Thursday, May 17, 2012

Republican Salvation...Raise the Gipper!

Are you a Republican - or do you know one - who is sincerely fretful about the GOP’s ticket for the coming quadrennial?  Well, there's good reason (on many levels.) But it appears there is hope!  Or at least a fun wish fantasy, written and published with stunning speed by a master science fiction author, John Barnes. In a quick-topical (and hilarious) shortie-novel that’s set right now!  In the few weeks before this year’s Republican National Convention.

RAISE THE GIPPER! is more a sudden piece of performance art than anything else. Staged precisely for a given moment in time, it fits into the tradition of such old-time favorites as The Mouse that Roared and Rally Around the Flag, Boys.

And it gives Republicans their utter wish fantasy, especially after wading through a primary season filled with dismal choices.  Picture the scenario -- Ronald Reagan, risen from the dead, tanned-rested-and-ready (hampered only slightly by the lack of a pulse) to lead the GOP to victory!

Think it’s all one-sided? Well, Barnes has some clever fun at the expense of flakey, Gaia worshipping, PC-vegan lefty-liberals, too!  It’s a rollicking good time. Try some free sample chapters! (Or get it on Amazon.) And support performance art.

Is it understandable that some Republicans nurse dream-wish fantasies? One is tempted, indeed, to dream up alternatives to the current presumptive nominee -- whose prep-school pranks included the deliberately traumatic bullying of helpless adolescents. Yes, there is forgiveness.  But character is generally persistent, unless you see major life reversals that indicate a true change of direction. And in that case, would he not have sought out his victims, later, to make amends? Or shown compassion in his business affairs?

Oh one can sympathize. Raise the Gipper, indeed!

== From the Transparency Front == 

As you surf the Web, information is being collected about you. Web tracking is not 100% evil -- personal data can make your browsing more efficient; cookies can help your favorite websites stay in business. But, says Gary Kovacs, it's your right to know what data is being collected about you and how it affects your online life. He unveils a Firefox add-on called Collusion to do just that. It is a prime example of where we need to focus our attention in net-age battles over freedom and privacy.  Not in futile efforts to regulate the mighty and police what they can know, but rather in forever-enhancing our power to look back... and thus to hold the mighty accountable.

But shouldn't the light shine both ways? Read a scathing appraisal and denunciation of banking secrecy, of tax havens and the way at least seven trillion dollars vanish from the world’s books. For example: Nothing in offshore havens happens on a small scale. Almost any statistic flunks the red-face test. Consider the British Virgin Islands, home to about 30,000 people and 457,000 companies. In China, it’s said you haven’t made it until you have your own subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands, which holds more assets belonging to Chinese nationals than any foreign location except Hong Kong. "The secrecy laws in these tax havens are at the root of serious crimes: fraud, money laundering and international terrorism," writes Robert M. Morgenthau in The New York Times.

There’s more money on deposit in the Caymans than in all the banks in New York City combined. Do you hear echoes of The Transparent Society? Or my novel Earth, in which the whole world finally gets fed up and storms the banks to make the records public? No issue is more powerfully important than tracing who uses these infamous dodges.

(Or more germane, when we seek to judge whether a one-time spoiled brat bully has grown up.)

What, then, can be done about all this? Plenty — if we act now. Nobody leaves their money offshore forever. The United States can direct its banks and their foreign subsidiaries not to engage in financial transactions in havens that have no transparency and no disclosure of the true parties of interest in financial transactions.

A bill has been proposed in the United States to prevent the use of shell corporations to hide the true ownership of assets owned here. This legislation would provide a model of openness for other nations to follow. Unfortunately, the legislation is bottled up in our own Congress. This should not be. America needs to set an example of financial accountability and insist that the world follow.

See my article: Transparent Ownership Treaty: Individuals and Corporations Must Openly Declare Ownership.

=== Political Miscellany ===
A study of economic mobility in the US by state shows a pattern that will probably be all too familiar to readers of ContraryBrin. All the out-performers except Utah (7 of 8) are blue states. All 9 under-performers are red states. So much for the idea of the liberal elite keeping the masses down and so much for the idea that Republican small government and deregulation creates a culture of opportunity.

Possible link between maternal obesity and low childhood intelligence. Gee wiz... will we ever see a single datum that the denizens of Red America, who proclaim so loudly that they know better how to live and raise kids, are ever right at all, even once?  About anything whatsoever?

Companies are making billions from selling and reselling your personal data. Now, HP is seeking to patent a personal data stock exchange where you could get a cut from sharing your personal information on the open market. Are you willing to exchange your health records or friend lists or automotive GPS locations in exchange for money? And what if companies buy only the cheapest data. Is that data biased or less valuable? One can picture this in several positive ways. (1) people get paid for what is happening anyway, (2) it establishes a reasonable range for a reasonable property right and defies the extremists at both ends, (3) it establishes that grabbing personal information secretly isn't just a privacy violation but a tort action and act of theft, (4) it creates a market industry whose interest lies in making consent and commerce the order of the day.  #4 means that Big People Making Money will be incentivized to protect YOUR right to seal info, not have it be ripped off.  Ah, but there are drawbacks...

Our ability to monitor our planet is at risk; aging Earth-observing satellites are being replaced too slowly, and older satellites are failing. By 2020 we may only have 25% of our current observing capacity. The shortfall comes as a result of funding cuts, canceled missions, lost satellites, failed launches and a shortage of launch vehicles to deliver new satellites to orbit. We have an urgent need to gather data on our planet to better understand the changes taking place on earth. (And yes, some of the funding cuts were targeted directly at missions that would have settled climate change. Those proclaiming "the science isn't good enough yet!" are among those who have torpedoed the science.)

== Finally, some wisdom from a dour genius ==

 'Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing. There is always a new tyrant waiting to take over from the old--generally not quite so bad, but still a tyrant. Consequently two viewpoints are always tenable. The one, how can you improve human nature until you have changed the system? The other, what is the use of changing the system before you have improved human nature? They appeal to different individuals, and they probably show a tendency to alternate in point of time. 

'The moralist and the revolutionary are constantly undermining one another. Marx exploded a hundred tons of dynamite beneath the moralist position, and we are still living in the echo of that tremendous crash. But already, somewhere or other, the sappers are at work and fresh dynamite is being tamped in place to blow Marx at the moon. Then Marx, or somebody like him, will come back with yet more dynamite, and so the process continues, to an end we cannot yet foresee. The central problem--how to prevent power from being abused--remains unsolved. 

'Dickens, who had not the vision to see that private property is an obstructive nuisance, had the vision to see that. 'If men would behave decently the world would be decent' is not such a platitude as it sounds.'

- George Orwell ("on Dickens")

Also

England, wrote Orwell, is a family with the wrong members in control. Almost entirely we are governed by the rich, and by people who step into positions of command by right of birth. Few if any of these people are consciously treacherous, some of them are not even fools, but as a class they are quite incapable of leading us to victory.

133 comments:

Rob said...

But character is generally persistent, unless you see major life reversals that indicate a true change of direction. And in that case, would he not have sought out his victims, later, to make amends? Or shown compassion in his business affairs?

On the first question, you do see those reversals. I have that from a family member acquainted with him through his stint at the SLOC. She lionizes him as one of the best employers she's ever had.

On the second, it depends on whether he noticed in hindsight. Based on personal experience I can attest that people so abused don't seek out their bullies looking to see whether they a) remember it or b) are interested in advancing an apology. It's best to let sleeping bulldogs lie, in case they haven't.

One of my own middle-school bullies is now a Facebook friend with no memory of his deeds and a life of horrific experiences since then having nothing to do with me. I have no intention of piling on a teenage sin just to extract some personal recompense. I forgave him years ago and the evidence of it is that I just don't think about the people who did that to me any longer.

Drudging up a teenage sin to counteract Obama's Big Marriage Historical Party-time Demagoguery moment was a perfectly calculated news cycle push.

As to the second, what you have against Romney is the report of his enemies that he's unkind. Very little is said about his personal compassion. Again, from the family member, he's unimpeachable on that score.

It's his faction which is noxious. I wish he'd switch parties and return to the moderate he had to be to govern Massachusetts; even then he hasn't earned my State's electors. But if he does win, it won't be the end of the world.

Unknown said...

Something they glossed over in the Pew study...

Most of the states that did better in "economic mobility" also had higher rates of outward migration - to the states that had lower "economic mobility."

In other words, yes - people Texas and Florida and a couple of the others had a lower level of increase in wages - mostly because of the increased competition for jobs. Which drives down wages or keeps them stable.

Conversely, states like New Jersey had increases in relative "mobility" (both in state and versus the country as a whole) - because they had fewer people competing for jobs.

"All of the poor people moved to Texas and Florida because New Jersey's low end job market sucks" isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the blue state model.

Rob said...

Whoops, got my enumerations all wrong there. a) stupid news cycle didn't showcase that yes he really did change, the rest is opposition research hooey, b) His business affairs are mis-reported by his enemies, with conflations of company with company-runner. Erm, that's what I meant. :-)

David Brin said...

Rob, you nailed the key point. Any republican... whether "maverick" McCain or "morderate" Romney... will bring back to DC with him the entire convoy/armada/army of GOP operatives, lobbyists and power-brokers. Rove & co will be calling the shots.

But I do accept that the bullying thing is secondary and proves nothing. Nor is it irrelevant.

OTOH unknown had a good point about southward migration from "advanced" and socially mobile states. But so? Can you find for me the OUTCOMES stats in which Reds do better? From domestic violence to education, to obesity to teen pregnancy...

I can name one. Volunteering for military service. I respect and honor that! But note, that constitutes - overall - an out migration.

Travc said...

On banking transparency...
Can I assume everyone has read Cryptonomicon?

I tend to side with Brin on this and transparency in general... after all, it is probably unavoidable as technology progresses. However, Stephenson makes some very good points about how the ability to go unobserved (especially with regard to accessing/moving resources/money) is very important when someone or group is being persecuted by the majority (or at least not being protected by the majority).

Carl M. said...

The Zombie Reagan was a piece on The Onion a while back. Video here: http://www.theonion.com/video/zombie-reagan-raised-from-grave-to-lead-gop,14385/

LarryHart said...

Rob:

As to the second, what you have against Romney is the report of his enemies that he's unkind. Very little is said about his personal compassion. Again, from the family member, he's unimpeachable on that score.


Despite my hatred of all things Republican, I'm inclined to say that bringing up high school is probably a non-starter, if only because most readers/listeners are going to react with "Geez, if it were me, could MY high-school activities bear scruitiny?"

Having said that, the Romney bully story does resonate with those (like myself) who ALREADY see the right-wing as bullies by nature and as defenders of bullying by policy. It's not that the story of Romney's high-school hi-jinks proves anything new, but that it confirms what we already think we know about the man and about the party.

LarryHart said...

And since we're back on politics...

I hear that the House Republicans are blowing up last year's budget deal so that they can hold the country's credit hostage AGAIN. Thom Hartmann rightly points out that even just TALKING about the possibility of default is going to hurt the economy, and that the GOP's strategy here is to intentionally stall any recovery in order to hurt Obama's reelection chances.

My question is...how in heck does this strategy not backfire? I realize that a bad economy hurts the incumbent's chances, but when the problems are so obviously being caused by his opponents? People will still vote for Republicans in order to punish Obama for the obstructionism caused BY Republicans? Are we Americans really that stupid?

I type this from Illinois, Obama's home state, which is going to send its electoral votes to Obama no matter what. I also type this from Chicago, home of the Chicago Cubs whose current owner is apparently launching his own anti-Obama PAC devoted to advertisements about Obama's connectin to...Reverend Jeremiah Wright! Again I ask, can this possibly be a winning strategy?

I'm looking at the upcoming election as a referrendum on whether America has really been dumbed down as much as popular culture likes to imagine.

