Saturday, April 12, 2008

Airline deterioration, the new elite, levees and climate deniers

If any of you do have a relationship with one of the obstinate global-warming-deniers, here is my usual recommendation. Never confront a dogmatist with sumo opposition. Letting them choose the battleground is silly. For example, trying to offer mountains of scientific evidence only validates them, by making it seem that their own position is about evidence at this point.

Just after recovering internet access (off several days!) and doing a big event at Second Life...

==Deterioration of Air Travel==

Amid last week’s terrible ructions in air travel, will no one point out the part of all this that is most politically and socially significant?

No, I am not referring to the stunning levels of ineptitude, revealed by the FAA -- a story that has grown commonplace, under a regime that relentlessly undermines professionalism at every turn. Although it is meat for passing headlines, the real story is something more insidious. And politically devastating, if the public is ever finally roused.

Would this state of affairs ever have come to pass, if society’s elites had reason to care about the health of modern commercial air travel?

Gradually, people are growing aware that the rich, famous and powerful are abandoning our crowded airports, evading the painful security queues, the germ-laden air and uncertain schedules. Leaving all of that for little folk to endure, elites are even staying away from First Class. (Have you noticed, most of the people up front are either exhausted upper-middle managers or frequent fliers, traveling on upgrades? And first class service has deteriorated, accordingly.)

So where have all the aristocrats gone? The movie stars and banking moguls? Just look a few hundred meters away from the main terminal, at the luxurious private and charter hangars that seem to burgeon and grow, monthly. And no, the rapid increase in travel by corporate jet and luxury charter is not much of an outrage in its own right, not as much as it is a symptom and a warning...

...that the members of civilization with the most influence and political power will not be on our side, when it comes to improving air travel. They’ll not be adding their voices to the lowing of the steers, down in the cattle cars. Rather, they are abandoning the rest of us to our fates.

Moreover, it is symptomatic of something more.

SuperclassLet’s get familiar with our masters. An article in Newsweek by David Rothkopf distills the essence of his book SUPERCLASS: The Global Power Elite and the World They are Making, about the uber-elite who make capital decisions affecting millions or even billions of people. “They ride on Gulfstreams, set the global agenda, and manage the credit crunch in their spare time. They have more in common with each other than their countrymen. Meet the Superclass....It is a much more concentrated world.”

“The iconic symbol of superclass unity is the Gulfstream private jet. In fact, one way to measure the clout of an event is to count the private jets at the nearest airport. According to Gulfstream, traditionally attracts more of its planes than any other gathering, drawing up to 10 percent of the 1,500 planes in service to Zurich airport. But this year's Olympics in Beijing will give it a run for its money, as typically do events as diverse as the Monaco Grand Prix, China's Boao Forum, the Geneva Auto Show or Allen & Co.'s annual getaway for media magnates in Sun Valley, Idaho. Globalization looks different when you can tell the pilot when to leave and where to go, and when there are no security lines to wait in when you are heading off for distant destinations. Those who are free to move about the planet this way come to have more in common with themselves than with their own countrymen.”

This is all grist for my next novel, of course... and take this futurist’s word for it. The next few decades will in part revolve around whether these people decide to side with Western Civilization... and with our children ... or instead, they give into the blandishments of ego and human nature, doing what you or I might do, if we stood in their $20,000 loafers. Giving in to the seductive temptations of privilege -- especially rationalizing reasons to cheat.

ThePlutocratsDo not mistake any of this for left-wing, class-warfare ranting. I have nothing against capitalism or rich folk, per se. Heck, I am richer than most, and I know maybe eight billionaires on a first name basis... and ALL of them have chosen - to one degree or another - to side with us, with the Western Enlightenment! Every one of those tech moguls is doing his best to look forward, to promote great new things, and to help the good tide lift all boats.

But I also know that my own experience results from a selection effect. These eight all hang in the same circles I do... that of modernist citizens of a profound new renaissance. Guys who would be just about as happy with a decent normal wage, if it still meant they could do all the cool stuff and help exciting dreams come true.

Alas, not all zillionaires are like that. And thereupon, let me commence an allegory.

The lesson of the levee.

==Left and Right-handed approaches ==

Welcome to the world wrought by global warming....

The life of a contrarian is inherently frustrating. Whenever you point out the flaws in a particular dogmatic position, there is a tediously-predictable, reflex reaction that you must be a dogmatist, for the opposite extreme. I’ve run into this over and over, in one realm after another, often regarding causes that I (generally) approve-of -- like feminism, ecology and philanthropy! For example, in propounding the public argument for an open society -- one of reciprocal accountability and a knowing citizenry -- I find that the arguments for transparency are seldom viewed as simply standing up for what we already have - but rather, as “David Brin advocating universal nakedness and an end to privacy.”

Likewise, when it comes to the hoary, centuries-old French curse called the “left-right political axis,” just look at the all-or-nothing choices we are offered. Societies have long had two ways to get things done -- typified by the “Cathedral and the Bazaar.” Organized projects, paid-for by pooled resources and planned through some kind of legal consensus (generally government) illustrate a “left-handed” approach,” while the “right hand” of progress was propelled by free individuals and groups, competing with each other (generally through markets) to do, achieve, create and excel.

Suppose you favor one approach. Must you advocate amputation of the other?

QuestionnaireNIndeed, let me offer a clip from my ”Questionnaire on Ideology.”

THE LEFT HANDED APPROACH: concerted action by tribal or national units, organized by leaders who gather social resources (e.g. taxes or tithes) and apply them to attain goals in an organized manner.

THE RIGHT-HANDED APPROACH: create loosely regulated markets wherein free individuals compete and/or cooperate, making the best deals they can for their own self interest.

In 10,000 years we’ve seen countless left-handed projects - pyramids, canals, wars and universities...
...and countless market contributions - industry, medicine, slavery, and bookstores.

Radical socialists demonize the right-hand as inherently corrupt/immoral/exploitive, often prescribing its complete amputation.

Radical libertarians/anarchists call the left-hand inherently coercive/immoral/stifling often prescribing its complete amputation.

If you prefer one class of problem-solving methods, would you amputate the other entirely?
Or help try to discover which types of tasks each class is best at, and assign them accordingly?

Does your preferred ‘hand’ solve chronic problems, e.g. create abiding conditions for personal satisfaction & generation of wealth? How well does it deal with acute problems, like crimes, natural disasters or Adolf Hitler?

Which approach focuses on anticipation and which fosters resiliency? Which serves professional problem-solvers? Amateurs?

==Levees are Left-handed==

Can you see why my investment banker friends snif at me as a crypto-leftist, while my big-L liberal friends moan when I quote Adam Smith and call him the “first liberal”? It is easy enough to find faults with either stifling, state-bureaucratic paternalism or rapacious, cheating-infested thievery by conniving cabals of CEO golf buddies. But, in fact, we should have outgrown all of that simplistic nonsense long ago! And we should be - at long last - studying the things that each hand is good at.

ListenToNatureAnd here is one foremost example, that shows just how stupid the dogmatists are.

Levees are the most fundamentally left-handed project of them all.

Only governments build levees on a large scale. Only governments can, or ever will build levees on a grand scale. When private interests feel threatened by floods, they use political pressure and any means possible to get governments to spend money, even taxed from faraway mountain dwellers, in order to save their precious lowland property. And, yes, rich men who despise taxes and big government will do this, as they always have. (See: Listen to Nature and Accept her Adamant Plan.)

And what big projects do you think we have in our future?

When the Greenland and Antarctic ice plateaus melt and the oceans rise? Will the deniers of global climate-change stick to their tune, when their lowland property is threatened by new sea levels?

If we are to be ruled by New Aristocrats... oh please God, don’t let it be these fools. These awful, monstrous fools.

==Just a bit more about climate change==

Consider how it workd, psychologically. Influenced by a million courtroom dramas, the deniers seem to be saying ”You must prove this beyond all reasonable doubt... and I can use any doubt, any doubt at all... to reject all of your evidence.” In other words, it will never be enough. It CAN never be enough.

So. Instead of sumo, try a jiu jitsu move on guys like this. For example:

"Despite there being a 99% consensus on the part of mainstream scientists, demonstrating that climate change is human generated, that it will be titanically costly and dangerous and that it can be at least partly remedied if we act soon... we will nevertheless and willingly admit there is always room for more research. More discussion.

“But that isn't the issue. The issue is - what should a wise civilization be doing right now?

"What reasonable people propose - and the deniers oppose - is simply that our nation and world give high priority to becoming more efficient and to try to foul our nest a little less.

“That is it. The “waste-not” wisdom of an older, truer conservatism. The thing the deniers are opposing is that we put some effort toward having a wealthy and happy civilization, on less oil and waste. Period! That’s it.

“And here’s the crux: even if (unlikely) it turns out that all the scientists and intellectuals and tree-huggers and pointy-headed liberals prove to be wrong -- even if it all turns out to be an exaggerated, chicken-little panic -- what’s the worst that could happen, if we put in a little work and investment and effort to become more efficient?

“The worst that would happen is that... we'll all be more efficient. (Guess who are the ONLY people who don’t want that! Who don’t want us to get free of dependence on forieign oil? Gee, I wonder.)

“On the other hand, if the deniers prove wrong (very likely), then their dogmatic, writhing, series of excuses for delay will prove extremely costly to us all. And they will be among the first demanding vast new government levee projects, to save their precious homes.

“But, oh, here is the one thing that proves how shortsighted and stupid they really are. They can expect civil lawsuits commensurate with their unscrupulous delaying tactics. Don’t think we’re joking! By comparison, the tobacco lawsuits will look like nothing. Exxon stockholders, take note."


Finally, under comments, I’ll post a few links showing the other side of things. The world of transparency in action.


Anonymous said...

What's wrong with Adam Smith? Once you read what he wrote, rather than what the neo-cons say he wrote*, he's a very reasonable chap. And very bright, too.

If you haven't, I suggest you read Jane Jacobs’ book Systems of Survival. She addresses the same dichotomy you do, and further identifies different virtues and vices for each system—and shows how what’s good in one system is bad in another. Very readable, and highly recommended.

*Kinda like reading the Bible for yourself, rather than letting some preacher tell you what's in it.

David Brin said...

Try google. I am probably among those citing Adam Smith the most, these days. Pointing out that he would almost certainly be a Democrat...

Travc said...

Good post, as usual.

I whole-heartedly agree with your 'right hand vs left hand' line of reasoning. Myself, I tend to point out that the 'free market' is just a mechanism to allocate scare resources... pretty good in most cases, but fails pathologically in others. Socialism is another such mechanism, which has its own sets of problems, but in some cases those problems are less severe than what a pathological 'market based solution' produces.

Another, and maybe more politically relevant, example:


A 'market based' healtcare system fails horribly. Not surprisingly since the fundamental consumer question boils down to "how much cash is your life (or your loved one) worth to you". Name one human who can answer that rationally. Not ever going to work!
Fortunately, we have other ways of allocating scarce resources.

PS: When I was in Edinburgh, I made a point of visiting Adam Smith's grave. The Scottish deserve a lot of credit for the good bits of our modern world.

Anonymous said...

Something interesting:

Over on Boing Boing, there was a long contentious comment thread reacting to the latest debunking of a greenhouse skeptic talking point. (No, warming isn't due to cosmic rays.) A fair number of libertarian-minded posters seem to have basically accepted that global warming is real . . . that it's due to the greenhouse effect . . . and we're to blame.

But we shouldn't do anything about it because it would cost too much!

One guys wrote that "statists and communitarians" were using it as an excuse to raise taxes.

Aggravating short-sided denial . . . but progress of a sort.

sociotard said...

And here’s the crux: even if (unlikely) it turns out that all the scientists and intellectuals and tree-huggers and pointy-headed liberals prove to be wrong -- even if it all turns out to be an exaggerated, chicken-little panic -- what’s the worst that could happen, if we put in a little work and investment and effort to become more efficient?

To be fair, the worst that could happen is that we will spend more than the efficiency is worth. We'll look back on all the resources we spent trying to become more efficient, and how little we saved, and think of how we could've spent the money instead.

