Friday, December 11, 2009

Miscellaneous wonders.....

While polishing a more entertaining piece for you all, here are some interesting snippets….

This one is simply amazing! ”For 23 years Rom Houben was trapped in his own body, unable to communicate with his  or family. They presumed he was in a vegetative state following a near-fatal car crash in 1983. But then doctors used a state-of-the-art scanning system on the brain of the martial arts enthusiast, which showed it was functioning almost normally. "I had dreamed myself away," said Houben, now 46, whose real "state" was discovered three years ago.  What is even more amazing is that he was even sane at all, after that time.  I find that incredible.

Fascinating story about the Man Who Forgot Everything.

The perfect answer to those who think that Twitter encourages short term... oops, ran out of characte--

Out this week, Jeff Carlson's PLAGUE ZONE brings his popular trilogy to a close with a new adventure featuring fan favorites like Cam Najarro and Allison Barrett as well as a host of new characters, both good guys and bad.  The arms race for weaponzied nanotech has continued.  America is struck by a new contagion. Together with a small band of friends and rivals, Cam must discover the source of the new plague, never suspecting that its creator is an old enemy he believes dead... 

Another pal, Jamais Cascio, has been named a “Top 100 Global Thinker” by Foreign Policy Magazine.

In this new science fiction anthology: WHEN IT CHANGED: 'REAL SCIENCE' SCIENCE FICTION, each piece of fiction is partnered with a note from the scientist whose input inspired it, allowing us a rare glimpse into their world.

==News Updates==

Snippet of interest: More than half of the $923 billion's worth of US currency in circulation is in the possession of foreigners.

As an expedition from Chinese state television worked its way across the remote Tibetan plateau earlier this year, the explorers were amazed by what they found. The plateau has been called the world's third largest ice store after the North and South Poles. Yet according to Chinese scientists, the "third pole" is warming up faster than anywhere else on earth. They brought back a visual lesson in global warming so stark that censors allowed the program makers to broadcast a frank exposé. Their film attracted the attention of the Communist party's leaders and has put climate change at the centre of a remarkably open debate in China. 

From the Transparency Front... or "shades of EARTH"... The IRS is analyzing a trove of information from more than 7,500 taxpayers who voluntarily disclosed their offshore accounts this year to avoid prosecution. To qualify, clients had to disclose everyone who handled their money overseas and everywhere it went. IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman said the IRS is hiring 800 people in the next year and increasing staff in eight overseas offices, including Hong Kong. It also will open offices in Beijing, Sydney and Panama City.  


==Science Snippets==

Seven Answers to Climate Contrarian Nonsense --Evidence for human interference with Earth's climate continues to accumulate

Spiral galaxies seem to feature an odd X-wing shape around their center, odd dust tracks at and angle to the galactic plane, and beforewe can explain them we have to be able to see them: specifically, we need a galaxy that happens to be edge-on from where we are to afford us an end view. Like NGC 4710, recently imaged by the Hubble telescope.

Astronomers have watched the violent death of what was probably the most massive star ever detected. The supernova explosion, which lasted for months, is thought to have generated more than 50 Suns' worth (10E32 kilograms) of different elements.  It also may have revealed the unique Pair Instability mode of supernova collapse.


A new "crystallising block universe" model that combines relativity and quantum mechanics suggests that the past crystallises out of the future, in the instant we call the present.

Petman, a bipedal bot that walks on two legs and can recover from a push (using the same balancing technology that allows BigDog to recover from a kick) has been developed by Boston Dynamics. 

== Plus Some Politically Redolent Items ==

Why China has cornered the market for rare earth elements.  Seems a good reason to start mining asteroids. 

Unbelievable.  Several senators and congressmen actually live on the premises of a weird (and powerful) evangelical Christian cult that preaches that Jesus believed in exceptionalist capitalism, aristocratism and the secret manipulation of power by an elite.

Zombie Reagan Raised From Grave To Lead GOP.

 

152 comments:

Anonymous said...

Re: the man in/not in a coma, I recommend reading http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=2838#more-2838

Although it is, in fact possible that the man is not in a vegetative state, the words you've applied to him are highly suspect as they almost certainly come from "facilitated communication."

Robert said...

I just recently watched the G.I. Joe movie for the first time, and for the most part I enjoyed it. It meant turning off my brain for the most part, but what Hollywood flick doesn't? Still, there was one thing that managed to bug me, but it's more an itch that I've been having for some time.

My issue is with the "Grey Goo Scenario" with an out-of-control nannite swarm that "devours" the planet. See, I'm just not seeing it happen due to the nature of the planet itself and on nannite design.

Let's say we have some nannites that have been programmed by some idiot to replicate themselves without a cut-off switch, and that the buggers get loose. And let's then assume that for some reason a nuclear EMP attack is out of the question (because I seriously can't see nannites surviving an EMP attack due to their small size and lack of shielding, but that's just me). And let's assume that they start doing the "goo" scenario. Building more nannies and expanding in all directions.

Eventually they're going to break through the crust and hit the mantle. The heat and semi-molten nature of the upper mantle should be enough to destroy nannites in that area. It won't be an instant volcanic eruption, but more nannies around the area will likewise weaken the upper crust until finally you end up with an actual volcanic eruption. Molten earth fills the nannite caldera, killing each of the nannies in turn (because just as you can't really build EMP shielding that is effective at that small a size, I can't see building heat-resistant nannites that can resist even the heat of the upper mantle. Size does matter in these things).

In short, a GOO scenario should result in a crater several hundred miles in diameter that turns into a volcano. There would be no end-of-the-world, just a destructive "oops" that ends with a massive loss of life and a brand new volcano.

Thoughts?

Rob H.

Sociotard said...

Out of curiosity, Dr. Brin, do you know Dr. Peter Watts? The article mentioned he was a SF writer.

Peter, a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him. At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter. On Wednesday, he posted bond and walked across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening). He's home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.

Robert said...

After arguing with a friend concerning global warming and his belief it's fake and the scientists are lying and that it's naturally-caused... I have to wonder why people are more willing to believe the lies of oil and coal industry heads, who make billions of dollars off of our use of coal and oil, over the efforts and studies of scientists who make a fraction of that much money. It boggles the mind.

Rob H., who needs a hard drink right now

Stefan Jones said...

DB: PLEASE, Please, please ARCHIVE some of your older posts. Maybe everything done up to the beginning of this month. The sheer accumulation has made the main page so long that it is difficult to scroll about.

* * *

I think global warming denialists should be offered this bargain:

We do nothing. Meaning, really, that we continue to pollute and consume in unsustainable ways.

If in twenty years the Earth is in serious shape, with ruined fisheries and weather disasters and rising oceans . . . the denialists and all of their children and grandchildren report for sterilization. Not out of any punitive or Darwinian intent, but to reduce the birthrate and the size of the next generation.

Stefan Jones said...

Oh, on the subject of "The Family" and their Jesus as Aristocratic Capitalist meme:

Phyllis Schlafley's son was on Colbert the other day, promoting Conservapedia and their new version of the Bible, which proves Jesus was a free-market capitalist.

Now, I'm no Bible scholar, but as far as I know the only times that ol' Joshua Josephson got angry was at a fig tree and some money-changers.

Stefan Jones said...

You may have heard that AT&T, the official (locked in) wireless provider for the Apple iPhone, is upset that iPhone users are using so much bandwidth.

Blogger Dan Lyons, who runs a spoof/commentary blog "The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs," imagines a phone call between Jobs and AT&T president Randall Stephenson:

'And not just you. Look at Big Three automakers. Same deal. Lazy, fat, slow, stupid, from the top to the bottom — everyone focused on just getting what they can in the short run and who cares what kind of piece of shit product we’re putting out. Then somehow along the way the evil motherfuckers on Wall Street got involved and became everyone’s enabler, devoting all their energy and brainpower to breaking things up and parceling them out and selling them off in pieces and then putting them back together again, and it was all about taking all this great shit that our predecessors had built and “unlocking value” which really meant finding ways to leech out whatever bit of money they could get in the short run and let the future be damned. It was all just one big swindle, and the only kind of engineering that matters anymore is financial engineering.'

Sociotard said...

I liked the link about the "past crystalizing out of the future in the present", but I wasn't sure how much of that was just metaphor. Are they implying that things that happen in material crystalization could then happen in temporal crystalization? What about imperfections like vacancies or edge dislocations? What would that look like.

Yeah, I guess I'm pushing their metaphor a little too far.

Robert said...

It basically sounds like the concept I came up with that all of time exists and has existed in one moment. Past, present, and future. We just perceive the flow of time. But it's not real.

Rob H.

Rob Perkins said...

Erm... I think that contradicts with some of Einstein's proven ideas. Unless we bring forward the idea that "spacetime" may prove to be an emergent property?

ron said...

Want to second the comment about the 'man (not) in coma' - James Randi has commented about the 'facilitated communication' fraud as well.

Would love to see Mr. Brin debate Jerry Pournelle, who seems to be denying man-made climate change...

Jon S. said...

I have been asking one question of those who claim some massive conspiracy to promote the idea of "global warming" (to use the deniers' imprecise terminology):

Conspiracies, generally, have a point. The Watergate conspirators wanted to ensure Nixon's re-election. The conspiracy outlined in the movie Valkyrie was aimed at killing Hitler. Even the Illuminati beloved of the tinfoil-hat brigade have the purpose of world domination driving them.

What is the purpose of this global-warming conspiracy? What goal are they advancing, besides strengthening our economy and reducing our dependence on other nations (sometimes unfriendly nations) for our resources?

Nobody's been able to give me an adequate answer for that one...

David Brin said...

Actually, Jerry Pournelle has my sympathies, in some ways. It has been hard on him to watch the right go insane, since he (unlike most goppers) has not been able to deslusionally deny it. In fact, he considers George W. Bush to have been just this side of a traitor.

For a lifelong republican, that shows a LOT of adaptability. Will any of us be similarly agile, if evidence mounts that our own side went stark jibbering evil?

His climate change doubt is much more based on poking at the scientific claims (legitimate) than acting as a "delay everything!" stooge of the oilcos.

Don't get me wrong. Jerry is a troglodyte. He's just a Barry Goldwater style trog, ameliorated by honesty and genuine patriotism.

===
Stefan... HOW does one "archive?"

Demanding sterilization is really uncool. Simply demand this:

"You cried against flouridation... then stopped doing so, why? Because you were wrong.

You cried out that Martin Luther King was a commie and civil rights laws were treason... then stopped doing so, why? Because you were wrong.

you cried against empowering women... then stopped doing so, why? Because you were wrong.

You cried against Social Security and Medicare and public universities... then stopped doing so, why? Because you were wrong.

DO you want the long version of this list? All the ways in which your side was wrong -- including foisting Supply Side Economics? You always shrug and pretend that all those embarrassments never happened. But they did. So now we demand this:

Declare openly, NOW, that if your delaying tactics about Climate change turn out to have ruined our chance to nip a crisis in the bud... that your side WAS STUPID, VILE AND WRONG, AND THAT THE PAIN THAT FOLLOWS, THAT COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED, WAS YOUR "SIDE'S" FAULT.

Gladly embrace the liability. Because, this time, if you prove wrong, we will not let you shrug it off.

This time, we plan to sue you for damages, and you'll be living in a barrel.

Spirit of America said...

Jon S. asks, "What is the purpose of this global-warming conspiracy? What goal are they advancing, besides strengthening our economy and reducing our dependence on other nations (sometimes unfriendly nations) for our resources?"

From what I've unfortunately absorbed from the climate change conspiracists, they believe the goal is to "raise taxes" in order to "increase the government and international banks power" and to "regulate our lives" and create a "socialist" totalitarian society.

Tea Party, Glenn Beck style idiot nonsense. There is really no arguing with it. Check out the comments section in the Scientific American article David linked to - you can see them in droves, regurgitating their political "scientific" views with a mad, triumphant, and quite delusional enthusiasm.

The fun thing to consider is how enthusiastically they will vote in upcoming elections compared to the all-too-likely voter apathy in the opposition.

Anonymous said...

Try http://www.badscience.net/ (actually written by a Guardian columnist) for a slightly more scientific review of the man who might or might not be communicating

Catfish N. Cod said...

Rob H.:I seriously can't see nannites surviving an EMP attack...

Sure they could, if their calculators were based on nano-analog mechanical computing.

Eventually they're going to break through the crust and hit the mantle...
I think the internal temperature and pressure of the 'goo' are likely to start melting the nanites before then. But that's not entirely relevant: most of what we care about is on the surface; therefore the rate of surface 'creep' is more important than the volumetric consumption. Since rare elements and complex molecules are far more common on the surface than in basement rock (ore veins excepted), the nanites will be pushed to spread in just the areas we don't want them to be.

That said -- I think the internal economy of 'goo' will be necessarily limited. Raw material sources will not be in the same place, logistically speaking. Unless the nanite 'goo' is capable of building units out of random organics or silicates, without any rarer elements (not likely IMHO) you're looking at a collapse of the nanite ecosystem beyond a certain distance spread (dependent on the initial area distribution of resources). The 'goo' will have to set up transportation links, assembly centers... in short, it must differentiate to survive. Resource shortages will slow the growth from exponential to polynomial, giving countermeasures time to work.

In short, I find random gray goo outbreaks to be much less scary than tailored gray goo bombs specifically designed for a known resource distribution.

Ron: Would love to see Mr. Brin debate Jerry Pournelle, who seems to be denying man-made climate change...

I would too, Ron, but I am given to understand that the last contact between them ended in less than diplomatically pleasant ways. There may or may not be sufficient goodwill across the gap to make it feasible. (Dr. Brin, correct me if I'm getting this wrong.)

That said, I think it would be an outstanding trial 'disputation arena'... if we could find mutually acceptable referee(s).

Dr. Brin: Why China has cornered the market for rare earth elements. Seems a good reason to start mining asteroids.

Highly concerning in light of China's hardline stance at Copenhagen, despite internal awareness of the situation. China's opening position is that the West should bear all the burden of carbon reduction, while paying China to make reductions in the rate of carbon increase -- not even trying to stop carbon output -- in light of China's status as a 'needy developing nation'! There are indications that this is part of a new grand strategy of resource control and imperialist, perhaps even mercantilist, trade policy (using corporate rather than governmental structures as the overseas control mechanism).

From this it is easily to extrapolate a world where Asian powers control Earth-based assets while the West jumps for the Moon and the Belt, seeking the raw materials denied them in the former Third World... hmm... that sounds like a good story basis...

Woozle said...

PZ Myers suggests a couple of simple tests to see if the facilitated communication with Mr. Houben is really communication or not.

Re global warming denial: I recently came up with the idea of pinning down denialists by asking them a series of questions by which they can quantify their position; I'm trying it out here (the answer came back a couple of days ago and I just now noticed it; time to reply...).

Tim H. said...

Yes, Jerry Pournelle posted some questions on climate change here:

http://jerrypournelle.com/view/2009/Q4/view600.html#climate

He also called for transparency, which shouldn't be a problem, after all, if the science is valid, any statistician should get results similar to the consensus.
Heretically yours, Tim.

Anonymous said...

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=astronomers-witness-biggest-st

This article is behind a paywall. Please post a different link, one via which it can be read without payment or login of any kind.

David Brin said...

Catfish. Jerry P and I are on speaking terms. We exchange brief remarks on the SIGMA discussion site (the sci fi writers' think tank). I was ticked off for a while, over certain behaviors, for which he apologized and made amends. And that's that.

Let me make clear. Jerry Pournelle is -- above all -- a Heinleinian American. Which means that he has deep libertarian-individualist leanings, tempered by a powerful sense of duty and a deep obligation to commit to charity. He avows to opposing any form of stereotype-based prejudice based on race, gender etc and is highly science and future-oriented. OTOH he is also a gun-totin' fellow who both despises and works within government bureaucracies. He is courtly, but also loud and impulsive and brash and generally lacks hardly any midichlorians of tact. Yet, he openly admits to such contradictions. And, if you accuse him of a tort, his response is curiosity, to determine if you have a case, or if you are full of shit. (This last trait is the one that - I believe - separates assholes from real men.)

A full fledged member of the cult of Reagan idolatry, he nevertheless quickly saw the corrupt insanity that has taken over the Republican Party, a degree of open-eyed adaptability that could save the country, if it were widespread. It could certainly save conservatism. That is, if, alas it were widespread....

Given all that (and knowing full well that he has his own jaundiced view of me), I think the United States and the species are both better off for having this fellow son of Papa Heinlein in it. And I expect we'll continue to irritate each other endlessly.... as Papa would have wanted.

TimH. Alas, calling for more transparency over climate change data is fine. But such concessions will not be met by concessions on the other side, and you know it. We have a community -- in Red America -- that intends to never negotiate with Blue America, over anything, at any level or in any why.

Its delegates to Congress make demands, exact changes in legislation... and still vote lockstep and perfectly against anything at all. When any objections to science -- whether evolution or GCC -- are answered successfully, they do not accept those successes as evidence in favor of evolution of GCC, they simply move on to another nitpick and claim THAT as perfect disproof. Having demanded "more research" they then go on to torpedo any possibility of research, with a relentless War on Science.