LarryHart said...

Rob:

b) His business affairs are mis-reported by his enemies, with conflations of company with company-runner. Erm, that's what I meant. :-)


Romney is RUNNING on his record as a businessman--that he knows how to run a company and (by implication) how to create jobs.

It's a fair point that his successs in business is due to his job-DESTRUCTION.

The quote from a few weeks ago where he said "I like to be able to fire people who provide me services"? I'll grant that he meant he thinks it's a good thing to be able to fire people who perform services BADLY--that you're not stuck with them as a provider the way you would be under Obama's union-dominated socialist government. But again, the Romney quote resonates with people already inclined to perceive him as someone who enjoys being able to fire people who DO provide services simply because it saves him some pennies.

It's not that he doesn't have a perfect right to hoard his own money and not use it in ways that boost the economy, but if he chooses to live that way (privately or in business), then he's got no business claiming the mantle of "job-creator", any more than I could claim to be a "hero" if I acquired super-powers but didn't actually use them for good.

LarryHart said...

This may be too "inside baseball", but I think at least some people here are familiar with Neil Gaiman and his popular "Sandman" comic of the 1990s.

Anyone remember the story called "A Dream of a Thousand Cats", in which a cat tells the tale of how cats used to be the intelligent rulers of the world, and humans were like mice? And then humans managed to collectively dream the world into something different, in which THEY now ruled and cats were their pets? And how if only 1000 cats could do the same thing, they could again remake the world in their image? But (goes the punch line), it can't happen, because you can't possibly get 1000 cats to do the same thing.

I'm thinking the story would work almost verbatim if every mention of "humans" was replaced by "Republicans" and "cats" replaced by "Democrats".

Robert said...

The bullying does matter to me. I was persecuted in elementary, middle, junior high, and high school. I don't consider being picked up by a cub scout neckerchief and hung until losing consciousness to be "boys will be boys," and that's just one thing that happened to me. That Romney blithely dismisses this and claims he "doesn't remember" really angers me because it's a slap in the face of millions of children who, like me, are persecuted daily by those who are trying to make themselves feel bigger than they are, and which happened to tens of millions of adults in the past (and still happens).

I had been under the assumption the "bullying" happened in college, not high school or sooner. The fact it happened in high school instead doesn't lessen the fact that he treated someone like shit.

And as for whether this continues to be the case or not today... he put his dog on the roof of his car. Yes, the dog had a windshield. But how many people will put their pet on the roof of a car instead of letting the animal ride inside? These two incidents are related and shows that Romney does not consider other people outside his immediate circle to be important. He will blithely eliminate social welfare programs while cutting taxes for his buddies and boosting military spending that gets spent on companies that his buddies own and waging wars on nations that threaten interests of his buddies.

I would rather have four more years of deadlock in Congress under Obama than let this New-Age Republican into office.

Rob H.

bobsandiego said...

A couple of observation on the teenage 'pranks' stories. First off these are not pranks, the incident described was assault and cruel. That said however we are not the people we were in High School and it is possible for an ass to become a good person. What matters to me in the story is Romney NOW. How did he react to the story? Did he take responsibility? Did he show leadership in owing up to the action and give clear apologies and direction to others? No, he weaseled his words, playing the entire thing as a nothing story of no importance. This is who he is now and it shows us that he values the election above morality and truth.
On another front all I can think of goose and gander. The right has tried so hard to make Obama’s youngster days an issue, where he went to school, what he was fed, that I have no patience for their sudden conversion to ‘youthful stories do not matter’ stance. I look forward to the day, years off I suspect, when the GOP no longer means God’s Own Party.

Jonathan S. said...

Bobsandiego noticed the same thing I did about the Romney bullying story. Had Romney reacted by saying that he didn't remember the incident, but he did some dumb things as a kid, and he'd apologize in person to the victim if he could (said victim died a few years ago), I might be inclined to let him slide on this one.

Instead, Mitt and his wife began appearing on news shows to laugh about what a wild and crazy kid Mitt used to be, before he issued the infuriating non-apology of, "I'm sorry if anyone was insulted by anything I did" (a statement which puts the responsibility for being insulted on the victim, not the perpetrator). Not even a shred of remorse for, as noted, committing assault and battery (with a potentially deadly weapon, no less!) on someone whose only crime was looking different.

Since there was no remorse, can we assume that this basic aspect of Mitt's personality hasn't changed? Is he going to continue to treat people who don't look like him as targets? I think it's a legitimate question, personally...

ntsGuth sthening: a g'Kek coming-of-age ritual, in which the newly-minted adult gets its first set of studded snow tires.

LarryHart said...

bobsandiego:

On another front all I can think of goose and gander. The right has tried so hard to make Obama’s youngster days an issue, where he went to school, what he was fed, that I have no patience for their sudden conversion to ‘youthful stories do not matter’ stance.


Unfortunately, Republican voters don't care about consistency. How else can they go from Dick Cheney saying "Reagan showed us deficits don't matter" to the same Dick Cheney claiming Obama is a failure because of deficits?

Back in 2008, my formerly-sane conservative buddy used to chide me for claiming that the right was painting candidate Obama as a Muslim. "They're condemning him for the views of his CHRISTIAN pastor, so painting him a Muslim would make no sense." I agreed with the second half of that sentence, but pointed out that it was his own compatriots who were doing the "not making sense", and that this was not my fault.

So four years later, we've got a Republican legislator from South Carolina (of Indian descent) called a "rag-head" as in "We've already got a rag-head in the White House. We don't need one in the state house as well!" Meaning Obama is the Muslim "rag-head" in Washington. While at the same time, the Chigago Cubs' owner is launching a PAC to remind voters all about how bad Obama is because of his Christian pastor.

Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose.


I look forward to the day, years off I suspect, when the GOP no longer means God’s Own Party.


Unfortunately, I expect ("look foreward to" has the wrong connotation) that it will already be too late for the country by the time any mention of Republicans is followed by the epithet for Holnists in "The Postman", namely "May they rot in hell!"

LarryHart said...

Johnathan S:

Instead, Mitt and his wife began appearing on news shows to laugh about what a wild and crazy kid Mitt used to be, before he issued the infuriating non-apology of, "I'm sorry if anyone was insulted by anything I did" (a statement which puts the responsibility for being insulted on the victim, not the perpetrator). Not even a shred of remorse for, as noted, committing assault and battery (with a potentially deadly weapon, no less!) on someone whose only crime was looking different.

Since there was no remorse, can we assume that this basic aspect of Mitt's personality hasn't changed? Is he going to continue to treat people who don't look like him as targets? I think it's a legitimate question, personally...



The legitimate issue is that the voters Romney and the GOP are pandering to are IN FAVOR of the idea of bullying those who are different and defenseless.

LarryHart said...

Paul Krugman concludes today's column about the Euro with this observation:


All of us, then, have a big stake in European success — yet it’s up to the Europeans themselves to deliver that success. The whole world is waiting to see whether they’re up to the task.


I'd say that applies equally if not moreso to the United States.

LarryHart said...

There's a poignant chapter of "A Tale of Two Cities" in which an aristocrat drives his horse-drawn carriage down city streets at reckless speed and accidentally runs a poor child over, killing the child. Dickens's text explains that but for the thickness of the crowd preventing him, he would have simply continued riding off without a second thought. Instead, because he has an angry mob of poor people facing him, he tosses a gold coin out the window, in effect to "pay for" the child.

The point of the scene is not to show him as particularly malicious so much as to show how little the lives of the population matter to him. He knows he's done something "bad", so with a minimum of effort, he pays for the error and then thinks no more of it.

To me, THAT is what all of the "bad" Romney stories are adding up to. Not that Romney is an evil man, but that his wealth allows him to indulge in risky behavior without thought of consequences because those consequences are not PERSONALLY dangerous to him.

The question is not whether this makes him a bad guy, but whether it is a good idea to have a chief executive with that sort of attitude.

bobsandiego said...

Larry hart Said: Unfortunately, Republican voters don't care about consistency. How else can they go from Dick Cheney saying "Reagan showed us deficits don't matter" to the same Dick Cheney claiming Obama is a failure because of deficits?
Partisian don't care about consistency. It is why I can never been a political partisian. I can't use one meteric in 2008 and swicthed to a different metric simply because it cuts against me now. I hate it when people switch yard sticks for partisian calls.
Off Topic but I feel like crowing:
I got my 5th honorbale mention in the Witers of The Futur eContest. getting closer..

Jumper said...

Closing in on fusion rockets:
http://www.newswise.com/articles/slapshot-to-deep-space?ret=/articles/channels&channel=17&category=feature&page=1&search[status]=3&search[sort]=date+desc&search[channel_id]=17

Ian said...

Larry, I'd say that platitude from Krugman applies to almost anyone, almost anywhere at almost any time.

Paul Krugman's writign on the Greek financial mess continues ot fail to impress me: he continues to complain about the effects of European austerity while failing absolutely to prescribe a reasonable alternative for Greece.

Th idea expressed in that same column that a few years of inflatriobn runnign at 3-4% would mean all would be well is just wrong.

The expansionary effect and the redcution in real interest costs would be nowhere near sufficient to generate sufficient growth in Greece to make their current debt sustainable.

Notice that I say "in Greece"m financial and monetary stimulus would help considerably in Spain and Italy which have smaller budget deficits and lower debt loads, it probably woudn't work in Greece because the debt would simply increase faster than GDP.

Krugman is effectively arguing that spendign cuts never work. he's wrong.

Robert said...

I find it interesting the article didn't consider one OTHER use for this technology: the creation of a Mothership to go to the outer planets with multiple drone satellites. In essence the ship would be a powered version of Voyager and would drop a couple satellites off at each of the outer planets (perhaps using gravitational slingshot for additional acceleration).

You could even have each probe with a chemical rocket attached so that the mothership never has to slow down. Instead, the probes use the chemical rockets to enter into braking orbits (and perhaps ion drives to shift orbit after that point). The mothership then would eventually leave the solar system and investigate the void between stars (and maybe even head off toward a nearby star system, which it would reach in a hundred or so years).

Rob H.

sociotard said...

Can you find for me the OUTCOMES stats in which Reds do better? From domestic violence to education, to obesity to teen pregnancy...

Home Ownership
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44822131/ns/business-real_estate/t/states-highest-lowest-homeownership/
That is one of the keystones of the "American Dream". Of course, that's largely because Red States tend to have more land per person.

Low Five
Rhode Isalnd
Nevada
Hawaii
California
New York

High Five
Delaware
Iowa
Michigan
Minnesota
West Virginia

So, all the low five are blue, with Nevada being the most purple. Meanwhile Iowa and West Virginia are quite red and Michegan is at least kind of Purple.

sociotard said...

Can you find for me the OUTCOMES stats in which Reds do better? From domestic violence to education, to obesity to teen pregnancy...

Credit Scores
http://money.msn.com/credit-rating/red-states-credit-beats-the-blues-cardratings.aspx

http://www.creditreport.com/creditscores/creditratings/credit-reports-by-state.aspx

This one doesn't correlate as strongly, but you can definitely see a trend. Look how good the Dakotas are!

TheMadLibrarian said...

Home ownership in HI is a rather interesting issue. Aside from the fact HI is an island state (they ARE making more land, but it's not land where you'd really want to live, being lava flows), there are a couple of economic issues. Like the other low-home-ownership states, land is at a premium in the areas where the jobs are. Much of the land is owned by perhaps a dozen big companies, mostly acquired for agricultural reasons over a century ago, and is effectively bottled up. HI still has 'leasehold', where you may own the house, but one of those companies still owns the land under it, you just have a long-term lease. If you don't outright own the house and all associated property, ownership becomes a lot less attractive.

TheMadLibrarian
reavelso keentral: central transparency clearinghouse

LarryHart said...