My apartment is old and has terrible insulation. Last fall I added plastic sheeting to all the windows. It took a big chunk of one day and cost around $15. Looking at my power bill, I don't think I saved $15 in electricity.

That's the worst case scenario. Kind of like how (not sure if it is still the case) it took more coal to make a wind turbine than the wind turbine would produce in energy over the course of its service.

Travc said...

Sociotard: Yeah, you are basically correct. However, at least 'efficiency' is the right angle (frame?) to be approaching the issue from.

Put into efficiency terms, most global warming mitigation measures being seriously proposed are either outright wins or arguable... not significantly negative. A general cultural shift towards considering long term efficiency is all good.

However, the real arguments for and against such measures are based on opportunity cost. This is probably not a good frame for general public debate / meme spreading... it depends far too much on something people do a shit job at dealing with (in an economic sense), risk.

I'll assume you all are clever and know what I'm talking about. As a point of evidence, remember the group of economists who got together and made a 'priority list' of world problems to deal with? They put global warming low down because the costs as they assessed them would hinder our ability to do other needed things (very high up on their list was water treatment, cheap and very large positive impact). I don't agree with their global warming mitigation cost assessment, but their methodology is pretty dead on.

David Brin said...

Off the top of my head, I cannot find my original essay about "GAR vs FIBM" but here is a link to an extended excerpt.

The ironies and hypocricies abound and neither left nor right can claim more than maybe 10% sapiency in a topic that deserves FAR more maturity than it has been given!

Sociotard leaves out the added arguments for efficiency... ridding ourselves of energy dependence upon unstable regions, for example.

Then the utter hypocrisy of "conservatives" sneering AUTOMATICALLY at today's "waste-not" puritans. The liberals. Does anyone have a single irony bone in their bodies, anymore?

Dave Rickey said...

In an era of divine right and imperium, barely emerging from a market where everything was controlled by aristocrats and trade guilds (not just what could be bought or sold, but what could be made, where, and by who), the idea of a free market was a very liberal one, and pretty radical. So yes, Adam Smith would have been a Democrat.

Now we're discovering there are things the market just can't do. The market pursues the contradictory goals of efficiency and profit, and eventually tries to treat everything else as an externality. Including all human and social factors that don't serve the market's short-term goals.


Steve Gilham said...

The wheels are coming off the global warming bandwagon.

Global temperatures have been declining over the last decade, and exceptionally fast over the last year and a half; this year has seen such a severe northern winter that harvests are put at risk. Starving polar bears have been driven south onto land because they don't have their normal access to fishing holes, and are having to be shot.

Coupled with the fact that we're still not seeing the start of a new solar cycle (Maunder Minimum anyone?), I'm getting worried about the cold again.

And this, if you pardon the pun, is just the tip of the iceberg.

Don't believe it?
Try the raw data from the UK Meteorological Office's Hadley Research centre --
Indeed, hard numbers don't seem to be coming from the warmingists these days -- they seem only to rely on models of increasing detachment from observation.

Meanwhile, the watermelons in the climate change lobby are trying to hide what's really going on

David Brin said...

Steve is a great example of what I was just talking about, guys.

He clutches at the latest mantric straw, waving it around, while NONE of the top experts I know in climatology and meteorology, solar astronomy and related fields, are drinking any of that Koolaid.

That is none. At all. Brilliant men and women who have spent their lives working on this stuff.

But morons think they can read an exxon-supported press release and are the equal to James Kasting?

Following Michael Crichton's methodology, they leap upon noise from a couple of cranks and declare "game over!"... while the US Navy makes plans for an ice free arctic.

Note, he utterly ignored the key point in my essay... that it doesn't MATTER whether climate change is real or not. As a nation and society, we should be trying extremely hard - top priority - to develop greater efficiency and less waste, for dozens of other reasons. And if we do, and if the warming warnings were wrong? We'd still benefit!

These morons never ask themselves "What, exactly, am I objecting to? And who is paying the piper that I'm dancing to?"

Exxon and the Saudis. And Fox. But that doesn't matter. Because "If lib'ruls want it, then I am ag'in it!"


IYan Writer said...

Hi David,

thank you for coming into Second Life yesterday for an event - I was not familiar with your latest activities, having only read the Uplift books, so it was extremely interesting to me. I hope the chaos did not put you off Second Life - there are better ways of communicating with a crowd, using voice.

I've subscribed to your blog and hope to see you in Second Life again!


Jan (IYan)

Steve Gilham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Treder said...

Re the "right hand vs. left hand," this paper posted at the CRN website says essentially the same thing but in greater depth, and makes suggestions for how we can use both approaches (and one more, for good measure) to deal with big problems.

Steve Gilham said...

Consider me amazed. On one hand, we have a distributed ad hoc group of empowered amateurs using CITOKATE; on the other the new aristocracy itching to impose sumptuary legislation upon the masses (like this proposal for a personal air travel ration -- -- and others along similar lines emanating from the Imperial Court in Brussels), and to generally impoverish their populaces.

On which side should I by rights be expecting to find Dr. Brin?

Cold will hit us harder, faster and worse than gentle warming will -- one hard winter, and we are seeing food riots already
as well as rising prices for staples (reinforced by the ill-conceived rush for biofuels). What might happen if next winter is as cold doesn't bear thinking about.

And as I've said before -- there is nothing wrong with efficiency : that is only common sense.
With increasing global demand for energy starting to outstrip current supply capacity, only an idiot would argue against making the best bang for the buck we can get out of fossil fuels until we can get something better on line.

Unfortunately, the big feedback in the global warming issue is the ideological one. Supporting the current fad -- a convenient one for the aristocrats -- is where the funding is.

Whatever the inconvenient truth might be about the data.

Oh, and on the word "liberal". You Americans have totally ruined the word in your dialect.

Adam Smith is the classic liberal.

Gavin said...

I note that many of the deniers are from states that will have little DIRECT impact from the rising oceans, but they seem to be ignorant of the indirect impacts.

Woozle said...

Welcome back to the electronic collective consciousness, Dr.B. ;-)

On global warming denial: the subject has come up (as you might expect) in discussions with my Ostrich #2, Jon Ham of the John Locke Foundation -- most recently in this discussion. Please feel free (anyone) to let me know any points I neglected to bring up, as I'm sure there will be future rounds.

I've been trying to frame the "evidence" issue not as "convince me" but as "your evidence needs to be more persuasive if you're going to convince anyone else" (by implication, "all those suckers who've bought into the GW hysteria and need to be set straight"). This seems to at least serve as a good mental aid in keeping my phrasing neutral and objective (not "I think you're wrong" but "this evidence here seems to indicate a significant ongoing temperature rise, but do you have any counter-evidence I should be looking at?"). Another form of verbal jiu-jitsu, if you will, and one which actually seems to help overcome bias.

Anders Brink said...

Dr Brin,

Waitaminute here. I agree with you that we should see the left-right political axis not as a polarizing oppposites. But all along, I thought left was the communal method, where individuals contribute towards an unplanned goal, while right was authoritarian method.

Did you do a ju-jitsu move and swap this around under our feet? It seems like you did, for I have been reading you since 1999.

Steve Gilham said...

I live on the edge of the Fen country in East Anglia, less than 100' above sea level, in an area undergoing long-term secular sinking as the country recovers from the last Ice Age.

On the blog you linked to you posted about "the Northwest Passage opening up for the first time in recorded history".
In this case decent records only began in 1978; we have no data on that side of the continent from the Mediaeval Warm Period (when Greenland was a Viking colony), whereas "recorded history" normally carries the implication of "about 6000 years".

As for "but do you have any counter-evidence" -- there's enough out there to just stumble upon, enough to have turned me from worrying about a Venus-style runaway in the not to distant future, back to expecting another Little Ice Age.

Start with the contamination of much of the basis data (see; the embarrassing correction of the GISS data, indicating that the 1930s were hotter than last 10 years; the fact that even so, the warming trend seems to have to have been added manually as a "correction" to the data (

While I'm here again -- I am concerned about energy efficiency and post-fossil generation measures being pulled down in the recriminations if AGW does turn out to be the busted flush that it's looking to be. Inherently wise moves should not be held hostage to fortune

Matt DeBlass said...

Looking at the data on the link provided, I don't see a drastic decline in average temperature. The recorded temps, according to the best estimate provided, appear to be approximately 0.025-0.05 degrees cooler than the peak in the late 90s... but I'm not seeing any major collapse of the warming trend.

In fact, right above the graph is a brief interpretation: "The annual timeseries illustrates the increase since the 1850s in global mean temperatures. This increase is much larger than the known sources of error. The warming has occurred in two main phases: 1920-40 and particularly since the mid-1970s. Research at the Met Office Hadley Centre using state-of-the-art climate models has shown that this behaviour can only adequately be accounted for by a combination of natural and human factors: the latter dominate."

Before I go on, a disclaimer: I'm not speaking as an objective journalist below, it's my personal opinion, based on the evidence I've seen and the statements of professionals whose opinions I respect that global warming is a reality and is caused, at least in part, by human activity.

However, I am a journalist by trade, and can offer some insight into the working world of the news.

First - the value of raw data. Raw data, taken out of context, can be misleading. Mentioning that temperatures are cooler this year does nothing to address the overall trend, as a quick glance at the chart makes it obvious that there have been up-and-down fluctuations lasting one or several years.

Now, if I were writing a global warming story for our paper (plausible, since we're in a semi-agricultural area) I would look at that data and charts, but I would also find a couple of scientists to offer interpretation and commentary on it (and probably at least one farmer and one person who lives in a flood zone). I would also keep in mind what Mark Twain said about statistics.

As for polar bears, my understanding is that these animals live primarily on arctic ice, and have been driven south not because it's too cold (they've evolved to much colder climates, remember, it HAS gotten warmer overall) but because the ice in many areas will no longer support their weight, and they're moving to dry land (the Arctic is not a land mass, it's an ice cap, they have to go south to find ground that doesn't melt).
Again, I have no first hand experience of polar bears, but rely on secondary sources for this.

As for the second link...well, this Jo Abbess does have a problem. It isn't the role of the press to suppress information just because someone doesn't agree with it. Mr. Harrabin did report what he was told and who he was told it by.
I thought he made it clear in the original article.

One thing I'd like to address, though, that comes up in that thread:
When a news outlet quotes say, seven scientists who think global warming is real and one that doesn't, there is occasionally an outcry by GWskeptics that "they're not fairly representing our side."
This is based on an assumption that the news source is obligated to quote an equal number of people from both sides. Another common complaint is that the sole climate contrarian comes across as a crackpot.
This doesn't just apply to the GW issue, but to other controversial subjects as well.

The reality from the newsroom: when you see seven experts say one thing and one say the other, it usually is a gross favor of the LONE DISSENTER.
To continue with climate change as an example, say you're a reporter for the Podunk Daily News and you need a story about the climate. You can probably call any seven universities, meteorology labs or whatever and get someone on the the phone who'll say it's a reality.
However, to get that single dissenter, you'll probably have to call a guy who knows a guy, who might be able to point you in the right direction to where you can find a web site...etc to get that single guy (with professional credential who's not obviously working for the oil company).

The point is, often in our desire to provide input from both sides, the press is actually making it sound like the dissenters are more common than they actually are.

That's the reality of "Media Bias".

sociotard said...

I'm disturbed by this quote from Obama:

""You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. ... And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate, and they have not," Obama said.

"And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations," Obama said."

Really? So the only reason I care about the second ammendment and my religion is because I'm a poor deluded hick who doesn't understand the issues? Good thing Obama has come to save us from our ignorance.

(to be fair, I'll likely still vote for him over the Iraq issue, but it'll be with a great deal more trepadation. I know this is largely a sound bite, but it is a disturbing sound bite.)

Acacia H. said...

@Sociotard: Senator Obama has also stated (and his State legislative record shows) he is for the constitutional rights of gun ownership. He believes in some controls... but his controls are not banning of all guns or other classic liberal fantasies, but rather restrictions on semi-automatic weapons and on concealed weapons.

As for his gaffe... considering all the bullshit the Clintons have said and gotten away with, can you honestly fault him for the few verbal stumbles he's done? This is much ado about not much, and is being clung to and blown out of proportion by the Clintons to salvage their lead in Pennsylvania.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

David McCabe said...

