Saturday, January 07, 2006

Preventing Tyranny: Part Two

Face it... the “War on Terror” was won by the heroes of UA 93... on the very same day that it began! Since then, we have been told that “terror” justifies a reversal of our principles, a shirking of all accountability, abandonment of diplomacy, pissing upon allies, frisking us and humiliating us in airports, suspending civil rights, spying on private citizens without warrants, demolishing our military reserves, purging the officer corps, dissipating our readiness for new crises (currently at an all-time low), politicizing all of our intelligence agencies, and dozens of other measures that add up to a gradual creep toward Big Brother.

the political lamp is lit...

Following up on that article by Jonathan Schell, The Hidden State Steps Forward, in The Nation, here are two key points that need further elucidation, (continuing from Part 1.)

The first of these, Schell only alludes to.
The other, neither Schell nor anyone else seems able to make clear--

HIDDEN-STATE1. One of the greatest unmentioned scandals of this era is our near total lack of a legislative branch of government. The GOP majorities in both houses are simply uninterested in deliberating, in governing, or, indeed, in pursuing any agenda other than graft. They do not even try to push forward the “conservative” social agenda! (e.g. there have been no substantial efforts to affect abortion or science education or even the so called“War on Christmas.”)

Dig it. The only broadly assertive agenda pursued by Congress in this 21st Century has been to pass bills that benefit rich friends, ranging from huge aristocratic tax cuts to the greatest pork barrel frenzy in all of human history. A drive that has been so broad and intense that noncompetitive, no-bid contracts are being granted at a higher rate PER YEAR than happened during the entire Clinton Administration. (And this is capitalism?)

Beyond vampirism, the congressional GOP appears to have no interest in governing, legislating, or exercising its sovereign power of advice and consent. Take these examples of legislative nonexistence:

(a) G.W. Bush is the first president in US history to use his veto power only once after 5 years.

(b) The House Government Reform Committee issued a grand total of two subpoenas on Bush Administration officials in five years, in contrast to more than a thousand issued for former Clintonian officials.

 (Again, all those subpoenas, plus a billion dollars in related efforts, resulted in a total number of Clinton-era indictments, for malfeasance of official action, amounting to ZERO. No indictments, whatsoever. I am sorry, but this fact of a TOTALLY non-smoking gun is the ghost at the neoconservative banquet. Will anyone else ever even mention it?)

(c) Actual hours spent by members on the House and Senate floor, in quorum session, or in active committee session, have not been this low in a hundred years. Yes, that is a hundred years. (This week, the Senate President Pro Tempore was reduced to talking to himself, in an empty chamber.) (Of course, this frees up plenty of time for mischief, like trawling K Street for pork-corruption dollars.)

democrats-republicans-wage-warOf course, this situation is closely related to gerrymandering. The latter led to the former. But it’s all part of the same stew.

In effect, our legislative branch does not exist... it has become a joke... because it has been sinecured into irrelevancy, just like the Roman Senate, during the era of Nero. No other comparison does justice to what has become of the august Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America.

See these contrasts laid out in: How Democrats and Republicans Wage War.

2. All of today’s “emergency” measures are being justified on the basis of a state of war that does not exist. Not only was war never declared, but there is no emergency at all!

Seriously, Iraq does not count.

Whether you think the Iraq Intervention is

(i) a great crusade (rightwing madness), or

(ii) it was totally wrong to topple Saddam (lefty madness), or

(iii) it’s a noble endeavor to spread freedom, that is being well executed (neocon madness), or

(iv) toppling Saddam was a moderately desirable - if totally optional - goal, that has been intolerably booted by monstrously venal incompetents (the position of any pragmatic moderate American)...

...whichever of these things you believe, the simple fact is that this foreign adventure has nothing to with being “at war”... at least not in the sense of justifying other Bushadmin endeavors in proto totalitarianism. Or allowing the “Commander-in-Chief clause” to be used as an excuse for presidential whim to over-rule all law.

After all the dust settled from the “WMD Fiasco,” and putting aside all the suspected ulterior motives (including those turgidly promoted by Michael Moore), what are we are left with? Only this.

The BEST POSSIBLE explanation for our presence in Iraq is a somewhat acceptable surface goal of nation-building after toppling a brutal dictator. (Neocons will never mention that, pre-2000, they savagely rebuked the “failed and hopelessly naive doctrine of so-called nation-building.” Nor will they mention that Saddam was their own boy, from start almost to finish.)

Wars-Emergency-PolicyYes. It is possibly a worthy objective to try and replace Saddam with a democratic Iraq. (Liberals who deny this only shoot themselves in the foot.) But even if we do accept this goal, the intervention is without question an example of voluntary and elective surgery. Something to which the word “emergency” can in no way be attached with any justification, whatsoever. Surgery that could have been timed to our convenience, that should have been professionally planned to achieve maximum goals while minimizing deleterious costs and consequences for all concerned, starting with our troops, our alliances, our social cohesion, our budget, our people, and especially the Iraqis themselves. (See my posting: Wars of Emergency vs. Wars of Policy).

What this totally voluntary war most definitely is NOT is a situation dire enough to warrant even the most minuscule abridgement of our citizen rights.

Indeed, we Americans have NEVER had that kind of emergency... though at least during the Civil War and WWII there was some basis for argument. Today?

Any attempt to excuse executive lawbreaking in the interest of urgent security is nothing more or less than a travesty.

No, Iraq is a distraction.

Only one relevant fact might contribute any support to the “emergency” excuse.

That fact was 9/11...

... and that fact is getting very, very tired. Elderly, in fact. Five years old and not a reasonable justification for anything, anymore. (Five years after Peal Harbor, we had won WWII! So, what does mighty, imperial America have to show for the last five years? How long must a quag-mire before it reflects upon the competence of our leaders?)

And yes, I can see the obvious! The terrifyingly obvious.

If ever a day comes when this argument gains strength -- when the American people start asking ”what emergency?” -- that’s the very moment to be wary!

Suppose people start to notice that the 5 years (or 6 or 7) before 9/11 were safer and richer and happier and less divided and more free than the equivalent period after. Suppose people start to notice that all of this creeping tyranny is justified by just ONE act of terror that might have been a fluke, and not a “war” after all. Certainly not a “war” on the scale of the Cold War... though we are being asked to accept worse restrictions on our rights than ever during the danger from Soviet Communism.