Ian:

Krugman is effectively arguing that spendign cuts never work. he's wrong.


No, he's arguing that spending cuts DURING A RECESSION make thing worse rather than better.

A slight difference from what you said, but it makes all the difference.

I'd guess that he had no trouble with the balanced budget of the late 1990s.

Ian said...

High Five
Delaware
Iowa
Michigan
Minnesota
West Virginia

Only one of those five is really a red state - WV. Iowa used to be consistently red but voted for Gore in 2008 and Obama in 2008.

The other three consistently vote Democratic in Presidential elections.

David Brin said...

Sociotard, your rebuttal re home ownershiop is clever and welcome. Still, Delaware is blue and Minnesota and Michigan have been mostly blue all our lives - though recently teaParty-dipped. None of the high five is deep south, despite very very low home prices in those states.

Ian said...

Larry, that claim is also incorrect.

The Bush 41 and Cinton tax increases and defense spending cuts coincides with the 1991 recession.

The key here is that in an economy with free capital flows and market rates determined by the markets, confidence in the future direction of government's finances is critical.

Without a credible medium term plan to stop the growth in government debt as a percentage of GDP, investors would simple stop investing and the interest rate on Greece's public debt would probably be in the double digits.

What Greece and the EU needs is a period of above-average economic growth, given where they're starting from. the only way to acheive that is structural reform and privatization.

Greece has been resisting those measures just as fiercely as the budget cits.

Greece still has the highest defense budget in the EU as a percentage of GDP. Maybe if they're so opposed to welfare cuts they could start there.

Similarly, if they're opposed to tax increases maybe they should start informing on their fellow Greeks who participate in massive tax avoidance.

A friend in Athens recently described how a taxi-driver gave him as 30 minute diatribe abotu the evisl of austerity then asked to be paid off the meter to avoid tax.

David Brin said...

ALERT!!!

You guys are invited to have an early look at Patrick Farley's full trailer (not teaser) for existence!

Go to
http://youtu.be/cn6GqxeOvn4 
and let it load first on pause.

I like it as-is! But we're gonna shorten it and eliminate the part about ""have other crystals fallen?"

Give your thoughts!

rewinn said...

"...Greece still has the highest defense budget in the EU as a percentage of GDP. Maybe if they're so opposed to welfare cuts they could start there."

While I think that would be a good idea generally and worth trying specifically, there may be the problem that Greece is the only member of NATO to have been invaded by a fellow member of NATO ... while both were formally in alliance! If their military is excessive that's a problem, but understandable.

rewinn said...

"...Give your thoughts!"

First, I liked it enough to watch all the way through. This is an accomplishment because it had no sound other than instrumental music; I had expected a trailer to have a Serious Sounding Voice at least to maintain attention and support the story.

I was confused as to whether this was a book or a graphic work. It may be innovative to present a book with several minutes of graphics but at some point my little mind stopped thinking of this as a book and started thinking of it as a movie.

I didn't know what feeling I was supposed to have by the end, or what Big Problem I was supposed to be pondering? (...other than the useful and worthy "gotta buy this book!") I get that the book is something about First Contact, but that's not a very revolutionary idea, and certainly nothing compared to Uplift or to the Gaia of "Earth".

So if you're looking for criticism, may I suggest a broader hint at the Big Idea? Is it about "How Would We React"? Is it "What The Heck Do The Outsiders Want?" Is it "What Is Existence?"

Ian said...

Rewinn, at what point post-1948 did Turkey invade Greece?

Are you maybe referring to Turkey's response to the Greek military dictatorship's invasion of the independent sovereign state of Cyprus?

rewinn said...

@LarryHart asked:

"....how in heck does this strategy not backfire? I realize that a bad economy hurts the incumbent's chances, but when the problems are so obviously being caused by his opponents..."

My guess? You don't need truth to win any political contest; you just need a plausible story plus lots and lots of cash.
See: today's Wisconsin. The governor doesn't like being tagged with having the worst job-creation numbers in the nation, so he invented some new numbers and is selling them on TV. It may work because there are still too many people watching TV (a passive medium) and not the internet (which is just as full of lies as TV, but also allows feedback).

Travc said...

Ian...
How well does the "irresponsible spending" argument apply to the other Euro countries having serious difficulties. Spain is the prime example since it is the next domino who's fall would be far more significant.

Greece did engage in rapid spending growth and budget obfuscation. Of course, at the time their economy was booming and the projections (especially most of those made by the same people who are championing austerity) were that everything would be fine.

Spain felt that boom (fed by foreign capital flows) too, but didn't increase government spending very much. As such, they were actually running surpluses. The other problem countries are more like Spain than Greece.

So maybe out-of-control government spending isn't the most important causal factor here. It certainly didn't help Greece, but if it were the cause, most of the other periphery countries would be sitting pretty.

BTW: You (Ian) said:
"Krugman is effectively arguing that spendign cuts never work. he's wrong."
I call either projection or ignorance. PK forcefully and repeatedly states that his arguments are conditional on the situation. This is most obvious when he is talking about "printing" money not leading to inflation because we are experiencing a zero-lower-bound condition, but he much more often than not makes an explicit point of the conditionality of his arguments/models.
Perhaps you need to read what he writes more carefully (or, I suspect, read him at all instead of getting your information second-hand from some demagogue.)

Ian said...

Travc,

I read Krugman several times a week on average and since I am a professional economist I don't need any "ideologue" to interpret his comments for me.

I have also said repeatedly here and elsewhere that Greece differs from Italy and Spain precisely because those two countries have either a relatively low debt to GDP ratio (Spain) or are running a primary surplus meaning they need only a relatively minor adjustment to reach a fiscal surplus (Italy).

Krugman is essentially claiming that a single recipe (fiscal and monetary stimulus) will work for all the EU countries. He's wrong.

If Greece's debt to GDP ratio were around 100% and it was running a budget deficit of say 4-5% of GDP, his prescription would be correct. They aren't, so it isn't.

I've also pointed out here in the past that the primary cause of Greece's problems is not "out-of-control government spending". Greece's taxes and spending were both below the OECD average, the problem was more a failure to tax than a failure to control spending. But the true root caus, in Greece as in the other peripheral countries was an inappropriate monetary and fiscal policy that set interest rates far too low for the peripheral states in the period 2001-2008.

As for "spending cuts never work" that's Larry's gloss on Krugman not mine so I suggest you direct your complaints to him.

"I call either projection or ignorance" I call an unprovoked and baseless personal attack.

Ian said...

A further note: had any smaller European government dared during the period prior to the GFC to follow the policies required to prevent an unsustainable boom, such as cutting government spending and raising taxes, they would have been attacked by the same people currently calling for endless stimulus spending as heartless right-wingers punishing the poor needlessly out of sheer ideology.

As I've said before, I'm an Australian. I'm also a social democrat in the tradition of such figures of the Australian left as Paul Keating and Bob Hawke.

We went through 20-odd years of economic hardship in the course of the period roughly 1975-1995. We learned the hard way that unsustainably high government spending ends up hurting the very people it's supposed to help.

We also learned that you can cut government deficits dramatically WITHOUT unnecessary hardship for the poor if you're prepared to raise taxes moderately, crack down on tax evasion and make the middle class pay their own way.

Paul451 said...

David,
Re: Trailer.
I'm several hours past bed, so apologies if this comes across as crass or otherwise offensive, I genuinely can't tell. The captions seem amateurish for the style it seems to be going for, instead perhaps a gravel voxed announcer saying it over the images, with the music underneath, might work better. But to be honest, I wonder if it's the wrong type of promotion for a book. Better for a visual medium like a film/animation or a video game. A trailer for a film has scenes from the actual film. Nothing in that video, not one word, is from the actual work being promoted, it's an interpretation by someone else. What got me interested in the book, beyond the name at the bottom, was the two short stories you put up. (I'm too braindead to remember the names: The seasteader finding the alien artifact and the one with the blimp crash and crowd-sourced insta-analysis.)

So perhaps that would work better as a "trailer" (or two). A male voice artist audio-book-reading the seasteading story, over half a dozen suitable images, and a female voice artist reading the airship one over its images. (Respective genders because of the primary POV of the respective stories.) As in, these are the ideas, a taste of the concepts, of the actual thing we want you to buy, words as art.

David Brin said...

Paul, interesting feedback... though of course we are way too late to change the overall concept. I was very surprised how many people wanted the trailer shortened, since I found it very vivid simply as a visual experience of Farley's art. But it will be tightened, probably by 25%.

There simply is not time or $ for a voice over..

Whatever the final version, I am hoping you all will tout it, starting Monday! We'll probably post a final version Sunday night!

--

Anybody else with feedback? Again it's:
http://youtu.be/cn6GqxeOvn4

David Brin said...

Re austerity vs stimulus, I do not see why folks don't see the middle ground. Greece could:

1) go to fierce transparency so tax avoidance would stop.

2) Do Austerity where it comes to matters like asking Greeks to work harder and longer. Reduce vacations and extend retirement age.

3) Stimulate where it goes directly to shovel ready jobs and/or productive infrastructure.

David Brin said...

I assume you folks in the west of N. America are getting ready for the eclipse on Sunday? And for the (once every 240 years Transit of Venus on June 5?

===


On Sunday after the eclipse, I am hoping to run a TEST DEMO of my Epocene conversation system. Watch the comments section (here) Sunday for instructions and a password.

The actual event may be around 8pm California time.

Ian Gould said...

David, the austerity package involves all three elements.

But it's easier for latte-swilling middle class poseurs with no real knowledge of economics, or of Greece or real hardship to create a straw man and attack that.

FWIW, Greece has consistently failed over the past several years not just to deliver budget cuts but to deliver increased tax collections and structural reform and even on spending EU CAP and regional funding on a timely basis.

(People tend to forget that even before the bail-out Greece was getting billions of Euros in funds from the Common Agricultural Policy and from EU regional funding programs. I guess that's because it makes it harder to demonize modern Germans as latter-day Nazis if you admit that.

Ian Gould said...

Here's a story from 2011 about E14 billion in regional aid for Greece that wasn't being disbursed because of excessive bureaucracy and centralization withing Greece. (That's according to the Greek Minister responsible for disbursing the funds.

But as we all know the only reason the Greek cabinet members risked prison torture and death by joining PASOK back when it was an illegal organization under the military dictatorship is because they hate Greece and hate the Greek working class.

http://www.euractiv.com/regional-policy/greece-asks-support-absorb-eu-regional-aid-news-509158

Robert said...

I must admit, Dr. Brin, I'm curious as to your thoughts on my idea for using the pulse-fusion process (if viable) for an unmanned mothership (or perhaps satellite carrier would be the more accurate term) to do a grand tour of the outer planets and the transport of multiple research satellites to each outer planet to increase the scientific knowledge gathered... and ensure that some freak accident doesn't eliminate research for that planet.

While such a vessel would have to be manufactured in orbit (the carrier/mothership, that is - the satellites could likely be launched with traditional rockets into orbit to meet up with the mothership), radiation would be a much lesser concern so the ship might get away with being shorter than the concepts for a manned ship.

There is also the possibility of using a solar sail in addition to the pulse-propulsion system for even greater acceleration. The benefit of a solar sail would be that once the ship is starting to approach another star in a hundred or so years, a gradual "flip" would allow the ship to start using the solar sail as a solar parachute to slow its entry into the new solar system.

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

In case anyone is interested, this is the EU Commission's plan for assisting Greece.

http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/articles/financial_operations/pdf/2012-04-18-greece-comm_en.pdf

Most of it is about exactly those sort of things David suggests are necessary: like increased lending to small business and fixing a bureaucracy that means it takes twice as long to get export approval as in the rest of the EU.

