Sunday, October 07, 2012

Strangeness in the world (even stranger than politics!)

Let's take a break and veer back to the non-political world. First: some Sci Fi or Brinian news. 

In one of my best and most professionally edited interviews, UC Riverside offers this excellent TV-style podcast, On the Science Fiction Barometer, covering everything from hope to cynicism to the purpose and effectiveness of science fiction. A really nice presentation. "If you want to test your ability as a writer, to keep the action and interest and intellect...and empathy all going at the same time, while building a world and dealing with ideas and issues --  I think you're pretty much behooved to write science fiction. We science fiction authors, we poke at the universe. It's our job to stimulate these frontal lobes where humans perform 'thought experiments' ....that the Bible may have referenced as the 'lamps' on our brow..." 

Science fiction authors time travel back to 1662 to pose for Rembrandt? In “Sci-Fi Masters” Hugo nominated Artist Alan F. Beck has re-imagined The Syndics of the Clothmaker’s Guild with authors Greg Bear, Stephen Baxter, Mike Resnick, Neal Stephenson, Joe Haldeman, and David Brin. Honored to be in such company! Should we try for a re-enactment at the next World Con.... ?

== Space Stuff! == 

In the well it's about time department. The "NanoTHOR" project aims to connect small satellites with upper rocket stages by using miles-long tethers, so that the rocket stages can spin the satellites around like Thor's hammer. NASA awarded the idea $100,000 from its Innovative Advanced Concepts program to begin running computer simulations and figure out a hardware design. "Using a few tricks, we could get that system spinning so the rocket upper stage could swing the nanosatellite out of Earth's orbit and on to the moon or an interplanetary trajectory," said Robert Hoyt, CEO and chief scientist of Tethers Unlimited Inc.

This is a worthy venture for NIAC to support, and the company was founded by the late Robert Forward.  On the other hand, this method of using tethers has problems, needing a counterweight you can hurl back into the atmosphere while flinging your payload upward. And it is single impulse, use once. Also, at least the first experiment will simply duplicate the SEDS success of Tether Applications inc from 1984.

A better, and more general use of tethers is illustrated both in the first chapter of Existence and in my story "Tank Farm Dynamo." Electrodynamic tethers can be continuous, self-correcting and manipulable over extended periods as the tether & cargo rise up through the extended realm of electrical connectivity we call the Van Allen belts.

Warp drive may be easier than we think, claim scientists at the Johnson Space Center.  Well. To say I am skeptical is to minimize...

 == Fascinating Miscellany == 

The New World: The New York Times offers a fascinating article about how "new countries" might rise or split off or consolidate in the next decade.  Some of them (e.g. Somaliland and Pashtunistan) you probably have heard of only in one other place before this.  


This little art piece attempts to portray 1000 years of war in 5 minutesIt is kind of nifty to watch, but not always for the reasons the makers intended. The thing is terribly inaccurate in the scaling of the battles and in its excessive focus (especially for the first 500 years) on Europe.  More careful research would have shown the fighting that raged across Eurasia during the millennium in question.  In fact, I'd have used rampant flickers of background color to depict the incessant tribal wars and raiding that were endemic in peaceful looking Americas and Africa.  Nor should the few recent (past 1945) wars have been amplified into Stalingrad-level horrors, when in fact even the Arab Israeli conflicts were like skirmish spats compared to WWII battles.  If all of these things were done, then this show would graphically teach an entirely different (though much more accurate) lesson than the makers probably intended.  The lesson proved in Steven Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature.  The lesson that we are getting better!  That it's not hopeless.  That it is possible fur humanity to improve.  Too slowly, perhaps!  But improve we certainly have. 

And now some guardedly (if controversially) positive messaging. Former Microsoft VP and Intellectual Ventures founder Nathan Myhrvold talks about how real entrepreneurs should not stop doing it (taking risks) when they get rich. They should instead use a part of their wealth to get bolder, riskier, with even more far-seeing tech-pioneering ventures! He gives one example, a joint endeavor to develop a new nuclear power system using today's 700,000 ton mountain of depleted Uranium.  

