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Comment: Re:Popular support (Score 2) 149

by hey! (#49604091) Attached to: NASA Gets Its Marching Orders: Look Up! Look Out!

I was eight years old when Neil Armstrong stepped off the LEM onto the Moon. It was an overcast day but the thing I remember vividly was how quiet the city was; aside from a few trucks in the distance and the wind blowing between the buildings there was simply nothing to be heard. The street was utterly deserted, more deserted than it would have been in the middle of the night. I'd gone out to find someone to play with, but gave it up for a bad job. I came in just in time to watch Armstrong step off the LEM. Cronkite couldn't make out what Armstrong said -- later it turned out Armstrong had bungled his line.

The only thing since then that has come close for shared amazement was 9/11.

The thing is there will never be another moment like that, not for manned space exploration. For those of us too young to remember WW2, the Apollo program was the biggest, most exciting thing that had happened in our lifetime. Older people had grown up with the Moon as the very symbol of something that was impossible to obtain. Every human being who'd ever lived and who wasn't blind had looked up in the sky and seen that big fat Moon hanging up there looking so close you could touch it.

Mars isn't like that. For most people it's just a name. More people have seen fake Mars in movies than have seen the real thing. So I'm guessing that few people will interrupt their lives to watch the first step on Mars. Maybe some of us will, but there won't be the same amazement, that sense of witnessing a once-in-a-species event.

Speaking of movies, one of the things that happened after 1970 is that production values on sci-fi movies went way, way up. Most people today have grown up watching representations of humans traveling to the stars; that's the new milestone for the human imagination. So I don't think there will ever be the kind of adulation for real astronauts that we had in the 60s. Actors are more photogenic than real astronauts and they don't spend their time doing tedious and inexplicable things.

But I don't think it's impossible to get people interested in space exploration; only that it's folly to put men up there and expect the public to automatically get excited. Henceforth space exploration is only going to matter to people who've been educated enough to find science interesting. That in itself is a worthwhile goal.

Comment: Re:Did a paid shill write this summary? (Score 2, Interesting) 149

by hey! (#49603913) Attached to: NASA Gets Its Marching Orders: Look Up! Look Out!

I've been a Democrat since 1979. I'd vote for Bernie Sanders if he weren't an abrasive, self-righteous prig who'd inevitably do more damage to his allies than to his enemies. But despite that I'm almost 100% in agreement with the man. And I haven't seen any rampant Republican agenda here. More like rampant laziness, if there were such a thing.

If the editors spent a whole minute between the moment they opened the story and the moment they hit "post" I'd be flabbergasted.

Comment: Re:Bernie Sanders (any real shot at winning?) (Score 1) 276

by hey! (#49603861) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

When hardline socialist parties gain power they tend to become more pragmatic. Such parties usually still consider themselves socialist and think of themselves as working toward eventual socialism.

The Socialist Party in France is a good illustration of this. Go back and look at the history of the Mitterrand presidency. In 1984 he abandoned nationalization of industry so that France would qualify for the European Monetary System. The subsequent collapse of the leftist coalition forced him to "cohabit" with Chirac's conservative RPR. Since then it'd be fair to characterize PS as a center-left party.

Comment: Re:Bernie Sanders (any real shot at winning?) (Score 1) 276

by hey! (#49603755) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

Technically a "socialist" is anyone who believes in "social ownership" of the means of production. A "communist" is someone who believes in the common ownership of the means of production. This may sound like a distinction without a difference, but "social ownership" is a broader concept than common ownership. Common ownership is just one form of "social ownership". Worker cooperatives are another form of social ownership.

Logically then, all communists are socialists, and not all socialists are communists. Some communists see non-communist socialism as a desirable intermediate step toward communism, others do not. Some communist and socialist ideologies fit within the umbrella of "social democracy", others do not.

Socialists and especially communists tend to be idea-fetishists, and so often display a peculiar mania for mutual ideological excommunication.

