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March 24, 2020


"The USA has too many states to remember, please eliminate four.

I am not a nut."

Sorry, your "France is too big" comment just set me off.

a country's border should be withing a day's ride of the King's primary palace.

so, at maximum a circle with a 30mi radius. or, roughly 2800 sq miles. somewhere between Brunei and Cyprus.

Electorally, it would make sense to reorder the US states. I guess that would rather reduce than increase the absolute numbers even if e.g. California gets split and D.C., Puerto Rico and the 'don't call it slavery, the workers nominally get paid' overseas dominions (pardon, territories) become states.
Ye need at least 3 million to qualify for 2 senators (or be off the mainland by at least 1000 miles and be content with just 1). Lack that and ye have to form a coalition (I count 15 states with less than 2.9 million).

As for splitting, California would make sense in any case and be doable. New York City could separate from upstate NY. Florida and Texas have less natural divisions (I doubt a state of The Big Cities of Texas would be viable and it would look more like West-Berlin inside the GDR (aka the island in the red sea)).

cleek, or have an itinerant king like Charlemagne.

Hm, would it be possible to keep Air Force One in the air for fully four years to have an itinerant presidency?

Less on the silly side and therefore maby enot appropriate for this thread:

Is (official) Texas in favor of Ubasute/Ättestupa?

Once there is another political thread again, please move this over there.

I violated my own current rules and also good sense by looking at the internet before breakfast. Read this thread and laughed out loud, so it was all worth it; usually, reading online before breakfast is a good way to start the day off wrong.

Then I got dressed.

Then I read my email and found out that my 96-year-old mother tried to get out of bed without help (which she wasn't supposed to do), fell, broke her hip, and needs surgery in the era of COVID-19, which of course means being taken out of her locked-down nursing home and into a hospital where we don't even know if anyone can see her outside the ER.

What a mess.

But I'm still going to say something about the thread before (maybe) coming back later -- this is a great question! I want to add to it: what is the optimal human! Too tall, you can't get through doorways. Too short, you can't reach the stuff on the highest shelf. Too serious, you're no fun. Too frivolous, you never get anything useful done. Etc.

As for countries, too small and you mostly get stepped on by bigger ones. (How did Monaco, Andorra, San Marino, etc.? survive?)

And also too, Hartmut's suggestions for the states are interesting, but I don't know if people outside the US really understand how distinct the states are in culture, feel, character, I don't even know what to call it.

I drive several times a year across Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (which as a group do meet Hartmut's standards for two senators!), and you can almost smell that you've crossed a border, even in the woods, because...somehow, they're different.


Off to breakfast. Thanks for the laugh and the fun. A great topic.

PS -- I have said over and over again over the past decade, for one reason or another -- probably even written it here -- that some of the problems that afflict the US are because it's too big.......

As for splitting, California would make sense in any case and be doable.

The "doable" is in doubt just because of water. In most proposed splits of California (eg, north and south), large transfers of water that are currently intrastate become interstate. New interstate water compacts would have to be negotiated and approved by Congress to become official. Differences of opinion between the new states on whether the new compacts are being followed would be heard in the US Supreme Court. Trust me. As a long-time resident of a western state bound by nine interstate water compacts, such differences always happen. Colorado is party to some SCOTUS water proceeding far more often than not. Multiple Californias would be in court continuously.

The Federated States of Micronesia put together have a land area slightly less* that of the city of Berlin but extend about 4000 km in one direction.

*and diminishing with climate change, I presume.

Michael Cain, and that water is in the hands of a desperate political party already.
That's one reason why a mere electoral split would make some sense (provided that statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico are coupled with it or it would just make the senate even more lopsided towards the GOP).

what is the optimal human!

So it's not Elizabeth Hurley?

You don't have to be a six-footer
You don't have to have a great brain
You don't have to have any clothes on

Janie: so sorry to hear about your mother. Best wishing like mad for best possible outcome, whatever that is.

It is curious that you could pretty easily separate Texas, geographically for sure, population equality would be harder. Dallas now sits as the shiny blue beacon in a sea of red from Ft Worth to Louisiana but I think Houston would be a good anchor for the Southeast, Austin could be the Capitol of the hill country, San Antonio and El Paso could bookend the larger southwest, the panhandle could be part of Oklahoma. Except for Houstons dependence on oil the economies probably separate on those lines ok. I'm sure I missed a few things but Texas has been built around 7 pretty distinct geographic regions.

