Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Task Ahead of Us

LET'S SEE TO OUR CIVILIZATION...

All right, summer is over (despite four weeks remaining till the equinox). It is time to kick off the sand, put on our shoes and see to our civilization.

In some ways, the coming November elections are more important than any presidential year that we have known. If ever there was a need for at least one house of Congress to be controlled by a different party than the one occupying the White House, this is that year.

Please. Even if you are a Republican... even if you (for some mind boggling reason) have convinced yourself that President Bush and his friends are doing a great job... even so please ponder how often you praised divided government back in the old Clinton days.

Didn't you (once upon a time) claim to believe that unaccountable and unquestioned power corrupts? That it will corrupt anybody, even your side?

Aren't you even a little disturbed by an administration that -- while controlling every single lever of power --has dropped over us a veil of secrecy deeper than we knew during the deepest depths of the Cold War? Take just one example. When one party in power feels free to abandon all of the contract and accounting and competitive-bidding rules, in favor of ten thousand "emergency" no-bid contracts... contracts that always go to their pals (coincidence!)... don't you think that somebody, somewhere, ought to be asking questions?

You won't see questions being asked in the present Congress of the United States, amid their pork barrel feeding frenzy. A Congress which has held fewer days in session, fewer committee meetings, fewer inquiries, fewer debates, and issued fewer subpoenas than any other in the last hundred years.

A Congress that intentionally dissolved all of its own nonpartisan scientific advisory staff, in order to spend ten years of dogmatic monomania, avoiding hearing anything that its leading members do not like to hear?

Is this really what you want? Even as a lifelong Republican?

Especially as a lifelong Republican? For a century, the great American political tradition was one of independent legislators, only marginally beholden to party leaders. Do you really want an era when The Party controls and dictates everything from on high? Didn't we see enough of that in the failed Soviet Union?

No, even if you despise liberals and hate Democrats, this is a time when the opposition simply has to be given some back some power. Enough power to throw open the doors and windows, to let in some light, to ask questions, hold hearings...

...and if those hearings uncover bad things, well? Do you really prefer that bad things stay hidden from sight, to fester and sicken our republic? Was all of your earlier, Clinton-era talk about accountability just a sham?

No, this is the time when even conservatives... that is, conservatives in the tradition of Dwight Eisenhower, Barry Goldwater, even Bob Dole... need to decide what's more important. Partisanship and endless "culture War"? Or letting some healthy light and air onto the nation's bitter wounds.

With the presidency not at issue... this is the time to overwhelmingly change our legislatures, demanding that they get back to business, back to supervision and professionalism and asking hard questions. Back to Advice and Consent.

----

Okay, that was an attempt to parse the present issue in terms that anybody might copy and offer to the sincere and decent Republicans they know. If they have a scintilla of self-honesty, it may provoke a little introspection and thought... at least in those who are able to open their eyes. Who know that something's wrong. People who normally could never bring themselves to hold their noses and vote in some "dang lib'rals"... but now can see that things are very different. It is time for a change.

But don’t just make this a one sided attack! There is one thing you Dems and Libs can offer in return. (And you had better offer something; people do not give concessions without something in return.) Please gather your own sense of honesty and courage and nonpartisan decency, to say:

"If Democrats ever have this much power in the future, and seem similarly reckless or partisan, or awash in secret deals, or as determined to lie and cheat their way into perpetually unaccountable power, I promise that you can turn this around on me. I will open my eyes, and I will listen."

Make that vow, and you might achieve the miraculous. Budge the unbudgeable. Move the un-movable. Persuade some of the millions of decent (but obstinate) American conservatives to meet you - to meet their country - halfway.

That's the best any honorable person, citizen, or patriotic American can ask.

---

All righty then. As November approaches, we have several priorities.

1) Try the argument above on every decent conservative you can find. Don't give up on them! Many are sincere, and simply have gone ostrich, covering their eyes and ears and shaking their heads, going "Nah-Nah!" to avoid facing the obvious.

Don't push them in a corner. DOn’t be rude. This is too important. We aren't in this to punish them for past mistakes. (Hey, a lot of liberals swallowed lies about “Uncle Joe” during the thirties. The situation is very similar!) No, do not rebuke.

But be insistent. Call them to duty. Remind them that the state of Arizona is drawing power from coils that surround the spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave! These horrific neocon monsters aren't "their" conservatives. Your friends and relations should disavow ‘em. And November is their chance. Their chance to stand up. To save their country.


2) We tend to forget the main task for September until it is too late. Everybody, please, take part in voter registration efforts near you. Especially near Universities, schools, wherever large pools of the unregistered may be found.

Ask every single young person you meet if she or he is registered AND IF THEY HAVE ASKED FOR AN ABSENTEE BALLOT! Sometimes that is the only way to make sure that they vote. By relentless nagging and making sure it gets done before election day. Indeed, in California and many other states, you can grab a handful of registration cards and hand them out yourself!

SERIOUSLY this is the most efficient way for you to double or triple or multiply your vote. By ensuring that several (or several dozen) people do this.


3) Don’t forget the state Assembly races! In fact, find out which race near you is the most contested and help that one, even if it doesn’t seem sexy. Loosening the neocons’ grip on States is key. Only then will they become desperate to drop their criminal conspiracy of rule-by gerrymandering. (And if the dems then refuse? Then it will be time to go after them!)


4) Above all -- Talk up the inevitable October Surprise.

If ever history revealed a time when unscrupulous men would deliberately harm their own country, in order to preserve power, this is it.

Can anybody seriously doubt that something "dreadful and unifying" will happen before the election?

Seriously, things are desperate for the neocons. Their slow coup is at a critical phase. They cannot afford to let go of even one power lever. The press, the Senate, the House, the FBI and Civil Service, The Court. If any one of them escapes control and starts doing its job, they are dead... or rather, prison-bound. So do not under-estimate the lengths to which they will go.

We have only two ways to foil this dismally predictable scenario. First, we must call upon the professionals, at last to stand up, to step forward, to blow whistles, to tattle and risk their careers for the sake of the nation that they have sworn to protect.

Alas, that has happened so very little, during the first awful years of the 21st Century. Hence, it may be up to the rest of us to cancel out the coming treason, by innoculation ourselves and our neighbors with the armor of cynical expectation.

Make bets! Predict the blow in advance. Stake real money on this. That kind of assertiveness will focus the attention of others on a topic most would rather not contemplate.

