Sunday, January 13, 2008

Disparities of taxation and wealth? Time to choose between ideology and civilization

The never-ending tide of troglodytic microcephaly from Republican candidates has the older, mainstream conservative intelligencia wringing its hands in near-despair. What kind of Twilight Zone do we live in, when GOP icon Alan Greenspan gives his highest presidential rating to Bill Clinton and by-far lowest rating ever to George W. Bush?

A veritable flood of former Republican standard bearers, like Paul Craig Roberts (the “father of Reaganomics”) have deserted, along with large swathes of the professional caste, from intelligence and military officers to scientists. Heck, rumors have it that the state of Arizona draws half its power from coils placed around the spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave.

Now, Bush family friend and renowned economic forecaster John Mauldin has weighed in.

"Far too many in both parties tell a frustrated America what it wants to hear, rather than the economic reality. The Republicans have some of the worst offenders."

John goes on with a riff about Mike Huckabee's "Fair Tax". Here's an excerpt:

"Fair Tax proponents want a 23% sales tax to replace every type of government tax. No more income, corporate, social security, or Medicare taxes. And everyone gets a $5,000 or so "prebate" which covers the taxes up to the poverty level. What could be simpler or more fair?

"First of all, the 23% they talk about is really 30%. Under the proposal, if an item sells for $100, then $23 of that would go to the government (said to be tax-inclusive). That means the item really costs $77 and the tax is an additional $23 or about 30% (said to be the tax-exclusive rate). Add an average 7% for state sales tax and we are now up to 37%. But wait, it gets worse.”


Bruce Bartlett writes this week in the Wall Street Journal: "A 2000 estimate by Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation found the tax inclusive rate would have to be 36% and the tax-exclusive rate would be 57%. In 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department calculated that a tax exclusive rate of 34% would be needed just to replace the income tax, leaving the payroll tax in place. But if evasion were high then the rate might have to rise to 49%. If the Fair Tax were only able to cover the limited sales tax base of a typical state, then a rate of 64% would be required (89% with high evasion)."

Mauldin: "Further, this is a tax hike on the middle class. If you make less than $15,000 you win. If you make more than $200,000 you win, because you actually save more and spend less of your income. This is a nice populist proposal which sounds good but is economically challenged. It only works on someone who has not read about the problems. Let me give you two links if you want to read more. One is to Bartlett's article and the other is to the people at Fact Check.org.

"The call by Huckabee and others to deport 12,000,000 illegal immigrants is simply economic suicide. It would create a depression (not just a minor recession) in short order. Let's reduce productivity by 10 15%. Let's reduce consumer spending by 7-8%. Shut down hundreds of thousands of businesses who could not get workers they need. Who will pick the crops? Or do any of a hundred jobs that Americans don't want to do? It would drive up labor costs and create inflation. It would be a disaster of Biblical proportions. Now, I am all for controlling the border. I want to know who is coming in. But we have to deal with reality, and the reality is that we need those workers who are here. The economy simply will not function without them."



HOW IS ALL THIS RELEVANT?

Why am I quoting all this from John Mauldin? Because it is vital for us to remember that not all of our conservative neighbors have gone stark, jibbering mad. Some are merely in a deep state of denial. Able to criticize bits and pieces of what has happened to their movement - as John does, above - though without (alas) allowing themselves to see the big picture. How the neocons, who hijacked conservatism, have relentlessly and deliberately reversed nearly every prudent principle that it used to stand for.

NoLosersTAx(In fact, I agree with John that IRS rules should be slashed and simplified. The problem is that every interest group lays down a ferocious veto, whenever their favorite offsets are under threat. There IS a solution! It is called "No Losers"... in which the tax code is slimmed by computer algorithm, seeking the minimum number of rules, under special, pre-set boundary conditions that follow a simple rule. For the 100 most common or representative tax profiles, the simplification algorithm makes no change in NET tax paid.

(Thus, everybody winds up paying the same, even if their favorite deduction goes away. It sounds magical, but, believe it or not, this really can be done! At very low expense, this experiment could at least present a proposed reform under which nobody’s ox is gored and the number of rules shrinks. Well, tax accountants would hate it. But that's for another time.)

In fairness, let's hear John out when he criticizes one of the catechisms of the left... that the rich aren't paying their fair share, since the Bush tax cuts. "They want to "tax the rich" and make more for middle class tax cuts. Sounds nice, but let's look at the facts. The bottom half of taxpayers only pay 3% of the total income taxes collected, which is 1% less than before the Bush tax cuts. 44% of the US population, or 122 million people, pays no income tax at all.

"The richest 1% of the country pay 39% of all taxes ($365,000 income and up), which is 3% more than before the Bush tax cuts, under the Clinton tax policy. The top 5% ($145,000) pay 60% of all taxes (up 5% from 1999); and the top 25%, with income over $62,000, pays paid 86% of all taxes. It seems to me that the rich are paying their fair share. Every category is paying more now than under Clinton, except the bottom 75%."


SavingCapitalismNeofeudalismThis notion that the rich are paying more nowadays - even after receiving fantastic tax cutes (during time of war) - sounds odd...

...and it turns out that it is. I hate to say it, but John is being just a bit disingenuous here. The middle class is paying less tax and the rich are paying more... because of a vast swing in actual wealth -- including income-generating property -- from the middle to the top.

This flow has accelerated so fast that the super-rich are, indeed, paying more net taxes, despite their low tax rates.


TIME TO CHOOSE... BETWEEN IDEOLOGY AND CIVILIZATION

Another way to put this would be to ask “How much tax is paid on the top 1% (by accumulated dollar value) of wealth, rather than the top 1% (by population) of wealth owners. That tax has inarguably gone down. Way down. Resulting in yet further wealth transfer in that same direction, so that more percentage points of overall wealth are owned by that top 1% of owners.

Thus, John manages to make a truly terrifying vicious spiral -- threatening a new age of feudal style aristocratism -- sound benign. He should know better.

In other words, the very same facts that he uses to deflect criticism of the Bush Tax Cuts actually show just how far those cuts have skewed the system in favor of those who are raking it in. Without comparing these stats of gross tax payments to the growing disparity in actual wealth, they are deeply misleading. In fact, if you seek the one common thread, among every Republican candidate’s tax proposals, it is this. All of them seek ways to accelerate further transfer of wealth percentage shares into the hands of the top 1% of individual owners.

Yes, some of the dems’ suggested means of reversing this trend are questionable, in their own right. I am far less interested in solutions that are confiscatory than those aimed at regulating and counterbalancing activities that are - in themselves - criminally stupid, market-warping acts of collusion by a narrow clade of golf buddies. Simply prevent outrageous thievery and re-introduce market forces at the top! That ought to solve the problem. Certainly defenders of idealised markets tell us so!

For example, try breaking up interlocking directorates (Republican Teddy Roosevelt could have told you that!) Or adjusting the rules of compensation for CEOs, directors, etc, so that their rewards come largely from ten-year company stock options! That would reshape the playing field so that managers’ best interests coincided with society’s. Oh, and those who run a company into the ground would not flutter away with 8-figure buyouts. The market for managerial talent would remain flat and fair. It would just remove the incentive for 10,000 golf buddies to conspire together to rob us all.

GuidedAllocation(Does nobody ever examine the fundamental premise-assumption underlying these godawful CEO compensation deals? The capitalist premise is that such vast payouts should attract brilliant people from other fields, until competition drives the pay levels back down!

(In effect, the golf buddies are telling us that they are mutant-level talents, like top basketball stars, worth any price, so the rules of supply/demand will never apply to them! Funny thing though. Their system to decide all this is a classic circle-jerk.)

We need to ponder whether it actually "defends market capitalism" when these wealth flows so severely alter our social structure that they threaten to entrench a quasi-feudal aristocracy. Don't forget who Adam Smith called the true and worst enemies of markets! In his day, socialism and bureaucratic regulation were FAR from the top enemies of market enterprise! Indeed, throughout human history, market enterprise had one major enemy. Conspiratorial oligarchy.

Those who style themselves as defenders of liberty and markets need to step back. They need to remember that the masters of Guided Allocation of Resources (GAR) are enemies of freedom, of every kind. We don’t need their clique to guide us. Or any clique. What we need is our Enlightenment back.


=== More political misc ====

See a bitter, but illuminating, ex-insider’s view of what’s become of TV news by veteran reporter/producer John Hockenberry, in MIT Technology Review. Especially depressing is the part where he tells of tryig to interview members of the bin Laden family, only to be thwarted from above.

