Tuesday, September 04, 2012

The Near Future of Manned Spaceflight

I've been feeling a bit inspired about our prospects in space, lately.  Foremost (of course) by the incredible competence displayed by the makers of the Curiosity probe that landed on Mars, last week, and the JPL controllers and the citizenry that backed such a wonderful venture.  If we must preen about "American exceptionalism" then let it be about Curiosity - and other admirable traits - that truly are exceptional.  Also recently, I met one of the great astronauts of our time, Story Musgrave, at the World Science Fiction Convention in Chicago, where another topic was the greatness displayed during pioneering days in space - in light of the passing of Neil Armstrong.

For a recent interview I was asked -- Where is manned spaceflight headed in the near term?

First off, these responses are not given in my role as a member of the board of external experts for NASA's NIAC program that grants seed funding for new and innovative advanced concepts. The comments that follow are off-the-cuff speculations about the longer range, in an area NIAC scarcely covers.

Having said that, let me add that I see two drivers and two paths ahead for human spaceflight, one slow and plodding, the other quick and exciting.  Both will be needed. Each will benefit from the other.

Ever since Challenger blew up, NASA's meticulous approach to manned spaceflight has been to redouble caution. To fill in each missing step, then the sub-phases between each step. After Columbia, this fill-in-every-gap method has led to such flawless undertakings as the recent Curiosity lander's spectacular (and spectacularly complicated) landing on Mars...

... but that was a robot.  When human lives are at stake, the process becomes so carefully mature that - in effect - nothing gets flown at all. At minimum, human-rating every component multiplies costs by as much as two orders of magnitude, in some cases. Let's be plain. If today's NASA constituted our only path to human spaceflight, countless thorny problems and sub-problems would be vanquished!  But nothing would ever actually fly with people aboard.

Fortunately, through this process NASA keeps developing new technologies.  So do the civilian world, foreign governments and the military.  These improvements trickle - or gush - and spread. New thresholds have been reached in computers and sensors, in equipment capability and reliability. And in plummeting hardware prices.

One result? We are ready for the dawn of a new era, one of private space ventures. And, fortunately, the politicians - those in power at-present - seem perfectly ready to welcome non-state activity.  Instead of raising obstacles, they seem bent on clearing a path.

From the Rutan/Branson Spaceship to Elon Musk's SpaceX, there are dozens of private manned and unmanned missions being planned. Some of them leverage upon the desire of the rising caste of super-rich for unusual experiences, starting with sub-orbital jaunts.  Plans are in motion to extend this market, leading downstream to space hotels and - eventually - private moon landings. Even more boldly entrepreneurial, the new Planetary Resources company plans to access the vast wealth of asteroids.

All of these things can be done now because technological thresholds are falling... and also because they can allow higher risk ratios, because private ventures aren't answerable to the same levels of enforced care as public ones.  The cost effects of allowing lethal failure rates in the one-millionth probability - instead of one-billionth - is nothing short of astronomical.

== A New Barnstorming Age? ==

We may, at last be ready to embark on the equivalent of the the great age of barnstorming aircraft development, that our grandparents saw in the 1920s, when risk - and even some loss - was considered part and parcel of courage and exploration. When the new frontier was legitimate territory for tinkerers (albeit, today they would be billionaire tinkerers).

If so, it will have come about from a mix of government investment in meticulous process and checklisting a myriad details... meshing well with the unleashing of private ambition.

No example so perfectly disproves the idiotic canard that everything must be all-government... or else that all government action is evil and wholly uncreative.  We are a complex people in a complex age.  But we can rise above comforting nostrums to realize, a careful mix was how we got everything we see around us. A mix that is negotiated by goal-driven grownups -- that is how we'll get farther ahead.

== What are pros/cons of each approach? ==

The Branson/Rutan "Spaceship One" approach, and others like it, have the advantage of paying for themselves incrementally, improving their methods and capabilities in the same way. Those offering suborbital jaunts won't have to answer to taxpayers or budget committees. If Branson and Rutan and the others deliver a safe and peerless experience, the new lords will thrust money at them, hand-over-fist (doing us all a favor by recycling some of it into useful and cool things.)

Some of us will also go, through prizes and lotteries (and gifts to favorite authors?) Calling Fantasy Island!

And their next products will emerge in a matter of due course.  Orbital hotels and - quicker than you now might expect - private moon landings. These missions will be of very little scientific value.  (The moon's only likely use for a generation will be as a tourist attraction.  There are no other near-term features of any value.) But they will leverage technologies developed by NASA and others, transforming them into off-the-shelf tools and something that today's NASA is ill-equipped to do -- actual, risk-taking human crewed expeditions.

In time, this will transform into own-your-own sub-orbital rocket kits, as I depict - with pulse-pounding action! -  in an early chapter of Existence.  (See this portrayed in some early images in the vivid preview-trailer. )

SpaceX and others are counting on winning contracts to deliver commercial and government payloads into orbit, predictably and reliably. This will soon include human crews for the Space Station.  The Dragon capsule will not be optimized for paying private customers seeking a "yeehaw" experience.  But I expect there will be some such, as well.

Way back in 1982 I headed a team at the California Space Institute that outlined an alternative space station design, using Space Shuttle External Tanks, that would have been soooooo sweet.  Just five launches would have led to a station larger than the present one and far more capable.  Ah,well.  The tanks are gone.  (But sample it with my short story: "Tank Farm Dynamo"!)

Still, some of the new inflatable structures... and composites being developed at UCSD's new Structural and Materials Engineering Building... may lead to new, commercial stations that offer hotel experiences in the sky.  And even though the moon is sterile scientifically and for physical wealth, it may (as said earlier) be enough of a tourist allure to propel us back to that sere (but romantic) destination.

== What about the Old Dream? Missions to Mars? ==

Oh, we will poke away at the big stuff.  Certainly the shift away from a return-to-the-moon boondoggle, which almost no scientist on Earth supported, was a step in the right direction.  And with private capitalists salivating over asteroids, it does look as if the choice was was a correct one.

NASA will keep developing the technologies we'll need for missions to asteroids, to Phobos (potentially one of the most valuable rocks in the Solar system), and eventually Mars.  We could afford to spend twice what we do and pick up the pace.  The payoffs - just for remembering we're a scientific civilization - would be overwhelming.

Oh, and of course other nations will be joining this mix, in ever-greater force.  In Existence, I portray manned spaceflight getting a nationalist impetus when the Chinese start flexing their competence and muscle out there. It could help propel interesting times.

Still I was asked about just human spaceflight in the near term.  And the near term to me looks commercial, private, bold, close-to-home, rather lavishly exclusive...

...but fun.

101 comments:

David Brin said...

Posting first, for an obscure technical reason...

sociotard said...

I keep wishing more attention would be paid to Venus. A nice big mission with lots of weather monitoring equipment would help us greatly to understand weather and climate in general, and that would be a great boon to earth. Sure, Mars has occasional windstorms, but we'd get such better information from our sunward neighbor.

Plus, I love the visual of a group of astronauts working in a super-zepplin observatory, high in the venusian upper atmosphere where the pressure is a pleasant 1 atm . . .

sociotard said...

Also, the jerk in me wants to modify Ferroplasma acidiphilum to live in the Venusian clouds. Just to say we did.

Anonymous said...

Forget about Mars or any other planet. Colonize Ceres first. With a gravity of only 0.03g, a surface area about the size of Argentina, and massive quantities of ice water - Ceres is the perfect place to establish a base for asteroid and comet mining. It has no gravity well to overcome and the abundance of ice water providing for life and fuel.