Suppose people start asking why we should stay in panic mode -- enduring spying and frisking and spiralling debt and relentless secrecy - when things have actually been pretty good for a couple of decades.

Well...then won’t we almost be BEGGING for another “incident” to conveniently happen? In the nick of time. To stoke and maintain the fabricated state of “war.” To let the emergency continue.

Stand up. This year. Stand up.

We don’t need doctrinaire leftists, organizing an ideologically rigid Democratic Party to march off - like eager lemmings - toward another of Karl Rove’s prepared cliffs. What we need is something that is even BETTER than shifting a million voters from the right hand side of an electoral chasm over to the left-hand side.

Even if the Blue States win this new civil war against the Gray States -- singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic and restoring accountability to public life -- we will all lose if that is the basis for American politics in the 21st Century.

What we need is 200 prominent American conservatives to denounce this madness. Or 200,000 who are not prominent. Either way, a small number of decent Americans who are willing to do for their country what liberals did, in 1947, when they saw their duty, gathered their courage, and turned their backs on left-wing commie madness, proving that their patriotism could rise above mythologies of dogma.

miracleof1947If liberals could do that, in 1947, why are there no conservatives yet (except maybe Ben Nighthorse Campbell) willing to do the same thing for their country, today?

Just 200 prominent conservatives could save the United States of America, more effectively than adding two MILLION more democratic voters! Because they would not only change the balance of power and kick out the kleptocrats....

...They would also rescue the soul of American conservatism. By helping to end the cynical, heartless, treasonous, divisive and artificially induced “culture war” that is tearing a great nation apart.

This point cannot be overstated. If each of us recruits just ONE such decent conservative, getting him or her to notice where duty lies... it may happen in time to save the soul of genuine conservatism, before this nation plunges into real class warfare. Before the seeds that have been sown by Rupert Murdoch sprout dragons more ferocious than he never imagined.

Stand up.

====    ====    =====

Return to Part 1: Preventing Tyranny

See also: How Democrats and Republicans Wage War


Jay Denari said...

Thanks. That needs to be said at every possible opportunity -- although this admin claims to be conservative it is NOT and has no interest in being conservative. I couldn't stand Bush's father as president, but he at least gave a damn about something other than his own ego and had the intelligence to address real issues.

"Dubya" is the caricature of the "me-generation," daily glorying in all of the stereotyped traits genuine conservatives have rightfully criticized for years.

About teh only thing you wrote that seemed to need a little extra was this line:
Neocons will never mention that, pre-2000, they savagely rebuked the “failed and hopelessly naive doctrine of so-called nation-building.”
They STILL rebuke it by their actions: There's no nation-building going on in either Iraq or Afghanistan, only chaos that benefits a few well-connected friends of theirs.

Anonymous said...

A perhaps apropos commentary from Reason magazine's website which asks libertarians:

"How far are you willing to go to win the War on Terror?"


jbmoore said...


Smoke and mirrors and lies and fear. We're finally beginning to see cracks in the GOP and in the government itself. There's no point in getting angry. Most of this is due to people not wanting to think. Your arguments only apply to those of us who do observe and see how things could be better. All this suffering is due to fear. Sooner or later as you say, people will wake up as if out of a bad dream. And likely things will get worse before they get better. The best you can do at this point is be a beacon of light and not be a part of the madness. Keep your Bliss and let others awaken to theirs.


David Brin said...

What a complete moron.

By all means, screech a strawman statement the is diametrically opposite to anything that I believe, then cram it into my mouth (or rather the mouth of the strawman you set up) and then howl at it for a while.

But I look you in the eye. Your strawman has nothing to do with me, or any opinion that I hold. Your screech is wind.

Anonymous said...

David, you called Bush's tax cuts "aristocratic tax cuts" as if they were for aristocrats. But when whiskey called you on that comment, you dodged it. Now, should middle-class Americans receive tax cuts or is that "aristocratic"?

Anonymous said...

Nope Brin is right, the guy is a moron. Does any rational person really think that Brin wants higher taxes? If so they have not been reading what he has written in the past. You know the saying never argue with a moron, he will just drag you down to his level and win by experience. In fact I saved a copy of his response for future use in case someone totally distorts what I am trying to say. Wiskeys1 post was not valid criticism but a pure ad-hominem attack.

Anonymous said...


So far, the few conservatives that have stood up and said something have either been ripped apart or completely ignored. Two in particular come to mind: Andrew Sullivan and John Derbyshire.

Sullivan turned against Bush. He endorsed Kerry, has criticized the conduct of the war, the GOP's fiscal policy, and became the net's greatest supporter of Ian Fishback. How was he rewarded by conservatism?

By being labeled a dirty 'libral. Conservative bloggers promptly quit linking him; dozens of screeds were written against him; the man was denounced. (At the same time, a lot of people still read him, including myself- his biggest following seems to be among contrarian/moderate Dems and libertarian independents) Most didn't even attack his positions- most of the arguments against Sullivan were personal attacks.

"My god, Sullivan has turned against Bush because Sullivan is a rotten homosexual! I knew a homo couldn't be a conservative! He was a liar all along, stone the bastard!"

(Exaggerated, of course, but that's essentially what most anti-Sullivan rants seemed to amount to)

On the other hand, Derbyshire has become progressively more and more sick of Bush and the GOP's policies, but despite being one of the conservative movement's most interesting and provocative (not to mention funny) writers, he's been completely ignored.

No, this would never work. Even if a whole coalition of old-school conservatives stood together- Buckley, George Will, Bob Dole, Alan Simpson, Pete Peterson, Newt Gingrich, just to name a few possible members of such a motley coalition- they'd be denounced and ignored, just like Sully and Derb. Elder statesmen could be written off as irrelevant old fogeys who've "gone liberal" in their old age, while eggheads like Will and Buckley could be ignored with no repercussions other than a few thousand lost votes from the wonk classes; votes that wouldn't be missed.

The power of the Right is in the hands of people who won't go against Bush. Media figures like O'Reilly, Limbaugh, Robertson (my god, can the man be any more of an idiot? Attacking an Israeli prime minister fallen ill on the eve of a historic step forward for peace in the middle east doesn't help anyone and will only serve to alienate the Jewish vote... hmm, remind me to thank Robertson for that...), Hewitt, Savage, et. al. and sitting congressional leaders control the agenda, and can strike anyone with the dreaded "LIBERAL" title...

