Monday, April 16, 2018

Why this "war" is different. Plus the dark "Z" vision. And our path out of all this.



== On the International Front ==

Vladimir Putin recently showed the world what he claimed was footage of a new, nuclear-fueled missile, purportedly capable of evading anti-aircraft defenses and traveling “indefinitely.” Let’s put aside the “nuclear-fueled missile” aspect for now. (That concept was abandoned by the U.S. in 1964, as stunningly dangerous and filthy.) What we need to remember is that it has historically been the role of underdogs to innovate, while the smug, central kingdom ("chung-kuo") wallows dangerously in assumptions centered on the past. 

That has not been the way for the U.S. military and protector caste, for 70 years. Starting with George Marshall, the U.S. Officer Corps has followed a dictum to "innovate every year, as if you lost the last war." A tradition that held sway - and kept the planet's best (if highly imperfect) era of general peace - till recently.

Which brings up the Syrian War - a quagmire with no plan, no stated goals or plausible exit strategy, except to set up a much bigger struggle, with Iran.  No, I won't go into any of that. Instead, let's zoom in upon the highly suspicious Trump-ordered missile attacks on Syrian government assets -- both last week's pounding of purported gas weapon facilities and bombardment of the Shayrat  airbase, half a year ago. 

The earlier of these two "forceful lessons" involved the U.S. firing 59 missiles at a replacement cost of about $100 million. Did the Shayrat lesson work? Did the Assad regime start behaving better, as Trump predicted they would? Did it deter Assad from gassing and bombarding his own people? 

What deterrence? Warned hours in advance, the regime and their sponsor-ally evacuated any important assets, while stationing sensor arrays along the missiles’ flight paths and testing electronic countermeasures in a controlled experiment. (Reports suggest many Tomahawks veered off course.) Thousands of Tomahawk puzzle pieces were subsequently gathered — e.g. sensitive circuits used for maneuver and radar evasion.

This month's teaching was even worse. Warned a week in advance, adversaries had time to set up every possible sensor and electronics countermeasure to test out on U.S. hardware. Only this time, the USAF was told to use its new, next-generation standoff missile, giving the Russians a perfect setup for monitoring every aspect of its performance, plus a zillion parts to sweep up and examine. A textbook intelligence coup. 

Who were the net winners and losers from this set-piece, potemkin “punishment”? While any one episode can be attributed to stupidity, over malicious treason, the cumulative effects add up to a daily litany of betrayals, whose sum is beyond dispute. Always remember Goldfinger’s Law: 

“Once, may be happenstance, Mr. Bond. Twice, may be coincidence. But three or more times is enemy action.”

* Add to Goldfinger's Law the Tucker-Shrugger Rule. What would have been your reaction, had Obama done this?

== Our core methods for revival ==

Watch this video on how easy it is to alter results on paperless electronic voting machines. This entertaining vid shows such a hack in action… with a surprise endorsement you’d never expect, at the end! What the creators never mention - alas - is that nearly all of the paperless and easily-hacked e-voting machine makers are former Republican Party operatives. And the paperless, easily-cheated systems are prevalently found in red states. Hm, I wonder why. If you went back ten or even five years ago, you'd probably find me and maybe 5 other people howling about voting machines without paper audit trails. I'm relieved it's now getting traction. We are fighting for our lives.


So, is there a path out of phase 8 of the American Civil War? Let me reiterate two proposals that would take one page, each, yet possibly save America and the world. If we had a majority in Congress that cared about such things.

1) Last week NPR published this excellent piece describing how the Inspectors General work to keep government honest, and how important they are.  My simple, almost cost-free, one-page reform - Free the Inspectors General -  would release them to be truly powerful for the national (and world) good.

And the other proposal, some of you have seen here before...

2) ... would create a national advisory council of sages, starting with the ex-presidents and former Supreme Court justices etc., which could help us to both set up nonpartisan ways to check facts. And, if the right language (one sentence!) were inserted, it would help us all to sleep at night, by using the Constitution's own prescribed method. It would also give our officers a place to appeal any insane orders. No amendment would be needed! Just a simple majority Congressional Resolution.

One pagers. One would restore confidence in our institutions. The other could let us sleep at night.

But over the long run, we can only end this civil war by winning the most important front -- the outright and open campaign of hatred toward every single American profession that deals in facts.

== The War on Science ==

Read how explicit the War on Science has become. The Greatest Generation (when America was 'great') invested in the thing that won wars, refuted injustices, quintupled our wealth and made us a dazzling-fun civilization -- science. Their favorite person - after FDR - was Jonas Salk.

Left out of this disturbing article? Starting with Truman, every president listened closely to his science adviser... till Trump left the post empty and eviscerated OSTP. The GOP in Congress had already killed their own Offict of Technology Assessment, for daring to sometimes say: "Um, sirs, that's not exactly true."

Next in their sights, the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office, the Government Accountability Office, IRS auditors, and anyone else who might hold a skyrocketing oligarchy accountable. 

Seriously, you know some decent Republicans who can blink and shake their heads in denial over all this. We must each take responsibility for just one or two such. Take their hands off their ears and eyes. Persuade them to take their hands off their mouths.

There are anti-science loons on the far-left, too! Concede the point! But that is a fringe, while hatred of smartypants nerds who know stuff is now the core catechism of the entire mad-right.

Fighting back for our kids, we need to nominate scientists and fact-people and retired officers in every red state assembly district, every city council.

Or doctors: Okay, this is the best thing I've seen. It is better even than that Marine F-18 pilot major and mother of two. Yes, even better than her. Make this doctor your archetype. Calm, reasonable and moderate and utterly militant about calm-adult, fact-using moderation in a nation of grownups. (Okay, alas. Alas, he lost his primary. Still, keep at it!)

== A Time Traveling Putin? ==

The topic never came up, during our recent trip to Russia. (And yes, it was amazing; we made good friends and look forward to future visits.) Still, their leader is the central planner of our current crisis of resurgent feudalism. So -- let's heed what he says.

If Vladimir Putin was given a chance to go back in time and change one thing in Russia’s history, it would have been the collapse of the Soviet Union, the president told a media forum, in Kaliningrad. Putin, who famously called the dissolution of the USSR the greatest geopolitical tragedy of 20th century, said he would have prevented its collapse if given the power to alter one thing in the past.

Okay, look, I’ve said it before, I actually respect Vladimir Putin a lot.  He’s not the master international chess-player the the adoring American right portrays in their endless, unctuous praise of the former KGB colonel. Loss of the Ukraine was a blow vastly worse than any of his counter-nibbles in Crimea, the Donbass and Syria. (Though if Trump wages war on Iran, it will be checkmate on the West.) Anyway, he plays to his strengths well, including the Russian tradition of exquisite spycraft.

Moreover, I blame him far less, for the collapse of the brief, 1990s liberal democratic experiment in Russia, than I blame George H.W. Bush — yes, senior — who sent over “advisers” to help President Boris Yeltsin distribute state assets to the populace.  Those advisers made sure it was done in a way best-guaranteed to ensure that all assets would soon be held by a few score oligarch-billionaires and their secret western backers. In other words, the Bush family has been a calamity for the West of untold proportions, yet to be exceeded even by the Trumps.

I do not blame Putin, personally, for choosing a hierarchical system - akin to the one he was raised under. Sure, the current nomenklatura wear Russian Orthodox crosses instead of hammer-and-sickle pins, but many are the very same guys. And it’s not their fault that we have millions of idiots who fall for that ploy of symbolism. (I am reminded of Christopher Walken’s character, in 'Blast From The Past,' who chuckles in admiration that the Soviet Politburo has actually succeeded in persuading the west “that it’s over.”)  They figured out how to help re-ignite our civil war and make alliance with the Confederacy against America. You’ve got to respect such feral ruthlessness.

Which brings us back to Putin’s statement in Kaliningrad, that he would bring back the Soviet Union, if he could. Really? Then why not start with the Communist Party, which was the religion of your youth and the core raison d’etre for the USSR, in the first place? 

Well, in answer, it occurs to me that the current Russian oligarchs have effectively re-assembled all of the old, Soviet state enterprises in their personal, monopolistic cartels. All you’d need to do is replace (or rename) maybe a hundred “billionaires” with Leninist committees and voila - instant Soviet restoration! Well, without the post-WWII empire.

But give-em time! The comintern may be wearing a potemkin mask - as Walken's character assured - but it sure looks more effective than ever. Meanwhile, the Supply Siders and neo-fascists in the West are doing something I would never have thought possible... reviving Karl Marx! Who is now selling more copies than at any point in 30 years.

That's one path.... There's another, described in Vladimir Sorokin's incredible novel that I read during our trip: "The Day of the Oprichnik." It portrays not a re-coalescence of communism, but a restoration of Russian traditionalism under a supremely powerful (and tech-enhanced) revived Orthodoxy and Romanov Czar. 

No, this isn't over. We still live in interesting times.

And so now we'll conclude with the scariest vision of all.

== Dark Scenarios ==

Everyone - especially Robert Mueller - needs to watch the chilling 1969 film "Z" by Costa-Gravas. Especially the startling and terrifyingly pertinent last 4 minutes. I mean it. Just spreading the meme of reviving this one forgotten classic may do more than anything else, to help prevent it from coming true in the next year or so.

We've been warned. Now you have been. This film resonates powerfully with the Mueller Investigation. As a Greek jurist probes a political murder, he strips away masks worn by the mighty... with terrible consequences. Watch it! Spread word about worrisome memes like this one. 

