Sunday, July 29, 2007

Scary Stories for a Saturday Night (with the p-lamp lit)

As busy as a squirrel trying to power a locomotive, I’ll have to make do this time with emptying my “political stuff” file onto this diary... including some material that’s either a tad dated or not well-edited, or else maybe a bit repetitious. But let’s start with three resounding thoughts.


#1 - Yes, I have declared that the skilled civil and military professionals are key to saving our republic -- if only more of them will recognize their duty to blow the whistle on their mad political-hack overlords...

...and yet, I do believe there is one place where a few men and women are even better-situated to do their nation and civilization powerful good, simply by standing up and speaking out. That place is the Diebold company, manufacturer of most of America’s newfangled voting machines.

Especially the varieties of voting machine that do not give paper audit trails, or that have closed/secret software, unchecked by independent examination, or that were bought under no-bid, crony contracts... all traits that simply scream conspiracy and corruption. In other words, voting machines purchased “for the people” in almost every state that is under republican political control.

So, this is my appeal to workers at Diebold, especially some higher level tech person or administrator, but even down to the guy who sweeps up after executive meetings. Someone (or two or ten of you) who knows what’s been going on, who has some evidence, and who now can see that serving the neocons has meant rationalizing a downward spiral, a gradual betrayal of everything this country -- and, yes, conservatism(!) -- is supposed to stand for.

Surely this criminal enterprise contains some “henchmen” who have nursed doubts, suspicions, worries, dark broodings and maybe even grownup regrets. If there is no great and noble soul, like Oskar Schindler, then how about someone who wakes up, sweating about the special place in hell that surely awaits election fraudsters?

Or else who hears the rest of us -- (your fellow citizens) -- beckoning you, appealing to your duty and citizenship. Ponder, please, the special place in our hearts that awaits the hero or heroes who step forward to save us from the truly heinous and evil plot against our Great Experiment.

See also: Attention Henchmen: Voting Machines and Other Flawed Conspiracies


#2 - Again, the fact that the democrats have not made this very topic a major NON PARTISAN ISSUE is something I find deeply worrying. So worrying that I refer you all, again, to: The Hidden Danger to Public Servants: Blackmail

HiddenDangerBlackmail, could they be missing so many killer tactics and issues so consistently? I mean, really? One grows worried that I published that article way, way too late.

In which case, ahem, why haven’t I been offered any parties and bribes? Rats. I must REALLY be too late....


#3 - If you haven’t seen it already, you MUST go look at the national security document in which the monsters are now asserting, line-by-line, a claim of utter presidential supremacy over all branches of government... and indeed, over all society... in any future crisis.

With “crisis” to be entirely defined at the whim of (guess who?) the President.

Pore over this document. And then ponder. Why would they do such a thing? Asserting vast new presidential powers, even though today’s open betting seems strongly to favor the Democrats taking ahold of that office, in just 18 months or so?

Really, there are only a few scenarios that are consistent with such a frenetic push, one that would only seem likely to empower adversaries. Just a small number of scenarios congruous with known facts, past behavior and plausible future events. In prior postings, I have compared some of these possible explanations, such as “state of denial” and “planned future hypocrisy” and so on...

Alas, not one of them actually makes as much sense as the one with the title: ”These guys already know something that we don’t know.”

In other words, the paranoid answer is that they expect to be in a position to ASSERT these powers before 2008 elections could possibly kick them out.

Okay, I’m not the only one to posit this possibility. The “October Surprise” has long been pondered by partisans of every political wing. Though in this case, the scenario would involve not so much a surprise as a major calamity.

Okay, okay, let’s just have a little late night fun with this. (In other words, don’t read it by daylight. This scary story may look silly. Just remember, we’re stretching the mind, here. Not making accusations.

Hmm. Okay. Given that the monsters have plummeting popularity among both the average citizens and civil servants, including the intelligence and military professionals, it seems pretty clear that only any paranoid scenario must have certain characteristics. For one thing, it will NOT involve very many members of those services, if any at all. Indeed, I’d wager against it even involving very many redstate/redmeat homegrown fanatics.

For example, while many Timothy McVeigh types are putting posters of Hillary on the wall, already, framed within concentric circles, it is almost certain that some OTHERS -- smarter versions of the type -- have already started realizing that every dark fantasy they used to fume over, about the left, is at this very moment taking shape over on the right. Every nightmare about “black helicopters” and supersecret plots. These are the kind of guys who may, at any moment, suddenly realize that Blackwater is far worse than Whitewater ever was. And when such people realize they’ve been had, used like puppets, betrayed by new feudal lords, well, there is no fury greater.

So no, while some of the home-grown dittohead crazies might be useful as provocateurs, it would likely only be as distractions, with lots of insulation and deniability. Only fools would involve them in a really big or complex operation.

Remember, it’s gotta be something that can be disowned. That, in fact, can be kept completely out of the scrutiny of those intelligence community and law and military professionals that the monsters (rightfully) fear. Hence, it must be planned, financed and operated by a foreign center of power. One that has (1) a great record of internal secrecy and security, (2) an assured supply of reliably dedicated shock agents, (3) a history of strong, family level reliability in collaboration with our top neo-feudalist cabal.

And finally, here’s the cute part... (4) even if our pros do show a link to this foreign center, that center must be able to claim “it wasn’t us! It was our cousins who (take our word for it) we don’t even like very much.”

(Hey it's worked before!)

If you think you know who I am talking about, you MAY be right... there is one “foreign center” that fits the bill completely, and that I’ve spoken of before. One led by bona fide geniuses who have the motive, means and opportunity. And yet, don’t be too sure! In viewing this list of traits, I came to realize there’s half a dozen other that could fit the bill, almost as well.

ostrichpapersThe ultimate job of political “outsourcing.”

Again, alas, I wonder if any of the democrats is willing to risk his/her chance of the presidency in order to raise this issue, and possibly make the presidency worthwhile for another decent candidate.


That should suffice for now.-- at least for a weekend screed. (Pity me, I just returned from Comic-Con!) Still, I may append a final item, below, in “comments”. Something under the category of

...“if Clinton had done the tiniest fraction of this...”

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Brin-Surge on Kos

One of you wrote in to say that Bill O'Reilly's latest screed against the Daily Kos community included some kind of reference to my recent cross-post there, calling it "incitement to treason."

Well, well. I went on Kos and asked if anyone could confirm this...

...and suddenly surged into the triple digits in comments and became "recommended."

... and suddenly B.O.'s attack on Kos is on the Daily Show.

Ah well, at least a few people have been drawn to notice and comment on my thread-suggestion, that the fundamental winning issue to use against the monsters is their ongoing War Against Professionalism - which subsumes the "War on Science" and the assaults upon the Officer Corps and the civil service.

