Wednesday, September 27, 2017

It's not left-vs-right, stupid. It is symbolism.

After a formal and erudite posting, let's relax and let our hairy opinions down to talk about lots of things... starting with symbolism.

Ah symbolism. It has always been of central importance to Republicans, who do very little else when in power. Take their obsession with the naming of Aircraft Carriers. (The other thing they do, of course, is hand over the nation's wealth to oligarchs. Hence their 21st Century affinity with Putin.) How ironic then, that U.S. conservatives style themselves as the hard-nosed, pragmatic bunch vs. wooly-headed, liberal idealism.

So what about all those Confederate statues that Donald Trump calls "beautiful"? New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu offers intelligent perspectives on the difference between remembering and revering historical figures.


What bugs me is the simplistic nature of all this. Hey, I am willing to parse a spectrum of confederate monuments, and Robert E Lee is way at the near end -- yes a rebel-traitor who owned slaves and tried to help dismember his country... but also representative of the one genuinely admirable virtue that the otherwise-horrifically-evil Confederacy could claim. Those virtues being (mostly) honorable battlefield courage and martial resilience. 

Those virtues were also displayed by Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Except for the "honorable" part. Unlike Lee, those two were pure sons-of-bitches, evil right down to their cores, and proved it repeatedly. 


Lee, in contrast, tried to control his army in ways that followed the letter and spirit of then-current codes of war. Moreover, he acted vigorously - in 1865 - to accept the offer of lenience made by Lincoln, and reciprocated by calling on all Southerners to "be good citizens" of the United States. That last bit -- staunching all calls for a guerrilla rising -- served the nation well enough to merit leaving a few effigies standing. A few street names in place.

(A side note: I've always thought Lee was over-rated as a general. He had one trick that he used - brilliantly and successfully - over and over... pounce on the flanks of a befuddled, lumbering, larger invading army. Aggressive, predatory defense. Yes, he was very good at that. But it did him zero good in his doomed-from-the-start Antietem and Gettysburg Campaigns. Moreover, when a general came along who shrugged that method off (Grant), Lee realized that he was doomed.)


If Forrest and Jackson had mostly yin, but a little positive martial yang, there's no justification for any hagiography of Jefferson Davis, whose image should be trampled far worse than Benedict Arnold (who actually saved the Revolution four times, before proving incompetent as a traitor.)


My conclusion? R.E. Lee could remain in statuary at public places if balanced by great heroes of progress and tolerance. The SOBs Jackson and Forrest should be sent to battlefields or parks run by the dizzy daughters of the confederacy, places where the topic is generalcy and no one interested in other things will have to deal with them. As for Davis's representations and most other confed monuments, that were erected in the 1920s and 1960s in order to scream white power? They should be chiseled to dust. And I include Stone Mountain. 


But thanks guys. This is rousing the Union, at last. 


== Farewell White House Science Office ==

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy was one of our jewels. Normally, OSTP had about 60 staffers, to help assist WH personnel in creating fact-grounded policy. President Obama expanded it well past 100, bringing in loads of question-asking consultants and speakers… like yours truly (twice in 2016 alone). “The size of the office under the Obama administration reflected Mr. Obama's "strong belief in science, the growing intersection of science and technology—” reports CBS News.

Beyond advising the President on scientific discoveries and their implications for national policy, OSTP was involved in encouraging breakthroughs in STEM education and re-igniting a generation of skilled programmers. Heading OSTP was the Presidential Science Adviser, a position generally filled by some of humanity’s sharpest minds.

All of that is over. President Trump has attrited the Science Office of OSTP to zero… that’s zero staff to consult with West Wing policy makers over anything scientific or related to science. OSTP as a whole is down to a couple of dozen placeholders.

Elsewhere, I wrote about David Gelernter, who seemed a front runner for the Science Adviser post, under Trump. A bizarre and polemically-driven person, Gelernter apparently would have been far too scientific for this White House. Perhaps they sensed that he would be capable - in extremis - of saying the hated phrase: “um… sir... that’s not exactly true.”

That, after all, was the criminal offense of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) which was banished by Newt Gingrich in 1995 for giving honest answers. And the fate now apparently destined for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), for similar treasons against dogma.

It is this fevered spite against all fact-users that makes our current civil war completely unrelated to the old-hoary-lobotomizing “left-right” political “axis.” When all outcomes and metrics of U.S. health and yes, economics and capitalism do vastly better under democrats, fact users become Enemy #1.  And that’s all fact-users, now including even the FBI, the Intelligence Community and the U.S. Military Officer Corps. (Look up the term “deep state” to see how the mad right is justifying attacking even them!)

Fans of the movie “Idiocracy” - and die hard confederates - may openly avow wishing for this rise of the know-nothings.  But your conservative aunt might be swayed to pull away from this madness, if you dare her to name one profession of folks who actually know stuff that is not under open attack by her crazy husband and his ilk.

She knows she will need skilled people, from time to time.  Even if he convinces himself that fact-people are all satanic.

== Why didn’t Obama speak out? ==

The ability of our confederate neighbors to concoct excuses for the plantation lords seems to have no limits. Now that it’s openly admitted and proved that the Trump family, the Trump campaign manager and the GOP leadership all actively salivated over and sought Russian help, the new Fox line is “why didn’t Obama speak up?”