No end to my empathy Janie. My SO's mom has been in and out of the hospital twice in the last three weeks. For respiratory problems. Scary and helpless, I dont get to visit.

(i've been spoiled by editable comments on other blogs)

(reposting this?)

a friend's ex-husband in the UK just died of C19. and his wife is now quarantined at home, literally alone.

Just heard that an acquaintance is in the ICU with C-19. His two kids lost their mother a couple of years ago to a particularly drawn-out cancer. Fuck.

Thanks to GftNC and Marty for the good wishes.

Marty -- my mom was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago also, just before they closed it to visitors. My brother still lives in my home town, and one of my sisters just headed back home from Florida. So Mom has family nearby.

I'll leave it alone on this thread now -- maybe put up another thread at some point for this and related topics.

JsnieM: San Marino is an interesting case. During the Italian unification period, they provided safe haven to a number of unification supporters, notably including Giuseppe Garibaldi and his wife. In exchange, they asked GG for a promise not to attempt to incorporate San Marino into the Italian state. He agreed, and had enough clout to see that the promise was kept.

Janie, my condolences and best wishes for recovery to your Mom.

cleek, marty, GftNC ... same at ya.

All of us will be touched by this thing one way or another.

Take care, all.

Thank you, JDT. You take care and stay well your ownself.

...San Antonio and El Paso could bookend the larger southwest...

I've always thought El Paso would be better served by being the dominant (by population) city in New Mexico. From what I know, their population and politics look much more like NM than anywhere else in Texas. And I know that their electricity supply is part of the Western Interconnect, not the Texas.

Actually, I'd say California is a reasonable size for a country. Multiple major cities, agriculture about to feed itself (and have a fair amount available for export). Established industry. Etc. (Overall, a bigger economy that all but a handful of existing countries.)

Small enough that it's entirely possible to get from one end to the other in a day. Indeed, one can leave the San Francisco area (roughly in the middle) after breakfast, drive south, attend meetings in Los Angeles in the afternoon, and return home before midnight. And I reiterate, that's without recourse to air travel -- which is readily available, and cheap. I know, because I've done it. More than once.

Granted, I have joined the muttering about splitting the state. Mostly occasioned by the amount of water shipped south and the way it gets used there. And a perception that, because southern California has more people, it dominates the state's politics. But consider:

  • The Governor is from northern California. As was his predecessor.
  • Both US Senators are from northern California. And have been for nearly 30 years.
In short, the domination of the south is rather less than one might expect. So, less of a problem than you'd assume.

Not sure that absolute size is a goid measure of whether an area should be a country. But for us, it could work.

Jim Parish -- thanks for the info about San Marino!

John Thullen -- thanks and take care yourself.

cleek and GftNC -- will be thinking of your friends.

In short, the domination of the south is rather less than one might expect. So, less of a problem than you'd assume.

My understanding (as an outsider) is that the northern population has long been more liberal than the southern, to the point that people talk about the San Francisco area "Democratic mafia" that still has outsized control of the party. I claim there's a similar dynamic nationally -- of the Census Bureau's four regions, the West now produces more Democratic EC votes than the others, but the DNC is dominated by longstanding Northeastern influence.

To get back to the original topic, one thing to consider in a "how big should a country be" discussion is whether party politics is strongly partitioned along regional lines. By that standard, the rise of the SNP suggests that the UK is too big. Maps drawn at the state level in the US show both major parties with strong regional divisions.

As a passionate advocate for a World Government, the ideal size of a nation is the entire planet. Everything else is far too small, inadequate to deal with global crises, and subject to invasion and takeover by its neighbors.

My understanding (as an outsider) is that the northern population has long been more liberal than the southern, to the point that people talk about the San Francisco area "Democratic mafia" that still has outsized control of the party.

I would say that the difference is that San Francisco has long dominated its area far more than Los Angeles does. Growing up, if the Mayor of Oakland said "the city" you knew he meant San Francisco, not his own city. Ditto San Jose. Also, the southern California suburbs are bigger compared to LA than the northern California ones. Orange County is simply a bigger part of the area than Alameda or Contra Costa or San Mateo counties are. And suburbs, generally, are more conservative than urban areas.

