Friday, April 28, 2006

Podcasts and more snippets-of-science...

More catching up. Here are some top-level items... followed (in comments) by more of those tasty science snippets you all love so much.

1. News:

I am quoted in an article about sousveillance, that ran recently in the Village Voice:,belgiorno,72978,6.html
(Not actually very accurate of my real views, but it adds to the melange of insights and reflects the demand fro reciprocal accountability (RA).

2. Full speeches available for download:

* A talk at the Institute for Accelerating Change about "exploring horizons," or how people peer ahead, spotting errors and avoiding crippling assumptions.

3. David Brin INTERVIEWS that originally ran on National Public Radio - topics include:

* 'Video Surveillance'.

* "The Science in Science Fiction" shared with William Gibson.

* "Science Fiction Writing."

* The Future on a special "NPR Talk of The Nation: Science Friday with Ira Flatow."

* A panel discussion about spying and censorship on the Internet. (Visit then click on 'itunes'.)

4. Some side notes:

* Kevin Lenagh, the artist & co-author of CONTACTING ALIENS, has written in with the following: “ On, in the for sale section, I'm putting some of the Uplift Art on products. If you can, let people know that they can have General Boult on a Tee-shirt!” Kewl!

4. More great science snippets will be posted below... In “comments”...

(This technique of offering the big data dumps as lead items in the comments level, has the advantage of keeping the top layer clean, letting casual find the (pompously) “important” essays. But you citizens of this community are free to weigh in and tell me if you approve, or dislike the method. Ironically though, you can only do so under... Comments.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Political Potpourri...

 I don't have anything as high in quality as those earlier essays -- about "The Choices We Face" and "Defending the Officer Corps." But there are a bunch of items I've stored up, that I'll offer below.

First, if you are - or know - a libertarian... or a Goldwater Conservative who is finally fed up with today's lost-cause GOP... do drop by and view the effort there, to turn that party into a new hope for practical believers in freedom and markets, rather than a bin for lapel-grabbing "oversimplifiers". (Putting a kind face on it.) They are republishing (after a good recent edit by me) one of my best serialized essays about basic political philosophy. Kind of heady stuff. But I do my patented "take a step back" number, quite a few times.

Let's start the potpourri with the most important article out there, this week.

The Worst President in History? by Prof. Sean Wilentz, in the Rolling Stone (Friday 21 April 2006). This Very well written analysis is a good history lesson to boot. A deeply dignified and scholarly look at the panoply of presidencies, including Polk, Buchanan and Clinton etc, comparing at many levels.

Snipped excerpts (but the whole thing really is essential):

“Now, though, George W. Bush is in serious contention for the title of worst ever. In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton - a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

“The lopsided decision of historians should give everyone pause. Contrary to popular stereotypes, historians are generally a cautious bunch. We assess the past from widely divergent points of view and are deeply concerned about being viewed as fair and accurate by our colleagues. When we make historical judgments, we are acting not as voters or even pundits, but as scholars who must evaluate all the evidence, good, bad or indifferent. Separate surveys, conducted by those perceived as conservatives as well as liberals, show remarkable unanimity about who the best and worst presidents have been.”

“And these figures were gathered before the debacles over Hurricane Katrina, Bush's role in the Valerie Plame leak affair and the deterioration of the situation in Iraq. Were the historians polled today, that figure would certainly be higher.”

The rest truly is an interesting and non-venomous, professorial set of fascinating evaluations and comparisons.

The losers weigh in - if only they communicated like this earlier:

* Worth a glance: the movie trailer for Al Gore's 'An Inconvenient Truth'

* A very thought provoking article by John Kerry... or by a really superier writer on his staff? Does it matter? Worth reading just for the ruthless efficiency of the prose.

Recall my appeal to the Officer Corps to save America from a Rovean "Octorber Surprise" contrived to win the November election by stoking fear? Well, Russell Redenbaugh - -- suggests that the “October Surprise” may not be something horrid loony-awful, like a US strike upon Iran, but the direct opposite... “By examining the structure of incentives, it becomes clear that this administration and the Iranian government each have an incentive to reach an agreement prior to the November election.  From the administration’s point of view, the value of any agreement drops substantially after the elections.  From Iran’s point of view, the willingness of our administration to take unpopular action increases after the election.”

