be telling.

A Zulu army of about 20,000 warriors wiped out a British column at Islandlwalna on January 22, 1879. However, the next day, a force of about 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors were repulsed by a group of about 140 British soldiers at the mission station of Rorke's Drift. 11 of those soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross.

The Sioux defeated Custer because of the LTC's idiocy (though the last I heard, it was not so much a "last stand" as it was a running battle where Custer's forces made the Sioux pay a high price).

The current war in Gaza...Israel could annihilate what is left of Hamas if it was left free to attack the last stronghold. Mind you, there was a cease-fire in effect on October 6, 2023 that Hamas broke. A unilateral Israeli cease-fire would be seen as a Hamas victory...and pretty much guarantee they would try to stage similar attacks in the future. Why not consider a different resolution to that war, the resolution that the Japanese accepted in 1945: surrender.

Darrell E said...


I agree with most of that. I've always understood the context of that truism about the meeting of two cultures of very different levels of technology to be "in the long run," not individual incidents. Historically it is pretty accurate too.

I agree that the San Ti / human contact is different for the reason you mentioned. With one caveat. At some point the difference in technology could be so great that it wouldn't matter how outnumbered the advanced aliens might be.

In the series the San Ti explain that given the rate humans have advanced that by the time the San Ti arrive, 400 years hence, humans will surely have surpassed them and the San Ti would be SOL. The San Ti then go on to explain how they will prevent humans from advancing, and describing the technology they will use to do so, by complex means and methods with 400 years for things to go wrong.

My problem with the show's premise here is that the technology the San Ti explained could easily be used to knock humanity back to the stone age or perhaps even render us extinct, right now, so that they don't have to worry about what might be awaiting them when they arrive. If their intentions are as they stated and their technology is as capable as they explained, which it certainly does appear to be, they are contenders for the stupidest aliens ever. Humanity is going to clean the floor with them.

DP said...

GMT, only read the first book, but I can think of lots of ways to resist the technologically superior San Ti.









The invasion fleet moving at 1 percent light speed must give off a lot of heat impacting dust and gas between the stars. It should be easily found and tracked with infrared telescopes. They can't hide.

Everyone learn American sign language. The sophons can hear us speak and can tap into our computers and communications but can they observe and interpret subtle hand movements among millions of military and science leaders?

Like cicadas tunnel underground to avoid predators. Starting with earth cave systems and lava tubes on mars and Luna, hollow out every planet, moon, asteroid, trojan, kuiper belt object, and oort cloud planetoid and turn them into fortresses armed to the teeth with rail guns hurtling non ferrous objects.

Build cobalt nukes. Doomsday weapons that would blanket the earth in deadly radiation making life impossible for 10,000s of years. Set them off the moment the San Ti land and our defeat and extermination are certain.

Go back to Babbage's difference engine and use mechanical analog computers. We went to the moon using slide rules. Use perfectly adequate analog mechanical computers for weapons aiming and ship navigation. The sophons can't tap into or read a gear box.

(BTW, can the San Ti manipulate physical objects or just images and information?)

Develop artificial wombs and fertility treatments that will allow massively high birth rates causing an explosion of humanity's population and allowing us to spread rapidly throughout the solar system, exploit it's resources and turn everything into a fortress. Increase the total fertility rate of each new fortress colony to 4. That's a population doubling each generation over 20 generations (400 years), a factor of over 1,000,000. Total human population when the San Ti arrive would be about 10,000,000,000,000,000. The 1,000 ship fleet has what, 1,000,000 San Ti tops? That's Islandlwalna and Little Big Horn numbers on steroids.

Infiltrate the pro San Ti traitors and use our ability to lie to feed all sorts of false info to the invaders.

Lots and lots of nuclear IEDs shaped like small asteroids and buried as landmines on the surface of every world they want to land on.

Just a few ideas.

Der Oger said...

I liked the adaptation of the 3 Body Problem, though I found the decision made by the San Ti that humanity had to be exterminated and the way humanity reacted to that threat somewhat illogical, especially in the light of
a) 400 years of human development- both technologically and culturally - still ahead.
b) no plan B on the side of the San Ti.

So, the messaging to the San Ti should have been: "We recognize the drive for your species' survival. So understand that we will do anything to save ours. So, while we prepare for the worst, we also invite you to begin negotiations on how to share the plentiful resources of our solar system - which we will be fully capable of exploiting by the time you arrive - to ensure the survival of both of our species. War or Welcome, the choice is yours."

DP said...

GMT - "Why not consider a different resolution to that war, the resolution that the Japanese accepted in 1945: surrender."

The Japanese knew they could surrender because they knew we were not going to exterminate them.

OTOH, the Russians could never surrender to the Germans because extermination under Hitler's Ostplan would be their fate. Had the Germans demanded more rational traditional war aims (a new Treaty of Brest Litovsk which would give Germany the Baltics, Belorussia, Ukraine and the Caucasus) would have been something Stalin might have agreed to.

DP said...

Der Oger - the San Ti were counting on the sophons to stop human progress.

But you are right about no Plan B

DP said...

Also they thought of us as bugs.

You don't negotiate with bugs.

Der Oger said...

GMT, only read the first book, but I can think of lots of ways to resist the technologically superior San Ti.

A sophon is basically a proton, right? And, at least in the series, the humans know what it is ... shouldn't they be able to keep it at bay with magnetic fields? And how does it react to nuclear radiation? Shouldn't it endanger it?

GMT -5 8032 said...

DP, my thought would be to spread major experiments throughout the solar system. There are only 2 sophons and they can only move at near light speed. If you have multiple particle accelerators light minutes apart, it will be harder for them to mess them all up at once. But, humans did not choose that path...they were arrogant and stupid.

As for Gaza, why do you think that Hamas cannot surrender? Perhaps I am misreading your statement. Are you saying that Hamas can't surrender because it believes that Israel would kill them to the last fighter? Israel has already captured Hamas fighters. Israel has not adopted a no-prisoners strategy. It is Hamas that takes hostages. It is Hamas that specifically targets civilians. It is Hamas that regularly kills POWs. To quote a character from fiction, "You proceed from a false assumption."

DP said...

Also remember that amateurs talk about tactics, professionals talk about logistics.

The San Ti logistical situation sucks.

Every missile they fire is one they can never replace, but we can hurl an endless supply of new rocks against them until they run out of ordnance.

Der Oger said...

Also they thought of us as bugs.

You don't negotiate with bugs.

Maybe, but they feared humanitys' potential enough that they created the sophonts under great costs. Maybe it was a bluff or just an intimidation attempt that barely hid that fear.

I also wonder if the information that there are San Ti with a pacifist mindset could have been exploited.

GMT -5 8032 said...

