Thursday, January 06, 2011

Isaac Asimov & Human Destiny

Isaac Asimov and human destiny

Ever notice how many futuristic authors toy, now and then, with the concept of a global overmind? Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov both did... and my reply to them, a more subtle and diversity-based version, appeared in EARTH.

Now, have a look at The Living Earth Simulator, or the LES project, which aims to simulate everything taking place on planet Earth, both environmental factors and human influences -- integrating real-time data feeds  to model global environment, pollution, population,  as well as financial and political shifts and the spread of infectious diseases. 

And who dealt with the scale of human destiny better than the great Isaac Asimov, in his Foundation series?  Elsewhere I've said about him: "Asimov served wondrous meals-of-the-mind to a civilization that was starved for clear thinking about the future. To this day, his visions spice our ongoing dinner-table conversation about human destiny."

My own novel FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH tied up nearly all of Isaac's loose ends - with enthusiastic approval of Isaac's heirs. (Read a sample.) In the afterword, I describe how Isaac would always see the flaw in his most-recent Foundation "solution" and inch along, decade-by-decade to new solutions.

What were his stages?

First, writing for John W. Campbell's ASTOUNDING in the 1940s, he came up with the lovely conceit that, in large enough numbers to swamp the effects of individuals, human societies can be modeled as if individuals were like gas molecules!  Appealing to Asimov the biochemist... and inspiring many readers to go into fields like economics.  For example Paul Krugman.  (In all honesty, the dream goes farther back, though Karl Marx was no Hari Seldon!)

Then Isaac got a lot of mail.  People had an inkling of something like what would become Chaos Theory - that random fluctuations or exceptions would perturb events until all projections become useless. Isaac's solution in his galactic universe? Perturbations must be corrected by an elite council or knowing meddlers, the Second Foundation.  Meddlers who soon gain access to psychic powers that they can breed into their gene lines, enabling them to meddle better and keep the Plan on track. Phew! Promlem solved.

20070430170709_second_foundationOnly then: he that realized his Second Foundation will become an inherited human aristocracy! Agh! Loyal to the Enlightenment, he knew how awful oligarchies were, in the past (and today.) So, the next decade, Isaac replaced or subsumed the human meddlers with a deeper layer of controlers who would be like... court eunuchs. Robots who cannot breed and hence could not become a human lordly class. (Aside. His empire was always more Chinese than Roman.) Sounds good?

Only, next decade, Isaac realizes...OMG! I've reversed power! The "servants" are now few, all-knowing, all-powerful and the human masters are as numerous and cheap as sand. Agh. So he finds a way for the masters to become mighty again.

His solution? An overmind made up of trillions of human brains, called Gaia-Galaxia! Okay then! Only then he realizes....

See? I had to continue his ongoing cycle of re-evaluation until... well... read FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH and see how it actually all comes together is a fascinating pattern that winds up turning in... a... circle!

 Which brings us to... Adam Smith...

 I wrote a lot about this fellow, who liberals should rediscover and embrace, in order to free him from the right wingers and libertarians who always, always always misquote and betray him.  Well, OpenSalon dumped my work, so let me just offer a few quotations and a link to Blogging Adam Smith. Or actually read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, a book that any politically-minded person should read, top to bottom.

No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” That could be a slogan for liberalism.

“Observe the accommodation of the most common artificer or day-labourer in a civilized and thriving country, and you will perceive that the number of people whose industry a part, though a small part, has been employed in procuring him this accommodation, exceeds all computation.” The whole tenor of this passage would, or should, outrage an Ayn Rand. Smith certainly didn’t take the view that the important agents of capitalism were CEOs or even inventors.

“The monopolists, by keeping the market constantly understocked... sell their commodities much above the natural price... The price of monopoly is upon every occasion the highest which can be got. The natural price, or the price of free competition, on the contrary, is the lowest which can be taken....” Maybe it’s the libertarians who need to read Smith; I’ve heard them denying that monopolies exist, or that they raise prices.


“We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters [cartels]; though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labour....” Another passage skipped over by the libertarians

 That's it for now.  Perhaps I will speak more about this soon. But meanwhile...

==More about the Economy: Past, Present and Future

88 comments:

Ian said...

" a fascinating pattern that winds up turning in... a... circle!"

and as we all know "A circle has no end."

Ian said...

This should be right up your street, David.

Politically conservative scientists are so concerned about the Republican Party's rejection of climate science that they're speaking out publicly.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-scientist-climate-20110105,0,6481221.story

"I've always rebelled against the thinking that ideology can trump fact," said Emanuel, 55. "The people who call themselves conservative these days aren't conservative by my definition. I think they're quite radical."

Lorraine said...

Here's yet another take on Smith, this one focusing on the East India Company and the political battles over its governance.

David Brin said...

Ian thanks that is a great article.

Carl M. said...

You didn't go back far enough. Hegel was Dr. Overmind. What ghastly logic he used...

The idea that CEO types are enemies of capitalism is well known to libertarians, even Rand for goodness sakes. Her cast of villains included quite a few CEOs. Then you have the paleos who claim that communism was created by international banksters in order to get governments to run massive deficits.

The issue of monopolies is admittedly a potential libertarian weak spot. In a libertarian world monopolies might be a problem. But in the world we live in libertarians can rightly point to quite a few government mechanisms which support monopoly. The libertarian Institute for Justice does stellar work fighting the many petty cartels set up by state governments around the countries.

Then there are the animal husbandry laws which threaten take out all small meat and dairy operations. Securities laws which make it outrageously expensive to get startup capital. Overhead increasing regulations. Tax laws which tie up the upper working class' money in untouchable accounts...

Smith was not a pure libertarian, true. But you are attacking some straw men here when you claim libertarians don't know Smith.

JAM said...

It's interesting that we went to a similar place when we read this article. I saw it on Slashdot first a week or so ago and the summary mentioned Asimov and his Psychohistory. I made the following comment about it when I shared it with my friends:

The references to Asimov's Psychohistory in this summary make me laugh. Hardly the same thing here. But it does put me in mind of some of the early weather simulations created by Edward Lorenz that led him to the theory of Sensitive Dependence on Initial Conditions (which has become popularly known as the Butterfly Effect - although more often than not it is misappropriated in popular usage.)

The understanding of these aspects of Chaos Theory (the main derivative of SDIC) is my main reason for mistrust of climate change alarmists. You just can't predict the weather.

Having said that, models and simulations can be interesting and useful at certain controlled levels of complexity. This one is incredibly ambitious and very likely useless at this stage of our understanding and computing capability. But it is interesting.

There have been many ideas about this kind of thing promulgated in science fiction and scientific literature over the years. In this case, I'm reminded of some scenes from Dan Simmons' books Ilium and Olympos where the characters (remnant humans living in a sort of zoo-like post-human Earth) have some sort of implant which, when activated, allows them to see the world around them with a sort of digitized overlay that shows all sorts of underlying processes (biological, energy flows, chemical, etc.) at various levels of anything they look at as a sort of augmented reality. It's never explained in the context of the story where the data for this comes from, though there's an implication that some sort of nanotechnology is at work gathering information in real-time and feeding it back to a network. Which in turn puts me in mind of the bio-networked planet of Pandora from the movie Avatar.

First steps? Maybe...

I did also think of your Earth/Mind, Dr. Brin, as well as a similar notion put forth in a book by Michael Tobias called Voice of the Planet. See also John Barnes' Mother of Storms. I make a chain of connection between those books and Gregory Benford's Timescape --> James P. Hogan's Thrice Upon a Time (in both of which communication with the past is the mechanism used to prevent a global catastrophe - Hogan's disaster being a mini black hole dropped into the center of the Earth!) But in neither of those is there any sort of "overmind" implied. More recently, though, Michael Flynn's excellent updating of Asimov's Psychohistory (he calls in "Cliology") where a cabal of conspirators use Babbage Engines to calculate trends and predict (and influence/profit from) the future.

Anyway, your interpretation of Adam Smith is also interesting. I guess we all bring our biases to these things. Few would disagree with the sentiment Smith expresses in that first quote, but we might differ over the best methods for relieving the poverty and misery of that greater part of society.