Or the terms "Reichstag Fire." Or "Gleiwitz Incident." Or "Tonkin Gulf Incident." Or "Wag the Dog."

Yes, in our case the normal 'worrisome parties' - the state security agencies - appear actually to be on our side! But those sincere professionals (maligned by the confederate machine as "deep state" enemies") are often (I know from experience) surprisingly naive.

Twenty years ago (I can prove it) I warned folks at certain "agencies" that international rivals who see their power diminish in open, international affairs often turn to traditional, surreptitious means that go back thousands of years. They turn to: 

(1) using targeted propaganda and agitprop to incite divisions within their opponent, 

(2) suborn high members of the leading nation's leadership caste. 

I have slides from 1998, predicting these two methods would be used against us. Agency officials snorted that I was talking "science fiction," when instead I was citing 6000 years of history.

Today? I am invited all over to show those slides (and many others.) Now that our great and mostly (mostly) beneficent Pax is tottering and teetering from those and other unexpected failure modes. 

Hey. They weren't "unexpected" in the deep, planning basements of the jealous, angry feudalists of the world. They know what brought down past empires - and especially what brought down history's few enlightenment renaissances. They study history - even if we don't.

118 comments:

Tim Wolter said...

Syria, hell, the entire Middle East is like a menu of bad options.

It looks as if the much vaunted accords of the Obama admin did not actually remove chemical weapons from the area. In fact since chlorine was specifically excluded due to its industrial uses these were never more than a sham.

I suppose the latest atrocity might be Wag the Dog fakery, but assuming it is real, what then are the options?

Do nothing. Expect more atrocities. Not ideal. Not even humane if it makes us complisant in the most brutal weapon to be used on civilians.

Launch an actual punitive strike. Russians, Iranians, high Syrian officials die. Easy to see bad things happening as a result.

Maybe this bit of "Fauxfare" is the least bad option. Do the Russians learn things about our weapon systems? Yes. Do we learn things about their countermeasures? Also, yes.

There is much to lambaste President Trump over. I join in on occasion. I'm not sure this qualifies.

TW/Tacitus

Nate Smith said...

"slides"??? really?

LarryHart said...

Someone at the NY Times has been reading Contrary Brin...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/15/opinion/democrats-fiscal-responsibility.html

...
Sometimes, though, one party really is doing a better job than the other. To refuse to admit it is to miss the story.

So it is with budget policy. Get this: Since 1977, the three presidential administrations that have overseen the deficit increases are the three Republican ones. President Trump’s tax cut is virtually assured to make him the fourth of four. And the three administrations that have overseen deficit reductions are the three Democratic ones, including a small decline under Barack Obama. If you want to know whether a post-1976 president increased or reduced the deficit, the only thing you need to know is his party.
...
The caveat, of course, is that presidents must work with Congress. Some of the most important deficit-reduction packages have been bipartisan. The elder George Bush, in particular, deserves credit for his courage to raise taxes. Some of the biggest deficit-ballooning laws, like George W. Bush’s Medicare expansion, have also been bipartisan. In fact, the Democrats’ biggest recent deficit sins have come when they are in the minority, and have enough power only to make an already expensive Republican bill more so. The budget Trump signed last month is the latest example.

So it would certainly be false to claim that Democrats are perfect fiscal stewards and that Republicans are all profligates. Yet it’s just as false to claim that the parties aren’t fundamentally different. One party has now spent almost 40 years cutting taxes and expanding government programs without paying for them. The other party has raised taxes and usually been careful to pay for its new programs.

It’s a fascinating story — all the more so because it does not fit preconceptions. I understand why the story makes many people uncomfortable. It makes me a little uncomfortable. But it’s the truth.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Occam's comic
(from the previous post)
So that would reduce heat transfer by conductance - do you have any numbers?

What would be the difference between identical panels - Argon filled and air filled?

I will have a look at doing some calculations

occam's comic said...

Duncan
the range I hear for argon filling is a 5 - 20% increase in R value.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Occam

I get a calculated improvement of about 28% -
But that is assuming pure conductance and ignoring the frame

With the 12mm air gap that is standard these days convection is probably more important than conduction
But still a substantial reduction in heat flow

So probably worthwhile - if it's not too expensive!

The advertising was talking about things like "reducing the internal pressure variation" - because "Argon is not effected by temperature the way air is" - and other such bollocks
Which did put me off slightly

Jim Baca said...

Solid.

David Brin said...


Tim/Tacitus, sorry, but you clearly did not bother to actually read what I wrote about the US missile attacks in Syria. Try again, and this time notice what I actually said about their purpose and treasonous intent.

No, there are no good solutions in Syria. It was always a lost cause. We should defend the Kurds and get out. And focus on the larger context of which D Trump is a major part. The campaign to destroy America.

------
Thanks LH for:“Get this: Since 1977, the three presidential administrations that have overseen the deficit increases are the three Republican ones. President Trump’s tax cut is virtually assured to make him the fourth of four. And the three administrations that have overseen deficit reductions are the three Democratic ones, including a small decline under Barack Obama. If you want to know whether a post-1976 president increased or reduced the deficit, the only thing you need to know is his party.”

This fellow gets it right without actually using my clear explication that it is the Second Derivative of Debt – the rate of change of the rate of change – that shows the effects of an administration’s policies and the attitude of the party. The popularized version is “gas pedal? Or brake?”

Republicans always hammer down on the former, democrats on the latter. That’s always. I mean always. I mean abso-freaking-lutely every single time and always, always, always and always.

Tony Fisk said...

@duncan Sorry to hear you were put off by the overhyped claims. Real purists opt for xenon, so I hear (I think the extra mass helps), but argon should be readily come by (it's 10cc of every litre you breathe!)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Tony Fisk

The thing that put me off was nobody would tell me if the windows would appear different - if you put two side by side would they look exactly the same? -
It's not as simple as "transparent" - or is it?

So as I was using some "bargain" windows that had already been made without the Argon I decided that the wife would visit violence on my person if our new house had windows that looked different - and I chickened out!

donzelion said...

Tim Wolter: "Syria, hell, the entire Middle East is like a menu of bad options."

Depends entirely how one opts to think about it. From one vantage, Asia seen in 1975 was a hopeless basketcase, chock full of multiple genocidal rogues (China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia) - and the ones who weren't explicitly genocidal had strong tendencies toward authoritarianism - and the ones who weren't brutal thugs confronted extreme insurgencies. The best option? Lift our hands and our expectation of being able to dictate. Those people do not bow to our shocking power. Neither will Arabs. Neither will anyone.

Once that expectation of being able to pick and choose and dictate is gone, then the options start becoming a little more palatable.

"Maybe this bit of "Fauxfare" is the least bad option. Do the Russians learn things about our weapon systems? Yes. Do we learn things about their countermeasures? Also, yes."
I don't know what sensor systems we have monitoring their sensor systems; I am fairly confident that one of the steps Obama took (when Congress refused to authorize the use of force against Syria to stop their first chemical weapons attack in 2013) was to instruct the brass to find some way to do this that had military intelligence benefits (since he was skeptical that a punitive strike would do much). You could be right; and this is one area where our military knows what they're doing, even if the president's judgment isn't trustworthy.



Tony Fisk said...

This is history repeating itself. There is some doubt being raised that there was a chemical attack at all (rather cases of hypoxia arising from poor air circulation and a dust storm.)

This is being reported by Robert Fisk, the same guy who cast doubt on the WMD claims in Iraq. The point being made here is that the counter-strike jumped the gun before inspectors could report.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

This fellow gets it right without actually using my clear explication that it is the Second Derivative of Debt – the rate of change of the rate of change –


Well, the NYT article was intended for the general population, not--for want of a better cognomen--nerds.

:)

Lloyd Flack said...

I'm not sure it is right to blame Bush for the bad advice the Russians were given. I think that they would have gotten similar advice from the Clinton administration. The Scandinavians would have been a better source of advice.

Tim Wolter said...

David

I did read your post, and per request, read it a second time. I am well aware of your perspective - that Trump and indeed all R Presidents are acting treasonously - I take that into account when considering an answer.

You in turn are ignoring a couple of points I raise, no doubt because they are uncomfortable.

The agreement that Kerry negotiated for the Obama administration appears to be a farce.*

And I raise again the question, what is the appropriate response to a regime that uses poison gas on civilians? Your insights would be welcome. Do you consider non action to be more or less likely to embolden Assad for more attacks like this? If so, would you consider non response to make you/us/US morally responsible for them?

Donzelion, excellent point. Everyone knows things don't change/won't change/can't change. Until the do, suddenly and in ways few predicted.

TW/Tacitus

*Tony Fisk....although this has a strong ring of truth to it I also have qualms regarding the veracity of this chem weapons claim. I mean, who would be stupid enough to mix Sarin and chlorine? Nerve gases are chemically so similar to common pesticides that I predict the Sarin will turn out to be a false positive. Chlorine OTOH is pretty distinctive stuff.

On a side note, what is the purpose of gassing civilians? Barrel bombs of a nasty, if low grade, poison gas are less effective than just keeping theme encircle and letting sniper fire and shelling do a better job. I defer to those with better knowledge of the Middle East but all I can figure is that it is sending a message. "We can do anything we want to you.....don't expect help from the West, it won't be coming".

TW/T

Robert said...

David - On Republican fiscal irresponsibility, does "always" go back as far as Eisenhower?

I also agree with Lloyd Flack about the bad advice to the Russians, including his point about Scandinavia - it certainly worked for Estonia.

