Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The “October Surprise” Bush Doesn’t Want... plus Preparing the Next Big Scam.

’A WHISTLEBLOWER has made a series of extraordinary claims about how corrupt U.S. government officials allowed Pakistan and other states to steal nuclear weapons secrets.... Sibel Edmonds, a 37-year-old former Turkish language translator for the FBI, listened into hundreds of sensitive intercepted conversations while based at the agency’s Washington field office. Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.... She claims that the FBI was also gathering evidence against senior Pentagon officials – including household names – who were aiding foreign agents.”

These excerpts from an online article in the Times (London), suggest that the FBI may have been both investigating and sitting on a scandal of treason and corruption, of unprecedented magnitude. Of course, there would be vast repercussions - both diplomatic and political - if these allegations proved out in public. One can certainly imagine those repercussions standing large, in the minds of officials who must decide whether to reveal and/or prosecute. Alas, every conceivable rationalization for “discretion” falls apart:

--- Political appointees - and politically-connected civil servants - are highly motivated to make these rationalizations. They should recuse themselves, or face a steep burden of suspicion.

--- “The damage” (to international relations and public morale) “would be devastating” is a cop-out of titanic proportions. Both the world and our people showed great resiliency in past crises, even scandals like Watergate. In any event, openness is our national covenant. Despite the natural tendency of professionals to look down upon the masses, our wager has always been placed upon the people, and it has always proved justified.

--- Professionals tend to assume that what they see of the iceberg is all there is. But this assumption is always -- always -- proved wrong. Revealing and prosecuting will force traitors and corrupt officials to squeal on fellow rats. Whistle-blower rewards draw out more whistle-blowers.

--- The story suggests that some of the malignant behavior preceded 2001. If so, then perhaps, at last, there will be a smoking gun pointing to some Clinton Administration officials (not one of whom was ever even indicted for job related offenses.) In which case, an evenhanded housecleaning should purge the Democratic establishment of bad elements, as well.

--- Would revelations be “interfering in an electoral year?” What a rationalization. If anything, NOT revealing information that the voters need would be far more politically suspicious

--- When all is finally revealed, the early revealers will be heroes, while a presumption of complicity will fall upon those who delayed and obstructed. If there are agents who have solid evidence in hand, where does their duty lie? To their careers? Or to the nation?

For years, I have been urging that the professionals stand up. They were hired (and swore oaths) to protect us against enemies, both foreign and domestic. And, even if there is no “manchurian” scenario going on, there is more than enough reason to know, firmly, that our pros have failed to protect our nation, our society, our people, from the worst, most -piratical and least honorable clade ever to gain high influence in America. It is time to turn this around. I hope and trust some of them will.

There is a final rationalization for avoiding the kind of major scandal that we are talking about. Some of our top justice officials may tell themselves that the Bushites are almost out of power, and so, why put their backs against the wall, possibly driving them to desperate measures? Such as an “October Surprise” aimed at distracting public outrage. Why not just let Bush issue his Pardon Tsunami* upon leaving office, and get all this behind us? Yes, we’re in “thriller plot” territory here (it’s my job!) But when it comes to rationalizations, people can be very creative! There is an answer, of course. If all is revealed now, then the traitors and their sponsors will lose so much credibility that they would not dare try to pull any manipulative stunts. Thus putting all this in the open may protect us far better than keeping it all under wraps for a few months longer.

In any event, we need to make it clear to our beloved professionals. We hired you. We will look askance when (not if) it later becomes known that you kept secrets that we needed to know, before entering the polling booths.

(* See how to prepare and deal with the Pardon Tsunami.)


======PREPARING FOR THE NEXT BIG SCAM=======

"This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect, persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments."
- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)

We all know Adam Smith as the author of the bible of capitalism, The Wealth of Nations (1776). But he first wrote what is arguably a far more important book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments. In both, his strong support of free and liberally competitive enterprise comes across with not only convincing conviction, but also something few today remember -- a very pronounced anti-aristocratic tone... which is one reason why the paid shills and intellectual callgirls at the American Enterprise Institute and Cato Foundation, etc, long ago stopped mentioning or citing the “founding sage of modern capitalism.”

All of which I contemplated when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson unveiled the 218-page plan in a speech in Treasury's ornate Cash Room, declaring, "A strong financial system is vitally important — not for Wall Street, not for bankers, but for working Americans." Paulson rejected Democratic charges that it was lax regulation of mortgage brokers and the financial industry that had led to the current problems.
"I do not believe it is fair or accurate to blame our regulatory structure for the current market turmoil," he said. "I am not suggesting that more regulation is the answer or even that more effective regulation can prevent the periods of financial market stress that seem to occur every five to 10 years."

Note how he tries to portray as normal and cyclical the pain and damage that his administration has wrought, including the recent plummet of American creditworthiness -- the one crucial thing that Alexander Hamilton strove so hard to establish, at the beginning of our Republic. Note also, than none of his new proposals would stanch or even investigate the continuing flow of hundreds of billions of dollars out of our economy, into (1) petro-states, (2) “emergency clause” war-services contractors, or (3) an arterial-gush of balance-of-payments red ink. Three flows that were abetted and accelerated under this administration, and that easily equal the other two calamities (4) the lax mortgage lending practices and (5) the mad culture of speculative securitization of financial instruments that replaced responsible trade in real cash and debt.

One could go on and on... but I am not here to offer close-up economic analysis (blather that you can get elsewhere, from more-qualified, if shortsighted seers.) No, my task is to offer wide perspectives. So let me just add this.

People should open their watchful eyes now to whatever deep preparations that are being made, for the Next Big Scam. After all, many of the regulatory cracks that were exploited by this latest wave of thieves were actually planted years ago, many of them as “reforms” in the wake of the last kleptocratic raid, the infamous Savings and Loan Scandal. (That took place largely under the aegis of our president’s father.) Now that the horses have been stolen, sure, we’ll see the barn doors closed and re latched... while subtle strings are left in place for other doors to be burgled, in times to come.

Let’s give the raiders their due. They think and plan long term. Preparations for our present Neocon Putsch go way back, including the creation of an entire corps of master rationalizers, from Gingrich to Wolfowitz, Perle, Adelman, Nitze and so on, whose agile surface blather covered the real agenda -- setting America up for a blood-draining of epic proportions. Okay, so now, at last, the steer has begun responding to the pain. A passel of engorged vampire bats are scuttling to avoid its hooves. They may even lay low for a while, their greed briefly slaked, while the livestock recover a bit.

But remember folks, that is how they think of us. Would be lords of the right and the left (remember communism?) Only, now and then, these sheep look up.


===== More Neoconservative Apologias ===

For a special, gala, fifth anniversary of the Iraq War edition, The NY Times ran nine op-ed pieces, not one of them by anyone who had opposed it from the beginning. (well, I admit that I had no beef with taking out Saddam Hussein, since Bush Senior and Cheney/Rumsfeld had stained America’s honor by deliberately leaving that monster’s boot on the throat of a people, when it would have been trivial to save them; but I opposed from the start, the blatantly stupid and typically monstrous way that the son chose to correct that blunder.)

