Saturday, April 16, 2016

Impacts, extinctions and life

Asteroids, gotta love the yummy things.  For example: asteroid 5748 Davebrin made its closest approach to Earth April 4. (1.7 AU). Hey! I can see my house from here! Come on guys, it's mine so let's go melt it down and get rich.

And yes, this means it is time for one of our "look up!" postings, here on Contrary Brin!  For example...


Many of you recall the thrilling sight of Jupiter getting whacked multiple times by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994. Now Phil Plait reveals some video taken this month by an amateur astronomer, which appears to reveal another one smacking the King World. And hints there may have been another collision some years ago.

Yipe!  This’ll affect the statistics, for sure. No fluke, after all.  As Goldfinger said: "Three times, Mr. Bond, is enemy action."

What do we know about the asteroids out there? The website Asterank offers a scientific and economic database of over 600,000 asteroids, as well as wonderful 3D animation. This extensive database gives a perspective to the places to go within our solar system, including each asteroid’s mass and composition.. .and likely profitability for mining. You can even hitch a ride on one of the objects mapped and see where it takes you! And yet, this list is made obsolete with each day’s new discoveries. Also I wonder if the estimated profits take into account the fact that gold, silver and other metals prices will plummet when asteroid mining truly delivers its promised riches. The pursuit of a few forward looking visionaries such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries

== Impacts and Extinctions ==

Speaking of planet smackers, we’ve known since the 1980s that asteroids and comets have had a major “impact” on the history of life on Earth, and not only the dinosaur killing and Cretaceous-ending rock that impacted the Yucatan, 66 million years ago.  Researchers such as Raup & Sepkoski have plumbed the paleontological record for exceptionally sudden die-offs of numerous species and found that it appears to happen at roughly 26 to 30 million year intervals, a possible cycle which has been studied more closely by Michael Rampino of New York University. (Keep an eye for Michael’s new book on the subject, this coming year.)

What could provoke mass extinctions at such a very long-but-regular interval? Well, decades ago Daniel Whitmire and John Matese proposed – in parallel with Luis Alvarez and his team -- the notion that this scale could represent the orbit of a distant planet X, whose rhythmic passages through the cometary Oort Cloud surrounding our sun might perturb clusters of iceballs, sending them plummeting toward hapless Earth,  This theory for mass extinctions appeared in the journal Nature in 1985.  

The notion of a Planet X was given added impetus lately when researchers Konstantin Batygan and Mike Brown from Caltech inferred its existence based on orbital anomalies seen in objects in the Kuiper Belt, a disc-shaped region of comets and other, larger bodies beyond Neptune. Though at more than 1,000 a.u., it might be very weakly bound in orbit around the sun.  

Problem.  Not all of those rhythmic mass extinctions in the past show any clear signs of being cause by impacts.  Several others evidently happened due to massive releases of volcanism from the Earth’s interior, whose traces are still seen in basaltic flow formations called the Siberian and Deccan “traps.”  

There is an astronomical phenomenon that has timing on the scale of tens of millions of years -- our solar system's orbit around the Milky Way galaxy.  While a full orbit takes more than 200 million years (at our distance from galactic center), there is a way to match intervals. In fact, back in the 1980s I had a paper suggesting we'd get this timing from some ferocious object that laps us every 30 million years or so, orbiting closer to galactic center.  See my earlier article:  "The Deadly Thing at 2.4 Kiloparsecs."

Far fetched? Okay here's another interval match. Our sun's path dips in and out of the galactic plane  - like a pleated skirt - more often. In fact, pretty much at that 30 million year interval. 

This led some to ponder whether our passage through the plane might, each time, result in collisions with gas or dust clouds that trigger comet infall from a disturbed Oort cloud. Interesting! But that theory had several problems.  
 (1) Sometimes there would be a cloud and sometimes (more often) not.  
 (2) the needed Planet X would orbit so far out that its ties to the Sun might be tenuous. And
 (3) again, some extinctions seemed more related to volcanism than rock or comet impact.

So Michael Rampino has suggested another concept -- that dark matter in the galactic rim may be a factor causing extinctions and massive volcanism. If dark matter clusters in the skirt of the galaxy, then each time we pass through, it might both disturb the Ooort Cloud a bit and fill the Earth's core with enough DM to heat it just enough to spur added volcanos.  Huh!  What an idea.

See also Lisa Randall's recent book exploring this topic - Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe.

Oh. In a possibly related item, analyses of Iron 60, a decaying isotope, in sub-ocean crustal core measurements, has revealed likely supernovae relatively nearby (within a few hundred light years) occurring 1.5 million, 2.3 million and 8 million years ago. The last of these might bear some relation to the start of the Ice Ages.  

Fascinating. And it just goes to show.  The universe is a rough neighborhood.  We may have been lucky.

== The lesson from all this? ==

We need to grasp the tiller of our destiny.  That means learning not to make the sort of big mistakes that Jared Diamond talks about in his book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, grievous blunders that brought ruin to other societies. Like eco-mismanagement. Only we may be doing it on a planet-wide scale.

And learning how to prevent all sorts of natural disasters from ending our hopes, as well.  It has been suggested that: "There are no more dinosaurs, because they lacked a space program."

Well said. 

Though of course there are still dinosaurs.  Descendants of the ones that at least learned to fly.  If you cannot prevent disaster, at least be able to ride it out.  We need both anticipation and resilience.

 Always on the lookout for such tasty aphorisms of wisdom, I perked up when a member of this community – Mike DeSimone -- offered another quotation that I intend to use:  

“Humanity has two possible destinations: stars or strata.” 

86 comments:

donzelion said...

Hmmm, carrying over the previous discussion, Dr. Brin -
"The Turkish Sultans claimed the office of Caliph among their titles and while there were dissenters, most of Islam accepted it."

Among those who rejected their title were the Saudis, who for 200+ years defined the Caliphate as the descendants of the prophet's tribe - which they are not, and which the Turks were not - and who defined Turks as blasphemers for making such an illegitimate claim. This isn't law, it's history, but when speaking about the region where history defines reality far more than most, such history matters a great deal - and deviation from the script cannot occur in secret.

Against those facts of history (and law, which also, sometimes matters, and many hundreds of billions of dollars) - there's your gut instinct that the Saudi princes are plotting against America, with no evidence supporting that view whatsoever. You're allowed to distrust and dislike them - that's an opinion - but I can present evidence and critique allegations of plots or cabals, simply because that belief is mistaken. In part, I draw comfort from that error - just as French oligarchs could stand against British oligarchs to help midwife America - so too can Saudi oligarchs stand against American oligarchs on some occasions, or with them on others - just as anyone, anywhere, pursues their interests in their own way.

"as Arab women can in almost any other country"
Really. I did spend 20 years in that region, or studying/working on matters in that region. Where do you think I was meeting with generals and such? Coming back, I find myself attracted to contrarians - since I cannot stand the apologistic sycophants, nor can I stand the outraged bigots. I have high expectations that you're neither, hence the purpose in arguing this point vehemently (and based on pretty substantial evidence).

donzelion said...

But aside from quibbles - this is what I keep coming back for:

Yipe! This’ll affect the statistics, for sure. No fluke, after all. As Goldfinger said: "Three times, Mr. Bond, is enemy action."

The first time I looked at Jupiter as a shield defending life on Earth simply by sopping up asteroids and comet strikes - it occurred to me that our universe is far more connected than I'd realized, and love and gratitude for that which physics hath wrought filled me with amazement. 'Twas a college astronomy course, taken to fill a mandatory science credit, and a gift of concepts I'd never experienced makes us all richer.

That said - I sniff a "Seven Cities of Gold" and a "Fountain of Youth" fairy tale in play with the Asterank rankings. Others have critiqued the effect of a glut on the metals markets, but until they disclose in detail how they counted the cost to exploit those asteroids, what their assumptions were, etc. - those numbers strike me as prone to fantasy.

This led some to ponder whether our passage through the plane might, each time, result in collisions with gas or dust clouds that trigger comet infall from a disturbed Oort cloud. Interesting!

I wish I knew of a better book than Caidin's "Exit Earth" - wretched pulp (but as a young adolescent male, I found the sexuality both horrifying and riveting, right up there with Piers Anthony's Space Tyrant - garbage conceptually, but, um, I was younger then).

We may have been lucky.
We were certainly lucky. Unless Jupiter is indeed a kindly God, unlike his Latin/Greek detractors.

Ben Fenwick said...

This is the kind of talk I always love, like when I'd await one of my favorite SF mags in the mail back in the day and have one of the good ones...Asimov, or Clarke...or you!...expound on cool stuff like this. Thanks for these essays. They help me beleive we are more than a big mess.

Ben Fenwick said...

This is the kind of talk I always love, like when I'd await one of my favorite SF mags in the mail back in the day and have one of the good ones...Asimov, or Clarke...or you!...expound on cool stuff like this. Thanks for these essays. They help me beleive we are more than a big mess.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re - Jupiter as a shield

Does Jupiter shield us from more impactors than it causes by disrupting the orbits of quasi stable objects?

David Brin said...

If by “no evidence whatsoever” you mean the perfect overlap of Sunni terror extremism and ISIS would-be caliphs with S-financed madrassas and textbooks? Or their relentless 70 year sabotage of Arab-Israeli peace?

