Saturday, February 16, 2008

Why The Candidates Should "Stipulate"

Stipulate-electionIt's been said that a politician gets to be perfectly honest just once in a long career -- at its end. Refreshing candor sometimes pours after an old pol has faced the last campaign. No more fund raisers or need to flatter voters. One final chance, before the cameras, to tell the truth.

Frankly, though, we don't have time for that sort of thing today. Indeed, so many politicians hurry through the revolving door, into fat directorships and lobbying firms, that even this source of candor is becoming all-too rare.

Hence, I would like to offer here a suggestion that I've made every presidential election since well before the turn of the century. An unusual idea... perhaps one you'll call mad. And yet, an idea that could empower BOTH the Democratic and Republican nominees to do the nation a tremendous service before the campaign and the election even finish!

Yes, it calls for maturity, common sense and genuine patriotism... all in apparent short supply. Still, do hear me out.

As I've said, only a few officials spill their hearts when they retire, but when they do it can be colorful.

Take the day in 1991 when both Republican Senator Warren Rudman and Democrat Paul Tsongas withdrew from public life. They made headlines by jointly suggesting that everybody was at fault for the country's condition at the time, from then-President Bush to the then democrat controlled Congress, all the way to the American people. The pair castigated politicians of all parties for not telling citizens that burgeoning budget deficits threatened our economic well-being. Responsible economists agreed. A few even credit Rudman and Tsongas for spurring reforms that helped lead to the Clinton era surpluses.

A more recent example of post retirement candor came with ex Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill's revelations about the second Bush Administration. It resulted in a fire storm of attacks from his own party. O'Neill's explanation for this candor? That he was "old and rich" and unafraid to speak his mind.

However one feels about those specific examples, we can all agree that they are rare. One of the chief flaws of our electoral system is that real candor is punished. Both sides may rail against each other, but they'll never aim bad news at us. Even if both nominees believe in their hearts that the public needs to face some hard truth, neither will dare be first to say it, lest the other side take advantage.

Think about it. Throughout the coming election we will learn how the candidates disagree on a myriad issues. We will also hear platitudes, as each tells voters what they want to hear. Logically, there must be a third category -- areas where these well-informed professionals agree with each other, but are afraid to speak out.

Alas, we will never hear whatever topics or beliefs occupy that logical box -- no matter how full or empty it may be -- because neither of them will dare speak first.

Now consider this. There is no political cost to telling voters what you really believe... if your opponent has agreed, in advance, to say the same thing.

Now at first, this statement sounds absurdly simpleminded.

After all, the metaphor for an election is a race. "Give 'em hell" combat, with no holds barred.

==The Third Option: Arguing Like Adults==

But wait. What's wrong with the idea of two leaders finding a patch of consensus amid a sea of discord? We cheer when this occurs among heads of state, overcoming differences between nations in order to sign a treaty that finds common ground. Then why not between candidates?

The process is called stipulation... as when the attorneys representing opposite sides in a trial agree to agree about a set of points. By stipulating these points, they help move the trial forward, focusing on areas where they disagree.

What does stipulation have to do with politics?

And, given the exceptional intensity of partisanship, in recent American political life, is it utterly dumb to even dream of mature behavior popping up, like a flower in the desert?

Bear with me for a little while, in a “what-if” thought experiment. Imagine, along with me, this weird, but possible scenario.

DisputationArenasArrowCoverSuppose, amidst the 2008 campaign, Republican candidate John McCain and his Democratic opponent were to suspend their mutual attacks just long enough to get together and meet for an afternoon. First, they and their staffs would cover issues such as scheduling debates, and how to prevent spirals of mudslinging. The people would applaud any agreement on fair campaigning principles. Heck, just seeing them talk to each other like adults might be refreshing. Think how the image might affect the rancorous mood we see in politics today, independent of policy disagreements.

So far, so good.

Only then suppose the two nominees do something unprecedented. They go for a walk, alone. Unpressured by cameras and media flacks, they talk. During this quiet moment before the rough and tumble resumes, they seek just a few points of consensus.

Don’t dismiss this too readily! For all of his faults, McCain has done this sort of thing before. So have Senators Clinton and Obama. In fact, the only ones to object would be those at the extremes, i both parties. Those wanting nothing but take-no-prisoners political war. Of the sort that has come near ruining our country. So, let’s ponder this fantasy a bit longer.

Oh, neither candidate will change the other's mind concerning major divisions. But what about issues where they do agree? Here we have two knowledgeable public persons, presumably concerned about America's future. Surely there would be some areas of overlap? Things that both of them feel we, as a nation, should do.

Now imagine that this overlap this results in a joint statement. Though reiterating a myriad points of disagreement, they go on to make public, simultaneously, their shared belief that America should, for its own good, pass law "X", or repeal restriction "Y". Further, they agree that neither will attack the other for taking this stand.

No longer pandered to, a lot of folks might say -- "Gosh, if both of them agree that the country needs this strong medicine, let's give it some thought."

This would not free candidates completely from the stifling effects of mass-politics. But it could let them display something we've seen rarely... leadership. Even statesmanship. Setting aside self-interest in favor of hard truth, telling the people what they need to hear, whether they like it or not.

==Is This Wish Impossible and Unprecedented?==

Well, actually, it has happened before, during the Presidential campaign of 1940. When Franklin Roosevelt was running for a third term, he approached the Republican candidate, Wendell Wilkie, to negotiate just such a stipulated agreement in the area of foreign policy.

Britain badly needed escort vessels for the North Atlantic and the U.S. had over-age destroyers to spare. But Roosevelt feared political repercussions during a campaign in which he was already under attack for breaking neutrality. Wilkie agreed to FDR's request, and declared that lend-lease would be his policy too, if he were elected.

Everyone benefited -- Wilkie rose in stature. FDR got his policy implemented, and the world was better off because political advantage was briefly put aside for the common good. On other issues, Roosevelt and Wilkie battled as fiercely as ever. Yet, that historical act of stipulation shines as in memory.

How might today's politics differ if two adults -- each the standard bearer of a major party -- agreed to let it be known how, in a few ways, they agree? Might they take on some of our most politically impossible subjects? Perhaps a cow as sacred as the Social Security retirement age, a compromise on gun control, some campaign finance reform, or perhaps shifting strategy in the endless, brain-dead War on Drugs?

That would still leave plenty for us to fight over, don’t worry! But note, there are millions of Americans who deeply yearn for a more mature approach to politics. If a candidate offered this, and the other refused... well, there might be benefits there, as well.

Is this quixotic proposal too much to ask of today's opportunistic brand of politician? Perhaps. Indeed, I have little hope that it has a chance of happening during the 2008 election cycle, while partisanship towers foremost in the minds of the partisan attack dogs who have turned America into a silly place for more than a decade, overshadowing any national good.

Still, our politics can evolve. Only during the most recent generation has the tradition of Presidential debates became so entrenched that no front-runner can now duck them. Ancient hurdles of age, race, and gender are falling.

==So why not barriers against candor?==

Might the Candidates' Post-Convention Summit become traditional, like doldrums in July and mudslinging in October? Someday, the whole nation may look forward to the occasion, once every four years, with a sort of delicious, nervous anticipation -- awaiting the one day when two eminent politicians will say not what is politically wise, but what is simply wise.


David Brin
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82 comments:

Zechariah said...

This is a very interesting idea. Won't the candidates fear not losing voters to the other guy, but losing them altogether.

It seems to be a problem in this country that many voters just say, "Both candidates are terrible, therefore I won't vote at all."

Now, that isn't as bad as losing a voter to the other guy. I'm just trying to poke holes in the argument, to see its flaws, and the flaw I just mentioned doesn't seem very strong. I'll keep thinking, and maybe I won't come up with anything new.

In the meantime, it is an interesting idea.

Robert said...

And to think I consider myself a starry-eyed dreamer at times! The thing is... not only is your idea logical and reasonable, it has historical merit. What is needed is a means of spreading this suggestion to the mainstream media so that the suggestion is put on the airwaves and becomes not a suggestion... but a necessity.

Think of this. If the Republican candidate were to state outwardly that he was willing to do this... would the Democratic candidate have any choice but to follow suit? If he or she did not... then would he or she not end up looking foolish and partisan? Divisive?

So what we need to do is convince the media it is in their best interest to suggest this. To debate its merits and talk about the drawbacks. To get the common people talking about it and saying "this is a good idea."

The question is this: what subjects do you think Senator McCain holds in common with Senators Clinton and Obama? Because these individuals are arguing about minutia in areas where they are in agreement of. Think of it. Senator Clinton and Obama both believe in expanded healthcare. But Clinton wants universal health coverage. Obama wants universal coverage for children but cost controls for other people so they have the choice of getting health care if they so choose. (Which, when you consider Obama is called by many the most "liberal" candidate, is perhaps ironic that Obama is striving to allow people free will and choice; then again, civil liberty may perhaps be the most liberal concept in government today.)

So. Which topics do they agree on, topics that aren't just minor points that wouldn't be brought up anyway?

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

P.S. - I find it interesting that Senator McCain is attacking Senator Obama for not stating outright he will go for federal funding of his general campaign. Obama could negate those attacks quite simply by saying "I feel that declaring my intent to utilize federal funding is premature seeing that I've not yet won the Democratic Primary."

David Brin said...

Obama has a prospect of pulling in so much money from donations that he could give millions to congressional candidates all over the nation. Naturally, the gop is terrified of this. Obama will have to hand this over to his veep-nom, whose role it will be to mock the goppers for whining.

"The present half-measure system is absurd. You thought it was fine when you were riding high on plutocrat dollars. Now, step forward with your plan. Let's hear your offer. Because until it seems you'll negotiate in good faith, live with the situation YOU designed and created."

Those voters who would say "Both candidates are terrible, therefore I won't vote at all" about Obama vs McCain... or who would run to a livid, bilious 3rd party indignation festival... are the spoiled brats who have come nigh to ruining America. And I count among them the Naderites who triggered the Bush era.

Oh, if McCain-Obama fought over the middle, McCain would lose - as he will if he turns rightward. What he can choose is WHICH way sanity returns to America.

1) If he turns center-ward and does things like my stipulation idea, then he'll be a revered Wilkie type who will even be asked to name some Republicans for patronage positions, providing they are adults with clean hands. He will have driven the nuts out of the GOP which can then rebuild from a "base" of old-fashioned, decent and somewhat grownup conservatives. While the new Party of Know-Nothings rails on the right.

In fact, this approach would reduce Obama's OVERALL US vote count! The GOP will get trounced more because of the right-side insurrection than because Obama got above 60%.

