Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Nonpolitical (!) News, Wonders and Marvels...

Announcing my latest short story, now available for your pleasure at Baen’s Universe Magazine. The first half is up free. To read the rest (of part one), you need to subscribe to the magazine... which is well worth it! (There’s more content than in any print zine, and you can’t beat the convenience.) Indeed, you’ll be able to fish back and read Parts 1-4 of my hilarious serialized sf-spoof comedy, “The Ancient Ones.” And, coming this spring, another funny one in a much more broad comedic style: “Gorilla My Dreams.

Membership/subscriptions are on a sliding scale. If you get a premium membership now, you can see the other half of part I of my new story right away. Or wait until 1 Oct, and you can get a regular subscription for $30. And now, just for you folks, an added bonus! Type in coupon code EE329517B2 - which is good for $5 off any subscription!

And, moving on from fiction to nonfiction... A reminder to get your hands on Through Stranger Eyes, a collection of cantankerously unusual and interesting (!) reviews, essays, and fun, presented by Nimble Books. (So far, orders originating from bloggers have been... well... disappointing? (hint!)

And from literary analysis to speculation... Ever wish for some television for adults? I mean grownups interested in stringing thoughts together at the high end of the spectrum? Closer to Truth is a terrific series, based upon conversations held by Robert Lawrence Kuhn with luminaries as diverse as Francisco Ayala, Gregory Benford, Paul Davies, Freeman Dyson, Roger Penrose and so on.

The Closer To Truth Website - will feature about 1400 videos from 128 experts, each 8 – 20 minutes in length. The site recently went live though it will take ~6 months to upload all videos. In addition, the first three CTT episodes, one each on Cosmos, Consciousness, God, are now available (in low resolution). See also a listing of stations that will air the show. Robert Kuhn discusses his groundbreaking television on the Science & Religion Today website.

See especially episodes: 110 Could Our Universe Be a Fake? [Cosmos], and 303 Where are They, All Those Aliens? [Consciousness] wherein yours truly joins the putative eggheads at work! Doing what eggheads do best.

And, continuing with more recent brin-blather....

While visiting IBM Research, I did a brief, ten-minute oral-essay about how science fiction can change the world. IBM has podcast it. This is separate from my hour-long (and detailed) talk about Third Millennium Problem-Solving: Can New Visualization and Collaboration Tools Make a Difference? That much longer talk ought to be be available online, at some point. I’ll let you all know.

Reminder to join my Facebook fan page!

------ A Timely Survey for Blog Community Members! -----

I’ve received a request from Daniel Milamed Prendergast of the Psychology Department at New York University, in the hopes that some of you folks might be able to help them with timely and important NSF-funded research about the cognitive bases of electoral decision-making. ”We would be very grateful if you’d help us recruit politically inclined respondents to our survey by posting to your blog the link to the online survey we are conducting as part....ground-breaking scientific research in the hopes of better understanding voting behavior from a psychological perspective. The survey we are conducting is not aimed at changing respondents' opinions in any way. This stage of the study focuses on the information people use to inform evaluations during the last few weeks before the election. They seek respondents of all political leanings from all over the country (and from the rest of the world) to complete a 15-minute questionnaire, the responses to which will be completely anonymous.”

I find myself personally with too little time to participate. Nor do I know these folks personally. But it has the appearance of a worthy undertaking. People who report back should remain vague about the process and questions, in order not to bias others -- till the last questionnaire is finished. There are some $100 “raffle” prizes for participating. Here is the link to the survey:

------ Other matters of timely interest ---

See: THE FOURTH QUADRANT: A MAP OF THE LIMITS OF STATISTICS, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb... An Edge Original Essay... "When Nassim Taleb talks about the limits of statistics, he becomes outraged. "My outrage," he says, "is aimed at the scientist-charlatan putting society at risk using statistical methods. This is similar to iatrogenics, the study of the doctor putting the patient at risk." As a researcher in probability, he has some credibility. In 2006, using FNMA and bank risk managers as his prime perpetrators, he wrote the following: "The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at its risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry: their large staff of scientists deemed these events 'unlikely.' " Taleb continues his examination of Black Swans, the highly improbable and unpredictable events that have massive impact.

--- Small Indie Movies Take Flight ---

First off -- the Postman legend continues!

Also... I have to tell you I was really surprised by the innovative first episode of this Indie group. Have a lookStranger Things is the first dramatic science-fiction anthology series shot in high definition and digitally-syndicated through the Internet, predating even the larger-budgeted Sanctuary. Stranger Things depicts a world of ordinary people stumbling into the secret lives of the paranormal, the metaphysical, the unnatural, and the strange. The stories expose the bizarre and the extraordinary things happening all around us everyday, hidden behind the veil of the "real world.".

--- Energy Matters ---

Could this be true???? Ever heard of the Bakken Formation? GOOGLE it or follow this link. It will blow your mind.

”The U.S. Geological Service issued a report in April ('08) that only scientists and oilmen knew was coming, but man was it big. It was a revised report (hadn't been updated since '95) on how much oil was in this area of the western 2/3 of North Dakota; western South Dakota; and extreme eastern Montana .... The Bakken is the largest domestic oil discovery since Alaska's Prudhoe Bay, and has the potential to eliminate all American dependence on foreign oil. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates it at 503 billion barrels. Even if just 10% of the oil is recoverable... at $107 a barrel, we're looking at a resource base worth more than $5.3 trillion.” And there is talk of an even bigger find in the rockies. These ought to be tracked.

Of course, global warming still means we have to get moving hard in other directions. But anything that removes the r’oil grip from around our throats.

More important: Companies will build two solar plants in California that together will put out more than 12 times as much electricity as the largest such plant today, the latest indication that solar energy is starting to achieve significant scale. The plants will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar panels, and in the middle of a sunny day will generate about 800 megawatts of power, roughly equal to the size of a large coal-burning power plant or a small nuclear plant. The power will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric, which is under a state mandate to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

==== Misc. Stuff! ====

Watch Professor (and former Clinton White House Privacy Maven) Peter Swire talk about “The Federal Role in Privacy Protection.”

Yipes! What creepy fun by my collaborator Jeff Carlson!

See a fascinating comparison of Chinese vs. Western attitudes toward education. “Wealthy Chinese parents who worry that their kids cannot face the pressures of the country’s education are finding ways for their children to go to North America for their primary education. Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post recently reported on South Koreans paying for U.S. couples to adopt their children so that they can gain access to Western education.” and

Help crack the Russian Hacker Mystery. (Vernor Vinge makes the important point is that the nation that most lives by the silicon chip might be the one that dies by it. At least, its enemies will work hard to make it so. Buy metal storage sheds! Use them as faraday cages to store important backup equipment. Keep an old fashioned corded phone. If we had a real president, he’d have urged this long ago.)

A spurt in human intelligence about 150,000 years ago was caused by eating (mostly) cooked meals, which would have lessened the energy needs of our digestion systems, thereby freeing up calories for our brains

University of Geneva scientists sent pairs of entangled photons to labs 18 kilometers apart, showing that if superluminal signals are responsible for entanglement, they must travel at more than 10,000 times the speed of light.

I can’t buy or read every info-age/transparency related book that comes along. Has anyone seen (or care to review for us) Inescapable Data by Chris Statutis?

A cool fun “Large Hadron Rap.”

Reminder to sign up as a “follower” to this blog... and to RSS subscribe to the more formal Salon source (I’ve abandoned Kos). And to be sure and join that Facebook page. Subscribe to UNIVERSE!


Chris said...

The "Evolve" series on either National Geographic or Discovery (History?) touched on a lot of similar themes to our advances in intelligence as a consequence of cooked meals. I highly recommend it.

Anonymous said...

David, I just picked up Inescapable Data; I'll post a mini-review in a couple days.

Acacia H. said...

I'm rather interested in the hopeful rollout of the Tesla Model S late in 2010. Considering the issues that have happened with the Roadster (some of which were not Tesla's fault; sometimes when you work with other companies, you risk being screwed over, especially when working on a new innovation), I'm hoping that the Model S does not encounter the production delays and overruns that their first project suffered from.

That said, groundwork in building the factory to build the Model S in San Jose, CA, is slated to begin in the summer of 2009, and should employ around a thousand people. Personally, I think that the Big Three were fools not to jump on the bandwagon and help Tesla Motors on the ground floor... by using one of their factories, retooled, GM, Ford, or Chevrolet could have been in a position to profit from a purely-battery-powered vehicle rather than a hybrid. What's more, with the financial muscle of one of the Big Three (even weakened in the current economy) behind them, Tesla no doubt would have been able to get the Model S out sooner... which would benefit both companies.

But perhaps it's best that Tesla go it alone. Nothing is eternal... not even the American automotive industry. New blood is needed, along with new innovations.


I've also been reading a lot of abstracts lately on the use of thin film photovoltaic cells. There are some truly innovative concepts out there, including applying films over regular windows and turning the entire window into a fiber optic, sending light bouncing along the pane's interior until it reaches the end of the window where waiting photovoltaic films are installed. These windows would cost less than traditional solar panels, can still be viewed through (basically it'll look like tinted glass), and generate a decent amount of electricity.

These photovoltaic windows could go into production within a year or two, and if used on a large scale with skyscrapers and the like could turn entire cities into electrical generators, reducing the energy intake that these buildings use for HVAC and basic lighting.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

There is a large dose of investor-hype snake oil in the "Bakken Formation" story: report on Bakken formation.

I'm not adverse to expanded domestic drilling, but anyone who thinks that a) it will fix everything, or b) you can ignore the environmental costs, is either deluded or trying to sell you something.

Anonymous said...

Bakken has been fairly activly discussed in the midwest for a year or two. The issue is the fact that it is fairly hard shale that holds the oil.

But on the plus side, while it is a nuclear armed state, North Dakota is at least a friendly one.


Anonymous said...

Damn you, Dr. Brin! You have to go and set a story in Shanghai and then hide it behind a subscriber-only firewall! You just had to make me get a subscription, didn't you?

Oh well, science fiction is good for the soul, and I haven't had any in quite awhile (I've been eagerly awaiting Stephenson's new novel, which I have a friend hand-delivering to me from Seattle next month).

That aside, the article on Chinese education was interesting, but nothing I hadn't already observed. If I have to choose between a high-quality American public school (like, say, one in a wealthy coastal suburb, or a small midwestern city) and a high-quality Chinese school (like those in Shanghai), I'd still have to go with the American school. While memorization is important in the early years for "building the foundation", what students really need to know today is how to USE data, not how to recall it. With computers becoming ever more ubiquitous, we're practically becoming equipped with "external memory"- why memorize something that you can find in five seconds online? Even with languages (as a language trainer, I deal with this every day), rote memorization isn't as effective as application in the learning process (otherwise you get characters who can, as the article pointed out, ace the TOEFL yet can't carry on a simple conversation.)

Students are always astounded when I tell them the range of classes I took- and could have taken- in my American high school. Yes, I took plenty of upper level science, history, mathematics, and English classes... but I also studied cooking, theatrical production, sociology, journalism, statistics, debate, speech... the list goes on. "Cooking, in school?!?!" they respond... often, they were so busy studying in their youth that they never learned how to perform simple cooking tasks... and rely on prepackaged meals and noodle stands for their daily sustenance.

I have a number of friends who work at major software companies in America, which hire many Chinese engineers- guys with 800's on their Math SAT's, degrees from Caltech or MIT... who all too often wash out after two or three years with the company. They can't seem to get into the processes involved with the creative work of software engineering, and feel alienated by the culture. Most return to China after a fairly short time.

While it is troubling that we seem to be lagging in the areas of math and science, I wouldn't say that all is lost. Of my closest friends, I was the only one who didn't pursue a science or engineering career- they've all gone on to become physicists, chemists, or software engineers. Sometimes I contemplate going back to school to pursue an engineering degree, or to go to medical school- I'm 26, so there's still a strong chance that I might, though I'm leaning harder towards pursuing an MBA and a master's degree in urban planning or international relations. Time will tell...

Anonymous said...

BTW, one comment...

"Xidong District"

West-East District? Were they just confused about the location? Or is it a district for foreigners? ;)

Unknown said...

New Yale study shows that presenting facts to so-called "conservatives" which refute their beliefs only makes their beliefs stronger:

Political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler provided two groups of volunteers with the Bush administration's prewar claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. One group was given a refutation -- the comprehensive 2004 Duelfer report that concluded that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction before the United States invaded in 2003. Thirty-four percent of conservatives told only about the Bush administration's claims thought Iraq had hidden or destroyed its weapons before the U.S. invasion, but 64 percent of conservatives who heard both claim and refutation thought that Iraq really did have the weapons. The refutation, in other words, made the misinformation worse.
A similar "backfire effect" also influenced conservatives told about Bush administration assertions that tax cuts increase federal revenue. One group was offered a refutation by prominent economists that included current and former Bush administration officials. About 35 percent of conservatives told about the Bush claim believed it; 67 percent of those provided with both assertion and refutation believed that tax cuts increase revenue.
In a paper approaching publication, Nyhan, a PhD student at Duke University, and Reifler, at Georgia State University, suggest that Republicans might be especially prone to the backfire effect because conservatives may have more rigid views than liberals: Upon hearing a refutation, conservatives might "argue back" against the refutation in their minds, thereby strengthening their belief in the misinformation. Nyhan and Reifler did not see the same "backfire effect" when liberals were given misinformation and a refutation about the Bush administration's stance on stem cell research.


Acacia H. said...

You know, Zorgon, that sounds very much like what I observed on one forum when I was trying to convince otherwise-intelligent people that the Twin Towers could fall because of the fires from the airline crashes. They refused to comprehend that the girders holding up the building didn't need to melt... they just needed to soften to the point that the mass above them caused structural failure to cause the collapse. Yet even with scientific evidence and mathematical formulas proving this point, they dug in deeper and refused to admit the truth.

So I don't think it's conservatives so much. I think it's more that when you truly believe in something, you refuse to acknowledge you might be wrong when given evidence to the contrary.

Rob H.

Unknown said...

Banks abruptly stopped lending to each other or charged exorbitantly high rates Tuesday, threatening to spread the troubles of American International Group Inc. and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. to a broad range of financial institutions and the global economy.

The breakdown came despite efforts by central bankers to keep money flowing.

"Pressure is building on the pristine "AAA" rating of the United States after a federal bailout of American International Group Inc, the chairman of Standard & Poor's sovereign ratings committee said on Wednesday.

The $85 billion bailout of AIG on Tuesday by the U.S. Federal Reserve "has weakened the fiscal profile of the United States," S&P's John Chambers told Reuters in an interview.

"Lack of a pro-active stance could have resulted in further financial stress and put pressure on the U.S. triple-A rating," Chambers said. "There's no God-given gift of a 'AAA' rating, and the U.S. has to earn it like everyone else."

David Brin said...

nicholas macdonald!

Welcome to the community... and PLEASE CRITIQUE THE STORY!!!

Write to me at: with every single damn thing that occurs to you, about how I might add local (looking ahead 20 years) color to a Shanghai that has turned its back to the rising seas. Don't be shy!

I'll send you something.

As for education, I have been a lonely voice in America pointing out the myriad positive points about our education system.

No Child Left Behind was actually only one of three things I think George Bush did that were 50% right. Because it insists that the bottom half of US kids get the memorization they need in order to succeed. But it betrays the top 1/3 of kids, who are now "taught to the test."

Robert is right, Zorgon. The difference between lefty fanatics and rightist fanatics is not one of deep character. It is that the right wing fanatics have succeeded in taking over an entire American political party and much of the mass media. While the lefty flake fanatics are limited to college English and Sociology and fluff departments.

THAT is the difference. And if we pound the GOP hard enough and punish Faux News, then maybe the righty-loons will be chased back into marginalia and we'll get a pragmatic conservative party again.

Travc said...

Brazil apparently announced a 2 large new oil discoveries. To which I say at best 'meh'.

