Monday, November 27, 2006

Better online discourse... and easing pollution...

Travel note. I’ll be heading back to Google, this coming Monday, to discuss new visualization interfaces that may enhance 21st Century discourse... inspired by my speech there, in October. During this brief trip, I will have the honor of sharing the podium with the legendary Doug Engelbart, inventor of the mouse and internet visionary. Maybe good ideas will fizz and lead somewhere.

GoogleTalkSpeaking of Google Videos, Submarine officer Andrew Presby sent me this link to a Tech Talk given by legendary physics innovator Robert Bussard (inventor of the sf’nal “Bussard Ram Scoop Drive) who has been working on alternative approaches to fusion power for decades, operating on a shoestring in order to stay under the radar of the big ITER establishment. Instead of Tokomak “magnetic cathedrals” that cost billions and appear to have no reasonable prospect of ever working, Bussard appears to have already passed several fusion milestones with a small machine of staggering simplicity.

Excellent stuff. I am sure most of us -- who are not petro-porkers -- wish him well.

----
Speaking of world-saving technologies, lately the topic of “amelioration” has returned to center stage -- perfectly illustrating how difficult we modernists find our position, right now, hemmed in by romantic radicals on all sides. With the right dominated by anti-science problem-deniers and the left heavily influenced by anti-engineering neo luddites, there is an oversupply of dogma and a painful insufficiency of good old can-do spirit of problem solving.

Is it possible that -- for example -- pollution and global warming can be partly solved by ASSERTIVE means that supplement the main thrust (efficiency and responsible economic habits), rather than having to only focus on answers offered by the New Puritans? (Those who chide and wag fingers, crying “waste not!” without ever noticing that they are the prune-faced reincarnations of Cotton Mather?)

Consider this. Except on low-lying islands like Tonga, people in the developing world do not like the New Puritans. They are willing to listen to mixed programs that offer better and more efficient ways to get them all the goodies owned by people in the West. But they will not put up with being lectured-to about how “you shouldn’t want all that wasteful crap.”

Enough generalities, on to a pragmatic question! Can we eliminate some pollution by “getting rid of” it?

Some amelioration techniques include pumping carbon dioxide underground, or planting vast forests, or spreading iron powder and other fertilizers across the vast tracts of ocean that are currently almost lifeless, lacking a phytoplankton food chain, for lack of nutrients. (Most of the sea is desert, in fact. A far larger fraction than on land.) Unsurprisingly, many such experiments are supported by tiny Pacific isle nations, who would prefer vast new fisheries that also suck CO2 and cool an overheating world.

Here’s another idea I’d love to see some of you look into for us. I have long wondered about the fastest coastal subduction zones where the Earth’s crust nosedives under a neighboring tectonic plate, sinking deeply to recycle over millions of years as fresh magma. It would be interesting to know more about these zones, and whether one or two of them ... e.g. perhaps the Marianas trench? ... suck-down crust down at rates that might be ecologically significant ?

As I describe in my novel, BRIGHTNESS REEF.

Is it conceivable that there might be two or three spots on Earth - say, in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans - where toxics... and even sequestered carbon... could be dumped in such a way that they are sucked downward quickly enough not to be a threat of any kind, way, shape or form... at least none that any foreseeable civilization might blame us for?

Of course, there are those who will react to the very notion with shudders of horror. Indeed, as a lifelong Sierra Club and Greenpeace member, I admit that my own sensibilities are shocked by the initial image... dumping great casks of wastes into some of the planet’s final, pristine places. Even if it means gathering all of the vast amounts that are currently dumped illegally in fragile ecosystems and sending it to a place where it will soon disappear, sucked-down out of reach and out of harm’s way, forever... it is a concept and an image that takes some brave pondering, and still the surface image is an unpleasant one.

There are countless issues. Just how fast does crust get taken in, at the fastest subduction zones? Is it a smooth process? Is there any way to be sure that material that we put there truly will be taken below, and rendered more harmless than if it were fired into space?

Certainly the New Puritans would hate this notion, without even allowing it time to “sink in.” Nor would they wait to discuss the potential tradeoffs, since it attempts to solve this problem with something other than the prescription of abstinence, utter efficiency and hairshirt self-denial.

Still, there is growing evidence that some of them are capable of rational negotiation. Clearly we need to offer the Paul Ehrlich crowd something in exchange.

How about a win-win? Charge a stiff fee for everything that’s dumped into the subduction middens... and then use the proceeds for ecologically beneficial programs? Let’s see. Bad stuff, taken away forever... PLUS...billions collected to buy and preserve habitats... It will take some real dogmatic rigidity to turn down a deal like that one.

That is, if the science supports the idea in the first place.

That is, if the science ever gets done, at all.

Here’s my shopping list of studies that ought to determine:

1) the rate that crust is sinking in the fastest subduction zones,

2) the isolation of material dumped into deep subduction canyons, during whatever time it takes (so that broken drums don't spill contents that recirculate in ocean currents),

3) the uniqueness of the biological communities in these two or three "sacrifice zones,"

4) the volume of material that could be taken away forever, this way,

5) the kind of tipping fees that could be charged.

Any other issues? Any chance of a study? Like so many of my ideas, I simply cannot follow through on this one myself. All I can do is offer it to the wind and hope that somebody can explore it further. I remain cheerfully willing to accept rebuke, if it is proved to be stupid. But I sure hope it’s real proof, and not just dogmatic reflex.

Because I have a special hankering for win-win solutions. Most real modernists do.

39 comments:

Blake Stacey said...

I recall an article in Discover about ten years ago — aha! actually eleven — which described a plan to build solar-powered von Neumann machines which would suck in carbon dioxide and store it as calcium carbonate.

The vision began to take shape in the summer of 1992. Klaus Lackner, a 43-year-old physicist in the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s theoretical division—which researches such classified phenomena as bomb blasts, and such unclassified ones as climate—and his friend Christopher Wendt, a 36-year-old particle physicist at the University of Wisconsin, were enjoying a beer in Lackner's house on the Los Alamos mesa when they began wondering why scientists no longer think about big projects. Back in the 1950s people weren't afraid to pop off ideas about interplanetary travel or terraforming Mars into a space colony. But today, with fear of technology in the air, no one talks about building big projects on the scale of the pyramids or the great cathedrals of Europe.

After a few more beers, Lackner and Wendt started thinking big themselves. They talked about the problem of global warming and how it could be solved by transforming carbon dioxide into carbonate rock—a stable form of matter that would give us no more trouble than the cliffs of Dover. But to make these chalky white cliffs of stabilized CO2 would require so much machinery that the cost of buying or manufacturing it would bankrupt you. The only way you could do it would be to produce the machinery automatically. So we concluded that the means of production, as part of their job, would have to build copies of themselves, says Lackner. The number of these self-replicating machines at work, then, would increase exponentially.