Thanks for an interesting post. I always appreciate hearing your thoughts on these things.

David Brin said...

No question govt regulators can be "captured"... which is why the tweakers who want govt to actually work went ahead and erased the ICC and the CAB... it was Carter and the dems who did that... and who broke up Ma Bell, the biggest acts of DE-regulation ever.

Gore cuts federal staffing and the net number of pages of regulations... any cred? Never.

Goppers reverse clintonian surpluses and send debt skyrocketing... and they have deficit hawk cred... from where?

Dems are being attacked because they are applying keynsian remedies (no more than Bush did) to a depression. But to at least 50% degree, keynsianism is PROVED! And the clintonian surpluses showed they were willing to do as keynes recommended, using good times to save for a rainy day.

In contrast, not one prediction of supply side voodoo economics ever came true, once, ever.

Geez can't you see it PAINS me to defend the left-handed pro-guv guys? But their side at least still contains some sincere non-monsters

David Brin said...

fundamental. Smith wanted maximum number of knowling and empowered competitors. Whatever reduces that number is bad for enterprise.

Hence he favored universal education. And deeply criticized prejudices that pre-judged a person's worthiness to compete, based on membership in some class.

State action to limit monopolies and to break up rent-seeking uses of capital in favor of vigorously competitive investment in plants and new goods and services.

A bureaucracy to counterbalance the natural unfair influence of wealth/oligarchy.

Something we would today call transparency laws.

Um... sounds liberal. Sounds like a democrat.

Alas, today's liberals and dems are too stupid to realize that they are already the defenders of actual free enterprise, and should simply embrace it openly. And embrace smith.

Oh, final note: Marx essentially agreed with smith. But marx simply assumed that steady and relentless reform, breaking up undue oligarchies and continually maximizing the number of knowing and empowered competitors COULD be done. He assumed that Smith's hopes were doomed and that consolidation of oligarchic power was the natural order. It is. The natural order. But...

...Marx never figured on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Despised by capitalists. And the one man in history who saved capitalism.

CAD bloke said...

offtopic: If you're using Firefox there is a plugin called Textarea cache that keeps the stuff you type into web pages in case they eat it.

David Brin said...

How do I get it?

Tim H. said...

Search for "textarea cache" it's mozilla.org page will be at the top. It is version 0.6.4

Thomas Sobieck said...

Dr. Brin,

Have you had a look at "Why Our Best Officers Are Leaving" in this months Atlantic?

I thought if you while reading it.

Robert said...

Here's a couple of science news articles:

NASA has ruled out an early February launch of the Space Shuttle as engineers continue to conduct repairs on the external fuel tank. I hope that any of the naysayers who claim the Space Shuttle program should be continued until NASA designs a successor craft takes notice; the expense and time behind the repairs is draining resources from other programs. Worse, however, is the fact that the Space Shuttle almost launched with a damaged external fuel tank which could have resulted in catastrophe if events played out poorly.

It's obvious that the Space Shuttle is flawed and needs to be replaced. These repairs just show just how flawed the Shuttle is... and that we can't just continue using a broken space infrastructure to get into orbit while underfunding replacements that spin their wheels and waste even more resources.

-------

In related news, astronaut Marsha Ivins has retired from NASA's astronaut program. The article mentions that the number of active astronauts are only 2/3rds of those just five years earlier. It's expected and happened at the end of the Apollo program... and I have to hope that as private space industry ramps up, we may see some of these astronauts taking their skills to companies such as SpaceX.

---------

And finally, the Crab Nebula is suffering from erratic gamma ray outbursts. Researchers believe that synchrotron radiation is behind the gamma radiation outbursts but are still working on the specifics behind it.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

P.S. - the Post Eating Electronic Monster (my mental image of PEEM is similar to the critter from Forbidden Planet) has struck again. Fortunately, I saved a copy before I posted. Take 8....

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin,

First of all, thanks for not spoiling the end of "Foundation's Triumph", from which I'm still about 100 pages away. I'll have more to comment on that when I finish.

As to how Adam Smith has been hijacked by the Randroids, my favorite radio host Thom Hartmann recently pointed out that most quotes (including the one you linked to) of the famous phrase:


“[An individual] intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.”


leave off the significant beginning to that sentence from The Wealth of Nations which totally changes the meaning:

(emphasis mine)

"By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."


Smith is not advocating what is now called "free trade". He's arguing that the rational consumer prefers domestic industry, and that while the individual's REASON for that preference might be selfish, the net result is a thriving domestic economy.

LarryHart said...

Carl M:

The issue of monopolies is admittedly a potential libertarian weak spot. In a libertarian world monopolies might be a problem. But in the world we live in libertarians can rightly point to quite a few government mechanisms which support monopoly.


I think you're confusing the dog with the tail. Libertarians who notice that governments are the ones rigging the game in favor of monopolies reconcile the cognative dissonance by presuming that the governments are the ones with the agenda, and that the monopolies are their tools--that if not for the government intervntion, the monopolies wouldn't exist.

I think it's more plausible to see it the other way around. Monopolies use their economic power to influence government to rig the game against potential future competetors. Corporatist policies get to disguise themselfves as "pro business", but only CERTAIN businesses are helped by this arrangement--those not already on top are irreperably harmed, as are consumers and taxpayers. Government morphs from benign, necessary regulation to "statism" precisely when it is corrputed by this process. "Fascism" was never a synonym for the kinds of things the Right likes to accuse Obama of--it was always a term for the merging of corporate and state interests.

I doubt you would argue that we'd all be freer if the government got "off the backs" of criminals--that if some people want to commit crimes and others don't, the free market would sort everything out. So why do you believe that about corporations? Why do you believe that letting corporations each do whatever they want and not having the force of law applied against those engaging in force and fraud would yield a good result?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

...Marx never figured on Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Despised by capitalists. And the one man in history who saved capitalism.


Toward the end there, in his wheelchair, FDR kinda reminds me of Hari Seldon. :)

LarryHart said...

From the LA Times story liked above:

(regarding climate change)

Conservatives tend to gravitate to skepticism because conservatives are inherently suspicious of an expanding government taking more and more of their money and liberty," wrote James M. Taylor, senior fellow in environment policy at the Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank in Chicago.

"On the other hand, liberals tend to gravitate to alarmism because they have little fear of an expansive government and tend to welcome government replacing private individuals or corporations as key drivers of the global economy," he said.


The conservative think tank guy's biases are showing, and I think he disingenously links "private individuals and corporations" in a way that intentionally makes liberals look bad.

Let's turn that around shall we? Instead of climate change, the "it" could be supply-side theory. Then we'd have:


Liberals tend to gravitate to skepticism because liberals are inherently suspicious of expanding corporations taking more and more of their money and liberty".

"On the other hand, conservatives tend to gravitate to complacency because they have little fear of an expansive oligarchy and tend to welcome transnational corporations replacing private individuals or governments as key drivers of the local economy."

Jeff B. said...

"Gore cuts federal staffing and the net number of pages of regulations... any cred? Never."

Dr. Brin,

Minor quibble, perhaps, but like many things in DC, all was not as it seems here. Al Gore's efforts under the Clinton Administration were largely driven and motivated by Government contractors, who wanted to replace Feds with contractors (and milk the govt. for all it was worth.)

Their biggest success was a small branch of the Office of Personnel Management that performed (and performs) the national-security-critical job of conducting background investigations and reinvestigations of Feds and contractors.

The result? 30 Feds left to oversee 3000 contractors, who quite naturally set to work to maximize profits by reducing training and taking other major shortcuts. Well-trained Feds were either turned loose or went to work for the contractors as long as they could put up with the poor management.

Fortunately, the Feds saw the errors of their ways and built up oversight staff and their own investigative workforce, but this could have been a major national security disaster- all motivated by parts of the "military-industrial complex" seeking to expand their drain of the Federal cash cow.