You folks feel free to weigh in over there.

Or keep a tickler for:
http://www.dailykos.com/user/David%20Brin

--

Monday, July 23, 2007

We May Be Rescued By The Victims

Russ Daggatt offers another illuminating look at the crisis:

”It was widely acknowledged before and after last November's elections that probably the biggest consequence of Democrats gaining control of one or both Houses of Congress would be their acquisition of subpoena power. (In October 2006, Pelosi was asked what was most important about regaining majority status. "Subpoena power," she said.) After six years of a Rubber-Stamp Republican Congress there might, at last, be some oversight of the Bush administration.

“Yet even before the election, the Bush administration was preparing to defy those subpoenas. A Bush strategist told TIME magazine last October (as it was becoming increasingly clear that the Democrats would win at least one House of Congress) that the administration would fight any efforts at Congressional oversight, "all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."

“A bit of background: The office of Attorney General and the offices of US Attorney are creations of Congress and, pursuant to Article I of the US Constitution, Congress has the power, "To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for ... the execution of all powers ... vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof."

As a matter of Constitutional law, there is simply no question that Congress may pass laws that regulate the conduct of the Attorney General and the US Attorneys. One such law is 2 U.S.C. 194, which deals with enforcing a Congressional contempt citation. It provides that when the House has voted for contempt it may then certify that fact to the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action." 2 U.S.C. 194 (my emphasis). That is the law. The US Attorney shall bring the matter before a grand jury. It is his legal duty. Nothing elective there. Nothing up to the president or Attorney General.

“So how do you think Bush plans to get around the law that provides for enforcement of Congressional contempt citations? Simple. Just defy it (as he defied the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- FISA -- and any other law he doesn't like). As one "Senior White House Official" said recently, "We are not going to blink on this one. The President is not going to buckle to the threat of subpoenas."

“So is it now perfectly clear why it was so important to Bush and Rove that the US Attorneys all be compliant partisans? If you control the enforcement mechanism, you can frustrate any attempts at Congressional oversight -- at least long enough to run out the clock. And if anyone actually is found guilty of contempt of Congress? Can you spell S-C-O-O-T-E-R?”


-----

Whoosh… please everybody read up on this!

Things are coming to a head. The neocons appear confident that they have stacked the Justice Department, so that US Attorneys won’t enforce Congressional subpoenas.

And then, in a layered defense, that they have stacked the Court, so it won’t support the principles of transparency, accountability or oversight. Or even precedent.

Failing there, they seem convinced that Bush pardons can ensure the safety, impunity and loyalty of the top thousand henchmen. It all seems good for the next 18 months. But thereafter?

How about the mind-bogglingly hypocritical and short-sighted approach to establishing precedents of imperial presidential power? Precedents that a Democratic president might use? How to explain why those Bush supporters who aren’t worried about indictments aren’t wringing their hands about a super-empowered Hillary, right now?

Alas, explanations range from dim-wittedness to scary confidence:

1) “When a dem president is in office, we’ll deny we supported ANY of this! And you smarty pants moderates can scream hypocrisy all you like, but who cares? We control the media.”

2) “When a dem is in office, he or she will get all prissy and refuse these powers! So we haven’t a thing to worry about. Still, seeds will be planted for when it is our turn again.”

3) “We have solid reasons to believe that no democrat will ever take office to use these powers. No matter what polls say or what the people want. So go $&*#! yourselves.”



Okay, let’s pause a moment.

Look, my forte is asking people to step back and see things from a different light. So I am going to once again appeal for folks to see this at another level than just a partisan political fight.

And yes, what I am about to say repeats a rant that I (and only I) have been shouting for six years. Still, I feel that I must go over the ground again, praying that Cassandra will be heard, this time.

We will not win this fight through normal politics… or even abnormal politics, like subpoenas and hearings, or going through the (stacked) Justice Department and (stacked) Courts.

It has all gone too far. Hell, even if we win the next dozen battles, loosen the monsters’ grip on the Republic and make it through elections that turn the bastards out in droves, that will do some good, but it will still leave us mired in “culture war,” with one third of our countrymen nursing grudges that would make the post-Watergate GOP look like Pollyanna.

Moreover, that one-third will be poised to use every trick to win back the one-sixth they’ll need for “another round”. Even marginalized, they can make life hell for all of us. Remember Monica. They don’t need a meaningful pretext. Only hate.

The real challenge for us is not to win the next round of Culture War, but to end it.

And we have only one real hope for that to happen. The entire neocon movement must be stripped so bare, revealing so many horrors, that 80% of Americans see how horrible this has been and that the remaining Culture Warriors are genuine, certifiable loons.

So that a decent American conservatism can begin rebuilding with Barry Goldwater as its model, and not Savanarola.

There is only one way that any of this can happen. It will not be a miracle wrought by politicians. It will not be a revolution led by the People - though they will rise up when it all comes out.

This is a matter that requires action by the tens of thousands of skilled men and women who we have hired to protect us. It is time for the pros to stand up, to listen to their hearts and obey the oaths that they have sworn.


I have long forecast that our nation-saving breakthrough may only come from a rebellion in favor of the law and Constitution, on the part of the skilled professionals in the horrifically abused civil service, intelligence community and US Officer Corps.

In this particular case, an appointed US Attorney -- or even a civil servant, non-appointed DEPUTY US Attorney -- might gather the courage to defy his or her screeching/tyrant boss and make the test case, by serving enforcement papers upon Harriet Meiers and others who have been subpoenaed, in obedience to the legal and constitutional powers of Congress.

Ponder it.

The spectre that the Bushites have most to fear is such a rebellion in favor of law, in even one small part of the professional caste, spreading to other parts. Already the biggest victim of the monsters – the military Officer Corps – is roiling with so much anger that they may refuse, when the inevitable order comes down, to create political distractions by attacking Iran. If the CIA likewise were to report to Congress (as it is legally obliged to do) that the pretexts are bogus…

…well, that’s just one example of a situation in which sworn protectors might show the guts and brains that we hired them for.

Indeed, helping the professionals feel ready to take such steps should be seen as the number one goal and objective of Democratic endeavors and rhetoric. Because if such a dam were ever to burst, encouraging other professionals to tattle, the cleansing tsunami that followed might sweep all the monsters away.

Clearly, the Bushites know this, or they would not have bent almost all of their efforts, across a decade, to harrying, bullying, browbeating , suborning and destroying the professional caste.

It is their most consistent behavior set...

...just as the most consistent pattern of the Democrats has been to stupidly ignore this issue. The one totally non-political and no-brainer, killer issue that crosses all party lines and should appeal as much to honest conservatives as it does to liberals!

The one issue that might instantly unify the nation.