Above all, though, through moderate statements and stipulation, McCain would ensure that the reforms that take place have at least a small elephant stamp on them. A seed to plant and a foundation to build upon.

2) If he turns rightward, then the very same reforms will happen, perhaps a bit more liberal tinged, because the GOP will be so thoroughly smashed by an angry american center that the Democrats will have unilateral power to do whatever they want.

I sympathize with the trap he's in. He sincerely wants to BE president. But that's not going to happen. The third possibility - of a massive national calamity - might upset Obama's momentum. But there is no way on this planet that McC would see 2012. He would be far more useful to the plutocrats as a martyr.

David Brin said...

For those interested in the example I offered, Charles Peters provides the back story on Willkie's principled support for FDR's wartime initiatives during the 1940 election season in his book: Five Days in Philadelphia: The Amazing "We Want Willkie!" Convention of 1940 and How It Freed FDR to Save the Western World.

Here's a bit from one of the customer reviews on Amazon.

"Peters recounts how Willkie - the only internationalist in a field of avowed isolationists -- wrested the Republican nod from the grip of Dewey, Taft and Vandenberg, each of whom was implacably opposed to providing material assistance to the Allies as the Nazi juggernaut marched across Europe. France's astonishing capitulation the day before the Convention opened was the biggest factor, Peters avers, in galvanizing popular and delegate support behind Willkie - though it took six ballots to put him over the top. He also details the role of the Luce media empire and a sympathetic press generally, Wall Street and Eastern Establishment interests, and a grassroots campaign orchestrated by Elihu Root's (former Sec of State) grandson played in advancing Willkie's Darkhorse candidacy. "

Is McCain this season's Wilkie? A moderate imposed upon the party by its moderate wing, against the fuming objections of its right-wing standard bearers? Certainly my stipulation suggestion could only happen if that were true... and if he did not sell his soul, amid feeble hopes of actually winning in November.

Of course one could exaggerate the parallels. Zell Miller did, in 2004, when he - in his frothing Emperor Palpatine role, excoriated democrats for not being more like Wilkie, in the face of a "necessary war." Talk about missing the point. Talk about lunacy.

Indeed, the dems are also busy conflating history, in their Obama-JFK comparisons. And, while I like the energization of the young, I find that parallel easily as disturbing as it is inspiring.

Robert said...

Will Hillary Clinton destroy the Democratic Party in her quest to achieve the U.S. Presidency? At least one writer thinks so. I must admit to being a tad conflicted here. I mean, sure, the article reads like so much paranoid ravings, but the Clintons do have a reputation for being less than charitable toward those who they perceive to have wronged them. Would Clinton wage a scorched-earth campaign to force Mr. Obama from the Democratic ticket, even if it would destroy her own chances of gaining the presidency?

Or might she threaten it just to try and drive Mr. Obama from the campaign, hoping that his own views would be that party unity is better than destroying the Democratic party by waging war against the Clinton Scorched Earth Policy of campaigning?

I'm hoping that both parties can remain civil. Perhaps it's a pipe dream of mine... but I still have to think that Clinton has a higher regard for what's best for the U.S. people (and the Democratic Party) than her own ego. The alternative... is perhaps too scary to contemplate.

Rob H.

Jester said...

I've become pretty much convinced that this clinton run, and many of their actions over the last 10 years, is "stand by your man" payback, quid pro quo.

After enduring that humiliation in return for a promise, I don't think she's taking kindly to possibly not getting the reward.

They raised more for her virtually unopposed 06 Senate run -by far- than they raised for all other Democrats in all races since they left office.

I'm sure Gore and Kerry really appreciated that.

If there are two politicians capable of having a Roosevelt/Wilkie detente, they are McCain and Obama, but what would it be about?

David Brin said...

Robert, this speculation would be interesting... if I had not heard stuff like this for most of two decades, without any of the accusers ever compiling a persuasive indictment or even a scintilla of proof.

It's all just more Vince Foster ravings until you can back up proof that the Clintons practice vengeful politics any more than anybody else. (Indeed, the one time Newt G decided to work with them, the nation got Welfare Reform.) Generally, Republicans hurl this accusation out of frustration over the fact that the Clintons have survived every slander and nearly always had the last laugh.

Do not get me wrong. I think Hillary is the wrong choice for the dems right now. She says her personal endurance against bilious and frenetic hatred is evidence that she's the right one to face down that paranoid madness.

What nonsense! I don't give a crap about her endurance. I want someone who can DEFEAT the madness, by using judo tactics, not sumo. Time to re-parse the entire argument, instead of letting Rove and Murdoch do it. Obama can achieve that. She cannot.

Though I will defend the Clintons on the basis of historical fact vs drivel-hallucinations of the right... I confess that I am quite tired of them. Moreover, I am willing to bet that Hill&Bill will see the advantages in accepting the offer of a whole bunch of patronage slots - plus some nights in the Lincoln bedroom - in exchange for swallowing their pride and playing nice.

Tony Fisk said...

'He who flings mud loses ground'

It has always annoyed me that politicians reflexively bag their opposite numbers. Even when it is glaringly obvious that a policy is a good one, the admission almost always comes with a muttered 'they stole it from *us*!'

Apart from adversarial habit, the other main reason candidates do not stipulate is the need for publicity. There's nothing newsworthy (well... make that *excitingly* newsworthy) about two contenders in the ring shaking hands and having nothing further to say.
It won't get reported. They won't get profile.

Wilkie and Roosevelt were a rare case of politicians rising above the immediate advantage grab.

Zechariah said...

Oh, also, somebody else pointed out:

"But Tsongas didn't retire from public life in 1991. He ran for President in 1992 and even won the New Hampshire primary that year."

Just FYI, but you probably already knew it.

Zechariah said...

Transparent Society Alert!

Wikileaks under fire.

http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?no_d2=1&sid=08/02/18/043211

Robert said...

Looks like a list of expected McCain VP nominees is starting to make the rounds. It's interesting that Mr. Huckabee was listed... I'd think that his continued efforts to run against McCain would exclude him from the running.

Rob H.

Michael said...

Rob: The way in which Huckabee is/was running against McCain leaves it as plausible - he has been carefully civil the entire time, and his run could be interpreted as an attempt to show the power of the "social conservative" base; ie, a way to say "Hey, you need me."

Seen in that light, a McCain/Huckabee ticket is perfectly plausible - more so than an Obama/Clinton or Clinton/Obama ticket would be. (Consider how much closer the latter pair's policies are, yet how much 'nicer' the first pair have been to one another.)

Robert said...

Here's a question. Is Senator Obama's borrowing of a phrase Governor Patrick (of Mass.) used without permission going to adversely affect his campaign, or is it much ado about nothing? I swear, the Clinton supporters (as in the people voting for her more than campaign mouthpieces) are out for blood over this, saying that Senator Obama has proven himself to be unworthy of the Presidency for this turn of phrase (which, technically, was paraphrasing rather than quotation... and considering the list of quotes were of other famous politicians I'm not even sure if it could be considered accidental plagiarism).

Added polls show the Clinton machine starting to derail in Texas, while holding firm in Ohio. Considering that Senator Clinton needs both to effectively slow the Obama train... it might not bode well for her campaign efforts.

Rob H.

Hawker Hurricane said...

If Huckabee becomes the VP, McCain better eat off the same plate.

Obama's plagerism: if this is the worst thing he's ever done, then I'll vote for him with a clean conscience.
Smells like desperation in the Clinton camp. Is it just me, or does it look like Hillary Clinton's supporters are going insane because someone is beating her when she 'deserves' the nomination?
('Earned the nomination', 'her turn for the nomination', etc)

Mark said...

Is Senator Obama's borrowing of a phrase Governor Patrick (of Mass.) used without permission...

Patrick is a supporter and friend of Obama and it was Patrick who suggested Obama use these phrases.

So yea, much to do about nothing.

Tony Fisk said...

Confirming Zechariah's report:

Whistle-blower site taken offline
Wikileaks.org, as it is known, was cut off from the internet following a California court ruling, the site says.

Whether or not it is a front for the Chinese government, Switzerland is a long way from China.
And since when did California tell me what I could access?

The net is being censored...*sigh*
re-routing...

David Brin said...

Here's something off-topic and kinda disappointing:

Geoengineering: Does Dumping Iron in the Ocean Sequester CO2? By Alexis Madrigal February 18, 2008 | 1:46:06 PMCategories: AAAS 2008, Climate, Environment
http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/02/geoengineering.html

BOSTON, Mass - If we made made the globe warm, we can make the globe cool. That's the premise and promise of geoengineering, the name given to intentional attempts to alter the climate. But, the science behind most of the current schemes is relatively unproven.

Perhaps the most attempted geoengineering strategy is to put small amounts of iron into the ocean, which spawns hordes of plankton that eat CO2 and carry it into the depths of the abyss. Or so the story goes.

Ken Buesseler a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute spoke on the science of this process, known as ocean iron fertilization at a symposium addressing the feasibility of this type of carbon sequestration at the AAAS annual meeting. His talk came a week after Planktos, one of two iron fertilization startups, indefinitely suspended its operations (as Earth2Tech cleverly put it, "Planktos Dead in the Water").

You need to know three things from Buesseler's talk, which was based on looking at twelve fertilization experiments. One, putting iron in the ocean does increase plankton numbers. Two, scientists don't really have any idea how much of the carbon the organisms eat actually drops from the surface into the depths, which is the key to sequestration. It could be anywhere from 2-50 percent, which is almost like saying, "It could work or it could not work." Three, the leading scientists in the field don't have enough confidence to say that ocean iron fertilization could have any real impact on stopping or even slow climate change.

For the full story and a ton of detail, check out these features on ocean iron fertilization straight from Woods Hole.

More generally, geoengineering is going to be harder than people think. You're talking about reversing the effects of the entire world economy's reliance on burning carbon-based substances to generate energy for moving or making.

Aw rates. it sure sounded good. In addition to pulling out Co2, the aim would be to fertilize large stretches of "desert ocean" where nothing much lives (most of it!) and get whole new fisheries started.

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon the Malevolent, logon toast. And please don't tell me to log on under another name, it doesn't work that way. Catch-22)

The weird thing about Dr. Brin's stipulation idea, which is great, is that the Demos and Repubs are already doing it -- except they're all agreeing on evil insane ideas, like increasing America's military expenditures. El Bizarro Mondo.

Au contraire, mon frere Fisk -- Wikileaks is back up. Type in 88.80.13.160 into the address bar and you'll be taken right there.

As the saying goes, "The internet views censorship as damage and routes around it."

