Sunday, August 05, 2007

Gingrich, Denial, and more on the decline of professionalism

First, off the top, will someone please crack open a look inside Newt Gingrich’s soul, for me?

I once nursed some hope that sci fi fan Gingrich might prove to be a brave and adaptable person. That he might rise up and become some kind of “reality-based” conservative, like his purported hero, Barry Goldwater. One with sufficient guts -- as well as loyalty to our Great Experiment -- to stand up like a man and acknowledge (as Goldwater did, in the final year of his life) that “this time it’s the extreme elements of my own side who have gone horrifically mad.”

In much the same way that moderate Democrats did exactly that thing, when they parted sharply with all their old communist friends, in the “Miracle of 1947” Only this time (in my fantasy) it would be smart guys like Gingrich who would openly admit the corrupt and heinous monstrosity that the neoconservative right has become. And the travesty that became of his well intended”Contract With America.”

Gingrich might even (I fantasized) issue a call to that one-third of today’s Republicans who can still be called “decent and sane conservatives,” beckoning them to rise out of their state of ostrichlike denial, leading them back toward re-commitment with the Enlightenment ...

...and thus saving something that can be rebuilt into some kind of a restored conservatism. Something decent and honest enough to be worthy of participating in the grand American process of negotiated pragmatic progress.

Alas, in the last few years, it has grown clear that Gingrich the political animal is just another rationalizer -- a shill for the neo-feudalists -- and one of the chief reasons that Barry Goldwater is spinning in his grave. (See an example, later in this essay.)

Only, now, Newt’s latest sudden veer has thrown that caricature into confusion. Be sure to read about it in Salon’s “The War Room.” (Thanks Stefan.) Oh, this one event is not enough to restore my fantasy, let alone make me trust this fellow. Still, his spectacular shifts and veers and leaps make for entertaining diversion. He does keep me watching.

------

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR2007080201752_pf.html John McQuaid wrote, in the Washington Post, a national commentary that was inspired by the recent bridge collapse in Minnesota, extrapolating that this one event reflects a general decline in American competence and general can-do confidence.

Of course, at one level this is absurd. In a complex civilization that is filled with elderly infrastructure, “stuff happens.” It would, even if we were well-led.

Nevertheless, at another level, you know that I do not disagree with the author’s core point. Indeed, he reflects an issue that I first raised many years ago -- the apparent decline in modernist, can-do spirit, especially in the United States of America.

See my extended essay about this topic.

As for John McQuaid’s argument, take this snippet:

Even Americans' usually boundless self-confidence has taken a hit. In 2002, a Pew poll showed that 74 percent of respondents agreed with this statement: "As Americans, we can always find a way to solve our problems and get what we want." Five years later, the number has fallen 16 percentage points, to 58 percent. Annual polls taken by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion have found public confidence in the government's ability to respond to terrorist attacks, natural disasters and health crises such as avian flu dropping steadily over the same time frame.

Of course this relates to my ongoing theme concerning the Bush Gang’s War Against Professionalism. After all, the one great trend of the 20th Century was the way people and nations kept investing ever-greater confidence in the power of skilled experts to get things done, far better than they were in the past. In contrast, from the very first weeks of the 21st Century, the Bushite assault upon the professionals of the civil service, foreign service, academia, and the Officer Corps has amounted to nothing less than an attempt to yank us back to the long human epoch when a small, super-empowered caste of mostly inherited lordships could make decisions based upon whim, rather than best-available advice, offered in an atmosphere of open due-process.

I’m not the only one to point this out -- though I doubt anyone has done so earlier or as relentlessly. One ironic nuance that I add, however, is that the same would-be feudalists who are bullying and harrying the skilled experts have ALSO been waging war against a newborn “Age of Amateurs.” The decline in confidence and competence described by McQuaid is just as much about a steady disempowerment of citizenship as it is about demolishing professionalism.

Indeed, despite the simple, reflex dichotomy, professionals and amateurs are not opposites! Think. A professional in one vocation is likely to have several other fields in which he or she has fine levels of avocation skill! The false dichotomy between pro and amateur masks an essential commonality. Indeed, the one thing that our proto-lords must fear, above all else, is that these two vast groups will ever realize their common needs and goals. Especially the greatest need of all. Open access to knowledge.

(Is it any wonder why the Bushites have attempted to shut down knowledge flows with a wave of darkness and secrecy that was never, ever matched, even in the depths of the Cold War?)