Ah, but the spin-meisters are so amusing to watch, almost every one of them squirming to evade blame. See especially one of the War boosters - Richard Perle - whine and contort, now blaming Colin Powell,of all people, for the monumental catastrophe that this endeavor in “nation building” has become. But... since Powell was gone VERY soon after the invasion, and neocon-connected companies like Halliburton have swallowed most of a trillion dollars, without delivering electricity to the Iraqi people, might even one of the Neoconservative Intellectual Shills ever wake up to how they were used, as frontmen for outright thievery? Ah, psychology.

One online commenter suggested that the Times (if they had any senses of irony) would have added a tenth neocon blame-retargeter... Stephen Colbert. Oh, if only!

Danielle Pletka's piece, at least, does a tepid “mea culpa I was wrong.” But with a whimpering “leave me alone” tone that repents only for having believed too idealistically in nation-building and the spreading of freedom by force - without ever mentioning that these had been central objects of ire and derision, denounced by her own American Enterprise Institute for decades, and above all when Bill Clinton tried, on a very small scale, to help in Bosnia and Somalia. That is, it was AEI doctrine, until those court catechists and apologists were commanded to reverse-the message, abruptly serving their masters’ new agenda. Pletska’s slinking return, now, to the older theme of isolationism suggests where the “conservative” spin will now head. “We admit we were too idealistic!” will be one of their cries, in the face of this calamity.

But not a thought or word will go toward the real purpose and effect of the Iraq Incursion... to provide “emergency” excuses for over-riding U.S. contracting laws and procedures, so that no-bid, crony deals might direct hundreds of billions straight into the pockets of... donors to the American Enterprise Institute. Without a whit of a care for whether the Iraqis ever get electricity again (perhaps enough electricity to turn on their “freedom gene?”)

The failure of liberals and democrats to even notice this central theme and purpose of the Iraq War, is one of the great, blithering stupidities of recent years. Perhaps it derives from their having heeded that bright dope, Michael Moore. (If it was "about oil", um, where's the oil?) Or maybe most people simply turn off their hearing, when dry matters like "contracting rules" are brought up. But this is THE way that up to a trillion dollars has been stolen during wartime, while the armed forces... and even the regular “military industrial complex”... have actually declined by attrition and starvation.

The crux: the very same Institute that styles itself as a protector of American Enterprise has been, instead, a principal rationalizer and enabler of the greatest kleptocratic raid upon our nation in its history. So much for “enterprise.” It is not by our standards they Pletka and her peers stand revealed as traitors and monsters. It is by their own.


=== AND FINALLY ======

The perfect “ostrich ammo” can be found in a book by Victor Gold, Invasion of the Party Snatchers: How the Holy-Rollers and the Neo-Cons Destroyed the GOP

And I’ll add a lagniappe below, under comments... just something I’ve had lying around for a while. A rumination about the infamous “largesse” aphorism, that smug elitists have long used as a blithe dismissal of democracy.

64 comments:

David Brin said...

Just to get this off my plate...

The “largesse” quotation. Often used as a smug dictum by those who wish to snub the notion of government of, by and for the people, it is variously attributed to Benjamin Disraeli (I don’t believe it) and Benjamin Tytler. Here is the classic version:

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years.”

Another version. "Plato observed that a democracy would fail only when its citizens discovered that they could vote for themselves anything they wanted.." -- William J. Cook, Jr.

I like this one, even though it lacks the lusciously pompous word, “largesse,” because Plato is the acknowledged root source, as well he should be. A deeply committed member of the Athenian oligarchic party, who despised the Periclean Golden Age and helped plot its downfall, Plato certainly did witness plenty of warts and flaws in that early democratic experiment. The whole notion was new and, ironically, when Pericles was no longer there to provide guiding wisdom, it indeed did collapse of a myriad flaws. Some of which the neoconservatives seem eager to repeat - (look up Alcibiades!)

And yet, what utter hypocricy! As if the kings and lords and priests and oligarchs of old normally lived within their means! A prudent ruler was often replaced by a spendthrift son, lacking and acoountability, leading to national ruin, time and again. It is the habit of open debate and accountability that works best.

And dig this, in today’s polity, it is not the people who are spending our civilization into a death spiral of debt and fiscal mismanagement. It is directly and precisely the noble/aristocratic caste that has “voted itself largess” even in times of national crisis.

Even during wartime. Polls show the middle class, especially in supposedly decadent “blue” America, is willing to pay down their childrens’ debt, rather than grab greedy tax cuts. But it is oligarchs who own mass media, who buy intellectual brothel-institutes like AEI, so that court apologists can offer smarmy quotations, instead of facts, as part of a push to bring back the old ways. Those of hierarchy and rule by our “betters.”

Cook’s quotation finishes: “Democracy presupposes an 'enlightened citizenry'--people who are, in fact, knowledgeable and prudent and disciplined.” Well, yes and no. Knowledgable, for sure, so that all ideas and proposals suffer relentless scrutiny and all faults are revealed. Prudent? Well, one hopes, and a minimum average level is necessary. Indeed, nowadays you need a super-majority, since an imprudent and foolish (red?) 35% can do much harm. But these traits can be dispersed, uneven, stochastic, never complete in any one individual.

The purpose of democracy - and more generally, enlightenment civilization - is to come up with a structure under which our positive traits ADD OR MULTIPLY and our negative ones tend to subtract or cancel each other out. Yes, it’s hard to do! But that is the essential and central goal, and it is not so much accomplished through “discipline” as it is through openness, eccentricity, tolerance, vompetitiveness and a general sense of fair play. Plus lots and lots of pragmatic, ad hoc rules.

Moreover, this “positive sum” situation not only happens pretty often under the enlightenment, it cannot possibly happen at all under any other system.

Tony Fisk said...

It's interesting to note that Plato's observation about people voting themselves anything they want is easily countered by a little fable of similar vintage: Aesop's 'goose that laid the golden eggs'.

The sentiment of this tale (it's not a good idea to raid the till) is the morality of the great unwashed (Aesop was a slave, after all)

Another insight might be that people tend to believe that other people think and act as they do. That being the case, be wary of folk who protest the depraved ways of others.

B. Dewhirst said...

I'm ready for the modern Catos to start crying from the roof-tops any time now. If we're to be robbed the 'peaceful revolution' of the ballot box, to be robbed of our labor by the Halliburtons and the Walmarts... then the only recourse is a bloodier sort of justice.

Doug S. said...

Random comment:

It is impossible to pay off the U.S. national debt. If the debt were paid off, the money supply would shrink to zero. Every dollar that exists represents a debt that is owed to somebody or other. If every debt in the world were paid off, there would be no money!

I am not making this up!

Tony Fisk said...

The peaceful revolution still has some mileage to it. Still, if it fails, then there is one other option before the bloodier form of revolution. B. Dewhirst needs a brief introduction to 'A Force More powerful'

Also, mull on how the situation in Zimbabwe would have gone, even a few years ago.

B. Dewhirst said...

Mr. Fisk, nonviolent resistance only works against -democratic- governments.

Dave Rickey said...

Anything to say about the other potential October Surprise, in light of McCain's recent trip to Iraq to cheerlead for war with Iran, and Cheney's trip to the area (and leaks that the oil states have been warned by him to make contingency plans for a large-scale nuclear incident such as that of bombing Iran's nuclear plants)?

I really want to be wrong about this scenario, but these, and reports that the SpecOps forces in Iraq are actually being increased, are extremely troubling. McCain just isn't *acting* like he's expecting a tough campaign this year.

--Dave

Anonymous said...

Gee, what a coincidence.

Good thing the Taiwanese aren't good at copying USA-built electronic gear, eh? Because if they were ...