This is not about the scientific debate over GCC. It is about a memic civil war aimed directly at undermining America's status as a future-oriented civilization. Those fostering and promoting it are traitors.

CulturalEngineer said...

Re ClimateGate, Climate Change, Global Warming and the rest:

WHAT A MESS!

Humanity's profound alteration of the biosphere is undeniable whether that's via carbon dioxide or even more obviously via over-population, abuses of industrial food production, the reduction of bio-diversity, or the perils faced we reach a stage where high-school kids can custom design DNA with tabletop lab kits.

Weather effects could well be the least of the problems on the road in front of us.

But the controversy is illustrative perhaps of the greatest threat of all that we face...

The possible inability of a global civilization to sustain a social contract that even allows for solution to the myriad of dire situations we face.

I'm a great fan of Dr. Brin's book "Earth" which I recently reread. There are so many profound insights in there (the inter-connectedness of competition and co-operation both intra-species and inter-species within an ecology is one I'm thinking a lot about these days)...

But even Dr. Brin found himself essentially having to rely on a sort of "deux ex machina" to bring about solution and stop the world from ripping itself apart...

By essentially establishing a new social contract beneficially imposed.

But we can't count on being so lucky.

We must be our own God in the Machine!

This is certainly possible. Perhaps necessity will catalyze responsibility.

But our social ineptness may also be why there's that factor in the Drake equation regarding the need to compute some percentage of intelligent lifeforms that can actually make it out of the planetary seed pod.

Our yolk is just about used up... and not all eggs hatch.

Robert said...

After a long argument with a Denier last night, I think I have come up with the fundamental reasons why they refuse to accept global warming. It's cost of stopping it, and the fact they don't think it'll affect them in this lifetime.

In short, Deniers do not want to give up their lifestyle. They feel that Cap-and-Trade will drive power prices through the roof. They feel that conforming to a lifestyle that is environmentally friendly is going to destroy "our way of life." They want things to be easy. And if the oceans rise 200 feet in 150 years? They won't be here to see it. And fuck the future generations.

Mind you, I got this out of someone who is a devout Christian and who refuses to believe that God can change His mind and that there is any possibility of Satan accepting God's forgiveness at the end of Revelations and all of that. So there might be a part of the whole "the world's coming to an end anyway so why bother?" aspect to it.

It is tremendously frustrating. I've parents, friends... people I consider quite intelligent who refuse to believe. Who see local effects and refuse to accept global ones. Who see a rise in temperatures of 0.018 degrees and then calculate how long that constant would take to reach 2 degrees. Who deliberately wear blinders and don't look at the wider picture.

It's part of why I want to be a writer. I want to open eyes. I want to make people see the larger picture. I want to wake people up. I want to make a difference. To change things. And to fail to even open one person's eyes... to pull multiple facts out of sources, show them, and have them all shot down as conspiracy, fraud, and not iron-clad proof... it's tremendously frustrating, to say the least.

Climategate isn't about e-mails. It's not about facts. It's about giving Deniers the illusion of being able to claim it's a lie so they can blithely refuse to lift a finger while a woman screams and pleads for help for several hours straight and then say "but there was nothing we could do!" when public opinion turns against them.

Damn but I need a drink now.

Rob H.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Dr. Brin: Jerry P and I are on speaking terms... I was ticked off for a while... [but] he apologized and made amends. And that's that.

Oh good, I'm glad that's over. It disturbed me when I heard of it, when I respect both of your viewpoints so much. I also totally understand why you find each other annoying -- but that's precisely why I (and, I presume, Ron as well) would find you two so to be so good in a global warming disputation arena. You're both intelligent, knowledgeable, honorable, and honest -- and yet you have conflicting viewpoints. Properly focused, the tangle would be (IMNSHO) worth the trouble. Heck, I'd pay to see it.

CulturalEngineer: or the perils faced we reach a stage where high-school kids can custom design DNA with tabletop lab kits.

Ummm... should I mention the BioBricks lab here at the Miskatonic Institute of Technocracy, where we have an annual competition in which kids do exactly that? You should see the polka-dot pigment pattern they programmed into a bunch of E. coli...

Rob H.:Who see a rise in temperatures of 0.018 degrees and then calculate how long that constant would take to reach 2 degrees.

Well, that's the one valid question they have. After "no change", the next most parsimonious hypothesis of any system's behavior is "linear change". That's Newton's first law of motion, for heaven's sake. The burden of demonstrating nonlinear change is on its advocates; I think that's part of Dr. P.'s point.

And it's where my own skepticism kicks in... because while I see the potential mechanisms for nonlinear change, I don't understand the strength of that nonlinearity... nor do I believe the climate scientists understand, either. Warnings like "we must act in the next ten years or we are DOOOOOOMED" are based off, not how bad the predictions are but how wide the error bars are. And that's highly relevant when the difference between one end of the error bar and the other is trillions of dollars of cumulative wealth, tens of millions of lives and livelihoods, sent one way or another.

But you've hit on the real problem of Deniers (as opposed to skeptics), and it indeed has nothing to do with the science or even the politics. It's about moral cowardice: the refusal to accept responsibility for future generations' welfare, to ignore our duty of stewardship (a very Christian notion!), and to 'eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die'.

Was your denier a baby boomer? It sounds to me like just a variation on the fairyland attitude so common in that generation -- the idea that only the present matters...

boodsete: the way Deniers would like to sit while the world burns... or drowns...

Anwer Pasha said...

As a matter of fact and personal experience I have to tell that most of PVS and MCS patients are not unconscious but they have lost their motor function and still no proper way to measure their consciousness .Glasgow coma scale is for the people who have motor function. These are only friends and family who can reach to the heart of the patients. We here are successful to to get two persistent vegetative state patients to a stage of fully conscious / aware. Their names are Jawad Pasha and Muhammad Hussain Kakar.Can I tell you the way ?
Personal care and no medicine

Stefan Jones said...

DB: I don't know how archiving is done, but I do know that some Blogger sites have just the latest "X" posts up front, them more behind an "older articles" link.

I imagine there's a setting for it somewhere.

* * *

The deniers don't want to give up their cushy quality of life?

Hell, neither do I! I'm quite far along to being an on-paper millionaire and I'd like to be able to freely spend and have a big house with property and fly places on a whim and not worry about leaving my DVR on and fresh fruit year-round.

But here's the thing. With a little work and imagination and re-investment we can retain vast swathes of our way of life, and eat our environmental cake too.

Forcing industry and people out of unsustainable bad habits will almost certainly require tax incentives and disincentives. Tough.

David Brin said...

Catfish, your diagnosis is misplaced. Baby Boomers are not, by nature, anti future or even selfish. Don't forget how hard many of them fought against vile habits of the past, against racism and poverty etc.

No, their distinguishing - but far from universal - character trait is self-righteous indignation and excess devotion to theory... thus falling too easily into the foolish "left-right" dogmatic trips. it has made some of us suckers for Culture War.

True, one WING of the Boomers is indignantly devoted to a particular dogmatic movement that's anti-future, anti-reason, anti-science etc. But there are pools and puddles of this poison all over, including the far-left.

Do bear in mind, however, that this trait is not universal to boomers, or even to a majority of them. Many are reasonable people and some of the indignation junkies - like me - have channeled their actinic, volcanic fury into a rabid and ferocious dedication to reasonableness. A particular fanaticism that may be one of the most ironic in all of time. (And - duh - that feeds pride upon pride.)

BTW... do be forgiving of your Red Troglodyte relatives and friends. They think that they are at war with a bona fide enemy -- a movement that is monolithic, inimical and deadly to a civilization they love.

The fact that this belief is a complete hallucination... that they view liberals this way because THEY are members of a monolithic cult... and so, they expect the enemy to be like them... this is tragic. And culpable. But they are the sock puppets of their masters and there is little you can do to persuade them. All your efforts do is to classify you as one of those people.

It is why I have chosen to focus on the simplest metaphors --

-- the steep decline in average education levels of republicans. They respond that "eggheads can be fools." Sure. But ALL of them?

-- their inability to name a single positive outcome from neocon rule. (Tacitus may be able to find some iffy exceptions. But your friends won't.)

and so on. If one in a hundred budge...

CulturalEngineer said...

I ran across the following via Hacker News today:
Fables of the Reconstruction which lays out the statistical methodology (the author says) behind the hockey stick.

This guy has a bias but his approach seems rational and for a novice like me he did a fairly good job of laying out how the statistical modeling works and some of the issues with various data sets, etc...

He actually presents a do-it-yourself recipe for a hands-on process you can do with your own computer and historical climate data to create the notorious hockey stick if any are interested in actually going through the steps...

I'd be interested to hear opinions on his presentation since, like I said, I'm a novice on the details of the science with this issue.

Though alternative and sustainable fuels, recycling, greater efficiency, etc. makes sense to me regardless of the weather.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, no I don't believe transparency in the consensus community would be a giveaway. Resisting transparency adds credibility to Red staters, see :

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/11/global-warmings-cold-shoulder/?hp

BTW, it's no longer possible to do "nothing" on carbon reduction, you don't think they'll tear down wind turbines if the consensus is discredited, do you?
"ablersh" heard at the porcelain alter.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

Climategate ./sigh

Dr Brin, you can't be for transparency, and then say “Well, the other side won't do it, so I won’t either! Gonna take your ball and go home are you? lol.

For those who question the deniers, there are as Dr Brin likes to say, some that are crazy, others that don't care (they'll be dead), others that fear additional government power (I understand this, the scariest cops in Mass were the environmental police – (State Trooper + EPA power!) and others that fear the ROI. They feel that the issue is too massive to impact, and that some 'numbers' show that even with great sacrifice the impact of the reductions will be insignificant 100 years in the future. Some think it’s naive to think that we won’t develop a technology to solve the problem in the future.

Now for us evil republicans that haven’t all had lobotomies like Dr Brin would like to believe, there are some willing to evaluate the science and acknowledge the climate is changing, whether man made or not. (I would make the case that the first forests humans chopped down for fields 12K+ years ago started our trend of impacting the climate.)

As someone who believes that the current human civilization is harming the biosphere that sustains us (lets face it the ‘planet’ will be fine either way) what I fear is the destruction of our economy and way of life for 'no reason'.

I say no reason beacuse even if China's carbon emissions per capita are only currently a quarter of the U.S. emissions rate, warming doesn't come from emissions per capita, it comes from total emissions.

So while our numbers are dropping, (we are half way to the Kyoto numbers, currently at 5400, the goal was 4700) China’s growth will more than make up for any cuts we make. China's carbon intensity is now five times that of the U.S., they are very inefficient.

So by the time the Chinese cut emissions by 45%, its yearly total will be over twice that of the U.S. and that’s assuming they complied with any new ‘regulations’, so even if they did comply, by 2025 China's emissions will surpass those of the U.S.

So let’s imagine the US cut 10% every year, those cuts would be negated by that same one year of growth in China. Add to this the fact that coal is inexpensive, and that China has been installing a new gigawatt coal plant each week and it should not be difficult to understand why business friendly leaders find it difficult to embrace the changes demanded.

Let's face it, even if you can accept that there isn’t any fraudulent data in the emails, the scientists have been shown to be at minimum very petty.

So lets add petty to not having a CHEAP reliable technological alternative, and no business incentive to change, like tax credits or cheap funding credit, or something else. I say; of course business interests are going to resist. People don’t like to change with PROVEN data, like smoking, WE KNOW smoking will give you cancer, but millions still smoke. Even (./gasp) Lib'urls and them hihly edjumicated prefessirs!

So when we drop this stuff on the lay peopleI, is it so hard to understand that any of the arguments fall on deaf ears?

David Brin said...

First off, absolutely nothing in my statement could even remotely be taken to mean that I opposed transparency, or wished to refuse it ill the culture warriors snapped out of it.

They won't snap out of it. Our only hope is to keep them from stymieing civilization too badly -- or turning culture war "hot" -- until they are replaced by their smarter children.

I am Mr. The Transparent Society - remember? Of course we need to clean away at those corners of science that have been opaque or foolish or tendentious... Irrespective of the largely irrelevant yatters from the right.

The important thing to note is that there is no credibility over there. ALL matters are ideologically driven. All is partisan lockstep marching. All supply side predictions failed and their tenure guiding the nation was a uniform and unmitigated disaster.

Their war on science was relentless. It not only drove 95% of scientists away from the GOP (and the 5% that is left includes a lot of guys like me), but it belied the "we need more research" nostrum as flat-out hypocritical-evil.

The crux... we have no sane input from that side, right now. I regret that fact. I hope the Blue Dogs can supply some, because - as most of you know - I am VERY uncomfortable relying on wisdom from just one direction!

But again, it does not matter if there are still reasons to wonder if GCC is fully "proved." The course of action we should take -- toward "waste-not..." "a penny saved..." "cleanliness is next to godliness..." and efficiency and freeing us from dependence upon foreign oil-masters... ALL OF IT IS STUFF WE SHOULD BE DOING ANYWAY!

And for conservative reasons! That is, if conservatism had not been hijacked, long ago.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

Now, now, I was poking at ya, but I didn't poke you in the eye.

Dr Brin said: "Irrespective of the largely irrelevant yatters from the right. The important thing to note is that there is no credibility over there."

Um, don't 'they' have most Americans not believing in GCC anymore? You are not following your own advice here boss. The [carbon = bad] crew need to change tactics.

The science community needs to change their argument. They need better marketing or something. Not to mention easing up on all the recent secret squirrel EPA stuff. 8 significant EPA changes in 11 months that have received almost no press is more than a little scary.

Those changes equate to real money for us industry types. And 'us' industry types may find it easier to follow legal avenues over the cost of immediate compliance. Others of ‘us’ would like to know they aren’t just ‘feel good’ and ‘lip service’ changes. Yes, we need a clean biosphere, and to do that, we need to drop carbon energy.

Give us an alternative that won’t break us to adopt. Trust me; if there is a cheap alternative technology out there for any PROBLEM my business has, I will pounce on it! It makes me more competitive and efficient and more MONEY. Many companies have gone GREEN, merely as a marketing ploy. Give them REAL incentives to make more changes; to be more competitive and efficient than their competitors, and more companies will be like Coke, and will move to be resource, carbon, and/or water neutral.

Change the argument, to something that resonates, to something other than ‘We know better than you."

It reminds me of this old story from college: Some ‘farmer’ sends a letter to some chemical CO saying how much he loves their acid for cleaning his pipes. A ‘scientist’ at the CO writes back using scientific jargon basically saying: ‘Don’t do that’. But the farmer doesn't understand the language and data and responds back with ‘Thanks’ etc, etc. This goes back and forth until the scientist eventually asks a marketing guy at the Co for help. The marketing guy reads the correspondence, freaks, and writes a letter to the farmer saying 'don't do that!’ in 'layman'. To which the farmer responds back with basically 'no shit' my pipes are gone.

I don’t think its unreasonable for people to say ‘show me the money’, when there are very real and obvious immediate consequences. Especially when the other side’s consequences are so far away, do you really expect the general public to actually care what happens 100 years from now? For example, 100 years ago, the horse and buggy was the dominate mode of transportation, how will technology change even 50 years in the future? Those of us that do think that far ahead, could just as easily think, eh we’ll have nano-carbon munchers or something, not my problem, never mind the ‘eh Christ will be ruling the Earth crowd’. A major hurdle is the problem that many people don’t think 1 year ahead, never mind 100.

But ultimately its going to be all about the Jones...

E.g. Riddle me this Brinman:
Why do ‘I’ sacrifice, when China doesn’t have to?

Spirit of America said...

It's really telling how EAGERLY the denier crowd has seized on "climategate" (and can I just say how much I detest the "-gate" meme? Lordy!). To them, this is "the proof" they've always wanted of the great socialist-liberal global climate change conspiracy. To them they don't even argue any more - they believe the "science" has been somehow "settled" conclusively and that all they need do from now on is just say "climate email fraud." They believe this is a winning argument, not that argument is needed anymore since they "won."

What we can expect is a lot less even pretend-debate from that crowd, a lot more denial and refusal even to discuss the issues.

PS - Mark, your riddle is akin to a child's rebuttal: "But mommy, little Timmy's dad doesn't make him brush his teeth, so why should I?"

Catfish N. Cod said...

Dr. Brin: Catfish, your diagnosis is misplaced. Baby Boomers are not, by nature, anti future or even selfish.

We've got a bit of a misinterpretation here. Boomers aren't, as a rule, selfish; they're self-centered. The saving grace of that self-centered-ness is that so many Boomers decided to build their concept of self around service to others... but even that often winds up warped. For instance, their devotion to (insert cause here) leads them to counterproductive tirades because they want (insert injustice here) to be fixed now or in their lifetime... when mere patience would cause them to win without any more fuss or muss.

And that's what I meant when I said that the typical Boomer lives for the present. It's not that s/he doesn't care about the future; it's that it's not really real to them. If they're not personally making the change they want... well, no one else really has the clarity of theory and belief that a Boomer has, do they? So obviously it won't get done.