Now we know why. Because Obama did try to negotiate with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan on a joint statement deploring any foreign meddling, in compromise language that would be non-partisan. It was the president’s job to be cautious and judicious and not leap to yell. (Remember those days?) What was their response?

McConnell threatened Obama that if he even mentioned the “Russia Thing” in public, the GOP leadership would accuse Obama of election meddling. No matter how much FBI and CIA evidence was presented to those two, the response was the same. In other words, outright, deliberate, partisan treason.

From Scout: "James Clapper, Former Director of U.S. National Intelligence, and John Brennan, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the Aspen Security Forum about Trump, Russian hacking, and national security. The entire hour-long conversation is a must-watch, remarkable for the candor and urgency expressed by two world-class intelligence minds.

Said Clapper: “One of the things I’ve recommended to the Senate Intelligence Committee is that maybe there should be a requirement in the future that before all presidential and congressional elections, 120 days before, the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the FBI should say what’s the state of cyber intrusions that are designed to compromise the integrity of the electoral system,” Clapper suggested.

Clapper, of course, was referencing the tension the Obama administration faced between sharing what it knew about Russian interference with U.S. citizens and being perceived as trying to throw the election for Hillary. But while the U.S. may have been the most prominent example of international hacking designed to skew the outcome of its election, it certainly will not be the last.

Oh, but more and more grows clear. I have wondered for some time where’s been the reporting on Donald Trump’s mob connections. What? You are shocked? Shocked that a casino owner and slumlord, involved in international money laundering might have been in business with shady characters? Let’s be clear about this.  The sanctions against Russia that Putin and his Kremlin are angriest about are the ones specifically targeting money launderers. See Trump's Russian Laundromat, from The New Republic.

== Count the vote honestly ==

California officials have gone to the big Defcon hacker convention challenging the best to test security of votingsystems and ensure fair elections. You’ll find no representatives from red states. The top qualification to be the Republican Secretary of State is how eagerly and effectively you support gerrymandering, voter denial, rigged voting machines, plus “losing” thousands of registrations just before every single election.  Your Republican neighbors won’t even deny this, anymore.  They are proud of it, the confederates.

Which leaves the democrats as honest… but stupid.  The response to Trump’s “Voter Fraud Commission” should not be “there’s no voter fraud!”

It should be: “There have been almost no examples of fraudulent voting, but plenty of cheating by red state officials.  So here’s the deal. We’ll go along with your ‘investigation…’ plus gradually ramping up voter ID… in exchange for —


— a full appraisal of the nation’s voting machines.

— an end to the blatantly criminal and treasonous cheat called gerrymandering. See my proposed 3-sentence solution.

Make it an offer of a fair deal. "We'll address your concerns - like undocumented voters or dead people shambling to the polls - if you'll help stop the treasonous cheats of your side.

For the Dems to fail to express their objections in this positive and assertive way is just dumb.

So, sure, one side is more honest, caring and fact-based. But it’s still hell-bent on Idiocracy.

== Newsletters vs blogs == 

The world of “newsletters” is kind of elitist, in that they cost subscription fees - often paid by your employer - if you are high enough in the company to extort it. I have been urged to shift from blog mode to a newsletter, that could then help pay college bills!  But the tradeoffs are harsh:

1. Subscriptions to their newsletters can keep very smart people in business, doing their research, preparing solid reports. (Full disclosure: I get many of my newsletter subscriptions for free.)

2. But subscriptions limit the number of readers — and hence your immediate influence in changing things. Though you may be zeroing in on an elite.

Among the best and most important newsletters would be Mark Anderson’s Strategic News Service. Mark is a brilliant forecaster with one of the best, big picture views of how technological change sweeps through our certainties in business, science and the real world. SNS also runs the annual Future in Review (FiRe) conference.  If I time this posting right, it will come out while I am at this year's FiRe!

Among many other things, Mark has been the most powerful voice denouncing and revealing the devastating effects of tech-spying and IP theft, which are destroying the ability of Americans to keep paying for the trade deficits that have uplifted the entire developing world. This shortsightedly rapacious predation of western (especially Californian) creativity proves that the mercantilist powers are not as smart as they think they are.

Here’s a link to the opening of an SNS newsletter — a 2-parter written by one of Mark’s top Asian analysts — and I hope some of you will talk your company into purchasing you access.  Because this could be among the most important series that you read, when it comes to international affairs and trade.

Indeed, it reveals how extremely aggressive things have become, as we (via cheap WalMart imports) finance cultural and commercial and conceptual war against our very societal underpinnings.

(Often there are side routes to peeking in at these newsletters. Take this important example on Chinese business practices.  And this YouTube of a Mark Anderson talk on the problem, one of the biggest that our civilization faces.)

My newsletter subscriptions range from the Institute for Ethics in Emerging Technologies to the Lifeboat Foundation to John Mauldin’s investment letter to George Friedman’s strategic overview.  In all such cases, ranging from left to right, I have a reputation as a challenging gadfly… hey, it’s my role in life!

40 comments:

Catfish N. Cod said...

In re: your observation on the depressing stats of rural areas losing bright students to the university lights -- the forces against their leaving. They include:
* depression/resignation at rural economic decay,
* cultural prejudice against leaving,
* lack of awareness / lack of role models for alternate careers;
* discomfort with the first experience of being amongst real strangers,
* a lack of a social support system for adapting to the outside world,
* and, yes, a prejudice against rural people.