Oh, wait ....

=============
US sent Taiwan nuclear missile components by mistake

Mar 25, 2008

WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States mistakenly sent Taiwan four fuses used to trigger nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles in late 2006 and only discovered the error last week, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Nose cone assemblies containing the fuses were recovered Monday from Taiwan where they had been held in storage after being shipped there as helicopter batteries, senior Pentagon officials said.
===============

Tony Fisk said...

Correction: nonviolent resistance works best against governments who like to be *perceived* as democratic and caring of the people.
(Ackerman and Duvall's book actually has several examples of non-violent resistance against very repressive regimes: Czarist Russia, Nazi Germany, Communist Poland, Pinochet)

No, it doesn't *always* work (Tienneman Square springs to mind).

It seldom works quickly.

It does appear to work more effectively than bloodier methods.

B. Dewhirst said...

You also seem to have forgotten that it is the Right who initiate violence.

Slit your own throat, as Gandhi bid the Jews, if you wish... I don't think that is the most productive use of blood.

Tony Fisk said...

eh?

B. Dewhirst said...

Read some books of your own then, before presuming the ignorance of others.

Tony Fisk said...

I suppose 'eh?' was a bit terse, but it translates as 'please elaborate'. ie provide references to the following assertions you make:

- nonviolent resistance only works against -democratic- governments.

- You also seem to have forgotten that it is the Right who initiate violence.

- Slit your own throat, as Gandhi bid the Jews (an idea you clearly don't agree with. In a general context I'm not sure I do either; but I don't know in what context Gandhi meant it)


Also, I give references to books that I *have* read, and fail to see how I am presuming on the ignorance of others.

B. Dewhirst said...

Also, I give references to books that I *have* read, and fail to see how I am presuming on the ignorance of others.

Earlier, you had said:

B. Dewhirst needs a brief introduction to...

You were assuming I was unfamiliar with the subject, hence ignorant. As it happens, I've heard of nonviolent resistance before... and remain unconvinced.

For references to Gandhi's remarks on the holocaust, google it.

As for providing evidence of revolutions begun by the right, or I should have said, the authoritarians, here are some examples: The French Revolution was begun by the first and second estates (the nobility, the Church) in an attempt to change their own tax burden, the Spanish Civil War by Franco, you mentioned Pinochet yourself, and then there is Mussolini, Hitler...

As for establishing that nonviolent resistance only works in Democratic countries... as I said, slit your own throat and prove me wrong if and when the revolution comes.

Tony Fisk said...

Ah! That's clearer.

I apologise for inferring you had not heard of non-violent resistance, and am glad to see you qualify your use of 'right' as meaning 'authoritarian'.

As for your opinion of non-violent resistance... well, I can't argue with opinions (although I'd like to know why you've formed yours, when you've a moment)

Personally, I think it s an interesting way of dealing with things that has had some successes and at less cost than taking up arms. It hasn't worked all the time, and the methods employed are being continually reassessed.

Non-violent resistance, as I read it, doesn't rely on an inherent strength, but on being able to jam the gears of the grinding machine long enough for others who can reach the off switch (and who are so inclined) to do so before you vanish inside.

So, when you refer to a presumably right wing revolution in the US it's an interesting point. There aren't all that many left who can help by the time they've come for Uncle Sam.

(Mind you, they haven't come for him just yet)

tintinaus said...

I think I found the letter that Mr B. Dewhirst was referring to that can be found in its entirety here:

Gandhi in India, in His Own Words: Letter Dated: November 20, 1938

But the German persecution of the Jews seems to have no parallel in history. The tyrants of old never went so mad as Hitler seems to have gone. And he is doing it with religious zeal. For he is propounding a new religion of exclusive and militant nationalism in the name of which any inhumanity becomes an act of humanity to be rewarded here and hereafter. The crime of an obviously mad but intrepid youth is being visited upon his whole race with unbelievable ferocity. If there ever could be a justifiable war in the name of and for humanity, a war against Germany, to prevent the wanton persecution of a whole race, would be completely justified. But I do not believe in any war. A discussion of the pros and cons of such a war is therefore outside my horizon or province.

But if there can be no war against Germany, even for such a crime as is being committed against the Jews, surely there can be no alliance with Germany. How can there be alliance between a nation which claims to stand for justice and democracy and one which is the declared enemy of both? Or is England drifting towards armed dictatorship and all it means?

Germany is showing to the world how efficiently violence can be worked when it is not hampered by any hypocrisy or weakness masquerading as humanitarianism. It is also showing how hideous, terrible and terrifying it looks in its nakedness.

Can the Jews resist this organized and shameless persecution? Is there a way to preserve their self-respect, and not to feel helpless, neglected and forlorn? I submit there is. No person who has faith in a living God need feel helpless or forlorn. Jehovah of the Jews is a God more personal than the God of the Christians, the Mussalmans or the Hindus, though, as a matter of fact in essence, He is common to all and one without a second and beyond description. But as the Jews attribute personality to God and believe that He rules every action of theirs, they ought not to feel helpless. If I were a Jew and were born in Germany and earned my livelihood there, I would claim Germany as my home even as the tallest gentile German may, and challenge him to shoot me or cast me in the dungeon; I would refuse to be expelled or to submit to discriminating treatment. And for doing this, I should not wait for the fellow Jews to join me in civil resistance but would have confidence that in the end the rest are bound to follow my example. If one Jew or all the Jews were to accept the prescription here offered, he or they cannot be worse off than now. And suffering voluntarily undergone will bring them an inner strength and joy which no number of resolutions of sympathy passed in the world outside Germany can. Indeed, even if Britain, France and America were to declare hostilities against Germany, they can bring no inner joy, no inner strength. The calculated violence of Hitler may even result in a general massacre of the Jews by way of his first answer to the declaration of such hostilities. But if the Jewish mind could be prepared for voluntary suffering, even the massacre I have imagined could be turned into a day of thanksgiving and joy that Jehovah had wrought deliverance of the race even at the hands of the tyrant. For to the godfearing death has no terror. It is a joyful sleep to be followed by a waking that would be all the more refreshing for the long sleep.


Later in 1946 in an interview he restated his veiws on non violence

"Hitler killed five million [sic] Jews. It is the greatest crime of our time. But the Jews should have offered themselves to the butcher's knife. They should have thrown themselves into the sea from cliffs."

Louis Fisher, Gandhi's biographer asked him: "You mean that the Jews should have committed collective suicide?"

Gandhi responded, "Yes, that would have been heroism."


Interesting views admittedly and ones which apparently he espoused for the Hindu population when being attacked by Muslims after the breakup of British India.

"I would tell the Hindus to face death cheerfully if the Muslims are out to kill them. I would be a real sinner if after being stabbed I wished in my last moment that my son should seek revenge. I must die without rancour. You may turn round and ask whether all Hindus and all Sikhs should die. Yes, I would say. Such martyrdom will not be in vain." 1 May 1947(Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, vol.LXXXVII, p.394-5)

It would have made it easier to find what you were referring to Mr Dewhirst if you had either quoted or referenced your remarks. It is always a mistake to (badly)paraphrase peoples comments unless you are sure on your sources.

reason said...

Doug S.
What you are saying is partly true (it is not true of notes and coins). However, it is not a necessary condition. It is perfectly feasible to imagine a money supply that doesn't depend on debt, in fact such money supplies have often existed.

reason said...