Asteroid mining will be like working on oil rigs or crab fishing in the artic - dirty, dangerous work with a high death rate that pays extremely well and makes investors back on Earth very wealthy. Mankind's future in space wil be more like the dirty, dangerous Nostromo than the shiney, bright Enterprise.

Once the wealth and resources of the asteroid belt are ours, THEN we can colonize the planets using materials mined in the belt and machines and ships manufactured there.

David desJardins said...

How do you address the huge energy cost (and consequent climate change issues) of widespread "space tourism"? It seems a huge problem with this whole model, that is hardly mentioned.

David Brin said...

Problem with Venus is being able to radiate away waste heat from your instruments. Can't be done for very long... not without methods like I posit in SUNDIVER. But a permanent orbital lab above Venus would be stunning.

Ceres is even better than you think. There may be LIQUID water under the surface. Still, I hunger for Phobos. closer, predictable, possibly carbonaceous with accessible volatiles and with SUCH a view you could plotz.

DdJ... the biggest environmental recycling problem we face... worse even than greenhouse gases... is excess wealth in the pockets of the uber-oligarchs. We need things for them to spend LOTS of money on, that at the same time employ lots of engineers advancing humanity's capabilities in general.

Recycling, indeed.

MicroSourcing said...

Politicians welcome non-state space ventures possibly because limiting these to the state can hinder innovation. Moreover, a lot of wealthy private individuals are interested in having their own space ventures, and money coming in from them also helps.

Hans said...

I know this is kind of a drive by, but since some people in the last thread had defeatist attitudes, I thought I'd mention a blog entry by Charles Stross that is much more optimistic:

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/12/reasons-to-be-cheerful.html

Regards,

Hans

Anonymous said...

Phobos is the perfect place to study Mars. In a self sustaining, hollowed out base, deep inside Phobos, humans can control hundreds of rovers, gliders and balloons exploring the Martian surface in real time.

The weird thing about Mars is that we have no idea how to safely land a human on the planet. Curiosity's descent involved a necessary 10g maneuver to slow down the craft as it plummeted to the Martian surface.

10g will kill a Man.

The Martian atmosphere is too thin to allow for reasonablyu sized drogue chutes and gthe Maritan grvity too great too alllow for a rock descent like on the Moon.

We may have to terraform Mars BEFORE we land on it.

Until then we should stick with planetoid, like Ceres, that have no significant gravity well.

Alfred Differ said...

'Careful mix' sounds to me like a 'designed' solution for a market system that thrives on providing services to people with problems to solve AND on the disruptions new service providers cause when they don't follow the 'design'. I hope you don't mean it that way David.

I don't trust anyone to mix these ingredients except by actually trying it and failing when they screw up. It is difficult to call government efforts a failure and make it stick, so I'm not a fan of giving them much of a role anywhere on the near frontier (cis-lunar space).

The real value the private providers are bringing to us is their potential for disruption. SpaceX has been doing that well, but there are a lot of smaller players who intend to do to Musk what he is doing to others. I'd like to see the field open to all of them to have them succeed or fail in due course and I'm sure you understand that motivation. Over the years, though, I've come to the conclusion that the science 'customers' are going to have to be made to be very hungry before the market for those other players will take shape. Right now those customers are being fattened on federal dollars. They aren't hungry enough to do for science what they really should do.

I love the spirit of exploration we see with the Mars projects, but I'm 50 now and I expected to see a whole lot more going on than what I see today. I'm currently favoring disrupting the science 'market' for space exploration by starving them. Hungry people innovate or die.

Alex Tolley said...

"And even though the moon is sterile scientifically and for physical wealth,..."

Is that correct? The moon has some water which is at lower energetic cost than Phobos/Deimos.

Similarly, the asteroid wealth on the moon may be easier to extract and return to LEO than from the asteroids except for NEO's.

I'm not sure I would write off the resource value of the moon just yet.

A base on Phobos or Deimos would be an excellent place to extract resources while controlling machines on the surface of MArs.

David desJardins said...

I suppose I'm one of those "oligarchs", who could consume more of my wealth on space tourism, or other personal gratification, but I have to challenge the idea that that's desirable. It's certainly not how I choose to spend my own money. The fundamental equation of economics is Production = Consumption + Investment. Everything that society produces can be put to one of two purposes, either we consume it for present gratification, or we invest it for future benefits. Obviously some expenditures serve both purposes, for example if I buy a Tesla Roadster, I'm both consuming a product, and advancing a technology. The first space tourist, or the tenth, might contribute some of that technology development. But the millionth space tourist is just consuming resources, the same as if they bought an expensive car every day and then crushed it to buy a new car the next day. Is such consumption good? If I have a large number of dollars in a notional bank account, and I don't spend those dollars, then I have no effect one way or the other on the fundamental equation. My spending decision doesn't affect what society can produce, all that it means is that if I don't buy up some of that production, then it can be put to other uses, e.g., investment, instead.

High Arka said...

The benefits of elite spaceflight will soon trickle down to the rest of us.

At least Mountain Goat no longer has anything policy-wise to complain about.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Heh. Nifty. Yo-yos in space:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dicIfzRNE-w

Jumper said...

At some point water wells could be developed on the moon using standard deep drilling methods employed by petroleum extraction here. 1100 meters is not technically infeasible, only so at present economically.

David Brin said...

Hans, not sure what's so defeatist about this group. Gee wiz, what d'you want? This is Contrary BRIN!

Alfred Differ, your simplistic dogma that no planning at all can be allowed in an economy is not only historically inaccurate and naive, it is (the concept and not you!) utterly hypocritical.

Please consider the possibility that what you see is NOT what you get. Read about "FIBM vs GAR" or Faith in Blind Markets vs Guided Allocation of Resources. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/06/allocation-vs-markets-ancient-struggle.html

Those who proclaim loudest that bureaucrats cannot allocate well are conniving for a return to the 6000 years when far smaller groups of far stupider lords would allocate instead. Market "blindness" is fictitious and undesirable anyway.

What we need and want is COMPETITION so that inevitable human delusions are caught by competitors. This can be done artificially in government (Adam Smith recommended it as one tool!) and or organically in a healthy market. But you don't get a healthy market with "blindness" or zero regulation. Have I proof of that?

Only 6000 years of proof.

===
DdJ sorry, Wrong. If a million space tourists propelled innovations to make spaceflight ever more efficient (and I would tax heavily, so that all environmental costs are included) then we would arrive at a space transport capability vastly in advance of the present. Witness aviation. And if we can thus access asteroidal resources, then the Earth might be made into a park.

David Brin said...

I have the lead article again at science 2.0

http://www.science20.com/

Tony Fisk said...

Ceres*. Phobos. Both sound good. Make a final decision when we get there!

Earlier, in responding to Lunar liftport, David said:
Over the course of the next 150 million years it could (in theory) gradually lift the moon, and thus the Earth, to a new orbit as the sun gets warmer!

Nice to know I encounter the same inspiratons occasionally!

*Vesta?

High Arka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David Brin said...

The Arka personage has been banned till November. If I see his posts they will be deleted. If he turns out to be a renamed clone of the one hyper-troll we've had around here, that will be apparent soon enough.

On the off chance that he is NOT that person, but merely was off his meds for a while and willing to behave like a decent adult, the ban will expire on Halloween.

This is one of the smartest places on the web. Diverse and non-doctrinal and filled with openminded folks. Earn the privilege.

