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The crazy years

The crazy years

Many, many years ago, in the introduction to my first short story collection, I kvetched about how science fictional futures obsolesce, and the futures we expect look quaint and dated by the time the reality rolls round.

Around the time I published "Toast" (the title an ironic reference to the way near-future SF gets burned by reality) I was writing the stories that later became "Accelerando". I hadn't really mastered the full repertoire of fiction techniques at that point (arguably, I still haven't: I'll stop learning when I die), but I played to my strengths—and one technique that suited me well back then was to take a fire-hose of ideas and spray them at the reader until they drowned. Nothing gives you a sense of an immersive future like having the entire world dumped on your head simultaneously, after all.

Now we are living in 2018, round the time I envisaged "Lobsters" taking place when I was writing that novelette, and the joke's on me: reality is outstripping my own ability to keep coming up with insane shit to provide texture to my fiction.

Just in the past 24 hours, the breaking news from Saudi Arabia is that twelve camels have been disqualified from a beauty pageant because their handlers used Botox to make them more handsome. (The street finds its uses for tech, including medicine, but come on, camel beauty pageant botox should not be a viable Google search term in any plausible time line.) Meanwhile, home in Edinburgh, eight vehicles have been discovered trapped in an abandoned robot car park during demolition work. This is pure J. G. Ballard/William Gibson mashup territory, and it's about half a kilometre from my front door. The world's top 1% earned 82% of all wealth generated in 2017 — I'm fairly sure this wasn't what Adam Smith had in mind — and South Korea has such a high suicide rate that the government intends to make organising a suicide pact a criminal offence.

Go home, 2018, you're drunk. (Or, as Robert Heinlein might have put it: these are the crazy years, and they're not over yet.)

Seriously: leaving aside the subject matter of "Accelerando" (half-baked singularitarianism), the technique I used to make it work has now been overtaken by our internet mediated news sources. It's not as if this sort of stuff wasn't happening before: history is full of utterly bugfuck, stranger-than-fiction source material. But these days we find out about it as it happens, and we find out about it happening in places our news agencies formerly had limited or no access to. Seven billion shaved apes generate a lot of weirdness in parallel, and these days it seems like they've all got keyboards: we shouldn't be surprised to get the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, Surrealist, delivered to our smartphones daily.

Which is why you aren't going to see me write another "Accelerando". Never mind the singularity, the basic storytelling mechanism I used is no longer viable in the post-smartphone broadband internet age. Stoning the reader with condensed, indigestible nuggets of future shock is no longer a viable worldbuilding method because social media have accustomed to it as the new normal. Guess I'm going to have to invent a new technique if I want to stay relevant ...

645 Comments

1:

At least the comments in the car park news seem to indicate that the cars left in there were test cars. Of course proving that via the comments is hard.

As for the technique, you need to re-invent yourself as writing literary contemporary fiction and continue doing the same thing. (This is a joke.)

2:

Well, the advert for the Bayerische Mist Wagon Suburban Useless Vehicle doesn't want me to even read about the car park!

So I suspect that CE2018 is doing drugs, lots of drugs!

3:

Don't hate on Accelerando too much. It's the book that got me hooked on your writing, and yes, the barrage of illusions to stuff-that-might-happen was one of the best parts.

4:

Isn't this The Singularity actually happening in our lifetime? The world becoming incomprehensible due to rapid change and stuff?

... of course the Church/Cult of Singularity will scream that "This is not the Prophet we were promised" and go for Crucifixion,

... but, things could be much worse if it was actually possible to "upload" some odious squillionaire in The Cloud to pester humanity forever.

5:

Yes. The big difference seems to be that such lunacies are now becoming part of established behaviour - they always did go on, but were usually the prerogative of the unbalanced or far-flung primitive societies. Of course, al alternative view is that WE are rapidly becoming a primitive society!

As I understand it, in theory, being the survivor of a suicide pact where at least one person died, and possibly even surviving a lone suicide attempt, carried the death penalty in the UK until 1957; I believe that suicide pacts are still treated as manslaughter.

6:

Note: Oxfam link replaced with original report/page, because the newssite I linked to was triggering malware warnings in Kaspersky AV according to one reader. (I use copious ad/javascript blockers routinely and don't run Windows so I didn't notice this.)

A sign of the times, I guess.

7:

If it was possible for an "Odious squillionare" to upload, a not too unlikely possibility would be the investment device intended to maintain the server farm for "Eternity" melts down in another global finance cluster and the personality is then required to read ads for suppositories for it's continued existence.

8:

I am actually slightly dubious of the methodology behind that oxfam report.

One approach would be that they started with a pool of money and then allocated it based on indirectly available information.

But given the state of the international economies and how reticent some non-western governments have been about making information available about their countries, it's difficult to imagine that that sort of methodology can lead to accurate answers.

Also, given how high speed trading works, there's also something of an issue with timing. A bulk of the money that the rich "have" will tend to be theirs for sometimes vanishingly small bits of time.

Another approach would be that they went off of publicly available reports of income. This has the advantage of simplicity, but has the opposite problem from the one I was decrying just a moment ago: it's like assuming the universe is only what can be seen. "There is nothing behind me and the world is flat."

Mind you, I'm not doubting the validity of the "1%" as an economic / political block. I am, however, doubting how much of that monetary pool lies within their control.

If the world were only western economies, I'd guess that the report would be accurate to within a factor of 2. However, western economies comprise less than half of the world's population and the whole "post-industrial" thing means that much of the industry has been elsewhere for long enough to have drained a good bit of money from the western system.

(And that's even assuming that no adversarial state level actors have ever had their maths people manage to tap into some of those tantalizing high-speed trading systems and then use the result to help shape our economies and political environments into something brittle, fragile and/or moving the wrong people into the wrong positions or some other approach which fits their way of thinking about people like us. Because, of course, that kind of thing obviously never works.)

9:

And apparently they're having issues with shed loads in the SW - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-42787789

10:

And remember, not only is it true that one single person has greater net wealth than the bottom 20% put together, 1.5 billion people, but that one person is you, whoever you are (because the total net wealth of the bottom 20% is a large negative number). Wealth stats need to be read carefully.

11:

Well, given my own choice I wouldn't run Windoze either.

12:

And then gets taken over by "Carillion" of course!

Paws@ 11
Ditto - but a lot of us use "Windoze" because, effectively, we have to. ( Win10 actually isn't too bad )

Of course there's Barking-all-the-way-to Upmister madness in corporate land being inflicted on hapless travellers right now - contrary to their own rules, of course & almost certainly counterproductive, but will they listen or learn?
Of course not.

13:

Time for Walter Mitty 2.0. Person steps away from the online world and becomes happy in their own little limited information bubble. Everybody thinks this person is nuts, but somehow nothing worse happens to this person than happens to others, while the others are drowned in the horror of the "real" (meaning online) world being more insane than they could imagine.

Done right, you could skewer both the voluntary simplicity movement AND the addiction of the internet...

14:

>The world's top 1% earned 82% of all wealth generated in 2017

OT:

If I may indulge a personal hate for a moment, I hate the use of "earn" in such contexts.

The original reference put it in a more neutral way:

"82% of all wealth created in the last year went to the top 1%"

But back to the topic at hand.

15:

Also, given how high speed trading works, there's also something of an issue with timing. A bulk of the money that the rich "have" will tend to be theirs for sometimes vanishingly small bits of time.

Yeah, that's not how that works. Individual transactions =/= aggregate fund wealth =/= shares of a fund.

Never mind your implicit assumption that all of it is in the HFT futures market.

And the difference between measuring income vs wealth is well known and long studied. One of the best sellers of 2014 went into depth about the issue, diving into records dating back to the 1700s. They have a handle on it

16:

Well, the one about the bus being about to move off might , just might, have a point. I've once been involved with (not in, because the accident involved one passenger) a bus accident.

In this case the bus (double decker) moved off and an elderly gentleman lost his footing and fell backwards down the stairs. I remember because I left contact details with the somewhat shaken driver, and subsequently was asked to fill out a witness report by the bus company's insurer.

17:

The "test car" theory for the abandoned vehicles suggests the car park operators deliberately left the cars there after testing which seems an odd thing to do since it uses up a space they could be renting out to customers.

There are Youtube videos of cars with dashboard cams being parked in such "robots". They're fascinating in an odd way (and usually speeded up a bit). Reliability is all-important in such structures, the same with automated warehouses so I'm surprised the one in Edinburgh failed enough times to be noticeable.

18:

I wonder if some of the weirdness we're experiencing is due to other cultures getting richer and the power of the West declining? In the old days, the elites in other cultures tried to ape the West to "show how civilized they were". Nowadays, those countries are richer and the elites are not afraid to promote their own culture's eccentricities or update their local eccentricities with new technology (the botox camel example).

19:

One of the photos in the repertoire of the @History_Pics account on twitter is of a "robot car park" from 1930s America. I was hoping Charlie's example was even older and one of the "cars" was a cart, complete with skeletal horse.

20:

It's been several years since the introduction of lightweight robot jockeys for camel racing which now include autonomous steering controls. Apparently image stabilisation wasn't good enough for "drone" piloting of the camels and there was some suggestion of jamming and spoofing of the uplinks and downlinks by other competitors so some teams went to using onboard LIDAR and video processing technologies to provide a less-hackable solution.

21:

This is just the ramp-up in process to the Singularity in process. But expect it to get more intense over the next decade, and to peak within two decades. If we're lucky the peak will be just because we can't accept data any faster. But it's well to remember that one form of the Singularity is crash&burn.

P.S.: Regarding a sub-plot of Rule 34 there's now a company advertising 3-D printable chem labs. They're nowhere near as easy to build as the Rule 34 version (yet?) but it's definitely a step in that direction. This model is probably suitable for Hospitals to print drug manufacturing labs in, and would need regulatory changes to actually be salable, etc., etc. It's no molecular scale bio-assembler, it's a 3-D printer, but it's a step in that direction.

22:

The world's top 1% earned 82% of all wealth generated in 2017 —

I'm willing to bet that a good deal of that wealth is buried in rising stock values. Not really liquid until it's cashed in. "Generated wealth" gives the impression that dollars (or euros or pounds) was "created" when it's really just reflecting demand for a commodity - i.e. equity. That "wealth" can disappear as quickly as it appeared.

23:

If they never needed that space, then they never needed to evict the test cars. Given they went bust, it's possible they never got near capacity.

24:

How much of this weirdness is going to be memes, fake news and procedural generation?

For example, I just told my mother (55 years old) about the Camel Botox thing, and she immediately said that it must be a joke, because there is nothing in a camel that you can improve with a botox injection. And on one hand, it makes perfect sense, but on the other hand, people participating in a freaking camel beauty pageant are the kind of people you don't expect much sense from, so it might still be true.

But how do I find out? All the "news" media appear to be copying the story from each other. Where is the source? Can I trust it?

25:

They probably think we're weird for having beauty pageants for unclean beasts with genetically engineered congenital deformities.

26:

I also think you should go a little easier on _Accelerando_ -- I still find it the most fun, page-turning thing you've written. And it does rather skewer the idea in some ways, particularly a True Believer assertion that a technological singularity is an entirely desirable outcome.

27:

Well, given my own choice I wouldn't run Windoze either.

The only benefit to Windoze is anyone could connect the components for a computer, install Windoze and get the damn thing to work. You didn't need a whole lot of experience.

At least you could do that up through Windoze 7. My experience with Windoze 10 suggests that pattern is now broken.

28:

And huge numbers of commercial companies use "Win" & expect output & more importantly input to be in Win-compatible formatting.
The Boss works from home quite a bit & her financial office is fully set-up with Win10, therefore .....

29:

"I was hoping Charlie's example was even older and one of the "cars" was a cart, complete with skeletal horse."


One of the cars was an Austin Maestro, so pretty close.

30:

As far as that goes, one is likely to encounter fewer issues getting the major Linux distros up and running, these days.

31:

The world's top 1% earned 82% of all wealth generated in 2017

That phrasing continues to irritate me. I think it's extremely unlikely that they earned it, more likely that they obtained it via rents, either on physical goods or in true rentier fashion, through usury. It's all quite, one of the problems we have is that wealth buys laws. But "earned"... really? The average 1%'er is so much more productive and useful that they deserve 10x or 100x the average wage for the work they do?

32:

It's not as if this sort of stuff wasn't happening before: history is full of utterly bugfuck, stranger-than-fiction source material. But these days we find out about it as it happens,

But we also find out about more of it. In past times it's unlikely that a Sydney newspaper would feature even one story about the US president paying a prostitute to stay quiet, let alone several of them. Ditto the intricacies of coalition negotiations in Germany (although that's more likely), and the UKIP nonsense would be strictly local interest even for a (former) British colony. Instead I've seen the "leader of anti-immigration sends wife back to Germany in favour of half-his-age racist bimbo" story several times. Bring back the days of "two local girls sell large quantity of Anzac biscuits", I say!

Growing up we has the local newspaper with a good two pages of foreign wire stories, and the "big" papers a day later in the library that had 4 or 5 pages of forn, plus business news often covering foreign stories. These days even the "Australian" stories are often local reaction to overseas events, famous foreigners over here, stuff being sold (or not) to foreigners.... even the idea of "local" news is largely gone.

33:

My experience with Windoze 10 suggests that pattern is now broken.

I haven't had that, and warning signs in the local PC shops suggest that the opposite is increasingly true. They're saying "latest Intel and AMD processors only support Windows 10". Which is very much not true except in the sense that older Microsoft and Apple OS's will not run reliably on them, and neither can be patched against Spectre and Meltdown worth a damn. Linux, OTOH, will run as well or badly as ever.

Sadly, my experience with Linux variants on laptops of late has been poor. We're past the "download source code, patch it manually, compile it yourself" version of installing drivers, and into "you can either have your video card or power management, but not both", or "wifi is always on, the ethernet port has to be brought up manually every time it drops out. Which is often". And so on, through a litany of irritations.

So I have a Windows desktop that runs Linux virtual machines because the other way round does not work very well. Plus I have a Windows-only laptop, and a Linux-only laptop. Sigh.

The good news is that the 12V gigabit switch I bought does indeed have a reasonable buck converter in it so runs happily off my "12V" solar setup (which is actually 10.5V-14.7V).

34:

But how do I find out? All the "news" media appear to be copying the story from each other. Where is the source? Can I trust it?

The first source I saw was Reuters' wire service.

The source I link to is a local-ish (Arabian Sultanate of Oman) newspaper, and not the local equivalent of The Onion, either.

Yes, it's gone viral and is doing the rounds as a random human interest story in the west, and you can fairly easily spot the me-too copypasta clickbaity reposts — but it seems to be a genuine local news item.

I'm not aware of anyone successfully faking the existence of an entire middle eastern nation for "false news" purposes so far (although I had fun with the idea in "Rule 34").

35:

I'm still optimistic. I hope 2018 will be the year where reality finally strikes back.

36:

Surely cars are abandoned in lots at some rate. With an automated lot if nobody is reviewing the inventory... well... they just stay forever eh?

I wonder how many automated lots will review their inventories tomorrow and make it a busy day for tow trucks.

37:

A parking lot that has spaces blocked by deadbeats is losing money.

This is a special case: the smallish robot (unattended) garage was a tech demo, owners went into receivership (UK bankruptcy where the parts of a company are sold off to pay the liquidators), and everybody forgot about the odd corner of the multi-storey car park.

38:

FYI,

The latest Author Earnings report is out.

January 2018 Report: US online book sales, Q2-Q4 2017
http://authorearnings.com/report/january-2018-report-us-online-book-sales-q2-q4-2017/

39:

Maybe they should wait a few months/years/arbitarily longer untilyou can get robot tow trucks to take them away so that no human being need be involved at all.

Pretty sure I saw one of these being used as a dead drop in an otherwise forgettable film a few years back. Probably set in Japan?

(Also Tom Cruise had a fight in one as well which, although a fine setting, lots of bits in motion, vertical movement etc., is possibly the most boringly obvious thing to do with a strange space in a film.)

40:

Well (assuming it gets full sometimes), sure, but not everything is always implemented perfectly eh?

Anyway not saying that happened, but it would be a funny explanation.

41:

A parking lot that has spaces blocked by deadbeats is losing money.

Only if there is unmet demand. Otherwise the potential gain from late fees and/or disposal is only offset by an empty parking space.

I realise that most parking lots are full as often as possible, but even in inner-city Sydney there seem to be parking lots used largely for long-term storage or other semi-permanent uses. I bike past a couple of big box shops that store stuff like tow trucks and dump trucks in the less-used corners of their parking lots. I assume that if they pay for those spots (it's "free customer parking") they don't pay very much. The trucks rarely move, they're in the same place at 7am when I go to work as they are at 4pm when I go home... and that doesn't change from day to day.

There's also the (apocryphal?) story about the person putting their car into a dealership for consignment sale while they went overseas for an extended period, then claiming it back on return - free parking. Variations: http://msgboard.snopes.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=80;t=000416;p=0

42:

Sad news: Ursula Le Guin has passed.

43:

It seems clear that News is broken, in many different ways; and the social media citizen journalism that was going to supersede it has *been* brokeen, quite deliberately, by organised armies of trash-posters, augmented by bots.

The bots were an obvious innovation: it's cheaper to automate this, too. But not obvious, with hindsight: who predicted that a subset of humans, or a subset of human interactions, could be replaced to Turing-Test standards, by really, really simple scripts?

My take on this is that we've been remiss in overlooking the study of human stupidity: it turns out to be far more powerful - and controllable - than rare and precious creative genius.

But that's an aside: my point is abiut broken News...

...That's a lot of the Crazy, right there. A major corrective mechanism to lying, or being wrong, or being Just Plain Stupid, is failing and fading out.

I don't see anything replacing it.

44:

I saw abandoned cars covered with a thick layer of dust in Dublin airport short term parking (€3/hour) after our property bust in 2008-ish.

> accelerando

#showerthought that flock of pigeons in my mother's back garden is a /cis/ flock

45:

"who predicted that a subset of humans, or a subset of human interactions, could be replaced to Turing-Test standards, by really, really simple scripts?"

Kate Bush.

Well, sort of. But Eliza is a really simple piece of code and also a very old one, and it has been known for as long as it's existed that for some people at least it passes the Turing test well enough to be addictive. Then if you deploy it in an environment which is inherently hostile to reasoned argument because there's no room to type one, but encourages the short and stupid post, where non-native English speakers are distinguished by using better English than most of the native ones, where people aren't predisposed to think they're talking to a machine, and where interactions with others naturally fizzle out after only a handful of replies, you remove or drown most of its deficiencies before you even think about improving the code. I wouldn't be surprised if many bots have less code for actual botting than they do for talking to the twitter API.

46:

> who predicted that a subset of humans, or a subset of human interactions, could be replaced to Turing-Test standards, by really, really simple scripts?

"Go away or I will replace you with a very small shell script" has been a long-running joke in the tech community; e.g. http://www.thinkgeek.com/product/374d/

I'm sure some took it more seriously than others.

47:

Probably everyone should take that seriously.

Despite some AI professionals here commenting that writing AI software is somehow special, and quite unlike other tasks that can be automated away (which is exactly what every profession seems to be saying about their own professions), Google's having some success in getting a machine learning system to write neural nets. They're claiming that the machine written neural nets are better than the human written ones that came out at the same time (since surpassed by later human generated software).

Remembering that the 'Singularity' isn't what most people think it is, it's not uploading (or any other predicted outcome), it's a state where you can't use rules that worked in the past, to predict the future...This looks like we're in or entering the Singularity now. Or at least the Event Horizon, where there's no going back to where you were before, but passing that point, everything seems pretty normal.

I think an alien hive mind (Google Inc) creating an artificial intelligence (AutoML) that writes better artificial intelligences than humans can, and then releasing it into the wild (Cloud AutoML), certainly counts as a situation where the old rules are no longer useful for predicting the future.

http://www.afr.com/technology/google-to-make-ai-accessible-to-all-businesses-with-cloud-automl-20180117-h0jrlw

48:

It seems clear that News is broken, in many different ways; and the social media citizen journalism that was going to supersede it has *been* brokeen, quite deliberately, by organised armies of trash-posters, augmented by bots.

It might be worthwhile to revisit the concept of News as currently understood and how it has evolved since, say, 1500. I suspect that what is now perceived as broken is the gate-keeper model, somewhat dictated by the printing technology of the time, that ruled mid-1800s to late-1900s. Can, or should, that earlier model be revived?

49:

That model has been broken for longer than any of us have been alive, for the same reasons that we consider it broken now: acting as a mouthpiece for the owners, excessive dependency on advertising, and peddling unrelieved utter bollocks to the lower end of the market. See for example Jerome K Jerome, who saw it from the inside, and other writers of that era. Writing of the period immediately before WW2, Derek Tangye (Greg, is that the same name as yours?) calls it the "robber baron days", referring to the autocratic proprietors and the journalists' terror of stepping out of line. I suspect that all that has really changed is that people are now more likely to disagree with what they read and so more disposed to complain about its faults.

I think a non-broken news system would have to be, as a necessary but not sufficient condition, entirely free from three things: owners, advertising, and bots. Which looks like one of those situations where you can have two but not three.

50:

Yes, most increases in wealth these days come from rising prices of equities, property, etc.

That is the point. Piketty got famous writing about this.

In some times and places wealth and income come more to those who work for it. In other times and places wealth and income comes more to those who own stuff, as their stuff gets more valuable. This ratio of return on labour vs return on capital has varied historically.

We (modern Western economies) are now at a point where return on capital is high compared to return on labour. The rich get richer. Our parents and grandparents lived in economies that were the other way around.

51:

Is blockchain capable of creating intelligent investment instruments? Cause I think Accelerando predicted that.

Thanks in advance.

52:

... News - in the sense of "At least somewhat accurate information about what is happening in the world" is needed for all political decision making. That is also why this well gets poisoned every Tuesday, Friday, and every second Sunday - if you can give people misinformation, you can influence the political decisions they make. Of course, since a thousand actors are pouring the poison in, they mostly do not achieve the control they seek, but instead just a tendency towards Chaos as everyone tries to make decisions through a fog of uncoordinated lies.

This is not just a problem for democracies, either, it is a problem for everyone.

State broadcasters, as news organs, can have at least most of their incentives pointed in the right direction as long as the local government views them as a tool of information gathering, rather than as a tool of political control, but are subject to political attack, especially when the facts have, as krugman goes, a well-known liberal bias, and the temptation for stupid politicians to blind themselves by using them for propaganda is ever present,

I suppose one could try to federalize this problem and build an European Broadcast Corporation, on the grounds that the EU is not likely to agree on any particular angle of abuse, but getting that through the commission and parliament at a sufficient level of funding is a tall ask.

53:

- The death of Ursla K. le Guin

Announcement has just come over the radio

Oh SHIT

Many & long years ago, I met her breifly at a book-signing in London - never to be forgotten.
"Hung be the heavens with black"

54:

I'm fairly sure this wasn't what Adam Smith had in mind

It's precisely what Adam Smith was writing against, in ...The Wealth of Nations in particular. See discussion here. And it makes sense, when you think about it - how could Smith be a free marketeer in the 20th century sense (= against state provision & state intervention in the economy generally) when he was writing before the French Revolution, at a time when there was no state intervention in the economy? (This staringly obvious question had never occurred to me until I read that essay, and probably never would have done if I hadn't read it. Makes me wonder how much other stuff I'm taking for granted is equally tenuous.) Yes, Smith advocated a free market, but what he wanted it to be free from was monopolists, cartels and merchant princes in general - he'd rail against the 1% if he was here now, albeit probably from a position of Richard Curtis-like 'moderation'.

55:

That model has been broken for longer than any of us have been alive, for the same reasons that we consider it broken now: acting as a mouthpiece for the owners, excessive dependency on advertising, and peddling unrelieved utter bollocks to the lower end of the market.

Even the media which don't depend on advertising often have to think who pays the bills. Case in point: the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation is owned by the Finnish State. However, their budget was until some years ago somewhat removed from the parliament, and they were if not perfect at least good for news, even about the Finnish government.

However, more recently their budget was moved to be under more direct parliamentary control. After this the government has been making greater and greated demands on them, especially on what not write. Also some MPs have been subtly threathening to cut their funding if they will not act as a mouthpiece for the government. Last year some journalists left the corporation because it was getting too restricting to work there.

I like to have publicly funded media, if only to give some balancing act to the commercial media. However, our current right-wing government hasn't liked an independent media reporting what they do and they're trying to suppress it, at least on touchy subjects. That I don't like.

56:

It also makes for great memes about main stream media not getting it.

57:

Case in point: the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation is owned by the Finnish State.

Also witness the downfall of the BBC. While notionally independent, its budget is paid by the broadcast license fee levied on TV receivers in the UK: Tony Blair broke the BBC's independence in 2003 over the Iraq war by threatening to cut the license fee (which the government sets). And ever since then, the Beeb has basically been a mouthpiece for the policies of the government of the day — e.g. unashamed pro-Iraq War propaganda in 2003-10, unashamed pro-austerity economics and anti-immigrant thereafter.

See also Al Jazeera, arguably a BBC spin-off — based in Qatar, they hired a huge chunk of the BBC's World Service Middle East crew when the BBC killed the department (see also: Tony Blair), and retained its rep for impartiality and willingness to cover every story ... unless the story is about Qatar, in which case Qatar is a paradise on earth, OK?

58:

Al Jazeera English. Al Jazeera Arabic is a completely different organisation, with a limited amount of crossover material.
Totally agree about the rest though.

59:

Also witness the downfall of the BBC. While notionally independent, its budget is paid by the broadcast license fee levied on TV receivers in the UK: Tony Blair broke the BBC's independence in 2003 over the Iraq war by threatening to cut the license fee (which the government sets).

Yeah, this is kind of the thing. Five years ago we got rid of the broadcast licence fee - it had its problems, to be sure, starting with the fact that nobody needed to let anybody to check if they had a TV receiver or not. It was replaced with a special tax - at most 140 euros a year per each person, and companies pay somewhat more. This tax is more easily changed than the licence fees used to be in our process.

I'm kind of glad that the licence fee is no more, especially since I really haven't used the tv as a receiver for a long time, but I still use their web services, for example streaming and news. It was getting too hard to really classify just one class of devices as "tv receivers" while mostly every computer is capable of showing content from them. Still, the easily changed tax has its own problems.

60:

To be fair, the BBC staff do try to keep it as neutral as they can, subject to toeing the government line; they don't inject the actual moetarist and isolationist propaganda to the way almost all the newspapers do. Hutton deserves as much blame for that as Blair - even by UK official inquiry standards, I was horrified.

61:

IIRC ( Long time since I read it ) Mr Smith was in favour of guvmint "pump-priming" - he was talking about docks & canals, I think - which the guvmint would then get back in increased revenues from the increased "trade"

62:

Back up at the OP, and various comments about broadcast media.

The English, er "British" ;-) Broadcasting Corporation just reported the story about "camel botox" as breaking news!

63:

the BBC staff do try to keep it as neutral as they can

ROFL.

You're not Scottish/Scottish-resident, so you didn't get the full level of insane black propaganda they poured out during the IndyRef campaign. Not are they unbiased in other respects (IIRC one of the managers at "Question Time" who vets audience questions for the panel of politicians was outed a few months back as a member of Britain First: this is a flagship politics show that regularly provides a platform for UKIP or Nigel Farage -- zero seats in parliament -- but never ever invites the Greens -- 1 MP, 3 MEPs, multiple MSPs).

That's before we get started on their promotion of the Official Version of British history, complete with the whitewashing of empire, Churchill-worship, etc.

No, really, the BBC has plenty of biases.

65:

I am not denying that they have biases, but most of those are either personal or constrained by having to toe the government line; as you say, that got a LOT worse post-Hutton. But I haven't caught them out in actually promoting the opposite of known facts as true, or actually demonising political opponents, whereas I have done so for almost all newspapers. Almost all of what could fairly be termed as propaganda is by omitting information that contradicts the story, and by not contradicting the official 'facts', as with almost every official enquiry in my lifetime.

As you say, the Greens have grounds for complaint, but I strongly suspect that they have to do that in order to avoid their pro-environmental documentary programs from being, er, brought into line. Both you and I know that there has been pressure to do that, via certain repulsive MPs.

66:

Well, in the last hour one of the "team" on the Steve Wrong, er Wright show (Radio 2) just said that "Hadrian's Wall is in Scotland" (no it isn't not even slightly).

Can you imagine the reaction if someone on Radio Scotland claimed that?

67:

Actually it's their RELIGIOUS bias that gets to me.
They will ppractically grovel to anyone to whom the label "priest" can be stuck on to ....
But, even there, the official/guvmint line is being resisted - see the "Today" prograsmme.
As for Scotland, please don't get me started on the Wee Fishwife & her rabid supporters - they are a funhouse mirror of the right-wing tory shits we have got round the peripheries of London, baying at the moon for brexit.

Note: You header has it - "Crazy Years"
I mean, even I am beginning to think that a Clem Attlee style Labour guvmint might not be too bad, except comrade Corbyn ( & worse MacDonnell ) are determined to throw that away as well. There does not seem to be any moderate centre ground, when even half-sensible tories like Hammond & Ken Clarke are sujected to the 2 Minutes Hate for being anti-Brexit & my superb female Labour MP has to defend her every move against "momentum".

69:

Getting back to the original post, if we rescale the picture, there's two ways to look at us already being inside The Singularity.

One, the small scale, is how fast computerized data processing is increasing in capacity via Moore's and Koomey's Laws. We're seeing all sorts of disruptions from that (the "progress increasing exponentially" part of the Singularity meme), but we have no idea where it's going to top out (the "results can't be predicted"). The problem with this is exponential just means "greater than linear," which generally plays hob with predictions in any sort of data, simply because the universe of exponential curves and polynomial is effectively infinite, so while you can exactly fit a curve to existing data, that gives you no certainty that plotting the curve forward allows you to accurately predict what happens next. For example, if Moore's and Koomey's laws fizzle out in the next 5-10 years, at least for non-quantum applications, we'll probably never accurately simulate a human brain, and any "technological innovation will save the world" program will run into increasing limits, caused by how much data computers can actually process and save. If computers get better than human wetware for data (e.g. a kilo of computronium running on 100 watts is the equivalent of a current data center), then all hell breaks lose. We can't predict which will happen because we don't know when it will become impossible to further innovate with digital computers. Worse, we won't know until the innovations peter out and stop.

That's the short-term version of the singularity.

There's a larger-scale version of the singularity, which is that we really that going around 150-ish years ago with the Second Industrial Revolution. That fossil fuel-powered revolution allowed human populations to boom enormously, with resulting booms in productivity and ingenuity (there are more one-in-a-million geniuses alive today than there were before...). Problem is, of course, that we're going to be out of fossil fuels in about 50 years or less, so if we're not careful, we'll be back in the low-energy, largely solar-powered regime that prevailed prior to the first industrial revolution. If you think about it, someone in the Renaissance would have no idea what the 20th Century would actually look like.* Our current state would look like (and be) a singularity to them. However, the outcome of our Industrial Revolution Singularity is of course unknown: we could end up with anything from a K-Pg level extinction event (if a lot of polar peat ends up in the air), we could be uploaded into computronium immortality as wholly owned, immortal, Google Apps, or anything in between. Sounds like a technological singularity to me.

The point is, a Singularity is not a techno-religious version of armageddon, where either all problems get solved by superhuman innovation or we all go to hell. It's just the innovation-induced loss of ability to predict the future, as opposed to the loss of predictability caused by, say, a pandemic, asteroid strike, massive volcano, or randomly bulimic ice sheets in an ice age. The Singularity may ultimately turn out to have passed unnoticed, while we were all waiting for the crazy to get more useful or something.

*Presumably, most Renaisannce futurists would be busy predicting that the Second Coming would have happened by now.

70:

This is a US centric response. I don't know enough about anywhere else.

Having capital is currently increasing in value more rapidly than labor?
Not exactly. Having *some kinds* of capital in increasing in value. But treasure notes and savings accounts are at about 0.01%/year. If you can stay employed you're doing lots better than that. Only having large amounts of capital is increasing faster than inflation...and even then you need to be careful about where you invest it.

OTOH, it's starting to look like investing in higher education has a negative payoff to the individuals. This is basically because the institutions of higher education have raised their prices while increasing their volume of output. (More degreed students, each one with a heavy burden of debt.) If I were advising someone about their (technical) career, I'd advise plumber, electrician, or even garbage collector. Something that requires manual dexterity, pattern recognition, and physical presence. I've really been surprised that the job of programmer has lasted so long, but there've been lots of signs that it's up for either elimination or wild transformation. Predicting just when, of course, is quite difficult, but taking on a huge load of debt to enter a problematic career doesn't seem a good idea. The same is true for lawyers, accountants, etc.

For a non-technical I'd recommend something that involves social interactions. But not if it involves taking on a huge debt, because robots seem to be making strides in that area, too.

71:

Well, the Romans thought of Hadrian's Wall as the border between Scotland and Britain, though they used different names for the areas.

72:

US education is suffering from a severe case of rent-extraction. Lots of customer does not price-shop at all, but is aiming for the most prestigious school they can get into. This means the schools have buggerall incentive to even attempt cost control, because a higher price tag will if anything just make the school seem more impressive.
Thus there is a hell of a lot of empire building going on where anyone with authority has a bunch of minions running around doing jobs that... demonstrably do not need to exist, European colleges doing just fine without them.
Problem of course being that while educating everyone to college standards has genuine returns in terms of skill and productivity, the returns from going to a prestigious college are zero-sum. - Because the value-add from going to Harvard is not being a better chemist or whatever, you would get a far better education by going to a state school and spending the extra 30, 40 k on tutors, the value is purely in being a graduate from the "Best" college, so the bidding war continues until all the value add has been extracted.

