Wednesday, July 22, 2015

How the Biological Sciences will transform everything... including life-span

Before commencing a rundown of amazing bio-wonder news, let's get back to the core matter at hand... waking up to the need to prevent a planetary collapse.

The Ocean Acidification crisis deepens. Writing in Science, experts say the oceans are heating, losing oxygen and becoming more acidic because of CO2.  If our future is more regions (the Caribbean and Mediterranean) becoming like the Black Sea, then we won't have to wait for sea levels to rise, before the oceans kill us in deserved revenge.

Denialist cultists out always scurry away and hide, or point and yell “squirrel!” whenever ocean acidification comes up. Because there are zero fox-narratives to evade this one.

The ocean has absorbed nearly 30% of the carbon dioxide we have produced since 1750 and, as CO2 is a mildly acidic gas, it is making seawater more acidic. It has also buffered climate change by absorbing over 90% of the additional heat created by industrial society since 1970. The extra heat makes it harder for the ocean to hold oxygen. Ocean acidification also causes shifts in the population of phytoplankton, which form the base of the marine food chain...some will die out, others flourish. 

FURTHER: that temperature rise could do what I fear most, cause a tipping point release of methanic hydrate ices along the ocean floor, turning the greenhouse into a runaway, possibly leading to a Green Sky. 

To see where this will lead, try fishing in today’s Black Sea… once-fertile waters that are now almost utterly dead.

So. Is the Anthropocene about to cause Earth’s Sixth Great Extinction?  “Using fossil records, scientists calculated a "natural" rate of extinction. For every 10,000 species, two go extinct every 100 years. In the past century, nearly 500 species have died off since 1900, rather than the nine that would be expected at natural rates.  Those include 69 mammals, 80 birds, 24 reptiles, 146 amphibians and 158 fish, and those figures are "highly conservative,"  a new report states.

Yes, be concerned!  Be passionate about this! I wrote about it back in 1988, in EARTH.  And yet… 

...and yet we are not quite at that tipping point.  All signs suggest that there is still some time. 

But we must act!

== Bioscience Updates ==

Bacteria as in situ cancer-detectors? Researchers have genetically modified E. coli bacteria into living sensors that can identify signs of diabetes and cancer -- capable of surviving inside a mouse's body for as long as a month.

Fascinating… if in desperate need of open-supervision… research now enables scientists to turn on-off specific clusters of neurons, making a mouse hungry or not, active or not.  An early result under President Barack Obama's 2013 BRAIN Initiative, which aims to advance neuroscience and develop therapies for brain disorders. The approach reflects a shift away from linking such illnesses to "chemical imbalances" in the brain, instead tracing them to miswiring and misfiring in neuronal circuits.

Great!  Only let’s do all this in the open, right? And it does make me wonder if the Goldman-Sachs AI overlords already have the ability to alter what I typ#&4,xosw2jpz88%$ gee I’m hungry. What was I saying? Never mind I gotta go to the fridge now…

Okay I'm back... and now...

Where was I before that sudden craving hit?

"Quantum Biology?" I used that phrase when I was twenty, as a joke in a very early sci fi novel. It got chuckles.  Not anymore. Researchers now see suspended, quantum bi-states in certain proteins involved in photosynthesis, possibly explaining nature's efficiency. Researchers now seek ways to incorporate the quantum lessons of photosynthesis into organic photovoltaic solar cells. Read further, how quantum effects may also be involved in the sense of smell... even consciousness!

Very interesting.  At least one aspect of aging might be the deterioration of bundles of DNA known as heterochromatin, which “spool up” portions of chromosomal DNA between uses, and a WRN protein that keeps these spools healthy. I'll wager we'll find these are already improved/more-effective in humans.

Also fascinating.  Active neurons seem to meddle in their own DNA.  “Scientists say they have discovered another mechanism used by neurons to maintain relatively consistent levels of synaptic activity so that neurons can remain responsive to the signaling around them.” 

A strange virus that can survive being boiled in acid could reveal how proteins and DNA can be put together in a way that's absolutely stable under the harshest conditions imaginable.

Promising...VirScan reveals your viral infection history in a single drop of blood. 

We’ve long known that DNA is made up of four nucleotides: A, T, C, and G -- adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine.  (A fifth – Uracil – replaces Thymine in RNA.) Now a fifth  DNA nucleotide may have been discovered.  It is a deviant of cytosine called 5-formylcytosine (5fC).  And has been showed to persist in low levels in the tissues of mice, suggesting it plays a small but significant role… probably in the regulatory portions of the genome (not protein expression.)  From the Futurism site.

Oh, and the first wholly new antibiotic to be discovered in nearly 30 years “has been hailed as a ‘paradigm shift’ in the fight against the growing resistance to drugs. Teixobactin has been found to treat many common bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, septicaemia and C. diff, and could be available within five years. But more importantly it could pave the way for a new generation of antibiotics because of the way it was discovered.” … using an electronic chip to grow the microbes in the soil and then isolate their antibiotic chemical compounds.

A single-celled marine plankton has evolved a miniature version of an eye to help see its prey better. “It contains a collection of sub-cellular organelles that look very much like the lens, cornea, iris and retina of multicellular eyes found in humans and other larger animals." Weird!

Intracellular processing of memory? I’ve argued with Ray Kurzweil over whether the synapse is the only seat of memory and computation in the brain… or if some kinds of information processing takes place within neurons and possibly glial cells. If so then “singularity” crossover – when digital computers will have the same number of elements as a human brain – gets pushed back many more Moore’s Law doublings.  Now come signs not only of intracellular computation, but that at least one variety may be mediated by “prion-like” molecules inside our cells.

== Keeping up with our AI Overlords? ==

In an earlier posting I mentioned that: "Elon Musk has funded the Future of Life Institute to explore possible failure modes re: Artificial Intelligence. (Indeed, I believe I have the cogent and persuasive argument that can get any truly advanced AI system to back off from any simplistic "kill all humans" or tun-everything-into-intelligent goo scenarios.)  But agin, yay Elon. We need a society that looks ahead."

Or else... will we find ways to keep up organically?  Wow… here’s one for the Predictions Registry.  In EXISTENCE I portray new computer methodologies freeing and empowering folks along the Autistic Spectrum to do valuable work… and this article tells how the Israeli Intelligence Services have carefully nurtured and developed this approach, employing spectrum folks for their meticulous attention to certain types of detail and pattern recognition.  Of course another variant on the theme can be found in Vernor Vinge’s A Deepness in the Sky.


Looking back: See what your street in New York City looked like a hundred years ago in this interactive feature on Old NYC.


Louis Shalako said...

Friggin' zipheads.

abc said...

@David Brin

You probably already seen this, but just in case (winner of xprize winner for accurate measurement of Ocean ph

David Brin said...

Thanks abc. I am proud Peter D is my friend. Few people are more active changing the world for the better.

Jumper said...

As far as I know the entire endocrine system also plays a part in the brain and nervous system, making it nowhere near entirely synaptic. As well, mineral salts, which are never really totally flattened by homeostasis. Biological brains are NOT digital. The complex loops are intricate and barely mapped.

Unknown said...

On one episode of 'Through the Wormhole,' a man's severed finger was grown back is if it had never been damaged. The lab that came up with the treatment claims they can re-grow a whole human body in nine months. Assuming everything can be grown back as if it belonged to a healthy twenty year old, hasn't immortality already been achieved? Isn't it time for Billy Joel to update his song to 'Only the Poor Die Young?'

Tony Fisk said...

The final shot from the movie 'On The Beach' is a striking image for the Green Sky riff.

Rather than ocean acidification or debasement, I talk of 'souring the seas'. Any gardener should get that reference.

Quantum states, I have heard it mentioned that four bases make a good basis for a quantum computer...

John Kurman said...

Biological Sciences to the rescue indeed! When it comes to space, ape in a can ain't gonna fly for long. Those giant space cans have to have metabolism, with humans the gut microbes pumping out the mellowing agents as needed.

Paul451 said...

From the last thread,

raito said...
"Here in WI, there's a couple districts that have improved their records by one simple means -- they feed every student.
Maslow was at least partially right. When you're hungry, you're not thinking about learning."

There's more to it than that. Here in Aus, researchers studied nutrition vs aggression/misbehaviour in prisons. Results were that improved nutrition resulted in better behaviour, fewer reportable incidents, along with self-reported benefits by the inmates in the study (such as feeling calmer and more in control, and finding educational courses easier.)

I would imagine the effect is even more pronounced in children.

Paul451 said...

From a few threads ago,

Re: Greece and the morality myths.

Ben Bernanke:
"Is Europe holding up its end of the bargain? Specifically, is the euro zone's leadership delivering the broad-based economic recovery that is needed to give stressed countries like Greece a reasonable chance to meet their growth, employment, and fiscal objectives? ...
Structural reforms are important for long-run growth, but cost-saving measures are less relevant when many workers are already idle. ... Germany has benefited from having a currency, the euro, with an international value that is significantly weaker than a hypothetical German-only currency would be. ...
Germany's large trade surplus puts all the burden of adjustment on countries with trade deficits, who must undergo painful deflation of wages and other costs to become more competitive. Germany could help restore balance within the euro zone and raise the currency area's overall pace of growth by increasing spending at home, through measures like increasing investment in infrastructure, pushing for wage increases for German workers (to raise domestic consumption), and engaging in structural reforms to encourage more domestic demand. Such measures would entail little or no short-run sacrifice for Germans, and they would serve the country's longer-term interests by reducing the risks of eventual euro breakup. ...
If European growth turns out to be weaker than projected, which in turn would make it tougher for Greece to grow, then Greece should be allowed greater leeway after the fact in meeting its fiscal targets. ...
Simply recognizing officially that creditor as well as debtor countries have an obligation to adjust over time (through fiscal and structural measures, for example) would be an important step in the right direction."

Paul SB said...


"I would imagine the effect is even more pronounced in children."