Or the most perfectly destructive US presidencies in the last 100 years, so relentlessly and perfectly harmful to America that coincidence and “stupidity” beggar credulity… and both Bushes openly have (if anecdotally-humorously) called their family a cadet branch of that r’oil house. And you know I can go on.

But fundamental is this. The alternative. If the west is allowed to continue to grow in power and influence and cultural authority, almost everything they hold dear will gradually dissolve away. Undermining us will be revenge for a a thousand years of grudges and humiliations… and find for me ONE tale from 1001 Arabian Nights that is not about revenge. Find one. It is the core meme.

And I know folks from the region, too. And to assert an Arab daughter — even from other nations and clans — has personal sovereignty is simply weird.

=
The collapse of metal prices when they harvest asteroids must be factored in.

donzelion said...

Does Jupiter shield us from more impactors than it causes by disrupting the orbits of quasi stable objects?

My professor seemed to think so, and the last cosmology course I took reiterated the claim based on newer research and models (http://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/understanding-the-universe-an-introduction-to-astronomy-2nd-edition.html). Disrupted objects ought to be drawn toward the largest gravity sink - so according to those models, Jupiter could cause a small number of impactors, but attract a much larger number of them.

Anything the size of Chicxulub leaves evidence (even if it was a billion years ago, after tectonics disguised/destroyed a crater, there'd still be stressed quartz and other signs which might signify a ...probably). Dr. Brin's numbers are likely more informed than my own recollection though - I just like the notion that Jupiter (plus our own Moon to a lesser extent) operate as shields, helping to make life possible.

Paul451 said...

For no reason,

Opportunity (not Curiosity, little Oppy in its 12th year) watching a dust devil while climbing a hill.

And Alpha Century A & B as seen from Saturn, courtesy of Cassini (in its 11th year).

Paul451 said...

"Alpha Century"

{laughs} So close.

Anabelle said...

In U.S. presidents shielding the house of Saud news:

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/16/world/middleeast/saudi-arabia-warns-ofeconomic-fallout-if-congress-passes-9-11-bill.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=2

David Brin said...

Anabelle it is the president's job to pick mature and correct battles. It is the penchant of the GOP to only care about symbolism.

See: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-politics-of-naming-aircraft.html

... for this made spectacularly clear. Now name for me one, even one, fight arranged by either Bush that was mature and well-chosen.

Anabelle said...

PEPFAR The Surge. TARP. Now I know you're probably going to muddy the waters on these. (I'm a little uncertain on TARP myself.) I could muddy the waters on all of Obama's achievements.

And the Saudis have threatened to cause as much damage as they can if we pass this. Somebody who thinks the Saudi's are a horrifying threat would see this as a golden opportunity to stand up to those jerks. If they sell of the bonds they nos have nothing to threaten us with. It's also the kind of thing you were advocating for with regard to China and NK just a few posts back.

David Brin said...

I am fine with calling their bluff... and I do not consider Obama sacred and always right. Indeed, his "no drama Obama" mien has not always ben right.

I will even qualify my belief that Congressional republicans are always spectacularly and deliberately and diametrically wrong. It happens that I am, a free-trader, and trade deals never pass without GOP backing. If I were a dogmatist, I'd call that a kiss of poison. But their reasons for favoring trade agreements are not all my own. (e.g. I support NAFTA because a middle class Mexico should be considered a top US goal, and it is happening. Because of NAFTA.)

You can see I am no leftist; indeed I am one of the biggest modern promoters of folks to read Adam Smith. I write extensively about the vital importance of competition as the key innovation of the western enlightenment, behind almost all of our advances. It is the core methodology for creativity and discovery of errors.

Hence why am I so vociferous about the utter-drooling-treasonous insanity of all the masters and ground troops and nearly all intellects of today's American right?

Simple. A near perfect record of utter-drooling-treasonous insanity. Almost no major, concerted efforts have been taken since 1995 (the last year republicans negotiated, briefly in good faith, that were not directly and visibly harmful to our nation and civilization.

Okay except for Bush's Africa AIDS endeavor.

John Kurman said...

Re: dark pleated skirt. Maybe it should be called it was a dark and stormy matter.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: You are welcome to attempt to make the world a better place. I might even support your ideas. Where I'll oppose anyone, though, is when they try to design one. I don't trust you, me, or anyone else to know what will work. Persuade me or show me, but don't enforce anything until we have reached a large consensus. That's the rule I use and defend.

@David: Okay. I'll give you Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown. I could quibble about details, but that would just be my ego trying to defend itself from an overly broad claim. So... I'll back off to a claim that we don't spend down the debt very often. While I write this, though, I can think of another who did. Andrew Jackson.

@donzelion: I have no complaints with your inclination to medicate a dangerous problem. Hopefully we can get the patient back to an non-addicted state later when they are past the danger. You know they don't want that, though, right? I've seen this within my own family. Rationalizations are REALLY easy to invent when facing truths about addiction. Sometimes the danger IS the drug.

As for common sense notions, they tend to appear in all models people use. The planets really DO appear to circle around us, so one can use a geocentric model for astronomy to this day and match observed locations in the sky. With modern computers we could compute the parameters of a cascading set of epicycles, thus defeat one of the motivations for adopting a Copernican view. We could MAKE it work in any number of models, but don't base any asteroid resource exploitation business plans on most of them.

I'm not tempted to throw out Keynesian economics. I'm tempted to throw out people who try to sway government policy using them and the politicians who feed our people this drug. It's not healthy for us to tolerate this.

Alfred Differ said...

@David Burns: Without explaining exactly where I work (not hard to find out) or the exact security requirements of the place (also... not hard to know if you do the work), let me tell you I work for the government in a place where integrity matters a great deal. It is part of the job description because it is written into the core values of the place. The number of departments within the US government where this is so are numerous and they only operate when they hire people... like me.

Now imagine a future about one generation from now where we've convinced the kids to grow up expecting reciprocal transparency. What happens to those departments that hire them? You'll get your cooperation from the elites when our children become those elites. Teach them well.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alfred

You are guilty of a version of the Tyler Calumny
The idea that Keynesian thinking is dangerous because
"you can't trust the politicians to STOP spending"

This is the reason most countries have an independent central bank set up to do that,

And indeed it is possible that that was a problem in the past (although like the Tyler Calumny I can't actually think of an actual occasion)

BUT for the last 30 years the problem has been insufficient spending - the idea is that the central bank keeps us in an inflation "window" - but we have spent most of that time - especially recently - at the bottom of or actually below the target window

We are NOT attempting to "design" a system - just to move the existing system back towards optimum when it starts to stray off course

Paul451 said...

Alfred,
"Where I'll oppose anyone, though, is when they try to design one. I don't trust you, me, or anyone else to know what will work. Persuade me or show me, but don't enforce anything until we have reached a large consensus. That's the rule I use and defend."

Capitalism's natural tendency is to move towards a less and less equitable structure, permit more and more cheating, until the majority lose so much faith in the system that they are willing to risk radical change (and the result of that is fairly unpredictable, judging by history, but usually bad. Sometimes it's FDR, but mostly its Hitler/Mao/Khomeini/etc.) Like democracy itself, capitalism is an inherently unstable system. It needs a constant pressure to de-concentrate power in order for the advantages of the system to work. Constant, corrective factors that push back against the tendency for wealth and power to concentrate in fewer and fewer hands. But as Duncan notes, you're just echoing the Tyler Calumny, that smug-superior tendency to blame the masses for that instability, which leads to nodding encouragement at measures which remove those corrective factors and undermine the system, which increase the concentration of power in the hands of those already wealthy.

So "doing nothing" doesn't actually do nothing. Instead it allows the system to be undermined and degraded. Claiming you are refraining from acting "until we have reached a large consensus" is merely handing the reigns over to a powerful few who are already acting.

If I said something similar, but talked of "government" as the source of concentrated power, you'd nod in agreement at the obviousness of it, no further debate is required for those wanted to reduce government authority, reduce taxation, reduce regulation. But to suggest that capitalism itself is similarly flawed, you can't see it. Someone must "convince you".

For example, you have often talked of your sympathy for people cheating their taxes (and claim the moral superiority of tax minimisation) because it's "natural" than people resist the "theft" of taxation. "Natural", in your mind, becomes "right", therefore the thing that provokes the "natural" resistance must be wrong. But taxation (progressive taxation, focused on hitting the highest concentrations of wealth) is part of the necessary corrective mechanism that prevents capitalism from failing. It's a core part of the system. By allowing it to wither, you aren't "doing nothing", you are actively cutting away at the roots supporting the tree.

Paul451 said...

Aside:
You speak of the moral - even addictive - pull of Keynesianism, but don't see the same self-satisfied moralising of your own position.

It comes across in all your descriptions of Austrian economics: the moral superiority you feel, the purity you claim for your beliefs, compared to those weak, addicted Keynesians. The irony being that you can't see the addiction in your own feeling of moral righteousness; nor how it blinds you.

Example:
"Persuade me or show me, but don't enforce anything until we have reached a large consensus. "

Because a "large consensus" is only when someone convinces you. Because your position is the morally righteous one. The pure one. The default.

Oh, you will accept that if 90% of people claim you are wrong, you will grudgingly permit them to act (you still won't accept you are wrong, but you'll deign to allow them, M'lord.)