At one level, of course, this would be great news. I have been urging rapprochement with Iran for years (though with the Iranian people, bypassing the jibbering loons who currently desperately cling to power there).

On the other hand, even a GOOD "surprise" could be dastardly. This is the sort of positive step that would be treasonous to delay many months for mere political purposes. Alas, it is also the kind that the members of our Intelligence Community might NOT choose to interfere with, as the actual effects (nonpolitical) are beneficial. (Unlike, say, an intemperate and rash bombing of Iran.)

I had not thought of this. That the administration might pull some autumnal surprise that’s sane and good. But as atypical as that would be, given their record, it does fit Rove’s penchant for political jiu jitsu. So, how best to prevent this sort of thing from swinging the election?

Talk it up, I guess. Talk up every good thing that you can imagine the administration doing, between now and November. Make every good thing our suggestion. And make clear that we will all be watching the timing. We will know if a good thing was delayed until October, for political effect.

Okay, now something both depressing and hilarious at the same time. I do not agree with absolutely everything at this site. Indeed, I am probably the biggest promoter of the idea of creating a Big Tent to welcome honest and decent conservatives into... as the only way to finally end “culture war.” We will all benefit much more by ending it than by waging it. Still, if you want to see it waged well, visit:

Finally, as you know, I do a lot of public speaking and corporate consulting. If your organization is seeking a top flight out-of-thebox stem-winder for a major event, have em drop by Next eastward trip is to Boston, DC and NYC, end of June.

Thrive in hope.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Catching up on science... And other cool stuff...

This journal is supposedly about more than political and social and philosophical contrarian ponderings! We modernists are also interested in peering ahead in order to grasp the onrushing dangers and hopes of our crucial time. And a great deal of that peering ahead has to do with science!

During my long hiatus in electronic hell (it’s not over yet, apparently) a lot of cool stuff accumulated. It’s probably unwise to post the whole morass of odds and ends up here, at the topmost level. (For one thing, I am hoping people are linking to the more important articles, about “the Choices We Face” and the plight of the US Officer Corps, etc.)

So here’s what I’m going to do. I will post a long set of news items and links to cool science news, etc. as a comment to this topmost posting. If this kind of thing interests you, just click below.

But first...... let me offer a handful of potpourri items:

1. My full essay on "Other Theories of Intelligent Design" (originally tested on this blog) has appeared in SKEPTIC's online edition at:

2. For those of you who are starting to nose around for information about leading democratic candidates for 2008, there is a lot of buzz about former VA governor Mark Warner, who does appear to be quite a guy. Here are a couple of brief articles that he wrote for THE GLOBALIST:

The thing that impresses me most is that he "gets" what the real Culture War is all about. Not between left and right, but between those who believe in the future and those who do not.

3. Please, you go read “Rumsfeld’s Rules”... the well-meaning (or cynically manipulative) list of “wise sayings” published by the Secretary of Defense when he returned to that post in 2001, close to three decades after he reigned over our final humiliation in Vietnam. Please, somebody, hector some better-known blogger than me, so that this link gets wider attention. The Rules should be read at two levels, for their cliched but genuine truth... and for their bitter irony. For one thing, the list makes clear that today’s Donald Rumsfeld has to be the Bizarro-opposite-guy to whoever wrote these rules. Obsessively and perfectly opposite. So much so that I suspect we’re living in an old Star Trek episode! See it all at:

4. Some of you feel that the true heir of decent conservatism OUGHT to be the Libertarian Party, but you feel put off by the romantic ideologues who run it? Drop by to see the group trying to change all that. I’ve given them my extensive essay on “political axes...” and another arguing that socialism and aristocracy are just different versions of the same basic beast. Independent of my own crank positions, these pragmatic incrementalists are just the ticket for transforming the LP into the best and true alternative to the democrats. Also splitting Roves Big Tent by giving freemarketers a home. But only if libertarians become much less - cosmically less - flaky. There’s nothing Rove should fear more.

Now click “comments” to see a melange of cool NON-POLITICAL stuff. Great science snippets and links about weird tomorrows.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


How likely is it that any human is well-qualified to judge his own status as an “essential man”?