The younger, the more pronounced the effect. When nutrition is poor in young children, it can have irreversible effects on them, including depressing their IQs and causing serious mental health issues. This is where some of our meritocracy mentality and the old religious superstitions that claim that people get what they deserve fail us. Poor nutrition in childhood, even in utero, can have pretty profound effects on people, but through most of history people assumed that the deficits we see in the poor or in minorities are inherited, and therefore incurable. Even some of the IQ differences we see between the sexes have been shown to result from differences in how much parents feed male and female babies. Many cultures around the world feel that girls should not be fed too much as babies because they will become fat later on, while boys need more food to grow big, strong and manly.

One of the greatest benefits of modern biological sciences is that it can strip away some of those old prejudices, if people care to pay attention to them. The conservative blame the victim mentality is being slowly eroded by the light of science.

Deuxglass said...

I have been following the quantum biology idea for a few years now and have seen it go from a crackpot theory into a serious one and I must say that it is a pleasure to see the scientific method at work. My feeling is that the brain does not use just some quantum processes but uses them extensively in every function so we could be quantum creatures from top to the bottom. How far down can it go? For all we know we could be tapping all the way down into quantum foam and certainly using properties of quantum mechanics that we are not yet aware of.

This pushes the development of AI way out into the future. Since biological systems seem to have a natural advantage when it comes to intelligence I would expect AI research to go to networking monkey brains as you mentioned last July 15 and maybe it could work. However I have some misgivings. Let’s say you were able to link 50 monkey brains together and the merger works producing a super intelligence. So you now have a super intelligent monkey brain. Monkey are not nice. They are not nice to each other and they positively hate you if you are not in your group. You have just created a brain with a strong sense of self-preservation and who hates you. Not only that it also much smarter than you are. How long would it take to figure out to control you or eliminate you? Since in my waning years I do not want to hand feed bananas and tasty termites to my Monkey Overlord I propose that this networking of brains be confined to nonaggressive species such as Kuala bears or tree sloths but definitely not monkeys or (shudder!) rats.

DP said...

Dr. Brin, I don't normally like to make a spill over comment from a previous thread, but I feel I must respond to your statement that "Art flourished despite tyranny, not because of it."

That wasn't my point, or the point Harry Lime was making. In fact I agree with you. If tyranny promoted the arts then state sanctioned arts by the Nazis and Soviets would have been the apex of human creativity instead of the the banal tripe that it was. My point, as expressed by Harry Lime, is that violence and decadence spur technological advancement and artistic achievement.

Whether its the technique of forging Damascus steel in the Middle Ages to make better swords (not plows) or the development of facial recognition software to combat terrorism today, violence and war are the main spurs of technological advancement. Think of all the science and technology we would not have without the World Wars and the Cold War. There would be no "Right Stuff" or a man on the moon without our deadly competition with the Soviets. Everything from penicillin to radar to computers would either not exist or be greatly delayed without war and violence - and with all of the subsequent developments built on these achievements would be even further delayed.

As for the arts, they need the fertilizer and ferment of moral decadence. Whether its the bawdy Elizabethans, the Greeks of the Golden Age, the Italians of the Renaissance, France of the Belle Epoch, or even America in the 1970s some sort of moral unraveling is require to let loose artistic experimentation and creativity. Puritans don't make art.

Yes, you heard me right, the 1970s. That oft despised decade of polyester leisure suits, shag carpeting and disco music was also one of our most culturally creative eras. The decade of sex, drugs and rock and roll saw an explosion of experimentation in every form of the visual and performing arts. The New York of the 1970s (like the London of Shakespeare's time) was a dirty, dangerous place of corruption and moral decadence - but it gave us new forms of pop art, experimental theater, mind blowing films, new wave music, groundbreaking television, etc. The New York of the 1970s gave us CBGB and the Velvet Underground. The safe, clean, Disney version of New York today isn't nearly as creative.

So Harry Lime is right. You can have peace and puritanical morality, but all you get in return is a cuckoo clock.

Paul SB said...

Speaking of the 70s, here's a funny little field school story. A young undergrad doing his first dig in summer field school spent much of his lunchtime conversation enthusiastically spouting the kind of "save the whales" lines we have all heard to the point of nauseam. One of the trench monitors, an older hand than the students but still in his prime, decided to tell the boy about an endangered species he may have never heard of. He asked him if he wondered why you never see naugahyde around anymore. He calmly explained that the naugas are an endangered species that has been hunted nearly to extinction, and by the time lunch break was over he had the boy asking where he could send a check to save the naugas.

Tim H. said...

Those poor naugas, soon to go the way of the golfs, whose males ere all neutered for the sake of a silly game in the scots hills...

occam's comic said...

Paul that was soo funny.
Nothing better than mocking a person because they care about the natural world.
I willing to be your "friend" also spent a lot of time manspaling to the women about how they are asking to be raped because of how they dress. Cause that is soo funny too.

Paul SB said...

Occam, none of them were people I actually knew, it was just a story making the rounds at the lunch truck. And I get what you are saying, but I don't see the need to take it quite so seriously. I've been a backpacker all my life, and know enough ecology to be able to bottom-line fools who have no compassion for life. It was an exercise in gullibility. Hopefully the kid learned to check facts before writing checks.

occam's comic said...

Fair enough Paul,

I ran into some people flying the flag of the KKK at lunch today and it put me in a fighting mood. So your story rode my existing anger rather than triggering my funny bone.

Paul SB said...

Occam, thank you for the metacognitive response. Too many others would stick to their ego.

Where the hell are you? I haven't seen a KKK flag since I went to visit a friend in rural Pennsylvania back in the 90s. But I imagine they must be coming out of the woodwork since the Confederate Battle Flag decision.

Deuxglass said...

I think it is important the example that Paul SB said.
“Paul SB said...
Speaking of the 70s, here's a funny little field school story. A young undergrad doing his first dig in summer field school spent much of his lunchtime conversation enthusiastically spouting the kind of "save the whales" lines we have all heard to the point of nauseam. One of the trench monitors, an older hand than the students but still in his prime, decided to tell the boy about an endangered species he may have never heard of. He asked him if he wondered why you never see naugahyde around anymore. He calmly explained that the naugas are an endangered species that has been hunted nearly to extinction, and by the time lunch break was over he had the boy asking where he could send a check to save the naugas”
He is describing a certain type of person, someone who believes in something so strongly that he does not use critical thinking. He just believes and that is all. There is a certain percentage of people who are like this in every population. Most of the time they chose harmless obsessions such as stamp collecting or whatever. Sometime times they are beneficial such as passionately believing in human rights. Some go to the dark side and believe in killing those who do not believe as they do but they all have a common thread, notably an overwhelming passionate belief where critical thinking is suspendered and is absent. Vladimir Lenin apply described them as “useful idiots” because they are. The person described by Paul SB is a perfect example. Did he do some research to see what a naugas is. No. Did he weigh the benefits of protecting wales over naugas? No. In my opinion people like this are very dangerous because they are often he prime targets of unscrupulous people. Belief without critical thinking is the root of most of Humanity’s problems. Sorry but I cannot respect people like that.

occam's comic said...

I live in cincinnati. I grew up in a town where one of the grand wizards of the KKK lived and have a great deal of dislike for the KKK sense i was six or seven years old. And running into those type of people really puts me in a fighting mood.

I took Paul's story as a person in authority who tricked a sincere but gullible person. I am just not finding it funny (today).

David Brin said...

DD you keep making vast-broad arm waved assertions based on anecdotes. As if a quotation from Hippo and one from Augustine proves the Church was always friendly to contingent thinking. Or take the following:

"As for the arts, they need the fertilizer and ferment of moral decadence. Whether its the bawdy Elizabethans, the Greeks of the Golden Age, the Italians of the Renaissance, France of the Belle Epoch, or even America in the 1970s some sort of moral unraveling is require to let loose artistic experimentation and creativity. Puritans don't make art."

I find the assertion utterly bizarre. I can think of scores of counter examples. Indeed, rebellion AGAINST a primarily puritan era appears to be a better correlative. But still with many counter examples. What depresses me is that you do not have the habit of finding your OWN counter examples to blithe and too simplistic assertions.

locumranch said...

Perhaps this thread should be titled "How the Biological Sciences will transform everything... including Climate Change", in order to acknowledge that the well- recognized 'shifts in the population of phytoplankton (which allows) others (to) flourish" (as oceanic plankton are known to covert upwards from 70% of the globe's CO2 in to breathable O2), even though this data contradicts an absurd official narrative that (1) conflates the functioning of the oceanic carbonic acid-bicarbonate buffering system with that of mere CO2 'absorption' and (2) implies that a warming ocean (which reduces the solubility of O2 & all gases) can be expected to retain 'more' CO2 in defiance of established gas solubility laws.

Kudos to Paul451, btw, for resurrecting the correlation between increased nutrition & obesity with decreases in intrapersonal societal violence & aggression, putting to lie that whole mumbo-jumbo mystical Pinker argument about human beings somehow getting 'better' & more peaceful when the more likely explanation for the trend of decreasing societal violence is the obesification & enfattening of society in general, a fact well-documented by numerous prison studies which correlate high calorie prison diets with plunging rates of incarceration-related violence, yet we must exercise care not to forget the pacifying influences of 'Age' because (as proven by other studies) an increasingly old & decrepit population is also less likely to engage in violence.


Alex Tolley said...

Paul's nauga joke was funny to me. It isn't so dissimilar to the dihydrogen oxide joke.

Environmentalism is important, but one needs to know more than just the slogan to chant, otherwise we just end up trading slogans and insults. GMO seems to be going that way when I read comments about GM crops (pro and con).

Jumper said...

I don't get the point of mocking a kid, as the recipient of the nauga joke was described, for not knowing exactly what Naugahide is. It smacks of a sort of insufferable person. The joke, to be successful, should depend on telling it to a know-it-all, who then buys into it. At least that would have some justice to it.

I was talking to a supervisor I heard yelling at a younger man about some error. I asked my friend the supervisor how old he had been when he learned the right way to do the task, and he said he was about 30. I asked the kid how old he was, and the kid said "20."
"Why are you yelling at the 20 year old for something you yourself didn't learn until you were 30?"

Jumper said...