But if just 11% claim that you are right, then it's perfectly fine that the system supported by the remaining 89% gets undermined and even dismantled. (Or more likely, 1% claim that you are right, 89% that you are wrong, and 10% "don't know". But that's enough for you to claim "lack of consensus".)

Did we have "consensus" for Supply Side Economics? Consensus for the corruption of the finance system? Yet it happened. Not because of Keynesian "addiction", but to destroy the Keynesian corrective mechanisms. And so many people like you smugly nodded as those interfering mechanisms were dismantled, because no consensus is required to convince you that deregulation is always wise, that tax cuts are always productive, that governance is always harmful.

Tom Crowl said...

Just catching up on your recent posts. (I periodically take a vacation from the Internet so as to not get too caught up in the constant and potentially obsessive way it can consume time and energy.)

But TOTALLY AGREE especially re dealing with executive compensation... and the way the Panama Papers bring back the prescience of EARTH!

Of course a major asteroid smacking earth makes all this discussion and distress moot... which is why we need to leave it all occasionally.

Which is why I'm taking another mental vacation back to Dark Souls III (for those who know the reference... its an Everest climb of a game.)

Jumper said...

Well, Alfred, I can't say you are useless. You've inspired me to learn some new stuff, as because of your obstinacy ;>] I've frittered the morning away reading this:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real_business-cycle_theory
and
http://www.nber.org/papers/w15002 [oil shock of '07-'08]
and of course
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Business_cycle
which led to
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1825
irrational exuberance. Which I saw also in '07 with investors' refusal to consider fluctuating oil prices. Not to mention the obvious bubble at the time. Which I'm on record as pointing out to my former boss in the construction design business as soon as diesel prices went crazy. I had already moved my IRA into offshore businesses, not realizing that we were exporting bad debt

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "if by “no evidence whatsoever” you mean the perfect overlap of Sunni terror extremism and ISIS would-be caliphs with S-financed madrassas and textbooks?"

Do you really think the Americans set up Saudi madrassas in American-controlled Iraqi territory? Or was that Saddam, who loved the Saudis so much he threatened to gas their cities (and who consistently tortured 'enemies' - including Sunni militants, even though he was himself a Sunni)? Or Assad, whose Daddy bulldozed Homs, killing tens of thousands of the Sunnis? You're misreading your facts here, and thinking based on biases and logic that are not informed by facts. That is uncharacteristic of your normal thought, which is why I criticize it.

"If the west is allowed to continue to grow in power and influence and cultural authority, almost everything they hold dear will gradually dissolve away."
There is a strong anti-religious view in some circles that faith dies once science displaces it, and yet, Cruz, Trump, and Clinton all depend on faith-based circles to obtain political power (Sanders is the only candidate to take a fairly consistent non-religious approach - when he speaks to rabbis, he's not seeking to establish Jewish credentials, so much as to express his values - and yet, even he takes an invitation to meet the Pope). Old beliefs may fade away, but sometimes, they transition into a new belief.

"find for me ONE tale from 1001 Arabian Nights that is not about revenge. Find one. It is the core meme."
It's been a little while since I read them, and admittedly, I never read all ten volumes. But I have read many. To describe the jealous wife of a Caliphate as seeking 'revenge' against Kut-al-Kalab is as accurate as describing Cinderella as a 'revenge' story: an odd view.

The meta-narrative is one in which a smart lady tries to keep her insane husband from decapitating her (or any other women): she perceived that his insane misanthropy might be 'cured' by captivating his imagination. Rather than avenging herself against her vile husband, she tamed him with the power of story, juxtaposing notions of justice alongside revenge, but setting both as secondary memes to the overall goal of exploring just how wondrous the world may be. The core meme, as I see it (and as do other scholars who have spent far more time with the Nights than I) is not that men are bestial - but that story can improve humanity, if told well by one driven by genuine compassion, courage, and wit.

But the 1001 Nights are a product of Baghdad/Cairo/Damascus elites: folks who needed to believe that their potentially crazy despots could be tamed. Desert tribes like the Saudis have distinct literary traditions, typified more by poetry than by grand narrative (and much of that poetry operates more like rap music - touting one's greatness, mocking one's enemies - it's a 'poetry slam' tradition, rather than a frilly TS Eliot obscurantism - the outcome of which might occasionally be tribal vendetta, but more often would be laughter and shared water at an oasis).

Our own science fiction is novel, powerful, and distinctive - less about taming crazy despots or easing inter-tribal interactions, and more about identifying our own needs and identities. And why not? If I regard Jupiter as the great champion, defending fragile life from asteroid cataclysm, do I love it more, or less? And if one comes to the New World, seeking El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth, what will they do when they come? Who will they be? (Cue up Aronofsky's "The Fountain" - fascinating pretense, beautiful meditation).

donzelion said...

@Alfred: odd to think of economists and drug-peddlers, offering addictive ideas to influence those in power. "Of the following options to limit starvation, here is the one least likely to destroy other priorities." "Give me more, give me more! I can't control myself unless you give me more!"

It is fascinating though that you regard certain economics doctrines as 'addictive.' I see them as stories, narratives, models - ideas that may be powerful in their own, or as applied by others, but merely ideas. Ideas are like food or water - we 'need' them, but they only become 'addictions' when the use of the 'good thing' crosses a line to become a 'harmful' thing. What harms are you most specifically concerned with? Have Keynesians stopped too much starvation? Prevented too many Nazi/Commie uprisings?

David Brin said...

“Do you really think the Americans set up Saudi madrassas in American-controlled Iraqi territory? Or was that Saddam, who loved the Saudis so much he threatened to gas their cities (and who consistently tortured 'enemies' - including Sunni militants, even though he was himself a Sunni)? Or Assad, whose Daddy bulldozed Homs, killing tens of thousands of the Sunnis? “

Whaaaaaaa? Non-sequitur! What was the topic here? Are you even listening? Shiite irredentist-resentful Islamic revanchism is different from Sunni irredentist-resentful Islamic revanchism, which is different from standard crazed despotism. Though the Assad family falls under two of these, now.

You are raving! Saudi ambitions, as reflected in their textbooks and relentless harm-doing against the Western enlightenment do NOT mean they were unsurprised when the products of those madrassas acted intemperately and prematurely on 9/11 and in Al Qaeda and ISIS. They MADE all those things happen. But they miscalculated, thinking the radicals they deliberately created would bide their time and work on the princes’ timetable.

“and yet, Cruz, Trump, and Clinton all depend on faith-based circles to obtain political power”

Absurd at one level, to claim HC is not a believer in a secular progressive America. Anyway, Trump and Cruz are PRODUCTS of the American madrassas, called Fox and Clear Channel, which have deliberately destroyed american pragmatism and stirred up civil war.

The rest was interesting.

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - "You are raving!"
Nah, just arguing within my area of expertise.

Once you understand the basis for animosity between Saudis and the American right-wing, one stops looking for a Murdoch/Fox/Saudi/Bush cabal (that never existed) - and starts seeing economic and political factions as they actually work.

Oil is at or under $50/barrel - American oil barons who are leveraged heavily by Wall Street are losing a fortune - and Europe/Russia/China are withdrawing sanctions on Iran - so regardless of what Obama does, the American oil barons will do whatever it takes to generate instability and raise prices (even a temporary rise, merely a few months, may empower them to shift losses to someone else, turning a death spiral into a painful blow to their assets).

Hence, John Cornyn's "make the Saudis pay for 9/11" legislation, and other ploys. Whatever misplaced rage they can find, they'll direct toward whatever party is pumping oil - anything and everything to save their fortunes, including using the memories of 9/11 victims (just as they used them to justify Iraq). Our oligarch problems are 'made in America.'

Me: “and yet, Cruz, Trump, and Clinton all depend on faith-based circles to obtain political power”...Dr. Brin: Absurd at one level, to claim HC is not a believer in a secular progressive America.

You misread my claim. Hillary's lead over Sanders can be largely accounted for by the network of African-American churches with which she's cultivated close ties for decades. Her links to Latino Catholics are much less deep, but she has always cultivated ties with the small, progressive Christian groups (who are largely aging, old-time FDR Dems). She'll cite the Bible (with significantly greater familiarity than Trump's bumbling citations), not because she endorses a crazy Christian viewpoint like Cruz, but because she respects its power to mobilize constituents.

Because we "know" a fair bit about her, we know she's not hiding some wacky religious ideology. But without a similar context about the Saudis, ISIS, Wahhabis, AQ, and these other groups in play in an exotic land that few Americans have spent much time learning about, it's easy to misconstrue what they actually mean - and something that is nonthreatening may appear to be a nasty plot (while things that are threatening are missed). That sort of misconception justified Iraq War 2003, and other idiot policies that hurt America (but enrich quite a few Americans).

David Brin said...

" animosity between Saudis and the American right-wing"

Utter hallucination, based on swallowing surface propaganda. The Bushites were and remain a branch cadet line of the r'oil house.

"American oil barons who are leveraged heavily by Wall Street are losing a fortune"

So? So are the Saudis. They rise & fall together.

"John Cornyn's "make the Saudis pay for 9/11" legislation"

Theater! Though I will admit the alliance appears to be unraveling. Your whole polemic here is based on the assumption the r'oils have been COMPETENT over the long term.