It is true that history shows some examples of fellows who resisted all external pressures to step down, knowing with brilliant sureness that they had a vital and historic mission. Almost certainly Abraham Lincoln was right, when he took this stance. Arguably, FDR. And yet, knowing humans as we do – especially their most dismal habit of self-serving delusion, should we not have the reflex of holding this kind of self-appraisal in… well… suspicion?

Should not one of the traits of an honest and mature man be to recognize this delusional habit, and worry about it? The way that George Washington did, when he resigned paramount power – several times – and set the Great Example?

Sure, a certain bullheaded determination is essential in politics. But there are ways to compensate. To ensure accountability. To (above all) provide that your institution and constituents get the benefit of the doubt, and not you. The nation and not the leader. When overwhelming evidence suggests that maybe a guy should go… shouldn’t he go?

You see the same classic syndrome across the entire CEO caste, driving up compensation/pay/stock-option rates toward the moon, as chummy fellow members of the caste vote each other outrageous pay scales, justified on what basis?

Why, it seems always to be a variant on (surprise!) the old Essential Man thing!

So let’s veer aside for a moment and ponder this version of the syndrome. The CEO variation.

Start with basics. These guys believe in capitalism, right?

All right, then. The core assumption of capitalism – and I believe this too - is that high rates of return will normally attract new talent to a field! Right? Imbalances and shortages should be self-correcting.

Specifically, if a shortage of good managerial talent stimulates high market prices for managerial talent, then, within short order, new managerial talent should commence to train itself, ramp-up, then compete (presumably fairly) and innovate until there is so much of it around that the shortage is eased. Whereupon, anomalously high premiums will no longer have to be paid.

In other words, the predicted curve is that a brief period of elevated CEO pay should soon give way to a talent migration that causes a surfeit, even a glut of skilled executives, easing the shortage and causing pay rates to drop.

Isn’t that the fundamental premise? Isn’t that the absolutely basic article of capitalistic-freemarket faith?

But it is not what we’ve observed. Not at all. Instead, the pattern across the last two decades has almost perfectly matched what you see when insatiable demand meets an absolutely limited supply. Like the limited supply of Da Vinci paintings, or Stradivarius violins. Or seven foot centers who can both rebound and pass accurately from mid-court.

Members of the CEO caste seem to be saying “we are actually mutants, like pro basketball players. No matter how much we are paid, the pool of skilled corporate administrators will remain fixed and small.  Market incentives – even astronomical ones - will never augment supply. All companies can do is bid up CEO pay in order to hire the few mutant managers away from each other, just like sports teams!”

Well? Is that not EXACTLY the logic implicit in the CEO compensation spiral, as we see it endlessly accelerating skyward? The justification for taking billions away from research, from reinvestment, from worker benefits and from dividends for smalltime stockholders? So that top managers can move around like football free agents, playing rapid musical chairs and games of golden parachute?

Hm. Interesting proposition. Mutants. Like Sports stars. (In which case, are we best served coming up with some kind of league-wide reserve clause, hm? Don’t some of these same guys own sports teams and cry for caps? For cost controls? Oh, but then let’s also leave off the whole youth factor. They seem also to be saying that in this field, unlike any other across all of human endeavor, youthful brilliance is entirely irrelevant. Hm. And double hm.)

Alas, there is a problem. In sports, there are explicit performance metrics that can be applied, in order to determine who are the top fifty or so mutant-level -- and thus irreplaceable -- athletes in a given sport. But in business, tremendous effort is made to obscure and obfuscate every performance metric. Correlations with stockholder return or rates of innovation or long term company health are vague, at best. The one correlation that seems always to affect pay is how well you manage to pack the Board with your pals. And that is a dead giveaway. Because truly superior men would be ashamed of having to use tricks like those. They would refuse.

Here’s an example offered by financial expert John Mauldin: “John Walter joined AT&T, but after nine short months he was out of a job. The complaint was that Walter "lacked intellectual leadership." Walter got $26 million for that little stint in a severance package. That's what you call really beating time. Of course, a few of us might have another word for it -- and for AT&T.”

