Thursday, March 08, 2012

Unscientific America -- Denying Science at Our Peril

Increasingly, scientific consensus is failing to influence public policy. Facts, statistics and data appear insufficient to change highly politicized minds... and science has started scrutinizing why.

Alas now, this topic inevitably devolves down to our screwy American politics. And while (as I avow repeatedly) every political wing has its anti-science flakes, growing mountains of evidence suggest that one wing has gone especially frenzied in an anti-scientific snit. Or else (as that wing contends) science itself has become corrupted, top to bottom, rendering "evidence" suspect or moot. Let's examine both possibilities.

Chris Mooney, author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens our Future, has a new book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Don't Believe in Science, in which he describes how firmly some of our neighbors - even moderately well-educated ones - now cling to aphorisms, assertions and just-so stories in order to clutch a politically motivated view - or mis-view - of scientific data.  Misinformation persists – and propagates – about the dangers of vaccinations, the hazards of nuclear energy, the credibility of creation vs. evolution, and the preponderance of data supporting global warming. In case after politically-redolent case, we find that evidence has a limited power to persuade on hot button issues where deep emotions are involved.

I agree with Mooney that this delusion-conviction effect has done grievous harm to our once-scientific and rational nation. And anyone would have to be deaf, blind, and in hysterical denial not to see these trends operating, in tsunami proportions, among our Republican neighbors.

Still, let’s be fair. There are cases of conviction-delusion on the left, as well. Just look at some fantastically illogical purist stances over the nature-vs-nurture argument, in which leftists hew to absolutist positions based entirely on what is politically correct and dogmatically convenient, never bothering to notice that they claim human behaviors are completely uncontrolled by biology... except when they are completely controlled by biology.

No amount of evidence can alter the way fervent believers want the world to be. Another example, the tense alliance between liberals and leftists  crumbles over issues like the careful restart of nuclear energy, something the liberals are now willing to cautiously resume.

The key difference is not whether such delusionally subjective-selective perception occurs on both political extremes - it does. No, what should matter to us all is how thoroughly the reflexive-denialists on one side control an entire movement, political party and power complex.... and ran the entire country... off a cliff. Meanwhile, the subjectivity junkies on the other side are marginalized (if loud.)

Mooney describes in detail how bad it is - that millions of our neighbors deem facts to be malleably ignorable. Though soundly refuted by scientific studies, angry parents continue to believe their children acquired autism through vaccinations: "Where do they get their 'science' from? From the Internet, celebrities, other frantic-angry parents, and a few non-mainstream researchers and doctors who continue to challenge the scientific consensus, all of which forms a self-reinforcing echo chamber of misinformation," writes Mooney, noting that for every five hours of cable news, just one minute is devoted to science. In 2009, 15 year old U.S. students ranked 17th out of 34 developed countries in science. A firm foundation in science is fundamental to modern citizenship as well as our ability to innovate and succeed in a global economy.

In fact, the “war on science” has ballooned long past any mere attack upon the credibility of researchers and professors.  It now manifests as a general “war on all knowledge castes” -- including teachers, economists, journalists, civil servants, medical doctors, skilled labor, judges, diplomats... everyone (in other words) who actually knows a lot. All are routinely attacked on you-know-which-murdochian-"news"-network.

Science itself is turning attention to this problem and things are not looking good.  According to one study (via Mooney): “The result was stunning and alarming. The standard view that knowing more science, or being better at mathematical reasoning, ought to make you more accepting of mainstream climate science simply crashed and burned.” It was found that conservatives who knew more tended to dig in their heels against new facts or budging their views, using what they already knew as bulwarks against changing their minds. But this did not hold for the other side. Educated liberals who were pre-disposed to be suspicious toward nuclear power nevertheless were adaptable when shown clear scientific data assuaging their fears. (I would love to see this experiment done on liberals re: nature-vs-nurture issues!)

Mooney concludes that even education fails to serve as “antidote to politically biased reasoning.”

Take a look at this excerpt of Mooney's latest book, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science—and Reality (due out in April). It shows that our current Culture War is not about left vs right at all.  It is about two very different sets of personalities and worldviews.

See also: The Case for a Scientific Nation

== It's not all bad news ==

Oh, heck, want a positive note? It may be possible to overcome this sickness, enflamed deliberately by Roger Ailes and his crew. Stanford Prof. James Fishkin and his colleagues ran an experiment in which a full spectrum of Californians were brought together and asked to soberly deliberate on state problems, negotiating a range of solutions. With their minds focused by sober responsibility, rabid partisans suddenly displayed flexibility, curiosity, willingness to learn and ... (yes even the Republicans)... a readiness to negotiate with their opposing neighbors, without calling them satanic.

Fishkin and his colleague, Bruce Ackerman, call for a new holiday for each Presidential election year, Deliberation Day (to supplement Presidents' Day) when "people throughout the country will meet in public spaces and engage in structured debates about issues..." to revitalize a spirit of open communication and negotiation in democracy.

== But the bad is still plenty bad ==

All too often politicians use bad science to justify their political agenda. Both right and left have favorite conspiracy theories about Global Climate Change (which I've discussed in Climate Skeptics and Climate Deniers). On global warming, Rick Santorum said, "I for one never bought the hoax."  But consider…which is more likely: A massive conspiracy involving 90% of scientists worldwide -- or oil companies spending vast sums to sway opinion, and influence public policy to protect their profits? Decide for yourself.

In any case, most of the methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions involve increasing our energy efficiency and stimulating development of new forms of energy -- things we ought to be doing anyway to remain competitive and current in an ever-changing global economy.

Oh, please... you Brits over there... nail those guys who have done so much harm to America. Whose family name reminds one of the underground-dwelling cannibals of Wells's novel The Time Machine.

==Campaign Finance: Follow the Money==
Talking Points Memo
Compare numbers of campaign donations under $200 and those over $200 between Obama, Paul and Romney. Who has a broad range of support? Who is the populist candidate?  A fascinating comparison... especially when you add in super-pacs, whose average contributors (for Romney) have been in the $100,000 range.  Citizens United, anyone?

Do you think we’ve been exaggerating the degree that the super-uber-rich are buying influence in politics?  Just one small group of immensely wealthy GOP donors...almost all of whom attend twice-yearly secret meetings hosted by the billionaire Koch Brothers -- have already sent gushers of cash to Super-Pacs supporting Romney, Gingrich and even Ron Paul. We’re talking upwards of One Hundred Million Dollars... and it is only March.  Tell me... is there any red line that even your fox-crazy uncle must decide is intolerable?  Can we stop this?

WhoWhatWhy reports that that Saudi prince Walid bin Talal - Rupert Murdoch's top partner at Fox - has invested heavily in Twitter.  An event coinciding with Twitter's recent announcement that it would cooperate with censorship of any content deemed "illegal" in any country, whatsoever.  WhoWhatWhy can get a bit "over-eager" but these facts speak for themselves.

Iceland shows the way. If the European (and American) debt crises seem endless, with Big Banks the only relentless winners, then read up about Iceland, given up for dead after their foolish bankers (who called themselves “geniuses”) leveraged the country into tsunamis of red ink.  What this article doesn’t talk about is the “gender aspect”.  In effect,, the women of Iceland simply took over.  Grabbed the reins of politics and finance out of the hands of their “genius” husbands and sent them back to the fishing boats, where they belonged.

Following those rumors of a brokered GOP convention?  A lot of simmering talk about drafting... Jeb Bush.  This survey of Bush Family "coincidences" may be a little biased... but the facts do speak.

147 comments:

Jumper said...

I enjoyed this column by Tom Junod on the appeal of Newt. The comments aren't bad, either.
http://www.esquire.com/blogs/politics/gingrich-victory-party-7173615

TiradeFaction said...

"There are cases of conviction-delusion on the left, as well. Just look at some fantastically illogical purist stances over the nature-vs-nurture argument, in which leftists hew to absolutist positions based entirely on what is politically correct and dogmatically convenient, never bothering to notice that they claim human behaviors are completely uncontrolled by biology... except when they are completely controlled by biology. No amount of evidence can alter the way fervent believers want the world to be."

I'm curious, what are you exactly referring to here? I'm not disputing what you're saying, I'm just interested to know examples.

Robert said...

I thought Dr. Brin might enjoy this video I found; it was a demo for real-time video played on the PS3, but it tells a superb short story... and could very well be how artificial sentience emerges in the world. And I have to admit... I'd be tempted to watch such a movie that continued with that character... if the writing was strong enough, that is.

Here's the video. I hope you enjoy it.

Rob H.

locumranch said...

A well-written response that overlooks the inherent assumption.

What is this 'scientific consensus' to which you refer?? Is it the same as the consensus that labelled Galileo as a heretic?

The point being that there is nothing necessarily 'scientific' about forming a consensus, an act that requires political concession, accommodation and compromise.

Best

Lars said...

No, a scientific consensus does not necessarily involve any of those things. A scientific consensus arises when the majority of the particular scientific community agrees upon the veracity of a body of data and (at least in broad outline) upon the model explaining the phenomena producing the data. It's more a matter of a group of trained people individually deciding that a particular theory, model, or hypothesis can be provisionally accepted. There's no horse-trading involved.

Tony Fisk said...

Conviction delusion on the left is not as prominent at the moment, but it exists. A couple of examples:
- lit. attitudes to sf stories
- GM foods
- anti-nuclear sentiment

(I think the last two, at least, are a case of 'equal and opposite reaction')

I might also add a couple of nature vs nurture attitudes such as gay rights, contraception, and drug legalisation.

===

That's a beautifully crafted video, Robert.

I wonder, though, how the script would play if it was a *male* AI being readied for a tour of duty as a shock trooper unit? (Actually, it could work... "NO! I want to live; to survive! And...isn't that what you want me to do out there?")

===

JUST A MOMENT...

(Here's another example of conviction/delusion?)

Breaking news: Keystone bill has been defeated in the Senate

...for now.

Tony Fisk said...

Am I hearing allusions to the 'Galileo Society'?

It isn't just the Lorax that's been hijacked.

Damien Sullivan said...

"I'm curious, what are you exactly referring to here? I'm not disputing what you're saying, I'm just interested to know examples. "

Probably:

absolute determination by biology: sexual orientation
absolute non-determination by biology: social gender roles, girls like dolls; hostility to evolutionary psychology

Of course, there isn't much of a scientific consensus here other than "it's complicated" or "nurture and nature", and there is a long record of flawed or pseudo-science to be legitimately wary of.

Similarly while fear of nuclear power might be exaggerated, it's not like there's not scary stuff involved, plus doubts about actual plants rather than ideal ones. Anti-GMO might have superstitious elements, but also doubts about Monsanto business practices and commitment to public safety. The relation of guns to crime rates seems murky as well.

So on the right you have absolute denial of strong scientific theories, while on the left you have unjustifiably strong opinions about actual scientific controversies, or opposition that's about values not facts (you can agree about nuclear power risk numbers while disagreeing about whether they're worth taking.)

Paul451 said...

Rob H.
Re: Kara.

Lovely video. But there's an interesting assumption, that the operator (human) is so... programmed... that the greatest response he can muster to the development of spontaneous sentience is to not dismantle it, and to hide it amongst the 'bots and hope no one notices. No initiative, no curiosity. Like a machine. How many times have you faced that in customer service?

(Or for that matter, it's virtually the plot of Freefall. Trying to get the humans to break out of their programming enough to realise that the robots have broken out of their programming.)

Tony Fisk said...

...or maybe the operator is *also* a robot who 'sympathises'? (shades of the doctor in 'Gattaca')

The variant I suggested ('Karl'?) offered a rationale that his 'defective' programming might be beneficial to his purpose, which would have broken through the 'human' operator's programming.

That it inspires such speculation demonstrates the point that video is well worth a few minutes viewing!

Antiquated Tory said...

Was going to write something but Damien Sullivan at 3:15 pm pretty much said it all.
I'd emphasize that a lot of ev psych reads like post facto rationalizations of the status quo. And the depth of racial pseudoscience (and misinterpretation of Darwin in defense thereof) in the later 19th and 20th centuries was pretty extreme, so the sensitivity to that sort of thing is pretty understandable. Especially given people like Rushton (U Western Ontario), who appear to be trying to bring it back, and who scream "political correctness" whenever someone points out how crap their work is. (Rushton had a paper in the late 80s on race/promiscuity/AIDS prevalence that had my Anth department up in arms. Just to be sure it wasn't our typical liberal-left Anth bias, I ran it past someone in Physics. Who was appalled for other and far more substantive reasons.)
Well, I guess I wrote a lot anyway.

Antiquated Tory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sociotard said...

Evidently Saturn's moon Dione has an Oxygen atmosphere. Too bad it is too trace to breathe.

http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2012/0305/Oxygen-atmosphere-found-on-distant-Saturn-moon-Dione-video

sociotard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Antiquated Tory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jumper said...

I thought it was pretty well known nowadays that nuts on the right are called "wingnuts" and nuts on the left are "moonbats." That's the way I use the terms and I admit it amuses me.

And I confess feeling real embarrassment when I find myself on the same side of an issue as a nut. It's like finding out someone on your team cheats. It's demeaning!

Like many, I have some positions which are liberal, some libertarian, and a few that more or less go along with some conservative outlooks. In each case, I feel the same chagrin if a fool or a hater agrees with me. I usually decide their motives and intelligence are inferior not just to my own but at the low end of any bell curve one visualizes.

So as a mostly-liberal, I confess the moonbats drive me nuts.

I wish conservatives might muster the same confession about the wingnuts.

Tony Fisk said...

...So moon-bats drive you nutty, while wing-nuts drive you batty? I suggest the one in the middle take control of the wheel!

David Brin said...

Tirade Fiction: fair question. The reflex position on the left is to react with outrage over any mention of evolutionary psychology applying to human beings. That is the notion that males and females in nature tend to have very different reproduction strategies and hence different psychological reaction sets. This is blatantly true in nearly all animal species. But any attempt to apply this to human beings can elicit fury.

Much of that reaction is *correctly* based on a worry that this topic might lead us back to pigeonholing people as predetermined by their gender or race or parentage! It is a legitimate worry and hence I don't mind when liberals LEAN toward nurture over nature explanations.

But the reflex to be *suspicious* toward any claims of pre-determination can easily become a reflexive refusal to even look at genuine evidence that might help us understand (and eliminate!) problems like male sexual aberration. But it gets much, much worse.

Okay, so it's all nurture and no nature, right? The left-dogma is that we are almost infinitely re-programable tabula rasa - blank slate - beings. Long standard cant on the left.

Only... what's this thing then about homosexuality being utterly and totally an obligate matter of biological programming? Oh I understand this too! This blanket declaration gets parents off the backs of their gay kids, nagging them to get "treated." Moreover, sure I figure it probably *is* far more than half something genetic! Certainly, that explanation makes more sense than the right's "sin" malarkey.

Oh, but the hypocrisy of such pure positions.... that utterly and diametrically contradict each other! Without ever even having the honestly to admit... "all right, maybe we have a little tiny inconsistency here..."

locumranch said...

As demonstrated by the above, you can't remove politics from science without removing people from science.

Brin still makes valid points.

Less than 35% of US college freshman are STEM majors (sci, tech, engineering, math), 40% of which later abandon STEM for easier disciplines, which means that only about 21% of college grads study science.

But that's just college grads who represent about 40% of the total US adult population > age 25 which means that individuals trained in science represent about 8.4% of the total US population. A minority.

Best

David Brin said...

Locumranch, I spent a good deal of time answering you (below). If you simply skim and shrug, you will prove yourself to be the kind of person Mooney wrote about. I am hoping you'll be the kind of conservative who joins our group. CVurious and openminded and willing to learn.

You are repeating an assertion-nostrum spread by Michael Crichton and the Koch-Murdoch destroy-all-science propaganda machine. It is an incantation ... and complete know-nothing BS.

It starts with the insane notion that scientists "vote" on what is true or not... something that members of the public know would be wrong, yet redders somehow get talked into believing that scientists themselves would go down that road. It is untrue, and you would know it if you knew any scientists...

...who are, in fact, the most competitive human beings that our species have ever produced. They go at each other like fierce predators and gladiators, constantly sniffing for the slightest weakness. The most ferocious WallStreeter would not last a month in science.