You could fix this. But it would require a *heavy* hand. A good place to start would be to just prohibit schools with endowments above "humongous" from collecting tuition full stop.

But beyond that, what is required is for accountants to go through the admin staff of most colleges in the US bearing fire, a sword and a sack of pink slips.

73:

2018: lots of drugs... well, reasonable, if a) you include booze, and b) I read six months or more ago that 75% of the US was showing signs of clinical depression....

74:

Sorry, that was clinical stress.

75:

Dear Odious Squillionaire,

Please be advised that all of you on disk is now entryped, and the only way you can be decrypted is to send us $50,000,000,000, payable in 5 superdupercryptocoins....

Unless you were picturing the OS not connected to the 'Net....

76:

The specifics do not matter. The top 400 own that much of the fucking *world*, and the rest of us... kindly remember that the median household income of the US last year was $59k - that is *household*, and most of them would be bankrupt if there was a $1000 hospital bill.

I see the UK, as of 2014, was #23.5k per household. You, at least, won't be bankrupted by medical bills....

77:

Sorry, but I have *no* idea of what distro of Linux you had trouble installing. In '09, I installed the "Ubuntu netbook remix" on my then-new Netbook, and it just worked. A few monts ago, given that a) I don't care for Ubuntu, and b) I hadn't updated it in so long (I only pull it out when I'm travelling, like to a con), that I just installed CentOS 6.9 (same as RedHat), and again, it just worked.

In the meantime, I've been rebuilding my own computer since '98, and have never had a driver issue.

78:

Please see my previous post, and feel free to contact me offlist, if you want to discuss it at length.

79:

I like the Wee Fishwife and her predecessor, the Scottish Snake Oil Salesman; they show up our English, oops, UK politicians as the incompetent idiots they are. On a related matter, Macron has been accused of being all style and no substance, but that's one more than our current lot manage.

Look, if we are going to have politicians for the crazy years, at least let them be amusing!

80:

That's correct for the moment. Currently being a plumber or electrician if you're Jane Average Hardworker, makes more sense than getting an English degree. As with the pharmacy shortage of 20 years ago, within a decade or so the trades will be full and there will be demand for better teachers to keep the sciences from going away.

On the bigger picture, educational loans are a great thing to invest in, because even bankruptcy doesn't absolve you of them, at least in the US. So, superficially they look like a sure thing to invest in, right? I suspect that's one factor that's driven the rise in tuition rates--how many financiers are on college boards?

In the slightly bigger picture, educational loan payers and lenders are in the same situation as China and the US were a few years ago. China loaned us huge amounts of money. They own us, right? Well, we used a good chunk of that money to pay for military expansion...Now the Chinese are smarter, so they're not loaning us money and waiting for our military to deflate. Anyway, the point of this is that both sides are over a barrel when there's that much money involved. If I wanted to cause trouble, I'd organize borrowers to strike by simply refusing, en masse, to not pay their student loans. If it was done quickly enough, it would cause a financial-sector recession almost instantly, and I suspect that a lot of the fortunes of the superwealthy would take a real hit. The problem is if it took years to organize, the people holding the loan tranches would simply sell them to suckers (many of whom are paying on the loans), and the strike would just be a mess.

Anyway, if I was a hard worker (I'm not, and I'm too old), I'd apprentice myself to an older, childless, farmer somewhere in the upper Midwest. Help them run and modernize the farm, learn the ropes, take care of the farmer when they become too old to farm, and inherit the place when they pass. That way, if things go to hell, you've got at least the possibility of feeding your family in a place where rain normally falls from the sky. Lot of hard work, but it might be more stable than trying to work in a city.

81:

Like it, another likely failure mode, "Odious squillionare" fails to arrange timely updates, ten years later, by comparison, he sounds to the outside world like an extra from "Deliverance".

82:

I too have considerable experience in "I did the obvious and it just worked", so I don't see what you could contribute there. What I need is someone with skills in the non-obvious, and likely someone local (who isn't going to suffer from trying to remote control me to get the thing back online every time it goes wrong).

In happier news, I have an air quality monitor thingy that I just plugged in an it works: https://www.uradmonitor.com/?open=82000090 which also shows my location, for those who've wondered which park bench I sleep on.

83:

"It's just the innovation-induced loss of ability to predict the future"

In that case, we lost it long before the word "innovation" started to come with the unspoken qualifier "technical". Political and social innovation does that as well. To take an example of current relevance to Charlie's worldbuilding: the conditions under which "innovation" could come to refer by default to the technical variety have, as a prerequisite of such importance that it is probably essential, the conditions arising from the demonstration that if a king gets too big for his boots the ordinary people can just chop the fucker's head off and the sky does not fall in. Not very many people who were around before that happened would have believed it possible, nor made predictions about future society that weren't knocked for six by its consequences.

One could argue that innovation is by its very nature disruptive and inimical to prediction, but I don't think that's really accurate; aviation, for example, is the (partial) realisation of a dream that has been part of human thought probably for as long as humans have existed, and while the precise time of its realisation may have defied prediction, the idea that sooner or later someone would figure it out is as old as the dream itself, and most people who were sufficiently receptive to that idea to bother to spend time thinking about it seem to have been pretty close to the mark in imagining what its results would be. Lasers, at the other extreme, were not expected, and were considered to be a solution looking for a problem for some time after they came on the scene, but have ended up making a significant difference to all sorts of things from nuclear fusion to the entertainment of cats.

The thing about innovation is that it is essentially random; what's obviously a good idea doesn't bear a whole lot of resemblance to what's possible or about to become possible at any given moment, and so what we actually get ends up as the result of throwing a whole lot of shit at the wall and seeing what sticks. (Directed research doesn't produce innovation; directed research is walking up to the wall and poking at a particular piece of shit to see how sticky it is.) Aviation was expected to be sticky in advance, but lasers were not. And because of this randomness, if innovation happens at all it will inevitably end up breaking predictions of the future.

"any "technological innovation will save the world" program will run into increasing limits, caused by how much data computers can actually process and save."

Those aren't the important limits. (Never mind about "innovation programme" being a contradiction in terms.) The important limits are the limits on people's viewpoints that cause them to come up with the idea of such a programme in the first place: acceptance (perhaps unspoken and/or partial) of the view that all problems, all solutions, and all possible solutions, are basically technical - when in reality, though they may be exacerbated by technology, they are not technical at all. Both the problems and the solutions in the "save the world" class are nigh-exclusively political and social, which means the solutions get set aside as "impossible" because they are difficult and escalating that to "impossible" provides an excuse for not bothering to think about them; the technocentric viewpoint has the (invalid, but nevertheless persuasive) appeal of apparent justification for that neglect, and so actually ends up making things worse.

84:

I suspect we're largely agreeing while using different language.

The "no worries because innovation will save us" is more a mindset than a program, unless you happen to work for Google, in which case, it's hard to tell. I agree that it's right to be skeptical about any such agenda, whatever you want to call it. Here I simply wanted to point out that assuming that the well of technological innovation is infinite is just as potentially devastating as assuming that the supply of energy available to humans is effectively infinite (meaning we'll use oil until we get to fusion that will be too cheap to meter or something).

We don't know when innovation will dry up in any field. If you look at drug research, they're already talking about Eroom's Law, because the pace of discovery of novel drugs currently appears to be slowing down, although it's not clear if it will stop or whether we're just in a dry spell. It's entirely possible that something similar will happen with digital computing, but we won't know until it happens. If our secret plan for world salvation assumes that the innovation accomplishes more than it actually does, well, bad things will happen.

As for solving wicked problems, they unfortunately aren't just political or social either. One reason I'm willing to argue right now is that I've been testifying at a lot of hearings on environmental issues. What I've seen repeatedly is planning and wildlife agencies, both of them staffed by outwardly well-meaning people who want to keep their jobs, proposing highly problematic plans backed by the industries they regulate to deal with environmental issues like climate change. Then, after these plans are criticized by well-meaning "ignoranuses" like myself, they misrepresent their (and sometimes our) work to politicians who, by appearances, mostly lack the skills and information to tell that they're getting played, and so BS becomes policy. In these messes, it's a combination of mendacity, technical incompetence, social norms, regulatory capture, and lack of relevant knowledge and skills by decision makers that are combining to cause ineffective action. And I may be oversimplifying at that.

In general, I think there's a very human desire to hope that "the stuff we don't know about will save us." We trust the cavalry on the other side of the hill to rescue us, not the cavalry we can actually see.

If you don't deal with politics on a regular basis, many problems that can't be solved technologically appear to have political solutions. When you see the politicians in action, the first thought is that they're incompetent because they didn't immediately solve the problems you expected them to solve. Then you look closer and realize that they can't easily solve the problems either, because either the problems are impossible to solve, or they require a level of both political and technical acumen that few if any people have.

A random example from last week: with climate action, a bunch of activists hoped that we could do climate sequestration in my home county by planting trees in parks. When I explained to them why that was problematic, the next thought (and I had it to) was, "well, maybe carbon farming will sequester carbon in this county." Then the head of the local farm bureau spoke up and it appears that their current notion of carbon farming is to somehow get more water to orchards to maintain fruit trees and replant all the ones they lost in the drought. The reason neither of tree planting won't work is that we've got less water to work with, thanks to climate change. County planners, meanwhile, are cheerfully telling developers that they can mitigate for all their greenhouse gas emissions by buying into tree-planting operations "once they're mature" (if you want a technical challenge, I'll let you figure out why buying an already-grown tree does may not be the best way to sequester future carbon emissions).

85:

'Tom Cruise does boringly obvious thing in film' is hardly a surprise though. Certainly not compared to seeing an Austin Maestro presumably in more or less one bit.

86:

I'd apprentice myself to an older, childless, farmer somewhere in the upper Midwest.

The US midwest might be different to farming everywhere else in the rich world, but I 'm skeptical. To stay part of the economy on a small farm is very hard these days, and the alternative starts with a million dollars in capital. There's a lot of "artisanal farmers market" stuff that's trying to defeat the capital-intensive economy-of-scale approach, but it's not working very well.

The problem farmers in general have is not shortage of uneducated labour per se, but shortage of affordable uneducated labour. Going in as an apprentice would mean you're competing on price with illegal immigrants sleeping 4 or 5 to a van.

The alternative is to start with either a family relationship or a degree in agriculture.

87:

Saw that one on the news last night, and it's not the first time I'd heard of the practice. In this case, the farmer was growing upscale crops, and a young couple had moved away from the city and had found livings helping him with the business. In the case on TV, it was a farmer giving the farm to his apprentices rather than his children, either because he didn't have any or they weren't interested in farming.

While I'm very aware of the problems with small farming, if you're looking for a way to bug out of an unsustainable city life, this is about as good an option as I can think of, because it puts you in a place where you have a semi-reasonable chance of making a living if the economy collapses, and you can also make a living now. Most bug-out options aren't nearly this good.

You're correct about certain sectors of agriculture needing more unskilled workers, but you have to be careful. Many of the big farms are very similar to Roman latifundias, in that they're (sometimes, not always!) owned by wealthy. politically well-connected landowners or corporations, and they work because they have large amounts of low-wage (often highly skilled) less-than-free labor (although they're not slaves. That would be illegal). These big operations love them some cheap labor. Indeed, California farmers used to love the immigration laws because it made undocumented farm labor that much cheaper. While I agree that this system benefits from cheap labor, a lot of the damage caused by industrial farming comes off farms like this, so I'm not all that keen about promoting them, although I recognize that they have benefits.

88:


Mikko Parviainen wrote:

As for the technique, you need to re-invent yourself as writing literary contemporary fiction and continue doing the same thing. (This is a joke.)

Actually, I like that strategy. The mainstream pundits think they get Science Fiction, but what they know is Star Wars and maybe Bladerunner. If you hit 'em with a variant of Accelerando but involving just "mundane" material, like say, Balkan politics, Shavian ideology and K-Pop music they might never recover.


Whenever I think about techniques of exposition in SF, I always come back to "just tell 'em": direct address of the reader in some form or another. There's something really peculiar about the split consciousness involved in "show don't tell"-- every line is supposed to have a double meaning conveying background information to the reader under the guise of some sort of foreground message that's supposed to make sense to the characters in the story.



I was just looking at KSR's 2312, and I note that rather than do full quotations from fictional non-fiction (ala Foundation), he does tiny little disjointed "excerpts"... there's an angle there, perhaps.

89:

Didn't Thomas Pynchon kind of try this already?

Actually, I think you're onto something though. In literary terms, a writer could create a "Wainscot Society," a world parallel to our own (like the Harry Potter Wizarding World) where the Singularity is taking off, or SF is real, or whatever. Yes, George Clooney tried this with Tomorrowland and it tanked, but that was a retrofuturistic secondary world. Here, I'm just thinking of Accelerando not being an alt-future SF, but the equivalent of the wizarding world, inhabited by non-conformists with PhDs and brilliant dropouts, a world that is under threat from planners, business suits and marketroids who have none of the redeeming traits of the protagonists.

Yes this casts progressivism and transhumanism as a romantic fantasy, but what could possibly go wrong?

90:

Which is why I support the Guardian.

NPR and the rest of US "public tv" broke, and sold out to the GOP in Nov '95.

91:

About US education: there's also the fact that the GOP, wherever they get control, cuts funding as much as possible. When I first went to college, Temple U in Philly, in the mid-sixties, it was something like $300/term. That *should* be about $2400/term or less, adjusted for inflation... but it's not.

But then, in the early 80's, 90% of the money to Philly Community College was from Pell Grants (not loans, note). Now? Not hardly.

The right, everywhere, mostly hate anything that they can't monetize.

92:

While I'm very aware of the problems with small farming, if you're looking for a way to bug out of an unsustainable city life, this is about as good an option

I actually agree. I am perhaps unduly cynical from having grown up in an area where there had been a similar wave of communes in the 1960's and 1970's that also demonstrated that city people trying to take up farming is a low-probability game. Sure, 20 years later there will be some successes, but there will also be a lot of failures and the bad ones can be pretty bad. That's in Aotearoa, I can't imagine it would be better with less social welfare.

The damage to the land can also be pretty harsh - we bought 3Ha of bamboo once for "you can have the whole 5.5Ha if you clean up the bamboo" (mortgagee auction, high bid was under $20k). Half a million dollars worth of land plus water rights, in exchange for... two years of cutting, drying and burning bamboo. Then 10 years of spraying to control the residual growth (most weeds die out if you mow or graze them, but not bamboo).

Nelson has a lot of boutique wineries, for example, and few of them are profitable/pay a living wage - most of them are hobbies (as my stepfather puts it "a hobby is something you pay money to do, a business pays you"). There's also a lot of churn as people keep farming until they run out of money.

I have various friends who are doing the small farm thing with varying degrees of success. To me it's a bit of a give-away that a lot of permaculture farms also teach permaculture courses... suggesting they need the income. Successful organic farmers, OTOH, tend to be quite mechanised and very financially savvy. While I like permaculture, it relies on people being willing to pay a decent price for food so they're more of an "after the revolution" thing. The biodynamic rice I buy (don't ask) costs $5/kg in bulk (200kg+) compared to $1/kg or less for conventional rice.

93:

There's a larger-scale version of the singularity, which is that we really that going around 150-ish years ago with the Second Industrial Revolution.

There was a paper a few years ago that looked at various curves of progress and concluded that yes, it was the introduction of steam power that kicked things off. I'll see if I can locate it.

Me, I've long thought that the arrival of the metal movable type printing press in Europe in the second half of the 1400s, coincident with the Renaissance, was when the fall into the/a singularity started. YMMV.

94:

On that note, there's something weird about devout Christians doing biodynamic farming. They appear to be serious Steiners, rather than some of the folk I know who are certified biodynamic purely because it increases their market (it's a subset of organic with extra woo. emphasizing spiritual and mystical perspectives as wikipedia puts it).

Industrialised can be done well, but it's generally not. In Australia the grocery monopsony makes it even harder as the two big operators cooperate to starve farmers into submission. I try to buy produce at the smaller shops but that can be tricky as the duopoly also like them some exclusive supply agreements.

95:

Your entire post is based on a misconception of how modern universities in the US actually work. To quote my former guidance counselor

"You're not paying for the education, you're paying for the network".

I won't go into Europe's situation, but in the US, it is easier to land an internship at a prestigious company if you're from a university within their network. It doesn't mean you're smarter than the other people, but that is a serious leg up for students. I'm not going to search for the article, but I did read that if you don't graduate from the top 30? law firms, your chance of making a salary large enough to pay your student loans is difficult.

Similarly, if you want to build a startup, VC's will pay attention to you if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, NYC, Seattle, or Boston and you've gone to Stanford or a few other Universities.

https://www.law.com/ctlawtribune/almID/1202792445992/?slreturn=20180024182519

In addition, salary increases your entire life are on average a multiple of your starting salary. Thus, having a high starting salary is very important. It's an open question whether these universities give you a high enough starting salary to make tuition affordable.

I will probably provide more evidence in a future post when I have time, and if there's a request for me to do this type of research.

As for your idea to ban tuition for these top universities, I think it's less effective than assumed. The rich get in due to their parents donating to endowments, not through the ability to pay tuition. In a similar fashion, the top companies also donate to these universities, and sometimes provide research grants for professors. Tuition for these universities is a rounding error budget-wise. I'm not saying that eliminating tuition is a bad idea, it's just ineffective.

A much better idea would be to eliminate tuition at Universities with low endowments. Those are the places where graduating students on average have low starting salaries, and that's where the student debt really hurts people.

Your idea of going through university administration with a butcher's knife is opposed in the US, but not for the reasons you think. Most of the people calling for such a heavy hand are Evangelical Christians, libertarians, or the alt-right. Who exactly do you think these people would lay off?

96:

...she immediately said that it must be a joke, because there is nothing in a camel that you can improve with a botox injection.

Found something that might precede that (Jan 20), though it doesn't mention botox specifically. The point being that with cobbled-together search tools (google translate of search terms, metasearch engines etc) the curious can often easily further explore the weirdness of reality, in this case getting a little closer to the source.
Google translate does an amusingly poor job at Arabic-to-English for this piece, reminding me a bit of altavista babelfish circa 2000
Saudi Arabia .. The largest camel festival in the world enters a decisive stage (Saturday, 4 Jumada I 1439 AH - 20 January 2018 AD)
In the town of Rammah, around 26,000 camel camel camel camel-camel camel-rattles, with a total of 119 million riyals (about 31.7 million dollars), are participating.
The sharp competition between camel owners has led some to try to beautify them to give more beauty points and win advanced positions. The festival management has seized more than 20 cases of "tampering and cheating" so far, according to organizers.

I shouldn't complain. It's near-infinitely better than I am at Arabic->English. (The Chrome translate button for the web page gives different results)

97:

Too bad you couldn't find a sucker (excuse me, customer) for the bamboo. Three hectares of bamboo is seriously annoying (and yes, I know how tough it is). Three hectares of useless bamboo is sad.

98:

Not exactly... there's another Roman wall further north, Antonine's Wall running from the Clyde to the Forth at the narrowest part of the Central Belt in Scotland. There were Roman settlements and military camps even further north but Antonine's Wall was pretty much the northern limit of the Roman Empire militarily speaking. There was no Scotland, not even Scotia, at that time.

I was born about a kilometre north of Antonine's Wall, something which I was rather proud of when I was younger for some reason.

99:

Who exactly do you think these people would lay off?

The sports coaches?

100:

I've got a couple of netbooks sitting here. They both have Atom CPUs with the standard Intel GMA945 video chipset. There are no Linux drivers for that graphics chip. There are lots of posts on the Web about the fact there are no Linux drivers for that graphics chip but no working solutions other than "try another netbook". There are working drivers for Windows 7 for that chipset which is why I installed Win 7 on one of them (the other has a bad keyboard and I don't need two netbooks).

"Linux is very user-friendly. It's just picky about who it wants to be friends with."

101:

I know how it works, I am merely pointing out that it is insane. From a society-wide standpoint, the value add of universities are 100 percent the actual skills they teach - The network effects do not make the USA richer, they just distribute the wealth to people who went to particular schools.

The point of banning the top ivies from collecting tuition is not just to save their students money - it would hopefully also go some way towards killing the prestige of a college education being expensive, because the top schools would all be free.

Re: Nojay.

.. Burning down college football would be a good start. It has been proven to land people with brain damage with terrifying frequency which is rather horrifyingly counter to the entire mission-statement of education.

102:

Too bad you couldn't find a sucker (excuse me, customer) for the bamboo.

I see what you did there.

103:
“My experience with Windoze 10 suggests that pattern is now broken.”

I haven't had that, and warning signs in the local PC shops suggest that the opposite is increasingly true. They're saying "latest Intel and AMD processors only support Windows 10".

The particular pattern I was addressing was that of little or no computer expertise being required to assemble a useable system that would run Windoze. Even as late as Windows 7 you didn't have to know that much about what you were doing to build a functional Windoze computer.

104:

Making these colleges free won't shrink or kill the prestige at all. It will increase the prestige, if anything else. What these colleges are saying is: we're rich enough that we can afford to not charge tuition. It would increase the prestige of the schools that have no tuition.

A better solution is on the other end of the spectrum. Prestigious companies would need to hire from a more diverse set of colleges. That would be more effective. Likewise, making the less prestigious schools free would probably help the poor more?

If you were to remove tuition, you'd place much more emphasis on standardized tests and other academic admissions criteria. The cost would filter down to tutors who help students get into these universities. It would go from not being able to afford the tuition to not being able to afford the tutor. It costs the poor just as much if not more, it just changes who gets the money.

I agree with you that these network effects are insane. What I'm disagreeing with you is that your solution is very ineffective from this perspective.

105:

Well, in the last hour one of the "team" on the Steve Wrong, er Wright show (Radio 2) just said that "Hadrian's Wall is in Scotland" (no it isn't not even slightly).

Can you imagine the reaction if someone on Radio Scotland claimed that?

Perhaps he meant the Antonine Wall?

106:

little or no computer expertise being required to assemble a useable system that would run Windoze

I don't recall that ever being true. I worked assembling PCs in the late 1980's and a lot of the "design" work was discovering a set of components that would work together. In my every 5 years or so PC buys since that seems to be ongoing. Sure, you *can* buy a set of random bits and put them together, and they're more likely to work now than a similar set 20 years ago. But the gap between "I did it and it just worked" and "I had a problem and the skills to solve it" continues to be vast. Iterating components at home for a single PC is expensive as well as time-consuming, since few shops will let you return them after you've used them.

At the level of "I chose my own monitor and keyboard", sure, any monkey can succeed. But motherboard and video card? Do you feel lucky?

107:

I agree that it was a pain in the arse in the early days of PCs, when everyone and their dog came up with their own variant of a bodge to get around the restrictions of the original architecture and there was nothing better than DOS to sit on top of it. But it settled down a lot once people had more or less agreed that PCI was the way to go for the backplane bus and IDE for hard drives, and proper protected-mode OSes became available. With Windows at least, it was reasonable to expect that if it would physically plug together then you would be able to find the drivers to make it all work; of course there were times when it all went to shit, but you could usually get it going eventually if you could tolerate reinstalling stuff an indefinite number of times without going nuts. Maybe it wouldn't be giving full performance, but nearly everyone would never notice.

Linux was more of a problem because of arsehole manufacturers refusing to release the necessary information for people to write drivers, but while there are still odd pools of that with particular classes of devices, most of them have now mended their ways at least far enough that unavailability of working drivers is not a routine occurrence.

Things are even easier these days because so many of the things that used to need expansion cards are now provided on the motherboard, so all the questions of is there a driver for this and is there a driver for that usually boil down to is there a driver for this motherboard's chipset, which there usually is and it gets everything going.

It definitely seems to me that putting together a set of components and getting them to operate has got continually easier ever since PCs appeared and is now easier than it's ever been. Now if one is trying to put together a set of components to operate to the fullest extent of their potential, then certainly that is just as much of an arseache as it ever was, involving endless tedious research based on sources that are doing their best not to reveal any information that helps you make a rational decision, and leaving you with the persistently niggling feeling that anything you're not quite satisfied with is the result of some wrong decision you made, rather than just being the way things are. But that's usually a waste of effort in any case because in six months' time you'll be able to get the same performance just by buying what's easiest to get hold of, so you might as well just do that anyway and save the hassle.

108:

I think you sell yourself short.

Smart Law is a startup that uses an ingenious trust structure to grant trusteeship for property to an Ethereum smart contract. Gave me accelerando style chills when I saw an open source trust legal document, alongside the code for the smart contract in a github repo. https://github.com/smart-law/smartlaw-trust

You also have an arguable venture altruist in Vitalik Buterin, who effectively lives in transit between meetups and conferences, granting his insights into crypto startups free of charge. Although he has made quite a packet in the process as an original investor in his own product. He has been forced away from the advising somewhat as scam artists were claiming his involvement where it wasn't granted. His current project, minimum viable plasma uses the wtfpl license.

Obviously you aren't an all seeing, all powerful god. But you have gotten a fair bit right. No pressure but I am sure a new Accelerando would be an amazing insight to unfolding tech trends, accuracy notwithstanding.

109:

No, really, the BBC has plenty of biases.
Finally someone from your side of the pond who says this.

What we see (or hear) of the BBC News in the US is posited as unbiased but it sure seems to have a big slant on nearly every story I've ever seen/heard.

110:

.. educational loans are a great thing to invest in, because even bankruptcy doesn't absolve you of them, at least in the US. ... I suspect that's one factor that's driven the rise in tuition rates--how many financiers are on college boards?

Not really. Currently the US Government, the Feds, guarantees (in simplistic terms) edu loans so that once the paperwork is done the colleges and such have the money and now repayment is between the "student" and the loan process acting as the agent for the feds.

The biggest issue is if you have somewhat OK grades and aren't a convicted forger you can get into most any school in the US with grants and loans covering whatever the tuition is. So school A doing things on a sensible financial basis will have trouble attracting students when school B is building student centers with olympic sized pools and dorms with private rooms and kitchens has them standing in line. In either case the school will get the tuition asked via loans and grants.

111:

I went to school at the University of KY. Engineering. This is no where near a "top" school. I'd saw mid tier or maybe a bit below it.

My roommate was on the same engineering track. He did his next year after graduation at Georgi Tech. He told me they kept telling him he was a part of their minority outreach program. They were referring to U of K, NOT his ethnic makeup.

He got his Phd from at U Davis or Berkley (I forget which) in Physics while working at Lawrence Livermore Labs. He got the same razzing there. And Georgia Tech was/is an upper level school but was/is still not considered a top flight technology school.

112:

Every now and again I bump into a small amount[1] of bamboo growing on a green way or such. I keep wondering just what someone tossed out with the bamboo in it. It took effort to get to where I've found it.

[1] Which typically keep growing into a less small amount.

113:

Meanwhile, home in Edinburgh, eight vehicles have been discovered trapped in an abandoned robot car park during demolition work.

Most airports in the US have an auction every year or more often for lost and found plus surplus property. Locally our mid sized airport usually has several "lost and found" cars where the owner can't be tracked down or refuses to come get the car. I wonder about the back story in these cases. And when I last looked at one of these the cars were not junkers. Mid to upper end models.

114:

It might not be a top flight school, but it is one the best engineering schools in the USA. I should know: Georgia Tech is my Alma Mater.

Here are the US News and World Undergraduate rankings

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/engineering-doctorate

Overall, it's Undergrad Engineering program is tied for 4th with CalTech

In Aerospace, it's second in the nation

https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/engineering-doctorate-aerospace-aeronautical-astronautical

You can go through the other engineering fields. It's in the top 5 in a lot of them.

Biomedical: 1st
Chemical: 3rd
Civil: 2nd
Computer Science: 6th
Electrical: 2nd
Environmental Science: 2nd
Industrial: 1st
Materials: 5th
Mechanical: 3rd

In short, you're wrong about GTech. It's among the top engineering schools in the US. That's why it has an endowment of over a billion dollars.

Second, what I said wasn't an absolute statement. You can succeed without going to a top school, but it's harder. The fact that there are exceptions doesn't negate what I said.

115:

Heteromeles @89 said: Here, I'm just thinking of Accelerando not being an alt-future SF, but the equivalent of the wizarding world, inhabited by non-conformists with PhDs and brilliant dropouts, a world that is under threat from planners, business suits and marketroids who have none of the redeeming traits of the protagonists.

Wiki - Eureka (U.S. TV series)

The government isolated geniuses and tech after WWII, continuing the Manhattan Project style of isolation. The town is advanced high-tech, limiting the introduction of technology into regular society.

- One episode hints of actual Mars bases.
- Another episode hints that a singularity occurred in the town at some point, and the current Eureka is built near it.

There are related series, with crossover episodes:

Wiki - Warehouse 13

Wiki - Alphas

The key point, is that no Singularity would engulf the world. There would be Spikes where high-tech campuses would enter a singularity, leaving the world behind.

We have that right now, with divergent tech levels depending where you live in the world. Even in the US you can find vastly divergent tech levels across the country that are astonishing.

BTW, when I read The Laundry series, I see Harry Potter's Ministry of Magic, and Stephen King's books, all existing in the same world. The Geas of the Landry, The Magic of the Ministry, all make it impossible for them to see each other.

- Carrie and Firestarter are about untrained magic users like Dumbledore's sister.

You could literally have Bob Howard in a bar, sitting beside Harry Potter, both having a drink, and their geas would make them unnoticed by the other. Danny Torrance(Doctor Sleep) could be having chips and a beer beside them, and not pick up on their Shine.

They all exist in the same Lovecraftian reality. At least in my mind they do. HA!

116:

On the right and the comodotisation of education. I have wondered if one of the reasons that libertarian types are often so keen on space colonisation is that it would realise the ultimate capitalist rent extraction dream of being able to charge people for the air that they breath.

117:

No
They thought of it as the border between the bit they controlled & the bit they didn't.
If only, because so many people have either never heard of, or have forgotten ....
The Antonine Wall

118:

NOT amusing.
1] Let's remember, I live in London whose excess of money pays for a lot of the rest of the UK in taxes ...
2] - then there's this little thing called the "Barnett Formula", whereby Scotland gets an over-share of overall taxation-spend compared to the rest of the UK. Do "we" get any thanks for this? Of course not, we're the "evil English" & just collect more abuse.
3] Now, put [1] & [2] together & then look at those areas where (effectively) the SNP have had a monopoly of control on that spending (all of it) on purely devolved issues ... so "Westminster" cannot be blamed AT ALL ....
This brings us to:
4a] Health spending & outcomes in Scotland - significantly worse than south of the border & the SNP are still trying to blame "us" - why?
4b] The complete disaster of "Police Scotland" where the erm, err "Nice gentlemen from Gleskie" are running the whole show, with distinctly unimpressive results. [ The specialist area of railway/transport policing has taken a very bad hit as a result. ]
4c] Education in Scotland, once one of the best on the planet, has sunk down the league-tables to an alarming degree. It used to be much better than England's, & is now well-below, for starters.
4d] I am given to understand, & this may need updating/correcting - but ... the previous attempt to have Blockleiter/Blockwarten installed to spy on every child in Alba was quashed, quite rightly on privacy & interference & "STASI-control" grounds. But, I'm told that they are having another go at this revolting piece of state mind-control.
Scotsman article here
BBC article on proposed attempts to make spying look good, oops, "amelioration".

Funny little interfering ( & often christian ) speirin' busybodies, yes/no?
I regard them as about as funny & lovable as J Rees-Fogg & for very similar reasons.

119:

Australia's ABC has suffered a similar gradual grinding away at their actual "news" capabilities since approximately the election of John Howard as Prime Minister (Mr Howard once got a rather snippy answer from Kerry O'Brien on the subject of "bias" during an election run-up period, where Kerry pointed out the Liberal party had so far received more coverage than the ALP, and would Mr Howard now kindly answer the question he was being asked in the first place? I remember watching and thinking "well, there goes the ABC's budget..."). To the point where they now have an ex News Corporation[1] staffer as their CEO, and boy does it show.

[1] Mr Murdoch, gods bless him and keep him far away from us, has a major hate-on for the ABC, because for a long time there it wasn't complying with his vision for what the media ought to be providing (it was offering barbecue flavour chips instead of the standard Murdoch/mainstream options of salt-and-vinegar or vinegar-and-salt). Things have changed in the last twelve months.

120:

I'd organize borrowers to strike by simply refusing, en masse, to not pay their student loans.
YOU can try that, if you like!
You do realise that the loan-co's & their bought politicians would simply go to law & then send the Baliff's round to distrain your property?

121:

NOT "just" steam-power - because that goes back to Newcomen in the 1715-20 period.
It was the "High Pressure" steam engines of Watt/Boulton AND the other Watt "peripherals" - vitally the parallel-motion, the speed-governor & separate condenser "bits" that did it - followed by making that power mobile: Trevithick / Stephenson / Hackworth et al.

122:

No
The entire biology anthropology & history departments, for starters.
They would likely increase spending on "team spurts" - muscular christianity, shudder ......

123:

I'll include anything that is potentially or actively physiologically or psychologically addictive, and is also perception altering. So alcohol but not caffeine or nicotine (fail the perception altering test).

124:

seeing an Austin Maestro presumably in more or less one bit
I'm going to guess that you never used an Au'tin Oxymoron as regular transport. I can say something positive about them though; the one he bought convinced my Dad to buy a Citroen BX as his next car.

125:

Perhaps he meant the Antonine Wall?

He actively said the word "Hadrian" several times. It's a crashing failure of research and/or education on the parts of at least 3 people since no-one in the studio on-air "talent" called him on it.

126:

1] Even if we consider the "money made" by a company to made where its facilities are, rather than where its registered office is?

2] The Barnett Formula was proposed and agreed by a Westminster parliament where England has a built-in permanent hyper-majority in both chambers.

[3 and 4] Cites needed.