One of my favorite quotes about bad US advice was from Comandante Cero, probably the most honest of the Contras: "All we ever got from the CIA was bad advice."


Bob Pfeiffer

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

On a side note, what is the purpose of gassing civilians? Barrel bombs of a nasty, if low grade, poison gas are less effective than just keeping theme encircle and letting sniper fire and shelling do a better job. I defer to those with better knowledge of the Middle East but all I can figure is that it is sending a message. "We can do anything we want to you.....don't expect help from the West, it won't be coming".


The Bill Press show was discussing this very issue this morning, and yeah, that seemed to be the point. Gas attacks are meant as a deterrent to future rebels. "Don't even think of joining/supporting the rebellion. Cross a threshold of annoyance, and you and everyone you know and love will die in a ghastly manner."

Tim Wolter said...

Larry

That nasty logic seems plausible in this brutal context.

Sorry btw 'bout all the typos in previous post. Sometimes my fingers move faster than my proof reading eyes.

My interest in chemical weaponry is not strictly academic/historic. In about a month I will be working that salvage dig in Belgium where all manner of bad stuff is still in the ground. It is in fact only a few kilometers south of where Chlorine was first used in the Second Battle of Yrpes. I will be paying close heed to the chap with red helmet who is constantly at trench side ready to say "Halt! Dat ist gevaarlijk!" This phrase fortunately sounds about the same in English, Dutch and German.

TW/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

Everyone - especially Robert Mueller - needs to watch the chilling 1969 film "Z" by Costa-Gravas. Especially the startling and terrifyingly pertinent last 4 minutes. I mean it. Just spreading the meme of reviving this one forgotten classic may do more than anything else, to help prevent it from coming true in the next year or so.


I don't know--I just looked over the Wikipedia description of the film, and it seems to me just as likely to be discouraging and fatalistic to our side and a kind of "How to" manual for the authoritarians.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: re "War on Science"
Perhaps the proper term is 'Enslavement of Science.' Much of Western progress can be traced to the positive effects of letting scientists compete with one another, rather than fighting for patronage with astrologers, theologians, and fools - the 'advisers' consulted by the oligarchs, who hired them all and fed them, provided they 'knew their place.'

Universities, more than any other institution, liberated scientists from the patronage trap, creating the possibility for 'doing real science' rather than devotion to finding ways to enrich the already rich.

But oligarchs will always want to know how much climate change might cause sea levels to rise, so they can build their own houses and infrastructure on protected ground. When they oppose climate science, it's because they want to see some lands flood, wealth for others destroyed, buy it cheap, then sell it dear, then watch as it floods again. They need the public to be stupid enough to believe the values they assign to the products they sell. But they need a 'secret cadre' of knowledge users to make the whole scheme viable.

The backlash against the knowledge users by pieces of the general public is at least in part a reflection of the way that the oligarchs can and do employ (deploy) them to facilitate schemes to extract wealth from the middle/poor. The simplistic view of history sees 'anti-science' folks as Luddites - a better view recognizes Luddites as hating the economic exploitation (and having few viable targets other than machinery). The same thing applies to the 'anti-science' crowd today: they actually don't hate science (or even scientists) - one set hates being exploited, and another set wants skilled slaves to facilitate exploitation.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Sadly, it appears the cancer doctor running for the House in Texas didn't make it past the primary, which is a pity. Too little too late?

Dave Werth said...

I ran across something that may be of interest to many here.

Gavin Schmidt the head of NASA/GISS has a paper coming out about what traces would be left if an industrial civilization existed millions of years ago prior to the existence of hominids. There's a short post about it on RealClimate: The Silurian Hypothesis

Along with that he also wrote a short story on the subject that I found pretty interesting as well. Under the Sun.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: I watched "Z" and "Battle of Algiers" as a double-header in a law school class back in 2003. The downer of an ending in both cases needs to be understood against the effect: while the French actually 'won' the 'Battle of Algiers' - they lost Algeria itself when they realized what they were doing to win (torturing prisoners). While the coup colonels backed America/NATO, they made America party to brutality. The point is not that there's a 'happy' ending - but in forcing audiences to pick sides (stacking the deck somewhat, but hey, it's just a film, albeit an ingeniously well made one).

Watch Z, bearing in mind how it was produced and for what audience (Algerian/French movie...). Bear in mind the many parallel cases in that era - Mossadegh, Allende, and so many other leaders - backed or toppled with foreign influence always playing a role. In the Cold War, the folks one one side saw themselves as cowboys in white hates fighting communists in black hats - anything and everything was justified to defeat the enemy. These sorts of films are still troublesome because they compel us to ask, "Really?"

"...a kind of "How to" manual for the authoritarians."
They don't need a how-to manual, and wouldn't bother reading it anyway until after they took power. But one thing worth bearing in mind is that it was the COLONELS who perpetrated the coup (as in Libya, Egypt) - the generals backed the king and were still ousted when they discovered the troops were loyal to their direct commanders, not the political officers. Bear that in mind with today's leadership as well...

donzelion said...

Dave Werth: That's a beautiful article. Quite accessible even to a layman like me. Thanks for the link.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Tim/Tacitus
Re-What to do about poison gas
Nobody seems to be doing the correct thing
Target Assad
Not his minions, not buildings or facilities
Target the man himself

dennisd said...

David Werth: Regarding trace evidence of multi-million year old industrial activity.
I recall similar discussions at the UC San Diego CalSpace seminars in the mid-1980s. The thought-experiment looked at evidence throughout the solar system, in particular, the asteroid belt. I believe David was central to those discussions.

greg byshenk said...

Larry Hart wrote:
A Trump voter who thought Trump would improve the things he cares about better than those Washington insiders may well be acting rationally on bad information. But what about a Trump voter who took Trump at his word even knowing his track record as a liar, a charlatan, and a business failure?
Part of the point here is that there are lots of low-information voters who do not know his actual record. But another part is that, if someone were to say both that they were voting for him because he said he would create jobs and so forth, but that the same time said that they didn't believe that to be true, one might well ask: "so why are you really voting for him?" And this because we consider people's decisions to be (at least largely) rational.

If "rational" has to mean "Understands the integral of all aspects of the outcome of one's actions over time, and acts in such a way that that total integral is positive", then I'd argue that most people aren't like that.
I would say that such is a pointless definition of 'rational', because (among other things) it means that no one can possibly be 'rational' - given that there is no possible way to know "all aspects of the outcome of one's actions" over anything other than the very shortest period of time, and most probably not even then.

As I said in my first comment, the presuppositions of "econ 101" models (of the kind we are talking about) are: 1) rational agents; acting on 2) perfect information; acquired via 3) unlimited resources for decision making. The problems with this sort of model are far more in (2) and (3), because decision makers never have perfect information, and pretty much always are acting under constraints, at least of time. But within the limits of information and resources, people generally do decide (at least mostly) rationally. We can see this when we see someone making what seems to be an "irrational" decision; we expect that there is in fact some rational justification for it, such that "it seemed like a good idea at the time...".

donzelion said...

Duncan: Perhaps a few dozen warheads actually did target Assad; we won't know. Wouldn't surprise me either way.

I find it ironic that the Republicans who condemned Obama for asking permission to do this in 2013 have been largely silent in 2018. Or maybe, they're just retiring in protest. Yet on this Potemkin show, I'd say

(1) Trump wins; Republican establishment not wholly in his camp loses. Cognitive dissonance taking its toll...a few more retirements from the folks who 'valiantly' fought Obama and shrugged Trump. Plus, 'mission accomplished' sounds impressive for Corporal Bone Spurs to flex his military 'toughness' - his FauxNews cohorts won't hear any other side of the story, will nod, and must be kept nodding every so often so that the habit is never broken.

(2) Russian military wins, and the fact they'll have fragments and impact sites to investigate is a meaningful coup, any way you look at it, and one most will not even think to look at. Americans may be able to monitor some detection systems, but most likely, the Russians haven't given Assad their best tools (most likely because they're still building 'em, and now refining 'em). On balance, we've probably figured out what they'll be able to figure out from fragments and spent some time trying to mitigate that, but even so...some of the proof is on display.

(3) American military defense contractors (primarily Raytheon) building Tomahawk missile systems win; their systems are now battle-tested (which is why you use the newer stuff in the first place), increasing their sales value. And if the Russians do find anything about our 'next gen' Tomahawk missiles that could help them to counter it, then they are compelled to build a 'next-next gen' Tomahawk missile to keep the capability intact as an urgent budget priority. And so on...

(4) Syrian groups opposed to Assad 'win' - ISIL just needs to show videos saying, "Assad fired his chemicals, America fired 100 missiles, all the infidels are against us - we're still here." They're actually 'not still here' in most of the territory they once claimed, and may not have even been targeted, but many players play the fake news game.

David Brin said...

Tim, Kerry’s diplomacy had varied successes and failures, as you’d expect. Some benefited the US, others didn’t. Likewise, HClinton’s interventions that helped free the Ukrainians from their Russian-puppet masters was a mighty coup… that led to VPutin’s rage and amazing counter-attack upon everyAmerican weakness and debilitation of every strength.

That is not the same thing at all, as Republican “diplomacy,” which has had universally and absolutely negative effects upon the US, down the line, to a consistent degree that it beggars the imagination that you cannot see the obvious. That one should at least CONSIDER the possibility that such a consistent pattern was deliberate.

Likewise, Democrats apply their kind of war-fighting — emphasising special forces and surgical strikes — with varied effectiveness, from the calamity of Somalia to the astounding success of the Balkans and getting bin Laden. OTOH, the massive Total War campaigns of both Bushes had 100% deleterious effects upon the US military, our reputation and upon the state of the region.

