Sunday, May 31, 2009

Solving the mess in Guantanamo

Keeping my number of political postings to a bare minimum, let’s just make a potpourri-pile of topical observations.

== Quoting Obama on Transparency ==

“And so, whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions - by Congress or by the courts.

“..... Because in our system of checks and balances, someone must always watch over the watchers - especially when it comes to sensitive information.

“Along those same lines, my Administration is also confronting challenges to what is known as the "State Secrets" privilege... while this principle is absolutely necessary to protect national security, I am concerned that it has been over-used. We must not protect information merely because it reveals the violation of a law or embarrasses the government. That is why my Administration is nearing completion of a thorough review of this practice.

“We plan to embrace several principles for reform. We will apply a stricter legal test to material that can be protected under the State Secrets privilege. We will not assert the privilege in court without first following a formal process, including review by a Justice Department committee and the personal approval of the Attorney General. Finally, each year we will voluntarily report to Congress when we have invoked the privilege and why, because there must be proper oversight of our actions.”
- Barack Obama

One of you commented upon how thoroughly this statement is  in tune with what I proposed in The Transparent Society, adding “Dr. Brin, are you writing his Speeches? ;)”

Ah... if only. Still, how nice to have an adult up there, for a change.

== And Solving Part of the Guantanamo Mess ==

The same commentor offered a suggestion that might help to get President Obama out of his bind regarding the Guantanamo detainees.  I think we can all agree that the Bushite doctrines there were dismal, loony, horrific and borderline insane.  Those so-called “pragmatists” only made matters far worse for our professional defenders, for example, by making torture legitimate for our enemies to use against our own troops.  Indeed, that alone offers probable cause to investigate charges of high treason.

On the other hand, what to do with the prisoners currently held in Guantanamo?  Or others we might capture amid a war without borders or fronts?  Many are genuinely bad or dangerous men and openly consider themselves to be enemies of the United States.  Others, to be sure, were hapless victims of circumstance, but, even after releasing those guys, President Obama seems caught between unpleasant options, when it comes to the really hard cases:

(1) bring some prisoners to America to face charges, which will be difficult to prove by civilian rules, and surely rile up any state where the trials take place,

(2) extend the duration of a somewhat gentler Guantanamo Prison, which will expose him to charges of hypocrisy and indecision,

(3) ship some of the worst off to home countries where they face likely torment and death... or else see them released to heroic welcomes and a return to plotting against our lives.

(4) Are those his only choices?   There does seem to be a fourth option, never mentioned.   It's pretty simple, as “Jester” pointed out, after a close reading of the four Geneva Conventions.

Those who have openly sworn allegiance to any entity that wages violent war against the US can legitimately be treated as Prisoners of War.

Yes, it sounds a lot like “enemy combatants.”  But that term was simply a Bushite excuse to drop every covenant that we had with decent or civilized behavior... a crazed raving offered by demagogues who tried to make us more afraid of a few hundred bozos with lice-ridden beards, than we ever were of a Soviet Union that bristled with 20,000 hydrogen bombs.  (And we let them do it, didn’t we?)

In contrast, “prisoner of war” has very clear definitions according to the Geneva conventions.  And yes, it can apply to irregular forces, even those that do not represent an official nation state.  (In any event, the Taliban government of Afghanistan was clearly an enemy state and it stood behind Al Qaeda. That regime’s continued existence in exile allows for an extended pretext.)

Calling the violent men in Guantanamo "POWs "does not mean they can be tortured.  In fact, the opposite. They must be treated according to Geneva protocols -- with red cross packages and everything else to make their existence far brighter than it was.  But it does mean they can be held indefinitely, in a military facility on American soil, so long as hostilities continue in a plausible state of war.  Moreover, there is no ticking clock to bring charges against them -- in fact, filing charges against such men might be illegal, if their actions were against even somewhat legitimate military targets.  Certainly there is no requirement to mix them with the regular population of a federal penitentiary.  In fact, that too violates Geneva.

True, this option does not apply to all of the current prisoners -- mostly those who have openly avowed that they consider themselves to be in a state of war against the US.  Moreover, they must be treated very different than they were in Guantanamo... e.g. they must be allowed to mingle with each other and garden and work and write home and appeal their conditions and all the things you see in movies like The Great Escape.  (Except for the tunneling part, we can hope!)

Still, consider how this option lets Obama & Co. off the hook!  He can end the Guantanamo travesty without letting them all go, or trying to press criminal charges that are inherently hard to stick, by civilian rules of jurisprudence.

Well, it's an idea…

==GM, Chrysler and Labor==

And... the bankruptcies of both GM and Chrysler seem to be pretty much following a path I suggested earlier (Offer a Fresh Deal to Labor and Management), sending them on a path where they’ll likely become largely employee-owned companies.  Ideally - and if they avoid repeating the (deliberately planned-in) mistakes that turned United Airlines sour - this should turn grumpy hourly workers into motivated owners, and allow American ingenuity to thrive.  It’s been a long time coming.  Both the far left and far right were nuts to oppose it for so long.

Of course, this assumes that the US government will eventually divest its huge stakes in these companies. Which raises an interesting point.

One recent rightwing talking (ranting) point is to yatter about “unprecedented socialism.”  This calumny deserves open derision.  First, because it's obvious who made our current mess, and who gave unbelievable gushers of “socialism for the rich” to their fat-cat friends -- the Bushite Gang.

Second, turning eyes toward the future, simply ask Limbaugh et al: ”What do you think Obama wants to do with all that GM stock?”

The answer is obvious, and so capitalistic it would make Adam Smith proud.  Buy low... and sell high!   Dare the ranters to take a bet.  If the federal government no longer owns these companies in 2012... and if the taxpayer by then has made a tidy profit out of buying and then selling the shares... um... is that still “socialism?”  Remember, the Limbaugh types are agile about redefining terms, focusing on the narrow moment... so ask this question now.  And nail down that wager.

=== Making a Mistake on Health Care? ===

On the other hand, I feel that President Obama’s approach to revising Health Care is not well thought-out.  Yes, we cannot take on the whole problem all at once, not in today’s economic and political environment.  But his people are urging that we continue down the road of adding layer after layer of complex insurance subsidies that will work through (and benefit) existing companies and involve a million twists and turns of bureaucracy and entitlement.  It will be maddening, inefficient and easy to ridicule.  Worse yet, it will not cut the Gordian Knot of today’s system at any level or at any point.

Elsewhere, I've offered a simple alternative. Let’s put off for another day any major reform for working-age adults.  If we have limited resources and attention, let’s not do a half-assed job across-the board, but rather take a targeted approach to solve one part of the mess, completely -- the most important part.  Let’s do an immediate and excellent job in the one area where rapid and major transformation could make the biggest immediate difference, where it matters to us all most.

Simply  provide health care to all kids.

One way to do this,, making the legislation incredibly short and simple?  Extend Medicare to the other end of the spectrum, the other demographic group that is inherently both helpless and deserving, by simple definition.  Or else, use the kids to experiment with single-payer.
 Either way, political opposition would be disarmed from the start. Americans are inherently more socialistic when it comes to children than adults (who, we think, instinctively, should stand on their own two feet.)  Moreover, this step would let us act immediately in the zones where socialized medicine inarguably works best -- prevention and lifelong health investment in youth, by far the best use of medical care dollars.

This approach then leaves for later the vexing areas where socialized medicine has inherent problems and where we might want to do some more careful thinking.  (More on this next time.)

Seriously, why isn’t this a no-brainer?  A win-win that would let Obama achieve wonders at a stroke, while keeping both cost and complexity down and achieving the greatest bang for the buck? Poor parents would be relieved of their greatest fear, for their kids. With that responsibility taken off their shoulders, they would then be better able to bargain for their own, narrower coverage.  Can anyone explain why this alternative isn’t even mentioned?

And that's enough for now.


Jason Maskell said...

What a surprise, there's a way to treat prisoners that DOESN'T involve gutting the constitution, torturing them and grabbing as much power as you can.

Thanks for pointing it out - I think it's a perfectly valid and sensible approach. Of course that means that it will never, ever be used.

Tony Fisk said...

It's always puzzled me why sad men can't be just tried within existing statutes.

('Conspiracy to commit murder' springs to mind)

Just as it is equally puzzling why POW hasn't been a classification used from the start. (I seem to recall it was because the US was not at war with any particular country)

Well, maybe not so puzzling, given the motivation.... but why hasn't anyone with a modicum of authority on military law pointed this out a long time ago?

It turns out they have. A quick google shows us Lt Col. Elliot pondering the question back in 2002. On balance, he could see no good reason *not* to award sad men POW status.

Anonymous said...

The idea I always had of the refusal to give detainees POW status was for two reasons. Firstly, it would remove their ability to torture(prisoners would have to be treated according to the Geneva code); and secondly the regime was almost pathologically isolationist in regards to criticism and legal matters. Giving POW status would open them to over site by the Red Cross and the Hague War Crimes tribunals and other insidious 'outside' influences.

Kitsap Charles said...

In Dr. Brin's "Unusual Suggestion #14" (q.v.) he said: And the grownups who were left with private, for-profit insurance? They would be pushing their companies against a wall, demanding they improve or else!It seems to me that by disregarding the millions of grownups who don't have access to private, for-profit insurance, we would still be placing their children at heightened risk.

If parents have to spend an inordinate sum for their own medical care -- even if they're otherwise healthy, insurance premiums are monotonically increasing -- then they don't have that money for other necessities -- not to mention enrichment activities that help children thrive. And placing parents in the ever-more-stressful position of having to endure whatever job they can keep, so long as it provides some insurance, however inadequate, surely gives children the wrong message about society. Even worse, parents who ultimately cannot afford health-care for themselves will be unable to provide for their children's basic needs. Are you advocating a Nanny State that would make today's Child Protective Services nightmares seem idle daydreams?

Why should we make childless adults into second-class citizens? This smacks of the anti-marriage-equality crowd's tendency to legitimize only those relationships which produce (or could produce) children; it relegates those who do not -- or cannot -- reproduce to the back of the health-care bus.

Yes, all children should have universal, unfettered access to health care. So should all adults have access to health care, not just health care insurance.

Unknown said...

nice blog and lots of stuff here.......

Anonymous said...

One criticism of 'health care' charities in general: That industry has become one of the most profitable of all time. It already accounts for about 15% of our GDP. The industry as a whole can easily afford to cover its own research and development. Still, it lobbies for billions in government funding, tax breaks, and 'charitable' contributions. It affiliates with hundreds of public figures who 'raise funds' from ordinary people specifically for that industry in the name of 'humanity'. In other words, we are paying for a portion of their research and development. In return, they sell any 'breakthrough' made right back to us for MAXIMUM PROFIT. Their charges remain absolutely OBSCENE. They have been for years. So incredibly high, that thousands of families have already gone bankrupt as a direct result of health care expenses. Thousands of retirees have already had to 'reverse mortgage' their homes to pay for it. The average American is now losing sleep over health care expenses. Medicare and Medicaid are both projected to go bankrupt. Of course, the industry tries to cover for this injustice with one liners like "Today's drugs pay for tomorrow's miracles.". They also 'give back' a little just like every other industry and seek maximum publicity for it. Its a sham in my book. We don't need anymore 'good will' for or on the part of that industry. We need affordable health care in general. THAT MEANS LOWER PROFIT MARGINS. Along with fewer unnecessary tests, procedures, and pharmaceuticals. Of course, some of the work done is legitimate. But that holds true even for the government. Here is the problem. ITS GONE TOO FAR. Something must be done about this out of control 'drug and doctor' mentality. Otherwise, there will never, ever, EVER be affordable health care for the majority.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, this is off-topic, but...

Has anyone here heard of Polywell fusion? It's not one of your standard fusion approaches, but it doesn't sound completely crazy, either. It's currently being funded by the Navy.

Here's a link:

Acacia H. said...

I do find it a tad ironic you mention the Great Escape, Dr. Brin, as we're seeing more and more evidence that the Taliban and associated crews are renown tunnelers.

It seems likely that if we are to deal with Taliban and other such POWs that we'll need to design a prison that takes tunneling activities into account.

My personal suspicion is that we'd need seismic detectors and the like to track tunneling activities and a concrete shell surrounding the prison going down to the bedrock. Then let them tunnel. Map out the seismic signals, use remote imaging to try and find signs of these tunnels, and then once we've learned everything we can while the tunnelers fruitlessly try to escape... shut them down.

And then take those lessons and use them in Afghanistan and the like. Use this new knowledge to find the tunnels Al Qaida and the Taliban use between Pakistan and Afghanistan and that Hamas uses between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and shut THOSE down as well.

But then I've never said I'm a very nice person... ^^;;

Tarun Kumar said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
River said...

