Sunday, July 11, 2010

If Corporations are Persons...

Let’s dive into the Notion of Corporate Personhood.

This legal contruct was established for basic, pragmatic reasons, in order to allow the limited liability corporation to attract investors whose potential losses would amount only to what they invested. That was the original purpose, and any expansion upon that purpose, creeping decade-by-decade toward investing corporations with the full rights of corporeal citizens, would be carefully considered.

Now the invention of the corporation should not be under-rated. This was a major innovation at the time, as many earlier forms of co-ownership exposed the partners and shareholders to liability for all company losses and debts, even at risk to their own homes. (Notably, the big insurance firm, Lloyds of London, follows the older format of deep-pocket shared risk - in good years there is big profit, but in some hard times, creditors have been known to swoop in and seize the shareholders’ cars.)

The limited liability corporation offered a “floor” for any investor losses; you risked only as much as the stock purchase price. Hence, more people especially small and middle class citizens, became willing to venture -- or gamble -- in stocks. And this involvement of the masses has been generally a good thing. Capital flowed into small and large collaborative enterprises. This allowed capital to flow into a myriad endeavors, like computers, TV stations, book publication and moonshots... but it also started us down a road toward some pretty bizarre procedural, legal and ethical quirks.

Like the fact that -- in a throwback to feudalism -- governance of a corporation is based solely on numbers of shares owned. Or that some kinds of “owners” get voting shares while others get preferred access to profits but no voice in company operations. By allowing companies to own shares in other companies, we get weird schizo-like motivations, conflict of interest, interlocking directorates, and the weirdest phenomenon of all...

...that a quasi-”living” entity that is potentially immortal can all-too often have the shortest of short-term planning horizons, less caring of long term health than a drug-hopped teenager.

Which brings us to the recent Supreme Court decisions that have taken this trend all the way to crazy town. By ruling that corporations have almost the same civil rights as organic citizens, the Court opens up many wonderful options of a science fiction author to explore...

... and also for delicious satire. For example, consider how a new corporation might be set up in order to run for political office. Why not? It’s implicit in the court’s ruling. Hey, and let’s incorporate new voters! In theory, you could inexpensively set up enough Delaware corporated “citizens” to swamp the number of living people in that Inc-friendly state. Get a couple of senators for Wall Street. Or, would two be enough? Heck, go for all of it.

Some more bizarre aspects the Court ignored? I’ve already mentioned that, unlike living citizens, corporations are potentially immortal and hence are inherently able to accumulate without the routine recycling system of death and inheritance. on the other hand, they can be “executed” - their life extinguished and assets dispersed - by the vote of a few company directors, or the ruling of a bankruptcy judge, or the whim of a civil trial jury.

One outgrowth is more disturbing than any other, when it comes to the current status of corporate “persons.” The decisions made by the CEO and directors of Big Megacorp can be controlled by hidden entities and shell holding companies, held by other shell companies, culminating at a single individual, somewhere hidden from view, whose actual ownership share of BM may be minuscule, but whose clever set of shells and puppet strings allows him to control vast enterprises, against the interests of much larger numbers of actual, living shareholders, or the public good.

Moreover, that hidden ownership may be foreign, even hostile to the nation where most of the corporation’s employees, stockholders, creditors and customers live, while ordering the corporation to “speak” or behave in ways inimical to the republic. If there were any reform that merits topmost attention, it is this utter failure of transparency about ownership and control... a failure that has no justification, even in conservative or libertarian terms.

Nothing illustrates this point more forcefully than the way ships and drilling rigs are now “registered” with “flags of convenience” such as Liberia or the Maldives, allowing their real owners to conceal their responsibility for the vessels and evade regulation. Some years ago, when an oil tanker befouled the coast of Brittany, all efforts to discover the secret owners of the ship failed. This sort of thing has simply got to stop...

...or else the awakening world citizenship may start demanding far more fierce reforms, perhaps even of the “helvetian” variety that I describe in my novel, EARTH.

Getting even more philosophical, one of my interlocutors recently added this:

“Slavery involves one natural person being owned by another. It is never mentioned explicitly in the Constitution, but was tolerated for >70 years. The weird thing is that the evermore successful tendency to regard corporations (or "juridical persons") as having the rights of natural persons seems to have ignored something important: juridical persons can (and must) be owned by other persons, either natural or juridical. The main purpose of corporate law theory as I understand it is to allow limiting the liability of the natural person owners to the current value of their investment in that juridical person.

But allowing one juridical person to be owned by another doesn't seem necessary--and may be the source of most of the mischief involved resulting from corporate law, by allowing sophisticated shell games. Somewhere you have to draw a line between the rights of natural and juridical persons, if you want juridical persons to be ownable. To date, that line has been drawn by allowing/requiring ownership of juridical persons, and precluding it for natural persons. But what happens if the line is drawn by saying that natural persons can own juridical persons, but juridical persons can't own other juridical persons, just as natural persons can't own other natural persons? I'm not sure it's a good idea, but it would obviously have lots of serious implications, many of which would be quite unexpected.”


This seems a radical shakeup. But it would certainly have prevented Goldman-Sachs from erecting a wholly-owned dummy company to “sell” derivatives to!

A simpler and less radical reform to push for, right now, is this. Those corporations who want to exercise unbridled “free speech” must open their ownership files and require full disclosure of all real persons who own them.

If they wish to “speak” as fully corporate citizens, they must exchange the voting stock of either foreign or hidden real owners into non-voting shares. Or else... they can choose to continue to stay out of politics.


Oh... and I would extend this to politically active organizations on the left, as well. The teachers’ unions are gonna have to budge.

=

See more essays on the Economy, Past, Present and Future

194 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice post - some of the thinking on our artificial friends echoes mine.

One random note - Lloyd's these days is mostly owned by limited liability corporate members - the early-90's wipeout of the Names forced the change. I think there's only something like 15% of the Names who are unlimited liability left.

Stefan Jones said...

I am doubtful that any real or effective limits on corporate power will be implemented.

Too many who subscribe to free market ideology also subscribe to power worship; to the notion that the liberty and rights of the powerful are of more value, of more consequence, then the liberty and rights of actual humans. Particularly poor and powerless humans.

Thus, we get United States Senators issuing groveling apologies to corporate CEOs brought to the mat.

Carl M. said...

As a semi-libertarian, I dislike having lots of regulations before the act, but I also like full(er) liability. Limited liability corporations are thus problematic. (This is why there are a significant number of outright anti-corporate libertarians.)

My moderate solution: let dividends and payments to corporate officers for the last N years be subject to clawback. No running up a debt or committing a tort and then dumping the corporate treasury before the lawyers show up.

This is still in the spirit of limiting the liability that that which you pay for a stock, by the way.

Ian said...

In many wasy, David, the situation is worse than you suggest.

Most corporations aren't controlled by the major shareholders, if they were they might at least be expected to act in their own rational economic self-interest.

Instead most corporations are effectively controlled by careerists boards whose economic interests are not aligned with those of shareholders and by fund managers controlling shares held in unit trusts.

Not only do these two groups have economic interests at variance with those of shareholders, they both overwhelmingly come from the same narrow range of academic backgrounds and are highly susceptible to group think as we saw during the GFC.

Tony Fisk said...

Ooh! P2P mobiles! Certain corporate entities aren't going to like this!!

Australian mobile invention could be desert lifeline

alegro: fast and lively; with missing base station.

Jacob said...

Speaking of liability in relation to Corporate Person-hood, why don't we incarcerate the whole body of a corporate person found to be breaking the law? Steal from someone, everyone goes to jail.

Why can't individuals just hand the police a single hair to put in jail and say "Thus I am punished."?

Or in the spirit of a 'Science Fiction' future, have just those elements of our personality which caused the crime be repressed for the duration of the jail time. Allowing the rest of the non-responsible self be allowed to go free.

I don't really believe in this, but I would think that Judges ruling on in favor of Corporate person-hood would consider this.

LarryHart said...

David Brin said:

... and also for delicious satire. For example, consider how a new corporation might be set up in order to run for political office. Why not? It’s implicit in the court’s ruling. Hey, and let’s incorporate new voters! In theory, you could inexpensively set up enough Delaware corporated “citizens” to swamp the number of living people in that Inc-friendly state. Get a couple of senators for Wall Street. Or, would two be enough?
...


The second thing that occured to me after "Citizens United" was that a corporation should run for President. Or if that pesky "natural-born citizen" thing gets in the way, then Senator, Governor, or any other high office.

The FIRST thing that occured to me is that the USSC has essentially legalized gay marriage. All the perspective partners need to do is to incorporate and merge.

"Citizens United" is a disaster if we think in terms of "giving all of the rights of human beings to corporations", but corporations already have far more rights and privileges than human beings do. What if, instead, we explore it from the angle of "it gave all the rights of corporations TO human beings"?

I think I did mention this on this site before, but a good speculative fiction story might come from exploring a corporation that literally gained sentience after "Citizens United", and perhaps what would happen if that corporate life form actaully had a conscience.

Abilard said...

Nice post. This is one area where the Supreme Court makes a travesty of citizenship, IMHO. The satire is not a stretch.

Danny said...

Yep. If a corporation has the right to express an opinion, then they have a right to vote. I am tempted to start a corporation just to sue for the right to vote.

Anyway, nice article David. It highlights the underlying fact that corporations are shields that powerful people hide behind. My initial reaction to the ruling was that if corporations have the right to express themselves, they must also divulge who they are.

rewinn said...

"...a corporation should run for President..."

We *really* need to do this.

If only to get a conversation started.

Does anyone have a corporation, however small, that could use a little publicity?

LarryHart said...

Well, even though it was my idea for a corporation to run for president, I think that could be easily thwarted by the same rule that the "bithters" are claiming about Obama--that the Consitution requires the president to be a NATURAL BORN citizen of The United States.

However, I think the congress is ripe for such an attempt. Why (for example) would Aetna need to keep bribing Joe Lieberman when the company itself could be a Senator and eliminate the middle-man?

gmknobl said...

I like to think of myself as a true liberal. I have absolutely no problem with your statements here whatsoever.

I'd be in favor of a cap on the size of corporations as I believe that past a certain size, the amount of capital they control leads to endemic corruption in their organization and makes it too easy to corrupt governments and legislatures.

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

True liberals... who actually understand the roots of the word... recognize that Adam Smith was ONE of them. That lefty emphasis on state organization etc is NOT the core thing. In fact, it can be worrisome if taken too far.

No, liberals want competition! It is the wellspring of all the enlightenment wonders, from democracy to science to truly creative and vibrant free markets. Indeed, market capitalism - and especially the competitively creative small businesses that create wealth (that can be taxed and used to help kids) -- all thrive best when they are protected not ONLY from government excess meddling...

.... but especially against far worse meddling by conniving centers of vast aristocratic wealth. The conspiring oligarchs that Adam Smith most despised. Liberals need to rediscover these roots and reclaim Smith... and yes enterprise... as THEIR icons!

Ian said...

If corporartiosn have the rights of natural persons, shouldn't they alos have the same obligations?

When was the last time you saw a corporation sitting on a jury?

Draft Halliburton!

Stefan Jones said...

A bummer:

Harvey Pekar, Dead at 70

Pekar was a college dropout, Navy washout, and Civil Service file clerk lifer who had a brilliant side-career as a record reviewer, journalist and comic book scripter.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I like the idea of having a corporation run for the Senate. That would definitely get a dialogue going.

Here's another thought, though, that might also be worth exploring: If corporations are persons, does that not also then mean that they should pay income tax?

Gilmoure said...

On being an old billionaire in 2010: George Steinbrenner Dead.

Not that the Steinbrenner family is seeing any "upside" in the passing of the legendary Yankees owner George. But the lack of the tax, which could go as high as 55%, could make the passing of the Yankees franchise that much easier.

gmknobl said...

So, we agree. I like what you write!

If only we taxed Steinbrenner and Corporations up to 55% or higher on their vast wealth maybe we could afford to fully fund many, many good programs on the federal and state level - have better, not crumbling roads (which provides a military advantage too) or, say, clean up beaches, evacuate areas ahead of hurricanes and oh, so many things.

Sigh...

Robert said...

Now there's a thought. Let's fund the national highway system under the military budget. After all, poorly-maintained roads are a threat to national security. We can even use the Army Corp of Engineers to inspect bridges and roads for safety issues, which would give them some extra training under non-combat situations. And the budget for the roads and bridges is less likely to be cut if it's military because Republicans (who love to talk of budget cuts) almost never cut the military budget. =^-^=

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Anonymous said...

@Robert: That's a pretty interesting way to ensure ALL our failing infrastructure at least gets inspected. The interstate system was originally Eisenhower's baby, for military readiness. That it was such a civilian boon was gravy :)

TheMadLibrarian

hothica: the culture of ice planets

Ilithi Dragon said...

Totally off-topic, but a hilarious take on the history of WWII as a drama show instead of historical documentary: http://squid314.livejournal.com/275614.html

David Brin said...

Guy completely missed the whole WWII Name Riff...

Think. Guy named Adolf "wolf" attacks the Church on the Hill, who appeals for aid from the idyllic Field of Roses.... who manifests two great generals... the first a Marshall and the other an heir of Arthur (I kid you not!)

The Marshall sends his deputy, the Iron-hewer(!) to attack eastward and aid the Man of Steel...

and it goes on and on...

rewinn said...

An alternate-universe story in Analog of the 60s or early 70s pointed out the absurdity of having important prewar negotiations handled by a mere Chamberlain.

====

(IIRC ... the story ended up with a motorcar race in which the British Mk IV Crusader beat the more stylish Tiger through an application of transistor theory...)

Patricia Mathews said...

Corporations are people. Therefore - from the social announcements column sometime in the 21st century - Verizon just had a baby, Spinco, and married her off to Frontier Communications (little Spinco took her husband's name). Stockholders are watching with great interest to see if the marriage prospers and bears fruit.