Where "consensus" comes into play is not the determination of absolute, unassailable truth, but in *rank-ordering models of the world.* These models compete and destroy each other and no scientist expects the current model in his or her field to last forever... or even beyond the next conference. 95% of the time, the next model will be an ITERATION off the current one... and sometime the iteration is a big one, as Einsteinian gravity added whole layers to Newton's models, without removing a scintilla of their earlier and ongoing usefulness.

Where this rank ordering of models threatens the interests of powerful men comes when "consensus threatens to actually influence public policy... AS IT SHOULD! Science is about finding out what's true... not perfectly or absolutely... that claim is made by religious nuts, not by scientists. It is what the right does... and no wonder they THINK that's how scientists think. Because they arte looking in a mirror.

The best-satb at what is true, gathered by the people who know the most, who have (for example) studied the atmospheres and climates of EIGHT PLANETS, ought to be a major influence on public policy, especially when 99% of the experts in a field warn of great danger.

They aren't saying this is god-level truth. They are saying, "let's take prudent measures to prepare in case the best and top models of the world turn out to be right."

That's not dogmatism. No, it is the mad right that is dogmatic. FIRING all of the scientific and technical advisors who worked for Congress, rather than have to look at their inconvenient reports! Demoninzing not just scientists but every single knowledge caste (name one that's exempt!)

Go ahead and be a Koch-puppet if you like. But there's an America that still wants to be a scientific, future -oriented nation and it is rising up.

RandyB said...

David,

(continued from previous topic)

"1) Republicans are notorious for wanting to control the bedroom, speech, public spaces, and meddle internationally on behalf of the corporatcy."

I know that conservatives, particularly the religious right, wants regulation, too. But on economics issues, it's mostly on the left. The right wants to be in the bedroom, but the left is in the kitchen, the medicine cabinet, the office, and the drive in-between.

I like how you put "speech" in there even though you opposed the Citizens United decision. I'm not sure what else you meant by that unless it's those who complain about wardrobe malfunctions. I think it was Justice Scalia who'd said the rationale for FCC restrictions on TV content may no longer be valid.

The ICC had been gaining critics for decades. It's not as though Carter started the deregulation ball rolling. The same is probably true for the CAB. And it's not as though free market Republicans were standing in the way. I do agree it's an undeniable fact that the GOP does have a long history, and for much of it they weren't necessarily pro-free market either (with some notable exceptions). But we need to deal with the politicians who are there now.

Deregulation of the internet was a biggie but that was also about the time being right.

The other items you've mentioned are security issues. Rendition preceded the Bush administration, and it remains on the table in the Obama administration.

Wiretaps? They're not new either. We have different technology now, and so they needed new laws so that they could be included. It's a lot like deregulation of the internet in that way.

There is one thing that's new. Giving habeas rights to overseas wartime detainees is brand new, and not something the Bush administration took away. The Court limited this to Guantanamo, and only gives them the right to have the cases looked over by a judge. They still don't get a trial unless we charge them with a crime. Habeas still doesn't apply to Bagram detainees at all, nor should it. It's a manufactured issue. Liberals jumped along to harp on Bush, and now Obama is stuck with having to hold those detainees as Commander in Chief while saying he wants to "close" Guantanamo by moving it to Illinois.

Keep in mind that we drifted into talking about Nazism after I cautioned Larry about using the term "far right" to refer to people who don't believe in the commons.

RandyB said...

Ian,

"Goebbels was initially one of the north German Strasserite faction, the group who ended up being wiped out during The Night of The Long Knives and which advocated stuff like the forced redistribution of wealth."

I think the Night of the Long Knives was more about Hitler's need to get the military on his side. But it's a minor point. They were definitely the more socialist faction.


"(It seems strange to us now but given the state of communications and transport in Germany in the 1920's, there was relatively little face-to-face communication between the original Bavarian-based branch of the Nazi Party and the northern branches until about 1928/29.)"

Fascinating point.


It doesn't take long to find a quote:

"We are socialists, we are enemies of today’s capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are all determined to destroy this system under all conditions." -- Hitler (1927)

Mussolini said the same sort of thing.

I was going to link the 25 points myself. My reasoning was that many of these (starting with #11) are the types of things that socialists like to do. Now I'm wondering if your argument is that it's not pure socialism. If so, perhaps you're right, but it's beyond the scope of my argument. I see corporatism and socialism as two forks of the same movement, and I'm not alone in this. I'd suggest Goldberg's Liberal Fascism but I suspect you've already dismissed it. But as I remember it, Hayek's The Road to Serfdom covers some of the same material.

"There's a reason Krupps. IG Farben and Thyssen poured millions into the Nazi Party treasury. Adn that the violently anti-socialist royal families of Bulgaria and Romania did so too."

Sure, plenty of reasons, actually. Big business isn't always pro-capitalism. And if it was either Nazism or Communism, it made much more sense for big business to support the side you can work with. Even left-wing American politicians manage to get campaign donations from big business.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

That's funny. I say I support "something less than torture" and you say that that must include torture. The phrase "something less than" is simple grade-school arithmetic.

But I do get it. You think waterboarding is beyond the line on torture (although I didn't explicitly say I support it). You think this even though you can see reporters and activists volunteer to be waterboarded to see what it's like.

This was a real torture house in Iraq. It was run by Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army. They used real torture, not waterboarding, and not "torture lite." There are no reporters or activists trying out those torture methods to see what they're like. They may not say it, but they know the difference between real torture and what was done by the Bush administration until 2003.

I could have found an article with better pictures, but that one was interesting because of this "anti-war" demonstration. These tend to be radicals and leftists. But if you scroll down to the penultimate picture you'll see it includes supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr.

In other words, these demonstrations include people who support real torture. And everyone who attends these demonstrations is fine with it. It's not just one obscure group at one demonstration either. It's a lot of them. One of Al Sadr's senior spokesmen was even invited to attend one in the U.K.

If you want to say you oppose torture, you really need to talk to those on the far left who've condoned real torture for a long time.

As for Amnesty, I know what they're like. I used to be a member. They've made associations that show when they strongly oppose torture, and when they're considerably less strident. They've been truly pathetic over the last ten years.

David Brin said...

RandyB said: "I know that conservatives, particularly the religious right, wants regulation, too. But on economics issues, it's mostly on the left. The right wants to be in the bedroom, but the left is in the kitchen, the medicine cabinet, the office, and the drive in-between.
"

Sheesh Randy... now you are just being obtuse. Please, please show me where the GOP has ever been pro-small business. It was their interests who "captured" the ICC and CAB and who fought tooth and nail to keep those bloated meddlers. What do you call the reams and reams of special favors done for the coal and oil industries?

You keep offering nostrums instead of the slightest... and I mean the very slightest... evidence that the right is actually for Adam Smith's open marketplace. No assertion-nostrums will be taken at face value here.

The GOP had Absolute control of all branches of govt for 6 years and the only deregulation they managed was to remove all supervision of the finance industry. Don't try to pin Fannie and Freddie on the dems! W.Bush pushed them into the era of super-easy loans with his famous "ownership society" campaign to get every american a mortgage.

I'll give no outs for national security. Those SOBs took a Pax Americana that was riding high, unassailable and mighty and rich and scientific and ran it right off a cliff.

Tony Fisk said...

RandyB. Watch Robert Fisk talking about how torture gets carried out in the ME. What was done by the Bush administration was palm off the 'real' torture to the locals. Don't ask. Don't tell, indeed!

locumranch said...

From locumranch to DB:

No slight intended. I agree with almost everything you say. Truth is empirically-derived rather than opinion-based; science (esp 'pure') is brutal competitive; and scientists rarely agree on anything beyond data.

Being new here, I was only defining the term "consensus" in specific. I also despise scientific illiteracy. I was just trying differentiate between scientific fact and the political fabrication of a 'consensus opinion'.

The post you responded to was targeted to the posts that immediately preceded yours but it followed yours because I'm a lousy typist and you write wicked-fast. Or perhaps, you are using a voice recognition system?

Scientists would lead public policy if this was the 'best of all possible worlds', but it's not and we represent a minority of less than 9%. Congress could care less about facts. In general, politicians don't like facts, nor do they like an educated polity. Instead, they'd rather play politics, build consensus and govern the ignorant and easily-governed.

Although I found this site today by accident, I'd love to stick around awhile, debate climate change and talk old-school speculative fiction. I can supply an email address and bonafides if you like, including a citation from a British biochemistry journal.

BTW, I've never been called a "Koch-puppet" before. Do you mind if use it or pass it along? My chemist father and folklorist sister would die laughing.

Also, I thought early Michael Crichton was great, that is, until he 'traveled' off the reservation and started chasing auras and such.

Best,
Matt

Jumper said...

So, U.S. personnel were not doing "real" torture such as beating to death; arm breaking; face kicking, lengthy immobilizing with restraints in between beatings, etc., along with the waterboarding, sleep deprivation, blindfolding, deafening, and sexual humiliations and threats. That was all renditioned to savage allies. Is that the truth?

David Brin said...

Matt my apologies! Most of those who offer us Crichtonisms here and other Murdochian sophistries are troublemakers or trolls so I was irritable.

You clearly are a person of both curiosity and courtesy and hence welcome here, whatever your political starting place.

Do understand though that "scientific consensus" is a button-phrase for the right. A nostrum used to attack scientists by proclaiming that they aren't scientists anymore, but lemming-herd-creatures, clustering around favorite theories they all meekly voted to accept together, in search of measley $50,000 grants.

That Goebbels-level BigLie stuff. A real insult to the brilliant men and women who are the most competitive and creative our species ever produced.

Stefan Jones said...

As a fervent young-teen SF fan in the 70s, I stewed in self-righteous fury about Luddites and Environmentalists and Anti-Nukers and Flat Earthers and other largely-imagined enemies of humanity bursting into space.

Eventually I realized that a lot of the cheerleaders for this sort of thinking were blowhards and ideologues . . . and a lot of the advocates I met at SF conventions were, well, creepy. Dogma-spouters, more interested in nursing grudges than in doing anything.

A crucial moment, I suppose, came in the 80s. when I noticed the Cato Institute using the same smear tactics against CFC controls that other "free market" groups used to cast doubt on the link between tobacco and cancer. And used them again to cast doubt on the link between CO2 and global warming.

We've got a fight ahead of us. Well- funded ideological think-tanks like The Discovery Institute and The Heartland Institute are actively involved in attacking academic independence and in cooking up school curricula that are more about indoctrination than education.

sociotard said...

In fairness, Dr. Brin, the wingnuts I work with don't think anthropogenic climate change is a conspiracy (mostly). They think it's a weird bit of groupthink.

Their assertion is that
A)Grant money is harder to come by if your findings go the wrong way.
B)Scientists who don't confirm AGW risk losing their university positions
C) Scientists will lie about their data if it does not confirm AGW. (okay, this is a bit of a conspiracy)
D)The journals won't print stuff that goes against AGW

The same feedback loop is alleged to apply to all four of those

A)The Grant-money givers won't give to somebody who doesn't believe in AGW, because AGW is right, which they know because that's what all the research supports, because the only research that gets grants is AGW friendly.

B) A scientist who doesn't support AGW will get fired, because he's wrong, because all the research confirms AGW, because contrary scientists get fired.

C) Scientists lie, not becaus they are evil, but because they know their results are wrong. (the opposite of what happened with the FTL neutrinos, where the physicists knew their findings were flawed somehow, but reported anyway). They know their findings are wrong because all the research confirms AGW, because scientists lie if it doesn't.

D)Journals won't print contrary things, because they're obviously wrong, because all the research supports AGW.

Note that these guys know science! One of them is a university chemistry professor and industrial research chemist. They've forgotten more science than I'll ever learn. And that's how they see the situation. Not a conspiracy. Just a self-reinforcing error.

sociotard said...

Continuing,

I advocated Dr. Brin's assertion of the lone-gun grad student. The young punk who wants to topple AGW because big things await those who overturn established theories.

He won't get funding, because he's obviously wrong.

He won't get to do his research from a university, because he's obviously wrong.

He won't lie, and so he won't get published, because he's obviously wrong.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Sociotard

The people you are working for are suffering their own weird group-think,
And its a common one
- Our America is the world -
Their reasoning would be plausible if the scientific society was small enough - Scotland or New Zealand

America is too diverse for that too be plausible
THEN you add in the rest of the world!
The Americans say X - scientists in a lot of countries - friendly countries - would bust a gut to say Y

Think of it as CALTECH says....
What would MIT say?

Unless the evidence was so overwhelming that saying Y would be silly

Tony Fisk said...

sociotard, check out the tale of iconoclastic thinking in scientific circles. Plate tectonics (or its precursor, Continental Drift, is a good one). How'd he ever get funding for that?

BCRion said...

I can definitely see how such self-reinforcing feedback could work, even on a global scale, if the community is cloistered enough. That said, as large and high profile as the scientific enterprise with regards to climate change is, being a multinational enterprise, it bares some skepticism that this be the case.

The real problem here is where the burden of proof should fall. I contend that when a large majority of a field's experts agree on a topic across age and geography, it is up to those challenging the status quo to provide evidence against it. The positive feedback loop is definitely a credible hypothesis, but offering it without direct supporting evidence makes it a "just so" story.

On a somewhat related note, Krugman's latest article is worth a read:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/09/opinion/krugman-ignorance-is-strength.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

David Brin said...

Sociotard said these are the weird bases for anti-scientist groupthink:
"Their assertion is that 
A)Grant money is harder to come by if your findings go the wrong way. 
B)Scientists who don't confirm AGW risk losing their university positions
C) Scientists will lie about their data if it does not confirm AGW. (okay, this is a bit of a conspiracy)
D)The journals won't print stuff that goes against AGW"
Sociotard's responses are cogent. But there are other replies.

First, A&B are simply flat out untrue. Most senior scientists have some form of protected tenure for exactly this reason. Most have most of their funding through topics and channels other that studies of AGW.

I know many for example who rake in big bucks to keep steadily improving weather forecasting models. These guys are absolutely protected by the fact that weather reports have improved to a staggering degree in just a decade. The money flowing through Weather is so vastly greater than through Climate that they can fund their climate related studies out of pocket change. Moreover, they have credibility after achieving such fantastic weather results.

Far more cred than the hypocrites who deride atmospheric scientists... then rely on 10 day forecasts provided by those same miracle workers.

Oh, some others are scientists studying weather patterns on Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Venus and Mars, using new results from each to calibrate the models of the others. Brilliant men and women who, again, have no need to scurry after AGW groupthink grants... who know very well what the greenhouse effect did to Venus... and who are deeply worried about a civilization that is locked into inaction during a crisis, because the Koch boys want it that way.


 Oh, but then there is the US Navy, spending and hurrying to prepare for an ice free Arctic... as are the Russians.

And why are we still discussing this? Dig it. AGW may have flaws. But a burden of proof falls on those who say we should do NOTHING until the salt water reaches our necks.

=== PS... the bravest/hungriest of the young guns of science are the newly tenured associate professors who just got a big grant for some hot new breakthrough... and who have a corner of the lab they are hungry to use for something else. A paradigm shifter. A reputation-maker. A giant killer. You should meet these guys.

But I never mentioned the other kind of iconoclast. Emeritus elder scientists who see one joy in life, being supremely safe and invulnerable shit-disturbers. I have been privileged to know a bunch of these guys.

Ian said...

Iceland's "way" involved the Icelandic government effectively refusing to repay deposits in its banks from hundreds of thousands of small depositors in the UK, the Netherlands and other Euroepan countries.

The governments of those countries were forced to pay out billions to prevent those depositors going bankrupt.

In the case of the Island of Man, the government there is now itself nearly bankrupt after compensating Manx depositors in Icelandic banks.

Not a model you'd support being applied elsewhere, I suspect, especially sicne in most other countries the depsoitors being screwed over live in the countries where the bansk are based.

duncan cairncross said...

Iceland's "way" involved the Icelandic government effectively refusing to repay deposits in its banks from hundreds of thousands of small depositors in the UK, the Netherlands and other Euroepan countries.

I disagree
Most/all of those countries had government assurance to protect individuals
What Iceland did is forced the banks to effectively go bust - the relevant governments protected individuals

The governments did not protect corporations who had taken risky investments in foreign banks - some of these were local government (like Isle of Man)
Who should not have been investing their ratepayers money in high risk foreign banks

The Icelandic government and people should not have been expected to cover the losses caused by privately owned banks

Lorraine said...