The issue that could crush the monsters, as if they were made of spun sugar.

If any major Dem were to speak out about the War Against Professionalism, offering our public servants protection and shelter from the freaks and inquisitors who have oppressed them for a decade, the levee might, indeed burst.

Bigtime.

Their failure to do so speaks volumes about how poorly the opposition is led.

.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Hypocrisy in ALL directions.

Thanks, all, for your Asia suggestions. Please feel free to send more.

I am too swamped to post with any regularity. Nevertheless, as a symptom of pure fatigue, I must give in to the temptation to unleash (unedited and pretty much spasmodically) a tirade about three mendacities:

One outrageous example of monumental right wing hypocrisy.

A bit of lesser left-wing deceitfulness... (for balance).

And more from those who claim to be neither left not right.

And finally, a blast at all of us for letting our impression of events be ruled by our favorite cliches.


PART ONE: GUT CHECK ON THE FEARLESS LEADER

Something happened today. You all know it happened; it was in the news. But no one in the media discussed how “deep it goes.”

First an aside that makes for rich comparison. Remember “Swift Boat Veterans For Truth?” How they slung dirt at John Kerry, mostly in the form of outright, bald-faced, biblical-proportion lies? Kerry’s people whined about the slander. Alas, though, it should never have been about the veracity of that hatchet job, at all!
Because, even if ALL of the SBVFT allegations were true, it would only add up to one conclusion --
-- that a guy who volunteered TWICE for lengthy and terrifying duty in the Navy’s most dangerous job might have been slightly LESS of a major hero than he had bragged about.

That’s it. Big freaking deal. In SBVFT’s worst case scenario, Kerry was still a hero... at least compared to....

Okay. Now comes the utter hypocrisy slammer.

News that our president has invoked the 25th Amendment of the Constitution to transfer presidential authority to VP Dick Cheney, because Bush would be “incapacitated” while under anesthetic for a routine colonoscopy.

For the record, presidential powers have only been thus transferred, formally, twice before. Once when Ronald Reagan underwent major surgery (and the 25th Amendment was not cited). The other time, a couple of years ago, when George W. Bush likewise went under gas to be anesthetized for the same procedure. For a colonoscopy.

For a WHAT?????

Let’s get this straight. The White House has gone to great lengths to emphasize that this is a TOTALLY ROUTINE colonoscopy. A simple probe with a fiber-optic camera, up the length of the large intestine, to see if any more benign polyps (or worse) might be lurking up there. Hundreds of thousands of men over forty undergo this procedure, every year. Possibly millions. I have.

And dig it. Most of us do it without anesthesia. In fact, most of us do it without even local or topical numbing you-know-where. Oh, it ain’t pleasant... at least for most of us. There are some teeth-clenching moments. I compensated by becoming talkative while the two patient Kaiser technicians put up with my bad (and probably un-original) jokes. But here’s the point. A point that’s admittedly macho and perhaps even a bit intolerant, but still totally apropos and to the “core.”

No real he-man would need to be put under gas and rendered unconscious for a truly routine colonoscopy.

Especially not someone who has made macho bluster the theme of his entire adult life. Not someone who threw a great nation into bloody chaos, hurling the world’s greatest military into a meat grinder, in an act of preening overcompensating testicular fury.

Especially not someone who invokes talk of courage in every speech while he berates and belittles the patriotic fortitude of every opponent.

Especially not one whose people have seriously propounded that his being put unconscious for a couple of hours might actually influence the safety of the people of the United States. A man who, for that very reason, ought to grin and bear it, staying awake for the sake of flag and country.

Now, of course, there are possible “outs.” Were I in a forgiving mood, I’d ponder that the use of anesthesia might implythat it’s not “routine” after all and that we all should be worried about our president having to go under, while we’re told that all’s well. (Ah, but it’s been TWICE!) Had this man ever, once, spoken out in a mature and grownup and decent way to opponents, to neutrals, to the now 70% who deeply distrust him, I’d not raise such an embarrassing issue, in such a demeaning way.

In fact, I am on record, having castigated liberals who went too far in making nasty cracks about Ronald Reagan, a man who, despite many faults and unbelievably exaggerated positives, nevertheless was also in many ways worthy of respect. A man who at least showed fleeting moments of distaste for hypocrisy on his own side, as well as others’.

None of which can be said about the neocons - or their present leaders. This emperor not only has no clothes, he hasn’t even the guts to stay awake while his guts are examined. These people have redefined hypocrisy.

----

PART TWO: THE LEFT HAS ITS... WELL... FIBBERS, TOO.

And yet... they do not have a complete monopoly! Take one Michael Moore.

Oh, I don’t compare him to George W. Bush in magnitude. Or even in most qualities. Moore is no monster. Indeed, he does a lot of good, I’ll posit that. When I see his films, I perceive about a third of the content as right-on, totally righteous, and in tune with things I have independently verified. Another third is generally in the ballpark of true. And thus his arguments seem more than worth pondering...

...despite the fact that about ten percent is flat-out and clearly deliuberate bullshit. Which is tragic, because that’s the part that always hurts his cause, every single time.

I’ll give just one example. Moore says “Is it right that your doctor should have to get on the phone and get permission from some insurance company bureaucrat, in order to get approval to treat you?” And people shake their heads. No! Of course not!

Except that in Canada and France and England and all the nations where “single payer” government programs take care of public health, your doctor examines you, diagnoses, and then...

... has to get on the phone and get permission from some GOVERNMENT bureaucrat, in order to get approval to treat you! And don’t you for a minute think it does not amount to care-rationing. Which helps to keep down government costs, sure, just as the insurance companies try to ration care in order to cut theirs.

With a few differences, of course.
(1) The euro model is vastly more fair.
(2) It is vastly better at preventive care.
(3) It cramps individual decision autonomy in ways that would bug most Americans, even liberals who live over there for very long.
(4) Elaborating on that. At least if you hate your insurance bureaucrats, you can try another company. Government bureaucrats have a monopoly on their rationing power. Is that automatically good?
(5) World medical research is largely driven by the lavishly “wasteful” American system, wherein there are no limits to what the well-off can get, in cutting-edge care, if they are willing to pay. (I lived for extended periods in the U.K. and France and I can tell you that one price of socialized medicine is strict limits on what recent breakthroughs even the rich can ask for. And hence, exactly how is the introduction of rapid breakthrougs supposed to be amortized?)

This last aspect is one that’s never mentioned, never discussed, and yes it’s complex, debatable, and far too involved to get into here. But it is one reason why the rest of the world actually hopes we Americans keep our present system!

Ponder that. Don’t fall for simplistic doctrines. This is an issue where the liberals are right... but... not... perfect.