Comment: Re:Bernie Sanders (any real shot at winning?) (Score 1) 276

by hey! (#49603657) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

Most "democratic socialist" parties are socialist (like the DSP in the US), or have at some point in their history been socialist, or at least see socialism as a desirable long-term goal. But I'm sure there are exceptions. What you really have to do is ask what someone *believes*, not what they call themselves.

Sanders has never run away from the word "socialist", but what he seems to believe in is a strong welfare safety net, labor unions operating in a market economy which allows private profit but with regulatory restrictions on the ability of private entities to externalize costs like pollution. There are plenty of people who would call that "socialist", but most people who just plain call themselves "socialist" wouldn't. What he wants is for the US to be more like "Nordic model" country such as Sweden or Denmark. Maybe that's not your personal idea of political paradise, but it's a hell of a long way from North Korea.

As to why Sanders would call himself a socialist, it may be that's what he calls "socialism", but I think it's because he's a contrarian and gadfly who likes to rile people up but excels at retail politics in a tiny, tiny state. I'm all for his preferred policies, but personally I think he'd be terrible president because he's a self-righteous political prig who'd alienate and undermine any of his allies that didn't toe the line.

Comment: Re:He's a socialist (Score 1) 276

by hey! (#49603151) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

Well to be fair the man calls himself a socialist; he's just wrong about that. You're spot on about the bailout though. It's like my Bolshie Uncle Ivan used to say. "Kid," he'd say, "nobody really believes in socialism. Nobody believes in capitalism either. It's 'socialism for me, capitalism for you!'"

Comment: Re:Can he win? (Score 2) 276

by hey! (#49603119) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

You are aware that budgets take effect the *following year*, right? The US fiscal year X starts in October of X-1.

The 103rd Congress was elected in November 1992, convened in Jan 1993, so they had input into the FY 1994 and FY 1995 budgets. In FY 1994 the federal deficit went down by 52 billion, and in FY 1995 the federal deficit went down by 39 billion. This means the deficit went down by about 20% in both the 103rd Congress/Clinton budgets.

But to be fair to George H.W. Bush the deficit was already coming down. After the deficit peaked at 290.3 billion in FY '92 , GHWB reneged on his famous "read my lips" promise and new taxes in FY '93 to reduced the deficit by about 12% to 255 billion.

Comment: Re:Can he win? (Score 1) 276

by hey! (#49602911) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

Well, one thing about politics is that it occasionally serves up the wildly unexpected. But only occasionally. Sanders' views fall into acceptable range for the most highly partisan Democrats, but they're well aware they have to win votes outside the party base. They'd *prefer* Sanders to Clinton but most of them can live with Hillary -- the ones who can forgive her for voting for the Iraq AUMF bill that is.

As for having tried "Clinton", Hillary Clinton isn't Bill Clinton, any more than Jeb Bush is George W. Bush. If she were this election would be over. She's probably smarter and maybe even tougher than her husband, but she does't have the off-the-charts charisma.

Comment: Re:He's also an interesting candidate for this (Score 1) 276

by hey! (#49602831) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

This kind of reminds me of the interest Ron Paul generated a generation ago among some liberal-leaning voters.

Even if you're generally a straight-line party voter, if you have a brain you don't agree 100% with the party line. In a two-party system you have to make do with whatever centrist mush the least objectionable party is serving up. So when someone comes along who declines to squeeze himself into one or the other mold, he's bound to say a lot of things that people who really don't agree with him very much want to hear someone say.

Comment: Re:Bernie Sanders (any real shot at winning?) (Score 5, Insightful) 276

by hey! (#49602797) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

He calls himself a socialist, but most self-avowed socialist wouldn't consider him one because he doesn't favor compulsory worker ownership, production for use, or any of the usual socialist agenda. He's basically what in Europe would be called a "social democrat" -- pro welfare and collective bargaining within a capitalist production system. He'd fit in with the old UK Labour Party or the contemporary Scottish National Party.