By the way DP, if your dad is still alive, thank him for me.

Also, I apologize for sounding more critical than I intended. You raised a solid point and my intention was just to show that it was not a conclusive point. Less advanced cultures can defeat more advanced cultures but the details matter.

DP said...

Der Oger and GMT all good points.

DO, Moving at near light speed would also give a proton a lot a mass, making it easy to track.

GMT, I thought you meant the humans should surrender to the San Ti like the Japanese did.

Der Oger said...

As for Gaza, why do you think that Hamas cannot surrender?

I personally think Hamas has won.

They are not a regular army, they are a guerillia/insurrection force. As such, they use terror to create both attention and overreaction. If the latter goal is achieved, bystanders become sympathisants, and sympathisants become terrorists/activists/freedom fighters.

Dead fighters and civilians are the currency they happily pay for it.

The invasion of the Gaza strip was a trap. The IDF walked into it, surely lost a large number of their best fighters, botched, and surely committed atrocities that happen in these times.

Netanjahu ordered the attack -against both the counsel of US and domestic politicians and soldiers - because it allows him to stay in office a bit longer.
The moment the war stops, at least at the moment, pitchforks and torches will appear (though that might already happen.)

The way the conflict is waged guarantees it will last for another couple of decades.

GMT -5 8032 said...

You may be right Der Oger. And I am pretty sure Netanyahu will be politically finished in the near future.

But right now, from what I have heard, the Israeli public still largely wants the fighting to continue until the last of the Hamas combat units are defeated. Israel has been a lot more effective at the tunnel fighting than previous armies have been.

Israel waited about a month before starting its major offensive in Gaza. If Israel had not mounted a counter attack, that would have been a amazing, astounding victory for Hamas. They could commit the most horrible war crimes and get away with minimal consequences. That would guarantee a repeat performance.

David Brin said...

I took a chance and skimmed and found that L must have changed his diet again. The case he makes this time is not fecal-jibbering and follows a self-consistent sequence. Alas, it remains insane.... the 'paternalism' he yatters about is real but ANECDOTAL, in that a small minority of nerds and other educated folks DO behave that way -

- and gneralizing that to ALL or most or even a large minority of us is a nasty justification-for-hate that is utterly baseless and I'd stake my house on that, by any metric.

But yes, hatred toward 'patronizing' nerds IS the IMAGE that rightist/MAGAs masturbate-to. While eagerly seeking all the services nerds provide, from weather reports and computers and toys to medical help and the safety provided by intel/fbi/military nerds and so on.

A vastly more plausible theory is boiling jealousy toward those who have better understanding of a complex world.
That plus reflexive confederate loyalty to feudal lords. And nerds prevent the total return to feudalism. But above all, prickly jealousy and resentment toward the geeks they used to bully in junior high, who now can be seen picking up the tools of Creation.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

I personally think Hamas has won.

If Donald Trump is re-elected on the basis that President Biden is "Genocide Joe", then Putin and Netanyahu win. But in that case, I think HAMAS loses. Unless the Saudis like them, and it doesn't look at the moment like they do.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Can't vouch for the integrity of this poll, but here is one regarding public opinion in Israel concerning the war in Gaza:

Should Israel carry out a military operation in Rafah even though the U.S. opposes it? (Globes, March 12-13, 2024)

Yes in any circumstances 49%
Yes, if coordinated with the U.S. 20%
Yes, even without coordination with the US, as long as a solution is found for evacuating civilians 13%
Not in any circumstances 10%
DK 9%

That's 62% in favor of attacking Rafah even without US coordination (which I read as even if the US opposes)

What is your view of the claims that Israel is failing to do enough to avoid harming civilians in the Gaza Strip? (Globes, March 12-13, 2024)

Israel does all it can not to harm civilians 62%
Israel does too much, since there are no "non-combatants" in the Gaza Strip 19%
Israel does not do enough 11%
DK 7%

Wow...Just wow.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

And nerds prevent the total return to feudalism.

When I first read The Postman back in the mid 1980s, I thought it was an interesting choice to have the battle lines essentially between scholars and feudalists. I see now that that was not mere happenstance. Your personal philosophy has envisioned those camps as polar enemies for a long time now.

Der Oger said...

If Donald Trump is re-elected on the basis that President Biden is "Genocide Joe", then Putin and Netanyahu win. But in that case, I think HAMAS loses.

Larry, if that happens, we all loose. Hamas will be OUR least problem or concern.

David Brin said...

Hamas invading on Putin's birthday is maybe indicative. His one plausible lifeline is if our lefties use this as their desperately desired excuse to betray the only coalition that stands a chance of saving the world.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

Larry, if that happens, we all loose.

And as Luke Skywalker's Uncle Owen once said, "That's what I'm afraid of."

Just before the 2022 midterm elections, the Chicago Tribune had a political cartoon of a man at a gas station complaining, "I voted for authoritarian fascism over democracy, and gas prices are still high!" I'm afraid the 2024 version will be, "I voted for my own deportation, and there's still no cease-fire in Gaza!"

locumranch said...

First with the gratuitous sex scene & now with a capital murder, the Netflix adaption of the '3 Body Problem' already has a much higher body count than advertised:

Sooner or later, I also expect a hardcore adaption of Brin's "The Postman" and a S&M romp based on Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress".

>>>Dibs on TANSTAAFL as my safe word<<<

More on Paternalism:

From social equity to CAFE standards to climate change, Progressivism is all about compelling & forcing the ignorant childish masses into behaving as if they were well-educated & well-indoctrinated progressive adults.

Now, imagine if you will, how the typical 'fiery but mostly peaceful' progressive reacts when conservative authorities attempt to define & enforce conservative adult behaviors upon the free-lunching progressive, while you consider & reconsider the horrifying possibility that conservatives may someday choose to display their childishness in the very same progressive way.


Weekend Editor said...

Just a couple weeks ago, there was a commentary piece in the journal Nature about how tolerating billionaires means terrible economic and social health consequences for the rest of us:

RG Wilkinson, KE Pickett, “Why the world cannot afford the rich”, Nature 627, pp. 268-270, 2024-Mar-12. DOI: 10.1038/d41586-024-00723-3.

I blogged about this, and a couple other similar pieces in Nature from 2023.

duncan cairncross said...

Billionaires inequality and all that.

Our "useful" billionaire - Elon Musk - would I believe accept not "owning" his companies if he could rely on being able to "control" them.

He is on record as saying that he wants 25% of Tesla so that he CAN be overthrown - but it would take a LOT to do so.

He does want 51% of SpaceX as his vision for the future (Mars colony) is quite singular!

I'm not certain of this but I believe that he would be quite willing to abandon 90% of his "fortune" as long as he continued to be in charge.