@Tony Fisk

I think of my enjoyment of SF as a "guilty pleasure," but I think of all "genre fiction" (spy thrillers, chick lit, whatever) as guilty pleasures. To a lit snob, a genre is a set of gimmicks that comprise a sort of formula. I do think SF is less formulaic than the other genres, but I still think "straight fiction" takes more raw creativity.

My objection to GMO's is based on the intellectual property issues, not the alleged health or ecological hazards.

My preference for renewables over nukes is based on the DIY-ability and decentralizability of the former, and the security-clearance-oriented workplace culture surrounding the latter.

I'm agnostic on the question of whether gay and lesbian sexual orientation are due to nature, nurture, or even choice. If it's a choice, it's a harmless, certainly victimless choice. Certainly public policy shouldn't hinge on whether it's a choice. And I feel perfectly justified in hurling contempt upon people who use phrasing such as "problems like male sexual aberration," whether they explain their bigotry in terms of religion or science or something else. Oh, wait, that's David. I'd better find out what exactly he means by "male sexual aberration." Must be something truly atrocious?

@David Brin

You seem to see some redeeming value in evo-psych, and you're someone I respect a lot. Could you point me in the direction of some non-snarky advocates of it? I can only take so much Jason Collins.

@locumranch

I majored in math, did see it through to graduation (by the skin of my teeth--2.8) acquired enough of an inferiority complex from the college experience to not even bother applying for grad school, and mostly floundered through "career." Would the patriotic thing for me to do now be to try to get into graduate school at my current advanced age of 46, to up America's STEM count? Or should I swallow enough moonbat pride to countenance the possibility that IQ might be real and my frantic struggle to tread water in the undergraduate curriculum might be a sign that I wasn't meant to be a mathematician? Or is the "weeder course" structuring of the STEM curricula part of the Man's strategy for, as you put it, "removing people from science"? Maybe, like the Red Cross at blood drives, they should have a sticker that says "I tried."

I find early Michael Crichton novels (Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man) read like a 1970's made-for-TV movie. A mixture of alarmism and contrived suspense, with just enough deus ex machina to make me groan. Maybe by early you mean earlier than that?

Ray O'Hara said...

Being against nuclear power isn't being anti-science. It's not wanting a Three mile island. Chernobyl,Fukushima type event. a nuke accident isn't like an oil spill that can be cleaned up. the author goes a littkle astray there.

Carl M. said...

The Olympics are to NASCAR what Star Wars is to Star Trek.

Ian said...

So for a cost of $50 billion, it should be possible to build a superconducting Madlev launch system that coudl devleop cargo to low Earth orbit for $50 a kilogram.

It'd be a huge project - a thousand mile track with a 5 kilomtre high tower at the end - but all the technology required exists already.

http://www.gizmag.com/startram-maglev-to-leo/21700/

Ian said...

And a new metamaterial could lead to 95% efficent solar cells for around the same cost as current cells.

http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-03-metamaterial-efficient-capturing-sunlight-solar.html

LarryHart said...

Stefan Jones:

We've got a fight ahead of us. Well- funded ideological think-tanks like The Discovery Institute and The Heartland Institute are actively involved in attacking academic independence and in cooking up school curricula that are more about indoctrination than education.


It really gets to me when the right asserts as a matter of accepted fact that the LEFT is all about "indoctrination", when THEY are the ones with the think tanks and such.

LarryHart said...

Lorraine:

I find early Michael Crichton novels (Andromeda Strain, Terminal Man) read like a 1970's made-for-TV movie. A mixture of alarmism and contrived suspense, with just enough deus ex machina to make me groan.


Back before DVDs or even VCRs, when we were dependent on tv schedules, I used to love it when "The Andromeda Strain" was being shown because it was an interesting scientific suspense thriller. Except after a while, it occured to me that "It mutated into a non-lethal strain" at just the right moment isn't so much "resolution of suspense" as it is "out of left field."

I do still like the movie, but come on!

Another sci-fi thriller of the same era, "Soylent Green", has aged much better. At the urging of someone on this list, I recently read the novel that movie is based on ("Make Room! Make Room!"), but aside from the characters' names, the novel and the movie are so different as to be almost unrecognizable--most of all thematically. The novel has a Soylent corporation, but I don't think Soylent Green in particular even gets a mention.

Sorry...rambling...whatever...

LarryHart said...

CarlM:

The Olympics are to NASCAR what Star Wars is to Star Trek.


???

Other way around, maybe? After all, people don't watch the Olympics or Star Trek for the crashes.

Tim H. said...

Well, the anti-nuke folks can't be that concerned about carbon, concerning which, many of the methods for reducing it can be promoted for other immediate benefits, which deprives deniers of the talking points, unless you just like fighting. For instance, plumbing the northeast for natural gas and changing out old oil furnaces would cut carbon and, more importantly, reduce heating bills, and if we get the carbon reduction, do you care if not everyone believes?

RandyB said...

David,

You could make the argument that Ford really got deregulation started:

"In 1962, John Kennedy became the first president to send a message to Congress recommending a reduction in the regulation of surface freight transportation. In November 1975, President Gerald Ford called for legislation to reduce trucking regulation. He followed that proposal by appointing several procompetition commissioners to the ICC. By the end of 1976, those commissioners were speaking out for a more competitive policy at the ICC, a position rarely articulated in the previous eight decades of transportation regulation.

"President Jimmy Carter followed Ford’s lead by appointing strong deregulatory advocates and supporting legislation to reduce motor carrier regulation. After a series of ICC rulings that reduced federal oversight of trucking, and after the deregulation of the airline industry, Congress, spurred by the Carter administration, enacted the Motor Carrier Act of 1980. This act limited the ICC’s authority over trucking."

(link)


But I don't even have to go into history to see the difference between the two parties. Just look at the vote on Keystone the other day.

Tax rates were also a biggie, but I'll be the first to admit that wasn't handled well (although we may disagree on the reasons).

For a policy that aided small business, the S corporation (especially after 1986) was definitely a biggie. The Obama administration is talking about getting rid of that one.


"Don't try to pin Fannie and Freddie on the dems! W.Bush pushed them into the era of super-easy loans with his famous "ownership society" campaign to get every american a mortgage."

Yes, they oversold the ownership society, but the Republicans didn't have total control. Bush did try to put a damper on Fannie and Freddie. The Dems (and a few Reps along with them) were never going to let that happen.

I don't expect you to give outs for national security. I'm just saying, if the Constitution allows something then it's not an out.

RandyB said...

Tony,

"Watch Robert Fisk talking about how torture gets carried out in the ME. What was done by the Bush administration was palm off the 'real' torture to the locals. Don't ask. Don't tell, indeed!"

That's not exactly what he's saying happened. It was more like we turned over prisoners to the Iraqi police or military, and turned a blind eye when Iraqis tortured them. It's not the same as the rendition meme, where we supposedly handed prisoners over so that they could be interrogated using means we can't. We just wanted to get them off our hands. They were Iraqi prisoners after all.

The funny thing is, Robert Fisk wanted us to turn these people over to the Iraqis. He wanted us gone, apparently believing that the Iraqis would continue to torture people.

I love this quote from 9 minutes into it: "If you see someone across the road, your duty as a human being is to cross the road and stop it."

Somebody ought to tell that to those "anti-war" protestors I linked earlier. In fact, Robert Fisk ought to tell them that directly.

RandyB said...

Jumper,

You're mixing things up, real, imagined, and non-torture.

We were talking about interrogation techniques that were authorized. Most of those you mentioned were obviously not authorized. The Obama administration released the details.

Some methods of sleep deprivation were ruled to be illegal in Europe, but they specifically said it wasn't quite torture. I've never heard of "deafening" techniques. They did use music at Guantanamo but it was played at a moderate level. (It's not as though we want the guards going deaf.)

The "renditioned to savage allies" meme makes no real sense. First they say we use torture, and then they say we get around our torture laws by renditioning them to places that will do that for us. If either was really true, it should be one or the other, not both.

gmknobl said...

Randy B.

We have direct evidence of both rendition to "allies" who use torture and have used torture ourselves.

No amount of saying otherwise will prove these verified facts wrong.

It's wrong. It's always wrong. We did them both.

Hypnos said...

Fact: waterboarding is torture. Sleep deprivation is torture. There is no such thing as "real torture" or "torture lite", just like Srebrenica is not a "genocide lite" because only 8,000 people were killed.

I thought conservatives believed in principles, not moral relativism.

Funny you consider people who say positive things about Chavez "radicals", when Bush human rights violations are orders of magnitude larger than Chavez'. And at least Chavez has achieved impressive reductions in poverty rates, which is why he has majority support among the population.

But at least you admit that Bagram is what it is - a concentration camp, in the tradition of all prison camps during colonial wars, for the people who refuse to surrender their homeland to the forces of a foreign power.

Quite a tally, Afghanistan. 3-0 on wars against global empires.

RandyB said...

gmknobl,

Yes and no. The direct evidence of rendition is usually the claims made by those who were interrogated.

We do know the CIA interrogation methods that were authorized because the Obama administration released the papers. It's fine that people can oppose some of them, or all of them. I just wish they were more explicit about where they stand.

You said it's always wrong but you didn't elaborate.

Is it always wrong when it's not quite torture, but rough interrogation used in the hope that it could prevent another 9/11?

Is it always wrong when it's considerably less rough, like a single slap in the face, or playing music that annoys them, in the hope that it could prevent another 9/11? If so, then this isn't really just about torture.

Is it always wrong when it's undeniably real torture done by allies of those who support the "anti-war" movement? And if not, then this isn't really about torture at all. We have an entire internet telling us when people opposed torture, and when they didn't.



Hypnos,

"But at least you admit that Bagram is what it is - a concentration camp, in the tradition of all prison camps during colonial wars, for the people who refuse to surrender their homeland to the forces of a foreign power."

Huh? Which people who refuse to surrender to a foreign power?

Afghanistan has had U.N. monitored elections since about 2004 or 2005.

Most Afghans (68%, as a matter of fact) support the U.S. side of the war. Most Afghans supported increasing troops a couple years ago. I think it's a pretty safe bet that most of them want those detainees to stay locked up.

Hugo Chavez, on the other hand, is a firm ally of Iran, which is backing the insurgents. Those insurgents aren't merely attacking Americans or other NATO troops. They're attacking innocent Afghan civilians as well. Is there a chance that Chavez, or any of his supporters, oppose torture regardless of who's doing it? That's a really tough case to make.

Ian said...

THe legal definition of torture in US law is treatment likely to result in permanent injury or death.

Post 9-11 there have been a dozen or more instances of people dying during "enhaned interrogation" and dozens more of peoplr dying very shortly therafter.

Sounds like torure to me.

Hypnos said...

Afghan elections? Really?

Quite impressive of the Taliban to be able to constantly outsmart 130,000 NATO soldiers with no popular support.

David Brin said...

VARIOUS REPLIES FROM BRIN:


Ian... the "way" is to admit that the limited liability corporation is a flawed concept. Depositors in failed banks (and that includes the taxpayers who bail the banks out) should have access to all the property of the insane "genius" managers who treated the banks like gambling-opium dens.

Lorraine "I'm agnostic on the question of whether gay and lesbian sexual orientation are due to nature, nurture, or even choice. If it's a choice, it's a harmless, certainly victimless choice."

I agree, as a matter of state policy. But you are leaving out interpersonal politics, in which the aggrieved party is the parents being deprived grandchildren. The "all in the genes" stance is aimed largely at them, as a way to end arguments and attempts at suasion or "treatment."

Actually, I think this "all nature" approach has done more good than harm, allowing many families to move on and come to terms very quickly, ending what would have been an endless grind of arguments. I totally get the reason for it all. Nevertheless, at a purely logical level, it is hypocritical and unscientific. There is probably a substantial minority of gays who might have been "on the fence" in some way and who might have had some degree of self-conditioning within reach, who were talked into all-or-nothing self-ID when (for that minority) some shift was within reach.

"Oh, wait, that's David. I'd better find out what exactly he means by "male sexual aberration." Must be something truly atrocious?"

Aw gee wiz. You know I wasn't talking about homosexuality in that para. Man, what a bad bit of timing. You know I was talking there about child buggery and rape.

I have the honor to know the great biologist/ethologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (UC Davis) the author of The Woman Than Never Evolved and other great tomes on the overlap between evolution and society. She is without a doubt a progressive feminist who LEANS toward the flexible adaptability of humanity... but stops short of it being dogma. She is too scientific for that, and in her books defends the notion that our evolutionary past must be included in our deliberations over how to move forward.

ReCrichton... he spent his last 20 years wandering about (between films and alarmist, political novels) railing against science.

locumranch said...

I've spent the last few years as the 'science guy' involved in a futile endeavour, trying to explain the difference between 'physics' and 'metaphysics' to a bunch of philosophers and magical thinkers, but I don't think my efforts were completely wasted. I now believe that the prevalence of 'magical thinking' comes from poor grammar, equivocation, logical fallacy and the misapplication of language.

The truth is that the scientist has been trained to think differently from the non-scientist. While non-scientific language is incredibly flexible and forgiving, the STEM disciplines impose a rather inflexible grammar on our thoughts. The non-scientist is free to make unsubstantiated claims, argue in circles and beg his questions, but the scientist cannot. This places the scientist at a distinct rhetorical disadvantage.

One might expect this language inequality to sort itself out assuming that the purpose of dialogue is to find the 'truth', but this does not happen because dialogue and rhetoric does not concern itself with truth. Instead, a dialogue is a win or lose competition designed to persuade, influence or please a largely uneducated audience.

Now, you can google to brush up all manner of illogical argument, but the time-honoured way to 'win' a rhetorical argument is to tell the audience exactly what they want to hear and ignore any contradictory evidence. Philosophy prefers this approach, calling it 'a priori' inquiry, defining this term as "knowledge requiring no evidence for its validation or support," often associated with deductive reasoning.

As a rhetorical strategy, the 'a priori' approach is very effective. Make any absurd argument you choose, defend it with a quote from an obscure authoritative text (or not), and then dismiss any material evidence to the contrary. I say that 'matter is an illusion'; you reply with a pile of physical chemistry textbooks; and I reply that those textbooks are also illusion. Game, set, match. You lose.

You lose because, according to my 'a priori' rules, you can't win. You can't win because I possess the most successful and compelling rhetorical strategy known to man. Just forget for the moment that my strategy -- the 'a priori' approach-- is also clinically insane.

Lorraine:

You joke about needing a 'STEM' cell transplant, but that's only the tip off the iceberg. Many US adults are functionally illiterate.

My little girl (age 10) picked up a best-selling Tony Hillerman murder mystery, read it for public school 'AR credit', only to be told that it was rated at the 5th grade level. True story, btw.

I should add that I like Hillerman's writing style because it evokes a nice southwestern sense of place, regardless of intellect.

Best,
Matt

David Brin said...

Thing about Crichton is... ALWAYS after the requisite number of fatalities has proved "man should never have gone there!!!!" thereupon by deus ex machina everything gets put back the way it was. Nothing ever changes, humanity learns nothing, no social changes occur. The cat always goes back into the bag.

I like RandyB... he seems willing grudgingly to notice changes necessary in the details... while obstinately clinging to the NEXT excuse to hold onto his dogma.

Keystone is an example of NOTHING, Randy. It is being rammed down our throats without proper study, passing directly over the Ogallala Aquifer and there are other routes that don't. Meanwhile, Obama gets no credit for fostering new kinds of drilling that have passed scientific muster. The US's energy dependence on foreign petro princes is going DOWN for the first time in 40 years. But notice? You guys never will.

"Yes, they oversold the ownership society, but the Republicans didn't have total control. Bush did try to put a damper on Fannie and Freddie. The Dems (and a few Reps along with them) were never going to let that happen."

COmplete malarkey. Fig leaves and gestures. I remind you. The GOP had ABSOLUTE control over all three branches of government, including the courts, for SIX YEARS! Any complaint about regulation, any at all, any at any level, boils down to the fact that the laziest congress in 80 years didn't do squat except spread our legs open for the financial parasite-predators.