Comment: Re:Can he win? (Score 3) 276

by hey! (#49602725) Attached to: Bernie Sanders, Presidential Candidate and H-1B Skeptic

Well, to be fair he did want to let the Bush tax cuts expire in 2010, which would have cut the deficit considerably. These were sunsetted when they were put into effect so that the Bush administration could claim minimal impact on long-term debt.

It was a deal with Congressional Republicans. Obama got a reauthorization and extension of unemployment benefits (this was in the Great Recession), an inflation adjustment for the alternative minimum tax so it wouldn't bite middle income people, an extension of the child tax credit and earned income credit. Congressional Republicans got an extension of Bush tax cuts on people making more than $250,000 and a reduction of the estate tax.

Basically when push came to shove, both parties preferred to kick the debt can down the road for a few more years. It may have even been the right choice at the time given the weak private sector spending. Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there are no deficit hawks during recessions.

Comment: Re:More religious whackjobs (Score 2) 228

by hey! (#49602499) Attached to: Native Hawaiian Panel Withdraws Support For World's Largest Telescope

And of course it's even a *better* deal for the USA. We get to govern the place, put our military on it, claim the adjacent territorial waters, tax the people who live there etc., in return for the symbolic pretense that we're doing it according to ethical and legal principles. That's the deal.

Occasionally the pretense of principle presents some minor restrictions on what we do, but in that very same grand scheme of things it's still a pretty sweet deal.

Comment: Re:More religious whackjobs (Score 2) 228

by hey! (#49602441) Attached to: Native Hawaiian Panel Withdraws Support For World's Largest Telescope

In the neighborhood were I grew up there was a row of houses that were built on a paper street that had yet to be built. All those houses were accessed via temporary easements running over lots on the adjacent street. But after selling all the houses on the paper street the developer disappeared and nobody wanted to pay for the actual building of the paper street. The people who lived on the paper street just used the theoretically temporary easements on a practically permanent basis.

Once a year the owners of the adjacent lots would erect a temporary fence across the easement to prove that they hadn't legally abandoned their claim over the land. On that day the people who lived on the paper street had to ask permission to cross their neighbors' land. When I was a kid this had been going on longer than anyone in the neighborhood could remember -- judging from the age of the houses maybe thirty years -- but every year those neighbors would put those fences up in the hope that some day the paper street would be built and the easements would cease.

Of course the legal technicalities with the Hawaii telescopes are probably different, but the political principle is the same. If you don't assert your claims periodically, people will argue that you've abandoned them. And I suppose that Hawaiian natives are allowed to have politics like everyone else. Maybe sometimes there are more telescope friendly people in charge, and other times more native-rights assertive people.

Comment: One of the wisest things I've ever heard (Score 1) 503

by hey! (#49601061) Attached to: My High School CS Homework Is the Centerfold

was from the text used in a graduate-level data communication course I took many, many years ago. It said, more or less, that "Communication requires three things: a shared model, a shared set of symbols, and a common system for associating symbols with objects from that model."

Now here's the thing that I think is wise about that idea. People respond as if something like a famous photograph has an objective meaning and that everyone *should* somehow all have the same reaction to it. But intelligent, educated people should know better than that. Personally, I see a considerable element of self-deprecating humor in this particular choice of photo. However nobody should be particularly surprised that not everyone is laughing.

After many years of watching people drag out the pitchforks and torches when they're offended, or man the ramparts when they're offended by that offense, here's what I think the sensible way to handle this kind of thing is. When you feel offended by something someone says, say so, but without accusing the sayer of bad faith or collusion with the Forces of Oppression. When you have given offense you apologize and express yourself a different way.

You have a choice: you can either accept that people coming from different experiences will view things differently than you and work around that; or you can try to convince everyone in the world to think and feel the same way you do about everything.

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. -- Robert Heinlein