Monday, August 20, 2012

Obama on the importance of Curiosity

I write this from Pasadena, where I just finished a public evening (that will be podcast soon on the site of KPCC FM radio) discussing with USC Professor Paul Rosenbloom  and the Planetary Society's Mat Kaplan the future of artificial intelligence, uplifting dolphins, and good or bad types of singularities.  You know... small stuff.

Two weeks ago I spoke at Planet Fest (Why the Sudden Activity in Space?), prepping folks for the celebration of fantastic news, that we Earthlings were capable of sending a stunningly advanced robot that could lower itself by crane to the surface of Mars.

But there are implications that extend beyond science.

If you like being part of a civilization that celebrates science and intellect and progress… while willingly negotiating in openness and improving through the reciprocal criticism of faults… then you are behooved to lift your head, this season, and note the implications in politics.

It is no longer  the process we knew in the days of genteel scholars like Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley -- when politics was a matter of choosing between an array of policy recommendations based on competing, fact-driven arguments, finding compromises and practical mixes of solutions that blended private and enterprise initiatives with a closely watched and accountable democratic-consensus state.  

That kind of politics is over in the United States of America.  At least it is during this, the third phase of the American Civil War.  One of the parties has been led - by some Australian and Saudi and American billionaires - down a path so biliously opposed to science and logic and facts that only about 5% of US scientists will have anything to do with it anymore.

(Indeed, my standard challenge is to name ONE broad professional caste of intellect and knowledge that is not under attack at Fox, from scientists to teachers, civil servants, law professionals, journalists, professors, medical doctors, economists... I can name a couple that Fox leaves out of its jihad against intellect... but can you? And if you cannot name one... even one... then can we take it as a proved trend?)

== What role Curiosity plays in all of this ==

In contrast, this is the kind of jovially supportive whimsey that we used to get from both parties… and maybe we will again, someday.  Scan this from last week... then go on to my reflection on the import of a single word.

President Barack Obama placed a congratulatory telephone call to the NASA team behind the Mars "Curiosity" rover, joking he might go for a Mohawk to emulate flight director Bobak Ferdowsi, and quipping that he needed to be told "right away" if the probe finds any little green men.

"If, in fact, you do make contact with Martians, please let me know right away," he said in the call. "I've got a lot of other things on my plate, but I suspect that that will go to the top of the list. Even if they're just microbes, it will be pretty exciting."

On a more serious note, Obama congratulated the team on Curiosity's successful landing on the Red Planet a week ago and praised the technical skill required as "mind-boggling."

"What you've accomplished embodies the American spirit, and your passion and your commitment is making a difference," he said."

"'Curiosity' is going to be telling us things that we did not know before and laying the groundwork for an even more audacious undertaking in the future, and that's a human mission to the Red Planet," Obama said.

And he pledged his "personal commitment to protect" government investments in science and technology.

== Okay, here's a little reflection on a beautiful word ==

I am reminded of the one moment that impressed me most about Barack Obama… during his victory speech after the election in 2008.  I listened carefully and shrugged as he said all the things we knew he had to say.  Some promises from his stump speech.  Some cordial words offering a handshake and negotiations to the other side.  The usual platitudes one must say, about courage, neighborliness, patriotism, progress, lifting our eyes to the horizon… yadda.  Good stuff, but expected.

I was listening for something else.  For the bits that any smart person would stick in, even though they weren't expected or required.

Even a seasoned politician must feel a burning wish to insert a new thought now and then… even just one… that has nothing to do with politics, but instead what he, personally, feels to be missing.  Something - perhaps - that he deems to be desperately needed.

Then I heard it… when he listed eight national character traits essential for our success… and there, mixed in with seven expected ones was…

… curiosity...

Go back and  watch that speech again.  You'll hear that word, which has no possible political redolence in the standard catechisms of the insipid left-right axis.  

And yet, it is telling... and tells a rich allegory, in light of our nation's recent, magnificent accomplishment, It also lays down before you the stark clarity of the core difference between two sides in this, our tragic Civil War.