A lot of this is because he was ditched by the "money men" when developing his first big project (PayPal)

Ownership and Control - do NOT need to be locked together.

David Brin said...

While his diet has clearly improved... it's all still just blah-blah masturbation assertions. True bout our (Union) side's 1% crazies, while his side has gone 99% stark, jibbering and treasonously insane.

Larry Hart said...

Finally, an editorial telling out the truth about Trump...

Why don't our opinion platforms treat Donald Trump and other politicians exactly the same way. Some phrase it differently, asking why we demean the former president's supporters in describing his behavior as monstrous, insurrectionist and authoritarian.

I feel for those who write. They believe in Trump and want their local news source to recognize what they see in him.

The angry writers denounce me for ignoring what they call the Biden family crime syndicate and criminality far beyond that of Trump. They quote news sources of no credibility as proof the mainstream media ignores evidence that Biden, not Trump, is the criminal dictator...

The truth is that Donald Trump undermined faith in our elections in his false bid to retain the presidency. He sparked an insurrection intended to overthrow our government and keep himself in power. No president in our history has done worse.

This is not subjective. We all saw it. Plenty of leaders today try to convince the masses we did not see what we saw, but our eyes don't deceive. (If leaders began a yearslong campaign today to convince us that the Baltimore bridge did not collapse Tuesday morning, would you ever believe them?) Trust your eyes. Trump on Jan. 6 launched the most serious threat to our system of government since the Civil War. You know that. You saw it.

The facts involving Trump are crystal clear, and as news people, we cannot pretend otherwise, as unpopular as that might be with a segment of our readers. There aren't two sides to facts. People who say the earth is flat don't get space on our platforms. If that offends them, so be it.

locumranch said...

Weekend Editor's link to the Nature article on “Why the world cannot afford the rich” is well worth clicking on if only to illustrate the insidious nature of equivocation, as this article deliberately misrepresents racial, ethnic, tribal & cultural homogeneity as 'equality'.

Most emphatically, homogeneity does NOT represent 'equality' in the progressive sense of the word, since 'equality' is progressive virtue-signalling terminology used to celebrate the INEQUALITY of difference & diversity.

This is what the majority of Scandinavian sociological studies actually show:

That high levels of racial, ethnic, tribal & cultural homogeneity are directly correlated with 'High Trust, Low Inequality, Low Conflict' societies, whereas 'Low Trust, High Inequality, High Conflict' societies are directly correlated with high levels of racial, ethnic, tribal & cultural diversity and heterogeneity.

Following the migratory surge of the 1970s, Finnish & Swedish crime rates have increased by 400%, Norway documents a 300% surge in Sex Trafficking, the Netherlands has coined the new phrase 'Crimmigration' to describe its present, and all this heterogeneity has led to a huge spike in Far Right Anti-Immigrant sentiment throughout Scandinavia & Europe.

In fact, Weekend_E's cited article (which argues that economic inequality causes social dysfunction) has things exactly backward, since it is most likely DIVERSITY-induced social dysfunction that causes economic inequality, as evidenced by the sheer heterogeneous diversity of the West's greedy rich billionaires:

That said, there's plenty of backwards-thinking fantasists who gather on this blog, so Weekend_E will be much more welcome here than I, as our fine hosts defines my comments as "blah-blah masturbation".


GMT -5 8032 said...

"RFK Jr. argues that Biden is a bigger threat to democracy than Trump"

“ 'I can make the argument that President Biden is the much worse threat to democracy, and the reason for that is President Biden is the first candidate in history – the first president in history that has used the federal agencies to censor political speech, so to censor his opponent,' he said. Kennedy pointed to his removal from social media platforms, which he attributes to pressure from the Biden administration, as evidence of the president’s efforts to censor political speech."

I strongly dislike both Biden and Trump. Biden was the commencement speaker at my law school hooding (graduation) ceremony in 1985. He tried to impress us by telling jokes about how fat Ted Kennedy was. I saw Trump in the Baltimore Inner Harbor when his yacht Trump Princess was moored there. I remember he was shaking hands with people there but he avoided shaking hands with the one African American man there.

Of the three people running, I dislike RFK Jr the least. I saw his father drive by in a motorcade across the street from my house in 1968.

Larry Hart said...

GMT -5 8032

Of the three people running, I dislike RFK Jr the least. I saw his father drive by in a motorcade across the street from my house in 1968.

First of all, RFK Jr is not his father. You apparently discount the huge differences America and the world will experience in a Biden administration as vs a Trump administration, and are willing to base your vote strictly on impressions from when you personally caught sight of the candidates.

It's telling that the one you dislike least is the one you didn't actually encounter. I'm guessing that if RFK Jr had spoken in front of you, you'd have seen something not to like too, because no one is perfect. When you say you dislike him least, you're saying that, unlike the other two, you never had occasion for him to turn you off.

More importantly, though, there is no path for RFK Jr to win 270 electoral votes. In fact, there is no path for him to win 1. The only point of his running is to give non-enthusiastic Biden voters an excuse not to vote for Biden.

True, with his anti-vax stance, he might also draw votes away from Trump. No one knows for sure who his candidacy will help more. But his Republican donors and right-wing talkers supporting him seem to be betting that he'll hurt Biden more than Trump. And RFK Jr himself once said he wouldn't run if his candidacy would only be a spoiler, but he's obviously changed his mind. So he's on board with the spoiler plan now.

Point being, a vote for anyone but the Democrat--in this case, President Biden--is a vote for authoritarian fascism. To re-quote an article I excerpted above, "In an age of rampant falsity, let’s be honest about that."

Tony Fisk said...

@Larry this is why, one way or another, the US is becoming a one party state.

@GMT If the US had a preferential voting system, I wouldn't cavil at your choice of RFK. The way things stand, though, it would effectively be a non-vote, ie a vote for your worst choice. That choice is between someone who once told a fat joke, and an entrenched racist. Deal.

Alan Brooks said...

His supporters might possess more wisdom than he himself:

David Brin said...

RFK Jr is a capering loon whose every utterance is swill.

Moreover, just like with Trump, there is an inverse correlation between how well most people know him and any kind of respect for him.

It is indicative of our times for GMT to ignore the mountains of OUTCOMES that testify to Biden's good governance.

Above all, there is no plausible way (unlike Trump or RFKJ) to posit that Biden admin behaviors can be tied to Moscow or Beijing blackmail Kompromat. JoBee's 5000 appointees -- ZERO indictments, just like Clinton and Obama -- are decisively honest and qualified grownups. If that doesn't matter to someone, then something is very, very wrong.

Alan Brooks said...