Perhaps it is noteworthy that San Diego, while much smaller than LA, is also at least as big as San Francisco. And has a long tradition of producing conservative/Republican politicians. At least, back when there were significant Republican politicians at the state level. (Which there haven't been since Pete Wilson, who note was a San Diego politician initially, decided to back an anti=Latino ballot measure. The ballot measure passed, but the California Republican Party has never recovered.)

As a passionate advocate for a World Government, the ideal size of a nation is the entire planet. Everything else is far too small, inadequate to deal with global crises, and subject to invasion and takeover by its neighbors.

And, speaking personally, after that I favour joining the United Federation of Planets.

I dont think people can imagine a world government that is not corrupted by holding ultimate power. I certainly cant.

But then I'm cant imagine a US government that could possibly represent my interests. I think we should have lots of small governments but you cant move from one to the other and try to change it. Stay the hell where you are. But then I'm from the south.

So much for our few days of kumbaya. ;-)

I think we should have lots of small governments but you cant move from one to the other and try to change it. Stay the hell where you are.

This sounds eminently feasible and sensible for a species that arose in a small area in Africa, kept spreading out until it had colonized every habitable corner of its home planet, kept right on moving after that, and now aspires to go find other planets to hang out on.


Speaking of the south, though, if people have to stay where they are, then at least they'll have to enslave their own kind instead of sailing around the world raiding other tribes for their slaves.

Janie, we do need an actual politics thread. I've just read that Yamiche Alcindor (the original asker of the "nasty question" about why the Pandemic Task Force had been disbanded), has tweeted that in his press conference today He Who Must Not Be Named said ""As we near the end of our historic battle" with the coronavirus and that there is now "light at the end of the tunnel." Given that he apparently said this, and given that in his press conference yesterday he repeated Steve Hilton's idiot talking points about "the solution mustn't be worse than the problem" and that he would "re-open" the American economy sooner rather than later, and given the numbers you have run, it looks as if we are approaching a tremendous crisis of several different kinds (i.e. not just medically and logistically, but also where the administration might go completely against medical and scientific advice).

If this happens, and as wj and others have noted, given that the mass deaths might heavily skew Republican, we may not be far off a 25th Amendment situation. Is there some kind of mass action (emailing of congresspeople etc) that rational people should now be contemplating?

Just made one.

Had a comment that I didn't post, which was an apology to Snarki for triggering him about France. Can we just agree that Australia is too big?

And made a thread for yer politiking.

The best votes are the ones you get with your dollars and your feet.

Can we just agree that Australia is too big?

No way. You can't count the 75% or more that's uninhabited and uninhabitable for all practical purposes. From Adelaide in South Australia, there's essentially nothing going west until you get to Perth on the west coast. That's roughly the distance from New Orleans to LA. And going north from there, there's nothing until you get to Darwin on the north coast . . . which would be a small town, even in places like Wyoming. That's like New Orleans to Canada.

Seriously, most of the country makes interior Alaska seem crowded.

Re: San Marino
Taking it would have been a challenge for a mid-19th century army, and likely to produce an expressive Italian shrug of "why bother?".

Visited San Marino a couple of times; it's a long twisty drive to get to the top, but a nice view. The only way you could tell that you weren't in Italy was the license plates on the cars.

damn, timeout, repost cut my comment:

San Marino is a rather heavily fortified citadel perched on a rather high mountain...with (nowdays at least) rather dense villages all around.

So much for our few days of kumbaya. ;-)

It was more of a world government reaction, nothing I would dwell on. I cant imagine being subject to the politics of the UN, people in Wetern Mass chafe at the yolk of those Boston politicians.

lj: hey, no problem "triggering" me, at least not for ME. I can certainly understand YOU being sorry that you had to read my juvenile humor.

I have to agree with Marty on world government in that I believe it would quickly become utterly corrupt, if it got the powers actually needed to do the job.
And even if we could keep religion somehow out, cultural differences are so great that a universally accepted set of practices would be essentially impossible. And who would run that government, how could there be equal representation of everyone? Anything amounting to 'fair' would require massive changes to our habits. For the time being the Western middle class standard of living would quickly lead the world to ruin, if adopted by everyone. Who of us would easily cope with lowering our own standard of living to one globally sustainable (given our current capabilities)? "Our way of life is non-negotiable" is (in less crass form though) not just a US thing.
So, I fear we have to somehow find solutions without a central command authority (and I also fear we won't before the situation deteriorates to a level that will make the world wars look like a walk in the park).

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