Reply to the anonymous commenter on health care at 2 am:

To the latter commenter: It's not doctors per se who are the ones to blame for high health insurance costs. Blame that on the for-profit motive of pharmaceutical companies, institutions including hospitals, and most especially the greed of insurance companies, who know that there is no real competition for their "services". You take what your employer offers if you're lucky enough to work for one that does, hope to heck you can afford your state's very pricey high risk pool coverage - also administered by and for the profit of the insurance companies - if you have a pre-existing condition and no employer insurance, pay through the nose for private insurance if you are privileged to be accepted, or go without and use "universal health care" available at a premium in emergency rooms. If you, your child or your partner becomes ill, you can expect in many small-group plans to be rated separately. Your employer may let you go rather than have the whole group's rates raised dramatically. This happened to my partner after the bills for my kidney disease started coming in. You can be uprated to ten times or more the premium that you were charged just before you or your family member had that heart attack or was diagnosed with cancer (premiums increasing from $600 per month for a family to $8000 per month for the same family after a family member was diagnosed with leukemia in one instance). That's not doctors at fault there. That's pure and simple insurance company greed.

I'm one of the people losing sleep over the state of Medicare and Medicaid. I have the former, not the latter. I pay my Part B premium because I need Medicare as a fall-back in case something happens to my partner's employer group insurance or its coverage of family members including family members with kidney failure. If I need to rely on Medicare, I hope it will continue to be there for me, because without ongoing care, I'm dead. No exaggeration here; it's the literal truth. And dialysis is ghastly expensive. Mine's the cheapest form possible and my non-profit clinic charges $298 a day for mine. That's 365 days a year and 366 in leap years, and I've been told by other dialysis patients that mine is a very cheap clinic compared to some ($750 a day in one documented case plus an additional $350 a week by that same clinic for physician oversight. Given that this is a for-profit clinic, I doubt it is the doctor who is raking all that in). Right now that's being covered by my partner's employer insurance, and every day charged is subtracted from my lifetime maximum benefit cap. In less than 10 years I'll have used that up. I really hope Medicare is there for me then, because I will need it then if not sooner. We need to fix health care delivery and costs in this country and demonizing doctors is not the way to go about it. Let's start with the whole profit motive of the system and subtract that from what we consider humane and just when it comes to human suffering and life, and go from there.

River said...

To David Brin (part 1):
Sir, I disagree with you that simply covering all the kids and letting their parents and all other working-age adults fend for themselves is a workable solution. Far too many conditions are disabling if left untreated, and when it costs upwards of $500 to walk in the door of the emergency room and register, let alone get any care, too many people will leave too many conditions untreated for too long, until it is too late or until they become disabled. Once they become disabled, you'd think they could get care, but if you can't work you can't get insurance, and there's a 2 year wait for Medicare eligibility after you've waited up to three years or more for your disability determination hearing. The system as we know it a form of cruel and unusual punishment, except that it's business as usual if you have ever had something that an insurance company considers a "pre-existing condition" or, worse yet, become disabled. Kidney failure requiring dialysis is an automatic disability criterion according to the federal government, and I have nonetheless been waiting for over two years for my hearing.

When I informed my insurance company back in 2007 that I would need dialysis, they attempted to force me to wait a year before receiving it (or at least any coverage for it). I was able to forestall this by documenting coverage without gaps for the prior two years, since before diagnosis of my kidney disease, and the insurer then had to cover my dialysis. Suppose I hadn't had that? I wouldn't be writing this now.

River said...

Reply to David Brin (part 2):

A system that creates a class of people who do not "deserve" health care is inherently unjust. In order to raise children to value justice and a just society, we first need to set about creating a just society to the best of our ability. That starts, in this country at least, with declaring that health care is a basic human right no matter what a person's age or income. It is as true for the neonate and the elderly person as it is for the adult in the prime of his life. Health care for all of these is a basic human right, one which is included in the rights with which our Declaration of Independence begins: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal (not "equal until they reach working age and then unequal based on income, class, or employee benefits"), that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life (see the need for health care), liberty (hard to have any if you're too sick or have died due to lack of care), and the pursuit of happiness (impossible to pursue happiness without access to adequate health care)".

We do not expect working-age adults to provide their own family firefighters, or police services, or roads, or schools, or ports and airports, or water treatment systems. Why do we expect them to provide their own health care coverage? Why do we take as a given that 30 cents out of every health care dollar will be given to insurance companies to pay for executive salaries in the many millions and stock options and other compensation in the many millions more? Why do we take for granted that our elected representatives are entitled to lifetime care at our expense after 2 years of service and we are not, at least not at any time before we reach the age of 65?

The only way to fix this system is to overhaul it completely, not in pieces but all at once. It must be done, as we are drowning in debt created not by families overspending on luxuries and frivolity but by families putting food and utility payments on their credit cards (what they have left of them) in order to pay for insurance premiums. More than half of all bankruptcies are due to medical debt and over 60% of those with such debt were insured when they incurred it. Most continue to be insured even as they must drag themselves into bankruptcy court in shame. It is not their fault that they've landed there; the system is set up to see that it happens as often as possible. Once in bankruptcy, many find themselves having their houses taken from them by the lenders holding their mortgages. That, too, is a planned outcome.

This whole setup is inherently unjust and cannot continue to stand if we are to continue as a first-world nation. "The best and the brightest" won't continue to resettle here when they can live someplace where health care *is* considered a right by all, including the government. We are shooting ourselves in the foot for the sake of insurance company profits.

Unknown said...

On healthcare...

River's comment that the majority of bankruptcies are caused by medical debt is simply not true. I won't attempt to insert a link, but if you read the actual study that was done you'll find that it was closer to 27% and even that was speculative. The Innovator's Prescription cites this more in detail. This shouldn't be used as an argument to fighting healthcare costs.

Insuring the nation's children as suggested would be a wonderful short-term step in our healthcare overhaul, but it does not address the issue of cost. If anything, it would lead to costs rising. Parents and caretakers would certainly take advantage of the new coverage for their children and it would tax the existing system even more. Tackling the less politically righteous task of righting the healthcare market by increasing the transparency of cost and putting the administrative burden on the patient would be the right thing to do.

However, as David Brin suggests, covering our children would be a move that is hard to oppose. While the idea is noble, I feel it would be like building a new orphanage on a faulty foundation: Likely to turn a win into a tragedy down the line.

JuhnDonn said...

Is it possible that Obama is inviting the health care companies to the dance, in order to show up how impossible it is to work with them (exhausted all possible routine routes) and will then have more support for more sweeping changes?

David Brin said...

Alas, two of you willfully leaped to misinterpret, ignoring "Take care of the kids first." and replacing that with "ONLY take care of kids."

Again, it is clear that health care will be dealt with in the US only incrementally. The present plan expensively and with bizarre complexity subsidizes insurance for x&y groups of adults. My proposal avoids getting in bed with the insurance cos by simply (and socialistically) putting all kids under Medicare.

Yes, that's probably all we could afford, for a while, and yes, many adults would be screwed. Sorry. Activists in the health care issue have to get it drilled thru their skulls that there are NOT unlimited funds and this is a classic zero sum game.

Those who idolize Canada and Europe real health care ignore the down side... heavy state controlled rationing of care. State committees rule on how many dialysis machines, MRIs and bypasses can be done, each year. In their own way, they are as cruel as our insurance companies. Though far more fair by normal standards of justice. In those countries, putting children first is automatic.

Sorry, we have to prioritize. And the country is harmed, economically etc, by every failure to fix preventable problems in kids. That emphasis is justified on coldly pragmatic grounds, as an investment.

Politically, it would be the nose under the tent for other state-based reforms, down the road. By then, I would hope we'd have pondered deep and come up with a third path for adults that avoids BOTH the callous stodginess of the European system and the chaotic unfairness of ours.

Examples will come next time.

Kitsap Charles said...

Aaron, I don't know what study you planned to quote, but this is from Consumer Affairs:

"Medical Bills Leading Cause of Bankruptcy, Harvard Study Finds

February 3, 2005Illness and medical bills caused half of the 1,458,000 personal bankruptcies in 2001, according to a study published by the journal Health Affairs.

The study estimates that medical bankruptcies affect about 2 million Americans annually -- counting debtors and their dependents, including about 700,000 children.

Surprisingly, most of those bankrupted by illness had health insurance. More than three-quarters were insured at the start of the bankrupting illness. However, 38 percent had lost coverage at least temporarily by the time they filed for bankruptcy."

The study itself was published in Health Affairs

Jason Maskell said...


It may be a zero sum game, but Americans have really got their heads up their ass as far as money..

What, something like 2 trillion in handouts to the banks, but single payer is too expensive?

650 billion a year to defense (offense), but UH is too expensive? That's not even including all the "emergency supplementals" I don't think.

It's your province, but I'd say that American's in for a long, downward ride to the bottom. Obama's been a giant disappointment, and the only thing that can fix your self-reinforcing corruption is a revolution. Anyone who thinks there's another way out is fooling themselves.

River said...

I know dialysis patients in Canada, the UK, France, India, and Australia as well as many all over the U.S. We are pretty well electronically connected and are fully aware of the conditions regarding obtaining dialysis and nephrology care in each others' countries.

In Canada, Australia, and the UK there is no rationing of dialysis machines, contrary to David's assertion. Or, rather, perhaps there is such rationing, but it covers 100% of all current dialysis patients and 100% of all new dialysis patients. Tome and again the patients in these countries refute the notion that one cannot obtain lifesaving care. There may be long waits for things like knee replacements, but nobody that I know of ever died because he had a sore knee. There is no waiting for things like heart surgery, dialysis, cancer treatment, etc. When it comes to routine care, there is a wait, but no longer (often much shorter) than in this country, where the next available appointment to address a non-emergent issue is three and a half months away. Yes, some people wait that long for an appointment for a similar issue in Canada and the U.K., though not in France, India, or Australia.

A patient I know in India says that health insurance is just starting to spring up there, based on the U.S. model. He is very much afraid of going down the same path the U.S. has followed in this regard. We're not a medical role model to the rest of the world; they look at us in alarm.

Anonymous said...

Miss Cellania [] links to a New Yorker article on healthcare costs: "McAllen, Texas has the lowest average household income in the nation, but the second-highest health care costs per person. The New Yorker takes a look at why costs are so high and why the residents aren't any healthier than in other towns." [ ]

David Brin said...

Thanks for your cheeriness, Jason. But, since I have heard guys like you forecast America's demise into poverty, or dictatorship or insanity all my life forgive me if I shrug it off this time...

I am "Contrary Brin." And hence, though the Bushites never had an enemy more biting than me, and I take my spite toward them to a degree that you will hear from no one else (ask about my "Manchurian Scenario.") Nevertheless, I can swerve with great agility to face a guy like you and say what you deserve.


Pax Americana is the best thing that ever happened to humanity and planet Earth. Since 1943's pit of hell, the world has seen continuing drops in violence and poverty and oppression, and surges in prosperity, education and the freedom of families to raise better children than themselves. It has been fitful and imperfect, tragically so! But only in comparison to our ideals of what ought to be!

It has NOT been a disappointment, compared to every single other human generation that ever existed. No nation ever led its world with fewer mistakes (though we've made some awful ones), or with more goodwill.

Want to know one of the most churlish of human attitudes? Ingratitude. We Americans spent ourselves into the poor house creating an overall Pax -- or worldwide peace -- of a scale that is unprecedented not by a factor of two or three, but factors of HUNDREDS. In the face of an evil that was genuine, implacable and that would have brought "1984" style darkness upon humanity forever.

We also spent ourselves into rags BUYING SHIT from countries in Japan, Europe, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and China and India and so on... and if you do the numbers, our purchases -- of trillions of $ worth of junk we never needed -- is what propelled the rise of a middle class in all those countries.

Sure, it wasn't motivated by mature goody-goodyness. But American n-n-mercantilist trade patterns (the opposite of what was done by every other empire) are THE thing that made it true that 70% of the world's people have a house and electricity and kids in school.

Were the Bushites horrid imperialist liars? Sure. I'd go farther down that road than YOU would!

Does that mean that kneejerk lefty cant about "American Imperialism" since 1945 is valid in general?

Complete and absolute Bullshit! Our huge overall military expenditures are precisely what enabled countries like YOURS to have unprecedented LOW military budgets, lower than any other nations, ever, spending it all on internal development.

Oh... ingratitude steams me up....

Oldovergrad said...

Nice rebuttal comment at the end in replying to Jason's cheeriness.

I read both you and Jerry Pournelle because of your divergent opinions and because both of provide well reasoned thinking. I find it interesting that two of the most intelligent men alive can come to such polar opposite opinions.

I tend to agree with you more than Jerry, though. I believe this is because Jerry has become less flexible to new ideas in the last few years.

tacitus2 said...


Tried to post a minor sampling of my thoughts on universal pediatric health coverage. Exceeded the allowed number of characters even with a succint manifesto!


Tony Fisk said...

Try copy and paste from a text document, T2.

(easy to say *after* the event, I suppose!)

grasters: the gremlins that infest the web and chop or 'enhance' on-line contributions at random (See 'Procrustes')

David Brin said...

I sometimes puzzle over those people I know who are doctrinaire at the left or right... yet seem to be logical and who base their positions on apparently sound principles.

Jerry and I share a grounding in what might be called "Heinleinian libertarianism..." A belief -- that we suckled from PapaH's books -- that individualism and suspicion of authority must combine with a healthy respect for diversity and reciprocal accountability. That neither cooperation nor competition are sacred absolutes in their own right, but that , indeed, the one cannot exist without the other.

