Sunday, March 25, 2007

Science Fiction, Media, Podcasts & Events!

PODCASTS ON SPACE & FICTION!

Planetfest-David-BrinMy speech at Planetfest '97 was recently You-Tubed. A classic about our future in space!

I was interviewed on the topic of “Messages to ET” on the radio show CULTURE SHOCK of the BBC World Service. See more articles on SETI: The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.

Meanwhile David S. Levine of the Stanford Law School interviewed me for a podcast on the continuing importance and relevance of Transparency and my nonfiction book, The Transparent Society: Will Technology Force us to choose between Privacy and Security? as the book approaches its tenth anniversary. Indeed, it is one of the only public policy tomes of the nineties still in print and still widely discussed.

PBS has posted a podcast of a panel discussion about spying and censorship on the Internet.

PredictionsRegistryOther podcasted topics include "Science Fiction Writing" and "Evaluating Horizons" recorded at Accellerating Change in 2004. The latter explores how we explore future possibilities, including far-out ones like the "singularity" - and whether humans really want to become demigods.

See also collected Audio & Video Interviews with David Brin!

As you may know, I have long called for improved methods of anticipation and prediction. (See my article: Accountability for Everyday Prophets: A Call for a Predictions Registry.) The latest fad, prediction markets, holds great promise for a limited range of situations. I am involved in some of the work. Now the next stage of legitimacy. The Journal of Prediction Markets is now available in print and online. There is a free access trial period available for a short time.


SCIENCE & SCIENCE FICTION

EonTRAILERS TO SCI FI MOVIES THAT "OUGHT" TO BE: The latest "Computer Graphics Challenge" has been judged! It not only includes wondrous still images from artists around the world, but several stunning movie trailers for Greg Bear's epochal novel EON.

They'll do one of mine, soon -- with a challenge for images and videos for the Uplift Universe, my novels including Startide Rising and The Uplift War, as well as the newer trilogy that begins with Brightness Reef.) Check it out. And spread word to any graphics or Indie Movies folk you know.

*Later addition: You can now see the provocative award-winning entries from the Computer Graphics Challenge: Alien Relations: Uplift.

hyperspaceOne of the best "gosh-wow" documentaries about the cosmos, in recent years, was HYPERSPACE: From the Birth of the Universe to the End of our World, narrated by Sam Neill, and featuring a whole bunch of interview segments with yours truly. It is a beautiful and entertaining and informative show. Well worth ordering on DVD.

SCIENCE FICTION MONTH IN ASIA. Starting August 30, the World Science Fiction Convention will be held in Yokohama, Japan. (I am the featured International Author.) It may be one of the most spectacular - and generously hosted - worldcons ever.

Adding spice, there will be SF events in China, a week before! First an academic conference in Beijing and then a larger gathering in the exotic Sechuan city of Chengdu (www.chengdu2007.com), August 24-27, near panda country, hosted by Science Fiction World, the largest-circulation (over one million) science fiction magazine of all time. The organizers in China are getting their web sites up. (Any volunteers to help? Especially Mandarin speakers?) Drop them (or me) a line to be put on the mailing list, as news develops.

Thor-Meets-Captain-AmericaHave a sneak peek at my new short novel SKY HORIZON, that will be available July in a special, signed, limited hardcover edition from Subterranean Press. A very unusual first contact story. Illustrated (cover and five interiors) by the great Scott Hampton!

Scott Hampton also illustrated the gorgeous graphic novel, The Life Eaters -- based on my short story, Thor Meets Captain America.

75 comments:

Sidereus said...

Thanks David! I just pre-ordered a limited edition copy.

Floyd Gilmore said...

Speaking of predictions, here is something from my very first post to Dr. Brin's weblog...

Quote

After going through the many lush and wondrous contributions to the Eon trailer project, I had to narrow the field down to the two trailers posted by Alpo Oksahariu and Emiliano Colanoni.

Both are outstanding short trailers. The quality levels were extraordinary. I hope both of these teams will work on the story selection to be made on the next challenge.

End Quote.

I'm not surprised by the results.

Looking forward to the selection for the next trailer project.

sociotard said...

I just watched the planetfest '97 speech. It was good, though I did laugh a little when they advertised the upcoming Postman movie. Back when it still had hope of being good.

Did you pick your nose at 4:18 of that video? Oh, no it was still outside nostril, you're good.

Damon TF Buckwalter said...

Excellent!

I've become addicted to podcasts and this will help feed my obsession.

By the way, take a look at John Rogers' recent take on 300:
http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2007/03/writing-300-and-viewpoints.html

Adam said...

There's also a mirror for the Chengdu site here, for those of us who don't want to wait for the bits to squeeze their way through the Great Firewall.

Adam said...

...which is the URL you linked to in the post. Must remember: do not write comment until the coffee's kicked in.

sociotard said...

Oh, I had a question for Dr. Brin.

I don't know what you thought of the film version of The Postman, but I didn't think it was very good. If an Uplift or Earth movie were made, would you handle anything differently? Besides not letting Costner touch it?

David Brin said...

see
http://www.davidbrin.com/movies.html
for my reaction to Costner's Postman. You are helpless, dealing with Hollywood. Our main hope is that the new technologies unleash hundreds of mini-studios, giving writers more leverage.

Robert Cruze Jr. said...

When you think about it, technology, especially when it matures, becomes the proverbial "David's Sling" -- putting the little guy on the same level as the big guy. Plus, it can put the big guy out of business. Big, centralized "Goliath" is busy tripping over his feet while a swarm of smaller, decentralized "Davids" run circles around him.

It'd be interesting to see in the next few decades, with the technology maturing and becoming cheaper to own, if the big studios start losing out to small, independent studios. Figure, when a group of college students operating out of a loft somewhere can afford the tech to put put out something with the same production quality as a major studio (without needing a budget somewhere around the level of American Samoa), how can a major studio compete? I see a day when small indie filmmakers are eating the big guys' lunches (they're already starting to -- just imagine when they get ahold of the really cool tech).

Hey, you never know: with that kind of technology at their fingertips, maybe filmmakers can reach the point where they can actually get back to good, old-fashioned storytelling. Okay, the construction of a Mars colony is more likely to happen, but a man can dream, can't he?

BTW, I actually liked The Postman, and I own it on DVD. (also got the HYPERSPACE DVD a few years ago -- awesome show!)

RandomSequence said...

Robert,

But you also get a counter effect, where the technology that initially freed small businesses to compete with big businesses eventually gets absorbed by the big businesses, returning us to the status quo ante.

Remember how cheap hardware freed the small entrepreneur to develop software and compete with the big boys? Nowadays, the small businesses are mostly gone, and you need hundreds if not thousands of developers to compete effectively - see the gaming industry for examples.

Don't count your chickens before they're hatched. Remember that America used to be filled with small printing presses and local papers.

Nate said...

This is pretty much off the topic, but I thought it was cool and a reflection of some of the things you've been saying about transparency, Dr. Brin.

Over at TPMmuckraker, they took the document dump about the US attorney scandal, and had hundreds if not thousands of readers go through portions and post their summaries or other little bits on a master thread.

Seems like a good way to help defeat the "Drown you in useless information" method of document dumps.

Blake Stacey said...

Chris Mooney has a new article on what the Democrats should be doing about science policy. Of his five points, here's one which I recall DB called a "no-brainer":

A smart symbolic maneuver on the part of Democrats would be to restore Congress's Office of Technology Assessment, a world-renowned scientific advisory body that the Republican Congress dismantled in 1995. OTA got the science right, but its studies sometimes offended political sensibilities. The office should return in precisely the same bipartisan format in which it originally existed: Democrats and Republicans would jointly decide which studies to commission.

To be sure, OTA alone cannot make the worst science abusers in Congress clean up their act. The unrepentant will simply ignore (or attack) its work. Nevertheless, restoring OTA would, in turn, be a step toward restoring a sense of seriousness and dignity to congressional conversations about science. It would provide a baseline for determining what types of information Congress should and shouldn't accept. There's really no downside here: In 1995 the office's annual budget was only about $22 million.

The whole thing is worth reading — it includes a jab at Inhofe for inviting Michael Crichton to testify about climate science — but the conclusion may be particularly noteworthy for this crowd:

Last, and perhaps most important, Democrats must be scrupulously careful not to commit the same sorts of abuses that they're trying to root out. This is tricky but crucial. There has been massive chatter about the uniquely Republican nature of the current war on science. But journalists are skilled at recognizing, above all else, hypocrisy, and even minor slipups could generate "Democrats are just as bad" stories.

Democrats need to avoid, for example, incautious statements that link global warming to individual weather events or that overplay debatable evidence about its impact on severe storms like hurricanes. They also need to avoid embarrassments like John Edwards's 2004 campaign pledge that if he and John Kerry were elected, "people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again."

The truth is that in politics today, everyone needs to use science—and whatever other evidence they can find—to bolster an argument and advance a point of view. But we must avoid opportunism and remain evenhanded in criticizing those who go beyond what the evidence can support. Democrats must be particularly wary of some scientific claims made by their own constituents and supporters—for example, environmental groups. They mean well, but they've been caught exaggerating in the past. A good rule of thumb is never to make too much out of a single study. And never speculate. Instead, rely on major, peer-reviewed scientific assessment reports. Following this approach, Democrat assertions about scientific information should remain largely unassailable—and if we're lucky, a new and much healthier era for science-government relations will dawn.

