Thursday, December 22, 2011

Santa frets about melting North Pole! Call N. Korea “Chinese”! Plus who is anti-science?

* All right, it’s a simple though not-so-cheery meme. But it mixes warm and fuzzy mythology with deep-important truth. Poor Santa Claus is in trouble!  Tell every child you know that the U.S. Navy is in full tilt preparation for an “ice-free arctic.” Our admirals don’t think there’s the slightest “controversy” over human generated climate change. The Navy’s Arctic Roadmap states, "the current scientific consensus indicates the Arctic may experience nearly ice-free summers sometime in the 2030s." Yes Virginia, that includes the North Pole. The Navy knows what’s coming and they are hard at work getting ready... as are the Russians.

So, why tell children? Especially around Yuletide? Because maybe fear for Santa Claus might help them get through to knucklehead parents, who clutch beliefs that are far, far more mythological than jolly old gift-giving elves.
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== Taxes? My Oncle lives in Dollars, Taxes! ==

* My in-depth exploration of reasons to enact a “transaction tax” on hyper-fast Wall street predatory computerized trading is now permanently posted online.  See why a teensy 0.1% fee might save us from Terminator!


* As for the current hoo-row over taxes, in general? Who'd have thunk that the best investigative journalism in America would be at Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair? Seriously, read this cogent and informative article. Sure, the author has a political axe to grind.  But most of the people he quotes are conservatives and republicans, many of whom served Ronald Reagan! And the facts speak for themselves.


Aw, heck. Ask your uncle who is steamed about taxes whether he thinks they are at a historical high, since 1935... or low?  Ask whether he thinks the federal share of our nation’s GDP is low?  Or high?  And if rates are their lowest in 80 years, then why is his top priority to shrink them even further - only for the rich?

== What to do about the “Hermit Kingdom”? ==

* All right, speaking of elves... or rather, nasty dwarves... the passing of leadership in North Korea to the latest Amazing Kim is provoking endless ruminations amid the pundit caste and blogosphere.  But seriously, what’s your solution? The Hermit Kingdom tipped over, long ago, into jibbering kakocracy. Nuclear armed, with tens of thousands of hidden artillery tubes aimed at Seoul, its ruling caste lives by extortion, telling its people that the bags of rice they get, with American flags on them, are “tribute from Yankees who are terrified of the Dear Leader.
 
Compare North Korea, as viewed from space, to any other nation on Earth. (It's dark as a cave.) Visitors to North Korea attest that the average young person, who is not a member of the officer caste, is two to five inches shorter than their southern cousins.  What to do about this intractable horror story?  I have a suggestion... it is obvious and yet no one but this opinionated, undiplomatic contrarian will ever mention it... for reasons that are also obvious.


 Declare that we consider North Korea to be the 23rd province of China.
 
Look, I’ve said before that I respect the neo-Confucian approach taken by the mercantilist Chinese leadership caste.  I don’t agree with it - in some ways vigorously - but I can grasp what they are trying to accomplish and overall they have been managing a miracle... financed by Americans via Walmart. (It helps that their leaders arise out of engineering, unlike our parasitical business school grads.) Look, if the Western Enlightenment fails - and I will die fighting to defend it - then Eastern-Confucian noblesse oblige seems the least-bad of all the alternatives.

But seriously, when we’re talking about North Korea, can there be any question? That brutal mini-state is entirely a creature-creation of China.  It was fostered and guarded by Mao’s armies in the 1950s. It is defended in the UN by Chinese Security Council vetoes. Its economy is kept running by Chinese-subsidized energy, coal, iron and grain. China sells the sole-core North Korean institution - its army - nearly all the weapons and equipment they use. “Special zones” are completely run by Chinese companies and ministries. Above all, the Hermit Kingdom continues to exist and maintain its wretched rule by Chinese sufferance.

Is there any rational way to perceive the People’s Republic of China as anything other than the true operator of North Korea?  Were they firmly to inform the top North Korean generals that it was time for change, those generals would obey.

One can envision why the Chinese leadership might want to maintain a Potemkin ruse of sovereignty, propping up the insupportable.  Some reasons seem plausible... like preventing the appearance of a strong and united Korea on their doorstep.  Other hypotheses erupt out of fevered imagination and paranoid-Hollywood scenario-building.  For example, what better place to engage in experiments that go far beyond the limits of decency, anywhere except in the Kim family’s psychotic realm?

Currently, by accepting the fiction of North Korean autonomy, we allow the Chinese top leadership to shrug aside responsibility for this festering canker on the world’s lip. But why accept this convenience, from which we derive zero benefit?  No question that the “23rd province” assertion would be a bold and aggressive diplomatic move!  For several reasons.  First, because China claims that Taiwan is province number 23!  All right, we’d have to linguistically finesse around that. Perhaps by calling NK an “autonomous region, like Tibet.”

Also, of course, we’d have to assert that such a situation isn’t right!  Proclaiming the north to be sovereign Korean territory, occupied as a satrapy by puppets of a neighboring regime. While demanding long term that Korea be unified, we might also insist at least that the occupying power govern well.  Moreover, if people are starving in this satrapy, the onus falls in one place. On one doorstep.

No question, this is dicey territory.  Moreover -- and let’s be clear -- I am not even asserting that this proposal is wise.  I am open to all alternatives. Still, this should be on the table. Mentioning the un-mentioned possibility... that’s my job.  Moreover, even leaking that the US is thinking about this might send a useful message.


One thing is clear; the status quo cannot stand. Such a declaration would serve notice to the Chinese Leadership caste that - despite their other accomplishments - this is a problem they can evade no longer. Whatever is done in-and-by North Korea is their responsibility.  From misuse of nuclear weapons... all the way to future lawsuits that might be filed by millions of very short Koreans... there are many disincentives against allowing this nightmare to continue.  But only if the persons who are truly responsible, and have the power, are told that this is their responsibility.

== Political Miscellany ==

* The Skeptoid offers a list of the Top Ten Anti-Science Web Sites.  It is informative and surprisingly apolitical... well, in the sense that it assails jibbering nonsense generated by lefty-idiots in equal numbers to right-wing idiots.  I’ve always avowed that the degree of insanity seems equal at both extremes. The big difference is between the mere tens of thousands who attend to one end’s nonsense, vs tens of millions who march to the opposite drum. Indeed, and illustrating this point, what’s missing from the list of virulently anti-science web locales? The site that attacks science more intensely and effectively than any other?
Fox.

* Want science and scientific issues to be debated in 2012? About time for candidates to show if they know (or care) about actual facts? Half of US economic growth since 1945 came from scientific and tech advances, yet that's languishing. Make it an issue. Donate to Science Debate 2012.   And see how bad (and good) it’s become. 

* Think Warren Buffett is an aberration?  Read about Charles Feeney, a multi billionaire who wears a $15 watch, who is giving it all away - in ways that make a big difference.  He recently gave $350 million to Cornell, to create a vast new science and technology campus on Roosevelt Island, right next to Manhattan.  Given that 50% of our economic growth since 1945 came from S&T innovation, that's called "putting your money to good use."  It's true patriotism.

* I’ll keep saying it. Though I find him 50% crazy, I also think Newt Gingrich is by far the most interesting and entertaining Republican candidate, displaying moments of brainy and insightful cogency.  Take this:  “Newt has been warning of the danger of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP)—a burst of radiation created by a high-altitude nuclear explosion... that could take down electrical systems over hundreds or thousands of miles... knocking us back to the 19th Century. ‘In theory, a small device over Omaha would knock out about half the electricity generated in the United States,’ he was quoted as saying.”

Alas, we then move back into crazy territory. “In Gingrich’s view, the threat of an EMP attack justifies actions such as preemptive strikes on the missile installations of nations such as Iran and North Korea.”  Well, Barry Goldwater was 50:50 in much the same way.  But gosh do I miss him now!

In fact, as Scientific American points out, the primary target of an EMP wouldn’t be ground-based power systems. It would be satellites. Moreover, the best defense would be a small, $50 million a year program to foster the moving of EMP resistant technologies out of the military and into civilian electronics.  This should have been started decades ago.  By now, we’d see this worry as quaint... instead of deeply worrisome.

* Aw heck, as long as we're Newting... and in fairness? I won't be soon forgiving Nancy Pelosi for what she did - or failed to do - as Speaker of the House.  Cynically trading away what she considered a low priority to democrats, re-establishing the Congressional Office of Science and Technology Assessment.  That independent analysis agency used to give congress-folk an extra set of eyes, to double-check on matters that involve scientific appraisal... in other words, everything. OSTA had been chucked out by Newt Gingrich and his pals in 1995.  (Now why would they want to do that?) But Madam Speaker now bears almost-equal blame. She flubbed a chance to do fantastic good, with a flick of her wrist.

* Drones and robots are increasingly replacing humans on the battlefield: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, even “targeted killing”. They’re particularly good at the 4 D’s: dull, dirty, and dangerous jobs, as well as “dispassion”, the ability to react without emotion. Here’s an extensive look at some future scenarios, worthy of discussion regarding the ethical consequences. Allow this only if they carry a "reporter bug" that tells society everything they do!

* In the Stanford Law Review, Ryan Calo discusses how domestic surveillance drones will challenge our notions of privacy, calling them “the visceral jolt society needs to drag privacy law into the twenty-first century.” As small as an insect, public and private camera-carrying drones will be available to police, journalists, paparazzi, and hobbyists. Would that these scholars had the courage and breadth and class to study and acknowledge the vast literature of cogent science fiction prethinking that's already gone into these issues.

* And finally, coming full circle: Current climate models underestimate the potential impact of permafrost. Warming temperatures are melting permafrost, frozen ground that underlies nearly one-fourth of the Northern Hemisphere. One recent estimate indicates that this permafrost contains twice as much carbon as the entire atmosphere. Released as carbon dioxide or methane, this could exacerbate global warming…a runaway cycle. We can't afford anymore to coddle fools.

162 comments:

sociotard said...

Might want to fix typo: 'bags of rise'

Saying that China created North Korea is like saying the wind makes kites fly. The truth is that kites fly because of the tension between the wind and the string. Likewise, North Korea was created because of the tension between China and the United States.

China sells the sole-core North Korean institution - its army - nearly all the weapons and equipment they use.

Don't we sell SK most of its weapons? Okay, SK has many good institutions, so the comparison does break down, but this tit has a tat.

Our soldiers are still on the border. Not enough to stop anything, but some.

What I'm saying is, most of the arguments that NK is the 23rd province could be used to say that SK is the 51st state. Now, that idea is laughable, and the same points would be less valid. That, however is a difference of degree, not type.

No, I think this just makes a great talking point for our ambassadors in the area, as is. "This is what Korea looks like with Chinese sponsorship. This is what Korea looks like with US sponsorship. Who do you want to do business with?"

Anonymous said...

And the link to the permafrost article actually goes to the EMP/Gingrich article

Jumper said...

Then we can purchase Baja from Mexico.

Nicholas MacDonald said...

David, all due respect, but you're wrong on the relationship between China and North Korea. North Korea has long been fiercely independent; they played China and the USSR off of each other for years after the Sino-Soviet split; when there wasn't a USSR anymore, they reluctantly cuddled up to China. Let's keep thing straight here- North Korea is Korean. There are no Han settlers. No PLA presence. It's own administration and currency. A totally different culture than China. As such, it makes no more sense to call North Korea- a sovereign nation recognized as such globally, much moreso than Taiwan, I might add- a province of China.

Not only that, this typical American misconception miscolors our understanding of China's relationship to South Korea! Most Americans don't seem to realize that China and South Korea normalized relations twenty years ago. That they traded over $200 billion worth of goods last year (compare to the $3 billion trickle between China and NK). That hundreds of thousands of Chinese live in South Korea- and hundreds of thousands of South Koreans live in China. (I once asked a Korean-Chinese friend, when she said her parents had left China and moved to Korea, "which one"? She laughed at me as if my question was absurd... "South Korea, of course! Nobody would go to North Korea. They're crazy and backwards." Yet, at the same time, thousands of Han Chinese make the migration to Tibet or Xinjiang- East Turkestan- to work or start businesses, so it's not just a matter of backwardness- it's a matter of the relationship to the country.)

China wants North Korea as a "province" like they want a kick in the face. They just want to be able to exploit the country's mineral wealth and soak up infrastructure contracts when the Kim's house of lunacy finally falls- and not leave all the spoils to South Korea and America!

Paul451 said...

Re: the last thread.

Forbes article about whether innovation is speeding up or slowing down. Contrasts electricity, cars, flight, computers, space travel, etc, with stuff that computers allow, like Facebook and iPhones.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/richkarlgaard/2011/12/21/is-technological-progress-slowing-down/

Single page print version: http://www.forbes.com/sites/richkarlgaard/2011/12/21/is-technological-progress-slowing-down/print/

Sparked by a book by economist Tyler Cowen called The Great Stagnation, and a comment by Peter Theil that computer-based innovation doesn't have the same smell as the invention of electricity/aircraft/etc.

Nicholas MacDonald,
"China wants North Korea as a "province" like they want a kick in the face. They just want to be able to exploit the country's [...] not leave all the spoils to South Korea and America!"

I kinda read that a David's point. China wants to exploit NK, but not be responsible for them. It'd be fun to be able to say, "You broke it, now you own it."

Iraq is a sovereign nation, but you don't think we (the rest of the world) are gonna rub the US's nose in it every change we get?

(subterc: Level of current innovation.)

Paul451 said...

Comet Lovejoy, against the limb of the Earth, photographed by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/nasa2explore/6555113049/in/photostream/

Never send a robot to do a man's job.

Robert said...

Hey, Dr. Brin, I thought you'd be amused by this webcomic update concerning civil rights for androids and other artificial intelligences over in the Questionable Content universe. I found it to be an interesting bit, especially considering my recent review of Freefall which I mentioned in your previous post.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

Anonymous said...

Andrew Keen is at it again; not sure I agree with him, but this ties in nicely with your previous post...
Why it's time to worry about rise of the android workers.
- The Vagabond

Robert said...

And in time for Christmas, we have a Christmas Miracle... in outer space. Here is an article with a time-lapsed video (with commentary) from the International Space Station showing the Comet Lovejoy, which survived its plunge into the corona of the Sun.

Rob H.

Robert said...

And with another space-based photograph, a picture of Titan and Saturn in real-color that is quite beautiful (at least, in my eyes).

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Will police/military/government drones have distinctive appearances? The penalty for attacking a government agent is often increased.

If you don't know whether the drone in your backyard is public or private, how will you know whether you can legally capture or destroy the intruder? Is it an agent of the government or a trespassing paparazzo or the neighbor kid's toy? What if it's not a snooping surveillance drone but a criminal's weapon drone? Can you defend yourself? Shoot first on the assumption it's a criminal weapon?

Pappenheimer said...

Regarding China/Korea: North Korea owes its continued existence to China, but the state and its ultra-Stalinist government were the result of Soviet (Russian) occupation at the end of WWII, when the Red Army overran much of the surviving Imperial Japanese territory on the Asian mainland. As to whether the core suggestion here - that China be handed a chunk of Korea de jure - is a good idea, I would ask the Japanese and South Koreans if they want MORE Chinese influence in their region. I suspect the answer will be a uniform, politely worded, but emphatic no.

Anonymous said...

Another Anonymous said...
"If you don't know whether the drone in your backyard is public or private, how will you know whether you can legally capture or destroy the intruder?"
Well, the trick is to bring one down relatively intact, accessing its circuitry, and having it send out a signal that brings all the other cops-eyes... I mean drones... down.
At least that's how it works in the story.
-The Vagabond
Dermes - Skin care products of the gods.

David Brin said...

Pappenheimer, you should read more carefully. I said we should announce that China bears de facto RESPONSIBILITY for what goes on in their satrapy, while maintaining that their control is WRONG and thus improper de jure.

QUESTION! Since Godaddy.com is supporting SOPA and a number of other skullduggerous measures, do any of you have a favorite domain registration site you think would serve a small-timer like me better?

Ease of use and service are critical!

Anonymous said...

@Dr. Brin,
Over at bOINGbOING, they are covering this very subject...
About Your GoDaddy Question, Dr. Brin....
-The Vagabond
exans - A very inportamt part of educatiom.

Pappenheimer said...

Dr. Brin, I'll call touche on your reply; I did think you were suggesting that China be called on to not only take over administration of North Korea but incorporate it directly as a satrapy a la the Persian Empire. There appears to be a more modern meaning...

In re our current tax rates, I do remember telling a young airmen who was grousing about taxes 2-3 years ago to look up the 1950's Federal rates. He did, and appeared shocked.
("What are they teaching them in school these days?")

Meli Kalikimaka and fair winds to Santa's Iceberg of Solitude

David Brin said...

Follow up the fact that taxes were much higher in 1950... or any time from 1935 to today... with these facts.

The sum total of all Fox/TeaParty goals can be summed up as this:

Franklin Roosevelt = Satan. We must reverse everything he did.

Hm. After Franklin Roosevelt's era, some tweaking might have been called for. The first big tax rate cut was one by JFK. Still, when FDR was done:

- we were the sole superpower
- the titan of all industry
- with the flattest social structure (fopr white males) in all of human history and the lowest class disparities
- yet the most vibrant startup capitalism ever
- a booming middle class
- high taxes on the rich

Oh, and the "greatest generation" of WWII absolutely adored him. They were smart and great, right? And they were THERE.