We share a strong sense of history and the vast panoply of mistakes and delusions that people have been prone to. We see in the Enlightenment a "last, best hope of humankind" and recognize that the Enlightenment could never have achieved so much without its most vigorous and noisy experiment, the United States of America.

Like Heinlein, Jerry feels the tug of contrarianism, and often stuns his conservative colleagues by skewering their worst shiboleths. Without any doubt, he is a truer son of Heinlein, of America, of the Enlightenment, and of science fiction than that "conservative" voice on the other coast who has gone completely around the bend -- OS Card.

Still, he clearly never learned to dance the contrarian dance as avidly as I do. Without question, Jerry accepts an assigned slot along the right-hand zone of the hoary/stupid/French left-right axis. Which I refuse to do.

Mind you, Jerry WAS able to recognize that his party had been hijacked by Bushite monsters! By a genuine and bona fide criminal gang -- thus showing a combination of mental agility and solid principles for which I duly honor him. Nevertheless, he sees no need from a bottom-up re-examination of what "conservatism" means. And that re-appraisal is desperately needed.

I believe there are so many factors to explain why I part company from him in countless ways. For example, while my instincts are libertarian, I cannot blinker my gaze down a narrow tunnel, the way most libertarians and conservatives do -- focusing solely on "government" as the only conceivable threat to liberty.

4,000 years of dismal human history show another foe, vastly more frequent and vicious, has destroyed far more market economies, democracies and renaissances than socialism, a million times over. Inability to recognize that ancient foe, or to see that it has risen recently, in a full-force attempted putsch against our flickering light, is the greatest mental fault and crime ever committed by conservative intellectuals. This obduracy has proved their irrelevance for the age we are in. It's a pity. Nay, a tragedy.

(Mind you, the loony left does exactly the same thing. The difference between the dems and gops is that one of them banished its loons to rant-away in utterly marginalized futility, in freakazoid campus professorships, while the other party let itself become owned, operated and whored by its own pack of radical crazies.)

I hope my appraisal of Jerry has been nuanced and fair. On the other hand, I owe him no fairness at all, since he has gossiped and strawmanned and ridiculed and slandered me relentlessly, for more than twenty years, displaying a gleeful bitchiness that would make sorority girls blush. Charitably, I separate this loathsome character flaw from his more cogent political musings. Officially, I remain his colleague and friend, and frequent defender.

In fact, I'd trust him to display the chief Heinleinian virtues -- courage, autonomy, openhanded generosity, curiosity, skepticism, and utter joy at vigorous argument -- before I'd trust most of the people on the left, or anywhere else.

If I were ever in a real jam, he's one of those I know could be trusted. And that cancels out one heckuva lot of the other stuff.

Stefan Jones said...

Pictures and videos from last weekend's Maker Faire in the Bay Area. (There's one in Austin TX, too. )

If you've ever been to an Art Faire, well, the Maker Faire is like that. Except, instead of "dream catchers," home-made soap, and wooden toys, the folks at the Maker Faire show off flame-throwing art cars, combat robots, Tesla coils and a giant-sized Mousetrap game.

If I had the time, and another Compact Flash chip for my camera, this set would have been a *lot* larger. There was a *hell* of a lot of stuff to see and do.

Most of my pictures are of the eye-drawing "circus" stuff; for every artsy display there are maybe five stalls where folks show off tools, books, software, or educational wares.

Stefan Jones said...


Jason Maskell said...

Yep, you sure beat the hell out of that straw man, David.

I agree with you for the most part about Pax Americana and american in the early 20th, although I find it hard to believe that most of the world that was the beneficiary of American interference should be grateful. Iran and Iraq come immediately to mind.

As for defending your military budget - bullshit. It should be half or less of what it is. You're not the worlds policeman.

tacitus2 said...

Regards universal children's health coverage.
The chief componants are:
-infectious disease. Mostly taken care of, the current immunizations have kicked the butt of most of the childhood killers. We in fact need to treat less, as roughly half of current antibiotic use is inapprop.
-developmental peds. inexpensive, but hard to make a difference.
-childhood obesity. Not something that responds to edicts and dollars shoveled at it.
-problems of prematurity. Quickly spills out of the peds world, issues of fertility rx and underage preg.
-child psych. A real quagmire. Some of it is legit, lots will be looked upon with horror by later gens.
We have the infrastructure to provide the basics right now. But who will tell people what they can't have. (childhood bariatric surg. growth hormone for nl but short). And will people accept lower cost options, public immun. clinics, NPs delivering basic care?
We are already doing pretty well. Kids with leukemia are not dying in the streets.

Tacitus2 (or Brevicus today!)

AMusingFool said...

On Transparency:

Obama's rhetoric, especially before election, was exactly what we needed. His actions since then are another matter entirely, however. He has a) claimed an even greater expansion of the state secrets privilege than even Bush did (in the context of wiretapping), b) threatened our allies in Britain with withholding counter-terrorism intelligence if they revealed how we tortured one of their (innocent) citizens, and c) refused to release photos that the courts have repeatedly said must be turned over because of FOIA requests. And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head; I'm sure I'm forgetting at least one other instance.

On health care, why don't we start with two of the easiest things of all: eliminate direct-to-consumer drug advertising and allow medicare/medicaid to negotiate prices directly with the drug companies (as the VA already does).

David Brin said...

Okay, Jason... try stretching that teeny imagination of yours.

Now find me a powerful nation that refused to exercise pax power when it had the chance... the thing you expect us to do, yet Britain certainly did not do.

Try studying the behavior of Pax Brittanica... Pax momana... every other pax and DARE to compare them to Pax Americana. The only thing that was worse than their brutality -- ALWAYS -- was no pax at all. When there was no pax, a third of the population and the cities routinely burned.

You can spit in the face of the policeman who kept you both alive and free. That's your privilege. It is your privilege because that policeman did his job. Ungrateful wretch.

Sure, the Shah was a mistake. Vietnam was a horrific one. Want to list bad things? I could make a longer list than you could, and thump my chest "mea culpa" till the cows come home. Indeed, I have fought many of those things, all my life.

And still the list of good outweighing the bad is towering, overwhelming. Your very existence, along with all your freedoms, along with the fact that 70% of the world's people are entering the middle class in peace and serenity, having never heard any echoes of war... along with...

Oh, WTH. I lived in Britain. I know it's useless. I know the type. So I'll stop.

Tacitus, we are NOT doing okay by kids. Your cherrypicking examples is not helpful. When 30% of our kids aren't getting checkups or basic preventative care, it is a travesty. Period. And these are services that are easily state-provided, without ANY apparent capitalist/market elasticity or even a marginal realistic way these services could be better delivered by the market.

These are the areas where Euro-Canadian methods are simply better, in every conceivable way. We should eliminate the monstrous waste of greedy-pariasite insurers, when it comes to kids. And we should do it right now. More soon.

David Brin said...

I regret the "wretch" part. We cannot help our habits... or at best we can change them slowly.

It was wrong of me to aim at Jason the same kind of wrath that I aim at the Bushite crew. The (western) left may be just as self-righteously and dismally misguided... but they have done much less harm. Apologies and please hang around. You are welcome here.

Carl M. said...

Our healthcare system resembles the food system in France prior to the Revolution. In France, the government was handing out monopoly patents left and right -- but reigning them in a bit with price controls. When reform began with easing of price controls, food prices shot up, revolution ensued. (actual situation grossly simplified)

In our country, we have a cartelized system of healthcare coupled with welfare to help some afford it, and IRS funded overinsurance to keep the middle class from revolting. And now, we have social democrats calling for nationalization of the whole shebang.

An alternative: get rid of the cartel. Healthcare innovators do try to make care affordable to the poor for routine checkups and the like, and the AMA lobbies to put them out of business every time. Just look at the (queue up evil empire music) attempts by Wal Mart to include walkin clinics.

Imagine if you had to have a Ph.D. in computer science to legally write software -- or at least be under the supervision of such. That is the state of medicine. And it is expensive.

And the price rises faster than inflation in part because little can be outsourced. Our underlying inflation rate is much higher than the CPI because imports and outsourcing hold prices down in many sectors.

tacitus2 said...

David, I am not cherrypicking examples. I listed the basic componants of what universal pediatric care would encompass and pointed out a few challenges to doing so.

I repeat my assertion, we are not doing that badly at providing medical care to children in the year 2009.

Now, its more complex than need be, and not everyone navigates the maze easily. Here in Wisconsin we have Medical Assitance which covers the poor. We have Badgercare, which covers the working and slightly less poor. There are various compassionate programs that handle mega issues like childhood cancer. There is a well functioning network of public immunization clinics. In a pinch, there are Free Clinics even in rural areas. And heck, in my primary care days we just expected to write off a certain number of charges in the name of karma.

Children are not dying in the streets of leukemia, nor will they.

You have to be very careful with stats and studies. All numbers can be made to perform, and health care stats in particular can be made to jump up on the bar and dance the macarena.

30% of children are short basic checkups and preventative care? OK, how many of the suggested visits and immunizations are they short? One a bit late, or missed em all? One year olds or 17 year olds? Do the consequences include epidemics of immunizable diseases? Why were the appointments missed? Back in the day, we were reimbursed better if we could prove a higher percentage of visits. We had a staffer devote considerable effort to tracking people down and getting their kids in. The reasons for their non-appearance were varied and had little to do with the shortcomings of the system.

I agree that this would be a good place to beta test a more rational health care system. But please do not be dismissive. After three decades in the system I know it better than you do*. And with respect, the challenges are larger, and different than you imagine.


*on comets and dolphins I defer to you.

Carl M. said...

Oh, and regarding "The Right being the primary enemy of markets", you may be correct, but I think you are under-counting the historical left a bit. Socialism as we now know it is a modern invention. Rapacious egalitarianism is not; it just went under such names as mob rule or barbarian hoard. Some theocracies also attempted to enforce egalitarian values to a level worthy of a modern socialist. The Pilgrims started off as outright communists.

Come to think of it, Julius Caesar was a left wing reformer -- the Hugo Chavez of his day.

History is a complex mix.

David Brin said...

The military shows how the portions of health care that are relatively standardized can be delivered quickly and equitably. Most of the child-oriented services are directly standardize-able. Simply do it!

The vast and bewildering complexity of overlapping insurance policies and companies and government programs are a welfare program for bureaucrats.

The reflex to ONLY get vexed over government bureaucrats, and not at corporate ones, is a profoundly awful mania. It is like the standard right wing cant against "a thousand bureaucrats picking winners and losers" in the economy, but never any ire toward a thousand self-interested, conspiratorial, cartel-running, secretive and corrupt golf-buddy CEOs conniving to "pick winners and losers." According to standards that were entirely vampiric, without even the bureaucrats' intent to do paternalistic good.

The jury is in. Those 1,000 private mavens did far more harm, and a far worse job of economic management, than any POSSIBLE combination of government bureaucrats. Likewise, the present setup for child health care -- prejudicial, biased, staggeringly complex, and driven by cheating and ill-will -- is by nature worse than any simpler alternative... which we might then at least observe, understand and improve.

Note that I am NOT calling for blanket socialism. The earlier comparison of cartel-CEOs to Geithner-style bureaucrats was a choice between evil oligarchs and clumsy regulators. The third choice, genuine market capitalism, deserves a chance, for a change.

Likewise, I am ready to listen to thoughtful ideas about how to deliver more complex forms of health care to deal with adult acute and chronic illnesses, in some way that combines the best and avoids the worst of both the US and Euro approaches.

But the first step is for the right to step back from its nostrums. All children can and should simply get free medical care, with bureaucracy at a minimum. We can afford that much and it is pragmatic to maximize our seed corn...

... and anything else is simply evil.

David Brin said...

Carl, it is not so much "the right" as it is oligarchy. And most of your peasant revolts eventually toppled into oligarchy, as the top gang turned themselves into yet another batch of feudal lords. It is the natural human attractor state.

e.g. the Russian Nomenklatura kept spouting socialist rationalizations. But their behavior was classic oligarchy.

Moreover, those peasant revolts only tended to happen in RESPONSE to oligarchic misrule. So it nearly always boiled down to the same thing.

No, we are talking human nature here. The left right so-called "axis" has little to do with it, except in this one respect....

...the American Right seems completely unable to turn its gaze away from its fixated strawman "bureaucrat" bogeyman. At the behest of a gang of genuine oligarchs, who own much of our media and most of our oil supply, "conservatives" and libertarians are 100% incapable of seeing that freedom has had other enemies. Enemies that ruined freedom 99% of the time.

Enemies who are presently at our gates. But all the right can do is make excuses for our new, would-be masters.

That's unforgivably dumb.

Tony Fisk said...

Speaking of 'our would-be masters', this is an interesting admission:

On whether Saddam helped al-Qaeda carry out the 2001 terrorist attacks, Mr Cheney said: "I do not believe, and I have never seen any evidence, that he was involved in 9/11."

Tony Fisk said...

(...oh, yes. I do understand that Cheney probably comes with strings attached.)