Woozle said...

I've often argued that corporations shouldn't be allowed to own other corporations.

I presume that the justification for allowing it is that there are many cases where Megacorp A can provide infrastructure which Minicorps AA through AZ couldn't provide on their own, and it is somehow more efficient to do it "in house". I'd argue that it's better to make the minicorps deal (individually or, by mutual agreement, collectively) with the megacorp as a service-provider, thus providing greater transparency and forcing each party to continue being productive and "competitive". Libertarian philosophy should agree, right?

I've also argued that certain types of business -- mainly businesses involved in shaping national opinion, such as broadcasters and print media -- should be off-limits for a single person to own more than one of. Conservatives and libertarians will both probably hate that one, but I'd like to hear a rational argument against it. "It's socialism!" doesn't qualify.

I'd also support:
* outlawing nonvoting stock
* mandatory public disclosure of all stockholders and how much stock they own (it sounds like that's not the case -- hard to believe this isn't already the law!)
* making stock votes per-person rather than per-share (take away some of the incentive to push stock sales)
* is there a sales tax on stock? If not, there should be. That would kill "flash trading", I would think -- which should have been killed long ago.

I presume that stock owned as part of an estate is taxed just like money owned as part of an estate; if not, it certainly should be. Obviously we do need to fix the estate tax situation overall.

And of course I support the idea of a corporation running for president; let's see how far this thing goes. Fight fire with fire.

Woozle said...
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Woozle said...
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Woozle said...
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David Brin said...

Woozle, in their oligarchy-subsidized frenzy to defend all forms and magnitude of Private Property, libertarians no longer even nod toward the supposed centerpiece, their old belief in competition.

STock voting per person may be too radical and screw up any known process. Unless it were done bicamerally. A "house" that votes by shares... and another per person/shareholder to make advisory guidelines and demand reports. Speaking as one who seldom votes his shares, I think shares that remain unvoted for too long should lapse to different status.

Tim H. said...

Off topic, James P. Hogan passed away July 12th
http://io9.com/5586134/rip-hard-science-fiction-writer-james-p-hogan
Many disliked him for his habit of becomeing "Devil's advocate", but robust ideas have little to fear from criticism.

Woozle said...

Apologies for the multiple posts -- I kept getting Google error messages claiming the URL was too long to process, which made it seem that my comment hadn't been posted even though in fact it had been. ...and then I didn't have time to go back and check everything after posting, so I didn't see the results until this morning.

I agree that some of the things I said I would support might cause problems -- but I think they're at least worth further exploration.

I'm inclined to say that the existing processes are so messed-up that some radical fixes might be better even if they're a bit disruptive.

Woozle said...

Oh, and one more idea in response to the suggestion that the status of voting stock should change if the vote usage falls below some threshhold: in such cases, stock owners could be given the option of designating a proxy voter (and this should be strongly encouraged over other alternatives, such as changing the stock to nonvoting or selling it) -- someone whose judgment the stockholder trusts.

This proxy could be another stock owner or just someone the owner knows. (Proxy voting seems to be emerging as one of the key components of InstaGov, which I'm still working on in between fiftyleven other things.)

Heck, proxy stock voting could even emerge as a new service industry: each vote would be well-researched, and the research would be documented and sent to you in an email along with a summary of the reasoning behind the final vote. If you felt like your proxy was too corporate-sympathetic (or too liberal, or poorly researched, or whatever), you could switch providers.

LarryHart said...

Woozle said:

* making stock votes per-person rather than per-share (take away some of the incentive to push stock sales)


Speaking as one who seems to be on your "side" of the issue, I have to respectfully disagree with this one. Each share of stock is an equal portion of the company. I don't see how you can justify telling someone who invests capital that buys a thousand shares that he has ONE vote, whereas a thousand separate individuals who each buy one share have (between them) a thousand votes.

I also don't see that it matters as far as the issues being discussed.

Now, back to things I agree with you on...


* is there a sales tax on stock? If not, there should be. That would kill "flash trading", I would think -- which should have been killed long ago.


There isn't, but there should be.

Right now, all that happens is that the net PROFIT (if any) that you make by selling higher than you bought is taxed (at lower capital gains rates) as income. Not the same thing at all. When you buy a car (for example), you pay a sales tax on the transaction, just as when you buy food or a tv set. But that doesn't happen when you buy stock.


I presume that stock owned as part of an estate is taxed just like money owned as part of an estate; if not, it certainly should be. Obviously we do need to fix the estate tax situation overall.


You presume wrong.

When stock is SOLD at a profit (sale price minus original purchase price), that profit is taxed as income, but the value of currently-owned stock is not taxed.

When someone dies while owning stock, their heirs now own the stock. If they sell the stock later, THEIR "purchase price" (for computing profit) is the value of the stock on the day the first owner DIED. Any increase in value between the original person's purchase and their death is essentially lost (for taxing purposes).


And of course I support the idea of a corporation running for president; let's see how far this thing goes. Fight fire with fire.


Although I think that a run for president (specifically) would be thwarted by the requirement that a candidate be a NATURAL BORN citizen of the United States, I agree that a corporation should run for some highly-visible office just to see how far that can go now that "Citizens United" has paved the way.

I'd also like to see a famous (celebrity?) gay couple incorporate themselves and then "merge" under the terms of a contract identical to a marriage contract.

What I'd really like to see is a corporation fight a hostile takeover on the grounds of their consitutional rights against slavery.

Totally agree with the "Let's see how far this goes" strategy.

LarryHart said...

Woozle said:

* making stock votes per-person rather than per-share (take away some of the incentive to push stock sales)


Speaking as one who seems to be on your "side" of the issue, I have to respectfully disagree with this one. Each share of stock is an equal portion of the company. I don't see how you can justify telling someone who invests capital that buys a thousand shares that he has ONE vote, whereas a thousand separate individuals who each buy one share have (between them) a thousand votes.

I also don't see that it matters as far as the issues being discussed.

Now, back to things I agree with you on...


* is there a sales tax on stock? If not, there should be. That would kill "flash trading", I would think -- which should have been killed long ago.


There isn't, but there should be.

Right now, all that happens is that the net PROFIT (if any) that you make by selling higher than you bought is taxed (at lower capital gains rates) as income. Not the same thing at all. When you buy a car (for example), you pay a sales tax on the transaction, just as when you buy food or a tv set. But that doesn't happen when you buy stock.


I presume that stock owned as part of an estate is taxed just like money owned as part of an estate; if not, it certainly should be. Obviously we do need to fix the estate tax situation overall.


You presume wrong.

When stock is SOLD at a profit (sale price minus original purchase price), that profit is taxed as income, but the value of currently-owned stock is not taxed.

When someone dies while owning stock, their heirs now own the stock. If they sell the stock later, THEIR "purchase price" (for computing profit) is the value of the stock on the day the first owner DIED. Any increase in value between the original person's purchase and their death is essentially lost (for taxing purposes).


And of course I support the idea of a corporation running for president; let's see how far this thing goes. Fight fire with fire.


Although I think that a run for president (specifically) would be thwarted by the requirement that a candidate be a NATURAL BORN citizen of the United States, I agree that a corporation should run for some highly-visible office just to see how far that can go now that "Citizens United" has paved the way.

I'd also like to see a famous (celebrity?) gay couple incorporate themselves and then "merge" under the terms of a contract identical to a marriage contract.

What I'd really like to see is a corporation fight a hostile takeover on the grounds of their consitutional rights against slavery.

Totally agree with the "Let's see how far this goes" strategy.

LarryHart said...

And I got those same error messages. I also apologize for the double-post.

Darrell E said...

Sad to hear about JP Hogan's death. I have not read any of his more recent stuff, but the Giants novels are very fondly remembered. The Giants novels are the books I selected to initiate my then girlfriend, now wife, into the world of science fiction. She loved them.

sphar: a really really "cool" star.

Tim H. said...

"Voyage From Yesteryear" might be the J.P.H. closest to the subject matter, a colony started by seedship develops a cashless society, trading in respect and craftsmanship instead.

LarryHart said...

Sorry to go tangential on y'all, but the friggin Tea Partiers don't even know what they're complaining about! Near as I can tell, public opinion polls say that people are going to vote out Democrats and vote in Republicans in November because they're disappointed in the fact that the Obama Administration (the federal government) isn't doing ENOUGH to mitigate the economic effects of Great Depression II.

So they're going to dump Obama's party and vote in a bunch of Hooverites whose stated position is that the federal government has absolutely no business interfering in the workings of the marketplace.

I mean, if one really IS a believer in the totally-free market, and that depressions, unemployment, foreclosures, etc have to play themselves out naturally...I can at least understand (though disagree with) that position. But how can the SAME people who advocate that stance also complain about how Obama is failing to fix the economy? These people have no idea how insane they really are!

Yesterday, I visited my 80-year-old father in the nursing home. There are days when I can't tell whether he can even hear or understand me, and yesterday was like that, but I actually got a good hearty laugh reaction out of him when I was bemoaning the work situation and I said "Dad, I'm sorry, but you may have lived long enough to see your second Great Depression." THAT, he understood. Sigh.

('Course he voted for McCain, so whatever.)

Anyway, here's a great line from Paul Krugman's blog, a few entreies down from the top on July 14:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/


Rapid, steady growth in the Clinton years; much less thereafter, even if you stop the clock just before the housing bubble burst.

In short, the notion that tax cuts pay for themselves has no empirical support. And yet the GOP leadership — which claims to be oh so worried about the deficit — is willing to stake America’s solvency on its belief that tax cuts are free.

Update: Also, for those readers who complain that I’m too partisan, that I should admit that there are two sides to the issues, this is a prime example of my problem. How am I supposed to pretend that these are serious people? The facts really do have a well-known liberal bias.


Been trying to say that myself for years!

David Brin said...

If only today's republicans were "hooverites"...

Robert said...

I need to start finding economic and related sites with verified data stating my arguments against the Republican/Fox News lies. My conservative friends love throwing facts and figures in my face and demanding that I back up my own data with more than just words. Sadly, half the time I send them links to news sites and the like, they call them lies and disinformation.

The only almost good point is that both friends hate the Republicans. It's just that they're the opposite of me: they hate the Democrats worse.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin said:

If only today's republicans were "hooverites"...


My point is that the party these polls say the voters will vote FOR are representing themselves as true believers in laissez-faire capitalism. Their stated objective is for the government to keep its hands off of the economy. But the VOTERS who are (supposedly) so mad at Obama that they'll vote for those guys are mad at Obama precisely becaue he HASN'T DONE ENOUGH to fix the economy.

So what do they expect? Republicans will do MORE? Or they haven't thought it out? Or they haven't thought--full stop?

Robert said:

I need to start finding economic and related sites with verified data stating my arguments against the Republican/Fox News lies. My conservative friends love throwing facts and figures in my face and demanding that I back up my own data with more than just words. Sadly, half the time I send them links to news sites and the like, they call them lies and disinformation.


As childish as it sounds, the phrase "I know you are, but what am I?" seems more and more to be the correct response to Republicans complaining about Democrats' supposed failings. They call your data "lies and disinformation" precisely because that's what THEIRS are.

There may be no point in even engaging such people, but if you think there is, you probably can't do better than to point them to Krugman's blog. And he posts almost daily.

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/


The only almost good point is that both friends hate the Republicans. It's just that they're the opposite of me: they hate the Democrats worse.


Because of what Democrats have done, or because of the made-up stuff that FOX NEWS says they might do someday?

Woozle said...

off-topic: can anyone confirm whether this scenario is worth taking seriously? If so, is it being investigated further?

Gilmoure said...

Oh man, bummer about James P. Hogan. Loved his stuff. Reminds me of Robert Forwards work, in style and such.

If any of y'all aren't familiar with Hogan's work, Baen Books has three of his novels for free download. Recommend Inherit The Stars.

Woozle said...

off-topic update: apparently the doomsday scenario is a sensationalist mis-extrapolation, and has been debunked.

Gilmoure said...

@Woozle

Yeah, disaster porn at it's finest but no flaming alligators surfing miles and miles inland.

rewinn said...

Robert said...
I need to start finding economic and related sites with verified data stating my arguments against the Republican/Fox News lies.


http://mediamatters.org/ does a good job of documenting the lies. Of course, you can't simply point your buddies to the site; they'll disparage it as a libbie site. Its value is that for nearly every issue, it dissects the lie and cites either to the liar's own cite or to nonpartisan sites which you can hand to your pals.

rewinn said...

FOLLOWUP: for example, here's a nice picking apart of the "ClimateGate" hoax and how the reichwing media used it to fool their followers: http://mediamatters.org/columns/201007090048.

While in most cases, it may be impossible to get Fox followers to admit they are lied to on a regular basis, you may be able to ask them how they feel about being lied to in this one particular case. And the do it again and again ...

Ian said...

I don't know if they've been implemented anywhere but I have seen proposals for a "corporate senate".

The senate would either be chosen by lot from volunteer stockholders or elected on a one-vote-per-stockholder basis.

The Senate wouldn't run the company on a day-to-day basis but would get to vote on certain key issues like director pay and major takeovers.

Even if that vote was nonbinding it would have a powerful influence on executive behaviour.

The other issue that should be thought about is that often well under 50% of shares are actually voted even on major issues.

It'd be interesting to appoint an independent trustee to vote any shares where the owner hasn't chosen to vote.

Ian said...

Are there any Chemists here?

I just stumbled upon this paper by accident:

http://wwweng.uwyo.edu/chemical/faculty/files/Hu119.pdf

The authors claim they can extract 90% of carbon dioxide from flue gases using comparatively cheap activated-carbon filters.

This was published two years ago so I'm wondering what, if anything, has happened since then.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Off-Topic Rant

Comparing the 2010 Top 40s Countdown to the likes of Wagner is like comparing Joseph Foster's "Camptown Races" to the likes of Giovanni.

