Friday, October 01, 2010

The Quagmire War -- the Vietnam of our Era

The Vietnam of our era...

George Friedman, the principal of STRATFOR, a major international strategic consulting firm, has been meticulously dissecting the reasons for - and future prospects of - our nine year quagmire in Afghanistan. Here he gets to a point I have been talking about for years:

"While acts of transnational terrorism target civilians, they are not attacks — have not been and are not evolving into attacks — that endanger the territorial integrity of the United States or the way of life of the American people. They are dangerous and must be defended against, but transnational terrorism is and remains a tactical problem that for nearly a decade has been treated as if it were the pre-eminent strategic threat to the United States....

"Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan…. 


brave_new_war_md"As al Qaeda has fled Afghanistan, the overall political goal for the United States in the country has evolved to include the creation of a democratic and uncorrupt Afghanistan. It is not clear that anyone knows how to do this, particularly given that most Afghans consider the ruling government of President Hamid Karzai — with which the United States is allied — as the heart of the corruption problem, and beyond Kabul most Afghans do not regard their way of making political and social arrangements to be corrupt."

I would go much farther than George.  Because I have no doubt that the principal goal that Osama bin Laden had in mind, in perpetrating the crimes of 9/11, was to lure America into an extended, interminable quagmire of attrition in the "land where empires go to die."  While this may seem a bold statement that cannot be proved, it is consistent with three major facts:

1) American had to react.  It was predictable where we would have to strike.

2) Osama's salad days were spent humbling one superpower in the same mountains.

3) If you were a foe of the United States, you would study which past errors almost destroyed America.  Those two were Civil War and a land war of attrition in Asia.  (In fact, since 9/11, it appears we've been rapidly plunged into both.)

Where we surprised Osama was in the rapidly skillful way by which we allied with local enemies of the Taliban and crushed Osama's allies, in days.  Had we shown the in-and-out agility that we demonstrated in the Balkans Intervention - (and if we had chosen sane and sensible ways to eliminate Saddam Hussein, instead of doing everything there in all the worst possible ways) - America would now be seen as the toughest MF bastards around.  And we would be Three Trillion Dollars richer.

And if the Taliban re-established themselves after we left? Well, we could do it again. An enemy with actual assets, fixed locations an a nation to run is far more vulnerable than a guerilla force.

As George Friedman points out, the 9/11 attacks did not harm America at a deeply structural level. But our clumsy reaction to it has.

George goes on to suggest a solution: The Pakistanization of the War. Or allowing Afghanistan to fall into the Pakistani orbit, with them also taking on the burdens of dealing with the guerilla movements. But there are problems:

"The Taliban phenomenon has extended into Pakistan in ways that seriously complicate Pakistani efforts to regain their bearing in Afghanistan. It has created a major security problem for Islamabad, which, coupled with the severe deterioration of the country’s economy and now the floods, has weakened the Pakistanis’ ability to manage Afghanistan. In other words, the moment that the Pakistanis have been waiting for — American agreement and support for the Pakistanization of the war — has come at a time when the Pakistanis are not in an ideal position to capitalize on it."


Still, he foresees Pakistan brokering a peace deal... like the Paris Talks that ended the Vietnam War.  Here I think he is making up a bit of a story.  If this actually happens, I'll buy him a dinner.

=== The Faux Equivalence ===


One of the tricks mastered by the Murdochs (envision the Morlochs of HG Wells's The Time Machine!) is to create an impression of false equivalence.  We are seeing this here in California.  Every time GOP gubernatorial nominee Meg Whitman is accused of favoring never-ending tax largesse for the uber-rich, she responds by calling her opponent, former governor Jerry Brown, of being in the clutches of Big Unions.

It frustrates me that she is never given the ultimate rebuttal. "Even if this is true, the unions have been plummetting in power, for decades, while the super-rich have been skyrocketing. So which should we fear?"  What social force, in fact, did nearly ALL of our ancestors fear? What group ever came close to oppressing liberty, open competition, social mobility or free markets, more than oligarchy?  Whether they called themselves feudal lords or commie nomenklatura, or captains of the crony-CEO caste?

We older folk grew up in an America with the flattest social strata (for white males) in the history of the world, yet that did not prevent a vibrant capitalism!  In contrast, over the last two decades, the fraction of the total national income going to the top 1% doubled; the fraction going to the top one tenth of a percent tripled; the fraction going to the top 1% of 1% quadrupled - and capitalism is floundering. Can anybody parse cause and effect here?

 Do the Murdochs actually believe they can prevent the chivvied and harassed and cornered middle class from noticing this trend... forever?  How about when this disparity doubles? And doubles again? And again?  Is there a limit where the oligarchs will conceivably say "enough"?  Any limit at all?

 History doubts it.  Insatiable oligarchies are unable to stop, even in their own long term self-interest.  But don't take my word for it.  Pick a random decade and continent. Try reading history.

=== The Lords of Discipline ===


I wrote to my cousin, a speechwriter in the White House, with this suggestion:

Express  grudging (and ironic) admiration for how UNIFORM and DISCIPLINED the Republicans are, hewing absolutely to a rigid party line. In sharp contrast to the democrats' perpetual disorganization. (Many recall the 1930s humorist Will Rogers said: "I'm not a member of an organized political party -- I'm a democrat.")

Heck, this portrays democrats in a way most people find endearing! (Or at least unthreatening.) As eager, well-meaning, a bit scatterbrained and unable to be tyrants, even if they wanted to.  Meanwhile, the image of a tightly disciplined, collectively lockstep-obedient party on the other side is one that most Americans find instinctively chilling.

Note, all of this can be conveyed, without actually dissing anyone openly! Indeed, by praising (in ironic tones) the other side's discipline, you never have to mention other parties that were known for their discipline (e.g.fascists or communists).  Your tone can be amiable and tongue-in-cheek envious!  But the message will get across.

=== And Tidbits ===

With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now employs every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office. With Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee all making moves indicating they may run for president, their common employer is facing a question that hasn’t been asked before: How does a news organization cover White House hopefuls when so many are on the payroll?  (C-SPAN Political Editor Steve Scully said that when C-SPAN tried to have Palin on for an interview, he was told he had to first get Fox’s permission — which the network, citing her contract, ultimately denied. Producers at NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC all report similar experiences.)

I mean, what on Earth would some Bizarro Anti-Fox make of such suspicious goings-on?  Okay, there's MSNBC. But their viewers tend to be the wishy-washy types who THINK about attending Jon Stewart's Rally To Restore Sanity... and who shrug aside conspiracy theories (and probably don't wind up going, after all!) So don't say "MSNBC" at me.

For example: Why is Rupert Murdoch buying and promoting games made by the despotic government of North Korea? Dang!

Meanwhile, those darned academics and scientists are at it again:   "In this paper, we use the Moody’s Analytics model of the U.S. economy—adjusted to accommodate some recent financial-market policies—to simulate the macroeconomic effects of the government’s total policy response. We find that its effects on real GDP, jobs, and inflation are huge, and probably averted what could have been called Great Depression 2.0. For example, we estimate that, without the government’s response, GDP in 2010 would be about 11.5% lower, payroll employment would be less by some 8 million jobs, and the nation would now be experiencing deflation."

It would be an interesting item worthy of cautious consideration and engagement in the politics of the day.  If today's politics had anything, whatsoever, to do with evidence, or even intelligent speculation.

=== and finally... ===


Kent Pitman writes: "There was discussion just this evening by someone on MSNBC about the fact (I think they said it was a fact—I think the alluded to some study or another—but what do I know?) that there is lately a trend toward people admiring people who don’t compromise. But that the trend is biased, with more republicans admiring this than democrats. Then they noted that if you get a bunch of compromisers together with a bunch of non-compromisers, it’s little wonder things drift in the direction of the non-compromisers. Alas. What a dilemma—to become stubborn as a self-defense against being rolled over?"

I don't think it is fundamentally about "compromise." The root is deeper... it is addiction. I have been trying to draw attention to this matter for years.  I even was invited to speak about it at the National Institutes on Drugs and Addiction. See my paper: An Open Letter to Researchers of Addiction, Brain Chemistry, and Social Psychology.

I believe the most powerful act of social politics that could take place, today, would be to scientifically verify and publicize the fact that self-righteous indignation is as powerful a self-doped addictive state as gambling, thrill-seeking or rage.   And much of our culture war would start to dissipate, if the indignantly outraged were viewed the way we do the pitiable (and contemptible) people who wallow in heroin and cocaine.

THIS is what Obama should be saying, right now.  It should be shouted at Jon Stewart's rally.  And I would be happy to do so, in tones of ringing (if ironic) righteousness.

102 comments:

David Brin said...

Blue-hoo america
http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/110890/americas-smartest-cities?mod=career-worklife_balance

Robert said...

And something to amuse people who don't mind Star Wars parodies... How Star Wars should have ended (animated). You know, the scene of Vader and Luke makes sense. Especially when you consider what Vader can do with the Force. Of course, I suspect Lucas might think otherwise... but his whole "reimagining" of Star Wars (and Han not shooting first) leaves something to be desired.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Jonathan S. said...

So, I see there's going to be a satellite rally in Seattle. Might have to try to make it there. (Too bad it's not even closer, but I doubt there are that many people at Comedy Central who are even aware Tacoma exists - I suppose I should be grateful for Seattle...)