127:

The BBC World Service is still quite different to the BBC domestically.
The domestic BBC is a mouthpiece for the government of the day as mentioned above, and the calibre of news reporting has fallen through the floor, it's now on par with Sky News.

The World Service was long the international voice of the Foreign Office, until being progressively dumped back in with the rest of the BBC as a punishment in the shakeups from 2005-2011. It still has a reasonable amount of independence, presumably because its remit is to annoy foreigners rather than the UK Government. It also relies heavily on a long standing network of international stringers so the calibre of its reporting is much higher - the same stringers also show up on Al-Jazeera English, Deutsche Welle and the rest.

To be fair to the international services though, it's pretty damn hard to find any broadcast in America that isn't slanted heavily in some direction, and the papers are mostly terrible. Compared with Fox News, even neutrality would be radical left wing.

128:

1] Income to the governement in taxes. You can divide by the proportions of population, if you like, with about 10% of it being in Scotland? It won't make any significant difference.
2] Yes, so - your point was? My point was that Scotland & the SNP gets extra money & does less well with it & then blames everyone else!
3] Is putting 1 & 2 together
4} I recommend reading the papers & even official statistics, or ghu help you the debates in Holyrood, where these figures have been pointed out, repeatedly.
( IIRC Charlie has commented on the modus operandii & professionalism (not) of the new "Police Scotland" set-up. )

129:

1] The Treasury refuse to state where tax liabilities are actually incurred, rather than where they are levied. This gives a strong SE England bias because of the distribution of firms' registered offices rather than their actual profit centres.

2] Since the Barnett Formula was an English idea, voted for by the English, it is not valid to claim that it was created by the "Ebil Scots" as you persist in doing.

130:

On that note, a few years after "Accelerando: came out, the British government passed some legislation to clarify corporate ownership—a really murky area in the UK in general (don't get me started about Scottish Limited Liability Partnerships and offshore trusts/tax avoidance!). The directors of a company must be human beings. Formerly, companies could occupy the role of chair or secretary within another company: subsequently, the chain of ownership is implicitly collapsed, so that if company A is a director of company B and company B does something naughty, the directors of company A are personally liable. In other words, you can't hide your ownership through a network of companies (and the self-generating/modifying companies in "Accelerando" are not legally viable).

With a few years' reflection on the subject, I am of the opinion that this is a Good Thing.

131:

And yet despite all the relentless SNPbad propaganda churned out by the (almost entirely) Unionist media they remain the first choice of the people who actually live in Scotland and can see firsthand what is actually going on.

Scottish voting intentions for the next Westminster general election (YouGov for the Scottish edition of The Times., 12th-16th January 2018):

SNP 36% (-4)
Labour 28% (-2)
Conservatives 23% (n/c)
Liberal Democrats 6% (+1)
Greens 3% (+2)
UKIP 3% (+2)

Scottish Parliament voting intentions (constituency ballot):

SNP 38% (-4)
Conservatives 26% (+1)
Labour 23% (-2)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+2)
Greens 3% (+1)
UKIP 2% (+1)

Scottish Parliament voting intentions (regional list ballot):

SNP 32% (-3)
Conservatives 25% (+2)
Labour 22% (-2)
Greens 10% (+4)
Liberal Democrats 7% (+1)
UKIP 3% (+2)
SSP 2% (-1)

132:

From the BBC
When we talk about crime rates we usually look at two things: police records and the number of incidents reported in the annual 38,000-person Crime Survey for England and Wales.


Neither is wrong but the more difficult question is which best represents how much crime is actually being committed.
[...]
Scotland has a similar survey on perceptions of crime that runs every two years, however, and in the most recent one, crimes committed against adults were down 34% since 2008-09 and 16% since the previous survey in 2012-13.
Crimes recorded by the police in Scotland are at their lowest level since 1974.
Discrepancies in the data
The England and Wales survey, which is conducted face-to-face and asks individuals about their experiences of crime, suggests crime fell by 9% in the 12 months to June 2017 compared with the year before.
In contrast, police-recorded crime went up by 13% in the past year. Violent crime went up by 19% and violence that resulted in injury by 10%.

133:

...they remain the first choice of the people who actually live in Scotland...

They may be the largest choice; but are certainly not the majority choice, as your figures show.

I'm in the ( :) I think logically consistent, YMMV :) *) position of being a Unionist Remainer. According to those who shout, I'm twice-blessed in being supported by those relentless waves of BBC black propaganda... and obviously, I just don't notice it. I'll add that I'm a believer in equality, and UK-politically centrist, so make that four-times blessed - obviously some kind of snowflake SJW who thinks that by and large, the BBC does pretty well at operating without obvious bias**

I find it amusing that those who use hyperbole to attack the BBC's bias are often unwilling to credit, or even notice, when the BBC reports themes in a way they agree with... Curse them for their lies about the Independence Campaign, how dare they run stories about nice foreigners.

* I get all cynical about the approach of "blame everything on the next level up, and insist that all power must be moved one level downwards, to allow 'this' level to freely operate with great success as an inevitable land of unicorns and chocolate fountains for all". I don't see the logic in arguing that Holyrood is a historical imperative, Westminster is to blame for everything, but Brussels is our natural home; or that Holyrood has it all wrong, Westminster is inviolable, and it's all Brussels' fault.

** The BBC do occasionally cock it up. In the early 00s, BBC Sport refused to show shooting sports on TV, even when UK athletes were busy winning medals. My suspician was that it was a quiet effort at (senior) editor level, although they refused to admit it. Once it was pointed out after the 2002 Commonwealth Games / 2004 Olympics, they changed their approach (having denied any such policy existed, of course)...

134:

Unionist Remainer is a position held by no UK political party. Is it logical to hold a political position you can't even vote in support of? Practically you have to decide on the lesser evil.

135:

I'm in the ( :) I think logically consistent, YMMV :) *) position of being a Unionist Remainer.

I don't see anything particularly illogical in your position if treating those 2 issues in isolation. As William points out, there is no party political platform that supports both of those issues.

Given the then growing momentum for Brexit in Englandshire, I had to vote for the dissolution of the Union since I regard EU membership as more beneficial to Scotland than appeasing "Little Englanders".

136:

According to ol' Google, about 40 million Americans hold a total of $1.2 trillion in student debt (only mortgage debt is higher).

In comparison, there are around 2 million people in US prisons, and we're notorious for how willing we are to lock up people to keep the prison-industrial complex going.

In any case, if there was a widespread strike by, say, 5% of debtholders (~2 million people) to refuse to pay their student loans, I don't think all the sheriffs are going to be able to collect those debts. And it gets worse for the debt-holders, the more people who refuse. Losing a $1.2 trillion asset to mass, non-violent action would sting a little, especially since our gross domestic product is $18.57 trillion/year. Even the billionaires might notice.

Also (different response) I checked and, while it's theoretically possible to use bankruptcy to purge your student debts, in practice it's quite hard, meaning that you have to have a good paper trail demonstrating you've tried to follow the law and you're basically on the street as a result, and/or even if you paid for the rest of your life, you'd still be in debt. Anything less and you have to keep paying.

137:

The difficulty is getting everyone to do it all at the same time so the response mechanisms really are overloaded, and so the people doing it can be reasonably assured of avoiding being shat on. Getting everyone to feel strongly enough about something to all rebel together is not very easy. Thatcher managed it over here with the poll tax, but anything less than that fails to achieve full insertion.

138:

7 December 2017 Fewer patients in Scotland are waiting longer than four hours in A&E than they did in 2012/3 in contrast to England where the number has more than doubled, according to new research by the BBC.

It found England had a 155% rise in long waits between 2012/3 and this year, up to 2.5 million a year.[...]
Hospitals in Wales and Northern Ireland also saw an increase over the period.
In Scotland, the number of patients waiting more than four hours fell by 9% to just over 100,000.
NHS targets give hospitals four hours in which to treat and discharge or admit or transfer a patient.
They are expected to do that in 95% of cases.
[...]
Scottish A&Es were the closest of the UK nations to hitting the 95% target, managing to deal with 93.9% of cases within four hours - up from 93.2% in 2012/3.
In England, there were almost 1.7 million more patients attending A&E than four years ago, a rise of 7.8%.
Only 136,364 extra were treated within the four-hour target, meaning almost 1.6 million more patients were outside the limit.
As a consequence, England went from meeting the 95% target in 2012-13 to reaching just 89.1% in the latest data.
[...]
Health Secretary Shona Robison often proclaims Scotland's A&E departments are the best performing anywhere in the UK. These new figures certainly seem to back that up.
Since 2013 the number of patients seen within four hours has risen slightly, while the number waiting longer is down nearly 9%. Contrast with England, which has seen a dramatic 155% rise in people waiting longer than the target time.

139:

Anyone who would participate in that would torpedo their credit score. You are aware how important that is for buying a house, a car, even getting rent in a good neighborhood. These days, I've heard that more and more companies check your credit score before hiring you. Sheriffs aren't the only punishment that can be employed. Five percent would be worth the hit economically, since they have the option to outsource the job if they can't suitable workers with good credit scores. That's in addition to what they would do to the organizers of this strike

140:

"At the level of "I chose my own monitor and keyboard", sure, any monkey can succeed. But motherboard and video card? Do you feel lucky?"

I think the key to problem free system building is and always was: buy better than average quality components, particularly the motherboard, and not the very bleeding edge. Do that and the system will very likely work and be very stable and long lived. Getting the cheapest motherboard you can find with particular specs, and a power supply that ought to just be large enough... and you are on a unit cost reduction quest for one unit and might end up trying to figure out which combination of just barely test passing bits work together. This is also why store bought PC's sometimes mysteriously can't take even minor upgrades.

141:

As you say, the Greens have grounds for complaint, but I strongly suspect that they have to do that in order to avoid their pro-environmental documentary programs from being, er, brought into line.

Sorry, I don't follow you there. Could you explain a bit, please?

142:

I have a hot take on higher education.

Higher education costs are NOT up for the past few decades, and the rise before that isn't the real problem.

I looked it up for University of Washington, Seattle this year after getting into a discussion about this again. I knew that that wasn't the main factor in tuition pain, but I was actually very surprised. For the past 28 years, after inflation adjustment, the University spend per undergraduate is within 5% of what it was 28 years ago. I have not looked around more broadly to see if that is true around the nation or world, but I don't think there is anything particularly unique about this university. Higher education is a classic low-productivity growth human interaction industry and should be expected to grow faster than GDP, but it isn't even growing faster than inflation. People talk a lot about how much harvard, mit, etc spend... but they don't really matter. Those ultra-elite institutions educate very few students and don't really try to provide education at a reasonable price. They just try to do the very best with money being no object. They kind of don't matter in the same way that the price of a Lamborghini is irrelevant to the price of a car.

It is pointless to try to figure out where the 'blame' for cost increases lies, because costs are not up. That isn't the problem at all.

The reality is that there are two problems (in no particular order, because they are both huge:

A) State support. State support (money the state gives directly to universities to educate students which is applied before tuition is calculated) for higher education is WAY down from what it was decades ago. 30 years ago the State of Washington paid 80% or more of the cost of a state university or college. Now it is 25%. Tuition has nearly tripled for that reason. As mentioned previously federal grants have remained essentially fixed with loans making up the gap, so students and their families are also paying more of that tuition.

B) Inequality. If the income distribution today in the US were the same as in 1970 median family income would be around $95k instead of around $55k. $40,000 a year. The college tuition increases we have seen over the past 40-50 years would be much, much more affordable if the rich had not taken all that income.

Essentially it is the same problem we see everywhere we look. In a highly unequal society like the one we have been building for 40 years 'luxuries' like higher education, home ownership, retirement, etc are available only to a small minority.

143:

I don't think you understand how non-violent actions work. It's like warning everybody who marched with King that they would be discriminated against, or that everybody who went on the salt march with Gandhi would be thrown in the black hole.

Fine, nuke the credit scores of everybody in the middle class. See what happens next, which is that the home building sector starts spiking bankruptcies, the credit industry collapses with no one to trust with cards, the car industry can't do car loans, the banks can't lend for home purchase...

That's the fundamental point: when you've got too much debt, both the borrow and the lender are in a tug of war. Assuming that the lender automatically wins is incorrect, because they can be bankrupted by the default as easily as the debtor can.

Jeff Fisher (#142) has the better point, which is that governments have both privatized education and made it highly profitable for whoever is picking up the loans. If we wanted to do it more fairly to the students, we could, at least theoretically, nuke the student loan sector by mass non-payment and force the government to take public education back on, because paying for education in taxes is cheaper per capita than paying for the debt plus interest to the private sector.

Does this make sense yet?

144:

At the level of "I chose my own monitor and keyboard", sure, any monkey can succeed. But motherboard and video card? Do you feel lucky?

All the time!

Twenty+ years ago, an employer dumped me into the deep end with no support and/or guidance and left me to figure it out for myself. Sink or swim.

I bought a book titled something like How To Build Your Own Computer And Save A Bundle, a copy of Computer Shopper Magazine and built my first computer.

Other than laptops, I've been building my own computers ever since and along the way I built computers for family & friends when they needed to get started. I even managed to land a job at IBM because I'd learned the difference between Micro Channel Architecture[1] and the ISA bus.

I've even thought of trying my hand at building a Hackintosh.

[1] There is no such thing as an "MCA" bus - MCA is the registered trademark of Music Corporation of America. I learned that my first day on the job at IBM.

145:

Agreed.
Also the hiding of ownersip of companies, US-style is (IIRC) outright prohibited, in English law at any rate - & you must file accounts with Companies House, etc.
It's called "transparency"
Even so, there's an awful lot of semi-hidden owns=erships & back-channels, but it is not (yet) nearly as bad as the US "system"

146:

Most airports in the US have an auction every year or more often for lost and found plus surplus property. Locally our mid sized airport usually has several "lost and found" cars where the owner can't be tracked down or refuses to come get the car. I wonder about the back story in these cases. And when I last looked at one of these the cars were not junkers. Mid to upper end models.

Best place to dump a hot car so it won't be found too soon is the long-term parking lot at a mid-sized airport ... or so I have been informed.

147:

On the right and the comodotisation of education. I have wondered if one of the reasons that libertarian types are often so keen on space colonisation is that it would realise the ultimate capitalist rent extraction dream of being able to charge people for the air that they breath.

It's a staple meme in SciFi

148:

I suggest that you look at the geographical economics rather more closely, and don't just take that claim at its face value. The majority of major of infrastructure projects are designed to benefit London, even when they are not in it, and many of us are forced to spend money in London when we don't want to. No, London is NOT hard done-by!

And you have been mainlining on the tabloids again. The problem of dysfunctional and bigoted (yes, think religious extremist) parents is a major cause of many of the UK's social and economic ills. I have seen figures of 30%, and I can believe it because it matches other data. For all its faults (and I agree it was fault-ridden), that Named Person law was an attempt to get us out of the hole.

149:

A large number of our MPs are paid agents of large corporations with an interest in emasculating the environmental lobby, such as it is in the UK. They have in the past tried to get the BBC's documentaries muzzled, and even targetted David Attenborough's programs.

150:

He actively said the word "Hadrian" several times. It's a crashing failure of research and/or education on the parts of at least 3 people since no-one in the studio on-air "talent" called him on it.

Still, he might not know the difference and just be using the wrong name. Sometimes thing take on colloquial meanings that have nothing to do with their reality.

I frequently hear references to "The Mason-Dixon Line" as the delimiter between the Confederacy and the Union in U.S. History, but hardly anyone using it knows where the Mason-Dixon line actually is.

It's the border between Maryland, Delaware & Pennsylvania, surveyed 1763 to 1767 to resolve conflicts due to overlapping colonial charters - if anyone cares.

151:

... but hardly anyone using it knows where the Mason-Dixon line actually is.

That should read "hardly anyone using it in that way knows where the Mason-Dixon line actually is."

152:

I'm not convinced public universities should even *have* a sports program.

People want one, let them have bake sales.

When I was going, I way paying for an education, not for that crap. And note that in the US, I've read of college coaches earning $5M/year! Screw that noise. Nor do I see any reason a college president deserves to earn more than, say, the President of the US (just under $500k/yr).

153:

Note that if you consider going to one, ask if the cops have *seriously* examined the car before you bid.

I'd rather no one here was busted for possession of, say, $5M of coke or skag that was in the hub caps.

154:

Zombiephones! (Er, "smart phones"), which make you a stupid zombie, while allowing google and other advertising platforms to track you 24x7.

Why, yes, I only own a flipphone. It's a "cellular telephone", for "talking to people at a distance", since I'm not actually afraid to *talk* to people....

155:

In '09, I installed the "Ubuntu netbook remix" on my then-new Netbook, and it just worked.

Well, yeah. I have only used desktops at home, and I've had more problems with Linux installations than with Windows. For example, for a long time it used to be a hassle to get proper drivers for relatively new graphics cards. Also, for some years after updating Ubuntu it was a hassle to get the DVD and sound working again. For me and the hardware I had bought.

However, the 'best' driver(ish) bug was over ten years ago, when the latest kernels from Ubuntu oopsed at boot time. I ran an older, working one for a couple of months until I got frustrated that the new kernels didn't work and debugged that oops. It was in some part of kernel I forget, but there was a Ubuntu-specific change which broke the kernel for my motherboard. After reverting it to the mainline kernel, the new kernel booted.

Ubuntu fixed that soon after, but I was kind of angry at them for a long while. I didn't change my installed distribution, but I've migrated more and more towards Windows as my regular home system. (Virtualbox helps, it's nice to have a Linux machine or three to be called up as I wish.)

Anyway, anecdotes don't really prove anything one way or another.

156:

Re: the oxfam papers claims.

I've grown to not trust oxfams papers. I'm starting to think of how they do their math as "oxfam accounting"

There tends to be a lot of tricks in their wording and methods. They'll also tend to come out with claims that sound more profound than they really are.

examples, "Last year saw the biggest increase in billionaires in history"

This is a statement that you could male almost every year in any inflationary system even if the wealth of the rich wasn't expanding. (no I'm not making a counter claim on that score but an almost-tautology is still an almost-tautology)

As the value of dollars gradually drops due to inflation each year a slightly lower tier of the pyramid would fall into the billionaire category.

I tried to follow the citation for "The world's top 1% earned 82% of all wealth generated in 2017" which led to another oxfam report..... which cited another oxfam report.... which cited a credit-suisse report for the 82% figure. But when I read the actual credit-suisse report it doesn't seem to support the claim.
It *might* be close for the top *decile* or they may be playing games with "oxfam accounting" but it doesn't look correct to me.

I suspect it's going to be like the report which summed in debts such that Jérôme Kerviel was considered the worlds poorest man and his debt was considered to cancel out the wealth of many actually-poor people.

157:

Eh, it's an obsolete reference for contemporary U.S. political/cultural discussions, anyway.

Delaware, Maryland, and, increasingly, Virginia--the birthplace of the South--have been assimilated into the "blue" northeast corridor, and they're all south of the Mason-Dixon.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania west of Greater Philadelphia has been assimilated into "red" America along with the Rust Belt Midwest.

158:

The Liberal Democrats' somewhat mealy-mouthed position is that they acknowledge the result of the 2016 referendum, which gave the Government a mandate to start negotiations to leave but that they would prefer a soft Brexit to a hard Brexit and they would like to have an exit referendum on the negotiated terms. Mind you, this might actually be clearer than Jeremy Corbyn's position.

159:
What seems clear to me is the downright arrogance & bitchiness of the SNP in taking this freely-offered subvention & then turning round & spitting in our "southern" faces, but that is also an other separate issue.
Damn those uppity SNPers for their disrespectful lack of forelock tugging eh?
160:

Um, about PA: that could change. Esp. when they redraw the district maps, as they were just given fast marching orders by the PA Supreme Court, based on the PA Constitution... which should *not* give the GOP standing to complain to the US Supreme Court, as this is a states' rights issue (hah! Even though PA is a commonwealth, as opposed to a state, as is, um, MA, and one or two others.)

161:

Ok, I think I see the problem. You haven't noticed that the government has a different tool set than they did in MLK's day, or they did in Gandhi's day. You're using a playbook that's in a lot of ways outdated.

"Assuming that the lender automatically wins is incorrect"

I'm assuming that the lender has between 67 and 75 percent chance of winning.

If you don't believe me, look at what they did to Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.

1. They'll make it about race. They'll say that not paying off the student loans is a "black thing". That has been very effective in neutralizing Black Lives Matter in the US. According to slate, "Trump won young whites". White people are still about half of college graduates.

http://www.slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/01/republicans-dont-actually-want-to-help-dreamers.html

2. A lot of the debtors in this case are pension funds. Somehow, I believe that they'll take all the losses from this. This will do a few things:

a. Insulate the 1 percent from the pain
b. Probably cause a bunch of people to reconsider the movement because their grandparents are hurting. Peer pressure is an effective tool
c. Cut the pensions the 1 percent have always wanted to cut, knowing it will be blamed on the students
d. It will create a demand to do something to punish the students. The punishments don't have to be financial: restricted internet use, mandatory GPS trackers, etc.
e. Allow the government to crack down further on liberal movements under a guise of protecting pensions.

3. They can use the carrot of a higher credit score for people who cooperate more, splitting the movement.

4. Say that the students have been "indoctrinated by their teachers". Congratulations, you've given Conservatives carte-blanche to restrict "leftist" speech in universities and fire dissenting professors under the guise of "cost-cutting".

5. Heck, they could even use this to privatize primary and secondary education?

6. You're assuming of course that threatening to cut the credit score is not an effective deterrent already.

162:

OK, but how does that relate to Greens as a party not being on a political program? Do the Greens think that if they make waves about not being included the documentaries will be cut in revenge?

163:

I'm not convinced public universities should even *have* a sports program.

I'm with you on that one.

I'm good with fitness facilities (for use by all students) but I rather resented part of my tuition going to support various university teams.

I make the same argument at the high school level: athletics for health are good, but competitive teams that cut (or bench) students who aren't good enough are draining resources that could be better spent elsewhere (including programs that promote general fitness). I think it more important that every kid has a physical activity that the enjoy (and regularly do) than the school has a winning volleyball team. But I think I'm in the minority on that.

164:

That's the next error, assuming Occupy and Black Lives Matter failed because non-violent protest doesn't work. Actually, it works about twice as often as armed violence, so were I trying some violent means of taking down the banks (say, nuking Manhattan), I'd have about a 0% chance, as opposed to, reasonably, a 25% chance with non-violence.

AFAIK (and there are post-mortem analyses readily available), Occupy failed because it lacked three things that Gandhi and MLK had: a clear set of goals, a strategy to achieve those goals, and an organization with which to carry out that strategy. Experienced people involved in Occupy from the get-go latter described how it failed, because the Occupiers couldn't gel around what they wanted to do, they tried to become all things to all people, and they didn't have the structure to make that work. Yes, this is an endemic problem with non-violent movements, but I'd point out it's an equally bad problem with violent movements, too (cf: the Alt Right).

I don't remember reading an analysis for Black Lives Matter, to be fully fair.

For a hypothetical non-payment movement, I'm suggesting a single goal: make education a more public institution by wide-scale non-payment of student loans. If a movement formed around nothing but that and had a strategy to make it work (and I do not), then it would already be better positioned than Occupy.

As for the rest of your comments, I don't think it can be made to be about race, because college debt is still a mostly white and especially male thing. Retaining black and Latino students has been a perennial problem for every US university, so far as I know. Conversely, student loan debt crosses party lines in a way that race no longer does.

You're quite right that it will be turned into a clash between well-off white pensioners and younger diverse students. The part where the strategy critically matters is when you deal with everyone in between: Most American professionals, including quite a lot of politicians, have student loan debt. If you can make a case that the money they save by not paying their loans would make for a better retirement than they can hope to get from the 405K that invested in part of that loan, I suspect they'll go for it. After all, both the Resistance and the Tea Party make the similar critique that government is puppeted by the wealthy. They just target different wealthy individuals. Bringing money back to the people across the board might have broad support, if it is limited to that issue alone.

As for credit scores, at least here in coastal California, every year fewer people can afford to buy a home, and even townhomes and condos are running north of $500,000. One of the things that keeps people from buying homes is student debt, especially since it can't be discharged except by paying it off. Credit scores are irrelevant when you can't use them. Again, it's the mass nature of the non-payment: if everybody's credit scores tank, that's a bigger problem for the lender, because that means all they can't pay off their own investors.

Anyway, this is all hypothetical. My critical point is to get people a lot less dismissive about non-violent action. After all, look how Putin used it to cripple Washington and possibly London. Thing is, it's not just for the rich and powerful: anyone can fight that way, unlike violent means.

165:

Greg: RED CARD.

You have singlehandedly taken over a hitherto interesting discussion and diverted it onto your own pet hobbyhorse, namely Scotland Bad.

Stop it at once.

Comments after #130 now being retroactively moderated because I was away from keyboard for a while ...

166:

No - the Lib Dems are both Unionist, and opposed Brexit... and still support both positions (but will accept BINO*)

* Brexit In Name Only...

167:

Regarding US universities and their sports programs... it’s not all running, jumping, swimming, and hand-egg.

A former team-mate now coaches the Target Rifle program at West Virginia University, having done a Sports Science degree there in the 00s. They’re rather successful; to the tune of “Olympic Gold medalists”, plural. However, these are already accomplished shooters, attracted by tuition support and excellent training facilities (from the UK and Italy, not just the USA). They take it rather seriously...

https://www.facebook.com/WVURifle/

By contrast, (Loughborough aside) UK universities appear reticent about taking the same approach; Edinburgh recently rejected an application from a World Champion / Olympian who had applied for a place at the School of Art...

168:

I used to be of the opinion that if school was going to force everyone to waste half a day every week on pointless pursuits then the parents should respond to the 10% reduction in teaching time by withholding 10% of the fees... I still am, come to that, but no longer have the direct personal relevance to strengthen my feelings. (At one school I went to it was TWO afternoons every week, and that was just blatantly taking the piss.)

And I have a particular antipathy to sports enthusiasts demanding financial support for activities that in most cases cost zilch. If you want to kick a ball around you can get balls for a couple of bucks. If you want to run round in circles all you need is legs. Nobody is prevented from doing these things by lack of money - after all they are traditional stereotypical pastimes of ragged penniless street urchins. Lack of money just hinders them from the unacknowledged aim of showing off.

169:

School almost convinced me I hated being active, when I actually only hated all the sports they forced me to do.

Top tip to educators: Someone who develops hand eye coordination late is not going to grow up loving ball games. Don't even try.

170:

Eh, it's an obsolete reference for contemporary U.S. political/cultural discussions, anyway.

Yeah, but it's still used incorrectly for a reference by people who don't know what it was, the same way I think some people who don't actually know what Hadrian's Wall was use that as a reference for something else.

171:

OOps!
To say the least.
OK - no more on the SNP in this thread

172:

And - given that I have just eaten a haggis ( the shooting season now being over ) maybe not so bad at all ....

173:

Left handed or right handed haggis?

174:

Given the typically poor physical condition of many teenagers, I think the purpose of physical education in schools should be to (a) teach the importance of exercise in remaining healthy, and (b) teach how to get exercise in a way that's safe and enjoyable.

For a kid who can't throw a ball (which was me), that would mean finding activities that didn't involve throwing. (Ones that also avoided 'jock' dominance games would also have been good.) I didn't get that from my phys ed teacher, but a biology teacher took a bunch of us cross-country skiing — not as a sport but recreationally — and I loved it, and did it until I moved to Toronto*. I'd have loved cross-country running too if it haven't been a sport** with only the best students allowed on the team.

The kids who really need phys ed are the kids who run from it, I think in part because it is dominated by kids who are stronger/fitter/more coordinated/more skilled and so they are always floundering and always at the bottom. A really good phys ed program would have a place for those kids, helping them find a type of exercise they enjoy so they'll be healthier adults.


*Where the snow absolutely sucks for cross-country skiing, being too wet and/or icy most of the year.

**I really dislike the tendency to make every activity a competitive sport. When winning is the goal fun seems to be forgotten.

175:

I can see the study now: "On the relative digestibility of L-haggis and D-haggis in vivo."

176:

Last paragraph: oh, absolutely. I don't like any physical activity but I will tolerate the physical aspects of going for a walk for the sake of the mental aspects of it. School ruined even that by replacing the purpose of enjoying the countryside with that of beating the clock/other groups.

177:

Some haggis species have evolved the ability to flip themselves from one stereoisomer to the other. But you can never catch those ones.

178:

"This is a US centric response. I don't know enough about anywhere else.

Having capital is currently increasing in value more rapidly than labor?
Not exactly. Having *some kinds* of capital in increasing in value...."

I agree, but I don't think that's relevant.

Because anyone with real money has a diversified portfolio of property, equities and fixed income (bonds), spread across a few currencies. Even *I* have that and I'm very far from the top 1%. You can do that by buying a single balanced Vanguard investment fund these days - not that this is what the very wealthy do.

But I'm not (just) giving my opinion here, I'm repeating what the people who write books containing empirical analysis of income and wealth say. Thomas Piketty's book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" is the one that made the biggest splash, but economists like Emmanuel Saez who've been studying income and wealth inequality for the last few decades have been making the same point. Median income has hardly increased in many Western countries since the 1980s (USA included), yet wealth of the top 0.1% has increase hugely.

Pikkety & Saez (& etc) say that we're moving back to an age of "patrimonial capital" where the rich primarily inherit their wealth rather than earning it. Back to the Jane Austen days, when your best bet to get wealth if you weren't inheriting it was to marry into it.

It's not looking good.

179:

About the ridiculously high US college fees - this is a killer quote from a US journalist about why free tuition in Germany isn't all that great:

...the concept of “campus life” differs widely between our two countries. German universities consist almost entirely of classroom buildings and libraries — no palatial gyms with rock walls and water parks; no team sports facilities (unless you count the fencing fraternities I will never understand); no billion-dollar student unions with flat-screen TVs and first-run movie theaters. And forget the resort-style dormitories. What few dorms exist are minimalistic, to put it kindly—but that’s largely irrelevant anyway, as many German students still live at home with their parents, or in independent apartment shares, none of which foster the kind of insular, summer-camp-esque experience Americans associate closely with college life (and its hefty price tag).

(From this: http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2014/10/10/germany_college_is_free_there_even_for_foreign_students_why.html )

Obviously the US is a big country, and things vary.

But in general the big US universities are trying to attract students, who want a lovely life on campus. While quality of actual education is hard to judge, and high fees are seen as proof of exclusivity.

The result is a badly broken system of fees spiralling upwards, despite a lack of increase in median academic salaries.

And if you can't afford to pay the fees to cover the climbing walls, football stadiums, etc, then you get shut out of the networking and the better education that good universities provide.

180:

Some haggis species have evolved the ability to flip themselves from one stereoisomer to the other. But you can never catch those ones.

Though I've heard they are training haggis-hounds to be able to follow both scents.

181:

In short, you're wrong about GTech. It's among the top engineering schools in the US.

I agree. But it doesn't have the same "rep" as MIT, Harvey Mudd, Stanford, UC Berkley (at least in Physics), etc..

182:

Even in the US you can find vastly divergent tech levels across the country that are astonishing.

Country? How about within 50 miles. I live in ground zero of one of the fastest growing tech areas of the US. Heck we made the 20 city cutoff for Amazons HQ2 due to the number and growth of high tech workers. My wife and I are in the middle of the debate of do we stay or move away from the "center" as we age. (Our house layout is NOT conducive to us aging in place.) I'd like to go out about 30 or 40 miles. But about 80% of the choices that result from such a move mean dial up Internet. Ugh. Where I am now I have a choice of 3 providers of decently priced 100mbps and 1gbps as an option.

183:

And it gets worse for the debt-holders,

Unless I'm mistaken, most student debt in the US is back stopped by the federal government.

184:

Best place to dump a hot car so it won't be found too soon is the long-term parking lot at a mid-sized airport ... or so I have been informed.

Most airports in the US "walk the cars" every day recording license plates. So there's a data base of what's there and for how long. (Once done with pencil and paper, now with scanners and OCR feeding a computer system.)

Its primary purpose is to help people who can't find their car or try and claim they lost their ticket and the car was only in the $20/day lot for 2 days instead of the 2 weeks it really was.

But I'd bet that law enforcement asks to see if various plate number show up.

185:

public universities should even *have* a sports program. People want one, let them have bake sales.

When I was going, I way paying for an education, not for that crap. And note that in the US, I've read of college coaches earning $5M/year! Screw that noise.

While I'm empathetic to your feelings on the subject, in general many do just that. Hold a bake sale. Much of the the sports budgets at major and mid level unis in the US are funded through football/basketball TV[1], ticket sales, seat licenses[2], donors who want their name on a building, etc... Or the actual bake sale. Want a burger, fries, and drink at a game, $25 please.

Big time college sport finances are messy and complicated but in many (most?) cases don't remove money from the edu part of the enterprise. (Not to say at all that they don't create a huge distraction for those not involved.)

Oh, yeah. A non trivial number of coaches make well north of $5 mil per year. But mostly, (in most cases fully), funded by sports income sources. Things like sneaker and uniform endorsements, TV show rights, etc... can be a big part of their salary. With the rest covered by the income from the 2.5 big sports.

I'm a fan of college sports. But the money and pro farm system aspects[3] have sapped most of my interest over the last decade or two.

[1] Check out why ESPN is firing 500 people. They committed to 10s of billions in TV rights and then started airing so much football and basketball that viewers started getting bored. Just now it is basket ball season and you have a choice of 5 to 10 games per night on most cable systems. Plus the number of commercials had to go up to generate the income to meet those payments and that turned off even more people. Disney is having serious heartburn about the wisdom of buying ESPN a decade back.

[2] Want to buy a ticket in the lower section of the stadium? Or any seat at some schools. Donate (buy a seat license) to the athletic fund a minimum of $xxx or $xxxx or more per year for the privilege of THEN buying season tickets.