In fact that last is so true that I think there would be advantage in recognizing them as a discriminatory target! Make the logic of identity politics and intersectionalism and all those lefty concepts of fairness work for them, for a change. Sure, it doesn't cancel out the disdain for many other prejudices they bring with them. But still.... show where there is a common experience, rather than just differences. They'll be shocked to be included.... welcomed.... by the people they were told had nothing but hate in their hearts.

There is precedent for this... numerous programs in the New Deal were specifically targeted at rural areas. Electrification, the Tennessee Valley Authority, relief for Appalachia, even (struck down) price controls for foodstuffs. Above all, the FDIC -- the guarantor that your farm and your livelihood wouldn't go *poof* when your bank did -- and the reform of the Federal Reserve and the currency, so you could keep your earnings.

People protest doing things for the (overwhelmingly white) rural population, but they don't need to be "more" deserving or to "earn" special treatment. All they need to be... is... our... fellow... citizens.

Be their friend, and say so. With symbols, too; elements of dignity that they CAN give and receive. Praise (and profit!) for the fruits of their labor, and the recognition that we'd all starve without farms. Breaking up Big Agriculture giants to give small farms more of a chance, and busting up the abusive practices that force farms into factories of filth. And recognition for being the source of so many successful, brilliant minds and hands!

As long as they can take the other half of the deal: that all the *other* segments of our grand Republic get the same respect. For why should you respect people who don't respect you back?

Anonymous said...

If the Democrats could capture one of Republican's counting machines; that would be great. (I think there is a possibility that software with trick will continue in the machines, in case the GOP has the certainty that no one will legally remove the machines) would be like capturing the machine "ENIGMA" of the Nazis. We would get proof that election fraud was done and that Donald Trump is a mobster who stole the presidency of the United States.
It would require an "Mission Impossible" operation.
Sincerely:
Clive Laymon
San Bernardino; California; USA

Greg Hullender said...

Regarding voter fraud, I've suggested similar compromises with my conservative friends and relatives, and I've consistently gotten positive responses.

When they have a point, it's good to acknowledge it. If we think elections are important, it does make sense to have some method for verifying that the people voting really are who they say they are. The challenge is to do this in a way that doesn't disenfranchise voters.

Yes, Republican leaders are eager to disenfranchise Democrats, and they don't care about fairness at all. But their rank-and-file don't see it that way.

LarryHart said...

@Greg Hullender,

I'm not against establishing the citizenship of voters. But the way I see it, that's what happens at registration time. When someone initially registers to vote, he has to prove that he is an eligible voter. But once that is accomplished, he shouldn't have to prove it over and over again every election. All he has to do at the polls is to verify that he is indeed that same person who is already registered at his name and address.

A signature, or even personal knowledge of the poll workers is sufficient for that step, backed up by the fact that no one else is coming in to vote under that same name and address. In fact, it should be up to the challengers to prove that the voter is not who he claims to be.

This does not make it easy for illegal aliens to vote.

Steven Hammond said...

Catfish said:

In re: your observation on the depressing stats of rural areas losing bright students to the university lights -- the forces against their leaving. They include:
* depression/resignation at rural economic decay,
* cultural prejudice against leaving,
* lack of awareness / lack of role models for alternate careers;
* discomfort with the first experience of being amongst real strangers,
* a lack of a social support system for adapting to the outside world,
* and, yes, a prejudice against rural people.

In fact that last is so true that I think there would be advantage in recognizing them as a discriminatory target! Make the logic of identity politics and intersectionalism and all those lefty concepts of fairness work for them, for a change. Sure, it doesn't cancel out the disdain for many other prejudices they bring with them. But still.... show where there is a common experience, rather than just differences. They'll be shocked to be included.... welcomed.... by the people they were told had nothing but hate in their hearts.


This is interesting and I'm still trying to get a grip on this related to the experience of kids I know in my very rural state (but growing up in a small city here in MT), my own kids who have lived in many locations from Hawaii, to GA, to CO and MT thanks to my military career and have relatives scattered throughout the country and abroad (Oz), but living in a rural state.

I wonder if much of the problem these rural kids have in making that jump to go away from home for college is as much due to the fact that everyone they know and are related to live in their particular geographic area? (#5 on your list) I know of a young woman my daughter's age who grew up in this city of 100k. Very liberal girl and political but became horribly depressed and came back in state after less than a semester. Did well here, though. I know of a lot of HS valedictorians her who I would expect to be going to out-of-state, prominent, national universities who end up going to in state schools. At least they're going to University, though.

Regarding your last point, Mr. Catfish ;) , I was surprised out how vibrant the Ag kids seemed to be when I was out at SLO for my son's orientation at Cal Poly. That may be a subcultural on a very diverse campus, but I have a hard time thinking any rural kid wouldn't be able to find a welcoming group there. Might be different at certain universities --I know the reception wouldn't be the same at Seattle U. where my daughters went. My son isn't really in that Ag/rural segment, but he's not a kid I worry about. More of a charming scientist if that isn't an oxymoron...

Anyway, I do wonder how many talented kids with great potential from rural areas end up going to a "Christian College" or something of that nature for various fears of their own or their parents--or don't seek any higher education at all.

David has often mentioned how fearful parents in rural areas are of sending their kids away to University because they are lost to them. Knowing the evangelical mindset, I can say that many of these parents are fearful that their kids will be truly lost, i.e. damned, roasting in the Lake of Fire, etc. etc.

