Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Promising... and worrisome news

Don't let the gloom industry get you down.  The news isn't all bad. Progress happens. For example...

The global extreme poverty rate fell below 10 percent for the first time, according to the World Bank in 2015. Extreme poverty has long been defined as subsisting below $1.25 a day, but the World Bank's adjustment now sets the line at $1.90 a day.  That leaves 702 million people in extreme poverty (or 9.6 percent of the world's population) vs 2012's 902 million people or 12.8 percent. 

Let's step further back: in 1990, 1.9 billion people lived under $1.25 a day. Twenty-five years have brought a substantial decline. Especially if the rise to 1.90 is factored in.

Okay, here's the question. Does this news encourage or enrage you? 

Pause and ponder how both the right and the left have a vested interest in gloom and destruction of our confidence. Sure fight complacency! Redouble our efforts! But that does not excuse reflexively rejecting good news.

Indeed, good news should make us confident we can earn more.

== Chipping away at problems ==

Diseases linked to open-fire cooking kill more people worldwide than HIV and malaria combined. And wood gathering destroys the land and often takes young people away from education or other opportunities. For decades innovators have been offering up "perfect" stoves for the world's poor. Now the latest move is promising. BURN manufacturing is producing clean, efficient cookstoves (made in Kenya) with low emissions that may save lives... and forests across Africa.

Polio may be eradicated worldwide by 2018 -- thanks to vaccines!

Google has launched its Person Finder tool -- which aids users in locating surviving friends and family members in the wake of natural disasters and catastrophes.

A revolution in transportation? Work is 'weeks away' from starting on a $150 million Hyperloop 5-mile test track. The first passenger tests will operate at 160 mph, with an eventual goal aiming toward 760 mph! And yet... this will be long under development.

Self-repairing infrastructure? Researchers are developing drones to autonomously monitor and -- possibly -- even repair the cities of the future.

China is pursuing a high-speed rail project that could connect Los Angeles to Las Vegas -- which would take 80 minutes in high-tech trains traveling 150 mph. And Russia has proposed constructing the world's greatest superhighway, a trans-Siberian route that would cross the Bering Sea, linking London to New York!  So why is America's crazy half reflexively opposed to building such a basic capability that always delivers huge economic benefits?  Oh, yeah.  The "crazy" part.

The future of energy: In Time Magazine's Inside the Quest for Fusion, Clean Energy's Holy Grail, Lev Grossman (author of The Magicians) takes a look at new start-ups investing in innovative approaches to fusion, including Tri Alpha Energy's prototype plasma reactors. They've raised hundreds of millions of dollars to push the frontiers of clean energy. Other companies, such as Helium Energy, are trying new approaches, fusing deuterium and Helium-3.  Meanwhile, German researchers are developing a novel, alternate approach to fusion tokamaks, the Wendelstein W7-X, an immense, supercomputer-designed 'optimized stellerator,' -- the largest ever built. This engineering marvel, under construction for 19 years, can withstand huge temperature ranges and enormous forces. It's due for a plasma trial run in November.

Heading out there... Planetary Resources received $12 million in new funding to further its hunt for resources and rare metals from mining asteroids. 

In the deserts of Nevada, a tower of molten salt will collect solar energy from a million square meters of mirrors in -- in order to store and deliver solar thermal energy after sunset. 

Japan is pushing hard, offering government subsidies,  to transform into a 'hydrogen society.' The hydrogen-fueled Mirai went on sale last year. And yet, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has called hydrogen-powered fuel cells "extremely silly' predicting that they will lose out against next-generation electric vehicles. Me? I totally agree with Elon. The needed infrastructure alone would be loony.  No wonder hydrogen power was a top R&D priority of the Bush Administration, over the objections of every top advisory board.

== The Future of Education ==

AI in the classroom: Meet the artificially intelligent software that is replacing the textbook... and reshaping teaching methods in the classroom. In addition, Google has invested in micro-learning -- short bursts of information on mobile devices -- to allow educational content to reach a wider audience.

Currently college students may spend as much as $4800 for textbooks during their four year education. A recent study indicates that grades did not suffer when open source free textbooks were used instead. It’s not just about money; textbook content can be upgraded, improved and customized by professors.

And yet, 27% of U.S. adults didn't read a single book last year (with a slightly smaller 20% for twenty-something year olds). Even more worrisome, eleven million Americans still lack basic literacy skills -- and are unable to read and comprehend a newspaper article or even a medical prescription. That number rises to 800 million worldwide. 

Environmental concerns and solutions: Climate scientists ponder spraying diamond or alumina nanoparticle dust high in the atmosphere as one method to cool the planet, by reflecting and scattering the sun's energy. Diamonds in the sky? Oh, but geo-engineering should be done in gradual experiments, including the one I think makes the most sense -- fast ocean current fertilization.

Switching back to gloom... Over the next twenty years, lion populations are likely to decline by half across Africa. There were probably a million lions at the beginning of the 20th century; today there may be as few as 20,000, as humans encroach on sensitive ecosystems.

Immigration and citizenship: Okay this is actually a biggie: A federal judge recently ruled that the state of Texas can continue to deny birth certificates to the U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants. Of course I am outraged at the blatant racism. It may start us down a slippery slope. And yet… it is simple minded and dogmatic not to at least acknowledge an underlying issue that merits adult conversation, not reflex.

It is a matter we might discuss, sensibly and negotiate... once this phase of the American Civil War is over.  Till then, I can only urge you all buy blue kepi hats for next Halloween.  It will send a message to the risen confederacy.  Calm down, rediscover citizenship and join us at the adult table.

91 comments:

Tim H. said...

On the energy front, it might be worthwhile to revisit the ideas of the Carter administration. Any energy saving idea can't help but reduce carbon dioxide. A UREX facility would reduce the volume of nuclear waste without restarting cold war relics like Savannah river, and help provide carbon-free energy and any new reactors that come on-line will benefit from hard lessons and pose little risk. BTW, if fusion or space-based solar become a reality, I've no problem with moth-balling the nukes.

Jeff B. said...

Slightly on a tangent, but since this was a new posting on Salon and addressed one of Dr. Brin's favorite topics- the attempts at "feudalizing" the U.S.- I thought the link relevant:

http://www.salon.com/2015/11/04/it_can_still_happen_here_donald_trump_ben_carson_and_the_american_facists_among_us_partner/

They overstate their case comparing current far right conservative trends to textbook fascism, but there are some parallels...

Laurent Weppe said...

* "They overstate their case comparing current far right conservative trends to textbook fascism, but there are some parallels..."

They don't overstate their case: the recipe for a fascist platform isn't complicated:
You take the endgame of decadent oligarchs for whom the State's role is to preserve come what may the status, privileges and material comforts of their dynasties, coat it in faux-populist rhetoric about a cabal of callous elites intent on harming the common men and the only way to protect them being the establishment of the authoritarian regime that will ruthlessly combat these, et voilà you've got your fascist platform.

Given that countries with universal suffrage demand popular anointing before granting people power, I daresay that so long such countries allow the existence of wealthy dynasts, they will allow the burgeoning of fascist movements in their midsts: sooner or later, the number of heirs who became decadent, started longing for a regime where their status is enforced by the state's power and as a result want to subvert the political process by promoting biddable demagogues will reach a critical mass and the process where a demagogue spewing nonsense gets enough funding to have a noticeable media weight, gains a following as a result, which grants him/her more exposure, until s/he becomes a genuine threat to his/her country's democratic institutions begins anew.

RFYork said...

I was born in the south but raised in New England. So, I believe I have a pretty fair perspective on the ongoing Civil War. (By the way, have you ever read The Cousins War by Kevin Philips? It's an excellent description and analysis of the historical events leading up to the Civil War. I highly recommend it.)

While it may not be practical, I have come to believe that we should work toward secession and reconstructing the old Confederacy.

As you and the writers have pretty clearly established, the states of the old Confederacy have managed to maintain a distinctly primitivist politics for over a century and a half. I think it's futile to believe that this can be changed any time soon.

Although the South has prospered by offering extreme tax breaks to lure the likes of BMW and Mercedes Benz, there has been no fundamental change in the cultural attitudes of the population. In fact, it almost looks like these attitudes are contagious. Even recent immigrants to the south from more civil regions seem to adapt them.

I think if the southern states were to once again secede from the Union, they will eventually fall into economic difficulties. Rejection of science, primitive religious institutions and the general anti-education attitudes of many of these states will eventually drive away even the greediest of corporate entities.