Here's the full essay on the right and left hand. Google is your friend!

Anonymous said...

Re the "journalistic" treatment of AGW skpeticism, see Stephen Schneider's "mediarology" essay at

"In reporting political, legal, or other advocacy-dominated stories, it is both natural and appropriate for honest journalists to report "both sides" of an issue. Got the Democrat? Better get the Republican!"

"In science, it's different. There are rarely just two polar opposite sides, but rather a spectrum of potential outcomes, oftentimes accompanied by a considerable history of scientific assessment of the relative credibility of these many possibilities. A climate scientist faced with a reporter locked into the "get both sides" mindset risks getting his or her views stuffed into one of two boxed storylines: 'we're worried' or 'it will all be OK.' And sometimes, these two 'boxes' are misrepresentative; a mainstream, well-established consensus may be 'balanced' against the opposing views of a few extremists, and to the uninformed, each position seems equally credible. Any scientist wandering into the political arena and naively thinking 'balanced' assessment is what all sides seek (or hear) had better learn fast how the advocacy system really functions."

"Being stereotyped as the 'pro' advocate versus the 'con' advocate as far as action on climate change is concerned is not a quick ticket to a healthy scientific reputation as an objective interpreter of the science — particularly for a controversial science like global warming. In actuality, it encourages personal attacks and distortions."

"This is all part of the problem I have, somewhat whimsically, called 'mediarology.' I will explore this problematic world of communications in some depth below."

Anonymous said...

Regards global warming etc, I can get behind any conservation efforts that reduce our dependence on unsavory foreign lands. Of course, you can't be against everything....there will have to be some tradeoffs.

Regards the Obama comments:
Not everything said and done during the campaign is fraught with profound significance. But watch out, this one may bite deep. The cardinal sin in American politics is hypocracy. So for Obama to try to be the candidate of change, and the advocate of the average man its perilous to do a big money fund raiser in San Fran in the first place. Then to essentially say there that the second amendment and religious piety are byproducts of economic dislocaton is a very, very bad idea. Oh, and its not just the sort of gaffe caused by fatigue and jet lag, he repeated roughly the same comments at Ball State.
I have relatives in some of those small towns up in the PA mountains. And they are not going to like this one little bit.
When a man who could coast to victory by just smiling and looking good has the poor judgement to say stupid, eliteist stuff like this the two most obvious possibilities are that he either is an elitist out of touch with a significant segment of America, or that he has very poor political judgement, and will demonstrate it again in the future, and potentially for much higher stakes.

I say this not to be anti-intellectual, anti San Fran, or anti anything else. But politically this was a very, very stupid thing to do. It will cost him.


David Brin said...

Steve, do not go all indignant on me. You did NOT come into the comments section with questions about purported evidence conflicting with the standard model (held by 99% of climatologists, solar astronomers and so on..., you came in making declarations. Game onve. Refutation given! Irrefutable! All the world’s scientists are fools.

I do apologize for excessive language, I stomped hard and regret any ad hominem stuff. But really, you are better than that. I am fine with citokate and minority/carping views. I am even fine with crazy thriller plot scenarios on occasion! (Obviously.) But when you are perpetuating a vile methodology concocted by EXXON and the R’oils, never even posing it as a question, let alone pondering a smidgeon of humility, then don’t expect gentleness.

My children are at stake here. And we have had it with 14 years of world ruining, exxon-led circle jerking. I am steamed.

Gavin, the redders’ idiocy has no bounds. Blue America is the terror target, yet it is the redders who are screeching panic, like little girls. Bule America has lower rates of divorce, premartial sex, abortion and VD, yet redders scream “morality!” Reddders steal taxes from the cities and them cry out for lower taxes. They despise socialism, yet suckle at the teat of farm supports, cornohol subsidies and so, like addicts. YES! this generalization is exaggerated and unfair. But I am not a politician. I am free to point out trends! And this trend is more than valid enough to have half-ruined America. I am sick of trying to talk these good folks into ending their restarted American Civil War.

It’s time to win it.

Woozle, the other simple way to express the climate change thing is “Who bears a burden of proof?” When 99% of scientists believe that a very reasonable and judicious set of efficiency-aimed policies may help our children, the burden of proof is on those would obstruct.

Anders, I am well aware that I first attack the left-right axis as foolish... then use it as a metaphor for Cathedral-vs-Bazaar collective action. This is because simple metaphors can be useful if you pick just one of the implicit meanings and stick ONLY with it. If you DEFINE “left-handed” to mean cathedral like projects, then you have a useful metaphor. Only, of course, it then makes no sense applied to dozens of other issues.

And that's it guys. Gotta keep my promise to the wife.

Anonymous said...

The greenhouse skeptics are fighting a furious rear guard action, slicing and dicing chart data to turn short-term trends into the final word.

Guys. It's over. The military, insurance companies, the more enlightened fossil fuel companies . . . they've stopped playing the maybe if we ignore it it will go away game and started planning.

The Debating Society members will keep at it for a few more years, but they increasingly resemble the hold out geologists who railed against continental shift into the 1970s.

Me, I'm investing in solutions. I'm putting my money where my mouth is.

Steve Gilham said...

No hard feelings here, only the forlorn hope that I won't be freezing in my old age.

Just a slightly paranoid thought, though.

Who gains by pumping and then dumping AGW, if it turns out this is indeed just another decades-long term climate cycle (like the previous century's worth of alternating "if this goes on" fire and ice scares)?

Yep, it's the Big Bad Oil interests you are concerned about who would exploit that backlash.

David Brin said...

Again, (and last time). The fatsos behind denial don't care about which direction the climate changes. They want the wasteful Americans to empty our wallets into their mouths. Period.

IF they get rich enough, they can have beachfront resorts WHEREVER the coastline is. Hence they are all out against efficiency.

Efficiency vs squandrel waste. There is no other issue on the table.

Read that, over and over, until it finally sinks in.


Oh, BTW... an ice age is MUCH easier to stop than GW. Spread some carbon black across the glaciers for a few years. Voila.

Did you know that Earth skates the very inner edge of our sun's continuously habitable zone? Earth is HOT for a life world and we have almost zero margin on the hot side. Our Gaia balance must have an almost PERFECTLY transparent greenhouse, in order for enough heat to escape to keep from becoming another Venus.

In contrast, cool side errors can be corrected simply by adding greenhouse gases. Duh.

The staggering thing to me is that people actually think they can "debunk" the world's atmospheric scientists based on some clipping... when they don't even know stuff like this.

Unknown said...

There is no more serious scientific debate about the reality of anthropogenic global warming than there is about the reality of evolution as opposed to creationism. The Science Citations Index currently gives less than 5% of the published peer-reviewed scientific literature on the "contra" side of global warming, as opposed to over 95% on the "pro" side. Unless Steve can provide hard evidence that less than 95% of the articles in the peer-reviewed climatology literature come down on the side of the anthropogenic hypothesis, there is no "debate" about global warming.

Moving on to serious topics worthy of genuine discussion:

A open source group has just invented an open source 3D printer able to replicate itself.

And a doctor has come forward to suggest a reason for Bill Clinton's recent intemperate behavior: cognitive deficit caused by his September 2004 bypass operation.
In 2001, an article in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that 5-years after bypass surgery 42% of patients showed decline in mental function of approximately 20 percent or more.2 A study published this year (2008) in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery using MRI testing just after bypass surgery found brain damage in 51% of patients.3 Three years after their time on the bypass pump, significant permanent reduction in mental capacity was identified in 31% of patients. I am not talking major stroke here; but these patients can't remember names or numbers as they once did, experience sleep disturbances (including nightmares), suffer mood swings, and lose intellectual acuity.

Also: Hillary's support base among Democratic women appears to be collapsing.
Clinton's strongest core of support — white women — is beginning to erode in Pennsylvania, the site of the critical April 22 Democratic presidential primary, and a loss here could effectively end her White House run.
A Quinnipiac University survey taken April 3-6 in Pennsylvania found that Clinton's support fell 6 percentage points in a week among white women. Nationally, a Lifetime Networks poll of women found that 26 percent said they liked Clinton less now than in January, while only 15 percent said they liked her more.


Tony Fisk said...

Steve, the ironic thing is that, if the world warms, you probably *will* experience cooling in your neighbourhood. England and Scandinavia enjoy a somewhat balmier climate than they have any right to expect at their latitude. This is courtesy of the gulf stream. According to many models, a net global warming may cause it to fail, resulting in severe cooling in the North (the excess heat being concentrated in the equatorial regions: polarisation doesn't seem to be limited to politics!)

re:spreading carbon. There's a fascinating article in this month's Scientific American conjecturing on the likely coloration of alien plants. It includes how plants might survive orbiting an F-type star. Ice and silver foil. So we may still have a bit of leeway on the warm side, but I'd rather not put it to the test.

re: airline service. I gather that the recent woes are due to the AA fleet being grounded because it failed to perform routine inspections because the FAA failed to require them. The lapse was unearthed by the house of reps transportation committee, which appears to be doing its job at the moment (I leave it to others to assess whether it did anything prior to the mid-term elections, and whether the lapses in the FAA are due to professional punchbagging).

I'll add a morsel to Zorgon's bag of goodies: a drug which may protect the body against damage from radiation.

Travc said...

I'd like to just quickly point out one detail regarding 'free-market' vs centralization history...

The realization that 'free-markets' suck at some problems, and can produce large problems of their own when not sensibly regulated isn't exactly recent. Communism itself was a response to 'free-market' excesses and pathologies of roughly 100 years ago.

The pendulum has swung back and forth, but seems to be damping down a bit.

Travc said...

Socitard & tacitus2: Regarding Obama's 'bitter' comments...

You need to read or watch a larger block of the speech.

A post with extended text and video

His point is that "culture war" sorts of issues become disproportionately important to people when government repeatedly demonstrates it won't address more important issues (like economic hardship).

I agree with this, but only to a point. There is a lot of tribal identification bullshit tied up in a person's stated position regarding the "god, guns, and gays" issues. (That is the most significant form of 'identity politics' operating in the US today).

Travc said...

One final thought from me on GW.

Our current understanding of the climate system predicts that increasing greenhouse gases should increase the global mean temp. There are all sorts of complexities and details, but nothing we know of overrides this effect.

If we are not experiencing global warming, we should be very very worried. That would mean something else of even larger effect is going on, and we would be well advised to figure out what that is.

So a global warming skeptic should be for massively more research on a ASAP schedule. A denier, well they don't really think logically so who knows.

Woozle said...

Dr.B, re "who bears the burden of proof": Absolutely true, and one of the clinchers which convinces me when all is said and done (the other being the complete lameness and inconsistency of the anti-GW arguments I've encountered) -- but it doesn't convince them, because they are willing to take any scrap of counter-evidence ("it was really, really cold yesterday!" -- well, not quite that bad, but almost) as proof that GW is all hokum. Or that we aren't causing it. Or that there's nothing that can be done. Or that there's no point in doing anything. Or whatever conclusion means they can keep being ostriches.

Their buttons have been pushed, and pushed hard. I think one of the major buttons is the idea that fighting GW means sacrificing their comfort -- a common theme is rants against "the left" for all the hardship they want everyone to undergo for the common good, but it's really for the left's own selfish power-tripping motives... which I suspect they believe because it's what they'd be doing if the situation were reversed; the right does an awful lot of projection of venal motives, to the point where they can't see sincerity if it slaps them in the face.

I've tried countering this "GW=sacrifice" meme, but it doesn't seem to sink in; part of the problem is figuring out why they think it in the first place, and that seems to be full of mother's home-made right-wing vagueness. When you take their criticisms at face value and suggest solutions (such as more research), they change the subject. They are already convinced that everything is going to hell and they will only be safe if they cling to the life-raft of what they already believe.

And on a related note -- both "clinging to preconceptions" and "taking the smallest deviation as a critical flaw" -- tacitus2's statement that "it will cost him" impresses me about as much as "His socks were completely different shades of mauve at that speech the other night; I'd like to think this was just a silly mistake on the part of his wardrobe assistant, but this is really going to make him look bad. What kind of president hires someone who can't tell mauve from dark purple?"