Oddly "eating Greek babies", "legalizing slavery" and "establishing The Fourth Reich" don't appear, contrary to popular opinion in some quarters.

Fun Facts: EU aid to Greece to date amounts to E35,000 per Greek citizen.

EU aid to Greece (population 8 million) as a percentage of EU GDP is approaching the level of US aid to all of western Europe under the Marshall Plan.

LarryHart said...

Ian:

As for "spending cuts never work" that's Larry's gloss on Krugman not mine so I suggest you direct your complaints to him.


Uh...no, that was you who said: "Krugman is effectively arguing that spendign cuts never work. he's wrong."

I was the one who responded:
"No, he's arguing that spending cuts DURING A RECESSION make thing worse rather than better."

Tony Fisk said...

The only true jarring note in the new trailer: I would definitely replace the first appearance of the 'Existence' cover (at 0:30) Set against the sweeping stellar vistas and big question mode of the narrative, it looks a bit cheap and tacky to have a paperback cover drift into view

Otherwise, I agree with Paul that the trailer is a bit long for an advert. The planned 25% cut should put it back in the ball park. I'd concentrate on cutting the second half back: the main plot point descriptions are getting too detailed.

David Brin said...

Ian, I just got off the phone with John Mauldin, one of the top investment specialists in the world. He told me hair-raising stories. So few people were paying their property tax in Greece that they cleverly tacked the property tax onto the electric bills. So some folks stopped paying THOSE...

...then a greek court ruled you cannot cut off electricity for non-payment... so now almost nobody at all pays their electric bills.

Can anyone confirm this? It's on a par with so many other anecdotes....

Here's the deal. The Germans have already gone through this. On every paycheck they see a line for a special tax that's deducted to pay for Reunification. They are still paying. But at least it is up front and open.

===
Just two of you viewed my book trailer? That's not auspicious... alas...

====
RObert, I know little about pulse fusion except the - like all the other forms - we don't know how to do it.


---
Larryhart said: "No, he's arguing that spending cuts DURING A RECESSION make thing worse rather than better."

Indeed, the keynsians proved their honesty under Clinton. In good times ("seven FAT years") they paid DOWN debt. Had this continued, they in the lean years we could have used that reserve to stimulate away with abandon! It is the Bushites who squandered it and then squandered more. They ( and all republicans today are complicit) have all the blame. And no credibility whatsoever.

==
Make that three of you who watched the trailer! Thanks Tony. We'll be shortening the languid pans and such, tightening transitions. eliminating the part about "other crystals."

I was surprised - I thought no one would care about length, it's so gorgeous!

But sorry, have to remind folks it's a trailer for a book!

TheMadLibrarian said...

We'll probably stay up to see if the Falcon rocket/Dragon capsule performs as it ought, in about an hour. They only have about a 3 second window, so timing is everything.

June 5, the day of the Venus Transit, is already locked into the datebook. The local astronomers, both amateur and professional, are gearing up for a big day of observing, with activities planned at several venues like the Bishop Museum and the Institute for Astronomy (UH) here on Haleakala. Unlike the last transit 4 years ago, HI is the best place to see the whole thing.

TheMadLibrarian
uldsche nvirth: Germanic environmental group

Tony Fisk said...

Oh, it's gorgeous alright!

It's just that the gorgeousness needs to serve the purpose (Hey! You're so intrigued now you've just gotta buy me!) rather than vice versa.

Also interested to see how the latest incarnation of chat turns out.

Ian said...

The SpaceX launch was delayed at the last minute, hopefully only for a couple of days.

LarryHart said...

Tony Fisk:

I'd concentrate on cutting the second half back: the main plot point descriptions are getting too detailed.


I have to admit I stopped watching when it started revealing plot points. I'm one of those readers who wants to start the book cold, or at least mostly cold.

I realize there's a fine line between a hook and a spoiler. I'm just personally way to one extreme on this one. Plus, of course, I'm not the intended audience for the trailer, since I'm already going to buy the book no matter what.

Jumper said...

I watched the trailer. I don't know if I have seen many trailers for books before! In any case, I thought it was satisfactory and professional. But I may be in LarryHart's camp re.: going to buy it anyway.

In my job I now edit audiovisual work and it is common nowadays to alter the running time of audio tracks without changing the pitch - Middle C remains Middle C, etc. Only the duration can be stretched or expanded. So a given length of accompaniment is quite easy to adjust to the length of the speaking parts and visuals. (The speaking parts can be altered somewhat less; too much in either direction is screwier than doing it with music.)

Jumper said...

Link to Greek tax / power bills
http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-03-02/europe/31115881_1_property-tax-ruling-electricity

Hypnos said...

If the working class just worked harder, maybe neo-liberal economics would finally start working.

I find the undying allegiance to a failed system amusing. Just like Maya high priests claiming that if we just build one last temple, the drought will end.

Meanwhile, Italy is going exactly the route I expected it to take - violence. A few weeks ago a leading industrialist was shot in the legs, following the Red Brigades modus operandi. And now a bomb has gone off in a school in Puglia, killing a 16 year old girl and maiming 6 more.

Newspapers are blaming the mafia but as is typical of Southern Italy, several sons and daughters of prominent mafiosi attend that school.

On the other hand, in the period of left wing terrorism of the '70s the Italian secret services responded by hiring neo-fascist and criminal groups to plant bombs in stations, public squares and so on.

It was called "the strategy of tension". Scare the populace to justify the repression - and keep the Italian Communist Party out of the government.

It is a very different climate now, there is no Soviet Union and no Communist party. Still, Italy is a country riven by incredible tensions, sitting on the edge between Europe and Africa. If austerity continues, if unemployment keeps rising, violence will increase. And spread.

But I am sure that if we just wave some more incantations like "structural reform" and "privatization" around, inequality and energy scarcity will disappear and we will be ushered in a wonderful age of plenty.

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

This should amuse Dr. Brin: Paul Krugman speculated that the leaders of the Republican Party are Manchurian candidates that are working against this nation's interests. I can already imagine their responses. ^^

(resubmitted with working HTML. You know, forcing me to retype their capture after previewing my document encourages me NOT to preview it... which caused that error. Thank you, Captcha for being buggy and forcing me to delete a comment that had broken HTML.)

Rob H.

Hank Roberts said...

> Read a scathing appraisal and
> denunciation of banking secrecy

I hope you kept a copy, because the NYT claims their dog ate it. You know their dog, named 404.

Pat Mathews said...

So you now have a zombie novel out - about a guy who was already a zombie in his second term! Oh, this should be good!

Ian said...

"But I am sure that if we just wave some more incantations like "structural reform" and "privatization" around, inequality and energy scarcity will disappear and we will be ushered in a wonderful age of plenty."

They're only incantations if you don't understand them.

As to whther they work or not, try asking the Brazilians, the Chinese, the Indians ...

mymatedave said...

I've been following american politics for a while and while I admire David Brin's social transparency idea, it won't work. The reason it won't work is that there is a club in the current newsmedia environment where lying and being wrong about everything you say does no harm whatsover to your career.

The base of the republican party, call them teapartiers or whatever will believe whatever Fox News & Rush Limbaugh tells them and ignore everything else, I know this is a hard thing for people to believe, but if Fox News told them on tuesday that Paul Ryan was a genius and Wednesday that he was an idiot they'd change their minds and would deny that they ever believed otherwise. Look at Gingrich. "if you quote, you're lying."

Then there's the Centrists people who no matter what happens, will always and forever say "both sides do it" and whenever someone points out how crazy, evil, or stupid the GOP get, they will always say, "but the democrats." David Brooks weekly columns in the New York Times are the personification of this trait.

And none of these people will be ever be even the slightest bit inconvenienced for these sins because they are part of club, the establishment, they have "clout" and my favourite writer about this part of american society is an Chicago blogger called Driftglass and his podcast called The Professional Left with his wife, the blogger BlueGal.

Anonymous said...

Futile efforts to police the mighty on the internet? I think not. It would be a simple thing to have a low in the US, as they do in the EU, that allows an individual to demand that their information be deleted from the databases of the 'mighty'.

rewinn said...

@Ian - re Greece's military: it may well be that the nation Greece was morally or legally wrong to resist the nation of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus (if only because Greece was ruled by a military junta defending an administration in Cyprus that was the product of a Greek-backed coup), but that is not the issue.

The question is why Greece may feel it needs a heck of a lot of military, and to that end, the fact that Turkey and Greece have a violent history during which NATO was no help at all probably explains a lot. That a nation may have acted like an a-hole rarely persuades it that it needs less protection against a more powerful neighbor.

Ian said...

Back to space and in-situ resource allocation.

There's been a lot of discussion about the manufacture of solar cells in space but, so far as I know, most of it has focused on Silicon-based cells.

There's a wide range of other materials which demonstrate the photoelectric effect, some of which require far less complex processing than crystalline silicon.

The trade-off is that they tend to be far less efficient.

Cuprous Oxide, for example, is only around 1-2% efficient, but can be manufactured by heating sheets of copper in an Oxygen-rich atmosphere. (I mention Cu2O as opposed to, for example, Gallium Tin Oxide because copper is relatively common in asteroids.)

Here's a paper on Cuprous Oxide solar cells.

http://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=8587336&postID=4030892069580472700

BTW if any ambitious young Physics undergrads/postdocs want to make a billion dollars and get their names in the history books, solving the mystery of why actual CU2O solar cells are so much less efficient than theory predicts they should be could be the way to go.

Ian Gould said...

Sorry, here's the correct link:

http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&sqi=2&ved=0CKoBEBYwCA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ajol.info%2Findex.php%2Fbajopas%2Farticle%2FviewFile%2F63717%2F51544..&ei=mVa4T-iGF4feiges3b3_CA&usg=AFQjCNGNJvygNNj_UQjrbUoz0xpi9oHaKg&sig2=YTKZWD7ohuQ4r5lbyLV6Jg

Robert said...

Actually, Dr. Brin, what I wanted your opinion on was the use of one larger ship that would accelerate to the outer planets, visiting each without slowing down, and dropping off satellites (each of which could be identical so to reduce the costs by economies of scale) along the way. In essence, rather than sending out solo craft to go to each planet, having a larger mission similar to Voyager that drops off probes to each of the outer planets to remain in orbit while the "mothership" continues on... and then continues further with the intention of leaving the solar system.

I remember the days of Voyager. I remember the sense of wonder and grandeur it brought. In many ways, Voyager was as big a deal as Apollo. We were taking our first true look at the outer planets and we learned so very much... and it was one large mission, instead of a multitude of smaller ones.

We've lost something since then. Our probes to Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn... they've been one-shots. They exist merely to study each world without a sense of continuity and of doing something grand and glorious.

What I want to see is a new Voyager. Only rather than one ship that briefly photographs each world before speeding on... having that ship release probes that stay behind while IT continues on. And in doing so... creates both continuity and long-term science to ignite the imaginations of the masses.

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

Rob,

Are you familiar with the Mars Cycler concept?

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

One problem with this approach applied to the outer planets is that the round-trip time would be in decades if you're using chemical propellants so your mother ship would likely becoem technologically obsolete after the first pass.

Personally I like the idea of fining natural asteroids in approximately right orbits then adjustinf their orbit.

Tony Fisk said...

Rob,

The 'Grand Tour' undertaken by the Pioneer and Voyager probes made use of a fortuitous alignment of the outer planets that only happens every few centuries. The encounters lasted for a few days out of many years.

In contrast, 'one shot' probes like Galileo, Messenger and Cassini (and the the upcoming Juno) have been (or still are) orbiting their targets for many years, returning a continual stream of data.

Better bang for the buck, really.

rewinn said...

"...ready for the eclipse on Sunday?"

Some of our local homebrewers are hosting a lawn party, including a viewing scope with a solar filter. There will be plenty of grilling and chilling - I guess brewers are naturally into geeky science!

