Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A small Miscellaneous before the big essay...

I just finished pounding out 8,200 words about Gerrymandering and the evisceration of American voting power. Along the way I have depressed and scared myself. I never realized all the implications before. In fact, I am not at all sure that I do yet.

I'll test the essay here, asking you all to offer citations or examples items you think might help... or else corrections via CITOKATE.

No word from Worlchanging. Maybe I got blackballed.

Meanwhile, here's an item or two you may find interesting.

Less Political, But Historically Interesting (From the Progressive Policy Institute).

Political science classics come in two types: short aphoristic books like those by Machiavelli and Han Fei-tzu, and heavy encyclopedic tomes like those of Aristotle and his rough contemporary Kautilya, said to have served as Prime Minister for Chandragupta Maurya sometime around the year 300 B.C. Kautilya's Arthasastra exceeds 800 pages, and covers everything from the eight mental qualities of a good king to the most effective poisoning techniques and tips on elephant breeding. As a political thinker Kautilya is a "realist;" economically he seems to be on the liberal side. Ranking trade the third-most important element of state policy, Kautilya recommends:

1. Road-building and maintenance, and protection of trade routes from (in order of likelihood?) potential threats from courtiers, state officials, thieves, frontier guards, and herds of cattle.

2. Export promotion, but with national-security exceptions for grain, cattle, gems, and weapons.

3. Import promotion, for example through exemption from taxes for caravan managers -- unless the goods in question are harmful or totally useless. Kautilya recommends a 17 percent tariff on salt, but duty-free status for products intended for wedding celebrations and religious events.

4. Expert-quality officials, in particular a "Trade Minister" able to advise merchants on the profitability of export ventures.

I find this both inspiring and depressing. Depressing because it proves that wisdom can be lost and ignored... as may happen to all our bright hopes for the Modernist Era.


Also... a predictive hit for THE POSTMAN?

(Submitted by Steve McClure. From

JARVIS DEBERRY: There is honor among thieves (NoLa Times-Picayune)

“Not the New Orleans Police Department. Not the United States Army. Not the U.S. Coast Guard or the Louisiana National Guard. Not the New Orleans Fire Department or the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries. And certainly not the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“When Vivian Buckner, her mother Jessie Richardson and dozens of others huddled at the Lafon Nursing Home needed relief after Hurricane Katrina, the items they needed to sustain them arrived on a mail carrier's truck. But the occupants were not affiliated with the United States Postal Service.

“They were thieves. They had stolen the postal truck and were using it not only to deliver needed supplies to people along Chef Menteur Highway, but they were also offering rides to the Superdome for those who wanted to go.


“"First when they came we were really afraid of them," Buckner told me. "We knew the Post Office wasn't open."

“But the people on the truck didn't menace them. Instead, "They said, 'Y'all need anything?' Buckner said she and the rest of the ad hoc staff could look through the open door and see what was on the truck: water, juice, potato chips, cookies, peanut butter and crackers. So that became the list of things they needed.

“The thieves promised to return, and Wednesday they brought back baby wipes and adult diapers, night gowns and Gatorade. They also brought back chicken and red beans and rice they'd taken from Popeye's. Buckner told me she didn't know how or when the food had been cooked, but the residents hadn't eaten since Monday, so they had no choice but to serve it. "Everybody ate it," she told me, "and nobody got sick."

The thieves were also good stewards of their loot. "They told us, 'Take whatever you need, but you gotta give us back the rest.' "

“She had used the word "they" so often, that I finally asked Buckner how many men were on the truck. "They weren't men," she corrected me. "They were boys."

Even during Katrina, when the professionals hammered every citizen effort.... citizen power stands up.

-- finally, everybody stop sending me clippings about supposed navy dolphins equipped with stun guns who purportedly escaped pens at a base near NoLa. even if this likely urban legend is true I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE!

 Anyway, they are probably ATLANTIC bottlenose dolphins. I can't even speak Atlantic.....


Author said...

If CITOKATE is valid and useful, blogging provides the writer a venue for refining their work through the input of commenting readers. Straight journalism is slightly more of a one-way street.

Your writing lately is carrying many references to being frustrated, too busy and depressed. I submit that filtered "feedback" helps, and it is easier to "filter" blog comments (simply skim and skip the ones that are not helpful) than to filter email. (Email is more easily loaded with verbiage, I believe, than blog commentary?)