The real problem we face is how to persuade the states of the old Confederacy to secede again.

I realize that my proposal is pretty extreme, but the rest of us are being dragged down by these states. While there are some western states which manifest many of the cultural tendencies of the old south, I believe they are more redeemable. The south is not.

So what do you think of them apples Dr. Brin?

David Brin said...

Naturally, RFY, I am tempted. The US would be the most progress and science and future oriented nation on the globe... and still the most powerful... if the core of the confederacy madness did depart. But there are problems.

1- The precedent is very worrisome.

2- One seldom mentioned reason to fight the 1960s civil war phase was to prevent North America from devolving into another silly, balkanized, bickering Europe, filled with borders and standing armies.

3- They know better than to secede this time, and are concentrating on destroying us from within, by waging wear on science and all other clades of knowledge and skill... and by destroying the American problem-solving political process.

4- They have children who deserve the chance we've given all their smart or ambitious or sane offspring for 200 years... to get up and leave! Or to join us in other ways. I won't abandon those children lightly.

Indeed, while the confederacy has been infecting and infiltrating the old blue union, starting with the plains and mountain states and now warping Wisconsin and Indiana etc... Virginia and North Carolina are getting smart and educated so fact that they are leaving the confederacy... and in time, so might Texas.

Jeff B. said...

Laurent,

I agree. My comment was intended to apply to the real-world attempts at fascism, though, not the textbook definition. I don't know enough about Mussolini's version to comment, but National Socialism in Germany was largely fascism in name only. The Party was very much in charge and dictated all aspects of policy. The oligarchy made out extremely well, but that was only because they were forced to follow orders, or coopted by the regime- esp. after the war started. Those oligarchs "allied" with the Party were ubcomfortably aware of their back-seat status.

Same result, perhaps, but different drivers.

The USA if it goes that far would have in my mind an equal chance of devolving into theocracy or a more textbook-style oligarchy/fascist state- depending on which branch of the current Republican alliance were to take control. I would hope both would be unlikely.

Jeff B. said...

Dr. Brin,

Not sure if the "purple-ization" of formerly blue states in the Midwest all follow the same pattern as here in PA, but there is a lot of shiny Red paint slapped on this rusty old car. True, PA has grown more conservative, but we've always had a crazy element in the hinterlands away from the urbs. This trend is driven more by basic economics than anything, at least here- the closing of industry, and shipping of jobs overseas and to non-union states, left the rural reaches without good-paying jobs. Desperation breeds radicalization.

The biggest change, though, has been the almost-unassailable gerrymandering that has locked the state legislature Republican for several years, and will continue for the foreseeable future. My congressional district in Western PA stretches from the northern suburbs of Pittsburgh to Erie. In a state 60+% registered Democratic, Republicans control maybe 75-80% of the legislature.

It's almost enough to lose hope. With no way to wrest control from the right, and a rural population only getting more conservative, the only bright spot are the statewide offices- a Democratic governor, three new state supreme court justices, one US senator (and the other, a Republican, vulnerable.)

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of Solar Thermal Power plants (the 'tower of molten salt') reminds me of another one of Musk's many initiatives to mass produce Li-ion batteries to store household generated solar power.

Musk is scaling up to deliver next year but, meanwhile, another technological advance has just been announced: a Li-oxygen cell which has the capacity to store 10 times the amount of a Li-ion battery, and provides an energy density on par with petroleum. The catch is that the commercialisation of this is estimated to be ten years (and long lag-times tend to make the meters of BS detectors quiver)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re Gerrymandering
Am I correct that in a gerrymandered state the effect is to give one party a major advantage in a roughly equal situation
BUT
If there is a swing to the other party (like the Dems) then when the swing is big enough the first party loses in an avalanche?

So if you do get a swing to the Democrats there is a tipping point where the gerrymandering will work against the Republicans

A.F. Rey said...

Going a bit more off topic, FiveThiryEight has an interesting analysis of how Republicans in Blue States have a disproportionate influence on the Republican presidential primary.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-gops-primary-rules-might-doom-carson-and-cruz/

So Daivd's idea of joining the prevalent party in your area works well for him, being a Republican in Blue State California. Not so well in other parts of the country, at least for choosing the presidential contender.

David Brin said...

Yes Duncan. The trick in gerrymandering is to create a bunch of districts where democrats lead by 30%+, in order for there to be even more districts where Republicans have a comfortable 10%+ advantage. If there were a 12% swing, a majority of such GOP seats might get wiped out. They count on dems never mobilizing like that.

AFR fascinating article indeed! Clearly this supports my assertion that if you are a democrat living in a republican gerried district, your only logical choice is to re-register as a republican (and the flip goes, as well, you republicans in blue havens.) You won't get cooties or suddenly start buying guns. All it will mean is that your vote will finally count for something.

LarryHart said...

RFYork:

The real problem we face is how to persuade the states of the old Confederacy to secede again.


That's a variation on my own recent daydream...that we wake up one fine morning to discover that the self-proclaimed religious right politicians really did get taken up in the Rapture. The remaining Democratic majority in congress immediately confirm replacements for the five missing justices on the Supreme Court, and from that moment on, the rest of us get to go about the business of managing the day to day work of running a country.

LarryHart said...

Jeff B:

True, PA has grown more conservative, but we've always had a crazy element in the hinterlands away from the urbs.


When my brother first moved to Pennsylvania, he was told that the state was "Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in the middle".

locumranch said...



Whereas a pessimist like myself would be dismayed by a declining US literacy rate (and perhaps say sad things about a fading & failing progressive utopia), a dyed-in-wool optimist would celebrate the regression of US literacy as 'proof positive' of the brave bold future that has out-sourced the primitive & arduous task of reading, thinking & digesting knowledge to semi-autonomous AIs who can then program human beings directly (in accordance with established pc-driven guidelines), and the realist who could & would solve this crisis by (1) the humane process of lowered standards & literacy inflation much in the same way (cough) that the World Bank 'lowered' the global poverty percentage, (2) the less humane construction of progressive literacy 'Camp Concentration' & re-education centres (with apologies to Thomas Disch) or (3) the least humane (but tried & true) selective extermination of all such literary regressives who still think & read for themselves.

And, yet, one question remains:

Why should we "fight complacency" and "redouble our efforts" in order to save this sorry oligarchy-dominated military command structure that empowers the worst of us, enslaves the best, discards the least & wages war against the middle?

Secession, it seems, is only the beginning.


Best

David Brin said...

LarryHart: "and from that moment on, the rest of us get to go about the business of managing the day to day work of running a country."

In fact it must go farther, or we are left with an implication that their rapture rebukes us as sinners. Not just running a country, but building a civilization must be our goal, with science and justice and tolerance of eccentricity and otherness augmenting till our grandchildren take on spectacular challenges... as successfully as folks I know did the New Horizon mission, OUR success so stunningly beautiful and godlike that it proves we were made (if we were made) to be apprentice creators, picking up the tools of the first 6 days.

THAT is what I'll settle for, if our primitivist neighbors get raptured up to their version of exaltation. God bless em and may they get nice harps. We'll be busy becoming more like God.

locumranch said...


It is as I have known & feared: That idealists of any sort, especially those of the progressive sort, are incapable of compromise, brook no contradiction & are quick to 'rapture' any sort of resistance under the bus, just as they have done & will continue to do to those depressed rural red states for failing to conform to the bright blue urban ideal, as those who would become gods eventually practice some sort of human sacrifice, so (once freed of their own humanity) they may become beautiful, godlike & rule for a thousand years, even though many of us have already had our fill of such 'Iron Dreams' and would rather remain men.

Best

David Brin said...

Someone tell me when he becomes cogent enough to even read. It happens, now and then. As-is, the eye quick-scans wearily and can tell.

Tony Fisk said...

As news, I regret to say the following comes under the 'worrisome' category.

Nov 3: Rupert Murdoch assumes control of National Geographic. Proceeds to sack entire staff.

Jonathan Sills said...

Cogency? From locum? Maybe every other full moon, when he turns into a were-human...

Laurent Weppe said...

* "I think if the southern states were to once again secede from the Union, they will eventually fall into economic difficulties"

That reminds me the "Let's allow Grexit to teach the Greeks a lesson" argument: "Let's kick Greece out of the eurozone: once they have a currency worth jackshit and the price of imported fuel, food and drugs go through the roof, they'll know the price their jingoism."...