In fact that is what it means when the Fed "bails out" a troubled bank. They "print" money so that a debt can disappear without the corresponding balance somewhere else being wiped out.

But yes, that is why the finance sector is in such trouble. It was over leveraged, and deleveraging reduces the money supply.

B. Dewhirst said...

tintinaus, as far as I'm concerned what I've expressed was a faithful rendering of Gandhi's sentiment.

Tony, I have no idea why you think I was proposing a right-wing revolution.

Dennis said...

Speaking of scams, this is depressing. The greenwash known as biofuel (which still combusts, still emits carbon, and sucks nutrients away from the already thin topsoil layer) is doing more damage than I previously guessed. :|

But on another note, ha!!

(Apologies for dup links if these are already here. I've had my head down lately and am posting prior to catch-up.)

zorgon the malevolent said...

Just as the Navier-Stokes equations fail in high Reynolds numbers conditions where turbulence grows extreme, Ghandi's non-violence fails in extreme conditions like the Holocaust or Stalin's mass murders or Pol Pot's Year Zero. This does not invalidate Ghandi's non-violent direct action just as turbulence does not invalidate the Navier-Stokes equations: it just means that, like all human efforts, it has limits.

Dr. Brin mentioned: there is more than enough reason to know, firmly, that our pros have failed to protect our nation, our society, our people, from the worst, most -piratical and least honorable clade ever to gain high influence in America.

We don't know this. In fact, available evidence strongly suggests that the professionals have waged ceaseless war against the crooks currently in office...albeit behind the scenes. AUSAs have resigned in protest, Admiral Fallon stood steadfast against an Iran attack until he was thrown under the bus for his efforts, the chief prosecutor at Gitmo resigned, and countless other insiders have hurled sabots into the gears and leaked inside info the press, casting bright light on the vile goings-on inside this criminal maladministration.

Unless Dr. Brin has intimate inside knowledge of this cesspool which calls itself a presidency, he can't say for certain just how many brave people have sacrificed their careers (like Army chaplain John Yee) to defend victims of torture, to prevent further wars of aggression, to fight violations of the constitution like warrantless wiretapping, and to expose the crimes of these crooks in high office.

My own firm belief is that the current reign of error by the drunk-driving C student would've been a million times worse had the professionals not stood up against him. Every once in a while we see the casualties, like Ambassador Wilson's wife, but until this maladministration is long over I don't think we'll see a tenth of the heroism by professionals that went on behind the scenes. As bad as things are right now, I'm firmly convinced they would have been much much worse without the organized opposition of many thousands of government professionals.

Catfish N. Cod said...

Doug S. spake:

It is impossible to pay off the U.S. national debt. If the debt were paid off, the money supply would shrink to zero.

The United States Public Debt refers to the various securities (i.e. bonds) floated by the Federal Government. It does not refer to coinage and legal-tender notes. While the money supply would be contracted massively by elimination of the Public Debt, it would not go to zero.

Nevertheless, for various reasons, it would be impractical to pay 100% of the outstanding debt of the US. "Paying off the debt" usually refers to reducing the Public Debt to a level where it does not have massive economic consequences -- say to less than 10% of GDP. This is equivalent to the microeconomic situation of a household that is "paid off" except for this month's credit card balance.

Robert said...

Bill Richardson continues to defend his honor against attacks from Clinton supporters in the wake of his throwing in his support for Senator Obama. Interestingly enough, it appears that a significant factor for Richardson supporting Obama lies with the Clinton Campaign turning negative against Obama. I have to wonder if this might be part of what lies between a recent unofficial cease-fire between Obama and Senator Clinton as the majority of salvos launched of late have been against Senator McCain instead.

Despite the reduction in attacks against Obama, things are still tense between the Clintons and Richardson with a recent gaffe by former President Clinton revealing just how deeply Brutus's knife has struck (and when you think of it, calling Richardson "Judas" is over the top. No, the proper title would be Brutus, as in "Et tu, Brutus?") (not that I feel Richardson betrayed the Clintons. He's allowed to vote as he feels fit... and it appears he felt Obama the better candidate in the wake of events after the New Year).

It appears that Florida (and likely Michigan as well) will be a part of the Democratic Convention. Their role has not been hammered down, but DNC Chairperson Howard Dean has stated that delegates from Florida will be seated, and hotel rooms will be available for them.

On a less political and more uplifting note, U.S. Students in the 8th and 12th grade have shown improved writing skills compared to five years ago. For all of the failures of the Shrub's "No Child Left Behind" plan... the concept of requiring students to reach a certain level of competency to move beyond certain grades has considerable merit. It's the how of determining how to test these students that remains a primary question. Also of interest is that many minorities showed improvements (though 12th grade Hispanics showed no improvement, 8th grade Hispanics did improve).

Facing pressure with FiOS and other high speed internet options, Cable is finally pressing down on the gas pedal with its own "wide-band" internet. Of course, at $150/mo. a pop... it's not for the average user. Still, the mere fact that U.S. cable providers are stating it's doable suggests that market competition may finally be doing some good in getting the U.S. up to speed with the rest of the world.

I still feel the U.S. government should put down the infrastructure for high speed internet across the continent, and then rent out that infrastructure to internet providers. It would allow for less local interference, monopolistic agreements, and the like. But that's just me.

Finally, The Jules Vernes is preparing to dock with the International Space Station. I must admit to being a tad worried about a fully-automated system, especially with some truly malicious individuals out there who would no doubt find great joy in destroying the station. But there are no doubt safeguards in place to prevent such hacking attempts.

Take care!

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

P.S. - This year's April Fools pranks among the Webcomic Community were rather enjoyable. One of the more interesting ones, however, lie with a rather upset fanbase who wanted the prank to be real, and left the artist quite apologetic. Also of amusing interest was a Dr. Who reference, three cartoonists swapping their webpages so you got someone else's comic instead, and your usual list of "I quit!" and associated oddities. Maybe these weren't as inspired as Virgle, but for a bunch of amateurs and small businessmen, the growing tradition of pranks for April 1st remains an enjoyable sight. - Rob H.

Robert said...

Quick note: here's the article stating that Senator Clinton has ceased with negative bombs against Senator Obama and that both seem to be targeting Senator McCain instead.

Rob H.

B. Dewhirst said...

Ah, I think I've found a root of the misunderstanding.

I didn't mean the Cato Institute, I meant Cato... as in "Washington delenda est."

Cliff said...

"the concept of requiring students to reach a certain level of competency to move beyond certain grades has considerable merit."

I know it's been a while since I was in school, but I thought that was always (ideally) the plan - hold a kid back if they don't show enough progress. I know that rarely happens in practice, but has it been completely scrapped?

Also, I've never caught on to the association of technological progress with broadband Internet. For my feeble internetting (webcomics viewing, forum posting, shareware game downloading, googling, etc.) Qwest cable is sufficient. What are the possibilities that broadband Internet opens up, that I don't have now?

Jester said...

The concept of holding children back in elementary school often dramatically backfires, as it's more often than not because a student is performing poorly in one subject.

It's far more productive to advance them, and provide special assistance in that subject, than to hold them back for a year of boredom combined with a sense of worthlessness.

On non-violent resistance -

It would have worked very, very well against the Third Reich. The Reich ran on impressed labor. If that labor had refused to work, the Reich would have collapsed.