David Brin said...

Mooney is one of the wise guys.

Anonymous said...

Concerning prediction registries: in theory a sensible idea, in reality likely to be problematic at best.

First, there's the problem of specificity. It's easy to foresee that most registry scores will degenerate into haggling into semantics as failed predictors frantically try to up their scores by playing word games (Viz., "the term `attack on America' includes economic slumps, and China's recent currency trading clearly fits that defintiion..."). It's not obvious how to get around this. Humans tend to do verbal jumping-jacks in order to save their asses, and it's a sure bet that people who make predictions will do so. For example, take a look at Robert X. Cringely's (nee Mark Stephenson's) finessing of his yearly predictions. ("Well, it came true in Frebruary instead of by December, so we'll have to call one that one a hit.." and "The new Apple macs run Windows under Boot Camp so I'm calling that one for claim that Apple would switch to Windows as well," etc.)

Then there's the problem of statistics. Enrico Fermi once pointed up the foolishness of military people when he asked a group of U.S. army generals what defined a great military leader. The generals answered "Any general who wins 5 battles in a row." Fermi then pointed out that if a general were just good enought hat there was a 50% chance he'd win his battles, this meant that one out of 32 generals would be likely to win 5 battles in a row just by chance. This relates to the well-known scam in which you pick a large number of different stocks and mail out several thousand letters touting one of these stocks from each of the large group you picked as "breakout winners destined to go up!" Keeping track of those to whom you sent the letters and then to those whose first stock went up by sheer chance, you send a second letter with a second stock (thousands of stocks, again, each a different one). Then you keep track of the people to whom yous sent the second letter. Now you send a third letter doing the same thing. At the end of this scam, you finally send out a fourth letter saying, "If you want the fourth stock that's ready to explode and shoot to the sky, send me $1000!"
Of course this is just a version of Fermi's point -- some predictors are likely to be correct merely by pure chance. In fact, Ramsey Theory tells us how many. As you know, Ramsey Theory gives us the length of a probable maximum run when you're flipping coins, and it tunrs out to be n out of n^2 + 1 coin flipts. So if you flip a coin 101 times, you're almost certain to get a run of at least 10 heads in a row or 10 tails in a row. Likewise, someone who makes 101 yes-no predictions is almost certain to get a run of 10 correct predictions in a row. This doesn't do much for our confidence in predictors with a successful registry track record.

Last but not least, there's the very real possibility that a socially influential prediction registry is likely to attract powerful players who arrange events in order to game the system. Person X predicts a terrorist attack and coincidentally some of his biddies in the underground attack shopping mall Y. Indeed, you can see situations where terrorists or other fringe groups actively make use of the prediction registry -- as al Qaeda apparently did by massively shorting airline stocks just before 9/11.
It's worth noting that large-scale scamming of a sort of prediction registry is apparently going on right now. The SEC is currently investigating many of the biggest broekrage firms on Wall Street because despite the many risky hedge funds make, they never seem to lose. The SEC considers it likely that it's a case of simple insider trading:
http://billmaher.wordpress.com/2007/02/24/wall-streets-next-scandal-on-the-horizon/

So much for the stock market as "a predictor of the future state of the economy." More like a rigged casino for rich white collar criminals. Would a predictions registry fare any better?

Stefan Jones said...

Uplifty news of a sort:

A fellow is writing a screenplay of Olaf Stapledon's book Sirius:

http://www.siriusscreenplay.com/

Blake Stacey said...

About prediction registries:

1. Having every self-appointed prophet's remarks stored and indexed should make it easier to catch people inflating their own reputations (or those of an ideological ally). "Ten of psychic economist Sylvia Cato's predictions for 2007 came true by 2008!"

"Yeah, buddy, but she made four hundred and twenty predictions that year."

2. At the moment, it's difficult to do statistics on how well predictors actually predict. How can we tell whether a general is great or simply lucky without actually counting everybody's wins and losses? More generally, how can we reject the null hypothesis ("it's just due to random chance") without collecting data? To condemn data collection on the chance that it might confirm the null hypothesis rather puts the nozzle before the rocket!

3. Having a centralized yet partially open registry (think Wikipedia with less anonymity) could take the job of evaluating predictions out of the predictors' hands. Writing the ground rules for disputants engaged in marking hits and misses — the analogues of Wikipedia's NPOV and Attribution policies — would be difficult, but not impossible.

Robert said...

For everyone trying to "adopt an ostrich," this CSPAN clip is a must show to all potentially rational conservatives.

http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/002896.php

Stefan Jones said...

That poor woman! Struck by memory loss at such a young age.

There must be something about being a political hack appointed by the GOP which lends itself to forgetfullness.

The only kind thing to do is offer them a chance to spend more time with their families.

David Brin said...

I got dragged into yet another discussion of "libertarianism vs liberalism" - this time on an elite philanthropy forum. I figure it might interest some of you down here in comments, though most of you have heard a lot of it before. Just skim past if you have.

The liberal-libertarian rift is artificially generated by dogmatists who actually believe the silly, undefined, nonsensical (and French) "left-right political axis." It is an artificial wedge that hierarchicalists have used to divide two aspects of the main movement behind the Anglo-American wing of the Enlightenment.

In its older meaning, of course, "liberalism" was VERY closely attuned to moderate libertarianism, because Adam Smith etc wanted to stimulate the productive effects of inter-human competition by removing the cheats and parasitical constraints imposed by the guys with the swords - cronies of the king - who have ALWAYS been the chief enemies of enterprise. (Socialism and bureaucracy are very recent bugaboos.)

Yes, yes. "Liberal" now carries some socialistic freight that has been pushed on it by "leftist" elements who share an agenda of tolerance -expansion and helping the poor, but do so for VERY different reasons than a genuine liberal.

Genuine liberals justify state intervention to help poor kids (for example) in part because it helps to end a waste of human talent that could otherwise be liberated to join the joyfully competitive fecundity of creative markets. Yes, compassion is also a factor. But they see no tragedy in an adult experiencing some failure and having to work hard to rise back up again, so long as she/he is not blocked by artificial impediments like racism, sexism, and fixable ill health etc or cheating by the mighty.

Lefties, on the other hand, seek aggressive levelling... but deep-down are motivated by the power this will give them as society's "wise allocators." Their hijacking of the word "liberal" is one of the great tragedies of our era, empowering the far-worse monsters of the far right to turn that wondrous word into an epithet.

I speak as one who has labored in both liberal and libertarian vineyards,, having given a keynote at a Libertarian national convention:

And with efforts to nudge the libertarian movement back toward Hayekian pragmatism, away from Rand-Rothbard quasi-religiosity. See a major effort in this direction at: where I have a four part essay.

The distinction can be laid out very primly with two metaphors.

1) Your typical American "lapel grabber" libertarian today emphasizes hatred of government as the despised entity blocking us from a natural state of grace. This makes him/her psychologically a follower of Rousseau.

Neoconservatives - OTOH - emphasize the opposite notion, that rule by elites is needed to check human sin: the teaching of Hobbes.

Both of these views are simplistic, archaic and ultimately deeply sick. Anyone with a grain of sense can see that humans are complex melange mixes of both angels and devils. Locke answered Rousseau and Hobbes by calling them both Platonist fools and saying "lets get practical and find ways that our devils get constrained while our angels become unleashed and free."

A true libertarian, like Adam Smith, focuses not on hatred of government, but on love of freedom. And knows that government is just a tool. One that can be used by oppressors! Yes, it has been, most of the time. By oppressors called the king, lords, the rich.

And yet, governments can also serve freedom, sometimes. It is insipid and dumb to hate the tool IN PRINCIPLE.

Those who love freedom, instead of hating a government bugaboo, suddenly become capable of negotiating with liberals.

2) All one has to do is imagine what the "first liberal" - and the first libertarian - Adam Smith - would say if he appeared today, He would recognize the age old enemy of free markets. Not Socialism, but interference and greed and cheating by cronies of the king.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Robert, Stefan--

I am truly shocked--shocked!--that high-level bureaucrats in Bushco actually play hardball politics with questionable ethics! No doubt you are savoring your filet of Bushco, grilled to a medium rare over a mesquite fire and garnished with mango chutney. Here's a little apertif, though, offerred solely as an aid to digestion.

Yeah, I can see how you'd stress over a Rovian PowerPoint preso. Given such outrages, I surely applaud your ability to remain serene over $7 million or so in campaign contributions from a foreign power.

Again, I refer back to the original definition of Ostrich: Somebody who thinks that Bushco, while regrettable isn't that much worse than Dem administrations of yore. There are plenty of Bushco escapades that force me to re-evaluate my Ostrichitude with great regularity. This ain't one of 'em.

-----------------------

Blake and Anon, I too have reservations about prediction registries. On the other hand, I suspect prediction markets will work just swimmingly. It's not as if there isn't already a whole army of securities underwriters that know how to write bulletproof criteria for all kinds of derivative securities.

The trick, then, is to turn each prediction into an arbitrageable set of securities, each with a binary outcome. The part where my head always begins to hurt is when I try to figure out how you capitalize somebody's damnfool idea enough to get a thickly traded market in it.

