Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Suggestion 7: Free The Inspectors General!

Last time, we pondered the importance of the “fourth branch of government” -- the U.S. Civil Service, proposing that the new Obama Administration ought to visibly reach out to the millions of skilled men and women who were so beleaguered, thwarted and bullied during the Bush years.  A series of concrete steps were offered, and I concluded by recommending establishment of a new and important post, the office of Inspector General of the United States... or IGUS.  Now, I’d like to go into that notion, in some detail. (Part of a 12/08 series of “unusual suggestions for America and the Obama Administration.”)

Far from creating another vast new bureaucracy, this proposal would mostly utilize  payroll slots that already exist, today.  Every major department or agency has an internal Inspector General (IG), charged with examining operations and issuing warnings -- when it comes to minor infractions -- or else stepping in more vigorously, when things get out of hand.

The problem? Nearly all of these inspectors owe their jobs and paychecks to the very same secretaries and directors who head the agencies they are charged to scrutinize. Often, they are old pals, ensuring partiality and conflict of interest. In other cases, the IGs are just biding their time, maneuvering toward promotions that have nothing to do with a career in accountability.

Even when an Inspector General does his or her job with devotion and skill, there is no guarantee of being heeded, or even safety from retribution.  Under the Bush Administration, vigorous examiners were actively intimidated, or stripped of resources to do their jobs. Or put into a cloud of ambiguity. It is a dismal record and one that demonstrates the desperate need for reform.

Accountability Systematically Stymied

Picking from a myriad examples, take the recently revealed story of investigators at the Securities and Exchange Commission.  According to a December 2008 report in the New York Times -- “The latest black eye for the commission came when it was disclosed that inspectors and agency lawyers had missed a series of warning signs at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. If it had checked out the warnings, the commission might well have discovered years ago that the firm was concealing its losses by using billions of dollars from some investors to pay others. The firm was the subject of several inquiries over the years, including one last year that was closed by the agency's New York office after it had received a referral of potentially significant problems from the Boston office.

“Similarly, the commission's chairman, Christopher Cox, assured investors nine months ago that all was well at Bear Stearns, which collapsed three days later.  Between those two events, David Kotz, the commission's new inspector general, has documented several major botched investigations. He has told lawmakers of one case in which the commission's enforcement chief improperly tipped off a private lawyer about an insider-trading inquiry.”

“...The enforcement division has been hamstrung by budget cuts and changes adopted by the SEC that make it harder to impose penalties on corporations, even when there has been egregious wrongdoing, Arthur Levitt Jr., the SEC chairman from 1993 to 2001, told the U.S. Congress in October. The result has been "a demoralizing of the enforcement staff," Levitt said.


Yes, we hope to soon be entering a new era.  Nevertheless, even if the Obama Administration returns to a policy of good and diligent government, will it be doing the nation a service by ignoring the systemic and systematic flaws that enabled the Bush Cabal to wreak such havoc upon our mechanisms of accountability?  By far the most patriotic and beneficial thing for the new team to do, while they are still in the full flush of their initial idealism, would be to change the system in simple ways that ensure this will never happen again.


Autonomy, dedication and accountability


Wouldn’t it make sense to appoint, train, and pay our inspectors through a channel that is completely separate from each department's political chain of command? Indeed, a system that is detached and safe from pressure by the legislative, executive and judicial branches?

Picture a uniformed service, with its own elite career path like the Coast Guard, or NOAA, or the Public Health Service, charged with protecting the legal and ethical health of government.  Under a relatively simple law, the inspectors and auditors would transfer to serve under the authority of the Inspector General of the United States.

Note: the Public Health Service is led by a real general - the Surgeon General of the United States.  By all accounts, these uniformed agencies are especially well-run.  Their dedicated staff perform with unusual elan, low turnover and punctilious attention to military-style rectitude. It is a tried and true method for instilling higher-than-normal standards of training and conduct.

IGUS would command a corps of trusted inspectors and observers, some of them with security clearance at the highest level and empowered to go anywhere and to see anything.  Trained to parse carefully the minefield of legal and ethical error, this corps would have to do much more than simply watch for outright legality.  They would also be advisors who best-understand the balance that every institution must strike differently, between short-term confidentiality and long-term transparency.
  