If some higher court tries even harder to shut Wikileaks down, it will just spread the information to so many mirror sites and up the traffic numbers so much that the info will get much more widely disseminated than before. Welcome to the bright side of transparency.

The dark side of transparency, and why I don't think Dr. Brin's concept of reciprocal accountability has a chance of working, is:

[1] Spin. Wealthy elites can afford spin so good they'll make everyone think a turd is a cheesecake. If all the facts are out there, it still won't sway public opinion as long as the elite can spin the facts in their favor...and the elites are incredibly good at that. Just look how well they've spun the insanely counterproductive war on drugs as "saving our children" or the absurdly wasteful War on Terror as "keeping us safe." The best example of this was the first Rodney King verdict.

[2] Focus. The wealthy elites can balst the same unified disciplined message from powerful sources like Faux News, whereas the bottom 90% of the population can only scream with millions of isolated voices on the internet or in street protests. Those who best focus people's attention, get their message across. The advantage is heavily tilted toward the top 10% and against the bottom 90% in this regard. The best exanoke gere us Sibel Edmonds' total lack of news focus, despite the fact that everyone knows more or less everything he's talking about. The elites have maintained a disciplined focus on Hillary's "phoney crying in public" and Obama's alleged "plagiariams" and away from Sibel Edmonds' charges. Yes, kiddies, it works.

[3] Infodumping. Transparency becomes its own enemy when the elites blast everyone with so many facts that the population gets brainfried and stops paying attention. This is an old trick beloved of litigators for car companies -- when asked for specs on a defective vehicle, the GM lawyers dump 30 million pages of documetns on the plaintiff's lawyers in discovery. It becomes impossible to dig out the pertinent details.

We see this especially in the blizzard of meaningless stats sprayed onto the public by hired-whore think tanks -- stats that, if you don't think about 'em too hard, would have you believe that the surge is working and the war on drugs is a big success and the Bush tax cuts actually went to the bottom 80% of the population.

[4] Intellectual prostitutes. Recently we've seen the rise of hired-whore think tanks staffed with PhDs who will use complex charts and elaborate statistics to prove that ice is hot and water is dry and the sun emits no light. The average citizen doesn't have access to this kind of slick expertise, but the elites do. The best example here is global warming, with bright people like Jerry Pournelle still duped by these bogus think tanks. Pournelle isn't stupid, so if he can suckered by hired-whore PhDs spewing garbage stats and junk science, anyone can be.

Dr. Brin seems to imagine that if we just let the facts speak for themselves, public policy will become ratioal once we get reciprocal accountabiilty and full transparency. Alas, politics doesn't work that way. People are irrational and persist in believing what they want to believe, despite the facts. I have a copy of "The Transparent Society" on my bookshelf, but greater transparency will most likely merely make it easier for the wealthy elites to control everyone. Instead of setting up oppo research team, the eites will only need google for dirt of people who oppose their policies -- and presto! Another group of citizens lobbying for fairness gets discredited. The elites are, of course, immune to this kind of stuff, as we've seen from Dick Cheney -- everyone knows he's a coward who dodged the draft, but he's got phalanxes of spinmeisters who can make him seem heroic. Remember the 2000 election? Everyone knew John Kerry had served in Nam and the drunk-driving C student hadn't. And who do you think got swiftboated?

Transparency didn't help much, did it?

Out here in the real world, it's not facts that matter, but the context they're put in, how persistently they're blasted at people, and whether the message containing those facts is unified and consistent, or fragmented and diffuse.

Don't believe me? Peruse this piece of psychological research:
http://www.spring.org.uk/2007/07/loudest-voice-majority-opinion.php

"New research reveals even if only one member of a group repeats their opinion, it is more likely to be seen by others as representative of the whole group."

On another topic, an excellent essay by the late Molly Ivins on why Hillary wouldn't be the best choice for the Demos:
http://freepress.org/columns/display/1/2006/1304

I'll support her ferociously if she's nominated, since the alternative is the dark ages. Another 8 years of this insanity and we'll all be dunking witches and trying to figure out that lost skill of creating fire. But I sure hope Obama gets the nomination instead.

Tony Fisk said...

The length of the comment alone identifies you, Zorgon! ;-)

re: wikileaks, it is the domain name that has been (and still is) nobbled by the CA court. I'm sure the raw IP address is still valid. Look closer at my admittedly obscure comment about re-routing around the damage, and you will see that 're-routing' links to a list of alternative mirror sites.

ie: http://wikileaks.cx/wiki/Wikileaks:Cover_Names

wrt dark transparency

[1] the 'spin' side brings to mind the maxim that, while you can always fool some, and sometimes fool all, always fooling everybody is the trick.

This has always been the case. What has changed recently is that we now have a media where anybody can be heard equally loudly (or at least with equal clarity)

(Interesting aside, consider Ethan Zuckerman's recent commentary on the Kenyan elections. Consider the fact that I can pass on such things with ease. Business as usual?)

[2]Focus is a fair point. While you can speak equally loudly here, getting people to listen is another thing (unless you hang on to someone else's coattails, as we are doing here). That is not to say that the bottom 90% can't get their act together on occasion.

[3] infodumping is a valid concern, since effective transparency assumes that there are more eyes than blinds...(the arms race of the 21st century?). It occurs to me, though, that the same technology that allows the blinds can be turned back on itself.

[4] is still subject to (admittedly expert) review and accountability.

Minor quibble, Kerry contested the 2004 election.

All of which brings us to the point that transparency and reciprocal accountability isn't going to just fall out of the baking tray! There's still a lot of work to be done wrt effective attention allocation tooling.

From what I see from this hemisphere, Obama is the way to go.
(Interesting that my first introduction to him was that occasion where he sang a witty version of the scarecrow's song with the refrain 'If I only had McCain!')

David Brin said...

The hoary old saw that "elites will always have advantages" is the relentless... and relentlessly lame... excuse offered by transparency doubters. A funny thing, since that refutation works vastly better against every OTHER prescription for preserving freedom and privacy. But not so well viz transparency.

Privacy laws? Forbidding certain types of info access? Government regulations or regulators? All of these are vastly easier to corrupt than sousveillance would be.

Just look at the desperate lengths the Bushites have gone to, in order to enhance secrecy. They rightfully fear accountability and strenuously avoid it.

Yes, elites will have advantages and better evade transparency than you and I do. But in an inherently and broadly open system, that PERCENTAGE difference between you and them will translate into a far, far smaller EFFECTIVE difference. If whistleblowers are protected and henchmen can tattle safely, then the conspiracies must remain small and tightly knit.

This is not naivete talking, it is a simple look at the last 200 years. We are losing freedom because we already had a lot. And we had a lot because the Enlightenment arenas of markets, democracy, justice and science worked somewhat. And they work DIRECTLY in proportion to the degree that information and accountability flow. (The rightists who claim they are defending markets, while shutting down accountability, are the greatest hypocrites since Rasputin.)

No, I do NOT expect the masses to get this, in full intellectual detail. Hell, those folks at the ACLU blink in dull incomprehension when I tell them they are attacking the WRONG PARTS of the Patriot Act. The parts that let the govt see more? Who cares! Let our paid protectors see it all, fine with me. WE can't stop that anyway.

But we must demand, in return, that they strip naked! Let us know what they are doing. Answer to 3rd parties, inspectors and citizen watch teams. We $%$@! pay their salaries and have a right, a need, to know. To ensure that our watchdogs remain dogs, and not wolves.

Sneer at transparency, but it is the only thing that ever got us freedom and the only thing that has a chance in the century ahead.

Michael said...

Zorgon: As you have been told before, the way to fix your login is to login with your full email address as your username.

That does work. Really it does.

Zechariah said...

Logging on with my full email account worked for me.

And, as I recall, all our logins stopped working at roughly the same time. That leads one to suspect a common cause, and, correspondingly, a common cure.

Tony Fisk said...

Always assuming that Zorgon still has the email account he used to create his blog in the first place?

Off topic on another off-topic:

If the failure of iron seeded plankton blooms is getting you down, try our new, improved zeeolites!

The highly porous crystals also had what the researchers called "extraordinary capacity for storing CO2": one litre of the crystals could store about 83 litres of CO2.

(via Jamais)

(I recall these things were being touted as effective refrigerants as well at one stage)

Robert said...

I'd think that starting up fisheries in the middle of oceanic deserts would be reason enough to continue the "seeding" of oceans. Hell, it would torpedo one of the arguments the Japanese use for whaling: whales eat fish and other resources needed by the Japanese.

The problem with using carbon sequestration in the oceans however is that the carbon increases the acidity of the ocean. How long before it is acidic enough to dissolve the shells of many of the microscopic lifeforms needed for carbon sequestration (and for that matter, feeding the denizens of the ocean and us)?

The better bet would be to do carbon traps in underground regions... and improving the efficiency of automobiles (such as utilizing the waste heat of automobiles to power steam engines to increase the efficiency of our cars). There are fears that the Chinese and Indians entering into the automobile market will cause massive increases in pollution, but this will be lessened if we work now to improve the efficiency of automobiles and lessen the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the larger number of cars.

Carbon sequestration alone is not the answer. It is but one step of many that will revitalize the global economy and help stabilize the planet's climate.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Robert said...

Now we have rumors starting that the Clinton Campaign will go after Obama's pledged delegates to win the Democratic Primary. I'm not sure how much credence I place with an unnamed "high-ranking Clinton official, but it is interesting how this is polarizing people even more.

I have to wonder if it's just another unsubstantiated rumor by the people who hate the Clinton campaign. I mean, if Mrs. Clinton loses the primary popular election and the Superdelegates refuse to elect her for fear of dividing the party... yet she manages to pull off this particular hat-trick, then McCain will win, hands down, even if every single conservative refuses to vote for him. Either that, or people will be voting for pie rather than President.

My personal suspicion is that poaching of regular delegates won't happen unless we have a very tight election and the Superdelegates refuse to take sides (or split evenly and end up tying the results).

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Rob H.

Check out DailyKos.

The no poaching of pledged delegates has been stipulated.

Props to Brin!

sedicious said...

Bloomberg is still mulling a run as an independent. I think that would make it difficult for the two nominees to stipulate anything too controversial, because it could provide an opening for Bloomberg.

On the other hand, if they stipulate some popular stances that are usually off the table for institutional reasons, then it might shut down an argument that the parties are completely dysfunctional and not representing the people...

Michael said...

Transparency Watch: http://docs.law.gwu.edu/facweb/dsolove/Future-of-Reputation/text.htm

Zechariah said...