So let's see -- what's wrong with this picture? The folks busy reversing everything FDR did have also precipitated the first DEPRESSIOn since WWII and declines in every unambiguous statistical measure of national health. Every one.

Rob said...

David, I'd use dreamhost.com and never look back (and I have!)

Tim H. said...

The next monument that goes up in Washington should be a "FDR Memorial Urinal", so the haters can express their, uh, feelings in a less destructive fashion.

Robert said...

GoDaddy has reversed course and is now stating they do not support the bill in question.

Rob H.

sakhalinsk said...

China being lead to believe it has territorial rights to North Korea will undoubtedly lead to a new peninsular war, probably involving the US. BOTH North AND South Korea objected vehemently to china's rewriting of Korean history stating the Koguryo kingdom was inherently a Chinese, not a Korean, state. Since the Koguryo kingdom historically included parts of Manchuria and what is now North Korea, and since China only seems to have territorial ambitions on territories it believes are integrally Chinese, they have already made moves that can be considered precursors to trying to annex north Korean territory. North Korea IS Korean. Any blurring of this fact would lead to misunderstandings from the United States that lead to the first Korean war and tremendous suffering. Would the United States ever have considered East Germany Russian during the Cold War, especially since Russia might have taken the US up on the offer? You're one of my all time fav writer's, but this idea truly sucks:-)

rewinn said...

Declaring NK the 23 province, or the 2nd Tibetistan, or some such game of pin-the-fail-on-the dragon is an interesting idea, but how does it bring the world to a better endstate? I'm not sure that China would pay any attention to such a declaration, any more than it does to our numerous complaints about currency manipulation.

If, as @Pappenheimer suggests, our East Asian buddies may not *want* China to have even more influence, it may be helpful to define the desired end-state and to work backwards from there. Is it the case that South Koreans would prefer an orderly re-integration of their country, but China doesn't want an armed Korea on its border?

A creative solution might demilitarize NK while integrating it with the South. An aggressive approach to this demilitarization program might take advantage of NK's low level of technology to use drones to locate NK's thousands of artillery piece (which IIRC holds Seoul hostage) and its few nukes (it seems likely that NK's ability to detect drones is more primitive than Iran's). Then one spring morning the drones end the hostage-taking and the Red Army dictates terms to the NK generals.

This is a very messy scenario, fraught with peril, so perhaps another approach would be in order. Rumor has it that Dear Leader's son is less organized as a tyrant than his daddy; if so, are the Princes of the Army amenable to bribery?

David Brin said...

Sakhalisk, you should read more carefully. I said we should announce that China bears de facto RESPONSIBILITY for what goes on in their satrapy, while maintaining that their control is WRONG and thus improper de jure.

Moreover I made clear that they bear legal culpability for all health defects in the N Korean population.

sociotard said...

For all FDR may have left the country in good shape, he had that nasty failing that Hugo Chavez and Castro and all his ilk had; he didn't walk away from power.

He couldn't bring himself to follow Washington's example, telling himself that his country still needed him. Had he lived another 20 years, he would have tried being president another 20.

guthrie said...

Buuuttt, after Roosevelt the USA was the most advanced manufacturing country in the world, with mineral and oil wealth galore still being exploited. The competitors for that position were all exhausted by war and in the case of the UK, had borrowed lots of money from the USA.
So perhaps it would be interesting to know what difference declining mineral wealth makes since it negatively affects the balance of payments, and more interestingly, why did manufacturing move abroad rather than do what it had previously done, which is become more efficient. Had manufacturing gotten as efficient as it possibly could and so the only way to get cheaper was to go to low wage countries? Or was the problem a drive to maximum profit with minimum outlay?

(there are of course other influences, such as government action, foreign competition etc, feel free to explore them)

LarryHart said...

Pappenheimer:

Meli Kalikimaka and fair winds to Santa's Iceberg of Solitude


Holy crap! Never mind Santa Claus--I hadn't thought about what a large swath of Superman mythology would be rendered obsolete by a melting arctic.

Happy Appropriate Winter Solstice Holiday one and all, and get set for a Quite Interesting New Year.

LarryHart said...

sakhalinsk:

Would the United States ever have considered East Germany Russian during the Cold War, especially since Russia might have taken the US up on the offer?


Except for West Berlin, it seems to me that we essentially DID think of East Germany as "Russian" during the cold war, and that there wasn't much left for the Soviets to "take up on the offer" that they hadn't already done.

Seriously, I'm not sure where you're coming from here.

Also, you may have missed Dr Brin's point, which was not "Let's hand North Korea over to China" so much as "China is as responsible for what happens in North Korea, at least as much as the United States was repsonsible for what happens in (say) pre-revolutionary Iran or Nicaragua."

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

He [FDR] couldn't bring himself to follow Washington's example, telling himself that his country still needed him. Had he lived another 20 years, he would have tried being president another 20.


Hmmmm, I wonder. "Tried" perhaps, but once the war was over, I wonder if the country would have had any more stomach for a continued FDR presidency than Britain did for Churchill. It's possible that death did FDR's reputation a big favor, letting him "quit" at the top of his game.

Also, I learned from my dad (who lived through Great Depression I) that FDR wasn't nearly so universally beloved in the 1930s as he was kind of retconned into during the war. As far as the wealthy elite was concerned, he was the "Barack Obama" of his day. In fact, many of the attacks leveled against Obama that don't make factual sense actually seem to be 1930s attacks on Roosevelt with "Roosevelt" crossed out and "Obama" written in in crayon.

My hometown Chicago Tribune had their phones answered in 1936 with a cheery "There are howevermany days left to save the republic," referring to the days remaining to Election Day. If you think of a Great Depression as a buying opportunity for those who have cash on hand--prices are at rock bottom lows--it makes more sense how the Powers That Be are just fine with allowing a depression to go on and on, today or in 1933.

A tangential subject: without FDR's four terms we probably wouldn't have the 22nd Amendment expressly prohibiting extended presidental terms, and either Reagan or Bush might have been "President for Life".

LarryHart said...

Good summing up article on the ecoonomy:

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/24-4

http://www.commondreams.org/view/
2011/12/24-4


...
But out of Abelson’s collection of doleful woe-is-us complaints from the offended rich, the one that deserves the most attention is Schwarzman’s line about lower-income folks lacking “skin in the game.” This incredible statement gets right to the heart of why these people suck.

Why? It's not because Schwarzman is factually wrong about lower-income people having no “skin in the game,” ignoring the fact that everyone pays sales taxes, and most everyone pays payroll taxes, and of course there are property taxes for even the lowliest subprime mortgage holders, and so on.

It’s not even because Schwarzman probably himself pays close to zero in income tax – as a private equity chief, he doesn’t pay income tax but tax on carried interest, which carries a maximum 15% tax rate, half the rate of a New York City firefighter.

The real issue has to do with the context of Schwarzman’s quote. The Blackstone billionaire, remember, is one of the more uniquely abhorrent, self-congratulating jerks in the entire world – a man who famously symbolized the excesses of the crisis era when, just as the rest of America was heading into a recession, he threw himself a $5 million birthday party, featuring private performances by Rod Stewart and Patti Labelle, to celebrate an IPO that made him $677 million in a matter of days (within a year, incidentally, the investors who bought that stock would lose three-fourths of their investments).

So that IPO birthday boy is now standing up and insisting, with a straight face, that America’s problem is that compared to taxpaying billionaires like himself, poor people are not invested enough in our society’s future. Apparently, we’d all be in much better shape if the poor were as motivated as Steven Schwarzman is to make America a better place.

But it seems to me that if you’re broke enough that you’re not paying any income tax, you’ve got nothing but skin in the game. You've got it all riding on how well America works.

You can’t afford private security: you need to depend on the police. You can’t afford private health care: Medicare is all you have. You get arrested, you’re not hiring Davis, Polk to get you out of jail: you rely on a public defender to negotiate a court system you'd better pray deals with everyone from the same deck. And you can’t hire landscapers to manicure your lawn and trim your trees: you need the garbage man to come on time and you need the city to patch the potholes in your street.

And in the bigger picture, of course, you need the state and the private sector both to be functioning well enough to provide you with regular work, and a safe place to raise your children, and clean water and clean air.

The entire ethos of modern Wall Street, on the other hand, is complete indifference to all of these matters. The very rich on today’s Wall Street are now so rich that they buy their own social infrastructure. They hire private security, they live on gated mansions on islands and other tax havens, and most notably, they buy their own justice and their own government.
...

LarryHart said...

Ok, it really is time to go off and do non-internet Christmas Eve things with the family.

Robert said...

You know, even I'm not this Grinchy about Christmas lights. (Music, sure. But I cope with Christmas music by avoiding stores after Thanksgiving when possible.)

http://www.elpasotimes.com/newupdated/ci_19612787

Rob H.

Thomas Palm said...

It was USA that took the initiative to divide Korea against the will of the people on both sides. It was one of those classic imperialistic moments when someone (a naval officer if I recall correctly) who had no idea of the country drew a line on a map because it seemed neat - on the map. Neither USA nor the Soviet Union cared much about a backwater like Korea at the time, they just wanted to get rid of a potential conflict. Didn't work too well...

Claiming that North Korea is a creation of China is just ignorant. China got involved in the Korean war because at the time USA recognized the government on Taiwan as the representative of China, and the Chinese were (not entirely without reason) afraid that if they didn't get involved US forces would just continue past the Korean border to try and "liberate" China as well.

David Brin said...

Yeah wow that's a very strong (if somewhat lefty) article
: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/24-4

Yes FDR was called "a traitor to his class." But look at the world back then. Communist and fascist demagogues taking over right and left. EVERYONE read Marx and even the right only varied somewhat (like Ayn Rand) from Marx's teleology, while accepting the premises.

What Marx never imagined was the possibility that REFORM might actually give the workers such a large share... not only of consumables but also power... that the bourgeois caste would expand and gobble up the proletariat. He never remotely imagined Roosevelt... nor that his whole scenario might simply be reformed away! In fact, FDR *saved* his class from an inevitable revolution.

A revolution that the insipid murdochians seem bent on bringing back, as they march straight back into Marx's scenario. Thinking they are smart, but they are so incredibly less well-read than the plutocrats were, back in the 1930s. They hire boffins at Heritage to spin out flattering "white papers" that suck up to oligarch egos, instead of showing the plain fact...

...that if the murdochians succeed, then the future will have them riding tumbrels to guillotines. They aren't smart. They are calamitously dumb.

Why should I care about that? Because in 1792, the aristicrats who went to the chopping block were followed by us moderate intellectuals.

sakhalinsk said...

@ Larry Hart: maybe the East Germany-Russia analogy may not have been the best, but I'd still say there is a huge difference between what politically transpired in East Germany after WWII and the northeastern part of Prussia that became incorporated into the Russian SSR as the Kaliningrad Oblast. One is now composed of mostly ethnic Germans, the other, not. There's a huge difference between being in an empire's sphere of influence and that of being incorporated into it's "home/mother/father land". One is worth going going to war over, the other as history showed us, not. As for using Nicaragua and Iran in their relation to the US as comparisons to China and North Korea. Well, after the World Court, International damnation and political pressure was placed onto the US, yes, we did go into those countries and clean up the messes we made in those countries. I believe both countries are currently shining examples of human rights and democracy brimming with economic might;-) But of course, we will force China to do things that we, the US, would and could never do.

As for China being made to be "responsible" for North Korea. I don't know enough of how the many centuries of Confucian based tribute system affects today's China. But my gut reaction is they will follow the doctrine of some of my favorite mom and pop stores, if you broke it you bought it. I'm sure China would be more than happy to be responsible for North Korea and incorporate it China proper as the 23rd province and proclaim that all North Koreans are descended from the ancient Koguryo Kingdom who were actually Han Chinese. Heck, doesn't China even use the the history of tribute to announce they have the singular right to proclaim who the new Dalai Lama will be by historical precedence centuries old? South Korean is one of the largest economies in the world, North Korea prior to the Korean War was more industrialized and with the majority of the mineral wealth than the agricultural south. Literally surrounded by the giants of Russia, China, Japan and in many ways, the US, it might make more sense for there to be less, not more interference from these Great Powers (especially since once Korea is united it has potential to eventually become a much more formidable economic and political entity).

sakhalinsk said...

pps

If we're quantifying that easily measurable "responsibility" for the current situation in North Korea. You'd also better sign up Japan, Russia, the USSR and the US (in no particular order) on the list of those who have directly had influence and partly caused today's political landscape on the Korean penninsula

David Brin said...

No way on Earth that China wants responsibility for NK. Nor do they consider half of Korea to be something they can swallow, befor the eyes of the world. They have enough trouble with Tibet, which is completely out of sight.

That is WHY we must do this. Now they have their cake and eat it. They can prevent a unified Korea, do secret experiments... and deny any responsibility or "ownership.".

We must say "you broke it. You are responsible to feed them. And Still you'll eventually have to give it back... and possibly face lawsuits from angry short people."

sociotard said...

Again, North Korea does not exist because of China. North Korea exists because a civil war turned into a proxy war for the cold war. The United States has equal responsibility for its existing. If the United States pulled out and announced they had no interests in the matter, perhaps the two countries would reunite. perhaps.

In other news, Gingrich and Perry did not get enough signitures to go to the Virginia Primary. Romney and Paul did. link

Also, Trump switched from GOP to Independent, so he can still run in 2012. Not sure if that is relevant. link

David Brin said...

I never spoke of causes. I spoke of responsibility for continuing the present situation.

David Brin said...

You'll recall a while back that professor David Friedman taunted me that I had no quotation from Adam Smith directly attributing the Owner Caste as responsible for almost every instance in the last 4000 years when markets and freedom and competition were quashed.

To most people, that seems obvious. But Friedman did not deal with the plain historical fact of it. Evading that fact - by far the most important and glaring problem with property-fixated libertarianism...

...he instead went neener-neener over and again because he thought my attribution to Adam Smith himself was weak. No one agreed with him. Everybody else took it to be obvious. Since the Georgian nobility of Smith's time OWNED the East and West India Companies and other "merchants and manufacturers of the day. But David neenered, then went away happy.

Well, it took me a while. Sifting Wealth of Nations for just one fellow - even a guy who (in some ways) I find impressive -- was a low priority, but I finally found one.

"All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. As soon, therefore, as they could find a method of consuming the whole value of their rents themselves, they had no disposition to share them with any other persons."


[WN III.iv.10. p 418]

There it is. Not only the owner caste... explicitly and decisively the one caste that were "masters" in "every age of the world"... but very explicitly those who derived their wealth from the lowest and most parasitical kind of investment. in Smith's mind, the passive, uninvolved "rents" that he despised.

Read the rest of that passage. In it, Smith calls the passively distant owner-class to be even worse than other owner-oligarchies. Indeed, Marx quotes Smith extensively, crediting him as having foreseen and foretold the process of oligarchic decadence that would lead to Karl's scenario.

Exactly the difference between Venture Capitalists, who are involved in creating new enterprises, and who should get low cap gains taxes... and those who today fit Smith's description to a T.

Alas... Libertarianism SHOULD be a movement centrally determined to maximize what Smith approved-of... the most creative force in nature... fair and transparent and open COMPETITION.

Instead, the movement has been diverted into an utter obeissance and idolatry to propertarianism, without limit or restraint, even though that is precisely how you get a repeat of the calamity that killed competitive enterprise in every other civilization.

Even though our nation's founders went to GREAT lengths to break up excess accumulations of dangerous, lordly property. Indeed, they were more extensive and ruthless, by far, than Franklin Roosevelt.

Bah. Ayn Rand - that close disciple of Marx - helped to make her scenario come true! By sabotaging what should have been a great movement and turning it into a cult aimed at bringing back the Olde Enemy.

combinatorialimplosion said...

A couple of things on Newt. One of the things that makes him unique among the Republican field is that I actually encountered him on the program at an SF con close to DC (Evecon) back in the early '80s, way before "Contract with America" or his stint as Speaker of the House. I wonder how much of his current set of positions are his own unusual slant on the fannish/geek perspective and how much consists of positions he is forced to espouse to be acceptable to the party faithful.

As to the EMP attack he is worried about, I think that the best thing to do about it (which I might well have come across in these comments, BTW) is to stockpile and pre-position transformers so that if the grid is knocked out, getting it back on line would be a matter of hours to days, rather than weeks to months. This is the difference between a 2003-style blackout and a real disaster for our civilization. Even if you think that the prospects for such an attack are dubious, this also provides resilience in the face of a once in a century CME which would have much the same effect on our power grid.

François Marcadé said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
François Marcadé said...

I had the opportunity to speak about North-Korea to a Chinese supplier about 5 years ago. He was a middle manager in a security company owned by the son of a high governement official. He was clearly appalled with the way North Korea was governed. But because millions of Chinese had died fighting (including a great uncle of his) China had a responsibility to protect North Korea independance, otherwise the Chinese life would have been lost in vain.

Therefore I believe you are onto something. We have to convince the Chinese that North Korea is so far from the principles that they share with the rest of humanity that the continuation of this regime is an affront to dead Chinese soldiers.