-----

PART THREE: WE ALL LIE TO OURSELVES

The worst blame doesn’t fall on right or left, since you can expect dogmatic people to lie, by dint of human nature. In fact, the real blame should fall on all of us, on the smartest of us, for swallowing comforting cliches instead of pondering the number of times that the truth is diametrically opposite.

Let me illustrate by picking (unfairly, I admit) on just one side remark made last time by one of you. Last time, Zechariah commented: “See, I know that republicans no longer actually follow through when they promise small government, but at least they still pay lip service to the idea.”

Sorry, friend Zechariah, but your language is weighted and freighted with unmerited and unquestioned assumptions. Forgive me, but this is an example of “ostrich” conservatism at its worst. Looking for an excuse to retain some vestigial loyalty to a “side” that has gone from grumpy to loony to insane to monstrous to outright treasonous in the last decade or so.

“See, I know that republicans no longer actually follow through when they promise small government, but at least they still pay lip service to the idea.”

Um, my friend (and I mean that, so please stay!) Can I ask what your words “no longer” mean?

Can you cite for me an example of the GOP ever... and I mean ever... even before mad neocons hijacked the movement.... and I mean EVER(!)... actually acting to reduce the invasiveness of government in our lives?

In fact, I can! I can name a couple of minor bits of GOP-led legislation that did tweak government just a tad to make it smaller. But I’m willing to bet YOU can’t. Moreover, these were tiny, obscure exceptions to a general rule of claiming to be against big government while doing everything in their power to make government more of a huge, unaccountable behemoth and a cash cow for what Adam Smith himself derided as “cronies of the King.”

Meanwhile... and please dig this very very carefully. Every major PRO-MARKET DE-REGULATION EFFORT, every major - and successful - reduction of federal invasiveness, every single effective and fair lessening of federal non-military manpower or elimination of paperwork, that has been performed in our lifetimes, was instigated, enacted and carried through by Democrats.

Cognitive dissonance time? But it is right there. Trucking, banking, telecommunications, airlines, parcel post. The freaking INTERNET for *&#$! sakes! And so on, ad infinitum.

The ONLY time the non-military US federal payroll, staffing and paperwork went DOWN since 1939 was as a result of Al Gore’s “re-inventing government program” under Clinton, in the nineties. That’s a pure fact. Same with a slashing of government secrecy, which ought to be a goal of any sane conservative. Moreover, this isn’t just at the margins. It is by big percentages.

I am sick of the press never reporting on “dissonance” facts like these, where a party’s lip service runs completely opposite to its actions.

Want another one?

How about “protecting our borders?” With Clinton preaching tolerance while doubling border patrols... and Bush talking tough while actively and viciously and relentlessly undermining the Border Patrol at every opportunity. Yes, we’ve discussed this before. And if you try very hard, you can see why they would do these things. Why they would say one thing for public consumption by their base and then do the opposite.

But whose fault is it that they get away with it? With letting the public perceive their favorite cliches, even when the facts are directly opposite, and have been, for decades?


Oh, the worst, the very worst self-deluders are my dear fellow libertarians.

They are supposed to be the smarty-pants pro-freedom crowd. And yet, so many of them are so steeped in the worst cliches, so mired in the worst self-deceptions, so indignation-junky obsessed with hating government in abstract, instead of loving freedom in pragmatic fact. And thus, so vastly more full of shit than either the right or the left, that it just makes me want to weep.

A decent, genuinely progressive libertarianism -- faithful to Locke and Smith and Hayek and Franklin -- ought to be our path out of this mess, spotlighting much of our path back toward the Enlightenment and a truly open market-system, where reciprocal accountability is the engine of human success and government lessens as a natural process of withering away, as empowered and skilled citizens take sovereignty and responsibility gently but firmly into their own hands.

That’s how it oughta be. But the wondrous thing ain’t gonna come from that tribe. Not from today’s “libertarians” who are as delusional as any clan there’s ever been.

.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Strangeness and Multi-Worlds

"The community stagnates without the impulse of the individual.The impulse dies away without the sympathy of the community."--William James

Fifty years ago this month Hugh Everett III published his paper proposing a "relative-state formulation of quantum mechanics" - the idea subsequently described as the 'many worlds' or 'multiverse' interpretation. Its impact on science and culture continues. In celebration, a science fiction special edition of Nature on 5 July 2007 explores the symbiosis of science and sf, as exemplified by Everett's hypothesis, its birth, evolution, champions and opponents, in biology, physics, literature and beyond.

Though I always found it weird that in this one case a sci fi idea pronounced by a grad student was so thoroughly embraced by the physics community, making his rep for life.

And while we’re discussing weird ideas from physics... Richard Gott’s infuriating, thought-provoking, “Copernican” approach to predicting that humanity has 5,000 more years. (I’ve seen the same kind of analysis give us just twenty years, or less. huh.)

Speaking of many worlds, I highly recommend the latest book to ponder the topic of “where is everybody out there?” Contact with Alien Civilizations: Our Hopes and Fears about Encountering Extraterrestrials was written by former senior U.S. diplomat Michael A.G. Michaud, who chaired the committees that developed the well-regarded “SETI Protocols.” I served with Micahaerl on those committees...

...until they unraveled, just this last year, under the strain of the increasingly tense METI imbroglio, or the debate over whether humanity (or rather, a few peremptory individuals) should start shouting into a strange and dauntingly silent universe. An excellent book, covering these issues from many angles!

See also my collected articles on SETI vs METI.

==Changing Times==

The Arlington Institute issued this warning: The era of cheap food is over. The price of corn (maize) hasdoubled in a year, and wheat futures are at their highest in a decade. Thefood price index in India has risen 11 percent in one year, and in Mexicoin January there were riots after the price of corn flour (used in makingthe staple food of the poor, tortillas) went up fourfold. Even in thedeveloped countries food prices are going up, and they are not going tocome down again.

Cheap food lasted for only fifty years. Before the Second World Warmost families in the developed countries spent a third or more of theirincome on food (as the poor majority in developing countries still do). Butafter the war a series of radical changes, from mechanisation to the GreenRevolution, raised agricultural productivity hugely and caused a long,steep fall in the real price of food. For the global middle class, it wasthe Good Old Days, with food taking only a tenth of their income. It will probably be back up to a quarter within a decade, and itmay go much higher than that, because we are entering a period when threeseparate factors are converging to drive food prices up. The first issimply demand. Not only is the global population continuing to grow (aboutan extra Turkey or Vietnam every year), but as Asian economies race aheadmore and more people in those populous countries are starting to eatsignificant amounts of meat.

An experiment in viral hit measurement! A bright young SF author, Jeff Carlson, is about to see his first novel published. We are also writing a book together! He has just posted his very first author web site at www.jverse.com. Now for the experiment. Let’s see how many hits we can generate on Jeff’s site and show how thumping big and influential the Contrary Brin community really is!