Except in that case, Greece's economic wouldn't lead to it's population limping back to the EU and promising to play by the rules this time: it would lead to the Greek oligarchs, who relocated their wealth out of Greece long ago who would swoop in and buy literally everything.

The same would happen if the old confederacy seceded: it's economic difficulties would not make it limp back toward the rest of the US: it would just make it easier for its most corrupt rulers to turn it into the kind of feudal despotate they long to create.

***

* "National Socialism in Germany was largely fascism in name only. The Party was very much in charge and dictated all aspects of policy. The oligarchy made out extremely well, but that was only because they were forced to follow orders"

What you're depicting here is the oligarchs' folly: those who subsidize demagogues view their proteges as their pets: guard dogs who will be happy to protect their patrons from the plebs in exchange for scraps and a few scratches behind the ears.
The problem is that the demagogues and their followers aren't as simple as their sponsors believe: they know the reason their patrons want someone to sabotage the political institutions from the inside come from the fact that the State is stronger than them and would beat them in a direct confrontation: therefore they know that once they have control over the institutions, They will be stronger than their erstwhile benefactors.

***

* "Nov 3: Rupert Murdoch assumes control of National Geographic. Proceeds to sack entire staff."

This looks like a story ripped from the Scrooge McDuck comics:
"Flintheart Glomgold buys Junior Woodchucks Guidebook's editor and fires everybody out of spite"
I'd have liked it better if it had been fictional.

Jumper said...

First it was a lament about low literacy, then a defense of the low literacy areas.

Um, anyway, nice discussion going. I am in a southern state but my city is educated and votes Democratic, so I suppose if the South secedes we'll have to secede from the South and try to be some sort of Singapore of North Carolina. And poor Austin!

I was thinking of ISIL the other day and how so many people confuse a group or organization with actual real entities. It seems in the mass media no one wants to point out that "destroying ISIL" means "destroying an ideology" which, as far as I know, isn't easily done with pure military actions.

Jeff B. said...

LarryHart,
"When my brother first moved to Pennsylvania, he was told that the state was "Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in the middle"."

There is a reason the Census Bureau considers Appalachia to extend almost to Lake Erie... We chose to move halfway between Pgh. and Erie because we both love the outdoors, and there's still a lot of undeveloped land. And Cost of living is better than most places in the Northeast. But "Redneckistan" really grates sometimes. The people here can be wonderful, and yet so parochial and determined to act against their best interests.

And yes, gerrymandering can in theory be overturned by a wave of voters. But in places like PA it's a lot harder than it sounds. The state Democratic Party seems locked in the past, and has done almost nothing that I can see to start building the local support and local candidates that would be the critical lattice to support such a wave. They still seem befuddled at the changes of the last 40 years and don't have any idea on how to change.

Re: National Geographic: to be fair, the reports I've read is that only some staff have been let go. Rumor has it that NatGeo's media enterprises were in rough water already and layoffs might have been inevitable anyway. Much as I hate Fox News, their entertainment division still produces some high quality programming that doesn't push an agenda.

raito said...

Jeff B,

Wisconsin is much in the same boat as PA. We have Madison and Milwaukee surrounded by hyper-conservatives (though things are a little more politically equal in the Fox Valley). Both sides full of idiots.

Gerrymandering to the point of insanity, 'negotiated' in a lawyer's office so that the instigators could claim privilege to keep anyone from knowing how the decisions were reached.

Attempts to kill off the Government Accountability Board (created because it was needed some years ago) and Freedom of Information as it applies to government processes, mostly because the politicians don't want anyone to know what they're up to.

Economic legislation by the Republican majority designed to punish Democratic areas.

Attempts to kill the John Doe investigations. Yes, one of them got out of hand badly, but the solution is to punish the misuses of the laws rather than use single instances to scrap them.

Republican-created WEDC, which mostly shuffles tax money to the oligarchs then claims it doesn't know where the money went, how it was spent, or how it's affected jobs (the primary reason it was created for in the first place).

Cutting the educational budget while giving the same amount to pro sports team owners on the vague promise that the team's income taxes will pay for it in the next 5 years or so, without any documentation at all (I'm actually very surprised no one has researched and published that claim).

But WI historically votes Democratic for president.

But don't think the Democratic-controlled areas are run any better.

Madison recently approved a plan to redevelop a downtown block on the promise that Exact Sciences would put a new headquarters there. Surprise! They backed out, supposedly because they failed to get FDA approval for a product. In reality, it's more like they're a company that's never shown a profit, and whose losses are accelerating.

Like one conversation went, "So when did it become fashionable for a corporation to not spend money because it didn't have any?" "When it already promised to do so, and inconveniences an awful lot of people by doing it."

And on reflexive craziness, the current state regime rejected funds to build rail that would ultimately connect the Twin Cities to Chicago via Milwaukee.

As to whether global poverty news encourages or enrages me, my answer is a bit different than you might expect.

It encourages and enrages me, as well as cautions me. I'm encouraged that there are fewer, enraged that there are any, and cautioned that a single number may not be valid for the entire world.

Anonymous said...

A trans-siberian car-sitting route is indeed crazy. I suppose if you're burning Carbon like it was going out of style (and have sandy ear syndrome over the fact of peak oil), sure, why the heck not? Heroic Materialism Man kinda sorta has to poop out ever increasing amounts of Concrete and Steel, that's what he does. Now, as for why someone would car-sit between Moscow and that whole lot of nowhere—for something like three entire days, assuming they can average something like 125 km/hr, sustained—and that not counting the Alaska to New York nor the London to Moscow portions—when instead they could plane-sit and get that miserable business of travel over in maybe half a day...yeah, seems more about Russian businesses looking for something to burn Carbon on. Nothing unique there; America has it's own Cult of the Infrastructure rattling the collection cup for silly trillions as well.

Now, Vegas, how sustainable is that? So why burn yet more Carbon plopping down fancy rail to it? Let's check on Lake Mead... landmark low, and likely to get worse, nice! Oh, and the Vegas population is expected to double. Hmm. I believe this is the point in the movie where the "go" pedal is strapped down, and the car-sitters hurtle ever faster towards...a bold and shiny future of ever more car-sitting! Huzzah!

locumranch said...


How to effect 'cogent' communication with someone who prides (her) himself on contrariness?

Liberals favour the individual; collectivists favour the group; progressives favour & instigate change; conservatives resist change & persevere; and moderates are driven to extinction.

Once was, my children, I was one such moderate, prone to compromise, until I was condemned & repudiated by both extremes, first by the conservatives for favouring SOME progress and then by the progressives for not favouring ALL progress, much in the same way that I am condemned by both extremes for accepting climate change FACT but denying projective climate change FANTASY.

So, in the face of this ongoing insanity, I respectfully withdraw, while the half-wrong conservative right resists each & every benificial change, the half-right progressive left demands that immediate adoption of total change no matter how potentially malevolent and both sides strap their locomotive 'go' pedals to the floor in their mutual rush toward an uncertain future dominated by the extreme lack of compromise, making the inevitable 'End of the Line' into a smashing success.

With Elvis, the moderates have left the building.


Best

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

idealists of any sort, especially those of the progressive sort, are incapable of compromise, brook no contradiction


"I know you are, but what am I?"


& are quick to 'rapture' any sort of resistance under the bus,


You completely (willfully) misinterpret what I said about the Rapture, as well as the "let them secede" comment that led to it. I'm not after the forcible eviction Red Staters or religious extremists from the country. No, that's what your side wants to do to us (hence my standard line above). What I was fantasizing was more along the lines of a Doonesbury "Mike's Summer Daydream". The religionists keep talking about how they're going to be taken up in the Rapture, and the rest of us will be "Left Behind" to cry about it. Ok, let's do the thought expermiment. Granting that they are correct, what would the next day look like? A country in which the right-wing obstructionists suddenly weren't there? Not because they were murdered or exiled, but because their own oft-stated dream came true?

To me, it would be more heavenly than hellish for the rest of us. You could even characterize it as a win-win situation--or as Dr Brin's "positive sum". They get what they always dreamed of, and I get what I want as well. No acrimony here. Everyone could be a winner.


just as they have done & will continue to do to those depressed rural red states for failing to conform to the bright blue urban ideal,


I'm really tempted to just repeat my tag line. I mean, the structure of the Senate and the effect of 2010 redistricting allows the depressed rural red states to impose their agenda upon the rest of us.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Once was, my children, I was one such moderate, prone to compromise, until I was condemned & repudiated by both extremes, first by the conservatives for favouring SOME progress and then by the progressives for not favouring ALL progress, much in the same way that I am condemned by both extremes for accepting climate change FACT but denying projective climate change FANTASY.