Have I been crazy to suggest that there’s a lot more going on in the R’oil Desert Kingdom than the Bush Administration wants us to learn? You really, really need to read “Confessions Of A Terrorist,” which exposes one of the biggest smoking guns ever. Or at least, since scores of potential material witnesses, from the home country of most of the 9/11 hijackers, were whisked out of the US on luxury charters, without ever being questioned, on the same day that Americans were forbidden to fly.

WhyAmericaSleptFollowing up this article, I’d be interested if anybody has read Gerald Posner’s Why America Slept (Random House), is a lean, lucid retelling of how the CIA, FBI and U.S. leaders missed a decade's worth of clues and opportunities that if heeded, Posner argues, might have forestalled the 9/11 terrorist attacks. My interest is very narrow and specific, whether Posner mentions anything about FBI agents or others being re-assigned away from counter-terror duties, during the first eight months of the Bush Administration, in order to go skeleton hunting for dirt about the Clintons. So far, my sources on this are anecdotal, not statistical. If the numbers were as high as I suspect, it could be the biggest scandal of this entire, sordid period.

Finally, here are a few more points to add at the addendum following my main article: Ostrich Papers: How It Will Take All Decent Americans to Restore Decency to America...

* What if, in the middle of a declared state of dire emergency and an ongoing war -- one that was using up all American ground forces and devastating the budget -- a Democratic President (say, FDR) were to regularly walk away from his job and take more days off than any other in history? Even exceeding the earlier record set by Ronald Reagan? And setting this milestone with a whole year left before his term ran out? Would you Have let Bill Clinton get away with hurling our forces into harm’s way, then turning away to kick back with cronies for weeks at a stretch, on their new, mega-ranches?

inspectors-General
Over the past few months, two of the most high-profile inspectors general in government have faced public firing squads. As the Washington Post on its front page on Friday, Stuart Bowen, the inspector general tasked with investigating Iraq reconstruction, now faces an investigation himself. Several government agencies are examining charges that his office was involved in massive mismanagement and waste, the very sins he had been tasked with uncovering in Iraq. Most puzzlingly, over twenty-five of his employees earned more than General David Petraeus did last year. This article in the New Republic is naturally tilted-against the Bush Administration. But then, so are the facts.

Who was speaking about inspectors general two years ago? See my article: Free the Inspectors General. Amazing that such a simple and blatantly sensible suggestion gets no notice, alas.

--See more on the Economy: Past, Present and Future

David Brin
http://www.davidbrin.com

56 comments:

Ian said...

"let's look at the facts. The bottom half of taxpayers only pay 3% of the total income taxes collected, which is 1% less than before the Bush tax cuts. 44% of the US population, or 122 million people, pays no income tax at all."

There's another sleight-of-hand being employed here.

"The bottom half of taxpayers" largely consists not of full-time workers but of retirees, children with part-time jobs or small investment incomes and people who only worked part of the year.

Many of these people only lodge returns in order to claim refunds on taxes paid.

Oh and those 122 million people who pay no income taxes?

Most of them are probably either under 18 (ca. 83 million) or over 65 (ca. 38 million)?

t said...

I dont like the 'days off' argument, is anybody really silly enough to think that a modern president gets a 'day off' like the rest of us.

The idiotinchief can get more done at his pig farm in regards to the war effort, than FDR did traveling around to meet with Churchill and Stalin.

That argument against him is way too easy to shoot down.

Francis said...

David,

Much as I applaud your crusade to reach sane Conservatives on political grounds, I wonder where you think that the vast resevoirs of sane conservatives actually are. The more American history I read the more obvious it becomes that the kleptocrats have been in charge of the Republican party for my entire life time.

Just to name one kleptocrat, Reagan with his voodoo economics (and lafferble curve) managed to reintroduce the trickle-down effect from the 1920s.

For that matter, I am shocked, shocked to discover that the party of Richard Nixon is the party being run by kleptocrats.

That said, better late than never and the parable of the prodigal son comes to mind.

Finally, what do you see in Goldwater? I can't quite make it out from my perspective.

reason said...

The link to "confessions of a terrorist" seems to malfunction. I get an interesting (April 1st?) link, but it seems less than relevant.

Mark said...

As for Taxes I think the burden should not be about making it fair. It should be about making sure that everyone hurts the same.

Although personally I always though paying taxes was a good way to show Patriotism. I help pay for the schools, roads, equipment for our troops, etc. When it comes to my country I want the best of everything. The best I found is not often the cheapest.

The only way the to keep real fairness is that everyone's sacrifice impacts them the same.

Keith said...

I would love to know more about the "no losers" tax simplification - I googled the phrases I could think of but got nothing. Where can we get details about this?

B. Dewhirst said...

Sadly, the main Democratic Candidates are -just as likely- to perpetuate the golfer CEOs.

The American People are being offered a choice between neoclassical liberal economic policies on the one hand, and neoliberal economic policies on the other hand.

Plenty of Ostriches on the left as well...

Francis said...

I've a horrible feeling that the formulae for the "No Losers" tax plan would be complex, meaning that although the number of rules would be smaller you'd need a higher standard of education to actually understand them.

That said, it would be lovely to actually know the determining factors for tax rate...

Anonymous said...

*** Tangential comment alert ***

Hello David,

I've enjoyed most of your fiction, and I found your blog via DK. Thought I'd explore something not political for a change. So I took a look at:

Someone report on this? I do not vouch for it! John Lenard Walson has discovered a new way to extend the capabilities of small telescopes...

I'll bet you don't vouch for it! Scroll down the page and you'll find he also listens in on those objects with a "carefully aligned" satellite dish. And now evil gummint helicopters buzz his house at all hours.

The home page of that link is full of the depressingly repetitive anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic rants that fester all over the Web.

Yuck. So many insults to the intellect from so few mouse clicks.

Guess I'll stick to the political side of the blogosphere after all.

Still looking forward to more fiction books from you.

TwinBeam said...

The main fault in the "Fair Tax" is expecting it would work correctly with a fast cut-over from income taxes - the effects on the economy are too large to expect any pre-calculated rate to be correct. As with any tax policy, it would have to be tuned.

But it does make the cost of government visible - which I like, and which lovers of big government solutions will secretly see as its biggest flaw, the one that motivates them to look for other flaws.

I'm not impressed with complaints that the rate will be too high - it already is, it's just hidden as payroll deductions and in the cost of goods and services, and in the loss of jobs to cheaper foreign imports.

Realistically, it would have to be phased in over a decade, so we know how much it actually brings in, and what impact income tax reductions will have on prices.

I don't expect income taxes would go away completely - but after paying for the pre-bates, we could increase personal exemption levels so they mainly affect the very rich.

And we should definitely eliminate corporate/business income taxes, which are largely just passed through to consumers. Assign all business profits to the owners, for income tax purposes - whether or not they actually take those profits out of the business could be left to them.

Carl said...

The Fair Tax or some other consumption tax idea does make a great deal of sense as a replacement for FICA taxes.

FICA and Medicare taxes are on U.S. employed labor only. Use a sales tax and foreign manufactured goods are also charged the tax. The effect would be upward pressure on U.S. wages.

You could also then simplify the income tax code by eliminating IRAs, 401ks, etc. since a consumption tax has an implicit savings deduction.

Marc said...

I am so heartened by the General level of savvy, of economic understanding, that brings comments like this;
"
For example, try breaking up interlocking directorates (Republican Teddy Roosevelt could have told you that!) Or adjusting the rules of compensation for CEOs, directors, etc, so that their rewards come largely from ten-year company stock options!
"

>> I don't take anyone seriously, who proposes to replace the god-awful IRS system with a consumption tax, renamed in the Intelligent Design Newspeak era as "Fair Tax." Yes, that and the Blue Skys program will send you coughing into Mexico for relief.

I always like to point out, that both Mexico and the Netherlands are oil rich, and the principle difference between a failed state banana Republic like Mexico, and the nation with the highest standard of living, is how they choose to treat people. Mexico has an open, free-for-all market, that has just been doing Reaganomics -- or Ron-Paul-O-Nomics longer than we have. There are ZERO credible economic strategies from the right. They've been drinking the cool aide too long.

David Brin has shown some really good strategies for fixing the problem.