What better way to assure the American people that the government is still theirs, to own and control, even if some matters must remain discreet or secret from the public view?   One might imagine special rules requiring inspectors to stay mum when it comes to legal policy decisions that fall rightly in the political sphere, but giving them a range of options when they uncover violations of basic ethics and/or the law.  For example, an IG could not rebuke executive officials for their closed-door musings, but should speak up, confidentially, when a plan seems likely to break a law.

In recent years, the Executive Branch freely used “emergency” over-rides of many laws, especially those concerning competitive bidding for government contracts, granting hundred of billions in deals to close friends of administration officials, e.g. for reconstruction projects in Iraq.  It turned out that there was no recourse, no way to stop this dodge of the law, even when the “emergency” stretched six or more years. IGUS could offer a way to assure the public that the “E-word” will not be similarly abused in the future, by offering a check to this peremptory power.  One might even picture the Inspectorate as a way to provide basic rights to people who are being held under urgent "special circumstances" -- ensuring that those rare exceptions aren't abused or over-used. And, above all, that all exceptions are temporary.

IGUS could be appointed by a commission consisting of all past presidents and retired justices of the US Supreme Court, plus other nationally respected sages, with advice and consent of Congress.

Politically, this could be a move that has powerful resonance. The very act of establishing such a General Inspectorate would so clearly be neutral, offering no visible long-term advantage to the Democratic Party, that this law would (ironically) likely benefit the Democrats. Indeed how could the GOP dare oppose it?  Also, consider how this would allow fierce investigation of past crimes without sullying the image of a new Administration that wants to be seen as above petty vengeance.

Who needs a special prosecutor when every agency already contains all the elements for full investigation?  

With a simple change in the organizational chart, we might create an ideal force for accountability, a professional service that serves the people and the republic and the cause of honest government.

-------


Addenda: (1) A politically-oriented blog that I often highly recommend is written by my friend, investor Russ Daggatt.  It is well worth a visit, any time.  But his most recent entry is especially cogent, referring to Michael Kinsley’s recent call for an increase in the gasoline tax, compensated by reducing Americans’ payroll(FICA) tax. Oh... and (2) this appears to be my 500th posting.... argh...

Continue to Suggestion #8: Micro-Suggestions about the economic crisis

40 comments:

Rocky Persaud said...

Are you going to post this at change.gov?

David Brin said...

Do you think it would be worthwhile?

I've never been one to join herds. But what do you all think?

Capers said...

Go for it.

"shombi" - a shuffling, brain-hungry reanimated showgirl

David Smelser said...

Don't consider it "joining herds". Consider it participating in what Obama has created for open government. If you want your ideas considered by the transition team, it seems prudent to post your thoughts on their message board, since I'm not sure that they are coming here.

I'd post each of your recommendations here:


http://change.gov/open_government/yourseatatthetable/



-David S

William_Shatner said...

I posted a bit on Obama's suggestion box website. We'll see.

Seems to me, you could easily get overwhelmed with good ideas. It's important that there be enough intelligence and desire to recognize what is good. I'd rather tell them; "Go to contrary Brin website and hang out." ;-)

Ultimately, if BHO's administration, ignores the critics and starts a massive public investment infusion in alternative energy and other projects to keep Americans working. That will be a good first step. The other necessary things are going to be protective tariffs and/or higher taxes on the wealthy, and transfer fees. That will cause more investment, and help pay for things. The Third and most important thing, will be to go after the corrupt Republicans in the courts as much as possible. If the guilty are playing defense, they won't be having all that time and money to be trying to convict Obama for the next 8 years -- what happened to Clinton will happen again.

There are a lot of great ideas, but #7 in your series is really the most important. All things stem from some system -- ANY system, that you can trust. The markets are breaking up, because all the liars and cheats can only look at each other for future growth -- and they can't trust Moody's anymore to tell them who is reliable.

Without an Independent Council, empowered to weed out crooks and constitution destroying miscreants -- our laws, our Democracy, our economic system cannot function.

William_Shatner said...