Maybe the owner of the prediction should underwrite the issue for some nominal but non-trivial sum, then have some kind of escalator that fully capitalizes the idea from a shared pool when you find one that gets popular.

TheRadicalModerate said...

BTW, in re. Kevin Costner going postal: There was the little problem with Kev's previous two movies. I kept expecting Bill Paxton to take time out from laying siege to Our Heroes to go get help from Dennis Hopper and a bunch of guys with harpoons, forcing Kevin to use his gills to swim back up to the cabin in the mountains, retrieve Olivia Williams, and stash her in a camper just outside of town, along with Jeanne Tripplehorn, Renee Russo, and Cheech. Then he'd have to swim back under the lines and continue to keep the mail from getting wet, all the while maintaining a lively repartee with Don Johnson as they tried to knock seagulls off posts at the water's edge. No--wait! That last part actually happened! Ah! I get now! That's why it's called the Postman!

Robert said...

RS,

Your lack of outrage is a terrible statement of cynicism about the function of government. Personally, I find this politicization (as also seen with the USA firings, handling of career civil scientists, etc.) to be the administration's worst offense.

Yes, Iraq may have turned out to be a disaster, and perhaps even a predictable one, but there was an argument that could be made for the decision - and it's the President's call to make that decision. But the subversion of functional, professional government and its replacement with government as politics run by hacks is an outrage by any standard.

There's no problem with Karl Rove being a partisan, that's his job. But it's not the job of the head of the GSA. And from the top down to the most lowly secretary, every non-political government employee a) knows their job is not to advance party politics, b) is well aware of the Hatch Act. And no doubt Mrs. Doan's memory of four months ago is so faulty because there is NO DOUBT that a crime was committed during that lunch.

And I'd wish we could stop hearing about Clinton. Yes he had a veneer of slime about him and was horribly relentless in chasing cash (though nothing compared to the politicians of this day). But what do the crimes of some of his acquiescences outside government have to do with what is happening to our government now.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Robert--

OK, I'll cop to cynical, but I prefer to think of it more as eye-rolling when politicians act like politicians. Was listening to Rove's preso on the GSA premises a violation of the Hatch Act? Well, sure. But this is really pretty small potatoes, don't you think? Looked to me like Doan felt a bit sheepish, but truly couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about. When you're a party hack placed in what is clearly a patronage job (and don't you dare tell me that that isn't a universal constant of American, or for that matter anybody else's, government), no doubt you get to listen to five of these pitches a week. My Outrage-o-Meter isn't gonna move much higher than about -19 VU on this one.

-----------

Correction on my Wet Tin Postal World: Bill Paxton-->Will Patton. Clearly I was having a middle-aged moment. Although come to think of it, we could always have Kevin Costner stash Oliva, Jeanne, Renee, and Cheech in the LEM, where they can discuss endless power-up sequences with Gary Sinise. I know! We'll call it Wet Tin Postal World 13!

David Brin said...

RM, the top ostrich tactic is to claim that Clinton was only marginally not quite as bad, but made of the same substance.

Wrong. He was utterly and diametrically opposite to these guys in almost every way.

While a sinner and somewhat slick/slimy, he staid with a wife and child his entire adult life. Since Reagan, the GOP has done an utter reverse and become the party of divorce, utterly forgiving marriage monsters, simply because they are on the right side, and ignoring the hypocrisy that nearly ALL of Clinton's pursuers had no right to cast stones at him, or even to stare upward in awe at his marriage.

This hypocrisy is vastly outweighed by the far worse hypocrisy toward malfeasance in office. Dig it. EVERY weapon of disclosure was aimed at the Clintons.

Congressional investigations raged, special prosecutors stomped about like Godzilla, spending BILLIONS.

FBI agents were diverted from important anti-terror duties DURING THE SIX MONTHS BEFORE 9/11 with the sole goal of finding a smoking Clintonian gun that could lead to indictments. (An act of treason, frankly.)

The GSA and all inspeactors general were ordered to leave no stone unturned.

Now add to that the fact that Clinton et al DECREASED SECRECY IN GOVERNMENT to a larger degree than any before it. Ever. Diametrically opposite to the skyrocketing secrecy of these monsters.

Add it all together and the result? Absolutely ZERO INDICTMENTS OF ANY CLINTONIAN FOR MALFEASANCE IN OFFICE OF ANY KIND, WHATSOEVER. Twelve years of culture war and radio screeches and howls about "slick willy" and "the most corrupt" administration...

...and it turned out to be - by any objective measure, by far the most open and honest administration in the entire history of the entire human race. Proved (ironically) by the relentless scrutiny of its opposition.

Disprove this. Put up or shut up. I am sick of this example of the Big Lie.

The Big Truth is that Clinton was an honest and excellent administrator whose appointees treated the civil servants and officers with respect and got good work out of them, trying to make government lean and effective in service of the people of the United States.

This is proved and diametrically opposite to absolutely everything about the monsters who replaced them.

So no. I will not stop mentioning Clinton. It is perfectly relevant to demand that ostriches ponder "what if Clinton had done this?" Because if Clinton had. If he had done a SCINTILLA of the monstrous things that are leaking out of the tight wall of collusion and secrecy and stonewalling, then the ostrich would have screeched bloody murder.

This is hypocrisy, cowardice.

And if some new thing happens -- say to the US Navy -- without ostriches waking up to pull their heads out of the sand and turning their eyes to treason in their midst, then I say that they will be traitors, too.

Tony Fisk said...

Maybe a more concrete indication of your nation's reversals might add a few more grains of salt to the sand surrounding your head, RM?

US 'no longer technology king'

You've slipped from first to seventh in a year.

And why?

"A deterioration of the political and regulatory environment in the US prompted the fall, the (WEF) report said."

TheRadicalModerate said...

David--

You're misconstruing my argument a bit. It's not that I think Clintonco was just as bad as Bushco. Rather, Clintonco would have been as bad as Bushco given a similar set of circumstances. There are three major differences:

1) The 90's were truly a "vacation from history." The economy literally ran itself and sizeable foreign policy blunders had no consequences until Clinton was out of office. Bushco has certainly not had that luxury.

2) Divided government is accountable government. Clinton benefitted hugely from having the GOP nipping at his heels. In other words, he was forced to have the most open government in history by his political enemies. Bushco got to run open-loop for 6 years because his own party wouldn't investigate him. While I'm sure I will indulge in much eye-rolling over the next 2 years, the fact that the relationship between Congress and the Executive is once again adversarial will vastly improve Bushco and the Congress.

3) I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but the single mistake of invading Iraq the wrong way has warped all subsequent foreign policy. I'd like to think that Clinton would have been wise enough to avoid this decision but frankly I don't know. The man certainly had his own "wag the dog" propensities when backed up against the wall.

-----------------

Tony, I'd love to see the model the WEF is using. More specifically, I'd be interested in finding out how much Sarbanes-Oxley contributes to the infrastructure problems.

Nate said...

Given that Bush et al were interested in invading Iraq before 9/11, I'm not really sure a case can be made about it being a mistake. At least from their point of view. They were dead-set on invading long before we went in.

And there were many many many more mistakes than just "invading the wrong way." Invading at all, for one. Then the disbanding of the Iraqi army, not securing all the weapons caches we knew about, staffing the reconstruction agencies with incompetent Republican hacks, shipping tons of cash over there that just disappeared, locking people up and torturing them on little to no evidence... I could go on all day. Oh yeah, and justifying the invasion on nukes that they knew weren't there.

And that points at one of the fundamental differences with Clinton. No, Clinton wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Nor would Al Gore, or almost any other Democrat. Why? Because Iraq had NOTHING to do with 9/11. Absolutely nothing. Zero. Nada. So there would have been no reason whatsoever to invade Iraq. That is, of course, assuming that the Republicans in control of the House hadn't decided to impeach every Democrat they could find after 9/11, assuming a hypothetical Democrat were the President. Truth hadn't bothered them through all of the Clinton witch-hunts, why would it have then?

Of course, they'd have impeached President Gore if the Supreme Court had decided in his favor, too. Probably wouldn't have gotten the two thirds in the Senate to convict, which would have saved us from President Lieberman, who may very well have invaded Iraq. Because he's crazy.

HawkerHurricane said...

RM...
Not trying to sound snarky, but it seems that what you're saying isn't the typical "Clinton did it, too!" but rather "Clinton *would have done it* too!" Which, while interesting speculation, doesn't help your case. Speculating about what someone would have done under the circumstances is only amusing, not an arguement.
(For amusement purposes only, I've been speculating on what various historical figures 'would have done' post 9/11...
Joseph Stalin would have had the head of the CIA purged. He then would have had the new head of the CIA fund the violent overthrow of Saudi Arabian monarchy. Once the revolution started, he'd have invaded Saudi Arabia 'at the request of the legitimate government' 'in support of his socialist brothers'.
Anyway, it's a amusing game, but not terribly relevant.)

RandomSequence said...

David,

I'll one up you on the Manchurian hypothesis, with the Trotskyist hypothesis.

We all know (or should) the basic logic of Marxism - the historical dialectic. The addition of Lenninism and Trotskyism was that the dialectic could be manipulated by an avant-garde. Imagine a group of Trotskyists by the 60's and 70's. It's clear that the initial antithesis to capitalism of state communism had been overtaken by New Deal capitalism (the synthesis), which then becomes it's own thesis for the next historical round.

