Open Thread

As long as I’m linking to io9, I might as well recommend this. No point summarizing, just go read. And chat about whatever.

A dream unthreatened by the morning light

April 30 , 2012: the first day that I heard a space lawyer talk about the legal complications of asteroid mining not in a science fiction movie or at a futurist conference but in a regular news item about potential current(ish) events.

On Tuesday, plans were unveiled for Planetary Resources Inc., a company founded by Peter Diamandis and Eric Anderson and financed by Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page and chairman Eric Schmidt. Planetary Resources expects to launch robotic prospectors within two years.


If those daring plans succeed, von der Dunk said, it would create its fair share of confusion about mining rights in space – from who owns what to how business interests beyond Earth’s orbit would be specifically protected.


He cited the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forms the basis of international space law and to which all space-faring nations are a party. The treaty says that outer space constitutes a “global commons.”


The problem, von der Dunk said, is that specific international legal parameters have not been sufficiently established to protect legitimate public or private concerns beyond very general, vague considerations.
“This prompts several questions: What rights of protection would the mining company have against others wishing to ‘intrude,’ given that a global commons is in a principled fashion open to everyone?” Von der Dunk said. “And, who is going to be held liable – and to what extent – when mining activities cause damage to other space activities or are harmed by them?”

Gonna mark my calendar for this one.

Conservatives Aren’t Necessarily Empathy-Impaired…

… but the politically engaged conservatives mostly are. Thomas Edsall, at the NYTimes, on “Finding the Limits of Empathy“:

… Ravi Iyer, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Southern California who analyzes the differences in the moral outlook of conservatives and liberals, has posted an exceptionally interesting collection of data on his “Politics and Moral Psychology Blog.” (Iyer’s research is reinforced by the work of Philip E. Tetlock at Wharton and Linda J. Skitka of the University of Illinois.)…

Politically engaged liberals and conservatives exhibit strikingly different levels of empathy. The following chart, constructed by Iyer, illustrates this beautifully:

The more interested in politics a conservative is, the lower his (or her) level of empathy. Liberals move in the opposite direction: the more interested in politics they are, the more empathetic. Empathy, in case you’re wondering, is measured by responses to 28 statements in the “Davis Interpersonal Reactivity Index,” including “I often have tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me,” “I sometimes find it difficult to see things from the ‘other guy’s’ point of view,” and “Sometimes I don’t feel very sorry for other people when they are having problems.”

In the 2010 election, 42 percent of voters identified themselves as conservative; 38 percent said they were moderate; and 20 percent said they were liberal. If that division obtains in 2012 and beyond, the proportion of conservative to liberal voters in the electorate should give liberals pause, especially insofar as they expect elected officials to propose and pass legislation the underlying purpose of which is to help those most in need…

I’m a little suspicious of the sudden rush to “prove” that if our political process is irretrievably borked, it’s all down to what’s broken in our individual brains. But there is a certain logic, if you accept the theory that people mostly get interested in politics — in spending precious time and energy on elections that could otherwise go towards work, family life, getting more use out of that expensive gym membership, or keeping up with the local sports franchise — when they perceive that something is “wrong” with the existing order. For conservatives, that “wrongness” is hardly likely to be an overwhelming sense that Tha Gubmint just isn’t doing enough for those people who are… unlike the aggreived conservative.

It’s gonna work because I’m pushing it right

Let’s get Tunch a night in the Lincoln bedroom.

Goal Thermometer

Update. This is for the Kenyan usurper.

Gotta have some of your attention, give it to me

Via reader D and many others, no one could have predicted that even a liberal former Republican (and svengali to closet case Republican Senatorial candidate Michael Huffington) turned pageview pimp would back Mitt Romney:

“I think it’s one thing to celebrate the fact that they did such a great job. It’s one thing to have an NBC special from the Situation Room,” the media mogul (Arianna Huffington) said on “CBS This Morning.” “All that, to me, is perfectly legitimate. But to turn it into a campaign ad is one of the most despicable things you can do.”

The thing is this: one of the big foreign policy differences between Obama and McCain was Obama’s belief in going into Pakistan to get Al Qaeda. Given the civilians who died in drone strikes and the fact that I don’t know how important killing Osama bin Laden was, I’m not sure who I agree with in retrospect.

But saying that a Republican president wouldn’t have gone into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden…well, that’s probably true. If you can’t accept that, you’re calling war hero John McCain a liar, you tree-hugging punk. He said he wouldn’t do it, and I take him at his word.

Arianna just likes attention. That’s why I don’t read HuffPost, and it’s why I don’t listen to anything she says. It’s great that she pulls more pageviews than Drudge, but she lost me at the vaccines cause autism, if not earlier.

Totes SFW Explicit Film

I’m still basically on my work/life-compelled blog hiatus, but I could not so abandon the BJ community as to fail to bring to your attention serious-charismatic-megafauna-gettin’-busy video.

Hence, Ladles and Jellyspoons, may I present some awesome rhino porn (h/t

<div align=”center”><iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

Do read the story framing the clip.  There is the suggestion of some significant insights into animal behavior that may — emphasize the tentative there — have real bearing on other conservation/species restoration efforts.

Oh, and I suppose you could consider this the most open-minded of open threads.  (And I suppose it is too much to ask to keep it more or less clean in the comment thread?  Ah, well.)

PS:  Here’s a bonus video of rhino courtship:

<div align=”center”><iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe></div>

Don’t it make my brown eyes blue

I realize that Ryan is ballot box poison for Republicans, but mostly this just makes me mad:

ABC News actually compared Ryan with Kevin Kline’s character from the 1993 movie Dave—an endearingly naïve Everyman who accidentally finds himself president and does battle with cynical forces to scrub the federal budget of waste. After showing a clip from the film, reporter Jonathan Karl cut to footage of himself in Ryan’s office attempting to re-create the scene. Karl opens a budget tome to a random page and looks on in awe as Ryan explains the dense prose and the savings to be had.


Seeming genuine is something Ryan does extraordinarily well. And here is where something deeper is at play, more than Ryan’s charm and winning personality, something that gets at the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary Washington. The Ryan brand is rooted in his ostentatious wonkery. Because, unlike the Bushes and the Palins, he grounds his position in facts and figures, he seems like an encouraging candidate to strike a bargain. But the thing to keep in mind about Ryan is that he was trained in the world of Washington Republican think tanks. These were created out of a belief that mainstream economists were hopelessly biased to the left, and crafted an alternative intellectual ecosystem in which conservative beliefs—the planet is not getting warmer, the economy is not growing more unequal—can flourish, undisturbed by skepticism. Ryan is intimately versed in the blend of fact, pseudo-fact, and pure imagination inhabiting this realm.

Ryan’s adoring fans inside the beltway will make sure Americans never find out that Ryan is a nut. But they won’t be able to keep people from finding out that he would end Social Security and Medicare, and that’s the important thing. Voters don’t know c-razy, but they know c-at food.