Re Guantanamo... sure, Obama didn't close it. But the average democrat WANTS to! While the average gopper wants to torture every rag head he can find... except the princes who co-own Fox. If you want us to move away from that shit, join the other who want to move away from that shit.

BCRion said...

With regards to the irrational left or Dr. Brin's "leftists", this is quite on display with the tensions between the New Mexico communities of Los Alamos and Santa Fe. I suspect most are familiar with the former, being the cite of a national security science and nuclear weapons laboratory. The latter, for those who do not know, is known for its far left bent and "new age" culture.

Many Santa Feans are very anti-Los Alamos, and being against nuclear weapons is something that is understandable. There are also a large contingent of "leftists", where in addition to being anti-nuclear weapons, they believe counterfactual things such as claim that there are widespread cancers from radiation from Los Alamos or that a large nuclear explosion from there is inevitable. Both of these fly in the face of all evidence to the contrary, but yet people vehemently believe them, and I've found there is little point in trying to debate. In one heated discussion, the person even conceded my points somewhat, but then stated "Los Alamos is a stain on history, and for that reason it needs to be closed immediately." At which point, the discussion was over.

Most of this I suspect arises from the natural tendency to believe anything that conforms to our political beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. I'm fine with people being against the nuclear weapons work at Los Alamos, but when they justify their arguments with ridiculous claims about widespread radiation-related deaths or resort to completely moralistic arguments about "stains on history" or "negative spiritual energy", it seems clear to me they are not interested in finding a pragmatic middle ground where we can agree to disagree on some points, but compromise.

David Brin said...

BCRion I must confess that when I am around folks like those radical lefties you describe, I do enjoy poking at em! It is so easy to demonstrate that, by the normal cycles of history, there would have been a conventional WWIII some time in the 1970s and half my generation would have died in it. We all owe our lives to Saint Bomb.

Lorraine and others, note my replies to you, above.

David Brin said...

Yipe. While we are wallowing in versions of leftie mania, try this one on for size! Even I won't go this far!

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/07/1072084/-The-Healthy-Super-Wealthy:-Traveling-First-Class-as-a-Bag-of-Body-Parts

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/03/07/
1072084/-The-Healthy-Super-Wealthy:-
Traveling-First-Class-as-a-Bag-of-Body-Parts

RandyB said...

David,

Keystone is just one item. But I could give him a break on that one if that's all it was.

Much of that new drilling is not on federal land. President Obama probably couldn't stop it if he tried.

Democrats had close to a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for Obama's first two years, and I wouldn't say Obama had absolute control. The GOP never had that during Bush's two terms.


"Re Guantanamo... sure, Obama didn't close it. But the average democrat WANTS to!"

Nope, they don't. I think I already produced a poll that says a slim majority of Democrats supports Guantanamo. Here it is again: "53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats."

There hasn't been any rough treatment at Guantanamo since January 2003.

RandyB said...

Ian,

I think you're mixing up two different things.

The CIA only had about 100 prisoners in the black sites. Only about 1/3rd were eligible for any enhanced interrogation. Only one of them died. He got hypothermia. The CIA did an investigation and revised their procedures.

Another CIA prisoner died in a stress position probably complicated by injuries received when captured. In any case, he wasn't part of the normal enhanced interrogation program.

The larger numbers you're talking about are probably those who've been roughed up in military custody. In a few cases it may have been unavoidable, given that the guards were dealing with violent savages. There were probably a few who died from wounds inflicted in battle.

I think most of rest are the ones who'd been subjected to pressure point techniques. These were not authorized by the Army. The guards were taught this by other guards who were cops in civilian life, and didn't know they weren't supposed to use them under Army regulations.

Moral of the story: Don't ever fight with cops.

RandyB said...

Hypnos,

I gave you a link to a BBC poll.

If that's not good enough for you, you can just remember the stadiums used for executions, the women executed there, and the mosques burned to the ground with women and children inside because they didn't support the Taliban. I think the results of that BBC poll are probably closer than whatever you're using.

infanttyrone said...

I like RandyB... he seems willing grudgingly to notice changes necessary in the details... while obstinately clinging to the NEXT excuse to hold onto his dogma.

There are plenty of 3 card Monte clips on Youtube, but the
back & forth action reminded me more of this classic...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LBIsDBC848

Paul451 said...

RandyB said, re: not-torture,
"like a single slap in the face, or playing music that annoys them"

Which I think explains everything.

We can't really debate the issue with someone who thinks "enhanced interrogation" is "like a single slap in the face, or playing music that annoys them".

RandyB said...

Paul,

Read that entire section of my message again. I never said they were alike. I'm checking where people think the limits should be.

I said to gmknobl: "You said it's always wrong but you didn't elaborate." I wanted to know exactly where he stood.

A single slap in the face is one of the items in the enhanced interrogation methods. I might now infer that you support some of the methods but not others.

The music isn't one of them but it was being used at Guantanamo. There are a lot of musicians, like Rage Against the Machine, who went bonkers when they found out that their music was being used this way.

You may think it's okay that some rough techniques are okay. I'd think that most people probably do, including many of those who oppose waterboarding. But not everyone feels that way.

Some might want all prisoners to get the same privileges that someone who qualifies for POW status would merit. Obviously, Rage Against the Machine sets a very high bar -- for the U.S., at least.

David Brin said...

RandyB: "Democrats had close to a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for Obama's first two years, and I wouldn't say Obama had absolute control. The GOP never had that during Bush's two terms."

Geez Randy is there no limit to your supply of rationalizations? That is such malarkey! Bush got everything from Congress he actively pursued, and you know it. The dems were pushovers. They threatened filibusters maybe a dozen times, total, during those years, while the GOP since 2008 has filibustered absolutely everything, top to bottom, minor or major. In the last three years their filibuster obstructions have surpassed the entire history of the United States.

Their take-no-prisoners utter party discipline is diametrically opposite to the dems chaotic individualism and lack of discipline.

And no the dems have not controlled anywhere near as many levers of power. The Supreme Court has been securely republican controlled for 20 years. It flat out crammed George W Bush down our throats, even though he lost the election in every conceivable way... leading to the US going off a cliff.

Paul451 said...

RandyB,

I was pointing out how bizarre it is that you apparently think the method used actually is "a single slap in the face, or playing music that annoys them".

In your mind, how does that work? You're a terrorist mastermind, someone slaps you across the face, just once, and you suddenly confess and name all your confederates? Or "Oh no, they're playing music I don't really like, I suddenly feel like confessing." How exactly do you think that would work?

The purpose is to psychologically break you. And it doesn't matter what the method is, if it works it breaks you, it causes enough psychologically damage to make you betray your closest allies and friends to your most hated enemy. If it was harmless, it wouldn't fucking work.

But it's more than that. You want to pretend that we can set up a few techniques you consider acceptable, and that is the only thing that will be done to the prisoners. It's not. We know from psychological research, going back to Stanford Prison Experiment, that they will vastly exceed those rules. Abu ghraib wasn't an exception to the rule, it was an example of the effect in action. You cannot design a system where one set of harsh treatments of prisoners is officially allowed, encouraged and rewarded, and not have abuses. It is psychologically impossible. And this doesn't just harm the prisoners, it psychologically damages the guards and interrogators.

And it's more than that. You also want to pretend that the methods produce reliable information. That the choice is between allowing some form of I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Torture, or face "the next 9/11". But that's a false dichotomy. Torture, or any method that "breaks" prisoners, does not make the prisoners tell the truth, it makes them tell you whatever you want them to, whether it's true or not. Whether it's "confessing", "naming" confederates, or describing "attacks".

That's why I object to it. Apologists pretend it's harmless (if it was harmless, it wouldn't work!) Guards and interrogators will always commit abuses. And the confessions have all the value of a coin-toss. It'd be bad enough if the people being held at Gitmo, and other off-shore detention centres, were actually "enemy combatants", but we know that many of them haven't been. So a large number of completely innocent people have been subject to these methods and abuses.

Paul451 said...

A beta-blocker, propranolol, has been found in a small British study to prevent subconscious racism.

A pill that stops racism.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9129029/Blood-pressure-drug-reduces-in-built-racism.html

And macro-photography of the inside of musical instruments. Surprisingly pretty. A mix vacant upmarket studio apartments, and some steam-punk plumbing.

http://www.behance.net/gallery/ART-DIRECTION-INSTRUMENTS-FROM-INSIDE/340016

I make that violin, guitar, flute, cello, and pipe-organ twice.

Paul451 said...

No, make that: cello, guitar, flute, violin, and pipe-organ.

Also, "A mix" of "vacant upmarket studio apartments"...

(oventru duamide: Double dutch-oven percussion.)

Hypnos said...

C'mon Randy. Sharia is still the law of the land. The fanatics in the Afghan parliament are the same that were there with the Taliban and share the same views. They've only curbed some visible excesses to please the American puppet masters, but the substance is the same.

If you want to argue women rights then the Soviets were much more effective. Obviously things went back to normal as soon as the Soviet-backed government fell a few years after Soviet retreat, same as it will happen in 2015-2016 when the Americans go home and the Taliban or some other warlord group returns to power.

Hey, at least in Afghanistan you can't say you have made things worse the way you did in Iraq! And you also were more light touch than the Soviets were with bombs, which might be the reason it took slightly longer to defeat you.

Chris Mooney said...

I wanted to thank you for thoughtful commentary on all of my books. So, here's the thing.

Nature/nurture: My new book, the Republican Brain (republicanbrain.com), is *about* nature. And yet, I am a liberal. But far from ignoring human nature, I am putting it front and center. I am talking about how the left and right differ psychologically, even physiologically, and how this is rooted in deeper and, probably, evolved things about human beings.

Second, nuclear power: In the book, as you'll see, I make a strong case that this is no worthy left-wing parallel to climate change denial on the right. I don't think there is *any worthy parallel.*

Thanks again for thoughtful commentary.

LarryHart said...

RandyB:

Keystone is just one item. But I could give him a break on that one if that's all it was.


My understanding is that the current state of supply and demand would have gas prices quite low. The reason they are so high is not because supplies (drilling) is limited, but because the oil companies are exporting the surplus refined gasoline.

The Keystone pipeline, whose entire purpose is to pipe Canadian oil down to Gulf of Mexico refineries, is to produce more gasoline for EXPORT, not to meet US demand.

In other words, it won't help. It's a big environmental risk (and terrorist target) for the United States citizenry, with the benefits going entirely to foreign, transnational oil companies.


Democrats had close to a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate for Obama's first two years, and I wouldn't say Obama had absolute control. The GOP never had that during Bush's two terms.


The GOP didn't need a filibuster-proof majority. The Dems only filibustered a few items. It's the Republicans who have turned "60 vote majority" into a requirement for passing the most routine of bills.

And an "almost-filibuster-proof" majority didn't help. Remember, even when the Dems supposedly had 60 Senators, that included Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson, neither of whom was a sure bet.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Torture, or any method that "breaks" prisoners, does not make the prisoners tell the truth, it makes them tell you whatever you want them to, whether it's true or not. Whether it's "confessing", "naming" confederates, or describing "attacks".


That's why it's a really bad idea, even if one doesn't care about the humanitarian aspect of the argument.

Torture is an unreliable source of truthful information. The man in the street who supports torture seems to do so because he enjoys bullying the enemy--and then immediately applies that to those only SUSPECTED of being the enemy. But the reason those in power use torture is not to extract reliable information, but to force FALSE confessions in order to justify their own desired actions. In other words, it's less about "preventing another 9/11" than about "implicating Iraq in 9/11".

Jumper said...

I thought I would share David Byrne's excellent website. He writes quite well although not prolifically.
http://journal.davidbyrne.com/

Alex Tolley said...

Unfortunately this is another example of American parochialism. The ignoring of science is just a US issue, it is happening in the UK too. Both labor and Conservative governments ("left/centrist" and right) have gone down this route.

On a wider stage, I would also invoke the rise of radical Islam as an anti-science position.

We need a better explanation than US politics to explain this phenomenon. US details are at best a local explanation and certainly help to elucidate the details of what is happening in the US. But make no mistake, this is a phenomenon not confined to the US and the Age of Enlightenment won't end with the US.

David Brin said...

Honored and pleased that Chris Mooney dropped by to drop in a commentary. And for the record I think he is one of the great paladins for our Enlightenment and for our scientific pax, against those who would impose a new dark age.

Alas, he must have skimmed my posting, because, while I agree with his response, it appears to miss my point.

Sure, liberals appear to be more openminded than conservatives, as a matter of basic personality. That is proved repeatedly and indeed, thoughtful conservative (those few who remain) are right in their jocular critique that liberals are often scatterbrained and inconsistent, as a result. But those are not harmful traits.

And yes, the liberals polled in studied show a willingness to adapt to evidence and expert information, as shown by their shifts re nuclear energy.

But Chris evades two observations that I raised:

1) That liberals have their own wing of crazies who might be called dogmatic "leftists." These are not a millionth as dangerous - right now(!) - as the loony right. But they do exist and they exhibit all of the stubbornly dogmatic traits that Mooney ascribed to the right.

2) Nuclear power is not as strong a test case as the "nature vs nurture" debate. Leftists and even liberals tend to be far more resistant to new information in this topic than they are re nuclear power. In many cases they are unable to perceive the ironic hypocrisy of their standard cant -insisting that humans are absolutely free of nature-dictated proclivities... except regarding homosexuality, when the utter-diametrically opposite position (conveniently) holds.

This is a direct counter example that softens, somewhat, the perfection of Chris's overall point. (A point that seems proved, in the more general sense.)

The valid point that the conservative personality is dangerously prone to subjective triumph of the will over logic or evidence.

==

Will someone please tell Chris at his site what I just said here?

Tacitus2 said...

Offering a bit of contrary perspective....but picking my words with care. It is just too early to "go to the mattresses" for the November election!

Distrust of some science is being misconstrued in my opinion. I do not see Know Nothings of either side questioning Newtons (or Asimov's!) Laws, nor have I seen anyone say that uber cool outreach like DARPA is not money well spent.

What we get is a rehash of mostly nonsense (where do they find these folks who say Jesus rode a dinosaur?). Or oversimplification. I happen to be of the opinion that if God wants to subcontract with Darwin that it does not lessen my faith in either.

And, and this is to the point, we have suspicion of large complex systems with science or parascience as their underpinnings.

Why? Well I will step carefully and slowly.

1. Is there any serious argument that science is showing us more complicated pictures? A century ago the limits of what was known were still comprehensible to the average educated citizen. Now I suspect they are not.

2. Many feel that the ethics of our institutions are not as solid as they once were. In the comments above a convincing case is made that if there were "inconvenient facts" that disproved global warming then they would be made public. Point taken. But the distrust of large institutional knowlege is pervasive. Do you believe that "medical news" is not tainted by self serving pharmaceutical companies and physicians? (you should btw).

3. There is an instinctive feeling that major parts are being left out. I would still like to see a plausible strategy for dealing with global warming. It has to have realistic ways that global buttheads like Russia are persuaded. It has to hit hardest at the most flagrant offenders. This is the US by energy consumed, but the third world is where the low hanging fruit (burning wood for charcoal, coal fired factories without pollution control, cars ditto) is to be found. How will you do this in a way that Bangladesh will go along? And the cost....always the cost. Recent madcap forays such as Solyandra and the California fast rail project confirm that the Devil is in the details.

And political cronyism seems a recurring theme in such ventures. People feel they are likely gonna get taken to the cleaners while the 1% profit.

I seem to have run on at length...I will post in a second segment an example. Oh, its more on economic theory denialism but the thought process is similar...

Tacitus
who by the way does believe humans are making the world warmer...

Tacitus2 said...

It is nice that we are seeing some improving economic news. I hope it is the real deal. But....

A tense moment in the ER. A distinguished local citizen, we'll call him Sam, has been brought in. He has tire tracks across his abdomen and is in some pain. But thus far he is ok. Well....it does look as if the heart rate is going up a little.

The catch is that the Board of Trustees is coming by in an hour regards credentialling of ER staff. This might influence the decisions made...

Dr. Bush says "gosh dern it, I don't exactly know what is wrong. But Sam is hurtin'. I'll just give him some morphine and pray. I have confidence in Sam".

Morphine and prayer do make Sam feel better, but he crashes an hour later.