I remember the 1st time I "saw" an eclipse using a pinhole projector, cobbled out of a couple of punchcards. It was very satisfying to see something so simple work so well. I'm tempted to put some time into crafting the most absurd viewer possible ...

... because science might as well be fun!

adastra said...

I watched the trailer just now, and I really liked it. I was pretty much sold on it by "from bestselling author David Brin," but then I've been looking forward to this for some time. :)

Some of the images panning across the screen were too jerky for my liking, but that may have been my aging laptop. There was a quick cut of an image around 1:23 that was too fast, almost subliminal--I had to go back several times before I caught it (a baby and the word "SMARTER"). It would be good to have that image linger long enough to clearly register.

I didn't have a problem with the length, and would rather not see anything cut out. I thought the music was very well suited to the material and created a great dramatic atmosphere. I liked the artwork (although it sometimes seemed a little too "cartoon-y" for my taste, but that's a minor point).

The paperback drifting into view seemed fine to me, although it might have been better if it looked more like an actual book. Also, that would make it more obvious that it's a preview for a book. I'm sure when people post links to it they'll point out that it's a novel, so that is not a big deal.

Overall, great preview! I'm looking forward to posting it on Google+ Monday.

ArthurG

adastra said...

Speaking of Existence, when do you announce the book tour dates?

I'm delighted the book is being published through Tor--that means the ebook version will be DRM-free.

One other question: is the hardcover printed on acid-free paper? I have some sort of allergy to decaying paper, but I'd love to have a physical copy of this particular book if it's "built to last."

Arthur G

rewinn said...

@Rob -
Concerning your 1st response to op ... it may well be that to his family members and close associates, Mitt Romney has "personal compassion". This is completely unremarkable; the meanest person can love their children and spouses (...a recurring theme in much of history and of literature ...).

The relevant question in a leader is whether he has compassion for those within his power who are not bound to him by ties of family or friendship. All the evidence is that Romney lacks compassion to a remarkable degree; the high school story is only the beginning of the tale. It is possible and not uncommon for cruel boys to mature into compassionate adults but, family and friends aside, Romney consistently shows a callous attitude toward the suffering of workers and animals in his power. Keep in mind that he BOASTED of casually hosing off the poop produced by his sick dog; this story wasn't something dredged up by opponents, it was something that HE THOUGHT people would admire about him. Keep in mind that he thinks it's a "humorous story" about his dad laying off workers at a factory.

This may be a man who is kind to those he sees as equals, but he is cruel to peasants. This does not bode well for any nation he might control; we've already suffered too much from sociopaths who treated our troops as toy soldiers and our workers as expendable factors of production.

It is simply factually incorrect to assert that the long-planned and -researched Washington Post report on Romney's cruelty as a boy (May 10) was drudged up to cover Obama's coming out on marriage equality (May 9). The timing doesn't work; even with google it takes more than a day to interview all those past associates and craft an article.

rewinn said...

@Dr Brin - with respect to the trailer, will you be posting links to appropriate social media venues to flog (...in an appropriate, non-spam way)?
I'm thinking digg and FB (https://www.facebook.com/Existence ?) but I'm sure you young kids have some more newfangled gadgets....

---

@Robert wrote:
"...forcing me to retype their capture after previewing my document encourages me NOT to preview it... which caused that error. Thank you, Captcha for being buggy ...."
Same experience here; it drives me nuts! Makes me wonder if aliens are using captcha to test us......

Travc said...

Ian,
I stand corrected... to an extent at least. I do bristle at the claim that PK is offering a "one-size fits all" way of addressing the problems. As a scientist myself, contingency is a big deal to me and PK is quite good on that.

One can quite legitimately disagree with him, but you seem to be attacking a strawman instead.
You say: "Krugman is essentially claiming that a single recipe (fiscal and monetary stimulus) will work for all the EU countries."

THERE IS ONLY ONE MONETARY POLICY FOR THE EU.
So suggesting that monetary stimulus (more precisely moderate inflation targets) is somehow naive application of a single recipe where multiple are called for is quite frankly bizarre.

Such a policy would not be beneficial (at least in the short/mid term) for all the EU countries. This is something PK has also pointed out repeatedly... and it explains a lot of why Germany is so against it.

In terms of fiscal policy I think you are being very unfair. Yes, PK and a growing number of other economists are really negative about austerity and generally for short run stimulus. But the arguments about austerity vs fiscal stimulus are being made about individual countries and sometimes the periphery countries as a group. Just as no-one on the austerity side says that Germany needs biting austerity measures put into place, no one arguing for stimulus says that they should be engaging in large fiscal stimulus.

I apologize for my "projection or ignorance" aside. I was engaging in a sort of projection myself... Your post sounded very much like arguments I have seen far too many times before, and I've been away and didn't know your history on this topic.
Though I hope you appreciate what was intended by that. It wasn't a personal attack... I was pointing out that almost always the people who make that sort of attack actually hold absolutist positions on the topic (inflation=always bad and such). As an economist, you must appreciate how annoying that gets.

Robert said...

Actually, my concept of a Mothership/Carrier to deliver probes to each of the outer planets was not for a reusable design. I figured that after going past Neptune, the vessel would just alter course and head off toward a star that is nearby and of interest.

I realize the alignment of planets was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. However, that is just for use of gravitational propulsion alone. Use of gravity AND actual propulsion would allow for a ship to go to all outer four planets (and then even head toward Pluto, or close enough that a probe could be fired at Pluto to reach it and go into orbit in turn).

I might include something like that in passing for my Wolf PACT novel... just have it as background stuff or something one of the characters is interested in. Unfortunately I can't see of any way for it to be the theme of an actual story. Well, unless the Mothership was a programmed AI that started to think of its probes as its children....

Rob H.

Ian Gould said...

"One can quite legitimately disagree with him, but you seem to be attacking a strawman instead.
You say: "Krugman is essentially claiming that a single recipe (fiscal and monetary stimulus) will work for all the EU countries.""

My point is that while the moderately inflationary policy Krugman is advocating would assist Italy and Spain, at least in the short term, it's is completely inadequate as a response to Greece's problems.

Krugman probably realizes this but he's not prepared to openly come out and advocate as an alternative to the current austerity measures that the EU simply give Greece another couple of hundred billion Eures.

Greece needs to undertake fundamental structural reform.

For example, the renewable energy boom in Spain and Italy has largely passed Greece by - because the Greek power sector is dominated by state-owned utilities that control generation, distribution and retail sales.

Since they own the (carbon-intensive) lignite mines that supply Greece's existing thermal power stations they've got no incentive to invest in wind or solar.

Travc said...

I'm afraid that, given the current and foreseeable future of media, I have to agree with mymatedave on the futility of social transparency having much of an effect.

Anyone who hasn't read "The Authoritarians" by Bob Altemeyer (online for free), you really should.

It appears that something like 30% of the population are basically authoritarians. They choose a group/tribe like everyone does, but stick with that group (and their chosen leader) very very strongly. They also tend to be right-wing/conservative.

Authoritarianism is as old as human civilization, but Limbaugh and others in the media figured out how to capitalize on it in the modern media landscape. Their strategy is to cultivate an intensely loyal audience out of the authoritarian portion of the population by using all the classic techniques (us vs "other", denunciation of competing sources of information, ect. ect.) When I'm being particularly cynical, I sometimes doubt if most of the right-wing "leaders" are even conservative themselves... since the audience of authoritarians strongly leans conservative to start with, acting conservative is how you get the audience (and why the left-wing really has no equivalent figures).

Anyway... since we have such a fragmented media landscape, it is easy for such people to exploit the majority of the authoritarian minority and keep them believing all sorts or untrue things. Since other sources of information are demagogued as untrustworthy, it is neigh impossible to pierce the bubble. And even if an authoritarian leader is somehow discredited, another will just fill the void.

BTW: There is a strong parallel with organized religion here.

Travc said...

Ian,
I totally agree with you that Greece needs serious reforms. And PK hasn't really laid out what those are AFAIK. I doubt he'd disagree with you though... I think his point wrt Greece and the EU/ECB is more along the lines of "stop digging your own grave first".

I don't have much in the way of specific ideas regarding what structural reforms Greece should undertake. Bringing down the long-term deficit is the only easy one I can think of. Of course, very low ECB inflation targets and biting austerity are (quite probably at least) counter-productive to this goal.

Do you have any ideas beyond energy sector reforms. And on reforming the energy sector, wouldn't stimulus be appropriate there? Just relying on liberalization is probably insufficient (in the short-run at least) and problematic given the nature of extractive-industries, utilities, and monopoly.

Ian said...

Aargh, the internet just ate a lengthy response to Trav.

A quick recap of the highlights:

1. There's gross incompetence in a whole range of areas within the Greek public sector - Athens airport is a prime example.

2. People should read up on the transperancy-based anti-corruptin movement in the Indian state of Bihar which has reaped enormous economic benefits. Greece could learn a lto from them, so could many other develoepd countries.

3. Yes, big infrastructure projects would help but the Greek government can't spend the stimulus funds already on offer and the private sector won't get involved while there's a risk of massive capital losses from a currency devaluation.

Besides solar, the whole Eastern mediterranean would benefit from a port on par with Amsterdam - but that would require institutional reform just as much as physical infrastructure.

Greece coudl also serve as the base for infrastrcuture programs in the Balkans - liek a high-speed train link linking western Europe with Greece and trueky via the former Yugosalvia.

3.

Hypnos said...

Ian,

Brazil is a good example of the failure of those incantations, as its real development (reduction of poverty as opposed to increase in the number of billionaires) only came with the abandonment of "Washington consensus" neo-liberal policies and the adoption of a truly social-democratic approach. As you read Krugman you'll have seen his recent comparison of Latin American economies, with those adopting a Brazil-type social democratic approach doing much better than the Washington consensus group.

China is very much not an example of structural reform and privatization by the book, as its development remains very much state directed. It also has increasing inequality.

India should probably follow the Brazilian model, but to do that it needs to get its public sector in order first. I've nothing against that kind of reform as long as its purpose is to ensure that social programmes actually reach their recipients, rather than being scrapped and redirected to the 1%.

Interesting that you mention the renewable energy boom in Spain and Italy, as those are being scuppered by cuts in subsidies due to austerity. Obviously, I think we should double down on those programmes. We should have a Europe-wide gigantic renewable energy and energy efficiency stimulus. Get those construction sector workers back to work retrofitting millions of houses and putting on tens of GWs of PV.

The ultimate problem is that we are facing the end of growth due to environmental and resource constrains. If the structural reforms work and we go back to growth than the price of oil shoots back up past $120bbl and we crash back into recession. We need to start working towards a no-growth, steady state economy, and only a massive reform of the current system away from market-led profit seeking at the expense of everything else can deliver that.

That is why I ultimately see structural reform as an incantation. It is a (possibly not working) short term solution to a long term problem, which exacerbates that long term problem.

But all this would require Western society to abandon its founding myth and dominant discourse - the narrative of endless progress.

Ian said...

It's 111.30 PM here but I'll make soem brief comments.

1. Lula Da Silva privatized more state assets than all previous Brazilian Presidents combined.

You might also go back and read my comments a week or so back abtu De Soto where I specifically pointed ot to Da Silva's social policies as the reason why Brazil's ecoomy succeeded while Fujimori -era Peru's did not.

Basicly, you're assuming a false dichotomy here - that there's a scoial decomatric economic and politcal model and that economic efficiency and productivity are somehow irrelevant to its success.

To stick with South America, just as Fujimori represents the failure of neoliberalism, Hugo Chavez (who has managed to engineer a recession and a fall in living syandards in a major oil-proudcing nation during a time of record oil prices) represents the failrue of old state welfarism.