I visit your blog many times a week (as time allows .... college freshman that I am) but your website only rarely. I don't need to take time to analyze a site to identify what may be new. On your blog I am instantly taken to your latest work, and if I have already encountered it, I move on to the next blog on my list. For me, the meaning conveyed by the words is more important than the visuals of a website, and easier to navigate (and to share via email with others I think would be interested in your observations).

One thing a blog does NOT do well is economize your time. Only you can do that. Based on four of your works of fiction as well as this blog and your website, I believe your quest, and your methods for pursuing it, is meaningful to the world at large, and to me personally in my own seeking. If the blog impedes your progress, it should be dropped.

Thanks for all so far.

Anonymous said...

Please continue your blog brin.
It is more important than you realize.

Anonymous said...

Here is some grist for your gerrymandering mill: TO GET ELECTION REFORM, RANK THE STATES

It is an article in the New Republic about the Election Assistance Commission. Perhaps the ranking suggested in the article could include gerrymandering as a criterion.

Anonymous said...

A quote from the new Governor General of Canada yesterday:
"We are at a turning point in the history of civilization, and more than ever before, our future rests on those who are forcing us to imagine the world of tomorrow."

As a recent (July) reader of your blog, I must say it now counts as one of my three daily internet watering holes (the other two being a news site and a finance site). I’m in the camp of supporters for the blog.

I admit that the tone is a bit out of character from the message of hope I’ve come to expect from one of my favourite authors, from the ideals of the Postman to the unlikely success of the Streaker crew and wolflings against stagnant elder races.

I would say that in Canada, the general trend of the discussion is leaning towards inclusiveness (we will soon be greeting about 1% of our population per year of immigrants), mutual support through negotiation and individual rights (gay rights, cultural accommodation or other variations). None of this comes without debate of course, as is healthy of any community facing changes.

You would also find several of your recent themes already existing in some form up here. The Auditor General has taken an uncommon importance where the yearly reports outline the deficiencies of governance (nearly toppling the ruling government 9 months ago). Government surpluses. Strict(er) political donation rules. There some bad stuff too, but I can’t help but feeling we’re somehow heading in the right direction.

It has been quite the learning experience going over your account of the American gestalt and comparing it to our situation here – it has made me appreciate some of the Canadian progress better by understanding your concerns for the US.

Perhaps a similar step back in perspective would be salutary to your morale? Perhaps some of your concerns will abate naturally with the next government. Or do you feel, more ominously, that some sort of tipping point has been reached?


Anonymous said...

This may be premature, but maybe the news that
Tom Delay finally gets a criminal indictment is the beginning of the expected avalanche of criminal charges discussed earlier

-- Matt

Anonymous said...

Donald Rumsfeld was giving president Bush his daily briefing. He concludes by saying, "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed in an accident."

"Oh no!" the President exclaims. "That's terrible!"

His staff sits stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching as the president slumps into his seat, head in hands.

Finally, Bush looks up and asks, "How many is a brazillion ?"

Tony Fisk said...

Is a 'Brazillion' any relation to a 'brass razoollion'?

Quoth DB:
I'll test the essay here, asking you all to offer citations or examples items you think might help... or else corrections via citokate.

How well does the blue pencil show up on this background? ;-)

No word from Worlchanging. Maybe I got blackballed.

Maybe you should choose which side canyon you live in more carefully! (if that's what the 'Crooked man' excursion was about?). Actually, they've just been reorganising themselves. That always takes longer than expected. I'm still waiting for feedback on the call for volunteers from over a month ago. Might give 'em a hoy next week sometime.

At least they've lost the dashed borders of their 'new look' now!

On Gerrymandering: The state of Queensland was notorious for it, and was put to good use by the Country and National Party after it was introduced in 1949... by the Labor Party!

Anonymous said...

Wow . . .

Radio host and professional moral scold William Bennet let loose an (ahem) intemperate statement that, when quoted out of context -- as it will be -- is quite enough to totally destroy his credibility:

"[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down"


Rob Perkins said...


That kind of context-free demagoguery is just the sort of thing any modernist movement could do without. It may have been intemperate to say it, well, scratch that, it was massively insensitive and definitely intemperate, but it won't dent his reputation, chiefly because the only people listening to Bennett now are people who are listening to Bennett.

So there's no use taking his comment out of context.

@Matt, the Tom DeLay thing is a tempest in a teapot. Someone in Texas hates him, but near as I can tell he didn't actually break the law. And we kind of have the fast-and-loose strategies of Clinton/Gore to thank for that, IMO.