As for the post-TwenCen discourse. . . has anybody noticed that www.holocenechat.com how reads, in its entirety, "HaCKeD By BeLa & BodyguarD (Turkish Hackers)"? (This happened at least prior to 22 November, the date of Google's cached copy.) Besides that, I think it's worth commenting on the similarity between the Holocene demo interface I recall and the Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex cyberbrain displays. Without going into too many details, I can summarize by saying that if Holocene Chat ever hits the big time, a Ghost in the Shell skin would capture the fictional software's behavior quite well (except for that whole ghost-hacking thing).

Tony Fisk said...

One problem with the subduction dump idea is that it's not the immediate surface that gets sucked under: that gets scraped by the upper continental plate. So, you can't just 'toss it over the side' but have to drill a further mile or two beneath the bottom sludge.
From what I recall of tectonics, the fastest plates move at around 2-3 inches a year. Even if you did find a suitable spot, you can still expect to wait a few millenia before your waste is even a mile deeper.

I'll have to follow up that Bussard fusion. I do recall that someone down the road was working on muon fusion a while back. I think their research got caught in the community backlash from that pair of chemists from down the road who got all excited about Palladium.

Stefan Jones said...

What's really holding back a potential avalanche of innovative solutions isn't the "puritans," it is a media and industrial establishment that denies that there is a problem in the first place!

These shills, bought-off cranks and shameless PR cranks have deliberately spread the meme that environmentalists are humanity-hating luddites. Go look at their propaganda!

I firmly believe that free enterprise and entrepreneurial innovation, if allowed to operate unfettered would tear into the global warming with astonishing efficiency. (That's why I'm involved with WorldChanging, the Viridian Design movement, and followed the Whole Earth crowd for a decade and a half.)

In this case, "unfettered" doesn't mean free of regulation, it means being able to operate freely and fairly in the marketplace of ideas. The notion that we need to do something is having trouble getting traction because the dynasts of waste and indulgence are drowning out their message.

Environmentalism has vigorous opponents. The religious right has made opposition to environmentalism one of the minor planks in its platform. Al Gore's level-headed, straight-forward, and earnest presentation on global warming is derided as alarmist. Pundits on the right are currently attacking the giddy and beautifully produced dancing-penguin epic Happy Feet for suggesting that overfishing senstive areas might harm the food chain.

We also need leadership on the issue.

Stefan Jones said...

Subduction-rift dumping sounds like a fine idea, if it works.

Here is the big problem. It depends on having the waste in barrels.

For many industries in many parts of the world it is simply easier to dump it in the local river, or burn it and let the winds carry it away, or drive it to the poor part of town and throw it off a truck.

The fact that this leads to people getting cancer, or kids developing asthma, or babies being born with horrible defects, isn't enough of an obstacle to make dumping illegal . . . or put teeth into enforcing laws that are on the books but ignored by corrupt officials.

All the happy thoughts and good ideas won't mean anything unless environmentalism gets some teeth. Peoples' health and ecological integrity will always lose to convenience and greed otherwise.

Once again, we need leadership. Right now, a lack of leadership is letting the EPA, by political attrition, becoming a toothless bureaucracy

David Brin said...

Stefan, you know which side I am on, if I must pick sides between two bands of romantic oversimplifiers.

No question that the neofeudalist/fanatic/kleptocrat/neocon alliance is the world's worst band of monsters, today (along with their deeper underwriters). I have said so, often enough to have credibility.

Still, I refuse to let the New Puritans style themselves as the natural opposite and only logical alternative to these anti-science and anti-truth and anti-market and anti-democracy monsters. Because they aren't!

I am perfectly justified in pointing out emotional and behavioral and psychological similarities between these two camps. (Even though one camp is less than 1% as evil as the other.)

Not only because the lefties have HURT the liberal/modernist/pragmatist/problem-solving cause, with occasional outbursts of utter, finger-wagging nonsense that has played into Rove's hands and helped to feed culture war...

...but above all because the thing we must fight for is a CHARACTER TRAIT! Or a suite of character traits that are deeply disturbing and alienating to our lefty allies.

If we let them posture and preen and pose as the leaders of our anti-neocon movement, it will not only weaken our common cause, but it will also mean those character traits get squelched, or at best never become THE topic of discussion.

Mind you, I have additional reasons for citing the "New Puritans." Notice how, with one stone, I hit NOT ONLY the Cotton Mathers of the left, but also the spendthrift, thieving, adventurer madmen of the right! By pointing out that they reatain very few actual "conservative" values... at all!

Except for the dismal intolerance and xenophobia. In those two areas, they are still the heirs of Salem in 1642.

But otherwise? Their conservatism would not have been recognized at all by the old puritans, whose waste-not obsession with frugal shivering and rainy-day efficiency are right at home with the Club of Rome. Ha, you right wingers! You aren't even conservative anymore! Hypocrites! Take that!

Yeah, I know, I am always trying to be too subtle! Too many messages at once. But look around! There are so MANY enemies of the Enlightenement!

Is the ghost of Lenin and Mao really dead, when dopey rationalizers claim that Cuba and Burma and Zimbabwe and 1970 China and 1970 India are better models for development than Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia and the China and India of today?

No, I hector the left because we need to remember.

Yes, they are MUCH less destructive than the monsters, right now and are even correct about a lot of citokate complaints. The corporate boardrooms and other elite power centers are engorged and drunk on power, right now. The social contract is in danger and much of what the left worries about is true.

But I do NOT intend to take my eyes off them. And neither should any of you. They may have much better hearts than their counterparts on the right... and they may be much less insane...

...nevertheless, that leaves a huge RANGE of insanity for many of our lefty cousins to be scattered across. And make no mistake. Many of them are (from the POV of the Enlightenment and modernism) verifiably and dangerously deranged.

Over the long run, we must (now!) begin pondering restoration of our own movement. The one that Ben Franklin and Adam Smith and FDR and George Marshall led, in their days. And the heroes of the AFL-CIO and the GI Bill and true entrepeneurship and all the rest.

Nate said...

For all the "Left" is 1% as bad as the guys running the Republican party, you seem to spend at least as much time talking about them as you do the Kelptocrats, Dr. Brin. Yeah, part of it's self-selection, since you're more familiar with people you're more likely to meet or have come comment here, and since they're more likely to comment here, you're more likely to have arguments, but still.

The thing is, it's not just you that do it. The "liberal media" has the same instinct even more so, and most of the "liberal pundits" truly suck.

Allow me to quote another blogger who's said this better than I can, Digby.
"This is one of the fault lines that exists in liberalism today --- the knee jerk assumptions by the elites about the grassroots populists and vice versa. The problem for the party, however, is that opinion makers like Chait are taken seriously by policymakers while the grassroots troublemakers are not and the result is that their visceral dislike of our ilk comes into play in important ways."