... just as they did Sullivan, despite the fact that Sullivan is a pro-war defense hawk, a solid social and economic libertarian and die-hard laissez-faire capitalist, pro-life, and supported Bush in 2000. Gimme a break.

Nope, these people won't criticize, and they control the dialogue. Fortunately, most of the media is still in liberal hands...

Anonymous said...

Dammit Brin, you lost him!

But whiskey might still be listening, so I'll say this. wiskey1, even though your taxes were lowered by Bush's tax cut, you probably ended up paying more for it in the long run.

I read somewhere that 60% of the tax cuts went to the middle class, and the rest went to the upper class. (If you want a source I'll try to find them again, but you'll have to ask for it) Anyways, I'm not sure how many people are in the middle class, but as Brin said, it vastly outnumbers the upper class, which makes up about 5-10% of America.

That's 5-10% of America receiving 40% of the tax cuts. This free money does not inspire the aristocrats to be innovative, it seems to make them more set against taking risks and trying something new, and perhaps giving Americans something new that would make their lives better.

So yes, whiskey, the non-aristocrats received a majority of the tax cut. You were right and Brin was wrong. And yet somehow, the aristocrats are making off with the majority of the profits, riding off into the sunset in their brand new SUVs and leaving us behind.

So what are you going to do now?

reason said...

you should have reminded whiskey while you were at it about local rates, about medical costs about education costs and about the likelihood of future social security cuts. He seems to think that taxes are only raised in one place and don't get spent on anything useful.

Tony Fisk said...

Conservatives of America: go read Malcolm Fraser's recent speech on 'Human Rights and Responsibilities', and bear in mind that these are the words of a former Prime Minister, and elder statesman of the Liberal (ie conservative) Party.

Quoth David:
Well...then won’t we almost be BEGGING for another “incident” to conveniently happen? In the nick of time. To stoke and maintain the fabricated state of “war.” To let the emergency continue.

If anyone thinks this is 'oh so cynical', then go have a look at the shenannigans the Australian government indulged in to pass their anti-terrorist legislation in ...November, 2005!!?:
- debate guillotined after twenty four hours
- Said twenty four hours scheduled during the Melbourne Cup (talk about bread and circuses!)
- the announcement of a 'clear and present danger' just prior to the debate (an announcement that was subsequently criticised by police as tipping off suspects who were already well and truly tagged.)

No need to be paranoid: they really ARE out to get you!

Anonymous said...

Rather than Nero's time, I see this as more of a version of how Julius Caesar was able to take advantage of a weak Senate to become dictator. Remember, Rove knows a strong leader will always trump almost any congress, because all those individuals will each have a personal agenda which can be split and divided. Only rarely in history has a group been able to successfully oppose a monarch.

The sick part of all this is that, even if we do get a future pendulum swing to a more moderate, constitutional president, the structural changes that have been already made will never be completely rolled back, just as Nixon's increased use of executive orders (or Lincoln's) were gladly used by succeeding administrations.

My only hope is that the march of technology will empower citizens and other countries to chip away at the empire and restore balance.

Read your Roman history!

Anonymous said...

@ whiskey

How much money did you get back thanks to W's tax cut?

If it wasn't enough to afford the dinner you skipped, then (1)you're bitching at the wrong person, and (2) you missed the point.

David Brin said...

I was about to apologize to Whiskey, because, no matter how dismally wretched his post was, I should not hurl ad hominems.

Only now I won't apologize. OTHER than the completely loopy and insulting way he tried to cram diametrically opposite strawman views into my mouth... he also entered a conversation that was about truly monstrous horrific betrayals of America and started slinging tax-talk that was totally irrelevant!

Irrelevant? Yes. Because I never once in my post mentioned tax policy. Tax policy is one of the few areas where my disagreement with the Bush administration is still POLITICAL.

I deeply dislike tax cuts that toss a few scraps at the middle class while pouring billions into piggie troughs for aristos, who are already gorging on the nation's biggest pork festival, ever. But those tax cuts were at least political decisions, made in open congress in ways that the people can judge. They were greedy, insane, based upon discredited economic theories, and deeply unpatriotic, in time of war.

But they were political.

Which means they had NOTHING to do with my main posting here. Of which the topic is blatant creeping... no, strides... toward out and out tyranny.

I NEVER accused Ronald Reagan of
anything like this, even at the height of many disagreements. Indeed, I defended him on many occasions. Even Richard Nixon committed despotic acts in dribbles and little drips, not as a systematic and relentless attempt to end constitutional law.

Dig this, Bush has claimed that the "commander in chief" provision allows him to negate any Congressional Law, at any time, without explanation or accountability.

He is not Stalin. But he is here. His hands are on the throat of our democracy, and the situation for conservatives is as morally clear as it was for liberals in 1947.

Nicq, your posting was excellent. Only I disagree at the end. These things have momentum. If Buckley AND Will AND BN Campbell AND dozens of other conservatives did this thing, there would ensue a huge falling out of genuinely patriotic american conservatives.

Fox News would be in real trouble. DECENT republicans would start insurrections all over the country.

A few dozen of the right people could save America. And save conservatism.

Anonymous said...

Why is it only "class warfare" when the somebody disses the rich?

And the Bush tax cuts are certainly deserving of perjorative modifiers. The vast, vast majority of them went to his aristocratic buddies, and the only thing the Republicans in Congress have bothered to get on the ball about is more tax cuts, each year. For the richest few percent.

And actually, let me be the first one to step up and actually say yes, taxes have to go up. It's inevitable. We have a huge deficit, that Bush and the Republicans in Congress keep making bigger. Even in a "time of war". Rather than things like providing body armor for troops in Iraq. (Pentagon Study Links Fatalities to Body Armor) (poorly worded headline, should be LACK of body armor)

Taxes are going to go up. There's not even close to enough "pork" in the federal budget to cover any signifigant portion of the deficit. Either taxes are going to have to go up, or major portions of Social Security, the military, and other basic functions of government are going to have to go away. Which is a lot less likely than taxes going up.