I cannot tell if declaring North Korea an occupied Chinese province is the right way. But I am certain that they need an electroshock to yank them forom this blood forged alliance that only brings embarrassement to China nowadays.

PS : last spring when you complained that some misguided fans where downloading your books for free, I told you that it had motivated me to buy a copy of Earth for myself (I had read it in 1993 borrowed from a friend). I could not find a copy in where I live and the bookstore would not order it because their supplier did not have it in stock. This convinced me I neededa kindle. My wife has offered me a kindle for Christmas and Earth was my first download.

Stefan Jones said...

Merry Christmas, where appropriate!

I agree with combinati..... about transformers. I think I had posted my idea about this here a few years ago: As part of a stimulus package, order replacement transformers (and high tension lines) . . . requiring that they all be DOMESTICALLY PRODUCED.

'imuckest': Amish pastry

David Friedman said...

David Brin continues his attempt to attribute his views to Adam Smith.

To begin with, Brin's original claim was:

"But anyone who actually reads Adam Smith also knows that he went on and on about that "fair and open" part! Especially how excessive disparities of wealth and income destroy competition. "

The passage he has quoted says nothing at all about the destruction of competition. As Brin would know if he actually read Smith instead of looking for bits he could quote that he thinks agree with him, this is the passage where Smith is explaining not the destruction of competition but the destruction of feudalism--the famous "diamond shoe buckles" passage.

The particular masters of mankind Smith is discussing are the feudal lords, who got their power not from owning land but from functioning as mini-governments. They maintained that power by spending their income on retainers, which provided them with private armies.

Once trade developed, they could spend their income more directly on themselves by buying luxury goods. But doing that meant that their income was supporting producers scattered around the world, quite unlikely to fight for them, hence they had bartered away their power in exchange for luxury. Their desire to spend the money directly on themselves had what Smith regarded as a good effect, not a bad effect--and, insofar as it had any effect on competition, it increased it by providing a market for foreign trade.

So Brin has still been unable to find a single example of Smith making the argument that Brin claims he went "on and on about."

David Friedman said...

P.S. I should have added that the reason I saw Brin's latest contribution to the argument, and so had an opportunity to respond, is that David B., to his credit, emailed me to tell me it was there.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Alas... Libertarianism SHOULD be a movement centrally determined to maximize what Smith approved-of... the most creative force in nature... fair and transparent and open COMPETITION.

Instead, the movement has been diverted into an utter obeissance and idolatry to propertarianism, without limit or restraint, even though that is precisely how you get a repeat of the calamity that killed competitive enterprise in every other civilization.


Somehow among modern-day Libertarians, "freedom" has come to mean only one thing: "No one can tell me what to do with my own property." Furthermore, "no one" means "no gubmint tax collector with a gun." A corporation despoiling their air or drinking water somehow doesn't count--presumably because the air and water is presumed to be the CORPORATION's property to do with as IT chooses.

Now I'm not well versed in Libertarian literature, so I may be wrong about this, but it seems to me that modern-day Libertarians are ok with the idea of a military draft if necessary to fight foreign invaders, and they're ok with the idea of police powers. I suspect very few would argue that government shouldn't FORCE people to adhere to contracts or to refrain from engaging in threats of violence to get their way--that the "free market" would sort everything out because free traders would freely refrain from commerce with the cheaters and bullies. Yet, that's exactly what they argue for when it comes to the rules that should govern (or not govern at all) the economically powerful.

Just yesterday, I saw a letter to the newspaper which argued explicitly for society to follow the teachings of Ayn Rand, which the letter writer claimed to be the ONLY (emphasis mine) philosophy in which free people freely trade value with each other and no sacrifice is required. Such letter-writers seemingly miss the whole POINT of society--mutual benefit and protection (a phrase I still recall from 7th grade social studies, which would have been...40 years ago now). In a micro sense...say there's an isolated town of 1000 people, 20 of which own all of the land and therefore all of the food and shelter. In the Randian fantasy scenario, only as many people as those 20 "need" to work their land are deserving of survival. The others, having no value to trade to the owners should die of starvation and exposure, and the only legitimate function of "government" is to protect the owners from the hungry, cold, desperate populace.

You (Dr Brin) stated correctly above that that way lies the tumbrils of 1789. My wife is an entrepreneur small-business owner from a family of small-business owners. They all tend to be somewhat socially liberal, but very fiscally-conservative--the type to say that poor people are "too lazy to work" and such. In other words, the type of people that GOP "Joe the Plumber" politics are supposed to appeal to. And SHE'S been saying things lately like "It's time to chop off all their heads and take back their hoarded resources." I'm the one calming HER down. That tells me something interesting about the upcoming election cycle.

David Brin said...

Holiday Cheer. Here's one of the top pet-caretakers accepting deposits (non-refundable) from people expecting to leave animals behind in the Rapture.

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/24/144232264/rapture-or-not-promise-to-care-for-pets-stands

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/24/144232264
/rapture-or-not-promise-to-care-for-
pets-stands

May you all have a joyous day/week/month, coming-year and century with those you love. Thrive-on.

David Brin said...

Holiday Cheer. Here's one of the top pet-caretakers accepting deposits (non-refundable) from people expecting to leave animals behind in the Rapture.

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/24/144232264/rapture-or-not-promise-to-care-for-pets-stands

http://www.npr.org/2011/12/24/144232264
/rapture-or-not-promise-to-care-for-
pets-stands

May you all have a joyous day/week/month, coming-year and century with those you love. Thrive-on.

LarryHart said...

David Friedman:

The particular masters of mankind Smith is discussing are the feudal lords, who got their power not from owning land but from functioning as mini-governments. They maintained that power by spending their income on retainers, which provided them with private armies.

Once trade developed, they could spend their income more directly on themselves by buying luxury goods. But doing that meant that their income was supporting producers scattered around the world, quite unlikely to fight for them, hence they had bartered away their power in exchange for luxury. Their desire to spend the money directly on themselves had what Smith regarded as a good effect, not a bad effect--and, insofar as it had any effect on competition, it increased it by providing a market for foreign trade.


Ok, but what's your point? The income that they spent on themselves was still ill-gotten gains from the previous feudal era, but libertarians would maintain that those lords had an absolute right to "their" property.

So they eventually ended up buying stuff (high velocity) instead of hoarding treasure (low velocity), and that proves what? Today's rich and powerful do both things--buy luxury goods AND pay off politicians to rig the game in their own favor. Is there some lesson I'm missing that can be drawn from the feudal lord example that argues in favor of supply-side policies such as "reducing taxes on the job-creators"?


So Brin has still been unable to find a single example of Smith making the argument that Brin claims he went "on and on about."


If you are correct, then the error you are catching Dr Brin in amounts to "His idea is factually correct, but it's not supported by the Adam Smith text the way he thinks it is." Which is like the argument that Rick Perry never actually said the WORD "secessaion" when he talked about it being a good idea for Texas to exercise its right to leave the union. I mean, semantically, you may be right, but that still doesn't refute what Dr Brin is ultimately asserting.

Edit_XYZ said...

David Brin
"No way on Earth that China wants responsibility for NK. Nor do they consider half of Korea to be something they can swallow, befor the eyes of the world. They have enough trouble with Tibet, which is completely out of sight.

That is WHY we must do this. Now they have their cake and eat it. They can prevent a unified Korea, do secret experiments... and deny any responsibility or "ownership.".

We must say "you broke it. You are responsible to feed them. And Still you'll eventually have to give it back... and possibly face lawsuits from angry short people.""

After China has the accord of the world to enter NK, it will do so, consolidating its position there.

About the part regarding leaving after it finished reforming NK - not a chance. China will pretend it didn't hear the 'give it back' part from the diplomatic statement you're proposing. And no amount of 'please leave' diplomacy afterwards will make this nuclear power leave; see Tibet as an example of how little effect it has.

In other words - it's a bad ideea.

David Brin said...

Edit_XYZ it is simple. Announce we will support future lawsuits by NK citizens against any entity that bore direct responsibility for their pain.

David Brin said...

RE:David Friedman's response, I appreciate his courtesy. But I have to say that it boils down to contorted excuse making and tortuous incantatory legerdemain. Let's see if we can get this straight.

I maintained that Adam Smith denounced the top-owner/oligarchic caste that had (responding to universal human nature) conspired to repress competition, markets and freedom in every human culture across at least 4000 and evidently 6000 years. That nearly universal tale - the top propertarian owner caste being THE enemy of enterprise and competitive creativity - was my key and central point.

Let there be no mistake. This is the Great Rebuke, utterly repudiating the current fetish of the right, the propertarian idolatry of today's foolish version of libertarianism. It is a rebuke that is utter, entire, complete, overwhelming and perfect...

...So, naturally, David evaded that core issue relentlessly, refusing ever to address it... at all! Instead, his evasion was to pounce at what he considered to be a polemical slip, returning ever-again to the neener that "Brin hasn't cited Adam Smith actually saying that!"

Well, I continue to issue my own challenge to David Friedman... to use dice to "roll up" random decades and locales across the last 4000 years and make a chart - an honest one - and tell us what fraction of human societies that had metal weren't also crushed under the hell of the owner caste. I demand this! But he refuses the simple experiment, continuing to proclaim that the ONLY enemy of freedom and markets and competition can possibly be civil servants.

Well, since he refuses to talk about anything BUT Adam Smith, then let's see. First DF claimed that Smith never spoke of the feudal lords, only about the "merchants and manufacturers" colluding to quash free competition. I argued that the great merchants and manufacturers WERE the lords, since the noble caste owned most of the East and West Indian Companies and were at minimum major investors in every industrial enterprise, from Wedgewood ceramics to early iron and linen mills. It being 1776, with people actually being hung for "treasonous" writings, he did not dared name the King and lords directly, but clearly he meant the lords to be included. DF called that a cop-out.

Only now, in the latest quotation I found... Smith DOES assail the feudal order, directly, in terms that almost exactly resonate with my core contention, the Great Rebuke!

"All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. "

Cripes! It is like we are co-authors! There it is, the greed, the universality, the clear and blatant reference to an omni-present and oppressive oligarchic caste spanning at least 4000 years!

So what does David do, now that Smith's referral to that caste is perfect and the rebuke totally explicit?

He practices bliblical exegesis to squirm again! His claim, that Smith was ONLY referring to a weakening of the oligarchy's access to military power.

Uh... say-what???? This... while the state was entirely the means of the oligarchy extending its conquest driven control to India and Africa and the Caribbean and battling like mad to hold onto the 13 colonies... all at taxpayer expense?

The lords had no access to military enforcement power? THAT is how David F interprets this passage?

CONTINUES

David Brin said...

CONTINUING

Let's have a look at the paragraph preceding the one I just quoted:

“But what all the violence of the feudal institutions could never have effected, the silent and insensible operation of foreign commerce and manufactures gradually brought about. These gradually furnished the great proprietors with something for which they could exchange the whole surplus produce of their lands, and which they could consume themselves without sharing it either with tenants or retainers. "

Do you see anything about hiring thugs? Clearly, Smith is saying that the property caste used to at least provide some administrative services, allocating and managing the use of capital and labor, in exchange for wealth, and they spent that wealth in ways that often at least spread jobs locally. But that now they could collect mere "rents" (the form of income Smith most-despised, and that today's right-wing most-admires) they were able to detach themselves from performing any useful function whatsoever, while wallowing in luxury.

I invite folks to compare David F's interpretation to my own.

What Smith describes and forecasts is utterly what Marx (who admired Smith) extended in his teleology. Indeed, this process of detachment from an an increasingly parasitical oligarchy from any helpful service to the lower class was farther advanced in France, where the people rightfully brought this process to its inevitable conclusion.

In Britain, in fact, the nobility was fairly smart. (Much smarter than today's Murdochians.) Though the detachment was happening, it came slowly enough that the English nobility maintained a habitual connection to their landed estates and got to know their tenants. That residual connection saved their noble necks, later on.

But here's the point. SMITH CLEARLY DESPISED PASSIVE RENT-SEEKING INCOME. HE CALLED OLIGARCHS THE VILE "MASTERS OF MANKIND," AND HE CITED THEM AS PLAYING THIS ROLE IN "EVERY AGE OF THE WORLD."

This is precisely what I said, it is my point, it proves that Smith said what I said that he said.

David Friedman, perhaps the problem is this. Perhaps you do not have a clear image, in your mind, of my assertion!

Hence I ask you to paraphrase! Tell me what it is that YOU think that I claim that Adam Smith said. (!) Please.

Meanwhile. I have a holiday gift for you. A set of D&D dice. If you are honest, you will perform the experiment that I have challenged you to do, over and over and over and over again.

Thomas Palm said...

David, "Announce we will support future lawsuits by NK citizens against any entity that bore direct responsibility for their pain."

Does that include suing USA for the initiative to partition Korea and create NK in the first place? Does it include suing for the US strategic bombing campaign during the Korean war? (The US air force was amazed how easy it was to set fire to largely wooden NK cities compared to the German cities they had previous experience with).

I just don't see what responsibility China has for the current situation. They didn't create the North Korean regime, all they have done is try to prevent a total collapse of the country that might create a new Korean war or, at best, millions of refuges.

Besides, the whole idea of lawsuits isn't exactly realistic. China would just ignore them and it's too big for USA to do anything about it.

David Friedman said...

A poster writes:

"If you are correct, then the error you are catching Dr Brin in amounts to "His idea is factually correct, but it's not supported by the Adam Smith text the way he thinks it is." "

Brin is making a claim about what Smith said and believed, and the claim is strikingly false. That is what I am objecting to--just as I have objected to it when other people misrepresent Smith in order to claim his authority for their views.

I have seen no evidence that Brin's own views, which he is mistakenly claiming are Smith's, are sufficiently interesting to be worth arguing with. In an earlier part of the exchange I gave a brief explanation of why.

Brin is trying to replace serious analysis of history, politics, and economics with a morality play, good guys against bad guys. That sometimes works in fiction, but it doesn't work very well if you want to understand the real world.

I should probably add that, having discovered that Brin's confident account of Smith's views is about 2% Smith and 98% Brin, one ought to revise accordingly one's view of other things Brin believes that one cannot so directly check.

David Friedman said...

Brin writes:

“Only now, in the latest quotation I found... Smith DOES assail the feudal order, directly, in terms that almost exactly resonate with my core contention, the Great Rebuke!“

He doesn't assail the feudal lords for suppressing competition. He points out that one result of their preference for consuming their wealth themselves once foreign trade in luxury made it possible for them to do so was to destroy their own political power.

Try actually reading the book, instead of selecting sentences you like, mixing them with your own political views, and then getting your own political views back.

Here is the rest of the paragraph you quoted from:

“For a pair of diamond buckles, perhaps, or for something as frivolous and useless, they exchanged the maintenance, or, what is the same thing, the price of the maintenance of 1000 men for a year, and with it the whole weight and authority which it could give them. The buckles, however, were to be all their own, and no other human creature was to have any share of them; whereas, in the more ancient method of expense, they must have shared with at least 1000 people. With the judges that were to determine the preference, this difference was perfectly decisive; and thus, for the gratification of the most childish, the meanest, and the most sordid of all vanities they gradually bartered their whole power and authority.”

Consider, in particular, how you would go about squeezing that final phrase into your interpretation of what Smith is saying.

“I invite folks to compare David F's interpretation to my own.”

I invite folks to actually read Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations—it's an interesting book. To find the part we are arguing about, google for the book, download it, and search for one of the quoted phrases. See if the whole passage fits Brin's “interpretation” or mine—which is, as it happens, entirely standard.

“Hence I ask you to paraphrase! Tell me what it is that YOU think that I claim that Adam Smith said.”

What you wrote, and I already quoted, was:

“"But anyone who actually reads Adam Smith also knows that he went on and on about that "fair and open" part! Especially how excessive disparities of wealth and income destroy competition. "”

Smith wrote about many things, but he didn't go on and on about how excessive disparities of wealth and income destroy competition. There is no evidence in the text—certainly none that you have been able to find—that he even believed it. Which is why you keep offering quotations that are irrelevant to your claim.

rewinn said...

Whether disparities of wealth and power destroy competition is an empirical question, subject to experimentation and so forth.

It is mildly interesting to see Davids B and F go on about what one or another Dead White Man had to say on the subject. Is not the key point whether the author of a Sacred Text relied upon by the religion of Libertarianism actually believed what His followers claim?

Trust me, we get that sort of question all the time in Christianity. This discussion is structurally very similar (including competing injunctions to actually read the text vs. to look at the whole message - classic!).
While I urge the partisans to please continue their discussion as free people may, since it's not *my* religion that's at the heart of this discussion, may I suggest that it is more interesting for me to see the evidence of the impact of concentration upon competition.

Since the death of Jesus we have had opportunity to test whether, in fact, Man does not live by Bread Alone (I believe the evidence is conclusively in favor of the proposition) and since the death of Smith we have had opportunity to test the beliefs attributed to him. What does the evidence say?

David Brin said...

David Friedman asserts: "I have seen no evidence that Brin's own views, which he is mistakenly claiming are Smith's, are sufficiently interesting to be worth arguing with."

And I reply direct, David, that this absolutely proves you to be a coward, intellectually and more.