President Bush has signed a directive granting extraordinary powers to the office of the president in the event of a declared national emergency, apparently without congressional approval or oversight. The directive establishes under the office of the president a new national continuity coordinator whose job is to make plans for "National Essential Functions" of all federal, state, local, territorial and tribal governments, as well as private sector organizations to continue functioning under the president's directives

New Scientist reports a single hydrogen atom has been snipped off a molecule and then added back on again, marking the first time a single chemical bond has been broken and reforged in a controlled, reversible way. The team first used their STM to locate a methylaminocarbyne (CNHCH3) molecule that was fixed to a platinum surface. Then they turned up the voltage, increasing the flow of electrons. That was enough to break one bond – between the molecule's nitrogen and hydrogen atom – but not to disturb any of the other bonds, leaving a molecule of methylisocyanide (CNCH3).

To reverse the process, the group simply bathed the sample in hydrogen gas. The platinum surface catalysed the splitting of the hydrogen molecules into their hydrogen atoms, which reacted with nitrogen in the methylisocyanide molecule to re-form methylaminocarbyne.

Okay, the last part was more classic chemistry, manipulating the surroundings rather than a single site. Still. Wowzer.

DID YOU KNOW THAT...newly discovered fossils show that penguins as tall as 5 feet roamed what is now Peru more than 40 million years ago

There is a growing body of evidence that the Earth's magnetic field is about to disappear, at least for a while. One of those signs is that the strength of the field has been falling by 5% per century recently. Other evidence comes from old navigation records showing that patches of abnormal magnetism have been growing off south-east Africa and in the South Atlantic.

Researchers studying Neanderthal DNA say it should be possible to construct a complete genome of the ancient hominid despite the degradation of the DNA over time. There is also hope for reconstructing the genome of the mammoth and cave bear, according to a research team from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

NASA is joining a Japanese team in a space experiment that uses a “reverse origami” tether to keep satellites in their proper orbits, or to return spent rocket stages quickly to Earth. This tether will have to be strong considering its gossamer construction. Looking like a strip of aluminum foil, almost like a tape measure, the tether is 1 km (3280 feet) long, but only 0.05 mm thick and 50 mm (close to 2 inches) wide.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report confirms that Bush's use of presidential signing statements are, in fact, utterly without precedent. Though they've been used by American presidents for about 200 years, signing statements - edicts issued by the president to declare his intent to construe a provision within a law differently than Congress does - are constitutionally questionable.

Scientists can now sugars ubiquitous in nature to a replacement source for those products that make oil so valuable, with very little of the residual impurities that have made the quest so daunting. The process converts glucose directly in high yields to a primary building block for fuel and polyesters. That building block, called HMF, is a chemical derived from carbohydrates such as glucose and fructose and is viewed as a promising surrogate for petroleum-based chemicals.

A US company is taking plastics recycling to another level – turning them back into the oil they were made from, and gas. All that is needed, claims Global Resource Corporation (GRC), is a finely tuned microwave and – hey presto! – a mix of materials that were made from oil can be reduced back to oil and combustible gas (and a few leftovers). Key to GRC’s process is a machine that uses 1200 different frequencies within the microwave range, which act on specific hydrocarbon materials.

(I thought of this 25 years ago, only with a twist that could take uses FAR beyond the range of just converting hydrocarbons! Anyone know these people or more about them?)

Pathetic "broadband." The median U.S. download speed now is 1.97 megabits per second — a fraction of the 61 megabits per second enjoyed by consumers in Japan. Other speedy countries include South Korea (median 45 megabits), France (17 megabits) and Canada (7 megabits).

Friday, July 13, 2007

Issues Democrats Ignore

As we prepare for another political season, some dismal patterns seem ripe for repetition. While an unpopular administration wallows in a myriad failures of policy and competence, Democrats seem unlikely, yet again, to exploit Republican weakness. That is, they seem unlikely to get their act together well enough to overcome gerrymandering and dozens of other systematic disadvantages that have accumulated in recent years.


"Democrats don't yet have a fully worked-out alternative system," explained E.J. Dionne Jr., in the Washington Post. As usual, they cannot seem to decide between two mutually inconsistent goals:



--Pursuing the emotional satisfactions of ideological purity, by portraying all conservatives as evil, focusing on partisan hot-button issues, and dismissing moderates as DINOS or "Democrats in name only."

--Creating a big enough tent to welcome millions of sincere voters who are not classic liberals, but who are waking up to the debacle of Bush Era neoconservatism -- a calamitous movement that promulgated divisive "culture war" and betrayed many American values, including conservative ones.
Continue to a more extensive (though older) riff on "the real issue the Democrats are ignoring" can be found on my website: America's Declining State of Readiness.


AND NOW AN APPEAL FOR ADVICE FOR A FAMILY TRAVELLING IN CHINA AND JAPAN.


I am taking my wife & kids to Beijing, Xian, Chengdu then Tokyo/Yokohama... for a series of science fiction events, in just one month. Xian to Chengdu will be by overnight train!


1. Best method to use a cell phone over there? Will a GSM phone work? Should we just borrow a Nokia and buy a sim chip upon arriving in China? If so, from whom do you buy it?


2. Will my Vista machine be able to access Wifi in the hotels?


3. Any other advice?


4. Anyone good at tracking the bona fides of a tour company? We plan to use "Marco Polo & company" www.China77.com


5. Any of you planning to be in Japan for Worldcon?


db

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Officer Corps Stands Up! ... (Part 20 of a continuing series)

Look it up. I was the very first to make a public stink about what appears to be the greatest (known) crime of the Bush Administration -- it's relentless campaign to bully, intimidate, suborn and break the one force in American life that stands between we citizens and a very cold wind...

...the skilled professionals of the Civil Service, law enforcement agencies, the intelligence community and - above all - the United States Officer Corps.

(In fact, find anyone who made earlier use of that term, in this context. I'll wait here.)

In tandem, I also remain appalled by the Democrats' inability to recognize a simple fact. That the issue at hand is not the War in Iraq.

That war has merely been the means to an end.

The real issue is the destruction of our nation's resilience, our readiness, our ability to rely upon our professionals to protect us and our citizens' ability to rely upon themselves.

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

Take, for example, the fact that it has been many years since more than two or three of the US Army's active combat brigades has been able to train for war. For actual war. Even the National Training Center, at Fort Irwin California, has switched from force-combat preparation and large unit maneuver warfare entirely to small unit counter-insurgency operations training.

One result? Despite some technological advances - and sincere, desperate efforts by our officers and noncoms to prevent a slide - Bill Clinton's US Army could beat our present Army with one hand tied behind its back.

