Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Sensible - if Radical - Solution for Greece

=== ABOUT THE GREEK/EUROPEAN CISIS... ===

If you haven't been following this, it's pretty important. The "Club Med" countries of Europe -- Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy -- seem to have gone on a spending binge, since joining the Euro-zone (using the Euro as currency) and now Greece, especially, is asking to be bailed out - big time - by the richest nations, especially Germany.  This seems unlikely.  But the alternative, draconian budget cuts, could stir major social unrest, as well as a national depression.

You know me, I always look for the most obvious thing that is going un-mentioned.  In the case of Greece, I am wondering why nobody mentions the blatant extent to which Greeks are notorious tax scofflaws.  Tax compliance rates in Greece are known to be dismal.  Isn't this an important side of any budget crisis?

I am wondering if Greece might be helped by a dose of radical transparency. 

See my more extensive article: Solving World Debt Through Radical Economic Transparency.

Tax evasion is mediated by corruption, which thrives in shadows.  Were the Greek economy radically opened to light, laws would be enforced, simply because citizens would spot their neighbors' evasions -- (yes I am talking radical transparency! So?) -- and therefore that side of the ledger should dramatically improve.

This approach has an added advantage.  Radical transparency could be achieved with some simple changes in law, unleashing citizens and media to do the rest.  If combined with an amnesty for those who report and pay-up on past evasions, this approach could offer the poor and middle class something to counterbalance their own sacrifices in setting things right.

 This sort of thing could be a big piece in helping the "Club Med" countries transform their balance books and take up a new position of leadership in an era of change.


=== NOW... SOME SCIENCE===

Citizen news network with credibility ratings. (EARTH predictive hit?

Mars Express buzzes Phobos, one of the Red Planet's two tiny moons.

Creatures found under 600 ft of Antarctic ice suggest possible life under Jovian moon surfaces.

Your next cool board game?

Researchers Turn Mosquitoes Into Flying Vaccinators.

Stop the Ug99 Fungus Before Its Spores Bring Starvation

Well, it certainly is reciprocal accountability....

Wow re lunar ice.

A site that answers questions or computations.

Efficient, low-cost water treatment (membrane .02 microns) may be useful in third world countries.

Five stellar ways to explore space using social media

Women and Posthumanity: The future looks large and sexy. The media is driving females to manipulate their bodies to increasingly unnatural idealized images. We've lost touch with what natural bodies look like; we have no acceptance of natural aging.

==Brin-news==

I'll offer my own, typically off-angle, view of the Health Care Bill and its implications for America's ongoing civil war, soon.  Till then, I just want to jot down a quick thought on another matter -- the current European economic crisis, precipitated by near bankruptcy of the nation of Greece.

Now, some announcements

1) I've continued my series of ten-minute intellectual "YouTube Feasts." First concluding my series about spaceflight withPart V: The  Grand-scale reasons to explore space.

And then with the first part of a series about transparency, privacy and freedom. The Transparent Society: Part 1: the coming era of cameras everywhere. 

 2) The George Marshall Foundation has honored me by prominently posting my 1999 essay touting George Marshall as the "Man of the 20th Century."

Spread the word and enjoy!

95 comments:

Robert said...

One thing I suspect will happen in the next ten years is that a lunar lava tube with water ice will be found near the equator region of the Moon. This may be in a hilly region and in all likelihood will be on the "dark side" of the Moon... but we've already found one lava tube. There will be others. And considering how water ice has accumulated in the polar regions of the Moon... would it not be likely for it to accumulate in lunar lava tubes as well?

The benefit of this is that a reinforced lava tube would give any potential lunar base both a protected region in which to build a camp... and also water resources with which not only to create a habitable region, but also (if there's enough water) create rocket fuel and the like. Even assuming we send only robots to the Moon, the lava tube could protect robotic probes from solar storms and the like.

To be honest... I suspect that while we may very well have Chinese and Russian astronauts on the Moon's surface in the next ten years... we won't see any serious effort to create a base until over twenty years if only because of the solar sunspot cycle and the best way to protect our astronauts from solar storms is to not be out beyond the Van Allen belts during the high point of solar activity.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

David Brin said...

Cool concept!

Alas, unlikely since the sun bakes the lunar surface 2 weeks out of every 4 so the water would have to be pretty far down. Also the accumulation mechanism hypothesized for collecting water really works best where its very cold

SteveO said...

JIT dives Wal-Mart to restart local farming...

Note, as I predicted a few threads back (ahem), the concept of Just-in-Time (here, minimize unnecessary transportation - make your product where you use it) has driven Wal-Mart to pilot a program to get local farmers to grow the staples if they are within a day's drive of the store.

JIT = a more robust supply system, done correctly.

Of course questions remain, but the principle is sound.

David Brin said...

Yeah I heard about this a few weeks ago on NPR. Yes, this is how JIT should be done. Instead of relying on fedex.

Francesco said...

As an inhabitant of one of the PIIGS (Italy in this case): yes, the tax problem is a very real one. And your solution would be perfect. In fact, almost anybody with a bit of foresight already see this, and talk extensively about this.
Good luck trying actualy to implement that. I don't know if you realize the extension of the corruption: politicians actively and bipartisanly block any serious attempt at reform that could lead to extended transparency and public scrutiny.
Politicians do not care too much if the economics goes to hell, if the alternative is reducing their power.
Now, in Italy at least (I don't know the others), the people is starting to get a bit upset, and this could hopefully lead to changes, but on the other hand, seeing the current government trends, I would not be utterly surprised if it would lead instead to an authoritarian turn.
You know, one thing that I envy to most serious western countries, is that even if your politicans too get often involved in corruption, at least when they're exposed, they've the decency of appearing ashamed and resign...

Ian Gould said...

It might make more sense to use transparency to combat welfare fraud and CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) fraud.

Income is relatively easy to hide.

If you're claiming welfare for three kids and you've only got one it's kind of hard to convince your neighbors the other two just stay indoors a lot.

Brazil does this with the Borsa Social welfare program so while its likely to be highly controversial it's at least possible.

Tony Fisk said...

Hmmm... I've never *that* observation about the start of the space race! Did Eisenhower really have transparency in mind, or is it in hindsight?

(I've also heard Clarke(?) comment that the space race speeded up space technology by 50 years. It's not a pleasant thought that, in some alternate universe, we're only just discovering the ozone hole!)

Do we turn mosquitoes into vaccinators just in time to zap 'em? (or do we have to start considering IFF nano-tech?)

How do you implement transparency in a country where corruption is endemic? Maybe it's another job for 'skeeter-tech'?!


I think a link to social space media would not be complete with the Planetary Society's Emily Lakdawalla giving tutorials on how to manipulate the raw images from space probes (the first panoramic shots from Huygens as it parachuted Titan-wards was put together by amateurs)

Speaking of which, the far side of Phobos shows these strange grooves. They look like glancing blows, but the weird thing is they follow the terrain, almost as if they were exposed strata layers. I doubt that is the reason, but has anyone got a better idea?

leophial: a trophy comprising a small bottle of urine obtained from the local top predator, as featured in JP III.

Tacitus2 said...

Regarding tax enforcement as it applies to Greece, Italy, and likely elsewhere.

We are in total accord on this one.

And I have no doubt that in all such places, the political class and their finacial backers are the worst offenders.

Tacitus2

Marino said...

being another PIIGS myself, I must add to Francesco that a Brin-esque attempt was done under the short-lived centre-left government: income taxes were put online, as said records are technically public.
The uproar was worse than the teaparties and the death panels (someone said it was an invitation to kidnapping for ransom), and the official of the Ministry of Finance who did it was forced to resign.
Anyway, I must correct Dr. Brin on a detail: Italy didn't go into a spending binge after the euro. Quite the opposite: we in fact spend a lot less in education, R&D, welfare, while the stronger currency, yes it eased the price of import, but made our exports a lot less competitive. The real issue is a large amount of debt dating back to the '80s under the hegemony of what a comedian dubbed "Reaganian hedonism" (i.e. let's party as if it were no tomorrow), while the alleged "overspending" left did exactly the opposite: sse frex: http://tinyurl.com/yjeepa8

CulturalEngineer said...

Especially liked the Reciprocal Accountability video link!

It's just the sort of distributed enforcement that you developed in Earth coming to life.

And the Greece idea is not only possible for tax scofflaws, but would be a better form of financial regulation than we're likely to get out of Congress (or the EU for that matter)... assuming they'll make a few things illegal that actually should have been illegal a long time ago...

