Andrew said...This thread isn't political enough.
All right then… the political lamp is lit!
He also said: "The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter."
Rob further said: “Still and all, two things come to mind: it still freaks me out, unless something like David's contrarian idea of making all the records completely public were to take hold, and even then it still changes the landscape of privacy quite a lot.”
EARTH, secrecy is still possible... though you must cache your secrets in some legal way that BOTH protects them and still allows them to be subject to due process. Moreover, the government – too – can do this.
Indeed, in the case of government, considerable latitude should be given to those public protectors who claim to have a need to operate in cryptic ways. I have consulted for the CIA and believe me, I do NOT want them to instantly drop their pants and go naked before enemies of the West! I want them to win tactical battles, and it is the tactical battles that require secrecy most.
Still, the situation is very different over the span of strategic time... years and decades. Over those spans, it is important to recognize the big picture. That our CIVILIZATION prospers - and its opponents tend to shrivel - the more open the world and its varied competitive battlefields become. The more open is the competition, the more it becomes a matter for the accountability arenas - markets, science, democracy... that create beneficial synergies out of competition, instead of reciprocal destruction. Further, the more open the playing field, the more standing individuals have, contributing their billions of eyes to a network that can detect errors and criminality, helping the professionals to do their jobs.
All through the Cold War, the Soviet Union operated under a “logical-sounding” premise. ”If we keep a 99% CLOSED society, and the Americans keep a 99% OPEN society, then we will know 199 points of information and the Americans will know 101 points… and we’ll win!" Throughout all that time, they got more information about our defense from issues of AVIATION WEEK than we got about theirs, through all of our spies in the USSR. And yet, did they win? (Indeed, this is a prime example of the human tendency for self-hypnosis and delusion, based on repeating logical-sounding mantras over and over again… today part of the insanity of the right.)
WHY did we win – (and overwhelmingly) – this competition, despite the purported advantages of closed-control? Of course we credit open markets, for their creative fecundity, producing so many innovations that our rivals were overwhelmed. They simply could not copy them fast enough. But worth noting: it is not the corporations that make these markets. Nor the CEO aristocracy. Rather, it is openness itself. If you have it, something like creative markets will happen, no matter how the structure is set up.
Evidence? In 1945, at the end of WWII, the United States was ten years ahead of the Soviet Union in atomic technology and maybe just a couple in electronics. Spies helped the USSR close that ten year nuclear weapons gap, so we clamped down, classifying that entire field under tight wraps of security. Meanwhile, the field of electronics was left open. Forty years later? Our lead in electronics and cybernetics had grown spectacularly, into a gap of many generations that could never be crossed. Meanwhile, in the area of bombs, everybody agreed that the Soviets were essentially even with us. Conclusion? Any field in which we foster creativity through openness is one that will utilize our civilization’s strengths. Fields that we shut down, by short-term thinking and reflex, will play to the strengths of our opponents.
(And mind you, it was cold warrior Edward Teller who pushed this point, demanding utter opennes NOT as a good-goody stance, but in order to crush communism, decisively!)
Getting back to my core point: a SECULAR TREND toward a more generally open world should be our grand goal, even if it has irksome effects in the short term.
Indeed, it is no paradox to envision the CIA using cryptic tactical methodologies toward the aim of fostering secular openness trends! It is no paradox… but it does require agile, nonlinear thinking. It takes the intelligence to realize that our civilization is not about the convenience of its leaders.
No, I’ll go farther. That secular openness trend is the very thing that such officers should realize they are loyal to! It is more fundamentally a trait of “freedom” and “America” than any word or flag, or even any particular land mass.
Sticking my neck out, it is just this secular trend that has (I believe) driven most of the anti-modernist forces crazy. They are frantic, right now, across all standard borders of ideology. It is why the Iranian president recently sent a letter to President Bush, pleading that Bush take in the “big picture” and see a wider perspective. Asking him to realize that they are both allies, inherently the same. Co-belligerents against a secular-scientific and “liberal democratic” (his very words) civilization.
It would be a mistake to shrug off this letter (the way the press has) as a bit of other-culture looniness to scratch our heads over and then dismiss with a chuckle. I am deeply impressed with the Iranian’s ability to step back and see things from a wider angle than mere Shiite Islam, but rather, as a matter of deep social and psychological agendas. He does represent the same fundamental personality, the same fear of an open future, that has dominated American power in the 21st Century.
This is important because a crisis is coming. The forces of traditional authority span every spectrum of religion and culture and politics (e.g. left-to-right). What they all share is a reflex, a 4,000 year habit of preferring unidirectional vision and evasion of accountability. They will not go gently into the coming good light.
Is it truly coming? In EARTH (1989) I forecast a worldwide "Secrecy War" in the 2010s, almost an visceral and spontaneous uprising (like those fed-up Union soldiers who stood up, against orders, during the Battle of Missionary Ridge). Retaliation by an increasingly well-educated and outraged world population. A drive to cleanse the shadows wherein parasites have always prevailed.
At one level or another, this will have to happen. Not only to end corruption and make markets truly (at last) the cornucopian problem solving machines we are told they ought to be... but also, above all, so that errors in fields like nanotech and biotech et. al. are detected and discussed, openly, before they can become world-killers.
But again, let me reiterate. I am not a “nakedness radical”. What is scary about the NSA stonewalling of Justice Dept investigators is NOT that the NSA acted to preserve operational secrecy. It is that they did so in a way that in effect rejects the very notion of accountability ever applying to them and their secrets.
There is a potential middle ground. A compromise position, that could preserve their operational secrets while ensuring accountability. It is inherent in my longstanding proposal to create the office of Inspector General of the United States (IGUS) who could bridge the two worlds, by creating a corps of trusted observers who can watch the watchers for us.
