Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Secret (and telling) words in the Inaugural Address

Even amid my pleasure and relief, that the moment had finally come,  I  felt compelled to examine Barack Obama's Inaugural Address, closely and critically.  If for no other reason, then to see if the new president would telegraph something different and revealing, about his underlying goals or character.  Some indicator that went beyond the expected eloquent platitudes, or reassuring words of determination and optimism.

Of course, those would have been enough for a good start. I was duly inspired by President Obama's call for a new spirit of purpose and idealism, evoking history and mission, duty and vision.  Indeed, I hope the speech moved all Americans, along with people around the world - even those whose guarded respect is as-yet tinged with suspicion.  Perhaps even grudging doubters will be swayed toward firmer feelings of appreciation, over the coming years, not only by words, or the skill and character of the Obama team, but also by events.   By the historical validation that is bestowed by great success. 

And yet, I don't feel compelled to write very much about those soaring themes and sentiments, all of which will be noted by others.  Instead, what I'll do - out of habit - is bring notice to a few side-glimmers and exceptional points that won't (I reckon) be mentioned by most pundits, or even historians.  

For example, it struck me that President Obama repeatedly called upon us to rise up as adults from the quagmire of dogma and culture war.  In order to do this, we'd have to do more than just listen to the angels of our better natures, or simply heed our high ideals.  Both in the campaign and on his first day in office, he emphasized the need to rediscover arts of negotiation and problem-solving. The calm pragmatism that undergirds all those lofty principles, without which they so easily dissolve into platitudes or self-righteous rationalizations. (As, indeed, the word "freedom" was cheapened in recent years, into a mere totem  for "my side.")


Other nations have known duty, honor, patriotism, self-sacrifice... and even freedom.  But it is the mix of those fine things with other ingredients -- with patience and craftsmanship, with both eager competition and willing cooperation, with reciprocal respect and healthy self-doubt -- that made our loftier ideals truly world-transforming.   And that notion of anchoring idealism in pragmatic action is the message that I felt through my bones - deeper than through my ears - during Barack Obama's inaugural address.

It was the same message that he pushed the day before, in dedicating Martin Luther King Day to practical public service. Do you want other examples?

"To those (overseas) who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."

How simple an offer, based upon a clearcut image of cause-and-effect.  Then came a sentence that both rebuked the recent past and expressed far greater confidence in us than we have seen expressed (alas) by recent leaders:

"As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals."

Of course you'll recognize a central theme of my book The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Privacy and Freedom? And especially since the dire events of 9/11, as I kept hoping (and preaching) that Americans should reject the dismal and insipid "devil's dichotomy" we were constantly offered for eight years, as fools demanded that we trade-off between two things we cannot live without.

Those two passages were certainly noted by others. Moreover, without question, President Obama had to say them, whether or not he meant quite the emphasis that I perceived. 

 But two other paragraphs contained - tucked within - what I feel are vital hints to Barack Obama's character and agenda.  Because they are things he did not have to say.  Very few of the two million people attending in Washington, or close to a billion watching around the world, will remark upon them.  But I suggest that you do.

"We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age."

Yes, yes.  Education, sustainability, health, plus the new technologies that may not only help save the nation and planet, but also kick-start the next economic boom, in much the same way that our government's internet research sparked the last one... all of that was profoundly welcome, and expected.  But to put science first, ahead of all the others, and thus signaling it's "rightful place," struck me deeply.  This is one lawyer who knows that good decisions cannot be based upon incantations, but must ultimately depend on actual, honest-to-God facts.

We have had enough of leaders who arrogantly believed that all you need to govern is one thing, a powerfully certain and egotistically subjective force of will.

But then, it can be argued that Obama also "had to" mention science, after all the travesties of recent years.  Perhaps that, too, was no surprise. Or I may be reading too much into it. So let me reach deeper for my final clue.

"Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

Did you see it?  The word he did not have to mention?  And hence, one that he chose to insert, simply because he thought it important?

It is an under-rated word, though in some ways deeply sacred, since it represents a deep and profoundly American value -- one that stands behind our greatest achievements and underpins our loftiest ambitions.  Yes, all the other values that he listed in that paragraph are profound and vital.  But the one that caught and briefly transfixed me is a crucial, though oft-forgotten trait that makes us at-once both wondrously childlike and yet also mature, in the best sense of the word.

Mature enough to ask that precious question (the foundation of true science) "what if I am wrong?" The question that we have learned - the hard way - leads to wisdom, justice, self-discovery, empathy, humility, and incremental progress.

Look again.  It is the one word that you never heard used to describe the dismal bunch who have finally departed and who will not be missed.  Even though, crossing all party lines, it once applied - and may yet again - to broadminded conservatism, as much as it does to liberals.

 The new president did not have to mention it.  But he did.  And that one word -- tucked in among so many fine phrases -- tells us plenty. It shows that he wants not only to preside and rule.  He wants to learn.

 =======

My 100 "Unusual Suggestions for America and the Obama Administration" are posted.  If you find any of them unique or worthwhile, feel free to spread word. Or join the discussion.

Meanwhile, here's to hope, confidence, and a renaissance.


David Brin
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96 comments:

Brenda Cooper said...

Nice post, David. I agree - I am so very pleased with the idea that we must all do this together and that we must be willing to grow up to do it.....

Matt DeBlass said...

I noticed that word too, while I listened to the audio stream.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I'm lost. What word? Is this metaphorical or literal?

Tony Fisk said...

I saw at least two words that I would not apply to the outgoing administration, but I think I have it.

If deliberately included, then it would explain why science is 'restored to its rightful place'.

(It is a delicious puzzle, which only those to whom it applies would care to solve!)

'lessed': good folk who are worthy of adulation, but who do not wish to 'be'.

Stefan Jones said...

Patrick Farley, the cartoonist behind several marvelous web comics, has posted an epitaph for the neoconservative movement:

All Circus, No Bread

It begins:

"Trying to explain what was wrong with the Bush Era feels like trying to vomit up a cannonball. I don't think my jaw can stretch that wide.

Seriously, where does one even begin? Abu Ghraib? Ahmed Chalabi? Mission Accomplished? The "Battle of Iraq?" Valerie Plame? No-bid contracts? The billions of dollars the Pentagon can't account for, and apparently never will? The Department of Justice firings? The blue Iraqi flag? The staged press conference? The fake Thanksgiving turkey? Terry Schiavo? Freedom Fries?

I can at least say this for Bush: he *didn't* plant any WMDs in Iraq.

But really, Bush himself wasn't the problem. Bush was a cipher, the perfect vacuum at the center of a perfect storm -- an ideological superstorm which rotated, like some slow, sick, wobbling hurricane of raw sewage over America for 8 years, like some brown, shitty version of Jupiter's Great Red Spot. This Neo-Conservative Superstorm, as I'll call it, had three major sources of energy feeding it:

a) a panicked population in need of a Protective Patriarch,

b) a Republican party crowded with brazen and reckless ideologues,

and most significantly:

c) A network of Conservative Think Tanks with deep pockets and a fearsomely coordinated army of media pundits."


Read all of it.

Anonymous said...

Textual analysis of words which appears in the 2005 inaugural speech but don't
appear in the 2009 inaugural speech and vice versa:
http://71.6.151.230/prez/diff.php

From dni-net:
Why do people continue doing stupid things? Consider the development of weapon systems for the US military: Chuck Spinney made the cover of Time magazine back in 1983 — that’s 25 years ago — for documenting to Congress that the acquisition system was getting worse at an increasing rate. Anybody who thinks he was wrong, or who thinks that things have improved, is welcome to post a refutation...

Reality has not escaped the people who work in the system. What we have, in other words, is a stupid system composed of bright people, lots of bright, well-educated, and often experienced folks working diligently to try to solve the wrong problems. This fact isn’t lost on the project development community, which, from time to time, produces some brilliant insights on itself, and, even more interestingly, publishes them.

Dan Ward, Gabe Mounce, and the other members of the group that call themselves “rogue project leaders,” for example, have been writing about the absurdity of the system for years, and getting their stuff published in the primary venue for the field, Defense AT&L. I guess that may be the lone ray of optimism in this dreary debacle.

