Saturday, September 08, 2018

Our dreams of space aren't help by hallucinations

== An actual adult at NASA? ==

Dang. Glimmers of hope. This Trump appointment, though initially unqualified, has proved intelligent, curious and a good listener/questioner. It is way too soon to be optimistic, but NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine is starting to sound kind of like a sapient person

"The first Gateway is about the moon, but I think the second Gateway, being a deep-space transport, again using commercial and international partners, enables us to get to Mars," Bridenstine said. "What we don't want to do is go to the surface of the moon, prove that we can do it again, and then be done.

"We want to go to stay. And the Gateway, in my view — I've been convinced — enables us to take advantage of commercial and international partners in a more robust way so we are there to stay, it enables us to get to more parts of the moon than ever before, and it enables us to get to Mars," he said. "There is no other architecture that I have been presented with, given the current budgets that we have, that enable all of that."

The Gateway is an overlap between all the goals that are under debate:

China, Russia, India, Europe, billionaires are all desperate for their symbolic rite of passage - (“Look at us, we’re grownups now with moon footprints too!”) - then let them rush to that dusty-useless plain, while we sell them tourist services via the Gateway. ("Welcome to our old Moon. Now you kids be safe down there.”)

Meanwhile, the Gateway can be a lab to study asteroid riches and to learn methods we’ll need, to get to Mars. A win-win.

Let our “commercial and international partners” do all the stuff they can do, and let NASA & the U.S. do things that only America can do. 

Footprint fetishism is for adolescents.

Alas, there's an even worse adolescent fetishism that's eating away at the space-advocacy community. But I'll get to it only after making a small side trip into human psychology.

== Space is not immune to culture – and psychological – war ==

Brain studies show that we make many decisions for unconscious reasons that we then skillfully rationalize. Ain't it funny how often we decide to support a position that just happens to conclude "people just like me are righteous and right and those who oppose me are either stupid or evil"?  

Now add propaganda. I've polled audiences for decades. Nearly everyone nods when asked: "are your neighbors influenced by propaganda?"  But they give sullen headshakes when asked: "were you?"  

All past cultures preached conformity, but not ours. Nearly every movie you ever enjoyed preached Suspicion of Authority (SoA) and the admirability of impudent eccentricity. Look over the previous sentence again and compare it to every Hollywood film. Americans especially suckled those values from an early age, yet they nearly always claim to have invented SoA.  They (and you) resent being told they were taught SoA, in a relentless drumbeat of propaganda.

"I'm the brave rebel against stupid, conventional beliefs held by sheep and pushed by dark elites."   Of course your adversaries think the same thing about you! But that can be safely shrugged aside. 

Taken even farther, this egocentric manifesto manifests as a roar we have all seen from bright fanatics out there: "I'll proclaim the very OPPOSITE to what's blatantly true! That will make me look daring and cool and imply I possess direct insights and information that you sheep cannot see!!!"  

What does all that have to do with our current arguments over where and how to build a mighty, spacefaring civilization?

Space is a screen against which we project many of our hopes and ambitions. Some zillionaires are investing pragmatically in potentially gaining access to quadrillions of dollars worth of asteroidal resources. Others seek colonies on Mars, and I say terrific! A sanely satiable human may ‘need’ his or her first few billion dollars, but beyond that, priorities shift to finding cool things to do with it.

Alas though, there are also insatiable billionaires of the more classic variety, who see space resources as a threat to their sunk-cost, sweetheart investments in Earthly mines and wells. 

Their efforts to stymie serious advance in space capabilities began with elimination of funding for Earth studies at NASA and NOAA, satellites and research that might sear away the Climate Denialist Cult. Now, it’s “Back to the Moon!” which has justified zeroing out NASA efforts to study asteroidal riches.

But let’s circle back to the topic of polemical psychology. Because some in the space zealot community – following the patterns I described above -- have dived into Conspiracy LaLaLand. 

One eminent Mars Proponent has produced a book proclaiming that all forward progress toward technological paradise and space cities is being blocked by a conspiracy by “anti-human” cultists, who want humanity to go extinct, or at least for us to be culled in numbers below a billion, for the sake of the planet.  Oh, for sure, in my novel EARTH I portray 'anti-human' fanatics getting their hands – dangerously – on disproportionate and deadly power.  I’m open-eyed to their existence and mania and to the harm they might do, if given a chance. 

I am also aware that such cultists are presently insignificant, in power and influence, compared to far worse dangers like a looming (and recurring) oligarchic putsch to restore feudalism. 

Still, it struck me how, in raging against this “anti-human” cult, the tech-loving Mars Proponent cites anecdotes but never statistics. Ironically, he thus emulates – and even makes many of the same points as -- the tech-hating Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, in his book The Anti-Tech Revolution. Though preaching diametrically opposite utopias, their logical methodologies and levels of smugly confident paranoia seem similar. Both offer roars against standard, conventional wisdom, held by sheep who happen to be in the modern intelligencia.  

== If you want progress, look at what brought it, till now ==

Let’s recap: Suspicion of Authority (SoA) does provide a luscious way to get that sanctimony-high. SoA means you must aim ire at some elite, but which ones? 