I say this not in judgement of people who endured the horror of death camps, but if those 12 million Jews, Gypsies, Communists, and gays had thrown their bodies into the gears, they would have slowed if not stopped the machine. The mere refusal to dig their own graves would have slowed the killing, and their refusal to board to trains, to make way for troop transports, to work the ovens, would have ground it to a halt.

I'm not saying I'm capable of that kind of courage, but if the millions Pol Pot forced into labor had simply refused to be moved alive, his troops would have had no rice.

It's virtually impossible that the death toll would have been higher in either case.

Teinamin in no way proved that non-violent resistance could not bring down the PRC - it proved that a brief mass protest could not bring down the PRC.

That's rather like saying that the short term failure of Irelands Easter Rebellion "proved" that insurgencies "don't work".

B. Dewhirst said...

Sounds an awful lot like blaming the victims... those mean old Jews and gays, if only they'd -nonviolently resisted- their murderers.

For that matter, what if they'd -violently- resisted the Nazis with forks and knives.

"What if" is not a persuasive

It is indeed the case that authoritarian regimes will fall if everyone does -exactly- the minimum ordered of them. Somebody always defects, though, so this isn't an especially productive argument-- except for when the only thing you've got a ghost of a chance of actually achieving is persuading one's neighbor to not turn you in for another week.

Matt DeBlass said...

Just an interesting note:
I work in one of the few Republican-dominated counties in New Jersey. Said county also happens to have one of, if not THE highest real estate tax rates in the United States.
Just sayin'.

And "Is the Smithsonian smarter than a fifth grader?"
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080403/ap_on_re_us/smarter_than_the_smithsonian

Tony Fisk said...

b. dewhirst,

I think, by the use of passing references the other doesn't get, we're talking past each other and doing a lot of head scratching over each other's comments as a result.

(A bit of a boring recap coming up, so move along, anyone who isn't interested!)

I will admit I started the confusion by glibly referring you to a work on non-violent resistance, assuming from your comment about 'the only recourse being a bloodier form of justice' that 1. you hadn't read any because 2. anyone who had would have found the argument persuasive. As you have pointed out, I was wrong on both counts. Sorry.

I wasn't immediately familiar with Gandhi's advice to the jews facing the holocaust (thanks tinitaus, I did check it out), but agree with Zorgon that it's an extreme case where the model might fail, given the extreme views about jews at the time (i say 'might' because I am not aware of any instance where it was actually tried by jews, although other groups did with varying degrees of success)

Moving on to why I think you were talking about a right wing revolution, it stems from a conjunction of several of your comments: 'a bloodier form of justice', 'the right initiates violence', 'revolutions begun by the right' and 'slit your throat and prove me wrong when and if the revolution comes'. It made me conclude that you were talking about the October Surprise scenario.

However, from your latest remark (to me) you claim, instead, to be talking about Cato the younger's draconian and vengeful attitude to Carthage being applied to the current crop in DC. Yes?

If so, I remain a bit confused. In what way is this different from a right wing putsch (other than the parties involved)?

B. Dewhirst said...

Cato the Elder, I'd thought... and he spoke after the 1st and 2nd Punic wars and after Hannibal.

The Cato reference I made is to Brin's Earth.

The chief difference is I'm not calling for the initiation of force. Others will do that (those who seek to retain their wealth and power), and still others will respond by insisting that those who've initiated force to preserve their wealth never be allowed to oppress others again. I'm all for nonviolent means until violent means are employed, at which point we'll find out who has a greater fraction of the US armed forces on their side.

Tony Fisk said...

Cato the Elder it is. Don't recall reading about him in Earth, though. (Interesting aside, since we're discussing non-violent resistance, check out the wikipedia account of the repeal of the Oppian law)

Anyway, I take it you are for non-violent action, but are not optimistic as to the outcome? It does seem a fine and long drawn line to follow at times.

Meanwhile, I am watching events in Zimbabwe with interest.

B. Dewhirst said...

Near the top of page 242.

zorgon the malevolent said...

Off-topic but provocative withal: "The Ideal Gene Delivery Vector: Chromallocytes, Cell Repair Nanorobots for Chromosome Replacement Therapy," Journal of Evolution and Technology, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 1-97.

Unlike Ray Kurzweil's bullshit, this is a peer-reviewed journal. While I remain intensely skeptical of Drexlerian nanotechnology, all it will take to change my mind is some hard evidence. It's entirely possible I'm 100% dead wrong, and, if so, all economic forecasts for the foreseeable future go out the window, along with Peak Oil problems, Joseph Stiglitz's claims about the "coming era of scarcity," etc.

zorgon the malevolent said...

Further signs of Republican desperation: "Obama appeals mainly to academics"

Ooh, how horrible. Only them pointy-headed in-tell-ec-tu-als gonna vote for Obama, watch out, there's a pointy-headed in-tell-ec-tu-al hiding under your bed and he's gonna git ya!

Shorter version:
"[Bush is] not an intellectual. Intellectuals cause all the problems in the world." -- Peggy Noonan, 2004

Even shorter version:
"Kill everyone who wears eyeglasses." -- Pol Pot, 1974

If this is going to be the Repub attack against Obama...boy, are they in for a surprise.

Jester said...

Such attacks have worked oh so very well for Clinton.

B. -

If you're interested in debating about what I actually wrote, let me know.

Robert said...

Baby black hole found in the Milky Way Binary System known as XTE J1650-500. This black hole seems to be pushing the bare minimum needed for black holes in terms of size and mass.

I do admit to some curiosity though... from what I've read, black holes collapse into zero-dimensional spaces with no height, length, or depth (or perhaps better to describe it as "infinitely small"). Yet the article states the black hole has a diameter of 15 miles. The article doesn't state if that's the singularity itself or the event horizon.

It also states the tidal forces for a black hole this small are even more massive than for larger black holes, making this black hole a bit more dangerous than its larger brethren.

Now if only we could shove Shrub and the neocons into it... then again, the black hole would probably choke on that mouthful.

Rob H.

The Guy said...

Our current generation of tyrants is busy making plans to head off the imminent threat of singularity and post-scarcity technological advances.

The greatest fear every tyrant has is that all will be equally wealthy, equally endowed of resources, time and health. In the event of such circumstances the position of elites and social parasites would drastically undermined. One could hardly tell the difference between politicians, academicians, civil rights advocates, doctors and the "ordinary" farmer, barber, bus driver, etc. who would suddenly be possessed of all the same markers and privileges. God Forbid!

Tony Fisk said...

The singularity itself would be a point but, as some wag once put it, nature abhors a naked singularity and veils them with an 'event horizon'. This is the point where the escape velocity equals the speed of light and nothing can escape to tell what lies beyond the veil (the borders of the pit. Actually, the point of no return is a little further out, but we'll keep this simple). Rob's article would be referring to the event horizon as being 15 miles across

zorgon the malevolent said...

More reasons for optimism amid the unreasonable prevailing doom & gloom. But first, the grand prize winner for irrational end-of-the-world panic goes to Ted Turner, for his claim:
Failure to address global warming will have us all dead or eating each other by mid-century.
So says Ted Turner... If steps aren't taken to stem global warming, "We'll be eight degrees hotter in 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow," Turner said...
"Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals," said Turner, 69. "Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state — like Somalia or Sudan — and living conditions will be intolerable."


The world faces some real problems right now, but this kind of wild hysteria isn't helping. Lay off the Peruvian nose candy, Ted, it's frying your brain.