Incidentally, locumranch is correct about the buffering qualities of the sea. Although warming will kill coral in the future, it's mostly fertilizer pollution, (and other types such as insecticides, oil, etc.) algae, and depletion of fish that are killing coral and other shellfish right now.
This is not to say that the problem won't actually manifest in a serious way with greater CO2 concentration later.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Locumranch hit on the "Obesity" epidemic we are getting

This is another "everybody knows"
In fact recent research has found that the trough of the mortality rate occurs at a BMI of around 30
Well into the overweight and verging on the "obese"
People with "normal" BMI had significantly higher mortality rates

BMI is a very poor measure at the best of times but it appears that the "zero" has been missed right at the beginning
I had heard that the initial study that set the BMI limits was a small number of people way back in Victorian times

The problem (IMHO) is not "Obesity" but diabetes and it has more to do with a combination of genetic vulnerability and excess sugar than to do with "Obesity"

That is NOT to say that the various hippo like people I see are not going to make themselves unhealthy but the vast majority of "just obese" people are not at any increased risk

By harping on about "Obesity" we miss the actual problem which is sugar in everything

We can't cure "obesity" (as currently defined) every study shows people try to lose weight and FAIL
A yo-yo weight is probably (certainly) worse for you than just staying heavy

By concentrating on obesity we substitute a probably insoluble problem for what is actually a reasonably easy problem (too much sugar)

Alex Tolley said...

Read the section of this report on Coral Reefs and calcification.

While a lot is unknown, the problems of CO2 are:
1. Increased ocean acidity reduces calcification rates - CaCO3 dissolves faster than it can be laid down.
2. Increased CO2 that increases GW and therefore surface sea temperatures will increase CaCO3 creation to a peak temperature then fall rapidly. Coral bleaching events show we are close to that limit already.

While toxin and fertilizers are a local coastal problem to be sure, the ocean is not some self-regulating system that can almost completely buffer temperature and CO2 and therefore prevent adverse consequences. No doubt species with adapt and ecosystems will change, but I would prefer we didn't change them unpredictably. That is a conservative approach, in contrast to the "damn any consequences of our actions" attitude.

Alex Tolley said...

@Jumper "I don't get the point of mocking a kid, as the recipient of the nauga joke was described, for not knowing exactly what Naugahide is. It smacks of a sort of insufferable person. "

So jokes aimed at ignorance are not acceptable? Or just unavoidable ignorance? Are snipe hunts inherently unfair? If someone is being annoying, boring or even boorish, poking fun at them is perfectly acceptable.

Tony Fisk said...

Locum's all-inclusive rant is brought undone by the one thing he can't resist doing.

If everything we know is wrong, then
surely it will not be long, till
critics, turning turfs, make right,
the lifeless corpses come to light, that
solar powered, get up and bite.

More seriously:

The Amazon rainforest isn't a pristine wilderness, but once boasted cities and cultivated fields! Who knew? (The first European explorers, apparently. It's been known for a while that the rainforest was *much* smaller in extent at the end of the last ice age, when humans appeared. They sort of grew up together. It is interesting to compare this finding with Darkest Africa, which also had a thriving civilisation along the banks of the Congo, some 1000 years ago)

One piece of good news about ocean acidification is that coral isn't as susceptible to it as initially thought; being able to establish a buffering micro-environment.

Alfred Differ said...

The nauga joke works just fine if you dish it up for someone spouting a ‘you-should-do-X’ argument from a position of ignorance. You are doing that person a favor by embarrassing them into learning what they need to know to make a better case for their original position. Lady Embarrassment is the second most effective teacher, so do it right.

As for locumranch’s counter argument for Pinker, I think it is important to recognize that there are several explanatory models to get to Pinker’s observations. No mysticism is needed, but since they all lead to the same results, we have to be prepared for the possibility that they all apply to some degree. My favorite involves the increasing amount of trade going on between people. It makes no sense to engage in violence against someone with whom you share a dependency relationship. As our markets grow, violence should wane for those who are well caught in the web. Has the US gone to war with a country sporting a McDonalds franchise yet? (Friedman’s observation if I remember right.)

Tony Fisk said...

I always felt the Lovegoods knew more than they let on.

I can remember working, in California many years ago, with an opinionated co-worker who fancied himself as a wine buff.

We were out for a meal one night, and someone else, who had just arrived, produced a bottle with a Rutherglen label on it. Wine buff was given a few minutes to bruit the virtues of the Great Australian Red over that Napa Valley Product, before it was revealed that what was being drunk *was* the Napa Valley Product, with a switched label.

That one wasn't mine. This one was:
I have to admit my postgraduate career was undistinguished; and I failed to obtain a study grant. Being a little miffed when I was knocked back a second time, I decided to re-address the rejection slip to a decent but somewhat bluff colleague who had been a bit over-bearing. Unworthy of me? Oh, yes! Indeed, I was having second thoughts about the deception when said colleague arrived at his desk and saw the letter. Brandishing it triumphantly, he came over and slapped me on the back with a loud guffaw.

"...*Right*!" I thought.
I didn't let the joke get too far out of hand, but I don't think he ever quite forgave me for the two minutes of terror caused by the prospect of financial insecurity.

Such jokes can be unnecessarily cruel, but sometimes all you have to do is wind 'em up and point them in the right direction...

Jumper said...

Yes, future CO2 can damage the oceans. At present the mass die-offs are caused by overfishing fish which eat the algae which attack the coral. If we don't fix other things, the ocean will die, effectively for us, anyway. And fertilizer does affect most of the ocean life: the pelagic regions are naturally "deserts" which took me a long time to realize.
I do think a snipe hunt is a kind of bullying, mild, but yes. And I see I have some agreement over who is a just target for this sort of comeuppance. Not the average kid who merely is still learning about the world.
I did get tempted by an online person a while back who was angry at all those illegal Puerto Ricans here in the U.S.

Paul SB said...

Jumper, I'm sorry but I am going to have to agree with Alex, Tony & Alfred (so I am not differing with him this time). We have all had our moments of naïveté. Being the butt of a friendly joke isn't the worst way to find out.

Duncan, however, seems to have hit on something really interesting. I would love to see a reference for the 30 BMI trough. It squares well with a general rule of thumb I learned in Bio Anth that every 10 pounds a person is underweight is as dangerous as forty pounds overweight. I was chatting about this with my daughter, and she reminded me that in women brown adipose tissue contains an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. This could help explain the trough in women (as well as why skinny women are sometimes rather temperamental). I remember this one from a lecture by Sapolsky, but he stated that this was true of women but not men. Does anyone know of some other mechanism that works in men?

This idea gives hope to those who are a bit on the plump side but not truly elephantine. It might even lead to some really unconventional recommendations for people who have more average weight, depending on what mechanisms turn out to be involved. I'm thinking of stress mechanisms myself.

Laurent Weppe said...

"The Amazon rainforest isn't a pristine wilderness, but once boasted cities and cultivated fields! Who knew?"

I did: it's one of the first thing my university teachers taught me: being urbanists working in a very crowded and very fragile region, they keenly felt the urgency of hammering into their students' heads the fact that advanced urban societies could collapse and be forgotten.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Paul

I found these two articles
The first references a number of actual scientific papers but I haven't accessed the originals

These make a lot of sense to be because the BMI is a height squared relationship and physics says a cube relationship would be expected

That may explain some of the change in the sweet spot - as average height has increased since the 1800's then if the actual relationship is cube the BMI factor should change

Andy said...

"If so then “singularity” crossover – when digital computers will have the same number of elements as a human brain – gets pushed back many more Moore’s Law doublings."

By that time quantum computing will be able to take up the slack. No need to wait for more doublings.

David Brin said...

The part of the Greek deal that steams me most is not the insistence that the bureaucracy streamline or that worker, who are living much longer, possibly not retire at 60. I hate the increases in VAT and taxes on basics and such. Sucking cash out of poor wallets when you should be helping them to spend high velocity money that makes growth. Every EU partner nation should adopt-a-highway and pay as many Greek workers as it takes to fix it up into an economic asset. Then they get to fly their nation's flag along that highway till it's repaid. And it may never be! But this way you can lean on the bueaucracy to trim down without being evil people.

Paul451 said...

The idiot Locumranch decided that my comment about prison behavioural research somehow validates his juvenile masturbatory fantasies about the fall of civilisation.

For the record, the prison experiments had nothing to do with simple caloric intake, being more focused on trace nutrients and neurally-important bio-precursors. And, being controlled studies, obviously had nothing to do with ageing.

Paul451 said...

David Brin,
"The part of the Greek deal that steams me most is not the insistence that the bureaucracy streamline or that worker, who are living much longer, possibly not retire at 60. [...] But this way you can lean on the bueaucracy to trim down without being evil people."

{sigh} The problem with the Greek "deal" is that it was entirely wrong. Not "the right idea, but poorly implemented", just wrong. The opposite of right.

Greece needed debt relief. Not tax reform. Not labour reforms. Not public service sackings. Debt relief.

If Greece had their own currency, they would have gotten de-facto debt relieve through currency devaluation. They would also have achieved automatic wage and price deflation without the pain of in-country deflation. That would have resulted in foreign creditors seeing their lending reduced in real value. That's how sovereign lending works. The Euro was never designed with such an automatic mechanism, therefore it needed to be done manually by the Euro-banks.

Instead, the creditors went full-retard.

The tragedy is that the memes of the Lazy Greeks, which you also can't stop repeating, seem to actively stand in the way of a sensible, non-evil response to the crisis. (Indeed, before it became a crisis.) Even though, apparently, the internal analysis of, and advice given to, the creditors was that the best (and only effective) remedy was debt relief for Greece, and even though they'd merely be manually replicating the debt reduction inherent in a sovereign currency, the negotiators were stuck in the mindset of needing to be strict with the Lazy Greeks.

Believing that you know a better way to do the wrong thing doesn't make it any less evil.

"not the insistence that the bureaucracy streamline or that worker, who are living much longer, possibly not retire at 60. "

So you want the Greek public service slashed yet further (in spite of 25% unemployment), yet you specifically don't want the mechanism of reduction to be to allow workers to take a reduced pension to retire early. This is what I mean about the meme of the Lazy Greek being so dangerous. You would actively harm people to avoid the simple solution, because the simple solution smells too much like coddling the Lazy Greeks.