Which is why calling Bush's tax breaks for his buddies "tax cuts" is dishonest. They're not cuts. They're shifts, they're postponments. His rich buddies get 80% of the benefits, then the rest of us are going to have to pay for them, with interest. Because, after all, taxing the rich is "class warfare", isn't it? And you KNOW it'll be those Damn Dirty Liberals who're "Raising Your Taxes." Not the fault of the Republicans, oh no, even though they created the situation that required them. And made it worse.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brin, you said, What we need is 200 prominent American conservatives to denounce this madness. Or 200,000 who are not prominent.

I agree in spirit with most of what you said, but I wonder if active denouncement is the right tactic? Wouldn’t that play right into Karl Rove’s hands?

I think what we need instead is for 200 prominent or 200,000 simple voters to establish a clear vision for a better future and work toward that future. Hammer home the idea that this vision is what’ll keep America safe, make America stronger, and bring democracy to the world.

That clear vision? The modernist agenda.

We offer the modernist agenda as the solution to the same problems that the neo-cons use to justify their methods. Except that we demonstrate that the modernism approach is more American – by far.

If anyone publicly attacks the neo-con agenda, they’ve already lost the battle. There are too many automated defense systems ready to fire. If we leverage the mechanism already in place, I think we’ll get more traction.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, reason, I'll try to keep your post in mind for what I'll say next.

Alright, whiskey1, I see that you're a part of the working poor. This means you have to think about money a bit more, but I think you're being a little too short-focused. Think about this for a moment before you go attack Brin again for being such a stubborn jerk.

When Brin talks about the aristocratic tax cuts, he doesn't mean they just went to the aristocrats, he's not even saying you have to be making a substantial amount of money. What he's saying is these tax cuts have only benefitted the upper class. (Please back me up on this David, while he's still reading)

Also, try thinking about what you're paying taxes for. You're giving your money to a government that isn't doing it's job, to the War on Terror which doesn't exist. You're paying for body armor that isn't going to the soldiers in Iraq, to health care and education that isn't giving back it's money's worth, and to Social Security which will probably be dissolved once you're old enough to receive benefits from it (That's only if we keep the same guys we have in charge though). These are the taxes that are emptying your pockets.

I also would like to mention that all the equipment that the President and the government is using to abridge your rights isn't cheap ether. We might not know much this is costing us for a long time however.

No, if modernists are put in charge they won't take that much money from you and NOT give you something good in return.

Will you really stop listening to our warning? Will you stand by and let America go down in flames because someone on the Internet called you a "moron"? That is what would be really stupid.

David Brin said...

I shouldn't get further dragged into this. I already regret this spiral.

I suppose it is remotely possible that a person could look at the dregs that were tossed to the middle class, in those tax cuts, and see in them a marvelous beneficence... instead of a sop that the aristos needed to throw in, politically - a bone - in order to get their feeding frenzy started. I just find it hard to believe that anyone on THIS list would fall for that.

I guess it's like staring at Cindy Sheehan and George W Bush and saying THIS is the level of American political debate, today? Liberals screeching at Hillary Clinton, because she believed in the power of America to set things right (which Bill had done in the Balkans), and was willing to give the President of the United States a chance to correct his father's blunder in betraying the people of Iraq?

YES! She has changed her mind. DUH! Who on Earth could have imagined that this mess would be handled so incompetently, in ways we will be paying off for generations?

The irony of being lectured to about Saddam, by the horror-stories who DELIBERATELY LEFT HIM IN POWER, IN 1991, stuns me almost as much as the fact that no liberal seems willing to mention that fact! What, pray, credibility, do such jerks deserve?

We never had to do it this way, with the stupidest of all conceivable war plans. The one that seems designed to follow every mistake of vietnam.

All we had to do was strengthen the Kurds in the north and then do a mini-invasion to let the Shiites get a mini-state in the south. Saddam would have been left with no oil. No oil at all.

No money? No power. He'd have been meat within a year, as Kurds and Shiites used their new oil funds to put a price on his head, tempting enough even for Tikritis to go for.

Yes, the Shiite ministate might have been tense and undemocratic, maybe. Or maybe not. IN ANY EVENT, our boys could have been home in 90 days. Cost in lives and money and alliances? Virtually nil.

Instead of 2200 brave americans dead, untold Iraqis, and a nearly dead american civil society. And half a trillion dollars, poured largely into no-bid contracts to Bush pals, with only dribbles actually applied to nation building.

WHich tells you the real reason for all this. Plus the excuse of a "war", to keep our nation divided and rationalize the creep toward dictatorship.

Half a trillion dollars that could have paid for tax cuts, energy research, education AND reducing the deficit.

Oh, where has conservatism gone?

Ken said...


Thanks again for your cogent writing. You've pulled me out of a New-Year's what-WONT-they-do-now fit of malaise. It had gotten so bad that I was on my way to remove a co-worker/friend's Republican blog from DNS on my machine (to avoid looking at it and going into fits); I was just catching up on my RSS feeds first. You've helped me out greatly...I've got new vigor, and I'll undertake (again! *grin*) to try and get him to stand up to his party and make people see some sense.

Thanks again.

(aside to whiskey1 : Please, stick around, and dig into Brin's archives if you haven't already. I skimmed your blog, and you seem a good sort! The tax comment obviously caught an extremely sore point...don't let it overwhelm the larger picture, please.)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Conservatism (tm) is now something like a brand name. It used to mean something real, and retains a large amount of brand loyalty, but in reality is now a licensed trademark owned by a deeply cynical clique of greedheads and ideologues.

Watch for Freedom (tm) and Democracy (tm) to go the same route.


Don Quijote said...

The irony of being lectured to about Saddam, by the horror-stories who DELIBERATELY LEFT HIM IN POWER, IN 1991, stuns me almost as much as the fact that no liberal seems willing to mention that fact! What, pray, credibility, do such jerks deserve?

Had we invaded Iraq in 91, the results would not have been very different than the the ones we got for invading in 2000 ( not to mention that no Arab state would have joined the coalition).

We never had to do it this way, with the stupidest of all conceivable war plans. The one that seems designed to follow every mistake of vietnam.

All we had to do was strengthen the Kurds in the north and then do a mini-invasion to let the Shiites get a mini-state in the south. Saddam would have been left with no oil. No oil at all.

And ten minutes later the Turks would have invaded and put an end to that Kurdish State.