But my all time favorite idea would be to END ALL TAX on Labor. Anyone making less than $200,000 shouldn't be taxed. YOU are not a capitalist if you don't really own anything. Taxes should be paid by large owners, and on Tariffs of goods imported. Making things more expensive that we bring in solves a lot of problems--it also reduces the task of finding the "nexus of taxation" -- chasing down every purchase is an expensive way to collect taxes, for instance-- and at 25% would be unenforceable and lead to a huge black market and then a police state-- because that is the ONLY way you will be able to force someone to pay double on a purchase if they can walk to the back of someone's car and pay less. Watch for the usual suspects to feign shock and dismay if that ever comes to pass -- it will probably be blamed on permissive sex and rap music.

Tariffs on imports would reduce fuel used, make food safer because we grow it locally (and track it with standards), actually promotes job growth rather than hiring more prison guards and burger flippers, increases wages (and thus, solves the recession and credit crunch we are in), oh, and it would allow Americans to get better educations -- because there will be a business need to have something besides patent attorneys and accountants weeding through Sarbanes-Oxley.

But WHY, are the solutions so easy? Doesn't everyone know that the economy is complicated and that government is evil? We KNOW these things because;
As Francis points out...
"
Much as I applaud your crusade to reach sane Conservatives on political grounds, I wonder where you think that the vast reservoirs of sane conservatives actually are. The more American history I read the more obvious it becomes that the kleptocrats have been in charge of the Republican party for my entire life time. ...
"

>> Yes. As I've said before; all of the worlds great problems are created by those who profit from them. People starve, because some dictator needs to pacify a nation. A plane carrying a politician falls out of the sky, because they did not approve of putting their country in debt for a hydro-electric dam that won't work.

Gold is going through the roof right now, as the Fed will probably lower interest rates 1% to try and jumpstart the same eco-fluffing refinance boom that has carried us this far. But, the population will probably spend that money to pay off credit cards -- not buy new flat screen TVs. The Republican plan to delay the fallout to hand to the Democrats isn't going to work.

>> The solution to the immigration problem is to stop meddling in Mexico's elections, and force them to pay their workers more. It's our corporate playground and where we chose to outsource slavery. When you have to work to eat, and you can't control your destiny -- it's all the same thing. But, the best solution for the average man is to choose to give others a better deal. Always treating people better is the path to Democracy, and Fascists always treat people like things.

B. Dewhirst said...

Well, we shouldn't force Mexico to do -anything-... and we should make sure our Corporations don't force Mexico to do anything either.

Once we make it clear we're not backing a one-party state any longer, the boys with the red star on the black field have a pretty good idea how to handle the situation.

Marc said...

TwinBeam said...

The main fault in the "Fair Tax" is expecting it would work correctly with a fast cut-over from income taxes - the effects on the economy are too large to expect any pre-calculated rate to be correct. As with any tax policy, it would have to be tuned.


Fair Tax isn't going to work. It's just a deeply, inherently flawed and anti-Democratic tactic to shift ever more of the burden FROM the owners to the workers.

The Problems:
The Poor spend more on basic purchase items as a percentage of their earnings than do the wealthy. Subsidies to rectify this cannot scale with actual expenses.
The greater the percentage charged, the more enforcement that will be needed -- creating a black market for goods, and requiring more police.
There is a greater "nexus of taxation" -- collecting sales tax now is not a huge deal, at 25% or more, there will have to be some presence and involvement to ensure the government gets its money.
Revenue brought in does not address inequities in economics for locations: meaning that Alabama won't bring in as much as New York. If there is no provision to transfer funds, then Alabama may need to collect a higher percentage.
These taxes would slow the economy.
Wealthy individuals can avoid the tax much more easily than poorer people.
Doesn't address goods brought into the country by individuals.
Tax may be voluntary on discretionary goods but not on necessities, burdening even more those without resources.

That's just off the top of my head. It's an even worse system than what the IRS has now.

Marc said...

"
B. Dewhirst said...

Well, we shouldn't force Mexico to do -anything-... and we should make sure our Corporations don't force Mexico to do anything either.

Once we make it clear we're not backing a one-party state any longer, the boys with the red star on the black field have a pretty good idea how to handle the situation.
"

>> Mexico already gets its policies from the boardrooms in the US. They were going to decriminalize drugs until a quick visit from George W Bush himself set them straight.

When I say "make" I mean, set trade policy. Mexican Ford cars should get a tax based upon a "fair labor standard", pollution production levels -- all above our normal tariff. The cost of paying your employees vs. not paying them will be NOTHING other than what you are already paying to the US to ship it in.

Make this known what the net labor tax is to the people in Mexico. If the pretend Democracy in that country still doesn't pass the money along to create a middle class, then we would look at the situation after that.

RIGHT NOW, the US is supporting tyrannies, with weapons and black ops. We are forcing Corporate Kleptocracies on other nations -- so let's not pretend that this is all about fair market negotiations and letting people know that we are all going to sing great songs of freedom.

Let's not forget that the ONLY TWO PEOPLE in the US Government who could have stopped the Patriot Act from the Democratic side were the ones who ended up with Anthrax in the mail.

David Brin said...

Bought THE MASS EFFECT. My kids think it plays well. But I haven't seen the great commonalities with my universe.

Artifacts from an older race, found lying around. Well. I didn't invent that.

Was there something else?

Zechariah said...

They do have a galctic government. There was an ancient war with machines (that was in Uplift, I think, or at least it was listed in the timeline in Gurps: Uplift)

Those are the only other similarities that spring to mind, and as you said, you didn't invent those. Are there any new ideas anymore?

Which reminds me, Sunshine is out on DVD now. Have you seen it? Did it resemble sundiver as much as you feared?

Zechariah said...

Black just got blacker

New Material pushes the boundaries of blackness
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080115/sc_nm/nano_black_dc_1

Made from tiny tubes of carbon standing on end, this material is almost 30 times darker than a carbon substance used by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology as the current benchmark of blackness.

The substance has a total reflective index of 0.045 percent -- which is more than three times darker than the nickel-phosphorous alloy that now holds the record as the world's darkest material.

Andrew said...

Made from tiny tubes of carbon standing on end...

So... how long before someone paints Elvis on it?

David Brin said...

Haven't seen "Sunshine" though I know it has the same dismal plot premise as "The Core"... which ripped off much of its supply of good scenes from both EARTH and Paul Preuss's book "Core".

I am told there was decent fiction in Sunshine, despite the old "Let's use bombs to re-start the___" premise. One can hope.

I just returned from the Department of Homeland
Security's Stakeholder Conference in LA, where Greg Bear and I joined Jerry Pournelle and some other SF others advising about "unusual perspectives. That makes about twenty-five of these US Govt security consults I've done.

As if they ever listen. With a single paragraph of regulation -- no more complex than the current requirement that phones without chips should still be able to reach 911 -- the nation could create a reliable infrastructure of text-passing via Peer-2-Peer that would empower our pocket radios, even if the cell system crashes. No other single pragraph could go farther to enhance our nation's resiliency.

It's like talking to a wall.

One interesting piece of news. Jerry Pournelle, it seems, continues to be the cantankerous free spirit among conservatives. Unlike the lemmings and ostriches that infest the GOP, either willingness assisting in the reversal of ever traditional value or frantically ignoring it, Jerry is furious!

He is smart enough to notice that you don't conserve by ruining the budget. You don't govern by demoralizing civil servants. You don't defend America by ruining its armed forces. You don't lead the world by driving off allies and stoking hatred. You don't face the future by trampling science. You don't generate trust through crony-kleptocracy. You don't protect us by handing power over our nation to a foreign cabal of fanatical petrocrats. And you don't take the moral high ground by lying incessantly, usurping the Constitution and cloaking
America in shoruds of secrecy darker than we ever saw, during the Cold War.

By all of these measures, any Goldwater/Reagan conservative should by now recognize that his or her party has been taken over -- hijacked -- by a bona fide criminal gang. Exactly as if the Democratic Party had ever been taken over by genuine agents of the KGB. If that had happened, you'd expect some democrats to notice and to stand up.

Alas, Jerry Pournelle is among the few on the right who seem to realize that it is the job of America's conservatives to stand up, right now... as the moderates of the ADA did, way back in 1947... to defend their country from a homegrown madness.

I send my congratulations over to Chaos Manor, and my respect. May we see a return of honest and honorable and scientific and reasonable conservatism to the table of discussion, soon. Lord knows, we need it.