Dan’s latest, “Call Me Sisyphus,” is well worth a read:

Since more than 46 years of reasonable, intelligent-sounding solutions have failed, perhaps it is time to try some unreasonable solutions.

He begins by quoting an article by Maj. Frederick Stark in Air University Review:

“The cost of growth in military hardware is increasingly the subject of national debate. Critics of the Department of Defense cite massive cost overruns on major weapon programs, usually aircraft, as evidence of mismanagement and waste. … We are currently paying eight times the cost per pound for fighter aircraft that we did in the 1940s. We are paying four or five times as much as we did in the 1950s. … These are production costs. Development costs have grown even more.”

Then Dan lets you in on the fun — this was published in 1973, ten years before Spinney’s testimony. Although Dan didn’t point it out, it took the F-22 22 years to go from the initial studies to initial operating capability (IOC). The next fighter in the pipeline, by the way, is the F-35.
http://www.d-n-i.net/dni/2009/01/18/doing-the-same-expecting-better/

Dan Ward's discussion here:
http://www.dau.mil/pubs/dam/2009_01_02/ward_jf09.pdf

Meanwhile, canonical, the company that produces ubuntu linux, is reportedly now
making enough money that it's close to being self-sustaining.
http://ostatic.com/blog/canonical-and-microsoft-is-sustaining-a-business-better-than-turning-a-profit-right-now

An Al Qaeda training camp has apparently gotten devastated by the Black Death, AKA
bubonic plague. You have to wonder if they were planning something and it got out
of control. Time for mass innoculations in Europe & America?
http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article2146286.ece

Dutch government commissioned a report to determine the economic devastation caused
by file-sharing online. Turns out, the report says online file-sharing helps
the economy.
http://torrentfreak.com/economy-profits-from-file-sharing-report-concludes-090119/

Naturally, this has inspired European governments to do the senible thing.
http://torrentfreak.com/sweden-considers-police-action-against-file-sharers-090120/

Arcanedesigns said...

Simply; I agree. It almost seems like Obama is pushing the country through sheer willpower towards inspired growth. I hope this comes to be.

Now the flipside; on the next episode of Pessimism Theatre: The Colin Powell-Joe Biden Hinted International Crisis! Will it happen? Stay tuned...

Dave Baker said...

His unprompted nod to "non-believers" was another good sign. Now that we've elected a black president, perhaps other forms of discrimination in politics can be set aside as well.

TStanulis said...

Curiosity!

Jonathan David, R6 Pace Chair said...

I was ALSO delighted, and NOTICED that word! I'll credit you with the influence that made me notice it.
Thanks for Keeping the Flame!
Jonathan

Sociotard said...

President Bush on Monday commuted the sentences of two former Border Patrol agents imprisoned for shooting a Mexican drug smuggler, but he was preparing to leave office without granting clemency to any better-known figures or government officials who could face liability over administration policies.

Hundreds of other defendants convicted of garden-variety crimes have petitioned for leniency, seeking to shorten prison sentences their advocates see as excessive. But in the end, Mr. Bush used his clemency power to aid only Mr. Ramos and Mr. Compean. He leaves office having granted 200 pardons and commutations, the fewest of any two-term president in modern times.


That's the trouble with prediction registries . . .

(I'm just teasing)

Chris said...

Beautiful analysis - totally agree. I noticed both sections while watching - and cheered each time.

David Brin said...

The Pardon Tsunami is a big minus check on my predictions registry!

The prudent buying of canned goods is something else. "That's just normal paranoia -- everybody has it." -- Douglas Adams

David Brin said...

The Vice President will attend the inauguration in a wheel chair, completing his transformation into Mr. Potter from "It's a Wonderful Life." - Karen Tumulty

Venessa Paech said...

I confess I did a rather vigorous happy dance when he mentioned the restoration of science as national (global) endeavour, and curiosity = perfect.

While we're on the subject of language deploy, I was slightly miffed by the choice of "non-believers" (investing athiests and other secular groups with meaning and relevance only in relation to being 'other' than a theoretical mainstream). But I'm happy to live with their inclusion at all after a decade of free-thought marginalisation :)

daveawayfromhome said...

"The Pardon Tsunami is a big minus check on my predictions registry!"

I feel rather silly for having also thought there would be at the end of his term. Should have remembered that in the world of "leaders" like Bush, loyalty is only supposed to flow one way - up.

Gilmoure said...

David Brin said... Cheney... Mr. Potter

I'm thinking Dr. Strangelove.

Jumper said...

I had forgotten about the tsunami. Glad it didn't happen. I should read the actual pardons somewhere...

I want to mention again my modest proposal to place solar panels on the roofs of every Federal guilding in the U.S. For hot water where applicable and photovoltaic also. Something like that is in the works already. I hope we insist on it.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Tony Fisk said:
Ilithi, your description of the camaraderie reminds me of an account of John Paul II's first visit to Poland as pope. The regime of the time tried to spike the event by withdrawing all police services, anticipating traffic and crowd chaos, and presumably hoping to pin the disruption on the unwelcome interloper.

It didn't work: instead, 'the people found a new way of moving.'

Hope your legs recover!


There were several logistical problems that occurred, but they were mostly minor, and all were handled quite well by everyone, with people patiently working their way through, or finding alternatives on their own, even after the event was over and we were all tired, stiff, sore, cold and ready to go home. I think the problems arose partly from minor errors and mistakes, but mostly from the sheer number of people there. I think there was a lot more people than they were expecting (they were projecting a million or more, and I think we had double that, or more, just in the mall), and the facilities available just weren't up to handling that many people in such a small area over such a small time, even if they had been expecting that many people.

As for my legs, and every other muscle in my body save my tongue... I usually don't really feel the pain and stiffness from heavy exertion until the second day after, instead of the first, for some wierd reason, though I'm already feeling it today, and hoping it doesn't get worse tomorrow.


I, too, noticed the points you suggested. I strongly agreed with the first, cheered my throat raw with the second, cheered for the third (along with everyone else), and definitely noticed that word, with much surprise and delight (and cheered all the harder at the next pause). That is definitely not a word that is commonly used to describe the American spirit and people, though history shows that it is very fitting more often than not. But it doesn't, or at least it didn't used to inspire the same kind of sense of patriotism, rightness, honor, etc. that the other words inspire (not very surprising, considering it's usually been repressed and discouraged, deliberately or as a consequence of other repression, through most of our history). That may have changed now, though, and I really hope it has.


Jumper said:
I had forgotten about the tsunami. Glad it didn't happen. I should read the actual pardons somewhere...

I want to mention again my modest proposal to place solar panels on the roofs of every Federal guilding in the U.S. For hot water where applicable and photovoltaic also. Something like that is in the works already. I hope we insist on it.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Gah, forgot to finish before I posted:

@Jumper: Windmills might also be a good addition, as well, where practical. I've been doing some research into building my own, and found a few commercial products designed to be aesthetically pleasing, and be mounted on a rooftop without any additional reinforcement of the roof. Well out of my price range, but for the government, compared to the energy they'd save (and could sell into the power grid if they surpassed their own energy usage)? Chump change.

Anonymous said...

Lighter side of the inaugural, from The Onion -- "Vice Presidential handlers lure Cheney into traveling crate"

http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/vice_presidential_handlers

British blogger sticks his laptop next to the TV and has a speech-to-text
program convert Obama's inaugural address to text. Oh my.

http://www.dracos.co.uk/play/obama-dragon/

William_Shatner said...

I can honestly tell you that all the points you considered obscure in Obama's speech and mentioned, were the exact ones where a cheer broke from my lips.

I watched the ceremony at work because we set up our auditorium to cover it. I did my best to stay emotionless, and not let "hope" rise up too much. I've been burned before, and I follow ideals -- not people. If the people stay with those ideas, I support them.

But it is hard for me to believe, that this man, who had at least 1% of the entire nation, right there cheering him on in Washington, is going to be swayed by a few lobbyists and people he "owes" money to. Most of his campaign was financed by $50 donations. And I can't think, that after it is all said and done, that this is a guy who has a tin ear. He is not someone who is faking it when he gives a speech.