I mean, really, what is it that is the issue here, Sociotard and tacitus2? As far as I can tell, this is the objectionable bit: "they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations..." How is this not true? Who does it insult? Why is that bad?

It doesn't mean "everyone who owns a gun is an ignorant hick". It means "some people who have been through very hard times cling to certain ideas to help them cope with that, and this causes problems." (I so much want to say "Jane you ignorant hick, only a degraded lowlife such as yourself could possibly deliberately misunderstand the noble aspirations of this great man to be the same sort of slime-crawling gutter refuse in which you love to wallow", but the reference may be lost on younger viewers so I'll refrain. I'm sure Dan Ayckroyd will be grateful.)

I don't see how it does anything worse than call a spade a spade, in the most diplomatic and reasonable way, and it would be a huge breath of fresh air to have a president (hell, any politician) who is willing to do that. I don't at all see how this is a liability except among those who are already against him. A gaffe? Quite the opposite.

(Further: holding a fundraiser in San Francisco is a bad idea? The Bay Area is one of the major cultural and intellectual centers of the US, perhaps the world. How on earth does this make him less of a good president? Soundbitism! (a curse-word for the 21st century))

Acacia H. said...

On the drug that "protects" from radiation, that's a misnomer. I read the article, and what it does is it keeps bone marrow cells from self-destructing when hit by radiation. The danger in long-term use is the increased chance of cancerous lesions appearing in the bone marrow.

It doesn't do a thing about radiation. It just stops the body's reaction to it. So it's useful for radiation therapy... but not for space travel.

Rob H.

Big C said...

Here's Obama's response to the criticism about his comments. And here's Obama making similar points 4 years ago. He seems the opposite of condescending and out of touch to me.

Gavin said...

One additional comment on the warming climate: One clear effect of the warming planet and the worldwide shifts in population is that fresh water will soon be (and in some case already is) a major problem. Add this to the fact that our population is increasing at an unsustainable pace and we could soon see water wars. He who controls the headwaters may in the future hold the power, unless we can stop the self-destructive increase in world population. We have the technology to turn salt water into fresh water, but not nearly on the scale that will be needed.

Who will have the priority, those that need the water for drinking, or those that need the water to grow crops. (A priority does not mean that the top priority gets it all.) The effects of global warming have many faces, and unfortunately many of the world’s societies have traditions and myths that prevent rational solutions.

Anonymous said...

To clarify a bit.
My comments on the Obama "bitterness" gaffe was that it was politically a very stupid thing to say. We could argue at length over how much truth there is in them. But when it adds another 5 or 10 % to H.Clinton's margain of victory in PA, and perhaps swings IN, and ramps up the rhetoric so that I can't see how an Obama-Clinton fusion ticket is possible...well, he's burned some bridges for little gain. Its not like he even needs the money that much. To repeat, when a fellow who has the nomination and probably the presidency locked up, if he can just smile and look good, decides to say something this stupid it is noteworthy.

The posters on this board are from all over the geographic and political landscape. We each speak from our own "neighborhood". If you want the opinion of someone from a small town, swing state, independent voter perspective, dude, here it is: Obama screwed up on a level that should register on seismographs.

Guns are dangerous to mention. Anti NAFTA, anti immigrant feelings somewhat less so. But to suggest that people's religious faith is a byproduct of government mismanagement of the economy....the needle on the seismograph is still rising.

And to gain...what?


Unknown said...

Superb article on Slate on how to fix our current problems in America.
Here's what's so encouraging: all these crises are ones America created for itself. There's not a single problem we can't fix simply by changing how we spend money, how we organize our society, and how we choose to behave. Eerily enough, I agree with virtually all of these recommendations, and most of 'em boil down to the sorts of things Dr. Brin and others (including myself) have suggested here (in many other posts).

Also, check out this book: Running On Empty: How The Democratic and Republican Parties Are Bankrupting Our Future and What Americans Can Do About It
by Peter G. Peterson. Link.
An excellent non-partisan discussion of some structural problems with current American politics that are causing our massive current deficits, including
short-termism, excessively self-interested interest groups, and the demographic shift from boomers to a much smaller Gen X workforce.

Peterson's solutions involve simple common-sense proposals like including unfunded mandates on the balance sheets, means-testing benefits, and pursuing more nonpartisan politics.

Woozle said...

tacitus2: I don't see "accidentally offending some group" as being a tactical mistake, as long as the offense was unintended and the statement was reasonably correct.

Obama does not suggest that "people's religious faith is a byproduct of government mismanagement of the economy", and I can only see that interpretation as a willfull misreading of what he did say -- which I rephrased as "some people who have been through hard times may cling harder to certain beliefs, and that can cause problems."

This is not "A is always the result of B", it's "A can sometimes be exacerbated by B".

If small-town middle America wants to misread that and take away points from Obama, perhaps that will be offset by others who see someone stating openly what they think -- something we all would admire in a leader, I should think, whether or not we agree with what he thinks.

This was, after all, one of the main things said by Dubya supporters, back in '04 -- "you might not agree with everything he says, but you know where you stand with him." (Ironic that even this much turned out to be so completely untrue... unless you knew in advance we'd be standing "up sh*t creek" a few trillion dollars short of a paddle.) So why the double-standard with Obama? Dubya could say absolutely repulsive things out loud, things which should offend any decent civilized person, but the conservatives loved him for "talking straight". Obama says something which might be construed as mildly offensive to people in a certain area of America, and this is now a bad thing.

The fact that Obama is willing to say something like this on the record indicates his willingness to discuss it (while Bush* has made it clear he has nothing but contempt for the idea of other people criticizing his ideas), and Obama has also (in other ways) indicated his willingness to change his mind in the face of new evidence. The conservatives tend to play this willingness -- which is one of the basic requirements for participating in a democracy, by gub! -- as a weakness. I'm sorry, but I will not concede that principle so casually; there is a difference between changing your mind to suit your constituency and changing your mind in the face of better understanding.

[*And I know Obama isn't running against Bush -- but McCain has Bush's endorsement, and has in turn been supportive of continuing Bush's insane policies. Read that again: despite everything Bush has done, McCain is willing to be associated with him. That takes McCain a long way down towards Bush's moral level, despite McCain's admirable anti-corruption work and his anti-torture stance.]

I will take {an openly wrong statement} over {a vague statement which seems to indicate severe misunderstanding which nonetheless can't easily be identified} any day. You can apply CITOKATE to the former; the latter is an unopenable black box.

So Obama still wins. If you want to argue that he doesn't, then tell me how his statement is wrong. Your only criticisms so far depend on what I see as a complete misinterpretation of it; show me (a) that your interpretation is consistent with other things Obama has said, or (b) that my interpretation is not consistent with other things he has said, or (c) that my interpretation, although an accurate understanding of Obama's POV, is a misrepresentation of reality.

That's what this is supposed to be about -- what was really said, not how some people might interpret what was said. If that's all you care about, then candidates might as well flip-flop in the winds of popular opinion.

Anonymous said...

“The worst that would happen is that... we'll all be more efficient.

Actually, a lot worse is already happening. We have to consider that one of the solutions currently gaining a lot of popularity is the use of ethanol as a replacement fuel. But so far the unintended consequences of pushing towards that solution is not increasing efficiency (or reducing global warming) but seems to be doing the opposite!

Primarily because of things like cutting down more rain forests to make room for biofuel crop:

Or that biodiesel is less efficient than ethanol. And while worldwide food demand is expected to double by 2050 ( we are already beginning to see the effects of increased food costs because of the replacements of food crops with those for biofuel. I'm not sure that's a more efficient trade-off.

Which is not to say we should not look into more efficient methods by which to affect our climate, especially considering how far-reaching such advances could be in preventing potential disasters, but I think we must also be wholly aware of what technologies we currently have available to us and if we would impoverish our own ancestors by trying to shoehorn what we can do now with what they may be able to do with their knowledge and potentially greater wealth we could pass on. By that I mean that I think it's worthwhile to invest in the building blocks that will get us there, but we must be careful not to go broke trying to fix the problem now, especially if doing so will have even greater consequences than the future potentiality it is meant to fix.

Anonymous said...

Your points are cogent, logical, and almost entirely irrelevant. This IS a question of perceptions, and I am telling you from a perspective not far from small town Main Street, this will influence opinions in a fashion unfavorable to Obama. Fair? Again with the irrelevance. Will he pick up a few free thinkers who were just waiting for someone to say something like this? Probably. It might help him win California by a few extra percentage points. But remember, the General election is not played with DFL primary rules. No proportional allocation, its winner take all for each state. And the swing states tend to be (Florida excepted) midwestern, with a small town presence, and an even greater small town heritage. Good going Barack, you just pissed off Lake Wobegon.
Might I ask Woozle, preserving annonymity of course, what state are you from? Are you in a line of work that deals with working class people directly?

Woozle said...

Tacitus2 -- ok, maybe you're talking about political tactics, which does have to do with popular perception; I'm talking about what matters as far as choosing a president, i.e. how good a job Obama might do versus anyone else.

I'm also criticizing the idea that political tactics should be a major part of that discussion -- or of any discussion by someone whose work isn't actually political tactics. What's the point?

I'm also suggesting that it's a cover for a quasi-ad-hominem attack. Too many times I have seen a charge of "bad political tactics" turned into a statement of "he's losing my support". Your comments seemed more along those lines than along the lines of "wow, I don't understand why these people are so upset by that comment; what can we do to fix this?"

However, perhaps I'm misreading you. In that case, why waste time bringing this point up again and again as a criticism? Are you personally bothered by what he said? If so, then let's talk about it in those terms -- why do you see this as a slight? Do you disagree with my rewording of what he said? I don't see the point of being offended purely on the behalf of some other group's (real or imagined) umbrage. They're not here, so I can't talk with them.

To the extent that you may actually represent them and their POV, we should still be talking about reality, not perceptions. Why do they feel offended, and how do they feel about my suggestion that they have misunderstood Obama's comment?


The answers to both of your questions are in my profile, but in short: I do computer work in Durham, NC -- a town regionally notorious for being less elitist than some surrounding communities, i.e. we do have an economic lower-class here while those other communities generally have little to none (much of their "help" gets bussed in from Durham).

So yes, I run into people from all walks of life, but no, my line of work doesn't put me in much of a place to interact with them much (unless you count conversations with check-out clerks and waiters) and I don't claim to speak for them. I could probably write several more paragraphs on this topic, but it's not directly relevant to this discussion.

Acacia H. said...

I do wonder if this is going to bite Senator Clinton in the end. Recent polls show a 20 point spread between Clinton and Senator Obama in Pennsylvania. Clinton might perceive that this drop was because of the "bitter" comment when this appears to be voter burnout from an excessive amount of political advertising by Obama.

If Clinton starts harping big-time on the "bitterness" issue, voters might get turned off of her, seeing her as a candidate willing to say or do anything to get into office (which, let's be honest, she is). This is especially true if she goes after Obama in the debate; if she is seen to be "bullying" Obama, she might turn men against her and back toward Obama.

Just some musings...

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

"...and countless market contributions - industry, medicine, slavery, and bookstores"

Perhaps it's a nit - but slavery as a large scale institution originated from war - a left-handed contribution. Commerce merely implemented trade in a government sanctioned "good". Of course, in early times, there wasn't as clear a distinction between government and commercial efforts, so I suppose it's still somewhat arguable.

The modern continuation of slavery is more commerce's fault - kidnapping women and children or buying farm girls for the sex trade, using debt to create de facto slaves, etc.

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

Really? So the only reason I care about the second ammendment and my religion is because I'm a poor deluded hick who doesn't understand the issues? Good thing Obama has come to save us from our ignorance.

If the cap fits...

But seriously where did you grab only from? He was talking about a particular paradigm, which may not happen to be yours.

Robrt Reich has written quite well on this issue:

Anonymous said...

I think the framing of the global warming debate may be why it's so "controversial". It smacks of good old-fashioned fear-mongering. "We're all going to DIE unless we do what I want right f'ing now!" sounds a lot like "the Rapture is coming," or "the sky is falling."

