Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pseudonyms, Algorithms and Problems of Human Control

A couple of interesting items from the near future, this time.  But first... Does the Murdoch Hacking Scandal Signify the End of Privacy? - Scientific American interviews 'one of the world thought-leaders on transparency, whistle-blowing, hacking and our future as an "enlightened" civilization.'  (Their words. In fact, the “thought-leader” happens to be me. Gosh.)

Should Facebook and Google+ offer pseudonymic membership?


Still in beta testing, Google-Plus is already a hit, making Facebook nervous with some blatantly better approaches to social networking -- such as the ability to specify your postings to different groups of 'friends'.  One of many fixes we humans have been asking for. (Find me on Google Plus!)

Yet, controversy already simmers.  Take the issue of pseudonymity vs identity.  Just like Facebook, Google+ insists that people use their real names. They've already suspended many accounts found to be in violation.

Complains one blogger: “Allowing pseudonyms could be a way for Google Plus to distinguish itself from Facebook, particularly since Google contends that Google Plus emphasizes personal control over information and sharing. But as it stands, that control is limited to those who choose to go by real names.” Some users, no doubt, merely want to separate their public and private profiles.

Some take their objection even further:  Google+'s "No-Pseudonyms" Policy is Homophobic, Not Just Anti-Social. A snip: “Forcing people to use their real names can be directly damaging to people, especially people who are persecuted for their political views, or persecuted just for being who they are. Like LGBT people — who still face execution in at least three countries.”

A good point.  But Google and Facebook have legitimate counter-points of their own.  First, anonymity and unaccountable pseudonymity are proved to foster some very unpleasant types of online behavior, ranging from predatory to deliberately harmful to just plain nasty. Second, anonymity can open the door to automated personas that sift and collect data for hidden masters, or that might replicate endlessly, clogging the system with multiple, non-real  entities. 


Sure, there should be realms where identity is as open and wild as the old west! But when it comes to those domains that offer themselves up as central fora, where we'll all feel obliged to join and where our children feel they "must" have a presence? These should be subject to norms of accountability, backed by a reputation that rises and falls according to one's deeds - as it always did for our ancestors. 

There are other problems too, described in my book The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to Choose Between Privacy and Freedom.

The perennial key question: Must we make an either-or choice? Our civilization made most of its real strides by looking for the win-win, the positive sum game. I have been consulting for some folks who believe they see a terrific business offering two items desperately needed online, both reputation management and portable but accountable pseudonyms... 

...pseudonyms that come certified and therefore offer some defense  against abuse, with “follow me” reputations that ensure accountability for specific misbehaviors... but still provide safety from retribution for political or other views.  In fact, the outline for such a system seems remarkably clear, with some surprising added benefits! 

Somebody is going to make a lot of money, providing a win-win-win solution to this problem.

Are Algorithms Going to Take Over? Too late - they have!

Kevin Slavin argues that we're living in a world designed for -- and increasingly controlled by -- algorithms. In this riveting talk from TEDGlobal, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture. And he warns that we are writing code we can't understand, with implications we can't control...


Watch the video, then ponder the microsecond trading that he reveals in Wall Street. Stock markets should be driven by people who study a company's details and choose to invest... not by computer programs that detect the ordering patterns of those studious investors and automatically buy up whatever stock they want, before they can type "return."

In what way does that make "markets more efficient?"  How does it allocate investment capital better?  In fact, it deters intelligent investment in promising companies because the system has parasitic organisms sucking gradient energy and flattening opportunity curves.

I never thought of this before.  These awful parasitic trade-programs are the biggest argument FOR insider trading!

You know how I feel about this!

The Securities and Exchange Commission approved rules Wednesday that could make it highly lucrative for Wall Street whistleblowers and other corporate insiders to alert the agency to securities violations. Under the rules, whistleblowers will be entitled to receive 10 percent to 30 percent of the money they help the SEC collect through enforcement actions. Corporations had lobbied intensely for rules that would impose constraints on whistleblowers.  

And this...

Dozens of police departments nationwide are gearing up to use a tech company’s already controversial iris- and facial-scanning device that slides over an iPhone and helps identify a person or track criminal suspects. The so-called “biometric” technology could improve speed and accuracy in some routine police work in the field.  The smartphone-based scanner, named Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, can be deployed by officers out on the beat or back at the station.

An iris scan is significantly more accurate than results from other fingerprinting technology long in use by police, BI2 says. When attached to an iPhone, MORIS can photograph a person’s face and run the image through software that hunts for a match in a BI2-managed database of U.S. criminal records. Each unit costs about $3,000.

Can we get the benefits without paying a steep cost?  Sure... providing we get these things, too!  And we always, always have the right to aim them back at authority.

Briefly back to politics... and murdochs vs eloi...

Got the literary reference? Now dig this.

Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal - Rupert Murdoch’s top partner and co-owner of Fox News - said that he wants oil prices to drop so that the United States and Europe don't accelerate efforts to wean themselves off his country's supply. Ask your favorite Fox-watcher what he or she makes of all the facts contained in that sentence.  First get them to read it aloud.  Watch cognitive dissonance and denial go to work. 

And to show who Barry Goldwater or William F. Buckley would be voting for, today? President Obama announces push to train 10,000 engineers yearly.

Science Miscellany

Some black holes may be older than time. 

And the campaign against Uplift begins -- with fear-mongering. See also "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."  This is going to be a hard struggle, with BOTH the right and the left lined up against what could be humanity's greatest and most noble accomplishment.

And more misceallaneous cool/weird science? Can eating “probiotic” bacteria extend health and life? Long considered a beneficial side effect of eating certain types of yoghurt, these “good bacteria” have been studied and even refined a bit by science. Indications are that there’s some truth to it. But do researchers have any literary background? Aldous Huxley wrote of gut bacteria bringing immortality in “After Many a Summer Dies the Swan.” (1939) You only learn it’s scifi on the last page! 

An interesting attempt to create a nonprofit to improve discourse by holding public figures accountable for conflicts of interest.  I’m not at all sure it is well-designed or executed, but some folks should look it over and report back. 

With support from President Barack Obama, NASA’s budget is at an all-time high. Over the next four months, the  division is due to launch three major missions: to the Moon, to  and to Jupiter. And the heliophysics division plans to send a probe plunging into the blistering atmosphere of the Sun, closer than ever before. But because the overall NASA science budget is relatively flat, something had to give. Since 2008, astrophysics funding has plunged relative to other NASA science -- and relative to physics and astronomy funding at other agencies.  Stung by spiraling costs and charges of mismanagement, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) -- Hubble's long-awaited successor -- is now seen by some critics as too expensive to fly. And the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which would hunt for exoplanets and probe the poorly understood phenomenon known as dark energy, may take too long to develop to be worthwhile. 

Don't be like these stupid engineers 

Water appears to be abundant in the universe -- even where we least expect it!  Caltech researchers recently found an immense cloud of water vapor near a quasar  surrounding a black hole. This distant (and ancient) site - the super-blasting center of an ancient galaxy - indicates that water was around from the earliest stages of the universe...


Now to find intelligence... anywhere! Far from Washington, I presume...

203 comments:

1 – 200 of 203   Newer›   Newest»
John said...

Neither Facebook nor Google+ require real names. Both allow pseudonyms. As long as the pseudonym sounds like a real name.

Want to be Gertrude Feinstein, Shirley Cunningham, Sigmund McDonald, or John Smith? Nothing is stopping you.

It's only those with weird pseudonyms (or weird real names) that are going to have their accounts deleted.

Jacob said...

I was wondering what your reaction would be to The Rise of the Planet of the Apes. However, it seems to be (based on the previews I have seen) like Frankenstein, in that a person (or company) helps to create a new creature, but then abandons it, making it more the irresponsibility of the patron that leads to the disaster. Still, I don't think it will help uplift progress any.

Brendan said...

On share trading, I have long thought there should be a tax on buying shares with exempions for IPOs and new share offers. That way most of the micro-profit share trading becomes unviable.

David Brin said...

Brendan you nailed it. Including the IPO & new share exemption. Those are, after all, not "gambling" trades but the cash actually goes to the actual company to invest in its actual future.

The 5,000 physicists (i am NOT joking!) and mathematicians who went to Wall Street ascribe to a religion of "reducing friction in markets" in order to maximize their efficiency. Not a glimmer of a thought goes into "where does the actual money actually go?"

They are religious fanatics, who believe they are helping civilization, while destroying it.

===
Jacob I will post about Planet of Apes some time soon.

Pangolin said...

What are Cher, Sting, the sigil formerly known as Prince and the untold hordes of Forest(s), Summer(s), Moss(s), and Serenity(s) supposed to do?

If Google's knowledge about my personal quirks were for sale to prospective employers I would be unemployable and chances are you would too. Think about how many employers would refuse to hire a Green Party member. Now multiply that by 1000 traits. We are NOT ready for a transparent society.

I would accept a registered, accountable pseudonym as long as that sucker was sealed so tight it would take two subpoenas and a pediatric speculum to get my real identity free.

Oh, the first serious attempts at "uplift" will be due to some pervy billionaire's kid funding attempts to create "furries."

wv: ploosi, AI has a sick mind....

rewinn said...

"...Pseudonyms..."
If an ID is clearly a pseudonym, it would seem to be at worst harmless in an environment where participants can block anyone they don't like, and clearly beneficial with respect to privacy and/or humor. I have reason to believe that the Facebooker FlamingBag OfPoo is a pseudonym, even though she?he?it? claims to be merely a candidate for the presidential nomination that is more honest than most about what's inside them.

...parasitic trade-programs...
Humanity is no longer the only form of intelligent life on this planet. Let us hope the new gods are benevolent, indifferent or at least not actively hostile to us.

whistleblowers rewards...
How long it is before someone markets CDOs based on whistleblower awards?

MORIS...
$3000 sounds like a LOT of money for a camera & software. Why would it not be just another app in five years ... assuming The Powers That Be don't block it?

"Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal wants oil prices to drop so that the United States and Europe don't accelerate efforts to wean themselves off his country's supply..."
This sounds like a prime candidate for an autotune'd video. We can't expect fans of the Aristocracy to READ, but a suitable video could be effective.

...primordial black holes ...older than time ...
No doubt I'm just not understanding this, but why would "time" in some sense not simply stack in such a case?

NASA Budget ...
Funny thing - I had bought into the claims by some that Obama had trashed NASA; I guess I should have asked for the numbers!

"...water was around from the earliest stages of the universe..."
PROVING Genesis 1:2 AHHA!

And a plug:
St. Louis U is looking for post-9/11 veterans with a concussion or brain injury who could use a couple hundred bucks helping science.

rewinn said...

Silly me - messed up the St. Louis brain injury study link. Anyway, maybe this can be helpful to a few concuss'd or TBI'd guys.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On pseudonyms:

I use this identity for just about everything, including my Facebook profile, and I've not had any problems. I also intend to transfer it to to Google+ when I get the chance to try it out. If Google+ doesn't allow me to use this pseudonym, then I probably won't use it for much. It's not that I have any real issue with people knowing my 'real life' identity (beyond some small comfort that connecting my 'real life' identity with my 'online' identity, while probably no more than ten minutes' effort, is beyond the maximum effort most people are willing to invest in making the connection, in either direction), it's just that this is the persona I like to 'dress up' in when partaking of the internet. It's like a favorite jacket or hat that a person wears just about everywhere they go.

If Google+ says I'm not allowed to wear my favorite hat or jacket in their tour of the internet, then I probably won't participate.

David Brin said...

I just received the following plaintive request from a fan. Can any of you think of the scene he's talking about?

"In one of your novels--and I read many of them, but years ago--you had a passage referring to the loss of a pet. It was in the context of a virtualization of a long lost pet, and the passage captured the thoughts of the man who had lost the pet years before. It was, as many of your lines were, beautiful and moving.

"I have a friend who lost her old companion. I wanted to send it along, but I long ago dispensed with my kilometers of shelf space devoted to fiction, and my Googling has been fruitless. Any chance you know the passage to which I refer?"

????

Robert said...

I don't know. I'm known as Tangent in a number of places. But I'm also known as Robert Howard in those same places. Tangent may be my handle, but I don't hide in anonymity and have long felt anonymity encourages people to be assholes. (Of course, I'm an asshole anyway, but I'm honest about it.)

The funny thing is, Tangent started out as the last name of a character I was writing. It became a descriptor for me, seeing how I go off on tangents all the time. ;) (And the Tangents site originally was for a webcomic called "Tangents" which was a spinoff of Maritza Campos's CRfH; I felt "Tangents" suited it as it was a tangent from her old story. Later of course I took the characters I'd created and put them in their own world... but kept "Tangents" for a site name.)

Heh. Looks like I just went off on a tangent there. Sorry all. ^^;;

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

David Brin said...

One reader suggests I should mention... "Google's primary reason for nixing anonymity: it wants to track and monetize users."

Well, I'm addressing the official reasons. Anyway, my win-win would help US.

I enjoy being pseudonymous everywhere but google+ said...

Communities cannot satisfy everyone. Communities are often about compromise. You cannot allow a majority of people to have strange-looking pseudonyms in addition to expecting non-geeks to find the site friendly.

There must be compromise at some point, but most people simply think of only what they want. People are selfish.

As for wanting official names for monetization, that's simply bullshit (mostly spread by Dave Winer). I worked for data mining companies for years, and they don't give a whit about your real name; it's completely irrelevant data as far as targeting goes.

David Brin said...

You heard it from me first! Now it is openly discussed:

"Analysts do not expect the credit rating agencies to downgrade U.S. debt if Congress does not raise the limit by August 2 and the government is still able to pay its bills."

http://news.yahoo.com/default-deadline-truly-aug-2-analysts-no-000349079.html

Default is not paying your bills. Obama can and must reduce everybody's checks (except Social Security) by whatever fraction it takes to pay our interest and maintain the FAA and emergency services.

And let the blowback go where it deserves to go.

Ian said...

"With support from President Barack Obama, NASA’s budget is at an all-time high."

all-time, David?

Or post-Apollo?

Didn't NASA spend something like $50 billion a year (inflation-adjusted) in the 60's?

LarryHart said...

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

Watching our system deal with the debt ceiling crisis ... it’s increasingly obvious that what we’re looking at is the destructive influence of a cult that has really poisoned our political system.

...

No, the cult that I see as reflecting a true moral failure is the cult of balance, of centrism.

Think about what’s happening right now. We have a crisis in which the right is making insane demands, while the president and Democrats in Congress are bending over backward to be accommodating — offering plans that are all spending cuts and no taxes, plans that are far to the right of public opinion.

So what do most news reports say? They portray it as a situation in which both sides are equally partisan, equally intransigent — because news reports always do that. And we have influential pundits calling out for a new centrist party, a new centrist president, to get us away from the evils of partisanship.

The reality, of course, is that we already have a centrist president — actually a moderate conservative president. Once again, health reform — his only major change to government — was modeled on Republican plans, indeed plans coming from the Heritage Foundation. And everything else — including the wrongheaded emphasis on austerity in the face of high unemployment — is according to the conservative playbook.

What all this means is that there is no penalty for extremism; no way for most voters, who get their information on the fly rather than doing careful study of the issues, to understand what’s really going on.

You have to ask, what would it take for these news organizations and pundits to actually break with the convention that both sides are equally at fault? This is the clearest, starkest situation one can imagine short of civil war. If this won’t do it, nothing will.

...

It’s a terrible thing to watch, and our nation will pay the price.

LarryHart said...

As the deadline approaches, it may become clearer that the hostages that the Republicans have taken are actually their own. The system that benefits the top 1% at the expense of everybody else is being held hostage to the insane demands of those who the top 1% support with campaign contributions.

Instead of "Do what we say or we'll shoot your kid", the clear dynamic is "Gove me more of the golden eggs, or we'll shoot the goose."

I hope the US Chamber of Commerce ad its ilk are having a serious case of buyers' remorse.

dunniteowl said...

On pseudonyms: I think the idea of prohibiting pseudonyms is in the category of "wrong headed." There are authors and actors galore who clearly are using Nom de Plumes and Fake Names and we all recognize them as such. Myself? I am the only person on the internet that I have discovered using "dunniteowl" and I comport myself in the same manner with that handle as I would with my real name -- which probably shows up as the "author" of this post.

I see some pseudonyms as worthy of banning on some fora, to be sure, no-one wants their little tykes net-user (which I subjectively think is also a categorically "wrongheaded" privilige for any child under 15 years of age in the first place) to see a Nom de Guerre of "Stalking yer Kidz" or "xXSexMeNowXx" or other such nonsense.

That said, who really gives a rat's fart? If they have stupid names and wish to idolize or glorify some idealogy or quirk of the mind, then at least you have some idea of the twisted nature of that person. Does a company -- any company -- have an ethical "right" to know who you truly are? Does any person?

Think about it. What do they say about most serial killers or mass murderers? "He was a nice guy, polite, kept to himself." You ask me, it's the "normal" folks we should be investigating. We'd prolly find that there really is no such thing as normal and no-one would sleep well at night after that.

I think keeping pseudonyms and allowing them when they are readable and pronounceable should be a capstone of online identity, real or otherwise.

Singularity Utopia said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_they_came%E2%80%A6

There are many things to say regarding the G+ user-name fascism, perhaps the best point has already been made that pseudonyms are not banned it is only weird looking names that are banned. It is easy to call yourself Sam Johnson or Julie Hampton and no one would ever know you are being fake. Real-sounding names are permitted even if you are not really who you say you are. Robin Sage highlighted this problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robin_Sage

Let us be clear regarding what the Google name purge is. It's censorship of creativity. It's a move towards banality, obedience, conformity regimentation, uniformity. An internet where we must use real names is something the Soviet Union, Chinese, or Iranian Governments might wish to implement. We should expect better from Google. The name purge is an attempt to suppress freedom of thought and freedom of self-expression. The Google user-name policy is fascist.

