Thursday, April 29, 2010

Here comes the debate over the other kind of aliens...

Alert!  There's a 60% chance I will be on LARRY KING LIVE (CNN) Friday at 9 ET (6 PT) in a rushed-together debate about “aliens” with Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute and the actor Dan Aykroyd....

 ...all in response to a flurry of interest that’s been stirred by Stephen Hawking's new Discovery Channel show.  Specifically, his lead-in episode about extraterrestrials, wherein he recommended against our calling attention to ourselves. (He made it look pretty dire!)

This happened in a sudden whirl. Larry King's people contacted me just hours ago and I must rush to a studio on my way to the airport, before flying right off to keynote an investor conference in Las Vegas, talking about "our economic future." (Yes, I get spread thinner, by the day.)

Okay, I’ll offer a hurried little riff here, about Hawking and aliens, with added contributions by and about Paul Davies, Robin Hanson and others. (Please excuse the first draft quality and lack of participation in the comments section.)

In his show (a while before he rooted for my alma mater, Caltech, to “win the Superbowl”), Professor Hawking said that aliens are almost certainly out there and that Earthlings had better beware. Instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact. His simple reasoning? All living creatures inherently use resources to the limits of their ability, inventing new aims, desires and ambitions to suit their next level of power. If they wanted to use our solar system, for some super project, our complaints would be like an ant colony protesting the laying of a parking lot.

Want an irony?  I am actually a moderate on this issue (as I am regarding Transparency).  My top aim, in these recent arguments, has been pretty basic; I want more discussion. And for arrogant fools to stop blaring into space “on our behalf” without at least offering the rest of us the courtesy of first openly consulting top people in history, biology, anthropology - and guys like Hawking - in an honest and eclectic way.  Their refusal to do this constitutes just about the most conceited and indefensible behavior by scientists that I have ever seen.

Now, everybody and his cousin appears to have an opinion about aliens. In fact, I know almost nobody who seems willing to wait and entertain a wide variety of hypotheses, in this “field without a subject matter.”  It seems that the very lack of data makes people more sure of their imagined scenario, rather than less. And more convinced that those who disagree are dunderheads.

Davies+-+The+Eerie+SilenceRenowned science philosopher Paul Davies has weighed in with a new book, The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence, which seems a bit of a take off my own classic “The Great Silence” paper -- (still the only overall review-survey that has ever attempted to cover more than 100+ hypotheses that are out there, to explain our loneliness in the universe.)  Alas, Paul seems never to have heard of that paper, or most of the hypotheses in question -- he cites me only as a grouch toward METI (“message to ET.”)  And, while I have long admired Paul’s work and consider him to be quite amazing, I feel he got a bit lazy with this one.

Space Law scholar Nicholas Szabo is much harsher on him than I am, I’m afraid:

“Paul Davies’s arguments are pretty lame, and possibly quite disturbing; for example saying:  "Just because we go around wiping out our competitors doesn’t mean aliens would do the same."  But that doesn't mean they wouldn't, either. The example of life on earth is all we have to go on, and life on earth is Darwinian.”
 
Szabo continues: “Davies also says: "A civilization that has endured for millions of years would have overcome any aggressive tendencies"  But I (Szabo) find that utopian nonsense. By the same reasoning humans should have "overcome any aggressive tendencies" that chimpanzees have.  Davies adds: "By comparison, humans would quite likely be considered dangerous warmongers, posing a possible menace to our galactic neighbors in centuries to come. If so, then ET may act to eliminate the threat..." 

Um, so much for their peacefulness.  George Mason University economist and philosopher Robin Hanson responds:

”Many species here on Earth have endured for millions of years while retaining “aggressive” tendencies, and even very “mildly” bellicose aliens, ones who would only exterminate us if they could make a plausible case that we might pose a future menace, should still be of great concern to us.  I sure don’t want to be exterminated “just in case.”  Wouldn’t it make more sense to shut up until either we don’t look so menacing, or until we are strong enough to defend ourselves?”  (See Robin’s extensive response.)

 Another quotation from Szabo:

“Davies continues: "...if we didn’t mend our violent ways. Ironically, the greatest danger from an alien encounter may be ourselves." In other words, ETI really does pose a threat after all, but it's our own fault, so we shouldn't (we are presumably left to conclude) try to protect ourselves from this threat beyond taking a profound moral lesson from this flight of imagination and mending our own ways.