Nathan is a controversial figure, having built one of the biggest Intellectual Property consolidation sites.  The pro and con arguments can get pretty extreme... but fascinating.  Still, in his call for the tech rich to keep entrepreneuring, he makes great points. We need to prevent oligarchy. But just SHORT of oligarchy is a sweet spot, where guys like Buffet and Gates and Myrhvold and Musk and Bezos choose NOT to concentrate on inherited aristocracy, but on having huge fun, taking risks that no government could dare to try.  (And some philanthropy as well, of course.  But I will accept bold innovations that solve big problems as coming under that realm.) 

Marc Prensky's new book BRAIN GAIN: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom is for educators... and citizens interested in education... who want to learn more about how new technologies will transform schools and teaching in the future. Put off by early, failed promises, many people look with cynicism upon such promises.  They have given up on the promise too soon!  A wave of new opportunities is coming.  A wave that will transform how children and adults learn.  

Fascinating.  An anonymous set of donors has offered to pay for college (in Michigan) for any student in Kalamazoo high schools who graduates and gets ready to move on. Preliminary signs suggest optimism in the goal of not only inspiring kids to stay in school but revitalizing the community.  

A bizarre exercise in persistent performace theater... or "tweetater" (TM)... See Tweets from World War Two.  

Lots of mystery construction at the White House. My longstanding suggestion? Trench Potomac Avenue, so that the famous street can be re-opened to traffic, restoring some productivity to congested Washington.  A genuine economic boost would result, and dangerous vehicles or trucks would pass near the White House below ground level, effectively immunizing the area against any normal blast. Yes, the mysterious underground warren might have to be shifted a bit.  But hey, my idea could might offer a great excuse for more digging! 

This repudiation of stereotypes and bigoted expectations... by a young Sikh woman with facial hair -- really put a fool in his place.  Very moving exchange on Reddit.  
A cool site about Home Made Tools collects and points to how-to tutorials on the web from folks making their own tools. They range from simple hammers to complex lathes. It could be a fine addition to the burgeoning Maker Movement.  Another compilation center is cool-tools.org run by the inimitable Kevin Kelly.

And while we're on the subject of home-crafts! Steve Martin in one of the strangest political ads ever. 

== And some final sci fic notes == 

An Etopia News video interview about Existence is now online. As well as YouTube videos of me reading Chapter One of Existence, and Aficionado: Chapter Two of Existence.


If you follow the news at all, you’ve probably seen Paul Krugman — Princeton professor, New York Times columnist, and Nobel Prize-winning economist — championing the idea that government spending can lift us out of the economic crisis. What you may not know is that Krugman is also a huge science fiction fan. (He reads my stuff, as well as Charlie Stross.) 

 friend (and collaborator in a coming novel) Jeff Carlson has just self-pubbed a novel called The Frozen Sky based his ridiculously successful short story of the same name.  Here's a blog on "SF Signal" on the reasons why. "Something is alive inside Jupiter’s ice moon Europa. Robot probes find an ancient tunnel beneath the surface, its walls carved with strange hieroglyphics. Led by elite engineer Alexis Vonderach, a team of scientists descends into the dark… where they confront a savage race older than mankind." Terrific stuff!  


A treat - a Q&A session with and among three top British sci fi authors on Google Hangout. Banks, Hamilton, Reynolds. Cool ideas from the hard SF guys of the UK. Way fun riffs by great writers and cool guys!

