Monday, August 29, 2005

Hypocrisy Dump: A Toxic Landfill of Doublespeak

Back to current events! Take a look at the future of U.S. competitiveness in The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas L. Friedman.

World-is-flatThis is an issue that used to be on the front burner... till the war on terror drove it off our screens. And I wonder. Since it's been 4 years since 9/11, is it possible that the terrorists harmed us most by diverting our agenda from urgent matters for half a decade?

Thomas Friedman speaks to just one aspect of competitiveness in a recent related article, from which I cribbed the following: "It's as if we have an industrial-age presidency, catering to a pre-industrial ideological base, in a post industrial era.

"Thomas Bleha, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer in Japan, has a fascinating piece in the May-June issue of Foreign Affairs that begins like this: "In the first three years of the Bush administration, the United States dropped from 4th to 13th place in global rankings of broadband Internet usage. Today, most U.S. homes can access only 'basic' broadband, among the slowest, most expensive and least reliable in the developed world, and the United States has fallen even further behind in mobile-phone-based Internet access. The lag is arguably the result of the Bush administration's failure to make a priority of developing these networks. In fact, the United States is the only industrialized state without an explicit national policy for promoting broadband."

"Since it took over in 2001, the Bush team has made it clear that its priorities are tax cuts, missile defense and the war on terrorism - not keeping the U.S. at the forefront of Internet innovation. "

Or (I might add) any kind of civilian technological or scientific innovation, at all.

==Now this important insight from Russ Daggatt:

Imagine if Bush in late 2002 and early 2003 had made the case to the American people that we had to invade and occupy Iraq, not because of the threat of mushroom clouds over US cities from Saddam's nuclear weapons, but to establish a pro-Iranian Shiite theocracy:

"We know Saddam has been brought to his knees by the Gulf War and a decade of UN sanctions. He poses no threat to the US or his neighbors. But we must invade and occupy Iraq in order to eliminate a secular Arab regime that has repressed Islamic extremists. As part of our 'Global War on Terror' we will eliminate this secular balance to the growing power of the world's major state sponsor of terrorism, the Shiite theocracy in Iran. We hope to further the ambitions of that radical Islamic regime in Iran by establishing a sympathetic Shiite theocracy in Iraq. Sure, our invasion and occupation of a major Arab country may inflame anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world. Young Muslims may come from around the world to Iraq to fight us, turning Iraq into a training ground for future anti American terrorists, just as our support of anti-Soviet, Islamic 'freedom fighters' in Afghanistan 25 years ago gave birth to al Qaeda. But that is a small price to pay to further the cause of Islamic government in the Middle East. This effort will be long and costly. We could be bogged down in Iraq for years, spending hundreds of billions of dollars, and with thousands of US deaths. And we're not likely to have much allied support -- we'll be doing this on our own. But I ask the American people to join me in this important effort."

Now I know this starts to drift from my favorite paranoid theory, that this war has benefitted - above all - the Saudfamily. Still, one should be flexible, in the face of reports like the following:

Iran hails Iraq draft constitution Tuesday, August 23, 2005 LONDON - Iran on Tuesday heralded the submission of Iraq's draft constitution to parliament, saying the text would improve "security, peace and sovereignty" across the border, according to AFP. "The composition of Iraq's constitution is an very valuable and important step towards the independence and integration of Iraq," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told official media.

==A Failed Foreign Policy==

Ah, but we must stay the course, right? Here's what prominent Republicans said about the brief, professional, and staggeringly effective military intervention by President Clinton and General Clarke in the Balkans - an operation in which not a single American died while quashing genocide and instituting genuine secular democracy, leaving Europe at peace for the first time in 4,000 years. (A pretty good set of success parameters, I'd say):

"President Clinton is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be
away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
-Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"No goal, no objective, not until we have those things and a compelling case is made, then I say, back out of it, because innocent people are going to die for nothing. That's why I'm against it." -Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/5/99

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy." -Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of presidential candidate George W. Bush

"You think Vietnam was bad? Vietnam is nothing next to Kosovo."-Tony Snow, Fox News 3/24/99

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years" -Joe Scarborough (R-FL) (Um... the Balkans intervention was a textbook case of Pax Americana police action that swiftly got transferred to effective and localized peacekeeping forces.)

"I'm on the Senate Intelligence Committee, so you can trust me and believe me when I say we're running out of cruise missiles. I can't tell you exactly how many we have left, for security reasons, but we're almost out of cruise missiles." -Senator Inhofe (R-OK )

(Um... putting aside the blatant security breach, where are you NOW, when our nation’s fundamental military readiness has plummeted to its lowest ebb in 60 years?)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our overextended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" -Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is." -Governor George W. Bush (R-TX) (How about an exit strategy called “Go in with a good plan, use overwhelming force and skill, win quick, hand over to local cops, and get out within a year?)