And probably would have been illegal in the first place if we had the same ability to fight back against organized lobbying and back-room deals... through greater transparency in the process and systems facilitating ad hoc networked citizen lobbying issue-by-issue.

Let's have a lot more transparency on Wall Street, government, Fed, etc. with bounties for private individuals who uncover what's under the rocks. That should make for some real excitement.

We have some elements now but not nearly enough.

Marino said...

an aside to my post: the current Prime Minister in his last party rally screamed against the left because they would be mandating use of credit cards or traceable cheques instead of cash for large payments; in a former campaign he pointed that such measures were aimed at turning Italy int a "money-less Stalinist police state".
I understand that, criminals like drug smugglers aside, in the States paying large amounts in cash is suspicious...are you still under the iron heel of the dictatorship of the proletariat or are already going into the withering away of the state?(evil grin)

Abilard said...

"I'll offer my own, typically off-angle, view of the Health Care Bill and its implications for America's ongoing civil war, soon."

That will be interesting. It seems to me that we have moved beyond a narrow Madisonesque interpretation of the Constitution and are now operating under a couple centuries of interpretation that now have the force of law (in the old English sense). The tea party wants Madison back, while progressives are now employing the Federal power that the last civil war and a couple centuries of interpretation have given them. I look forward to reading your take.

Regarding Greece, yep, pretty much sums it up.

Robert said...

@Dr. Brin: While it would take a long time for water ice to accumulate in lava tubes closer to the equator, the Moon has been up there for billions of years, and geologically stable for probably a billion years of that. Thus while you won't have the accumulation you have at the polar regions... there will still be accumulation, in amounts enough to be usable at least for habitation, if not fuel. That would make these lava tubes even more desirable for bases (and eventual colonies).

I know you have a bit of a dislike for returning to the Moon. However, you shouldn't view it as a "gravity well" that will "trap us" but instead as an advanced base. It takes a fraction of the fuel to escape lunar orbit that it does to escape Earth orbit. It is also quite possible (and viable) to create a space elevator on the moon using regular materials we are familiar with; there is probably a lot less orbital debris around the Moon that could prove dangerous for such a platform.

Besides. You want to ignite the passions and imaginations of millions of people. Well, science fiction has long used the Moon as the first real expansion of humanity, a foothold into space and beyond. Your brethren has fixated the interests of millions of readers on the Moon. So I guess you have yourselves to blame for this odd desire to return there. ;)

Rob H.

soc said...

Off topic but I found it amusing:


By Lee-Anne Goodman, THE CANADIAN PRESS, cp.org, Updated: March 25, 2010 11:45 PM
Canada's David Frum fired from conservative think tank after assailing GOP
WASHINGTON - David Frum, the Canadian-born conservative pundit who's been harshly critical of the Republican battle plan against President Barack Obama's health-care overhaul, is unapologetic after being fired Thursday from a right-wing think tank.

"I'm going to remain a conservative whether they want me or not," Frum told The Canadian Press on Thursday night following his ouster from the American Enterprise Institute, adding he was saddened by the turn of events.

"In a democracy, there are competing teams, and each team has to bring its best game to the table ... health-care reform is here to stay, it isn't going to be repealed, and it was within our grasp to help formulate it and we failed to do so. Instead, we decided to do whatever we could to make Democrats look wicked and evil."

On Sunday, Frum wrote on his website, FrumForum, that health-care reform had been a debacle for the Republican party, saying they'd "suffered their most crushing legislative defeat since the 1960s."

"A huge part of the blame for today's disaster attaches to conservatives and Republicans ourselves," he wrote. "At the beginning of this process we made a strategic decision: unlike, say, Democrats in 2001 when President Bush proposed his first tax cut, we would make no deal with the administration. No negotiations, no compromise, nothing."

While Republicans predicted months ago that health-care reform would be Obama's "Waterloo," Frum wrote: "It's Waterloo all right: ours."

The White House press secretary gleefully Tweeted Frum's blog post on Sunday. His ouster from the American Enterprise Institute came a day after the Wall Street Journal assailed Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and son of late Canadian broadcaster Barbara Frum.

"Mr. Frum now makes his living as the media's go-to basher of fellow Republicans," the Journal wrote. "But he's peddling bad revisionist history that would have been even worse politics."

Frum said while he was sad about the dismissal, he'd been in a similar situation before, albeit north of the border - at odds with the conservative movement for an unpopular but ultimately correct stance.

"Back in '95, I said that PCs and reformers were going to have to come together and to work together, and I didn't say that because I was a liberal. History proved me right," he said.

Frum, now a U.S. citizen, made a name for himself in Washington for penning Bush's "axis of evil" remarks in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001. In recent months, he's angered some conservatives for his criticisms of Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin.

Robert said...

I've a quick question for those of you with sufficient knowledge about orbital and launch mathematics. Why is it considered better to have a launch site nearer the equator than the polar regions? Wouldn't the amount of energy required to reach orbit be the same, and if not, why not?

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Centrifugal force?

Ilithi Dragon said...

That's why it's better to build a space elevator at middle latitudes, anyway. Presumably the centrifugal force would also apply to rocket launches as well.

Dave said...

David,


Love your books, I find myself at odds with most of what you blog.

Tax evasion in Greece is a cultural phenomenon accelerated by very high taxes. High taxes have this effect throughout the Eurozone. Having lived in Belgium for years, and a number of Belgian friends, I can assure you that tax evasion is considered good sport there for the very same reasons. Greeks are not living high on tax evasion, they have reached an economic equilibrium that includes the evasion of taxes. Most of this evasion is by small business owners and the self employed trying to make ends meet. The Greek problem is one of managing the fundamental economic problem of scarcity which relates much more to overspending than tax collection. While tax evasion is never a good thing, targeting this group to end the crisis could well have dire consequences making the problem worse.

Dave

SteveO said...

"I've a quick question for those of you with sufficient knowledge about orbital and launch mathematics. Why is it considered better to have a launch site nearer the equator than the polar regions? Wouldn't the amount of energy required to reach orbit be the same, and if not, why not?"

Take two extremes on our rotating planet. If we are sitting on the North Pole ready to launch our satellite, we are going to have to give it all the energy it needs to get all the way to orbit. But since the Earth is spinning at 465.1 m/s,(from Wikipedia) if we launch from the equator, we have that lesser amount of energy we have to put into the satellite to get it up there. The ISS has an orbital speed of 8.1 km/s. Escape velocity (how fast a projectile would need to be fired from Earth's surface in order to totally leave Earth orbit, neglecting friction - not the same as the speed a spacecraft really needs which can be less) is 11.186 km/s, so that is a not too small chunk of what you need to leave Earth entirely.

This is also why you always launch to the east.

If you want to viscerally learn this stuff, I recommend downloading the free orbital simulator called Orbiter. I think every science-fiction author who wants to use non-magical spacecraft ought to be forced to play this for a month. :) It would prevent a HUGE number of silly mistakes I have run across. Like a geostationary satellite over the South Pole. Yeesh...

Gilmoure said...

Could Tiny Bubbles Cool the Planet?

Harvard University physicist has come up with a new way to cool parts of the planet: pump vast swarms of tiny bubbles into the sea to increase its reflectivity and lower water temperatures. “Since water covers most of the earth, don’t dim the sun,” says the scientist, Russell Seitz, speaking from an international meeting on geoengineering research here. “Brighten the water.”

Natural bubbles already brighten turbulent seas and provide a luster known as “undershine” below the ocean’s surface. But these bubbles only lightly brighten the planet, contributing less than one-tenth of 1% of Earth’s reflectivity, or albedo. What Seitz imagines is pumping even smaller bubbles, about one-five-hundredth of a millimeter in diameter, into the sea. Such "microbubbles" are essentially "mirrors made of air," says Seitz, and they might be created off boats by using devices that mix water supercharged with compressed air into swirling jets of water. “I’m emulating a natural ocean phenomenon and amplifying it just by changing the physics—the ingredients remain the same."

Computer simulations show that tiny bubbles could have a profound cooling effect. Using a model that simulates how light, water, and air interact, Seitz found that microbubbles could double the reflectivity of water at a concentration of only one part per million by volume. When Seitz plugged that data into a climate model, he found that the microbubble strategy could cool the planet by up to 3°C. He has submitted a paper on the concept he calls “Bright Water" to the journal Climatic Change.