And if you are proved wrong? Suppose, in that happy event, you must fork over a few bucks, so what? Pay all the doubters and be filled with joy.

But you and I know that you will win these wagers, as sure as the sun sometimes ducks behind the moon, casting a terrible - but brief shadow across the land.

======     ======     =====


Finally, Google is at it again, unleashing another new service - Google Video - in beta. See my own two posted video interviews.

(In one I am identified as “Libertarian author David Brin.” My main quibble is with the capital “L”. Most freedom-loving people can agree with a lot of libertarianism... in lower case letters. Without the lapel grabbing dogma... which is the very topic that my video interview is all about. The other video, taken at a special UCSD alumni event, also features authors Vernor Vinge, Kim Stanley Robinson and Greg Benford! A great show.)

While I’m at it. Here are links to where some radio interviews have become available via audio online:
http://www.buworldofideas.org/shows/2003/10/20031026.asp
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1151719
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1067220
http://www.npr.org/programs/scifri/
http://www.itconversations.com/shows/detail358.html

Just don’t overdose on Brin! It can get grating after a while, I’m told ;-(

Now let’s get serious.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ironies Compounded by Ironies...

The political lamp is lit

Larry Brilliant says: Here is a really scary poll of 93 countries, on their view of US leadership: "Do you  approve or disapprove of the leadership of the United States of America?"

Percentages who Approve / Disapprove

Average              44 / 56
Lebanon              42 / 58
Saudi Arabia       14 / 86
Jordan                  20 / 80
Turkey                 30 / 70
Indonesia             45 / 55
Bangladesh          26 / 74
United Kingdom  35 / 65
France                  15 / 85
Germany              23 / 77
Netherlands          25 / 75
Belgium               17 / 83
Spain                    15 / 85
Italy                      35 / 65
Poland                  59 / 41
Hungary               44 / 56
Czech Republic    48 / 52
Romania               77 / 23
Sweden                24 / 76
Greece                  11 / 89
Denmark               35 / 65
Iran                       28 / 72
Singapore             88 / 12
Japan                    20 / 80
India                     57 / 43
Venezuela            38 / 62
Brazil                   28 / 72
Mexico                 33 / 67
Nigeria                 82 / 18
Kenya                  80 / 20
Tanzania              66 / 34
Israel                    75 / 25
Palestine              16 / 84
Ghana                  89 / 11
Uganda                85 / 15
Benin                   64 / 36
South Africa        70 / 30
Canada                30 / 70
Australia              30 / 70
Philippines           81 / 19
Sri Lanka             73 / 27
Vietnam               59 / 41
Thailand               59 / 41
New Zealand       30 / 70
Angola                 43 / 57
Botswana             59 / 41
Ethiopia               81 / 19
Mali                     82 / 18
Mozambique        78 / 22
Senegal                68 / 32
Zambia                 66 / 34
South Korea         29 / 71
Belarus                 28 / 72
Georgia                71 / 29
Kyrgyzstan          42 / 58
Moldova               62 / 38
Russia                  22 / 78
Ukraine                30 / 70
Burkina Faso       74 / 26
Cameroon            68 / 32

Comments international economic pundit Mark Anderson: “Thank God for Burkina Faso, the Philippines, Mali, and, uh, let's see, Ethiopia. I wonder if there is a way for the ever-victorious Ms. Rice to formulate a new U.S. foreign policy with these key supporters as a cornerstone?”

May I add something? Scan the list to see which country MOST disapproves of US leadership.

Now contemplate this irony. It is the same country that has - at one time or another - either employed or contracted or subsidized a majority of senior members of the current US administration, including nearly all of the Bush/Cheney political appointments to head up Defense, Homeland Security and the CIA. Nearly every single one.

Now at first, that may seem contradictory. How can a country that has such deep and broad influence, throughout today’s US leadership, also be the country that most disapproves of that leadership? A leadership that, one could argue, it effectively OWNS?

The answer is as obvious as it is frightening. In that country, where textbooks are state secrets, children have been relentlessly taught about the utter corruption of Western Civilization -- the desirability and inevitability of its total downfall. Is it any surprise, then that common citizens in that country answer such a poll with loathing, not distinguishing between America in general, and its leadership caste? After all, it is only the narrow elite that knows how thoroughly they actually own the Great Satan.

What it does suggest is that we consider something far deeper and more disturbing even than the Iraq War.

Consider a mental experiment. If YOU came out of such a culture, and also found yourself with a bottomless well of funds with which to express your hatred.... don’t you think you might spend lavishly, in order to corrupt and suborn your hated foe. Are you saying there’s even a chance you wouldn’t?

Is anything on Earth more obvious?

Look across the last one hundred years for the very worst mistakes that America made. An era of many successes, punctuated by a few deadly errors. If YOU had the power to control our policy, through paid or suborned surrogates, and you wanted us to fail, would you not use the list of those past mistakes as a template?

Drive away America's friends, destroy its cultural cohesion, provoke inner dissension, wreck the military, demolish science, and - above all - get us into a lose-lose land war of attrition in Asia.... and that only begins the list.

Yes, I am suggesting a very provocative theory... the paranoid-sounding that it has all been deliberate.Not an epic extravaganza of loony incompetence, but an actual and competent and well-executed plan.

No, I do not hold this view officially. I know I stand alone and I admit (and hope) that it can be proved wrong. Hey, it is my JOB to come up with lavish and dramatic scenarios!

Still, when a pattern is this consistent, shall we not at least consider malice as a possible explanation?Not at all?

Find one -- even one -- way in which the pattern does not fit. Only then should you call me paranoid.


-- On Science Fiction and the Future ---

Finally, some fascinating non-political points

I’ve just returned from the World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles. It was a lavish show, in some ways well-done. I need to point out that I start out positively inclined, since the LACON in 1984 helped to “make” me in my own home town. It was also the greatest science fiction convention in history.

Still, this time I was appalled. The con committee deliberately (not by oversight) eviscerated nearly all panels about education or outreach to a new generation -- even though everyone was talking about the decline of science fiction, the drop in sales, the disturbing swing in favor of anime and feudal fantasy. Still, despite the fact that all fan organizations have charters that dedicate them to outreach and spreading the positive messages of SF, very few of them are interested at all in doing anything about it.