"You can support the troops but not the president"-Representative Tom Delay (R-TX) Amen!

"It is a remarkable spectacle to see the Clinton Administration and NATO taking over from the Soviet Union the role of sponsoring "wars of national liberation." -Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID)

Beyond the blatant hypocrisy of these guys, we should note, the Balkans intervention left our status as world leader HIGHER than before, our alliances bolstered, the reserves were mostly left in their home states, with their families, military readiness GREW, and re-enlistments skyrocketed among troops whose morale was among the highest in our history.

And now, from Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman, Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration :"Great Groups are engaged in solving hard, meaningful problems. Paradoxically, that process is difficult but exhilarating as well. Some primal human urge to explore and discover, to see new relationships and turn them into wonderful new things drives these groups. The payoff is not money, or even glory. Again and again, members of Great Groups say they would have done the work for noting. The reward is the creative process itself."

==On to Tax Cuts==

Which brings up those tax cuts. Yes, it is a tired old mantra that they primarily benefitted the top 1% aristocracy while shivving the rest of us. That aspect was conceded from the start. (Will it EVER be relevant that the wealth difference ratios keep rising at an accelerating pace?) Only it was explained and excused by the latest version of that old Reaganite "trickle-down" notion, re-invented as "economic stimulation through supply side investment."

In other words, if we increase the deficit today (through massive unfinanced tax cuts for the rich), this won't ultimately affect America's fiscal health, because the wealthy will invest all of their added gains in new research, development, capitalization and products, resulting in so much accelerated economic activity that the debt will be erased, even at lower tax rates.

I always doubted this theory, because history shows that Adam Smith was right. Many aristocrats prefer safe rather than risky investments. They would rather manipulate politics in order to get preferential treatment for passive dividends and rents - which involve no personal creativity or work - than perform hands-on entrepreneurship or company building that generate actual products and services. It is the job of market fine-tuning to ensure that risky/creative investing has a preference over passive/advantage-reinforcing investment.

Who has been proved right? In five years since the Great Big Tax Cut For the Rich, our federal deficit has only grown worse at skyrocketing rates. The "war on terror" is no excuse, since every prior generation had the sense to tax themselves to PAY for wars. It's what our ancestors did. Always. (Isn't that "conservative"?) But our present rulers would rather have our kids pay the bill.

In science, when a prediction of cause and effect is proved utterly and diametrically wrong, this calls into question the theory that made the prediction. In contrast, falsification is impossible when it comes to ideological mysticism. True believers (of the right or left) will not change their beliefs in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence. Evidence only makes them hate the evidentiary process. Hence the recent neoconservative+postmodernist alliance in waging war against science.

Enough for now... Pick your favorite items. Pass em on.


Jay Denari said...

Hi, David,

The right-wing propaganda machine is simply incredible, isn't it? When do we prosecute the whole lot of them?!? We can throw in the corrupt Dems for good measure.

Many aristocrats prefer safe rather than risky investments.

It would be interesting to see how the tax cuts break down between "old money" families like the Bushes, Kennedys, etc. -- for whom the above is definitely true -- and "newly" wealthy genuine entrepreneurs like Bill Gates. I suspect most entrepreneurs aren't multimillionaires and never will be, while most of the concentrated wealth remains in the hands of a relatively small number of old families who made it not by taking risks but by creating various "holding companies" that do nothing but shuffle cyber-cash around. (I also suspect we'd find that the newer rich folks are more likely to be progressive.)

Or (I might add) any kind of civilian technological or scientific innovation, at all.

Innovation? These people can't even deal with accepted theory like evolution, never mind progress. I think Friedman was being VERY generous by saying they're "pre-industrial." Nearly pre-historic is more accurate; neolithic tribesmen are more willing to learn than these folks.

Anonymous said...

Well, as far as I'm concerned the battle between ID and Darwin is over, and ID has won! This incisive, authoritative column just lays things out so clear and simple like that you'd have to a doo-doo head not to just plain believe after reading it:

Mystery of life's origins solved by sports columnist.

"Steve Stenstrom, who played quarterback for the Bears and 49ers, works as a religious-life adviser to athletes at Stanford, where he organized a controversial forum on intelligent design last May. 'I don't think it's a reach at all,' he said. 'Talk to any athlete, and if they really are honest, they realize that while they have worked and trained, and put a lot of effort into being great, they started with some raw material that was advantageous to them, and that it was meant to work a certain way. We all recognize that we have a certain design element.'"

There you have it folks. The Jocks knowed The Truth all along! an here i was feeling superior to the college football players since i was taking calcullus when they were taking remedlial counting!!!


Joel said...