I didn't think these were hidden messages -- it's just that he was speaking to us as if we were adults. It is almost shocking. There wasn't manipulation from fear-- just a cogent reminder that our economic system is in jeopardy (an understatement, IMHO).

I was so damn happy, however, that he mentioned we've been through worse, and asked us to rise up to the occasion.

I'm really hoping that when we have the next attack, some leader tells the nation; "Learn martial arts -- learn to be in control of situations. We do our best to protect the nation, but each citizen needs to know that they can be in control, and a force for good unto themselves." OK, the prose sucked, and there was a bit too much Chuck Norris in there -- but you get the idea.

William_Shatner said...

>> The biggest change for me in attitude, is the "can do" that Obama is pushing forth. At the age of 43, the strongest sense I got from the media and the time I grew up with as a kid was; "American's can do anything, and scientists are heros." 10 years later, the scientists were always over-reaching Dr. Frankensteins, cooking up disasters for the heroes who are smart enough to bring not just a gun to a knife fight -- but a bigger gun. It pisses me off, when some "citizen" starts miming the Oil Company PR agencies and saying; "It's unrealistic to think America can get off oil. Gas, Coal and Nuclear are the only practical things in the short term." Yeah. all the stuff we can't do -- that's the excuse.

America can damn sure make things better -- but first we have to have people in charge who BELIEVE we can make things better. We seem to have had this "mini dark age of the soul" wherein human life is suffering, and all we can do is grab someone else's goods to reduce our own.

To me, the people who were so Pro-Iraq war, even after it was found the reasons were not quite based upon the truth, and that we were doing no good, were underneath it all, thinking about plunder. That was sad and scary, that there are folks in this country who really don't care about other people, as long as we keep the SUV running. That we have become such lazy gluttons, who only complain when the hog trough lies unfilled.

The greed, corruption -- it did not move the Republican base. No, they got morally outraged when gas prices went up. The bill has not fully come due yet ... so there is probably a bit more of that to come.

>> But I really have to admit, I'm a bit giddy, and the sudden slam from an excuse riddled Keptocracy, to the hope of one that seeks to solve problems, engage citizens, and ask us to be better people -- wow. I'd rather eat dog food, than live in a country that tortured -- to me that's being the bad guy. My honor and my country's honor, are a little more valuable to me, than a season of "good economy." Of course, I'm a Progressive, and there is no reason why we can't have both.

Damn I'm excited about this guy. He sounded a lot more like a Progressive than he did campaigning -- which shows he is very shrewd. Snuck the good guy under the corporate tent. Wait, we can have both Liberty AND Security by putting intelligent, competent people in charge and holding them accountable?

We've failed for more time and money than it took to put a man on the moon for the last 8 years. I can't wait to see a "Can Do" America that can put together a new energy infrastructure in 4.

jim said...

Chaney in a wheelchair reminds me of Davros, except that Chaney is fatter, uglier and scarier.

occam's comic

Stefan Jones said...

SIGH.

I really don't know. It's Obama's first day and he already shows signs of being a lazy, unprincipled slacker:

First day: Obama asks for tighter rules on lobbyists, freeze on staff pay, more govt transparency

WASHINGTON - In his first full day in office, President Barack Obama issued his first orders — among them tighter rules on lobbyists, a pay freeze for senior staff and quick responses to Freedom of Information Act requests. He also met with economic advisers.

The pay freeze impacts about 100 White House employees who make more than $100,000 a year.

"Families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington," Obama said just before Vice President Joe Biden swore in the new senior staff at the White House.

Obama also announced a change in policy that will require each federal agency and department to give full attention to Freedom of Information requests and revealed what he called a "clean break" from existing rules spelling out when and under what circumstances administration officials could work on issues on which they lobbied governmental agencies before.

He said there would be a two-year, rather than a one-year, waiting period for government officials to be able to work on such issues and said they would "not be able to work on matters you lobbied on or White House agencies you lobbied during the last two years."

"Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this administration," Obama said in a statement to reporters.

Aides also circulated a draft executive order to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay within a year, releasing some of the 245 detainees still there and transferring others to different sites for trial.

Mideast diplomacy

The White House said that the president had earlier called the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan following the Israeli military assault on Gaza."


'thicated': Obsolete medical procedure.

Joshua said...

Interesting that "curiosity" seems to be the word that those here (who have actually made their guess explicit) are assuming that Dr. Brin had in mind.

I would have guessed another...although I can see how those words describe 'curiosity', as well (and, in some ways, fit it better than my own original guess).

(My guess? 'Responsibility'.)

(word verification is right out of the Mike Myers ouevre, and deserves to have finger-quotes: 'lasorr')

Cliff said...

It was a great speech. It's funny, though, that a lot of the pundits (or so I hear) are ranking it as one of his worst - just because he didn't comment enough on being the first black president.

For me, it still hasn't sunk in that Bush is out. After eight years of hearing terrible news, I've gotten used to the idea of having terrible, harmful people in charge.

william_shatner said:
That was sad and scary, that there are folks in this country who really don't care about other people, as long as we keep the SUV running. That we have become such lazy gluttons, who only complain when the hog trough lies unfilled.

It came to my attention that one of my friends on Facebook is among this crowd, when he posted a WSJ article claiming that liberals are only mad at Bush because he won in Iraq.
I was enraged for a while - it's different seeing someone you know say something like this, as opposed to some rando on the internet.

hydrli - race of waifish water-dwelling aliens

Stefan Jones said...

((Adapted from an old Russian joke about the KGB burning down.))

RING RING!

"White House switchboard, how can I direct your call?"

"I'd like to speak to President Bush."

"Sorry, Mr. Bush is no longer the president."

"Ah, thank you."

RING RING!

"White House switchboard, how can I direct your call?"

"President Bush please."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Bush is no longer the president."

"I see, thank you."

RING RING!

"White House switchboard, how can I direct your call?"

"I'd like a moment with President Bush."

"I'm sorry but . . . HEY! I recognize your voice. George Bush is NO LONGER THE PRESIDENT. Why do you keep calling?"

"Please . . . just say it one more time. I can't hear that enough."

* * *

dialio: Lighthearted musical composition consisting of only flat notes.

tacitus2 said...

David

I was not going to post about your missing the mark on the Pardon Tsunami. Big of you to do so on your own.

I had to work, and so did not take in the speech. I heard snippets and read the text.

He is starting off well, and as a conservative I particulary appreciate the respect shown to McCain. Some posters here could maturely retract some of the nonsense spouted about him.

But liking McCain does not make him the man for the job at hand.

Nobody really wants to think about GW Bush anymore. Not even conservatives. But his failures can be instructive.

Essentially he locked onto one idea, that Islamic Fundamentalisim was an existential threat to the West, and he fancied himself a new Churchill. Churchill of course was right (after being monstrously wrong more than once). Bush, looking wrong, albeit with some history yet to play out.

But more significantly Churchill was politician enough to wage his fight without having to mortgage everything else to his political enemies. Or to his friends, who can actually do you more damage.

Obama will face some of the same challenges, and some new ones. And of course, liking him does not make him the man for the job either. Lets hope he has the backbone to oppose his political foes on matters of principle. And his politcal friends who can in the end do more grievous damage.

With my full share of misgivings

Hail to the Chief.

Tacitus2

Matt DeBlass said...

It seems we're all talking about the same word. "Responsibility" was important, but was very obviously part of the overall message.
"Curiosity" though... he didn't have to say, the line would have flowed just as smoothly without it, but he must have felt it important enough to put in there. I gave a little cheer when I heard it the first time.

"Swordi" A specific type of luncheon meat meant to be sliced with an extremely long knife.

Tony Fisk said...

My initial reaction had been 'honesty'.

t2, having watched Rudd do backflips on issues he had a clear mandate to pursue vigorously (*only* a 5% reduction on CO2 emissions?) I understand the sense of impending disappointment you might feel when the man steps back (is it failure of nerve? of imagination? or just a pragmatic reassessment of circumstances?)

Anyways, here's to curious times ahead.