Would it be appropriate to steal a moment from the movie PCU, and get a bunch of people to shout in unison, "WE'RE NOT GONNA PROTEST!!"?

shroc: that state of mind induced when one's toddler insists on watching Shrek again.

David Brin said...

heh!

BTW... see when THE PEOPLE VS GEORGE LUCAS has a showing in your city.

Rob Perkins said...

Well, as long as we're on politics, Blue Cross just sent me a notice today to inform me that my insurance costs will double on 1 January 2011. They imply that the fault is the PPACA. Mostly, the increases in price come from counting each minor child as an individual premium, rather than setting a "family" premium as they've long done before.

And, oh yeah, the benefits are going down again. It hasn't escaped my notice that they told me about this a month and a week before election day.

Robert said...

And yet I'm willing to lay money down on a bet that if "Obamacare" were to be repealed, we would not see insurance rates go down significantly, if at all. And they would state that "Obamacare" damaged them so badly that they could NOT lower their rates, even with the bill repealed.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Shades of 'Tank Farm Dynamo':

Be-e-er in spa-a-ace

Tim H. said...

The current "newtoon" at derfcity.com describes the political situation well:
http://derfcity.com/newstuff/newtoon.html

Robert said...

And glancing at politics... we have a glimpse of light among dark stormy clouds. Angry Voters are statistically no more likely to vote than regular voters. (There's a 3% difference in them, and "angry voters" are only around 29% of the voting population.)

While we'll likely see losses in November... we're not likely to see the Republicans get control of the House and Senate. In fact, if Democrats start working on "get out the vote" efforts, they could minimize their losses.

I do wonder one thing. If Republicans do not gain control of the House and Senate, will they go for another two years as the Party of No? Will they try to block everything Democrats do? And if they go this route, will it be political suicide in 2012 for the Republican Party?

Rob H.

David Brin said...

If you guys plan to help get out the vote... and to urge others to help too... then do NOT get suckered into working for your local candidate who has either a safe seat or a hopeless one. Find a nearby tight race, drop in and offer to make calls on election day.

soc said...

@Brin
"I have no doubt that the principal goal that Osama bin Laden had in mind, in perpetrating the crimes of 9/11, was to lure America into an extended, interminable quagmire of attrition in the "land where empires go to die." "

Actually, al Qaeda made this goal quite explicit in a document published in the nineties. For the life of me I can’t remember its’ name, but it was allegedly penned by bin Laden’s number two. In it, al Qaeda states its’ goals then concludes that it has been largely unsuccessful in achieving them.

Al Qaeda’s main goal is the overthrow of all Muslim governments which it characterizes as corrupt and despotic. Most Muslims agree with this characterization. However, despite this agreement Muslims did not rally in large numbers to al Qaeda’s cause in the nineties. Probably because they realized that while their current rulers were bad, al Qaeda was unlikely to be any better, if not worse. Consequently, al Qaeda’s immediate goal had to be to rectify this. It had to find some way to galvanize the Muslim populations across the Islamic world into overthrowing their governments. There was already plenty of latent anger among the Muslim masses against the status quo, the trick was to harness that anger and unleash a wave of revolutions from North Africa to the Far East, bringing al Qaeda to power, and with it, the restoration of the Caliphate.

Then an idea occurred: the Great Satan could help. The idea for 9/11 originated with the American response to the bombings of its’ embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. After that attack, American bombs crashed into Sudan and Afghanistan. The death toll in the Sudan was estimated at the time as being around 1000, a number expected to rise after the bombing of a pharmaceutical plant denied the locals much needed medicine. The Americans claimed it was producing chemical weapons.

This response made one thing clear. Any attack on the US would be met with an American response many orders of magnitude more devastating. Al Qaeda figured that for every American they killed the Americans will kill ten, maybe twenty, Muslims. So, what if al Qaeda were to attack the US directly, instead of attacking embassies or tourists? What if it killed not five or ten or fifteen Americans, but killed Americans in the thousands? What then?

Well, then America would probably roar into the Muslim world in a blind fury to exact revenge. The American attack would be many times more brutal than the initial attack against it, as is the conventional practice, and may even be directed against several countries at once.

Muslims around the world would watch in horror as their brothers and sisters were slaughtered in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, by the American war machine. No Muslim government would be able to stop the attacks and invasions. No Muslim government would be able to protect it’s own people. All the rulers would be seen as weak and incompetent, or traitors, since some of them are American allies and host American bases.

Muslim rage would boil over. The people would take to the streets in unprecedented numbers to confront their rulers. The governments would be unable to contain the anger on the streets. Soldiers and police would eventually turn on their superiors and the regimes would come crashing down. The revolutions that al Qaeda wanted will have become a reality. Thanks to Uncle Sam.

Then the guerrilla war against the American presence in several Muslims countries would commence. These would be long, drawn out affairs; wars of attrition of the kind that exhausted the Soviet Union till it collapsed and now will bleed the US dry. Eventually, the Americans would return home, a shell of their former selves. The business of rebuilding the Caliphate would begin, and with it, the restoration of Muslim greatness.

…Well, that’s the theory.

We all know what actually happened. :-)

Robert said...

Looking back out to the stars for a brief moment, I recently read through another news article on the "massive layoffs" of aerospace workers who lost their jobs due to the retirement of the Space Shuttle. It got me thinking (in-between jumping out of my skin when a bloody rat or damn-huge mouse (do mice grow to be over four inches in length? Not including tail?) ran in front of me in the house - time for some D-Con I think, especially as mouse traps don't work well on critters THAT big) on what path is the best one suited for going to FEO and beyond.

In short, do we want to utilize existing technology and modify it for a heavy-lift rocket? Or do we want NASA to build something from the ground up with the newest technologies? (Or should we say "heck with it" and finance SpaceX to rapid-develop their Falcon X and superheavy lift rocket, and subcontract with them since they already have a heavy lift system on the drawing board?)

We also need to consider the next generation systems. We need to move beyond rockets to get into space. Traditional space elevators won't work unless we manage to stumble across some super-material that has a significantly higher material strength than even carbon nanotubes, but on a large scale. So it seems a skyhook system or some form of railgun launch system is our best bet; at least, for getting non-living materials into space.

And that also means developing a new infrastructure. The existing aerospace infrastructure won't work with new methods of going to space. This is an opportunity for smaller industries to shine; if only the politicians let them.

Rob H.

atomicsmith said...

Dr. Brin, before you go off to England for the SETI gathering, you might want to look at the excellent short story (if you haven't already): Three Worlds Collide, by Eliezer Yudkowsky (author of the brilliant Harry Potter and the Method of Rationality).

Even if aliens are 100% altruistic, their altruism might be what dooms us! (I don't know if you'll be bringing up METI at the meeting, but it's a great read anyway.)

Gilmoure said...

Robert Reich has an economic reason for wealth distribution in the U.S.

The rich spend a much smaller proportion of their incomes than the rest of us. So when they get a disproportionate share of total income, the economy is robbed of the demand it needs to keep growing and creating jobs.

What’s more, the rich don’t necessarily invest their earnings and savings in the American economy; they send them anywhere around the globe where they’ll summon the highest returns — sometimes that’s here, but often it’s the Cayman Islands, China or elsewhere. The rich also put their money into assets most likely to attract other big investors (commodities, stocks, dot-coms or real estate), which can become wildly inflated as a result.

THE Great Depression and its aftermath demonstrate that there is only one way back to full recovery: through more widely shared prosperity. In the 1930s, the American economy was completely restructured. New Deal measures — Social Security, a 40-hour work week with time-and-a-half overtime, unemployment insurance, the right to form unions and bargain collectively, the minimum wage — leveled the playing field.


Meanwhile, Rick Bookstaber says technological diversions are going to sidetrack middle/lower class consumption so the entire idea of wealth distribution isn't likely to have any lasting effects.

what if the portion of income that goes toward consumption starts to go lower even as we move down the income ladder. That is, what if those at lower and lower income levels find they don’t need to spend as much of their income on consumption as they have in the past? I think this is what could happen if the current technology-driven trend of how people spend their time continues.

I wrote a post a few months ago, The Accidental Egalitarian, which made the point that with the increased focus on technology – where we spend more and more of our time on our cell phone, doing emails, watching DVDs and generally surfing the web – there is less of a difference between how the super rich and the reasonably well off spend their time hour by hour during their typical days. The point of that post was that in practical term the income gap is not as large as it might seem; that several orders of magnitude differences in income don’t make all that much difference in what these people do with their time. The point here is the corollary: those activities do not require much income.

If this trend continues, a redistribution of income will not spur the increase in spending that Reich suggests.

Trend 2: Diminishing Labor in Production
Let’s also say that the production to feed our demand can be developed with little labor input. This is already happening, not only because of improvements in production efficiency, but also because the sorts of things we want to consume are particularly well suited to capital-intensive production.

Suppose most of what we want to buy ends up being produced in factories run with robots, and maintained and operated by five or six engineers. (That doesn’t really have to be what is going on. It could be that the factory owner just says it is using robots, and is really employing five hundred workers in some third world country each making a few dollars a day. It will still seem to be the same, domestic labor demand will be lower even if we manage to push consumption up).