There is no assertion more plain than the challenge I have thrown at your feet. I have repeatedly dared you to list forty or fifty randomly chose DECADES in metal using human societies, and show us that the resulting survey shows ANY other enemy to markets, competitive enterprise or freedom, OTHER than conspiratorial cabals of the owner caste.

You have squirmed and evaded and sneered that this challenge is "not sufficiently interesting to be argued with." Bullshit. It is easily checked by an honest man with a pair of dice. Moreover you KNOW the answer you would find. That almost NEVER was the enemy of freedom .... civil servants.

LET'S SEPARATE THIS... I will continue to find Smithian quotations that attempt to answer your complaints. That is CATEGORY ONE.

Now I demand, you give EQUAL TIME to the OTHER part of this. The part that matters. I look you in the eye and tell you that you are honor bound, as a scholar, to in parallel answer CATEGORY TWO. It has to do with your lifelong obsession of defending markets and freedom and enterprise from their enemies... a goal that I share.

I assert that markets and freedom and competition are regularly ruined by cheating done by human beings who get wealth and power. Smith says this to. But under category two let's put Smith aside and simply ANSWER THE SIMPLE QUESTION.

David Brin said...

CATEGORY ONE... SMITH:

DF says: "He doesn't assail the feudal lords for suppressing competition."

Huh??? He blames the owner-lords for oppression across all of time in all societies. He calls them the "masters of mankind". Um.... what do masters do? Please, I am curious. Please tell me what their top priority is OTHER than suppressing competition!

Hello? Can we look at the core quotation again?

"All for ourselves and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.


Argh! There it is. THREE things! Monopolization of ownership. Combined with mastery -- which MEANS suppression of competition! (It is right there in the F#$#@&! dictionary!) Combined with universality.

But then there is the next sentence.

As soon, therefore, as they could find a method of consuming the whole value of their rents themselves, they had no disposition to share them with any other persons."

There it is, Smith's disdain for passive "rent" parasitism and monopolization of wealth.

DF asserts that Smith is talking instead about the decay in the ability of the rich... to hire thugs?
THAT is what these passages are supposedly about?

Did it, this is not just feudalism... you know there were a million variants. The owner caste in Patrician Rome weren't living in "feudalism" and they did not personally hire thugs. They hired the state. The Persian satraps, the Hellenistic despots, the Chinese mandarins.... NONE of these directly hired their own thugs. But they all shared the main traits. They were oligarch-owners, absentee extractors of rents, and they used their position to cheat.

To actively prevent the sons of slaves and sons of tenant serfs from getting education and access to capital and any ability to compete with the sons of the rich.

Let's be clear: this is PRECISELY what I have claimed, all along, that Smith said. My overlap with him is not 2% it is 98%.

Moreover, I will make it a wager.

David Brin said...

DF smugly and patronizingly says: "Try actually reading the book, instead of selecting sentences you like, mixing them with your own political views, and then getting your own political views back."

To which I reply: David Friedman, try actually reading the book, instead of selecting sentences you like, mixing them with your own political views, and then getting your own political views back."

I am the one bringing forth Smith quotations here. You are not!

Your interpretation of the paragraph that followed the main one is bizarre, contorted and total malarkey.

" For a pair of diamond buckles, perhaps, or for something as frivolous and useless, they exchanged the maintenance, or what is the same thing, the price of the maintenance of a thousand men for a year, and with it the whole weight and authority which it could give them. The buckles, however, were to be all their own, and no other human creature was to have any share of them; whereas in the more ancient method of expence they must have shared with at least a thousand people. With the judges that were to determine the preference this difference was perfectly decisive; and thus, for the gratification of the most childish, the meanest, and the most sordid of all vanities, they gradually bartered their whole power and authority.”

There is no hint that he is speaking of raw force. You are clutching at straws. Try reading the whole passage! It is 100% about the lords detaching themselves from the ECONOMIC role they formerly played with their tenant farmers. ALL of the surrounding paragraphs are about the conversion of their role from active estate managers to parasitical squeezers of passive rents.

Moreover I BET YOU $200 that neutral professors of Smith... chosen by some fellows we both respect... will side with me on this. (!) Have you the guts?

DF: "Smith wrote about many things, but he didn't go on and on about how excessive disparities of wealth and income destroy competition."

Ooh! Let's make another bet!

David Brin said...

CATEGORY TWO: Completely aside from Smith... I have challenged you again and again to show us in any statistical way how the obvious is untrue... SHOW US that markets and freedom and competition weren't destroyed routinely and systematically by the top 1% in almost every human society.

You have sneered and neenered. You have made this all about parsing Smithian words - and I will happily take your money over that!

But you absolutely refuse to deal with my actual assertion, backed universally in human history... a fact that you SHOULD care about!

You love markets and competition and freedom! So do I! I assert that your monomaniacal fxation on just one recent threat to those things - railing against enlightenment government bureaucrats and ONLY against enlightenment government bureaucrats...

... amounts to crippling tunnel vision and myopia... blinding you to the real cheating, the nearly universal deadly poison that ruined markets and competition and freedom throughout human history.

That is not an assertion that an honest man neeners away.

DID COMPETITIVE ENTERPRISE THRIVE IN SOCIETIES WITH VAST DISPARITIES THAT VESTED POWER IN TOP-1% OWNER-OLIGARCHY CASTES?

It is a simple question, David. It is a very important question. It is a question meriting scholarship, falsifiable tests. A willingness to see afresh.

Not neeners.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
You won't get anything out of DF!

I have been trying to find the quote
- something about it being difficult to convince somebody about something that will affect his livelihood -

DF has his livelihood nailed to the mast - he is a supporter of the 1% (or 0.01%) or he is nothing

sociotard said...

I had an epiphany today. It was regarding Brin's gripe about the 1,000 golf buddies.

I was reading a Cracked article:


They meet about six times a year, some more, some less, but certainly not every day, as movies like Meet Joe Black seem to imply.


In fact, there's such a low level of actual commitment required to sit on a board of directors that people commonly sit on multiple boards at the same time, which requires a pretty large metaphorical ass. One of the largest symbolic asses in the United States belongs to Susan Bayh, wife of Senator Evan Bayh, who in 2007 sat on no less than eight different companies' boards at the same time.

As you can imagine, directors are picked pretty often for name recognition or connections (we'll let you figure out what kind of connections they're picking the senator's wife for) and aren't expected to do anything meaningful as far as decision-making.


So, the example that the overpaid CEOs give for their compensation is that they are mutant-level talents, like NBA players. The truth is, they have mutant-level name recognition, like Hollywood movie stars.

Brin says that if it were just a matter of talent, supply and demand would force in more talent and keep prices down. But the same is true of Hollywood. And there's lots of people who go to Brin's city looking to add to the talent pool and keep actor prices down, but it doesn't happen. They can develop acting talent, but they can't replace Keanu Reeves because they can't acquire name recognition.

This means that the exorbitant salaries aren't necessarily cheating. The supply can't grow to meet demand because there is no way to develope notoriety.

So there you go. Figure out how to replace the famous actors in Hollywood with talented actors and you will figure out how to bring executive compensation back into the relm of the reasonable.

LarryHart said...

David Friedman:

Brin is trying to replace serious analysis of history, politics, and economics with a morality play, good guys against bad guys. That sometimes works in fiction, but it doesn't work very well if you want to understand the real world.


Replace "Brin" with "Proponents of austerity programs during a depression" and you may have a point.


I should probably add that, having discovered that Brin's confident account of Smith's views is about 2% Smith and 98% Brin, one ought to revise accordingly one's view of other things Brin believes that one cannot so directly check.


As far as I'm concerned, David Brin is second only to Paul Krugman in correctly predicting events, at least since about 2006 since I've been following both blogs. I know you consider Krugman to have been wrong about everything, but I just don't see it. (Again, I have almost zero visibility of what he discussed in 1998 or whenever--I've been following his blog since 2006 and it seems like he's been right about everything.)

David Brin said...

Eat bananas!

"When people whose meals contained little sodium relative to potassium were compared with those whose diets had a high sodium-to-potassium ratio, the latter were nearly 50 percent more likely to die from any cause and more than twice as likely to die from ischemic heart disease during a follow-up period averaging 14.8 years.
Although there has been on-and-off controversy about the value of limiting dietary salt, there is no question that a high level of sodium in the diet raises blood pressure and the risk of chronic hypertension by stiffening arteries and blocking nitric oxide, which relaxes arteries. Hypertension, in turn, contributes to heart disease and stroke, leading causes of death.
Potassium, on the other hand, activates nitric oxide and thus reduces pressure in the arteries, lowering the risk of hypertension."

David Brin said...

Sociotard's paraphrasing of my arguments about the Mutant NBA Talent Effect was cogent and on-target and an excellent example of paraphrasing, BTW, guys...

as was his extension of the riff, saying that name recognition is also a factor, beyond good-old-boyness.

Good call. Though depressing. It means the masters are even shallower than we thought.

Larryhart I am flattered. Yes I have a fairly good predictive score. But in fairness, I keep expecting the great conservative ostrich-moderates to wake up and save the nation... and I see little sign of it happening, so far.

If Obama can learn -- REALLY learn -- polemical jiu jitsu... then it could still happen. But my blog ain't gonna do it.

duncan cairncross said...

"as was his extension of the riff, saying that name recognition is also a factor, beyond good-old-boyness."

With Hollywood name recognition directly effects the financial return,

For CEO's / Directors I believe it is more a case of short sightedness - the "Golf Buddies" know each other and only people from that "club" are considered

I certainly saw this in the UK - somebody would just "appear" as a PA to one of the elite and would then be moved into a senior role (VP equivalent)

In the UK our lords and masters lived in a parallel world with minimal interaction

I remember one of the propertied I knew briefly saying with surprise

"I've just realized - you and Brian (another friend) live off your salaries"

We were the first people he had met socially who "lived off our salaries"

David Brin said...

It doesn't much matter whether I get any concession out of DF. The fact is that he has been useful to me re providing CITOKATE.

I would never have found half the Smith quotations that I now have, were I not goaded into re-reading WN and getting insights from others. I now have exactly the quotation making exactly my point... thanks to David Friedman.

Alas... he also illustrates the deep-inner problem of PERSONALITY that has been a cancer within the libertarian movement, the movement which should have been the great counterbalance to Smithian/Democratic/Rooseveltian liberalism.

That cancer is addiction to resentful indignant fury, which necessitates that the movement be based upon narrominded hatred (of government) rather than love (of fair competition).

The two are not the same. In some contexts, like the last 4000 years, they tend to be opposites.

Were COMPETITION the core meme, then they would see that government can be (and has been) a tool that FOSTERS a maximization of the number of skilled, confident and eager competitors, exactly as Smith recommended.

Yes... government is also dangerous! And any sane libertarian movement would be the strongest voice denouncing statist reflexes and touting market ones! But livid, bilious, raging hatred would not (as it does now) blind them to the sophisticated and marvelous mixed society of which they have been fantastic beneficiaries.

They would be able, then, to NEGOTIATE.

They would be able, then, to win elections.

They would be able, then, to experience the joy of scientific curiosity. Of falsifiable tests. And the poignant beauty of saying:

"Hey, I might be wrong here! I am always willing to adapt and learn. Let's find out."

Tragic. That I... a born "libertarian" in my innate-ornery contrariness... am forced to be a -- democrat. But one clings to a little sanity wherever one can find it.

Just tragic.

Rob said...

Holy crap! Never mind Santa Claus--I hadn't thought about what a large swath of Superman mythology would be rendered obsolete by a melting arctic.

Nah... The FoS is located on the Greenland glacier, and renews itself every year by continually growing crystals up to the surface of the ice. :-)

David Brin said...

Okay, yeah, that's the solution. Superman takes in Santa as a new roommate.

Maybe the reindeer too. But kinda hard on the elfs.

Tony Fisk said...

Well, at least being slightly down and to the left puts you by the 'OK' button.

Greg said...

How, exactly, is 'Fox' responsible for 'anti-science' attacks more than any other source?
I assume this is hyperbole, and related to many of their commentators' (understandable) skepticism about unquestioningly accepting each iteration of Anthropogenic Global Warming dogma handed down by the IPCC. Undoubtedly this is because those Fox types are puppets on the strings of their foul paymasters, moustahce-twirling robber barons befouling the planet with soot-belching power plants. Fortunately for Gaia, their Right-Thinking opponents are sustained by the generosity of fellow Right-Minded corporations and organizations, lining their Righteous coffers with lucre.
But of course, the cash has no bearing on their views of the subject... because they're Righteous.

Anonymous said...

...and then you come in with hyperbole of your own and completely undermine yourself...

deorea - I don't even want to go there...

sociotard said...

For fun predictions:

Top 5 Tech Predictions for 2025

Only one of these worried me: future robots will take over mundane tasks and won’t look like humans at all: Smart machines will flip hamburgers at a local eatery, diagnose your illness at the doctor, serve as digital avatars during a meeting, and clean the office floors.

Am I the only one who fears for a society that has no crap jobs for people with no skills or job history? How will students pay their way through college? That's how I avoided this.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Larryhart I am flattered. Yes I have a fairly good predictive score. But in fairness, I keep expecting the great conservative ostrich-moderates to wake up and save the nation... and I see little sign of it happening, so far.


I'm making a distinction between "prediction" and "hope".

I'm from Chicago. Every year, I HOPE the Cubs will finally break the curse and win an NL pennant (never mind a World Series), but I'd never make a scientific assertion or a bet that they WILL do so. If someone were looking at my record of predictive hits, I hope they'd have the courtesy to distinguish the former from the latter.

The predictive hit most relevant to this discussion that I think you nailed dead on was from "Earth" when June Morgan explained the build-up to the Helvetian War--that the Powers That Be made sure any moderate, reasonable politicians were bought off or assassinated or scandalized so that ONLY the fanatical crazies were left, no sane comrpromises were possible, and war became inevitable. Seems to me you tore that from today's headlines.


If Obama can learn -- REALLY learn -- polemical jiu jitsu... then it could still happen. But my blog ain't gonna do it.


An Obama victory in 2012 is the MINIMUM requirement for returning to actual small-d democratic governing. Democrats have got to somehow hold the Senate. Regaining the House would be nice too, but is a necessity only IF they lose the Senate. And then, after all that, Democrats have to stop trying to be all "bi-partisan" and start governing like Democrats.

Anonymous said...

Perfectly timed for the discussion between David and David is this article at the Economist site; yes, they do bring up the spectre of Adam Smith, albeit briefly...
The East India Company: The Company That Ruled The Waves (as well as considerable chunks of the Asian subcontinent).

- The Vagabond

Spors - the seeds from which sports franchises grow

David Brin said...

Greg, I am usually polite to newcomers and openminded, argumentative conservatives are welcome here. But your reflex - actually maintaining that Fox is no more biased than anyone else -- will no longer stand. Not here it won't. Because we have a thing called accountability.

You offer us an incantation and I DEMAND THAT YOU PUT MONEY ON IT!

Identify yourself and let's make a $500 bet, RIGHT NOW... vetted through some middle party we both can trust.

DUring an agreed-upon week, you pick the TEN MOST PARTISAN MOMENTS you can find from the three "lamestream media" networks.... NBC, ABC and CBS, demonstrating their "liberal bias."

I get to pick ten from Fox. We both are restricted to the MAIN SPOKESPEOPLE... in your case the top news/analysis shows... in my case Beck, Fox&Friends, Hannity. You get THIRTY chances to prove bias stronger than my ten.

Let's tilt it even farther in your favor... I must offer TWICE as many ranting-livid partisan tirades as you must.

Let's add a side bet regarding outright dissing of the knowledge professions, science, journalism, medicine, professors, teachers, the Law... And yes, Virginia, the Fox War on Science is about a lot more than hyp-mo-tizing you about climate change. It extends to all of science.

Another side bet... "RIGHTEOUS??? You defend Fox by claiming they are LESS self-righteous???

Prepare to be living in a box, under a bridge.

Step up and take the bets, man. If you refuse and hide, I call you an outright coward and a walking sock puppet of Roger Ailes.

===

Oh, Greg, answer this. Why don't Hannity and Beck and Limbaugh have on guests who can challenge them? Only O'Reilly has the guts. Jon Stewart has on more challenging guests than ALL OF FOX combined. That is a fair comparison of courage vs outright lying batshit cowardice.

===

Larryhart, you planning to attend the World Sci Fi convention in Chicago over Labor Day?

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Larryhart, you planning to attend the World Sci Fi convention in Chicago over Labor Day?


I hadn't planned one way or another, but if I'm in town, it's certainly a possibility.

Actually, were it not for competing travel plans and impending unemployment, I'd love to be on that Dec 2012 cruise.

Splatter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Greg said...

Greg, I am usually polite to newcomers and openminded, argumentative conservatives are welcome here. But your reflex - actually maintaining that Fox is no more biased than anyone else -- will no longer stand. Not here it won't. Because we have a thing called accountability.

You offer us an incantation and I DEMAND THAT YOU PUT MONEY ON IT!

Identify yourself and let's make a $500 bet, RIGHT NOW... vetted through some middle party we both can trust.