The variable outcomes from DP administrations are what you’d expect from sincere - sometimes misled - professionals. The 100% uniform outcomes from GOP administrations are exactly what you would expect from traitors.

You ask “what is the appropriate response to a regime that uses poison gas on civilians?”

The answer is you harm the vital interests of the perpetrators. You don’t give Putin absolutely every single thing that will benefit him and harm us.

Robert: “David - On Republican fiscal irresponsibility, does "always" go back as far as Eisenhower?”

Vietnam changed everything. Till then, democrats were as chest-thumpin macho as Republicans, and Republicans actually wanted balanced budgets. 

LH the movie “z” is a warning to protect Mueller.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi donzelion
No casualties - and only "facilities" targeted
If they were going for Assad then some royal palaces would be smoking!

LarryHart said...

greg byshenk:

But another part is that, if someone were to say both that they were voting for him because he said he would create jobs and so forth, but that the same time said that they didn't believe that to be true, one might well ask: "so why are you really voting for him?" And this because we consider people's decisions to be (at least largely) rational.


Good point. I hate to get all locumranch about the definitions of words, but doesn't "rational" mean or imply that someone has reasons for his decisions? And isn't that almost a tautology? When we say that someone acts irrationally, I think we are generally saying "Their decision doesn't make sense to me." We don't understand their reasons or we don't agree that their decision is supported by their reasons. That's a different thing (maybe the opposite thing) from their not having reasons.

You make a good point about discerning the real reasons. When we think someone is acting irrationally--that is, contrary to their stated goals--we try to convince them otherwise using logic and reasoning. If their real reason is "I actually like the Nazis," then that effort is wasted.


As I said in my first comment, the presuppositions of "econ 101" models (of the kind we are talking about) are: 1) rational agents; acting on 2) perfect information; acquired via 3) unlimited resources for decision making. The problems with this sort of model are far more in (2) and (3), because decision makers never have perfect information, and pretty much always are acting under constraints, at least of time. But within the limits of information and resources, people generally do decide (at least mostly) rationally.


And the point I was making in response to that--possibly a complete tangent--is that one problem with all this is that we tend to assume that a rational decision based upon incomplete information is still better than a decision based on even less information or none at all. And that's not always true. Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and sometimes, the missing pieces of information are so critical that a decision made based on an incomplete understanding is actually more harmful than a random coin flip might have been.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

LH the movie “z” is a warning to protect Mueller


I get that. My concern is that the ending is so pessimistic that viewer reaction might be, "What's the point? The bad guys will win anyway, and if I show my loyalties, they'll just kill me too."

BTW, related breaking news...
https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/17/politics/mitch-mcconell-robert-mueller-donald-trump-senate/index.html

Washington (CNN)Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News on Tuesday he doesn't believe President Donald Trump will fire Robert Mueller, adding he doesn't want legislation on the issue.

"I don't think he should fire Mueller and I don't think he's going to," he said in the interview. "So this is a piece of legislation that isn't necessary in my judgment."
Last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would make it harder for Mueller to be fired for investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Sens. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, and Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, introduced the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which protects Mueller, including ensure that the special counsel can only be fired for "good cause" by a senior Justice Department official.
McConnell said he won't bring the legislation to the Senate floor.
"I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor, that's my responsibility as the majority leader, we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate," he said.
...

Duncan Cairncross said...

"I'm the one who decides what we take to the floor, that's my responsibility as the majority leader, we will not be having this on the floor of the Senate," he said.

And there you have one of the major flaws with the US system!

One of the ways of preventing this from being a total logjam is to have time specifically allocated to Bills that are not from the Government

https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/bills-and-laws/proposed-members-bills/

NZ does this with a ballot system

The UK has a different system

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_Members%27_Bills_in_the_Parliament_of_the_United_Kingdom

Both give additional power of legislation to Members of Parliament - rather than have one person as a dictator

David Brin said...

That's right Duncan. Rub it in.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re 'Z' - "My concern is that the ending is so pessimistic that viewer reaction might be, "What's the point? The bad guys will win anyway, and if I show my loyalties, they'll just kill me too."

You're not likely to join and endorse bad guys just because they hate worse guys. Lots of other people do precisely that. Indeed, Americans elected a president whose primary claim to being presidential was how easily he could belittle, degrade, and demean others. In Syria, Assad's primary claim to authority at this point 'I only gas people, I don't behead them and try to create a caliphate.'

The downer ending is a bitter pill, and the initial response is to feel a bit let down - but after that passes, you're reminded why one should never endorse the 'bad guys who are enemies of the worse guys." And ultimately, that inspires a bit of humanitarianism, and a bit less black'n'white 'enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend (no matter what)' thinking.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin

I was just thinking maybe that is a change that you guys COULD implement - it does not appear to have any bearing on your constitution so it just has to be legislated

The Dems could implement it - and just maybe they could get it in like the supermajority part so that both parties kept it

You have a lot of problems that will be very hard to fix because of your constitution - this one may be an easy fix

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TCB said...

I keep telling people the US Constitution and overall system of government is like an old computer online with expired antivirus. It was GREAT when it was new, maybe the best ever seen. But that was then, and now it's obsolete, compromised and needing a total overhaul.

Paul SB said...

"And there you have one of the major flaws with the US system!"

"That's right Duncan. Rub it in."

I imagine some of you can predict what I'm going to say (type) here. For a country that boasts around the world about being the bastion of freedom, we sure have a whole lot of authoritarianism built into our culture. And that is a major issue that needs to be addressed. The fact that the Speaker of the House can personally decide what bills will be discussed and which ones will be ignored is both a product of and reinforcement of a the belief that some pigs are more equal, and therefore deserve to have dictatorial authority. It should be obvious that this notion contradicts democracy, and it's not hard to see how this idea is used by cheaters and liars and charlatans of all stripes to promote their own power and self-aggrandize at the expense of the rest of society.

There are a whole lot of people who will argue that this is human nature - that we are somehow magically "programmed" by our DNA to obey dictators. Not only doe this idea make a mockery of democracy, but it's largely wrong. Humans were egalitarian H/Gs for over 200,000 years, a lifestyle in which no one had permanent authority over anyone else and leadership roles were situational and fluid, not prescribed by rank. Permanent hierarchy has only been true of the human species in the last approx. 10,000 years, since the transition to agriculture. Now 10,000 years is enough time for evolution to act on the genetics of populations, weeding out some instincts and multiplying others, but it's clear enough from how many rebellions and revolutions that humans really aren't the sheeple we have been telling ourselves. But as long as we keep telling this story about ourselves, it grows in the meme pool and becomes self-fulfilling. That's what allows obvious charlatans and crooks to take over. When a substantial part of the population believes that some pigs are more equal than others, then they just have to convinced to vote for the loudest, flashiest, most dishonest pigs who are smart enough to tell them what they want to hear.

Tim Wolter said...

Donzelion.

I freely admit to having been an extreme skeptic regards military action in Syria during the last administration. And I remain one today. I think there is very little enthusiasm anywhere for real "boots on the ground" invasion, but of course there are ongoing special forces operations - in keeping with DB's approval - and given the pros and cons I still think the action taken was the least bad. I doubt Assad spends any time in palaces any more. He must be one of the most hated men on the planet and I am frankly surprised that none of his many enemies have caught up with him in one of the numerous bunkers in which he must spend his days.

David

I'd be a little less generous to Kerry and Obama, but an admission of mixed results...fair enough. Kerry came back from the last Syrian mess with an umbrella under his arm, waving meaningless paper. I harbor suspicions that the full content of the Iran accord may be more of the same. Not that I am in favor of military action there.

Interesting things developing on other fronts. Could the Koreas actually be finding common ground?

This is a discussion on foreign policy, of War, Peace and that stuff in between. I tend to give Presidents a modicum of slack there in any case.

If an election were held today I'd probably vote against a Trump second term on the basis of his ludicrous tax reform that will bite us hard later in my retirement years. I can only say probably because I do have to look at who would be the alternative....

TW/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

Duncan Cairncross:

I was just thinking maybe that is a change that you guys COULD implement - it does not appear to have any bearing on your constitution so it just has to be legislated


Senate rules don't even have to be legislated as such. Each house of Congress (Senate and House of Representatives) determines its own internal rules of order. They don't have to pass the other house or be signed into law by a president.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

I keep telling people the US Constitution and overall system of government is like an old computer online with expired antivirus. It was GREAT when it was new, maybe the best ever seen. But that was then, and now it's obsolete, compromised and needing a total overhaul.


And I keep reminding you to be careful what you wish for. Because the Republican Party is very close to having enough state governments to call a Constitutional Convention. And if they get their hands on that process, you might get what you want and still not be very happy about it.


ARTICLE I
The United States of America is a Christian nation.

ARTICLE II
A well-trained militia not being important, the right to own, wield, and use any sort of firearm shall not be infringed.

ARTICLE III
Human life, with all attendant rights and privileges begins at fertilization.

ARTICLE IV
Corporations can do whatever the f### they "want"
...


You get the idea.

LarryHart said...

Tim Wolter:

Interesting things developing on other fronts. Could the Koreas actually be finding common ground?


I think they're both scared spitless of Donald Trump.

donzelion said...

LarryHart/Tim: re Korea

Bear in mind that they've been talking about peace for at least 25 years, since the first time N. Korea pledged to stop nuclear weapons research (and N. Korea agrees not to bomb S. Korea, without acknowledging their terrorist attack on the Seoul Olympics).

