Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Science fiction, science fact, and misc wonders

Making a series of announcements can offer an excuse to slip in one extra posting, this month... so....

shoresteadingHere's a special offer for Hugo Award voters (and everybody else)! Baen's UNIVERSE Magazine has now posted my new novella "Shoresteading" (now available on my website for open-free access to anybody who wants to read a rollicking, near future adventure story, set in a world of rising seas, big ideas and strange hopes!

I provided the very first editorial for the newly launched site of SIGMA - the “think tank of scientific science fiction authors.” SIgma formalizes what has long been a practice at many government agencies of consulting SF writers about our area of most intense interest -- the future and processes of change. The theme of my editorial is one I have discussed before... the increasing brittleness of our civilization - one in which we depend ever-more upon a paint-thin layer of skilled professionals to anticipate and protect us from all possible dangers.  An approach that is fragile and deeply contrary to the American tradition.  We need to remember our roots, as a civilization that has always depended, also, upon resiliency.

Rounding out a list of “David Brin announcements...”

temptationStarship Sofa has produced -- on its audio magzine Aural Delights a spoken version of my story “Temptation.” The narration is by Julie Davis. A story by Geoff Ryman makes the lengthy experience worthwhile.
   
The second part of “Temptation” is also up (1hr 20min in to the show). Part 3 will appear soon. (The text of the story Temptation is also available on my website.)

==OTHER INTERESTING ITEMS==

Toys of tomorrow! 

A fascinating epistemological analysis ‘The trouble with conspiracy theories’ by Edward Feser, addresses some of the matters I have raised before, e.g. the difficulty of recruiting - and maintaining loyalty from - skilled henchmen in any sort of large scale and ongoing/concealed betrayal of the proncipal belief systems that most of them were brought up in.  Neither Fesr nor I deny the existence of small scale conspiracies.  In fact, I believe he downplays conspiracies too much.

There are many logical holes in his neat refutation. For example, there are ways that  a tight-knit “inner conspiracy” of a few fanatics could control much larger groups who did not consciously think of themselves as committing a betrayal.  (Suppose, for example, just half a dozen blackmailed/suborned men held the highest offices in a nation; they could then appoint fools and delusionally partisan rationalizers into lower positions, who could then achieve high levels of damage without the ever becoming aware that they were doing so.  The same effect can be achieved through clever use of prodigious amounts of cash.)  Still, it is an interesting perspective.

Come to the San Diego Science Festival this year. 

Speaking of which, see a lovely essay about how the “rightful place” of science is not only in making better tools for a better world, but in teaching by far the highest moral values.

The color red can make people’s work more accurate, and blue can make people more creative.

Google Earth now lets you zoom around Mars.

Note the following might be claimed as a predictive hit on my part... even though some aspects of the reportage itself strike me as, well, a bit fishy. Researchers in Great Britain and the United States have imaged the first high definition imprints that dolphin sounds make in water. The resulting "CymaGlyphs" are reproducible patterns that are expected to form the basis of a lexicon of dolphin language, each pattern representing a dolphin "picture word."

The CymaScope captures actual sound vibrations imprinted in the dolphin's natural environment -- water, revealing the intricate visual details of dolphin sounds for the first time.  "There is strong evidence that dolphins are able to 'see' with sound, much like humans use ultrasound to see an unborn child in the mother's womb," said Florida based dolphin researcher Jack Kassewitz. "The CymaScope provides our first glimpse into what the dolphins might be 'seeing' with their sounds."  The CymaScope will be used to image the sounds so that each CymaGlyph will represent a dolphin "picture word." The ultimate aim is to speak to dolphins with a basic vocabulary of dolphin sounds and to understand their responses."

There is growing evidence that dolphins can take a sonic "snapshot" of an object and send it to other dolphins, using sound as the transmission medium, so the dolphin's primary method of communication may be picture based.


It sure SOUNDS like what I described many years ago....    (Alas, the link stopped working.  As I expected, it may have been too good to be true.)

See the web site of my friend and fellow author T. Jackson King, who has posted a cool variety of stories and chapters.

See an incredibly alien place on Earth

---
“A major Indian-German geoengineering expedition set sail this week for the Scotia Sea, flouting a U.N. ban on ocean iron fertilization experiments in hopes of garnering data about whether the process  actually does take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequester it in the deep ocean, a technique that may help reverse global warming.”  There are so many variables.  (1) I cannot believe that iron will do this all by itself.  Indeed, we should start by replicating nature and doing ocean fertilization by stirring up mud from the ocean bottom... exactly as I depicted in EARTH.  (2) One issue is iron-caused acidification.  (3) Also, could this stimulate more “desert ocean” areas to be useful fisheries?  By itself worth testing.  (4) There are also regions e.g in the Gulf of Mexico, that are dying of Eutrophy or too MUCH fertilizer washing in from farms up the MIssissippi.  In those cases, installing bubblers that inject air into the water might cause fisheries and CO2 absorption.”

China officially started construction of a Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the largest in the world, in a remote southwest region on Friday. Preparation and research for the project took some 14 years. The dish-like telescope, as large as 30 football fields, will stand in a region of typical Karst depressions in Guizhou Province when it's done in 2013.  FAST's main spherical reflector will be composed of 4,600 panels. Its observation sensitivity will be 10 times more powerful than the 100-m aperture steerable radio telescope in Germany. Its overall capacity will be 10 times larger than what is now the world's largest (300 m) Arecibo radio telescope developed by the United States, according to Nan Rendong, the chief scientist of the project and an NAO researcher

Mike Gannis stumbled on this Wikipedia entry for a clever but terribly meanspirited British “reality” show.

  As Stefan Jones pointed out: “We are as gods and might as well get used to it. So far, remotely done power and glory as via government, big business, formal education, church has succeeded to the point where gross obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate, personal power is developing power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG." And now, they have finally put a lot of the WHOLE EARTH archives from 1968-1971 online.  Have a look at this marvel. Why, it's like finding out that people were trying hard to invent the internet before there were personal computers!  So far just a few of the articles are PDFs. But literally thousands of pages of the ginormous Whole Earth Catalogs and the various journals have been scanned in. Go flip through the first 20 or so pages of The Last Whole Earth Catalog; it's like finding a sub-index of the Encyclopedia Galactica.

I highly recommend looking at the site for Random Acts of Conditionless Kindness (RACK) offering ways to do little things that help a lot.

imagesBruce Willis’s film SURROGATES will appear in September.  “Set in a futuristic world where humans live in isolation and interact through surrogate robots, a cop (Willis) is forced to leave his home for the first time in years in order to investigate the murders of others’ surrogates.”  And yes, it does eat off the same plate as KILN PEOPLE... with also some resemblance to Asimov’s THE NAKED SUN.  Ah well.  I will forgive all if it turns out to be an actual original movie that’s smart and well done!  In this era when most studio execs should be shot for cowardice and lack of imagination, that’d be really something.

Researchers Evaluate Climate Cooling Potential of Different Geoengineering Schemes.

Among highlights:

*Existing activities that add phosphorous to the ocean may have greater long-term carbon sequestration potential than deliberately adding iron or nitrogen. COMMENT: Then farm fertilizer runoff may not be so bad?  Theplume of algae that is "killing the Gulf of Mexico" comes to mind.  Might such a site be the best place to seed iron, to try shifting the bloom from algae to plankton?  Or would such a plume better reach its potential by bubbling in air, so that anoxic conditions reverse and algae-eaters can then swoop in, turning the region into both a new fishery and a carbon sink?

* On land, sequestering carbon in new forests and as bio-char (charcoal added back to the soil) have greater short-term cooling potential than ocean fertilization as well as benefits for soil fertility.
-----
Interesting anti-cynicism from the Progressive Policy Institute:

In dollar terms, America's ties with poor nations span aid, charity, trade, and remittances. Government aid and private charity flows, at $22 billion and $9 billion, account for the least money but are essential in emergencies and can bolster public health, primary education, and other public services. Remittances are larger -- immigrants send at least $45 billion home from the United States each year  raising family incomes in rural districts and urban slums. Imports from low-income countries, excluding energy and goods from China, totaled $405 billion (or $35 billion per month) in 2007. This is a much larger figure than those for aid, charity and remittances, but complements rather than replaces them by supporting tens of millions of middle-class and lower-middle class urban jobs and raising farm incomes, in poor countries.

A quick table on the U.S. role in poor-country finance, excluding energy and China, as of 2007, finds the United States buying about a quarter of poor-country exports; providing a fifth of foreign direct investment, foreign aid, and remittances; and accounting for nearly two-thirds of charitable donations.