More from McQuaid:

Consider our most important national project, the attempt to build a new infrastructure for war ravaged Iraq. An audit earlier this year by the special inspector general for Iraq found that seven of the eight U.S. construction projects it surveyed -- including the generators at 's airport and a medical-waste incinerator and water-purification system in an maternity hospital -- were either broken down, not operating or otherwise substandard. A few months ago, the kitchen staff started cooking at a newly built base for guards watching the U.S. Embassy compound now being built. According to Glenn Kessler of : "Some appliances did not work. Workers began to get electric shocks. Then a burning smell enveloped the kitchen as the wiring began to melt."

These sound like vaguely comic footnotes to the Iraq debacle. They're not. Our principal goals in Iraq -- building a new political system and defeating an insurgency -- are terribly hard jobs. But can't we even hook up stoves for our own guards without something blowing up?


Naturally, the spin doctors are at work. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich calls it a "system-wide" government breakdown that includes health care, defense, intelligence and disaster response. He says the New Deal, Great Society structure of "big government" has, in effect, stopped working.

Ah, but this does not even make sense. Because none of the processes used in this bungled foreign adventure have any relationship to the New Deal, or even Bill Clinton’s era. Indeed, the entire model for Iraq reconstruction - not to mention Hurricane Katrina and its botched aftermath - has been to throw heaps of cash at a few big companies, owned by Bush cronies, under no-bid and un-vetted contracts, without more than a fig leaf of supervision.

Exactly how does this neoconservative model for “efficient outsourcing to private enterprise” bear any relationship, whatsoever, to the processes that built the Interstate Highway System, took us to the moon, built half of the world’s universities and won the Cold War? McQuaid continues:

Bush Administration “...hostility toward the federal bureaucracy has been quite purposeful. The administration has undermined the normal workings of agencies from the CIA to the EPA, in part because they generate facts and opinions that conflict with political goals. The White House has also seeded the government with appointees chosen for loyalty and ideological affinity, not competence. All of this has taken a toll on agencies' ability to process information, devise sound policies and communicate with the public.”

And yet, article author John McQuaid is not 100% partisan in his assessment of the decline in US government competence. In fact, he sees the Katrina Disaster as indicating a longstanding decline of competence by the US Army Corps of Engineers, which in turn reflects a general fall in ability, across government, that preceded even the arrival of Bushites in power. (Science fiction readers might liken this to the grinding decline that Isaac Asimov depicted in the Galactic Empire, in his Foundation series.)


Again, we see the author use just a single example to illustrate a grouchy point. Only in this case, it is a deeply flawed example and a possibly wrongheaded point.

In fact, the problem with preparations made by the Corps of Engineers in New Orleans had little to do with competence (or lack thereof) and much to do with misplaced GOALS. Indeed, the Corps has been struggling valiantly to accomplish something that is inherently impossible. to give the people of New Orleans permanence in a situation that is completely loony, delusional and that faces an intrinsic time limit...

...the inevitable day when the Mississippi river will change its course. If anything, the Corps deserves credit and it is the PEOPLE who are to blame, in this case, for insisting on keeping things exactly as they were, instead of embracing the momentum of change. ANd yes, the American people can be childish-deluded. I never denied that.

Nevertheless, it is a good piece. Not as aggressive as I’ve been. But read by more people, I’ll admit. Such are the advantages of oversimplification.


Other things.


Referring back to my more creative days, it appears that people are still mining EARTH for ideas. (I’m half kidding... and half not ;-) See the latest musings about how “cooperation” may be an emergent property from systematic and well-tuned competition. The chief theme of EARTH.

38 comments:

David McCabe said...

When he said that it "has stopped working," I interpreted that to mean that it has stopped being worked.

I noticed the other day that Kiln People is listed as "Volume one of the Kiln Books". Hurrah!

I get a 404 for one of the links on this post: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2005/01/radical-notion-of%20modernism.html. Looks like you need to change the space to a hyphen. The right URI is: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2005/01/radical-notion-of-modernism.html

All the best,

doctorj2u said...

So, when the Corps drives pilings for flood walls 17 feet into soft soils instead of the needed 32 feet, that is a failure of GOAL, not competence. Americans that turn their back on their fellow Americans is something I would consider impossible before the storm. I now know there are many like you. It is another reason to mourn the loss of a once great nation; surely a sign of decay as happened in the Roman Empire. So much for can do attitude!

Don Quijote said...

Of course, at one level this is absurd. In a complex civilization that is filled with elderly infrastructure, “stuff happens.” It would, even if we were well-led.

Bullshit!!! It's elderly because we have spent the last 35 years listening to Republicans telling us that government is bad and that privatization is the cure to all diseases, therefor not investing in any new infrastructure.

I have lived in the New York Metro area for over 35 years, in those 35 years I have not seen a new bridge being built, a new highway being built, a new train line being built , or a new subway line being built. Basically the infrastructure of NY in 2007 is the infrastructure of NY 1975.