And yet, let’s reiterate the irony -- these same guys sing the praises of capitalism as a perfect mechanism for swiftly correcting imbalances of supply and demand! It always works, they say. Well, except where you just gotta have mutants. Amazing.

Just for the record, I most definitely believe in competitive markets and have said so countless times. Indeed, my aim during this aside is to point out a hypocritical betrayal of markets by those who most vocally claim to be defending them. In fact, there is a business correlate with the kind of price curve that we have seen in the area of CEO compensation. You’ll see a similar curve in a market for a commodity has been cornered so that production is controlled by a small, collusive group, in order to create artificial scarcity. Think diamonds.

And no better example is served (as we return full circle to the earlier topic) than the situation we observe with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The man who oversaw our humiliation in not one, but two catastrophic Asian land wars, who supported Saddam for decades, till the maniac slipped his leash, who participated in the incredible Blunder of 1991, who later perceived Saddam bulging with hair-trigger WMDs, who suppressed military counsel about troop levels, who confidently predicted we would be greeted by the Iraqi people with “kisses and flowers,” who sanctioned torture, who declared “mission accomplished” while predicting a short happy transition to peace and democracy in Iraq, who oversaw the worst decline in our state of readiness in generations and has alienated most of the Officer Corps and most of our allies…

…now appears to be claiming (without offering a scintilla of evidence) that he is such a superior manager of our nation’s defense that there are no possible replacements. None at all. Not even from the pool of experienced and well-respected conservatives. (e.g. some retired general?) (Er, some other retired general?)

Look, there are many ways to look at these things, but I always try to ask… ”what are you REALLY SAYING?”

And what this “essential man” seems to be saying is “you must continue to put up with all my failures, arrogance, bullying and unending chain of mistakes. Because my political faction cannot find anyone else to bring forward. Nobody else who might – while lacking my heavy burden of liabilities – actually do a better job.”

It’s all the same dreary rationalization – and hearkens to the pattern that really destroyed markets in most cultures, for 4,000 years.

A market for a commodity has been cornered and production controlled, in order to create artificial scarcity. But this market – for managerial talent – must be opened and freed, if our civilization is to prosper.
 ==The Generals' Revolt==

Some of you have commented upon Donald Rumsfeld’s response to the Generals’ Revolt, in which he firmly dismissed any possibility of resigning the office of Secretary of Defense. He admits that there have been problems and miscalculations and failures – many – worthy of deep criticism. Yet, he insists that his leadership remains badly needed.

culturewarbattlegroundInstead of joining the back-and-forth hatefest at its superficial (and least interesting) level, let’s dig a bit. Inherent in everything that Rumsefled is saying appears to be one core assumption -- that there aren’t any other qualified conservatives – untarnished by scandal and failure – who are capable of doing his job.

In other words, despite taking responsibility for AbuGhraib and failed intelligence and mangled war planning and losing the confidence of the Officer Corps, he remains the “essential man.” Impossible to replace, even by another, similar conservative.

Notice how I expressed it. Of course, many of us would like to see neocon leadership replaced at the top of our republic. This movement has acted as if they had a “mandate” to utterly transform America, despite having “won” disputed and at-best profoundly narrow electoral victories. A troglodytic and roughshod era of rationalization and contemptuous dismissal of all dissenting thought.

See: The Real Culture War: Defining the Background

and NeoConservatism, Islam and Ideology: The Real Culture War

But I am not going there right now. Instead, let us perform another of our patented thought experiments.

Let us assume, for a moment, that DR and his movement do have a “mandate.” A blank check from the American people to pursue a general line of policy called “neoconservatism” – including all of the adventurism and romantic Platonism that comes part and parcel with the Straussian worldview.

Even if his movement had such a mandate, that is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not Rumsfeld should resign. For what he is actually claiming is that he – himself – is not replaceable even by some other neocon who has a top defense background and is politically compatible!

In other words, his own movement has such a paucity of talent that it cannot step in with another highly qualified person who can pursue conservative policies WHILE soothing the trainwreck of morale within the Pentagon and across America at large.

Let’s take a moment to delve into the implications of this dogged stand. Whether we call it “stalwart and determined” or “obstinately power-grubbing,” there are even deeper levels that merit exploration.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Officer Corps Fights Back... Shall We Help Them?

