Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Louisiana suffers for W's "elective surgery"

As we watch poor Louisiana wallow in misery, I am moved to point out two things. (1) that there are eerily predictive passages about New Orleans in my novel EARTH... and (2) here’s the first state to face a major civil emergency while much of its National Guard has been yanked away to some foreign land.

This is yet another way to view the foolishness of our leaders. Their inability to really consider that the world is dangerous. Here’s a way to put it: the metaphor for this Iraq War should be ELECTIVE SURGERY.

neworleansAt first, we were urgently told it was an EMERGENCY ROOM PROCEDURE, back during the lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction. No time to talk, or plan or persuade allies, or ponder the most efficient means of achieving desired ends. If we did not act fast, Saddam would fry our babies!

See: Wars of Emergency vs Wars of Policy

Now we are told that reason never mattered, after all. The real purpose was always to liberate oppressed people and spread freedom.

Yes, I happen to be one of the few war critics who AGREE with that motive! (In fact, I feel we were morally obligated to free the people of Iraq from a monster that we fostered long ago, and that these same morons left in charge, way back in 91, when they had him in the palm of their hands. In effect, they told Saddam - “go ahead and do whatever you like to these people who trusted us to come rescue them.” It was the worst stain on our honor in 100 years.)

Indeed, I actually agree with the backup excuse. Yes indeedy, let’s spread freedom by toppling Saddam.

Still, there is a fundamental distinction that NONE of our pundits pointed out. This worthy goal was no emergency. We could have taken our time and come up with a calm, skilled, clever plan, relying upon skilled professionals who had already proved themselves in the Balkans and Afghanistan...

... a plan that did NOT involve rampant poitical meddling and graft, dividing a great nation, spurning allies, ripping reservists away from jobs and families and pouring billions down a rathole of grinding insurgency-attrition while failing utterly at nation building. With the only winners being the Saudfamily and Iran.

(Hey, go check out the readiness of your own state’s national guard. Then imagine your state’s vulnerabilities. We Californians get quakes, not subject to global warming. How poetical that the South will be ravaged by climate change induced storms.)

Afghanistan was urgent... an emergency room procedure... and yet, a plan was already in place. W had only time to shout “go!” and the same doctrines that Wesley Clarke used in Kosovo went into smooth operation. The urgent operation went well... and the elective surgery has turned into a nightmare as we bleed on the table because of wretched planning and politician-meddling.

Sigh. And now, meanwhile, back to the Great Purge...

See: The Real War of G.W. Bush : Against the U.S. Military

Army Contract Official Critical of Halliburton Pact Is Demoted A top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday for what the Army called poor job performance. The official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq. ...

Ms. Greenhouse's lawyer, Michael Kohn, called the action an "obvious reprisal" for the strong objections she raised in 2003 to a series of corps decisions involving the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, which has garnered more than $10 billion for work in Iraq. Dick Cheney led Halliburton, which is based in Texas, before he became vice president.


see a couple places where moderates have proposed alternatives to the current "stay the course" vs. "cut and run" dichotomy. Both seem reasonable and are
probably compatible -- both could be done simultaneously.They are:

"The Way Out of Iraq: Decentralizing the Iraqi Government"

and "How to Win in Iraq"

These articles make sense... and they won't be implemented because the goal of the involvement in Iraq has never been success at nation building. Yes, that is officially our purpose now that there are no WMD and no Saddam. But Cheney and Rumsfeld both famously expressed contempt for "nation building" long ago and their disbelief in it still shows.

No, there are only two possible classes of hypothesis to explain such a disaster. (* Kool-aid alert! Paranoia riff about to resume! * ;-)

Hypothesis 1. Incompetence. These are moronic frat boys, using the United States and our military as personal toys. The calamity is not what was intended. It is just what happens when skilled professionals - first diplomats and then military officers - are relentlessly over-ruled by meddling politician imbecilles bent on playing war and stealing everything in sight.

Hypothesis 2. What you see is what was planned. This explanation looks utterly paranoid and I am the only one suggesting it. And that means I must disclaim that it is formally what I BELIEVE to be true. Yes, yes. Brin’s Fantasy. But it IS logically the other side of the coin. My excuse is that I am a completist and must include it.

Still, let me repeat my call for you to step aside and look from another angle. If you were enemies of the United States, and looked across our history for some weakness to exploit, what two disasters nearly ruined us? Dividing us, sapping our strength, wounding the economy, tearing down our alliances, frittering our military strength?

The Civil War and Vietnam.

Now look at last year's electoral map. And look at Iraq. And wonder... which sworn enemies of our culture have access to every powerful person in this administration?

Paranoid? yes. But reasonable people do not automatically dismiss that which fits all facts and has not been disproved. Always leave a “what-if” possibility open that what you see is exactly what somebody wanted to have happen.