This article shows some groups that are historically considered very dogmatic being surprisingly agnostic and open-minded. First, a short quote on pragmatic tactics:

"Some advocates of gay marriage argue that proving sexual orientation is inborn would make it easier to frame the debate as simply a matter of civil rights. That could be true, but then again, freedom of religion enjoyed federal protection long before inborn traits like race and sex."

Then a longer one on the interplay between science, politics and religion:

'In June, scientists in Vienna announced that they had isolated a master genetic switch for sexual orientation in the fruit fly. Once they flicked the switch, the genetically altered female flies rebuffed overtures from males and instead attempted to mate with other females, adopting the elaborate courting dance and mating songs that males use.

And now, a large-scale, five-year genetic study of gay brothers is underway in North America. The study received $2.5 million from the National Institutes of Health, which is unusual. Government funders tend to steer clear of sexual orientation research, aware that even small grants are apt to be met with outrage from conservative congressmen looking to make the most of their C-Span face time. Relying on a robust sample of 1,000 gay-brother pairs and the latest advancements in genetic screening, this study promises to bring some clarity to the murky area of what role genes may play in homosexuality.

This accumulating biological evidence, combined with the prospect of more on the horizon, is having an effect. Last month, the Rev. Rob Schenck, a prominent Washington, D.C., evangelical leader, told a large gathering of young evangelicals that he believes homosexuality is not a choice but rather a predisposition, something "deeply rooted" in people. Schenck told me that his conversion came about after he'd spoken extensively with genetic researchers and psychologists. He argues that evangelicals should continue to oppose homosexual behavior, but that "many evangelicals are living in a sort of state of denial about the advance of this conversation." His message: "If it's inevitable that this scientific evidence is coming, we have to be prepared with a loving response. If we don't have one, we won't have any credibility."'

The article begins with identical 7-year-old twins who show strong gender differences, and author is always sure to include the caveat that structural differences can arise from behavioral differences, as well. All-in-all, a very interesting read.

Rob Perkins said...

I think whatever good Clarke did (and you argue compellingly for quite a lot of good), he burned up his cred in partisanship during that Dem Presidential primary. Now he's out to pasture and half the country won't listen to him, which is a waste.

Still, I wonder if he could have stuck around working for Rummy. It seems to me those two have a feud.

As re broadband, Bleha places the blame on far too few people. How is it again that we can blame the government for not upgrading networks it doesn't own, and technology it doesn't regulate?

(Oh, they get blame enough for passing that '96 Telecom law while at the same time expecting entrenched cash-collecting monopolies to behave like competetive startups, but still, let's not forget we have others to blame, too!)

David Brin said...

Alas, the notion of Wesley Clarke hanging around to work for Rummy is a bit unlikely, given that Rumsfeld has engaged in the most deliberate, relentless, extenseive and destructive PURGE of the United States Officer Corps in the last 100 years. Not even Sen. Joe McCarthy tried to begin a purge as thorough and blatantly political as has been going on before our very eyes...

..and I blame democrats for neither noticing this or making an issue of it.

Especially the kind of democrats running San Francisco politics, who have turned their backs upon the pragmatic and righteous position (supporting the heroes of Kosovo and Afghanistan while opposing the politicians who sent those same heroes into Iraqi Hell.) Instead, the SF demos flicked a switch to spew wholly anti-military rants. SO much that they recently rejected the USS Iowa, which was about to be delivered to their waterfront as a wonderful (and profitable!) WWII museum.

Fools. No... lefty antimodernist psychos.

But yes, right wing antimodernist psychos are vastly more dangerous right now. Oh, for the power Michael Moore has, to make documentaries... only I'd make real hypocrisy-exposes, instead of his tendentious and divisive drivel.

Take Rummy's ridicule - during the Clinton Era - of the "failed and discredited notion of so-called Nation Building..." This from a guy overseeing the most expensive failure in nation building ever.

Or his lifetime spent criticising "political meddling" as a cause for our defeat in Vietnam. This from the guy who oversaw our final humiliation there... and who now engages in that most scandalous and scatlogical politician-meddling interference, over-ruling everything advised by the skilled professionals who won in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

David Brin said...

Sorry, I just gotta repeat this gem from Big Brother's shill -

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?" -Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

Um... but the number from the Balkans operation turned out to be... uh... let's count those body bags! Um... Wasn't that number actually... ZERO, Sean?

That's nil, nada, zilch, zip...

Like the number of Clinton Era officials indicted (let alone convicted) for malfeasance in execution of their duties. We were promised hundreds! Thousands! And we got ZERO! (First time that's ever happened in all of US history, by the way.)

SOme news media we have. Some memory.

Anonymous said...


Great, with that evidence the evangelicals can feel justified to pity homosexuals for being sexually handicapped. Then they can look for a cure because having those homos act out their 'predisposition' is intolerable to them. And that's a loving response? Not IMHO.