Grappy said...

I just finished reading a book on the history of the Marshall Plan The Most Noble Adventure. It was a real eye-opener. I had no idea how controversial the plan was, the Republican opposition at the time (and key support on the part of Arthur Vandenberg), the public ambivalence, and some of the strident attacks Marshall and the whole enterprise had to endure.

The GOP had exactly the same crazies (the "primitives" as Dean Acheson called them) then - the only difference is that there seem to be no moderates like Vandenberg today willing to stand up to the crazies in their party and put the country's interests ahead of politics.

David Brin said...

Dave! You are misguided (to disagree with me! ;-) but you are MOST welcome here! This is a zone of argumentative gentlemen-and-women. Feel free to hoist your flag of disagreement... only with courtesy and a thick skin, cause facts fly around here!

High tax rates are caused BY tax evasion. Increase compliance and they go down. In any event, I was talking about SUPPLEMENTING austerity measures with augmenting the income end of things, thuis making the poor and middle class feel they aren't suffering alone. Dig it, under Bush, we were told we were "at war"... but for the 1st time in US history, our rich were never asked to pay for a war protecting their privileges. Cutting taxes during a war was unprecedented... and turned out to be insane.

Robert my distaste for the return-to-the-moon has many reasons, including "done that." But the biggest is simply that no idea to come out of the Bush Administration did not later turn out to have been anything less than a deliberate attempt to harm the people and republic. Why should this boondoggle, which advanced our technological capabilities not a scintilla while sopping up all available funds, be any different?

Doug said...

I spoke with a self-proclaimed conservative today. He distanced himself from the actions of the extreme right -- the democaratic party office breakins and gas line cutting -- but insisted, to the point of mocking, that the rapid modification of the Health Care bill was somehow a sign of weakness and disgrace.

When pointed out that a) this was without significant input from the Republicans due to their refusal to negotiate and b) that the response from the Republicans fringe was both barbaric and non-democratic, he changed the subject to basketball. Still, he felt it was appropriate, during what was primarily a business lunch, to bring up some fairly stereotypical right-wing talking points.

Enough of us were willing (and able) to counter his arguments and assertions of superiority that I think he realized that his talking points were not universally accepted, but I doubt we changed his mind significantly.

redneg: a redneck who has turned their back on racism and bigotry.

David Brin said...

Grappy, yes, the difference is that today's GOP has no wing of Vandenbergs, Wendell Wilkies, Barry Goldwaters etc... adults willing to negotiate. Goldwater declared, just before he died, that conservatism had been hijacked.

Many of you have seen me analyze the faults of neoconservatism... entirely in conservative terms... showing that no sensibly conservative person would have anything to do with the Frankenstein monster foisted on us by Rupert Murdoch.

Robert said...

@Dr. Brin: A stopped clock can still be right once or twice a day (depending on if it's a 12-hour clock or a 24-hour clock). And the Shrug did a lot of things wrong, but I'm sure if you dig deep and far enough you can find something he did right - if only not dying and putting Cheney in control.

The primary problem with Moon Mark II is that we're going about it by reinventing the wheel. What we should be doing is creating several levels of spacecraft. First, we need a dedicated small-scale launch-and-return vehicle. The advantage that winged-craft have over capsules is... I'm not sure of the scientific term, I want to say "angle of incidence" but that's probably the wrong phrasing. Basically, capsules suffer increased heat and use a shockwave to reduce the amount of ablative shielding required, while winged craft don't punch through the atmosphere so much as work with it through lift bodies or somesuch. (I really should have had one last cup of coffee today, my brain's just threatening to shut down.)

If we have a winged craft (perhaps an x-wing design that can be put on top of a rocket body instead of carried on the side) that is dedicated for getting people to orbit and back, then we can start on the next craft: a dedicated orbital shuttle. This is something along the lines of the lunar lander in terms of general design: it does not need to be aerodynamic and is not intended to enter the atmosphere. Instead, it would be used to ferry materials from low earth orbit to the various L-points and even to lunar orbit or beyond. It could use an ion engine, and perhaps a solar sail as well (I wonder... could a solar sail be used to capture ions to be used for the ion propulsion? Instead of an actual sail, it would be a net, gathering "fuel" to power the craft for longer journeys).

I do have to say that in hindsight, looking at Constellation, you are right. It is a flawed program. The initial design was for a six-manned capsule. They had to reduce its size and weight because their efforts to design a spacecraft reusing materials from the Space Shuttle (ie, the solid rocket boosters) proved insufficient for the job. Meanwhile, the Dragon capsule designed by SpaceX can carry SEVEN men in space; obviously the problem lies in the rocket design and trying to reuse older technology instead of starting fresh.

The Apollo project worked because we designed a new rocket (we kind of had to, yes, but still!) and used it to achieve our goals. Constellation failed because it reused older technology meant for a completely different purpose (boosting a shuttle into low earth orbit). The lesson to be learned here isn't to avoid the Moon because it was the Shrub's idea, but to not take shortcuts in going there and to do it right the "first" time. And from there? We'll have the technology set to move beyond the Moon, go to the asteroids and Mars, and beyond.

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

Dave (the other one), a quick look at soem stats suggests that Greece's tax take is around 33% of GDP - which is below the OECD average.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_revenue_as_percentage_of_GDP

Greece's corporate tax rate is 25% - which is below the average of the other EU countries and the top marginal tax rate is 40% - also below most of its other EU partners.

The VAT rate is 19% - equal to Germany's below France's.

I don't think excessive tax rates are a major problem in Greece.

The heart of Greece's problem seems to be that after the overthrow of the military dictatorship it hads a series of well-meaning but misguided leftist governments that tried to create a social democratic state on the northern European model without an economy capable of supporting it.

Greece's history of civil war and political violence from both right and left seems to have made successive governments unwilling to take the risk of causing conflict by taking tough budgetary measures.

The result is that the Germans are now quite reasonably asking why they can't retire until age 67 but are beign asked to subsidise a country where public servants retire on relatively generous pensiosn at age 62.

Ian Gould said...

"Like a geostationary satellite over the South Pole. Yeesh..."

Well it is theoretically possible just not without massive ongoing enegy expenditure.

I believe the late Dr Robert Forward patented a design for a satellite with a soler sail attached which was capable of geosynchronous orbit over most (all?) of the Earth's surface.

Jumper said...

In only a few meters of depth on land on Earth, surface temperature fluctuations from day/night disappear. A few more meters and winter/summer fluctuations also disappear. At about 8 meters ANYWHERE on Earth, the ground temperature will be the same all year round.

At the equator this steady-state temperature will be higher. North Carolina well water is about 15 C. In central Florida, about 21 C.

Setting aside solar variability or other long term climate changes, from there down, things generally follow this
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geothermal_gradient

On the moon, the 28 day cycle means daily variability is driven deeper but not much deeper. Also temperature gradient should be shallower than on Earth. My question is, on the moon, at the equator, for instance, although a general term or function for all latitudes would be nice, what is the temperature gradient?

Robert said...

Unless I'm misremembering the quote from Apollo 13? 400 degrees difference between sunlight and shade. (Okay. Double-checked. Daytime temperatures can reach 253 degrees Fahrenheit, while night temperatures can reach -243 degrees Fahrenheit. Underground it remains around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.)

Rob H.

rewinn said...

"... "microbubbles" are essentially "mirrors made of air," says Seitz, and they might be created off boats by using devices that mix water supercharged with compressed air into swirling jets of water..."

This sounds interesting, but we'd have to come up with a way to generate these from an energy source that doesn't make the warming problem worse. Perhaps rafts tethered to seamounts, generating energy from wave action?

David McCabe said...

This is WAY COOL:

ARES: A Robotic Airplane for Mars.

And A TED talk about ARES.

WCG said...

FYI, your link to that "Researchers Turn Mosquitoes Into Tiny Vaccinators" story is slightly off. There should be a dash, instead of a space, between "mosquitoes" and "into."

Here's the correct URL:
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/03/researchers-turn-mosquitoes-into.html

Jumper said...

Robert, your 75 degrees comment is provocative. Incidentally I've tracked this sporadically on the internet and can come up with very little solid information on subsurface moon temperatures and would love to find some comprehensive data, as I have turned up very little.

It all does indicate a more temperate situation very close to the surface. Oh, for some vast volcanic caverns down there. Heinlein's fliers are on my mind, though the hope of such caverns is likely fantasy. Deep liquid water wells may be more likely.