Future George Orwells or Lady Gagas will be stifled if we put restrictions on creative name usage. George Orwell wouldn't be allowed on Google+.

Freedom is privacy, or more precisely "freedom" is "control" over our identities thus if we are free we can choose how we define our identities and we can choose how much or how little of our identities we reveal.

Finally in this brief summary I wish to make clear that alternate names are not fake or unreal:

http://singularity-utopia.blogspot.com/2011/07/should-transhumans-be-purged_22.html

Patricia Mathews said...

I had a sudden insight into why the Powers That Be are doing what they are doing, and it has nothing to do with their beliefs, their party, their moral character, their supposed puppet-masters and paymasters, their level of delusion or rationality, or their ability to see into the near and far future. It's simply this --

--- Their one survival imperative, the thing that's got their hindbrain and is pushing them as hard as mine is pushing me to prepare for the crash, is this:

"I cannot let the economy crash on my watch. If I do, I am toast."

This is true even of those who know the air had to be - has to be - let out of the bubble because it wasn't real. It's true even of those who see that the current course, continued, would mean a much harder landing than if they'd told us to bite the bullet and fasten our seat belts now. Because if even a soft landing happens on their watch, they are toast.

Therefore their only possible tactic - at odds with their strategic sense, to be sure - is to kick the can down the road, preferably to let it happen on their opponent's watch. Simple, nonjudgmental, and the most painful trap since Catch-22 --- possibly since the ancient Greek playwrights.

What do you think?

LarryHart said...

Patricia Mathews:

--- Their one survival imperative, the thing that's got their hindbrain and is pushing them as hard as mine is pushing me to prepare for the crash, is this:

"I cannot let the economy crash on my watch. If I do, I am toast."


That fails to explain why this imperative drives them TO letting the economy crash next Tuesday.

ZarPaulus said...

On anonymity: If there's anything you don't want someone to know about you then for the gods' sake DON'T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET! Not even a fake name will protect you from someone determined enough.

Pangolin said...

On anonymity: If there's anything you don't want someone to know about you then for the gods' sake DON'T PUT IT ON THE INTERNET! Not even a fake name will protect you from someone determined enough.

Too true. I once saw somebody who had done some risque photographs on her balcony identified in an hour flat using a partial street sign and background matching. This was on a _chan image forum.

Face identification software is going to make this kind of thing happen even faster. Then we all get to learn some stuff we pretend to ignore about human behavior.

David Brin said...

I always find it strange how folks zero in on a general topic - e.g. problems of pseudonymity - while ignoring the specifics of the detailed topic that was actually raised.

Do you recall it was about findng ways to get a win-win? To get both the benefits of pseudonymity and those of accountability?

I find posturing on one side or another of a standard dogma chasm to be boring. There are creative solutions to let us have our cake and eat it. THAT is the kind of thing smart folks should talk about.

Ilithi Dragon said...

So how would such a pseudonym certification system work? What would be the best implementation?

A standardized identity program that can be slotted into any online login, such as for a forum or blog comment section, could do the job. There are already a number of such systems in place on the small scale - GMail being one such system, since it lets me log in to Blogger and some other services. Facebook is also making a large move towards that end, since you can create an account for so many different programs or sites simply by linking it to your facebook account.

A specific service that links all the disparate accounts and communities and one-off logins would be quite useful, though. Such a system would have to be designed from the ground up to communicate with competing companies, though, to prevent a situation where Product Provider X signs a deal with Verification Company Y to require usage of Company Y's service to register, while Product Provider A does the same with Verification Company B, creating separate groups of ID communities that have limited verification cross-group.

Another problem for such companies would be people who try to pretend to be other people by manually registering creating an account under that person's pseudonym. Any ideas on how to overcome that problem?

TwinBeam said...

Obama brought up the 14th amendment as a possible justification for ignoring the debt ceiling (which is nonsense, as long as the government has any means to pay without further borrowing).

But am I correct that the 14th amendment DOES require that US debts be paid - i.e. that it would be illegal for the administration to 'default'?

If so, are we to believe that Obama is unaware of it, since he clearly has had lawyers advising him on the 14th?

And yet he keeps on using that word...
--------------
*bactivil* - others get cool and relevant captchas. I get a topical antibiotic ointment...

Brendan said...

If you look at the wording and intent of section 4, the amendment says it recognises the legitamacy of state debt, but refuses to be bound by debt incurred by people in rebellion against the state.

People who loaned money to the Confederates weren't gonna get paid by Washington.

Section 5 says "The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article." so if a default becomes a risk it is clearly not Obama who can be held to blame. It is up to the reps to come up with a solution that Obama can't or won't veto.

rewinn said...

Let's look at the actual text of the 14th Amendment's relevant section:
"Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

@Brendan, I don't see support for your point that it endorses any debt incurred by any state; it specifically refers to debts of the United States. But your point about disclaimer of Confederate debt is the clearest thing in the text.

It may well be that the intent of the text is thus-and-so; the question then because whether the Supreme Court is in an Originalist mood today or not. The most likely outcome, as always, is the corporatist interpretation, and my SWAG is that any corporatist animus against Obama is far outweighed by their fear of economic collapse. I would bet the Supremes stay on vacation until this whole thing is settled, although (as I mentioned before) the Teahadis may launch an impeachment drive if Obama invokes the Constitutional option, and the inevitable failure of such a drive would make it no less useful to them.

Brendan said...

Rewin, I can see how my post could be mis-interpreted(much like the constitution itself;-) ), but I did say "state" debt, not "states" debt.
Given this is the Federal Constitution we are talking about I am pretty sure any mention of "the State" applies to the Federal Govt, not individual states.

rewinn said...

"Do you recall it was about findng ways to get a win-win? To get both the benefits of pseudonymity and those of accountability?..."

Hm. No, actually, I did skip over that part. Why that happened I can't say; perhaps crafting solutions are less immediately interesting than merely expressing an opinion. Guilty as charged, your honor!

So. What would be the important characteristics of an accountable pseudonym service? From reading OP again, its criticisms of pseudonyms seem to be something like :

1. Pseudonyms encourage:
1A. Anti-social speech
1B. Clogging: the creation of too many IDs
1C. Malbotting: IDs that exist only for illegitimate purposes, such as data sucking

2. Pseudonyms discourage:
2A. Reputation-building for the individual (for example, the rep I build as REWINN does not help my rep as RANDY.E.WINN)
2B. Cross-platform reputation-building (for example, the rep I build on facebook does not carry over to slashdot)
---
Is that about it?
---
If so ... it seems to me that anti-social speech is a difficult problem, since different venues and different IDs (and/or people) within those venues have different standards as to what constitutes anti-social behavior. It is especially important to distinguish between disagreeing with a ID's point of view and wishing to ban that ID from posting in a particular place. Perhaps an automated sysadmin can use each IDs bancount (the number of times the ID has been banned from communicating with another ID) to modify the ease with which the ID can communicate with IDs it has not communicated with before. For example (using facebook [FB] as an example - I don't think it actually functions as I propose), if my FB ID launches a campaign of flaming Zoroastrian facebook pages, those pages' sysadmins will start banning me. The global FB admin function will notice I have an unusual number of bans and make it harder for me to post on pages that I have not previously posted on. This will not censor me from pages which have not sought to ban me, but gradually reduce my ability to stink up the neighborhood by flaming new pages.

Right now, are there not a number of enterprises seeking to be cross-venue identify managesr? in particular both google and facebook seem to be offering their identify services to any facility that will use their APIs. One wonders if they will add reputation-management options, or are they focusing on expanding their market penetration first? It seems to me that the ability to ban IDs that have a bad rep may be very useful to a venue sysadmin, but not so useful to persons seeking IDs.

That's all I got at the moment - it's a big subject for sure.

Enterik said...

Regarding the virtual pet...

Maybe the person was thinking of Arthur C. Clarke? I just read "The Hammer of the Gods" which contained many references to a Tigrette preserved as immersive memories on Brainman Memnochips.

There is also Peepoe's Wraith Kaa in the Temptation novella...

Paul said...

Re: Google+ Pseudonyms

The ban on obvious pseudonyms ignores the issue of forced-pseudonyms. Already, they must have used up the majority of the anglo name-space, and a major chunk of the latin and asian name-space. That pushes people into name-number combos, JohnSmith7285.

Why is JohnnyAngelslayer verboten while JohnSmith7285 is acceptable?

David,
I think the reason that people aren't discussing pseudonymous identity systems (hmmm, "TrueIdentity"?) is that we aren't in control of google's decisions. One way of getting at least the illusion of control is to figure out the motivation behind what seems to be an odd or at least arbitrary decision.

If google wants RealNames to cut down anon dickishness, then TrueIdentity works just as well. If they want to link different sources of info for tracking/marketing purposes, then RealNames are probably just easier for them; laziness. If they are exerting some social engineering based on the ideology of the CEO, then all pseudonymity is teh devil's work.

Otoh, without having Google's motivation, once we agree, "yeah some kind of semi-guaranteed pseudonymous identity would be cool", the rest is encryption signatures and handshake protocols. A) Boring. B) Above my paygrade.

(droma: Elephant soap operas.)

Paul said...

Ilithi Dragon,
I don't mind different groups of identities based on different company-groups. We have that now.

My concern is the opposite, having a single global identity forced for all things. Whether it's RealName or fixed-Pseudonym. I don't necessarily want to blog-comment under the same identity as I bank/work/vote. Hell, I don't necessarily want to use the same identity on different blogs, or sets of blogs.

(I'm in no great danger of being sacked for my sexuality or politics. (If anything it's a quick test of my employers by me, rather than of me by my employers, if that makes sense.) But given the depths of some people's ideology, it can be hard to engage with people if they can grab a snap-shot ideological reputation to label you with. As David has pointed out, once you are a "Democrat" or a "Republican" (or my local equivalents) others saddle you with a whole presumed ideological identity that probably doesn't really apply to you.

Being able to enter a forum with a blank slate allows you and others to judge each other by your future words, not your past.)

Larry C. Lyons said...

I take a different approach. No matter what I use my real name. If I cannot stand with/behind/whatever what I say, is it really worth anything?

The research has been very clear about that, anonymity leads to a lot of un-social behavior and extremism. So I will not be.

Larry C. Lyons said...

just an additional comment on anonymity. In the early 70's one study in this high rise urban project a had the residents put a picture of themselves on the balcony of their apartments. Within a very short while crime (in a very high crime infested neighbourhood) dropped to almost nothing, and a fairly strong community appeared. At the end of the study the pictures were removed. The crime rate creeped back up to almost baseline levels. from what I remember (classic ABA type single case behavioral design applied to a community setting). I suspect that if a similar paradigm was followed you'd see a similar pattern within Google+ or facebook.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Anonymity is truly a double edged sword. It is desirable because it ensures you will not be harassed in RL because of any unpopular views you might have. OTOH, it can encourage antisocial behavior if one is inclined to it. The question is, what percentage of people if assured of anonymity, WOULD engage in said antisocial behavior?

TheMadLibrarian

pubtude: if you drink, you probably have it

Tom Craver said...

How about this scheme to end the debt impasse:

The Dems agree to no NET tax increase. This will satisfy the Tea Party base who are really more concerned about limiting the size of government.

Instead, the Dems propose to eliminate various tax breaks for the high earners - but in return grant exactly balancing tax deductions or credits to businesses that increase their hiring over a June 2011 baseline, as measured by net increase in their number of employees paying Social Security taxes and receiving full time benefits.

More employment is good in itself. But it also will increase tax revenues from social security and income tax revenues, so this can be a net win for the budget.

And the Reps can't argue that the tax increase will hurt job creation - the high earners keep their tax breaks if they do what the Reps say they already do in return for existing tax breaks. This just makes it explicit.

Jacob said...

How about this scheme to end the debt impasse:

They increase taxes by 55% the deficit. They reduce government size by 55% the deficit.

We pay off our Debt over time. Taxes will be lowered yearly by the % interest we no longer way to the debt.

Robert said...

The Repugs would complain because it's tax breaks with set conditions. They don't want conditions. One example of this is the telecommunication industry, who was given a tax break in order to install high speed internet across the country. When they didn't and Congress complained, they finagled MORE tax breaks to do what they promised to do with the first set of tax breaks... and once again failed to deliver.

Repubs don't want conditional tax breaks. They want unconditional surrender with Democrats begging for forgiveness and admitting they are wrong and that they will forsake politics forever. After giving all of the campaign donations that they had collected to the Republican party. And even then they will continue to scapegoat Democrats.

What's even sadder is that given everything they want... they instead move the goal line and demand more. Literally, it's "give an inch and they take a mile." Reagan must be rolling in his grave.

And to think I used to vote a Republican ticket straight. Though Massachusetts Republicans are Democrats in any other state, including California. ^^;;

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Jacob sounds nostalgic for Bill Clinton. I wonder if he's aware of the irony?

Jacob said...

Nope. What do you mean?

rewinn said...

@Brendan - my bad! You are correct sir.

@Paul wrote:
"The ban on obvious pseudonyms ignores the issue of forced-pseudonyms."
Although I started using "rewinn" ages ago, I can't reasonably go to my "real" name because "Randy Winn" is a professional ball player. I don't want to be bothered by people looking for him, nor to inconvenience them. And RandyWinn987 is easily confused with RandyWinn978.

Funny thing - if we go by the number of bytes of information paased, "rewinn" became more "REAL" as a name than "Randy Winn" some years ago.

@Rob H wrote:
"Repubs don't want conditional tax breaks. They want unconditional surrender..."
This underlines the insanity of using broad tax cuts to create jobs. Since business taxes are paid on profits, if you're not profitable before the cut, you won't be profitable after.

"And to think I used to vote a Republican ticket straight. "
Me too, man. Although in my case, it was Nixon's straight-faced lying that made me change. I keep hoping for the party to regain its honor so I can have choices but other than a few (such as Sam Reed in Washington State) the Party seems to be organized to reward antiAmerican behavior. It's interesting, in an abstract way, to puzzle out how it got so dysfunctional; a healthy organization should be able to throw of an infection of extremists.

Paul said...

Jacob,
"How about this scheme to end the debt impasse: They increase taxes by 55% the deficit. They reduce government size by 55% the deficit."

Of course, you realise this would prolong the recession, lower economic growth, reducing short and medium term revenue, making it harder to pay off the debt...

Jacob said...

"Of course, you realise this would prolong the recession, lower economic growth, reducing short and medium term revenue, making it harder to pay off the debt..."

Point A) It is impossible to pay off the debt if we don't run a surplus (or surplus like effect). There this statement is wrong relative to current conditions.

Point B) There are a great many ways to raise taxes with minimal disruption. Economic incentives that don't work, tax shelters, and more which will not impact negatively the economy more than the positives of seeing confidence in the future.

Point C) It is possible to cut government spending without firing people by retraining and reassigning them to roles that need more support. Going after waste by having non-stake holders direct cuts. Offering 10% of money saved to produce the same result would give people an incentive.

There is truth to the idea that government spending and lower taxes reduce the impact of a poor economy. But this truth should not reign supreme over other truths. Nor should it be ignored. You change how you spend and how you cut.

Patricia Mathews said...

LarryHart said...

Patricia Mathews:

--- Their one survival imperative, the thing that's got their hindbrain and is pushing them as hard as mine is pushing me to prepare for the crash, is this:

"I cannot let the economy crash on my watch. If I do, I am toast."


That fails to explain why this imperative drives them TO letting the economy crash next Tuesday"

I can actually answer that one from the customs of my youth. Back in the day, there used to be a hot-rodder game called "Chicken." Two hot-rodders would each get into their car and drive down the road at each other so that they would crash head-on if nobody swerved in time. The first one to swerve was the loser. Generally somebody did, and that's what the players were counting on.

Sometimes they didn't.

Enterik said...

What we need is a good dose of trickle-up economics, in this time of nominal non-recession non-recovery, the government should rightly assume more debt and infuse the economy in a deliberately productive manner.

The simple fact is that much of the populace is in a situation of sacrifice, be it healthcare, clothing, education, retirement, housing, transportation or any other necessity you can conceive, so many go without.

Any dollar you give (back) to such segments of society will be spent almost immediately on one of the enduring needs. Almost unit efficiency demand will rapidly trickle-up to those who are supposed to make investments and decisions that grow the economy and job market.

There is also the added benefit of reducing many of societies poverty and health related negative outcomes as people get more of what they need while experiencing reductions in uncertainty.

The converse, more "incentives" for wealthy investors in the absense of domestic demand can be expected to garner the wages of continued demand uncertainty...hoarding, capital defection and meta-investmenting.

This is all preface in order that I may assert that a debt related government collapse is not imminent (as long as we still provide the petro-dollar recycling and transaction currency, we will have credit enough). We can raise the debt limit and taxes (progressively) at the same time and still stimulate the economy.

TwinBeam said...

I walked past a TV running CNN, and I see the Obama administration is still trying to create the impression that they will default on government debt.

If they're serious, rather than just continuing to play 'chicken', Obama needs to understand that the 14th almost certainly WILL be used as the basis for an impeachment vote, probably brought up Wednesday of next week. I'll bet the Repubs already have it written up...

In this game of chicken, Obama has everything to lose, while the Repubs have next to nothing on the line.

Obama can only win by refusing to play the game. He should simply state that he is disappointed that Congress hasn't managed to come to an agreement, and then describe his plan for handling the government shutdown in the most orderly possible fashion.

Jacob said...

I agree with TwinBeam.

Although I expect enough Senate Democrats to vote for a Republican plan and force Obama to sign/veto.

Robert C. said...