Oh, and Al Gore's vaunted reductions? At this branch of OPM the c.1000 Federal workforce that was axed had to re-grow to some 2000 contract overseers and investigators, to keep the now-8000 contractors in line.

Sometimes govt. can actually do things more efficiently...

David Brin said...

Well, it was a worthwhile experiment...


------
After screeching "terrorists!" and veering our nation into several trillions of dollars of waste, justified by panic, I daresay right wingers are a tad hypocritical to call anyone else "alarmist."

What is true and related is that liberals and democrats are "manic." They must be active, busy saving the world!This is not inherently socialist. Indeed, the greatest DE-regulations of government and boosts to small business & enterprise were democratic actions. The key point is that they are the frenetic, manic side of our bipolar disease.

The GOP is utterly "depressive." They claim an activist agenda. But from 1995 to 2007, they controlled Congress and held fewer hearings, issued fewer (non Monica-related) subpoenas, proposed less legislation and held fewer work days than any other Congress in 100 years. Other than serving the plutocrats, they advanced NONE of the right's flagship ageneda items, despite owning all levers of power.

LarryHart said...

Again, from The Wealth of Nations:


"By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention."


Upon re-readig my own post, it occurs to me that this sort of observation describes what might turn out to be one of the postulates or equations defining psychohistory.

Robert said...

Actually, Dr. Brin, the Republican Party possesses a very activist agenda. It's just that their activism utilizes the courts to pull off their shenanigans, and then they cry foul about "activism judges" when in fact the activist judges in question are? Republican.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin correctly points out:

After screeching "terrorists!" and veering our nation into several trillions of dollars of waste, justified by panic, I daresay right wingers are a tad hypocritical to call anyone else "alarmist."


Robert adds:

Actually, Dr. Brin, the Republican Party possesses a very activist agenda. It's just that their activism utilizes the courts to pull off their shenanigans, and then they cry foul about "activism judges" when in fact the activist judges in question are? Republican.


Also, Republicans complain about do-nothing Democratic congresses, when THEY are the ones blocking and filibustering every bit of legislation passed by the House.

They blame the Democrats for "rushing" START through "at the last minute" when THEY kept it from moving through the Senate for months.

Tea Partiers elect Republicans to protect their Medicare from a Democratic government takeover.

These are not isolated curiosities. It's a pattern of GOP standard operating procedure.

David Brin said...

Well, courts or congress, it all boils down to giving their rank and file lots of TALK about limiting immigration or cutting abortion or limiting gays or cutting deficits or punishing Wall Street. But the only things that ACTUALLY happen are oligarchy-enhancing things.

If anything were sufficient to prove redder stupidity, it is the tea party agenda of electing the SAME guys to clean up the mess, accepting their tearful apologies and promises as sincere.

Dropped by Beck last night.

"Why should we ever trust scientists? They lied to us about climate change...." His exact words.

Notice the brilliance at many levels. State the assertion as a past given. Then use that to undermine the entire caste. The top clade that has the qualifications to refute the assertion.

All hail the new overlords and their moron followers.

Tim H. said...

Something interesting, progress visualized.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo

Robert said...

Before I forget, I was doing abstracts on Newsweek today when I came across an interesting article suggesting part of the reason for the increased animosity in Congress lies with the increase in Commuter Congressmen. It stated that when Congresscritters moved their families into Washington D.C., their wives (and husbands to a lesser extent) would make friends with other Congressional Spouses and would help humanize opposing party members to their Congressional Spouses.

It even described the friendship between Lady Bird Johnson and Betty Ford, and how this helped Johnson and Ford (who had an unpleasant relationship for a bit) become quite civil toward each other by the end of Johnson's term in office.

In short, by leaving wives at home, Congressmen are lacking the humanizing effect that their wives force upon them. They lose that empathy that is required for bipartisanship. Instead, Congresscritters look out for themselves first, and their constituents to a limited extent... while ignoring the nation itself and treating other Congresscritters as Other.

------------

Another quick comment and question: The U.S. Ambassador to China (Jon something or other) was considered the greatest threat to Obama in 2012, which was why he was sent to China. Seems he's back and laying the groundwork for a potential run for office. My question is this: seeing that more and more moderate Republicans are speaking up against the Tea Party and ultra-conservatism, and Jon is a respected Moderate Republican, what kind of President do you think he'd make?

To be honest, Obama is damaged goods. He's following a corporatist agenda and has not been the agent of Change and Hope he claimed to be in the 2008 election. And Jon could easily torpedo two voting blocks by a strategic choice for Vice President... finding a woman Hispanic running mate, preferably one who has brains and talent (unlike Pain). Of course, he could just select a Hispanic VP, which would get him a lot of the minority Hispanic vote. Likewise, a woman VP would potentially get him the female vote. Combining the two would be a very detrimental combination.

I've grown most disappointed in Obama... so if Republicans actually put forward an intelligent, moderate, and mature (as in not a knee-jerk reactionary who thinks the world should jump and shout "how high?!?" when we demand it of them), I think I'd be very tempted to vote for that moderate Republican instead of Obama... and despite my intense dislike of the Republican Party. And I'm not alone in this.

Rob H.

Stefan Jones said...

Beck actually said that?

Well, I really wouldn't have expected any . . . less?

Ignorance is Strength.

David Brin said...

Obama is inherently a negotiator. He keeps trying to negotiate and bring to the table and placate and horsetrade. It worked, last month... by selling the mortgage...

That makes him the wrong man for today. We need an FDR. Someone ruthlessly skilled at the arts of polemic, who happens to use those skills to cut off at the knees bastards who are calling for marching-morons to heil-whatever. Obama seems unable to learn that a time comes when you have to (figuratively) gut your enemies from sternum to coccyx and strangle them with their own lying entrails. He has to start by saying "YOU.... ARE ...LIARS."

Paul said...

JAM,re:Pandora's bio-network.

I wonder if Avatar would have been better (less clichéd) if Pandora's biosphere (and "unobtainium") turned out to be the result of a post-singularity super-civilisation. Humans were the primitives (in technology as well as culture), the "war" was a test, which those who sided with the Smurfs passed on our behalf. It ends with the soldiers/scientists "going back to school".

(Well, I say "less clichéd", but "seemingly primative, peaceful world is actually super-high-tech" is an old SF meme.)

David, Re: Asimov's self-correction, and overminds.
So... when do we see your self-correcting sequel to Earth? The cultural consequences of the Net/Blackhole/Earth-goddess-thing, and where that "inevitably" leads. :)

David Brin said...

Paul COOL avatar suggestion. Similar to where Yudkowsky is going with his Harry Potter re-imagining. Inevtiable conclusion, that Hogwarts etc happened because the Atlanteans scientifically set up a hidden "magic" system.

Hey, my Gaia don't need no improvements! Heck, she's cautious, tentative. and revels in the diversity of her individualistic human elements... eliminating the horror of Asimov's and Clarke's awful/simplified group minds.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Representative Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) has been shot in the head during a community event in Tucson, AZ at ~10am local time. Reports conflict on whether she is alive or in surgery in critical condition. 12 people total are reported injured, with 6 killed.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Update: It has been confirmed that Giffords is still alive, and in surgery.

Robert said...

Well. After that notice (sadly, as I don't have a subscription to the NY Times I can't read it, though there are other newspapers that will undoubtedly have articles on it) I'm almost not tempted to post this link concerning intelligence and ingenuity (in the form of a massive timesink).

In short, the TV Tropes Page on "Genius Bonus" which explains a number of stealth bonuses in television shows, literature, and other media for those readers or viewers who actually possess some level of knowledge. I was especially touched by the television section... as normally I consider television to be mindless. But when you look at these "in-jokes" that are hidden in such unsuspecting media as Babylon 5 and The West Wing, you realize that not only were the writers of these shows able to create some truly inspired television... they were also adding elements that almost no one would get unless they were educated and on-the-ball.

And another timesink that is nice for those of us into intelligence in various forms of media is this link on various media that overestimate the intelligence of their viewers/readers. To be honest? It's kind of nice to see some overestimating occurring in this world.