Robert said...

Oh, it's also very likely wrong. I got it off Wikipedia. It's in the Colonization of the Moon - Habitat section. Considering how easily typos sneak into IPCC reports and the like, I'd be more than willing to bet a similar typo could be found in Wikipedia. But it was the info I had on hand, it was late, and I didn't feel like researching it further. ^^;;

Rob H.

paneweb: what spiders build in the space where windows once sat

Robert said...

Addendum note: As I said, the statement was very likely wrong. I found an article in a report called The Artemis Project that states: That's for the surface. A habitat less than a meter beneath the surface of Luna will experience a very constant temperature equal to its mean surface temperature. That's about -9°F (-23°C). The lunar regolith is such a good insulator that the habitat will need a heat-rejection system even at night because of the heat given off by equipment and inhabitants of the lunar habitat.

That is a much more logical surface temperature, seeing that a few feet under ground on Earth you get a constant temperature of around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (or at least that's what the cellar of a NH duplex was at where I lived for a couple of years when I was living with friends who owed me a bit of money).

Rob H.

plument: the sound of anguish that comes from a person plummeting to the Earth from a mile up without a parachute

Sociotard said...

Hey Dr. Brin, do you remember your comments about the end of pictures as being proof of anything at all? Check out this little movie about the next version of Photoshop.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NH0aEp1oDOI#t=2m48s

Robert said...

The Mars ARES mission sounds rather intriguing. However, it is both limited in scale and overcomplex. One of the reasons that Spirit and Opportunity rovers have so caught the attention of people is that they have lasted far longer than expected. ARES is a one-shot mission that will last hours at best. While it may give some great pictures and ignite interests briefly, it's a mayfly that will briefly soar the skies and then die.

The answer is fairly simple in technology. We need to send two missions to Mars. The first? Is to seed the atmosphere with multiple weather balloons that will drift the skies of Mars, measuring multiple aspects of the atmosphere for various gases at various elevations and at different regions. The problem with weather balloons being at the whims of the winds of Mars will be alleviated by the fact there are multiple balloons (and each one can take multiple sets of pictures for people to view).

The second? A dirigible. Basically, instead of a rocket-powered plane flying around Mars, create a dirigible with a power supply that can last for months or even years, and enough extra helium storage to stay aloft for those months or years. Using mundane propeller technology (possibly tweaked to be of maximum efficiency in the thinner atmosphere of Mars) to push the craft and direct it, you can send it to specific regions, modulate how fast it goes, maybe even provide it with "lander" crafts built in that can be dropped to the surface of areas of intense interest (such as areas of significant methane emission). And while you don't have a rocketplane soaring about the skies of Mars... you have something far more useful: a longer-lived craft that will remain functioning for perhaps several years and which could even, at the end of its life, be directed to land, release its "balloon" lifter, and become a permanent lander for further scientific work.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Quick FYI while at my parents:

aticketforrush.com

They've got the villa, etc. down, and he's refused to fly commercial, so they're currently in the process of raising the funds to rent him a private jet.

Anonymous said...

A dirigible for Mars?, sounds more like a job for Goodyear. Given the low density of the Martian atmosphere you would need a very large envelope, but hydrogen would have no flammability issues there. Rough guess, about the size of the Shennandoah with the lift capacity of the Fuji blimp. Since a Curtiss Sparrowhawk is out of the question, an electric powered "Mars plane" for close up work where a large blimp would be endangered.

Ian Gould said...

And the first poll on Congressional approval actually based on data taken after the passage of the health care bill shows Congress' approval rating bouncing to 24%.

That's even while Congressional Republicans are defending the use of racial and homophobic slurs by their supporters and engaging in a go-slow to cripple the workings of the institution.

BCRion said...

24 percent is stil pretty abysmal; sadly, it's not atypical. I suspect, without evidence, that much of that is from people who were dismayed that the health care bill would not pass. With Congress being able to put through the action, they gained approval. The people who disapproved of Congress because of the health bill, I suspect, disapproved prior to the passage and nothing will change that.

I'm not sure if Congressional approval polls really mean a whole lot beyond being a loose indicator. Congress is always unpopular, but no one votes for "Congress", they vote for individuals. What would really be relevant is some aggregate approval rating of incumbents by yes/no vote on the health bill.

Tacitus2 said...

Ian
I like the RCP average because it is a compilation of several polls. Individual polls can be accused of slant, usually in sample selection. An array of polls has more heft. The WaPo poll is the first reported post vote, and the number is what it is.
I think the degree of indignation would have been greater with Deem and Pass.
I am also relatively unimpressed so far with reports of widespread bad behaviour by opponents of current policy.
Lets revisit at the two week mark we discussed. When I am proven wrong I am free to acknowlege same.
Tacitus2

Tacitus2 said...

And interestingly, Ian, if you dig deeper a bit the most recent poll skewed the sample group towards the Dem side by exactly four percentage points.

Current sample composition:
34% dem 24 % rep 38 % Indy

last sample composition (Feb)
32% dem 26 % rep 39 % Indy.

I can think of no reason why the Democrats should have burnished their image to the tune of a 4% swing since then. And if anything, the bad behavior of the D and R factions should have increased the I group.

I know that media bias is more of a Conservative bugaboo, but we all have to keep an eye on what you choose to trust. Expect the next few polls to have a wider spread, and watch the sample composition for unexplainded mutations such as the above example.

Tacitus2

Robert said...

Actually, thinking back on the Mars Rocketplane, there are some advantages to it over a dirigible (as it seems you'd need a much larger "balloon" for Mars than Earth, and it may be impossible to inflate it in time before the craft would impact on Mars surface). So would a nuclear-powered aircraft be effective on Mars? Would it be possible to superheat the gases of Mars atmosphere with a ramjet engine of some sort and have this aircraft circling Mars for however long it takes before the nuclear fuel runs out, or the craft suffers degradation enough from dust particles that it crashes on its own?

I can sense there would be arguments against a nuclear ramjet aircraft due to the low-level radioactivity inherent in the design (they did tests in the 60s under Project Pluto), but I'm unsure if it would be any greater than the radiation from unshielded solar and cosmic radiation.

Rob H.

stifi: the little-heard-of pornographic science fiction cable channel

Ian Gould said...

So with all the fancy selective membranes people are developing when will we have one that can filter carbon dioxide or methane from ambient air?

Robert said...

We have them. They're expensive. Trees are much cheaper.

Robert said...

And on a dual-biofuel and aerospace news front, the aerospace industry is testing biofuels for use as rocket propellants. While current tests show it to be around four percent less efficient, there is hopes in the industry that they can find a mixture that is more efficient, especially as biofuels are denser than other fuels and thus more fuel can be loaded on the rocket.

Now, if we only can grow the biofuel source material in space... ;)

Rob H.

rewinn said...

"...I can think of no reason why the Democrats should have burnished their image to the tune of a 4% swing since then..."

Dems 2% up
Reps 2% down
Indys 1% up-or-down

Possible reasons:
* People like winners
* Discouraged maybe-Dems perk up when they see Congress act like it has a spine
* Maybe-Reps decide they don't like the alliance with the Teaparty?

The swing may or may not be real but possible explanations are many.

Tim H. said...

Can't imagine how the GOP could keep the teaparty happy and still serve their corporate overlords, this can't end happily. But, if they try to be elitist and populist simultaneously, will they look like a chameleon on plaid?

LarryHart said...

Tacitus said:

I know that media bias is more of a Conservative bugaboo, but we all have to keep an eye on what you choose to trust. Expect the next few polls to have a wider spread, and watch the sample composition for unexplainded mutations such as the above example.


I find the polls we see on the major news outlets (including but not limited to FOX) to be almost completely untrustworthy. I say that not because of the political bias of any one station (which might tend to cancel out of one watches say FOX and MSNBC), but because the news organizations have become entertainment organizations, and that gives them a sort of common bias, toward whatever answer generates more excitement over a contest.

My honest conservative buddy prefaces almost every conversation about polls with "I don't believe in polls, even when they tell me what I want to hear...", and yet he was ecstatic when McCain/Palin surged ahead of Obama in the polls last September. At that time, I had no idea which side would actually win the election, but I was confident enough to predict to him that neither side would ever get more than 5% ahead in the polls without some sort of "miraculous" reversal that just happened to keep the horse-race a nail-biter. The same dynamic always occured in the primaries between Clinton and Obama.