/Off-Topic Rant

Stefan Jones said...

Coincidentally, a apropos rant/essay by John Rogers, co-creator of Leverage, a caper show about criminals who right corporate wrongs:

Side Note: Writing, Corporate Bad Guys, and Worldview

"I'm a giant capitalist. I went into a highly competitive, speculative free market (stand-up); been self-employed since, well, ever; slept in my car to build my business, went without health care because I couldn't afford it, yada yada. I work in an industry that's basically wildcatting, where one bad week in the marketplace can sink your $30 million dollar TV show and all the jobs and investments associated with it. I am not one of these "the corporation is a sociopath" people. Hell, I am a corporation. I think, technically, I'm two.

I like universal health care not for any moral reason but because it encourages job mobility, enterpreneurship, takes the burden off our manufacturing industries, and leads to cheaper health care costs. I like to spend money on education because it makes our workers competitive in the international market. I want cap and trade because reliable humans tell me that the long-term costs of climate shift will be worse than doing nothing. I want solar power so people with thousand-year-old grudges in countries half a world away stop yanking us around. I want to cut defense spending so we can move it to border control and humint resources. I favor separation of church and state because, like Thomas Jefferson, I don't want people of faith to have other faiths shoved on them by the power of the government.

I'm a goddam 1972 Republican."

David Brin said...

Robert. Keep it simple.

Defy them to name a metric of national health that unambiguously went up... or did not plummet... under GOP misrule. Then dare them to demand the same of you! SInce almost every measure of national health went UP under Clinton... and the same is true under Obama... don’t they bear a burden of proof for their hatred?

Only one administrations seriously tried to pay down the debt. Clinton.

Only one fought a war neatly, effectively, fiercely but efficiently and GOT OUT with all goals achieved and no US lives lost, without getting trapped in a quagmire.

The list goes on and on. Ask them if they are flexible to say the one thing all scientists can say “I might be wrong.”

Oh, two more things.

Ask them to say who was the enemy of freedom in ----- and ask them to randomly choose a decade and a continent, any time in recorded history. Was it civil servant bureaucrats? Or oligarchs? So who benefited under the neocons? And who finances Fox propaganda?

Now ask them what they would think of a media outlet that is up to 20% owned by various members of the Saudi Royal family.

Anonymous said...

David i dont know if youve read any of charles stross's books but he has the limited liability company evolving into the dominant lifeform in the solar system (AIs runnuing someting called economics2.0 (understand able to advanced level AIs only) - and a hostile alien "life"form that is basicly a parasitic ponzie scheme (in economics 2.0(by this point humans are little more than pets/pests)

Anonymous said...

Thinking about the SC ruling:

if corporations are due the right of free speech under the 1st amendment they must logicaly be given the rights of the other amendments including the 13th amendment.

Which means owning a company is illegal.

So all shares are worthless.

Hmm good judgement

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, they don't care. They spout facts that are flawed or incorrect that they heard elsewhere and refuse to accept the fact that they are in fact using bad data. For instance: they claim that revenues went up under Bush's tax cuts. They state that they've seen this data in other articles. Yet they refuse to accept my own "facts" without "proof" in hand.

There is a lot of hatred of the Democratic party out there. There is a lot of fear-mongering. The Republican Party is huge on playing on other people's fears... and the Democrats make such the perfect enemy.

I can't even avoid the topic. One friend deliberately brings up the political topics even when I try to avoid them, and gets me riled up. The other doesn't want me mentioning politics because he gets so angry (though with the various shenanigans that Massachusetts Democrats get up to, I can't blame him for his hatred of Democrats).

Hell, all I have to do is mention the "cynicism is obedience" quote and we went off on a political argument, because apparently talking about cynicism? Is fething politics. It's a negative sum game and I'm getting tired of it. I want to find these facts and slam them down, demand my friends read them, and every time they start spouting the same old same old, I give them the location of those facts again and say "when are you going to face the facts? They're right there in front of you."

Yes, I know facts don't change minds. But you know something? I'm not a charismatic arguer. I may be elegant with pen and paper given time... but I can't speak worth a damn. I'd rather keep up with cold hard facts to distract them or shut them up than argue until I'm blue in the face.

Rob H.

Hypnos said...

There's a great quote by George Orwell.

"The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield."

Neo-conservatism was all about faking reality. Hell, one Bush aides even stated that they were "creating their own reality".

But you really can't do that. There is no way around reality. And there's your battlefield - Iraq, Afghanistan, the implosion of the economy.

Hard lessons were taught. Hard lessons are being taught right now.

Eventually, people have to face up to reality.

The only catch is the amount of suffering that reality has to deal before it is acknowledged, and how much of that suffering falls on innocent people who possibly never even held the erroneous beliefs in the first place.

And ultimately, the bigger the lie, the bigger the pain when you hit that solid wall of reality face first.

If the economic lies hold up and the Republicans win the midterms and enforce their programs, a new, harder fall is to be expected, perhaps overtaking the Great Depression.

On the other hand, if the Global Warming skeptics' lies keep up, we might as well be staring into the possibility of human extinction.

Yes, reality catches up. But the price it will make us pay means we should always try and defuse the lies before the day of reckoning.

LarryHart said...

Hypnos said:

Neo-conservatism was all about faking reality. Hell, one Bush aides even stated that they were "creating their own reality".


That one was an eye-opener for me, because up until that point, the big right-wing meme was that the conservatives/Republicans were "the grown ups" in the room, while liberals were wide-eyed dreamers who didn't know how to face reality. Then, all of a sudden, "facing reality" somehow became naivity (a negative character trait), and simultaneously became a characteristic OF liberals.

It was around that time that I began morphing from "respectful disagreement" with righties into the outright realization that they are literally insane. Their entire relentless line of attack on Democrats eerily resembles The Joker's opposition to Batman.


But you really can't do that. There is no way around reality.


I wonder if they thought that FOX NEWS actaully made it possible this time around to literally manufacture reality. And if so, I wonder if they might be right to some extent.


And there's your battlefield - Iraq, Afghanistan, the implosion of the economy.


Yeah, reality still wins in the end. But by keeping the lies accepted via media control, the fantasy may continue long enough that the eventual push-back by reality is more devestating than ever before. An extinction event, for example.


If the economic lies hold up and the Republicans win the midterms and enforce their programs, a new, harder fall is to be expected, perhaps overtaking the Great Depression.

On the other hand, if the Global Warming skeptics' lies keep up, we might as well be staring into the possibility of human extinction.


Years prior to 9/11, it occured to me that the conservative emphasis on defending the status quo made a lot more sense if one posits that they have inside information that the system IS falling to pieces AND that it's already too late to prevent it. What they're interested in is maintaining their priviliges and luxuries and power for as long as they can UNTIL it all falls apart. As Dr Brin sometimes says, I don't necessarily BELIEVE that theory to be true, but IF it is the case, it explains many things that otherwise don't seem to make sense.

Abilard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LarryHart said...

speaking of manufacturing reality...

Some of us (myself most definitely) are comics readers, and probably familiar with Neil Gaiman's episode of Sandman titled "A Dream of a Thousand Cats". In a nutshell, an evangalistic cat tells other cats the story of how cats were once the dominant species on earth, and they hunted mouse-sized humans for sport. Fed up with the status quo, humans got together and literally dreamed up an alternate reality in which humans ruled the earth AND ALWAYS HAD DONE SO. When enough humans dreamed this dream at the same time, it became reality, replacing the old reality from the beginning of time forward. This cat wanted other cats to dream reality back to the cat-dominated one. "It would not take very many of us...perhaps only a thousand." At the end, one cat scoffs to another that it will never happen because no one can get 1000 cats to do ANYTHING at the same time.

Replace "humans" with Republicans and "cats" with Democrats, and the story would make even more sense.

Abilard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Abilard said...

Robert, it isn't exactly that they do not care. It's that tribalism trumps facts for most on both sides of our culture wars. The text I read from those climategate emails convinced me that the scientists involved were obstructing access to data (i.e. "they should have been more open" as their apologists would say) and more concerned about their political standing than the scientific debate. None of this invalidates their work, but it does show that tribalism is a problem on both sides.

If accepting facts means accepting another tribe, acknowledging it status hierarchies, and value system then your facts will never be accepted. Hell, the idea that AGW skeptics should be treated politely is a bone of contention requiring multiple threads and Brin's advocacy. Our social discourse has fallen to a very low level.

My advice is to steer clear of issues that are tribal markers. Unfortunately, many vital debates have been co-opted by oligarchic interests (I don't subscribe to Brin's notion of conspiracy here, but that does not mean they are not an identifiable class with shared interests and behaviors). Nevertheless, it is possible to find common ground by consciously not being tribal:

Climate Change -> Energy Independence
The Social Safety Net -> Meritocracy (the market thrives when ability is allowed to express itself unfettered, which means kids need educations, and illnesses need to be fought).
Empire -> International Law

There are probably better ways to recast issues and strip them of tribalism. In my opinion though, if you want to discuss these issues with those who see themselves as being on the other side of the divide then your arguments must come at them sideways.

Abilard said...

Blogger is being really annoying.

Tacitus2 said...

Abilard

(way off topic, I am reading Horne's Seven Ages of Paris, and certainly hope you are not naming yourself after THAT Abilard!)

I think you are right about the tribal nature of our politics. We can and should rise above it when possible. Mostly that occurs only during times of crisis. At best we should try for courteous discourse with that guy wearing the funny looking skins on the other side of the creek.

In this regard I find the Progressive end of the spectrum generally meaner and snarkier than my Conservative brethren.

I try to always be up for a good debate but sometimes I feel like jumping in here would be wrong. Much of what I am reading is more venting than anything else. These are not great times for the Progressive cause, at least short term.

But being out of fashion does not mean your ideas, or mine are without merit. Stick up for them.

Oh, and regards Citizen's United:

This is a good example of a SC ruling that feels wrong. For that matter I think Roe v. Wade took some pretty big leaps into the Constitutional void. But it is the law of the land and as a Conservative I have to respect it. It is the job of Congress to craft laws that remedy the potential harm contained in it. Looking at the seriously flawed attempts so far to do so I am not impressed. They seem to be caving to schoolyard bullies from both ends of the spectrum.....only with a yawing electoral chasm opening at their feet would our solons be trying to pander to both SEIU and the NRA!

Tacitus2

Abilard said...

Tacitus,

--- Off Topic ---

The Abélard in question is this one. Apparently he once concluded a debate with a pope by asserting "I must first understand in order that I may believe" which impressed me. I have not yet taken the time to research the character thoroughly, though several relevant books are on my reading list when I get the time.

--- On Topic ---

Oh, I realize this is a safe place to vent for several people. I just find it difficult not to offer counter perspectives. ;-)

rewinn said...

"... if you want to discuss these issues with those who see themselves as being on the other side of the divide then your arguments must come at them sideways..."

'zactly. It's not a rational process at all; these are dominance games. People who are accustomed to arguing rationally to come to rational decisions are at a disadvantage when the contest is mere tribal chest-thumping.

Remember when Reagan said, "There you go again?" It turns out he was wrong on the facts, but he won the argument. Same as W did in his Presidential debates: typically wrong on the facts, but he won with the voters cuz he won the dominance game.

So your mission is not to be right on the facts (although that *is* helpful) but to win the dominance game. As (someone) used to say, "Grab them by the $%%#$ and their heads will follow."

The first thing is to practice your lines! Get a few bumpsticker lines, "a short sharp shock with a nasty nasty knock" short and repeat them over and over until you can do them in your sleep or (as Rush does) on drugs:

"Do you love your kids?" Are you going to gamble what you leave to your kids that the scientists are wrong and the guys who make money bringing in Saudi oil are right? You trust Dick Cheney? You trust the guy who kisses Saudi princes?"

"You saw that on Fox? That's Hannity's channel. When is he getting waterboarded like he promised?" Hannity said waterboarding wasn't so bad and he'd be willing to do it. So when is it going to happen?

Make up your own. Short, sharp shocks! And if they catch on and accuses you of repeating bumper stickers, just laugh and say "Fair And Balanced".

The laugh is important. It's not rational arguments,it's a dominance game, not an Oxford debate.

rewinn said...

"...I find the Progressive end of the spectrum generally meaner and snarkier than my Conservative brethren...."

In contradiction, I respectfully offer: What If The Tea Party was Black

Robert said...

And yet it's a paradigm that can be shifted. All we need to do is pass one bill that creates Open Primaries for all national elections (House, Senate, and Presidential) and have the top two people who get votes as the candidates for the General Election. All at once, moderates and independents/unenrolleds have a reason to vote: their vote means something and they don't have to switch parties to vote in the Primary.

Further, it allows the Loons of the Left and Right to focus on their favorites... and the rest of the people to focus on more moderate politicians. The end result should allow for at least one moderate to be on the ballot in the General Election... and as this is the one who would draw the middle voters, the likely candidate who will win the election.

This does risk eventually alienating the Far Left and Far Right because they never have a candidate who gets on the General Election ballot (or wins the General Election), but I see it as an educational method: if these Far Left/Right voters notice that the majority of Americans refuse to accept their beliefs, maybe they'll start moderating their own beliefs and joining the majority in more... mature political reasoning.

(The risk of course is that the radicals of both sides, feeling they have been deliberately cast aside, will take up arms and try for a takeover of the government or open rebellion. But that risk exists even now. And it's something that certain more radical elements of the Tea Party have been hinting at, though I'm quite sure the vast majority of Tea Party supporters find the thought of rebellion against a legitimately-elected government to be abhorrent.)

Rob H.

Abilard said...

@Rewinn

You may have just written an obituary for our species.

rewinn said...

Abilard said...
@Rewinn

You may have just written an obituary for our species."