RFK jr is nuttier than Perot was; if Perot were alive he wouldn’t be anti-Vaxx, would he? He was merely a bored billionaire who wanted the thrill of running for potus.
Ramaswamy was the worst of the lot. Did you see him at the debates? He was like someone in a classroom pumping his hand in the air, so teacher would choose him to answer a question.
We’d be better off finding someone at random in a phone book to be potus, than candidates such as he.

Unknown said...

Living in Eastern WA, I can confirm that "Something is very, very wrong."
The attitudes are baked in. I spent hours, years ago, arguing that an armed teacher means students are less safe, that gun control would work here as it does in other countries by reducing fatalities. Only when a friend of theirs who they grew up with changed his mind did my dude consider changing his. You can point out that vaccines work, have worked, and have even been trusted in this same community years ago, but the herd has decided differently for Covid. So people get sick and even die without changing their minds. (Note that a rather rough form of social evolution can change the margins on these issues.)

You (we, I guess) may need to find the bellwethers, the people in the herd but just slightly out in front and who can change course - read Connie Willis' "Bellwether" for a summary of the idea.

The idea that Biden is in fact a more moral, religious, effective and healthy (mentally and physically) man than rumpt* doesn't register - if I say it.

- note that my primary vote went for Warren, but I wasn't going to waste my shot because my favorite didn't get the nod.


*not a high bar to clear, so no pedestals involved

P.S. going to try my had at local volunteer work with the local Dems this year. I can at least write postcards. Not sure if postcards from out of state could work in OH, my other state of long-term residence.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

@Larry this is why, one way or another, the US is becoming a one party state.

Except we're not. We're becoming an evenly-split two-party state which can't get anything done because neither side can build consensus on anything.

I prefer one party to the other, not because I agree ideologically with everything they work for, but because I don't want the other side to force its will down my throat. And I know that the other side believes the exact same thing about mine. So how do I justify caring which team wins if they both feel the same about each other? "You offered me...the lives of my crew."

@GMT If the US had a preferential voting system, I wouldn't cavil at your choice of RFK.

Yes, that would be a whole different ball game. Unfortunately, it's not the one we're playing at the present time.

That choice is between someone who once told a fat joke, and an entrenched racist. Deal.

I'm sure I'm not typically American in this, but to me, the presidency isn't just about the president. It's also about who he brings in to run the departments and who he has advising him, and how he interacts with Congress. For progressives, even those who aren't as awed as I am by what Biden has managed in his first term, it seems ridiculous that they're willing to punish Biden for the things he hasn't done well enough by enabling "Project 2025". Biden wasn't quite progressive enough on all issues, so you're willing to doom progressiveness forever?

And to those who just can't stomach a Biden vs Trump rematch and would just prefer that the choices were different--isn't that the fault of the Republican Party for running their loser again? How many first-term presidents aren't their party's candidate for their second term? That Biden is the nominee should not be a shock or surprise to anyone.

David Brin said...

RFK Junior - I said " there is an inverse correlation between how well most people know him and any kind of respect for him."

This correlates with his THREE marriages... same as Trump and the VASTLY higher divorce rate among top Republicans. As well as - yes - far higher average rates of every other turpitude in red states... setting aside Utah.

David Brin said...

Pappenheimer, be safe out there! That is Holnist territory.

I find it is effective to cite the Greatest Generation who they idolize… whose by far favorite living human was FDR. The next who came close? Ike came in second after Jonas Salk.

LH California shows that when Dems have supermajority power they DON’T cram any life changing craziness down Repub throats. The marvelous CA election law means that when deb-faces dem in the general election, Republicans in that district GAIN power as both dems hurry to meet with them and court their swing-decider votes.

This does not happen in red states, where all but MAGA radicals are disempowered.

“I'm sure I'm not typically American in this, but to me, the presidency isn't just about the president. It's also about who he brings in to run the departments and who he has advising him…” I’ve long shouted “It’s the APPOINTMENTS, STUPID!” And dt’s appointments – except NASA/Bridenstine and a couple others – were mostly monsters.

Slim Moldie said...

On Billionaires. One might think as adults we could collectively agree to play with an anti-hoarding law akin to the rule in Settlers of Catan where if you hoard in excess of seven resources and a 7 is rolled, you have to give away half your cards.

Is anybody paying attention to the unsavory smell and lily white cast of characters who are trailing the smoking dumpster full of money being offered to TFG to secure his bond? And that “Nearly 30 insurance companies declined to underwrite the former President Trump’s bond” ?

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin, quite well aware that two steps outside Spokane is Holn Country. However, I am as melanin-deficient as the 'best' of them, so not in much danger unless I start proclaiming Marxism outside county courthouses. (courthice)? Heck, I even own camo (though I'd have to lose mucho weight to fit back in it.)

One thing Holn (and you) left out, but Heinlein didn't, was the religious aspect*. The European fascists embraced (and embrace) religion as a tool, but in the US it is a central component.


*Could be wrong, read yr novel while still in service long ago)

Unknown said...


I'd vote for the Catan Tax in a heartbeat. But who rolls the dice?


Alan Brooks said...

One could make a case that Biden is even better than FDR.
Trump could’ve instigated a train of events that led to apocalypse, had he been elected. Peace hangs by a thread.
What is the main difference between 1944 and 2024?: today there are 22k nukes.

Unknown said...

"Legislation targeting baseless concept to keep state’s skies clear essentially futile given politicians cannot control sky and wind"

it's really, really sad that I can't tell if this an April 1st fake story or not...


Alfred Differ said...

GMT -5 8032,

Sorry. I find RFK Jr to be a nut* AND too many of his family find him to be embarrassing. Neither one is a good sign in my book.

Rather than listening to me assert opinions, though, I encourage you to get to know him better. Give him a fair shot. Listen to him speak directly to ensure you have the context that goes with the sound bites the rest of us have. You have time.

*Reminds me a bit of Rand Paul in how he says almost anything necessary to get attention. Watching him do that makes me feel like I'm watching a junky getting another fix.

Darrell E said...

Alan Brooks said...
"RFK jr is nuttier than Perot was; . . . We’d be better off finding someone at random in a phone book to be potus, than candidates such as he."

You jest, but I think this idea has enough merit to take seriously. I first came across it when I read AC Clarke's novel (as opposed to the short story or screenplay) The Songs Of Distant Earth about four decades ago.

The notion that "Anyone who wants to be *insert high elected office here* should be excluded from consideration," seems worth experimenting with. I think it's plausible that Representatives, Senators and even POTUS selected randomly similar to how jurors are selected would not have worse outcomes than what we've had today in the US, and perhaps better outcomes.

GMT -5 8032 said...

I apologize for creating a mess here. I promised David years ago I would not do that.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

LH California shows that when Dems have supermajority power they DON’T cram any life changing craziness down Repub throats.