And finally... Warren Ellis is best known for scripting comics. Gruff and cynical, with a liking for the things that lurk in the dark unseemly corners of our culture:  How to See the Future:


"Use the rear view mirror for its true purpose. If I were sitting next to you twenty-five years ago, and you heard a phone ring, and I took out a bar of glass and said, sorry, my phone just told me it’s got new video of a solar flare, you’d have me sectioned in a flash. Use the rear view mirror to imagine telling someone just twenty five years ago about GPS. This is the last generation in the Western world that will ever be lost. LifeStraws. Synthetic biology. Genetic sequencing. SARS was genetically sequenced within 48 hours of its identification. I’m not even touching the web, wifi, mobile broadband, cloud computing, electronic cigarettes…


Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day. Not all of it’s good. It’s a strange and not entirely comfortable time to be alive. But I want you to feel the future as present in the room. I want you to understand, before you start the day here, that the invisible thing in the room is the felt presence of living in future time, not in the years behind us."

36 comments:

Alex Tolley said...

this method of using tethers has problems, needing a counterweight you can hurl back into the atmosphere while flinging your payload upward.

I think this is a feature, not a bug. The counterweight is the upper stage. When the payloads are released, the stage an tether de-orbit. No additional space junk!

In "Existence" I liked that the tethers used for retrieving space junk were smart. An interesting approach to the difficulties of tether deployment.

sociotard said...

Are you allowed to pick what sort of Captcha bot-proofing your site uses? If so, this looks to be an interseting option.

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2012/10/empathy-captcha/

David Brin said...



Was asked about whether "vote-swapping" with a swing state voter is legal:


As a Californian, I am willing to consider voting for Gary Johnson. One thing that might influence that decision is if a libertarian person in one of the swing states were to show me how flexible libertarians are and willing to be practical. If such a person were willing to consider supporting Obama, to help prevent another catastrophe of GOP "governance", then I would be impressed with that libertarian practicality and start feeling more inclined to vote for that person's party as an idealistic gesture here, where practicality don't enter into it.

This is not vote swapping! It is reciprocal appreciation and persuasion between two voters, each growing in respect for how liberals and libertarians share a common interest in making the two big parties of the US two party system the Democratic Party and the Libertarian Party, and allowing the Crazy Party to go into its long deserved senility and dotage. There is no quid pro quo. Though I will certainly be more impressed if that other voter seems committed than if she or he does not.

David Brin said...

http://books.google.com/books?id=aADblM5i-ucC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=submarine+brin&source=bl&ots=KtaJOTsing&sig=kLDJE3-WRkCzEd-yDZPCLTzc9lI&hl=en#v=onepage&q=submarine%20brin&f=false

Robert said...

Yeah, sorry about that. I didn't quite parse it properly over in Facebook and one of Avens' "friends" tried to scare me Republican by saying he's reporting me to the Feds. Considering the Feds never responded to MY inquiry about phishing that used a supposed FBI agent informing me of something, which I kept in my spam folder for a couple weeks 'til finally it auto-purged, I very much doubt anything will come of it. Especially considering that Republicans have and do far worse.

In fact, this was stated in response to the weenie trying to scare me Republican, and I thought it worth reposting here:

The '9 Easy Steps'

1 Purging is the use by partisan election officials of computer databases that identify voter characteristics (race, ethnicity, residence location, etc) to remove from registration rolls names of persons likely to be sympathetic to the "wrong" political party. Plausible pretexts for the removals are sometimes offered, but often not. Purging is what Katherine Harris did to tens of thousands of Florida voters in 2000, claiming the mostly black voters were felons when they were not.

2 Caging is the mailing of do-not-forward, first-class letters to selected groups and using letters returned as 'evidence' that voters' listed addresses are fraudulent. Partisan election officials can then strike the voters' names from registration rolls and/or throw out their mail-in ballots. This can happen en masse to military people serving overseas and voting absentee from their home addresses. Likewise to students away at school, and even to voters whose addresses on registration rolls contain fatal typos made, accidentally of course, by election data entry workers.

3 Spoiling is accomplished in a variety of ways. A famous one is to put punched-card voting setups in districts tending to the "wrong" party. Then disqualify all votes where the voter did not manage to punch the hole all the way through, as in the infamous "hanging chads" in Florida in 2000.

(to be continued

Robert said...