This is hardly a syndrome confined to the nut-right. The same exact description works for the nut-left... and (don't take this wrong) the nut-libertarians as well.

BTW... do be forgiving of your Red Troglodyte relatives and friends.

Oh, I am. How can you walk in and tell someone that not only their personal beliefs, but their entire community's, are wrong? You'll only stimulate innate tribal resistance. Especially when it's happened so often before... as it has in the American South. When they complain about Yankees not understanding race relations, I'm on their side... because I've seen race relations in detail on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, and I know where the reality (as opposed to the theory) is worse. Yet many Yanks still try to lecture us as if the yahoos in sheets are still running the place.

I get enough guff for just living among Northerners, thanks. I don't poke the home folks with a stick about it. You can't tell them they're wrong... but they can be shown. When Katrina hit the Coast... and the Feds were utterly incompetent at delivering needed services... Baby Shrub went from hero to zero before you could say "heckuva job". Places that once had portraits of Dear Leader hanging in places of honor now had pickups outside with bumper stickers saying "Support the Troops; No More Bush" or "Someone Less Dumb For President". Everyone quickly knew that only Mississippi really got recovery aid... because our governor circumvented the Feds' structure altogether and used his contacts as the former RNC chair to request aid directly from the civil servants and responsible politicians. After that, nothing the Administration did was trusted; even the surge was seen skeptically.

Now, that's not divesting them of their beloved theory, or separating them from the Mur-dock noise machine. But a deep skepticism runs through the Red and especially Southern Red psyche. If that skepticism can be turned from conspiracy-mongering (where Beck et al. would like to keep it) and onto their would-be masters... well... many of these folks are descended from the Scottish Highlanders. You can guess their reaction.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

Yup so how do you deal with that child? You can't make him brush his teeth. He’s 7 feet tall, weighs 350lbs, and carries an assault rifle.

So are you going to time him out? Or are you going to try to reason with him? Yes, he's got the attention span of a heavily caffeinated 9 year old, but if you are careful and polite, he may just listen to you.

But really, are you guys not reading my posts? I’m the reasonable enlightened neocon, I’m willing to listen.

I've ceded GCC, it exists. I’ve agreed it’s a problem that needs to be solved.

Give me a solution.

Sell me the bitter pill.

1. Future! Eh, ‘I’ don’t care, screw’em.
2. Flooding! Eh, don’t care, ‘I’ live inland.
3. All the dead species! Eh, ‘I’ don’t care.

Cost and lifestyle ‘I’ care!

Don’t go all Jimmy Carter on me boys, I don’t want to hear “Put on a sweater if you are cold.”

Show me the money.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Marc: E.g. Riddle me this Brinman:
Why do ‘I’ sacrifice, when China doesn’t have to?


SoA: Mark, your riddle is akin to a child's rebuttal: "But mommy, little Timmy's dad doesn't make him brush his teeth, so why should I?"

Except that only Timmy's teeth will rot if he doesn't brush. No, it's more like "Timmy doesn't get vaccines, why should I?"

Because you'll all get the measles if you don't, that's why.

China is trying to freeload on Western guilt just as long as they can. It's starting to backfire as China's arrogant power causes dissent among smaller nations, but as long as they can claim solidarity against whitey with the 'exploited' lands of South America and Africa, they will. (Never mind that they're planning to exploit them just as much.)

Marc, you're absolutely right re: China. And this 'it's all your fault' routine may backfire on them. If the Europeans can get a deal on funding with the Africans, China's whole schtick falls apart (after all, if China is a po' lil' developing nation, they can't spare money to help others, right?) and a Euro-Afro-American alliance may develop that punishes countries unwilling to do their share... perhaps with carbon tarriffs. 'They started it' is no excuse to keep breaking mother's vases, and that's essentially China's anti-carbon-control argument.

Not to mention easing up on all the recent secret squirrel EPA stuff.

I don't like it either, Marc, but after twenty years of trogs blocking any attempt at doing these things openly, I can't bring myself to completely blame them.

musizap: the discomfort caused by being forced to face the music.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

Changing topics:

@Dr Brin

Rebutting the evils of neocon financing.

To the new taxes = good assertion

I respond: Oh, Really?

http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/003355302320935043?cookieSet=1&journalCode=qjec


by Olivier Blanchard and Roberto Perotti. (Mr. Perotti is a professor at Boccini University in Milano, Italy; Mr. Blanchard is now chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.)

They report that “both increases in taxes and increases in government spending have a strong negative effect on private investment spending. This effect is difficult to reconcile with Keynesian theory.”

"The results consistently show positive government spending shocks as having a positive effect on output, and positive tax shocks as having a negative effect. One result has a distinctly nonstandard flavor: both increases in taxes and increases in government spending have a strong negative effect on investment spending."

And as supporting evidence I add:

http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/alesina/files/Large%2Bchanges%2Bin%2Bfiscal%2Bpolicy_October_2009.pdf

AND

http://www.econ.berkeley.edu/~dromer/papers/RomerandRomer.pdf


Thanks for the challenge.

Ian Gould said...

"I think the United States and the species are both better off for having this fellow son of Papa Heinlein in it. And I expect we'll continue to irritate each other endlessly.... as Papa would have wanted."

Being a particularly puny and minor bastard member of the same family, few things sadden meas much as those people who treat Heinlein's works as sacred texts.

I think the most important lesson both you and Dr. Pournelle have learned from Heinlein is to question everything and everyone =- most definitely including Heinlein.

Ian Gould said...

"Hell, neither do I! I'm quite far along to being an on-paper millionaire and I'd like to be able to freely spend and have a big house with property and fly places on a whim and not worry about leaving my DVR on and fresh fruit year-round.

But here's the thing. With a little work and imagination and re-investment we can retain vast swathes of our way of life, and eat our environmental cake too."

Over the years I've noticed something odd about the technically literate and future-oriented climate skeptics.

There are several key questions that one needs to address when consdiering climate change:

Is it happening?
What are the likely consequences if it continues?
What will it cost to do something about it?

In theory, these questions are largely independent.

In practice, I've yet to encounter a skeptic who thinks the cost of action to address climate change is going to be less than catastrophic.

Where are the Techno-cornucopians proclaiming: Don't worry once we have fusion power and Makers, we can fix this in a couple of years?

I'm also regularly disappointed by people with a background in the physical sciences who make elemental statistical and logical errors when considering economic issues.

"It'll cost a trillion dollars!"

Really:
Gross or net?
Over what time period?
Is that net present value or nominal dollars?
What percentage of GDP is that?
what's the alternative going to cost?

Nik Van Rijn would sigh heavily before parting them from the bulk of their worldly goods.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@CulturalEngineer:

I took a look at that link on the original hockey stick you posted. Now, I don't understand the climate forces being modeled any better than anyone else with a bachelor of science would. But I _do_ have an advanced degree in informatics, including statistics, so I _can_ act as an expert in evaluating whether computer models are producing statistically significant results.

And I'm appalled. R squared of 0.50? Correlation coefficient, 0.71? No leave-one-out cross-validation? How did this get put in Nature? I've seen better modeling get rejected from PNAS!

Answer: every so often Nature and Science publish something flashy. The purpose isn't to draw attention to boost sales: they're already the top of the heap. It's to draw attention to an area the editors feel need better evaluation. Mann et al., 1998, represented some of the best we had on climate at that time. And it sucked. That was horrible science.

But what has the result been? A decade of massive amounts of research, such that most of the crappy problems Mann et al. struggled with -- and possibly fudged, I can't rule it out -- are now addressed. It's disingenuous to keep pointing at an eleven-year-old graph given what we have now.

That said? We still have BIG problems with our models. This is the latest IPCC report on climate modeling. I draw your attention to Figure 8.2, found on page 609 (21st in the PDF). This is the current mean (above) and RMS (below) error in the combined climate models, i.e., the best the world climate community can do, at predicting the past. (Any idiot can predict the future; what's hard is going from first principles and deriving what actually happened. Fudging history is harder than scrying.) The text touts the global averages, i.e., 3C for individual models and 2C for the composite. But look at where the biggest errors are: Antarctica, Greenland, the Northwest Passage, north Scandinavia, and Tibet. In other words, the places where global warming would have the most dramatic impacts. Melting of the Tibetan glaciers would endanger China and India, the world's two largest civilizations; the other areas are where the future sea level will be determined. Yet these are precisely the areas we can't model for shizznizzle.

Thus my statement: we can say that globally, the world is warming faster than normal; but we can't reliably say jack about what the effects will be.

asequol: what we need for An Inconvienent Truth, to acknowledge the hype Gore put in his first movie while avoiding Denialism.

CulturalEngineer said...

@Catfish N. Cod:

THANKS! I couldn't have asked for a better response. For me at least it really clears it up...

Or rather clarifies the reasons for the fogginess.

Frankly I think we should do all we can to pursue the goal of a sustainable and healthy ecology and the question of climate change is simply one more reason to do it...

Though I also believe a rational look at the situation in Copenhagen suggests that if we're not careful this issue could provoke political divisions between the developed and undeveloped nations (and other constituencies not nationally based) that are more dangerous than the climate change.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@cat oh, nifty link! Thanks!

hmmmm

'Mystery Volcano Eruption Solves Global Cooling Puzzle.'

"A newly detected 19th-century volcanic eruption may solve the mystery of a strangely cool decade in the early 1800s, researchers say"

("The year without a summer")

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/12/
091209-mystery-volcano-global-cooling.html


I just read this and it got me wondering on the impact of the
June 1991, Mount Pinatubo, eruption, which (in the twentieth century), was second in size only to an eruption in Katmai, Alaska, in 1912. Ten times larger than the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980.

Maybe that's where the dip in 90's came from? Has anyone seen any data or theories on that?

Naked Science just had a special about Mt. Vesuvius, maybe it'll blow and buy us another decade to piss away arguing. ;)

Marc, Austin, TX said...

AND because I'm a link asshat:

From my finance post

http://www.econ.berkeley.edu/~dromer/papers/RomerandRomer.pdf

http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/alesina/files/Large%2Bchanges%2Bin%2Bfiscal%2Bpolicy_October_2009.pdf

http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/003355302320935043?cookieSet=1&journalCode=qjec

Marc, Austin, TX said...

Sigh (Sorry for the spam all)

One more time:

http://bit.ly/7LLpzE

http://bit.ly/31Gm7G

http://bit.ly/5EooUG

Robert said...

And now from the insanity of Climategate we have The Associated Press's take on things. Final prognosis? The Climategate e-mails do not disprove global warming.

"In the past three weeks since the e-mails were posted, longtime opponents of mainstream climate science have repeatedly quoted excerpts of about a dozen e-mails. Republican congressmen and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin have called for either independent investigations, a delay in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulation of greenhouse gases or outright boycotts of the Copenhagen international climate talks. They cited a "culture of corruption" that the e-mails appeared to show.

That is not what the AP found. There were signs of trying to present the data as convincingly as possible."

Also:

"Sometimes the data didn't line up as perfectly as scientists wanted.

David Rind told colleagues about inconsistent figures in the work for a giant international report: "As this continuing exchange has clarified, what's in Chapter 6 is inconsistent with what is in Chapter 2 (and Chapter 9 is caught in the middle!). Worse yet, we've managed to make global warming go away! (Maybe it really is that easy...:)."

But in the end, global warming didn't go away, according to the vast body of research over the years."

So. The Great Weapon to be used in destroying Global Warming is... a e-paper tiger. Unfortunately, it has already succeeded in its true goal: giving Deniers a reason to continue resisting efforts to combat global warming.

(BTW, in the continued argument with a Denier, his complaints included the high price for private individuals putting up wind turbines and the like. His demand for subsidies and the like made me label him a Democrat. Because isn't asking for something from the government (outside of tax breaks) what Republicans claim Dems do all the time? ;) He ignored that volley, though.)

Read the article. Seriously. It is an interesting look at what those e-mails truly represent... and the fact that the Deniers have ultimately refined climate scientists' efforts to be more understandable and comprehensible to non-scientists and avoid the "maybe" aspects that can be found in a number of imprecise sciences.

Rob H.

Marc, Ausitn, TX said...

@Robert

Yeah the AP article was very good. Too bad even the White Houses internal press office (MSNBC) did negative climate email articles. ;)

It's a shame that the damage has been done.

"His demand for subsidies and the like made me label him a Democrat. Because isn't asking for something from the government (outside of tax breaks) what Republicans claim Dems do all the time? ;) He ignored that volley, though.)"

Nah, not if the gov is forcing you to 'make changes' for non-financial reasons. ;)

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, I did not mean to imply you were in favor of a lack of transparency, but you ask me to trust people who don't seem to have much interest in it at all. If the consensus community opened up, there could be interesting possibilities when a visit to a thrift store, open source software and a few yards of ethernet cable could give someone a computer cluster few labs could have matched 20 years ago.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Tim you have a point. I wonder how big of an HPC cluster would be needed to accurately model the climate? Someone should pony up for 500 PS3s and go to town. ;)

David Brin said...

Marc, your argument is incredible. You make it a matter of "marketing" - which scientists are notoriously less able-at.

That's not their job! Especially under circumstances of culture war, when they have LESS credibility with the mob, precisely BECAUSE they are smart of knowledgeable.

Credibility has two meanings. I meant the first. That the right is always actually and objectively wrong, and therfore no reasonable person with give much cred to its arguments.

You choose the other meaning, Subjectivity. The scientists have low credibility in the minds of Red Americans... because Fox/Limbaugh tell them to ignore smartypants. These are different things.

"Give us an alternative that won’t break us to adopt."

Precisely. "Give me." It is the attitude of those who push for a war and then refuse to tax themselves to pay for it... unlike any other generation of americans. Talk about credibility.

"I don’t think its unreasonable for people to say ‘show me the money’, when there are very real and obvious immediate consequences. "

No, it is NOT reasonable. It is the worst sort of betrayal of our children and of our country because the BURDEN OF PROOF is on those who have sabotaged the very research that they keep asking for.

WHo have sabotaged the very alternatives that might have led to a way out of this mess...

...who keep crying out "it will cost too much!" without ever providing figures of their own.

"E.g. Riddle me this Brinman: 
Why do ‘I’ sacrifice, when China doesn’t have to?"

No you riddle me this, WHy am I still talking to a person who thinks like this?

====

Ian: "I think the most important lesson both you and Dr. Pournelle have learned from Heinlein is to question everything and everyone =- most definitely including Heinlein.'

Um duh? That is the core.

"Where are the Techno-cornucopians proclaiming: Don't worry once we have fusion power and Makers, we can fix this in a couple of years?"

Again, spot-on. The supposed believers in Adam Smith and the market are precisely those who demonstrably believe in capitalism the least. They have NO faith that a shifted market place - with coal properly taxed at its total, multigenerational cost - could be responded-to by innovative capitalism.

These are the SAME GUYS who (totally correctly) said that rising oil scarcity would cause a price increase that then spurred further exploration and innovation. Of course, they missed the role of oil oligarchs then manipulating oil prices. And, of course, then never get mad at THAT, even though it has cost us far more than ALL PROPOSED CARBON TAXES EVER WILL.

What is so staggering is that while worshipping Adam Smith, they so thoroughly betray him.

There hasn't been anything like it, since Paul of Tarsus carefully reversed and trashed almost everything that Jesus believed in.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Dr Brin

That's a shame, because with that response, regardless of the worthiness of the cause, you've already lost the argument with the general public. Unless you plan to wait a generation?

But I ask, If you slap away someone that agrees with you, how are you going to change the minds of the people that are actually resistant and don't believe?

Call them names and tell them they are stupid? Yelling "Believe me I'm a scientist!" works so well for evolution...

There is a poll on Foxnews asking GCC questions. When I checked it this morning, a 100K+ people had taken the quiz. You don't need to guess where the 70%+ majority fell on each of the questions. It's actually pretty frustrating, almost scary, and I generally like foxnew's coverage on non science subjects. (Interesting 'sameness' with a sometimes slight contrast to the all the others, I frequent. ;))

People here can yell about Fox all they want, you are only comforting the like minded. The people that 'love' fox, are not persauded by the other sides alternative propaganda machine.

So, if you don't want to bother taking council from an 'ally' on this particular subject so be it.

However, I still say it is a marketing issue. Just like encouraging people not to smoke, or not to do drugs (for all the good that does) or for 'them' to not do whatever other undesirable behavior there is, drinking and driving, etc, etc. You have to educate them, in a manner MEANNINGFUL to them.

And I say this issue is going to take a MAJOR campaign for the very reasons you reject.

Individual behavior can't make a difference with GCC. We need to act as a nation. Not flushing the toliet, or not washing your plates, or using the new bulbs, or keepign you house cold, or putting in solar panels, or buying a prius, or walking, or riding your bike are futile acts for an individual or family. They are almost meaningless 'feel' good gestures.

I have been in factories that use more water and carbon energy in 15 minutes than any 10 families could use in a lifetime.

This issue will require a fundemental change in behavior.

Again I ask; Where is the cheap alternative tech? Where are the incentives? Where is something other than this thought experiment. We have intellectualized the concept long enough. Where is savy future orientated Obama campaign marketing machine?