As this trend progresses, income redistribution will have a limited effect on increased employment because there will not be that many more jobs to be had.

Gilmoure said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gilmoure said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan Jones said...

This will almost certainly get yanked from YouTube, so watch it while you can:

Right Wing Radio Duck

Anonymous said...

I recommend "A Woman Among Warlords" by Malalai Joya for a look at the Afghanistan War by a memeber of the country.

Jon

Anonymous said...

Ack, I forgot to put in the last post, I've also recently finished "Securing the City" by Christopher Dickey. It shows how the NYPD had to reinvent a good chunk of itself as a counter-terrorist force without much in the way of a road map.

It describes how much the FBI, CIA and NYPD fought each other rather than terrorists at first, how the NYPD got the info it needed (by hook, by crook, and by stepping on toes) how counter-terrorism actually works at the groud level, rathar than how people think it works (informants instead of "enhanced interrogations"-torture) and how what really works against terrorists insn't the "invade and draw resentment" model, but the Enlightenment values the author of this blog champions. The NYPD had a bunch of fluent speakers of foreign languages-ex-natives who knew the culture inside and out-while the CIA and FBI had very few, and barely competent ones at that. The NYPD just reached out to its large supply of foreign born officers, while the FBI and CIA were locked into a Cold War mentality that kept them too paranoid to hire anyone who could have helped them. Plus the immigrant communities in New York (and across the nation) were the first to hear from-and inform on, and turn in-the members of the community who became radicalized and tried to recruit others. resilency vs. preparedness.

Jon

rewinn said...

@Stefan - thanks 4 the link; it's a nice example of how politics can be explained in a humorous way, with a bit of work. Of course, it helps if the politics are absurd to begin with.

@anon - thanks for the reading suggestions; I'll add them to the list. Rory Stewart's "The Places In Between" should be required reading for anyone attempting to express an opinion on Afghanistan (his account of governing an Iraqi province for the CPA, The Prince of the Marshes is also worth your time.

I've

How to seduce a woman said...

Wow Impressive! Your blog is very informative. However, it is pretty hard task but your post and experience serve and teach me how to handle and make it more simple and manageable.Thanks for the tips… Best regards.

Patricia Mathews said...

You suggested pouring energy into the close races - in other words, triage your activity. Here in New Mexico, my local representative is pretty much a shoo-in, according to 538. The only close race is the one for governor, and it's been nothing but a mid-slinging catfight from beginning to end. I'll hold my nose and vote for the one whose party principles are closest to mine, but put more energy into the hair pulling and bitch slapping? No thanks, even though I tend to blame the candidates' handlers rather than the candidates.

Gilmoure said...

Ack! Sorry about triple long posts. Blogger kept saying error: too long so I kept cutting down post and trying again. If host could clean up after me...

Tony Fisk said...

Gilmoure, you should be able to clean up after yourself.

Go and have a look at your postings (possibly in comment mode) and you should see a dustbin icon underneath them (assuming you are logged in). Click on it to remove your unwanted comments.

Patricia, if it's the handlers who are being shrill you could try going in and 'turn it down a notch'. Sounds like you might need a pair of old overalls, though.

Gilmoure said...

Thanks Tony. Never notice that little icon before. Sweet!

Gilmoure said...

@ Patricia: Yeah, another New Mexican here. After all the work I did in 2008, I don't have any energy or drive left this year.

rewinn said...

"... After all the work I did in 2008, I don't have any energy or drive left this year."

I hear this a lot. It's unfortunate that, for too many people, participating in governing our nation is an energy sink instead of an energy source.

Surely there's a better way!

Jacob said...

I'd love to hear ideas on this. I feel that most of the energy used on campaigning is wasteful. Mind you, I'm still volunteering. But what I want to do is an Age of Amateurs meets Think Tank. How can I engage locals in a way that might change them (and me) fundamentally?

Tony Fisk said...

I may be paranoid, but 'energy sink' sounds like some vested interests are stone walling.

Naive suggestion from someone who hasn't a clue how elections are run in the States: identify the source of your energy sink, and route around it.

Tacitus2 said...

As the money going into political races continues to, alas, ever increase it is an interesting question just how much of it is wasted...

Personally, I watch very little TV. When I get robocalls I hang up before I hear which race/candidate it touts or trashes.

I do see yard signs (I walk quite a bit for exercize). btw, of the candidates running for anything over the city council level I would note that 2 out of roughly 12locally even put their party affiliation on the sign!

I am "off the grid" with respect to texting, twitter, etc. I read the paper and websites across the political spectrum.

I do appreciate when campaigners, or better yet, candidates show up at my door.

So with respect to my vote, what are they spending all them bucks on?

Tacitus2

Tony Fisk said...

Bounding out of the quagmire of despond for a moment:

Scientists discover a second way of forming memories

Anonymous said...

Hi, David Brin Posting anonymously from Milton Keynes, near London, at an old manor the Royal Society has refurbished as a conference center... this one including a rather vigorous debate over who/how/what should control discussions of whether to transmit "messages" into space.

The seti institute has become a very narrow group that jealously holds on to control over most discussions of these matters. A bizarre situation. But the accompanying sophistries are unforgivable.

Worst of all, yesterday I heard a relentless spew of contemptuous disdain for science fiction, the root literature that gave these people absolutely everything. The compulsively frenetic degree to which this bile was sprayed was simply beyond belief and beyond bearing.

It truly is a cult, I am afraid. There are some good people and as individuals, from moment to moment, they may be doing some useful things. But the cultlike aspects are getting stronger and stronger, every year.

alas.

-----

Atomic I have read Three Worlds collide. Yudkowsky can be brilliant - the concept here is expanded in great detail, some ideas I've written of elsewhere. Very much related to the First Contact thought experiment lit that -- dig this -- nearly all the SETI people are proudly ignorant of!

I have found Yudkowsky snappish and personally difficult - so do most people. But I am proud and glad he is in this civilization, fighting for it and for the values of the enlightenment, in superbly entertaining ways.

Gilmoure read Kurt Vonnegut's 1st novel and most classically science fictional - PLAYER PIANO. Like BRAVE NEW WORLD it is rapidly becoming more relevant.

Tim H. said...

Would it be productive to remind the SETI folks that their attitude plays into the hands (Tentacles?) of faux news?

Stuart said...

Not that I agree, but I think I see where the SETI people are coming from. I think they're afraid laypeople will view their work as "the stuff of science fiction*," so they preempt that idea by denying science fiction's value.

* Meaning George Lucas, not Arthur C. Clarke.

Ilithi Dragon said...

So, you know the joke/rhetoric about privatizing fire departments that is often thrown at conservatives or libertarians who are particularly anti-government, anti-socialism/communism, and/or pro-privatization? Here's a real-life example: For-pay fire department lets man's house burn.

On SETI, I think Stuart is spot-on for one of the major reasons behind the SETI anti-science fiction mindset. I would say it applies to association with science fiction as a whole, though, not just Lucasian science fiction, because of lingering stigmas in the mainstream, and in people's beliefs of what is acceptable in the mainstream, against anything that could associate one with geekiness/nerdiness (which is at least partly ironic, because the level of acceptance of traditional geek/nerd topics and genres, and even of geekiness and nerdiness, in the mainstream is much higher than hold-over impressions and stigmas imply).

The other aspect, I suspect, is their own self-superiority. They are dealing with reality, and don't have time for the fanciful imaginings of fiction, which are obviously all ludicrous fantasy that have no bearing on reality. /sarcasm

Jumper said...

Two wiki articles make interesting reading: One on "Pashtunistan" and the second on the Soviet invasion / occupation of Afghanistan.

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

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

rewinn said...

@Jacob & @Tony - your comments on the energy sink of politics seem sound. It seems to me that activities that give you energy and enthusiasm, that are in a word "fun", are more likely to be continued than are those that simply suck up your limited time and energy. Unfortunately most political campaigns seems to consist of not-fun.

"Fun" does not need to be "trivial" or disorganized. As Raph Koster ("A Theory of Fun for Game Design") puts it: "Fun Arises Out Of Mastery Of A Challenge". People like challenges that are difficult but within their capacity to solve. Think of the enormous energy, creativity,organization and smarts that go into WoW guilds; imagine channelling a fraction of that into reality!

How to do it - that's the rub.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

As the money going into political races continues to, alas, ever increase it is an interesting question just how much of it is wasted...

Personally, I watch very little TV. When I get robocalls I hang up before I hear which race/candidate it touts or trashes.


I've wondered about that myself...just whose minds are actually CHANGED by an ad or a robocall?

I suppose it might matter in a tight local race where the candidates aren't well known. But would an Obama supporter really vote for McCain (or vice versa) because of something the other guy's campaign says in an ad?

Personally, I can't imagine being swayed by advertising at all

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Gilmoure read Kurt Vonnegut's 1st novel and most classically science fictional - PLAYER PIANO. Like BRAVE NEW WORLD it is rapidly becoming more relevant.


I didn't like that one very much when I first read it at age 20. I've identified with it increasingly on each subsequent read.

And as mentioned previously, this was my first read of Asimov's "Foundation" where the fall of the Empire seemed torn from today's headlines.

Hank Roberts said...