I'd like to share some Business Ideas:
An online database for Alternative Energy manufacturers to pool information about how they build their equipment. The data cannot be directly accessed by other users -- but the point is to derive standards, and to use mass buying power. I've got a lot of other ideas that would help to "recycle" the alternative energy business and create a way for people to market these products, but the main benefit is to help them get out of making things "custom." It might even make sense for some alternative energy groups to sub-license patents, so that the most efficient one can make more of one component, and sell it to competitors -- much as IBM has done with chip fabbing. I've got the URL for "greenPathInvesting.com" -- but, getting off my butt with a good database person would be a key factor. Lots of ideas for how to incrementally grow this, and how to empower a sales force.

A system for facilitating barter -- but much like the P2P networking model. I'd had an idea for doing something very much like eBay -- 5 years before they opened doors. But some other business folks I was with at the time did not seem to appreciate my ideas. My idea, however would have required buy-in for the amount traded, so that quality and delivery was guaranteed. A simple escrow account could do wonders for eBay. Anyway, there is another window of opportunity about to arrive. If adversity is the mother of invention -- 2009 will be the year of invention.

A system to create an ad hoc internet, unhinging it from ISPs and bandwidth barons, who plan to tax usage. The standard internet would be used to transfer permissions and indexes of files, and the ad hoc network would be used to bulk carry large files like video.

A device that cools by changing heat into another state. It may actually not need power if I can use some byproduct of the so called "Casimir effect" which I theorize is more reflected gravitons -- but that's another discussion. Props to DMon for his mention of that hydrino technology. It got me thinking down other paths. I wouldn't go into this idea yet, not because I don't think I have good ideas -- but because I have too many of them. I would need a circle of folks who can actually implement the business side of inventing. Too much frustration otherwise.

I'd had an idea for something like AngiesList.com for a while before it showed up. But I'd take it a step further. There are ways to make a lot more money with this, as advertising can go towards discounts for consumers, and guaranteed business gives way to steeper savings.


>> Lot's and lots of ideas and opportunities. I just need to get engaged with some other people of like interest. Because, we are all going to need to get a lot more creative in this next year. We are seeing over 2 million jobs -- many in manufacturing go bye-bye. Since we are a service economy -- more than less, ONE Auto job, is going to affect at least FOUR or more service jobs. A lot of companies are getting ahead of the curve and going to be cutting jobs to protect PROFITS. What these idiots don't know, is that, they are creating a self-fulfilling job collapse because their fired workers won't be buying products from the companies that are also laying off and vice versa. So, expect an avalanche of unemployment -- unless Obama's "Dream Team" can do enough public works projects. The ball really is in their court. And I sickens me to go back over the negative territory -- but the NeoCons and media pundits, are going to have a roast for BHO and not in his honor. They will be doing their very best to make things worse and spread the blame that should be on their shoulders for the most part.

David Brin said...

See:
http://buzz.yahoo.com/buzzlog/92106/?FP=1

Of all the Sf-ish films coming in 2009, only one seems to have any originality at all... "2012" by Roland Emmerich, who does try, now and then, to be different.

But the concept behind 2012... ah well.... maybe if we're so insipid that we cannot come up with better myths... maybe we SHOULD go extinct.

William_Shatner said...

Brin,

That isn't Sci-Fi, that is escapist fantasy.

Everybody wants to fly around with a cape, and hope for pennies from Heaven these days. Those big dreams will come in handy when we are picking potatoes soon.

Don't be sore. Sci-Fi has barely ever actually been in the movies. There have only been a few decent TV shows with actual Science Fiction driving them.

I'd say that Babylon 5, the original star trek and even more the animated cartoon, the new Battlestar Galactica, and in spits and spats, the X Files, are just some of the notable few that come to mind that are NOT insipid, space dramas with laser beams, pseudo-science monster flicks, or just dramas with shiny pants. Don't get depressed -- SciFi on the screen has ALWAYS SUCKED.

I grew up reading Clark, Heinlen, Chalker and so many I've forgotten. They don't seriously touch this stuff with a ten foot pole.

"The Watchmen" will be kind of an interesting departure, because it will at least deal with the "Social and Political ramifications." It also might circumvent anyone in the skunk works projects from using high tech to bamboozle the populace.