We already have enough proven reserves to really screw ourselves climate wise should we burn it all... and that isn't even counting coal or CH4. The upsides is that these new fields are not really cheap to recover, so maybe we can leave them in the ground.

Rob H.
Chevy has been putting out press releases on the production version of the Volt (plug in (serial?) hybrid) recently. Release is still supposed to be late 2010 though.

Also, if you haven't looked at or google's little project they are respectively a very good resource and a cool real world test.

Plug-in hybrids (very much preferably ones with a battery-only mode) would be a huge efficiency gain. Even better, they would make the majority of transportation energy highly flexible (electric) without the hard range limits of pure electric vehicles (which limit their potential for market share).

Tesla makes very cool cars, but I don't think that they will ever get much market penetration (or will even try to). Pretty sports cars are good PR though. really is the premier site/org on this topic AFAIK.

Acacia H. said...

The Model S is said to be a 4-passenger sedan which will have a price of close to $60,000. This is their second generation car, and it is (or was) in the price range of a decent number of Americans rather than just the very rich. It also uses existing technologies rather than hoping and praying for new battery technology produced on a large scale in time.

If Tesla will have their second generation car in two years... doesn't that suggest that their third generation concept will appear in maybe four years? This would be an economy car, probably intended for two people and with a price cut even further. Tesla was originally designed with the hopes to sell electric cars to all people, not just the rich. They chose the Roadster for their concept car because of the costs and to dispel the delusion that electric cars were ugly ungainly things.

Rob H.

Unknown said...

City uses DNA analysis of dog poop to track & fine dog owners.

Photo ticket cameras to track drivers nationwide.

In the past, police databases have been used to intimidate innocent motorists. An Edmonton, Canada police sergeant, for example, found himself outraged after he read columnist Kerry Diotte criticize his city's photo radar operation in the Edmonton Sun newspaper. The sergeant looked up Diotte's personal information, and, without the assistance of electronic scanners, ordered his subordinates to "be on the lookout" for Diotte's BMW. Eventually a team of officers followed Diotte to a local bar where they hoped to trap the journalist and accuse him of driving under the influence of alcohol.

This is the transparent society, an unlivable nightmare from hell.

Bruce Sterling is right: a fully transparent society would continuously decapitate itself as its leaders were constantly outed and disgraced and driven out of power for trivial but sensationalized personal pecadillos, paralyzing any fully transparent society.

But you're not anticipating what David Brin would call a transparent society?
[Bruce Sterling:] David thinks this is great. David is a technological determinist. He thinks that we understand the trend and we need to hop on it. I don't have any such illusions. Just because it's the space age, it doesn't mean we're all going to end up in space.

Just because it's the atom age, it doesn't mean we'll all have a private atom-powered helicopter. Just because it's the information age, it doesn't mean we're all going to profit or be made happier. It has secondary and tertiary effects that cannot be predicted. You don't envision a phone answering machine and predict the Lewinsky scandal--even though one is impossible without the other.

And the secondary or tertiary effects of TIA or other data-mining systems, assuming they ever worked?
[Bruce Sterling:] I'll tell you what will happen if it were an effective TIA. There would immediately be a series of coups inside the Republican Party as they...were systemically outed and "Trent Lotted"...It would be profoundly destabilizing. Their sexual affairs would be public. They'd be "Lewinskied." They'd be "Whitewatered."

The common population would stand aghast as these people did one another in. It would not stop once the surveillance mechanism was there. It would eat generation after generation of [American politicans] until it decapitated and lobotomized the entire population.

There are plenty of Republican senators now who know what happened to Trent Lott--how can they not? They have street smarts. They're aware that he was nailed because people happened to record something that was at the practical funeral of a centenarian.

You seem to relish this.
[Bruce Sterling:] It's a destabilizing threat to democracy. In "Tomorrow Now," the chapter on politics talks about media toxicity--the outbirth of opposition research where nobody can ever be clean.

So, what's the solution?
[Bruce Sterling:] Why is there a solution, Declan?


Not only would a fully transparent society be a profoundly destabilizing threat to democracy that would paralyze the entire leadership and work its way down until it decapitated and lobotomized the entire population, a genuinely transparent society would have its citizenry in massive open continuous revolt against snooping intrusive police and other officious bureaucrats who constantly chased them down and fined them into the poorhouse for an infinite number of trivial infractions such as "animal cruelty" for failure to feed a goldfish (Sounds crazy? It happened in the U.K.).

Prediction: as soon as any society becomes fully transparent, with a completely networked set of comprehensive database-driven surveillance, that society disintegrates into chaos, its leadership paralyzed by continual non-stop back-and-forth partisan political scandalmongering, and its citizenry up in arms in open revolt against police and other state officials who spent essentially all their time doing crazy things like analyzing the DNA of dog poop so as to identify and fine dog owners, instead of doing their real job, to identify and catch criminals.

Acacia H. said...

Politicians (and people) would evolve to cope. You would have politicians who walked such a tightrope that the inconsequential would be all there is to report on them. "He tossed a ball of paper into recycling and missed! It took him five seconds to recover it and put it away!"

Obviously, this is lunacy on your part, Zorgon. Politics wouldn't fall apart because people would get sick and tired of listening to the minutia and would tune it out. Indeed, one of the greatest problems with the Information Age is information overload, something more and more people are succumbing to.

Likewise, privacy laws will prevent the normal citizen from suffering the slings and arrows of total transparency. Though if you think of it, wouldn't it be also a useful tool? Would people cheat on their significant other if they knew they would be caught? (Swinging, on the other hand, might become mainstream.)

Of course, total transparency would cut down on crime. Think of that for a second: if the government knows exactly when and where a crime is committed and who committed the crime, then capturing the criminal will not be that difficult (since total transparency will also include where the person is at that moment).

So crime would go down even as privacy went away. Unless of course you believe criminals and criminal activity would be outside the venue of transparency, at which point you don't have total transparency.

Rob H.

Jumper said...

Since you inspired this nonsense, I credit you, Dr. Brin. And worse, you and many of your readers already "know" the climax of the tale!

David Brin said...

Jumper.... har!

Zorgon, where was the Sterling piece published?

Typically, he (and you) foster a strawman image of my position. Of course, Bruce's silly caricature bears almost no overlap with anything I ever said or wrote. But I'll not waste much time on this farce -- (Sterling, accusing ME of technological determinism???) -- except to focus on one aspect. You both express utter-elitist contempt for the masses, who have to deal with the social pressures driven by changing technology.

Clearly, there is a solution to the problem of "outing everything and everybody." It is a natural solution. The only solution. And it happens to be the one we've already used, across the last half- century. And it all relies, where it should, on the People.

Alas, snobs hate to actually look at people, dismissing them as hapless sheep. Here's the picture offered by priggish brainiacs like Bruce Sterling: "if more and more folks get outed for ever-smaller pecadillos, with masses of politicians and leaders pilloried and punished, everyone will join the finger-pointing with society spiralling into chaos." That's it, right?

Except - um - that this "logical" dynamic bears no resemblance, whatsoever, with what actually happens. Ddid the people toss out Bill Clinton, over Monica? Or did they, by huge majorities, say they wanted Hillary to slap his wrist and then put him back to work? (Look back at the poll numbers.)

Is homosexuality the automatic prison sentence that it used to be? Or have we seen an incredible shift, till "outing" is barely worth noticing, nowadays? Liberals now denounce "don't ask don't tell" as too restrictive, while conservatives, who fought it like hell and predicted the end of the world, now defend DADT as the greatest policy ever! That is a shift. And it was propelled by ever-increasing transparency -- which has a fundamental tendency to sear genuine evil (e.g. catching abusive cops or corrupt officials) while very often spreading tolerance over the merely strange.

PEOPLE ARE NOT ALL FOOLS. They have sliding scales of proportionality in their heads. And they are able to adjust priorities with time and exposure. YES, those sliding scales can be hypocritical, as when right wingers forgive any indiscretion, so long as it was committed by someone on their own side. The public wages endless struggles over these re-adjustments...

...and that's the point! When these re-adjustment struggles take place in the open, with maximum transparency, the general result is a broadening of tolerance for non-harmful eccentricities. That is the trend, and has been, for 50 years, though snobbish dopes deliberately ignore it.

Oh, note this: always, amid the partisan noise, there is a consensus that crosses party lines -- that little people deserve more privacy protection than folks who have stepped up and yelled "look at me! I'm a (celebrity, expert, leader.)" Oh, but snobs never note or credit that basic, widely-shared wisdom.

Oh it's a ruction all right, and often hypocritical. Nobody ever said it's pretty. And often the needle seems to gyrate around insipid Culture War. And yet, nevertheless, re-adjustment continues and the center of consensus shifts; people are doing it. Even right wingers shift, over time. People are not the sheep that that patronizing brainiac Sterling makes them out to be.

And, dig it. People do this better when the truth comes out! Just as they are better market consumers when they know more. Just as they are better voters when they know more. Just as scientists are better researchers when they know more.

So, what's your solution, Bruce?

"There's a solution?" Sterling culminates with a shrug.

Oh, man. That's all we need, in a civilization that was once based on pragmatic problem solving. Cynical snobbery mixed with dour pessimism. No wonder the people don't expect leadership from the intelligencia! Only, dig it again. For all the mess and noise and filth of it all, the People ARE adjusting to the new era. The more they know, the more they adapt.

And they'll keep on doing it, with or without Bruce Sterling.

David Brin said...

TWO terrific Daggatt blogs

And especially:

Unknown said...

Bakken is helpful. The key is the technology to extract the oil. Improved horizontal drilling was key to making more of oil available.

Bakken is providing more than 250,000 barrels per day. 160,000+ bpd in North Dakota, 50,000 bpd in Montana and about 50,000 bpd in Saskatchewan. Over the next 5 year it could head to 1-2 million bpd. North Dakota needs more pipelines and refineries for the oil. The oil in the Bakken is light crude (the good stuff) sandwiched thinly over a large area (3 states and 2 provinces). Any oil technology that helps get oil from shale could work better with some parts of the bakken where there is oil/shale mixed. Just around the Bakken which is 1-2 miles down are other formations which they are also getting oil from now.

Better oil recovery technology for oilsands and heavy oil using Petrobanks Thai/Capri technologies could boost recovery and lower costs and make the effort cleaner and more efficient.

There is also a natural gas boom from being able to tap gas in shale formations.

Plus there is advances with algae biofuels, biofuel from seaweed (japan), jatropha (a weed) to boost the current 1 million bpd equivalent of biofuels in the USA. USA and Brazil are the current leaders in biofuel.

climate change - excess CO2- some big technology for this is Vinod Khosla funded company Calera Cement. Cement which can remove one ton of CO2 per ton of cement instead of adding CO2 to the air. 2.5 billion tons of cement per year and growing by 100-200 million tons per year. Calera success (or a competitor) and we can build our way out of excess CO2. China will be adding 50,000 high rise buildings over the next few years. It would be sequestering CO2 in high rise buildings and other structures.

Jumper said...

Technology is depriving more and more of two distinct things: privacy, and anonymity. I propose the two are different, and confusing the two muddies the waters in any discussion.

Tony Fisk said...

Watching the watchers... and delegating the analysis of political speech:

Software spots the spin in political speeches

So, is it a choice between the spin doctor and the clinically depressed?

Anonymous said...

OK Dave, how do you really feel about Bruce Sterling? I kind think you were holding back there;-)

Although I think you are right about transparency your attack on Bruce Sterling is worthy of some criticism. For the last several years Sterling been working like a reincarnated Buckminster Fuller trying to create a design revolution to respond to climate change. He is all in favor of pragmatic problem solving.

("Cynical snobbery mixed with dour pessimism"
its like you are calling him "Dwarf King Eor";-)

On another note John Robb of Global Guerrillas website is making the argument that the root cause of the the current financial crisis is that productivity gains have not been shared with workers, all the gains have gone to the capital markets (aka the rich). And the result of excluding so many people is that the market now lacks all of their knowledge, understanding, and broader set of desires that would have prevented the crisis from occurring.

David Brin said...

A reincarnated Buckminster Fuller... yup, that is precisely how Bruce sees himself. And with the same ratio of self-promoting razzle-dazzle to actual, palpable accomplishment.

But dig this. I have always called Bruce one of the brightest guys around. I have NEVER fired the first shot, in our tiffs. And he has never, ever had a kind word for me.

Nor does he ever offer me the courtesy of a heads up, when he decides to take a pot shot at a strawman, and call it David Brin.

He is nowhere near as influential as he ought to be. I wish the world paid him more heed. But it won't. Not so long as he acts like a total jerk.

David Brin said...

Can anyone tell me where Sterling said all that?

Oh, there's some continuation on that last thread...

And see a blog I find cogent, by my friend Russ Daggatt, owner of the Seattle Seahawks:

Anonymous said...

Zorgon left a link under the exert, but the interview was from Z-net june 4 2003, you are probably having a flash back to when you were first angry about what he said;-)

As far as Bucky Fuller's accomplishments: geodesic dome, octet truss, diamaxian map, tens of thousands of people truly inspired to better understand the universe and build a better world: I think that I could die a happy man if my achievements were as half as meager.

As far as kind words for you; your work has helped shape and deepen my understanding of the universe around me. Thanks

Just as a side note, every time you write: "dig it" its like so out of sight and totally groovy, man.... it honestly makes me giggle. (every time;-)

David Brin said...

Yeesh, shows the guy can push my buttons, across time! Seriously, I thought he was beating that drum AGAIN... so it was an honest mistake.

I guess I'm a bit grouchy at Bucky because he stole a large (maybe 5%) fraction of his stuff, outright, from little guys. Oh, and the ACTUAL effects were kind of small, beyond all the inspiration, that is. Okay, inspiration is cool. I admit it!

Dig it, it's beyond tubular OR groovy. The beat goes on.

Travc said...

If I may inject a new (still non political) topic...

So we have this financial sector meltdown going on, and people wondering just how bad it is going to get. Extended recession and maybe the return of stagflation don't seem implausible.

A few people are throwing around references to the Great Depression, and generally getting dismissed... but I don't know if I'd be so quick.

Seems to me that climate change could synergy quite nastily with an extended recession to make a really nasty beast. The Dust Bowl ring any bells?

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin:
Bucky Fuller did steal tensegrity. He also didn't invent the icosahedral map projection. Icosahedral maps were mentioned in patents awarded to J.N. Adorno (1851) and J.M. Boorman (1877). However, his list of tangible original accomplishments remains long and impressive. Let's not forget the 3-wheel dymaxion car, which got incredible gas mileage back in the 1930s. I believe upwards of 100 mpg courtesy of its streamlining and small engine. We could do with an updated modern version.

Then there's Fuller's self-air-conditioned double-skilled metal house supported like an umbrella on a pole. Lightweight, cheap, yet tremendously energy efficient.

Others have mentioned the octet truss, geodesic domes, the dymaxion icosahedral projection world map, but some of Fuller's wilder ideas have never been put into practice. He proposed sharing electricity worldwide via superconducting power cables so that solar energy surpluses generated in one country during the daytime could be used in other countries during the night. Fuller also dreamed of gigantic tetrahedral arcologies, which might or might not be practical. From tidal power generators ot floating cities in the air kept aloft by the waste heat inside their spherical geodesic domes, he offered quite a few visionary ideas. Not all of 'em great, but worthy of more respect than you've given.

Your ad hominem attack fails, since there's nothing wrong with elitism. I vote for Obama because he's smarter than I am, and the record seems to show that he's sharper and more capable than most of the population. That's what I want, as Jon Stewart quipped: not a president I'd feel comfy having a beer with, but a president who is embarrassing superior to me.

In slinging around the word "elitism" as though it were an epithet, Brin, you align yourself wit the no-neck fools like Peggy Noon who infamously wrote "Intellectuals start all the problems in the world."

He's not an intellectual. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. And then when the fire comes they say, "I warned Joe about that furnace." And, "Does Joe have children?" And "I saw a fire once. It spreads like syrup. No, it spreads like explosive syrup. No, it's formidable and yet fleeting." When the fire comes they talk.

