Saturday, March 13, 2010

On Denialism, Altruism, Breaking filibusters and... space!

Denialism includes “denial of progress.”

One of the most insidious poisons going around, spread not only by the mad right but also by the lazier and more self-indulgent portions of the left, has been the notion that progress has failed.

Even when wagging their fingers at us, in hope that we’ll become better people, Hollywood films like Avatar emphasize guilt and despair as motivators to become better people. Say what?  Exactly how is that supposed to work? Instead of ... well, how about pride in what we’ve accomplished and encouragement that we can do more? Directors like James Cameron are sincere. They mean well.  They really do want to propel us forward. They genuinely hope their guilt trips will make us better people... while showing in their films a belief that the goal is impossible to achieve!  Which makes it all the more tragic that their messages kill the very ambitions they aim to stoke.  The ambition to accomplish great things.

Progress-happensIn fact, civilization is not vile and useless.  Progress happens.  It has never been happening faster.  See just this one short summary for a partial list of reasons to feel restored faith in our can-do spirit.  Of course, the list was compiled by some folks at Cato, who give all the credit to globalization and none to intelligent planning.  But the facts still are what they are.

Lesson number one in human motivation, Jim.  Guilt trips aren’t as effective as pep talks that positively reward and praise people for the great stuff they have already done, encouraging them to strive harder to move forward even faster.  Go back to school.  Re-take psych 1.

=== On Altruism ===

What benefit does altruism serve?

Altruism-patrhologyI provided two papers in the psychological research volume Pathological Altruism, edited by Barbara Oakley, Ariel Knafo, Guruprasad Madhavan and David Sloan Wilson. Published by Oxford University Press.

This volume takes on a once verboten topic -- can surficially beneficent or altruistic behavior sometimes be motivated by more unsavory drives like aggression, egotism or even rapacious self-interest?  Can it even hurt the one who is being helped?

My chapters are: "Self-Addiction and Self-Righteousness" and "A Contrarian Perspective on Altruism: The Dangers of First Contact". Those interested will have to wait at least half a year for Oxford to publish the volume.  But  make note, now.  It will be worth the wait.  (It also proves I am still doing science... albeit in the form of continuing guerilla raids outside my formal PhD!)

Not that I disagree... but the study was done by a liberal atheist. ;-) In fact, the lurid headline disguises an interestingly more complex article about whether higher general intelligence is associated with “evolutionarily novel” traits -- or much more recent adaptations -- like nocturnal activity (dependent upon artificial light), complex discourse.

The author argues that humans are evolutionarily designed to be conservative, caring mostly about their family and friends, and being liberal, caring about an indefinite number of genetically unrelated strangers they never meet or interact with, is evolutionarily novel.  So more intelligent children may be more likely to grow up to be liberals.  This jibes closely to my “horizons” model that saitiation trades off against the radius of inclusion, how widely you feel your sense of kinship extends, in space, time, and kind.  The satiation tradeoff only works if a person has both certain personality traits (including satiability) and enoigh empathy-imagination.

==A  Trick to Defeat the Filibuster==

FILIBUSTERI've mentioned before that the New York Times ran an especially cogent article -- Mr. Smith Rewrites the Constitution, by Thomas Geoghegan -- about the absurd filibuster, its unjustified constitutional context, and possible ways around it.  It’s one of the most enlightening legal articles I've read.  I like especially Gohegan’s recommendation that Vice President Joe Biden simply rule from the bench that his own constitutional powers have been abridged.

On further consideration, in fact, the “Biden Option” could be even simpler than Gohegan suggests.  Instead of the vice president using his presiding powers to rule against the cloture process, he can arrange for circumstances that simply bypass cloture, on a constitutional quirk. Here’s how. Simply coordinate enough Democratic Senators in order to arrange for a perfect match of the predictable, lockstep GOP nay vote.  Say the result is a 41-41 tie, at which point Biden says:

 "The vote for cloture being a tie, the US Constitution takes precedence over any mere Senate procedural rule. I shall now cast the tie-breaking vote. I vote 'Yes' for cloture. The motion carries, and debate on this bill shall close 30 hours hence."  BANG!

The great thing about this approach is that it leaves Republicans with no wriggle room at all. Their sole option is to evade the tie, by changing some Republican votes from nay to yea! But the Democrats have far more inherent flexibility.  Up to twenty extra Democratic senators may lurk in the cloakroom, ready to descend and vote either way -- to restore the tie or else using those GOP "yeas" to help add up toward a regular 60-vote cloture.

Sure it will be decried as trickery.  So?

==Hollywood and Our Notion of Progress==

PeopleGeorgeLUcasI was also interviewed for the new documentary “The People vs. George Lucas.”  I have no idea - yet - whether they used their footage of me appropriately.  I attempted to be circumspect and speak well of Lucas -- where he deserved it. For example, I loved the “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” and adored “The Empire Strikes Back.”  So my disappointment in the films that followed came honestly... leading to my participation as editor and “prosecutor” in the book STAR WARS ON TRIAL. (by far the best and most fun way to explore these issues!)

Those guys at the SETI Institute sure have chutzpah!  They plan to turn their first SETIcon August 13-15 at the Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara. “The Search for Life in the Universe in Science Fact and Science Fiction!” Thus perpetuating the myth that they love science fiction.... only don’t mention any possibility that the universe might -- just might -- be different, even slightly, than their standard model.  Watch how quickly any alternate scenario is dismissed as “crazy science fiction stuff.”  Anybody planning to attend? Oh, don’t get me wrong, it should be fun and interesting in its own right.  The topic has fascinated my, all my life and I am glad the are pursuing the worthy search... (as opposed to some of their other, cultlike activities.)  But if anyone is interested in some questions to raise....

==Podcasting Outer Space==

I've been recording and posting some brief (for me) monologues on YouTube, starting with

Space Exploration Part 1 - Planning our next steps in beyond Earth  ... followed by

Space Exploration Part 2 - Mining the sky: Are there economic incentives out there?    ... and then

Space Exploration Part 3: The Big Picture, Where is the excitement? And what about warp drive? Finally, and just posted, there is

Space Exploration Part 4: Ambitious technologies for space: Space tethers, solar sails and space elevators.

More space-related postings will go up soon, plus some fun rants about SETI, andon the (crazy) notion of "cycles" of falling civilizations.

Nature interviews David Brin on scientists writing fiction.

=== On the Brain, Health Care and more! ===

The worlds first commercial brain-machine interface.

See Mike Treder, of the Institute on Ethics in Technology, write about basics of health care.

Another for the predictions registry... e-readers like the Amazon Kindle.  Now see this from EARTH (1989)   “That's enough for now. More than enough. Go feed your pets. Get some exercise. I slipped some readings into your plaque. Go over them by next time. And don't be late.”   Hm?  Anybody know an earlier hit on this?

I wish I could find where I also predicted this! That nerves are only the flashiest active elements in the brain.  The so-called “support” cells may be just as important, multiplying vastly the number of “active” elements and making the human brain that much harder to emulate! 

And finally, some some political items I had lying around...

===  Miscellanea ==

The fundies have made it blatant and open: ”Science fiction is intimately associated with Darwinian evolution. Sagan and Asimov, for example, were prominent evolutionary scientists. Sci-fi arose in the late 19th and early 20th century as a product of an evolutionary worldview that denies the Almighty Creator. In fact, evolution IS the pre-eminent science fiction. Beware!”

See an interesting, if myopic, discussion of why economists failed to see the bubble crisis coming.  And sure, none of them mention crackpot theories like my “Betrayal of the Smarter Sons.”  I can’t blame them.  That one was pretty bizarre, even if it contained some possible validity.

The honest truth is that I suspect other reasons.  Oligarchy is an especially pernicious human trend that's rooted in our genes and also in capitalism's very roots.  Marx was right that it is the ultimate, recurring threat. He was wrong to say that there aren't solutions that can keep capitalism vibrant, competitive and creative, for generations at a stretch.  But those solutions tend to be "captured" by smart proto-oligarchs, much in the way that parasitic viruses and bacteria adapt to attack hosts in new ways.

Right now our immune system cannot adapt to oligarchy-driven distortions because our immune system (politics) has been suppressed by "culture war."  Throw in some deliberate sabotage by certain hostile foreign elements and you have a theory that is more than adequate... if far too dramatic for anyone but a science fiction author to concoct or credit.

Too bad, since economic and political thinkers used to ponder a bigger picture.  Krugman and Galbraith are peering at individual trees.  They do not see the forest.

-- Is the Iraq War over? ---

enough for now....


Acacia H. said...

And with another sign of Global Warming... birds have been measured as getting smaller over time; a concept known as Bergman's Rule in the biology circles. Huh... I wonder if this means we can turn the hunting crowd against the Deniers since the ducks and quail some of them hunt will be smaller thanks to global warming... ;)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

William said...

"Another for the predictions registry... e-readers like the Amazon Kindle."

I think Greg Bear beat you by a few years with his description of the Slate in Eon, although perhaps that's more like an iPad. But the most famous precedent is from Star Trek. Although we never really see its face, Kirk's electronic clipboard is featured often. And in one episode, Kirk remarks with surprise to a lawyer about his large collection of old-fashioned paper books. Put those together, and it's almost a prediction... it's made more explicit in TNG, where devices with this form factor are definitely used for reading books.

Ian said...

Vannevar Bush beat you by quite a bit David with his proposal for the Meme.

"A memex consists of a desk, where on top are slanting translucent screens on which material can be projected for convenient reading. Within the desk were mechanisms that stored information through microphotography. Most of the memex contents are purchased on microfilm ready for insertion. On the top of the memex is a transparent platen. When a longhand note, photograph, memoranda, and other things are in place, the depression of a lever causes it to be photographed onto the next blank space in a section of the memex film, dry photography being employed. [3]"

But then, he was preceded by the Mundaneum.

The Mundaneum was essentially an attempt to create the internet using the technology of 1910 - requests for documents were to be phoned or telegraphed to a central repository and a copy of the document was then forwarded via pneumatic tube or courier.

Unknown said...

The Mundaneum sounds like something that would be used on the fictional planet Jijo.

Tacitus2 said...