Because a retiring 60 yr old is so much more destructive to society than a 20 year old kept unemployed during the first decade of his working life.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"The part of the Greek deal that steams me most"

You are spot on
Taking money out of the economy when you should be adding it is why the Greek economy has crashed by over 30% (Which increases the dept ratio)

The sensible thing would have been to spend - as you suggest - until the economy had recovered
THEN worry about debt

Smacking the politicians about the head and requiring them to set up a special "Tax Recovery Unit" to claw back the taxes that haven't been paid would have been a good idea as well

Laurent Weppe said...

* "Greece needed debt relief. Not tax reform. Not labour reforms. Not public service sackings. Debt relief."

Fucking Fuck that God-Fucking Bullshit!
Greece doesn't need tax reform? From which fictional universe do ye hail from, oh ye queer wayfarer?

Greece is Florida cubed: this country is what you get when a crushing majority of the population starts believing the "Taxation is Theft" bullshit and that bullying anyone trying to fix the IRS epitomizes patriotism:

82% of the Greek adult population are homeowners, 10% pay property taxes, the country doesn't even have a land registry, and Georgette Lalis, the person put in charge of the task force supposed to finally establish said registry became the target of a campaign of harassment and stonewalling so massive that she ended having a nervous breakdown.

Andreas Georgiou, the statistician tasked to build an independant Greek statistics service (ELSTAT) ended up being arrested on bogus charges after he publicly revealed the depth of the Greek debt: because he refused to cook the books, he's been accused of being a manchurian agent Germany/theIMF tasked to overestimate the greek debt so the German government would have an excuse to impose austerity measures on Greece: his main accuser -Zoe Georganta, a disgraced statistician who claims that Greece's 2009 deficit was a mere 4% of it's GDP (considering that the artificially lowered through Goldman Sacks' creative accounting Greek deficit was 12% of its GDP... Yeah, she's full of shit)- was rewarded for her "patriotism" by far-right defense minister Panos Kammenos who named her head of the committee that audits military spending. Did I mention that Greece has the most bloated, corrupt, nepotistic military in the European Union (seriously Greece has twice as many tanks than the UK): I expect very imaginative audits will be the norm under Georganta's tenure.

From 2002 to 2009 the Greek state spent €830 billion but collected only €680 billion.
The problem isn't excessive spending nor simply fat cats avoiding taxes: while the upper-class uses "fiscal optimization" to pay as little as possible: tax evasion by middle-class professionals and small businesses costs the Greek state 30 billion euros yearly: Greece's budget would be balanced if the middle class didn't cheat.

And then there's the blatant voters buying: from 2000 to 2008 public servants pays rose by 160%: while most western countries have a problem with salaries stagnating despite a constant increase of workers' productivity, Greece was the lone exception: productivity was stagnating, by paychecks kept getting bigger; and given that both the right-wing New Democracy and left-wing Pasok had the habit of giving public servant jobs to reward their voters when they won elections, you can guess that Greece public sector isn't really a bastion of meritocracy.

That's why Greece Must Not receive debt relief at least not yet: let's say Greece receives a massive relief of its debt and the current government doesn't succumb to the temptation of indulging in clientelist policies and voters bribery, remaining committed to turn the Greek institutions into a modern, functional state: you can bet your eyes and your balls that when the next election comes they'll be crushed in the ballot box while old-school crooks will be voted back into office. Debt relief must come only after institutionalized cronyism has been forcefully extirpated from the Greek state.

Alex Tolley said...

@Paul451 "If Greece had their own currency, they would have gotten de-facto debt relief through currency devaluation. "

Only if they had been able to borrow in Drachma. It is quite likley they would have had to borrow in Euros.

Currency devaluation would certainly help Greece become more competitive - cheaper exports and tourism would become more attractive and improve their trade balance (after the J-curve effect).

Whatever the currency the debt was denominated in, default would be an option. They could follow the path of Argentina. Trying to service the debt at this point makes no long term sense at all. It is a real pity that Greece hadn't made an effort to go back to the Drachma and played for time while they did so. It would have been painful and a lot of wealthy people would have moved their remaining assets to Euro banks even under capital controls, but it looks like the only sustainable path at this point.

@Laurent. You are just playing the "economics as morality play" game. If the situation was even worse than you are claming, and Greece was deliberately trying to cheat the EU and rob its taxpayers (who are ultimately on the hook for most of the debt), it still makes sense to give them a massive Keynesian push NOW, and only when they have recovered get their economic system in order. It isn't as if Greece is worse than most African countries who are still getting loans despite defaults.

@DB - apart from putting up foreign flags, having the debt payments diverted to public works (not necessarily roaduilding) is the most sensible thing you have said in this matter. I see no reason why the EU flag and signs cannot be used as it is all over Europe when EU funds are used for projects. I can think of little that would be more inflammatory than having German flags flying in Greece. They have long memories of WW2. Now sell that to the creditors who are demanding to be made whole.

It is no longer viable to pretend their debt can be restructured. Creditors will have to face a massive haircut or default, and funds need to be put to direct use generating employment. This is Great Depression economic solutions, while the EU is playing at being Hoover.

locumranch said...

As usual, many of you are right for the wrong reason.

Duncan is right about BMI being a poor measure of 'obesity', mostly because BMI (weight kgs divided by height in meters squared) is a medical convention that is believed to correlate with (but doesn't actually measure) adipose-related obesity, so much so that it doesn't apply to individuals (athletes, body-builders, etc) whose body composition deviates more that 1 SD from an (arbitrarily) calculated mean, the true (or at least truer) measure of obesity being the empirically measured percentage of adipose body fat.

And, both Paul451 and Laurent are both right about the Greek Debt Crisis as both debtors and lenders are to blame for playing the 'Company Store' Game, the EU lenders for offering seemingly unlimited credit & freebies at bargain rates to encourage financial dependency and the Greek debtors for becoming dependent on EU largesse, borrowing more than they could ever afford to pay back and (thereby) enslaving themselves to EU company store, the only solution for Greeks being rebellious Greek Exit, even though this would be a disaster for the EU slave-masters who want to keep the other European debtor nations on the plantation as long as possible.

However, others among you are just merely wrong when it comes to the financial relationship between the First & Third World and the US Blue & Red States, as this is merely the perpetuation of the the Company Store (and/or Colonial) Model, the lender offering seemingly unlimited credit, financial incentives & freebies at bargain rates to the borrower in order to encourage financial dependency, subservience and (eventually) federalised debt slavery. All these examples are 'same-same' because there is no material difference between the actions of the Company Store, the EU and the USA when it comes to federal government as they all issue their own monetary script, set its relative value, worth & rate, demand repayment in terms of labour & obedience, and (most importantly) enforce the Lender/Master & Debtor/Slave relationship according to established rules.


Alex Tolley said...

@locum - even Muslims allow lending as long as interest isn't charged (although there are ways around that). You seem to be denying any value in borrowing for investment purposes. Even mortgages should be stopped. Without government lending, economic growth would slow and there would be no way to manage the economy on a countercyclical basis, forcing us to return the the severe booms and busts of the business cycle with all that that entails.

There are increasingly lender friendly laws being enacted in the US that should be reversed, and I would ban "PayDay" loans and reign in debt collection practices that have become extremely predatory.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "They could follow the path of Argentina"

They can't.
Argentina has enormous reserves of feedstock, which is not Greece's case: it's soils are depleted from millennia of erosion and overuse, it doesn't have the infrastructure to exploit its modest oil reserves, and its mining industry is way too small to provide more than an auxiliary revenue.
You cannot build an economy based upon the exports of raw materials when you don't have the damned raw materials.

And then there's the fact that Greece imports a lot of basic commodities: it imports fuel, pharmaceuticals, food.

You don't realize how bad Greece situation is: outside of the Eurozone with a massively devalued currency, between its lack of feedstock, underdeveloped industry and a tourism sector already working at capacity its imports wouldn't increase, while its imports would remain the same, leading to an increasingly negative commercial balance. With no one left to lend money to Greek businesses and households, Greece would eventually have been unable to keep importing the aforementioned basic commodities.

Tell me genius: What happen when a country
1. Produces less food than its population need to feed itself
2. Can't import foods
3. Can't invade and plunder its neighbors

Greece wasn't facing a few rough years in case of Grexit: it was facing starvation and societal collapse: that's why the Greek population remains massively opposed (78% to 19%) to a return to the Drachma (Kostas Chrysogonos, a Syriza MEP, said that Grexit would turn Greece into a worse place to live in than Zimbabwe), and why it's the hardliner austerity-fetichists who were hellbent about kicking Greece out of the Eurozone: the first group doesn't want to starve, while the second group wants to make an example out of the first.


* "Greece was deliberately trying to cheat the EU and rob its taxpayers [...] it still makes sense to give them a massive Keynesian push NOW"

The Greek citizenry IS deliberately robbing its own damn country via tax evasion, and for decades the successive greek governments never tried to challenge their own voters self-serving preconceptions about how patriotic and smart it is to cheat on one's taxes.

And as far as keynesian pushes go, ever since Greece integrated the European Union, 4% of its GDP has come in the form of european aids. Take the whole Marshall plan in today's dollars, multiply it by two, and you get the amount of keynesian push Greece already received, and then squandered in clientelist gifts.
And what did the European Union? Well, jean-Claude Juncker pledged to give Greece 35 billion more in aid (not loans: aid) for the 2016-2020 period. Greece is receiving plenty of keynesian push, the difference being that from now on, European institutions will directly oversee the way it uses it, while using Greece's debt as leverage to force it to behave.

Alfred Differ said...

Heh. Taxation IS theft when most of the people who are supposed to pay it don't and the few who do are the ones caught and/or forced. When lots of people engage in a negative sum game, it's time to look for social rules that are being broken.

The perception that Greeks need debt relief must be put in the same category with the perception that the Germans are fed up being the leech's blood supply. Debt relief can be accomplish, but the cost will be Greek sovereignty.

Paul451 said...


What do you actually want?

David and Alex are wrong, but at least their suggestions are trying to help the situation.

But the deal offered to the Greeks has one possible outcome, it will make things worse.