But the gradually failing Soviet Union is still around, and is clearly unable to present an antithesis. The US internal left is part of the New Deal thesis, and the Trotskyists have failed to convert it into an antithesis to the New Deal. What can they do to speed up the wheel of history, and not wait for a century or two to pass?

The neo-con option. You convert to right wingers (just like Mussolini did for somewhat similar reasons). You spend decades building up your network and your bona-fides. Then you find the most incompetent candidate for president imaginable, who is also tied into the most corrupt social network in the country, and get him elected as President. An ex-alcoholic would be particularly maneuverable.

You speed the dialectic by pushing forward the thesis to what you imagine is its historically inevitable revelation of internal contradiction, setting the grounds for the emergence of a global antithesis. In addition, you get to live in mansions and have servants while you wait for the wheel of history - a nice bonus, much better than running in the underground, waiting for the FBI to create a convenient "accident" for you.

This conspiracy handily explains why the current administration is incompetent and corrupt, why its foreign policy makes no sense from almost any (not-trotskyist) viewpoint, and the weird alliances it produces.

It, of course, has the general problem of deep conspiracy - it's almost impossible to negate or verify. But that would make it fodder for a thriller... Didn't PK Dick write a few similar novels?

TheRadicalModerate said...

HH--

Not trying to sound snarky, but it seems that what you're saying isn't the typical "Clinton did it, too!" but rather "Clinton *would have done it* too!" Which, while interesting speculation, doesn't help your case. Speculating about what someone would have done under the circumstances is only amusing, not an arguement.

It occurs to me that we've been beating around a particularly important bush (no pun intended) for a while. The basic Brin-esque argument is, "Something has changed, radically and structurally, and our civilization is in big trouble because of those changes." Meanwhile, the competing Ostrich argument is, "We have a sub-par administration, but the system is robust enough to recover from it, once the offending administration's term of office expires."

When framed this way, I assert that it's extremely instructive to consider what Bill would have done if he'd taken office in Jan. 2001 with exactly the same set of circumstances as George. (Let's just assume that the 9/11 attacks would have been successful no matter what, at least for purposes of argument.) If we come to the conclusion that Bill would have done a substantial number of the things that Bushco wound up doing, that weighs heavily in favor of the Ostrich thesis above.

Personally, I think we would have wound up with all the Patriot Act and surveillance stuff. Also, I'm really not sure that Afghanistan was enough to slake the American public's thirst for vengeance. Bill was nothing if not an astute reader of the zeitgeist, and the obvious next flashy target was Iraq. He might easily have done the same thing. One can only hope that he would have managed it more adroitly. Of course, if all you're trying to do is slake a thirsty zeitgeist, you might be tempted to do it cheap...

Meanwhile, Bill was not above placing cronies to high places--no politician is, because it's an easy way to accumulate and wield power. So, you might easily have wound up with a state of affairs not unlike the one we have now. Lots of different details, but be sure, but structurally, pretty close.

RandomSequence said...

RM,

You're analysis works only if the hypothesis is that the structural problems are somehow directly related to the Republican party or Bush's crony. I would retort that they may be the worst of the bunch, but that the structural problems that allowed them to emerge are deeper than personalities.

If you look on the left, there actually is a great deal of disparagement of Clinton and his allies. They are seen as part of the problem, not the solution. The structural problems that lead to Bush, also lead to Clinton, even if Clinton was a bit less dangerous than his successor. The very success of Clinton can be seen as setting the stage for Bush Jr.

Basically, much of the left feels that the national political discussion has been hijacked by a small group of wealthy special interest groups. This is not very different from what the populist right has been complaining about for a generation. Both are probably right, and have been manipulated by the same group of folks at the top of our national leadership.

Yes there are clearly schisms between the RNC and the DNC - but at the end of the day, both have been singing very similar tunes. The "progressives" have been fighting to try to take back their side of the aisle. Where is the conservative equivalent? I don't see it.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Random--

Interesting point. But I need to know: what do you mean by "progressive?" Using the left/right eigenvector (sorry, David), are the progressives further to the left than the rest of the DNC, or more to the center? If they're further to the left, then I'm extremely glad that their counterparts in the GOP are still toothless, because those nutbags are the ones who genuinely have theocratic leanings, rather than libertarian ones.

Meanwhile, the libertarian wing of the GOP, which is quite centrist, is alive and well. They tend not to squawk a lot. For the most part, they just want low taxes and a fairly strong defense posture, which they're getting, readiness brouhaha notwithstanding. They squawk about the conduct of the war because everybody squawks about the conduct of the war.

So let me flip the question around: If both sides are actually trending towards the center, why are both sides being so vicious to each other? Several possible answers come to mind:

1) Both sides think that the leadership of the other side are really extremists in centrists' clothing, just waiting for a chance to revert to their true commie/bleeding-heart or fascist/plutocrat selves.

2) The leadership of both sides realize that all brand differentiation between the two has been lost and therefore they need to rile up their extremist wings to maintain an artificial differentiation.

3) Something really bad is happening and the media, in conjunction with the Vast Extremist Conspiracies of both sides have truly managed to brainwash everybody into doing what they want all the time, all the while distracting the proles with shiny things in their peripheral vision.

4) Something really good is happening and, having achieved near-universal consensus on many of the seminal issues of the 20th century, all the sturm und drang is merely the noise that a complex system makes while searching around for the next set of variables to optimize.

#1 is prosaic and incredibly depressing (that damned Occam!). #2 fits a lot of the known facts and is very dangerous--remember the late 1850's? #3 will appeal to lots of you, but Lord Occam is looking askance again. Meanwhile, #4 is just so appealing I'm just all a-quiver with enthusiasm.

H. Hurricane said...

RM:
You still come to the conclusion you wish to reach: "Clinton would have done the same thing". I can (with identical justification, which is to say none at all) claim that if Clinton had taken office in Jan 2001 (or Gore, or McCain, or my uncle Charlie) that the results of the Gore Commission on improving airplane security would have been implemented (in spite of opposition from the then Republican congress) and the 9/11 attack partially thwarted. With lesser damage done on 9/11, and a rational response with the invasion of Afghanistan leading to the rapid capture or confirmed death of Osama Bin Laden, the (less offensive) Patriot Act passed in October 2001 would be allowed to expire instead of renewed and expanded.

Of course, my little fantasy above is merely me attempting to justify my opposition to BushCo, just as your fantasy is an attempt to justify your (hmmm... you don't really support BushCo all that much, only claim that a Democratic President would have gotten similar results)

RandomSequence said...

RM,

Let me repost #3 for you - it is composed not of one "Extremist Conspiracy" but of many small conspiracies that are dynamically working as a grand conspiracy. Occam's razor doesn't kill that one - we see it all the time in biology: multi-cellular organisms, communities, species and ecosystems. That the current dynamic is diseased, well that's not unusual either. Happened in Rome also, for a common example, in addition to mammalian old-age and the introduction of foreign organisms to ecosystems.

The left/right eigenvector is much too simple for this case; it is positively misleading. Yes, the progressives are farther to the "left" - but that just puts them right in the middle of most opinion polls of the American people, once you take out much of the inflammatory language.

I don't see the libertarian right (which most Americans would consider fairly "extreme") as challenging their own party strongly enough; if anything the last election did not show more libertarian Republican candidates, and has seen a switch of libertarians away from the Republican party.

I don't see the disease as political extremism - that's just a tool being used. I don't think moderation is the solution. What we need is a healthy pluralism. The keyword, though, is healthy. Libertarians, progressives, centrists, socialists, even Pat Buchanan populists have a place there. But theocrats don't - neo-cons don't - soviet-style communists don't. Those who reject the principles of democracy don't have a place in a democracy.

What we are getting are moronic talking heads covering the real movement of the last generation, which is towards greater economic inequality, greater political inequality, in short, a greater concentration of power in fewer hands; those hands will mask themselves in whatever ideology they find handy that justifies authoritarianism. If the use of radical right politics fails, they'll just try again on the left.

And that's my fear: that we may see the current crop fail, but then see it reborn, maybe on the right with Giuliani, maybe on the left with her lordship, HRC. But in the end, we'll stay in Iraq, we'll keep the patriot act and all the precedents built over the last decade will stay intact, or grow. Then maybe eight-years down the road, after the rot has really set in, a recession or depression will be the match for tumbling the rest of the way.

RandomSequence said...

To add one thing: my mind always go back to FDR. Recently, I heard that his initial draft for his inauguration speech had been found, wherein he called on the members of the American Legion to surround the banks.

The conditions were ripe. Fortunately, he had advisors that pulled him back from the brink; imagine a counterfactual history where that speech had been given. It's about the conditions - I don't want to depend on good advisors or dumb luck to protect the Republic.

David Brin said...

Sorry, RM, but your argument makes me even angrier. That Clinton would have been forced, by circumstances, to BE George W Bush? That is absolutely nuts.

Dig it. 9/11 was a pissant and small potatoes hit, compared with the vastly worse damage done to our economy, world leadership, military, science, social cohesion and national finances by these monsters. Bush has had the “luxury” of no more attacks since then, just has Clinton had the “luxury” of none before. What hooey!

This “divided government” hooey is even worse. Secretive monstrous klepto thieves are what they are. The pork storm began under Gingrich.