I read elsewhere that in honor of pi day MIT announces its admissions decisions today. At 1:59! So, 3.14159! Nice touch.

David, you alluded to having an applicant....current or future?

Best luck either way.


Tim H. said...

A comment on "Granny D" here:
Campaign finance reform can't cure every ill, but it would help.

Jumper said...

(I'll repost this as relevant to a comment I made on space elevators)
I see I made some errors, and only several hundred tons, at maximum, would be required to make a reasonable cable using reasonable buckytubes. Interesting.

tim said...

"Krugman and Galbraith are peering at individual trees. They do not see the forest."--Have you actually read The Predator State by Galbraith? He has a much more complex explanation of capitalism's disfunctions than you give him credit for.

Ian Gould said...

The star Gliese 710 is expected to pass within 1.1 lightyears of Earth around 1.4 million years from now.

The first issue this raises, of course, is the impact on Earth. Gliese 710 is expected to perturb the orbit of possibly millions of comets (albeit most likely over a period of thousands of years) soem of which are almost certain to impact the Earth.

But assuming we haven't died out by then, humans have plenty of prep time.

More interesting to me is that such near approaches make interstellar travel much easier even within FTL drives or the like.

If these close approaches are relatively common, they make the Fermi Paradox even more paradoxical.

BCRion said...

"If these close approaches are relatively common, they make the Fermi Paradox even more paradoxical."

The problem with the Fermi Paradox is we have a sample size of one and we've only been looking for less than an instant on galactic time scales. It's difficult to say what the probability of intelligent life evolving is, know the survivability of extra terrestrial civilizations, the time in which they emit radio signals strong enough to be detected, and other factors that would go into play. For all we know, we could just be in an unusually quiet portion of the galaxy and by the time signals reach us, they are too diffuse to be discernible from noise.

There are lots of explanations for the anthropic situation we find ourselves. Unfortunately, they are all conjecture because we have no measurements on anything that would help us determine any of the probabilities in the Drake Equation.

sociotard said...

I ran the "Vice President breaks the tie" idea to bust the filibuster by some lawyers, and they unanimously decided that no, it wouldn't work.

The senate requires a 2/3 majority (or more) to halt a filibuster, so a "tie" on a cloture vote would be if exactly 2/3 of the senators present voted yes, and exactly 1/3 voted no. (In other words, if 99 senators were present, 66 vote yes and 33 vote no.)

But the actual wording is "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided." (Article I, section 3).

So yes, Derek, the VP could decide to vote on cloture if the current voting is equally divided (whether 50-50, or 49-49, or whatever). This would make the results 51-50, or 50-49, or whatever. However, since it requires a 2/3 majority for cloture to succeed (67-33, or 66-32, or whatever), the VP's vote is still effectively meaningless in that situation.

One might argue that a cloture vote of, say, 66-33 is the equivalent of a "tie" when considering 2/3 majority -- but the actual wording in the Constitution says "evenly divided," so selling 66-33 as "evenly divided" probably wouldn't work.

Ilithi Dragon said...

I thought the Senate only required 60 votes to break any filibuster, not a proper 2/3s of 66 or 67... That's how the Senate has operated for the last year, and that's why there was the big bru-ha-ha over the GOP getting that 41st seat. So why would the lawyers be saying that to break the filibuster, the senate requires a full 2/3s majority? That doesn't make sense to me, and also leads me to question the validity of their argument, since they should be as well aware of that as anyone else.

Their argument about the VP only voting in the case of an even tie is valid, but whether or not that would break the filibuster I question. What is the specific wording of the Senate filibuster rule? (Also, even if the lawyers are right, as the filibuster isn't in the constitution, couldn't they just arrange a tie, have Biden cast his vote, and simultaneously disband the filibuster rule as an unconstitutional impingement on his constitutionally-assigned duty as tie-breaker, as had previously been suggested?)

Going in a different direction, I've been looking more closely at the Coffee Party of late, and I am finding it very attractive (at least so far; whether it stays that way has yet to be seen). Their Dedication of Ideals is particularly intriguing, and I think it will be attractive to all members here.

I've started participating in this discussion/experiment, in the hopes of helping to keep it on course as a movement for open, mature discussion and deliberation, etc., and hopefully it will continue as such, but we'll see where it goes.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Yeah, Senate Rule XXII requires a 3/5ths vote to end debate. But a change to the Senate rules only requires a simple majority. The vote to change the filibuster could be filibustered, of course, but that would require only a 2/3s majority of the present senators (and only a simple majority of the senate is required to be present for a rule change). Even if enough GOP senators are there to prevent a 2/3s majority, there is always the 'nuclear option', which invokes the constitutional requirement that the will of the majority be effective. Such would effectively abolish the filibuster, as the new simple majority rule would become the precedent.

Tacitus2 said...

The Coffee Party seems innocuous enough. Heck, anything that encourages polite discussion is a good thing.
But you should know that the view from the conservative side is that this is more or less an Astroturf entity....googling up the names of most of the organizers finds them to be Democratic political operatives. And conservatives who have attended CP events find the discussions steered towards cheerleading for the administrations viewpoints, with dissent received with a combination of perplexity and chill.
There is nothing wrong with a Progressive counterpart to the Tea Party. But the appearance at this time is of a much smaller, less passionate, more centrally organized Potemkin org.
Heck, stick around here, I will give you a dose of polite discourse when you need some!

John Kurman said...

Let's try this again with corrected html.

Inner Taste

This is one of those smack-the-forehead-and-say-d'oh kind of articles. Of course the gut would have taste cells throughout. Why wouldn't your assembly line be monitored?

Ilithi Dragon said...

@Tacitus: Yeah, like I said, we'll see where it goes. Hopefully, it will be a broad-spectrum movement, and I'm making what noise I can in that direction, but if not, if at least remains a civil-discourse, open-minded group, whichever direction it leans in, that will be something.

As for the civil discourse here, the (usually) civil discourse to be found on this blog is a big reason why I stay here.

rewinn said...

Let all gods forbid that a movement named after a hot drink be any sort of astroturf affair.

Tacitus2 said...

heh. Well, they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

David Brin said...

Russ Daggatt

reprint's Tom Tomorrow's delightfully dry description of how the nation would be different now, had

(1) Mitt Romney been elected president,

(2) had he pursued EXACTLY the same policies as Obama, and

(3) had democrats (typically) negotiated and cooperated with a republican president... as distinct from the reflexive, disciplined way that republicans oppose Obama.

Note especially that Obama's health care plan, so loathed by culture warriors, is extremely similar to the "alternative plan" that the Republicans themselves offered, in 1993.

JuhnDonn said...

The Single Malt party sounds cool. Oh, wait, isn't that the Senate?

David McCabe said...

Here's a proper link to President Romney's First Year on Daggatt blog.

Ian said...

"Note especially that Obama's health care plan, so loathed by culture warriors, is extremely similar to the "alternative plan" that the Republicans themselves offered, in 1993."

Kinda makes you wish the Democrats had taken them up on the offer rather than waiting 17 years to propose mcuh the same thing.

JuhnDonn said...

John Scalzi has an interesting column on why Hollywood always, always gets the future wrong.

No mention of how movies tend to portray science and progress as a negative.


Acacia H. said...

And the war against progress just fired another salvo: we should not upgrade our Broadband system because of the threat to our security. According to this article, the only thing that has protected us from massive identity theft, having our power turned off by hackers, and massive infestations of viruses is that virtuous and slow internet system known as "dial-up." I realize that neo-conservatives have a big fear of anything that smells like progressivism, but to turn on progress itself and insist that only our antiquated internet system protects Americans from the evils of the world... is ludicrous.

The truly sad thing is that the vast majority of people (conservative and progressive) refuse to budge on their beliefs even when cold hard facts are shown that disprove their point of view. There is an inflexibility in thinking for a number of people, and a resistance in changing one's opinions once they've formed. Yet somehow improved access to information is "bad" and needs to be stopped, even though it won't change people's minds in any event.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Rob, I can one-up you, I think...

First, an interesting and somewhat amusing article on a recent French study that replicated the infamous Milgram experiments, and FOX News' reaction (and blatant internal compartmentalization) to it while reporting on the experiment themselves.

Second (and the scary part), the terrifying detention bill introduced by Sen. McCain and Lieberman that the article mentions at its end, that would LITERALLY give the executive branch the power to arrest, torture, and detain indefinitely without accusation, evidence or trial, and no rights as prisoners, ANYONE it feels like, at its sole discretion, by simply declaring them terrorists and "high-value detainees," which is also determined at the sole discretion of the executive branch (and if he/she so desired, the President him/herself could personally and unilaterally make the decision to declare, arrest, torture and detain indefinitely anyone). This also includes U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.

The bill was introduced by McCain and Lieberman, and is co-sponsored (so far) by the following senators:

Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA]
Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R, GA]
Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK]
Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL]
Sen. Jefferson Sessions [R, AL]
Sen. John Thune [R, SD]
Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]

And they accuse Democrats of trying to create 1984...

lc said...

A more effective version of Avatar: An ecological "The Right Stuff." Courage, energy, confidence, downright brashness, danger, public relations, humor, cleverness, endurance ... the right stuff.

And Gilmoure -- I want to start the Iced Tea Party for those who want to cool off global warming.

David Brin said...

You have got to see this:

John Kurman said...

I remember reading about Roth's work some years ago, the whole suspended animation using H2S. Did not know they were in human trials. Cool. I'll take a little brain damage over death any day of the week.

Did you know the exposure victims Roth talked about are all of Norwegian descent? I guess we're more reptile than we look.

Also watched Peter Ward's Mass Extinction video while I was at it. Hmm. The idea that Precambrian life, purple bacteria, deosn't like us complex animals smells a little Lovecraftian. Creepy.

David Brin said...

Follow the creep-out further. read Greg Bear's strange novel VITALS

David Brin said...


Too tooo weird....

Ilithi Dragon said...

Yeah, I read that the other day.

<.< The demon in my head called BS...

gih said...

Thanks for that info. Podcasting really great.

David Brin said...


David McCabe said...

Powell's has a beautiful signed hardcover edition of "Piecework", which was published in Otherness. It's from a limited run of 100 copies.