Not that I think it will break any ground for real sci-fi. But it should "change the tone." Perhaps a bit of wonder again, or at least breaking clich├ęs. That at least, might warm future studios towards the idea that they need to be original -- how much more original can you be if you actually pick up a book of speculative fiction that doesn't include; Boy gets hit by rock and becomes super powered, boy must go on a quest, and travel somewhere to get the key/power/girl, Boy finds better laser, blasts bad guys who can't shoot straight or shows superior intellect by being only person in future to realize people can sneak through air ducts. That last one has given me the urge to gouge out my eyes on Stargate. Danged if there isn't a way more lame for a lazy writer than having the hero sneak through an air duct -- I can't think of one.

One of my favorites scenes in a B-Movie, pseudo-sci-fi flick was when two ships parked near each other and sat there and exchanged laser fire. The captain goes to eat a sandwich, explaining to the rookie that it's all between the targeting computers, and whose shields held out the longest -- finally, someone admitted that humans suck at targeting compared to computers, and that there won't be any dog fights in space.

>> Back to the Watchmen; There are a quite a few technologies/conspiracy theories out there that could be used to simulate an alien attack or the coming of angels. One notable conspiracy theory that became a product is the use of ultrasonic sound transmission. A&E, used a state-of-the-art device, to beam ultrasonic sound promoting an upcoming show about ghosts, directly to the ears of people in New York. The ultrasonics cannot be heard -- but what they do, is "push" on the hard bone of the skull once they collide. The resulting motion, creates sound in your head. So, yes, now we have the tech to make ONLY YOU hear voices.

The "Voice of God" is about speculation of using Microwaves to move masses of air in the sky. Like creating your own thunder, but you could use it as a broadcast mechanism. Or, you might use it to say; "Vote for Jeb Bush, because your creator says so." Hey, who can argue with that? This one has yet to be proven.

But that is what I really like about the Watchmen -- it looks at the "what could be great or what could go wrong" in terms of super heros. The theme is important I think socially. Because we look at how we can change humanity -- or should we? More important I think, than the science in Sci-Fi, is the "what if?" I've always been an advocate of "playing God" as long as you are pretending. But if you are actually going to genetically modify foods --- you should test that stuff many times more stringently than if you were going to try out a new pesticide -- because Pesticides can't reproduce. But, I list 1984 as a sci-fi book, and one of the most important in history. It did do a bit of "what if" with technology -- but more importantly, it looked at what could happen if a totalitarian government could spy on everything the populace did. The best books PREVENT bad things from happening, or help good things to happen. That's when a work becomes important.

That's why I read some of the Conspiracy Theory sites -- because, being WRONG about bad events is useful. Whenever someone speculates about Bush starting a war with Iran -- for instance. It helps make sure it doesn't happen. Because someone might be doing just the thing that is being speculated about -- and it might give them pause to know, that someone already wrote about it. Speculating on bad things, helps reduce the "Shock and Awe" that can help the Disaster Capitalists (see; Naomi Klein), from being able to implement their schemes. I wonder often, about what might have happened, so many times during the past 8 years, if someone on a blog weren't ranting -- they might have actually prevented a false flag.

Tony Fisk said...

Go for it!

See here for a precedent.

Excerpt from Governor's speech opening new state parliament in 1999:

The government's first item of legislation will restore the powers of the Auditor-General by repealing the 1997 Audit (Amendment) Act. The legislation will:

restore the independence of the Auditor-General to conduct audits in his own right;

enshrine the independence of the Office of the Auditor-General in the Victorian constitution;

increase the recurrent funding of the Office of the Auditor-General; and

ensure that all future appointments to the office of Auditor-General are made on the recommendation of the joint parliamentary Public Accounts and Estimates Committee.

The government's first priority is to restore public confidence in our democratic institutions. The government believes that Victorians demand and deserve a government with a real commitment to democratic practice. To this end, the government will:

increase access to public documents by amending the Freedom of Information Act;

restore the independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions and enshrine that office in the Victorian constitution; and

abolish compulsory competitive tendering in local government.

David Brin said...

I visited
http://change.gov/page/content/discussservice

and find myself at a loss as to where it is that members of the public actually enter their suggestions.....

Tony Fisk said...

It would seem to me that you:
- go to the main page
- select 'agenda' from the top menu
- select an appropriate area from the popup display (your guess is as good as mine as to which one is appropriate to IGUS!)
- To the right of the feelgood waffle, there's a box saying 'submit your ideas'
- fill in the form.