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of single payer for children, it would demonstrate the feasibility of such a system and create a demand for the inclusion of everyone as children grew up. I do worry about what happens to the insurance bureaucrats made redundant. With any luck, by that time we will have figured out some sort of balance respecting trade, energy and pollution, and there will be jobs, Tim.

TwinBeam said...

David - so 100% of libertarians fail to recognize the danger of oligarchs. But you recognize that danger, ergo you are not a libertarian... :-)

Of course libertarians understand that wealth can translate into power and abuse. It's just that libertarians recognize a systemic flaw - that big government advocates of both stripes short-sightedly ignore (or perhaps they see it and are delighted that it works in their long term favor).

Libertarians recognize that the primary reason oligarchs are dangerous is that the wealthy are ABLE to convert economic power into political power, in order to gain more economic power, in order to gain more political power, and so on.

A large part of the American Experiment was an attempt to break that circuit by deliberately limiting federal government power and keeping it out of most economic matters. That's why so many libertarians focus narrowly on Constitutional fundamentalism.

Every time we make government bigger and give it more economic power in an attempt to make it do good, we reduce the resistance to future oligarchs, while increasing their incentive to gain political power. It is no coincidence that money plays such a huge role in modern American politics.

Jefferson was right - we need a revolution every generation; specifically, there should be a constitutional convention every 25 years. To keep the American Experiment alive and strong, every generation should try its own variation on the experiment, rather than rely on the wisdom of long dead forefathers, let alone rely on professional politicians and bureaucrats to obey that wisdom.

A constitutional convention is where fundamental changes, such as "a right to universal health care" should be considered, because establishing such a right inherently infringes on other rights currently guaranteed.

David Brin said...

TwinBeam, we've gone over this before. I've keynoted an LP convention.... half the audience gave a standing ovation while the other half tried to lynch me.

So yes, 100% is an exaggeration. But since un-blinkered liberty lovers with a sense of history have been effectively expelled by the lapel-grabbers, Randroids and Murdoch-lovers, it's been hard to connect the label with anything sane, for a long time.

Hey, when the LP cannot increase its vote share by an iota during an election when the GOP is is a well-deserved tailspin, then when CAN it connect to the people? The answer is - the lapel-grabbers don't want that connection. They want the indignation high of seeing everything SO CLEARLY and so much better than their fool-socialist neighbors.

Look, I haven't time to go back into this. I put in strenuous efforts:
and... explain how liberty-minded people could expand their view of both threats and opportunities. I've learned there are two kinds. Fanatics who cannot learn... and those who can, but drop the libertarian name as pragmatically useless.

You said: Every time we make government bigger and give it more economic power in an attempt to make it do good, we reduce the resistance to future oligarchs, while increasing their incentive to gain political power. It is no coincidence that money plays such a huge role in modern American politics.

Sorry, this is drivel. Willful ignorance of history, in order to maintain an entrenched position.

Yes, Oligarchs took over the government in countless other eras, and used its tools to oppress others. But it is comical to watch you guys writhe in order to excuse the oppressors while blaming the tools! Not one word from you about the reciprocal need to constantly STOP oligarchic conspiracies! To recognize them as the great enemy of markets... the PRECISE enemy that Adam Smith railed against.

The old enemy, rooted in human nature, that any of us might become! If we were tempted by such power.

You forget, modern government was created out of Adam Smith's enlightenment, precisely IN ORDER to create a force in society that would be strong enough to counterbalance oligarchs and priests and kings. This notion, of balancing centers of power and pitting them against each other ought to be second nature to libertarians!

Instead of turning into lickspittle boy toys of our new feudal masters, like those whores at the Cato Institute, who will concoct rationalizations for ANY power grab by any billionaire who happens also to give them a grant.

Does government always act as a counterbalance to the old enemy? Heck no. We need to watch our tool carefully, inspect it often, clean it out (like we did in the last election). Why do you think transparency and accountability are my things!

Yes, our government became a wholly owned tool of oligarchy, under the Bushites. But that was never a function of its SIZE. It was a function of our stupidity. And we may have corrected that in time.

Oh, I prefer smaller govt, and I prefer market solutions over govt ones. When I favor govt programs, it is those that prime capitalism's pump, by educating and stimulating ever higher percentages of kids to become vibrant competitors. I am no fan of paternalistic levelers or socialism. I see individualism and responsibility and accountability as key and in that respect, I am proudly a Heinleinian liberrtarian.

But I am above-all a child of the Enlightenment. A contrarian bastard who refuses to focus my paranoia on only one zone of the threat horizon. People who do that are fools and slaves to dogma.

Freedom faces threats in EVERY direction. Leftists who ignore creeping bureaucracy are no better or worse than "libertarians" who make excuses for the oligarchs who are in full-tilt effort to putsch us out of our renaissance and throw us back into chains.

TwinBeam said...

DB: "Not one word from you about the reciprocal need to constantly STOP oligarchic conspiracies"

Talk about willful ignorance to maintain an entrenched position! That was exactly what my post said libertarians want to accomplish!

Sure they also want to hang onto their rights and keep their taxes low and so on - but a big part of the "small government" preference of libertarians is aimed at blocking government corruption - whether by wealthy aristocrats looking for an advantage, or by groups of citizens who want special privileges.

You can't bribe a bureaucrat to do you a favor he has no power to grant.

If government could be kept small, attempts by politicians to pass rent-seeking laws for their cronies would be far more obvious, more likely to be rejected with the contempt they deserve.

But I deviate from libertarians in at least one key way - I don't think it's possible to roll back government via government - and even if it were possible, it wouldn't stay small for long. The Constitution was brilliant, but still could not prevent government power from bloating.

The best solution I can see, is to periodically, peacefully, start from scratch - keep the best, discard the rest, and try some fresh ideas even though most of them are going to turn out badly.

David Brin said...

TwinBeam, you are DOING IT AGAIN!

You are fixating on the tool, ignoring its essential purpose, and using that to justify ignoring the real problem.

You seem to be saying "without big government, and bureaucrats, there'd be no danger from oligarchs."

Whaaaaaa? Let's lay it down, man. Oligarchy and feudalism are THE basic human social pattern. They have always arisen to oppress others, under all civilizations, continents and conditions. Big government, small government, or no government.

It always happens and they will always try to make it happen in the future, as they are trying, very very hard, right now.

Only one civilization kept class warfare quelled to a dull roar, with the flattest social order ever seen, resulting in a vast renaissance of freedom, entrepreneurship, meritocratic mobility, creativity and market fecundity.

It is no accident that this happened in a civilization that had lots of government! This is because... and let me repeat this... government in its modern form was invented precisely to provide a power base that can counter the sway of the lords and moguls and landlords and kings and priests.

The unutterable naivete of most libertarians is to accept the incredible wonders that emerged from our era, while utterly spurning one of the main tools that made it all possible!

Yes, government can fester and go rotten and turn into socialism. So? FIGHT THAT!

Yes, government can be bribed and suborned and turned into a tool FOR oligarchs, instead of against them. So? FIGHT THAT!

What libertarians cannot point to is any other civilization that ever had less government, or no government, and did better than ours has! We had our greatest flowering under a system set up by Franklin Freaking Roosevelt! Live with that fact.

Dig it, the cant shared among libertarians -- that only bureaucrats are dangerous -- is not only historically laughable, it is subsidized by Rupert Murdoch and his cabal. Now, why would he do that?

David Brin said...

GOD TEXTS THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (translation from the King James Bible
by Jamie Quatro)

1. no1 b4 me. srsly.

2. dnt wrshp pix/idols

3. no omg's

4. no wrk on w/end (sat 4 now; sun l8r)

5. pos ok - ur m&d r cool

6. dnt kill ppl

7. :-X only w/ m8

8. dnt steal

9. dnt lie re: bf

10. dnt ogle ur bf's m8. or ox. or dnkey. myob.

M, pls rite on tabs & giv 2 ppl.

ttyl, JHWH.

ps. wwjd?

Tony Fisk said...

wwjd? Use smileys ;-)

(#11. b thrfty wth vwls: dvl fnds use 4 idl tngs/thmbs)

re 11 sry JW We rn ut f tab spc

Speaking of devils, I suspect the person who laid out the phone pad was related to Christopher Sholes

pingiast: a sharp prickle or venomous arthropod that has worked itself into the spaces between the keys, and which can lie in wait for years for the unwary typist.

pingiastophobia: see 'writers block'

Tony Fisk said...

(What's this? 4096 char limit! WS will be amused!)

Be they kings or cabinets, lords or lobby groups, oligarchs use the tools of government to impose their will on the populace.

Still, those tools do seem to have a tricksy habit of mutating into something different and unruly.

I suppose the events on the fields of Runnymede lay the basis for the loyal opposition (aka barons) to tell the oligarchs a few home truths. Helped along by the odd pandemic, things sort of gently snowballed from there.

America's founding fathers can certainly take a lot of credit for taking the opportunity to overhaul and quantify a few of the arrangements between the sheep and the wolves (as bro 'bf' would put it) A case for punctuated equilibrium?

It is an interesting exercise to speculate just why this should be (and what follows is just vague speculation)

The 'frontier effect' could have a lot to do with it. Stuck on the outposts of habitation, with no external military threats to give the masses anything better to do, interesting things seem to start happening to the body politic. (thus, eighth century Iceland, thirteenth century Britain, eighteenth century America)

Why didn't it work in France? I suspect that, faced with a surrounding pack of competitors, and discovering that a zealous bout of guillotining wasn't good change management, the government gave up and fell back on an able and willing leader to look after them.

Maybe Jefferson has a point with having a revolution a generation. Indeed, the US has had some sort of systemic disruption at roughly those intervals.
A few that spring to mind:
1776 - independence
1861 - civil war, emancipation
1930 - depression, the 'New Deal'
1960 - activism(?)
2009 - (after a b(r)ush with self-servatism), curious times?
2100 - ...

Still, if democracy needs revolutions to evolve, it seems to do it best in relatively clean canvasses, and we've run out of undiscovered countries (unless anyone wants to emigrate to Antarctica just yet?)

That is, ultimately, what the roadmap to Mars is about.

Tony Fisk said...

On another matter entirely (or maybe just another example of frontiers).
Heinlein has been referred to a few times in the last week or so. As it happens, I've just finished reading 'Variable Star', which is an outline of a previously unknown Heinlein novel ghosted by Spider Robinson.

*Groan*! I hear you say. This sort of thing seldom bodes well. (Indeed, Robinson writes of his misgivings in the Afterword) In this case, I'm happy to report that the result is well worth the read.

No, it isn't cutting edge sf (hey, Heinlein wrote the outline in 1955! I suspect he abandoned it in favour of 'Time For The Stars'. There are also elements of 'Farmer in the Sky' in the background)

No, it isn't a flawless novel. The end is wrapped up just a little too pat without a lot of relevance to the bulk of the story (Heinlein never would have??), and there is at least one plot twist that isn't properly explained, although it can be inferred from the protagonist's emotional development.

Nevertheless, Robinson does a creditable effort in giving flesh (and a few missing verterbrae) to the bones of a Heinlein 'juvenile' and making it a contemporary tale. Written in 2005, there are the inevitable references to 9/11, and the role of Scudder and friends. The characters are the usual blend of Heinleinian ultra-bright 'young bloods', with a hint of Pak Protector thrown in for good measure. One could be critical and say that, apart from the protagonist, Joel, little character development occurs in about six years.

But, hey, this is fifties sf, and "the play's the thing". I found Robinson's humorous style to my liking, and his descriptions of interstellar goat herding and the unabashedly fantastical explanations of the 'quantum ramjet'* FTL drive are delightfully tongue in cheek.

Recommended to anyone waiting fare from other quarters.

*No goats involved here. Just buttered toast and tossed cats. ie 'a sufficiently advanced technology' happens.

Tony Fisk said...

Thought I'd finished, but here's some purely cool stuff that shouldn't be ignored:

The shadows cast on and by the rings of Saturn as the vernal equinox approaches (Aug 11)

Carl M. said...

David, you have a good thesis in grave danger of being weakened by overstatement, much as the anarchos weaken the case for limited government. And with your celebration of nearly everything Obama, you are falling into the same “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” trap which makes CATO act the way you so despise.

But before giving some constructive criticism, let me pull a Dale Carnegie and list points of agreement.

* Oligarchs are indeed a major threat to liberty and free markets, a fact well underappreciated by many modern libertarians.

* I was impressed by Adam Smith’s position on lowering the rates of profits and raising wages way back when I read bits of the Wealth of Nations a quarter century ago.

* Your article in LP News some time before your convention speech was quite influential to me, including my current projects.

* I agree that the Bush Administration was a bunch of crooks and not true conservatives. I told my Republican friends years ago (during his first term) that he would destroy the Republican Party.

* I agree that a narrower wealth gap is necessary to maximize liberty. I advocate a Citizen’s Dividend funded by Georgist taxes on land, natural resource exploitation, bandwidth, etc. among other progressive reforms compatible with respect for natural rights.

* (I am the one who posted your articles. Thank you again for letting me do so. And I am still promoting them.)