Strengthening social support mechanisms and expanding incoem support is eqaully important as increasing the rate of economic growth in the tansition from a devloping economy to a developed economy.

2."China is very much not an example of structural reform and privatization by the book, as its development remains very much state directed. It also has increasing inequality."

fristly the level of state involvement in and control over the chinese economy is consdierably overstated in the west.

Secondly, China no longer has millions of people starving to death. Here's another hoem truth you may not like: extreme levels of egalitariianism are just as harmful to an economy as excessively high levels of incoem disaprity - and China's Gini coefficient is not signficantly higher than that of most industrialized western countries.

3. "India should probably follow the Brazilian model, but to do that it needs to get its public sector in order first. I've nothing against that kind of reform as long as its purpose is to ensure that social programmes actually reach their recipients, rather than being scrapped and redirected to the 1%."

India IS following the Brazilian model - the actual Brazilian model which in effect is a Fasutian deal with the leties "We will pursue a policy of economic growth which will make you richer than ever but you will receive less of each incremental dollar of output than you did in the past. you will grow richer, the poro will grow rciher faster."

That's why India like China has seen a huge reduction in absolute poverty and why the government is increasing (not decreasing as you appear to believe) transfer payments to the poor.

4. We are facing limits in the growth of output of some resources. Other resources - such as technology and humasn capital - show no such limits.

The challenge of the 21st centiry is not to "do more with less" it's to do more with the things we have in abundance.

To pursue your example of fuel prices: despite the economic crises in Europe and North America, despite global oil production apparently peaking in 2008, despite record high oil prices; world economic output probably grew 3-4% last year and will probably grow by a similar amount this year.

Since we were talking about Brazil earleir you're probably aware that Brazil gets most of its liquid fuel from non-fossil sources. Higher fossil fuel prices, if anything, simply increase the Brazilians' comparitive advantage in manufacturing.

(You might also note that Cuba with its dependence on imported oil and massive sugar industry was ideally placed to develop sugar-based ethanol fules and failed miserably to do so.)

Lorraine said...

I see more - than + in HP's bright idea. 1) Yet another example of 'markets in everything' for agorists to beat anagorists like me over the head with. 2) Yet another "business method patent" 3) explicitly transforms privacy from a right to a privilege (more precisely, an economic good, but by implication a privilege). I'm more at peace with privacy-as-impossibility than with privacy-as-privilege.

Hypnos said...

Ian,

1 - I did not intend to make any such dicothomy. All you mentioned in your post as a recipe for success was structural reform and privatization, and that is what I attacked. You might agree that neo-liberal economists seem prone to mentioning the success of Chile and Brazil without highlighting the importance of massive wealth redistribution, welfare and income support. In fact, I'd be willing to concede that the recipe for success could be 50% socialist and 50% liberal.

Chavez is a good example of the opposite excess, agree. And yet, he achieved the greatest reduction in poverty in any Latin American country in the shortest period of time. Which is why he is still so popular among poor Venezuelans.

Also, statist policies have a much higher hill to climb as they must always fight against a global economist system - and powerful global economic elites - which is automatically geared to fight against their success. See the US-backed 2003 Venezuelan strike which almost brought down the economy. Had it succeded, it would have been chalked up as another failure of statism.

2 - I'm not denying China's success in reducing poverty, I'm contesting the fact that it was achieved through standard textbook neo-liberal reforms. For example China always refused to play by the rules of "free trade" which wrecked so many Latin American economies in the '80s. I am also arguing that its progress could be more equitable.

3 - I wish the very best to India. I never wanted to argue it is pursuing a neo-liberal approach when it isn't.

4 - I see no evidence of such decoupling. CO2 intensity of global GDP is increasing. And growth remains ahead of efficiency. We're still using more physical resources. And most of the growth you cite was financed by China's, which is growing because 1) it absorbed the 1 million barrels of oil supply released by falling demand in the West and 2) it increased coal use massively.

All the global environmental indicators are worsening at an increasing pace. The environmental movement is at best a distraction - and when it will become apparent that the choice is between a healthy environment and a middle class lifestyle, environmentalists will come down in support of "sustainably" mining the Arctic and whatever is left of the national parks.

Paul451 said...

Robert,
"using the pulse-fusion process (if viable) for an unmanned mothership (or perhaps satellite carrier would be the more accurate term) to do a grand tour of the outer planets and the transport of multiple research satellites to each outer planet to increase the scientific knowledge gathered..."

...on a five year mission to seek out strange new worlds?

Seriously, if the mothership/carrier never slowed down, how would it drop satellites into orbit around the targets? They would need to decelerate enough to slow into orbit (**), which means carrying a lot of extra fuel. Unless... if the mothership had a rail-gun pointing backwards, it could accelerate the satellites out behind it (effectively killing their forward momentum) thus actually gaining speed from the exchange.

** for the carrier idea to work over a reasonable time, ie, less than 50 years, you're talking about a huge velocity. Unless you have a once-in-a-lifetime planetary alignment (like the Voyagers), we're talking about doing full laps of the outer solar system. For example, Saturn and Uranus are currently on opposite sides of the solar system.

[current positions of the planet. Once loaded, change the "size" variable to something useful like "640" or more.]
http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/Solar


Note that while changing heading for the next planet, the mother-ship kills most of its velocity in the original direction anyway. So it might as well pull into to a high orbit for a couple of years, then head off to the next planet. Rinse, repeat. There's hardly any extra fuel-cost.

Paul451 said...

Tony Fisk,
"The only true jarring note in the new trailer: I would definitely replace the first appearance of the 'Existence' cover (at 0:30) Set against the sweeping stellar vistas and big question mode of the narrative, it looks a bit cheap and tacky to have a paperback cover drift into view"

Weird. That effect was one of the best bits for me. I was disappointed that the second appearance didn't do it.

Ian,
"the renewable energy boom in Spain and Italy has largely passed Greece by - because the Greek power sector is dominated by state-owned utilities that control generation, distribution and retail sales. Since they own the (carbon-intensive) lignite mines that supply Greece's existing thermal power stations they've got no incentive to invest in wind or solar."

Much of the alt.power boom was driven by government subsidies, there was nothing to prevent the Greek government from directing its state-owned power companies from doing the same thing (except the usual incompetence.) State-owned utilities have "no incentive" to do or not do anything, they aren't in competition, no profit motive.

Re: Krugman on Greece.
Wasn't his prescription for Greece to copy Argentina?

Robert said...

Opposite? Hmm. I'd forgotten that not all of the outer planets have century-long orbits. Of course, considering how long it'd be before such a launch is viable, Saturn could very well be in a position that would allow for such a "grand lap" without having to orbit the entire solar system in doing so.

To be honest, if the ship was going to stay in the solar system, then it would be better suited as a manned vessel with a rotating section so people could have some gravity... not because manned voyages can do things unmanned cannot, but because if we were staying in the solar system but wanting to ignite the imaginations of so many people, it would work best with people on board.

Such a vessel would also have to be self-contained, capable of growing foot and generating air and clean water for a dozen or so people (as you'd want a decent number of people for socialization purposes (ie, keeping them from going nutters from solitude or a limited society size)).

The irony is that such a mission could very well end up abandoned if a technological breakthrough in propulsion came about - depending on when such a breakthrough occurred, I could very well see the crew saying "we've made it 80% of the way... we're going that last 20% as well."

Which in and of itself is another interesting short story idea. The response of a manned expedition that ends up unnecessary because of technological advancements. I'm sure people have already done the "colonists show up to find the planet is already colonized by faster ships" story, so this would be smaller and more personal - about personal pride and wanting to see a job done yourself despite advancements making that unnecessary.

Rob H.

Paul451 said...

Robert,
"considering how long it'd be before such a launch is viable, Saturn could very well be in a position that would allow for such a "grand lap" without having to orbit the entire solar system in doing so."

But Uranus is drifting further from Neptune. By the time Saturn next lines up with either Neptune or Uranus (2025/2033), the other will be too far away, and Jupiter will then be the opposite side of the solar system, all of which means right-angle turns, which means effectively stopping at each planet (in terms of energy), so you might as well stop at each planet. Gravitational sling-shots don't require exact alignment of the planets, because the gravity provides most of the course-correction. (Go back to that solar orrery site, plug in the launch year of the Voyagers, 1977. Have a look at how rubbish the alignment is.) But a higher-than-orbital velocity continuous-drive propulsion would need a near perfect straight line once-in-a-millennium alignment. (The higher the velocity, the less usable gravitational sling-shots are.)

"Which in and of itself is another interesting short story idea. The response of a manned expedition that ends up unnecessary because of technological advancements.

I could also see a throw-away comment when a ship docks at a space-station in the outer solar system for supplies, how it was originally a long duration space ship from an era of less advanced propulsion. Hence it has a spin-gravity section, independent food supply, etc, which makes it ideal for long-duration habitation.

Paul451 said...

[7th attempt: blogger keeps eating this]

Lorraine brought up HP's patent idea from the original article. Firstly, how is this patentable? I've been hearing the idea of people voluntarily selling their own profiles for a few decades. Whatever happened to patents being "novel" and "non-obvious"?

--split--

Paul451 said...

My own idea years ago was to have something like AdBlock, combined with client-side hosted ads, combined with revenue sharing. A browser add-on which replaces any ads on a webpage with its own, pre-downloaded to the user's computer during idle moments. Importantly, ever dollar in advertising revenue is split 50/50 with the user. It wouldn't require any personal details. You could set up the add-on, earn revenue and spend it online, without providing any info beyond your IP address and password. And none of this requires any kind of profiling or selling of personal information.

[And it's my gift to anyone who thinks they can make it work]

--split--

Paul451 said...

Since then, I've seen a variant being marketed to add-on writers: you put the host's code in your add-on and it substitutes ads on the users browser, with the add-on writer receiving a share of revenue. But like many forms of advertising, this is still inherently hostile towards the users; it's about tricking the user into participating. My idea is about recruiting the user, putting them in control, and allowing them to profit directly.

For that reason, advertisers would initially hate it, and many would refuse to participate. However, user trust in ads that they themselves selected would be much higher, and ad-hostility would be much lower, increasing click-through rates, delivering more views and more sales for every advertising dollar.

Paul451 said...

Okay, maybe the post was just too long. I was starting to think google was blocking the term AdBlock, or some combination of words was tripping the spam filter. Anyway, a bit I deleted, trying to get it to post, was that the system should to allow the user to revenue-share with websites. Perhaps webpages would have a bit of code to sync accounts, without requiring any other info. From one-time donation, regular subscriptions, to continuous revenue-sharing in any percentage set by the user. All under the user's control.

locumranch said...

I'm glad that George Orwell is finally getting some of the attention he deserves. We need to remind ourselves that his seminal work '1984' was originally intended as a commentary on English society, rather than the Eastern block as argued later.

We should all take his observations regarding human nature to heart, dismissing this fantasy that we call 'cultural progress' and/or 'social evolution' for once and for all. Human beings or human nature has not 'evolved' or improved since Homo Sapiens began walking upright thousands and thousands of years ago. People who argue otherwise, citing gradual and/or inevitable 'progress', confuse evolution with improved educational modalities.

Evolutionary change, erroneously referred to as 'improvement', refers to random genetic modification that can only occur in a limited, isolated or selectively 'inbred' gene pool, which can only be said to represent genetic 'improvement' on the subsequent basis of ruthlessly competitive natural selection.

One could argue that humanity's current numerical and technological 'success' has done more to delay, disrupt and interfere with human evolution than has everything thing that we currently define as 'evil', including disease, warfare and environmental change.

If evolution worked in the fantasized manner, than we'd all be immortal, living large, holding hands, immune to misfortune, 'drinking that Three-Bubble-Up and eating that Rainbow Stew'.

Best.

Ian said...

I woke up this morning with a solution to Greece's problems.

One that might actually work.