As soon as the neocons, monsters and thieves -- and their backers who currently control the GOP -- are driven out and guys like Jerry help to return one of America's great political parties to its place in our Great Conversation.

Rocky said...

I thought something fishy was going on in NH. Monkey business in the New Hamphire primaries... Looks like on the hand-counted votes, Obama's percentage matched with pre-election polling. On the optical scan votes, the numbers were exactly the same, but flipped between Clinton and Obama. Someone manipulated the vote. Guess which company made the voting machines?

Stefan Jones said...

Rocky, did you read the whole article? It largely debunks the "flipped totals" claim.

* * *

I think -- I hope -- that the hideous neocon / K-Street Project / Movement Conservative alliance that put the current administration in power is a temporary coup of sorts. Their "anything to get in office and stay in office" strategy is responsible for the un-conservative messes DB lists.

But of course, MOST conservatives gleefully tagged along for the ride, and shamefully indulged in triumphalist smuggery in 2000 and 2004. They deserved the slap on the wrist they got in 2006 and have thoroughly earned the ass-whupping they're going to get in 2008.

This time around, I hope they spend their time in the woodshed actually thinking about what they can do for America instead of what they can do for their "base."

I just wish Dr. Jerry were independent minded enough not to sound like every other global warming skeptic.

David Brin said...

If you want ammo against obstinate Climat Change ostriches, here's a biggie. My former classmate at Caltech, Steven Koonin, is now chief scientist for British Petroleum. That is an OIL COMPANY.

Have your ostrich watch Steve at work at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt_mluFK7xk

He actually has a much better video, that I just received on DVD from him. It isn't on YouTube yet.

With his credibility as an Oilco (albeit don't mention that BP and ARco have always been the "goodguy oilcos") executive, you can get them to watch this with much lower hackles than watching Al Gore.

This is a genuine magic bullet. Proud of Steve.

Over on the METI discussion, the hoary old "we're in a simulation" bit got raised. Thought I'd share my answer.

---

The number of simulation variants in science fiction is innumerable. It has been around for a very long time. (See a number of my own stories.) Certainly it has been pondered that some unlikely coincidences point to this possibility. Ranging from sublime to ridiculous.

1) that discrete quantum interactions are for the convenience of discrete computational elements

2) that George W. Bush's series of revenge fantasies and fantasy jobs could not have happened in real life, hence we are in the year 2050 while that bitter old man keeps feeding quarters into a rented holodeck and we characters have to play along...

3) That NAMES ARE CLUES. I support Obamam... but his names are simply screaming messages from a giggling author.

Or take that famed old romp... that World War II featured a wolf, attacking a Church on the hill, who turned for help from the field of roses, which had three great generals, led by a Marshall, who sent his Iron-Hewer to the east and a New Arthur to the west...

... while the world broke his teeth against the Man of Steel, and France was represented by the "Man of Gaul". It goes on and on. Gimme a break!

But all of this misses the point, which is why such simulation ruminations are relevant to the Great Silence.

In my own contact simulation game (see www.exorarium.com) the whole aim is to have lots of contact interactions, not to PREVENT contact scenarios from taking place! OTOH, perhaps we are a simulation to see how human culture would have developed, if Klattu and Gort hadn't come and meddled....

B. Dewhirst said...

A simulation this (subjectively) real is worth treating as real for all purposes until proven to be otherwise.

David Brin said...

If HP doesn't repair and return my laptop soon, I'll have to run out and buy that much-delayed Macintosh laptop. I am very much looking fwd to it, but delayed because you ALWAYS delay a computer till you need it. And my flight to Liechtenstein looms.

Any advice? Which model to get? Best deal/reliability?

Francis said...

Pournelle's turned against Bush? I am impressed! And I think if that's the level of person turning against the current band of reactionaries (I won't dignify them with the name "Conservative), the election won't even be close enough to steal.

But of the very first two points on your list:
"... you don't conserve by ruining the budget. You don't govern by demoralizing civil servants."
both of the above were done quite spectacularly by Reagan. Reagan didn't just demoralise civil servants, he demonised them ("The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."), and he broke the budget in a more spectacular way than all but one other post-war president, and that president was George W Bush. (Incidently, third on the list was George H.W. Bush).

And yay on the climate change news.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

Vernor Vinge wanted me to encapsulate the idea that I expressed in STONES OF SIGNIFICANCE... that there is one kind of synergy with machines that we might be able to pull off and still stay "human" yet needed by advance AI. It's a pure wish fantasy, but with some logic behind it. It may, indeed, be the idea I wind up best known for.

Here's the encapsulation:


"Picture a future human-co
mputer symbiosis -- say we link up with machines, in some way. It may be the one thing that lets human beings keep up, stay part of the game, as the age of superfast and powerful synthetic thinking takes off. But then, how will it all fit together? And what do the machines get out of this combination? How do we keep from losing the things we treasure most about being human?

"Those questions may carry hints at their own solution. After all, mammals, and then primates, and then hominids have been adding to their brains in a process of layering. Each new layer added better, deeper kinds of thinking, without much resentment from the parts below. In this next stepo, the computer portions might make up a kind of neo-neocortex, providing scalable processing power -- while the organic part still has important jobs to do.

"In fact, the one job that natural human beings are already supremely good at -- something machines have no knack for, but living creatures have been doing for half a billion years -- is wanting. Desire, Setting goals, aims, for those newer, higher layers to plan and deliver.

"It's in that suite of wants and dreams and desires that we will recognize our augmented descendants, even if their new powers resemble those of gods.

Stefan Jones said...

"Pournelle's turned against Bush? I am impressed!"

There have been, all along, some conservatives who were nervous about Bush.

I recall stories, very early on in the Bush 43 administration, suggesting that the elder Bushes had reservations about the inroads that the religious right had made.

Financial conservatives had problems with Bush 43's budget-busting ways very early on.

But these were a tiny, tiny minority. And in some cases they weren't unhappy about Bush 43 going too far, but not going far enough.

Stefan Jones said...

DB: The fact that a brand new Mac laptop has just been announced might be a signal to retailers that price cuts are in order.

So you might be able to bargain.

Beyond that . . . I'm not familiar with Mac laptop models.

I've resigned to buying cheap PC laptops every few years, and not getting attached to them in any way. As long as they can surf and edit RTF files, I'm happy.

TwinBeam said...

Marc:

Many of the "Fair Tax" complaints you list have already been thought through and countered by the proponents.

That doesn't mean they're right - but simplistic arguments against the fair tax do have simple answers, as you should expect. Never assume your opponents are total morons, or at least that they haven't heard your "top of the head" arguments before and come up with counter-arguments, however good or poor.

If you want to hone your arguments you should go read what they say on their web site. If Huckabee manages a come-back, it might become a real issue.

The Fair Tax folks may be promoting something that would end up favoring the rich, but they do present as if they really are just tax policy wonks, interested in being fair to all, and in making the cost of government more visible to citizens.

Are they lying demons shilling for the super-rich? Perhaps - but I'd leave the paranoia for after you have significant arguments they haven't already answered.

Zechariah said...

Dr. Brin, regarding your proposal for p2p networks, would you speculate as to how these networks could interfere with government wiretapping?

That is to say, if people could text each other wirelessly directly, would the FBI be unable to monitor the messages? (I assume they can do that now.)

If the phones are programmed to do this only when no other networks are available, how difficult would it be to hack the phone (as was done to the iPhone recently) such that it could text p2p all the time?

I'm just speculating as to why your suggestion may have been ignored. If your plan would limit government authority, that would be a powerful incentive to ignore your idea.

B. Dewhirst said...

Anyone out there want to try their hand at coding it for Android?

Google is having a contest, after all...

TwinBeam said...

Jerry Pournelle's initial - and un-repudiated - reaction to 9/11 was "build monuments in the offending nations" - as in bombing a few cities (probably in Afghanistan) into rubble, then bouncing the rubble. Or making them into glassy plains.

I suppose the idea of overwhelming military retaliation - revenge, rather than an attempt at reform - horrifies the typical liberal mindset.

But his pragmatic logic was that nations in the area wouldn't love us much less, and they would certainly fear us enough that all nations in the area would quickly take steps to make sure they were not next.

I suspect it would have worked - it does seem an appropriate counter to the "macho" mode of thinking common to the region - i.e. respecting those who demonstrate aggression and strength, despising those you perceive as weak.

He also commonly states that what we have spent on the Iraq war could have bought us energy independence by now, so that we could afford to simply ignore the middle-east.