The list of infrastructure improvement that the New York Metro area needs is as long as my arm.

Case in point, there are no bridges/tunnels connecting Long Island to Westchester or Connecticut, therefor to leave Long Island with out going through New York City.

There is a million people living in Westchester County and over half a million living in Rockland County but only two bridges joining those adjacent counties separated by the Hudson river, the Tappan-Zee Bridge and the Bear Mountain Bridge.

Staten Island is not connected to the rest of the city though the subway system, making it one of the worse places to commute from.

There are two tunnel and one Bridge that connect New York State and New Jersey, all of which were built or under construction prior to WWII, they have ridiculous traffic backups every day of the week all day long.

I don't know if the rest of the country infrastructure is like New York's but I strongly suspect that it is. What is amazing isn't the fact that a bridge collapsed, it's the fact that so few do, they are old, not that well maintained and over-used.

Aric Meyer said...

I'm surprised you never mentioned Ron Paul on this blog. He's a Republican congressman critical of his party.

He voted against the patriot act.
He voted against the Iraq war.
He is running in the presidential primaries.

Here's a clip relevant to this post: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUYDt7kC3Z0

Pat Mathews said...

You decrying the decline of modern can-do professionalism reminds me of Heinlein's horror in finding out that irrationality returned with a bang in the late 60s when he had thought it was a thing of the past. Both of you are drawing history as either a straight line or an exponential curve, when actually it's a sine wave around a trend line. Let me give you what I have seen in 6+ decades -

In my childhood it seemed that the can-do spirit and the worship of modernism was set in stone and would go on forever. It had some mighty rough edges which people my age tried to soften and correct.

POINT ONE: fast-forward to the present - softening and correcting became our schtick. In fact, it proved to be just about all we COULD do, by and large. That's no way to run a country or even get the bridges fixed. See Carter, Jimmy.

The kids born after the dust settled took it for granted that the objective world would go on forever while they revolted against the lack of Feeling and Spirit and the Trampling on Mother Nature - you were around then. You know what I'm talking about. Or just replay an old Jefferson Airplane CD, any songs not talking about young love or dope. They were totally focused inward. Still are. The ideal world in their heads trumps anything remotely resembling objective reality.

POINT TWO: They went through a period of yuppification but are still driven by their Feeeelings. See Bush, Dubya.

Fast-forward again to the kids born during those upheavals. I am a mother and have watched my daughters' contemporaries, now young adults, coping with a hard-headed pragmatism that dismisses most of what their elders have to say as something you spread on the vegetable garden. They do whatever works and are just starting to take power locally. I keep a file called "Knitting up the Unraveling locally" aka "is anything being done right around here?" and guess what? It's almost entirely people in their 30s and early 40s, who think tactically in a way nor seen since Colonel Potter left MASH. (They can also be the most corrupt of all, since when they go bad, it's from pure greed. Just my $0.02)

Then look at the kids currently on campus and what they are doing. David, that spirit is coming back. Ask an old lady who has children and grandchildren and who goes to school with 20-somethings - and keeps an eye on local matters. Hang in there.

Pat, 3/4 of the way around the wheel of time already.

Anonymous said...

The very last link in your blog post is broken. When clicked, the page presented to the user does not contain any text about cooperation emerging from competition. It is therefore obviously not the page you intended. Please edit the link to go directly to the page you intended to reference.

SpaceGhoti said...

Newt Gingrich has always been a creature of expedience, not principle. He ran on a conservative ticket because he knew he could deliver the message that his conservative constituents wanted to hear, not because he particularly believed any of it.

Having a hand on the purse strings to deliver rewards for loyal behavior also helped.

Sadly, his example is the standard in Congress today rather than the exception. He is exceptional only in the amount of damage he did while in control. His liberal counterparts are, unfortunately, no better.

Tony Fisk said...

Have to agree with DQ to an extent, here.

When (Victorian) state infrastructure got privatised in the great nineties bankruptcy sale, the first thing that the new owners did was, slash maintenance. After all, it's overhead, that which you must reduce to increase productivity so that you can get a return on investment.

As broken bridges demonstrate, however, reducing overhead too much or for too long can kill your throughput.

---

Meanwhile, back in Iraq, will someone explain how an army that can barely equip its own troops can lose 190,000 weapons?

Mark said...

...the inevitable day when the Mississippi river will change its course.

So you think that is not natural? Huh.

One ironic nuance that I add, however, is that the same would-be feudalists who are bullying and harrying the skilled experts have ALSO been waging war against a newborn “Age of Amateurs.”

When I first read that I jumped into the comments to post on how amateurs and professionals are really more the same than different... then read your next paragraph. :-) I agree.