4 Prestidigitation is accomplished using computerized "black box" voting machines. These machines are notoriously subject to sophisticated, vote-changing "hacking", but a great deal of damage is effected just by "glitches", where the machines simply fail to record votes. This is taken advantage of, in the simplest case, by placing the oldest, least reliable machines in "wrong party" precincts.

5 Tossing is the fate of many/most provisional ballots. A wrongfully-purged voter, challenged at the polls, is given a provisional ballot. When the registration is checked later, the original, bogus, reason for purging is found, and the ballot is tossed. There is no arrangement for seeking out and correcting invalid purgings.

6 Rejecting happens to mail-in ballots when partisan election officials can find pretexts, often trivial, for not recording them. An 'X' in a box instead of a filled-in box box, for example, or a stray mark in some inconsequential place. Or simply "losing" the ballot outright. Best part is, the voter never learns what happened.

7 Blocking registration, in its simplest form, is exactly that -- partisan election officials turn down registration applications, selectively, sometimes without telling the voter. To save officials the trouble of doing even that, walls are being put in place to keep registration forms from being submitted at all. Florida, for example, instituted registration rules so picky, with penalties so severe, that groups carrying out registration drives, like the League of Women Voters, were pushed to the sidelines in that state.

8 Ejecting voters when they show up to vote is done most prominently by requiring state-approved photo ID. Some IDs, like gun-owners' licenses, may be approved, while others, such as food stamp photo IDs, are not. In the June 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, state-issued student IDs were rejected, a fact that, by itself, may have altered the outcome.

9 Stuffing boxes with phony ballots, or diddling with the count behind the scenes, is the old-fashioned way to steal elections. It is still deployed, and the computerized "black box" voting machines open new vistas, often with no means whatever for doing a definitive recount.

Rob H.

David desJardins said...

"Controversial" seems an understatement. Myrhvold has spent his riches trying to get richer by stymieing innovation or entrepreneurship, or at least collecting a toll from anyone else who wants to pursue it. He's the last person anyone should listen to on the subject of entrepreneurship. Evil, evil, evil.

bobsandiegoe said...

If I were sitting next to you twenty-five years ago, and you heard a phone ring, and I took out a bar of glass and said, sorry, my phone just told me it’s got new video of a solar flare, you’d have me sectioned in a flash.
Hell I don't even have to imagine that, I've got short stories I wrote in the late 1980s on my hard drive and just the sheere wrongness of tech from my riting then to now is mentally staggering. (Part fo the reason I call my Sf semi-rigid SF, I'm no where near good enough to call my work Hard, but I do try to avoid idiotic abuses of known science.)
Dr brin it was apleasure and a honor to share panel with you this past weekend.

TheMadLibrarian said...

I am saddened by the fact that many of the more innovative businesses I'd like to support are privately owned. Buying into them costs more than a few shares of, say, Google. I don't have half a million laying about ready to invest for the ones I know about, and I'm sure there are others that are worthy about which I am unaware. The trick is finding ones where the initial outlay is within reason for a (very) small investor.

TheMadLibrarian
76 theneds: in the big Kzin parade...

David Brin said...

BobSD yeah. Much fun.

re Myrhvold, his rationalization is he is helping hundreds of companies pool patents and thus breathe easier instead of suing each other like mad. Of course, in order to join, you have to already HAVE a patent everybody else wants. It promotes oligarchy... though one that is more efficient and less wasteful.

Rob said...

So, Myrhvold is building an ASCAP for tech patent holders?

That's a good idea, I guess. Unlike Copyrights which don't expire until the author has been dead for a century, the model could work very well for patents.

BCRion said...

Patents are a great idea, but the system is set up in a way that is easily abused. Rather than encouraging innovation, it can actually discourage innovation if people buy them, sit on them, and then sue for patent violation

One thing that would help with regards to patents is to make them only once transferrable by the original filer, be it a person or corporate entity. It won't solve the patent parasite problem, but it would help. This will also keep the incentive for the original innovator to develop products in the hope of selling the original ideas.