Has anyone here noticed that some of the people who are putative conservatives or alternative right have a sneaking admiration for the Norwegian mass murderer underneath the fake outrage? They say things like he had the right idea but he shouldn't have killed anybody! wink, wink, nod, nod.

These conservatives and far right guys are justifying terrorism like the leftists that they despise.

These conservatives don't want to conserve anything and these reactionaries don't want to restore anything. They are wreckers. Anything that was good in the soul of their movement is gone. They no longer, if ever, stand for Western civilization. They just want to burn it all down.

Rob said...

Speaking as someone who was in telecom in '96, Rob H. isn't too far off the mark. They made their promises. The midsize companies (ALLTEL and what eventually became Verizon, at the time, among a few others) got exceptions for themselves put into the law, especially exceptions for data services to the common carrier rules, and then moved to install high speed services only where there was clear, present, and short-term profit possible.

Then they poured most of their energy into pumping up common stock value and running deceptive marketing campaigns about how all the coolness was happening "soon", mostly through corporate buyouts.

Meantime, my nephew on a farm in southern Utah still can't even get 256 kbit DSL to a house that's less than a half-mile from town, not because he's too far out, but because the cast-off DSLAM equipment that would provision the connection is completely occupied with other customers.

Meantime, here in the suburbs around Portland where *I* live, Qwest has gone through the second or third buyout in 12 years.

The only thing any of these people care about doing is re-creating the old AT&T, only, y'know, without the FCC or any state equivalent actually telling them what to do.

LarryHart said...

Enterik:

This is all preface in order that I may assert that a debt related government collapse is not imminent (as long as we still provide the petro-dollar recycling and transaction currency, we will have credit enough). We can raise the debt limit and taxes (progressively) at the same time and still stimulate the economy.


I agree with your premises, but your conclusion is slightly flawed. Of COURSE, we can raise the debt limit and taxes and stimulate the economy. But the congress, especially the Tea Partiers in the House (may they rot in Hell) WON'T do that. They think taxes are evil. They think deficits are evil. They think compromise is evil.

The crisis is not "We can't pay our bills". It's "We WON'T pay our bills." It's exactly as if I refused to pay my credit card bills for stuff I already bought--not because I don't have the money, but because my wife won't let me use the checkbook.

Brendan said...

@Twinbeam: I am from Australia so can't see how Congress can impeach the President based on the 14th when Section 5 of the amendment quite clearly states it is their responsibility to ensure the amendment's provisions are met?

ell said...

Robert C. wrote: "Has anyone here noticed that some of the people who are putative conservatives or alternative right have a sneaking admiration for the Norwegian mass murderer underneath the fake outrage? They say things like he had the right idea but he shouldn't have killed anybody! wink, wink, nod, nod."

It's all over the radio here. The radio talkers are only too aware that the Norwegian murderer is saying what they're been saying all these years before the massacre: immigration, diversity, etc. are all bad things. It's almost as if the Norwegian murderer had been listening to their previous broadcasts and applied their ideas to Norway. And then ACTED ON THEM.

rewinn said...

@Brendan - In practical terms, the House "can" impeach the President for almost any reason. Impeachment is basically just drawing up a list of charges and compelling a trial. The only effective limitation would be the political fallout, and on that, who knows?

There is zero chance that the Senate would convict, but that's not terribly relevant to the political calculation.

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

There is zero chance that the Senate would convict, but that's not terribly relevant to the political calculation.


It obviously isn't, but it should be. Seems to me the GOPpers hot to impeach are miscalculating.

They thought the Clinton impeachment would gain them members in 1998, and instead, the public rallied behind Clinton and the president's party GAINED congressional members in that mid-term election--which is not how things usually go.

Opposition to Obama on the Democratic side is more lethargy than anything else. The real President Obama turns out to be not nearly so compelling as the candidate was. That lethargy helped the GOP greatly in 2010, and is really their big hope in 2012. An impeachment would cause Dems to rally around their guy and he's likely to win 40 states.

Ok, now someone explain THIS to me. Apparently, the Republicans are now pushing for a balanced budget amendment as the end game of this hostage-taking. What kind of threat is it to refuse to raise the debt ceiling unless you get an ironclad guarantee that the debt ceiling can NEVER be rasied? Isn't that like saying "I've got your kid, and I'm going to shoot her unless you BLOW UP YOUR ENTIRE FAMILY?"

The fact that the Dems seem willing to capitulate is the greatest disappointment in all this.

And the media goes on about "neither side" being willing to compromise--as if the hostage-takers and the victim's family are equally responsible for a standoff.

Where, oh where is the mothership that left me stranded on this $#@@!! planet?

Franadora said...

Most places on the Internet, I use Franadora - a rather unique name. I do have a Facebook page using my birth name, but it was built for communication with family and some close friends who know me. And it's locked down as much as Facebook allows. Franadora does not appear there.

But I HAVE appeared as Franadora outside of the Internet. It was chosen for a few select social situations and predated my activity on the Internet. The line between "fake names" and real names is not on-line vs real life.

I have a second pseudonym used in a different social context. It's used almost entirely within a single organization - and chances are, someone within that organization could fairly easily find my birth name and contact information.

I can understand the arguments about how some people use the pseudo-anomity of "fake names" to be noisy and crude and trolls. These people have no reputation to keep, face no repercussions that matter. I, however, DO have a reputation that I've worked over 20 years to create for this name.

Now how to sanely create a scenario where we can use our chosen names. A "lockbox" registration has it's own problems. That of trust - I want the names to be kept completely separate. I certainly would not trust Google as their actions in the last couple years have been problematic. Not the government - and how to trust a new entity? What would make someone or group trustworthy? Under what circumstances should the lock be breached?

Enterik said...

LarryHart analogized, "The crisis is not "We can't pay our bills". It's "We WON'T pay our bills." It's exactly as if I refused to pay my credit card bills for stuff I already bought--not because I don't have the money, but because my wife won't let me use the checkbook.

I agree and add that without the government exerting its proper Keynesian influence in the interest of our domestic economy it will soon be as if you had not been allowed to replace the timing chain on your car...sooner or later you will pay far more than you might have otherwise.

I realize that the Obama Administration must find common ground with those seemingly unburdened by good faith or reality. The compromises reached are suboptimal vector for our society/economy. I suspect these will none the less be dramatic improvements over the past decades of increasing political entrenchment and inflation erosion of the social contract.

In fact, I will go so far as to assert that the Change(TM) of which Obama spoke was a new willingness to realize tangible progress, slowly, via engagement.

Paul said...

Jacob,

Me:"Of course, you realise this would prolong the recession, lower economic growth, reducing short and medium term revenue, making it harder to pay off the debt..."
Jacob:"It is impossible to pay off the debt if we don't run a surplus"

And you won't be able to run a surplus if you try to pay off the debt during a recession. The act of pulling money out of the economy slows the economy, reducing government revenue further, rendering your efforts to balance the budget moot. It's a Red Queen Race. The more you cut, the less revenue you get, the more you have to cut...

OTOH, during a boom, especially during a bubble, you want to slow the economy. That's when you pull money out of the economy, pay off debt, reduce spending, deliberately hurt the real job creators (small business) to reduce wage inflation. Etc etc.

It's counter-intuitive, that's why the current "everyone has to tighten their belts" austerity mythology works so effectively.

Tony Fisk said...

A local tale of sousveillance, and of how the police were more than a little slow to respond to amateurs and their new-fangled ways.

blener: someone who doesn't know what they've stolen

Jacob said...

What you are saying isn't completely true. Its only true in part. Raising revenue and reducing spending in a recession has a negative effect on the economy and revenue income. But it isn't realistically possible get less revenue than you initially collect. That part of your response is wrong. It also assumes rather poor methods of increasing revenue. You go after tax evaders and low velocity non-investment sources.

I have acknowledged the importance of respecting deficit spending. To ignore the advantages of planning for a balanced budget is just as absurd as wanting to balance it without increased revenue.

I believe that waiting for better times will not happen soon enough. Those who incurred the debt will be leaving it as a legacy for their children.

The trouble isn't that some want to go about resolving the situation. Its the methods we see suggested to go about doing it with. I think you are imprinting the bad behavior of modern Republicans on to the good policy of fiscal responsibility.

David Brin said...

We need to recognize the human propensity for fantastic levels of rationalization.

Look I am glad we've recently stocked up on some smart conservatives who are still ostrich-loyal to a movement that was hijacked years ago. You guys are WELCOME HERE! We're a vibrant, argumentative blogmunity. Moreover, our regular conservative members are mostly of the wakened kind... Goldwater boys who are fuming over the hijacking.

(I consider myself one of those, in many ways!)

Moreover, please do keep track, as we go along. My indictments of the mad neocons are almost NEVER in "liberal" or lefty terms. I nearly always point out that the neocons have been calamities ENTIRELY in "conservative" terms.

So, feel free to attempt the rationalizations. Just expect them to collide with facts and we are good (by now) at juxtaposing comparisons.

e.g.

The people who raged against "oli-for-food" corruption of a few tens of millions don't raise a peep when Bush sends 12$BILLIONS to Iraq in RAW CASH that simply disappears.

Or the fact that Reagan Bush & Bush accelerated the debt in % terms so vastly more than Clinton and Obama that the comparison is just plain stunning

Or that our present deficit is ENTIRELY explicable by lowering taxes on the rich and corporations to their lowest rates in 60years... plus diving into two major land wars of attrition in Asia, without taking even a single responsible measure to tighten our national belts and pay for war.

Do you doubt I can continue with these comparisons... ALL of them indictments in CONSERVATIVE terms!... all day and all week?

Guys, you are giving your loyalty to monsters... that is mon-sters... without equivocation or qualification. I say that because if you hang arounf here you'll eventually realize

-- that the biggest crime committed by neoconservatism was the assassination of American conservatism.

And Arizona is drawing half its power from coils and magnets placed around Baryy Goldwater's grave.

Pangolin said...

David_ What about simple thrift?

How can it be thrifty to leave millions of people that we are feeding, housing and providing medical care with no access to contributive employment. How is it thrifty for a nation to squander a one-time resource of fossil fuels when geothermal/geo-exchange, solar and wind power systems have payback periods of five to ten years. How is it thrifty to simply discard food that cannot be sold at premium prices?

One of the most brain-wracking things I observe about modern "conservatives" is their commitment to, and defense of waste.

David Brin said...

Pangolin, there are some liberal arguments against neocon policies that are acceptable under my ground rules... because they can be re-couched in conservative terms.

For example, liberatarianism's warped notion that it must be all about anti-government misses the point that what Adam Smith and F Hayek and all the really smart libertarian scholars really asked for is COMPETITION.

Government CAN be a problem if it stifles vigorous investment, creativity and competition. But fostering those three things is more important that hating govt. Indeed, govt has helped those three things at least as much as it has hurt them.

Liberals and leftists want investment in public schools, public health, preventive care, retraining, infrastructure, civil rights etc. The lefty reason for all these things is equity, goodness, righteousness...

...and the right responds that this boild down to smarmy lefty political correctness and thought policing and proto-commie pink tyranny. Hey, wanna know something? Sometimes I think those critics have a point? Sometimes.

But classic liberalism - Adam Smith is called the "first liberal -- justifies mass education, infrastructure, civil rights and the rest on a completely different basis. Because all those things foster the LARGEST VARIETY AND NUMBER OF SKILLED, READY AND CAPABLE COMPETITORS!

True (non-lefty) liberalism wants all those state interventions - ironically - in order to make more vibrant entrepreneuship and markets. Indeed, it is no accident that the massive interventions of FDR, Truman, Johnson etc - including civil rights laws which ended the horrific WASTE caused by segregation - coincided with America's golden age of capitalism.

Do you see where I'm going with this? One of the biggest reasons to damn the neocons is their relentless betrayal of markets, entrepreneurship, and genuine competitive capitalism, in favor or monopoly, oligarchy and favoring cheaters.

It is in CONSERVATIVE terms that you can sometimes finally make an ostrich lift his head out of the hole and realize, in fury and anger, that monsters have hijacked his movement. You'll never persuade him to lift his head by mouthing guilt trips of the left.

TwinBeam said...

Brendan: Rewinn is right - the House can bring impeachment for pretty much anything.

But specific to your point, it is because the 14th gives Congress responsibility for defending the "validity of the public debt", that they might be justified - even required - to bring impeachment if for some reason Obama did attempt to default.

Note that I'm not saying "Obama should be impeached" - I really think he can see this trap, and is very unlikely to default.

Jacob said...

On that note let me issue my challenge again. On what conservative Issue to modern Republicans policy makers do right by those who vote for them? Pick a reason why you would vote R and I'll debunk it with actual conservative values.

Pangolin said...

Every group is subject to "dedicated-members-of-the-club" p.c. groupthink. If you are in a model railroading group for more than a year there are some things you do not say. Likewise politics, wife-swapping, bonsai or whatever. Human genetic flaw 3c.

Competition is better than monopolies because we get better stuff provided there is honest competition. Agreed.

If it's "guilt tripping" somebody to mention a scientific fact then we're beyond screwed. We're left with conversing in metaphors like that crappy TNG episode. "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" "Did you want fries with that?"

We have to return to a common language firmly grounded in objective reality.

Tim H. said...

I like to describe the communication difficulties on these issues as "Lombardi disease", an inability to live with any solution short of victory. Damn shame those deluded losers had useful angles on your problems. Looks to be enough talent distributed along the political spectrum to ease most of our troubles, except we get hypergolic reactions where we need cooperation.

Paul said...

Jacob,
"I believe that waiting for better times will not happen soon enough. Those who incurred the debt will be leaving it as a legacy for their children."

OTOH, trying to pull that much out of the economy at the bottom of the business cycle may result in not just leaving the debt to your children, but debt and a failed economy to go with it.

This might be the right time for trying to pull in some low-velocity cash with targeted tax increases, but it only helps if it is redirected to higher-velocity spending. Using it to reduce debt is zeroing its velocity.

On reducing government waste: In practice, when you budget for waste elimination, it really just means a cut in services, often from the most cost-effective areas of government.

It's not like anyone sat down and deliberately created a policy of wasteful government. Indeed, many of the largest areas of waste are due to policies created specifically to reduce waste. (For example, those contractors in Iraq. They were meant to lower the cost of war, but instead resulted in extraordinary waste.)

Likewise, I don't think your "reward for waste" idea would work if you use it to lower the budget of an agency. Bureaucrats judge their value by the budget they wield. Anyone who threatens that is personally attacking them.

Other that that, I agree with everything you said...

(winesse: Skilful, subtle handling of a situation by Charlie Sheen.)

Paul said...

Oh, back to part of the original post: Wet quasars. I wonder if that increases the chance of panspermia?

In a star forming nebula, you've got a variety of "eco-systems", from deep space up to the edge of a forming star, from icy-dust grains through to planetesimals, all the elements of a hundred solar-systems mixing together. It always struck me as a much better place for life to form than a few tidal pools on a single planet.

(hoequers: Faux-class prostitutes.)

LarryHart said...

TwinBeam:

But specific to your point, it is because the 14th gives Congress responsibility for defending the "validity of the public debt", that they might be justified - even required - to bring impeachment if for some reason Obama did attempt to default.


I thought they were threatening impeachment if Obama attempts to PREVENT default.

It's time to stop trying to please the Tea Partiers (may they rot in Hell) who have proven time and again, sometimes by their own admission, that they CANNOT BE pleased.

Time for the President to follow the lead of the Tymbrimi Atheclena ("The Uplift War") and metaphorically collect upon the (literal) high ground so that the metaphorical Gubru won't damage the planet so much when they attack. And maybe, just maybe, there's some metaphorical Gubru warrior who might be driven to take metaphorical matters into his own metaphorical hands.

LarryHart said...

Gotta love me some Krugman:

But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

Robert said...

A couple of quick comments.

First, I was reading a recent article in Time that stated a balanced budget amendment wouldn't work due to Keynesian economics and the paradox of thrift. I realized this was in fact wrong, but that it would be nearly impossible to implement properly.

In essence, what would be needed is a Rainy Day fund where surpluses from the federal budget would go into. When a time of economic stress occurred and extra spending was required, then the government would dip into this fund and pay for the excesses needed to fix the economy.

The problems with this is that first, Republicans would demand tax cuts as soon as there was a surplus, resulting in nothing ever going into the fund, and second it would be tempting to dip into the fund for extra programs once it had (in theory) been established.

Next, I take exception to the growing sentiment of the Decline of the American Empire (or whatever they're calling it these days). The U.S. is NOT in a state of decline, not militarily, not culturally, not socially, and not economically (though it's currently in a bit of a malaise, we'll overcome it in time). Rather, the REST of the world has managed to climb up and are in a position of starting to match us in several areas. This is not decline. That assumes a Zero Sum game. I see the world in a position of a Positive Sum Game... where the U.S. continues to grow, but other nations join us in growth and in becoming exceptional.

And feel free to quote me on that and spread it around. We need to nip the whole "America in Decline" shtick in the butt now before everyone believes it. It's a lie based on the fact we're no longer the top dogs... but this is due to the fact other nations have joined us, not because of any "slippage" which never occurred.

Rob H.

Marino said...

Someone on a blog run by Italian economists teaching in the US attempted to read the Beirvik document, and he wrote that the whole rant against cultural Marxism etc. was taken (and even aknowledged in notes) from an US rightwing website

http://www.restoringamerica.org/what_is_political_correctness.htm

John Kurman said...

I got it figured out. The recalcitrant Republicans in both houses are actually Soviet sleeper agents finally activated.

"Miles to go before I sleep..."

Well, played Comrades.

LarryHart said...

Robert:

In essence, what would be needed is a Rainy Day fund where surpluses from the federal budget would go into. When a time of economic stress occurred and extra spending was required, then the government would dip into this fund and pay for the excesses needed to fix the economy.