As anybody can see, the big news this week concerns a growing avalanche of retired generals who have decided to step forward, speaking out about this administration’s ongoing travesty of failed leadership. Specifically, a series of military men - with nearly twenty stars among them - have called for the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, calling him unfit for office because of, among other failings, “gross incompetence.”

In fact, for three years I’ve been predicting that this sort of action by stalwart senior members of the United States Officer Corps would turn out to be the ultimate Achilles Heel for Bush-Cheney-Rove & co. My reasons for believing this were - and are - multitudinous, and I’ll get to them in a moment.

See: The Under-Reported Purge of the U.S. Officer Corps.

But first, I want to turn this thing around and shine light on another aspect of the news. A travesty that is erupting on the other side of the political spectrum. I’m talking about the way that some left-wing activists have chosen to react, not by welcoming the generals and embracing them, but by spitting in their faces.

In one case, a shrill blogger referred to these officers as “rats deserting a sinking ship.” Snidely calling the generals shirkers, who are late-comers to the anti-Bush movement, this fellow denigrates them for focusing solely on Rumsfeld, instead of openly and broadly attacking an administration of horrors.

True, this kind of nonsense represents a fringe, a shrill-lefty element that has always railed for the Democratic Party to be a small tent filled with ideological purists, “true to their roots.” (See addendum, below, about how each party has dealt with the radicals in their midst.) So why do I even bother to mention them?

Because, despite their small numbers, the potential damage that these fools can wreak is overwhelming. We -- not just liberals and Democrats, but all decent citizens of the U.S. and the world -- are being offered a gift. A possible way out. And a few loonies want us to indignantly throw it away.

Hence, I want to speak out now for the opposite tactic. For accepting the gift, with eagerness and gratitude.


Few civilians can appreciate how difficult this step has been for military men who spent their professional lives steeped in a tradition of stoical, apolitical silence and submission to civilian authority. Reluctance to interfere in the nation’s political affairs. That tradition, virtually unprecedented in the history of armies and nations, should be revered and respected. It OUGHT to be hard for officers to do what these generals have done. That alone explains why their agonized decision took so long in coming.

It also explains why their focus has been so specific, targeted singly and narrowly at Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. By aiming their bullets only at him, the generals are saying “we choose the monster who is closest to us in the chain of command.” True, they are perfectly aware that any damage to Rumsfeld will carry through, politically, to Bush and Cheney and the GOP. But this approach maintains, to the maximum degree possible, an appearance of veneration to civilian authority. It also expresses a moderate and restrained will toward using “minimum effective force.”

Again, this should be understood and respected.

(Indeed, military men are painfully aware of something never mentioned in the press, that Donald Rumsfeld occupied the exact same office thirty years ago, the LAST time we were humiliated in an ill-conceived ground war-of-attrition in Asia. A startling historical coincidence whose relevance is limited. Yet, it is chilling, just the same.)

If we were to pay attention to these senior military men, we might even learn a thing or two. For example, would it surprise most liberals to realize that the U.S. Officer Corps is, in fact, the 3rd best-educated clade in America today, just after college professors and medical doctors? These senior leaders know an awful lot about history, about the world and its dangers. Would it hurt to listen?

For example, their complaints don’t ONLY have to do with the tactical conduct of the Iraq War, as blithering and imbecilic as that ill-conceived adventure has been, featuring micromanagement by petty armchair Napoleans that would “make Robert MacNamara look like a hands-off kind of guy.” There are other issues afoot, some that cut even deeper, such as the demolition of America’s alliances, the misuse of our reserves, and an incredible, almost unprecedented decline in our actual readiness to respond to any kind of large scale surprise.

(For more on this, see:

What all of this ultimately amounts to is a golden opportunity to change all of the dynamics that have made the first few years of the 21st Century such bad news for America and Western Civilization. The men and women who have worked the hardest and trained the longest to protect that civilization are holding out their hands to us now -- not just to liberals and democrats, but to all moderate, pragmatic, calm and decent citizens who want common sense to prevail yet again.

Shall we accept the gift we are being offered?


For the sake of brevity, let me put forward a simple list of reasons why the leftist reflex should be rejected. Reasons why honest liberals and democrats -- and patriotic conservatives who care to join in -- should make this a key issue in the coming campaign.