It all boils down to expertise and desire to dive into a subject. But what is it the neo-cons fear? Is it expertise? Is it access to information? Perhaps. After all, there were few crimes a slave could commit worst than learning to read. Knowledge is power.

Zechariah said...

Aric Meyer said...
I'm surprised you never mentioned Ron Paul on this blog. He's a Republican congressman critical of his party.


That name has been invoked repeatedly here, though only in the comments section. For example:
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2007/07/we-may-be-rescued-by-victims.html#comments

I like him too, mostly. I just hope that the repeated mentioning of him here isn't getting on anybody's nerves. I know a few people who've complained that Ron Paul Fans spam too much.

Don Quijote said...
It's elderly because we have spent the last 35 years listening to Republicans telling us that government is bad and that privatization is the cure to all diseases, therefor not investing in any new infrastructure. . . . Basically the infrastructure of NY in 2007 is the infrastructure of NY 1975.


I thought New York City was as blue a place as could be found in our fair land? If the Democrats control the city, and Democrats want the government to maintain infrastructure, why doesn't the city build new bridges? Surely you don't think that the Federal level should be responsible for all infrastructure, do you?

David Brin said...

Many excellent and thoughtful replies. And yes, Pat, I have seen the wishful "cycle" theories that suggest the new kids will rescue America from the boomers. I meet such kids all the time. I have a son who is just like that. Alas, though. I ain't convinced.

Mark, great post.

Sometimes I have a whole new post worth of fresh material, on a new subject, but I cannot bring myself to blog it "officially" at the top layer. Here's one of those moments.

When you are relentlessly going after that "Ostrich" of yours... the "decent" conservative who you have targeted to give wake-up slaps until they finally stir and realize how they have been betrayed by the mad right... there are some slaps that can be based upon reason and logic ...

...and others that have to go for the gut.


Here's a logic slap that I find effective.

"How is it "conservative" to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize the carbon fuels industry to suck out of the ground and burn our nation's last oil and gas reserves? Reserves that we may need someday, in an emergency?

This takes an entirely different -- entirely conservative -- tack in assailing the GOP reflex to bend our nation over in service of the fossil-fuels industry. We won't sway ostriches with pleas about waste or pollution or climate change, or even the madness of pouring half a trillion tax dollars into an already obscenely profitable set of semi-monopolies. (Adam Smith is spinning in his grave.)

But maybe we can get some of them to notice that the Bushites virtually gave away the US Petroleum Reserve, stripping a resource that the US Navy had carefully tended for generations.

Just an example, out of countless examples, of what can only properly be called the Great Kleptocratic Raid.

I will follow this comment post with a contribution by Russ Daggatt, that is even better "ostrich-ammo."

David Brin said...

And now, to lower the standard of discourse a bit... getting down toward (but not to) the gutter level that the neocons started, with their attacks upon the Clinton marriage... let me offer a real ostrich zinger.

Ask your ostrich to count the number of filthy, nasty divorces that they can count, among the democratic presidential contenders, and then among the Republicans.


Yes, starting with Reagan, the right suddenly did a reverse and declared divorce to be "normal." (How convenient.) Then, while slagging the Clintons and predicting instant divorce once Bill left office, they ignored their own words when that marriage turned out to be strong.

(Once, with my own eyes, I saw circumstantial evidence of their close bond.)

Oh, the excuses can heap high... but no pile of rationalizations can stand in the face of the simple statistical comparison that I just presented. The part of Family Values is the party oif lechery, vicious personal betrayal and utter, utter hypocrisy.

I will let the following, from Russ D, fill in some gaps...


Coincidentally, today's New York Times and Washington Post each have a profile of one of the (many) wives of the two leading Republican presidential candidates. From a New York Times profile today of Rudy Giuliani's third wife, Judith:

Like her husband, she has been married twice before. They also had a secret affair for a year before Mr. Giuliani announced it to the world — and to his second wife, Donna Hanover — at a news conference.

Her relations with Mr. Giuliani’s children by Ms. Hanover are by all accounts deeply strained, despite her efforts at rapprochement. And his son and daughter, ages 21 and 17, have said they do not plan to campaign for their father.

Sharply critical articles, most recently in Vanity Fair, have described Mrs. Giuliani as an imperious striver who shops extravagantly, demands a separate seat on the campaign plane for her Louis Vuitton handbag and has compiled a hit list of campaign aides she wants fired. ...

... The circumstances of their meeting have been the subject of much contention, with some critics suggesting that she aggressively pursued him at a time when he was New York City’s mayor and still living in Gracie Mansion with Ms. Hanover and their children.