The debts will not be paid, the Greek economy will decline into an even deeper depression, Greek unemployment will increase, the country will be destabilised further, the Greek government will be replaced by a more radical party (**) in the next election (probably earlier), and the whole thing will come to collapse again in a few months, only with an even fewer options to avoid disaster.

Is that what you wanted? Was that the goal?

So what did the the creditors want?

Did they want to the Greeks to pay their debts? Undermining the Greek economy will only increase the debt-to-GDP ratio, making future defaults even more likely.

Did they want to push Greece out of the EuroZone? Then they should have honestly negotiated an exit strategy.

Did they want the Greeks to be "responsible"? Yeah, this is how you do that.(**)

The deal offered exists to punish the Greeks, to make things worse for them. It has no economic rationale at all. It was pure maliciousness.

** Seriously, what the fuck do you people think will happen when in the middle of a DEPRESSION, you deliberately humiliate a people, drive their economy into deeper depression, destroy jobs, undermine their government, ignore their democratic system entirely, and then strut around Europe tut tutting about the untermensch scum. I mean it's not like Germany and France have a history they can draw lessons from, is it? The Greeks voted for a centre-right party, got fucked over by Europe. They voted for a moderate-socialist party, got fucked over even more. What kind of party do you think they'll vote for next? I mean seriously, are you that fucking delusional?

What you, and the creditors, seem to want is to deliberately destroy an entire country to satisfy some cretinous moral fantasy. No different to Locumranch drooling over the prospect of civilisation collapsing and billions of people (including, and especially, his own patients) dying out.

Someone owes you $2.50 and, as revenge, you want them to get cancer.

Paul SB said...

Thanks for the articles, Duncan. I might forward that first one to the health teacher at my school, though she might not appreciate me complicating her job. It seems to me that BMI is in some ways analogous to IQ, in that both have been seen as simple, objective scores that could provide useful information, but both are predicated on assumptions that are rarely valid. Both will eventually fall out of use, but there will be a lot more resistance to dumping IQ because it is so much more emotionally charged and politically useful.

Maybe the most valuable thing in that first article especially is how it encourages people to think critically about medical assumptions. This was a major focus of a class I had in grad school, one in which we once met at a Peruvian restaurant to discuss cholesterol (an expensive venture for most of us starving students, but memorable). Once a concept becomes useful to a large institution (like medicine as it is personified), its uses become simplified and restricted to a point where they often cease to serve a useful function, or do more harm than good.

This is really just a specific example of a much more general phenomenon called Scalar Stress. One of the trade-offs that the human species has made since the last glaciation in going from small-scale to large-scale cultures is how we have responded to the stresses of scale. Most of history has been about the roles and choices of individuals becoming more rigidly determined from birth, more constricted and restricted for the same reasons that ideas like BMI and IQ become constricted. Concepts like gender, race, class and age become more strict and inflexible simply because the bigger a society gets, the harder it is to keep track of individuals, with all their individual quirks.

I see the Enlightenment of the 18th Century largely as a push away from the trajectory of history, to move toward more individual choice and freedom, and especially flexibility. These two poles - individual flexibility on the one hand and the need of large-scale societies to simplify - can be applied to many different aspects of life, and they probably exist in a dynamic balance. The French Revolution and other, less pleasant aspects of the 18th Century may have come about because they were premature and tried to go too far for the technology available at the time. Now, with electronic forms of personal identification, it is easier for people to become more flexible in terms of social roles, and old prejudices like racism and sexism are being eroded, slowly and painfully, away. Ideas seem to have the same issues, in some sense. We overapply them and end up using them in ways that they were not intended, because our scale encourages us to seek quick and easy fixes.

But I might by inviting some vesicular basalt into the conversation here.

David Brin said...

Paul first please don’t use name-calling. Locum may have weird mental processes, but he is usually (borderline) polite. Indeed, his most recent posting sounded almost cogent… if dead wrong about the US Blue-Red cash flows.

In fact, the biggest flow is a BRAIN DRAIN from red to blue America. The brightest and most dynamic high school grads flee every year for blue cities and universities and most never return. That is the biggest reason for disparities of every kind. From the low-morality scores of the residual red populations to their inability to take net inward cash/tax flows and turn them into a vibrant economy.

The exceptions prove the rule. Utah invests heavily in education and has a religious hold on its kids, as well. Texas invests heavily in its universities, though also has some red problems. Virginia is turning Blue… as is N. Carolina, for different reasons. But NC is the purest case of a red state that chose to invest heavily in making itself attractive for its brightest young folks (and from other states) to settle down as tarheels and make the future happen down home.

As for the rest of R.A.? If there is any truth to the “company store” phenomenon, then it… is… their… own… damn… fault. For driving away their best and brightest.

David Brin said...

As for Greek debt relief, well, folks in Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy — who sweated off their fat — will be pretty darn pissed off if the Greeks, who went open-eyed into borrowing frenzy, get spacial treatment. I am not saying do NO debt relief! Indeed, my suggestion of free infrastructure projects would do exactly that… while those projects would bypass the corrupt bureaucracy, the money going directly to workers.

I would rather hire the 20 year olds outside the worst bureaucracy in Europe. Also…I would force every foreign power to report to Greek tax authorities the accounts of rich greeks who have looted cash out of the country.

But note this. My positions are a melange of right and left! There are some points in which the right’s complaints have validity and some where the left does. What’s missing is any move to mix and match. Dogmas and reflexes are for fools.

AT: “it still makes sense to give them a massive Keynesian push NOW, and only when they have recovered get their economic system in order.”

Sure, I agree. But the money should not pass through the greek government. The punishment for spendthrift ways should be treating them as they deserve, as spoiled children, with the toys of fiscal independence removed, but not the food from their plates. Building roads for an efficient Dutch firm might be enlightening for workers who are used to working for Greek bureaucrats..

Paul451 said...

Me: "If Greece had their own currency, they would have gotten de-facto debt relief through currency devaluation."
Alex: "Only if they had been able to borrow in Drachma. It is quite likley they would have had to borrow in Euros."

Then the same situation as exists with the Euro now, a mechanism would be needed to manually replicate the innate devaluation of sovereign debt. A controlled default. (As should occur with all foreign currency debt during economic downturns. You invested badly, so take your medicine.)

It's just crazy that people (including creditors) think the Euro-to-Euro sovereign debt should work any differently.

(That said, it's unlikely. Western nations don't ever borrow in foreign currency. Germany would have still had to convert its Euros (or D-marks)to Drachma in order to invest in Greece during the bubble.)

Paul451 said...

Changing the subject...

First pseudo-colour image of Pluto:

The colour emphasises the differences in the terrain types. The heart appears to be two (maybe three) separate events. Much of the non-cardio terrain is cratered as you would expect. So Pluto is definitely as old as expected.

My wild assed guess is that the pale northern terrain is the "old crust", stained at the north pole with the atmosphere that freezes out each "winter" (it being late summer, early autumn this decade.)

The dark-red equatorial band is smutch picked up from Charon's early outgasing. Old, but collected over the billion or so years after the rest of the surface froze out.

The lower part of the heart is a much more recent impact event, impact debris sweeping north-east. This impact churned up the icy crust, releasing a Dekan-Traps like "lava" flow. Or pyroclastic (cryoclastic) flow of mixed ice, liquid and gas (from the multiple types of ices with different boiling and melting points), which followed the terrain north-west before freezing out. (Close up of the edge of the "flow",

Thus the heart is not a complete resurfacing (ie, melted from below), but a simple thin covering of flowing material from a single event over the top of the older terrain.

Alex Tolley said...

@paul451. I agree with your position almost completely. There are wrinkles, but they are certainly not show stoppers.

I agree with DB that funding should go as quickly into the hands of the unemployed rather than through the government. But let's not be hypocrites. We don't do that for kleptocracies, and we didn't exactly do that in the US. After 2008, we bailed out the creditors (banks) and didn't get much funding for the unemployed to work on projects.

Alfred Differ said...

If you push money into the hands of local Greeks and bypass their government, you defeat Greek sovereignty by making it clear who funds what. It is unclear whether the Greeks will accept German money that way. Don't forget recent history.

Alfred Differ said...

Getting the youngest employed doing anything is a good idea even if sovereignty is sacrificed. They are the ones who pick up rifles once things get bad and someone points out the targets for them. Spain might not be tottering on that edge again, but some of the precursors stats needed for a repeat of history are already in place.

Alex Tolley said...

If you push money into the hands of local Greeks and bypass their government, you defeat Greek sovereignty by making it clear who funds what.

And they worry about the nationality of tourists?

Alfred Differ said...

Tourists don't manage their payrolls.

I'm with you guys on letting creditors who invest stupidly be punished, but when one of those creditors is essentially the German nation, it is a different game. When sovereign interests compete, it isn't a simple matter of knowing how bond markets should work.

German interests aren't just related to making sure creditors are repaid. They are an export nation economically dependent on the EU nations to act as consumers. They need to keep exporting or they are in trouble. If any EU nation can devalue their debt to Germany or leave the EU to escape it, all hell breaks loose over there. The pretty arrangement/balance of power between France and Germany will collapse. The only way to prevent that is for southern nations to sacrifice their sovereignty when they go too far into debt. The EU is in trouble.

Laurent Weppe said...

* "What do you actually want?"

To begin with, I want discussions regarding Greece to not be based upon fictional portrayals of the country.

So, I'll summarize a few more oft overlooked facts regarding Greece:

1) Greece already received not one by two debt reliefs:
First, when in march 2012 the European Authorities forced private creditors to accept a 100 billion Euros restructuring through debt-swap of the debt they held.
Then, later that same year, Eurozone governments (which by then owned most of Greece's debt) accepted to expand their maturities from 15 to 30 years, lowered their interest rates to 0,5%, and granted Greece a 10 years moratorium on interest payment.