Add in the fact that the sides on the "debate" are separated into "believers" and "deniers" and you've cast the whole thing as a religious battle rather than having anything to do with actual science.

As a rhetorical device, it might be better to approach global warming without all the vitriol. I realize this is hard to do, given the potential consequences... we'd all rather say a collective "whew, we dodged that bullet" than "see I told you so"... but this approach doesn't seem to be working.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the response. I really should have just checked your profile. I hesitate to wade too much deeper into this issue. It's not my blog, and in the end its for the voters to rule on anyway. As always, I appreciate the give and take, and usually learn a few things from it.

Acacia H. said...

Is Mike Huckabee preparing for a possible 2012 run for the White House? His recent comments have been remarkably diplomatic and non-divisive. Heck, he's sounded more like a Presidential candidate than the three currently out there. The conspiracy theorist in me has to wonder if Senator McCain might end up suffering from some sort of mishap (medical or manmade) that forces him out of the running... which would leave the Republican candidacy up in the air. The choices would be Mick Romney... and Huckabee. At this point, I have to wonder if Huckabee might end up winning the Republican nomination in the theoretical situation where McCain cannot run.

Meanwhile, over at the Democratic side of things, it looks like Senator Obama is successfully weathering his little gaffe over the weekend (he's attributed "bitter" with "angry" and suggesting Americans have a right to be "angry" with what's going on in the country right now). Senator Clinton keeps hitting him hard with this, seeing it as the only real weakness left, but I'm unsure if it'll work.

People in Pennsylvania and Illinois have both admitted that the gaffe isn't a big deal. For Clinton to keep waving this latest flag suggests to me she might end up alienating voters who are sick and tired of this nonsense.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I can't resist. Forgive my weakness! The reason this Obama stuff came out at all was that a pro Obama activist named Mayfair Fowler wrote a long hymn of praise to the man based on her attendence at the closed fundraiser. The deadly quotation slipped in under the radar. Seemingly unaware of how some of it would actually be received she submitted the piece to Huffpo. Ms Huffington had only a cursory look at it, as she was cruising off of Tahiti on David Geffen's 354 foot yacht! Seriously folks, as an eliteist narrative, nobody here including our clever and esteemed host, could write fiction this far out. Actually, David (Brin, not Geffen) should be enjoying this on some level, its a true victory of amateurs with their own communications network. Ninnies, to be sure, clueless as to the consequences of their actions as it turns out, but a definite step towards openness! OK, I will resume thinking serious political thoughts again.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I guess it is Mayhill Fowler. Don't type while laughing. And, yes, when politicians more to my liking do moronic things I will take my lumps with serenity!

David Brin said...

I am really starting to get ticked at Hill. She's insulting the only man who could go out there (if she's nominated) and get blacks and young people to forgive and kiss and make up. And many of the well-educated.


ABSTRACT: Glaciers are among the first responders to global warming, serving both as indicators and drivers of climate change. Over the last 30 years the Ice Core Paleoclimate Research Group at The Ohio State University has been engaged in a program of systematic recovery of ice cores from high-elevation, low-latitude ice fields. The resulting climate records, along with other proxy data, have produced three primary lines of evidence for past and present abrupt climate change.

First, high-resolution time series of stable oxygen isotopes (temperature proxies) and net balance (precipitation proxies) demonstrate that the current warming at high elevations in the mid- to lower latitudes is unprecedented for at least the last two millennia.

Second, the continuing retreat of most mid to low-latitude glaciers, many having persisted for thousands of years, signals a recent and abrupt change in the Earth's climate system.

Finally, there is strong evidence within and around glaciers for a widespread and spatially coherent abrupt event ~5.2 ka that marked the transition from early Holocene warmth to cooler conditions that occurred through much of the world and was coincident with structural changes in several civilizations. Together, these three lines of evidence argue that the present warming and associated glacier retreat are unprecedented in many areas for at least 5000 years.

Specific evidence of recent acceleration in the rates of ice loss of glaciers will be presented. The current melting of these ice fields is consistent with model predictions of both high latitude and vertical amplification of temperatures in the tropics. The ongoing rapid, global-scale retreat of mountain glaciers is not only contributing to global sea level rise, but threatening fresh water supplies in many of the world’s most populous regions.

The current and present danger posed by ongoing climate change and the human response will be discussed.

The crux? There is one denier argument that might hold a little water... that warming was already going on and is partly natural.

So? Does that mean we gotta get in back of it, and push?

Woozle said...

Tacitus2: never mind "getting deeper" into this issue; you never answered either of my key questions (perhaps they got lost in all the other verbiage):
* Are you yourself offended by Obama's remarks?
* Do you maintain that my paraphrasing of them is inaccurate?

I still don't see how Obama's statements -- or the subsequent reporting of them, for that matter -- were a "tactical mistake", unless you are going on the premise that a political candidate should avoid saying anything meaningful because her/his opponents will find a way to use it against her/him.

I don't see how his comment is elitist or demeaning to anyone, least of all middle america. He was expressing sympathy for them, fer cryin' out loud, as his later comments make plain.

However, as seems to be the pattern in such attacks, you have ignored my requests for clarification and my rebuttals of your interpretation, and are continuing to see it the way you see it regardless of any contradictory evidence or arguments.

So be it, then -- but I accuse you of being challenged in the area of reality-based thinking, and of avoiding the honorable course of addressing my objections head-on.

I hate to be blunt like this, but I have become so absolutely sick of these petty, smirking, wolfpack-mentality attacks (of which yours is just one, and admittedly far from being the worst) on someone who really seems like a pretty decent guy and by far the best hope for stopping America's downward spiral and restoring some hope for the future.

If you feel I have misunderstood your POV, please say so and I will attempt to paraphrase my understanding of it.

(Dr.B and others, please feel free to tell me if I am out of line here.)

Rob Perkins said...

A word or two about the top level post.

The FAA is broken. It's been broken for decades, starting long before

It's the victim of two contradictory mandates ("promote flying" and "flying safety") and though not nearly to the extent that NASA has suffered it, is also the victim of decades of insufficient funding and congressional attention.

This sort of thing spans across both parties and at least thirty, if not fifty, years.

The Air Traffic Control system is in dire need of upgrades, but the "flying safety" mandate causes the cost of those upgrades to be so high that general aviation lobbying groups (AOPA, EAA, others) strenuously oppose them, since current proposals shift the cost of traffic control from a fuel tax, away from the commercial airlines and high traffic areas that use it most, onto a "user fee", where each contact with ATC is charged to the pilot.

The end result would be cheaper for airlines, and far more expensive for major carriers. And it doesn't solve the basic problem that for decades, (since Reagan?) the FAA has seen funding cuts while depending on airlines' self-interest to keep the public safe, on contractors to vet new pilots and conduct exams, and on insurance companies who, through their policies, provide a certain oversight.

Anonymous said...


You are free to paraphrase as you like. I personally try to avoid "quotation marks" around such comments, there are other ways to frame things to effect of here's what I think he meant.

Yes. I am offended by what Obama said. I have read the entire transcript. To suggest that religious faith is in the same category as xenophobia and firearms fetish, just another sort of crazy thing that unenlightened, impoverished, beaten down people might understandably cling to, is offensive to me. I am a religious person. What my faith is specifically does not matter so much, I am not out trying to convert anybody. In MY line of work I see a lot of tragedy. I'm an ER doctor among other callings. I also volunteer at the Free Clinic, and have a great deal of contact with struggling people that will never see the inside (or even the outside) of Geffen's yacht. No, I am not impoverished (nor beaten down/unenlightened). I pay my share of taxes and a bit more. I consider that in general I get my money's worth.

Politically I have voted Dem and Rep over the years, and have not made up my mind on this election.

I recognize that the internet is not an ideal format for discussion. I have tried, and will continue to try and be respectful. You seem a decent sort, so I suspect "smirking" is a word you might want to retract.
I did not respond to your questions partly from a desire to not monopolize David's forum. Although the head entry regarding elites and Gulfstreams seemed so apt. Also I did not understand your mention of tactics. This was no tactic on Obama's part. It was a slip up, either as he would have it, poorly chosen words. Or as his critics would have it, the mask slipping. Maybe Obama is a decent guy. We don't have as long a track record with him as with the other two candidates. I am trying to be objective about him, but to assume sainthood is dangerous and lazy. (here I am not speaking personally). I do not know if this addresses some or all of your issues. My last post was a bit lighthearted, some aspects of this are comedic. But I get a bit tired of the unquestioned acceptance of the Democrats as paragons and the Republicans as pedophilic, kleptocratic monsters. We are all human, and all human institutions have their virtues and foibles.

Oh, and its a pretty small wolf pack in this neighborhood. Very few moderate/conservative posters find it worthwhile sticking around. But as I said, I enjoy the give and take, and sometimes learn from it. Do you?

Anonymous said...

To anyone who thinks the debate on climate change is Over: you're right! Kudos to you!

Alas, it's not because either camp (warmist or sceptic) is right, but because this debate increasingly irrelevant. We have between now and, say, 2030 more than enough interesting ideas to further explore, develop and/or implement as far as energy production, food production and watermanagement are concerned. The same applies to CO2: we can (at present) store it and maybe turn it into fuel. Anyone who thinks there still is a debate or that we should possible start a blame-game: get over it. The real world of science & technology is stepping in and thank god for it. Who knows, it might even be able to take on a rising sea level.

To Doomers who think that, for all our science and technology, we cannot influence the climate... sigh. How dumb do you think we are?

To sf-writers: forget physics and computerscience, the future belongs to biology. If you can, say, bring back to life an aging oilfield with bacteria, why on earth would you read or watch Battlestar Galactica or Flash Gordon? Obsolete.

Anonymous said...

In your volunteer work, Tacticus, have you found that people cling to religion when times are hard, or not?

'Cause that's what Obama said. The rest is spin.

Dr. Brin -

She's running for 2012, not 2008. I've been saying it for months now, and I think it ought to be clear to just about anyone.

Before she took her show to Ohio, she and Obama both beat McCain there in poll after poll, by round about 10 points.

Today, Obama loses it by a couple points, and she wins within the margin of error - most polls, two points or less.

She can't win this year, so she wants to make sure no Democrat does, leaving herself one more shot.

Woozle said...

Tacitus2: Thank you for clarifying your position. We have now reached the point where I can see how this is an issue, and respond properly...

You said: "To suggest that religious faith is in the same category as xenophobia and firearms fetish, just another sort of crazy thing that unenlightened, impoverished, beaten down people might understandably cling to, is offensive to me."

He did not say that they were in the same category, unless that category is "things people might cling to under duress". In a follow-up comment, he said this (emphasis mine): "Of course they’re frustrated. You would be too. [...] The same thing has happened all across the country. Nobody is looking out for you. Nobody is thinking about you. And so people [...] don’t vote on economic issues because they don’t expect anybody’s going to help them. [They] end up [...] voting on issues like guns, and are they going to have the right to bear arms. They vote on issues like gay marriage. And they take refuge in their faith and their community and their families and things they can count on. But they don’t believe they can count on Washington." How is this putting religion in a negative light? How is this in any way denigrating those folks?

If it's insulting to group supporters of the second amendment, greater immigration control, and religion, why are those sentiments so often found together?

Re Geffen's yacht: Would you rather that Obama only ask for money from people who can't afford to give him much (or any)? The charge of elitism might stand if he only had support from the financial elite, but it seems pretty clear (up until this latest teapot-storm, anyway) that he does have support from a broad range of incomes.

(Personally, I don't expect to be seeing the inside of anyone's yacht anytime soon, and we'll be lucky to be seeing the inside of our house come this time a year or two from now.)

Re "smirking": I retract it as applied to you; I actually meant to aim most of it at a conservative blogger with whom I've been interacting on another forum -- as I said, your attack on Obama was far from being the worst I've encountered. I apologize for the misunderstanding. (Although your comments about Mayhill Fowler did kind of have that flavor; I couldn't see why it was funny. I'm not offended, I just don't get the joke, and it consequently came across as more spiteful than mirthful.)