David Brin said...

What a false dichotomy.

1) how you can even remotely say that I spend equal time on these two camps of romantics is beyond me.

How about a bet. If you perceive me being evenhanded and equal in my criticism, want to put money on it? Or maybe consider that you are (possibly) over-sensitive when even mild criticism strikes closer to home?

2) the problem is not in-group vs grass roots.

It is lefty/loony/romantic vs lgenuine liberal/progressive/adaptable/negotiating/pragmatic/modernist. Don't imagine for a mement that there isn't a a divide to be wary over.

If real conservatives in this country had been wary about their own internal rift, they might have protected us from genuine human (?) monsters.

Lenny Zimmermann said...

I'm not sure that subduction zone dumping is all that feasible, either. In general the rate of movements in those areas is calculated in mere millimeters per year. Some futher mining would also be required, as mentioned above, anyway, and there'd be no guarantee that as such slow rates of subduction that you would be able to prevent toxic leakage anyway. (After all, you could put the waste in something like barrels, but at the pressures they've be subjected to it woudn't be very long, geologically speaking, before the barrels were crushed allowing the waste to spill out.)

Maybe there are some possibilities there, but I think overall the massive costs and risks are more likely to lead away from more research into that method as opposed to others.

Don Quijote said...


The Guardian - How mirrors can light up the world


The Skystream, Next-Generation Backyard Wind Generator

Industrial Policy


PS. I am still waiting for that list of countries...

Warren said...

Is there any way to be sure that material that we put there truly will be taken below, and rendered more harmless than if it were fired into space?

Heh, given the failure rate of boosters, I'd say firing into space was pretty unsafe. I sure wouldn't want to be living under — or even downwind of — one of those things when it aborted.

Blake Stacey said...

Is there any way to be sure that material that we put there truly will be taken below, and rendered more harmless than if it were fired into space?

You never saw that Futurama episode with the giant garbage ball, did you?

And is anyone working on fixing holocenechat.com?

Mark said...

Fortunately, it dumping carbon-dioxide into the oceans might not be as hard as previously thought: it turns out we already have "lakes" of the stuff on Earth:

Rare Carbon Dioxide "Lake" Found Under the Ocean, Scientists Report

August 30, 2006

A team of scientists based in Japan and Germany has found an unusual "lake" of liquid carbon dioxide beneath the ocean floor.

On Earth's surface carbon dioxide (CO2) is normally a gas, but in the cold, high-pressure ocean depths it cools and becomes a liquid.

Because CO2 in the atmosphere plays a major role in global warming, some scientists have suggested disposing of the gas by injecting it deep beneath the seabed, where it could be stored in liquid form.

David Brin said...

Holocenechat.com is fixed.

A little out-of-date. Have a better presentation than the present downloadable. Still amazed by the psychology of it all. People who visit places like Second Life and see nothing wrong... yet stay away from those places because - as adults - they cannot "get anything done" in such virtual worlds.

And yet, it never occurs to them that people might pay to use virtual worlds where you can BOTH have all the fun fluff AND "get things done."

psigh.

Blake Stacey said...

Listen to Warren Ellis:

Helicopters hang in the air above the square at strange angles, abandoned yet not dropping. In the distance, a grey smoke-trail jumps up into the sky as a military rocket bangs off its launcher. Girls linger by the edges of the square, skins mutilated by MISSING IMAGE placeholders. Boys collapse on the ground from ballistic flight and failed landings, like crap superheroes.

This is what people new to Second Life see.

(more...)

Glad to see the Holocene site back up. I'll try to point some people that way. . . . I get the following error message when I go to the "Download" page, but I can still download the presentations:

Warning: fopen(/home/hcm/public_html/administrator/components/com_docman/docman.config.php) [function.fopen]: failed to open stream: Permission denied in /home/hcm/public_html/administrator/components/com_docman/classes/DOCMAN_config.class.php on line 119

ERic said...

In response to an old post of yours regarding the Do Nothing Congress, seems as Pelosi and Reid are listening: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061128/ap_on_go_co/reid_interview

Erich J. Knight said...

I thought your readers would be interested in looking at these energy technologies:

Aneutronic Fusion: Here I am not talking about the big science ITER project taking thirty years, but the several small alternative plasma fusion efforts.

There are three companies pursuing hydrogen-boron plasma toroid fusion, Paul Koloc, Prometheus II, Eric Lerner, Focus Fusion and Clint Seward of Electron Power Systems

Vincent Page (a technology officer at GE!!) gave a presentation at the 05 6th symposium on current trends in international fusion research , which high lights the need to fully fund three different approaches to P-B11 fusion

He quotes costs and time to development of P-B11 Fusion as tens of million $, and years verses the many decades and ten Billion plus $ projected for ITER and other "Big" science efforts.



And:
Should Google go nuclear?
Dr. Bussard was interwsting

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1996321846673788606

If anyone could make the Fusor work it probably would be Google.


Also:
The Navy Heats up "Cold Fusion" with Use of CR-39 Detectors in LENR Experiment:

Extraordinary Evidence - "Cold Fusion"

The field of low energy nuclear reactions, historically known as cold fusion, has never had simple physical evidence of the claimed nuclear processes to physically place in the hands of doubters.

Until now.

Scientists at the U.S. Navy’s San Diego SPAWAR Systems Center have produced something unique in the 17-year history of the scientific drama historically known as cold fusion: simple, portable, highly repeatable, unambiguous, and permanent physical evidence of nuclear events using detectors that have a long track record of reliability and acceptance among nuclear physicists.

Using a unique experimental method called co-deposition, combined with the application of external electric and magnetic fields, and recording the results with standard nuclear-industry detectors, researchers have produced what may be the most convincing evidence yet in the pursuit of proof of low energy nuclear reactions.

New Energy Times, issue #19
"Extraordinary Evidence"
http://newenergytimes.com/news/2006/NET19.htm#ee

But Short of any fusion energy "MagicBullit"...............
Please look at this low cost alternative CO2 Sequestration system.

The integrated energy strategy offered by Terra Preta Soil technology may
provide the only path to sustain our agricultural and fossil fueled power
structure without climate degradation, other than nuclear power.


I feel we should push for this Terra Preta Soils CO2 sequestration strategy as not only a global warming remedy for the first world, but to solve fertilization and transport issues for the third world. This information needs to be shared with all the state programs.

The economics look good, and truly great if we had CO2 cap & trade in place:

These are processes where you can have your Bio-fuels, Carbon Sequestration and fertility too.

'Terra Preta' soils I feel has great possibilities to revolutionize sustainable agriculture into a major CO2 sequestration strategy.
I thought, I first read about these soils in " Botany of Desire " or "Guns,Germs,&Steel" but I could not find reference to them. I finely found the reference in "1491", but I did not realize their potential .