Dave said...

"How poetical that the South will be ravaged by climate change induced storms."

Similarly poetical, then, that blue-state California may be ravaged by 'renewable' geothermal power-induced earthquakes?

Anonymous said...

The sleep of reason breeds monsters:

Email blames New Orleans' destruction on abortion clinics.


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Anonymous said...

Flooding Stops Presses and Broadcasts, So Journalists Turn to the Web
With their offices and presses flooded, news media outlets in New Orleans mostly abandoned ... A morning update on the Web site said The Times-Picayune was evacuating its building in New Orleans and that staff members were heading for Houma, a bayou town about 60 miles to the west.
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Anonymous said...

More seriously . . . foresight and hindsight:

WorldChanging posts an excellent piece called Foresight in the age of the storm.

bOING-bOING posts Email attributed to a rescue worker. It points out that there was no evacuation plan for the city's many poor residents, who not only didn't have cars but little in the way of funds to afford a "DIY" evacuation.

For the moment, worrying about the future and griping about past mistakes should be set aside.


Scott said...

I wonder how many New Orleans residents died or will die because the people they expected to protect them - the people who signed up expecting to protect them - are in Iraq.
One connection you didn't mention - the lack of National Guardsmen in New Orleans means that looters are running amuck. (Why in New Orleans when New Yorkers behaved so well in 2001?) Looters are the reason many people chose to stay in their homes. How many people died because they were scared of losing everything to looters? How many people will die in the next hurricane because they see looters tearing apart New Orleans?

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Chris said...


I too was struck by your descriptions about New Orleans in your novel Earth and the cataclysm on Monday.

I decided it is time to re-read it again... I miss the exploits of Logan, Alex, Manella and Teresa. However, even in hard back my book is showing signs of not making it to a twenty year anniversary; too worn from multiple readings!

David Brin said...

Dave, good 'un about geothermal stimulated quakes! A test of whether denial (refusing to do anything about global warming) or excessive activism (unintended consequences) make up the worst danger.

Alas, even California is sluggard, rather than full throttle, in seeking to boost alternative energy.

Scott, I wish there were some way to spur the news media to cover the aspect of whether the missing LA guard units made a difference.

Boy we got hit by the blog spiders this time. That one about coin collections almost caught me! (My kids have collections and I can't figure out what I'm supposed to do about these new #%#$ nickles! Do they go in the old Nickle folders or new/special ones!


David Brin said...

Re your EARTH hardcover, wow, that edition is a high quality hc with SEWN bindings! See http://www.davidbrin.com/offers.html for how to order a new one, discounted.

Remind me you are a blogger and that's another 10% off!

Ah, but the quirkiest thing in that book was the "Helvetian War"... if only...

Anonymous said...

David, this is why I love your mental meanderings: I can disagree with your opinions but I've GOT to respect your mind in its entirety!

Moreover we can all complain about the Loonie Lefties and Rancorous Righties, but we got to thank them for similar reasons to why I like your site: no one ever got closer to the truth by having too few points of view to choose from.

daveawayfromhome said...

I'm going to have to disagree with Stefan here. At this point I'm in no position to anything for New Orleans, but wouldnt it've been nice if a discussion like this one two or three years ago had led to a proper evacuation plan?

In the meantime, why dont you come over to my site a let me trick you into buying some worthless over-priced garbage you dont need?

Damn blog-spam. Sorry David, looks like it's time for that confirmation thing for your comments.

Anonymous said...

On some level, I can't even worry about politics and bullshit right now. I don't know anyone who lives in new Orleans, but it's too much to take in right now. Last night, it was dodged a bullet, everything had held, then get home, and it's flooding. I don't know that having more divisions of the National Guard would have been able to prevent anything, but they could probably help.

I've been looking at news and also at things like flickr.com. It's surreal. Flickr is full of pics of now, as much as anybody can get with the whole communications network knocked out down there, intercut with people uploading all their pics from vacations or visits to New Orleans. There's all these pics, of places that are underwater now.

And what makes it more frustrating, is that people had shouted about it, loudly. But humans are no good at categorizing catastrophic risk, in general. But unlike some things, like meteor impacts, that are vanishingly unlikely, but would wipe us all out, New Orleans getting hit but a hurricane was a near certainty. Why weren't the leeves and pumps and everything upgraded?

So, yeah, if I'm not posting for a while, it's 'cause I'm not feeling up to politics.

Though I do note that the blog spammers have started copy/pasting bits from articles that are at least a little related to what we're talking about now, they're getting cleverer.

Tony Fisk said...

The spiders from mars can be blocked via a comment setting (until the backing engines evolve 'eyes' to read the confirmation keys... now *there's* clear evidence of Idiotic Design at work!!)