Erm, maybe so. But I am hopeful that the scientific study of dominance games can result in rational thinkers who can employ techniques as needed.

Think of it a engineering sewers. Unpleasant perhaps but necessary.

Woozle said...

Open primaries? That might help, a little... but I think what would really fix things is no-limit range voting (rate each candidate from -10 to +10 based on how happy you'd be if they won).

It'll never happen, because it would destroy the two-party system by which the lizards rule us.

David Brin said...

Robert, you have to suck it up and stay in this.

Again, defy them to name ONE national health metric that did not rise under Clinton or fall under bush. Creation of small businesses, GDP, health of the middle class, military readiness, scientific progress. (Only 5% of scientists are registered republicans anymore.)

I find the SaudiFox thing is especially effective.

Tell them that their frantic efforts to shift the burden of proof are no good. THEY must prove that even once tax cuts for the rich resulted in revenue increases and debt going down. Have them point to ONE year when that worked. It is the centerpiece theory of all neoconservatism and they should be able to cite ONE YEAR when it actually happened. Since the rich owners of the GOP always got their largesse, good times or bad, war or peace, their reasons are obvious, but why do your pals keep suckling such nonsense?

Do they deny that Clinton paid down debt for FOUR years?????

Hypnos, the fundamental of culture war has shifted. Since redders can no longer defend the GOP as "good" and must admit it is awful, the only recourse is to fulminate that dems are "even worse."

And the only thing "even worse" than horribly awful is... evil.


Murray HIll Incorporated Running for Congress
http://murrayhillincforcongress.com/

‎"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
Thomas Jefferson

LarryHart said...

Tacitus:

In this regard I find the Progressive end of the spectrum generally meaner and snarkier than my Conservative brethren.


If this were the late 1970s, early 1980s, I'd agree with you. I used to caution my liberal college friends not to be too condescending, and for that, I was considered way too conservative.

Once the Clinton/Gingrich/Impeachment years, and then the Bush years got rolling, during which time Rush Limbaugh and then FOX were ascendant, I think the tide turned quite the other way. The righties (and I try to be careful to name the ones I dislike as right-wingers, as oligarchists, rather than "conservatives" per se) have made meanness into a virtue and an art form combined. Cheney telling a Senator to go fuck himself, for example. That wasn't a slip, it was a deliberate way of life. "We don't owe you civility!" Same with Sarah Palin and her legions of "[Obama] is a terrorist! Kill him!" followers during the 2008election season. The one on the Republican side who finally "got it" and backed off of that was McCain, and I forgave him many sins for that reaalization at the end there. It wouldn't surprise me (although I have no proof) if he actually helped throw the election to Obama to keep Palin out of the White House.

Robert said...

First, cheers to Congress for passing the Finance Reform bill (finally). While the vast majority of Republicans are claiming gloom and doom with its passage, and it's nowhere near good enough, it's still a hell of a lot better than doing nothing at all. I just wish they'd fix the damn filibuster system so that Republicans wouldn't have a disgustingly overwhelming level of power considering they're the minority party. (I'd not normally mind if they worked with Democrats to craft effective and decent legislation, but they've become a bunch of 3-year-olds shouting "No!" to everything Democrats try to do.)

Next, here's a link to a news story about the new budget for NASA. While funding for the privatization of NEO rockets was significantly slashed (ironic, as I thought Republicans were for privatization of regions controlled by the government), pushing for a quick development of a heavy-lift rocket by NASA and moving away from the Moon and going for a more ambiguous craft that can do a multitude of things in the solar system is a good thing.

Meanwhile, June of 2010 is the warmest June on record. Not only that, but this year has been the warmest for average temperatures for January-June on record. Naturally, the Denialists will claim that it's a fluke or somesuch.

And on a good environmental note, the bearded goby is helping to save marine ecosystems off the coast of Africa dominated by stinging jelly fish. Seems this little fish enjoys swimming in toxic mud, sulfur hydroxide, and actually feeds off of jelly fish when it's not hiding among its stingers. And it's also being fed upon by other fish and mammals now that the sardine population is pretty much gone.

I just wonder how long before the Chinese import some to put in the waters between China and Japan to try and cut down on their own jelly fish problem. (I don't know if it would be a bad thing or not... because they are edible by other critters at least, and do eat jelly fish.)

Who knows. Maybe if we kill off the rest of our fisheries as seems likely, the goby will expand its range and start eating jelly fish across the world. ;)

Rob H.

Robert said...

It seems that the Gulf Coast Oil Leak has been temporarily stopped. BP and the government are checking things out and in 48 hours will know if the cap will hold or not. At that point they'll reopen it temporarily and do additional seismic tests to ensure they didn't make things worse underground.

In a way, this couldn't come at a better time. Obama just managed to get his Finance Bill through the Senate, and now the oil disaster in the Gulf is calming down. I wouldn't be surprised to see his popularity rating starting to rise as a result. I also wouldn't be surprised to see a small surge in the stock market, if the oil well remains contained, as BP stock recovers some value and other stocks are buoyed by enthusiastic investors.

I also suspect that this will see Democratic fortunes rise a little as well, and their losses in the House and Senate should be less than the worse-case scenarios have been portraying. I'm unsure as to if this is a good thing or not. Because, let's face it, I'm rooting for the destruction of the current Republican Party and having true Conservatives end up creating their own party rather than remain tainted by the neocons and fanatics.

I'm fairly certain that if the Republicans win both House and Senate in 2010, we will see a double-dip recession strike. We may even see it slide into actual Depression territory. After they successfully eliminate Obama in 2012 and put one of their own in there, things will turn south real fast and after the tax breaks for the rich and powerful fail to fix the economy and the massive promised budget cuts result in a massive wave of unemployment, the Republican Party will be ruined.

With this scenario, I suspect it would be over a decade before Republicans are able to regain any significant power... assuming that leading the country into a Depression didn't result in the party's permanent death. Well, assuming that they don't declare martial law and turn the United States into a police state. But they try that, and I suspect both Tea Party members and liberals would rebel. And with those massive budget cuts resulting in far fewer police and a national guard and Army that would likely refuse to fire on its own citizens... I doubt they could keep American down for long.

Rob H., who's in a cynical mood tonight despite the good news

Tony Fisk said...

Hell, all I have to do is mention the "cynicism is obedience" quote and we went off on a political argument

Well, if optimism is a political act, then I suppose cynicism must be as well.

Speaking of optimism, I have some good news from downunder: the just released ' Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan' provides a detailed outline of how Australia could achieve 100% independence from fossil fuels in ten years at an estimated cost of $370 billion AUD (that's 3% GDP pa)

The cynic will (and did) argue that it won't happen because the political and social commitment isn't there. The cynic is being obedient to the status quo. However, even the cynic in question (an economist guest speaker at the launch who I'm probably being a bit hard on) freely admitted that the important part of the report was that it resoundingly demonstrated that the standard fossil lobbyist FUD points were wrong, and that it *can* be done.

(All it takes is an act of disobedience, really.)

So, you can take this 170 page tome and wave it under the noses of your friends saying 'See, it can be done. Show me why it can't... in equal detail. What? You won't accept the evidence? Is that being rational?'

Because it is about tribal dominance. Ethos takes more than one form, though. And what man would admit to being irrational?

(Speaking of creating our own reality, 'Inception' trailers look vaguely interesting)

redso: an insult, having much the same effect as 'Hey, rube!' at a tea party.

Anonymous said...

QUIT HATING ON STAR WARS!!!! LEARN TO WRIGHT GOOD SCIENCE FICTION LIKE STAR WARS!!!! but I will agree with you on what you said about star trek.

Robert said...

It's write, not wright. If you're going to snarl at a writer, for heaven's sake, at least check that you've got your spelling correct. Besides. Star Wars is over-hyped and suffers from a number of plot holes and other flaws. If you step away from the movies and look at them with an impartial eye, you'd admit it.

That's not to say Star Wars isn't a fun series (well, the original trilogy at least), but it's not the end all and be all of science fiction out there.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

I actually thought the spelling was quaint.

It conjured up visions of balsa and canvas X-wings dodging fire from gas filled death stars

Ian said...

"The cynic will (and did) argue that it won't happen because the political and social commitment isn't there. The cynic is being obedient to the status quo. However, even the cynic in question (an economist guest speaker at the launch who I'm probably being a bit hard on) freely admitted that the important part of the report was that it resoundingly demonstrated that the standard fossil lobbyist FUD points were wrong, and that it *can* be done."

Speaking as a professional economist, every single competent study has shown that the cost of reducing carbon dioxide is far lower than claimed by the denilaists.

That's why they resort to either distorting the results or simple rhetorical assertiosn abotu how any action will destroy the economy.

Spread over 20 years that 3% of GDP per annum figure would likely fall to 1% or less (mainly because you could wait until coal-fired powerplants reach the end of their economic life before replacing them.)

The equivalent figure for the US would be a lot less (Australia produces about 80% of our electricity from coal, the equivalent US figure is aroudn 50%).

Tony Fisk said...

The economist speaking was pointing out that estimated costs would likely increase if the plan was implemented too quickly (due to supply lag times: 'insulation' was mentioned...)

He also pointed out the great psychological reluctance of people to give short-term outlays for long-term returns. (although, ironically, it was for this reason that 10 years was chosen as a target rather than 20: maybe 12 years and 6 months is the sweet spot?)

In short, he was listing reasons why the plan would be hard to sell (but was at pains to state that it *could* work).

Whether a distributed grid of CSTs and windfarms would work elsewhere is debatable: Australia has a large landmass free from political boundaries. It has the roaring forties and abundant sunshine. It's bound to be sunny or windy somewhere here.

Ian said...

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/07/new-renewable-energy-installations-u-s-europe-continue-outpace-fossil-fuels.php

In 2009. Europe and north america added more renewable energy generating capacity than nonrenewable for the send year in a row.

Within the next 2-3 years, the same will be true of the world.

China is also now adding more energy generating capacity from renewables than from nonrenewables.

"Though coal still provides the majority of China's power, there's some good news coming from Xinhua via Business Green: New official Chinese stats show that the nation's renewable energy capacity is now growing faster than its coal plants.

Through the end of 2009 nearly 180 GW of new power capacity was under construction, with the growth of renewables outpacing coal by some 16 GW. All told, low-carbon energy sources (hydro, nuclear, and renewables) will account for 250 GW, or 26% of China's power capacity, by the end of 2010."

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/04/china-renewable-energy-growth-now-outpacing-coal.php

Abilard said...

"QUIT HATING ON STAR WARS!!!! LEARN TO WRIGHT GOOD SCIENCE FICTION LIKE STAR WARS!!!!"

Someone's midichlorians are in an uproar! It isn't so much that Brin hates on Star Wars to be a hater, it's just that he works for the dark side and it is part of the job description. Come on, Anony. Join the dark side. You know you want to. You can even have a comm badge.

Robert said...

Join the Dark Side. We have cookies. =^-^=

Snickerdoodle, naturally.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Tony Fisk said...

I actually thought the spelling was quaint.

It conjured up visions of balsa and canvas X-wings dodging fire from gas filled death stars


"It's heading for that small cloud."
"That's no cloud..."

} ; = 8 P

Amusing for me that this should pop up now, since some friends and I have recently been debating Dr. Brin's 'attacks' on SW, and the arguments he presents against it.

Abilard, don't forget to mention the great health plan we have, and the cookies!
} ; = 8 P

Rob, the story Google placed at the very top of the news page for me this morning reported that BP stocks in London jumped as much as 6.2% on the news of the well cap.

LarryHart said...


Well, if optimism is a political act, then I suppose cynicism must be as well.


I have no idea who said this, but I've always thought it was profound:

"The optimist says 'This is the best of all possible worlds.', and the pessimist agrees with him."

Tony Fisk said...

...Then there is hope for finding common ground then? (even better than a shared half glass of stale beer!)

Join the Dark Side. We have cookies. =^-^=

Er, that'd be the burnt side.

You have failed me for the last time, lamington!

or

The force is strong with this batch, I'll bake them myself

Anonymous said...

I was talking about the books. The last three movies were a dismantlement to me.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Oh, the EU books... Don't get me started on the EU books... My involvement in the ST-v-SW debates, however peripheral it has been, has permanently soured my opinion of the EU books, especially the later ones (you know, the ones written by pro-Wars Vs debaters, or authors who were heavily influenced, coerced or harassed by pro-Wars debaters, and contain ridiculously wanked-out performance, etc. cooked up by some of the more rabidly militant pro-Wars Vs communities). That and the whole over-arching Yuuzhan Vong arc is overrated, imo.

Robert said...

The only good Star Wars novels are the Zahn novels. Okay, and "I Jedi" also qualifies for a nod of the head.

I'd be willing to state there are more well-written Star Trek novels than Star Wars ones, but that might be because Peter David wrote so many of them. ^^;;

Rob H.

Abilard said...

You only say that because Grand Admiral Thrawn would pwn James T. Kirk. A little beehive hairdo bait and it'd all be over. Picard, different story.

rewinn said...

"... the great psychological reluctance of people to give short-term outlays for long-term returns. (although, ironically, it was for this reason that 10 years was chosen as a target rather than 20: maybe 12 years and 6 months is the sweet spot?)"

Ever wonder if "9.98 years" or "19.95 years" would poll better than "10 years" or "20 years?" ;-)

Ilithi Dragon said...

Rob, the fact that there are easily something like ten times or more Trek novels written than Wars might have something to do with it, too.

I agree that the Zahn trilogy was pretty good; that era of the SW EU franchise is the most interesting/fun/close to the original trilogy out there, in my opinion. Back when the novels weren't portraying the Empire/Republic as a massive, galaxy-spanning civilization, but as a civilization that spanned "only a tiny fraction of this section of one modest-sized galaxy." (ANH novelization, chapter 8) As the stories pushed for larger and larger Wars civilizations, moving to a civilization that spanned a good chunk of the galaxy, to half the galaxy, to most of the galaxy with only a small 'wildlands' area unexplored/charted, to the entire galaxy with the 'wildlands' area existing in an entirely separate child/neighbor galaxy... My enjoyment of the story, and imo the quality of the story, declined on a trajectory perpendicular to the rate of the SW civilization's increase in size (which also happens to roughly coincide with the rise of certain pro-active, militant pro-Wars Vs communities...).