The interesting thing this time isn't that the possibility of talks exists - it's how the powers that be float a trial balloon. Who gets credit? How much credit? Does it move the needle on approval? Can they claim that it did?

Trump will take credit thus: 'I'm the guy who scared Kim into piece by reminding 'rocket man' I had a bigger button.' Fox will sell that story come 2020. Reps will hear it enough times to sort of believe it.

donzelion said...

Ugh, freaking autocorrect. Peace, not piece.

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

Ugh, freaking autocorrect. Peace, not piece.


Actually, "pieces" would have worked just as well. Maybe better. :)


Trump will take credit thus: 'I'm the guy who scared Kim into piece by reminding 'rocket man' I had a bigger button.'


I suspect that there's some truth there, although not quite the way Trump would mean it. Rather than "North Korea was reminded that the US could really hurt them", I think it's more the case that both the North and South Koreas realized that a Trump-led America was capable of anything, and that they'd better come to some resolution among themselves because America isn't going to help and (more importantly) America could really screw things up.

LarryHart said...

I wish I had thought of the nickname "Forrest Trump". Especially since, in the film, Forrest Gump was named after Nathan Bedford Forrest...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/opinion/forrest-trump-presidency.html

“It’s like Forrest Gump won the presidency,” said a Republican congressman in a conversation that Erick Erickson described last week on The Resurgent. The congressman went on, adding profanities, not reproduced here: “But it’s an evil, really stupid Forrest Gump. He can’t help himself. He’s just an idiot who thinks he’s winning when people are bitching about him.”
...

occam's comic said...

Dave's story abut the Ukraine is interesting in what he leaves out.
The pro-Russian President who was democratically elected was violently overthrown by a US sponsored "color" revolution and coupe.

Now Dave apparently supports this kind of US interventions in other peoples electoral and governmental systems and he should not be surprised when the shitty things we do to other countries blow black and hurt us.

And Clinton's involvement in the Ukrainian "revolution" along with her vote for the Iraq War convinced many that she is too much of a war monger to allow in the white house.

Deuxglass said...

I saw the movie “Z” a few times because here in France they used to have it on TV frequently during the Mitterrand years. It is very French in that it assumes that democracy is a sham and that all the strings are pulled from above. It used to be mainstream wisdom here for a very long time but it seems that the US has caught the French way of thinking when it comes to politics. This French view came from the collapse of France at the beginning of WW II. If you study that period you would be struck by the sheer incompetence and cowardice of the political establishment of the time and that brought into the French people the idea that their democracy had been betrayed by those who had normally been tasked to preserving it. Hence the strong support in the population for what in the US would be seen as radical and dangerous elements. Only a very strong and combatative popular base can be the only counterweight to the puppet-masters. The movie “Z” shows that and for the French at least, the puppet-masters must remember the lessons of the Revolution. You can be on top one day and guillotined the next if the people revolt. It is a continual worry of the French upper class because it has happened before. Something like that never happened in the US or the UK so it is hard for them to get their head around it. For political movies in general I wonder sometimes if they follow politics or do they predict it or more worrisomely, do they justify and encourage shady behaviour that would have been unthinkable and dishonourable before. Thank you Hollywood for stretching the limits although one day you may come to regret it.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

For political movies in general I wonder sometimes if they follow politics or do they predict it or more worrisomely, do they justify and encourage shady behaviour that would have been unthinkable and dishonourable before.


Some thought that the tv series "24" made the idea of a black president seem inevitable in the near future, and paved the way for the acceptability of President Obama. Disturbingly, a season or two of that show also seemed to be softening us up to the idea of semi-regular nuclear explosions on US soil. Trial balloons? Wouldn't surprise me.

Deuxglass said...

The idea of a black president was on TV even when I was young in the 70's so it is not new to "24". Hollywood likes to appropriate for itself as having originated socially progressive ideas when in reality those ideas had already been gaining ground for some time whether it be civil rights, gay rights or whatever. Hollywood just found ways to make money off of it. That's what it does best.

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

That is a good example of making something previously unthinkable and heinous into something normal using the right villain, the right handsome lead plus a hot warrior woman. The plot would give a semi-justification to the act just to make it interesting. Twist history and rewrite it to fit the plot. After all as Napoleon Bonaparte said" History is but a fable agreed upon". Make money above all.

sociotard said...

The coming movie "Anon" looks like somebody read "Transparent Society" a couple of times
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13LXC_BUGKA

And everybody should watch this Jordan Peele bit about Deepfake (now there is a tech for Brin's prediction registry, although I think it might have been in Running Man first)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cQ54GDm1eL0

I agree that Russia will gain valuable intel from the recent attack. I think it is ludicrous that this was the intent. Trump is Malevolence tempered by Incompetence. He doesn't have the mind to put together a nice gift package like that. No, all Russia had to do was wait. Any military conflict has some measure of "show the other side what you got"

Also, from the last post, if you really think the "Ocean pH levels" argument will get anywhere with a Republican, you need to spar with a better line of Republican! Worst case is an appeal to bad science
"I think it must be underwater volcanoes"
Best case is appeal to never-lead-from-the-front
"Democrats seem to the think pollution stops at national borders! You think China and India are gonna stop? If we cut back and they don't, they'll crush us and the planet will still go to pot. Go study the Prisoners Dilemma you rube."

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

Also, from the last post, if you really think the "Ocean pH levels" argument will get anywhere with a Republican, you need to spar with a better line of Republican!


That's been my thought as well. I don't think they'd even go as far as you suggest. I think an expected response would sound like "We were talking about climate change, and you changed the subject. What the eff does ocean acidification have to do with anything?"

Deuxglass said...

A Hypothetical question:

You have a theoretical world beset by two very big problems; Global Warming and Evil AI. You don't have the resources to tackle both at the same time so you have to choose. Which one can you ignore till the other is conquered?

David Brin said...

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and House Speaker Paul Ryan have openly bragged that they - two men - utterly control what legislation will reach the chamber floor, for consideration or debate by elected representatives. Seriously, they think that brag makes them look goo! It is time for the dems to offer up their own list of reforms - yes, something like Newt Gingrich’s brilliant , 1994 “Contract With America.” And screw any talk of being seen as copycats. The simple answer is: “half of Newt’s ideas were fairly good or okay reforms. Those are the ones that were canceled and betrayed. The other half took us down the road of Supply Side voodoo and raping the middle class. Here are a dozen reforms we plan to enact, to make Congress yours again. Effective again. Watch us. Hold us to it.”

Tim, the Iran deal that Fox hates stopped the Iranian bomb program, as advertised.

Sociotard thanks for those links! I’ll use em.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

Global Warming and Evil AI. You don't have the resources to tackle both at the same time so you have to choose. Which one can you ignore till the other is conquered?


You set them against each other.

(Al Franken would say I'm "Kidding on the square.")

Deuxglass said...

LarryHart,

Good idea! Now how do we do that?

TCB said...

@ LarryHart, the GOP/corporatists are gutting the old constitution inch by inch and have been for decades, so if I seem to wish for something dangerous, well, jeez, I'm not sure any safe options even exist anymore...

@ occam's comic, the wikipedia page on Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych tells us that his election in 2010 was "fraught with allegations of fraud and voter intimidation." After he fled Ukraine, they turned his official residence, Mezhyhirya Residence, into a museum of corruption.

"The estate is over 140 ha (350 acres) and is situated on the banks of the Dnieper river (Kiev Reservoir)[8] in the village of Novi Petrivtsi, Vyshhorod Raion.[9][10][11] There is a yacht pier, an equestrian club, a shooting range, a tennis court and other recreational facilities[12] as well as hunting grounds.[13] The estate also has an automobile museum displaying some of Yanukovich's former exotic cars, a golf course, an ostrich farm, a dog kennel, numerous fountains and man-made lakes, a helicopter pad, and a small church. The entire 140-hectares complex is enclosed by a five-meter tall fence along the 54 km (34 mi) perimeter.[14]"

Also, he was not overthrown by a "coupe". Damn you, autocorrect!

A.F. Rey said...

Global Warming and Evil AI. You don't have the resources to tackle both at the same time so you have to choose. Which one can you ignore till the other is conquered?


You set them against each other.

Good idea! Now how do we do that?


You register the Evil AI as a Republican. It gets data from Trump's EPA, which convinces it that Global Warming is a hoax. Being an Evil AI, it decides to ruin our economy by enforcing all CO2 cutbacks globally. This angers Trump and the GOP, who then conspire with the Koch brothers to take it down. Once the Evil AI is destroyed, the conspiracy is revealed, Trump is impeached, the GOP loses the next five elections, and we continue the CO2 mitigation programs with the world's consent.

Easy peasy. 8D (Albeit with a modicum of wishful thinking.)

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Easy peasy. I like it. 8)


I'm sure we could come up with a variation that works from the other direction. Evil AI will no doubt need lots of water for cooling its circuits, so it might actually work at fixing climate change. We would make the problem worse for a while by warming it's water upstream. It's an AI, though, so it might think of tricks we haven't invented yet. Collect those along the way. When it suffocates in it's own heat exhaust, we use them to fix the climate.

Alfred Differ said...

I'm not convinced it is corporatists who are gutting the Constitution. After WWII, the US effectively became an empire. Our Founders planned for a republic. There is quite a mismatch between those frameworks and we don't have much choice but to keep going as an empire. Geopolitics is rather inflexible when it comes to ideals.

LarryHart said...

TCB:

Also, he was not overthrown by a "coupe". Damn you, autocorrect!