Tell 'me' why I need to sacrifice now for something 'I' probably won't ever see. Tell me in 'Middle' Americanease without mocking 'my' religion, or preaching it back at 'me'.

Robert said...

The funny thing is? We're seeing immediate effects of climate change. For instance, the elk were not heading further up the mountain when I was hunting there with my father last month, because the weather was much warmer than usual and snow and the like had not hit the region. (Ironically, my father doesn't believe in global warming despite seeing this and commenting on this.) We're seeing droughts and the like that we've not seen ten years ago. We're seeing lakes and reservoirs at rather low levels. We're seeing flooding in other regions that should not occur. But people still refuse to believe.

It's laziness. It's what threatened the Environmental Movement thirty years ago, and which they overcame by going at a different tack. We need to apply these same methods now because the truth is not enough. We need to show people that it won't cost a huge amount and that it is possible to make a difference on an individual level. And we need to have the faith that this is in fact true.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

@Marc:
Tell 'me' why I need to sacrifice now for something 'I' probably won't ever see.

Why indeed?

It is a common belief that the cost of fixing climate will cripple the economy of any country that attempts it (leading to this negative sum scenario by the aforementioned Jamais Cascio... not that Jamais is glum, just doing his job of forecasting)

It is a product of zero sum thinking (everything has a price.. trade-off, conservation of.. etc.) and, as a dodgy gent from the south once sang: 'it ain't necessarily so!'

reseet: to radically adjust one's position on something. A re-molded backside.

Tony Fisk said...

I have the same suspicions regarding Pinatubo.

Local (Melbourne) weather was a lot cooler in the early nineties then, wham! 1996 (possibly after the sulphates got scrubbed)

(Check out the Melbourne catchment records since)

The weird thing is, on the occasions that Melbourne does cop a downpour, Sydney gets beset with massive bushfires.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

./sigh

People get with the program!

As awesome as Newscientist is, who reads that in the US? Really? A couple million of 'us' maybe max?

CNN doesn't even have a dedicated Science tab on its web-site anymore. Of the 3 major cable news sites, I have to rely on MSNBC and Cosmic log for cool links! On MSNBC (practically ObamaNewNetwork) Alan doesn't even cover GCC, it's not under the SCIENCE tab!!!

Really we need several targeted campaigns including the:

Smoking-Hawt-Scantily-Clad-Twenty-something female in the kitchen smashing Barbie, Ken, and Skipper on the frying hot skillet saying: "This is your family on GCC, any questions?"

and not that ridiculous little girl holding on the tree in the hurrican wind they played at Coppen, sheesh!

Welcome to America people!

Sell it!

Tony Fisk said...

Ah!

That snippet was provided for your benefit, not the hypothetical mid-west 'you' that isn't as widely read (although, in Oz, countryfolk are actually quite avid readers and I suspect the mid-west americans are the same, on the whole)

Informative data remains the best counter to the naysaysers. Still, if you want an emotive message, try this one (apologies for inaccuracies in expression):

Down and out liber'l with GCC placard sitting in an agricultural wasteland.

voiceover: 'Hey, Johnnie! What you gon' do with yourself'

Johnnie: (looking around) Save the world, I guess!

voiceover: Why? Haven't you got nothin' better to do?

Johnnie: (looking around again) Nope!
(Looks at camera) Have you?


(Oh, well! Did that 'brain on drugs' campaign achieve anything either?)

icarat: when Apple produces a gem.

Robert said...

Okay. You want commercials to convince the masses? Take some old photographs and black & white movies of the Dust Bowl that happened in the early 20th Century. And then basically state that this is what will happen to the mid-west and other American farmlands if killer droughts caused by global warming come about. And that this can be averted by stopping global warming.

This gets the midwest on the bandwagon. The oldtimers REMEMBER the dust bowl. And farmers are better situated to know of the importance of the climate. This in turn starts forcing some Repubs to start backing climate protection because if they lose THIS base of power... then the Republican Party is dead.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Marc,
You say that because Fox has found a niche market, catering to the schizophrenic frenzy of a third of the population, we are therefore whining when we complain about it. Whether they are Fox's sock puppets... or Fox is simply market niche catering to sixty million Americans who have gone bonkers, why should I care anymore?

Marketing? MARKETING?

Nothing any of us says or does will make the slightest difference to paranoid madness.

If anything could, the fact that their "side" has brought nothing but relentless ruin upon America should "market" a shift in attitudes. It has not.

The fact that supply side and all right wing theories have proved simply and universally wrong should "market" a change in position. This is plain... as is the fact that the right now serves monopolists and oligarchs and nothing resembling capitalism.

You can ask about "where are the cheap techs" but that is just more gimme gimmer from people who would not tax themselves for a war they pushed. Such people are greedy cowards and they have NO credibility.

The issue is not whether one side is right and the other wrong. One side id 100% top to bottom and in all conceivable WAYS wrong, while the other represents a muddle-stew of diverse views, trying to forge forward and work things out, while a third of the country is screeching and biting and hacking at our legs.

You are starting to bore me.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Tony: Yup, thanks for the link! AND for GETTING my point AND for the mad commercial writing skills ;)! You too @Robert!

@Dr Brin I bore you. Oh, no! I might cry. You asshat! I've ceded the existence of GCC, the accuracy of the data, the non-malicious intent if petty behavior in the climate science community emails, and the fact that we need to get off carbon, so YES, 'they' are WRONG. Obviously!

I get it, you are crispy, but this direction you are heading puts the group you detest back into power in 2010.

So you are right, what do you want flowers? So go do the I-told-you-so-dance, and then get over it, suck up the stupidity, and acknowledge that the science guys need to ask for help with the presentation, and go kick ass with your future speak, or move on.

Speaking of which with the endless ‘supply-side’ loop you are in, you are sounding a lot like Hannity when he beats a point beyond a pulpy mist. Trust me it’s not an endearing trait. (AND I did link 3 papers from Harvard, MIT, and Berkley that come to some interesting conclusions about new taxes when you have the time.)

I think @Robert gets it, his post about his Dad is powerful. However, I do disagree with @Robert's point on laziness.

I would argue, its not all laziness, it is more about APATHY.

“What can I do, blah, blah.”

Believe it or not, many of the informed [right] side BELIEVE that immediate drastic action is not needed because [WE] will solve the problem with technology and adapt to the changes. They talk about more land and better access to resources. The poor that are the most vulnerable, in developing nations are a distant unmanageable problem, easily ignored.

Let's face it; we've already past the point of no return. So is it hard to understand how the ejumikated of 'us' on the [red] side could look at the problem and say, "eh, it's done", China will undo whatever sacrifices ‘we’ make, someone will invent a nano-carbon-muncher to solve the problem. What’s for dinner?

Rob Perkins said...

David, are you really making a case that a third of all Americans are caught in a schizophrenic frenzy?

That's kind of conspiracy-theory-ish. Maybe that's appropriate, since there have been conspiracies. (The set of Foxnews.com headlines the day the Senate introduced health care legislation into debate was a fascinating example in partisan group-think...)

In my view, the de-facto burden of proof rests with those who wish to change the status quo. That's not a question of the way I want things to be, just an observation of the way things are.

I've tried several times to explain global warming to people during the most recent cold snap (more energy in the hydration cycle means faster and more intense swings of weather in the temperate areas, but the cold spells are shorter and the storms more violent, etc).

Didn't mention the political angle, didn't try to blame it on human beings. Just described the thing any seventh-grader learns in an earth science class.

Some of them accused me of drinking kool aid. Most of the rest made jokes about their own personal warming. Ah me...

Rob Perkins said...

Do I need to send you two on a time out?

David has a salient and solid point: The AGCC denier factions, in power between '01 and '09, eviscerated the science research funding, the pure research stuff which only goes any place 5%-20% of the time but which always underlies any exploitable applied science or technology.

That stings. A freakin' awful lot.

And Marc's salient point is that saying so isn't going to change the minds of people who can't or won't pay attention.

Really: The Chevy Volt is slated to cost $40,000. $40k! At that differential it's cheaper to pay $3/gallon in a 25 mpg car for something like eight to 16 years! (The Toyota Corolla can be had for $17k, for example.)

So, yeah, sure, do something, etc etc, but do something we proles can actually afford to do, y'know?

David Brin said...

I didn't say that solutions weren't coming. Indeed, some (many) will come from capitalist innovators.

But all of this will happen despite deliberate sabotage by people who are not persuadable by reason.

Tacitus2 said...

If you can stand it, Iowahawk has some statistical analysis of the climate change "hockey stick" issue. I must admit, it got over my head pretty quick.

You should know that Iowahawk, while an undoubted genius, is kind of a jerk.

www.iowahawk.typepad.com

Tacitus2

Catfish N. Cod said...

Tacitus, if you're talking about this analysis, I've already addressed it above. Iowahawk is right as far as he goes, but he's telling us why cannons make stone castle fortifications obsolete while the war colleges are working on the tactical implications of the Gatling gun.

Mann et al. is crap, but the very fact of its crappiness got real climate science done. I concede the point that the 2001 IPCC report probably should not have used Mann's work -- especially in light of the McIntyre and McKitrick analysis showing that leave-one-out cross-validation blew claims of "robustness" away. (I think Mann meant 'robust' to removal of raw data points, but you can't do cross-validation properly as long as you have correlations in the data sets.)

The proof of the pudding for any serious attempt to model the climate is to accurately reproduce actual climate history. This is slightly tough because the advent of accurate worldwide temperature measurement coincides with the advent of mass industrial intervention in the climate; fortunately, the advent of highly accurate accounting of energy usage is also about the same time, so we can compensate. Until we can be sure we can actually describe the world, there's no point in talking about predictions. Putting in or taking out specific proxies is also a red herring: if they're not good at describing reality, they shouldn't be in the model.

One thing I *would* like to see done (maybe it has been and I haven't heard) is to see modeling of the *proxies* in terms of *modeled climate temperatures* plus exterior forcings. If our model is accurate, we should be able to re-extract our original data by running the correlations backwards... and if we don't have the understanding to do that, I'm not sure that proxy should be in the model to start with (as we really have no idea what the correlations of the unknown influences on the proxies are to the climate).

Whew. Let me know if I'm getting too deep into statistics for ya'll.

Tim H. said...

Catfish, if memory serves, the hockey stick was defended somewhat beyond it's defensibility and the statistician that reverse engineered it took a lot of flack. But I really like the idea of modeling a few decades of the past climate, if that could be done successfully, a lot of us skeptics could complain about some other wretched thing.

Tim H. said...

Some of the other wretched things that could use a bit more attention: How to free Obama from the gilt chains binding him to Wall $treet? Can CEOs be persuaded to invest in America again?
Could some of the economic diversity that was destroyed for efficiencies sake be restored?
Is there any way our children can have advanced education without a lifetime of indebtedness?

Ian said...

Tony Fisk; (although, in Oz, countryfolk are actually quite avid readers and I suspect the mid-west americans are the same, on the whole)

And until the advent of satellite broadcasting the outback mostly only got ABC television.

Which led on occasion to conversations with grizzled bushies and jackaroos about Brideshead Revisited and Lipstick on your collar.

Ian said...

"Is there any way our children can have advanced education without a lifetime of indebtedness?"

Emigrate/

JohnSerenity said...

Isn't much of China's CO2 footprint bound tightly to their production of goods that get shipped to the West?

If we mandate a CO2 footprint tariff on goods from producer countries that ship using ungreen factories and power plants, won't the resulting market force them to lower emissions?

Also, a "green" tariff can be accompanied by a "social" tariff. No slave labor on goods or those will get an import tax.

I agree with aspects of Dr. Brin's earlier blog about the US spending the developing world into solvency. However, I feel the line should be drawn when places like China are pushing out huge volumes of CO2 on products that we consume (ditto with slave/child labor).

Yes, it will raise the cost of consumer goods, but the advantages of cheap production in China should not be at the cost of our atmosphere.

LarryHart said...


Spirit of America said:

PS - Mark, your riddle is akin to a child's rebuttal: "But mommy, little Timmy's dad doesn't make him brush his teeth, so why should I?"


With all due respect (and I'm on your political side of the aisle), it's not like that in one crucial detail. What Timmy does or doesn't do to his teeth doesn't affect me a whit.

If the universe were such that prevention of my own cavities depended not only on my brushing my teeth, but on Timmy brushing his teeth as well, then the analogy would be closer. And then, the kid's futility would have a point. "Why should I bother spending time and effort trying in search of a goal that Timmy and a million Timmys are going to render moot no matter what I do?"

I'm very pessimistic about climate change for that very reason. We MUST change our ways, but we (the world as a collective) WON'T change our ways, so game over. I'm not saying I want to believe that, but I do believe it nonetheless.

Tim H. said...

J. S., I suspect the Chinese would attribute such a tariff to base motives. A modest, graduated tariff with free trade offered to nations with similar rules might have been better than what we have now, but transitioning now would likely open a malodorous can of worms. And China is not really standing still, they're developing a modular pebble bed reactor that might be able to retire coal-fired boilers.

Ilithi Dragon said...

The latest candidate for Uplift: Tool-using octopi.

Also, an interesting opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. Even some in the GOP are now starting to notice the increasing trend of the educated moving away from the GOP, and suggesting that the anti-intellectual politicizing of the party is a negative-sum game. The author tends to follow too much on the party line of turning the issues he suggests the GOP focus on into black-vs-white, but at least he's recognizing the migration of the educated away from the GOP, and suggests broadening the cultural base into a gray mix on other issues. Based on a brief perusal of the comments, it looks like even that is going over the heads of most of the readership, who appear to be firmly set in the anti-intellectual, anti-science, "OMG GVRNMNT = EVIL!", "Global Socialist Agenda (TM)" conspiracy belief (which, given this is the WSJ, isn't all that surprising...).

JohnSerenity said...

Tim H:

But does it matter what the Chinese think about a green tariff? Really? If the West signs on, the Chinese must play or retire. By retire, I mean piss off a billion of their population, many of whom would probably have a more democratic government.

Here is another thought:

If you go through the trouble to make emission laws, environmental laws, social (child labor laws), what is the point if your industry flees to locales for the very reason that those places don't? The crimes still get committed albeit abroad, but still in our name. That's how companies they keep the labor and production cost down and their margin high.

But what's the worst case scenario in the wake of a green tariff? The Chinese don't send us as much plastic crap in the face of the tariff and we must fire up some of our (hopefully less polluting) factories as the incentive to businesses shifts back toward avoiding the tariff?

Abilard said...

Oooo... flame war. That never happens on the Internet.

I think it is possible we are causing global warming, but I do not think the scientists saying so have proven their case. Their models conflict, some of their data is suspect IMHO, and I think they seriously overstate their case. The ClimateGate emails merely provided further evidence for me of what I had already surmised.

Surrender my judgment because institutions of learning know better? Would Galileo?

Accept a carbon tax because the risks are so high if these scientists are right? Sounds like Pascal's Wager.

And then there is the marketing: global warming repackaged as climate change. Anthropocentric Global Warming (AGW) is the proposition. Over time, climates shift. This is normal. Even if the climate shifts, AGW remains to be proven.

It is also an argument we do not need to be concerned with at this stage. The important question we need to answer is whether there is evidence that a climate shift is underway. Well, East Anglia may like to play with tree ring data but they aren't cooking our satellite data, or chipping open the northwest passage, or causing Ohio's wildlife to migrate north into Michigan. There is evidence that the climate may be shifting.

If it is, we need to adapt. We need to make our agricultural systems and water systems more robust. Our coastal cities need to start considering what will happen to them if sea levels change and make plans. We need to prepare for disruptions in transportation networks, which means generating power, food, water, and other essentials locally.

It is a mindset our ancestors venturing across the earth for the first time would have understood.

But, instead, we choose to debate AGW and Al Gore's power bill.

Ian said...

"But what's the worst case scenario in the wake of a green tariff? The Chinese don't send us as much plastic crap in the face of the tariff and we must fire up some of our (hopefully less polluting) factories as the incentive to businesses shifts back toward avoiding the tariff?"

The worst case scenario:

China stops lending money to the US (since there's no longer any need for them to prop up the value of the US dollar), US offical interest rates double or triple and the dollar loses 50% or more of its value.

Meanwhile the Chinese (and the Indian and most of the rest of Asia) impose their own countervailing tariffs against US exports, particularly targeting the technology, aviationand entertainment industries.

Say hello to 25% unemployment and $200 a barrel oil.

David Brin said...

I just realized the reason for the obsession on GCC denial. It has nothing to do with facts, since every denial claim that's disproved only causes a shift to some other nitpick.

Nor is it about "GCC means destroying our standard of living!" Since they never show any numbers to support this and it is the exact same yowl they used against the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, replacing chloroflourocarbons to save the ozone, measures to ameliorate acid rain... in goes on and on.

No, it simply offers a way to dive into minutiae, because that distracts from the macro fact -- that their "side" has wrought devastating harm upon the nation and civilization they are supposed to love.

Sorry to keep mentioning that embarrassing macro-fact. But the more we let them scamper about, pointing at THIS nitpick! And then THAT nitpick! The more we are falling for a trap.