So your life is like the secret origin of a super-villain?


So, in the face of this ongoing insanity, I respectfully withdraw,
...
With Elvis, the moderates have left the building.


I guess there's leaving and there's "mostly leaving". :)

Paul451 said...


A.F. Rey,
"http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-gops-primary-rules-might-doom-carson-and-cruz/"

David,
"Clearly this supports my assertion that if you are a democrat living in a republican gerried district, your only logical choice is to re-register as a republican (and the flip goes, as well, you republicans in blue havens.) You won't get cooties or suddenly start buying guns. All it will mean is that your vote will finally count for something."

Actually, David, the article is suggesting the opposite. And it's something I hadn't considered. You have to decide whether the Presidential race is more important than the district-level races. If you are in a Blue district, then your Red vote is worth more in the primary (presumably ditto the other way around.) So you want to register for the party that is weakest in your district.

Ie, the opposite of your advice.

The low voter turn outs in party primaries, and the disproportionate power of political-minority voters in lopsided districts, the power to hijack should be especially high. The fivethirtyeight example said NY's 15th district (with approx 200,000 votes in a Presidential year) had just 5000 Republican votes. Since the typical Republican primary turnout is just 10%, that means as few as 500 people could vote in that district's Republican primary. A dozen Dem buddies registering as Republicans could easily cover the difference between the top 4 or 5 candidates. A few thousand Dem vote-hackers state-wide could easily swing the majority of NY's 95 Republican delegates.

However, this only applies in the Presidential race, and hence only in a Presidential election year. How often are you allowed to re-register? Can you register, say, Republican during a Presidential election year, but switch back to Democrat for mid-terms and off-year elections? If your state has open or semi-open primaries, register independent and vote in everything. But for everyone else... study the rules and play the game. It's certainly being played against you.

[Aside: There's probably a much greater vote-hacking opportunity in local races, where turnouts can be in single-digit percentages. There seems to be an opportunity for someone to create an "election weakness" database that lets people enter their location and find out the races that allow people to maximise their voting power, especially at the primary level.]

David Brin said...

AFR you are right. the 538 piece intriguingly suggests your voter registration should depend on whether you think your vote will better be used supporting moderates for congress/assembly... or a moderate for president. But it's more complex, because changing the moderation balance for lower offices will affect the mood in legislatures, even if a radical wins, this round. She'll see how the wind is shifting.

Helping a "moderate" to win the GOP nomination may be counterproductive. Tho does it matter? Any of these guys except Trump or Kasich will bring with him all the Bushite kleptocracy of ruinous factotums.

I did read Locum's missive this time... I am getting good at quick scanning and knowing at a glance whether it is one of his snake-holding, talking-in-tongues, book-of-revelation rants or the rare cogent submission. This time it was actually cogent and kind of moving. I am truly sorry things are like that... on planet Locumranch.

Fortunately, most of us live on Planet Earth and in this version of the United States, where (1) many things are positive sum and not the dismal tradeoffs he assumes and (2) the screeching "progressive" ninnies exist, but are simply not the major force he makes them out to be.

If there were some way to send aid to the planet where he dwells, I would pass a collection dish.

Alfred Differ said...

locumranch says>>>>So, in the face of this ongoing insanity, I respectfully withdraw, while the half-wrong conservative right resists each & every beneficial change, the half-right progressive left demands that immediate adoption of total change no matter how potentially malevolent and ...

Calling yourself a moderate doesn't really make you one. It is a bit more likely that you are a liberal and should adopt that label in the way it used to be used. Liberals aren't in the middle. It's more of a triangle than a line, so it's no surprise the progressives and conservatives get annoyed. Each will lump a liberal with the other group.

Once you recognize what you are, you'll see there is no need to withdraw. There are a lot of liberals (in the old sense) around. Make the effort to avoid lumping us in with the other two groups yourself and you'll see us for what we are.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

It is a bit more likely that you are a liberal and should adopt that label in the way it used to be used.


Isn't it more likely that what locumranch is is a contrarian? The gist of his rants seems to be that everyone else is wrong, no matter what their positions are, because like the young Alvie Singer character in "Annie Hall", he notes that the universe is expanding toward heat death and concludes "What's the point?" Of anything.

LarryHart said...

Or maybe, the label we are talking about is "misfit". "I tried being a liberal and a conservative, and neither club would have me." If so, I can certainly empathize. That was me for many years. My wife and I both joke that we're waiting for the mothership from our home planet to realize they left us here and come get us.

Given the geeky nature of science fiction, I wouldn't be surprised if such thoughts cross the mind of other regulars here as well.

I know I'm the last person who should be preaching this way, but dude, "Neither insular club would have me" isn't a bad thing. I spent too many years in my teens and twenties bemoaning my lot because girls didn't find me attractive and I was awkward in groups. I could have been that guy in Santa Barbara who went on a murder-suicide spree because he was still a virgin at 22. I could have spitefully "withdrawn" from society like an Ayn Rand protagonist. But somehow, no matter how much of a misfit I felt I was, I kept determined to not become a super-villain.

No, really. I would hear in my head something that sounded like "Some day, I'll show them all!", and I'd recoil in shock and horror at the thought of becoming that guy.

Is that really what you want your life to be?

Seriously?

Alfred Differ said...

@anon: Gotta love it when people think they understand enough of how the universe works to justify dismantling a city. No matter what people think of Vegas, it is important to remember that people choose to be there and an awful lot of them have made this choice. One doesn't have to agree with their decisions to understand that market forces drive them, thus demolishing a city of over a million people is economically presumptuous.

The need for rail between Vegas and southern California is obvious to any of us who make the trip. It was obvious to me back in the 80's when I lived there and painfully obvious now when I visit my family there. There is bumper-to-bumper traffic on the interstate at certain choke points and people are dying stupidly out there in their impatience.

Financing the thing won't be all that hard. I'm sure the folks in Vegas will 'chip' in.

Hollister David said...

I've seen a number of recent articles on the near eradication of polio. But nobody is giving Rotary International any credit. Rotary has been providing polio vaccines throughout the planet for decades.

Regarding free open source text books... A lot of academics get paid peanuts for long hours and difficult work. Text books are a source of revenue for some. Should the folks that disseminate knowledge work for free?

How about a Napster for science fiction. Give the science fiction writers zero royalties. Would that be progress?

David Brin said...

I don't get why the Vegas casino owners didn't subsidize rail from LA ages ago.

Jumper said...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DWiB7ZuLvI

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart: Due to our host's inclination to be a contrarian, I've no doubt locumranch thinks imitation would work well to garner attention. That's David's currency around here, so why not try?

I think David called it long ago when he suggested locumranch was young. He sounds to be about half my age in the way he rails against the progressives and conservatives. He just hasn't come to terms with what he actually is yet. Give it time. 8)

The first error to correct is the belief in the accuracy of label definitions. He quotes out of the dictionary while phrasing many posts using a simple template. "If we assume X means Y then Z means Q." Many of them come apart with the simple observation that we often don't assume X let alone that X means Y. In this case, the conservatives define liberal as their opposition. Everyone in opposition gets the same label no matter no matter what they think in detail. So what is a progressive? A liberal? Whatever the conservatives say! What if we don't assume the conservatives know enough to inform us, though?

What he sounds like is some of the whiners I know among the libertarians on FB. Gosh. Look at how convincing my latest diatribe is! Pfft.

Time to grow up I say.
Social T-cells are useful, but only en masse.
Come join us. Singletons are too easily mistaken for kooks.

Alfred Differ said...

It was the taxi cab union that stopped most rail projects within Vegas way back when. They wouldn't even tolerate the little monorail that went in later when I was off at grad school. The interstate rail ran into them AND a local belief that they could foist the cost off on others like the feds.

Vegas casino owners tend to be less than monolithic shall we say. Everyone in the city would benefit from the rail, but they'd like someone else to pay for it. That's probably why they haven't put in the airport at Primm yet. Do that and a rail from Primm to Vegas is a no-brainer. Break it into pieces like this and we might get the rest of it built.

I'd settle for a terminal station in San Bernardino if that's what it took. 8)

Jumper said...