I would also propose making patents last seven years. An extension to twenty may then be filed that is granted only if actual sales directly resulting from that patent (either as a product itself or as part of a product currently being sold). Again, this won't solve the problem, but it could actually encourage innovation by pushing products into production or simply letting them expire in about the third the time they normally would.

Hans said...

Patents (like copyright) is very much a Faustian bargain.

The intent is noble, but the opportunities for abuse abound. There are many ways to attempt to fix the problems with the patent system (i.e. not allowing NPE's to sue for infringement, shorter patent grant periods, abolishing software patents, etc). The problem is, no one with the ability to really change the system is invested enough to actually do so.

As for Myrhvold, I don't think any one but Myrhvold knows what his true end game is. I hope he really is on the right side of right on this one.

Hans

Hans

SteveO said...

Hi all,

Swamped but back for a dip of the toe...

First, I am one and know entrepreneurs and those who teach them, and I would not characterize them as taking risks - in fact, quite the opposite. Successful entrepreneurs are risk averse, so they plan out their ventures with a calm and lucid eye towards reality. There is a lot more to entrepreneurship than having a good idea and jumping in! That path leads to VCs making a lot of money and you being out of a job AND an idea...

Second, I think going with popular vote alone would still be suboptimal. Instead, a rank-ordering vote would give third- and fourth-parties more of a voice, which I believe would serve to moderate the extremes we see today. You could lodge your preferred vote for (fill in party here) as your number one choice, then put the person from the second choice "mainstream" party, in case your first choice doesn't make it. That would have changed the outcome in Florida in 2000 and would have reflected more the reality of people's thinking.It allows people to vote their conscience, and probably influence the policy debate.

Third, where do folks go to read science fiction short stories nowadays. I had a good idea the other morning... :)

Ian said...

SteveO, I'm reminded of an interview in New Scientist with a researcher who was also a wilderness survival expert.

He acted as a guide and advisor to expeditions going into potentially dangerous areas.

The interviewer asked him abotu his "adventures".

His response (loosely): "I don;t have adventures. Adventures are te result of poor planning."

Tony Fisk said...

SteveO. I've got a few of those! There are a number of online sf 'magazines'. Clarkesworld being one that I'm aware of. The usual method is to submit your efforts on the 'slush pile' and hope it floats to the top.

November be novel writing month.

I've just started an online course at Stanford on Solar Cells, Fuel Cells, & Batteries, if anyone else wants a respite from November decisions, decisions.

SteveO said...

Ian, yep, that is the attitude I am talking about!

Thanks Tony. If/when I have time to finish it, I will check it out.

Paul451 said...

Re: Myrhvold's patent super-pool.
If there's a demand for such shared pools, then perhaps the US Patent Office itself (which is self-funding, I believe) should create a National Patent Commons for companies to donate their patents in return for universal access to the rest of the National pool. The USPTO would then licence (and enforce) use of those patents to non-members, using the cash to fund itself, allowing it perhaps to lower costs for patents (particularly for those donated patents.)

[In fact, why doesn't the USPTO office itself patent obvious ideas ("doing X on a computer, phone, or tablet device"). Then licence their own patents out, funding the Office. Note, I'm not saying this is a Good Thing, it's awful, I'm just wondering why they haven't done it since they became self-funding. I'm sure patent examiners must come up with hundreds of ideas spun off from the patents they examine. The Office could pay them a share of any licence revenue their idea/patent generates.]

Similarly, I imagine a lot of companies are patenting ideas purely to protect themselves from predatory lawsuits from others, not to stop others. But those patents then get bought up by patent trolls, who go back and sue everyone else who uses the idea. So perhaps the USPTO should have a second tier pseudo-patent, a "Registration of Intent to Develop an Idea", which costs much less than a full patent, has fewer restrictions, but protects you from someone else patenting your idea after you register it. However, if you Register an Intent to Develop an Idea, you effectively give up the right to patent that idea; and since it's not a "right", you can't enforce your control over the idea on others, nor trade it. While it doesn't protect you from existing patents, it does allow you to safely work on an idea which you don't really want to patent, without leaving yourself open to someone submarining you.