1) they have successfully helped to precipitate America plunging into repeats of the nation's two worst mistakes... civil war and a land quagmire war in asia. They have helped promulgate a war on science and all professions and destruction of politics as a pragmatic tool.
BUT...

2) They underestimated the power of technology to render their oil weapon moot. They underestimated how out of control would be the radical islamists they deliberately coached into radical frenzy. They underestimated how out of control would be the confederate white male americans they deliberately coached into radical frenzy. I said they were smart. I did not say they were smart enough to notice blatant self-hypnotized and dogma propelled mistakes.

"That sort of misconception justified Iraq War 2003, and other idiot policies that hurt America (but enrich quite a few Americans)."

Sorry. Baloney. Do not classify my clear-eyed perception of the r'oils' absolute memic need to destroy the enemy worldview in an either or, zero-sum, existential struggle... with the gonzo 2003 neocon hallucinatory trips that were based on the ravings of Leo Strauss and his mad ilk.

They KNOW that if the western renaissance prevails and thrives, there will be Arabia and camel races... but no subservient-chattel daughters and wives. The latter will utterly vanish from the world. And that is existentially impermissible. It would be "letting the Crusaders win."

David Brin said...

"Many in the United States question grandiose Saudi claims that the kingdom can be the sole leader not only among Arabs, but Sunni Muslims worldwide. Such illusions are destined to develop into further conflicts in the Middle East — and beyond."

And "He does not even need to ask why imprisoned jihadis are lodged in five-star rehabilitation centers while peaceful prisoners of conscience are dumped in the al-Hayer prison dungeons."

Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/04/saudi-arabia-dream-dominance-obama-visit-riyadh.html#ixzz469BKi9l4

donzelion said...

"Do not classify my clear-eyed perception of the r'oils' absolute memic need to destroy the enemy worldview in an either or, zero-sum, existential struggle... with the gonzo 2003 neocon hallucinatory trips that were based on the ravings of Leo Strauss and his mad ilk."

Nah, I'd classify your mistaken belief in an 'absolute need to destroy' as error, meriting criticism, because you get too many things right for this one to mar your vision. I don't hold it against you, because there's a whole establishment built to generate such errors, and most of America has adopted some variation of this belief, while few have tested it personally, as I have.

More accurately, I'd lump you with the Hillary/Kerry crowd, rather than the Straussians. They, along with the Democratic establishment in 2003, had drunk koolaid propagated by a mix of a pro-Israel lobby inside U.S. intelligence and political circles (the last few Arabists were largely being purged/silenced/retired). The Straussians set the stage, the Democrats acquiesced, and the cognitive processes that link threats together mobilized fear to make lousy policy appear prudent - at least to those who didn't look at things more carefully.

What is needed is always close scrutiny of the available evidence - all of it - and sometimes, going out yourself to get it (as I did for quite some time), and sometimes, prodding those who are otherwise exceptional thinkers, with a gentle reminder of the risk of error. I do hope that is not polemic; twas not my intention.

There are enemies who want to destroy America. They can and should be defeated. The Saudis, by and large, are not among them. Looking to the Shah's Iran, they recognize our value as a life raft should they miscalculate and be deposed.

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

As for Professor Madawi, she's got some odd views of her history.

"Having enjoyed at least 40 years of being the endeared ally of America in the region, the Saudis did not agree with Obama’s vision of a multipolar region in which several states coexist, cooperate and perhaps compete in a civilized way.

Let's see, Turkey is a NATO member, so the only formal, true, legal 'ally' in the region. Israel is an even closer U.S. informal ally, to which the U.S. donates $3 billion a year (the Saudis have to pay for whatever we 'give' them). There's lots of other historical inaccuracies in her article, which make me cautious about embracing her analysis, particularly since the Gulf Cooperation Council (which Obama is visiting) weakens prospects for hegemony by design (none of the GCC members would accept Saudi hegemony, save perhaps Bahrain, which is rather dependent given its unusual structure).

"[Obama] does not even need to ask why imprisoned jihadis are lodged in five-star rehabilitation centers while peaceful prisoners of conscience are dumped in the al-Hayer prison dungeons."

Some of the folks she's talking about in the dungeons were my friends. And that, in part, is why I'm not in Saudi Arabia.

Deuxglass said...

Br. Brin,

Sen. Bob Graham said yesterday that President Obama will decide to declassify or not the 28 pages of sealed documents that show the Saudi connections to the 9/11 attacks within the next 60 days. Sen Bob Gram co-chaired the inquiry in 2002. Rumors say it is full of interesting things about the Saudis.

Deuxglass said...

I am in the middle of reading "Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs" and I am enjoying it very much. Dark Matter is strange stuff. We know almost nothing about it. I am looking forward reading the new papers and research when they come out in future years. I am especially wondering how science fiction authors will work it into their stories while remaining accurate on something we know little about.

When I was younger, worked in a couple of Arabic countries but they were of the dirt-poor kind. They, at the time, didn't see the Saudis as role models but as spoiled ass-holes who had lucked out. The Saudis have been in hubris for many years now but reality is catching up to them. By promoting their brand of Islam they have created a religious ideology that is now a strong competitor who see them as corrupt and not an ally as they had once expected. They have lots of military hardware but they don't dare send their army against DESH because they are afraid the soldiers would join them rather than fight them. Mecca could up for grabs if the Saudis screw it up. In the meantime they are rapidly drawing down their monetary reserves.

donzelion said...

Just occurred to me this whole line of argument is apt to be misconstrued. There ARE people in Saudi Arabia who belong wholeheartedly to a death cult. The government DID refuse to deal with them aggressively (much as we refuse to shut down our own death cults, and 'support' them by ensuring they can buy guns easily.)

Thing is, the death cult successfully goaded America into two wars in this century. They know how to manipulate us. Their agenda cannot be fulfilled without convincing American Christians (mainly) that Saudis are a threat, sweeping all Muslims into the same rubric, or at least, any with assets.

The Saudi government is just an oligarchy, with a particular cluster of supporters, but not any better (or worse) than other oligarchs. One does not need to love them to oppose sweeping them into a broader death cult - one only needs to love America and value truth. I'm convinced Dr. Brin does both, and hemce, debating these points is worthy, where those utterly controlled by their biases are a waste of time to engage with rationally.

donzelion said...

I'll look forward to reading that and this should occur before any decisions are made about the compensation act.

donzelion said...

Which ones? I thought Yemen was gorgeous, the West Bank fascinating, and the Cairo slums overwhelming.

Most Arabs still see Saudis as arrogant (only the Kuwaitis are worse).

You're right about the growth of Saudi-flavored wahhabism outside the kingdom, but often it's more about getting a job or a benefactor than religious ideology.

Saudi inaction against Daesh has more to do with geography - Yemen is a much closer 'threat' with much deeper tribal connections than Iraq, and they're skeptical of their ability to intervene effectively, while the other risks flooding them with 20 million refugees. Instead of engaging Daesh, they'd prefer to bankroll Jordan to do that for them, but aren't really in a position to bankroll anyone right now.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: If I slip too far into doom-and-gloom proclamations, I’ll need you to slap me hard enough to put a stop to it. I don’t think I’m doing that here, though. Democracy isn’t doomed. Keynesians aren’t mindless voters wanting to have their cake and eat it too. I’m arguing they are seduced by an attractive model that doesn’t serve them as well as they might want. I think there are times when they try to help others and though they mean well, they do harm instead.

You ARE designing a system, though, when you support a central bank with a forward looking plan. You have an optimum in mind and many of us disagree with it. An inflation target of 2% is like a regressive tax. A central bank with such a target PLANS to make the currency worth about half of its current value in 36 years. It is a useful trick to eliminate debt valued in that currency, but that relief comes at the expense of those who cannot hedge against it successfully. Make such a plan and you are a designer, but if you have a lot of support, I’ll bow to the inevitable.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul451: Capitalisms natural trend isn’t anything like that. You are describing Feudalism and I’ll support you in fighting it. That there are feudalists cloaking themselves in the market shouldn’t surprise anyone. Our overlords have expensive habits and tastes. I’m not a feudalist, though. I’m a classical liberal.

I’m not advocating that you do nothing. I’m encouraging you to do something effective. I’m not refraining from action either. I’m refraining from supporting GOVERNMENT ENFORCED action until two conditions are met. The action must oppose a behavior where a large consensus exists describing it as immoral. The action must oppose a behavior that exists in the market. Since you seem to believe that I mean ‘me’ when I say ‘large consensus’, I’ll spell it out. When 90+% of people agree that a particular behavior is immoral, I’ll support making it illegal even if I disagree. If support was originally above 90% and then falls, I’ll wait until it falls to 80% before I want the government out of the business of enforcing moral law when WE DON’T AGREE. If you want to negotiate those numbers a bit, I’ll consider it, but there is a point for picking 90%. It involves tipping points when zealots for Concept B push against a commonly held conflicting view involving Concept A. People often accept A and B if the zealots work hard enough and we wind up with a society that can tolerate both.

Majority rule works well for deciding what actions government should take regarding money it spends on roads, schools, and things like that. The business of government can and should be decided by margins very close to majorities. Moral law doesn’t work well with such weak support though. It only takes a small percentage of people to disagree and oppose it before they make a mockery of the Rule of Law. Beware of enforcing your moral view on others. You could lose something much more precious.