Bush ain't that guy. Republicans love the guy who ain't that guy. Americans love the guy who ain't that guy.


Riiiiiiight. Intellectuals start all the trouble in the world. Intellectuals like Norman Borlaug, whose Green Revolution saved hundreds of millions of people from starvation worldwide. Intellectuals like Pasteur and Koch, whose germ theories and antibiotics prevented unimaginable suffering worldwide. Intellectuals like Shakespeare, whose poetry and plays give joy and meaning to the lives of countless people daily. Intellectuals like...David Brin...whose excellent essays and superb books have opened countless peoples' minds and filled us all with wonder and delight.

Aligning yourself with the no-neck anti-intellectual thugs currently in control of the White House and the hate-radio Limabugh axis is really not a place you want to be, Dr. Brin. Seriously.

Bring on the elitism, kiddo. Give me more elitism. Lots more. When I went to college, I didn't go there to study what some joker scrawled on a bathroom wall, I wanted to get exposed to the best that had been thought and said. Seems to me that's a good idea. If you disagree, Dr. Brin, let's have your convincing reasons why we shouldn't value excellence. I'd really like to know why we ought to pay more attention to mediocrity than to people who are magnificent at what they do. I'd honestly like to know why we ought to spend our time listening to Muzak instead of Shostakovitch, and Days of Our Lives instead of Anton Chekov. Maybe you can clue us into the super-secret decoder-ring insider club that will let us all know why Limbaugh's vacuous hatemongering is more worthy of our attention than, say, Clay Shirky's writings, or Bruce Schneier's writings, or Paul Graham's essays, or, for that matter, your essays.

You stepped in it big-time when you tried to play the "elitism" card, because if there's anything the last 8 years have taught us, it's that when contempt and derision for excellence and competency and expertise and knowledge gets ensconced in positions of power, you get...Hurricane Katrina. And the current quagmire in Iraq. And the current meltdown on Wall Street.

Ultra-elitism? Please! And plenty of it, thanks. I want the smartest and best and most skilled people around running the U.S. Army and FEMA and Wall Street and the White House. What's wrong with that? Why is that a bad thing?

Having disposed of your pathetically ineffectual failed and faulty ad hominem hissy fit against "ultra-elitist" attitudes (actually you've descended to the same contemptible sophistry Karl Rove has used for the last 8 years to unjustifiably smear knowledgeable experts and discredit the best and the brightest in favor of a former Arabian horse show judge and a drunk-driving C student), let's move on to the other crippled thalidomide-flipper-footed parts of your defective argument in favor of a nightmare society (AKA the transparent society).

You snarled:
"..snobs hate to actually look at people, dismissing them as hapless sheep. Here's the picture offered by priggish brainiacs like Bruce Sterling: "if more and more folks get outed for ever-smaller pecadillos, with masses of politicians and leaders pilloried and punished, everyone will join the finger-pointing with society spiralling into chaos." That's it, right?

Wrong. Utterly, totally wrong.

The problems with a transparent society that make life unlivable have nothing to do with finger-pointing. You've missed the point completely.

First, a truly transparent TIA society lowers the barrier to entry for bureaucrats to making our lives miserable so low that life gets unlivable. You obviously haven't noticed that police and other law enforcement officers (LEOs) switched from having public safety and preservation of property as their main concern prior to the 1980s, to revenue collection as their primary job today. This has happened over the last 20 years, and it's slowly destroying our society. And the transparent society is what makes it all possible.

Can't count how many times I've seen cops parked at a corner all day doing nothing but writing tickets to people who fail to come to a complete stop, or fail to use their turn signals. In Britain, it's much worse, with 3 public safety officers chasing down a bicyclist who momentarily swerved onto the sidewalk to avoid road construction so as to give him a $60 fine. With TIA in a fully transparent society, we don't even need the cops. The fines and fees blizzard out automatically courtesy of red light cameras which actually increase the number of traffic accidents and fatalities and serve only to slurp up more confiscatory revenue for the state, and everyone's life becomes unlivable.

So one big problem with the transparent society is that it encourages law enforcement to move away from crime and toward revenue collection to the point where LEOs become nothing more highway robbers. They stop you for some minor infraction, then confiscate your car, or the contents of your wallet, or whatever. LEOs turn into bandits with badges. That destroys the rule of law and it dissolves all our respect for the so-called "justice" system. Ultimately, it destroys the legitimacy of the state. Very bad idea. So a totally transparent soceity is a state that no longer has any legitimacy. Transparency leads to the destruction of the state's perceived legitimacy, since everyone realizes that the blizzard of picayune rules and regulations exists only so that the monstrous revenue-hungry state can fine and seize and forfeit and fee its helpless citizens to death via database and CCTV camera. As Sterling points out, who wants to live in a TIA society? It's a nightmare from hell, utterly intolerable. Enough transparency, and you get a failed state. Wnat Somalia in downtown L.A.? Bring on the traansparency. It'll happen.

Second, however, the problem is far from finger-pointing. A person not hired decides to get even and outs the guy who turned her down as someone who like to rent, say, lesbian porn DVDs. He gets fired. He's pissed, so he finds out that the guy who fired him slows down when driving past a particular childrens' playground. There's construction there, but, guess what? The maps don't show that, so he gets smeared as a pedophile and gets fired. That guy gets pissed and digs up dirt on the VP who canned him...and it just goes on and on and on. If you want to see the extreme endpoint of this craziness, take a look at cybermobs in South Korea. Massive mobs of people who bombard innocent workers' email and cellphones with hate messages based on faulty tumors they heard on the net. Cyberbullying and cybermobs are such a huge problem in South Korea that the police have now had to intervene and whisk the victims of cybermobs away in armored vans with thousands of people following behind chanting death threats.

That's what total transparency gives you.

Third, you haven't dealt at all with Sterling's point about information toxicity. It's impossible for anyone to be "clean" anymore, oppo research can always dig up some dirt on anyone in public life. This leads to cynical nihilism, strongly discourages the best people from getting involved in public positions (so we only get cynical hacks like John McCain because the idealistic dedicated people don't want their family to be ripped apart and their reputation smeared and their lives ruined by all the Little Green Footballs hatemongering and Limbaugh innuendos and envenomed personal attacks launched at 'em by rabid right-wing bloggers and their thuggish online followers).

That's the REAL cost of the transparent society: public life turn into a duel to the death in a cesspool. It's unsustainable. Everyone but the hacks and cynics and corrupt power-maddened sociopaths turn away in disgust. So public life gets dominated only by the most power-hungry sadists who are sufficiently sociopathic to stand up to that kind of savage punishment, because they craze thr thrill of dishing it out to others. Some people actually love pain: they're a sick minority, but they do exist. That's the minority who flourish in a fully transparent society, the Karl Roves of the world who live to torment and be tormented, the Ann Coulters who only seem to come alive when angry mobs snarl at them, and who dote on screaming hate in return.

You constantly quote Friedrich Hayek, Brin, but you don't seem to know his work. You really ought to re-read the chapter in Hayek's Road to Serfdom called "Why the Best Rise To the Top." It's quite revealing.

Most of Hayek's writing is twaddle, but that chapter really hits the mark. "In The Road to Serfdom Hayek also argued that there was good reason to suspect that those who would rise to the top in a socialistic regime would be those who had a comparative advantage in exercising discretionary power and were willing to make unpleasant decisions. And it was inevitable that these powerful men would run the system to their own personal advantage."

That's obviously and foolishly wrong when applied to socialist systems, of course, but Hayek's insight does ring true when we substitute "fully transparent society" for "socialist system." It's entirely clear from the history of modern European socialism that exactly the opposite happens: leaders rise to the top precisely because they have a comparative advantage in avoiding making any unpleasant decisions. So, as always, Hayek was not only wrong, but laughably and obviously 180 degrees out of sync with reality: Hayek not just got it wrong, he got it exactly the opposite of the truth. Socialist leaders like Merkel and Gordon Brown and Blair have risen to power because they avoid difficult choices, lik the choice to deport unruly Turkish gastarbeiters in Germany, or the unpleasant choice to crack down on legions of chavs who subsist on the dole in Britain and have now turned every city center into a no-go zone after dark with their knife fighting and yobbo brawling. The disease of current European socialism is namby-pamby political correctness, which, carried to Blair-Brown-Merkel extremes, has become fatal. I reference here the infamous news story from Britain in which an abused wife of a drug-addicted council-housed chav repeatedly complained to British authorities and warned them that her husband was violent toward her daughter. The authorities dismissed her warnings with the stern admonition that it would be incorrect to blame the drug-addicted violent chav for his behavior because, after all, his drug addiction was an illness, and he was chronically unemployed, and he was the victim of terrible oppression in our society against people with tattoos reading FUCK YOU on their knuckles and dotted lines tattooed on their neck reading CUT HERE. When the chav eventually became so enraged with his 3-year-old daughter that he swung her by the feet and bashed her brains out against the wall, only then did the British welfare authorities reluctantly act, charging him with murder.

You can find all kinds of horror stories like this in Theodore Dalrymple's writings, most particularly, Life At the Bottom: the Worldview That Makes the Underclass and Our Culture Or What's Left Of It.

In each case, the pathologies and dysfunctions exhibited by modern European socialism are precisely the opposite of those adduced by Hayek. No surprise, since virtually everything Hayek said was foolishly and laughably contrary to observed reality.

But Hayek did get one thing right, if we susbstitute "the transparent society" for "socialist system." The people who rise to the top in a fully transparent society are the sociopaths -- the torturers who don't blanch at having their crimes revealed, but who glory in 'em. They're the Karl Roves, who react with pride when accused of smearing inncocent victims and swell with self-admiration when their sociopathic behavior gets outed.

Indeed, we're seeing this in the current Repub presidential campaign. Palin and McCain are not ashamed of having their lies constantly revealed -- they revel in it, because they know it makes them look tough to their supporters.

So the problems with a fully transparent society are altogether different from those you've adduced, Brin, and the fact that you don't realize this shows how ill-thought-out your notions of a truly transparent TIA society really are.

As for "privacy laws," wow. You just don't get it, do you? Privacy laws become impossible in a truly transparent society. If I had a mind to, I could legally find the home address and banking info and zip code and annual income, along with all relevant court documents, on anyone on this forum. It would take a few hundred bucks paid to a P.I. to rifle through various public databases, but the info is all there. And we live right now in a relatively opaque society. Soon, if we don't shut down this insane transparent society in its tracks, everyone's info will be completely open for everyone else, and society will disintegrate completely.

As Cardinal Richelieu infamously remarked, "Give me six inncocent lines penned by any man, and I will find something in them to hang him." Under sufficient scrutiny, everyone falls apart. Under close enough examination, everyone starts to look like a scumbag...everyone. The famous satirical anti-Jesus Bush TV ad points that out quite clearly. We laugh because it's so close to reality. Richelieu was right.

Indeed, we're already starting to see this. The best people now increasingly shy away from any position where they'd be subjected to the kind of intense scrutiny that today routinely destroys people's families and lives because they got nominated for some minor cabinet post or became CIO of some company that ran into financial trouble.

To sumamrize:

Transparency destroys the legitimacy of government, police, and public officials;

Transparency encourages bureaucrats to make life unlivable promulgating myriad regulations, all of which can now be efficiently enforced courtesy of comptuers and CCTV cameras and databases;

Transparency ecnourages the worst people in society to enter public life and discourages anyone with any self-respect from venturing anywhere near the public realm;

Transparency turns debates into sewers and destroys reasoned argument, replacing it with oppo research and "gotchas";

Transsparency destroys the rights of the minority and leads in its extreme form to cybermobs and online lynchings, with real-life mobs burning people's homes and torching their cars and chasing innocent victims down the street screaming for their death on the basis of crazy phony rumours amplified wildly out of control by the insane echo chamber of the fully transparent society.

Acacia H. said...

Zorgon? I'm sorry, but I have to call bullshit on your transparency argument. We don't know what would happen with complete transparency... and we do know what has happened when transparency in government and industry doesn't exist. Opacity has proven not to work and to be damaging to society as a whole. Transparency has not had enough of a test to reveal just what the side-effects would truly be.

Rob H.

Travc said...

Sterling (and Zorg) apparently don't put much credence in the notion of changing norms. I'm with Dr Brin (and history) on the more optimistic side. It won't be instant or without disruptions though.

David Brin said...

Z you not only led me into defending myself from an attack that was 6 years old, without offering its provenance, but you are completely delusional by saying my response was either ad hominem or about attacking "elites."

You densely and utterly look past the actual argument, which is that both you and Sterling base your position on CONTEMPT for the masses, and are thus blind to how the masses are coping.

Not perfectly or elegantly. But they are coping, adjusting. And everything about their process of coping is aided and fostered by transparency. A process you remain obdurately blind to.

And when elites do THAT... they are fools.

There is not a single statement in your "summary" that is not diametrically and laughably opposite to relentlessly demonstrable fact.

Reductio. Take markets, science, democracy or justice. Envision erring in the direction of everybody knowing more. It is easy to imagine them all functioning.

Err in the direction of participants knowing less. All four fail. Utterly and totally. As they are failing now, under leadership that has spread fog and lies and darkness and fear.

Please send in the other guy. Yipes is he smarter.
(And sorry, that was (strangely) ad hominem, I admit. Apologies. But send for him anyway. Please.)

Tony Fisk said...

The nature of Zorgon appears to be, quite literally, topical.

The 'spirited' nature of discussions of late and the report about being hard wired for Republicanism (quick solution: give 'em Prozac!) has prompted me to ask a general question:

When was the last time you had a significant change of heart about some policy or other?

Guess that behooves me to answer first, so here goes. I now support nuclear power (not completely and unconditionally, and definitely not at the expense of other 'alternate' power schemes, but I would not block its expanded use.)

What is your answer?

Tony Fisk said...

What gives here?

Stressed plants 'produce aspirin'

(I mean, what do they have that hurts? You don't suppose... ? Dang! So *that's* what he was on about! ;-)

David Brin said...

Dang, folks. Daggatt is on fire! Gotta spread word about him, virally.

matthew said...

Cribbed from a review at Boing Boing, but so topical to the discussions on this forum that I have to share it here...

From the article in New Scientist, "Crows seem to be able to use causal reasoning to solve a problem, a feat previously undocumented in any other non-human animal, including chimps."

Can't get anything other than the abstract of the original article, but here is the journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1107).

Acacia H. said...

And here's an interesting article concerning fisheries management and ownership. It appears that a lot of the U.S., Mexico, Western South America, Southern Australia, and Iceland use individual transferable quotas (ITQ) to manage fisheries, and as a result have improved fish stocks in managed areas.

Especially heartening is the revival of the Alaskan halibut fisheries, where the use of ITQs has resulted in fewer fish being caught... but the fish being larger and more profitable.

Europe is currently considering these standards. The Netherlands and Denmark currently use ITQs while the rest of Europe does not. Note: the use of ITQs could very well save the Atlantic Tuna, which is overfished by Europe and has resulted in a collapse of fishing stocks in America (they're a migratory fish that swims from the U.S. to Europe and back).

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Unknown said...

When was the last time you had a significant change of heart about some policy or other?

As a pragmatist, ideology means nothing to me -- given relevant facts, they point the way to the most sensible conclusion. When the facts change, my beliefs about policy change.

Here's a list of just a few of my relatively recent changes of heart about policy:

[1] I initially supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Can you believe it? Can you say "stupid"? No? How about "hopelessly stupid"? How about MORON? How about S*H*I*T-F*O*R-B*R*A*I*N*S, think that one applies?

I actually believed the claims that Saddam had nukes and lakes of sarin gas, oceans of VFX and mile after mile of missiles to deliver 'em with. Stupid ignorant me.

Of course, about 5 seconds after we successfully invaded Iraq, my support turned to wholesale condemnation and a vehement call to get the hell out of there NOW. Too late. If you're as stupid and ignorant and incompetent as I was for ever supporting the 2003 Iraq invasion in any way, you had already done more damage than it's possible to describe by the time the first American tank rolled into Baghdad.