Oh! I saw this when it came out. It's free now? Awesome, that just might be in my price range.

Jester said...

Here's what happens if you even offer to meet and discuss terms for stipulation.

Senator Obama -

"If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election."

Sounds like he wants to have a meeting and hammer out details, neh?

Senator McCain-

"I made the commitment to the American people that if I were the nominee of my party, I would accept public financing," McCain said Friday in Oshkosh, Wis. "I expect Senator Obama to keep his word to the American people as well. This is all about a commitment that we made to the American people..."

So much for stipulating.

In regard to the saturday night speech, Senator Obama and Governor Patrick share a speech writter, David Axlerod. That's Axelrods line.

It was used with Governor Patricks permission, and on Sunday when the issue was first raised, he said within hours-

"Senator Obama and I are longtime friends and allies. We often share ideas about politics, policy and language. The argument in question, on the value of words in the public square, is one about which he and I have spoken frequently before. Given the recent attacks from Sen. Clinton, I applaud him responding in just the way he did."

Here are the actually quotes on which the charges are based.

Governor Patrick in 2006

"But her dismissive point, and I hear it a lot from her staff, is that all I have to offer is words - just words. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, [applause and cheers] that all men are created equal." [Sustained applause and cheers.] Just words – just words! "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Just words! "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Just words! "I have a dream." Just words"


Senator Obama, 2008

"Don't tell me words don't matter! "I have a dream." Just words. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Just words! "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Just words - just speeches!"

Obviously, it's the same "riff". Senator Clinton uses "I see an America where X number of children go to bed hungry" "I see an America where Y number of people can't afford to see a doctor when they're sick" which is Jimmy Carters trademark from 1976 with different numbers and slightly different wording.

I have a nagging feeling she didn't ask Carter first. But, you know, it's not plagerism in the acedemic sense, it's what the kids in junior high called "biting his lines".

David Brin said...

Alas, Solove’s “Future of Reputation” book was a big diasappointment. I don’t just say this because he misconstrues and mis-states my own position, numerous times, so blatantly that it proves he never read The Transparent Society ...

...I say it also because he does the same thing to several other people. Too bad. His anecdotes are interesting and more up to date than mine. His conclusions are essentially nostrums and non sequiturs.

Hillary Clinton has a lot of nerve, attacking Obama for victimizing a person who denies being victimized.

This was the CORE reason why millions of American women did NOT turn against Bill Clinton, during Monicagate! Including my wife. They looked in Hillary’s eyes, during the scandal, and saw her saying “This is private. Let ME handle it! I will punish Bill exactly as much as I choose. Now leave us alone.” Millions of women saw this, empathized and decided to leave BC’s punishment to her.

In contrast, Giuliani's wife said "please help me get this bastard!" and the only thing that saved him was 9/11.

The “victim” has some authority! And Gov Patrick has the authority to say “get bent!” to those accusing Obama of harming him.

ADDENDUM
The War on Amateurs continues. New York City is considering a law that would make it illegal to detect toxins without a permit. And it's not just devices to detect weaponized anthrax that they want the power to control, but those that detect everything from industrial pollutants to asbestos in shoddy apartments. Want to test for pollution in low-income neighborhoods with high rates of childhood asthma? Gotta ask the cops for permission. Why? So you "will not lead to excessive false alarms and unwarranted anxiety," the first draft of the law states. http://future.iftf.org/2008/01/use-a-sensor-go.html

I cannot overly emphasize how important this matter is -- and how critical a decision we face, at the very cusp of this moment in history. And how ironic! That this should happen in New York City, the one place where we were shown the glory of the coming Age of Amateurs in action, on September 11, 2001, the Day When The Professionals All Failed. The day when every single good and useful and effective measure that was taken -- to mitigate harm, to save lives, to fight back against our enemies -- was performed by vigorous and resilient citizens, armed with and empowered-by new, high-tech tools.

Way back in 2001, the empowering tool was primarily cell phones. But in future, we will all be equipped with a rich array of sensors and systems of “portable expertise” that will enable any of us, at any time, to serve as the eyes, ears and ready hands of a nation and civilization that cannot always afford to wait for “help to arrive.” Contrast the rapid effectiveness of citizen action on 9/11 to the dismal catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, when citizen-power was stymied, deliberately, at every turn.

Og course, I have been carrying on about all this for years. And commenting about the deep, almost visceral loathing that is displayed by those who do not want to see empowered citizenship, in the coming century. NYC Mayor Bloomberg is not alone, in seeking to forestall the rise of a knowing and far-seeing citizenry. Every week, it seems, there is a story of police officers arresting individuals who try to record their encounters with authority. Fortunately, nearly all of these cases are being thrown out and a growing body of case law is establishing the precedent. People have a right to look, to see, to record and remember. To know about things that matter. Things that might affect their lives, their liberty.
http://www.futurist.com/archives/society-and-culture/value-and-empowerment/

Tony Fisk said...

"But Falkenrath pressed on, saying that unless the police can determine who gets to look for nasty stuff floating in the air, the city would be paralyzed by fear. "

HA!

The 'city' consists of more than city officials.

(Would dat law cober doses, do you t'ink?)

Michael said...

More transparency watch! http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2007/12/anonymity_and_t_2.html

As for the ebook I linked earlier: I read the first chapter, decided his take was going to be very skewed and unconvincing to me, and stopped. But I felt the link should be shared.

David Brin said...

Keep on sharing stuff, Michael. Thanks.

Jester said...

Why do they keep trying this nonsense in NYC? A huge city with tens of thousands of commited activists who sniff it out and slam it every time?

Is it a "if we can make here, we can make anywhere" approach to trying to blind the public?

Can you imagine if they had tried to ban the Brownie when Kodak released it, claiming that only authorized people should have the right to photograph things as they happened, or else panic might ensue?

Do they think people have forgotten that FEMA lied about the air around ground zero?

Well, at least the enemies of progress tend to be on the low side of the bell curve.

Robert said...

Considering the 17 point lead Senator Obama achieved in Wisconsin and the 51 point landslide in Hawaii, I have to wonder what's going on in Senator Clinton's head right now. Barring someone shooting Obama or the discovery that he murdered someone as a young man, Obama is likely to take Texas and make Ohio a tight race. If he manages to actually sweep those two states as he did in Wisconsin, then the unsinkable Clinton Coalition will have been sunk by the Obama Iceberg.

I do have a suspicion as to why Clinton is struggling so hard to stop Obama: this is her one shot. If she can't gain the presidency now, she won't win in 2012 or 2016. How many Democratic runner-ups have gone on four to eight years later to win the Presidency? Barring of course being selected as the VP nominee, but considering the desperation that the Clinton Campaign has shown of late and her need to win at any cost (shown by floating the suggestion that even pledged delegates are up for grabs, a suggestion that is sounding more and more like it wasn't made up) added with her negative qualities (with some people motivated to vote against her at all costs) it is extremely unlikely Obama will saddle himself with Clinton as VP.

In the end, Clinton might find herself in the same shoes as Mike Huckabee, delegated to the role of a vocal thorn in Obama's side who has little actual chance at stopping his winning the Democratic Presidential Primary.

One other thing I think this election has done is diminish the effect of Super Tuesday. There was a time when Hawaii and Wisconsin wouldn't matter except as stepping stones on the way for the designated victor of Super Tuesday to gain the nomination. Now, however, states are seeing that having a primary after Super Tuesday can be a powerful thing... and perhaps more states might shift their primaries to be later in the year, diminishing the all-or-nothing power of Super Tuesday where name-recognition often trumps actual talent and charisma. This could in turn help reform the Presidential system to encourage people of talent to run rather than big-name political stars.

Hey, I can be a starry-eyed dreamer as well.

Rob H.

Gary S. Hurd said...

I always held a different interpretation of David's opening line, "It's been said that a politician gets to be perfectly honest just once in a long career -- at its end."

Perhapes I am a pessimist, but I think the end of a politician's career is brought on by being honest. The general public does not want honesty, and will reject anyone being "perfectly honest." Witness creationism.

The Guy said...

Bravo Mr. Brin!

An ode to open-mindedness. One of the most feared questions by any ideological zealot is "What if I am wrong?" Not so much an expression of self-doubt as taking responsibility for the consequences of being wrong, a willing awareness of what might come to pass if our certainty is proved incorrect by the course of events.

Every single one of us needs to keep our eyes open for opportunities to find common ground, as you suggest. How much more important must it be for those who would serve as our leaders?

'ian graeme' said...

A pleasure to know that you have an open blog, Dr. Brin, as I've been a long time fan and enjoyed many of your works, especially Earth.

I'd like to add something to the mix, if I may, and that is the de facto existence of political elites makes the proposal unworkable.

To argue that such elites do not exist, when their personal associations with purportedly non-governmental organizations (whose members repeatedly wind up in positions of power within government circles) are a matter of public record would be disingenuous. Since they belong to those same organizations, they would, perforce, have the same goals...which then makes a fiction of the 'two party system'. That in turn negates the concept you are proposing, for it would only be more window-dressing and Punch-and-Judy for those who have 'bought' into that fiction.

That such elites would strive to maintain their presence in the halls of power is a given. That they would employ means of limiting actual choices for candidates for the 'two' parties (a better description would be the 'one-and-a-half party' system, as exemplified by the Democratic Party's seeming inability to fulfill the voter's 'mandate' of ending the Iraq War, after playing a part in its' inception) would also be a given. The measure of the success of this policy is that those who have genuinely positive ideas for governance (that naturally challenge the status quo) are relegated to the 'unelectable' category.

In short, the 'stipulation' has already occurred...amongst that elite, and the present crop of 'front runners' are the result of that decision. Which we are supposed to believe are truly partisan, when they belong to the same club.

David Brin said...

Such cynicism is just as much a part of the decline of western civilization as any of the corruption that the cynic complains about, alas. I do not mean to insult, but it is just as much a symptom of romanticism (the crotchety Tolkien wing) as fizzy pollyanna optimism is. A plague on both versions!

Yes, 99% of post agricultural societies were ruled by conspiratorial clades of domineering elites. But the whole Enlightenment Project has been dedicated to developing systems that overcome these cynically rapacious, self-interested forces.

Fact, more than half of our millionaires and billionaires do NOT vest their fealty, foremost, in the interests of an elite caste. In fact, of the six billionaires I know, ALL of them are deeply worried about asymmetric power ruining a civilization that's been very good to them.

Yes, the other have of that caste has been very active and conniving and rapacious, in recent years. So? They are the bestial wing, unable to raise their feral eyes above instinct, to see the big picture. Our generation's job is to solve that problem. The same problem our fathers & mothers solved.