[3] If you don't know about it check out "One and Done".

186:

In most cases you're buying a car that may not have been started for 3 or 6 months and with no keys.

187:

In most cases you're buying a car that may not have been started for 3 or 6 months and with no keys.

With a modern high-end car that's not a problem - once you establish legal ownership the dealership can pick up the car for you and associate a new keyfob etc for a couple of thousand dollars and you're good to go.

Not that my boss has dropped his keys in the ocean recently or anything.

188:

I've heard they are training haggis-hounds to be able to follow both scents.

There is a tactic available that could be reached just by natural selection, where the haggis learns to pick a chirality that doesn't match the hound's dominant nostril. Counter strategies involve using packs with a variety or chiralities, or breeding ambinasal hounds. Which goes to show modern agriculture is an arms race.

189:

Leavo-rotatory The right-handed ones require special treatment - a bit like Japanes blowfish.

190:

once you establish legal ownership the dealership can pick up the car for you and associate a new keyfob etc for a couple of thousand dollars and you're good to go.

Ah, no. In the US for most such auctions you are expected to pick up the car that day. Maybe the next day or two. If you want one you'd better have a way to tow it yourself or if possible have a two operator pick it up the next day.

And a car that has sat for that long is likely to have some issues. We have humidity in much of the US. Mold in the interior. Water separating out of gas. Etc.

191:

But it isn't
Physical Education is usually an excuse for "team games" ( SHUDDER ) & so-called "keeping fit", where an hour's violent & distressing forced activity a week supposedly-improves your general health.
All of which is 150% bollocks, of course.
I've just passed 72 & until 3 days ago, I would have put myself in the top 5%, possibly top 1% of fitness for my age-cohort.
I last did "team games" at age 14 & it still gives me the creeps.
The ONE SINGLE activity that is taught as a "sport" & which should be compulsory, is, of course, swimming.
And I resisted that, too when I was 11-14, because it was "sports", which shows just how utterly fucked the education system is, when it comes to real, useful fitness & long-term survival in an healthy state.

192:

You've seen pictures of Hadrian's Wall I'm sure; It's a stone wall that still runs most of the way across England from the Solway to the Tyne estuaries.

The Antonine Wall was built of turf, not stone, and whilst we know most of the course is frankly disappointing as a "thing for tourists to look at".

And in any event "he didn't know the difference" is agreeing my point about lack of education and/or research.

Ref the Mason-Dixie Line, I might not have named the states correctly off-hand, but I did know that it was a state boundary named after the lead surveyors. (and I don't even live on the same continent as it)

193:

:-D Likewise, and indeed I confuse people with zombiephones by making actual voice calls to them!

194:

In a similar timeframe there was a Windoze7 Java "update" that FUBARed all the external ports except keyboard and mouse on certain chipsets. We're still waiting for a fix to that one!

195:

On a much more sombre note, aleady mentioned.
Le Guin obituary By Margaret Attwood.

196:

Eh? It's NOTHING to do with what the Greens think! It's (probably) all about trying to prevent further political control of the BBC. For a long time, that was minimal (which does NOT mean that it didn't have a pro-establishment bias), but it was vastly increased under and by the unspeakable Thatcher and Blair. If the BBC couldn't point to ways that it is taking an ANTI-green line, those obscene pressure groups would demand that its PRO-green documentaries be suppressed or 'balanced'.

Look, the elephant in the room is the way that so much of the British establishment (Westminster, Whitehall, lobbyists, media etc.) is subservient to (and sometimes controlled by) the (mainly USA) military-industrial complex. Not even the damn USA establishment - as was clear during Obama's presidency, when most of it was more extreme than the USA's positions! The BBC is still holding in in SOME respects (but has given way in many others), but even those aspects are under threat.

197:

"Anyway, this is all hypothetical. My critical point is to get people a lot less dismissive about non-violent action. After all, look how Putin used it to cripple Washington and possibly London. Thing is, it's not just for the rich and powerful: anyone can fight that way, unlike violent means."

I suggest that you look at the attempts to use it to counter the poll tax, as well as the use of 'kettling'; the British establishment has a LOT more experience of and skill at suppressing political dissent than you seem to think. I agree that the USA establishment is pretty incompetent at that.

You also seem to have been smoking too much of Uncle Joe McCarthy's All-American Extra-Strong Skunk, but let that pass. I am unaware that any of the recent 'non-vilent actions' have led to any significant changes. The point about political dissent is NOT merely to make a point (or even cause temporary chaos) but to get change.

198:

That's why I carefully used "should", not "is" :-/

199:

As you say, the Greens have grounds for complaint, but I strongly suspect that they have to do that in order to avoid their pro-environmental documentary programs from being, er, brought into line.

Ah. So the "they" in the part I quoted refers to the BBC, not the Greens. Not knowing much about British politics, I hadn't picked that up.

200:

We appreciate that you were scarred by your childhood experiences, Greg, but you've got a fairly binary attitude to Physical Education; things have moved on since the 1950s :)

I went to a school that where (presumably, like yours) boys were divided by "good or bad at Games" - in our case, rugby. I was also your classic "always picked last" kid with poor coordination. That said, our PE teacher taught us... PE.

I still came away with a dislike of playing rugby, but I had learned how to develop my strength, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal fitness. I'd been warned off exercises that would do damage (bunny hops, seal crawling, over-reach situps, hurdlers' stretchesI'd been taught the techniques of various track and field events. I knew how to play football and rugby, even if I was incompetent at them.

Looking at life since, and now looking at the PE teachers in the rugrats' school, physical education is mostly what you would hope it to be - PE, rather than "Games".

201:

Yes. I hadn't thought of how it would read to a transpondian! Sorry.

202:

They have moved on, but not always improved; few of the younger people I know learnt anything useful from school sports, even when they did them; a lot of that is due to bloody Thatcher forcing most schools for the lower classes to sell off their playing fields.

Actually, Greg got off lightly, by the sound of it - I am one of the people who was left in long-term pain and permanent limitations by what was laughably described as PE and was concussed twice in sports accidents. I know people who suffered worse. I am two years younger than him.

203:

I really annoyed my PE teachers:-

I was useless at "kick sphere" and not much better at anything involving catching or batting a sphere except volleyball where I was inept at everything except serving, where I could serve love games sometimes!

Running I was consistently 4th or 5th in year (so not good enough for inter-school teams) at 400m or above!

204:

All this talk of "PE" & team games ties in to the next thread: "Offical Lines" & the BBC & Propaganda.
The XXXth Olympiad stadium os almost exactlt 3 miles South of here.
The propaganda was relentless as to how the WHOLE NATION THOUGHT IT WAS WONDERFUL.
Fucking lies.
I made several attempts to get on to the Beeb, as a local resident as to how not one person I knew thought that Coes Fascist crawlers & their nasty friends & their revolting "games" complete with Nazi relay torch were not loved at all ....
We still hear about how "London 2012" was womderful.
YUCK.
It really was soviet propaganda-overload

205:

Re: college semi pro sports
I agree it's a bad system, but I think the players are the exploited. As described above they seem to be mostly self funded, if not perfectly.

Re: that slate article on Germany vs the us
I think that is mostly just beating a straw man to death. I have been to a dozen us colleges and universities in three states in recent years and none of them had 'resort style' dorms, and less than half of the students at most state schools live on campus anyway. And living expenses are separate from tuition at state schools. I think that article compared a nation with much less inequality and more taxpayer support for higher education to a few outliers of silly us luxuries.

206:

Absol-fvcking-lutely. I know several people, some of them from the SE of England, who used NG signatures like "Totally supporting the Paris 2012 bid". The one person I know who actively supported "Larndarn 2012" lived in Malvern and her argument was "it's nearer than Paris if my daughter makes the archery team". Can you say "vested and tunnel vision interest"? ;-)

207:

I reiterate my point - you're from an era with a more... carefree... attitude to what constituted PE, or PE teachers. For example; in the late 1970s, my school still ran a Primary School boxing competition. On the rugby pitch, it was 15-a-side and eight-person contested scrums from the start (no lifting allowed in the lineout, mind you).

These days, the teaching of rugby for early years is done using sevens, and using uncontested scrums (risk of neck injury). They slowly develop the skills before letting the players loose with them.

There's also a developing awareness of the risks of head injury - you've no doubt seen the mandatory head injury assessments now done at the rubgy internationals, but that's increasingly reflected at the lower levels. Yes, we've done our fair share of sitting in the "Sick Kids" (nickname for the Edinburgh pediatric hospital) with a judogi-clad youngster; we watch firstborn like a hawk, because he's had a concussion diagnosed before now, and the current guidelines are "after the third time, give that sport up until you're old enough to make an informed choice for yourself". Youngest has even been through the whole "strap him to a backboard and take him off in an ambulance for an X-ray" experience at a competition in Aberdeen; there was no injury, they were just being careful - and he found it fascinating.

It's far from perfect, but it's better than it was, even a decade ago...

208:

Actually, I am quite aware of it. Given the current unpleasantness, I've spent the last year trying to educate myself on non-violent action, so that I didn't end up with a cracked skull and a criminal record with nothing to show for it, if I actually had to take to the streets.

You're quite correct, though--the police are more avid readers of the non-violent literature than are most protestors, who go back to Gandhi and MLK or (as I first did) hit up Gene Sharp's Albert Einstein Institute, read his 198 techniques and figure it will automatically work. More recent non-violent texts warn of just this. Gene Sharp's become more Clausewitz for non-violence, rather than a source for current tactics.

There is research, based on data spanning the last century, showing that non-violence is twice as likely to be effective as violence in attaining its goals. The problem is that we're talking about the 25-50% range, not 100%, so both are likely to fail. Still, if you're going to try to solve a political problem, well-organized non-violence has a better track record.

Unfortunately, the age we're in is akin to the WWI of non-violence, with the internet automating a lot of non-violent methods that used to take massive numbers of people, the same way machine guns automated what used to take lines of musketeers. DDoS attacks can allow one person to have the effect of a large strike, for example. That's what that remark about Putin meant, and I don't think you caught it. Russia has automated a lot of non-violent action, and the results speak for themselves. That doesn't obviate the role of individuals in a movement, but it does mean (as you note) that all non-violent actors need to innovate and keep innovating, as well as get organized and work with leaders who are good, strategic thinkers.

Getting back to my hypothetical, if we're talking about a mass non-payment, what's kettling going to do about that? Certainly they've automated harassment over bill collecting, but this isn't something where violent action by the police is going to make any difference.

I'll be happy to supply you with references to what I've been reading, if you want to read up on it. In any case, I don't consider myself an expert on non-violence, any more than I consider myself an expert on paleoanthropology. I just try to get informed. However, we can talk more about the aquatic ape hypothesis too, if you like.

209:

I an fairly sure Nojay was being sarcastic

210:

It may have depended on exactly which century you were in. OTOH, I heard of the Hadrian Wall in Latin class, but never heard of the Antonine wall, so that may also be right.

211:

Actually, I think very few people *know* where the Mason-Dixon line is. I knew at one point, but I haven't thought of where it is for decades, and if you had asked me I couldn't have told you. I learned it in grade school, and haven't needed to think of where it is since then.

212:

In the area of the US where I live the dormitories are not palatial, and many students live in apartments...and relatively cheaply, if not as cheaply as when I went to school. The school of business is, indeed, rather palatial, but that's not true of English, History, Chemistry, Physics, ...

And when I looked at the plaques the rooms and furniture in the school of business were paid for by specified corporations, companies, and families that I recognized as being wealthy. This is a campus of the University of California, a state institution.

OTOH, it's worth noting that the school of law looks rather like a castle, and I've never looked inside of it. It may well be as palatial, but if so it's probably been so for a long time.

213:

Y'know, reading your post, and strongly agreeing on the lack of organization, and how would you *know* 1M indebted refused to pay, it struck me there's an *obvious* answer: a student debtors' union. First you form it, then you get people to join, and when you have a pre-decided number of people in the union, you hold a strike vote.

AND THEN picket the lendors' offices. That would surely get media attention... and then the debt-holders' attention.

And to end with the most obvious one in the US, at least
"When the union's inspiration
Through the working folks shall run
There can be no power greater
Anywhere beneath the sun
For what on earth is weaker
Than the feeble strength of one?
But the union makes us strong!"
- Solidarity Forever

214:

Um, yeah, about that funding.... UT at Austin has some really serious trust funds. Like, in t he multi-billion-dollar range. When I was going to go there, after my late wife and I had moved into Austin from an immobile home in the exurbs, in fall '91, I had the new student tour. The guide pointed out the stadium, and told us how there was one wing of bleachers... they'd wanted to build it, but there was money that was supposed to be for classrooms. So the built the wing, put "classrooms" *under* the stands, which were *never* used.

I have *zero* reason to believe that kind of crap does not go on at every big college/univ with a well-followed sportsball team.

As a couple of side-data: a) I've actually always been in good shape (designer genes, y'know), b) put up with gym in school. actively disliked "gym exercise" (You Vill Play Mit Der Balls), and c) my interest in sports approaches zero as a limit.

I will admit to being able to fence, and that I fought heavy in the SCA in the late seventies and very early eighties....

215:

Southern boarder of Pennsylvania, and, I see, western boarder of Delaware.

Can't imagine why I'd know this... says the Philadelphian ex-pat.

216:

Given the typically poor physical condition of many teenagers, I think the purpose of physical education in schools should be to (a) teach the importance of exercise in remaining healthy, and (b) teach how to get exercise in a way that's safe and enjoyable.

That's what it was when I was in K-12 back in the 50s/60s. Plus it gave an outlet for kids to get outside in the middle of the school day to let off some of the steam.

I don't think competitive team sports is necessarily the problem. It's the way ADULTS promote them that leads to problems.

I didn't play football, basketball or baseball, but I could run, so I somehow ended up on the Track Team.

Not Track & Field mind you. There was no way the teachers or coaches were going to allow me anywhere near the hammer or a javelin.

217:
“And it gets worse for the debt-holders,”

Unless I'm mistaken, most student debt in the US is back stopped by the federal government.

About half of student debt is covered by Federal "Insurance". You have to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

If you don't qualify for Federal aid you have to go to commercial lenders like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and others where you will have to pay USURIOUS interest. If you refuse to pay or are unable to pay because you can't find a job either type of lender can get a judgement against you & garnish your wages.

Additionally, for Federally insured student loans, the Treasury Dept can deduct what they say you owe from any kind of government payments you might be eligable for - tax refunds, Social Security, Base Pay if you join the military, ...

218:
“Best place to dump a hot car so it won't be found too soon is the long-term parking lot at a mid-sized airport ... or so I have been informed.”

Most airports in the US "walk the cars" every day recording license plates. So there's a data base of what's there and for how long. (Once done with pencil and paper, now with scanners and OCR feeding a computer system.)

Its primary purpose is to help people who can't find their car or try and claim they lost their ticket and the car was only in the $20/day lot for 2 days instead of the 2 weeks it really was.

But I'd bet that law enforcement asks to see if various plate number show up.

I received that little tid-bit of information a long time ago and have not yet needed to use it to find out if it is true.

I'm sure things have changed a lot since 9/11.

219:

With a modern high-end car that's not a problem - once you establish legal ownership the dealership can pick up the car for you and associate a new keyfob etc for a couple of thousand dollars and you're good to go.

Had to have that done to a 2005 Focus within the last 5 years, and it cost less than $200. Location does affect the price I guess. I had it done in Raleigh, NC, USA.

220:

Not kettling - that was against demonstrators. They summonsed large numbers of people for a single day (flatly against their own rules), and told the vast majority to come back the next day (and intended to repeat that). Most of the demonstrators had jobs, children etc. and that was infeasible.

221:

However, an equally (even more?) common approach is simply to not HAVE any meaningful PE or sports. That was my main point.

222:

Running I was consistently 4th or 5th in year (so not good enough for inter-school teams) at 400m or above!

Track & Field was a little different where I went to school. It was the one sport where anyone who wanted to participate could "make the team."

The athletic guys won all the medals while us slower guys were eliminated in the early heats. There were no medals or trophy's for participation (other than being in the team photo in the yearbook), but we were still part of the team even if we never placed higher than "also ran".

223:

They summonsed large numbers of people for a single day (flatly against their own rules), and told the vast majority to come back the next day (and intended to repeat that). Most of the demonstrators had jobs, children etc. and that was infeasible.

That is absolutely standard practice and has been for centuries. The price of coming to the attention of the law is not the conviction, it's the loss of time that is applied liberally to everyone involved. The reason so few motoring tickets are appealed is that the cost of doing so greatly exceeds the price of the ticket for almost everyone. Add the cost of a lawyer and it's true even for unemployed people (and our courts are increasingly requiring lawyers for even the most trivial offenses).

And cops know this, it's one of the more common extrajudicial punishments they impose on people. If you think you'd be inconvenienced by having to take a day off to attend a police station, imagine being part of the precariat - either marginally employed or even worse, subject to the many "activity requirements" of being on a benefit. Don't imagine for a second that a claim of "being down the cop shop" will get someone out of whatever the dole office requires of them that day.

Note that even the payments that the system offers to some witnesses to cover their costs are carefully calculated not to. Their starting point is usually of the form "80% of the median" (because when it suits them the PTB are all over the difference between average and median), so if you're above the median you will get screwed.

In my case, not so long ago I had to spend a day waiting to be called to jury duty. If my employer hadn't covered that cost[1], they would have paid me about $100 including a transport allowance. Minimum wage here is $18/hour or $128 for an 8 hour day. It would be illegal to pay someone that little if they had a job, so there is no-one for whom that rate would be fair recompense.

[1] they were legally required to... it's a randomly applied tax on employers.

224:

No, it's not. There are rules (without the force of law) that people should not be summonsed if there is no reasonable likelihood of them being in court. Yes, I agree about the extrajudicial punishment aspect, but the difference was that they broke their OWN rules in that case, and it wouldn't have been a day or two for an hour in court, but weeks.

225:

Yeah, but it's still used incorrectly for a reference by people who don't know what it was, the same way I think some people who don't actually know what Hadrian's Wall was use that as a reference for something else.

I'm reminded of an interview with historian David McCullough in which he recalled giving a talk on American history at an Ivy League university. Afterward, a student there told him that, until she saw his lecture, she hadn't known that the 13 original colonies were the states on the east coast.

And so it goes...

226:

I'm aware of Hadrian's Wall because it was local history where I grew up. We visited part of it during a school outing, the local paper covered a couple of archaeological digs at one of the way-forts about a kilometre from where I lived. Antonine's Wall was much more substantial and lasted longer and significant parts of it are preserved and visible, the way-fort near my home was basically located on a hill overgrown with nearly two millenia of scrubby trees and neglect.

227:

I just checked, typing "Hadrian's Wall" into Google Earth takes me to Antonine's Wall. Sigh.

228:

Some guesses:

Some tourists buy junkers to tour around Australia, it's cheaper than renting a car. When they're done, they just abandon the car, and sometimes that's at an airport.

Stolen cars get left in car parks. Maybe it draws less attention?

229:

I suspect that some of it is people who just die at the other end of the trip and the relatives don't know about the car or don't care or ...

Or maybe it was a drug mule thing.

Plus I suspect some are just abandoned for various reasons. My wife works with baggage for a major US airline. The have a central warehouse where unclaimed things go after a month. They sit their until sold at auction to that firm in Georgia who has a really strange department store. But my point is they are thing there like $5000 sets of golf clubs. Once she saw a mast for a small sail boat. Just who puts that on a plane as luggage, pays the crazy fees, and then never picks it up or files a claim? And ignores the calls when the airline tries to contact them? I mean unlike the "black 22" standard bag that's 90% of luggage, these things do stand out.

I've always heard some people have more money than brains. The older I get the more true I think it is.

230:

I saw a report a couple of years ago about the expensive cars dumped at Abu Dhabi airport, cars like Porsches and Audi sports coupes and the like. It turned out they were owned by expatriates and foreign workers who were leaving the country in a hurry for assorted reasons. In some cases the owners did plan to return but the authorities refused to let them back into the country.

231:

Yup. It is merely more subtle in its manipulations.

232:

Indeed I have. I've had many a BL product, including a rather venerable Austin Ambassador, dubbed 'The Ambastador due to its quirks. Very comfortable and spacious, with gorgeous turbine wheels and fantastic 70s wedge styling, but prone to the most infuriating mishaps. The last Maestro I was in would have been circa 1992, so not a particularly old one at the time. The passenger side wheel and driveshaft assembly completely fell off whilst attempting a left turn.
Also of note, an Allegro where the entire dashboard fell off when you opened the glovebox.

233:

To be fair, it is literally impossible to report the news without being biased. There's too much stuff, so you've *got* to filter it through *some* set of biases.

Ideally, though, each news source would have multiple sections, each with an independent bias. To an extent this happens, so you have a business section, a sports section, etc. Unfortunately, this isn't a tight enough filter. Who reports on the local ping-pong champion? (Part of what I'm showing is that the bias doesn't only exist in politics.)

One could hope that the web would provide such a source, but
a) It's too small
b) There's too much noise (i.e., you can't tell the liars from the truth-tellers)
c) Even with search engines, some thing can't be found, even though they exist on the web.

Bias literally cannot be eliminated.

That said, none of the standard news sources seem to try very hard to minimize it.

234:

Sorry, somehow this got mislinked. Comment 233 was supposed to be a reply to comment 231.

235:

David L said @182 - Where I am now I have a choice of 3 providers of decently priced 100mbps and 1gbps as an option.

What is this "100mbps and 1gbps" that you speak of. HA!

I'm lucky to have upgraded last year to 1mbps, and feel that is an amazing speed.

I live in Santa Fe, the switch that serves my DSL line is just outside Albuquerque, 60 miles away. The farther from the switch the slower the speed. The phone company has only one physical store located in Albuquerque to serve the whole state.

Before I upgraded to the blinding speed of 1mbps it would take 12 hours to update my iMac. Now it takes less than an hour. Good thing I upgraded, now that Microsoft updates the Office products like Word by downloading the whole package each month. That would have taken half a day each month if I still only had basic DSL.

Albuquerque has one million people, most of the homes have been built starting in the 60s. Many of those houses built in the 60s are already being abandoned, stripped for copper by meth-heads. (Remember, they filmed the TV show Breaking Bad here for a reason.)

- The biggest industry over the next century will be salvaging abandoned subdivisions and returning them to grass land.

That's why I made my point @115. Those people like you who live in the artificial bubbles are in the midst of a singularity already. Singularities that go "hot" will take out a business campus, possibly an urban are like yours, then fizzle out for lack of resources, leaving most of the country alone.

236:

On the subject of strangely abandoned cars: There was a whole traffic jam of fifties' cars in a forest in Belgium, abandoned by american G.I.'s who couldn't take them back home when their service in Europe was up. So they just drove them into the woods. A popular tourist attraction for ruin porn photographers but ultimately too much for the local mayor who had them removed.
http://www.earthporm.com/traffic-jam-belgium-forest-chatillon-car-graveyard/

237:

"The world's top 1% earned 82% of all wealth generated in 2017"

So who are they? What is the earning/wealth threshold?
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/050615/are-you-top-one-percent-world.asp

"According to the Global Rich List, a website that brings awareness to worldwide income disparities, an income of $32,400 a year will allow you to make the cut.
...
The threshold is significantly higher if you look at the top percentile by wealth instead of income. To reach that status, you’d have to possess $770,000 in net worth"

So, are the wealthy exploitative 1% scum here ready to out themselves?

238:

I seldom drop in these days. So, in the same vein as I told you TM would be PM, expect her successor to be JRM

239:

"That's the next error, assuming Occupy and Black Lives Matter failed because non-violent protest doesn't work. Actually, it works about twice as often as armed violence, so were I trying some violent means of taking down the banks (say, nuking Manhattan), I'd have about a 0% chance, as opposed to, reasonably, a 25% chance with non-violence."

People who talk about the failure of non-violent action should go to the blog 'Lawyers, Guns & Money',and read 'This Day in Labor History'. TL;DR - the usual story is 'these people were treated horribly and crushed when they tried to do something'.

Most actions against the elites will fail; that's how the elites stay elites.

IMHO, Occupy successfully changed the political narrative in the USA, which was all about how the 99% should suffer to help the 1%. Black Lives Matter has successfully brought the government murder of black people into the public eye.

The Civil Rights Movement in the USA didn't start and end with Dr. King giving a speech; it has taken over a century and a half.

240:

You can be a lot more specific than that. MLK's success was in the Voting Rights Act. The non-violent People Power Revolution overthrew Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines. The non-violent OTPOR! revolution toppled Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic. Gandhi drove the British Empire from what are now India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. That's not inconsequential.

As for Occupy, it's goals are still in dispute, as are whether it succeeded or not. Black Lives Matter is similarly nebulous. Note that this doesn't mean that I disagree with the memes that they've popularized, whether it's the 99%/1% divide or that black lives need to matter to everyone. Nor do I disagree with the current activities of Occupy alumni to retire debt, among other things. What I am pointing out is that these aren't the best examples if one is arguing for a non-violent approach.

241:

Hello again!
Actually I'm part of the wealthy exploitative scum & so, probably is Charlie ... IF you measure "wealth" to include "real" property...
Unfortunately, it's no use as wealth if you can't or don't want to sell it, just live in it.
Find a more useful measuring-stick, because that one doesn't work.

242:

If they *do* run Victorian Dad from Viz comic as a potential PM, I hope the electorate roundly disabuses them of the notion that it was in any way a good idea to do so.

243:

What is this "100mbps and 1gbps" that you speak of. HA! I'm lucky to have upgraded last year to 1mbps, and feel that is an amazing speed.

I live in Santa Fe, the switch that serves my DSL line is just outside Albuquerque, 60 miles away.

That's my point. I do about 1/3 to 1/2 of my work while remotely connected to systems in small businesses. When my wife needs to stay home from her job (1000+ mile commute) she needs a fast connection for her VPN back to HQ.

So for us to move out of the bubble I have to retire or change careers. We're both over 60 and enjoy our work. Ugh.

Now here's something that might work for you depending on terrain. You more long views and less "green" blocking a lot of sight lines.
https://www.ubnt.com/products/#airmax
At the lower end the Litebeam AC is rated up to 3 or 5 km. Under $150 mail order for a pair. And you can move up the range without too crazy of price increases. Or move over to the airFiber line for even longer range.

Back when DSL was being rolled out a writer or CNET or similar was told his Silicon Valley neighborhood wasn't going to get it for several years so he went on his roof and used a spotter scope to find out which ridge line gaps had houses visible. Mapped out which of those neighborhoods were getting DSL then starting knocking on doors for a few months in his spare time. He eventually found someone who would be willing to "share" a DSL circuit and mount a directional antenna on the side of their house. I think he even offered to fully pay for the DSL circuit.

I'm sure he got a few confused replies before he found someone.

For me the issue is our hills are not all that high and central NC is covered in swaths of 70' plus tall stands of pine which means if I wanted to go this route I'd have to find a lot at the top of a hill with a reasonable line of site back to Raleigh or to some other smaller town in the area. I suspect you would have an easier path to find a source of high speed to share.

244:

I would love to suggest that not even 2018 would be that crazy but it would probably take that suggestion as a dare.

Can't see it happening tbh like many of the Tory nasty squad he is far more comfortable lobbing stones from the sidelines than actually trying constructively change things. Besides apart from the bluster there is no real sign that anyone other than May is willing to risk being the cause of 10 years of Tory wilderness years.

245:

Agree
JRM is really, really slimy nasty piece of work.
He "obeys the orders of a foreign Prince" - yet rants on about "vassalage to the EU" - how's that for blatant lying hypocrisy?
in the meantime in the classic words: "Confound (his) politicks / frustrate his knavish tricks"
Or something like that.

Meantime, for all the apprrent bumble, May is still there playing a very weak hand, & doing her best to fend of the really rabid brexiteers.

It has got to run for at least anothe 6 months before it really is screamingly obvious that we can ( & should ) withdraw At50. Meantime, she CANNOT ADMIT THAT, or there would be a right-wing putsch & then we'd be royally dipped in dogshit.
Or remain in the free-trade & customs unions - which "we" did not vote for, actually, because they are separate questions to "leaving the EU" - but you get the rabids to admit that?

246:

All this talk of line-speeds has led me to check mine:
Twisted copper pair to the cabinet in the street, & possibly as far as the telephone exchange ....
Dowload: 6.2 Mbps, Upload 0.3 Mbps.
Is this good, bad or indifferent?

247:

I would love to suggest that not even 2018 would be that crazy

The Westminster Scorpion Nest (aka the 1922 Committee) is stirring and rustling in the darkness as we speak -- 'Mr Shapps (a former chairman of the Conservative party) said he had not submitted a letter to the party's 1922 Committee, calling for a leadership contest, but added "an increasing number of my colleagues have".'

Translated from the weasel words it means she's doomed. When she's doomed is another matter; in politics as in comedy timing is all. The smart money is on some time after Brexit Year Zero for the decapitation strike but an ambitious Brutus might decide to get in first while the pack jockeys for a clear shot at her lumbar vertebrae while sharpening their knives and calling in IOUs.

248:

That's pretty poor for copper-pair ADSL2. It might be you're using an older ADSL modem that can't handle ADSL2 speeds which most ISPs offer as standard these days. We're getting about 18Mbps down and 1 Mbps up here over copper. Max theoretical speed for ADSL2 copper-pair is around 24Mbps down and 1Mpbs up.

If your modem reports it (use a browser to connect to it directly, i.e. https://192.168.0.1 or whatever your home LAN is configured for and see what it says) you can normally check the signal figures. I'm getting 19dB attenuation downstream with 5.4 dB of noise. If both numbers are high for you that might be the reason for the low rates you're getting.

249:

Dowload: 6.2 Mbps, Upload 0.3 Mbps. Is this good, bad or indifferent?

Depends on your goals. You can surf to most places, download files and pictures. Even watch most of youtube.

But I just spend 4 hours remotely working in an office 5 miles away. Had a screen sharing session open that filled most of my 1900x1200 24" display and from that controlled up to 5 machines in the office at a time doing updates and diagnostics. Plus some server re-configs. My current speed is 35/6 and I will be upgrading to more like 100/20 soon as 35/6 slows me down. That office has 150/150 and at times they need it.

YMMV

250:

My modem is about 5 years old ...
But changing it for a new one wil/will not be a hassle?
Long ago, I thought of going optic-fibre ( It's in our street, anyway ) but ...
You have to negotiate the Con-Tricks ( Sorry CONTRACTS ) of the "suppliers", who, the last time I looked refuse to sell you phone-only & insist on TV channels & 900 other sorts of unwanted shit.
Though I must talk to my phone/bb provider anyway, as their prices have gone up - & I think they've rolled me over to a more expensive one than I need.
[ A sub-set of Talk-Talk called "pipex" actually ]

251:

I'd say your speeds are well poor for East London?? That's where I infer you arefrom previous posts.

Many, many years ago in dialup pipex were one of the good guys.

Talk talk are probably the shittiest of all the providers but with the caveat they are cheap., and you do get what you pay for.

You can get phone and bb packages if you shop around. Even Virgin whom I'm with do it, albeit actually dearer than the TV bundle. Like you it riled me but a couple of 'free' upgrades and a few threats to cancel later I'm on 200mbps fibre and all the TV except Spurts, for roughly the price I would pay for a third (76) of the speed and phone from BT (£40 pm). And yes I know TANSTAAFL but close enough for me.

252:

What's the model of modem you're using? If it says ADSL2 or ADSL2+ somewhere on it then that's all you're getting, the retrain on connection negotiates the best speed it can given the copper between you and your exchange. The DSLAM at the other end of the wires should be pretty modern and running ADSL2+ protocols. How far away is the exchange from your house? That can also have an effect -- it's a major reason rural customers get crappy speeds on ADSL (below broadband norms generally) since they're sometimes several km from a DSLAM and line losses are brutal to a signal protocol that squeezes the most out of a compromise hardware solution. Telephone lines as installed were only meant to work up to 3.5kHz after all...

Some things on your end that can knock the speed down include poor house wiring to the master socket, bad extension wiring, a crappy line filter and so on. You can try a process of elimination to see if changing those things helps but it's a long shot. I fitted a faceplate filter unit to our master socket to replace a dongle-type phone filter but it didn't change speeds much, however it was a bit tidier.

253:

David L said @243 - So for us to move out of the bubble I have to retire or change careers. We're both over 60 and enjoy our work. Ugh.

I'm sorry, but you're trapped. The tech level that you are living in is so far beyond anywhere that you could move to. You are facing the TV series Green Acres, at best.

Wiki - Green Acres

Greg Tingey @246 said: Dowload: 6.2 Mbps, Upload 0.3 Mbps. Is this good, bad or indifferent?

Even Greg has better connect speed than I do, and I always see him living the British sitcom The Good Life. That's a terrifying thought. HA!

Wiki - The Good Life (1975 TV series)

254:

Is this good, bad or indifferent?

Your connection speed is terrible.

I pay the big bucks for a BT Infinity fibre connection on a business tariff (static IP address, zero contention, zero caps or throttling, no net nanny (that's my IT department's responsibility, apparently)). I'm 500 metres from the exchange and officially get 80mbps download, 20mbps upload. In practice it's more like 65mbps down/19mbps up, but the lack of annoyances is good.

I signed up for this about 2-3 years ago and really need to kick the tires and see if I can get it cheaper/faster these days, but it's adequate.

Virgin would theoretically give me 100mbps via cable modem for a lot less money, and soon 200mbps, but I'd be sharing it with 40-50 other households, it'd be filtered to hell and back to protect the children I don't have, and if I used too much bandwidth it'd be choked to a crawl. Which would be really annoying as this household has about 12 computers sucking down OS updates separately every month or so (and unlike Microsoft, Apple doesn't seem to do peer-to-peer updates — each machine has to download the OS update separately unless I want to set myself up to do everything manually like my own in-house IT department, which is a pain).