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

Re: Avatar and Pandora:

In the SCP Foundation's live chat channel, one of the members raised an interesting point: Pandora is supposedly peaceful, aside from the whole predator/prey thing. And thanks to the actions of the security force on Pandora, the world-mind wound up uploading either one or two human minds (depending on what happened with Weaver's character - I couldn't really tell), including one trained Marine.

In other words, they taught a planet-sized biological supercomputer how to wage war.

Too bad Cameron won't think of that for his inevitable sequel...

Tacitus2 said...

Crap.
The Tucson shooting is a worst case scenario for our political life. So far no word on the motives of the assasain, but it is hard to say if jihad, perverted patriotism or just plain psychosis is any better.
So we will see further distance between the citizens and their public servants.
I did not know much about the Congresswoman, but by what I have heard she seems to have been a moderate voice with whom nobody sane could really have more than a civil disagreement.
You hope for the best, but an injury of this sort is bad, the worst kind.
Crap again.
Tacitus2

Stefan Jones said...

Moderate voice perhaps . . . but who cares! She was on Sarah Palin PAC hit list, so she's fair game for any nut job wanting to take the country back.

And when I say hit list . . . how else can you interpret this graphic?

http://www.alan.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/sarahpac_0.jpg

It's been pulled from the SarahPAC website, but I'd seen it before this outrage.

BCRion said...

Many of the "pro-business" policies supported by Right-wing organizations are really "pro-large corporation". Small businesses are having a tougher and tougher time to compete in a modern economy. The motivations for this are monopolistic and not "for the greater good" as research has shown that economic productivity tends to scale sublinearly with business size. In other words, typically ten companies with 200 employees doing similar things is more productive than one with 2,000. Unfortunately, it is easier for the oligarchs (e.g., investors, CEOs) to reap short-term gain for various reasons, monopoly effects, ease of regulatory capture, less risk of failure, etc. under the status quo.

A pro-business model would use law to structure an economy that incentivizes small operations over large ones. This maximizes the competitive forces advanced by Smith.

In a related front, am I the only one who is afraid of having so few players in the military industrial complex? A mere handful of corporate entities manage a vast majority of US national security interests. Can we say, "too big to fail?"

BCRion said...

I see climate science much the same as evolution. There is little doubt amongst the experts whether climate change is occurring and whether or not there is an anthropogenic component just as there is little doubt over the fact evolution occurred. Certainly, there is debate about the mechanisms and exact predictions, as they are inherently non-linear.

However, even non-linear things can be approximated quite well with simplified models. If I smash a car into a sturdy building at 55 mph, I might not be able to tell you the exact damage it will sustain, but I can tell you with high certainty that both will suffer extensive damage. Climate change is similar, we're hurtling toward something that is going to have unpleasant effects on civilization: we can't tell you exactly what they will be or when they will occur, but we can tell you, with high certainty, that there will be severe negative consequences.

BCRion said...

Just saw news of the shooting, simply disgusting, and I agree with Tacitus: this will only make our representative democracy less transparent. Still no word on motive, but random crime is unlikely considering the event was publicized.

Stefan, saw the graphic, and equally disgusting. Politicians need to learn that they are playing with fire. They can claim imagery, but they know full well there are those who are too deft to understand the difference, especially when they are the ones who created much of this madness: see Birthers.

It's high time democrats and moderate republicans relentlessly villainize this sort of thing. For too long everyone has been ignoring this. When politicians make speech, graphics, etc. suggesting violence, they need to be called out with strong rhetoric. If we don't nip this soon, I fear this sort of thought is becoming the status quo.

Paul said...

BCRion,
"A pro-business model would use law to structure an economy that incentivizes small operations over large ones."

The problem is the same one as with progressive taxation, your oligarchical opponents can say "The system punishes success, removes incentive! It's unamerican." And the average voter agrees, not realising they've been played.

David Brin said...

BCRION said: "It's high time democrats and moderate republicans relentlessly villainize this sort of thing."

Um. How many of the latter do you know? Other than Tacitus and me?

Robert said...

And then there's people like me: Independent Conservatives who refuse to join a political party (well, I was Libertarian until one Massachusetts Libertarian shot off her mouth blaming Ted Kennedy for a terrorist attack on a warship; I disliked the man intensely but could not accept such idiocy being unpunished by the party as a whole and quit in disgust). We refuse to be Republican because we see the corruption and ineptitude of the Republican party. But we're more likely than not to vote Republican unless things are really dire (like they are now).

Rob H.

Ian said...

"Still no word on motive, but random crime is unlikely considering the event was publicized."
http://azstarnet.com/news/local/crime/article_91db5db4-1b74-11e0-ba23-001cc4c002e0.html

It appears the shooter was seriously mentally disturbed.

There may be no coherent motivation, although his social site psots suggest he may have been trying to draw attention to his plans for a new currency.

Even if the attack was politically motivated it's possible the target was Judge Roll who received death threats last year over a ruling in a case involving illegal immigrants.

Robert said...

Not likely. Eyewitnesses described how he tried previously to talk to her and was sent to the end of the line, and then moved deliberately right toward her. She was the primary target. He just went after everyone else in the area afterward as supporters of her who deserved to die.

My one fear is that this will galvanize the Loonie Left to start pushing to eliminate my Second Amendment Rights. We'd almost trained Democrats to stop trying to outlaw guns. And now some asshole had to go and pull some bullshit like this, and give the Loons fuel for their fires.

Rob H.

Ian said...

?A pro-business model would use law to structure an economy that incentivizes small operations over large ones. This maximizes the competitive forces advanced by Smith.?

Great Britain has a progressive tax structure for corporations.

The first 50,000 pounds (IIRC) of profits are taxed at a lower rate.

This seems like a really obvious way to assist small business and I'm surprisperswed it isn't copied more widely.

Tim H. said...

Robert, it may change later, but nytimes.com grants access if you register & log in.

Tyler August said...

My heart goes out to the Griffords family. Jesus.
I am reminded of two things--
one is the Roman Republic. I always am these days, when reading about America. There, too, the powerful used concepts like 'tradition' and the 'American (well, Roman) way' to drag their feet and paralyze the political process; there, too was violent rhetoric made a regular part of the political process-- and then, for the last tragic century, violence itself became the norm.
O how many Gracchii must be put upon that bloody alter before we learn?

The second thing I'm reminded of is the 50,000 or so of my fellow Canadians who marched south wearing blue in defense of civilization. Fetching colour, blue. I think it'd suit me fine, should (God forbid!) it happen to come to that.


The predicted 10,000 McVeighs might have been slow in getting started, but I've seen enough that I'd mark that as another prediction fulfilled for Dr. Brin. Unfortunately.

David Brin said...

Liberals know it is too late to do a damn thing about guns. We are awash in them. Firefighters dousing a burning house are afraid to enter cause sooner or later, all the guns start firing.

As for lefty loons, they see what's happening. They are buying their own guns, now.

Sociotard said...

I was about to say something about the predicted "rise of the McVeighs", but the more I read about this guy, the more I think he is not a teaparty product, but rather an ordinary, broad-spectrum loon. I looked up his youtube page. It was rambling and made no sense, but it didn't hit on any political sound bites either. He listed his favorite books, and again it hits both ends (a little Ayn Rand, a little communist manifesto, all over the place)

http://www.youtube.com/user/Classitup10

By the way, what is the deal with that Harry Potter fanfic? They're requiring people to do those stupid quizes that ask for your phone number and email address at the end? Oooh, I hate that.

David Brin said...

Wonder what the guy's TV watching habits were. THAT is what I want to know.

I have no trouble reading Yudkowsky's Potter series. It is well worth any effort that it takes.

Ilithi Dragon said...

It's not MoR, it's fanfiction.net. They do ad things for so many page views, and a while that you can usually skip them without any trouble, some of them get a little hokey....

LarryHart said...

Robert:

My one fear is that this will galvanize the Loonie Left to start pushing to eliminate my Second Amendment Rights. We'd almost trained Democrats to stop trying to outlaw guns. And now some asshole had to go and pull some bullshit like this, and give the Loons fuel for their fires.