I'll not deny for a moment that power-players inevitably get dirty hands, get surrounded by sweetheart deals and naturally listen to flattering figures who happen to own yachts. One more reason to prefer plucking Obama ripe off the tree, before he's had a chance to rot in the barrel of power for too long.

Still, FDR was FDR. Indeed, the differences among elites can be surprising. Napolean, for example. A tyrant whenever the issue at hand was power at the national level. He demanded to be in charge and appointed kings.

BUT, take things two or three levels down and you found... a loyal champion of the French revolution! EVERYWHERE he went, the small farmers, the bourgeoisie, the guild workers, any male with a house of his own, became a citizen able to vote mayors in and out. Oh, sure, they had no influence at the state level, and lost their sons to his egotistical wars.

Nevertheless, this policy - siding with common folk against LOCAL bullies and barons -- was consistent, insistent, radical and apparently sincere. Boney was complex. And he proved the adage that the people can benefit, by siccing elites upon each other

Sorry, but screw cynicism. We who benefited from Franklin, Jefferson, Brandeis etc have a lot of nerve failing our own generation's test, by shrugging and saying nothing can be done. What if earlier generations had said the same thing?

Matt DeBlass said...

Amen Mr. Brin, screw cynicism.

By the way, did you see this article on the Wikileaks case from the NY Times? http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/us/20wiki.html?ref=technology

The reporters describe how even though the "front door" is shut, there are several other ways to access the site, and then, in the seventh paragraph, provide not one but four alternate routes, in the form of hyperlinks embedded in the article.

It's a beautiful thing.

Tony Fisk said...

'Ian', backroom deals have been going on since social groups evolved on the savannah.

David's stipulation proposal refers to the following principle: let's stop wasting time and effort arguing over the things we can broadly agree on, and argue about the things we don't.

It is a notion that is publicly acknowledged.

It is a notion that flies in the face of culture warmongers (which seem, from my reading of this article to be a tool for maintaining the status quo by paralysing decision making through 'lively, vigorous debate')

Are *all* the front-runners a product of the backroom?

Listening to Obama's Texas speech, he pointedly referred to lobby groups, stating they were not funding his campaign.

----
Going back to Zorgon's point
#4. intellectual prostitution was precisely the tactic used by big tobacco in the fifties to affect public opinion... and it didn't work!

----
Now for some cool stuff...

black hole horizon created in lab
(in a fibre optic fibre, to be precise. Technique uses two laser pulses of different wavelengths that travel at different speeds, the slower pulse is sent off first, and the second catches up. The rub is that things are so arranged that the passage of the first pulse adjusts the fibres's optical properties so that the second is forced to slow down and down, and never quite reaches the second pulse. Second pulse thus acts as an event horizon to the first)

Anonymous said...

"Those voters who would say "Both candidates are terrible, therefore I won't vote at all" about Obama vs McCain... or who would run to a livid, bilious 3rd party indignation festival... are the spoiled brats who have come nigh to ruining America. And I count among them the Naderites who triggered the Bush era."

I see a lot of wisdom in this article ... though when I read what I just quoted again above, I felt the need to defend the honor of those people, including myself, who voted for Ralph Nader.

In a free democracy, a person needs to vote for that candidate who most reflects their views, or else they are in some way dishonest with themselves.

For me, my preferred candidate was Mr. Nader.

I don't play politics or my vote as a 'game', trying to calculate who will win, or who else I could vote for where my one single vote could change an election, or whatever.

I vote for who I feel reflets my own ideals and my own experience.
===============================
Some people have called Mr. Nader a spoiler.

In reality, he was a reflection of the views of a significant part of the electorate.

Perhaps you should fault other candidates, whom he supposedly 'stole' votes from, for failing to represent the people who voted for him!

--Mojo the Mellow

David Brin said...

Mojo, I do not call your position dishonest or dishonorable. Of course there is a level and viewpoint from which you can defend that vote in 2000.

But I am equally right to deeply resent a failure of pragmatism in a society and an Enlightenment that is deeply based upon pragmatism.

(e.g. the pragmatism of deciding to stop wasting human talent, through the idiocy of racism.)

Our electoral system is deeply flawed. We must try to fix it with - among other things - preferential ballots that would have let you rank Nader 1st yet still slipped your vote to Gore as second choice.

But, given our situation, the place for Nader to have thrashed out his complaints would have been to run against Mr. Gore in the Democratic primaries. The pragmatic outcome of his run was to strengthen monsters and loons and empower them to grossly set back everything Nader claimed to be standing for.

Just because some of his positions happen (almost by accident) to be right, does not make Nader any less of an ego-drenched, monomaniacal, fundamentalist-ranting loon than the ones currently backing Huckabee today.

The personality is the same. Grouchy, anti-modern, guru-tyrannical, illogical, uncompromising and profoundly impractical.

That is why the community-organizing part of Obama's background cheers me more than his time as a senator. I pray he will be practical enough to choose the right people to complement his lacks.

Oh, this from the rumor wire. McCain's VP choice? Condoleeza Rice.

A zap to neutralize the whole racism/sexism thing. She's tough. And wholly-owned by the Cabal. And in case of McCain's (convenient) martyrdom would suddenly give us the most amazing looking final election line-up, ever.

Makes me shiver.

Rob said...

Condi is loyal, from everything I've read. Put her in charge and there is no way, from her record, to tell whether or not she'd pull a switcheroo.

I know it's a longshot... and it seems more likely that it's a puppet in the VP suites, but hey... benefit of the doubt here... just a tiny one.

David Brin said...

Any Secretary of State who presides over the steepest decline in American world popularity and influence in history must bear a steep burden of proof.

Want a list? I'll cite one item only: She has handed hundreds of millions -- make that billions -- in no-bid contracts to Halliburton and Blackwater, et al, citing an "emergency that she helped to completely manufacture out of a tissue of lies.

She destroyed Colin Powell, her mentor. She has lied almost every time I have ever seen her speak.

Wholly-owned. Top to bottom. The only question is whether all she's done, including destroying Pax Americana, was out of incompetence (driven by dogma and towering stupidity) or part of a deliberate program, worthy of a cheap thriller.

No one will follow me down that path. Still. The utter, utter consistency of this accomplishment -- missing no opportunity, ever, to do this republic devastating harm -- would seem to suggest a very, very simple answer.

Robert said...

There is a saying which I'm going to garble hopelessly no doubt: there is no limit to the bounds of human stupidity.

Conspiracies are impossible to keep up beyond three people (and even then it's almost ni-impossible). Human stupidity, on the other hand, along with greed and avarice, is boundless. There is no conspiracy here... just opportunism.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Zorgon,

Your mistake lies in thinking that the elite can buy intelligence. This may be possible in a third world setting, where the only way to make a good living is to work for the elite.

HOWEVER, in America, you can make a fine living on $50,000 (supporting a spouse, even) -- and with enough to save for retirement.

Sure, sure there will always be greedy smart people. But they aren't all greedy -- and the smart hackers, if they are greedy, would rather be working for themselves rather than helping a freeloader.

It is down to values, and judging by the open source/creative commons community, there is a very strong movement towards individual responsibility for creating a collective good.

And even if someone does work for the elites, that doesn't preclude them from working for the rest of us, in their free time.

As for Nader, may his blood turn to whiskey, so that a hundred bedbugs get drunk on it and dance the mazurka in his belly button. He is antiunion, supports antiunion organizations who regularly pay people significantly under minimum wage. I will not contribute to any cause that uses the PIRGs to raise money, and I will not ever vote for Nader. [can you tell I had a job working for a PIRG?]

Robert said...

Obama Presidential Campaign likened to a chess match: Dylan Loewe recently posted an article that looked at the Clinton and Obama campaigns and likened the Clinton campaign as a boxing match, compared to the calculated planned campaign Obama has put forth. I must admit to being rather surprised at first by the analogy (especially as I'm not a good chess player), but after taking a closer look at the campaign, I have to admit that there has been few incidents in the Obama campaign that have not been planned for, while the Clinton campaign seems quite reactionary (as in it reacts to events, though the campaign ideology is perhaps reactionary in nature as well).

I have to wonder if the Obama campaign is starting to work out possible scenarios in the general election as well and how much of the groundwork already established by the Obama campaign will be effective in the general election (whether in getting Obama elected or in assisting Clinton should she manage to prevail against all odds).

Small aside: any thoughts as to why Senator Clinton is remaining in the race rather than bow out gracefully now and plot a return in four to eight years? In many ways she's poisoning the political well for a future run. There is increasing ill will toward her and her husband, ill will that might fade with time and solid support behind Senator Obama. Unless of course the only reason she's still married to President Clinton is to ride on his coattails and she doesn't want to remain his wife any longer than absolutely necessary... but that's the cynic in me speaking.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

SUch cynical attacks on the Clinton marriage have been touted for close to 14 years, always predicting a breakup after this milestone, then the next one. Never, ever, has there been a scintilla of evidence put forward to support the calumny, just nastiness.

Spread by the GOP - the party of scandal, divorce, betrayal, affairs, buggering boys, more scandal, more divorce and betrayed wives.

It isn't just hypocrisy, it is towering delusion. An ability to ignore Blackwater, the scariest thing to happen to this nation since McCarthy... yet, to have screamed about "black helicopters" under Clinton, when none at all existed.

You are better than this, RobH.

As for conspiracies, a nostrum is no substitute for pondering Occam's Razor. When people who we are told are very smart engage in a series of hundreds of actions, ALL of which have an effect (destroying Pax Americana) that is consistent, relentless and continuous...


... shall we dismiss BY REFLEX any possible thought that these smart people might actually intend to do what they are doing?

As a matter of fact, history is filled with conspiracies. Tell your nostrum to Lenin. Tell it to Hitler & Roehm. Yes, our semi open society makes it hard to manage a conspiracy with large numbers of skilled people. The "Loose Change" 9/11 story is utterly psychotic.

But when all you need is a dozen or so top policy leaders, the thing is quite possible.

Robert said...

Yes, I admit I am better than that. Gut reflex I'm afraid, my apologies. Especially as it derailed my original point: why hasn't Senator Clinton bowed out gracefully while she still possesses the good will of the Democratic Party (by which I mean both the people and the politicians)?