Fact is, they have no creedibility. ALL of their past positions collapsed, from supply side economics to predicting Bill Clinton's appointees would go to jail for malfeasance, to getting in and out of Iraq in "100 days" to calling Civil Rights a commie plot...

...to calling "don't ask don't tell" a nation-destroyer (they now LOVE it!) ... to hating social security and medicare...

There comes a point in time when we just don't have to listen to the nitpicks thrown at us by knuckleheads, anymore!

It's not that conservatives MUST be always wrong. Barry Goldwater was often right about many things and he had credibility. In fact *I* can come upo with TONS of "conservative" contributions to any eclectic and openminded conversation about problem-solving. Who, after all, is mentioning Adam Smith the most, these days, other than Yours Truly?

But we aren't talking about conservatism, here, or to conservatives. We are talking to a fanatical cult that has driven away so many bright people that their average education level has dropped TWO YEARS since the neocons took over (hijacked) a once proud American memic movement. Leaving any actual "conservative" contributions to the conversation to be brought up by Blue Dog Democrats.

Let me reiterate, guys. Even when you raise VALID ISSUES, we just roll our eyes. We are within our rights to say "we'll answer your nitpicks only after you answer our bigger questions - like explaining why we should pay any more attention to you than one does to the scientific opinions of a pack of kindergardener's -- stoked on Cocoa Puffs.

Ian said...

Before the Global Financial Crisis, Chinese export growth accounted for less than 15% of China's economic growth.

Since the Global financial Crisis, China has focused even more on domestic growth.

Additionally, much of Chinese exports consist not of "cheap consumer junk" as some Westerners like to believe but of everything from rice and aluminium to cell phones and wide-body passenger jets.

Tariffs on china are not going to "save the planet", they will however temporarily reduce several million (conservatively) people working in factories in southern China back to absolute destitution.

Think working in a factory for $3,000 a year sucks? Try working on a farm for $300 a year?

Meanwhile the US, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies currently shipping components to China for assembly will simply shift to other countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and India.

Ian said...

From the BBC story on rare Earths:

"But it boils down to this - 97% of the specialist metals that are crucial to green technology are currently mined in China."

The story is entitled "The New Great Game".

So China is being cast as the new exploitative, aggressive, imperialist power - for refusing to sell its resources to the west on the terms the west would like to dictate.

But wait, there's more:

"If you do a web search for the scientific papers on rare earth, a lot of Chinese results come back"

How dare they, don't they know their proper place is to be hewers of wood and drawers of water?

China's rise is not the product of exports to the west or mercantilism, its the result of freeing almost 1/4 of the world's population from at least the most egregious elements of Stalinist economic policy.

China currently produces more PhDs in the physical sciences than the rest of the world combined. In another decade China will possess more more working-age PhDs in the physical sciences combined.

Take a look down the contents page of Nature or Science, try to spot the research team that doesn't have at least one Chinese national on it.

The sooner the west and America in particular gets over the idea that China is "cheating" somehow or has some unfair advantage, the sooner we can start preparing for the now inevitable day (probably within the next decade) when China becomes the world's largest economy.

Abilard said...

@Brin

I'm not a bloody Republican.

The Republican Party is a sad joke. It has abandoned fiscal conservatism and libertarian notions of governance. It needs to die. That is why I left them in 1992.

This in no way addresses my criticisms of anthropogenic proponents, however. As to whether those in the anthropogenic camp should care about such criticisms, I think it is obvious that you should. You need allies if you are going to take on vested interests.

Those allies aren't going to be won by cooking data. And, as I said, the anthropogenic argument is not even one you need to win. Yet to even question it results in a flame war.

There is a great deal of overlap between the list of things it is smart to do for various reasons (get off oil, grow food locally, generate power locally, etc) and the things is would be smart to do if we are causing global warming. There is not 100% overlap. Coal might not be on both lists, for example. But even the items that overlap both lists will be difficult to achieve.

The politically sensible thing to do IMHO is concentrate on adaptation first (doing the things that can be justified independently of the anthropogenic hypothesis - and we will be lucky to do those). Alternatively, we can continue with the Copenhagen approach which appears to be taking us absolutely nowhere.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

Someone whack Dr Brin out of his loop. He's spinning in place.

"Let me reiterate, guys. Even when you raise VALID ISSUES, we just roll our eyes. We are within our rights to say "we'll answer your nitpicks only after you answer our bigger questions - like explaining why we should pay any more attention to you than one does to the scientific opinions of a pack of kindergardener's -- stoked on Cocoa Puffs."

Who are you talking too? It better not be me, as I've repeatedly written that I believe in the science. Have you read anything I've said Dr Chocula??

If you don't want to deal with the current ignorant majority? Fine.

I'll make sure I have them carve, "I was right!" on your submerged tombstone.

BECAUSE they are about to vote a butload of republicans into office and you will be forced to listen to them for EVEN longer as they deny that the water exists as it rises above their knees.

@llithi

The education divide is important, but it's merely the final touches on the end of a process started in the 60s, enforced by the biases in elite colleges faculties. There are a few new books out on the subject. The true shame is that this population is not a significant voting block. Very sad.

@Ian

I would make the case that China is already the worlds largest economy, considering the money we owe them. However, it will likely take them 50 to 100 years to bring their entire nation up to the current US 'standard' of living.

They have many generational and cultural issues they need to over come that won't change until children grow up differently than they do now.

There are also several weakness that will impact their speed and the fulllness of their overall success. 1. Their languages are very hard to learn. 2. They are not good at welcoming and integrating foriegners. 3. Educated children that leave, often do not go back to stay, though I suspect this will change as their society becomes more free.

They can have all the PHDs they want, but I would contend it's the mix of 'outside' perspective that is often the 'last 3%' that pushes advanced technologies and innovation over the edge for the 'major' advancements.

All that said, it merely offers the US a chance to improve its relationshio with Chine.

China out manuevered and flanked the West. I say well done. We should try to learn from what they have done. Right now they have us by the short hairs and they know it. But, I think the tactic was successful before they were ready.

We can deal with them as equals or we can pretend they don't have their foots on our economic necks or and we can be afraid or both.

Personally, I would welcome them to the 'table' and then start scurrying to minimize the leverage via the debt they currently have.

I think that our deficit trumps everything else.

At the end we won't be able to over come a major advantage that they have: Billions of internal local consumers for the products they make. Once they truly can CONSUME internally, they won't need us or our debt.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Ian,

Actually, it would be rather much of a good thing if China stopped lending us money and the value of the U.S. Dollar tanked. Yeah, the value of your wages would tank, too, but then the cost of labor here in the U.S. would tank, as well. Why do we send jobs to Mexico and India and China and Vietnam, Taiwan, etc.? Because, despite the exorbitant cost of transport, the cost of labor is far lower, resulting in greater profits. If the cost of labor here in the U.S. tanks, it suddenly becomes more profitable to keep the jobs over here, and avoid the exorbitant costs of shipping everything back and forth across the Pacific, or dealing with the paperwork headache of shipping and manufacturing goods internationally. And if it's cheaper to manufacture here in the U.S...

Abilard said...

@Ilithi

Agreed, as long as the currency does not collapse Zimbabwe style.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@JohnSerenity: China is building MEGA cities and the coal power plants to support them. Why does China want these cities? To jump over the generational and cultural limits, I mention in my last post.

Their isolated rural communities are distributed and while subsistance based, they are mostly self sufficient and do not consume many 'modern' manufactured products at the 'wasteful' 'Western' rate, necessary for them to continue their yearly growth. Those populations save all their money, and they also don't look to the central government for help, etc, etc.

That means China needs large interdependant and dependent city based populations behaving like American consumers and spending their money. Why? So they can sell their manufactured products internally at a rate that will support their growth needs. Hence the control of their currency along with other 'behaviors' mentioned in other posts.

This is also an additional reason for my mention in a past post about China installing a new gigawatt coal plant each week. (Which will negate any carbon emission changes the US will make.)

Such a plant could easily support a New York city size city, if not 5of them. I also saw somewhere that they have other Mega-dam projects planned.

China is a nation with a mission and they need growth for that. If America is taped-out economically, where else can they go?

Oh well, I say good for them.

Abilard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marc, Austin, TX said...

@llithi

Uh, that would be horrendous! The unemployment would be unbelievable. Significant unemployment is often accompanied by serious social unrest.

During which us broadsword wielding types would kill all the holier than thou scientist types and eat them.

On a more serious note:

Our current population lacks the hands on technical training AND the infrastructure required for any kind of survivable transition in a time frame that would not have the skyline of ever major city lit by fire.

On a more rant like note:

This is what floors me with these arguments, especially the tech changes required for GCC. Does anyone here actually consider how long it takes to build some of this stuff? Dr Bin can complain about assumed cost all he wants. But, If I can't get credit, I can't pay for the damn tech, and then I can't pay my people, so I can't make my product, so now I really can't get any credit, and I go out of business.

Riddle me this:

If the cheap efficient alternative green tech exists, why hasn’t someone with deep pockets run with it? They would control the future and be rich beyond all measures.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Abilard Cool, I love TED. It's remarkably well balanced for a lib'url thing. ;)

Abilard said...

@Marc

Hans Rosling gave an interesting presentation on the timing of Asia's rise in a TED Talk:

Talks Hans Rosling: Asia's rise -- how and when

{reposted with repaired URL}

Abilard said...

@Marc

The manufacturing sector of the economy has expanded for the last 4 months, in spite of the recession. While correlation is not causation, my understanding is that the dollar has declined steadily during this period against the currencies of most of our trading partners. If there is a causal relationship, and that would be logical, then what Ilithi suggested could work if currency collapse (and burning cities) can be avoided.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Abliard: Heh heh, Yes I was being meoldramatic.

But don't forget the consequences, such as nasty the things like inflation that come with de-valuation.

It would be interesting to see how China handles their currency if/when the dollar tanks.

David Brin said...

Back when everyone was terrified of Japan Incorporated, I was one of the few people saying "this too will pass" and sure enough it turned out they did us a great favor by slapping Detroit silly and making them start to work on quality.

I have nothing against China ascendant, in principle. As I pointed out before, I get miffed when it seems they think mercantalism is some great Asian innovation, instead of a Marshallian gift, thanks to a beneficent Pax Americana. But human nature is inherently smug-delusional and we're no better.

If they try to maintain a strong dollar, at this point, we should simply say no, and thatis that. The age of American consumer-subsidy of the world are over.


I do not blame China for trying to leverage their Rare Earth advantage. It is our stupidity, relying ONLY on market forces, that allowed them to deliberately crash prices whenever Californian or Australian rare Earth mines came on line. It is an example where a nation is better off meddling in the market, adjusting the general parameters so that investment in certain areas will be incentivized. EXACTLY what we should also do by taxing coal.

BTW, GCC QUESTIONING ought to be okay, and I'd be happy to engage in that sort of thing... if there were ANY bright young atmospheric science grad students and postdocs going down the doubter or denier path. To the best of my knowledge -- and I know several top atmospheric scientists -- that simply isn't happening. And those postdocs are precisely the people on this planet who (1) know the material/subject, (2) have the modeling skills, (3) mights spot a chink big enough to build a reputation upon.

The utter arrogance of all the guys I see, who assume they can be experts in a scientific field without ever taking a single related course, would be mind-boggling...

...if it weren't totally irrelevant. For reasons I have repeated ad nauseam. It is about efficiency. Not windmills, but efficiency. A word any decent liberatrian/conservative ought to be all in favor of.

Ian Gould said...

"Ian,

Actually, it would be rather much of a good thing if China stopped lending us money and the value of the U.S. Dollar tanked. Yeah, the value of your wages would tank, too, but then the cost of labor here in the U.S. would tank, as well. Why do we send jobs to Mexico and India and China and Vietnam, Taiwan, etc.? "

You think it'd be a good thing is US wages fell to the point where you could compete with Bangladesh etc on that basis?

I assume you don't enjoy eating meat or having access to running water.

People also need to consider the impact on interest rates and the federal deficit.

The US government spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year simply on interest on the public debt - and that's at recent extremely low real interest rates.

The US also needs to sell hundreds of billions of dollars in bonds every year - primarily to refinance existing debt as it matures not for new borrowings.

If the Chinese stop buying your bonds, the interest rate on the US debt will increase radically.

Interest on the national debt currently takes up around 35-49% of the US Federal budget - imagine what happens if you double or triple that.

A moderate managed decrease in the exchange rate is potentially helpful in the short term during the recovery from a recession.

A run on the currency is not - just ask any of the countries that were involved in the 1998 Asian economic crisis.

Ian Gould said...

"If the cheap efficient alternative green tech exists, why hasn’t someone with deep pockets run with it? They would control the future and be rich beyond all measures."

You mean like virtually every major car maker on the planet pouring billions into hybrids and battery cars?

Or the hundreds of billions of venture capital being invested in solar and wind worldwide?

Then too there are the simple easy solutions that are politically unpalatable -like abolishing agricultural subsidies.

Abilard said...

It is also about surrendering one's judgment, in this case on matters of vital importance. I am fine with letting physicists invent a concept like dark matter and decide for themselves that it is real (even though it looks to me like they might as well have painted "here be dragons" for as little as is known about it). It is a problem that that academic discipline can work out.

Deferring on climate change is a different matter. We all have much more invested. If industrialized nations are responsible for this then we owe a great deal to the rest of the world, especially the billion or so that may soon be displaced by rising sea levels.

If I, my children, and every other citizen of industrialized nations are to be expected to shoulder the trillions, the burdens, and the guilt then you can be very sure that my standard of evidence is going to be much higher.

Efficiency we agree on.

JohnSerenity said...

@Ian:

>>"China stops lending money to the US (since there's no longer any need for them to prop up the value of the US dollar), US offical interest rates "

Ian:

This is a bitter pill we are facing. I agree that a Green Tariff will exacerbate the debt problem. But considering that we are facing these problems (high unemployment and our slavish involvement with oil - $200 / barrel will reduce greenhouse emissions).

The unemployment issue will be ameliorated as we start our own factories in response to demand. It will be slow, but with investment (yes, government investment), a true recovery is possible.

JohnSerenity said...

@ Ian, DB

I also remember the rush to learn Japanese, the fear in the 80's that the dollar would be permanently eclipsed.

It was unfounded and foolish, as the US dollar was propping up the Yen the whole way, as we learned in the 90's with the Japanese economic collapse. In the aftermath bailouts, the dollar/yen relationship was solidified for anyone who hadn't been paying attention.

(-- as an aside I believe it is still good to learn a foreign language. Studies have shown it increases brain health among other benefits. Japanese is an interesting one.)


I can't argue against your fears, Ian. Some of them seem based on reason, some not so much. But if we can't stand (and we have suffered far, far, far worse during the global depression of the 30's. Give up meat? Try giving up grain!) on our own without the benevolence of our Chinese Lending Masters, we don't deserve to stand at all. Seriously. As much as I'd like to see a global citizenry and united human civilization in the future, right now we are in sore need of redefining local government and local economy.

The Chinese can't and won't do that for us. And we cannot depend on them to lead us to a sufficient, global or futurist society. We'll have to do it ourselves. We have to do it now. We can. It will hurt, and it will take sacrifices for the mess we and (especially) the previous generation of Westerners stuck us in, but we can do it. We are up to the task..

The Chinese aren't foolish, and they will gladly participate in a greener global economy once we shoulder the burden for our own fate. They see far more climate change problems with their water shortage mixed with tropical and extratropical weather than most of the US.

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

Marc's comment on mid-west apathy (ie: 'one Johnny in a prairie sea of rednecks') is apt, although his comment immediately after comes across as the rationalisations of the oil-addicted.

This, together with other comments people have made on the need to bolster local government, makes it an apt moment to point out the Transition Town movement. Grass roots resilience after peak oil.

(Best of all, you won't have to beat your broadsword into a ploughshare!)

@db: Yes: who has the resources, the time, or the incentive to lie about the weather?

David Brin said...

It is not a matter of telling all of those who have questions about climate change to shut up. That image would suit the Question Authority surface theme of the denier movement. But it's not what anyone is asking or demanding.



What's behooved is for doubters -- when faced with such a massive consensus by nearly all the guys who actually know the subject -- to START by admitting "you guys know more about this than I do."



And THEN commence to asking questions! As serious, interested questions and not gotcha yammers. Yammers that are followed, instantly, by flight to the next gotcha, as soon as the previous one gets answered.

Want to emulate the PROCESS of science? Then take a course at the nearby college, or two or three. Where you'll actually have to crack a textbook and engage in labs... but that would be asking WAY too much.



Second. If a large majority of the people who know the most about something are waving their arms shouting "DANGER Will Robinson!" you are (naturally) welcome to pose a hypothesis that their panic may be misplaced. After all, that did happen, from time to time, on LOST IN SPACE.



On the other hand, given that science is right, more often than not... and that the consensus is only very rarely wrong... that hypothesis bears the burden of proof.

It is NOT a basis for ignoring expert opinion regarding public policy. Not when the possible consequences, if the experts prove right, are so devastating.