Until now, the Giulianis have declined to discuss the matter, calling it “a romantic secret.” But in the interviews, the couple provided their version of their introduction, saying that they met at Club Macanudo, a cigar bar on East 63rd Street, in May 1999. ... After chatting for an hour, mostly about her work in the pharmaceutical industry, Mr. Giuliani asked for her phone number, they said. “She gave me a piece of paper to write it on,” he recalled.

How charming. Rudy asks for her phone number at a cigar bar while he is still living in the Mayor's mansion with his second wife and their children.

It's very self serving of me (Russ D) to say this, but I've always thought you could tell a lot about a guy from the character of his wife. So what does this Washington Post profile of the woman for whom Fred Thompson dumped his wife of 26 years tell you about Mr. Law & Order?

On a hot Saturday in June 2002, Fred D. Thompson married his second wife, Jeri Kehn, in an unventilated Congregational church in her home town of Naperville, Ill. Kehn, in a Valentino gown, was a 35-year-old media consultant for a Washington law firm; Thompson, a 59-year-old U.S. senator from Tennessee. ...

It was a triumphal return for Kehn, who had left Naperville for college and spent much of her 20s biding her time in Nashville without a clear career path, living with a boyfriend whose main claim to fame was getting arrested in Red Square for unfurling a pizza-parlor banner in the last days of the Cold War. Kehn left three court judgments behind her in Nashville, one of which remains unpaid today, and a court twice garnished her wages.

But after meeting Fred Thompson, Kehn began establishing herself in Washington Republican circles, and marriage more than consolidated her place in the city. Today, Jeri Thompson, 40, has emerged as a driving and at times divisive force within the presidential campaign her husband is preparing to launch, one that could make her the nation's youngest first lady since Jacqueline Kennedy. ...

In 1994, Kehn was ordered to pay $10,000 in unspecified civil damages related to a 1990 car accident in Naperville in which she swerved across three lanes on a highway and struck another car, totaling it. The outstanding balance was paid off in 1999.

In 1996, the Davidson County court in Nashville ordered a $900 judgment against Kehn in a case brought by an anesthesiologist, and garnished her wages at a communications company. In 1997, the court ordered a $1,700 judgment against Kehn for unpaid medical bills at Nashville's Baptist Hospital and again ordered her pay garnished. But Kehn had left for another job, and the debt is still listed in court records as unpaid.

Alvey has suffered larger-scale financial woes. At one point in the late 1990s he owed $93,000 to a builder, and in 2005, the Internal Revenue Service won a $270,000 judgment against him.

The couple never married, Alvey said, though the court documents involving both of Kehn's medical debts give her name as Jeri Kehn-Alvey. Alvey, who now lives in Louisville, couldn't recall just when he and Kehn broke up but said it was probably before she started dating Thompson. He said they haven't spoken in four or five years. ...

It was at a Nashville Fourth of July party in 1996 that Kehn met Thompson, a former staff member of the Senate Watergate committee, who built a successful career as a lawyer, lobbyist and Hollywood actor before winning his Senate seat in 1994.

As a general matter, I (Russ D) don't believe in judging other people's personal relationships. But, then, I am also not seeking to gain the presidential nomination of a political party that uses "family values" as a partisan cudgel. Giuliani alone has been married as many times as all three of the leading Democratic candidates. And Thompson's "trophy wife" is four years younger than his daughter. (And I love the fact that Thompson, running as a plain-speaking political "outsider," spent 20 years as a high-paid DC lobbyist.) I guess these guys believe so strongly in "family values" that they want to have as many families as possible.


DB resumes, only in order to moan, gargle with salt, spit and gargle again.

Ack. Ew. Ick. Ptoooooie.

Aric Meyer said...

Thanks Zechariah,
I don't usually read the comments and apparently the search function doesn't read them either.

Jonathan said...

I still haven't learned to embed a link, but this story:

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/story/126687.html

celebrates the Age of the Amateur, I think. :)

On another note, after being bludgeoned with Mitt Romney's debate soundbite all day, can someone please explain to me in what sense Pakistan is our ally? I mean, this is a country that's been trembling on the bring of war, possibly even nuclear war, with India (another ally) for at least a decade, over the Kashmir question; whose leader is well aware that the probability of al-Qaeda's leaders hiding in the mountain provinces of the west is high, yet has forbidden both his own forces and his nominal "allies", the US and Great Britain, to look there; whose leader is also a member of the President-fo-Life club, whose leader, since the fall of Saddam Hussein, would have to be Fidel Castro; whose government is, in the words of one pundit, "one bullet away from an Islamic theocracy"; whose ambassador can't even be counted on to support American interests in the UN General Assembly - this is an ally?

With allies like that, do we really need enemies?

Don Quijote said...

I thought New York City was as blue a place as could be found in our fair land?

Like all urban area, it is blue. It may very well be is one of the bluer places in this fair land.