The problems with this is that first, Republicans would demand tax cuts as soon as there was a surplus, resulting in nothing ever going into the fund, and second it would be tempting to dip into the fund for extra programs once it had (in theory) been established.


Well, we kinda had that at the end of the Clinton years. And the second part is what we had under President George III.

Those guys are always so Bible-happy, but they apparently never read the story of Joseph (and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). Republicans would have Pharaoh give the people back more of "their own food" during the boom years, and then during the famine years that government can't distribute any more food than it takes in in a single fiscal year.


Next, I take exception to the growing sentiment of the Decline of the American Empire (or whatever they're calling it these days). The U.S. is NOT in a state of decline,...


I'll nitpick a bit that we're in a state of SELF-INFLICTED decline. Maybe "hyserical decline" is a better way of putting it.

Having said that, though,...


not militarily, not culturally, not socially, and not economically (though it's currently in a bit of a malaise, we'll overcome it in time). Rather, the REST of the world has managed to climb up and are in a position of starting to match us in several areas. This is not decline. That assumes a Zero Sum game. I see the world in a position of a Positive Sum Game... where the U.S. continues to grow, but other nations join us in growth and in becoming exceptional.


Can't disagree with any of that. Maybe you should speechwrite for President Obama. SOMEONE has to.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert C. said...
Has anyone here noticed that some of the people who are putative conservatives or alternative right have a sneaking admiration for the Norwegian mass murderer underneath the fake outrage? They say things like he had the right idea but he shouldn't have killed anybody! wink, wink, nod, nod.


Well, here is a button on the bridge of the USS Tacitus that I seldom get to push...



No.

Had there been some of your mythical teaparty/conservative monsters on that island in Norway I am guessing a couple would have concealed carry permits and would have curtailed the tragedy quickly. Nobody on the conservative end of the politcal spectrum in any way, shape or fashion condones the murder of children. I would expect equal valor from my fellow citizens of the progressive stripe.

Your 1st Amendment right to say things does not make them other than malicious dreck.

In line with our parallel discussion of internet annonymity I can only come to the most charitable interpretation, that a poorly informed 13 year old is pretending to be an adult.

David was blessedly wrong about 10,000 McVeighs. But even one more is too many. It takes courage to confront evil when it has mutated, distantly, from what you hold to be good. All conservatives rightly condemn these acts, and it gives the thoughtful (which is regrettably not all) pause for thought. How can we keep the legitimate ends of politcal disagreement from slipping further Left or Right to madness. Or just keep the Mad out of our ranks in the first place?



Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Regarding a "balanced budget amendment"...

Can someone please explain to me why the Tea Partiers (may they rot in Hell) think a balanced budget amendment would prevent government from raising taxes? It seems to me that it would almost force them TO raise taxes if (for example) current revenues don't cover expenditures already incurred.

I get that what they want it to do is force lower spending, but isn't it a double-edged sword? If you remove the possibility of borrowing, then you have to hold NET spending down. That can be done by cutting spending, but it can also be done by raising taxes.

Shouldn't the so-called Taxed-Enough-Already Party be in FAVOR of borrowing as an alternative to taxation?

Seriously, I'm not just making fun. I'd like to hear from someone who understands that point of view just how a Balanced Budget Amendment helps the current situation.

Brendan said...

It's a lie based on the fact we're no longer the top dogs... but this is due to the fact other nations have joined us

Sorry Rob, but this is self delusional BS.

The value of the Australian$ hasn't risen over 50c compared to the greenback in the last 12 years because we have suddenly become a first world nation. We are still mostly relying on primary industry for our export cash! The fact I can now buy $1.10 US with my dollar is an inditement on the way your country has been managed.

David Brin said...

Um... you heard it from me 1st?

"A de facto shutdown of the government is the real threat, not default, " says Greg Valliere, chief political strategist for the Potomac Research Group.


Marino, could we have that URL again?
Blogger cuts off long ones so give it twice. Once whole and again split into lumps like this:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/exclusive/uncle-sam-pay-no-debt-deal-182942805.html

or
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/exclusive/
then
uncle-sam-pay-no-debt-deal-182942805.html

David Brin said...

JK:"Republicans in both houses are actually Soviet sleeper agents..."

Um... as I've been saying for years? Except they actually take their order right now from Riyadh.

Robert: all great empires fall into traps that bring their demise. The US is bleeding from many self-inflicted wounds that doom Pax Americana. The question is: can we slow down the decline so that the general America-led enlightenment is so firmly rooted that freedom, accountability and uppity women are with us forever?

Mind you, if the current phase three of the American civil war ends the way the others did... with total victory... then we may yet see another American century.

Tacitus, I agree that concealed carry guys can help end such a crisis as Norway, or many others, in theory. Now tell me once that they ever ever ever actually did. In fact, all such events end when (1) police come or (2) when brave unarmed bystanders tackle the SOB... while he is changing ammo clips. Smaller clips are clearly the big issue and the gun lobby will never allow it.

Robert said...

The wonderful thing about the United States is that, much like New England weather, it constantly changes. While America has suffered some dips due to some dips in government, that does not state that the U.S. as a whole is in decline. There are a huge number of truly intelligent people who have read history and know of the decline of empires... and what mistakes were made in the past that led to those declines.

Now, consider this: is not the best way to prevent the decline of empire and the resultant "dark age" to uplift the rest of the world so that they join us on the summit? It can be difficult retaining your balance at the top, what with gusts of wind threatening to topple you. But when a dozen people are there with you and have a legitimate reason for you staying there... and you have a legitimate reason for them to stay there as well... then you are far less likely to see a fall.

We've already seen this at work, two years ago, when multiple nations worked together to varying degrees to prevent the international financial systems from collapsing. And you can be sure that if China's economy suddenly starts imploding, the U.S. will do everything in its power to keep China solvent. Just as they've done what they could to keep us solvent. It's in all of our own best interests.

In short, it's political evolution at work and it's been brought about due to one of the few benefits of globalization. The interconnectivity of governments and economies lessens the desire for large-scale conflicts. It also reduces the effectiveness of totalitarian regimes, allowing people to protest and work to gain their freedoms.

So, no. I disagree. America is not in decline. Our growth has slowed, true. But we are part of a greater whole now.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

David

Your thought on gun magazine size is a little off topic, but I agree with you regards their folly. If you don't hit that home invading burglar with two rounds of buckshot it is unlikely that you will do better with another 30 or 40 chances.

Thank God mass shooting events are rare enough that the sample size is miniscule. I can't quote examples of armed citizens intervening. Do these monsters (using the term in a rare fashion I approve of) pick schools and summer camps knowing that guns are banned there? One assumes a weekend barbeque in Alabama would be a higher risk proposition....

No, having just rewatched United Flight 93 my point was that Americans of all persuasions can be relied upon to risk their lives to save others. In this respect implying that a faction you dislike is secretly getting aroused by atrocities like Norway is contemptable. Hence my tirade, which for me is atypical.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

"Now, consider this: is not the best way to prevent the decline of empire and the resultant "dark age" to uplift the rest of the world so that they join us on the summit? "

Exactly. When the US stood alone amid ashes, Marshall and Truman instituted policies aimed at developing the world thru trade. It happened.

Tacitus, I agree with you that the tea partiers should not be tarred with Norway.That's just loopy.

rewinn said...

As to whether the 14th Amendment assigns Congress the job of honoring the debt: it's always best to cite the precise language:
14th Amendment Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

That does not disempower the Executive Branch to act nor free it of its duty to do so:
1. It is permissive of Congress, not limiting of anyone else.
2. As I argued above, Congress already empowered the Executive to sell bonds by passing statute(s); the only question is its imposition of a statutory limit on the amount of bonds sold. If a statutory limit conflicts with the 14th Amendment Section 4, the Constitution wins. The Constitution always wins.
3. How the Supreme Corporate would rule depends on whether it's more interested in preserving America's financial system or poking Obama in the eye. I doubt that's even a close question.
4. The White House keeps saying it's not going the Constitutional route; this is not the 1st time I've urged boldness and they've gone with timidity. Perhaps it'll work. We have to go to war on the Confederacy with the army we've got, not the army we might wish to have.

On the plus side: this is the first time I've heard John McCain say "hobbits"!
---

@Rob H wrote: "But we are part of a greater whole now."
Let us hope that India, Japan, South America etc have adopted our American ideals, so that when they catch up it is our ideals that become the standards ... and not those of the current regime in China, and not those of our corporate ruling houses.

Robert C. said...

If you want to go find righties who do the nod, nod, wink, wink about Breivik. Try Glenn Beck, Lawrence Auster, Kevin McDonald, and Hunter Wallace at Occidental Dissent. They take the positions of trying to understand the motivations of the killer. I suspect the Tea Partiers are being disingenuous.

Tacitus2, you are just like them.

Brendan said...

@Robert C. What you said about T2 is unacceptable.

Tacitus2 said...

Robert C. is exercising his 1st amendment rights. I heartily approve.

Whether others agree with him is their business.

It might actually be interesting to explore how Norway differs from America. Much more tolerance of Nazi ideology at one point. I suppose it is easier to like Aryans when you are, well, Aryan. Did you know there was an entire SS Division (Viking) made up of Scandinavian volunteers? Right wing thought might find more fertile ground there.

I don't rile easily.

Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Tacitus, I agree with you that the tea partiers should not be tarred with Norway. That's just loopy.


Regular Tea-Party citizens, maybe.

But Limbaugh, Beck, Coulter, and company? The Norway shooter would seem to be the logical conclusion of their "philosophy" of demonizing everybody else.

I'm not saying that any of those righty talkers go so far as to advocate shooting up kids, but neither do I give them the benefit of the doubt that their rhetoric doesn't lead to such incidents. The notion that it is impolite to say so out loud is the right's version of political correctness.

Still and all, I'll back Tacitus up (despite his refusal of the offer) by saying that the assertion that he is "just like them" is absurd.

David Brin said...

Robert C. please back off. Tacitus is a gentleman and a non-ostrich conservative. A man who saves lives every week and a valued member. He sometimes takes a slight devil's advocate position, helping keep us out of reflexive group-think. I'd welcome more like him.

Pangolin said...

I sitting here scratching my head and wondering how one advocates continuance of the Iraq and Afghan occupations without advocating shooting up kids. This continued advocacy for war is something that many solid members of the Democratic and Republican parties both espouse.

Now, one can argue that we are not deliberately targeting children but that point is rather moot if you are the parent of a child that happened to be killed by a U.S. missile attack.

Or is it just little blond kids that we find it reprehensible to shoot.

p.s. before anybody starts both my children are blond haired and blue eyed.

Pangolin said...

Rather than deleting a comment that is already sitting in your inbox I'd like to add that in the "shooting up kids" advocacy argument I find all the big pots and kettles to be black.

None of the actual players in the game appear to be pacifists.

Anonymous said...

"Does a company -- any company -- have an ethical "right" to know who you truly are? Does any person?"

Irrelevant, when we have doubts that anyone even has the capability to know who anyone else truly is.

Anonymous said...

NASA missions to the moon, to blank, to Jupiter, and to the sun. Er, what's supposed to be in the blank there? Even View Source in my browser didn't turn up something that was inadvertently being hidden by a mistyped html tag.

Paul said...

Rob H,
Re:Rainy Day fund
"and second it would be tempting to dip into the fund for extra programs"

(The second seems to apply more to Democrats, judging by the Clinton years.)

Knowing what the you should have done doesn't answer the question of what to do when it's already raining but you didn't save any sunshine.

Re: Decline of the American Empire

I've found it interesting that the people who proclaim the End Of America seem to be the least willing to accept or learn from successes elsewhere in the world.

Whereas during the rise of post-war Japan, they cherry-picked the best of the US, and US manufacturers learning from their Japanese rivals. Now people seem much more fatalistic.

(And on the left: those who are the most willing to admire foreign success are the least willing to accept that the US has anything to offer.)

(prionymo: Mad Cow keeps going and going...)

Paul said...

Robert C,
"If you want to go find righties who do the nod, nod, wink, wink about Breivik. Try Glenn Beck, Lawrence Auster, Kevin McDonald, and Hunter Wallace at Occidental Dissent. They take the positions of trying to understand the motivations of the killer."

Are you saying:

a) The killer's claimed motivation echoes the rants of the right-wing shock-jocks prior to the killings? Ie, anti-Muslim conspiracy theories.

or:

b) Since the killing, these right-wing commentators have distanced their own views from Breivik? Ie, disclaiming his self-proclaimed Christianity.

or:

c) Since the killing, these right-wing commentators have actually said Breivik's views are defensible, even if his actions are abhorrent?

If either of the first two, I have no argument. If the latter, I'd like to see some kind of evidence for your claim.

As for this:
"Tacitus2, you are just like them."

I would like to see anything that Tac2 has said, before or after, that qualifies for any of the three interpretations.

CJ-in-Weld said...

Regarding shooters stopped by armed citizens, I seemed to recall an incident in Colorado where a woman shot a church shooter to death. She was explicitly working as a volunteer security guard, though, so that might not be the same as just some random armed citizen doing the same thing.

So I googled to find the story, and found this:

http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_17482832?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com

Is nothing pure anymore?

Paul said...

BBC article on Google's ban on Google+ pseudonyms.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14312047

US House committee recommends a bill to require all US ISPs to store customers' names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and IP addresses.

https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2011/07/house-committee-approves-bill-mandating-internet

(moustag: Rare antlered mouse.)

Ian said...

"I sitting here scratching my head and wondering how one advocates continuance of the Iraq and Afghan occupations without advocating shooting up kids. This continued advocacy for war is something that many solid members of the Democratic and Republican parties both espouse.

Now, one can argue that we are not deliberately targeting children but that point is rather moot if you are the parent of a child that happened to be killed by a U.S. missile attack."

It's easy if you think the alternative would lead to even more children being killed.

For example:

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-06-10/news/27066837_1_suicide-bomber-helmand-taliban

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1572005/Taliban-hanged-boy-12-for-spying-for-UK.html

http://www.imperfectparent.com/topics/2011/07/24/afghan-president-karzai-condemns-the-hanging-of-an-8-year-old-boy/

Robert said...

Regarding Democrats being more likely to dip into a rainy day fund than Republicans... it is easy to make baseless accusations like this. Truth be told, BOTH sides would be equally likely to dip into it. Because the Republican Congress allowed Bush to push for several tax cuts while simultaneously waging two medium-scale wars, expand upon Medicare, and drive up the National Debt by a significant level.

It wasn't Democrats who did that. It was Republicans in control of both parts of Congress. And Democrats didn't threaten to filibuster anything they disapproved of. They showed considerable constraint.

I could easily claim Republicans would be more likely to dip into a rainy day fund because of empirical evidence from the last 10 years. But I won't. I'll say it's both sides who are at blame and both sides who would do this.

But do consider yourself [censor]slapped.

Rob H.

Paul said...

Oh, speaking of Google+. An interesting side-effect of the policy of linking all google services (gmail/docs/blogger/etc) into one Google+ identity, combined with the policy of banning pseudonyms, has been people losing access to their existing content and email when their previously acceptable gmail/etc pseudonym gets them banned on Google+ and hence banned everywhere else on google.

(My gmail account is a pseudonym specifically because my real-name is not available on gmail (I assume someone else got there first), which is what I meant by "forced pseudonyms".)

Paul said...

Rob H,
"I could easily claim Republicans would be more likely to dip into a rainy day fund because of empirical evidence from the last 10 years. But I won't. I'll say it's both sides who are at blame and both sides who would do this."

Actually, you didn't say that. You did blame only Republicans. Here's what you said... you'll note the lack of "both sides"...

"The problems with this is that first, Republicans would demand tax cuts as soon as there was a surplus, resulting in nothing ever going into the fund, and second it would be tempting to dip into the fund for extra programs once it had (in theory) been established."

...hence my:
"The second seems to apply more to Democrats, judging by the Clinton years".

When Democrats have been in control of the budget during a boom, they don't save. That's not excusing the Republicans: mad under all conditions, except for the briefest exception also under Clinton.

(And, to be fair, David said it first and better than I ever could.)

You didn't address my other point: saying what you should have done doesn't tell you what to do now. What's the plan when there's no rainy day fund, but it's pissing down outside? Jacob had a go, do you have a plan starting from where the US is now? King-for-a-day, and all that.

Robert said...

Odd, seeing that it was a Democratic President who oversaw the brief moment of deficit reduction with a couple years of budget surplus. Yes, you can claim that Republicans were in control of the House and Senate, but Clinton could have vetoed their budgets. Instead, Democrats and Republicans worked together on budgets they could agree on, resulting in deficit reduction for those two years.

When Bush the Second came along, that was tossed out the window. We had two wars waged, both after tax cuts. I'm not sure on the timing of the Iraq War and Bush's second round of tax cuts, but I think they happened at the same time. Which means Bush and the Republican Congress foolishly decided to cut revenues and increase spending significantly AT THE SAME TIME. They also added to Medicare without funding it. If it wasn't for the Bush Prescription Bill, Medicare would not be at immediate risk of insolvency as Republicans claim.

This is the same Republican party that is demanding a Balanced Budget Amendment, mind you.

So. Empirical evidence shows that the political party that I used to vote for consistently and which went so far to the Right that I'm now a liberal in their eyes is likely to dip their fingers into the cookie jar and also demand tax cuts. Thus the one viable method of accepting a Balanced Budget Amendment would ultimately fail because Republicans would demand tax cuts (proven, they already did! They still are!) and both Democrats and Republicans would be tempted to dip into the Fund (proven on the Republican side with their unfunded wars and unfunded mandates, likely proven for Democrats with the Stimulus Package that included tax cuts with increased spending though that was in part to encourage Republicans to vote for the package).

Where is your empirical evidence proving contrary to this?

Rob H.

BCRion said...