Re "tactics": I was using it in the sense of "something done deliberately with the intention of having a positive effect on one's campaign"; I suppose it's questionable that the term applies here, whether or not the statement was deliberate.

I argue that he was just stating the truth as he saw it (which is a tactic of sorts -- and one which more candidates ought to consider employing), though obviously you take issue with whether his understanding is accurate.

Middle america's religion does have a lot to answer for, perhaps even more than the gun-nuts and the xenophobes do. On a regular basis, I come across the most hateful, brain-dead, and ignorant things done and said in the name of religion -- and for the most part, there are no other "people of faith" repudiating these things. Does this mean they agree, or simply don't care?

My take-away from this is that we need much, much more dialogue between "your sort of people" and "my sort of people". Yes, I have been working on this, both through posting comments on a local conservative board and via Issuepedia.

Okay, I've gone on long enough...

Anonymous said...


It must be admitted that I have a rather peculiar sense of humor. I also am not a gun owner and take a fairly relaxed stance on immigration. Obama's follow up comments are a valiant effort to spin, and are eloquent as all his prepared speeches tend to be. I think the body politic will be healther once the Clintons exit stage left. And in a McCain-Obama contest I am as yet open minded. Which means no free pass for either. McCain, one assumes, is veteran pol enough to not assume that he could go speak at the equivalent private GOP meeting (whatever that might be) and expect to go unquoted.
Apology accepted, and no hard feelings on my part.

and to another poster, I have not seen a direct correlary between hard times and religous faith. Although those with faith seem to weather said times somewhat better.

Tony Fisk said...

I *think* what Tacitus might have found amusing is the juxtaposition of Huffington giving the cursory nod to an expression of elitism, whilst cruising on a luxury yacht. Still, having recently being given a rap, myself, for assuming what other people thought, I'd better leave it at that.

No, rather than butt into your discussion, guys, I'd like to veer off and look at *how* it's being discussed. Specifically, the 'you said {...}, and I say {...}' format. It sort of works, but it's cumbersome, prone to accusations of 'cherry-picking', and it's about as good as we can do in the blogspot comment format. I've been mulling over how to present comment in a better context wrt the rest of the article and discussion.

It is, no doubt, old hat to some, but I've just started checking out 'Django' (Python on Rails, or how to make talking to a database easy). Coincidentally, it seems the folk who wrote the online manual have done more than mull about the issue of online commentary and done something about it. Check it out (not how to use Django, necessarily, but how the editorial comments are presented.)

While it basically follows my own musings, I've not seen this technique actually used before. (which may just mean I need to get out more!)

Big C said...

tacitus2 said:
Obama's follow up comments are a valiant effort to spin, and are eloquent as all his prepared speeches tend to be.

Well, maybe, but the fact is he's
talked about this before, not behind closed doors while running for president, but four years ago in public on television (as I mentioned earlier in this thread).

Given this evidence, it seems less likely to me that this gaffe is proof that the "mask is slipping" and more likely that it was just a poorly worded response.

The charge of elitism ultimately boils down to whether or not you believe he is a snob who looks down his nose at small-town America. Does he harbor a cynical contempt for the masses that he hides from the public to win voters?

I admit his gaffe could be interpreted as an indication of such, and is certainly being spun that way by his opponents. But I think there is plenty of evidence in his background and political history (and previous public statements he's made; click on that YouTube link above!), short as it may be compared to his opponents, that he is not an elitist, and is neither condescending nor patronizing to people from small towns and communities.

Whether or not the other 4 million Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters will agree with me is the open question that will be answered next week.

Kelsey Gower said...

Holy crap. Did anyone see Obama put his flag lapel back on? Can anyone give me a transcript to the speech he made when he put the flag back. I want to hear his reasons for doing it.

Maybe I'm making a big deal of it, I know, but this flag pin issue has been mentioned on the blog here before.

Tony Fisk said...

What are you talking about, Kelsey?

Where did you see this flag pin worn? Was it on old footage?

(Yes, putting it back on was listed as a potential jiu-jitsu move, a little while ago.)

Big C said...

Hey Tony,

Here's a link to a news report mentioning the return of the flag pin. I actually saw a video clip of this event on a cable news show earlier this evening (and after a quick search here's the clip on YouTube). I don't know why the ABC news story says it's "for one day only" as there wasn't any evidence of this mentioned anywhere in the story.

Unfortunately, I don't think he's displaying the ju jitsu Dr. Brin mentioned. It seems he was simply given a flag pin spontaneously by a veteran in the audience, and Obama put it on out of respect for him.

This may be construed as simple political pandering, but I think it would have been worse for him to simply put the unexpected gift away in his pocket and ignore it. Given the situation, he chose to wear the pin, perhaps thinking this would not be a big deal given all the other things going on in this campaign.

But he did not display any of the "taking back the symbol of patriotism" ju jitsu that Dr. Brin advocated in a prior blog post here. It's a missed opportunity, but it seems a relatively minor event at this point.

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks, Big C. Minutiae like this doesn't get far over the Pacific.

The 'One day only' is the reporter's working title. Check again tomorrow...

As for fallout:
"It is a flag pin," Obama explained, "I think I'll go ahead and put that on. Because I appreciate your service."

Well, I guess you can spin anything to some people some of the time, especially if all they read is the headline. Personally, I think it was just a matter of courtesy (and very explicit courtesy) to the person who gifted it. See whether or not he's remembered to take it off tomorrow.

(Or followed that link to the prior blog post! ;-)

Anonymous said...

The one other country I know of that obsesses over lapel pins in the DPRK.

I personally couldn't give a flying fuck.

I want to hear what the candidates' stand on substantial issues are.

Anonymous said...

Re: The FAA portion of this posting, I think it's important to note that even with the FAA seemingly backing off on the pressure of regulation before now, the fatality rate on airlines has plummeted 82% just in the last decade alone. Last year there were no deaths at all on scheduled airline carriers. All with a continued increase in the number of passenger and planes in the air.

Indeed, the following article questions if the recent massive groundings and delays may not have caused an increase in fatalities by forcing folks to take to the far lower safety of the open road.

Woozle said...

Tacitus2: You call Obama's follow-up comments "spin", implying that he is (basically) lying about the intent of his original statement. I don't see how you come to this conclusion, and for me this discussion has now come to a place which rather closely parallels my most recent Obama discussion with Jon Ham, where Ham concludes: "I know what he said about Rev. Wright’s comments. The point of my original post is that I just don’t believe him, about that or much of anything else. There are too many indicators that run counter to his latest rhetoric. That’s why I call his candidacy the Obama Hoax."

I will ask you what I asked Mr. Ham: Why don't you believe him?

Re discussion formats (Tony Fisk): This is a topic of interest, I believe, to both Dr.B and myself. Also see this for an attempt to "structure" or "map" an email discussion I had with my Ostrich.

Re Stefan Jones "I want to hear what the candidates' stand on substantial issues are." Oh yes, absolutely. That's part of what bothers me about each of these attacks on Obama: they are so utterly trifling. (I forgive Tacitus2 since he doesn't seem to be taking Jon Ham's tack that this proves Obama is a fraud, and is putting it into some kind of perspective, even if I still find it a bizarre and almost-deliberate misunderstanding.)

Acacia H. said...

Concerning the flag pin... it appears that Senator Obama was handed the pin by a disabled veteran before his talk. Obama accepted the pin and said he'd wear it with honor. I remember reading comments on another news site when the story first unfolded.

So. Politijitsu? Perhaps. Or perhaps it is just a gesture of appreciation and decency from someone who wears the flag not on his vest, but in his heart.

Meh. I'm waxing elegant again, my apologies.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

And on a sadder, non-political note, John A. Wheeler, the physicist who helped coin the term "black hole" to describe the corpses of massive stars, died at 96 years of age. He died of pneumonia, according to his daughter. No doubt he's in secular heaven, debating scientific aspects with Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein. Well, we can hope. ^^

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Spin is not lying in my opinion. It is an attempt to reframe something so that it looks/sounds better the second time around. It encompasses things that were truely misspoken, and the entire spectrum of less benign things. Sometimes it is sincere, sometimes the result of an all nighter by a team of consultants and writers.
Comments round two were similar to round one, but not identical (I think the gay issue dropped in out of the blue, and iirc, religion morphed into comforting faith). Fair game, and part of the political process.
I am not contending that Obama is untruthful, nor am I excluding this possibility. I do think some of his affluent liberal supporters are laughably clueless about middle america, and that this is/will be a medium sized political stumble, the impact of which will be 5-10% gain for HC in PA, IN could tip either way, and the final elimination of the Obama-Clinton fusion ticket.
Now, I really have to get back to the real world. No doubt we will find a few other political foibles to discuss in the months ahead.

Acacia H. said...

Here's an interesting article concerning misogynistic comments Senator McCain has made about Senator Clinton and her daughter. Actually, it also reveals a rather nasty comment he made to his own wife, and leads me to wonder... how the hell can Senator Clinton dare to say good things about McCain after he had the audacity to smear her teenaged (at the time) daughter?!? I know that politics makes for strange bedfellows, but this is bizarre.

It's almost like the Clintons feel a need to gain acceptance of those who speak ill of them... primarily Republicans. It would also explain their tendency to "play the center" and work more toward getting Republican legislation through during the Clinton Presidency. Though considering Senator Clinton's conservative roots... maybe it's not as big a leap after all for them to help the Republicans.

Rob H.

Travc said...

A random note perhaps relevant to the GW discussion:

Fairly often the Y2K bug will be trotted out as example of a lot of doomsday hype (true) about an essentially 'non-problem' (false).

The proper response IMO: "Not quite, the Y2K bug and a lot of the possible consequences were real enough... we just fixed them in time, thank goodness."

I'll leave the rest as an exercise for the reader.

Unknown said...

Some provocative articles:

"Study finds cloudy outlook for solar panels."
Despite increasing popular support for solar photovoltaic panels in the United States, their costs far outweigh the benefits, according to a new analysis by Severin Borenstein, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley's Haas School of Business and director of the UC Energy Institute. (..)

In his January working paper, "The Market Value and Cost of Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Product," Borenstein also found that, even after considering that the panels reduce greenhouse gases, their costs still far outweigh their social benefits.

The bottom line, Borenstein argues in his paper, is that solar PV panels are not ready for widespread installation. Rather than subsidizing residential solar PV installations, as many states do, he favors more state and federal funding for research and development.

Good news because it behooves us to spend our money on sustainable energy wisely. If the technology ain't ready yet, better to plow the bucks into R&D until it is. Link.

An extremely intriguing 3-part essay "Toward A Moore's Law For Software." This one may really raise your eyebrows. We all know the brutal reality of Wirth's Law: software gets slower faster than hardware gets faster. And given that the consensus right now is that we've got about 4 more years of significant improvements in CPUs before we're left high dry with nothing but the Hail Mary pass of parallelization (which doesn't seem to be working so far), this matters. Link.

Great article about the trillion-dollar black hole misnamed the Defense Department. Turns out the Pentagon has spent billions on its computerized accounting system...but still doesn't know where the money goes.

"Since 2004, the Pentagon has spent roughly $16 billion annually to maintain and modernize the military's business systems, but most are as unreliable as ever—even as the surge in defense spending is creating more room for error. The basic defense budget for 2007 was $439.3 billion, up 48 percent from 2001, excluding the vast additional sums appropriated for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to federal regulators and current and former Pentagon officials, the accounting process is so obsolete and error prone that it's virtually impossible to tell where much of this money ends up. (..) The problem is so deeply rooted that, 18 years after Congress required major federal agencies to be audited, the Pentagon still can't be." Link.

Let that sink in for a moment. The Pentagon can't be audited because its accounting system is in such disarray.


And here's a great article that explains who the big winner of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars really is: Asia. Link.

Lastly, a skeptical look at predictions markets debunking many of the more facile rationalizations that have tried to explain why they don't seem to work so well. Link.

Travc said...

Tacitus2: You keep referring to Obama's 'bitter' comment as a gaffe or foible. I think I understand some of your POV, but you are really missing the point as I understand it.

It isn't that people who experience term economic hardship and have repeated promises of government addressing the issue lead to nothing can become bitter (with respect to the government). Duh. No one with a brain will argue that.