How very odd.
I'll be happy to wager whatever you think I should be prepared to wager, as soon as you point out where I asserted what you purport me to have asserted.
I merely asked you to back up YOUR assertions about Fox's transgressions in regard to reporting science - I'm genuinely curious if you actually have data that led you to that conclusion, or if this is some subjective 'gut feeling' that you've decided is Unquestionably Objective Truth.
It's weird - this is the second time you've commented on a post of mine, and both times now your response has been, essentially, the construction and subsequent genocide of legions of strawmen.
I detest Beck, Hannity, O'Reilly, et al. What on Earth led you to think that I didn't? Because I poked at your assertion about Fox and science? If that's the case, that's dangerously sloppy thinking. We don't live in a binary world - there are multiple choices.
I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I'd hope you would respond to what I actually say, not to what you'd want me to say. Critical reading is vital to valid critical thought.

sociotard said...

In that case, Greg, you might do well to poke through the Archives a bit. Dr. Brin has cited specifics before. If I have time later, I might poke through myself.

The biggest one though, is the support Fox lends to the Climate-change-denier crowd. This runs contrary to what most scientists say. Ergo they are anti-science.

One could say the same about their support of supply-side-economics, except that isn't as definitively settled, and it's hard to say economics is a science with a straight face.

David Brin said...

Oh... and I am supposed to apologize to Greg for replying in anger to his super-neeener snark? He is now moaning about my "strawmanning" as if he had come here with a reasoned, articulated argument...

... instead of a chaotic spew of bile. One that was very-reasonably interpreted as - not strawmanned - as a defense of Fox.

The guys here will attest that I have apologized before, for over-reacting to some folks. And even for strawmanning. In this case, I apologize only to myself and my kids and my civilization for having bothered to offer a wager.

Come back some time when you want to make assertions and back them up like an adult.

Tony Fisk said...

Greg certainly seemed to be defending Fox to me.

His subsequent remark fitted in with the classic projection tactic as well.

inglated: embedded in ice

TwinBeam said...

Rather than cherry-picking 1950 for your comparison, why not look at the complete, inflation adjusted history of income taxes?

TwinBeam said...

Rather than cherry-picking 1950 - while the US was still paying for WW2 - for your illustration of fair tax rates for the rich, why not look at the complete, inflation adjusted history of income taxes?

One notable feature - years into FDR's 2nd term, the 35% rate didn't apply until around $500,000 income, inflation adjusted. That changed to (IA)$130,000 at the start of WW2.

So ignoring the original claimed intent of the income tax, just going by what FDR found acceptable, rates outside of wartime should be set so that the 35% marginal rate doesn't kick in until the $500K mark, and increase from there, peaking at 80% around the $80M mark.

David Brin said...

TwinBeam, thanks for the cited govt inflation adjusted states on the federal income tax rate.


To listen to Republicans, you would think we have the most oppressive tax rates ever, with the federal government hogging ever larger portions of the national economy. Ever hear of Orwellian anti-truth? It is where you repat the exact opposite of the truth and people start believing it.

But drop by and look at the actual facts... a compilation of income tax rates since a Contitutional amendment made it legal. In the 99 years that we have had the income tax, rates for top earners were lower than they are today only twice:

1) during the 5 years before the US entry into WWII in 1917, and

2) during the brief stretch from 1925 through 1930... when a massive asset value bubble pumped the economy into the Great Depression.

That’s it. Today’s top rates are currently lower than at any time since 1930... and ironically that includes half of the HOOVER Administration preceding FDR. In other words, the hiking upward was first done by the same 1930 Republican Congress that brought us the Smoot-Hawley Tariffs.!

Just to make this clear, so you can make a wager with your crazy-as-Fox uncle, income tax rates are lower than at any time in 80 years.

The other statistic of significance is the fraction of U.S. national GDP taken by the federal government. Fox’s uncles all swear that this is at an all-time high. In fact, the federal share of GDP is at its lowest since 1950.

(This one I need to fish for Krugman's statistical analysis)

Be entrepreneurial. Use this to make make. Lure your nearest Tea Partier to make grand declarations and get a wager, in writing.

TwinBeam said...

I find the idea of calling for terrorizing small children (implying Santa and his reindeer - and of course the polar bears - are going to drown) in the name of getting them to educate their parents to be rather sick.

But that's consistent with other ideological use of children - terrorizing children to get them to make their parents recycle, terrorizing children to drive an anti-gun agenda, and of course, dipping back a bit further, encouraging children to turn in their parents for anti-revolutionary thinking.

Congratulations on your contribution to a long and glorious history of terrorizing children to make the world a better place.

duncan cairncross said...

"Congratulations on your contribution to a long and glorious history of terrorizing children to make the world a better place."

As opposed to;
Terrorizing them with the prospect of global nuclear destruction?

Or terrorizing them with the fear of "Islamic Terrorists"?

Or Brown people taking over the world?

Nicholas MacDonald said...

Way too much rancor over here these days! Dr. Brin, I don't come to your site for indignation highs- I come here to get away from them! What happened?

Let's move away from this... here's a suggested topic- what's the best pro-civilization Science Fiction novel of 2011? I've got my nominee, but I'd like to hear what other people are reading that came out this year and promotes the values that this site stands for. Any takers?

TwinBeam said...

RE: the top 5 predictions for 2025:

Way too conservative in some ways, idiotic in others.

Augmented reality - probably correct, probably well before 2025. Digital signs are already showing up all over the place - adding "Kinect" type recognition and some 3D modelling isn't much of an extension.

One favorite AR idea - extreme sports with a digital overlay. Play Sonic as you skydive, slalom around virtual poles as you ski. Race real cars on a changing virtual track with virtual bufs and traps. In sports, no one cares if you wear goggles...

Digital assistants are likely of course - but what if they are taken in the direction that Marshall Brain predicted in Robotic Nation? I.e. telling minimum wage workers precisely what to do, when, where, etc - and then moving up the job ladder from there.

On-the-fly translation will likely get a lot better. Lag will still make it awkward.

Digital scrolls. No - we won't be using rolled up displays much just because we get thin and flexible displays. Roll-up displays are just a silly waste of space, an idea driven by developers of flexible displays who know the bending radius of their current technologies can't handle creasing or kinking. We'll want thin stacking or flat-folding displays with near zero bezel so they can fit side by side with minimal gap, and they'll need to be flexible to avoid breaking.

The robot prediction is somewhat right, though I think it underestimates the potential for humanoid robotics, both to affordably match/exceed humans in that timeframe, and to achieve economies of scale by being able to fit into any physical task currently still done by humans. Custom designing machines for tasks is one of the big drags on advancement of robotics. Sony realizes that, I think.

And what if the inverse is also true - that by 2025 some of our EMPLOYERS are mostly digital, eliminating whole branches of middle management, while keeping minimum wage workers that interact with the buying public?

Tony Fisk said...

@nicholas: Oh some inconsiderate soul just did a belly flop is all.

2011 sf novel? Can't say I have a novel, but I certainly found Flannery's 'Here on Earth' to be a good tonic in its efforts to find the evolutionary underpinnings of 'enlightenment' behaviour in a singularly self-centred and destructive hominid.

If some of our employers are digital in 2025* then, as Clarke once said, it will serve us right.

*mind you, my last employer had a similar feel! Not nasty. Just... inanimate.

TwinBeam said...

Duncan:

I suppose you're trying to say it's practiced by both liberals and conservatives?

Sure. Though I think some of your examples are weaker than others, and nowhere near as contemporary.

Kids probably were terrorized about nuclear war to make them anti-Communist (or anti-capitalist) - though not to drive social change.

Are you really aware of some school or other public institution that is terrorizing kids about Muslims to drive some desired reform? Quite the opposite, I'd say - terrorizing Muslim children into believing they might be attacked, in the course of trying to make sure children are tolerant of Muslims.

I suppose there would have been some institutional terrorizing about "brown people" in Nazi Germany or South Africa or the antebellum South.

But again, pretty much the opposite of that now, with the impact of convincing "brown kids" that they are very likely to be discriminated against by whites, in the process of trying to insure that white kids won't discriminate.

Robert said...

Oh, Balanced Budget Amendment talk has been going through the webs again. I came up with an alternative that got a few chuckles and that I joke would turn the United States into the biggest pacifist nation around:

All future wars, police actions, and military exercises must be paid for via tax increases on the wealthy upper 1% (and corporations).

If this amendment had been in place, we'd not be in such a "dire" deficit situation as we are. While we likely would have gone to war against Afghanistan, I very much doubt we'd have gone after Iraq. And while Bush might have tried to claim that we could seize oil fields to pay for the war... the amendment would specifically state it was paid for through taxes on the rich, and thus seizing oil wells wouldn't work for this.

Even better, this would force the Republicans to eat their words. They are some of the biggest hawks around. But if they have to choose between military belligerence and increased taxes of their corporate masters... well, it'll be interesting to see which way they'll swing.

Even more importantly, this would work on the whole "balanced budget" theme of theirs. If they complain over a temporary tax increase for war, then obviously they are lying through their teeth, and Democrats can use their own words against them against their own base.

No doubt the Tea Party would embrace it, as would the Libertarians. The more liberal Democrats would as well, seeing it as a way of reducing our tendency toward military action.

Now, how can we get this out into the mainstream media to catch fire and become the next political meme?

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Nicholas... chiding accepted. I am working on a Big List of Great SF Stories that I will blog soon.

ALas, I am behind in my reading, so why don't you lead off with your own recommendations?

sociotard said...

I am not a Serial Killer

It isn't exactly science fiction, except that one of the themes is "fight your fate."

The main character is essentially damned to eventually turn into a serial killer. He has the classic three indicators (he wets the bed, he loves fire, he tortured small animals [he stopped when he found out that was bad]). He is a diagnosed sociopath; he lacks all empathy.

In spite of all that, he recognizes that this is a disease. He knows killing is wrong, even if will never feel wrong to him. He fights it every day, setting up rules to keep his compulsions in check. Highly recomended.

(okay, it was written in 2010, but one of the sequels was written in 2011)

sociotard said...

Robert, I think that the "1% for war" rule would make them repeat their line about 'having skin in the game'.

Nicholas MacDonald said...

Well, my fiction reading has been pretty light this year; there have been only two books I've been eagerly awaiting this year- one just came out and I have yet to give it a read (John C. Wright's "Count to a Trillion" - even if he's a little wacky in his political polemics, he writes amazing fiction... and I don't mind giving the guy a little money. After all, he's a poor office assistant who's got a lot of kids to take care of.), and the other- your book- isn't due out for several months yet.

But there is one book I have to nominate, and it's the one new fiction novel I read this year, as it just screamed "I am part of a civilization!":

Neal Stephenson's REAMDE.

Wait, what? That... thriller? That thousand pages of Snow Crash fan-service that Stephenson turned out to cash in on reputation after years of writing stimulating mind candy like Cryptonomicon and Anathem?

Yes. Absolutely. 100%.

It may not be as deep, but it's still pure Stephenson- and it turns the thriller genre on it's head. No demigods here. The basic idea of the book? A world-spanning alliance of unusual characters of all races, professions, creeds and political expressions... band together to stop a terrorist leading an equally weird cast bent on performing a senseless act of destruction.

Government agents, anti-government "wingnuts", international hackers, Russian gangsters, mercenaries and CIA, tech entrepreneurs and rebel bikers, even a tea merchant... all contribute to the cause, and everybody's cooperation is integral to the resolution of the story. It's as much a hymn to our globalized civilization as your own "Earth"- and it takes place right now.

A thousand pages never read so fast. I couldn't put it down.

As a China expat, I enjoyed his portrayal of Xiamen (a city that I'm quite enamored with- the San Francisco of the East!); quite accurate from my experience. His Chinese characters rang true to me.

Not to say that it didn't have any weaknesses- it's probably the most poorly edited of Stepheson's works, and it's obvious that he mostly wrote it as a break from the laborious, hermetic thinkers he spent the past decade on. There were a few little annoying "Chekov's guns" that didn't fire- mostly, I'm guessing, because Stephenson just ran out of time and was already pushing his page limit (I noticed that two characters I rather liked, but were not directly important to the plot, disappeared halfway through the book- even though they were clearly being set up to have a big "endgame" impact that never happened.)

But... I can excuse this. Stephenson at his worst is better than 99% of writers at their best.

So yeah, it's the best book of 2011.. in part because it was the only new novel I read in 2011... but it's a damn good one, and I recommend anyone here who hasn't bought it (anyone?), run out and get it. Or download the Kindle version, because carrying this doorstop around the Shanghai subways drew stares and almost gave me a hernia (and provoked a double scan when I dragged it through the TSA checkpoint at LAX along with two other massive books in my bag...)

Robert said...

Dr. Brin said "Tragic. That I... a born "libertarian" in my innate-ornery contrariness... am forced to be a -- democrat. But one clings to a little sanity wherever one can find it."

Welcome to my world, Dr. Brin. I've been railing against this ever since I've realized the Republican Party had gone apeshit insane. And I hate it. I don't like Democrats (though a good part of that is that Massachusetts Democrats (at the State Government level) tend to be just as apeshit insane as Federal-level Republicans are of late). But this disease of indignation and authoritarianism has been devouring the Republican Party like a metastasizing cancer. And this cancer's immune system has proven far too resilient to normal methods of treatment.

I mean, look at what the Republican response was to their massive defeat in 2008. A reasonable person would say "well, maybe we went too far. Let's cooperate with Democrats, fix the economy, and try to rebuild our name. It will take time and hard work but we can reclaim the Center and regain control of government to do things our way."

Congressional Republicans said "this was a fluke. It was bad luck. Bad timing. It's McCain's fault. We needed a better candidate. It was because Obama's black and no one dared speak out against him." And then they said "if we sabotage all of his efforts to fix this country we can lay the blame on him and retake this country."

And they did.

If by some miracle Democrats wake up in 2012 and reelect Obama while simultaneously voting out the Republicans in the House and ensuring the Senate remains in Democrat hands as well (especially if the wins are big) Congressional Republicans will not wake up. They will continue to obstruct and protest. And they will permanently damage their ability to be an equal partner in ruling this nation of ours.

The end result? By 2020, Republicans will be a regional party that will never again be able to gain control of the House or Senate, let alone the White House. By 2040 the Republicans will be a minority party vying against a new Moderate-Conservative party (either the Democrat party after Liberals break off, or a new party led by Blue Dogs that broke from the Democrats). By 2060, there won't be a Republican Party, except maybe on the local level.

I wish it were otherwise. The Republican Party has some powerful historic roots. But maybe it's time to put this political party away and let it remain a footnote in the history books.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Ron Paul's newsletters from the 90s if they were done on twitter:
link 1
link 2

Sad. I can't vote for him because he's a bigot, but I want to vote for him because he's the only one who really cares about peace.

Still, I'd love to see him debate Obama.

Jumper said...

I have been searching out information on proposed "financial transaction' taxes. Here's one recent article;
http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/12/25/uk-eurozone-germany-schaeuble-idUKTRE7BO08P20111225

I am searching Google News for the phrase.

Of course there's Wikipedia for background.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Financial_transaction_tax

LarryHart said...

Robert:

The end result? By 2020, Republicans will be a regional party that will never again be able to gain control of the House or Senate, let alone the White House.
...
By 2060, there won't be a Republican Party, except maybe on the local level.

I wish it were otherwise.

I wish I could believe it were TRUE.

But that was supposed to happen after the results of 2006 and 2008. And if it didn't happen then, what makes you think it ever will.

Remember, despite claims of "liberal media", the corporatists control the media and therefore the message-framing. Obama's stimulus and health-care reforms "failed" rather than "didn't go nearly far enough." The GOP strategy for the depression is "Claim it's Obama's fault and run against him on it." And for whatever inconceivable reason, it's a successful strategy.

When that fails, there's religion to keep folks in line. Someone mentioned earlier that it's hard to convince a man of something when his livelihood depends on his NOT believing it. That's also true when he thinks the disposition of his immortal soul depends on his not believing it.

And when even the media and the churches can't press the GOP line with a straight face, they still control the Supreme Court.

Until the head and body are buried at separate crossroads, the vampire continues rising on the third night.

rewinn said...

@Robert/@Sociotard -
A "War Surtax" could and perhaps should include an exemption for servicemembers and their families; this would show who REALLY has "skin in the game". If some hedge fund manager wants to avoid the tax by getting shot at, that would seem fair enough.

Robert said...

@LarryHart: The refusal of the rank and file Republicans to accept Hispanics is a huge problem that a growing number of Republicans have admitted to. Sadly, to pander to their base (and their Corporate Masters), Republican politicians have to be anti-Latino and anti-Immigration. This is resulting in the largest growing minority in this nation turning against the Republicans.

The first state that will turn purple will be Texas. (I think Florida is already purple, so this state doesn't count.) Efforts by Arizona and related states to chase out their Hispanic populations will succeed in allowing those states to remain Republican... but will likewise reduce their population growth so that they do not gain seats in the House (meaning that the congressional power of Democrat-leaning and Immigration-friendly states will increase over time).

As for the 2010 elections... I see that as anger by voters over the failure of Congress to lessen the impact of the recession. If Obama had focused primarily on improved stimulus and job growth through 2010 and Republicans had stimmied these efforts constantly, it's unlikely that Republicans would have had as massive gains as they did.