I meant that the Republicans claim (and often actually believe) the exact same thing about Democrats--that they have to vote against Dems at all costs in order to save the country, even if their own candidates are less than desirable. I'm sure they think their hound dogs (Republicans don't own cats) would make better presidents than Biden or Obama.

I grant their beliefs which are isomorphic to my own. I just claim that this isn't one of those "matter of opinion" things. On this distinction between the parties, I'm factually right and they're wrong.

scidata said...

"The Songs of Distant Earth" was one of Clarke's best yet lesser known novels. I mentioned here a few years ago that I knew a well-read physicist from Sri Lanka who'd never heard of it! Echoes can be found in Netflix's adaptation of "3 Body Problem" such as when Wade selects Will for the probe mission after Will refuses to sign a loyalty pledge. Wade says something like, "he's our man because he's not our man."

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ to GMT:

Rather than listening to me assert opinions, though, I encourage you to get to know him better.

That was my point as well. He disliked Biden and Trump for characteristics that he noticed in person. He "disliked least" RFK Jr because unlike with the others, he had never met the man.

* * *

GMT -5 8032:

I apologize for creating a mess here.

I don't consider spirited conversation to be a mess. I do wish you'd actually notice what others are saying about RFK Jr, though, instead of just thinking we're flaming you.

sgr said...

Brin: "It is indicative of our times for GMT to ignore the mountains of OUTCOMES that testify to Biden's good governance."

Indeed! The differences are real: statistically significant and large effect size:

(1) Democrats are better at creating a good economy for all of us.

(2) Republicans are better at committing crimes and getting caught.

(3) Republicans are also good at causing federal government shutdowns. That's true by a couple of different measures.

Larry Hart said...


Republicans are also good at causing federal government shutdowns.

Their voters consider that a feature, not a bug.

Like Judge Doom, they "bought the Red Car to dismantle it."

Darrell E said...


Please stop with the apologies. It may be genuine, it may be passive aggressive bullshit, there is no way for anyone else to know.

But mostly, "the dialogue" of a healthy society requires opposing views. That's the whole point. And this is, after all, "Contrary Brin.

Would you rather a forum where everyone simply agrees with you that RFK Jr is the least worst candidate, or one where some people give you a different view and new information to consider? You can either ignore those and continue on as you were, or put some time into considering the different views and verifying the new information.

If you choose the former, OK. You may have saved yourself some time and effort wasted. Or, you might have missed an opportunity to learn something you'd find worth your while. It's a gamble we all take dozens of times a day. None of us have the time or capacity to engage with every one of them.

If you choose the latter there are two possibilities. Either you still evaluate RFK Jr as the least worst candidate, or you don't. Either way you've learned more about him and more about those who disagreed with you.

Darrell E said...


Songs Of Distant Earth is my favorite Clarke Novel. My guess as to why it is less well known is simply because it was published very late in his career, long after the Golden Age.

Also pretty liberal for its time. If it were published today I've no doubt that a certain segment of science fiction culture would trash it and Clarke as being woke.

Fun fact, I named one of our cats after a character from the novel. It was a beautiful long haired black cat and the name was "Kitani."

scidata said...

Darrell E,

"Songs of Distant Earth" was brilliant, with ideas from "Fountains of Paradise" too. The ice shield background plot was fascinating. Also, I had just finished Asimov's Neutrino book, so Sol's fate felt even more real.

David Brin said...

Alan,FDR faced at least a dozen charismatic woud-be fascist caudillos, from Huey Long and Father Coughlin to Mosley and simmering traitors with stars on their shoulders. (God bless Smedley Butler.). Look em up. The world was much worse.

But yeah, thing COULD get MUCH worse, today.

GMT you created zero mess here. You expressed an opinion and well-meaning, unabashed-opinionated online friends piled in. BFD. Hang around and keep talking.

If I were speaker I’d set aside funds and get a House Rule that every member must appoint someone from their home district as an “advisor on science and fact,” so they can never again evade issues like climate with “I’m not a scientist.” The result would be either:

- someone starts actually fact checking on their staff and can be asked fact-based questions, or
- he shames his home district by implying he can’t find anyone qualified.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

- he shames his home district by implying he can’t find anyone qualified.

Among MAGA voters, that might be a source of pride rather than shame.

Der Oger said...

I read some of RFKs other answers to questions posed in the link above, and aside of the Covid-related question and his affirmation of the death penalty (which I oppose fundamentally), I found nothing much that I would not expect from another centrist US candidate. Oh, and the answer to the NATO question, but maybe that was answered before the Ukraine War.

Maybe, based on his answers posed there, there is something overlooked - but what would make him unelectable in a, say, system with a run-off election or ranked choice voting?

Oh, and you can vote now for Literally Anybody Else.

David Brin said...

- he shames his home district by implying he can’t find anyone qualified.

LH: "Among MAGA voters, that might be a source of pride rather than shame."

Acvtually parse what they say: "I DON'T hate science! Me and my favorite Fox News showman are DEFENDING science from the woke-ist cheater university lemmings who BETRAY science!

GMT -5 8032 said...

I know I am not being flamed. I don't sense any demeaning comments. I follow the motto of "Don't dish it out if you can't take it." I don't like being insulted so I try never to insult anyone. I come here because I don't want to be in an echo chamber or a bubble.

I look for useful information and I learn more from people I disagree with. For example, last Sunday, my wife and I spent over 2 hours on a Zoom call with an Egyptian PhD we met in late 2022 when he crashed his car into a tree in our front yard. We became friends with him and really value his take on the world. He has a very different view on the Israel/Gaza conflict. He has a very different view on Hamas. We value his friendship more than we value winning arguments so we listened and learned.

Der Oger said...

I sometimes think of what would happen if non-voters where incorporated into the result, by, for example, limiting the duration of a mandate or needing a minimum threshold to be able to gain certain executive privileges.

For example, a US Presidential term normally has 4 years, or 1461 days. But if you only have 63% of total voter turnout, no matter who wins, he only gets 919 days in office (fractions rounded down). Likewise, those 37% of representatives with the lowest district turnout in the House would have to stay at home.

Der Oger said...

If I were speaker I’d set aside funds and get a House Rule that every member must appoint someone from their home district as an “advisor on science and fact,” so they can never again evade issues like climate with “I’m not a scientist.” The result would be either:

- someone starts actually fact checking on their staff and can be asked fact-based questions, or
- he shames his home district by implying he can’t find anyone qualified.

Once you have heard a number of ranking political scientists and experts taking the stance that Putin is a poor, misunderstood boy, and that the evil colonialist West just does not negotiate enough and constantly breaks promises, you might reconsider that stance, perhaps.

mcsandberg said...