I'm not sure I'd characterize an anti-firearm reaction to this sort of thing "loonie". Although maybe it's time for liberals to take a note from you guys's book and instead of trying to control guns, should all arm ourselves and shoot first.

After all, MY first fear upon hearing of this incident was not "Now someone will use this as an excuse to restrict my rigts", but "Someone might try to kill me."

Tony Fisk said...

Coming back into the conversation after a couple of weeks incommunicado.

Quasi on-topic re: Earth and Avatar:
I recommend Tim Flannery's latest book 'Here On Earth' for serious in-flight entertainment (a fascinating biography of Earth from the viewpoint of Darwin's reductionism and Wallace's holistic proto-gaianism: competition vs co-operation...) It has stuff to press a few buttons for most people here.

(My thought on Avatar: Eyewah is a semi-sentient Gaian entity that created the Na'vi in man's image a la Solaris)

As for the Gifford situation. Not good. Especially if the current suspicion that the assassin was not acting alone starts bearing fruit.

Paul said...

Lost a couple of attempts a few hours ago to comment on the shooting. Too many links? Anyway, I saw reports saying it was the crowd who took down the gunman. I noted that a certain author might have predicted that.

Robert,
"My one fear is that this will galvanize the Loonie Left to start pushing to eliminate my Second Amendment Rights."
LarryHart:
"I'm not sure I'd characterize an anti-firearm reaction to this sort of thing "loonie"."

Here in Australia, a conservative government brought in strict gun control after a particularly nasty mass-shooting in 1996. Gun owners bitched, conspiracy nuts bitched, and whatever people (on either side of the debate) thought would happen, few IMO seriously expected that the change would have an effect on the very thing that precipitated it, mass shootings.

And it hasn't touched the crime rate, hasn't touched the murder or suicide rate, hasn't stopped gang violence (including gun violence). Turns out, the only thing it effects is these kind of crazy bastard mass-shootings.

Before the laws changed, we apparently averaged one mass-shooting every 18 months. Since the laws changed, there has been just one. From one every 18 months, to one in 15 years.

Considering what your country gave up over the tiny risk of terrorism, what would you give up to slash the rate of mass-shootings at least 10-fold?

Tim H. said...

I'm confident that whatever legislation happens to control firearms will be ineffective, if not counterproductive. If something could be done about demagoguery and the decline of manners, it would be more to the point. Here might be a start, why not require media outlets to run campaign ads at cost, or free, as a licensing condition, might take a lot of pressure off of politicians and lower the invective level. Oh, and the next time you encounter an unpleasant opinion, see that your argument is something more than "STFU!", you too can depressurize.
"sorutau" future OTC remedy for something deeply unpleasant.

Paul said...

David,
"Similar to where Yudkowsky is going"

No spoilers! I'm only half way through.

"Hey, my Gaia don't need no improvements!"

Oops, note to self: Never criticise an author's God.

"Heck, she's cautious, tentative. and revels in the diversity of her individualistic human elements..."

Even a benevolent dictator, even a benevolent light-touch dictator, won't change human nature. Some will over-embrace, some will resist. You'll have those now-envious oligarchs. The nouveau-worshippers, the passive and the lazy (those who want to turn their decisions over to the benevolent god), and their exploiters, those who are happy to tell (& sell) them what She "really means". Countered by the jealous old religions, up to the Gaia-is-the-anti-Christ fundies ("It's in the bible, people! Revelations!"). And if that blows up, the whole idea of what happens in a religious war if one of the "gods" is real (but isn't picking sides.)

Even if society adapts, eventually you'll have angry idealistic youth rebelling against what they see as society's dependence or stagnation (disestablishmentarians.)

How would She solve these problems?

Robert said...

Australia has a benefit over America; it is surrounded by water on all sides. We have nations to the north and south of us, and the nation to the south of us is undergoing significant violence from an ongoing drug war. All that taking away the firearms of law-abiding citizens will do is result in only criminals possessing guns, while law-abiding citizens are rendered powerless to defend their lives and property.

And the mass shootings will continue. There are so many guns in America now that even if the government had police perform search-and-seizure on every single home in this nation, it would only dent the number of firearms, especially as there would be those warned in advance who would hide their guns outside of their homes and the like.

Or to put it another way, Prohibition revealed what happens when you try to force Americans to abandon something they don't want to. This time around, I doubt it would be nearly as benign as the birth of organized crime and speakeasies.

Rob H.

Tyler August said...

Robert said: We have nations to the north and south of us...
Well, here in Canada, regulating firearms for law-abiding citizens has seen (like Australia) a large decrease in the 'lone nutcase' massacres.
There's a difference between regulating firearms and rounding up everybody's guns. We're safer here, statistically, even though most petty crooks can get their hands on weapons smuggled from the nation to the south of us, which is undergoing significant violence from an ongoing drug war.

I still don't see how gun control takes away your second amendment rights. You can join a well-regulated militia at any time, Rob.

Robert said...

And yet just by knowing who has what guns and where, the Government is in a position to seize every single legal gun in one fell swoop, especially if some group were to take control of the nation. To be honest, I was half-expecting Bush to pull something like that, and was pleasantly surprised to find that despite all of the freedoms he seized from us and all of the warning signs we had that some form of coup could result, it was much ado about nothing and a so-called "liberal" politician from the Opposition Party (Democrats) took power.

Please note, I do understand about the reasons behind gun registration and restricted ownership. But I also understand the other side of the equation. (I even know the third side of the equation: if the military ended up betraying the country and allowing a coup to occur, all of the hunting rifles and shotguns and pistols in the world would not be sufficient to allow us to revolt successfully. If the nation succumbs to that disease called civil war once more... it will be squashed thoroughly and the American People will realize that if the military is backing the government, then there is no effective resistance.

And if worse was to come to worse and a foreign nation did successfully invade us? It would ultimately be military ordinance stolen from the enemy (or looted from captured American military bases along with soldiers who took ordinance off-base so to continue a guerrilla war) that would be the effective weapons, not civilian firearms that require lucky shots to get through military personal armor and armored vehicles.

So, why continue with the Second Amendment? Principle. It is a symbol of our security and our freedom. And to forsake it is to forsake something American.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Paul said...

Lost a couple of attempts a few hours ago to comment on the shooting. Too many links? Anyway, I saw reports saying it was the crowd who took down the gunman. I noted that a certain author might have predicted that.

Officials said the attack could have been more devastating had not one of the victims tried to stop the suspect as he tried to replace the spent magazine on his weapon. The police did not identify the woman, who was among those shot by the gunman.


Not just a bystander, but one of the women he SHOT. Whomever this woman is, she definitely deserves a medal.

Carl M. said...

OK, let me try again.

Smith argued for an income tax and public education -- these positions are definitely more liberal than libertarian. And those libertarians who think Marx invented the income tax are definitely wrong.

Smith claimed that the rich were the biggest enemy of markets. They were at the time. During the 20th Century the left was the bigger enemy for the most part. That said, libertarians have been more diligent in pointing out the collusion of government and big business than either the right or the left. This accusation does not stick. It is more appropriate to apply to smaller government conservatives.

Libertarians have been known to claim that monopolies cannot exist without government aid. This position is questionable at best. Feel free to attack libertarians on this one as you have lots of data to work with. I see little evidence that government is behind the dominance of Google and Facebook. Those who downplay private monopoly are partly correct in this: Potential competition does keep these behemoths from charging full monopoly prices. However, they do have significant pricing power.

I consider the need for active trust busting to be an open question. I have worked up a list of alternatives here. Whether these alternatives suffice is unknown to me. If not, then I am game for active anti-trust.

As for Roosevelt "saving capitalism" I want to barf. Roosevelt helped make the Great Depression great. Warren Harding faced collapsed financial markets as well. They fixed themselves. Roosevelt faced a bigger problem because Hoover was not a free market classical liberal. Hoover was an economic tinkerer and pulled some truly boneheaded stunts to destroy the economy.

Go back through our history and you will find plenty of financial crashes, multiple depressions. But there is only one Great depression.