@David Brin:
"SOme news media we have. Some memory."

And You (the People) let them get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Frank: That wasn't my post.


Joel said...


The point of the article is that science is, unless it's being politicized, morally neutral. Even when their science is right, fundamentalists' morals can be the opposite of sexuality researchers'. That's the thing about non-falsifiability.

Complete hearing loss can be reversed with a cochlear implant, and while Rush Limbaugh sees that as a cure and many true conservatives see his use of the technology as an escape from the consequences of his bad behavior, many deaf people see the surgery not as a cure but as a threat to an otherwise vibrant culture.

Similarly, if conditions like the autism spectrum or synesthesia became better-understood and more controllable, there would likely be some people searching for a "cure" and others intent on maintaining a distinct identity (although synesthetes are only beginning to come together...).

I happen to disagree with the notion that homosexual behavior is morally wrong. The Bogomils (for instance) had some good notions about the ethics of sex and reproduction. But I'm not exactly afraid of the prospect of people gaining control over their sexuality through technological means.

Joel said...


I don't find Bill Gates particularly innovative. Look at the terrible things he's done to avoid risk. Especially all the new technology that Microsoft has killed just to keep the industry a little more static.

Not that I blame him. I hear a buggy beta Microsoft FS was released early, to compete with any potential hybridization of with Google desktop (this would be functionally equivalent, you see).

Rob Perkins said...

Complete hearing loss can be reversed with a cochlear implant... many deaf people see the surgery not as a cure but as a threat to an otherwise vibrant culture.

Buh what?

No, seriously, I boggle at that. Are we now strapping the deaf to surgery tables against their will for a cochlear implant?

And, forgive my apparant ignorance, but what person in his right mind would turn down a chance to have a lost sense restored to him? That's an augment which doesn't at all constrain a persons ability to associate with the un-augmented deaf, or communicate using sign language. So what's the complaint?

Joel said...

Yes, people are strapping down two-year-olds, cutting them open, and giving them a new sense which they've never had before, and have no capacity to comprehend, much less the wherewithal to give informed consent before the procedure.

I happen to think the surgery is a good idea, but it's a threat to the language because of the drastically reduced number of ASL users there would be if every child who was a candidate for the surgery recieved it: rule of thumb, a language needs 10k speakers to survive contact with the outside world.

I'm certainly not in favor of changing adults against their will, but I'd like to posit that doing the same to children before they've adapted to a certain lifestyle is more morally ambiguous.

Rob Perkins said...

You've got to be kidding. No capacity to comprehend? Have you even *met* a two-year-old? Have you an idea how fast very small children learn to cope with newness like that?

"Oh, Johnny, we love you so much that we're gonna wait until much later, when your brain is far less capable, or entirely incapable, of learning rapidly to process new sensory input, so that you'll have a *choice* about whether or not to stay in a poorly-understood minority group, and so that during your teen years your speech will be irreversably stunted, making you the laughing stock of your high school!"

Personally I'd arrest such people, were that the reason they were keeping a human sense from their children.

As far as "strapping them down and cutting them open", they did it to my 4-year-old daughter last year, to repair a defect in her left humorous, seeing as how it was broken.

And then we did it again to my 2-year-old son, to repair a defect in his front upper incisors, which didn't form all of their enamel, so that he didn't writhe in pain years later as they fell out early due to decay...

And *again* to that four-year-old, a bit later, to fill a cavity.

Personally I think it's antimodernist blathering to complain about the loss of "ASL culture", not to mention kind of ethnocentric (what of European Sign Language?) or to call for not giving hearing to people, just to keep a contrivance like sign language communication from "dying out".

David Brin said...

The thing that is antimodernist about it is the implied contempt for people, assuming that, fully empowered, they cannot simply re-align their associations and form any neotribal groups that suit their fancy.

Exactly as we are doing right now via the internet, the most modernist thing around.

Joel said...

Sorry about the troll language: I do think it's humane to perform surgery on children and animals against their will, especially if anesthesia is used.

And I couldn't agree more with the points that a) the younger someone is, the faster they'll develop comprehension of a new sense, and b)the implants should happen ASAP for exactly that reason.

The fact remains that the surgery is done to people who cannot understand the surgery and who lack an understanding of auditory input. Not that I think these are valid reasons to avoid the surgery; I'm not bitter about being circumcised, even though I think I might not have been anesthetized for it.

Joel said...

Sorry to clog this with posts, but Dr. Brin's post reminds me that the internet could save ASL (or perhaps only its ancestor, French sign language, given their better broadband penetration ;), by making videophoines more widespread and allowing the deaf community to keep in touch over a wider geographic area without resorting to written language.

(deleted & reposted due to a lack of editing options)

Rob Perkins said...