The polls are going to tell us the narative that the news organizations WANT us to hear.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Do intercepted McVeighs count?

If they'd managed to pull that one off...

Tacitus2 said...

I hear ya Larry. Polls can only tell you so much.
They do at least give a glimpse of what "might" be going on outside our personal sphere of observation. If you live in SanFran or in Dogstooth AL, it might be hard to imagine the larger picture.
The WaPo poll in particular had some odd quirks...while decreasing the number of Republicans included they somehow increased the number of Conservatives. Conservative Democrats? Or discouraged moderate Republicans switching over? Or just bizzare sample selection.
It was interesting to see that by a large majority, respondants felt that health care would now become more expensive, and by a smaller majority, that it would become less good.
Tacitus2

Stuart said...

Can't imagine how the GOP could keep the teaparty happy and still serve their corporate overlords, this can't end happily. But, if they try to be elitist and populist simultaneously, will they look like a chameleon on plaid?

I think they'll be able to pull it off because the teaparty movement seems to be more about feelings of persecution than concrete policy planks. If they want low taxation and radically reduced government, why aren't they aligning with the Libertarian Party? Why don't they court people who are concerned about overcentralized government, but are socially tolerant? I think they're actually more like Dixiecrats: members of a majority social class who feel their special status is in danger. A populist movement of elitists. :-/

Dave said...

@David Brin, Thanks for the direct and welcoming reply. I will keep reading, posting, and thinking.

I take your point on taxes in Greece--looks like I took your original post too literally.

We can agree on the Bush tax cuts. To my mind there are only two reasons to reduce taxes; budget surplus (as if that will ever happen again), and economic incentive that will lead to more tax revenue. I think the Bush tax cuts led to jet skies and boob jobs and not in capital investment. I remember looking at my $800 check 8 years ago and thinking this ought to go to pay off some debt. I would not have missed it.

Tony Fisk said...

McVeigh alert.

Nine alleged members of a radical US Christian militia group have been charged with conspiring to kill police officers and wage war against the US.

modsti: the use of discretion in an sms

rewinn said...

"...The polls are going to tell us the narative that the news organizations WANT us to hear."

News has become entertainment (since broadcast licenses no longer depend on the news being actually news "in the public interest).

Therefore the polls reported will be the most entertaining ones, especially meaningless "horseraces". A poll on an issue with a little subtlety requiring thought tends to be not entertaining, therefore not "news" and not reported.

We have at last caught up to the USSR's old joke "There is no News in Izvestia and no truth in Pravda"

David Brin said...

Stuart is right... tea party populism is about marching exactly to Glenn Beck's pseudo populist tune. If it were really about detestation of fat-cat cheating and abuse of authority, then the 2% who got Bush's tax break largesse would not be getting their sympathy, when the breaks are withdrawn. Indeed, the rich would be deeply worried about these guys ever having an "Aha!" moment.

But they won't, because Culture War is actually about hatred of smartypants. That's what it was about in 1860 and it propels the venom today.

Tacitus, one thing. You retain a simmering glower toward "deem and pass." let me reiterate that there is not a single thing that is unseemly, undemocratic, unfair, improper or immoral about that procedure. If anything, it is simply a way of connecting two bills together and was a way to promise House dems that the reconciliation would be pushed, after they passed the Senate's bill.

Re the McVeighs... an unnoticed trend. Not only sr. military officers have been fleeing the GOP. And 95% of scientists. But cops too. In droves.

Only thing preventing a rout is the dems refusal to accept a gift horse.

Ian Gould said...

Just thinking for a second about the debate over retiring the shuttles and abotu commericalising the space launch industry.

Has anyone considered selling the shuttles to the private sector?

Ilithi Dragon said...

Here's another.

Stefan Jones said...

Once more . . .

. . . the Michigan militia bozos thought their planned rampage would cause the public to Rise Up against the government.

F*** you, militia bozos.

There's a "writer's workshop lexicon" out there that defines a bunch of terms for mistakes / tropes in amateur writing. One is the "Mary Sue," a barely disguised, idealized version of the author who is beloved and does heroic things.

I suspect these militia types have a story in their heads in which they are the Mary Sue. Or Gary Sue.

'nosesca': Cool, refreshing Nosesca, with real kiwi fruit nectar in every bottle!

David Brin said...

Shuttle is horrifically expensive to operate.

The Tsunami of McVeighs simmers around the Turner Diaries, which is totally Mary Sue.... Just like Atlas Shrugged.

Robert said...

The problem with the "Mary Sue" character is that more and more characters are being labeled "Sues" just for being a primary protagonist. Hell, you can have a blind deaf cripple mute, and you then get hit with an "Anti-Sue" label (which is just as bad).

Several years ago I wrote up an article on "Sue" characters and came up with what I felt was an effective defense against Suedom. Change the gender of the accused. Like Hermione Granger: if Hermione was instead Henry Granger, people wouldn't have griped about a bookworm and slightly nerdy guy who the others turn to for answers. You'll find that the Mary Sue label is mostly sexism that denigrates having a powerful female protagonist.

It is easy to just fling accusations of "Sue" around when you find a character you dislike. But the "Sue" label is not about author insertion or strong female characters. It's about poorly written characters... and it is very subjective. As a critic, I try to avoid the label... even as I applaud stories I read that avoid my interpretation of the term.

Rob H.

shatic: static that lisps

Robert said...

I suspect that the sound and fury of the Tea Party is going to start to fizzle: Tea Party activists are learning that it's not easy to run for office and are being forced to modify their beliefs and that fighting against established incumbents is quite difficult. What's more, the Tea Party activists are not filling Republican coffers, resulting in a funding shortage for a large number of Republicans running against Democratic incumbents.

Nor do I think that Republicans will lure in lots of smaller donations with recent news of wasteful Republican expenditures showing that Republicans have not learned the lessons of fiscal restraint and responsibility. If this information is dispersed among the Tea Bag communities, then we may see the TBers refusing not only to supply Republicans with the funds they'd need to overcome incumbent Democrats... but perhaps even lose the will to vote because they'll just replace one crook with a worse one.

The cynic in me sees this as the likely outcome. TBers will realize that they can't get their candidates in unless they run as third-party candidates. Some will do this... and this will weaken Republican efforts. Others will just give up and complain that government is corrupt and that nothing can change it. Lower turnout will result in lower Democratic losses.

My prediction? A loss of 3-4 Senate seats and 15-20 House seats. It will be painful... but it won't be the overwhelming sweeping change that Republicans are crowing about and predicting. This may be even lower if by November we see unemployment down to 9% or lower and signs of the economy actually improving.

Rob H.

Abilard said...

"The Tsunami of McVeighs simmers around the Turner Diaries, which is totally Mary Sue.... Just like Atlas Shrugged."

It sounds like you are trying to make an argument similar to that recently made by Dr. Peniel Joseph on Talk of the Nation (if you are equating the McVeighs with the Tea Party). And (if so) I think you are making the same mistake as afore mentioned historian: conflating the constituational arguments from the Civil War with the slavery issue. Tea Party folks I have spoken to have never mentioned The Turner Diaries, though they mention the Constitution all the time.

I see two threats to productive discussion here. One is the danger of intellectualizing what seems to be an inchoate movement. It is a bit like trying to understand Christianity by talking to a theologian: fine and coherent interpretations will be explored which have nothing in common with the beliefs of 99.9% of the laity.

The second danger I see is that of applying old narratives to a new situations. A few epithets notwithstanding, I do not think that the racism narrative fits, though racial animosity clearly inflames some in the Tea Party movement. It does not explain anything about the current situation, though focusing on the constitutional issues involved does, which incidentally is what Tea Party folks babble about all the time.

As a constitutional scholar and an excellent communicator, I am a bit dismayed that President Obama has not taken on the arguments that they raise. It will be interesting to see what his reaction will be if the Supreme Court overturns the mandate in Health Care Bill as an improper use of the commerce clause. Perhaps then he will bring his talents to bear.

Tony Fisk said...

To quote Johnny Cash:
"My name is *Sue*/ How do you *do*!?"

I would have thought that something like 'nosesca' would have a delicate bouquet normally associated with fish hooks and formaldehyde.

On a more even keel, there's a couple of items of interest in recent editions of Scientific American and New Scientist:

The Rise of Instant Wireless Networks (where have I heard that before?)

thought provoking article on the under-appreciated role of scientific analyses in understanding social history.

Tacitus2 said...