The World Bank defines "absolute poverty" as life on $1.25 a day or less (in constant 1993 dollars) and has estimated poverty rates on this basis back to 1981. In that year, 52 percent of the world's people were very poor. By 1990, the figure was 42 percent. In 2005, the most recent year available, only 25 percent of the world's people were very poor. East Asia recorded the most progress, with the absolute-poverty rate falling from 78 percent in 1981, to 55 percent in 1990, and 16 percent in 2005. In one generation, then, Asian poverty fell from the near-universal experience of life to the sad exception. Drops elsewhere in the world have been slower but real: Since 1981, Latin America has cut absolute poverty from 13 percent to 8 percent; India and its neighbors from 60 percent to 40 percent; the Middle East from 8 percent to 4 percent; Africa from 54 percent to 51 percent. In eight low-to-middle income countries without oil -- Chile, Jamaica, Mexico, Uruguay, Egypt, Jordan, Thailand, and Malaysia -- the absolute-poverty rate has fallen below two percent. Conclusion: if poor countries have good education, financial, infrastructure, anti-corruption, and other policies; if they are free of wars and coups; and if rich countries help through aid, trade and easy remittance, poverty often falls quickly and permanently.

        United States World Total


Goods imports*     $405 billion ~$1.8 trillion
Service imports     $71 billion ~$350 billion
Remittances**     $45 billion $248 billion
 investment     $41 billion $215 billion
Foreign aid     $22 billion $105 billion
Private charities     $9 billion $15 billion

* Excluding oil, gas, fuel and Chinese goods. With energy and China trade, the figure was $1.1 trillion.
** $248 billion in total


 The World Bank charts the decline of poverty, 1981-2005.

All right, that last excerpt was a bit long.  But it's thought provoking and suggests there still may be hope.

61 comments:

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi,
Sorry to deviate but reading some of the reviews on the stimulus package I was struck with a thought.
Banks do not have a large structure, there are no machine tools or assembly lines to build,
All you need to set up a bank is an office building and some money.
Would it not be better for the government to lend some start-up money to some upright individuals
(not connected with the present mess)to start up a whole new set of banks and funds.
then the "Old" banks can be allowed to die in peace
Would this not be a lot cheaper and more effective way to restore the financial system

The spending part of the stimulus would still be needed of course

Don said...

It would sound like SURROGATES is based on the comic by a fellow named Venditti. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1891830872/?tag=comicsworthreadi&link_code=as3&creative=373489&camp=211189

It's one of the best stories I read that year and I highly recommend it. If the film mines even half of the themes in the book it'll be excellent.

William_Shatner said...

DB -- I love a lot of your comments on this topic, but I have to publish my long diatribe here -- but please read this because I think it is important:

>> I was listening to Thom Hartman today, from his broadcast yesterday. We are finally 90% in alignment -- he now sees that Obama's reaching across the isle was a big mistake.

>> The problem is, that the "jobs bill" is not big enough and not fast enough to solve the problem. We lost $6 Trillion in housing alone -- and the Derivatives have not hit yet (that's a Quadrillion). Because every country that counts uses fractional reserve banking, when you pay off a debt, or default on one, money contracts (or is destroyed).

While, Obama is trying to get support from blue-dog Democrats and Republicans, who were indifferent to the plight of Americans losing homes, back when this would have cost about $15 Billion -- and the senate gutted it out, as John Kerry pointed out. The lack of future prospects for housing and employment, causes jobs to be cut, which reduces the marketplace expectations for sales, which stops loans for mortgages, and the cycle repeats, losing ever more jobs.

Those folks who say; "We can't afford this $850 Billion on a stimulus plan" don't see the Jobs Bill would CREATE MORE MONEY SUPPLY. Here is how; say you own a company that makes solar panels in the USA. The government says that it will invest $100 Billion into subsidies for homeowners to get solar panels. Wow, that's something you can take to the bank. Not a lot of companies chasing that much money who make solar panels around these parts. People who want to make money (not hard to find), will look at your company as a honey pot and will INVEST.

The solar panel company now hires workers. Employment goes up. You've already started putting money INTO the economy, and creating MORE MONEY, because the bank loans and investments going after the easy money -- not one dime has been spent yet, but the economy increased. The local restaurant hires a waiter because of your company's growth, MORE MONEY. That's why we get back MORE than we spend when we invest IN AMERICAN JOBS. Education and infrastructure and food stamps -- all increase the economy more than they cost. Why isn't this common knowledge? Such egalitarian ideas don't allow for Economic Royalists to run things -- you see, some people like the Bush family, would rather rule in Hell than Serve in Heaven. This is what makes the world go round.

Every day, that we wait -- there are another 30,000 jobs cut. With Median salary, lets say that represents about $40,000 a head. Any company that services those people will be looking at lower sales in the future. The banks won't loan to them, or refinance anything, because they know it too.

So, WAITING, is costing us Trillions. The Republicans, for 30 years have been trying to bankrupt government -- and now is their chance to kill it off, and get rid of all social spending as the cause of the collapse.

It would have been so easy for Bush to have put money towards the middle class and stave this off -- he did the exact opposite. Anything that affected LOCAL American jobs, protected local production like tariffs and such has been stripped. Wars that ship wealth overseas were stepped up. Tax breaks to millionaires who can move money offshore, helped to weaken this more, and put more mad money into the Derivatives Time Bomb.

>> Can Obama borrow another $250 Billion from China? Maybe this quarter but by next year -- not likely. Many nations -- as Thom Hartmann predicted and I've been predicting, will probably trade cash for buying up THINGS in the USA. So, our money supply might go back up inside the country, while the dollar becomes devalued because we are printing and nations are trying to reduce their holdings.

That is, if China doesn't move towards stimulating their own GDP with a convenient war.

>> So, the stimulus is probably going to NOT BE ENOUGH, while our country gets sold off bit by bit.

The best political choice in that situation is find someone to blame. If Obama puts forth a weak stimulus bill with Republican tax cuts in there -- they will of course, sabotage it and discover that we have to borrow money to spend. They will be shocked! How could the Democrats and their wasteful socialism have ruined the economy so much?

This summer, it is likely we will have 25% unemployment -- because by every metric, production is down 25% in many key areas. Steel is down 45% and trains and sitting idle. We will have soup lines and lots of angry people.

Here is a sobering point of view; I'll Drink To That

The people will be looking for someone to blame. That is reality. Either you start a truth and reconciliation investigation, trading immunity for honesty NOW -- or those same damn people are going to be stampeding the crowd in your direction. Do you really want to sign onto a Bill that looks like it crashed the market?

>> Here is what I would do -- and I really hope someone in Obama-land is listening; throw up your hands and say; "I hear what Republicans, and some of the more economically conservative Democrats have been saying; 'we can't borrow and spend on Americans.' Well, in an unprecedented show of bi-partisanship, I will yield to the concerns of my esteemed Colleagues. If they can give me a bill that THEY think will solve America's crisis -- then I will sign it one week from now. I do not ask Democrats to sign the bill, unless they were some of those that wanted more tax breaks and more of the same that we've had for 8 years. You had better think long and hard about how to make this work -- because I'm putting the credit along with the responsibility in your hands."

As there will be a screech of wheels as the loudest backpedaling in the history of the world commences -- Obama should cajole them; "Where are your convictions? I'm giving you the golden opportunity, to do ANYTHING that your Conservative leadership has wanted in their fantasy dreams of throwing off the yoke of Liberalism. I am handing you the brass key to the city, and I'm only asking Progressives and Liberal Democrats to stand out of your way."

>> While the bill flounders, and some succumb to the pork and tax favors they wanted,.. you should have public hearings with Bush underlings given immunity, to talk about all the sweet-heart deals they made with multinational corporations (even before you get into the REALLY bad stuff and domestic spying).

>> There is no way to make this country better right now, without a good course of chemo-therapy, before the cancer metastasizes. You are going to have to control the fall and point the people at the right target -- there is really no choice. The people you are trying to entreat with their conscience, have long ago devolved to merely Pavlovian responses to Greed and Fear. Give them both. Do it now.

The true crimes and perpetrators need to be outed, BEFORE you can solve anything else. I'm sure that Obama thinks he can rescue things -- but smarter economic minds who could have prevented this, have been running the ship of state into an iceberg for the past few years -- there is no way to stop it. You cannot turn a ship this size so quickly.