Am I the only one who lets autocorrect make suggestions, but not take the wheel?

Duncan Cairncross said...

I have just fought my way through Steven Pinker's - Enlightenment Now

It's not as easy a read as his Better Angels - but still a very convincing tome

It grated for me - he managed to gore several of my favorite oxen

(1) Equality - he is very scathing about "The Spirit Level" - but does not appear to understand that nobody is advocating equality - just LESS inequality
He keeps commenting about how it's strange that the USA is a social outlier - after ignoring the reason (excessive inequality)

(2) Lead in petrol - Totally ignores the most likely cause of the violence upkick and talks about policing as having fixed it

(3) Nuclear Power
IF (but it didn't) Nuclear power had kept on its initial trajectory it would now be 1/10th of the cost
But it didn't and now Wind and Solar can generate power at a fraction of the cost in money AND in land of Nuclear
There is still the issue with calms and nighttime - but adding storage to the mix only get the cost up to just below Nuclear's present cost - and with the downward trajectory of the cost of the Unholy Triumvirate by the time any new Nuclear is on line it will be costing at least twice as much

Incidentally I have noticed that most of the mainstream press is about 5 to 7 years out of kilter with the costs for Solar and Storage - they quote "Todays Costs" at a level that I could BUY at about five years ago

Other than those grumbles a good book - not as much of a world changer as his "Better Angels of our Nature"

On the subject of wind and solar
With the cost of generating the power dropping and the effects of seasonal requirements it strikes me that we are simply going to end up with massively too much generation capability in the summer (different countries might say winter)
So we will effectively have "free" surplus power - what can we turn that into?
The two that come to mind are Aluminium and Hydrogen - and we could then turn the hydrogen into a liquid fuel
Or we could use the power to liquify air - liquid Nitrogen and Oxygen are useful
What do you think?
Any good ideas?

Paul SB said...

"After WWII, the US effectively became an empire. Our Founders planned for a republic."

Interesting parallel with Rome, and Athens, too ...

Why not the corporatists, though? Money is power, and they are the puppets behind the thrones of today's government authorities. Look at that US NET WEATH graph again. Just today they were rattling off lies of the Grope and included his insistence that his tax cut is the biggest in history - in spite of the fact that Reagan's 1981 corporate give-away was three times as big. And that's the year of the downturn.

sociotard said...

Water.

If the goal is to squirrel away the electricity, I'm under the impression the most efficient option is still a two level dam. Electric pumps take from the lower reservoir to the upper when there is surplus electricity, turbines release to the lower when there is demand.

But, as Capetown shows, climate change is going to do terrifying things to our water supply. Flooding here, droughts there. We made need a massive project of cross-continental piplelines, reservoirs, pumps, and even desalination plants, all working together.

Tony Fisk said...

@duncan Other than 'useful' activities like bitcoin mining, surplus power could be stored in batteries, compression tanks, hydro dams. The Americas might consider an equator spanning power grid!? Russia could power Moscow's afternoon/evening peak demands with solar panels in Vladivostok. Hydrogen might be worth considering, especially since a method's being investigated to store it in ammonia (something with an existing distribution network that's compatible with potential uses of hydrogen) What you *don't* do is propose a scheme to 'convert' brown coal into hydrogen!

Tony Fisk said...

As India is discovering, waterways and reservoirs make excellent solar farms, and solar panels reduce evaporation.

TCB said...

During the day, surplus power is converted into bitcoins. At night the bitcoins are turned back into electricity. :P

donzelion said...

Evil AI v. Global warming might come to the same solution as Daisy in 'Earth.' Or any lesser more recent counterparts (e.g., Matrix, Ultron).

Dave Werth said...

@duncan, my thought about having massive amounts of "free" surplus power is to use it to crack the carbon from CO2 thus reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. You end up with a pile of carbon dust that you can bury and free oxygen to the atmosphere. I don't know if you could do that enough to make a difference but I think it's worth looking into.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dave Werth

So how would I do that? - what mechanism could you envision that would do that?

We are probably going to end up with millions of houses that produce surplus power in the summer when the utilities won't want it

If we could sell everybody a "Werth Box" that used the surplus power to do that....

Deuxglass said...

David Werth,

I think you just reinvented coal.

Paul SB said...

Sociotard has the right idea - in a warming climate water is going to become the new gold. But if we have so much power to use, why not build continent-spanning and continent connecting bullet train networks in parallel with the pipelines? Until we have Star Trek transporters or Heinlein's Tunnel in the Sky, transportation will always be a huge issue and a huge burner of resources. Train travel can be amazingly efficient for cargo, and if people could move around the globe both quickly and cheaply it would do a lot for the economy just about everywhere.

And the Werth Box could be a whole lot more useful than just sequestering coal. All that carbon could be used to make carbon composite materials for manufacturing. Strong and fireproof, carbon composites have enormous potential value to the world, except that right now they are prohibitively expensive for all but very specialized uses. Cars, planes and homes made from carbon composites would reduce a lot of needless deaths.

occam's comic said...

Well you could just use fast growing, solar powered, self replicating trees to remove CO2 from the air. That sounds much cheaper than a "Werth Box".

Then you can process them into "super wood" for long term carbon storage and use.

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature25476

If this process for making super wood lives up to its promise it is a real game changer for material use.

Tim Wolter said...

PaulSB

Regards rail systems you are attempting to mix two immiscible substances.

We already have a pretty darn efficient network for cargo transportation. It has grown organically since the frontier era back when railroads were given egregious rights of imminent domain. Overall the railroads have served our country well.

Cargo can be shuttled here and there, schedules moved forward and back. Speed is less important than efficiency. There is some competition from truck transport but the two systems have established an equilibrium.

Mentioning bullet trains and passenger transportation is entering an entirely different realm. People can't/won't be put onto sidings for a while. Fixed destinations and the capital involved in building stations and access to them are not cheap or easy, or once built, practical to change. The competition is air travel and the private car. Oh, and I suppose the bus lines. California's ill starred high speed rail project is a good case study.

It is not possible, or at least not economically viable, to build a system without those sweet, albeit heavy handed, policies that so favored the railroads back in the days of the Robber Barons.

I really like high speed trains. I've ridden a few in places where they make economic sense, more or less. In 2018, in the US, not so much.

Piping water here and there also has some very practical limitations. And political ones.

TW/Tacitus

LarryHart said...

TCB:

During the day, surplus power is converted into bitcoins. At night the bitcoins are turned back into electricity. :P


Thank you for my first spit-take in a very long time.

occam's comic said...

The real problem with solar and wind power is when you add in all the things necessary to turn the variable production of electricity into a consistent supply of electricity, the energy return on energy invested (EROEI)plummets.

EROEI is a measure of how much energy you need to spend to get the energy you want to use. If you want a well off society you need to have a high EROEI.

There are three strategies for making solar and wind reliable
1) over build and waste the excess energy when it is produced
2) connect sources over a large geographical area
3) some type of "battery"
All of these strategies greatly increase the cost of solar and wind without giving you more total energy, hence your EROEI drops.

The only approach that mostly avoids this problem is varying the demand for electricity to its varying supply.

The type of variation that is most difficult to handle is seasonal variation.
The further you are from the equator the harder and more expensive the problem becomes.

Deuxglass said...

Artificial photosynthesis projects have been going on for a number of years now. Most use bacteria or plants to harvest the light to drive the reaction. It's a very complicated process but it still is the one that is the most energy and resource-efficient. David Werth is talking about direct carbon fixation from the atmosphere and burying it and it is a good idea. Many researchers have developed various ways of just doing that but all of them need a large amount of energy and need exotic enzymes and chemicals all which themselves have to be also manufactured and are, when all costs are taken into account, much less efficient than just using green plants. If the objective is to sequester carbon then it would be way cheaper to just bury unwanted trees, grass clippings, garbage and any green plant you choose deep underground in an anaerobic environment to keep them from rotting and returning carbon dioxide to the air. The result would be the same and much cheaper, quicker and more ecological.

occam's comic said...

As far as talking about ocean pH and CO2 induced climate change that is a great topic in a science class but I don't think it works well in trying to change ordinary peoples opinions.

Especially if the person trying to convince someone that climate change is a real threat hasn't taken personal action to reduce their carbon footprint.
You know the type of "environmentalist" that lives in a big house, has several cars, flies all over the world, and thinks that buying a lot of "green" products is the "answer". If you are not actively trying to become the change you want to see in the world, Why should I listen to you when you don't even listen to yourself?

Dave Werth said...

The "Werth box", LOL. Too bad it's not as easy as splitting water with electrolysis.

If it's possible to do what I said, even if it's difficult and inefficient it might be worthwhile since the power would go to waste otherwise. And just to be clear I envision a world where there is lots of storage and that should be charged up before using the power elsewhere but if it's available why not?

Deuxglass said...

David Werth,

As you said, efficiency is not the most important thing here. What is important is to be able store the energy and use it when you need to.

occam's comic said...

Deuxglass and Dave

Trying to power a modern civilization on diffuse, variable energy sources like solar and wind is really difficult and if you don't get obsessive about minimizing the amount of energy the social system needs to provide for its population you will fail.

You guys are talking about making a minor improvement to a horribly wasteful system.
but at least you are on the right track of matching demand to supply.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Occam's comic

We are doing both - my house takes a fraction of the energy for heat and light that a standard house here does - and that is a lot less than a house from a few decades ago

The biggest issue is the damn architects and their "eye candy"

Seasonal power storage is the holy grail - what can we do with hydrogen to turn it into a liquid fuel?
I do not like the idea of ammonia! - stinky stuff

Or what else can we (individuals) make?