(To be honest, Rudd performed a similar feat with the 2020 summit earlier this year... I'm not sure if anything useful was taken away, but it was worth a try)

podet: pod people groupies

TwinBeam said...

2012 - *shrug* - as good a year as any to end this simulation.

And why not give the ending a little drama? One last thrill for the simulants before they're copied out to notched electron storage for later study...

Alex Tolley said...

"The Road" looks quite interesting as the SciFi movie of 2009.

Alex Tolley said...

Suggestion. Perhaps the IGs should be part of the DoJ instead, fulfilling the separation of powers and the checks and balances that work well.

Gilmoure said...

re: SF visualized.

Seeing as how Hollywood hasn't done that good of a job with SF, what about open sourcing a few seed stories and allow anyone to go and produce a movie based on the stories. Only thing; make all the submitters sign on that their films are also open source. So, would all be works of love/passion, without worrying if such a film would sell. Would also make a great resume piece.

A couple stories I've wanted to see on the screen: Ringworld (basic adventure story but great visuals), Footfall (great visuals as the Orion ship takes off), and Moon is a Harsh Mistress (great visuals and story).

So, any other suggestions on stories to be offered for such a project? I imagine shorter stories would work better for budding film makers but am not as familiar with them. Still, Piper's Omnilingual would be cool to see.

I know I've been hanging out here for several years and I'm finally going to admit it; I haven't read any David Brin stories. It's all been blog and magazine articles. So, where should I start? I always allow myself a personal Christmas present and this year, it's going to be books.

David Brin said...

This from the folks at Science Debate 2008:

We want to congratulate President-elect Obama on continuing to assemble an outstanding science team. A few days ago we told you about the appointment of Steven Chu as Energy Secretary.

Today we have two more outstanding appointments to announce:

1. We have learned that John Holdren will be President Obama's Science Advisor. John has an excellent knowledge of science policy, and a deep understanding of how the public needs the government to engage on science policy issues. He is a recent past president of the AAAS and an early and ardent Science Debate 2008 supporter. You can watch a 1-minute video he did for us last February, promoting a primary science debate at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia.

2. Jane Lubchenco, we're told, will head up President Obama's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Admninistration (NOAA). She is an outstanding choice with a deep background in marine biology. Jane is also a past AAAS president, and also an early supporter of Science Debate 2008.


Hope springs, eternal.

But I'd go so much farther. Rebuild OSTA in Congress! Get grassroots science advisory systems going in every community. Try to get governors who are appointing replacement Senators to go outside the political caste and go directly to the kinds of people who are so sorely lacking in Congress. A couple of politically savvy scientist-senators might change the entire tenor of deliberation, on the floor of that august body.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Boot said...

What genre or typical plot layouts do you normally enjoy?

Detective Finds It.
Struggle Against the Foe.
Guy gets the Girl.

Do you like low tech, high tech, or future tech more?

Stefan Jones said...

Sad news for old star trek geeks:

Majel Barret-Roddenberry died today of Leukemia, at 76.

According to the obit linked below she had a voice role in the new Star Trek movie.

http://sg.news.yahoo.com/ap/20081219/ten-obit-majel-roddenberry-5e343d7.html

Tony Fisk said...

So, any other suggestions on stories to be offered for such a project?

The current term for distracting eye candy appears to be 'shiny'. I think we should coin a new term for something that engages the fore as well as the aft brain:

'snappy': amalgam of 'synaptically shiny'

So, what snappy plots could work on the big screen? I suspect there'll be option right limitations on this idea. Still:
- Brin's 'Sundiver'
- Brin's 'Postman' (the author's version;-)
- Anderson's 'People of the Wind' would be ambitious, but fun. (as would the Flandry stories)
- Lensman (snappy because I believe JMS has something in the works... ditto 'Forbidden Planet')

doari: a dowry in promised deeds rather than items.

Stefan Jones said...

Maybe Michael Crichton had the right idea. Write novels MADE to be filmed.

Long, complicated, nuanced books lost too much in the translation.

Or . . . adapt short stories! Philip K. Dick's short stories have become a treasure trove for Hollywood.

Tony Fisk said...