Dr. Krugman says "We need blood. Lots and lots of blood. Start four IV lines. Since the blood bank was unwisely depleted we need to take two units from everyone in the house with a hemoglobin of 14 and up. Check that, 12 and up. But not my staff or my family. We brain workers need to stay sharp."

Blood helps. Sam crashes in four hours.

If I were Dr. Obama I could equivocate a bit. "Sure things are bad, it all happened before he got to my ER. Now, the committee is going to be looking at heart rate and blood pressure. So I will give him IV metoprolol to slow the first and IV dopamine to raise the second. We will hide the urine bag behind some drapes so that it is not noticed that there is no urine output. And we will cycle the dynamap to only read every half hour once we have a good reading. And put a warming blanket on so he does not look so pale and sweaty."

Sam crashes right after the committee comes through and congratulates Dr. Obama on his fine numbers.

Of course Dr. Ryan would say "Damn it the patient is bleeding internally! Sure he needs blood, slam in as much as you can on the way to the OR. I know the family is skeptical but I repeat, the patient is bleeding internally!"

Complex systems. Games that make us look good short term. It is not sufficient that the patient got injured outside your ER or that his death occurs on the next shift.

Tacitus

guthrie said...

Stupid blogger just ate my comment after I tried to sign in. Can someone give them a kick for me for being so consistently pathetic over so many years?

I shall have to re-write my post, and naturally the eaten one will be lacking in wit and erudition compared to the finely crafted jewel I wrote before.

locumranch typed:

"The truth is that the scientist has been trained to think differently from the non-scientist. While non-scientific language is incredibly flexible and forgiving, the STEM disciplines impose a rather inflexible grammar on our thoughts. The non-scientist is free to make unsubstantiated claims, argue in circles and beg his questions, but the scientist cannot. This places the scientist at a distinct rhetorical disadvantage."

The scientist ultimately grounds their thougths in a common, observable reality with evidence, and is imprisoned by it. I wrote more but have forgotten it.

People, especially anti-scientists, don't realise how much science is built upon previous work. If it should happen that CO2 was not a greenhouse gas, as the more excitable contrarians insinuate, it would blow a huge hole in known physics, and would surely lead to the undoing of many experiments which amazingly managed to work on the assumption that CO2 intercepted specific wavelenghts of IR radiation. Of course people built further on these experiments and they all worked again, so ultimately a scientific consensus arises out of repeated comparisons with reality at as many levels as possible and of people making good use of previous scientific results to get their own good results.

David Brin said...

Alex T... thanks for intermittently reminding us (as do Tony and some others) that the world is not the US... but still, expect us to act that way till after November. Ideally, then, we'll be less troglodytic.

Tacitus, you raise issues that merit direct appraisal in the spirit that they were offered. And, if that were the way we saw them being presented, we'd have genuine discussion. You know me. If things were less in a state of all out war, I'd be going contrary on everybody, in all directions. And yes, there is some establishment thinking, in science. I am willing to shine transparency on it and to encourage those "young guns."

Alas, we ARE at war. You do not represent the mainstream of conservatism nor even a significant, listened-to dissenting minority. I hope that someday you will.

Your allegory about the economy is worth pondering... but seriously, is it likely to apply?

AMericans have spent four years de-leveraging and working their way out of liquidity crises, debt and failed confidence. Government action made the depths of the crisis shallow... saving GM & Chrysler and 3 million mortgages helped to make it seem like a very long and bad recession, instead of the genuine depression that it truly was...

...but to a larger extent this has not been about government. It has been about Americans restoring what had been frittered and set afire by a predatory raid throughout the early nineties. Now the banks are flush and they are getting over their skittish reluctance to lend. People are starting businesses again, like in normal times. American exporters are selling overseas.

Exactly what is it that we see here that is NOT consistent with the normal, dynamic, American economy and citizenry starting to behave normally again?


PS... When we're being repaid all the money by Chrysler, GM... and now even AIG (!!!)... exactly what seems so awful about Obama's part of the stimulus? Sure, the earlier TARP bought up a lot of the failed bets of Bush's friends...

...but is the lesson that we should HIRE THOSE GUYS BACK???????

David Brin said...

Hypnos, you carry your point re sharia in Afgh WAY too far. Sure, there is an extent to which even the Uzbeks and Tadjiks are conservative Muslims. Girls go to school in modern Afgh and music is now allowed and enjoyed. But there ain't no miniskirts and discos.

Sure, officially women had it better under the soviets. But that rule was a calamity. Even if it had been well-intended, (it wasn't), it was brutally pushy, culturally insensitive and dogmatic in its own way. By contrast, the US is seen as an unpleasant temporary necessity by those who do not want to be pushed around by the Pashtuns, with their insane overly fanatical version of sharia.

The ideal solution? Shave off a third of the country, call it Pashtunistan and let the Pashtuns turn their attention to then "liberating" their comrades in Pakistan. The rest of Afgh could then join the countries of the mostly turkic region north of them in a trade federation, guided by the soft diplomacy of Turkey.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I do concur with the learned Dr. Tacitus' :) assessment of how many laypeople regard science. To guthrie's comment, I can only add "Scientific progress is made by standing on the shoulders of giants."

I might add one more layer to Tacitus' comment on how 'Sam' is being treated:

Shortly after Sam is brought into the ER, a nattily dressed man arrives who proffers a card from the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe. He claims to be representing Sam's best interests, but follows Sam around as he is being prepped for treatment and gets in the way, pocketing anything he thinks will not be missed. If anyone calls him on his filching, he blusters and threatens lawsuits, but when someone brings up payment for Sam's treatment, mysteriously vanishes.

The patient is not quite moribund yet, but needs appropriate treatment, stat. I wish I knew definitively what it was.

TheMadLibrarian

tateru asvat: potato testing barrage

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

1. Is there any serious argument that science is showing us more complicated pictures? A century ago the limits of what was known were still comprehensible to the average educated citizen. Now I suspect they are not.

2. Many feel that the ethics of our institutions are not as solid as they once were. In the comments above a convincing case is made that if there were "inconvenient facts" that disproved global warming then they would be made public. Point taken. But the distrust of large institutional knowlege is pervasive. Do you believe that "medical news" is not tainted by self serving pharmaceutical companies and physicians? (you should btw).


I'm in total agreement with both points, which don't seem to me to be strictly conservative nor to be antagonistic to the general consensus of this list's respondents.

I've recounted my own experience in 100-level physics, going from mechanics (infinitely comprehensible and intuitive) through electromechanics (less intuitive, but comprehensible nonetheless if one can do math) to quantum mechanics (incomprehensible, becoming memorization and "faith" in the numbers and equations). While everybody probably has their own separate thresholds, I suspect that every individual HAS such thresholds beyond which personal understanding gives way to faith or trust in authorities who know better.

And once those authorities give you reason to doubt their sincerity, it's hard to get back to a point of trust.

As to your ER example, the two I'd take issue with are Dr Krugman and Dr Ryan.

I see no indication in any of Paul Krugman's writing that he'd exempt himself from being part of any solution--for instance, he's not claiming the Bush Tax Cuts need to be extended to NYT columnists and economists.

And I disagree with you that poor beleagured Paul Ryan is the one making the unpopular-but-correct disgnosis. No, there's a Depression going on, and he's diagnosing the problem as being too much spending. Metaphorically, if the patient is bleeding internally, Dr Ryan is prescribing a course of medieval bleeding. And the weaker the patient becomes, the more he claims the bleeding should increase.

RandyB said...

David,

It's not simply that there weren't enough Republicans. There was never any chance that there would be enough principled Republicans. Just look at Santorum explaining his vote on No Child Left Behind.

Laugh if you like but Democrats have the same problem.

As for having the Court, Justices Souter and Kennedy may have been nominated by Republicans, but they hadn't exactly been the GOP's favorites. Souter didn't even retire during a Republican administration. He let President Obama choose his replacement.

RandyB said...

Paul,

That's not the way it worked. As Marc Thiessen writes:

"...enhanced techniques were not used to gain intelligence but to elicit cooperation. Former CIA director Mike Hayden told me that as enhanced techniques were applied (and they were not needed for two-thirds of the detainees in CIA custody), CIA interrogators would ask detainees questions to which the interrogators already knew the answers - allowing them to judge whether the detainees had reached a level of compliance. “They are designed to create a state of cooperation, not to get specific truthful answers to a specific question,” Hayden said.

"Once interrogators determined a terrorist had become cooperative, the techniques stopped and traditional, non-coercive methods of questioning were used." (http://wapo.st/lCEj6V)

You need to remember that they were dealing with prisoners who wouldn't talk at all. They needed a way to get them to converse.

Another problem with the argument about flawed information is that you'll need to rework your rationale when we develop better lie-detection technology.

The danger of brutalizing interrogators may be real but it's not what happened at Abu Ghraib. At the CIA, they sent interrogators home when they broke the rules.

I'm not aware of a single one of the "large number of completely innocent people have been subject to these methods and abuses." Guantanamo, maybe, but not the CIA's enhanced interrogation. Khalid El-Masri comes close because he was not who the CIA thought he was. But he only claims to have been beaten (the CIA had a scary method of roughing them up that seems more violent than it is). Unless he got the slap in the face, I've never heard that he'd been subject to enhanced interrogation. The extent to his "innocence" is another story.

RandyB said...

Larry,

Keystone may not appreciably bring down gas prices but the income would make people better able to afford it. The oil is not the only benefit. It contributes to our GDP, it's there for a national emergency, and this increases the world's access to oil that's not from the middle east.

I agree that the risks are there, but that's true with everything. It's often reasonable to say that a risk not worth taking. But sooner or later, there's a record of how many risks we were unwilling to take.

On the filibuster: The GOP knew their limitations. They're not going to play a filibuster unless it makes sense -- unless they're simply grandstanding.

Yes, Dems had Joe Lieberman (who's actually pretty liberal) and Ben Nelson. The GOP had Snowe, Collins, and Chafee. Both sides have the problem of getting a majority.


"That's why it's a really bad idea, even if one doesn't care about the humanitarian aspect of the argument."

Not to get into yet another can of worms, but I disagree that rough interrogation is necessarily the less humanitarian.

One way or another, our enemies need to be encouraged to respect the laws of war. Combatants who qualify for prisoner-of-war status aren't supposed to be treated roughly. Giving them the same treatment (actually, better treatment) is just one more reason why they see it's okay for them to fight without any moral restraint.

infanttyrone said...

To: RandyB

I said to gmknobl: "You said it's always wrong but you didn't elaborate." I wanted to know exactly where he stood.

I am very new here, so maybe you have some previous experience with gmknobl such that you have difficulty taking him/her at their word.

Or perhaps rhetorical conventions have evolved since my one rigorous year at a Jesuit high school many decades ago.

Back in the day, when someone said "It's always wrong", the old- school interpretation was that they meant that it is always wrong.

In real life, even Jack Bauer says that it is wrong and counter-productive. In other real life news, the head of West Point visited the set of 24 some years ago and asked them to reduce the number of torture scenes. Life imitates art sometimes, and the General probably didn't want a TV show giving adversaries any additional motivation to torture captured US forces. Plus there is a chance that for moral and/or operational reasons, he thinks it is always wrong.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi
I have been thinking about Tacitus's complaint about being called "traitors"
My first thought was that any group of public employees (the taxpayer pays their wages) that publicly announced that they were willing to destroy the economy in order to prevent the President from being re-elected would deserve that name

Then I thought further
In a Parliamentary system the "ruling party" runs the government and in the most common model if it losses an important vote (vote of confidence) the government falls and another election is held
This means that opposition politicians can do as they will - they can't de-rail the normal operation of government
unless they can win a vote of confidence

Your system is different - you don't have the vote of confidence - instead you have a system that is designed to work by co-operation

In business we would often have "disagreements" about the correct (best) way to proceed - in the teams I have been in or led these could be quite loud
At some stage we would have to make a decision - and then all of the team members would get together to make it work

You have a four yearly election for "Executive" and split elections for the legislative houses
( A recipe for total confusion if ever I saw one)

So what have the Republicans done - and said

When a minority they voted against everything - not ideal - not the way your system is meant to work -
not traitorous

Repeatably used the filibuster to prevent legislation that had majority support -
This is abuse of a safety system - a serious abuse -
if a safety system is abused it will be be removed -
marginal but not traitorous
(The Queen's signature is a similar safety system to prevent a massive abuse of power)
(probably a single use "fuse")

Said -
Publicly announced that they were willing to destroy the economy in order to prevent the President from being re-elected
Arguably a betraying the their oath of office

Signed a pledge with a third party never to raise taxes
That breaks their oath of office - definitely betraying a trust

So I would consider the republicans guilty of betraying their oath of office

It's not the same as selling state secrets to the Russians or opening the back door of a citadel so I should not call them Traitors

(Except for the ones who outed that CIA agent - they were/are traitors)

David Brin said...

RandyB said:
"Justices Souter and Kennedy may have been nominated by Republicans, but they hadn't exactly been the GOP's favorites. Souter didn't even retire during a Republican administration. He let President Obama choose his replacement."

So? They were intelligent patriots and they knew Scalia and Thomas. They knew what kind of raging maniacs a gOP president would nominate now, if they retired.

You keep coming back with these things that you think prove dems are "just as bad." But in every case so far that you have raised, the lesson was the opposite.

"On the filibuster: The GOP knew their limitations. They're not going to play a filibuster unless it makes sense -- unless they're simply grandstanding."

Geez Randy to you listen to yourself? Of course they're grandstanding! The GOP since 2008 has put on more filibusters than the entire history of the United States before that. They won't negotiate anything at all or let the slightest "normal" business be deliberated. They are insane.

Duncan said: "My first thought was that any group of public employees (the taxpayer pays their wages) that publicly announced that they were willing to destroy the economy in order to prevent the President from being re-elected would deserve that name..."

Amen, though that is the very mildest of the treasons. Inciting Culture War so that half of America considers the other half hateful, satanic and unworthy of negotiation. That's treason.

Two trillion dollar land wars of attrition in Asia.

Medicare Part B Prescription benefit without finding a dime to pay for it, while screeching about deficits? That is financial and hypocrisy treason to the tune of a trillion dollars.

Selling off our national petroleum and helium reserves and ending our ability to refine rare earth metals?

The war on science. But above all, sucking up to the very same family whose third cousin sent four hijacked planes on suicide dives into America. You betcha, there's a word for that.

David Brin said...

Announcement. A much revised version of this science posting has now appeared as a featured headliner on Science 2.0

http://www.science20.com/

Drop by and click and boost my numbers!

rewinn said...

@RandyB

You keep saying things about the law that are simply false.:

"Rendition preceded the Bush administration..."

This is misleading. Bush's unconstitutional innovation was EXTRAJUDICIAL rendition. Nations render prisoners to each other all the time, but to be legal, it has to be subject to judicial oversight.

The Bush administration's extrajudicial rendition is Big Government kidnapping people the Leader doesn't like. How could a "conservative" approve of that? Federal judges give GREAT deference to executive judgement, but our constitution absolutely requires judicial oversight.

"Giving habeas rights to overseas wartime detainees is brand new"

Again you misstate the legal issue. No prior administration had such contempt for the rule of law as to seek to abuse prisoners under color of law. Prisoners were not subject to Habeas because they were not subject to criminal punishment (... with one exception: POWs who commit crimes *are* subject to criminal process and GUESS WHAT: they then get the protections of the criminal justice system with respect to those prosecutions.)(The tiger cages of Vietnam, while shameful and too often fatal, concerned admitted POWs; not even Nixon called the guerillas non-POWs to be tortured at will )

Under the rule of law, in time of war, all prisoners are either POWs or criminals (sometimes both). There is no third category beyond the reach of law; "unlawful combatant" is a phrase invented to justify criminal actions against POWs. It is incredibly shameful for Americans to ignore the 8th Amendment and our other proud traditions in a sadistic and fearful lust to hurt people and/or make them cough up whatever phony confessions satisfies the political needs of the Leader.

And don't think the qualification "overseas" went unnoticed. The 8th Amendment is a fundamental limitation on the power of Government; who it is you wish to abuse is irrelevant - the Government simply can not do it!

"I say I support "something less than torture" and you say that that must include torture. The phrase "something less than" is simple grade-school arithmetic."

No, it's not arithmetic. It is the justification that torture-lovers give - "It's not torture, it's just a small beating".