I stand corrected by my wife; it was my daughter's right humorous, not her left. And it was NO FUN to watch them wheel her away from us, once to put pins in her arm, and once to take them out.

DB makes a good point about free association; none of the people I know who speak and use ASL are actually deaf.

Even so, it's not like it's Navajo, or Ainu...

Anonymous said...

Sorry. It was very late (or very early).

"The point of the article is that science is, unless it's being politicized, morally neutral."

If that is the point of the article, I missed it.

The Net will not save ASL or BSL without deaf people around. Even a culture has to die someday.

Ben Tilly said...

I'd like to comment on trickle-down with one of my favorite pieces of trivia.

What do you think that the top personal income tax rate was during the largest expansion of the US middle class on record?

If you believe in trickle-down, it must have been low, right? Because the rich need to be free to spend to generate economic activity, right?

Now for the answer. Would you believe over 90%? The expansion in question happened during the 50s, when the income tax on earnings of more than a million a year (note, that was in 1950s dollars) wavered between 91% and 92%. At the same time that the tax rate on the median family was lower than it is today.

Now I'm not saying that the income tax was the cause of that. But it apparently didn't hurt, either. I have a theory about that. My theory is that when your tax rate gets that high, CEOs have far less incentive to drain the companies that they run for personal profit, and far more of one to try to get pleasure out of making their companies successful.

JFK began the process of eroding that regime, by dropping the top rate to the 70% range, and reducing the number of income tax brackets. Both trends have continued since. Today a 6 figure income (in 2005 dollars) easily puts you in the top income tax bracket. Which has a far lower rate.

To me it seems fair that a doctor who makes $200,000/year should be treated differently than a teacher who makes $40,000/year. But it doesn't make sense that the doctor is treated the same as a CEO who makes $100,000,000/year!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Ben Tilly.

Your comment
"Now I'm not saying that the income tax was the cause of that. But it apparently didn't hurt, either. I have a theory about that. My theory is that when your tax rate gets that high, CEOs have far less incentive to drain the companies that they run for personal profit, and far more of one to try to get pleasure out of making their companies successful."
has inspired me.

Picture Mr. Wealthy man, with a income of $10,000,000 a year in 1955. He knows that he will be taxed on 90% of that, so only $1,000,000 will go into his pocket... but if he donate or invests half (4.5 Million) he'll keep the other half, putting 5.5 Million in his pocket.
(Yes, I know that's not how it really worked, but it's closer than people realize).
So he gives a couple million to a museum (university, library, whatever), they name a building after him and say nice things to him, and he plows a couple million more into his businesses and he gets to keep more of his profit. And the university can get more students in without charging more, and the museum can expand without increasing admissions, etc. AND his business expands to fill existing/new demand.

And THAT is how a high tax rate stimulates the economy... by leaving loopholes that encourage investment.

HawkerHurricane, SM1(SW), USN (ret)

Anonymous said...

First, on the war: I won't get into it much, but Golly, Jee-Willikers! I thought this site was about the amelioration of mystical thinking--get over the non-falsifiable mystical ramblings of "Saud" conspiracies as The Reason for the war. Keep in mind that THE "FIRST" GULF NEVER ENDED; all we had was a cease fire. We were trying to maintain the cease fire with sanctions which, given Saddam's reaction to it, was killing scores by the day AND WE WERE GETTING BLAMED FOR IT. Saddam had repeatedly voided the cease fire agreements and no one did anything, that is until 9/11 and W. I don't understand why these issues are so conveniently forgotten. (My guess is that the war was "sold" wrong because it could not be sold any other way given the propensity for conspiracy theory that so many people just lo-o-ove to embark upon relative to W. If he did nothing about Iraq, I guarantee he would have been pilloried for that too. The guy couldn't win.)

Oh yeah, comparing Kosovo and Iraq is like comparing apples and oranges.
[rant off]

Anonymous said...

On our lagging behind on broadband connectivity per capita densities: How is that related to innovation rate? How will providing more people with access to broadband porn, more mediocre music streams, or Times/Fox biased news going to help innovation rates? As a software systems architect, let me tell you that providing people with a bigger data pipeline does not do much to increase innovation. In fact, until proved wrong, I'm currently sticking to the hypothesis that necessity has been the Mother Of Invention more often than "having it easy" ever has (or more often than Frank Zappa and his band ever were ;-) )

Anonymous said...

On cochlear implants: until we become effective at situ brain re-engineering, corrective surgery for failed senses has less and less success as the patient ages, given brain structure maturation rates and all. It is most useful to the patient to provide missing senses while the brain can assimilate the new information in a meaningful way. For instance in a blind adult the occipital lobe of the brain, which primarily processes visual information in normal adults, may be primarily stimulated by the sense of TOUCH in some blind patients. "Re-wiring" the occipital lobe to efficiently and effectively respond to new visual input is at this time in history out of our reach. Hence the parents of a born-deaf child have an important decision to make UNDER TIME-PRESSURE as to whether or not they seek corrective surgery for their young child (should the child be in a position to receive known benefit from said surgery).