It isn't about "left" versus "right."  It never was, and don't let anyone get away with telling you it is.

This is future versus past.

47 comments:

Alex Tolley said...

How exactly is this "personal commitment to science and technology" being carried out by the president? Is the gutting of NASA's science budget not partially his decision? Isn't the cancellation of the return to the moon program in favor of a non-commitment to a far future asteroid mission a refutation of the support argument. The NIH budget is declining in real terms. I don't see any commitment to supporting science teachers in K-12.

So why are his words any more than just platitudes?

I agree with your main point about who is supporting the future, rather than the past, although I think it is more nuanced than the division you make. But I don't see the incumbent president as a particular supporter of science. After the energy investment debacle, I don't see him supporting technology development either.

psikeyhackr said...

Curiosity is a great demonstration of computer design and computer control with ten year old computer technology with 300 year old Newtonian physics. It is just so curious that so many "scientists" aren't curious about how Newtonian Physics can explain how airliners can destroy skyscrapers 2000 times their own mass.

The Irony of Curiosity.

Tacitus2 said...

Since mission proposals went out in 2004 and most of the work was done by the end of 2008, the accurate (if admittedly petty) response to Mr. Obama is:

"You didn't build that!"

Tacitus
(who enjoys progress under any administration)

John Kurman said...

Well, Alex, can you really fault Obama for the numbers? You don't think the part of the government that controls the purse strings might have something to do with it?

In any case:

Obama FY2010 Budget Strong on Science

Science shines in Obama's Budget Proposal (FY2011)

Scientists Please with Obama's 2012 Budget Proposal

Obama shoots for Science Increase" (FY2013)

Ian Gould said...

(Indeed, my standard challenge is to name ONE broad professional caste of intellect and knowledge that is not under attack at Fox, from scientists to teachers, civil servants, law professionals, journalists, professors, medical doctors, economists... I can name a couple that Fox leaves out of its jihad against intellect... but can you? And if you cannot name one... even one... then can we take it as a proved trend?)

See they don;t see it that way.

You'll notice, for example, that they don't typically attack scientists when Curiosity lands on Mars or when the LHC discovers a Higgs candidate.

They attack scientists when they believe the scientists attacked them first.

There's a fundamental view in what could be broadly described as the Pentecostal tradition within American Christianity that there are different means of discovering factual information and that the most important and most reliable of these is the Revealed Word of God.

Not only have many within this tradition accepted this, they've internalized it to the extent that they assume others operate from a similar perspective.

Hence when evolutionary biologists, for example, contradict the Revealed Word of God, not only are they wrong, they are attacking the validity of the RWoG.

Hence if you let gays marry (in contradiction to the RWoG) then why would anyone listen to the Revealed Word of God when it comes to fidelity within marriage or prohibiting beastiality?

On a different tack: there were a number of things I could comment on from the last thread but I think I'll set for this link:

http://reason.com/archives/2012/08/20/the-wrong-side-absolutely-must-not-win


"The Wrong Side Absolutely Must Not Win

The past several weeks have made one thing crystal-clear: Our country faces unmitigated disaster if the Other Side wins.



Alex Tolley said...

@ J Kurman.
That is why I said "partially".

Nice references, but all were about proposals, not reality. This reference shows funding increases since Obama became president are in line with increases for the past 20+ years. Who knew G W Bush was a science supporter?

R&D Spending by the Federal Government

Again, saying something is not the same as doing it. Anyone can say they want to do X [increase science, increase education, etc.] but it is meaningless unless it is actually followed through with results.

Whatever happens in 2012, I really want a better selection of candidates from all parties in 2016.

sociotard said...

I'd care a lot more about anything BHO says about Curiosity if he had actually shown interest before it landed.

Intel just came out with a little advert about how some stuff they worked on was on Curiosity. Not surprisingly, it was only released after Curiosity was successful. Because nobody wants their name attached to a smoldering crater.