The war in Turkey represents the single largest use of U.S. weapons anywhere in the world by non-U.S. forces, according to Bill Hartung of the World Policy Institute. "I can think of no instance since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982," he said, "where American weaponry has been put to this concentrated a use." In 15 years of fighting in Turkey nearly 40,000 lives have been lost, more than in the conflicts on the West Bank and in Northern Ireland combined. The two million refugees produced by the war in Kurdistan are roughly the number of homeless created by the widely reported war in Bosnia, where U.S. weapons were not a factor. In contrast, 75 percent of the Turkish arsenal was made in the United States, according to estimates.

No money? No power. He'd have been meat within a year, as Kurds and Shiites used their new oil funds to put a price on his head, tempting enough even for Tikritis to go for.

Yes, the Shiite ministate might have been tense and undemocratic, maybe. Or maybe not. IN ANY EVENT, our boys could have been home in 90 days. Cost in lives and money and alliances? Virtually nil.

In you dreams, a blood bath on par with the one going on at the present time would keep going on and on and on....

Instead of 2200 brave americans dead, untold Iraqis, and a nearly dead american civil society. And half a trillion dollars, poured largely into no-bid contracts to Bush pals, with only dribbles actually applied to nation building.

And if the US had not backed Saddam to start with, and kept it's nose out of ME affairs, we would not be having all of these problems at the present time.

WHich tells you the real reason for all this. Plus the excuse of a "war", to keep our nation divided and rationalize the creep toward dictatorship.

And to steal all that beautiful black Gold which we will then be able to leverage into weapon to keep the EU, The Indian & The Chinese in line.

Half a trillion dollars that could have paid for tax cuts, energy research, education AND reducing the deficit.

It's more like Two trillon, but get real conservatives using that money to do good, it'll happen as soon as pigs learn to fly.

Oh, where has conservatism gone?

No where Conservatism has always been about greed, power & cheap labor, it's just the first time you got the chance to see it in power with no restraints.

PS. I have no idea as to why you worry about the left, there has not been an organised political left in
America for at least thirty years which accounts for the sad state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank Nate for his points:

I want to offer some hope to all you out there

In the UK the 80's and early 90s were dominated by a conservative party that believed in tax cuts, lower services and making the rich richer: a party who's leader (Mrs Thatcher) declared " there is no such thing as society"

In the end they lost power because the terms of reference changed and were changed by their opposition , and here is I believe a lesson.

Change the terms of reference, taxes are not your money being taken by the government, they are your Christian (yes this is inserted ENTIRELY cynically so sue me) dues to your fellow citizens

MAKE liberal not an insult but a label of honour and YOUR definition

(going back to Mrs Thatcher her policies were attached for being Victorian values - AS AN INSULT - she accepted this label and redefined it as all the GOOD things (self reliance etc) involved ) this became a MAJOR electoral assett for her

FIGHT them on their own ground and TAKE THE GROUND (don’t snipe have a goal and achieve it) - Tony Blair did this with crime the labour party was traditionally attacked as weak on crime - his REBRANDING of the party with the slogan TOUGH on CRIME, TOUGH on the CAUSES of crime took this area from the conservatives (policy tough on criminals basically) and redefined it as HIS area no longer could labour be easily attacked on this ground.

FINALY remember don’t insult the people who you want and need to vote for you the aim is to persuade them you are a BETTER GOVERNMENT Not A BETTER DEBATOR.

Happy new year

Rob Perkins said...

The Bush tax cuts, to the prosperous middle class with kids, equates to a *down payment on a car* each year. Hardly a pittance. In a year when we need the money, too, the Feds are returning $3000 more than we paid in, in the form of a "supplimental child tax credit"

And, agreeably so, also beside the point. Conservatives are basically upset that with the sceptre, the talk of controlled spending is just gone. However, they also can't believe that *Democrats* (of all people!) actually *mean* what they say when they decry the pork.

Perhaps that is one reason why they don't get voted into power on that issue.

On the issue of the war, the fog of war has got us. The incomplete reporting has got us.

We can't tell what's going on over there.

And, after the invasive little vetting I was given when I opened up a child's savings account with my daughter the other day, I have to say I finally agree with others about the Patriot Act needing its sunset provisions.

Regarding the domestic spying case, I understand that that's a very narrow hair-split the administration has done, using his 9/11 congressional authorization to claim the right to ignore other law. It's disquieting.

Yet, at the same time, what I see as well is that the President's opposites have been redlined in their bitter criticism of him since well before the terrorists took the planes. They've been loud, not a little obnoxious, and have overstated and oversimplified every opposing case they've put forth.

They cried "Wolf!" too many times. They focused on the men instead of the policy. And now because of it their reputation among conservatives is worse than gone.

Which is too bad, really, when what we need is to be wrapping things up and leaving Iraq. This year, in time for the consequences of the invasion to begin to bear their fruit before the '08 election cycle begins.

What I think will happen instead is a shameless political use of the military. They'll stay deployed long enough to create the largest possible picture of success, and then just prior to or during the primaries, home they all come.

Finally, Fox News. I tire of seeing that channel painted as something it is not. What it is is what its audience craves it to be, nothing more. They were just as gleeful reporting Rush Limbaugh's drug problems (I was watching when that story broke) as they were with the defeat of Kerry at the last presidential election.

Fox's fault is not that it's rightist. It isn't. If anything it's meticulously fair about finding the most grating rightist talking heads to argue loudly with the most grating leftist talking heads. (Spend 30 minutes, if you dare, with Hannity and Colmes, for example. Oy!)

It's awful because it's a shrill gossip-mongering newshound kennel with far too many whooshing graphics. It doesn't have to go beyond that to become awful.

Tony Fisk said...

@Ken and anyone else thinking about taking up David's challenge to persuade conservative acquaintances:

I will shout a little louder and urge you, once again, to read and pass on Fraser's speech. It has relevance to Americans, it's got meat in it and, coming from another 'conservative', it may have more appeal than some 'lefty whinings'. (@whiskey1: the speech contains no traces of aristocrats ;-)

Quoth David:

WHich tells you the real reason for all this. Plus the excuse of a "war", to keep our nation divided and rationalize the creep toward dictatorship.

I'll use that to justify an excerpt from Fraser's speech:

The arbitrary use of executive power is not new. During the Second World War, Prime Minister Winston Churchill sent a cable to Herbert Morrison, as Home Secretary. At the time, Sir Oswald Moseley, leader of the Nazi Party in Britain, and his wife Lady Diana Moseley, were to be released from custody.