Liberals see dark conspiracies and lies by conniving oligarchs and faceless corporations. Conservatives see conspiracy by snooty academics and faceless government bureaucrats.  It is the same reflex, aimed at different "authorities".  (It happens that all facts right now support the liberal view, and today's conservative view is hallucinatory. But history reveals plenty of times when it was the opposite.)

While it can be effective at generating an excellent, self-righteousness drug high, and it can help to recruit a small, fanatical following, the scream "I can see what all you blind fools can't!" hobbles your effectiveness at pragmatically affecting the majority, or gaining support among the fact-professions, or swaying the allocation of society's investment resources in your desired directions. Demolished effectiveness is reason to suspect that an error has been made. Yet we do the same things, over and over again.

Earlier I compared the teensy-pathetic “anti-human” movement to the vastly more destructive force called feudalism. Feudalist-hierarchic rule by inherited elites was the dominant government -- and failure mode -- for 99% of the last 6000 years. The inherent interests of oligarchs -- to prevent new competitors, to prevent destabilizing innovation, to give unearned advantages to their sons, and to protect the sunk costs of their own investments -- prevented human progress across the ages.

Such men are certainly the greatest force that will keep impudent innovators from accessing the resources of space. And they spend lavishly on propaganda. To veer SoA reflexes against the “elites” who stand between them an total dominance. Like the millions of fact-using professionals who push civilization forward.

Suppose you want to get out there into space. Then concocting strawman enemies -- e.g. denouncing those who want to make human civilization sustainable and efficient -- is astonishingly counterproductive.  Especially given that breakthroughs in efficiency and sustainability will be vastly, vastly more important for living and working in space, than they are down here, on Earth! 

Almost a definition of Sapience would be the ability to notice your own counterproductive cycles... when what you are doing may feel great, but is undermining achievement of your legitimate goals.  We all see examples of this in our enemies, but are often blind at recognizing them in the mirror, where realization would do us the most pragmatic good. 

When it comes to space activism, the driving away of potential allies and negotiating partners is particularly glaring and unnecessary.

It is the end result of all the forces I've described here, from SoA propaganda to "I can see and you can't!" self-flattery... to lickspittle obeisance toward the New Oligarchy Lords.  None of these things makes for lucid discussion of actual tradeoffs.

None of it helps to convince our neighbors to calmly allocate new investments in a risky but promising frontier.

64 comments:

Zepp Jamieson said...

"== Space is not immune to culture – and psychological – war =="

I'll say. There's a big flap right now. There's a Ryan Gosling movie coming out this week called "First Man", and it's about Neil Armstrong. All fine and good, and the trailer suggests that it might actually be a pretty good flick.
But the usual idiots are up in arms because the movie doesn't have the scene of the flag being planted on the moon. It's a biopic about the first man to step on the surface of the moon, and the idiocracy is upset because it's missing some requisite tractor art. It's the sort of thing that leaves you smashing your head against a cinder block wall in hopes it will make the headache go away.

Mark Adler said...

Helped. Aren't helped.

TheMadLibrarian said...

AFAIK, 'First Man' is about the Apollo program, but it's also about the human toll of a very intensive program. Neil Armstrong was expected to be the poster child for NASA and America's space exploration in general, but those lofty expectations ignored the price it took on his family and private life. Very few of the early astronauts had continuously happy home lives; my memory may be faulty, but I believe John Glenn was the only one who didn't go through a divorce. There's another book about that problem, 'The Astronaut Wives' Club' by Lily Koppel, who wrote about the families behind the scenes while the astronauts were putting on the flyboy public faces.

Unknown said...

Years ago I came upon a Prius festooned with bumper stickers. One jumped right out of the collage into my awareness: "Don't believe everything you think".
It meshes well with Enlightenment values, eg. Reason, criticism, empiricism. I am tempted to cut it to "Don't believe" to be better aligned with my own philosophical preferences.
My limited perspective fails to allow me to wrap [warp?] my mind around the apparent goals of oligarches and autocrats. How do corporate persons expect to grow in profits if the 99+% of the rest of us cannot afford to buy their products? Psycho-social myopia, even economic myopia may be roots of feudal beliefs. May we eschew a return to the demonstrably not-so-good-old-days?

David Brin said...

Unknown, many oligarchs are deeply stupid people who are flattered by sycophants telling them they're smart. They either inherited or else stumbled into a series of lucky breaks that they amplified with feral cunning, or cheats or else lucky opportunities to apply a genuine skill set. They are descended - as are we - from the harems of fellows who took every advantage of feudalism's rigged system, using thugs or the state to take other men's women and wheat, while hired guys in spangled cloaks - mages or priests - told the masses "this is good!"

The incantations these folks tell themselves are similar to the ones you and I say into the mirror: "I'm a member of a narrow population of insightful ones, who can see clearly what's going on. And what needs to be done. The foolish sheep need to be (protected/guided/shorn)."

The Enlightenment miracle subjects all such rationalizations to criticism - the sole antidote to error. You and I find it hard to evade needed crit... and you and I (officially at least) don't want to evade it! But oligarchs hate it and will tend to conspire together to crush it, as all previous generations of aristos did. This despite the evidence of 6000 years that the fould habit leads inevitably to delusion and disaster.