It is going to have to get worse to get better. It may get ugly. You have to channel that stampede -- you cannot stand it its way. The Republicans would have sent us into another war, blaming some external threat. Without that redirection, the rage will turn inward. It is going to either be Liberals or Conservative institutions that take the heat. Choose now.

William_Shatner said...

@ Duncan Cairncross,...

You idea of course about banks makes sense. A bank without money is about as useful as a bucket with a hole in it.

People with money in banks have FDIC insurance.

People with more than $100,000 (and now I think it got raised suddenly to $250,000) have nothing to fear. Payroll might get disrupted for a week or two, but the states and Fed could pick up the slack -- easily with the kind of money they wanted to use to bail out banks.

What your suggesting, would be to leave the very wealthy high and dry as a result of their risky financial decisions. For that reason, it will never happen. Personal Responsibility is only for people making less than $100,000 with two kids to feed.

kwhilden said...

Hi David,
Would you like a copy of our new white paper on iron fertilization? Send me an email at kwhilden at climos.com

Cliff said...

Steven Sweet of the Charles G. Koch Foundation

Is that radical right-wing libertarian Charles Koch, founder of the Cato Institute, brother to David Koch who is currently running an ad campaign to discredit global warming?

http://wonkroom.thinkprogress.org/2009/02/11/koch-billionaire-ads/

David Brin said...

Look, of course the Cato guys are whores and most of the libertarian movement is made up of frantic "mensa nincompoops" who cannot even parse the words "falsifiable prediction."

Nevertheless, the libertarians form the one part of the reactionary alliance that OUGHT to be approachable by sane people, to draw them out of fetishism and Karl Rove's hypnotic spell and get them to actually read Adam Smith, some time.

Once they remember that their creed should be "more freedom" not "hate all government," then they could become fierce allies against the re-imposition of feudalism.

Well, it oughta be so.

Tony Fisk said...

wrt Duncan's thoughts on banks:

Would it not be better for the government to lend some start-up money to some upright individuals

This BBC article gives an interesting insight on 'AP', a banker who was not a 'bankster'. There is an ironic twist at the end of the tale; one which suggests that such a initiative shouldn't be expected to last on its own (but I think we should realise that by now)

'cidene': pain killer derived from applejack.

Cliff said...

On Koch - I realize Think Progress is pushing an agenda as well. The Wikipedia entry for Charles Koch paints a lot more rosy picture, but of course it's Wikipedia.

I just thought I would put forth the small bit of context I have for the Koch family.

Anders Brink said...

Duncan Cairncross,

Your idea is exactly the same thought I have months ago when Lehman Brothers collapsed. STOP BAILING OUT THE OLD BANKS. START NEW BANKS. Why can't people in America see that? From here, across the pacific, this idea seems obvious to the point of silliness. But why is nobody over there even discussing it if not doing it?

After all, most savings are guaranteed by FDIC insurance, so the little guy is well protected. Who benefits by the bank bailouts?
Who benefits with new banks? Think about that for a while, and let the horror of that sink in.

Anonymous said...

Dude, any thoughts on the "pardon tsunami" that never happened? That would seem to be a major "miss" for you. Perhaps you've addressed this elsewhere but I haven't found it.

Tony Fisk said...

David has accepted a predictions loss on the pardon tsunami.

Maybe 'they' didn't feel the need? I have noted that there is a foil to the disinfecting power of light: blatant exhibitionism. We've seen this recently in some hopelessly corrupt regimes such as Zimbabwe and Myanymar (and Hussein's Iraq) It is assumed that people caught doing wrong in the spotlight will be shamed off the stage. Decent people would be. These are not decent people, and I don't think governing forces have quite got the hang of that traditional 'yanking' stick yet. Psychopaths don't do evil simply for the evilness of it, either. They sometimes genuinely don't get it that pulling the legs of insects or people for their personal pleasure is harming anyone. I can remember overhearing a prominent Australian business man John Elliot defending himself over a fraud allegation. He was asked what his obligations to shareholders were. It should have been a simple question. Yet, astonishingly, it took him three attempts to come up with a reasonable answer.

===

wrt starting new banks, this is the sort of thing that the Australia's Bank of Bendigo started a few years ago, when the 'big four' abandoned country branches en masse in favour of lower cost online banking. The message came through as: we don't care about you and your piddling little communities.

So, Bendigo started up a community bank franchise. It took off like a rocket. I don't know how well they are weathering the current situation, though.

nomors: sentiments echoed after every disaster

David Brin said...

I was just interviewed by the BBC regarding the crash of the Russian and Iridium satellites. Listen in if you have reception... and interest.



Spread word to sci fi fans about my novella at Universe online.

If you like the story etc
http://www.baens-universe.com/articles/Shoresteading__Part_One

Then subscribe! Type in coupon code EE329517B2

- which is good for $5 off any subscription!


I also have TWO running comdies, another novella and soon an editorial!!!

Sociotard said...

Interesting story from tennesee:

One GOP in the Tennesee legislature broke party lines to oppose a Republican for the Speaker position. The Republicans responded by terminating his party affliation. Result? Republicans no longer have a majority. There are equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, with (now) one Independent.

Read all about Kent Williams in this story

Robert said...

Here's a quick thought I'll go into more detail about later when I have time:

Why should the return to the moon be a solitary expedition paid for by one nation alone, or by competing nations? Shouldn't we learn lessons from the International Space Station and work as a global community to send an international expedition to the moon to create an international lunar base, so that all the world can share of Luna's resources in time?

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Gilmoure said...

Ran across this on a tumblr blog. I'm really having a difficult time wrapping my head around this whole invisible pink unicorn dollar trading thing so I'm asking ya'll; is there anything to this guy's take on it?

Crazy Nut Job said... Ahem. For anyone gathering, you might want to read this or this. Any decent primer on the credit default swap market will help. We’ll come back to it.

Typically, when a bank fails (and all our financial institutions are now banks), the FDIC does do something akin to Swedish-style temporary nationalization. Actually, sometimes it is so temporary, it doesn’t even happen. The FDIC tries to line up a buyer of a failed bank before they even make their move. How much sooner? I don’t know. Some banks can’t find buyers right away, and they are effectively nationalized by the FDIC. Remember IndyMac? They became IndyMac Federal. This is the natural order of things.

But, what happens in a big bank failure? The bank fails because it has more debt than assets. It is insolvent. First, equity holders are wiped out (there’s no equity. If there were, everyone says “oops” and moves on). The bank defaults on its bonds. Bondholders are converted to equity holders. The banks assets are sold off. The government is given a senior position (to cover, say, FDIC insurance funds). The government is payed off (unless the government really f*cked up on valuing the assets), and the remaining dollars are passed on to the bondholders. There are two consequences of this.

Consequence 1: The resulting fire sale causes the market value of similar assets to fall. If the bank was big enough, this could be a big drop. This isn’t exactly absorbed quickly. Prices tend to stick to the downside. Any other big bank that marks their assets to market risks insolvency. An interesting chain reaction can result.

Consequence 2: Remember those Credit Default Swaps? They trigger. Bondholders who got 80 cents on the dollar get to collect the remaining 20 cents from the counterparty of the CDS. If the counterparty has the money, they pay out. But that’s a big if. That counterparty may be a big bank that just took a huge blow to their balance sheet when they marked stuff to market. Paying out could cause them to become insolvent (if they aren’t already). How big is the CDS problem? Nobody really knows yet (there are some efforts underway to figure this out). Actually, there’s some speculation that the answer is “Armageddon Big.”

Aside: Think this is limited to the unregulated CDS market? Think again. Someone bad at math decided that if someone has a 1% chance of completely defaulting on $100 of bonds, then a bond insurer should have $1 in reserves. This is the expectation value. For it to be useful, it relies on something called the “Law of Large Numbers.” California used to insure their bonds with companies like Ambac and MBIA. If California defaulted, the reserves would have been insufficient to pay for the insured amount. See, you need many California sized clients with uncorrelated default risks to use the law of large numbers. Otherwise, why are you paying for insurance if there is absolutely no chance that the insurer could pay out?

When Bear Stearns failed, there was a good chance that JP Morgan would have imploded. That would have caused a chain reaction with certainty. The media reported that the Fed bailed out Bear Stearns by financing JP Morgan’s takeover. That’s not entirely accurate. Those $29 billion in loss protections saved JP Morgan. It also bought time.

People tried to clean things up. Loss provisions were increased, and some deleveraging happened. Well, it appeared that way. Assets that could be sold for a good price were sold. Assets that couldn’t fetch a good price weren’t sold, and they weren’t marked to market (they might have well been sold if they were going to be marked to market). Instead, they were marked to fantasy. But, the fantasy made some deleveraging possible without appearing insolvent.