'cheda': cheese for rappers. Very curious!

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

"Look again. It is the one word that you never heard used to describe the dismal bunch who have finally departed and who will not be missed."

Ahhhh, Mr. Brin... there are more than a couple of words in that statement that do not apply to the previous crew. :)

And thanks, I enjoyed your dissection of the speech. It was quite wonderful, was it not?

Ilithi Dragon said...

A point to remember in analyzing the word Dr. Brin is talkinga bout, is that he said it is the one word that was never used to describe the people Obama's giving the boot to, and a word that they would never think to use to describe themselves or each other. Honesty? No. The first thing a liar will tell you is that he is honest. The third is that he is very responsible and will not let you down (the second being the quality of the skill or service he is scamming). In fact, a liar, con artist, dictator, or any person depending on your deception to scam you out of money and power, will describe themselves (or pay or coerce others to describe them) as every single thing that Obama listed, save one. Curiosity is the last thing that anyone pulling the wool over your eyes will want to promote, in any way.

occam's comic said...

Oh man, Obama's views on transparency are Brin -like. My favorite part of Obama's new rules for releasing government info ;

"I will also hold myself as President to a new standard of openness. Going forward, anytime the American people want to know something that I or a former President wants to withhold, we will have to consult with the Attorney General and the White House Counsel, whose business it is to ensure compliance with the rule of law. Information will not be withheld just because I say so. It will be withheld because a separate authority believes my request is well grounded in the Constitution."

Did you catch that "former president wants to withhold" This is an invitation for investigative reporting into the misdeeds of the Bush administration! We have got to put this to the test, what do you want to know about?

Tony Fisk said...

He seems to mimic someone's conspiracy theories as well: I liked the bit in the inauguration speech where he mentions that 'each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.'

'tridsow' - arcane agricultural device for planting three furrows at a time.

TwinBeam said...

Them #1 recommendation on the Citizen's Briefing was "legalize pot", well ahead of trains and transit.

The response was a flat "Barack Obama is not in favor of marijuana legalization." Way to show you're listening, Barack!

What is it about this issue that so frightens politicians? That scares even hero Obama?

Can't be public opposition - medical marijuana initiatives consistently win by 2:1 - more than Barack's margin of victory.

Sure there are more urgent issues - but he could certainly have said "I'll take your recommendation seriously, but right now I've got higher priorities."

Any ideas?

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

Yes, lets! The tobacco companies need a new product to push.

reason said...

I'm disappointed that people just blurted it out.

I wanted to post something like:
You know I'm quite curious what the word he is talking about is.

reason said...

And yes I noticed it in the original. I wouldn't be surprised if BO himself or some of his speech writers have read this blog.

matthew said...

"The quiet force of progress throughout our history," indeed!


I, too, cheered when I heard curiosity on the list of values in the President's speech.

And like others here, my first thought was of this forum, specifically, "Brin *must* be grinning right now."

"Non-believers," that, too, is groundbreaking in modern political debate.

But more so, the list of Executive Orders issued immediately spoke to me. Suspense of Guantanamo military tribunals. Gitmo to be closed in no more than one year. Review of all Executive Orders from the prior administration. Review of Secrecy Classification on presidential records. Tighter regulations on lobbyists (even though some of his appointments have violated that last one - folks jumping from lobbyist to making policy without a two year wait).

*Words and actions both.*


thessa: fork in a snake's toungue
.

matthew said...

With a h/t to Ken MacLeod's "The Early Days of a Better Nation" blog.


http://www.geoeye.com/CorpSite/gallery/detail.aspx?iid=220&gid=1

Satellite view of the Inaugural crowds.

matthew said...

Here is a link to:
MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES
SUBJECT: Transparency and Open Government


http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20090121/2009_transparency_memo.pdf

Government should be
1) Transparent
2) Particapatory
3) Collabrotive

and then it goes on to task the Chief Technology Officer to have a plan for an Open Government Directive within 120 days.

Marino said...

Matthew wrote:
And like others here, my first thought was of this forum, specifically, "Brin *must* be grinning right now."

...me, too: when he mentioned restoring science and praising curiosity, those words resonate so much with this blog

and

"Non-believers," that, too, is groundbreaking in modern political debate.

The channel I was following the speech here in Italy pointed that "contrary to what happens in Europe" the inauguration began with a religious cerimony, and he went on about the role of religion in US politics as a model for us;
pity he forgot to mention the anti-estabilishment clause and Jefferson's "wall between church and state" and then the point about "non believers" came...

Stefan Jones said...

I'm not a religious guy. But I've got the words to this one hymn in my head. One particular verse of it, really:

When tyrants tremble sick with fear
And hear their death knell ringing
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?




'recke': Martial art created by steelworkers in Gary, Indiana, involving juggling balls of molten metal.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Speaking of applicable songs, one of my favorite songs, "The Times They are a Changin'", by Bob Dylan, is very applicable today.

Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.

Stefan Jones said...

Found in comments on a Washington Monthly blog post:

'From a friend at MIT describing the scene in a lecture hall where they broadcast the inauguration ceremony:

"It was crowded to the rafters. Stairs, steps, upper passageways, crammed with people. doubled on several seats. I snuck in the back way, and stood on tip toe. [When] Sen Feinstein or CJ Roberts said, 'will all please stand.' The entire auditorium in [the hall] stood. They listened to the oath and then roared. You could feel the whole building. Dozens of people were crying....And --- would you believe the entire [lecture hall] sang the national anthem as if it was worth singing. I am turning 70+ and have not seen anything like this for a long time ....... not since WWII ...."'

Anonymous said...

This quote from Obama's agenda brought a tear to my eye.

Restore Scientific Integrity to the White House: Restore the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on ideological predispositions.

Anonymous said...

David is a scientist and a science fiction writer. Of course, the word was "curiosity"!

David Brin said...

In my 100 "suggestions" http://www.davidbrin.com/suggestion.htm
I talk about ending the drug war.

But BHO has higher priorities. The longer he can keep the honeymoon going and keep a lid on Culture War, the more our habits - especially the redders - have a chance to change. If we can go 6 months with redders saying "dang that N-- is doing a good job"... then that's be 6 months of Limbaugh screeching at full volume and losing listeners.

He's got plenty on his plate. Damping Culture War is way up there. Only then can he call a big Drug War Conclave that includes tons of red-but-mature figures... and let THEM step up with suggested changes.

David Brin said...

Wow Stefan, that MIT story was great.

Ilithi Dragon said...

That definitely is a beautiful story from MIT, Stefan, and I'm passing it on.

It's truly incredible the force and extent to which hope and faith in our government has been renewed since the election, and that was demonstrated on Tuesday. People have wanted to be able to believe in their country again, for a very long time, and now so many people have found hope that that faith can be not only restored to its former glories, but also strengthened, and expanded. Everywhere I looked on Tuesday, I saw old claims that we're an uncaring and superficial people, doomed to repeat the mistakes of history and destroy ourselves, proved false. Everywhere I looked on Tuesday, I saw proof that we CAN learn from our mistakes, that we DO care about the world and those around us, that dreams and ideals are NOT just fickle words that we will abandon when hardship sets in, and that the dreams of enlightenment, the dream of a better, brighter future is not just a delusion of naivete, but a reality that with the tireless effort and force of will that once embodied this nation, we CAN and WILL make happen.

And yes, our new President has inspired my tendencies toward dramatic prose to new heights... ;P

David Brin said...

My added wish.

The news pundits and interviewees caused immense ennui when I heard the ten thousandth of them wag on about the "miracle" of electing a black president.

Feh! It was the least important reason, for many of us. Indeed, the REAL miracle will be when that trait drops below the horizon. When its lesson is absorbed and penetrates. When his successes make it a non-issue.

As it already was, for most of us who voted for him.

The miracle I want is for him to be what he seems. Brilliant yet curious. Confident but serenely willing to learn. Calm and perceptively eager to see what people can deliver. Lithe and good at Judo... so that Sumo becomes a seldom used last-resort.

Persuasive and infectious. The antidote to Culture War and promoter of joyfully grownup argument.

And invulnerable to harm.