Jumper said...

Most of these appealing-to-populists tax reform schemes leave out the fine print, such as the actual list of exemptions from a "sales" tax. Sold some stock, but no sales tax. Sold my house, but no sales tax. Sold my yacht, but no sales tax. Bought some stuff wholesale, paid no sales tax. 200,000 tons of coal, as a matter of fact. Paid no sales tax. Get it?

Brendan Podger said...

A bit late in he day to be commenting but there is so much to comment regarding others comments.

Marc: You have to be very careful about tariffs since they tend to have a negative effect on the industry being protected: lack of competition tends to lead to lack of innovation.

Good to hear we are getting close to a totally black substance. Perhaps the Disaster Area spaceship in "Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy" is not that far of too.

Sunshine: Some bad science but on the whole a good film (7/10). Nothing like Sundiver, David, so no need for the lawyers. Same goes for Mass Effect.

BP: In 1998 they made the pledge to drop there Greenhouse Gas emissions down to 1990 levels by 2010. According to the advertising they have been plastering around, they made it 2 years early! When you add the fact even US car companies are realising that the gas guzzler's time is up:

THE world's biggest car maker, General Motors, believes global oil supply has peaked and a switch to electric cars is inevitable.

In a stunning announcement at the opening of the Detroit motor show, Rick Wagoner, GM's chairman and chief executive, said ethanol was an 'important interim solution' to the world's demand for oil, until battery technology improved to give electric cars the same driving range as petrol-powered cars.

B. Dewhirst said...

Jumper, you need to do some reading.

No deductions.

(Gravel does a fine job of explaining the logic behind it... just ****ing google it.)

In point of fact, VAT* isn't so complicated that Europeans can't understand it... and they've got several of the nations with the highest standards of living in the world, so it isn't exactly -impossible-.

* Yes, I know VAT != Fair Tax.

David Brin said...

TwinBeam, some things are idiotic and some that tout themselves as “simple” are “simply stupid.” The consumption tax is not only regressive. It inherently allows those who do not HAVE to spend their money to accumulate rent-paying property instead. And then more next year and then more and more with no natural brake at all. The INEVITABLE outcome is feudal aristocracy.

The entire agenda of the right has been to favor passive income over earned income or the delivery of goods and services. Adam Smith would have hated their $%$# guts.

As for response to 9/11, we did great in Afghanistan, smoothly and powerfully allying ourselves with local forces, with a level of competence that proves it was already planned out under Clinton Clarke. W had at most time to say “Go!” which explains why he wanted “his war”. One fully his own.

Problem is, after the Taliban fell, we had a godlike reputation for utter and unassailable competence. If we had stopped there, the “speak softly” part of TR’s advice would have sent everybody in the region scurrying to please us. As the iranians offered to do! Oh, Condi Rice. What a piece of work.

Now? That reputation for invincibility is Bush’s greatest victim. It is gone, gone, torched. And so is the dterrent we had, after the fall of Kabul.

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon again, logon still blown)

TwinBeam remarked:

Jerry Pournelle's initial - and un-repudiated - reaction to 9/11 was "build monuments in the offending nations" - as in bombing a few cities (probably in Afghanistan) into rubble, then bouncing the rubble. Or making them into glassy plains. (..)

I suspect it would have worked - it does seem an appropriate counter to the "macho" mode of thinking common to the region - i.e. respecting those who demonstrate aggression and strength, despising those you perceive as weak.


Since Saudi Arabia produced 15 of the 19 hijackers, this would have required the United States to turn Riyadh and Mecca into "glassy plains." Mecca remains the most sacred site for 1 billion Moslems, and the Kingdom of Saud, as the home of Mecca, remains the most sacred of all Islamic countries. The resulting worldwide Moslem uprising would have made the firestorm over the Dutch cartoons look like an episode of Mr. Rogers.

After the Kingdom of Saud's oil refineries and wells were destroyed by mass waves of suicide bombers larger than the human waves who attacked U.N. forces at the Chosin Reservoir, and after the straits of Hormuz were closed by supertankers sunk by fanatical jihadists screaming "Death to the West!" I leave it to the imagination of the interested spectator to predict the level of economic chaos produced by a long-term 80% reduction in oil supplies to Europe, Japan and America.

Dr. Pournelle has two earned doctorates but, as Carl Sagan ponted out, "A PhD is not an innoculation against foolishness." It's worth noting that Dr. Pournelle spent the majority of his life making lots 'o bucks working for the big U.S. government who size and alleged paternalism he so vociferously despised.

Can we please have enough with the insinuations of electronic vote-hacking of the HIllary-Obama primary in New Hampshire? Please, people. Enough. Okay? Just...enough. There are a lot of real problems out there, lots of genuine conspiracies -- but we don't need this kind of paranoia.

Let's spend our time thinking of all the ways we can defeat the group of fringe lunatics who've taken over the Republican party and discreditng them so permanently that they get banished into political outer darkness along with the Flat Earth Society and the Ku Klux Klan. Let's not waste our valuable ingenuity and time fretting about tinfoil hat Diebold voting-machine conspiracies in the NH primary.

Alas, America did not "do great in Afghanistan." The Taliban now controls half of Afghanistan again, mainly because Americans shut down the poppy growing farms that were most Afghan farmers' only means of income...while the Taliban now encourages the farmers to grow as much opium as they possibly can (i a about-face from the Taliban's previous attitude toward opium cultivation).

America's military action in Afghanistan remains a classic example of the philosophy of the modern Republican party -- "it doesn't matter if we get it done, as long as we get it spun."

thinkprogress.org/2007/11/23/ resurgent-taliban-in-control-of-half-of-afghanistan/

www.nytimes.com/2006/09/05/world/asia/05afghan.html

www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/ c/a/2006/09/17/MNGIHL7B4O1.DTL

"Opium production in Afghanistan...reached an all-time high in 2007":
www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/ content/article/2006/12/01/AR2006120101654.html

Oh, and Dr. Brin -- love that lede about "troglodytic microcephaly." But, you know, this is exactly what the Repub hatemongers like Karl Rove snicker at and twist to their advantage. You know what those big words mean. I know what those big words mean. But when you use those kinds of big polysyllabic Greek- and Latin-based words, you're apt to come off like a high-and-mighty elite effete intellectual, instead of a regular guy. And that gives the ostriches as well as the working stiffs a perfect excuse to ignore everything you say.

"Backward-looking folly" works as well as "troglodytic microcephaly," though I'll grant you it doesn't have quite the same ring. Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov managed all they accomplished with an average vocabulary suitable for a fifth grader -- you don't need to use fancy words to soar to the heights of eloquence.

And remember -- the people arrayed against us are the same sneering no-neck thugs who ridiculed Adlai Stevenson for being a "pointy-headed intellectual" and smeared Oppenheimer for his "excessively intellectual" bent. Those haters of reason and facts still hold lots 'o levers of power: read Peggy Noonan's 2004 op ed column, in which she ridicules people with education and ideas, people with learning, people who prefer logic and facts to follwing a mindless mob stirred by hate-mongered emotion:

Mr. Bush is the triumph of the seemingly average American man. He's normal. He thinks in a sort of common-sense way. He speaks the language of business and sports and politics. You know him. He's not exotic. But if there's a fire on the block, he'll run out and help. He'll help direct the rig to the right house and count the kids coming out and say, "Where's Sally?"

He's responsible. He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, "I warned Joe about that furnace." And, "Does Joe have children?" And "I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it's formidable and yet fleeting." When the fire comes they talk.

Bush ain't that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy. Americans love the guy who ain't that guy.


Wall Street Journal, op ed, 2004.

That's what we're up against -- people who hate and fear intelligence and education. That doesn't mean we should avoid using our intelligence or our education...but let's at least not use it to unnecessarily piss off the ostriches, okay?

TwinBeam said...

DB:
Yes, the Fair Tax is regressive - the more you save, the less you pay.

So a lot more people would save a lot more than they do under the current system, which discourages savings.

The increased pool of investment funds, combined with somewhat depressed consumption, would drive down the rate of return on investments.

That, in turn, would slash the rate of wealth concentration. In fact, it might very well cause a sharp recession that wipes out a big chunk of the fortunes of the super-wealthy.

Sometimes simple changes can have surprisingly complex - even counter-intuitive - results.

But I'm not an official advocate of the Fair Tax - I'm just playing devil's advocate against unthinking, knee-jerk rejection.