Lots to ponder here.

Steven Hammond said...

@ Mr Catfish

(I really like typing that, it makes me smile) I shouldn't have said your point, but the point you derived from the article.

I would like to expound upon the point of Cal Poly and acceptance of rural kids in mentioning that one of the students who lead the orientation was very enthusiastic about getting involved in the tractor pull team and had slides to show us. I'm not degrading that by any means and she seemed very kind and helpful. Just wanted to point out that perhaps the rural kids afraid of fitting in at a major University can find a niche even in a pretty large blue state California University.

Alfred Differ said...

We have a lot of variety here in California. People outside think of our big urban areas and some of the strange politics practiced in each, but we are better modeled as a nation of 40 million with a very loose definition of who is in and who is out. It's a big place and most of us aren't so crowded together that we have to deal with each other every day.

If you are American and have social preferences, you can probably find several people in your niche here. Just don't expect your small pond to be the whole ocean.

Tony Fisk said...

"...Robert E Lee is way at the near end -- yes a rebel-traitor who owned slaves and tried to help dismember his country... but also representative of the one genuinely admirable virtue that the otherwise-horrifically-evil Confederacy could claim. Those virtues being (mostly) honorable battlefield courage and martial resilience."


I would also add: a capacity to own the blame when he stuffed up, as with Pickett's Charge. That definitely would have taken courage.

Hurricanes are a great leveller of political leaders.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

So what about all those Confederate statues that Donald Trump calls "beautiful"?


You mean the ones who honor historical figures who are famous for protesting against America, dishonoring the American flag, and causing so many of the ones who died defending that flag to die?

Trump must hate those sons of bitches, mustn't he?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

As for Davis's representations and most other confed monuments, that were erected in the 1920s and 1960s in order to scream white power?


That reminds me, is it the Mississippi state flag that contains the Confederate battle flag within it? IIRC, that famous Confederate flag is not really the national flag of the Confederacy, but rather the battle flag of Virginia or some such thing. At what point in history would that image have been added to state flags of southern states? It doesn't make sense that it would have been there before the Civil War, does it?

Berial said...

If I'm not mistaken the 'official state flag of MS' was the one adapted in the 1890's. It WASN'T the actual state flag though because of some stupid oversight by the legislature. The state used that flag but it wasn't 'official' until 2001 when they had a referendum on it. I think there were complaints and the legislature realized what they THOUGHT was the state flag wasn't actually official.

LarryHart said...

@Berial,

For some strange reason, that story about the MS state flag reminds me of Homer Simpson re-visiting his past life and saying, "But if Marge marries Arnie, I'll never be born!"

Berial said...

I wasn't sure about my memory so I went to wiki to look it up. I was close. The war years (1861-1865) had the MS flag "a flag of white background, a Magnolia tree in the centre, a blue field in the upper left hand corner with a white star in the centre, the Flag to be finished with a red border and a red fringe at the extremity of the Flag."

The 1894 flag is the current flag which was actually done away with in 1906 when the state legal code was updated and not officially re-adopted until 2001 when the oversight was noticed.

In 2001 Ronny Musgrove tried to get a new flag with the confederate battle flag removed and a field of 20 white stars on a blue background but the proposal was voted down by popular vote 64-36%. (I wonder what the percentage of white to non-white was in 2001?)

Flag_of_Mississippi

Berial said...

Profile of General Demographic Characteristics: 2000
Census 2000 Summary File 1 (SF 1) 100-Percent Data

2000 census:
White: 61.4
Black: 36.3

What a coincidence?

Catfish N. Cod said...

Ah, home sweet home. Or home sour home, depending on your viewpoint.

Berial, you're not wrong. I am not aware of an exit poll that checked the race crosstabs on the 2001 flag referendum, but an independent analysis relying on the extreme racial segregation in some counties confirmed that race was a >90% predictor of the flag vote. And the only thing that has changed since 2001 is that there is a small Hispanic population in the state now: 59% white, 37% black, 2% Hispanic.

But the attachment of the white population of Mississippi to that flag would all change overnight if the Powers That Be in Jackson decided that profits required a flag change. Not entirely -- a large proportion of the white population would stay attached to the Stars and Bars out of confederate sentiment, or out of pure stubbornness. But it would only take 15% of the white population to form a majority with the black and Hispanic populations; and there are enough white people responsive to economic concerns to make the change.... as long as it is framed as an economic and not a racial poll.

@Greg, @Larry: the more honest citizens (as opposed to vote manipulators) look, the clearer it becomes that hacking the actual voting-booth machines was not the most likely means of manipulation, either by domestic cheaters or by foreign forces. (Which does not relieve us of our duty to enforce a strict paper-trail requirement on all voting systems.) It's registration and turnout that are most hackable, and it's likely that these are the things being manipulated.

I don't care who is trying to cheat: Democrats, Republicans, domestic PACs or foreign intelligence agencies. All cheating must end. I am certain that if we combined all the threats and made a package deal of voting reform, the consensus would be broad, bipartisan, and robust.... but it would contain virtually none of the current political powers, be they politicians or parties or lobbyists or donors. All of them would rather keep the current system, because better to keep playing a game you understand well than switch to one where you don't know your advantages and disadvantages quite as well. It's the uncertainty and confusion about the likely shifts in power that unifies the establishments against reform.