I think high school and elementary texts aren't written by poor academics so much as corporations that have cozy deals and fly under the radar as much as possible. I say get rid of their overpriced junk. While being cautious of unintended consequences of course.

Alfred Differ said...

EVERYONE involved in the Polio eradication effort deserves a huge thank you. That impresses me more than the Pluto mission, but all these things demonstrate why it is worth defending this civilization.

locumranch said...


Polio eradication is a myth, based on a flawed theory that if we discontinue use of the Sabin (live attenuated) vaccine in favour of Salk (dead inactive) vaccine that we will somehow eliminate the live virus carrier state (and/or the human reservoir), the problem being that the Salk (dead inactive) vaccine fails to provide mucosal (IgA-based) immunity, meaning that Salk-mediated immunity provides an ideal human vector, a non-immune viral mucosal reservoir & an unaffected host.

Poor Larry & Alfred who, despite their best intentions, misinterpret the Karpman drama triangle into a rather dichotomous false choice between hero (rescuer) & super-villain (persecutor), when victim status is the third & most prevalent formalized option, and the most mature solution to this triangular dilemma is to become 'bystander', observer or non-participant by stepping outside of such dramatic confines.

Best

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

Bravo for choosing not to accept a beating from anyone. I'm not offering one, though, and I have little interest in rescuing you. There are more interesting things to do.

One of them happens to be checking out the statistics regarding how many people were diagnosed with Polio so far this year. 41. Neat.

Alfred Differ said...

oops. 51 by mid-October. Gotta refresh that link now and then. 8)

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

Poor Larry & Alfred who, despite their best intentions, misinterpret the Karpman drama triangle into a rather dichotomous false choice between hero (rescuer) & super-villain (persecutor), when victim status is the third & most prevalent formalized option, and the most mature solution to this triangular dilemma is to become 'bystander', observer or non-participant by stepping outside of such dramatic confines.


Ok, so I was misled by the fact that a "bystander, observer, or non-participant" generally doesn't call attention to himself. The guy who rides by on horseback shouting "The King is a fink!" might be performing a valuable social service, and might not be a villain or hero, but is hardly a non-participant.

Douglas Fenton said...

Dr. Brin asked about the decline in extreme poverty in the world dropping below 10%

“Okay, here's the question. Does this news encourage or enrage you?”

My answer is both. It encourages me because the trend is downward but it enrages me because the point set, that under a $1.90 a day as the definition of extreme poverty, seems to me to be way too low and arbitrary. Shouldn’t the definition of extreme poverty depend not on a dollar amount but rather on access to food, shelter, water and education?

Douglas Fenton said...

Instead of wringing our hands and saying ‘if only people in the South voted like us then the world would be a better place’ maybe we should try to understand them. The culture in the South is deep-rooted. It comes from the fact that the South in its formative years was settled by a different set of people than those of the North and the Middle States and have different concepts of freedom and the role government in their lives. These people came from the Marches (the border between England and Scotland as well as Northern Ireland) where war was endemic and central government was either absent or exploitative and nothing between. This engendered a warrior mentality and a deep distrust of central government and consequently you never, ever disarm. To survive you depend upon your family and your clan but no one else. In the North the concept of freedom is above all an intellectual construct but in the South the idea of freedom is visceral. You just feel if you are free or not. This a huge simplification of course but you still see these deep-seated regional patterns in just about every aspect of life in the US. Liberals dismiss them as white trash and have no need of them. They are not the “good” poor. They are the “bad” poor but nevertheless liberals are incensed when the white trash say they don’t need the liberals either. What I mean to say is that both sides are talking past each other because they have different definitions of what is freedom and what government should be in their lives.

But now something very interesting is happening. On the surface it seems that some aspects of Southern culture is spreading to some parts of the North. It is not the gun part but it is the distrust of central government part and is something we haven’t seen before. Most of this change comes from people who were middle-class and are now in the lower-class. A recent study has pointed out the extreme stress this group is experiencing now. To them government hasn’t done anything for them whether it is democrats or republicans. Not only has government not done anything for them but they perceive that government and the elites are actively pushing them down. They have become the “bad” poor. In a recent interview Bob Dylan put it very accurately about how this group feels when he expatiated on plutocrats who find international philanthropy so much more glamorous than helping the single mom in the trailer park or the homeless vet in the ghetto. He said:

“Does it make him happy giving his money away to foreign countries? Is there more contentment in that than in giving it here to the inner cities and creating jobs? … These multibillionaires can create industries right here in America. But no one can tell them what to do. God’s got to lead them.”

When they see this going on it sickens them and the elites wonder why they are not welcomed with open arms? They don’t trust them anymore. Don't the elites see this enormous backlash building? If ever we need a FDR it is now. Sorry, but Hillary is just not of his mettle.

reason said...

I'm not sure that I read a "book" last year. But I read a lot (mostly blogs and news these days). Is there something special about reading a whole book?

Duncan Cairncross said...

I have heard this
"These people came from the Marches"
Before
The problem is - the borders are not like that now and they were well past that by the time the South was settled

James the 6th became king of England in 1603 - and immediately acted to tame the borders

The wild men from the borders went to the Netherlands and Ireland - the US colonies were two generations later

The "Border" culture is still very self reliant BUT enormously more PRAGMATIC and less egotistical than the Southern culture which is much more like the Southern European "Macho" culture - probably to do with the slave holding

reason said...

P.S. I definitely read parts of books and magazines (like Scientific American) pretty much cover to cover.

Tacitus2 said...

Douglas Fenton. Don't think I've caught previous posts of yours. Well said. And if you are new here, welcome.

Regards strategic voting it is not clear to me why you should have to register with one party or another. Both people and parties change. Here in Wisconsin you do not have to specify. Of course you can only vote in either the D or R primary, not both, but there are times when one race is settled and the other in play. Long time posters may recall that I once voted for Senator Obama over Hillary Clinton. I was tired of the Clintons seven years ago. Like many such choices the subsequent results have been mixed.

Pols like them some choo choo trains. Plenty of money to spread around to friends. A long term commitment to one fixed idea. It is very old school. In some places train lines make lots of sense. Others, none at all. In the borderline ones I tend to think that if private investors won't go anywhere near it then it is probably suspect. The Wisconsin project, as I read the numbers, did not make sense economically and would have tagged my kids and grandkids with ongoing operating expenses forever. Federal funds to get things started are so tempting but they run out.

The LA to Vegas line makes a bit more sense. Interesting perspectives on the local opposition. I had suspected the cabbies of being rather self serving. The last time I had to go to Babylon for a conference I told Mrs. T that I intended to walk from the airport to my hotel. I could see it after all. But she noted the maze of roadways and the dark valleys that no doubt contained bandits. Sigh. Called a cab.

Tacitus

Douglas Fenton said...

Duncan Cairncross,

First of all war in the Marches go back over a thousand years before King James. Hadrian's Wall was built there for a reason and cultural habits can persist for a very long time. King James tamed the borders and then used the "wild men" to tame the Irish by sending them to Northern Ireland. After spending a couple generations there they massively immigrated to the American colonies and made up the core of the backwoodsmen, the Scots-Irish, who are precisely the people I was talking about. If you want to delve into it I recommend reading “Albion’s Seed” by David Hackett Fischer. He is a noted historian and the book is very well researched. If you don’t have time the Wikipedia page has a nice synopsis to give you an idea. I found it helped me understand some important things about ourselves.

Jumper said...

No, one doesn't have to read books to go into depth but it's convenient to have that depth in one place. I don't mean novels, although the very best ones do achieve the depth that teaches powerful thoughts and ideas. What would I retain of learning about Harry Truman for example, if I didn't read a long biography? (Supplemented by online articles, definitely, or other books.) Or entire books of work on one subject, perhaps by different authors. Again, convenient. Convenient for serious learning.

Douglas Fenton said...

Tacitus2,

Thanks for welcoming me but I have posted here for a few months now under a pseudo. I won't tell you which one. I could be anyone, even locumranch when he is sober.

Jumper said...

I think the difference in the U.S. Southern culture is adequately explained by poverty. The elites were (are) surrounded by it and the others are too or experience it. And it's rural, not civil poverty, which I'd say are experientially very different. Anti-government sentiment mostly was ameliorated by FDR and the new crop is engineered.