So BHO is just another politician trying to get a little lift out of the space program . . . after the program did something successfully. He didn't have the guts to tweet about Curiosity before it landed. Granted, I was a naysayer who thought Curiosity was going to fail, but then I don't try to pose Curiosity as part of my accomplishments.

LarryHart said...

Tacitus2:

Since mission proposals went out in 2004 and most of the work was done by the end of 2008, the accurate (if admittedly petty) response to Mr. Obama is:

"You didn't build that!"


Heh.

I won't begrudge you getting a dig in. But please tell me you understand that President Obama didn't really say "You didn't build that (your business)." He said that you (businessman) also relied on various pieces of social/physical infrastucture and that "you didn't build THAT (said infrastructure)".

Ian said...

Alex Tolley: what has happened to other discretionary non-defense spending durign the Obama Presidency?

Maintaining ANY real growth in spending at a time of major restraint in discretionary spending is an accomplishment in itself.

David Brin said...

BHO did not control the purse strings. Moreover we are in a depression. Feh, ask the scientists whom they are voting for. En mass. Ask the teachers, cops, professors, economists and generals and admirals...

Robert said...

What did Obama do for science? He scrapped a dead-end rocket that was going to cost a lot of money while reusing old technology and not advancing science at all... and encouraged private enterprise to use its innovation and drive for success to go into space. And while SpaceX did a fine job making their rocket a success and the other companies are likewise doing the same... they are building off of the infrastructure created by NASA and other government organizations. They are traveling a path already trod by giants. They are building their own vehicles... but relying on what has come before.

In short, Obama opened the door for private industry to go where only nations once trod in order to bring about a new line of innovation and research in a field that stagnated under Bush and previous administrations. What's more, he is allowing private industry to build off of the infrastructure government established in order to make it into space.

That's far more science-worthy than the Shrug, who only ended the Shuttle because it was proven twice to be a hazard and uneconomical. If he could have gotten away with it, he'd have kept the Shuttle running.

Dr. Brin, could you get statistics on how NASA's budget and government science/research budgets have shrunk under Republican leadership and the Republican Congress leading up to 2006?

Rob H.

Ian said...

Robert, once again, the Commercial Space Development program was, to be fair, started under Bush.

Obama does deserve credit for continuing and expanding it though.

In terms of funding at least Bush wasn't a BAD President - but it needs to be seen as part of his pathological need to stuff every pork barrel in sight with every single dollar of money the government could borrow.

Ian said...

Ooops there's a major omission there:


"In terms of funding at least Bush wasn't a BAD President FOR THE SCIENCES..."

Overall, of course, he remains one of your very worst Presidents and the Republican Party should have to wear his stinking political carcass around there collective necks for at least as long as the Democrats have been lumbered with Carter.

Anonymous said...

God bless you David for telling it like it is. I have been calling this The Great Repression because no one wants to face the truth about the economy. Thank God for smart and good people of which you are one. Bravo!

Tacitus2 said...

Obama is only human. Of course he is all about the Curiosity probe when it succeeds, but would be less so had it (horrors!) pancaked.

Recall Sir Winston's quote on the paternity of success and of failure.

Before we hand out too much credit to Bush it must be noted that keeping aerospace companies and Houston happy were important to him. And rather than greater vision carrying the day here, it was advances in computers and electronics.

Still, when something started on W's watch goes well, a brief acknowlegement from his successor would do credit to both.

Tacitus

Karl said...

Missed the cutoff on the last page, but I think this is worth pointing out:

"I suspect the possibility of a Dan Rather lure… Harry Reid has pounced on an apparent weakness (claiming a Bain investor told him that Romney paid no taxes for ten years.)"