However, I think you are overstating your case at times, and this leads to your losing credibility with the pro-liberty audience, and to advocating/excusing bad policies.

Oligarchs/aristocrats have been enemies of liberty on par with socialists/populists. The alliance of freedom lovers with the Right is a devil’s bargain triggered by socialism. Even Murray Rothbard realized that libertarians needed to restore their alliance with the left that they had during the Enlightenment.

But aristocrats have their virtues and populists have their vices. Those who own property generally have a better grasp of the dangers of centralized power, the importance of the rule of law and private property, and how to craft checks and balances. Aristocrats gave us the Roman republic, the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, and many of the checks and balances found in our constitution.

Meanwhile, populists have a bad propensity to dispense with property rights and the rule of law, and grant way to much power to charismatic demagogues: Julius Caesar, Andrew Jackson, Franklin Roosevelt, Hugo Chavez, V.I. Lenin, etc.

(Regarding the Soviet Union: life got better when the system became corrupt. Under the idealists they had god-emperor leadership, mass starvation, and gulags. As the system corrupted, they had rule by committee, sufficient overlooking of the black market to allow people to survive, internal exile for dissidents, and eventually democracy.)

This is not to advocate oligarchy: the crimes of oligarchs are many (slavery! Caste systems!), and a wide enough wealth gap is tyranny in and of itself. But aristocrats have their place in a free society; they provide a counterweight to the government, and sometimes incorruptible leaders such as George Washington.

An excessive wealth gap presents several dangers to a free society:

• Oligarchs able to buy “justice”
• Workers trapped in wage slavery
• Populist revolt leading to an undermining of property rights and the rule of law.

Be wary of celebrating the third danger. Don’t complain about ostriches of the Right unless you are willing to be an objective critic of the current administration. The solution to an administration which ran high deficits giving out pork to its buddies is not an administration which runs bigger deficits to give out yet more pork.

Carl M. said...


That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate the change of administrations. If you prefer central bureaucracy to incompetent oligarchy as the better of the available options, so be it. But don’t trumpet it as optimal for those of us who love liberty. A police state may work for cutting crime, but it introduces problems of its own. Likewise, the modern welfare state may remedy some social and economic problems, but the problem it introduces are many. We don’t just have the choice between cartels or socialism.

But admittedly, the political movement for a viable third way is currently scattered and miniscule. So celebrate your lesser of two evils, but recognize it for what it is if you want to be listened to by the freedom lovers.

David Brin said...

Carl, thanks for your equable and gracious manner of disagreeing, starting with the stipulation of points of agreement. That is the behavior of an adult.

Hence, let me stipulate right back at you. I have no objection to earned-aristocracy. Hell, I seem to have earned a status of a minot lordling at some levels, and I exploit it like crazy.

Moreover, as one who moves in Philanthropy-theory circles, I know there's a strong place for the better aristocrats... indeed, the oligarchs I accuse of trying to create an American feudalism are NOT among the six billionaires I know on a 1st name basis. All of THEM are eager members of the Enlightenment. Like the Founders of the Republic.

Wealth does not automatically turn people into power abusers.

Nevertheless, it is a strong attractor-driver. The will to leave your children an inherited position OWNING other peoples' children is strong in us because we are all descended from the harems of guys who pulled it off.

In fact, the Soviet Nomenklatura belongs on the long list of oligarchic tyrannies. If you parse it right, only a very small fraction of oppressions violate the pattern. (BTW, FDR does NOT belong on your list. Again, since the greatest epoch of market economy, small business, creativity, wealth generation and rising justice all happened under the system he put in place, a steep burden of proof falls upon those who deride him so.)

In fact, I am willing to criticize the present administration. I start by wishing he'd do health care very differently. Yes, I am eager to give him the benefit of some doubt. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But he has the talents and the attitude. If it happens, we'll be blessed... and I will STILL go all contrarian on his ass. Just wait.

I remain a "libertarian" in that I dream of a second problem-solving party... one that would emphasize incremental boosting of market solutions to problems, as opposed to the reflex of solving everything with the state. The fact that it has been left to the DEMOCRATS to do most of the successful DEregulation in this country shows just how desperately lacking of such a party we have been.

Goldwater dreamed some methodologies. They are still sitting on the shelf.

TONY! Heinlein was never the storyteller Poul Anderson was. His grasp of story arc was always terribly weak. Generally, an RAH novel ended about 2/3 of the way through and then petered out with endless drivel. (In BEYOND THIS HORIZON, it was the opening dramatic half that stunk and the conversational second half that rocked!)

But man, could RAH write OPENINGS! I have my students read the first page of almost any Heinlein novel to see how it's done. The whole 1st chapter of THE STAR BEAST is totally genius level, implying a million things about the future world and characters, without SAYING hardly anything. An amazing fellow. Glad I got to meet him once.

Carl M. said...

Regarding FDR:

Destroyed food while people in cities were hungry. Check.

Artificially jacked up wages when real wages already boosted by deflation. Massive unemployment. Check.

Created largest Ponzi scheme in human history. Set to crash in a few years. Check.

Internment camps. Check.

Fascist parades. (During the National Recovery Administration). Check.

Threatened to pack the Supreme Court. Check.

Declared that a farmer growing feed for his own animals was interstate commerce. Check.

Destroyed the penny stock market. Several layers of angel and venture capital now required before going public. Check.


The Great Depression was not unbridled capitalism failing. Herbert Hoover was a serious interventionist; he was no Warren Harding. Imposing a tax on every check transaction probably hurt the banks as much as the stock market crash.

The U.S. had many panics prior to 1929. A bunch of unpleasant bankruptcies. Some strikes as wages were lowered to reflect economic reality. A couple years and the economy got moving again.

Carl M. said...

The Roosevelt era did give us the end of Prohibition. That's a huge plus. The Blue Ridge Parkway is rather nice as well.

Upping margin requirements was good. I'd up them even higher. But I'm not sold on the whole SEC package. IPOs are incredibly expensive these days. I recall watching a PBS documentary, "Empire of the Air", which mentioned the inventor of the triode floating something like 7 public companies which failed.

Our heavily regulated system cuts down on such wild action. It protects average Joe investors from these perils -- and opportunities. Today, IPOs are primarily a way for early stage investors to cash out. And since the overhead is so high, many founders/early investors sell out to an existing big corporation instead of going public on their own.

And this is called "progressive."

David Brin said...

Is that all you can cite re FDR? Even I could do better! There are excuses for each of those things... including dumbness, panic and one-off egregious blunders. None of which compared with the simple fact:

All the world was going through a phase of "radio demagoguery." The new medium empowered voice-charisma manipulators to hypnotize the masses toward fascism. In America, our voice-charisma uber leader was moderate, satiable and genuinely believed in both democracy and capitalism. If not for him, God knows who the People would have turned to.

Again, the burden of proof. After WWII, under the system he emplaced, humanity experienced more growth of business, commerce, education, freedom, social mobility, entrepreneurship, creativity and... yes... libertarianism... than all of history PUT TOGETHER.

I am not saying his systems were all right & perfect. Many were awful, like the CAA, ICC and some of those travesties you mentioned. Some were later deregulated, by the only party that ever did successful and substantial deregulation -- the dems.

Nevertheless, success speaks. And for critics of FDR NOT to take that correlation as putatively and arguably a matter of cause and effect is little more than blinkered dogmatism.

Dig it. The FTC, FDA, OSHA and all that paternalistic stuff didn't arise out of pure oppressiveness. There were PROBLEMS! I agree (me, libertarian) that market based solutions would be better. Goldwater offered some... was ignored by the GOP.

Instead of howling at govt-based solutions, the liberty community should be innovating alternatives to let those alphabet agencies wither away.

Tim H. said...

An example of the kind of problem that spawns federal agencies, I read once that industrial accidents killed and injured more Americans in the 1st year of WWII than enemy action did. OSHA allows management to do the right thing without worrying about stockholders with torches and pitchforks, Tim.

Carl M. said...

The world went phase of "radio demagoguery." FDR was one of them, and our rule of law has never recovered. The consequences are not insignificant.

As for the rate of per capita GDP growth since 1940, some observations:

1. The rate of immigration plummeted during the 30s and did not return to 1920s levels until the 1980s. When you import 5 dirt poor immigrants per 1000 people, it depresses local per capital GDP. See

2. The GDP includes government spending as a component. It measures the cost, not the value generated of public goods. For example, if a county goes from paying 900K on teachers and 100K in administration, to 900K in teachers and 600K in administration, GDP records this as a 50% increase in education production, even if the additional administrators are negatively productive.

3. If GDP is expenditures on final goods and services, does it properly account for the domestic economy? Does it count a wife staying and home with the kids the same as a childcare center doing the same thing? During this time there was been a gigantic shift of work from the non-monetary domestic economy to the money economy.

David Brin said...

Our rule of law has kept getting better, suffering only one major setback... the Bushite era.

I want to turn back the state and see it get smaller. But our difference is that I see it as a vital intermediate stage.

A DANGEROUS stage, perhaps. We must be wary. But nevertheless, a necessary enlightenment stage to empower us to break old patterns.

Moreover, the renaissance of markets, creative competition and yes, libertarianism, all happened FOSTERED by the state. Or, if you have another explanation for their tight correlation, than cause and effect, you face a burden of proof.

I want the state to wither back. My unique libertarian view is that this needn't be hostile. There are MANY examples of the state withering back once a need declines.

In my essays I speak of a libertarianism that recognizes this complex, transitional condition and looks ahead, even using state means to enhance the core fecundity of underlying individualism! It is not a contradiction!

So long as each generation sees more libertarians, living better and more creatively, in a freedom-directed trend, what's the beef?


Everybody, you must watch this. Get to know the guy.

tacitus2 said...

Oh, the Rule of Law has had a few setbacks other than the Bush era. I would cite examples, but suspect you are using your own definitions.

On a happier note, as a member of the Loyal Opposition, I felt that Obama hit mostly the right notes on his Egypt/Europe journey.


Catfish N. Cod said...

To Jason, if he's still here: your argument cancels out. If we are "not the world's policeman" how can one agree with the results of the Pax Americana? The existence of the Pax demands that, to some degree, the Pax provider police.

That said, I agree that our military budget should drop precipitously. That's not because we need to cut back on our military activities, though. It's primarily corruption, waste, and outdated equipment and bases that would provide that cut. We do not need defense plants in every single one of the 435 congressional districts, and we do not need next-generation Cold War equipment. Defense has always been one of the primary excuses used by parasites to justify their bloodsucking.

To Dr. Brin: I hear you on the necessity to try something over than GAR by either government or oligarchy. However, my experience in the health care sector has taught me that there cannot be a one-size-fits-all economic solution to proper disbursement of health care. In true Heinleinian tradition, cooperation and competition are going to both play a role -- and they are needed in different ratios at different times.

Consider these two scenarios:

On the one end of a spectrum is cosmetic surgery for beauty purposes -- a tummy tuck, let's say. There is no medical necessity whatsoever, no urgency, no need for priority. The patient can take all the time in the world to shop around, choose the best practitioner, haggle endlessly, get exactly what they want for the price they want. It's a pure good/service in the grand tradition of free markets, perfectly suited for a open competitive space. No one I know of thinks tummy tucks should be paid for by anything other than out-of-pocket directly from the patient.

On the other end of the spectrum are the ischemic emergencies: heart attack and stroke are the two most common. In either case, the required treatment is absolutely mandatory and absolutely immediate. If you do not want major loss of function and health, and do not wish to risk near-imminent death, YOU MUST proceed with ABSOLUTELY NO DELAY to the nearest hospital or treatment facility. There is not a second to waste; every moment that you do not get clot-busters, beta-blockers, and evaluation imaging irreversibly costs you part of the ability to move, breathe, and/or think. There is no possibility of a market at all: you have a gun to your head (or heart, or other vital organ). In the absence of sufficient regulation, you can and will be fleeced for everything up to and including all you own. And for thousands of Americans today, that is precisely what is happening.

Now, most health care falls somewhere between these two extremes. But they are sufficient to demonstrate the point. Not all health care is proper for a free market; but then, some is. How, then, can we apply a blended system that adjusts to the appropriate level of cooperation and competition? This is the problem faced in the field of health care reform. _Any_ plan that does not begin by acknowledging this truth is doomed to be, at best, a Band-Aid on the core problem.

Carl M. said...

Socialized medicine is not an "intermediate stage." Middle class entitlements are incredibly difficult to reverse, or even contain. Once the median voter decides to vote for largesse from the public trough...

As for a government program with just necessary, proven therapies, don't make me laugh. Know why we don't have affordable private insurance such as you describe? IT'S ILLEGAL! State governments keep tacking on required coverages. Is the federal government all that wiser?

Acacia H. said...

First, I don't see what the problem is with government mandated health insurance for children. When I look at private insurance, it is the "family" addition which significantly increases the costs. If the government took a Childcare Tax out of our income (with progressive taxation so that those who earn more pay more - yes, it's unfair in one sense, but someone who makes $5,000 a week will suffer less by having $100 removed from their paycheck than someone making $500 a week) then that is an expense that three groups don't have to pay: parents, industry (who chips in for the insurance), and the insurance industry (which has to pay for pediatric care, which can get expensive).