David McCabe said...

They want $35. You can buy it from the link I gave above, if Portland is too far of a drive. It seemed to be in excellent condition, though I didn't inspect it closely.

denparser said...

that's only a small $$$ so far.

Acacia H. said...

I found a rather interesting video article that showcases an experiment anyone can do to prove the effect increased carbon dioxide has on global warming. Utilizing some ordinary household items, the effect carbon dioxide has on heat retention is shown. The interesting thing about this video article is that it presents it in a manner that people can replicate fairly easily: all you need is a couple thermometers, a couple clear plastic bottles, and a couple other normal materials that can easily be gathered. The result is plainly visible and can be done without needing a high level of scientific knowledge.

More precise measurements can be performed in a lab, naturally, but this quick experiment shows the general gist of what's going on. Even better, the Deniers doing the experiment can switch lamps if they think differences in the lamps are causing the altered temperatures. So, next time a Denier claims that global warming ain't real? Show them this video and suggest they try to replicate the experiment to see if it's fakery or not.

If they take you up on the offer, then they have genuine doubts and may be swayed. If they make excuses? Then they know global warming is real, but don't want to act on it for some personal reason.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Real Clear Politics runs a variety of ongoing polls, each an aggregate of various pollsters of differing orientation. I think its a fair snapshot of current opinion.

Current approval rating of Congress stands at 19.3%.

Gentlemen, place your bets. If Health Entitlement extention is enacted by Deem and Pass/Reconciliation, how low will that rating go?

I suspect there is some impenetrable floor here, Congressmen have mothers after all, and there are some people who feel that even these methods can be justified in good cause.

So my money is on 17%, roughly 2 weeks after passage, should it in fact occur.


Ian Gould said...

Considering that polls also show the majority of Americans wanty health care reform (opposition ot the current proposal is split between those who think it doesn't go far enoguh and supporters of the current system), I wouldn't be surprised if the apporval rate went up.

Want to put a small bet on that? SAy US$10 to a charity of the winner's choice?

Anonymous said...


If Doctors without Borders would be an acceptable charity for you then I would propose the following specifics.
Time frame: 2 weeks after current bills pass by Deem-Pass/Reconciliation route.
Outcome: greater than 0.5% rise or fall in RCP congressional approval rating.
I would expect something of a "dead cat bounce" somewhere in there, but the appearance of shoddy backroom dealing is what I think people object to.
As to how people feel about health care reform, yes, there is widespread agreement that we need to fix things. But I think the majority of voters want the first move to be cost control, with expansion to follow.

I suppose the real referendum will be in November, and it may be very ugly for the Democrats.

This poses a new problem, if voters are mad enough, they may not be sufficiently critical of who they vote into office. Sensible moderates do not do well in a hyperpartisan world.


rewinn said...

As to "Deem and Pass" - I doubt more than 1% of the voters really care about how a bill is passed, but rather, what the bill is that is passed. Americans lean pragmatic.

Why is the GOP upset? The House detected the carefully-laid "Trap"; to overcome the GOP filibuster, the GOP-lite faction of the Democrats larded the Senate Bill with provisions everyone dislikes, e.g. everyone outside of FL hates the pro-FL provisions; everyone outside of NB hates the pro-NB provisions. The plan was for House to vote FOR the Senate bill before a reconciliation bill striking the hated stuff; the GOP really really really wanted every Democrat to do this. Can you see the ads: "He was for special favors before he was against it!"? It really was a good trap!

Unfortunately for the GOP, it's not a new trap. "Deem and Pass" has been used dozens of times since the 1970s to avoid just such a problem, and by both parties ... making it the most truly bipartisan feature of the process.

Now the GOP is crusading against an obscure parliamentary maneuver. Good luck! Polls may go up or down, but April polls mean little in November.

It's a pity Democrats were such slow learners, wasting six or nine months compromising only to see not one Republican willing to challenge his masters, but extra marks to them for trying.

@Robert - thanks for the BBC/CO2 link. It's very nice to see effective explainers made available via the web. I recently stumbled across a nice abiogensis explainer that, while not terribly whiz-bag in its presentation, brought me up to date gently yet swiftly. Perhaps there is something to the idea that stuff like this can make us effectively smarter.

rewinn said...

Illithi - it might be interesting to see that Milgram experiment replicated in the USA.

Although, come to think of it, that's what the McCain/Lierberman bill does.

Tony Fisk said...

Rob H, it's nice to see that experimental results of over a century ago still hold true!

Now, we need to consider the next line of 'skeptical' defence (that the effect of CO2, of itself, is minimal)

What the presence of CO2 does achieve, however, is to raise the base global temperature above freezing, so that water vapour enters the mix: useful in small quantities!

Ian Gould said...

Tacitus, agreed.

I trust Kiva is an acceptable beneficiary if I win.

David Brin said...

All the outrage at "deeming" is just plain fatuous.

1) The republicans used it dozens of times.

2) It simply replaces one straight up vote in the House with a slightly different one. There is still a perfectly normal, on the record vote in the House, on passing the Senate bill. Deeming is just a way to ensure that Pelosi won't betray her own party members by LEAVING the Senate bill in place, untouched, and saving herself the Reconciliation fight.

What deeming does is simply say "This bill (the Senate's Health care bill) hereby passes... CONDITIONAL on the Reconciliation bill also passing."

ALL the outrage over "deeming" is just more Fox big lie fear and hate mongering, without a scintilla of basis in reality.

Tacitus, you keep looking for reasons to think that some of the complaints of the right have SOME validity. Alas, you keep missing the point. Conservatism has been hijacked, top to bottom.

What you should be doing is getting mad at THAT.

Tacitus2 said...

You are in this instance confused.
The Health Care bill is lousy, and in my opinion will cause much mischief. But if it is enacted I will follow its rules, with a bit of a sigh. Those of us with conservative or moderate leanings bear some responsibility for putting a Trainee with Chicago Way ethics in charge. I did cast a vote for him....

I have already alluded to the probability that the reaction to this mess may well put into power Republicans who do things I will not like much.

But as a Conservative I find the current spectacle offensive on several levels.

--Public opinion is being flaunted. I think its fair to say that all noise and misinformation aside the issue has had a fair hearing and polls do not show a majority in favor of this bill. Of doing something, sure, but this? You yourself have expressed a sane wish that incremental change had been the choice.

--Transparency, another Brin favorite. Where to start?

--You are selective in which tactics you decry. Is cloture being abused? Yes. That's bad. Are Deem-Pass and Reconciliation technically legal but being stretched to cover a much bigger and more pervasive bill than any previous use? Also yes, but I guess that is OK.

--I strongly sense that the OMB is being suborned. There is no way in this, or in several co-adjacent parallel universes that this will not end up raising our national health care debt burden.

In the end, process matters to me. It will to you also when GOP majorities in one or both house routinely use sleazy tactics for big stuff.

I suppose personally I stand to benefit from increasing the amount of cash flowing into the system. Having the ability to work primary care, ER or even administration, this will be the Tacitus Full Employment Act. (at a time when I am trying to work less...sigh)

But the Democrats will reap what they sow, and my country (equally yours) is going to suffer for it.

In the end we are just two citizens with opinions. There are a lot more citizens out there with strong opinions, and their collective ire will be substantial.


Ian, I already have a kivi account.

Acacia H. said...

There's a power struggle going on in Washington right now. This struggle is between a political force that has lost power in legal binding elections and a political coalition that gained power because of the mistakes and abuses of power of the previous political force. If the U.S. were a third (or even second) world nation, we'd see an armed uprising from the previous political powers and the creation of a dictatorship. This is not idle speculation on my part; I've heard from multiple sources grumbling about how "we" should "take up arms" and "retake our country" from "those socialists."

The Republicans were voted out of power by the People. Yet a minority which represents 45% of the political will of one half of one branch of the government is holding hostage a multitude of legislation that is needed and desired. And they have been offered the olive branch so many times that the branch has been shorn of leaves and bark and is now a switch that the Republicans use against Democrats. And what is even worse is that Republicans dare claim Democrats refuse to negotiate and refuse to work with them. (Which is logical. When a child is told to work with the class bully on a class project and the bully punches the child in the gut every time the child tries to work with him, eventually the child's going to do the project himself and ignore the bully.) Sadly, people will believe them.

This isn't even a Constitutional battle. This is over a rule that the Senate enacted several decades ago and which the Republican Senators are abusing. No doubt in another year if the next Senate abolishes the filibuster, the Republicans will cry foul once more claiming that it strips power from them; but do you give a gun back to someone who uses it to shoot at people and cause property damage? Do you allow someone to drive if they consistently drink and then drive while drunk? The remaining elected Republicans are drunk rabid dogs and they need to be cut off from their power trips and abuses.

If Republicans were willing to work across the aisles, if they were willing to work for the greater good of the American People, then I'd not have a problem with them. But I've seen nothing in their actions which suggests they deserve any respect or regard. Considering how little I think of Democrats, and the fact that I'm now supporting their cause against the Republican Party... well, there is a better way than the Republican Party.

Tacticus, you are supporting a political party that has betrayed its principles and is betraying the American People. And you can do a hell of a lot better. The Democrats have proven themselves able to adapt and change. So work to get moderate to conservative Democrats on the local ballots. While Democrat, they are still closer to your ideals and beliefs than what the Republican Party has mutated into.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...


Regards supporting conservative Democrats, there have been no recent sightings in Wisconsin.

Regards supporting moderate ones, well, my vote for the purportedly moderate Obama is not turning out so well.* We have two D Senators. One, Kohl, is an unimaginative, bland party hack. I actually prefer Feingold, an unapologetic liberal, but with an above average measure of integrity. We need a few such around.

My congressman is a committe chair porkmeister who is rude and dimissive of his constituents because, well, he is a Chair. If he has a creditable opponent, good.

I won't get into local races, as a measure of annonymity is desirable. But I have supported individuals from both parties and will continue to do so.

Tempers seem to be a bit raw on this issue. I'm going to hold off posting a while for that reason.


*to be clear, I voted for him in the primary, and was prepared to do so in the general if WI were within 5%. It was not, so I cast a vote to the other side to remind the new President that he had a temp job, not a mandate.