David Brin said...



“Some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned, or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”
– Alfred, Batman’s butler, in "The Dark Knight," explaining the Joker’s motivations

A new paper, recently presented at the American Political Science Association’s annual convention, suggests a widespread motive driving people to share fake news, conspiracy theories and other hostile political rumors. "Many status-obsessed, yet marginalized individuals experience a 'Need for Chaos' and want to 'watch the world burn'," lead author Michael Petersen tweeted, announcing the availability of a preprint copy.

https://www.salon.com/2018/09/09/why-do-people-share-conspiracy-theories-and-fake-news-maybe-its-the-human-need-for-chaos/

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

A new paper, recently presented at the American Political Science Association’s annual convention, suggests a widespread motive driving people to share fake news, conspiracy theories and other hostile political rumors. "Many status-obsessed, yet marginalized individuals experience a 'Need for Chaos' and want to 'watch the world burn',"


There's probably a psychohostorical theorem that demonstrates that whenever society reaches a certain level of stability and satiability, a percentage of the population necessarily acts as a disruptive element.

Perhaps this characteristic is necessary to keep humanity from falling into a permanent rut that leaves it unprepared for an external disruption to the status quo. But for whatever "invisible hand" purpose there might be, the fact is that you are correct--a non-zero subset of humanity can't abide stability. It's analogous to the way my daughter can't just leave a sleeping cat alone. :)

What's ironic is that, at the present moment, the faction most calling for change for change's sake--for anything other than the Western liberal status quo--calls themselves "conservative". When what they advocate is a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

David Brin said...

LH, it's a well-accepted principle of economics:
https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/6864/economics/financial-instability-hypothesis/

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

"Gosh, Batman, is there anything you don't know?"

:)

David Brin said...

A problem.... I wish I knew what I don't know.... ;-)

Alfred Differ said...

[Minksy] argued that financial crisis are endemic in capitalism because periods of economic prosperity encouraged borrowers and lender to be progressively reckless. This excess optimism creates financial bubbles and the later busts. Therefore, capitalism is prone to move from periods of financial stability to instability. This is a type of market failure and needs government regulation.

Argh. Weak writing. State the assertion. Conclude the assertion. Need government regulation!


That excessive optimism/pessimism causes the market to move is pretty obvious. Government regulators can get swept up in that too and they can make the deviations wider. We saw this with the most recent meltdown. The key is to watch the creditors to see what the believe is true.

If we apply the financial instability hypothesis to the Batman quote, who among us acts as the creditors?

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

If we apply the financial instability hypothesis to the Batman quote,...


I'd bet good money that that was the first time in history that those words were ever spoken or written in that order.

:)

Larry Hart said...

I humorously asked:

"Gosh, Batman, is there anything you don't know?"


Just so y'all know, the actual response in the show was:

"Yes, Robin. Several things, in fact."

Robert said...

Speaking of conspiracies... there are concerns being given about Trump's "followers" working around him and thus damaging Democracy as a whole. In short, by refusing to go with the 25th Amendment and cause a Constitutional Crisis, they are creating a new Constitutional Crisis by betraying their oaths and damaging the foundation of our country.

I truly hope Democrats don't choose to go the route of forgiveness in 2020. If Democrats do manage to regain the House and the Senate and then get a supermajority in the Senate, we need to Impeach Trump even after he is out of office, put in him trial for crimes against the State, and throw him in jail... and then put all of his people on trial as well for violating their Oaths in turn. Because if you "work around" a bad President by violating those Oaths then you have betrayed your country. Especially as the 25th Amendment gives a legitimate means of dealing with an incompetent President.

Rob H.

Tim Wolter said...

Greeting y'all!

Been busy of late. Among other things I have gone back to University at age 61. (In the hellish anti-education dystopia of ScottWalkerstan tuition after age 60 is still unaccountably free). I am taking OGH's advice to new college students and wandering hallways looking into doorways. I've found several Safe Places with bean bag chairs and coloring books. I've also found the lounge set aside for Veterans. The latter had nice leather chairs, no crayons and had significantly more habitue's.

Regards the Neil Armstrong film. I think some of the rancor towards the exclusion of Old Glory is the sense that Hollywood now crafts images not for the US market but for the Chinese. It increases the general disdain that Conservatives feel towards the image merchants. And as David correctly points out we damn well should be proud to be members of a civilization that can accomplish such things. The American flag was not planted on the moon in conquest but in recognition of this fact. And, yes, to point out that our philosophical opposite numbers did not succeed despite having a significant head start on the US space program by virtue of capturing the main German rocketry research centres.

I'll wander by now and again when topics of interest turn up.

Tacitus/TW

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

In short, by refusing to go with the 25th Amendment and cause a Constitutional Crisis, they are creating a new Constitutional Crisis


Isn't "Constitutional Crisis" being used as a euphemism for "Threat of rioting by Trump's brownshirts?" I mean, in what sense does "following the Constitutionally-prescribed remedy" amount to a Constitutional Crisis. It's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

While not true Constitutional Crisis either, the winner of the electoral vote losing the popular vote is more of one than invoking the 25th Amendment would be. So is a president appointing supreme court justices who then rule on whether he himself is guilty of obstruction of justice.