1. We have short historical memories. We tend to forget how powerful a weapon this kind of issue can be for democrats, the way national defense served JFK in the election of 1960. How about “support Rummy or our troops, you can’t have it both ways!”

Indeed, by comparing the Clinton-Clark Balkans Intervention, line-by-line, against the Bush-Cheney Iraq Mess, devastating points could be won. (In the Balkans, we never lied, we achieved all objectives promptly, bolstered alliances, improved relations with the Muslim world, and created a Europe that was at peace for the 1st time in 4,000 years, all at the cost of ZERO American service personnel lost to combat! How could this be anything but a winning comparison?)

2. Have liberals really forgotten the debt they owe? That the military was THE lead institution in desegregating America, 60 years ago? After Harry Truman and George Marshall took this step, one historian said “this was the moment when I knew we would change and never go back. It’s when I realized that it would go all the way.”

3. For heaven’s sake, don’t people realize that the military and intelligence communities are among the top VICTIMS of Rove & co?

Yes, there have been other victims. American taxpayers and the poor and the middle class and the environment and freedom of speech and our debt-burdened grandchildren and science and progress itself have all suffered, as have our alliances and our status in the world. But tell me, who else has actually DIED - in large numbers - paying an ultimate price for the venality and stupidity of this gang? Isn’t that enough reason, morally, to reach out and offer them a hand?

4. In addition to combat deaths, and other direct tragedies, these skilled and dedicated men and women have been saddled, spurred and whipped by swarms of the lowest creatures around -- party hacks who were appointed to fill top jobs at Defense, CIA, Homeland Security and countless other agencies. Purely political operatives with negligible knowledge about these fields and few qualifications other than their single-minded dedication to a single goal. The goal of breaking down every tradition and rule of professionalism, bullying our skilled officers and civil servants into submission.

5. Let there be no mistake; this is where the greatest long-term danger to our republic lies. Forgive a bit of chest-thumping, but I have been an almost-solitary voice for years, calling attention to what appears to be a deliberate and far-reaching campaign to transform the US Officer Corps into a political tool. This campaign has not only featured oppression, purges and intimidation at the top - including reassignment, punishment, and forced-resignations of many top generals and admirals - but also a determined effort at the opposite end, by radical Republican House members who are using their power of appointment to fill our military academies with cadets who are either religious zealots or deeply committed to partisan politics. Or both.

All right, it’s possible that my fears are exaggerated, overblown, or even paranoid. Perhaps the long list of anecdotes does not add up to a coordinated and orchestrated “campaign.” Nevertheless, even those anecdotes (e.g. recent tales of fundamentalist bullying at the Air Force Academy) add up to a frightening trend. So why have there been no investigations? No voices risen against all this, from either the free press or the Democratic side of the aisle?

(Those of you who are well-read in the literature of science fiction may know that 2012 was forecast by the great SF author Robert Heinlein, as the year when a fundamentalist fanatic named Nehemia Scudder would take over the USA as “Prophet of the Lord,” and that his very first priority would be exactly this kind of thing, “stocking” the military academies with young men and women whose allegiance would no longer be apolitical and Constitutional, but as personal and ideological as the Praetorians, Janissaries, samurai and jaguar warriors of old. I am not calling Heinlein a soothsayer. But should not this literary horror tale be scaring us right now, fully as much as others that were written by guys like Orwell?)

6. What is the biggest reason why we absolutely must change our reflexive attitudes toward those stern "conservative" men and women, the crewcut types, in the Intelligence Community and the United States Officer Corps?

It is the best reason of all. The simplest and most compelling.

Self preservation.

Think. These people represent our only hope of preventing Rove & co. from pulling some kind of hellacious "October Surprise" in late 2006, and again in 2008. Some nasty event that might frighten the voters silly, turning their eyes away from all the scandals of theft, incompetence and betrayal, prodding the terrified to instead rally around “our national leadership.”

Hey, don’t knock it. This very method has worked for Rove, time and again. Call this paranoid. But can any of you honestly claim that these scoundrels won’t try it again? Care to bet on it? In fact, is there any chance that they won't try it again?