They had been imprisoned under Section 18B of the Emergency Powers Act.

Two and a half years later, in November 1943, the war was going a good deal better for the Allies; the Moseleys had become ill; and the Home Secretary was preparing to release them, but with restrictions.

Churchill's memorandum to Morrison asked the Home Secretary to emphasise that the release of the Moseleys was also a matter of high principle.

Churchill considered "the great privilege of habeas corpus, and of trial by jury, which are the supreme protection invented by the English people for ordinary individuals against the State… - The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers – is, in the highest degree, odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian governments... Extraordinary powers assumed by the Executive with the consent of Parliament in emergencies should be yielded up, when and as, the emergency declines... This is really the test of civilisation."(14)

A test the US (and Australian) government is failing.

What of their constituents?

Rob Perkins said...

I'm not a lawyer, of course, but I have to ask:

If habeus corpus is being denied to American citizens, why do we know where Jose Padilla (and those like him) is?

Am I missing a nuance?

Anonymous said...

That was an interesting article Tony, and I think I will try to convince some conservatives to become modernists this year.

And thanks, whiskey1, for replying. I know you've been around here for awhile, and I didn't really think it was fair for Brin to attack you like that, especially since you've made it clear that you're not a fan of Bush or his administration many times before. I'm glad you've stuck around anyways :)

I'll end this post by repeating what whiskey1 has said already,

David, please watch your language next time.

David Brin said...

Quijote, the Turks are increasingly transfixed upon joining the EU, which is why they are frantically solving their Kurdish problem. Anyway, my scenario was just one of dozens.

One thing is sure, the Michael Moor scenario - that we went there to fetch oil -- is simply untrue. We have botched the Iraqi oil thing big time, almost as if that were the intent, all along. There is only one Bush constituency that benefits from the near cutoff of Iraqi production. Guess who that would be?

As for my dissing the left, I totally agree that the loony left is totally incapable of organization and/or doing anything remotely threatening for at least a generation. So why do I rail at lefties (as opposed to modernist liberals)?

Because they ARE powerful at throwing the game to Karl Rove. Of forcing the Democratic Party off a cliff of self-destruction, by litmusing and making the tent smaller, when we should be building a HUGE coalition to save this country. By walking into traps and giving Fox News just enough rope to screech at.

As for 1991, there is simply no way they can be forgiven. Bush Sr. actually went on radio urging the Shiites to rise up! “We are on our way!” Then left them to be slaughtered. (Rent the movie THREE KINGS.) If we had just gone as far as Basra and Karbala, one day away, we would have saved half a million people from death and ten million from tyranny. And make no mistake, there WOULD have been flowers and kisses, then.

In 2003, Rummy was mad to expect “Kisses and flowers” from the people he betrayed.

Rob, wise up. Clinton used his veto heavily and pork was far lower under him than under either Bush.

And Colmes is a stalking horse. A straight man for Hannity.

As for “aristocracy” and class warfare, let me say this. Again I challenge you to find more than 1% of human history in which the prime enemy of markets and innovation and social mobility and everything modernist was something like “socialism”.

Yes, we grew up with communism threatening all those things. But even communism in Russia -- and China today -- boiled down to a different entrenched aristocracy -- a “nomenklatura -- of guys conspiring to make their children lords.

Find the exceptions to the reflex social order in which the rich USE their power to get richer by taking, instead of getting richer by innovating. The latter has only been the chief method in a few glimmering moments of history... and MOST of those moments were in America, in the last 200 years, resulting in the first society shaped like a diamond, instead of the normal aristocratic pyramid.

THAT is my patriotism. the way in which we’ve been different. Modernism did that, and some aristocrats like it fine. Bezos and Gates and Sergey Brin and Soros and Warren Buffett... they are loyal. They are willing to help pay for a society that was very good to them.

They need to get organized, because the way we are heading is back to a society we never knew, but that our grandparents did, and that most societies knew even better. One where class warfare wasn’t a rhetorical term, but a very real fact of life.


oh, and I am ready to apologize for using "moron." Just don't stuff opinions in my mouth that are opposite to those I hold.

Tony Fisk said...

Wikipedia describes Habeus Corpus thus:
Known as the "Great Writ", the writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum is a legal proceeding in which an individual held in custody can challenge the propriety of that custody under the law.

So, knowing where the individual is isn't the same thing as having them in the court in public view pleading their case. (Although if the individual is hidden away, it makes the championing of their cause that much more difficult, don't you think?)

Read that wikipedia article a little further and you will find entries on how Habeus Corpus has been affected by recent anti-terror legislation in the UK, the USA, and Australia. I find it almost too surreal to be frightening when I read that "it (the Australian anti-terror bill) makes it an offence to even talk about somebody being imprisoned. One of the more controversial aspects of the legislation is the requirement that a parent, if informed of their child's detention, may not inform any further person, including the other parent."

(They're coming to take me away, hee hee!)

On a happier note, I've discovered Jim Baen's Universe website is now up at

David Brin said...

After this piece of lying and utterly awful abuse of both reason and the English language... and openly avowing having slandered me elsewhere... I have no choice. This fellow is not a mind I want to have anything further to do with.

I will not waste my time point-by-pointing you at any level. Go away. Slag me and do your worst. But go away.

Rob Perkins said...

Wise up?

David, I'm trying to introduce the conservative impressions into the conversation. I offer the reasons why they don't cry havoc at their betrayal. You're citing the facts most of them (you say) refuse to see.

(Plus, it could also be that they're busy with other things, I dunno.)

So we're arguing past each other in a way.

Rob Perkins said...

Oh, and let's not get me wrong. I wasn't talking about Hannity *or* Colmes. I was talking about the guests their producers book for the show.

I can't stand watching Hannity, btw. He gets about 20 minutes of my time every calendar quarter.

Anonymous said...

Text of the proposed Act Tony Fisk mentioned is at:

David Brin said...

Everybody please note: moral outrage, from a person who, shielded by pseudonymity, publicly avows that he has slagged me, by name, in other, quasi-public places.

He did so, also, without ever inviting me to see the slurs that he posted in his blog, or allowing me any chance to reply.

And yet, such a person -- who has thus gone out of his way to stab another person in the back, in REAL AND POTENTIALLY LASTING, HARMFUL WAYS -- indulges in the self-righteous hallucination that he is the injured party.