Deuxglass
You do realise that what you are describing is basically a modern land fill

Modern land fills in the correct place (to protect groundwater) and properly topped are excellent for medium term sequestration - especially if the methane produced is actually being used

IMHO what we need is medium term (50 to 100 years) sequestration as we will have almost completely stopped using fossil fuels in that time frame

Dave Werth said...

occam, I don't see why it won't be possible to eventually power the world with mostly solar and wind along with lots of storage. It will just take time to build it all out. After all the current power system wasn't built in a year but over the course of a century+. Electricity is electricity no matter the source.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | Why not the corporatists, though?

It's just that I don't think they can do as much as some of you claim. What many of them do is Wrong in the cheating sense, but it is a relatively small effect. If they were not cheating (and we were not thieving) the conversion from republic to empire would still look much the same.

I'd prefer less inequality, but I'm reminded of big-bang inflation models of the universe when I look at what is happening at the top of the economic ladder of advantage. In a global sense, many Americans are in the top 1% for income, but if you look at the top 10% you can see an expansion that could not happen through exploitation of people in the bottom 10%. There isn't enough wealth at the bottom to explain the inflation of income at the top. There IS labor being redistributed, but that appears to be mostly voluntary.

Deuxglass said...

Duncan Caircross,

Yes I know. I said it on purpose. I was being facetious. An other way to sequester the carbon under anaerobic conditions would be to bury it in a bog. Ireland and Scotland comes to mind as prime bog real estate but I think the natives would object.

Seriously, if you want to sequester the carbon, then you need to bury a lot of vegetal matter in a place where it won't decompose. A Salt Dome under the water table would be perfect. It's dry and the salt will inhibit microbial growth. Garbage in general is high in carbon so throw that in too. Eventually the Salt Dome and the garbage would squeezed up to the surface but that would take a few million years. The big drawback would be death threats if anyone ever seriously proposed this solution.

Alfred Differ said...

Any argument for what to do with excess power tends to collect 'do good' suggestions. I'm generally for them all, but quietly I expect they will have to compete. Without a price to be earned for sequestering carbon on the ground, power is likely to go to a cause that will pay more. Unless the price of power is so low and we are so rich, it will be just another thing traded. That means it won't be given away without some kind of subsidy motivating the gift.

My favorite 'do good' suggestion has nothing to do with carbon, though. I prefer water cleanup and desalinization. Fresh water will be worth a lot and every civilization ever to walk the Earth knew it.

However, I don't believe we will ever have excess power. There are projects out there that aren't being done because power costs too much even though it costs very little at the moment. As prices drop, those uses will get financed.


I love the bitcoin idea. I'd write up a new coin offering business plan and pitch it except that I'd have difficulty living with myself after investors signed on. 8)

Deuxglass said...

TCB,

You said:

"During the day, surplus power is converted into bitcoins. At night the bitcoins are turned back into electricity. :P"

That is an intriguing idea but the problem is how to turn bitcoins back to electricity but there is a solution. At night pay people bitcoins to pedal exercise bicycles attached to a generator thereby generating electricity for the network. An important point would be that they are paid in special bitcoins that can only be used to buy other special bitcoins. The bitcoins are turned back into electricity and the pedalers .get richer in special bitcoins used to buy more special bitcoins. It is a circular, positive feedback cycle. Everybody wins!

Tony Fisk said...

Plants are a pretty efficient way of splitting CO2, as can be seen from the Scripp's Observatory readouts in late spring: CO2 levels drop markedly as the growing season in the North Arboreal forests gets underway. The trick is to stop all that C from returning to CO2 as vegetation dies back in Autumn. Charcoal burning has been proposed as one way to do this (only half goes back to CO2. The rest is charcoal, which *stays* charcoal.)

Another potential place to store CO2 is in the ocean depths. At those pressures and temperatures, it becomes a heavy liquid, and stays down, like methane clathrates.

Tony Fisk said...

Heh! I proposed bitcoin mining with tongue firmly in cheek. The activity is, in fact, already a significant energy waster/consumer.

Duncan Cairncross said...

The trick is to stop all that C from returning to CO2 as vegetation dies back in Autumn. Charcoal burning has been proposed as one way to do this (only half goes back to CO2. The rest is charcoal, which *stays* charcoal.)

Just send the vegetation to your local landfill! - if it's a modern decent landfill it will sequester that carbon for 50 - 100 years (Plus)

Robert said...

What you do is you grow some fast-growing trees, like Chinese Elm. After 10 years of growth you cut the trees down (don't worry, they're weeds. They'll sprout again from the trunks). And then you tie the trees together and weigh them down so they sink into the deepest parts of the ocean. The tree trunks will stay there and in all likelihood won't rot. Even if they do rot, if it's in a subduction zone it will be dragged into the crust. And it will take some time for enough trees to build up before it's a significant problem.

You could even genetically modify them to use the more efficient form of photosynthesis some plants have which is drought-resistant. It's not like anyone is going to be eating the wood so it's not a big deal.

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Giant kelp is another good carbon crop.

Paul SB said...

Ah, Robert has been reading the second Uplift trilogy! This sounds like an excellent suggestion, but I would have one worry. Even if the decomposer count is really low at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the water itself will slowly infiltrate the wood, causing it to expand and break apart. If the tree trunks were completely encased in a think layer of cement, that might work. Then again, the slow movement of the subduction zone would eventually break open these packages, turning them into time-delayed carbon bombs. It would be better to simply make and dump vast quantities of the new carbon-sequestering cement down there, but that might be a much more expensive proposition.

Tony,

Kelp have buoyancy sacks to keep them within the Photic Zone of the ocean, so it would take some effort to sink them. And I presume there are fauna that eat them (besides sushi fans), which would release their CO2 back into the ocean water.

Duncan,

A landfill might work to sequester carbon, but they are notorious for leaking methane, which is a more powerful greenhouse gas.

Tim of Tactical Fame,

You may very well be right. I know very little about the economics of high-speed trains, so my speculations there are merely speculations. It's good to have a forum like this one where people can mull over ideas and everyone brings in their personal knowledge. More heads bring more experience and understanding to an issue. It's too bad our so-called leaders don't do this a lot, if at all. I suspect that in their arrogance they are inclined toward Durheimian mental hygiene.

LarryHart said...

Deuxglass:

That is an intriguing idea but the problem is how to turn bitcoins back to electricity but there is a solution. At night pay people bitcoins to pedal exercise bicycles attached to a generator thereby generating electricity for the network...


I thought the original comment was a joke, although probably (as Al Franken would say) "kidding on the square." But I assumed from the get-go that "converting bitcoin to electricity" meant paying for it in some form or another.

One elephant-in-the-room problem is that bitcoin is a finite, non-renewable resource. At some point, there's no more left to mine.

occam's comic said...

Duncan
It does not surprise me that you are it right - first reduce your energy needs before buying solar panels.

I am with you on not using anhydrous ammonia as a storage medium. It is not just stinky, anhydrous ammonia is a deadly gas. And it is not something ordinary people should be dealing with.

Individual actions are totally insufficient to solve the problem of climate change but if you think climate change is a big problem and you don't at least try to "walk the walk" not just "talk the talk" people will not take you seriously, because they see that you are not taking yourself seriously.

Tim Wolter said...

Occam

You also don't want anhydrous ammonia around because it is one of the precursors for methamphetamine production. You're not doing much for the environment if Walter White's dimwitted local competitors siphon the stuff off, use it up, then dump the nasty chemical byproducts in the nearest roadside ditch. Perhaps along with any gang members whose loyalty has become suspect....

TW/Tacitus

sociotard said...

One of my favorite things about reading news magazines from both sides of the political divide is seeing things they seem to agree on. One of my least favorite things is how often those agreed-upon-points still can't be translated into policy.

Today's example is: Maybe states need to remove some zoning power from the local level, to improve housing availability, among other things.

Liberal: https://www.vox.com/2018/4/20/17255362/sb-827-affordable-housing-supply-california(a response to SB-827 failing in California)

Conservative: https://www.nationalreview.com/2017/06/zoning-regulations-local-government-restrictive-laws-hurt-american-economy/

Marshall said...

@PaulSB
At those depths, preasures, temps, wouldn't the carbon remain in some form of condensate and not disperse?

David Brin said...

“Another potential place to store CO2 is in the ocean depths.”

Um, someone didn’t read BRIGHTNESS REEF. Sub-ocean subduction zones. Your trash sinks to become magma.

Sociotard thanks. Yes, right and left can agree that NIMBY is insane.

occam's comic said...

That is soo funny because NIMBY really does unite both liberals and conservatives in local communities to oppose new development.

I guess we could have new type of political fight
Local conservatives and liberals work together to preserve their communities verses distant conservative and liberals who want to impose their rules on local communities.

I will be on the side of the insane local communities opposing new coal terminals, local fracking, new highways, toxic waste dumps and all the crap that someone else wants to place in their community against their wishes.

Paul SB said...

Marshall,

That's a good thought, but I doubt that the pressure would make much of a difference. Water molecules are still polar molecules no matter how much pressure they are under, unless that pressure causes them to solidify - something you won't see on Earth but might find on an exoplanet or two. It takes a long time for water to break down cellulose without enzymatic assistance, but in geologic terms it will happen in a flash. Dr. Brin's/Robert's idea of dumping carbon into subduction zones so it can be reincorporated into the rocky cycle makes good sense, as long as you can make sure it is in a form that won't end up in ocean circulation. I'm not sure about charcoal for the same reason I'm not sure about wood. It's not just that the carbon has to be solid, it needs to be pretty chemically inert so it won't chemically weather. Maybe of there were an easy, inexpensive way to turn that carbon into buckyballs?