@Stefan, it will be interesting to find out just how many escaped on their own efforts, and their neighbours.

Anonymous said...

Apparently there are at least some Guard units in place in NO, but they don't seem to be doing much in terms of stopping looters; neither are the police. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9131493/) For that matter, the article describes the police "commandeering" (i.e. looting by public authorities) supplies from a drug store and essentially giving it over to looters once they had what they wanted. (How else do you interpret an officer telling the crowd that they, the police, would be out of the way soon?) The question becomes are the Guard doing nothing because they are undermanned or because taking action against looters would turn into a political nightmare, turning them into the bad guys?

The drowning of New Orleans was foreseeable and inevitable. The Army Corps of Engineers has prevented the Mississippi from behaving naturally for decades (the main outlet ought to be the Atchafalaya these days) and have utterly disrupted the natural mechanisms that would soften the blow from a hurricane. That's why NO is below the level of the various bodies of water that surround it, like a Dutch polder. An evacuation plan should have been in place and some hard questions need to be asked.

However, it is quite likely that global warming did not contribute to the severity of the storm. (See here)Note that at least one of the scientists quoted expects global warming to have an effect on storm intensity, but doesn't think it is at play here. There is a fairly long natural cycle that is coming out of a low. Storms appear to be so very much worse, because they are generally compared to earlier storms in terms of the damage they cause. There are two factors here increasing damage:
1) There are a hell of a lot more people living in vulnerable areas with a comprable increase in infrastructure.
2)The natural barriers and protections have been seriously compromised; swamps drained, silting prevented, barrier islands anchored on built on. It's like some medieval burger poking holes in the city wall or building just outside it and then wondering why they get hammered when the invaders come.

Anonymous said...

@ DemetriosX

On the other hand, when most of the city is going to be underwater, "looting" becomes "salvaging" because it won't help anybody when it's gone.

Still, if there were more national guard, they could probably be doing organized salvaging.

Rob Perkins said...

Re New Orleans, I'll point out that the Nat'l Guard problem isn't as cut and dried as "OH NO Dubya deployed them all whaddowedooo?"

Under reciprocity agreements, The Gov of LA can ask neighboring States for Nat'l Guard personnel, after all. Unless he wants to turn the victims of a national disaster into a way to hurt the President. Am I wrong in the case of Louisiana?

I too, thought of _Earth_. At the same time, though, they're living below sea level in a hurricane-prone region? Honestly, what did they expect would happen one day?

Hopefully, they expect that the rest of the United States would rally behind them, and send resources to help the people. Including out-of-State National Guard personnel. In fact, I know Governor Huntsman of Utah has some pretty impressive salt-water pumps sitting in the middle of freeping noplace waiting for the next time the Great Salt Lake floods over.... Perhaps a few UANG C-130's can be brought over, and those pumps flown down...

And then serious consideration given to abandoning the site as a city altogether --OR-- investing in a Venice-like canal infrastructure for it.

The looting is distressing. It's still true that significant numbers of people don't consider themselves part of our civilization.

Now, the following kool-aid paranoia is just that: But suppose such a plan, to invade and topple Iraq, was sitting in this Administration's head the whole time, and the sense of urgency was spurred not only by opportunism, ("9/11!!!!") but also by the recognition that enough of the world was struck off-balance by Al Qaida's newish doctrine that noone would *really* mount an effort to stop us. IOW, Waiting to carefully plan and execute an invasion of Iraq that wouldn't be hasty would ensure no allies at all in the effort, rather than the few we did get for it.

Gah, my thought is incompletely formed...

Rob Perkins said...

Incidentally (following up on Economy talk in the last posting's comments)...

"The economy isn't in depression, but it does suck."

That's a relative statement. Let's compare ourselves to some *real* impoverished people before deciding such a thing. Talk about abrogating your optimism...

At the same time, though, energy inflation finally caught up to mine, when I couldn't bring myself to actually fill the tank after the meter hit $40. And I drive a relatively fuel-efficient vehicle, compared to those Ford Explorer types out there.

At the selfsame time, as well, though, I wonder if $3.50/gallon gas is the thing that will get people to demand some hybrid powerplants, or biodiesel, or better and faster public transportation, etc etc...

Anonymous said...

Right now, NOT filling up your tank every chance you get is a bad idea, given that prices will be going up, drastically, over the next few weeks.

I've committed to visiting friends in the Bay Area this weekend. A three gas tank round trip in my Civic. It's going to pinch, but I haven't had a real vacation this year so I guess I'm due.

There's an interesting discussion on the looting underway on the Making Light blog. Most participants think "salvage" looting is perfectly acceptable. (People have to eat and drink.) But there's furious debate over the wisdom of emptying out appliance, clothes, and jewelry stores in full public view.