I think you're not giving Reid enough credit here. I don't think he'd be taken in by such a scam; in fact, I don't think there's any anonymous tipster at all. If you look at what he's claiming, not only is it almost an exact parody of the "where's the birth certificate?" demands, but he clearly left lots of wiggle room around it. He didn't just put the claim forwards, but phrased it more of the form "If Romney doesn't show us the records, then I can claim this" and he also didn't specify which 10 years, even though people just leap to the conclusion that he meant the last 10 (leaving him free to slide the goalposts around, until he can point out that Romney obviously paid no federal taxes for the first 10 year of his life.)

Ian said...

I hope people realize that Obama the human being has effectively no knowledge, much less control over, about 99.99% of what is done in his name.

Whether a press release was issued before or after the landing, President Obama's maximum likely personal level of involvement was to flick down a list of the titles of White House Press Releases due that day and at the very most skim a couple of paras and maybe, very rarely, jot a few words in the margin to his press secretary.

That's why he has a press secretary, and why the Press Secretary has an entire staff.

Ditto, most of the time when you hear "Obama" wants to do something that means "A group of people who work for someone, who works for someone who works for someone who reports to someone who once sat in their superior at a meeting where Obama was present" wants to do something.

Robert said...

That's why the media has taken to saying "The Obama Administration" or "The Reagan Administration" or "The Rabid Yappy Little Dog Administration" ;)

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

Some morning musings on that Akin guy from Missouri. Once again, I'm not so much interested in the "gotcha" politics of "He said rape can be legitimate!" or "He's making women feel bad." I'm more interested in what his statement reveals about the actual policies on the Republican agenda.

They seem to really believe that women have super powers which prevent unwelcomed ejaculations from resulting in conception. This belief allows them to treat rape as a misdemeanor of no consequence--an act more akin to copping a feel--rather than a life-altering act of violence. It also gets them off the hook for balancing the woman's rights with the fetus's rights, because the fact of the pregnancy itself damns the victim as a self-evidently-willing participant in the conception.

Akin's using the words he did in public may have been an outlier, but the sentiment behind his words is not. It's mainstream Republican policy. And voters should understand the clear choice they have between legislators from a party who lives in the real world and a party who lives in Fantasyland.

Let's just imagine for a moment that Akin's "doctors" were correct, and that women really do have super-abortifacient powers that kick in after a legitimate rape. Would't those women then be prosecuted for murder under all of those Republican "Life" amendments? Even on his own terms, the logical conclusion of Akin's line of reasoning isn't "Rape isn't a problem because women know how to handle it," but more like "A woman who has been raped and doesn't conceive is a murderer." I'm not sure that's the bumper sticker that Republicans want to run with.

Tim H. said...

The Kansas City Star had this up yesterday:
http://www.kansascity.com/2012/08/20/3770242/losing-candidates-get-new-focus.html
Representative Akin has until close of business today to decide if he continues, but if he does it'll be with minimal financing. It's going to be a great election for the political cartoonists.

dmon said...

Four words: White House Science Fair.

rewinn said...

@LarryHart - let me quibble a bit with your analysis. I don't think anti-abortionists actually believe rape victims can prevent pregnancy, any more than Young-Earth Creationists actually believe the speed of light was at one time vastly faster than it is today. Rather, the "thought" process is more like:

1. They know in their gut that abortion is wrong and the Earth is Young.
2. They have a Bad Feeling about forcing rape survivors to endure pregnancy or seeing light from the Andromeda Galaxy.
3. Their mind invents an idea to resolve this conflict: women's bodies prevent pregnancy, and the speed of light was at one time really, really fast.

In a way, this is the classical creative process for generating hypotheses. Where it goes wrong (... apart from being intrinsically bonkers, but then, so is quantum physics ...) is the next step: testing and criticism. They don't do it; they CAN'T do it because they know their hypothesis will fail and the Bad Feeling in #2 will return; and at any rate, they don't feel any NEED to do it: why test when you already know the truth?

Instead, they simply leap to Firm Assertion. This lets them have a Happy Feeling and indeed feel outraged when criticized (...the media is so biased in favor of scientists! Curiosity got front page news but the latest creationist museum got nothing!) To borrow a phrase, this is a case of Stupid People Talking Like They Think Smart People Talk.