Above all, they avoid discussing the ageing of fandom. But one observable stood out at this convention.

The number of elderly people, riding scooters and wheel chairs, at least equaled the number of teens and tweens that you could see wandering the halls. As for children? My own three kids made up a large fraction of those attending. And yet, nobody seems to notice or mind, in the slightest.

The literature of youthful, forward-looking openness... is graying and (in many ways) dying, even as its tropes and glossy surfaces have been embraced as never before.

Ah well. If we are to save sci fi, it will have to be done outside of fandom. So subscribe to Analog and especially Baen’s Universe Magazine (online) !! I mean it. Even if you read none of the wonderful stories (including my own!) or view the resplendent art, or scan the wondrous articles... consider it a tithe.... and investment in tomorrow.

I've posted some resources for using Science Fiction in the Classroom

Oh! Have I mantioned that I am author guest of honor at the NEXT World Science Fiction Convention, to be held in August 2007 in Yokohama? Consider coming!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

More on Old Karl's Big Tent

The political lamp is lit..."

Time to finish my latest riff - about what the Democrats might do to counter the tremendously successful Big Tent” strategy of Karl Rove et al. - a political methodology that has given a narrow gang of thieves control over: one of the major American political parties, all three branches of government, most of the media, countless corporate boardrooms, most of the major lobbying centers, most gerrymandered state legislatures... and all of this despite suffering a huge disadvantage when it comes to public approval of actual policies!

If my own theory as to how this happened is wrong, then please offer another one! And please, don’t just say “those neocon bastards lie and cheat.” Of course they do. We know about corrupt and twisted and conspiratorially re-jiggered Diebold and ESS voting machines - produced (look it up!) by outright felons who refuse to allow external auditing and who would have long ago been investigated in a free country... that is just one example of outrageous cheating, out of a myriad horrors...

...and it no more than nibbles at the edges of an explanation! Sure, cheating helped to tip the last two squeaker presidential elections. George W. Bush is president because of rampant fraud. But.

But those elections should not have even been close!
Not on matters like policy, that should determine electoral outcomes in a true democracy. Not (especially) after the incredible, staggering, monumental success of American civilization throughout the nineteen nineties. The fact that a clade of draft-dodging preppie-cheerleaders and goggle-eyed fanatics could have taken over, after that, even with lavish support from the klepto wing of the billionaire caste, must be a result of more than just lies and cheating.

In fact, it is a towering indictment of the opposition.... if not democratic-liberal policies, then definitely their chosen suite of tactics.

Above all the absurd tactic of allowing the Roveans to define the terms “liberal” and “conservative”.

In an era when the vast American center is deeply unhappy and up for grabs, we can hear the same old failed melody. The lefties want us to “concentrate on our core values” instead of offering reassurance and hope to those vast millions in the middle -- a sense that they are appreciated and welcome and that their legitimate concerns will be heeded, when honest men and women retake power in this great land. They seem quite content to go along with Karl Rove’s Giggle. The lose-lose situation in which BOTH the far left and far right say:

“If you hold even one conservative view, that means you ARE a conservative...

...and thus, by self-identification, you will trend toward listening to Hannity and O’Reilly and take in even more of their big lies.”


A situation that radicals of both sides seem to like just fine. All right, that was my theory.

And some of you were perfectly right to insist that I modify it! (CITOKATE -- Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error.)

Let me reiterate the correction that I offered in comments, earlier. Above all it is important to note that Karl Rove’s Big Conservative Tent is only for show!

In fact, very few of those American conservatives who have been lured inside ever received any actual policy benefit from the neocon revolution! Only a few small constituencies, the klepto-masters (of course), the crony no-bid contract parasites, some fundamentalist charities, and some loony Straussian warlords, have benefitted at all.

All the rest -- every other type of conservative -- from free-marketers to libertarians to efficiency freaks and budget balancers, all the way to nativist border-watchers -- all of them stew under Rove’s Big Tent, simmering and unhappy over a litany of betrayals, holding their noses against the stench, yet staying inside out of loyalty to that single word. “Conservative.”

That may be their fault, a flaw in personality, in courage, imagination and patriotism. Still, whose fault is it whenever some of them pokes their heads out, testing the wind... and the left helps to drive them back inside.

I know this hypothesis may anger some of you. But try the experiment I posed, on August 14. If there is even a chance I am right, then it leads not only to blame-casting, but also to some interesting possible tactics for our campaign to retake America from those who want to impose a new feudal age.

I will get to those suggestions in a minute.


But first, I just have to share the following from Russ Daggatt, who comments on the latest put-up “terrorist conspiracy” - having to do with a few pathetic losers aiming to smuggle volatile liquids onto planes:

”I can understand the existential threat posed by tweezers and corkscrews. But hand cream and lip stick? And WATER? We’re now supposed to be afraid of your basic H2O? But, then, I guess it is too bad Bush didn’t focus on the destructive threat from water earlier. After all, it was WATER that devastated New Orleans.

“Do you ever get the sense that our country is being run by General Jack Ripper?:


General Ripper:

Have you ever seen a commie drink a glass of water? Vodka. That's what they drink, isn't it? Never water? On no account will a commie ever drink water, and not without good reason.

…Water, Mandrake, water is the source of all life. Seven tenths of this earth's surface is water. Why, you realize that.. seventy percent of you is water. And as human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids. Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure grain alcohol?

Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation? Fluoridation of water? Well do you know what it is? Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face? Do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk, ice cream? Ice cream, Mandrake? Children's ice cream!...You know when fluoridation began?...1946. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh?

I first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love. Yes a profound sense of fatigue, a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I was able to interpret these feelings correctly: loss of essence. I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women... women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, Mandrake, but I do deny them my essence.
---Dr. Strangelove (1964):

“Do your part. Deny the terrorists your essence! “


The best movie every made, bar none. Oh, Stanley Kubrick, where are you when we need you?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Net Neutrality... another oversimplification

Lately, yet another imbroglio has been brewing over the issue of “Net Neutrality”... or whether some of the big telecom and content companies should be allowed to lay fresh “pipes” for a new tier of access to the Internet. A tier with prodigiously expanded speed and service, but also one that costs a tariff or charge to enter and/or use.

Alas, Net Neutrality is yet another case of a serious matter of public policy degenerating and devolving into a screaming-fest that is rife with outrageous oversimplification.