Dr. Brin

The IRS changes worked out just like I said they would:

"The Internal Revenue Service got an audit of its own in time for Tax Day, and two irregularities jump out. President Biden’s plan to hire a new army of tax collectors is falling flat, and the agents already at work are targeting the middle class.

Those are two findings of the IRS’s watchdog, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (Tigta). The report examines IRS progress on mandates from the Biden Administration backed by tens of billions in new funding. The first supposed goal was to audit more ultrawealthy and fewer middle-class filers, but it’s not going so well.


The most recent data suggests the IRS is still focused on the middle class. As of last summer 63% of new audits targeted taxpayers with income of less than $200,000" [ ]

David Brin said...

Carumba MCS. SERIOUSLY? You talk about NUMBER of audits? Jiminy freaking...

If 37% of the NUMBER of audits go above the missle class then that is superb!

Dig it, while the uber rich have nearly all the money... and many got it through cheating... their raw numbers of persons are much smaller. Thirty Seven Percent of audits are aimed at the rich? GREAT! Thanks for the super news.

GMT -5 8032 said...

Friends, Sci Fi fans, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come not to bury the IRS, but to defend it! I am one of that army of new tax collectors hired by Biden's IRS. Actually, I am an Appeals Officer who examines cases where people audited can dispute the amount of tax that the IRS proposes.

I am not surprised that most of the people audited have incomes less than $200K. From the portion of the Wall Street Journal article that I could read for free, the IRS only started measuring the impact of the new initiative in April of 2023. It's going to take a while for the full effect to be realized. The IRS is hiring people as quickly as it can but it takes time to actually hire people, then you need to get them trained. My training will take about 6 months and I probably won't be fully functional until October.

If any of you have a URL for an article about the IRS or tax issues, post them and, time permitting, I will take a look.

locumranch said...

It's cognitive dissonance on display by those who insist that the same people who are entitled to their own opinion are not entitled to their own facts (or, the self-determination of what a fact is).

You label RFK Jr a 'science denier' because he's anti-vaxx, even though there's fact to back up his position, as seen recently with the paucity of facts related to our rushed COVID vaccine & previously in the mandated military Anthrax Vaccine debacle of 1998 (link below).

You express the 'fact' that US Democrats have more desirable state-based solution outcomes than the GOP under the mistaken assumption that your preference for state-powered solutions represents more than your own personal preference, despite the existence of ZERO facts that support the superiority of 'State Power' over that of 'Social Power', as detailed by the Nockian tradition.

And, since most of you argue that it's a 'fact' that US Republicans 'govern least' (in the sense that the GOP wields state power much less effectively than does the Democrat party), then that's an admission that the GOP are less tyrannical & authoritarian than are Democrats.

It's of major importance, this distinction between State Power & Social Power, because this preference is what separates the classical liberal & libertarian mindset from that of the paternalist & authoritarian.

I think that it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said:

The less government we have the better-the fewer laws and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal government is the influence of private character, the growth of the individual.


The state-authorized taxman taketh away on the pretense of maybe giving some back eventually, but only if the state's interests coincide with the interests of the subservient & impotent taxpayer.

Alan Brooks said...

My overarching question is:
Why did the GOP nominate & elect Nixon and Trump? Is there a death-wish involved? It was common knowledge what both had personality disorders years before they pursued the presidency.

Alfred Differ said...

GMT said... I am one of that army of new tax collectors hired by Biden's IRS.

I am one of the army of contractors paid by the DoD who will attest to how hard it is for our federal government to hire actual people. We've MADE it difficult at all levels (for good reasons*), so course changes that require enlarging an agency DO take time.

When asked what I do for a living, I will usually just say I deal with computers so the civilian workforce (and especially the active duty folks) don't have to do it. If asked with a bit of seriousness, though, I tell them I fill a disposable role where I can be hired and fired quickly because our federal government literally can't do that anymore. It only looks like I work on computers when what I really do is shift from one job description to the next faster than they can manage with federal employees.

When new billets are added to a team and salaries for them are properly funded, it can take a couple of years before much really happens and a few more before impacts are seen. My own 'employer' thinks in multi-year time spans. That's long enough for elected officials to come and go. Patience and Persistence are requirements for these jobs.

* There are excellent reasons to avoid having our executive branch do everything for everyone, so Congress and The People have limited both the federal payroll and how to add people to it. There are even more excellent reasons to avoid having the executive branch change an employee's scope of work quickly, so there are a mountain of rules and penalties for breaking them taught to agency managers. The net result is a wonderfully sticky quagmire where inertia rules the day leaving those of you outside government a moderately better chance of living a life unmolested by unelected officials.

duncan cairncross said...

There are excellent reasons to avoid having our executive branch do everything for everyone,

I could understand that too much efficiency "could" be bad - Frank Herbert wrote about that with his bureau of sabotage.

But nowhere on this planet are we anywhere NEAR that point and the USA is a bit of an outlier as in much WORSE than most countries.

The problem is an inability to distinguish between the requirements of a "Leader" and of a doer.

These thousand page "bills" are silly.
About 5 pages of the "reason for and what is expected"
And then let the bureaucrats handle the thousands of pages of actual regulations.

reason said...

Duncan, I concur 100% with the last paragraph. And an act should have 1 clearly defined purpose.

Alfred Differ said...


I don't think anyone will advocate for 1000 page bills except the folks who make a living explaining them to their clients after passage. However, the many more thousands of pages of regulations already happens. Much of what Congress writes authorizes regulatory agencies to do the grunt work by making certain Cabinet Secretaries responsible for reporting how such-and-such gets implemented.


I could understand that too much efficiency "could" be bad...

It's not so much that. The problem begins far earlier when federal employees decide that your business is their business in a manner that really has nothing to do with regulation. I've seen it twice in my years.

1. Someone decides that this thing you and your friends want to do will not happen and their is no given reason other than 'that is not how it is done.' Sometimes the 'public safety' reason is given, but it is a sham because they do not involve us in the safety discussion. (I saw this with an FAA official leading the office responsible for licensing launch activities.)

2. Someone decides this thing you and your friends are doing is something their group should be doing. They essentially become competitors OR see themselves as the initial entrant and YOU are the unwelcome competitor. Bureaucracies defend their budgets for the most natural of reasons. They employ people with families and a need to make a living. Problem is, it is damn difficult and expensive to compete with groups not motivated by profit. Competition occurs in Court and is fought by armies of lawyers. (Look into what it took SpaceX to force something reasonably closer to fair competition. NASA and Congress did NOT want them winning contracts. Much the same happened with some DoD work too.)


I used to think that government should run more like business, but I abandoned that years ago as a really stupid idea. I did so when I saw some civilian employees competing to keep space tech development doing essentially what it had been doing since the 60's and 70's.