Then Lehman failed. The big players realized that their books couldn’t be marked to market anymore. Several hedge funds went under. Fortunately, this shrunk the size of the CDS market. It wasn’t enough, and AIG was nationalized to prevent its bonds from triggering the cascade. AIG was a large player in the CDS market. If it disappeared as a counterparty, everyone holding AIG CDS protected bonds would have their risk metrics go twirly. The government is still working on chopping AIG up for sale.

Could you imagine if the government nationalized all of these companies at once? Actually, nobody knows what would have happened, but it could have been bad. Have you ever seen $30 Trillion disappear in a day? The scenario is that the institutions would have all collapsed in a domino fashion, quickly. Either a lot of people and institutions would have lost a lot of money, or the US government would have effectively quadrupled its debt obligations in a very short period of time. Either scenario was frightening. Exploding the national debt would have bankrupted the United States (Iceland style). Having all that magic wealth disappear would have been equally bad (maybe). The stock market and bond markets would have instantly disappeared (they froze pretty well as it was).

That’s the doomsday scenario that Paulson and Bernanke pitched to the president and Congress.

The obvious question is, “Why not just invalidate the whole CDS market? Call a mulligan.” But there are many reasons not to do this. The first reason (and probably not the reason that convinced Bush) was that the Constitution states that the government is supposed to honor contracts, not burn them. The second reason is that many institutions were only able to pretend to be solvent because they had a CDS protecting otherwise worthless assets, and nullifying them would have caused the chain reaction anyway. The press likes to talk about the short raids encouraged by the CDS market. Such raids are mostly bogeyman stories. The third reason is that some sovereign wealth funds use such tools, and there would be immediate political consequences if they were nullified.

All of our largest institutions are insolvent right now. They are zombies. The real hole is so deep we have to try and hide the truth from the world and hope for a lucky break. We are philosophically predisposed to pulling the band aid off slowly instead of ripping it off. We’re optimists. We think that there’s got to be something we can do to fix this. We tend to ignore the mounting costs of each failed attempt. If you manage to keep your job the entire duration of this collapse, you’ll think the government made the right decision. If you are one of the 7.6% of unemployed Americans, you might wish that the band aid came off quicker and that we got this catastrophe over with quickly. Of course, that’s assuming you buy the doomsday scenario in the first place. Either way, because the government is going to try to do many things, it will declare victory when things turn around.

Actually, that’s extremely negative of me. There’s a chance that the time bought with all this will enable people to fix things. Efforts are already underway to create standardized CDS contracts and put them into some kind of clearing house. Then everyone can net out and know where everyone else stands. Then, the government can inflate the money supply slowly. The nominal value of debts will remain the same as the nominal value of assets rises, and insolvent institutions will become magically solvent. Of course, that requires a transfer of wealth from all savers and lenders to all debtors (that’s only part of what inflation does), but nobody is saving for a house or anything. Nobody puts their nest egg in cash. Well, nobody important, anyway.


So, are we living in a time of undead zombie banks, shambling across the earth, pooping on everything like dyspeptic undead dinosaur?

Sociotard said...

Shouldn't we learn lessons from the International Space Station . . .

Lesson learned from the International Space Station: If we try real hard and work together we can make something that doesn't work as well as hoped and costs more than anyone ever expected.

Gilmoure said...

Looks like private jets are on the outs right now. At least for public duties travel.

Flying Coach: Geithner Part Of Growing Bigwig Trend

It all started with the Big Three Detroit automakers, when they took corporate jets to Washington to plead for a taxpayer bailout.

But now, as profits plummet and cutting costs becomes paramount, shunning conspicuous consumption has become de rigeur. And coach class is the perfect way to show this one's lack of hubris:

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who flew coach this week, has company in new Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who recently flew economy to Washington D.C. Then there's Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, who flew to last month's Detroit Auto Show on Northwest Airlines.

William_Shatner said...

Hey is this a new hope for Libertarianism?

Here is a great article talking about Respecting Civil Liberties -- it gets to the heart of the LIBERTY thing that Libertarians forgot when they went crazy about stopping welfare and protecting their stuff, without looking enough at why people want to take your stuff, or maybe spreading enough stuff around and then letting you keep SOME stuff, but not all of it.

Anyway, here is the article.

And for grins, this is the DIGG discussion.

Arcanedesigns said...

Sorry to jump in off topic, but does anyone know what might be going on with the Puerto Rico earthquakes right now? It seems like it has been having 50 earthquakes a week for the last three to five months. Most centered in the ocean directly north of the island.

USGS Survey

That isn't normal, is it?

David Brin said...

what IS going on near Puerto Rico...?

Stefan Jones said...

The stars are right. The Old Ones have awakened.

"sestrili:" High Elvish word for spittoon.

David Brin said...

PR is about to get its own state quarter...

Oh!

Blackwater Security has changed its name and image. Gone is the Bear Paw symbol and now they are known as "Xe"

Brrrrrrrrrr!

Spread the word, folks. Don't let the ploy work. Make them know that "We see you."

Cliff said...

Hey, speaking of corrupt contractors:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/15/world/middleeast/15iraq.html?_r=2&pagewanted=1&hp

People might have already read this, but I figure it's a handy reference to prove the gross corruption in the Iraq war.

Anonymous said...

Fascinatingly ominous article about the huge and growing rage against Obama's victory by nearly half the population of America:
http://www.salon.com/ent/tv/int/2009/02/16/alexandra_pelosi/

Gorgeous CGI-generated scenes of futuristic cities created by ordinary folks:
http://abduzeedo.com/beautiful-3d-futuristic-scenes

Concert for the deaf uses a special chair to induce vibrant emotions in people who can't hear:
http://gigdoggy.wordpress.com/2009/02/09/concert-for-the-deaf-and-the-hard-of-hearing-in-toronto/

"Social collapse best practice" by Dmitri Orlov. Wildly funny (albeit exaggerated) view of America's financial meltdown.
http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2009/02/social-collapse-best-practices.html

1 in 9 housing units now vacant nationally.
http://www.usatoday.com/money/economy/housing/2009-02-12-vacancy12_N.htm?csp=34

"Could an alien astronomer have detected life on Earth during an ice age? Recent work has calculated how past climate extremes affected the light reflected from vegetation out into space. The results could give hope to our own search for life on distant worlds."
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/090212-am-iceage-aliens.html

"New report says treaties to reduce CO2 emissions are useless"
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7888994.stm

Guy sends cheap balloon, cheap digital camera and GPS tracker aloft 3 times, gets spectacular pics from 117,000 feet (!)
http://www.sbszoo.com/bear/sable/sable3.htm

Yale engineers revolutionize nano-device fabrication by using amorphous metals (metallic glass).
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2009-02/yu-yer020909.php

Fascinating historical discussion from a guy who designed trajectories for the Apollo missions:
http://www.resonancepub.com/interview3.htm

Studies prove bosses are nothing but hot air and ego. As Morbius remarked in Forbidden Planet, "Well, brains aren't required in a
commander, all you need is a good loud voice, eh?"
http://worldofweirdthings.com/2009/02/14/calling-all-boss-haters/

First trial of the leaders of the Khmer Rouge set to begin before a UN-backed commission. 30 years late, but finally!!!
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,493044,00.html

Ilithi Dragon said...

That Alexanda Pelosi article was a fascinating read, and it sounds like the video is a good, solid piece of journalism - I'm going to have to check it out.

That said, I disagree with the idea that the GOP is going to be having a strong comeback in 2010 or 2012. As Pelosi pointed out, a lot of the supporters of the GOP seemed uninformed about things, like the socialism they were so vehemently bashing. I think it highlights how so many Republicans are really fairly moderate conservatives, who just don't have all the information, or (like my parents), have trouble believing it all.

Another thing I wanted to note about that article, and the general sentiment of frustration/anger over losing the election that so many Republicans/Conservatives apparently have. The sentiment I have can be summed up by the phrase, "Join the club." Now they have some grasp of how the Liberals and Democrats, and many moderates/independents, and generally anyone who didn't vote for Bush felt after the 2000 and 2004 elections. But, the difference is that their complaint is that their candidate didn't get as much media coverage, where as the people who voted against Bush, especially in 2000, had bigger issues than that to complain/get angry about.