I still refuse to buy the whole "conspiracy theory" (though if something big happens in the next six months which allows the Shrub to declare martial law and remain in office, I'll definitely reconsider) when simple opportunism is a far better explanation. The Shrub worked to enact legislation and contracts and the like to help out his constituents - not the Republican Party, but the money-base that got him hired in the first place. I don't see him deliberately working to destroy this country (though his military adventurism will help another group that undoubtedly backed him - the corporations that build so many of our weapon systems). Rather I see him taking every advantage he can while he still can. He's gotten what he wants. And he's lined the pockets of his buddies in doing so. No doubt the last thing he'll do is a series of blanket pardons to keep his backers from paying a price for their hijinks.

But conspiracy? I seriously doubt that.

Back to the Democratic Primary... another article talks about the different styles of campaigns with Senator Clinton building from the top down, and Senator Obama from the bottom up. It seems that technology is helping to shake up how the game of politics is played... and the lobbyists and big money corporations may see their power-base slip away. Senator Obama has gained his donations and backing from the people, not the Corporations. If other politicians follow suit... then we may very well see representational democracy return, wrestled away from the power of the Corporate Oligarchy. And this genie is loose. The Corporations can't stuff it back into its bottle, not without changing campaign law to deny donations from citizens and only allow corporations and big money to do donations... and do you honestly think the American people would accept such a blatant power grab?

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Rob H:

Why won't Clinton leave the primary before the convention? It's simple, really -- the people she paid to run her campaign (the best money could buy) won't let her. I disagree with you, people won't hate Clinton after this -- unless she does something colossally stupid. Clinton will still have her Senate seat, she won't want for anything. Carville, and all the other top advisors she bought? They're in a do or die state, not Clinton herself. But they've done a lot for her, and she'll stick by them.

Clintons do like loyalty, even if they are better about finding competence than Bush.

Oh, and as to the Clinton marriage? I don't think they've been in love for a long time now -- but I think they're platonically in love. Bill and Hillary are best friends, and that's a better reason for staying married than most marriages have gotten (since most were arranged, it's no wonder!).

Jester said...

The Obama campaign is what happens when you combine the new model, internet connected community organizers and venture capitol, with the old model of investment.

Why can't Clinton poach his base, while he poaches hers? His base has donated. Nearly 1 million people have engaged in bottom up micro-lending, and with their cash laid down, nothing short of dead girl or a live boy is going to get them to abandon their investment.

Sometimes, us door knocking literature hanging phone dialers are called cultists. We're investors.

Like all politicians, Senator Obama will owe his investors...but they aren't PACs or Lobbyists. They're americans of all walks of life, of both parties and none, of all ages, ethnicities, and religions.

It's something that the old model can't understand, because they haven't watched a Muslim Pakistani family, a Hindi Indian family, and a Sikh family in a campaign office drinking tea and talking together about the best role America can play in bringing real and lasting peace between India and Pakistan.

Personally, I've read my Kipling, and I'm pretty sure Senator Obama has as well. Much of what America is, our ideas of fealty being a two way street, our belief in a right to resist unjust governance, the belief in the right to bear arms, our belief in trial by jury, our belief in the right to petion our government for redress of grievances...comes from the Saxons.

With a few exceptions, the Bill of Rights could read "The rights of a Saxon freeholder".

'My son,' said the Norman Baron,
'I am dying, and you will be heir
To all the broad acres in England
that William gave me for my share
When we conquered the Saxon at Hastings,
and a nice little handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it
I want you to understand this:

'The Saxon is not like us Normans.
His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious
till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow
with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, "This isn't fair dealing,"
my son, leave the Saxon alone.

'You can horsewhip your Gascony archers,
or torture your Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon;
you'll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county
to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets,
and, if you are wise, you will yield.

'But first you must master their language,
their dialect, proverbs and songs.
Don't trust any clerk to interpret
when they come with the tale of their wrongs.
Let them know that you know what they're saying;
let them feel that you know what to say.
Yes, even when you want to go hunting,
hear 'em out if it takes you all day.

'They'll drink every hour of the daylight
and poach every hour of the dark.
It's the sport not the rabbits they're after
(we've plenty of game in the park).
Don't hang them or cut off their fingers.
That's wasteful as well as unkind,
For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher
makes the best man-at-arms you can find.

'Appear with your wife and the children
at their weddings and funerals and feasts.
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops;
be good to all poor parish priests.
Say "we," "us," and "ours" when you're talking,
instead of "you fellows" and "I."
Don't ride over seeds; keep your temper;
and never you tell 'em a lie!'


If he hasn't read it, at least he gets it.

Jester said...

Dr. Brin, do you mind if I post the direct link to the Obama for President donation page?

David Brin said...

Jester, what a great break for some Kipling! And go ahead and post the direct link below.

Rob, only a real adult is able to laugh at his own excesses. Hokay.

Still, you really are exaggerating the ill will among democrats, right now, an image foisted by Fox et al. Sure, they may harbor a little hot blood. But 90% of every Hill-Ob speech is aimed at THEM. And dig it, every state that has a vigorous primary or caucus results in TWO vast organizations of volunteers that will combine in the general election. Hillary had better accept her thousand patronage slots. Right now, those slots are the key reason she's still got a campaign staff.

-----
I don't see weapons-makers as the great-ivil forces behind Bush. Boeing and Lockheed etc could have made just as much money by keeping our forces overwhelmingly invincible, as they are now making by re-supplying a dwindling and half-ruined Army. But the logistics contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater... these guys are raking in billions on crony-no-bid-e"emergency" contracts that only exist because of the false and treasonous decisions to plunge America into a repetition of Vietnam. Dems need to parse this distinction, or they look foolish.

And, behind those logistics contractors stands a force that has benefited even more. From skyrocketing oil prices.

So. Where do you draw the line re "conspiracy"? Lets lay it out:

Two major policies, relentlessly pursued -- a Vietnam quagmire plus a hyped-up, panic-the-public-terror-state-of-"emergency."

Two undeniable results. Vast floods of lucre into the pockets of Bushite friends... and destruction of everything that made Pax Americana:
our alliances, fiscal and social health, reputation for honor, reputation for invincibility, military readiness etc.

What theories try to account for this?

1) The theory that we are seeing "utter-sincerity combined with staggering and perfect incompetence": They actually believe every word they've said. Combined dogmatism, blinkered adamant-stubbornness and stupidity account for the fact that no consistently applied Bush policy has ever unambiguously done the United States any good, whatsoever.

2) The opposite extreme, the "manchurian theory": What you see is what you get. Men smart enough to manage the Neocon revolution, seize power, manipulate public opinion and all that just might be smart in other ways, too! In which case, the utterly perfect correlation between their actions and a deeply-harmed America may be more than accidental.

3) The "its only venality" theory: Yes, this is a Great Kleptocratic Raid. The US Army is being destroyed while logistics contractors rake in billions and oil prices sent skyward benefit other friends-of-W. But that's all there is to it. Money. The destruction of our military, America's finances, society, confidence and world leadership are incidental. A case of smart thieves being too stupid not to kill the goose who lays golden eggs.

Sure, number three is the new Standard Model, now that number one has become completely and laughably untenable. Still, think about it. Both numbers two and three involve "conspiracies!" So, isn't it simpler to ponder that the men who are swinging an axe at the goose's neck actually mean to do so?

---
re the Obama success at small-scale fundraising, dig this, he probably will
bring into office the shortest list of political IOUs
of any president since Eisenhower, possibly Teddy Roosevelt. One advantage of taking in a young feller. Though yes, I feel a twinge of risk.

--
I once saw the Clintons, during a moment when I believe I was the ONLY person watching them... through some bleacher-seats as he was about to come on stage with his saxophone. She nuzzled him with very clear affection. Yes, that was long ago. But I weigh that first-hand evidence over every nasty and utterly-baseless attack on them, from the gopper Party of Immorality, Hypocrisy and Divorce.

Robert said...

To be honest, I don't laugh at my prejudices. I dislike them. I consider myself better than that. My dislike for the Clintons is personal and instinctive, and I trust my instincts. But there are times you need to move beyond instinct.

Indeed, much of prejudice is based on instinct. It is a group mentality that is perhaps a part of the pack instinct we started out as before we evolved into humanity. Other groups are competition for resources and thus need to be driven out. Thus people who are not a part of our "group" becomes the "enemy" and needs to be pushed away. As an animalistic instinct to try and maximize survival, it works. As an aspect of civilized society, it doesn't.

I cringe whenever I see prejudice in my family (and it's there). I work hard to destroy prejudice in myself. My dislike for the Clintons is (as I said in the past) irrational and not based on anything that they did personally to me. As such, they do not deserve my ill will.

And I hope I'm an adult, though I've seen teenagers twenty years younger than I who act far more mature than I... and I've seen retirees thirty years older than I who behave like they're fresh out of high school.

As for why I don't see the Bush Presidency as a conspiracy... it's because I believe the Shrub is working on his own. He is repaying the people who got him into office, but he's not dancing to someone else's tune. He's an idiot... but an idiot in power. If he had been a part of a larger conspiracy, then this presidency would have been far less destructive and his VP would be currently be waging a successful presidential campaign while they slowly erode away our rights until we wake up one day and have none.

This is entirely too botched to be a conspiracy. No, the Shrub himself is the head of this game, and only through the inadequacy of the Democratic party to put forth someone worth electing in 2004 and the American people's fear and apathy kept him in power as long as it did.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rob, I appreciate your sincere & intelligent response.

Still I do think we are talking past each other over what I mean by conspiracy. You say that the outrageous amount of harm done by the Bushites proves incompetence. And I say you are not stretching your imagination enough.

In the "manchurian" scenario... the harm IS the goal of the conspiracy.

I am not offended that so many of my fellow enlightenment citizens are reluctant to plunge along with me, into thriller-plot paranoia. Hey, I am paid to have that part of the brain!

But I AM deeply chafed that the other group of paid paranoids, the professionals of the FBI and CIA, seem incapable of stretching their imaginations around a perfectly testable -- and plausible -- parsimonious explanation for what we have seen. A very real and palpable and possibly staged decline of the west..

Jester said...

Actually, turns out just going to www.barackobama.com is easiest. The shortcut is right there.

Second, a terrific KOS diary comparing Senator Obama and Senator Clintons records in the Senate. Objective, fair, and not full of the nasty, written by a former Clinton Supporter who recently crossed over.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/2/20/201332/807/36/458633

I think it's clear that Bill and Hillary are at a minimum very, very fond of each other. At the same time, I think that they made an agreement in the 90's that she would get the chance to accomplish everything she wanted to get done in Bill's term, but were unable to do because of the scandals.

I think she's been looking forward to this chance to "do it right the second time" for about a decade. I think it's very hard for her to let go of that idea of "one more chance". I think she feels she's earned it, for a lot of reasons.