Acacia H. said...

I must admit, I can see a parallel between my growing ire toward the Republican Party and that of formerly Christian Pagans toward their own faith. Having participated in several pagan online communities when doing research for a character I was writing, I frequently noticed that there was a knee-jerk reaction by certain former Christians whenever a Christian would show up on the e-mail community. (This was pre-Facebook; heck, I still fondly remember Listservs.) From what I could tell, those people who felt Christianity had betrayed them would become quite vehement against the faith, even though their new faith often called for tolerance and acceptance of others.

So. I guess deep down I feel the Republican Party has betrayed me and betrayed my trust. The thing is... there are a number of people who likely feel that way. These are the people who have changed party affiliation away from Republican. They might not trust the Democrats... but they sure as hell know the Republicans cannot be trusted and will not vote for them again.

Perhaps this is why the Republicans are doing everything in their power to ensure Democrats are ineffectual and unable to pass any legislation. If they can make Democrats look weak and unable to do anything despite being in the majority... they might end up disenfranchising this New Right and turning them off of BOTH sides. Some will start pushing third parties... but let's be honest. The Libertarians are powerless and have been proven wrong. Other third parties are even weaker and won't get into power. The rest of the New Right? They'll give up. Along with more and more Moderates and even some Liberals.

The Republican Strategy is to get people to stop voting. Then their vocal base which hasn't given up on them will elect more and more Republicans... even as a greater and greater number of people stop voting at all. It will be a Democratic Oligarchy, empowered by the ultra-Faithful who will elect people who believe as they do, at the detriment of the rest of the nation. And our rights, one by one, will be destroyed. (Or maybe I'm just looking to the future with a jaundiced and cynical eye.)

Rob H.

LarryHart said...


--You are selective in which tactics you decry. Is cloture being abused? Yes. That's bad. Are Deem-Pass and Reconciliation technically legal but being stretched to cover a much bigger and more pervasive bill than any previous use? Also yes, but I guess that is OK.

The one begets the other. The House has no choice but to pass the Senate bill as is and fix what they can through reconciliation as a direct consequence of the abuse of cloture--the fact that the loss of Kennedy's seat to a Republican means no further changes will ever pass the Senate.

You can't say that the GOP tactic is "bad", but as long as they use it anyway, they win, whereas the Democratic countermeasue is "bad too", and so its use is an abomination.

My honest conservative friend is throwing that at me too--essentially "You don't realize what a precedent you're setting that the REPUBLICANS will use when THEY get back into power." As if there is any level that Republicans wouldn't stoop to irrespective of what the Democrats do.

Or my favorite: "And YOU won't be able to complain when the REPUBLICANS use reconcilliation or deem and pass because YOU did it first." No, actually, the GOP has already done both on many occasions. And yet THEY'RE still somehow "able to complain" when the Dems use the same tactics.

I'm honestly not speaking ill of true conservatives here, but the Republican party and the "ideas" that currently drive it are now literally insane. Insane in the sense of not perceiving the world as it is, of seeing socialist monsters under every bed and of dying the thousand deaths of the coward because somewhere, somehow, SOME terrorist act might succeed. The fact is that no matter what government programs you might be afraid Obama will "ram through", there's nothing the Democrats can do to you that can't be undone in 2010 or 2012 if the electorate wishes. On the other hand, the Republican Party is a clear and present danger to our constitutional form of government. I'm sure you believe just the opposite is the case on both counts, but I stand by my contention.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, you keep citing words like "sleazy tactics" but neglect to mention any.

"Deeming" is in no way sleazy. Tell us how it is, please? The GOP house members get EXACTLY the same chance to vote against BOTH bills and debate is no more limited under deeming than not.

Deeming has NOTHING to do with suppressing opposition. It is simply a method to ensure that promises are kept and that the reconciliation bill will be pushed hard by Pelosi, after she has the senate bill in hand.

As for opinion polls, I am amazed that many still show it 50:50 over the health bill. ALWAYS during slag-fest debates, the popularity of a measure plummets. We have a republic precisely for reasons like that. Oh, and this health bill is VERY similar to what the GOP PROPOSED, back in 1993, as its alternative to Hillary's bill.

Tacitus2 said...

Deem and Pass is a minor dodge, an attempt to allow wavering members to vote "yes" and have a small fig leaf to cover themselves with. Hey, I'm just voting to recognize that bills have previously passed both chambers (before the politcal winds shifted).

It is being lampooned to the point that it is no longer effective camo.

Each member ideally should go back to his or her district and proudly defend their vote, either way, on this legislation.

If I sound a little testy on this matter, perhaps it is with the previously mentioned ire of the apostate. I voted for Clinton expecting some kind of reasonable health care reform. I supported Obama, to some extent, for the same reason.

And we get a crappy, disingenous entitlement expansion.

(with no particular evidence to back it up, I am also wondering if the Massa meltdown was not some bungled blackmail attempt on a no vote)

But who knows, sometimes things work out better than expected. I recall expressing no confidence that Bush's Iraq surge would work out and it appears to have.

For the reasons mentioned in a previous post, I have no plausible influence on my elected representatives.

Er, I mean the current ones.


TwinBeam said...

Something I wonder about - how will they enforce the fines for not getting insurance?

And what restrictions are they placing on how much insurance one must have? I.e. could one buy $1 worth of insurance, to avoid paying the fines - or have they specified minimum amounts people must pay? Perhaps not that extreme - but why won't some insurance companies cater to young people who don't want to pay much and won't need much coverage - thwarting the attempt to get them to pay more in?

Can one opt to buy only catastrophic medical insurance - or is everyone required to get insurance that covers ordinary medical care?

Will contributions to HSAs count as part of any minimum amount of insurance payment? Or does the money have to go into a "pool" to count?

Just what assumptions did the CBO use about these sorts of questions?

I tried reading a version of the bill, but most of it is "strike this line and replace it with that line", or long run-on sentences - near incomprehensible.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Here is an interesting article.
Leaders with MBA's have lower performance than those without!

Disclosure I have half of an MBA (Diploma in Management Studies)

I was taught some good stuff on that course BUT I have also been taught a lot of "cover your arse (but)" and working in management I have found a lot of "Me first and damn the job"
Especially in more senior management

Tony Fisk said...

I confess to having one half as well, Duncan (was that the Deakin course that APESMA supports?)

I picked up some useful bits of information but I didn't proceed with the other half because a) it was getting esoteric and boring, b) I had no prospect of putting any of it to good use.

(Ricardo Semler, the eccentric but successful CEO of Brazilian firm Semco Intl, doesn't like managers with MBAs because they've all been trained to think the same way)

conednis: the MBA measure of conformity

David Smelser said...

One proposal for collecting the fines is through income taxes. Insurance companies would issue a form to individuals which would provide a credit against the fine.

I believe that reforms also set minimal standards for insurance policies, so there there won't be any $1 insurance policies to purchase to avoid the fine.

lc said...

Good questions by TwinBeam. Smelser has a slightly vague answer. Here's a specific: I received in the mail an ad for $50 a month health insurance. Would that cover the legal requirement?

David Brin said...

Tacitus, you are smart & sincere and a man in the trenches. On all counts, we here will always respect and listen to you.

But "entitlement program"? The GOP & Bush passed a vast, unfunded new Medicare benefit that was and is a bank-buster even larger than Obama's insurance program. There wasn't even a trace of "pay-n-play" -- while the dems have balanced the new insurance subsidies with income, leaving a projected SURPLUS in the program.

Moreover, by requiring, with penalties, that all americans buy insurance, they are actually INCREASING the social responsibility side of the ledger by demanding that more americans take care of themselves and participate in the insurance pools, especially when young and healthy.

Exactly what is "pandering" about that? The dems are hitting one of their base demographics with a wake-up slap and demanding that they do the right thing!

Um, can you tell when the gops ever, ever did that? Like when they should have asked their rich sponsors to pony up to help pay for a state of war?

(Twinbeam, I believe self-insurance accounts are partially included, as a bone for conservatives... the point being, again, that dems offer many such, and get nothing in return)

The main effect in your hospital? Elimination of e-room harrassment re payment. Also perhaps insurance companies becoming more pro-active about prevention.... a MAJOR thing! Today, all the incentives are for them to make money by kicking people out. Now the incentive may be to make money by keeping people well.

Tacitus2 said...


Short version, I do not think that providing health care is something that the US government will do well. Politicians, especially Democrats have a difficult time saying no. So we would (will) get endless silly mandates unsupported by science. Autism treatments of unproven benefit. Cancer screenings of dubious merit. No curbs on ER useage. No requirements to use generics. Because once you make health care into something more than paying for services, make it in fact into a "right" with few responsibilites, well, our chances of containing demands and therefore costs, seem low.
I have no fondness for GOP fiscal irresponsibility. It is damning with the faintest of praise to say that the Medicare drug benefit under Bush was less irresponsible than what the Democrats were pushing for. And it would be churlish of me to point out that the few economies contained therein are being tossed aside in the late rounds of bidding for votes.
I actually felt that the Baucus plan had merit. But the elements that made it worth considering, such as the "Cadillac Plan" tax and serious penalties for not carrying insurance, have been diluted to, well, I was going to say homeopathic levels, but that would be going a bit far.
I do not think the CBO projections will be anywhere near the real costs. Can you show me a large scale government run program (other than Medicare D, so far) that did come in under projections?

But at least there will be an honest vote, the ill named and famed Slaughter Solution having been axed. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Odd, is it not, that after 9 months of crisis deadline mode, we are still having a discussion on this topic?

I actually do not think healthcare is a right at all. It is something that a humane society will endevour to make available to all, but it can't be a bottomless pit that engulfs other societal needs.



David Brin said...

Much wisdom, thanks.

Still. Most of the rest of the industrial world has systems FAr more "socialistic than ours... and far better at containing costs.

Instead of trying to iterate forward from our own horrific system, we should have taken the system of Canada or France or Australia (very different, each) and said "this one works, people are covered and happy. Now let's zero in on the parts we don't like and change just those, to be more american.

e.g. added ways to bypass waiting lists by buying supplemental insurance.