Nature article: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v442/n7103/full/442624a.html


Here's the Cornell page for an over view:
http://www.css.cornell.edu/faculty/lehm...r_home.htm

This Earth Science Forum thread on these soil contains further links ( I post everything I find on Amazon Dark Soils, ADS here):
http://forums.hypography.com/earth-science/3451-terra-preta.html


The Georgia Inst. of Technology page:
http://www.energy.gatech.edu/presentations/dday.pdf

There is an ecology going on in these soils that is not completely understood, and if replicated and applied at scale would have multiple benefits for farmers and environmentalist.

Terra Preta creates a terrestrial carbon reef at a microscopic level. These nanoscale structures provide safe haven to the microbes and fungus that facilitate fertile soil creation, while sequestering carbon for many hundred if not thousands of years. The combination of these two forms of sequestration would also increase the growth rate and natural sequestration effort of growing plants.

Also, Terra Preta was on the Agenda at this years world Soil Science Conference !
http://crops.confex.com/crops/wc2006/te...P16274.HTM



Here is a great article that high lights this pyrolysis process , ( http://www.eprida.com/hydro/ ) which could use existing infrastructure to provide Charcoal sustainable Agriculture , Syn-Fuels, and a variation of this process would also work as well for H2 , Charcoal-Fertilizer, while sequestering CO2 from Coal fired plants to build soils at large scales , be sure to read the "See an initial analysis NEW" link of this technology to clean up Coal fired power plants.

Soil erosion, energy scarcity, excess greenhouse gas all answered through regenerative carbon management http://www.newfarm.org/columns/research_paul/2006/0106/charcoal.shtml


If pre Columbian Indians could produce these soils up to 6 feet deep over 20% of the Amazon basin it seems that our energy and agricultural industries could also product them at scale.

Harnessing the work of this vast number of microbes and fungi changes the whole equation of EROEI for food and Bio fuels. I see this as the only sustainable agricultural strategy if we no longer have cheap fossil fuels for fertilizer.

We need this super community of wee beasties to work in concert with us by populating them into their proper Soil horizon Carbon Condos.

Regards,
Erich

Erich J. Knight
Shenandoah Gardens
E-mail: shengar@aol.com
(540) 289-9750

David Brin said...

Wow. Erich gets post-of-the-day. Fascinating stuff...

... and I wonder if my riffs, in EARTH, about "soils" now get another predictive hit.

Anonymous said...

Fusion may be even closer than we expect... at least, if kids can create fusion reactions using parts from mammograph machines. http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2006611190602

I've also noticed something interesting... what looked to be a windpowered generator that was located at an incinerator near where my folks live (in Essex County). This actually would be an effective use of space; if you think of it, there are two complaints about wind generators. First, they use up too much space. Second, they can adversely affect birds (swatting them out of the air and the like). Well... incinerators, power plants, and other such places can have their roof-space utilized with wind generators, and endangered avians rarely hang out at power plants and incinerators in any case.

Indeed, if the federal government subsidied air and solar, helping with tax breaks for citizens who utilize these technologies and perhaps give loans to allow people to establish them... then we could see the country start establishing low-polluting technologies (I suspect that the materials used for solar power undoubtedly have toxic components that if broken could be polluting).

Hell, if the government gave tax subsidies to help low-income families upgrade their homes with energy-saver light bulbs, appliances, and so forth, we could reduce the power needs of this country, back away from the energy crisis we're in, and even lessen our reliance on polluting energy sources as we'd be using less electricity.

Naturally, this would hurt the power utilities as they won't get as much money, so it'll never happen. Or maybe I'm just being cynical again...

Rob H., Tangents Reviews

Tyler August said...

Teens have been able to make fusors for the past couple generations; most don't go the extra mile to make them actually fuse. It's not a topology that can produce energy--or even reach breakeven-- and so has been widely abandoned, with good reason. The people on the fusor.net forum referenced would be amongst the first to admit it.
Dr. Bussard seems to have come up with a variation that gets around all the problems with a traditional fusor; it was referenced in another thread, however, that Dr. Bussard has a history of amazing fusion breakthroughs that don't quite pan out, so I wouldn't hold my breath. If I were religious, I would prey... If I had 200 million, I'd finance it. But I've got neither, so maybe I'll pester professors until we get a research project on Polywels here at UW.

Your riffs upon the neo-puritan Left, Dr. Brin... allow me to respond for myself and the majority of "neo-puritan" Cotton Mather types. I'll let you in on the secret: we don't buy it either. We project along the negative to scare, cajole, and force change that less-radical projection would not cause. Most of us are all for technological fixes, and are hoping against hope that through education and fear mongering, we make it through this energy bottleneck as a modernist civilization. I can't speak for Erich, but I've read his work and find it frighteningly compelling, so lights are fluorescent, appliances are on kill switches, and public transport is the norm. And what's so wrong about that? The car culture sucks, anyway, and I get to save a little on my debts.
I spread the neo-puritan rhetoric because I believe that if we continue using non-renewable resources without at the rate we're going, without switching over to viable alternatives, oilduvai and all the doom and gloom predicted will come to pass. I shan't rehash arguments already dismissed, but...
And your solution to the toxic waste problem doesn't strike me as very modernist, Dr. Brin. "Dump it down a hole and forget it" ?
Maybe I'm being a spendthrift conservative, but what waste is so toxic that we could never find another use for it? The some of the hotter parts of fission byproducts can be put into beta batteries, nerve gas can be broken down into its constituent elements by (admittedly costly processes) and so on and et cetera. By wanting to dump things down irretrievable holes and/or shoot them into space, you sell short human ingenuity to make use of it. This has the same problem as getting things in barrels to go down holes, however—we have to reign in the short-sighted capitalist types whose bottom line doesn't get the costs of human lives subtracted from it.
de new appliances, depending on jurisdiction. There has been a good deal of talk in the UK, I heard, about an initiative to “Ban the Bulb” --forget tax incentives, just ban incandescents from sale. Fluorescent bulbs work out cheaper to run anyway... for low-income families, I've seen charity drives here in Ontario where you can swap Edison glowbulbs for something more modern: home lights for fluorescent, and my favourite, Christmas lights for LED strings. (I agree we'd be better off with that little yearly ritual—at least curtail it to fall during Yule, and not the whole of December! But let the kids have their fun; once a year, the energy costs are a small price to pay for the wonder.)
To Rob H., it can happen. Most forms of renewable energy are tax deductible in a good many countries,(and a good many states) and renovations to improve your home's energy efficiency can get grants, which can include new appliances, depending on jurisdiction. There has been a good deal of talk in the UK, I heard, about an initiative to “Ban the Bulb” --forget tax incentives, just ban incandescents from sale. Fluorescent bulbs work out cheaper to run anyway... for low-income families, I've seen charity drives here in Ontario where you can swap Edison glowbulbs for something more modern: home lights for fluorescent, and my favourite, Christmas lights for LED strings. (I agree we'd be better off with that little yearly ritual—at least curtail it to fall during Yule, and not the whole of December! But let the kids have their fun; once a year, the energy costs are a small price to pay for the wonder.)