David Ivory said...

To give a perspective from another country regarding voter fraud it might be of interest to Americans to know that in some countries you don't even need ID to vote - let alone photo ID.

I voted in the New Zealand election last week (at an overseas consulate - not even in New Zealand) and no one asked for my ID. I was asked for my address so that my electorate could be confirmed. Then I filled out the form with my name and address on one half of the voting paper, and then made my vote on the other half. The two halves are linked by a barcode, but are handled separately. If there is any issue with the address half - my vote is annulled.

No ID required. See this page: -

http://www.elections.org.nz/voters/voting-election/easyvote-cards-make-it-easy

Vote Cards are cheat sheets for electoral officials to quickly work out your electorate from your address. Let me quote here: -

The EasyVote card is not an ID card. You don't need ID to vote. You can still vote without the card, but it may take longer.

So all this blather about voter fraud, and restricting access to registration, enforcing photo IDs? See it for what it is - a method to suppress voter turnout.

Electoral fraud is a very minor problem that is usually picked up and prosecuted - and seldom has an affect upon election results.

Voter suppression is a big problem, is systemic, anti-democratic, and swings elections.

And voting machines - what are those? Can't people count?

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

@Greg, @Larry: the more honest citizens (as opposed to vote manipulators) look, the clearer it becomes that hacking the actual voting-booth machines was not the most likely means of manipulation, ... It's registration and turnout that are most hackable, and it's likely that these are the things being manipulated.


I don't disagree. Keeping people off the voting rolls or making them afraid to turn out is the easiest way for the cheaters to cheat. Or as The Joker once said in my favorite Batman episode, "Well, if you make something unusable, it's just as good as stealing it."


I don't care who is trying to cheat: Democrats, Republicans, domestic PACs or foreign intelligence agencies.


It is notable, in a country dedicated to the principle of democracy, that the ones who make the most noise about respecting the national anthem and the flag and those who gave their lives for the ideal are the ones who cheat specifically in ways to prevent citizens from voting.

If Democrats benefit from higher turnout and Republicans from lower turnout, that's not just two sides of the same political coin. It says something bad about the Republican agenda--that it can only be passed by tricking voters or preventing voting. After the latest health-care debacle, their donors might be finding that out. They seem to consider it some sort of outrage that the billions they donate to the Republican Party doesn't get their unpopular agenda passed. That's actually democracy working as it is supposed to.


...All of them would rather keep the current system, because better to keep playing a game you understand well than switch to one where you don't know your advantages and disadvantages quite as well. It's the uncertainty and confusion about the likely shifts in power that unifies the establishments against reform.


Well, that's part of the problem, isn't it? Treating democracy as a game--as if it's the same thing as a football match or a reality tv show. In self-government, winning is a means to the end of governing, not a prize to be claimed at all costs.

Berial said...

Is democracy really even a democracy these days? I mean the congress seems to care 90% about getting elected and 10% what's good for the people of the country. And in that 90% is do what's good for the rich that line my campaign fund's money bags.

Example: https://www.economist.com/blogs/freeexchange/2011/02/political_economy

"Legislators worried about the poor often have to cut deals to satisfy the rich people who support their campaigns and other critical institutions. Legislators worried about the rich basically never have to make these kinds of concessions. Money, by creating this asymmetry, gets what it wants much more often."

LarryHart said...

@Berial,

That's exactly why campaign finance and decisions like "Citizens United" are so crucial. "Getting elected" and "Doing the people's business well" used to have a positive correlation, or at least they should in theory.

Once campaign funding is more important to the effort of getting elected than governing is, the system is ill.

How else could we have a situation in which voters are screaming at legislators, even Republican ones, not to pass a bill, but they feel they have to pass it anyway to fulfil a campaign promise. Promise to whom? Not the voters telling them not to pass it, surely.

How else could we have a situation in which voters are screaming at legislators, even Republican ones, not to pass a bill, but Trump can threaten those legislators with a primary challenge by someone who would pass that bill?

LarryHart said...

Almost defining "illegitimate president", regardless of the voting mechanism...

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/opinion/trumps-deadly-narcissism.html


...
In short, Trump truly is unfit for this or any high office. And the damage caused by his unfitness will just keep growing.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Berial: While your point is very well taken, it's worth recognizing that this is an old, old problem. Mark Twain was complaining about this 125 years ago, and Alexander Hamilton was dismayed by the degree of self-serving behavior by upper-class Senators in the very first Senate. And legislators are always primarily interested in staying in office and retaining power; the trick is always to use that interest to align their own interests with the common interest.

In general, a legislature is meant to be a mechanism for mediation between groups in a society. The upper class is a group in society. I'd be scared if they were fully excluded from influencing the legislature; the only legislatures that don't are the ones executing a class revolution and installing themselves as a new ruling class.... a task which usually involves/requires authoritarianism. Do Not Want.

At the same time, I also don't want the upper class dominating the conversation or pushing everyone else out. That is actually a large part of the visceral anger powering Trumpism: the (correct) assessment that the Republican establishment was overly dominated by other interests. (However, the Trumpist cohort also believes the *Democratic* establishment is overly dominated by transnational upper-class interests -- "globalists".) Superficial fealty to cultural or religious touchstones are no longer seen as sufficient to command the loyalty of this constituency. And the zealotry again such is pushing things in the direction of the opposite failure mode in the paragraph above: a populist revolt.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@David Ivory: I am confused by the EasyVote system, which seems to be a way to distribute temporary ID cards used solely for vote registration purposes... by mail, I am guessing?