Ah well. we'll see. I do know this. The manics deserve their turn to try. The depressives have NO credibility, high/low, up/down, in-out. Their "argument" isn't negotiation, but uniformly bilious. ALL suggested changes are armageddon-level evil, to them.

If this bill is flawed, it is the fault of those who COULD HAVE CHANGED IT, by honest bargaining and exacting a price for their votes. It is what the minority does! That is, when they want negotiation and deliberation to actually function in a republic of adults.

Acacia H. said...

Okay. Once again I'm stepping up to the plate here with a pet peeve of mine. Tacticus, what your statement basically said is "we should keep Health Insurance in the purvey of the Private Industry because the Public Sector (ie, government-mandate) is too corrupt and inefficient to handle it." In short, you feel that anything the Feds can do, Private Industry can do better.

If this were the truth, then we would not have situations like Enron, Toyota's hiding the acceleration problem as long as it did, the whole blowup of the financial system that caused the economy to go into a tailspin two years ago... and so many other instances of corruption, inefficiency, and ineptitude.

The Private Sector is no more efficient or devoid of corruption than the Federal Government. The primary difference is that it is increasingly easier to find and reveal instances of Federal malfeasance, while the Private sector has grown increasingly apt at hiding their instances until they blow up out of control, despite multiple Federal measures meant to prevent these private industries from preying on people and other businesses.

Indeed, to snag one of Dr. Brin's flags and wave it for a minute, if the Federal Government created a Public Option and made it fully transparent, it would be far less inefficient than many private insurers, who just toss customers out on their ears rather than pay up on what the insurance policy was about. (Here's your flag, Dr. Brin. Sorry about snagging it unexpectedly.)

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

What I see as a flaw in the bill is the reliance on private insurers, but there's likely no other way to make a deal. It's a bit outrageous that they're fighting this hard against a bill that does so little, and will not take away their place at the trough. BTW, is anyone else annoyed that they can pay into health plans for years, and if the insurers pay a claim, they want you to feel like it's charity?

Acacia H. said...

Here's a little something for Dr. Brin to feel tickled about: Schlock Mercenary mentions Uplift (again) in its latest update; this time having an Update Congress that decides which elements of the species will remain a part of its culture upon Uplifting it. ^^

There's something fun about watching a concept of yours take a life of its own and be accepted and used by others; I have to hope that Dr. Brin is flattered by this use of his concepts.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Although I know there was no malice in it, a caution: paraphrasing is second cousin to strawmanning.
I think there are massive differences between the business of health care and most other businesses. Therein lies much of the problem.
Here are a few illustrations.
1. Demand and Supply rules do not apply. The appeal of modern medicine is near infinite. Live to a ripe old age, new knees to play tennis at 80, viagra to 85...
No matter how many resources you deploy they will never satiate.
2. Someone else is buying. Out of pocket costs for the average consumer are 18%. The number would be lower without folks like me (HSA, high deduct.) I would love to find somebody to pay 82% of the cost of a new Toyota.
3. As we are in the process of establishing this as a right, (and ever rising costs plus ever more generous government subsidies would tend to make this a "public utility") there will be significant potential for political pressure. The grousing over mammogram coverage is an example. The list of mandates will grow. The government rightly steps in and requires some features in cars...airbags and pollution control equipment. Sensible. But with health care there will be emotionally charged pressures to cover bone marrow transplants for metastatic breast cancer, and chiropractic treatments, and sleep apnea surgery, and, well the list will be long. (And do not imagine me to be without compassion for any of the individuals with the above).
4. The health care market is hydra-headed. You have a finite number of car companies. You have hundreds of thousands of doctors, therapists, pharmacies, etc. Effective supervision is orders of magnitude more difficult.
Ah, I am wandering again. This is a topic too broad for broadband. Better we all sit down for a cup of coffee (or tea) and toss ideas about.
I suppose I should mention that the worst case scenario would be a large version of other government run health entities....VA medical system, or IHS anybody?
But we are a long way, perhaps a generation or two from that, there is simply too great a pool of hardworking, caring people in the current system.
But its concern for my offspring, and eventual offshoots therefrom, that gives me fire on this issue. As I said a while back, for me personally Obamacare is more paying work than I can/should/care to put my shoulder to.

LarryHart said...


For my own part, I'm not unmindful of the dangers of unlimited mandates. For the simplest example, I'm not at all clear how we got to the point where insurance must cover perscriptions for Viagara--something that I believe the free marketplace and the laws of supply and demand should handle quite nicely.

I have no problems with doctors, nurses, and hospital staff getting a fair payment for the effort required of them. Doctors charging money for services is not something I rail against.

The problem I have with the present system is that health INSURANCE doesn't seem to function under the rules of the free marketplace. If insurers were getting rich offering a product for value, I'd have no more issue with them getting rich than I do with Bill Gates getting rich. But it seems to me that that's not what they do. They get rich by a practice of gaming the system and a quasi-legal reneging on contracts. We, the consumer, are damned either way. Pay extrotianate rates for private insurance or let coverage lapse and suddenly become uninsurable. And without insurance, the only way for individual families to be fiscally responsible would be to each save millions of dollars in case one needs expensive life-and-limb saving care. That's just not feasible.

I've been insured my entire adult life, from my college health-care to a short-term policy between college and my first job, then through my job, and then finally through a trade orgainzation that (I thought) gave me independence from a particular job. The latter turned out to be a chimera, because the policy became so prohibitively expensive that my wife and I could not afford the premiums. That policy is no longer available, so right now, I'm stuck with my employer's policy, which is not a bad one by any measure, but continuity of coverage (for myself and my wife and child) are totally dependent on continued employment. Now that I've been diagnosed with diabetes, I can't start new with a private policy, even though the rules that govern pre-existing condiditons are meant to keep someone like me from attempting to buy insurance FOR THE FIRST TIME after a diagnosis. Applying those rules to someone who has maintained consistent coverage for thirty years, as if losing eligibility for a particular policy is the same thing as refusing to pay for coverage while healthy...that's the truly evil part of the current system.

I'm not "happy" with the all the elements of this specific bill now going through congress, but it's the only path to fixing the current system at all, so in that sense, I'm for it.

Jacob said...

Hi tacitus,

I think your point number three is very relevant to the current situation. We know that some people (Dems for example) would have liked to go further at improving the safety of cars by limiting their speed to 60 mph or less. Lets say this idea is impractical (like some of the Health Care plans). Responsible conservatives should sure their energy to remove the speed limits while maintain seat-belts (and other good provisions).

It seems to me that Republican Politicians are refusing to engage because of fundamental differences. They are proposing their own bills, but they aren't working with Dems who want to limit speed. I believe that if even 5 of their number had come forward and said remove these questionable elements and add this one, we would have had a much more wholesome bill.

But the Repub Leadership choose not work with Dems, and now we have great strife in our Country to go along with a bad plan. It isn't just the leadership that is to blame either. 5 of 40 should be very easy to accomplish. 1 Leader who can get 4 others out of 39 to join him/her and make a positive change.

I'm disappointed with everyone. But while the Democrats suck for trying and failing to accomplish something that will help the people, the Republicans have lost me for a voter forever.

rewinn said...

About the VA: once you establish your eligibility to get into the system, you tend to be pretty satisfied with it.

In case one is tempted to bring up Walter Reed, let us not forget that Walter Reed is not a VA facility

David Brin said...

Tacitus is right that demand for medical care is inelastic. And getting people asking "is this test necessary?" would be great...

But he still neglects to grapple with the fact that our non-entitlement medical care system is far, far worse than all the many types of entitlement systems overseas...

...except when it comes to one thing. Access to the very latest, cutting -edge, razzle-dazzle techniques. Those are far more readily available here than anywhere else on the planet. Partly due to research universities and federal grants... (another form of socialism)... and partly because there are no "granny-killing" rationing committees, weighing likely effectiveness against cost. (Staving off end-game death for a few days of agony makes up a large share of all medical costs.)

Result? The world's rich fly in to use this expensive extracare.... and the right gets to call US medicine "the best" according to one standard. Of course, the rest of the world then benefits when these methods are proved, made more cheap and spread around. We are the world medical R&D center and they should pay us a fee!

But this evades the point. In Japan's insurance-based, not single-payer system, the govt still plays a big role, demanding standardized records, standardized MRIs... that can be simplified and mass produced, leading to 90% lower cost... and so on. It's at that level that fed oversight is desperately needed.

I've said it before. Obama should have threatened an alternative. Put all children under Medicare till age 25 and put all civil servants in the VA. SQUEEZE from both sides till the insurance cos negotiate.

Tacitus2 said...


I think you somewhat overstate the advantages of other health care systems. 90% lower costs in Japan? For what?
There are some stats that just do not correlate well. Infant mortality for instance. We don't look so good. But there are caveats....some countries do not list births under 1kg as live births. No resusitation done, off the books. And the extent to which we allow nonsense like the Octamom also increases our preemie burden, but you can hardly fault the NICU folks for that!
Russia is deteriorating in a public health sense, globally I believe. China likely cheats on stats they don't want to discuss, HIV rates, female infanticide. Africa, you don't wanna go there.
So if you want to compare us to Sweden and other European countries that's fair enough. But its a package deal...resources spent on health care are not available for other things. Perhaps some of our overseas posters can weigh in on this issue, but I am watching the PIGS saga with interest. (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain). I am going out on a predictive limb and starting the watch for CIGs (California, Illinois, Gotham).

Whatever the system ends up being, I will play fair.

Kudos tonight to Stupak, who held out for something he believed in, and to the public pressure that at least required an open vote. It will lend some validity to the outcome.
Points off for the GOP reps if they actually cheered on the house floor, and for Pelosi, marching across the street with that big ol' clown hammer.

Off for more adventures in the ER. I hope THIS week we don't have anybody showing up with a bullet hole in their sternum!


Acacia H. said...

And off on a moment of whimsy here (whimsy is needed, it helps keep us insane), I was recently looking through some old books of mine and came across the 1980s "Tom Swift" (in Space!) series. And I started thinking. While the Tom Swift series has been relaunched several times, it might be interesting to create a truly unique Tom Swift set in the near (next 20 years) future. And reimagine it so we have something unique and diverse.