As for not being ready for change... I can sympathize with that, to a degree. Change can be hard, after all, it's rarely easy, it can be painful, and it's often very scary and disruptive. But we can't always wait for everyone to be ready before we change. If we did, we'd still have a booming slave trade and be singing God Save the Queen. Change happens whether we're ready for it or not, whether we want it or not. This is a change that we need, that we're long overdue for, and waiting for the people who still aren't ready simply is not acceptable any longer. It's time to move forward, lest we fall even further behind than we already have.

Gogra: An uncommon misspelling of Google when doing internet searches before the morning caffeine intake.

Cliff said...

I'm with Illithi - I believe Pelosi that that's what the conservatives are saying, but disagree with her conclusions.

On the one hand, there was a white supremacist in Maine who was mixing a dirty bomb because Obama was elected:
http://www.splcenter.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/fbi_maine021109.pdf

On the other, Obama still has a 60% approval rating:
http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/02/in-declining-approval-ratings-lessons.html

So she's not off base in saying that people are angry, but I think she's off base in saying half the country is furious at Obama.

I was also feeling some cognitive dissonance at how Pelosi said that these people feel left out and ignored:
"The media paints us to be fanatics. They treat us like hicks and we just go to Wal-Mart and we're rednecks. And they don't come to get to know us, and they go on stereotypes.".

But then her interview was chock full of people who think Obama is the Antichrist, people who are scared of socialism, people who are unhappy about our economy but don't want the government to intervene, people who use her family name as an insult.

It weakens her argument, to say the least, to say that the red staters have a legitimate and ignored POV, and then point out half a dozen people with crazy or ignorant POVs.
I mean come on:
. "He reminds me of Hitler" -- put that in once. I heard that every day at every rally. That doesn't mean that everybody who showed up at that rally felt that way, but just people on the camera.

Yeah, when you hear people comparing Obama to Hitler every day at every rally, maybe connect the dots.

David Brin said...

CSpan's poll of historians ranked Bush only 36th out of 42 in the presidential rankings. Those who beat him to the bottom were (starting from the bottom): James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, William Henry Harrison and Warren G. Harding.

(see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_rankings_of_U.S._Presidents

The first three are arguable with some strength, since when it comes to damage to the country, the two who preceded the Civil War and the one who allowed Reconstruction to turn into Jim Crow make up a convincing trio. We can hope that Bush's damage record never comes close to those three.

But Harrison? Come on! How much harm could he do in just one month? And Harding was a nitwit who did little actual damage. I suspect that they were dissed hard by Republican historians, in order to shove a couple more past Bush.

There is one way in which Bush could eventually plunge past Buchanan, even if the harm-level never matches. And that is if we find that the universally accepted explanation for his era -- "venal, dogmatic, moronic incompetence" - ever gets replaced with "they harmed us on purpose."

So far, only Tom Tomorrow and I ever even mention that possibility, which even I don't credit more than 30%. Nevertheless, it satisfies parsimony and Occam's Razor far better than the Standard Model. And if the "manchurian" explanation ever proves out, then W will easily win the honors, and hold it forever.

kwhilden said...

I am 100% certain that in 20 years, GWB will be at the bottom of the list by a country mile for his environmental legacy.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Ok, Dr. Brin, that's enough. You've gotten away with extra already, in the shortest month of the year. If you post any more, I will personally fly over there and kick you in the shins! >=|

That said, I agree with both you and Kwhilden that Bush's ranking will drop to dead last should a Manchurian scenario be uncovered, or in the next 20 years as the lasting impacts of his environmental policies (and non-policies) begin to be felt. And maybe even less than 20 years for the latter - this winter, I might as well have flipped a coin from day to day, to decide whether or not to wear a heavy winter jacket or just a light long-sleeve shirt. Yeah, weather shifts are common, and temperatures and patterns fluctuate from year to year, and I'm about 150 miles further south than where I grew up, but still... 20s and snowing one day, 60s the next, then 30s and snowing the day after? Three or four times already this year? Something isn't right...

Also, Obama has made it clear that he won't be pursuing investigations of his own, unless solid evidence of a crime is presented, but it's also very clear that he's opened the door for investigations independent of his administration to have a whack at the previous administration and accompanying cronies. I have little doubt that there are multiple such investigations underway already, both by private individuals and larger organizations such as various news organizations, etc. It will be interesting to see what they uncover, and the response to it. If it's truly dastardly, will the Psuedo-Cons (even calling them Neo-Cons isn't really that accurate anymore) try to weather it out and shout it down, or will there be a swarm of rats abandoning a sinking ship?

David Smelser said...

Blackwater's new name "Xe" is pronounce "Zee" as in Xena the warrior princess.

[from http://www.thespywhobilledme.com/the_spy_who_billed_me/2009/02/not-blackwater-but-xe-as-in-xena-warrior-princess.html ]

tacitus2 said...

I have not seen Ms. Pelosi's work. I have the impression that it is not widely known outside of, ahem, partisan circles. And that if her name were something else it would not be known there either.
Really, trying to form a balanced opinion of a political philosophy by attending rallies and interviewing the oddest people who would sign a waiver? (signing a waiver just about guarantees an odd perspective on the world).

Come on, my progressive fellow citizens, do you really think a similar project could not have been done at Obama rallies? Think we could find some people who regard him as a deity? How 'bout some who consider Palin a Nazi cow?

But its a free country, she can and should make what projects seem important to her. I salute the rights of sage and simpleton alike.

The danger of course is that dismissing your politcal opposite numbers as crazies ignores the possiblity that they may be right, or partially right, or potentially right.

The Economic Stimulus package is really an expansion of future debt on a gigantic scale. Were it proposed by a Republican president there would be howling to high heaven from all of you. And rightly so. But of our Hope and Change crew? Nary a peep of protest. Some say we should spend more.

This complacancy ill becomes you all. I can only conclude that you have a degree of faith in the integrity of the Democratic party that seems unsupported by even such facts as make it through the uncritical filters of our legacy media. Of course the new Sec. of Education will spend billions of dollars in stimulus money wisely. Heck, he used to run the Chicago school system, and we all know that it was such a high class outfit that Senator Obama proudly sent his kids to attend it. Naturally there will be no lobbyists in the Obama admin. He promised us. Oh, apart from the 17waivers that he granted at his discretion.

I continue to support the president in all efforts towards the good of the country. Where he seems misguided I will comment. Where he is acting towards partisan ends I must oppose.

You should expect nothing less from any citizen.

End of rant. Off to see the world. I hope to post in a couple weeks with some observations on how America is viewed in the middle east.

Tacitus2

David Brin said...

Happy trails Tacitus!

Stay safe!

(PS... I think that any rational person would call this stimulus bill part of Bush's debt and legacy, not Obama's. The consensus among economists is nearly 100% that something of its size is called for. Moreover, Bush's team was perfectly willing to demand and spend almost exactly the same amount, just a few months ago, with far less deliberation or oversight than the new bill.

(Does the new bill have a different emphasis and a Democratic/liberal lean? Sure. Instead of going directly to bankrupt and disastrously ill-managed banks, most is going to poor people and infrastructure and science. Indeed, I share some worry that parts of it will expand permanent entitlements and expectations.

(But the AMOUNT? No, this counts as Bush debt. 100%. He and his ilk caused the situation and set us up for the need.)

Tony Fisk said...

Happy wanderings, T2. Remember to distinguish between reactions to America and Americans.

At least the debt is being channelled into projects that our descendants will benefit from. (unlike evaporating as tax breaks for the current crop of redeless needless)

What was that about the economy being hopelessly damaged by efforts to mitigate climate change?

Guess what? A consensus is emerging about the costs of containing climate change. It's cheaper to act than not act! It isn't just those silly head in clouds boffins, either. It's... economists!

Xe?? Just say 'na!'
(Hmmm! to carry the theme a little further, wasn't the actress who played the part 'Lawless'?)

peratol: something you take for a gasoline hangover

Rob said...

Economically speaking it's always been cheaper to act than not act. Go down the list of things Al Gore's people actually want us to do. Higher energy efficiency. Denser populations where they're sensible. New technologies. Smart conservation efforts. Pricing things by their environmental impact, rather than merely their cost of manufacture.

Even if the planet were about to freeze into ice instead of warming, most of those things would make sense. They make sense independent of the idea of global warming.

Frankly, most of it is stuff the Boy Scouts taught me to do in the woods. Go figure.

---

To lay the state of this economy at the feet of President Bush would be to give a thousand other wealthy and culpable players a free pass. Let him be a symbol of the time, I suppose, but he wasn't the one who talked gramma into a reverse mortgage annuity with $20k in closing costs. Further, when I was offered the 100% equity mortgage package on my first house in this area, Bush was not the President.