One side in this controversy perceives today’s Internet as a bona fide miracle, one that used a socialist mechanism -- federal research and infrastructure subsidies -- to create something that thereupon fostered a vibrant environment, highly conducive to free enterprise. And at one level, at least, what could be more obvious?

In fact, I cannot think of a better example, even including the Interstate Highway System and Public Universities. Indeed, never before have so many millions been so empowered to engage in autonomous and knowledgeable commerce and/or social action, often cogently buying and selling, cooperating and competing, that surely would have both boggled and pleased Adam Smith. No matter that the midwife was The State.

This spectacular success prompts some to say “the present approach (universal almost-free access) works extremely well; so why change it in favor of a system that seems to favor elites over the little guy?”

The other side talks about choked flows and a “commons” that is rapidly being overgrazed by millions who will vastly expand use-rates forever, so long as it is free. They point to the fact that large entities legitimately need very fat pipes in order to carry large volumes of rapid data. If those companies and agencies are willing to pay for the pipes, should they not get what they need?

Couching the debate in terms of stupid/smart... and even good/evil... each side fears that the other will kill the golden goose. One side rightfully fears woolly-headed socialist "levelling" will impoverish a good thing, letting an investment-starved Internet slowly grind down to the shabby egalitarianism of Cuba. The other side rightfully fears that - once the big boys get their fat pipes, they will see to it that the Old Internet languishes and becomes useless, forcing us to pay through the nose to use their new pipes, effectively ending the frontier days of an Open Range... I mean, Open Net. (Yes, we have seen this before! Where is Billy the Kid?)

In fact, this is yet another example of an oversimplified dichotomy in which both sides are right in certain ways... and persistently unable to see the other side’s point.

For the record; if I must choose between these insipid sides I will back the miracle of the Internet as-it-is. Because recent history (and the Wild West) shows that there is absolutely no limit to the greed-driven venality of conspiratorial golf buddies who CLAIM to revere Adam Smith, but who, in fact, typify everything that Smith preached against! A new clade of feudal lords who connive in secrecy -- exactly as the king’s cronies did in Smith’s day -- to fix deals, arrange closed deals, avoid competition or accountability and ruin the effectiveness of the very markets they hypocritically pay lip service-to.

At every level, we are seeing exactly this kind of self-serving anti-enterprise aristocratism, calling itself “capitalism”... while “liberals” -- completely ignorant of the origins of that word -- neglect to raise Adam Smith as an archetype, a symbol, a powerful weapon against the New Oligarchy. A pity.

But, in fact, I choose NOT TO CHOOSE between these oversimplified sides. Because they are based upon the logic of the zero-sum game. ANd I believe that modernism can only thrive if we think positive-sum.

Why not let corporations build their second tier with a TIME LIMIT on their right to charge tariffs? Each new line of fiber or clutch of super-servers could initiate a sliding scale, similar to depreciation, after which they become part of an ever-growing commons?

This is the sort of thing that should have been done, 20 years ago, in CABLE so-called deregulation. The so-called “reform” of that time did nothing to foster competition. Rather, it provided each cable company with safe zones of monopoly! Suppose that the bill had included this simple provision, though:

“Starting now, each company is allowed to “invade” its neighbors’ territory (by laying new cable or by sharing existing lines) by half a mile per year. Five years after this bill has been passed, the companies will be REQUIRED to invade each others’ territory by half a mile per year.”

Yes, it would have cost them money. YEs, they would have been forced to cut prices everywhere their territories overlapped. And the problem is....?

Two sentences. Just two.

(Recall how I solved gerrymandering in just ONE? It might take FIVE to establish the office of Inspector General of the United States... and end the era of outrageous federal corruption forever.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Worst Habit of Liberalism... Handing Karl Rove Every Advantage.

The political lamp is still lit...

Before we begin, if the situation in the Middle East is getting you down, you might try reading words from an adult. The fellow who would have been (and rightfully is) our Secretary of State in the parallel universe where George W. Bush did not get crony’d into his latest fantasy job.

---

Last time, I spoke despairingly about our chances of reclaiming the government of the United States for the people, for the Enlightenment, and for the sake of continuing our Great Experiment. Things are certainly not looking good, right now. For example, even with GOP support plunging to unprecedented lows, and a Republican led Congress even more universally despised than the Do Nothings of 1948, you still see very little fear on the right. (Not as if they really expect Congressional committees to resume work and start issuing subpoenas.)

Why is that? Because gerrymandering ensures that the kleptocrats still have a better than even chance of retaining both houses of the national legislature. Giving BushCo yet another 2 years to reinforce a culture of fear justified secrecy and unaccountability, helping gradually to establish a new feudal age.

Ah, but gerrymandering only provides a tool, one of many tactical innovations that they can use effectively only because others let them. Indeed, the majestic sweep of their strategic victory has arisen from something far more broad and general. That sweeping strategic success arose from the suicidal tendencies of modern liberalism. Tendencies that Karl Rove & ilk been able to use to their advantage, for 14 years.

Some of you have heard me mention this pattern before, but it so bears repeating.


BIG TENTS WIN ELECTIONS... AND POWER

Forget all of the policy issues for a moment. After all, polls show that the US public agrees with Democratic policies more than 80% of the time. Hence it has been vital for the neocons to veer attention away from actual, implementable policy initiatives, over to matters of “culture war”. An area where liberals have behaved positively addlebrained, letting Rove benefit from a dream situation, in which it’s impossible for him to lose.

For 14 years and more, Rove & allies have bent all efforts toward maintaining a Big Tent coalition, uniting a melange of contradictory groups. With the sole aim of achieving and holding actual political power, they managed to wed together:

- Xenophobic-isolationists... and interventionist-adventurers.
- Free-marketers... and big government contract-parasites.
- Lifestyle libertarians... with bedroom-voyeur fundamentalists.
- Deficit hawks... and spendthrift pork barrel hogs.
- Snooty Straussian neocon eggheads...and proudly anti-intellectual know-nothings.
- Small business owners... with megacorp monopolists.
- Nativist border worriers... and exploiters of cheap, undocumented labor...
... and so on.

A great... nay incredible... morass of contradictions! How on Earth did they manage that? There is one simple answer. By getting every last one of these forces to call themselves “conservative.”

* This Big Tent is THE SALIENT FACT about the neocon success story. Because they could never have achieved any power at all, without it.