Fortunately for us all, the example I knew best at the FAA died when a certain career man retired. Musk and friends had a much smaller fight to fight with the FAA because many of us had already made life unpleasant for those who stood against us. The FAA can still be a problem, but NOT because they refuse to adapt to us as we adapt to the modern century. Those who are still there are much closer to doing their actual jobs and WILL talk to permit requesters about rules, measurement techniques, and all that without committing fraud.

duncan cairncross said...

The problem is that YOUR thousand-page document is signed off by Congress and it takes Congress to change it.

Here the five-page document is signed off Parliament - after public scrutiny - and the thousand-page document is a "regulation" which can be (and is) changed when the "Oops" become clear.
Parliament does not need to sign off on changes on the detail documents.
The courts use the five-page document to ascertain where the thousand-page one needs to be changed.

Alfred Differ said...


...YOUR thousand-page document is signed off by Congress...

Sometimes. I've been involved in the rule making process with the FAA. Congress doesn't try to do it all on every monster action. They do it for political reasons usually having to do with earmarks.

I hear you. I get it. If we were rewriting the Constitution today, we'd probably make room for that idea. For now, though, we've got a process that is technically unconstitutional with no one willing to challenge the method except a few crazy libertarians.

reason said...

I'm a keen democrat (the worst system, except for all the others). And I believe actually that constitutions need to have expiry dates (with a trick - the new constitution should be written decades before the old one ceases to valid). But the constitutional system you have in the United States is crazy, and I have been saying that forever, and I'm not a Libertarian. What I think could be done is that you could put an upper limit on the size of all the laws. So if they need new laws, they need to find ways to remove or simplify old ones.

But also, a problem you have in the United States, is that you have too much democracy, (silly things like electing DA's, school boards etc, judges also, that are simply outside the area of expertise of the voters and should be apolitical. You are asking too much of your voters.

duncan cairncross said...

I agree with reason.

I think some of the founding fathers did not like "democracy" and they applied the "chocolate cure".
You know where you let your kid gorge on chocolate until they become ill.

scidata said...

Well that's why it's called "The American Experiment". For the first time, the citizen (as in We the People) is put in charge. If cultism is indeed defeated in Nov, it will be because the people have matured and learned enough. It is indeed crazy, but all the other systems before it haven't got this far.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Scidata

As somebody living under one of the "other system" I would say that the USA is far far behind us - definitely not "ahead".

scidata said...

'Ahead' is a very subjective term, I'd just stick with 'experimental'. I live in Canada, one of the most successful parliamentary democracies ever. However, it would never work for world government (too parochial and hierarchical). It would be farcical to try it on a multi-planetary scale, that would be like "Yes, Minister in Space".

And nothing even vaguely Roman will work either. The phrase "... Great Again" is history's express lane to catastrophe. A cohesive population of trillions would probably involve some brew of democracy, meritocracy, A.I./uplift, psychohistory, and perhaps more*. This is explored in some far future SF, for example FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH.

Like our anti-establishment friends, I don't think any such system can be 'designed', at least not by us. You can probably tell I've been watching "3 Body Problem".

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

I would say that the USA is far far behind us - definitely not "ahead".

Mightn't that be because you had ours to observe and build on?

duncan cairncross said...

No not really

I would say that we built on the Westminster model.

The American "problem" was that you rebelled against the most successful democracy of the time.

So, you could not build on that model and had to start again.

(The early US "democracy" had a slightly higher percentage of the population with the vote - 8% instead of 4%)

However, the USA has provided some very good examples - mostly of how NOT to do things.

Unknown said...

At the least the revolutionary United States government eliminated the part about strange women lying in ponds distributing swords...

More seriously, our 1770s propaganda did depict the King of England as a tyrant, which I must admit he was not. If his Parliament did not vote the funds, no war. Our Articles of Confederation (DemocracyUS.0.1) was unworkable, but our Constitutional government (DemocracyUS.0.2) was a workable beta test. I think Jefferson et al. would be surprised we haven't updated the software more. Then again, I suspect there were a lot of Americans of his era that he would not approve of handing voting rights to....


Alfred Differ said...


I think Jefferson et al. would be surprised we haven't updated the software more.

Pfft! We've updated it several times. Even little things like the central bank count. We done things in this experiment they would have thought to be terrible ideas... that turned out not so terrible. Instead of relying on strange women in ponds to decide who leads, we wound up giving them all a vote.

And... uhm... let's not forget our Civil War. And the amendment that repurposed the Senate. And the Federal Income Tax. And Social Security. Heh. Even the Mormons got their own State.

We've updated it many times. The Constitution as it is interpreted today is rather different.

duncan cairncross said...

The Constitution as it is interpreted today is rather different.

But it has not caught up with the one you rebelled against!

Although that one (UK) is nowhere near the most advanced one these days.

Alfred Differ said...


The American "problem" was that you rebelled against the most successful democracy of the time.

Of course we did. That success taught us not to tolerate being treated like property of the Crown.

Behind or Ahead kinda misses the point. Our Constitution is old and very difficult to change. In many ways we've changed it by simply ignoring some of what it says and gone about doing business the new way daring anyone to challenge it. For example, we haven't followed the proper rules for declaring a war since WWII. Those rules work for a republic and fail for an empire. Didn't stop us, though.

There are all sorts of good ideas being tried and proven in other members of The West. Some bad ideas too. That's all fine as it helps prove the overarching point. No one really knows what works ex ante. So... try it and find out.

Alfred Differ said...


I'm with you on expiry/sunset clauses, though I'd start smaller with statutes and regulations. I prefer constitutional-level law to be more about design statements and prohibitions regarding anti-patterns. For example, our rights are protected by prohibitions against impinging on them. That's a negative kind of rule every software developer will recognize as avoiding an anti-pattern. Avoiding those is usually a good idea in any generation.

We COULD try to fix all this by calling another Constitutional Convention, but the sad truth is we'd probably start shooting each other if it actually convened. Not just the convention delegates. We'd probably all get involved in the bloody mayhem.

Unknown said...


With you on the constitutional convention prognosis. I suspect we'd actually need to survive a bloody civil war as a nation to have a functional convention, and I do NOT recommend that route. There wouldn't be any neat battle lines drawn this time*, and the nukes are just sitting there in ND and other spots.

The thing I had in mind that obviously needed updating from the start is the electoral college; even when created it was a kludge. It was supposed to stop the masses from electing a demagogue**: In 2016, it enabled one.


* a nation of Bleeding Kansases does not sound like a good idea.

**I know, it had another purpose - protecting the power of slave states

duncan cairncross said...

The Founding Fathers expected a "Constitutional Convention" every generation or so.

If that had happened, then the USA could have grown into the leading democracy in something other than just military power.