I see 2010 as the last hurrah of the Republican Party. There is one last possibility... if something happens to Obama (as I doubt the Republicans will unite behind a moderate candidate during their primaries), and Biden then proceeds to bumble his way into losing, but I kind of doubt even the assassination of Obama would result in Democrats losing the Presidency in 2012 (especially if a right-wing extremist was behind the bullet). (Please note, Feds, I'm talking theoretically. I expect the Secret Service has the President's safety well in hand and I want him to live and win in 2012.)

In short, Republicans are swallowing a poison pill that will decimate them in the years to come. Their efforts to fool all the people all the time will eventually result in only the most utter fools believing in their lies and misconceptions.

--------

@Rewinn: I don't agree with your thoughts on this about exempting businesses that have family on the field. What about a business that has an officer or a clerk in the military? Yes, their having people in the military shows they have a stake in the wars... but it's not the same as if THEY THEMSELVES were in the military. It's better just to tax all of the rich to fund all future wars. This will encourage the rich to urge the political parties NOT to wage war... which is ultimately the best policy for the majority of businesses (in terms of profit and the like).

Rob H.

Greg said...

Oh... and I am supposed to apologize to Greg for replying in anger to his super-neeener snark? He is now moaning about my "strawmanning" as if he had come here with a reasoned, articulated argument...

... instead of a chaotic spew of bile. One that was very-reasonably interpreted as - not strawmanned - as a defense of Fox.

The guys here will attest that I have apologized before, for over-reacting to some folks. And even for strawmanning. In this case, I apologize only to myself and my kids and my civilization for having bothered to offer a wager.

Come back some time when you want to make assertions and back them up like an adult.


Again... I'm not sure how to respond, because this is so odd.
I didn't take offense, and I certainly don't think you said anything that requires an apology. I'm puzzled that you'd even bring the subject up. Then again, you mentioned that you had replied in anger, to some degree to my (admittedly) snarky comment - if you were angry in your reply, I didn't pick it up. I'll be happy to back up any assertions I make.. but as I stated earlier, I made none. I merely asked you to back up YOUR assertion that Fox was the biggest purveyor of 'anti-science'. I presume you have some actual data to back up so definitive a declaration - particularly as someone with a scientific background. Similarly, I would expect that if you based your deduction on gut feeling and not hard data, you'd be upfront about it. I've seen nothing responsive to my question from you whatsoever - just, as I said, massacres of strawmen (your assumptions of my political views, etc), and a wager that in the future you'd be able to find more scientific error on Fox than elsewhere.
So - I'll try once more.
Do you have actual data confirming your assertion? Data would be, of course, not merely cherry picking certain instances of scientific error on Hannity or whatever, but something like a tallying of scientific discussion among media outlets, showing the frequency distribution of scientific error (presumably pushed by the media outlet.
It's a pretty obvious, basic question to your assertion, and one that should be easily answered with a 'yes' or 'no', if you're so inclined as to answer.
But then again, as you mentioned, adults back up their assertions...
Yeah, it's snark, but it's a cheerful snark. I couldn't help myself.

sociotard said...

Greg, we've already pointed out the hard data. Well, not real hard. We have no numbers, but . . .

It'd be hard to argue that Fox commentators are supportive of anthropogenic climate change arguments.

Most scientists say there is. Most Fox commentators say there isn't. Ergo, Fox is anti-science

Anyway, cherry picking isn't too bad when you apply it to commentators, because there just aren't that many of them. If I can find anti-science statements from most fox commentators, I will have proved Brin's point.

rewinn said...

As for Science Fiction pro-civilisation novels, let me propose Questionable Content,
NOT because it thinks of itself as Science Fiction, but because it doesn't. It so thoroughly normalizes a future in which AIs are sufficiently ubiquitous that any middle-class twentysomething has an AnthroPC robot companion, that it illustrates to mostly likely hopeful outcome: Life Goes On, Not Always Smoothly But Mostly Better. (Its discussion of the implications of the AIs is kinda funny.

I appreciate that QC is not a novel and probably not even literature, but lately I'm finding myself reading text only for purposes of history (e.g. C. S. Forester's The Age Of Fighting Sail had lessons about the peril of winning too often). For better or worse, is mixed media storytelling becoming the leading edge of cultural change?

---

@Dr. Brin - As to Libertarianism, if you'll pardon the analogy, your position seems to be that of a Libertarian Martin Luther - still committed to what you see as the basic idea of the thing, but displeased with its capture by political forces abusing its symbols. Perhaps it would be helpful for you to find a cathedral door onto which to nail some theses ... but if so, please consider the merits of a flame-retardant jumpsuit!

---


@Robert - I don't want to quibble that officers and clerks, in modern wars, are blown up as easily as the grunts. Rather, I agree that we should just tax all the rich (...and "let God sort them out"...) but how many of them have ever seen uniform? The "skin in the game" taunt is especially galling when the Cheneys of this world use our servicemembers to enrich themselves.

Greg said...

Greg, we've already pointed out the hard data. Well, not real hard. We have no numbers, but . . .

It'd be hard to argue that Fox commentators are supportive of anthropogenic climate change arguments.

Most scientists say there is. Most Fox commentators say there isn't. Ergo, Fox is anti-science.

A snarkless reply -
Firstly - my question was addressed to David, as it was his assertion that Fox was the most scientifically erroneous - I invited him to share the data he used to arrive at his conclusion.
You, also, are swatting at strawmen. The question wasn't 'have some talking heads at Fox made scientifically inaccurate claims'... it was that Fox was the MOST inaccurate, necessitating a comparison with others. THAT'S the data we need - the comparison that supports Fox being worse than the others.

David Brin said...

To be clear, the Republican Party is not "anti-immigration." Their position is more nuanced than that.

Regarding ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION, the GOP must make noisy and heavyhanded statements railing against the coddling of undocumented workers. This feeds their base the raw-meat rhetoric they require, though it harms them with Hispanics. But as far as ACTION is concerned, every Republican Presidnt has CUT the Border Patrol upon entering office. This ensures a flow of cheap, non-union and non-voting labor for the party's topmost masters.

In contrast, Democrats have their own dissonance between talk and action. They talk about niceness to illegals, but in fact every demo-president doubles the Border Patrol upon taking over. Obama has overseen a HUIGE INCREASE IN DEPORTATIONS! Why? Because labor unions hate cheap, easily intimidated foreign workers. Democrats prefer...

LEGAL IMMIGRATION... which is the camel-in-the-tent about which no one speaks. But this is where the dems have changed America, opening the floodgates wide! Dems prefer legal immigrants who can become union members and voters. By any logic, both kinds of Republicans should be making the tsunami of legal immigration their focused issue... but they don't dare.

==Greg, if you are unable to recognize that your original posting was, in fact, a bile-spew, then I do apologize. Some people are handicapped and unable to mirror-view and I guess you are saying that you're one of those unfortunates. Please do let us know so we make allowances. As for any rational content that you might have imagined you were conveying, perhaps you should try again, because you most-definitely were not.

If, by some chance, you actually meant to challenge whether Fox is more anti-scientific than "lamestream media" I made very clear that I am willing to make a great big wager of it.

Robert said...

I realize that, Dr. Brin. What I was referring to was not the actions of the Republican Party... but their rhetoric. Given both their words and the fact they treat illegals poorly, even the most conservative of Hispanics are reluctant to fully support the Republicans. Indeed, conservative Hispanics will likely form the basis of the next generation of Blue Dog Democrats seeing that the Republican base is growing more and more anti-Hispanic, despite the efforts of those few moderate Republicans left who see the writing on the wall.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

QUOTE OF THE DAY: DECEMBER 28, 2011

"What an incredible coincidence it is that our moon fits exactly over our sun. Talk to astronomers and they’ll tell you that Earth’s moon is relatively much bigger than any other moon round any other planet. Most planets, like Jupiter and Saturn and so on, have moons that are tiny in comparison to themselves. Earth’s moon is enormous, and very close to us. If it was smaller or further away you’d only ever get partial eclipses; bigger or closer and it hide the sun completely and there’d be no halo of light round the moon at totality. This is an astounding coincidence, an incredible piece of luck. And for all we know, eclipses like this are unique. This could be a phenomenon that happens on Earth and nowhere else.

"So, hold that thought, okay?

"Now, supposing there are aliens. Not E.T. aliens – not that cute or alone. Not Independence Day aliens – not that crazily aggressive – but, well, regular aliens. Yeah? Regular aliens. It’s perfectly possible, when you think of it. We’re here, after all, and Earth is just one small planet circling one regular-size sun in one galaxy. There are a quarter of a billion suns in this one galaxy and quarter of a billion galaxies in the universe; maybe more. We already know of hundreds of other planets around other suns, and we’ve only just started looking for them. Scientists tell us that almost every star might have planets. How many of those might harbour life? The Earth is ancient, but the universe is even more ancient. Who knows how many civilisations were around before Earth came into existence, or existed while we were growing up, or exist now?

"So, if there are civilised aliens, you’d guess they can travel between stars. You’d guess their power sources and technology would be as far beyond ours as supersonic jets, nuclear submarines and space shuttles are beyond some tribe in the Amazon still making dugout canoes. And if they’re curious enough to do the science and invent the technology, they’ll be curious enough to use it to go exploring. “Now, most jet travel on Earth is for tourism. Not business; tourism. Would our smart, curious aliens really be that different from us? I don’t think so. Most of them would be tourists. Like us, they’d go on cruise ships. And would they want to actually come to a place like Earth, set foot – or tentacle, or whatever – here? Rather than visit via some sort of virtual reality set-up? Well, some would settle for second-best, yes. Maybe the majority of people would.

"But the high rollers, the super-wealthy, the elite, they’d want the real thing. They’d want the bragging rights, they’d want to be able to say they’d really been to whatever exotic destinations would be on a Galactic Grand Tour. And who knows what splendours they’d want to fit in; their equivalent of the Grand Canyon, or Venice, Italy, or the Great Wall of China or Yosemite or the Pyramids?

CONTINUED

David Brin said...

"But what I want to propose to you is that, as well as all those other wonders, they would definitely want to see that one precious thing that we have and probably nobody else does. They’d want to see our eclipse. They’d want to look through the Earth’s atmosphere with their own eyes and see the moon fit over the sun, watch the light fade down to almost nothing, listen to the animals nearby fall silent and feel with their own skins the sudden chill in the air that comes with totality. Even if they can’t survive in our atmosphere, even if they need a spacesuit to keep them alive, they’d still want to get as close as they possibly could to seeing it in the raw, in as close to natural conditions as it’s possible to arrange. They’d want to be here, amongst us, when the shadow passes. “So that’s where you look for aliens. In the course of an eclipse totality track. When everybody else is looking awestruck at the sky, you need to be looking round for anybody who looks weird or overdressed, or who isn’t coming out of their RV or their moored yacht with the heavily smoked glass.

"If they’re anywhere, they’re there, and as distracted – and so as vulnerable – as anybody else staring up in wonder at this astonishing, breathtaking sight.

"The film I want to make is based on that idea. It’s thrilling, it’s funny, it’s sad and profound and finally it’s uplifting, it’s got a couple of great lead roles, one for a dad, one for a kid, a boy, and another exceptional supporting female role, plus opportunities for some strong character roles and lesser parts too…"

--Iain M. Banks, Transition

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2011/12/quote-of-the-day-december-28-2011.html

Of course in EXISTENCE I cover many many more types of lurkers

Greg said...

==Greg, if you are unable to recognize that your original posting was, in fact, a bile-spew, then I do apologize. Some people are handicapped and unable to mirror-view and I guess you are saying that you're one of those unfortunates. Please do let us know so we make allowances. As for any rational content that you might have imagined you were conveying, perhaps you should try again, because you most-definitely were not.

If, by some chance, you actually meant to challenge whether Fox is more anti-scientific than "lamestream media" I made very clear that I am willing to make a great big wager of it.


...
There was no bile in my original post, although there was a good deal of snark - and I thought it was pretty funny. I take it you didn't. Fair enough. Your point about the 'mirrorview' suggests that you feel that you're some sort of universal arbiter of what constitutes 'bile' and what does not... if I wasn't genuinely curious to see your data, I'd challenge you on this point, but I'm really not interested in going down any other rabbit holes.
I wasn't 'conveying' anything - I was asking. Asking to see your data - the data you based your assessment of Fox's being considered the most anti-science media outlet (or however you chose to phrase it). I'm not wagering anything, and I'm not asserting that you're wrong - I don't know if you're right or not until I see some actual data.
I didn't think my point would be that difficult to grasp - you're a bright guy and a scientist. You're familiar with the scientific method - you've made an assertion. Do you have data to back it up?
If so, what is it?
If not - at least say as much.

Tony Fisk said...

A little piece of advice in online etiquette, Greg.
Certain forms of humour (irony, hyperbole) do not translate well, especially when you come in as a newcomer. People unfamiliar with your style will tend to take you literally and react accordingly. You may have thought your first post witty. I also thought it venomous bile.

Greg said...

A little piece of advice in online etiquette, Greg.
Certain forms of humour (irony, hyperbole) do not translate well, especially when you come in as a newcomer. People unfamiliar with your style will tend to take you literally and react accordingly. You may have thought your first post witty. I also thought it venomous bile.

Not only bile, but VENOMOUS bile... I just have a gift, I guess. 'Bile', to me, denotes anger, verbal abuse, and ad hominem attacks. Nothing in what I wrote was anything like that - it certainly was snarky, and tweaked some of what I assumed were the political sensiblities of the author, and kind of lightheartedly pointed out some flaws in some common criticisms of anti-AGW folks (although I don't know if these criticisms of AGW opponents - i.e. that they're paid shills for Evil Industry of some stripe, so their conclusions can't be trusted - are used or endorsed by Brin).
In any case, I thought it was somewhat witty in its snark, others didn't see it as I did. It happens some times, no harm, no foul.
Now - for that data...

rewinn said...

"...what I want to propose to you is that, as well as all those other wonders, they would definitely want to see that one precious thing that we have and probably nobody else does. They’d want to see our eclipse..."

Consider the possibility that the Earth-Moon system was engineered to encourage tourism in an economically-depressed arm of the Milky Way...

... we could "prove" this by cross-checking UFO sightings with eclipses ...

... did you ever wonder why there are so few eclipse tschotskes? Perhaps Earth's Owners tightly regulate sales to maximize profits ...

... it would be ironic if Intelligent Design were true, not with respect to humanity, but with respect to our highly improbable astronomy!

Robert said...

God created the Heavens and Earth, and specifically designed the Earth so He/She could sit back and relax, enjoying solar and lunar eclipses. Religious fanatics believe that if they mess up the planet enough, they can encourage God to quit and hopefully bring them into Heaven. (I'm being sardonic, btw.)

More likely God would look at humanity and say "clean up your room, you brats. No supper until you do."

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Beautiful sculptures
http://www.visualnews.com/2011/12/22/mountains-of-books-become-mountains/

Tacitus2 said...

I have been staying out of the political fray for a while. There is just too much cognitive dissonance going on among my progressive friends here and elsewhere. I shall return when we have some real things to discuss.

But I did promise David a few thoughts on my first read of Glory Season.

In no particular order:

1. fer Allah's sake don't let movie rights go without total creative control. I shudder to think what sort of 21st century Moon Maiden flick could be cobbled together from the disparate elements. Leather bustiered pirate gals with red bandannas. Arrrrhh!

2. As with several other of your works I find the frame around the picture more interesting that the central focus. No dis to the story line, but the whole concept of the Peripatetics is great. (as is the elaborate Uplift universe). Want. More.

3. You credit a wise sage in your dedication. Rightly so, you are not that in touch with your fem side in default mode.

4. I did think finding the unsuspected launch system as the plot denoument was a cheat. Not Deus Ex Machina, but Machina Ex Deus.

But an enjoyable read. Not quite the equal of Postman, which caused me to be entirely antisocial during a weekend visit with friends!

Tacitus

Ian said...

“Sakhalisk, you should read more carefully. I said we should announce that China bears de facto RESPONSIBILITY for what goes on in their satrapy,” - DB

So what happens the next time North Korea does something stupid like shelling a South Korean village?

Does the US declare war on china? Cut off diplomatic relations? Impose trade sanctions? Seize Chinese assets in the US to pay compensation? What, if anything is does the declaration mean? To quote an old Aussie proverb: “You can call a bull a cow but you still can't milk it.”

Meanwhile, I'm sure China would be only too happy to declare Liberia, Haiti and Iraq the 51st-53rd states of the US.


“What Marx never imagined was the possibility that REFORM might actually give the workers such a large share... not only of consumables but also power... that the bourgeois caste would expand and gobble up the proletariat. He never remotely imagined Roosevelt... nor that his whole scenario might simply be reformed away! In fact, FDR *saved* his class from an inevitable revolution.” -DB

Actually if you read Edoard Bernstein, the founder of the German Social Democratic Party and the original “revisionist”, he spends quite lot of time demonstrating that both Marx and Engels revised their positions considerably over time and were much less keen on violent revolution in later days. (Leading to Marx's famous declaration “I am not a Marxist.”)