Haven't had a chance to read through all the soils material... but any farming meathod that makes topsoil is good with me!The vien of "old ways are the best ways" and "noble savage beats White Science" in the reference to pre-columbian indians sets me off a tad, though. And 6ft soils in 20% of the amazon basin? If that were true, farmers there wouldn't have to abandon desertified plots after a few short years and burn down more rain forest...
Makes little sense, but I'll have to look through your sources before passing judgement.

David Brin said...

Tyler, your posting was a delight. Alas, I doubt very much that you really are a Dacron Mather (a latter-day, synthetic Cotton Mather) at all. You sound an awful lot more like a modernist to me.

Look, I come from an ethnic background that understands guilt. But it is a problem solving kind of guilt rather than a damned-forever kind. True, not all problems can be solved. But then you feel guilty for having failed to find a way to solve them! And so...

... but let’s not be sidetracked. Fact is that guilt is a driver, all right. But one that should be USED SPARINGLY and with considerable suspicion! Because laying guilt trips feels good! It is a sure route to sanctimony and the addictive indignation that I describe at:
http://www.davidbrin.com/addiction.html

Hence, it is forever tempting and easy to OVER-use it. To indulge and wallow in the drug high of cynical contempt for the masses... as lefties and many liberals have blatantly and outrageously done, now, for decades, despising the very same fellow citizens they need, in order to get anything done. They have spewed contempt for middle America so thoroughly that they have made the word “liberal” utterly despised across vast portions of the land.

This despite the fact that true liberalism is responsible for 95% of the great American accomplishments of the last 100 years! Quite an accomplishment.

”A radical is a man with both feet firmly planted in the air. A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs, who never learned to walk forward.... while a liberal uses both feet and hands in service of heart and head.” Franklin Roosevelt.

Again and again I reiterate this challenge! If you were selling a product in the marketplace, would you rant:

“You bought our product for generations ... and maybe a few things got better, a little. But not much, you racist, sexist, stupid hick sons-of bitches...
...so buy more!”


Is that a great sales pitch? WHat? No? But it is PRECISELY the guilt trip laid on their fellow citizens by lefty indignation junkies! And it helps to explain the mess that we are in.

Now try another sales pitch on for size:

“You bought our liberal product for generations and now your children are healthier and the air is better and we all know vastly more and we are graduating a higher fraction from universities than used to attend high scheool...

“...and we’ve gone to space and conquered fascism and communism and can predict weather and we’ve partly overcome some of the nastiest parts of the human soul, like racism and sexism THAT NO OTHER CIVILIZATION WAS EVER ABLE TO TAKE ON! WE did that, us, together, using liberalism as one of many tools, and because of that YOU are better people than any other human generation! Good for you!

“Of course, the job is only partly done! We’re still cloyed with injustices and unfinished business. Moreover, the future is coming fast and the Earth has limited surplus, so if we STOP making progress - on rights and the environment and raising opportunity for all, we will certainly self-destruct and fail! But cheer up! One and only one method has a chance of taking us the rest of the way. THE ONE THAT HAS DONE SO MUCH, SO FAR!

“Buy more.”


------
Actually, Tyler, I have long contended we should go ahead and stash the nuclear waste in Yucca Mountain RIGHT NOW. Because there’s a 99% chance it won’t have to last there for 100,000 years, or 1,000 or even 100. Our smart grandchildren will mine it and thank us for putting it in a nice convenient place.

---
Tyler... look up “prey” and “reign”... You are articulate, so use words right!

---
Rob, many local utilities do exactly as you want. Subsidized low energy stuff.

---

Rob Perkins said...

Tyler, the compact fluorescent bulbs are a prime example of the efficacy of David's approach.

Case in point: Six years after stocking my old house with the early-gen bulbs that cost $4 to $6 each, none have burned out that didn't fail days after purchase. (We brought the bulbs with us when we moved and installed them in the new place.)

Considering the six-month life of the regular bulbs, the most compelling benefit of those CF bulbs is that I don't have to get on a ladder to change lightbulbs any longer.

At the time, PGE was offering coupons for two free bulbs to all its customers. Today they don't need to: They cost only $1.50 apiece if you get them in the six-packs.

So, you could cry, "make the edison bulbs illegal!" Or, you could simply point out that the CF's are better, cheaper, and easier to maintain. Change out all your bulbs and see a 5% reduction on your power bill. Arrange with power companies to offer the bulbs at a slight loss through coupon exchanges or something, the way PGE/Enron did around here three or four years ago. (Yeah, it was only two bulbs, but they cost $5 each when they did it!)

Another alternative? Knock a half-cent off the electric rates, for the first hundred KWh's or so, of all the people who allow a company inspector to verify that you have bought and installed CF bulbs throughout the home (including that dining room chandelier with the funny candle-flame lights), and have all-EnergyStar appliances and computers installed and operating within specs. That's win-win-win: lower the wattage demand for the power company, reduce the wattage consumed in the home, and reduce the rate slightly for the customer.

Simple stuff like that would go a long loooong way in my circles.

reason said...

Tipping fees always worry me, because they have perverse effects, encouraging people to hang on to old (and often polluting) gadgets longer and ecouraging illegal dumping. I think it is better to make people to pay for the disposal costs of goods UP FRONT. This would get the market to find ways to cut down on packaging and recycling costs. Internalise costs where you can should be the market oriented greenies mantra.

Nate said...

Dr. Brin said:
Hence, it is forever tempting and easy to OVER-use it. To indulge and wallow in the drug high of cynical contempt for the masses... as lefties and many liberals have blatantly and outrageously done, now, for decades, despising the very same fellow citizens they need, in order to get anything done. They have spewed contempt for middle America so thoroughly that they have made the word “liberal” utterly despised across vast portions of the land.

Now, I should note ahead of time I'm not saying there AREN'T liberals who fit that stereotype, and really do despise people in certain parts of the country. They do exist. There's just enough of them to give that reputation a little bit of truth. And a little bit of truth is all the right-wing propaganda machine has needed over the last sixty years to throw every kind of smear against liberals and the word liberal. Probably longer than that, even, but they kicked it into high gear in the sixties. Look at Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Hannity, Bill O'Reilley, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and all the rest on TV, radio, and publishing books. They can take somebody as obscure as that one professor in some college who said something about "Little Eichmanns", and scream and smear the whole "Left" with them. It doesn't matter if there's any truth or reality to what they're saying. And it doesn't matter how "centrist" or "reasonable" anybody is, they'll still be attacked like that.