Obviously, the Rove-ists are shaking right now, quivering over the prospect that one or more chambers of Congress may change hands in the next election. Imagine the transformation that would then ensue, away from the worst and laziest legislative branch in our history, with fewer days spent in session, fewer committee meetings, fewer inquiries and audits, fewer bills and debates... and by far the fewest subpoenas issued... in more than a hundred years. Imagine all of that suddenly changing.

If either House or Senate were to resume actual business, recalling vacationing members to their Constitutionally-mandated role of oversight, re-activating slumbering committees, appointing investigators, calling witnesses... well, you can just picture the consequences.

The clang of jail cells will be deafening. You know it. I know it. Karl Rove knows it, all too well.

They have one chance, just one. To spark something truly terrible - perhaps a terror scare, or a pandemic scare, or war with Iran - before the November elections. Moreover, honestly, let me ask you this. Do YOU have a plan for how to stop this from happening?

The courts? The press? Whistleblowers? Oh, please.

Stop and think. There is only one group of people on Planet Earth who can prevent it. They have the skill, the knowledge, the connections and sources, the courage and the wherewithal. Reminded of their duty to the Constitution, to the American people, these members of the Intelligence Community and the U.S. Officer Corps will stand up. They will do what they were trained to do. What they swore a solemn oath to do.

They will put their careers, their bodies, their very lives between us and danger.

They will defend us from enemies of the United States, even when those enemies occupy the White House.

They are our best hope... the crewcut types…

...and it is crucial that people recognize this. Liberals and conservatives. Democrats and decent, old-fashioned Goldwater Republicans.

Above all, the best way for Democrats to prove that they deserve power will be to stand up for these men and women in the IC and the Corps. Only this will show that liberals and moderates and decent conservatives understand the true path.

Not to wage "culture war"... but to end it.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Not dead... just in electronic hell...

Forgive my absence. Or not. It really should not matter, except as evidence that David Brin has priorities.

What have mine been? Other than my daughter's birthday, planting my garden, replacing my pool heater, doing more hours of daddying each week than I received in most years of my own childhood (not my father's fault, but another story) ... and generally living?

What's been the biggest time sink? Well, alas, it has NOT been writing science fiction novels.

Rather, it has been a modern form of medieval torture called technology.

I have just been through the worst imaginable month of electronic hell, with all of my files and computers trashing relentlessly and repeatedly, making me rebuild like a Katrina victim.

It began simply enough, with my son's #@$@#$# Dell 4700 (with expensive graphics card) fritzing just as soon as its internal clock said that the warranty had expired. Three hours on phone with a helpful fellow north of Delhi did not nail it down (so much for $#$@$##@@# MS diagnostics). After five attempted memory swaps, finally realized it is the #$#@# mother board. (Shall I buy a cheap Frys basic, transfer the HD and graphics card and hope for the best?

Oh but then there were all the replacement PCs bought, tried, rejected, returned... till finally a Pavillion HP Media thing seems to work, knock on wood... Only then the downstairs wifi crashed.

But at least I had my Mac. Right? A 4-year old G-4, reliable as a plow horse and just as loyal. I've used Apples (and owned stock) since 1981. Once had an Apple II with a serial number in 5 digits (stolen, alas). I've been quirky and kept the G-4 running sys 9.2, in order to run the only decent word processor ever made, the 1989 version of Word Perfect for Macintosh.

So, did my trusty G-4 HAVE to choose the same month to go fffffft?

Even more frustrating... there in the Mac shop, they said "we can't find a thing wrong with it!" (Oh, yeah, what about all the missing files? I drive south tomorrow to try and save THOSE. Pray for me)

Ah, well, I had already been planning to buy a new G-5 before they switch to Intel chips. Two reasons. The old guys will still run OS9 software. (And yes, I still can use WP'89). Moreover... Intel chips are all "numbered". If you get my drift, folks. So what the heck? I splurged. Hey, once every 4 years ain't bad for a work-horse machine. Give the G-4 to the wife and kids.

Only now I must learn OSX. (Sigh. Must I? Yes, you must) And yes, OSX is marvelous. It's merest bootlace, Windows is not worthy to kiss. Yeah. I know the hype. I even agree, it's all true. But oh! Ten years of productivity tools! Of tricks and time-savers! All needing replacement! Ouch!