David desJardins said...

1. If you have a choice between a million rich guys buying tickets for space tourism, or, saying, taxing those million rich guys the same amount of money and spending that sum on a coherent program of space technology research and development, you'd surely get far more benefit out of the latter than the former. Sending people on suborbital jaunts just for the spinoff benefits to the technology is far less efficient than doing the technology development directly, without the excursions.

2. If you're going to argue that we can't tax rich people to pay for socially beneficial programs, then what makes you think you're going to be able to institute high taxes on space tourism to offset the environmental impacts? It's very hard to set high taxes on such activities, because they can just move to some jurisdiction that will tax them less. So you need some kind of robust international regime. This in a world where we can't even get any tax on carbon polluters of any kind. In any case, what I referred to earlier was my concern about what the *actual effects* of space tourism will be, not the theoretical question of whether it has to be bad if someone smart, like David Brin, has the power to regulate it.

3. Even supposing a high tax on space tourism, it's a myth to think that high taxes can mean that "all environmental costs are included". Some environmental costs simply can't be measured in dollars. How much is the extinction of species worth? Or inundating populous nations? In our current world, we emit so much unnecessary carbon pollution that you can come out ahead by polluting some yourself, but paying other people to reduce their pollution. But this isn't a long-term strategy, because if we're going to control climate change, we have to get rid of all of those avoidable sources of emissions, anyway. Eventually, we have to control emissions, not just "pay for" them, and carbon fees or taxes will only work if they actually reduce emissions, not just generate revenue.

Tim H. said...

No guarantee "One coherent space program" would make all the correct choices, or exploit the best possibilities. More players equals more possibilities, and, possibly more prosperity, which often comes with a lower birthrate, and ultimately, lower carbon consumption.

Paul451 said...

Re: Venus
As Sociotard hinted, there's a height in the Venusian clouds (at about 50km) where the pressure is at or below 1 atm pressure, and the temperature varies from 0-50°C... and (this is key) the density of the CO2 dominated atmosphere is so high that a bubble of Earth-like are (N2/O2) is "lighter than air". An airship could fly around Venus, filled only with breathable air, at a comfortable temperature, at a comfortable pressure. Plus you enter the Venusian atmosphere like you do Earth's. Unlike Mars, the air is thick enough to properly slow down, parachute, glide... Thick enough to protect you from radiation. And thick enough to allow an EVA with just a oxygen mask, no pressure suit. Venus is easier to build a manned base on than Mars. Venus!

[The downside is that the magic Earth-normal altitude is precisely the height that the sulphur in the atmosphere forms droplets of concentrated sulphuric acid. You have to live amongst the Acid Clouds Of Venus. Which is probably less romantic than it sounds. David Starr may not need a space-suit for that EVA, but he's sure as hell not going out in shirt-sleeves. But still easier than Mars.]

[[My hatred for Mars is old and powerful.]]

Alfred Differ,
The role for government beyond LEO is to fund science expeditions: Through universities and non-NASA science budgets, missions which are well within the capabilities of commercial players (as a US university palaeontology expedition to a west China desert uses commercial air-travel, rail, and off-road vehicles to reach the site.) And NASA missions that are just past the limits of commercial capability. (Like specially developed dive-ships for deep diving bots.) And more generally, the technological R&D which feeds into and powers the next generation of industry research (as happened with SpaceX (PICA-X), SpaceDev (HL-20), and Bigelow (TransHab).)

Paul451 said...

From the last thread...

Apropos the Helvetian War. Apparently a copyright bot auto-banned the Hugo Awards ceremony live-stream, falsely claiming copyright violation. In the resulting hate-fest on Slashdot, a commenter put the "over/under" on the Intellectual Property war leading to loss of human life by the 2017.

Maynard,
Re: VoterID laws. Why don't Dems...
"Then fund a bunch of legal NGOs to go out and help every citizen throughout the country get an ID,"

They have. But the riders on the VoterID laws and similar legislations have, in effect, made it illegal to help someone else be able to vote. (Exemptions for Republican favourites; active soldiers & nursing homes.)

Paul451 said...

Liftport's 250,000km beyond-L1 space elevator.

Discussing this elsewhere, it seems that the maths works better for a shorter rotating tether. 1g or less at the tips. 500km radius, 500km orbit. Can collect from a half-dozen sites around the Lunar equator, and fling them at escape velocity at Earth, or beyond, no fuel required. And in reverse, catch payloads from Earth (obviating the need for a circularisation burn) and deposit them on the moon with zero fuel required. Much lower material-strength requirements, much less mass to deploy, can be scaled down during development while still delivering useful benefits. And the vastly shorter tether length (1000km vs 250,000) proportionately reduces the risk of micro-meteorite damage, which lowers the maintenance costs. Easier, cheaper, better.

Like Mars, space elevators are an illusion.

Hans said...

I'll tell you who was completely defeatist. High Arka. And there was some other guy, but I'm too lazy to go back and look.

Its fascinating that right after I asked you who these people are that refuse to recognize progress in any way (since I don't recall meeting any of them myself) along comes High Arka to prove your point.

Its similar to the way I start noticing a word when I read, right after I learn the word. Its been there all the time, I've just been filtering it out because it doesn't exist in my dictionary. This makes me wonder how many other things I filter out, simply because they exist outside of my paradigm.

I found the experience to be depressing. However, the thought of a billion people rising out of poverty makes me smile.

David Brin said...


DdJ said: "If you have a choice between a million rich guys buying tickets for space tourism, or, saying, taxing those million rich guys the same amount of money and spending that sum on a coherent program of space technology research and development, you'd surely get far more benefit out of the latter than the former."

I love it here. My contrarian reflexes get exercise. And while I agree that taxes on the rich must go up, for a dozen reasons... I must reply to you that your particular statement is dead wrong. It displays leftist reflexes that are just as foolish as (though currently less damaging than) silly rightist ones.

The reflex to assume that the state bureaucrats can "allocate" wisely is neither horribly wrong (as the right assumes) nor as obviously right as socialists or the left assume. NOW in the 21st we should be holding a detailed conversation over WHEN state allocation works as a problem-solving tool, and how and when it does not. We have plenty of data! But the conversation is ruined by immaturity and dogma.

Let me beg of you -- as I did just a bit ago, asking the conservative A. Differ. Read about "FIBM vs GAR" or Faith in Blind Markets vs Guided Allocation of Resources. http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2006/06/allocation-vs-markets-ancient-struggle.html

State centered action can work, even work well, but it is always preferable to use private or market action, if it can be done without major drawbacks.

The reason is simple. If you use government, there is always a ratchet effect. People and the state become accustomed to and dependent upon it. The libertarians are right to declare this problem. (Though wrong to ignore the very similar ratchet effect when it comes to giant company monopolies.) If you can get a competitive market to pull investment organically into an industry, that is preferable. (With taxes and regulation.)

I tire of left and right ignoring what has worked. A mix. One that merits our calms study, instead of reflexes from 1888.

David Brin said...

Reiterating. If private investment and tourism fees can capitalize a space industrial capacity that would make us all so rich that poverty vanishes and the Earth can be made a park, then I am all for it.

Hollister David said...

Planetary Resources hopes to park water rich asteroid(s) in high lunar orbit, possibly EML1 or EML2.

EML1 and EML2 are hubs in the Interplanetary Transport Network advocated by Shane Ross, Martin Lo, Belbruno and others. Having propellant source(s) at these locations would break the exponent in Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation. Space travel in our own neighborhood as well as interplanetary travel would be much less challenging.