Paul,

"c) Since the killing, these right-wing commentators have actually said Breivik's views are defensible, even if his actions are abhorrent?"

Glenn Beck comparing the camp in Norway to the "Hitler Youth" (see link below) seems pretty telling. Yes, he didn't exactly defend Breivik's views, but when you compare the people he killed to Nazis, you're pretty close to implying that attacking this camp was for the greater good.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OivA2of7tfM

LarryHart said...

Robert:

I could easily claim Republicans would be more likely to dip into a rainy day fund because of empirical evidence from the last 10 years. But I won't. I'll say it's both sides who are at blame and both sides who would do this.


Then you're part of the problem, as Paul Krugman so correctly points out. What's the incentive for the GOPpers NOT to raid the treasury when their only "penalty" for doing so is a slap at BOTH sides.

Democrats in control tend to spend, but they tend to allocate REVENUE for that spending. Republicans tend to spend just as lavishly, but don't bother financing their binges. They wait to scream about deficits when Democrats are in power. That's a deliberate cynical strategy on their part.

So no, there's not simply "plenty of blame to go around" for why the well is dry when the funds are really needed.

If one wants to argue that taxing is worse than borrowing, one could defend GOP policy. But that's a different conversation. Right now, the "borrow-and-spenders" are blaiming the "tax-and-spenders" for too much BORROWING. There's nothing close to a reciprocal absurdity coming from the other side.

LarryHart said...

Robert (again):

Republicans would demand tax cuts (proven, they already did! They still are!) and both Democrats and Republicans would be tempted to dip into the Fund (proven on the Republican side with their unfunded wars and unfunded mandates, likely proven for Democrats with the Stimulus Package that included tax cuts with increased spending though that was in part to encourage Republicans to vote for the package).


The stimulus WAS a legitimate use of "rainy day" funds--trying to jump start the economy out of recession.

So are you saying that because Republicans raid the rainy day fund in good times, and Obama tried to use the rainy-day funds for exactly the point of having them, that both sides are equally responsible?

Jacob said...

If the government is 10% of GDP, we should raise that in revenue. If its 50% of GDP, you raise 50%. Fiscal responsibility is seeing that you don't pass the bill on to others.

Arbitrary targets for size of government are not helpful. Rather, we should be focusing on if we are willing to pay the price for specific government services. All of the programs that I want as an individual need pass the approval of the greater democracy as a whole. If not on the national, then the state, then on the local level.

LarryHart said...

Jacob:

If the government is 10% of GDP, we should raise that in revenue. If its 50% of GDP, you raise 50%. Fiscal responsibility is seeing that you don't pass the bill on to others.


That sounds good, and to a certain extent, I'm right there with you.

The problem is treating all "borrowing" as the same thing. There's a difference between going on a spending-spree with the (metaphorical) credit card and legitimately investing in infrastructure and such that will pay off in the future.

It's all well and good to say government should live within its means just like a family or a real business does. But families take out mortgates, and real businesses borrow from venture capitalists. A "Balanced Budget Amendment" says that the government is forbidden either of those options.

Jacob said...

I agree with your message. Governments should be able to borrow for investment. However, we have had a lot of evidence that they are incapable of repaying that money owed. This makes me inclined to think that we should save ahead towards investment goals.

There are good ways and bad ways to do everything. A good balanced Budget Amendment would be one that included ways to invest and handle economic hardships. A bad one would involved rigid rules, caps, etc.

Robert said...

I'm not saying Democrats would use the Rainy Day Fund for stimulus packages when needed. I'm saying that with the money on hand, Democrats would be tempted to start up programs which would dip into the Rainy Day Fund when it was not needed because they cannot raise revenues traditionally due to Republican recalcitrance on tax increases. Republicans would be tempted to do the same exact thing so that they too don't need to raise taxes or negotiate cuts elsewhere. In short, I'm saying both sides would be guilty of this.

Mind you, I'm saying this in regards to a Rainy Day Fund that would compensate for a Balanced Budget Amendment. If there were no Balanced Budget Amendment, then we have empirical evidence that Republicans would insist on tax cuts the moment we start paying down the debt. The old-school Democrats would insist on programs to benefit as many people as possible, but the new center-right Democrats that have emerged due to the Republicans going so far Right that they've broken the scale are a different breed and I'm not sure what they would do.

Or to put it another way, these ain't my father's era of Democrats. What's truly sad is that my father's era doesn't see this... and they blame the Democrats for everything the Republicans are doing. My only defense at this point is: throw them all out.

Though when I suggested eliminating all political parties, my dad went and pointed out the anarchy in Africa and suggested that would be the result. So I honestly don't know what would satisfy him outside of an older white-haired white-skinned Blue-Dog Democrat in the White House. Or more preferably, a Massachusetts Republican (who are Democrats anywhere else). ;) (Though Romney has abandoned the principles that could have attracted Democrats and Independents to vote for him. Another problem with the majority of the Republican base going batshit insane.)

Rob H.

daveawayfromhome said...

"However, we have had a lot of evidence that they are incapable of repaying that money owed. "

Actually, we've only had a lot of evidence that the recent generation of Republicans are incapable of repaying the money owed. With the exception of the first two years of Obama's tenure, it has fallen since WWII regardless of who was in office until Ronald Reagan's revolution. It has since been "conservatives" who insist on cutting revenue regardless of circumstance, and only during GOP presidencies has the debt (as a percentage of GDP) gone up.
Imagine telling your creditors that you couldnt make a full payment anytime in the forceable future because you needed that money to buy more luxury goods. This is essentially what Republicans do when they refuse to raise the tax rates on the only people in this country who are not only not hurting, but are actually booming (or, for that matter, on all of us - we broke it, we should buy it).

Tacitus2 said...

It might be helpful in the debate if we cleared up our language.

Revenue=taxes, plus some additional smaller amount from improved enforcement of tax law. (This latter will be heavily gamed).

Investment, in the sense of government action=spending.

Money realized from economic upturns/growth, and from winding down overseas military activity=windfall.

Oh, I want to be fair to a prior commentator too. I read the Glenn Beck nonsense. In addition to saying the Oslo murderer was mad, and was as bad as Osama Bin Laden, he (Beck) said something stupid equating the youth camp to the Hitler Youth.

Glenn Beck is an ignorant man who blathers on before thinking. Nobody should waste time paying him heed.

Tacitus
(back awake again....where did 7/30 get to?)

BCRion said...

Tacitus,

On the issue of Glenn Beck, we are in total agreement. Sadly, too many people *do* listen to his ramblings. It's difficult to find moderate conservative voices these days.

Jacob said...

Hi daveawayfromhome,

That's correct. Perhaps a "recent" should have been included in that sentence. But it should be noted that 30+ years is a full generation. You have to be over 50 to voted in a time when Republicans were actually fiscally responsible. (Although that is being a little unfair to Bush Sr.)

Robert said...

Yes, Tacitus, he is. Unfortunately, a middle-to-large number of Republican voters and a middling number of Independent voters blindly listen to him and ignore his fallacies. Of course, this is not merely a tendency among conservatives. There are plenty of liberals who blindly believe what they are told as well, and a number of moderates as well. The people such as you and myself who take the time to check facts and verify if something is true or not is sadly much smaller than it should be.

Ignorance breeds ignorance. And lies can race around the world in the time it takes the truth to put on its pants (to paraphrase Terry Pratchett). But there is a counter to that: people need to have the courage to stand up for the truth and tell their friends and associates when they are wrong... and point them to where they can find the truth. Only through education and knowledge can we break the cycle of ignorance and lies that have been dragging our country down.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Ian, please look at the military and civilian casualty figures that were considered an acceptable part of war, starting in WWII and then Vietnam and now today. Both figures have plummeted by close to an order of magnitude per decade. In other words we are moving in the direction that you want.

Now you can take a purist stance and say ZERO is the only acceptable number. Fine. Take that stance. All it accomplishes is to remove you from effective participation. You get to stand aside as a finger wagging idealist. But dig it, the world is getting better but it is still a world filled with caveman humans and their crude nations, un modified, many of us doing the best we can, but with incomplete understanding.

Or you can take historical persepective into account and ask "What aspects of modernity enabled us at last... and despite increasing destructive power of our weapons ... to make war both less accepted and less deadly, decade by decade?"

The answer (sorry) is that our western/american value system is what's doing it. And that value system has spread - in part - because we have WON most of our wars! (Including especially the Cold War.

Hence, purists are no helpful. We need to continue this trend of turning armies into police forces, answerable to police standards of conduct! But this will only happen if we continue to... win.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Robert, I hate to be penny-ante, but that quote is from Winston Churchill, not PTerry (although it could just as easily have been attributed to Mark Twain!)

TheMadLibrarian

tuishea: Your vegetable butter?

Tacitus2 said...

Humans are curious things.

You can find plenty of people willing to be bombadiers, dropping incindiary bombs on cities.

You can find almost none willing to point a flamethrower at children and fire.

Yet the end effect is the same.

I suppose it is the brain's ability to ignore things if they are not visibly, viscerally obvious.

Now with drone warfare you don't even need to fly over the cities. In theory you could sit on a sofa and toggle between playing Halo and firing Hellfire missles at madrassa.

I am not entirely convinced this is progress. But it is not as if mankind was actually any gentler when your enemies died on the point of the spear you held in your hands.

Tacitus

Robert said...

I remember it being stated in Terry Pratchett's "The Truth" (a rather fun story about the first newspaper in Ankh-Morpork). It may very well have been stated multiple times before then, but I still recall it in Sir Pratchett's story, thus my attributing it to him.

Rob H.

Paul said...

Rob H,
I'll give up. You are interpreting what I'm saying as a defence of the Republican record. It wasn't.

But I will have one last go at asking:

Since there is no rainy-day fund, and since it's raining, what is your plan starting from where the US is now?

Jacob suggested (paraphrasing loosely) paying down the debt by selectively raising taxes on low-velocity wealth, and reducing wasteful spending via a clever variant of the whistle-blower reward idea. He's concerned about passing on the debt to the next generation.

My response to Jacob implied a "plan" to increase spending now, part paid from taxing low-velocity wealth, partly from increased debt, and hoping like hell things turn around before the debt becomes economically crippling. (I would call it the "Hope Like Hell America Act".)

What about you? Starting today, starting where the US is now, what would you do?

Paul said...

Rob H & TheMadLibrarian,

The "pants" version of the quote seems unique to Churchill. The "boots" variant is attributed to everyone from Twain to James Watt.

Pratchett expanded on the idea in Unseen Academicals:

"Truth is female, since truth is beauty rather than handsomeness; this, Ridcully reflected as the Council grumbled in, would certainly explain the saying that a lie could run around the world before Truth has got it's, correction, her boots on, since she would have to choose which pair – the idea that any woman in the position to choose would have just one pair of boots being beyond rational belief. Indeed, as a goddess she would have lots of shoes, and thus many choices, comfy shoes for home truths, hobnail boots for unpleasant truths, simple clogs for universal truths and possibly. some kind of slipper for self-evident truth. More important now was what kind of truth he was going to have to impart to his colleagues, and he decided not on the whole truth, but instead on nothing but the truth, which dispensed with the need for honesty."

(reasolle: A very rational meatball indeed.)

Paul said...

Tacitus2,
"You can find almost none willing to point a flamethrower at children and fire."

In civil and tribal wars, I see no evidence of a lack of willingness to brutalise the enemy - yea, even the little children.

I think David's point about our decreasing tolerance of bloodshed only applies to society as a whole, at home, in the calm judgement of not-being-there. In battle, humans are still monsters.

(ashiessi: Ancient Syrian tribe of character assassins.)

rewinn said...

Perhaps one reason tempers run hot in attempting to discuss the faux debt ceiling crisis is that it can no longer be assumed that the Republican leadership are actually trying to cut the deficit.

IF they were, they would not be blocking FAA re-authorization. Treasury is losing about $200 million a week over this. The money for air traffic controllers have to come from SOMEWHERE and since the GOP won't let the FAA collect it as a tax on each ticket, the money comes out of the general fund.

(BTW consumers haven't benefited from the tax cut; airlines simply jacked up ticket prices to get a windfall.)

I'm not such exactly how many principles of conservativism this violates, but it's more than enough to demonstrate that the GOP leadership is not really fighting over fiscal prudence. Why can't principled conservatives simply say that this is so? It would make for a more honest, and therefore more useful conversation.

David Brin said...

One of you cited this event, which demolishes my perfect refutation of the armed-carry as proof against mass-shooters.
Armed parishoners stops a mass murder at church that rejected her.
http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_17482832?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com


http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/
then
ci_17482832?IADID=Search-www.denverpost
then
.com-www.denverpost.com

Ah well... now I have to say I know of only one case! Oh but such an ironic case! The only known example of an armed civilian shooting and stopping a mass-killer was... a lesbian, defending a church that had rejected her.


Tacitus said: "You can find almost none willing to point a flamethrower at children and fire."

I wish this were true. But in fact I can refute it precisely and literally with two letters. Not erven a word. Just two letters.

"SS"

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Now with drone warfare you don't even need to fly over the cities. In theory you could sit on a sofa and toggle between playing Halo and firing Hellfire missles at madrassa.

I am not entirely convinced this is progress.

I'd say we're more than on our way to that old Star Trek episode where war between two neighboring planets was fought by computer, and it was so easy that the current war had been going on for 200 years.

Tactitus2 said...

Ah. I had in mind Allied servicemen when I wrote that. I wish I could argue with you but I must admit you are right.



Tacitus, Third of Three

(on my third straight night shift, and feeling very Borg)

Ian said...

"Now you can take a purist stance and say ZERO is the only acceptable number."

We appear to be talking past each other.

I linked to several accounts of Taliban atrocities precisely to point out that the result of an allied withdrawal from Afghanistan would be MORE not fewer child casualties.

I am well aware that the allies are taking extraordinary precautions to minimize civilian deaths.

On a related note: can we stop referring to the Oteaya Massacre victims as children when most of them were legal adults? (This was the basis of the analogy that started this discussion.)

Firstly, accuracy is desirable in itself. S

Secondly, right wing apologists have already been saying "Of course, Brievik was insane - he murdered children, Case closed, no need to inquire into his politic views or the authors who influenced."

If the Labor Party had held its youth wing's retreat on a university campus rather than on what was described as a "summer camp", no-one would be infantilizing the politically active twenty-somethings he murdered as "children".

Ian said...

A few general notes on the deficit.

Most corproations carry debt continuously. As the companies grow in size it's considered natural and normal that the debt should increase to.

What matters is why the debt is being accumulated and whether the corporation has sufficient capacity to repay its debt as it falls due. (And let's note that most families take on debt too - for mortgages and car loans and, in the US, student loans.)

Debt is not automatically bad in a corporate or family environment and it is also not automatically bad in a government context.

Since government revenue typically grows in line with the general economy (barring insanity like the Bush the Lesser era), a government can sustain an increasing level of debt indefinitely provided the rate of increase in the debt over the economic cycle is less than the
long-term average growth in the economy.

For the US a deficit of around 2% of GDP (ca. $260 billion a year) on average over the economic cycle, should be sustainable indefinitely.

Within each economic cycle, there's no reason the deficit can't run higher during recessions provided the government runs a small deficit or a surplus during the expansionary periods.

(Incidentally, the Clinton era surpluses were not primarily due to either tax rate increases or to spending cuts, they were achieved by keeping the rate of growth in spending to less than the rate of growth in the geenral economy.)

Robert said...

Here's an interesting article that blames the voters in the Primaries for deadlock in Congress.

http://news.yahoo.com/debt-standoff-voters-role-key-130256376.html

http://news.yahoo.com/debt-standoff-
voters-role-key-130256376.html

Of course, there is a solution: open primaries where the top two candidates (in terms of getting votes cast for them) end up in the General primary, regardless of party affiliation or the like. This would eliminate the power of the super-minorities that have so radicalized the Republican Party and threaten to do so to the Democratic Party.

ROb H.

David Brin said...

I agree with open primaries and California is getting them... after already voting to end gerrymandering . The new districts are much less red or blue and more purple. I am proud of my state and several other blue states that have done this... even tho I had recommended a policy of TRADING such reforms with contortedly gerrymandered red states like Texas.

Irony time? The calculated result in California appears to be that the dems may GAIN seats! But all the dem reps will have to work harder. No longer PERFECTLY safe, they will have to speak to more reddish portions of their districts more... not a bad thing. But if they do so well, there will be even more of them.

In fact, I have learned, and modified my position. The neocon fanatics are more the enemy than the GOP, per se. A reddish purple district is less likely to elect one of these new horrors.

======
BTW... on another matter: "The only known example of an armed civilian shooting and stopping a mass-killer was... a lesbian, defending a church that had rejected her.". Read the article and be amazed that life keep spilling such ironies at us! http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_17482832?IADID=Search www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com

Nevertheless, on reading closely, I see that she was actually on duty that day, as a part-time volunteer security guard. Still a heroic civilian jumping into action. But her status was not that of an armed-surprised bystander.

The record is still perfect. There has never, ever been a single case of an American bystander, armed with a concealed-carry weapon, who leaped in and used that weapon to bring down a crazed mad shooter. All such mad shooters have been brought down either by police, or by suicide, or - most often - by UN-ARMED heroic bystanders, who charged the gunman while he was changing ammo.

Recent horrific death tolls, in Norway and in the Arizona Giffords Massacre, were all attributable to the huge clips of ammo that prevented heroes from taking action. Clips that are indefensible for any conceivable reason except for mass murder.

Jacob said...

Hi Ian,

I can't agree with you Ian. There is some truth to details of your point. Most business have debts because the money invested has greater returns than the interest owed. Families have debts for that reason and also big ticket items like shelter and transportation that they may not be able to save to purchase. Now, the truth in your point is that government deficit spending may be used for development which produces greater returns than interest payments.