If the Democrats control the city, and Democrats want the government to maintain infrastructure, why doesn't the city build new bridges?
With what money? The Money we pay to the federal government goes to subsidize all the self-righteous hypocritical lazy bums who live in the Red States. New York like California gets 81 cents back on the dollar that they pay in federal taxes.


Surely you don't think that the Federal level should be responsible for all infrastructure, do you?
Considering the amount of money that it is collecting in various taxes, yes it should be responsible for financing a good chunk of the infrastructure, and if it stopped spending money on useless boondoggles or useless wars there might be money left over for infrastructure after the Red States have received their welfare check.

Marc said...

Brin,

Don't look for hope in old Newt.

I passed by him once, it was in Marietta Georgia (where I lived a few years ago), and he was on his way to seeing an R-rated picture (during the height of Republican=morally superior days). He just kind of cringed a lot, like his shadow, or a Liberal version of someone else's, would come out and grab him. The confident bluster, seems to be the opposite of who he is.

I know that doesn't sound like much, but, I haven't seen anyone seem to "slink" that fearfully in my life. It might explain some things. Certainly the premature grey hair.

I was also with a group that was going to start an international trade group. We started with a good-ol-boy we nicknamed our "redneck-savant" who figured out a nice way to trade goods without needing to transfer currency -- all trades were paid for by local transaction in this system. That man was a very interesting character who could fill a book.

Anywho, we shopped the trade deal around, and being as our financial whiz loved his days for a Senator in Washington in days gone by, he saw that we needed some politicos on our side to get things rolling. I didn't understand his choice in trying to reach out to Newt, right after reaching out to Jimmy Carter (I worked with one of his sons for a time -- the whole family is nicer than you can imagine, we used to shoot rubber bands at each other).

Well, to have an audience with Newt, we contacted his headquarters. They wasted no time in asking for a $10,000 donation. It was a damn access fee. This, after we were planning to put his girlfriend on our board (that's how things are done, apparently in Washington circles). I was getting a rapid education.

So now my new theory is; I don't think, except by accident, you can get good people in politics. Certainly not Newt.

David Brin said...

Actually, the bridges that were mentioned are the responsibility of NY STATE which has far broader taxation authority than a city... and which is more conservative than NYC.

Hey, can any of YOU answer my challenge and count the divorces (including multiples) among dem candidates vs goppers?

Kelsey Gower said...

"And yes, Pat, I have seen the wishful "cycle" theories that suggest the new kids will rescue America from the boomers. I meet such kids all the time. I have a son who is just like that. Alas, though. I ain't convinced."

We'll see. :)

Honestly though, there's no reason to think that the boomers can't still redeem themselves. This generation should be willing to take all the help it can get, from any age group. It not about Us vs. Them on this issue, right?

Oh, and about divorces, here:

Republican candidates:

Sam Brownback - Married once, never divorced.

Rudy Giulani - Married thrice, two divorces.

Mike Huckabee - Married once, never divorced.

John McCain - Married twice, one divorce.

Ron Paul - Married once, never divorced. (Perhaps I should also mention he's been married for 50 years.)

Mitt Romney - Married once, never divorced.

Tom Tancredo - Married once, never divorced.

Fred Thompson - Married twice, divorced once.

If Newt Gingrich runs, that's two more divorces, but let's not count those yet. Let's focus on the candidates.

Democratic candidates:

Hillary Clinton: Married once, never divorced.

Barack Obama: Married once, never divorced.

John Edwards: Married once, never divorced.

Joe Biden: Married twice, never divorced, his first wife is deceased.

Chris Dodd: Married once, never divorced.

Bill Richardson: Married once, never divorced.

Mike Gravel: Married twice, divorced once.

Dennis Kucinich: Married once, never divorced.

Republicans - 4, Democrats - 1

Who wins?

Don Quijote said...

Actually, the bridges that were mentioned are the responsibility of NY STATE which has far broader taxation authority than a city... and which is more conservative than NYC.


To be even more pedantic on the subject matter, the toll free bridges in New York City are run and operated by NYC Department of Transportation, the bridges and tunnels connecting New York City and New Jersey are run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the toll bridges within New York City are owned and operated by the The Metropolitan Transit Authority and the bridges outside the city are operated by various agencies, the Tappan Zee is operated the NY State Thruway Authority.

TheRadicalModerate said...

This is off topic, but I thought you might want to take a look at this article in the NYT concerning an evolutionary basis for the Industrial Revolution. Guaranteed to be thought-provoking for Enlightenment fans.

Anonymous said...

TheRadicalModerate: your link is broken. It does not lead directly to an article on evolution.

David Brin, you still have not corrected the bottommost link in your blog posting either.