Tell THAT to imbeciles who think that flag-waving is patriotism and that "support our troops" means to abandon them in hell.

Tell it to the Democrats, who are too dumb-blind to see genuine patriotism as an issue... as THE issue... right in front of them. One that has nothing to do with "left" or "right". Only love of country and decency and sanity. And the safety of our children.

But enough of my blather-ranting, let's hear from somebody who actually knows what he is talking about. A high ranking member of several of those professional services I mentioned earlier.

----

This month, Gen. William Odom (former director of the NSA) wrote a on “supporting our troops”. Here are some excerpts:

'Supporting the troops' means withdrawing them

COMMENTARY | July 05, 2007 By William E. Odom

Every step the Democrats in Congress have taken to force the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq has failed. Time and again, President Bush beats them into submission with charges of failing to "support the troops."

Why do the Democrats allow this to happen? Because they let the president define what "supporting the troops" means. His definition is brutally misleading. Consider what his policies are doing to the troops.

No U.S. forces have ever been compelled to stay in sustained combat conditions for as long as the Army units have in Iraq. In World War II, soldiers were considered combat-exhausted after about 180 days in the line. They were withdrawn for rest periods. Moreover, for weeks at a time, large sectors of the front were quiet, giving them time for both physical and psychological rehabilitation. During some periods of the Korean War, units had to fight steadily for fairly long periods but not for a year at a time. In Vietnam, tours were one year in length, and combat was intermittent with significant break periods.

In Iraq, combat units take over an area of operations and patrol it daily, making soldiers face the prospect of death from an IED or small arms fire or mortar fire several hours each day. Day in and day out for a full year, with only a single two-week break, they confront the prospect of death, losing limbs or eyes, or suffering other serious wounds. Although total losses in Iraq have been relatively small compared to most previous conflicts, the individual soldier is risking death or serious injury day after day for a year. The impact on the psyche accumulates, eventually producing what is now called "post-traumatic stress disorders." In other words, they are combat-exhausted to the point of losing effectiveness. The occasional willful killing of civilians in a few cases is probably indicative of such loss of effectiveness. These incidents don't seem to occur during the first half of a unit's deployment in Iraq.

After the first year, following a few months back home, these same soldiers are sent back for a second year, then a third year, and now, many are facing a fourth deployment! Little wonder more and more soldiers and veterans are psychologically disabled.

And the damage is not just to enlisted soldiers. Many officers are suffering serious post-traumatic stress disorders but are hesitant to report it – with good reason. An officer who needs psychiatric care and lets it appear on his medical records has most probably ended his career. He will be considered not sufficiently stable to lead troops. Thus officers are strongly inclined to avoid treatment and to hide their problems.


… [Bush’s] recent "surge" tactic has compelled the secretary of defense to extend Army tours to 15 months! (The Marines have been allowed to retain their six-month deployment policy and, not surprisingly, have fewer cases of post-traumatic stress syndrome.) …

If the Democrats truly want to succeed in forcing President Bush to begin withdrawing from Iraq, the first step is to redefine "supporting the troops" as withdrawing them, citing the mass of accumulating evidence of the psychological as well as the physical damage that the president is forcing them to endure because he did not raise adequate forces. Both Democrats and Republicans in Congress could confirm this evidence and lay the blame for "not supporting the troops" where it really belongs – on the president. And they could rightly claim to the public that they are supporting the troops by cutting off the funds that he uses to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. …

The president is strongly motivated to string out the war until he leaves office, in order to avoid taking responsibility for the defeat he has caused and persisted in making greater each year for more than three years.
To force him to begin a withdrawal before then, the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war.




Cogent and passionately on-target. And yet, again, I must reiterate that the issue is not so much Iraq as the dire condition of ALL of our professional services... and the state of our reserves. Take the following:

Senator Webb (D-VA)(who served as Secretary of the Navy under Reagan) has been leading an effort in Congress to limit the duration of deployments of US troops in Iraq. Webb proposed an to the Defense authorization bill (co-sponsored by Chuck Hagel (R-NE)) that would require that active-duty troops and units deployed to Iraq have at least equal time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas. It also includes a “sense of the Congress” that units and members of Reserve components should not be mobilized continuously for more than one year.

Yesterday, Senate Republicans successfully filibustered the Webb amendment.


Russ Daggatt adds this. For the first time, a poll has found that more people (70%) now consider the Iraq War a mistake than ever thought the same of the Vietnam War during that war. According to Gallup, the number who viewed Vietnam as a mistake peaked at 61% in May of 1971 (the percentage of those who thought Vietnam a mistake climbed even higher after the war ended).

But again, all focus is on Iraq. That isn’t the issue! There are dozens of plans that could have us stay there, providing certain types of non-urban security, that would help legitimate groups there fight their own monsters, while dropping our costs and casualties almost to nil.

The issue is the neocon War Against Professionalism...

...and its accompanying War Against The Citizen Amateur.

Talk about semantic irony.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Movement Based on Hate

We’ve discussed what “conservative” means, in an era when meanings have gone topsy-turvy. Russ Daggatt weighs in:

"Conservatives" traditionally promote the virtue of personal responsibility. But try to find anyone in the modern conservative movement (really more radically authoritarian and militaristic than "conservative" in any traditional sense of the term) who will take personal responsibility for the consequences of his advocacy of this disastrous war. The defining trait of the radical neocon movement is the consistent exaggeration of the threats faced by the US in the world -- requiring, of course, a more authoritarian and militaristic American society.

“And there is a certain self-fulfilling prophecy at work -- as their policies are adopted, the world indeed becomes a more dangerous place for America, seeming to vindicate their warnings. It is difficult to make the case that the world is a safer and more stable place today as a result of their policies than it was on September 11, 2001 -- the event that drove the country to embrace the neocon agenda. (This is similar to putting incompetent anti-government ideologues in charge of the federal government. Their failures simply reaffirm their message -- that the government can't do anything right.)


It is an interesting appraisal, but my own diagnosis differs quite a bit. I think that deeper, psychological factors are at work.

Yes, there probably is some kind of a conspiracy at the very top, that aims to make the US government fail. The perfect consistency of this administration, never making any decisions that even tangentially or accidentally benefit the people or commonwealth of the United States, beggars any other explanation, including the “standard model” of dogmatic and corrupt ineptitude. Like Russ, I feel it is time for us all to ponder whether there is a deliberate campaign to wreck the pragmatic-modernist consensus that held America together, from the end of World War II until the end of the last century.

And yet, even positing such a focused and relentless effort, I do not think that it is driven by some nebulous philosophical drive to prove that government doesn’t work, in principle. Indeed, many of the administration’s friends (though not in on the top-layer conspiracy) want government to work. Principally for them, of course. But still, all else being equal, they would rather that the USA thrive, than that it not.