Ooooog, I could go on all night. Things that had my blood pressure up and cussing... then slowly calming as I learned to turn into servants instead of horrors. Take the "dock". Sure, it is cute... and annoying... till I got the "dockyard" widget and tamed the thing just great. (Anyone at Apple? I have FIVE suggestions how it could be made better.)

Oh, how I hated the way Apple copied Windows formalism for minimizing, by shunting windows down to the dock and forcing you to go get them out again. Taking away my old OS9 "windowshades"... till I found a $10 app called "Windowshades_X" that wonderfully gives all the old tools back to me, and then some! Suddenly, when you add in stuff like Expose' - my double-wide pair-o-monitors is starting to feel like home. Kind of magical, in fact.

But first, argh... old Quickeys won't work in OSX. Bought the NEW Quickeys because I cannot live without it. Every key on the number pad can become a supercharged macro button. Must have... must... have... only now I must reprogram every single macro and key one at a time, by hand, relearning as I go. My back! Who can spare the neurons!

Is the pain over? Not so fast. Gotta get used to Safari. To the obnoxious blaring colors that they insist folder labels use, if you use colored folders. To browser-style navigation... probably good but hard to adapt. And to the weird logic of desktop/user/HD hierarchy in which NONE OF THEM CONTAINS THE OTHERS!

Oh! Managed to salvage use of my old LAserwriter IINT... a product so fine that it belongs in some Hall of Fame. Asante makes this Appletalk-to-Ethernet box and the guy there talked me thru it.... and it only took ten times longer than it should have.

Oh, it goes on and on. Maybe by May I may be back up to speed... back to NORMAL levels of drowning.

I wonder, might all of this have happened because of my last blog posting? Was it THAT effective?
(There are ways to shut guys like me up, you know....)
As evidence, just look at Newt Gingrich. In the last month, since I started hectoring him, the man has started showing real spine. Oh, I won't claim credit for any of it. (He was already grumbling.) But I sure want to.

And here in Cunningham's district, the democrat, Busby, almost won outright! Oh, there are signs of hope, in the polls, in the defections. But will it all be fast enough to stiffen the few thousand people the republic needs most right now? Those who can step up and say NO to any planned "October Surprise"? Thje officer corps. The intelligence community. The professionals who can save us from monsters, when those monsters start to panic....


Let me close with a couple of items.

Memes1. The inimitable Dan Simmons offers a colorful (and extremely xenophobic)rant about war between civilizations. It sounds like he's been reading my famed predictive speech about "meme wars"
while on a fistful of downers. He names folks that I name pretty often, like old Alcibiades, though drawing a very different lesson. His lesson is wrong. Just plain flat-out wrong. But I respect the guy. He writes well. You deserve to be entertained.

2. Here's a snippet. No special reason. Just one of a myriad I've collected while in the 4th circle of electronic hell. Just clip it and give it to that wvering conservative. All the follows was written by Russ Daggattt.


Average annual budget change as a percentage of U.S. gross domestic product during these administrations:
Roosevelt 14.8%
Truman -8.6%
Eisenhower -1.3%
Kennedy 0.2%
Johnson 1%
Nixon 1.6%
Ford -1.4%
Carter 1.8%
Reagan -0.6%
G. Bush 0.2%
Clinton -1.8%
G.W. Bush 2.4%

How about that?  Bush (with a Republican Congress) has overseen the biggest GROWTH in the Federal Government in almost 60 years.  That follows Clinton, who oversaw the biggest DECLINE in the size of the Federal government in a generation. Conservatives who cling to their cliches about this are like freed slaves who stayed with their masters as sharecroppers, rather than standing up, looking around, seeing a new world, and coming to terms with it.

“Corporate profits accounted for 11.6% of gross domestic product in the fourth quarter -- the biggest share of the nation's income companies have taken since 1966. They have been able to do so, say economists, by sharing less with their workers."

I hope to be back in business soon. Thrive till then....


(PS can anyone tell me why so many programs like Word insist that when you are selcting passages of text, that you MUST select whole words? Who thinks up these things? WHat PLANET are they from?)