Just today I got one of those "funny" emails from an older relative. Among the stuff was a collection of "stupid signs" many of which were road signs (government!) The photoshopping was clear to me (not real government stupidity) but I'm sure very few of the old folks passing it along saw that, or the subtle manufacture of anti-government propaganda that jumped out at me.

The times change but the message is the same. I'm sure there are still people who think "the government" ruled that all mop buckets must have holes in them, or that a "scientist ate a spoonful of DDT and he was fine."

raito said...

Alfred Differ,

CDC seems to be reporting 51 cases, but that's splitting hairs.

A decade or so ago, I knew someone in the Peace Corps over in Niger. They were still getting cases. She described an old man in the village who would collect discarded footwear to use on his hands as he dragged himself around town.

Now tell me that things aren't better now.

I'd still like to know if any of the anti-vax crowd would take their children to Africa...

raito said...

(Sorry Alfred, looks like I need to refresh my own links from time to time...)

LarryHart said...

I haven't seen Dr Brin designate a "post of the day" recently, but Douglass Fenton deserves one.

A few quick responses...


...in the South the idea of freedom is visceral. You just feel if you are free or not. This a huge simplification of course but you still see these deep-seated regional patterns in just about every aspect of life in the US. Liberals dismiss them as white trash and have no need of them. They are not the “good” poor. They are the “bad” poor but nevertheless liberals are incensed when the white trash say they don’t need the liberals either. What I mean to say is that both sides are talking past each other because they have different definitions of what is freedom and what government should be in their lives.


To me, there's some confusion here between liberals deciding that they're ok if the southerners are determined to secede with liberals taking the inititiative to dismiss them out of hand. That conflation is certainly apparent in locumranch's missives. That's an attempt to explain where I am coming from personally. I can't speak for "liberals" as a conglomerate.

But to the extent that what you say is true, it's a tragedy. The people in question used to be hard-core Democrats, and they'd have the most to gain from a Democratic majority that they had some influence over. I say it's a tragedy if the northern Dems arrogantly drove them out of the party and into the GOP's waiting arms.

Then again, I'm also a fan of Goldfinger's observation that "Once is happenstance; twice is coincidence; three times is enemy action." Too many natural constituents of the Democratic Party have been made to feel that the Republicans are "their team" for me to credit happenstance or coincidence.



"...These multibillionaires can create industries right here in America. But no one can tell them what to do. God’s got to lead them.”


This is where income-inequality and wealth-inequality itself becomes a real problem for society, irrespective of whether the particular billionaires are "deserving" of their wealth or not. The idea that an individual is free to work as little or as much as he wishes depends upon the premise that one can earn his living by producing goods or services of value. If instead, one is required to produce goods and services of particular value to the narrow clade who owns (essentially) all of the money--if the only "value" worthy of selling is that which benefits a small group of people--then our society ceases to function. The underlying premise of America must be that all citizens are deserving of life and dignity, not that those qualities only apply to the small population deemed necessary as servants by the private owners of the means of survival.


When they see this going on it sickens them and the elites wonder why they are not welcomed with open arms? They don’t trust them anymore. Don't the elites see this enormous backlash building? If ever we need a FDR it is now.


Agreed, vehemently.


Sorry, but Hillary is just not of his mettle.


Maybe not, but Hillary is a very good politician, and she seems to be getting the idea that populism is the prevailing wind. You may be underestimating how her political instincts might be a good thing in this case. FDR also came from the wealthy class, and required the ground-up support of the American people before he could become what he's remembered for.

matthew said...

There was only one real reason that Southern Dems fled to the Republican Party - racism. There is one reason that Northern rural types fled to the R's - racism.

When I was living in eastern New Mexico in the middle 80's I was told (at Kiwanis meeting, no less) a story about why the blacks in my town were "good" blacks while the blacks in the next town over were "bad" blacks. I was told that our town allowed a few "good" blacks to stay because they knew their place. When blacks from the next town wanted to move to my town because there were better jobs, they all knew there would be a pushback, so a bunch of families formed a caravan for protection during the move. My town's blacks were afraid of the minority population doubling and raising their profile to a point where all blacks, new and old, would be run out of town. A bunch of the local blacks met the caravan from the next town over at the county line and demanded that they turn back. When none would return from where they came, our "good" blacks fired upon the caravan, killing several of the "bad" blacks and sending the rest fleeing back from where they had came from. The whole room full of Kiwanis, civic leaders and businessmen, city council members and high school coaches, applauded the murders by the "good" blacks and said that this was why they were allowed to stay in that fair city. They were "good" blacks, not uppity, and were to be trusted to keep out the "bad" blacks.

This speech had an impact on my life. It convinced me that I needed to get the hell out Southeastern New Mexico. And I did leave, and have not been back. It also pointed out the difference between racists in Oregon, where I was born and returned to after leaving NM, and the racists down south. In Oregon, even the KKK/biker/Holnists I grew up around kept their racism kinda quiet, under the table. They were circumcept about it. In the south, businessmen think that their racism makes a nice talk at a Kiwanis luncheon for the high school kids.

It all comes down to racism. Are there racist liberals? A few, getting fewer all the time. Are there conservatives that are not racist? A few, getting fewer all the time.

So, Larry Hart, I do not think it's a tragedy that the northern Dems arrogantly drove the rural folk into the Repub's arms. I think it is a result of racism, pure and simple.

Tacitus2 said...

Matthew

A chilling story. Can you give any more details? Where, when? Just curious.

Tacitus

Douglas Fenton said...

Yes. Give us something we can verify. News articles, civil rights groups, witness reports and so forth. You say several were killed. Were they autopsied?

Jason said...

David,

For the future of fusion, don't leave out Helion Energy - they received a $3.8M DoE grant for fusion energy production and are an outgrowth directly from John Slough's NIAC grant!

http://www.helionenergy.com
http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/2012_phaseII_fellows_slough.html

Cheers,

-Jason

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Douglas

As a member of a "Border Family" with a history in the Borders of over 1000 years I think your analysis is miles and miles from the truth

The people who live in the old marches have a completely different mindset

Now the idea that after living as part of the "desirable class" (Protestants) in Ireland and lording it over the catholic natives then moving to the USA and lording it over that slaves they ended up as ingrained racists is plausible
I just don't see any cultural connection to the Borders

LarryHart said...

Douglas Fenton:

Yes. Give us something we can verify. News articles, civil rights groups, witness reports and so forth. You say several were killed. Were they autopsied?


The point of matthew's story is the story told by the speaker. The fact that the guy told that particular story was what matthew reacted to. Whether the speaker's story itself is factual or symbolic or apocryphal doesn't (to me) signify so much.

With that in mind, what are you asking for as verifiable proof? An online transcript of the Kiwanis club minutes? There probably isn't one. A news account of the facts of the underlying story? Depending on how public the encounter was, it might or might not exist. I'd bet on "not". So does that mean matthew is making s### up? I wouldn't say that. Even if the black-shooting incident was made up by the Kiwanis guy, that in itself still says something.

Douglas Fenton said...

LarryHart,

Judging by his story there was probably at least 10 people involved on one side and at least as many if not more on the other side. A horrible incident like that would be quasi-impossible to keep secret because someone would talk and the victims have families and friends who would want the truth to be told. There would be evidence and an investigation. All I am asking is to see something written about it. He was allegedly there so he knows the date and the location. If he says it was covered up then why didn’t he go to the police? Maybe it is true or maybe it isn't. He used this narrative to prove a point but if the story is not true then his point is invalid. It means he lied. Fighting racism is definitely something that must be done vigorously but to use lies to fight it is in my opinion unacceptable and as intolerable as racism itself.

Douglas Fenton said...

Duncan Caincross,

I appreciate what you say but I think I think you are confusing the planter class, who have a different tradition, with the Scots-Irish even though there is some overlap. Also we are talking about the 17th and 18th Centuries and much has changed since then. Between 1717 and 1775, an estimated 200,000 Scots-Irish migrated to the American colonies which is a considerable number compared to the settlers already there. Why did they emigrate if they were lording over Ireland? They immigrated because of the continual fighting with the native Irish wore them down and they knew they were being used by the mostly absentee owners of the Ulster planation in England. So many emigrated that the Crown had to replace them with actual English settlers after they had left. The Scots-Irish in America were poor people. They were shunted off to the frontier. They didn’t have money to buy slaves but they did have comfort from the fact even though poor that they felt superior to the slaves. That is something very true. Well once there they proliferated like flies and ended up occupying large parts of the South and into the West but the political power stayed with the planter class.

matthew said...