And that's one of the biggest reasons "liberal" is a dirty word. Because the liberals who were in power got complacent and didn't pay attention and didn't fight back when conservatives started lying about them. Trying to be nice and hope the conservatives won't unleash their attack dogs doesn't work.

Rob: I agree completely on the "Better, cheaper, longer-lasting" about CF bulbs. And that's probably the main reason they've been taking off. The biggest problem with that theory though is it requires people to have the money to buy them in the first place. Yeah, they're just $1.50 each, but regular bulbs are like 50 cents each. Paying $9 for six fluorescent bulbs or $3 for incandescents can make a lot of difference for poor people. It reminds me of the Vimes Boots Theory of Economic Inequality, from some of Terry Pratchett's books. Basically, the rich can afford to buy good boots for $10, that'll last 20 years. While the poor can afford crappy boots that cost $1 and wear out in a year, so over those 20 years, they spend more than the rich person did, because they don't have the money to spend on the initial investment. Which is where programs like the bulb swaps and free bulbs and such come in handy.

Also, in parts of the US culture at least, being concerned about long-term things, or efficiency, or the environment are ridiculed. I think that's due mostly to the various strains of anti-intellectualism, and the paid anti-environmentalist shills.

Stefan Jones said...

My only beef against compact florescents:

They're not quite "C" enough.

I have a few light fixtures where I'd love to use them, but they don't fit.

At least, as of a few years back, when I moved in. I should see if they've made models with smaller bases.

* * *

I signed up for the local utility's Wind program. It costs an extra $4.00 or so a month. Just yesterday, the local paper ran an article about said utility finally putting together its own wind farm. They had trouble finding generators!

Stefan Jones said...

"Also, in parts of the US culture at least, being concerned about long-term things, or efficiency, or the environment are ridiculed."

There's probably a big overlap between folks who think like that and folks who bolt rubber scrotums under the rear bumpers of their pickups.

Outrage marketing. It's very effective. Just look at the government.

These folks are due for a big let-down one of these days.

Adrian Cotter said...

Off Topic: I thought you'd find this speech by Bill Moyers to West Point Cadets of interest.

On Topic: I have to say that I find the notion of the grand technical solution as romantic as anything. Isn't icreasing efficiency is unglamorous and as pragmatic as it gets? It's not about wearing a hair shirt, its a good fundamental business practices?

Although I guess that's the paradox of our society, we want business to be efficient in making us money so that we can as inefficient as we want to be.

I guess I have New Puritan leanings in that I believe we could go a long way on efficiency. I'm not one to tell the developing world what they should be doing. They in fact seem to be doing a better job anyway (and I would point out that complaints about developing nations developing often come from people who are decidedly not environmentalists -- an example being the efforts to undermine the Kyoto protocol).

However, given the speed that we are moving in the direction of efficiency, I'm all in favor of actively planning out the big amelioration projects :-)

Rob Perkins said...

The price of a CF is bound to come down further. And at $1.50 each, you're talking about something that costs as much as a Venti coffee. What is definitely true about the circumstances of the poor regarding big ticket items may not even apply here.

To address that, through, all you'd have to do is offer the credits to the landlords. "Put CF's throughout all your units, let the local utility certify that you have, and your property tax goes down by 15 cents per thousand."

Stuff like that could take care of the cheapest-only side of our society.

Stefan, the CFs I find in the store these days fit in bathroom fixtures, and some models will fit in a garage door opener. The selection at my local Home Depot is tremendous.

Nate said...

Rob: Yeah, they're gonna get cheaper, I hope, which is a good thing. And it's only $6 difference yes, but $9 as opposed to $3 is three times the price still.

But with your comment about landlords, you reminded me of a bigger problem, one that's used in economics textbooks as an example. If the renters pay the utility bills, the landlord has no reason to pay for better things. Wether it's just CF bulbs, or better water heaters, or better windows, or anything. And the renters do have reason to pay for them, except since they're renting, any upgrades they made would be left behind when they moved (except for things like CF bulbs), so there's not much reason for them to pay for expensive replacement windows or water heaters or whatever, so we end up with a lot of out of date stuff still running things, and nobody with the incentive to replace them.

David Brin said...

Tyler, look at your own posting. See how you use “the left” and “liberals” interchangeably, exactly my complaint!

You posit vastly too much power in jerks like Anne Coulter. They would not be able tar a great movement like liberalism all by themselves. In fact, I find that blaming their slander is the deepest cop-out possible. Think about it!

Please, I like you and wish you well. But it’s like a kid on a playground whining “She called me names!”

Further, notice that this diagnosis is the one that requires the LEAST from you in changes or re-evaluations. They are calling us names! So let’s call them names BACK! Never a thought to:

1) the fact that there is a social/geographical/cultural aspect. Some dems, like Mark Warner, have been able to talk to NASCAR America without disdaining it, but still calling upon the people of Virginia to be reasonable and forward-looking.

People who are EXTREMELY touchy about being looked-down on by stylish urbanites. Urbanites who DO look down on them. And COulter feeds this smoldering resentment... or she’d never have any power.

2) Your very words show the same obstinacy that I describe. Not one sentence about revising the message. Only about reiterating it and hitting back harder. (Never anything to learn from folks like Warner, or the blue dogs who WON this last election!)

3) Yes, the freakazoid lefties are much less powerful than freakazoid righties. Vastly less dangerous and monstrous... for now. But your inability to see that they share mental PROCESSES with our horrid enemies on the right depresses me. Communism was very real and the harm done to the American polity by apologists for Stalin was very nearly lethal... if it had not been for the heroes of 1947, who stood up and separated liberalism from that crap...

...setting the stage for Martin Luther King and all that.

---
Adrian... West Point invited BILL MOYERS to speak?????

Wowzer. A pretty good speech too. Moyers at his best is darned good... enough even to forgive Moyers at his worst. I heartily recommend this speech.
http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/11/29/message_to_west_point.php

Further, Adrian, you’ll find no greater believer in increased efficiency than the author of EARTH. It is absolutely essential that we be able to do 10X as much with a tenth of the cost in resources, because nine billion people will demand to live at least a moderate middle class American lifestyle. (Those who yammer that they “should not want that” are patronizing assholes.) The only way we’ll accomplish it is through huge increases in efficiency.

But the New Puritans want efficiency on their terms. Which often (not always!) boil down to “shiver in the dark!” We need liberalism to be associated with more pro-active approaches to efficiency... like Manhattan Project scale efforts at finding new technologies. Or like California’s vigorous subsidies for alternative energy.

BTW, you put the words “a grand technical solution” in my mouth and then called it “romantic”. I’d like you to notice this trick and withdraw it. Because I am tossing out there TONS of POSSIBILITIES for open and fair perusal and argument. You’ll not find anywhere on the web a place where eclectic variety is more welcome than here.