You say “Personally, I think we would have wound up with all the Patriot Act and surveillance stuff.” In fact I predicted a modest such move. See page 206 of The Transparent Society. STILL, you have a burden of proof. Because Clinton oversaw DECREASES in secrecy and INCREASES in accountability because that was his philosophy and personality and ideal.
Personally, I believe toppling Saddam was needed. But a myriad smart ways awaited. Like Nixon to-Tehran.

Clinton DID have wars. The Balkans was run by professionals under doctrines diametrically opposite to those put in place by Rummy and Cheney. Likewise the Clinton-planned afghanistan op.

The burden of proof is absolutely on you, to demonstrate that slight changes in circumstances would have turned the best president in 100 years into the very worst. How about the parismonious hypothesis. That one was a competent and honest (if a bit slimy) mensch and the other is EXACTLY WHAT HE SEEMS and always was.

Random. Amusing Trotskyite hypothesis. But it assumes that Perle, Nitze etc are brains behind the throne. When they really look like what they are, the jewish nerds who the frat boys flatter into doing their homework, who then get thrown to the wolves when they aren’t wanted anymore.

===

I am going to share with y’all a long riff that I wrote in response to responses to my recent “adam smith” posting. Forgive unclear context.


I believe that talk of “statists” leads us back toward faux “left-right” ways of viewing things. I do not find this a helpful distinction, since some would use state methods to liberate people to become more powerfully independent and sovereign citizens, while others would use the state to become permanently pateralistic and hierarchical. These two are far more different from each other than the word ‘statist’ would subsume.

I much prefer referring repeatedly to Locke and the notion of the social contract.

Back in feudal days, the social contract was largely implicit. Peasants knew that a large fraction of their labor and value would be robbed from them by self-serving elites, but to an extent this was necessary, in order for there to be someone capable of fighting outside raiders and raising a few kids with fully fed and taught brains capable of specialization or management. In a society with very little surplus above subsistence, it made sense to concentrate that surplus where it might do some good for all.

Nevertheless, implicit (according to Locke) was the right to rebel, if this predation went too far. Of course, the chief effect of rebellion was only to pick a different family of parasites, hopefully one that would be more commensal. For a while.

Read my long essay about the journey from implicit to explicit contracts. I believe it is unique. (Let me know if you have heard it elsewhere!) It is at www.reformtheLP.org.

Capsule summary: I see our progress as a grindingly uneven but accelerating voyage from the long era of the implicit social contract... which was all that a terrified, ignorant and impoverished people could demand... toward the fully explicit social contract desired by countless libertarians, in which every super-educated, super-empowered, sovereign adult negotiates his/her own set of deals, including even the extent to which they want government in their lives.

In fact, I expect the extreme version (opting out to almost-nil government) to be impossible. Nevertheless, there certainly is a lot more distance down this road yet to travel, and it would involve much of what both Marx and Libertarians yearn for, a gradual “withering of the state.”

What I utterly reject is the Rousseauian notion that this journey can be made simply by tearing down the state. Or that the state is somehow automatically assigned the role of villain in this story. Not.

Rather, the state is THE tool and agent by which we have been able to move away from a far-worse, dreary and awful “natural” human social order called feudalism. If it is torn down prematurely -- or allowed to be hijacked by new elites -- then the result, shown relentlessly across 4,000 years of history, will be a quick-slump back into pyramids of hierarchical inherited privilege, ruled by rapacious and violent gangs.

(This, by the way, is the clear intent we see in the return of mercenary armies like Blackwater Security Services. “Outsourcing” secretive deadly mercenary force is a typical trend that should be giving us all chills.)

No, the state is at least as much solution as problem. Hence, I reject classifying -- for example -- FDR as a simple “statist” monster. In an era when masses of frustrated and angry people flocked to populist/fascist demagogues, he worked out a consensus contract under which we rapidly increased wealth across the board, vastly augmented the social, educational, health, and confidence status of average people, and saw the arrival of the flattest social order in all of history, WITHOUT draconian confiscation or class warfare. It was a stunning achievement...

... followed soon by another. The civil rights movement, which (lest we forget) required some fierce state intervention before we broke nasty old habits that would cause us utter revulsion, today.

These measures were absolutely necessary, in order for us to progress across an arc from implicit toward explicit social contracts! Along such an arc, you would EXPECT there to be an awkward, intermediate era, when people are ready to demand more explicit justice, but not yet ready to enforce all deals on their own, the way our super-empowered and computer-augmented grandchildren will be!

During this transition away from domineereing lords and priests - as things that used to be implicit start getting spelled out - you would expect the increasingly explicit “social contract”arrangements to pass thru a phase that requires lots of lawyers and bureaucrats! Duh!

In a generation, when we have IQs of 390 and all have fantastic lawyer programs, this tower of state-rigid paper may fade away. But for now, it is PART OF THE REVOLUTION away from a pattern that was far, far worse.

Do I agree with some of Barry Goldwater’s complaints about aggressive lefty-liberalism? Sure! As I said in my last missive, I feel deeply wary of leftists who want to hijack liberalism so that they can be “wise allocators” atop a new pyramid of power. For example, the Welfare Reform bill was THE brief, shining moment of neoconservatism, when the Gingrichites cooperated briefly with the DLC wing of the democrats, headed by Clinton, and got something done.

Alas, thereupon, neoconservatism simply went stark raving insane. Completely and monstrously mad. So jibbering loony and traitorious to everything about the enlightenment that right now Arizona is supplying half of its electricity from coils wrapped around the spinning in Barry Goldwater’s grave.

Moreover, let me be quite clear. While I despise the lefty postmodernists in all our University soft studies and English departments, I consider them to be far less a threat to our revolution than the old style of danger...

...theft and predation by “cronies of the king.” And you know darn well who those klepto cronies are, today, ripping us off for not one but THREE trillion dollars.

Adam Smith would look around and see Halliburton and Aramco and Blackwater Security Services and K Street as very familiar and the truest enemies of the liberal enlightenment. Especially the skyrocketing surge of secrecy, which he despised.

Compared to this attempted coup by a rapacious proto-feudalist caste, nothing EVER done by socialists or bureaucrats even begins to compare.

RandomSequence said...

David,
Random. Amusing Trotskyite hypothesis. But it assumes that Perle, Nitze etc are brains behind the throne. When they really look like what they are, the jewish nerds who the frat boys flatter into doing their homework, who then get thrown to the wolves when they aren’t wanted anymore.

I would say they look more like the Jewish nerds that the jocks keep around to do their homework. But who ends up managing them when they go pro? Who gets the 10% in the contract, plus "expenses", and then also handles the investments? Beware of dissing the nerds.

Actually, I just ran across one of the neo-con philosophers: Harvey Mansfield, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Government at Harvard University. He's got a long essay on Theodore Roosevelt and "manliness" that had me rolling in my chair - The manliness of Theodore Roosevelt. And here is his photo: . A classic case of overcompensation by the WASP geek.

These are the guys that we are up against. Their arguments make no sense - just read what he's got available on the web - but they use plenty of $10 dollar words. They fantasize about being tough guys, but they are all these weenies who TR would have used as scupidors - they'd have a tough time getting laid in a brothel. They fantasize about being businessmen, hard-headed economists, but are the kind of intellectual light-weights that even sociology departments would find light in the loafers.

But they're at the center of the social networks that rule the world. And they're under the delusion that they're where they're at due to some inherent superiority, justifying the natural aristocracy.

RandomSequence said...

Sorry, here is the photo: Harvey C. Mansfield,

RandomSequence said...

And by the way, I wouldn't be too proud of "Welfare Reform". If it had included a serious attempt at a large EIC in conjunction with a serious attempt to get nursery care and medicaid to kids, we'd be talking somethin' worthwhile. As it is, simply cutting a poorly designed net at the bottom without putting in a significant and improved net at the bottom is simply greedy and cruel.

That's what I despise about the DLC and the Clintons. They're neo-cons in drag, when push comes to shove. At least they're competent and more cautious, but that's damning with faint praise - I expect they have the same plan for the world.

Don Quijote said...

They're neo-cons in drag, when push comes to shove.

That's not true, they are just your standard generic liberals.


RM,

2) The leadership of both sides realize that all brand differentiation between the two has been lost and therefore they need to rile up their extremist wings to maintain an artificial differentiation.

Too a large extent true.

3) Something really bad is happening and the media, in conjunction with the Vast Extremist Conspiracies of both sides have truly managed to brainwash everybody into doing what they want all the time, all the while distracting the proles with shiny things in their peripheral vision.

That is the main argument in Manufacturing Consent and seems to fit the facts best.

4) Something really good is happening and, having achieved near-universal consensus on many of the seminal issues of the 20th century, all the sturm und drang is merely the noise that a complex system makes while searching around for the next set of variables to optimize.
No, all the sturm und drang is merely the noise that a complex system makes when it's attempting to move into reverse.

The reality is that we are dealing with a combination of two, three and four, there is very little difference between the leadership of both parties, they get their financing from the same places (Hollywood Executives vs Oil Executives). The mass media has been taken over a handful of corporations owned and run by a small group of multi-millionaires who are working overtime to roll back all the civil-rights, environmental & labor laws that were implemented in the twentieth century.