I agree with combinati..... about transformers. I think I had posted my idea about this here a few years ago: As part of a stimulus package, order replacement transformers (and high tension lines) . . . requiring that they all be DOMESTICALLY PRODUCED. - Stefan Jones

Yes, violate the WTO free trade rules. With luck we can get other countries doing the same and get a REAL Second Great Depression going.

“Announce we will support future lawsuits by NK citizens against any entity that bore direct responsibility for their pain. “

Under what law? In what court? And what do you do when the North Koreans also bring lawsuits against the US and Japan? How about when Cubans sue the US for the economic impacts of the US trade embargo?

Ian said...

And now – the dreadful truth about North Korea

China supports the North Korean regime with food, money and trade for much the same reason, South Korea, Japan and the US do: the likely alternatives to the status quo are likely to be worse for everyone except the majority of North Koreans.

(A quick aside: China is not a major weapons supplier to the North Koreans. The North Koreans overwhelmingly manufacture their own weapons – primarily based on pre-1990 soviet designs.)

Picture North Korea as a guy surrounded by hostages with a gun in one hand and a dead man switch attached to a suicide vest in the other. You're going to at least listen to what he wants because whiel it might be quite easy to take him out, you don't like the consequences.

Let's say, China, the US, South Korea and Japan stop propping up North Korea. There's a real possibility that before the NK government collapses they'll use their nukes – and given their all-pervasive xenophobia. Beijing is just as likely to a target as Seoul and Tokyo..

Let's say they don't – then the four countries listed plus Russia need to deal with millions of starving refugees. (For China, that's an even bigger problem because since the Ching Dynasty China has occupied a series of ethnic-Korean border areas that have historically been part of Korea. Given the extreme nationalism of many Koreans – South as well as North – irredentism targeting those areas is a very strong possibility.)

South Korea would like have to act rapidly to take control of North Korea's former territory (if only to prevent nukes going missing). Assuming the US/South Korea alliance holds, that puts US troops not that far from Beijing – a prospect that the Chinese would regard in the same light as the US would Chinese troops being based in Mexico.)

So the easy path – for everyone – is to kick the can down the road. Give North Korea just enough aid to keep them from collapsing but not enough to strengthen them by letting them transfer even more resources to the military. Try to encourage trade in the hope that it both lifts living standards and starts to erode the Juche monolith.

Meanwhile hope that the whole mess drags out until

a. current politicians are all out of office and either

b. internal political reform comes to North Korea as it finally seems to be coming to Myanyar or

c. military advances (like ABM systems) reduce the North Korea military threat to something manageable.

Yes, it stinks – but let's not pretend that China's behaving in a fundamentally different way to toher major affected countries.

rewinn said...

"....requiring that they all be DOMESTICALLY PRODUCED..."

It seems to me that the Chief Executive might have the power to order that all Executive Branch purchases be from domestic sources. Military underwear alone might help bring back a major industry ... although we might want to concentrate on products with a high value-added, therefore higher potential wage.

The problems with this would be the cost (which would be offset by increased domestic employment), the WTO (the treaty hasn't worked as promised and therefore needs to be abrogated), and the vested interests that profit from the deindustrialization of America (I'm not sure how to tackle that, but if it isn't solved, the 99% will be thinking about tumbrels.)

David Brin said...

Tacitus... thanks! Tho I think my feminine side is healthy enough... ;-)

Ian... it is simple. We don't go to war with China over NK actions... but we do declare that any S koreans who are injured have full tort rights against the Chinese state for anything done by the NK regime. THAT will cause them a turn!

China already subsidizes a huge fraction of the NK budget.... Something perhaps we SHOULD do in Haiti, but we surely do not. Nor does Haiti threaten its neighbors with nukes or starve its own people to maintain the 5th biggest army on earth.

Sorry, it is propping up NK for one reason... to avoid the arising of a strong and united Korea. THAT is the hostage situation. And it is wrong.

Tim H. said...

I liked Clarke & Pohl's NK solution in "The Last Theorem", a shaped EMP blast disabling their implements of destruction.
Concerning WTO, time for evolution, before revolution's upon us, anyway, if the 99.9% are beggared, trade will be hammered.

LarryHart said...

Not that David Friedman seems to be haning around here at the moment, but THIS is what I'm talking about when I say that Paul Krugman is consistently correct in his predictions.

From Krugman's 12/30 column in the New York Times:


...
In declaring Keynesian economics vindicated I am, of course, at odds with conventional wisdom. In Washington, in particular, the failure of the Obama stimulus package to produce an employment boom is generally seen as having proved that government spending can’t create jobs. But those of us who did the math realized, right from the beginning, that the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (more than a third of which, by the way, took the relatively ineffective form of tax cuts) was much too small given the depth of the slump. And we also predicted the resulting political backlash.
...


http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/30/opinion/keynes-was-right.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/30
/opinion/keynes-was-right.html
?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

LarryHart said...

Robert:

Republicans to accept Hispanics is a huge problem that a growing number of Republicans have admitted to. Sadly, to pander to their base (and their Corporate Masters), Republican politicians have to be anti-Latino and anti-Immigration. This is resulting in the largest growing minority in this nation turning against the Republicans.


I find the picture you paint somewhat heartening, and I don't argue here because I dislike what you're saying, but because my natural pessimism (reinforced by 2010) makes me skeptical.

I agree that future demographics are not with the GOP? So what is their strategy? To do everything possible in states and courts they control (which is not an insignificant number) to SUPPRESS registration and voting.


As for the 2010 elections... I see that as anger by voters over the failure of Congress to lessen the impact of the recession. If Obama had focused primarily on improved stimulus and job growth through 2010 and Republicans had stimmied these efforts constantly, it's unlikely that Republicans would have had as massive gains as they did.

I see 2010 as the last hurrah of the Republican Party.


Republicans control the messaging well enough that they are able to run against Obama on the economy even though their STATED strategy is to block any improvements that would help Dems at the polls. It would be as if the warden of your local prison ran against the sherrif, and as a strategy he opened the doors to the prison and let an army of hardened criminals descend on the community--then declared the present sherrif to be soft on crime.

The fact that the Republicans TRY such a strategy doesn't worry me as much as the implications of it actually being a SUCCESSFUL one. IT means they control the message so thoroughly that they may be effectively immune to reality.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

I have been staying out of the political fray for a while. There is just too much cognitive dissonance going on among my progressive friends here and elsewhere.


If everyone else (here and elsewhere) is exhibiting cognative dissonance except you, is it possible that the problem is on your end? Just throwing that out there. I don't deny that the liberal/progressive side as an aggregate can have some serious problems with consistency, but a proponent of the party advocating supply-side theory should at see some cognative dissonance on his own side as well.

But I did promise David a few thoughts on my first read of Glory Season.


Skimming to avoid spoilers as I'm reading the same book at the moment. When I said there was no "new" Brin out there for me, I had somehow missed this one, or thought it was a short-story collection. Anyway, I just started it this week.


1. fer Allah's sake don't let movie rights go without total creative control.


"Atlas Shrugged" and "Watchmen" pretty much prove the folly of trying to get a novel squeezed into a feature film. The forms are too different. A movie might bring the story to a wider audience who would not have read the book, but it's never going to be what fans of the book are hoping for.


2. As with several other of your works I find the frame around the picture more interesting that the central focus.


I find that to be the case in almost ALL world-building fiction, from "Lord of the Rings" to "Star Wars". The plots can be interesting enough, but they're usually well-trodden territory. It's the invented settings and/or cultures which make the particular work stand out.


3. You credit a wise sage in your dedication. Rightly so, you are not that in touch with your fem side in default mode.


I should address this to Dr Brin directly: In Vonnegut's novel "Jailbird", the protagonist is told that it's not his fault he was born without a heart, and at least he tried to listen to the people who DO have hearts and act accordingly.

In many ways, that characterization is an accurate description of myself.

I think it applies metaphorically to you (Dr Brin). Not in the same sense meant by Vonnegut's character, but specifcally as applies to feminism. You can't help BEING a man (nor should you), but you understand that there is a separate point of view as well.


4. I did think finding the unsuspected...


Ok, must avert eyes before too much is given away.

Thomas Palm said...

Ian, thanks for a good summary of the Korean situation, it was considerably more realistic than David Brin's.

USA can keep playing world police against minor countries like Iran, blackmailing them by imposing sanctions and pressuring many other countries to follow suit, but against China? Hardly. What happens when China responds by refusing to lend any more money to the US government?

sociotard said...

I saw In Time yesterday. I liked it, mostly. While the sci-fi concept was great, I didn't think the bank robbing elements were strong enough. For contrast, Inception was a good Sci-Fi movie, but it was also a good heist movie. In Time is a "Bonnie and Clyde" film, and that is the part that I felt was weak.

But the mothers death scene was perfect. (that isn't a spoiler. any genre-aware person knows the mother is going to die as soon as they know there is a mother)

Greg said...

One last shot -
Could you cite the data that led you to conclude that Fox is the 'site that attacks science more intensely and effectively than any other'?
You mentioned earlier that adults provide evidence to back up their assertions. I've assumed thus far that you're an adult...

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart

We shall have to start a book club! first That Hideous Strength now Glory Season.

I am by nature enough of an introvert that I am always considering the possibility that I am out of step with things. But my intent was to say that the opinions put forth in this forum with vim and fervor are rather different that what a significant number of your fellow citizens are expressing. Neither bad nor good.

It is so difficult to screen out the spin and static.

Tacitus

Robert said...

Greg, try skimming Dr. Brin's archive of previous blog topics. You will very likely find the information you are seeking (or demanding to have reposted for your convenience). And at the very least you'll have an interesting read of various topics concerning science, business, politics, and society.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

But my intent was to say that the opinions put forth in this forum with vim and fervor are rather different that what a significant number of your fellow citizens are expressing. Neither bad nor good.


I'm still not sure which fellow citizens you are talking about. Are you saying that the progressives here differ from other progressives out there? Or that our fellow citizens tend to support the Republicans? You could probably make a case for either one.

Tacitus2 said...

Both I suppose. There are some progressives that dispair in Obama scoring his major foreign policy coups by using tactics from the dark W years. (drones, intervention in surly Arab lands, etc).

And moderates who think that Obama's domestic policies are not working.

I guess conservatives have never been all that fond of O, but most of us gave him a fair shot before writing him off.*

Tacitus

*him, not all progressive ideas. Many are worthy but not all are practical.

Ian said...

Greg:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_News_Channel_controversies#Tests_of_knowledge_of_Fox_viewers

Ian said...

The problems with this would be the cost (which would be offset by increased domestic employment),"

Until every country that imports goods from the US does the exact same thing

But if you subscribe to a cospiratorial view of the world where the US is being uniquely mistreated and abused I can see how the proposal could appeal to you.

Also, what is your evidence that the WTO treaty hasn't "worked as promised"? Who promised you that the WTO would end recessions and prevent financial markets from behaving irrationally?

Greg said...

Greg:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fox_News_Channel_controversies#Tests_of_knowledg


Well, at least that's a response by someone, although it's not responsive to Brin's original (and so far unsupported) assertion.
In your link there's a reference to a poll that found Fox viewers to be more apt to believe a certain three (purportedly) false assertions than viewers of other networks. Amusingly, one of the questions that was purportedly false was that 'WMD had been found in Iraq'. In actual fact, WMD WAS recovered in Iraq - some stores of chemical munitions for mortars or howitzers. So, in actual fact, Fox viewers were more accurate than the people who designed the questionnaire in that regard. It's unclear how this error affected the rankings.
In any case, it's still not responsive to what Brin asserted, i.e. that Fox was more 'anti-science' than other media.
His responses so far have been a collection of strawman genocide, ad hominem, and some sort of wager to see if Fox will be more unscientific at some point in the future. I'm not interested in that, frankly - I want to see the data he used to reach his conclusion.
His silence is deafening, and at this point I suspect I know the reason why.
Assertion is easy when you don't have to back it up. Is it customary here for assertions to go unchallenged?

David Brin said...

Please ignore the troll.

Let me put this straight for the record... this "Greg fellow" is owed nothing by any of us.

I made clear that I will happily take his money in a wager. I offered terms that utterly fair but also subject to negotiation. Instead... in a series of deeply offensive sneers and neeeners... he has demanded that I do all the work, for no conceivable reward... since the "reward of winning a piss-off with a troll is negligible.

"Greg" come back with $500 to lay on the table, with your full real name and a third party we can deposit our funds with. No less than $500 would make me willing to deal with that nasty little troll even one more time.

sociotard said...

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/10/wikileaks-show-wmd-hunt-continued-in-iraq-with-surprising-results/

Interesting. So there were some WMD in Iraq. It looks like they were fairly small, not nuclear at all, and nowhere near what we were told we were going to war for, but WMD nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

Bill Nye vs. Fox...
Then there's this little nugget...
Admittedly, the second site is iffy sometime, but... but... ya gotta love that first item up there,

-The Vagabond

sociotard said...

A fascinating interview with a modern Luddite. He claims that technology has a destructive influence, and has set 2020-2035 as the date of our collapse (with a $10,000 bet)

rewinn said...

@Ian wrote:
"...if you subscribe to a cospiratorial view of the world where the US is being uniquely mistreated and abused..."

I don't subscribe to that view. However, is it not patently obvious that our USA used to be the great manufacturing center of the world, as a result of which we had an outsized share of jobs which were high-value-added and therefore paid well. And the natural ... NOT conspiratorial ... result of that simple fact is that some parties want to pick themselves up by knocking us down.

And ... the point that your analysis seems to have missed ... our domestic Aristocracy Of Wealth profits from this knocking down.

It is simply false that our USA would suffer if, for example, China decided to stop shipping us cut-rate textiles and computers. We are perfectly capable of making underwear and PCs. Please keep in mind that the American economy today is roughly as large as the entire world economy not so long ago; it is irrational to think that we "need" to be hooked up to the rest of the world's economy; there are without a doubt some benefits to it which we should take but only if they are not offset by the problems.

"Also, what is your evidence that the WTO treaty hasn't "worked as promised"?"

We were promised that WTO and NAFTA would result in MORE JOBS. That didn't happen.

"Who promised you that the WTO would end recessions..."

Classic straw man!

"... and prevent financial markets from behaving irrationally? "

Uhm, what financial markets have behaved "irrationally"?

Look around, man. The financiers are making bank! This is extremely rational behavior on their part. Do you think they accidentally or irrationally stumbled into greater wealth than any pirate or emperor?

Even using the specialized notion of "rational" that economists prefer (...and often use to confuse non-economists....) where is YOUR evidence that the markets are "irrational"? They're doing their thing, matching supply and demand in a death spiral of reduced demand leading to reduced supply. Markets are perfectly capable of stabilizing rationally at near zero economic activity, and it's only we poor humans who think that's a bad thing.

rewinn said...

@Sociotard wrote:
"...So there were some WMD in Iraq..."

Uhm, it was publicly known at the time that Iraq had tag-ends of chemical weapons in odd locations, left over from its campaigns against Iran and domestic foes. In a reality in which Europe still finds unexploded bombs here and there, it was expected at the time of Bush's lies about WMDs that Iraq would have lost munitions here and there.

I remember the Bush Administration trumpeting the finding of a case of old mustard gas shells, until its utter insignificance made the pettiness of their claim patent even to our own press. IIRC there were also false positives when insecticide residue set off tests for finding nerve gas.

The term "WMD" itself is classic propaganda, mixing nuclear, biological and chemical weapons into a single category of things that are so awful that they justify killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in their suppression. Mustard gas can be made with technology from WW1 so it hard to name a nation on earth that cannot produce some form of WMD and is therefore a threat to us. Heck, I'm not sure I could name a *city* that couldn't produce a WMD ... can you?

rewinn said...

Lighter side (...or maybe not...) Penn Jillette: An Atheist's Guide to the 2012 Election.

sakhalinsk said...

Concerning Dr. Brin's tweeted link today that stated atheists as individuals and groups are more charitable Believers, Do these numbers take into account tithe?

http://ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/pellissier20111125r

Not to take away anything from these famous atheists and their charitable giving, after all they could just as well have used their ill-gotten booty by creating private armies and making the world a much worse place, but it does seem they publicize their "generosity" a little too much. I wonder about the statement that atheists don't receive a reward by giving. Aren't they also attempting to immortalize a piece of themselves through creating whatever fund, university or hospital they choose, all named after the donors? Again, I think charitable giving by anyone is terrific, but do have the questions about the math in the article. Also in the current economic climate, the idea that the 1%, religious or not, are so praiseworthy through these grandiose donations are a bit irksome. It's like they spent their life bleeding the majority of us to amass their wealth, then want us immortalize their name due to their "enlightening and healing" the masses. I have a gut feeling most these guys would like to build a pyramid Egyptian style after their death if they thought they could get away with it. Is it not enough they seem to be rigging the system to steal our money during the majority of their lifetimes, but they want us to worship them when they sprinkle a little of it back on us after their deaths? Wouldn't it be better if they did it chuck e cheese style and before death take all their winnings and get a nice little knickknack ranging from getting a street named after you to renaming a mountain or even a state in your honor while taking 95% of your amassed wealth and giving it back to the people who are still in the game? (The kids can get the 5%.). This could also keep the super wealthy more grounded since there would be a temptation to kill off any obnoxious über rich types and get a double payoff.