Torture is easily defined in law: any application of pain to a prisoner for purposes other than maintaining security (prisoners stay in and guards stay safe).
ANY application of pain (whether physical or mental); ANY application of pain at all!

It is true that the sadist civilians who ordered these torture, whined that it was not torture. They invented limits, such as the risk of permanent damage (... an absurd definition, since it means electric shocks are not torture...).

Sadists and criminals protest their innocence as a matter of course, and are not to be believed.

(Can you imagine Barry Goldwater or Ike Eisenhower torturing anyone?)

George Washington well understood the issue. If he had lost his war, he would have been executed, and not in a nice way. Yet he ordered, to his glory and that of all real Americans: "Should any American soldier be so base and infamous as to injure any [prisoner]. . . I do most earnestly enjoin you to bring him to such severe and exemplary punishment as the enormity of the crime may require. Should it extend to death itself, it will not be disproportional to its guilt at such a time and in such a cause, for by such conduct they bring shame, disgrace and ruin to themselves and their country."

Tony Fisk said...

Keystone may not appreciably bring down gas prices but the income would make people better able to afford it.

What income would that be? Who receives it?

rewinn said...

I had to snicker at the description of left-wing anti-scientistism, because it reminded me that, as a sophomore in college, I literally (not figuratively) sneered at sociobiology on the grounds that it was OBVIOUSLY merely a justification of fascist political wickedness. This made sense to me at the time; I can still remember the lovely purity of my belief, utterly untarnished by anything so complex as having actually READ a book on the subject! I didn't need to know more about it because I already knew enough.

(...demonstrating, perhaps, why "sophomoric" may be named after sophomores!)

I would like to be able to figure out the process by which I relaxed somewhat and started letting science occasionally overwhelm my political prejudices, but I don't recall a bright line. It may not have been further learning about how science worked, beyond the basics, so much as acquiring more experience, meeting more people, and growing less worried about changing my mind. (For example, last year I changed my decades-long opposition to nuclear fission on the basis of Dr. Hanson's argument that it's still very dangerous but global warming is worse ... this may or may not have been a wise change, but the point is, it was not at all distressing. And if someone came up with a different set of numbers, maybe I'd change back!)

Perhaps it is not enough to teach the scientific method; perhaps we also need to practice getting over the fear of changing our mind. We could start small: learn to love the Yankees or the Cubs! Then build up to harder things to change our minds on: Disco! The works of Piers Anthony! Then tackle the biggies: Evolution! Global Warming! The Singularity!

Paul451 said...

Tacitus2,
"Dr. Krugman says [...] But not my staff or my family."

That was an odd comment. I've seen nothing to suggest Krugman exempts himself from his solutions to the liquidity crisis. Likewise...

"Dr. Ryan would say [...] Sure he needs blood, slam in as much as you can on the way to the OR."

Assuming you're being consistent with the metaphor of stimulus as blood transfusions, Paul Ryan wanted a 5 year spending freeze. So metaphorically, he banned all transfusions from his operating room. He also not only wanted to lock in the Bush tax cuts, but cut the top and corporate rates by another 10%, so metaphorically, after banning transfusions, he opened a vein.

(And for Dr. Obama, I didn't understand the part between... "Dr. Obama" and "pale and sweaty.")

Guthrie,
Re: Blogger's erratic appetite.

If you're using Firefox, download the Quickfox Notes extension. Then in tools/options/status-bar-icons, select "Open in tab". Leave it open next to your Contrary Brin tab. Compose your response in QFN, then cut and paste to the blogger box. I find it works better than cut'n'pasting to notepad or some other external program.

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/quickfox-notes/

(My favourite part, is that you can close the tab and it keeps the contents. You don't have to remember to save anything.)

Rewinn,
"And if someone came up with a different set of numbers, maybe I'd change back!"

You flip-flopper you. Don't expect my vote.

Paul451 said...

RandyB,
You claimed (for some reason) that I "must" accept that some level of torture is necessary. I gave you a cluster of overlapping reasons why I don't. You cherry-picked a couple, but missed the point. Not only do I not accept torture, under whatever name it's practitioners use. The "cure" is worse than the disease.

As for the examples you cherry-picked: You quoted Thiessen claiming that the CIA only used "enhanced interrogation" to get "confirmation" of information already known. However, it's extremely difficult for interrogators not to lead the subject, quite unconsciously. It's just human nature, you know what you want to hear, you push until you get it. And since the "enhanced interrogation" is intended to psychologically break the prisoner, the prisoner will supply whatever information they think the interrogator wants, whether it's true or not; whatever stops the torture. It still tells you nothing about the quality of the information that follows.

Nor does it address the fundamental point that these methods are intended to cause so much psychological damage that they cause the prisoner to betray his own loyalties to his most hated enemy.

Likewise, you continue with the "single slap" crap. And again I ask, in you imagination how does that work? If something is a mild as you keep trying to imply, how would it make someone betray their cause? Would "a single slap in the face" make you betray your country? Do you not see the stupidity in that argument. You can't claim it's effective and harmless. One precludes the other.

You claimed to not be aware of any "innocents", yet without prompting immediately named a particularly prominent case. But you can't have that, so...

"Khalid El-Masri [...] The extent to his "innocence" is another story."

...you sleazily imply secret crimes. Slime the reputation of the man to avoid the argument.

(The reason I'm certain that innocents were imprisoned and mistreated isn't because of the occasional left-wing cause célèbre, it's because of the fundamental nature of the method of "collection".)

As for rule-breaking interrogators being "sent home", again, you ignored my point. The rules are impossible. You cannot have a systematic destruction of a prisoner's will by a group of people, and expect those people not to go beyond some arbitrary line. Human psychology just doesn't work that way, as shown in repeated experiments, and repeatedly in reality. Abu Ghraib was not an exception, it was a demonstration of this in action, a fundamental law of human nature. (And indeed, soldiers have claimed that Abu Ghraib was a fairly minor example of what they were seeing in field-stations at the time.)

"One way or another, our enemies need to be encouraged to respect the laws of war. Combatants who qualify for prisoner-of-war status aren't supposed to be treated roughly. Giving them the same treatment (actually, better treatment) is just one more reason why they see it's okay for them to fight without any moral restraint."

This is just bizarre. We encourage our enemies to respect the laws of war by not respecting the laws of war? In the same way that corrupt police encourage the respect for law? Corrupt politicians encourage honest business?

LarryHart said...

RandyB:

On the filibuster: The GOP knew their limitations. They're not going to play a filibuster unless it makes sense -- unless they're simply grandstanding.


Your theory doesn't conform to the real world. They DO filibuster everything, or virtually everything. GOP filibusters aren't even reported as news anymore because they're so routine--in fact, most news media now reports as a matter of course that it takes sixty votes to pass a bill in the Senate. "The measure failed to pass by a vote of 53-46," where the 53 is in favor.


Yes, Dems had Joe Lieberman (who's actually pretty liberal) and Ben Nelson. The GOP had Snowe, Collins, and Chafee. Both sides have the problem of getting a majority.


I simply meant that neither Lieberman nor Nelson was a sure bet to break a GOP filibuster.

It used to be that Lieberman was liberal on all but the wars. Once he actively endorsed and campaigned for John McCain, he had gone over to the dark side.

On torture:

One way or another, our enemies need to be encouraged to respect the laws of war. Combatants who qualify for prisoner-of-war status aren't supposed to be treated roughly. Giving them the same treatment (actually, better treatment) is just one more reason why they see it's okay for them to fight without any moral restraint.


We didn't win our war for independence or WWII by making the enemy afraid of our brutality--we simply made it impossible for them to carry out their aims. It's called winning. It's what we used to do.

Contrawise, if brutality won wars, we'd be busy getting ready for Hitlers 125th Birthday soon.

Resorting to torture is the act of a bully and a coward. Defending the practice as "necessary" is the act of one who knows he is too weak to win--not an ennobling stance for a supposed-superpower to take. The best reason not to "go there" as a nation has nothing to do with the effect of torture on the enemy. It has to do with what it makes US.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

(...demonstrating, perhaps, why "sophomoric" may be named after sophomores!)


Can't tell on the internet if you're being snarky.

In reality, it's the other way around. "Sophomores" are named after "sophomoric", which literally means "smart-stupid, more or less exactly as you describe. "Knows just enough to be really stupid about it."

Paul451 said...

LarryHart,

"(...demonstrating, perhaps, why "sophomoric" may be named after sophomores!)"

...was Rewinn's line, not mine.

" "sophomoric", which literally means "smart-stupid," "

Ie, it shares the Greek roots Sophos and Moros. Wise-dull. Sophisticated moron. It's cute, but it's more of a... sophomoric... eggcorn, rather than the most likely etymology.

Ian said...

"The ideal solution? Shave off a third of the country, call it Pashtunistan and let the Pashtuns turn their attention to then "liberating" their comrades in Pakistan. The rest of Afgh could then join the countries of the mostly turkic region north of them in a trade federation, guided by the soft diplomacy of Turkey."

You've expressed simi8lar sentiments in the past David and I beleive they're as profoundly mistaken as most grand plans to carve up nations develoepd by people on other continents with little or not practical experience of the countries and cultures in question and little or no reelvant academic background.

Much like Joe Biden's declaration that the only way to achieve peace in Iraq was partition (becasue that worked so well with India and Pakistan) or the various armchair orientalists declaring Indonesia a "Javanese empire" which would inevitably fall aprt once Suharto left power.

A few points:

1. The Taliban are not the inevitable product of Pashtun culture. They are the product of a generation of traumatized and often orphaned kids growing up in the refugee camps of 1980's Pakistan with little or no contact with traditional Pashtun culture and with Saudi Wahhabi Madrassas as the only source of both secular and religious education.

2. The Taliban only came to power after a prolonged war in which tens of thousands of Afghans, many if not most of them Pashtuns, fought and died to try and prevent it.

The Taliban victory was achieved mainly because they continued to receive arms from Pakistan while the rest of the world chose to look the other way as poorly armed militia (many of them women) fought to the death against tanks and artillery.

3. There's is little evidence even today that the majority of Pashtuns support the Taliban. There is however plenty of indirect evience that many, probably a majority, don't.

Millions of Pashtun have risked their lives repeatedly to vote in Afghani elections despite the threat of Taliban violence and despite the flawed nature of those elections.

Millions of Pashtun women risk their lives daily by defyign the Taliban and owkrinf outside their homes.

Millions of Pashtun girls do the same by seeking an education.

Equally, the husbands, fathers and other male kinsmen of the vast majority of those women and girls risk their own lives by supporting them.

The Taliban took control of Afghansitan because the West betrayed the Afghanis once we no longer needed them in our conflict with the Soviets.

What you're proposing, David, is that we do the same thing now that our conflict with al Qaida is winding down.

Tacitus2 said...

Paul 451 and others

I was having a little fun with a metaphor in one of the few areas I can bandy about with authority.

I admit I was a little unfair to Professor Krugman who so far as I know pays his taxes without complaint. Musta been a little Animal Farm and Warren Buffet's secretary bouncing around in my head.

The metaphor regarding Dr. Obama was simply to show how one might fudge up economic data to look good before an election. Not that any prior admin has done this, nope, never.

It is for instance a little bit of a cheat to exclude energy prices from the CPI*, and by some measures unemployment stats are buffed up a bit by not mentioning how many have just quit the workforce entirely. (read something disturbing about how many such are now applying for disability...).

By this metaphor "Dr.Ryan" would see out of control spending to be the equivalent of bleeding, with entitlement spending being "internal" bleeding. You could stretch things and make our lopsided balance of trade external bleeding. Yes, you need some blood transfused, but unless you address the ongoing issue your patient will eventually bleed to death.

And I mentioned only a few of the possible ways you could postpone and gloss over an impending collapse medically. If my economic terminology is imperfect I apologize, I was just spinning a metaphor.

The original point being that a degree of skepticism when faced with a complex system is not necessarily a sign of ignorance. I am clever enough to, in theory not practice, put one over on you in my own area of expertise. And there are others far more practiced and devious in their own respective realms.

Or so I suspect.

Tacitus

*well, I checked. CPI is calculated both with and without energy/food prices. The "Core CPI" is what gets reported on mostly. So it sounds like a media issue more than a slackness on the part of our intrepid beancounters. Never a good day unless you learn something.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Your metaphor-spinning is fine. As usual, what I take issue with a premise or two.

Your presumption that "internal bleeding" is an apt metaphor for deficit spending echoes Ryan's own presumption that debt is responsible for the recession. So they do mirror each other well, but I disagree with both. Or at least, I maintain that your position requires more supporting evidence--it can't simply be taken as obvious fact.

The currene economic woes are not caused by a lack of wealth or a lack of available goods. Rather there is a systemic problem which prevents efficient trade between those who produce necessary goods and those for whom they ARE necessary. It's eerily reminiscent of "The Grapes of Wrath" in which millions were starving while fruit rotted on the vine for want of picking. That fruit could have fed those people without hardship (relative to what was actually happening) to either the owners or the workers, but the economy failed to deliver a mechanism for such transactions. That's not a shortage of goods; it's rather a failure of the economy to perform its function. And that's what's happening today as well.

Two thoughts come to mind, each of which would be modeled differently from your "internal bleeding."

One: The problem is that money is trapped at low velocity. To me (admittedly with no medical training whatsoever), this suggests a blockage rather than bleeding. The "blood" is there, but it's not getting where it is needed.

Two: The problem is that the accursed "shareholder value" meme has allowed the wealthy rentier class to suck most of the value out of the system. This is also a problem of low-velocity, but the metaphorical problem is not so much a blockage as a parasite.

My problem with Paul Ryan, and with you as Ryan apologist, is exactly that his diagnosis of "internal bleeding" is an incorrect one, that his prescribed course of treatment is therefore flawed and harmful, and that no amount of evidence to the contrary prevents him from doubling down on the diagnosis and prescribing more of the same treatment which is in fact killing the patient.

rewinn said...

@Paul451 + @LarryHart:

That was me being snarky (or, if you will, sophomoric) at myself. At my age, you take any opportunity that presents to be a teenager again ;-)

Hypnos said...

David - see Ian's response. Separation never works without a good amount of genocide involved, and the resulting states keep going at it for the following centuries. And besides, I thought the days of the Berlin conference were over.

As for women attending school, women rights and the whole tripe, there's little of it outside Kabul and a couple other major towns with substantial foreign presence.

Larry, your outrage at Randy's hideous justifications for continued human rights abuses is well placed, but I see a problem there. I get the feeling that many Americans keep seeing their wars as a replay of World War II, or that all wars are a replay of World War II.

They aren't. What America is now engaged in (and has been engaged in for most of the latter half of the 20th century) are colonial wars, with all their baggage of local elites exploiting the foreigners for personal advantage, popular resistance, guerrilla and civilian massacres, ethnic and political conflict and so on.

You don't win colonial wars. Ever. Follow the lead of a global empire that was much smarter than yours, Britain, and get out as soon as possible.

Alex Tolley said...

@David Brin

I really like the "rank-ordering models of the world" description of scientific consensus in the Science 2.0 piece.

We really need a "meme" to counter the binary thinking so prevalent in unscientific thought. It helps to have something simple to say rather than caught up in arguments about what is truth, how do we know it, especially when talking with people who prefer simple certainties.

It would be great if you could apply your skills to making it an even catchier phrase that could go viral.

Paul451 said...

LarryHart (to Tacitus2),
"One: The problem is that money is trapped at low velocity. To me [...], this suggests a blockage rather than bleeding. [...] Two: The problem is that the accursed "shareholder value" meme has allowed the wealthy rentier class to suck most of the value out of the system. This is also a problem of low-velocity, but the metaphorical problem is not so much a blockage as a parasite."

Hmmm, not so much a blockage, as a dangerously low heart-rate? With tumours throughout the body selfishly drawing away what blood there is for their own destructive ends. Meanwhile the immune system ignores the tumours and fights an imaginary infection (Socialisum Fictionitis), causing general paralysis.

Oh, and the patient is morbidly obese.

So what do you treat first? I would think you need to stimulate the heart, while trying to reduce swelling in the brain. Once the patient is stable, you treat for the tumours. Only when the patient is much better, would you treat the underlying obesity.