Adrian Cotter said...

Fair enough! I know you are not romantic, so comment withdrawn. I agree that we should have as many and all options on the table.

I brought it up only because it does seem like so many people are focused on finding the ONE solution. Its easy to loose site of the context when the focus is on one thing.

Is there a good clearinghouse of all the potential options on the table.

I'm tired of the tendency for people to not see the context. So for instance... people say that crop based ethanol won't work because of all the oil that goes into it, not considering the notion that the tractors might be running on ethanol... or the like. And never comparing them to the fuel costs of bringing oil to market.

Tyler August said...

Dr Brin, I apologize for my painful misuse of the English language. Thank you for pointing that out; I'll try and be more careful in the future.
I'd like to point out that the posts ridiculing the right and NASCAR America were not mine, however. Nate and Stephan Jones are likely the ones you're directing those points to, since I hadn't made a second post—and I'm rather partial to NASCAR, myself. All the same, 'tis good to hear I'm liked.

Adrian,
As to Ethanol—I usually only hear its thermodynamic viability questioned by those with some tie to the oil industry; I thought that there had been a few rigorous studies that settled in favour conclusively. I think that a bigger worry is that as the population grows, we'll need every square inch of farmland to keep us all fed--especially if we're going to try feeding 9 or 10 billion people American style diets (for the health care systems of the developing world, I very much hope the phrase "American-style diet" looses its excessive and unhealthy connotations.)
But if we're talking biofuels, why not Methane? There's already an infrastructure to distribute natural gas across the country; bio-methane is so nearly the same thing that it can flow in the same pipes without anyone batting an eye. And indeed, there are places where it does--my hometown of Sudbury, Ontario has a biomethane recovery unit at the local landfill, and plans for expansion on that. As far as I know, that methane is sold straight into the natural gas grid. Methane is produced in our landfills and sewage treatment plants and farms--and the treatment plants, in particular, hold great promise to be engineered to produce far more methane than they already do, under controlled and harvestable conditions. The best argument I've heard against this is that you have to heat your methane digester must be heated, because the methane-producing bacteria need tropical conditions to produce. Which is hogwash--methanobacteria have been found growing happily and burping out biogas at three degrees Celsius (37.4 F) in Greenland ice cores.
And we don't have to worry about taking away farm acreage for it. As a matter of fact, this is one resource which has a constant per capita output, no matter what the population grows to (allowing for variations in the amount of fibre in your diet)
But! Let it be only one option on the table. Held next to potential fusion projects, my favoured renewable kind of stinks, it isn't as shiny as solar, and lacks the vogue that Wind Power has. For example, I was in an art supply shop the other day, and saw a stack of sketchbooks--Strathmore, I think--which were being marketed as having been made using only wind power from some decent precentage of recycled paper and were being sold for a dollar or two extra. It is good to see this sort of thing going mainstream; we have to hope now that the romance of renewables extends beyond big pretty wind turbines.

Nate said...

I'm going to figure your post was mostly directed at me, Dr. Brin. And I have to disagree with quite a bit of how you paraphrased what I said.

For starters, in my very first sentence, I admitted that yes, there ARE liberals or "lefties" like you describe. But nevertheless, they're not the only (or even, I suspect, main) reason for the stereotype. And I wonder how many people live up to the stereotype because they figure "Well, they ALREADY hate me because of the car I drive or the coffee I drink, or the cheese I eat, or where I live, so why should I care what they think?"

You posit vastly too much power in jerks like Anne Coulter. They would not be able tar a great movement like liberalism all by themselves. In fact, I find that blaming their slander is the deepest cop-out possible.

Rush Limbaugh is nationally syndicated and has an audience in the tens of millions. So is Michael Savage. So do other radio hosts like them. Bill O'Reilley has a nationwide "news" show on cable. Fox News is an entire "conservative" news outlet. Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, and a swarm of knock-off "conservatives" churn out a steady stream of books free of fact that hit the New York Times Bestseller list in the "non-fiction" category, despite their utter lack of truth. They are not some tiny group of cranks, they are part of a well-funded media machine. One that can and will attack anything they decide is "left" or "liberal", without caring about your distinctions between the two. They don't CARE about the truth. Look what they did to Al Gore, one of the most honest and modernist candidates in years. Look what they did to John Kerry's record in Vietnam. Look what they did to Bill Clinton for the ENTIRE TIME he was President.

I point this out not because I think there's any credibility to anything any of them say. I point this out because it is something anything more liberal than their agenda will get attacked the same way. No matter how moderate, modernist, or reasonable you try to be, they WILL break out the smears and slanders. And unless they're fought against, that's the only side of things most people will hear. We have to expect that anything we, or Democrats, or anyone, suggest will be subject to that same treatment. That's the power they do have.

I never mentioned NASCAR, or anything like it. And I have no hostility towards the midwest or west. I have issues with the South, having lived in a couple parts of it, and having seen the same kind of people the Republicans keep running and winning with. The legacy of Richard Nixon's "Southern Strategy" of appealing to racism to win the South to the Republicans. Which is still being used, look at the rumors about McCain's daughter Rove spread back in 2000.

I didn't mention anything about any message, either. I said we should be fighting back, period. Instead of letting people like Ann Coulter get up on nationwide TV and spout lies, someone should be there and ready with the proof to break down what she said. Standing up for what we believe in, instead of internalizing the "Oh, they don't like us, it must be something we're doing wrong, we need to be more like Republicans" which is the way it mostly seems to have gone lately.

I'm not sure what exactly you mean by "Blue Dogs" who won this election, but most of the seats the Democrats won weren't in the South. Many of them were liberals replacing "moderate" Republicans in the northeast and elsewhere. And man of the other races were run by moderate to liberal Democrats, who were even able to come within spitting distance of Republicans. And some of them were runs by more conservative Democrats, who are STILL markedly more liberal than the Republicans they defeated. Such as Jim Webb, who was Ronald Freaking Reagan's Secretary of the Navy, who beat George Allen here in VA. And good riddance to that embarrassment of a Senator, too.

But none of this requires disdain, or anything else, so I'm not quite sure what you're against. You mentioned changes in the message. Okay, I'll bite. What kinds of changes do you think liberals should make to appeal to people who feel this sense of disdain? Give ground in "the culture war"? On what? Or on more real issues? What issues do you think are driving people from liberals, and how do you think liberals could appeal to those people? What are we supposed to give up to get these people on our side? And which core issues shouldn't we compromise on? I know what my list is, but I don't know yours. And I can't tell if I really agree with your complaints about changing the message, unless I know what you want to change it TO.

Also, as a side note, in a lot of ways, Martin Luther King Jr. and all that set the stage for the current crop of Republicans. See Nixon and the Southern Strategy above.