2) The bailout programs worked: in early 2014, the Greek state had a balanced budget, the economy was growing again, and in fact, every forecast were predicting that Greece would have the highest growth rate of the Eurozone.
Wanna know what happened? Samaras screwed the pooch: the growing popularity of Syriza convinced him that he had to renew with old-school clientelist practices if he wanted to remain in power, while the good economic forecasts convinced him that he could afford to renew with the aforementioned old-school clientelist practices.
As a result, he fired the most competent ministers of his cabinet, replaced them by demagogues, looked the other way when his friends started to send death threats to Harry Theoharis (then the guy in charge of collecting taxes whose crime was being good at his job).
And then came the straw that broke the camel's back: the IMF and Eurozone had promised €7,2 billion in exchange of a reform of the pension system. Samaras rejected that offer. There were two problems here: first, the Greek economy needed this money to function, and second, while In the US, social security represents 5% of the GDP and would arguably be expanded without breaking the economy, Greeks pensions weight 16% of the GDP: the pension system is, quite simply, way too bloated to be sustainable, especially considering the country's low fertility rate.
When it became clear that Samaras was wiling to jeopardize Greece's short and long term economic prospects in order to preserve his political career, the markets decided that Greece wasn't a sound investment: Interest rates shot up -again- and the greek stock market collapsed.


Acacia H. said...

What can Greece export?

Its one last resource. The resource that it has in abundance. And it's a resource that Dr. Brin recommended they export (through a convoluted practice):

Its people.

Greece is going to have to start encouraging its people to go to other countries and start working elsewhere... and send what money they can back to help support their families. It could probably do this partly by not taxing money send in from abroad (sales taxes and the like would capture that money anyway).

Those people will be living elsewhere, eating elsewhere (and thus reducing the food imports), and basically doing what Mexicans have done in the United States for decades: work in a wealthy region while sending their money home.

Rob H.

Laurent Weppe said...

Part II

3) Tsipras was elected in late January on a platform which was actually viewed favorably by many among the Eurozone's Powers That Be... Except, he too screwed the pooch: instead of actually applying his own program, he barely did anything, believing that the Eurozone governments were so terrified by a prospect of a Grexit that if he did nothing and bid his time, the Eurozone would eventually present him a much more lenient deal than the one Samaras had rejected. This pissed off a lot of people among Europe's leadership, who by then had become convinced that kicking Greece out of the Eurozone wouldn't cause its collapse. Still, during the final bout of negotiations, two deals were proposed to Tsipras: one, put on the table on June 25th was essentially the one Samaras had rejected and a second one, more lenient to Greece, was put on the table on June 26th as a gesture of goodwill and an acknowledgement that Tsipras, who didn't belong to the corrupt dynastic elites which had ruled Greece since the late 70s, deserved more trust than his predecessor.
Then the referendum came.
Except Tsipras didn't ask the Greek population to vote on the more lenient June 26th deal: he put the more stringent June 25th deal on the ballot box, which was an incredibly stupid move: either the Yes won, in which case, Tsipras would have to implement a harsher program than the one offered to him, or the No won, in which case the hardliners faction, barely kept in check by the liberals, would read the vote as an open declaration of war and do its utmost to grind Greece into dust.


See the problem?

"Europe should just give Greece a debt relief" -> We already did, Twice
"Europe should just let Greece rebuild its economy" -> We did that, and as soon as things improved, its elected government started pulling the same clientelist bullshit
"Europe should give Tsipras a chance to reform his country" -> We did, and he fucked it up.

So what do I want? I want what's happening: Europe is for once flexing its political muscle and directly administrating its most corrupt member state. Now the authority to do that has to be transferred from the de facto presidium of national chancelleries currently in charge to the Parliament in Strasbourg and we'll finally be able to rename the Union "European Republic" and I'll be a happy man.

Alex Tolley said...

Despite Laurent's "The sky is falling" rhetoric, Greece exit from the EU would not be catastrophic.

Hardest hit will be firms that borrowed in Euros. With their income and assets valued in a weak Drachma, many would collapse. To continue, they would have to default on those loans if they can without ending up in bankruptcy.

The government could print money as it liked, and wealthy Greeks could buy up newly issued government debt.

If the government cannot force them to, the military can take over again. Not pleasant, but I don't see Greeks starving. The economy might be somewhat chaotic, government workers might have a hard time getting paid (fully or in part), but the average Greek would weather the storm. There might be a large exodus of Greeks to other countries until the economy settled down again.

If you look at Greece's current economic situation - current account balance, trade balance, the deficits are a fraction of the interest payments on the debt. Debt default would put them back on a positive economic footing, and I suspect China might be quite willing to help out and extend its influence in te region, much as it is doing in Africa.

If Europe wants the chaos of a Grexit, so be it. The world can then see the consequences of what happens when lenders won't take losses. The situation isn't so far removed from French position with terms of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

"Of the many provisions in the treaty, one of the most important and controversial required "Germany [to] accept the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage" during the war (the other members of the Central Powers signed treaties containing similar articles). This article, Article 231, later became known as the War Guilt clause. The treaty forced Germany to disarm, make substantial territorial concessions, and pay reparations to certain countries that had formed the Entente powers. In 1921 the total cost of these reparations was assessed at 132 billion Marks (then $31.4 billion or £6.6 billion, roughly equivalent to US $442 billion or UK £284 billion in 2015). At the time economists, notably John Maynard Keynes, predicted that the treaty was too harsh — a "Carthaginian peace", and said the reparations figure was excessive and counter-productive, views that, since then, have been the subject of ongoing debate by historians and economists from several countries." - Wikipedia

Tacitus said...

Well whatever is worked out I am watching closely. I think we may be facing similar issues closer to home in the next decade. Our numbers are far from Greek, and at least selectively some States (both Red and Blue) have gotten their fiscal acts together. But there are more Detroits out there I fear. And while we do not have a moral obligation to get involved with Greece we do have one when it is our fellow citizens. And by that I include both the bailed out and the bailers.


Duncan Cairncross said...


Very interesting analysis of the Greek situation
Only thing is it's completely wrong
Now the Greece that is here on planet earth is in a completely different situation

The Greek government was in debt (as are all Governments) - but not appallingly in debt
Things went pear shaped when the banks screwed up and unlike Iceland the Greek government covered their debts

Yes the Greek economy had effectively recovered to the extent that it was solvent BUT that was without the requirement that Greece pay 3.5% of their GDP to "service their debt (remember the one caused by the banks)
That 3.5% drag on their economy continues to shrink their economy

"Europe should just give Greece a debt relief" -> Nothing like enough - like feeding an elephant a bun

"Europe should just let Greece rebuild its economy" -> Nope we continued to keep dragging it down

I also find it amusing that the country that is the biggest moaner had all of it's own debts forgiven (twice)
And stole everything not bolted down when it occupied Greece - which it has NOT compensated Greece for

"Europe should give Tsipras a chance to reform his country" -> Nope we did not give him anything like enough time (and we kept the drag on all the time)

David Brin said...

Tacitus, U.S. debt loads have been increasing at an ever-DECREASING pace… especially federal but also private and commercial. The greatest hypocrisy of the right is to utterly and hysterically-compulsively ignore the second derivative of debt, which is ALWAYS positive in GOP administrations and always negative during democratic ones.

When I draw a republican’s attention to this blatant fact, he squirms, changes the subject and frantically pushes the fact out of his mind, so that he can go back to finger-wagging and implying democrats are the villains of indebtedness.

Moreover, without the Bush tax cuts, we’d have been in the BLACK again by now! And those tax cuts? None of it went to supply side investment in factories and research.

Instead, GOP congresses slash science and R&D. And investment in infrastructure. Those two things would have stimulated the economy into high gear by now…and that is the REASON why they have been systematically sabotaged.

“More Detroits out there” is an incantation. The stark and perfect difference in the 2nd Derivative of Debt is pure fact. As is the sabotage of R&D and of infrastructure.

Alfred Differ said...

@David: Tacitus has a point if you look at the debt loads of municipalities. Your observation (truthful) about the curvature of the federal debt doesn't apply at the local level where a number of cities are bound by unsustainable obligations.

I'm inclined to let cities go bankrupt, though. Pensioners are creditors of a sort. They need to be prepared to think about their retirement options much like the rest of the labor market does in sectors where pensions are a thing of the past.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

Borrowing from Stratfor papers again...
Greek Geopolitical Imperatives

0. Secure control of the Aegean to maintain defensive and communication lines with key mainland population centers.

1. Establish control of Corfu, Crete and Rhodes to prevent invasions from the sea.

2. Hold the Axios River valley and as far up the valley as possible for agricultural land and access to mainland Europe.

3. Consolidate the hold on inland Greece by eliminating regional power centers and brigands, then collect taxes and concentrate capital in accordance with the needs of the state.

4. Extend control to outer islands such as Cyprus and Sicily to dominate the eastern Mediterranean (this is an imperative that Greece has not accomplished since ancient times).

Greece Today

With the collapse of the Soviet threat at the end of the Cold War and the subsequent end of the Balkan wars with the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, the political geography of the region changed once again. This time the change was unfavorable for Athens. With the West largely uninterested in the affairs of the region, Greece lost its status as a strategic ally. And along with that status, Athens lost the political and economic support that allowed it to overcome its capital deficiencies.

This was evident to everyone but the Greeks. Countries rarely accept their geopolitical irrelevance lightly. Athens absolutely refused to. Instead it did everything it could to retain its membership in the first-world club, borrowing enormous sums of money to spend on the most sophisticated military equipment available and producing erroneous financial records to get into the eurozone. This is often lost amid the ongoing debt crisis, which is commonly described — mainly by the Western European press — as a result of Greek laziness, profligate spending habits and irresponsibility. But faced with a geography that engenders a capital- poor environment and an existential threat from Turkey that challenges its Aegean core, Greece had no alternative but to indebt itself after its Western patrons lost interest, and now even that option is in doubt. (Trying to keep up with its fellow EU states in terms of quality of life obviously played a role in Greece's financial overextension, but this can also be placed in the context of keeping up with a modernizing Turkey next door.)

Today, Greece cannot even dream of achieving its fifth geopolitical imperative, dominating the eastern Mediterranean. Even its fourth imperative, the consolidation of inland Greece, is in question, as illustrated by Greece's inability to collect taxes. Nearly 25 percent of the Greek economy is in the so-called "shadow" sector, by far the highest rate among the world's developed countries.


Stratfor's opinion boils down to the observation that Greece is returning to life as a vassal state as it has been for a long time. They simply lack the population and wealth generating capability to be more. Their independence is an artifact of total war in Europe and a later US desire to make use of them as a cold war ally.