And now the good news:

"The tools and theories needed to analyze social interactions are just now reaching the level of sophistication — in accuracy, in robustness – necessary to leave the lab and enter commercial duty. We are in a period analogous to the early 1970s, when developments like the Capital Asset Pricing Model and the Black-Scholes equation transformed finance, changing it from an art to a science, and opening enormous new markets in the process. Now, new equations describing “crowd dynamics” are about to change our lives. And not always for the better. This is one of the most significant technology trends I have seen in years; it may also be one of the most pernicious...."
What does this portend? Will America and Europe start to experience "cyberviolence" of the kind now common in South Korea? Or perhaps global NGOs will combine forces online to fight poverty throughout the world? Oh, no, wait, that's already happening:
Social Watch, an international online group that combines info and resources from many different NGOs across national borders to fight poverty throughout the world.

European slams America's grossly inefficient high-fee banking system. reminding us that in a lot of ways, Europe does it much better than we do:
"It is truly remarkable, isn’t it, that the country with Microsoft, Intel, Dell, Facebook and Google is at the same time at the level of a third world country when it comes to the quality of its banking system?

New physics breakthrough?
Differential matter-antimatter decay hints at a breakdown in the Standard Model of physics.

Nano-particles produce big results in fighting cancer:
"...Researchers focused a powerful drug directly on tumors in rabbits using drug-coated nanoparticles. They found that a drug dose 1,000 times lower than used previously for this purpose markedly slowed tumor growth.
"Many chemotherapeutic drugs have unwanted side effects, and we've shown that our nanoparticle technology has the potential to increase drug effectiveness and decrease drug dose to alleviate harmful side effects," says lead author Patrick M. Winter, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine and biomedical engineering."


And Obama continues to pull ahead:
Clinton supporter calls on fellow Clintonites to support Obama.

Political analysts now starting to suggest that Obama might win PA.
Meanwhile, Bill Clinton admits if Hillary doesn't win NC, it's all over.

And:
New American Research Group survey (March 31 2008) shows Oabama way ahead in NC, leading 51% to HIllary's 48%.

tintinaus said...

Some interesting links Zorgon; now the mathematical properties of social dynamics seem to be on the way to being mapped out, David may be able to opt out of being Hari Seldon's "Official Channeller" as he has referred to himself here. I thought it was interesting that the author said "It’s not hard to see why this sort of thing appeals to the socially maladroit." presumably about Mr. Asimov. From what I understand, he was extremely affable and someone well able to 'work' a room.

I came across a review of the the narrative within the game "Portal" in which the antagonist is a crazy AI unit called GLaDOS.

what we get is maybe a story that’s not so much the standard cliché about an AI that gets out of control, but instead about the idea that any AI created would necessarily be emotionally broken, because it would be constructed with killswitches, designed to be disposable, or at least crippled so that it could not threaten the more important human life. If the AI had any urge towards friendship or companionship, that urge would be stifled and perverted by the fact that those around it have absolved themselves ("ethicists agree…") in advance for killing it if necessary.

Still Alive

I think Mr Brin may have touched on this idea in some of his writing and if I remember rightly it was the explanation given for HAL's insanity in "2010"

PS: Zorgon could you quote and link separately please(I will shut up if others think I am wrong), if I want to refer to one of your linked articles it would be easier to do if I could just quote the title or part thereof.

Tony Fisk said...

While Zorgon continues to be the 'hogfather' of good news, I will add another snippet of interest.

You may have heard grim news about the Sahara, and how it's inexorably creeping further south as the world warms?

Except... it isn't! (not any more, at least)

The reasons for this appear to be a case of too many 'experts' knowing too little, and the 'amateurs' being ignored. In the green revolution of the sixties, Niger farmers were exhorted to get rid of those unproductive trees to make way for more crops of the better varieties.

No trees = no shelter = no soil protection = desertification = (duh!)

However, in the last ten years or so, the central government has become less effective in asserting policies, experts have departed, and farmers have been left to fend for themselves.

They have... by replanting trees. It seems, given a bit of initial protection, that the trees have soon re-establish themselves, and resuming their protective role. Things are improving.

In the age of amateurs, one is left wondering who the real experts might be?

David Brin said...

My regular internet service is down, so responding is iffy.
A girl hit a power pole. The power company sank a new one right thru AT&T. Days and days...

zorgon the malevolent said...

More good news:

Did you know that until now, all water heaters have had no energy consumption controls?

Unbelievable but true - as a result, water heaters waste more energy than any other appliance in the home, accounting for a whopping 17% of the typical home energy bill. But now the industry has agreed on standards for energy regulation in water heaters, and GE has rolled out its first low-energy water heaters. Link here.
http://www.ecogeek.org/content/view/1502/

And:
Newly discovered superinsulators may revolutionze electronics & power transmission. Among other breakthroughs, superinsulators raise the prospect of power transmission lines that lose zero energy to heat through I^2R, as well as batteries that never lose charge! Link here.
http://www.matternews.com/research/Newly_discovered_superinsulators_promise_to_transform_materials_research_electronics_design.asp

And:
Ingenious Nigerian invents lo-tech refrigerator that uses no electricity. Link here. Since 90% of the villages in northern Nigeria have no electricity, this matters.
http://www.newmediaexplorer.org/chris/2004/04/14/cool_fridge_without_using_electricity.htm

Plus:
Coming soon: superfast internet 10,000 times (!) faster than current connections. Link here

THE internet could soon be made obsolete. The scientists who pioneered it have now built a lightning-fast replacement capable of downloading entire feature films within seconds.
At speeds about 10,000 times faster than a typical broadband connection, “the grid” will be able to send the entire Rolling Stones back catalogue from Britain to Japan in less than two seconds.
The latest spin-off from Cern, the particle physics centre that created the web, the grid could also provide the kind of power needed to transmit holographic images; allow instant online gaming with hundreds of thousands of players; and offer high-definition video telephony for the price of a local call.
David Britton, professor of physics at Glasgow University and a leading figure in the grid project, believes grid technologies could “revolutionise” society. “With this kind of computing power, future generations will have the ability to collaborate and communicate in ways older people like me cannot even imagine,” he said.


http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article3689881.ece

Tony Fisk said...

The 'pot in pot' refrigerator has been around for a while (but you're right: it matters!). Interestingly, I mentioned it to my mother. Being of good Yorkshire stock, raised in a relatively electricity-free thirties. Her response was 'Well? What's so new about that??'.

The 'grid' sounds very cool, but is going to bring inevitable comparisons to 'Skynet' (and I note the first comment to that article refers to Fredric Brown's 'Answer'). It's an ironic pronouncement, given our host's current cabling woes. (Meantime, I'm still waiting for a chance to mesh with a Laptop XO)

Tony Fisk said...

While doing some research on sparkline generators, I came across this succinct piece of ostrich ammo.

The little graph about a third of the way down puts a definite tilt on the meaning of 'conservative'.

Robert said...

Here's an interesting article about a split in the ranks of feminists between Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. I've heard some say that Clinton and Obama are fighting for the soul of the Democratic party. I wonder if perhaps they are also fighting over the soul of the feminist movement... with the Old Guard fighting hard to keep their power and supporting Clinton... while the younger generation are shouting out "Things have changed, and our goals need to change as well!" and supporting Obama as an avatar of that change.

Just a quick thought.