Anonymous said...

On captchas (the graphics blocks required these days for logins) - spammers have a way around those already:

1. Put up a "free porn" web page, that requires decoding a captcha to access.
2. Sniff captcha from website spammer wants access to when a mark visits the "free porn" page
3. Respond with request given by mark to the target site.

No AI needed for that one, sorry. :P

On the 'looting', I'd say that at this point salvaging perishables that will be underwater (and nonsalable) in a day or two isn't even close to a crime. There are a whole ton of people down there who were unable to get out due (in large part) to a lack of resources on their part, and an unwillingness to plan for the worst on the part of the civil authority. I'm sure that the looting of luxury goods is being played up in the media (ooo! Black people stealing stuff! It was all over CNN this morning. :P) but I noticed that most of those shots that I saw most people were carrying away "essentials" - diapers, food items - and not "luxuries" such as clothing and VCRs.

This situation is about SURVIVAL. These people are in an environment that most of us can't imagine right now. Many of them have lost everything - their homes, family members, jobs, pets, you name it, it's gone. Emergency services are TRYING to help, but that takes time, and for most of those people, they don't know when ES will get to them.

Something else which is going to come back and bite them in the ass is the new 'bankruptcy protection law' (I.E. Credit industry profit protection act) that was passed recently. Many of these people have probably lost items bought on credit (houses, cars) that they will not be able to discharge via bankruptcy. Insurance against flooding is insanely expensive down there, if it's available at all. This will definitely have an adverse negative impact on the ability of people to overcome the challenges they're facing right now.

Anonymous said...

That sums things up quite nicely.


If you can afford it, donate to the Red Cross ASAP.

I'd like to see more targeted, "post emergency" aid groups evolve, ones that address a particular problem, e.g. housing. I gave $1,000 to Red Cross last night; I'd give another $1,000 to a group that buys mobile homes for people who relocate.


David Brin said...

Dang Stefan. My own first reaction was to call the blood bank and make an appointment to donate. But $2,000 is a heftier commitment for you to make. I shall re-evaluate my own charitable flow pattersn.

I'll also ask some of the philanthropy experts on my other list if they know of targeted housing funds.

This is terrible, especially since I have no idea how they can even rebuild in that soggy bowl of mildew, where wood rot and Asian termites were already taking a toll.

I could offer futurist-modernist suggestions, like building RAISED structures and incorporating systems of crisscrossing internal dikes that run down the spines of city blocks, leaving roadways clear but blockable when floods are expected.

People, please speak up if you see any news reports about the national guard situation there. I do know there will be a lot of aid from neighboring states. This is still a union.

I wonder how many times - other than EARTH - this situation was portrayed in fiction. Creeps me out.

Do what you can.

Anonymous said...

$2,000 is a bit more than I usually donate to charity in an entire year, but this is an extraordinary situation.

My pockets aren't bottom-less. My usual-suspect charities won't be getting their big checks this fall. (Interesting techno-aside: I set my level of charitable giving because Turbo Tax, as part of its end-of-tax-return summary, shows how you measure up in various categories. According to IRS-provided statistics, typical people in my income bracket give a LOT more to charities than I do!)

I've read some good posts, on other blogs RE the proper sort of giving. It is COUNTERPRODUCTIVE to give goods. There are plenty of businesses close to the area where the Red Cross or the Salvation Army or whatnot can easily buy water, blankets, etc. So, give cash!

bOING-bOING has been running some EXCELLENT stuff about aid efforts, how technology is being used by civilians to chart the extent of the disaster, and anecdotes like a report on how LSU is supporting refugees, and the pros and cons of volunteering to go to the area:



Anonymous said...

Not New Orleans:

Over a year ago, Matthew Yglesias posted a lengthy parody suggesting that Bush is not a bin Laden mole, but an Iranian one. http://tinyurl.com/yrh6w

What with the increasing trend to enshrining a Shiite theocracy in Iraq, it's looking less like parody all the time. . . .

Anonymous said...

I heard on local NPR today that Colorado is sending a few Guard to Mississippi.

Dr. Brin, I remember reading this article in Scientific American - not science fiction, but another prediction from October 2001. Also, I meant to add to your pre-release article posting that I thought it was a great idea of yours to tap into this group to aid you in making some dough. Perhaps this will help justify the continued existence of the blog. I will contribute what I can as a partial quid pro quo if you see other uses for us.

If one purpose of terrorist attacks is to promote a reaction all out of proportion to the attack itself, bin Laden and ilk have won that round. One "elective surgery" war (like that phrase) that:

-continues to kill more soldiers than bin Laden could have

-oil prices that take more money from us than he could have hoped for (of which a proportion goes to him and others to fertilize the Middle East for new batches of terrorists)

-decreased National Guard domestic postings at a time of natural disaster (does anyone talk about the irony of W getting a "bye" into the National Guard when it was an easier assignment and who has changed the Guard to a front-line job?)