The really odd thing is that not only do both links not lead to what's advertised -- they seem to lead to *the same page* as each other. A completely useless page I might add, which I don't mind if I never see again.

Both of you please fix your links!

TheRadicalModerate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheRadicalModerate said...

Here's the fixed link to the NYT Industrial Revolution story. Sorry, Anon.

Jumper said...

Re.: "Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work" in the NYT story. Leaves out the fact that the discovery of huge coal reserves reversed Malthusian projections for a long time, in the British isles and the US, too. Granted, China has some coal. My point is that geology and geography might have as much to do with it as any social virtues.

occam's comic said...

As far as the Evolution is the cause of the industrial Revolution article in the NY times all I can say is nonsense, bunk, hooey.

The article says that there is not a good explanation for why the Industrial Revolution started in Europe. And puts forth the notion that the true reason for the IR is the superior genes of the British Aristocracy who out-bread the ignorant British peasants.

Back when I was in school I learned the Industrial Revolution happened because of a confluence of factors.
1.) The geography of europe insured that no one political organization ruled all of europe. The political division is important because you can't have one set of aristocrats putting a stop to technological advancement (unlike china). Also the political division encouraged warfare and the technology of warfare.
2.) The discovery of the New World and the vast resources it contains.
3.) The spread of disease to the indigenous people of the new world. Leaving the resources of the new world open for exploitation.
4.) The situation that the new world favored those societies who exploit those resources quickest.
5.) The development of the printing press ~200 years earlier, led to an explosion of information. That explosion of information leads to people find ways of sorting the true information from the false information.
6.) And of course lets not forget the slave trade. Remember how that works:
Europeans make weapons,
ship them to the west coast of Africa,
encourage warfare between tribal groups, exchange weapons for slaves captured in warfare
Bring slave to the new world and work them to death on sugar plantations.
then ship the sugar to back europe for a huge profit at every step of the iron triangle.

occam's comic said...

As far as the Evolution is the cause of the industrial Revolution article in the NY times all I can say is nonsense, bunk, hooey.

The article says that there is not a good explanation for why the Industrial Revolution started in Europe. And puts forth the notion that the true reason for the IR is the superior genes of the British Aristocracy who out-bread the ignorant British peasants.

Back when I was in school I learned the Industrial Revolution happened because of a confluence of factors.
1.) The geography of europe insured that no one political organization ruled all of europe. The political division is important because you can't have one set of aristocrats putting a stop to technological advancement (unlike china). Also the political division encouraged warfare and the technology of warfare.
2.) The discovery of the New World and the vast resources it contains.
3.) The spread of disease to the indigenous people of the new world. Leaving the resources of the new world open for exploitation.
4.) The situation that the new world favored those societies who exploit those resources quickest.
5.) The development of the printing press ~200 years earlier, led to an explosion of information. That explosion of information leads to people find ways of sorting the true information from the false information.
6.) And of course lets not forget the slave trade. Remember how that works:
Europeans make weapons,
ship them to the west coast of Africa,
encourage warfare between tribal groups, exchange weapons for slaves captured in warfare
Bring slave to the new world and work them to death on sugar plantations.
then ship the sugar to back europe for a huge profit at every step of the iron triangle.

Zechariah said...

The link worked for me too. I only had to wait through a commercial.

As for believing that the industrial revolution could only happen one the common folk managed to get some blue blood in them . . . Bollocks (as they would say in England)

There's just too many counter examples.

Anonymous said...

Zorgon the Malevolent said:
(for whateer reason I can no longer log in with my Google username. Go figure.)

Slightly off topic:

"South Korea draws up code of ethics for robots"
http://www.physorg.com/news105695663.html

Possible replacement for guns and tasers to be used by police?
http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/19142/?a=f
If American police could be disardmed and thes things used instead, everyone would benefit. No police officer in America needs to have a 15-shot automatic 9mm pistol. What possible situation would ever call for 15 shots, that couldn't be taken care of better and quicker by retreating and calling for massive backup?

Another victory for the transparent society -- LAPD to record its officers at all major events:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-lapdtv3aug03,0,3874714.story?coll=la-home-center

This last one seems huge. The blogosphere together with the instant information availability of the internet has revealed the criminality of the current maladministration infesting the White House with unpcredented speed and accuracy. We're now getting a thourough fisking of the presidential candidates on both right and left, also courtesy of the net. This bodes well.

As cameras get smaller (to the point where you wear 'em as a coat button, including memory crystal on which you can record hundreds of hours of hi res video + audio), it will become harder and harder for police or employers or Wall Street white collar criminals or anyone else in authority to get away with bad behavior. Sexual harassment allegations can be settled instantly by studying the video recording of the incident; police will be forced to stop "testilying" on the stand. These portable video recording devices will be parardise for political and corporate leakers. Just imagine the effect of a video recording of a corporate board debating how many tons of pollutants to illegally dump.