Anonymous said...

On taxes: David, you may have a point, but I also suspect that the loosy-goosy tax structure we have now may help make the economy more robust than the structures of old, which may help to explain why we recovered as well as we did from 9/11 and why our economy is doing as well as it is during war time.

I may be wrong here, and quite wrong, since I haven't really researched my position and stitched together a cohesive argument as of yet. Then again, relative to war time deficits, a lot may be explainable in historical terms when comparing the _relative deficits_ of countries during World War times and seeing how our delayed entries into each provided the US with the lowest relative deficit and hence a positive net worth overall. Then again, I just may crazy...

Rob Perkins said...

Re taxes, the apparant theory is that it's possible to run a deficit and not have it hurt if the deficit is some level below the growth rate of the economy. I'm fuzzy on this but I think it's if the growth rate is x%, then you choose to run a deficit somewhat less than x% of your total budget.

Not that that doesn't sound like complete hooey to a cash accounting guy like me, but there you are, straight from the EIB. ;-)

Not that ol' Limbaugh wasn't castigating the Dems for running deficits before his guy was in power, but there you are again! :-)

What I don't get *at all* is how someone can suppose to cut taxes to grow the economy and still maintain all the spending the government does. Especially that appalling increase in discretionary spending. Is any of that even related to defense efforts?

I think I've been led to agree that we don't have the right fiscal managers in the Congress, and we don't have a President willing to keep them in check.

I think it's better if those two branches fight with one another more than if they cooperate on some agenda.

However, DB, I think you're hitting the lefty partisan websites a bit too hard. Might want to balance all that a bit with a hit of the right. If you can stand it. If they aren't just cheerleading. (O'Reilly isn't, and he's not really on the right, near as I can tell; but he's had a stick up his sensitive places about illegal immigration for years, and he's using his pulpit to hammer on that...)

Rob Perkins said...

And before anyone picks on me for actually listening to O'Reilly, I've been of the opinion for *years* that the best course of action to take with that Mexican border...

is, for economic reasons, to drop it altogether. They wanna come, let 'em come. While it's true that there is a significant number of illegal immigrants who traffic in the very illegal drug trade, on the balance what *I've* seen of the immigrants I know is that they're honest, hardworking folk.

Of course this would have to be balanced with some kind of requirement to Mexico that they end a culture of corruption much worse than ours in the U.S., but I can't see why doing so isn't possible.

And speaking of possibilities, it makes me wonder what John McCain would do, if we pulled out the Big Chair for him.

Ben Tilly said...

For Nicole Tedesco: with what we've spent on the Iraq war we could have maintained the existing blockade for several decades, with a far lighter cost to American lives and without creating the current cesspool that we have there.

And for HawkerHurricane, you're thinking of the "flying nun" exemption. It didn't work exactly like you describe. The way that it worked is that if you donated more than your annual income to charity in a given year, you didn't have to pay taxes. It was passed for the sake of a rich nun who had a trust fund and donated all of her earnings from it to the Church. (Hence the name "flying nun".)

Now the exemption seems pretty innocuous. But the problem was that a lot of people with old money had done things like buy art. The art had appreciated in value, so by giving up some art to a museum, they could easily donate more than their annual income. As lots of rich people began doing this, fine art became scarcer, causing its value to go up even more. (If you wanted to be really devious about it, you could buy one item by a famous artist at a high price, then donate 2 to charity and appraise them at the price that you bought the first one for...)

Not everyone played the game with artwork, there were various ways to play it. The end result is that a lot of people who should have paid taxes, didn't. And a lot of charitable organizations got lots of donations.

In case you ever wondered how museums like the Met got the incredibly expensive art that they display, well now you know.

Anonymous said...

Did you notice "U.S. poverty rate rises to 12.7 percent in 2004" ?

David Brin said...

Hawker was right on in talking about the importance of “leaky” high tax rates. The right wing has gone to extreme lengths to attack the Inheritance Tax, for example. But the only reform it really needed what the democrats offered... a ten-times multiplication of the floor exemption to safeguard family businesses & farms.

What the I.T. did was force rich people to plan ahead and set up foundations to thwart it. Very few actually paid any IT. In most cases, they WERE compelled to plan some kind of charitable use for a large chunk of their lifelong gains... and only propertarian cultists would call that recycling outcome a bad thing.