Viewing a tale from a book or a movie screen is a bit like using different lenses that distort and magnify different aspects: books promote introspection and relection whereas movies emphasise action, spectacle and immediacy.

If you are to successfully translate between the two, then there needs to be adequate content when viewed through either lens. Otherwise, be prepared to pad.

... short stories.

I still haven't got to see Wall-E, but I wonder how well a sequel could incorporate 'Detritus Affected'?

matthew said...

"Senses Three and Six" is ripe for the cinematic treatment. How bout The Practice Effect?

The Stone Canal series of books by Ken MacLeod would be awesome to see ("The Rapture for Nerds").

Walter Jon Williams' "Praxis" trilogy or City on Fire.

The problem is not the source material, it is what is done with it.

Though I *do* have high hopes for George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" that HBO has greenlighted the pilot on. George has a history of writing / exec producing and I hope, hope, hope, to get to see this excellent fantasy series in 2009 or 10.

"perses" a smallish man-bag

David Brin said...

Tony, I have tried to follow your suggested path... I cannot find a "feel good waffle" or anything remotely like "submit your ideas."

Tony Fisk said...

Odd...
Do you see a list of options appear when you hover the mouse over 'Agenda'?

(There's a nice styling trick for drop down menus which they might be using and which, I've recently discovered, doesn't work with Safari)

Anyway, to cut to it, the direct link is http://change.gov/page/s/ofthepeople

formota:

Ilithi Dragon said...

Gilmoure, I haven't read all of Dr. Brin's books yet, but the Uplift saga, which I'm currently working through (I splurged and bought all of them... >.>;) is really good. Keeps me up too late at night and on the edge of my seat quite often. Sundiver starts out a little confusing, because Dr. Brin makes it clear that the story started long before page one, and it took me a few chapters to properly ground myself in the story and get my bearings, but it was still a very, very enjoyable read.


mingl: Post-Modern English spelling of the Modern English word 'mingle', after the influence of 'netspeak' and txting abbreviations on the evolution of the language.

Jumper said...

http://www.lessig.org/blog/2008/12/apture.html

Just found Lessig's blog today. There, I found this:
http://www.lessig.org/blog/2008/12/apture.html

Apture. I think you would like to view this. Maybe use it. I want it for my blog, even though I mostly keep away from politics on it. (And me a political junkie - !)

David Brin said...

apture is cool...

And now...

Tuesday December 23 at 9 PM / 8 PM (CST)
The Universe: Living in Space
on The History Channel

I'm pretty sure I am on this one.

Jumper said...

I want a gig straightening out bad SF film plots and dialog. Often a little tweaking by someone knowledgeable could improve dramatically a hole or plain stupidity in a plot. I think they underestimate the "geek factor" whereby approval by some geeks who insist on some scientific correctness can translate into at least some much better reviews.

As an example, inertia seems ignored lately. Hero grabs whale and hurls whale into ocean. In reality whale's tail would rip off its body. Car is hurled into air by superpowered hero grabbing bumper. In reality bumper would tear off. Hero throws boy far into the air and catches him. In reality boy experiencing 40 Gs would die. Tony Stark hits ground at 150 MPH. Suit saves him. Etc. All but whale could be done properly, easily. Whale is a challenge.

I'd only charge $100,000 per consult and could guarantee an extra million final gross for these films. (hard to prove, granted.) I'll never get such a gig with no references. Maybe someone like, oh, I dunno... Brin! COULD get that gig.

David Brin said...

Jumper you choose the wrong film. HANCOCK is pure fantasy. I turn my realism dials low for such films and just enjoy. Especially since it is one of the only original non-copies/remakes to have been served up in recent years. I enjoyed its silliness almost as much as FIFTH ELEMENT.

The dial I refuse to turn down is moral, and that last 4 starwars films careen into pure evil, by that standard. I am reluctant to let go of plot consistency, but FIFTH ELEMENT charmed me into simply collapsing down to age three and it felt good.

No, where a lack of good science advice hurts is when they purport to be serious films, or genuine sci fi. Hey, I've offered my services too. But Hwood biggies all think they are geniuses because they can utter the words "Hey! Let's remake..."

Gilmoure said...

David Brin said... But Hwood biggies all think they are geniuses because they can utter the words "Hey! Let's remake..."