Thus we have the main character, Tomiko "Tom" Swift (she hates being called "Tom" but you know how nicknames are), a young and brilliant half-Chinese, half-American girl in her early twenties. She could have several friends (from several nationalities) who work with her in a joint venture to get into space, developing a viable ship for transit to an asteroid to harvest it for resources. I'm not quite sure where else to go with the idea... but I just find the thought of a female half-Chinese "Tom" Swift to be such an interesting twist that it would make for part of an interesting tale.

The question is, of course, finding a way to make it interesting and yet not be some futuristic scifi adventure with science so soft that you could use it as a pillow. ^^;;

Rob H.

Hypnos said...

"There are some stats that just do not correlate well. Infant mortality for instance. We don't look so good. But there are caveats....some countries do not list births under 1kg as live births. No resusitation done, off the books."

There's a study by the US CDC that investigates infant mortality and finds that America's is higher than Europe, no matter the accounting differences, and that the main problem is pre-term births, the rate of which is much higher in the US.

"So if you want to compare us to Sweden and other European countries that's fair enough. But its a package deal...resources spent on health care are not available for other things."

And that goes to Sweden's advantage, because they are the ones spending less on health care, just like any other industrialized nation compared to the US.

Tacitus2 said...

I believe I gave the Swedes credit deserved. Friend of mine just delivered a baby there last month.

Their tax structure is a little different than ours.

Preterm birth is a vexatious issue. Infertility treatments, prudent and otherwise contribute. Delayed childbearing too, but that's an overall Western issue. There is a correlary with poverty and with single parent households.
We do have some income disparity issues here that I suspect are greater than in most European countries.

So its kind of a package deal.

Even geography plays a role. Its easier to get to a tertiary care center for your acute MI in Belgium than it is in Montana.


Acacia H. said...

As of 10:47 PM EST the U.S. House of Representatives has passed health care reform by a vote of 219 to 210.

Stefan Jones said...



flism: Fictional drug in unpublished Philip K. Dick novel.

Tony Fisk said...

It's worse than that, Stefan.

"Demons have overrun the congress, and have triggered Armageddon"

(Well, that's what I heard on ABC radio the first thing this morning... and that was *before* the bill was passed. Guess that means causality has been violated and it's all true. What happens next, Mr. Farley?)

upsifw: a heiroglyph of great evil from an ancient dark tome, that has been resurrected as the London M60 ring road.

David McCabe said...

How America Can Rise Again by James Fallows in the Atlantic. Rough summary:

Prophesy of imminent downfall has been a fixture of American discourse for many decades. On the bright side, America the society is as healthy as ever. But our government and political system are broken, and preventing us from realizing our potential. We must make the best of it despite this.

Acacia H. said...

I've a small question. If attempts to have the Health Care Reform Bill declared unconstitutional actually succeeds, would that not in turn state that Medicaid and Medicare, as goverment-sponsored health plans, are likewise unconstitutional and thus all of the people currently under these plans would be suddenly uninsured?

Just food for thought, and a little something we might want to plant in the collective unconsciousness out there. If people start hearing "Republicans are going to outlaw Medicare and force your Granny to pay for her own meds and doctor's appointment out-of-pocket" then they're going to get quite irate at Republicans. The end-result would be absolutely amusing to watch as Republicans start backpedaling and trying to claim otherwise and find themselves on the defensive.

Rob H.

Rob Perkins said...

I too have a small question. Is this the first time that the Federal Government has mandated that a person carry a certain type of insurance? Are there any other examples?

Tim H. said...

An interesting proposal, open, non-partisan primaries:

Acacia H. said...

The interesting thing about that "Open Primary" system is that it sounds similar to the Parliamentarian systems used by other nations, but retains the American feel to elections. It opens up the elections to non-political people and to third parties that normally end up splitting the final general election vote, while letting people vote for their final choice; if your first choice doesn't make it into the "Final Two" then they can vote for someone else and not feel like their voting in the Primary was pointless.

I hope it works well in California. And that other states take heed and start using similar systems.

Rob H.

matthew said...

Paul Krugman on Healthcare.

Best Quote: "And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation."

Heh. Mimme another mistake like civil rights legislation.

Marino said...


I'm from a PIIGS country (oink, oink)
but rest assured that here in Italy expenditure for healthcare is 5% and spare change of the GDP, all the pork barrel and sleaze marring our NHS included. (and our figures about health, from infant mortality to average life and morbility, compare well with the US ones.) Healthcare wasn't the bottomless pit you fear, the roots of the financial troubles we face were different.

Tacitus2 said...

It would be an interesting discussion, comparing attitudes and practices of medicine in Italy vs US. Oh, and your insight into the current PIIGS situation. Where are the financial difficulties?.
Sorry that I could not find a second I for CIGs, but I think Iowa, Indiana, Idaho are all doing fairly well.

David Brin said...

The open primary is a citizen immune reaction against gerrymandering. Its chief effect will be to reduce the bilious partisanship a bit. Only a bit. But hurray.

Most states require that all drivers have insurance.

Matthew thanks for: Best Quote: "And on the other side, here’s what Newt Gingrich, the Republican former speaker of the House — a man celebrated by many in his party as an intellectual leader — had to say: If Democrats pass health reform, “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” by passing civil rights legislation."

What a dope. Declare openly that the dems are the party of civil rights and you undermine the mythology (recently promulgated by the Texas School Board) that "Us? We've Always been for civil rights!"

Have you guys all helped boost the numbers on my new series of Youtube videos? By visiting them and spreading the word?

More about the health bill soon. But in fairness, there are advantages to the US system.

BCRion said...

To be fair, Gingrich was referring to the policies of the Great Society, but still a dumb statement when viewed in the historical context of LBJ's statement about losing the South for the generation.

Something had to be done on healthcare. While I am sure that there is plenty in the bill that does make the problem worse, and plenty of things that should have been included, the status quo is broken and something had to be done. I hope the CBO's budget projections come to pass; I guess we can only wait and see on that.

Rob Perkins said...

David, the question wasn't "What insurance mandates are imposed on a citizen"

The mandate to carry personal auto insurance doesn't come from the Federal government.

My question was, is there or was there a *Federal* mandate already enacted (whether or not later repealed) that requires a citizen to buy an insurance product? Or any product? Or give for any service?

BCRion said...

The net effect whether it comes from the state or federal level is the same. We all have to pay our federal taxes. At the end of the day, this is really just another tax. Note that you are free to pay the IRS a tax (they call it a fine) to not get insurance.

The problem with healthcare is a sticky one, because, whether we like it or not, the actions of individuals affect everyone. It's unreasonable to require an unconscious or otherwise incapacitated individual to demonstrate proof of payment before taking the means to treat him or her. If said individual does not have insurance and cannot pay, everyone else who is insured absorbs the cost. That's the status quo.

Now, the fix is not ideal: forcing people to buy insurance or face an additional tax. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there is a better way other than granting coverage to all in a large government program or simply treating no one without prior funds authorized. Both are bitter pills to swallow. The first does not jive well with US tradition and the second is outright draconian.

So my question is this, without a mandate, how do we protect the insured against cost increases incurred because of care given to the uninsured?

David McCabe said...

This is getting passed around as an email from Michael Steele. I can't verify its authenticity, but a lot of right-leaning sites have published it enthusiastically.

Dear Fellow Patriot,

In defiance of the will of the American people, Nancy Pelosi and her Democrat cronies have authorized a government takeover of your health care. She even considered an unconstitutional backdoor process that involved passing the bill without a vote on it before she realized that she could simply cajole, bully, and even buy off members of Congress in order to get enough “yeas” to ram President Obama’s socialist scheme down our throats.

Nancy Pelosi has gone too far. She is no longer serving the American people and the Constitution of the United States. She is beholden to left-wing special interests, and does not represent the will of the people. It is time to fire Nancy Pelosi.

In order to fund our efforts to oust Speaker Pelosi, the Republican National Committee is launching a Money Bomb to raise the resources we need to gain 40 House seats. If we gain just 40 House seats, we will fire Nancy Pelosi. Please donate, and then tell your friends to donate, so that we can end the tyrannical reign of the most aggressively left-wing Speaker in American history. Donate, so that we can fire Nancy Pelosi!


Michael Steele
Chairman, Republican National Committee

BCRion said...

"She even considered an unconstitutional backdoor process that involved passing the bill without a vote..."

I find this funny considering the Republicans inordinate use of the extra-constitutional power called the filibuster. Never mind that they used the same tactics (e.g. reconciliation) numerous times in the past. Just one more example that the human mind is capable of incredible cognitive dissonance.

LarryHart said...

"She even considered an unconstitutional backdoor process that involved passing the bill without a vote..."

She even considered a tactic that they ultimately didn't use, to some extent because it would be unpopular? So "considering" is as bad as "doing" now? Bet that letter had to be altered at the last minute.

My honest conservative pal was going ape-shit at the thought of deem and pass last week, letting me know how I'd be sorry when the GOP was back in power and used the same tactic, and I'd have no cause to complain because we did it "first". Now that the Democrats didn't actually "do" it, I wonder if anything about his tune will change. Anyone want to take bets? I didn't think so.

Ian Gould said...


Best web source I know of for a comparison on health spending and outcomes:,3343,en_2649_34631_2085200_1_1_1_1,00.html

Current US government spending to provide healthcare to a minority of your population (via Medicare, Tricare etxc) is more in per capita dollar terms than any other developed country government spends to provide health care for their entire population.

Ian said...

"My question was, is there or was there a *Federal* mandate already enacted (whether or not later repealed) that requires a citizen to buy an insurance product? Or any product? Or give for any service?"

Not sure about individuals but there are a bunch of such requirements on businesses ranging from audit requirements on public companies to levying milk producers for marketing campaigns via the USDA.

And your Supreme Court DID just uphold the doctrien that corporations are legal persons.

Of course, the government isn't actually saying you must buy insurance. They're just saying they'll tax you more if you don't to offset the risk that you'll stick the public hospoital system for your medical care.

TwinBeam said...