This "reasoning" from splendidly fashionable PC attitudes combined with his own imputation of human psychology to imaginary entities leads to a rather grotesquely self-loathing conclusion: Davies puts humans on trial against aliens he has conjured up from his imagination and find the humans guilty and deserving of genocide. Fortunately, we have much better reasons to try to be more peaceful than the conjectured attitudes of hypothetical ETI. A good start to achieving human peace would be to withdraw moral support from people who hate their fellow human beings.”

While I react less pungently than Szabo... and in fact see a bit of merit in Paul’s point... it remains rather tiresome for the reflex to always be to assume that aliens will automatically be more elevated than us. (Yer, willing to judge and crush us, rather than help us get better.)

In fact, out of sheer ornery contrariness and a habitual wish to avoid limits on thinking, I'm tempted to wonder if humanity may be among the MOST pleasant sapient races in the galaxy! 

Just imagine a high tech species descended from solitary stalking carnivores, like tigers, or loner infanticides, like bears, or pack carnivores, or paranoid herd herbivores, or mammoth harem-keepers like elephant seals. We come from tribes of long-lived, relatively patient and contemplative, reciprocal-grooming, gregarious apes, whose male female differences are relatively small...

...all traits that mitigate toward some degree of otherness-empathy, which may not happen very often, across the stars.  And STILL we are violent MoFo's!

CollapseFurthermore, suppose we concede the common SETI talking point that aliens “would have to have learned to avoid much war, given the destructive power of advanced weaponry.” Hm, well, maybe.  But is the only way to avoid armageddon massive racial reprogramming to pacifism?  A FAR more likely way for aliens to stop war and save themselves from self-destruction is the method implicitly commended by Jared Diamond, in his book COLLAPSE: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed..

Hegemony.

The creation of a perfectly stable and perfectly repressive oligarchy that protects itself by maintaining a rigid status quo.

And yes, that kind of stable hegemony can become internally "peaceful" as in Ming China... and more-briefly in many other human cultures.  And yet, a perfect, control-freak autarchy ain't exactly utopian by our terms, or altruistic. Moreover, it remains capable of violence, especially when it sees something outside of itself that it may not like.

Oh, but the most frustrating thing is this.  When people leap to their own “pat” explanations for the Great Silence, sighing that “of course” the answer is this and such, and then dismissing all contrary views as foolish, they are cheating themselves, and the rest of us, out of what could be the most fascinating and wondrously open-ended argument/discussion of all time! 
A marvelous set-to that juggles every science, every bit of history and biology and astronomy and... well everything!  It is the great puzzle of who we are, how we may be different, or the same as those mysterious others, out there.

THAT is what makes me sad, when nearly everybody in this field leaps so quickly -- on almost zero evidence -- to say “of course the answer is....”  I am, above all, a lover of the greatest enlightenment invention -- argument... and its accompanying virtues, curiosity, experimentation, reciprocal accountability, and even the aching joy of being forced, now and then, to admit “Okay, you got me, that time.  I may have been wrong.”

-------- David Brin http://www.davidbrin.com ----

PS… See more articles on SETI and METI,
as well as my more extensive explanation of this fight over prudent caution in wagering the future of humanity. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Concerning Robert Heinlein... socialist or libertarian?

In some other places, the topic of legendary science fiction author Robert Anson Heinlein has repeatedly come up, along with shouting matches -- "He was a libertarian!" "No, a socialist!" "No, a fascist!"  I finally had enough and weighed into one of these discussions, with a comment I'll append below... along with more snippets of science.

doubleRobert Heinlein was hard to classify.  If one had to make a political caricature, I’d say he was a compassionate libertarian, in that he believed that humans have an obligation to be both competitively independent and generous.

Think of Ayn Rand with a soul…and with some historical perspective. (Yeah, that’s hard to picture, at a fundamental level. But Heinlein proved it needn't by an oxymoron.) Alas, while this label came close, he evades it as slippery as Schrodinger's Cat.

Heinlein was a loyal member of the American branch of the Enlightenment, a believer in democracy, markets, science, etc… but far more the rule-constrained competitive spirit of positive sum games that underlies all those arenas.

He distrusted government as a sole arbiter--but recognized the need for it.  For example, after disdaining politics in many books, he dared himself to make politicians the heroes, in DOUBLE STAR.