Rob H.

Robert said...

And a couple more quick comments: The Clinton Campaign has been observed in the strategic use of charitable contributions. It appears that just about all of the 10% of charitable contributions the Clintons made has been to the Clinton Family Foundation, which has only spent half of the money donated to it. The Foundation has been noted for its politically-targeted philanthropy.

This leaves a sour taste in the back of my mouth. This feels like it's skirting the edges of illegality and is definitely on the shady side of political ethics. No doubt other politicians have done similar in the past... but they shouldn't. Philanthropy shouldn't be used for political gain. To use it as such smacks of bribery. The fact that this hasn't been highlighted in more news stories is also curious... it's like the Clintons are being tossed a softball special on their "charity" and political applications of that money.

Former Congressman Bob Barr has tossed his hat into the ring to consider a run for the presidency on the Libertarian ticket. If Barr wins the Libertarian nomination, it may very well assist in the blowout against the Republicans... as Barr will attract a number of Neocons and conservatives who detest Senator McCain but see no alternative to vote for.

Or at least, we can hope it does. When you consider the '92 election, Ross Perot was perhaps instrumental in keeping President Bush from being re-elected by giving conservatives someone else to vote for. In '00, Nader sunk the Democrats and Vice President Gore by giving liberals an alternative to Gore. Nader has since become a joke candidate who has little power... but with the dissatisfaction of many in the Republican party, a conservative Libertarian candidate could draw vital votes from McCain and help Senator Obama in decisively defeating McCain in the general election... and in doing so, force Republicans to wake up and give them a chance to reclaim their party from the Neocons.

Rob H.

B. Dewhirst said...

Some news on the Libertarian front... the apparent front-runner is MA Libertarian Dr. George Phillies, my former Physics Professor.

His press releases are some interesting reading.

Worcester, Mass, April 4: Libertarian Presidential candidate George
Phillies today condemned claims that the Libertarian Party is a
right-wing conservative Party. "Libertarians are not conservatives,"
Phillies said. "It is an act of fraud, a violation of our party's
statement of principles, to lure conservatives to join by lying to
them. Claiming our party is 'true conservative' is dishonest, and
will wreck our party... (that one isn't up on the site yet, though I expect it'll be up before the end of the week.)

Others here: http://phillies2008.org/press.htm

(for example, here is his endorsement from the Gay and Lesbian Libertarian organization.)

The Inoculated Mind said...

Hi David Brin, I've tagged you with a blog meme: Seven Things.
http://www.inoculatedmind.com/2008/04/07/seven-things/
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to describe seven random/weird things about yourself.

Robert said...

Clinton adviser Mark Penn remains "in the loop" and a part of the Clinton campaign circle of advisors despite the recent disclosure he was working on a Free Trade Agreement with Columbia. While Penn stepped down from his central role in the Clinton campaign, it appears he still has a "direct advisory role" with Senator Clinton.

A mere memo helped sink Senator Obama's chances in Ohio and Texas by raising questions about his honesty and what he truly intends to do about NAFTA. You have to wonder what Penn's little side-dealing and arrogant assertions that he's "still in the loop" with Clinton is going to do to her. If this results in even a small portion of Clinton's core supporters in Pennsylvania to rethink their vote... then rumors that Obama might take Pennsylvania might come about. And if Clinton loses this state, does she honestly have a leg left to stand on?

Rob H.

B. Dewhirst said...

Senator Clinton is just waiting around for either the smoky room or the later-day James Earl Ray.

Anonymous said...

The infamous They have created intelligent AIs.

They were emotionally-disabled. But not ethically. Instead, they were permanently cranky. Imagine having a million cycles between responses to think about what you should do next. Very frustrating, I'm sure.

tintinaus said...

Anonymous do we chalk up a win in the Prediction Registry for Douglas Adams then? Who could forget Marvin the Paranoid Android's catchphrase "Here I am, brain the size of the planet..."

Tony Fisk said...

We could probably go back even further, to Fritz Leiber's 'Metropolis'

(There's also the Pratchett contraption known as 'Hex, which requires the 'FTB' to be installed in order to operate properly.)

Stefan Jones said...

Pssst . . . Fritz Lang produced Metropolis.

His wife wrote a pretty good novelization.

Tony Fisk said...

Ooops!...

zorgon the malevolent said...

Also, when the scientist Rotwang created the intelligent robot Maria in Fritz Lang's Metropolis, she was a sexbot designed to influence people by seducing 'em. Gives a whole new perspective on the term "AI."

The flood of good news continues:

Texas has long led the nation in wrongful convictions, scandalous miscarriages of justice, and infamous prosecutorial misconduct. For year after year we've seen nothing but depressing horror stories in the news about bad D.A.s run amok in TX, but now things have started to change:

In 2006, Craig Watkins became the first African-American elected district attorney of any county in Texas history. More interestingly, the 40-year-old Watkins was elected in Dallas County, where the DA’s office has long been known for its aggressive prosecution tactics. A former defense attorney, Watkins says the Dallas DA’s office has for too long adopted a damaging “convict at all costs” philosophy, an argument bolstered by a string of wrongful convictions uncovered by the Texas Innocence Project in the months before he was elected. Watkins ran on a reform platform, and pulled out a surprising victory against a more experienced Republican opponent.
After taking office, Watkins dismissed nine top-level prosecutors in the office. Nine others left voluntarily. He established a “Conviction Integrity Unit” to ensure proper prosecutorial procedures, and began working with the Texas Innocence Project to find other cases of possible wrongful conviction.

Link.

ThinkGeek has started carrying $100 remote-control cam-glasses with a discreet, 1.3 megapixel camera built into the temple. This is the beginning of the end for photography bans. Once these things become easy to install -- undetectably -- in a pair of ordinary glasses, the idea of stopping people from snapping photos in museums, clubs, stores and airport checkpoints is dead.
Link.

Diver Jeff Greenwald reports that recent efforts to revive dying coral reefs have proven so successful that reefs are bouncing back much faster than anyone dared hope:
In my early days as a diver I'd heard that damaged reefs would take a century to re-grow. It's mind-boggling to see how fast these corals are returning. Moore has a lot of faith in his reefs--"If we build them, they will come"--but this growth would probably exceed his wildest dreams.
Link.

This next one is mostly hype, since quantum computing is by no means proven yet, but still promising: ....IBM is about to unveil a revolutionary form of computing that could tranform the World of information. It is known as the Crystal Computer and it is a way to use pulses of light to transfer and store digital information as quantum bits. A processor so fast it is capable of running the eqivilatent of 300GHz, or about 400 Gflop/sec, that’s about 100 times faster than today’s fastest consumer microprocessors.
.... The advance is similar to the one made by Australian National University, which used two lasers to focus at a silicate crystal holding atoms of an element known as praseodymium. The element absorbed the light and stored the quantum information as quantum bits.
Link.
http://www.newtechspy.com/articles06/crystalcomputer.html

Seismologist uses accelerometers in public's networked laptop computers to monitor and predict earthquakes. Link.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080402152704.htm

France uses more energy per capita than almost every other country in the world, but produces nearly no carbon emissions from power plants. France is also the largest exporter of power in the world, selling more than 100 terawatt-hours annually to Germany, Italy, Britain, et al. France also has some of the cheapest electricity in the world, at .051 US dollars per watt-hour. How do they do it? With nuclear power. If the French can do it, why can't we? Link.
http://depletedcranium.com/?p=519

And:
"A team led by Johns Hopkins researchers has solved important puzzles concerning how certain proteins guide the reproduction of bacteria, discoveries that could lead to a new type of antibiotics.
In a recent study published in the journal Current Biology, the scientists reported how a belt-like structure called a Z ring, which pinches a rod-shaped bacterium to produce two offspring, can be disabled by a protein called MinC. By exploiting this vulnerability, the researchers said, pharmaceutical companies may find a way to fight infections that no longer respond to older medications."
Link.
http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-04/jhu-stz040808.php

Why HIllary's determined battle for the Democratic nomination was a good for the Demos.