Let me reiterate. Opinion polls show relentlessly that a majority of the American people prefer Democratic policies in general - not only the classic ones (protecting the environment, civil rights, compassion) but also as they were modified by Bill Clinton, to include prudent deficit-cutting, strengthening alliances, government efficiency, taking advice from serious science, reducing secrecy, and a generally positive attitude toward incremental progress in meeting human needs.

Given this Democratic advantage, it has been essential for Rove & Co. to welcome any and everybody into their “tent”-- any person who might remotely call him or herself “conservative,” for any reason! Any reason whatsoever.

Without this unifying umbrella, the stew of conflicts that I listed above could never have elected a dog catcher, let alone squeaked the entire Red America alliance into power, seizing control over every major U.S. institution. Above all, the Rovean Big Tent policy has held to one utterly pragmatic principle, implicit in every word spouted from Hannity and O’Reilly and the entire machine.

"If you hold EVEN ONE "conservative" opinion, that makes you a conservative."


In contrast, the reflex among liberals has been quite the opposite.

"If you fail to support EVEN ONE standard "liberal" opinion, that makes you a conservative."

Yes, yes. I can well imagine bile igniting behind the eyes of some who just read that. If you are a “standard liberal” you may deem what I said (above) to be insulting. Indeed, did my saying it cause me to be instantly dismissed as... well... a conservative?

Please, I am making this effort in hopes that liberalism will be more effective at retaking power away from a deadly foe of our entire civilization. A foe just as deadly to freedom and justice as Communism ever was. Hence, I offer these criticisms in good will. So will you please suspend judgement and come with me just a little way?

Won’t you try this little mental experiment yourself? Start by listing a dozen or so “standard liberal positions.” For example you expect a liberal to:

- oppose the Iraq War
- welcome immigrants
- support the undiluted right to abortion
- oppose Arctic or offshore drilling
- oppose nuclear power
- oppose tax cuts
- support gay marriage... and so on.


If you don’t like my list, write one of your own! Make your own list of positions you deem important. I’ll wait.

Now try this. Imagine a person who holds all of the correct views except one.
Suppose - on just that one issue - a person strongly takes the opposite view. Not quietly, but openly, and vigorously.
Now picture how that person would be received in most liberal gatherings.
What name would they be called?

If you are honest, you can immediately see my point.

* Please note: in raising this point, I am not arguing against ANY of those classic liberal views, listed above. This discussion is about tactics. It is about suicidal reflexes. And, at a tactical level, the worst, most self-defeating trait of liberalism today is NOT to be found in any of its policy positions, most of which are noble or at least supportable. Or at least legitimately arguable.

The calamity that has kept their entire movement out of power is a completely indefensible and utterly suicidal reflex. A smug tendency to apply litmus tests. To maintain a Small Tent.

To show intolerance and to drive away anyone who holds only a 90% score.

Consider the result! We are driving away people who agree with us 90% of the time! Because we call them "conservative"... and Karl Rove also gladly calls them "conservative"... is it any wonder that millions of people who hold just one conservative opinion thereupon use the word to describe themselves? Even when they agree with 90% of other liberal positions?

This is the real, self-inflicted catastrophe. It has nothing to do with policy fights, say, “left-vs-moderate" within the DP. Indeed, it is only tangentially related to the recent toppling of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, in his state’s Democratic Primary, since he clearly had taken the wrong side in the Culture War. In many ways. It is one thing to agree with a few conservative and moderate positions. It is quite another to sleep with the enemy.

Come on, folks. Stop giving the Roveans more credit than they deserved. They shouldn’t be winning ANY kind of power, right now. Not on the basis of policy comparisons. So why do they keep winning?

Because they have been relentlessly empowered by bad liberal tactics that decent American moderates and Barry Goldwater conservatives and even liberal-minded folk who hate litmus tests, making such people feel they only have one home. Despite all of the relentless evidence that we are being ruled by kleptocrats, hypocrites, neo-feudalists and outright morons, millions of decent Americans have nevertheless clustered inside a big tent that stinks to high heaven! A tent they despise. But where they sit in misery, because they are offered nowhere else to go!

"You must overnight become a Santa Monica liberal, on all issues, or else call yourself a conservative. Identify yourself that way. Stay loyal to that side. Even if it is one you inherently despise."

What all of this has to do with is nothing less than mean-minded dogmatism, resulting in suicide for the Democratic Party... and thus for the nation. Because this is exactly why enemies of the Enlightenment now hold all three branches of government, right now, turning the greatest nation in history into a world laughingstock.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Connecticut the Dots....

I still get Truthout emails and pay some attention, but they have been low priority for me, because I believe the proper way to reclaim the American Enlightenment is not by dogma-driven oversimplification... even from the side that I mostly agree-with.

I prefer another approach -- a radically militant centrism that abjures the loopy and meaningless “left-right political axis.” (What does it even mean anymore, with liberals transforming into “waste-not” puritans, efficiency preachers, budget-balancers, free-market defenders and promoters of states-rights... while the so-called right now stands for the most prodigious expansion of a secretive, spendthrift and meddlesomely corrupt federal establishment? Can left and right even begin to cover such ironies?)

What we need is a centrist doctrine that is not pallid or compromising -- firmly demanding accountability, social justice and due diligence to the needs of our planetary descendants -- but also appealing to sincere “classic” American conservatives, with the shared theme of can-do, problem-solving and a spirit of eclectic negotiation. Indeed, the best way to win this “culture war” is to wage a ferocious fight AGAINST Culture War itself! We can do this by creating a big tent, offering home to a new US consensus of the middle.

A consensus that is unafraid of tomorrow.

Now, just in time, Truthout seems to be getting it, at least partly. For example, I have been surprised to see them -- and a number of other pundits -- give the right spin on Joe Lieberman’s recent defeat in the Connecticut senatorial primary. At least they had the sense to push the following riff from a New York Times editorial: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/080906K.shtml

Mr. Lieberman's supporters have tried to depict Mr. Lamont and his backers as wild-eyed radicals who want to punish the senator for working with Republicans and to force the Democratic Party into a disastrous turn toward extremism. It's hard to imagine Connecticut, which likes to be called the Land of Steady Habits, as an encampment of left-wing isolationists, and it's hard to imagine Mr. Lamont, who worked happily with the Republicans in Greenwich politics, leading that kind of revolution.