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, Occam & Sociotard (alpha order),

A lot of the NIMBYism problem can be solve through dispersal. The problem is that people tend to think in terms of naive efficiency - if you concentrate things in one place it's easier to deal with it. Try that with uranium! As an analogy this might be useful. Housing the homeless, for instance: if you concentrate them into camps, that is convenient for social services, but it is also convenient for drug dealers and deadly bacteria. For those homeless who are ambulatory, put them up in well-dispersed locations with access to public transportation and subsidized them so they can go to medical, job training or whatever appointments they need to get back on their feet.

I would make the same suggestion for the schools, but people are so tuned into the Spotlight Fallacy it would never fly. Parents are terrified their kids will be kidnapped and murdered, even though the stats shows this happened a hell of a lot less than in the last century. If we took every school with hundreds to thousands of students and broke them up into many more, smaller schools with only dozens of students, you wouldn't see a lot of school shootings. They would still be soft targets, but they would be so much smaller.

A lot of other things that suffer from NIMBYism aren't so amenable to dispersal, like airports and highways. Electric cars will make highways much less onerous, both in terms of pollution and noise, but air traffic is unlikely to become less of a problem unless we start going for solar-powered dirigibles. Solar roofing should eventually replace both fossil-fuel and nuclear power plants. But another thing that really needs to be dispersed is the population more generally. Big city life too often leads to social isolation and the mental health issues that creates. But that problem probably won't go away until we have both transporters and a more land-efficient way to produce food.

Alfred Differ said...

Wouldn't the stuff dropped into a trench be covered by sediment pretty quickly? That would help seal it even if there was some chemical activity.

Gregory Byshenk said...

LarryHart said...
Good point. I hate to get all locumranch about the definitions of words, but doesn't "rational" mean or imply that someone has reasons for his decisions? And isn't that almost a tautology? When we say that someone acts irrationally, I think we are generally saying "Their decision doesn't make sense to me." We don't understand their reasons or we don't agree that their decision is supported by their reasons. That's a different thing (maybe the opposite thing) from their not having reasons.
I would say not just "having reasons", but "having good reasons", at least for same minimalist value of 'good', where the reasons are in some way supportive of the decision. This is why we wonder about the "real" reasons when someone gives reasons that do not actually support their decision.

And the point I was making in response to that--possibly a complete tangent--is that one problem with all this is that we tend to assume that a rational decision based upon incomplete information is still better than a decision based on even less information or none at all. And that's not always true. Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and sometimes, the missing pieces of information are so critical that a decision made based on an incomplete understanding is actually more harmful than a random coin flip might have been.
But we assume such because, as a general rule, it is true. As a rule, making a decision based on more complete information will be more better than making one based on less complete information. That's not a guarantee, of course, as there are none (barring 'complete' information); it is possible that we have almost all the information we need, but we miss one extremely critical bit, and therefore make a bad decision. But this is not an argument against the principle that more complete information is better than less.

Gregory Byshenk said...

Tacitus/TW wrote:
Mentioning bullet trains and passenger transportation is entering an entirely different realm. People can't/won't be put onto sidings for a while. Fixed destinations and the capital involved in building stations and access to them are not cheap or easy, or once built, practical to change. The competition is air travel and the private car. Oh, and I suppose the bus lines. California's ill starred high speed rail project is a good case study.

It is not possible, or at least not economically viable, to build a system without those sweet, albeit heavy handed, policies that so favored the railroads back in the days of the Robber Barons.


I'd like to push back on this, at least a little, because the arguments you give don't seem specific to HSR, but seem to apply pretty much across the board.

That is, "capital involved in building [airports and motorways] and access to them are not cheap or easy, or once built, practical to change", just as is the case for building rail infrastructure. In addition, it is pretty much "not possible, or at least not economically viable, to build a [airports and motorways] without those sweet, albeit heavy handed, policies", just as is the case for rail infrastructure.

Thus, these cannot be arguments against HSR and in favour of other transportation infrastructure.

Alfred Differ said...

As I understand it, when economists point out that some people do not make rational decisions, they are saying those people are not making prudent decisions. Prudence is the realm of 'practical wisdom'. Buy low, sell high. Look both ways before crossing the street. Violate what most of us agree is practical wisdom and one behaves imprudently. This is their 'irrational' decider.

For those of us who do it, though, we just point out that prudence isn't the only thing that matters. Optimize too much for prudence and you'll lose opportunities for justice, courage, and love. Scrooge comes to mind.

Robert said...

To be honest, Dr. Brin, it's been quite a few years since I last read your Uplift War novels. For that matter it's been a couple of years since I last read all of 'Existence' so... but yeah. I honestly don't even remember you writing about dropping trees into ocean subduction zones. It just seems like a smart idea to me. And if you drop it in an area with minimal life, you could use some underwater fans to stir up sediments, drop the bundles of trees into the cloud of sediment, and let it settle back down to cover the trees and basically you have a cover now that helps slow any remaining decay.

Seeing the decay is a couple miles down in any event, any methane or carbon dioxide is going to likely end up remaining on the bottom of the ocean rather than circulating into the water above. One of the big problems lies with stratified layers of ocean water which leaves nutrient-rich lower water without a means of getting to the ocean deserts above where there is plenty of light.

But Dr. Brin has talked about that several times as well, and how we could overcome that problem.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Gregory Byshenk:

it is possible that we have almost all the information we need, but we miss one extremely critical bit, and therefore make a bad decision. But this is not an argument against the principle that more complete information is better than less.


No, of course not. It's just an argument against the principle that "People do make rational decisions, even if they never have all of the facts," implies "So we're as close as we can get to always making the best possible decisions."

People who voted against Hillary because she was under investigation by the FBI had incomplete information--the fact that the other candidate was also under FBI investigation for much worse offenses. I have no doubt they would have made a better decision not knowing about either investigation than they did knowing about one but not the other.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

As I understand it, when economists point out that some people do not make rational decisions, they are saying those people are not making prudent decisions. Prudence is the realm of 'practical wisdom'. Buy low, sell high. Look both ways before crossing the street. Violate what most of us agree is practical wisdom and one behaves imprudently. This is their 'irrational' decider.


I have to admit hearing the word "rational" to mean many different things in this context. When pressed, though, I think a "rational decision" is one that supports the goal one is making the decision for. If the decision seems not to support the goal ("I voted for Trump because I believe in Christian family values.") then the decision seems irrational. Unless, as others have stated above, you simply have to discover the real reasons they're not telling ("Okay, I really voted for Trump because I like how mean he is to people I don't like.")

In that sense, it's probably safe to say that all decisions are rational, but that some are publicly...well, rationalized. A decision which is badly or ineptly rationalized irrational.

LarryHart said...

That was supposed to read:
A decision which is badly or ineptly rationalized seems irrational.

Alfred Differ said...

@LarryHart | I have to admit hearing the word "rational" to mean many different things in this context.

This is probably just another area where scholars say X and their peers hear almost-X while the lay audience hears A, B, C, D, ..., Z depending on their educations and cultures.

From what I've read in behavior economics texts, their beef with traditional economics is the assumption that prudence is all that matters. They can show experimentally that this is not the case for real humans.

Fortunately, prudence DOES dominate in certain transactional realms. When you don't know the other party in a trade, you'll likely optimize on prudence up until your internal 'impartial spectator' is offended. That line might not ever get crossed for some of us. 8)

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul SB
Landfills and methane
The old landfills were awful - they leaked methane and polluted groundwater
But that was years ago - modern landfills such as are used these days have impervious bases (to protect the groundwater) and are sealed as they are filled to prevent the methane from leaking
The best ones then actually use the methane for something - the others simply flare the methane off

At least that is what we do here and in Australia - I'm assuming that the USA is the same

As far as very long term sequestration is concerned (subduction zones) I'm not convinced it's needed or useful

Fossil fuel use is going to be reduced by a LOT in the next 50 years - we basically need to get over the hump and down to sensible CO2 levels
It's all the next hundred years or so
By 2100 we will not be putting more CO2 into the atmosphere and we will probably be drawing CO2 out by some mechanism(s)

Paul SB said...

Duncan,

I sure as hell hope you're right. But don't underestimate the power of the American Oligarchy to thwart any kind of change, and the mental inertia of a poorly educated voter base.

I also wouldn't bet on American businesses spending the money to contain waste in dumps, though they will all claim to be the cleanest ever. While doing that they grease the palms of inspectors to look the other way, send lobbyists to federal and local governments to reduce government regulation and financially support candidates who loudly claim that the evil government must be stopped at all costs.

The sun came out today, so I probably shouldn't be so pessimistic. I was a young teen who was fascinated with solar energy when Reagan cast off the evil solar panels from the White House and slashed research budgets to protect his oil baron buddies, and people celebrated their energy bills rising. To quote Heinlein, never underestimate the power of human stupidity. Rational actors my ass!

Paul SB said...

I forgot to mention what you get when you flare off that methane, or burn it for fuel - more CO2, and water vapor, which is also a greenhouse gas if you don't capture and condense it.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Paul SB

Yes flaring the methane gives more CO2 - but a lot less warming than leaving it as methane!

And the amount of CO2 released is only a fraction of the amount that is sequestrated

I'm quite sanguine about the landfills here - Ozzy and Europe - not so sure about the US ones - money talks a bit too loud there