You've argued against volatiles in the lunar cold traps saying higher lunar latitudes take more delta V. Not true. From EML1 or EML2, the lunar poles are about 2.5 km/s.

Alfred Differ said...

David, I read your FIBM and GAR argument some time ago and largely agree with you. I'm not advocating either one. What I'm pointing out is that I see too much GAR in the space markets of the recent past and like the current trend away from it. I DO have a fair amount of faith in markets, but not blind faith and not in blind markets. Government has a role to play, but through GAR.

Think about why SpaceX and others are currently players and I think you'll find more going on than the make-me-happy-hobbies of well intentioned rich people. There is also a form of starvation occuring among their potential customers. This hunger helps create the business opportunities the rich people are seeing. It also makes for a fertile field for the secondary projects that follow the price signals sent by people like Elon Musk.

I don't advocate for causing a famine in the space science community, but I do suggest a bit of hunger could be helpful.

Paul451, I don't advocate cutting government out of the equation. I do advocate for recognizing their actions for what they are. The fact is that some science projects require services that are beyond the commercial providers at present. If those are the projects that get funded at the exclusion of others, NASA will have a mandate to provide for all its own services and get to act as GAR-meister in the market. The existing commercial providers will have no incentive to compete with NASA and their market will fail to innovate much because they won't have the opportunity to be stressed.

To see what concerns me you have to consider all the projects that DON'T get funded and the motivations for those choices. Some of them are engineering efforts that could reduce costs if successful. Some of them are small projects that could work within the existing commercial market or come very close. Some of them are just small science. They get scored low when those who would guide the allocation of resources make their decisions and we don't see much of them after that. The projects we DO see are scored high, but we suffer a selection bias if we look no further.

Alfred Differ said...

ooo...

A conversation about WHEN state allocation of resources would be the wisest path would be pretty cool. If the focus was on space-related markets and capabilities I'd invite all my friends. 8)

For the record, I'm a classical liberal. It isn't that the State is horrible at allocating resources, its that we are often better at it than they are... but only when we actually are. Obviously, no one knows where that boundary actually is until we talk about it a lot and try actual experiments.

Paul said...

This is a bit off topic, but many of the comments have also been off topic. One of the questions I've had for a while is why do all the representations of a space elevator assume that it must go from the ground to space? If the elevator only extended down to around 50K AGL, then it should cost less, and wouldn't interfere with commercial air traffic. A Rutan model of a carrier aircraft that then launches a capsule/plane shape that connects with the elevator would be used.

David desJardins said...

Don't you feel slightly embarrassed at denouncing me as having "leftist reflexes", and then directing me to a posting where you inveigh against the "almost-meaningless left-right political axis", a spectrum that "mindlessly narrows and channels all political debate"? I side with the 2006 Brin against the 2012 Brin. If the way you treat an idea with which you disagree is to immediately assume that the speaker must be trivializing the issue from his rigid perspective along a left-right political axis, then you're the one who's narrowing and channeling the debate. It might be true in some cases, but shouldn't you start by giving people the benefit of the doubt?

I don't think that state-directed space R&D does more for space development than space tourism does because I think that bureaucrats are smarter than entrepreneurs. (Indeed, I'd suggest the bureaucrats allocate most of the resoutces to independent entrepreneurs, the way Congress is increasingly considering now.) The reason I think my approach does more than yours (and collecting the resources through taxation and spending them through government is only one example of how to do it, not the only example) is that sending people on suborbital joyrides so they can say "I went to space!" has almost nothing to do with what would actually advance useful space technology. So you could have rich people spend literally trillions on that and you might get very little in the way of useful spinoff technology. You can get very good at fulfilling a very specific mission that doesn't have much other value. Look at the trajectory of the automotive industry. They can make tens of millions of cars a year, and yet the auto companies improve their product only very incrementally. They put a whole lot of cars on the road, and they get more efficient at building reliable vehicles that people want to buy, but if you wanted dramatic improvements in transportation technology, you get them only very slowly from the big auto manufacturers, unless or until they are compelled by forces other than simple consumer demand. That's especially true because most consumer demand is driven by wanting what other people have. People's idea of a luxury vehicle is driven by what the luxury vehicle producers make, and the marketing is as much a part of the product as the technology. And that's in an industry whose purpose is producing a product for which people have a real, practical need! If you had an entire industry devoted to building cars solely for sightseeing (like the "space tourism" industry), the spinoffs that you would expect in terms of other kinds of transportation needs (e.g., bulk transportation of raw materials) would be very limited. That's what I fear will happen with "space tourism". You might disagree with this concern, but I don't think it's fair to dismiss it as "leftist reflexes".

David desJardins said...

If private investment and tourism fees can capitalize a space industrial capacity that would make us all so rich that poverty vanishes and the Earth can be made a park, then I am all for it.

The reason we have poverty isn't anything to do with the productive capacity of society. Society already produces plenty to meet every human being's basic needs. Furthermore, worldwide we've got a large fraction of our potentially productive workforce doing essentially nothing. In the US, there's significant unemployment and underemployment. In China, there's way, way more. In Africa, the rate is essentially 100%. The reason we have poverty has to do with how we allocate what we produce, and how we harness the resources we do have, not with our actual productive capacity. You could increase human productivity by some very large factor and you would still have the same level of poverty, depending on what you do with those resources.

Furthermore, if there's any extrinsic limiting factor on human productivity, it's our dependence on fossil fuels and the unfortunate tradeoff we now face between environmental degradation and energy production. We have to address that problem in a shorter timeframe than one in which space development could play any plausible role here on earth. I want to do far more to explore and develop space than we're doing, but I don't see how you can argue for it addressing immediate Earthbound problems such as poverty or environmental degradation.

Alfred Differ said...

Paul,

The term I've seen used for that is 'skyhook'. Many have written about it. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

David desJardins,

Unless an industry that served space tourism was trapped into that narrow service through regulation I think it is quite unlikely that they would stay there. I also suspect they would innovate in order to drive their costs down and capture more of the rich customer's money for themselves. If those innovations help serve other market sectors (and are allowed to do so) then they would expand into other niches.

Serving the desires of the richest is an old method that works at liberating them from their money. It doesn't make as many jobs and as much wealth as serving the rest of us, but it can whet the appetite of 'the rest of us' and make a market for a service that wasn't profitable before. There is a risk of getting trapped into serving the rich, but we can help mitigate that by blocking regulations that enforce the trap.

David Brin said...

DdJ I am stuck using the metaphors that people apply to themselves. While I despise and denounce the L-R axis, those who self- ID as "right" or "left" tend to share certain traits simply BECAUSE they cram themselves into those slots.

The exception... modern moderate liberal democrats, still buy into some things out of reflex.

I don't disagree that government is the place for graoundbreaking R&D. That is proved and an overwhelming refutation of right wing cant. Half of US GDP growth since 1945 came out of sci-tech and most of that government research. You are new here so you do not know how oft I call for a 2nd "national debt clock" showing what the debt WOULD HAVE BEEN by now if the taxpayer got a 5% royalty on jets, rockets, satellites the Internet and so on.

We disagree very little, and my posting said all of this!

But I think you discount the effects were parts makers fo spacecraft manufacturing valves and things for hundred and then thousands of ships, instead of one-off specials.

---
"The reason we have poverty isn't anything to do with the productive capacity of society. Society already produces plenty to meet every human being's basic needs."