William_Shatner said...

TwinBeam said...
Them #1 recommendation on the Citizen's Briefing was "legalize pot", well ahead of trains and transit.

The response was a flat "Barack Obama is not in favor of marijuana legalization." Way to show you're listening, Barack!

What is it about this issue that so frightens politicians? That scares even hero Obama?

Can't be public opposition - medical marijuana initiatives consistently win by 2:1 - more than Barack's margin of victory.

Sure there are more urgent issues - but he could certainly have said "I'll take your recommendation seriously, but right now I've got higher priorities."

Any ideas?



I'm holding my breathe with a "wait and see" with Obama. So far, he has shut down lobbying by revolving door people leaving Washington, he has re-introduced some needed transparency with Freedom of Information Act -- which Bush was wanting to have veto power over and hand it to his children (no lie).

Eric Holder, the Attorney General hold up, is about running out the clock by Arlen "Magic Bullet" Specter so that Bush doesn't have to pay for signing off on illegal domestic spying. That to me is the BIG ONE.

I am very much in favor of legalizing Marijuana -- but I don't smoke it and it won't change my life. Clean air, a new energy policy and the rule of law -- very much affect my life.

Obama is going to have to go up against the most powerful Capo of organized crime in this nation of a hidden Oligarchy. He will have to go up against big oil and big pharma and that little trick with lobbying is going to affect the military complex and AIPAC

Now, does he need to tack on DuPont an the Chemical industry on top of all that? Should he start going after organized religion? How about announcing that we offer Reparations for Slavery... do you get where I'm going?

Politics is the art of the possible. There are so many leeches on America, that you have to take sides with one group of parasites to get rid of the other group.

So, we shall see if Obama is beholden to corporations or may get called into a meeting of International bankers as they explain to him "how its going to be."

But damn, so far he did twice as much with a stroke of a pen as I thought he would.

Save something for next week, OK? Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

I'm sure Obama is listening to the people -- it's just that we elected a representative, and that means allowing for judgement. It also means that pragmatism dictates what he can do. If it were just about Marijuana being a drug -- then there would be no opposition to hemp farms. But criminalization of Marijuana has nothing to do with public health and safety. There would be a whole slew of drugs that people wouldn't need, stress relievers, pulp mills would stop using wood for paper... it would disrupt whole industries of their status quo.

Don't expect legalized MJ any time soon.

>> By the way, IBM and Microsoft are cutting jobs. Our tax base is diminishing rapidly.

William_Shatner said...

>> Yeah, I was damn tired of "the first black President" by the third mention during the inauguration. I expect it will be part of a drinking game.

I'm more impressed by the first man of integrity in 28 years to be in the white house.

He will also be the first black president to wash his hands after taking a #2 in the White House toilet. Don't forget, he is also the first black man to snore in the President's bed chamber.

Probably the third to have a black child, but hey, he can't break every record.

This is like when your friends are surprised that you were able to change the tire on your car and it's put in the form of a compliment. But, the media is populated by morons or cads, who either are surprised by the world and chase news discovered by others, or they willfully ignore actual news, to obsess over the obvious.

Anonymous said...

Hey, David Brin, consider yourself kicked twice. You said you'd write books instead of pounding your keyboard in the comments. Get back to writing.

As for Obama keeping his promises, jeez, people, it's only been about 2 days he's been in office. Give the guy a chance, huh?

Glenn Greenwald has some encouraging words about Obama's executive orders so far.

Barack Obama will have spent his first several days in office issuing a series of executive orders which, some quibbling and important caveats and reservations aside, meet or actually exceed even the most optimistic expectations of civil libertarians for what he could or would do quickly -- everything from ordering the closing of Guantanamo to suspending military commissions to compelling CIA interrogators to adhere to the Army Field Manual to banning CIA "black sites" and, perhaps most encouragingly (in my view): severely restricting his own power and the power of former Presidents to withhold documents and other information on the basis of secrecy, which was the prime corrosive agent, the main enabler, of the Bush era.

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/2009/01/22/hiatt/index.html

If you want to see a scoreboard of Obama's promises, with a listing of which ones he's fulfilled so far, check here:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/??

A lot of these will take the help of congress to get done. So let's not get down on the guy too much after only 2 days in office, okay?

And Matt Taibbi has the lowdown on Tom Friedman's latest outrageous hypocrisy.

http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/19908

If any of you care about progressive causes, think about donating to the Smirking Chimp. They fought the good fight against that crew in the White House for the last 8 years and now they've got real money troubles, so help out if you can.

Marino said...

about transparency look also at the new website of the White House and its mission statement:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/change_has_come_to_whitehouse-gov/

Transparency -- President Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and WhiteHouse.gov will play a major role in delivering on that promise. The President's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review, and that’s just the beginning of our efforts to provide a window for all Americans into the business of the government

Anonymous said...

About the pardon tsunami: It's possible that the meme was spread widely enough to become a self-preventing prophecy.

Other random thought: I've been hearing the phrase "to big to fail" too often in the past year. It makes me wonder if those companies might have been "to big to be allowed to exist." I suppose, however, that in a country that has spent the last 28 (or more) years extremely skeptical of even anti-trust regulation, anti-bloat regulation might be a step too far.

glypec: Group of L.Y.P. exporting countries. Children may be reading this, so I can't say explicitly what they export.

ToddR said...

I hereby kick David Brin thrice.

No more from you this January, David!

Ilithi Dragon said...

I'm giving Dr. Brin some leniancy because of the inauguration. As such, I'm only kicking him two and a half times.


Disman: Post-Modern English pronoun, used to differentiate someone from datman.

Jumper said...

I recall Obama said something in response to "are you black enough" that I think summed it all up as subtly and yet as succinctly as needed:

"I know what it's like to walk down the street being black, if that's what you mean" (my recalling of it)

Cliff said...

As for Obama keeping his promises, jeez, people, it's only been about 2 days he's been in office. Give the guy a chance, huh?

Who has been complaining about Obama?
In the span of three days he's done more than I'd been hoping for - so much that I'll be (pleasantly) surprised if he manages to keep it up.

Sociotard said...

A worthwhile read from SI:

The Courage of Detroit
http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/the_bonus/01/07/detroit/index.html


(a snip)

And yet it's our misery to endure. There's a little too much glee in the Detroit jokes these days. A little too much flip in the wrist that tosses dirt on our coffins. We hear a Tennessee player tell the media that the Thanksgiving win didn't mean much because "it was just Detroit." We hear Jay Leno rip our scandalous former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, by saying, "The bad news is, he could be forced out of office. The good news is, any time you get a chance to get out of Detroit, take it."

Enough. We're not gum on the bottom of America's shoe. We're not grime to be wiped off with a towel. Detroit and Michigan are part of the backbone of this country, the manufacturing spine, the heart of the middle class -- heck, we invented the middle class, we invented the idea that a factory worker can put in 40 hours a week and actually buy a house and send a kid to college. What? You have a problem with that? You think only lawyers and hedge-fund kings deserve to live decently?

Anonymous said...

Obama seems to be doing all the sensible things, so I guess it's time to stop worrying about politics and get back to the cool stuff.

Here's a neat article that questions how a spider can perform all sorts of complex intelligent behaviors with only 600,000 neurons. The answers seem to be providing computer scientists with some new paradigms for artificial intelligence.

http://rifters.com/real/2009/01/iterating-towards-bethlehem.html

TwinBeam said...

Cliff - I suspect Anon was referring to my and William Shatner's exchange.

But "not doing things fast enough" wasn't the point of that. WS's response that Obama is a representative and has to be pragmatic about what he can accomplish is reasonable. I just think Obama missed an opportunity to exhibit real transparency in the face of a disagreement with his constituents.

Sure I'm pleased with some of what he's doing and how quickly he's doing it. Sure I find it funny when "el Rushbo" rants on the radio of Obama "failing" to have a plan for what to do with the prisoners after shutting down Gitmo.

Doesn't mean I look at his plans for tera-dollar economic stimulus as wise. Doesn't mean I like his support of Bush's domestic spying - even as the first of hopefully many post-Bush allegations come out, that the NSA was spying on pretty much everyone.