Have the child insurance pay for important (and in many ways essential) services: checkups, immunizations, dental cleanings and fillings, and emergency services. If parents want to have their baby with perfectly straight teeth, they can pay for the braces out of pocket (unless of course the teeth are in serious need of braces for a variety of reasons). If they want their baby to have cosmetic surgery, they pay for that out of pocket as well. The government will pay for the important services, not frivolous stuff.

BTW, remember those physicals and the dental cleanings? Have those be mandatory. Far more money is saved through preventative maintenance of teeth (and the body) than spent. When I lost my job back in 2001, I skimped on dental. Had a tooth crack without realizing it... which ended up needing the tooth pulled. If I'd been getting regular cleanings and x-rays, it would have been caught early and the tooth saved. The same holds true for kids and their teeth and their body.

Further, the insurance will continue until the end of the child's 18th year. However, give kids an option: if they want to continue the government insurance while going to college, then they sign a contract which stipulates that they will provide community service while under the insurance. They'll clean the sides of our highways, clean up our cities, feed our poor, tutor our children, for the privilege of being insured while in college.

Who knows. Maybe it'll teach a bit of humility at the same time. These young adults will be seeing how the poor live and how our environment is being destroyed through littering and the like. Knowing that if they goof off in school they could be on the streets... knowing that if they just waited until they got home to throw their trash out rather than scatter it on the roads... they might try harder in college and start treating the environment better.

While I do not like the mandatory community service required for high school students now, I believe that a volunteer system where students are getting something for their efforts is useful and teaches our children something: the value of hard work and effort and being rewarded for that work. Knowing that they are not just being forced to work... but are benefiting by their efforts. It may very well encourage more people to help out in the community once they graduate from college.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

David Brin said...

Tacitus, we are talking two different things. The rule of law suffers setbacks all the time. What Carl and I were arguing about the secular rate of change of overall levels of justice. And pretty clearly, those overall levels have generally been rising all our lives, or were until recently. That does NOT man there is little to complain about. It does mean that even cynics must grudgingly admit we're a better and more ethical people than, say, in 1954.

Catfish, I agree with your scaling assessment. And I believe it should be admitted that there is some "near and urgent" zone of health care that should simply be provided as a matter of natural right. NOT because I am a socialist! But because that portion is a no brainer. It will happen, it must, in order for us to look ourselves in the mirror. So we might as well simply toss the $$#$#@ bureaucracy and insurance parasitism and simply do it! The way the rest of the civilized world does.

Where do we draw this "no-brainer" line? I dunno. But some things are obvious. Emergency rooms should not be places where people agonize over insurance forms. All children should get all preventive and effective-palliative care. Period. Start with those and all of our insurance rates will go down. Yes, taxes will go up. But probably it would be a net plus, even in dollar terms.

There is a vast middle ground before we get to those tummy tucks. That middle ground can be debated, while single payer is tested on the kids. I am not at all sure I want to go fully Canadian. The world needs the medical research that's driven by the US system. And there comes a line where govt bureaucrats become no better than insurance bureaucrats. Their rationing systems are more fair, perhaps. But they are still rationing.

David Brin said...

Carl, the "largesse" quotation is an infamous canard. The middle class is the one sector of society that has polled willing to sacrifice. They are prickly over social security, yes. But they did not howl over increasing the retirement age. (It should be done again.) They keep polling that they want deficits paid down before they get tax cuts.

The ones screaming for tax cuts always, in good times and bad, were the oligarchs. THEY are the "largesse" people.

Carl M. said...

David, I agree with you about tax cuts all the time mantra of the modern Republicans. I am not trying to sell you modern Republicans being better than Obama. I am suggesting that a repeat of the 1930s is a bad thing.

Regarding health insurance, the Bush Administration did come up with a good proposal. (A rare thing for Bush) And McCaine had a good one in his campaign platform.

The idea was to make a fixed deduction for being insured. If you are insured, then the government is not on the hook if you wind up in the emergency room, so a tax break is warranted. However, the current deduction suffers several problems:

1. It it attached to the employer, so it encourages wage slavery. It also basically rules out "whole health" where the average person can be a group of one; the young and healthy years subsidize the later years.

2. It is proportional to the cost of insurance. Employers with mostly professionals go for overinsurance as a tax break. The very people who you want to pay more out of pocket, thus providing a market, see nothing but a $20 co-pay or some such.

3. The current tax deduction is of little value to those in low tax brackets. The very people who need insurance to pick up more of the tab, get underinsured.

THAT is the New Deal legacy.

The Bush plan would have fixed these factors. (He was going to apply the deduction to payroll taxes as well to make it valuable for the poor if I recall correctly.) The Democrats could have upped the ante, and called for making it a tax credit. But instead, they LIED and said McCain wants to tax your health insurance.

On health insurance, the Republicans are currently more libertarian.


Earlier in this thread, you called for the liberty community to innovate to solve problems. Strong agreement there! The keep government small by ignoring problems approach is a real loser.

Taking this idea to healthcare, here is an idea: save on healthcare by being healthier. The U.S. healthcare system is so expensive in part because we eat wrong -- partly at the advise of our experts. Have a look at the graphs in these two articles. Then read the articles.

What happens to the cost of insuring heart attacks when the rate of heart attacks goes down by a factor of 2 or more?

Acacia H. said...

@Carl: The problem with "health incentives" is that the various aspects of the food industry are all fighting to be considered healthy. I give you as a comparison example, the Global Warming Controversy.

Scientists have recorded increases in the temperature of the planet. They connect these increases with increased levels of carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. They report on this finding. In response, the oil industry pays their own scientists to refute these findings. For several decades while we could have been getting an early start on remediation, a fight breaks out on who and what is responsible for global warming and away from ways to stop it.

Likewise, we have doctors and scientists who have found increased levels of cholesterol are responsible for higher risks in strokes and heart attacks. Blame goes to high-cholesterol foods. Eggs get the blame, red meat gets the blame, milk/cheese gets the blame. The dairy industry refutes the findings, showing evidence that milk and dairy products are actually far more healthy and do not increase cholesterol significantly. The meat industry shifts to pork and fish while red meats start working to undermine the findings against them. Recently the egg industry has been able to claim they have good cholesterol and should be eaten compared to the "evil" foods out there.

Mind you, the push for fish has resulted in fish farming, which is doing a great deal to destroy our environment by the raping of our oceans by 1% of the fishing fleets (which take in over 50% of the fish) to create fish meal to feed "farmed fish" that are the big sellers in the American, European, and Asian markets.

(Personally, I think that fish farming should be run by the government and should consist of taking fish eggs, fertilizing them, raising the young spawn (maybe in a constructed environment with a couple small predators to encourage the young spawn to try and hide), and once the fish reach a minimally safe size (maybe one inch long?) then release them in the wild to repopulate certain regions and allow the regular fishing industry a chance to remain viable.)

Back on topic, we cannot encourage "healthy" eating because the food industries are busy lobbying to prove their foods are not unhealthy, and that other "healthy" foods are in fact not so healthy after all. So we're left without sound knowledge from which to determine a healthy diet, and any "government sanctioned" diet will be sanctioned after immense lobbying by various food industry pressure groups to get their "pet food" on the list.

Rob H.

Carl M. said...


I'm not calling for government incentives. (Except for maybe a trans fat tax.) I'm calling for research along some different lines, both formal and amateur.

The problem with "best practices" and "scientific consensus" is that the terms are meaningless without the outliers. It takes three points to find a second derivative, and that's just for finding a local maximum.

I've got no problem with some government help for the poor on healthcare. I have a gigantic problem with the government taking it on for everyone. As Exhibit A, note public schools. The public schools thrash between various fads, good bad and indifferent. They routinely dismiss one of the primary advantages of Western Civilization: the alphabet.

It takes some diversity in education -- or healthcare -- in order to determine best practices. Consider the Atkins Diet: not optimal, but shockingly better than the scientific consensus predicted not long ago.

But the moral hazards of alternative medicine are enormous. It needs to paid for out of pocket, else the system gets milked by healers selling useless, but pleasant, remedies.

The market IS science. Not strictly controlled, but it is a massive multi-variate test which sometimes comes up with answers you won't find with careful single-variate studies vetted by the current clade in charge of the prestigious journals.

David Brin said...

Carl, the "war" over phonics is over. That was one of the 10% of the issues in which the Left was actually loonier than the right and the right eventually won, because (spoiling a near perfect record) this time the facts supported their nostrum and they were right.

They are also somewhat (a little) correct about some of the stupid effects of the powerful teachers' unions. Those unions' resistance to merit pay and merit terminations is simply vile and has to be opposed.

And I say this as a guy who generally supports public education.

Carl M. said...

And hey! It only took 40, 50 years for the public school system to figure out that the phonetic alphabet is pretty neat.

Now, with No Child Left Behind, it's the Republicans' turn to push a stupid education idea. Maybe in another 50 years the Department of Education will issue a landmark study that 50% of the children are dumber than the median...

Marino said...

David Brin wrote

Everybody, you must watch this. Get to know the guy.

The Cairo speech got praised by my friends of Il Manifesto (the Communist newspaper of Ms. Sgrena of the infortunate Calipari accident)as "the Miracle in Cairo". Pity that the link is to an Italian text:

Funny, ain't it?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

"Pax Americana?"

Dr. Brin, with all that I've read from you, and your obvious awareness of history -- the USA taking credit for the Post Industrial Revolution is a bit like saying that feeding your teenager Frosted Flakes Cereal was the reason he grew tall.

Sure, on the surface, America was a lot nicer than England. All our genocides went through third parties and shell companies. We rarely had our men in uniform directly involved -- except maybe for Vietnam, when we had a Prescott Bush protege at the helm.

The Teenager was growing up anyway, and the food was in the pantry. It was tasty, crunchy, and full of worthless calories. Despite the lack of real food value, it was good enough along with everything else to NOT STOP the growing boy.

About the only thing not truly tainted was the Marshall plan. It can't think of any pretext for war besides WW II in the past hundred years that wasn't a complete fraud.

America was good, because the majority of Americans bought the idea that we were good. Our leadership, was forced in broad daylight to go along with that. Behind the scenes however -- do I really need to site everything we did in Latin America?

>> An I can understand the current excitement about whatever legal status or proceeding du jour may bring down some Bushites -- but again, history shows that everything concerning the truly powerful in this country gets swept under the rug.

The one case where an actual bad guy, not on the outs by stepping over the line (like Bernie Maddoff ripping off the privileged group), was Ken Lay. And this guy dies just before he's due to serve trial, and this allows his family to keep all the money.

And it's interesting that he went to the Aspen hospital so preferred by the Bushies. Sorry for another conspiracy theory, but the idea of bribing one doctor, getting plastic surgery, and then having an immediate cremation with no oversight seems like a pretty easy thing for a billionaire. In 200 years, one Uber wealthy scum bag going to jail.

If someone hadn't actually recorded the ENRON executives, laughing about the game they were going to play putting old ladies out on the street, and jacking up prices by making electric production inefficient -- well, they would have gotten away with it just like every other company jacking up prices. Many of the Executives found themselves working again at a company called ICE, that was a principle speculator causing the rise in gas prices before November of last year.

It's not like these things are huge secrets. The price of gas went down when the banks had trouble and the speculation went away. But really, they could just raise the prices, and count on industry insiders who provide oversight to say the market was the bestest and most fairest of them all.

I think Voltaire would really enjoy writing about Pax Americana. He would say; "This is truly the most wonderful American justice for America ever, were all the guilt is meted out to the people who cannot afford honesty."

Carl M. said...

Speaking of public schools, Sweden has school vouchers. This is an excellent data point supporting your thesis of more welfare leading to more market based thinking.

Catfish N. Cod said...

William_Shatner wrote:

...the USA taking credit for the Post Industrial Revolution is a bit like saying that feeding your teenager Frosted Flakes Cereal was the reason he grew tall... It was tasty, crunchy, and full of worthless calories.

To continue your metaphor: it was also standardized, clean, regulated and guaranteed not to contain poisons or bacteria. It wasn't a fortified cereal, but it contained significant portions of iron and vitamins A and C. Most importantly of all... the teenager could eat as much of it as he wanted, instead of having it doled out in meager portions in return for long hours of labor.

America was good, because the majority of Americans bought the idea that we were good. Our leadership, was forced in broad daylight to go along with that.

And what other civilization ever had so much daylight forced on its foreign affairs? 'I prefer a straight fight to all this sneakin' around.' If our system increases the difficulty of arranging corrupt autocratic domination, then we have a net win compared to systems designed to encourage same, no?

As for your argument that 'they always get away with it', are you trying to pretend that (for example) trust-busting never happened?

Typical little T-cell, so fixated on the bacteria to be destroyed you can't see the tracts of clean tissue left behind in your wake...

Carl M. said...

Mr. Shatner's Frosted Flakes metaphor should also be applied to the modern centralized regulatory welfare state.