[2] I thought the drunk-driving C student was only a little worse than Al Gore in the 200 election. Obviously I picked up on the essential assholeishness, the vicious creepy frat-boy contemptuous ignorance of the drunk-driving C student, and I dubbed him "The man with the sniveling sneer." I knew I didn't want him anywhere near the Oval Office because he made it a point of pride to be ignorant, especially when debating Gore, but really, any time he opened his goddamn mouth on the 2000 campaign trail.

But boy, was I wrong. I had no idea we were dealing with the Reverend Jim Jones of modern American politics, a stone cold sociopath, a thug who delighted in torture, a relentless opponent of the fundamental principles of the constitution of the united states of America. I thought he was just another creepy inept minor-league Repub clown like Arlen Specter or Dick Armey or Newt Gingrich. Wow. Shows you what I know.

In 2000, I was somewhat sympathetic to the argument made by Michael Moore and Rage Against the Machine on MTV that Gore and the drunk-driving C student were 2 peas in a pod. I thought they carried it too far, but at the time it seemed to have a certain ring of truth. Now, I realize that Michael Moore has a lot to answer for in making that 2000 music video for Rage Against the Machine that portrayed Gore and the drunk-driving C student as being essentially similar "establishment" figureheads.

Obviously I voted for Gore, but at the time I didn't think it made a huge difference. After all, America had a gigantic surplus, the most powerful economy in the world, technology was exploding, everything was going great. How much damage could one little creepy frat-boy Repub do in the Oval Office even if he did win?

Look up the word "stupid" in Webster's Unabridged dictionary -- you'll find a picture of me.

[3] I believed Brin's arguments about the transparent society when I first read his book. His arguments sounded cogent, he seemed persuasive. Then, reality started to intrude. More and more incidents of people getting brutalized, fined, crushed by a mindless bureaucratic system began to pop up -- all because of too much transparency. I began to realize that Brin had gone over the edge and, like a foolish fanatic who learns that salt is essential in a healthy diet and rashly concludes that if some salt is good, then a diet of nothing but salt must be even better, Brin hadn't realized that too much transparency is just as bad as too little transparency.

Brin had gone over the cliff by carrying a valid argument ("Some transparency is better than none for a society, and we should err on the side of more rather than less transparency") wayyyyyyyyyy too far and foolishly concluding that a fully transparent society was even workable or livable, much less good for anyone.

What sealed the deal in my change of heart about too much transparency in society, of course, was when I realized that Brin's argument "we're going to have complete transparency whether we like it or not, since it's impossible to stop it" was equivalent to the morally reprehensible argument made by career rapists: "Rape is always going to happen, so why try to stop it? The girl might as well lie back and enjoy it."

I'm truly ashamed of myself by buying any of Brin's extremist arguments in favor of total transparency, though his essential points that some transparency is good remain solid, if totally unoriginal.

[4] Daily Kos used to strike me as excessively partisan. However, it has now become clear to me that America has entered a state of permanent political paralysis and non-stop crisis of governance.

Every presidential election is now split 49.9945% to 50.0054% right down the middle. America is now so perfectly evenly divided that all presidential elections for the foreseeable future are going to be decided by only a few thousand votes in elections so close that it will never be truly clear who won because only a few thousand votes one way or the other will tip the election.

As a result, we face a permanent condition of political paralysis, massive non-stop to-the-death culture war, and hysterical crises of legitimacy in each and every presidential election.

It's not getting better. It's only getting worse.

Therefore I have come to believe that the Daily Kos savage "take no prisoner" war to the death, politics as a blood sport, approach is the only reasonable one. The stakes are high. We've seen what 8 years of no-neck worship of ignorance and incompetence produces -- America is literally falling apart. I don't think this country can survive another 4 years, much less another 8. So it's Rwanda time, rhetorically speaking. No more talk about moderation, no more willingness to be reasonable. This is a death struggle, a duel between two combatants with flame throwers at 20 paces, a grudge match with meat hooks in a sewer. And the forces of rationality and common sense had better win... otherwise, it's all over. Literally. We won't have an economy left or an army left in Iraq.

Another 4 years of dumb-as-a-bag-of-rocks obscurantism and far-right ideology, and our children will be learning creationism in school, grass will be growing on Wall Street, and human waves of Mahdi Army suicide soldiers will annihilate the entire U.S. army right down to the last man, the way the Chinese did at the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War.

I used to think Kos' approach was extreme. I've now had a change of heart. When it's a duel to the death in a sewer, you'd better become an animal and rip your opponent's jugular out with your bare teeth or you won't survive.

[5] I thought Obama had a reasonable amount of experience. Facts brought up by Brin and tactius2 and others have convinced that Obama lacks experience. That hasn't changed my mind about voting for him, but it has created reservations about him. Since the only alternative to Obama is a pathological compulsive liar who stands for war with Iran and a continuation of all the crazy policies of the last 8 years, obviously there's not much choice. It's either Obama, or emigrate to South Korea or France or Singapore or Taiwan.

But I have changed my judgment about Obama's qualifications and experience. I now agree that they're damn thin.

[6] I have also changed my mind quite a lot after actually reading what Obama has said about Afghanistan and Pakistan. His positions are crazy, and despicable, and will lead to the destruction of the U.S. army as we know it, as well as the final deracination of U.S. power in the world. Still, Obama's foreign policy positions (crazy as they are, calling for less unwinnable 4GW in Iraq and more unwinnable 4GW in Afghanistan and Pakistan) are orders of magnitude less insane than McCain's batshit crazy "bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran" mania.

So while I'm still voting for Obama, I have completely changed my mind about Obama's putative qualifications on foreign policy. He doesn't have any. His ideas are crazy. He's been captured by the neocon nut jobs, just not as completely as mcCain.

[6] I used to wholeheartedly support all that hydrogen economy crap, before I looked at the hard numbers. I used to be a big supporter of electric cars. If you look at the sheer scale of the energy infrastructure we have to change, the job is so colossal that we're going to have to move in desperation, as quickly as possible, to intermediate stopgap measures, like light electric rail and diesel locomotive cargo hauling and moped lanes in all our major cities.

Yes, I drank the "alternative energy Kool Aid" for a while there in the early to mid 90s. It's now clear that the hydrogen economy is a pipe dream, not remotely practical, and electric cars will take a damn long time to get in place. Worse, transforming our infrastructure from filling stations to charge-up stations is a task so colossal that America is simply going to have to move through intermediate steps in the short term. Meaning: designate at least one lane of every freeway for mopeds only. meaning: a hell of a lot more buses. Meaning: a whopping big gas tax.

These are ugly stopgap short-term measures. Unfortunately, a genuinely renewable energy economy is a long way off, and the design of our cities and suburbs just isn't conducive to simple easy reorganization of our national transpo infrastructure.

I now no longer believe in tinkerbell or the hydrogen economy, and even practical solutions like electric cars powered by nuclear plants are long, long, long long way off. As in: 30 to 50 years if we get started right now.

Since there's no sign that Americans are getting serious about Peak Oil, or that we as a nation have any intention at all of getting started weaning ourselves off oil-based transpo starting right now, time for Plan B. Mopeds, light rail, public transportion, while we work like dogs to get the rest of the changeover in place, dragging the American people kicking and screaming all the way.

[7] I once had little use for traditional conservatives like Eisenhower and Goldwater. They seemed to me obstructionists with no new ideas, driven by envy of people with imagination and idealism. After Viet Nam and the crazy new era of global war against "evildoers," I have come to distrust idealism and I have gained a whole new appreciation for the cautious pragmatism and moderation of Eisenhower and Goldwater. In particular, Barry Goldwater's warnings from 45 years ago about the ever-growing power of the state seemed looney to me back in the 70s and 80s. Today, with a gestapo society in which not producing your ID fast enough means you get tasered and beaten and handcuffed and pepper-sprayed and hurled into jail, Barry Goldwater looks like a prophet.

[8] Once upon a time I had sympathy for eco-left Greens, though I despised their anti-tech stance. But it seemed to me that wasn't a serious shortcoming. I have now changed my mind and believe that anti-tech and anti-GM-food and anti-nuclear Greens represent perhaps the single greatest threat to continued human life on this planet.

[9] I thought going into this election that it would represent the end of culture war with a resounding defeat for the far right and a return to sanity by the American people. I was wrong.

It's now entirely clear that America faces endless crisis, constantly near-perfect 49.9954% vs 50.0045% splits forever. It will never end. Forever and ever, culture will continue, it will amplify, it will deepen, it will get worse and worse and worse. Brother against brother, constant fights to the death int he media, in the op ed columns, in the senate, in the house, never-ending ever-worsening death struggle over insane trivia like flag-burning and partial-birth abortion.

I used to think things would get better. No, clearly they're won't. They're only going to get worse. American has entered a state of permanent political crisis in which the Repub party will merely get more and more extreme, more and more fanatical, more and more frenzied in its attempts (often successful) to frame the discourse and capture the public with the message that half of Americans are traitors who must be destroyed, that America is all about torture and brutality, that the basic American values are disemboweling our enemies and crucifying dissenters.

I have had a change of heart about my belief that the culture war can't continue. It can and will. What I now have a change of heart about is my faith that American can survive this. Clearly, it can't. We can't go on like this. Every presidential election deiced in a massive national crisis with court intervention, by a margin of a few thousand votes... Every presidency destroyed before it begins by crippling lack of perceived legitimacy... Every time one party wins, 49.99945% of Americans scream like wild animals that the election was stolen and the president is an illegitimate usurper, every debate on policy a devolution into a mire of cry and counter-cry of "traitors!" and "monsters!" and "your entire political party is un-American!"

No, we can't go on like this. Something is going to break, probably sooner rather than later. No nation can exist in a state of permanent crisis of governance in which politics is 100% paralysis. I now realize that, to my horror.

Anders Brink said...


I read your missive with great apprehension. I come from a different part of the world, different perspectives and outlooks, but we are more or less on the same page. Thanks for your enlightening talk about Obama being a little crazy, influenced by the neocons. This influence of the neocons will be a factor for me to think about when it comes to US politics.

As for your fear that each election will be 50-50, I am not sure what to make of it. Certainly, your point that this represents paralysis is something worth thinking about. I only have one question: what happened to Obama's popularity with the young voters, the black voters and some of the women voters? I remain hopeful that he will sweep the elections with at least a 60-40% win.

If I could offer you a beer in good cheer, I would.

Anonymous said...

Ehehe. Things that have changed:

1. Universal Health Care. But that's because from 1990's to now, the whole system broke. Broke big. Not my mind that has changed, but the world.

There's got to be someone posting on here behind an anonymous proxy or two, isn't there? And is finding out which IP address someone else is using considered a crime?

This is 1929. Roubini might not be right, but ... if he's not it still kills.

Unknown said...

As a data-driven pragmatist, my cues come from the preponderance of the available hard evidence.

The best source of cumulative hard evidence about the current polling for the 2008 presidential election seems to me to involve a mix of and other nitty-gritty long-time political experts, like Charlie Cook. These seem relatively unbiased observers. For example, I don't know who Charlie Cook supports for president, and don't care.

The methodology behind these "polls of polls" seems more sound than trusting individual polls, since, as we know, in this wacky election individual polls show wild swings and often claim diametrically opposite results. Viz., the Zogby polls consistently seem to overestimate Obama's numbers while the Gallup polls appear to consistently underestimate 'em.

As mentioned, Obama is far ahead among young people but they have an historical turnout of only 40% compared to the 70+% turnout of white males over age 55, with whom McCain is far ahead. Obama has a huge lead among black voters, but they're only 18% of the American electorate and are expected to go Democratic anyway. Obama has a big lead among hispanics, which may sway the race. Palin seems to have held her lead among suburban women, disappointingly.

So what I see from the numbers is that each group for Obama seems almost perfectly balanced by an opposite group that's voting for McCain. I continue to project a win for Obama with cautious optimism, but the electoral vote margin may be even thinner than previously anticipated. The popular vote margin for Obama is likely to be razor thin, a near statistical dead heat...leading to screams from the Repubs that Demos stole the election (mirror image of the 2000 deadlock tie from hell).

Today, 19 September 2008, the guys at are writing about the ultimate horror of total paralysis in the 2008 presidential election: a 269-269 electoral college deadlock.

That we are now talking about this as a credible possibility this late in the election cycle, suggests that we face a 2008 presidential election which will be decided (if it is at all, and if it's not a complete 269-269 deadlock) by a few thousand votes at most. Given the stakes, I expect supreme court intervention, mass riots, etc. In short, (culture war)^666.

It would delight me if the preponderance of the hard evidence showed something different. The shocking fact that in view of 8 years of insane mismanagement, gross incompetence, sociopathic hatemongering, and venality and criminality and malicious anticonstitutionality at every level of the executive branch, and the American people are still deadlocked in a 49.0% to 49.5% tie, suggests to me some pathology in the American electorate much deeper than just right vs left.

To put it bluntly, it seems at this juncture as though a Repub pres candidate could get up onstage and bite the heads off live puppies, and the Repub audience would burst into applause in a standing ovation, while Repub pundits would sagely remark, "Puppy heads have lots of vitamins," and "Biting the heads off live puppies is a long American tradition!" That's shocking and very dispiriting to me. It suggests McCain was right when he claimed "This election is not about policies." The elections aren't about the forebrain, they're all hindbrain now. Disgusting.

It remains possible that McCain's numbers will slide wildly and he'll lose in a massive landslide in November. If the economy keeps worsening, we can hape that will happen, though I sure don't want the economy to get any worse. Or we can hope that McCain makes a doddering fool of himself in the debates with Obama, while Palin comes off as a clueless Rapture-crazy moonbat against Biden. The election is now less than 7 weeks away, however, and we're still stuck, grinding our wheels in the mud at 49.5% to 49%.

If you have more reliable numbers than the weighted summary of polls at, I'd like to hear about 'em. I mean...really. I am serious, Please, please, please prove me wrong. If someone can show me I'm full of sh*t and this election isn't going to be a dead heat, puh-lease bitch-slap me in the face with the evidence that I'm full of crap. I can't take more of this. America can't go on like this, with every presidential election another repeat of the 2000 deadlock tie from hell. I desperately want to believe that this will be a blowout election in which the Repubs get crushed resoundingly in a landslide win for Obama, they'll admit they got completely clobbered, there will be no crisis of legitimacy for the Obama administration, and either the Repubs will wither away like the Whigs (as Robert as suggested) or they'll find themselves forced to reform, throw out the Limbaugh-Coulter-Malkin lunatic fringe that now controls the party, and return to sanity.

I'm just not seeing any evidence of that. Looks like the 2000 election all over again, from where I sit. Or worse: a 269-259 electoral college deadlock, decided by the house of representatives. Cities would burn if that happened.

If you know any nice women in your country who'd like to marry an American refugee who may have to emigrate, Anders, let me know. :-)

Fake_William_Shatner said...

robert said...
You know, Zorgon, that sounds very much like what I observed on one forum when I was trying to convince otherwise-intelligent people that the Twin Towers could fall because of the fires from the airline crashes. They refused to comprehend that the girders holding up the building didn't need to melt... they just needed to soften to the point that the mass above them caused structural failure to cause the collapse. Yet even with scientific evidence and mathematical formulas proving this point, they dug in deeper and refused to admit the truth.

Robert -- agreeing with you is NOT an example of seeing reason. You are trying to tell us there is a mathematical model for the WTC collapse -- that would require a 3Dimensional structural model with load, heat differential, and physics models in place. I haven't seen one like that -- I've seen a badly rigged model the government tried to pass off on us.

If the joists merely weakened by the fire -- all the way around and equally. I'd expect to see all of the glass around the perimeter melted since it's a few feet from the outer wall. I didn't. Also, the inner connectors, that are supposed to weaken in a pancake collapse -- how do they pull down the core? Either the floor breaks away from its supports as it smacks down on the lower level -- or it doesn't. You cannot have the inner core collapsing, if you are looking at a failure of the connectors. It should have looked like a collapsed umbrella -- but the core LED the collapse.