(This of course is an hypothesis itself, but at least it's susceptible to testing.)

Jonathan S. said...

Rewinn, our local paper had a truly astonishing moment of Stupid People Talking Like They Think Smart People Talk - one apologist for Akin tried to say that from a monist perspective, in an epistomological sense, Akin was correct.

I'm afraid my reply to him started off being a little intemperate - "You certainly know some big words. Now to work on what those words actually mean..."

Re: Romney's tax returns - I think I've said this before, but I'm mostly interested in his returns from 2000 to 2003. When he was criticized for Bain Capital's disassembly of US companies and outsourcing of employees to overseas, Romney's contention was that the incidents in question took place after 2000, and he had retired as Bain's CEO in 1999. However, SEC filings show Romney listed as CEO as late as 2003. That means that either he lied to us (which speaks poorly for his personal integrity, but is really par for the course for politicians), or he lied to the SWEC (which speaks poorly for his personal integrity, and is also a felony). I would really like to know which it is.

Jonathan S. said...

Pardon me, lying to the SEC would be the felony. I'm typing under the influence of children.

LarryHart said...

rewinn,

We're not really in disagreement. I don't care how they reach their beliefs about rape and abortion. But the fact that they would create laws and policies based upon those incorrect, un-scientific beliefs makes them dangerous as legislators. I don't hate them personally for their beliefs--I just want to make sure they are not given power to make laws.

I actually want to see Akin stay in the race, and I want Clarie McCaskell to beat him soundly. But my point is that voters shouldn't be mad at him for being mean to girls. They should rather vote against him (and his ilk) because he'd use his gut feelings to justify making bad policy.

Jumper said...

http://www.loompanics.com/Articles/whycorporations.html

Some thoughts on libertarianism and corporate personhood. (I stumbled onto this because I was looking up "Loompanics Books" as an example for a completely different argument elsewhere.)

Alfred Differ said...

Obama's personal interest in space related stuff and in the private approach to doing it all is a little higher than one might guess from what one sees in his daily activity. He surrounded himself with people to make his administration and the people who deal with space align with him rather well. I know one of them and indirectly know another and they are pretty clear that he does get the argument for privatizing the approach. They are also clear that he likes the subject, but has a bazillion other things to do that take priority. That's why they do what THEY do. He has delegated as a President should.

sociotard said...

An amusing tweet comparing us to the French Revolution in reverse:
http://i.imgur.com/snbF2.jpg

"The 21st century America is like a reverse French Revolution. The poor and uneducated are fighting to put an unethical Aristocrat in office. A slow reverse Bastille Day as we stuff more and more people into overcrowded prisons to profit the Aristorcracy. The poor are dying, not from a lack of bread, but from an obesity epidemic caused by LITERALLY EATING CAKE."

atomsmith said...

I'm pretty sure Aiken just confused human women with female ducks...

"Many ducks form bonds between males and females that last for a whole mating season. But rival males often violently force themselves onto females....But female ducks have developed countermeasures...."

Robert said...

So what you're saying is if it looks like a duck, smells like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it's a Republican?

Rob H.

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

"The 21st century America is like a reverse French Revolution. The poor and uneducated are fighting to put an unethical Aristocrat in office. A slow reverse Bastille Day as we stuff more and more people into overcrowded prisons to profit the Aristorcracy. The poor are dying, not from a lack of bread, but from an obesity epidemic caused by LITERALLY EATING CAKE."


That's brilliant! So if we show a movie of "A Tale of Two Cities" but run the film backwards, it will look like American politics today?

The mob puts a king back ON the throne.

The mob locks people INTO prison and then builds doors and walls around them.

And eerily enough, the dead aristocrats rise like zombies.

David Brin said...

"And eerily enough, the dead aristocrats rise like zombies"

The Koch plan, I'm sure...

LarryHart said...

Well, I was thinking it worked as a metaphor for all those zombie ideas that keep rising from the dead. Supply-side economics being the most durable.