David,
I think we can all be allowed a few glowers.
Deem and Pass is certainly legal, but like much of the machinery recently employed it had never been used on any legislation this big and this unpopular. So perhaps "improper". And as to stitching things together, what the heck was student loan reform doing in there?
This was just a political tactic to allow some unhappy Reps to try and dodge a direct vote. Which, by the logic here, they should have been proud to stand up and cast.
Its an interesting time politically. I speak only for myself, but my concerns about current domestic policy are not motivated by racism, or hate, or religion, nor are they directed by some "others".
I am starting to see our ongoing fiscal insanity begin to bite deep locally and nationally.
I still fear the power of a one party government with a subservient fourth estate. And a government willing to cut close to the wind on the tactics they use is all the more dangerous. You were known to occasionally rail against the doings of a previous admin if you will recall.
Show me some candidates willing to both cut entitlements AND raise taxes if that is what the nation needs.
Rara avia. Possibly extinct in the wild.
Tacitus2

Robert said...

The country has survived single-party governments before. Inevitably a second party forms to fill the void. And it would do both the Democrats /and/ Republicans a lot of good if the Republican party fell apart only to be cleansed and reborn as something new, untainted by the corruption inherent in the Republican party - especially as it would force Democrats to evolve in turn as a new party started breaking through their powerbase, much like the old Republican party did over a hundred years ago.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert
This in fact may be just what is happening.
I am not so sure that the current times are directly comparable to other stretches of single party rule.
This would be a longer discussion, but the balance between the three branches of govenment is shifting, as are the relationships between citizen, local and federal authority.
Being an optimist I think things will work out...America is always what we make it. And then remake it.
I worry for my kids, but elders ever have done so.
Tacitus2

Abilard said...

"I worry for my kids, but elders ever have done so."

I think it is unethical for us to burden them with so much debt.

Robert said...

Ah. So in other words, what the Republicans did for over two decades was unethical. I personally think it more unethical to allow the nation (and probably the world itself) to slide into a Depression by refusing to increase the deficit to fund programs meant to slow or end job losses and stimulate the economy.

------

I do have an idea on how to deal with the shortage of non-specialist doctors. Sadly, it means spending more taxpayer money to fund grants for medical students, with the student signing a contract stating that in return for the grant (or even a no- or very-low-interest loan that they have to repay) that they will be a non-specialist doctor for at least a decade.

You'll have people signing up for the grants to fund their education; this encourages more people who might want to be a doctor but can't afford it to go into the field... and also ensures that we have a base of family doctors that will grow and flourish in time.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert, lets be frank, sustained deficit spending is wrong no matter who does it. You can try to fool the voters, or even yourself, with talk of growing the economy out of debt. You can try the trickle down theory. Neither has worked.
I am unimpressed with the current efforts to spend our way out of trouble. A strong odor of political games about it.
I do decry Republican flim flammery. When you have had due opportunity to see what the Dem version does, perhaps you will join me?
Regards primary care subsidies, a good idea, not a new one, and hardly even a decent start.
Our health care cost issues will not be solved this way although access would be improved.
Fee for service models, with only lip service to evidence based medicine will inevitably lead to more testing, more specialty follow up, more cost.
We need to resolve the central question of "who decides". Consumer driven health care where the (insured) consumer has minimal out of pocket costs always leads to "more". Sometimes better, often not, but always...."more".
Tacitus2

Robert said...

Trust me, Tacticus. If you've read what I've said in the past, my dislike for Democrats is only surpassed by my growing loathing for Republicans. To quote a certain science fiction webcomic, "The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy, nothing more and nothing less." While I am speaking out for Democrats at this point more and more often, that is only because I see such systemic rot in the Republican party that at this point, the only way to eliminate it is to burn the entire plant and plant its seeds in different ground that has not been contaminated.

In short, I feel the Republican party cannot be salvaged. I believe this fundamental truth will kill the Tea Party... but I do have a small hope that perhaps a core of "faithful" will remain separate and work to start creating a new conservative party once the Republicans flame out and spiral into the ground. Perhaps by embracing the concepts of transparency and learning the lessons of the corruption of both Republicans and Democrats, they can create a political party that, while flawed, will be much more a people's party than the twisted travesty that the Republicans are.

Ultimately, I want to see this occur with the Democrats as well. However, while the Republicans have succumbed to the rot that will ultimately destroy the party, I suspect the diversity within the political structure of the Democrats will allow them to (as they did in the past) slough away the parts which are dragging the party down, and emerge to become a party that can compete against a reborn conservative party.

One thing to recall though is that the Democrats are a confederacy of individuals. They do not march to one beat, but instead to a thousand beats (meaning some Democrats are marching in three different steps or more at the same time; no wonder they trip up so frequently!). Thus even if they become the sole party for the U.S. for a while... they will not be one huge tax-and-spend machine like the political structure in the Massachusetts legislature. Instead, they will quarrel and squabble and argue every single bill until each bill benefits the most people possible. Somehow, this works... and it works far better than Republican obstructionism.

Rob H.

Abilard said...

"So in other words, what the Republicans did for over two decades was unethical."

Very much so. I haven't been able to bring myself to vote for a Republican for national office since 1988, and I regret 88. At the state or local level I have voted for them.

I see less difference between the two parties, though, than you do, Robert. I think both are bought and paid for, often shortsighted, and usually incompetent. I will come far enough toward your position to say that the Republicans, unlike the Democrats, so blasphemed their own stated philosophy under Bush that they need to either radically restructure or cease to exist. Our civilization needs fiscal ingenuity, and at present they are dead weight occupying the space where that (politically) should go.

A significant number of Tea Party folks agree with that sentiment, by the way.

Robert said...

And here's an interesting article: researchers have found they can "turn off" the morality center of people's brains using magnetic fields. While the magnetic field doesn't turn people bad, it does result in people adopting an "end justifies the means" belief structure, both when reading about moral stories and in considering scenarios.

I must admit some curiosity as to what the effect that cellphones and electric wire transmission does to people... especially as children grow up and are in the process of developing moral belief systems.

Rob H.

Abilard said...

As a climate skeptic who voted for Gore, I can't resist prodding the believers on this blog to read what James Lovelock has to say about institutional science and climategate:

James Lovelock on the value of sceptics and why Copenhagen was doomed

Like Brin, he is open-minded when it comes to skeptics. Unlike Brin, he does not seem to think science has been pulling the best and the brightest, or operating in the idealistic manner it should.

Robert said...

The problem is, there are skeptics, and then there are Deniers who wear the skins of skepticism but who are actually just working to put sufficient doubt into everything that people throw their hands up and return to the "true way" (that being whatever religious creation story their belief structure utilizes). Skeptics are a wonderful and worthwhile critter who need to be encouraged and allowed to find the flaws and point them out so that we can figure out what's wrong with the theories and ideas we've got.

Deniers in Skeptical Clothing are like that kid in the Simpsons who points and laughs at anyone who looks stupid. They don't add to the scientific debate, and instead muddy the water to the point that no one can see anything. (This also is an apt description of another related group, though these individuals are just assholes - Internet trolls. They enjoy riling people up, getting everyone into a shouting match, and then vanishing to laugh at the people who are foaming at the mouth.)

I respect skeptics. In some ways I am one; while I believe in climate warming and evolution and related sciences, I also have a skeptic's eye viewing the science and looking for holes and flaws in the understanding of the science. However, I've also weighed the consequences... which is why I feel we need to work to stop global warming despite the fact we're not 100% sure on it. It's much easier to restart global warming than it is to fix it once it's gone too far.

Besides. Anything that gets us off of foreign oil is good in my view.

Rob H.

Abilard said...

One of the articles that Tony linked to earlier related the story of Galileo testing Aristotle's hypothesis that the speed at which objects fall would be proportional to their weight. The point was how wonderful the scientific method is. Consider, however, that the experiment required no technical breakthroughs to conduct. Aristotle could have conducted it before forwarding his hypothesis, yet it did not occur to him to do so. All the scholars who lived between Aristotle and Galileo likewise could have conducted the same test. Yet 2,000 years passed without it being recorded as being done, and in all that time Aristotle's idea was dutifully copied and taken by many learned men and women to be true.

The human brain and the nature of the human intellect are such that skepticism does not come naturally to most of us.

David Brin said...

Great discussion!

Rob, you miss the point about "sue" characters. They are often engaged in wish-fantasy-fulfillment. They get to do to their enemies what the author wants to do to his.