The rebellion against Mr. Lieberman was actually an uprising by that rare phenomenon, irate moderates. They are the voters who have been unnerved over the last few years as the country has seemed to be galloping in a deeply unmoderate direction. A war that began at the president's choosing has degenerated into a desperate, bloody mess that has turned much of the world against the United States. The administration's contempt for international agreements, Congressional prerogatives and the authority of the courts has undermined the rule of law abroad and at home.

Yet while all this has been happening, the political discussion in Washington has become a captive of the Bush agenda. Traditional beliefs like every person's right to a day in court, or the conviction that America should not start wars it does not know how to win, wind up being portrayed as extreme. The middle becomes a place where senators struggle to get the president to volunteer to obey the law when the mood strikes him. Attempting to regain the real center becomes a radical alternative.



Last time, I spoke despairingly of our chance of reclaiming the government of the United States for the people. Indeed, is it even possible to turn things around right now? Can you believe that even with GOP popularity down around their ankles, the pollsters perceive them having an even chance of retaining both houses of Congress?

(The thing they desperately need, of course. Their hegemony is frail. If either house ever resumed performing its function of advice and consent and supervision, issuing subpoenas to real hearings, the flood of resulting indictments could trigger a coup. Rent the old Costa Gravas film “Z”. (Much better than “V”!)

Of course things could change. Especially if the forces in opposition to Bush & co are willing to do some serious re-evaluating. A re-evaluation the folks at New Politics claim they want to foster.

Next time I want to discuss the most suicidal aspect of today’s liberalism. The aspect that Karl Rove has been able to use to his advantage for 14 years.

His worst nightmare is that Blue America - the Union - will wake up and stop handing him victories on a silver platter.

My nightmare is that we will keep doing exactly that.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Despair amid signs of hope...

I was invited recently to a gathering that I could not attend, in San Francisco, where “New Politics” would be discussed, "re evaluating strategies and tactics" for what’s come to be called the new progressive movement.

Of course, this terminology is telling. Consider the way that “progressive” has been used to avoid a certain hot button “L word”... even as some historians are starting to discuss the historical origins of “liberal,” rediscovering tap root that lead to Adam Smith, of all people.

Here at this site, I have weighed in, calling for resurrection of the word “modernism,” complete with its implicit rejection of left-right dogma in favor of a can-do spirit, so very much in tune with FDR and Martin Luther King, as well as Dwight Eisenhower, embodying a spirit of scientific adventure and confident problem-solving - traits that are completely opposite to narrowminded dogmatism - and that we seem to be fast-forgetting in this benighted and fearful 21st Century.

I pick “modernism” exactly because of the low esteem that the word is given by kneejerk cynics of every extreme. But that quirky linguistic choice doesn’t mean that I’m alone in generally yearning for a restoration of courageous (and possibly militantly-moderate) pragmatism. A return to passionately eager problem-solving and a dedication to human self-improvement.

Others are calling for us all to remember The Enlightenment - an umbrella term that encompasses everything from science and democracy to free markets and individual empowerment. All key elements of The Revolution. The only revolution in history that was ever worth more than a bucket of spit.

Alas, it’s going to be a hard struggle to keep all those good things alive, what with the Iranian president calling the American president his “brother” in a worldwide campaign to replace all of those newfangled “liberal” gimmicks with older standbys, like authority, hierarchy, order, tradition and fanatical religiosity. Especially when mass media empower demagogues to co-opt words like “freedom” and turn them into little more than patriotic/tribal grunts.

But let’s focus for a moment upon what the “new politics” folks are asking for. Certainly, we should be generally sympathetic with their goals. But do any of the Enlightenment’s friends have a clue how to fight this battle, well enough to win? In a year when GOP popularity has plummeted - deservedly, because of an unprecedented run of utter incompetence, dogmatic drivel and outright thievery - shouldn’t the coming Congressional elections be set for a no-brainer sweep? A reflexive shrug by the American citizenry, throwing the bums out?

Of course not! As I point out elsewhere things are very different today, than they were in 1994, the last time the People expressed their sovereign will and changed the balance of power in Congress.

Since then, there has been a quiet putsch by the professional political caste -- an event completely at right angles to normal politics -- in which both parties have colluded in common cause, arranging for the REAL enemy - (capricious voters) - to be denied any meaningful choice in their legislative representation. Almost nowhere in America can any citizen hope for his or her House member to face real challenge, even if they are caught breaking the law. Even if their party’s image has plunged to the level of a cheap pimp in a two dollar hotel.

Few recall the basic assumption of our Constitutional founders. That the US House of Representatives was supposed to be the legislative body that would be responsive to public mood, infused with fresh blood every two years. Not a sinecure for professional pols. At one level, the Gerrymander Raid is a crime against democracy in general, independent of party affiliation. The political caste that has performed this market rigging - in collusive defiance of every anti-trust law - absolutely counts on voters - whether Republicans or Democrats - being too busy screaming at each other to ever notice.

Imagine if Pepsi and Coke had arranged to divide up the cola market into tidy little local geographic monopolies, where each could charge whatever they liked for colored sugar water... while claiming that their nearly 50:50 overall split means “healthy competition”! Hell, they could even do this while hating each others’ guts, the same way that democrats and republicans now do. The same way that English and French feudal lords despised each other... and yet acted in mutual support against the common foe. Uppity commoners.

What we are witnessing in U.S. politics today amounts to exactly the same thing. A collusive imperative that has always been attempted by elites for their own class benefit, though hampered by tools of Enlightenment citizenship. (Want to ponder something both pathetic and enraging? Most of the men and women who have done this to us are sincere! The reflex is overwhelming, inherited in the same genes that make us nature’s ultimate rationalizers.)

That’s at the deeper level; the layer running far deeper than simple partisanship. Hence, alas, I have no hope of being heard. So far, only a few venues, like Playboy Magazine, have taken the issue on, directly. As for the Supreme Court - consisting of nine palladin-tribunes who were supposed to defend us against this kind of Constitution-eviscerating travesty - they have shown their true colors. Dominated by petty partisans who murmur polysyllabic rationalizations in order to sleep while utterly betraying their oaths, their honor and their sacred duty to the one Great Experiment to have a chance since Pericles.

==Can we rise above?==

All right, let us rise out of that depressing level, lest I be tempted to slit my wrists.

At another level, all of this gerrymandering is partisan, after all.