David Brin said...

If the r’oils could keep Beverly Hills, for its mansions and Rodeo Drive… while destroying Hollywood, for its inexorable undermining of patterns they hold dear, then that’d give them a western refuge while stymieing western memes. And that fits perfectly their lavish support of re-ignited confederacy.

“The Saudi government is just an oligarchy, with a particular cluster of supporters, but not any better (or worse) than other oligarchs.”

I remain boggled. The only parallel to their concerted and relentless madrassa-taught campaign of hate against the West is Fox News + Clear Channel, and those are mere pikers by comparison. You can assert these things all you like. But we are waking up, all over.

Alfred Differ said...

@donzelion: I’m exaggerating a bit when it comes to drug-peddling, but I’m just trying to point out the emotions that get involved. David does something similar when he points to people who get high on righteous indignation outbursts. He included a neat little scene in his last novel making use of this idea. When I think about my experience with scientists and their strong preference for strong memes in their own minds, I extend the analogy. A meme that can tickle a person’s pleasure center is hijacking our reproduction equipment much like a virus hijacks a part of us. A meme that can get us to tickle another person’s pleasure center is more likely to reproduce. This reminds me of toxoplasma gondii which gets rats to turn on sexually when they smell cat urine. Neat trick. Kinda scary.

I’m glad you see some of these things as stories and not addictive. It would seem you haven’t been hijacked by those particular ones. David plays with other dangerous, infectious ideas in his Foundation book, so the ones I point to are part of a long list. No doubt I’m hooked on a few myself. Why else would I defend Liberty in the face of thousands of years of Feudal history? 8)

My beef with Keynesian models comes in two forms.
1. There is no invalidation path offered. This is my science training noting that these folks are often guilty of scientism.
2. There is a presumption of knowledge being available to economic Planners. This is recognition of a fundamental flaw in all theories that require planners to know initial conditions. People who advocate such nonsense are hooked by a meme that convinces them the cosmos is deterministic. You’ve already pointed out your inclination to believe in something closer to a weather model, so you’ve avoided some of the seduction of determinism. With the weather, though, one can still know the rules if not the initial conditions. I suspect we can’t even know all the rules in our markets except occasional ones that describe constraints and simplified situations where participants act only motivations related to prudence.

As for stopping too much of a bad thing, I think it is worse than that. Some Keynesians are Socialists and at the feet of Socialists I will lay the blame for the deaths of millions in the 20th century. Authoritarian views come in many varieties, but some of them have been Socialist.

Deuxglass said...

donzelion,

I was in Morocco, then Mauritania and a bit in Algeria for a total of three years. I worked for the most part in the mountains and the deserts on development projects. I had a great time and learned a lot about people in general and myself in particular. This was in the early 80's so my experience is outdated. I have been back for vacations since then and added Tunisia but vacations are very different from living in country. I was amazed at the difference among tribes in customs, language, physical appearance and outlook. Arabs are not one people but many. In the West we lump them together but they are very diverse. The Berber mountain tribes are as different as night and day from the Tuaregs of the deep desert. There is much to admire in them, as there is much to dislike. I had the opportunity to go to Yemen but unfortunately, I turned down. I hear it is a marvelous place.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

No Invalidation path – scientism!
This is NOT what I see
I see a central “insight” – like Darwin’s being continually modified as more information becomes available

Presumption of knowledge – again NOT what I see – I see people making models knowing that knowledge is incomplete

2% inflation – that is NOT “Design” that is more like a number that reflects other things – like tire wear – you optimise tire angles to get even wear – the angles that you have selected ARE NOT “designed” to produce certain amount of tire wear

Actually having inflation to reduce wealth is a good idea – but it’s not a design feature

Socialists – for every death due to socialists I will argue 10,000 deaths due to corporatists and 1,000,000 deaths due to would be aristocrats

Jumper said...

Another good essay over at Stonekettle Station. Keep up the good work, David Brin; the word is trickling out.
http://www.stonekettle.com/2016/04/two-wolves.html

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan: This is NOT what I see

Of course not. The difference between this insight and Darwin's is that Darwin's withstood invalidation attempts. Not only could we find confirmation tests, we could find tests that had they failed would have undermined the entire enterprise. No tweaking would have salvaged it. Keynes' approach gives the illusion of science because there is always room to tweak the model. There is always room to argue we did not know enough at the start to ensure a precise prediction. There is NO way to avoid these features, so a comparison with Ptolemy is better than a comparison with Darwin.

Your 2% inflation target (no matter what the number is) as a reflection of reality demonstrates your unintended dependence on a model. You are making a hidden (to you) assumption that I can see. Many Austrian economists see it too.

Having inflation reduce wealth is a terrible idea for most people. Some people can hedge against it, but the common 'wage slave' cannot. Their currency becomes slightly less strong and after a generation or so they've lost ground to those oligarchs we are rightly concerned about. It is a slow, subtle damage leaving your children worse off against their children. You should be outraged at how easily it erodes the middle class.

My real beef regarding 20th century deaths belongs at the feet of Marxists who behaved like Feudalists. (Is there a better description of Putin and his role models?) Marx made his mistakes but he is not to blame for the murders decades later. The same is true of Keynes and his socialist-lite theory. It is the authoritarians who came later who did the killing. No matter where they hide, we should find our would-be overlords and block their actions in every generation. No matter where they arise, we should look carefully at the ideas they use to justify their actions and ask ourselves if there are counter-ideas we could set against the seductive ones. There should be no need to kill them or burn their books if we can find competing models for the ecosystem our civilization really is.

Alfred Differ said...

@Jumper: Learning new stuff grows the soul. 8)

I come at economics from a physics perspective. When I was young I was taught the basics of thermodynamics. Pressures, volumes, temperatures, and all that good stuff made sense. The higher level version of it involving state functions was amazing stuff since it seemed that we were creating something from nothing but a few assumptions. One of my teachers made a quip one day that this science would probably never be disproven, because it derives from such simple assumptions. I thought that was pretty cool at the time. In later years, though, I wondered if it COULD be disproven. I had chosen to take the path of a theorist and one of our Commandments is ‘Thou shalt offer Experimentalists invalidation tests for your Theory’. Some of us obey. Some do not. It turns out there is another physics branch called Statistical Mechanics, though, that adds the ‘micro’ theory to the ‘macro’ theory. People talk about Entropy being a measure of disorder, but to the people who look at the micro-details it is just a measure of how many ways a system can be arranged to produce the same macro-variable you choose to use. If the pressure in a balloon is a particular value, how many different ways can the atoms and molecules do what they do to produce that value? Entropy is proportional to a logarithm of that measure.

Next time you think about the business cycle, ask yourself if there is a ‘micro’ explanation for the ‘macro’ variable we observe. For example, what is GDP? What goes into it? What counts and what does not? Dig into the details! They get impressively fuzzy the closer you look. Since we define booms and busts relative to GDP, this should be a concern. Do the macro-economists have a mechanism that averages the micro-details enough to leave sensible information? It turns out the adherents of thermodynamics DO, thus my early concerns evaporated at least until I started learning more about quantum theories. 8)

In the end, though, models are models. If they are well constructed, they are worthy of our attention and of further work and refinement. They are also worthy of our skepticism because we ARE human and guilty of an unending list of untested assumptions. The great invention of Science is that we examine those assumptions often enough to invalidate some of them. The world should cheer the people who want to displace the engine model of an economy whether they offer a better one or not. Unlearning falsehoods is damn useful.

Enjoy your learning. Economics wasn’t even remotely on my list of interesting things to examine in this lifetime until someone pointed out the connection between it and biology. The connection passes through Darwin and his family. Evolution theory has an economic origin. Neat stuff.

Alfred Differ said...

@Duncan:

I should offer you the following link. It is Hayek's Nobel Prize (in economics) speech. It's shorter than most everything else he ever wrote (about two dozen paragraphs), but I'd argue it is one of the most important things he ever said. Read and understand it and you'll glimpse why a number of us are very concerned.

http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/1974/hayek-lecture.html

LarryHart said...

I hate to be flippant about this, but the weather channel is all about massive flooding in Houston, and the first thing that comes to mind is "Another one for the predictions registry."

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alfred

Inflation destroying "wealth" is simply not an issue for the bottom 50% - as they don't actually have any!

As far as the Keynesian insight being falsifiable - it is and has passed the test many many times.
You can argue about multiplier factions and slopes of curves but the basic insight that the economy can drop into and stay in local "optima" that are lower than the actual optimum has been shown many times

I have just read that paper you referenced
And its a horrible vague mismatch - IMHO if the ideas are very woolly then you get woolly writing - and that is a prime example

The logic used in that paper is the one that was used by various governments starting with Reagan and Thatcher and spreading like a pestilence across most of the world that resulted a noticeably slower growth and a transfer of wealth to the rich

The only way that you can't see that the growth in inequality caused by the deliberate destruction of union power has been bad for society as a whole and that one of the mechanisms has been reduction in demand because the consumers (workers) have a smaller share of the results of their labour is because you are doing a Nelson and looking with your blind eye

donzelion said...