-damaged the optimistic and forward-looking virtual empire Dr. Brin calls Pax Americana

-added billions to the debt to bleed current and future citizens of true wealth to the benefit of the already wealthy

-and other stuff already discussed in detail here.

Now I am depressing myself. Truly I find admirable traits on both sides of the old political division, but I don't see any of those traits in the Administration.

Some happier things science brings us:

I don't know if anyone has mentioned this, but the current issue of Scientific American is a single issue on how the world is at a critical juncture and offers a number of what seem to be straightforward plans to make it a better place.

Catalyst to produce hydrogen from water

Brian said...

Mr. Brin, might I suggest that you turn on Word Verification for comments on your blog? I was also being spammed by bots for some time; I am no longer troubled now that I have enabled this feature.

Anonymous said...

Oh my. Back to ID for a sec...I just found this.

Flying Noodle Monster Wiki Entry

I can't wait to hear when Kansas includes this theory alongside ID and evolution.

Sometimes the best antidote to idiocy is humor.

daveawayfromhome said...

3 things:
A) Wasnt Dubya's "bye" taken in Alabama? Maybe someone there will take offense at missing Guards in atime of crisis and look a little harder for some documents.
B)Everything in New Orleans is probably going to written off for insurance purposes that can be. The only theft going on in a lot of cases is from merchants who will collect insurance payments and still sell the merchandise.
C)Pastafarians in the encyclopedia! God I love the internet!


ps: wow, word verification already. cool.

Rob Perkins said...

Good point about the gas prices; I'll fill up tomorrow.

I can't come close to $2000 more for the year; but I can ratchet back a credit card payment to "minimum payment" levels for awhile and send in the difference.

I saw ABC tonight reporting a little about National Guard Units, and I know that locally, our Oregon units are sending people and materiel that direction.

I just don't think anyone was prepared for a 500,000 person refugee situation; it's been so long in the U.S. since that was the case.

Re the new captcha, it took next to 60 seconds for the comment page to load in Mac Firefox, and not at all in Mac Safari, and it was pulling a link from "directsoundradio.net"...

Anonymous said...

I said some hard questions were going to have to be asked about the lack of preparedness and it looks like the answers are coming already. There's a very interesting article here by Sidney Blumenthal detailing the massive cuts to NO flood preparedness perpetrated by the current administration. Some may dismiss a lot of this since Blumethal was a Clinton staffer, but these look like pretty hard, verifiable facts and even if only one tenth of them are true, they are incredibly damning. I do have to ask, though, why the ACOE only proposed a study on protecting NO from a hurricane last year. (Blumenthal also takes anoth poke at the anti-science attitudes of the current administration.)

Jeff Huber said...

Yes, Brin, just because you're paranoid...

If the goal was to create an Orwellian environment of never ending, low level war, this was just the way to do it. The Great Satan versus The Axis of Evil forever!


And for what it's worth, I'm not a big thrilled with Krepinevich and his oil stain theory.

Commander Jeff Huber, US Navy (Retired)
Pen and Sword

Anonymous said...

@ Cmdr. Huber

I would be interested to hear more about what you think about the "oil-spot" strategy. Here is a link to a short summary (no login required)

It seems more sensible than what is happening now, which from my view is hoping that the Administration's ideology wins in the end, contrary to much evidence. That doesn't seem fair to our people in harm's way. Well, criminal it seems to me, but there you go.

But "oil-spot" may not be the optimal solution. If so, what is?

I am not convinced that liberating a people and spreading freedom is sufficient cause for invading a country, except in egregious cases where there is international consensus. I do think the process of international intervention needs to be streamlined somehow. Better yet, develop a system to prevent such conditions in the first place.

Anonymous said...

And wonder... which sworn enemies of our culture have access to every powerful person in this administration?

Okay, I'm not following. Are you talking about a Apocalyptic Christians, or the Shadowy Zionist Jews?

Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
daveawayfromhome said...

sez Dr. Brin:
This is terrible, especially since I have no idea how they can even rebuild in that soggy bowl of mildew, where wood rot and Asian termites were already taking a toll.
I could offer futurist-modernist suggestions, like building RAISED structures and incorporating systems of crisscrossing internal dikes that run down the spines of city blocks, leaving roadways clear but blockable when floods are expected.