After disdaining socialism in many stories, he praised anarcho-socialism in STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND and became a hippie icon.

BeyondHOrizonSee his prescriptive utopia, BEYOND THIS HORIZON.  Usually, the 1st half of a Heinlein novel is dynamite and then (alas) the 2nd half kind of devolves into turgid lectures.  But in this case the action-packed 1st half is a silly-ass homage to J. W. Campbell’s loony “armed society” cliché… but the 2nd half is what turns into one of the most brilliant musings on social and biological matters ever written. Future generations may refer to the "Heinlein Solution" for how to manage human self-improvement through genetic engineering, for example... a way to get the benefits without doing crazy things.

In this brief, future speculation, clearly his favorite prescription, we see a future wherein all things creative are flaming competitive (as they should be) but “of course, food is free!”  Does that fit into any simplistic dogma?  I think not.

No, the real misunderstanding is in trying to pigeonhole RAH at all.  Because, above all, Robert A. Heinlein was a science fiction author.

I do not mean the mere profession but the religion.  I refer to a basic personality type that was probably recurrent as a fluke in most human generations, but quickly garroted or burnt at the stake in most other cultures (e.g. Giordano Bruno). Until, at long last, a society came along that would pay us, instead of burning us, for our madness.  For our ornery, contrary, inbuilt need to say “yes... but what if...?”

Stranger in a strange landTo those of us born with this affliction, there is something far more important than any and all political views or polemics. That thing is summed up by Einstein's word gedankenexperiment.   The thought experiment that fully utilizes those marvelous organs -- the "lamps on our brows" -- the prefrontal lobes, the things that most make our brains unlike any others.  It is this honest eagerness for the What-if that makes Greg Bear and Kim Stanley Robinson modern blessings and that transforms guys like Bruce Sterling and Jerry Pournelle from mere offensive blowhards into men with real and impressive value to their era. (At times, seemingly, despite themselves.)

To us, "What-if?" is like prayer. We do have doctrines, opinions, political and polemical views.  But they all take second place to the itch. A sci fi author (a true member of the breed) who is deeply conservative will be more curious than hostile to a smart Marxist, and pester her with questions while buying drinks, not heckling her with simplistic/smug insults... much to the disappointment of his allies on the right, who will (rightly) suspect that his heart is not in the take-no-prisoners version of politics. And it goes both ways, I've seen it.

GlorySeasonI know about this.  I consider myself a feminist and GLORY SEASON had some pretty strong feminist premises... in some ways far more honest and bold than anything by Tepper or Charnas. So why do  polemical feminists hold that novel (and me) in deep suspicion? Because to me the Thought Experiment was more important than any polemical point.  And they could sense my priorities; I followed the implications, and did not force them to follow dogma.  First, above all, I am a science fiction author.

And it was the thought experiment that was most important to Robert Heinlein.  In fact, the only person I knew who was more devoted (and a far better storyteller) was Poul Anderson.  But more on that elsewhere.

TheMoonIsAHarshMistress_2505People who understand Heinlein know that “fascist” and “socialist” are silly terms.  They apply to people who are so weak they must clutch onto simplistic nostrums.  The kind of oversimplifying stupidity that we see on both the left and right and that is now tearing America apart.

But not us.  Not we who love a complex and weird and wonderfully surprising world.  When the prefrontal lobes function with mutant, superhero power, that is when you get people like Robert Heinlein, who did not dwell on left or right wings, but in the future.

To support the ideals and memory of Robert Heinlein, support the Heinlein Society, an organization devoted to Paying It Forward.

For more: See Speculations on Science Fiction

= MORE SCIENCE =

Argh...  Study suggests more people willing to believe in esp when told it's been scientifically disproven.  In fairness, it looks like a pretty small-scale test.

Any of you who love the notion of asteroid mining, see this amateur but enthusiastic paper by Dr. Michael Montague. Frankly, I am not at all sure the world’s public would put up with anyone targting Earth for a very near miss (for aeocapture) of even a small asteroid.  Alas, this is not an era of can-do daring and ambitious guts. 

The Biracy Project seeks to use fan-generated crowd-sourcing to make and distribute a new science fiction film.  Sounds daring and fun.  

See the latest cool gedanken-fiction from Eliezar Yudkowsky... a cute riff on Harry Potter.