So he gets indicted, but there isn't enough of the right evidence to convict him, as far as I know. It means he's not majority leader, and perhaps in the near future not in the Congress.

But what that *really* means is that now Tom Delay will be interfacing with government with *less* scrutiny than before the indictment. He'll be a "consultant" or a "lobbyist" from now on. Can that *really* be better, if what we want is to keep a close eye on what he does?

Anonymous said...

I'll definately be reading the Gerrymandering essay, (I think that you should consider a print/ebook collection of many of your articles essays, how well did "The transparant society" do? I know that I'm glad that I read it. How many people here think that there would be a market for such a work?) but I'm mostly looking forward to the Religion and Science essay you've got coming up. (I guess that for now I'll just have to reread "The Life Eaters.")

Lastly, I was wondering about your opinion of this:

Lead exerpt:

Viewpoint: The case for global integration
As part of the BBC's Who Runs Your World? series, Richard N Haass, president of the US think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, assesses the limitations of US power and argues for deeper international collaboration.

Anonymous said...

Since the comments are wandering far afield today, I'm going to post a comment that should have been posted ohhh about 5 blogs ago, but I didn't know about it then.

Over here in Bangkok, alot of the news has been taken up with the NOLA crisis, as the Thai's have just recently faced the same thing.

A simple question that was posed by a Thai reader was "Why didn't all these people who had lost their homes go and stay with family?"

From a Thai perspective this question is easy to understand. Even though Thai's are a mobile society, they mostly maintain connections with their home villages and various relatives. Any time there is a disaster they just pack up and drop in on some family member.

Hey everytime there is a holiday Bangkok (a city of 10 million) becomes a ghost town as people flood into the country side to visit various relatives.

Back to the Houston Astrodome and the various refugee sites in the neighboring area. There are tens of thousands of people with no-where to go. Where are their extended families? Brother, sisters, aunts uncles. While some might have had the majority of their family in NO, it is impossible for all those people to have that.
While I'm no conservative, the state of the extended family/the clan unit in North America is at dangerously low levels.
People communicate more with their cyberbuddies on the other side of the country, than they do with an uncle 2 states away.
But let me ask you this, would you openly and without reservation admit someone to your household who you had never met before and only chatted with online.
Lee Kuan Yew the Singaporean Statesman who is without a doubt a socialist with big brother tendacies states that the government itself doesn’t believe it should provide for people in times of turbulence, that is what the family unit is for. For in times of turbulence the government will turn inward and take care of its own, with nothing left for the general public.

Human to Human contact/interaction needs to be nourished and its agenda pushed. As a by-product of the internet age, where people make friends, play games and fall in love over fiber-optic cables, the 5 senses need to be given their time too. As a member of the global community I have cyberfriends from around the world! But until I have met them, looked them in the eye and shared a drink with them, I could never fully trust them. My 5 primal senses need to confirm what my mind has already told me, this is a good person.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in this age of modernism, we must not forget or ingore our primal/animal selves, to do so would court disaster (as in the beginning of the industrial age, when they tried to turn people in machines and people rebeled)

Anyways, that was a very long rant , I'm exhausted!! :)

David Brin said...

A few spot replies:

Canada is the only country that has a clue what it’s like to absorb so many immigrants. One has an impression Canada’s immigrants are much more well-heeled than millions of ours. Still, it’s a proud tradition of tolerance.

(One of a myriad conservative issues that conservatives won’t look at: Clinton’s first act was to double the Border Patrol and emphasize legal immigration. Bush’s first act (almost) was to cripple the BP. Add a thousand other items (like the budget deficit and war-as-a-toy, and the whole question about conservative America is “Are you really to stodgy and loony to realize when everything has changed?”

Rob, DeLay out of power adds one more corrupt consultant. Big deal. Cockroaches matter less than watchdogs who try to become wolves. As for Clinton-Gore legal turpitude... again I ask... show me the indictments. It doesn’t wash. CG did not “set the tone” for this administration. Secrecy PLUMMETED under CG while it has skyrocketed under Bush. That is unambiguous and a clear, objective measure of INTENT to be honest... whatever the effect.

(Effect? The first admin in history with NO post factor indictments for malfeasance in office? None? After their successors LOOKED for things to indict, real hard? Can that penetrate? This is not a fact to ignore or shrug off. When a “side” fails all of its predictions (e.g. “kisses” from Iraqis and Supply Side economics)... can it be that something is just... well... WRONG?)

Brazillion? Har!