No, I believe that one thing keeps most conservatives loyal to monsters who have betrayed every old-fashioned conservative tenet. It is something much deeper and more neurotic than “distrust of government.” (Bear in mind that I once gave a keynote at a Libertarian Party National Convention, so I know about the range and variety of philosophies within the Question Authority Movement. And I can tell you that libertarianism has nothing to do with today’s neoconservatism, whatsoever.)

No. Face it. The one common theme that underlies nearly every frothing neocon rant, from Hannity and Limbaugh to Pat Robertson and your Uncle Fred, boils down to “I despise those smarty-pants liberals.” Conservatism has become a movement that defines itself by its hates.

What greater proof could there be than the incredible exhibition of sloth displayed by the last few Republican-led Congresses? With their hands on every lever of power and solid majorities in every branch of government, they broke every record for laziness and inaction. Indeed, they did not even lift more than a finger to eliminate programs that they long claimed to dislike! Both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton pushed deregulation of more industries -- and more drastic reductions in federal paperwork - than all Republican administrations in history. Combined.

No, today’s conservative movement is not about wanting to DO anything or enact ideas or innovations of their own. And clearly it is not about eliminating regulations or freeing up the marketplace. Putting aside the rampant graft that - at most - involves a few thousand people... or the more lurid paranoid “manchurian” scenarios that might involve dozens, you are forced yet again to see that there is only one thing left. That boiling, searing hate.

Moreover, this kind of hatred cannot be refuted, for example, by showing that the liberal-moderate-progressive position turned out to be correct on this or that issue. Or on many issues.

That kind of proof has already happened, innumerable times! From Civil Rights to womens’ rights to dealing with urban smog and the ozone problem to Vietnam and Watergate and so on. In these and dozens of other cases, conservatives of the time were simply proved decisively wrong. Magnificently and overwhelmingly wrong...

...but alas, that does not have the logical effect of forcing a re-evaluation of processes and assumptions.

No, it is human nature to deeply resent being proved wrong.

So, as global warming is proved, and Iraq turns out to be a disaster based upon lies, and neocons start heading to jail (while not a single Clintonite was ever even indicted for malfeasance in office), and as the military is destroyed and American leadership evaporates, do not expect apologies or retractions.

Because each time this happens, it only stokes more rage.

(Or else more denial. Ever notice how many conservatives have pictures of Martin Luther King on their walls, nowadays? “Who, me? Against him? Never!”)

It is time to study this phenomenon. To understand how it resonates and feeds on a similarly tragic human flaw on the liberal side... a tendency toward holier-than-thou sanctimony that drives conservative people completely crazy! Hence, every “I told you so” is guaranteed NOT to change minds and hearts, but to spark vows of revenge.

This is the deep-down reason that “ostrich” conservatives - decent people with decent values, who genuinely believe that they believe in freedom and accountability and a sane, healthy America - will continue to rally around a movement that has betrayed everything that “conservatism” is supposed to stand for.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scooter’s partial pardon... and so begins the “Pardon Tsunami”

(Double-posted on Kos) --

.

I’ve been saying this for years. There is a fundamental conundrum facing the criminal gang that stands behind the monstrous thing that the neocon movement has become. A gang that has hijacked Conservatism while sincere conservative and libertarian Americans cover their eyes and ears and refuse to see what has happened to their movement.

What is the conundrum? It is the problem of ensuring loyalty among thieves.

Think about it. In an administration as corrupt as this one, how can the scores --the hundreds and possibly thousands -- of complicit and/or outright-corrupt Bushite officials and cronies count on avoiding accountability for their part in an ongoing Great Kleptocratic Raid? Especially since a large part of their mission, for the last seven years (make that thirteen) has been to harass and hamper and intimidate the loyal and skilled professionals who make up the civil service, the intelligence agencies, the Justice establishment and the U.S. Officer Corps?

What can they be thinking? That the United States of America will suddenly abandon its 230 year commitment to accountability and the cleansing power of openness? That those professionals will stay cowed and intimidated forever? Even after the other party retakes the Executive Branch and clears away the no-accounts and Bob jones University weirdos who have been stuffed into the upper echelons of every cabinet agency?

There are various theories to explain how they think they can escape ever being held accountable:

Possibility 1 - they actually have talked themselves into thinking that tomorrow simply won’t come! That the party never ends. As evidence for this, witness how the Cheney-ites are STILL pushing bold new interpretations of presidential power, pushing it toward truly imperial levels...

...even though they may soon face a president who they would NOT want to see so empowered!

Possibility 2 - they have solid reason to expect that the party will never end. They are robbing like mad and pushing extreme presidential empowerment because they know something that we (the rest of us) don’t. A surefire way to ensure that their lock on power stays permanent.

Possibility 3 - even if the nation finally does shrug off both Great Raid and its sheltering Culture War... even if America acts to open up its systems again and restore accountable government... these awful people expect it not to matter to them personally...

...for the simple reason that President Bush has promised to issue as many pardons as it will take, to ensure that no crony ever goes to jail.

.

Certainly, the Scooter pardon is compatible with any of these theories, but especially Possibility #3.

(An aside: "If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush told reporters at an impromptu news conference during a fund-raising stop in Chicago, Illinois. "If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of." I guess he meant what he said then.).
.

Let there be no mistake. The looming Pardon Tsunami is one of the key problems this nation faces, right now. Because the prospect of a pardon festival is almost certainly helping to maintain discipline among the second and third and fourth layer Bushite apparachniks.

But there is another side to the coin. This prospect also offers an opportunity for the Democrats... and all decent Americans... if only some careful thought would go into formulating a counter-strategy.

For example, Democrats might act to create a "truth & reconciliation" process, by which lower level Bushites could come before a committee and blab what they know about the Great Raid, in exchange for guaranteed immunity...

...thus getting a surefire ticket to safety BEFORE Bush starts the Pardon Tsunami for real, just after the elections, around Christmas 2008. (And thus not having to depend on promises issued by notorious liars.)

Am I suggesting competing pardon-fests? Sure! Oh, I know it doesn't suit the thirst that some liberals nurse, for revenge. But the TRUTH is the best revenge.

More important - since Bush's power to pardon is Constitutionally preserved, the only way to neutralize it may be to COMPETE with it.

And Congress CAN compete, by offering immunity to all whistle blowers now.

After all, a bird in the hand (immunity now) is better than two in the ... well... bush.

.

For more on how I predicted the Pardon Tsunami... and a whole range of ideas what to do about it, see:
http://www.davidbrin.com/suggestions.html

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Varied News From the (Onrushing) Future...