And most certainly not when nearly all the steps they are recommending are measures we should be taking, anyway, whether they are right or wrong, for dozens of other reasons!



Next, follow the money. The Denier Movement has yet to offer a plausible scenario for why or how scientists -- in hundreds of labs, schools and agencies scattered all over the world -- would conspire to concoct and crazy theory that will only collapse under the facts, in the due course of time. Maybe five people, including perhaps Al Gore, have made (very!) small fortunes out of Global Warming.

The rest? Most have tenure and plenty of other grants... and look into their eyes. They know stuff... and they are scared.



But the money-gusher - pyroclastic flows of it -- behind propaganda on the other side should raise the hackles of anybody who was genuinely libertarian or suspicious of authority. All of it pouring from (or through) the same folks who brought you the decline (plummet) of the American state, during the last decade.

Finally, there is the related matter of "ruining the economy." Yes, I have answered this. Many times.

But I am trying to refine the message and this one is the Big Refuge of the guys who KNOW that the whole rest of it all stinks, but still (with some reason) fear ham-handed state intervention. Sure, the state is a blunt instrument.

But we've seen that 1,000 golf-crony oligarchs are NOT more wise, or more market-competitive, than 100,000 experts and civil servants, just because they are "private."

As I have shown, if you believe in markets, then a SHIFTED market, with coal artificially raised in price, to account for its full costs to our kids, is just another playing field for capitalist innovators to compete in, so long as the shift is consistent, predictable over a decade or more, and offers a good potential ROI for new and innovative participants. It is precisely the argument that libertarians made about "peak oil."

But then, libertarianism hasn't been Smithian for a very long time. Whether it is the Rothbard-Rand wing or the Paul-wing, it doesn't matter. None of them have read or understood either Adam Smith or F Hayek for decades.

The entire movement serves the purposes of the new oligarchs. They are shills for the Old Enemy that destroyed freedom in 99% of human societies.



It's such a pity. They had real potential.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Tony

It's not an excuse or rationalization. It's an acceptance of human nature. I am not defending the behavior; I am acknowledging it as a problem that needs to be overcome.

Dr Brin can lament and rage against the blatant disregard of the scientific community in this matter all he wants, it won't impact the outcome. It has been a trend across all issues dependant on scientific validation in America for awhile. I read articles when the climate emails came out wondering if science was dead.

So the answer is to artificially raise the cost of coal to encourage the adoption of other energy technologies? I say that will only cause a massive legal battle with entities that have extremely deep pockets.

Any tax will hurt the poor, without additional legislation to provide tax credits or free energy programs, and more importantly it will mobilize many to vote against the party that introduced the tax. (E.g. I have visions of Bush Sr. and raised taxes = one term President.) Add the risk that if it goes anything like the HC legislation has, and it will be an utter debacle.

People like to evoke Katrina in posts on this site as example of Bush failure, fine it was a cluster. BUT, when they do, I think, heh, giant storm coming, city told to evacuate, many who were capable did not evacuate. (Yes, there were some who could not, for all reasons, from ridiculous, ignorance, poverty all the way to malicious negligence, etc. I’m not giving the government emergency response a pass.)

But, I often wonder, what percentage of people did not leave because they were stubborn and refused. And then I wonder about the percentage that decided they couldn’t afford the gas, or a hotel, or to be away from work, that they couldn’t, ‘risk it’.

I say ‘risk it’, because the weather guy has been known to get it WRONG from time to time. Yes prediction science is better now, especially in the last 5 years, but the meme is out there. The weather guy, (a scientist) is an asshole.

What if the levies had held? What would the death toll have been for the next major storm, when no one decided to leave, because nothing had happened?

So I think human nature. I think how do you get people to do something they don’t want to do?

You advertise, you market, and you rally them. You GIVE them a solution.

Say did you know that Flood insurance can be as low as $120 dollars a year? I wonder why so many people, even those that live in established flood zones, don’t have it. Imagine that, I just learned that first part from an excellent commercial for flood insurance that just aired..

Ian said...

"The rest? Most have tenure and plenty of other grants... and look into their eyes. They know stuff... and they are scared."

Anyone who thinks AGW is a hoax needs to spend a few hours with a couple of climate scientists over a few beers.

These guys are scared shitless and far from overstated the risks in their public statements and published papers for the most part they're underplaying it.

Abilard said...

My libertarian leanings are small L. I appreciate Rand, but think she was a bit off. Government has a role to play. Limited government is better for various reasons not germane to this thread. I am not an anarchist, and would not reduce government to the level that Ron Paul would, or even to anything similar.

My starting point for the global warming debate was with the scientists. I argued with my friends that it was a danger, introduced them to An Inconvenient Truth, and so forth. My wife and I then took our family from AZ, where I had been for 15 years, as we thought a more sustainable existence in small-town Ohio (where I had grown up) would be safer and better for the kids. Explaining how unstable suburban life in Phoenix seemed to us to many of our friends was a challenge in summer of 2008. Of course, by the time our car was pulling out for Ohio the economy was collapsing around us.

Over the course of 2009 I have set about the process of fixing up our 7 acres. As part of this I took a closer look at climate modeling so that I could select species of trees that would survive. Unfortunately, the Canadian model has us arid, and the Hadley model has us temperate, though a bit moister. In other words, the state of modeling is such that I can't even use it to select tree species, and yet, in spite of this primitive state, such models underpin proposals which will cost us billions. Ironically, of the two the Hadley seems to have been the more respected (and proposes a better future for us), and it is at the center of ClimateGate.

The economic burden I also have some experience with. As an undergrad I wrote Bush Sr. a letter giving support to the Clean Air Act but pointed out that my town happened to be dependent on high sulfur coal. If he were going wipe out its livelihood with the stroke of a pen, he should see that some aid was given to cushion the transition. None was, and Pomeroy went from a town of small shops to a town of empty shells when the mines closed.

Two decades later we are no longer dependent on coal (except in the sense that everyone else is when we flip a light switch) and I am not a fan of it. They left an ecological mess behind. However, I do know directly that these bills have an economic cost that is paid disproportionately by those without political power.

I also know directly from too much exposure to post-modernists in grad school that what passes for knowledge under the banner of academia is often politically informed drivel aimed at getting grants and status. Political correctness and consensus are nice covers for this. The burden of proof is on the scientists, and, because of the above experience, I treat their claims skeptically.

You are right though. Many of the scientists are scared. James Hanson was arrested a few weeks back just a couple of mountains over from where I am typing this. And yet when environmentalists propose a windmills to replace the strip mines he and Ms. Hannah protest, they do not mention that the U.S. government has classified wind resources here as non-existent. The advocacy piece I had read did not even mention this study, or respect local people enough to feel the need to address the online government data on the resource.

Similarly, I checked some of the data from an Ohio environmental impact study against some online data from the Army Corp of Engineers for Lake Erie and the figures did not jive. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof. Given the magnitude of this issue academia cannot be allowed to be this sloppy or incomplete.

CulturalEngineer said...

RE Libertarianism, Ayn Rand, etc...

The problem with Ayn Rand's philosophy (and Objectivism, neo-conservatism, supply-side economics and even Fed governance) is their failure to recognize the very real, but difficult to quantify effects of the limits of biological altruism.

This has profound effects on group decision making and governance.

I have a brief piece on this if interested...

Ayn Rand & Alan Greenspan: The Altruism Fly in the Objectivist Ointment

Happily I've been hearing from a few folks (Anne C. Heller, author of the new Ayn Rand bio especially) who are actually getting interested in this as a meaningful area of interest for exploration).

Both self-interest and altruism have a biological component. But self-interest has much clearer boundaries which has made it easier to deal with in economic models.

This has caused a lot of problems and makes solutions impossible.

Adam Smith recognized this issue which was implicit in his work. But it's been largely ignored ever since.

Abilard said...

@CulturalEngineer

Interesting piece. I tried to make a similar argument with some Randroids in an IRC session once, starting from the biological observation that we are a social species, and got no where with them. Rand's ideal humans, like Athena, have to leap free and complete from the mind of Zeus. Real humans do not get out of infancy without help from others. And judging from Anne C. Heller's recent bio of her, for all her rightly acknowledged achievements, she too benefited tremendously from the support of others.

CulturalEngineer said...

@Abilard

Thanks! You're exactly right... in fact the blindness of Ayn Rand to the relationship of her own success to her social network is a perfect example.

"No man is an Island" is a great truth...

However, the "brotherhood of man" may be impossible in a operational sense without developing practical methods of addressing the Dunbar's Number question.

P.S. I really hate the term Dunbar's Number since it implies a sort of precision that isn't there. It's really just a concept that recognizes that while we'll go to great ends to help a crying child in front of us... we can theorize abstractly about millions dying in far away places and take little action. I don't exclude myself from this characteristic...
But it's imperative to deal with the reality of its existence.

In fact I believe the democratization of ICT (a very good thing!) mixed with the imperatives of the Ultimatum Game require that not only information availability, but influence availability be substantially enhanced.

I have particular solutions along these lines which involve a need for the micro-transaction to be essentially liquefied via a publicly held platform. But that's a separate discussion I look forward to when I get the opportunity.

Abilard said...

@CulturalEngineer

On the Media had a piece last week that addresses this issue.

This goes back to Marc's earlier points about marketing these issues. My concern is not marketing, but that the scientists 1) not drop the ball and 2) produce something firm enough to be used to make these very expensive decisions. The final arbiters of whether or not they have done this will not be in Copenhagen or Washington, but in the polling booths.

Gilmoure said...

Robert said... In short, a GOO scenario should result in a crater several hundred miles in diameter that turns into a volcano. There would be no end-of-the-world, just a destructive "oops" that ends with a massive loss of life and a brand new volcano.

Heh. Maybe this has already happened? Something brought on aerobic life. Would make for a neat story, how an aerobic civilization doomed themselves early on.

In the face of all the GCC denier talk, just want to throw out some GCC acceptance info. A good friend of mine, who's a banker and stout Republican (Fighter pilots aren't stupid reply to my concerns about 'W', back in 2000 (I was crew chief in AF; pilots can be as thick as any other well trained human)) is already planning on moving from Florida up to Buffalo within the next 10 years. Likes the idea of being next to the largest single source of fresh water in the world.

And of course, he derides me for moving to SouthWest. Meanwhile, I'm watching to see how things develop up in Canada in the next 10-20 years.

TheMadLibrarian said...

@ Marc (picking a nit):
"Say did you know that Flood insurance can be as low as $120 dollars a year? I wonder why so many people, even those that live in established flood zones, don’t have it. Imagine that, I just learned that first part from an excellent commercial for flood insurance that just aired.."

I live in an area designated as flood-zone, but haven't seen anything resembling a flood in the last 15 or so years; one of my friends hasn't, either, and he's been in the same area for 30+ years. My rates are around $750 per year. You can get flood insurance that cheaply, I'm sure, but either you aren't in a flood area, or your coverage may be negligible should a flood actually strike. Truly YMMV.

diesp: alternate diesel fuel from potatoes

David Brin said...

I am tired of being told that failure to ease culture war is somehow the fault of believers in the enlightenment. A matter of "marketing." Reasonable people have been trying to talk our way past culture war for 20 years now, only to be met with absolute and adamant unwillingness to engage in reason, respond to evidence, negotiate in good faith or admit our humanity. Every attempt at "marketing" is met by waves of outright lies.

WE have not taken it as a 'war'... even though the Culture Warriors have used that word relentlessly. In fact, we are despised as fools, for failin to take them at their word.

Citing the poor is utter weirdness. Obviously, you can count on the liberals to use the money taxed from coal in part to not only fund research, but also to weatherize homes etc. Duh.

What is bizarre and hypocritical is for the right to pretend that the "poor" are their reason for opposing pro-efficiency measures whose main effect would be upon THEIR vampiric bottom-line.

Abilard, I well-believe that you and Marc are complex and not really congruent with the neocon/redder madness. You have a perfect right to poke libertarian objections at what appears to be a liberal-left party line. You are both most definitely welcome here.

But we have and need thick skins here, so expect enlightenmenters to fight back. You cannot recite Foxnews party lines and not expect to be attacked for it... even when there is a PART of the party line that actually has some merit.

That is the real crime of the Murdoch-Limbaugh bunch... beyond fostering harm and civil war upon America, they also spoil dozens of conservative talking points, by wedding (welding!) them to a general "side" that is (broadbrush) cerifiably insane.

Guilt by association may not be seemly. But we are human.

David Brin said...

I do not mind the average libertarian's absurd fantasy. The hilarious excuse for why they are NOT all ubermensch, master-of-the-world John Galts in this society -- because their natural rapacious-superiority is repressed by mushy paternalistic protections...

... even though, in fact, they are pampered nerds who do not have to slave behind (or even in front of) a plow because of those protections and the cushy world the Enlightenment built! In fact, the natural/rapacious/users are doing fine in this society; in Rand's world, every single one of the libertarian ranters I have met would be a grease spot or a slave. Though (I'll admit) a lot less overweight.)

But whatever, this gentle civilization can afford to subsidize the daydreams of under-achieving MENSA types who haven't a gratitude bone in their bodies.

What I do NOT forgive is utter historical blindness, on the part of purported MENSA types, who claim to be fans of history. But who cannot even parse it in their heads that 99% of human cultures had their markets and freedom ruined NOT by socialists or bureaucrats...

... but by PRECISELY the failure mode that Ayn Rand vigorously recommends. They never ask: "What happens 30 years after ATLAS SHRUGGED? What will John Galt and Dagney do, with their sons?"

The answer? They will make them lords and set things up so that OTHER whip-smart innovators cannot compete on a level playing field against those sons, but instead ensure all possible competition can be suborned, quashed or killed by those sons.

Um, they wouldn't do that? Show me an example of that NOT happening, when smug "I'm so superior" types got great power -- even when they earned/deserved it! One example will do, from amid 99% of human generations.

The enlightenment is the only solution that was ever found, that effectively countered this syndrome... WHILE still empowering human creativity through entrepeneurialism and fecund competition.

No one has benefited from it more than libertarians have. (I oft point out; if this society is so anti-liberty, how come it produced more libertarians than any other?) And no group is more nasty-churlish in its disloyalty of stunningly insipid ingratitude.

I say this as a professed "libertarian." Perhaps one of the only real ones.

Get Info Here said...

I can't actually figure out the system of our nation today. too much chaos for me, as what i have observed on what happened everywhere. I don't like the political system as people does. Why is it going to be like this now? Do we need a change of system or let politicians drive through.?

Abilard said...

@Brin

Oh, I know I am idiosyncratic, and I have a thick skin about most things. And my choice of presentation was conscious: I could just as easily have started with our efforts to reduce carbon consumption, go off-grid, etc. In fact, in other contexts (where I sensed the unchallenged assumptions lay more on the political right) I have come into discussions as a liberal and been attacked for that association. I find that offering such challenges is the best way to find out how others reason and thereby, occasionally, to learn.

I was impressed by the strength of your assessment of the scientific consensus as a physical-sciences insider. While I give much of the science more credence than I was letting on, my concerns about some of the aforementioned issues are real. I'm more inclined, given your defense, to assume those are aberrations.

Thanks for the welcome. I plan to continue reading.

JohnSerenity said...

Has there ever been a successful libertarian experiment in human history?

Even the US founders could point and admire Ancient Greece, although it was no true democracy.

Which civilization fostered libertarianism ever?

Libertarian thought is certainly counter to tribalism, co-opt agrarianism, any modern industrial society, the nastiness, yet utter stability of feudalism, or any other economic/government pairing you could care to name.

I think this absence of actual libertarian practice (even if in name only) in history can serve as a clue as to why it can't work under its own terms.

Humans cooperate. Humans govern (for better or worse). When competition is rewarded to a degree where cooperation is ultimately eliminated (as in libertarian dogma that I've read from Rand) can a society - an industrial society -still hope to function at all?

Bob the Angry Flower: Atlas Shrugged

Robert said...

I was once a member of the Libertarian Party. After some asshat running for office under the Libertarian ticket accused Senator Kennedy of murder over the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, I quit. I refused to associate with a party who would not immediately refute such utter bullshit - and I state that as someone who dislikes the Kennedy clan and disliked many of the Senator's policies. (Though I was at that point a Massachusetts conservative - we tend to veer further right in reaction to the asshats that make up the Communists that run the Massachusetts Democratic party. So that might tell you how offended I was by that comment.)

My beliefs shifted from Libertarian to libertarian. They have shifted again to social libertarian: I believe in social liberties and that the U.S. government has no right to tell us what we can do (within reason). However, I had seen the damage that an unregulated business environment could cause, and this was before the 2008 brouhaha. I also am a strong and fervent believer in government regulation of environmental issues.

To veer off on a tangent, I must admit to being frustrated by the utter belief that government = corrupt and inept. When I pointed out to a government-hating friend of mine, he refused to believe. I then pointed out the comic strip Dilbert as an example... and how every single time Adams creates some mindnumbing story with idiot management, someone writes in and says "Yeah. Seen that. Seen worse."