About 7 years ago, visiting Tokyo, a friend was showing me his 100mbps ethernet-to-the-ISP connection, and said he hadn't bothered going for the high speed (gigabit) internet connection because it seemed pointless for his domestic needs. Really, the sky is the limit.

255:

Speaking of Accelerando, as I think we were somewhere upstream, there's this that just showed up:

https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-will-ai-change-work-here-are-5-schools-of-thought

Mostly, it seems to me that "work" performed by humans is going to become somewhat irrelevant. It would be nice if that were a good thing, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ?

256:

Greg, unless you're in the West End or the City, that's terrible. You should be able to easily improve it for probably less money.

It is possible you have a dodgy pair between you and the exchange, might be worth getting a BT tech out to do a line test.

Basic ADSL should give between 11 and 20Mbps through most of London. ADSL2+ and VDSL will give 20-25 and up to 40 at the high end. Heck even mobile 4G gives 40-60, and you're probably a low bandwidth user.
The standard consumer fibre packages start at around 40 and go up to several hundred.

Caveats: The central area from Mayfair to the City has *terrible* consumer internet - BT and Virgin both have very lucrative commercial packages in the area and they don't want their residential packages cannibalising that market, so they simply aren't available.

257:
Apple doesn't seem to do peer-to-peer updates — each machine has to download the OS update separately
Really? I thought the update caching service in Server Just Worked, once you set it up.
258:

Well, I don't even get that much. I get 5 meg down (and 1 up). Apparently this is a characteristic of the exchange - you're not supposed to expect more than 4 meg from this exchange. But the router has some fancy optimisation algorithm that manages to squeeze an extra meg. (The router is about a year old.) Unfortunately there is no way to tell this algorithm to optimise for robustness rather than speed. Dropouts have been a problem ever since I moved in here but hardly ever happened at my previous place.

It seems that they have given up bothering to upgrade the plain copper service (from that exchange, at least) and concentrating on FTTC instead. But I don't want FTTC, because it's more expensive and the current speed is perfectly adequate. The limitation on the speed of websites is not the connection, but the browser, and the most effective way to improve it is not to increase the connection speed, but to block the execution of the stupid bloatware and evilware that websites insist on stuffing themselves with. (Much of the time this stuff is still downloaded, but it never runs, because it throws an unhandled exception as a result of something else I've stuck the knife into.)

A lot of website slowness is simply down to the site being written by an unreconstructed idiot. The Farnell website used to take over 2 minutes to render the catalogue pages for highly diverse components like BJTs. I got it down to a few seconds by replacing their code with my own - and that was without even bothering to think about anything other than simply replicating functionality. Obviously increasing connection speed is irrelevant to sorting out this kind of problem. What sort of supercomputers do these people test their shit on that are fast enough for them not to notice how shit it is? I want one.

People seem very fond of posting the huge speeds they can get from their connection, but I can't see it as anything other than willy-waving, especially since the comments they post to accompany the speed reading derive so proximately from "ner ner ner I've got more than you".

Speed of downloading huge chunks of software is not very important. I just go and do something else while it's happening and usually get so stuck in that I don't notice the download finishing anyway.

Controlling other systems remotely is about the least significant consideration. The bandwidth requirements are so small that it's not even much of a problem on dialup. With ADSL I can't tell the difference between ssh to a server on the other side of the room and ssh to a server on the other side of the country. Fuck alone knows what David L is doing to need one or even two orders of magnitude more bandwidth than I have for everything to perform by far the least bandwidth-consuming task.

My ISP deal offers much the same advantages as Charlie's - static IP, no caps, no port blocking, no ISP-level prudeware fucking around with your data - but without having to pay extra for a special kind of connection, because knowing how much they're into that sort of thing I never even considered BT as a viable provider in the first place.

What I do find infuriating about the whole thing is the impossibility of getting a plain vanilla interface. All I need is the ADSL equivalent of an ethernet card - just an interface and nothing more. I used to have one, but it was ADSL-only (no "2" or "2+") and it stopped working reliably when the exchange stopped providing non-suffixed ADSL. (Backwards compatibility isn't always all it's cracked up to be.)

When I got it there was a reasonable choice of such things and it was just a case of finding one that had Linux drivers available. But now you can't find anything. The ONLY choice these days is to get not just the plain interface but a whole bloody computer with the interface as one of its peripherals, deliberately aiming to be as opaque as possible and prone to stupid vulnerabilities because the software was put together by a blithering idiot (example: passwordless WAN-side telnet access on ports 254 and 255 and no way to disable the telnet server; I found that one, but if that's the level of idiocy we're dealing with fuck only knows what else might be lurking more obscurely). One or two things exist that make themselves out to be an interface card, but on investigation they all turn out to be the same interface-plus-whole-unwanted-computer setup hardwired to an ethernet interface and stuck on a PCI card for several times the price of the same thing in a separate box, pointless beyond words and no use at all.

259:

It has been the summit of human ambition for goodness only knows how long, as evinced by what people actually do - what they say may purport to support some other view, but what they do almost invariably favours things that make their lives easier and rejects things that make it harder. People who do it the other way round are sufficiently unusual that they acquire a reputation for being weirdos that can persist for thousands of years. But that article, as is tragically the case with nearly all such thought, almost entirely misses the point.

The trouble is that all the methods that have hitherto been available have enormous disadvantages. Either you have some brute-force method, animal or mechanical, which is inherently compromised by its crudeness and lack of cognitive/manipulative ability, or you have slavery, even if you don't call it that. Either way it amounts not to solving the problem, but merely to making it someone else's problem. And the whole concept of "jobs" is the expression of that someone-else's-problem aspect.

Robotics introduces the entirely new possibility of making it nobody's problem, and therefore the concept of "jobs" becomes meaningless. But as things stand it looks like we're almost certainly going to fuck it up simply because people so adamantly refuse to recognise that. It's much the same kind of problem as that of alternative forms of government in Cromwell's time - people having been used to having to have a king (job) for so long that their imaginations become too stultified to envisage things being any other way, and so the "replacement" ends up being exactly the same thing with a different name.

Much the same applies to the absolutely moronic and ramshackle "system" of resource allocation (well, "bodge to conceal the absence of any system of resource allocation" would be more accurate) that has fallen into existence for the same basic reasons, and has become so entrenched that people delude themselves into thinking it's natural and inevitable so they have an excuse to avoid the difficult thoughts about how we actually could manage a proper system of resource allocation. (And use the failures of attempts like that of the Soviets to get rid of it as further justification for this intellectual cop-out, applying that same cop-out in their justification and so failing to see that the flaw in the Soviet setup was the persistence of the bits they didn't get rid of rather than the absence of the bits they did.) Nobody who wasn't a complete unredeemed fucking idiot would deliberately create, in a finite environment, a system that depends utterly on taking the differential of a value instead of the value itself, but having passively allowed such a system to create itself people now insist on defending it to the death as the only system possible to exist; in effect they devote their intellectual resources to hiding from themselves the unpleasant realisation that they are complete unredeemed fucking idiots (which of course they can only get away with because so many people do it), and we all suffer the consequences.

260:

All this talk of line-speeds has led me to check mine:
Twisted copper pair to the cabinet in the street, & possibly as far as the telephone exchange ....
Dowload: 6.2 Mbps, Upload 0.3 Mbps.
Is this good, bad or indifferent?

IIRC, that's about the speeds I got when I had ADSL from the local Telco monopoly.

I'm on the local Cable system now. Don't have TV, but I do have internet & telephone. Used to be Time-Warner, now Spectrum. Time-Warner had a piss poor reputation and lousy service (but hadn't tried to rip me off billing me for services I never received). Quality of service seems to have improved since they became Spectrum.

I'm on their lowest price basic internet tier. I'm getting 70.32 Mbps down and 5.91 Mbps up (if I can trust the speed-test sites). My speeds used to be around 10 Mbps down/1 Mbps up.

I'm in one of the locations were Google announced they were going to install fiber. For some reason, right after Google announced the local cable system notified me they had found a way to increase speeds over the existing network and increased speeds with no extra charge.

261:

Greg, unless you're in the West End or the City, that's terrible. You should be able to easily improve it for probably less money.

It is possible you have a dodgy pair between you and the exchange, might be worth getting a BT tech out to do a line test.

Why not get rid of the wired misery? Here(holland) one can get a data only plan for €35/month which gives unlimited data at 25 Mbps. Something like that should be available in the UK I reckon.

262:

Line-connections etc.

The cable from the old-fashioned telegraph-pole in the street to my house was replaced about3/4 years back. I am assuming it then goes to a pavement-cabinet & from there copper (?) optical (?) to the exchange, which is about 800 metres away.
I have a separator in my bedroom, with one cable going to the 2 landline-phones & the other going to this computer in the next room. All cabling underfloor, laid by me – one advantage of a Victorian house.

Modem / Router
Belkin – the base is covered in tiny printing, one of which might be the model number (!) It’s about 4 or 5 years old. And looking under my internal “system” header gives me no information, either – guidance here might be helpful.

Telco
“Pipex” who were taken over by TalkTalk

Problems:
Changing supplier means changing e-mail address – let’s not go there, shall we?
Though I should be able to get a better deal than I have at present, provided, of course, that, in changing contract my supply doesn’t fall down the cracks & leave me with no connection at all. E.G. For over 2 years when I changed from dial-up to ADSL, the telco insisted I was a business customer, which made communicating with them … interesting … I usually had to go around 3 or 4 times before the penny dropped.
I ONLY pay “BT” for my basic supply, everything else goes through TalkTalk.

Previous attempts ( admittedly several years’ back ) to get a new deal only resulted in me being swamped with vast bundles of so-called “deals” that I don’t want or need, involving TV & Spurts – you get the idea, I think. I’m quite aware that what I have is by no means the best available, but I’m terrified of being dumped with a non-working “new contract” that doesn’t give me what I want, at an increased price & then being unable to change from that.

[ Yes, I’m paranoid, but I’ve seen others shafted by the telcos & I have no intention of being a victim myself. ]
Oh & I’ve looked a TalkTalk’s main advert-page – an utterly pointless waste of time, last time I looked – about a year ago.

[ P.S. Ro67 @ 261
HOW MUCH?
I’m paying about £27 a month & it’s gone up, through inertia, I suspect

QUICK CHECK of T-T's main-page - they SHOULD be charging me £19 a month, according to theor web-site, oops.
Now, how do I get that changed, without losing service or changin e-mail address? { Because I don't trust them }

263:

I just tried to check as an existing customer - doesn't recognise me, even though I know its working, because I was in communication with them less than a month ago.
This is the sort of thing that stops one before you aeveb get started

264:

Mostly, it seems to me that "work" performed by humans is going to become somewhat irrelevant. It would be nice if that were a good thing, but

It'd be nice if the social organizing principle of the developed world wasn't one that could fairly be described as wage slavery, whereby access to the necessities of life are rationed in return for involuntary servitude (the worker-unit can often choose what form of servitude to participate in, but the participation itself is non-optional, unless they're willing to become homeless and starve). The neat modern twist on bronze-age slavery is that there's an intermediary layer between the wage-slaves and the owners, which are institutionalized rather than personal — and a bunch of subsidiary institutions that proclaim the fairness and inevitability of the process and give the wage-slaves the illusion of voluntary participation in their own government.

We badly need to replace this crap with fully-automated luxury space communism. Or, failing that, begin to inch away from the precipice of structural unemployability for 99% of humanity, maybe by starting with a universal income scheme and a better mass education in economics (so that travesties such as austerity politics would be non-starters). Alas, this doesn't appeal to the 0.1% who actually own enough capital to be outside the wage-slavery system and who pay the guard labour to keep us all in line, so ...

265:

I don't have anything running macOS server — I thought they'd discontinued it?

266:

On the core topic.
In Turkey 30,000 people's life ruined because a tracking pixel was mixed into other applications along with a crypto chat app, apparently the developers wanted to muddy the waters and didn't count on Erdogan just sending everybody to the wall.

There's a rule for life:
Never rely on the strong man's self restraint and belief in fairness.

267:

More info, please?

269:

I'm running macOS Server version 5.5 Released 23 January 2018. It's free if you are in the developer prgramme, a control panel for the stuff that's installed anyway (Apache etc etc).

The caching service isn't in Server anymore since High Sierra and is now configured on System Preferences → Sharing → Content Caching

270:

{Noise of head repeatedly banging against wall} ;-)

Also, other than a few of the forts and milecastles, I thought the Antonine Wall was mostly "course of" and possibly the North side ditch rather than extant wall?

271:

More proof that 2018, nay the whole decade is drunk.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-42858668

German car makers funding the gassing of people - if only with diesel fumes. On what planet did anyone think that was a good idea?

272:

El Reg is reporting that MacOS Server is being led behind the barn as we post..

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/01/29/farewell_to_macos_server/

273:

Well, there was my Dad's boss who bought an Au'tin Princess 1800, and due to its unreliability wound up driving the dealer principal's Rover 3500 (SD1) for 5 months in the first year...

...or the Minicab driver who bought a new Rover 820, and apologised to me for having the radio up full to drown out the squeals from the power steering, unresolved after 10 months ownership...

274:

It was only being kept alive to support Xcode server for continuous integration (which is why it was free for developers instead of the £19.99 otherwise charged). It will either continue to be kept alive for that purpose or that functionality will be moved out to somewhere else (like Content Caching has been already).

275:

Hadrian's Wall wasn't very substantial, more of a hindrance than a serious fortification but then so was Antonine's Wall. The key thing was the military road structure behind them plus the way-forts which provided a quick response to troublesome events in the region plus somewhere to fall back behind if the events got serious. There was also a certain amount of busy-work in the construction for the legions and ancillaries deployed in the area and a visible symbol of Roman power in the region which otherwise was not very impressive.

Since I was a kid there have been more efforts to uncover, research and preserve parts of Antonine's Wall. Here's a link to pages about Bar Hill fort showing how it's preserved and displayed today.

https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/kirkintilloch/barhill/index.html

When I visited the location back in the 1960s and 1970s it was an overgrown hill with worked stone rubble hidden among the trees and bracken and no clear idea of the layout visible.

276:

macOS server : It apparently went from life support to death watch :

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/01/29/farewell_to_macos_server/

277:

I totally missed the content caching server when it showed up. Thanks!

278:

Even the bacteria are getting into Teh Crazy:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180126122856.htm

Tl;DR: scientists studying the evolution of antibiotic resistance in Enterococcus faecium in cattle tripped over an example where genes for a botulinum toxin (plus associated proteins that prevent it from getting degraded by the GI tract) got onto a plasmid inside a Clostridium botulinum and were transferred to Enterococcus faecium.

Fortunately, that was from a single cow, the toxin expressed by the plasmid was not the full suite of toxins that Clostridium can deploy, and the bacteria with the plasmid isn't completely antibiotic resistant.

Wonder what else is going on that we're not monitoring?

For instance, could the full botulinum toxin suite jump to an antibiotic strain of Clostridium difficile? That might be worrisome.

Anyway, here's a note to aspiring SFF writers: you can create a eerily predictive story by combining the following:
--The very slow pace of development on new antibiotics due to greed and market forces(they're not as profitable as statins or other daily or lifestyle drugs)
--The rapid development of multiple antibiotic resistance in infectious bacteria, abetted by the still widespread use of prophylactic antibiotics in livestock.
--Genes jumping from bacteria to bacteria.

You don't even need to invoke the mad scientist, although that scenario is increasingly plausible due to our increasingly sophisticated synthetic biology tech. Rather, all you have to do is have the situation (a homeless camp, a high-density industrial livestock operation, a hospital with careless nurses and custodians, an extended care facility with the same) where the bugs get together in patient zero, exchange plasmids, and a frankenbug arises that combines the antibiotic resistance of one parent with the least desirable disease traits of its other parent(s).

Note that this won't necessarily be the zombie bacteria. Still, resistant tuberculosis that produced botulism would be bad enough if it became an epidemic. So would a multi-drug resistant Yersinia pestis, especially if it was adapted to pneumonic spread rather than just to fleas.

279:

Nope, sorry, even if I were to sell my house, that much money is still way over there. However, let's talk the 400....

Excerpt:
The poorest 47% of Americans have no wealth

In 1983 the poorest 47% of America had $15,000 per family, 2.5 percent of the nation’s wealth.

In 2009 the poorest 47% of America owned ZERO PERCENT of the nation’s wealth (their debt exceeded their assets).

At the other extreme, the 400 wealthiest Americans own as much wealth as 80 million families — 62% of America. The reason, once again, is the stock market.
--- end excerpt ---

http://inequalityforall.com/fact-3/

Went to look for the UK, and this is close, from last May:
excerpt:
The 29th Sunday Times Rich List, which lists the 1,000 wealthiest individuals and families in the UK, revealed that "this year’s 500 richest individuals and families are now wealthier than the entire top 1,000 were in 2016."
--- end excerpt ---

http://www.businessinsider.com/sunday-times-rich-list-2017-richest-people-uk-britain-2017-4

mark

280:

Don't know that. However, I am reminded of hearing how, in the seventies?, Hank the Hallucination, from Sam Hurt's Eyebeam, almost was voted student body president at the UT at Austin....

281:

Charlie and I are in complete agreement on this. Once we start massively eliminating jobs, however, we get to what I've been calling, for the last 20 or 25 years, the "post-Adamic society", where you no longer have to earn your bread by the sweat of your brow. (Of course I (c) that phrase!)

Then we reach a completely different conversation, one I've been *trying* to start for all that time, and only in the last year have people started to nibble the edges of the implications: once we're not longer saddled with what I've referred to a white male syndrome, which is what I do is who I am (I'm a mechanic", no, you're Joe Schmoe...). Then... what the *hell* do we do with our lives. Sure, a lot of folks would party a lot, and probably more would watch tv or play games till their eyeballs fall out... but most of them are even going to get bored, and then what?

282:

but most of them are even going to get bored, and then what?

Probably randomly destroy things to see what it feels like, or as a side effect of "having fun." And worry about the whole system falling apart, which will inspire "games" (like survivalism) based on paranoia. And have a complicated emotional relationship with everyone who still has to work for a living (like doctors and farm workers), despising some and being jealous of others, depending on their status.

Oh, and get involved in local politics.

Actually, sorry, that's middle class white male syndrome I was talking about. I have no idea what people will do when they've got more privilege than they know what to do with, and less of a moral compass about what is right. That's totally different than what the better-off members of the Baby Boom and Gen X have dealt with.

283:

Some of us have been doing this for years, insofar as we work to live and have entire complex lives otuside work. It helps not being USA'ian and having to work 3 jobs or die of starvation of course.

The answer is simple, but of course a little harder to carry out. Assuming we've managed to stop the oligarchs and kleptocrats from setting things up as drone lords, that leaves us plenty of time and some resources to do more higher education, for all. More research, in arts and sciences. Local spaces full of artistic stuff done by local people, rather than drab brick and concrete wherever you go. Conversations of artoworks taking months to happen, spreading colour and ideas. Old people will no longer need to be left alone all day because more people will have time to spend 5 minutes with them. Children will get to meet more people of all sorts, and hang out with them and learn from them.

284:

Don't knock gaming so much. Gaming on the xbox kept me same as I dealt with my mothers mental decline due to Alzheimer's over the last 10 years, I was her fulltime carer, particularly the year or so where she was on a 15 minute looped conversation.

However, that is more of an intro, over the last 4 year I have being playing a particular game (not well) and putting video of my play with commentary on YouTube. I can tell you that it is immensely satisfying to know that even as little as 3 or 4 people take the time and derive some pleasure from watching my efforts.

So it is not the games alone but games combined with social media like YouTube and Twitch.

In fact YouTube and probably Twitch (But I have not really looked into that) are fascinating in their own right. There is a whole genre of what I think of as middle aged men ranting at the internet that people are making a handy living out of. i have been tempted to join them but resisted so far.

285:

John Barnes has been playing around with that question (a bit) in his Giraut series (A Million Open Doors and sequels).

286:

Yeah, the problem is that hasn't worked out so far.

For example, there are thousands of writers on Amazon (I'm one) getting a few bucks for their books. You can go to Etsy to see the solid arts for sale, and get your music elsewhere.

The problem here isn't just the talent or lack thereof, it's that the audience gets inundated with so much "good" (for any value of good) content by other people who do it better than you do. It can be really destructive to any creative to be told, not just that they're okay (which they likely are), but that they're not as good as (random titan in the field).

That also goes for research. For example, look at the massive proliferation of predatory, open-access journals in academia, ones that will publish anything so long as it gets paid for. Academia has always run on a vanity press model, where status isn't just about how many people read your vanity papers, but who you get to pay for them and how much status you accrue by doing so. Adding millions of mediocre researchers to this pool won't necessarily make for better science, but it will make for great opportunities for the tastemakers (many of whom may not be scientists, but who have agendas they're pushing), and it will make sure that a lot of good science gets lost in the noise.

Now I'm not neutral on this subject: I tend to support a "right livelihood" model for people. I think it's good for people to do stuff that supports others, both human and otherwise. Surplusing people, even if you give them a basic living for the rest of their lives, still sends the message that they're fundamentally worthless unless they can prove themselves worthy, and that's a recipe for trouble no matter how you slice it.

In my fantasy future (not that I think it will happen), humans and machines will be more symbiotic partners. There are things that humans are good at, and there are things machines are good at, and both need each other to survive, at least so long as there's more than 100 million humans on this planet. That's the basis for a working relationship, if we can make it happen.

Unfortunately, I suspect that we're just going to see a reiteration of the old slavemaking mode of capitalism, where the rich and powerful will use the dynamic of replacing controlled humans with machines, or even machines with humans, to maximize their control of resources, power, and people (just think about the whole dynamic of slavery and industrialization. They were, and to some degree still are, intimately linked). There's a lot we can do about this, but it starts with a profoundly large disempowerment problem.

Fortunately, there are plenty of examples from history where the rich have largely been wiped out. It's not as if there are a lot of them, after all...

287:

Fuck alone knows what David L is doing to need one or even two orders of magnitude more bandwidth than I have for everything to perform by far the least bandwidth-consuming task.

My problem is my 5mbps upload. To get more I have to get 100 or so down. And with TWC becoming Spectrum after merging with Charter all the options have changed and I have to now figure out what is what.

At to the office I mentioned with 150/150 we are moving to allow people to work from home.

And you need to know that most of my clients do things like CAD work. On 27" inch primary displays with maybe a 24" or larger second display. These office were gig in the LAN long before "the experts" thought anyone needed it. Not quite as bad as video editing but way above an office of folks doing Word and Excel docs. Plus they do things like run a file sharing server for their projects so people outside of their office can look at things. And yes it is moving to the cloud but you still want bandwidth to allow people to push out 100 to 300 meg without much hassle.

And back to remote work. At times I have to take over the GUI and it can really suck at lower speeds.

288:

Charlie wrote It'd be nice if the social organizing principle of the developed world wasn't one that could fairly be described as wage slavery,...

and Heteromeles wrote Unfortunately, I suspect that we're just going to see a reiteration of the old slavemaking mode of capitalism,

People are actually being bought and sold in the developing world:
http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=58127#.Wm-THa2B1Yc

so I doubt anti-slavery campaigners will pay much attention to Westerners claiming "we're so oppressed too" any time soon.

I also note that tens of thousands of people in the developing world risk their lives for a chance to be exploited in Western Europe / USA each year. Where are the progressives standing on the Mexican border / coastline of the Med shouting "Turn back! Save yourselves!" ?

289:

Believe it or not, I know that, just as I've also heard that they're basically buying and selling migrants as slaves in Libya.

And all the reports of foreigners using other foreigners as involuntary wage slaves doesn't even touch the more exploitative parts of the sex industry.

The sick thing about capitalism, all the way back (likely) to its original spice-trading precursors in the Middle East, is that there have been some consistent sectors for international trade: weapons, slaves, precious minerals, and "pharmaceuticals" (in the broad sense, including spices, tobacco, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, modern pharmaceuticals, and what we consider illicit drugs today).

Today there are markets of all shades of legality in these four sectors. Worse, despite efforts to ban whole sectors of them (cf: war on drugs, outlawing slavery, cracking down on various weapons trades), they've adapted and thrived.

I'm not smart enough to make an argument about whether this is in the nature of capitalism, whether it's "human nature" (whatever that is), the "inherent nature of civilization" (whatever that is), or whether these are simply the classes of items where trade among strangers is so lucrative that even outlawing it doesn't stop it. That would be a fascinating argument, I guess.

My basic points are that it's hard to get rid of these sectors without nuking international trade and perhaps civilization, and it's equally hard to avoid having these sectors suborning any great idea we have (like robots taking all human jobs). If we're going to talk about a near future without human labor, to me it makes sense to understand what that will do to things like human trafficking, various drug trades, international flows of weapons, and so on.

290:

And, in another sign of the onrushing Singularity, researchers claim that natural language processing is helping them to decipher the Voynich Manuscript.

If you believe the machine, the Voynich is Hebrew (ish).

Me, I'm wondering if that just means it's another form of Enochian or some other occultish thing...

Oh well, slow news day and all.

291:

Heteromeles wrote My basic points are that it's hard to get rid of these sectors without nuking international trade and perhaps civilization, and it's equally hard to avoid having these sectors suborning any great idea we have (like robots taking all human jobs).

I think of capitalism as an amplifier of human behavior. Rich Westerners can do terrible things, but very good things too - if there's a humanitarian or environmental crisis in the world, it's not going to be Chad or Azerbaijan leading the response.

The developing world, which is most of the people and whose decisions will matter most for the remainder of this century, prefer capitalism. They want to move to capitalist Western countries, or have been choosing capitalism for their own countries since, oh 1979 Iran. The only serious opposition to the spread of capitalism in Africa and the Middle East is Islamic fundamentalism.

If we're going to solve these problems, I believe we're going to have to do so within the framework of capitalism.

292:

There's some problems there. One is that I'm not sure people in developing countries *want* to move here. It's that so many of their resources have been exported to the first world that they may not have much of a choice.

293:

Another random bit that might be of interest An Introduction to Cyber Peacekeeping.

294:

"Surplusing people, even if you give them a basic living for the rest of their lives, still sends the message that they're fundamentally worthless unless they can prove themselves worthy"

That only applies if you get rid of jobs but don't get rid of the present delusion of defining "worth" in terms of having a job. However, that can only be a transient condition since the existence of jobs is necessary to the maintenance of the delusion. And the persistence of the delusion is necessary to the maintenance of the belief in jobs - even with the degree of effort amplification that was available >=100 years ago, never mind what is possible with current technology. Both conditions require each other for support, and if you get rid of one the other will soon collapse (which is of course why people who do realise the basic uselessness of 90% of "work" can never make their views widely heard).

295:

"Capitalism"
Yes, well.
Y'all are aware that a constant thread amongst many on the right who are not fascists, is that "What we've go isn't capitalism!" They are claiming it's corporatism & hance close to fascism, & they have a point.
Meanwhile, what other economic structure do you want?
Communism? Nah, we know that doesn't work, or not at state level, anyway - see also the strictures about communism at the family level, where it does appear to work.

Is that one of the problems: Scaling up or down changes the problem, which huge numbers of people can't or won't see - this was one of the madwoman's failings, wasn't it?

296:

it's that the audience gets inundated with so much "good" (for any value of good) content by other people who do it better than you do.

I haven't found that problem, because there's a lot of demand for personalised work. I am a mediocre photographer but still managed to pay off an expensive camera setup by selling my skills (such as they are). People will pay for "you're here, and I want" surprisingly often over "they're better, eventually". The same applies to music, I have paid more in my life for live local musicians than live international acts purely because I can see the locals more often. Also, I Patreon-ise people like Tobias Bucknell in the same way as I help out local artists, because for a couple of bucks a month I can push them towards the stuff I like (less stupid-game-movie-book-tie-in stuff, more whatever-he-feels-like)

Surplusing people, even if you give them a basic living, still sends the message that they're fundamentally worthless

Supplying a basic income won't change that, we already give that message to a great many people without providing the income. Many on the far right will tell you that doing so is good and necessary, even boasting about doing so - and not just the Rees-Mogg types, Blair did the same. Killing off the weak never went out of fashion.

I know rather a lot of people who would quit "work" in a second if they could afford it, and none of them would suffer ennui as a result. Most would be busier afterwards, in fact, and feel more valued as well. I know that's been true for me when I've taken time off paid work to do what I care about (I have spent year-plus intervals doing that several times). I know when the inevitable happens I spend a few months going "I need to find a job, when I have time". And somehow I only have time when finances are getting pretty darn tight.

I work in IT and studied engineering, so perhaps I'm over-exposed to people doing things that make money rather than what they actually care about. But my reading suggests that the same is true of law and finance as well. But the sheer number of people I know who write code to fund an amateur acting career or similar stuff is just huge. I had the pleasure once of talking to a very successful Herr-Docktor-Docktor-Professor of Engineering once... whose hobby was building bicycles. The discussion very quickly veered from "and here is our new multi-million dollar lab built with grants from my grateful customers" to "oh, wow, a recumbent low ... touring bike? Let us discuss that at length". It is quite scary in a way, dealing with someone to whom the maths in "Lords of the Chainring" is straightforward but the experimentation behind it is daunting. HerrDrDrProf, just pick up the gas axe and go for it.

297:

Heteromeles wrote One is that I'm not sure people in developing countries *want* to move here. It's that so many of their resources have been exported to the first world that they may not have much of a choice.

They may not have much choice about moving from, but they most certainly have choice of where to move to. Actions speak louder than words.

Look at the Americas. AFAIK, Mexico is not a plague-ridden dustbowl. It's a G20 country with reasonable government, universal healthcare, gun control, absolutely no interest in invading other countries. Yet each year thousands of Central and South Americans travel through Mexico because they'd rather become victims of imperialist USA robber barons.

And I believe earlier this decade was when the accumulated number of black Africans who've voluntarily emigrated to the USA exceeded the number who were brought over as slaves. Why are all these folk lining up to be murdered by the institutionally racist USA government? It isn't because freak winds in the airport departure lounge blew them onto the wrong airliner.

On a smaller scale, since the Vietnamese in the 1970s a whole lot of people from various parts of Asia have been sailing thousands of kilometres, past countries such as India and Singapore and Brunei, because they want to live under the rule of the genocidal white colonialist invaders of Australia.

Western capitalist societies aren't perfect. But a great many people from other parts of the world seem to think that they're better places to live than anywhere else.

298:

I’ve landed, somewhat by chance, in a position very similar to the post-employment goal here, and for me it’s just fine. Stripped of details, some places have to be open 24/7 and unlike some people I can remain awake all night. Someone coined the term ‘retired at desk’ and that’s not far off, as I’m getting paid less than at my previous job but I’m also basically keeping a chair warm most of the time; I’ve joked that I’m leveraging my core skills of staying up all night and wasting time on the internet. As an estimate I’m probably “working” about six or seven hours a week, in the sense of doing paperwork, talking to people, and such; that doesn’t count occasionally wandering around with a flashlight to see if anything worth noticing is hiding in the shadows.

It’s functionally very close to retirement or a GMI dole and I’ll agree it’s much better than being unemployed and uncertain.

We’ve lost people from busier shifts than mine, simply because they couldn’t handle hours of nothing happening between work events. (It goes both ways; I’ve also had coworkers who wouldn’t do anything useful just because they were at work.) This may be a problem for people who are psychologically conditioned to ‘work’ whether or not there’s anything that needs to be done.

299:

Cheers; that's very much the sort of thing I meant, where HW still stands several feet proud and the routes of the main military roads are now largely the A69 and others in that mile or so South of the wall itself.

300:

I ditched BT (bastards wouldnt replace faulty homehub without me signing up for further 18 months, when I was already paying them £60/m for fibre), and moved to SSE. Well pleased - same service (landline, rental, fibre, £25/m. Cracking price to me, and service seems solid (this is in Wakefield). YMMV as they are perfidious scots ;)

301:

I only pay BT for the landline basic rate, nothing else.
But, I still can't easily find out if I need a new router or not, nor get a beetr deal from TalkTalk, as they don't seem to recognise my log-in ... uh?
Hint: I would rather, even if temporarily, be paying for an inferior service that more-or-less works, compared to changing to a supposedly better-&-cheaper one that doesn't & leaves me unconnected to anything at all.

302:

Greg, you can get a wireless 4g solution from Relish for ~£20/mo, which might be a good option depending on mobile signal in your area.
Keeping your existing email is a little tricky depending on who it is with, but many isps will let you have a mailbox only account for a pound a month or so - or you can get a new one and forward your old one to it.

303:

NOT going there ...
But I've just had an admission from "TT" that they've rolled-out new contracts & left me on "legacy" - which is more expensive, bastards.
Incidentally, how do I interrogate my syatem for modem/router details?

304:

I know rather a lot of people who would quit "work" in a second if they could afford it, and none of them would suffer ennui as a result.

Quite a few of my friends are retired. They are busier now than when they were working, doing the things that they want to do rather than the things they had to do.

This squares with my father's experience. When he retired he had time to learn to weave, get decent at watercolours, get a degree in a subject he found intriguing, and serve on a number of committees for causes he felt were important — none of which he had enough time for when working.

305:

Does this site provide any kind of DM =features ? I'd really like to start a conversation with @_Moz_ if he wouldn't mind.

306:

Yes, we're better off. The question is where did the resources that made that wealth come from? Your thesis only makes sense if colonialism was a silly proposition, because all those places white empires conquered had nothing at all (cropland, cheap labor, oil, minerals, other natural resources) that could be exported back to the homeland at a profit. On the other hand, if colonies were set up to be exploited and left to fend for themselves, then it makes just a bit of sense that people who can't make a good living in the exploited areas would try to emigrate closer to where all their resources had gone, in the hope of making a better living there.