This fascinating paper argues that neo-classical economics is clueless about fraud, and gives several real-world examples of global-scale harm. The examples reinforce one (of many) interesting points in the paper: that in the early stages of fraud, the faked results appear to support the neo-classical economic policies. Alas, what had been an interesting theoretical set of economic conjectures has mutated into something deeply delusional, threatening the health of the republic and the world.

Julie Korenberg has identified a gene, STX1A (which helps control electrochemical processes at synapses), whose expression can be linked to intelligence.

Fascinating article about human endurance and people who go beyond.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More Insights into the Future

Here in this catch-all posting, there will be a potpourri of treasures including some science below.
- I was interviewed on the BBC World Service regarding President Obama’s new space plan.  See if you can find the podcast! (And somebody send in the link?) 

- My longstanding push for more emphasis on citizen-involvement, in preparing for robust reaction to crises, is finally getting some traction.  Apparently, my editorial suggesting a change in National Security priorities (to emphasize resilience, as a partner to anticipation) has gone viral, with hit rates up toward five figure in each of the last three months.   

Moreover, some companies and groups have started their own endeavors to create the kinds of enabling technologies that can keep us agile and ready for an ever-changing tomorrow. Take for example “CiviGuard” which offers cell phone aps that allow location based govt-to-citizen alerts. Now to vastly expand this all the way to something that could unite the country, should even the worst happen. 

In a measure of whether we are wise enough to support cogent/important art - I see that the magnificent - though under-rated - online graphic storyteller Patrick Farley has started a Kickstarter fundraiser; if he succeeds he figures he'll has enough support to try to make a go of resurrecting Electric Sheep as a paying proposition. Suggested donation is $2.00 . . . maximum $25. The donations don't actually happen unless the full $6,000 limit is reached. He's got ten days to go and needs to raise about $2,800. I highly recommend him and hope that folks will take part in reviving his career. 


EMPOWERING THE CREATIVE ACT OF DISAGREEMENT

- As most of you may know, I consider “discourse” one of the core problems of our day. We desperately need to recall that our entire Enlightenment Experiment... and the American Branch, in particular... was based upon the notion of moderate/calm and rule-centered competition. Conflict is a fecund generator of creativity -- e.g. in markets, democracy, the arts and science -- but only if we find ways to keep it positive-sum.  That-is, focused on finding whatever true things may lurk amid the morass of indignant opinion, and not on the “kill my enemies” emotion set that we inherit from the bad-old past.

In my novel EARTH (1989), I portray people using the internet (in our time) in ways that exclude differing views. A tech empowered reiteration of delusion.  To combat this, I depicted hackers finding ways to expose folks to alternative points of view. Now comes a beta experiment from Intel -- Dispute Finder -- which will let you scan documents and sites and find places where someone credible out there disagrees with the statement in question. 

It seems to be the embryo of a terrific and sophisticated and necessary tool. Though there are a myriad problems to solve, including aspects of reputation management, topic gisting, etc.  Some folks give it a try and report back here?

Along related lines... Brian Douglas writes in to tout Morgan Spurlock's show, "30 Days" - “I discovered it on Netflix and he's essentially doing what you talked about in Evaluating Horizons about getting the reds and blues to walk in each others shoes. In each episode, Spurlock, or some other person or group of people, spend 30 days immersing themselves in a particular lifestyle with which they are unfamiliar (e.g. working for minimum wage, being in , a  living as a etc.), while discussing related social issues.” Aye, it sounds wise... and hence something that will never run on the media channels - like Fox - where eyes need it most.


A BRIEF POLITICAL ASIDE... IN FAVOR OF ASSERTIVE WISDOM

Restoring the Office of Technology Assessment or OTA - and other independent advisory agencies - was one of my core suggestions, during and after the last election.   No action proved the GOP’s commitment to Know-Nothing anti-sicence than their elimination of a nonpartisan technological advisory board. Hence, I heartily concur with efforts to restore funding to the agency and I urge anybody who cares about having a technologically savvy and well-informed Congress to learn more, and sign the petition on the bottom.  ONE TRICK?  The Republicans never disbanded the OTA.  They simply zeroed out all funding.  The Dems should respond by pre-funding the agency for 20 years.