Emphasis: a man who got rich by providing competitive goods or services deserves to get rich! Moreover, he deserves to have the privilege of choosing which cool socially beneficial investment will be named after him, when he’s gone. The IT is a persuasion tool to encourage creative competitors to continue that competitive creativity in one last effort that will benefit all... including their children who (though they will now only inherit millions) will get to live in a better world.

And government’s say in HOW the investment will be beneficial is minimized, a joy to libertarians... or it should be.

The point is that the social diamond is inherently unstable. The rich will conspire (human nature) to ensure that there kids become spoiled dukes. In Europe, most of the rich inherited while we are proud that most of our rich earned their way to the top. But we are becoming more feudal every year. Do you want Paris Hilton to be our model? Or Steve Jobs?

Rik, I like Jerry Pournells much more than most people who despise his politics. I think he’s been a useful man all his life. And utterly clueless. We need a Caesar like we need a sulfuric acid enema. What we need is confidence in ourselves. The anti-modernist turn is entirely emotional. It is not based upon any REASON for failure of confidence at all. We the people accomplished more, during the last five decades of Pournelle’s grouchiness, than all of the Caesars in history ever dreamed of accomplishing.

Nicole, the 1st Gulf War went into hiatus because the Sauds ordered it halted. That is pure historical fact. We asked the people of Basra to rebel, promising we were “on our way!” Then left them to be slaughtered and oppressed for 12 years. W does not want us remembering this, though it is the worst stain on our honor in a hundred years, and it explains why we got no “flowers and kisses” (Rummy’s prediction) when we finally returned.

And you are wrong to dismiss comparisons of the Balkans and Iraq! I can prove it. Because the SAME planners and the same doctrines were behind our successful campaign in Afghanistan, which is VERY comparable to Iraq. Afgh is a vastly more difficult place, where every invader since Alexander was humbled and Osama felt sure he could cripple yet another superpower.

That did not happen because Clinton-Clarke’s war plan was already in place, using proved and efficient doctrines, planned by pros, with minimal politician interference. All W had time to do was shout “Go!” And the pros did fantastic work. In Afgh, the bane of empires, we are doing BETTER than in Iraq. Our wealth is not squandered. Morale is high. Our alliances strengthened after Afgh. It ain’t perfect, but the fact that we aren’t yet howling with regret is a miracle in itself.

And Afgh was run in the same way, by the same officer corps that did the Balkans. So please don’t dismiss this as apples/oranges. Here’s the real difference. One groups waged Pax Americana intervention like adults. The other is waging it like morons.

Nicole, technological advance feeds productivity. That is proved repeatedly. So 90% of the internet traffic is porn and videos? So? The 5% that’s creative is vast. And we have ensured that it is slowed down in the US. As if an enemy had sabotaged us.

Nicole, recover from WHAT 9/11 damage? We needed a five year recovery... from what!? The exaggeration of that day infuriates me! So a couple of buildings went down! A couple of billion dollars. Casualties were astonishingly low and New York was back up & running in no time. People did NOT panic and vastly more economic harm has been done by relentlessly slowing us all at airports. By the way, the economy isn’t in a depression. But it sucks.

sayeth Rob Perkins “Re taxes, the apparent theory is that it's possible to run a deficit and not have it hurt if the deficit is some level below the growth rate of the economy. I'm fuzzy on this but I think it's if the growth rate is x%, then you choose to run a deficit somewhat less than x% of your total budget.

This is Mike Mandel’s argument and he is perfectly right. Clinton did great work implementing an obsolete notion. He was very responsible cutting the deficit past zero... but should then have gone back into the red by exactly the amount that he would boost scientific and technological research. And it should have been a BIG modernist confident boost, attracting millions of young people back into engineering and science.

“I think it's better if those two branches fight with one another more than if they cooperate on some agenda. “

I don’t agree. The purpose of govt is to govern. Still, the lack of checks and balances right now is appalling.

“However, DB, I think you're hitting the lefty partisan websites a bit too hard. Might want to balance all that a bit with a hit of the right. If you can stand it. If they aren't just cheerleading. (O'Reilly isn't, and he's not really on the right, near as I can tell; but he's had a stick up his sensitive places about illegal immigration for years”

Um.... it’s all perspective. Does anybody else think I am hitting the left harder than the right? I am stunned! I make it very clear that the worst the the left does is to feed Rove’s propaganda machine.

As for defending the borders... Clinton doubled the border patrol as his FIRST act in office. W’s first? To cripple it. Nuff said.

Sayeth Ben Tilly “For Nicole Tedesco: with what we've spent on the Iraq war we could have maintained the existing blockade for several decades, with a far lighter cost to American lives and without creating the current cesspool that we have there.”

I don’t agree. I am a raving Pax Americana booster... if it is done by grownups. We OWED it to the people of Iraq to rescue them, after what we did to them in 91! I just think almost any other plan would have been better than this one designed by loonies and morons.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that my example was off the top of my head, and not based on 'real historical facts' but rather a half remembered history.