New Orleans may end up having to go the same route as Galveston did after the Great Hurricane of 1900, simply raising the whole city up higher. Hideously expensive. Another part of the problem is the use of levies and the subsequent loss of wetlands. A raised city will require levies, but some areas should also be left open to flooding (much like the flood control built into pretty much any development project you will see constructed these days).
I'd guess that the old tourist spots, (new) parkland, and big-donor commercial interests will all be there in 10 years, but I that the ordinary (read: poor and black) residents will be finding new homes in the suburbs. Then look to big-dollar vacation condos on the newly-raised land where their homes once sank.


Rob Perkins said...

Re bringing up the Bush National Guard stuff in connection with the Hurricane, I think that's gonna be a useless tack at this point. It won't get him unelected, people! Not if lying to a civil judge won't get you unelected!

As far as the Pastafarians go, while it's entertaining, it's also pretty bland-faced mockery of something others really do hold deeply. You'll only make an enemy if that's in the mix.

Anonymous said...

Here is a chronology of how the Bush administration f%^$ed over FEMA and New Orleans.

I bet Nero actually knew how to play his fiddle


David Brin said...

WOW Stefan, that chronology of W sabotaging the FEMA - and especially New Orleans - is an incredible smoking gun.

The bit about W's AWOL from the Mobile-area National Guard is a legitimate point... as is Rob's comparing it to Bill Clinton's infamous lie before a civil judge.

Surprised? I have often expressed my contempt for the way conservatives fixate on that one brief lie as their core mantra, like a mandala to focus on, so that they could ignore the tower of evidence that BC was - by their OWN Conservative standards - a vastly better president than either Bush.

Oh, and then there is the fact that the QUESTION that was asked of Clinton - triggering his lie - was later ruled an illegal one and stricken from the record. So officially, it never even happened. A vast attempt to impeach and reverse our votes, based on something that officially never happened at all.

But you see, that does not matter. While it is bizarre and monoaniacal to use a normal male "Wha? Who me? Never!" to try and reverse a nation's political election, it is NOT bizarre to use it as a point against a man's moral character. BC's sexual pecadillos are perfectly legitimate reasons to like him less. (They had that effect on me.)

And thus they are directly comparable to W evading his Guard committment, skipping out on a chushy billet getting free flying lessons and joyrides on the Gulf. (And, despite Dan Rather falling for Carl Rove's trap, is there anybody out there who actually -- actually -- contends that he got into that Guard unit by any other means than family influence? Yipes! I got some property in NO to sell you!)

No. NEITHER of these events are cause for "unelecting" anybody. You are right, Rob. They are very equivalent reasons to dislike, however. (Well, one was a quick male reflex and the other was a premeditated and continuing decision to steal. But we'll let that go.

In any event.
This one from Stefan really needs a higher-level recommendation:

Anonymous said...

As far as the Pastafarians go, while it's entertaining, it's also pretty bland-faced mockery of something others really do hold deeply. You'll only make an enemy if that's in the mix.

Interesting point. I don't see it as a mockery, though. It is a reducio ad absurdum for sure, but for the crypto-Christians get ID into the curriculum it cannot reference a particular God, therefore it opens up precisely this possibility. Are they going to teach Muslim ID, Hindu ID, animist ID, and FSM ID etc? According to their argument, they would have to since they say that 1) life is just too darn complex to figure out and 2) Gosh, we sure don't know WHO designed it. Thus, FSM ID has the same amount of logic and evidence behind it as the Christian kind. Actually, a case can be made that FSM has more logic, since it explains discrepency between observation and ID by the direct interference of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. ID'ers just ignore these discrepencies.

Note that the Pasafarians are not mocking religion itself, or Chirstianity in particular, they are just holding themselves to the same criteria the ID'ers say they want. This points out that the ID'ers really are crypto-Christians (as if we needed any more proof of that) as well as the fallacy of intruding literial Biblical interpretation into science class. I don't think for a moment the ID'ers would entertain the idea that non-Christian creation myths should be taught along with ID.

Also, I have come to believe that it is a mistake for scientists and other people to ignore this silliness. And humor may work where reason does not. IMHO. ;o)

Joel said...

"I bet Nero actually knew how to play his fiddle"

Actually, he was playing a lyre...not sure fiddles had been invented by that time.

And Bush can play the liar, if he's capable of nothing else.

Oops...darn typo. I meant to say because he's capable of nothing else.

David Brin said...

Again, my point about the Pastafarians is obscure but important. They do serve to ridicule (both in a positive and an admittedly insulting way).

What they do NOT do is put the ID community in a lose-lose bind.

My reasons for suggesting that Hindu or Mayan or Mormon or even THEOSOPHY be put forward in Kansas are the following:

1. They are legitimate and accepted members of the faith macro-community, thus any effort to dismiss or exclude them exposes old fashioned religious bigotry. The "big tent" that ID allows - through vagueness - unravels.