Funny, I should think you, of all people, would have given more thoughtful consideration to an idea that would make the costs of government more transparent to everyone.


Regarding Afghanistan - I tend to agree we started off well in Afghanistan - it could be viewed as a somewhat moderated form of Jerry's plan.

We should have caught or killed bin Ladin and called it quits - the message would have been sent, in a form the rest of the world could respect as well.

Jumper said...

Thanks, Dewhirst, for the kick in the pants. It has led to more reading on my part. I still believe the U.S. would distort and exempt according to corporate wishes, not democratic wishes.

Marc said...

TwinBeam said...

Marc:

Many of the "Fair Tax" complaints you list have already been thought through and countered by the proponents.

That doesn't mean they're right - but simplistic arguments against the fair tax do have simple answers, as you should expect. Never assume your opponents are total morons, or at least that they haven't heard your "top of the head" arguments before and come up with counter-arguments, however good or poor.
...


I agree with you. But, I'm sad to say, I used to think that you could discuss these things. It's really hard to sip tea and discuss Bank Robbery, as if someone were liberating money.

I made the mistake of listening to Neal Bortz today,... they didn't use any of these complicated rationalizations, or the "fixes" that will be promised but of course, be torn from their hands by evil Democrats. They calmly talked about 25% sales taxes, and that everywhere a consumption tax has been tried, the EVIL governments would sneak in an income tax again. What they don't mention is, that sales tax ends up not bringing in enough revenue -- so it is supplemented by income tax anyway.

I could bring up a complex argument, that sales tax will naturally differ, based upon what a state wants to add on top. So, Big City, only has 25% tax, while Mayberry has 40% because they have to pay for things. The Big City, uses a high property tax -- which is easily made back by the businesses there, because they will be getting all the Mayberry residents business. Do Mayberry residents want to pay less? Isn't that reasonable to assume?

So either states are forbidden from changing the tax rate (States rights anyone?), or someone will have a better deal, and then Mayberry is going to have to have a separate form of tax anyway, because their businesses will be complaining about going under. You are always right back where you started. UNLESS you use the police.

Because we have a big neighbor to the North called Canada. And instead of looking for Nukes crossing the border -- you will have to make sure that John Doe didn't just buy that jacket somewhere where there are lower taxes.

So, you have to hire more police, and have more checkpoints and close down the borders. Every shopper is under suspicion for ILLEGALLY buying things from non-taxed sources.

>> This is above and beyond that it's a total waste of time in trying to discuss economics with morons. I'm sorry to feel like I'm smart and they are dumb, or that I need to educate myself on THEIR propaganda to win an argument. I'm 42 years old now, and I've never WON an argument with an idiot in my life. I've only ever been able to talk to reasonable people -- and somehow they always seem to be Progressives, or Libertarians who just need a bit more study.

The schools and the TV which were telling you they were "liberal", whatever that means -- have done a too effective job. I had to debate in a blog last night about Glenn Beck calling FDR the meanest of Presidents. All over again, it was the discussion that entitlements weakened the American character and that the WAR helped us out of the Depression.

>> They don't recognize that we are on the verge of another Depression, and all we've done since FDR and Unions fixed the economy is to give Conservatives everything they want? This is Reagonomics being successful -- and they now want Ron Paul?

The real problem is, that I've been respecting Conservatives, MORE than their leaders like Neal Bortz do. If you can't stop people from drinking the poisoned Kool Aid by reason, I think I'm just an angry Liberal now who has decided the only thing left is to humiliate them. You are trying to tell me to bring reason, to a school-yard brawl with 10-year-olds. I'm trying to tell you, I've been there and done that.

When you act like a rational, person, you look like Colmes. Hannity always wins on his show, because the pasty Liberal looks like a wimp -- no other reason. It is always a tough American MAN vs. the wimp -- you can turn the sound off on that show and understand better, the REAL dynamics that Fox uses. Virile guys and hot women in suits discussing the horrors of the Liberal society corrupting our morals to people who go to strip clubs for a sales meeting on Friday night, and then to Church and talk about not getting "Left Behind."

So many Conservatives are waking up to Bush, and then going back to get beaten up by someone else who acts just like Bush. Meanwhile the media and the Diebold machines are throwing the election to Hillary, and I get to listen to these same fools blame Socialist Hillary for instituting more Reagan policies (or, merely Corporate Kleptocracy with a smidgen of philosophy).

I can guarantee you, that Mexico and the Middle Ages does not suffer from lazy, over-entitled people. Yet somehow, the free market makes people poor -- go figure. If people don't realize these things -- they never are going to realize them. They will blame Mexico, or someone else that the TV tells us to blame.

B. Dewhirst said...

Agreed, Marc.

As I said earlier, there are plenty on the left who've got their heads in the sand as well.

As much as the GOP, the DLC is bought and paid for by a different click of the 10,000 golf buddies who run the show. It isn't black and white by a long shot, we only need to listen to Buffet talk about why his taxes should be higher to see some of that...

Very frustrating.

Marc said...

David Brin said...

If HP doesn't repair and return my laptop soon, I'll have to run out and buy that much-delayed Macintosh laptop. I am very much looking fwd to it, but delayed because you ALWAYS delay a computer till you need it. And my flight to Liechtenstein looms.

Any advice? Which model to get? Best deal/reliability?


I'm a Mac fan for sure (not a FanBoy). I've consulted and used PCs as well.

IN a recent report -- I'm thinking it was C|Net or some other big Mag. The PowerBook Pro was compared to other PCs RUNNING WINDOWS. It beat the next PC by 43 to 41 on their WinMark score, and even AlienWare at third place costing more. Great quote; "It is interesting that Apple won this test, not because it just barely won, but because they could care less about how fast they run Windows."

>> ON the desktop, there are definitely better values to be had for basic computing. ON the laptop -- the importance of getting rid of headaches increases, and Apple wins the reliability battle.

I use at least 100 different applications. Bouncing around in multimedia, video, web creation, and just having fun. A Windows PC remains stable and good for tasks if you keep it simple. If you start adding PhotoShop, a video app, another thing to burn DVDs, something else to fill in the gap for a good image browser, maybe an application to prevent viruses and trojan horses that NOBODY installs when they do speed tests (ahem), and maybe a database, and of course Microsoft Office -- that computer will quickly act as screwy as a squirrel on acid. You also make it a huge deal to re-install Windows about every year -- which is what I recommend if you want to keep it from turning into a dog.

The ability to find your home computer, because Leopard shares it's IP address with .Mac as soon as you go online -- is a huge and un-complex thing. Networking and moving files just work.

The great thing is, that you can still run Windows. Install Parallel's desktop, and install Windows XP on top (Vista has too much thrashing and DRM to make the experience very fun in a virtual OS). All applications are seamlessly available, and you can fall back to a previous installation by taking snapshots. Or run "versions" of Windows. Or install Linux. Just look to have more than 2 Gigs of RAM. Getting an upgrade at DealRam.com is not a big deal.

It all depends on your budget. < $1,000 and I would say, get a PC.
Above that, and you have the MacBook. It's decent, and is good for undemanding users who just want something stable. The Mac gets rid of a lot of hassles. But compared to the bells and whistles on the $1,200 PCs, looks anemic -- if you can fix a computer, upgrade drives on your own, and debug DVD driver -- then the PC is the better value. If you buy from Dell -- tell them you are a midsized company, the bargain components go to home users. I have not kept track on whether you should avoid HP, or they build a good computer again. I've hassled with PCs and built a few and I'm done with wasting my time not getting things done.

In the $2,000+ range, the Mac is the best laptop, bar none. I have the 17" and spent the extra $100 for the high rez screen. I'm going to get the 350 gig Western Digital drive for laptops, and spend another $100 on RAM at NewEgg. But I need to do Video work, so the standard drive just doesn't have the room.
For a jet-setter, that new Air laptop seems nice, if you know how to get Videos off of DVDs (cough* MacTheRipper *cough). But it's pretty dang expensive. For people where money is not an issue, and who don't demand too much from a computer, it's sweet -- I'm not that person, however.

A good place to find deals on Mac and computer related items, RAM and such; http://dealmac.com/

If you want to get into web development, and do some really cool things, install the free Developers tools. I'm geeking out on Quartz Composer right now that allows me to do real-time video conversion, grab data from the web, and display the stuff with fairy dust effects (if I like that kind of thing).