Doug S. said...

Aren't the various "green power" options offered by power companies something of a scam? You're still connected to the same power grid fed by the same power plants, right? I've heard that all they do is take "green power" allocated on paper to non-subscribers and allocate it to you on paper, so the total amount of power generated by renewable sources doesn't change. Electricity, once added to the grid, is completely fungible, isn't it?

Stefan Jones said...

Oh, the chances that I'm getting any actual wind power is pretty small. The money goes toward developing more of the stuff.

David Brin said...

Nate, you are articulate and you say things that are semantically correct. You know that I deeply, deeply despise Coulter and Limbaugh as true enemies of everything decent. You know this.

Moreover, you know that I have denounced the neo-feudalist conspirators who lie BEHIND these lying shills, financing them and gathering control over media and helping them spread propaganda of hate. you know this too.

Moreover, you know that I believe part of this is a nasty putsch by a recividist Confederacy, amining to win Part III of the Civil War. I have spoken often of how "blue" America needs to put the blue uniform back on and fight for the union, as our ancestors did. You know this.

So here's my point... given that I ought to have plenty of credibility as a guy who shares the same enemies and has fought them long and hard and pretty effectively... and who is known for taking some pretty good "wide perspective" views...

...aren't you even remotely curious as to whether I might be right, that our side has made some systematic mistakes?

The thing I find depressing is that you (and so many liberals) absolutely and categorically deny the possibility that you have been committing errors in a systematic way, that have contributed to today's mess, by alienating much of America against a movement that is - in fact - responsible for most of the good that America has done across a hundred years.

Oh, please don't tell me "I DO admit we've made mistakes, by not fighting hard enough!" Given, granted... and in self-righteous indignation parlance, that just means, "we haven't been loud enough at declaring how wondrously RIGHT we are!"

Baloney. I have spoken to only A FEW of liberalism's many deep errors, in recent years.

1- sourpuss refusal to use praise, but only selling the product through chiding guilt

2- failure to recognize that the left may be an ally of liberalism in some areas, but that it is in its own right deeply disturbing on a psychological level, having many common nasty mental habits with our enemies on the far right.

3- and that among those nasty habits is a preference for righteous battle that gets nowhere, over compromise victories that incrementally make things better. (Witness the worst dem mistake in 20 years: Hillary's disastrous health care bill.)

4- or that there is even a chance - worth pondering - that fellows like Mark Warner, who can win votes in rural America, might be worth learning from.

Oh, I haven't time for this. It goes MUCH deeper. I will post an essay about how much harm the sanctimony junkies of the left have done. THEY MADE THE NEOCONS! Not the fundies or plutocrats, of course, but the intellectual nerd-fools, like Wolfowitze and Perle and Nitze and that crowd.

Driven off campus by outrageously intolerant campus radicals, they fled to "foundations" like the AEI and Heritage and Cato where they no longer had to face give and take and citokate, but instead became "tenured" whores of Rupert and that crowd.

IF THEY HAD BEEN LEFT ALONE ON CAMPUS, they would at worst have been fusty and silly old conservative fuddy duddies! And maybe, with those high IQs, they might even have come up with a "neoconservatism" that reflected America's changing and evolving values, instead of rejecting them.

Maybe. But in any event, there was never any excuse, at any level, for the outrageous way that dissenting and conservative profs were treated, on campuses across America. And that was the tip of the iceberg.

Oh, we helped Coulter and Limbaugh. Oh yes we did.

Nate said...

Dr. Brin, you keep saying how liberals need to refine their message. Okay, but you don't say HOW. Who are we refining it to appeal to, and how? And how do we get that message out in the face of the Limbaughs and Coulters and O'Reillys of the Right Wing Propaganda Machine?

One of the things that hurts the Democrats, and by extension, liberals, is a perception they "don't know what they stand for". Which is completely false. At least in regards to liberals, there do seem to be some Democrats that actually applies to. (Like Joe Lieberman, formerly Democrat, now of the Joe for Joe party) Saying "Oh, people don't like this, we need to say something different" doesn't help that. In many of the rural areas, people will respect someone who gets up and says what they believe in, EVEN IF THEY DISAGREE. Not all of the people, but sometimes enough. I think that's one of the things that helped many of the Democratic candidates this year, they weren't trying to hide from Bush, they were going out and saying the stuff people had been thinking for years, even in the reddest of red states. But when the Republicans run somebody crazy, but who has "firm beliefs", and the Democrats let themselves get painted as "wishy-washy" or "flip-flopping", they look weak and afraid to challenge people. That's what I mean by fighting. There are a bunch of liberal core beliefs we shouldn't be afraid to stick to. Even if we'll get called "helping the terrorists" by crazies. But we have to defend ourselves when that happens. I'm not talking about picking fights, I'm talking about standing for what we believe in.

And your description of the neocons makes them sound like mad scientists. "They laughed at me! I'll show them! I'll SHOW THEM ALL!" Except, as I understand it, most of the neocons started out as Trotskyites, on the Left, and Straussians. But nobody's responsible for what the Neocons have done except for them. I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say there, really. If they left academia because people mocked their stupid ideas as stupid, I have a hard time seeing that as something blameworthy.

Woozle said...

I agree with Our Esteemed Host that "liberals" have made mistakes, and continue to make them. (I could probably come up with examples to prove that I'm not just talking through my hat, but that would be beside the point.)

I also agree with Nate, or with what I understood him to be saying, but I think maybe a rephrase of his point may be in order (Nate, please correct me if I have this wrong).

It's not that "liberals" need to do their name-calling louder than the Coulters and Limbaughs do. What I understood Nate to be saying is that "liberals" (or whatever you want to call people who say the sorts of things that the Neocon Media Elite are likely to attack) need to somehow make it clear when they have been misrepresented.

Not "well double dumb-ass on you, Rush!" but "wait a minute -- that's not what we stand for. What we stand for is [insert summary here] and you can read more about that on our web site [insert easy-to-remember domain name here]. Anyone who says otherwise has obviously misunderstood something."

Does that help any?

(And of course it's exactly this sort of "waitaminnit... is that true?" kind of double-checking that I'm trying to cultivate with Issuepedia; for a recent example, here is my Fisking of Orson Scott Card's plea to vote Republican in the recent election.)

Nate said...

Wozzle: That's largely what I'm saying. Although I also think there's a fair bit of room to actually attack the "conservatives", not just defend ourselves. And there's nothing wrong with a little name-calling some times, either. But I might be biased from years of hearing Republican politicians say things that are pretty close to eliminationish rhetoric toward "liberals" and "the left" without suffering any kind of penalty.

Jack said...

Still, there is growing evidence that some of them are capable of rational negotiation. Clearly we need to offer the Paul Ehrlich crowd something in exchange.