My problem with your point is that I do not believe that deficit spending is going towards productive future development. We incur the interest payments without the benefits of increased income. I do believe it is possible for this to take place. I just don't have faith that we can do it in the current environment.

The debt and associated interest that we sustain should be less than the revenue increases gained by the boost to the economy caused directly by the government programs that created the debt. General economy increases are going to happen either way. If I spend 10 units to boost the economy, I need the economy to increase (beyond normal) by 10 units / effective Tax rate in order for it to be a sound investment.

I assert that this isn't happening with our current government. If that isn't the case, I would say the deficit spending IS valid. Unfortunately we're dealing with too complex a system to be easily understood and we don't have control groups/economies to properly evaluate. This should make us cautious in our efforts to do deficit style government investment in Economic Development. That isn't code for we shouldn't try. We should try, but we need to respect the situation and the actual performance of our system.

I think that having pro-government deficit hawks on a panel which evaluates our investments would be a solution. Currently I believe we mostly have stake holders in charge of evaluating a programs value which is obviously flawed.

Please note that this is mostly an counter point to general 'deficits are normal and appropriate' ideas. Economic downturns should have more investment with an associated mid range plan to pay debt back.

Long term deficits are bad for any country without strong safeguards to ensure that most of the money is delivering on the promise it was allocated to achieve.

Marino said...

Dr. Brin, now I see the link was cut at the end:
the homepage is

http://www.restoringamerica.org/

the link to the entry to "cultural Marxism" could be reached on the tabs on the left, anyway, here's a tinyurl:
http://tinyurl.com/3lwxv77

Ian said...

"Now, the truth in your point is that government deficit spending may be used for development which produces greater returns than interest payments."

Not really, so long as the debt is declining as a percentage of GDP, it's sustainable whether the money is being spent on productive activities or sending solid gold statues of George Washington to alpha Centauri.

Sustainable is not the same as "sensible" or "economically desirable".

I would argue that a great deal of government activity does indeed yield net economic benefits.

One of the main problems is that much of government activity is directed at the provision of public goods. (If anyone wants a textbook definition of what a public good is I recommend Wikipedia.)

Public oggds, essentially by definition, can;t be traded on markets and are exceptionally difficult to value.

External and internal security; consumer protection; environmental protection and R&D to name a few government activities that have public good characteristics. (Before anyone points to corporate R&D: public goods are produced by markets in insufficient quantities, so the fact that some public goods are produced is hardly surprising.)

The estimated return on EPA funding, for example, is enormous.

Ian said...

The record is still perfect. "There has never, ever been a single case of an American bystander, armed with a concealed-carry weapon, who leaped in and used that weapon to bring down a crazed mad shooter. All such mad shooters have been brought down either by police, or by suicide, or - most often - by UN-ARMED heroic bystanders, who charged the gunman while he was changing ammo."

There was a case where two offduty police officers arrested a spree killer after arming themselves with their private handguns they' left locked in their car.

Btu that's as close as you get, so far as I know.

Also there was a trained, armed policeman on guard on Otoeya - he was the first person Brievik murdered.Brievik's police uniform put him offguard, presumably.

The hypothetical concealed-carry hero on Otoeya, would have had to realise, probably in a split second, that the guy in the police uniform walking towards them was in fact the shooter and not an actual police officer. Then they would have had to outshoot a guy armed with both a rifle and an automatic handgun with multiple 30-round clips.

Jacob said...

I'm a little confused as to why you'd counter on sustainability and public goods. Its the weakest element of your point. We shouldn't be working to avoid sustaining any excessive costs. The reasons we accept them is the good associated with spending.

Spending on comfort or public goods is fine if you are an individual, but a government represents an ever changing body of people. For the sake of simplicity I will represent this concept as Parents leaving the government to their Children. A parent might leave a debt to their child if there is an associated benefit that is realized (Improved Economic Conditions, A world free of Fascism). If the parent leaves a debt to their child for something that the child cannot also realize (Tax Breaks, Comforts, certain Public Goods), then we have a rather unfortunate situation.

It isn't as big deal of the debt is small, but right now that burden is quite large. Every day young adults turn 18, become voters, and realize a debt without reasonable benefits. Its a terrible injustice that the disconnect between debt and value continue to grow.

To bring up sustainability again, it is wrong to pass on existing debt as a percent of our GDP on to those without associated benefits. It would be different if we didn't have people exiting or entering the system. Worse still, our current path isn't sustainable. Despite all this debt ceiling talk, I don't have confidence that it represents an actual effort remove the debt in the long term.

Eventually (perhaps a generation) if we continue to have the burden associated with debt and interest rise, the people are going to reject the burden without actual benefits. Hopefully, we'll see surpluses which draw it down slowly. Unfortunately, we're likely going to have to wait for the reformation of a political party or two for that to happen. Meanwhile many of those responsible for the debt (voters during the time they were incurred, Myself Included) will have escaped responsibility for it in part or in full (by leaving the work force or simply dying).

We should try realize the hardship associated with paying off the debt as soon as possible so that less children are affected. How we realize that (through surpluses) also needs to play by the same rule of cost. Tanking the Economy is just as bad as passing on the debt to our children.

Does that explain why we shouldn't carry over 'sustainable' debt/interest?

rewinn said...

So, @Jacob, you're o.k. with public debt that is a good passed down to our children, such as education, clean air and water, and freedom from the burden of caring for the elderly?

As opposed to the public debt that comes from massive transfers of wealth and income from middle-, working- and poor-class people up to the Aristocracy?

We may be in fundamental agreement, if so, but the current GOP (and parts of the Democrats) take the opposite view: that it is wrong to burden future generations with education, health and care for their ancestors.

Ian said...

"I'm a little confused as to why you'd counter on sustainability and public goods. Its the weakest element of your point. We shouldn't be working to avoid sustaining any excessive costs. The reasons we accept them is the good associated with spending."

The whoel starting point for your argument is that surpluses are necessary to pay off debt and that failing to run surpluses will inevitably result in disaster.

My point is that this is simply incorrect, deficits whether accumulated for rational purposes or not, are sustainable indefinitely providing debt is contained as a percentage of GDP.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Jacob

I think you are missing the point,
If I reason from my local government experience;
We are just about to build a new water treatment plant to meet the latest more stringent drinking water requirements.
This is a $20M facility
We will be financing it by
Using money we have been saving on our present plant (depreciation) (putting money into a sock to pay for the replacement)
Taking out a loan (debt)
Future ratepayers will pay off this debt over the next twenty years
After that they will start paying “depreciation” –

It is entirely appropriate for “our children” to pay their share of the infrastructure they will be using.

My present ratepayers should not be asked to pay now for a facility that will last for 40 years

The intention is that we pay for what we use,
Our grandfathers built a lot of infrastructure, our job is to keep it operational and hand it over to our children.
This does not mean lumber them with a collection of “old” facilities – as the infrastructure ages we are putting money into a sock to pay for the replacement facilities.

If we replace a facility with a “better” one the improvement is paid for by a loan
If we replace a facility with a new but the same it should be paid out of the sock (depreciation)

This way we are not burdening our children with “our” costs or burdening our current ratepayers with costs that “belong to” our children

I don’t know how much of your (USA) debt burden is composed of infrastructure but even a small town here has huge amount of infrastructure which must be depreciated
Think of it as the Red Queen’s race where you have to run just to stay in the same place

Jacob said...

Hi rewinn,

Not quite. I'll go over the examples you gave. Investment in Education is an excellent example of investment in the future. However, I object to running general deficits on it simply due to efficiency. Cost now vs Cost Later + Interest. I'm against the idea of debt based spending on a specific education project in the short term.

'Clean air and water' bothers me a bit. Should we hand the future a bill for cleaning up after ourselves? I think we have a duty to the future to do a little as harm as possible. I think we should have a Clean Up Tax associated with known pollutants. Such that realize the cost as we clean.

"Freedom from burden of taking care of the Elderly" is definitely something I'm against deficit spending on. If we as a society choose to do that, we should pay for our parents and not pass on the bill to the grandchildren.

I completely agree with you on all the negative examples.

I'll say again, that I do believe its appropriate to deficit spend in the short term for reasons you'd support. However, it just costs more to do it in the medium or long term. The idea of constantly running a debt (other than accounting) is just a bad idea though. We should at least as much time at 0 as we do in debt.

Jacob said...

Hi Ian,

I'm afraid you misunderstood me then. Continuing to increase the debt/deficit as we have under Bush Jr. or Reagan will lead to disaster (Strong/Hyper Inflation to devalue it or -unlikely- Revolution).

Running deficits and debts as a stable sustainable part of GDP is just a bad idea. It means we pay more for the same product. That more is realized to an extent by people that didn't get the services in the first place. (Note I do support it for those that realize the advantages of the services - future investment.)

I do strongly disapprove of continual deficits because of their injustice. I think that letting Republicans set policy will lead to disaster (based on the last 30 years).

Jacob said...

Hi Duncan,

You are using an example of infrastucture which I would argue is a form of economic development. Our children will realize a water treatment plant. They will not realize a war or social security benefits or many of the expenditures of government. Let me stop the minds going wild right here. I'm not against those programs. I generally approve of government spending if its effective. However, passing on the costs of programs isn't appropriate. Heck I'd happily entertain the concept of deficit spending on the arts if the revenue couldn't be realized otherwise. Those products can be appreciated in the future.

Now you brought up an excellent point about paying over time. This can be done two ways. Borrow and pay Cost + Interest. Alternately, we can look at history and predict cost of standard investments in infrastructure over time. If we can get ahead of the curve, we pay Cost. Although you obviously have to throw in other factors. But as I've said I'm ok with Borrowing for future investments. I just think predicting and saving for lower costs is better.

---

Over the past 30 years, the majority of the deficit spending which created our debt has gone to military spending and tax breaks. It hasn't gone to infrastructure.

Robert said...

Considering our recent comments concerning truth and lies, I recently came across a webcomic in which a fascinating concept (and yet a very true one) was given: wrapping the truth up in a lie to make it more palatable to people.

http://www.shadowgirlscomic.com/comics/i-am-providence-pt-5/

http://www.shadowgirlscomic.com/comics/
i-am-providence-pt-5/

While the comic in question is talking about supernatural elements that people would be unwilling to accept as reality... but can accept as fiction, I do have to wonder if this works as well for more mundane truths. And would it work in a non-fictional setting?

I've heard it said that the best lies are comprised of two parts truth and one part lie. Well then, would it work to take accepted lies and wrap an unacceptable truth into them to make it more comprehensive for people who otherwise shun said truth?

I say this because for all of the wonders of fiction and for all the concepts that science fiction has brought about... it is still a slow media and requires time before change is wrought. Thus what methods can we use to speed up the acceptance of truths that are otherwise shunned because they don't agree with someone's perception of reality?

Rob H.

TwinBeam said...

I guess this will do to break the "perfect record":

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

David Brin said...

This is from the event Twinbeam referenced:

Woodham drove his mother's car to Pearl High School. Wearing an orange jumpsuit and a trenchcoat,[1] he made no attempt to hide his rifle. When he entered the school, he fatally shot Lydia Kaye Dew and Christina Menefee, his former girlfriend. Pearl High School assistant band director, Jeff Cannon, was standing five feet away from Dew when she was fatally shot. He went on to wound seven others before leaving, intending to drive off campus and conduct another shooting at the nearby Pearl Junior High School. However, assistant principal Joel Myrick had retrieved a .45 pistol from the glove compartment of his truck and subdued Woodham inside his mother's car. Then Myrick demanded "Why did you shoot my kids?" to which Woodham replied, "Life has wronged me, sir".[2]

Comments. The assistant princiapal was not a "bystander" nor was he conceal-carrying at the time.
He ran out to his car to get his pistol.

Indeed, this case is bizarre more in the way it did NOT involve the usual tackle by a brave unarmed bystander. I know folks in Alabama carry around a few extra pounds. (Fattest in the nation.) But come on.

Sorry. This one don't fly.

Jacob said...

What we should be doing is researching better non-lethal weaponry. Then you can have self defense without putting death in the hands of crazy people. Thinking long term, if we can manage something that is as effective as current day firearms in the next 100 years or so, we can then 'solve' the guns debate.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Jacob

“I just think predicting and saving for lower costs is better”

I don’t believe it is a straight forward as “better”,

Depending on interest rates, inflation and “Net present value” I think it can be better – or worse!

Large companies almost all seem to operate using debt financing,

As an individual person having some debt is OK, if your debt is only a small fraction of your “worth” then you are in a good place.

From an infrastructure point of view spending by debt enables future generations to “pay their share”

“Over the past 30 years, the majority of the deficit spending which created our debt has gone to military spending and tax breaks. It hasn't gone to infrastructure.”

Military spending – as in the money to win WW2 or the “Cold War” is of some benefit to future generations.

Your current level of military spending is just plain silly!

Duncan Cairncross said...

To Dr Brin's point

Remember this cartoon

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2010/08/what-s-the-score-america/19184/

TwinBeam said...

Play fair Brin.

The VP wasn't carrying, concealed or otherwise, because he was following the rules of not bringing guns on campus. Are you really going to say that he would have only counted if he had been breaking the law to carry a gun on school property?

As to "by-stander", aren't you picking nits here? After all, he could easily have "stood by" and done nothing, just as other school officials apparently did in this and other cases of school shootings. Was it in his job description to be a hero? Why are you unwilling to grant him the same honor that you grant others who take on deranged shooters?

I think you want to win just a little too much to be rational on this, if you can't admit that this case does fit the question.

TwinBeam said...

Hmm - odd, my other post seems to have gotten deleted.

Some of you may have already seen this, but I thought it was interesting and relevant, both to the debt crisis and to making opinions more "transparent":

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/07/29/us/politics/20110729-debt-matrix.html?hp

David Brin said...

No TWinBeam I am not quibbling. The fact is that concealed carry is justified by the hypothetical notion that a concealed carrier might whip it out and blast down a mass shooter.

That has simply never ever happened. The VP was an authority who went and got his gun. He was like the police, coming to the rescue.

Brendan said...

Twinbeam, Re: "The Debt Crisis — What Should Congress Do?", why am i not hugely surprised that the corner that follows the Republican line is also the corner that shows the least willingness to compromise?

Marino said...

Dr. Brin,
an Italian right-wing journalist named Vittorio Feltri wrote that the people at Otoya were "self-centered and cowards" because they didn't storm the gunman. On par on Glenn Beck's remark on Hitlerjugend. Try storm someone with over thirty bullets ready and who can evade and disengage to reload, being in open terrain and not in a constrained place, and good luck...

My rightwing US friends quibbled that Beck used that comparison because it was the simplest reference his watchers could uinderstand, as his audience doesn't understand European-style mass parties. Duh.

Re: high capacity clips, technically making a weapon with full automatic fire capability and feeding it with small clips is meaningless, but military grade weapons shouldn't be available to the general public.Anyway, the clips were Norwegian-made, the guy bought in the US a bullet-proof vest and a laser targeting device, but not clips.

re: concealed carry: anyway for the Right it is almost a religious truth that it would prevent shooting rampage. Even with no proof or evidence. (Even in Ft. Hood, where one expects armed people, it was military police, not an army officer with his sidearm stopping the guy, no?)

But the most disquieting trait I see in rightwing comments on the Norway massacre is... well, denial.
There is no questioning on why ideas from the same blogs and anchorpersons they follow led to such a massacre (what the Italian Left did, agonizingly, when the Red Brigades began killing people).
The only worries are: "They'll infringe the freedom of speech in name of politically correct" (while asking for defunding left-leaning humanities depts and wishing for a new HUAC), "they'll infringe on the rioght to bear arms" (irregardless of any issue on cost-benefit).
No self-questioning about the rise of an extremism a yesterday article on NYT deemed a "Western, Christian Al-Qaeda." Deep in denial.

Marino said...

Jacob, you wrote
What we should be doing is researching better non-lethal weaponry. Then you can have self defense without putting death in the hands of crazy people.

Any nonlethal weapon as effective as a firearm may kill people all the same. Think low-velocity large soft bullets (even a punch by fist may kill), tasers, various kinds of spray and gases...they are bulky, short-range, could be used for offence, and we're back to square one with the most relevant isssue: would you live in a society where one brings with him a self-defence weapon the same way we do with mobile phones, car keys and credit cards? Sounds like a dystopia written by L. Neil Smith...

Robert said...

Probably some 15 years ago, I was driving home from classes at a state college when I came across three kids kicking a fourth kid when he was on the ground. I stopped the car and was pulling a tire iron out of my car to confront the punks when they ran off, along with the kid being kicked. (Since then I learned it was likely a gang initiation I broke up.)

Unfortunately, if I had actually laid into them and killed someone, despite working to save someone else, I'd go to jail. I found out that during an instance of road rage where someone's buddy was being creamed by the other driver, a guy got out of his friend's car, got the tire iron out, and smacked the guy in the back of the head, resulting in his eventual death. He got five years in prison.

If I were to go after someone doing a mass shooting and managed to kill him, the laws of the U.S. would likely put me in jail despite the threat that this person posed to other people. I would not be able to claim self-defense as I was not a direct target and I was using a lethal weapon with intent to harm.

Conceal/carry laws would only result in more people going to prison for murder or the like and losing their gun license after taking out the mass murderer because they took the law in their own hands. They would need to have bullet holes in their bodies before they could effectively claim self defense in probably any state outside of Texas.

As for our Norwegian Crusader, he let himself be arrested by authorities so that he could get his message out. Note how often he's tried to speak to the people and how willing he is to talk. He WANTS to be heard. This was all a means of spreading his hate-filled message. A message written in blood.

Rob H.

Brendan said...