Bloomberg link for Murdoch/North Korea comes up 404; the site search there finds that and an update:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-09-06/kim-jong-il-bowls-for-murdoch-dollars-with-video-games-made-in-north-korea.html

rewinn said...

"...the fall of the Empire seemed torn from today's headlines...."

IMO the corruption of the Foundation by the Merchant Princes into a totalitarian state may be even more more pertinent.

Tony Fisk said...

"Fun Arises Out Of Mastery Of A Challenge"

@rewinn, you might be interested in seeing what happens in Gameful (as I am). Jane McGonigal is serious about play.

Just in from the 350 front: the Whitehouse has agreed to put solar panels back on the First Family residence.

So, whach y'all doin' 10/10/10? I must confess I'm not sure myself.

rinkers: people who hang around at the edges of something.

Anonymous said...

Is that 42?

brin from uk... now 60.

yuk

Tony Fisk said...

Is what 42?

You've probably heard HAL's line for this occasion enough times already.

Cheer up. At least you can still say 'Yes', and 'No', and 'Can I have a beer, please?'

testic: a worrying side effect of telomere erosion.

Oh, and happy birthday.

Tony Fisk said...

Suggested reading material for the occasion...

Ilithi Dragon said...

Doc, if it's any consolation, I wouldn't have guessed that by your appearance. In fact, I thought you were in your mid-forties for a while...

Robert said...

And to go off on a science-tangent again, here's an article on how the Sun is slowly peeling away Mars' atmosphere. Without terraforming efforts, it's likely in another billion years Mars will have as little atmosphere as our own Moon. Scientists are still divided on if asteroid impacts are to blame or if the loss of Mars' magnetosphere is the culprit; this is suggestive though that if we do terraform Mars eventually, we'll need to keep replenishing the atmosphere... or smack Mars with a large enough asteroid that it liquifies a bit of the planet and allow for a liquid core to restart a natural magnetosphere. Though that would then mean it would take thousands of years before Mars cooled enough to be livable. Long term planning vs. short term gain.

Hmm. Sounds like the idea for a science fiction story!

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Here's a point for citizen action: Kidnapped Californian girl saved by regular citizen who heard amber alert.

Elisa Cardenas was playing with friends outside her house in Fresno, Calif. early Monday evening, when police say Gregorio Gonzales tried to lure the girls into a pickup truck.

The children ran, but Gonzales allegedly grabbed Elisa and sped away. Her mother chased after the truck, but it was too late.

"Please, whoever has her daughter to bring her back," said a translator on her behalf. "All she wants is her daughter back home."

A statewide Amber Alert was issued, and more than 100 officers immediately went on the hunt, searching for the truck, which was captured on surveillance video at a nearby intersection.

Then, early this morning, a man named Victor Perez spotted the truck. He jumped into his car and began following it. When he saw Elisa's head in the window, he acted boldly.

Robert said...

They're at it again... latest e-mail going through the paces is that Obama has canceled the [Christian] Day of Prayer and replaced it with the Muslim Day of Prayer. If you do have someone e-mail it to you, please direct them to this URL: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/prayerday.asp

And then quote this Commandment (from the 10 Commandments) at them: You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. The Protestant interpretation of this is: Requires the maintaining and promoting of truth between people, and of our neighbor’s good name and our own, especially in witness-bearing; Forbids whatsoever is prejudicial to truth, or injurious to our own, or our neighbor’s, good name.

This leaves these individuals one of two options: either to be hypocrites against their religion, or to back down and admit that they were wrong. Admittedly many will take the path of hypocrisy, but we should give them the rope needed to hang themselves.

Rob H., feeling especially vehement today as the person who sent this to him is normally not that stupid

Ilithi Dragon said...

Rob,

I've only ever gotten those on my work email, and my co-workers have stopped sending me then ever since I mass-replied to that one list of BS horror stories about Obama early last year, debunking all 10 or 12 points with cited references... So I doubt I'll ever see that particular email, but I may send out email warnings about it...

Michael Haas said...

AMERICA’S WAR CRIMES QUAGMIRE, FROM BUSH TO OBAMA

Michael Haas’s "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" was published a few days before Barack Obama took the oath of office. Torture, murder, illegal war, the slaughter of thousands of innocents, abuse of child prisoners—these are only a few of 269 war crimes committed during the Bush administration, which rolled over to the Obama administration on January 20, 2009, to haunt his presidency. The book has the distinction of having inspired a protest in front of the New York Times building because the venerable newspaper refused to publish a review soon after its release.

Although President Obama signed executive orders to stop torture and close Guantánamo, the war crimes have continued virtually unabated ever since. Indeed, the Times Square bomber specifically cited American war crimes as the reason for his action on May 1, 2010.

Newly published "America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama" identifies how the war crimes of the Bush administration have continued to be documented by the press while politicians and pundits have withheld criticisms. The book consists of forty-seven essays that were originally blogs on the website www.USwarcrimes.com. Essays are edited appropriately, with occasional postscripts to bring the narrative up to date.

America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama concludes that war crimes continue because American leaders have only focused on torture, thereby allowing thousands of victims of more than two hundred other war crimes to suffer. Instead, the term “war crimes” is taboo in the United States. And although some Americans have called for prosecution of war criminals, cries from overseas victims have been muffled. Yet the rest of the world, in contrast, is fully aware of American lawlessness.

The book also identifies how the Georgian republic, Russia, and other countries have copied American post-9/11 war crimes. As a result, there is a new era of international barbarism that serves to aid anti-American terrorist recruitment while repudiating the advances achieved in humanizing warfare by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, by the Red Cross, at the Hague Conventions, at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and by the Geneva Conventions.

The author, Michael Haas, is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his work on behalf of human rights. An academic political scientist, he has taught at Northwestern University, Loyola Marymount University, Occidental College, Purdue University, Stanford University, the University of California (Riverside), the University of Hawai‘i, the University of London, and six campuses of California State University, most recently California Polytechnic University (Pomona).

Michael Haas said...

NEW BOOK!
AMERICA’S WAR CRIMES QUAGMIRE, FROM BUSH TO OBAMA

Michael Haas’s "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" was published a few days before Barack Obama took the oath of office. Torture, murder, illegal war, the slaughter of thousands of innocents, abuse of child prisoners—these are only a few of 269 war crimes committed during the Bush administration, which rolled over to the Obama administration on January 20, 2009, to haunt his presidency. The book has the distinction of having inspired a protest in front of the New York Times building because the venerable newspaper refused to publish a review soon after its release.

Although President Obama signed executive orders to stop torture and close Guantánamo, the war crimes have continued virtually unabated ever since. Indeed, the Times Square bomber specifically cited American war crimes as the reason for his action on May 1, 2010.

Newly published America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama identifies how the war crimes of the Bush administration have continued to be documented by the press while politicians and pundits have withheld criticisms. The book consists of forty-seven essays that were originally blogs on the website www.USwarcrimes.com. Essays are edited appropriately, with occasional postscripts to bring the narrative up to date.

America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama concludes that war crimes continue because American leaders have only focused on torture, thereby allowing thousands of victims of more than two hundred other war crimes to suffer. Instead, the term “war crimes” is taboo in the United States. And although some Americans have called for prosecution of war criminals, cries from overseas victims have been muffled. Yet the rest of the world, in contrast, is fully aware of American lawlessness.

The book also identifies how the Georgian republic, Russia, and other countries have copied American post-9/11 war crimes. As a result, there is a new era of international barbarism that serves to aid anti-American terrorist recruitment while repudiating the advances achieved in humanizing warfare by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, by the Red Cross, at the Hague Conventions, at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and by the Geneva Conventions.

The author, Michael Haas, is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his work on behalf of human rights. An academic political scientist, he has taught at Northwestern University, Loyola Marymount University, Occidental College, Purdue University, Stanford University, the University of California (Riverside), the University of Hawai‘i, the University of London, and six campuses of California State University, most recently California Polytechnic University (Pomona).

The 278-page book is available from the Publishinghouse for Scholars (P.O. Box 461267, Los Angeles, CA 90046) for $25 (including postage and handling) per domestic copy and $30 for international purchase payable to “Publishinghouse for Scholars.” The book has an extensive set of references, and a comprehensive index. The index contains page numbers that apply to each war crime cited in the book. The 2009 hard-cover book "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" (published by Praeger) can also be purchased with a simple mouse-click on the website www.USwarcrimes.com with a PayPal payment option.

Michael Haas said...

NEW BOOK!
AMERICA’S WAR CRIMES QUAGMIRE, FROM BUSH TO OBAMA

Michael Haas’s "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" was published a few days before Barack Obama took the oath of office. Torture, murder, illegal war, the slaughter of thousands of innocents, abuse of child prisoners—these are only a few of 269 war crimes committed during the Bush administration, which rolled over to the Obama administration on January 20, 2009, to haunt his presidency. The book has the distinction of having inspired a protest in front of the New York Times building because the venerable newspaper refused to publish a review soon after its release.

Although President Obama signed executive orders to stop torture and close Guantánamo, the war crimes have continued virtually unabated ever since. Indeed, the Times Square bomber specifically cited American war crimes as the reason for his action on May 1, 2010.

Newly published America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama identifies how the war crimes of the Bush administration have continued to be documented by the press while politicians and pundits have withheld criticisms. The book consists of forty-seven essays that were originally blogs on the website www.USwarcrimes.com. Essays are edited appropriately, with occasional postscripts to bring the narrative up to date.