Here's my confusion. The website says, "You can make voting even easier by voting at a voting place close to home." So you can vote at a voting place far from home? This is a foreign concept to me.

* In Mississippi, Alabama, and Massachusetts, the only options are voting at your assigned local precinct voting place, or absentee/mail-in balloting, which must be performed prior to the election date.
* Mail-in balloting is more heavily used in California; in Oregon, one mails the ballot or drops it at a voting drop-off location if the date is too close for the mail system to guarantee delivery by the election date cut-off.

These are the only systems with which I am familiar. In none of them would a polling place far distant from your home precinct accept your vote: either you pre-certified your identity when obtaining an early/absentee/mail-in ballot, or you certified your identity on election day -- which could only be done at your local precinct, because each voting place only had the roll for its district's eligible voters. If you couldn't reach that location conveniently due to, say, work hours, tough luck: you couldn't vote, even if your workplace was next door to another voting location.

In theory the law provides that workers must be permitted sufficient time off on Election Day to exercise the franchise. In many cases this is unenforced and unenforceable, and as a practical matter, a workplace can frequently suppress part or all of its employees' right to vote with work-hour rules. This is the reason behind the calls for the United States to declare Election Day a federal and state holiday.

@LarryHart: Depends on what you mean by "democracy". The Greco-Roman world was convinced that democracy was bad; that most potential voter's self-interest was opposed to the common interest. The American Founders proposed that the implied tragedy of the commons could be averted by having informed voters. But if you subscribe to the philosophy that not all of the population is sufficiently informed to exercise the franchise, you are predisposed to prefer restrictions on voting. In other words, the requirement for voter suppression the becomes a feature, not a bug, of an agenda; widespread support for a policy would be regarded as suspicious at best, potentially disastrous. The Tytler Calumny is the most common expression of this assumption, but by no means the only one. In their minds, the unpopularity makes it desirable -- akin to forcing bitter medicine down an unwilling patient's throat.

Of course no one who asserts the impaired decision-making capacity of his neighbor thinks that same argument should apply to themselves. It's always someone else, usually an opponent. Thus the Trumpists argue in favor of vote suppression against minorities, even as they decry the "globalists" disregarding their opinions.... on the basis of being insufficiently informed. Oh the irony.

The universal franchise is merely an extension of the principle of equal protection of the law. Without due process I can't think of any franchise-restricting rule that could not be turned to the purposes of cheating, or discrimination, or both. I argue in favor of the voting rights of even those I consider completely unsuitable... so that I can live in a society that cannot condemn ME as unsuitable.

LarryHart said...

Catfish N. Cod:

@LarryHart: Depends on what you mean by "democracy".


What I mean by "democracy" is whatever comes to mind when we Americans take pride in having jump-started democracy in the modern world.


The Greco-Roman world was convinced that democracy was bad; that most potential voter's self-interest was opposed to the common interest.


Yes, there are all sorts of reasons one might disdain leaving decisions up to the voters. I'm a believer in the Churchill-ism that democracy is the worst form of government except for all of the others. It is based on the notion that "You can't fool all of the people all of the time", and that the wisdom of crowds will be more right than wrong most of the time.

One reason the 2016 election felt like a kick in the gut was because of the realization that we might have passed a tipping point--that the "crowd" might be more deplorable than not.


The American Founders proposed that the implied tragedy of the commons could be averted by having informed voters.


Informed voters are a good thing, but even uninformed voters are ok as long as they understand that they are uninformed and are therefore willing to cede important decisions to those who are (or at least seem) informed.

Democracy is imperiled, not because the voters are uninformed so much as because they are un-engaged. Too many voters want to use "voter nullification" to purposely harm the system because they feel that the system doesn't work for them and never will. We might as well let Russians, ISIS-members, and North Koreans vote in our elections if our own citizen voters despise the system and want to see it destroyed as a last act of defiance.

LarryHart said...

Sorry to beat a dead horse, but has anyone who tweets pictures of themselves asserting that they (usually in caps) SUPPORT THE FLAG AND THE ANTHEM actually addressed the seeming contradiction of why they are ok with symbols of the Confederacy?

I know people can rationalize anything, but I'd really like a glimpse into just how they rationalize this one.

Paul451 said...

Isaac Arthur did an episode on Uplifting. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzaYnrrEKbU

He not only gives David an obligatory shout-out, I particularly enjoyed about 19min in when he (unintentionally?) described the background logic for a prequel set in the Progenitor-era.

Ioan said...

Just a reminder:

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2017/sep/25/obama-the-world-has-never-been-healthier-wealthier-or-less-violent-united-nations-gates-foundation

donzelion said...

Catfish: "People protest doing things for the (overwhelmingly white) rural population, but they don't need to be "more" deserving or to "earn" special treatment. All they need to be... is... our... fellow... citizens."

Remember that meme about angry white rural voters demanding, "Keep the government's hands off my medicare!"

Go through the list of government expenses: rural America is the biggest beneficiary of nearly every discretionary budget item. NOAA? Has turned around rural coastal Oregon near Newport, since relocating from suburbs in Washington. Military bases? Quite few in urban areas (except naval bases, which tend to be found near ports for obvious reasons). Mississippi (a fairly rural state) receives many times more in federal dollars than it pays in taxes; the same goes for a number of mostly rural states.