Compare the recovery (complete with secondary crash!) under Roosevelt with any other recovery.

Hypnos said...

The only reason capitalism survived the early 20th century is because a part of the left, the one characterized by pragmatism, rationality, and willingness to compromise, got togheter with a part of the right showing similar attributes and created a thing called social democracy - the greatest underpinning of which is the welfare state.

By curtailing the excesses of capitalism without entirely eliminating its capacity for fostering innovation and wealth creation, socialist reformists and social liberals effectively undermined the possibility of communist revolutions in industrialized countries.

That, in short, can be defined as "saving capitalism", and that is what Marx's otherwise impeccable historic analysis had missed: the possibility of compromise for the greater social good eliminates the necessity for armed uprising.

Something the contemporary American right would do well to understand.

Sociotard said...

(I even know the third side of the equation: if the military ended up betraying the country and allowing a coup to occur, all of the hunting rifles and shotguns and pistols in the world would not be sufficient to allow us to revolt successfully. If the nation succumbs to that disease called civil war once more... it will be squashed thoroughly and the American People will realize that if the military is backing the government, then there is no effective resistance.

No. That has been pretty well debunked by the nasty little wars where the almighty US military hasn't been completely successful at quashing resistance. They use small arms and IEDs, which aren't hard to learn to make.

Plus, our small arms would only be necessary for the first bit of the civil war. Ask yourself how long it would take for a few units in the military to start leaking weapons and support to the rebs.

David Brin said...

"How would She solve these problems?"

Um indulgent benign neglect? Enhancing everybody's wealth and health, accelerating progress, reducing parasitism. Greening and prospering the places that engage with her. Patience. Reveling in and enjoying the diversity of her "thoughts."

Re guns, again, see the only wise (or wiseguy) take on this:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2007/01/brin-classics-jefferson-rifle.html

Tyler, Canada has lots of guns. Canadians are easily as armed as yanks are. What they don't have is loony, self-righteous gun NUTS screeching "those horrid lefties are after my guyns so I gotta buy MORE!!!!!!!!!!"

These screeds are issued by fox * friends without a scintilla of evidence that mainstream liberals or Democrats have EVER proposed ANY state or nation-wide measures that would have seriously reduced traditional rights to own traditional rifles & shotguns. Ever.

It's like railing about Obamacare being "socialism." When, even AFTER Obamacare, the US has the very least socialized health care system anywhere in the industrial world. And by far the most inefficient and costly.

Robert you have GOT to read:

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2007/01/brin-classics-jefferson-rifle.html
There is ZERO chance that our present military could hold even Washington DC if opposed by a vigorously angry populace. I mean that. Given desertions and fraggings that would happen in that case, I doubt they could even hold their own bases.

====

Carl, thank you for summarizing. Yes, Smith was decidedly a "liberal" tho motivated (as I am) more by pragmatic outcomes - maximizing the number of empowered competitors - than by goody-goody morality.

(Though he spoke to the latter, also. In fact, they tend to be completely compatible. One of the chief advantages of (classic) liberalism. As opposed to lefty-nannystate preachiness.)

Without a scintilla of doubt, Smith would today be a democrat... though possibly a blue dog.

You are right that some libertarians, some of the time, assail "capture" of govt regulations by monopolists. But I have found that this is often mealy-mouthed. An excuse to keep screeching at the enabler (govt) without ever casting blame on the caste that bribes the officials and give them their corrupt orders.

The notion that monopolies would not exist without civil servants is part of the general tendency of libertarians to be absolute morons, when it comes to history. The exercise I prescribe - rolling up random eras and pinpointing the tyrants - ought to shift the view of ANY libertarian back toward Smithianism. The modern mixed enlightenment society is still the REBEL against the standard oligarchy.

Yes, communism seemed to be a leftist threat. I contend that the soviet nomenklatura caste became a standard conspiratorial oligarchy very rapidly, with socialism as a state religion.

Here's the crux though. BOTH SOCIALISM AND OLIGARCH-MONOPOLY "ALLOCATE" RESOURCES IN NON-MARKET WAYS!

See:http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/06/allocation-vs-markets-ancient-struggle.html

The mantra is that three-score golf buddy CEOs are wise enough to direct an economy, while three-score commissar-bureaucrats are not. This is pure insanity. Both Smith and Hayek made clear that EITHER group of tyrants will be both delusional and corrupt.

For libertarians to prefer one over the other is simply sappy.

Carl, whatever FDR's mistakes... and we'd clearly disagree over many points... he PREVENTED the socialist PUTSCH that was spreading around the world from happening in the US. Both Marxist and Fascist style revolutions were sweeping the globe. Momentum was building here. Both Roosevelts prevented revolutions that would have been stupid horrors.

Paul said...

Ilithi Dragon,
"Not just a bystander, but one of the women he SHOT. Whomever this woman is, she definitely deserves a medal.

True. (Although others helped, apparently.)

I don't know the your system of civilian awards, but I wonder if it would help offset the "bystander effect" if there was a standard series of "Citizen Responder" awards. Whether it's "helped an old man who collapsed in the street" through "organised a fire-line to defend houses until the fire-department arrived" up to "ran towards the gunman".

Not saying people will chase the medals, but hearing about what other people did will normalise and reinforce the behaviour.

I don't just mean the occasional bravery award for going above-and-beyond, I mean thousands of low-level awards every year, in every state, for seemingly routine things, like assisting at an accident. So if you don't have a drawer full by the time you die, you haven't been trying.

(Throw in guaranteed government assistance if sued by those you tried to help. Restricting the right of others to bring lawsuits is more dangerous, IMO.)

Tacitus2 said...

The Arizona shooting is already yesterday's news. We react with horror, then a collective shrug. Relief I guess. We are not yet to the point of political hits and God help us may we never get there. But a shrug of, well, resignation. Because there are deep resevoirs of crazy people and of deadly firearms and this is going to happen again. And again.
Our best leaders have sounded the right notes. I though Obama and Boehner were both eloquent and sincere. But even the best of them have some things to be sheepish about. Obama quoting the Untouchables about bringing a knife to a gun fight. Ryan and collegues and their unoffical designation as Young Guns.
Palin comes in for plenty of grief for her map with targets on it. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quickly scrubs a similar map that had been around even longer.
I have had experiences not commonplace. My family, with one month old baby in tow, was once robbed at gunpoint. And I can tell you that looking down the barrel of a gun is a surreal experience that does not really shake you til later. (The criminals involved later murdered a guy in a similar hold up).
Fast forward 23 years and that now 6 foot 1 baby has a brief encounter with a grizzly bear fishing in Alaska, and that night in the backwoods cafe we noticed all the men were packing sidearms.

The framers of the constitution got so many things just right--seperation of church and state for instance. And a number of things as close as could be expected for the times, leaving a mechanism for equality of women and minorities.

The second amendment is tough. It makes me uncomfortable. With the memory of revolution here and abroad so fresh they may well have intended it as a last ditch option for citizens against oppresive government.

I have no solutions for you. Don't talk to me about some well regulated militia drilling on the village green. You want some serious bad things done its a well regulated, or at least well organized militia you turn to. Janjaweed, Hezbollah, TonTon Macoutes, Green Police, its a Hall of Shame by and large.

Maybe as a start we can change our "diet". After 9/11 we had a few years where phallic appearing guns vanished from movie ads. Even now I wholehearted consume Mythbusters which has a fair amount of gun related material.

On shift in two hours. Hope nobody gets shot tonight.

Tacitus2

Paul said...

Robert,
"will [...] result in only criminals possessing guns, while law-abiding citizens are rendered powerless to defend their lives and property. And the mass shootings will continue. There are so many guns in America now [...] those warned in advance who would hide their guns"

People said those exact same things in Australia. (Hell, some even talked about the govt taking away their "constitutional rights", except we don't have a "right to bear arms".)

But the crime rate didn't soar, or drop. Neither did the murder rate. It didn't help or hinder gang crime. Gun control only affects crazy bastard mass shootings.