America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama concludes that war crimes continue because American leaders have only focused on torture, thereby allowing thousands of victims of more than two hundred other war crimes to suffer. Instead, the term “war crimes” is taboo in the United States. And although some Americans have called for prosecution of war criminals, cries from overseas victims have been muffled. Yet the rest of the world, in contrast, is fully aware of American lawlessness.

The book also identifies how the Georgian republic, Russia, and other countries have copied American post-9/11 war crimes. As a result, there is a new era of international barbarism that serves to aid anti-American terrorist recruitment while repudiating the advances achieved in humanizing warfare by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, by the Red Cross, at the Hague Conventions, at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and by the Geneva Conventions.

The author, Michael Haas, is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his work on behalf of human rights. An academic political scientist, he has taught at Northwestern University, Loyola Marymount University, Occidental College, Purdue University, Stanford University, the University of California (Riverside), the University of Hawai‘i, the University of London, and six campuses of California State University, most recently California Polytechnic University (Pomona).

The 278-page book is available from the Publishinghouse for Scholars (P.O. Box 461267, Los Angeles, CA 90046) for $25 (including postage and handling) per domestic copy and $30 for international purchase payable to “Publishinghouse for Scholars.” The book has an extensive set of references, and a comprehensive index. The index contains page numbers that apply to each war crime cited in the book. The 2009 hard-cover book "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" (published by Praeger) can also be purchased with a simple mouse-click on the website www.USwarcrimes.com with a PayPal payment option.

Michael Haas said...

NEW BOOK!
AMERICA’S WAR CRIMES QUAGMIRE, FROM BUSH TO OBAMA

Michael Haas’s "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" was published a few days before Barack Obama took the oath of office. Torture, murder, illegal war, the slaughter of thousands of innocents, abuse of child prisoners—these are only a few of 269 war crimes committed during the Bush administration, which rolled over to the Obama administration on January 20, 2009, to haunt his presidency. The book has the distinction of having inspired a protest in front of the New York Times building because the venerable newspaper refused to publish a review soon after its release.

Although President Obama signed executive orders to stop torture and close Guantánamo, the war crimes have continued virtually unabated ever since. Indeed, the Times Square bomber specifically cited American war crimes as the reason for his action on May 1, 2010.

Newly published America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama identifies how the war crimes of the Bush administration have continued to be documented by the press while politicians and pundits have withheld criticisms. The book consists of forty-seven essays that were originally blogs on the website www.USwarcrimes.com. Essays are edited appropriately, with occasional postscripts to bring the narrative up to date.

America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama concludes that war crimes continue because American leaders have only focused on torture, thereby allowing thousands of victims of more than two hundred other war crimes to suffer. Instead, the term “war crimes” is taboo in the United States. And although some Americans have called for prosecution of war criminals, cries from overseas victims have been muffled. Yet the rest of the world, in contrast, is fully aware of American lawlessness.

The book also identifies how the Georgian republic, Russia, and other countries have copied American post-9/11 war crimes. As a result, there is a new era of international barbarism that serves to aid anti-American terrorist recruitment while repudiating the advances achieved in humanizing warfare by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, by the Red Cross, at the Hague Conventions, at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and by the Geneva Conventions.

The author, Michael Haas, is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his work on behalf of human rights. An academic political scientist, he has taught at Northwestern University, Loyola Marymount University, Occidental College, Purdue University, Stanford University, the University of California (Riverside), the University of Hawai‘i, the University of London, and six campuses of California State University, most recently California Polytechnic University (Pomona).

The 278-page book is available from the Publishinghouse for Scholars (P.O. Box 461267, Los Angeles, CA 90046) for $25 (including postage and handling) per domestic copy and $30 for international purchase payable to “Publishinghouse for Scholars.” The book has an extensive set of references, and a comprehensive index. The index contains page numbers that apply to each war crime cited in the book. The 2009 hard-cover book "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" (published by Praeger) can also be purchased with a simple mouse-click on the website www.USwarcrimes.com with a PayPal payment option.

Michael Haas said...

NEW BOOK!
AMERICA’S WAR CRIMES QUAGMIRE, FROM BUSH TO OBAMA

Michael Haas’s "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" was published a few days before Barack Obama took the oath of office. Torture, murder, illegal war, the slaughter of thousands of innocents, abuse of child prisoners—these are only a few of 269 war crimes committed during the Bush administration, which rolled over to the Obama administration on January 20, 2009, to haunt his presidency. The book has the distinction of having inspired a protest in front of the New York Times building because the venerable newspaper refused to publish a review soon after its release.

Although President Obama signed executive orders to stop torture and close Guantánamo, the war crimes have continued virtually unabated ever since. Indeed, the Times Square bomber specifically cited American war crimes as the reason for his action on May 1, 2010.

Newly published America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama identifies how the war crimes of the Bush administration have continued to be documented by the press while politicians and pundits have withheld criticisms. The book consists of forty-seven essays that were originally blogs on the website www.USwarcrimes.com. Essays are edited appropriately, with occasional postscripts to bring the narrative up to date.

America’s War Crimes Quagmire, From Bush to Obama concludes that war crimes continue because American leaders have only focused on torture, thereby allowing thousands of victims of more than two hundred other war crimes to suffer. Instead, the term “war crimes” is taboo in the United States. And although some Americans have called for prosecution of war criminals, cries from overseas victims have been muffled. Yet the rest of the world, in contrast, is fully aware of American lawlessness.

The book also identifies how the Georgian republic, Russia, and other countries have copied American post-9/11 war crimes. As a result, there is a new era of international barbarism that serves to aid anti-American terrorist recruitment while repudiating the advances achieved in humanizing warfare by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, by the Red Cross, at the Hague Conventions, at the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials, and by the Geneva Conventions.

The author, Michael Haas, is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his work on behalf of human rights. An academic political scientist, he has taught at Northwestern University, Loyola Marymount University, Occidental College, Purdue University, Stanford University, the University of California (Riverside), the University of Hawai‘i, the University of London, and six campuses of California State University, most recently California Polytechnic University (Pomona).

The 278-page book is available from the Publishinghouse for Scholars (P.O. Box 461267, Los Angeles, CA 90046) for $25 (including postage and handling) per domestic copy and $30 for international purchase payable to “Publishinghouse for Scholars.” The book has an extensive set of references, and a comprehensive index. The index contains page numbers that apply to each war crime cited in the book. The 2009 hard-cover book "George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration’s Liability for 269 War Crimes" (published by Praeger) can also be purchased with a simple mouse-click on the website www.USwarcrimes.com with a PayPal payment option.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Isn't spamvertising a war crime?

Robert said...

I think the U.S. government actually sanctions the hunting and extermination of Spammers and Malware programmers. (Or at least, they should.) I could easily see serial killers gleefully getting a license and hunting down known Spammers legally under the law. It's a win-win situation, when you think of it - we give serial killers a constructive use of their talents, and they get an outlet for their homicidal tendencies.

Of course, the serial killers might find competition against the Spammers from vengeful Internet users who've had enough with the Spam. ^^;;

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Illithi:

So, you know the joke/rhetoric about privatizing fire departments that is often thrown at conservatives or libertarians who are particularly anti-government, anti-socialism/communism, and/or pro-privatization? Here's a real-life example:


http://thinkprogress.org/2010/10/04/county-firefighters-subscription/

That's a different link to the same general story.

Ouch! I wonder how viral this story is going to get. Conservative talkere seem to be in lockstep (big surprise, right?) about defending the county's actions in letting the house burn down, but I wonder how this plays with the general public, even (especially?) in the poorer areas of the Confederacy.

Seriously--do the Tea Partiers understand that THIS is the endgame of what they are fighting for? Essential services by subscription only? If they end up paying way more in "fees" than they used to in taxes, is that a good thing (for THEM, I mean)?

This sort of story just might highlight in a viceral way just what the GOP agenda is all about. It's an almost-exact metaphor for the health care debate, with the for-profit-only side not coming off in a good light. Or as someone on another blog said better than me, "Isn't the American middle-class burning, with the Republicans standing to the side watching it burn?"

Robert said...

It was on the evening news yesterday. At least, in New England. (Normally I don't watch television but I'm housesitting for my folks again and was hoping to catch the weather.) I suspect Libertarians would state "he got what he deserved" (despite the fact that town inhabitants are covered without paying a fee) and Tea Partiers wouldn't make a connection with their own beliefs.

I'm wondering: will we see a lawsuit? And if he wins (as I suspect he would unless the judge is a complete ass), will we see "fee-based public safety services" go the way of the dodo?

And one last thing: let's say, for instance, that the man in question had not gotten out of the mobile home in question. The home burned to the ground. If he died in there, is the fire department liable for involuntary manslaughter, seeing that they refused to help? Is the town itself?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

I suspect the Libertarians and Republicans can make a good legal case for not being liable? "What if someone died in there?" Well, he would have died anyway if there had BEEN no fire department, and that fire department only exists by virtue of the subscribers. "Are they liable for involuntary manslaugher?" No, because they never had to be there in the first place.