If you want real heroes in events like this I don't think you can go past this couple

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Of course, there is a solution: open primaries where the top two candidates (in terms of getting votes cast for them) end up in the General primary, regardless of party affiliation or the like. This would eliminate the power of the super-minorities that have so radicalized the Republican Party and threaten to do so to the Democratic Party.


Wouldn't that just end up with two Republicans running against each other in the general election?

(Or two Democrats in some places like California or Chicago, but I say "Republicans" because they'll get most of the corporate campaign funding)

LarryHart said...

Jacob:

Please note that this is mostly an counter point to general 'deficits are normal and appropriate' ideas. Economic downturns should have more investment with an associated mid range plan to pay debt back.

Long term deficits are bad for any country without strong safeguards to ensure that most of the money is delivering on the promise it was allocated to achieve.


I would agree with you completely (and used to do so) if it weren't for the fact that the Republicans themselves--the ones who are so deficit hawkish right now--are the ones who convinced everyone that "Reagan showed us deficits don't matter" when THEY are the ones spending like drunken sailors.

Once I became resigned to the fact that deficit spending will never be eliminated by spending cuts (because the GOP will always insist on commensurate tax cuts), then I started concentrating on where I would prefer the spending to go--Republican causes or Democratic ones.

Only since 2009 has it become fashionable to demand austerity to clamp down on the deficit. And first of all, a recssion bordering on depression is the exact WRONG time to make that change in attitude.

But even beyond that, I am getting awfully sick of people claiming to be bi-partisan in their condemnation of deficits ("I hated when Bush rang them up too!") but who somehow only EXHIBIT this outrage at both parties when the Democrats are in power.

Enterik said...

During the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and others, there was a carried conceal weapon not far from the scene. The owner ran to the scene shortly after the shots had been fired and, by his own admission, almost discharged his weapon at one of the people subduing the assailant. Thankfully, he had the presence of mind to hesitate and not fire at all.

On a related note, the assailant used extended clips which allowed him to shoot more people at the outset but proved his eventual downfall. Upon his attempt to reload the delay of getting clips out of his pocket and into the gun was just long enough to allow others to act.

I think the details of this incident demonstrate the equivocal value of carry concealed laws.

Jacob said...

Hi Duncan,

I feel like my posts are too long as they are. I didn't go on about inflation and the real value of money over time. Needless to say if it is cheaper in real value to borrow, you should.

Let me quote myself to illustrate I have already acknowledged the valid aspect of your further point...
"Most business have debts because the money invested has greater returns than the interest owed."

It makes sense to borrow/spend if the investment returned is greater than debt owed. The same is true for the individual and government.

Now for the distinction... However, it does not make sense to borrow/spend if the investment returned is less than the return or there is some specific event that needs be handled.

Individuals, Business, and Governments should pay off debt except when they are getting better returns on investment.

If you re-read my posts you'll see that I have been objecting to deficit spending because of the cost associated with doing so unwisely. I have supported it investment and short term events like Recessions. But even when spending during such events, you should have a plan to recover the losses in the mid term.

Regarding Military spending, I believe David Brin makes an excellent point about the differences between asking for Sacrifice. In WWII, the country did so. It was 'ok' to deficit spending because the revenue couldn't be realized otherwise. In modern wars, we aren't asked to Sacrifice. The Revenue could be realized but it isn't. We just pass the burden on to the future. That is disgusting.

Jacob said...

Hi Marino,

I submit than non-lethal weapons don't kill people as often as lethal weapons do (per use). I mentioned research and 100 years to address the shortcomings of existing ones.

I don't understand what you mean about dystopia. How does it follow that replacing existing Lethals with non-lethals would do that? I think you're likely assuming a lot of things I wouldn't support.

Jacob said...

Hi LarryHart,

I don't believe Republicans are deficit hawks. I believe they are anti-government advocates. A deficit hawk should treat revenue generation and cuts with equal value.

Republicans give people who are actually fiscally responsible a bad name. Please don't let them own any fiscal/deficit term but 'irresponsible.'

Remember I'm not against 50% or more or less government size so long as we pay for it. (That is if its what the people actually want.)

LarryHart said...

I just stumbled across this passage from "Earth" which seems to describe what's happening in the debt-ceiling debates:

With a small part of his mind, Remi realized that the encounter had built up momentum almost exactly along the positive feedback curve described in class by Professor Jameson...bluster and dare and counterbluff, reinforced by a desperate need to impress one's own gang...all leading step b step to the inevitable showdown.

LarryHart said...

Jacob:

I don't believe Republicans are deficit hawks. I believe they are anti-government advocates. A deficit hawk should treat revenue generation and cuts with equal value.

Republicans give people who are actually fiscally responsible a bad name. Please don't let them own any fiscal/deficit term but 'irresponsible.'


I agree with everything you just said. Unfortunately, in politics, perception counts for a lot, and in the public mind, the "small government types" have managed to be perceived as the ones "serious about the deficit". The effect of that is that when well-intentioned deficit-hawks like you seem to be (and like I used to be) fight for deficit reduction, you help give power to the DeMints and the McConnells and the Scott Walkers of the world.

I came to a similar revelation about "voting for the person, not the party" back during the Clinton impeachment. In the 1998 mid-term, I realized that a vote for a Republican in congress--even a Republican I liked--was a vote for increasing the power of Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde. To me, the 1998 elections were a referrendum on Impeachment. Since then, while I'll vote for local Republicans in county or village races, I refuse to vote for a national Republican under any circumstances. The unintended consquences are too great.

I maintain that the same is true with pushing a deficit-reduction agenda at this time. You may have the best of intentions, but the practical result is a win for the Koch Brothers and corporate masters and a painful belt-tightening for everyone else.


Remember I'm not against 50% or more or less government size so long as we pay for it. (That is if its what the people actually want.)


Where I disagree with you is on the proper use of government spending specifically during a Great Recession-if-not-Depression. It seems to me that in the present circumstances, printing money and handing it out on the street corners would "pay for itself" in increased demand. Now (specifically) is not the time for cutting spending, nor is it the time increased scrutiny over spending. The time for that was when the economy was riding high.

Bush Jr kinda/sorta had a point when he talked about giving a surplus back to the taxpayer. But he jumped the gun too soon. If the actual national debt had gone negative (as Greenspan apparently feared would happen), THEN would have been a good time to cut taxes. But just because there was a surplus in the ANNUAL budget, but still $5 T.R.I.L.L.I.O.N. or so in total debt--that was not the time to wonder what to do with an annual surplus, nor to decide that the answer was "get rid of it."

Jacob said...

Hi LarryHart,

I understand what you are saying, but I don't see how it supports them. I'm rather vocal about how deficit hawks and those who care about fiscal responsibility should avoid supporting modern Republicans. I believe than many people vote over a single issue or a collection of a few. If we let Republicans own the term, then those issue voters who don't look too closely will end up voting against their own values. Rather, I believe talking about actual fiscal responsibility increases the cognitive dissonance of ostriches.

-----

It is always the time to scrutinize spending. Evaluating to insure people are getting their money's worth and that they are happy with current programs at their cost. To explore if they want new specific programs at projected costs. Recessions/Depressions are not an exception. They are a time that we need to be more cautious.

I object strongly to the idea of handing money out, but I imagine that was metaphorical. If you were pressed for specifics, I might approve of some projects you'd suggest.

LarryHart said...

Jacob:

If we let Republicans own the term, then those issue voters who don't look too closely will end up voting against their own values.


I'm just saying that's what's already happening, partially because Republicans DO own the term.

From "Captain America" #177, "It's not a question of 'letting', Mister!"

Rather, I believe talking about actual fiscal responsibility increases the cognitive dissonance of ostriches.


Seems like it SHOULD do so, but also seems like it DOESN'T. This is what I was getting at. "Talking about fiscal responsibility" gets people voting Republican. See Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida for examples of how well that works out.


It is always the time to scrutinize spending. Evaluating to insure people are getting their money's worth and that they are happy with current programs at their cost. To explore if they want new specific programs at projected costs.

Recessions/Depressions are not an exception. They are a time that we need to be more cautious.


I presume you're familiar with the Bibilical story of Joseph (and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat). What you just said sounds to me like telling Pharaoh "It's always time to store more food than we produce. Famine years are no exception."

Of COURSE Depressions/Recessions are an exception to rules of austerity. During the 1990s, if government laid off a bunch of people, they could easily find jobs in the private sector. If government lays off a bunch of people NOW, we're just adding to incredibly high unemployment. Unemployment means less demand for private goods, less money in circulation, and more demand for government services. The first two exacerbate the depression, while the last exacerbates the deficit. And if we get actual deflation, the problem feeds on itself even further, because private wealth sink-holes have even MORE incentive to sit on their cash, because it becomes more valuable every day with no risk.

For those reasons, cutting spending during a depression is a bad thing in and of itself.


I object strongly to the idea of handing money out, but I imagine that was metaphorical.


It was an attempt to say that even that ridiculous extreme would yeild some positive results. Real-world examples of government stimulus programs would almost certainly have BETTER results than "printing money and handing it out."

If you were pressed for specifics, I might approve of some projects you'd suggest.


Rebuild urban infrastructure (bridges, roads, water/sewer systems). The fact that we have crumbling infrastructure AND millions of unemployed human beings is an indicator of disfunction.

rewinn said...

@Duncan
"...Your current level of military spending is just plain silly! ..."
I disagree. Our national competitors (e.g. ed-Ray Ina-Chay) will never attack us so long as we are conveniently delivering ourselves into their hands economically. It's a win-win for everyone!!! [/ sarcasm ]
===

@LarryHart (on open primaries)
"Wouldn't that just end up with two Republicans running against each other in the general election?"
Yes but so what? Except in the rarest of circumstances, if Party X gets the top two spots in a fair primary, then Party Y would have a zero chance in the general anyway.

We have open primaries in Washington State and the voters love them. The Party organizations fought them all the way to the Supreme Court (on "free association" grounds) but all that did was force the system we ultimately settled on to allow candidates to state their "party preference", e.g. "Smith prefers the Libertarian Party", but not state that they are the party candidate, unless they really are.

In practical terms, it works great! My home district (Seattle) is so liberal (Microsoft, Longshoremen and Boeing engineers) that the GOP didn't bother running a candidate against the Democrat McDermott, so his major opponent was a Green. In the more conservative parts of our state it would be two GOPpers running against each other in the general; if the Libertarians were smart they would push a candidate in the 4th or 5th district of Washington State in such a primary and for the 1st time have a real shot at getting someone into office (they probably wouldn't make it but imagine the attention they'd get for their ideas. And if last minute scandal could tip things their way as happened in the Foley race in 2006)

Robert said...

@LarryHart: While Rewinn already responded to this in part, let me expand upon his comments further. Yes, you do risk two Democrats or two Republicans running on the same ticket for the General Election. However, this is ultimately for the benefit of the majority of voters. Imagine for a second a Republican majority exists in a district. There is a strong Tea Party element in there that demands impeachment of Obama for daring to be President, massive tax cuts for the rich, and the elimination of social programs that don't directly benefit them. They are the majority of voters in a normal primary and thus would be able to force a far-right candidate onto the ticket. However, you also have a Moderate conservative who understands you do need to raise taxes sometimes, negotiation is not a dirty word, and compromise helps keep things working.

Both get the largest share of the vote. They both get on the ticket. Now the general election comes around, and you have a minority of rabid Tea Party conservatives who will back their guy... and Democrats and Independents looking at a Moderate Conservative. Who will get into office?

Likewise, imagine two Democrats get on a ticket - one a huge tax-and-spend liberal (they do still exist, they're just rare these days) and a second a moderate liberal who embraces fiscal constraint, social justice, and personal freedoms. They get the lion share of the vote and get on the general ballot. Now Republicans and Independents have a choice: the Liberal or the Moderate.

The end result? An increased number of moderates get into Congress. They help alleviate the extremes that the current political system has embraced. They bring sanity back into Washington, because they are working for the majority of voters, not for a minority who votes in their primary.

Better yet, everyone has a reason to vote in the Primary. Say you're a liberal. You're in a staunchly Conservative district. You and your fellow liberals know that there is no way your liberal candidate will get on the ballot... but there is a decent moderate conservative that is willing to work with you. So you throw your efforts behind him to ensure he gets on the general election ballot.

In short, I think it will restore sanity to Washington. And that is a good thing.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Via Neil Gaiman:

'Two under-reported heroines of the Norwegian massacre: they saved 40 kids: http://bit.ly/qyvOb4'

You may not have heard this before. There may be a reason.

repso: retro-salesman

sociotard said...

5 Visions of the Future From Experts (Who Should Be Fired)

I thought Dr. Brin would get a kick out of this.

soc said...

Sorry to intrude on the discussion but I thought some might find this interesting, if troubling:

Secular youth sidelined as Army colludes with Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

Turns out there was a reason the Muslim Botherhood didn't play a prominent role in the revolution - their leadership was frequently in cahoots with Mubarak even as they played the role of "opposition."

Remember how Mubarak was being funded to keep the Brotherhood at bay? Well that's now beginning to look like a dirty trick. It seems the two were in bed together and it was the secular liberal democrats who were getting screwed.

In the short-term this revolution will probably fail. It doesn't look like the status quo is changing anytime soon.

Tim H. said...

Tony, thanks for that link,it'll make it a bit harder to dehumanize that minority.

Robert said...

No it won't. The anti-Homosexuality crowd will call them cowards for not landing and sacrificing their lives by fruitlessly trying to stop an armed maniac when unarmed themselves, and probably suggest their mere presence caused him to go psychotic in the first place. We're talking hate here. Hate finds reasons even when none exist.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

1. Have a look at a grade A imbecile.
http://www.activistpost.com/2011/05/bad-news-from-nasa-proof-that-comet.html The comments are pretty damned stupid, too. Scary thought: these people almost certainly apply the same sort of reasoning power and wisdom when deciding how to vote ...

No - amend that. The comments are beyond stupid. Jibbering loons.

2. Jacob: "I don't believe Republicans are deficit hawks. I believe they are anti-government advocates."

Yep. Even when it manifests as what all our ancestors would have called flat-out blatant treason, they have rationalized this monstrous distortion of libertarianism. Alas, their opponents are morons who never connect the dots.

WHY this fetish? Simple. Eliminate the government and you eliminate every tool (e.g. courts and civil service) that might impinge the power and influence of a fast-rising oligarchy. The supposed hero-founder of libertarianism - Adam Smith - prescribed neutral government and courts and civil service in order to counterbalance the great enemy of markets across 4,000 years.

Robert said...

I'm assuming it's all a massive lie someone pulled out of their behind. It has the look an feel of such idiocy. But skimming the first dozen comments, all I saw was calls for tinfoil hats and comments ridiculing the post. I take it that there are idiots who believe it deeper in the comments?

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

If the comet had enough mass to cause a Velikovsky event at 2.8 million miles, I wouldn't expect the comet to have a tail, maybe not even at perihelion. (Am assuming that in the absence of other info. that if it was really big, it would possess enough gravity to hold on material that would otherwise form a tail.)
"renubit", data restoration.

T said...

An NPR poll on Science Fiction and Fantasy
http://www.npr.org/2011/08/02/138894873/vote-for-top-100-science-fiction-fantasy-titles
Dr. Brin's got two titles on the list, go vote!

rewinn said...

The link about the comet (?or is it a neutron star?) isn't all bad news. My mother-in-law inherited a chunk of logged-over timberland that fits that blog's specs perfectly: above 600 feet but not high altitude; far from nuclear power plants, dams, cities, etc.; great for growing crops out of the sight of neighbors (...according to some local arrest records...); etc. etc. I'm sure she'd be willing to unload, er, donate it to the cause for a modest fee!

(I was going to humorously suggest a survivalist real estate agency, but P.T.Barnum was right:survivalrealty.com)

Rob said...

We have the "top-two" primary in Washington State. Both parties hate it but it was rammed through by Initiative and so far, it has done none of the damage predicted by opponents of the measure. Parties are still bitterly partisan, they still nominate and market their candidates, and in the cases that two of the same party advance, they just endorse the one they want and move on. But in the vast majority of cases, one Dem and one GOPper advances to the general election.

No big. It only diminishes the powers and rights of political parties slightly; they work around it and continue business as usual, for whatever good or ill that entails.

Paul said...

Jacob,
"What we should be doing is researching better non-lethal weaponry. Then you can have self defense without putting death in the hands of crazy people."

Rapists love non-lethal-weapons. Makes their job a lot easier, no struggle, little or no screaming, and a good chance that the victim can't make an identification (or if rendered unconscious, may even lose that last bit of short-term memory.)

Robert,
"If I were to go after someone doing a mass shooting and managed to kill him, the laws of the U.S. would likely put me in jail despite the threat that this person posed to other people."

Weird. Here in Australia we have strict anti-gun laws, hell even anti-knife laws. (And no death penalty, or similar eye-for-an-eye macho nonsense.) Yet, I've seen a number of cases where gun owners shot and killed escaping thieves (ie, shot them in the back), and while they have gone to court, every case ends with a jury aquittal.

Paul said...

Re: Open primaries.

I've always liked this idea. In 2000, you would have had Bush vs McCain. Pre-sold-his-soul McCain would have won.

Or in 2008, the Bush legacy was so toxic, you would have had Obama vs Clinton. And I love the idea of your average Foxtard trying to decide whether to vote for a Negro secret-Muslim to keep Her out of office, or vote for Her to keep a Negro secret-Muslim out of office. For the Lulz alone, you need this system.

But another possibility:

Both Libertarian candidates and the Tea Party run within the Republican Party primaries. It would be interesting if you went in the opposite direction to open-primaries. Pre-primary factional votes, to choose the candidates for the primaries.

You don't register as Republican, you register as Republican-sub-TeaParty.

And registered Tea Party members would vote in a factional-primary for their candidate for the Republican primary, so would other factions, one from each registered faction standing in the main party primary.