Yet the more the rural regions receive, the more angry they become towards the federal government. Central California, set to receive yet another $2 bn for the state/federal 'bullet train' project, despises all things federal - loudly (except immigration enforcement when their laborers get uppity).

"Be their friend, and say so."
We always have been, but the more friendly we are toward them, the more a handful of wacky trolls from the rural zones despise urbanites. The 'hate machine' is lucrative - locals use it to draw immense power, and there's always time on AM radio for another nutjob to make his case against government oppression.

How many people cheated on their state tax forms by declaring their lands to be 'federally protected wetlands' - and then screamed in protest when they were blocked from later developing/selling them? The case against the government gets heard (always); the case against the locals exploiting it (and through it, other locals) does not.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: "A signature, or even personal knowledge of the poll workers is sufficient for that step"

The 'personal knowledge' component is problematic: first, poll workers from one party can and do apply somewhat more deference to claims by voters they believe are 'likely to vote the way we want them to vote.' When you have a highly mobile population, hidden racial factors pop up often.

"In fact, it should be up to the challengers to prove that the voter is not who he claims to be."
Also a problem. Challenging a voter is something that one side does out of habit in every election (again, usually using racial factors to determine which voters to challenge, which to permit). This game is far more problematic at small-scale local elections/primaries (which usually determine the outcomes in much larger elections, and are usually way off the radar screen) - but there are reasons why it took weeks, for example, to verify the results from Dr. Brin's own congressional race (when it's a close race, all expenses are paid to challenge every last 'non-white' voter, every time).

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Oops, error here -
"Challenging a voter is something that one side does out of habit in every election"

should have been "in every close election"

One side will amass a large pool of 'candidates for challenges' and leave them alone until necessary. For most local races, that results in quite a few voters per precinct who might be knocked off (if they show up) - esp. in settings with large numbers of people who are not permanent residents (schools, agricultural areas, etc.). When Trump claimed that voter fraud accounted for Clinton's popular win, the evidence for that claim is the (not very) secret set of systems Republicans administer to identify 'challenge candidates' - which they will happily bring up whenever the results would make a difference. Since it costs a lot of money for someone to respond to a challenge (assuming they even knew their vote was being challenged after they delivered it), this is a game for deep pocketed insiders that is generally unknown to the public, but happens every election (esp. every close election).

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Catfish
NZ - at the last election
We had
postal votes
Early votes - lots of poling stations open two weeks before - about 30% voted early

Voting on the day
I was registered to vote in Southland, That meant that I could go and vote at any poling station in Southland and each station would have a full list of the electors so that they could tick me off
Those lists were merged as part of the counting process which would have identified any multiple voting shenanigans
I'm quite sure that if I had gone to a poling station in another constituency that they would have had a system for letting me vote

I did have the magic card, but I didn't need it

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Since it costs a lot of money for someone to respond to a challenge...


That's what I was getting at with "It should be up to the challenger..." I wasn't trying to invite challenges to voters. I was trying to say that the expense should be borne by the challenger. Maybe it should be like the customary laws around frivolous lawsuits, where the losing side has to pay the court costs.

There was a funny situation at work a few years back, where my supervisor (who I knew was an Indian national) was called for jury duty. I told him he didn't have to serve because only US citizens are allowed to serve on juries, but when he asked the county about it, he was told he was required to show up and prove he wasn't a US Citizen.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | A signature, or even personal knowledge of the poll workers is sufficient for that step

I meant to reply to this earlier. Donzelion dealt with it. My response would have been something like this.


You want me to verify your identity? Okay. Count the jellybeans in the jar and we will see how many people remember their history of voter registration tests and taxes. 8)


Authentication of identity should NOT be limited to government sources as you point out. Our people staffing the polls on election day are motivated volunteers it seems, so that's a good first step. However, authentication should not be arbitrary either. A bazillion volunteers is a definite step toward arbitrariness. I know they train them as I can see them follow rules when I step up, so I'm not complaining. Those rules are critical, though, and personal verification is a possible issue.

I seem to remember our host pointing out that the banks would wind up being in the identity authentication business some day. Probably in the transparency book. I don't think they are properly motivated yet, but I agree. Until we sue their butts into submission over the fiscal consequences of identity theft (How DARE they open an account in my name without me authorizing it!) they won't be in service to us. Until then, I think we have to set up competitors to them AND government and then force government to accept bonded authenticators.

I see it as an extension to the Notary business model, but banks will own it eventually.

LarryHart said...

@Alfred and donzelion,

As with the other side of the same coin, challenges to voting, I was not suggesting that acceptance of a voter's identity be limited to personal verification by officials. I was suggesting that it be one of many verification methods.

My preference is that there be as many ways as possible to allow a legitimate voter to vote, as opposed to as many ways as possible to prevent him from doing so.

Paul451 said...

Catfish,
On showing rural whites that we care.
"Breaking up Big Agriculture giants to give small farms more of a chance, and busting up the abusive practices that force farms into factories of filth."

The first time that happens, the owner goes on Fox/etc and cries about the big-city interfering Feds coming in and destroying his business that employs so many people. And every farm adjoining his giant properties may know he's a pure carpetbagging asshole, but carrying the flags of individual rights vs government interference, he will probably end up elected Governor.