I'd ask more along the lines of "Is this really the kind of country we want to be?" We seem to be on the cusp of a decision as to whether we are a nation of individuals who give to the community only to the extent that something is in it for me, or are we a COMMUNITY in every sense of the word? That frames every social issue that the GOP has been slamming Democrats for. It's why "community organizer" seemed like such a good pejorative to them.

Tacitus2 said...

At work, so have not read the specifics.
But if you can step away from the obvious tragedy of anyone losing their home there are some legit questions here, and the way you answer says something about the underpinnings of your political thought.
The reason that houses in town are covered as a matter of course, and those outside are not, is logistics.
In town--close to fire department and to hydrants. Out of town, not so much.
To what extent does the decision of one person to live five miles out of town require other people to spend money for additional tanker trucks?
How about 20 miles out of town on top of a mountain? How about, say in North Dakota, 50 miles from the nearest town? At some point the citizen who opts to make a choice, like living in the boonies, assumes some risks. I can assure you, outcome of cardiac arrests is much different in urban areas vs. the sticks, to give another example. To somewhat equalize it would require investment in helicopters, radio systems, etc.
Libertarians might (although I won't speak for them) say, pay for what services you want. Guess wrong and tough luck.
Authoritarians would ban living more than five miles out of town.
Most conservatives I know would gripe and put the fire out anyway.
But to what extent is the community responsible for the unwise decisions of its less prudent members?
Tacitus2

LarryHart said...


...the way you answer says something about the underpinnings of your political thought.
...
But to what extent is the community responsible for the unwise decisions of its less prudent members?


I'm sure the way you READ my answer also says something.

I'm not so much jumping on the individual firemen for following the rules as pointing out that the rules were not well-designed for the real world situation.

One lone guy building a house in the middle of nowhere...yeah, he's on his own unless he can provide for his own service.

This was a COMMUNITY that had a system in place. There were neighbors around who WERE served by the fire department.

In MY perfect world, anyway, essential services like fire protection would be paid for by local taxes.

But even if I concede the essential economic rightness of the sink-or-swim position here, I still think that paying private companies to provide what used to be taxpayer benefits will end up costing MORE, but that the libertarian position is "taxes bad; fees for service good" even if the fees are higher and you have fewer rights with respect to your provider that way. Need I add that I think they are mistaken?

My point isn't that the private firemen were evil. My point is that this sort of story has the potential of changing minds in the people who hear it and think "There but for the grace of God go I." Conservative voters who nonetheless have a sense of COMMUNITY might well think twice about the implications here.

Jacob said...

The community (aka government) has no responsibilities what-so-ever, except those it commits to and takes resources (taxes) for. That community can choose to be miserly and only agree to cover 5 miles -or- it could choose to only allow taxes (committing resources) to effectively cover 5 miles. It could choose to be lazy (corrupt?) by contracting out the job to private business. This is all completely acceptable from an organizational standpoint.

My question is what kind of nation do the people of America want it to be? If we decide to go the private business route, will they stand by and watch as those unable to pay lose their homes to fire? If so, we would prove ourselves to be a selfish not a great nation (community). There will always be a point past which the price of expressing regard for our fellow American is simply too much. But how we come to the effective range of community services should be transparent discussion which pits morality vs practically.

LarryHart said...

Jacob, I'm not saying anything all that different from you.

There's an aspect of community that is related to sheer proximity. The fact that a private fire department might not venture fifty miles to save a lone wilderness house is (to me) a qualitatively different thing from them standing right there and refusing to do something good because them's the rules.

Where this becomes political for me is in the realm of corporate personhood. Laws governing human rights presume human beings to have (among other motivations) a conscience. Corporations, by design are (essentially) forbidden from having a conscience. Pretending that corprations have the same inalienable rights as human beings is not only a bizarre fiction, it's a dangerous one--one that leads to (for example) firemen who actually WANT to put out the fire being forbidden from doing so.

You ask "What kind of a country do we want to be?" and I totally agree that that is the question at hand. I liked the quote I read on a different blog that said "Isn't the American middle-class burning down, with the Republicans standing by and doing nothing?" A smart Democrat could make that a winning campaign slogan. Too bad "smart Democrat" seems to be an oxymoron.

Tony Fisk said...

The reason that houses in town are covered as a matter of course, and those outside are not, is logistics.

Another reason which you might appreciate in your line of work, Tacitus, is contagion. Fire spreads.

In a densely populated area, it makes overall sense to deal with outbreaks before others suffer. In a rural area it still makes sense because, unless you're in a desert, there's a lot of combustible fuel around (Mmmm! Prairie grass!)

Jacob said...

Hi Larry,

I wasn't intending to argue against either you or Tacitus. I was just trying to express my own feelings on proper social contracts.

I think the situation described reflects very poorly on the character those who denied aid unless their responsibilities (not greed) were preventing them somehow I'm not aware of.

Rob Perkins said...

Look into the history of fire prevention services, aka fire departments. The first ones positively *were* client-based, since insurance companies ran them, 'way back when in Germany where the idea was first hatched. In other words, fee for service.

People then figured out that it was a Bad Idea to do things that way, and adopted the property tax method of funding a centrally operated fire department.

(Information gleaned from the Fireman's Museum, or whatever it's called, in the Phoenix area. Google that and check it out.)

Robert said...

As I've been housesitting for my folks again I had occasion to watch PBS last night and got to watch the documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. It was quite the eye-opener... but what was truly disturbing about it was that as I watched it, I could see parallels happening once again in the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, and with the administrations of Bushes 1 and 2, Clinton, and Obama. I kind of wish we could sit down President Obama and have him watch this documentary... especially the part where Ellsberg tells Kissinger on how as you read more and more "top secret" reports that you get into the habit of not listening to people because "they don't know all the facts" (despite the fact that NO ONE knows "all the facts").

There was a half-hour discussion panel afterward with Ellsberg and several newspaper editors and the Wikileaks incident came up. Ellsberg actually doesn't think as highly about Wikileaks because he feels that amount of data was not effectively gone through to determine what was and was not of critical nature, whereas he HAD gone through the Pentagon Papers, as had the New York Times, and had determined it was not vital military intelligence.

------

On a slightly more positive note, it sounds like the Taliban and Afghanistan's government are in talks at the moment and that we may actually see the Afghanistan War winding down (though we'll likely see some truly intense fighting in the months ahead, much like events leading up to the ceasefire during the Korean War).

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

There is something of a parallel between the trailer house afire and the flawed health care reform laws.
At the present time I could make an excellent financial case for just dropping my health insurance. Its an independent policy, the kind that is going to go up the fastest in cost. Ditch it....just pay the chump change penalty.
Then, since I cannot be denied for any preexisting condition I could in theory have my insurance agent on speed dial and buy a policy when something goes badly wrong.
This is the equivalent of offering to buy that fire coverage while your house is buring.
I did read the article on this sad incident....it sounded like you could have an emergency reup fee of five hundred bucks. Why this was not allowed is not mentioned. And, when the homeowner says he "forgot" to pay the annual fee one does wonder if there is some additional history there.
I think the relatively high emergency fee would be a sensible component of the fire insurance system. Just as I would expect the health insurance policy I purchase while being loaded into the medivac copter might come at a premium price.
Dropping the penalty for non compliance with the individual mandate to trivial levels was not the first step to completely buggering the final legislation, but it was a big step to be sure.
Tacitus2

David Smelser said...

Isn't paying the fire service fees in advance like purchasing insurance? So that in the case that you have a fire, the services have been pre-paid. If this model is correct, then the fire department should have put out the fire and then sent him a bill for the full costs of putting out the fire.

Instead, what we got was the equivalent of showing up at the emergency room and the doctor refusing to treat you because you didn't purchase insurance.

Robert said...

I found this over at Pundit Kitchen and thought I'd share it with you - it's nice to see some people are smart enough to realize it's just repackaged ideas that never get implemented... it would be nice if the American Public saw it the same way.

What would really be nice is if Republicans get refutated by the American Voters partly because of this; while I would like to see a closer balance of government (some Republican wins) to encourage cooperation between the parties, I'd also love to see Republicans realize that just aping the same tired old message over and over again isn't going to win the hearts and minds of voters.

Or in other words, I'd like to see the Republican Party take genuine efforts to restructure their organization and move more toward the center of the political spectrum... and perhaps start thinking of the American People instead of corporate interests all the time. Seeing that Democrats have become the New Corporatist, perhaps the Republicans should reach out to the people instead and become the party of personal rights and liberties. You know, a social libertarian framework.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

There is something of a parallel between the trailer house afire and the flawed health care reform laws...


You'll get no argument from me on that. I've been trying (unsuccessfully, it seems) to make the specific parallel over the course of several posts.

Your example of dropping health coverage until needed is one reason why so-called "ObamaCare" had to be such a complicated package deal. You can't get rid of the pre-existing condition restriction WITHOUT considering everybody to be a paying customer for just the reason you cite. OTOH, the old way, the insurance company has every reason to drop you from coverage once you DO require care, and they actually DO pull stuff like that. And at that point, you can't get insured by a different company, because you have a PRE-EXISTING CONDITION!

A major failing of the current system is that it treats "changing insurers" (whether by choice or by eligibility requirements) as the SAME THING as "becoming insured for the first time". If I've been insured continuously (but under different plans) my entire life, and my current insurer is no longer available, so I have to shop around, in what sense is the condition that was noticed ten years ago "pre-existing"? THAT's the elephant in the room that no one talks about, but I think it's key.