Sci fi is the core realm, where OS Card perfected AE Van Vogt's "ubermensche" or suberman character method... give nerdy readers a nerdy super-mutant homo superior character to root for, who is persecuted for being special by dullard members of an old, decadent race. Then show the kid coming into his own and getting total power. Yum! Feminists do it too... All of the feminist "utopias" begin on the ashes of some male-caused holocaust that then excuses any subsequent suppression of males.

Abilard, you actually make my point. The Tea Partiers are not for balanced budgets, or they'd be democrats. They aren't for the military, or they'd be democrats. They aren't for tax fairness for the middle class, or they'd be democrats. Their populist rage is "inchoate" in the sense that it defies logic and evidence and reason.

But it is NOT inchoate if you look for deeper meanings to the rage. These are people who resent smartypants. Liberal professors. Rule-citing civil servants. Rule-enforcing cops. The rules that allow immigration. And science. All science.

That is the simmering heart, and the manipulators at Fox have found the lvers for aiming the rage in a particular direction... and away from the aristocracy. For now.

Tacitus, I think you need to reconsider what you THINK "deem and pass" means. I don't think your image of what it means bears any relation to the actual thing. It does not allow "reps to dodge a direct vote." The eaxact same majority would have been needed, straight up, to pass the Senate Bill. All D&P would have meant is "this vote is conditional on the reconciliation bill ALSO passing." There is NOTHING wrong with that. Not even the appearance of impropriety or responsibility-dodging. Nothing whatsoever. It was all made up rage.

"Show me some candidates willing to both cut entitlements AND raise taxes if that is what the nation needs."

Okay. they are called the Democrats. The New Health Bill is BLACK INK! It raises taxes (on the top 2% through a medicare tax on passive income that had been given preferential treatment by Bush, and a tax on Cadillac health plans) while REDUCING entitlement spending on Medicare itself.

Mind you, there are many things I dislike in all this. But the parties are not tweedledee...and dum.

Dissing Keynsians for being Keynsian -- spending lavishly to get people back to work -- is seeing only one half of the situation. They would be contemptible if they did not do the opposite in good times. Keynsians who aren't hypocrites pay DOWN the debt when good times roll.. which is what Clinton did. No, the mess we are in is still Bush's mess.

Rob is right. If the dems become all-powerful, they will simply fracture. It is what they do.

Abilard said...

Gack! Don't judge me by my voting habits. I reject that label.

So you have given up on them? Should we pass out red cards and call them probationers? What happens when they turn on the aristocracy?

I think that when they articulate points they should be answered, and the Democrats have not been doing that. I'm not ready to ascribe such darkness to their souls.

David Brin said...

Not darkness... blithering stupidity. What? That's insulting? Far less insulting than the things they hurl at people like me.

Or what many of them wish upon me (hellfire and damnation). Or what Sarah Palin (their messiah) wishes upon the United States of America... its end in fire and tribulation, followed by an absolute monarchy and an end to all traces of democracy.

No, it is mild of me to call them merely fools, As for their agenda... say what? Any group in America who rails against Keynsianism, without first declaring they were utterly and diametrically wrong about Supply Side Economics, is a hypocrite who merits no time of day in any economic forum.

Sure the TP guys cannot pronounce "Keynsian." But the essence of their rage ought to be against those who ripped off our grandkids and the middle class, in order to give a trillion $ to an ungrateful and unpatriotic aristocracy. To call the GOP the lesser of two evils is to declare imbecility.

Now there are some in the Tea Party wing meriting respect. Huckabee... dang he is smooth, charming, smart, jovial, likable, engaging. I don't know whether to wish him well or be terrified of him. I know that Fox is scared silly of him! Because, if he ever became strong in the TP movement, he might (maybe) turn their ire as much toward the bankers as toward the bureaucrats.

Abilard said...

Ignorance would be closer. I think a significant subset of the population is culturally out of sync with (and ignorant of) the rest, and the roots of that group are in Appalachia, but spread through the Ozarks, up into the Rockies, and beyond. The anti-intellectual bite you feel from it (and I assure you it has extracted more blood from me) is a negative of its egalitarianism.

A quote from the movie version of "The Last of the Mohicans" comes to mind:

Duncan: And who empowered these colonials to pass judgement on England's policies, and to come and go without so much as a "by your leave"?

Cora Munro: They do not live their lives "by your leave"! They hack it out of the wilderness with their own two hands, bearing their children along the way!

The people you refer to recognize no allegiance to academia and do not acknowledge its authority or statuses.

This does not excuse the ignorance. Following Johnson's "War on Povery" Appalachia is now in a situation where about a third of its people do in fact live their lives by the government's leave, or at least its welfare check. And, those who have avoided this (the majority) exist in an economy flooded with transfer payments and so are dependent. The ignorance is now veering into willful stupidity, but its roots are cultural nonetheless.

David Brin said...

Abilard, while the TPers surface rhetoric seems egalitarian and anti-authority, I resent being pushed into the position of snooty english lords. Deeper down there is not a scintilla of genuine fealty to the American Revolution, or the Constitution, about this movement.

They are in a rage because "their" president is no longer in charge. The lost an election, and, just like the spoiled brats of 1860, could not abide the other team having its time at-bat.

Their hatred of snooty intellectuals ... all the way to the US Officer Corps... may be "populist" but it also serves the purposes of their masters, just as resentment toward snooty northern city folk served the interest of manipulative Souther plantation owners. Getting dumb-ass masses to die for their oppressors is the oldest trick in the book.

I am not asking their allegiance to academia. I am the coiner of the term "age of amateurs!" See:

http://www.futurist.com/archives/society-and-culture/value-and-empowerment/
and
http://www.sigmaforum.org/editorial01.php

What I do expect is allegiance to a system of laws and processes that elevates skilled people to do complex jobs that we democratically chose to ask them to do.

You cite the hypocrisy that Red America gets huge influx of tax dollars from Blue America, while screeching spittle into Blue America's face. They scream panic over "terror war" when the blue cities that are at ground zero shrug toward Al Qaeda and say "Is THAT all you got?" They call the heroes of 9/11 wimpy liberal cowards. And we are fed $$##$@ up.

Foxworthy and Engvald and Larry the Cable Guy push a schtick that is disarming, charming and hilarious... that stupidity is somehow fundamentally honorable and "salt-of-the-Earth" admirable. They do a very good job and I love the humor. But I have lately come to realize... they really mean it!

Just as Sarah Palin really does pray for the United States to end in fire... while asking us to give her nuclear weapons. Be afraid.

Abilard said...

"I resent being pushed into the position of snooty english lords."

Apologies, but I wanted to show a positive expression of the egalitarianism to go along with the Palins of the world (the culture is not entirely without merit). I know you are not fond of aristocrats.

This is not 1860. In 1860 a person with a rifle or a Gatling gun constituted "modern" warfare. In 2010 that is analogous to wielding a Saxon Axe.

We may soon have an empirical test:

Tea Party Rally - April 19th

If they are as you describe, then the inflated rhetoric should be taken literally and on the 19th they will do something stupid like carry guns to Washington hoping for another Lexington Green. I hope they are not that stupid. We will see.

David Brin said...

Jesus! Did they really choose April 19th?????

Hitler's Birthday? (Some say the 20th, but it is often "celebrated" on the 19th.)

Don't ascribe it to accident. This date has had huge redolence among aryan nations types for years.

Take this re the recent set of McVeighs, the Hutaree: "Monday morning, federal authorities released an indictment against Stone and eight other members of the Hutaree militia. They allege that Stone and his followers were planning an attack sometime in April, perhaps killing an police officer then targeting the funeral with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to raise the death toll."

I was just about to post a bet that the plan was for 4/19 or 4/20... when I saw your post. YIPES!

David Brin said...

on to next posting...

Dave said...

I do not find it at all difficult to understand many of the Tea Party folks I have met and shared ideas with. The common theme I find is an affinity for personal liberties and freedom of choice.

While I share that affinity, I also recognize that the need for a robust set of rules and regulations in our society to deal with criminal behaviors and externialties in systems that won't correct themselves. That said, this grounding does not make me a lover of bureaucracy. I will always have a bias for greater freedom of choice even in the face practical success and efficiency through enlightened command and control.