Is why I'd like to see what hobbyist film makers could do. Sorta' like those 3-d challenges from last summer. I'm still amazed at those guys doing the new 'old style Trek' episodes and the work they've put in over the years.

Will look for Uplift Series and start in on those. Hitting bookstore after work!

Gilmoure said...

Oh yeah, I think the last SF film that I really enjoyed was Gattaca. Interesting story, took an idea and ran with it, and a very visually interesting film. Granted, the idea of a guy with a heart condition going off into space, yeah, he probably took out a few others when his ticker went, but it did bring the notion of genetic discrimination to the public.

And it had Uma.

Oh yeah, Fifth Element is a blast. Total fantasy but a hell of a lot of fun. And beautifully made.

occam's comic said...

eneurstGilmore,
I would really recommend that you read David's Lung Fish it is a great short story. (it could be the basis a great series)
Stirling's Neural Chernobyl is another fun short story.
If you are ambitious try Lem's Fiasco (the story of man first encounter with ??? alien intelligence????)
Or Ian McDonald's Evolutions Shore

Stefan Jones said...

There are a few DBrin short stories that would make good movies. Dr. Pak, Piecework, maybe even Loom of Thessaly.

Don't confuse Stirling and Sterling, Occam! Very different guys. I like "Neural Chernobyl" but it would be a tough adaptation. (It is in the form of a book review.) Sterling's "Shores of Bohemia," now . . . very visual and straight-forward story, but the concepts take a long time to sink in.

* * *

Comic book guy, comic, physicist, and screenwriter John Rogers co-created a TV series, "Leverage." It is running Tuesdays on TNT. Not SF, but a really neat thriller. A team of theives and con-men play Robin Hood, taking on corporations and the powerful on behalf of the benighted. e.g., in the last episode they rip off a Blackwater-like security firm and give the funds to National Guard soldiers who aren't getting the rehab funds they deserve.

Tony Fisk said...

... but did he have a heart condition, or just the predisposition for one?

(remember, the company doctor was wise to him.)

Jumper, for $50000, you can have the rights for this.

smerreep: the sound of a rusty doorhinge. Actually more to do with what might be causing the sound than the hinge itself

David Brin said...

Gilmoure's among the few who gets the delightful tension of GATTACA. That the hero is morally right AND wrong. A self-centered SOB who will risk an entire space mission...

...but if he makes it back, he will change everything.

Arcanedesigns said...

I find it hard to believe no one mentioned REPO as one of the possibly great upcoming sci-fi movies.

-grin-

Ilithi Dragon said...

To be honest, I don't think a mild heart condition (which, given the physical training and exercise he survived to get to that point, it couldn't have been a very major debilitation) would be much of a concern on that flight. Remember, they were all wearing rather expensive-looking business suits when they buckled in and took off. That's not the kind of attire that one would expect an astronaut to wear on a particularly vigorous mission.

Jester said...

It's really too bad that there is no more Outer Limits...The Giving Plauge would make an awesome episode (or would have been even better as a Twilight Zone).

It's just not a movie.

Arcanedesigns said...

I've been thinking about this suggestion, and I think it might be able to go even further. If I understood you right, it sounds like the office of the inspector general would focus on the agencies of the government. What about laws?

I think we've all noticed a few laws that were passed to ostensibly do one thing and, in practice, functioned drastically different. No child left behind is a good example I can think of off the top of my head, specifically when funding is cut from under-achieving schools and used to reduce the costs of families who could afford private schools anyway.

Could you see something like a second supreme court - something that has the authority to overturn laws that are malfunctioning?

Basic descriptions of what laws are supposed to do are often much shorter than the law itself - so I could see this being formalized in a manner. (X is the idea of the bill, and Y is the language implementing it.) Informally, I'm sure practically every law was described succinctly when it was being promoted, so I'm sure this exists for most laws already.

If a law isn't doing what it was proclaimed to do, it would be open to investigation and judgement - which could happen in several degrees. If it has loopholes or minor malfunctions, the court could issue a mandate requiring congress to make modifications closing them by a certain date, or overturn the law. If it was maliciously designed, they could outright eliminate it?

P.S. I hope this entry isn't too old for you to notice more comments - you're moving on so quickly this month, David!