Now, I'll be the first to (I think) agree with you that the health care bill we got was disappointing, but for different reasons. I presume you think it went too far, whereas I think it should have gone much further. Medicare for all was much more to my liking. I'd have settled for Joe Lieberman's suggestion of Medicare buy-in at 55, but then that was filibustered by...Joe Lieberman.

My purpose in mentioning health care in the context of the house-burning thing is that there ARE parallels if one is paying attention. In both cases, the requirements of the system are allowed to be driven by profit motive INSTEAD of by the need to provide essential services. I don't have a problem with that when the business is "selling cars" or "computer repair", but when the business is "fire protection" or "access to health care", I think the private business model fails us in ways that people can vicerally understand.

If a smart Democrat were to produce an ad that showed real images of that house being left to burn with the voice-over saying "The American middle-class is burning to the ground, and the Republicans want to stand by and let it burn," I think it might be a game-changer. That house burning is a metaphor for all that's wrong with the current GOP agenda, from letting insurers drop people AFTER they become sick to banks demanding bailout money and then NOT helping the recovery with that money to...basically all of supply-side economic theory.

Catfish N. Cod said...

If we are going to talk about the history of fire departments, we absolutely must discuss the first documented private fire department in history, that of Crassus. He had a simple proposition to the owner of any burning building: sell it to me for a song and my team shall save it; refuse and watch it burn.

Crassus was soon the richest man in Rome. Not purely by this gambit-- but it gives you an idea of the kind of hardball the man played.

Some people would see a cautionary tale. Most, in fact. But there a few who see something else.... a role model.

Most people in this country would see this as a cautionary tale to be avoided. But some would see instead a role model.

Robert said...

Off on a science tangent again, a second asteroid was found with evidence of water ice and organic molecules in the asteroid belt, suggesting that icy asteroids may be fairly common in the asteroid belt. This is a boon as the ice can be used in chemical rockets and for water needed for human expansion into space.

I have considered one thing that rocky asteroids would be quite useful for: pre-built shells for space stations. Hollow out the asteroid, leave an outer layer of rock, reinforce the interior with metal to prevent air leaks, and then spin that sucker for the only known artificial gravity out there. The outer shell of the asteroid protects against cosmic radiation, you have a gravity source of sorts, and if you build an engine on one side and an access port on the other, you even have the ability to move that rock-ship around... and maybe even eventually to leave the solar system in a generation ship.

It's the stuff of science fiction. But it's something we could likely do (with great expense!) with today's technology.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Spin that sucker...

Most asteroids visited to date look like a pile of aggregate. I don't think they would stand for much spinning.

Still, it's raw material.

Ian said...

The Fire Department case isn't as cut and dreid as it appears.

The city of south Fulton has a fire service, paid for by the taxes of its residents.

Everyone who lives with the city boundaries is covered.

The neighbouring Obion county doesn't have a fire service.

Obion county residents have, apparently, voted repeatedly NOT to set one up.

South Fulton has no legal obligation to provide fire services to people living otuside the county.

south fulton voluntarily provides a frie service to those Obion county residents who pay for the service.

What's the alternative given those facts?

Require the ratepayers of South Fulton to subsidize Obion countty?

Jacob said...

If the people of South Fulton are caring, they may consider the virtue of helping their fellow man more important than the cost of doing so. We can't make the assessment ourselves without seeing how much it costs additionally to cover each area of Obion county. We also don't know how much of a burden it would on South Fulton relative to their prosperity.

To be clear, any extension into Obion reflects the generosity of South Fulton. Being generous when it isn't an unreasonable burden is something that I hope Americans (and all peoples) will aspire to.

Tim H. said...

Ideally, each entity should negotiate protection and cost sharing. And think long and hard on the possibility of continued negative publicity.

David Smelser said...

Ian asked: "What's the alternative given those facts?"

I answer: To show up when called, put out the fire and then send the home owner a bill for the service rendered.

If the owner can't pay, then the county puts a lean on the property and garnishes wages.

rewinn said...

I would suggest that the metastory on the Fulton fire is that our great nation is taking a loooong step backwards in the name of the secular Friedmanist religion, whose motto is, "You're on your own, Jack!"

Like its twin, the secular religion Marxism, Friedmanism promises an earthly paradise for all who follow its principles, a regrettably necessary fate for the losers who cannot live up to the New Soviet/Miltonfriedmanish Ideal, and an unshakeable conviction in the rightness of the Cause ... for any apparent "failures" in communities who employ their principles are easily explained as the fault of the flawed humans who implemented it poorly.

In this particular case, we may ask why the county doesn't have a public fire service? They had a plan to do so. I have not investigated deeply but I'd bet cash money that the county's people suffer from the same economic problems as nearly everywhere else: the export of jobs to low-wage countries. As a nation, we can't go on like this and maintain a semblance of decency.

Robert said...

I recently saw a news article where Republicans were once again calling Democrats "elitists" and the like. It dawned on me that Democrats and Independents need to turn the tables on Republicans. We need to rebrand Elitism from a term used for educated people to a term used for rich people. Thus politicians need to talk about the Elitist CEOs and upper management that make millions of dollars a year and have no idea about how normal Americans live. We brand them as a select elite group that tries to deny admittance from anyone who's not a part of their select little group and who sneers at entrepreneurs who manage to succeed through their own hard work and effort.

In short, we need to turn "elitist" into a phrase talking about bankers and those business owners who believe in oligarchical practices. It's not something that many Democratic candidates will dare do as they live off of donations from the rich. But if there is a grassroots effort to start branding the rich as the elite... then we'll see Republican efforts to turn people against "elitist Democrats" will work against them as they themselves will be branded as elites.

Though I must admit, any Democrat worth his skill would turn to the Republican candidates and point out that they themselves have college degrees and are educated... which means they themselves are elitists according to their own criteria. You can then watch the Republican squirm and become two-faced as they try to get out of that argument.

Rob H.

Gilmoure said...

Tony Fisk said... Most asteroids visited to date look like a pile of aggregate. I don't think they would stand for much spinning.

Still, it's raw material.


So... what kind of cement/concrete like material could be produced in the asteroid belt? What would replace lime?

From Wikipedia: Most famous was Parker's "Roman cement".[4] This was developed by James Parker in the 1780s, and finally patented in 1796. It was, in fact, nothing like any material used by the Romans, but was a "Natural cement" made by burning septaria - nodules that are found in certain clay deposits, and that contain both clay minerals and calcium carbonate. The burnt nodules were ground to a fine powder. This product, made into a mortar with sand, set in 5–15 minutes. The success of "Roman Cement" led other manufacturers to develop rival products by burning artificial mixtures of clay and chalk.

Tacitus2 said...

I saw a remarkable bumper sticker today:

Heinlein/Rand in '12

It had some smaller print I could not make out.

I suppose the fact that Rand was born in Russia would be a drawback, as would the current non viable state of both of them.

Tacitus2

David Brin said...

Back from London. Can anyone explain to me why all the SETI folk hate science fiction so deeply?

Re the fire fighting scandal: Here is a case where my libertarian instincts come forward and I side with Tacitus. It is an individual's responsibility to see to his own home insurance policy and his insurance company should guide him to a proper plan for protecting his home.

Mind you, the goppers are NOT libertarian heroes, here. Barry Goldwater wanted to revise laws re the Insurance industry, so the companies would be incentived to play their proper libertarian role, competing with each other to KEEP THEIR CLIENTS HEALTHY. ALas, Goldwater got zero GOP support.

The Taliban won't negotiate until they are convinced they aren't winning.

Tacitus, I agree there are flaws in Obamacare that would have benefited from honest negotiation and sincere criticism, by a loyal opposition. If such existed in America.

I believe that Heinlein (rightfully) despised Rand. Those who can conflate the two in their own minds are fools.

Robert said...

That's just it. I think the Taliban high command has realized they aren't going to win. The Taliban itself might... but they will likely be killed off by drone attacks and the like. So why NOT make peace while in a position of some strength so they can get some legitimate power out of this and the Americans will leave?

Then they just have to do what Hezbollah did in Lebanon. Build up their power-base by helping the people while the Afghani government proves itself corrupt and inept... and then get elected into office. Or kill him and seize control... if NATO and America is no longer there, why would we return?

Thus it's actually in the Taliban's interests to negotiate while they're still doing well, instead of in a position of possibly having lost several significant battles... or worse yet (for the current heads) being killed and replaced in turn.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

You forget Al Qaeda. We don't leave without a promise they get ejected... and a vow to smash the Taliban flat again, otherwise.

Tim H. said...

On Science Fiction being considered despicable, many are predisposed to find it so, it's not literati approved, sometimes read by trailer trash and one poor example is enough to nail the lid shut on the box. On the lighter side, the ignoramuses don't know what they're missing.

Tony Fisk said...

So Mills & Boon does for all great romantic literature?

btw: I wasn't poo-pooing the thought of creating bases from asteroids, just that they aren't likely to be ready made shells (actually, a pile of aggregate is probably easier to mold to one's needs

Tim H. said...

They wouldn't even have to bother reading anything, they could have seen "Star Wars" and decided that was representative of the entire genre.