Aristotle thought that practical matters made it appropriate and right for men to live at the direction of their masters. This view has been embraced in new forms in every age, and the Democratic party carries that banner today in modern terms via their policies. The Republicans pay lip service against it just long enough to get elected. It is a kind of morality to reject these classical notions of elite power in favor of a society of free people with an ethic of personal responsibility. While it is individuals making choices for themselves they can't be considered responsible choices if they don't properly account for science, knowledge and expertise. It is that last part where a lot get it wrong--you can't stand on this platform with your head in your sand.

I would say that the Tea Party exists more as a result of the failure of the Republicans than the actions of the Democrats. If the Republicans had stuck to their ideals over the last decade their would be little desire for another pillar to rally to. Still there is no shortage of valid criticisms of the Democratic party either. I would hardly characterize them as champions of balanced budgets and small government. With respect, the "black ink" ascribed to the health care bill is all smoke and mirrors--an utter farce. Forget the pay for 10 years, get 5 years of benefits construct--the unavoidable doc fix measure alone will spring the whole thing hundreds of millions in the red.

rewinn said...

FYI - April 19 is popular among the Teahadis as the anniversary of McViegh's Oklahoma City bombing
and Korish's firey Apocalypse in Waco

Ian said...

"I am starting to see our ongoing fiscal insanity begin to bite deep locally and nationally."

-Tacitus

"Consumers in the U.S. gained confidence in March as the gloom over job prospects began to lift, indicating employment will be central to preserving the recent acceleration in spending.

The Conference Board’s confidence index rose to 52.5, exceeding the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, from 46.4 in February, according to figures today from the New York research group. Home prices unexpectedly rose in January for an eighth month, data also showed.
...

Rising stock prices, a stabilizing housing market and fewer firings may be giving households hope that the recovery from the worst recession since the 1930s will be sustained. The 184,000 increase in payrolls economists project for this month shows it will take years for the economy to reverse the loss of 8.4 million jobs since the contraction began in December 2007."

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aYy8UD6J2I94&pos=1

"Corporate bonds are rallying for the fourth straight quarter, the longest streak since 2004, extending a record advance as 73 percent of companies beat analysts’ earnings expectations.'

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aQUee0tRqbZw

"The two-year slide in tax collections that opened a $196 billion gap in U.S. state budgets has stopped, easing pressure on credit ratings and giving leeway to lawmakers as they craft spending plans for next year.

The 15 largest states by population forecast a 3.9 percent gain in tax revenue in fiscal 2011, budget documents show. The 50 states on average may increase collections by about 3.5 percent, the first time in two years the figure is expected to grow, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com,

California took in 3.9 percent more since December than projected in January, Controller John Chiang said this month. New York got $129 million above forecasts in its budget year through February, according to a report from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. In New Jersey, the second-wealthiest state per capita, January sales-tax collections were 1.9 percent higher than a year earlier, the first annual increase in 19 months, forecasters said in a report last month."

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a2uOm.T_YrmU

Rising consumer confidence; rising home prices; unemployment starting to decline; corporate lending costs declining; corporate profitability increasing; rising tax revenues cutting deficits.

Not exactly signs of the coming apocalypse.

The CBO (or was it the OMB) shows the federal deficit as a percentage of GDP rising for another year then stabilising.

Assuming the economy continues to grow faster than expected; the CBO estimates will probably prove overly pessimistic.

At this point I'd say there's a 50/50 chance that if Obama gets a second term the US Federal government will be in surplus by the time he leaves off.

Stefan Jones said...

Well, to judge from their web page, the Tea Party Patriots certainly don't have much truck with elitist notions of punctuation, composition, Capitalization, and use of "quotes."

You know, I've seen that rhetoric before. Early nineties, before the Web was widely available but after AOL and other services made email and newsgroups accessible.

A hot-head militia lady called for a march on the capital. Same angry, offended, take-back-our-country snarling.

Back then it was Black Helicopters and Clinton's New World Order and murderous cover-ups.

This time its Obama and healthcare.

The difference?

Fox News' pundits celebrating, promoting, and stage-managing rallies.

Well-funded GOP PR firms arranging for speakers like Palin and bus tours.

The GOP shifting to the right and into paranoia to appease this new base.

Reactionaries, not revolutionaries.

'rationi': What Italian soldiers eat while out on maneuvers.

David Brin said...

With respect, Dave, four years of solid budget SURPLUSES and debt buy-down. under Clinton suggest the burden of proof is on you cynics who claim the democrats don't mean it.

Refusal to admit that that ever happened is pure blinker-vision

Ian said...

"Sure the TP guys cannot pronounce "Keynsian." But the essence of their rage ought to be against those who ripped off our grandkids and the middle class, in order to give a trillion $ to an ungrateful and unpatriotic aristocracy. To call the GOP the lesser of two evils is to declare imbecility."

Actually many of them seem to think the trillions are going to the ethnic minorities - so the aristocrats can buy their votes.

Tony Fisk said...

Quoth Abilard:
The human brain and the nature of the human intellect are such that skepticism does not come naturally to most of us.

Aristotle really wasn't very curious, as Bertrand Russell points out:

"Aristotle maintained that women have fewer teeth than men; although he was twice married, it never occurred to him to verify this statement by examining his wives' mouths."

Then again, maybe Aristotle knew more than Russell gave him credit for!

I am not a climate skeptic, but can pose a skeptical question: how does the CO2 atmospheric record compare between northern and southern hemispheres?

Strange as it may seem to US citizens, the 'storm in a teacup' doesn't get much coverage beyond the borders (where the ways of the world become strange and wayward) While I plump for the Labor camp at present, I cannot accept their insane proposal to filter the internet (they'll protect our kiddies from pedophiles and bestialists and terrorists and Nigerian scammers and bogeymen in general, and they'll protect us from knowing what dastardly sites are being filtered)
Hmmm! I suppose that could include sites related to Roman Catholicism?

knogr - the blogger site for trolls and ogres (the traditional variety)

Dave said...

@David Brin,

With respect, Dave, four years of solid budget SURPLUSES and debt buy-down. under Clinton suggest the burden of proof is on you cynics who claim the democrats don't mean it.

Your correct to point this out and it is a fair point. Congress creates budgets and presidents sign final approval of them. We have to give at least equal credit to the (Republican controlled) Congress over those surpluses and preceding their drunken power orgy in the Bush years. I don't think the surplus in the 90's makes a point for the Dems without making the same one for the Rep's.

Clinton was so successful because he governed as a centrist. Seems like a bipartisan paradise compared to today, no?

David Brin said...

No, you are 100% wrong. Sorry. Clinton vetoed like mad. He especially prevented Congress from enacting any tax breaks for the rich, till Bush entered office, at which point the floodgates opened.

100% absolutely wrong.

Moreover, claiming that Obama is some mutant socialist compared to Clinton is just plain fabulation. His brain trust comes straight out of the Clinton establishment. The same advisors and same overall policies.

Guys! see:

http://daggatt.blogspot.com/2010/03/health-care-myths-continue.html


http://daggatt.blogspot.com/2010/03/
and
health-care-myths-continue.html

Dave said...

@David Brin,

100% wrong? That black and white? I guess we are going to have to just agree to disagree on this.

If you can believe Wikipedia, Clinton had the fewest vetoes per year going back to FDR GW Bush notwithstanding. FDR had a mindboggling 635 Vetoes to his name, average of about one per week, which probably qualifies as "vetoed like mad". Clinton comes in at a total of 37 for all 8 years. A quick review shows several tax relief vetoes (to your point), but only one general appropriations veto along with this little gem:

December 6, 1995: Vetoed H.R. 2491, Seven-Year Balanced Budget Reconciliation Act of 1995. No override attempted.

There is no record here of heroic battles with the republican menace to keep budgets in line.

Healthcare in the red:

Why doesn't Dagget address the doc fix question in his myths? Maybe because it is not a myth. Straight from the CBO:

"You asked about the total budgetary impact of enacting the reconciliation
proposal (the amendment to H.R. 4872), the Senate-passed health bill
(H.R. 3590), and the Medicare Physicians Payment Reform Act of 2009
(H.R. 3961). CBO estimates that enacting all three pieces of legislation would add
$59 billion to budget deficits over the 2010–2019 period."


http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/113xx/doc11376/RyanLtrhr4872.pdf


The doc fix has to be passed or doctors will abandon the programs. It is not optional and where the democrats honest of the cost of health care over the next ten years, it would have been included in the CBO estimates and in the main bill. Added, the legislation adds to the deficit by the tune of $59 Bill--worse if you accept the historical trend that these estimates are always lowballed.