I'm sure there is ban on talking about this issue here. People are not emotionally ready to deal with it. But I look at the video footage, and I see twenty stories tilt over on the north tower -- and apparently the wind they pass through turns them into dust in mid-air.

I'm thinking that is a bit more "up in the air" as far as FACTS then showing that supply-side economics is bunk.

We also have to see the groundwork for the current Economic collapse -- there is no other way for me to put it, in the convenience of the destruction of building 7. There is no mistake here -- these folks like Paulson. Bernanke, Greenspan -- they all should have known what would be the result of letting banks speculate, we all saw it in the S&L bailout at the end of the 80's.
"For example, the offices conducting then-Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's investigation of 2.3 trillion - that's TRILLION [ ] - dollars missing at the Pentagon (9/10/01 C-SPAN) were destroyed in the attack on the Pentagon. Evidence relevant to the Security & Exchange Commission (SEC) investigations of Worldcom and Enron - re: the $70 billion electric power swindle in California - was destroyed when Tower # 7, which housed SEC offices, collapsed a few hours after the Twin Towers. Both investigations disappeared. "

I'd also ad that there was an investigation of fraudulent Fed Notes that were pushed by the Bush family, to the tune of BILLIONS, that was due to go against them in a court of law -- that evidence was destroyed as well. Also, apparently, the kerosene explosion destroyed about $65 Billion in gold bullion in the vaults of building 7 -- because nobody found it. Amazing what a pancake collapse can do.

>> So I can't rightly sit back and let ANYONE just pass this idea that the 9/11 attacks are an issue that was settled without a doubt. No, Bush got REALLY LUCKY on that day.

Acacia H. said...

*sigh* There's more to buildings, especially skyscrapers, than merely the outer walls. With buildings the size of the WTC, you need inner support struts and the like. It was these that failed.

When the airplanes went into the WTC, a large amount of fuel was dumped inside the buildings. This went through several floors of the building, and due to the influx of air through broken windows the fires and the burning fuel was encouraged further into the building.

When the WTC collapsed, it was almost an implosion. This is because the inner support structure of the Twin Towers suffered deformation and warping due to the heat. This caused part of the floor to collapse, resulting in increased pressure on the supports that were undergoing heat stress. Further, the loss of structural support to upper floors above the collapse area resulted in further collapses, increasing the stress on a few overwhelmed girders.

Literally, the World Trade Center buildings fell in on themselves. As the interior of the buildings gutted, the exteriors, without the support of those interior girders, buckled and fell in on themselves as well. It is very much like a deck of cards... where the "floors" of the decks fell in, causing the outer walls to mostly fall inward.

Remember, you do not need to melt a girder in order for it to fail. The hotter metal becomes, the more malleable it becomes. As a result, it will suffer stresses easier, undergo deformation, and fail.

The World Trade Center Towers were doomed as soon as the airplanes crashed into them. They just didn't immediately collapse, which is why so few people (relatively) died.

There's no government cover up, no Republican conspiracy. There is signs that the Shrub Administration ignored warnings of what was going to happen and thus were caught with their pants around their ankles. But the collapse itself can easily be explained by simple metallurgical and structural concepts.

Rob H.

NoOne said...

zorgon said "I can't take more of this. America can't go on like this, with every presidential election another repeat of the 2000 deadlock tie from hell. I desperately want to believe that this will be a blowout election in which the Repubs get crushed resoundingly in a landslide win for Obama"

I hear real pain in these words. Quite moving as a matter of fact.

When I showed a religious, conservative acquaintance of mine David's blog, he promised to spend some time on it and give me his opinion. Do you know what he said?

His conclusion (nay judgement) was that we (on this blog) don't get it. He's looking for meaning, purpose, a sense of belonging, a pattern that connects and resonates deep inside and informs him of where we're all headed. Science/technology and *facts* don't cut it. It's meaning, belief, faith and values.

This is where science, technology and math have utterly failed us. While a small fraction (like this blog's denizens) get the beauty of math, the wonder of science and the promise of technology, the vast masses don't. Until this changes, there'll be no change.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

Z: I stopped reading at:
"I'm truly ashamed of myself by buying any of Brin's extremist arguments in favor of total transparency..."

I deleted my first response, though you deserved that version. In spades.

Find where I said anything even remotely like that. Find it. I dare you .

Clearly, you are in love with strawmen. You self-describe /diagnose that problem in your own past. You never even saw a copy of The Transparent Society , let alone touched one. (ew!) Nor realized it is nuanced and complex and multi-viewed and moderate and the diametric opposite of everything you've slurred me as saying.

David Brin said...

My friend Joe Carroll offers this timely bit:

"Remember that the head of the SEC for the last 3 years has been Chris Cox,
the former Orange County Republican congressman who instigated the famous
96 investigation of Gore (that led to larger penalties being recommended
against the Republicans than the Democrats), and also the famous "Cox
Report" (which was as full of innuendo and unproven charges as most claims
by Joe McCarthy). I think that the Cox Report was the main factor that led
to the 1999 redefinition of ALL spacecraft and support systems as munitions
requiring State Department export control. My strong suspicion is that he
did that to get at Bernie Schwartz of Loral, who was more dependent on Long
March launches than anybody else in the US, and was on the board of
governors of the Democratic party. That change has hurt far more than
Loral. Cox's trademark is a naive single-minded focus on one issue, which
leads to serious "friendly fire" damage to his friends and/or the rest of
the country.

"Possibly Cox has learned from his experiences, and has been a good SEC
chief. But I suspect not. In fact, I suspect that the melt-down is
occurring now rather than after the election largely because fixes
engineered next year would not be as generous as fixes engineered now.

"Fortunately, there may be time for some serious investigative reporting
between now and election day."

What this typifies is the way major positions in the Bushadmin were selected entirely for the basest possible political reasons.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Zorgon the malevolent said...

City uses DNA analysis of dog poop to track & fine dog owners.

Zorgon. I think you are a genius, but you may be bi-polar or you just like to pick fights.

Brin is a lot more subtle in his ideas about Transparency-- I think there will be some benefits, but the negatives will outweigh the positives.

Much like the positives of Globalism, allowing products to be made more efficiently, and then we more educated folks can move from making textiles and potato chips to computers and airplanes. While the negatives are there, because it allowed multinational corporations with none of our interests to merely lowball wages. IN the REAL WORLD, the Chinese and Indians will be making those things, and we will be exchanging paper for different piles of paper.

If you have a fascist state - all those cameras may SEEM like they can catch the elite at their own game, but they will always lose the video tapes, if it can incriminate a favored person.

Your point about the dog poop, I think is actually the perfect example. Here we have an economy, based upon PERFECT POLICE ACTION, spending resources on yet another way to track down evil-doers, and instead, they could have spent less money to give people places to let their dogs poop. Maybe a fountain with a big sewer filter.

But the resources go into catching people, for trivial offenses. Dog poop is not going to bring down America, yet there is more oversight of every damn pet in America than there is with Lehman Brother's.

WE CAN ONLY PAY ATTENTION TO A FEW THINGS. We may already have a transparent society -- yet things can hide in plane sight. We have a war on drugs, when anyone with a browser can find in 5 seconds, hundreds of documents that show it does no good, and that the CIA is probably involved in a lot of the imports. People are too busy looking at the dog poop offenders, to stop Paulson from handing out fantasy dollars to companies that gambled and lost.

Anyone figure out that our security response to 9/11 has merely been to create a public works project, but instead of building bridges we frisk old ladies at airports? The Conservatives would go ballistic if we did another Public Works campaign like we had under FDR -- and that's why I have no respect for their platform. They don't blink at spending billions on a nuclear sub, but cry like stuck pigs when we WASTE money on school lunches for poor kids. This SHOULD BE, an transparent and obvious fact, since a person can find all this information. But do we act on this unless we hear an echo in the media? Or do we go back to work to pay bills for video games?

>> There is not even a tiny bit of advance in transparency with the doggy detector. The only good advance I've seen is our ability to google information and find clips on u-tube -- which may go by-by with the next corporate-sponsored rule to protect the kids or stop e-terrorists or some lame ass excuse.

>> I can see pro and con to the transparent society argument -- I just think you unfairly made Dr. Brin a straw man for the points you are making. Just calling it like I see it -- even if David Brin thinks I'm a conspiracy nut and edits my posts. ;-)

>> Brin said; "Except - um - that this "logical" dynamic bears no resemblance, whatsoever, with what actually happens. Ddid the people toss out Bill Clinton, over Monica? Or did they, by huge majorities, say they wanted Hillary to slap his wrist and then put him back to work? (Look back at the poll numbers.)"

When all the horrible talk shows like Jerry Springer started "springing up" -- I had an enlightened point of view of the matter. I thought, gee, now everyone will be less upset by minor peccadilloes, because, we will all find that we have a drag queen somewhere in the family closet. It's a mixed bag as far as the response of tolerance goes. I think we get more tolerant, whenever a Conservative leader gets caught at something. Is this better, or are we lowering the bar? At least Mark Foley didn't run over a school bus.

I think there is another aspect here -- humans have a limit to how much emotions they can attach to data. By the time we have watched our 3 hours of TV -- we are no longer capable of responding to the Orange Terror Alert. I'm not sure if we are tolerant or merely suffering from apathy.

Brin said; "PEOPLE ARE NOT ALL FOOLS. " Individually -- yes. But every time you get a group of people together -- they seem to get dumber. IN a study of squirrels, scientists built up one of the nests. Seeing this, all the other squirrels in the area added to their nests to make it the same size. All mammals respond to this, so that people in the USA, end up in huge homes and SUVs -- they THINK they made a rational choice, but that would have been to save the money and by a small trailer to pull behind the car, and just to get a smaller home and enjoy a bigger yard.

People make decisions -- for the most part, for emotional reasons, and we use our complex brain to find a rationale for that decision.

Here is a study, that shows that Conservatives, actually become more resistant to a contrary idea if it is presented with facts;

Fake_William_Shatner said...


I might be using that link to your study as my tag line. LOL.


"When the WTC collapsed, it was almost an implosion. This is because the inner support structure of the Twin Towers suffered deformation and warping due to the heat."

Nice theory there. The government has had more time to dream up this nonsense--reminds me of the various reasons we went into Iraq. Now we stay because we care -- even though they want us out. Ignore the Iraqi president asking for a timeline -- who is he anyway? Let's not think of 9/11, without the context of the organization that is telling us that they can hide everything and we should just trust them.

>> An implosion can happen if you have an air-tight seal, the blowback from an oxygen starved fire, or a demolition.

Since I didn't see windows cavitate, and we can't go by the firemen who heard explosions on the lower floors and a janitor who barely survived a blast in the basement, and we have to ignore the white hot molten steel 2 weeks later that is not possible with anything in a conventional fire, and we ignore the magic kerosene power that makes the magic bullet look like an underachiever -- we will have to go with blowback.

That would mean the fire was not burning at optimum. It was a 1000 degrees too cold at optimum to melt steel, and if it was oxygen starved up to a point where a sudden influx of oxygen caused the implosion -- well then it is even colder. There is a difference between heat and temperature -- and while the theoretical heat levels, are imagined at their ultimate peak with pure oxygen, it would have taken many hours (according to engineers and physicists) to build up enough heat. We are talking about iron here -- and it takes a lot more to weaken it because the heat gets distributed. There was a fire that raged for about 3 hours and consumed two or three floors on the North Tower before it was opened -- they installed sprinklers because of this. There was also a very powerful bomb that went off -- far exceeding anything an airplane can do. A pure stretch is to say that it reduced 50% of the load bearing strength. They were designed around 4 times load.

Though spectacular, an airplane fire on ANY steel building, could not bring it down in under three hours, and I'd say it would be at least 12 hours of a raging fire before we see any steel building fall due to fire. I've yet to see ONE -- and yet we hear this theory about three of them doing it.

>> This false flag is not a big deal -- we've had it with almost every major war we've ever been involved in. The CIA just admitted last year that the Lusitania was a false flag -- what do we say to all the people we ridiculed for thinking that many years ago? "Um, sorry, I was busy following the heard." The current Economic failure, is going to affect more people -- and poverty, in a country of 300 million with expensive health care, does mean deaths. Many more than 10 WTC collapses.

>> Roberts said;"*sigh* There's more to buildings, especially skyscrapers, than merely the outer walls. With buildings the size of the WTC, you need inner support struts and the like. It was these that failed."
Maybe other people cannot model complex structures in their heads and visualize the actual physics like I can -- perhaps I'm a mutant. But let me walk you through this; Inside wall support fails -- leaving no connection to the inner core. ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME SO FAR? OK, now what pulled down the core of the building? The super power dust? It's a stretch that there was enough heat to weaken the supports -- it's mind-boggling to think that it would destroy the inner steel tubes that create the core. This "theory" leaves nothing to pull down the core of the building. It should have taken 60 to 90 seconds to pancake collapse (sorry, that's physics getting in the way there because each floor has to transfer energy), and you would have had at least 60 stories or more of the core sticking up.

The WTC was designed, actually, to be hit by 3 fully loaded airplanes the size of 747's, because just before it was built, the Empire State Building got hit by a large military plane. I'm also guessing, that's when we started adding blinking lights to tall buildings as well.

Cliff said...

If the economy keeps worsening, we can hape that will happen, though I sure don't want the economy to get any worse.

There is a silver lining to the shitstorm that's brewing up that's extremely heartening to me.

The silver lining is that now we have a tangible, visible, immediate and harmful consequence to eight years of neocon rule.

"But Cliff," you might be saying, "we had tangible consequences in the 4000+ dead soldiers, the billions in debt, global warming, etc. etc."

Not that the greater public saw. The dead soldiers are in Iraq, global warming means maybe some harsher weather but that's arguable, the corruption in the civil services is hidden - you have to be at least some what of a policy wonk to see what's going on.

But banks are dying. They're imploding. The government had to spend $85 billion dollars to bail out AIG in order to prevent far worse consequences that would result from its collapse.
You can't argue this. It's a fact. It's a slap in the face. It's the chaos out there for everyone to see. No more twisting around and blaming the hippies. This is Adam Smith's ghost ringing the dinner bell, shouting "Come get your shit sandwich!"

There's a few folks trying to point and scream at Clinton, but they can't hide the fact that 100 year old multi-billion dollar businesses don't collapse overnight. They can't hide the fact that, at best, Bush has had seven years to identify and correct these fundamental systemic problems, and has failed miserably.

David Brin said...

Aw, man... What is it, the lack of sunspots? You guys are all going quite nuts.

ANybody who believes that 500+ government agents could manage to coordinate something so intricate and perfectly timed... WHILE relying on every one of them deciding simultaneously to betray his country spectacularly, murderously and heinously, under circumstances where the FIRST SQUEALER would be a national hero and every other member drawn and quartered...

Man, such contempt surpasses even Zorgon's.

Yes, we've been ruled by a malignant and ruinous and deliberate conspiracy. But the actually deliberately treasonous part was limited to maybe five guys. The others were all venal rationalizers. Alas, those five were "manchurians" at the very top, where competence wasn't needed. Only persistence.

As for transparency, the dolts who never ever look around and realize it is ALREADY the one thing that got them the privacy and freedom they already have....

Oh, why do I bother. It MUST be the lack of sunspots...

David Brin said...

Last week, the neocons became the biggest socialists in the world, nationalizing about 600 billion dollars in assets and obligations...

...and today they make that minuscule, effectively creating a National Mortgage Agency, assuming the bad debts of a hundred thousand jerks who ought to be on a big chain gang, right now.

It is the biggest act of socialism in the US, ever, making even FDR look like a piker.

Matt DeBlass said...

Forgive me if I missed anything by merely skimming some of the longer posts. Anyway, my meager understanding of a couple things:

Total transparency would make for a radically different society, I admit, but I'm fairly confident we could get used to it. After all, our current concept of privacy is fairly recent in our evolution. For many years we've lived in small villages and one-room homes where sex education meant mom and dad didn't check to make sure junior was asleep first, and pretty much everybody knew everybody's business. Before that, our forebears more or less lived in small bands in the open. Not that I'm suggesting a return to that, but I'm just saying that people's brains are wired to deal with that.