Scientists in Arizona report that minerals from clay could form the basis of a new generation of inexpensive, highly-effective antimicrobials for fighting MRSA infections that are moving out of health care settings and into the community. These "superbugs" are increasingly resistant to multiple antibiotics and cause thousands of deaths each year. Link.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080406155621.htm

Robert said...

The problem with France's energy policy is that I've heard rumors their disposal of nuclear waste consists of going out to sea and dumping the radioactive materials overboard. I've heard things against dumping radioactive wastes (and biological weapons and the like) into the Marianas Trench, which is the deepest part of the ocean and the material of which is being pulled via plate tectonics under a continental plate... so imagine what just dumping it in the middle of the Atlantic might risk doing.

Rob H.

Stefan Jones said...

Cheney, Others OK'd Harsh Interrogations

"WASHINGTON — Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.

The officials also took care to insulate President Bush from a series of meetings where CIA interrogation methods, including waterboarding, which simulates drowning, were discussed and ultimately approved."

. . .

At the end:

"Not all of the principals who attended were fully comfortable with the White House meetings.

The ABC News report portrayed Ashcroft as troubled by the discussions, despite agreeing that the interrogations methods were legal.

'Why are we talking about this in the White House?" the network quoted Ashcroft as saying during one meeting. 'History will not judge this kindly.'"

Tony Fisk said...

Ashcroft sounds like he is more concerned with 'the judgment of history' than any scruples about interrogation techniques.

Tony Blair should be concerned about the judgments of history *and* the High Court: who has ruled that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) acted unlawfully by dropping a corruption inquiry into a £43bn Saudi arms deal.

Is it an 'issue of national security' if the crown prince of one nation threatens the Prime Minister of another with a cessation of terrorist intelligence if certain investigations aren't dropped? We don't negotiate with blackmailers, it seems: we just roll over.

Speaking of giving in, there's more than an 'ook' smell brewing in Europe: A member of the EU Parliament... has presented a question regarding whether or not Microsoft should be considered as having failed to fulfill the conditions to participate in public procurement procedures in Europe. That'll make a few feathers fly if it ever gets off the ground!

Turchin said...

offtop.
I have sent you an e-mail on important theme of SETI dangers and Russia on the e-mail from your web-site on sbcglobal.net

I hope it will pass your spam filter, because it have an attachment.

Alexei Turchin, alexeiturchin@gmail.com

zorgon the malevolent said...

More cause for optimism:

New Alzheimer's treatment "restores memory in minutes." Only a few patients have been treated so far, but it seems extremely promising.
Link.

Not specifically encouraging, but fascinating withal:
Coolest star ever discovered "is between 15 and 30 times the mass of Jupiter and has a surface temperature of a mild 660 degrees Fahrenheit (350 Celsius) -- about the surface temperature of the planet Mercury at the equator and much cooler than the surface of Venus."
Link.

And:
Obama calls for checks on executive pay.
Link.

Also:
Stem cells may allow cartilege damaged by osteoarthritis to repair itself.
Link.

And:
"Scientists for the first time have identified long-term changes in mice brains that may shed light on why addicts get hooked on drugs—in this case methamphetamines—and have such a tough time kicking the habit. The findings, reported in the journal Neuron, could set the stage for new ways to block cravings—and help addicts dry out."
Link.

And, for those alarmed by the Terminator films, this offers good news:
"...it was revealed on Thursday that the Army will recall the controversial TALON SWORDS robots [which are armed with lethal machine guns], with the possibility of pulling the plug on the armed robot deployment program.
Why the sudden withdrawal? (..) The Army reported that the robot apparently took a liking to point its barrel at friendlies, stating, "the gun started moving when it was not intended to move."

Link.

Anyone who has ever had Windows bluescreen on them will not find this surprising. Knowing as we all do the chronic unreliability of computer software & hardware, what fool ever thought it would be a good idea to arm mobile computers with machine guns?

And:
New memory storage technology promises to increase storage capacities 100,000-fold.
Link.

And this list proves encouraging, since at least someone is talking about it. You can't fix a problem until someone identifies it:
"The Top 10 Pieces of Infrastructure We Must Fix."
Link.

Potent ostrich ammo here -- GAO blasts Pentagon budget "saying ships, aircraft and satellites are billions of dolalrs over budget and years behind schedule."
Link.

And:
"The West epitomizes individualistic, do-your-own thing cultures, ones where the rights of the individual equal and often trump those of the group and where differences are valued. East Asian societies exalt the larger society: behavior is constrained by social roles, conformity is prized, outsiders shunned. "The individualist-collectivist split is one of the most powerful differences among cultures," says Nisbett. But the reason a society falls where it does on the individualism-collectivism spectrum has been pretty much a mystery. Now a team of researchers has come up with a surprising explanation: disease-causing microbes. Societies that evolved in places with an abundance of pathogens, they argue, had to adopt behaviors that add up to collectivism, for reasons of sheer preservation. Societies that arose in places with fewer pathogens had the luxury of individualism, which is less effective at limiting the spread of disease but brings with it other social benefits, such as innovation."
Link.

Lastly:
Scientist points out human activity has been changing the climate for eons, and that's cause for hope.
Link.

A postscriptum to Dr. Brin's remarks about the "largesse" quotation:

The whole notion [of democracy] was new and, ironically, when Pericles was no longer there to provide guiding wisdom, it indeed did collapse of a myriad flaws. Some of which the neoconservatives seem eager to repeat - (look up Alcibiades!) - David brin

What people tend to forget is the all-important aftermath. When Athens holed up inside its city walls, a plague killed Pericles and many of Athen' best and brightest. Leaderless, they turned to a charismatic but unreliable self-seeking pol, ALkibiades, who prmoptly convinced the Athenians to set out on a disastrous invasion of Sicily, which ended with the destruction of the Atehnian army and the loss of the Peloponnesian war.

Athens surrended to Sparta, the long wall was torn down and Spartans were stationed in Athens. Thirty tyrants chosen from among the Athenians were selected by the Spartans to rule over Athens, and these tyrants promptly began a mass killing spree of their political enemies until the streets of Athens ran with blood. What people don't remember is that democracy bounced right back.

The Athenian people rose up and overthrew the Thirty Tyrants, freeing themselves. Plato's uncle was the head tyrant of the thirty, the loathesome Charmides (of whom Lycolean said "He had in everything the utmost littleness of mind") and he was killed by Athenians when they took back their freedom, along with many of the other tyrants.

The Athenian experiment in democracy succeeded. The rule of the Thirty Tyrants did not last. Athenians rose up and freed thesmevles. We tend to forget this, but we shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Whenever I see the largesse equation, I am compelled to ask:

Can anyone name three democracies that collapsed into dictatorship over loose fiscal policy?

I can't.