One wonders if all the people responsible for that chicanery will meet with some kind of karmic answer.

Anonymous said...

The craziness continues: 4 GOP congressman have filed suit to force Obama to produce his birth certificate.
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_02/016910.php

My favorite outburst of right wing lunacy, though, remains this little
screed by Sean Hannity best buddy Hal Turner: "After we kill them,
what to do?"
What indeed? After all the liberals have been murdered by those god-fearing Chuck Norris lookalikes in their pickup trucks, what next?
I'd go on, but you should read this one for yourselves. It's priceless.
http://halturnershow.blogspot.com/2009/02/after-we-kill-them-what-to-do.html

Earth under threat from dark comets?
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/2578/earth-under-threat-dark-comets

Big pharma giant SmithKlineGlaxo pledges cheap drugs for world's poor:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/feb/13/glaxo-smith-kline-cheap-medicine

Does earth harbor a "shadow biosphere"?
http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/news/2556/does-earth-harbour-a-shadow-biosphere-alien-life

Mexican drug violence spills over into U.S.: sharp rise in kidnap-for-ransom in Phoenix AZ.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-drug-kidnappings12-2009feb12,0,7329781,full.story

Rise of "red Tories" threatens upheaval in British politics
http://www.prospect-magazine.co.uk/article_details.php?id=10608

Ross Douthat asks in The Atlantic "Is the GOP hopeless?"
http://rossdouthat.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/02/is_the_gop_hopeless.php

The United Nations' crime and drug watchdog has indications that money made in illicit drug trade has been used to keep banks afloat in the global financial crisis, its head was quoted as saying on Sunday.
(..)

"In many instances, drug money is currently the only liquid
investment capital," Costa was quoted as saying...

http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSLP65079620090125

"Last week the Federal Reserve released the results of the latest
Survey of Consumer Finances, a triennial report on the assets and
liabilities of American households. The bottom line is that there has been basically no wealth creation at all since the turn of the millennium: the net worth of the average American household, adjusted for inflation, is lower now than it was in 2001."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/16/opinion/16krugman.html?_r=2&partner=rss&emc=rss

Scientific publishers have managed to bribe lawmakers into putting
forth a law that would make illegal free publicatin of
government-funded research. Wow! That's a new low!
http://openaccessblog.com/2009/02/stand-for-open-access-oppose-hr801.html

Stimulus bill includes huge high speed railroad expansion. Yay!
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0209/18924.html

Rice University's new image of a virus' protective coat contains 5
million atoms, each pinpointed by scanning tunneling electron microscope:
http://www.physorg.com/news154027398.html

Help the homeless! It's been tough since the fall of the Empire.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/balakov/2468552226/in/set-72157594352657197/

New Jane Austen science fiction adaptation -- Pride and...Predator???
http://podblack.com/?p=1245

"Why the Republican party as we know it must die" by Esquire magazine.
http://www.esquire.com/the-side/richardson-report/generational-theft-021709?src=reddit

Ilithi Dragon said...

Interesting reads, Anon. It looks like I will be voting for Specter in the 2010 election, provided a better candidate doesn't run against him. I think I'll write him a letter of support, too.

As for the "After we kill them" bit... Heavens forbid that anyone actually attempt some kind of armed rebellion over this, but if they are stupid and rabid enough to do so (and it's hard to say that they aren't, though whether their ire and stupidity are great enough to shift them from foaming at the mouth in their comfortable arm chairs to actually taking up arms is another factor to consider), I doubt it will be much more than the most fanatical, uninformed and/or uneducated far-right lunies who take up arms. Either way, any armed rebellion will be swiftly crushed, probably by local law enforcement, and probably by many moderate Republicans/conservatives. The last thing this country needs right now is a bunch of whackos attempting an armed rebellion. We need to work together, not try to kill each other. On the horrible, off-chance that it should ever come to that, though, and I hope it never comes to that, I'm not worried, even if they would come after me before the local police officer could show up, because when I shoot my rifle, I routinely punch out the centers of my targets. Far-right Republican survivalists aren't the only people who own and use guns.

David Brin said...

Just passing this along. The Brin-L group was one of the early-best of its kind -- and compatible with many of you!



The Brin-L weekly chat has been a list tradition for over ten years. Way back on 27 May, 1998, Marco Maisenhelder first set up a chatroom for the list, and on the next day, he established a weekly chat time. We've been through several servers, chat
technologies, and even casts of regulars over the years, but the chat goes on... and we want more recruits!

Whether you're an active poster or a lurker, whether you've been a member of the list from the beginning or just joined today, we would really like for you to join us. We have less politics, more Uplift talk, and more light-hearted discussion. We're non-fattening and 100% environmentally friendly...
-----(_() Though sometimes marshmallows do get thrown.

The Weekly Brin-L chat is scheduled for Wednesday 3 PM Eastern/2 PM Central time in the US, or 7 PM Greenwich time. There's usually somebody there to talk to for at least eight hours after the start time. If no-one is there when you arrive just wait around a while for the next person to show up!

If you want to attend, it's really easy now. All you have to do is send your web browser to:

http://wtgab.demon.co.uk/~brinl/mud/

..And you can connect directly from the NEW new web interface!
William T Goodall
Mail : wtg@wtgab.demon.co.uk
Web : http://www.wtgab.demon.co.uk

Cliff said...

The Economic Stimulus package is really an expansion of future debt on a gigantic scale. Were it proposed by a Republican president there would be howling to high heaven from all of you. And rightly so. But of our Hope and Change crew? Nary a peep of protest. Some say we should spend more.

I didn't even know this blog existed for the bulk of the Bush Administration. Has Tacitus2 ever complained about the trillion dollar bill for the wars in the Middle East?

Ilithi Dragon said...

Cliff said...

I didn't even know this blog existed for the bulk of the Bush Administration.

I only just found it this past September (after stumbling across some of Dr. Brin's articles in a ST v SW google search).

Admittedly, a lot of my opinions, positions, etc. have been refined, discovered/rediscovered and shaped by what I've read and discussed here, but it was mostly a rediscovery and re-definition of positions I already held.

My thoughts on the economic stimulus package were originally neutral - I had given Obama the benefit of the doubt, but was unsure of the practicality and effectiveness of the bill. So, I did some research (aided greatly by links posted here), both into the principles of economics, the cause of the collapse (which I'd actually started before the election), and the concepts behind the stimulus. The results of that research are that the principles of the stimulus are sound, and the simple fact is that government spending to get people working again is one of the major factors that pulled us out of the last economic depression, and resulted in the construction of services and utilities that brought modern amenities to many rural areas for the first time, provided a foundation for infrastructure to continue to expand, and built solid, durable buildings and facilities that, in many cases, are still being used today. The idea of government spending to put people to work in an economic crisis has worked before, very well, with some very long-lasting, beneficial results. Many people deny this, but they either haven't studied the actual history, or are trying to re-write it.

Then there's the basic principles of economics. It doesn't matter how much money is in the system if it isn't flowing. If money doesn't move, if there is no liquidity, any economy will tank, and total wealth will collapse. Liquidity, the flow of money, is required for a functional economy. The more and faster the money flows, the stronger the economy. Liquidity also generates wealth (when not squandered or mismanaged), increasing the value of the economy. If we don't get money flowing again, the economy is going to continue its death spiral, where recession reduces liquidity and destroys wealth, which in turn creates more wealth. To stop that is going to require injecting money into the system to generate that liquidity. It will not recover on its own, not without a MASSIVE reduction in the economy, because our economy does not have the actual wealth to sustain itself at its current size - we need credit to do business, because people and businesses don't actually have heaps of extra money to pay for big things when they need them. A lot of people and businesses don't have money to pay for things period. That's why the credit market is frozen - everyone just got massively burned in the crash, and nobody wants to make risky investments that will crash and leave them even more in debt, and nobody has any idea who can actually pay up, so they're not taking the risk.

Credit is not available, and with the economy tanking, nobody has the extra money to spend on starting new big projects. The government can provide that, though, by investing a large infusion of money into the system, generating liquidity by ordering large amounts of construction and production. Without that, the economy will continue to shrink, very painfully so, and so will the government's revenue.

And the simple fact is that the U.S. of A. is already so far into debt, that another 800 billion isn't going to add all that much more on top of it. If we don't take action, our economy is going to continue to tank, and our ability to pay off the debt we do have will go into the gutter right alongside it.