David Brin said...

Heh! I've been discussing a possible interview with the Colbert folks... not in NYC but something where they film me re seti and then edit to make me look like an idiot... what fun! We'll see.

Meanwhile, Frank Smith just sent me a copy of a letter he submitted to the Jon Stewart DAILY show site and facebook pages:

Hey Daily Show!

It would be great to see Jon have David Brin on as a guest. His Science Fiction novel "Earth" came out 1990. It deals with a lot of issues we are dealing with today and has a number of accurate predictions. It is also nominated for a

stephen t colbert award for the literary excellence
http://www.amazon.com/tag/stephen%20t%20colbert%20award%20for%20the%20literary%20excellence/ref=tag_stp_bkt_itdp

(That's:
http://www.amazon.com/tag/stephen%20t%20
colbert%20award%20for%20the%20literary%20
excellence/ref=tag_stp_bkt_itdp

David is also an astrophysicist, futurist, and a great conversationalist on telling topics. He has appeared on Life After People and spoken in many venues. http://www.davidbrin.com/

He has been a big promoter of the Rally to Restore Sanity. But now it seems that Jon is riding David's coat tails. David's most popular work is a story universe where humans have genetically 'uplifted' chimps and dolphins to human intelligence. http://www.davidbrin.com/upliftbooks.htm
And now, we fans of both Jon and David, we see a chimp on the cover of Jon's book?!?!?! Coincidence?? My aluminum foil hat says NO!!

We feel that if David is not at least given a chance to defend the similarities in the two books, we, as true fans, will have to defect to Colbert's Keep Fear Alive Rally. We do not wish this but feel it is the only sane path in an insane situation....

So if the call bugging you, you can blame me…….especially cool if they would do an extended discussion and post it online, as they have in the past.

Peace


Hm... anybody else want to chime in? ;-)

David Brin said...

http://forums.thedailyshow.com/

Catfish N. Cod said...

On Taliban negotations: after nine years, it's easy to forget that the Taliban remain our enemy out of choice. The war declaration (and by invoking the War Powers Resolution, I believe the authorizing resolution is that in fact if not in name) is against "those nations, organizations, or persons [who] planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons".

If the Afghanistan Taliban are no longer the same organization as the Pakistan Taliban (for which there is some evidence),

and if bin Laden and al-Qaeda are in Pakistan (which everyone believes),

and if (critically) the Afghan Taliban cease aid to both their Pakistani brethren and to al-Qaeda itself...

Then the Afghan Taliban are, by law and by practical politics, no longer an enemy of the United States. We may not like them -- we never did -- but we're no longer obligated to fight them.

The legal problem is that cultural and clan-based obligations probably make it practically impossible for the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban to fully sever ties. Realistically, all we want is that al-Qaeda never set up camps in Afghanistan again to train to kill Westerners... to isolate them in Pakistan.

The REAL question is: is such a war aim possible to achieve?

abarm: the mental state of those that think we can sustain an indefinite war on the other side of the planet when our own borders are insecure

Tacitus2 said...

David
I would be a little leary of the Colbert thing. You are always at the mercy of editing and it might not turn out the way you would wish. Is the publicity worth that chance? I think if you are just doing it on a lark you should think twice.
Regards your Brit experience. I do not want to risk offending our occasional UK posters, but it has always seemed to me as if there is a private and a public mode of discourse in the UK. One on one or in small groups, the Brits I associate with (albeit this is more northern Britain) are shy and reclusive sorts. But there is a long tradition of public debate of a most savage nature. Recall Gladstone v. Disreali for instance.
I was over there during the general election last spring. Buying the Times of London the day after I was shocked to see a columnist in that staid institution say of Paddy Ashtown (a spokesman for one of the contending parties) that he had "a face that resembled a large warm scrotum."
And the darned thing is, I had seen the interview in question.....and the Times was entirely correct!
Divided by a common languege at times.
Tacitus2

rewinn said...

"...It is an individual's responsibility to see to his own home insurance policy and his insurance company should guide him to a proper plan for protecting his home. "

Uhm, and then what?

If someone - or their insurance company - makes a stupid mistake, then what?

Even if you're of the "Tough on you" school of thought, from a purely economic standpoint, it makes no sense at all to let the house burn when you have the present ability to save it. You fight the fire and submit a bill, putting a lien on the house, same as the mechanic's lien that any repairman has when called to deal with any other emergency. It's not complicated.

The bigger issue, which nearly everyone seems afraid to address, is why are we in a situation where something like this could happen? Why is it that the voters of the county turned down a plan to set up a firefighting system, leaving it to individuals to pay up or burn?

We used to be a generous nation, a country that could do anything, that was proud to have a great educational system, leading the world in highways and so forth. Now we're at the point that the infrastructure is falling apart. Seattle lost the South Park Bridge earlier this year; towns across America are reverting to unpaved roads; we're laying off teachers, shutting off lights and in general going dark. It's all false economy: a healthy nation needs bridges, roads, education ... and houses that have been saved from burning down.

rewinn said...

Let me demur at the noble Tacitus2's concern respect to appearing on or with Colbert or Stewart. They have all sorts of guests on, across the political spectrum, and there is rarely any actual blood shed. "Doc" Brin might get a good word in for libertarianism and/or model what reasonable conversation with one might look like.

I mean, sure, they're very funny men and trying to make them look stupid would be like fighting Aquaman in the ocean (to steal a phrase from Stewart.) But if a reasonable conversation is your goal, then go ahead, take a chance. The rallies need political diversity, and libertarianism needs a spokesman who isn't Ron Paul.

http://forums.thedailyshow.com/?page=ThreadView&thread_id=31702&pg=9#post-219563

LarryHart said...


If we are going to talk about the history of fire departments, we absolutely must discuss the first documented private fire department in history, that of Crassus. He had a simple proposition to the owner of any burning building: sell it to me for a song and my team shall save it; refuse and watch it burn.


That's exactly what's wrong treating either fire protection or emergency heath-care as free-market capitalist transactions. Those decisions are naturally made under duress. The person whose house is burning down or whose loved one is dying cannot be thought of as an equal trading partner in a financial transaction. The point of SOCIETY providing protections for such situations in advance is NOT to shift the cost to somebody else, but to insure that there is a safety net so that people don't have to live thier lives worried about what to do when (metaphorical) lightning strikes.


Crassus was soon the richest man in Rome. Not purely by this gambit-- but it gives you an idea of the kind of hardball the man played.


He also crucified 6000 prisoners along the Appian Way from the Adriatic Sea to Rome.


Some people would see a cautionary tale. Most, in fact. But there a few who see something else.... a role model.


Karl Rove and Glenn Beck likely have shrines to the man in their houses.

Jonathan S. said...

I say that the case of the fire department in Tennessee would have been one thing if they had simply stayed in their firehouse on hearing that the blaze was, technically, outside their jurisdiction - but in point of fact they arrived at the man's house and at that point proceeded to do nothing (until the fire threatened the house of his neighbor, who had paid the bribe to be cared for - that particular bit was put out).

Three dogs and a cat died in the fire; presumably, had the man himself been trapped inside, the fire department would still have done nothing, because he never paid his protection money.

When a criminal gang does this in a city, we call it "extortion", and prosecute. When it's done outside the limelight by a local governmental body, though, that becomes "the proper libertarian response".

David Brin said...

Amen.

The Heinleinian-version of libertarianism would have been to save the guy's house, like decent people... then find ways to guilt-trip him into being a better person and giving back, of his own free will.


ONWARD TO NEXT POSTING....

TheMadLibrarian said...

I am a unionized state employee. As such, I am of 2 minds about current events related to being in a union. I am unconvinced that our union leaders are actually listening to what their members want and need, but are simply parroting whatever politics will keep union leadership powerful. Unions here resemble the Republican party, in that a loud subset has coopted the mainstream and the rank and file no longer have much say in contract negotioations or other union activities. OTOH, I see our governor's attempts at union-busting via furloughs, layoffs, and general moves that put morale in the toilet. If it weren't for being unionized, I'm pretty sure most state workers, regardless of qualifications, would now be working for minimum wage, and being told "If you don't like it, feel free to quit."

TheMadLibrarian

prowh: newest icebreaker technology for towing icebergs to dessicated coastlines

Rob Perkins said...

I don't doubt the value of unions, especially in the context of government employment. It's far too easy for a legislature to marginalize the trench workers. The mere fact that jurors are still only getting $10/day around here is evidence enough of that.

But in Washington? C'mon, really. They're not specifically as out of control as the union-busters say they are, but it remains that the leadership has enough political clout so that the governor won't open long-term contracts for negotiation, as is her right under the law in a fiscal emergency. I don't know what else to call a 25% contraction of tax revenues other than a fiscal emergency.

Anonymous said...

"Pick a random decade and continent."

I went, "hm", and decided to actually try this.

1720, South America.

Wikipedia told me:

"September – South Sea Bubble: The English stock market crashes with dropping prices for stock in The South Sea Company, an English company granted a monopoly to trade with South America."

Huh.

Doesn't really work for pre-colonial Australia or Antarctica or stuff like that, of course.

V-neck tshirts said...

It’s really great article. I would like to appreciate your work and would like to tell to my friends.