Paul451 said...


Me: "Thus the heart is not a complete resurfacing (ie, melted from below), but a simple thin covering of flowing material from a single event over the top of the older terrain."

OTOH, Hillary Montes does look an awful lot like a frozen shoreline.
Pic, Flyover.

Charon has no atmosphere. Or at least none to sing about.,qaction=dlattach,3Btopic=38016.0,3Battach=1049282,3Bimage.pagespeed.ic.QOGqK5uMMX.jpg

Pluto on the other hand...,qaction=dlattach,3Btopic=38016.0,3Battach=1049284,3Bimage.pagespeed.ic.fS777GREdy.jpg

"Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal, send me a kiss by wire, baby my hearts on fire..."

The researchers think the haze layers are methane reacting with solar UV (even out there), to form more complex hydrocarbons (and presumably that's the brown stain at the pole, and the general colour of many KBOs... but not Charon! So will this colour allow researchers to remotely determine which KBO/SDOs have periodic atmospheres and which are Moon-like?)

Anyway, enough science, angry face, back to Greece...


Paul451 said...

I have no objection to linking infrastructure investment to reforms. "We will inject funds into your economy at the very bottom, in return for you trimming the ugliness at the top." The Greeks are free to to accept such a deal, or to say no and weather the internal devaluation and try to do things their own way. And hence they are free to negotiate in good faith with the rest of Europe.

First debt relief, let the creditors take their licks (just as they would with any sovereign currency debt.) Then and only then can negotiations over investment-vs-reform happen. There can be no good done as long as the debt is being constantly used as a threat against Greece.

Taxes, payrolls, clientelism, whatever, have nothing to do with the debt crisis. You don't treat a heart attack with diet and exercise. That comes later, only when the patient has recovered enough for it to actually help.

But using interbank lending (or its suspension) as a bludgeon to threaten the Greeks to accept a deal they don't want is simply evil. Not just because the deal is so destructive (even though it is), the entire process is evil. Pointing a gun at someone's head is not negotiating.

Saying "oh but they could have offered a better deal, such as this idea I have..." misses the point. People who are "negotiating" by threat are never going to offer a fair deal, are never going to negotiate in good faith. Like Laurent, they want to crush the dirty Greeks and bring them to heal, and don't care about the obvious consequences or the lessons from their own history.

And this was no less evil when done to Spain. Spain was actually ahead of Germany when it came to EU and Euro compliance, before the crash. A much lower debt ratio than Germany, which they were paying down from a budget in surplus.

As for Locumranch. No he's not polite. No more than a smug religious fundamentalist fantasising about their neighbours burning in hell is "polite" simply because he isn't cursing at you. No more than a Southern slavery apologist is "polite" because he says "shucks" and "y'all" instead of "Niggers".

Acacia H. said...

The truth is this: European Union countries have suffered as a result of bailing out their banks. The one "European" power that had bank failures that did not... is Iceland. And it is in far better shape as a result of jailing bankers and letting those banks fail.

You have to wonder if the politicians in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and the like are watching Iceland and taking notes. After all, next time there is a massive bank failure, and there will be one because the financial sector hasn't learned any lessons except "we can get away with this shit," the banks will go belly up again and expect to be bailed out.

Won't it be interesting if a bunch of countries say "screw that. This is the private sector. You have deposit insurance, but otherwise? You're on your own" and let banks start dropping. In a way, it's sort of like the headsmen for the rich... because deposit insurance will save lower and middle class investors and small business owners... but not the millionaires and billionaires.

Rob H.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Alfred, the problem is that state, federal, and municipal employees are offered a pension usually in exchange for or instead of a 401K. Government employees aren't generally paid extravagantly (unless you are on the upper rungs), but are in it for the bennies, among which are pensions. I also have an IRA, but not everyone does, and many are relying on the promises made when they first signed on with their government job. If changes are made, it should be renegotiated as a contract, rather than "Whoops! We changed our mind." It's woe trickling down, if thousands of employees are expected to absorb a city's financial burden.

(Yes I am) TheMadLibrarian

David Brin said...

"Hillary Montes"???? Oooooh those scientists! All damn democrats.

In fact, part of me rooted for New Horizons to fail. And to hope that by the time a new mission got there I'd be famous enough for a mountain!!! ;-(

But it was a small part.

Paul451 said...

" "Hillary Montes"???? Oooooh those scientists! All damn democrats."

OTOH, the theme is creatures of the underworld... so...

But this range is next to Norgay Montes, so t'other Hillary.

locumranch said...

Progressive Democrats are fascinating creatures, if only for their hypocrisy, as they so zealously defend their own democratic right to self-determination by denying that very same self-determinative right to others of whom they disapprove.

Our host's solution to the Greek Crisis? He suggests we punish them like "spoiled children" and deliberately deprive them of their own right to self-determination "with the toys of fiscal independence removed", even to the extent of forcing them to (literally) clean their dinner plate of vegetables, possibly because he believes them to be unworthy of basic human liberties.

It is no wonder, then, that our host is so quick to dismiss the humanity of his (unintelligent; unscientific; unenlightened) political opposition and disregard their own equally God-given right to Red State Self-Determination, mostly because he believes (IMHO) that only his Blue State kindred are qualified, enlightened and federal enough to establish Company policy, issue Company Script and run the Company Store.

That the rural Red States are grossly unequal (in both privilege and responsibility) to the urban Blue States is indisputable, mostly because the Blue States like it that way, preferring to manipulate the value of federal script to keep the value of red raw resources low so they can profit by selling back those bluely modified products dear.

That the brightest and most dynamic of (red) high school grads flee every year for blue cities and universities and most never return is (also) indisputable, mostly because few intelligent individuals (unencumbered by the foolish dogma of self-sacrifice) are willing to deliberately choose red state company debt servitude when a job in blue state management beckons, auguring ill for those blue state consumers who live off the few remaining red rural producers who dogmatically subsume their interests to those of the urbanites.

And what does our host do? He blames the VICTIM by arguing that "If there is any truth to the “company store” phenomenon, then it… is… their… own… damn… fault", much like arguing that the most ethnic purge victims 'have it coming' because, verily, each & every one of us 'have it coming' in spades.


I refer to rights as 'God-given for two reasons: First, this was the form preferred by both the Enlightenment & the US Founding Fathers; and, second, without God (as Ivan Karamazov suggests) each and every atrocity is permitted; but not because that I am some sort of "smug religious fundamentalist (who fantasises) about their neighbours burning in hell"; but because 'Hell is Other People' (it is also "for children", I've heard), meaning that I share aspects of both the Satirist & the Sartre-ist.


Tacitus said...

I shall forthwith assure my Illinois relatives that all is well. They will be so happy.
Hey, dude, our current near zero interest rates have done wonders for debt levels. Might I, unenlighted that I am, speculate on what would happen if they started to rise?
I strive to be fair minded and yes, there have been some municipal bankrupcies in Red areas. A few.
Detroit is not an incantation. It is a public tragedy.
But I would like you to be right about general levels of duckyness.

DP said...

My 2 cents concerning Greek debt, at 177% of GDP - second only to Japan’s 226% among OECD nations - compared to America’s mere 72% of GDP which is quite small compared to austerity minded Germany at 80% and Britain at 90%. If debt in and of itself were bad, Japan would have collapsed long ago.

Yes the Greeks were irresponsible wastrels and their government lied with false financial data to get into the Eurozone (but everyone knew they were lying at the time and nobody cared).

And for every irresponsible borrower there was an irresponsible bank lending them the money. Now I’m no expert but isn’t it the job of bankers to ensure loans are safe and borrowers are reputable? Apparently when they can rely on taxpayers to bail them out (whether it’s the ECB or to “big to fail” Wall Street banks in America in 2008) they no longer act responsibly. Funny how that works.

Austerity doesn’t work as it been empirically shown to shrink the economy faster than it shrinks the debt. Bankers do very well by austerity – everyone else gets screwed. And Germany should get off of its high horse. They are big on demanding other countries pay their debts (like France after the war of 1870) but defaulted on its own massive debts after WWI and WWII.

DP said...

@dr. Brin.

I'm afraid that you misread me. That was St. Augustine OF Hippo (a city in the Roman province of Africa).

As for your assertion that "I can think of scores of counter examples. Indeed, rebellion AGAINST a primarily puritan era appears to be a better correlative." - I could not agree more. Its the moral rebels against the puritans who create art, not the repressive puritans.

The perfect example of this is once again, the 1970s. No other author or essayist has managed to get to the heart of the zeitgeist of each decade of modern America like Tom Wolfe:

The 60s - The Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test
The 70s - In Our Time
The 80s - Bonfire of the Vanities (the best novel ever of the "greed is good" decade)
The 90s - Hooking Up
The 00s - Charlotte Simmons

Nobody is better at describing the culture, mores and attitudes of an era. He invented the terms "the right stuff", "the me decade", "radical chic", etc. I get much of my cultural "anecdotes" from his keen observations

"In Our Time" Wolfe dissects the 1970s and accurately descries those years as our:

"Elizabethan period, her Bourbon Louis romp, her season of rude animal health and rising sap!"

His astute observations nailed the moral collapse of that decade:

The idea of a coed dorm, with downy little Ivy Leaguers copulating in Free Rooms like fox terriers, was a lurid novelty even as late as 1968. Yet in the early 1970s the coed dorm became the standard. Fathers, daughters, faculty—no one so much as blinked any longer. It was in the 1970s, not the 1960s, that the ancient wall around sexual promiscuity fell. And it fell like the walls of Jericho; it didn't require a shove. By the mid-1970s, anytime I reached a city of 100,000 to 200,000 souls, the movie fare available on a typical evening seemed to be: two theaters showing Jaws, one showing Benji, and eleven showing pornography of the old lodge-smoker sort, now dressed up in color and 35 mm.

The 1970s will be remembered as the decade of the great Divorce Epidemic; or, to put it another way, the era of the New Cookie. The New Cookie was the girl in her twenties for whom the American male now customarily shucks his wife of two to four decades when the electrolysis gullies appeared above her upper lip.