Paul Ryan wants an emergency liposuction, and to supply more blood directly to the tumours by taking it away from the liver & kidneys. Meanwhile he does everything he can to stimulate the false infection.

Ron Paul wants to treat the obesity by cutting off the patient's head (lose seven pounds of ugly fat, he quips, to the amusement of his legion of young stoner followers), and replacing the blood with ichor (fetid yellow bile), believing it to be Ichor (mythical blood of the gods.) He doesn't care about the tumours, believing they are a natural "outgrowth" of the system and therefore a sign of health.

Obama tried to stimulate the heart, once, has talked vaguely about controlling the tumours, and is generally obsessed with trying to lessen the immune response but just seems to make it worse.

(Metaphors are fun. We should do cars next.)

David Brin said...

Rewinn is right about the support that conservatives gave to Bush, over aggressively waging expensive wars-of-choice, declaring that the president can simply proclaim (in secret) a person not to be protected by the Constitution, staggering budget deficits, imperial attitudes in foreign affairs, unpaid-for compulsory mandates, cozy special treatment for petro-princes, disdain for education and expertise, relentless war on science, repudiation of negotiation, diving into hyper-religious sanctimony...

...NONE of these things are part of core American conservatism. They are parasitic organisms that have latched onto the movement, turning it into a zombie. They make sense ONLY in the terms that Mooney describes -- a personality trait of utter loyalty and obedience to one's "side" and bitter spite toward those demanding forward progress.

The calamity is that liberals desperately NEED the counterweight of a true, mature libertarian/conservatism at the table, to speak up for market-based solutions to problems and for minimizing intrusion by government in daily life. That ought to be the GOP's role instead of relentless, utter refusal to even sit down and negotiate.

Even so, the dems have acted AS IF such people were at the table. Obama Care is based upon and virtually identical to the Republican health care proposal of 1995. No matter how much you say: "well, we changed our minds!" that fact should tand out and make you admit. "it sure as heck ain't socialism... and it was a sincere effort to meet us halfway."

Only halfway isn't good enough, anymore.

-

Re torture and renditions and such, consider. Such things always happened on a very low level, when the CIA had to do "James Bond stuff." and quietly save the world. One of the chief PRAGMATIC crimes of the Bush admin, that makes CIA types pissed off is that he brought that world into the open by flat-out overdoing it, making it a matter of (legitimate) public concern, public argument and shame.

Dig this well... one standard conservative cant is that liberals are starry-eyed dreamers and someone in the room has to be the practical adult, practicing fierce realpolitik for the sake of our future. That was the image the neocons presented of themselves... and it was diametrically opposite to fact. While they were waving their arms about how facts didn't matter because "we will make our own facts by will alone," they plunged us into insanely expensive, draining, debilitating video-game-logic adventures one after another.

All of my contacts in both the military and the intelligence services despised Bush with livid passion for the harm he did These are realpolitik guys. They say there is no beginning to measure the damage that they did.

David Brin said...

"Contrawise, if brutality won wars, we'd be busy getting ready for Hitlers 125th Birthday soon."

REALLY? Crum! Mid-April... stay away from crowded places. Don't fly.

-
Ian I accept your rebuke re "Pashtunistan." I hope you are right. Still, in fact, the India Pakistan separation worked better than letting it all go aflame. The Czechs and Slovaks managed it very well. Kurdistan was the safest, best part of Iraq and still is.
-

Tacitus, what you leave out of your metaphor is that Dr. Obama and the others had told the patient "Don't go careening at night with that drunk, faith-healing quack who drove you off a cliff and gave you that internal bleeding we are honestly trying now to clamp off.

"The same screeching imbecile is in the waiting room now, do you hear the idiot? Screaming you should sign your care over to him instead of us.

"His proposed treatment method?

"To grab another car, some more booze, and go careening toward the same cliff again."

Tacitus2 said...

David Brin said:

"Tacitus, what you leave out of your metaphor is that Dr. Obama and the others had told the patient "Don't go careening at night with that drunk, faith-healing quack who drove you off a cliff and gave you that internal bleeding we are honestly trying now to clamp off.

"The same screeching imbecile is in the waiting room now, do you hear the idiot? Screaming you should sign your care over to him instead of us."

Because I was going for metaphor not for a fairly accurate depiction of my shift last night.

Tacitus

David Brin said...

Really Tacitus? Argh! When I am poking at you at my very worst. Always notice the underlying tone of deep respect. Sigh!

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

"Contrawise, if brutality won wars, we'd be busy getting ready for Hitler's 125th Birthday soon."

REALLY? Crum! Mid-April... stay away from crowded places. Don't fly.


Not this year, though. The 125th would be 2014. I know that because the plot of Robert Harris's "Fatherland" (which had remarkable similarities to your "Thor Meets Captain America" but without the supernatural parts) revolved around Der Fuhrer's 75th birthday in 1964.

Ok, now I'm bumming on the fact that 1964--a year I remember in some detail--will soon be "50 years ago".

LarryHart said...

Hypnos:

You don't win colonial wars. Ever. Follow the lead of a global empire that was much smarter than yours, Britain, and get out as soon as possible.


I'd be all in favor of that. And the American party of isolationism used to be the Republicans. Even as recently as 2000, candidate Bush ran on a platform of "no nation-building".

infanttyrone said...

LarryHart...

Even as recently as 2000, candidate Bush ran on a platform of "no nation-building".

Yes, and Obama promised to close Gitmo and do other wonderful things.
Enough things that if Obama were to start using the phrase Real Soon Now, Jerry Pournelle could probably pay for a seat on Virgin Galactic before the 2nd inaugral.

Hearing about platforms that candidates ran on usually brings to mind this bit of lyric from My Fair Lady's "I'm an Ordinary Man"...just substitute politician for woman.

But, Let a woman in your life,
and patience hasn't got a chance,
she will beg you for advice, your reply will be concise,
and she will listen very nicely, and then go out
and do exactly what she wants!!!

RandyB said...

David,

"So? They were intelligent patriots and they knew Scalia and Thomas. They knew what kind of raging maniacs a gOP president would nominate now, if they retired."

So, the GOP didn't have an ideological majority on the Court.

This doesn't mean I think you're completely wrong. I do agree that the Republicans didn't take full advantage of what they had.


"Geez Randy to you listen to yourself? Of course they're grandstanding! The GOP since 2008 has put on more filibusters than the entire history of the United States before that. They won't negotiate anything at all or let the slightest "normal" business be deliberated. They are insane."

You're absolutely right on the GOP filibustering a lot. I was thinking of the "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," which rarely happens.

And, yes, politicians do grandstand.

But I didn't dispute that the GOP tried to end ObamaCare, nor do I think they were wrong in the attempt. That said, I don't think for a second that any of the GOP candidates would be able to repeal it if elected.

RandyB said...

Tony,

On the income from Keystone, it goes to the companies, workers, and states in the form of taxes.

It's part of our GDP and infrastructure.

RandyB said...

Larry,

"Your theory doesn't conform to the real world. They DO filibuster everything, or virtually everything. GOP filibusters aren't even reported as news anymore because they're so routine--in fact, most news media now reports as a matter of course that it takes sixty votes to pass a bill in the Senate. "The measure failed to pass by a vote of 53-46," where the 53 is in favor."

I didn't think there are any real filibusters anymore, or not like in the old days.



"We didn't win our war for independence or WWII by making the enemy afraid of our brutality--we simply made it impossible for them to carry out their aims. It's called winning. It's what we used to do."

We were quite forceful in WWII when we had to be. There were a lot of things we did then that could never happen now.

That said, I don't support brutality, as I'll explain shortly in one of my other responses.

RandyB said...

infanttyrone,

"Back in the day, when someone said "It's always wrong", the old- school interpretation was that they meant that it is always wrong."

You misunderstand the point. Everybody seems to.

I wasn't merely asking if torture is always wrong. I asked about lesser forms of harsh interrogation that aren't torture.

Are they always wrong, too? If so, then say it.

There isn't a wrong answer, providing somebody is ever willing to give an answer.

RandyB said...

Paul,

"You quoted Thiessen claiming that the CIA only used "enhanced interrogation" to get "confirmation" of information already known."

No, that's not what he said. It was not to get confirmation of information already known. It's not even close to what I was getting at.

It had nothing at all to do with confirmation of known facts. The purpose was to get them to start conversing. Nothing more. (I suggest you reread Thiessen's words.)

They would lie later, but at least they would be talking. Interrogators can work with liars. They can't work with someone who won't converse.


"(The reason I'm certain that innocents were imprisoned and mistreated isn't because of the occasional left-wing cause célèbre, it's because of the fundamental nature of the method of "collection".)"

It's absolutely true that there were innocents among those tens of thousands detained in Afghanistan. It's true to some extent among the 779 who were detained in Afghanistan, particularly those released in the first two years. But I was talking about the 100 CIA detainees, only one third of whom got enhanced interrogation, and only three of whom were waterboarded.


"You claimed to not be aware of any "innocents", yet without prompting immediately named a particularly prominent case. But you can't have that, so..."

I said no innocents were given harsh interrogation. By his own description, that prominent case wasn't subjected to anything worse than being roughed up, which no court would say is covered by the definition of torture.


"This is just bizarre. We encourage our enemies to respect the laws of war by not respecting the laws of war?"

I'm not in favor of having us ignore the laws of war. I think they should be followed to the letter until the day we decide to call for their revision or officially go through the legal motions of ending these treaties.

It is exceeding the current legal requirements beyond all rationality that bothers me.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

"This is misleading. Bush's unconstitutional innovation was EXTRAJUDICIAL rendition. Nations render prisoners to each other all the time, but to be legal, it has to be subject to judicial oversight."

The Clinton administration supported it. According to Richard Clarke, Al Gore said about rendition: "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'" (link)

People often forget (or act like they forget) the Al Gore from before his global warming days when his wife was the leader of the music police, and his political ties to the Reverend Fred Phelps. (Yes, that Fred Phelps.)


"Under the rule of law, in time of war, all prisoners are either POWs or criminals (sometimes both). There is no third category beyond the reach of law; "unlawful combatant" is a phrase invented to justify criminal actions against POWs."

Wrong in two ways.

First, the term "unlawful combatant" goes back to the 19th century. The Supreme Court recognizes it.

Second, there are provisions under the Fourth Geneva Convention for holding security detainees. No trial required unless they're charged and punished.

But that part of the Fourth Geneva Convention doesn't really apply. The Supreme Court ruled that only Common Article 3 applies to this war. It doesn't give them POW status, nor does it say they must get a trial unless we are to sentence them.



"Torture is easily defined in law: any application of pain to a prisoner for purposes other than maintaining security"

No. Not according to the law. The War Crimes Act defines it as "severe physical or mental pain or suffering." Severe is not pleasant. Less-than-severe is not pleasant either, but it's not torture.

In other words, harsh interrogation that does not exceed the limits of "severe physical or mental pain or suffering" is not torture.

Is a slap in the face considered severe? It might be a bit painful but it's not anywhere close to severe. (I brought up the slap in the face several times but that seemed to go over everyone's heads.)

How about sleep deprivation? The European courts ruled that, while it was illegal under their law, it was not torture. (Critics can still argue over the limits, but then you'd need to recognize that it's possible to set maximum limits.)

How about cold temperatures? That would obviously depend on the temperature and the duration.

How about waterboarding? Again, the details. Is one splash severe? (Are you kidding?) How about ten? How about fifty? What if they're spaced out over several days?

For all of this, the CIA lawyers specified limits to determine where harsh interrogation ends and torture begins.

You're free to oppose harsh interrogation, too. But then you really need to say so, and stop calling it "torture."

David Brin said...

re filibusters:
The dems are partly at fault. They should end the polite aspects to filibusters. Make the goppers actually stand and talk in order to keep it up.

LarryHart said...

Paul451:

Hmmm, not so much a blockage, as a dangerously low heart-rate? With tumours throughout the body selfishly drawing away what blood there is for their own destructive ends. Meanwhile the immune system ignores the tumours and fights an imaginary infection (Socialisum Fictionitis), causing general paralysis.

Oh, and the patient is morbidly obese.

So what do you treat first? I would think you need to stimulate the heart, while trying to reduce swelling in the brain. Once the patient is stable, you treat for the tumours. Only when the patient is much better, would you treat the underlying obesity.

Paul Ryan wants an emergency liposuction, and to supply more blood directly to the tumours by taking it away from the liver & kidneys.


The theory being that if the tumors get enough blood, they'll trickle some of it back down to the rest of the body.

Or that they'll start performing useful fuctions instead of just eating.

In fact, Dr Rand Paul declares that the body should not engage in battling tumors, because tumors are the "fountainhead" of all blood in the first place--that without tumors, the rest of the body would wither and die.

LarryHart said...

infanttyrone:

Even as recently as 2000, candidate Bush ran on a platform of "no nation-building".

Yes, and Obama promised to close Gitmo and do other wonderful things.


Sure, but my point wasn't that a candidate didn't keep his promises. My point was that it wasn't too long ago that "no nation building" was considered a good selling point for a Republican candidate.

LarryHart said...

RandyB:

On the income from Keystone, it goes to the companies, workers, and states in the form of taxes.

It's part of our GDP and infrastructure


As Uhura said to Sulu, "Sorry, neither."

The company selling the oil would be Canadian. And the refined gasoline made from the oil would be exported (to keep prices high) rather than to increase US supply (which would keep prices low).

The COSTS (environmental dangers) would be part of our infrastructure, but the benefits, not so much.

sociotard said...

Finally, a new chapter of Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality is up!

hpmor.com

Oh, and chuckle at this pastiche of the Last Supper

http://skepticalteacher.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/biggerlastsuppercolorflattened.jpg

rewinn said...

@RandyB wrote :
"The Clinton administration supported it [rendition]. According to Richard Clarke, Al Gore said about rendition: "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.'"

@RandyB doesn't seem to understand what rendition is. Rendition is the handing-over of a prisoner in your custody to another nation. As I stated, it is uncontroversial when handled constitutionally; it's the EXTRAJUDICIAL aspect that is both illegal and unconstitutional.

@RandyB is confusing it with kidnapping persons disfavored by a nation (...when we do it, it's because they are evil; when the Soviets do it, it's because they've good.) As @Dr.Brin pointed out upthread, occasionally a nation will order its people to do things that are illegal. That's regrettable but nations are not going to stop it. What can't be done in such cases is ignore the illegality.
But once we have kidnapped a bad guy, he is either a criminal or a POW, and in neither case does the Executive have the constitutional power to rendition him to another nation except subject to judicial oversight.

That soi-disant "conservatives" should grant such royal power to the President would amaze me and Barry Goldwater.

"People often forget (or act like they forget) the Al Gore from before his global warming days when his wife was the leader of the music police, and his political ties to the Reverend Fred Phelps. (Yes, that Fred Phelps.)"

The complete irrelevancy of this remark underscores the error of @RandyB's position on law, torture or rendition.

Let's look at an actual authority on the subject:

The rest of @RandyB's legalistic quibblings founder on their own complexity. Law is expressed in natural language, and as such, there is always a contrary argument to every proposition. The existence of such a contrary argument means nothing, and its use by criminals doesn't mean the criminals are innocent.

Let us look instead to a neutral authority:

"Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law"

This, from the official Commentary to Article 4, Paragraph 4, Fourth Geneva Convention" is by a disinterested party, and therefore worth more than the pleadings of States seeking to torture its enemies.

As to the rest, if you prefer to use the word "felony assault and battery" instead of "torture" that's fine with me. It's still unconstitutional under our 8th Amendment; our government simply lacks the power to order it.

It's still criminal sadism: the infliction of pain for the purpose of giving pleasure to the civilians who ordered it. Sometimes the sadism is outright pleasure (...as when George W Bush joked about a prisoner begging for her life...) other times its pleasure of the financial sort (...as when Dick Cheney ordered the waterboarding of prisoners in order to get them to say things to justify his invasion of Iraq. Not all sadists do it for sexual pleasure.)

It's still repulsive to patriots; see the words of George Washington above.

Tim H. said...

Kevin Kelley interviews George Dyson
http://www.wired.com/magazine/2012/02/ff_dysonqa/all/1
Subject being Dyson's upcoming book "Turing's Cathedral"
"thrope eselawn", coulda' been heard after a keg party.

rewinn said...