2. They do NOT subsume under the grand vagueness of ID. In demanding equal time, they are actually insisting that a THIRD view be presented in biology classes. (Or a fourth, fifth and so on.)

3. Suddenly the fundamentalists face a losing instead of a winning situation. They hoped to get a foothold for IMPLIED biblical teaching in public schools. What they would get, instead, is Christian boys and girls require by law to study heathen doctrines.

As you can see, this is a very different situation than the Great Spaghetti Monster.

Drawbacks: it would take money, lots of it. It would also take heaps of guts for one of these communities to enter this fray. Essentially it is one more place for the exercise of billionaire whim.

Who could do this? A Hindu zillionaire who - though a US citizen - has made a bundle in Bangalore? A rich crackpot theosophist?

One thing's for sure, the Mormon Church won't do it. They have spent decades soft pedaling IDOID in order to emphasize commonality with the Baptists etc. Alas, it really is compatible theologically. And if they WON?

Mormon IDOID getting equal time in biology classes with ID and evolution? What fun.

Anonymous said...

This is via a Manhattan gossip site, so take it with a grain of salt:


According to Drudge, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has recently enjoyed a little Broadway entertainment. And Page Six reports that she’s also working on her backhand with Monica Seles. So the Gulf Coast has gone all Mad Max, women are being raped in the Superdome, and Rice is enjoying a brief vacation in New York. We wish we were surprised.

What does surprise us: Just moments ago at the Ferragamo on 5th Avenue, Condoleeza Rice was seen spending several thousands of dollars on some nice, new shoes (we’ve confirmed this, so her new heels will surely get coverage from the WaPo’s Robin Givhan). A fellow shopper, unable to fathom the absurdity of Rice’s timing, went up to the Secretary and reportedly shouted, “How dare you shop for shoes while thousands are dying and homeless!” Never one to have her fashion choices questioned, Rice had security PHYSICALLY REMOVE the woman.

This was LAST NIGHT. The nation has suffered its worse-ever natural disaster, and probably its worse-ever humanitarian crisis, and a senior administration official is shopping and seeing broadway shows.


Anonymous said...

Those traitorous leftists at MoveOn.org have set up a website that allows people to offer spare rooms to Gulf Coast refugees:


Damn their black hearts!


Anonymous said...

One of these days, the nice clean hydroelectric power plants we use here in western Kentucky are apt to be wrecked by the New Madrid fault going off at last (unless it is in fact shutting down, as I have heard proposed). There will be ugly floods, though nothing like NO at the moment, and the area will be without power at the same time.

Wintermute makes a good point about trying to engage non-modernists, but he focuses on the pomos, probably because he understands them better than the others. I'm in the opposite position, and while I'm not sure exactly how to profitably engage the "anti-modernists" (I'm not convinced that name is a good one; keep reading), I'm convinced it can be done.

I likely would not be as modernist as I am if I had grown up in a different church; the Churches of Christ constantly extol reason and are about as technophilic as it gets (or were until the stem-cell flap, anyway--I don't know how that will affect things). Despite a fairly low economic position, we value education and have spent a great deal establishing solid universities. Some of our greatest figures of the period called John Locke "the Christian philosopher".

But our constant scuffles in the 1800s with Romantics and proto-Charismatics utterly soured us on mysticism and all but the most straightforward metaphors. The result, ironically, was that we're about 90% creationist, since we flounder for useful nonliteral interpretations and are hard-pressed to believe they're worth pursuing. (I finally gave up on the SC's no more than a year ago; I'm still at a loss for an integrated view of faith and science.) Those colleges churn out engineers in large numbers--but virtually no pure scientists (and as few artists).

I don't know how common this story is among "fundie" churches, but I doubt it's entirely unique. I'm sure that there must be some way of drawing us back into the modernist dialogue; I just don't know what it is.

Anonymous said...

Watching things unfold in New Orleans keeps demonstrating to me WHY we should never put people who think "government is the problem" in charge of the government. They don't think government can do any good, so they don't bother to prepare it to DO any good, and do it half-assedly. And then when their half-assedness results in a disaster, they use that as more evidence to proclaim "See! Government can't do anything right!" Skepticism is one thing, but idealogues like Grover Norquist and his disciples (who, along with the Neocons and the fundamentalists who're eager for the end of the world, control the current Republican party) are not skeptical, they are idealogues. See Brad Delong's post here, with an admittedly inflammatory title.

But the levels of incompetence being shown are staggering. Not calling for helicopters to go and fill the breaches in the levees? Why can't we airlift food and clean water to New Orleans, when we could do it in Afghanistan, or hell, to Berlin, in 1945!

And then the President gets on Good Morning America, and says "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."

The mind boggles.

Anonymous said...