Because the GOP has been so much better at it, gerrymandering is devastating to any chance that the Democrats may have, of leading the same kind of “revolution” that Newt Gingrich did, in 1994. A cleverly-managed turnover of power that Democrats would be wise to study, with some sincere respect, instead of reflex revulsion.

Because of gerrymandering-induced radicalism, democrats appear to be inherently incapable of recognizing what they must do, in order to win in gerrymandered districts. Enough GOP-assigned districts to make the change decisive as it needs to be.

They must recognize that a district that’s been tweaked to overwhelmingly represent conservative voters ought to have a conservative representative! I mean, isn't that atleast fair? Trying to hector those voters to become Santa Monica liberals will not work!

But helping them to pick BETTER conservative representatives... possible only-mildly conservative Democratic ones, who are decent and moderate and can be negotiated-with... could turn this thing into a rout. You don't have to ask a conservative district to abandon everything they believe overnight. Just give them a chance to eject neocon monsters and replace them with DECENT PEOPLE! Even if those are conservative decent people. They may just surprise us all.

But there’s no chance of that - or any other sensible suggestion - happening soon. Most Democrats have accepted the beckoning lure of Karl Rove’s “culture war.” Even knowing that it is his chosen battlefield and that they are doing his bidding will not entice them to change tactics. They will go tilting at windmills, abandoning the tools and weapons that lie scattered about, ready to be used, and sharp enough to slay real dragons. The ones who are burning a great nation, searing away its hope and turning it into something little, petty, whiney and sad.

====

(Ah, but what about a side bet? Let's suppose that the POPULAR VOTE comes out overwhelmingly in the democrats' favor... but the House of Representatives remains -- because of gerrymandering -- in GOP control. Certainly this will provoke sighs of deep relief among those who would otherwise face a flood of revealing subpoenas, if a branch of our government were somehow to suddenly resume functioning again. But might their sense of victory be short-lived?

(No other result could more devastatingly point out for all to see just what gerrymandering has done. Nothing could better show how far - in their betrayal - the political caste has gone. Possibly provoking us all, as citizens to finally act. To take our government back.)


====

Addendum. Shall I revise the look/feel of this blog? Frankly, I like looking different. Still, how much better to run it off an address at http://www.davidbrin.com If that were easy to do. I’d need something turn key.....

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bush's War Against the US Military... and common sense...

Generally, when I receive one of Russ Daggatt’s postings about the Administration, I clip a few tasty snippets to share here. But there’s so much good stuff that I plan to drop in whole chunks, only occasionally speaking up, in italics. (Oh, btw, the political lamp is definitely lit!)

The Administration.s War Against the US Military

Senator Chuck Hagel, a conservative Republican from Nebraska (but apparently a sincere one, rather than an inner member of the cabal), had this to say about the Iraq war recently:

“Calling conditions in Iraq "an absolute replay of Vietnam," (at last, the "V word!") Sen. Chuck Hagel said Friday that the Pentagon is making a mistake by beefing up American forces in Iraq.
U.S. soldiers have become "easy targets" in a country that has descended into "absolute anarchy," the Nebraska Republican and Vietnam combat veteran said in an interview with The [Omaha] World-Herald. He said that in the previous 48 hours, he had received three telephone calls from four-star generals who were "beside themselves" over the Pentagon's reversal of plans to bring tens of thousands of soldiers home this fall.

Instead, top Pentagon officials are suspending military rotations and adding troops in Iraq. The Pentagon has estimated that the buildup will increase the number of U.S. troops from about 130,000 to 135,000."That isn't going to do any good. It's going to have a worse effect," Hagel said.


"They're destroying the United States Army."


"He's absolutely right," Lawrence Korb, a former senior Defense Department official in the Reagan administration, said of the Vietnam comparison. "The signs are all around."

Korb, who works at a centrist think tank, also agreed with Hagel's view that the Pentagon's reversal of plans to reduce troops this year would hurt the Army in the long run. "Yes, they're ruining the all-volunteer Army," Korb said.
As if to reinforce the latter point, it was reported this week that more than two-thirds of active Army brigades and Army National Guard units are not ready for combat – an abysmal state of readiness:

“More than two-thirds of the Army National Guard's 34 brigades are not combat ready, mostly because of equipment shortages that will cost up to $21 billion to correct, the top National Guard general said Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum spoke to a group defense reporters after Army officials, analysts and members of Congress disclosed that two-thirds of the active Army's brigades are not ready for war. The budget won't allow the military to complete the personnel training and equipment repairs and replacement that must be done when units return home after deploying to Iraq or Afghanistan, they say.

The issue [or military combat readiness] gained political momentum [in 2000] when then-candidate George Bush, during his nominating convention, said the Clinton administration let the U.S. military might erode. Now, as the 2006 elections approach, Democrats are saying the Bush administration is shortchanging the military.”

To which I can only answer “At last!” But democrats who merely mention this as a talking point will not overcome what we physicists call the “barrier energy” for moderately conservative American voters to overcome their stereotypes and prejudices... believing that, however rotten Bush & co have been to the military, democrats would be worse.

Worse? how? What could be worse than hollowing out our military to levels of unreadiness below Pearl Harbor?

If democrats attacked this issue VIGOROUSLY... and added related topics like the neocons’ all-out war upon the professional intelligence community and Officer Corps... then they might really accomplish something in breaking up Karl Rove’s Big Tent conservative alliance.

As Russ Daggatt puts it:


Bush is destroying the Army. Despite spending more on the military than the rest of the world combined, Bush has so overstretched our military that there isn’t the budget for training personnel and replacing and repairing equipment being used up in Bush’s wars. What are his budget priorities? Cut the estate tax – while US troops are fighting and dying so that he can hand the Iraq mess over to his successor.

Alas, there is no justice. I have been saying this - almost alone - for three years. Want another example of my Cassandra Problem? Back in 2002, I was writing to everybody, hollering that we should at least CONSIDER bringing Iran into our own big tent, before attacking Saddam. At the time, Iranian students were marching and the country’s president was encouraging them. A peace offensive MIGHT have been enough to sway another crucial 10% away from supporting the Mullahs and toward a rapprochement with America. It seemed cheap and worth a try!

“Consider,” I begged. “We have three vowed enemies in that region... people who have sworn to destroy us. Saddam, the Iranian mullahs, and a certain roil house. What is the worst nightmare of all three? Answer: restored friendship between the Iranian and American people.”