It is obvious there is ineptitude and corruption in the private sector. However, people have been brainwashed to believe government is corrupt and private is good. And it is utter bullshit. Yes, there's bad government employees and corrupt agencies and the like. But there's far more corruption and ineptitude in the private sector because the private sector is vast and attracts more people than the public sector.

Perhaps I need to take a different tact here. I need to start asking if they believe the military is corrupt and inept. If they say "yes" then I can pull a Bushism and say "you're unpatriotic" which will set them scuttling for bunkers. If they say "no" then I can say "but the military is a government institution" and watch them try to jaw their way around that.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

"Oh, I know I am idiosyncratic, and I have a thick skin about most things. And my choice of presentation was conscious: I could just as easily have started with our efforts to reduce carbon consumption, go off-grid, etc. In fact, in other contexts (where I sensed the unchallenged assumptions lay more on the political right) I have come into discussions as a liberal and been attacked for that association. I find that offering such challenges is the best way to find out how others reason and thereby, occasionally, to learn."

YIPE! The manifest of a contrarian! ;-)

John Serenity, you are on-target. For all their futurist bluster, most libertarians are retro-thinkers. In my epic appraisal of libertarianism at http://www.davidbrin.com, I show how they look BACKWARD in time, for people to blame for us not already have fallen into an ideal state of perfect human freedom.

Marx shared the sam (!!!) ultimate goal! Only he saw it in the future, as a result of tendentiously foreseeable and ordained human development. In my paper I show that both groups have the right goal, but munged-up and dismally stupid views of cause and effect.

We WILL get to that era/society of maximized freedom... but as a result of the only process that ever made progress in that direction... the Enlightenment... that BOTH groups express utter contempt for.

Rob, the US military officer corps has few greater admirers than me. Their quiet, almost secret "work action" quasi mutiny in 2006 is one of the great, untold stories of our republic. It may have saved our lives. It took a lot to drive them to do such a thing.

LarryHart said...

I hope this isn't considered trolling here, but listening to the radio on the drive home just made me so effing mad I had to vent somewhere.

Joe effing Lieberman is a fascist. I mean that in the literal sense of the word--he's the Senator from Aetna Corporation. Can anyone explain to me just what the point is (from the Democrats' point of view, I mean) by keeping him in the caucus and having him continue to chair committees? So he wouldn't join the GOP filibuster? Well, looky just how well that worked out.

I realize I'm in a particular funk right now, and (hopefully) will regret ranting in the morning, but right now--can someone seriously explain to me how We The People haven't already lost, and how government of the people, by the people, for the people hasn't already vanished from...well not "the earth" because Europe and Canada and Australia are probably in good shape...but from These United States?

LarryHart said...


... but by PRECISELY the failure mode that Ayn Rand vigorously recommends. They never ask: "What happens 30 years after ATLAS SHRUGGED? What will John Galt and Dagney do, with their sons?"


Well, someone asked it. I forget where I saw this now, but someone posted an "article" positing that Rand's novella "Anthem" was actually the third in a trilogy of which "Atlas Shrugged" was the first. In the article, the "just discovered" missing link second book was how the population left to rot at the end of AS rose up in a sort of Butlerian Jihad of their own and outlawed industrialists.


The answer? They will make them lords and set things up so that OTHER whip-smart innovators cannot compete on a level playing field against those sons, but instead ensure all possible competition can be suborned, quashed or killed by those sons.


Every time I re-read Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, "Player Piano" from 1953, it seems more real to me. In this case, the character of Dr Francis Eldridge Geldhorne, who rose to the top of the ruling elite with no formal education--a feat that the social system would never let happen again.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Dr Brin

"Abilard, I well-believe that you and Marc are complex and not really congruent with the neocon/redder madness. You have a perfect right to poke libertarian objections at what appears to be a liberal-left party line. You are both most definitely welcome here."

Hmm while Abilard and I may come together on other parts of the spectrum, I acknowledge GCC, and he challenges it.

My frustration with the believer side and Dr Brin’s anger is their frustration will having to redefine their argument. I would say a major mistake with current GCC arguments is that they tried to piggy back the clean energy debate on to it. While this is logical and reasonable, it adds complexity and confusion to the argument. They are complimentary goals, but when you add in the political, anti-Saudi, and anti-war (read imperialistic) angles; it makes people suspicious, and allows them to question the motivations of the movement.

My frustration with the GCC issue as a whole is with the response, not the science. If we were going to talk science and challenges, I would evoke problems like the possibility of another Iceland Larki ‘type’ fissure eruption. Specifically the effect of an event that could pour 100 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, similar to 1783, when the entire North Hemisphere sank into a 3 year cold snap that killed 2 million people worldwide and probably helped kick off the French Revolution.

Which is why I think we need more research and more money, not to 'prove' the issue, but to try to understand our biosphere, we go off 'half-cocked' far too often for our good when we make these decisions.

I mention the eruption, because this type of complexity confuses even very intelligent and reasonable people. I have tried(like Robert) to explain how warming can cause cooling. For example like Larki, how an eruption of an ice covered volcano may be more probable, because the glaciers ARE melting and its the incredible weight of the ice that is actually suppressing what could be massive 'cooling' causing eruptions. Never mind the time I tried to explain the oceanic conveyor concept to someone. (Kool-aide does not begin to describe their response.)

Like the evolution debate, the deniers have changed tactics, they have become more sophisticated, now the arguments are all about natural cycles, and orbits, and sunspot activity, which like the intelligent design argument, sounds equally sciency and plausible to the layman. Like macro VS. micro evolution, its man-made VS. natural warming. (Now thats nit-picky)

But my ultimate frustration is that I don’t like entitlement systems, (Yes, a necessary evil), I will cede that we do need them, but we need to be careful with them, they breed laziness.

I strongly believe in the ‘Help the helpless, not the clueless’ concept. I do not like encouraging or worse yet ‘making’ people helpless or clueless. There definitely needs to be safety net programs to help people, but these programs often create their own gravity, which becomes more about funding and continued survival, than their ‘customers’. I evoked Katrina in my last post because there were also a percentage of people that stayed because they are used to being entitled and expect and often demand [help]. (Something Dr Brin yelled about with Gimme. ;) )

Of course the lib’urls will provide assistance for the poor if they artificially increase the cost of coal. I just have to wonder if that is the only way to make the change. It makes me wonder at the wisdom of tariffs and taxes and protectionist behaviors. I read an article the other day that asked the question, could China’s currency manipulation have contributed to ['West's] otherwise mostly self inflicted financial collapse. This line of thinking then makes me wonder at how much their willingness to keep lending us money also contributed. They enabled our addiction to debt, which I would argue is much more insidious than our addiction to oil.

Robert said...

When you think of it, the "natural cycle" claims is the ultimate in refusing to accept responsibility. After all, "natural cycles" pretty much accepts that global warming is real and that it is going to frak over the planet and mankind once it gets truly rolling. But by claiming it's "natural" the Deniers can then claim "Act of God" and "There's nothing we can do but wait for God to bring forth the Rapture! It's obvious this is what Revelations is talking about! We all die by Fire! Well, you do. I'm a True Believer and will Ascend to be with God! Ha! And meantime I'm going to sit back, waste power, and drive fuel-hog cars! While littering the planet! Because it won't be there soon!"

Oh, they don't actually say that. But if the Denier claims are summed up, it's basically "we can't do anything to stop this so why should we even bother trying? This is God's Will."

I refuse to believe that. And I believe we can alter the planet for the better. Now all I need to do is find a way to change the minds of Deniers. For the better.

Rob H.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Robert

"It is obvious there is ineptitude and corruption in the private sector. However, people have been brainwashed to believe government is corrupt and private is good. And it is utter bullshit. Yes, there are bad government employees and corrupt agencies and the like. But there's far more corruption and ineptitude in the private sector because the private sector is vast and attracts more people than the public sector."

These are not zero sum issues. You are on the right track until, you say “private is worse”, now you are in the ‘loop’ tastes-great/ less-filling. As Dr Brin said, ‘subjectivity’ blah, blah, blah.

Each entity suffers from its own form of corruption. I suspect that like with most things, the answer is ‘balanced’ somewhere in the 'middle'.

‘Government’ can be wasteful and inefficient and ‘Private’ industry will ‘often’ take ‘advantage’ when able. These are issues firmly rooted in human behavior.

What we need is an effective ‘check and balance’ system. Not an extreme in either direction. I think history has just bashed us all over the heads with that particular lesson.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Robert: Again, I think you are correct, but take it too far. It absolutely does allow the avoidance of blame. But then who wants to be responsible or culpable for such a massive issue?

Hell, my earlier rant was all about Dr Brin's apparent need to fume about the neocons. I get it boss, you are pissed. ;) Who wants to bear the brunt of the assault?

BUT! The Rapture, really?

While the fundamentalist Baptists believe this and while there are a lot of them (scary).

I would say it's more likely that the majority of people that don't believe feel apathy towards the situation or even helplessness.

Can we not acknowledge it is a truly overwhelming problem?

Those of us that are use to considering complex scientific and technological issues can often forget how difficult it is to conceptualize them.

Hell, I can't sufficiently describe the fairly straightforward operation of the Internet to my non technical friend (whose eyes glaze over beyond the most simple examples), never mind a subject like the weather. ;)

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Robert: Again, I think you are correct, but take it too far. It absolutely does allow the avoidance of blame. But then who wants to be responsible or culpable for such a massive issue, caused by our wonderful grandparents ;)?

Hell, my earlier rant was all about Dr Brin's apparent need to fume about the neocons. I get it boss, you are pissed. ;) Who wants to bear the brunt of that assault?

BUT! The Rapture, really?

While the fundamentalist Baptists believe this and while there are a lot of them (scary).

I would say it's more likely that the majority of people that don't believe feel apathy towards the situation or even helplessness.

Can we not acknowledge it is a truly overwhelming problem?

Those of us that are use to considering complex scientific and technological issues can often forget how difficult it is to conceptualize them.

Hell, I can't sufficiently describe the fairly straightforward operation of the Internet to my non technical friend (whose eyes glaze over beyond the most simple examples), never mind a subject like the weather. ;)

People can claim 7th grade science all they want, but then I ask how many people do you know that actually remember what subjects they discussed in their college sciene classes, IF they even took one after freshman year. ;)

Marc, Austin, TX said...

bleh sorry for the double posts, I need to make an account.

Tony Fisk said...

@Marc:
It's not an excuse or rationalization. It's an acceptance of human nature. I am not defending the behavior; I am acknowledging it as a problem that needs to be overcome.

Understood. What I meant is that it is human nature to rationalise away their inconveniences like addiction to oil (and make lazy assertions that techno-trouser clad genii will fix it, or... *rapture*! But that's human nature too)

I mentioned the Transition Town movement because I think it covers a lot of your concerns wrt apathy. If you can't pitch self-sustainability to the hypothetical folk in the mid-west, then there's one explanation left: laziness.

Tim H. said...

Did you see Boeing got their 787 in the air yesterday? I liked the contrast between the new bird and the chase plane, a T-33, the trainer variant of the P-80 Shooting Star. Two snapshots of state of the art, 1943 and 2009.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

And to had some humor to the thread: Comedy + science = good.


http://www.youtube.com/user/txlee1

Ian said...

"Every time I re-read Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, "Player Piano" from 1953, it seems more real to me. In this case, the character of Dr Francis Eldridge Geldhorne, who rose to the top of the ruling elite with no formal education--a feat that the social system would never let happen again."

You might want to google former Australian PM Paul Keating - high school drop-out, rock band manager and boilermaker.

Of course, Barack Obama and Bill Clinton both "rose to the top of the ruling elite" from single-parent families that got by on food stamps.

But they did so by their academic achivements.

Robert said...

@Marc: You do realize I was being sarcastic when going on about the Rapture, don't you? I am serious about the whole "This is God's Will/God will Save Us" aspect but that's just because of the nihilism that is apparent with a number of religious mindsets, which is increasingly becoming erratic because so many special dates have gone by without the End of Mankind.

When you get down to it, is not Global Warming yet another Doomsday Scenario, one that the religious can claim is more "subtle" and thus use to try and "prove" their religious thinking is the one proper way of thinking?

While I try to be tolerant of other religions, the one thing I'm decidedly intolerant of is the whole Doomsday Belief (much as I'm intolerant of conspiracy theorists though I mostly just ignore them these days as they're just as fervent in their pathological need for things to be conspiracy-related as Deniers are of GCC not being real and End-Of-Worlders for Armageddon to be around the corner - it's all religious thinking, it's just that the Conspiracy Theorists substitute The Man (or The Organization) for God, because there's something inherently relaxing about having someone in charge, even if this person/entity doesn't have our best interests at heart and can't be stopped.)

(Which of course leads me to teasingly suggest to Dr. Brin that he take a deep look at his own fondness of conspiracy theories and determine if his need to keep dragging this horse out to beat until it's just bones at this point and scraps of hide is perhaps an insipid form of religious thinking. But then again, I believe in the Divine and believe I encountered it once, so ultimately I too am one who has a religious mindset, even if I delude myself into believing it was through Contact rather than other forms of belief (think of it as how some people describe becoming Born Again, only with a female divinity instead of male))

Rob H., who probably should avoid posting before caffeine in the morning

LarryHart said...

To Ian...

When I said:

"Every time I re-read Kurt Vonnegut's first novel, "Player Piano" from 1953, it seems more real to me. In this case, the character of Dr Francis Eldridge Geldhorne, who rose to the top of the ruling elite with no formal education--a feat that the social system would never let happen again."


I meant that the social system IN THE BOOK wouldn't let that happen again. It was something one of the characters paid notice to. I didn't mean that such a thing was impossible in real life.

Marino said...

David Brin wrote

What is bizarre and hypocritical is for the right to pretend that the "poor" are their reason for opposing pro-efficiency measures

I've read comments from my rightwing friends to George Monbiot's article on Guardian...
http://tinyurl.com/ybdvdhs

it devolved fast into a debate over the better type of handgun to be used to shoot him, Ikidyounot(S. Palin dixit). The point they argue is a mirror image of your own: efficiency measures and the whole AGW are a trick by a cabal of élite/permanent government/tranzies who want to keep "the proles in shackles". Just because Monbiot said that while we're culturally, almost biologically driven to expand and go further and beyond, we have to grow up and learn to live with the fact that resources are finite.
Now, I may be biased, but green economy is more decentralized, allows lots more startups, competition and such, while big corporations are inherently monopolistic. And not for being evil in itself, but because size matters, in some sectors you cannot start small.
Which, sadly, applies also to exploitation of space.
I'm as fond of boldly go etc. even with boo rockets à la Infinity Reach, as everyone else, but we haven't the heavy lift, nor the mining and smelting stuff in vacuum at 0G, the expenditure would be enormous, thus feasible only by very, very large megacorporations,
ending in Barnes' The Man who pulled down the sky scenario, with overlords in orbital habitats keeping Earth peons shackled.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

@Robert: Ok it's hard to tell sometimes and it is a subject that has been repeated here quite often.

On another note, I just saw Dr. Brin on some Sci Channel Alien contact show from 05.

All I have to say is:

D00d that keyboard was NASTY!! You know you can buy a new one for 12 bucks right?

And clean your damn glasses!

What's your address, I'm going to drop a new keyboard and glass cleaner in the mail right now.

Anyhow, I liked your point about the assumption that aliens would be altruistic is at best 'iffy'.

But I've noticed a recent theme in many 'hard' science shows pushing the 'fact' that FTL is impossible.

I think that is an extremely arrogant assumption, just because we don't know how, doesn't mean it can't be done.

It'd be a real shame to get splattered by a planet killer warp torpedo right after we got our act together.

Plus 'Walk softly and carry a big stick' is an excellent meme.

JohnSerenity said...

@ Robert:

The scientists aren't going to get a ton of cash from their "congregations" for their research into agw. The apocalypse however is always good business for preachers. Also, there are suggestions that AGW can be curbed, something that would never be preached by doomsday religions - preachers depend on an unavoidable apocalypse.


The folks who see AGW as real and seek to reverse it on the other hand know that they are being scrutinized in their lifestyles (a la Al Gore) and that the big sacrifices ahead will have to be shouldered by them first. Such is the way good leaders work.

If AGW is the case, or if GW is "naturally cyclic" IMO is almost unimportant, we have to stop it if we wish to continue our civilization. Either way, curbing CO2 is insufficient - we will at some point soon be required to embark on industrial geoengineering if we wish to maintain a climate suitable for our species and pretty much all current ecosystems.

If a fire is raging toward your house, does it really matter if it came from natural lightning, or from arson? No! You try to put it out or evacuate.. That's how AGW vs. "natural" GW shakes out in my view. Except we don't yet have the "evacuate" option.

Anonymous said...

Would someone out there mind explaining something to me please?

Our state is presently in a “We vs. They” of epic proportions, but I can’t really get even a handle on the proportions. Due to the budget crunch and poor local planning, state employees are being laid off or furloughed at all levels, across the board. What astonishes me is the sheer schaudenfreude and hand-rubbing glee I’m seeing from the private sector, as evidenced by editorials and comments in the local papers. In addition, there is a very loud sector that wants even deeper cuts, up to and including firing all state employees and “letting God sort ’em out.” I can’t tell if this is a substantial proportion of the public that feels this way, or a smaller number with a lot of sock puppets.