But I think the point of Dr. Brin's transparent society is not so much that Big Brother can find out whether or not I'm brushing my teeth twice a day or whether I have a tendency to visit websites featuring the more interesting interactions of consenting adults. If Big Brother really wants to know that, I'm sure he can find out. The point, as I understand it, is that while Big Brother is looking at us, we, the people, are allowed to look back..

Yeah, it'll probably lead to some silly scandals and obsession with minutia (sort of like TMZ, I suppose), but I'm pretty confident that we'll get over it.

(by the way, in the interest of disclosure on transparency, I'm a member of the media - specifically I'm a reporter for a local newspaper - so I may be considered biased)

@ Tesla Roadster - It's not a practical car, and it'll never be a mainstream car, but it serves an important function, I think, in that it makes electric cars sexy.

Most of us will never be able to afford a Tesla Roadster, but it might pave the way for more affordable machines using derivative technology (I can see ads for them running something like the Saab ads that talk about how they were designed by jet engineers, "from the team that brought you the now-legendary Roadster, the world's greatest electric car design goes from Hollywood Boulevard to Main Street" or something of that ilk).

Also, very interesting, is the Chevy Volt. GM has staked a lot on this project, it's kind of their moon shot. But if they can pull it off, it'll be amazing.

I've said before, we'll never save the world by pitting environmental interests against the interests of Big Business, they've got to be one and the same, alt energy, super-efficient cars, whatever.

David Brin said...

We got our freedom by dividing the elites into reciprocally antagonistic lumps and siccing them on each other. NOT by expecting every little guy to have equal power to every big guy.

Transparency has (emphasis on past and present tense) until recently helped us keep the elites separate, warring and under scrutiny.

The underlying Bush Era project has been to work treaties among clades of elites to break this pattern. A standard method used by nobles of old. Unit against the peasants. Only the Civil Service stood in the way, hence the top priority of bullying it into submission.

Transparency is the ONLY way to catch this and insist on a breakup of consolidated power. Those who deny it's how we already got our freedom should offer a different theory. There's none.

As for those saying I promote "radical" or total transparency, they are fools and complete diametric liars.

Anonymous said...

The following stories were important in helping me to understand a) the current financial crises and b) how lack of oversight (a.k.a. deregulation according to Republicans) contributes to these problems

A story on This American Life about SEC Chairman Cox and how he actually didn't want to do anything. Story starts about 34 1/2 minutes in.

An explanation of what happened with AIG - removing oversight in 2000 There are two interviews on this page, the one at the bottom is a primer on the sub-prime market, the one on the top is about the ramifications of the current state of things.

Anonymous said...


Dr. Brin?

You're talking about FASCISM.

Off to beat myself in the forehead with a ball peen hammer and then weep.

Unknown said...

David, looks like your Ostrich campaign might be catching on:

The Great Schlep: Jewish grandkids get an earful in Florida as they try to woo relatives toward Obama.

Anonymous said...

One thing I would like to see is using the Government actuary's assessment of the value of a life(6.9 million) as a basis to convict directors of firms involved in these collapses of murder on the basis that 6.9 mil = 1 human life.

That would mean that the Lehman collapse with it's loss of 3.9 bil would result in directors being charged with the death of 565 people.

Of course we could be really mean and charge the based on the Stanford value of $129,000. Or perhaps that is just what they deserve?

David Brin said...

Fascism, yup.

Nazi= National Socialist Worker's Party. But in fact, socialism in which the prussian aristocracy was allowed to keep most of the money, so long as they surrendered all the power to the fanatics.

Anonymous said...

A few points to chime in on, if I may:


Do you have your own blog? If you don't, you should. We'll come visit.

In your post, however, you murdered von Hayek, and you did it because of the first error that people make when having discussions about political economy- they define terms incorrectly, and argue without understanding the definition that their opponent uses. I once had a roommate who was a red-diaper baby communist (mom had pictures of Lenin on the wall!) from Santa Monica. She was a great girl, in many ways, and we had the same taste in about everything (food, music, movies, clothing, books)... except politics. We would argue with each other until we were blue in the face, and part of it was that we mis-understood the way we used terminology.

When I'd say Capitalism, I was thinking "free market". Entrepreneurism, small business, lassiez-faire, the whole bit- everything that Ayn Rand supported. When she said "Capitalism", she was thinking "corruption and cronyism"- huge corporations sucking at the government teat, manipulating politicians, monopolizing industries, and driving people out of business using the strong arm of the law- basically, everything that Ayn Rand hated (most of the villains of Atlas Shrugged were just "capitalists" of this variety). The day that I realized this, however, was the day that I stopped engaging in deeply partisan political battles- you can't win an argument unless you can agree on the meanings of words.

This brings us to Hayek. I'm not as stridently libertarian as I used to be- I've gone from a bit of a Randroid to being more of a Hayek/Rawls ("Rawlsekian" as Will Wilkinson put it) liberal. But I take umbrage when people misunderstand what Hayek meant by socialism. The Road to Serfdom was an argument against two phenomena which were popular in the early 20th century-

-Central Economic Planning
-State Ownership of Property and the Means of Production

That's "socialism".

Can you think of any socialists today? You mention Blair, Brown, and Merkel... BZZZZZ! Wrong! Blair and Brown's Labour Party, while it's still a member of the Socialist International, is socialist in name only- they're a center-right neoliberal party these days, little different from their Tory opponents. Merkel? Merkel is a Christian Democrat- the German conservative party. Definitely no socialist.

Real socialism, by Hayek's definition, never came to Western Europe. Or America, or Canada.

The "safety net" welfare state is NOT socialism. Public works projects done for building necessary infrastructure- NOT socialism. Keynesian monetary policy? Not socialism.

In the fifteen years that I've been observing politics, I've only seen two major acts that would constitute socialism in America- and they've happened in the last two weeks.

And which party was responsible?

Yes, take a guess.

As far as socialism in other countries, and psychopaths rising to the top- yes, that has happened, on a very frequent basis. Mao? Stalin? Pol Pot? Saddam Hussein? The Kims? The Assads? The ruling juntas of much of Latin America throughout the mid-20th century?
(You could argue those are communists, but not by my definition- "state control of the economy" means socialism. Communism is an illusion that has never really been put into practice- the USSR was the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; China's "Communist" Party was- and still claims to be- dedicated to building "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics". Communism is seen as an end point that would happen AFTER the economies of the world were brought to a stage of total development, either by capitalism or socialism. We've never been there- and, since I have a feeling Marx was wrong- we never will be.)

Where it hasn't happened is in developed, welfare-capitalist countries. Countries with socialist, state-controlled economies on the other hand always seem to give way to ruthless dictators... with a few exceptions.

Those few exceptions were countries previously controlled by the British Empire, which had strong British common-law legal systems and a leadership dedicated to their principles. While Pandit Nehru was no economist, he was a wise, liberal leader who held together a huge, fragile democracy through it's early years- and India is the better for it today. Likewise, Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew, while ruthless in acquiring power and keeping it, has been equally ruthless in stopping the corruption that plagues every other autocratic economy.


You raised a very, very important point, that I last heard several candidates bring up after the 2004 election. This (post)modern world, with it's extreme autonomy and alienation, is off-putting to most people. Hell, I feel it very, very frequently. Obama and McCain both appeal to "community" in different ways. Here's an example, a passage from Obama's "Dreams of my Father":

"... As we walked back to the car, we passed a small clothing store full of cheap dresses and brightly colored sweaters, two aging white mannequins now painted black in the window. The store was poorly lit, but toward the back I could make out the figure of a young Korean woman sewing by hand as a child slept beside her.

The scene took me back to my childhood, back to the markets of Indonesia: the hawkers, the leather workers, the old women chewing betel nut and swatting flies off their fruit with whisk brooms ... I saw those Djakarta markets for what they were: fragile, precious things. The people who sold their goods there might have been poor, poorer even than folks out in Altgeld [the Chicago housing project where Obama engaged in community organizing]. They hauled fifty pounds of firewood on their backs every day, they ate little, they died young. And yet for all that poverty, there remained in their lives a discernible order, a tapestry of trading routes and middlemen, bribes to pay and customs to observe, the habits of a generation played out every day beneath the bargaining and the noise and the swirling dust. It was the absence of such coherence that made a place like Altgeld so desperate, I thought to myself."

People stripped of this comfort seek it out through politics- especially suburban white "nuclear families". Contrary to what I often hear asserted by the pro-family wing of the conservative movement, I think the nuclear family is extremely weak and fragile, and has never been a survivable entity. The real "social safety net" isn't the nuclear family, it's the large, tight-knit extended family. Mom fails? You have redundancies- grandma and aunts. Dad fails? You have redundancies- grandpa and uncles. We're so mobile today that we lose that. Rather than taking advantage of our extended families, we often see them once a year; and pack our parents off into the retirement home in their old age. I'm happy that I got to grow up in a large extended family, next door to my grandparents, at a house where my aunts and uncles would congregate for lunch every day. That I grew up going to a small community church, not an impersonal megachurch. A community where my teachers had time for me, I wasn't just a statistic. I had a very "conservative" upbringing- yet, at the same time, my whole family is, in their political orientation, liberal!

Why is this?

Because liberals aren't afraid of the threats to their family and institutions that conservatives usually play upon, because their institutions and family are strong enough to face them without difficulty. This is the same reason East Asians in America, despite having very conservative personal values, tend to vote Democrat- they have their own communities and institutions. These are the only way to get through turbulent times- and all times are turbulent. We're coming out of a brief "vacation from history", and, when the going gets rough, it's time to turn to community.

But you don't look to the voting booth for that.

Okay, sorry about this very long-winded post. I didn't want to pull a Zorgon, but it happens... I hope Dr. Brin will forgive me. ;)

Unknown said...

TIme once again to point out that Dr. Brin is correct. He's right about 80% of the
time, so this is not unusual, but fairness compels me to point it out once again.

Brin forwarded a missive from Joe Carroll that points out the vile history of the slimy poltical appointee Chris Cox. Turns out SEC Regulatory Exemptions Helped Lead to Collapse.
"As we learn this morning via Julie Satow of the NY Sun, special exemptions from the SEC are in large part responsible for the huge build up in financial sector leverage over the past 4 years -- as well as the massive current unwind.
Satow interviews the above quoted former SEC director, and he spits out the blunt truth: The current excess leverage now unwinding was the result of a purposeful SEC exemption given to five firms.
You read that right -- the events of the past year are not a mere accident, but are the results of a conscious and willful SEC decision to allow these firms to legally violate existing net capital rules that, in the past 30 years, had limited broker dealers debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1.
Instead, the 2004 exemption -- given only to 5 firms -- allowed them to lever up 30 and even 40 to 1.
Who were the five that received this special exemption? You won't be surprised to learn that they were Goldman, Merrill, Lehman, Bear Stearns, and Morgan Stanley.
As Mr. Pickard points out that "The proof is in the pudding — three of the five broker-dealers have blown up."

Brin is also correct in pointing out the absurdity as well as the simple contrafactual proven incorrectness of conspiracy theories about the twin towers collapse.

Robert is also correct in pointing out that the fire softened the structural steel inside the World Trade Center, and thus arguments involving the fire's temperature simply don't deal with the basic science behind the twin towers collapse.

However, there's a lot of evidence converging on the conclusion that the WTC collapse was indeed due to the fire and not controlled demolition, or, as my democrat neighbor claims vociferously, phaser beams (!) from a defense department satellite.

You want crazy, Dr. Brin? That's crazy.

The two best general sources of info debunking 9/11 twin towers collapse conspiracy theories are:
Link 1.
Link 2.

As David Hume remarked when skeptically evaluating claims about religious miracles, we must apply the test that enough evidence of sufficiently high quality must be provided for a miracle that a reasonable person would find it more extraordinary that the miracle didn't happen, than that there is a pedestrian but merely unlikely mundane explanation. In short, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence -- at a minimum, at least the kind of hard forensic evidence we typically demand to convict someone of a murder in a court of law. That means not just eyewitness testimony, and not just forensic evidence, and not just a pattern of coincidence, but much more, forming a cohesive pattern of comprehensive evidence that convinces us beyond a reasonable doubt.

We must apply the same test to extraordinary claims like controlled demolition or an "inside job" for the WTC collapse.

This means that we would require not just multiple insiders to come forward and testify they were involved (no one has done so); not just forensic evidence, say, from taggants in the military explosives allegedly used to blow up the twin towers by the CIA (once again, this evidence doesn't appear to exist); not just a pattern of suspicious coincidence (there are a few coincidences surrounding the 9/11 hijacking, but not many -- for example, the national air traffic control system didn't mysterious glitch and stop giving transponder info when Mohammed Atta's 757 took off and started flying toward the WTC, which we might expect in a conspiracy. Likewise, none of the 19 hijackers had inexplicably blank pasts, which we might expect if they were CIA agents. There's nothing mysterious about how the 9/11 hijackers got their pilot training...and so on.)

In short, none of the so-called "evidence" brought forward in films like Loose Change even rises to the level of rumour, much less proves sufficient to convict anyone of anything in a court of law. The so-called "evidence" for a 9/11 conspiracy is not only no extraordinary, it isn't even ordinary -- it's not even at the level we'd demand for a traffic citation, for instance.

Robert, there's more to be said about the reason the WTC collapsed in the fire.

The Twin Towers had a unique construction, different from all other skyscrapers that have ever been built. That's the real reason why the WTC collapsed, while no other skyscraper has imploded due to a fire.

Faced with the difficulties of building to unprecedented heights, the engineers employed an innovative structural model: a rigid "hollow tube" of closely spaced steel columns with floor trusses extended across to a central core. The columns, finished with a silver-colored aluminum alloy, were 18 3/4" wide and set only 22" apart, making the towers appear from afar to have no windows at all.

Also unique to the engineering design were its core and elevator system. The twin towers were the first supertall buildings designed without any masonry. Worried that the intense air pressure created by the buildings's high speed elevators might buckle conventional shafts, engineers designed a solution using a drywall system fixed to the reinforced steel core. For the elevators, to serve 110 stories with a traditional configuration would have required half the area of the lower stories be used for shaftways. Otis Elevators developed an express and local system, whereby passengers would change at "sky lobbies" on the 44th and 78th floors, halving the number of shaftways.

At the time of its construction, the twin towers of the WTC were the tallest buildings in the world. This spurred radical innovation in their design. However, if you study the WTC design closely, you discover that a key issue was also to maximize rentable floor space. This ultimately proved unwise, and led to the towers' collapse.

75 percent of the floor space in each tower was rentable, a significant improvement over 62 percent, the highest yield achieved in earlier skyscrapers.
That 75 percent was also made possible by another innovation. Previous high-rises had relied for their structural integrity on a forest of supporting columns on each floor. Typically, architects spaced these 30 feet apart throughout the interior. The exterior walls of such buildings were merely curtain walls, which let light in and kept weather out but provided little support.
Such was not the case in the World Trade Center. Consulting engineers Leslie Robertson and John Skilling invented an entirely new method of construction. The forest of interior columns vanished; such columns only appeared in and around the central core of elevator shafts, stairwells, and bathrooms. Then it was nothing but open space—60 feet of it on two sides, 35 on the other two sides—before one reached the outside walls. These were not curtain walls but cages of steel columns spaced just over a yard apart, with 22 inches of glass in between. (Minoru Yamasaki, the building's architect, designed it this way in part because he was insecure with heights and felt more comfortable with such narrow windows.)
The shafts of steel in the exterior walls shouldered not only gravity loads pressing down from above but also lateral loads caused by gusty winds nudging the building from the side.


The key here is the phrase "The shafts of steel in the exterior walls shouldered not only gravity loads pressing down from above but also lateral loads."