Robert said...

Hufflepuff Post has an article on four reasons why Ron Paul could win the Republican Primary. One of the biggies is that the Machiavellian effort to suppress Ron Paul votes is angering that very vocal voting base which are now thinking of voting for the Libertarian candidate instead of the GOP to teach Republicans a lesson that they need to play nice. Or else.

I just figure it's a fun read. Though I do think the GOP needs to have their butts handed to them to teach them a lesson in basic civics and how to be loyal Americans working for the best for this nation... even if it means working with a black Democratic President (and I still hold that if Barry O'Bama was a white Irish Protestant, Republicans wouldn't have any issues with him).

Rob H.

David Brin said...

er... um... William Jefferson CLinton WAS an Irish Protestant President.

I agree with you in general and I plan to send money to Gary Johnson For President. If the libertarians got above 5% this year, amid a GOP rout, then perhaps things would move.

Still, I consider the LP to be crazy too. Just not Murdochian crazy.

Alex Tolley said...

AAAS ScienceInsider has a piece on Ryan and his attitudes to science and funding.

http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/08/paul-ryans-record-on-science-and.html

It's a mixed bag, with the overall message being that his desired cuts in government spending would be a net -ve for science.

Alex Tolley said...

@Ian

Maintaining ANY real growth in spending at a time of major restraint in discretionary spending is an accomplishment in itself.

From the CBO - look at TableF-3.
http://www.cbo.gov/publication/42911

Up to, and including 2011, discretionary spending has been increasing, not decreasing. Perhaps that has changed, particularly for FY2013 budget, but there is no evidence that science has been getting extra special funding.

Show me some data that shows Obama's strong support for science, because I don't see it.

David Brin said...

Alex, I reiterate. We can swap anecdotes and shallow assertions...

...or ask for whom nearly all the scientists are going to vote. If you can find more than two at an mainstream science department in the US who would touch the GOP with a ten meter pole, I will eat a bug.

That metric pre-digests all the assertions and anecdotes about who supports science or not. It is called "expert opinion."

Now ask all the othjer smartypants professions. Including the ones that were traditionally very heavily (80%+) republican, like police officers and senior military officers.

Ian Gould said...

"Up to, and including 2011, discretionary spending has been increasing, not decreasing."

2010 1,347.2
2011 1,346.2

So in fact it decreased between 2010 and 2011 and I'm pretty sure that you find a further decrease in the 2012 data.

Additionally, this table is in current dollars not constant dollars- i.e. it isn't adjusted for inflation.

Now if we look at the chart you posted earlier, R&D spending has continued to grow in inflation-adjusted terms even while overall discretionary spending has been down even before adjusting for inflation.

As for 2012: while I don't have a lot of time tolook for data this is from the CBO Monthly Budget Review for August 2012:

http://www.cbo.gov/publication/43522

"Outlays through July totaled $3.0 trillion, $11 billion less than spending in the same period last year. Some of that decrease resulted from shifts in the timing of certain payments; it also reflects changes recorded in the budget for the estimated cost of credit activities in previous years (mainly those of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP). Excluding those revisions, and adjusted for the timing shifts, spending through July was about 1 percent less than outlays in the first 10 months of fiscal year 2011."

Again outlays, before adjusting for inflation were down 1% overall. I.e. around 3-4% in inflation adjusted terms.

In that context ANY increase in science spending is significant.

Tony Fisk said...

From the romantic POV of course A Tale of Two Cities should run backwards!

Tim H. said...

Occurs to me that scientific progress begins with a genius, whose concept is expanded by merely brilliant people, either of which can occur in any of the varieties of people, a reborn feudal society built from contemporary "conservatives" seems likely to do poorly with the discovery and development of such talent. Also unlikely to long maintain a dominant position in the world.

Robert said...