Tyler August,
"I still don't see how gun control takes away your second amendment rights. You can join a well-regulated militia at any time, Rob."

Err, Tyler, even I know that's not what it means.

"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" should be read as "Since the Fed must have a standing army, the people must have the means to defend themselves against such army."

Therefore the 2nd amendment should be read not as "the right to defend my home from criminals", but "the right to defend against the army." Since the US military is supreme in anything accept asymmetrical warfare, the only weapons the 2nd amendment protects are full-auto assault rifles, sniper rifles, RPGs, and explosives for IEDs. (I look forward to that case reaching the Supreme Court :)

As Robert, Sociotard and David implied, it's not about hunting rifles and handguns. It's about being able to create an apple-pie Al Qaeda.

Paul said...

David,re:Earth and Gaia
"Um indulgent benign neglect? Enhancing everybody's wealth and health, accelerating progress, reducing parasitism. Greening and prospering the places that engage with her. Patience. Reveling in and enjoying the diversity of her "thoughts." "

Perhaps, but I'll need you to "show your work". Perhaps in book form. Hint hint.

Tony Fisk said...

The US do seem to obsess about firearms.

Reading Flannery's comments on 'discounting the future' and its link with high risk activity, one might suggest rephrasing the line from Bobby McGee:

'Murder's just another name for nothing left to lose'

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Or to put it another way, Prohibition revealed what happens when you try to force Americans to abandon something they don't want to. This time around, I doubt it would be nearly as benign as the birth of organized crime and speakeasies.


You don't really think we're headed for anything close to outright prohibition on gun possession, do you? The furthest that gun control has ever been taken is to restrict WHERE you're allowed to have your guns. Except for some big cities (including my own Chicago), your right to a gun in your own home will not be in danger, and your right to a gun on an airplane (for example) has been gone for a long time now.

The most I see (if anything) coming out of the Giffords shooting is a proliferation of security checks around public events, and that's a slope we've been sliding down for a long time now, not a brand new thing.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

The second amendment is tough. It makes me uncomfortable. With the memory of revolution here and abroad so fresh they may well have intended it as a last ditch option for citizens against oppresive government.


I'm thinking they specifically did NOT want future governments to foreclose future Lexington-and-Concord actions.

I'm also guessing that what they had in mind with that "militia" bit is something like Switzerland, where instead of an institutional standing army, every citizen IS the army.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Palin comes in for plenty of grief for her map with targets on it. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quickly scrubs a similar map that had been around even longer.


So maybe for every Limgaugh-Beck-Palin incitement to violence, you can come up with an example of lefties behaving badly too. But as far as RESULTS go, the playing field seems to me to be one-sided to the point of ludicrousness. How many Republica politicians have been shot since McKinley? How many have had antrax sent to their Senate offices? How many have gone down in mysterious plane crashes, for that matter?

Ok, that last one makes me sound like a loonie, so I'll withdraw it if it obfuscates my point.

And as self-righeously indignant as I may sound here, I'm legitimately asking the question. Personally, it seems that liberals have been on the receiving end of shootings and domestic terrorism to the point that it's ridiculous to assert that both sides do it. But if you can show me where I'm wrong...it might even help me sleep better at night.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

On shift in two hours. Hope nobody gets shot tonight.


Oh, right. I forgot you're right there on the front lines of that sort of thing.

I know what you mean. Several years ago, my wife had a gall-bladder problem that almost killed her. She was scheduled for surgery on a Monday, but was bumped from the OR for a street shooting case. Didn't have the surgery until Wednesday, and she could barely eat a thing in the intervening two days.

David Brin said...

Larry said: "So maybe for every Limgaugh-Beck-Palin incitement to violence, you can come up with an example of lefties behaving badly too. But as far as RESULTS go, the playing field seems to me to be one-sided to the point of ludicrousness."

It is simpler. Both right and left contain nasty loons. The chief difference is only this: that the loons on the right own and operate an entire political party, which is in turn puppetted by a Goebbels-level propaganda machine owned and run by foreign trillionaires. And when that political party ran the country, they harmed it with absolutely every action that they took.

The loons on the left run some blogs and some university dingbat-studies departments. Sometimes they propose a stupid bill... and most get quietly put aside. BFD

Paul, you clearly have NOT read my own super-wise gun control article, cited above! ;-)

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart
A fair question.
The closest match to the recent atrocity is the Reagan shooting. Prior to that the two attempts on Jerry Ford's life.
One might add Jonestown, the previous assasination of a congressperson. That was a Democrat if memory serves but one can hardly call Jim Jones a right winger despite "drink the Koolaid" regrettably entering the political lexicon.
If Fox is the least temperate of the "news" organizations I think the entire entertainment industry (a crucial Democratic power base) needs some scrutiny too. Would Hinkley have acted as he did without Taxi Driver?
Maybe.
But I would like to see gun violence get the abhorrence it deserves. Even when well done, like the recent True Grit, it is dehumanizing.
Tacitus2

David Brin said...

Olbermann told his audience that "we need to put the guns down. Just as importantly we need to put the gun metaphors away and permanently."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/08/keith-olbermann-arizona-shooting_n_806311.html

Look, I am about to be on Colbert, albeit eviscerated by remote. Just look at Stewart & Colbert and compare them to Beck & Limbaugh.

Stewart & Colbert have GUESTS! Moreover, at least 25% of them are conservatives, pushing their books. They have arguments. The guest gets his say.

Beck & Limbaugh and Hannity NEVER have guests who challenge them. Ever. They are worse than liars, they are rank cowards.

O'Reilly does. Sometimes. If O'Reilly were the EXTREME end of the radical right machine, then we would be in an era when reason and negotiation were possible.

I'd hate him. But I'd tune in. And his side would not be (as it is today) stark jibbering and treasonously insane.

rewinn said...

"..."A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed" should be read as "Since the Fed must have a standing army, the people must have the means to defend themselves against such army."

No. This is directly contrary to the purpose of the militia as specified in Article 1:

"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions. ..."

The literal text of the Constitution defines the purpose of the militia NOT to fight the federal army, but to supplement it. And in fact that's what happened, e.g. in the Whiskey Rebellion.

Our Founders didn't really want to have much of a standing army. Kings with standing armies do bad things to free peoples, if only to pay for the armies. Their vision was to have a nonagressive nation that might have to fight off invasion from time-to-time. For that purpose, the smallest possible standing army plus a militia would suffice, and therefore we have the 2nd Amendment (plus the "letters of marque" bit in Article 1 - clear indication that the Navy wasn't going to be large enough to engage in offensive operations and might need to rely on legalized piracy to defend the Nation.)

I appreciate that our current Supreme Corporate may have issued a different view (5-4) but it's an extremely activist Court; as with any final referee, we have to accept its rulings without denying the evidence of our own senses.

Tim H. said...

A blogger wonders "Why didn't anyone say "What the hell is wrong with you?" to the shooter"
http://www.ginandtacos.com/2011/01/10/the-unasked-question/

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

The closest match to the recent atrocity is the Reagan shooting. Prior to that the two attempts on Jerry Ford's life.


Ok, I'll give you Reagan, with the caveat that Republicans don't seem to have SUCCESSFUL domestic terrorist attacks against them, at least not since the 19th century. That's not exactly to Hinkley's credit, but it is what it is.

Here, I'm sure my bias is showing, but neither Reagan's nor Ford's attackers seemed to be expressing hatred of right-wing politics. They were wanabee-celebrities who targeted the President specifically because doing so would generate publicity. Do you want to make a similar claim about Giffords? I'll listen, but I gotta tell you I'm predisposed to think there's a difference.


One might add Jonestown, the previous assasination of a congressperson. That was a Democrat if memory serves but one can hardly call Jim Jones a right winger despite "drink the Koolaid" regrettably entering the political lexicon.


That was an entirely different case. First of all, it took place on foreign soil in the killer's own stronghold. More to the point, the killing had nothing to do with Ryan's politics. He was killed specifically because he was coming to investigate Jonestown.


If Fox is the least temperate of the "news" organizations I think the entire entertainment industry (a crucial Democratic power base) needs some scrutiny too. Would Hinkley have acted as he did without Taxi Driver?