Alas it didn't and now it's probably too late for a peaceful transition - although after the last of the lead damaged boomers pegs it and with some help from AI then maybe there is hope after all.

reason said...

Every generation or so, is too frequent for a constitutional convention, but of course in the US the problem is not having conventions, it is the nature of the convention you would have (giving representation to the states and parties rather than to the population).

reason said...

And Alfred, defining rights is not enough. You also have to define processes.

Darrell E said...

duncan cairncross said...
"I agree with reason.

I think some of the founding fathers did not like "democracy" and they applied the "chocolate cure".
You know where you let your kid gorge on chocolate until they become ill."

Could be. Likely even. One thing many people seem to forget, or perhaps never understood, because it happened long ago and has been mythologized, is that the US's founding fathers were an unruly lot with lots of different views about everything. The government they created, including the Constitution, was not a result of consensus but of a bunch of compromises.

And several of those compromises were half-assed at best and have caused nothing but trouble since and have never been fixed because they are too convenient a tool for those who value power more than they value their oath to "faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter."

Larry Hart said...

Darrell E:

The government they created, including the Constitution, was not a result of consensus but of a bunch of compromises.

You've hit upon an important point--that the words "compromise" and "consensus" are often used interchangeably.

Larry Hart said...

RIP "No Labels"?

The national director of No Labels, the third-party group which on Thursday said it would not run a candidate in the US presidential election, will now vote for Joe Biden, not Donald Trump.

“Me, as a person?” Joe Cunningham told Fox News. “I would vote for Biden over Trump.”

Cunningham did not elaborate. He was also offered the chance to choose Robert F Kennedy Jr, the vaccine sceptic and conspiracy theorist running as an independent.

Asked why No Labels gave up on its quest, for which it said it raised $60m and secured ballot access in key states, Cunningham said: “No Labels was looking for a hero and a hero never emerged.
“Number two,” Cunningham said, “if we’re able to find candidates that we believe have a pathway to victory. And that’s where we ran into the trouble. At the end of the day, we weren’t able to find candidates we felt had a straightforward path of victory.”

Larry Hart said...


And I believe actually that constitutions need to have expiry dates (with a trick - the new constitution should be written decades before the old one ceases to valid).

The problem with that is the same problem that we have with the annual budget and that we would have with the Republican notion that every law (including Social Security) has to be renewed every year. It gives the obstructionists incredible leverage as long as they don't mind that the alternative to passing anything is gridlock.

At the very least, I'd say that the old constitution must remain in force until a new one is ratified. It can't be a situation where 13 states (enough to deny the required 3/4 supermajority) withhold their votes until we agree to a "Christian Nationalist" clause, or a "fetal personhood" clause, and if they don't give in, we have no constitution at all.

Larry Hart said...

As part of his ongoing efforts to make a mockery of Merchan's gag order, Trump posted a bunch of nasty articles about the Judge's family to his failing, and yet still multi-billion-dollar, social media site. Since Trump did not write the articles himself, and since he did not comment on them, he might be on the right side of the law, and he might be on the wrong side. Does the former president WANT to be jailed, so he can compare himself to Martin Luther King Jr. and can hawk even more mugshot merch? It sure seems that way.

I post this thing to talk about a different but similar thing. It seems obvious that, for whatever reason, Trump is daring the judge to do something about his blatant violations of his many gag orders. It occurs to me that Netanyahu may well be doing something similar, daring his political opponents (including President Biden and many Democrats) to do something about him, even after graduating from politically-dangerous levels of collateral damage to outright targeting of aid workers.

Alfred Differ said...


The thing I had in mind that obviously needed updating from the start is the electoral college…

We've tried. That is the one section that has had amendment attempts the most often. By far. There appears to be a reason that compromise worked… and it did. We'd likely have elected many more demagogues than we have.

What is enabling our extremism right now is that we dumped party boss control for who got on ballots. Party bosses were terribly undemocratic… but they kept away the riffraff.

And as for the nukes, they don't bother me much. There are far worse things we could do now. Modern warfare will make WWIII notions seem quaint.


…then the USA could have grown into the leading democracy in something other than just military power.

Ha ha! Except we did. Our military might is more effect than cause.

Blame the British when they gave up the Ohio Valley and then Napoleon when he sold us most of the Mississippi River Basin.

There are many paths toward creating great markets and THOSE are the source of mightiness.


I agree on the issue of who has representation, but I don't think a direct process would actually work. We'd split into our internal tribes very quickly.

I think the primary reason the last convention didn't devolve into a shooting war was the delegates remembered the last one. Our modern convention won't have that necessity.

You also have to define processes.

Some of them, but I'm inclined to keep those out of the Constitution where possible. Even as statutes, I strongly prefer prohibitions against anti-patterns. "DON'T do it THAT way… and so on."

I've seen way too many ossified processes in government. e.g. "This page must be signed with blank ink and not blue because only process auditors use blue." I literally ran afoul of one of those a few years ago and got my hand slapped. [Probably would have been fired if I'd used red ink. (snark intended)] They had a point, but it was an ancient one that left no room for adapting to modernity. At least that one processes was codified at a low level of government.

Processes must be defined, but do it in a manner that supports evolution of knowledge.

(including Social Security)

It probably SHOULD be rethought. Our lifespan is much longer now. We are much wealthier now. Health care costs a LOT more now. It's been almost a century since it was created and a couple generations since its scope was expanded. A LOT has happened since then.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

"(including Social Security)"

It probably SHOULD be rethought. Our lifespan is much longer now...

Yes, I'm actually not opposed to rethinking based on new facts. What worries me about the Republican proposal that laws be automatically sunsetted is that they could eliminate anything they want just by refusing to reauthorize. That gives way too much leverage to the obstructionists and the anarchists.

* * *

I strongly prefer prohibitions against anti-patterns. "DON'T do it THAT way… and so on."

That might explain some unusual (to a modern ear) negative language in the Constitution. I've noted before that the document doesn't enumerate who exactly is eligible to be president, only who is not eligible. That would be persons under 35 years old and persons other than "natural born citizens", whatever that means. I've used this language to argue that my cat is eligible, since (not being any kind of "person"), he doesn't meet any of the disqualifications.

Also, I'm sure you're aware of the way the Constitution tiptoes around slavery. It does not assert that a slave is 3/5 of a person. What it does is to put everyone other than slaves into buckets of who counts and who doesn't count, and then adds 3/5 of "all other persons."*

* All the rest, i.e., The professor and Mary Ann

scidata said...

Earthquakes are bad news for agents of Kaos*. First, they're not conducive to conspiracy theories. Second, they make the rational majority long for boredom.

* since we're paying homage to 1960's TV.

David Brin said...