I still think it's a neat idea, though.

Truth is, though, the top percent of earners will find a way to avoid paying thier share of taxes (income or other). Giving them one that is easy and encourages donation/investment would be a improvement over the current system, which seems to consist of eliminating the tax on the top percent entirely so that there is even less donation and investment going on.

David, I have a saying I use occasionally... "Class Warfare is what happens when the lower classes starts shooting BACK." I think we're going to see the lower classes trying to defend themselves vs. class warfare at the ballot box in the near future.


Rob Perkins said...


Yes, yes, Clinton was Our Hero. (And he was a remarkably skilled pol, wasn't he?)

My observation about the lefty websites was likely a bit skewed; I know you're out to CITOKATE, and the factions in power are not the ones doing it...

(And I think as well about the indignation those on the Left feel about the violation of this or that international law, all the while excusing what those on the Right were indignant about, regarding Clinton's (and his administration's) own indiscretions. Yeah, I know, no indictments, etc, but you know as well as I that that's not the currency of those at the top of power)

But yeah, the last couple of posts seemed to hit the kool-aid just a touch, even though you're probably not gonna find criticisms from the righty ones...

As it stands, I found only one: I see someone named Mark Tapscott calling for conservatives to "dump the GOP" because of its abandonment of the "limited government" idea, among others:

Incredibly, after a decade of GOP control, the federal government is bigger, more powerful, costs more and is less accountable than it was when the Democrats were thrown out by voters in 1994 after four decades of mostly uncontested rule.

How would an intervention work on the political scene? I don’t have that answer. Some people suggest withholding campaign contributions. Others predict conservatives will stay at home in droves in the 2006 elections, possibly handing the Democrats a bunch of new seats in Congress and revived hopes of taking back the White House in 2008.

Perhaps such a turn of events would be the needed jolt, but it seems just as likely, given recent history, that only the names and party affiliations of those doing damage in Congress would change.

It leaves me with another thought: Perhaps the sort of hypocrisy you've cited is universal; it's easier for people not in the center of something, as the Republicans were in the Balkan efforts, to see things which those *in* power can't or won't see about expeditionary adventures?

Tony Fisk said...

People did NOT panic and vastly more economic harm has been done by relentlessly slowing us all at airports. By the way, the economy isn’t in a depression. But it sucks.

Following the script...

People may be bigger than their allotted roles, but not so governments. A similar pattern is emerging following the London bombings (although I don't think Blair is reacting quite as reflexively as Bush: maybe he's read TS?:-).

BTW. Has anyone ever noticed how a depressed economy works to keep the common herd in line?

Enough for now... Pick your favorite items. Pass em on. word, and by blog.

Tony Fisk said...

Quoth DB:
As for defending the borders... Clinton doubled the border patrol as his FIRST act in office. W’s first? To cripple it. Nuff said.

Being a bit remote from this, being an observer in more innocent times, and being a bit of a geek, the first of W's acts that I noted was the US Government's withdrawal from the anti-trust action against Microsoft.

(Microsoft is now the proud owner of, among other things, patent #6896804. Filed in June, 2001, it allows for the conversion between data objects and XML, an open standard. This covers any software utility that can read/write an XML file. Whose data was that again?)

Just another straw...

Joel said...

Hm...I think that a diamond actually is stable, in the long term. Life was a pyramid for a while, but now plankton are the greatest mass of living creature, and I'd put them somewhere between us and archaea as far as complexity. The total mass of viri/phages is also pretty small, and the mass our biosphere has invested in prions is probably negligible.

Every whale will eventually go toward tube worms.

Just as cyanobacteria eventually lost their numerical advantage to the amazing talents of arthropods, the growth rate of competitive industries eventually outstrips any interest from rents. Don't the Saudis always say "my grandson will ride a camel?"

Anonymous said...

Interesting point, bringing up what "we" (USA) did to the Iraqis in 1991--yes, we did abandon those guys at the behest of the Arab League (effectively, the Sauds). It was THEY who said that Saddam was an internal Arab matter and that THEY would take care of it. Bush The First (being the type of "internationalist" that he was) took the Arab League's word for it. Well, so much for that.

What I would like to point out is that it is so, so, SO easy to blame ourselves for anything and everything. After all, we know our own strengths and weaknesses very well. Blaming ourselves first also works when you don't know a lot of what is really going on behind the scenes. Besides, blaming ourselves is downright fashionable! I would like to know however, whatever happened to placing blame where the responsibilities actually lie?

Thanks, House of Saud, for leaving us holding the flaming bag of dog doo you let burn for years.

It reminds be of the French's flaming bag of dog doo in Indochina following WWII...