>> There will be some changes to get used to -- but Vista is more like OS X than XP. The good thing is, that OS X is more logical, and after a while, you will have better muscle memory of how to get things done. Not as good as OS 9 (in my opinion) for less motion to get the job done,... but it's like working with the right tool. Very hard to describe how much more effortless it is to just do things.

Marc said...

Brendan Podger said...
A bit late in he day to be commenting but there is so much to comment regarding others comments.

Marc: You have to be very careful about tariffs since they tend to have a negative effect on the industry being protected: lack of competition tends to lead to lack of innovation.


>> We have had a lot of innovation, but competition has taken our aerospace industry and moved it to China. We only have two future products; Intellectual Property Law, and Weapons.

We did pretty well with Tariffs and strong Unions. Is there any progress we are seeing with no tariffs and "globalism" from the right, coupled with the other team of thieves on the left who come up with Oxley Sarbanes. By all accounts, we have the so-called Free Trade, and of course, Ford is moving to Mexico, and Halliburton is moving to Dubai. Not much has been made in the news that while Dubai was buying our ports, they also bought about 7 weapons manufacturing plants. Did you know that the UAE is developing Nuclear weapons?

Once you read about that, do a google search on Siebel Edmunds and then we can discuss this whole securing the nation farce.

Our biggest growth right now in the US is security companies -- oh, and private mercenaries.

>> See what happens with electronic voting? Coincidence theorists vs. Conspiracy theorists;
Rocky said...

I thought something fishy was going on in NH. Monkey business in the New Hamphire primaries... Looks like on the hand-counted votes, Obama's percentage matched with pre-election polling. On the optical scan votes, the numbers were exactly the same, but flipped between Clinton and Obama. Someone manipulated the vote. Guess which company made the voting machines?

10:39 AM
Anonymous Stefan Jones said...

Rocky, did you read the whole article? It largely debunks the "flipped totals" claim.


Stefan.
While we can use some statistical analysis, and pontificate that people in the city MIGHT have voted more for Hillary than Obama -- you cannot really KNOW who won without a recount of paper ballots. No recount on that renamed diebold machine. Lot's of former hackers talking about helping to build it. A few people going to prison in Ohio for 18 months for RIGGING THE ELECTION. In retrospect, we keep learning that "conspiracy theories" have merit. Maybe we can just do things that don't require a debate afterwards?

Without Ohio going to Bush, it would have been President Kerry. Now, that may or may not have been totally the outcome of fraud (though, I'd have to believe this is the ONE TIME BushCo didn't lie, cheat and steal).

Now, NH might be OK, but what about Florida? There will be more strange things that can't be explained, and more plausible reasons why the Rove preferred candidates win. These accidents seem to always go the way of CorpGov. Meanwhile, Kucinich has to go to court to force MSNBC to let him in the debates. I thought we were supposed to have more than two states weigh in before we decided who was the Democratic candidate? Kucinich got more votes than Republicans in New Hampshire who are welcomed in debates -- and NH only has a 7% Democratic population. Would this be the same discussion if California were first?

To have a Democracy, you have to have people thinking things are fair. I can tell you, that at LEAST half of us don't, and we think if they don't cheat us in NH, they will cage some voters and cheat us in Florida. I have ZERO confidence in this election process and it's outcome. It's going to be Hillary vs. McCain, and I don't think I want to stick around for the next great depression in this country while people try to blame the "socialist" who signs NAFTA version 2. It's a sock puppet fight and this is all the elites making us fight each other as we debate nonsense like Fair Tax and Evolution.

Meanwhile, the times when the US was most competitive, and everyone OWED US MONEY, was when we had strong Unions, and often when we had tariffs -- why do I have to debate history with people? Why? The Libertarians and Republicans keep bringing up these economic theories, that have no basis in reality. The only way supply-side economics (let the barons have everything) works is when you replace increased wages with cheap credit. Gee, can I get three loans on my house to buy that flat panel TV?

The economics are a fraud, the election is a fraud, and we are turning into a police state. All these problems are created so that the elites can get rid of our pesky Democracy, as they did in Chile with the help of Negroponte and Nixon cronies.

David Brin said...

Warren Buffet wants his taxes higher for one simple reason. He loves a civilization that’s been very good to him. He earned his money and thinks the next batch of billionaires ought to. Instead of inheriting it.

Re a mac laptop.

1) is it as important to buy the extended warranty for a mac laptop as it is for a PC laptop?

2) do people like having a .mac account? I never saw the need and I’m not sure it’s worth the cost.

3) Does parallels run automatically? Then you need to buy the XP you’ll use?

4) Does Parallels simplyu let you install Linux instead of XP? What version’s best and simplest?

5) If my new mac comes with updated iLife... can I then install the new iLife on my other macs at home from the same disks?

Zechariah said...

Warren Buffet wasn't exactly born middle class himself. His father was a congressman and an investor. Still, your statement is mostly true.

Marc, I'd actually like to hear why you like unions so much, because I'm not that fond of them.

Any group that has as many ties to organised crime as unions seem to can't be all that great. Government, for example.

Not to mention the needless violence. Tossing a bomb onto a bus because the driver operated it instead of following with the strike? Not cool. (and yes, I've seen that one happen)

But the reason unions bug me the most? There's no competition. I don't mean just no competition at the employer end to hire from this union or that union or from no union, but workers don't get to choose between this union or that union or just working without union protections. When organizations get that big and unnaccountable terrible things happen.

B. Dewhirst said...

Z, without delving into whether violence is justified or unjustified (at which point we'd need to point out the long and bloody labor history from the other direction-- calling in the Pinkertons or the Army), I should point out that most of the Unions we see today have largely abandoned the ideological underpinnings of 'real' unions.

(Yes, I'm treading close to a No True Scotsman, but I trust we all know there are good and bad ways of instituting any collection of people.)

These 'Vichy' unions have indeed created their own pseudo-feudal hierarchies with ties to organized crime (and business). This is, partially, the consequence of them being a more palatable alternative to more radical unions like the IWW, of whom I'm very much in favor. (Somebody thought it would be a good idea to throw them all in jail, hold MacCarthy hearings with them very early on the list of 'are you now or have you ever been' organizations, etc.)

Transparency, accountability, and the ability to recall representatives are the key to a successful organization.

Doug S. said...

Homer Simpson, upon becoming head of the power plant worker's union...

Homer: How much does this job pay?
Carl: Nothing.
Homer: D'oh!
Carl: Unless you're crooked.
Homer: Woo-hoo!

Q) How many union members does it take to change a lightbulb?
A) Ten. You got a problem with that?

B. Dewhirst said...

Doug, that is precisely my point.

Contrary to the common thesis of Capitalists, people are motivated by more than money. (People vote against their perceived and real economic interests all the time.)

One person who understood this quite well was... Adam Smith.

Good Unions foster a sense of camaraderie of the working class... but you can't have that if you tear out all the vaguely socialistic-sounding stuff... so modern "Vichy" unions have only their own personal benefit to consider.

Naum said...

Re a mac laptop.

My house is full of Macs now and I own 2 Mac Book Pro machines…


1) is it as important to buy the extended warranty for a mac laptop as it is for a PC laptop?


You have a year to decide (to extend to 3 years). For my work machine and Mrs. Naum machine I opted for AppleCare… …I've found Apple tech support to be much more responsive with it, even on Apple stuff (i.e., Airport Express, iPods) that I didn't purchase the AppleCare for…

2) do people like having a .mac account? I never saw the need and I’m not sure it’s worth the cost.

Seems to be a waste of money with little payback, though an imap email account and limited iDisk space are alluring to some, but I believe mostly a set of Mac faithful for which Apple does no wrong ever…

3) Does parallels run automatically? Then you need to buy the XP you’ll use?

Yes, there is a convergence mode that plops your Windows app icons right into your OS X dock. But you will have to plunk down dough for a copy of Windows XP (or Vista).

Does Parallels simplyu let you install Linux instead of XP? What version’s best and simplest?

Yes. In fact you can have any number of virtual machines. I use it sometimes to test web server stuff… …I think any Linux distribution can be installed, but at present, I am partial to Ubuntu…

5) If my new mac comes with updated iLife... can I then install the new iLife on my other macs at home from the same disks?