Now, had Bush put this plan forward, I would have been critical, yes. Even after doing my research and knowing that it was the right idea, I would have been critical and suspicious. Because Bush doesn't have a very good track record, nor do the people working under him or pulling his strings. Not because I would have disagreed with the policy, but because I wouldn't have trusted the people implementing it to do it right, without messing it up royally and/or ripping us off.


Oh, and Dr. Brin, don't make me get my steel toes out! ;P

Ilithi Dragon said...

Blargh, typo.

*which in turn creates more recession, which reduces liquidity and destroys wealth, etc.*

Cliff said...

Ilithi - the reason I asked the question is because I don't know Tacitus' track record, and I wonder if he's acknowledged the massive tax burden Bush has laid on us.

I've seen that righteous tone about flagrant spending a lot lately, from Republicans, and I want to know if Tacitus is like so many other conservatives in not recognizing the insane amount of debt the Republicans have accrued.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Ah, I see. That's a good point.

tintinaus said...

I can speak as a fairly long term reader of this blog that T2 is what a proper conservative should be. Not a ranter, or a needless rager, I think most who post here will say they have a high opinion of any comment T2 makes(even anonomouz:-) )

Ilithi Dragon said...

I generally agree with tintinaus - I usually have a very high opinion of most of what tacitus says. By that same token, though, I also often have a fairly high opinion of what my parents say (albeit colored somewhat by my rebellious streak and and disagreements with some of their parenting methods), but they have a hard time pulling their heads out of the sand to recognize that, while corruption takes place on both sides and nobody is a saint, it does NOT take place on both sides to the extent that it has in the Republican party the last 8-20 years, and they also have trouble pulling their heads out of the sand to admit that that is not how it should be, always has been nor always will be.

My parents are generally what conservatives should be, just lacking the drive to fully recognize and accept the fact that their party leaders are not operating as they should be, and have not been for some time, and as such, are prone to the anti-liberal/Democrat partisanship so often promoted by the Rep leadership over the past several years.

I respect tacitus' opinion - he has shown himself to be at least a fairly intelligent person, with generally well-thought comments. However, I also agree with Cliff's query, since even the best of us are prone to bias, and the Republican leadership of the last couple decades has really exploited and compounded that in their followers.

Gilmoure said...

Ilithi Dragon said... Far-right Republican survivalists aren't the only people who own and use guns.

Heh. I've considered making up a bumper sticker; Well Armed Liberal.

On further thought, perhaps Well Armed Citizen would be better.

re: After we kill them... Looking over the comments on that post, appears to be a white supremacist site, or at least a lot of open WS supporters. That sorta' talk, they're playing to the crowd there. Now, if it was more mainstream right wing commentators, like Rush, Hannity, or Coultier, yeah, I'd start to be concerned.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Gilmoure said...

Heh. I've considered making up a bumper sticker; Well Armed Liberal.

On further thought, perhaps Well Armed Citizen would be better.


Yeah, that might be a better idea... Put "Well-Armed Liberal" on your bumper, and they'll just call you a liar. } ; = 8 )

That said, a t-shirt that says "Gun-Toting Liberal" on the front and "Gun-Hating Conservative" on the back is on my list of Things to Get after my tax return comes in and I get all my bills, etc. paid.


re: After we kill them... Looking over the comments on that post, appears to be a white supremacist site, or at least a lot of open WS supporters. That sorta' talk, they're playing to the crowd there. Now, if it was more mainstream right wing commentators, like Rush, Hannity, or Coultier, yeah, I'd start to be concerned.

Yeah, I definitely got the sense that there were a lot of WS people there. Several blatant WS comments were made, and nobody batted an eye that I saw. The kind of people who call themselves proud True Americans, but are constantly ranting about armed rebellion, waving Confederate and Nazi flags, etc.

And I doubt you'll ever see this kind of stuff spouted by the real main stream. It would be political suicide.

Tony Fisk said...

I suggest a tee-shirt saying:

Gun Toting Liberal: Pleased to see you!

... except you would probably get arrested for indecency by a gun toting liberal hating conservative.

Tony Fisk said...

'whodoc': That settles it! The Gallifreyans are *definitely* trying to communicate via capcha!
(maybe they want to sell us tee-shirts for the war effort?)

matthew said...

An anthology of SF stories featuring real astronomy. Funded by an NSF grant to encourage non-standard science teaching. Good idea.

http://www.mikebrotherton.com/diamonds/?page_id=10


"amempi" - pygmy single-celled organism

Anonymous said...

As the saying goes, the Devil's greatest trick was to convince everyone he never existed.
Richard Perle now claims he's not a neocon, there are no such things as neoconservatives, and
neocons had nothing to do with the Iraq invasion.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/02/20/ST2009022001111.html

Complete woolly mammoth found, best fossil of its kind ever -- at the La Brea tar pits in Los Angeles!
http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/story?section=news/local/los_angeles&id=6666236

Study shows violent video games make players "comfortably numb" to suffering of others.
http://www.gamepolitics.com/2009/02/19/study-violent-games-make-players-quotcomfortably-numbquot-suffering-others

Pentagon now worried that war robots will go Terminator on us. Sounds like they've been reading too much science fiction.
http://waronyou.com/topics/new-navy-funded-report-warns-of-war-robots-going-%E2%80%9Cterminator%E2%80%9D/

Our broken "justice" system:
http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2009/2/18/amy_goodmans_new_column_jailing_kids_for_cash

Another example of our broken "justice" system:
http://reason.com/news/show/131527.html

Economists can't predict squat, the "science" of economics hasn't advanced in 80 years, yet economics professor command $500,000 salaries at universities? What is wrong with this picture???
http://business.theatlantic.com/2009/02/wheres_my_money_idiot.php

Another triumph for the war on drugs:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7898087.stm

Why does the war on drugs continue? Good explanation here:
http://americangoy.blogspot.com/2009/02/law-and-disorder-in-america-true-story.html

Kooks on parade. This is like naming the Chair of Astronomy at a major university after Velikovsky:
http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/4193/the_failed_prophet/

Barney Frank finally says the unthinkable:
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090302/frank

This graph makes the same point in a different way:
http://www.equitygroups.com/generalstockdiscussion/id__14698/messages/127294.html

"Wealth gap creating a social time bomb in U.S."
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/23/population-egalitarian-cities-urban-growth

A little voice tells me this is an average American voter:
http://www.bannedinhollywood.com/its-a-homos-devil-machine/

Scientists harvest energy from hamsters with nanogenerators.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/scienceandtechnology/science/4731679/Hamsters-in-jackets-harnessed-for-energy.html

I don't know of a single instance in the last 50 years in which the CIA ever got a single prediction right. The CIA was surprised when the Berlin Wall and the CIA was surprised again when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down.
The CIA predicted the Shah of Iran would stay in power for another 30 years just before he was overthrown. The CIA predicted the Soviets would never roll into Czechoslovakia with tanks.
The CIA predicted there was a bomber gap in the mid-50s when there wasn't, the CIA predicted there was a missile gap in the early 60s when there wasn't, and the CIA predicted there were no active nuclear weapons in Cuba in October 1962 when there were (and if we'd attacked Cuba, it would've been the end of the world).
The CIA predicted the USSR's economy would surpass that of the U.S. by 1990 but instead the
USSR collapsed. The CIA predicted Chinese troops would never enter the Koren war but they did; the CIA predicted Cambodia wouldn't fall to the Khmer Rouge but it did. The CIA predicted there were WMDs in Iraq when there weren't. The CIA has never made a single correct prediction in 50 years. Obliteration seems just.
http://www.inteldaily.com/news/173/ARTICLE/9807/2009-02-20.html

Here's a graph overlay showing the DJI corrected for inflation for 1929, 1974-5, 2001-2002 and 2008-2009. As you can see, they're all roughly comparable for about the first 16 months. Within a reasonable noise floor, they all bounce around about
the same level within roughly 15 to 16 months after the initial
slide. The crucial issue is what happens in the 6 months after that. The 1929 graph diverges downward, whereas the 1974 and 2001 graphs show a bottoming with a long slow climb
back up. They don't show the 1987 plunge, but it's comparable to the 1974 and 2001 charts.