BACK TO RESILIENCY

From Publishers Weekly re: Rebecca Solnit’s new book, A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster.  ” Natural and man-made disasters can be utopias that showcase human solidarity and point the way to a freer society, according this stimulating contrarian study. Solnit (River of Shadows) reproves civil defense planners, media alarmists and Hollywood directors who insist that disasters produce terrified mobs prone to looting, murder and cannibalism unless controlled by armed force and government expertise. Surveying disasters from the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, she shows that the typical response to calamity is spontaneous altruism, self-organization and mutual aid, with neighbors and strangers calmly rescuing, feeding and housing each other. Indeed, the main problem in such emergencies, she contends, is the elite panic of officials who clamp down with National Guardsmen and stifling regulations. Solnit falters when she generalizes her populist brief into an anarchist critique of everyday society that lapses into fuzzy what-ifs and uplifting volunteer testimonials. Still, this vivid book makes a compelling—and timely—case for the ability of ordinary people to collectively surmount the direst of challenges.”  I’ve reviewed solnit before.  A quirky, sometimes self-indulgent, but often wonderfully on-target author who has a knack of choosing fascinating topics. 


MISCELLANY

- A movie based on Marvel Comics' "Thor" superhero character is now scheduled to be released some time around May of 2011.  Marvel once threatened to sue me over the title of my (Hugo runner-up) novella "Thor Meets Captain America" which DC Comics later asked me to expand (with the great graphic artist Scott Hampton) into THE LIFE EATERS.  Alas, DC printed maybe twenty copies, in America, though the graphic novel did very well overseas and came in third for the grand prize in France, where they adore such things. Only now, DC may have a second chance!  They have, in hand, a GN that can leverage on any "Thor" hysteria, next spring.  Oh, and it would be a great dig at Marvel, since my GN portrays Thor as the villain! ;-)

- See this!  Remember, these guys have waged four wars and have nuclear weapons. Pompous and strange.... And yet the silliness seems rather dignified and cordial.

- See incredible footage of San Francisco, just days before the 1906 quake. The number of automobiles is staggering for 1906. The clock tower at the end of Market Street at the Embarcadero wharf is still there.  And no traffic lights, no cross walks, no painted lanes, no road signs, no cell phones (!)  AND NO RULES - yet folks seem to survive okay...!

- Some libertarians are starting to get it

- The usual 3D technology uses a stereoscopic principle in which a slightly different image is presented to each eye, thanks to the special glasses the viewer has to wear. Now a device named pCubee gives you the experience of 3D without the need for the glasses. The pCubee consists of five LCD screens arranged as a cubic "fish tank" box that viewers can pick up, tilt, shake or turn to watch the 3D content or play games with virtual objects that seem to be within the box.  Kind of like the alien artifact in my next novel!!


SCIENCE STUFF COURTESY OF RAY KURZWEIL

The brain can handle two tasks by distributing them between the two hemispheres of the brain, assuming it perceives a worthy reward for doing so, but with large dual-task costs.

A quantum random number generator called Quantis can produce truly random numbers.

A gold nanoelectrode that can extract one picoampere
(generated by photosynthesis) from algae cells. 

A hand-held projector called Twinkle can now create virtual characters and objects that interact with the real world.

Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, Calif., for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades.  Now that takes me back...

wow! 5 Axis Robot Carves Metal Like Butter (Video) 

DARPA is starting a new program called "The Mind's Eye" to create an AI-based camera that can report back on war-zone activity with the same detail a trained human operative could offer.

GM Develops Augmented Reality Windshield

General Motors has unveiled a trio of concept electric "urban mobility vehicles" that are about one-sixth the size of a conventional car.

NASA's WISE mission has spotted 16 formerly hidden near-Earth objects with orbits close to Earth's. WISE is expected to discover as many as 1000 near-Earth objects, but astronomers estimate that the number of unknown objects with masses great enough to cause ground damage in an impact runs into the tens of thousands.

The real Avatar: ocean bacteria act as 'superorganism' .

Recognizr, an application that lets users point a smart phone at a stranger and immediately learn about them -- combining computer vision, cloud computing, facial recognition, social networking, and augmented reality ....

A midday 90-minute stage 2 non-REM sleep (takes place between deep sleep and the dream state known as Rapid Eye Movement or REM) period refreshes the mind and can make you smarter, UC Berkeley researchers have found.

IBM researchers have developed a system called Catchup, designed to summarize (verbally) in almost real time what has been said at a business meeting so newcomers can quickly catch up. It identifies the important words and phrases in an automatic speech recognition transcript and edits out the unimportant ones.