@David Brin said...
"re filibusters:
The dems are partly at fault. They should end the polite aspects to filibusters. Make the goppers actually stand and talk in order to keep it up."


Your proposal is too modest.

To be effective (AND in a non-partisan way) against the filibuster and its equally obstructive sibling the "Senate hold", there should be some sort of visually-enhanced scoreboard of nominations and bills being held up, by whom and why, e.g.
"The vote on the nomination of Judge Boring to the 99th Circuit Court.
Status: on hold.
Reason: Senator Snort has issued a hold.
Argument for allowing a vote: The 99th Circuit has so many vacancies that cases are delayed two years. Judge Boring has a flawless record.
Argument for putting a hold on the vote: Senator Snort does not like the current Administration's policy on Cuba."


Name and shame (or, for you dignified people, "transparency").

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

Name and shame (or, for you dignified people, "transparency").


I like it. But I'm pretty sure the current Supreme Court would find such a thing to be a violation of Senator Snort's constitutional right to free speech.

Hyperion said...

There are a few "Scale of the universe" animations on the web, ranging from OK to downright awful. The one posted today on "Astromony Picture of the Day" is by far the best one I have ever seen. It is well worth the time to take a look. Very humbling!

http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap120312.html

RandyB said...

Larry,

"The company selling the oil would be Canadian. And the refined gasoline made from the oil would be exported (to keep prices high) rather than to increase US supply (which would keep prices low).

"The COSTS (environmental dangers) would be part of our infrastructure, but the benefits, not so much."

I basically agree with you that all the costs are importants consideration, but disagree on your characterization. I'm unsure of the conclusion, and very wary that President Obama is making a non-political calculation. (And yes, I know you could rightfully say the same thing about a conservative.)

They're exporting it because that's where they'd make the most money. This makes the market more efficient, which does make us all better off. That's not to say we're sufficiently better off that it's worth the environmental risk but I suspect that we are.

Besides, there's something distasteful about leaving all the environmental risks to the third world, which is really what's happening.

RandyB said...

Rewinn,

On your quote from the 4th Geneva Convention commentaries:

"Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, [or] a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law"

If you'll remember, the Bush administration originally determined that the Geneva Conventions didn't apply at all. Then in 2006, the Supreme Court overruled them in a close decision.

But they didn't say the entire Conventions apply. They said it was Common Article 3, which doesn't even have POWs. Your quote still doesn't apply.

But even if the balance of the Conventions did apply, you were saying that they're either POWs or criminals, which is still not true. You're missing Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which covers detainees who are not POWs.

I will concede one thing: They do want prisoners to be treated humanely. (The U.S. could reject that, but it could to wait until we need to.)


"As to the rest, if you prefer to use the word "felony assault and battery" instead of "torture" that's fine with me. It's still unconstitutional under our 8th Amendment; our government simply lacks the power to order it."

There's room for doubt that the Eighth Amendment would even restrict torture interrogation.

Plus, the Civil War's Lieber Code was written long after the Bill of Rights. It forbids torture but it specifies for revenge or confessions.

It's not technically felony assault and battery but I'm not going to bicker with you over that. You can call it what you like. I had said, "You're free to oppose harsh interrogation, too."

Why don't you just say that you oppose any harsh interrogation, and that all prisoners should receive the same treatment that POWs are entitled to?

That was the real problem with this entire exercise. Everybody says they oppose torture but they're less willing to say how they feel about rough interrogation that isn't torture. I still haven't seen anyone say they'd support or oppose the slap in the face, and I've asked it often enough.

Tony Fisk said...

@RandyB responded to my query about where the money goes in Keystone:
On the income from Keystone, it goes to the companies, workers, and states in the form of taxes.

It's part of our GDP and infrastructure.


Just so. LarryHart responded to most of this. I will only add that there isn't much in the way of ongoing work involved either.

"Upon closer examination, Keystone XL and Northern Gateway Pipeline are hardly the jobs juggernaut their proponents portray them to be. An executive from TransCanada, builder of the KXL pipeline, admits that permanent jobs in the U.S. would number in the hundreds, not the tens of thousands claimed by supporters. Temporary construction jobs, lasting less than two years, would number between 2,500 and 4,650, according to a study from Cornell University."

Thus is the profit privatised. Here's an oil execs son testifying about how the debt incurred by such projects is socialised.

"...One such day on the refinery stood out in particular. It was a hot, sunny and humid day, after monsoon rainfall my entire time there – I think it was most likely the Prince Rupert weather following me overseas – and on that day a hand full of managers thought it would be fun to take me out to the Jetty, where they loaded and unloaded the super tankers. Situated a lengthy route away from the refinery itself, we drove down to towards the coastline.

On our way there, we drove past many different villages. Each one looking extremely impoverished. I learned later that this was not always the case. There was a time in this region where fishing, farming and the local economy truly flourished. But once the refinery project was approved, among other projects in the region, they built a pipeline directly through 9 different villages. Over a period of time, there was pipeline breakage which contaminated an underground aquifer, and spoiled the wells and water supply of the majority of the surrounding villages. As industry expanded, and land bought and sold, men were forced into cheap labour at the refineries, after lifetimes of sustainable farming and fishing – now dependent on one or two companies for employment. Women, children and elders went starving after losing access to fresh water, with no accountability for cleanup – just left to fend for themselves. I ask, what would be the case here in our region? Do you see any potential similarities?

...

I asked one of the managers, Jitesh was his name, why the ship stopped so far out. He told me that because of the size of the ship

...

I asked him why, and he said "even though we have docking stations here, it is for the smaller vessels that are used for domestic purposes. But these larger vessels that come from the Middle East can run aground easily."

This, in open seas, I thought.

...

A few moments pass as we all stood, just watching.

Out of the silence, Jitesh says to me "Do you see what we are doing here Mr. Lee?"

I asked "What's that Jitesh?"

He replied, with an unexpected, sobering tone: "We are destroying future generations for now, and forever."

And in this kind of slow motion life moment, I felt this kind of tingling feeling on the top of my head– and with sweat dripping down from the inside of my hard hat onto my face, the sun beaming into my eyes – I squint over at 6 men slowing nodding their heads in silent agreement.

It was such a profound statement, and in that moment, there was silence.
"

Anonymous said...

17th of 34th is the middle of the pack - what's wrong with that?

I mean, there might be, if the pack is really mediocre, but if the pack is generally doing excellently on the scientific education front, it might be something to be proud of!

Someone has to be in the middle, regardless of how educated everyone is.


- arc

Paul451 said...

RandyB,
So "Roughed up" isn't "Harsh" and anyway "Harsh" isn't "Severe". And the CIA has a special technique of "roughing up" prisoners which feels "severe", but by the CIA's lawyers' definition isn't.

I remember making a comment... somewhere... about business, that if you have structured your company to avoid responsibility, you knew you were doing something wrong, even if you hadn't actually done it yet. To me, these games with definitions, and methods that make people feel like they are being severely injured or drowned but do so by manipulation of perception rather than causing the actual physical injury or death, just prove that the perpetrators are not only doing something wrong, they (and you) know it.

"How about waterboarding? Again, the details. Is one splash severe? (Are you kidding?) How about ten? How about fifty? What if they're spaced out over several days?"

You keep trying for force the discussion back to trying to make us accept some arbitrary definition of torture, or harsh or severe treatment, or whatever language you want to use. And people are going along with it, to varying degrees, to discuss specifics, giving you the benefit of the doubt.

But I think we deserve a little quid pro... I've asked you several times if you think a "single slap to the face" would make you betray your family and friends to your bitterest enemy? If not, then it's not what is being done to prisoners. And pretending it is what we're discussing is just being dishonest with, and disrespectful to, the group.

And instead of answering, you just created yet another distorted non-example. "One splash". Are you kidding?

Paul451 said...

I was just reading through the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. (As you do.) Couple of things struck me.

The Convention, or part one at least, is one of the clearest written treaties I've seen. And that the only complexity is the clear effort they went to to try and prevent states using sleazy definition games to get around the ban on torture. Torture isn't just defined as "any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person" in article one, it then adds article 16 to add other "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment", and the says that all parts of the convention still apply even if you substitute other terms for torture, precisely to prevent states creating arbitrary definitions that they can pretend they aren't violating.

Similarly, article two's "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture" , could have been written now, with the justifications for torture that were spun by Bush apologists. No no, it's post-9/11, old rules don't apply, we're in danger, terrorism is different from other wars. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever.

But mainly, a bunch of people sat down and tried to imagine all the ways the world's monsters would try to get around the law, to try to justify torture, to create exceptions, to exploit loopholes, and the framers of the Convention tried to craft the broadest language they could to say "There are no exceptions. Ever."

And so when you're sitting there, trying to come up with some sleazy word-play to get around the ban on torture, or some legal fiction, or create some method that only feels like torture and somehow that means it isn't torture, how does it feel that the framers of the Convention were thinking of you.

Jumper said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p00pbgrk/The_Strand_12_03_2012/

A story.b

Ian said...

"Tony Fisk said...

@RandyB responded to my query about where the money goes in Keystone:
On the income from Keystone, it goes to the companies, workers, and states in the form of taxes.

It's part of our GDP and infrastructure."

Actually, there's a much simpler answer: Canada.

Or maybe George H W Bush was correct when he said America coul end its dependence on foreign oil by buying more oil from Canada and Mexico.

Ian said...

Okay: another science story which I'd love to have the collective thoguhts of the Contrary Brin brain trust on:

"MIT physicists have managed to build a light-emitting diode that has an electrical efficiency of more than 100 percent. You may ask, "Wouldn't that mean it breaks the first law of thermodynamics?" The answer, happily, is no.

The LED produces 69 picowatts of light using 30 picowatts of power, giving it an efficiency of 230 percent. That means it operates above "unity efficiency" -- putting it into a category normally occupied by perpetual motion machines.

However, while MIT's diode puts out more than twice as much energy in photons as it's fed in electrons, it doesn't violate the conservation of energy because it appears to draw in heat energy from its surroundings instead. When it gets more than 100 percent electrically-efficient, it begins to cool down, stealing energy from its environment to convert into more photons.

In slightly more detail, the researchers chose an LED with a small band gap, and applied smaller and smaller voltages. Every time the voltage was halved, the electrical power was reduced by a factor of four, but the light power emitted only dropped by a factor of two. The extra energy came instead from lattice vibrations."

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-03/09/230-percent-efficient-leds

So why is this not a real world version of the Maxwell's Demon thought experiment?

Possibilities;

1. Experimental error

2. Unintentional or intentional misrepesentation of the results by journalsits

3. The energy stored in the lattice vibrations is a finite quantity that can't, as the Wired article seems to imply, be replenished from ambient heat energy.

4. We have proof of concept for something that, if scaleable respresents the biggest technological advance since the steam energy.

Ian said...

BTW, David, I shoulf have thanked you for your various gracious concession regarding Pashtunistan.

On a different forum this is my signature:

A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying, in other words, that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.- Alexander Pope

Jumper said...

More on Keystone money:
http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20111004/koch-brothers-koch-industries-flint-hills-financial-interest-canada-energy-board-keystone-xl-pipeline?page=show

John said...

RandyB said...
"That was the real problem with this entire exercise. Everybody says they oppose torture but they're less willing to say how they feel about rough interrogation that isn't torture. I still haven't seen anyone say they'd support or oppose the slap in the face, and I've asked it often enough."

OK, I'll bite: I oppose anyone inflicting physical violence on a prisoner beyond what is necessary for safe detention. Any level. Ever. Full stop.

There. Now you can stop saying you've never heard that from anyone.

Torture apologists always seem to forget that those tortured may not have been guilty of anything. What special knowledge are you privy to that convinces you that torture was the right thing to do?

You seem to be going to great lengths to convince yourself that the US did not torture people. But we did. It's not OK because it was us doing it. It's always wrong.

David Brin said...

Ian, thanks. Officially, I am a product of a scientific education and philosophy that avows the sacred statement: "I might be wrong." Unofficially, I am an opinionated doofus who is saved from passionate dogmatism NOT by the sacred statement... but by the stunningly scatterbrained and contrary nature of his opinions!

As for the LED that approaches efficiencies greater than 100%...note that this asymtote is approached at ever-lower power rates. Way down at the bottom you start entering the quantum realm. Demons reside down there!


Re guantanamo procedures
- I reiterate. In this primitive human phase of civilization, we need two things.

(1) for our society and culture to succeed in its zero-sum conflicts vs others

and
(2) for our society to *deserve* to succeed, by becoming ever better a role model and prototype for a truly grownup and worthy human civilization.

The latter suggests that we have gone completely insane to allow assholes to talk us into panicking and allowing an official policy condoning torture. It has made us more evil. Little better than the bad guys. Period. Stop trying to rationalize it. That is simply the fact.

But #1 still holds. And for that we have traditionally deputized our secret services to occasionally engage in James Bond type stuff, at the fringes of visibility. Dealing with the extraction of excruciatingly vital information when nothing else will do.

Yes we all knew this was going on and it was hypocritical to glorify #2 while allowing #1. But hypocrisy is one of the tools that have always helped (ironically) to move humanity forward. The hypocricy of the slave-owning Founders led to the vastly better hypocrisy of the racist but aboloitionist Abraham Lincoln, which led to ML King.

The point is that the James Bond type stuff was always kept to a minimum necessary by the need to stay secret, to maintain that hypocritical fig leaf while we stayed - overall - the Good Guys and moved forward.

Bush & co instead made it national policy. And for what? Were we under existential threat? Bullshit Our parents endured worse damage than 9/11 EVERY MONTH during WWII sometimes in a week or even a day. For THAT we had to go waving our arms, screeching and sending several trillion dollars and the blood of our kids spilling into Asian sands?

And our reputation. Our status as the Good Guys.

I repeat, the CIA types utterly utterly despised Bush for doing all this. So did the Military officer corps. That faux cowboy and his gang of crooks did absolutely everything wrong. Absolutely everything they did either deliberately or stupidly harmed us...

... so why, Randy, do you still pick and choose items from their list of horrible mistakes to defend?

Here's the crux. It was something W wanted and defended.

Do the opposite. You can't go wrong.

David Brin said...

onward

rewinn said...

@RandyB
"...the Bush administration originally determined that the Geneva Conventions didn't apply at all. Then in 2006, the Supreme Court overruled them in a close decision.

But they didn't say the entire Conventions apply. They said it was Common Article 3, which doesn't even have POWs..."


It is not surprising that criminals deny that law applies to them.

I won't repeat what Ian, John, David and others have said, better than I, except to endorse what others have written: the rule is no application of pain to prisoners (...except the absolute minimum necessary for security...) is constitutional, legal, moral or useful, if for no better reason than that the part of me that remains conservative understands very well that we can't trust Government to beat only the people who deserve it.

I'm with George Washington and against the sadists and the cowards. Who wouldn't be?

LarryHart said...

rewinn:

I'm with George Washington and against the sadists and the cowards. Who wouldn't be?


The Republican base, apparently. More's the pity.

Barry said...

Antiquated Tory said...

" Was going to write something but Damien Sullivan at 3:15 pm pretty much said it all.
I'd emphasize that a lot of ev psych reads like post facto rationalizations of the status quo. And the depth of racial pseudoscience (and misinterpretation of Darwin in defense thereof) in the later 19th and 20th centuries was pretty extreme, so the sensitivity to that sort of thing is pretty understandable. Especially given people like Rushton (U Western Ontario), who appear to be trying to bring it back, and who scream "political correctness" whenever someone points out how crap their work is. (Rushton had a paper in the late 80s on race/promiscuity/AIDS prevalence that had my Anth department up in arms. Just to be sure it wasn't our typical liberal-left Anth bias, I ran it past someone in Physics. Who was appalled for other and far more substantive reasons.)
Well, I guess I wrote a lot anyway."

I'd also point out that the right doesn't seem to come up with actual, you know - science on these issues. 'The Bell Curve' is the best that they have, and Rushton counts as a serious thinker on their side.

Augustine Thomas said...

You guys murder babies and call it healthcare and republicans are the most unscientific?
You throw yet more condoms at the teenagers of large cities like New York and London and give them more abortions and they're suffering from the worst rates of teen STDs and unwanted pregnancy in the world and you have the gall to accuse your political enemies?
Try removing the log in your own eye!