Here you are simply flat out wrong. Yes there are inefficiencies. But poverty is plummeting as a % very rapidly and the rate is held back by certain limiters. One is wealth disparity and klepto thievery. Probably the biggest thing. But tech and resource limits also apply. Big time.

David desJardins said...

Poverty is falling rapidly in the poorest countries over the past several years, yet world GDP hasn't changed much in that time. Also, poverty is increasing in more developed countries. Doesn't that suggest that the level of economic output doesn't have much impact on the level of poverty, and that boosting economic output isn't a guarantee of reducing poverty? I shouldn't have said it has "nothing" to do with reducing poverty, that was hyperbole. But it's far from the biggest factor. If space development increases inequality (which seems likely), then it could both increase economic output and also increase poverty.

Ian Gould said...

A question for Dvid that's way, way off topic:

I was looking at the promo for the new television series Revolution and thinking about the fact that currently there isn't a single US television series set in space.

As a writer and a respected space advocate have you ever considered pitching an idea for such a show?

Ian Gould said...

"Poverty is falling rapidly in the poorest countries over the past several years, yet world GDP hasn't changed much in that time."

Wolrd GDP has been growing at around 2% per year on average since 2005 with most of that growth concentrated in the developing.

"Also, poverty is increasing in more developed countries. Doesn't that suggest that the level of economic output doesn't have much impact on the level of poverty, and that boosting economic output isn't a guarantee of reducing poverty?"

Economic growth isn't a guarantee of poverty reduction but poverty reduction is much harder without it.

"If space development increases inequality (which seems likely), then it could both increase economic output and also increase poverty."

I'm not sure how you come to the conclusion that space development would increase inequality.

As a social democrat, I take the view that we need a growing economy in order to provide the resources to address social needs.

It's intructive to look at development in Costa Rica and Cuba. Today Costa Ricans are considerably richer than Cubans
despite the two countries startign at similar incoem levels ca. 1960. Cuba's health system is freqently poitned to as oen of the contry's proudest achievements - and yet Costa Ricans live longer.

It's true Costa rica wasn't subject to a US embargo or the threat of US invasion. however they also didn't get billions a year in Soviet aid; didn't get thousands of their citizens killed fighting Soviet proxy wars in Africa (with an ensuing AIDS epidemic amongst veterans of those wars and their families) and they did it while maintaining a liberal democratic order and withotu political repression.

David desJardins said...

If most world GDP growth has been concentrated in the developing world, then that illustrates, rather than refuting, how the problem of poverty isn't developing new ways to increase potential human productivity, but merely taking advantage of things that we already know how to do. You've got billions of people who are still engaged in subsistence farming, largely because our world economic system doesn't provide other opportunities for them. Nothing you can do in space is going to create new economic opportunities for them, for better or worse, it's a structural problem here on earth. Nor are they likely to share in the terrestrial fruits of privately funded space development, if such come to pass. These are people whom we could easily feed now and yet they don't have enough to eat because they don't have the money to buy the food. That's not a problem that space development can solve.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Davis desJardins:

I don't think that state-directed space R&D does more for space development than space tourism does because I think that bureaucrats are smarter than entrepreneurs. (Indeed, I'd suggest the bureaucrats allocate most of the resoutces to independent entrepreneurs, the way Congress is increasingly considering now.) The reason I think my approach does more than yours (and collecting the resources through taxation and spending them through government is only one example of how to do it, not the only example) is that sending people on suborbital joyrides so they can say "I went to space!" has almost nothing to do with what would actually advance useful space technology. So you could have rich people spend literally trillions on that and you might get very little in the way of useful spinoff technology.

I don't know much about space-sciences funding, so I've limited my posting to the gee-whiz stuff here. However, I can speak a little bit about US sciences funding in general. My last job was at a Uni nuclear and theoretical physics lab in a technical-administrative (Sr. 'NIX administrator) capacity and then as management (IT Team leader). This was in Boston, MA. Last February my wife and I moved to Perth, WA on the other side of the world. I spent just under twelve years there.

The primary funding agent there was the Department of Energy (DOE). I think it's public knowledge to say that over the last decade the lack of timely congressional budgets, and shifting congressional priorities, saw year-over-year decreases in funding due to the combined effects of inflation and funding operations by continuing resolutions. Yet the scientists had forward commitments to meet while competing ever harder for scarce resources to meet their obligations. My sense is that public science funding in the US has reached a threshold point whereby meeting those obligations is increasingly impossible given the unreasonable expectations and intermittent support of government funding agencies.

I mean, from the outside, it looks like that's exactly what's hurt NASA. I've just seen it from a slightly different perspective. My sense is that science funding is broken, primarily because congress doesn't retain consistent priorities across congressional sessions. One cause is this crazy partisan war between the parties. But underneath that is a root values cause which devalues pure research altogether as unmonetizable. Ultimately, it's another way we - as a society - have been eating our seed corn over the last several decades.

Ian Gould said...

"If most world GDP growth has been concentrated in the developing world, then that illustrates, rather than refuting, how the problem of poverty isn't developing new ways to increase potential human productivity, but merely taking advantage of things that we already know how to do. You've got billions of people who are still engaged in subsistence farming,"

Sorry Davi but technology is absolutely central to economic development in the developing world.

Mobil phone penetration is higher in Africa than in much of the developed world.

Far more people are getting access to electricity in Africa via solar power than via the centralzied electricity grid.

African farmers have increased their output due to government-subsidised artiifical fertilisers and improved crop strains - particularly "green rice".

David Brin said...

Ian I have pitched tons. Great stuff. Hollywood is a jungle.

rewinn said...

@Ian's comment "...there isn't a single US television series set in space...." prompts me to point out that there are multiple entertainment venues set in space, e.g. eveonline.com . While it may be true that the passive entertainment method known as TV may be space-deficient, active entertainment methods see space as one of the largest genres; it's probably second only to the genre of hitting dragons with sharp metal things and taking their stuff.

So perhaps we're seeing a bit of self-selection going on.

Tom Crowl said...

x-box currently offering Live convention coverage taking advantage of feedback capabilities via controller... doing great job!

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

On recent findings about so-called 'junk DNA':

Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role

...The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.

[...]

...The discoveries were published on Wednesday in six papers in the journal Nature and in 24 papers in Genome Research and Genome Biology. In addition, The Journal of Biological Chemistry is publishing six review articles, and Science is publishing yet another article.

[...]

In one of the Nature papers, researchers link the gene switches to a range of human diseases — multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease — and even to traits like height. In large studies over the past decade, scientists found that minor changes in human DNA sequences increase the risk that a person will get those diseases. But those changes were in the junk, now often referred to as the dark matter — they were not changes in genes — and their significance was not clear. The new analysis reveals that a great many of those changes alter gene switches and are highly significant.

“Most of the changes that affect disease don’t lie in the genes themselves; they lie in the switches,” said Michael Snyder, a Stanford University researcher for the project, called Encode, for Encyclopedia of DNA Elements.

[more content at link]

sociotard said...

Everyone should read this terrifying development by Russia's air force!

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/putin-to-wear-beak-lead-cranes-on-hang-glider-reports/article4520936/

David Brin said...

Dang. Any of you watch Clinton's speech?

Soooo tempting to amend the constitution....

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Saw the speech. Well done. Good rhetoric. But do you honestly think Clinton would rescind Bush policies, that have continued under Obama, on rendition and detention without due process, executive kill lists, warrentless electronic surveillance, etc?