Ian Gould: "Current US government spending to provide healthcare to a minority of your population (via Medicare, Tricare etxc) is more in per capita dollar terms than any other developed country government spends to provide health care for their entire population."

Uh - you DO realize that in general health care for the elderly (i.e. on Medicare) tends to cost a lot more than the average per capita? Apples and oranges...

Hypnos said...

Twinbeam, it's comparing spending on entire population, even tho the US doesn't actually cover its entire population. Which makes it all the more remarkable.

Just to cover its elderly, the US gov spends MORE than any other OECD country does to cover its entire population.

"However, such is the level of health spending in the United States that public (i.e.
government) spending on health per capita in the United States is greater than in all other OECD countries,
excepting only Norway and Luxembourg. For this amount of public expenditure in the United States,
government provides insurance coverage only for elderly and disabled people (through Medicare) and some of
the poor (through Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, SCHIP), whereas in most
other OECD countries this is enough for government to provide universal primary health insurance."

Hypnos said...


It would be an interesting discussion, comparing attitudes and practices of medicine in Italy vs

I am Italian too. I was checking out the OECD's "Health at a Glance" paper, which is entirely accessible for free via web and provides a wealth of health-related indicators.

From what I gather, Italy outperforms the US and most other OECD nations in the majority of health indicators, and is especially excellent in long-term care for chronic diseases (such as ashtma and diabetes), keeping a lot of people with those diseases in good health and out of hospitals. This is where the US performs worst.

On the other hand, the US performs best in cancer-survival rates, I think owning to the higher availability of top-rate technology for screening and surgery.

Funnily enough tho, despite Italy being in the top-5 smoking nations, and the US being last, Italy is above the US in terms of lung cancer survival rates. It also tops the US for breast and prostate cancer survival, two of the most common occurrences.

As a final point, one of the healthiest nations in the world going by health indicators is Japan. And yet, it is the nation where people report being less healthy - while the US, despite lagging in most indicators, has one of the brightest popular outlook on health. Italy is similar to Japan.

Tacitus2 said...

Thank you to our Italian correspondents! My point precisely is that the US should address the ridiculous cost of health care before expanding the number of people with limitless coverage. I think the numbers quoted from Europe strenthen my argument rather than weaken it. Hence my interest in the nuts and bolts of health care delivery in places that have at least some cultural similarity to us. Saw a kid the other day in the ER. No big deal, just got a little lightheaded at school. It has happened to her many times before, and this is not a rare event. She has seen endocrinology, cardiology, neurology and is on a psych drug. Still, when she feels a bit lightheaded the clinic triage nurse says go to the ER...not wanting to have any liabilty I suppose. In fact, her risk of being in a car acccident on her way over exceeds the odds that the 10th or 20th evaluation will yield something. Is health care this disjointed, this undirected in Italy or elsewhere?

Robert, RCP approval rating of Congress now stands at 17.4%. Although our original wager is off, since Deem and Pass went down, I assert: "For the finest in Political Punditry, Tacitus, accept no substitutes".


Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Perkins said...

@BCRion and others -- I'm not trying to assert or claim net effect.

There's a prohibition on direct taxes, which the Feds get around for OASPI and Medicare by levying them as income taxes.

I'm not opposed to the Federal mandate, for all the reasons y'all have cited. I buy insurance for my health care and will continue to do it.

But what I'm trying to gauge whether or not Florida and other States have a case, however small, that the Federal Government can't impose an individual mandate. If they construe a requirement to buy insurance as an unconstitutional direct tax, or some 9th or 14th Amendment violation, and the Supremes agree, then the mandates on individuals will be vacated before the insurance exchanges can come up to speed.

Tacitus2 said...

Had to scroll past a lot of spam to see that it was Ian with whom I was proposing a wager. Sorry Rob.


rewinn said...

Complicating how our federal Supreme Court might rule, should a challenge to the health care bill (as amended by reconciliation) be challenged, is the simple fact that there is precedent for just about every proposition you can imagine. This is a result of having laws written in natural language, which is intrinsically wobbly, and a 200-year-old pile of precedent which to quote-mine.

Further complications come from the fact that this is one of the most activist Courts in our nation's history, one which overturns legislation and precedent at near-unprecedented rates. It may therefore be a waste of time to consider legal issues as to whether there is precedent for the individual mandate; IMO that is the least important consideration to this Court.

I don't like the individual mandate much, although it appears necessary to making the thing work. Had Congress chosen to impose a tax with 100% credit for insurance premiums, it's difficult to see any reasonable court challenge.

Tim H. said...

On a lighter note, a Kansas City area eagle scout has earned every merit badge.
Entirely cool.

Rob Perkins said...

The requirement to register for Selective Service and to be pressed into military service is not imposed on women.

Thus, even it is not a universal mandate, and probably not a precedent.

I don't agree that laws are always written in natural language, I think many of them use a legalistic variant of English which is actually turing-complete, according to some people I've discussed this with who went from software development to lawyerin'.

Ilithi Dragon said...

On a completely unrelated note, I was thinking about the potential conversion of aircraft power generation and propulsion from fossil fuels to fusion-electric, assuming that cheap, relatively small, light-weight fusion reactors are developed (something along the lines of EMC2's polywell reactor, perhaps). Many aircraft would be relatively easy to convert - just create a compartment for the reactor in the fuselage and convert the engines to pure electric fans of some design or other. For high-performance military applications, though, this would probably not suffice, since fan-based propulsion alone, even with the added oomf of a nuclear power supply, would probably not have the performance required by, say, a modern jet fighter, let alone a next-gen fighter (though as I'm no aerospace engineer, I could easily be wrong).

When pondering the need to convert our high-performance military aircraft away from fossil fuels, and preferably to something that would allow them to fully utilize the power advantages of a nuclear reactor, I recalled the one Mythbusters episode wherein they tested anti-gravity myths, and one of the myths had to do with a little triangle arrangement of sticks and paper and exposed wire with an electric current. It worked quite well, but only in atmosphere, because the current across the wire created an electromagnetic field that forced the air down, through the inside of the device, generating lift (they disproved it as anti-grav by running it inside a vacuum chamber and getting nothing).

But, recalling this, I can't help but wonder if it would be possible to create a real-world application for such a device as a propulsion system. If a similar device could be constructed to use electromagnetic fields to force air through a ducted tunnel, couldn't a sufficient amount of power create tremendous thrust?

Whether or not this would be sufficient to actually propel an airplane, let alone at high military performance, would be the question. Problems with the electromagnetic field generated could also result, I suppose, and the amount of current needed to generate a sufficiently powerful effect could also be problematic.

Do any of you know of any research into using this as a method of propulsion?

rewinn said...

@Robert -"I don't agree that laws are always written in natural language, I think many of them use a legalistic variant of English which is actually turing-complete, according to some people I've discussed this with who went from software development to lawyerin'

Oh goodness! I'm one of those ex-programmers who went into lawyering.

It is VERY IMPORTANT that you non-lawyers think that our lawyer-talk is like a programming language, so that you think that we have some special Mad Skillz that you can never achieve without going to our schools and ... especially in the case of judges ... have to respect out of sheer Awe at our semi-divine poweristicalness. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain!

It is simply not the case (or the caselaw) that legal-talk is not subject to the wobblyness of natural language.

Consider: Programming languages execute the same way every time, or else we call it a bug. Legal language does not. X people can find X different interpretations of a text and that's no surprise; much of your special training in law school is figuring out how to find different meanings of the words, or the arrangements of words, so that the results suit your clients or ... in the case of judges ... the outcome that seems right and logical to you.

Consider the rules (called "canons") for applying precedent:

* An ancient precedent is stronger than a recent one because it has been tested for longer and subsequent law has depended on it longer

* An recent precedent is stronger than an ancient one because it reflects a longer history of legal reasoning, more subtle interpretation of difficult points, and the actual state of common law as it exists today.

Q. Which of these apply to a particular case?
A. The one that wins for my client!

Recent examples of this can lead to fruitless political diversions, so let us instead consider "The Propeller Genesee Chief", 53 U.S. 12 How. 443 443 (1851) which turns on the meaning of "admiralty". Of old, and at the drafting of our Constitution, this referred to matters of vessels on salt water or tide water, which makes sense in the British Isles but not in North America. Thus the Court found that it had another, more appropriate meaning. One day we may have the question whether it applies to ships sailing the seas of space.

Marino said...

For Illithi Dragon

In Brunner's Shockwave Rider the author featured planes (both passenger planes and a ground attack military plane, iirc) propelled by something like electrostatic jets.
Once I stumbled upon a paper by an Indian engineer, about various forms of electrical propulsion for planes, from electric ducted fan to jets accelerating air by difference of potential (something like the fictional "silent drive" of the Red October, but in air)


Marino said...

again, on electric planes:

Rob Perkins said...

Not yer lawyerin' talk; most all Americans are convinced that lawyers make for good jokes.

(Still and all, as a software guy, the field is intriguing...)

I'm talking about judging talk, which appears to be much more precise. Turing-complete doesn't mean "expressible in Pascal", after all.

Even so, I'll defer to you, rewinn, because I'm sure I'm not completely right about this.

Ian Gould said...

"Robert, RCP approval rating of Congress now stands at 17.4%. Although our original wager is off, since Deem and Pass went down, I assert: "For the finest in Political Punditry, Tacitus, accept no substitutes"."

Tacitus you';ll remeber there's a two week period in there - and you might also want to mote that the polls that show that result were taken last week before the legislation was actually passed.

Ian Gould said...

"Twinbeam, it's comparing spending on entire population, even tho the US doesn't actually cover its entire population. Which makes it all the more remarkable.

Just to cover its elderly, the US gov spends MORE than any other OECD country does to cover its entire population."

Precisely, the amount the US currently spends to cover the elderly, some children and the military would pay for coverage for the entire population if the money were spent as efficiently as it is is other developed countries.

Tacitus2 said...


I know, I know.
But I stand by my earlier prediction as well. Heh,if you look at the polls comprising the RCP average you will note that Fox News polls congressional approval four points higher than CBS!


David McCabe said...

Ordinary English is Turing-complete. Proof: Turing's papers on the Turing machine are written in English. QED.