Anonymous said...

Here's an odd and thought-provoking rant by John Dvorak that blames the current financial meltdown on -- the invention of the spreadsheet program!

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2338796,00.asp

Don't know that I buy it, but at least it's original.

Brian Claymore said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Claymore said...

On a related topic, the Obama address this morning has some promising signs:

We’ll invest more in Pell Grants to make college affordable for seven million more students, provide a $2,500 college tax credit to four million students, and triple the number of fellowships in science to help spur the next generation of innovation.

...

I know that some are skeptical about the size and scale of this recovery plan. I understand that skepticism, which is why this recovery plan must and will include unprecedented measures that will allow the American people to hold my Administration accountable for these results. We won’t just throw money at our problems - we’ll invest in what works. Instead of politicians doling out money behind a veil of secrecy, decisions about where we invest will be made public, and informed by independent experts whenever possible. We’ll launch an unprecedented effort to root out waste, inefficiency, and unnecessary spending in our government, and every American will be able to see how and where we spend taxpayer dollars by going to a new website called recovery.gov.


Emphasis mine. This is all very good news. It has been a long time since we have had a leader who really understands the important link between science and our prosperity. Further, the desire to be completely transparent with how taxpayer money is being spent is something that can only be good. When everyone can see, it is hard for the crooks to get away with things. I just hope all of this proves successful.

EDIT: Messed up my HTML tags.

Arcanedesigns said...

Apparently Obama is doing weekly addresses on whitehouse.gov. I find it interesting that the piece they just posted isn't a continuous shot - it's several different takes spliced together into one speech. I wonder why they're doing that and how much time they're putting into the project?

Rob said...

@Arcane, the weekly addresses have always been prepared statements. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the radio addresses were similarly staged, with multiple takes and a post-production effort.

Some Kinda Wonderful said...

I'd rather he expend his efforts in cleaning up the train wreck GW left than in making a "fresh" video every week. He doesn't have the time for that (and neither do we). I think he should delegate that job to someone else and keep his mind on the business at hand.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Actually, I like the idea of a weekly video address. I seriously doubt they take much out of his actual day - maybe 10 - 20 minutes of filming, and whatever number of minutes he spends reviewing the script his speech writers put together for him.

Seriously, Bush spent over half his time taking days off (what was it, his first or second year, he took over 200 days off or something?), I think Obama can spend maybe an hour a week to keep us updated on what he's doing and planning, and showing us that he does care to keep the country in the loop.

Tyler August said...

Anonymous said...


Here's a neat article that questions how a spider can perform all sorts of complex intelligent behaviors with only 600,000 neurons. The answers seem to be providing computer scientists with some new paradigms for artificial intelligence.

http://rifters.com/real/2009/01/iterating-towards-bethlehem.html


Mien Gott, is everything on this planet chalked full of Uplift Potential?
Tread carefully; you don't know whose ancestors you might be stepping on!

I cheered at curiosity, too. And responsibility. And transparency. If recovery.gov is instituted as planned and the rest of Obama's administration is a flop, it might be worth it for the precedence alone. For government to actually have to reach out and explain where, exactly, the money has gone. Tripling the number of science fellowships is an excellent bonus and early proof that he's putting his money where his mouth is.
If the rest of the country can learn from Detroit's stoic optimism, we all might just get through this.

clutorc: Clthulu's new line of Celtic-themed accessories.

Stefan Jones said...

The AMA has done a careful study of "Bush derangement syndrom," a malady that many liberals were supposed to have been suffering from over the last eight years.

They have discovered that it is an actual phenomena, but in the interest of accuracy have urged the adoption of a new name for it, "Actually knowing what the f$%# was going on."

'trepti': Notation found on old musical scores. Fast? Slow? No one remembers.

TwinBeam said...

If Obama is going to push for carbon Cap and Trade, maybe he'd better make sure it's limited to domestic trades we can monitor and regulate...
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090125/ap_on_re_as/china_s_golden_dams/print

Sociotard said...

Sometimes scientists choose odd, even amusing words to describe the phenomena they observe. For example, astronomers notice a little bitty asteroid in near earth orbit. It never gets closer to earth than the moon, but it never gets more than 0.1 AU away from earth either and its orbit is almost identical to earths.

The word the astronomers used to describe the asteroids behavior? Stalking. Its stalking us. :)

Strange Asteroid 2009 BD Stalks the Earth
http://www.universetoday.com/2009/01/25/strange-asteroid-2009-bd-stalks-the-earth/

David Brin said...

I have set up several slide shows at
http://www.slideshare.net/davidbrin/

What someone might help me with is whether it is possible on slideshare to have a two-pane presentation. One pane showing my video of me presenting a talk and another pane showing the slides (preferably advanced by the watcher himself.)

Oh, btw... pleas for help from the group mind don't count!

Matt DeBlass said...

@Some Kinda Wonderful

I think that his weekly address is actually part of his trying to clean up the mess.
After all, he promised to treat us like grownups and keep us in the loop.
Bush was big on photo-ops, but he didn't seem to do much by way of explaining the whats and whys.

"oodou"

That Voodoo that you do so well... with your mouth full.

David Smelser said...

I'm more in favor of a tax and rebate than a cap and trade.

With the financial crisis as an example of market failures when individuals can game the system, I'm afraid of creating new markets and financial instruments that corporations/individuals can get "creative" with.

It seems much simpler, straight forward, and transparent to just tax the carbon as it is used.

TwinBeam said...

@David Smelser - I tend to agree.

A market in CO2 (or any pollution) sounds cool, but both sides in such a transaction are motivated to collude to cheat. So it ends up requiring an impractical level of monitoring.

But Obama's agenda specifically includes a call for cap and trade.

Tony Fisk said...

We'll let you off this time David.

The Slideshow Tour mentions that it is possible to sync podcasts with slides. This would be better than video taking up real estate (unless you had something more than a talking head in mind)

'produs' - a goad to waken the slumbering masses. (David's next post announcing the publication of his next novel would be a 'produs' ;-)

Anonymous said...

SWAT team raids Washington State University dorm on reports of underage drinking:

http://www.examiner.com/x-536-Civil-Liberties-Examiner~y2009m1d26-SWAT-raid-for-underage-drinking-at-Washington-State-University

Woman convicted of "terrorism" under Patriot Act, loses custody of her children for spanking one of her kids on a plane flight:

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-airline-felonies20-2009jan20,0,5468299.story?

Supreme Court rules passengers in car can be frisked by police even if they've done nothing to indicate they committed a crime:

http://www.sacbee.com/838/story/1573881.html

White House had no case files on accused Guantanamo "terrorists," just pieces of paper dumped on desks at random. More proof that most of the so-called 'terrorists' held at Guantanmo Bay torture chambers were just innocent bystanders like the cab driver Dilawar who got sold to the Americans by an Afghan warlord as a scam to make a quick $50,000 on the bounty for "terrorists":

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/24/AR2009012401702.html

Traigc story of Dilawar here. His case was the subject of the 2007 film "Taxi to the Dark Side," a film worth seeing if you have the time:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/20/international/asia/20abuse.html

The evidence now suggests that most of the prisoners in Guantanmo were guilty of nothing more than being innocent bystanders fraudulently sold to the U.S. Army in Afghanistan by corrupt Afghan pols. The Afghan warlords saw an opportunity to make a quick buck with phony accusations of terrorism to supplement their income from the heroin trade, apparently. Some of the Gitmo detainees were genuine terrorists, but at this point they seem to be a distinct minority.

Woman arrested for overdue library book in Iowa:

http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2009/01/26/Woman_arrested_for_overdue_library_book/UPI-94651233014734/

Misleading headline here -- "DEA's medical marijuana raids continue under Obama administration." More likely this offers proof that the federal government is not a monolithic institution and the members of power blocs jockey with one another for ascendancy, with the federal narcotics bureau trying to go over the head of the Executive branch by continuing with these kinds of rais until they're explicitly ordered to stop. I'm guessing that the federal narcotics cops think won't give an explicit order to stop the raids because that would open him to charges that he's "soft on crime," but I think they may be misunderestimating Obama's willpower, as well as the mood of the country.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle_blog/2009/jan/22/dea_s_medical_marijuana_raids_co

An asteroid is stalking us! Call the galactic police and file a restraining order!