I have to admit here to never having seen "Taxi Driver", so I don't know what Hinkey was imitating. Did the movie incite violence against right-wingers in particular, or did it simply incite violence? If the latter, then I think the connection through "Democratic power base" is a bit weak. You seem to be accusing Democrats (via Hollywood) of being irresponsible about inspiring violence, which may well be the case, but that's not the same thing as Republicans in their role as political leaders inspiring violence as a way of ridding oneself of troublesome liberals.

And I know I'm going off the rails here, but somehow, the acts of domestic terrorism against Democrats are so darn successful. JFK, MLK, RFK, Wallace (the most conservative of the list and also the one who survived), Mel Carnahagn AND Paul Wellstone going down in airplanes, anthrax sent to Tom Daschle and Pat Leahey, and that's just off the top of my head. To this, you throw back Reagan and Ford, both of whom survived, and the Jonestown congressman (Ryan) who was killed for a very specific reason?

I still don't see parity. I see (not from you, but just out there in general) an attitude that says opposition to conservative politicians is treason, whereas opposition to liberal politicians is one's patriotic duty, both sides of which inspire and then excuse violence to intimidate one side of the political aisle. And with the Giffords shooting, I've become less likely to just let it lie.

LarryHart said...

From Tim H's link two or so posts up:


I've called out the GOP here because violent, overblown, apocalyptic, and, most importantly, false rhetoric is a much bigger problem on the right. We are all afraid to say that and they squeal like teakettles if anyone even suggests it. If your first reaction is that "both sides" share equal blame, listen to or read some Coulter, Savage, Limbaugh, Beck, et al and ask yourself who you think you are kidding. Read The Eliminationists and get back to us with some equivalent examples of "leftists" trafficking in similar rhetoric.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I think Larry's point is best expressed by noting that things like this are fairly common and popular 'jokes' from the conservative/Republican side of the aisle, but are never seen from the liberal/Democrat side of the aisle, and the conservative/Republican side screeches to high heaven if such 'jokes' are criticized.

David Smelser said...

If one looks one can find equally bad behavior from the extreme left.
See: http://michellemalkin.com/2011/01/10/the-progressive-climate-of-hate-an-illustrated-primer-2000-2010/
for a collection of:
" I. PALIN HATE
II. BUSH HATE
III. MISC. TEA PARTY/GOP/ANTI-TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE HATE
IV. ANTI-CONSERVATIVE FEMALE HATE
V. LEFT-WING MOB HATE — campus, anti-war radicals, ACORN, eco-extremists, & unions
VI. OPEN-BORDERS HATE
VII. ANTI-MILITARY HATE
VIII. HATE: CRIMES — the ever-growing Unhinged Mugshot Collection"

This isn't a defense of what happened to Arizona, just an acknowledgment that neither side has a monopoly of angry/frustrated individuals.

Tacitus2 said...

Larry

The basic template, mentally unstable person with handgun, fits the Reagan attempt and the two attempts on Ford.
Reagan came near to dying, like the AZ congresswoman the difference was a nearby first class trauma center and a few millimeters of trajectory. The two Ford incidents blur in my recollection but I do recall a misfire in one instance and a heroic bystander in another.

It must be acknowleged that in earlier times it may have been harder to lay hands on higher caliber, rapid fire weapons. Reagan was nearly killed with a .22for goodness sakes.

The same pattern fits RFK.

I find offensive the premature attribution of political motives in this case. If they exist they need to be brought forward. If there is crow to be eaten I will tuck in my napkin and pick up knife and fork.

The anthrax case has too many loose ends for my money. I am not prone to conspiracy nonsense but there may be something there beyond the guy who took the fall for it. Not sure how TV stations and tabloids fit the narrative.

I am all for a cleansing of our political discourse, all too military even when less contentious. And I want to see less use of guns and shootings as dramatic elements.

You want reality lets see some creative types dare to show a young person in a wheelchair, complete with tubes, catheters, bedsores and destroyed future.

Tacitus

rewinn said...

"...equally bad behavior from the extreme left..."

But not from official candidates for federal office, except those of the Republican Party.

Conservatives cannot truthfully pretend there is any sort of equivalence here. If you look long enough on the internet, you can find anything, but you will not find a "liberal" running for Vice-President or for Senate talking about "2nd Amendment Solutions" a.k.a. making war on the the United States.

Major conservative characters such as Glenn Beck muse about their desire to murder people in prime time. You don't find that anywhere in the core of liberalism.

Hypnos said...

"If one looks one can find equally bad behavior from the extreme left."
True. And that is where one should expect to find such language and imagery.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Right, such language comes from elected members of Congress, vice-presidential candidates, and media pundits with audiences in the millions.

Failing to acknowledge the differences is not only disingenous. It is right down vile and only contributes to fostering the climate of hate that brought about the shooting.

Also, it is a further demonstration of how childish and immature the Right has become. What they should have said is: "We apologize for the extreme rhetoric. We will make sure such rhetoric won't be used again in the future."

This is what Obama did after his "enemies" comment.

Instead, the response has been "the left does it too!"

A 5 year old response.

A 5 year old with the power to incite heavily armed, deranged fanatics.

LarryHart said...

rewinn said:

"...equally bad behavior from the extreme left..."

But not from official candidates for federal office, except those of the Republican Party.


Also, the point isn't that the right's rhetoric is unmatched on the left. It's the results. Lefties may be prone to violent fantasies about ridding ourselves of troublesome righties, but no one on the left is actually transforming those fantasies into reality.

As a liberal, I'm worried about being shot for my political views, and (more likely) worried that MY representatives in government will be intimidated by the implicit threat of violence. Do people on the other side have the same fear for the well-being of Palin and Limbaugh and Boehner? I just don't see anyone on the right being in actual danger.

To me, THAT's the crucial difference that makes it something other than "both sides are just as bad."

Robert said...

Oi! Let's not forget to try and keep things civil here! While things aren't TOO heated at the moment, I sense things could head that way if we're not careful.

Look. The Right may be more likely than the Left to do violence-rhetoric, but that doesn't mean that the Left should ignore the Right when they claim "you do this too!" In this case, maturity is called for.

If someone said to me "well the Left is just as much to blame!" then I'd say "Then let's stop the violent rhetoric on BOTH sides of the political spectrum, starting right now."

After all, if you refuse to argue and just state it's time to act like grownups then the violent-rhetoric individuals are left with two choices: stopping their violent rhetoric, or looking like hypocrites.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Thanks for engaging in rational discussion.


I find offensive the premature attribution of political motives in this case.


I lay no claim to knowledge of the shooter's personal politics.

What I do think is at work is that the climate of political discourse (maybe especially in Arizona) is that a Democratic congresswoman, one who ran and won against the Tea Party, is "fair game". Not that the shooter necessarily had a political grudge, but that if he wanted to make a scene by shooting someone, she was an acceptable target.


The anthrax case has too many loose ends for my money. I am not prone to conspiracy nonsense but there may be something there beyond the guy who took the fall for it. Not sure how TV stations and tabloids fit the narrative.


Its been a long time, but here's what I remember. This was in 2001, when the Senate was momentarily back in Democratic hands (51-49) thanks to Jim Jeffords's defection. It was also the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and the GOP was champing at the bit to rush the U.S.A.P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act into law. Two prominent Democrats were in a position to slow or stop that process: then-Majority leader Tom Daschle and head of whatever committee it was, Pat Leahey.

And guess which two senators got mailed anthrax. And guess what got passed.

There are plenty of conservative figures in all three branches of government (and the media) who may be "hated" by liberals, who may be the targets of internet screeds against them. But I see no evidence that conservatives who piss off their political opponents do so in peril of life and limb, as IS the case with liberals.

David Brin said...

Rob H. An entire political wing should not be held into account for the crazies on its side that its leaders all disavow. The examples of lefty crazies are mostly kooks who dem media and officials openly and decisively disdain.

The movement now owned and operated by Fox is run by the inmates.

...onward...