But I could go on about that all week...

Ian said...

"pro-Wars Vs"

I may regret asking but could someone translate this into English for me?

Robert said...

Here's a rather disturbing little story about Federal policies on illegal immigrants; basically the current laws (enacted under Bush) are more stringent and harsh than the laws passed in Arizona. Potential illegal immigrants can be arrested for spitting, fingerprinted, and their fingerprints sent to a federal agency to decide if the person is an illegal or not.

The reason we've not heard about this, or of the significant increase in deportations and arrests of illegals, is that it's done through the jails, out of sight of the media. What's more, local governments cannot opt out of this despite their own protests against the policy (they don't want to alienate the immigrant population).

--------

On a more positive note, and one that will undoubtedly tickle Dr. Brin's cockles, 24 former astronauts (including Apollo astronauts Rusty Schweickart and Buzz Aldrin) signed an open letter to Congress stating their support of private rockets and spacecraft. What's more, they pretty much stated it's much ado about nothing because much of the infrastructure used to get satellites into space are subcontracted out to private industry. Or in other words, Congress is getting its collective knickers in a bind about nothing.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

"Pro-Wars VS" is a shortened form of "Pro-Star Wars member of the general community of fans engaged in various cross-genre 'versus' debates/discussions/arguments/etc."

Ian said...

"The reason we've not heard about this, or of the significant increase in deportations and arrests of illegals, is that it's done through the jails, out of sight of the media. What's more, local governments cannot opt out of this despite their own protests against the policy (they don't want to alienate the immigrant population)."

That actually could make the basis for another talking point for conversations with conservatives.

Obama has increased ICE and border patrol personnel and funding.

Arrest and deportation of illegal immigrants has increased significantly under Obama.

If the mainstream media is so biased in Obama's favor how come you never here about that?

When Obama said he was going to act to cut down on people crossing the border illegally at the same time as offering amnesty for people already in the US, he meant it.

(Obama's also sent National Guard units to assist on the border. The same wingnuts who cheered when Bush did that are muttering about Posse Commitatus and martial law.)

David Brin said...

Ian it is not a matter of "biased in Obama's favor." In fact, I can think of few more obstinately avoided opportunities than the dems absolute refusal to discuss the truth about immigration.... that...

1- Democrats are actually far more dedicated to reducing illegal immigration that republicans are. Clinton and Obama BOTh doubled the border patrol and stepped up enforcement... AS THEY SHOULD!

2- Republicans in contrast TALK about enforcement and always cripple the BP, as soon as they enter office.

3- In contrast, dems were responsible for the vast increase in LEGAL immigration, since 1976.

It all has an easy explanation - dems prefer newcomers who have rights, can collectively bargain, join unions and eventually vote. Goppers prefer illegals who can be intimidated into accepting onerous conditions for meager wages.

No, their reasons are obvious. What is NOT obvious is the insane obduracy of the news media for not discussing this. They accept the truism-lie that Republicans are harsher on illegal immigration, simply because the GOP yatters about it more.

So why doesn't Obama undercut the GOP by revealing it all? I think he should! But guys like you are maybe the reason. You actually think that people who break our laws should be treated in some sacred, protected manner. Dig it, we already admit most of the world's LEGAL immigrants. We are already welcoming. Moreover, I favor some gentleness and the McCain bill to allow a path to amnesty.

But fundamentally, our nation has a right to kick out anyone who did not come here legally. That is what the words mean.

CulturalEngineer said...

I've been wanting to comment on this post but haven't gotten to it yet...

however thought you might be interested in my mention of your work on transparency in a response to a post this morning on Naked Capitalism about off-shore tax havens and hidden wealth:


"At some point the whole 'empire of hidden wealth' is doomed. Though the holders of this wealth are likely to make it Hell for everyone during the process of discovery.

As ‘wealth’ tokens (money) become increasingly tied to the global data system there are a rising number of opportunities for information ‘leaks’ whether accidental or intentional.

David Brin’s fictional 'Helvetian War' forms part of the background for his Science Fiction novel 'Earth'… literally a war on Switzerland which arises our of the discovery of just how much ‘wealth’ is hidden away there by corrupt players around the world.

Sure, a bit fanciful… but an entirely predictable eventuality based on how technology tends to proceed… (the hypothesis is that secrecy defenders won’t be able to keep up in the final analysis).

Technology is going to change the framework for quite a number of political ‘debates’ fairly soon regardless… e.g. take that issue regarding 'national I.D. cards' and the fear of ‘big brother’ having everybody tagged!

It’s a very reasonable concern. But you won’t save your privacy by fighting the initiative. Within a few years, data collection will be so thorough that no 'I.D.' cards will be necessary… cameras viewing you in public places and/or other methods of tracking (no implanted chips necessary)… will be able to reliably I.D. you.

I’m not advocating here… I’m just trying to clue you in to what’s already a fairly likely near-future.

Dr. Brin’s view on this evolution towards unavoidable ‘transparancy’ is that the only possible way to deal with it is to make the data available to everyone…

See 'The Transparent Society' by David Brin for more on this
Brief overview here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Transparent_Society

From the wiki article:

Brin argues that true privacy will be lost in the ‘transparent society’; however, we have the choice between one that offers the illusion of privacy by restricting the power of surveillance to authorities, or one that destroys that illusion by offering everyone access (including the ability to watch the watchers). He argues that it would be good for society if the surveillance is equal for all, and the public has the same access as those in power."

Am I stroking your tush? Maybe a little. But I never stroke a tush unless it's got something to say... and (as I'm sure you agree) you've consistently been way ahead on recognition of neglected areas of cultural and political life that urgently need attention.

Ian said...

"So why doesn't Obama undercut the GOP by revealing it all? I think he should! But guys like you are maybe the reason. You actually think that people who break our laws should be treated in some sacred, protected manner."

Wherever did you get that idea from David?

How do you interpret my commending Obama for his actions
to reduce illegal immigration as thinking illegal aliens "shoudl be treated in some sacred protected manner."

'Dig it, we already admit most of the world's LEGAL immigrants."

If by "most" you mean "the majority" you are incorrect.

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

There are 186,000,000 immigrants in the world of whom 38 million live in the US, making it the largest recipient of immigrants in absolute terms.

As a percentage of the population, there are fewer immigrants in the US than in Australia or Canada and not many more than in Germany.

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

You also seem to have misunderstood my point abotu media coverage of the issue which is essentially the same as yours - for all it's alleged liberal bias, the Us media has essentially acted as Republican propaganda vehicle on this issue.

Tacitus2 said...

I think that to say the US legacy media has a liberal bias is true, but overly simplistic.
Given the parlous state of finances for print and broadcast TV there is a self preservation instinct that trumps ideology.

Immigration is the prime example of a complicated issue that makes you no friends no matter what stance you take.

Take a hard line on immigration policy and you will stand accused of racism. This is a time honored political cudgel, and one used so indiscriminantly that it may one day be ignored as irrelevant to the detriment of us all. (One day, not today, it is still greatly feared by folks selling ad space).

But advocate a liberal immigration policy in a time when state budgets are imploding and jobs are scarce and your viewers/readers may revolt.

So the media vote present, hum, twiddle and adopt foci on the issue that are tangential to the real questions.

I think for instance that the real issues re Arizona law is not the crime associated with illegals but the costs. And that the challenge of the law should be mentioned in the same breath as the non enforcement of similar existing laws (including California I am given to understand).

Are the media stupid? mmmm, a case could be made. In my lifetime the newsrooms have gone from being populated by grizzled former beat reporters to blow dried telegenic youngsters. Or are they smart, and figure that the majority of their customers don't want a serious treatment of a difficult issue and will just hit the remote and go watch American Idol re runs?

In my line of work I encounter a moderate number of immigrants with variable paperwork (recall I am in WI, not AZ). Generally good folk, appreciative patients, care about their family members. But how many more can/should we take on?

David you have tossed out your metrics of National Health challenge so often....I have taken a swing at it and gotten only a grudging "borderline" from you. I would take another run at it if you care to define in advance what you mean by metrics of national health, and how you would define the contributions of the ruling party vs the hard workin' civil service.

And its way too soon to compare Bush v Obama.

Tacitus2

Tim H. said...

Wonder how many of those illegals fund their passage by carrying drugs? More on topic, just finished an interesting book, "Cheap, the high cost of discount culture" by Ellen Ruppel Shell, recommended.

rewinn said...

The most intractable arguments tend to be those on which everyone has a good point.

Everyone gets to point at their point and ignore the other guy's. Perhaps "ignore" is too strong a word but can we agree that just about every point-of-view on immigration policy has at least some small measure of validity?

IS2M that the immigration brou-ha-ha is a tool for people with bigger agendas (winning at the ballot box and thereafter robbing the Treasury). Like abortion (...which Dr. Brin deconstructed pretty well a while back...), immigration is a perfect political issue for rousing the Faithful so long as it remains unresolved, which may explain why it has remained unresolved for so long.

I suggest we approach the subject de novo; all political factions have sinned, if all were punished according to our desserts who would yet stand?

The first question to ask is: What is the best immigration policy for America?

I suggest some priorities:
(A) maintain the Constitution
(B) maintain liberty
(C) maintain security
(D) maintain a healthy economy.

We can argue which oughta be ranked higher or even what some of those words *mean*, but if we accept the above ranking, the answers on immigration policy simplify.

As to LIBERTY: A "papers please" law mandating that you carry proof of citizenship or face a penalty, however mild, violates liberty completely. BUT proving that you have right-to-work in the USA at employment time is no additional infringement on liberty, since you have to submit tax information anyway to both state and federal bodies. (It's worth noting that Arizona's aggressive eVerify requirements has been accompanied by a large reduction in the number of illegals in that state.)

As to SECURITY: Any illegal traffic is a security threat because it establishes channels through which nastier payloads than an illegal drywaller can travel. However, it is simply not possible to seal our national borders physically and it is worse than silly theater to try; setting up barriers establishes laboratories for smugglers to experiment with (just think what Prohibition did for speedboat technology!) But a legalized, regulated trade in booze did, and in labor will, shut down the smuggling operations by simple applications of the laws of economics.

As to ECONOMY: the only reason you hire illegals is that they're cheaper than Americans, for reasons discussed ad nauseum. That undercuts wages paid to Americans and contributes to unemployment. (And it's not just in the farm sector; how can legitimate drywallers and roofers and meatcutters compete with illegal labor?) Why don't we figure out roughly how many immigrants we want here to supplement our citizen work force and issue that many work visas? And if you're caught paying an illegal, your fine is the entirety of the prevailing wage - meaning, you paid the market wage anyway, and whatever you paid the illegal was a gift.

IIRC there used to be a minority of conservatives who could talk rationally about immigration, e.g. John McCain, but in our current political climate, silly theater like Arizona's law and a border fence is too valuable for diverting attention away from serious discussion of serious solutions.

rewinn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim H. said...

It bothers me that the focus seems more on the migrants than the "business" people who hire them. Trade issues may need to be revisited, to favor jobs in latin america.

David Brin said...

Cultural Engineer, thanks. And yes, there's need for folks to become ever more aware of these problems. And for Obama to ignore the political benefits of populist rage toward oligarchy seems pretty foolish.

I do feel the wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Transparent_Society
is very badly written and I keep meaning to have a stab at fixing it. If any of you feel you can fix some of the blatant flaws.

That one quoted paragraph:

"Brin argues that true privacy will be lost in the ‘transparent society’; however, we have the choice between one that offers the illusion of privacy by restricting the power of surveillance to authorities, or one that destroys that illusion by offering everyone access (including the ability to watch the watchers). He argues that it would be good for society if the surveillance is equal for all, and the public has the same access as those in power."

Should read more like the following three paras:

"Brin argues that a core level of privacy - protecting our most intimate interactions - may be preserved, despite the rapid proliferation of cameras that become ever-smaller, cheaper and more numerous faster than Moore's Law. He feels that this core privacy can be saved simply because that is what humans deeply need and want. Hence, Brin explains that "...the key question is whether citizens will be potent, sovereign and knowing enough to enforce this deeply human want.

"This means they must not only have rights, but also the power to use them and the ability to detect when they are being abused. Ironically, that will only happen in a world that is mostly open, in which most citizens know most of what is going on, most of the time. It is the only condition under which citizens may have some chance of catching the violators of their freedom and privacy. Privacy is only possible if freedom (including the freedom to know) is protected first."

Brin thus maintains that privacy is a "contingent right," one that grows out of the more primary rights, e.g. to know and to speak. He admits that such a mostly-open world will seem more irksome and demanding; people will be expected to keep negotiating the tradeoffs between knowing and privacy. It will be tempting to pass laws that restrict the power of surveillance to authorities, entrusting them to protect our privacy -- or a comforting illusion of privacy. By contrast, a transparent society destroys that illusion by offering everyone access to the vast majority of information out there.

Brin argues that it will be good for society if the powers of surveillance are shared with the citizenry, allowing "sousveillance" or "viewing from below," enabling the public to watch the watchers. According to Brin, this only continues the same trend promoted by Adam Smith, John Locke, the US Constitutionalists and the western enlightenment, who held that any elite (whether commercial, governmental, or aristocratic) should experience constraints upon its power. And there is no power-equalizer greater than knowledge.


*Could somebody make this swap for me in the Wiki for The Transparent Society ?


Ian, I apologize for misunderstanding you. I thought it seemed a strange opinion for Ian! ;-(

David Brin said...