Right now it's too soon to tell what's going to happen. We'll know by August of this year. If we're on course for
a national emergency 1929-type scenario, the market should be down by about 65% from its 12,500 peak. That works out to around a Dow of 4400. Currently we're bouncing
around Dow 8000.

http://picsorlinks.com/plicks/view/id/138

I have serious doubts about the national emergency
scenario because we have signifcant advantages
over the Great Depression. 1) we're not on the gold
standard so the dollar exchange rate can adjust and
take up some of the slack; 2) we have FDIC insurance;
3) the timing of this collapse was lucky for us -- only
about 3 months before a relatively sane president
took over. Imagine if this collapse had occurred in,
say, February of 2005, then think about 4 years of
incompetence from the Gang That Couldn't Shoot
Straight in the former White House fumbling and
stumbling their way through this mess; 4) we have strong
int'l trade to help pull us through and enough sense
not to try another Smoot-Hawley tariff; 5) the Fed
now has enough experience not to try to raise
prime rates. Back in 1929 the Fed had only been
around for 16 years and they hadn't had any experience with this kind of economic crisis, so their response to the October 29 slide was understandably botched.

Against those advantages, we currently have much
faster rates of global capital flow between countries, we've got outsourcing of all America's best jobs
(except for lawyers and doctors and congresscritters)
to the third world, and we've got ferocious competition from manufacturers in the rest of the world who produce goods with quality as high or higher than any we can manufacture. For consumer electronics, I would much rather buy a Samsung (South Korean) or ASUS (Taiwanese) brand than any brand made in the U.S.
The Asian stuff is just built better.

My own guesstimate is that we're not in another
1929 scenario. Time will tell.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Lots of interesting articles there, Anon, bookmarked several of them. Don't take quite the same opinion away as you do on several of them (the judicial corruption articles, for example, are deeply disturbing, but they're reports of these people being CAUGHT, not of on-going uninterrupted corruption, which means at least some of the problem is getting cleaned up, and becoming better known), but they are all still very interesting, nonetheless, and the graphs are definitely cool. If you stumble across any more like them, please, post there here.

Anonymous said...

"In good times, pessimism is a luxury; but in bad times, pessimism is a self-fulfilling
and fatal prophecy."
-- Jamais Cascio

From the TED talk "Tools For Building A Better World":
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPhuj-W8kyE

Scientists narrow in on the secrets behind high-temperature superconductors:
http://www.sciencenewsdaily.org/story-154538523.html

"Mexican gangs kill cops to force ouster of chief" -- this sounds like a direct challenge to the legitimacy of the civil government of Cuidad Juarez:
http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1881115,00.html

After hours, anti-drug cops join rallies and speak out against the drug laws they enforce:
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29325058/

Newly published research suggests that dreams affect peoples' judgment & behavior:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090217125544.htm

McDonald's employee shot protecting a woman from an attacker, McDonald's refuses to pay his $300,000 worth of medical bills as workers comp because it was "not part of his job."
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29307613/

"Media-morphosis: how the internet with devour, destroy or transform your favorite medium"
http://www.internetevolution.com/document.asp?doc_id=171555&

Music-swapping sites to be blocked for Irish internet users by internet providers:
http://www.sbpost.ie/post/pages/p/story.aspx-qqqt=NEWS-qqqs=news-qqqid=39782-qqqx=1.asp

Of course, this will only force Irish users into private P2P groups they can easily set up themselves, or into IRC channels, or into group download sites like rapidshare and sharebee. This is completely futile, the legislative equivalent of ordering the tide not to come in.

Transparency in the Obama White House?
The Obama administration has directed defense officials to sign a pledge stating they will not share 2010 budget data with individuals outside the federal government.
http://www.defensenews.com/story.php?i=3956514&c=AME&s=TOP

New self-portrait by Leonardo Da Vinci discovered!
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article5785697.ece

"Intellectual bankrupcty: why is it so hard to take the Republican party seriously?"
http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_02/016998.php

Kevin Kelly discusses "the collapsitarians":
http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2009/02/collapsitarians.php

Anonymous said...

"The Obama administration has directed defense officials to sign a pledge stating they will not share 2010 budget data with individuals outside the federal government."

Its not how the money will be spent that they don't want people to know about... it's how little revenue they've got coming in this year that they think will scare people. 2009 - year of the (money) printing press.

Tony Fisk said...

The failure of a rocket with a pretty good safety record, when it is launching NASA's CO2 observatory, has to be causing a few eyebrows to quirk.

koily: conditions of unease that give rise to mild paranioa and eyebrow quirking. (See also r'oil)

Tony Fisk said...

Some more upbeat and less 'koily' news on space exploration:

Dawn appears to have performed a near perfect gravity assist flyby of Mars. Next stop: Vesta (2011) ()

A proposal to extend the Cassini mission for another seven year tour (starting 2010) will observe changes in the seasons as the Saturnian system moves from spring into northern summer.
While Cassini will only have about 20% of its propellant left, the time pressures are off, and the planners appear to have come up with a pretty scenic route before a final descent into Saturn on September 15, 2017. It will also maintain a presence in the outer satellites while the next Jupiter mission is put together. (Link)

Anonymous said...

He's tanned...
He's rested...
He's ready...

NATHAN HOLD FOR PRESIDENT IN 2012!

Forget about Palin/Huckabee.

Holn/Scudder in 2012! The ultimate Republican ticket!

Ilithi Dragon said...

<.< I'd pay for campaign stickers/flyers that declared that...

Ilithi Dragon said...

Well, Obama really captured the spirit of America right now, in his address to Congress. I have to admit, it's very strange, this feeling that is the beginning of renewal of faith in my country's government. It's almost surreal, and I keep expecting to wake up, or for Bush and Cheney to pop out of hiding somewhere, or Q to pop in. It's just hard to imagine the cake not being a lie, after all this time.

I also watched Jindal's... >_< "Rebuttal." I can't even think about it without grimacing... It's like the GOP decided to do "Mr. Rogers Does Politics for Kindergartners!" and completely ignore the fact that Mr. Rogers is DEAD. I agree with David Brooks. Jindal's "rebuttal" is the best thing to happen to Obama since the inauguration. (And no, I cannot call it a "rebuttal" without quotes. It is physically impossible.) The entire first quarter, at least, was Jindal rambling about electing an African American and his own history, and most of the rest of it was him rambling with no substance, broken up by the occasional attempt to make a point, most of which failed miserably in stupidity and inanity, compounded by a homicide-inducing tone of patronization.

Ugh, if the GOP has a death wish, they're certainly right on track...

Anonymous said...

Daily Telegraph article "Failure to save East Europe will lead to worldwide meltdown." Sounds alarmist, but then, the numbers do appear solid.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/4623525/Failure-to-save-East-Europe-will-lead-to-worldwide-meltdown.html

Double-blind scientific experiments shows gourmets can't tell the difference between expensive pate' and dog food:
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/323/5917/1006b?re

Housing prices still way too high:
http://www.businessinsider.com/shiller-house-prices-still-way-too-high-2009-2

"Recipe for disaster: the formula that killed Wall Street"
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-03/wp_quant

In the midst of degeneration and collapse, here's a piece about public
elementary schools in Tucson AZ where the arts are integrated into every
part of the curriculum:
http://www.edutopia.org/arts-opening-minds-integration-video

The favorite new meme from our patriotic friends on the right wing:
http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/1483/obamapunchrush.gif

Scientists close to universal flu vaccine:
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100931249

"The competitive edge of the United States economy has eroded sharply over the last decade, according to a new study by a nonpartisan research group."
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/technology/25innovate.html?_r=1

Sandia National Lab test posthumously exonerates Ivins as the alleged anthrax killer.
http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2009/02/sandia-national-laboratories-test.html

State Department issues travel advisory warning for Americans visiting Mexico.
http://www.economicroadmap.com/2009/02/us-state-department-warns-on-mexico.html

Mexico: A failed state?
http://www.energyinvestmentstrategies.com/2009/02/02/mexico-a-failed-state/

Earl Devaney, the Inspector General who broke the Abramoff ponzi scheme, has been named to oversee the stimulus spending. Yay! Looks like the adults are back in charge again.
http://feeds.propublica.org/~r/propublica/main/~3/hESNDRIV4i4/

Is closing Guantanamo just a bait and switch?
http://firedoglake.com/2009/02/25/is-closing-guantanmo-just-a-bait-and-switch/

Obama DOJ backs the former drunken lout in the Oval Office -- no habeas corpus (right to a trial) for Bagram airbase detainees.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/20/obama-backs-bush-on-bagra_n_168766.html

Maybe I missed something -- how is it "change" when you shut down Guantanamo but expand the Bagram airbase torture chambers filled with prisoners who have no right to a trial and no right to see a lawyer?

David Brin warned of "10,000 Timothy McVeighs" upon Obama's election. Well, here we go:
http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/02/22/militias/index.html

Ilithi Dragon said...

FOX gone White Supremacist Rebel? This I gotta see...