A.F. Rey said...

"Gosh, Batman, is there anything you don't know?"

Perhaps the quote from Big Bang Theory would be more apropos?

Sheldon:
I'm a physicist. I have a working knowledge of the entire universe and everything it contains.

Penny:
Who's Radiohead?

Sheldon:
[after twitching for a moment] I have a working knowledge of the important things.

JParker said...

Looking backwards how important were Von Braun and his fellow "Mexicans". Was the cost of protecting war criminals worth whatever time it saved in the Western Rocket program. What American or British Korolevs were ignored or sidelined by German celebrity?

David Brin said...

Yay Tacitus! I smiled at the images Tim just portrayed, of the paradise that our universities are, mostly… though infested with PC-bully social justice warriors. (You think I kid? America’s problem is a mad right; the problem on campuses is very often a mad left. I am capable of turning my head.) Have you come across the latest fad? “Cry booths” sound proofed rooms you can scream or rage or weep.

Oh, have fun, guy! What a lovely thing to be doing at 61.

As for the Armstrong, good insight re the Chinese market. The flag is all over the screen. Jiminy, this yowling is being done by the folks most likely to trample it, if things go badly for their cult, the next few years.
Anyway, the Chinese are SO anxious to have their Bar Moontzvah rite of passage with their own footsteps up there.

RobH, I feel no need to shove Two Scoops into a cell. What I want is truth, down to the core and ripping the bras off Putin and Murdoch.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

we need to Impeach Trump even after he is out of office,


I don't think that's a thing.

But :) anyway.

Tim Wolter said...

Well David, here is Wisconsin I think nonsense on both ends of the political spectrum is a bit muted compared to say, California. On campus the only left wing imagery I actually encountered - clenched fist posters and all - was on the grad student message boards. The actual under grads are harmless, gentle children. Or so it seems to one who is practically speaking two generations ahead of them.

None would be likely to engage a piratical looking geezer in political argument...either from politeness or some intuitive sense that their quarter baked notions would be parried and then countered with glee and abandon. Its so very liberating to be a college student unconcerned with grades, career or dating!

Actual images including my First Day of School picture:

https://detritusofempire.blogspot.com/2018/09/my-first-day-of-school-snowflakes-and.html

Oh, and I can also report that I saw a Trump sticker on a car in the faculty parking lot.

T/TW

Larry Hart said...

@Tim,

I envy you. I was lucky enough to grow up in Evanston--home of Northwestern University--and I would gladly live in any big college town.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Well, Alfred is on this blog, and Alfred knows more than Batman...

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re- Trump after leaving office

The DEMS just have to go after all of the Villains - all of them!

The lesson that the GOP has learned is that no matter what they do in office after they leave the Dems will just "let it go"
Nixon, Reagan, Bush 2 - and all of their enablers just let go

They have learned that there is no downside in incredible amounts of profitable villany - they are even allowed to keep the swag!

The GOP has to be taught that breaking the law leads to penalties

While we are on that there are two related issues

The IRS's "enforcement" division should have it's budget increased right up to the point when an extra dollar only yields one extra dollar of income - at the moment it's about $100 extra income for each dollar spent

The next Democrat Justice Department - and Congress as GOT TO put a massive effort into white collar crime
And Congress has got to help them by making the law clearer and tighter

David Smelser said...

Larry,

There is some precedent to impeaching people who have left office.

In the 1870s, Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary of War, William Belknap, was impeached on charges of corruption and bribery. He resigned his cabinet post before the House could actually vote to impeach him, but the House went ahead and impeached him anyway. There was a lengthy debate in the Senate over whether it had the power to put Belknap on trial for the charges brought by the House, since Belknap had resigned. In the end the trial went forward, but Belknap fell short of the 2/3 majority needed for conviction even though the evidence of his corruption was clear; most of the Senators who voted against conviction did so because they believed the Senate lacked jurisdiction to try him now that he was out of office. But the fact that he was impeached and put on trial after resigning nevertheless could serve as a precedent for doing so to someone else again in the future.

The advantage of an impeachment and conviction is that it would prevent these people from holding office in the future. Although it would probably be easier to try these people in federal/state court (the things they would be impeached for are likely to also be federal/state crimes). The downside is that the federal/state convictions wouldn't prevent them from holding office in the future.

Winter7 said...

There again go three hurricanes in a row towards the United States.
As you can see in the satellite image; North of South America you can see three hurricanes. The hurricane in the middle still has no eye.
Link:

https://cdn.star.nesdis.noaa.gov/GOES16/ABI/FD/GEOCOLOR/5424x5424.jpg

Winter7 said...

Regarding the issue of financial bubbles ... I think it should be illegal for a bank to lend money to a company when:

A) When the company does not have a way to solve the loan if the business fails.
B) When it is evident that the business that is being undertaken has more than 85% chance of failing.
C) When those who ask for the loan are a family that obviously can not pay and the bank is asking for compensation for the house; the car and the lands of the borrower.