Anonymous said...

Here's a sort of good news/bad news article from the British Daily Telegraph about the eerie similarities of the current financial meltdown with 1931. The goods news is, first, the lucky timing of this financial collapse. It happened only 3 months before a guy who's really competent and imaginative took office. Just imagine if this financial blowup had happened in, say, February 2005!

The other good news is that we've got a lot of mechanisms in place to help correct this misfiring global economic engine that didn't exist back in 1930. For example, the Federal Reserve is taking pro-active action to reduce interest rates and inject money into the system, congress and President Obama (can't get enough to saying that! President Obama! Yeah!) are gearing up for a massive stimulus program, and of course we've got welfare and medicare as well as the FDIC that didn't exist back in 1929.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/4339501/Bad-news-were-back-to-1931.-Good-news-its-not-1933-yet.html

Anonymous said...

Peculiar article about the recent human wrecking ball who latestly occupied the White House. Gabriel Pauette describes him as "a reactionary radical revolutionary," which sounds right. However, he starts off with a poor choice of words, initially calling the cocaine cowboy in the Oval Office "a curious mixture of reactionary and progressive." Uh, no. "Progressive" is completely wrong. The guy was an extreme radical who tried to overthrow the rule of law and tear up the constitution, but that's not at all the same thing as a progressive.

Anyway, it's worth a read.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2009/jan/26/obama-conservative-progressive-agenda

Gilmoure said...

The Economist finally opens their eyes: George Bush's legacy
The frat boy ships out

They do a good job of rounding up Bush's high lights as a farkin' tool but nothing new there, if you've been reading Dr. Brin's blog or just about any other blog out there.

What really pisses me off about this is all these damned 'institution' level magazines and newspapers, which should have been trumpeting this list of craptacular decisions as they happened, is that by keeping silent or even approving of Bush's actions, they're implicitly part of the problem.

Damn, but they piss me off!

Chris Heuer said...

great post David - watching it I was less then impressed (I think his somber delivery took some of the juice out of it for me) but in reading it, I was amazed at what happens when the "one president" we have at a time has the ability to speak truth to power in such an amazingly direct, but nuanced way

will call you soon to talk about 2009 - we should try to figure out some things together

Ilithi Dragon said...

Chris Heuer said...
(I think his somber delivery took some of the juice out of it for me)

Volume makes a huge difference. Watching the speech online, his words didn't have anywhere near the same force and strength that they did listening to them at the mall, standing in front of one of the speakers. The volume of the videos I found online were actually pretty low (I maxed all my volume settings, and it wasn't even remotely painful), and there was some inflection that I didn't hear or could barely recognize, that was clearer at the mall, when the volume was a couple decibels below uncomfortable.

Anonymous said...

Twinbeam asked why Obama hasn't pushed for marijuana legalization and why both parties seem so afraid of it.

To expand on what David Brin said, Obama got elected by a large enough margin to give him real political capital, and he's attracted quite a few former Republicans who are still conservative in the original sense of that word. Meaning, people who care about fiscal responsibility and law and order and traditiional conservative issues, as opposed the crazy stuff people who call themselves "conservatives" today worry about, like gay marriage and flag burning and partial birth abortions.

Couple of things to remember. First, even very popular presidents get a short honeymoon. 6 months, tops. And that's pushing it. Right now everyone loves Obama and is willing to cut him slack, but that's going to end real soon. Obama knows this. So he has to make every minute count. Spending this honeymoon period on an issue as marginal as marijuana legalization would be a bad idea, and Obama knows that. He needs to use every second of this brief honeymoon period with congress and the press to get national health care and an effective stimulus package passed through congress. After that, he can worry about the less pressing issues.

Second, the funny thing about political capital is that it gets spent by the same amount no matter what you spend it on. Political capital resulting from a blow-out election, like this one, will burn away just as fast if Obama spends it on legalizing weed as it would if he spent it on national health care and a stimulus package and infrastructure rebuilding. Which is more important right now? Once that political capital is gone and the honeymoon is over, it'll be a long tough slog for Obama to get anything done. Want to see him try to push national health care uphill instead of legislation to legalizae weed?

There's also the fact that the Republican party now seems to be made up exclusively of crazy people. These guys are cutting their own throats by clamoring for a filibuster of the stimulus package. If they keep that up, the Republican party is history. That's not such good news as you might think, because it will mean lots of fractures in the current coalition of the Democratic party. All those former Republican conservatives will start to get antsy when the trillion dollar deficits begin to hit. Nationalizing most of our biggest banks whole, en masse, which we'll probably have to do within the next couple of years, will also make the true conservatives want to bolt fro the Democratic coalition. Creating a giant new national health care bureaucracy won't please the true conservatives either. So Obama's going to have his work cut out for him holding the current Democratic coalition together. It would become 10 times harder if he tries to push something as relatively far left as marijuana legalization.

Arguably Bill Clinton's big mistake was getting embroiled in the gays in the military imbroglio in the first few months after his inauguration. If Bill Clinton had pushed hard on national health care instead of gays in the military, we might have gotten health care reform. No guarantee on that. I can't view alternate universes. But I'm guessing Obama isn't stupider than I am (he's probably a lot smarter), and if I can see the analogy and potential trap, so can Obama.

Lastly, marijuana legalization seems to be inching forward on its own. 13 states have largely decriminalized possession of small amounts of weed right now, and more are int he process of doing that. If Obama just doesn't do anything, the states are likely to de facto legalize possession of small amounts over the next few years to the point where the federal govenrment won't have to step in and change the law. Then, after a decade or so of getting used to the new looser attitudes, everyone will have gotten so comfortable with the idea that a full legalization bill can sail through congress.

As to why both parties are scared to death of touching the issue, that seems clear. Legalizing weed outright, instead of letting it happen under the radar in the states, opens up a can of worms. The whole issue gets bollixed up with harder drugs like methamphetamine and the morphine-based narcotics and cocaine plus hallucinogens like LSD and MDMA (ecstasy) and peyote. Our society is still intensely confused in dealing with these very different types of chemical substances. If there's anything we don't need right now as a distraction from the big issues like health care reform and getting the economy working again, it's some complex detailed debate about why psychoactive compounds like marijuana are fundamentally different from both LSD and the narcotics. That's why I think both parties are so scared of legalizing weed. Explicit federal legalization opens up a pandora's box of heated controversy involving other substances, and it has way too much potential to turn into a bottomless pit of social and pharmacological complexities.

In a perfect world, okay, sure, let's get federal legalization done right now along with everything else. Out here in the real world, we've got bigger fish to fry. Plus I think the country's inching in that direction anyway, and Obama knows all this. Remember: Obama ran as a pragmatic moderate. If you wanted Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, you should've voted for them. We all know why we didn't vote for those people, because they couldn't have won. So now we've got to deal with the consequences of our own pragmatism as well as Obama's. Personally, I'm well pleased. Kucinich, the "boy mayor," isn't somebody I'd want in charge of something as big and complex as the Executive branch. Don't seem to recall he did do a real great job with Cleveland.

SteveO said...

Dr. Brin,

I passed your insight on the "curiosity" sentence to my grad class. They totally got it.

Regarding synching PowerPoint slides, audio, and video...

I don't know anything about slideshare, but if what you want is something that people can browse online, I use Camtasia Studio and it gets the job done and gives you some decent editing tools. If you have existing video/audio and slides, you can pull them all together. It is relatively cheap at $299 and you can download a demo version for free to see if it will do what you want.

The program then renders it into Flash, which will work in any browser. If you want to see what it looks like (rendered at low res for bandwidth), go here.

Sociotard said...

CIA officer allegedly drugs, rapes women in Algeria, Egypt.

http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/Story?id=6750266&page=1


Quoting a poster on another forum:
Aside from the crimes (allegedly) inflicted on the women themselves, that story is good for a few hundred more Al-Qaeda recruits. I seriously think we should consider treating creeps like this that hand over such stunning propaganda and recruitment opportunities as 'providing aid and comfort to the enemy'. To be clear, I'm talking about the folks who do the stuff, not the ones who report it.