If you haven't been reading Yudkowsky's Harry Potter takeoff, it is brilliant. And fun.

http://www.fanfiction.net/s/5782108/29/Harry_Potter_and_the_Methods_of_Rationality

ngm said...

Hi all, been lurking for a while enjoy the discussions here, now finally posting for the first time…

Playing a bit of devil's advocate on the immigration issue: From a libertarian point of view, does not everyone have the right to freedom of movement and residence? What then gives any nation the right to say to someone, "you can't move here because you weren't born here"? How is that any different, fundamentally, from saying you can't move here because of the color of your skin, or your religion?

If we agree that everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence, are not the illegal immigrants in this country only guilty of breaking unjust laws by way of standing up for their human rights? Therefore, are not those who would treat them "in some sacred, protected manner" somewhat justified?

David Brin said...

On the incremental level, this libertarian viewpoint is justified, since free movement AMONG the US states and the EU nations has proven to be positive. The fact that AMerica is looser that any other nation in absorbing immigrants is also in keeping with this trend.

But to claim that the US has no inherent right to control this process, to keep it orderly and pragmatic... instead of simply allowing a BILLION people who would want to come here, suddenly transforming us into a classic, pyramid-shaped society with a huge, resentful and exploited underclass...?

... nothing better illustrates how today's libertarian movement has been taken over by impractical purist idealists who have effectively ruined the movement, as a practical political force in American life.

Mind you, this ASPECT of libertarian idealism is somewhat sweet, in its naive surface wish for free movement. Compared to the Randroids and their cult of selfishness, it is adorable and worthy of some moral respect.

Rob Perkins said...

Not only that, but hasn't it actually already been tried? Weren't the late 19th and early 20th Centory conditions which led to the formation of the first industrial labor unions a "classic, pyramid-shaped society with a huge, resentful and exploited underclass...?"

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

I think that to say the US legacy media has a liberal bias is true, but overly simplistic.
Given the parlous state of finances for print and broadcast TV there is a self preservation instinct that trumps ideology.


A whole bunch of things get confalted in that "liberal bias" canard.

First off, it was much more true in the 1960s and 1970s (possibly earlier, but I wasn't alive then) than it has been since deregulation and Murdoch. The media being liberal-biased is one of those "everyone knows" truisms that is no longer true.

Second, in some ways, you're going to have to expect a "liberal" bias in media. For instance, they're going to favor the First Amendment, just as eighteen-year-olds tend to favor the Twenty-Sixth Amendment and women (Ann Coulter aside) the Nineteenth. In some ways, the operation of media, especially media as "watchdog against the powerful" (which is what we're talking about here) IS a liberal function. In this sense, media being liberal-biased is no more alarming than is prosecutors being biased against defendants. Yes, the other side has a point, but it's someone else's job to advocate it.

Finally, when I argue that media is no longer liberal-biased, I don't mean to say that it is conservative instead (except for FOX, natch). What I mean is that most big media now is owned by large corporate interests, and it is the bottom line of THOSE interests that the media now serve. It's no accident that network news is now part of the "entertainment" division. So they're going to report whatever is most sensational (grab viewers), they're NOT going to report anything that reflects badly on their corporate parents or advertisers, and as we saw leading up to Iraq, they're going to help beat the drums leading to war because war is a bonanza to the bottom line of news organizations.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2 again:

Immigration is the prime example of a complicated issue that makes you no friends no matter what stance you take.


Back to immigration, I just want to take the time to point out a common sense notion that gets lost in the heated rhetoric over Arizona's immigration thing.

The liberal tendency to oppose infringements on freedom of movement and freedom from police harrassment (such as anything that smacks of "Your papers, please") is portrayed by the right as sympathy for the illegals themselves--as if the argument is about whether THEY should be subject to scruitiny. No, the point is that the LEGAL residents and citizens (even those who resemble Mexicans) shouldn't be subject to continual police stops and requirements to prove their legal status. The True Liberal position is not "all border crossing should be allowed", but it is something along the lines of "Better to let ten illegal aliens run free than to subject one citizen to a loss of liberty." Granted, my statement is also simplistic, but I'm just trying to frame an issue here. Too often, it's taken for granted that only those who WANT illegals to remain here would not desire a society where one must always prove one's right to be here.

As to the complexity of the immigration issue itself, remember that immigration was the first big wedge issue into the formerly-solid conservative bloc of the Bush years. Conservatives, even stereotypical conservatives, are split on the issue between the Pat Buchannan nativists who really DO favor controls on immigration (the spectrum ranging from those who really "hate" immigrants to those who legitimately demand some control over the process to keep the country's character intact) vs the corporatists who WANT a large pool of illegal immigrants around because they are so exploitable as cheap labor. Both positions would be characterized as "conservative" as opposed to "liberal", but the two are never going to be in agreement.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

I see our nationhood as "skin." Dermis. We evolved it over time for good or ill. An idealist could say it separates us. But at this point in time, to remove one's skin is foolish. None of the needed substitutes are at hand.

My own view is a simple "good neighbor" policy. I see no reason Canadians and Mexicans should not have an extra few lottery numbers. At the same time, I would declare Mexico a "human rights and economic disaster area." This would enrage the Mexican government; bad P.R. I think it might have good effects, though.

And I would increase humanitarian immigration more than even the "added lottery numbers" level I just proposed. This is however still a lower number than we saw in recent years. This new higher level should still be enforced.

When I read of how unfair it is to "uproot families" I think of how my father moved us around the U.S. Military brats know what I'm talking about too. The hard part is actually having to go live in Mexico again, for many. Because of the aforementioned disaster zone-nature of the country now.

(note: I saw a lot of land developers, who benefited from illegal labor, who almost universally were rabid right-wingers. I checked a bunch of locals on the various campaign donation sites. Just sayin'.)

David Brin said...

"Liberal bias" in the mainstream media is a stunningly awful way to couch things, akin to the left-right axis. It implies the Faux-message of two equally-valid "sides" with equivalent opposing intellectual weight.

But normal media will seem somewhat liberal biased simply as an outcome of being based in cities, staffed by people with post-graduate degrees and presented by people who move around the world, interviewing and talking to a cosmopolitan array of different minds.

All of these things will make a person or group seem more "blue," unless they were recruited by a focused entity, with red-ness being a core job requirement.

Left-right implies it is liberal vs conservative. This fools millions of sincere conservatives into maintaining their fealty to what is no longer "conservative" in any sane sense of the word. Like liberals who once clung to their affiliation with socialists...

... till the Miracle of 1947.

David Brin said...

Oh. in the WWII name riff. I not only left out "Chamberlain" but also... deGaulle! I mean, what were the odds that the French resistance leader would be named -- "of France"?

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Are the media stupid? mmmm, a case could be made. In my lifetime the newsrooms have gone from being populated by grizzled former beat reporters to blow dried telegenic youngsters. Or are they smart, and figure that the majority of their customers don't want a serious treatment of a difficult issue and will just hit the remote and go watch American Idol re runs?


You've identified a fundamental problem with treating news as a profit center. It's analogous to a public library replacing its reference section with a room full of video games because the games generate more throughput. It's a fallacy to treat the two (reference and games; or news and entertainment) as competetors to each other and letting the most profitable one "win".

Tacitus2 said...

According to the excellent Opensecrets.org, Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp has been the number one political donor in their industry sector (publishing, print) for several election cycles. In the 2008 cycle they donated 50:50 to D and R. In the 2010 cycle it is 58%D and 42%R.

For an insidious puller of strings they seem remarkably open handed!


Tacitus2

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hmm... Does that report list who Murdoch donated to, and what amounts?

Tacitus2 said...

opensecrets.org should be on your favorites list, and has a search function. Here is the results for News Corp.

what the heck?

Very weird,no?

I had to run a quick search to see if there was a similarly named organization!

Tacitus2

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

According to the excellent Opensecrets.org, Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp has been the number one political donor in their industry sector (publishing, print) for several election cycles. In the 2008 cycle they donated 50:50 to D and R. In the 2010 cycle it is 58%D and 42%R.

For an insidious puller of strings they seem remarkably open handed!


Again, we each see what we expect to see, but this doesn't surprise me. FOX's content is Republican, if not even further right THAN Republican. To you, this implies that they'd overwhelmingly support the GOP with their contributions. I see another possibility that doesn't contradict the "right-wing FOX" interpretation.

In many ways, the Democrats are not the anti-GOP, but the other side of the same corporatist coin. Despite Limbaugh/Beck rhetoric, President Obama has governed much more as a corporatist Clinton than as a revolutionary FDR, let alone as any sort of true "socialist". Why would that be?

Obama could walk to the moon on his own power and plant the flag of Christianity there, and it wouldn't garner him any more GOP votes in congress. OTOH, he'd have a mandate from the base that voted him in in '08 to enact real reforms that ARE much more socialist than anything we've seen, and instead he chooses to piss off that base by going all "center-right" on us. What forces could possibly be at work behind the scenes insuring that Democrats consistently govern in such a manner, despite very popular campaign rhetoric to the contrary?

Consider what you just said about Newscorp/FOX (also the oil companies and the banks and WalMart and any other entity capable of large campaign donations). Is it best for them to donate exclusively to the GOP, thus setting themselves (the donors) as the eventual target of anti-incumbent-GOP wrath? Or is it better strategy to contribute to both sides roughly equally, thus insuring that WHOMEVER is voted into power is beholden to you, and that WHOMEVER is in power knows that if they go too far against your interests, you could suddenly contribute 10 or 10,000 times as much to the other side on the next go-round?

Tacitus2 said...

LarryH
I understand your point, and do not disagree.
The message that both parties are incestuous first cousins is not too far afield from what the Tea Party seems to be saying, once you sift out the nonsense of individual kooks and (my opinion) biased media coverage.
I just had to bring up the fact that Murdoch is funding Al Franken to tweak our esteemed, if sometimes overheated, host!

Tacitus2

David Brin said...

Sorry. Dribbles of sauce for both parties simply gives Rupert a talking point, to get guys like you saying what you just said.

Those few millions are like a mosquito compared to his sick, undead were-elephant campaign to re-incite civil war in america. If the parties were wings of the same monster, then why civil war?

Such foolishness. It is not that conservatism is extinct. But it is cowardly standing on the sidelines while a bona fide war is being fought over America, by forces and groups and puppeteers and populist-roused puppets... totally similar to the wagers of the first civil war.

Tim H. said...

Murdoch's minions ride the tea party for now, but their interests are bound to diverge. I hope the dismount is entertaining.

Abilard said...

Brin said:

"But it is cowardly standing on the sidelines while a bona fide war is being fought over America, by forces and groups and puppeteers and populist-roused puppets... totally similar to the wagers of the first civil war."

This all sounds very Fourth Turning.  Maybe you culture warriors should take a chill pill before the country is torn apart.

Off-topic - more hard data (as opposed to hockey sticks):

Scientific American - Lake Superior, a Natural Global Warming Gauge, Is Running a Fever

Jumper said...

Wonder if there is much value in differentiating "privacy" from "anonymity." Any thoughts?

David Brin said...

Jumper, I make that distinction carefully in The Transparent Society.

Abilard, you might as well tell the 1939 Poles to "stop bickering with those Germans who just crossed your borders."

Yeesh. Find me one thing the neocons did that even benefited America. There comes a point in time when you stop reasoning with traitors and madmen and take them at THEIR word that it's a war.

Ian said...

Abilard: "more hard data (as opposed to hockey sticks):"

Curious isn't it how all the hard data agrees with what the much-disdained hockey sticks were telling us a decade ago?

Abilard said...

@Ian

BS in defense of a world-saving cause is still BS. ;-)

@Brin

They are a test case for the limits of Machiavellian politics that future civilizations might study after we annihilate ourselves.

Robert said...

As Edmund Burke is often mis-attributed to saying, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (In all likelihood, it's a paraphrasing of something he said in Thoughts on the Cause of Present Discontents (1770): "When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.")

Rob H.

rewinn said...

@Abilard said...
BS in defense of a world-saving cause is still BS. ;-)


===

T'ain't BS.

Might be over-simplified but then again, so was dropping cannonballs off the Tower of Pisa. IIRC they didn't actually hit the ground that the same time which proves that whole "gravity" thing is a hoax.

Abilard said...

If you want the oligarchs of Venice to part with precious gold, based on your canonballs, then you had better be sure all the Pisans say they hit at the same time. To keep metaphors and similes Italian, like Caesar's wife your data must be beyond reproach. This means no exclusion of anomylous tree-ring data, no guestimating where weather stations are absent, and always addressing publically available data that might be used for counter-interpetations.

Tony Fisk said...

Which is why the Zero Carbon Australia Stationary Energy Plan is worth promoting.

(OK I'll shut up now)

flogumen: disciplinary technique based on the philosophy of 'repeat action until it has the desired effect'

rewinn said...

"... your data must be beyond reproach. This means no exclusion of anomylous tree-ring data..."

Nothing is "beyond reproach" when reproachers profit from reproach.

The real world is complicated, especially when you are interpreting data from sources not really designed for collecting data, e.g. tree rings. You can either try to figure out what it all means, or you can choose to be completely ineffectual.

AGW Deniers lead by the Carbon Pollution Industry demand an unreasonable level of data purity, which may be o.k. if you're trying to win an academic debate around a campfire, but not for making practical decisions. It is precisely the same sort of argument that leaders tobacco company CEOs use to deny that their products are dangerous and addictive.

Abilard said...

There are benefits to a multipolar world: while we lie locked in a cultre-wars death grip other countries (like Australia) can move ahead unrestrained. I hope the plan is successful, for reasons of energy independence as well. An optimistic view is that, as competition among the city-states of Italy helped end the dark ages, so competition among our nation states might take our civilization to a new level.

Ah well. Optimism is not in my nature. Time to listen to some grunge.

(Posting via blackberry. Apologies for any typos)

David Brin said...