When banks crash without FDIC, people evaulate bank capitalization more thoroughly. Mutual banking and non-incorporated banks get more business. Insurance used to be dominated by fraternal organizations and other mutual arrangements. For profit insurance was less common in the days of less regulated capitalism (!)

Without government welfare people give more to private charity.

With caveat emptor, people inspect consumer products more thoroughly as well as more thoroughly evaluate reputations of sellers.

When the federal government fails to regulate, state and local regulation often fills in the gap.

This is not to say that the modern centralized regulatory welfare state has accomplished nothing of benefit. It may be even beneficial on the net. But what really jerks my chain is when defenders of same ignore the above factors. Furthermore, they often claim that going back to the old ways of charity/local regulation would lead to the same results.

Guess what, we have had quite a bit of science and economic growth since those days. To compare the two systems, ask questions such as what was the lot of the poor compared to the overall wealth level? What was per capita welfare and charity combined then and now? Relative to GDP? How did the industrial accident rate compare with that on the farm? With the background rate of death by disease?

I don't know the answer to these questions, but I can tell when people aren't even trying. (And for the record, I similarly criticize the anarchists at for making the same thinking error in the other direction: counting the cost of government without taking into account what it does produce.)

matthew said...

"Without government welfare people give more to private charity.

With caveat emptor, people inspect consumer products more thoroughly as well as more thoroughly evaluate reputations of sellers."

Please back up statements like these with cold hard statisics, Carl M. They are a common talking point in discussions such as this, but I've never seen anyone back them up with stats.

I do support your right to be a gadfly here and at anarchist sites, but I'll gloss over such statements as the quotes above until I see a bit of proof. C'mon, any proof.... I dare ya.

David Brin said...

Catfish... har! Good stuff. I haven't been using my own "TCell" metaphor enough, lately.


The common trait of mystics on both the far left and far right is that they can actually live lives of unbelievable richness and beauty, while snarling at the system that made it all possible/

Carl M. said...

@matthew: I read a lot but don't take as many notes as I should, so I don't have the sources ready at hand.

Charles Murray has done the research on the welfare part. I haven't read his books, but I have read excerpts, reviews and heard him speak. (BTW, one of his recent books pushes the idea of a very generous citizen's dividend.)

Here's one hint: look at the names of hospitals. A large number have names with religious connotations (St. Joseph, Mission, etc.) They were once church funded. Ditto for many colleges and universities.

I cannot remember where I read about the banks. It was decades ago.

Many insurance companies are still mutual -- it's in the name for many. Some still carry the name of the fraternal order which spawned them. (cf. Modern Woodman)

David Brin said...

Carl has a point... that much higher fractions of good deeds should be done privately than are, currently. I parse it in an unusual way.

1) Justified paternalism: consensus decisions by the electorate to invest in investments that result in greater overall ability of society of promote, amplify and unleash human potential. Top examples: educate all kids, give health care to all kids (period!), create basic infrastructure that empowers commerce, protect the bargaining power of workers against the ancient evils of oligarchic/corporate oppression (free-travel, the internet, unions)...

Note that judging such endeavors by "business standards of efficiency". Yes, some paternalist trends get stifling, e.g. teachers' unions opposing merit pay/firings. OTOH, the job of these paternalistic efforts is not efficiency, it is making sure that all veins of human potential at least get a chance to be mined. And get a chance to compete fairly.

This justification of (some) paternalistic endeavors in the name of competition may be rather unique to me. But I think it offers the very best argument in favor of the modern state. Without which oligarchy would return. ANd oligarchs HATE social mobility and competition.

( Let me reiterate that. government does NOT have a vested interest in repressing market competition. Oligarchs and feudal lords DO have such a vested interest. Hence, by its very nature, government can be politically swayed toward being prp-market even when it engages in some paternalistic activities! In contrast, oligarchs are inherently anti-competition, by their very nature.

2. Do-gooder meddling to "equalize outcomes." While Hannity et al are #$%$# lying jerks, they nevertheless know genuine nerves to hammer on. And some leftists truly do want this "Harrison Bergeron" travesty. True, some (not all) want it for compassionate reasons. But government should tread in this part lightly. No one should starve or lack for a roof. The worst druggie deserves, always, another chance to try. Still, this is not "investment." It is optional.

Jacob said...

Hi Carl M,

To follow your own style of disagreement.

* I agree that in absence of government or NGO, Welfare/Charity and Health/Self Awareness would be increased.

Your points are valid but I disagree your conclusion. I believe that increases in personal responsibility would not be universal.

Only those with time and ability (intelligence/knowledge/wisdom/resources) would do the correct things to protect themselves and those they care about. Unfortunately, there are those who would be unable or unwilling to do what it takes to accomplish those same goals. This leads to hardship.

I was disturbed by your posts because it sounded like you didn't think there would be much hardship as I do. Yes, people would adapt to new stimulus. I fear that for many that wouldn't be the dissolution of regulation, but violations quality of life that affects them or someone they know.

On the other hand, let's not forget that solving the problem for everyone involves taking the resources (taxes) of everyone to accomplish the task. Some of those people aren't going to agree with the program in the first place.
~(You shouldn't help people who don't help themselves.)
Or already take steps to educate themselves or assist others.
~(I give to my church which has programs locally and around the world to help people.)
Or maybe they just disagree with the extent to which the government does it.
~(Yes, its good that we do it, but we go too far. I can't afford that level of charity.)

This feeds discontent and the very culture war which has so many of us worried.

I would love to hear ideas on solutions to addressing/resolving this give/take relationship.

Ilithi Dragon said...

You'll have to forgive me, but I fail to see how small government is more resistant to corruption than big government. What makes officials of a small government less likely to take bribes? What makes officials of a small government less likely to be influenced by lobbies? What makes officials of small government more resistant to blackmail? What makes a handful of laws and a few loose regulations harder to bend or break, violate or abuse than several well-defined laws and extensive regulation?

I see no logic that would support the presumption that smaller government is more resistant to the influence of oligarchs and would-be oligarchs than larger government.

And, indeed, a smaller government, with limited powers, would be very hampered in its ability to curb the oppressions of any aspiring oligarchs who gain large amounts of influence/money/power.

It seems to me that a larger government would be LESS susceptible to corruption, and provide greater protection against oppressive oligarchy by virtue of its very nature. A larger government, would, after all, be much harder to corrupt in whole. Greater regulation would also curb the ability for aspiring oligarchs to gain power and influence, requiring them to be above board and maintain at least an appearance of honesty and earnestness.

Now, this is not to say that big government always = good, or that government solutions are always best; neither is true. Big government that is poorly implemented or unwisely designed will fail, just like any system that is unwisely designed or poorly implemented will fail, and government solutions aren't always the best suited or most efficient solution to a problem, nor are they always the most reliable. That's why a balance must be struck, with a system developed with wise forethought and implemented with do diligence to that wisdom, and adaptability to changing circumstances.

Ideally, we would have the government providing all the necessities to live and make of ourselves what we will, with free enterprise and some government services (in services for which government is well-suited) providing for luxuries beyond basic necessities for life, functionality and mobility in society. But, then, we'd all be living in the United Federation of Planets and warping around the stars in deep space, instead of being stuck here on stodgy, old, undeveloped Earth.

And yes, I am a self-admitted socialist.
} : = 8 P

Mites: Possibilities that could yet be.

matthew said...

Regarding public vs. private sources for "charity," the examples of either hospitals or colleges with religious names is troubling for two reasons:

1) A larger percentage of US citizens use both hospitals and colleges than at any time in our history. See "Educational Attainment in the United States," from the Census Bureau ( and "CDC Releases Latest Data on Emergency Department Visits"( The emergency room usage data is only from 1992 to 2002, but it shows a 23% increase in usage during the same time. To suggest that utilization would go up if the government got out of healthcare or higher education subsidy is contradicted by the data.

2) Charity institutions are much freer to discriminate on the basis of religion or race than public institutions. See "Women Find Catholic Hospital Takeover Means no Birth Control( Five of the ten largest hospital networks in the US are Catholic. Remember that religious colleges can and do discriminate in admissions to only allow co-religionists.

David Brin said...

My biggest complaint about today's libertarians is their orientation toward TIME.

Like conservatives, they look back and hallucinate things were somehow better in some past time... without being able to point to even one example. Certainly none that ever produced so many... libertarians!

Were they instead to see our present era as one of TRANSITION that is moving toward what they want, they would find themselves able to perceive the current, admittedly bloated government and institutions as TRANSITIONAL PHASES... in a civilization that is steadily building the underpinnings of the civilization they desire.

Think. Libertarian cant portrays today's government as an obstacle to freedom. Yet, you cannot have true freedom in a pyramid-shaped social order, in which 90% live in enslaved ignorance, obedient to feudal oligarchs. Only once has a single society escaped that fate, turning the social order diamond shaped, with a huge majority living middle-class, educated and autonomous lives -- with (incidentally) freedom-destroyers like racism and sexism also reduced to epic-low levels.

Inarguably, government played a huge role in this transition, while staving off repeated attempts by several generations of would-be oligarchs to reinstate feudalism. Moreover, none of this government attention paid to human resources has diminished market entrepreneurship, which boomed fantastically in the 1990s, with vast numbers of small business startups.

A steep burden of proof falls upon those who say government was an impediment, since the simpler, Occam's Razor correlation might suggest that government was more a midwife and facilitator.

This does NOT mean that a libertarian notion of reduced government cannot serve as a beacon and GOAL! Indeed, big government is a dangerous game. (SO is childbirth.) It can fester and spoil and get hijacked by oligarchs.

There must be imperatives, built into the system, that encourage private alternative solutions to take seed and flourish. When these proliferate, ideally, the clumsy state solutions to things like food inspection, etc, ought to "wither away." (e.g. when we all get cheap, efficient chemical sensor devices.

The possibilities are there. And it is one reason why I push The Transparent Society. Because that will, in the long run, empower people and NOT government.

But the grouchy, rear-facing romanticism of most libertarians prevents them from even beginning to perceive any of this. Their ability to play a role in moving forward is cauterized by myopia, faux-nostalgia and raving ingratitude. Barry Goldwater offered a dozen ways to innovate toward the gentle withering away of the state. I could offer dozens more.

But, instead, too many of them (and I exclude Carl!) simply want to yammer in a self-righteous, adolescent self-doped high.

Carl M. said...

@Jacob: I am not claiming that the modern welfare state accomplishes nothing. I am not claiming private charity or increased personal responsibility would completely fill in the void. It might. Or it might not. What I am griping at is the failure by many welfare advocates to compare welfare vs. no welfare without taking into account changes in charitable giving and personal responsibility.

As for solutions, see my site It has two lengthy chapters on welfare/charity along with several on reducing implicit subsidies to the wealthy.

@David. I agree strongly with your idea that flattening the wealth pyramid is essential to achieving a free society. Democracy and small government work when voting is restricted to property owners. If we are to have universal franchise, we need more people to be property owners.

I also agree about churlish scholastic libertarians. I get in flame wars with them often. I've left the party and sometimes drop the small-l libertarian moniker in favor of free liberal or natural rights advocate.

However, I strongly disagree with many of the Democratic party's proposals to flatten the pyramid. Making wage serfdom more generous does not end wage serfdom. The Democrats love to encourage benefits over cash wages; this is a throwback to the feudal system! Recall, the original "utopian socialists" were primarily defenders of the old order -- including Southern defenders of slavery. (Negro servants got free housing, health care and retirements in return for lost freedom. A rotten deal.)

Admittedly, the overtly progressive wing of the libertarian movement (broadly defined) is small, but it's out there. As a start see:

The Progress Report A central nexus of geolibertarian thought. Dr. Fred Foldary of same called this recession dead on in his geo-Austrian synthesis paper.

The Free Liberal An online web magazine I helped found, which explores the borders between liberal and libertarian values.

The Flow Project Whole Foods founder John Mackey's foundation to promote "conscious capitalism."

And, of course, my own Holistic Politics site, an explicit rejection of freedom as the only value.

Jacob said...

Hi Carl M,

"It might. Or it might not." These should not be given equal weight. It is possible, but would be rare when private charity out preformed public charity. There would be periods when someone experienced and choose to champion a cause. When that someone happened to have public influence through virtue or media, there "could" be spikes in which given exceeded public charity.

Before we talk past one another, I will agree again that private charity would increase, but not to the extent that public assistance decreased.

I've bookmarked your website and will read through it tomorrow. Where do you comment on it?

Tony Fisk said...

@Carl: I agree strongly with your idea that flattening the wealth pyramid is essential to achieving a free society

A minor quibble, Carl. David talks of a 'diamond' social structure ie a preponderance of ok-to-do middle class, with numbers tailing off at the high *and* low income levels) The structure is significant in that it clearly doesn't depend on each layer being supported by an increasingly downtrodden lower layer.

Now you can talk about how flat the structure should be.

(Actually, this Gapminder graph of how income has varied over time in the US shows a pretty clear diamond... except in the South)

Carl M. said...

@Jacob: Holistic Politics does not have a commenting capability other than email. It is html include files inside a handwritten php template. (It's a pretty old site.) I keep telling myself to add a forum for comments or even a blog for short pieces, but...