The rest of you, looking back, can see that I denied holding the views that he attributed to me. e,g. ever calling a middle class person an "aristocrat," or any of the other absurd things shoved into my (or rather, a strawman's) mouth. (Indeed, I have never opposed all tax cuts. Else I would never have been a keynote speaker at a Libertarian Party National Convention!)

Explicitly, I said: "I do not hold the views you attribute to me."

Now, how does a mature - vs immature - person respond, when told this by another person?

The immature person responds "OH YES YOU DO BELIEVE THOSE THINGS!"

Um... who is the better expert on what I believe? Is Whiskey the world expert on what David Brin believes? Or is... maybe... David Brin the expert on what David Brin believes?

Ah, well, of course it is possible to catch another person being two-faced and hypocritical. But in that case (key point) who bears a burden of proof?

The mature person responds with:

"Hm... well, if you deny holding the views that I just attributed to you, I had better find explicit statements and build a case... or else I should retract."

The ideal way to do this is called the Paraphrasing Challenge. No person can really, maturely, argue with another person till they have tried to honestly and sincerely PARAPHRASE what they believe the other person's position really is! Otherwise, we might ALL give in to the temptation to strawman each other.

Indeed, you do not understand your opponent's position until you have paraphrased so well that he (maybe grudgingly) has to admit that your paraphrasing accurately portrays his position.

To the point. It is not my job disprove intemperate and insultingly shrill spewings that purport to represent my views. I am in no way obligated to bear that burden of proof. Nor (especially) is it my job to "point-by-point" prove positions that I actually never said and have never believed!

(Talk about a "have you stopped beating your wife?" cheat!)

If this were a decent person, then instead of slandering me in secret... and yet in public... (something that is now quite possible on the Internet)... he would have said: "Let me paraphrase what it is that I think you've said, Is this really what you believe? If so, I plan to argue against that."

But this person probably hasn't even a clue what I am talking about, so why am I wasting my time?

Because the rest of you deserve some discussion of this general class of behavior. It is deeply related to the drug high I discuss at:

Now, also please note the increasingly shrill tone. Recall, a while back, that his dudgeon was much lower, saying that he did not mind "moron" much and that he had said far worse about me at the main posting level of his own site? Now he is wounded, wounded, wounded! What a spiral.

As a further point, I want to talk about blogging protocol. You will note that I am always much more careful with language in the main postings, than in followup commentary. Clearly it is well-understood by most that the commentary level allows more impulsiveness, and requires greater lattitude. I point this out because a few of my responses during this back and forth were less mature than I would have liked. I regret that.

But this person openly avows to having posted nasty things about me in his blog. I ask that some of you check to see if these comments were at the formal posting level, and tell me if you find them potentially actionable.

Perhaps we should see if modern law agrees about this distiction in blogging levels.

Putting a capper on this (I hope), let me say that I apologize to the rest of you for any clumsy stomping around. This kind of thing recurs online too often. I predicted it in Earth.

What it all boils down to is this. I have nothing to gain from events such as these. The only person who will continue to be harmed is me. Note that I will probably never mention this person again in all of my life (unless forced to). Whereas he will probably say harmful things about me endlessly, whevever an opportunity arises. (Care to bet?)

Still, I benefit. Rob Perkins has been as insulted by me, on several occasions, but he stands up to me, paraphrases, sometimes forces me to back off or rephrase (or even apologize... then he shrugs, and moves on.

I am glad to have HIM on this list.

In contrast, whatever it costs me in persistent and perpetual sniping -- from a genuine moron -- I am glad to have quits of the other guy.

Anonymous said...

FWIW, I think the blog in question is:

Plenty there that I thought immature, self-contradictory, and just plain wrong -- or should I have swiped Pauli's "not even wrong"?! [hey, a good blog in its own right if you like physics, see ] -- ironic in view of the blog's subtitle "Occasional mentions of great pieces of music, but mostly just ranting about sloppy thinking from a skeptics perspective". But I didn't see anything I thought actionable. I'm not a lawyer, though. And I only read the most recent two posts.

If someone else wants to take a look, see the contents of the URL above.

Anonymous said...

David, Whiskey1: Do you want a JCB to help you dig any faster?

David, Whiskey's original point was a good one that you seem to be completely ignoring. You do have a tendency to attack directly those you disagree strongly with (it's one I recognise in myself) and this tends to irritate people and thereby make you far less effective at doing anything other than preaching to the choir.

Preaching to the choir has its place - but to anyone who is not a member of the choir, you come off as being fairly closed-minded. If you deliberately think you need a focus of opposition (or just have one), narrow it down as much as possible so you do not convince more people than necessary that they are being attacked - at which point they will get defensive and stop listening.

If you want to attack the tax cuts, a better phrasing would have been "tax cuts mostly for the benefit of the aristocracy" - calling them "aristocratic tax cuts" implies that everyone who benefited (short term anyway) was an aristocrat - clearly counterfactual and somewhat insulting to what would otherwise be a fairly receptive group.

David Brin said...

Francis, please note that your criticism manifested as an expression of your personal impression that I am sometimes closeminded or repressive of differing opinions. What I want to address is not the opinion itself -- which I could dispute by pointing to hundreds of lively give and take exchanges here -- but rather to the fact that you were expressing an opinion.

The person in question was not doing that. He was shoving words and beliefs into my mouth, in a screeching tone of bitter accusation, no less. And martyrdom, as I was portrayed proposing (in essence) that his family starve.

You and everybody else here knew what I meant by "aristocratic tax cuts." Moreover, a decent person might have at least posited that a second meaning might have been the one I meant, rather than the utterly insane interpretation that I thereby meant to call a struggling family "aristocrats."

Especially since I made the alternative meaning clear on many occasions.

And since the whole point of the posting at-hand had nothing to do with political disagreements like tax policy, and was entirely about creeping tyranny, instead, I had a right to be miffed at a complete non-sequitur, hurled out of the blue.

In any event, note the spiral. "moron" was shrugged off... with cryptic reference to revenge taken elsewhere...

But horror-stricken insult and righteous indignation and expressions of betrayal and hurt only happened when I said the simple words "go away."

You figure it out. Playground stuff.

I am done with this. Your post is welcome as CITOKATE and I will try to bear your criticism in mind as I try to maintain a place for lively disagreement.

I hope you, in turn, will review what I posted above -- about the Paraphrase Challenge. The warning is out. Disagree with me, fine.