Douglass,
I was present at the story being told, not the incident. Read what I wrote. It was the town leaders bragging to high school kids that I found most disgusting and, as Larry says, is the point I was trying to make about racism.

If you want to look it up, look for an incident at the Lea and Eddy county lines, sometime in the late 70's / early 80's. Don't expect a newspaper article - the editor of the local paper was often at these meetings, though I don't recall if he was at the one in question.

The way it was told to me, it was many more than 10 per side involved. It was described as a caravan of people in many cars and trucks - full families - that were ambushed.

Later, I heard that the local police were present watching the incident. I have heard both city police and county sheriffs in different versions of the story. I dunno.

If someone really wanted to find the truth, I suggest digging for witnesses in Hobbs, NM. Maybe someone would talk. Good luck and keep a low profile during your sleuthing. This is the same town where I had "nigger lover" painted on my car when I dared to date someone outside of my race.


Zepp Jamieson said...

Hydrogen powered cars aren't entirely silly. Honda just announced a tank and power cell that takes up about the space of a V-6 engine, has a cruising range of 400 miles, and can be refilled in three minutes.
http://www.computerworld.com/article/2998362/emerging-technology/honda-unveils-hydrogen-powered-car-with-400-mile-range.html?google_editors_picks=true

However, one item that concerns me: the tank stores H at 70MP. That's a pretty scary little bomb to be riding around with.

Alfred Differ said...

@Douglas Fenton: As I understand it, the move from $1.25 to $1.90 is related to what the money can buy. A broad inflation adjustment isn't all that useful. If you can't buy bread in a particular market, the price of bread is of no value in knowing the inflation rate, right? The economists get all complicated at some point and talk about producer price indexing, but as I understand it they are basically dealing with a basket of goodies that CAN be bought and then measuring inflation accordingly.

A recent article I read pointed out that in today's dollars, the average human through most of history subsisted on about $3 per day. Obviously one can't buy much in a US market for $3, but someone living off wild land could probably manage it if they had the right skills and enough land upon which to roam. Such a person is technically above the extreme poverty level BECAUSE they have enough purchasing power to keep their children alive long enough until they contribute to the family income. Food is free if you can catch it. Water is free if you can find it. It CAN be done.

There is a neat little video by Hans Rosling over at gapminder.org that discusses what one can purchase at various levels of income per day. What someone can do on $10 is remarkably better than $1 because $10 is enough to take seriously an effort to invest in one's income earning future. People of the 'west' might not think it is any different, but it is. He shows why.

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp Jamieson: Calculate the energy in car batteries and you'll find a similarly scary bomb. Short them out and they make for fun online videos that get a lot of hits.

I suspect that we will wind up with both hydrogen and electric technologies because hydrogen is one way to store electrical power. Splitting water is a storage technique that can add range to electric vehicles. Splitting water at a central utility AND charging our cars at home overnight would enable a fuel market that supplemented our needs when there was enough demand.

Alfred Differ said...

Regarding the Scots-Irish in America, one has to be careful to recognize the various waves of immigration. My father's family came from Scotland in the 1920's to mine coal in south-western PA. My father grew up out there in that in-between area and could be (likely was) mistaken for those who came from older families. There was no lording over of slaves since immigrants usually start on the bottom rung out there.

When I think about some of the social rules of Appalachia, I can feel them resonate within me, but not quite the same way as they appear to among those who never left. My father got out so I grew up elsewhere, but anyone trying to lord it over me might not be able to tell the difference. Cultural boundaries are not so simple. 8)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Zepp

Hydrogen cars are a scam
It's just a way to keep you having to go to a "gas" station

The problem is simple,
Hydrogen is an energy carrier - not an energy source - the hydrogen is made from fossil fuels or possibly a renewable source
BUT
It takes about 20% of the available energy in the hydrogen to pump the gas up to a usable density

This means that if you compare a hydrogen car to an electric car you have a 20% efficiency hit before you start to look at things like the efficiency of the reformer

So even if everything else is perfect and your fuel cell lasts longer than 20,000 miles you will always use 20% more energy than an electric car

The best idea would be to use the hydrogen to make a synthetic liquid fuel for long distance requirements
Short distance (up to 300 miles) - go electric

Alfred
I can see hydrogen being used as an energy store - but not in a compressed state - just a big storage tank - OK for stationary storage - not so good for a car

LarryHart said...

Douglass Fenton:

He used this narrative to prove a point but if the story is not true then his point is invalid. It means he lied.


If I were Perry Mason, I'd be observing that you are a hostile witness, and I'm wondering why.

If which story is not true? If the story about the Kiwanis guy relating the black-on-black incident isn't true, then sure, matthew is lying. However, his relating of the guy telling the story has the ring of truth to me. It's also not something that is likely documented anywhwere.

If you mean that if the Kiwanis guy himsself was lying, or embellishing, or telling an apocryphal tale, or making s### up, then that invalidates matthew's point, I have to respectfully disagree. The fact that his tale was intended as inspirational and that his audience reacted as they did (and that it made matthew himself sick) is the point.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: I'm agnostic regarding the actual storage method. Compressed gas is probably simplest at first, but synthesizing a liquid fuel gets better, safer compression. Stashing the H2 in a dense lattice is another compression technique, but the engineers will have lots of work to do before the idea would scale to a commercial level. I'm happy enough to sit on the sidelines and let the market rule, though. We've only begun to scratch at what different battery tech could do, so I don't think anyone really knows what can win in the market. Fortunately, we have western-style markets making the necessary bets. We shall see. 8)

Tacitus2 said...

The internet does not Know All, but I have to say that a quick survey of Hobbs New Mexico history does not bring up anything that sounds like what matthew is describing. There was even a book written by a black man who grew up in Hobbs describing racism in Southern NM...and he does appear to refer to this heinous event.

I can believe that after a few drinks somebody at a Kiwanis club may have told this story. And that the perceived positive reception of it would be offensive. I am less sure that it ever happened. It seems...lacking in veritas.

I also would contest the assertion that conservatives are mostly racist. Oh, I know a few whose opinions are unsavory, but really, very few.

Tacitus

locumranch said...



Simultaneously, some of you are being too cynical & too idealistic in regards to matthew's tale of racism, too cynical by assuming that it didn't happen & too idealist by assuming it shouldn't happen:

I heard a similar tale in 1995 on the postage stamp-sized island of Flores, Indonesia, when a local eager to practice english warned me about the population in the next town who possessed (1) slightly darker skin tones, (2) curlier hair instead of straight hair and (3) were all degenerate lying thieves, but then neglected to mention that they were all his first-degree genetic relatives, proving that human beings always can & will find a way to discriminate against others, even in the absence of reasonable justification.

That said, the differences between the Red, Blue, North & South are more cultural than racial, just as the differences between the rural & urban poor cannot be measured by either race or dollar signs.


Best

David Brin said...

Guys we are honored by the brief visit here by Jason Derleth head of NIAC who rightfully tells us of the grant for developing a fusion-powered rocket. I am proud to serve on NIAC’s board of external councilors. http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/spacetech/niac/2012_phaseII_fellows_slough.html

Hydrogen is a scam because there is no way to make a distribution system that will not leak a huge fraction of the inherently leaky Hydrogen.Unless you make it onsite with solar... then it could work. Note that Bushes used the Hydrogen myth to divert public funds from sustainables into a fuel cycle that looked similar enough to gasoline that the R&D money could go to fossil fuel companies. One more staggering lie-theft by that horrifically evil clan.

PS anyone who says we should NOT say ambush-racist murder of unarmed migrants "shouldn't happen" is by that very nature himself evil.

Paul451 said...

Hollister David,
"Regarding free open source text books... [...] Should the folks that disseminate knowledge work for free? How about a Napster for science fiction."

Unlike Napster, open source textbooks aren't one person taking someone else's work and releasing it for free. They are authors who choose to give away their own work. Ie, it's not pirating a copy of Encyclopaedia Britannica, it's writing an article for Wikipedia.

Tony Fisk said...

Re: hydrogen fuel. To repeat from last post, there is a form of battery now being trialled (Li-O) with an energy concentration comparable to gasoline. Caveat is that it is unlikely to see commercial production for another ten years.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Dr. Brin, I can't understand why anyone would WANT to have a hydrogen distribution network except over short ranges. Hydrogen is not a fuel, it's a battery. It must be evaluated against other battery technologies, not fuels; the competition for a fuel cell car is an electric car. Cracking water on a small-medium scale is not difficult, and distributing water is MASSIVELY easier than distributing hydrogen. Any sane system would have crackers either at each gas station, or at most have a cracker in each town. Hydrogen is stored and transferred as little as possible to minimize leakage loss. The energy sector makes its money building crackers, not running hydrogen plants.