David Brin said...

If all the rich were self-made and became wealthy through the efficient and competitively creative delivery of better goods and services...

...and if they did not cheat, they faced repeatedly-renewed and fair competition, they did not saddle the public with liabilities while privatizing all profits... and if they paid their fair share of taxes and upkeep for a civilization that's been very very good to them (especially when at war)...

... then the libertarians have a point. There is a level at which it is "their money." and they deserve to have some say in how it is disposed. After all, if they were clever at acquiring and using it, maybe that cleverness can go into disposition, as well.

Hence, although I feel the Inheritance Tax is the fairest and best of all taxes... the one that directly prevents the return of the olde enemy of markets and freedom, inherited aristocracy...

...and even though the US Founders agreed with me, breaking up huge estates with a radicalism that would make FDR seem tame...

...I still think there should be a gaping loophole. The Inheritance Tax needn't ever be paid! So long as the money goes to something cool that will make a better world.

And I don't mind the whole "name it after me" thing. Yes, Maimonedes said that such charity is "lower" than anonymous giving. So? It still is terrific. Heck, even Leona Helmsley giving he money "to dogs" could have mattered, had the trustees used it to start dog uplift! Well, funding shelters, while lining their own pockets, it is still a net plus. I guess.

Greg said...

Please ignore the troll.

Let me put this straight for the record... this "Greg fellow" is owed nothing by any of us.

I made clear that I will happily take his money in a wager. I offered terms that utterly fair but also subject to negotiation. Instead... in a series of deeply offensive sneers and neeeners... he has demanded that I do all the work, for no conceivable reward... since the "reward of winning a piss-off with a troll is negligible.

"Greg" come back with $500 to lay on the table, with your full real name and a third party we can deposit our funds with. No less than $500 would make me willing to deal with that nasty little troll even one more time.


Now THAT'S funny... you berate me for not being an 'adult' who backs up his assertions - assertions you made on my behalf, with no input from me - and yet you descend into hyperbole and ad-hominem when the same is asked of you.
It's obvious at this point why you're so defensive and weird about this - you've got no data to back you up and never have. You made an unsupported, sweeping assertion and someone called you on it... and it irritates you.
That happens, but it's ugly when someone's vanity can't allow them to admit it. It's dishonest, frankly.
I don't think you have to worry about me 'trolling' this place (which is what I assume you call those who challenge your unsupported assumptions). This is pretty lame - and it's not even vaguely scientific if all you're doing is tossing out unsupported musings, based on no hard data, with no acceptance of critical review.
Grow up, guy. This is just silly, and it doesn't reflect well on you. I came here because you invited me, frankly, and I thought that it'd be interesting to get into some debates with smart folks on interesting topics.
Instead, I receive poo-flinging from a guy who's all defensive because I asked him to back up an unsupported assertion. It's so junior high, it's embarrassing.
I'm disappointed, to say the least. I mean - what's the point of even discussing issues with someone, even a smart someone, if they throw a tantrum if you question something they don't want questioned? It's just lame.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

If...if...if...
...then the libertarians have a point. There is a level at which it is "their money." and they deserve to have some say in how it is disposed.

In the original "Dune" novel, when a Fremen died, the rule was that the body belonged to the individual (family?), but the water belonged to the tribe.

The rule makes sense in their particular circumstance, where water is so necessary to life and also so rare. Private propterty gives way to necessity.

Now, money is neither AS necessary to life nor AS as rare as water on Arrakis, so such a draconian appeal against private property is not yet warranted. BUT...in our present society, money is getting pretty darned CLOSE to necessity and (for the 99%) starting to get CLOSE to rare as well.

No real conclusion here--just throwing it out that both the "private property" position and the "societal claim" position have a point in the debate about disposition of wealth. It's not a matter of one side being evil--rather it is a matter of adjudicating between competing rights. At least part of the decsion rests on what alternatives are available.

The Ayn Rand position that no one has a claim on another's effort or property rests on the fact that the mere fact of needing something doesn't cause the need to be fulfilled--we have to do work to make it happen, and the results "belong" to those who devise and perform the methods. For example, we don't live in the Garden of Eden, so we have to work fields or raise chickens or whatever in order to eat. The ones who actually perform the work should not be carrying everyone else on their backs without remuneration. So far, I don't object.

BUT...so much of life is dependent upon happy accidents that are not the result of ANY individual's work or thought. We live by the grace of a planet with an oxygen atmosphere and liquid water. If those things were not the case, no amount of pleading would cause our life-support system to maintain us, but since those things ARE the case, they are everyone's birthright.

What the very-recent corporatist political view seems to advocate is that someone can claim OWNERSHIP of the oxygen, the water, the fact that the earth inhabits the Goldilocks Zone of the solar system, and then everyone else who wants to make use of those happy accidents has to PAY THAT INDIVIDUAL for the use of "his" property. I paint an exaggeration here, but only a slight one--I trust my meaning is clear.

What I object to is not the NOTION of private property, but the lack of a clear and rational description of what does (and what does not) CONSTITUTE private property.

Greg said...

The superficiality of this place grates, so you won't have to bother avoiding answering any further challenges to your baseless assertions. I didn't come here to troll, but to engage in interesting discussion. You, Brin, in fact, invited me here yourself.The fact that simply asking for supporting data that you refuse to provide is considered 'trolling' is enough for me to realize that this place isn't what I thought it'd be, and I'm not really interested in what I've seen so far.
I do find it amusing, though, that you seem to believe (or act as though you believe) that a wager on some future event is equivalent to data already gathered. If you look at it in terms of Venn diagrams, Fox's 'anti-science' content in the past and its 'anti - science' content in the future are not the same sets. They may or may not share the same domain - only determinable after the 'future' events have passed - but they are different sets.
Think about it - you're a PhD - you had to defend your thesis. Would it be a valid defense of your thesis if you replied, when asked about your data, 'I'll bet you $500 that I can find data to support my hypothesis?' Of course not - it's absurd, and obviously so. Your questioners would - rightly - ask to see the data supporting your conclusion.
Your continued reliance on this 'wager' stunt, and your complaints that I'm 'making you do all the work' imply that you have no data, that your assertion was bluster, and you're embarrassed at being called on it. There's nothing wrong with venturing an opinion on a topic, even if unsupported... but it is important to at least be honest enough to represent opinion as such and not fact.
Finally - some words from a wise guru that I've seen somewhere online -
"Nevertheless, look, when you boil it down, this [...]is just an assertion, bereft of even correlative evidence, let alone proof."
Wise words, and justly dismissive of assertions unsupported by actual data. It'd be even more impressive if those who say such things live up to their own standards.

Rob said...

If it's absurd, then it's an easy $500. Pony up, say I.

David Brin said...

Rob, please, let the troll spin his tizzy. It's all classic cliches. "I'm the only free thinker and cowards are avoiding questions that might upset their assumptions!" Yawners without a scintilla of substance.

If there had been a single moment of original thinking, I might've looked past the relentless discourtesy and self-referential prickliness. You all have seen me do that.

In this case... just yawn. The bug will go away.

LarryHart said...

Well, this is likely my last post of 2011, so I want to thank Dr Brin and most everyone else here for a lively and interesting "place" on the internet. Civility is rare enough, and civility without boringness is almost unheard of, so this "place" is rare and special.

As a citizen expressing an opinion, I'm inclined to advocate for giving Greg a second chance. He doesn't seem trollish to me, at least not since that first post, which may have been unfortunate. On the other hand, I don't pretend to be the voice of this blog, nor am I intimately familiar with the period y'all went through when a particular troll had to be outright banned. I'm also inclined to give Dr Brin the benefit of the doubt if he's picking up a vibe I'm not aware of. I know--typical squishy fence-sitting liberal. Caveat emptor.

I have not forgotten that I'm due to be outsourced from my job soon. I haven't mentioned it lately because the fact is the company hasn't exactly decided what they're going to do with the position--keep the employees as "consultants" , outsource the positions overseas, or outright eliminate them. In the meantime, if I don't find another job first, I'm still actively employed for three more months, which seems to me an unheard-of time to keep several people on as techies knowing they're going to be let go. I'm not exactly sure what that bodes for the future, but I do still intend to report from the front as to how difficult it actually is for a middle-class techie over 50 to find work in the present economy. In one sense, I dread it because the economy seems to really suck about now. On the other hand, I recognize that I may be being forced to do something I should have done long ago on my own. I tend to exhibit too much inertia for my own good.

2012 is set to be an interesting year, maybe TOO interesting. May it treat us all well. Happy New Year, one and all.

David Brin said...

I am looking at the tea leaves here. Assuming it's Romney in the end, what will he do in order to balance his ticket? He's got a rough patching job to do.

Now, traditionally, the GOP nominee picks a running mate from the extreme nutso wing in order to keep them calm and prevent a 3rd party insurrection. This has led to a litany of VP choices - since 1952 - who were absolute monsters. Indeed, only one GOP VP nominee in the last 60 years has been remotely qualified to be president.

That was a man I deeply despise, but one who was very qualified, on paper. George Bush Senior. Yep, the exception was chosen by... Reagan. He actually cared about qualifications and chose someone qualified. I keep saying Ronnie was under-rated in some ways.

In Romney's case the need for a red-meat social conservative is desperate. First there's the Mormon thing. But even more important... the very MOMENT he accepts the nomination he will go charging for the Center as fast as he can veer about and switch to warp drive!

That makes Rick Perry pretty much the obvious choice for Veep. Perry is the classic ticket balancer who brings along a huge state, seems folksy vs Romney's patrician/easterner look, and he can "vouch" for Romney, crisscrossing Red America nailing down the base... while avoiding questions from reporters.

That last part is important, given his history of deer-in-headlights gaffes. His one debate with Biden will be a writeoff and he'll be well prepped with sound bites.

In Red America he'll assure: "Mitt's okay. He needs to say these moderate things in order to get rid of Obama. Just think of the Supreme Court, hold your nose and think about ME while you vote!"

Funny thing? On paper, Perry actually is one of the most qualified folks. He has a quarter of Bush 41's IQ and will prove to be a monumental mistake...

... indeed he is a model for Nehemia Scudder...

...but his selection won't be the blatant insult that Palin's was. Or Nixon, Agnew, Quayle, Cheney and so many others. On paper, he seems the best choice from Romney's perspective. And of course, scary as heck.

David Brin said...

LarryHart we are with you! Here's good vibes for success and an even better gig, soon.

Remember guys, if there comes a point when you need to post a need, feel free to copy it here. Who knows, someone else may have good ideas.

Oh! Drop by visualcv.com We used it for my son and the ability to make your CV audio-visual and vivid is way-cool!

Tacitus2 said...

LarryHart
Land on your feet. There will always be work for the capable and diligent, as you certainly seem to be.
Regards the recent dust up.
I tend to agree with Greg, Brin does not always play fair in debates. I have just gotten used to it.
Hey, he's paid (well we hope) for hyperbole!

felix novum anno

Tacitus

David Brin said...

So, Tacitus, then why do you come back?

No you have ALWAYS been made welcome here and always been treated as the gentleman you are. Do not insult yourself by calling yourself even remotely comparable to a whiney, obnoxious little twerp-troll.

(I'd have tried again with him if ONCE he had offered a missive that was NOT a pouty whine. Even once.) Enough.

Greg said...

If it's absurd, then it's an easy $500. Pony up, say I.

... I don't understand why I'm not being able to make my point. I don't mean that in a snarky way - I genuinely don't understand why some don't seem to grasp what I'm saying - I don't know how I could articulate it any clearer, but something's clearly being lost in translation.
Brin's 'bet' was beside the point, a distraction from my question to him - which was "Do you have data supporting your conclusion about Fox being the most anti-science network" (or however he phrased his assertion). A wager at this point wouldn't answer that question, and in fact the very idea that he would need to wager on the issue implies that he, in fact, HAS NO DATA IN HAND. THAT was my suspicion in my original post - that his assertion was hyperbole, bravado. A $500 wager of what Fox does or doesn't do in the future isn't responsive to the original question, and is, in fact, deflection.
THAT is my point - and I must assume that Brin knows it at this point, after I've repeated it over and over, and he's descended (odddly) into a kind of ad-hom frenzy. I'm a 'troll', 'prickly','pouty whine[r]', 'I'm the only free thinker' (? Where the hell did this come from? Not from me - I neither said nor implied anything remotely like this. For what it's worth, despite what I've come to conclude about Brin's ability to debate objectively or tolerate challenges to his assumptions, I'd never hesitate to acknowledge that he was a 'free thinker', exceedingly creative and intelligent. As for anyone else here, I don't know any of you, but have no reason to believe you're NOT intelligent, well-meaning free-thinkers.
This has been a very odd experience for me. I asked some pretty obvious questions, albeit admittedly with some snark, initially, but an avalanche of ad-hom isn't what I expected. I guess I'm puzzled and a little disappointed more than anything - I was expecting some vigorous and elevated debate, not table-pounding and name-calling.
Whatever. It didn't cost me anything, so no harm, no foul, I guess.
Apparently others aren't forbidden to communicate with me, from the looks of things, though Brin would prefer to lob ad-hom bombs, it appears.
If anyone is interested - I've seen some references to 'uplifting' animals in one of Brin's speeches that was on Youtube, I believe. What's the purpose of 'uplifting' something that can't consciously make the choice to be uplifted?

Hank Roberts said...

Read The Fine Novels

And the word verification is:
"denybo"

I swear there's an AI in there.

Robert said...

Greg, first of all add line-breaks between your paragraphs. A wall of text is incomprehensible and makes people not want to read it.

Second of all, we HAVE posted data to you. You have ignored it. You keep whining that you want Dr. Brin ALONE to provide you with statistics and information. Dude. There is plenty of data out there THAT YOU CAN FIND YOURSELF that proves Dr. Brin's point. That he isn't gently guiding your hand to those links suggests one thing (and I say this having seen Dr. Brin extend a hand in friendship dozens of times in the last few years only to have it spat upon): he sees bullshit in your words.

Now, given that I'm among the more conservative of people on this site (Tacticus has me beat, as do one or two others) and I see your claims as being suspect... well, that says something about how you are wording things.

And that is? You sound like a troll and you act like a troll. And I say this as someone who HAS trolled in the past. (It's easy. All you need to do is say something that doesn't hold dirt with the mainstream audience and you get quite the flareup, and sometimes a flamewar. I'm no innocent here and I've instigated some flamewars I'm not proud of in the past. Not here, mind you.)

So when I say you are sounding trollish and your actions are reminiscent of an internet troll, I say this as someone who has played the part. You claim otherwise? Take responsibility for your actions and words. Find the evidence yourself. Or find evidence proving this allegation is false and post that.

It's called the Scientific Method. And outside of people who prefer to think religiously rather than intellectually (with their "gut" rather than their mind), it's a well-respected method that encourages decent and viable debate which can change opinions and minds of those who accept logic and reason to emotion and religiosity.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Geez Robert. You are a full citizen here, so feed him if you must. But the shrill whines and moans are sufficiently monotonous and grating that I am no longer even skim-glancing.

You are too kind, sometimes.


Onward to next posting!

Robert said...

Kind nothing. Taunting the trolls is as much fun as trolling. And best of all, the Trolls can't help but respond even as they realize they're being manipulated. =^-^=

I'm an evil evil man. I freely admit it. Though yes, I must admit it's also enjoyable watching people grow beyond their old tendencies and becoming responsible members of internet communities. I've done it on several occasions... and must admit it's always nice to see someone else grow beyond their trollish roots and become protective members of an online social network.

Rob H.

Rob said...

Fox "anti science"?

The six years I spent watching it (from 2000 through '08) there was never a breath of anything except ad-fixing populism. (After '08 we had cancelled satellite and cable altogether; the price-benefit ratio was no longer less than 1)

Ad-fixing: Their content was designed with the single purpose of keeping your attention long enough to put your eyes in front of an ad, full stop. Still is; all commercial TV is.

They were clearly willing to say anything, air anything, manufacture anything into a controversy to make sure you paid attention through a commercial break.

That's the hallmark of entertainment, not news, and thoroughly emotion-centered, therefore also by definition not-science.

As for the commentary shows, their editorial bias was always against progressives and against accepting AGCC, by my witness, for that entire time, denying what a seventh grader with his Earth Science class material could have told you.

Whatever anyone else says about it, that's what I mean if I'm ever caught calling Fox "anti-science". The fact that CNN is little better doesn't give Fox a bye.

Greg said...

Rob -

Actually, no one has provided any data one way or the other. Someone linked to something that was barely tangentially related, but not responsive to my question.

And, frankly, I'm not asking for reams of data - at this point, I'm merely asking Brin if he actually HAS any data comparing Fox's accuracy in scientific matters as compared to other mainstream media outlets - I want to know if he actually had any data supporting his assertion, or not. From the way he's continued to evade and toss epithets, I take it he has none but is too embarrassed (or something) to admit as much.
Surely a 'yes, I have the data' or 'no, I don't have the data' isn't so difficult to muster.

Finally - I have no interest in trolling.. it's predictable, boring, and tired. I merely asked a question with an initially snarky attitude. If there has been any 'trolling' going on, I'd say, from the looks of his missives to me, it was from Brin.