307:

Well the example of Britain suggests otherwise, doesn't it?
Britain was already the most developend nation in the world by 1776 & even though losing the US colonies was still able to fend off the world's largest aggressive military power through a series of wars that lasted 1792-1815 with ony two very short breaks. And still fully-industrialised first - and at least 90% of that growth was internal, not from "colonial exploitation".
Hell, we abolished slavetrading in the middle of that war & by 1832-3, although legaL, slavery was rare in British terretories outside the W Indes, by which time is was cheaper & simpler to BUY OUT the remaining slaveowning & make it fully illegal.
Maybe Britain was a special case, maybe not?

308:

Donald Trump denigrating Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa as “shitholes” is like a thief mocking the poverty of someone he has just robbed blind. Trump scorns the refugees who leave these countries for the United States, when it is the destruction wrought in large part by decades of exploitative American policies that forces people to flee.

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2018/01/25/donald-trump-is-making-the-us-into-his-s--hole.html

Not just American, of course. It took Haiti over a century to repay the loans it incurred for a 'debt' to France, demanded at gunpoint to compensate slave-owners for the freed slaves.

309:

Mack Reynolds answer to what people would do when most jobs were automated was that most people, the ones that couldn't find "jobs", would drug themselves with "trank". I suspect that he was thinking of marijuana, but he was never more specific. He envisioned it as being issued by the government along with rations. I wasn't quite clear how he envisioned TV as working, since at times it seemed as if it was supposed to sedate people, but at other times it showed live coverage of corporate wars (military wars) handled as a sport. And military being one of the few pathways of social mobility.

310:

What you say is certainly true about the choice of immigrants to move to capitalist countries. However, I think you mistake the importance of developed countries to modern migration. The thing is, there is more migration between developing countries than from developing countries to developed ones.

I'm ignoring for now the fact that the largest migration in this decade continues to be the migration of people from W. China to the E. China. That has slowed down, but not stopped.

I'm also not going to post the fact that there are more Syrian refugees in Turkey (3 million) than there are in all of Europe.

About 10.9 percent of Malaysia's population is foreign-born.

Similarly, about 9 percent of Costa Rica's population is foreign-born. Three-quarters of that population are Nicaraguans. This might be why the Central American immigration which happened this decade involved primarily Guatemalans, El Salvadoreans, and Hondurans. Relatively few Nicaraguans, Panamanians, Belizeans, or Costa Ricans made the trek.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_Costa_Rica

While Mexico's share of the foreign born population is small, I've heard rumors that a portion of Central Americans ARE staying in Mexico. I don't know what the statistics are behind this phenomenon
http://www.dw.com/en/central-american-immigrants-turn-to-mexico/g-38792211

Likewise, a fifth of Kazakhstan's population was born elsewhere. Some of this is due to the breakup of the Soviet Union, but I've read that Kazakhstan's oil wealth, political stability, and prominence on the One-Belt-One-Road Initiative is making it the base of companies doing business in Central Asia. In other words, it's fulfilling the role Dubai had for the Middle East during the previous decade. In fact, it's siphoning off immigrants who would otherwise go to Russia, especially now with the sanctions.

While South Africa and Thailand's share of foreign-born populations are small percentage-wise, they have about 3.1 and 3.9 million people born elsewhere, respectively.

If I spent the time to do the research, I could probably find a similar pattern within the rest of Africa as well?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_immigrant_population

P.S. As a small aside, I personally think that Erdogan is likely to grant them citizenship for two reasons

1. The fact that he nearly lost the last referendum means that voters are getting tired of him. It would help him to have more loyal voters

2. The TFR of a large portion of his Anatolian heartland is now below replacement. Most areas with a TFR above 3.0 are Kurdish
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Turkey#Total_fertility_rate_(TFR)_by_Province_and_Year

311:

So far in Appalachia, the "trank" is opiods. We're treading on the same arguments used by Reagan to severely curtail welfare.

312:

Maybe, sort of, many people are introduced to opioids because o work-relatedf repetitive stress injuries. Interestingly, Bill Clinton's people wished to update OSHA regulations to, hopefully, prevent those injuries, the "Conservative" response was "Drugs!". Perhaps a lesson in misappropriated nomenclature?

313:

When he retired he had time to learn to weave, get decent at watercolours, get a degree in a subject he found intriguing, and serve on a number of committees for causes he felt were important — none of which he had enough time for when working.

For five years, I worked 30-hour weeks (six hours a day, Monday to Friday) in an industry where 37.5-hour weeks (plus an indeterminate amount of non-reported work) is the norm. I took the 20% pay cut, too, but on the whole I had much more energy and was happier. I had to switch back because we can save more by doing longer days. However, I think I managed to get almost as much done during the 80% days - now I seem to have more breaks and just times when I can't concentrate.

I have began to suspect that at least an unmentioned, if not subconscious, thing about the about 40-hour week is that then the workers don't have that much energy during their free time to do whatever they want. In addition to doing what your father did, they might for example get into politics or do something else that the rich people wouldn't like.

314:

There are multiple issues with the happily ever after... and I'm thinking in terms of "how do we get from here and now to there".

For one, it's not just that a *lot* of people define themselves by what they do for a living, it's that they may have interests... but say "I'm not good enough, so many people do it so much better, and they've got the training and experience".

That needs to die.

I have a house party/song circle several times a year. One of the things I say, we we gather the circle (folk, filk, etc) is that YES YOU CAN! Humans sang forever, until the last 30 or so years, when people, at least in the West, got brainwashed to think you needed to be Approved by a record company before you could sing anywhere but the shower. That's a much broader issue, too: yeah, I tried to paint, but look at the crap I painted compared to Leonardo da Vinci is the attitude. Again, DUH!

So we also need new structures, to give "ordinary" people places to show what they can do. We surely don't have them now.

And with all of that, in this case, we're talking many orders of magnitude than 10 or 100 people....

315:

Um, yeah, and a lot of us have issues with the right.

And you know, I've been calling them neofascists, but what literally just struck me a few minutes ago is this: in the US, we're hearing about how many of the "governing wing" of the GOP is leaving Congress and the Senate. And the whole modern right.... Grover Norquist, traitor, literally, gave their goal, decades ago (and he's been bribing, er, contributing to campaigns, etc ever since): he said "I want to starve the US government until I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it."

But the libertarians, and neoConfederates, and the rest of the all-wrong, what they really want is *no* government, just a police and military, to keep us rabble down, and move us out of their beautiful view.

What they want is the "society" as exemplified by the drug lords.

You say "communism obviously didn't work". Now, I am not a Communist, nor was my father... but consider that Russia was 80%? 90% agrarian when it went into WWI. The Soviets did a full industrialization of the country inside of 20 years... which took the west over a century. And they had to fight what was arguably the worst war the world has seen, after a) recovering from WWI, then prepare and recover from WWII, and waste huge amounts of money to protect themselves from the West, who constantly threatened them. Were they run by nice people? No. Had anyone ever tried to do that before? No.

Note that Marx would *not* have expected The Revolution in Russia. He was looking for it in the West, industrialized, with democratic traditions.

And that brings us to...you zoomed *right* by all the rest of socialism. That's were we have social control of capital, and try to run society for the benefit of *everyone*, not for the benefit of the 1%.

I can go on for a *while* on this, but I'll stop here.

316:

Mack Reynolds also wrote Trample An Empire Down in the same or a similar setting. In that one some bored guys on GAI (Guaranteed Annual Income) decide to start up the "Subversive Party" aka the Suedeshirts. The initial concept owes more to the likes of Vermin Supreme or the Raving Monster Looney Party than to more traditional parties. But it quick grows into something more serious, in large part because there are so many people who can do party work fulltime.

317:

That only applies if you get rid of jobs but don't get rid of the present delusion of defining "worth" in terms of having a job.

There are some things that need to be done in order to have a functional civilization. Somebody has to do those things, even if it's only to the level of supervising the robots that do the actual work.

Additionally, people need something to do. Without a reason to go forward, people atrophy. Work is valuable in that respect; it gives people something to do and a reason to go on living.

The question is how to organize a civilization so the "work" gets done and people have a reason to live without exploiting the many to benefit a few. Work & jobs are the way civilization is organized now. There may be better ways, but AFAIK, no satisfactory alternative way of sustaining civilization has yet been demonstrated.

318:

Mack Reynolds answer to what people would do when most jobs were automated was that most people, the ones that couldn't find "jobs", would drug themselves with "trank". I suspect that he was thinking of marijuana, but he was never more specific. He envisioned it as being issued by the government along with rations. I wasn't quite clear how he envisioned TV as working, since at times it seemed as if it was supposed to sedate people, but at other times it showed live coverage of corporate wars (military wars) handled as a sport. And military being one of the few pathways of social mobility.

Bread and circuses. Mack Reynolds was suggesting the decline in political participation by the masses would lead to disenfranchisement in the U.S. similar to the declining days of the Roman Republic, with a dole to keep the growing percentage of the population who couldn't find work quiescent.

The problem with our present political circumstance is the disenfranchisement is taking place, but the oligarchs are balking at paying for the bread & circuses.

319:

But the libertarians, and neoConfederates, and the rest of the all-wrong, what they really want is *no* government, just a police and military, to keep us rabble down, and move us out of their beautiful view.

What they want is the "society" as exemplified by the drug lords.

Agreed. What we're talking about is that they want to turn our democracy into an aristocracy via the intermediate step of plutocracy.

Getting back to SFF, I've had a bit of amusemenet transposing the Rome-to-Byzantine model to a climate-changed US. In many ways it doesn't work (geography actually does matter), but one part I'd contemplated was a northeast and northwest continuation of the US, with the west coast US becoming an authoritarian "aristocracy" run as the logical outcome of a mashup between Silicon Valley tech barons and drug lords, with "illegals" (defined however convenient--a lot of back-to-the-woods hippies would likely qualify) providing the less-than-free labor for the big ranches (e.g. industrial farms) that were the latter-day estates. The Byzantine Empire was somewhat vaguely organized this way, if you look at the tech barons as analogous to the hierarchy of the church (controlling knowledge) and the drug lords as vaguely analogous to the ducal warlords (controlling violence), and both being issued estates in exchange for feudal service/tax farming for a central government that can't afford to consistently seek taxes or provide services. And that government might be run by a "Pro-Tem" officer for life in place of the Constitution that we all want reassembled, like, any day, now, echoing the dreams of getting Rome (excuse me, the United States of America) reassembled again, to regain its lost glory. Most of the land between the Sierras and the Mississippi would be lawless, thanks to a combination of desertification, aquifer drawdown, and dams taking a few centuries to fail sufficiently to let even a reduced Colorado flow to the sea.

This all sounds somewhat silly, but I do suspect there's a strong prepper/survivalist streak in the American Right, along with that lust for power. They fear a population crash is coming, and want to make sure that the people who survive are their people, however you want to define that.

320:

No Dm or anything. But you can email me via moz.strossfan@spamgourmet.com and I will give you a real email address (that's a temporary forwarder).

321:

Why are all these folk lining up to be murdered by the institutionally racist USA government? It isn't because freak winds in the airport departure lounge blew them onto the wrong airliner.

As a friend of mine (British, emigrated to the USA about 30 years ago) commented, "America is a horrible place to be poor, but the best country in the world if you're rich".

He wasn't wrong: the US government is run by and for the rich, and if you're over a certain threshold (I'd say personal assets around $5M or annual income over $250,000) you're in the gravy: enough law enforcement that you probably don't need your own posse of armed guards to accompany you everywhere in public, but as long as you pay your accountant and attorney regularly you're pretty much invulnerable to everything above the level of a parking ticket.

322:

You say "communism obviously didn't work". Now, I am not a Communist, nor was my father... but consider that Russia was 80%? 90% agrarian when it went into WWI. The Soviets did a full industrialization of the country inside of 20 years... which took the west over a century.

The Soviet Union "obviously didn't work". Otherwise they'd still be around.

Whether the Soviet Union is the best example one could chose to say whether "communism" works or not is debatable. While they paid lip service to Marx, they were oligarchs of a "new class". Political participation by "the people" was strictly limited.

It was "communism" imposed from the top down. They never came anywhere close to achieving:

"From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs."

The Soviet's political technocrats would have been easily interchangeable with the "makers" from Ayn Rand's libertarian pipe dreams.

Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.

And the Soviets' "full industrialization" wouldn't have been possible without the massive transfusions of material and technology they received from the west during the "Great Patriotic War".

Left to their own devices, they would never have been able to match the west's century of progress because they started from so far behind and central planning by bureaucrats appointed for their party loyalty instead of practical experience in the fields they're supposed to oversee doesn't work very well.

323:

I have a house party/song circle several times a year. One of the things I say, we we gather the circle (folk, filk, etc) is that YES YOU CAN!

So much that. I have explained to people more often than I can be bothered counting that having perfect pitch just means that *everyone* sounds awful to me. You're not Te Kanawa in a recording studio? Oh dear. But also, so what! Try to follow the tune at a safe distance and have fun, coz that's what I'm doing. With practice I could probably dance as well as Lorde (or Peter Garret for you old farts). But hey, I've performed in 10 or so musicals over the years, fitting in neatly with a cast of similarly talented induhviduals. The thing that amazes me is that people actually paid to see us perform - there's a strong argument that we should have paid them :)

One of the more amusing things I've done is build a tandem recumbent trike where the middle section could be removed to turn it into a solo trike. Ian Sims at Greenspeed said it was a stupid idea and wanted no part of it. Then once I'd built the thing and ridden it a few thousand kilometres a guy in Canada demanded that Ian build something similar for him... so he did: http://tricolour.net/gtvs6.html That's not the only amateur weird thing I've cobbled together that's ended up proving a commercial proposition. Which is not "work" or even "look, I'm useful", that's me having ideas and building things for myself.

The capitalist/mercantilist take on that might be: giving people the space to experiment with ideas and build what they actually want, rather than the nearest approximation that "the market" can provide, means more ideas get tried and some of them are likely to work.

324:

As a friend of mine (British, emigrated to the USA about 30 years ago) commented, "America is a horrible place to be poor, but the best country in the world if you're rich".

Wouldn't work without the Horatio Alger delusion that the U.S. is still a place where anyone with enough pluck can work hard and rise up in society; that any child born in the U.S. can aspire to become President.

It was hardly true when Alger was writing his "rags to riches" fantasies. It's even less true today.

Still, if your skin tone is light enough, it is still possible by dint of hard work and perseverance to claw your way out of poverty and into the working class/middle class. Maybe your children or grandchildren will do better economically than you have, although that door appears to be closing now as well.

Your friend probably made it in just in time.

325:

I disagree with you completely.
Moz #296 answers you a fair bit.

As for your other points. If you have an actual working UBI, then the fact you earn a pittance from amazon for your work is irrelevant. Also, see earlier caveat about stopping oligarchic take over. Amazon is a poster boy for monopolistic take over, so hardly a good example for our functioning UBI society and culture.

Maybe you don't know many creatives?
(Yes, that was sarcasm)
All the ones I've ever known would create anyway, whether they got paid to or not. Audience be damned, and the best way to get good work out of them is to ask them to do something new or different.

As for open access pay to play journals, they aren't the issue you think they are. The issue is just that they are another method of polluting the information commons. The trick will be to ensure there is both education and some forms of qualification for the scientific research, whether through co-ops or the good old fashioned university system. If you can manage that, the pay for access journals will be just irritating noise.

You clearly have a different idea of what the future could be like, but since you attach such emotion to the nonsense work "Surplusing", I have trouble taking your comments seriously. My point is that even if someone is surplus to production there are a myriad of things they can be doing that supports other humans and the world, and the worthiness will ultimately be in the eyes of the people they help or befriend or suchlike.

Nothing in my ideas is against human machine symbiosis.

326:

There was a very good reason I used the word "communism" - a murderous religion, masquerading as a political party & system, rather than "socialism" which has a much broader spectrum - & includes "mixed Economies" ....

327:

Heteromeles wrote Agreed. What we're talking about is that they want to turn our democracy into an aristocracy via the intermediate step of plutocracy.

So provide a better alternative going forward. The point I've been trying to make is not to defend colonialism or imperialism in the past. I'm interested in the future too, and my view is that any alternative social / economic plan that begins with "tear down capitalism!" is going to be rejected. People in the developing world do not seem nearly as enthusiastic about abandoning Western capitalism as you do.

328:

Yes, but - whitroth had half a point.
But, contrariwise ...
Venezuala? Cuba? The internal gross oppression & manipulation - at least as bad as the brown people in the US get?

I agree there ought to be a "middle way" somewhere, though.

329:

Yeah
This is what got me about the total wankers in "occupy" ...
"We are completely aganst the big exploitative corporations" - whilst typing on a AppleMac thinbook, right.

330:

The Soviet Union "obviously didn't work". Otherwise they'd still be around.

The British Empire obviously didn't work. Otherwise they'd still be around.

The Roman Empire obviously didn't work. Otherwise they'd still be around.

(Etc.)

I maintain that communism not only works, but is the primary organizing system for the human species, all of us here included ... on a scale significantly smaller than Dunbar's number, i.e. within family groups where dependents are taken care of collectively without regard to the external nominally-capitalist economy. Large scale applications of communism are notably less successful and typically degenerate into something barely distinguishable from a badly-run corporate state; mixed-model social democracy may well be the most successful system of all insofar as it worked fine and took a concerted external assault by a hyper-wealthy international oligarchy over a period of decades to corrode its institutions.

331:

I'm not going to defend communism, considering how many famines it caused.

However, I will point out that by the standard of "it's not here anymore," everything fails. That's just reality. Nothing lasts forever. The better criteria is what a system does to and for its members while it's still around. By that standard, I wouldn't want to live under a communism, but equally, I wouldn't want to be black in America.

I'd also point out that current and formerly communist countries are the only spacefarers at the moment, make of that what you will. One might argue that capitalism isn't all that great for getting humans off the planet, unless there's a fortune to be made exploiting something at the other end.

332:

"We are completely aganst the big exploitative corporations" - whilst typing on a AppleMac thinbook, right.

What would you have them type on? (Given that the 5 year TCO of Apple laptops is low compared to the equivalent Windows kit, let alone low-end Windows shitboxes that come loaded with crapware and then break down after 12 months ...)

Manual typewriters don't cut it for organizing in an age when we're lucky to get one postal delivery a day and most post offices have closed. Which leaves computers, from your choice of a handful of rival systems, because the technology needed to compete on functionality is so fearsomely complex that competing ecosystems can't easily get a toehold.

333:

Heteromeles @319 said: Getting back to SFF, I've had a bit of amusemenet transposing the Rome-to-Byzantine model to a climate-changed US.

I don't remember if I've posted this article before, but it hits on all the points that you are making, and shows that this has been going on for centuries. When a friend of mine sent me the link it fit with a major series that I'm working on. I had two of the books mentioned, and just got the other two. The article helps tie everything I'm working on together.

How a Brutal Strain of American Aristocrats Have Come to Rule America
http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/10126-how-a-brutal-strain-of-american-aristocrats-have-come-to-rule-america

America didn't used to be run like an old Southern slave plantation, but we're headed that way now. How did that happen?

This is the key conclusion at the end of the article.

[quote]
Elites who dare to argue for increased investment in the common good, and believe that we should lay the groundwork for a better future, are regarded as not just silly and soft-headed, but also inviting underclass revolt. The Yankees thought that government's job was to better the lot of the lower classes. The Southern aristocrats know that its real purpose is to deprive them of all possible means of rising up against their betters.

The rich are different now because the elites who spent four centuries sucking the South dry and turning it into an economic and political backwater have now vanquished the more forward-thinking, democratic Northern elites. Their attitudes towards freedom, authority, community, government, and the social contract aren't just confined to the country clubs of the Gulf Coast; they can now be found on the ground from Hollywood and Silicon Valley to Wall Street. And because of that quiet coup, the entire US is now turning into the global equivalent of a Deep South state.

As long as America runs according to the rules of Southern politics, economics and culture, we're no longer free citizens exercising our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as we've always understood them. Instead, we're being treated like serfs on Massa's plantation -- and increasingly, we're being granted our liberties only at Massa's pleasure. Welcome to Plantation America.
[/quote]

If you really are interested in fleshing out your story idea, read through the article.

334:

Story's already been written. Right, Walter Jon Williams (who's posted here...). It was called Hardwired.

335:

I make a point, at the parties, that the Official House Key is "off".

Actually, back in the seventies, I would get "shut up". Then, after I picked up Autoharp, it was "shut up and keep playing." Late 80's, I realized the correct answer: "I don't remember you paying for a ticket for me to entertain you. Therefore, I must be entertaining myself, and if you don't like it, tough."

Recumbent trike, hmmm? Back in the seventies, I wanted to put bicycle gearing into the shell of a TR-6 or 7....

336:

"And the Soviets' 'full industrialization' wouldn't have been possible without the massive transfusions of material and technology they received from the west during the 'Great Patriotic War'."

Umm ... no. In terms of military production and industrial mobilization for war, the USSR was already at or above German levels in 1940, which is pretty impressive given the starting point in 1928 (at very large human cost, of course). See e.g. economic historian Mark Harrison here:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228777456_Industrial_mobilisation_for_World_War_II_a_German_comparison

and look at the tables at the end. The USSR in 1940 was producing more guns, tanks, aircraft etc. than Germany, and had more people employed in large-scale industry.

337:

Yes & no.
I specifically challenged them on this & they rabbitted on about Apple not being the big evul US corp ( really, yes! ) ....
Couple that with the other disparate grouping who were present, none of whom had a clue & whose constant theme was "This time it's going to be different & [Insert_$NAME-of-$CULT:HERE] will be so much better with us in charge ( & the implication that there won't be a pile of skulls, honest )
And you can see why IU'm just a tad cynical about the whole thing

338:

On a vaguely related note, I am really enjoying the current fad of Lego-style electronics. Things have advanced enough and standardised enough (and transistors are cheap enough) that there's a huge pile of "plug the bits together and it just works" available to hobbyists. The YouTubes have a lot of them, and while the popular ones do tend to either blowing stuff up or "using my $100k of test gear we see that..." the guts of the matter is that on the one side complete idiots can make this stuff work, and on the other real engineers can use it to do cool stuff.

It means that a skilled amateur can now say "but I want a datalogger that does temperature, humidity and CO2, no more" and go out and buy the sensors, an SD card slot and a battery pack, plug them all into a $20 microprocessor board and stitch it together with 100 lines of code. Sure, it's ugly and unreliable, but it works. And if said amateur decides to, they can use free software to design a circuit board that combines the above bits rather than having 5 boards, get it built in China for $50, and whaddayano, it looks just like a real one. If it works they may even be able to buy something very much like it on AliExpress a couple of weeks later, because why would the Chinese factory make one when they can make 10 for the same price and sell the extras?

339:

That areticle is scarily true.
If only because, as usual, an imitation model is appearing here, with things like Jacob Rees-Fogg representing the Old Catholic Noblesse-what's that-oblige-thing-about(?) faction. You WILL obey may orders, because I have god on my side .....

There are VERY old Brit landed families who still represent the nobless oblige strain ( Cavendish, to some extent Grosvenor, Devereaux, Percy come to mind ...) but, as I said we have JRM & his cronies - & you can bet they are all really good christians, using all the usual religious bollocks to keep the lower orders in place.
Guck

340:

I'm beginning to think that communism doesn't work on group scales, either.

This is from Lynne Kelly's work on memory. She noted that the original power structure depended not precisely on control of resources, but on control of knowledge about how to exploit such resources. In this kind of knowledge-based economy, the route to ultimate power over the group came from someone knowing it all, and controlling the utilization of critical resources (especially during disasters like droughts or floods) as a way to keep people in line or else.

You can see that attitude today with any knowledge specialist, be it a university professor, a professional trainer, or whoever. This kind of knowledge can be power.

However, there's a simple trick to preventing monopoly of knowledge: spread it around, gender it, keep it in the family, and so forth. Thus no one knows everything they need to know to survive in a small group situation. Men may know how to hunt, but they don't know how to cook. The youngsters may know how to hunt, forage, and prepare stuff during normal times, but only the elders know how to get through the rarer disasters. When everybody has a critical role to play, the group has to support them all.

One could argue about whether this is communistic or hierarchical, but it doesn't particularly matter (both systems could work in this context). I'd suggest, more generally, that the knowledge economy is what works really well in small groups, though, as with communism, it may break down at larger scales. You keep grandma around, not just because of her cookie recipe, but because she knows where the safe deposit box is and what the account numbers are. That sort of thing.

341:

"get it built in China for $50"

I once designed, and built prototypes of, some stuff for a chap who insisted on getting them made in China no matter what...

"What" started with the first Chinese iteration of the boards catching fire when you switched them on, because they had changed the layout for no apparent reason and now there was a forward-biased diode connected directly between the power rails. They had also located some large components so close together that half the time they couldn't manage to solder them without bridging the pads with solder, which also created a short across the power rails.

It took at least three goes to get them to stop doing that and build them so they worked instead, and they still retained their propensity for ignorant fiddling. On a different, later, board, they decided to combine the separate "quiet" and "noisy" grounds into a single trace, causing the thing to choke on its own noise.

I can't remember how the saga of the helical antenna ended but it really was a fucking saga. No matter how many drawings and sample parts they were sent, nothing would induce them to make it to anything vaguely resembling the specified dimensions. They weren't even consistent in what they did wrong. It seemed as if they just grabbed the nearest offcut of wire to hand and wound it an indeterminate number of times about some random nail picked up off the floor, and as long as it looked like a spring they thought it was OK. I think we gave up in the end.

As to the rest... that "Legoishness" has been around for a lot longer than people seem to have noticed; doing it by plugging TTL chips into breadboards had the same characteristic - OK you might be using battery-backed CMOS SRAM instead of an SD card, but you could still have made your logger by basically the same methods.

What I really think is a shame is that kids don't seem to make crystal sets any more. That you can put together this incredibly simple thing with bits of wire and bog roll tubes plus one pennorth of magic, and get a proper grown-up result - it's a radio! - is a really amazing buzz and inspiration. I can't think of a better way to dispel the aura of mystery around electronic technology and replace it with the idea that yes, you can do this. Furthermore, an understanding of analogue principles is indispensable for any non-trivial digital design (eg. your logger will be more accurate if you separate the power and ground for the sensors and the processor); and all digital electronics becomes analogue if you go fast enough. It is said that there is some shortage of analogue skills because people gravitate so much towards computery these days. (And personally, I find analogue design more enjoyable because its lack of Legoishness both calls for and gives greater scope for ingenuity (which after all is why it's called "engineering" in the first place)).

342:

And the Soviets' "full industrialization" wouldn't have been possible without the massive transfusions of material and technology they received from the west during the "Great Patriotic War".

Left to their own devices, they would never have been able to match the west's century of progress because they started from so far behind and central planning by bureaucrats appointed for their party loyalty instead of practical experience in the fields they're supposed to oversee doesn't work very well.

Not true.

The reason communism was a danger is because it was very, very successful economically. I know these days there is a "Oh, they always sucked economically because communism just does" story that people like to tell, but it really gets the history wrong.

The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2.

Soviet economic growth in the 1950s was like Chinese and Indian economic growth in the last two decades, and elicited the same sort of awed commentary from the West. Khrushchev's famous 1956 "We will bury you" quote was about economics. They were going to out-grow the USA, out-produce the USA, out-manufacture the USA.

There was a moment around 1960 where it really looked like now, two generations after the revolution, communism had succeeded. Soviet households may have been a bit threadbare, but soviet scientists and engineers had more resources, soviet infrastructure spending was big. They put the first satellite up, they put the first man in space in 1961 because they were winning the space race.

Like China today (where politburo members tend to have engineering degrees), the Soviets didn't just put 'party hacks' in charge, they put technocrats in charge. Engineers, economists, mathematical planners. Yes, a lack of loyalty got you blacklisted - but the Soviets worshipped technical competence.

It all failed. Morally it failed early on. But economically... any story about why they failed needs to account for their first 40 years of economic success. It wasn't simple.

History, eh. It's always more complicated than you expect.

343:

Apparently, the The Koch family helped Stalin build quite a number of oil refineries from 1929 on. Of course, ol' Fred Koch also helped Hitler build a big oil refinery too. This all started the family fortune rolling, and also helped, incidentally, fund the John Birch society.

Not that I think that the USSR would have imploded without the Kochs, but strange bedfellows and all.

344:

That seems implausible.

The world population's around 7.6 billion; 1% of that is 76 million.

US population is around 320 million, so even if ALL of the top 1% are in the US, they're less than a quarter of the population.

Do three-quarters of USians make under $32,400/year?

Google says median US income is $59k; that's per household, but even if you divide that by 2 it's darn close to the alleged 1% cutoff that would have to exclude at least half of the people who are above that median.

(I am also pretending that the percentage of adults in the general population is the same in the US as globally, which is probably not true, but I doubt it is wrong enough to dramatically affect these figures.)

I suspect something is off in those numbers.

345:

I maintain that communism not only works, but is the primary organizing system for the human species, all of us here included ... on a scale significantly smaller than Dunbar's number, i.e. within family groups where dependents are taken care of collectively without regard to the external nominally-capitalist economy.

I'm not arguing that it doesn't. The Soviet experience is not a good case on which to base an argument either for or against communism.

The collapse of the Soviet Union proves only that the Bolshevik state Lenin et al implemented in the Soviet Union didn't work.

346:

The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2.

Not correct. You might want to check out how many trucks, tanks, and aircraft were shipped to them in WW2; and consider why there aren’t quite so many photos of the Sherman-equipped armoured divisions...

347:

needs to account for their first 40 years of economic success.
Well, that's cobblers, right there for a start.
The soviet economy went backwards between 1934 & 1938 - I wonder why that muight be?
Answer, just to be certain: The purges, the deliberate stufling & suppression of any intitative whatsoever, the drop in population, because so many were in the camps, etc.

In other words a funhouse mirror of the Southern Slave Plantation economy we were discussing earlier.
The same sort of thing appears to be happening in Venezuala, right now .....

348:

dependents are taken care of collectively without regard to the external nominally-capitalist economy

This is the sort of thing I was getting at in a previous thread, with my comments about who people think are the "good people". I was working with a definition for "socialism" where it represents an organising principle along the lines of Marx: "from each according to their ability, to each according to their need", which is similar to the idea that dependents are supported collectively. I suppose I'm looking for a way to re-calibrate our understanding of politics in terms of what people actually do, rather than what they say they believe or what the ideas they express imply. It obviously isn't a serious proposal about the value of people, rather an attempt to unearth the unstated beliefs some people act on, and a key to how these are different to their stated beliefs (which their actions may appear to contradict).

349:

What I really think is a shame is that kids don't seem to make crystal sets any more.

I think it's a shame, too - I made some radios as a kid and it was fun and taught stuff.

However, I think one of the reasons kids don't make those is that there are less and less AM broadcasts nowadays. It's much more complicated to make an FM receiver than an AM one. I and a friend considered building one when we were in the... lower secondary? About fourteen years old at the time. We decided against it because it was quite complicated.

I went to study electronics in the University of Technology around here and at some point I think I understood the theory behind FM transmissions, but I didn't build a receiver. I like to think I could build one now, but haven't tried it yet. (Much nicer to fiddle with Arduinos and Raspberry Pis.)

350:

I'd agree this, with the following notes:-

1) Kibbutzism clearly works (at least for certain values of works) since the movement still exists.

2) The (former) USSR is/was not a communist state where the means of production were owned by the body politic but rather a state capitalism where the state itself owns the means of production.

351:

"The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2."

"Not correct. You might want to check out how many trucks, tanks, and aircraft were shipped to them in WW2"

The first statement is indeed correct, if by "fairly limited" you mean "relative to total Soviet military and industrial production". For example, in the Harrison paper I cited, total Soviet tank/self-propelled guns and combat aircraft production 1940-45 were both in excess of 100,000. Wikipedia says Lend-Lease deliveries of tanks and aircraft were about 7k and 18k respectively. Deliveries of trucks was huge, and there waslots of other aid besides, and definitely important in the Soviet war effort etc. etc. But "fairly limited" is not unreasonable.

352:

The article you linked to describes a moral cesspit, accurately, I think. Thought for years that contemporary conservatism had more of bullwhip and mint julep than was good for them.

353:

Hell, we abolished slavetrading in the middle of that war & by 1832-3, although legaL, slavery was rare in British terretories outside the W Indes, by which time is was cheaper & simpler to BUY OUT the remaining slaveowning & make it fully illegal.

All that cotten that British industry build much of their power on was produced by US southern slaves. And there was that support[1] for the southern states in the 1860 to 1865.

Yes they abolished slavery but continued to fund the empire off of others who still had it.

[1] Not that they actually got into the fighting. But they did try and supply and keep trade going until the US navy (such as it was) said "Ah, no". (very over simplified I know)

354:

anyone with enough pluck can work hard and rise up in society

It's interesting to contrast this "anyone" with a very clumsy formulation of the categorical imperative that Kant would never accept as his own, "What if everyone did it?". Or better: "If everyone person had the talent to do this, is it physically possible for them all to do it?". You don't need to get into the macroeconomics for it to be obvious the answer is a very unequivocal "NO!". A system where the primary incentive is social mobility facilitated through competition requires people to climb over the backs of their diminished comrades to succeed, by its very nature.

To clarify - there's no moral value in allowing anyone to succeed, if it isn't possible for everyone to succeed. And what's wrong with talking about equality of outcome anyway?

355:

The (former) USSR is/was not a communist state where the means of production were owned by the body politic but rather a state capitalism where the state itself owns the means of production.

And modelled after successful corporations of the time, like Ford. The early Soviets were very much into Taylorism, except (as you say) they envisioned the state as the organizing unit rathe than a single corporation.