Turkish scientists have developed spray-on liquid glass that is transparent, non-toxic, and can protect virtually any surface against almost any damage from hazards such as water, UV radiation, dirt, heat, and bacterial infections, making cleaning products unnecessary. The invisible coating is also flexible and breathable.

Cool?
Thrive on and fight for the Enlightenment.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

General Insights into the Future

I've continued posting my new series of intellectually stimulating 10 minute monologues on YouTube:

GrandScaleSpaceGrand-scale reasons to explore space.

Space Exploration:Planning our next steps in beyond Earth

Space Exploration: - Mining the sky: Are there economic incentives? 

Space Exploration: The Big Picture, excitement? warp drive?

Space Exploration:Ambitious tech- tethers, solar sails, space elevators.

The Transparent Society: Part 1: 

The Transparent Society: Part 2: 

      =====     =====     =====

I’m offline for a little while, so here’s just a dump of some cool/interesting items I’ve collected...

Anybody on Google Buzz?  I am now!

The online comic Schlock Mercenary had this bit about Uplift... funny! (Thanks Robert.)

See a couple of eye-opening brief articles from the Globalist:
Ending Gridlock in the U.S. Senate and
Shanghai's Coming Out Party

See a directory of ways to participate in space exploration. interact + connect with the space community.  Great signs of an age of amateurs!  But it isn’t as recent as some think.  I was an active amateur variable star observer as a teenager, way back in the 1960s!  See:

See what a boy did with a GPS tracking device, a weather balloon, and some duct tape. 

MIT neuroscientists demonstrated that they can influence people's moral judgments by disrupting a specific brain region — the  right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ). This sheds light on  how the brain constructs morality.They found that the subjects' ability to make moral judgments that require an understanding of other people's intentions — for example, a failed murder attempt — was impaired when this region was subjected to an electrical burst. 

Wiki Leaks is now under attack by the same people who campaigned against ACORN.  At least ACORN had some sins to atone for, but burying WikiLeaks is all about destroying hopeful trends in general transparency. Visit their site.  Make a donation!

“Dark Flow” of galactic clusters indicates a “direction” in our universe and possibly lots of matter “beyond” it. 

Fascinating article about the quirks and “buts” in evolution theory.  http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/mar/19/evolution-darwin-natural-selection-genes-wrong

The the blogger at “Asymptosis” seems an especially bright fellow. Worth a look For example in this posting, he comments on research by Jonathan Haidt (that I’ve talked about many times) to the effect that:

Republicans (on an oversimplifying average) care equally about five spheres of morality: avoiding harm, fairness, group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity.

Democrats mostly care about only two: avoiding harm and fairness. 

The blogger adds that, according to Stephen Pinker: Libertarians look much more like liberals than like conservatives on most measures, EXCEPT those that have anything to do with compassion, on which libertarians are lower than liberals AND conservatives....  But here’s where it gets even more interesting (for me at least). A commenter suggests that “libertarianism essentially amounts to is the political expression of autism.”

Yipe!  Of course, this could help explain why a movement whose basic premise is so attractive to American psyches does so badly in elections.  Or the fact that libertarians who extol cut-throat competition tend to have done very badly at it, in real life.  Or their historical amnesia, ignoring who - across 4,000 years - were the real oppressors.  I do quibble with Haidt’s simplistic “2 vs 5” morality check, though.  In fact, many liberals are VERY attentive to “group loyalty, respect for authority, and purity.”  Their loyalty is often to more abstract versions of group, authority and purity... and it is that level of abstraction that I believe constitutes the real difference between them and conservatives.

     =====     =====     =====

Finally, do not let your tea-drinking brother in law avoid acknowledging two facts:

1) that the "socialist" Obamacare bill was first written at the Heritage Foundation as the GOP alternative to Hillarycare, in 1993, therefore the neocon screeching hate-fest is entirely fact-free.

2) that a certain foreign, hostile (but brilliant) royal family owns up to 20% of Fox.  Now how would they be using that influence?

Enough.  I am off line for a while.  Keep up the fight.  NOT for "the left" or even liberalism.  I care little about narrowing my range of choices, which is why I most despise those who have made the Right an impossible  shopping ground for modern solutions. No. Fight for the general Western Enlightenment, for the American Experiment, and a return to sanity among many of our brothers and sisters who've mixed Koolaid with their tea.