More seriously: Turing-completeness is a property of a system of rules for doing calculations. It simply means that the system can perform all calculations that can be performed by a Turing machine.

There is no magic that makes the formal systems we ordinarily think of as Turing-complete different from any precisely-defined English jargon. A computer seems like a paragon of deterministic, precisely-defined behavior: but all the specs are written in English. All the parts are made of atoms. It only appears to be the embodiment of pure logic because it's very well engineered.

Any formal mathematical system is a subset of the natural language in which the axioms are given. For example, the spec for ANSI C is given in English; therefore, ANSI C is in essence an elaborate jargon, and the set of C programs is a subset of the set of English utterances. If you are uncomfortable with this, consider replacing the punctuation and abbreviations of C with equivalent and equally well-defined English phrases.

The meaning of a given C program is defined by a particular English document, the ANSI C spec. Its meaning is subject to all the ambiguities of English, except insofar as these pitfalls have been diligently avoided. Thus, C is only different from ordinary English because we have built machines that can execute C programs with high--but imperfect--predictability.

David McCabe said...

And you said mathematicians were useless!!!!!! ;-)

David McCabe said...

(In case it wasn't obvious, I don't entirely know what I'm talking about.)

Ian Gould said...

On a different front: Bill Gates and Toshiba are partnering to produce a travelling wave reactor.

This has many of the benefits of the Sandia reactor we discussed here a couple of weeks ago but minus the hassles of working with liquid sodium.

A Travelling Wave reactor is similar in concept to a breeder reactor but instead of converting U-238 to Plutonium which then needs to be extracted and concentrated before it can be used as fuel the Travelling Wave reactor converts Thorium or U-235 to U-238 which can then be used in fuel in situ.

Supposedly Gates is considering investing up to several billion dollars.

That's serious money even for Bill.

Ian Gould said...

OECD comments on health care costs in the US:

Haven't had a chance to read this myself yet.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's more around the same time than earlier, but Ben Bova's Cyberbooks was a novel entirely devoted to the idea of e-readers.

rewinn said...

"... I'll defer to you, rewinn, because I'm sure I'm not completely right about this...."

No, no don't defer to me just because ....

...wait a minute. What am I SAYING??? ...

...yes, yes, defer! Definitely!

heh-heh. I promise to use this power ONLY for good!

Trust. Me!

(P.S.. Lawyer jokes? Love'm! it's better if they aren't just generic "I-don't-like'm" jokes with the labels changed, but are more about actual lawyering. My favorite comes from the Icelandic Njal's Saga, (from before 1000 A.D. !!) which at the climax has basically a wrongful-death suit that goes sideways on procedural grounds. After about 4 chapters of Viking verbal maneuver and counter-maneuver (jury selection, venue, etc), it becomes clear that by sharp lawyering and some skulduggery, not only will the killer escape judgement but the complainants will be punished instead; therefore the plaintiff's legal consultant finishes with an argument sharp and to the point: "My Spear Thru Your Gut". See Njal's saga chapters 141-145

OK, to us moderns it's not that funny, but it must've had them rolling in the mead-hall aisles!

Stefan Jones said...

Oh, wonderful:

FBI Investigating Cut Gas Line At Home Of Dem Rep's Brother

(Why the rep's brother? Because the VA tea party goons put the wrong address on their "here's who to harass" web site.)

Democratic offices vandalized across the country

'plorsnex': Leader of the Bleep Blorp of Orion V.

JuhnDonn said...

@ Illithi Dragon

I think that foil/toothpick model on Mythbusters (Daughter's fav show) was basically ionizing air, causing a flow downwards. The problem with this is the large amount of electricity required for lift. Hard to do with self contained power source. 'Course, this was the problem with original heavier than air flight; a light enough power plant and fuel with enough energy density.

Hypnos said...

Check out the 14 tracts which according to Umberto Eco define Fascism:

They seem to mirror pretty closely the current thinking of the wingnuts who have overrun the GOP.

David Brin said...

Yes, there are parallels and commonalities. Many of them. But the american populist-falangist movement is tempered by many essentially american features. e.g. the right shouts (screams) that it is the group fighting for freedom, individualism, anti-racism, and many other consensus goods. In these dissonances one can hope to find fracture points and draw many of them back into America.

Stefan Jones said...

Patrick Farley is taking pledges to restart Electric Sheep Comix:

Electric Sheep Comix?

As in: The Spiders, Apocamon, and many other brilliant stories:

'rocajej:' We don't talk about things like that in public young man!

Acacia H. said...

Well, Dr. Brin, it looks like Congress is refusing to allow their golden eggs in NASA fly away; they are refusing the budget for NASA that Obama laid out, finding it "unreasonable" that we'll have to rely on private industry to return to space. (Funny, that. Guess Republicans aren't pro-business after all. Or at least, not pro-aerospace industries looking to go into orbit without NASA.)

So. Seeing that we are going to have some form of Ares V and the like, what do you think can be salvaged from the Constellation project and what should be scrapped wholescale? And how do we do this without breaking enough eggs to cause whiny Congressmen to rise up in revolt?

Rob H.

David Brin said...


David Brin said...

Russ Daggatt's latest is amazing..


Frum also makes the point that Republicans had worked their base into such a crazy rage over the last year that they couldn't back down. How do you compromise with "totalitarianism" or a "socialist takeover of the country" or "death panels"? The Glenn Beck/Rush Limbaugh/Sarah Palin crowd is now calling the shots. As Frum observed,

"Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox."

Republicans now seem to be doubling down on the partisan division and obstruction. There is the whole phony "repeal" effort (Republicans would need 69 votes in the Senate to overcome a presidential veto which they couldn't achieve even if they won every Senate seat up this year). Then there is the frivilous litigation challenging the constitutionality of the act. But my favorite is John "Hey You Kids Get Out Of My Yard!" McCain's threat, "There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year." As opposed to all that Republican cooperation before. And what has made McCain more churlish than usual? Democrats overcame a Republican filibuster with 60 votes in the Senate. An OUTRAGE!

Jonathan Chait makes a good point regarding McCain's threat:

[I]f we believe McCain [and other Republicans], they're saying that there are areas in public policy where Republicans would help make legislative changes that they believe would make the country a better place, but they are refusing to do so out of pique ... In other words, their own claim is that they are deliberately choosing to create suffering -- not merely preventing legislation the Democrats want, but preventing legislation they agree would help people and would otherwise support -- in order to punish the Democrats. This sounds like something the Democrats would accuse them of doing, not something they'd boast about.

This is the guy whose presidential campaign slogan was "Country First."

Senate Republicans are already acting on their threat of total obstruction by invoking an obscure Senate rule to prevent any Senate committee meetings from taking place after 2pm. (In sympathy with their cause, I call on all Americans to join Senate Republicans by heading home from work every day at 2pm.) Seriously.

You couldn't come up with better material for a Gail Collins column if you tried -- and she has a great one today. As she reminds us:

This could go on for some time. Meanwhile, feel free to remind Rush Limbaugh that he promised to move to Costa Rica if health care reform gets implemented.
Once you’re done, you can go back and remind him that Costa Rica has national health care.

For that alone, we should all be grateful that health care reform was finally signed into law.

Stefan Jones said...

Following up on Frum's comments . . . the guy has parted ways with the American Enterprise Institute:


Take-away quote by Bruce Bartlett:
" Since, [Frum] is no longer affiliated with AEI, I feel free to say publicly something he told me in private a few months ago. He asked if I had noticed any comments by AEI "scholars" on the subject of health care reform. I said no and he said that was because they had been ordered not to speak to the media because they agreed with too much of what Obama was trying to do.

It saddened me to hear this. I have always hoped that my experience was unique. But now I see that I was just the first to suffer from a closing of the conservative mind. Rigid conformity is being enforced, no dissent is allowed, and the conservative brain will slowly shrivel into dementia if it hasn't already.

Sadly, there is no place for David and me to go."

'phorines': Naturally occurring nanoreplicators found on surface of dead suns.

Stefan Jones said...

Following up on Frum . . . he's been fired by the American Enterprise Institute.

Fellow conservative Bruce Bartlett suggests why:

Ian said...

Another day another breathless report of a green technology breakthrough.

I'm slowly learning to be more skepticcal about these claims.

This one sounds pretty impressive though:

" ...a device called a GlidArc reactor has successfully been used to create clean fuels from waste materials, utilizing electrically-charged clouds of gas called “plasmas.” One of the fuels is a form of diesel that reportedly releases ten times less air pollution than conventional diesel."


"The report suggests that the refrigerator-sized reactors could be fed materials such as post-harvest corn leaves and stocks, waste cooking oil from restaurants, or even the byproduct glycerol created in the production of other biofuels. The GlidArc-created biofuels could apparently be used in existing diesel, gasoline or kerosene engines, with no modifications.

“Low-tech and low cost are the guiding principles behind the GlidArc reactors,” stated Czernichowski. “Almost all the parts could be bought at your local hardware or home supply store. We use common ‘plumber’ piping and connections, for instance, and ordinary home insulation. Instead of sophisticated ceramics, we use the kind of heat-resistant concrete that might go into a home fireplace.” He added that an average person could build one in a few days, for about $US10,000."

Hypnos said...

"But the american populist-falangist movement is tempered by many essentially american features. e.g. the right shouts (screams) that it is the group fighting for freedom, individualism, anti-racism, and many other consensus goods. In these dissonances one can hope to find fracture points and draw many of them back into America."

I sincerely hope you're right. Because with the purging of David Frum for intellectual dissent, the conservative establishment has definitely proven its outright descent into fascism. There isn't really any other name to call complete ideological uniformity, total disregard of fact and reality, and total refusal of dealing with the political enemy.

If the GOP doesn't change its line, and still manages to retake Congress in November, I am afraid it will mean that a really important part of the American democratic spirit has died.

And that isn't something you regain easily.

On the other hand, always assuming an unchanged GOP, Americans could show the world what representative democracy really is about and elect yet more Democratic representatives, possibly restoring the filibuster-proof majority and making Congress functional again.

There is more than enough political diversity within the Democratic party to ensure a lively, healthy political debate, without any extremist takeover.

The next 6 months will be interesting to watch.