It isn't that 'culture war' issues are important to a lot of people... again, duh.

It is that the 'culture war' issues become the most important issues electorally because candidates have no credibility left when they promise to do something about *MORE IMPORTANT ISSUES*... because so many candidates have come and gone making promises and delivering nothing on the really important issues.

What Obama does say, which may well be offensive to some, is that people shouldn't be voting just on 'god, guns, and gays' issues. There are bigger issues which matter more. He is also promising to actually try to do something about those issues... distancing himself from previous (and other) politicians by calling them on it.

This statement is really important. It is the outreach to all those people who have been voting against their own self-interests because of the culture-war wedge. Which sheds some light on why and how it has been attacked.

Remember Rove's 'attack strengths' mantra. Well, Obama's strength is appealing to people across the largely artificial 'political spectrum' based on what the government really should be doing (addressing systemic economic hardship in this case). This essentially cross-class (non-partisan even) appeal gets spun into anti-red-state (read anti working class white Christian) 'liberal elitism'.

The spin isn't Obama's follow-up comments... the spin is the 'initial' media reaction (scare quotes since it wasn't really the initial reaction. As pointed out, this has been a theme for Obama for good long while.) This little 'gaffe' was no such thing... instead it was just an excuse to pull out a pre-packaged 'Obama is elitist' narrative.

PS: A lot lower profile in the MSM (but quite prevalent in some forums) is the narrative of 'Obama is anti-religious' being rolled out (reinforced really) by spinning the 'bitter' comment. While there may be a decent case to make that Obama is really an atheist (or agnostic) in the theological sense, he most certainly is not anti-religion. (Hell, the Obama is an atheist argument pretty much hinges on his explanation of joining the church because of the large positive force the church is in the community.)

Apologies for the rather long tirade. There are a number of threads coming together in this.

PS: It is also notable that Obama is effectively calling out the culture-war as base 'identity politics'. 'Pro-life' (or any other of the culture-war 'issues') are more about tribal identification than the actual issue for most voters. (Yeah, there are a few deluded souls who think the legal status of fetuses is really the most important issue in the world, but most, no.) It has always pissed me off that movement conservatives always blame liberals of playing 'identity politics' with respect to Blacks, Hispanics, women, ect (which they do) while playing a much more cynical and destructive form themselves. Just a pet peeve of mine, and a reason I paid very close attention to this Obama 'bitter' thing.

Acacia H. said...

More bad news. Edward Lorenz, the scientist behind Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, died at age 90. His research was the final nail in the Cartesian Universe's coffin and according to some led to the third scientific revolution in the 20th century, along with quantum physics and relativity.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

So. Any thoughts on the political debate last night? I've heard conflicting reports on it, that it was biased against Senator Obama (especially with a former Clinton employee being one of the moderators) and that it was negative against both of them. I also heard that Obama tried to keep to the high road, that he slyly slipped in comments (while making them sound positive) to remind voters of the negative aspects of the Clintons), and that he was completely ineffective and always on the defensive.

As for Senator Clinton... well, outside of a brief moment about her lies in Bosnia which she defused without effort (from what I've read), she seemed to constantly be on the attack, ripping Obama to shreds and only very hesitantly admitting Obama would prevail over Senator McCain in a general election (and that was after being asked three times).


On a more positive note about technology and freedom, activists are utilizing Twitter to help gain their freedom in both Egypt and Washington D.C. with Twitter being used to rally support, get advice, and coordinate efforts to free the journalist in Egypt and in Washington.

Score one more for the power of technology in keeping people free. I just wonder how long it'll be before police routinely carry cell phone jammers to keep people from utilizing this technology in keeping abuses of power from being reported.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

I guess those of us who still find this question at all interesting would have to admit to political junkie status. Mea Culpa. In addition to the humorous side of it I think it is fascinating anytime we get one of these "Wizard of Oz" moments. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!". Really, have you not always wondered what goes on at these 3k per head fundraisers (for either party)? An unscripted Obama, complete with lots of "ums" and "ahs" musing in what sounds like a moment of candor..interesting insight in a man of whom less is known than many would like.

But this stuff is not going to change your vote or mine(which as I've said, has not been decided yet). Lets get serious.

A couple of weeks back I had a fascinating chat with an old friend. We have known each other a long time, and have attained some degree of status in our respected professions. He is a district attny. He is also a long term Republican, and a man of good sense. The talk turned to politics, and he opined that the whole business of Bush appointed inept hacks as Federal Prosecutors was genuine, and at least as bad as Dr. Brin makes it out to be. And on the presidential race he looked thoughtful and said, basically, "I like Obama. I worry a bit about his positions on taxes and on guns (my friend is a big time hunter). But I have two mixed race grandchildren, and I want a better world for them."

Not a perspective I would have come upon myself.

This is the kind of thing that can change votes, at least for me.


sociotard said...

Poor NASA (and maybe everybody near the Atlantic)

German schoolboy, 13, corrects NASA's asteroid figures

NASA had previously estimated the chances at only 1 in 45,000 but told its sister organisation, the European Space Agency (ESA), that the young whizzkid had got it right.

The schoolboy took into consideration the risk of Apophis running into one or more of the 40,000 satellites orbiting Earth during its path close to the planet on April 13 2029.


If the asteroid strikes a satellite in 2029, that will change its trajectory making it hit earth on its next orbit in 2036.

Both NASA and Marquardt agree that if the asteroid does collide with earth, it will create a ball of iron and iridium 320 metres (1049 feet) wide and weighing 200 billion tonnes, which will crash into the Atlantic Ocean.

sociotard said...

oops, nevermind. Bogus story. sorry all!

Cliff said...

tacitus2 - your description of your friend left me with a question.
Why are hunters so jealous of their right to bear arms? I've noticed this with hunters before.

But it seems to me that the debate on guns is focused more on automatic weapons and handguns, weapons designed for close urban combat, as opposed to hunting rifles.
Is there really a concern that the government might try to restrict access to hunting rifles, or is it more the principle of the thing?

Anonymous said...

The first 52 minutes of the "debate" did not include a single question about policy.

Clinton was asked one question about the Bosnia story, and not interrupted in her response, and not asked any follow-up questions.

Obama was asked repeated questions about Wright, and about some former Weather Underground guy at whose house he once attended a meeting, and about his "bitter" comments. Clinton was then asked to rebutt his responses to these questions.

Not one question about Mark Penn, not one question about any controversial comment by any Clinton supporter, not one question about the hearing comming up in the Peter Paul case, nothing.

52 minutes of tabloid "issues", and Clinton got one question actually directed at her.

I've watched every one of these 21 debates, and this one was absolutely the most biased, spent the least time on actual issues, had the most commercial breaks, and involved the most interruptions by the "moderators".

I've been around here a while, and I haven't previously said a darn thing about bias in the debates, so that ought to go to credibility a bit even though I'm definately an Obama activist.

Of course, he's scored 5 Supers since the debate, so it's not all bad.

Anonymous said...

Beats the heck out of me. I am, predominately, a Republican but have never felt the need to own a gun. I suppose in the abstract you could imagine keeping and bearing arms would tend to inhibit repressive government, but the days when you could practically order 'the Revenoors offer yer land' are long over.
Sorry, I personally favor reasonable restriction on hand guns and automatic weapons. Don't rat me out to Karl Rowe.

Acacia H. said...

If you give an inch, they will take a mile. That is the basic philosophy behind fighting gun control. For example, Massachusetts has one of the strictest gun control laws in the U.S. and a few years ago passed even stricter gun control laws... which banned even historical firearms. This became notable because the historical reenactments of the Minutemen fighting off the Brits was now illegal. The Mass. legislature quickly made an exemption, but only because public opinion quickly turned against the legislature.

Nor does it help. All that gun control does is take ownership of guns from law-abiding citizens and hand it over to criminals. If the government truly cared about its citizens, it would not ban guns. It would make penalties for crimes USING guns much harsher. Thus anyone can own a gun. But if you shoot someone with one, then you will pay a significant price.

I'm willing to bet not a single gun advocate would protest that type of "gun control" law.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Rob, but punishment after the fact doesn't do squat to protect people from folks who don't care about the punishment.

How do you increase the punishment for crimes that already carry the death sentence?

Every right we've got has restrictions and limitations. While I support the 2nd, I don't see why it should be any different.

I have the right to the Freedom of Speech, but if I want to use massive PA system in an urban area, I'm going to need a permit.

Tracking weapons ownership doesn't prevent anyone other than the insane and criminals from owning them, and goes directly to the intent that the Militia be well regulated.

I don't care if the Government, State or Federal, knows what weapons I own. If a law was passed outlawing their ownership, whether or not I was on a list would make little difference, since we'd have a nation in open rebellion either way.

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks for sharing that discussion with your friend, Tacitus.

Banning the use of semi-automatic weapons in Australia was one of the few things I backed Howard on (although his handling of the issue was typically patronising)

You can still own a gun. Personally, I've never felt the need.

sociotard said...

People who favor the right to bear arms are always leary about "what will be next". Requiring all firearms to be registered and tracked is reasonable . . . except that it means it would be much easier for the government to confiscate everything one day. Presently that seems unlikely, but what if that changes? How would we protect "the final check and balance on government authority" if big brother already knows where all the guns are? Registration looks like an advancing steamroller to gun activists. Not a horrifically bad change perhaps, but a slow change to something terrible.

Now, if Gun control activists were to concede a little something, that might be different. If the ban on Fully Automatic weapons were lifted, and anybody could own anything as long as they paid an annual registration fee, they might be willing to register their rifles and handguns too. This is especially true if they followed Dr. Brin's suggestion and allowed for a couple of narrowly defined weapons that required no registration.

Cliff said...

No worries on the handguns and automatics, tacitus, I agree with you there.
I've just always thought it was curious that hunters (again, just from what I have seen) are so paranoid about it when they're the ones most likely to be using anachronistic weapons. Generally speaking, you don't bring an Uzi to a deer fight.

As for the broader issue of gun control, the only real reason I can think of to have an automatic weapon is as a toy, and a psychological prop.
Think about it. The US military, the best (or once best) fighting force in the world, fears nuclear bombs and suicide bombers. Men with machine guns, they can handle. At this point, having a bigger gun just tempts you to stand up, which will result in getting mowed down.

David Brin said...

Guys, just a leap in to remind you all that I did a contrarian thing about gun control at:

And let's hope the dems of Pennsylvania put a stop to all this, next Tuesday. You all know I stood up for Her Nibs. But these is getting nauseating.

Oh, drop in at

Acacia H. said...

Jester: So you say. But we have no proof on this. And I have a story of another law that worked the same method I suggest... and has worked.

This being the laws about drunk driving. We have not banned alcohol, despite the fact it has an adverse effect on people, causing some to become more aggressive, and others to take risks they shouldn't. Drunk driving causes a multitude of deaths every year. But ban alcohol? We tried that. It failed. Spectacularly.

Instead, we passed legislation that hits harder on the rights of motorists that violate their duties as law-abiding motorists by driving drunk. If you drink and drive, and are caught, you lose your license. If you drink and drive and are caught three times, I believe you permanently lose it. If you drink and drive and kill someone as a result of your actions, it's immediate jailtime, unlike an accidental homicide where someone was, say, talking on a cell phone and not noticing the biker in front of them or the like.

The result has been a reduction in drunk driving incidents. They still happen. And the police go after them big-time. But except for the habitual lawbreakers, people strive to avoid driving drunk and will pay the price when they are caught breaking the law in this fashion.

Why not adopt this type of law for gun ownership?

Yes, it won't stop the illegal use of guns. But you could BAN guns, and it would not stop the illegal use of guns. Not in a hundred years, even if the borders were sealed and no new guns were brought in from outside. There is enough of a supply of illegal guns and there would be gunmakers on the sly, and the people who would suffer the most are? The law-abiding citizens who gave up their guns.

Add in some actual honest-to-goodness gun safety courses in school, starting at a young age, and the incidents that do occur would be minimized. Teach children at an early age that guns are not toys and are not fun. Keep reinforcing that message as they get older.