Tim H. said...

An entertaining angle on the Star Wars universe:
http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/10/most-citizens-of-the-star-wars-galaxy-are-probably-totally-illiterate

Paul451 said...

TheMadLibrarian,
There are rules preventing small investors buying into start-ups. So even if you knew of the companies, it might not help you. You have to have over a certain income/net-wealth before you are allowed to invest without a broker. It's meant to protect people from manipulative conmen, or delusional free-energy "inventors". But it causes the problems you note, it restricts the investor pool to the already rich. (And forces compromises like Kickstarter.)

SteveO,
"where do folks go to read science fiction short stories nowadays. I had a good idea the other morning.."

365 Tomorrows?

(ascieti 14 - the group secretly in charge of 365 Tomorrows.)

Tacitus2 said...

Liking the Rembrandt.

More evidence of Tachyon Brin!

Tacitus

Robert said...

Rather interesting about the Falcon 9 engine failure and the ongoing commentary by e-news organizations on whether the engine exploded or not. I'm willing to bet that Republicans are going to use this against Obama by claiming it's obvious private space industry just can't do the job right and that NASA should be handling all the details. They'll ignore the fact that two space shuttles died because of failures, one due to a solid rocket booster and the other from debris causing a critical hole in the wing.

Of course it's not just Republican polis. One of my Republican friends was adamant last night on YIM that Obama had killed NASA and that SpaceX was a failure. He blithely ignored my facts and statistics about how Obama increased funding to NASA while Bush killed the Shuttle and cut funding (and then the argument went on to state that Keynesian Economics was completely wrong and responsible for the Global Economic Crisis and that we needed to cut spending... despite the fact that austerity measures is crippling Europe - he went on to sing the praises of the Austrian School of Economics while claiming Bush was a Keynesian economics follower).

To be honest, the anti-private space sentiment is growing quite vehement at times. I'm almost expecting to see someone try to either sabotage a Falcon 9, or try to shoot it down when it's being launched. (I wonder... would the insurance companies that insure cargos for space launches try to weasel out of paying for the incident in that case since it was terrorism that caused the loss?)

Rob H.

Bobsandiego said...

My ravenous republican friends are all pretty much big SpaceX boosters, even while hating Obama with an irrationality that gets quite entertaining.

Jonathan S. said...

Actually, I'd argue that the Falcon 9 engine failure is proof that private enterprise does space better. If NASA had been launching this payload on, say, a Delta, and experienced engine loss on the first stage, would they have been able to complete the mission and get the payload on course to the ISS (as happened in this instance), or would they just abort?

I would like to know the fate of the secondary payload, the Orbcomm satellite on the second stage (data not currently available, as Orbcomm is closed today)...

Robert said...

And I'd agree. But I've already seen reader comments in several articles that basically stated this incident proved the money was ill-spent and that SpaceX was going to fail big and it was all Obama's fault for funding them. How much of it is SpaceX being private and how much is Obama remains to be seen, but when even retired NASA astronauts come out against SpaceX, it tells you something about the ingrained disdain toward private industry in space and Obama's decision to kill the Apollo Squared program.

Rob H.

Alfred Differ said...

Entrepreneurs might not see themselves as risk takers, but relative to the rest of the population they are. They face the risk of failure and do what planning they can to avoid it. The rest of us avoid failure by not leading an effort, choosing instead to seek employment under those who do.

I'm grateful the entreprenuer do wht they do even when they fail... especially when they fail.


Regarding the engine failure, NASA would have spent a great deal of money to avoid having it happen at all. That money can be better spent flying equipment, taking the risks of failure, and learning from them. The pain of failure is sharper when it is your own money lost, but the lessons learned are equally sharp.

Randy Winn said...

If you never fail, you aren't trying anything hard.