I'm sure it's doable, but I have not done it… …seems like you could just drag the app off of the disk onto your Applications folder but I am not certain that Apple hasn't imposed some restriction to prevent copying on to machines other than the one you bought… …though I will say you probably don't want to go through any install wizard to install…

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon the Malevolent again)

Not only are people motivated by more than money, history combined with evidence shows that people are primarily motivated by non-monetary considerations. Take a look at the open-source movement, including Wikipedia and the linux projects. Conventional economics says these things can't exist. Conventional economics says humans are homo oeconomicus, creatures who base their actions solely on rational calculations of personal gain. If that were accurate, none of these open-source projects in which people work for free could possibly exist. Conventional economics is the confection of imbeciles, intended for the bamboozlement of ignorant fools. Conventional economics has no observable connection with reality.

Dr. Brin energetially dissed Marx's labor theory of value -- and Marx's labor theory of value deserves to get slammed. Most of it is crazy, foolish, and dead wrong. Viz., Marx asks (according to his labor theory of value) how can the capitalist make a profit off hi/r workers' labor? And Marx comes up with the answer: "Only by exploiting them." But that's stupid. Capitalists can make a profit off their workers' labor in 3 ways: [1] by leveraging market inefficiencies (i.e., if the capitalist knows that the widgets his workers build cost $10 each in America and sell for only $11 in America but can sell for $50 each in Japan, the capitlist makes money); [2] by economies of scale (viz., if the capitalist realizes it costs $9 to manufacture each $11-selling widget in qty 100 but 9 cents to manufacture each $11-selling widget in qty 1 million, the capitalist makes money); and [3] by innovating and inventing an entirely new kind of widget (viz., building the first personal computer, as Woz & Jobs did, a widget for which no market existed until they built it).

None of these glaringly obvious answers appear to have occurred to Karl Marx, leading us to question whether he was drunk or brain-damaged when he scribbled Das Kapital.

And yet...

...And yet, Marx's labor theory of value does touch on something profound and basic in economics. Yes, Marx's labor theory of value is mostly nonsense...but there's a kernel of absolute truth in it. Namely, people have an innate sense that there should be some vague conneciton between the amount of skill and expertise required to do a job, and the pay you get. There should also be some vague connection twixt how successfully you do your job and what you get paid.

Marx's labor theory of value proved accurate insofar as it identified fairness as a crucial economic variable. Conventional economists ignore fairness in their heartless calculations. According to conventional economists, if a CEO raises shareholder value, then the CEO deserves every possible perk. But when you get a CEO who amended his employment contract to allow the corporate jet to chauffeur his daughter to high school in California from her home in Colorado every day
http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/tech/article/0,2777,DRMN_23910_5691030,00.html

...This creates a gross sense of unfairness. Everyone realizes this just isn't right. No matter how much shareholder value that QUEST CEO allegedly created, this is just over the top. It's wrong. And everybody recognizes it instinctively. This kind of gross economic unfairness destroys the social glue that binds people together. And it prompts phone customers to shut down their phone lines and move to VOIP, or say "the hell with it!" and just use P2P to download TV shows and computer programs. Because when everyone perceives the system is grossly unfair, people stop having a stake in the system. They stop caring. And society starts to fall apart.

Democracy depends on people having a stake in the system. What Karl Marx realized, in a distorted and stunted way with his mostly-wrong labor theory of value, is that when people perceive the entire system as being crassly unfair, democracy starts to break down. In short, you can't do democracy in a sufficiently oligarchical society where the distribution of wealth is too greatly skewed toward the top.

This is the real reason why it's important to flatten the income distribution. Without reasonable limits to income inequality, you don't get democracy -- and without democracy, you don't get innovation and you can't get correction of bad ideas and you don't get productivity.

To put it bluntly, since 99% of the productivity gains of the last 30 years in America went to the top 1% of society, while over the last 30 years the middle class's standard of living has either remarined flat or declined slightly, it's obvious that (as one the bottom 99%) no matter what I invent or create, it's not going to raise my standard of living. So why should the bottom 99% of society care whether America's GDP rises? Why should we give a damn whether America innovates to produce new technology like flatscreen TVs with hi-def video? If I can't afford 'em, what does it matter to me? Why do I care whether America has fast broadband or slow broadband if I can't afford broadband at all and I'm stuck on dialup? Why should I care whether America has the world's best universities if my hypothetical kids are priced out of going to 'em?

Robert Putnam's book Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital touches on this. Not coincidentally, he notes a drastic decline in social capital during exaclty the period when the distribution of wealth has gotten wildly skewed toward the top (mid 70s to today).

The Post-Autistic Economics movement inside the academy approaches this issue from a different angle:
www.paecon.net/

So even though Karl Marx's labor theory of value was mostly foolish and wrong, we shouldn't dismiss it out of hand, because it does address a core issue in economics.

On a lighter note...

What would we do without these highly educated experts to advise us?
http://www.mostfunnypictures.com/pics/191.jpg

----------

Here's my 2 cents on Dr. Brin's laptop question -- buy a piece-of-crap used antique P3 1Ghz laptop with 256 megs on ebay for $199 and put Ubuntu linux on it. Total cost: 1/6 of the price of a new MacBook, 1/4 of the cost of a new Windows Vista laptop. As a side benefit, you'll never have to worry about viruses again. (Use the older Ubuntu 6.01 LTS, Edgy Eft, because that one requires only 256 megs. The new Ubuntu 7.1, Gutsy Gibbon, requires 384 megs of RAM.)

Why do I keep suggesting these kinds of things when I know nobody's ever going to listen to me...? (Sigh)

Naum said...

Hannity "wins" on his show because Colmes is just there to act as the sacrificial strawman. In fact, the show is structured as such that Colmes is never permitted to address Hannity directly — he must respond through a show guest.


When you act like a rational, person, you look like Colmes. Hannity always wins on his show, because the pasty Liberal looks like a wimp -- no other reason. It is always a tough American MAN vs. the wimp -- you can turn the sound off on that show and understand better, the REAL dynamics that Fox uses. Virile guys and hot women in suits discussing the horrors of the Liberal society corrupting our morals to people who go to strip clubs for a sales meeting on Friday night, and then to Church and talk about not getting "Left Behind."

David Brin said...

I have a fantasy.

There are about a dozen guys who could tip our present situation, simply by stepping forward and fessing up.

If Colin Powel were to step forward and express his righteous anger over what was done to him, the lies he was told to tell... and his complicity in creating a situation that grievously harmed the nation he loves. Wouldn't he suddenly become relevant again? Instead of a bitter, ghostlike figure, like Clarence Thomas?

If Alan Colmes were to stand up and admit: "I have been a shill for years, playing up to Hannity, and I am through," wouldn't he become a hero... and... and suddenly get an actual career? (Not on Fox, of course.)

If some member of the R'oil house, some resentful lower-order prince, were NOT to vent his frustration by diving deeper into W'h'abbism, or wallowing in drunken western pleasures, but simply leak to us out west the real deal about those photos of W with a pony?

Did anyone see that picture of W BOWING before King Ab'dullah. Yes, it was to receive a "medal". But will no one copy and viral that image?

NoOne said...

zorgon laments "Why do I keep suggesting these kinds of things when I know nobody's ever going to listen to me...? (Sigh)"

I switched to linux in....1998! I have not regretted the move since I have learned so much from linux compared to what my friends and colleagues have learned from windows and osx. After you use linux for a while, your confidence level skyrockets since you know how to solve problems that arise or how to find instant help - via forums, blogs and the like - or find the same problem and solution reported by someone else. linux and open source are the scientific process exported to society at large.

scottynx said...

John Maudlin is wrong about illegal immigrants, even after you mentally adjust for the sheer absurdity of his estimates of consumer spending and gdp growth. Illegals are 3.5 to 4.5% of the population and earn wages far less than the average US wage, so it seems inconceivable to me how without them consumer spending would go down 7%. productivity down 10-15%? LOL.

They should all be deported. Third world immigration, except from east asia whose inhabitants have in aggregate proved capable of rapidly building soon-to-be 1st world civilizations, should cease. US hispanics are incarcerated at 3 times the non-hispanic white rate. They have an illegitimacy rate of 49.9% [1]. The incarceration rate of mexicans goes up 8-fold from the first to the second generation [2], so focusing on the short term low-crime rate 1st generation is a grave mistake.

1. National Vital Statistics Reports, Births: Preliminary Data for 2006
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/nvsr56_07.pdf

2. "Debunking the Myth of Immigrant Criminality", under heading "Second Generation"
http://www.migrationinformation.org/Feature/display.cfm?id=403