This is what has driven me from the Democratic Party. I donated to Obama, walked door to door, supported his campaign from the primary through to the general, and now I feel foolish for having believed he - the constitutional attorney - would restore rule of law back to the nation.

No matter how less evil the Democrats may be compared to Republicans, they have crossed a threshold beyond which I can't support.

David desJardins said...

I think Clinton wouldn't do any better as President than Obama, part of the reason that he's an effective spokesman for these policies and against Republican policies is that he's seen as somewhat apart from them. If Obama said exactly the same things about his own policies, people wouldn't give it the same deference.

But I'm still mad about the abuse of executive power when American soldiers shot German troops on Omaha Beach without a warrant.

Ian Gould said...

ADavidm if only yu guys had made it "no more than two consecutive terms".

matthew said...

Naw, don't amend the constitution. I *like* having the 800 pound gorillas that are clinton and carter loose in the world. The elder statesman role suits both better than the presidency, imo.

David Brin said...

Maynard, I am the author of The Transparent Society. I am in the fight over these things, far more deeply and relentlessly than you are.

But I am also a pragmatist. The people appointed to the US Supreme Court by Clinton and Obama are DIFFERENT than the ones appointed by the Bushes. So titanically different that I would campaign hard on that account, alone.

Moreover, if the insane wing of conservatism is utterly crushed, then we'll see Goldwater Republicans, who love ACTUAL liberty, make their move to re-emerge as the opposition, giving fellows like you (and me) surprising allies.

You are wrong in dozens of other ways, too. I am so sorry your knight has stains of realpolitic on his boots. This is a world in transition. Help the side that wants progress.

David Brin said...

Matthew, nothing is more telling that:
1) who dem prexies appoint as their VPs vs whom Goppers choose.

2- what retired demmies vs gopper prexies do with their time.

David desJardins said...

Wait. Spammers have friends?

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Dr Brin Wrote:

You are wrong in dozens of other ways, too. I am so sorry your knight has stains of realpolitic on his boots. This is a world in transition. Help the side that wants progress.

Would you be willing to expand on that? Do you mean I'm wrong to oppose a return to rule of law over indefinite detention without due process, executive kill lists, warrentless surveillance, etc? Or were you referring to something else?

David desJardins said...

It seems pretty clear. It means that if you don't vote for better rather than worse, then you're responsible if you get worse. If MItt Romney wins because you refused to vote for the less bad candidate, and more rights get violated and people get detained and lines get crossed, then you share in the responsibility for that, because your choice made it happen.

We aren't conducting a popularity contest, we're conducting an election. There are only two possible outcomes, Barack Obama wins or Mitt Romney wins. If your choice increases the probability of the worse outcome and decreases the probability of the better outcome, then you bear the responsibility for that worse outcome when it occurs.

Anonymous said...

Maynard wrote:

No matter how less evil the Democrats may be compared to Republicans, they have crossed a threshold beyond which I can't support.

How can people have such god-damn short memories. You are no better than the smug Nader-ites who threw both New Hampshire and Florida to Bush in 2000 just twelve short years ago.

There was likely no single election in our lifetime that did more to undermine the Enlightenment project than that fiasco, with the possible exception of the election happening right now!

You may revel in your "purity of heart", but you are committing the same sin that as those in 2000 committed, or even those leftists in 1968 who refused to support Humprey against Nixon. No candidate is going to match your ideals 100%, or even be able to act on them if they do, and you've turned the perfect into the enemy of the good.

If Romney wins and the destruction of the American experiment recommences you can't claim you didn't contribute to it. Your inaction is no different from the indifference of a stranger who refuses to help a child in need. Inaction can still be a sin.

Unless you truly believe Obama is a worse choice than Romney, you have an obligation as a member of our civilization to vote for Obama as the better candidate. Not the best, that candidate does not exist except in your imagination.

David Brin said...

I'll admit there are times when parsing the difference between bad and worse gets tiresome and I - the pragmatist - would take a stand on Principle. I know those emotions and can relate.

Indeed, every years I cast votes for minor parties in contests where (1) my vote won't make a difference or (2) both candidates suck.

But this is not like that. It is sane-with-some-cavils-to-scrutinize versus stark-jibbering-loony and utterly corrupt.

Oh then there's the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court...

And finally, if you haven't been keeping track. Both dems and goppers wage war. You may not like it. But compare the WAY the two groups do it. Surgical police actions (Bosnia, Afghanistan Part One, Libya, Osama) versus Thuggish trillion-dollar blood festivals that turn into decade long quagmires of pain.

Sorry. I'll take efficient surgery and realpolitik crimes that are small enough that we can find and criticize them. With the compensation that whistleblower laws get stronger under dems and get eviscerated under gops.

Grow up, man.

Oh, yes, in case I didn't mention is...

... the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,the Supreme Court,

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Anonymous:

I actually voted Nader in 2000, so I fit your description to the tee. Though I note that as a Massachusetts resident at the time, I knew that there was no risk of Gore losing my state's electoral votes.

Look, I recognize that the GOP has gone off the deep end and is promoting a highly anti-science, anti-rationalist ideology. After 2000, I also recognize that what happened to the Whigs is not likely to happen again. The annihilation of Perot's Reform Party movement is example of that. And I will hold my nose and vote Obama yet again. But I won't support him. I've left the Democratic Party and won't go back. The Democratic Party leaderships needs a slap across the face from their constituency. From my perspective, they've been screwing up. They need a wake-up call.

David desJardins said...

What's the difference between voting for Obama, and supporting him? I thought those were the same thing.

Primaries are a great way to express your preference for one candidate over another, as long as you don't go so far as to support candidates who can't win in the general election (presumably you don't want a Democratic Party that goes so far to the left that it loses every election, even if it precisely mirrors your own views while doing so).

High Arka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David desJardins said...

I liked the "online diploma" spammer better. Could we trade Arka for him?

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

David desJardins:

What's the difference between voting for Obama, and supporting him? I thought those were the same thing.

Giving the candidate money. Knocking on doors. Holding signs. Giving the rest of the ticket any benefit of the doubt. And perhaps not voting for him and voting third party if it strategically benefits me.

That's the difference between support _for_ a candidate's position versus voting out of frustration _of_ a presumed worse outcome.

I've left the party. I don't donate. I don't hold signs. I don't knock on doors.

Obama's continuity of Bush's foreign and domestic policies has convinced me that the difference between Rs and Ds is far less than what I once believed. Call me naive if you wish.

David desJardins said...

Well, that's fine then. I think I (and Brin also) misunderstood your previous comment. I think that volunteering or contributing is a *lot* different from voting. In the voting booth, you only have the choice to vote for A, or vote for B, or not vote or vote for some nonviable candidate (which is essentially letting other people decide). When you consider volunteering, or donating money, you have to set that against many other causes you might support, or donate to, and so it's completely reasonable to decide that something completely different is a better use of your time or dollars.

Jumper said...

I can't say I want to live in a world where none walk away from Omelas. That's true.

I am in Charlotte NC now. I live in interesting times.

J. Maynard Gelinas said...

Curious to know how many people here would have supported Huntsman had he won the R primary. I liked the guy.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

I'm 64 years old and have never before voted in a presidential election. This year, I'll be voting for Gary Johnson.

In the past, I never could get beyond the "lesser of two evils is evil" problem from among the choices that were offered among the presidential candidates. I hated the thought of voting for any candidate, knowing that 4 years later I would be be disappointed with myself for supporting a dogmatic evil that I knew all along was not a person of pragmatic virtue.