A peace offensive (hey, Nixon went to China!) would be cheap and have almost no downside. (If it failed, we’d look great for having tried.) Alas. Shortly after I campaigned for this, Condi (brilliant lady) declared the Axis of Evil, started ineffectual saber rattling and drove the students back under the mullahs’ flag. Good move! When we could have struck a deal to topple Saddam together, in exchange for a more open Iran.

Now returning to Daggatt:


Deliberately Fostering the Shi’ite Jihad

And as well all now know, the big winner from Bush’s disaster has been Iran. Bush has eliminated Iran’s main rival, Saddam’s Iraq, and has installed a regime friendly to Iran.
As former diplomat Flynt Leverett wrote in the New York Times earlier this year:
“During its five years in office, the administration has turned away from every opportunity to put relations with Iran on a more positive trajectory. …
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, Tehran offered to help Washington overthrow the Taliban and establish a new political order in Afghanistan. But in his 2002 State of the Union address, President Bush announced that Iran was part of an "axis of evil," thereby scuttling any possibility of leveraging tactical cooperation over Afghanistan into a strategic opening.

Daggatt continues:

In the spring of 2003, shortly before I left government, the Iranian Foreign Ministry sent Washington a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences. The document acknowledged that Iran would have to address concerns about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. It was presented as having support from all major players in Iran's power structure, including the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. A conversation I had shortly after leaving the government with a senior conservative Iranian official strongly suggested that this was the case. Unfortunately, the administration's response was to complain that the Swiss diplomats who passed the document from Tehran to Washington were out of line.

Having rejected the overtures of the Iranian government back when the “moderates” were in control, we helped bring about a much more hostile government in that country. (The US isn’t the only country that responds to security threats by electing radical religious militaristic nuts.)

There is much more, including citations from articles and politicians, but I'll just summarize here. Daggatt concludes:

I am an optimist by nature. But, unfortunately, with the Bush administration things can always get worse.

Well, there is one possibility. The democrats need an EXPENDABLE MODERATE FRONT-RUNNER. Someone who is willing to step up and voice ALL of these things, without fear of political repercussions, because she or he does not actually plan to be president! Such a person would draw fire while raining blows on BushCo for treacheries that have nothing to do with left or right, but that have to do with devastating undermining of America and the world.

But more on that idea, anon....

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Investigating Climate Change.

Following up our discussion of Global Climate Change, I wrote to friend of mine, atmospheric scientist James Kasting, who was the fellow who proved that Mars could have struck a high-CO2 Gaia balance, if it had been larger... the real expert on a star's Continuously Habitable Zone (CHZ). Jim offered me the following --

Hi David,

Nice to hear from you! I only work a little on global warming these days, although I do teach about it in my introductory Earth science class. So, I can answer some of your questions, but I'm not a real authority. I've cc'd my colleague Ken Davis over in Meteorology on this reply. Ken works on the modern carbon cycle and can correct any mistakes that I may make.

With regard to your question about missing CO2 sinks, I think that the consensus view now is that it is going into the terrestrial biosphere, i.e., plants and soils. Some of this CO2 could "come back" at us in a few decades as the climate warms and as decomposition of soil carbon speeds up. In the short term, though, the terrestrial biosphere is expected to take up more carbon as a consequence of CO2 fertilization of plant growth. So, there are competing effects. Ken would know more than I do about the state of this argument.

The most credible scientific statements about global warming are those published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their website is:http://www.ipcc.ch/ . The most recent full report is dated 2001. There is another one in progress at the moment. The last report is quite clear in making the point that anthropogenic global warming is for real. And I expect that the forthcoming report will make even stronger statements on this matter.

A good debunking of Michael Crichton's State of Fear book is given in: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/michael-crichtons-state-of-confusion/

At least I think this is the website that my colleague Richard Alley referred me to some time ago. I was going to read State of Fear myself, but Richard assured me that it has been thoroughly debunked on the Web.


And now further followup from Penn State atmospheres expert Ken Davis:

“ I would add that about half of the current 'sink' of CO2 is probably the ocean, and half the terrestrial biosphere. The ocean is likely to remain a fairly steady sink on the 100 year time scale, while the terrestrial biosphere, as Jim said, may remain a sink or become a net source depending on how ecosystems respond to climatic change, and also depending on how people alter the landscape. A primary focus of my research these days is on the current biospheric sink, and its likely evolution in the next century.

“There are a series of US government sponsored reports
being drafted now that should provide a good overview of various issues. For example, I'm helping to write one on the state of the carbon cycle, that addresses the question you asked about CO2 sinks. But the IPCC is great.”

I proceeded to ask Ken a few quick questions.

1. Where do you come down on sea-fertilization to spur
both fisheries and carbon sequestration?

Very questionable, as best I know. You certainly can stimulate biological activity, but whether or not it is a net sink is very uncertain. I am not an expert.

2. Are you concerned about the clathrate hydrate deposits sitting at the bottom of some sea beads, possibly being released into the atmosphere?

Again, I'm not expert, but I believe there are certainly such deposits. I think that long ago (50-60 million years?) there were possibly large releases. I heard some good discussion at the ICDC7 meeting in Boulder last September, but haven't read the papers. www.icdc7.com, I think. Proceedings online. Some fantastic overview talks at the beginning.

3. I thought that climate change experts were concerned about the sea's ability to continue absorbing CO2 at high rates.

Not as far as I know. Lots of water, 1000-year turnover time. It is the gorilla long-term for carbon storage/release. More concern about it acidifying so much that the micro-flora/fauna may be faced with large-scale changes in where they can/can't survive. More alarming than climatic change in some ways. Again, very good overview of some high-profile pubs were given at the ICDC7 conference.

Real science can be far more fascinating than polemic. But dig it, folks. These guys know their stuff. They know FAR more than you and me. There are mostly NOT polemically driven. And they are very, very concerned.

And there is no excuse whatsoever for cutting energy/atmospheres research in half, when we should be tripling it EVEN IF HUMAN-GENERATED CLIMATE CHANGE WEREN’T REAL, AFTER ALL.

There isn’t even a good kleptocratic reason to be doing this. Either the perps are cosmically stupid... (plausible)... or else they are dominated by people who already live in a desert and see any global change as likely to bring more rain to THEM. Also very plausible.