First the sublime:
After months of work, the Metaverse Roadmap Overview is now available for download. Written by Jerry Paffendorf, John Smart and Jamais Cascio, it is an attempt to synthesize current and emerging social, economic and technological trends around virtual worlds, immersive networks, and ubiquitous information. Smart stuff! (So to speak.)

To the Worrisome:
Many of you know I’ve been trying to get some large group like the AAAS to sponsor a discussion of the issue of whether humanity should “shout into the cosmos” in an attempt to draw attention toward us from “others out there”... instead of keeping to the classic SETI program of quietly listening in order to learn more about the cosmos, first. Now, in the excellent British journal THE INDEPENDENT, astronomer David Whitehouse (author of “The Sun, A Biography”) writes an excellent of why it might make sense to discuss the matter, before yelling “yoohoo!” into an unknown wilderness.http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

To the encouraging:
I’ve mentioned the recent flurry of attention given to SIGMA... the “think tank” of scientifically trained science fiction authors. Now listen to a short interview (on NPR naturally) with Arlan Andrews, founder of SIGMA (and mentioning yours truly.)

Speaking of which, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show interview with Greg Bear is now available.

To Free Stuff!
Download a recent Escape Pod and be patient through an amusing host editorial, to reach a podcast-reading (pretty good) of my short story “The Giving Plague.”

And now the ridiculous:
Adding insult to injury: Instead of simply letting their hold on www.thepostman.com expire gracefully, Warner Brothers re-assigned the name/URL to “Pokemon3-The Movie. “ Aren’t the names similar?

But it gets better when people start worrying about black holes (little teeny ones)falling into the Earth. (Sound familiar?)

See where your petrol dollars are going. At least this one sounds interesting and forward-looking. An "Underwater Resort" being built in Dubai? They're calling it Hydropolis. It's an interesting idea, but I wonder how feasible it is.

Another “saw it here first. Cell Phone Bomb Detectors Discussing whether the cell phone can become a biological and radiation detector.

Speaking of which, the Age of Amateurs has sprouted radiation-seeking hobbyists.

Stimulating the brain with a magnetic coil appears to promote
growth of new neurons, possibly leading to treatments for brain

Along similar lines, The LA Police Commission on Tuesday approved a proposal to buy a software program that would allow witnesses with cell phone cameras to take pictures of accident and crime scenes and transmit the images to 911 call centers.

A fascinating article about the edges of transparency, in which the professionals actually behaved with a slight tilt toward looking like adults.

Taking the “Age of Amateurs” to its next level.... Public donates to UW scientist to fund backward-in-time research. Experiment may be 'weird,' but donors think it's pretty cool. “A University of Washington scientist who could not obtain funding from traditional research agencies to test his idea that light particles act in reverse time has received more than $35,000 from folks nationwide who didn't want to see this admittedly far-fetched idea go unexplored.”

As it turns out, the researcher, Dr. John Cramer is a friend and colleague and a very “for real” physicist. Naturally, I enjoy his wild and well-founded ideas. I even stop talking for a while! Still, what’s reallky fascinating this time is the grassroots support. Almost grudgingly, the new era is grinding into being.
(See the link for “how to donate”!)

Here’s another nifty thing. Micro-sculpture! Alas, this kind of thing will soon seem less impressive as ultra-microscopic manufacturing techniques become capable of manipulating one molecule at a time. Inevitably, some techies will start to use the methods for art. For a sense of scale, imagine the figures made by Willard Wigan that stand inside the eye of a needle. Imagine one of them HOLDING a needle of his own, peering at tiny figures inside THAT eye...

...and those tiny figures hold needles with tiny figures inside them... And repeat this another couple of times. That’s our brave new world.

A breakthrough textile made from carbon nanotubes could make lighter
bullet-proof clothing, wiring for aircraft and more efficient power
transmission lines.

See an inspiring article about Prof. George Slusser’s long, uphill struggle to turn UC Riverside's library of science fiction, fantasy and horror books into the world's largest and a necessary trek for scholars. To get there, George had to overcome sabotage and the vicious narrowmindedness of the cult of postmodernists who have taken over most English Departments, all over America.

The Google Trends home page now has a section named "Hot Trends," which
shows the hottest queries for the day. The trends history also shows
data by country, state, and city, worldwide.

This guy got his solid-state tesla coil to generate tones by pulsing its arcs at high frequencies. They're still trying to decide whether to call this a "Zeusaphone" or a "Thoramin"

Scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute have for a U.S. patent on a minimal bacterial genome that they built themselves. According to the patent application, it's "a minimal set of protein-coding genes which provides the information required for replication of a free-living organism in a rich bacterial culture medium."

Using photos of oft-snapped subjects (such as Notre Dame cathedral) scraped from around the Web, this short video demonstrates Photosynth (based on Seadragon) technology to create multidimensional spaces with zoom and navigation features that outstrip all expectation. It permits a composite visual image of something to be assembled by creating what are essentially content-based hyperlinks between all the images of the item (person/place/thing) available throughout the internet.

Hubble’s “Image Tours” show you Hubble pictures through an astronomer's eyes, pinpointing and explaining key features. Point and click through these interactive images to add understanding to the joy of cosmic sightseeing. Take an armchair tour of the Tadpole Gallaxy, the Helix Nebula, the Eagle Nebula and six others; the beauty of the universe is astonishing.

A device that specifically targets rapidly growing cancer cells with intermediate frequency electrical fields, called Tumor-Treating Fields (TTFields), has doubled the survival rates of patients with brain cancer. It uses electrical fields to disrupt tumor growth by interfering with cell division of cancerous cells, causing them to stop proliferating and die off instead of dividing and growing. Healthy brain cells rarely divide and have different electrical properties than cancerous brain cells.

The landmark U.S. law to fight water pollution will now apply only to bodies of water large enough for boats to use, and their adjacent wetlands, and will not automatically protect streams according to the U.S. government.

Scientists from Spectrolab, Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing, have recently published their research on the fabrication of solar cells that surpass the 40% efficiency milestone—the highest efficiency achieved for any photovoltaic device.

Physicists at Harvard University have found that individual carbon-13 atoms in a diamond lattice can be manipulated with extraordinary precision to create stable and a small quantum processor, also known as a quantum register, operhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifating at room temperature.

Medium-duty work trucks powered mainly by electricity may be only five to 10 years away, with the development of more efficient and cost-effective battery storage.

And finally...

Russia has banned the shipment of medical specimens abroad, threatening hundreds of patients and complicating drug trials by major companies, the national Kommersant newspaper reported on Wednesday. kommersant attributed the ban to fears in the secret service that Russian genetic material could be used abroad to make biochemical weapons targeting russians. Yeesh, I had this idea for a thriller 20 years ago. Thought it too cheesy.