(Similarly in the Democrats. Rainbow Coalition, AIPAC, AFL-CIO, NALEO/UFW...)

David Brin said...

Vote in NPR's top ten sf/fantasy titles poll!

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/02/138894873/vote-for-top-100-science-fiction-fantasy-titles

http://www.npr.org/2011/08/02/138894873
then
/vote-for-top-100-science-fiction-fantasy-titles

TwinBeam said...

Brin - I guess you can always be right if you narrow your conditions tightly enough to exclude every case presented to you.

So now a vice principal is an "authority" - despite having no duties whatsoever connected with carrying a gun and use it to defend students, let alone chase down a criminal who has left the scene.

And since guns are banned from so many public locations where deranged killers commonly like to strike, someone running off site to get the gun they might otherwise have been carrying, yeah, those can't count either. Ignore the kids who died because the VP had to leave to get his gun - that doesn't matter.

And I suppose the shooter has to have been completely un-threatened but jumped in anyway, else it's merely self defense and that doesn't count.

Or maybe it has to be a public place, not a private residence or business. And it doesn't count if they don't actually "get the kill" on the attacker - merely wounding them and driving them off doesn't count.

http://www.wsbtv.com/news/19365762/detail.html

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/6219604.html

And nevermind the dozens of cases of people using concealed guns to defend themselves - it only counts if they use them to defend a random stranger.

Yep, keep narrowing your criteria - you'll always be right.

But in the end your won't be saying anything useful about concealed carry laws.

Jonathan S. said...

Twinbeam, a school vice-principal is not an "innocent bystander" - he/she is someone charged with the safety of the students at the school. Admittedly, that's usually safety from the other students, but still...

The vice-principal in this case wasn't carrying - his firearm was in his car. "Concealed carry" doesn't even enter into it.

The criteria were for a single example of an innocent bystander who used "concealed carry" to stop a massacre. So far, we've been presented with an armed security guard, and a school official who actually had to go offsite to retrieve a weapon because he specifically wasn't carrying a concealed weapon. Still waiting for the criteria to be met. (I favor concealed-carry laws for totally different reasons...)

rewinn said...

@Twinbeam please - it's not a matter of being "right" or "winning" some illusory internet contest.

On the evidence, Dr Brin's statement is literally true as written. If you want to introduce some cases that don't match the statement, and argue they are somehow more relevant than the case he lays out, fine and dandy but that is a whole 'nother argument. Once you start expanding the range of cases, where do you stop?

Robert said...

Here's a bunch of links for people.

First, an act of domestic terrorism (fire bombing) which hasn't been reported... because it only happened to Planned Parenthood and who cares about them?

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/07/30/planned_parenthood_terrorism/index.html

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/07/30/
planned_parenthood_terrorism/index.html

Next (and this works with Dr. Brin's bit on human control), eight reasons why U.S. students don't protest in this day and age and what it says about America as a whole:

http://www.alternet.org/story/151850/8_reasons_young_americans_don%27t_fight_back%3A_how_the_us_crushed_youth_resistance?page=entire

http://www.alternet.org/story/151850/8_reasons_young_americans_
don%27t_fight_back%3A_how_the_us_crushed_youth_resistance?page=entire

An article on how the Founding Fathers were all for national debts!

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/08/01/hogeland_debt_ceiling

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/
08/01/hogeland_debt_ceiling

And finally, Matt Damon gives Libertarian Reporter a satisfying smackdown =^-^=

http://gawker.com/5827002/matt-damon-gives-libertarian-reporter-a-satisfying-smackdown

http://gawker.com/5827002/matt-damon-gives-
libertarian-reporter-a-satisfying-smackdown

Oh, and here's ten stories about Uplifted Animals. Dr. Brin mentioned it on his Facebook page:

http://io9.com/5826423/10-stories-about-uplifted-animals-who-gain-human-intelligence

http://io9.com/5826423/10-stories-about-
uplifted-animals-who-gain-human-intelligence

Rob H.

David Brin said...

TWinBeam I did not set the criteria. The radio jocks did. The TOPIC is mass public shooters. The topic comes up When and BECAUSE mass shooting events come into the news. And that's when the radio guys trot out the Big Excuse. It didn't happen because of too many guns. It happened because of too few.

I am not overly-narrowly defining. I am answering.

Anonymous said...

Brin/Rewinn/Jonathan: Did you check out the last two links I provided? Apparently not.

But it won't matter, because you've already made up your minds. And you complain about "ostriches".

TwinBeam said...

That was from me - apparently hit the magic combination of keys to send without clicking publish.

Tim H. said...

Transparency...misused
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/08/mugshots/
A Florida business,uh, person uses the state's transparency laws to find and post mugshots. For a fee, they can be removed. Murphy never sleeps.
"barave", separate syllables, get a concise "Callahan's" review.

Tacitus2 said...

Cripes

I make an innocuous side comment on whether the Norwegian shooting could have been less hideous with concealed carry laws and look at the fuss.

This is a non issue, folks, find something more productive to argue.

There is general agreement that:

1. in theory an armed citizen might save the day.
2. it would be a rare event because-thank God-mass shootings are extremely rare.
3. it would be a very confusing and risky thing to attempt, high odds of being shot by police or other armed citizens.
4. There "might" be some bias against this happening because some of these nut cases specifically choose targets where in theory even in concealed carry states you cannot have a firearm. Schools for instance.

Is this not sufficient? If you want to argue for private ownership of Uzis to prevent the next atrocity then I would respectfully suggest that there might be some other site more to your tastes.

Go back and re-read Brin's essay on everyone having a "Kentucky rifle" over the mantlepiece.

Yes, Brin cheats a little in debates. Big deal. Yes, his claims to be a Republican are disingeneous. But he is more pro-gun that I am, and I am kind of the token conservative in these parts.

I really think the energies of all concerned could be better applied to the real issus of the day.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

TwinBeam's one example (I didn't notice a second) was a kid shooting a home invader.

Sure. I never claimed that guns were never used in self defense - that would be stupid!

Indeed, as Tacitus says, I am friendlier to gun ownership than a lot of people initially expect. The bolt action rifle with small magazine should be protected constitutionally and kept sacred. (Note, a lone madman with such a weapon is very easily brought down. But a thousand neighbors, so armed, can stymie a tyrant.)

I simply have never seen a whip-it-out by a bystander end a mass -crazed shooting. WHat I HAVE seen is plenty of tackles by unarmed much-braver bystanders.

Uplift_Monkey said...

This may seem off topic at first, but bear with me…

A number of years ago, a friend of mine was one of the first people on the scene of a two car, head-on collision. Both cars had people trapped in the front seats, but not severely injured. Unbeknownst to the bystanders, the driver of one vehicle was suicidal and purposely caused the crash after loading his car with gas cans. When the crash didn’t kill him and people tried to help him, he ignited his car – and the spreading gas quickly ignited the car he had run into. None of the bystanders had any tools to get the innocent passengers out of the other car. They had to stand there and listen to the screams as those people burned to death. A crowbar and sharp knife was likely all that was needed to save them from one of the worst ways to die. My friend has been haunted by that event ever since.

After hearing the story, I decided to carry emergency equipment with me – on my person and in my car – because I do not want to live with the memory of people I wasn’t able to save. Fire extinguisher, gorilla bar, rope, welding gloves, axe, saw, first aid kit, blanket, and more tools have a permanent place in the trunk of my car, in addition to small items I carry with me. If I ever have cause to use them, it will have been worth carrying this extra weight around all these years – especially if it can save a life.

Additionally, I am now certified in CPR/AED and emergency first aid. I believe it is the responsibility of every man, woman, and child to prepare for emergencies. And I believe that everyone has a moral imperative to protect each other. I pray that I am never called upon to use these tools and skills, but I am ready if needed.

Consequently, I choose to be armed at all times with the very best weapons I can acquire, regardless of ever-changing legislation that can make a citizen into a criminal overnight. I don’t see it as a right – I consider it a responsibility. Just like the other tools I carry, it will be worth me carrying all these years if it is needed even once to defend against someone who wishes vengeance upon the world… though I pray I am never called upon to use it.

The fire department is always late to the fire. Paramedics are not seated at your dinner table when dad has a heart attack. Police are rarely on hand when a crime is actually committed. As valuable a service as they provide, seconds are critical and minutes can be fatal. Life is too precious to leave to chance - or heaven forbid, response time. Each of us needs to be an empowered first-responder.

uplift_monkey

Paul said...

Tacitus2,
"2. it would be a rare event because-thank God-mass shootings are extremely rare."

Not really. While events on the scale of the Norway shooting are indeed rare, "lone nut shooting people in public" is not rare, particularly in the US.

Studies seem to use a figure of 35 people killed in mass shootings in the US per year, but that can increase by ten times depending on the year. (A USAToday article after the Giffords shooting says 20 mass shootings per year, but gives no reference.)

That's enough for a statistically significant sample. Certainly enough to find more than a few examples of concealed-carry heroes.

"3. it would be a very confusing and risky thing to attempt, high odds of being shot by police or other armed citizens."

Indeed. The loon in the Norway shooting was wearing a police uniform. Who's game enough to make that call?

But that's not the point. There can be a hundred perfectly good reasons for why concealed carriers don't stop shootings. The point is that concealed carry laws were sold in many US states by arguing that they can stop mass shootings. Clearly, they were lying.

Jacob said...

Its a question of costs and benefits. Tacitus list shows a definite benefit.

A sample cost list would include:

1. Celebratory Fire destroys property and occasionally kills people (Happened locally)
2. Children playing with guns rarely kill themselves or their friends.
3. Criminals have improved capacity to do harm.
3a. The crazy rampaging shooters are much more dangerous than they would be otherwise.

-----------

Now consider an alternative: No firearms.

Benefits: None of the above.

Costs:
1. Less capacity for Individual/Family Self Defense.
1a. Weaker resistance to foreign invasion or totalitarian government. (Extremely unlikely.)
2. The most capable Criminals (rare) would likely gain limited access anyway.

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

Both of the above of undesirable. The Costs don't outweigh the benefits in my opinion. Ultimately we should use democratic principles to determine a policy for each nation. Now consider some alternatives to Allow/Disallow.

David Brin's Limited Allow (Single shot riffles)

Benefits:
1. Community Defense. (vs Foreign Invasion and Totalitarian Government)
2. Sports (Hunting/Target Shooting) is still possible.
3. Crazy People have reduced capacity to do Harm.
4. Criminals have reduced capacity to use firearms (as they can't be concealed and draw attention.)
5. Reduced chance of playing children shooting themselves. (It is hard for a child to point a riffle at themselves and pull the trigger. No so for friends though.)

Costs:
1. Limited Individual/Family Self Defense.

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

Non-lethal Weaponry (or Disallowed Lethal Self Defense)
Benefits:
1. Self/Individual Self Defense.
2. Crazy People have reduced capacity to do harm.
3. (Weak) Normal criminals have slightly reduced capacity. (They would still be able do their work, but there would be less death in those cases.)
4. Children wouldn't kill themselves with firearms.

Costs:
1. Limited Community Defense.
2. Slightly Limited Sports (Reduced Hunting - You'd have to finish Animals with a Knife or other means, Normal target shooting.)

---------

You may be able to add things to the Benefits and Costs list of any of the above. I wasn't trying to make a complete list. Ultimately, we should be using Science to plan ahead for a solution that shifts Costs off the list and adds to Benefits.

-----

Uplift_Monkey I see nothing wrong with your desire to be a first res ponder. In fact, its admirable. But delegation is a good thing. Trusting Police, Firemen, our Military, and other Emergency Services to do their job isn't abandonment of responsibility.

Paul said...

(Fifth attempt to post. Splitting the post this time. Fuck Blogger.)

TwinBeam,
Two of your three examples seem to completely miss the point: Promoters of concealed carry (CCW) laws used mass shooting to justify passing "Shall Issue" CCW laws in a vast number of US states.

Only one of your three examples seems to relate to that. (And that was a woman with a bow and arrow and fake pistol, vs two CCW co-workers. And it still took police to bring her down.)

I disagree with David's dismissal of the VP at the school shooting, "authority figure" doesn't remove his "bystander" status. But his other point is valid, your example had nothing to do with concealed carry.

I did some googling, and I also had trouble finding examples of CCW permit-holders preventing mass shootings. Several off-duty cops, security guards, some gun-store clerks.

I did find some vague references on pro-CCW blogs to cases where armed bystanders "pinned down" the shooter until police arrived, but couldn't find the actual cases.

I also found a lot of pro-CCW blog posts (and comments) doing what Tacitus2 did: explain why CCW doesn't stop mass shootings.

Paul said...

(This is the bit I split out.)

And then I found this poor bastard:
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002975859_mallshooting06m.html

Paul said...

And because I'm much much more of a dick than David Brin, I found these...

Mass Shootings Committed By Concealed Carry Permit Holders (pdf):
http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/ccwmassshootings.pdf

Law Enforcement Officers Killed By Concealed Carry Permit Holders (pdf):
http://www.vpc.org/fact_sht/ccwmassshootings.pdf

So, more CCW permit-holders commit mass shooting than stop them?

TwinBeam said...

I don't know what web page you're looking at, but I provided 2 links in that post.

And the second link was even better than the first - two employees with concealed carry permits shooting and driving off a crazy woman shooting people with arrows and threatening them with a gun. A perfect fit, as far as I'm concerned.

But now you're throwing out all cases of "self defense". So now the hero has to feel completely unthreatened, despite being close to a crazed shooter. Nice catch-22...

And I guess it has to be in a public place - since "home invasion" automatically turns it into 'mere' self defense, no matter how irrationally sociopathic the attackers may be. Except in many public places where attacks happen, guns are banned - and yet it doesn't count if the hero has to run out to his car to get the gun he would otherwise have been carrying concealed. Another sweet catch-22.

But let's see what you actually claimed:

"There has never, ever been a single case of an American bystander, armed with a concealed-carry weapon, who leaped in and used that weapon to bring down a crazed mad shooter. All such mad shooters have been brought down either by police, or by suicide, or - most often - by UN-ARMED heroic bystanders, who charged the gunman while he was changing ammo."

No mention that it can't be self defense or must be in a public place.

No mention that vice principals or others in positions of petty authority do not count as "bystanders".

And while you mention "concealed carry weapon", you really should choose whether that includes people who have permits but are not carrying only because they are law abiding - or only people carrying a concealed weapon illegally.

You also claim these criteria were set by the right wing radio jocks. Funny, it seems a lot of criteria got added that they wouldn't consider relevant.

Paul said...

TwinBeam,
"But let's see what you actually claimed:"

Pedantically picking over David's wording is pointless if you ignore the context of his argument. Advocates of CCW have been selling "Shall Issue" laws across the US using mass shootings as justification. Ie, "if more Americans had CCWs, these tragedies wouldn't happen."

So when David says "Show me one example where..." it doesn't matter how he phrases it. The CCW advocates defined the terms of the debate. They weren't talking about home invasions, nor people keeping guns in cars. They were talking about public random mass shootings being stopping by random passersby carrying handguns in holsters or handbags under CCW laws. Those are the terms they used.

I hope that explains why it might feel like you and David are on different pages. You are. He's talking about the arguments actually used by CCW advocates, you're not.

TwinBeam said...

Paul -

I disagree - Brin has added his own criteria to create a strawman argument, allowing him to reject perfectly on-target cases.

And most here are happy to let him get away with it because they more or less agree with his position. Exactly the sort of group-think / willful-blindness that they condemn so often here when they see it in tea partiers /republicans / conservatives.

Two of my examples are on precisely on target to both crazy mass killings and concealed carry.

The hero vice-principal was prevented from carrying concealed. He is precisely an example of the sort of person, in the sort of place, that pro-carry advocates commonly state should be allowed to carry concealed, and his case is a demonstration of their position. It is beyond absurd to reject its relevance to the issue.

And the kid who drove off the home invading sociopaths was not the home owner. He was attending a party, and had a gun with him, concealed in his backpack. Once again, this is the sort of case that pro-carry advocates would use in defense of their position, and it is beyond a stretch of truth to claim it is not relevant.

And I have no idea how he disregards the crazy bow-lady case, other than claiming he didn't see the link.

Tacitus - you are giving Brin to big a pass. It is utterly hypocritical of him to disregard valid evidence against his case, and disingenuous to claim that the cases aren't precisely the sort of cases the pro-carry advocates would cite. How utterly ostrich-like.

David Brin said...

Jeez... TwinBeam why are you so angry. DO you see what you are doing? You are grasping at a few borderline anecdotes to try to prove THAT I CAN'T PROVE A PERFECT LACK OF EXAMPLES of concealed-carry bystanders blasting down mass shooters.

Even if you were right. SO WHAT? So my perfect lack of any examples is spoiled by one or two that you assert (and I disagree) fit the model. So?

They are still more rare than hens teeth.

Again, nearly all such shooters are brought down by brave UNARMED bystanders! Heck, the story I am telling is far more glorious. More noble and inspiring.

And far more true.

David Brin said...

Super way cool!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLF46JKkCNg


A very beautiful short film. Have a look!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRMcPJrWm-g&feature=youtube_gdata_player


How brave are you?
http://news.yahoo.com/photos/the-edgewalk-at-toronto-s-cn-tower-1311798178-slideshow/reporter-leans-over-edge-catwalk-during-media-preview-photo-172040323.html


Some of these visions of tomorrow are as bad as the sarcastically-cynical writer of the article yells... and I think people will not want to touch all those touch screens other people have been touching. There are lots of other ways to do augmented reality. Still. dive into the article and play the videos! (All right, #4 #2 and #1 are pretty dumb. But #5 and #3 have real content. In fact, I invented #3 separately!)
http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-visions-future-from-experts-who-should-be-fired/


And another blog soon

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