We truly do seem to be headed toward a radically transparent society just by force of the technology.

Anonymous said...

TheRadicalModerate: your revised link works. I see all that was changed was to add ?ex=1344139200&en=ee9b904001eb910b&ei=5124&partner=permalink&exprod=permalink to the end. I tried that with Brin's similarly broken link from the main blog post but it didn't work. How did you transform your non-functioning URL into a working one? Can you transform Brin's in like fashion for us please?

TheRadicalModerate said...

Anon, here's the permalink version of Brin's New York Times link.

Marc said...

Brin,

I thought the Divorce tally was going to be more interesting; It appears to be 4 to 3, with Republicans leading... though I though Newt had three all on his own.

Here is the link;
http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/washington/washington/entries/2007/02/05/republican_pres.html

Marc said...

Randi Rhodes is set to publish;
The Big Encyclopedia of Republican Hypocrites, 2006, (ISBN 1-4013-5248-0) (to be released August 30). While the book was supposed to have been released by the end of August, Randi has stated on her show that she was unable to finish it due to all the findings making her sick to her stomach.

Not that belaboring the point is a worthy goal. But I suppose some documentation of the shear volume of "do as I preach, not as I do" should be useful for later generations when they also have to contend with a bunch of two-faced moralists.

I'm sure the only use for the book is to say; "see I told you so" to your Republican friends, or just use it to pummel the recalcitrant and thick-headed ostriches. I'm curious as to how much this brute is going to weigh.

Anonymous said...

TheRadicalModerate: It works, thanks. I see the cruft added to the URL is different; the big numbers are different. How does one calculate the numbers? I'd like to be able to translate any more broken links like Brin tends to keep posting into ones that work, since he seems to have no interest in doing so. Being able to perform the translation myself would be much better than having to ask someone else.

Blake Stacey said...

Joel Achenbach wrote a good critique of McQuaid's piece over on the WaPo's blog side. Introduction:

Let us concede that John McQuaid's provocative (and, to judge from the reader reaction, very popular) commentary in Sunday's Outlook section, "The Can't Do Nation," might very well be true. We obviously have serious infrastructure problems. The situation in Iraq is a tragic fiasco. The Katrina aftermath has been a disgrace. The Minneapolis bridge collapse shocked us all. But are we really, as McQuaid declares so boldly, a country that "can't tie its own shoelaces"?

I won't tell you that his argument is flimsy, since if we started raising rhetorical standards around here to levels above flimsy I'd be out of a job by my next coffee break. But let's just say that if his article were a bridge, I wouldn't drive across it.

In keeping with the honorable tradition of Trend Journalism, McQuaid's article is a festival of anecdotes, assertions, and frenetic arm waving. The article is unburdened by hard data. The evidentiary database is a bunch of news clippings about various events scattered across time and space. I'm not so sure they deserve to be duct-taped together and used to support a dramatic thesis on the core competency of a nation of 300 million people. His central point — that this country is going to hell in a handbasket — seems as rigorously supported as Lou Dobbs's next off-the-cuff harrumph.

Anonymous said...

REPOST: apparently not visible to other people

TheRadicalModerate: It works, thanks. I see the cruft added to the URL is different; the big numbers are different. How does one calculate the numbers? I'd like to be able to translate any more broken links like Brin tends to keep posting into ones that work, since he seems to have no interest in doing so. Being able to perform the translation myself would be much better than having to ask someone else.

Kelsey Gower said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelsey Gower said...

Crap, I missed that Kucinich was divorced twice and Dodd was divorced once. That brings the tally to 4-4. Dead even. Nice try David, but you can't use the marriage thing. Marc's article didn't include Gravel or Paul, and Ron Paul has the longest marriage by far. 50 years compared to a short 38 years for Romney.

Anonymous said...

And what do all these divorce/marriage duration stats tell us anyway? So some guy has only been married the once and has been for fifty years.

At best, this means he made a particularly good choice of partner.

At worst, it means he's sticking in a bad marriage, perhaps to the detriment of both partners, probably for all the wrong reasons such as social pressure or other wrongheaded rules and taboos. Oops.

(And the same applies to the other partner.)

Personally, I wouldn't call exposing the kids (if any) to constant arguing and other fallout from a bad marriage both partners refuse to quit "good family values" at all. Nor is it reasonable for the moral absolutists to implore everyone to make the right choice of partner the first time and don't dare ever make a mistake; goals (such as happy child-rearing) are achieved much more reliably by allowing people to fix mistakes than by trying to prevent them making any but requiring them to not fix the ones they do make anyway.