@Dr. Brin - nah, they like Hollywood, and invest a fair bit (typically through Dubai, which is one reason you see Dubai landmarks on film).

They just don't want it in Saudi (don't trust the industry, a sentiment that isn't entirely foolish - bear in mind that the least offensive portrayal of 'Arabian peninsular Arabs' was 'Lawrence of Arabia' - which (a) portrayed the Saudi's archrivals, (b) and did so kindly, (c) using Omar Sharif, an Egyptian actor, (d) showed Saudis themselves unfavorably (though Americans couldn't tell them apart), and (e) made them all secondary and subservient to the very British colonialists the Saudis expelled. And that was the least offensive portrayal.

Many Saudis still love Star Wars though. (Then again, in present company, that may not be such a good thing.)

"The only parallel to their concerted and relentless madrassa-taught campaign of hate against the West is Fox News + Clear Channel, and those are mere pikers by comparison."

Given the 100,000 some odd Saudis struggling to get to America to study, I suppose that the campaign of hate failed hilariously. Last king even sent Saudi women over here (ostensibly to broaden their educational opportunities, in practice, to also keep an eye on Saudi men and dissuade some from getting radicalized. Many of them would long to speak to a real live scientist, but are afraid that folks like you hate them too much, so they'll never even try. And I don't even think you do hate them (just the nasty ones, whom pretty much everybody hates), but I'll keep trying on their behalf because I know too many good kids who need some help connecting with folks like you on this end (in order to rectify the messes over on their end).

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - respect, and a trifle envy - I never made it west of Egypt. Glad you saw Algeria before the civil war wrecked things...an Algerian computer scientist in Saudi was a dear friend, but ever mournful of his homeland (and no, to anyone watching - the GIA had little to do with Saudis, and even less with ISIS).

"I was amazed at the difference among tribes in customs, language, physical appearance and outlook."
And that is an important lesson in itself. Three years is enough to start getting the lay of the land, to distinguish some of the wonder, to pass through the discomfort and rupture of wandering, and acclimate - but not so long that coming back is tough.

David Brin said...

"Last king even sent Saudi women over here" says it all. Sending 100,000 boys to sow their wild oats and get masters in administration is fine. Then coming home to a marriage in which each man is king.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Guys
I think this is excellent news
http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36072243

Any disagreement?

I thought the idea of Google scanning in and making available all of the millions of "orphan" books that will otherwise never be available except as a shrinking number of old paper books was a great idea as well

donzelion said...

@Alfred - This reminds me of toxoplasma gondii which gets rats to turn on sexually when they smell cat urine. Neat trick. Kinda scary.

Wild! I wonder if the mental pathway in a rat brain compares with the fight/flight endorphines in our own (which can also trigger sexuality - recall Top Gun, watching enemy planes gives one pilot a hard on (a throwaway line that a real life fighter pilot called to my attention as something he'd experienced). Fear of death or struggle can trigger all sorts of strange instincts...

"It would seem you haven’t been hijacked by those particular [Keynesian] ones."

The institutionalist school of economics languished in America for decades, in part because (a) its primary founder (Thorstein Veblen) couldn't keep it in his pants (unlike Keynes, who never sexually threatened the majority of straitlaced hetero- practitioners), (b) it mocked most model-based approaches and eschewed prediction entirely, favoring anthropological approaches or maybe sociological approaches, (c) certain commitments (e.g., evolutionary concepts) were hijacked by Social Darwinists, and (d) they had no real problem accepting Keynesian "stories" (just so long as they're not mistaken for truth) - it's not a bad idea to try to alleviate hunger or ease the depression. I like the Evonomics site and their efforts to generate a "movement," and 'accept' Keynes as a 'better doctor than many other quacks' - but no Doctor Faust.

"Why else would I defend Liberty in the face of thousands of years of Feudal history?
Out of Adler's list of six great ideas, 'liberty' is surely the worst. Beauty! Now that's worth defending (just ask Donald Trump: he'll let all the beautiful women into America, and build walls to keep out anyone else - well, maybe a few scientists if they're super-impressive) ;-)

"2. There is a presumption of knowledge being available to economic Planners."
I get the critique (and it's a serious one), but there's some good that comes even from a flawed framework that drives data collection. Going back to your astronomical models, the Ptolemists didn't stop collecting data once they 'solved' the secrets of the cosmos (at least, solved most of what they needed for agriculture and navigational uses) - they puzzled at those rogue 'stars' for centuries (and were ultimately displaced within decades of the discovery of transparent glass). AI, or other creations yet to come could also use (or even grow from) the errors and myths of our era.

With the weather, though, one can still know the rules if not the initial conditions. I suspect we can’t even know all the rules in our markets except occasional ones that describe constraints and simplified situations where participants act only motivations related to prudence.

Indeed. You're thinking in precisely the same vein as I then.

donzelion said...

Dr Brin - "Last king even sent Saudi women over here" says it all. Sending 100,000 boys to sow their wild oats and get masters in administration is fine. Then coming home to a marriage in which each man is king.

'Twas more like 30%-55% women (with some special permissions granted for brothers and husbands to accompany them). The King was trying a social engineering experiment, along similar lines to that which the Shah of Iran had tried (and which contributed to his downfall). Whatever ultimately comes of that program (and yes, quite a few oats were sown), it's worth noting that if Saudis had been trained to hate the West, the training failed in spectacular form, as attested to by their longing to come here.

David Brin said...

What part of "sow wild oats" is hard to follow? From princely (and princessly) behavior... and that of the 9/11 guys, how does slumming and partying in the decadent west diminish deep CONTEMPT for the decadent west? Or the devout, righteous feeling of returning to where - as Peter O'Toole put it, the desert "is clean."

David Brin said...

As for those who DO come and admire the west... that admiration is The Problem. It is an existential threat.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin - some came to party, some to study. Some to build a life raft, some to burn things down. Sort of like students in general, the world round.

Of the Saudis who returned to Saudi Arabia after completing the program, most wish they could find something productive, useful. Sort of like adults, the world round. Some actually do.

Most long for friends here, and remember America fondly, having sampled a few of the wonders - I heard a small handful who internalized contempt (most of those who did wouldn't have spoken with me anyway, so admittedly that's a selection bias - but I did have other sources), a wistful sense of alienation, and a visceral anger that Americans think they're all the same, unreflective hostility and suspicion. But whatever they felt, if one believes liberty to be powerful, and mostly a good thing, then any exposure to that is itself salutary.

For the royals themselves? Not all that different, by and large, from the scions of our own wealthy, for good and for ill. It is always possible to find a few who merit disdain, but we must guard against both fundamental attribution error and fallacies of composition.

Deuxglass said...

Donzelion,

One thing I did learn while I was there. It is true poor people are more generous that rich people. They would literally give you the shirt off their backs. It happened to me. Doing some work my shirt got ripped up and this poor farmer took off his shirt and gave it to me and I accepted the gift. To refuse would have been ignoble of me. Generosity and hospitality are very important to them and is tied up with their honor. They may not have much but they have their honor and in that sense, they see themselves equal to any other man, rich or not.

I can only talk about my experiences can concerning women in Arabic culture. I can’t speak for the wealthy ones but among the poor, Arabic women have more power that it seems. Granted, in public, they defer to their husbands but in private, they run the household lock, stock and barrel and if the husband doesn’t listen to them then he is in trouble. I have seen husbands beat their wives in public but do you know what happens? A crowd gathers and runners are sent to fetch the relatives. In the meantime, a man steps forward and says “Don’t hit her. Hit me instead” and the crowd chimes in. The man beating his wife is shamed and stops. The relatives arrive and take the couple in hand to work it out. I have also seen a wife beating her husband with a stick but in this case, the crowd just watches on because they feel that the man deserved it. Arab women are not meek and can get riled up when they feel justified. I remember a maid yelled for two and a half hours at a houseboy because he called her a n_g_r in Arabic. She insulted him for an hour then moved on to his ancestors for the rest and he had to sit there and listen, saying nothing, because his honor dictated it. You don’t want to get on the bad side of an Arabic woman.

Seen from the outside, such as a tourist would see, certain behaviors look to be reprehensible but in reality are not. In the beginning when I was in Morocco, I would see people when they see a stray dog or one they did recognize, pick up a rock and throw it with force at the dog. I thought that to be cruel and unnecessary behavior. One day I was outside of a one-room clinic in the backcountry when a battered truck drove up. In the back was a young woman tied up, moaning and moving spasmodically. She was in the terminal phase of Rabies. It is a horrible way to die. The next day I saw a stray dog and I picked up a rock and threw it at him. The Arabs smiled because they saw I finally got the message. It became a habit and sometimes a tourist would see me doing that and would tell me how bad a man I was. I would just gave them the finger. I think it is laughable when someone tells me that they know a country because they spent two weeks there on vacation or a business trip. They don’t know what they are talking about.

Jumper said...

Sorry, but that spiel about inflation hurting the poor over a generation is pretty bogus. Unless you keep cash in a mattress for 30 years. Then again, with interest rates below 2% and normally rising wages more stagnant than ever before, both of which always rendered 2% inflation harmless before, this experiment is underway. Except that inflation is lower than in a long time too.
"Think of the poor trust fund babies!" I think their fund manager is ripping them off, a whole different matter.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Having inflation reduce wealth is a terrible idea for most people. Some people can hedge against it, but the common 'wage slave' cannot. Their currency becomes slightly less strong and after a generation or so they've lost ground to those oligarchs we are rightly concerned about.