RandomSequence said...

DQ:

#3 isn't exactly Manufacturing Consent. As I understood it, it's closer to my reformulation. When there is no head, there is no one to behead - ask our fundamentalist opponents.

Stefan Jones said...

RandomSequence noted:

"They fantasize about being tough guys, but they are all these weenies who TR would have used as scupidors - they'd have a tough time getting laid in a brothel."

Amusing tangent:

Those old enough may remember the GOR series: Muscle-man wish-fulfillment fantasy stories, built on a "true men dominate other men and keep women in their place" philosophy.

DAW books published a dozen or more of the books before tastes changed. The "philosophy" still has a following among folks into, um, alternative lifestyles.

You'd think the author of the series ("John Norman") would be some brawny, brandy-swilling he-man. Maybe a grizzled former commando.

He's actually a rather mild-mannered, just-above-the-level-of-milqetoast college philosophy professor.

Stefan Jones said...

Under the Bush administration, "sound science" means "sounds good to his political base."

Report Faults Interior Appointee
Landowner Issues Trumped Animal Protections, IG Says


By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer

"A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has repeatedly altered scientific field reports to minimize protections for imperiled species and disclosed confidential information to private groups seeking to affect policy decisions, the department's inspector general concluded.

The investigator's report on Julie A. MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks -- which was triggered by an anonymous complaint from a Fish and Wildlife Service employee and expanded in October after a Washington Post article about MacDonald -- said she frequently sought to reshape the agency's scientific reports in an effort to ease the impact of agency decisions on private landowners."

But ecocide is still not as bad as lying about a blowjob, right?

Max Wilson said...

I wouldn't normally bring this up in a lefty forum but I'm kind of curious whether there's anything to say...

On the illegal immigrant problem, in Eisenhower's era:

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0706/p09s01-coop.html

-Max

Max Wilson said...

Oh, I guess I should add my own comment, too. This is an example of how a competent President can clean up a country, without requiring money from Congress or even a bill. Simply exercise proper authority as head of the executive branch. I'd vote for a President who would do this.

-Max

Stefan Jones said...

I don't see anything particularly magical or original about what Eisenhower did.

He simply had the will to do it.

Bush doesn't, because he's a creature of his base. They'd scream like hell if he deprived them of their cheap labor.

It's not just ranchers on the border; big businesses all over the country depend on illegals. Slaughter houses, orchards, landscapers, and etcetera.

Andrew said...

@Max

Ah, "Operation Wetback!"

[Interesting you should bring this up; just last week, I heard a sob-story on NPR about this with survivor interviews etc.]

Border patrol and state police sweeps through Mexican neighborhoods. Arresting "mexican-looking" americans without identification. Deporting American-born babies. Justified by "a curious relaxation in ethical standards" accompanying the increase in illegal immigration. (heard that one before?)

While this was no Kristallnacht, it still seems a little too dramatically militant to be accepted in modern times.

The thing is, I can't tell if it really worked. INS estimated over 1,000,000 illegal immigrants were coming over per year, and they only managed to deport 80,000. They claim an additional 500K-700K left "voluntarily," because of the intimidation, but who knows. Either way, it seems hardly a dent.

David Brin said...

Max describes PRECISELY what Bill Clinton had to do, after 94, when his ability to legislate "visionary things" evaporated. So instead, he turned around and concentrated on being what one senior civil servant in DC I know called "the best administrator this town has ever seen."

Still, I'd settle for Ike. Almost as good an administrator, but HUGE on consensus building and preventing culture war.

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Don Quijote said...

I wouldn't normally bring this up in a lefty forum but I'm kind of curious whether there's anything to say...

I am pretty sure that this is not a lefty forum, it's probably center to center right.

As the house lefty wackjob, let me give you my totally uninformed opinion on the subject matter.

NAFTA and the last twenty years of the Washington consensus have been an economic disaster for Latin America and Mexico, as long as we keep pursuing and imposing economic policies that make people poor they will keep jumping the border into the US. If I was in their shoes, that is exactly what I would do.

Now that is not to say that they aren't thing that we could do domestically to reduce the flow of illegal emigrants.

1) Infiltrate companies that employ large amounts of illegals.
2) Identify the people who provide the fake papers.
3) Arrest the illegals, make sure they get their pay and send them back to Mexico.
4) Fine the employers ( At least fifty thousand per illegal, if they go out of business tough cookies, Examples will be needed ), Tossing a few of them in the slammer would probably not be a bad idea.
5) Arrest the people who supplied the illegal paper work and throw them in the slammer for a couple of years.

But ultimately, if the standard of living does not start to improve in Mexico, this will only be a stop gap measure.

Woozle said...

(Ok, so I'm a bit slow keeping up with the posting here...)

RadicalModerate said: (1) The 90's were truly a "vacation from history." The economy literally ran itself and sizeable foreign policy blunders had no consequences until Clinton was out of office. Bushco has certainly not had that luxury.

So the whole Balkan thing isn't part of history now? Oh, wait, you mean it isn't part of history because we didn't screw up terribly, leaving a distinct absence of huge wounds in the national psyche which will take decades to heal, so nobody really remembers it, so it doesn't count? I doubt that's the only example of "history" in progress during the 1990s. (Clinton also made some of what I would consider mistakes, e.g. signing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act into law; I don't hear you mentioning that, but I'd have to say that was history too.) Bushco hasn't had that luxury because he has a talent for making his own blunders without waiting for history.

RM said: (2) Divided government is accountable government. Clinton benefitted hugely from having the GOP nipping at his heels. In other words, he was forced to have the most open government in history by his political enemies. Bushco got to run open-loop for 6 years because his own party wouldn't investigate him. While I'm sure I will indulge in much eye-rolling over the next 2 years, the fact that the relationship between Congress and the Executive is once again adversarial will vastly improve Bushco and the Congress.

Oh come on! Clinton, from the very start, was all about Town Meetings and listening to ordinary citizens to find out what they wanted to see the government doing, and talking extensively about what he was doing and why, and opening the process so everyone could see the proof. He didn't have to start the most massive declassification in history, and it certainly wasn't at the GOP's insistence that he did so. (WTF?)

Bush has been completely the opposite, sheltering himself from all but his closest advisors. If Clinton been Bush Jr. in disguise, he would have spent his first 2 unopposed years in office (before the neocons took over) classifying and hiding everything the way Bush has done, and he would have responded to the first sign of threat by clamping down even further.

RM said: (3) I know I'm sounding like a broken record here, but the single mistake of invading Iraq the wrong way has warped all subsequent foreign policy. I'd like to think that Clinton would have been wise enough to avoid this decision but frankly I don't know. The man certainly had his own "wag the dog" propensities when backed up against the wall.

"Single mistake"?? Iraq is a series of mistakes a mile long, and even now Bush wants to add another surge of them. He also made plenty of other mistakes, some of them quite possibly deliberate.

...

I must say, though, you GOP provocateurs are getting very good at your craft; you had me fooled at first. I often worry that we're helping you folks too much by refining the surface-credibility of your arguments to a fine polish so they're all nice and sharp for the next election... but such are the penalties of openness and transparency. The benefit is that the truth will win through in the end, if it's not ruthlessly suppressed by whoever the GOP puts forward to be the next puppet.

Robert said...

An interesting irony about getting tough on companies that hire illegal immigrants: Carol Lam (the fired USA from San Diego) initiated one of the very few criminal cases against a company and their executives for repeated use of illegal workers.
NC Times

RandomSequence said...

DQ,

The problem with NAFTA is that it has been completely economically insane. To have a common market, you have to have a level playing field in infrastructure and generally similar standards of living. Otherwise, the gradient will simply tear the societies apart.

When Europe brought Spain and Greece into the EU (and W. Germany annexed E. Germany), they realized that they had to pump massive subsidies into those societies to bring them up to standard. Build roads, trains, give welfare payments and so forth, to minimize the local damage.

What did we do with Mexico? Absolutely nothing, which of course collapsed local economies in Mexico, brought up the cost of living up towards American standards without any of the infrastructure we had. Massive immigration was the obvious (and I'm sure foreseen by some) result, and the loss of industries that could relocate from the US. And of course, the WTO has been following in the same footsteps.

Of course, some will say that eventually the market will correct for that. Well, maybe eventually, after a few generations. But the lower and middle classes are going to have to pay for it in collapsing communities in the meanwhile on both sides of the border. Nice exchange for cheaper tomatoes.

RandomSequence said...

DQ and Max,

An interesting fact of American culture is that the mainstream of Americans are left on policy, but right on language.

What I mean is that in terms of opinion polls on policy, Americans always come out pro-single payer health care, pro-Kyoto, pro-UN, anti-war... But Americans react in a knee-jerk fashion as soon as you accuse people of "liberalism". This is not just a sociological fact, it's also anecdotally true - it's always fun to poke at conservative midwesterners on policy - "Do you think society should guarantee a minimum health care for everyone?" - and then point out to them when they say yes that they must be "liberals".

So folks on the right wing think they are in the mainstream, because they use the same language as everyone else, even though in terms of policy most American would consider them radical. And on the left wing, the politicos are absolutely incompetent at building a large political base or getting the vote out (even registering people) for the same reason.

It's pretty depressing when language and thought diverge, in terms of getting a healthy democratic process functioning.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Woozle--

Thanks for the response.