The entire language of rural/small-state/self-employed/worker pride has been cooped by the bad guys to aid their pillaging of rural regions, small states, workers, and the destruction of small business.

Paul451 said...

Catfish,
"In Mississippi, Alabama, and Massachusetts, the only options are voting at your assigned local precinct voting place"

Do you mean you can't vote at any other polling place within your electorate/district? If so, that is evil.

[Don't know about NZ, but here in Oz, I can vote at any of 58 polling places within my electorate. Plus I can do (and have done) an absentee ballot on election day, at any of the polling places anywhere in my state. (They have extra ballot papers for every state electorate/district, but you have to put it in a named/signed envelope which will be checked against the electoral rolls before the vote is added to general votes, similar to a postal vote.) If interstate, I can vote in special interstate voting centres in major urban hubs, anywhere in the country. If overseas, the only option on election day itself is at an embassy; but you'd generally do a postal ballot. Plus there's the usual early voting options, and mobile polling teams visiting hospitals/nursing-homes/prisons, etc.]

donzelion said...

Catfish proposes: "Breaking up Big Agriculture giants to give small farms more of a chance, and busting up the abusive practices that force farms into factories of filth."
Paul451 responds: "The first time that happens, the owner goes on Fox/etc and cries about the big-city interfering Feds coming in and destroying his business"

Paul451's point is well-demonstrated.

-Farm Corp., a filth emitter, gets threatened by EPA? Farm Corp sics AM radio upon them; state legislature expands 'criminal trespass laws' to block any do-gooders from collecting samples that prove just how filthy Farm Corp is...

-Farm Corp owns/controls/uses local banks to drive adjacent farms into bankruptcy? (Happened to my own family in rural Washington)... Federal 'consumer protection bureau' threatens the mechanism by which they do so (by threatening to override unfair 'interest acceleration' terms that make bankruptcy predictably likely for the little guys) Farm Corp. blocks it. Same goes (even more extravagantly) for 'payday loan' centers - owned by Farm Corp's investors

-Federal government offers tax incentives, finance, and other support to small business? Farm Corp. sets up an empire of small businesses, each of which obtains the benefits of those grants and incentives...Fed tightens the regulations to try to re-route the benefits to the intended targets - Farm Corp screams...

-Local insurers unwilling to offer affordable health insurance in rural areas? Federal government develops a large pool to spread the risks and costs - big local guy bankrolls candidates who pledge to fight it.

-'illegal' migrant workers? Small farmers occasionally use them when they need some cheap labor, but Farm Corp exploits them broadly, throughout the enterprise. Both want the Fed to (a) ensure migrants stay 'illegal' (no path to citizenship, NEVER EVER EVER!!), and (b) deport them upon request (esp. if those migrants ever obtain any valuable assets, like a home that is desirable...)

Small local guys who realize this is happening go away to college, move to the city, and get themselves out from under the local robber baron's thumb. Small local guys who don't realize it is happening stick around, declare loyalty (fealty) to the local robber baron, and gradually become HIS henchman - willing to fight and die to protect the local robber baron against 'Yankee intrusion.'

As in the Confederacy, so too in the Sharecropper Empire, and with variations, into modernity. The more the federal government tries to help, the more the rural folks despise it and any 'city dwellers' whom they blame for exploiting them (our own Locum illustrates the type of rural folks who hate their 'friends' and love their 'enemies').

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

"In Mississippi, Alabama, and Massachusetts, the only options are voting at your assigned local precinct voting place"

Do you mean you can't vote at any other polling place within your electorate/district? If so, that is evil.


I'm not sure I'd ascribe that level of maleficence to the practice. Here in Illinois, you can early-vote anywhere in the state, but if you vote in person on Election Day itself, I'm pretty sure it has to be at your local polling place. I presume because that's where they have your registration records. Maybe more importantly, the local races will only be on the ballot at your locality (whereas early voting in this state requires you to use electronic voting machines).

Of course, living in a Democratic area of a blue state, our officials try to make it easy to vote rather than hard. Back in (I think) 2014, I remember being ready to show my drivers' licence to the poll worker who insisted before I even got it out that I didn't need to show photo id. A signature match was sufficient proof that I was who I claimed to be. In a Republican state, the restrictions might have a more sinister motive (like you have no choice but to get past the armed KKK members at the entrance).

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

As in the Confederacy, so too in the Sharecropper Empire, and with variations, into modernity. The more the federal government tries to help, the more the rural folks despise it and any 'city dwellers' whom they blame for exploiting them (our own Locum illustrates the type of rural folks who hate their 'friends' and love their 'enemies').


The dynamic you describe is a living metaphor for the practical joke I once heard about--switching the controls on a dual-control electric blanket so that each side inadvertently turns up or down the other partner's heat while thinking they're adjusting their own. "He" is too hot, so he turns down the heat, but it's "her" who is now too cold, so "she" turns the heat up, which ends up making "him" even hotter. The net result is that the more one attempts to get more comfortable, the more his/her discomfort gets worse.

Until and unless the victims figure out what's going on, there's really no way to help them. Same for the rural red-staters you describe.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

Simon Proctor said...

On the comment about moving to a newsletter have you considered Patreon? A number of people I admire and enjoy content from (both blogs and podcasts) are using it. As someone who like to support content creators it's great because it gives me one location to handle all my support and it's 1 monthly payment. Thought I'd mention it in case you weren't aware.