I have no idea whether SpaceX in particular is good or bad, but the idea that privatized launches are a failure of the Obama Administration calls to mind Wolfgang Pauli's "Das ist nicht nur nicht richtig, es ist nicht einmal falsch!" "Not only is it not right, it's not even wrong!" (...that is to say, an argument has to have a certain amount of clarity before its truth value can even be evaluated.)

Things sound so much crisper in German!

Ian said...

People ask what the western military presence in Afghanistan is achieving. They ask why we don't just get out.

This why we fight: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\10\10\story_10-10-2012_pg1_3

"The Pakistani Taliban shot teenage children’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai in the head on her school bus in Mingora on Tuesday to avenge her campaigns for the right to an education in the militants’ former stronghold of Swat."

Malala Yousafzai and the hundreds of thousands like her are just as much a product of Pashtun culture as the Taliban - or more so. Remember that the next riem someone tells you "They all hate us" or "They don't want us there."

David Brin said...

Ian sorry. These Pashtun women won't be helped by Pax Americana collapsing. For the same cost and effort we could be helping tens and hundreds of millions where the lessons have a chance of STICKING and transforming the world, and making the Taliban more of a clearly crazy exception to a growing, enlightened norm.

I got nothing against nation building! I think we should start by growing democracy in fertile soil.

Ian said...

David, I'm less sanguine than you about deciding which countries are ready for democracy.

I think i've mentioned here before that while I was studying Asian Studies back in the early 90's, very erudite, very well-intentioned lecturers would explain that democracy was incompatiable with East Asian and South East Asian cultural values and that the majority of Taiwanese, South Koreans, Thais, Malaysians, Indonesians and Filipinoes were quire content with their authortarian governments and that the Wwst should continue to support the likes of Suharto.

Post-war Japan certainly looked like a lousy prospect at the time.

Also, and this should go without saing, I don't want a single allied soldier in Afghanistan a day longer than is necessary.

Had Bush not essentially ignored Afghanistan for the last five years of his administration, we might actually be out of there by now.

David Brin said...

Ian, I sympathize and agree with all of the individual statements above... except the last.

Afgh is the "land where empires go to die." Drawing us into there was precisely Osama's objective. And yes we proved astonishingly sturdy and competent and good, compared to the Soviets. And Afgh phase I which was toppling the Taliban, was done according to Clintonian military doctrines and worked and made us look amazing...

... but Afgh phase II should not have happened. We should have said: "Now Pashtuns negotiate a federal arrangement with the others and know that if the taliban come back we will flatten you again."

And we might then have spent half the money saved on Ghana and Mexico and Haiti and Cambodia, where stuff might happen.

Ian said...

"Afgh is the "land where empires go to die.""

See I don't accept that since it ignores about 2,500 years of history andfocuses on the one example that supports the writer's view.

Did Alexander's empire die in Afghanistan? The Parthians? The Mongols? The Timurids? The Sassanids?

Peopel tedn to forget that after the British defet in the first Anglo-Afghan War, they went back and established a British-dominated regime that lasted until their withdrawal from india after world War II - and then continued on for another 30-odd years.

Ian said...

The other point here, of course, is that america isn't seeking to conquer Afghanistan. It's seeking to stop the Taliban from conquering Afghanistan.

David Brin said...



Bill Nye takes on the Chairman of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Do you seriously think that a party that would make a man like this chairman of the science committee for the People's House in the Great Republic really ought to be trusted with a burnt match?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/07/bill-nye-paul-broun-science-space-technology_n_1947125.html#slide=1615628

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/07
/bill-nye-paul-broun-science-space-
technology_n_1947125.html#slide=1615628

Rob said...

"Things sound so much crisper in German!"

That they do. Languages with glottal stops and all. Fewer synonyms. Shorter thesaurus.

Let's try this for a translation, though: "There isn't just no truth to it, there's not even anything to call incorrect!"

Or you could really colloquialize it in English and just translate it as, "There's so much nonsense that even the sense doesn't make sense."

David Brin said...

onward