Finally, in Gary Johnson, there is a pragmatic libertarian with more positive qualifications than Romney and Obama combined.

I've always been uneasy about the LP. I was personally invited to some of the meetings forming the Libertarian Party more than 4 decades ago, but I politely declined to attend.

Gary Johnson doesn't seem to carry any of the stale LP dogmatism.

In the long ago past, I liked JFK and I liked Barry Goldwater; but I was too young to vote for either. I was also disappointed when Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Parts of that Civil Rights Act were very un-libertarian, but sometimes pragmatism must supersede vague principles when there is a huge volume of bigotry that must be corrected.

Jerry Emanuelson

Robert said...

Here's a few quotations for Mr. "I won't vote for Obama because he's not good enough."

"A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury." - John Stuart Mill

"The Holocaust illustrates the consequences of prejudice, racism and stereotyping on a society. It forces us to examine the responsibilities of citizenship and confront the powerful ramifications of indifference and inaction." - Tim Holden

"Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all." - Norman Vincent Peale

and last but definitely not least:

"I never worry about action, but only inaction." - Winston Churchill

-------

If you don't vote for Obama and Romney gets in, you voted for Romney. There is a saying: You reap what you sow. Well, by refusing to vote for Obama because of some idiocy of ideological purity you are sowing a crop that will ultimately harm you and your beliefs. Not just for four years. But for forty years, should Romney get to place Supreme Court justices and deregulate finance and oil/gas industries.

Swallow your damn pride and do what's right.

Rob H.

Rob said...

Rob H, that's just false.

If I don't vote for Obama, Washington still sends electors for Obama. I am free to vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein if they're a better match because Obama will still get those electors. Or write in Mickey Mouse, because mine is not a swing state.

I don't know who we're kidding here. The election is down to something like 15-20 contested *counties*, nationwide...

David desJardins said...

Huntsman: way too hypothetical. There's more chance that Jesus Christ would rise from the dead and knock on my door and ask for lunch than that Jon Huntsman could win the Republican primary.

David Brin said...

Jumper, you are erudite! Maynard, Huntsman was a test case to see if there wase any sanity left in the GOP at all. He won 5% in a few primaries. Lesson learned.

Mr. Emanuelson, I shall be sending money to Gary Johnson, who seems more reasonable a version of libertarianism than the Rand/Rothbard cult that has crippled that once-promising movement for decades. I hope sincerely that many sincere libertarian-type republicans will flee to the LP... sna stay in it to re-shape it toward more pragmatism and more suitability for power.

I disagree with you that Obama’s overall score is not worth supporting. The future in which he wins - especially in a landslide that drives millions of folks like you from the GOP to the LP - will be a better one than if the Bushites come back in.

Obama may have been slow to taper off the Bushite insane wars - we had commitments and the case is arguable. But he did not start any such wars. Neither did Clinton. Compare them to the Bushites.

===
The electoral vote argument:

1) I recall there were cases where angry purists like Maynard and Mr. Emanuelson who lived in battleground states offered to vote for Obama anyway, providing three people in some useless all-blue state agreed to vote for the LP candidate.

2) The total popular vote matters. If Gore's margin had been bigger, perhaps a Supreme might have been too embarrassed to do the 2000 rigging. Or at least more folks would have been properly outraged.

Robert said...

Yes. And if you and all the other Democrats believe that and "vote their heart" then we could have the same thing happen as did in 2000 when Al Gore lost his home state because no one ever expected him to lose that state. And if he'd kept his home state, then Florida wouldn't have mattered.

Every. Vote. Matters. If Obama loses because of chicanery but he gets a massive amount of the popular vote, then Republicans will be extremely wary for the next two years. They won't enact reforms, put in ultra-conservative Justices, and the like, because they would expect a massive backlash in 2014 should they do so.

But if Romney squeaks by, then we'll see a "mandate" and Republicans will run wild. By voting for Obama, you are sending a message to Republicans. You are saying "yes, he's not the man we want. But he's the man we need, especially when you consider the alternative."

Trust me. I don't like Obama. It's tempting not to vote for him as I'm in Massachusetts. But you know something? I'm voting for him anyway because a message needs to be sent to Republicans in Washington. If they "barely" lose then they will ignore it. They'll obstruct for another four years. Nothing will get done.

And that's the thing. You're hating Obama because Republicans have kept him from doing anything. So you're punishing Obama because of the Opposition, who stated outright that they were going to ensure Obama is a one-term President. That's their #1 duty. Fuck the economy. Fuck the country. Just get rid of Obama. By accepting the Republican lie, you are rewarding the Republicans for their being assholes and refusing to negotiate.

But then, you probably can't trust me. After all, I've seen this in the pagan community: the most anti-Christian of the pagans are those who were raised Christian and left. Well, I was raised conservative... and was left behind. I'm no Democrat. I'm an anti-Republican.

Rob H.

infanttyrone said...

Rob H.,

But for forty years, should Romney get to place Supreme Court justices and deregulate finance and oil/gas industries.

Finance could get further deregulated from what Clinton/Bush/Obama have achieved ?

Maybe you meant that Romney would be worse because he would install an Attorney General who would let Wall Streeters slide on the felony cases handed to him/her by Congressional committees...Oh, wait...that would just be status quO-bama.

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/ag-eric-holder-has-no-balls-20120815

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/matt-taibbi-eliot-spitzer-discuss-eric-holders-failure-20120822

But the Supreme Court *is* important, especially since recent history tells us that we can't expect Democrats to put up serious resistance to Republican nominations. So, if I were in a swing state, yeah, I'd hold my nose, but, no, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Voters in non-swing states who don't vote for Gary, Jill, or Mickey will be endorsing one or the other wing of what Gore Vidal called the Banksmen Party. Neither will necessarily be the government we deserve, but surely the best that Money can buy.

Rob said...

Rob H. -- Your job in MA is to elect Elizabeth Warren, full stop. Her election is more important than Obama's in my opinion.

Warren in the Senate with Romney in the White House is very tolerable to me. As long as the Dems hold the line in the Senate and we replace a knee jerker with someone who can effing negotiate.

It's why I'll be voting for Cantwell.

If Washington's electors were proportional with two at-large I would cast a vote for Obama without hesitation. As it stands though there are no risks here with a third party nod.

And if the R's have gone as insane, structurally, as I think they have, then no amount of message sending will work until the Paulites tear the party in two for real.

Robert said...

Here's an interesting concept: the use of games to help convince people how to balance state and local budgets. Bloomberg Businessweek has an article on a game that does this and how its use is growing to additional locales. And it would be interesting to see this done on a national scale... taking maybe ten thousand people of all three political groupings (liberals, moderates, and conservatives) and seeing what negotiations we can get... and then bringing this to Congress so they will pass it as the will of the people.

You know something? It could very well become a new face of politics. And it came from private industry. ;) Best of all, it came from GAMES. Only in America, my friends. Only in America. :)

Rob H.

infanttyrone said...

Rob H.,

If Obama loses because of chicanery but he gets a massive amount of the popular vote, then Republicans will be extremely wary for the next two years. They won't enact reforms, put in ultra-conservative Justices, and the like, because they would expect a massive backlash in 2014 should they do so.

If by chicanery you mean outright voter fraud where ballots are not counted or machines are hacked and there is so much evidence that the media cannot help but keep digging for more and keeps the story on the front page, then maybe the Republicans will be a little wary, at least until the heat dies down, which might not take too long if Romney decides to attack Syria or Iran.