But the laws that exist currently are failures. The laws that legislators keep trying to push through would be failures. All they do is punish the people who obey the law. That's all. Oh, and the people who are caught. That's all.

Rob H.

reason said...

Should everybody (individual that is) apart from Iranians have nuclear weapons? For heavens sake folks get your head straight. Stop trying to make it a matter of principle. It is (like lots of things) a pragmatic issue.

And slippery slope arguments are just arguments for extremism, they shouldn't be used as though they are serious arguments. Democracy (as was illustrated in the thread if you read closely) is good at striking compromises between competing interests. Every move in one direction alienates a larger group of people.

David Brin said...

Dang, guys! The slippery slope argument has an answer. My guns essay takes all this out of kindergarten. Argue from that level and take it up to third grade.

sociotard said...

robert said:
"Teach children at an early age that guns are not toys and are not fun."

But guns are fun. Shooting clay pigeons or paper targets with my brothers is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.

If shooting was not an enjoyable pasttime, it would not be an olympic sport.

Travc said...

Zorgon: I don't buy the PV panel analysis at first blush... I would love to read it, but the link doesn't work.

Anyways, there is already very promising research that has been done on better solar PVs. Much more efficient multi-layer panels (more costly at this point) exist, and are working on Mars amoung other places. More excitingly IMO, much cheaper PV technology is out of the research phase and well into development. There is a company making printed PV panels ('sheets' I suppose is a better term). The price point they are shooting for is <$1 per W.

The general idea behind the cheap / printable solar PV tech is to use tiny crystals which exploit quantum confinement effects. With more R&D (mostly just development), we may not be far away from PV paints (more specifically, layers of paints which form a PV). How cool would that be.

Anyway, the classic silicon wafer PV is not a very good idea for generalized power production. Great in some settings such as off grid, low power mobile or distributed (where just wiring the damn things is too much of a pain), and more notably to provide peak-power demand mitigation in places where daytime cooling is the main draw.

All that said, big silicon wafer PV installations might make sense economically... it is arguable. The new PV technologies are pretty decidedly a win (assuming there are no nasty surprises in the long term longevity department).

PS: There is always something to watch out for in reports like the one you referenced. The cost benefits of mass-production scale are a big fudge-factor which tend to get tweaked depending on the answer the author wants. Not saying that is the case here, but it is often so.

Unknown said...

Link to the PV cost analysis works perfectly for me. Just tested it.

Newer PV materials seem more efficient but also more expensive. This stuff needs to be industrialized. We need to reliably crank this stuff out dirt cheap, by by the hectare, at high speed, to make a dent.

You guys are wasting your time arguing about gun control or bittergate. There are even more trivial things you could argue about: Michael Savage just called Obama an "Afro-Leninist."

You could start arguing about the size of Obama's afro and the danger of his Leninism. Of course, he doesn't have an afro, and he's not a Leninist, but in the current degenerative environment of media vacuity and the complete lack of substance in current political debates, why should we let that stop us? Onward and downard, into ever more infinitesimal trivia.

""Last night, I think we set a new record because it took us 45 minutes before we even started talking about a single issue that matters to the American people." -- Barack Obama, Democratic Primary debate, 16 April 2008

Travc said...

Gun control... interesting topic. Thanks to Dr Brin for linking his essay.

Maybe I'll post sometime about my perhaps uncommon POV (my father was a volunteer NRA safety instructor... but the current incarnation (as of the 90s at least) of the NRA pretty much repulses me.).

Anyway, if you find yourself confronted with a hunter concerned about gun control, perhaps there is a relevant point to make.

Gun control, at least the sort that I suspect people here may support, is about handguns and machine pistols in places like DC and NYC. All but the most fringe gun control advocates have no desire to take away a hunter's rifles or a target shooter's pistol. Unfortunately, there are more than a few gun control advocates who don't really think about target shooters or hunters and may end up supporting regulation that would be too expansive.

The key to hit upon, almost all gun control laws are local. And we can all agree that state and federal laws which help enforce those local laws are a good idea.

Gun registration (like vehicle registration, which transfers with any change in ownership) would go a long way to helping cities where young thugs with guns are a serious problem; without causing hunters any pain. (BTW: Absolutely do not make it 'self funding' through registration fees! Just pay for it (cheap anyway) through general funds.)

The problem gun registration addresses, which hunters (and other non-bad-side-of-big-city people) may not understand... people buy up a bunch of guns, drive to the city, and sell them to thugs and young idiots at a big markup. Making it possible to track where those guns came from (last legal owner) make it possible to catch and punish these criminals. Without registration, it is next to impossible. This has to be federal, otherwise the criminals just go out of state to buy the guns... really one of those cases about interstate commerce (in this case illegal commerce) the constitution talks about.

PS: About the fear of registration leading to the government being able to go and take everyone's guns. If the government tried such a thing, even with a registration list in hand, I suspect they would end up seeing the wrong end of those guns. Really, how much difference would having the list make.

PPS: I'm all for the idea of loosening the 'ban' sort of gun control in a tradeoff for a real registration system. Hell, I'd even go for government subsidizing the NRA to offer free safety courses.

Travc said...

zorgon: thanks... that link works. I think my connection flaked out before ;)

There are several 'new' PV technologies.

The push for a long time was to make them more efficient solar energy in (or surface area) to electrical energy out wise (and this is what multilayer panels such as on the Mars rovers do). They are more expensive at this point.

Nanosolar (and I assume many other groups and startups) have been developing cheaper PVs. They are going for cost to energy, and have made a whole lot of progress very quickly (since this approach was largely neglected before). The printed solar cell technology is very neat.

Interestingly, the most promising 'cheap' tech came out of more traditional 'maximizing energy efficiency' research. The basic methodology of using amorphous and nanoscale materials which allows for the cheap printing production method (and possibly the paint I think would be so cool) still has room for efficiency gains. So cheaper and higher energy output per m^2 is actually a real near-term possibility.

No reason not to actually use what you can get now though. The cost calculations typically only assume a 10 year lifespan anyway.

Anonymous said...


One third of American homes contain at least one fire-arm. What tyranny is it that would kick in one third of all doors, but not all doors?

Registration does not jeapordize the right - and I do believe it is an individual right - to keep and bear.

It does allow the cops to know if they need to go pick up some guns before releasing Joe Shmoe from his 24 hours of "observation" at County after his suicide attempt, and it does allow them to track straw purchasers.

The Government that is going to come for your guns is going to come for your guns - list or no.

The "nuts", like the Virginia tech shooter or the Columbine boys, will never be detered by penalties. Many hardcore drug addicts fall into the same category.

The decision to risk 5-10 for the 300 bucks in the 7-11 register shows such bad judgement that is almost impossible for me to believe that making the penalty 25 to life would have a noticable effect.

Dr. Brin -

In response to the "militia rifle" -

Nothing short of a thirty ought six with steel core is going to penetrate modern body armor anyway.

Assault Weapons and Pistols would be of far less utility against the modern US military.

The point, of course, is still the same point you made in your essay - all the militia needs, and all the militia is capable of presenting, is a credible threat of a prolonged and costly conflict.

There is no excuse for not offering gun safety and basic marksmanship in public schools. I was one of last in San Diego City Schools to have the chance to participate in such a program.

In 70 years, there was not single serious injury as a result of rifle teams in SDCSD, but the programs were banned anyway.

Sure, we're talking short indoor ranges, single shot (no internal magazine) bolt action 22 shorts, but all the same rules apply.

We teach kids to use power tools *mostly* because most of them will use them at some point in their lives, and a tiny fraction will pursue careers in which they are essential - we ought to treat fire arms the same way.

Matt DeBlass said...

On the topic of renewable energy, I remember seeing something recently about farming algae for ethanol, as opposed to corn. The upshot was that while corn produced about ten gallons an acre, algae could produce thousands, and with lower environmental impact (it can be grown in tanks or plastic tubes that could just as easily be put up on a brownfields site as good food-producing farmland). Anybody know more about it?

My younger brother's an avid target shooter, and is one of those who worries about registration leading to confiscation.

The old slippery slope. Of course, if requiring gun registration or gay marriage leads us to hell in a handbasket, where do warrantless wiretaps and waterboarding lead?

I'm perfectly comfortable with my daughter learning to shoot, as I did back in my Scouting days (got my Marksman badge, but hardly touched a rifle since) but every activity we do I try to drill Rule Number One into her head: "Don't be stupid."

Anonymous said...

What are the Main Reason for having guns anyway?

Home/Personal Defense
Defense against the Government
Sport(Target shooting)

Are there other reasons for having them?

Home/Personal Defense
*We should develop effective non-lethal alternatives to incapacitate others.

Defense against the Government
*Modern Arms and Armor makes it 'difficult' to oppose our government from setting up shop where ever they want. The only real defense we currently have available is a national spirit of independence. An effective alternative would be to give the people tanks, chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons to actually have a defense against the government. Lets not do that.

Sport(Target shooting)
*Can easily be done using non-lethal ammunition.

*Adjusting to the Militia/Hunting Riffle seems a good idea. Non-concealable, (1 or 2 shot), slow reload. This would address most of the Anti-Gun people's concerns.

My answer is to Tax Firearms and Ammunition to develop non-lethal alternatives. Have a 100 year plan to phase them out as we develop ->Effective<- non-lethal alternatives.

Travc said...

Two quick point on gun control / rights.

1) One of the biggest pushbacks against relaxing 'ban' sorts of control (in a tradeoff for registration or any other more reasonable systems) comes from law enforcement. Bans of firearms are used by the police to successfully prosecute people the officers feel they 'know are bad guys' in situations where they can't make a case. Very similar pushback and 'reasoning' is deployed against and drug liberalization efforts. (note: most 'gun bans' are situational, not blanket).

This may sound like a nice pragmatic tool to give law enforcement, but it is fundamentally anti-open-society. Any law which is overly broad and selectively only enforced against people deemed by the authorities to be 'bad' is just waiting for abuse. One of the only 'slippery slopes' I'm actually concerned about.

2) There are 'militias' in the second amendment sense in the US. They are the state controlled national guards. Increasing federal control of the National Guard is something to be opposed on an 'principle' level. We have basically silently slipped to a condition where National Guard units are treated as US Army reserves, which is bad on several levels IMO. BTW: There is a reason Guard units are not subject to posse comitatus and under the command of the state Governors.

Of course, since the "guns and insurrection" thing is really about forming a tribe of loyal authoritarian followers for the exploitation of leaders who could care less about the underlying idea... well, putting National Guard units under US Army control and shipping them off overseas doesn't even register as an issue with people who dream of Jefferson's rifle.

PS: A bit of solace for people who actually worry about the possible need for the insurrection thing (even those who admit it wouldn't work in the modern world). The US military oath is the defend the constitution, not the government. A government which goes so far as to spark an insurrection would probably loose control over a big chunk of the military.

PPS: A coalition between the CA and TX National Guard could probably put up a pretty good fight against the US federal government, especially if they got support from some of the locally based federal units and had neighboring states like NM and AZ as allies. Not that I can imagine a plausible scenario where such an insurrection / secession would happen.

Cliff said...

"Home/Personal Defense
*We should develop effective non-lethal alternatives to incapacitate others."

No. A man breaks into my house, I want him to be dead shortly thereafter.
Preferably not the sort of dead that paramedics can fix, either.

Anonymous said...

I like the "what’s the worst that could happen" argument to counter global-warming denial. However, I just ran into an example of how the environmental ostriches are getting around that. See . They claim that increased atmospheric CO2 is GOOD and that any attempt to reduce CO2 emissions will deny us the many wondrous (but unspecified) benefits to be gained!

B. Dewhirst said...

I'm very late to this thread, I know, but a quick comment then some important links about developing news the folks here will be interested in...

Chomsky is another individual who frequently cites Adam Smith. Perhaps, if he could see today's corporations, he'd be something more than a liberal?

Anyway, on to my real reason for posting...

The developing anthrax news story.

Folk here are disinclined to accept what they'll see as my 'spin' on situations, but you really ought to take a look at what Glenn Greenwald has been saying over at

Doubtlessly we'll hear from our fine host on this in his next collection of links.

especially these two:

two, though his later comments on Jean Carol Duley are crucial as well.