Winter7 said...

Do some Republicans say that the ice in Antarctica is rising? In fact, what happens is that when the glaciers melt terribly at their base, the pressure of millions of tons of ice disappears and the earth rises, like when you remove a brick from a sponge.
That is, it is actually the land under the ice that rises, because it is no longer compressed by the weight of the ice. In fact, the elevation of Antarctica shows a terrible thaw:

Link:

https://phys.org/news/2018-09-fast-antarctica-ice.html

Alfred Differ said...

@Tim | I like the resistor sign in the neighbor's yard. I suppose the other side should be using the symbol for capacitor. 8)

My best students were usually the older ones. They came back knowing what they wanted. Very different attitudes.

Alfred Differ said...

@winter7 | Things to ponder...

1) How would you know a business has an 85% chance of failing instead of a 75% chance? In the US, small businesses fail left and right. It's right around 80% depending on what you include. Most of them can't get loans and that's not because of regulations. Most creditors require co-signors or that the founders actually take out the loans committing personal property as collateral. The exception to this are the people nutty enough to start a business using credit card debts. Ugh.

2) All creditors are supposed to think about how they get their money back if the business fails. There is a big difference between collateralized loans and unsecured ones. The issuance of bonds is even more interesting. This area of finance is complex, but not all that hard to learn if you put the effort into it.

3) There are other ways to make money on a loan besides getting the debtor to pay it back. Many sell the loans taking a small price now so the buyer takes on the long term risk with the debtor. It's not as simple as not loaning people money either. Every possible debtor is graded. Some are seen as less risky. Others are high risk. Interest rates tend to increase with risk.

Regarding Antarctica, there is an AWFUL LOT OF ICE down there. Last I checked it was two miles thick at the pole. It will be a long time before that continent bounces back. I used to live in North Dakota near the center of North America. When the ground under us shook, it was this bounce-back effect. The ice melted off 12K years ago (or so), but the continent is still relaxing from the weight.

Larry Hart said...

After all these years, it's still a bit jarring to see "September 11" staring back from the calendar. "Tuesday, September 11" even moreso.

Larry Hart said...

I guessed correctly that Jim Wright (Stonekettle Station) would have a post about the anonymous op-ed. I haven't read the thing yet, but I'm presuming it's worth a look.

http://www.stonekettle.com/

Tim Wolter said...

Alfred

The concept of resistors and capacitors in political systems is an interesting one, and I've thought on it a bit more.

Probably some of my conservative friends would like the capacitor analogy. They'd feel that for eight long years 08-16, they had to absorb so damn much. Then all the energy was released in November of 16!.

Of course too much power on the circuits all at once can fry the system, so having resistors is actually quite important. The analogy is not limited to a Red-Blue dichotomy here...probably under President Warren in the future there will be conservatives trying to dampen the release of pent up Progressive energy.

For an example of what happens when there are no effective resistors in a circuit the early days of the Obama presidency might be instructive. Too much juice poured in all at once and with no resistors or circuit breakers. The wiring got hot but the operator pushed the switch to full open. The Massachusets Senate seat blew up....but that warning was ignored. The ambitious goal - The Affordable Care Act - was attained but the pungent smell of cooked circuits was pervasive. The Democratic Party was shorted out but it took several electoral cycles to see just how many subsystems (state legislative seats, governor's seats, etc) had been burned trying to make a system rated for 220 volts of change run at 440 for a while.

Obama - Overvolting for America

Tacitus/TW

Larry Hart said...

Tim Wolter:

The concept of resistors and capacitors in political systems is an interesting one, and I've thought on it a bit more.


Heh. I wonder if an optimal political system could be designed using electrical engineering principles. Not just capacitors and resistors, but diodes, inductors, relays, and all that as well.

I'm kinda remembering some southern congressman or Senator back in 2016 decrying the movement toward accommodating "transistors" in public washrooms. :)


For an example of what happens when there are no effective resistors in a circuit the early days of the Obama presidency might be instructive. Too much juice poured in all at once and with no resistors or circuit breakers.


Hmmm, is that how you remember it? I seem to recall Mitch McConnell and 41 Republican Senators acting as a pretty effective circuit breaker from Day 1.


The Affordable Care Act - was attained but the pungent smell of cooked circuits was pervasive.


Yeah, see the ACA wasn't the result of no resistance. It was more a case of all power being diverted to the one task, against resistance. That's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing.

A.F. Rey said...

Yeah, see the ACA wasn't the result of no resistance. It was more a case of all power being diverted to the one task, against resistance.

That would certainly explain why so many people are still so hot about it. :)

A.F. Rey said...

Perhaps it is now time for a Orson Card update (which would have fitted better in the previous essay, but I was lazy...)

He's mostly been commenting on innocuous things (such as a brief comment on the novel Earth Abides), but he did add an aside to an essay on plastic straws and plastics in the ocean:

With Sargasso Seas of floating plastic debris -- milk cartons, grocery bags, soda straws -- clogging vast areas of the major oceans, something has to be done.

The obvious thing to do is to send out incinerator ships that can scoop up vast amounts of plastic waste and then burn it to release the carbon it contains back into the air that it came from.