Unlike all other skyscrapers, the twin towers did not consist of a dense interlocked network of steel griders forming a structural cage. Instead, the twin towers used a design like two tubes, one inside the other. You can see just by thinking about it that a dnesely interlocked set of steel girders is much more structurally resistant to damage than two concentric hollow tubes. However, it's important we understand why the 2-tube construction was used: to increase the amount of rentable floorspace, which translates to "get more money."

When the fire reached 1100 degrees F, the inner tube, the inner set of steel supports, buckled. Since the other tube of supports now had extreme lateral as well as vertical stress, it buckled too, resulting in a series of sudden collapses. Traditional steel girder construction would not have collapsed this way, because there's a network of interlocking girders connecting all the points on each floor of the WTC. But the Twin Towers' unique construction did NOT feature all those interlocking girders, because it would've cut down on rentable floorspace.

So if you want the ultimate answer why the twin towers collapsed in the fire when no other skyscraper ever has, the answer is simple: greed.

In an effort to maximize rentable floorspace, the WTC used a design that turned out to be fine for normal conditions...but disastrous if a 757 fully loaded with fuel slammed into it.

It's worth mentioning that at the time the WTC was designed, commercial jet planes loaded with fuel did not yet exist. So it's unfair to condemn the WTC twin towers architect for not foreseeing that a 757 would slam into the building loaded with 50,000 gallons of jet fuel, because 757's didn't exist in 1962. In fact, the first commercial U.S. jetliner, the 707, had not yet gone into service in 1962, when the WTC twin towers were designed.

So the next time someone tries to spin a conspiracy theory about the 9/11 twin towers collapse, just point 'em to those debunking pages and remind 'em of the unique construction of the WTC. No other skyscraper has ever pancaked like that in a fire because no other skyscraper has ever used the unique and peculiar double-tube construction of the WTC.

David Brin said...

There is an aroma of the better Zoregon, in that last post. So, shall I forgive and forget that he ascribed to me beliefs that are absolutely diametrically opposite to those expressed in The Transparent Society, or that he implies that he read it, when, in fact, he could not possibly have even seen a copy?

I leave it up to you guys.

I do know that the previous post (by the Bizarro Z) included fabulations about the positions of F Hayek, as well.

You can tell when a libertarian is growing up, when he (usually he) shifts from loony Rand to cogent and interesting Hayek, whose fundamental premise is that flawed knowledge always screws up asset-allocation decisions, and hence the more competitive and knowledgeable players, the better accountable a system will be and the more errors get discovered. His complaint about socialism is not that it is state-run, but that it inherently reduces the number of competing players to a level where human self-delusion will inevitably lead to massive errors.

THE SAME DELUSIONS could happen under any other system of GAR (Guided Allocation of Resources), including many that are NOT socialistic, like monarchal/aristocratic cronyism or too-narrowly monopolistic capitalism. As we are seeing right now!

Cultists who believe in Faith In Blind Markets FIBM may draw upon Hayek, but they do not follow him, because they make excuses for monopolists and aristocrats, simply because they aren't socialists. I don't know, but I would guess that Hayek would call them just as foolish as any other cult.

Unknown said...

Nicholas McDonald:
You claim I made the error of defining terms incorrectly -- then you turn around and clearly define your terms incorrectly in your failed and faulty counterargument.

You claim:

-Central Economic Planning
-State Ownership of Property and the Means of Production

That's "socialism".

No, entirely incorrect. Socialism runs the full range from Shaker barn-raisings to credit unions to FDIC insurance to Japanese keiretsus (interlocking companies directed by a single central board of directors) to Koren chaebols (combination private-public corporate entities partially directed and financed by the Korean government) to the U.S. Federal Reserve banking system (a quasi-public entity with a half-and-half mix of public and private features) to bureaucratically dominated state-funded and state-controlled organs like the British National Health Service, to completely state-owned and state-controlled industrial systems like the USSR.

Is a Shaker barn-raising "central economic planning"? Obviously not. Yet it's one form of socialism, just as much as the USSR's planned economy. Shaker barn-raising merely represents one end of the range of socialism, while the USSR represents the other.

Do Korea's chaebols represent state ownership of property and means of production?

Clearly not.

Your inability to distinguish between these crucially important types of economies tells us (a) that you don't understand what socialism is; and (b) you can't be taken seriously when you discuss economics.

Among Western nations, Adam Smith and Locke and Rousseau and Hobbes are the great theorists of modern economics. Current Western economies in the first world are based on the ideas of these philosophers.

Among Asian nations, however, Friedrich List and Georg Friedrich Hegel are the great theorists of modern economics. Current Asian economies in the Pacific Rim, the Little Tigers, as well as Japan and Taiwan, all base their economies on the ideas of these philosophers.

Neither you nor Dr. Brin seem to be familiar with the economic theories of Friedrich List, and so neither of you can be taken seriously when you purport to discuss economics.

Here's a link to a brief summary of Friedrich List's economic ideas.

Brin often makes the claim that Adam Smith's ideas about economics are the best known way to run an economy. This is of course false, as we'd expect when Dr. Brin makes claims about the field of economics. The ideas of Friedrich List also work in the real world and are also optimum, but for different things in different ways. Adam Smith's ideas optimize for consumption, while Friedrich List's ideas optimize for production. Adam Smith's ideas work best for import-driven economies, while Friedrich List's ideas work best for export-driven economies.

To prove that you'll familiar with what I'm talking about, please quote paragraph 2 on page 17 of Friedrich List's The National System of Political Economy.

When you fail to do so, we'll all know that both you and Brin are unfamiliar with the source material and you're faking it, trying to bluff your way through a discussion of economics when you in fact appear to be pervasively uninformed about the subject.

Unknown said...

Concerning the real consequences of real economic policies in the real world -- they do matter.

That's why I'm getting a little tired of all the talk about Adam Smith's golden wisdom. Smith lived in and talked about a world in which manufacturing meant small workshops turning out handmade goods rather than giant factories opulated by robots or Asian computer-code sweatshops piping their "product" back to other countries via the internet; and to Adam Smith, "businesses" meant one guy with some gold coins financing the purchase of some textile looms or Maudslay lathes, not giant multinational vertically integrated monopolistic corporations. So the applicability of Smith's claims to a modern economy remains somewhat suspect and seems clearly debatable. (I suspect I'd come down on Smith's side in a debate, but we need to have a genuine debate. Efforts to foreclose discussions of alternatives to Smith's "invisible hand," viz., Freidrich List's ideas, by fiat, merely declaring that Smith's claims are "the best method that has ever been discovered," simply fall flat. That's an attempt to shut down criticism by ending discussion, which just doesn't work.)

All of which serves as preface to the fact I don't know just how serious the current economic crisis has become, but this sounds chilling:

Anonymous said...

This didn't stay non-political for long. Long time reader, occasional poster with a few comments.

Someone commented on You tube and transparency. I think it would be a mistake to underestimate this and similar websites. Two things that make modern times so interesting are 1) anyone with a modern phone can be a sort of journalist. With built in cameras - and increasingly video capture. When something happens, witnesses can not only see and describe it, but record it as well and post it for all to see. When politicians make a public comment, the visual record is no longer limited to news crews but is widespread. 2) Rebroadcast of information is widespread. If a politician (or anyone else) contradicts themselves, there are millions of people out there who can catch them, have the recordings, can place them side by side and make the doubletalk extremely clear. I suspect this may be part of the reason that the younger (and more connected) generation tends to be more onboard with Obama.

Memes also spread faster and wider in this new format. Of course this is a double edged sword, as faulty memes can spread as easily as virtuous ones, but I have - for lack of a better term - faith in my fellow humans to (mostly) learn to become better consumers of information in separating the wheat from the chaff. After all, that is the key assumption of our great experiment - that a well educated and well informed populous can make good decisions more often than not (or at least more often than a few oligarchs).

The 9/11 conspiracy theories frustrate me more than most crackpot theories in that they make a great straw man in deflecting far more legitimate criticism - that Bush and company abused the tragedy for massive unrelated political gain (such as selling the Iraq war).

One thing that has been getting my attention lately is trying to figure out why people choose to believe things which are irrational. A certain blog entry I read through had an interesting discussion about it. Although their focus was urban legends, I think a lot of the ideas could easily be applied to politics. The author's contrarily approach - assuming the opposite of what people usually assume about the spread of rumors - struck me as interesting food for thought.

I will resist the urge to post large swaths of comments from the interesting discussion that follows, but will link a few of what I consider the highlights for anyone who would like to look.

A simulation on refutation and the spread of rumors

are believers and skeptics talking past one another?

'intentional stupidity' as a failure in human pattern recognition

David Brin said...

"Brin often makes the claim that Adam Smith's ideas about economics are the best known way to run an economy. "

As usual, whenever Bad Zorgon comes out to bay at the moon... a complete damned lie.

I do often cite Smith, as a weapon against today's so-called defenders of markets, who can only see socialists as threats, and refuse to perceive the chief threat that Adam Smith recognized, aristocratic cheaters.

And indeed, Smith was far smarter about this than List, whose quasi-mercantilist imbuements of sacred wisdom in the benevolent state ignored the Lockean truth that human beings are self-deceivers, the most fundamental of all human truths, around which all economic and social systems must be judged.

The fundamental wisdom of Locke and Smith was not the atomization of trade down to the individual, but the recognition that narrowing of ruling clades will always tend to happen if those clades are allowed to get away with it.

They may have Listian rationalizations, or Catholic/feudal, or Nazi/Hegelian, or Marxist/Hegelian, or simply damned-evil/Hegelian (a redundancy since that association is automatic. The rationalizations all boil down to the same thing. "My favored group ought to be allowed unaccountable, benevolent, greater good power to commit GAR, without interference by pesky folks who disagree."

Yes, Smith & Locke created a new cult of FIBM, but both men would disown it today. It is made up of cultists who are simply rationalizing another form of GAR.

And now I've done with Zorgon. His insults have gone six in a row, diametrically opposite to truth. This version of the fellow is a damned fool.

Travc said...

Zorg, Nicholas didn't mis-define socialism... he merely pointed out that his understanding of the word is different from that of someone else he knew. A story which you entirely missed the point of apparently :p

I think I've got a generalization.

Hayek laid out good arguments against GAR. But some people (arguably Hayek himself) fear a slippery slope and conclude that anything GAR will inevitably lead to totalitarian doom.

Others have argued the same thing from the FIBM side (Marx not very convincingly, others much better).

Sterling and Zorg postulate a slippery slope of transparency ending in some sort of hellish world. Dr Brin when he gets a bit riled up may temporarily fall for the same thing in reverse (at least rhetorically).

So my grand generalization... fearing a slippery slope leads to bullshit conclusions.

All of these systems have some checks in them, and therefore aren't destined to always trend one way or another. It is much more useful to debate marginal shifts and the limitations/checks to keep them from going too far.

BTW: I'm getting incredibly annoyed a people talking about the bailouts as 'nationalization' or 'socialization'. If the government decides to exercise some operational control of the enterprises, then those terms make some sense to me. (And maybe we could actually eek some public good out of the situation.)

David Brin said...

The deal that comes out will nationalize the bad while preserving the golden parachutes and profit streams of private wealth. It's called socialism for the wealthy or privatization of benefits and profits and socialization of costs and risk.

If a dem legislator stands firm and balks, until the people get the good assets, as well as the bad, then he or she will be a hero.

And when I generalize about Transparency, it is only to say that those prescribing "solutions" based on reducing the knowledge streams of people, markets and democracy ought to bear the burden of proof. A burden that (I give examples) can be met. Still, given that human nature will make the powerful ALWAYS claim and rationalize such a "need" - our impulse should be to stay true to what gave us this party.

Travc said...

Dr Brin,

The next time you decide to do an essay on GAR vs FIBM / right-hand vs left-hand (more please, they are very good)... perhaps discussing 'cap-and-trade' would be a good angle. Not only topically relevant, but a very good example of using both hands to solve a problem IMO.

Just a thought... hell, for all I know you already have such an essay buried someplace ;)

Travc said...

Dr Brin said:
And when I generalize about Transparency, it is only to say that those prescribing "solutions" based on reducing the knowledge streams of people, markets and democracy ought to bear the burden of proof.

Very well said. I guess you are a writer for a reason :)

I agree, and hold a similar view with respect to libertarian/classic liberal ideals. I think I'll steal your "solutions... burden of proof" explanation.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Brin said....
"... Yes, we've been ruled by a malignant and ruinous and deliberate conspiracy. But the actually deliberately treasonous part was limited to maybe five guys. The others were all venal rationalizers. Alas, those five were "manchurians" at the very top, where competence wasn't needed. Only persistence.

Not sure if you are talking about some false flag, or the troubles in the hedge funds -- but I would say; YES, absolutely.

The watchdogs are either Barney Fife or Gordon Gecko.

Who is going crazy?

A person who has been doing a great job of chronicling what is wrong, and screaming about it for years is;

I've been mentioning him for some time. None of the events this past week were a surprise -- nor how they were dealt with -- nor that they will prove to fail. This is just keeping everyone calm while the Gordon Geckos board the lifeboats.

>> I was listening to Thom Hartmann, and he made some interesting comments about a 4-generation and 80 cycle of boom to bust. We are in the 4th Generation of selfish "me" folks -- right at an the fall, which is almost exactly like the Florida land speculation bubble that lead the into the first Republican Great Depression.

But he talked about the cycles that lead to the Civil War, and how the generations go from the first; steadfast and hard working. The second; builders. The third; spiritual and eschewing materialism. The fourth; materialistic and not into sharing.

The philosophies of the Right, are exactly those that people had during the gilded age.

>> I'm wondering if there aren't a lot of really wealthy people who don't know about this cycle, and were getting involved in the Bush government, in order to loot the place -- transferring wealth to countries that would compensate them (like the Saudis and the UAE).

There doesn't need to be a lot of people involved in these conspiracies, but if you create litmus test for advancement of either being a cool-aide drinking, brain dead follower, or being a person who can be paid-off/extorted, then the people committing the bigger crimes can get away with what they want to do.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I do often cite Smith, as a weapon against today's so-called defenders of markets, who can only see socialists as threats, and refuse to perceive the chief threat that Adam Smith recognized, aristocratic cheaters.

Thanks for that. We can throw most Economists into a dark pit, as far as I'm concerned. But Adam Smith wrote the gospel.

The argument of transparency vs. a right to privacy -- if we can distill it that far, needs to follow the same sort of nuance as when we talk about "regulation." The Republicans usually always talk about it as bad -- as a hindrance, while Dems fall into the role of always defending it. Well, most of the legislation that pushes regulation in this country gets sponsored by very big corporations. They can afford the overhead, and the paperwork hurdles -- and enjoy the barriers to entry that prevents smaller and faster corporations taking their market.

Regulations that give banks some unique privileges while preventing them from speculating -- like the Glass Stegal act did before it was gutted, are important. Regulations like Oxley Sarbanes, which was the last 'phony' remedy for the S&L bailout -- and the crooks promised never, ever to do it again -- are barriers to entry that reduce competition. Oxley Sarbanes promises to find the evil-doer's needle in the haystack by adding more hay.

>> It's important to remember, that the people entrusted with solving the crisis on Wall Street -- namely Paulson and Bernanke, were appointed by Bush Inc. I don't think that pack of snakes is comfortable with anyone but a Barney Fife or a Gordon Gecko and don't know anyone both honest and smart.

Of course, they are TRYING to keep markets sound -- but their allegiance is to protect the elite. And you can't provide a golden parachute at the same time as you keep the markets viable.

The problem is Transparency and Honesty in our markets. The foxes have been guarding this hen house -- and until all the foxes go to jail --- see the problem? The Central Banks and investors are losing faith in the integrity of their investments in the US. But they are fundamentally unsupportable. Having too many crooks and foreign investors is like having a parasite that is bigger than the host.

The Bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freedie Mac, as well as AIG may have been to placate China, which invested heavily in these groups and wanted high yield (high risk) returns. But they won't continue to buy our paper, if we don't guarantee they don't lose their profits.