I am all in favor of reserving judgement and looking for context. But. I mean. DOes this universe CONTAIN a potential (nay plausible) context that would excuse Wm Bennett’s remark?

Cooperation with the world? I am all for it. Still. The irony that beats all is that I am a believer in Pax Americana. It saved the world circa 1941-2001. Vietnam and the Shah and all that were a small enough sin-fraction, compared to any other imperium, that a burden of proof lies with anyone who suggests something else would have worked better.

Which is where the neocons are stark, jibbering insane. They would agree with my paragraph above... and completely miss the point that PA’s JOB is to be the LAST empire. To guide the world through its final immature stage while encouraging a gradual buildup of wise institutions that might form a framework for WCN .... Whatever Comes Next.

This is the kind of job PA did in the Balkans... imperial muscle flexing that was done with transition care and sensitivity that almost, sort-of, began to look more like swat team police action than tribal-grunt war fighting. Those macho jerks who believe that “Pax Americana” should be lonesome cowboy stuff are actually the fools who will end PA before it’s done its job. They will CAUSE a multipolar world, one as-yet too immature to know what it wants.

Finally, the link that Thais maintain to cousins on the farm is not unique. In France, every Parisian nurses a fantasy that there is a “family farm” maintained by fifth cousins. They vacation there, bearing heaps of gifts that amount to the same as a bed and breakfast. In effect it is a “clan B&B”. This fantasy helps explain their huge Ag subsidies. But hey, it’s one of the sweeter French madnesses.

Me? I have a 5th cousin who is fast on his way toward becoming master of the Internet and Bill Gates’s worst nightmare. Makes a guy wish we Americans believed in 5th cousins!

ALas, we don’t. (A fifth WHAT?)

Anonymous said...

DeLay attacking the prosecutor and claiming the indictment is a partisan attack reminds me of a saying I just made up:

[Ross Perot Voice]
When you screw the pooch, don't try to get off the hook by blaming the dog for being in heat.
[/Ross Perot Voice]


Rob Perkins said...

The reason I don't buy it, David, is that I think it's a far deeper game than trial-and-conviction. The worst of them never, ever see a prison cell. Maybe a fine. Maybe dismissal from power. And maybe they pass from office with a secret agreement not to interfere here or there.

And, I recall how quickly the Bush administration silenced prosecution of the work of outgoing petty vandals, taking off the "W" keys of the keyboards etc etc.

I don't for a minute assume that "cockroach consultants" are without power. And I do conclude that corruption routes around the law. That DeLay is technically innocent at law doesn't make PACs vis a vis the hard/soft money problem less reprehensible.

But it will serve, if his case is dismissed, to embolden his allies, and it becomes another black mark against someone who is trying to reign in a person who he thinks is dangerous.

And let's not kid ourselves. Clinton was indicted. That's what an impeachment is.

We can't go to in-the-ranks appointee indictments if we're gonna compare to DeLay, an elected official. The last one I can think of was Bernie Sanders, Democrat from Ohio.

Yes, secrecy is up this administration. It thinks it's prosecuting a war; secrecy tends to go up during wartime. And, too much of it has been classified, in my opinion. You won't get an argument from me on that point.

But the frothing fallacy spewed by the worst of the neocons' opposites is not serving to open those books. If anything, it serves to get reasonable people to dig in their heels. I think that's what we're seeing.

I don't believe there is a context which excuses Wm. Bennett's remarks. Talk radio plays fast and loose, though, and people end up uttering things which noone can or wants to comprehend. This isn't Dobson muttering about Sponge Bob this time; it really seems like an offensively racist comment.

@Canada, I've met and talked with people trying to emigrate there, back when I lived in northwest Switzerland. It's not that easy to get there.

@Clinton and the Border, big deal, he doubled the guard! If twice what you have is still one tenth of what you need, I don't give him a lot of credit.

Rob Perkins said...

@Family ties among Americans...

Perhaps this comes as an advantage of being a member of a largish family, but I can say that such things are not entirely gone from the United States; if there were a natural disaster where I live I have relatives in at least three distant States, and more distant relatives in several others who my family could call on for help.

Also notable is the self-organization for this sort of thing that's going on; I saw that had started a contact and referral program at which can help out when such contacts aren't available.

It's heartening stuff.

Anonymous said...

Don't know where you get the idea that the Han Feizi is short - the English translation is 2 volumes long, and the original Chinese text is more than 400 pages.


David Ivory said...

Coast Guard - decentralization saves lives...

As good a place as any to put this link..