Abilard, these things are used as rationalizations for shifting the burden of proof away from a collage of dissenters -- most of them scientifically ill-trained -- ONTO the shoulders of a scientific community that has reached a 99% consensus to warn of a dire danger to our children.

This is fatuous.

Sure, that scientific community, for all their brains and brilliant record analyzing weather and climate on NINE PLANETS, and extending reliable weather forecasts from two hours to almost a WEEK... they are still fallible human beings. Hectoring them over this or that flaw is perfectly legitimate...

...WHILE accepting their word that precautionary measures should be rapidly and urgently taken, against a potentially dire threat to our nation, world, civilization and children.

Especially since most measures are TWODA... Things We Ought To Do Anyway.

Moreover, while guilt by association is somewhat immature, since the denialists are DIRECTLY funded and promoted by the same "side" that gave us supply side, creationism and the worst misrule in US history, we blues can be forgiven for not taking that bunch as seriously as they'd like.

Abilard said...

The world is complicated, far more complicated than red or blue, and scientists living in the ivory tower have to deal with less of that complexity than many non-academics. However, sat temp data, ocean acidification studies, glacier studies, animal migration studies, etc all show that data collection can meet the test I describe.

rewinn said...

Carbon barons sitting on gold-plated chamberpots are more removed from reality than are most scientists, whose only brush with Ivory is in the form of soap (99.44% pure), albeit with a leavening of Fawlty Towers.

David Brin said...

Sure, demand all the tests and milestones you want...

...while declaring that public policy should respond to a 99% scientific consensus of looming danger, and that any attempt to delay such precautions... especially TWODA... would be the act of a pack of morons.

That is the combination. If you say the latter, I'll listen to the former.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Abilard

Check this out,
this report answers all your comments including a neat piece of work where they replicate the study that the naughty scientists were keeping secret by two days work on the web!

http://www.cce-review.org/pdf/FINAL%20REPORT.pdf

Seriously well worth a read

Tim H. said...

From my unexalted perspective, concentrating on "TWODA" would take a lot of the heat out of the discussion, unless you're enjoying the fight. Remember, if it can be sold as energy independence, economy or jobs, a lot of progress can happen while the "consensus" gets it's act together.

Robert said...

I don't "debate" environmental issues for the enjoyment of the fight. I do so to try and keep us from killing the planet. Sadly, I get one response to my claims of "energy independence" - "it'll cost too much."

Nevermind the fact that two summers ago, gas went over $4 a gallon (in the U.S.). Or that with increased demand, oil prices will rise again, and hit the American Consumer in the wallet. Or even that the only people who benefit from us being an oil-based economy are the rich. It'll cost too much right now. And it's not right to subsidize electric or the like... despite the fact we subsidize oil.

Go figure.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...


Curious isn't it how all the hard data agrees with what the much-disdained hockey sticks were telling us a decade ago?


Last February, when 20 inches of snow was falling in Washington DC, my "honest conservative" buddy was all full of derision about "The ice-age formerly known as global warming", as if a snowy winter definitively debunked Al Gore once and for all. Never mind that at the same time, snow had to be imported into Vancouver for the Winter Olympics.

I wonder what he's saying now that the east coast is getting 100 degree heatwaves, Lake Superior is at record high temperatures, and even Moscow is registering temperatures in the 90s.

Course, I wouldn't know. I gave up on reading his blog when he said with a straight face that the BP Disaster was ultimately "just an accident" for which no one was really to blame--except President Obama.

LarryHart said...

Albiard:

If you want the oligarchs of Venice to part with precious gold, based on your canonballs, then you had better be sure all the Pisans say they hit at the same time. To keep metaphors and similes Italian, like Caesar's wife your data must be beyond reproach. This means no exclusion of anomylous tree-ring data, no guestimating where weather stations are absent, and always addressing publically available data that might be used for counter-interpetations.


If only your side of the aisle required the same standard of data before implementing policy based on such theories as Supply-Side Economics. No, in order to implement right-wing economic policy, all you need is a good sound bite repeated ad nauseum, even if that sound-bite doesn't remotely resemble anything that has ever actually happened in history.

But when it comes to heading off disaster taking place right before our eyes, then you suddenly need incontrivertable proof before taking even a first step, even if the effects that haven't yet been proven 100% are apparent even without the scientific data explaining it.

Abilard said...

Self-sufficiency is a very colonial mentality, so you would think the conservatives would be behind energy independence massively. The fact that Republicans, who claim to be conservatives, are not is dismaying and evidence that the kind of diabolical forces Brin envisions may in fact be puppeteering the party.

TWODA - by definition, no? Let's just look at the overlap between two threats: the Sauds and EMP weapons. What's a strategy that defends against both? Local production of food and energy. IMHO, localization could address many issues.

Unfortunately we do not have a NAICS code for "oligarchic bastard." If we did, that category would be largely insulated from the complexities of reality, excluding the self-made. Of the categories we do have, it is not so easy to measure the number of critical thinkers each requires.

I'm defining critical thinking as the ability to pull practically applicable knowledge from the complexities of the world. Linguistic ability and social skills, while they may have some critical thought behind them, are distinct. So, a successful politician could not automatically claim to be a critical thinker by virtue of his or her success.

Plumbers, on the other hand, have to demonstrate a low level of critical thinking every day. When I eyeball those NAICS categories I try to picture how many workers in each one meet the plumber test. Do they demonstrate an equal or greater level of critical thinking on a day to day basis than a plumber?

IMHO, most of academia does not, but then most in most categories do not. A writer who uses fiction to tell us something useful about the human condition would, but how many does that describe? 1% of the people in humanities? Maybe 10% of those in the social sciences? Physics, climate science, much more so.

And then there are the numbers. Academia is not a large slice. This leads me to conclude that most critical thinkers lie outside academia. While the critical thinkers of greatest significance to this discussion are climate science academics, those of us who have to be right in our jobs every single day without a peer-review safety net may feel justified in criticizing when those academics appear sloppy.

Abilard said...

@Larryhart

Not my side of the aisle. I've been an independent for 18 years and have always thought of supply-side as, well, voodoo economics.

LarryHart said...

Fair enough then, Albiard. Sorry for jumping to a conclusion.

I stand by my assertion about the two sides, even if I misidentified where you stand personally.

LarryHart said...

Had to pass this on, from Paul Krugman's blog:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/21/fooled-again-and-again-and-again/


So I don’t know if readers have been following the Shirley Sherrod affair. It goes like this: Ms. Sherrod was an Agriculture Department official; a right-wing blogger released clips of a video that purportedly showed her making racist remarks; the clips were featured big on Fox News; and the Obama administration promptly fired her.

But whaddya know, the scandal was fake. The clips were taken completely out of context. It was basically as if I said, “Some people say that violence is always the answer; they’re wrong”, Fox ran with the story “Krugman says violence is always the answer”, and the Times fired me.

What’s shocking here isn’t the behavior of the right, which was par for the course. It’s the seemingly limitless credulity of the inside-the-Beltway crowd. I mean, there’s a history here: ACORN, Climategate, Vince Foster, Whitewater, and much much more. (Someone recently reminded me that the GOP held two weeks of hearing on the Clinton Christmas card list.) When the right-wing noise machine starts promoting another alleged scandal, you shouldn’t suspect that it’s fake — you should presume that it’s fake, until further evidence becomes available.

So now Tom Vilsack, the Agriculture secretary, says that he may “reconsider”. I’d lay even odds that the Sherrod firing stands, even though it was totally unjust, because people in DC are so accustomed to cringing in the face of the right that they just don’t know how to stop.

Robert said...

I was going to post a link to that story actually (what the heck: here's the link). I have to wonder; can that blogger and the news agencies that ran the story be charged with libel/slander? (I'm unsure as to if this is slander or libel as it's video editing of her own words to make her say something other than she did.) If the government doesn't rehire her, then this is prime lawsuit territory: it's unlawful termination, and even a staunch uber-conservative Republican judge would likely find in her favor and award damages.

BTW, I sent the above link to one of my conservative friends who promptly got pissed at me saying "don't send me political e-mails, I mean it!" Though he's been saying that for a bit now... I actually didn't see the story as political but rather cautionary. If the lady had kept her mouth shut and never mentioned that story she'd not have lost her job. The obvious conclusion is this: don't talk. If you don't give out rope, they can't hang you with it. And if someone insists you say something, state "I refuse to say anything because my words will likely be twisted and used against me."

-------

On a scientific note, here's a couple of articles on the discovery of a supermassive blue star that's over 260 times the mass of Earth's sun, and far bigger than what science originally believed to be the maximum possible size of a star. It's unknown if these stars formed through normal methods or if they are the synthesis of multiple smaller stars that got devoured by one larger, more massive member of the stellar family.

This puppy is so big, when it finally blows it's not expected to leave a black hole behind. Instead, the explosion will be so massive that it'll expel every bit of matter created in the explosion... which is how scientists believe the star stuff that comprises this planet and indeed life itself came from.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...


(I'm unsure as to if this is slander or libel as it's video editing of her own words to make her say something other than she did.)


Once again, this is best described in the kids' show "Phineas and Ferb":


Karl: Here's a seemingly-innocent recording of Phineas

Phineas (on screen): I know what we're going to do today!

Karl: But if we play it backwards, and in a random order, we get...

Phineas (on screen): Let's help Doofenschmertz to destroy the Tri-State Area.



If the government doesn't rehire her, then this is prime lawsuit territory: it's unlawful termination,...


The big disappointment to me is how quickly and knee-jerkily the administration throws their own "under the bus" in an apparent (and if so, futile) attempt to appease their critics. The proper response to future "shocking video" on FOX is that if they tell you it's raining, leave the umbrella at home. You know how you can tell when a FOX News commentator is lying? His lips are moving.

David Brin said...

Tim, TWODA only seems sensible to those for whom being sensible makes sense. Cutlure war is not about that, hence TWODA will only affect people in a very marginal borderland.

But now Abilard is making tons of sense. The local resources/food movetment is good. I am also pushing the govt requiring all our cells be capable of P2P text passing, even if the towers go down.

Abilard said...

"I am also pushing the govt requiring all our cells be capable of P2P text passing, even if the towers go down."

Good idea. Perhaps you should market it as an innovation for the military. The rest will follow.

Ian said...

"If only your side of the aisle required the same standard of data before implementing policy based on such theories as Supply-Side Economics."

Or Iraq's retention of WMDs after the Gulf War.

Ian said...

"Plumbers, on the other hand, have to demonstrate a low level of critical thinking every day. When I eyeball those NAICS categories I try to picture how many workers in each one meet the plumber test. Do they demonstrate an equal or greater level of critical thinking on a day to day basis than a plumber?

IMHO, most of academia does not, ..."

How many academics do you actually know?

rewinn said...

" When I eyeball those NAICS categories I try to picture how many workers in each one meet the plumber test. Do they demonstrate an equal or greater level of critical thinking on a day to day basis than a plumber?"

Would testing such a hypothesis in a controlled study requires an equal or greater level of critical thinking on a day to day basis than a plumber?

David Brin said...

EEEk!

They've come to a decision!

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_upshot/20100721/od_yblog_upshot/beware-of-jumping-whales-when-sailing-off-the-coast-of-south-africa

Tony Fisk said...

I am also pushing the govt requiring all our cells be capable of P2P text passing, even if the towers go down

You heard it here

EEEk! They've come to a decision!

Maybe they've been reading this (found in the debris of a sunken Sea Shepherd vessel, perhaps?)

(Or McMullen's Mirrorsun trilogy?)

ingoos: traditional eskimo dwelling after the permafrost melts.

David Brin said...

The aussie cell system is clever and I'm pleased, but it uses local WiFi for voice and is thus not quite as general, ubiquitous and simple as my idea would be. My means would pass text "telegrams" from one side of America to another.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Abilard

Did you have a look at that link it is the final "Climategate" report it answers all of your complaints about the scientists involved including showing how to replicate their answers from available data

Read the report - then talk about "Critical thinking"

Abilard said...

@Ian

"How many academics do you actually know?"

Over dozen years fulltime studying and/or working in academia, 2 universities, 3 community colleges, 2 degrees...

A few.

@Rewinn

"Would testing such a hypothesis in a controlled study requires an equal or greater level of critical thinking on a day to day basis than a plumber?"

By itself, or in association with a lifetime of such studies? Or, in association with 1 to 3, sufficient to get tenure and relax? The former, sure. The latter... in my opinion the working plumber would surpass the professor rather quickly.

This is just a thought experiment though (no pun intended). If you can think of a way to make it more empirical please let me know. In that case I would gladly borrow your critical thinking.

Abilard said...

@Duncan

"Read the report - then talk about 'Critical thinking'."

Oh, can I? Please, please, please? Then maybe someone like you would accept me and the world would cover itself with flowers. Then I would have permission to think!

Oh wait, I don't need anyone's permission for that.

I looked at it yesterday. Only the first 17 pages loaded. PDF error... perhaps a corrupt download. Then I had to move on to the critical thinking for which I am paid (and no, that is none of anyone's business here).

I must say I did not read anything inspiring or revelatory in those first few pages however.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Abilard

If I only read 17 pages of a well written 160 page document I would not criticize it.

The report is worth a read
Unless of course you have already made your mind up and don't like facts

Abilard said...

"Unless of course you have already made your mind up and don't like facts."

Oh god, the pressure... what if people read this and don't realize there could be other reasons, like time, or impatience with apologists who like to waste it. What if they think less of me? What... ever.

If you don't like what I have to say, address what you don't like point by point. If I think your arguments have any substance I may care.

Abilard said...

Rewinn is a good example of this, btw.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Abilard
Quote
If you don't like what I have to say, address what you don't like point by point. If I think your arguments have any substance I may care.