She really would make a decent Supreme Court Justice, and there is little doubt that there will be spots open in the next four years. I don't know if it's possible, but it would be a good idea.

If she refrains from damaging the parties hopes in November, and bows out with grace after she fails to secure a lead on March 4th, we'll know who's been right about her. It's going to be one of those telling momments.

Lastly, sorry for being a bit of a one topic participant lately.

Jester said...

Grrr. It cut off half the link on the KOS diary.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/2/20/201332/807/36/458633

Extremely well written.

Jester said...

ARRRGHH!!!!

http://www.dailykos.com/story/

2008/2/20/201332/807/36/458633

Robert said...

It is perhaps easier to do these long links using the "a href" HTML tag.

Daily Kos link

Then again, I'm one of those people who used to code webpages using notepad, so I'm used to the code. Sadly, CSS has kind of made my coding skills obsolete (what little skill I had).

Rob H.

NoOne said...

Ever so often, David veers off into paranoia: "A very real and palpable and possibly staged decline of the west.."

How may I ask can any cabal pull this off? Isn't it much more likely that the "decline" is self-organized. A lot of factors coming together - American cowboyish unilateralism, fundie preoccupation with the year 2000, the rise of the BRIC bloc (including China and India), shallowness of American education created by 50 years of soft empire, the spread and spread of a military industrial complex, over-reliance on big oil - have all contributed to our present state. Why do you need a conspiracy when you have so many other factors coming together?

David Brin said...

Yes, noone, you state the standard model nicely. And I think it's 55% likely to be trure...

...even though it begs an astonishingly HUGE list of fantastic coincidences. That EVERY major or consistent policy of a noxious alliance of "leaders" should have somehow never, ever, even-by-accident, turned out to be beneficial to the USA.

But mind you, I am not only paid to think up entertaining paranoid plots... I am also a contrarian, and it frustrates me that the reflex is so universal, so automatic, so predictable, that not one smart person I know will even try the parsimonious theory on for size!

I find this especially disturbing because there are people we pay to be paranoid about treason, subornation, and other potential dark scenarios. It is their job to run test protocols, seek out systematic or suspicious patterns of correlations, follow money/benefit trails and investigate the plausible-though-unlikely failure modes that might hint at enemy action.

And if they all think like you, then they simply have slept at the switch for the last 7 years.

I assure you, the other side doesn't think that way! All through the Clinton years, we were treated to a never-ending series of paranoid rants, based on zero evidence.

And yet, here we have copious, if circumstantial, correlations of thousands of deliberate decisions with a relentlessly monotonic series of outrageous harms... but liberals and moderates are unable to even entertain the logical conclusion, even as a lesser or less-plausible theory to keep an eye-on!

People who hate the Bushites... yet cannot bring themselves to envision that the evil might be deliberate... wow. Now how unlikely is THAT?

Robert said...

Well, to be honest I never thought that President Clinton was an enemy agent who managed to weasel his way into the Presidency to bring the country down from within. I might dislike the man, sure. But I never thought him more than a smarmy and arrogant git who couldn't keep it in his pants.

I hate the Shrub because our mini-Bush managed to create a presidency far worse than the worse excesses of the Clinton years. But all I really saw it was an echo to the John Quincy Adams presidency that wasn't exactly among the best of the early presidencies.

However, it could very well be that the reason the CIA and FBI hasn't said anything about the Shrub being a plant (sorry, had to say it) is because they already investigated his ties and found there was no conspiracy. Or at least, there was no foreign conspiracy, and the Shrub was in fact acting on his own.

Nor could they just get rid of the Shrub through aggressive administrative change (ie, assassination) because the alternative was Cheney... who would be far worse than the Shrub. In this case, the Shrub actually picked a VP who was designed to keep him alive because no one would want the VP to take control.

This possibility is in and of itself equally far-fetched, but hey, I'm a writer as well and am well-versed in rather imaginative variations on the existing world sociopolitical reality.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Yes, I concede the possibility that the professionals have seen the coincidences and suspicious consistencies and benefit-trails that I see... and that they perhaps have already done their jobs and investigated, fulfilling all protocols and going the extra mile, to be sure. They do NOT have to show and tell everything to a crackpot sci fi writier. Even one with some contacts in the Community.

But of what use am I, if not as a nag? ;-) If I am wrong about everything, all I've done is add to the noise.

But if I am right, and they have let us down, then they must share the blame.

Nobody (BTW) is asking for them to perform illegal or anti-Constitutional acts, if the aroma of coincidence leads to evidence and proof of treason at the top. Indeed, in SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, the lesson is that there are some things the American people may be better off not-knowing. (As "Mr. Transparency" I object! But I also am a pragmatist.)

Nevertheless, the professionals would be able to cauterize the damage-wreaking process. Isolate the harm-doers. Threaten them into refraining from further harm and into cooperating in the demolition of their network.

This is not unimaginable. Anyone who thinks that Bush willingly appointed Admiral Mike Mullen as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs should have his head examined! That was a blatant case of the entire military -- or at least a hundred top flag officers -- threatening mass resignations if it didn't happen.

The crucial importance of the professionals cannot be overstated. You and I cannot solve this -- whether the treason has been deliberate or perpetrated through mind-boggling incompetence. We have hired people for the task. And now come the critical months when they must earn their pay, at last.

If a "terror strike" just happens to occur between now and inauguration day, it will be time for us to (quoting from Time Bandits) "have some new generals, for a while."

Jester said...

"You know, whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends."

From Senator Clintons closing remarks tonight. I think she just might pass that test and become a serious party heavyweight and Elder Stateswoman.

Anonymous said...

I just have to say, I found it hilarious that in Orson Scott Card's latest essay he openly calls what is going on "The war against Islam."

Wow. Not even Bush is claiming that. The man is certifiably batshit insane; he's continuously parroting the "If we pull out of Iraq/Vietnam then it will lead to World War Three" line that Nixon kept spewing.

No offense David, but how can you find it amusing that you have fans in common with him? It's like having fans in common with Father Coughlin.

I mean really.

Jon Roth

David Brin said...

I have been bemused by that fact for decades. It certainly irritated the hell out of Scott, long before it did me.

(Thick-as-a-stone, I didn't realize we weren't pals till about the tenth time 3rd party gossip told me about OSC savagings, behind my back. Sigh.)

An odd fellow (which to a contrarian like me, actually makes him interesting!) Who preached "secular-humanist revival meetings, then promoted guru power relationships. Who relentlessly portrays Lucas-style demigods as the rightful rulers-over-mankind...

...then fills these god-characters with so much responsibility-angst that they never enjoy it! Wringing their hands in tormented regret as they put the thumb down, imposing their will on the dull, sheeplike multitudes, saying "This will hurt me more than it will hurt all of you....ow!"

If we ever are taken over by some demigod, I hope instead of a Yoda or Neo or Mahdi type, it will be an OS Card character, because at least then he won't enjoy it.

Still, it all saddens me. He had some makings of a pretty cool guy.

Jester said...

Dr. Brin and OSC broke at just the time when pimply faced Xers were running out of Heinlein and Asimov and Niven and Herbert to read.

Not that there weren't other folks around writing good Sci-Fi (more fantasy with a sci-fi flavor in OSC's case) but they were the two breakouts of the early-mid eighties.

It's no suprise, considering that, that they share a lot fans.

'ian graeme' said...

(Muttering) Shows how long I've been out of the genre that I hadn't known of a rivalry.

A pity; I also greatly enjoyed Ender's Game when it first came out in Analog many years ago, and re-read the book and most of the subsequent series in the 1990's. I found the book everywhere at the Montgomery County, Maryland school board headquarters building where I worked as a computer tech in 1999; considered a means of 'understanding gifted children' was the explanation...a summation which I greatly agreed with. But Mr. Card's political leanings came as a surprise to me.

Speaking of education, NoOne's remark:

"...shallowness of American education created by 50 years of soft empire..."

struck a nerve of sorts. Having briefly worked in the brain of the beast (I left after 6 months of steadily increasing frustration at what I was witnessing when I visited the schools to work on their machines) after having been shat out of its guts (a.k.a 'graduated high school') decades before, I could not help but make the corollary between quality of public education and the quality of our political leadership. Namely, the the poor quality of the former seemed to insure the exponentially worse quality of the latter.

Not possessing a mind that reacted well to conventional rote teaching methods, I became something of an autodidact in public school. I unknowingly followed Frank Zappa's injunction to cut many classes and maintained just enough of an average to remain off the 'corrective' radar...while spending every moment possible in the library, reading everything I could get my hands on regarding subjects that interested me, because the public school system I was a part of even back then (1960's-1976) seemed intent only upon 'teaching the test' that was administered at the very beginning and end of the school years; to this day, I still recall that one of the questions was what disease can you get from eating uncooked pork (trichinosis). On the order of trivia compared to such subjects as hard science.

I felt that I had been placed in a cage, like a lab rat, and forced to run a maze for my 'betters' amusement. But, 'die gedanken sind frei'; they didn't dull all my gray matters. I still have a paltry few left.

So, what's my point? Simply this: the kind of environment that public school fosters does not value intense querying of accepted knowledge, but demands rote ingesting of it. Hardly original, but bear with me.

That this would benefit someone would be the first rationale. That that 'someone' would not be the students, themselves, became the suspicion, even back then. So I began to look into the origins of the philosophies forming the foundations of public schooling in the US...and many years later, came across this.

That the progenitors of modern American public education had such plans concerning the futures of their charges - and their future role in society, and what shape that society would take as a result - was not that much of a surprise to me; rats in a maze, remember? That they would be so open about it was. And that they would also appear to belong to that Robber Baron-descended elite, who were their patrons, was equally so. Look here for the roots of that 'decline of the West' some here are concerned about.

In short, it's "Enlightenment for me...but not for thee"

Robert said...

So, moving on to conspiracy theories... is the New York Times trying to help Senator McCain with their news article? The New York Times earlier endorsed Senator McCain. Next they run a news article that focused on unsubstantiated allegations of an illicit relationship with a Lobbyist rather than the potential impropriety of favorism which has polarized the conservative base behind Senator McCain with his attacks on the NYT concerning the inappropriateness of the article. Add to this the fact that even Left-swinging bloggers have turned against the NYT's article and most of them are ignoring the potential allegations of favoritism of Lobbyists by Senator McCain... and this "embarrassing" article looks to have done everything to help the Senator.

In addition, the NYT sat on the article for a couple months. Back two or three months ago, it might have made a difference. Now? It's only united the Republican party behind McCain, and shut off a potential line of attack against his credibility (favoritism toward Lobbyists) from Democrats.