356:

The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2.

Yes but there was this one little detail.

"Normal" people were expendable cogs in the state process. So what if a plant polluted the water so that the place would be inhabitable in 10 to 20 years. People were expendable. Production goals needed to be met. So don't tell anyone and keep running the plant.

In the US and Europe we did some similar things but our governing systems allows us to somewhat be better about such things.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Georgy_Zhukov
Skip down to minefield.

357:

The collapse of the Soviet Union proves only that the Bolshevik state Lenin et al implemented in the Soviet Union didn't work.

I would change that to be the state that Stalin implemented. He kept a lot of descriptions and titles around but basically changed the government into something only a mafia chief could admire.

358:

Tanks and production.

USA and USSR built similar numbers of tanks.

USA built way more aircraft but then again the USSR wasn't supplier aircraft for a 2 ocean navy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_production_during_World_War_II#Land_forces

The USSR had a large industrial base starting back around 1900 give or take. Our western images of huge swaths of the country covered in peasant farms is also true. The later seems to have taken hold in our collective memory more so than the industrial images.

359:

However, I think one of the reasons kids don't make those is that there are less and less AM broadcasts nowadays.

Naw. In the US there are LOTS of AM stations. But very little music on them. They are mostly political talk, sports, and religious. Take that as you will.

Back in the day we built things because that was the only way. Most home in the early 60s had NO FM radio. And by the end of the 60s into the 70s they had maybe one in a home intercom (if living in a newer home) or one as a part of the stereo where listening meant everyone in the house listened.

Now you go to the dollar store and buy one for $1 or $5. Sound quality and reception can be crap but IT COSTS ALMOST NOTHING. Why spend more in parts and a few hours to build a crystal set when you can buy better for less?

Heathkit went out of business for home kits in 1992 for the same reason.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heathkit

360:

And there was that support[1] for the southern states in the 1860 to 1865.
Oh SHIT, not this bollocks again.
A very small number of some industrialists wanted to keep the cotton flowing, for obvious reasons.
But, apart from, of all magazines "Punch" ( The editor took a dislike to Lincoln ) the majority of the press & the voting public were stoutly anti-slavery & pro-US. There were significant numbers of Brit volunteers fighting for the US, as well.
What little support there was for the "South" in the UK collapsed completely after Antietam & Lincoln's emancioation declaration.
I get so tired of this rubbish - it's almost as bad as listening to Southern apologists.

361:

The first statement is indeed correct, if by "fairly limited" you mean "relative to total Soviet military and industrial production" ... "fairly limited" is not unreasonable.

Consider that for obvious reasons, the USSR wanted to maximise its own contribution and minimise that of others - you don't see many photos of lend-lease M4 Shermans in the propaganda photography, and yet there were several Soviet divisions completely equipped with them. 4,700 P-39, 3,000 Hurricanes and 2,000 P-40 got sent to the USSR, but pictures of them are rare.

Timing is also critical - consider that the Arctic convoys were running from June 1941; and by the time that Stalin nearly abandoned Moscow, Lend-Lease tanks constituted 30 to 40 percent of heavy and medium tank strength defending Moscow at the beginning of December 1941 (by then, light tanks were accepted to be obsolete and ineffective).

You should also consider that those 400,000 lend-lease soft-skin vehicles, meant that by late 1943 largely mechanized formations (the Red Army) faced a largely horse-drawn force (the Wehrmacht). It made the Red Army's success possible - they became absolute masters of operational manoeuvre, and that just doesn't happen if your logistics can't keep up. The Soviet Union just couldn't make logistic vehicles in anything like the numbers required. By analogy, consider the importance of the Red Ball Express in North-Western Europe.

Raw AFV numbers don't give the full story - remember that the T-34 is mythologised, and for all the praise was hideously unreliable when compared with Western vehicles. At one point, half of all T-34 losses were due to mechanical failure.

Here's an interview with the historian Boris Sokolov - some claimed statistics include: "Allied shipments are nearly 51% of the aviation fuel used in the Great Patriotic War, nearly 53% of gun powder and explosives. Non-ferrous metals – the help from the West is nearly 82% of copper, 90% of aluminum, 75% of nickel, 50% of lead."

So yes, I'll stick with "fairly limited" not being correct...

362:

OK, I see your point but ownership is not (always) the same thing as management.

363:

"Normal" people were expendable cogs in the state process. So what if a plant polluted the water so that the place would be [un]inhabitable in 10 to 20 years. People were expendable.

This is exactly the case for almost any western corporation today. The only difference is that there's a higher level entity (the state) that's supposed to look after the unemployed and the environment and suchlike externalities, funded by taxation. Except corporations don't like paying tax, so the squeeze is being applied.

Seriously: the western left-wing/anarchist complaint that unemployment is a discipline/punishment applied to keep the labour force in line, and that prison is a discipline to keep the unemployed in line, is entirely true.

364:

But, apart from, of all magazines "Punch" ( The editor took a dislike to Lincoln ) the majority of the press & the voting public were stoutly anti-slavery & pro-US. There were significant numbers of Brit volunteers fighting for the US, as well.

Yes ... because the enlightened British cotton mills ran on cotton from plantations in India.

See also: John Company, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, mutineers being executed by being fired from artillery (a la North Korea today), skulls turned into ash trays, entire villages' menfolk above the age of 7 being hanged indiscriminately, etc.(If the treatment of the population of India under the Raj doesn't remind you of the Deep South prior to the slaveowner's rebellion, you're being willfully blind.)

365:

I think we'll have to agree to disagree here. I am not claiming that the outcome of the German invasion would not have been different had the aid not arrived (very different question, interesting, debatable and in any case out of my area of expertise), only that in aggregate the bulk of the Soviet industrial war effort was based on Soviet resources. And that is ignoring the fact that in the original claim ("The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2.") the reference is to economic gains (not just military, which you were pointing to) and to (the absence of) pre-WW2 support (where there is no debate to be had).

366:

Writing about Soviet economic history:

"It all failed. Morally it failed early on. But economically... any story about why they failed needs to account for their first 40 years of economic success. It wasn't simple."

There is a sort-of-standard explanation in the academic literature on this. Very condensed version is that Soviet-style central planning can achieve rapid industrialisation in a country where the starting point is far from the frontier (e.g. the Soviet Union in the 1920s). But it won't get the country close to the frontier in general (though it might in priority areas, e.g., space, military). So you get initial rapid growth and then stagnation. And if the country starts out near the frontier when it adopts the system (Czechoslovakia, East Germany) then it will fail to keep up with the frontier and fall behind.

If I can gently toot my own horn on this (I'm in the last generation of economists who specialised in these economies for their PhDs ... getting nostalgic here), here's a paper on this that I did with a couple of colleagues came out in an economic history journal. Link is to the ungated working paper version. Main contents probably not v interesting to people here, but the intro material might be.

"Soviet power plus electrification: what is the long-run legacy of communism?"

https://econpapers.repec.org/paper/mcrwpaper/wpaper00043.htm

367:

Erm
NO
Londoners, now, & Scots, now & people from Leeds, where the mills handled wool ... have very rarely heard of: The Lancashire Cotton Famine
However, those of us went to Manchester learnt of such things.
And, Indian cotton didn't really start to arrive here until AFTER the cotton famine - i.e. well-after the Mutiny.
Unpleasant as just about all aspects of the Mutiny were, on both sides, it's irrelevant. I would recommend, of all people, J Macdonald Fraser, writing as "Flashman" for a full picture of the horrors & atrocities committed by just about everybody in that conflict. [ Flashman in the Great Game ]

368:

Revisiting the theoretical subject of this thread briefly, I’m sure many of you have been seeing the thing about the therapy peacock around; it’s all over my news feed. (Presaged in a Zits cartoon with a therapy iguana.) That’s not outrageous in and of itself, being the usual colorful humanoid interest piece we see a lot.

What really surprises me is that nobody’s had anything to say about the AI porn generator that was unveiled last week. Not, I should say, an improved Photoshop; people have been making fake celebrity porn since we had to do it with paintbrushes. No, this is a machine learning AI that pastes new faces onto bodies in videos, saving humans the trouble of creating their own wanking material. It will fake politicians too, but we know what humans will really do with it.

And it’s been released as an app so any idiot can download a copy. Expect many idiots to do so.

Currently it seems to be much slower than realtime, which is about the only silver lining for anyone still hoping that video will be reliable evidence for much longer.

Okay, that’s the stuff about Futurarma jokes becoming real I’ve got today; you can go back to arguing about your grandparents’ politics.

369:

Gentle reminder that saying "on both sides" when talking about the oppressed vs the oppressors is making excuses for oppression.

370:

Indeed.

On a more general note, one of the less appreciated but still vital aspects of the India trade was that the primary source of saltpeter for the British Empire was the natural "saltpeter farm" in the Ganges Delta. While everyone else was fighting over guano islands and such, the British could feed both their guns and farms on the stuff the BEI Company ships loaded into their holds on the way back to the metropole. They even liked shipping saltpeter because it apparently retarded timber rot or something.

It's another facet of the jewel in the crown, made obsolete by artificial nitrogen fixation.

In any case, if you want alt-history, there's a potential story where whoever has control of the Ganges Delta can feed the biggest army in the world. And it didn't need to be the British...

371:

"What really surprises me is that nobody's had anything to say about the AI porn generator that was unveiled last week."

Apart from Charlie doing a whole blog entry on it?

372:

the majority of the press & the voting public were stoutly anti-slavery & pro-US. There were significant numbers of Brit volunteers fighting for the US, as well. What little support there was for the "South" in the UK collapsed completely after Antietam & Lincoln's emancioation declaration. I get so tired of this rubbish - it's almost as bad as listening to Southern apologists.

Get tired or not. And I wasn't talking about public opinion. British banks, shipping, and industry were happy to work with the slave economy of the southern US going to keep their factories supplied with product. Public opinion be dammed. And the public still wore the clothes.

Just like a lot of Trump voters from the lower end of the economic scale were happy to buy cheaper made in other places goods at WalMart than made in USA product. But now it must be the fault of someone else that their neighbors job went away.

373:

seeing the thing about the therapy peacock

My wife works for a major airline. They've had to staff a group to investigate comfort animals for a while. Cue the eyeroll. And the flight attendants are downright scared of what they might have to deal with.

Best one was someone wanted to fly from AU to the US with a adolescent kangaroo as a emotional support animal in the cabin with them. After some digging they found out that the person traveling had ties to a collection of small private zoos or some such. They were denied.

374:

This is exactly the case for almost any western corporation today. The only difference is that there's a higher level entity (the state) that's supposed to look after the unemployed and the environment and suchlike externalities, funded by taxation. Except corporations don't like paying tax, so the squeeze is being applied.

As I said in my comment. But in the USSR (or Maoist China or ...) I think shoveling the bodies into the truck leaving out the rear of the factory was way more likely than in the EU or US.

375:

Knowledge... you mean like the way that the economic side of life leads so many to ultra-specialization? And HR departments that encourage this by hiring or not?

Hell, back in the mid-eighties, I went to a coworker - she was also a programmer, like me - and asked her: I know you think I'm weird, but just out of curiosity, *why* do you think I'm weird?"

Her response? "Well, for one, you've got opinions about *everything*." And here, I just thought I was moderately well-informed....

On the other hand, there's also the issue that a "subject matter expert" tends to think they're an expert on all subjects. (Hint: they're not, and I've dealt with that in person.)

And on the other, other hand, upper management, as it were, is sure that they don't *need* to know it all. That's what they have henchmen for, everything from "make sure we have enough to eat, don't worry about the rabble" to "remove that bunch of rabble". As a truly horrible example of that, I suggest you look at your government, and Trump.

376:

And my take on why the USSR failed was the Cold War, as well as "Nam. And Raygun. The US has *never* disavowed First Strike Nuclear. If *you* were running the Soviet government, and given the choice of more for the citizens... or more for the military, to prevent an invastion/attack?

That, along with the government getting older and older, and set in their ways, with their dachas....

Please note that a) I'm in my late sixties, and b) I thought *everyone* running for US President who made the last cuts was too bloody old.

377:

Koch's helping Hitler build a big refinery, I did not know about. Gee, any idea if some of the money came from ex-Pres. George HW Bush, Sr's father? The one who had his company seized in 1942 for trading with the enemy?

I'd have to go look, but I suspect, now, that the Koch's would have wanted JEBush....

378:

Damian... hi. Reading that post, I'd really like to talk to you offlist. Could you email me - this username (at) 5(hyphen)cent(dot)us?

As I've said for years now, once I write my Political Book, I'll be able to legitimately call myself a mark-ist....

mark

379:

...only that in aggregate the bulk of the Soviet industrial war effort was based on Soviet resources.

While we're agreeing to disagree, I'm curious as to how you're qualifying the above in the light of "Allied shipments are nearly 51% of the aviation fuel used in the Great Patriotic War, nearly 53% of gun powder and explosives. Non-ferrous metals – the help from the West is nearly 82% of copper, 90% of aluminum, 75% of nickel, 50% of lead.".

What counts as "in aggregate", if it doesn't include the key inputs such as raw materials, transport infrastructure, logistic support to the armed forces, machine tools and their consumables? To quote Python, "What have the Romans ever done for us?"

If you mean "the bulk of Soviet combat vehicles were Soviet-produced", then yes - the USSR was able to focus on AFV and aircraft production, and didn't have to divert resources to build trucks, mines, refineries, toolmaking equipment, etc. I'm merely challenging the assertion that "produced as many tanks" is proof of the original statement that "The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2"

The true root of Soviet triumph was the willingness of its leaders to shed the blood of its citizens in the defeat of Germany. 10 Soviet tanks destroyed for every German tank, 10 Soviet soldiers killed for every German soldier. Over 80,000 dead, in the last two-week battle for Berlin alone...

380:

Really. And that was only in the USSR, right? So, as folks here have mentioned in past threads, 30% of Brits didn't die from TB in the 1800's? And the US has no Superfund cleanup sites? No BP oil spill?

Nope.

And I, personally, have been treated as expendable. Hell, I had one idiot headhunter, when I called her, about four years or so into almost five *years* of out of work, the first half of the 'oughts, tell me "well, you're not fresh", like I was past my sell-by date.

381:

The true root of Soviet triumph was the willingness of its leaders to shed the blood of its citizens in the defeat of Germany.

Exactly

382:

As I said in my comment. But in the USSR (or Maoist China or ...) I think shoveling the bodies into the truck leaving out the rear of the factory was way more likely than in the EU or US.

Depends on the era and the attitude of the government of the day.

During the 1930s? Sure. Ditto the slave camps in the Third Reich. But by the 1970s things were a bit different.

I recall talking to an SF writer/editor who grew up in the GDR (East Germany). He'd been studying physics and tried to set up an SF reading society/discussion group at university which freaked out a middle-aged Party bureaucrat because, even though the SF in question was all translated from Russian and published in Moscow, they didn't understand the idea of SF, let alone SF fandom. (It wasn't in their directory of Party-approved hobbies.) So, even though being an SF fan wasn't any kind of official crime, he was kicked out of university and sent to work in a factory.

Oppressive one-party state crapsack dystopia? Well, the factory management figured out very fast that they had a disgruntled SF fan who was massively over-educated for their needs, and encouraged him to stay away and look for work elsewhere. So when an SF publisher in East Berlin were looking for a junior editor, he applied for the job — and the factory management helped with his out-placement. Because, obviously, they could get rid of a square peg and by doing so justify recruiting a replacement round peg who'd fit their circular job-shaped hole a whole lot better. And as for him, SF magazine editor was pretty much his dream job.

Yes, the system was prone to abuse — but the locals found ways to subvert it for their own benefit. Meanwhile, everyone who didn't actively show up as a political dissident was assigned a job and a pay packet, and it was really hard to get rid of them even if they weren't keen on working or weren't terribly good at it.

383:

The paper is interesting, and makes intuitive sense; out of curiosity, why did you exclude the People's Republic of China? I wondered if it might have made an interesting comparison with the Republic of China.

...the paper appears to assume that the centralised planning you mention is competently driven, by a desire for infrastructure - rather than ideology... (see the PRC and the Great Leap Forward; Ukraine and the Holodomor; North Korea and juche).

I also wondered if you'd thought of looking at narrower efforts in centralised planning than "the whole economy" - e.g. the UK's efforts with Tony Benn and the Industrial Reorganisation Committee to plan the commanding heights of the economy in the late 1960s (British Aerospace, British Leyland, Inmos, the Alvey Programme, etc) or Japan and MITI's efforts in Fifth Generation Computing.

384:

Also, from somewhere near the intersection of crazy, poetic justice, and stupidity, we have the US news that a train full of politicians rammed a garbage truck.

385:

An "IIRC" apocryphal story from when we lived in Bulgaria, in the 1970s (Dad got posted to the British Embassy for a nearly three years). The Commercial side of the Embassy were looking at the efficiencies of the planning system, and concluded that only 30% of the state's transport fleet was working at any one time. Meanwhile, their colleagues in the USSR had concluded that half of all Soviet timber production never made it from the sawmill to its assigned factories - the black economy took the other half, because the concept of "building materials" wasn't in the plan, and people are always going to want to put up a shelf, or build a garden shed, regardless of the lack of building supply shops...

...there were commercial opportunities, though. In the 1970s, the Bulgarians did a roaring trade in exporting their wines to Western vineyards who were looking to, shall we say, bulk up their production. In those days, the actual annual output of the Mateus Rose vineyards were allegedly less than its UK sales...

386:

"While we're agreeing to disagree, I'm curious as to how you're qualifying the above..."

You can point to particular material or products where Western deliveries were big, sure. I specifically mentioned tanks and aircraft because you specifically referred to them as evidence, and this is unconvincing because of the numbers I cited (Soviet production of these was huge compared to Western deliveries).

"I'm merely challenging the assertion that 'produced as many tanks' is proof of the original statement that 'The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2'."

It isn't, of course, but I didn't introduce tank production as evidence ... you did. :)

The original claim was about the Soviet achievement of "huge economic gains" achieved with "limited support" from the West. The speed of industrialisation between 1928 and 1940 was indeed very rapid (though the human cost was also terrible), and achieved more or less without Western aid (some trade, yes, but that's mostly it). That on its own validates the original claim, I think.

387:

...everyone who didn't actively show up as a political dissident was assigned a job and a pay packet, and it was really hard to get rid of them even if they weren't keen on working or weren't terribly good at it.

Back before the fall of the USSR I heard this phrased as, "As long as they pretend to pay me, I'll pretend to work."

388:

... I didn't introduce tank production as evidence ... you did. :)

True... but that was in response to icehawk's assertion that the USSR had "fairly limited support from the west" in WW2 for its industrial growth :) Before the war, I'll grant you, but they were massive recipients of Lend-Lease during it; it's hard to see how a massive inward investment in logistics infrastructure doesn't pay off.

Perhaps I was affected by reading "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" during my English lessons at school ;)

389:

I read icehawk's claim differently:

"The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2."

"Huge economic gains" meant (to me) the rapid industrialisation in 1928-40. I haven't looked at the data for a while but the economic cost of the war was massive and shows up as a big decline in estimated GDP. Not something anyone would associate with "economic gains". The support from the West in WW2 is kind of a red herring with respect to the main claim.

I read One Day in the Life at school too ...

And to bring this back to OGH ... on reading the latest instalments of the Merchant Princes series, I was struck by the parallels between the North American Commonwealth and the early USSR. Continental power facing external threats on two fronts ... revolutionary government ... government-led mass industrialisation and catch-up programme. Like looking at the USSR in a reverse-funhouse mirror that reflects while removing the horrible distortions of Stalin's regime. (But when I suggested this at OGH's recent public reading at Blackwell's, he seemed distinctly unimpressed.)

390:

To clarify - there's no moral value in allowing anyone to succeed, if it isn't possible for everyone to succeed. And what's wrong with talking about equality of outcome anyway?

Who is going to determine what level that equal outcome is going to take? What level do we start holding people back; telling them that they've achieved all they are allowed to achieve?

And how are we supposed to guarantee "equality of outcome" when we still haven't achieved "equality of opportunity".

Part of the reason why Charlie's friend finds the U.S. such a congenial place to be rich and such a horrible place to be poor is we don't live up to the ideals expressed by our founders in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution.

The "Horatio Alger" story is a lie. This won't truly be a free country until we've made it the truth. The barriers that keep it from being true were put there intentionally. Maybe those who are starting from farther behind need a little help getting started. But we don't do that by placing artificial limits on how much anyone is allowed to achieve.

Right now the barriers hold the poor down and give the rich an unneeded boost. I favor changing that to give the poor a helping hand without putting any artificial barriers against the rich succeeding on their own merits. That's the form "equal opportunity" should take.

391:

Also, from somewhere near the intersection of crazy, poetic justice, and stupidity, we have the US news that a train full of politicians rammed a garbage truck.

This would have been great fodder for all kinds of comedy except someone died in the collision.

392:

barriers hold the poor down and give the rich an unneeded boost. I favor changing that to give the poor a helping hand without putting any artificial barriers against the rich succeeding on their own merits

I can't help but notice that you slipped from "unneeded boost" to "no artificial barriers" there. Have you quietly left the unneeded boost in place?

I can guarantee that removing the boost would count as imposing a barrier to the people who suffered that outrage. "loss of privilege feels like oppression" as we see so terribly regularly in the outrage media.

Look at all the people upset that they're being asked not to sexually assault women. Put like that it seems like a "when did you stop beating your wife" proposition, but apparently those being asked don't see it that way "you want me to get consent? Impossible".... yeah, that's the point.

393:

Off topic, except for the weirdness:
Orcas can imitate human speech, research reveals
(Imitation of novel conspecific and human speech sounds in the killer whale, 31 January 2018, open, pdf available)

Does anybody else remember this (very fictional one hopes) orca in A Deeper Sea, Alexander Jablokov, 1992? This bit in particular stuck in my memory (via a dubious text copy (of the novella version?)) I recall it as an odd story (have to find the paperback).
"It is a long way from Kagalaska, Bottom-Thumper,” Stasov said, using
the slightly contemptuous nickname this orca had earned for his child-
hood habit of bumping the hulls of Japanese fishing boats. "I trust your
hunger has been stayed?”
"My hunger is infinite. But thou art still spoiled food. I must content
myself with swallowing the minds of men, leaving their bodies to the
sharks and fishes.”
"Are you still chasing prime numbers?” Stasov asked.
"I am. I taste the fins of the Goldbach Conjecture. Soon I will sink my
teeth into it. It shall not escape.”
...
Knester was ready with salve and bandages. "Such accuracy,” she said
admiringly. "He charged a price only a human could pay.”
...
A blood price is a genuine honor, but usually involves death or maiming
for life. The spinning of the Wheel is beyond our knowledge, so I can’t
guess why he thought you deserved such delicacy.”
...
"We’re old friends,” Stasov said. She was right. It wasn’t every man
who was charged a blood price by an orca and ended up losing only the
last two fingers on his left hand.

394:

To be specific, a 100% estate tax would count as "no unneeded boost", but I think even most leftwing capitalists see that as a step too far. Personally I think that it would be impractical as well as unreasonable, some kind of personal-property exemption would be necessary but that could be at a trivial level ($10k or so). Giving family first rights to buy the estate would largely solve the legacy problem (except for poor old Prince Charles, having to come up with hundreds of millions of pounds to purchase Queen Liz's various bits and pieces).

There's a similar argument for a 100% tax on rents, and on the incomes of children too young to legally work. But the former would destroy capitalism (tautologically so) and the latter... well, it's a tax dodge so bring it on. The fear is that it might turn a few cases of illegal wage labour into slavery... but so?

395:

the incomes of children too young to legally work

Is that always a tax dodge, though? Given that gifts are considered income, you'd need some sort of exemption or you've just spoiled a lot of birthdays!

I like the idea of a large inheritance tax, but you'd need to do something about immortal corporations or you just end up with the most enduring assets being those owned by a corporation. Any ideas?

396:

the most enduring assets being those owned by a corporation. Any ideas?

The current ideology and international worst practice makes it hard. I think the Australian system of crediting tax paid by corporations to their shareholders has a lot of merit. It's a form of transparency in a way, making it explicit that the company is acting on behalf of its owners. And companies that pay tax aren't as disadvantaged by doing so, since that money also flows to their owners. Plus it helps identify the beneficial owners, because you can't claim the tax paid unless you identify who paid it :) Money laundering works because money isn't traceable the way tax payments are.

Given that as a start, and presuming it's internationally applied, we'd have a very different situation. Companies that launder profits through no-tax-no-tell countries are going to face pushback from institutional shareholders (the way they do in Australia).

The inheritance tax would apply to shares just like any other asset. The way to avoid that, and the estate tax in general, is not to die (people are working very hard on that but I suspect it's not primarily driven by estate taxes).

397:

The specific problem of profits sitting in overseas bank accounts until the holders can buy a tax holiday isn't one that can be solved by estate taxes, or really by tax treatment in general. The problem is that tax *is* paid eventually, but the tax rate is lowered.

A Tobin tax helps there by setting both a (trivial) minimum tax on repatriated profits, and by multiply taxing financial shenanigans.

The more general problem of companies holding wealth tax-free is going to need a wealth tax to fix it. Apply that, make it progressive if you like but as long as the first million or whatever is exempt for non-corporate people it should work fine.

I also like the Indian government approach of making cash only useful for small transactions and making everything else reportable. Oddly, a lot of libertarians seem to also love that idea as long as you call it a blockchain instead of a government-mandated financial surveillance system. Blockchain is shorter and easier to say, I vote we stick with it.

Viz: we need more visibility into the global financial system first, then we can work out how to tax it. financial

398:

Perhaps this is a dumb question, but if one were to institute a 100% estate tax, how do you stop people from gifting their assets to their children before they die?

(Yes, then it is presumably taxed as income, but I assume the income tax is still less than 100%.)

399:

I suspect but don't know that estate taxes are economically undesirable for various reasons, but I think from an egalitarian point of view they're ideal. I'm not an expert but such people exist, ask them :)

then it is presumably taxed as income, but I assume the income tax is still less than 100%

That's the point of taxing the estate. You could see the 100% estate tax as a risk premium. You don't know when exactly you will die, but the more you hang on to the more you lose.

Realistically, those are arguments for making the estate tax equal to the income tax rates, or simply for taxing estate distribution as income.

Also, if people evade them by passing money down the generations that's IMO something of a benefit as long as the money is taxed. I don't accept there's a need for a separate exemption for gifts, that should be rolled into the generic "to little to tax" provisions (viz, if it's not too little to tax, tax it). But the whole family trust thing is an ugly mess, and my gut reaction is to simply ban incorporations altogether even though I know that's a silly idea. Tax is hard, I want someone else to work on it.

I suspect I'm biased by knowing people who pay their kids out of their company as a way to minimise tax - it's effectively income splitting. Which is naughty (I believe it's actually illegal here but it's not policed... my friends haven't been forced to stop, QED).

400:

Also, from somewhere near the intersection of crazy, poetic justice, and stupidity, we have the US news that a train full of politicians rammed a garbage truck.

This would have been great fodder for all kinds of comedy except someone died in the collision.

Apparently the Congressional GOP chartered a special, unscheduled train to take them up to the Greenbriar Resort (where the old Cold-War Congressional Bunker is located) for a "retreat" and speech by whatsisname the VP and maybe one by Trump.

I'm guessing the driver of the garbage truck was on a regular route and didn't expect a train to be coming through that grade crossing at that time. It has flashing lights, but no cross arm that I could see. I read that several of the members who are MDs ignored security's objections & got off the train to render aid.

And, I've already seen claims by the tinfoil hat brigade that the accident was some kind of conspiracy against the GOP.

401:

I can't help but notice that you slipped from "unneeded boost" to "no artificial barriers" there. Have you quietly left the unneeded boost in place?

I can guarantee that removing the boost would count as imposing a barrier to the people who suffered that outrage. "loss of privilege feels like oppression" as we see so terribly regularly in the outrage media.

Look at all the people upset that they're being asked not to sexually assault women. Put like that it seems like a "when did you stop beating your wife" proposition, but apparently those being asked don't see it that way "you want me to get consent? Impossible".... yeah, that's the point.

I'm not always as articulate as I'd like to be.

If it's an "unneeded boost", they don't need it do they? Lets give that boost to those who do need it. I don't care if the rich get richer. I do care if they do it by screwing over everyone else.

Instead of worrying about losing their unearned privilage, they should be grateful I don't suggest there are plenty of unadorned lamp posts along Wall Street that could be decorated à la Mussolini.

I got no sympathy for the backlash against women who are demanding an end to sexual harassment & assault. If the harassers don't want to be called to account for their behavior all they gotta do is stop doing that shit.

The ones for whom that wake up call came too late can just get over it! They can crawl back under whatever rock they came from and STFU.

402:

Perhaps this is a dumb question, but if one were to institute a 100% estate tax, how do you stop people from gifting their assets to their children before they die?

Presumably the same way it is done now with lower inheritance taxes, by a gift tax at the same rate.

In the US you pay estate tax on everything over $1,000,000*. And if you give someone more than $10,000 in a year you have to pay gift tax on the amount over $10,000, or reduce your future $1,000,000 deductible/offset thingy.

(I had to fill out a gift tax form for my mom when she gave her house to my brother. I just applied the future reduction because she didn't have enough that she'd ever pay estate tax. She was doing it to shield it from nursing home costs.)

*I am using round numbers of the right order of magnitude, I am too lazy to look up what they are this year, they keep changing it. And of course things are actually more complicated and there are exceptions, special conditions, etc.

403:

Thanks. I'm sorry that read somewhat aggressively, thank you for reading it kindly.

I'm reminded of the GBS quote "The more I see of the moneyed classes, the more I understand the guillotine." George Bernard Shaw

I don't care if the rich get richer. I do care if they do it by screwing over everyone else.

To some extent I agree, but I'm aware of the sociologists whop say that a more equal society is better for everyone and that we already have too much inequality. So I would prefer that the rich get poorer. Yes, that means Gates and Buffet are going to pay billions in tax if they don't give it away first. Sucks to be down to your last billion, I'm sure.

404:

Off topic, except for the weirdness:
Orcas can imitate human speech, research reveals ...

Candygram!


405:

In the US you pay estate tax on everything over $1,000,000*. And if you give someone more than $10,000 in a year you have to pay gift tax on the amount over $10,000, or reduce your future $1,000,000 deductible/offset thingy.

The exempt amount was $5,500,000 ($11 million per married couple, assuming the deceased spouse did not leave assets to the surviving spouse) 2017. In 2018, the exemption doubled to $11.2 million per taxpayer.

The nominal rate is 40%, but that presumes the person with all that money hasn't got enough sense to hire an "estate planner" to squirrel the money away where the taxman can't get at it.

406:

Don't start down that road, please ....
Let's remember that a big chunk of the "uprising" was by the remanants of the Mughals, in Delhi, wanting their old power back, so that they could crap all over anyone who wasn't their local variety of muslim, OK?
And why Sikh troops, in the service of the Brits were so enthusiastic in supporting the stamping hard on said mughals, etc, etc - round & round in circles.

407:

And the public still wore the clothes.
Except that they didn't - read the link I provided about the "Cotton Famine"

408:

100% "Estate Tax" is cruel & worse STUPID.
Small householder dies, his or her house no longer goes to child or children, who then have to find somewhere to live & get NOTHING from their parent's hard work.
I can see why the idea is attractive when you look at some big inheritances, but, unfortunately, it falls to bits once you start examining the details ...
As suggested elsewhere, this merely puts everything into the hands of companies & corporations rather than individuals, & that's such a good idea ... or maybe not?

409:

There's a case to be made that Estate Taxes are partly responsible for the situation in Cornwall where many of the coastal villages are 80% empty during the winter due to being holiday lets or "second" homes. The county had a lot of small estates with a home farm, maybe a couple of tenant farms, and a few houses in the nearby village. The estates ran at break even, the landowners would be working the home farm themselves (Ross Poldark with a scythe) with most of the rents going back into repairs. Once in a while there'd be a boost from something like mining which could pay for a jetty or a few more houses but generally little change. Along come death duties and the only way to pay them is to sell something, the locals can't afford to buy so the property goes to an absentee owner who may rent to locals for a while, but then decides he can make more by renting it as a holiday cottage for a few weeks in the summer than as a year round home. Repeat for two or three generations, the estates are no longer viable and land up in bankruptcies, and the pretty bits are all owned by outsiders complaining they can't get seasonal gardeners/cleaners/etc willing to work for minimum wage.

410:

Look, I'm not responding to your comments because they seem confused and based on a set of assumptions about what it might mean for success[*] to be achievable for everyone. I'm highly dubious about the relationship between "achievement" in this sense and merit.

I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

There are surely many powerful barriers, but one perspective is to understand the problem in terms of the world that you can see from the place you landed. It's not enough that in theory you have access to education, you actually need to understand and believe what it can do for you. But even from there it's a huge jump to say what we reward people for doing the most (explain to me why we reward real estate agents better than we reward teachers, for instance) is actually valuable and their achievements are worthwhile. Yet we've linked their well being and their ability to enjoy life to those "achievements".

I would argue that the super-privileged and those born to entrenched disadvantage both live in a smaller world than the rest of us, one with horizons that are close and claustrophobic.

[*]I use the word "success" reluctantly here, for want of a better word, because I don't think possession of the wherewithal to lead a happy and worthwhile life should be considered a thing to be achieved, an object of striving. The art with which one lives ones life could rightly be considered that way, but the ability to do so in the first place... well lets say for me the distinction between opportunity and outcome is a lot smaller than you probably think.

411:

I was struck by the parallels between the North American Commonwealth and the early USSR. Continental power facing external threats on two fronts ... revolutionary government ... government-led mass industrialisation and catch-up programme.