Forgive an amateur's question, but doesn't the term "inflation" imply wage increases as well as price increases? The world of 2016 doesn't seem to work that way, but wasn't that the expectation in the 20th century? If so, then inflation would seem to be a wash for workers who mostly spend their paychecks as they earn them. What matters that my 1975 dollar will be worth less in 1990 if I'm spending it in 1975, and earning more in 1990?

Remember raises?

Again, I'm not trained in economics, and I don't read a lot of it on my own, but I don't see these authoritarian Keynsians that you perceive. I think the American and European economies would be in much better shape since 2010 or so had they followed the advice of Paul Krugman and his ilk, but the fact is that they did not. Someone who says "You'd really be much better off if you do this instead of that" and who is then ignored by all in positions of power who make their economies worse by continuing to do that--well, the offerer of advice in that case is hardly an authoritarian dictator. I see more dictator tendencies in those who insist "Austerity now! Austerity forever!" and make up nonsensical excuses on the fly, such as "Austerity is expansionary."

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

In the US, the Wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq are treated as alike in the press and by politicians when in fact they are very different. After 9/11 the CIA went in and were able to pull many of the tribes away from the Taliban and Al-Qaeda rather quickly. It wasn’t just by throwing money at them, although that was a big factor, but a lot I think had to do with the fact that they understood why we wanted Al-Qaeda. Ben Laden had just killed 4,000 of our people and we wanted to get him and his organization. They understood that it was Justifiable Vengeance because they do it themselves. It made sense to them. It made the switching of their alliances easier to “sell” to them. In Iraq, Bush and the Neocons needed a war to remake an Arabic country in their own image and Iraq was the best choice. Weapons of Mass Destruction were the excuse to get it through Congress. When lo and behold there weren’t any, the Arab on the street saw it as an invasion of one of their countries in order to exploit its resources exactly as the UK and France did before and frankly, I don’t see the difference. They didn’t swallow the bullshit propaganda. The Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century did not spread by conquest. It spread by diffusion and osmosis and many politicians either have never learn that or have forgotten it.

I guess that is one of the reasons I dislike Hillary Clinton. She voted with the majority because it was easy and she continued the Neocon foreign policy line as Secretary of State. Sure, she has experience but it is of the wrong kind. If you read Sanders speeches at the time you see that he saw Bush and his team’s sham for what it was and stood up against it even though it was very unpopular and once the war started, he fought AND succeeded in making sure that that soldiers got extended healthcare and the education benefits that they deserved. That took insight, judgement and guts. She doesn’t have these qualities.

Jumper said...

In what ways did Clinton continue the neo-con line?

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

Concerning raises and inflation...

Let us say that your typical non-part-time employee gets a 3% raise each year, and inflation is around 2%. That would mean that the employee slowly makes more and more money each year.

After 15 years, that employee is making more than 55% of what he was making when he first started working. The company considers it, needs to cut costs, and hires a new employee for starting wages... which have not climbed according to inflation. That first employee could have been hired for $100 a week (for simplicity's sake with the math), and may even have bumped up the starting salary to $125 a week... but it now takes $134.5 to pay for what $100 would buy 15 years ago.

Further, companies point to the minimum wage, which has not increased, and say "well, we're paying you a lot more than minimum wage. You should stop complaining." The problem being... the minimum wage that 15 years ago might have provided 80% of what you needed to survive with just one job... now provides maybe 65%.

This is why in the 1940s you had one man working a job, able to support a wife and family and own a home, and live comfortably. But today? It takes two people working full-time and maybe part-time elsewhere while struggling to make rent and unable to afford a home unless they luck out and have a parent who set up a trust for their home so it doesn't get confiscated should that parent end up in a nursing home.

Someone needs to sit down with the Republicans in Congress and explain things with calculators and show how compounding interest might work wonders for bank accounts, but wreaks havoc with personal finance for low-income workers. And also show these Congresspeople why their grandparents (and sometimes even parents) could make a living on a lower wage and help their own children and grandchildren improve their lot in life... but how people even 20 years ago were struggling, while children growing up today will in the majority be in the have-not category.

And then point out "these are your future voting base. Voting against minimum wage increases and benefits your parents or grandparents could take for granted will drive them into the arms of Democrats."

Rob H.

Robert said...

Of course, looking at things further, there are conflicts in this theory.

The starting minimum wage in 1939 was 30 cents an hour. The inflation rate has made a dollar from 1940 worth $17.01 in today's dollars. But if you adjusted a 30 cent minimum wage for inflation, you end up with $5.10 - the minimum wage is a bit higher than that (except for waitstaff).

Now, there are added expenses compared to 1940. Automobiles are needed for most things, you are required to have car insurance. There's cable/internet costs. Telephone/cellphones.

But in 1939, a minimum-wage worker could work full-time and earn enough to live off of. A minimum-wage worker working 40 hours a week might be able to afford an apartment, depending on where they lived... but not much else. And in some parts of the East and West Coast, they would be living on the streets or living in their cars.

So we need to consider the invisible costs that are not accounted for with inflation. These costs need to be identified... and either compensated for, or eliminated.

Rob H.

Robert said...

And... I think I found the monkey on the back.

Education costs.

Back in the 1940s you could get a job without even needing a high school diploma. But in today's day and age, you can't get the majority of jobs without some form of college degree.

With spiraling costs of education... you end up with students taking on lots of debt in order to get a degree in order to be able to get a job... and then have to work 20 years to pay off that debt. But jobs are no longer reliable so they miss payments and get hit with fees and late charges.

What's more, most college degrees won't get you a job. It's the connections you make in college that do that, and the majority of college-goers don't realize that. Or didn't at one time.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

I read the Hayek Nobel speech and was stunned by its shallowness, till it got much better at the very end. It boiled down to : “we don’t have the data to determine cause and effect and those who are trying (in 1974) are committing “scienticism.” And I think this roves my point about insufficient knowledge.” Then, he sums things up in a truly excellent final paragraph, making me wonder.

Deuxglass, your personal observation anecdotes are vastly more persuasive than donzel’s blithely general assurances that really: “Arabs just wanna have fun!”

In fact, poor families must have some equality because they are at war against the world and have to work as allies. I am sure many of them view getting their daughters educated as a possible advantage compensating for worry she’ll get strange ideas. But these are not the folks financing Wahabbi Madrassas all of the world.

Deuxglass we’ve been waging 5 different wars in the region since 1991.

1) 1991: Saddam chooses the most idiotic time in the history of the world to tweak the nose of the Pax power. Invades Kuwait EXACTLY the year when we had a fully trained/equipped land/sea/air army sitting just a few hundred klicks away in Europe with nothing to do after the Warsaw Pact collapsed. A year later and half of them would have been home! Idiot.

That invasion called for massive response. Scared spitless, the Saudis footed the whole bill! All went well till Bush Sr committed his act of utter depravity betraying the Shiite Arabs in the worst stain on American honor since Vietnam, and creating our present insanity.

2) 2001-2 Toppling the Taliban. Bush Jr had no time to concoct a republican-style war. He grabbed Clinton-era war plans off the shelf and said “go!” to generals who knew what to do. Special forces rallied the Northern Alliance and guided air support and kicked ass. Entirely under Democratic Party War fighting doctrines.

See http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2012/10/how-democrats-and-republicans-wage-war.html

3) 2002 onward Afghanistan. Bush Jr then proceeded to turn it into a GOP style war. STraussian Neocons demanded “nation building.”

4) 2003 Bushite lies and the Iraq invasion, followed by insane misgovernance, disbanding 200,000 Iraqi soldiers into becoming enemy guerrillas. A Vietnam style quagmire that could not have been better designs to hurt us had that been the intent. Destroy our reserves and damn near wreck the Army. Vast theft. Only beneficiaries… Cheney family companies. And oil companies.

5) Obama wars… under Demo combat doctrines taper off Afgh and Iraq support to levels that a mighty nation can afford on an all-volunteer rotation basis. Still a costly quagmire. But also an ongoing life-fire training exercise. NATO troops are the best-trained and most experienced in the world because all of them have rotated in and experienced real combat but at low casualty rates, An aspect you see no one else on Earth talk about.

David Brin said...

See above. It is not "continuing the neocon line" when you switch from "let's transform macho nations to democracy by overwhelming force, yippee!" over to "let's maintain some stability in a quagmire we cannot afford to leave, but under doctrines that maximize effectiveness at minimal cost."

She voted in 2003 to support the president of her republic since Colin Powell said "we're not lying to you!" Dem congressfolk tend to at least defer to a GOP president. Gopper congressfolk wage unrelenting war on the president of their republic, for the sin of being from another party.

If you "explain with a calculator" to those traitors that money in the pockets of the lower middle class becomes hi velocity and would boom the economy, that will NOT persuade them to go along. It will persuade them to strive for a yummy recession.

David Brin said...