If by chicanery you mean the legalized voter suppression that Republican states have been doing recently with laws requiring extra photo ID's and other impediments, then I expect them to intensify their efforts in that area, but judging by how little they were slowed down by the chicanery of 2000 and 2004, I don't expect them to be embarrassed about defeating Obama with those tools.

They won't enact reforms, put in ultra-conservative Justices, and the like, because they would expect a massive backlash in 2014 should they do so.

They would have to lose 25-30 House seats to even lose their party majority, not counting their allies amongst conservative Democrats. It could happen, and they might be worried about it, but if they can sell Romney in the next couple of months, even if he just squeaks by, they will be Zhou Dynasty-like from the jump, with their media disciples extolling the new Mandate of Heaven.

JMG thinks D's need a slap across the face, while you seem to think the R's need a smack in the chops. I agree with both of you. But if you're in a safe state, you can't do both by voting for either one or the other. You can do both by voting for neither and choosing whatever third party matches your preferences.

Robert said...

There are no safe states. That's the thing. Gore proved that in 2000.

Rob H.

David desJardins said...

I don't think people should vote for irrelevant third-party presidential candidates, unless they truly see no difference between Obama and Romney. But of course there are safe states. Gore lost TN because, like much of the South, it's become a deeply conservative state in which Democrats have little chance in national elections. No other Democratic nominee could have even had a chance to carry the state. The Gore campaign certainly wasn't surprised to lose there, although they might have been disappointed.

Rob said...

Gore had Nader nipping on his heels, who had a significant amount of traction at the time.

Today, no Nader. Jill Stein doesn't come close to what Nader had going.

Jumper said...

I confess to voting for Ross Perot in '92 in NC. Later I wrote in Ralph Nader in '96, which I regret for many reasons, but NC has the most difficult hoops to jump through of any U.S. states, to get on the ballot (I think that's still true; nothing changed here but it might have gotten harder elsewhere.) So it was also in part to get more parties in on things. (Not that writing in Nader had any effect whatsoever in '96 in North Carolina. Now that NC is flip-able (and went for Obama in '08) I would not think of doing anything like that. Nor would I have voted for any but Gore had I been a Florida resident in '00. (I used to be one.)

High Arka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark Twain said...

There are many humorous things in the world; among them the white man's notion that he is less savage than the other savages.

Jumper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
High Arka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jumper said...

On the way home from work I drove right into a freak downpour; it must have dumped 1" of rain in about 1 minute. This was right near the Panthers' stadium in Charlotte. We locals who have lived in Florida, the more-than-a-few of us, note how summer Carolina piedmont weather is beginning to resemble Florida's. [Difficult of course to tie weather to climate, but it would not surprise anyone rational if it is anthropgenic change.]

It is not unexpected it happen again, or several times again, this evening.

Jumper said...

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

I intend to vote for lesser and lesser evils until the motes in their eyes are smaller than my beams.

Jumper said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sxdm5ktwqk

Ian Gould said...

@Robert, the problem with such games is they tend to imply that cuts to public services are costless.

So, for example, cutting the number of firefighters per vehicle. deos that men more poperty damage? If so, what does that do to prerty valeus and rates? does it make the job more dangerous? How much is a firefighter's life worth in the cold equations of the budget?

You also have the problem of forced choice: peopel are given a large range of possible cuts to choose from but so far as I can tell can't oomr up with their own ideas.

rewinn said...

1. @Robert - thanks for the "games" link. It seems like a good start toward teaching pragmaticism although @Ian's comment suggests that the game doesn't run long enough. Let the impact of the cuts run through the system and see whether anything is learned. Setting up such a game in an online MMO should not be technically difficult.

2. Anyone who wants to boost 3rd parties should vote for them in local races first. Gary Johnson may be qualified for the Presidency (as a former governor) but it's better to test his philosophy in the laboratory of the states. Which could be done in "Top 2 Primary" states. Here in The Real Washington we came out of the primaries with Democrat Frank Chopp versus Socialist Kshama Sawant; I doubt the Socialist will do well but at least she'll have a chance to lay out her ideas seriously and ?who knows? persuade some people. It's unfortunate the Libertarians didn't try something similar in our rural conservative counties.

3. "Irk Hag Ha!" is perhaps too obvious as an anagram.

David desJardins said...

I like Top Two also. I think it's working in California, the third parties still aren't making a real showing but you can't say they don't have a chance.

David Brin said...

DdJ: Many blue states have seen citizens rise up and stop gerrymandering, a crime inflicted collusively by the entire political caste against their natural enemies, the voters. But note, not a single red state has done this.

--

I’ll be blogging soon that BHO ought to ignore the GOP tsunami of money and do the unexpected... go after ten states the GOP considers “safe.” Hammer and tongs. There are many reasons. The top one. Just winning is not enough to end a civil war.

=======

Mark Twain, it never ceases to fill me with hilarity that fellows like you fail to notice that YOU are a living example that your statement is wrong. You and tens of millions of others... not “white” but “western”... shre the self-critical and other friendly reflex that you express so eagerly, never pausing to realize that NO OTHE SOCIETY ever raised such a large fraction of its children to be critical toward the incomplete moral development of their own culture.

I do not expect you to grasp the previous paragraph. You are too steeped in indignation froth to pasue out of curiosity and intellectual honestly and read that paragraph the TEN TIMES that it will take for you to fully grasp its meaning. No, you will skim and CLAIM that you grasp it... but you will not.

Irony is not a pleasure available to the myopic or indignant, alas.

===
The turd keeps re-appearing, but I can delete his smarms quicker than he can type em...

High Arka said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
David desJardins said...

Arizona is more red than blue, and they enacted redistricting reform that is better than Florida's. California enacted redistricting reform despite, not because, of the state Democratic Party and establishment. I don't think one party is a lot better than the other on this. And no redistricting reform can really solve the problem. There's no way to draw a Congressional district that includes my house and isn't safe Democratic. Even completely independent nonpartisan redistricting can only go so far, in our current system.

David desJardins said...

You should remove the link spam posted by "online diploma" also. These people are motivated by profit, if you don't remove their link spam then you will get more and more of it, they are even worse than the mentally ill posters. On the other hand, if they find it's not worth their effort they will give up.

David Brin said...

DdJ the regular spam matters little. My regulars and smart visitors will just skim past it. Trolls are another matter.

You missed my point about gerrymandering. I never said the democratic party politicians were virtuous on this matter. I said the voters in blue states rebelled and ended this noxious practice. Arizona, the home of Barry Goldwater and Gabby Giffords is unique.

My solution to gerrymandering is elegant. ALLOW the state legislature to gerry to their hearts content! Only with two rules:

1) a maximum perimeter to surface ratio

2) MINIMIZE OVERLAP between the districts for state assembly, senate and congressional delegations. Let one house be gerried for partisan purposes, fine. But it ensures the others won't be

David Brin said...

Onward

David desJardins said...

I just don't see much correlation between political ideology and willingness to enact redistricting reform. Florida is another example of a state that has done this and isn't particularly blue. There aren't very many examples, if you start calling several of them exceptions then the pattern seems pretty weak. The reddest states tend to have small populations (few districts) and are more homogenous and so the whole gerrymandering issue is less of a concern anyway. Redistricting reform has gone nowhere in Texas (large red state), but also nowhere in New York (large blue state).

Jumper said...

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/09/let-million-topics-bloom.html

David Brin said...

Yep, linguistic analysis and going back to his real name makes it clear. The same lunatic.

onward