Yes, but you missed some key differences:

No geographical land border with hostile imperial rivals ... radically different ideological starting point from the USSR (the Bolsheviks were a second or third generation revolutionary movement wrt. the French Revolutionary slogans of liberte, egalite, fraternite, that de-emphasized two of those values: the leveler radicals aren't even on the same post-1789 Enlightenment map) ... and, most important of all, imagine how the USSR might have developed if, in November 1918, Lenin had received a comprehensive analysis of everything that would later go wrong in a version of the USSR that had no such map, and a bunch of analyses of other revolutions for comparative purposes, along with access to ultra-high-technology industrial espionage on other time-lines?

The Commonwealth's equivalent of Stalin was purged before the end of "The Revolution Trade", the equivalent of Lenin's "New Economic Policy" expanded and used as a foundation for growth (or the equivalent of China's post-1986 economic development), their equivalent of the GPU neutered and aimed at external economic/industrial espionage rather than internal repression, and then the Martians in their crashed UFO arrived to help position the economic targets for the next-but-one industrial revolution rather than the obvious one everyone else was aiming at. Horribly utopian, but this is more "how do we get to Iain M. Banks' Culture" than "how do we get the USSR to win".

412:

And something very similar is likely to happen in Scotland, of course, where ideology disconnected from reality is set to destroy all the large Landed Estates - to be replaced, probably, by corporate ownership of the same.
Replacing something which might be bad with something which will be bad.
We will see.

413:

I suspect but don't know that estate taxes are economically undesirable for various reasons, but I think from an egalitarian point of view they're ideal

The alternative is to arrange things so that having property, money or an old school tie isn't an advantage. It might seem absurd to start with, but when you think about how to remove some of the ways these things are an advantage you get closer to the heart of things.

Education for instance. Fund public schools and universities so fully and pay (and train) the teachers so well that no-one in their right mind would go to a private school. Sure the private institutions could retaliate and raise fees, making themselves more exclusive, higher margin and lower turnover, but it would render them mostly irrelevant. Don't give public funds to private institutions (the way we do in Australia), instead tax them like any other business.

There is no such thing as a natural monopoly. If there is no room for competition in a sector, that is a public asset and the community requires a public organisation to serve it, because a private business could only provide value-for-money and still make a profit by arbitrage or rent (both a kind of exploitation of artificial advantage).

And so on. It might not be possible to implement any of these things, but thinking about them in these terms is a good way to think about how you might actually measure value, judge how we reward people in your own terms.

There is hope in honest error, none in the icy perfection of the mere stylist

The amount of make-work out there is astonishing. We might be most sensitive to the possibility that automation will make certain jobs obsolete, but that leaves out the fact that most "jobs" already produce no actual value. What's the value in requiring a GP to authorise a low-dose codeine based analgesic? (The AMA push this, the Pharmacists' association oppose it, who is right?). What value is there in requiring a document to be submitted by a solicitor? Those are just two examples involving professions with real productive purposes, but there are entire professions that lack this. And we seem to reward this work, if anything, more highly the more useless it is, the closer it is to a private sector work-for-the-dole scheme. While we reward teachers, nurses, police, paramedics, social workers, all of which have significant tertiary education requirements, very poorly. Is it really just me who finds that heartbreaking?

Sorry, just sort of riffing.

414:
But, apart from, of all magazines "Punch" ( The editor took a dislike to Lincoln ) the majority of the press & the voting public were stoutly anti-slavery & pro-US.

Punch?

Of Abraham Lincoln's rule we can never speak, except as a series of acts abhorrent to every true notion of constitutional rightand human liberty.
-- The Manchester Guardian, on Lincoln's assassination.
415:

Estate taxes - since all taxes are fungible as far as the purpose of removing money from circulation goes - are a better tax than the other taxes they replace. No natural-law argument against them that holds water, no efficient-allocation-of-capital argument that holds water, nor any unwanted disincentives. If people were to figure out how to not die, that counts as a win, as far as optimal policy goes.

What they do have is a very well funded smear campaign because the aristocracy of wealth hates them for obvious reasons. Seriously, if you look into most of the arguments against, they are entirely fictional just-so stories or general problems that a lack of an estate tax would not solve. For example: Orphans. Yes, they must be provided for, but you cannot actually do that by not-taxing their parents wealth, because the parents of most young orphans have no net wealth worth the counting.

Really, the only good reason to not set it to 100% is practicality. We do not want people to start in on working out how to transfer wealth to their heirs entirely off the books, because that would have terrible side effects on the economy as a whole, so the optimum estate tax is "As high as we can reliably enforce". Which probably does include at least some level of base exemption just to not criminalize keeping aunt Tess teaset as a memento.

Remember: every cent collected from the dead is a cent that does not have to come out of the livings pockets.

416:

Except estate taxes rarely involve money, most of an estate is comprised of fungible assets or "medium money" to use a term not unrelated to this blog. If those assets need to be converted to "fast money", you have to consider who or what is going to be in a position to supply the cash. Removing a thousand acres of Wiltshire from circulation is not really practical.

417:

OK, the co-worker in question was not a programmer, but I was once accused (based on tone) "Christ; Do you have a view on everything?"

418:

Returning to the original post:

Charlie, have you read The Unwinding, by George Packer? I recommend it, but I particularly recommend reading it as if it were a science fiction novel published in 1968. Or 1984 or 2001, for that matter.

It uses an interesting narrative style, which your post reminded me of. Including a combination of headlines and (later) tweets. The book is fascinating from a literary perspective alone, in addition to its larger political message.

419:

Partially right, one needs to strike a balance, which humans seem unsuited for. We neither need to create yet another cause for the almost bright Grandchildren of estates down on their luck, nor return to seeding the world with non-inheriting spawn, eager to create their own estates, at any cost. Do read the essay linked @ 333, it's relevant. And remember, The Treasonous Slave owner's rebellion was sparked by those descendants of English landed gentry, doesn't make Britain responsible, but didn't get you out of spatter range.

420:

When we stayed in a flat in St Petersburg a few years back our host (an educated woman BTW) left the hot tap running 24/7 because hot water was totally free (came from a massive centralised heating system somewhere, she was not sure where).

421:

Yhea, but we do not live in an economy where people inherit their professions, nor do they live out their days in the ancestral parish. The great bulk of not-liquid assets people hold will be their domicile and their means of production - the proverbial farm. The housing is on average of very limited utility to heirs scattered to the winds, and the means of production are better put on the market to be bought by whoever has relevant skills rather than landing an electrician, a medical doctor, a programmer and a police officer with one-fourth of a farm each. To the extent estate taxes force going concerns onto the open market, that is a good thing to the economy - Far better than randomly leaving them in the hands of people without the relevant skill sets

422:

"you missed some key differences"

Well, I didn't necessarily miss them, I was just listing a few similarities and one big difference (Stalin) and hoping for a response. :) (For which, thanks!)

"most important of all, imagine how the USSR might have developed if, in November 1918, Lenin had received a comprehensive analysis of everything that would later go wrong in a version of the USSR that had no such map, and a bunch of analyses of other revolutions for comparative purposes, along with access to ultra-high-technology industrial espionage on other time-lines?"

I am not so sure. Partly because Lenin was a revolutionary with deep ideological convictions. And partly because the pitch would be "if you go for a rapid, forced mass industrialisation in the style of the early USSR, the human cost will be very big but in appx 15 years you'll have made enough progress that you can withstand invasion by a bloodthirsty enemy who, if he succeeds, will occupy your country and exterminate your people". Not saying that would be my pitch, and maybe the technology from other timelines would swing it in a different direction, but someone like Lenin, who was not afraid of high human costs to achieve goals, well ... I am not so sure.

423:

Estate taxes... No natural-law argument against them that holds water

The argument that exercises my father-in-law is "why should I be taxed twice over?". His perspective is that he's already paid full taxes on the money he earned, and it's his decision as to what he does with it thereafter. If he'd just spent it, it wouldn't be taxed twice, so why should saving it for a rainy day be a "punishable" activity?

Wanting to do the best for your children is a fairly primal urge...

424:

Thing is, he's already multiply taxed almost every time he spends money. Presuming he paid income tax, then when he pays sales tax he's paying tax again. If he hires someone they pay income tax even though he already paid it on the same money, etc.

So flipping the argument around, why should inheritance not be taxed when virtually everything else is?

If your father-in-law was to give you and your wife £500,000 as a birthday present you'd be obliged to declare it as income and pay tax on it. (Well, you would in Canada.) Why should the fact that he died (making it an inheritance) change the tax situation?

(Bit of a trolley problem in that it 'feels' different, but logically looks the same. Maybe Moz's idea about making everything taxable income (with exemptions for Mom's silver tea service) is the way to go?)

Another thing to consider is that AFAIK most farmland in the US (and a large amount in Canada) are not owned by 'family farmers' but by giant agribusinesses. So possibly allowing the inheritance of asset-rich/income-poor family businesses can be handled by specific exemptions rather than structuring the law (and its narrative) around them.

425:

The alternative is to arrange things so that having property, money or an old school tie isn't an advantage.

I fully agree (as a state-educated lad whose old school only has ~250 children at any time). The secondary problem isn't removing the advantage, it's removing the perception of advantage - somewhat trickier. Truly culture-fair selection processes are rare indeed.

For instance, there's a meme for aspiring officers in the British Army that family is an advantage; in reality, you're on your own at the Selection Board and subsequent Commissioning Course - you either manage both on your own qualities, or you fail. The advantage of family is understanding what any such a selection process is actually looking for, and in having seen good and bad examples (hence why the children of Doctors so often become Doctors, children of Politicians become Politicians, etc, etc).

There's another meme that certain Regiments are the preserve of the connected (an often-heard one is that "you need a private income if you want to survive in the Household Division", they've been fighting it for decades*) or that "you need to have gone to the right school to do well in X..." because, according to perception, British Army officers are a bastion of privilege and connection**. In contrast, I seemed to survive OK as a state-educated son of a Sergeant-Major, as did many of my schoolmates***


* About as successfully as Oxbridge, i.e. they're still full of pukka types. That said, the Guards Regiments are apparently still the second-largest source of officers for the SAS, after the Paras... NB the opportunity for a good "wind up" at their own expense is rarely missed, I've heard of someone who noticed some Americans approaching, and sprinted out with a cloth draped over his arm to be heard asking his seated friend "would Sir care for his Dinner now, or later?". Said Americans are probably still insisting that the British are class-crazed loonies whose officers still have servants...

** Good God, these days the Army even has officers called Darren, Wayne, and Sharon... ;)

*** I've a picture of our school's Pipe Band when we were competing - one of whom is now an infantry Major-General, another a REME Brigadier, a Colonel in the Royal Signals, an RAF Squadron Leader, a submariner Warrant Officer, a CPO or two, sundry Senior NCOs, and a very scrawny TA type...

426:

Fund public schools and universities so fully and pay (and train) the teachers so well that no-one in their right mind would go to a private school.
WE ACTUALLY HAD THAT SITUATION IN ENGLAND in the period from about 1950 onwards.
The State Grammar Schools gave ANYONE with the right academic qualifications a hand-up & your family income was irrelevant.
[ Before then, there was a very limited, rationed, doled-ot-by-the-spoonful version, that a lucky hardworking few ( like my father ) benefitted from. ]
Totally destroyed by Labour between 1968 (approx ) & 1975 - thus driving people to the private schools, which were dying on their feet, until a supposeldy equalisimg scheme completely fucked-over the chances of bright "working class" kids of getting a decent education.

427:

BALLS
You have just put me in to the Aristocracy of Wealth (!)
( My total annual income is approx £12k p.a. )
Now fuck right off & take your lying argument with it.

428:

Really, the only good reason to not set it to 100% is practicality

What about the practicality of the fact that the first one to suggest it will be strung up?

Estate taxes can be perceived as a tax on the death of parent - and hence are an emotional bomb, the fact that in many cases the value of the assets in question are one-off life-changing amounts only adds to that emotional impact.

430:

Yes. If the idiot who drove onto the tracks hadn't gotten killed, I'd have been wondering if the truck was there to take the trash off the train.

Overwhelmingly, people who get killed by trains did something *really* stupid.

My late wife's father, who'd been an engineer on the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, told me once that what pushed him to retire was that he couldn't take the stress of the IDIOTS driving FUEL trucks who kept trying to beat the train. Hitting one would have done it for him and his fireman, also....

431:

Ok, folks, about the Estate Tax: the rate in the US *used* to be 90%.

Yes, really. And if only hit high income estates.

And, not to put too fine a point on it, I heard an interview in the '90's with the last living member of FDR's Cabinet, who said, in so many words, that the purpose was not just to raise money for the government, but to prevent a class of old money.

432:

Re: Canadian inheritance and gift taxes

FYI - just checked and Canada does NOT impose any inheritance or gift taxes within/among family. According to some tax pros, giving money/high value gifts to your family before you croak could save you a bundle in taxes.

http://business.financialpost.com/personal-finance/retirement/inheritance/giving-your-inheritance-now-has-benefits

433:

Dealing with estates is one of the fundamental problems human societies all deal with somehow.

In the modern western world I think our systems could be summarized (though I'm guessing a lot outside the US) as 'by default estates go to creditors, then heirs, and the state takes a cut of larger estates. Heirs are spouses, and then by default then descendants by blood, then other family by blood. Heirs can also be modified before the deceased dies via a legal process and can include organizations, companies, and other financial constructs.'.

Some of the historically used hows, and of course these can be combined, or put into a priority list:

The big man/state takes the estate. This is really the closest one gets to a state of nature. Whoever killed you/grabbed your stuff gets it. This is also what happens when society has broken down.

The estate is divided between descendants.

The spouse gets the estate.

The estate is distributed as the deceased has specified. This is actually pretty weird. Caring what a dead person thought? Odd concept. Very capitalist though. Ownership mattering even more than death.

The estate is given to the eldest descendant. Farming cultures like these 'it all goes to one' schemes, because they avoid subdividing the land to uselessness.

The estate is given to the youngest descendant.

Inheritance may prioritize male or female heirs.

Inheritance may prioritize adult heirs.

Inheritance may prioritize marriage in the heir.

Estates may be passed as a single block which cannot be divided. Downton Abbey.

Estates may be simply destroyed (burned, buried with the corpse, slaughtered, etc).

Estates may be used up in a big party.

Estates may be divided by an entire social group, in any number of ways.

Inheritances may have a maximum size.


One herding society had the married adult children inherit one breeding pair of beasts and the rest was used up in a feast. When a wealthy person died other villages would be invited.


Imagine the parties we could be having.

434:

You have just put me in to the Aristocracy of Wealth (!)

No, he did not. You're affirming the consequent. I have an impression this sort of thing has come up in your comments before.

435:

Canada does NOT impose any inheritance or gift taxes within/among family

Is that new? One of my friends still rants about the taxes on his father's will. (Last century, so lots of time for change.)

Given the ranting on the subject I get from the Canadian right wing I assumed that we had them. Looks like our RW are (once again) recycling American Tea Party emails without checking them.

Personally I hope I don't inherit anything (other than a few momentoes) because I want my mother to spend it all having fun.

436:
In Canada, there is no inheritance tax. Instead the CRA treats the estate as a sale, unless the estate is inherited by the surviving spouse or common-law partner, where certain exceptions are possible. This means that the estate pays the taxes owed to the government, rather than the beneficiaries paying. By the time the estate is settled, the beneficiary should not have to worry about taxes.

https://turbotax.intuit.ca/tips/canada-inheritance-tax-laws-information-463

437:

This is an interesting synchronicity.

Why We’re Underestimating American Collapse
The Strange New Pathologies of the World’s First Rich Failed State
https://eand.co/why-were-underestimating-american-collapse-be04d9e55235

438:

Look, I'm not responding to your comments because they seem confused and based on a set of assumptions about what it might mean for success[*] to be achievable for everyone.

Didn't think you were. I was responding to "equality of outcome". I don't see how that is possible and I don't know if it's even desirable. But I'm willing to hear what you think about it.

I would argue that the super-privileged and those born to entrenched disadvantage both live in a smaller world than the rest of us, one with horizons that are close and claustrophobic.

Should we just accept that as unchangeable, permanently set in stone?

Or can we try to improve the situation? Is there anything we can do to make things better for ourselves and for those whose lives are closed off by "entrenched disadvantage"?

I'm not really worried about the "super-privileged". I think they are well capable of looking out for themselves. But I do think there are things we can and should do to close the gap between them and the rest of us.

This is my touchstone:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The way things are going today, the gap between the "super-privileged" and the rest of us gets wider by the minute. That takes us farther and farther from a "more perfect Union" & farther from "Justice". It doesn't increase "domestic Tranquility" or "promote the general Welfare".

We should be doing everything we can to turn ourselves around so that we get closer to those ideals.

439:

Charlie, have you read The Unwinding, by George Packer? I recommend it, but I particularly recommend reading it as if it were a science fiction novel published in 1968. Or 1984 or 2001, for that matter.

It uses an interesting narrative style, which your post reminded me of. Including a combination of headlines and (later) tweets. The book is fascinating from a literary perspective alone, in addition to its larger political message.

I'll have to check that out ... literally. I just looked at the online catalog and my preferred branch of our public library has 4 copies on shelf right now, and I'm headed over there this afternoon to return "Dark State".

440:

No we didn’t.

We had a system which selected an arbitrary (and limited) number on a demonstrably flawed basis[1] for an actual education and left the rest to make the best of neglected and largely ignored secondary modern schools.


[1] Oh yes it was. The evidence is in what happened when I was 15 and what was previously a grammar school became a comprehensive school, resulting in a significant number (far more than was ever achieved through the Technical/Arts college route which was supposed to provide an alternative to sixth-form or the largely theoretical mechanism by which bright secondary modern kids who lost out in the selection lottery were supposedly able to transfer to grammar school) of pupils from the “non academic” streams gaining excellent A-level results and going on the university places and professional careers which would otherwise have been the exclusive preserve of us grammar school types...

441:

When we stayed in a flat in St Petersburg a few years back our host (an educated woman BTW) left the hot tap running 24/7 because hot water was totally free (came from a massive centralised heating system somewhere, she was not sure where).

Chernobyl?

442:

If he'd just spent it, he would have paid sales tax (or VAT depending on where he lives). That's still multiple taxation. And he's probably paying property taxes if he's in the U.S. and owns a home.

443:

No
-and Yes

The selection was badly handled, throughout. The monies were deliberately limited - the 1944 Education Act was never properly implemented. There were supposed to be routes "in" & "out" for people whose skills etc developed later, or who lazed along - which were very rarely implemented.
But, for all those faults, it gave huge numbers of children from poorer backgrounds an educational way out & up, that was instantly cut-off with the introduction of the way "comprehensives" (Note the quotes) were put in.
Any attempt at streaming or setting or selecting pupils by ability within their subjects was stamped on, very hard & the disaster of Full Mixed Abilty teaching was imposed.
It didn't have to have been like that - they could have had full-width comprehensives, with internal setting by subject ability - which is what happens, more-or-less, most of the time, now, but only after throwing away at least 2 if not 3 generations of children's education.
Also, the destruction of the Grammars immediately produced a huge revival in the almost-moribund private school sector, that had been dying on its feet up to that point - the exact opposite of the desired outcome.
Very clever.

444:

Link doesn't work.
And, no - he was putting me into a supposedly wealthy aristocracy, ha, ha very funny.
See also the reply by Jeff Fisher @ 19.40, where one option is the one he proposes -a 100% tax:
The big man/state takes the estate. This is really the closest one gets to a state of nature. Whoever killed you/grabbed your stuff gets it. This is also what happens when society has broken down.
Let's not go there shall we?

445:

"most "jobs" already produce no actual value... Is it really just me who finds that heartbreaking?"

No. It's one of my standard rants, but I sympathise with the "is it really just me" because it's like talking to the wall. Moreover, it has been like talking to the wall for longer than any of us have been alive. People have been saying it since at least before WW1 to my knowledge, including estimates of around 90% for the amount of work that is useless, but they've all found it like talking to the wall too. On the very rare occasions when anyone does respond, it is invariably in the form "don't be silly, of course people have to work", which is short for "of course my unexamined and unsupported prejudices take precedence over a challenging viewpoint because then I don't have to think about it or accept that my own effort is all expended on something with zero or negative value or wonder why the fuck I get up in the morning".

I've even seen one piece which argues that automation won't really help, because historically instead of freeing people from work it has merely resulted in more useless pseudo-work coming into existence to make them do instead. But that was written before the "mass computing revolution", and maybe he didn't anticipate the extent to which that process would be overloaded by the possibility of automating so many things previously thought to be un-automatable.

I suppose one factor that helps people not to see the problem is that, as you say, a lot of the 90% is to be found in unnecessary functions being performed by people who nominally are doing something useful. And also, as a corollary, in functions which are necessary to a certain extent being performed to excess so that 90% of the performance exceeds what is necessary. In effect, the useful portion is being performed with gross inefficiency so as to make the sum of useful and useless effort sufficient to fill all people's available time, instead of allowing them to have the time spent on useless effort to themselves. The resulting tangle gives people what seems to be a defence against the assertion that they are being made to waste their lives - but only if you don't look too closely.

446:

Thomas wrote To the extent estate taxes force going concerns onto the open market, that is a good thing to the economy - Far better than randomly leaving them in the hands of people without the relevant skill sets

Most people in industrialised countries aren't farmers, they own a house or apartment to live in. They can change occupation without moving, and quite a lot of people do just that. Other people do change city or country, and having their own real estate to sell means they can "swap" with someone else. (Of course real estate values vary etc etc, but that's the general idea: sell one house and get another.)

Under 100% inheritance people can't pass on land ownership to their heirs. Corporations, though, don't die. And will be in a position to make an attractive financial offer to elderly people who want to pass on something to their kids. (Which, as others have noted, is a deeply hard wired instinct.)

I don't think laws which encourages corporate ownership and discourages private ownership are a good thing.

447:

The founding fathers were concerned that the inter-generational accumulation of wealth was a threat to democracy. That's the reason the Constitution prohibits patents of nobility and why Congress passed laws against primogeniture and entail even before the Constitution was ratified (the first Congress after ratification passed those same laws again).

“A power to dispose of estates for ever is manifestly absurd. The earth and the fulness of it belongs to every generation, and the preceding one can have no right to bind it up from posterity. Such extension of property is quite unnatural.”
— Thomas Jefferson
“There is no point more difficult to account for than the right we conceive men to have to dispose of their goods after death.”
— Adam Smith (not a founding father, but an inspiration to them)
“The great object should be to combat evil: . . . by withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few, to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate, and especially an unmerited, accumulation of riches . . .”
— James Madison
“[America] will not be less advantageous to the happiness of the lowest class of people, because of the equal distribution of property.”
— George Washington
“Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.”
— Thomas Jefferson
448:

That was a list of historical realities, not of proposals.

And, it wasn't great lumping those two together. It is equally valid to lump the state taking the estate together with distributing it to the entire population. Depends where your government is on the spectrum between being the tool of all of the people and the tool of the big man.

The thing that really jumps out at me as bizarre in all of those is allowing the dead person a say.

449:

More likely the city steam works. I think I've read of that, and certainly, in Philly, a lot of large downtown buildings (this may have changed) were on a city steam pipe.

450:

"Streaming". Yeah. My late ex presented a paper to the Society of Women Engineers back in the nineties, showing how *bad* "mainstreaming" worked.

She said she got a lot of applause....

451:

It seems like a reasonable piece of infrastructure to centralise where feasible. In Brisbane there is a municipal chilled water feed that many buildings have access to. No idea where they locate the cooling tower for that but it must be in the inner city somewhere.

452:

Okay, well you could try this:

https://www.google.com.au/search?q=affirming+the+consequent

Link or no link, it’s an elementary logical fallacy. When you say he called you an aristocrat, you’re in “therefore my dog is a cat” territory.

453:

Concerning private schools, I personally have reason to be grateful for their existence because of the side-effects of the selection process. That you had to pass an exam to get in, and, to a lesser extent, that your parents had to pay for you to go, had the effect of largely excluding that contingent who, having much empty space where their brain ought to be, like to fill it up with being an arsehole to everyone else. There were still some of them, but it was mostly possible to keep out of their way outside lessons, and during the lessons themselves the segregation of kids into classes was largely arranged to keep them out of the way.

Note that I am not trying to claim that this factor justifies the private school system; I am simply pointing out a positive consequence of segregation, which happens to arise as an unintentional result of one imperfect system of selection, and which should be taken into consideration when pondering the concept of segregation and possible systems of selection which don't share the imperfections.

454:

showing how *bad* "mainstreaming" worked.

In Aotearoa "mainstreaming" was used to describe dumping disabled kids into normal schools, using the same philosophy that lead to dumping of disabled adults onto the streets. In neither case were necessary resources provided to cope with the change (it was done in the holy name of Saint Thatcher), so the results were entirely predictable.

I went to streamed schools all the way through, albeit at primary school it was informal. The bright kids got the better teachers as a rule, in part because the less able teachers did not want to deal with them. I was old enough to understand that by the time I got to secondary school, at which point I appreciated it a great deal, especially when I got the other sort of teachers because the school had a policy of spreading the top stream classes around.

That may explain why I think that streaming is necessary, and mixed-ability classes are unkind to almost everyone involved. My experience of those classes was, uh, "mixed"

455:

Martin (and Mark),

I think you're reading a lot into my one-line comment that "The Soviets achieved huge economic gains with fairly limited support from the West both before WW2 and in WW2."

But I was replying to this:
And the Soviets' "full industrialization" wouldn't have been possible without the massive transfusions of material and technology they received from the west during the "Great Patriotic War".

Left to their own devices, they would never have been able to match the west's century of progress"

I'm just now aware of a massive transfusion of economic-development material and technology being sent to the Soviets. War materials, yes. Lots of them. But sending them war supplies (tanks, aviation fuel, aluminium that was used to make fighters, etc) that are then burnt up fighting the Germans doesn't really count as "economic development".

My overall point was simply that the Soviets didn't become a super-power because of lend-lease. They had stellar economic growth in the 30s and 50s as well as doing very well economically in the 40s while being invaded.

456:

The argument that exercises my father-in-law is "why should I be taxed twice over?". His perspective is that he's already paid full taxes on the money he earned, and it's his decision as to what he does with it thereafter.

But he's not being taxed after he dies. What he leaves after is income which needed no work, just luck, to his descendants. The inheritors didn't do anything for the inheritance except (usually) were born at the right place at the right time. This, if something, is in my view pretty much the definition of unearned income, and should be taxed.

What I find strange (and I don't know if your father-in-law is one of these people) is that often the same people want lower income and capital taxes, because somebody worked hard for that, but then at the same time want lower inheritance taxes, when the people who inherit didn't work at all for the inheritance. They should just say that they want lower taxes, period, in my opinion.

The discussion whether all income, especially capital income, is earned is a differnt one, and it has been addressed in this thread a bit, I think.

457:

NO
It isn't
He classed me ( or rather people like me ) as a rich landed aristo, which I am plainly not.
And I can see the difference to which you are alluding & it's still WRONG, OK?

458:

Yes
Of course "streaming" could probably be misused, but usually, it means or should mean that, by subject, the brighter, more able children are in the same classs, which means they learn both more & faster.
And their class isn't disrupted by the aggressive bullying morons who don't want to learn, & who take up vast amounts of teacher & pupil time in a mixed-ability class.
Well done sir!

An analogy would be to convert the readership of this blog to "mixed-ability" by inviting a large group of, oh, lets say Millwall-supporters to join us for thier views on racism, social tolerance, immigration, & intellectual values?
Maybe let's not, huh?

459:

The way things are going today, the gap between the "super-privileged" and the rest of us gets wider by the minute. That takes us farther and farther from a "more perfect Union" & farther from "Justice". It doesn't increase "domestic Tranquility" or "promote the general Welfare".

twitter pic

Although a funny picture I can image a sufficiently disgruntled person with appropriate skills and a .50 / .416 barrett cal sniper rifle culling the billionaire herd a bit, to take it right to the extreme(or not). Money can buy safety but a 2,5 km radius under total control at any time in your existence is not easy. So many possible scenarios where be very rich can be hazardous to your health.

460:

I think that would take a pretty big mental form most Americans to even understand was really going on if something like that kicked off. Traditionally most Americans honestly believe that they are all billionaires that just haven't found their big break yet. They haven't internalised the fact that they will never be rich, or that they may just 'get by' for their entire lives.

If somebody started knocking off actual billionaires a decent number of the 99.999% would think that this crazy communist might be coming for them next.

I travel to the US semi-regularly and I always remind myself that:
1. They are not a country, just a loose confederation of states (some from the 1930s, some from the 2050s).
2. They don't seem to see or acknowledge the 'common wealth' that underpins their civil society, because gumnint and taxes.
3. They don't understand why everybody else thinks their gun laws are insane, and why I get twitch around an AR-15
4. They think they are billionaires down on their luck and need a good break.
5. As individuals they are generally lovely (even the sketchy gun toting ones).
6. Let them talk, they like it.
7. Most of the white ones are confused by good food (as opposed to expensive food).
8. They believe that everybody whats to be famous.

Reading the news one might think that point 4 is changing, but in reality I think they are just getting pissed en-masse that the good break has been too long coming.

Before anybody accuses me of being racist towards the good folks of the USA with my gross generalisations, I am aware that they are just generalisations, and am excited every time I come across someone who likes good food and wine and doesn't own 6 automatic shotguns.

461:

Any attempt at streaming or setting or selecting pupils by ability within their subjects was stamped on

Ok, accepted that you're a bit older than me, but streaming happened in Scottish comprehensive secondaries in the 1970s, full year streams in S2 (year 8/13), and subject streams in S3.

462:

Well, my S1 (actually year 8/13; erratum in #461 which should read 9/13) science teacher told my parents "When Paws starts to talk in my class he clearly knows what he's talking about and I know what he's talking about. I'm not sure that more than 2 or 3 of the rest of class (20) know what he's talking about."

463:

The Soviets also burned their way through several tens of millions of their working-age population fighting the Fascists during WWII and they still had a working economy afterwards without a Marshall Plan or any other support from the economically-advantaged Americans whose economy had been busy producing war materiel to sell to their friends while only losing maybe a million or so fighting men during the conflict.

464:

Destreaming is returning to Ontario.

https://www.thestar.com/yourtoronto/education/2018/01/28/tdsb-head-wants-to-phase-out-streaming-expand-access-to-specialty-schools.html

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/2018/01/29/its-past-time-to-end-academic-streaming.html

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2018/01/31/your-letters-tdsb-destreaming-will-be-a-disastrous-recipe-for-everyone-involved.html

https://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2018/02/02/your-letters-destreaming-definitely-does-not-work-in-mathematics.html

We've been there before, but with all things political (and this is a political decision) these things come in cycles of about a generation or two. (Ie. long enough for most people to forget the consequences last time it was tried.)

The big push this time is "equity". (The province is mandating it, but Toronto is destreaming faster than required (with a big push from the local BLM).)

Local scuttlebutt is that one reason the TDSB is pushing hard is that it will save money: lower-ability classes are smaller, so by putting all students into academic classes they have larger classes and thus fewer teachers.

465:

Correct
BUT - DOES NOT APPLY
Scottish education remained better than English for a long time after that - I was talking about England ( & Wales ).
It required a differenr political change to trash the Scottish education system, & nothing to do with what we are presently discussing

466:

Not sure why you chose 2.5 km range, but the number of people in the world who can hit anything at that distance is very very small. And weapons which can hit anything at that distance are expensive. Anyone who both has the skills and access to such weapons, is not going to be poor and desperate -- in fact he is pretty certain to be in 1% himself. I think this holds true even for 1 km range.

467:

Given the existence of LEAs in England, education policy may have been unevenly distributed?

468:

Let's look at Soviet Industrialization. The problem is that the counterfactual is ignored. Namely, how would an evolving Russian Empire look like without the Soviet Union?

1. You guys are assuming that Russia was not industrializing before WWI. From what I've read, German generals feared that by 1920, Russia would be too industrialized to win. I can't find the source. Wikipedia doesn't mention it either, except for this one sentence:

"Germany was somewhat worried about Russia's potential industrialization—it had far more potential soldiers—while Russia feared Germany's already established industrial power."
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany%E2%80%93Russia_relations#The_German_and_Russian_Empires

2. Even if we assume WWI and the February Revolution happen, no Soviet Union likely means no WWII. Hitler had A LOT of things go his way. Without the giant Communist bogeyman to the East, Hitler's Nazis would likely have enjoyed far less support.

3. So a world without the Russian Civil War, without Holodomor, without the gulags, etc. would have seen the successor to the Russian Empire with a much larger population. That means this government would have been an even bigger superpower than the Soviet Union was.

4. When talking about the efficiencies of Communism, might I remind you guys that the Soviet Union was a net food importer. Russia today is one of the largest grain exporters.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-russia-grains-analysis/worried-about-russias-march-on-grain-markets-it-could-be-worse-idUSKBN1D30GK

Keep in mind that this Russian government doesn't have Ukraine or Mongolia.

5. The Soviet Union wasted a lot of money building villages in the middle of nowhere in Siberia since they believed that the state should organize human colonization. Many of those villages are now ghost towns or places of extreme poverty within Russia. Not to mention that minorities might have had much more local power within Siberia?

469:

Very much so.
The rush to "perfect egalitarianism" by the usual method of cutting-off all the poppy-heads was followed by the more enthusiastically "left-wing" bodies, others, not so much.
Contrariwise, those that tended to trash their own education first were usually those to realise the error of their ways first, as well .....

470:

Charlie Stross@130 wrote:

> With a few years' reflection on the subject, I am of the opinion that this is a Good Thing.

But that means they'll probably change the laws back
shortly, right?

471:

Well, if you hit the DC area, drop me an email. And I do *not* confuse "good food" with "$$$Good$$$ $$$Food$$$".