I can understand that some of these people may have seen ineptitude in action somewhere in the government, and gotten angry at the idea their taxes were paying for someone to surf the Internet and play solitaire, rather than render service. What I am having trouble understanding is the seemingly universal vitriol directed at, not the administrative levels of government, but teachers, clerks, and other low levels through middle management like principals, etc., and particularly the unions that many of us are in. Apparently entering public service means you automatically become a slave, and should be willing to be abused and work for minimum wage no matter what your job. Can someone please explain to me what the source of all this hatred might be?

hystfus: the fit a news outlet throws over the latest sex scandal

TheMadLibrarian, still arguing with blogger over paswords.

Tom Hagan said...

"More than half of the $923 billion's worth of US currency in circulation is in the possession of foreigners."

Such holdings are in effect zero interest loans to the US. Much interest-bearing US debt is held abroad - by the Chinese, in particualr. But they don't go out and buy that debt with their own currency- they use the excess US dollars they receive for exports to us over those they spend on imports from us. Debt pays interest, cash does not - unless deposited in a US bank.

So why do we pay interest on money we borrow to cover Treasury deficits? Why not just have the Treasury issue Greenbacks to cover those deficits?

With no US debt instruments to buy, the Chinese would quickly deposit their Greenbacks in US banks to collect interest. The increased deposits from them and others would allow us to use Treasury-issued Greenbacks to pay down the national debt without inflation, by simultanelously raising bank reserves to 100%.

In a few years, we'd have no national debt, no interest payments to make, no inflation and a new sustainable full reserve banking system replacing the fractional reserve systme we see now is doomed to collapse.

Why don't we do this?

Ian Gould said...

"So why do we pay interest on money we borrow to cover Treasury deficits? Why not just have the Treasury issue Greenbacks to cover those deficits?"

Zimbabwe tried that. How did it work for them?

"With no US debt instruments to buy, the Chinese would quickly deposit their Greenbacks in US banks to collect interest. The increased deposits from them and others would allow us to use Treasury-issued Greenbacks to pay down the national debt without inflation, by simultanelously raising bank reserves to 100%.

In a few years, we'd have no national debt, no interest payments to make, no inflation and a new sustainable full reserve banking system replacing the fractional reserve systme we see now is doomed to collapse.

Why don't we do this?"

Well for starters because the Chinese would likely simply buy non-US debt instruments.

also, I'm curious as to how paying interest on hundreds of billions of dollars in bank deposits is different to paying interest on hundreds of billions of dollars in bonds.

I'm also fascinated by the idea that fractional reserve banking - which has been around since Tang-era China - is "doomed to collapse".

Robert said...

Why the vitriol against teachers and other educators? Because Culture War has allowed teachers to become an acceptable target for discrimination and hatred. In addition, a few bad apples have damaged the teaching field. We hear about the bad stuff. We don't hear about the good. We hear about teachers who hurt kids or molest them or who are horrible teachers but can't be fired. But we don't hear about teachers who step in the line of fire and die in school shootings to protect their students (outside of a brief word at that moment and then afterwards stating "the good teachers died. The bad ones are left. Screw them."

There is also a problem in that teacher's unions are very powerful and utilize that power to ensure their will is enacted, at least in part. Despite this "great power" you will notice teachers are paid diddly-squat. Trash collectors get more and have a job that only stinks, rather than sucks your life and soul out of you. Teachers not only have to work on the clock but also after hours at home work off the clock. They will be working 18-20 hour days at times and getting a bare modicum of sleep before rushing off to do it all over again. But they only get paid for 8 hours of that.

When other jobs do this, it's called unfair labor practices. But for teachers? "Well they get their summers off. They get this! They get that!" It's utter bullshit. Teachers are given NO respect and are treated like utter SHIT despite the fact they put up with children who are taught not to respect them and who believe their education is worthless. And all it takes is a couple bad students in each class to disrupt the entire class and make learning almost impossible... but it's not those students' fault for ruining the educational environment... it's the teachers' faults for not maintaining discipline despite being hamstrung in every way.

Oh, and if you even MENTION putting cameras in the classroom to catch the troublemakers? You get cries of "1984" and "Big Brother" and all that BS. They put cameras on buses, and it has significantly improved safety. Why not schools? Why not PROVE which students are the troublemakers on video, and thus eliminate them from the classrooms so the rest of the students can learn? Oh wait, even the asshole children deserve an education, even if they don't want to be there and try to ruin school for everyone else.

And the ironic thing is? I'm not a teacher. I did substitute work for a bit, but I realized (after spending tens of thousands of dollars on courses) that I couldn't hack it. But damn but I respect teachers. They have to put up with that shit DAILY. They deserve their summers off and any other benefits they get.

Rob H., who would willingly and gladly kick any asshat who claims teachers are overpaid and don't do anything in the balls repeatedly because they don't have any idea of what they're talking about

P.S. - That's not to say that I don't agree with the idea of merit pay for good teachers, and finding a better means of eliminating bad teachers... but hey, that's another reason to put cameras in the classroom, so we have PROOF if a teacher is bad!

Rob Perkins said...

The cameras are in the schools. They're just not in the classrooms in the schools.

There was a case a few years ago regarding a substitute teacher who was accused of assaulting a student. Video footage came to light entirely exonerating the teacher; the student had assaulted the teacher and then accused him of assault when he blocked the student's blows with a textbook.

Cameras should clearly be in the classroom, pointed at the kids in the classroom; they're minor children and a large point of school is to impart standards of behavior. The records can be locked away from examination except in cases of a dispute.

But, man, the legal ramifications are legion.

Ian Gould said...

Abilard wrote: "The manufacturing sector of the economy has expanded for the last 4 months, in spite of the recession. While correlation is not causation, my understanding is that the dollar has declined steadily during this period against the currencies of most of our trading partners."

The Dollar Index, the most widely used measure of the value of the US dollar has risen by roughly 5% since the start of December.

That being the case we'll be able to conduct an empirical test of your hypothesis over the nrxt few months.

Hands up everyone who thinks US industrial outpuy will fall.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Ten cents worth about teachers
Bad teachers can be sacked here in NZ and in the UK where there are very strong laws about sacking people and strong unions
All that is required is that the administrators follow the procedures
Assessment, verbal warning, re-asses, written warning, re-asses - FIRE

If a bad teacher is still there it is not the unions it is HR sniveling about "too hard"

Tenure just means you need to follow procedure to sack

If a teacher is bad and procedures are followed the unions wont interfere

Robert said...

After reading a TV Tropes page on a book series about an alien invasion of Earth using terraforming (in which the U.S. was forced to make reparations to third-world nations and gave technological products instead of cash as payment) and looking at the recent news articles about how the third-world nations want both proprietary technology and money in exchange for their own emissions reduction, I can't help but think that we should take a page from science fiction in "reparations" to these third-world nations. It's obvious what will happen if we send cash to these poor nations. The cash will go into the pockets of corrupt politicians and nothing will get done.

The solution? We spend the cash in the U.S. and Europe to construct the parts needed for solar power plants, desalinization plants, wind turbines, and so forth. We then ship these products to the third world nations and assemble them in the third-world nations. They thus get the alternative methods of creating power and supplying fresh water to their people, which they claim they want. Meanwhile, the money went to U.S. and European businesses, enhancing their productivity, giving jobs to our people, and allowing our economies to flourish. Best of all, we then have the infrastructure built up to supply the third-world nations with the parts needed to continue their own power generation in the short term.

Naturally, market forces will encourage some businesses to in time move to the third-world nations and build plants to construct solar power and wind turbines in these nations. However, this will be a more natural flow of technology that is less corrupt than just giving money to countries that will just pocket the funds and do nothing.

Rob H.

Abilard said...

@Ian

That will be an interesting test, though I expect some lag is involved in industry responding to market signaling.

Hypothesis - Dollar value drops. More international orders come in. Industry ramps up to fulfill them.

Reverse Hypothesis - Dollar rises. International orders slow. Industry scales back down (after finishing last month's outstanding orders).

The latter seems to have a built-in delay.

More emphasis on data and less on counting hands is always welcome, on this and other issues. ;-)

Abilard said...

@Rob

I was hoping that was the form the stimulus would take. AGW or not, we need to focus on renewable, local, energy and on restoring our manufacturing. This is the age of lost opportunities.

LarryHart said...

David Brin said:

... but by PRECISELY the failure mode that Ayn Rand vigorously recommends. They never ask: "What happens 30 years after ATLAS SHRUGGED? What will John Galt and Dagney do, with their sons?"

The answer? They will make them lords and set things up so that OTHER whip-smart innovators cannot compete on a level playing field against those sons, but instead ensure all possible competition can be suborned, quashed or killed by those sons.


This reminds me, I've always been impressed by the three-dimensionalness you gave the Holnist characters in "The Postman" (Thanks again for not writing them as cartoon supervillains). I'm thinking particularly of General Macklin's assertion that the TRUE democracy this country was intended to embody was a feudalistic system in which lordship was NOT hereditary. From memory, "My own sons must kill to become Holnists, or else scratch dirt to support those who can." A feudalistic autocracy, but one based upon merit rather than heredity.

Now, I'm not sympathetic to the Holnist agenda, but I can see that they actually believe they've established some sort of more perfect feudalism. Unfortunately, all too plausible a belief system.

David Brin said...

Interestingly, Costner captured that aspect of things in his movie. In fact, he captured a lot of the heart of the book, even while throwing our the brains and acting like a total putz toward me (for no remotely conceivable reason.)

The fact that he -- and screenwriter Brian Helgeland -- "got" the heart message so near-perfectly is something that has both puzzled me and pleased me immensely. It would have been a better film and story, had they even had a single beer with me...

...but it's got tons of soul and goodness and I am far more proud than embarrassed to be associated with it.

Oh, as a parent with kids in California schools, I do toy with right-wing thoughts toward the Teacher's Union... even though my mother was a member for 30 years. A criterion that ought to be used in removing teachers is PARENT COMPLAINTS!

Sure, you'll always have ditzo parents... in fact, every year. First the principal should decide "does this complaint merit an actual investigation of wrongdoing?"

If it does not... if it is totally subjective dislike, then the teacher should be able to toss out 2 or 3 per year. The rest of the complaints pile up and past a certain number they help force a transfer to another school. If the SAME thing happens at another school, then it cannot be "momentum" of parental gossip, but something real, demanding re-training, at least.

We are the customers. Yes, some parents are stark juibbering crazy. But ...

Robert said...

Found the book series title: The War Against the Chtorr. I must admit to being rather impressed by how the U.S. is described at the start of the series... as having managed to turn what should have been a devastating turn of events into a means of achieving economic dominance over the third world nations. While I don't advocate such a thing, I do feel that the "uplift" of Third World Nations through cash infusions will fail, and that we should spend the cash at home to boost our green infrastructure and then install green technologies in these nations so that they get what they claim they want without quite as bit of an ability to abuse it.

Rob H.

Rob Perkins said...

I really wish David Gerrold would up and finish his Chtorr stories. But I wish that he would have done what he did with his life since the last one was published even more, so there you are.

(He adopted an unwanted boy and raised him to adulthood.)

Regarding parent complaints, a friend of mine started teaching high school (subject was Spanish, as I recall) years ago. During his first year, a student cheated on the final and was caught. My friend applied the District policy for cheating.

The parents complained, the student's grade was raised, and he was fired.

Not a good criterion.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Well, parental complaints could be a good criterion with a system set up to weed out the frivolous complaints, such as parents complaining about their children being caught cheating (though of course, parental complaints should be far from the sole consideration).

Robert said...

The problem being, proving whether cheating is real or fabricated. If a teacher is generally detested by his or her students (because of giving a lot of homework, having tough tests, and being a real disciplinarian), then students could easily go along with claims that the teacher faked the cheating incident because he/she has it out for said student.

The best bet is then to have multiple cameras, one in the front of the classroom, one in the back. That way you can hopefully get more proof on cheating incidents. And while my little scenario might be considered "paranoid," one of the things that led me to not bother becoming a teacher (besides being unable to maintain a B average in grad school) was when a bunch of 3rd graders were caught in a conspiracy to capture, torture, and possibly kill their third-grade teacher. When kids THAT young are willing to do something like that... well, it takes a better person than myself to teach.

Rob H.

Marc, Austin, TX said...

2 cents on teachers:

A parent complaint system concept worries me. I live in a top rated school district and even here the things the parents complain about are mostly inane. The ability of a teacher to be booted by the principle based on complaints, would give a principle King like power. You'd need review panels or committees, bleh!

Sorry if this is predictable coming from me, but if we need to blame someone for bad school performance, one only needs to look to the parents.

Anyway, the entire education system is a debacle. How long have children been required to attend school? Well let's see that depends: Massachusetts 1852 (HA! I think, I attended that school building, lol OLD!) and Alaska 1929! I understand why mandatory attendence is needed, it's disruptive if people come and go as they please, right?

But like all complex issues, it's a government institution that started out for straightforward reasons which have evolved to have an entirely different purpose, and like many programs started in different centuries those original reasons have been co-opted.

Ultimately, isn't mandatory school mandatory daycare? Which exists to allow the parents to go to their 'daycare'.

If it is, it makes me wonder about the future:

I often wonder what happens when robotics and automation truly takes off, and I sure hope true AI is a ways off, not becuase of the 'singularity', but because 95% unemployment without some other kind of adult daycare is scary.

Intelligent robotic slave labor will wipe out minimum wage and manufacturing. Sure someone has to help build and fix the robots, but thats a handful of people.

Even if we add the possibility of a 'Matrix' type insertion learning system, societies will still have real problems:

Huge poppulations of idle undereducated, possible socially inept masses with nothing to do all day. We'll need 'Matrix' style virtual daycares.

Even scarier will be the impact on the third world if the robotics/autmation/AI beat them to modernity, because then they won't be cheap labor anymore and industry won't move from China and India to them as those societies become wealthier.

Don't get me wrong, it horrifies me how anti-science many Americans are now, which I think must somehow equate to bad school.

Citizens need to learn, education is important, but I think 'Democracy for all' will be a sweet memory sometime in the not so distant future.

Ain't crowd/pupulation/societal control wonderful?

LarryHart said...


I often wonder what happens when robotics and automation truly takes off, and I sure hope true AI is a ways off, not becuase of the 'singularity', but because 95% unemployment without some other kind of adult daycare is scary.


A problem I've struggled with mentally without reaching a good solution: What should the economy look like when human labor really is NOT necessary to sustain it. Ideally, automation frees human beings from drudgery in order to provide time for leisurely pursuits. But how do we square that with an economic system which directly ties economic rewards to employment? At the moment, automation "frees" people from work into unemployment, and therefore poverty. You'd think the situation would improve as human labor becomes less and less essential to the running of things, but the opposite seems to be the case.

LarryHart said...


... but I think 'Democracy for all' will be a sweet memory sometime in the not so distant future.


This is extremely pessimistic of me, but the fact that neither the White House nor the majority party in congress can buck the pharmacutical industry or the health insurance industry makes me wonder if we've already passed from Democracy to...well "fascism" has such ominous overtones, but it originally refered to a goverment of the people by the corporations for the corporations. Joe Lieberman is the Senator from Aetna. Congresspeople already seem less concerned with "winning" their constituents' votes than with "winning" campaign dollars. What term other than "fascist" would one call that?

Sociotard said...

Here's a bit of transparency, but of the kind nobody here would like:

$26 Software Is Used to Breach Key Weapons in Iraq; Iranian Backing Suspected

WASHINGTON -- Militants in Iraq have used $26 off-the-shelf software to intercept live video feeds from U.S. Predator drones, potentially providing them with information they need to evade or monitor U.S. military operations.

Senior defense and intelligence officials said Iranian-backed insurgents intercepted the video feeds by taking advantage of an unprotected communications link in some of the remotely flown planes' systems. Shiite fighters in Iraq used software programs such as SkyGrabber -- available for as little as $25.95 on the Internet -- to regularly capture drone video feeds, according to a person familiar with reports on the matter.

Sociotard said...

Oh, and for a laugh, it turns out green technology and energy efficiency can be bad.

LED traffic lights don't melt snow, do cause accidents

The gist is, incandescent lights get replaced by LED lights because the newer lights are just as bright and don't waste as much electricity on wasted heat.

Except the "wasted heat" was what kept snow from obscuring the lights in the winter, which is what is happening to the LED lights. Now you don't know what the lights are indicating at the same time of year that the roads are slippery. Yay efficiency!

Ian Gould said...

Not spam - honest.

But it may sound like it.

Have people heard of hydrogen generators?

Supposedly these can cut fuel use by 50% of more and can be retrofitted on most card and trucks.

University of Wisconsin has been testing the products and has now designed its own.

http://evworld.com/currents.cfm?jid=69

Ian Gould said...

Of course, the credibility of the claims isn't helped by scientifically illiterate journalists who seem to believe in perpetual motion machines:

http://www.news.wisc.edu/17449