Get the world's 500 largest corproations to commit (either throguh moral siasion or legislation) to each create 1,000 new jbs in Greece within six months.

Even if only half of them do it, it'll makr a huge dent in Greek unemployment, increase government revenue and solve the commercial real estate crisis.

Even if the EU just did it with their hundred largest companies, it'd make an enormus difference,

Ian said...

On Greece and Argetina:

This is Krugman's orginal blog posting comparing Argentina and Greece:

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/23/dont-cry-for-argentina/

That graph is straigght out of one of my favorite books "How to lie with Statistics".

First exaggerate the rebound by starting the Y axis at 6,000 not at zero so an increase of 20% looks more liek an increase of 50%.

Second choose your period carefully. Start the graph at 2000 to obscure the fact that GDP per capita (in nominal terms) didn;t reach pre-crisis levels until 2007.

To be fair to Krugman he actually seems to have simply used the default settings on the graph from this site;

http://www.tradingeconomics.com/argentina/gdp-per-capita

Reset the start point to 1990 for a clearer idea of the course of events.

Argentine economist Emilio Ocampo responds to Krugman here: http://www.google.com.au/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CAsQqQIwAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.buenosairesherald.com%2Farticle%2F101120%2Fgreece-compared-with-argentina-%25E2%2580%2594-again&ei=DGy5T-z8Hs-jiAf1jsH4CA&usg=AFQjCNEP6pxBbi8LC_5I_Xkde6ocVzj-Vw&sig2=UZf0pQD1jh1kEZaUvWZfzQ

A Brtiish friend of mine is currenty living in Argentina, he telsl me that his local friends response to Krugman's use of Argentina circa 2002 as a role model is "is he fucking insane?"

Ian said...

"I'm glad that George Orwell is finally getting some of the attention he deserves. We need to remind ourselves that his seminal work '1984' was originally intended as a commentary on English society, rather than the Eastern block as argued later."

So Big Brtoher wasn't modeled on Stalin?

That's an interesting theory.

Ian said...

And I guess Emmanuel Goldstein isn't based on Lev Brosntein AKA Len Trotsky.

Ian said...

Robert: Which in and of itself is another interesting short story idea. The response of a manned expedition that ends up unnecessary because of technological advancements.

This forms the basis of the plot for Robert Heinlein's Time for the Stars where the crew of a starship travellign at relativistic speed are met at their seond or thrid destination by a FTL ship from Earth.

I beleive it's also the basis for Van Vogt's Far Centaurus.

Ian said...

"Much of the alt.power boom was driven by government subsidies, there was nothing to prevent the Greek government from directing its state-owned power companies from doing the same thing (except the usual incompetence.) State-owned utilities have "no incentive" to do or not do anything, they aren't in competition, no profit motive."

Tell that to Queensland Rail or queensalnd Investment Corporation.

If senior management's bonuses are contingent on returning a prfoit state enterprises will return a profit.

Even when they don't return a cash profit to their nominal owners, they will act to featherbed for management and to a lesser extent the wider workforce.

In Greece, they didn't support solar on a large scale becasue it would probably have meant firing workers at the ate-owned lignite mines with the associated politcal cost.

Ian said...

Hypnos, a short response before I head off to work: Greece, despite what the popular cosnsensus says, is already receiving quite large transfer payments to reduce the impact of the economic downturn and there are programs in place that are supposed, for example, to create jobs for the young.

I focus on market-based measures because that's where Greece is falling down.

Neither set of policy tools is sufficient in itself.

another semi-random thought: given the seeming incompetence of the Greek state, maybe the EU should take that E15 billion in unspent aid and simply give the poorest 50% of the Greek population E3,000 each.

The stimulus would probably create more jobs anyway.

David Brin said...

Robert it makes no sense to accelerate all the mass of a big ship from point A to orbit B to Orbit C to point D,,, changing course just to drop a small package off at orbit C . That's not how orbital mechanics works.

Now the Mars Cycler is a different story. You've set up a big ship in an unchanging orbit (hence cheap, that elliptically intersects Earth's orbit (below) and Mars's above.

Another concept is the Interplanetary SuperHighway: http://www2.esm.vt.edu/~sdross/superhighway/description.html


Thanks for comments Arthur. A new version will be up soon!

Adastra, see tour dates at http://www.davidbrin.com

David Brin said...

Wow, what a wild-ranging discussion!

Any of you up for doing a live chat experience on my EPOCENE world tonight?

If you'd like to try it... say around 8pm California time, then email me at davidbrin@sbcglobal.net

Tony Fisk said...

Can't make it tonight David. Currently tending to a daughter with the snuffles.

locumranch said...

Like many, Ian is completely mistaken about George Orwell's '1984', confusing it with 'Animal Farm'.

'1984' is (was) a fictionalized account of George Orwell's (aka 'Eric Blair') take on the Post-WW2 British Ration State, really a sequel to his 'Coming up for Air' take on Pre-WW2 England.

If anyone actually wishes to read Eric Blair's (aka 'George Orwell') books, especially his critical essay on the misuse of language, then go to:

http://www.george-orwell.org/

For too long, too many people have allowed too few to think for them. Why not try first hand observation for once?

Best.

Rob said...

Randy, you don't even have to erect a conspiracy theory to suppose that well-funded opposition research can a) identify key issues in the election cycle, b) recognize the realities of the news cycle, c) gather information and enemies of the opposition's candidate, followed by d) wait for any items of research to have the greatest impact.

Thus, one rolls the media. What do you think an "October Surprise" was, 'back in the 80's?

Romney is a personally compassionate man, and his horizons are wider and wiser than you conclude. But, his behavior is consistent with his developed notions that churches and other private groups ought to be the ones caring for disadvantaged people.

The fact that I don't agree with that approach at all, any longer, doesn't change my assessment of his personal character. And it doesn't get my vote, either.

rewinn said...

About the eclipse: we had a delightful party, but the clouds blocked the view. However, the electric meter on my house was spinning backwards up until the clouds started darkening; even with zero blue sky, our house is now electricity-neutral or better for about 1/3rd of the day in this season. Yay photovoltaics!


@locumranch wrote:
"...humanity's current numerical and technological 'success' has done more to delay, disrupt and interfere with human evolution ..."

To the contrary: Technology and other products of our brainpower is how we have managed to evolve faster. We are just not dependent on DNA for evolution anymore. This transition probably started with the development of language.

@Ian
"...Get the world's 500 largest corproations to commit (either throguh moral siasion or legislation) to each create 1,000 new jbs in Greece within six months..."

Sounds fine with me but isn't that going to require magic?

@Rob:
Occam's Razor suggests that there is no connection between the WaPo article and Obama's gay marriage announcement, but if you think otherwise, I suggest such a connection would be not terribly important because the article's content was going to be published sooner or later --- the story is just too good for selling newspapers.

We do not seem able to agree on the evidence of the candidate's personality, but that's probably not very important either; the policy differences between the parties are wide enough at this point that from a policy standpoint it almost doesn't matter who is each party's standardbearer. It's unfortunate that policy is not the relevant consideration for too many voters.

---

Any discussion of 1984 should reference Scott Walker's invention of new jobs numbers to replace those putting his administration squarely at the bottom of the states, and the great success he's having peddling those numbers with the application of money. MiniTruth has been privatized!

Ian said...

"Like many, Ian is completely mistaken about George Orwell's '1984', confusing it with 'Animal Farm'."

Yes, so cofused that I pointed out that two charcters in 1984 are clearly based on Soviet political figures.

Ian said...

While on that site Locumranch mentions, peopel shoudl take a look at Orwell's essay "The Lion and The Unicorn".

In particular take note of this passage:

"The liberty of the individual is still believed in, almost as in
the nineteenth century. But this has nothing to do with economic liberty,
the right to exploit others for profit. It is the liberty to have a home
of your own, to do what you like in your spare time, to choose your own
amusements instead of having them chosen for you from above. The most
hateful of all names in an English ear is Nosey Parker. It is obvious, of
course, that even this purely private liberty is a lost cause. Like all
other modern people, the English are in process of being numbered,
labelled, conscripted, 'co-ordinated'. But the pull of their impulses is
in the other direction, and the kind of regimentation that can be imposed
on them will be modified in consequence. No party rallies, no Youth
Movements, no coloured shirts, no Jew-baiting or 'spontaneous'
demonstrations. No Gestapo either, in all probability. "

Peopel who've had the misfortune to read Locumranch's posts on a regualr basis will be unsurprised to realize that it makes a total nonsense of his assertions regarding Orwell's intent in 1984.

Locumranch will, of course, refuse ot admti this, since he is despite his refereencing Orwell's essay on the Misuse of Language, he is one of the most intellectually mendacious individuals I've ever had the misfortune to encounter.

Note to locumranchL in future I siggest you peddle your nonsense abotu Orwell somewhere where you won't run into someone who first read Orwell at the age of 8, has probably read literally every word he ever published and rereads at least one of his novels every year.

Your claim about 1984 is, of course, not original. It derives from the very badly reasoned introduction to Anthony Burgess's very bad book, 1985.

Burgess, a lifelong tory, argues that 1984 is based on 1948 Britain in a pathetic attempt to link his racist, far right, Islamophobic diatribe with Orwell's work.

Travc said...

rewinn said:
"To the contrary: Technology and other products of our brainpower is how we have managed to evolve faster. We are just not dependent on DNA for evolution anymore. This transition probably started with the development of language."

Yep, social evolution is a real thing. And social evolution is much much faster than biological evolution in almost all cases.
Of course, evolution does not progress towards "better" in any sense other than the ability to replicate/persist. Organized religion is a great example, and from my POV it is at best a mixed-bag on the "good vs bad" scale.

Perhaps a bit more interestingly, the speed of social evolution (and Lamarkian dynamics of it) also make mal-adaptation (adapting to an environment which then changes such that those previously advantageous adaptations are vestigial or worse) much more probable.

Ian said...

Another quote from The Lion and the Unicorn to further illustrate Locumranch's total incomprehension of 1984:

"An illusion can become a half-truth, a mask can alter the expression of a
face. The familiar arguments to the effect that democracy is 'just the
same as' or 'just as bad as' totalitarianism never take account of this
fact. All such arguments boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same
as no bread. In England such concepts as justice, liberty and objective
truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very
powerful illusions. The belief in them influences conduct, national life
is different because of them. In proof of which, look about you. Where
are the rubber truncheons, where is the castor oil? The sword is still in
the scabbard, and while it stays there corruption cannot go beyond a
certain point."

itshbo ubsnda

The Lion and the Unicorn was, of course, written durign the war.

Hence the famour opening line:

"As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to
kill me."

hoever if I really have ot I can find similar sentinents expressed in various post-war writings of Orwell's.

Finally, I'm sure that my posts will provoke some further semi-coherent nonsense from Locumranch and I apologize in advance to the other peoepl reading this.

But 2+2=4 regsrdless of what the Party sasy and 1984 is about totalitarianism (including but limited ot Stalinism) and not post-war Britain no matter what locumranch says.

Travc said...

Re Greece and economics generally...

It seems to me that Ian, Hypnos, and I are focusing on different timescales. I've been thinking mostly in the short-term since crisis is basically here now. Ian's focus on the need for structural reforms, which I have no fundamental argument with, is what I'd consider mid to long-term. Hypnos's concern with resource constraints is on mark only in the long to very-long-term IMO.

What is particularly interesting is that none of these time horizons are strict... For example, some structural reforms can have some good short-term impacts, while not addressing the existing economic pain makes things worse in the mid-term too.

As for PK's prescription for Greece... It is a no-good-choice situation. If not for being on the Euro, Greece could have devalued its currency and undergone some survivable (but unpleasant) short-term pain. If coupled with sensible reforms, they could come out of it fairly quickly and be better off in the future (timing of reforms matters of course, many would not be 'now', but are needed in the near future). Sadly, this is not an option open to Greece (or any other troubled Euro country).