65 out of 490 high school students pregnant in OH town

I hate to come out of left fields with this, but you might have heard of this story. The irony is that there was/is an abstinence-based sex-ed program in line with Bush's abstinence-based goals.

read the original article

A Follow-up article shows a glimpse of what kind of advice they might give: Joanne said she still is unhappy about how Timken High counselors reacted when they heard her daughter was pregnant. The only option offered was for Raechel to raise the child.

Another follow-up artcle finally yields a quote: The district uses an abstinence-based sex education program, Talarico said. Reproductive health is discussed in health classes. There are plans to make the sex education program more comprehensive, but those classes still are being developed.

I was able to locate proof-of-funding (.PDF) for abstinence-based in sex-ed 2001-2002 (at bottom of page "12") at the school.

And here's some of the school's statistics if you want to look.

-- Matt

P.S. Thoughts and condolences for those hit by Katrina

Anonymous said...

I think that if you're looking for a group to wade in to the "teach ID in schools" fray, look to the Raelian Movement.

They really do believe in "Intelligent Design" ... they believe that all life on earth was seeded here 25,000 years ago by intelligent extraterrestrials named the "Elohim" - ETs that will return to Earth once the Raelians have a correctly configured embassy set up in Jerusalem.

They look like they stepped right off the pages of Sundiver, but note the movement predates the book.

They have quite a bit of money, too - enough to set up the company "Clonaid" to research human cloning, which they believe is the Elohim-mandated path to eternal life.

If you want to create turmoil among radical Christian ID supporters, then bringing in UFO cultist ID supporters is a good way to do it!


Anonymous said...

Bush's in Newsweek.

The story has been picked up by the mainstream press.

Anonymous said...

Matzebrei said...

I attended 2 high schools: One Catholic, which taught as close as possible to abstinance based education as the state of California would let them get away with, the other Public. When I got information on the 20 year reunions of both schools a couple of years ago, I noted that both graduating classes had the almost the same number of children born within 1 year of graduation. (9 for the Catholics, 11 for the Public School)
Of course, the Catholic School had a graduating class of under 100, and the public school's graduating class was almost a thousand.

jomama said...

Those that don't see the controlling concept of power will be forever confused by its failures.

At least, at this point, so it appears to me.

Rob Perkins said...

I repeat, Mormon IDOID *can't* be promoted by the Church, because it doesn't steward the idea rigorously enough to support it.

And I repeat, it has *nothing* to do with softpedaling, which the Church absolutely did not do.

Look. I spent two good years of my youth introducing Mormonism to as many interested Swiss and German people as I could. (The total count comes to less than ten, in my case, and only one converted, and it wasn't because of anything *I* said.) The very first thing we *still do* today is push a Book of Mormon into your hands.

That alone is enough to make the Baptists go absolutely ape. David, your impression of the Church's approach to public relations is simply false!

David Brin said...

Rob, I don't think I actually offered much of a picture of the Church's approach to be refuted. I do think they were concerned about fitting in... while at the same time proselytizing like made. A difficult balance.

In any event' I accept that they have little invested in promoting IDOID and I do not expect them to.

I'll tell you who should do it... and his has the money and ability.

Orson Scott Card spent most of the 1980s visiting every sci fi convention in sight, giving thumping "secular humanist revival meetings" SHRM in which he spoke up for skepticism and evolution and such vs superstition. Very popular camp-meeting style satires.

Simultaneously he is vigorous at promoting his own very mormon-based ideas. Some consistent with that SHRM position and others - well - puzzling.

I wonder, though,if there really is some consistency that runs through it all. Using my imagination, I can picture how it might come together... though I won't pretend I know if Scott's way of reconciling all this in his mind is the way I imagine.

Whatever. The point is that IDOID would seem to be a consistent theme and much more strongly held by him than by Church leaders. Moreover the SHRM would suggest he might like using IDOID to achieve BOTH secularist AND Moromon goals.

I would not dare suggest this to him... he never liked me. Made it clear from the very start. Still, A first draft imagining pictures him taking IDOID to Kansas and really creating a tumult there. Very good publicity, too!

Rob Perkins said...

It's a far more complex demographic progression than just a desire to fit in, or to force a particularly positive view through a PR campaign.

I'm surprised to learn that Card doesn't like you. (Was he overt about that?) I can see no points of disagreement in what you both write; your styles and themes are too different to intersect much at all.

I've read most of your stuff and most of his, and I like *more* of your stuff than I do of his. But his punditry and yours seem... worth combining. The two of you in a non-rancorous conversation over the issues of the day would be, in my opinion, remarkably fruitful. Particularly your comments on this: http://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2005-03-06-1.html

Would you object if I proposed he write a World Watch column about ID for his Ornery American 'blog? Thus far, I can't find any comments he's made at all on the subject.