Every bit of carbon in all the plastics and fossil fuels of the world used to be atmospheric carbon. And when it is released as carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, it's primary effect is to fertilize plant life all over the world.

But because some extremely faulty computer models said that atmospheric CO2 was a greenhouse gas (a trivial one, compared to methane and number-one water vapor), we can't get rid of our oceanic plastic waste in the simplest way.


http://www.hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2018-07-26.shtml

Perhaps he is a candidate for a few well-placed bets. ;)

He did write one piece that you might find enjoyable, Dr. Brin. A review of a place close to your heart and home: San Diego. He loads praises on the weather, the food, restaurants, the zoo, Legoland, and more. I suspect we'll be seeing a few more North Carolinians than expected next year. Kind of nice finally to hear nice things about California, as opposed to the usual way conservative magazines like The Rhino Times talks about it.

http://www.hatrack.com/osc/reviews/everything/2018-07-05.shtml

Darrell E said...

Orson Scott Card is a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic.

A.F. Rey said...

I think he's just immersed himself in the Right Wing culture so much he's lost sight of other possibilities. You know, GIGO.

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Every bit of carbon in all the plastics and fossil fuels of the world used to be atmospheric carbon. And when it is released as carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, it's primary effect is to fertilize plant life all over the world."

Is Card ill?

Cari Burstein said...

To be fair, I read his post, and at least he's not one of those people who thinks waste is a virtue and the environment be damned. He seems in favor of reduction of waste and reusable straws. Most of his text on the straws is about the virtues and negatives of various alternatives.

I do find it a bit odd that we've centered in on straws as such a focus- I'm always desperately trying to get various restaurants to not reflexively put in plastic silverware everytime I order food, but I never drink anything but water, so I guess straws don't come up much for me. I try to give plastic silverware back when I can. I feel like in general we need more of a movement for stuff like free plastic anything to be not the default and rather something given on request (or at least ask if you even want it). The move towards reusable grocery bags was a step in the right direction (although I'd still really like paper alternatives for veggies at my local store, Trader Joes at least uses compostable veggie bags), but there's a lot of waste we could really cut down on by just changing default behaviors a bit.

David Brin said...

Tim, piratical-looking… and adorable! Pirate Tim!
Pirate Tim!
Pirate Tim!

Tho the other pirates call you “Doc.”

OTOH “They'd feel that for eight long years 08-16, they had to absorb so damn much. Then all the energy was released in November of 16!”

Sorry, baloney. Their sense of wroth was entirely confederate rage stoked by Fox. There was never, ever, anything more than smoke.

“For an example of what happens when there are no effective resistors in a circuit the early days of the Obama presidency might be instructive. Too much juice poured in all at once and with no resistors or circuit breakers. The wiring got hot but the operator pushed the switch to full open.”

Feh. For two years we had an actual Congress doing actual negotiating and legislating toward national needs. Two out of 22 years. RP reps could have negotiated changes but insisted on the Hastert Rule leaving every single vote party line. All of the resulting legislation has been accepted by time and consensus, including the ACA (which is the most CONSERVATIVE) health care bill any democrat wanted. And though the popular BFPB has been sabotaged by the right.

What you deem a mania was just a brief respite from indolent-depressive lassitude during which – other than gifts for the oligarchy, RP reps spent 90% of their time “fundraising.”

Geez SHOW us the “over-volting.” Should a congress exist and function? Or not. That is the question.

===

“The IRS's "enforcement" division should have it's budget increased right up to the point when an extra dollar only yields one extra dollar of income - at the moment it's about $100 extra income for each dollar spent”

Agreed though with a sliding scale. It should go down to 10-1 for middle class folks.

==
DS: Interesting re Belknap!
Winter7: Also it is snowing more at the South Pole… because the warm waters around Antarctica send more moisture in the air.
===

Scott C rounded the bend a long time ago. Sanity and Genius sometimes fit the cliché of artists who call them opposites. (In my case? Never!) Is Scott’s case, his ear for tear-jerking drama got his books into every Junior High English class in America, preaching contempt for democracy and institutions and yearning for romantic demigod Homo superiors to kowtow before. Alas

--
Pirate Tim!

Alfred Differ said...

@Tim Wolter | I'd argue there were a lot of resistors around during the early Obama years, but what y'all needed were the inductors. Some of us are more interested in the second derivative than the first. 8)

I didn't see any overvolting, though. What I saw looked more like overamping. Conservatives freaked out all out of proportion when Obama won. I remember the political shows afterward where some of their pundits sat there with a stunned look on their faces. How could this have happened?! Heh. I recognized the same look in 2016 on the other side.

As for capacitors, I was thinking more along the line of how some are willing to block the flow of charges. Criminal... civil... take your pick. 8)

Alfred Differ said...

Well... that carbon WAS atmospheric if you go back enough hundreds of millions of years. 8)

Putting it back in the air now that the sun is a little older (meaning warmer) sounds like such a spiffy idea. Who needs tropical forests at the equator. They should get a chance to exist a the poles once again.