See this doctoral dissertation forwarded by Mike Gannis, proving my point that, while today's right CONSISTS of insanity... today's left certainly CONTAINS plenty of insanity, and stunning drivel.

http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/11022/
GRIFFIN, NATHAN,DAVID,STEPHENS (2015) Queering Veganism: A Biographical, Visual and Autoethnographic Study of Animal Advocacy. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

'Translating this into English, it appears that this individual was granted a Ph.D. for his ***feelings*** about being a vegetarian activist, documenting this through "autoethnography" and interviews with a dozen of his like-minded friends; he and his buddies drew comics about their veganism and how their "vegan identities" interact with -- excuse me, *intersect* -- their "gender and sexuality." Oh, and he feels that his "legitimate protest" has somehow been "criminalized" since 9/11.

"It sets a precedent for the potential use of comics in research, particularly in connection with queer methodological approaches that challenge existing representational forms and focus on fluidity." Followed by the use of coloring books and animal-shaped sex toys, I suspect.

'Why does the author's name contain three commas?"

occam's comic said...

OMG !!! someone did an ethnographic study.
Let me point and laugh!!
And if focuses on gay people!!! -- insanity
And vegans!!! Complete drivel
And animal rights activist !!! insanely drivelous

He should have written about how competition in sports creates a cornucopia of win-win positive sum outcomes, like a real man.

Paul451 said...

Alfred,
"Capitalisms natural trend isn't anything like that. You are describing Feudalism"

For capitalism not to fall into feudalism of some kind (and thence to revolution, because modern oligarchs don't actually know how to rule) requires a constant pressure against the trend towards concentrated wealth. [Just as government requires constant pressure against the trend towards concentrated power. Which is what democracy is meant to be.] Wealth concentration is the natural trend of capitalism. The more wealth concentrates, the less capitalism acts like its ideal, and the more it acts like feudalism.

When you look only at the sins of government, unions, etc, and call them unnatural and therefore a moral force, but treat the sins of business as natural and therefore the moral default, you are merely removing the necessary pressure against capitalism's failure mode. In doing so, you are (blindly) taking an active role in capitalism's downfall. And you not only take that action without a major consensus, but without even a particularly large minority.

"Since you seem to believe that I mean 'me' when I say 'large consensus', I'll spell it out. When 90+% of people agree that a particular behavior is immoral, I'll support making it illegal even if I disagree."

You do mean "me" (yourself). You define your position, your morality, as the default, requiring little support for it as long there isn't a unified 90% opposition. While a position you don't like requires unified 90% support.

You define your own beliefs as more than nine-times more important than anyone else's.

Your views are not based on a 90% consensus. Not even 10%. But you never take the hint. No, they must all be addicts of Keynes. It can't be you who are the addict.

--

PS. So much of Hayak's essay reads like a parody. Something Colbert (the character) would say. We lack facts but have "factual assumptions" which you'll soon agree are somehow better, because they feel truthy, based on personal experience. Gak.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin, are you dissing webcomics?

*starts chewing on a carrot*

Of course you realize. This means war.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Occam, you cannot get away with that. You know I am a paladin opposing the bigots and troglodyte. So tell me how this stunningly-silly Sophomore class project and exercise in armwaving sanctimony merits a PhD, which stands for actually expanding verifiable human knowledge. I'd say the exact same thing about any rightwing drivel, or some "comic booc doctorate about manly sports. Moreover, you know it.
Bah.

Rob H, I eat more carrots than you do... though I am a "doc."

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Many Saudis still love Star Wars though. (Then again, in present company, that may not be such a good thing.)


No, no, "Star Wars", the 1977 movie was awesome!

It's the later movies that changed direction and mostly sucked.

:)

occam's comic said...



David
Did you read the dissertation?
How many ethnographic studies have you read?
Have you ever tried to do an ethnographic study?
How does this study compare to those others?

Your post said nothing about the quality of the work it only ridiculed the subject matter.

Robert said...

You have never had one of my homemade chicken soups, Dr. Brin. ;) Or as I call it, carrot soup with some chicken and rice. ;) (Five pound bag of thinly-sliced carrots in a large pot of chicken soup, homemade chicken stock, chicken chunks, green and red sweet peppers, onions, and rice. One batch of soup has enough servings of large bowls of soup to last two weeks, at least.)

You dissed comics. Of course I had to go with Bugs Bunny. ;) Tongue-in-cheek of course - there are plenty of howlers among the webcomics out there, and my sneaking suspicion is that any comic focusing on veganism and its impact on gender and sexuality would... not have the sort of storyline I would be interested in. That said, anyone who puts in the time and effort to craft a comic deserves some level of respect for just the work involved, unless the topic is reprehensible. You know, like making a "humor" comic about a binge-eating food-stealing ditz.

Rob H.

Paul451 said...

Apparently Ontario is going to experiment with a Universal Basic Income, starting later this year. Huffpo Canada, eh.

Last time Canada tried this: The town with no poverty.

David Brin said...

Good lord, Occam... the fellow refuses to let anyone READ his doctoral dissertation for three more years! SO how could I? And you cannot tell postmodernist claptrap when you see it? When I said "sophomore class project" I mean sophomore in High School.

onward

onward

occam;s comic said...

Ok
You are condemning persons work without even reading it.
That doesn't seem to me to be vary fair or enlightened.

donzelion said...

@Deuxglass - "It is true poor people are more generous that rich people."
Indeed, and thank you for sharing your tales. I am still digesting my own, and much of what I've learned, I cannot share.

"Seen from the outside, such as a tourist would see, certain behaviors look to be reprehensible but in reality are not."

I know billionaires who cruelly berated their drivers, docking their $800 a month salaries for any nick on a car...such stingy arrogance chafed me. I learned that the underlying purpose was to display potency to help keep other servants honest. Our closest equivalent conduct would be a corporation refusing to compensate an employee for certain expenses for lack of a receipt, when they know darn well that such expenses are probably legit, and when the enterprise brings in billions of dollars per year - but their's is a culture of emotive expression, while ours is one of accounts and receipts.

But it still chafed me. The rationalizations bothered me immensely, in part because they obscured the all-too-common sense of superiority over a servant, which itself is a manifestation of anxiety that one isn't really any different from them and but-for circumstances beyond their control, would be in their position - and in part because I was rationalizing my own presence there for many years, hoping that some good would come from injecting capital and technology, even if I couldn't see it clearly.

The honor you showed such generous people is itself an expression of the honor underlying your own purposes there. Thank you for sharing your tales.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

If you "explain with a calculator" to those traitors that money in the pockets of the lower middle class becomes hi velocity and would boom the economy, that will NOT persuade them to go along. It will persuade them to strive for a yummy recession.


Yes, that backs up my sense that Alfred's argument about inflation empowering the oligarchs over the 99% is misplaced. The rich and powerful love a good depression. They have cash on hand to buy up assets at bargain basement prices. Meanwhile, workers are hurt in a death spiral because wages fall, meaning aggregate demand falls, meaning workers are laid off because there is less for them to do.

The oligarchs do well in depressions. And they go insane trying to mitigate inflation, even when no such animal is rearing its head. I can't buy the notion that those same oligarchs outperform everyone else in inflationary times as well--at least not because of the inflation.

David Brin said...

"Ok
You are condemning persons work without even reading it."

Wrong. I am drawing lots of attention to it, while making an assertion. An assertion based on decades of experience with postmodernist drivel, but prove me wrong! Go read it for yourself, now that I have done the fellow the favor of drawing attention.... Oh... yeah... he's keeping it secret.

===

onward is where I am going.

onward

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

Sorry, missed the onwards - onward indeed!

Deuxglass said...

Dr. Brin,

In Afghanistan, the CIA reactivated their contacts with the tribal leaders. They already knew each other well having worked together against the Russians so they knew what to do and how to do it and they did a very good job. A war of this size however brings in many other players. We had groups from the far right to the far left and everyone in between rushing to Afghanistan, some to make money and others to make their reputations. Any group with an ax to grind just had to be there because that was where the action was. There was a whole country to be remade! Some wanted to teach the Afghans the joys of free enterprise and others the delights of gay pride but many were there for their own benefit even if they explained their well-meaning with tears in their eyes. The same thing happened in Iraq. There was the same wave of conflicting messages resulting in making a confusing situation even more chaotic. I don’t think it could have been avoided. There were just too many people who want to have their finger in the pie. Bush screwed the after game up in a big way. He made so many stupid mistakes that I seriously doubt it was incompetence only.

Obama was right to draw down our commitment. Our Armed Forces needed to regroup, rearm and internalize the lessons learned and are in better shape for the next challenge, which, in my opinion, will be one that will dwarf the sideshows of Iraq and Afghanistan. That being said, my heart goes out to the second lieutenant charged with a difficult mission where he needs cooperation from the locals and at the same time trying to keep his men alive, as he attempts to navigate relations with the Afghans or Iraqis with little training or knowledge of the country or people. This is a very difficult task in the best of conditions. What they did was Herculean in nature and my hat is off to them.

In my experience, the poor people desperately wanted education for their children whether male or female in order to get them out of poverty and they are proud when they do just like us.

Donzelion, I was just doing my job and I received much more than I gave.

Duncan Cairncross said...

re the Hayek speech

We have learned a LOT since 1974

And the way we learn is to prod things and see what happens - if we were to do what he suggests and wait until we understood something completely before we tried to improve it we would still be wondering what type of stone to make our hand axes out of

David Brin said...

Indeed.

onward