Somehow I knew at that moment it was only a matter of time before the smoking of marijuana was legalized in the United States, and it had nothing to do with medical facts, juridical reasoning, or the Epicurean philosophies of the weed's proponents. It had to do solely with the fact that people of wealth and influence were getting tired of having to extract their children from the legal machinery. That was getting worse than dope itself.

DP said...


It is such rude animal romps that create an explosion in the arts.

And nothing better exemplifies this than New York City in the 1970s. The city that nearly collapsed into primeval savagery during a blackout, had the summer of Son of Sam, and whose bankruptcy led President Ford to tell the city to "drop dead". It also gave birth to a 100 new art forms in every media, as recalled by performance artist Laurie Anderson:

The early 1970s work of Anderson, who moved to New York in 1966, typified this multimedia approach. She moved restlessly between photography, text, sound and street performances engaging with the public. “My art wasn’t about hiding away in a studio,” she remembers.

Anderson remembers New York then as “dark, dangerous and broke” yet exhilarating: “It was like Paris in the 20s. I was part of a group of artists who worked on each other’s pieces, and boundaries between art forms were loose.”

The district south of Houston Street, soon nicknamed SoHo, had been zoned for manufacturing but factories had been moving out since the 1940s. The artists who colonised it from the late 1960s took advantage of working and living in its disused, decaying factories for a very low rent, exhibiting their work informally in these raw, cavernous spaces.

In addition to Anderson, there was Lou Reed, the Contortions, the Talking Heads, B52s, the Ramones,Blondie, and a host of other New wave bands performing at CBGBs. There was nothing pre-manufactured or commercialized about New York music in the 1970s.

70s New York gave us movies like "The Godfather", "The French Connection," "Dog Day Afternoon," "Serpico," "Death Wish," "Mean Streets" and "Taxi Driver". Gritty, realistic cinema far superior to CGI-drenched movie blockbusters of today.

Whether it was "Saturday Night Live", or punk rockers banging their heads onstage, New York in the 70s was exciting, it got the blood pumping. Today's safe and clean New York resembles waiting in line for a ride at Disney World.

tldr - Puritans don't make art.

P.S. Except disco. Disco is not art. Disco sucked.

Acacia H. said...

As usual, Locu gets it wrong by failing to account for the forces of capitalism.

When you look on paper at the Red States to the Blue States, you see that Blue States often have higher corporate and individual tax rates... and also a higher number of skilled educated people living there. Seeing there are tax advantages to having a company in the Red States... why aren't there more businesses located there, and thus lifting up the boats of everyone in those Red States?

Well, there are actually. There are numerous companies that have moved to the Red States to take advantage of lower tax rates, anti-union laws, and the like. And those businesses often import workers from the Blue States... because the Red States lack the skilled educated employees needed for high technology industries. Seeing those companies keep their profits, they invest less in the communities and pay people less... which means despite the presence of jobs, the economies of those Red States that didn't find some method of getting something out of the corporations end up losing out... especially when the company moves again to find another even cheaper source of labor.

Ultimately, Blue States end up being a better place to build a business seeing the infrastructure is in better repair, there is less need to "import" employees, and business clusters tend to form in areas that supply the resources needed for business. Only a few Red States have this, which is why you see growth in Texas and a couple other Red States, while other regions languish in squalor.

Rob H.

John's Secret Identity™ said...

I agree that the presence of intracellular processing will greatly delay the day when computers have the processing power of human brains, and the capacity to run an "upload", but I don't think that's what the "singularity" is.

As I understand it, the computing "singularity" is when computers become smart enough to design new computers more powerful than themselves, without human assistance.* I don't think that necessarily requires human-level total computing power, especially if those computer-designing computers are specialized for that task.

* (Alternately, you could say it's the later, more generally noticeable, point at which computers can improve computing technology faster than we can. But once they can do it on their own at all, eventually outpacing us becomes pretty much inevitable. I'm sure future historians will be debating the point for generations.)

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, I mean no disrespect, but I cannot fathom why you rush to the defense of someone who you have so often eviscerated for not only his twisted logic but the moral bankruptcy that informs it. The boy engages in ad hominem in virtually every post he types ("unintelligent; unscientific; unenlightened" from his latest), so chiding me for name calling seems a little of a double standard. If you rushed to other people's defense when he (or others) engaged in it, this would make more sense. It is not so much personal vendetta as it is the extent to which it degrades the quality of otherwise fascinating conversation. I don't engage in all topics, mainly because they often go places I don't know enough about to intelligently participate. But I am not the only one here who has been dismayed by his adolescent incivility and the tone that sets.

In my own defense I would say that my use of the term /basalt/ was not intended as a goad, the juvenile mode, but as a deflection. It has worked before. If the juvey mode was what I had intended, I could have used the term more liberally, as there are others who show great resistance to the transformative power of open-minded listening. The line between tenacity and obstinacy is a judgement call. Of course, since none of us can read minds, we will all interpret each other's words according to our individual psycho-social histories.

Don't take this as an attack or a goad, only an explanation. The thick-skin mode as all well and good, TANTSTFL, assuming a very male-mode discourse. But as a moderator it can gall when you appear to play favorites. If you think I am misrepresenting the situation, I would not be offended by an explanation.

Acacia H. said...

It's almost like Brin has adopted locu as his son and tolerates his trolling as "boys will be boys."

Alex Tolley said...

I get the sense that locum is whining "not fair". That somehow the [morally?] superior people are losing the economic race. Which seems to dovetail nicely with the "you'll get your comeuppance" when conditions change and "we'll be back on top". One might think that perceiving one to be in a rigged game, one might empathize with others in the same position, but apparently not.

I do sympathize with the desire to live the way one wishes, and the loss of that option as economies integrate ever more tightly. We could end up with a fairly homogenous global economy and even culture. Trying to resist that like the Amish might be very hard, if not impossible, to achieve. A global culture might have to create "reservations" where groups can live differently. In the US, states would have to be truly independent of the federal system.

Now that Brownback has economically "wrecked" Kansas, I'd like to know what happens going forward. Do the citizenry elect in more suitable leaders, or do the disadvantaged leave the state? Is the latter the Conservative plan? Should states pay a penalty for trying to externalize their economic system costs?

David Brin said...

To the raging paranoiac “company store” dribble-spew I can only say “prove it!” The oligarchs who summon redders to be their ground troops – as the plantation lords did in 1861 – fund fantastically rich think tanks like Heritage and AEI and Cato and at least FIFTY more, all aimed at rationalizing continued Republican rule. If Locum’s fantasy were even remotely true, would not those whore-“institutes” have issued reports about Company Store parasitism, by now?

They haven’t – which means they’d be embarrassed by how easily disproved such drivel is.

Along with the fact that the GOP has controlled the federal government far more than the Dems have, for the last 30 years. As the plantation lords ran the US up till 1861. So who’s doing this manipulation?

Nor that the exceptions, Utah, Texas, NCarolina and Virginia have pulled out precisely because they chose some part of the redder whiner trip to reject. NCarolina in particular, has stopped the one huge, crucial “company store” way that Blue America DOES harm Red America – stealing their best and brightest children. NCarolina has staunched the flood of young people fleeing for Blue America. Though in the process, NCarolina is turning itself blue.

And hence it is their own damned fault, for not listening to their kids, when those kids say “I’m leaving.” Again, the High School kids who take AP classes and then leave... they absolutely prove my case, not Locum's. Sorry lad, but you are really deep-ending.

TACITUS: “I strive to be fair minded and yes, there have been some municipal bankrupcies in Red areas. A few.”

No sir you do NOT strive to be fair. Because all you look at is anecdotes. Never ever the major economic indicators. That MOST cities are doing fine. That Republican governance is statistically inferior at every level, federal, state etc. That the second derivative of debt is THE thing that a fiscal conservative should be looking at, and it is ALWAYS better under dems. That’s always. Yes, always. Even always. And especially always, and fiscal hawks who ignore it are wallowing in hypocrisy.

DD: Praise of the 1970s has to be mixed. But sure, anecdotally it fits your point. It is also an era when the campus left was a raging mob of incredible bullies, who could only be forgiven because there were so many intolerant bullshits embedded in US society that had to be addressed. But oh, the screeching. It made today’s lefty sanctimony seem almost sedate.

Paul and Robert: While locum often gets shrill and borders on personal, I have a thick-skinned definition of “troll.” Indeed, I find his strange logical patterns well… not “fascinating” but subject to genuine curiosity. He is intelligent, and knows that he is color-blind to certain fundamentals (e.g. positive sum games... and evidence and actual logic.) Being human, that realization makes him ANGRY! And yet, instead of storming off, he remains engaged.

To be frank, I find that glancingly and slightly… interesting.

David Brin said...

I've posted a major piece today... continue here on these topics if you like...


Paul451 said...

Paul SB
"so chiding me for name calling seems a little of a double standard."

That one was aimed at my blunt "the idiot Locumranch", not your gentle "basalt heart". David's rebuke just happened to post directly under your comment, hence the confusion.

David Brin said...


Calgacus said...

Laurent Weppe :Greece wasn't facing a few rough years in case of Grexit: it was facing starvation and societal collapse: that's why the Greek population remains massively opposed (78% to 19%) to a return to the Drachma.

Though it is an ancient comment, the incredible fabrications recycled above should be refuted. Greece, if it had exited, would not have had any trouble feeding itself, with or without trade - and of course there would have been trade. Greece simply was not a net food importer. Greece could and did feed itself.

The facts are easily checkable from sources like the Economist's Food Security Index - which put Greece at about 20th most secure country in the world, very secure, like all of Europe. Even AFTER accounting for the political situation of possible Grexit. The Greek Farmer's Union, PASEGES complained about such absurd food security fearmongering. The UN FAO has many figures on agricultural production that you can play with to convince yourself. There's an MIT hosted import export site that shows the balance and composition of Greece's food imports/exports. About equal, with exports more raw, imports more processed - imho better than the other way around.

If anyone ever reads this, google can find other posts I've made with urls to back this up, if they cannot find them on their own. Finally, at the time of this post- Tsipras's absurd snatching of defeat out of the jaws of victory after betraying the referendum- some polls were showing a clear majority favoring Grexit and the drachma.

siska said...
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