A distant second best would be for relative deflation to take the place of devaluation... but how this takes place matters a lot. Actual deflation is very hard to do in a controlled fashion and very disruptive. So it would be far better if Greece could just have a very low rate of inflation while its creditors and trading partners experienced slightly higher than normal inflation. However, this means that those creditors and trading partners would suffer some pain (and loss of real money in the case of creditors) , but there is a quite compelling argument (IMO) that this would be a net benefit to them anyway in the same way that a loan adjustment is better than a foreclosure for both a troubled homeowner and a bank.

The course that is currently being taken is nearly the worst I can think of. At very best, it will take Greece a very long time (and most probably many more emergency bailouts) to adjust their price and wage levels relative to the core.

Travc said...

Hypnos...
Do you think Japan is getting anywhere close to being a no-growth but stable economy?
They certainly have demographic challenges, but the "lost decade" that gets derided by so many (especially economists) doesn't actually seem to be such a bad thing from a standard-of-living standpoint.

BTW: The growth rate of Japan at the moment is relatively high... lots of activity rebuilding from the earthquake and tsunami.

Ian Gould said...

TravC , as you pointed out, the EU has a single monnetary polcy, so how is Greece going to engineer a deflation.

Additionally, deflation would reduce nominal Greek incomes and GDP while increasing the real value of Greek debt.

What Greece really needs is moderately higher Eurozone inflation to reduce the real value of their debt.

Ian Gould said...

And here's a relatively short-term idea that would make a huge difference not just to Greece but to the whole Eurozone: EU bonds jointly guaranteed by all the Eurozone member states.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/21/us-eurozone-idUSBRE84K0JI20120521

TravC, as far as the short-term is concerned: Greece needs to drasticly reduce its government deficit and the various pending EU aid packages need to be delivered as quickly as possible.

As for the current situation being the worst imaginable, ignore Argentina which had already undertaken severe austerity measures, was running a primary surplus and had a current accoutn surplus and take a look at what happeend to the South East Asain countries in the Asian fianncial Crisis.

Try telling people who went through an 80% fall in GDP; 1,000% inflation, and 65% per annum interest rates that Greece is sufferign the wrost case scenario.

sociotard said...

The Singularity, ruined by Lawyers

LarryHart said...

I've been reading Orwell's "The Lion and the Unicorn" essay much of the morning, and I strongly second the recommendation.

I find it fascinating how much of what Orwell wrote about wartime Britain seems torn from today's headlines in 21st Century America:


...
It should be noted that there is now no intelligentsia that is not in some sense 'left'. Perhaps the last right-wing intellectual was T. E. Lawrence. Since about 1930 everyone describable as an 'intellectual' has
lived in a state of chronic discontent with the existing order. Necessarily so, because society as it was constituted had no room for him. In an Empire that was simply stagnant, neither being developed nor falling to pieces, and in an England ruled by people whose chief asset was their stupidity, to be 'clever' was to be suspect. If you had the
kind of brain that could understand the poems of T. S. Eliot or the theories of Karl Marx, the higher-ups would see to it that you were kept out of any important job. The intellectuals could find a function for
themselves only in the literary reviews and the left-wing political parties.
...


http://www.george-orwell.org/The_Lion_and_the_Unicorn:_Socialism_And_The_English_Genius/0.html

http://www.george-orwell.org/
The_Lion_and_the_Unicorn:_Socialism_And_The_English_Genius/
0.html

LarryHart said...

Another Orwell quote from the same essay which, with startilingly few changes, could have been written by Dr Brin in the present time:

It is clear that the special position of the English intellectuals during the past ten years, as purely NEGATIVE creatures, mere anti-Blimps, was a by-product of ruling-class stupidity. Society could not use them, and they had not got it in them to see that devotion to one's country implies 'for better, for worse'. Both Blimps and highbrows took for granted, as though it were a law of nature, the divorce between patriotism and intelligence. If you were a patriot you read BLACKWOOD'S MAGAZINE and publicly thanked God that you were 'not brainy'. If you were an intellectual you sniggered at the Union Jack and regarded physical courage as barbarous. It is obvious that this preposterous convention cannot continue. The Bloomsbury highbrow, with his mechanical snigger, is
as out-of-date as the cavalry colonel. A modern nation cannot afford either of them. Patriotism and intelligence will have to come together again. It is the fact that we are fighting a war, and a very peculiar kind of war, that may make this possible.

Rob said...

@rewinn -- Occam's Razor is for describing natural phenomena, not something with the intentional complexity of an election news cycle.

Or, if you want, Occam's Razor sets free the explanation: "They had it ready in advance." It's the simplest one, given the opposition research known to be already in place.

Paul451 said...

Ian,
Re: Argentina and Krugman.
The article you link to seems to be a minor quibble over not crediting external effects:

"On one thing I agree with Krugman, Weisbrot and others: this option will offer the Greeks better growth prospects than the austerity measures imposed by the Troika (which will only deepen the underlying problem). However, rapid economic growth following the default is not a foregone conclusion." is hardly screaming that they're "fucking insane", as your friend did. It's not even disagreeing with the prescription, just saying that the growth might be less than achieved by Argentina. The choice for Greece is still zero or negative growth under austerity, or early default leading to growth, but at levels that learned-men are debating.

Likewise, "High unemployment and spare industrial capacity meant that fiscal and monetary expansion had limited inflationary impact in the early years, thus promoting consumption even further." is exactly the sort of thing that Krugman says when he attacks inflation fear-mongering.

Speaking of minor quibbles:

On modelling the resource boom: "In fact, it explains between one third and two thirds of the cumulative growth attained between 2003 and 2009!"

A 100% margin of error? That's not exactly high confidence. (And nothing with a 100% margin of error is "in fact".)

(ifiiff: If and only if I'd only iff'd.)

Paul451 said...

Ian,
Re: State owned utilities.
You misunderstand. I meant if the alt.power boom was driven by government subsidies, as seems to be the case, it was not a natural result of competition between privately owned utilities. There is nothing to prevent a government from deciding to do the same thing merely because its utilities are state owned. Indeed, it may be easier to provide those subsidies directly through the state utility. It may choose not to, as in Greece's case, but the state-ownership of utilities in and of itself did not and cannot prevent a government from making the same decision about a subsidy as any other government. Likewise, any political decision based on, say, lobbying by unions over lost mining jobs would have been the same.

Re: Greece and the Euro.
Travc's comment about how Greece would have responded to the GFC if they weren't in the Euro made me want to ask a proper grown-up economist... If Greece was still on the Drachma, then most of its government (and a hell of a lot of private) debt would also be payable in Drachma. The crisis would result in a devaluation of the Drachma (assuming it's floated, or the government isn't stupid), and thus an effective reduction in the size of debt (WRT lender currencies). However, lenders would have anticipated that, so the Greek government would still be facing high interest rates. yes? Would the situation be better or worse?

sociotard said...

The trailer mentioned there will be uplifted animals in Existence. Any chance we'll see Corvids or Parrots? I thought this article on Crows was pretty cool:
http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2010/04/clever-crows-complex-cognition.html

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Re: Greece and the Euro...
Travc's comment about how Greece would have responded to the GFC if they weren't in the Euro made me want to ask a proper grown-up economist... If Greece was still on the Drachma, then most of its government (and a hell of a lot of private) debt would also be payable in Drachma. The crisis would result in a devaluation of the Drachma (assuming it's floated, or the government isn't stupid), and thus an effective reduction in the size of debt (WRT lender currencies). However, lenders would have anticipated that, so the Greek government would still be facing high interest rates. yes? Would the situation be better or worse?

My understanding from Paul Krugman and Thom Hartmann is that if Greece were not in the Euro zone, they could not have borrowed nearly the funds that they did. The fact that their debt is in Euros created excessive confidence which, since 2008, seems to have been misguided.

Taking that a step further, Thom Hartmann claims that Greece's financial position wasn't sound enough to qualify for Euro entry to begin with, so investment banks (he speaks of Goldman Sachs in particular) did some fancy credit swaps, "lending" them money off books in much the way you might have had your mother-in-law loan you funds for a down payment but she had to sign a gift letter asserting to the bank that the money wasn't owed back to her. In this way, Greece's books were made to look cleaner than they were. Otherwise, they wouldn't have been allowed into the Eurozone at all.

David Brin said...

Only one of you signed on to enter a joint chat on my epocene demo tonight, so we canceled.

Email me at davdbrin@sbcglobal.net

if interested in participating Monday evening (California time).

meanwhile...

David Brin said...

Sociotard... there is a parrot! Actually.... three different ones!

And an octopus.... ;-)

sociotard said...

Then I'll buy it for the Octopus alone. If the parrots sing and call themselves the Three Caballeros I will be very happy.

sociotard said...

I don't recall if you ever answered this question, Dr. Brin: In the Uplift series, how different did species have to be before they counted for uplift purposes. I mean, lots of species of parrot are pretty close in intelligence, as are Corvids. Several species of Dolphin, and other Cetaceans . . .

And yet earthclan just had the two client species.

LarryHart said...

sociotard,

Earthclan should probably be viewed as an outlier. We did the uplift thing BEFORE being introduced to Galactic civilization, so maybe didn't follow all the rules and conventions and such.

sociotard said...

Ah. Perhaps we had to get a bunch of forms filled out and reviewed before multiple bureaucracies over the course of a hundred years before we could get started on the next client species.

sociotard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert said...

That's not always a good thing. A recent editorial in "Economist" pointed out that the drop in public companies was reducing investment opportunities for the public and also reducing organizational transparency seeing that private companies are able to hide a lot more than public ones.

Of course, I'd say that's a reason why organizational transparency should apply to private companies as well, but that's just me. I find the current system of short-run focus for public companies to be ultimately damaging to both the companies and the economy... but the loss of transparency is a significant risk. Hell, just look at the Brothers Grimm who are backing the Republican Party under an obscuring cloak of ownership and profit.

Though there is a simple solution: encode in law that any company that donates money to PACs has to reveal its parent organization and subsidiaries, profits, supply chains, and basically everything that reveals what its interests truly are. If a company does not want to lose its privacy? It doesn't have to spend money on PACs. Thus corporate privacy is upheld... while companies that wish to meddle in politics are upheld to the light of public scrutiny.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

@Rob - you really think the simplest explanation is that the Washington Post maintains a stock of 12-page anti-Romney hit pieces to roll out the day after Obama says something that his opponents don't like?

God with God, my brother, and believe as ye will. Yet the underlying facts of the story are true, and would have some out at some point in the news cycle anyway.

rewinn said...

@Sociotard - that "Singularity" video was smart and funny, especially smart, but let me point out ... perhaps defensively ... that blaming lawyers for laws is like blaming butchers for meat. They don't make it, they just serve it to paying customers. Reforming our crazy IP laws so that you can sing "Happy Birthday" without paying a fee is a good idea.

Rob said...

No, Randy. I think a SuperPAC or the Obama campaign itself maintained the info and dropped it into the news cycle through its cutout proxies the moment they needed it.

Believing such things don't exist is laughable, to me.

Tony Fisk said...

@sociotard: also, 'clients' were a status symbol; possibly even a form of currency. That the wolflings had already uplifted two species on discovery was scandalous enough. To find they had a wealth of other candidates was unacceptable, and further projects (eg dogs) were proscribed.

'The Uplift War' covers a plot to wrest chimpanzee patronage from humanity by the Gubru, and includes a clandestine project to uplift gorillas; who end up with the Thenennin.

What comes next is up to the author.

David Brin said...

onward!

Please email me at davidbrin@sbcglobal.net

if you want to participate in the chat test of my epocene system around 8pm California time!



onward