Jester said...

No method of teaching works well for everyone.

I had the misfortune to be a dyslexic student stuck with a teacher obsessed with phonics, but the good fortune to have a Father who took a minor in education and knew something about the Whole Reading approach.

During the summer after first grade, when the decision had been made to hold me back because I could not read at all, I not only learned to read but breezed through LOTR and the Dune (then) Trilogy.

The elderly teacher obsessed with phonics, btw, had repeatedly told my parents that she suspected that I was retarded.

Before we get off on Golden Days fantasies about Education, maybe it's worth while to pause for a momment and think about the hundreds of thousand of kids failed by *that* system as well.

David Brin said...

Wow. Both Carl's neo-Smithian Liberalism sites and the Gapminder site are really really interesting.

Wish I could keep playing the historical gapminder progression forward another 50 years!

David Brin said...

Yes, Jester. In my haste to find something (anything!) that I could concede to the right, I neglected to mention that their pro-phonics zeal was (naturally) maniacally overstated into total derision of the whole language approach. Both left and right were loony to call it zero-sum. The two methods help each other.

Still, this is an area where the right was no crazier than the left. And that - in itself - is worthy of note and praise.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On a completely different note, a brief rant about something that's always bothered me with time travel stories, and general theories/experiments to that effect. In all the time travel stories, be they sci-fi or fantasy based, and even a few real-world experiments with the possibility of time-traveling particles, objects and persons that travel through time remain stationary, relative to their location when they begin traveling through time.

This in and of itself isn't necessarily a problem - one would expect a time traveling object to either remain absolutely stationary, or continue traveling in the same direction it was before traveling through time. The problem comes from the fact that nothing else is stationary. Everything is moving, due to the influences of various forces over time. If you translate 2 years backwards in time from your livingroom, you should not end up in your livingroom two years ago, you should end up somewhere in space, two years ahead of the course of the planet, the solar system, and the galaxy. Even just traveling five minutes forward or backward in time, the Earth would have moved a couple thousand kilometers in its orbit around the sun, relative to where it was when you started traveling. The solar system would have moved some 60,000 kilometers or so in its orbit around the galaxy, and the Milky Way would have moved some 175,000 kilometers or so. In short, you'd have a pretty long walk.

That's just always bothered me.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Ilithi, your worry isn't as big as it seems (though it still exists). Einstein pointed out that there is no preferred frame of reference. In other words, you can't tell the difference between standing still (relative to the Earth) or moving at 25,000 miles per second (relative to the Galactic Core). So any linear velocity will not affect you when you time-travel.

But that only applies to non-accelerating reference frames. Anything rotating is not going to be reflected in your time-machine's trajectory. And of course the Earth's orbit around the Sun (and the Sun's around the Galactic Core) are not linear. So while time-travel of a few minutes isn't going to put you very far away from the Earth's surface... years or centuries will probably put you somewhere else in the Solar System. But it won't throw you into the interstellar deeps.

Carl M. said...

Re time travel: everyone reading this comment is doing so in an accelerating reference frame. At least, Mach's Principle and General Relativity make no distinction between acceleration in free space and staying still with respect to gravity.

Unless you are just jumping out of a plane or some such, you are "accelerating", that is, not travelling along a geodesic in the local spacetime.

In other words, a time machine which routes back along a geodesic in 4 space would send the traveller underground. Not good.

Then again, if you keep following the geodesic, you come out the other side, or almost, and then come back to this side of the earth -- and so forth.

This could make a possible SF story constraint. A backward geodesic limits what times you would materialize above ground. It also would result in various sorts of drift from coriolis pseudo-forces as one falls backwards through the earth. Then, there is is the fact the earth is not quite spherical, so we get perturbations in our "orbit." And if I was time travelling under such circumstances, I'd want to start with some upward velocity to guarantee that my backwards geodesic has some solutions that end up above ground.

Better yet, start in orbit. But then, you would need the ability to land and get back into orbit during a pre-spaceflight era...

David Brin said...

The displacement may be GREATER than simply Earth's motion during the 2 years in question. It may be 2 LIGHT YEARS... the minimum distance necessary in order for the time traveller not to create a paradox by shouting (or laser beaming) a warning to people on Earth... or horse-racing bets.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Well, Dr. Brin, that all depends on what kind of time travel you're positing -- i.e., whether you do or do not agree with the Novikov self-consistency principle.

If we consider the present light cone in the standard two-dimensional representation, we can discern four zones into which time travel can throw us:

Zone I: future inside the light cone. This is by far the easiest time travel to manage; just making a time-dilating relativistic journey will do.

Zone II: future outside the light cone. This is what virtually all FTL schemes are designed to do.

Zone III: past outside the light cone. Often not considered, because by definition we don't really know what's there. I think this is the kind of time-travel you are referring to, sir?

Zone IV: past inside the light cone. This is the trickiest one, because it violates the Novikov rule and potentially permits grandfather paradoxes, predestination paradoxes, closed-timeline-curve positive feedback loops, and all sorts of other weirdnesses. Yet (for human interest reasons) it is by far the most common type of time machine depicted in science fiction.

I was positing the inertial motions of a Type IV time machine; a Type II/III time machine would indeed work under the constraints you describe. (In Charles Stross' Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise, information can be sent in a Type IV manner, but matter can only be sent via Type III wormholes; as a result, there are Terran colonies thousands of years old -- but they are necessarily thousands of light years away, because the wormholes that founded them couldn't enter their own past light cone.)

Carl: I don't see how bad a constraint traveling along such a geodesic would be. If you're positing that gravity would work similarly during the trajectory (i.e., we are not quantum-tunneling directly to the past) but that electromagnetism will not (no friction!), we will pop out of the Earth about every ninety minutes. This is a serious constraint for short-duration jumps but utterly trivial for long ones.

David Brin said...

Terrific encapsulization.

David Brin said...

That bane on human productivity and happiness, Microsoft Word, is something I just have to use, on occasion. Not a single element, menu item or command is well-designed, proving that the product and its designers come from some other (and sadistic) planet.

(I use the closest thing to a decent word processor ever made, Word Perfect 1996 for the Macintosh, no longer supported, alas. But logical and obedient.

Every now and then, it just gets too much to bear. Can anyone tell me the secret way that you turn off page numbering in word, for the entire document? I just don't want page numbers at all. shouldn't that be simple?

Oh, and call Sculley and Mulder. They need only look in Redmond.

Anonymous said...

If the page numbering is in the Header or Footer go to the first page and choose Headers/Footers in the Veiw menu(or double click in the footer area), select the number and delete. Once you are back in the main document page numbering should be gone.

Carl M. said...


The every 90 minute constraint isn't that big a problem. Materializing in a mountian might be.

If following a geodesic backwards, you will not surface where you started. The earth spins. With angular moment conserved, you would not go through the center. The beginning of your trajectory would look like an ellipse which intersects the earth's surface. But since the sphere underneath shrinks as you go down, the full trajectory would be something else. (Or maybe a different ellipse. I haven't run the numbers.)

So when you resurface, you could be in ocean or mountain.

sociotard said...

14 year old in Britain is hit by tiny meteorite and lives to tell the story.

Jester said...

I sincerely hope that those who would mock Dr. Brins "10,000 McVeighs" prediction are paying some attention.

The murder of Officer Johns at the Holocaust Museum, the murder of Dr. Tiller, the murder of five chilean students in Miramar Beach Florida by a man obsessed with "Illegals" , and now the murder of a nine year old girl and her father by the Minutemen.

Let me repeat that =

The murder of a NINE YEAR OLD GIRL and her Father.

"Three people have been arrested in connection with last months deadly double homicide in Arivaca that left a nine-year-old and her father dead. One of the people arrested for the homicide is the National Executive Director of the Minuteman American Defense"

I think we all understood the "10,000" to probably be intended in a somewhat hyperbolic manner, but yes, Right Wing Extremists are losing their shit at a rate we haven't seen in 40 years.

Tony Fisk said...

The mainstream news media is starting to get it.

"IN THE wake of the shooting at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington, law enforcement authorities are confronting an ugly truth: the US has a home-grown terrorism problem following the election of President Barack Obama."

Tim H. said...

People are under stress in a lot of ways, terrorism is one of the ways it manifests. In a healthier economy, the people making the news would be gainfully employed, too busy living to carry out atrocity. Very careful consideration needs to be given anything that would make life more stressful.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Carl, your "Environmental Pournelle Axes" are very interesting indeed! It seems that you could elaborate further by planting various groups around the graph, using the terms of this Wikipedia article among others:

Southwest (nature + poverty): "Dark greens", those who believe in Malthus-Erlich arguments, 'Limits to Growth' and suchlike;

West (nature + moderate wealth): "Light greens", who ignore economic arguments to concentrate on "stopping global warming", "saving the whales" etc.;

Northwest (nature + prosperity):
"Bright greens", who argue that environmentalism will actually improve the economy: Sterling and his Viridians, our gracious host, etc.;

North (prosperity, moderate environmental policy): Jerry Pournelle's "Survival with Style", not hostile to improving the environment but not prioritizing it either.

Northeast: (prosperity + artificality): Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead: Bhopal, flaming Cuyahoga, et cetera.

East: technophiliacs, those who believe technology is the greatest virtue regardless of economic impact. Perhaps Singularists belong here?

Southeast: (poverty + artificality) Dystopias. 1984, Brave New World, various cyberpunk scenarios. Only madmen actually advocate this, though Kaczynski believes this is our destination.

South: (poverty, no environmental direction) Traditional survivalists, ascetics, and propagandists for would-be nobles. North Korean News Agency would fit in well here.

Do these classifications fit what you're aiming at? (I would draw the picture if Blogger had a way for me to post it. Suppose I'll have to get a Flickr account or something.)


David Brin said...

Naturally, I prefer my own Two-D and Three-D political mappings!

(Carl had a big hand in these.)

Tim H. said...

Catfish, I like it. I think that going "North" will make it easier, and open more opportunities, to go "Northwest". Looks less destructive from here. Cap and trade look like a way to go south, enriching elites for very little public benefit, just the way with some folks, always the stick, never the carrot.

Acacia H. said...

And now we have rioting and violence in Iran in the wake of obviously-stolen elections. You have to wonder what the result will be.

Though the cynic in me says that the U.N. will write a sternly-toned letter about human rights violations while China vetoes any U.N. resolutions that would put new sanctions on Iran or the like.

In short, more of the same old same old.

Rob H.

Carl M. said...

Catfish: You got it.

I think I'd put Pournelle in the northwest...though upon reflection I think solar power satellites beaming down microwaves is a bit nutty.

Then again, so is wind power with thousand mile power lines and gas backup.

The true northwest might be Petr Beckman. ("The Health Hazards of not Going Nuclear.") This is especially true if liquid thorium reactors are as good as the Google video indicated.

But there's plenty of other nortwest options, such as a carbon tax used to either cut the deficit or replace a different tax. I got a small book's worth of other ideas that I hope to get up onthe site one of these days.

As for the southeast: remember the old Soviet Union? It was there. And some people still think the hammer and sickle was a good idea. Do we call every longhair with a Che T-shirt mad?

Quite a few dysfunctional third world states are there too. Are they run by madmen? Or simply economic illiterates?

RandyB said...

I suggest everyone forget what you think you know about Guantanamo.

Although the Supreme Court only ruled that Common Article 3 applies, if you want to take it further, and grant Al-Qaeda the entire Third Geneva Convention (without ever asking anything in return), you might consider looking into the Fourth GC. That's for civilians.

It already provides for holding security detainees (which is what these are) without trial for as long as necessary to security.

But it doesn't really matter. The Guantanamo detainees are already getting all that. The International Red Cross has been there for years.

They had tribunals under rules very similar to the competent tribunals that POWs could get. Then they have annual reviews to make sure they're still worth keeping. And they get a civilian judge to make sure it's legal.

There is no humanitarian reason to give them POW status.

People who really care about human rights should ask our enemies to follow the laws of war. Like it or not, the U.S. has been following them. The gripe against the Bush admin hasn't been that they ignored the GCs, but rather, that they've read too much into them. Most of the Supreme Court decisions against Bush's policies have been on technical grounds, and were often very close.

Unknown said...

I really cannot wrap my head around this comment:
"by making torture legitimate for our enemies to use against our own troops."
I find that absolutely absurd. I don't think extremists murdering in the name of God care much for legitimacy as defined by rational society (if such a place exists).
It's clear to me that you, the author of my favorite stories, know good vs. evil... I just don't understand the need to coddle murdering extremists. Tell the soldiers that put them in there why they deserve leniency. Tell the families of the fallen to show up to unlock the doors of Guantanamo personally, so they can make sure they're fairly treated.
Your solution sounds wonderful, as long as it keeps them all locked away. No difference to me, as long as they disappear forever, dead or alive.
Am I just another Deadinger from Jijo? Locked in my conservative dunder-headedness? I'm really trying to pursue logic and reason here. I respect you beyond all measure, but I'm really confused.
You don't simply ask a Jophur to play nice, nor a Holnist to compromise his beliefs. You defeat them.