But it is in the nature of human beings that we rationalize. And it is in the nature of the paid professional protective caste that they will tell themselves that they are trustworthy. That they do not require watching.
Alas, though they are our beloved protectors, they WILL forget (if we let them) that they are also our servants.
Anonymous said...More political fuel. There is an excellent post over on Professor Balkin's blog about the risk profile of the Bush presidency going forward. The conclusion is that Bush has every incentive to make bigger gambles irregardless of who controls Congress after this coming election. I hold out hope, though, that the average person is smart enough for such a policy to backfire.
One more reason I have said repeatedly - THE top priority for all modernists (e.g. liberals, democrats, libertarians and Goldwater Conservatives) MUST be to reach out to the abused members of the Officer Corps and the Intelligence Community and the Protector Caste. Only they are positioned to detect and thwart such ploys.
Erik, the child labor stats are amazing to me, yet credible. The people of Latin America have decided to awaken. According to my 1987 meme war theory, they had to choose whether to spiral down into macho frenzy, or rise up and become modern people, shrugging off the chains of dogma and class interest. The BIG emphasis on providing free education down there is evidence of the latter...
...But I’ll only really believe it when Spanish language SCIENCE FICTION takes off in a big way!
(BTW Steve, that’s simply wrong. Yes, in the past child labor sometimes was the 1st step up the ladder, especially seasonal farm labor. Still, that transition is all-too easy for aristocratic elites to stymie, as they have repeatedly in every culture OTHER than the most recent ones, consigning the children of child-laborers to be child-laborers, as well. A decent modern state must break such cycles! It must ensure that these children leap over that phase and devour education. There is no better role for a state. (And it is perfectly compatible with free-market capitalism.) We cannot afford to wait. Nor is waiting prudent, in an era when angry young men can become technologically super-empowered. This is a leap that must be accomplished in one more generation, or we all may die for having failed.)
Other political matters:
More from Russ Daggatt: “Read about the latest Christian right war on contraception. You really MUST read it. The logic seems pretty simple. Contraception results in fewer unwanted pregnancies and fewer abortions. This should be something that brings together all parties -- pro-life and right-to-choose. But a growing contingent among the moralists who increasingly are dictating the affairs of our country oppose contraception because, they believe, it makes pre-marital sex "consequence-free." Even within marriage, it diverts sex from its holy objective to the mere pursuit of pleasure. No sex before marriage, and thereafter only for procreation.
“The Bush administration is spending $200 million a year for "abstinence only" programs in our schools. The little hard data available suggests these programs are not only ineffective, they are counterproductive. The don't prevent sex. They just prevent acknowledging the possibility of sex and preparing for it ahead of time. Internationally, the Bush administration is diverting money allocated to HIV/AIDS prevention into abstinence only programs -- away from other priorities that actually save lives.“
Re possible democratic strategies... like many, I find it clear that the Dems are having trouble formulating a response to Iraq that does not sound like a plaint that Saddam should have been left in power.
Effective points being made:
* civilian meddling/ignoring professional advice
* corruption (!)
* WMD lies
Potentially effective points NOT being made:
1. We were not greeted with "kisses and flowers" (Rummy's words). Why? We WOULD have been so greeted if we had liberated the Shiites when we promised to... in 1991! But instead of continuing 12 more hours to Basra, THESE SAME MORONS consigned the Iraqi people to 12 more years of hell. At Bush Sr's call, those people rose up against Saddam, having been promised that "We're on our way!" That betrayal - one of the worst stains on American honor in a century - was one reason why I WANTED to go get Saddam.
1a. But I wanted it done competently, surgically, honestly.
1b. THESE morons are the very last people who should lecture to ANYBODY about Saddam! Having coddled him in the 80s, then having let him take them by surprise in Kuwait… and thereupon having decided to lift him back up, brushing him off and propping him back up in 91, committing the heinous Shame of Ninety-One… they have no right. And we should all say so.
2. I just said " competently, surgically, honestly..." You mean like in Afghanistan? Exactly! Only these morons don't deserve any credit for Afgh. Bush and Rummy only had time (after 9/11) to say "go!" to a war plan that was already on the books! A war plan devised and okay'd by... wait for it.. Welsley Clark, Gen. Shinseki and Bill Clinton.
Proof of this is that the Taliban assassinated Massoud, head of the Northern Alliance, days before 9/11. They knew all about the War Plan in place and that it would rely upon the Uzbeks, Tajiks etc led by Massoud.
Indeed, there is reason to believe that THE main goal of 9/11 was not simply to harm us but to draw us into a "land war of attrition in Asia." Remember this is EXACTLY how bin Laden achieved his greatest glory, bringing down a Soviet Behemoth Empire, humbling it in Afghanistan...
...only to his shock, our agile war plan and stunning professionalism and diplomatic skill with allies resulted in him and his friends having their asses kicked! Not since Alexander has an imperium entered the Kush without regretting it, amid howls of pain. Yet, Pax Americana surprised OBL, and did it well.
Only then... out of the blue... WE DECIDE TO GIVE HIM EXACTLY WHAT HE WANTED... an utterly incompetent "land war of attrition in Asia." What were the odds? How likely is it, that a great nation would reverse every military doctrine that had just won miraculous victories, in the Balkans and Afghanistan, and suddenly turn around to repeat every error of Vietnam? If a sci fi author had written it, the readers would have snorted in disdain! It could never happen!
But it did. And, even more amazingly, the administration’s critics won’t even point this out.
Yes, this is a little complicated to express to voters. But impossible? I doubt it.
Oh! The Buffet is served! Yes, the April edition of Armageddon Buffet is online and ready for your consumption. Not ENTIRELY the same as my take on things, but entertaining as all get out.