The question of hydrogen relates to its usability relative to electric. Charging takes time even with "superchargers": twenty minutes versus the two minutes it takes to fuel a car with gasoline. How quickly can a hydrogen tank be changed or refilled? What is the difference in net energy density, counting the weight of tanks, piping, etc.? What is the car's range? (A recent ad was touting an electric's amazing 107 mile range... sorry, but I'll stick with my Prius and get 350 miles per fillup if that's the best you can do.)

Hydrogen may or may not be a good idea, but it's irrelevant to the question of carbon emission reduction. H2 isn't a scam itself, but it's a scam to claim it will solve energy problems. You still have to have a low carbon source of power to crack the water.

Jumper said...

Natural gas and petroleum in general often contain significant CO2 before they are even burned. The CO2 is vented. Thus the CO2 content shouldn't just be calculated from the combustion residues. Some reliable figures are here, and include some interesting details of various industries such as cement, steel, etc. and how they add up.
http://foreffectivegov.org/oil-and-gas-production-major-source-of-greenhouse-gas-emissions-epa-data-reveals

The cost to sequester (not in this article but find-able) is about the same percentage as CO2 pre-burn production. ~30% Which is outstripped by routine price fluctuations...

We need a carbon dioxide tax.

Douglas Fenton said...

Mathew,

I have to apologize for missing the fact that the story was told to you and that you were not present. On the other hand what I saw was that if true, then these people escaped justice and that is what turned my stomach. There is no statute of limitations for murder which is why I asked for some proof that it had been investigated and the perpetrators punished. If your point was that racists exist in New Mexico then ok. If your point was that racists can commit murder, then I agree with that also. But if you say that a whole caravan of people were murdered and the whole town knew about as well as the friends and family of the victims but no news of it came out then I have doubts about the story’s veracity.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

I also would contest the assertion that conservatives are mostly racist. Oh, I know a few whose opinions are unsavory, but really, very few.


I don't think the original point was that conservatives as a whole are mostly racist. It was more a comment on that particular population set who used to be solid Democrats and became Republicans when the economy went south--that what might have been justifiable anger at the oligarchs was diverted toward "those people" who are taking their jobs away.

I wouldn't even lay it all on racism. More like people who always knew white privilege to be the status quo suddenly faced with its potential loss. It's an understandable reaction, and I can even sympathize to a certain extent. Unfortunately, I can't see it as justified. And that's where the GOP comes in and "gets" these people. By playing to their sense that their desire to manitain white privilege as the status quo is justified. Sanctified, even.

LarryHart said...

Douglas Fenton:

But if you say that a whole caravan of people were murdered and the whole town knew about as well as the friends and family of the victims but no news of it came out then I have doubts about the story’s veracity.


I don't think the Kiwanis speaker matthew described mentioned how recently the caravan ambush story was supposed to have taken place. My sense was that it was a local legend meant to characterize why "our blacks" were better than "those blacks". If the story was set back several decades, say to the 1920s or 30s, then I'm guessing stuff like that happened fairly regularly, and without witnesses from mainstream (white) society to record or react to it.

I also don't see that it matters to matthew's point. If instead of telling a story, the Kiwanis guy had shown the film "Birth of a Nation", and the crowd applauded and cheered when the "good" black mammy kicked the butts of the uppity northern blacks, or as the heroic KKK saved the family from the marauding gang of negroes, my first reaction when hearing of this would not be to point out that the movie is fiction.

LarryHart said...

I said:

...and became Republicans when the economy went south...


Sorry, that was not meant as an intentional pun, which might have muddied my intent.

Paul SB said...

Larry & Tacitus,

There's another, more subtle side to racism and white privilege. I refer to it as crypto-racism. Many people have a set of assumptions that might seem reasonable on the face of it, but they lead to unsavory conclusions. Genetic determinism is probably the most insidious, and most characteristic of American conservatives. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree, right? Like father like son, too. Many people assume that our genes rigidly determine not just simple traits like our hair color, but complex psychological traits like intelligence and personality. These assumptions have very serious socio-political ramifications. If, for instance, intelligence were entirely or even mostly genetic, then it could be argued that the wealthy are the smart ones, the poor are poor because they are stupid, and no amount of government handouts will change how stupid and financially unsuccessful these people are, because they are born stupid and are incapable of changing.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course, but few people (and fewer politicians) know anything at all about the science of learning. Most people have never even heard of neuroplasticity, and most people still assume that the IQ score you get when you take the Stanford-Binet represents an accurate and permanent reflection of your intelligence. So when people see that African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans consistently average lower on I.Q. tests, they assume that "those people" are just naturally stupid. That leads to the conclusion that the social safety net is pointless and unfair to those more worthy people who are smart enough to earn a fortune, and that minority people do not deserve help or even sympathy.

The vast majority of people I grew up with think exactly this way. Most of them do not think of themselves as racist, they except that some minority people can conform to the expectations of the Caucasian majority society and rob, cheat and claw their way to the top of the social ladder. They don't see the reality that being born into poverty sets huge factors against people that have nothing whatsoever to do with "native intelligence" or other supposedly inherited personality traits.

This is not overt racism, this is crypto-racism. It's about having the wrong assumptions about human nature that lead to the wrong conclusions about fairness and justice. This is a big part of why, though I don't endorse liberals with any real enthusiasm, I consistently vote against the Reds.

Douglas Fenton said...

LarryHart,

If we use the courtroom analogy then I couldn’t be a hostile witness because a witness doesn’t ask the questions. He only answers them. However I could be Parry Mason or the Prosecutor cross-examining the witness to either to find cracks in his story or to confirm it depending on which side I am on.

The point I want to make is that if this crime actually took place and went unpunished then the case must be opened again.

Jumper said...

I got the point of the story, which doesn't rely on its accuracy but also was curious about it.

David Brin said...

Tacitus racism shifts. You can reset the boundaries so that (as that story illustrated) "our black" become a bulwark against "those blacks." Indeed, admiring one of "ours" can extend to even voting for him to be president!

What matters is "what's your cultural reflex?" How many times in a row was your side wrong and unwilling to face it and change its mind? About racism and segregation? About rights for women? That cars cause smog and tobacco cancer? Each time the confederacy had to step back, re-adjust then declare "who me? Never? Anyway that's ancient history! Now? If he were around today, Martin Luther King would call me and Glen Beck his bros!

Sorry. When the record is one of relentless wrongness, the reflex ought to be much calmer willingness to re-examine the next issue.

(Noteworthy... sometimes the left can be pigheaded, too. Forced school bussing for desegregation was utterly insane. It helped to drive white America into the arms of the GOP.

Catfish N. Cod said...

@Paul SB:

"Many people assume that our genes rigidly determine... complex psychological traits like intelligence and personality. These assumptions have very serious socio-political ramifications... it could be argued that the wealthy are the smart ones, the poor are poor because they are stupid, and no amount of government handouts will change how stupid and financially unsuccessful these people are..."

I also know these types of people -- I have seen otherwise intelligent people expound exactly these arguments, both in red and blue states. The amazing thing, which I can only explain as doublethink through insufficient self-reflection, is that they are oftentimes the same people arguing for homeschooling, charter schooling, and lifting of First Amendment restrictions on the establishment of religion in schools on the basis that it will improve test scores. All of which assume the supreme importance of environment in determining academic importance!

People will fight assiduously for the right of parents to determine the environment their children grow up and learn in, and are horrified (rightly so!) to think that their kids might be subjected to detrimental learning environments. And yet these same people will assert that the genes, not a poor environment "inherited" through societal norms, cause others to be less successful.

Since they are relatively rare, it's hard for people to think through what I would dub "The Blind Side" scenario, where a poor black child is adopted by a rich white family and afforded all the opportunities usually denied to those of his peers. While not a perfect test due to residual institutional racism, this scenario disentangles most of the confounders caused by class and race. It should not be a surprise to learn that access to tutors and a safe living environment massively improves academic performance... but most do not acknowledge the clear conclusion: that genetics is less important in determining academic importance.

David Brin said...

New blog posted.
Onward

onward