Quote
If you want the oligarchs of Venice to part with precious gold, based on your canonballs, then you had better be sure all the Pisans say they hit at the same time. To keep metaphors and similes Italian, like Caesar's wife your data must be beyond reproach. This means no exclusion of anomylous tree-ring data, no guestimating where weather stations are absent, and always addressing publically available data that might be used for counter-interpetations.

Every one of those points is specifically addressed in the report I referenced

Abilard said...

But you apparently can't address them.

Duncan Cairncross said...

OK Abilard

You said
"This means no exclusion of anomylous tree-ring data, no guestimating where weather stations are absent, and always addressing publically available data that might be used for counter-interpetations."

As you are too important to read the report I will summarize it.

There was no exclusion of "anomalous tree ring data"
There was no "guesstimating where weather stations are absent",
All of the data was (and is) publically available


Also some nice articles about peer review and a simple explanation about how to find the data

Anything else you need summarized?

Abilard said...

Hanson's team does the guestimating, not CRU. This has apparently only lead to minor differences, but that is not the point. The point is that on an issue this political they should avoid any and every appearance of cooking data.

As for the trees, if they didn't, great. They shouldn't. Which is my point.

Now, do you actually dispute my point?

Ilithi Dragon said...

Or lacks the time and figures sharing a report by professionals, experts, etc. on the subject that can say anything he has to say with greater detail and depth is sufficient, and that going into greater detail himself would be a redundancy he does not have time for...

*shrug*

Either way, you and Rewinn at least are both falling to the temptation to throw in little digs at each other, getting under each others' skin and completely losing perspective on the original subject, as you've now straw-manned each other and appear to be addressing caricatures of each other and not the subject you were originally discussing. All-in-all, a natural inclination, tied in with self-righteous addiction, but not a very rational approach to communication.

Abilard said...

But it's fun!

Besides, if this were about straight communication AGW folks would have to admit some of their top scientists played petty intra-disciplinary games on an issue of planetary survival, and the rest of us would probably have to concede that AGW is both likely occurring and a dear threat to our civilization. Really, who wants that?

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dragon

You are so right - time for bed its nearly midnight here!

I apologize for the snideness - but it is still a good report and well worth reading.

Abilard

If the problems you quoted did not occur then should the Pisans spend the gold??

If not why? and when?

(I am trying not to be snide but it is late!)

Abilard said...

@Duncan

I think there is enough evidence that we should do three things:

1) Invest in renewables like there might not be a tomorrow if we don't (TWODA - EMP, Energy Independence, Sustainability, etc).
2) Phase out oil first, then gas, then coal with slow tax increases which could fund #1.
3) Significantly increase funding for climate research along the lines proposed for NASA, with open data collection, publicly available databases of the same, online-accessible weather stations, etc.

I've wanted all three since the 90s.

All of which makes for interesting conversations with my Republican friends.

This does not invalidate any of my posted criticisms of the way climate research and the climate debate have been handled up to this point, or whether or not they have proven AGW. I think it is dangerously plausible, but not proven.

Robert said...

My goddess, I don't know which internet forum that reminded me more of - the EGS forum, or the Megatokyo forum. Tsk. *shakes head* Little digs "may seem fun" but you ultimately find other people ignoring the valid points you make because you're sounding churlish and juvenile. And trust me. I know juvenile. I struggle against the inner kid every time I post.

I've given up on the environmental aspects of dealing with global warming. Now I'm just interested in pushing the economic aspects.

* First, building up a Green industry base before China or another nation beats us tot he punch.

* Second, creating an infrastructure to wean us from gas and oil so that electric (or other) cars are viable and effective.

* Third, reducing as much as possible our dependency on oil so that the robber barons of the Middle East who fund terrorist groups and treat their own citizens essentially as slaves will be bereft of income and will have to cut back on harmful practices if they want to continue living like princes.

* Fourth, exporting electric cars and the tech for them (and for Green industries) to third-world-nations so that they don't get caught in the oil trap - allowing the U.S. to profit while slowly strangling the oil industry.

The end result? Lower pollution, less greenhouse gases, and a healthier planet. Oh, and we also boosted our economy something fierce. ;)

Can you honestly say that this is a bad business plan, especially compared to the status quo, where more and more money goes to the oil industries at the expense of the little people who need cars in order to have a job and make a living?

Rob H.

Abilard said...

@Robert

"Little digs 'may seem fun' but you ultimately find other people ignoring the valid points you make because you're sounding churlish and juvenile."

I've been debating on newsgroups and forums since 1993. In my experience, stating valid points devoid of banter is, in fact, the best way to get ignored. Valid points seldom make it past people's filters.

Ilithi Dragon said...

@Abilard:

My experience has been near universally the opposite. Slipping in digs and snide comments has pushed almost every discussion/debate I've been in or witnessed towards more hostility, straw-manning, and flaming, while when people put the urge to snipe with smart remarks and apologizing for any offense given, the conflict quickly resolves and some kind of common ground, or at least shared understanding of positions, is quickly found.

Abilard said...

I suspect that Duncan and Rewinn can take what they dish out. One negative to banter that I do see is that it can create a threatening environment for others. My karma on this point is probably bad enough that in the next life I will be born as a Star Wars fan.

Robert said...

Also, there is banter, and there's snide comments and casual insults. When I start going off on a tangent, I tend to banter. But I try hard to avoid insulting people. I probably don't succeed (especially on forums and before I've had enough caffeine to wake up), but I still try. A tit-for-tat comment-war isn't going to do much for getting your valid points across.

Heck, I'm reminded of a parody blog that someone wrote on the neocon/culture war perspective vs. a well-thought-out and mature moderate liberal. At the end all the "neocons" could do was shout "lalalalala! Not listening to you!" at the top of their lungs until the mature moderate gave up in disgust, and then celebrated their "victory." You're ultimately not going to change the perspectives of the neocons and the anti-liberals (because I honestly can't call them conservatives - they tend to follow blindly what the Republicans tell them because they fear what Democrats will do - despite the fact that Democrats have moderated their views over the decades). Instead, you're fighting for the hearts and souls (and minds) of the middle. Of those people who have not made up their minds.

That's what debate is about - it's not about proving your opponent wrong. It's about telling your side of things effectively enough that those who are listening and not taking part will agree with you. Snide comments and casual insults won't win those over, even if the insults aren't directed toward them.

Rob H.

Abilard said...

Ah, but you are not interpreting our exchange correctly. As is apparent from the above, I did not insult Duncan. I scorned his criticisms of me.

There is an important difference: one is contempt for a position, approach, or debating tactic; the other is contempt for a person. I don't know Duncan. I have no contempt for him, and have not insulted him.

I have contempt for referring outside documents without making an argument yourself (by all means support your argument with outside documents, but make your case yourself). I dislike the bullying notion that some outside authority, like, say, the Bible, is automatically right because it says so. Again, arguments should be judged on their own merits.

I expect you, Robert, and Ilithi would be much more comfortable if we discussed issues devoid of any sort of contempt, as Vulcans. I, however, am human and, occasionally, will throw down. I do ask that you choose to criticize this that you characterize my actions accurately.

rewinn said...

The Conjugation of Banter on the Internet:

* I banter.

* You use humor sometimes inappropriately.

* He/She/It flames.

=========

(That said, it is easy for things to get out of hand. "A soft answer turneth away wrath" except where wrath is the desired emotional state.)

Anonymous said...

New topic:

Didn't anyone think that the natural gas being "drilled" might become radioactive?

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/
20100722/ap_on_re_us/us_nuclear_drilling

David Brin said...

Abilard, making all three statements to your gopper pals is merited. Toss them this bone:

10% of all climate change funding should go to highly qualified doubters, skeptics, or gadflies, poking at the quality of the science.

That bone should make any reasonable folk meet you. It won't, but it should.

I would add.... double science education, restore the congressional science office, stop the revolving door of bureaucrats and industry jobs. And finally, ensure American companies dominate the rapidly rising tech world of renewables, since it was tech advance (mostly internet/electronics) that let us dominate in the 1990s and it was abandonment of science that hollowed us out in the 2000s.

Not one of those statements is anti-conservative.

Robert said...

I have to disagree with you there, Dr. Brin. It is very much anti-conservative to even pretend that the current economic situation and that the state-of-the-nation has anything to do with Bush or the neocons. In fact, it is High Treason to state anything along these lines among Conservatives these days, lest the Thought Police come down and drag you away to work the salt mines or the like. =^-^=

(The only problem with being tongue-in-cheek is you should avoid doing it when chewing on gum... lest you bite your own tongue!)

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

I seldom get into alt. energy discussion, I just don't know enough to comment.

But those in the know:

Did hydrogen fuel cell technology get defunded entirely on its lack of merits? Or was politics involved?

The stated reasons, that it did not have anticipated economic viability in the 10 to 20 year time frame strike me as being applicable to other more fashionable technologies as well.

Thoughts?

Tacitus2

Robert said...

I think it had something to do with the fact fuel cells have been touted for over thirty years now, but the costs in creating fuel cells that work in automobiles has not decreased by much, and definitely not enough to make the cars economically viable. At least batteries for electric cars are expected to half in price in the next ten years (economies of scale).

I remember seeing fuel cell cars at Disney's Escot Center back in the late 70s. I don't think the prices of the fuel cells went down much since that time.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

While H2 cells have a (distant) future, it is totally right that the technology is far from ready... and once it is, how will you distribute the H2? It won't go through existing pipelines.

Hence, Bushite emphasis on Hydrogen was another method of sabotaging energy research. They could not zero out the research entirely. (Though they tried to come close.) But by diverting vast sums to H2 they could keep the funds from doing any good.

Oh, and when H2 finally is ready? Who will have the business model and infrastructure to provide it? So, after long delay, the old model still gets preserved.

The funny thing is that H2 might have a future, after all! If local algae reactors improve a lot, (as may happen soon) waste CO2 will add to solar (algae) power to make H2 or methane + protein. This may explain why there's so little resistance to Obama's plan. Because the oilcos no longer see H2 as a good delay then win mechanism.

Tony Fisk said...

Bush did zero out research into solar energy. Which is, I gather, why the CST technology sought refuge in Spain (a certain irony there).

Back to P2P cellphones:
My means would pass text "telegrams" from one side of America to another.

Voice vs telegram is an app. layer issue. P2P is an issue for the transport and routing layers, so there should be no reason why the software can't be adapted for text.

I presume that, frogger-like, you envisage packets that hop from cell to cell as and when they can until they reach their destination ('Across the Rockies by Phone?!') If so, then it would be implicit in the architecture anyway (I receive... I send). Still, I might put the question to the developers.

Rob Perkins said...

GPS enabled phones in particular would be useful:

OnMessageReceive: if ([ReceivedMessage IsMoreDistant:MyLocation than:LastHopLocation To:OriginatingLocation] == true) then [MessageTransmitQueue Enqueue:ReceivedMessage];

Then, every 10 minutes or so, [MessageTransmitQueue Transmit]

...with an app that just listens for data transmissions on its usual frequencies, with a sensible retry timer, or an algorithm that guarantees retransmission for a sensible period of time. As long as the messages have unique ID's then the stations and phones that need to receive them can ignore duplicates. It's not like we're talking about 300 baud modems here.

It's just too simple to patent. Plus, it's already been patented (sadly just not by me...)

Tony Fisk said...

I hadn't thought of GPS...

Actually Rob, your algorithm merely guarantees that the message propagates away from the sender. You would probably want to propagate it toward the receiver... assuming the sender knew where they were.

gereate: the process of finding the GPS location of your destination.

David Brin said...

Tony, P2P packet passing of text would be trivial, applying the basic notions that founded the internet.

Tony Fisk said...

Trivial, yes.

voice or SMS are just apps, sitting on top of the transport layers. They shouldn't need to change.

The P2P provided by mesh potatoes would be applied to the lower level routing algorithms. Again trivial... until 'commercial reality' (aka 'our cut') is added to the mix.

Rob Perkins said...

Hey, what can I say, it's beta code.

Point is, it's nothing more than an algorithm, long in use by Internet routers. And today's phones are an order of magnitude more powerful than the routers in use in the late 90's.

rewinn said...

Enough $35 computers might accomplish something similar.

(Insert standard text about convergence of mobile devices here)

Tony Fisk said...

The ironic thing is that the 'ultracheap' XO laptop has meshing capability ready to go.

(Unfortunately, I don't think anyone's in range of me! ;-)

kilitiv: collective noun for assassins.

Hank Roberts said...

I hate that damned shoe spammer.
But I know you're cleaning up their crap as time allows.
----

This is interesting-- hat tip to and the following excerpt is lifted from
http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/10/cuccinelli-goes-fishing-again/comment-page-2/#comment-187958
----excerpt----
A document thar may be of interest: ‘Science, Technology, and the First Amendment Special Report: Congress of the United States, Office of Technology Assessment’.
http://www.fas.org/ota/reports/8835.pdf

If you jump to page 67, it talks about a Professor Steven Goldberg of Georgetown University Law Center (who sadly passed away last August) and his arguments that science enjoys special protection under the First Amendment. Perhaps someone in Georgetown could give some advice on this?

“Professor Steven Goldberg of The Georgetown University Law Center is among those who argue that science enjoys, under the Constitution, possibly more protection than even political or literary speech. He argues that those who participated in drafting the U.S. Constitution, particularly Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, and Franklin, were men of the Enlightenment, with broad interests in science, who regarded scientific freedom from constraint by church and state as essential to democracy and constitutionalism.2 Goldberg argues that the Constitution contains an ‘implied science clause”: that Congress may legislate the establishment of science but not prohibit the free exercise of scientific speech.
[...]
“As leading first amendment scholars have long recognized, suppression of scientific information is inconsistent with the democratic political process . . . . Even when scientific work is not immediately applicable to political controversies, it plays an important role in maintaining a free and informed society. Such was the view of the framers, and it has been the consistent view of the courts (p. 16).”"