Of course, if this was a conspiracy, then it's along the lines of a Xanatos gambit. Still, it's odd how suddenly all the conservatives (including Rush Limbaugh) are behind Senator McCain in attacking the NYT... and from there, why not just back Senator McCain?

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Ian’s tale is moving and well-written. I think we’ve all been there and approve of his struggle for independent thinking. It is the sort of instinct that makes a guy drift - eventually - into this community. Also, any fan of Frank Zappa is, well, a fan of the same guy I’m a fan of. ;-)

Nevertheless, the “yes, but...” contrarianism you’ll get here has a response, Ian. And that’s for you to not only see the forest for the trees, but the gaps between the trees. You are as much a product of anti-conformist messages as you are of conformist ones. Frank Zappa being a big example! Suspicion of authority and individualist messages pervade mass media, art, rock, books, even basic aphorisms like the “early bird...” In Anglic culture, that bird gets the worm. In the Chinese version it “gets its head chopped off.”

In fact, every year, the Education Ministries in China, India, Japan, send out hundred of minions to retrain teachers (or try to) to teach “in a more American fashion.” If you think US schools “teach to the test” you’d be surprised and shocked how much MORE they do so, in most other countries. Of course, “No Child Left Behind” has the central goal of making our schools more like Chinese ones.

Robert, I haven’t a clue why those dingbats at the NY Times haven’t learned from the Dan Rather episode, to watch out for Karl Rove’s nasty little gotcha traps. These things are tediously predictable, and see what happened? It’s a sudden excuse for the Limbaughs to do one of their patented veers and suddenly leap to McC’s defense.

Obama et al should leap on this and say: “Scurrilous, unproved personal attacks, based on rumor and sexual innuendo, are sure indicators of small and silly minds. Especially when made by people who should never cast the first stone. That kind of vicious distraction-politics was vile in the nineties and it is vile today.”

Robert said...

Here's a small question to ponder. Is the creation of a National DNA database a good or bad thing?

On the plus side, in theory it could be used to capture criminals who leave DNA evidence at crime scenes and possibly result in a reduction in crime through a combination of increased efficiency and increased realization by criminals they're more likely to be caught and put on trial. It would also allow for greater ease in identifying bodies and John/Jane Doe situations where the person has no identification on them when found (either alive or dead).

On the minus side... oh, where shall I begin? In theory it's possible to "plant" DNA evidence, especially once 3-dimensional ink-jet printers become more accurate. Thus cops could illegally create evidence to nab the person they want to get. Also in theory a DNA database could be used by insurance companies and the like to determine if someone is at risk for various diseases and then refuse to provide them with insurance benefits. Work places could likewise refuse to hire someone due to medical possibilities. And there is always concerns it is a violation of civil liberties.

Thoughts?

Rob H.

David Brin said...

1) see the movie GATTACA... one of the very few Sci Fi films made entirely for adults

2) The planting of evidence aspect is creepy. It suggests that PARTS of the genome should be used for the database and parts excluded!

I hadn't thought of that. But the FBI should pick a couple of chromosomes and be barred from the others! Think, at a crime scene there will be whole cells left by perpetrators. So teasing out the telltale chromosomal genes would be no problem. But a crooked cop trying to use the database to plant evidence would have ONLY the recorded portions...

...oh, but that just takes him back to sneaking around stealing real samples from the guy he wants to frame. Still highly possible.

Woozle said...

Re the DNA framing scenario (good catch!), the obvious solution that comes to mind is to have the key identifying parts of each person's genome one-way encrypted -- the same way passwords are on most software systems -- so you can't get the information from the data, but can only confirm whether there's a match. (The risk remains, of course, of planting genuine samples at the scene of the crime. Much as in days of old, people may need to start guarding their hair- and fingernail-clippings, only this time not in fear of witchcraft...)

On the NYT/McCain thing -- I had a brief exchange on this topic with some folks on a right-wing blog; one of the points raised by the opposition was:

For what it’s worth, though, I can’t recall any instance of a Republican President getting involved in a sex scandal. The Democrats seem to have a monopoly on that particular area… Clinton, Kennedy, Hart (he was just a candidate, of course), etc.

Meanwhile, we have Dr.B saying "the GOP - the party of scandal, divorce, betrayal, affairs, buggering boys, more scandal, more divorce and betrayed wives." -- which was more the impression I had gotten, i.e. that the GOP manages to make a Really Big Deal out of a run-of-the-mill extramarital affair (or rumor of same), while their own people deviate far more frequently (and abusively!) from the very standards of which they promote themselves as the guardians.

But... does anyone have a list, anywhere?

(Should I get into the 9/11 thing? Or has that been hashed to death already?)

Hawker Historian said...

For Presidential Sex Scandels...
In the past century, there have only been three presidents not linked to a 'woman not thier wife'.
Harry Truman.
Richard Nixon.
Jimmy Carter.
(The joke goes "Harry prefered poker, Jimmy only lusted in his heart, and Nixon was too busy screwing the country to screw around on his wife")

The difference isn't what happened (Men chase women) but that someone decided to make a big deal out of Bill Clinton doing it, but not Bush Sr., Reagan, Ford, Nixon, LBJ, Kennedy, Ike, FDR, Hoover, Harding, Wilson, Taft, Teddy (missed one...).

Kelsey Gower said...

"I once saw the Clintons, during a moment when I believe I was the ONLY person watching them... through some bleacher-seats as he was about to come on stage with his saxophone. She nuzzled him with very clear affection."

David, I remember you mentioning that you saw them having an intimate moment together awhile ago. But you were unclear about what you saw back then. Thanks for sharing that. I believe you.

To be honest, like Robert my gut instincts tell me to distrust Clinton. However, I was raised in a Republican household, and the jokes made about the Clintons and their marriage have sickened me to the point where I have been actively looking for reasons to defend her. You've given me plenty, and I've been able to use your arguments with my family. Thanks for that.

One thing I've noticed about the Clintons: They really do work together as a team, and they have shared hardships together. I know a lot of people view this negatively, especially when Bill Clinton is taking such an active role in campaigning. However, neither one of them could have gotten nearly as far as they have in politics if their relationship wasn't strong.

And about Obama. I know there's a risk in electing him. But allow me to reference a good president. He was a good speaker, he was charming. He ran on a platform of change. People were nervous about his supposed lack of experience and judgment. But he was elected, and he led this country in a new direction. He probably had the least corrupt administration of the entire 20th century.

And dig this: This president was the exact same age as Obama when he assumed office in 1993.

David Brin said...

Sure, let’s start a list of GOP marital/sexual crimes. It ought to be available online. But I’ll be posting a new blog soon, so wait a bit. I do recal that HALF of the “House Managers” - the gop members chosen to prosecute Clinton’s impeachment trial -- had had messy divorces. Oh, and before Reagan or Bush are held up as icons of virtue, ask if it is permissible to delve into their pasts. If not... if all is forgiven... then why just one way?

Kelsey, let me tell you what MY unpleasant suspicion is, about Hillary. She seems determined to justify her life. And yes, it’s totally human and yes this will stick in her throat. But dang, how many women get to be senator? How many people? Anyway, even if this is only a minority part of her psychology, I don’t need my country to be anyone’s vehicle for fulfillment.

Oh, I am being unfair. Nixon was far more psychologically, well, yknow. In fact, W is on a perpetual “out-do daddy” trip. Only Ike and Truman seemed not to be on some kind of justification trip. And Carter -- though he was a terminal dad type and chided us too much for staying out late. Oh, forget it. If she’s the nominee I’ll fight for her. For the sake of the appointments.

Yes, re Obama... though a governor has a LOT more experience simply running an administration. Frankly, Obama ought to appoint Bill Clinton as his chief or staff -- on a trial basis, making sure he knows his place. (Of course it wouldn’t look good.)

Woozle said...

Reading the last few comments, I've been thinking that I'd really like to have a better understanding of the GOP hatred for the Clintons (especially Hillary).

So, yeah, Bill came across as a bit of a used-car salesman. Aren't republicans generally in favor of "middle american" quasi-redneck types, especially if they own a business (the more profitable, the better)?

My theory, which I dislike because it seems too simple, is that republicans are basically sheep who like to be told what to think -- which leaves the door open for cheesy insubstantial attacks, like the ones on Bill's illicit affairs, to have a real impact. People more on the democratic side of the field tend to be more open-minded and skeptical (two sides of the same coin) and thereby less swayed by such cheap rhetoric.

So what republicans think, in general, is centrally-controlled -- and that brain trust took extreme exception to Bill's anti-secrecy measures. (Witness their hearty embrace of the worse-than-opposite Bush Jr. administration.) So they pressed the "hate" button extra-hard for him, resulting in Exhibit A (GOP hatred for Clintons).

Looking for holes to be poked in that theory... and looking forward to more data on presidential "affair" scandals.

Jester said...

I think it's always a dire mistake to label the other side (Republicans are in some senses the "other side" to me) without recognizing both camps are full of such folks.

There are plenty of Democrats convinced that Obama did something that can justly be called plagerism, because their choosen leader told them so. There are plenty of Democrats convinced that Clinton is the anti-christ, because Chomsky told them so.

_____________

I think the Clintons are comming to terms with their loss. Bill said the other day that if they don't win big in TX and OH it's over.

I don't think Wolfson and Penn are on the same page with them. These guys make millions every campaign season, and failing to secure the nomination for Senator Clinton isn't exactly a great advertisement for their services.

Thursday night, while Senator Clinton was still in the Debate hall signing her book and shaking hands, Wolfson released a statement that her ending remarks and refusal to discuss the SuperDelegate issue were in no way a hint that she would accept a pledged delegate victory by Obama, and that this was in fact another New Hampshire moment which would assure victory on March 4th.

Obviously, there was no way he could have cleared this press release with her.

Their paid management is willing to destroy the Democratic Party to gain the nomination, but I don't think the Clintons are.
____________________

Dr.Brin, you've sat on murder boards, right?

A serious question, although I know it's a very different context.

If one sentence of a dissertation very closely resembeled one sentence of a published work, but the dissertation was unique in all other regards, would that be written off under the "a thousand monkeys banging on thousand typewriters" concept, or would a charge of plagerism stick?

David Brin said...

Woozle's remark leads right into the link I'll soon post about Haidt's study of lib/conservative thinking.

I've reviewed papers (murder boards?) I am not one to penalize a cribbed sentence here and there... unless it is a central aphorism around which the author intends to make a creative point.

David cameron said...

Did you Check the DailyKos recent time? You will find some clear view over there. All we see in front are eye wash.