I don't mind skipping lots of plastic straw usage. I don't mind carrying my own utensils either. Businesses don't have to please me that way to get me to purchase their stuff, but I'm not convinced much of my plastic winds up in the oceans. My wife is vigilant about recycling and I obey most of the time. Our landfill trash can rarely has much in it.

David Brin said...

With a difference, Alfred. Not a single one of the overwrought yowled paranoid premonitions about Obama ever came remotely close to true. And no screeched denunciation ever resulted in an indictment, though vast rewards were offered by Kochs and Foxes.

The stunned expressions on November 2016 were on faces that knew we were in for genuine hell. What we all never imagined was the staggering levels of STUPIDITY that accompanied the corruption and insanity. Convinced they were protected by power, they went completely berserk, committing crimes with utter abandon.

David Brin said...

Re the new leaders neutering the CFPB in ways that the public and the military and other victims hate...
https://www.npr.org/2018/09/11/646790785/pentagon-consumer-agency-didnt-discuss-plan-to-relax-oversight-of-military-lendi

Tony Fisk said...

@Tim have fun with the collegiating. It sounds like you've discovered the Professors' armchairs but, with luck, it may be a few months before they discover you!
The political circuit analogy needs a bit more work: add inductors (as already suggested), and bear in mind that 'resistors' is *where* the circuit fries! (although I suppose capacitors could suffer a dielectric breakdown)

"For he is a Pirate King..."

Cari Burstein said...

Alfred, does your recycler actually take plastic straws and silverware? Mine does not and I don't think it's common. I have actually a large bag of unused plastic silverware I've collected from years of takeout, and I looked to see if I could find a place that would even take it to use and couldn't find anywhere. This is why I've gotten vigilant about trying to return it when I pick up food, although realistically they probably just toss it in the trash.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Re waste - like plastic straws

A modern landfill is probably the best place for them - a modern landfill with decent geology and an impervious top with methane control is basically a method of sequestering carbon for a hundred years
By which time we should be "over the hump"

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Well... that carbon WAS atmospheric if you go back enough hundreds of millions of years. 8)


I don't think anyone is arguing against that.

It doesn't follow that putting it all back there is a good idea now.

Alfred Differ said...

@Larry | I don't think anyone is arguing against that.

There was a big smirk on my face as I was typing. It's the kind you put on when you know someone said something stupid and irrelevant and you purposely stretch to find a way to make it relevant without undermining the stupidity. It's a fun game when dealing with ignorant people and helps to defuse the anger expressed by the not-so-ignorant. If we were face-to-face, it would be accompanied by a wink. 8)

It's an absolutely terrible idea to put it all back now. When some mantle plume manages to burn through an old carbon store from eons ago, we can get a huge extinction event. Palm trees on polar beaches are among some of the milder options.

Alfred Differ said...

@David | I've raised that with my relatives about Obama's people not being charged. Their typical comeback is 'The fix was in with the AG.' We DO have a history of reluctance to prosecute members of the current party in power, but that argument fails when they don't keep up the investigations and issue indictments later when majority/minority roles flip after an election.

SO many people I know are utterly convinced Hillary Clinton is guilty as sin that I have to pause and think about it. If I were emerging after having lived under a rock for 30 years, I'd wonder why the career folks within DoJ didn't nail her on something... anything at all. I know she's bright, but no one is THAT bright. There are so MANY ways to break the law that one should trip up after 25 years. That suggests she probably has (more than once seems likely), but not on anything big enough that the investigators feel they could convince a jury. Maybe? Seems possible.

Turns out some of my relatives really, really, really dislike the idea of a guilty person getting away with their crime. Do the crime? Do the time! They seem to forget the reality associated with getting convictions. It ain't easy. Purposely. I've pointed that out to one of them and he's just incredulous at the idea that she isn't in jail. 'They have so much on her!' he argues. 'What stuff?' I ask. Those Fox talking points spill forth right afterward.

I'm currently of the opinion that there are SO many people who think she is guilty that we might as well stop talking about her. They can't think straight if they get near the topic. Whether she is or isn't wouldn't matter. She simply is and they believe.

After watching Woodward tonight talk about the 'War on Truth', I'm thinking the battles associated with Hillary aren't worth winning right now. I'm more interested in fighting ones regarding economic truths, political alliances, and so on. In that, I'm inclined to defend any of Trump's former cabinet members if they come forth and admit/explain why they called him a f@#%ing moron.

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

bear in mind that 'resistors' is *where* the circuit fries!


I think Tim was envisioning something like a short circuit. But that aside, your point was mine as well. The socio-political frying over the ACA came not from lack of resistance, but from the face-off between the irresistible force of congress vs the immovable object of the Tea Party!

Larry Hart said...

BTW, I don't think any regular posters here are in the path of Hurricane Florence, but from all indications, this one looks like it could be surprisingly bad. Not only is it a category-4 which might go to 5, but each new forecast seems to have it slowing down and stalling off the coast, thereby continuing to inflict storm surges and feet of rain on shore indefinitely.

Could this storm become a Jupiter "red spot" here on earth--a permanent fixture off of the Carolina coast? I ask facetiously, but I'm also kind of "kidding on the square".