So the American people are going to pay for this -- and pay again, because the smarter money will leave these investments. The Media, will tell everyone it has bottomed out and that the smoke is actually just steam -- no need to worry.

If you see nobody going to jail and no efforts and transparency -- I recommend you head for the door and put your money into tangible things. I sold my last stock Monday morning.

>> I'm also worried what has happened to people in Galviston Texas, because our government will not allow the press to go there on threat of jail, and planes to fly over. Not a good sign.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

" Matt DeBlass said...
For many years we've lived in small villages and one-room homes where sex education meant mom and dad didn't check to make sure junior was asleep first, and pretty much everybody knew everybody's business. ... "

I've used that example myself a few times. My boys were born with a tit in their mouths, and yet somehow, the puritans in our country would like to tell us all that after the age of 4, it is damaging for humans to see them again.

If you were to admit your kids were in the same room while you and your wife got busy -- they'd call that child abuse today. Yeah, times change, and the attitudes people have are rarely grounded in reason.

>> Transparency of the elite is not happening -- because corporations have been GETTING rights, that we the people are giving up for our security. Transparency might work if this nation weren't becoming a Fascist Plutocracy.

But I think Brin does understand these things with this comment; "
We got our freedom by dividing the elites into reciprocally antagonistic lumps and siccing them on each other. NOT by expecting every little guy to have equal power to every big guy.

Again -- I totally, absolutely agree with that.

I've also said that MLK would never have convinced some crackers to let the peace movement work, if they hadn't started becoming afraid of the Black Panthers. Gandhi was an alternative, to millions of angry Indians barbecuing the English. The Peace movement and a return to Democracy will happen AFTER, the NeoCons and the Religions fanatics in this country finally figure out they have been duped, and start getting REALLY violent. We are not going to get out of the Bush administrations crime family without violence. I said that in 2000 and I don't see anything yet that is truly surprising -- other than how incredibly obvious the crimes are, and how the excuses by the complicit media are so weak. We got robbed by the Keystone Cops.

People will be wanting to lynch some bankers before next year -- if they don't, we will probably be headed towards a militaristic alternative, and use more war to help our ailing economy. If McCain steals this next election -- then I'll sell my home and find a new place to live, because that will be our future.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

@ Nicholas MacDonald said...
Like the long winded rant. You had me worried at first, because you still respect Ayn Rand, who has brought a failed Straussian idealism to most of the culprits in our economic collapse. But your points about community and extended family are poignant. The one silver lining to another Depression, is that it will force people out of 3000+ square feet homes -- two to a house, and back into some shared space with many family members. Everyone in my neighborhood has a lawn mower -- where one good one good service all the homes. If we shared these resources again, we'd get to know each other again.

That link the the Popular Mechanics "debunking" does a great job dealing with the nutty stuff, but does nothing to explain what really happened or address that the only plausible explanation was that the WTC buildings were set for demolition. I don't want to rehash this stuff. It really irks me about the transponder nonsense on airplanes -- NORAD uses our civilian Radar inside the US, and other equipment. If you have a military guy tell you NORAD never saw a need to look inside the US -- beat them about the head for me and tell them that you think Russia has airplanes.

The Inside Job is pretty easy to explain, and all it required was confusion, and the owner of the WTC to hire Marvin Bush's security company to protect the building. Silerstein bought it for something like a $149 Million per year lease from Ports Authority, and he made a cool $7 Billion + without having to spend about a billion on cleaning up the Asbestos. Without the terrorist attack (which he doubled his insurance on in July), it would have been a huge investment blunder.

There were no forensics from the WTC collapse -- everything was done under cover. The company contracted to do the investigations? "Controlled Demolitions." I'd love to track where those guys were a few months before 9/11 -- like maybe they put on clothes like security guards. IN Bush land, you always have the Fox, checking the chicken feathers for prints.

You don't have all the evidence BEFORE the trial. How can you expect some young kids gleaning info off the internet and making the movie Loose Change to have all the facts?

I've seen a lot of brilliant comments from you -- but to buy this garbage about 9/11 from a government that did nothing but obscure and cover up and stall any investigation -- if they didn't do it, they are covering for someone who did. There is a lot of speculation about 9.11 because all the evidence from the government appears to have been taken by a pin-hole camera in a fog.

>> YES, the twin towers were constructed like a bridge. AS I've pointed out numerous times -- if it was a pancake collapse, the disconnection of the floors from the inner core would have meant that the core would STILL BE STANDING. It also requires about 60 to 90 seconds to collapse one level on another. Buildings cannot fall at the speed of gravity unless you have an explosive charge destroying each floor when the other floor reaches it.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

David Brin said...

Last week, the neocons became the biggest socialists in the world, nationalizing about 600 billion dollars in assets and obligations...

...and today they make that minuscule, effectively creating a National Mortgage Agency, assuming the bad debts of a hundred thousand jerks who ought to be on a big chain gang, right now.

It is the biggest act of socialism in the US, ever, making even FDR look like a piker.

>> Naomi Cline wrote the book; "The Shock Doctrine." She points out that this administration loves disasters, because they give them opportunities to enrich themselves.

The failing economy will make it seem plausible that we do not have the money for Social Security and Medicaide/Medicare. We have a few trillion to bail out banks and the mortgage companies -- but we don't have the money for people who actually earned it.

>> When I was talking about this collapse a few years ago, I was writing about the solution; Nationalizing the Big Energy companies, and instead of putting an armada of ships off the coast of Iran, move that armada off the coast of the Island banks. After seizing all the assets there -- we would say that anyone who wants their account back, needs to come in person and backtrack how they earned it. So, we would be able to keep 90% of this money to shore up our economy -- since most of it is ill gotten gain, and people like Mitt Romney and Dick Cheney helped folks escape taxes and put it there.

I'm sure there are people who would call this theft -- what the fuck did we do in Iraq and in Latin America the past 40 years but discover ways to steal other people's money. Is it more legitimate now that it sits in a buildings covered with marble?

Then we would have a war profits tax, and declare that the war on Iraq an illegal enterprise, and the culprits should pay us all back.

>> The rest of the fix is to go back to all the rules that FDR and Truman put in place -- you know, to deal with the PREVIOUS market collapse that was caused for the same reasons. No more mortgages without 20%. Return to USURY laws. Force capital markets to increase their reserve requirements and assets in trades. And nationalize the banking system and federal reserve -- there is no excuse for these to be private companies. President Lincoln once quipped during the civil war that he was more afraid of the banks than of the South. The Banks won the civil war, and started our modern boom and bust economy.

>> I once worked with a group of people who were trying to create a new international trading system, that would NOT require the exchange of assets, and would force all participants to balance trade value of exports with imports -- you could not create a deficit, unless you pumped in cash. We could definitely fix international trade and the ability for companies to bribe politicians to rip off their citizens -- but that is a longer conversation, and Multinationals have no interest in solving these problems that benefit them immensely.

>> Well, that's my pipe dream anyway. We will let the bad guys take their money to Dubai, and slowly build ourselves back up, probably blaming the average citizen along the way in thoughtful, hand wringing books.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

"@Zorgon said;
One thing that has been getting my attention lately is trying to figure out why people choose to believe things which are irrational. A certain blog entry I read through had an interesting discussion about it. Although their focus was urban legends, I think a lot of the ideas could easily be applied to politics.

Those people thinking that P&G was from the devil, are the same nut-cases supporting Palin. Getting people worked up on fringe issues, and putting apocalyptic language into speeches is a scary and growing phenomenon from Republicans.

Certain urban legends are silly, while some are not. Why are you falling into the trap of grouping ALL CONSPIRACY THEORIES? Because people don't pay a million dollars to go to a country club because they just like the catering. It's for access to power. Powerful people stay that way by planning -- and scheming.

There isn't much evidence for Big Foot -- but there also isn't much evidence that only one person was involved in the Kennedy Assassination. Like how did the single shooter steal Kennedy's brain? Would it surprise people to learn that a later government trial concluded that there was a conspiracy? TV and movies not-withstanding, by simply stating the actual findings I can be labeled a conspiracy theorist.

If I read the Declaration of Independence, to some of our people in congress, without giving them the title -- I'd probably be hauled off as a Commie Terrorist.

>> I really wonder if you don't have mood swings. You seem to go from really rational, to an absolutist. And insisting that people who have questions are conspiracy theorists when you don't and NOBODY HERE, has all the facts, is pretty much trying to declare yourself right by fiat. Only one vote counts.

Conspiracies happen all the time. Read up about the Lusitania. All conspiracies and urban legends do not have to be true or false together.

Travc said...

@William Shatner,
On the WTC collapse, you have no concept for the sort of forces involved. You also have no clue what a collapsing hi-rise structure 'should' look like. These are completely out of any normal person's realm of experience.

The 'central core' argument is beyond silly. You really expect a 400m tall spire of drywall and steel to stand independent as massive amounts of material attached to falls.

The 'wired for demolition' argument is also absurd. Do you have any clue what wiring a building for implosion involves? Notching the columns and placing huge quantities of charges would be neigh impossible to hide. But the windows blew out! you might cry... ever heard of air pressure?

You really should drop it if there is simply no way to change your mind. About 3/4 of what you say otherwise is somewhat reasonable or at least interesting.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Travc said...
@William Shatner,
On the WTC collapse, you have no concept for the sort of forces involved. You also have no clue what a collapsing hi-rise structure 'should' look like. These are completely out of any normal person's realm of experience.

Pretty insulting stuff there Travc. Do you think I want to bore everyone with a 25 page screed of the physics involved. There is a consortium of 3,000 physics pros who say the pancake collapse is bunk.

The first person I ever heard utter the "pancake collapse theory" was actually myself. I was in the WTC in 1999 with my soon to be wife -- and we were talking about the bombing when Clinton first took office. She asked me if a Plane could ever bring down this building -- I said; "Yes, but only with the fire. This building is built like a bridge -- if you managed to burn enough and have a big enough blast to collapse two sections, then the weight could overwhelm the next floor. A chain reaction would then mean that each floor would be overwhelmed by the floor above it." So, how many geniuses figured that out before? Call me a liar.

The thing I would have never said, is it could happen in 8 seconds, and that the core would fall as well. The core is inner tubes of steel, and damn right they would hold -- they could hold the entire building four times over -- so what the hell brought them down? Every damn floor sits on those tubes 24/7/365. That is a very strong structure.

The demolition is pretty clear -- don't trust me, read this from Eager;

Now for fairness, I read Nova's rebuttal;

To me, the attempts to dismiss Eagar's arguments are pretty craptastic. It would take me a day or two to go through every line and say way Eagars is right and they are wrong.

Take a look at some of the pictures just after the collapse. There are many steel collumns with diagonal cuts -- either pre-cut or a shaped charge. You can't get steel to rip apart that cleanly -- it bends first. The many reports of molten steel weeks later -- I saw bright yellow steel flowing in video, and the color indicates the temperature -- not possible with anything in a normal office or with jet fuel. Aluminum, is a bright white when melting -- it never shows yellow.

If I were doing this job, I'd hire a Demolition crew and dress them up as security guards. In fact, many people reported whole floors shut down weeks before the disaster, because security was doing some upgrades. NO dogs were allowed in security sweeps after that. And on the day of the disaster, the cameras in the building quit working -- BEFORE the planes hit. The video, apparently, goes off site, so I'm guessing that is how they know.

The Bush administration blocked the FBI from investigating the credit cards that were alleged evidence of al Qaeda's involvement. The head of security for the FAA destroyed all tapes from the radar with no excuse given. So we cannot confirm any talk about other planes, or that no plane hit the pentagon -- one theory holds that a small missile of some sort came in at the same time as the plane flew low and the explosion covered this up. I won't argue one way or the other -- because there is no video of the most highly guarded building on the planet.

>> I am not saying that the WTC cannot pancake collapse. I'm saying that our administration has done everything to prevent a real investigation -- including recycling all the steel immediately in China when a bidder in New Jersey offered more.

The one bit of steel tested by an independent -- which was to be used by an artist to commemorate 9/11, showed the presence of thermate. Could this person be making it up? Sure. Also, a well known group of liars in the white house, remember, they killed a few hundred thousand Iraqis to make money?

Motive, Means, Opportunity. A consistent pattern of criminal behavior. What are we missing here? The only thing incredible about it, is that people cannot emotionally deal with the idea that our government -- or people in it, would intentionally do this. After Katrina, I think that is an easier pill to swallow.

Acacia H. said...

Thank the Goddess there are still a few people who don't buy into the hysteria of conspiracy-thinking. It's like the more I shove facts into the frenzy, the less they matter. It's very much a reverse of Zorgon's little article about conservatives ignoring facts and digging in their heels about their party and their beliefs about the Democrats... only in reverse.

Then again, Dr. Brin himself has fallen into this thinking though he doesn't let it blind him. I truly doubt that conspiracy was behind what the Shrub did to this country. I believe that instead, it was ineptitude and stupidity on the part of our leadership that caused so many of our problems.

Of course, this could likewise be a version of this rigid thinking... I perhaps could be so intent on refusing to acknowledge conspiracies that even when there is one, I ignore it because obviously conspiracies don't exist outside of fiction. ^^

Or in other words, clearly I cannot choose the wine in front of you.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

As for the "molten aluminum" arguments... that is a fallacy. There is only one thing that could keep aluminum molten for a long period of time: insulation. If aluminum truly got so hot that it took "that long" to cool down... then it would have vaporized. Metals do that. You can easily watch metal boil... just put some mercury on your stovetop and watch it bubble away cheerfully into mercury vapor (which will then poison you and do horrible things to you so don't. I'm using this as an example, and my vaporizing mercury is safely in an air-sealed environment with proper methods of venting and capturing the mercury vapor so it doesn't contaminate the environment.)

You do realize that the reason the aluminum girders broke at clean angles was due to the intense force involved with the vast majority of the girders during the main collapse. What you were witnessing was metal cleavage, and the metal breaking along fault-lines that exist because of the atomic bonding patterns.

All that was needed was one area of the building to be weakened. When that area collapsed, it brought about a massive failure of the structure because the upper section no longer had proper support. It proceeded to piledrive the entire mass straight down, causing metal shear and snapping girders like twigs. You had a boatload of mass falling at an ever-increasing rate of speed with gravity gleefully encouraging it along the way.

Do note that when they implode buildings, they do not mine every single inch of the building. Instead, they knock down key supports in key areas and the weight of the building itself brings the rest of it down. The rest of the building doesn't need explosives. All it needs is the weight of the building above working on supports that no longer have the ability to hold up that weight.

Also, please remember that just a decade before, Al Qaida tried to take out the WTC towers with a car bomb. The terrorists parked a car in the basement, hoping to break a support to cause the same thing that demolition professionals use in taking down buildings. They underestimated the strength of those supports.

Al Qaida knew what it was doing. The use of airplanes to destroy these buildings was deliberate because they knew it had a far better chance of working than just knocking out a couple supports in the basement would.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

"There are some $100 “raffle” prizes for participating. Here is the link to the survey:"

But there is no link there, just the next section heading.

Anonymous said...


Recently an insurance company nearly wind up....

A bank is nearly bankrupt......

How it affect you? Did you buy insurance? Did you buy mini note or bonds?

Who fault?

They bailout trouble finance company, but they will not bail out your credit card bills……You got no choice, and no point pointing finger but you can prevent similar things from happen again……

The top management of the Public listed company ( belong to "public" ) salary should be tied a portion of it to the shares price ( IPO or ave 5 years ).... so when the shares price drop, it don't just penalise the investors, but those who don't take care of the company.....If this rule is pass on, without any need of further regulation, all industries ( as long as it is public listed ) will be self regulated......because the top management will be concern about their own pay check……
Some might feel that it sound stupid….. as there is long and Short position…but in reality there is still many different caliber CEO… there is still long and short…..

Are you a partisan?

Sign a petition to your favourite president candidate, congress member, House of representative again and ask for their views to comment on this, and what regulations they are going to raise for implementation.....If you agree on my point, please share with many people as possible.... Media, please help to highlight also...