In re. "vacation from history," the 90's were the first decade since the 20's where the US wasn't facing some form of existential threat. The Balkans would hardly qualify. Indeed, the Balkans would barely make it on to the list of Genocide's Greatest Hits From the Late 20th Century.

I'm happy to give props to Clinton for mobilizing Western Europe to clean up a mess that was virtually in their back yard, using counterinsurgency tactics that were developed for western societies. He did a nice job.

Along the same lines, David, I read your comment on 9/11 being a minor economic/military event and puzzled over it for some time. You are, of course, correct. However, it was hardly minor from either a psychological or nationalistic standpoint. I'm certainly happy to agree that Iraq was an overreaction (although I wouldn't have said so at the time). But surely you're not saying that Bush could have gotten away with a response that didn't put the US on a war footing? If he'd tried to do that, he would have been impeached.

Woozle, re. divided government and openness: Clinton's townhall events were excellent theater and certainly played to his strengths as a charismatic extemporaneous speaker. (Bush obiviously avoids this format because he's an awful speaker, extemporaneous or otherwise.) But do you really think those PR events had anything to do with policy?

I will grant you this: the Alter-Clinton would have done a hugely better job explaining himself and his policies to post-9/11 America than Real-Bush could ever do. That actually might have been enough to tip the balance.

Re. declassification: It made huge sense to start dumping all the Cold War secrets into the public domain, both for historical and administrative purposes. I would have expected any 90's president to do the same.

Meanwhile, imagine Mike Hayden walking into the Oval Office on 02/01/2002 and saying, "President Alter-Clinton, I can tweak 2 or 3 parameters in Echelon and give you actionable traffic analysis pointing at terror cells in the US, as long as I don't have this huge logistical tail with obtaining FISA warrants." Do you think Alter-Clinton would have told Hayden to stop? Of course not. Alter-Clinton would have been expecting follow-on attacks, just as Real-Bush did, and would have done everything necessary to protect himself from later accusations that he hadn't done everything necessary to secure the country.

Re. the "single mistake:" None of the other mistakes get made unless the decision to invade Iraq gets made in the first place. It was the unforced error from which all other errors, forced or unforced, flow.

Finally, if I'm the provocateur that's going to produce the glib responses to you hapless lefties, it seems like you have little to fear so far. Guess I'll have to go down to the dungeon and force my Evil Minions to start churning out the talking points faster. (They're all chained together with Blackberries taped to their hands. There's a Spinmaster in a leather breechclout at the front of the room with a huge drum. The minions put out one line of text per drumbeat or the Overseers beat them. Guess maybe it's time to order ramming speed...)

Woozle said...

RadicalModerate said: the Balkans would barely make it on to the list of Genocide's Greatest Hits From the Late 20th Century.

Actually, it is on the list of less than 20 genocides in the late 20th century listed on Wikipedia. Or is that too liberally-biased? Try Conservapedia, where it made the list of 3 genocides in the late 20th century.

What about Somalia? The slaughter in Rwanda, against which our losses on 9/11 are a pittance? I'm no world affairs fanatic and even I remember this stuff. "Vacation from history"?

RadicalModerate said: But do you really think those PR events had anything to do with policy?

Perhaps not as much as some of the things he did -- but I do think (a) they were a step in the right direction (he might have, for example, depended entirely on professional survey-takers to find out what people want) (b) they were part of a well-established pattern of interacting with and listening to the people for whom he supposedly worked, i.e. us citizens.

RM said: I will grant you this: the Alter-Clinton would have done a hugely better job explaining himself and his policies to post-9/11 America than Real-Bush could ever do.

Alter-Clinton would have (1) explained the real reasons he was doing what he was doing, (2) they probably would have been at least somewhere on the scale of reasonableness, (3) he would have been interested in building up not only firm domestic support but an international coalition to do whatever it was we ultimately decided to do and in using negotiated compromise to work out something approaching a good solution, rather than telling us what we were going to do and indulging in heavy-handed browbeating and namecalling against anyone who disagreed, (4) been open to criticism of his proposals, and (5) been forthcoming with more information and responses to questions asked.

The current guy is the diametric opposite of all that, and callously deceitful besides. And you're still defending him as being in the same league as Clinton? As being a decent human, even?

RM said: Re. declassification: It made huge sense to start dumping all the Cold War secrets into the public domain, both for historical and administrative purposes. I would have expected any 90's president to do the same.

And all of a sudden it makes sense to start re-classifying mountains of stuff that Clinton previously de-classified? Most of which has nothing to do with national security?

Are you seriously trying to claim that the secrecy of the Bush administration is reasonable under the circumstances?

RM said: None of the other mistakes get made unless the decision to invade Iraq gets made in the first place.

Going into Iraq was not a "single mistake" because Bush was told repeatedly that it was a bad idea. He had to make the mistake of ignoring each piece of advice, and the next one, and the one after that. He also ignored advice on the details -- the best way to do it, the need for a clear set of goals, the need for a timetable, and so on.

But yeah, perhaps you're right; calling each of those a "mistake" is assuming that he (or whoever makes his decisions for him) had the best interests of the United States in mind.

And really, I don't think Clinton would have invaded Iraq in response to 9/11. Aside from the fact that there was no reason to choose Iraq as the scapegoat for 9/11, there are so many, many different things we could have done which might actually have worked against terrorism instead of making the situation worse as we all knew the invasion would. (Well, those of us who weren't all "my Decider, right or wrong!" in 2002/3.)

RM said: "if I'm the provocateur that's going to produce the glib responses to you hapless lefties, it seems like you have little to fear so far."

You're right. If you really are a provocateur, then we're seeing the Bad Guys' best arguments, presented at their sharpest and freshest. What's really scary is the idea that you're who you say you are -- just an average guy who thinks Bush might be bad but not really all that bad -- and that the arguments, ideas, and misinformation you're presenting represent common belief. Then we're really in trouble.

Woozle said...

P.S. I'm not a lefty; I'm a moderate. (You've stolen my political designation, curse ye!)

Hawker H. said...

"But surely you're not saying that Bush could have gotten away with a response that didn't put the US on a war footing?"

We aren't on a war footing.
There's no draft to increase troop strength.
There's no increase in taxes to pay for the equipment that the troops need.
There's no rationing of war critical materials.
There's no ramp up of production of war materials.

The ONLY way we are on a 'war footing' is political. One party is using "We're at WAR" as a excuse to hammer the other party and to avoid criticism.

If we were at war, I'd expect some sign of it other than a blurb on the television. Like maybe ordering me back to active duty. Or asking me to act as a civilian trainer, given my health problems. But nothing...

Stefan Jones said...

HH:

However, we ARE spending ungodly amounts of money in ways that enrich certain politically connected companies.

All the benefits of war profiteering with no chance that your ivy-league brat will get dragged off to boot camp!

Woozle said...

RM said: But surely you're not saying that Bush could have gotten away with a response that didn't put the US on a war footing? If he'd tried to do that, he would have been impeached.

(Oh, yeah, I totally missed that one. Thanks, HH.)

Ahm. In what sense is this in any way true? I don't recall there being a huge outcry for blood. Cries for justice, cries to stop terrorism, cries to investigate the whole disaster, perhaps. Bush has done his worst (or what would be anyone else's worst, anyway) on all three counts -- having blocked investigation, made sure that justice would be uneven and arbitrary, and raised the risk of terrorism, especially for Americans -- and is only now facing feeble cries for impeachment from the opposing party.

Seems to me if he'd done something smart (like, say, not using a sledgehammer to fight a wasp's nest), his popularity could hardly have suffered by comparison with what it is in the reality-based here-and-now.

Max Wilson said...

Meanwhile, imagine Mike Hayden walking into the Oval Office on 02/01/2002 and saying, "President Alter-Clinton, I can tweak 2 or 3 parameters in Echelon and give you actionable traffic analysis pointing at terror cells in the US, as long as I don't have this huge logistical tail with obtaining FISA warrants." Do you think Alter-Clinton would have told Hayden to stop? Of course not.

It's possible that Clinton would have been smart enough to know why data mining is a terrible technique for finding terrorists. Or at least smart enough to listen to advisors who are smart enough to know.

-Max

David Brin said...

RM is still arm waving like mad.

“In re. "vacation from history," the 90's were the first decade since the 20's where the US wasn't facing some form of existential threat.”

What an absolute load! The “existential threat” we currently face is entirely imaginary. This “terrorism” stuff is absolute bullshit.

“David, I read your comment on 9/11 being a minor economic/military event and puzzled over it for some time. You are, of course, correct. However, it was hardly minor from either a psychological or nationalistic standpoint.”

Well, not true even in the slightest. Dig it. IT IS THE PEOPLE IN URBAN AMERICA -- THE PRESUMED TARGETS -- WHO WANTED TO SHRUG IT OFF.

That is the fact. Only slightly exaggerated. Because, yes, we did want the bastards hunted down. And the core threat eliminated. And that is what the Afghanistan war against the Taliban did, using plans drawn up by Clinton and Clark. That WAS the “war.” We eliminated (using professionalism and high quality doctrines) the enemy state that had committed an act of war against us.