My brother's daughter is a college freshman near Roanoke, and her college is closing down and sending the kids home for the duration. I'm relieved for her sake, but perturbed to hear that such a thing is necessary.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

Turns out some of my relatives really, really, really dislike the idea of a guilty person getting away with their crime. Do the crime? Do the time!


Do they feel that way about Trump too? Even if one doesn't think collusion or the emoluments clause are real crimes, surely they don't think he was squeaky clean as a New York real estate developer?

Alfred Differ said...

This hurricane will be more of a pink spot if it stalls. It will flood a lot of hog feces mega-ponds. Apparently the bacteria growing in them makes them look pink. 8)


@Larry | The one cousin I'm talking to the most on this points out that Trump hasn't been charged yet and he doesn't see any reason why he would be. It's willful blindness I think, but he reminds me of what I do regarding Hillary. At this point, she COULD go out and commit crimes and I'd be disinclined to believe her accusers for a long time.

I'm doubtful my cousins will support having Trump jailed. They look on this whole affair as hypocritical of the 'left'. "You do it too... often worse" is what goes through their minds. Whether we do or not isn't debatable at this point. They believe.

As for collusion, the one I talk to the most argues it is fair in politics. The law disagrees with him I think, but it is obvious how he would see it on a jury. Without being a formal libertarian, he would probably vote to nullify.

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

I'm doubtful my cousins will support having Trump jailed. They look on this whole affair as hypocritical of the 'left'. "You do it too... often worse" is what goes through their minds. Whether we do or not isn't debatable at this point. They believe.


My question was almost hypothetical, as I (correctly) assumed from his so-called outrage over the general case of a criminal getting away with a crime that he 1) was a Trump supporter and 2) didn't mean he'd be outraged at Trump getting away with a crime.

The attitude you relay from him is not surprising. My only point is that it is not "really, really, really dislik[ing] the idea of [any] guilty person getting away with their crime." It's a different thing, in fact...

:)

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ:

This hurricane will be more of a pink spot if it stalls. It will flood a lot of hog feces mega-ponds. Apparently the bacteria growing in them makes them look pink. 8)


That sounds like it could be the set-up for a horror movie. Maybe a sort of adult noir version of "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back".

Larry Hart said...

Alfred Differ revisited:

Turns out some of my relatives really, really, really dislike the idea of a guilty person getting away with their crime. Do the crime? Do the time!


As to my comment already above, it's too bad that people like your cousin direct their ire only at liberal Democrats. Because if someone really, really, really is outraged by the general case of "a guilty person getting away with their crime", they'd be prime candidates to peel over to our side once the Republicans' crimes are evident to all. It's sad but not surprising that such outrage is simply a mask for partisanship.

Alfred Differ said...

To be fair, the particular cousin who is willing to talk openly didn't vote for Trump. He didn't vote for anyone for President. I don't mind that too much, but I occasionally needle him and others that the Libertarians DID put a Republican governor on his ballot. He could have voted for Johnson with about the same effect.

I have no doubt many of my cousins would have high RWA scores. Many of them would not. As with all family, it's that difference that makes us interesting. A family can take multiple positions and hold multiple opinions ensuring some part of it wins in a conflict. Very useful feature of being human. 8)

Winter7 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Larry Hart said...

@Alfred,

No unearned disrespect meant for your cousin. I'm glad he didn't vote for Trump, but I'd be more forgiving if he did vote for Trump but would just as outraged about Trump getting away with crimes as he is at Hillary doing so.

The thing is, I'm on board with his stated reason for outrage, but disappointed at the nakedly-partisan misapplication.

Winter7 said...

Alfred Differ:
“I'm doubtful my cousins will support having Trump jailed. They look on this whole affair as hypocritical of the 'left'. "You do it too... often worse" is what goes through their minds. Whether we do or not isn't debatable at this point. They believe”
It is really difficult to understand that our relatives believe that Big Brother is the hero of the story. It's as if they throw us a bucket of cold water when we realize that. Sometimes, we can not change things. Sometimes we can not compete with the virtual truth of Big Brother. That's been happening all over the world, for centuries…

Regarding the issue of loans. I think knowing if a borrower company is going to be successful or not is a matter of common sense, but the important thing is not to change that, the important thing is to change the way banks abuse people.
There should be a mandatory clause in all loan contracts: If the family can not return the loan, the family has a period of at least two years to find a buyer for the house seized by the bank. The bank can only take the proceeds of the sale from the loan total plus interest.
This is important because in Mexico the banks snatch the houses and properties and sell them, keeping all the profits from the sale, without giving the rest of the profit to the family of debtors.
Without that clause, banks can only be considered thieves with official permission to steal.

Winter7 said...

Doctor Brin:
¿So the warmer air around Antarctica causes stronger snowfalls? I suppose that, in the long run, the rate of melting of ice will exceed the amount of ice formed by the accumulated snow. Snow does not always fall, but current temperatures maintain a continuous melting of the ice at the edges of the ice and in the area where the glaciers make contact with the rock, that is, under all glaciers in the Antarctic, where enormous tunnels have formed with rivers that flow continuously towards the sea ...

David Brin said...

onward

onward