Dr. Brin: Yes, and you'll notice that Republicans, once they seized control of the House and Senate and were stymied of their attempt at a Constitutional Coup actually rolled up their sleeves and worked with Clinton to enact some needed reforms, such as with Welfare and the like. The result was that the budget deficit started to decline, just a little bit. There was a lot of faux outrage among Republicans over the Monica Lewinsky incident but once they got over themselves they decided to work with him.

That won't happen with Obama. So long as they have any method of preventing work being done, they'll sit and shout "nonononono" at the top of their lungs and drag down the country... and then blame Obama and Democrats for this decline. And I make no qualms about it: it's because Obama is black.

There is of course a possible out for this: California and Washington have enacted open primaries (if I remember correctly), meaning that Republican politicians from those states tend toward being moderates. They don't have to pander to the Tea Party and the like to get elected. They just need to be one of the two top candidates to win votes in the primary and then win the general election. These are the Republicans that will stand up and say "You're going too far. I'm going to work with Democrats to get some legislation out that works for BOTH sides. And you can't stop me."

When this Republican Revolution happens, we'll see the fever break and sanity may begin to return to the Republican party. Though to ensure it remains... we'll need the REST of the nation to enact open primaries.

Rob H.

Robert said...

And now back to Science!

MIT has developed micro-ion thrusters for CubeSats, tiny satellites that are about the size of a Rubik's cube but lack propulsion systems. One possible use for them? Attaching themselves to space debris and slowly pushing them into the Earth's atmosphere - basically little suicide satellites to clean up outer space. =^-^=

Rob H.

Tom Craver said...

Curiousity

David Brin said...

Democrats inherit Republican calamities then get screamed at because Keynsian solutions work slowly. FDR after the catastrophic GOP misrule up to 1933...The mythology of hating Jimmy Carter, who inherited the economic blowback of Vietnam, is simply fabulation. And now Obama.

It's like taking your drunken uncle from behind the wheel of the school bus that he ran off the road and sticking him in back where he screams while you wrestle it back on to the road. "You're a terrible driver! We're in a ditch! Let me back (*hic!*) behind the (hic!) wheel!"

Robert I do not think that the goppers will obstruct Obama forever and completely and with utterly disciplined and monomaniacal negative-sum determination because he is black.

I think that the goppers will obstruct Obama forever and completely and with utterly disciplined and monomaniacal negative-sum determination for a different reason. Because back in the nineties, under Gingrich, they were only 60% insane.

Now they are 90%+ stark raving jibbering loony.

You are right that ending gerrymandering is key. Blue states are doing it. Red are not. This is not left-right. It is civil war.

==

And again... I dream of a two party system that is liberals (dems) versus moderate Smithian libertarians (not mad rothbarite/randroids). Shouting

"We agree THIS is a problem, and further progress in our great civilization demands that it be addressed. But I think the state/private/corporate mix of practical problem-solving tools should (in this case) include a larger (state/private/corporate) component! And here are my facts and figures to back me up! And a plan with definite metrics and predictions! So there! Now let's negotiate, you (liberal/libertarian) foolish person you!"

With fringes of oligarch/royalists, fundies and lefties yammering at the sidelines.

That would be politics of gradually maturing adolescents... not idiotic playground bullies.

David Brin said...

onward

Anonymous said...

"(Indeed, my standard challenge is to name ONE broad professional caste of intellect and knowledge that is not under attack at Fox"

Public Relations. I don't think that invalidates your thesis, because that's a caste of knowledge about how to mislead people, which is Fox's stock in trade.

And you can't mislead people effectively if you don't even know the *true* research results on how to mislead people.

Interestingly, this is one of several problem which is beginning to afflict the Republican Party as it becomes filled with true believers who have bought the propaganda spread by previous generations of crooked Republicans. But now we have Todd Akin running for Senate and actually admitting what's in the Republican Party platform, on camera!

The Lee Atwater and Karl Rove types never intended for the people who believed the propaganda to actually start *running* things, but here they are... it shows what the long-term failure mode of a program based on Big Lies is. Rather interesting.