Gilmoure said...

Brad Hicks: Yes We Can Put Americans Back to Work. We Probably Won't, Though.

Ronald freaking Reagan himself briefly campaigned on it, calling it "Workfare:" if you can't find a job, we'll make you one, whether you like it or not. But he didn't even get sworn in before the same pro-corporate Republicans and right-wing Democrats convinced him to drop it, to instead concentrate on cutting taxes for corporations as his only unemployment-fighting measure. No, there is now, just as there was in Franklin Roosevelt's time, a bipartisan consensus of the elites in this country that the way to put Americans back to work is that taxes must be cut on investors and corporations. We are, apparently, supposed to ignore the last thirty years of history, which teaches us that every tax cut we pass and every subsidy we grant to big corporations will be used to hire robots or to move jobs overseas. No, this time we're supposed to believe it will be different and this time they really will use that money to make more jobs. Trust them on this, they say. And just as in Roosevelt's day, the exact same political coalition of big-corporation Republicans and big-corporation Democrats insist that if that won't do the job fast enough, then what we need are even more public-private partnerships. And ironically, even Barack Obama, who very nearly lost his political career early on because he was caught on the fringes of Tony Rezko's financially corrupt public-private partnership, one that Barack Obama had gotten for him, somehow hasn't learned that it's public-private partnerships and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, not government make-work programs or benefits for the unemployed, that are the real welfare cheats. Being a Harvard graduate who grew up under the steady drumbeat of pro-corporate propaganda about how evil the WPA was, he's still talking up the need for more public-private partnerships like Harold Ickes' old Public Works Administration.

So I figure the odds at roughly 4 to 1 that he's going to screw up the unemployment situation in America, at the very least doing nothing to help it, and quite possibly making it worse by funding the elimination of yet more American jobs, because that's exactly what the new President and his cabinet officers are talking about doing, lately. Sadly, these are even better odds than we would have had under either Clinton or McCain, neither of whom would have even considered anything but public-private partnerships. Obama will, I think, at least think about it. But I don't think he'll do anything but try to set up another PWA. Which is a damned shame. Because what we really need is another WPA.


Really recommend ya'll go and read the entire article. Very good.

Joel said...

The old administration had a knack for becoming curiouser and curiouser, without ever becoming more curious.

Matt DeBlass said...

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says of the Republican Party: "We’re all concerned about the fact that the very wealthy and the very poor, the most and least educated, and a majority of minority voters, seem to have more or less stopped paying attention to us,"

He worries that the GOP is becoming more of a regional party than a national one. If this isn't a rallying cry for Dr. Brin's "Decent Conservatives" I don't know what is.

"Logisdit" - A small, not-quite-checkmark marking off an item on your to-do list.

Gilmoure said...

Gah! Now the press figures it out:

Arianna Huffington: (Davros) Today, at an off-the-record gathering of international editors and reporters, the contrition had spread to financial journalists. There was the sense that many had missed the boat, failing to ask the tough questions -- and, even when they did, failing to stay on the story until it broke through the static.

That sense dominated discussions even after the session had ended. The mainstream media's ADD -- the desire to always look for the new hot story, instead of digging deeper into a complex one -- was deemed partly responsible for the failure.

And since there were those who got it right -- including Nouriel Roubini (who was there) and financial analyst Steve Eisman (who wasn't) -- there was the feeling that many more in the media could have gotten to the truth before it was too late. And if they had, who knows what could have happened?


If a freaking working class guy like me could recognize bad policy decisions as they were announced (and I blogged about it on my LJ for the last 5 years), how the hell did most of these freakin' movers and shakers miss it? Ah swear, it's like they were all drunk on cheap store brand profits (comparable to a Welsh Claret). Freakin' telephone sanitizers!

Ilithi Dragon said...

Gilmoure said...
If a freaking working class guy like me could recognize bad policy decisions as they were announced (and I blogged about it on my LJ for the last 5 years), how the hell did most of these freakin' movers and shakers miss it? Ah swear, it's like they were all drunk on cheap store brand profits (comparable to a Welsh Claret). Freakin' telephone sanitizers!

That's what I call 'Selective Cognition.'

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the party formerly known as the Republicans (sort of like the artist formerly known as Prince), the polling website fivethirtyeight has a fine article titled "The Republican death spiral":

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/01/republican-death-spiral.html

Apparently there are only 5 red states left:

http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/01/just-five-red-states-left.html

Maybe because Rush Limbaugh is now effectively the head of the Republican party:

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0109/18067.html

With wise advice like this, Republicans may get all the way to zero red states by 2010:

http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/home/daily/site_102408/content/01125111.guest.html

Yes, conservatives have got a clever plan for winning back congress -- make sure America stays out of work and broke. That's the ticket! "Vote for homelessness in 2010: Vote Republican. We'll make sure you lose your job!" Sounds like a winning strategy to me.

http://news.aol.com/political-machine/2009/01/27/in-opposing-obamas-stimulus-bill-gop-hopes-to-return-to-limite/3

Fun, fun, fun for 2009!

http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2009/01/2009_will_be_a_year_of_panic.php

Even more fun for 2009!

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/30/opinion/30krugman.html

And even more fun!

http://www.cbpp.org/9-8-08sfp.htm

And yet more fun!

http://blog.norml.org/2009/01/29/will-the-dea-raids-continue-now-even-the-mainstream-media-is-asking-the-question/

Wow, fun galore for 2009!

http://www.eff.org/press/archives/2009/01/29

Thrilling, delightful fun in 2009:

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aYYHKPn4DOe8&refer=home

Can you believe it? 2009 is going to be a scream:

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/49b1654a-ed60-11dd-bd60-0000779fd2ac.html

And at Davos, it's nothing but fun, fun, fun -- time to par-tay like it's 2009!

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/jan/28/worldeconomicforum-davos

Yes indeedy, 2009 looks like it's going to be a ROMP!

http://carlosmiller.com/2009/01/30/photographing-police-could-land-you-in-prison-for-ten-years-under-new-uk-law/

I count this as a much bigger failure than David Brin's prediction of a pardon tsunami. Brin has been telling us for years now about how the sane conservatives are going to take back control of the Republican party, but there's no sign of that happening. Instead, the Republicans just keep getting crazier and crazier. By this time next year, the Republican party will be leaping around naked on all fours barking at the moon, judging by current trends. And the Democrats, with their crazy war against drugs and infinite expansion of the unwinnable war in Afghanistan and their limitless efforts to make filesharing illegal (about as sensible as trying to outlaw the rain or passing laws against the dawn), seem like they're vying with the Republicans in the craziness sweepstakes. Yes, they're neck and neck, coming up on the straightaway, it'll be a photo finish...

http://media.www.uncmirror.com/media/storage/paper972/news/2008/02/18/Editorials/U.s-Military.Spending.Simply.Out.Of.Control-3216038.shtml

In this environment, it's time to...EMBRACE THE CRAZINESS!

http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/01/07/cardinal-schonborn-links-financial-crisis-to-evolutionism/

Maybe if we shave the cat and paint ourselves with polka dots, that will fix things? Huh? Hey, why not? Every other nutty kind of behavior seems to have been praised as "masterful" (Greenspan) and "innovative" (Lehman Brothers' credit default swaps), so we might as well just let it all hang out and do a Hunter Thompson.

http://www.hanlonsrazor.org/2008/12/27/unsurprising-suv-sales-rise-as-gas-prices-drop/

http://www.seedmagazine.com/news/2009/01/the_true_21st_century_begins.php

Hank Fox said...

I've wondered about the "pardon tsunami" too, and I think I've figured out why it didn't happen.

You can bet a trillion dollars that members of his administration expected it. But in the end, they were betrayed by the very attribute that made Bush the perfect fulcrum around which they could work their malignant will: He's stupid and weak.

In the end, I think Bush was just too tired, too lame, too emotionally crippled by his massive and undeniable failure, to muster the energy to actually do it.