AT THAT POINT we were fearsome and intimidating and overwhelmingly impressive. The Iranians were BOTH impressed AND grateful, and that is the point that a man (like Clinton) with more than two brain cells, would have “gone to China” with the Iranian people, thus undermining Saddam, the petrosheiks and the Iranian mullahs, themselves.

“I'm certainly happy to agree that Iraq was an overreaction (although I wouldn't have said so at the time). But surely you're not saying that Bush could have gotten away with a response that didn't put the US on a war footing?”

He did more than enough “war footing” by taking Kabul. From then on, we needed a man who wanted to lead us to victory by thriving, not defeat by fratboy bellicosity.

And let me repeat. It is rural/red America that quakes in terror of terrorists. City folk saw the towers collapse, turned east and sneered “is THAT all you got?”

I look you in the eye. We are in this mess because monsters either (1) have been somehow so stupid they miraculously managed to avoid EVEN ONE right decision, across six years. Or (2) that was actually the intent.

Clinton was neither stupid nor did he intend to destroy America. Every single thing would have been different.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Max, the NSA's not doing data mining. They're doing traffic analysis, which is still one of the best analysis tools for spotting patterns of behavior.

Woozle, HH: You guys have an extremely odd idea of what a war footing is. Were we on a war footing during the Cold War? Were we even on a war footing during Korea and Vietnam? How 'bout Desert Storm?

I guess Bush could have decreed that we all go out and build aircraft during the day and listen to Glenn Miller all night, but I'm not sure it would have quite achieved the effect you're looking for.

I'm not trying to be glib here. Yes, Bush completely screwed the pooch on doing the mid-course unification that needs to be done and he did an even worse job of explaining what he was doing and why it was important. But please take a moment to think what a modern war footing should look like:

There's no draft because our force composition relies on training that takes too long and is too sophisticated for conscripts.

I won't kick on the tax issue very much.

What war-critical materials are we running short of?

And I'll punt on production and shortages in the logistical tail. Yeah, we had too much of things that turned out to be useless and too little of things that turned out to be critical, esp. armor for light troops. This is why logistics is important.

Meanwhile, he had a huge national consensus on Afghanistan and a pretty good one on Iraq. I would have loved to see him come straight out and say that reliance on Persian Gulf oil was a national security threat and take active measures, including raising CAFE and putting a floor on gas prices, but that frankly would have cost him his consensus on military action. Whether you think that would have been a good thing after the fact, Bush had his priorities and worked towards them.

Alter-Clinton would have done exactly the same for Afghanistan. He might easily have avoided Iraq and maybe had the guts to piss everybody off on the foreign oil issue. Or maybe not--the man liked to wield popular power as much as anybody else.

TheRadicalModerate said...

David--

Well, not true even in the slightest. Dig it. IT IS THE PEOPLE IN URBAN AMERICA -- THE PRESUMED TARGETS -- WHO WANTED TO SHRUG IT OFF.

In 1990 the US population was 75% urban and 25% rural, per the census definitions of those terms. I assume that it has skewed even more urban since then.

Meanwhile, take a look at this Pew Research poll from October 10, 2002. I don't think you can make those results jibe with your assertion. Indeed, the only demographic where a majority opposed the war were self-described liberal democrats. Yes, all of that demographic is core urban. But there are also substantial numbers of conservative demographics there as well. Maybe core urban support for the war was only 65%. That's still enough to render your assertion invalid.

Now, existential threats: Were gangs of Brownshirts wandering through Bavaria in 1925 an existential threat to the US? Of course they were!!! They had a powerful idea and fertile ground for the idea to grow.

Jihadism in an existential threat for the same reason. No, the Jihadis can't destroy us right now. But they have an idea that is actively embraced by 10-20% of the Muslim world and passively tolerated by another 40-60%

You'll get no argument from me that we've made things worse in the last 4 years. But if you think that Jihadism isn't going to grow to be an existential threat--one that can actually destroy western civilization--unless we take both soft and hard power action against it, you're living in fantasyland.

David Brin said...

Oh one more difference. We would have fought the REAL war, by investing in science and efficiency standards and cutting way back on the rate that we ship trillions overseas, into the pockets of those who hate us.

Clinton asked for all of this under your vaunted "divided government" when the laziest, most slothful, dogmatic, anti-scientific and utterly stupid Congress in memory had only one agenda, to serve the top 1% at home and abroad.

That, too, would have been different.

HawkerHurricane said...

The Korean War saw a continued draft, a continuation of the WW2 war taxes, and a national commitment.
Vietnam saw a draft. And we lost.
The "Cold War" was not a war, it was a arms race.
Desert Storm was a police action, more so than Korea.
War on Terror? We fight it like we fight the War on Drugs: declare war, give extra powers to the police (which they promptly used for everything, not just for the 'war'), waste massive amounts of treasure on things that don't help...
We aren't at war. Not even with "Muslim Extremists". If we were, we'd invade Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the two countries with the worst extremists.
This "War" isn't about warfare. It's about political control.

As for comparing Jihadists with Brownshirts...
Germany was the most powerful industry in Europe, in spite of the Versaille Treaty. So, if the Jihadists take over Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria (any others you want to add?) what kind of industrial power would they be? Think about it.
The Jihadists aren't dangerous because they're powerful, they're dangerous because they're so weak they act like monsters; if they didn't act like monsters no one would notice them.

Max Wilson said...

RM,

Comment retracted. I looked a bit closer and Bruce Schneier, at least, seems to feel traffic analysis is a useful tool.

-Max

Max Wilson said...

Jihadism in an existential threat for the same reason. No, the Jihadis can't destroy us right now. But they have an idea that is actively embraced by 10-20% of the Muslim world and passively tolerated by another 40-60%

It depends upon whether you think Muslims are capable of being an existential threat. Maybe Indonesians are, but I'm pretty well convinced that Arabs aren't. They write great poetry but can't fight worth a dead badger.

Vietnam saw a draft. And we lost.

HH, we didn't lose Vietnam. South Vietnam fell to an armed invasion of 12 divisions, a hundred and fifty thousand troops, AFTER the insurgency we were fighting had been pretty well suppressed. The armed invasion was no bigger than the 1972 invasion South Vietnam crushed with U.S. help, but in 1975 no U.S. help was forthcoming. It's hard to see how we lost a war we declined to participate in.

-Max

HH said...

Hard to say we won a war which ended with the side we supported ceasing to exist.

Woozle said...

Dr. B said: IT IS THE PEOPLE IN URBAN AMERICA -- THE PRESUMED TARGETS -- WHO WANTED TO SHRUG IT OFF.

RadicalModerate replied: take a look at this Pew Research poll from October 10, 2002. I don't think you can make those results jibe with your assertion.

First, I would note that the subtitle of that poll (HTML version here) is "AMERICANS THINKING ABOUT IRAQ, BUT FOCUSED ON THE ECONOMY"

Second... on what page should I look for information relating to the correlation between rural/urban (or political party, as a proxy for that) and attitude towards going to war in retaliation for 9/11? What I'm finding is things like "Most Don’t See Rush to War", page 16: "an overwhelming majority of the public says that politicians on the other side of the issue are not sincere in their beliefs – that they are taking their position for political reasons. This view is as strong among supporters of the war as among opponents.", and a lot of tables which aren't broken down by rural/urban or anything which might substitute for that. ...but there are a lot of tables, and I haven't had time to read the whole document.

Don Quijote said...

We aren't on a war footing.

We have been on a war footing since 1945, and despite that have lost every major shooting war that we have been involved in (Korea, Vietnam, Iraq)and we would have probably lost WWII if the Russians had not destroyed the German Army.

RandomSequence said...

Re: constant existential threat.

If I found myself under constant threat of death, I'd consider two possibilities, or some combination thereof:

1) Paranoia.
2) That I may be taking actions leading to the death threats.

For a culture, the first implies a high likelihood that there is some group attempting to fan the flames for their own advantage.

In case 2, I'd seriously reconsider my approach, an approach that seems to result in a constant threat to my existence.

Is every nation under constant "existential" threat? Have we been under constant existential threat since the settlement of North American? We've existed as a cultural group for almost 500 years now, we should have some evidence now for what results in threat of destruction.

Is empire all it's cracked up to be?

RandomSequence said...

Re: Schneier and data mining.

Max,

Re-read Bruce's statements on data-mining. He's for data-mining where it works. Some of the principles of workable data-mining is that the costs of false positives are fairly minimal.

From what I've read of his analysis of data-mining regarding the jihadi's, is that since the population of aggressors is so small, you will inevitably get false positives several orders of magnitude larger than the actual population of aggressors, even in cases where your false negatives are an order of magnitude greater than true negatives.

Generally, he thinks data-mining is a great idea for credit card fraud, but not the right approach for terrorists, where traditional law-enforcement/intelligence approaches work much better, historically speaking.

Max Wilson said...

RS,

Yes, that was why I originally frowned at traffic analysis. In an article on stenography, though, he pointed to traffic analysis as one tool that might be useful to detecting terrorists using stenographic encryption. [shrug] I suppose "actionable" doesn't have to mean "launch a raid." It could just provide the impetus for further investigation. Anyway, if a well-known expert views traffic analysis as at least potentially useful I shouldn't dismiss it out of hand as a tool for fools.

-Max

RandomSequence said...

Max,

In the case of stenography, you have the possibility of positive confirmation before making a raid, unlike most data-mining contexts. Quite different.