But don't screech at me about things I never ever ever ever said or ever believed.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin:

I agree with Francis. You have a ready-made sympathetic group in the libertarian/limited-government conservative camp, and despite (or perhaps because of) my strong disagreement with many things you say, I stick around because you have some very interesting things to say. But when you act in a way that would get someone kicked off a good political forum, and seemingly try to form a little echo chamber here (despite your CITOKATE exhortations!), it strongly discourages that aforementioned sympathetic crowd from paying attention. And Dr. Brin, we're precisely the group you want to reach. We're the people you tried to reach out to at the Libertarian National Convention.

So why can't I read a comments page on this blog where a critic was received warmly, whose criticism and disagreement were welcomed and treated seriously?

Anonymous said...

Note: I didn't read what you had written right there, David. Perhaps you have had some give-and-take exchanges where people disagreed with you politically and were well received, but I haven't read them. As far as I've read, anyone who wasn't on basically the same page as you has been shouted down by you and by other posters here -- largely from the sizable anti-Bush camp (regardless of how they self-identify, politically).

David Brin said...

Um... you mean, like the horrific way that I am treating you two guys? Ooh, me big meanie... ;-)

I will contemplate your expressions of opinion that I am intolerant of differences of opinion. In my own opinion, I can look back at many vigorous but not unpleasant disagreements during the last year.

I will contemplate your opinions, even though I initially disagree...

...if you will contemplate that this fellow did nothing like disagreeing or expressing an opinion. He came out of no where shrilly ACCUSING me of holding beliefs that bore no resemblance - an any remote way -- to any that I hold. Beliefs that he indignantly posed as wanting to take food off his table.

If you cannot tell the difference, be assured that there is one. Indeed, your criticisms, just now, did not raise my pulse, my blood pressure, my ire... or any desire to make you go away.

Only a wish to do a little better. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that people get so worked up over this. Here we have a opportunity to give our comments to a Hugo and Nebula award winning writer and his prompt responses and all the world to see the result. Yet Wiskey1 felt free to deliberately insult the author on his own blog. Just remember none of us would have this opportunity if it were not for Dr.Brin. It’s a rare and wonderful opportunity. If we end up wasting Brin’s time with personal offences over a minor point this Blog will disappear and all of us will be the losers. So I say thanks Dr.Brin for being open to this kind of abuse, but you don’t have to take the bait.

On a aside, I debated with Trolls like Wiskey1 before, where you can guess what they will say even before you see it on the screen, and go ballistic over a single word like Aristocratic. His mind was already made up before he ever came to this Blog. I thought it was laugh out loud funny how obviously angry he was at not being taken seriously. Cheap sophistry wrapped in a veneer of criticism can be had for nothing on the news channels, we don’t need to encourage the trolls here.

Anonymous said...


I agree, until whiskey becomes more interesting there's no more reason to respond.

Most everyone here is just too old to go on arguing in this sort of spiral. And I know I'm still too young to go on any longer. We've got more important stuff to do.

Big C said...

(Note: I'm posting this comment in both David's and Whiskey1's blogs, as well on on my own blog. Feel free to respond there on "neutral ground")

Ugh. Is it too late to plead for calm and forgiveness from both sides? David, Whiskey1, you guys have let a series of small misunderstandings mushroom into fullblown mutual disgust that I think is unwarranted and unhelpful.

Stop inhaling the indignation fumes and look at what the other guy is telling you! David, a couple comments up you mentioned the "Paraphrasing Challenge" that I actually think is a great way to have a constructive argument, but then you didn't do it regarding Whiskey1's arguments. In an attempt to bring the situation into perspective from a neutral observer, I'll try it for both your arguments. Let me know if I don't accurately represent you.

The pragmatist in me tells me that this won't do any good mending fences between two strangers on the Internet. Why should you guys listem to me anyway, right? However, the optimist in me tells me that at the very least I'll improve my own arguing skills, and I can't make the situation any worse. The worst that can happen is that you both, in addition to hating each other, hate me as well, right? :) Well, here we go:

You're upset because you perceive Whiskey1 leveling a personal attack at you by "putting words in your mouth" and asserting that you hold positions that you don't actually hold. You're also miffed that he has missed the main point of this particular blog post to rant about your use the phrase "aristocratic tax cuts."

You're upset because David doesn't address the substance of your critiques and chooses instead to respond with insults. You perceive hypocrisy when the guy who espouses that we should avoid falling into the trap of false dichotomies and vilifying one's enemies resorts to nothing more than personal attacks when confronted with counter arguments.

Did I get your positions right? For what it's worth, here's my perceptions on both positions:

When I look at Whiskey1's posts, I see some good constructive criticism in there. Granted, he makes some claims about your position on tax cuts that seems like a big leap from your one "aristocratic tax cuts" statement. However, I could also interpret this as a rhetorical device to get you to see what effect your words might have on people with different perceptions and assumptions than your own. Even though you are against "class warfare," the "aristocratic tax cuts" language can evoke that perception in some people, particularly the rational conservatives and libertarians you want to reach. Whiskey1 pointed this out to you, and perhaps overreached by claiming that you actually are against tax cuts for anyone. However, you didn't calmly refute that claim, or respond to the critique that maybe your use of "aristocratic" langauge was a poor choice. Yes, the body of your writing on this blog and elsewhere refutes this, but your direct responses didn't address Whiskey1's substance, which is poor form in an argument.

I also submit that, as the guy who is shouting warnings at every opportunity about avoiding the "indignation high" and trying to see your opponent as a fellow rational human being rather than an evil monster, you have some high expectations from the peanut gallery. Speaking for myself, I expect you to "practice what you preach" and show us how it is done when you argue. Not that I expect you to be perfect (you are still human after all) but I do expect that you should have a better-than-average perception that distinguishes mere misunderstandings from pure malice. And I know, you have time constraints, this blog is a hobby, and you're not as careful in the comments as you are in the main post. I'm willing to give you plenty of consideration for all those factors. Still, I think you missed an opportunity here not to indulge your anger.

And Whiskey1's opinions of you are not hidden away behind your back, they're two clicks away on his blog. And they're not slander (or I guess libel, since it's in print). Other than some profanity, they're no worse than anything he's said "to your face" in your blog. He also gave you some substantial compliments.

I think you could have addressed the point about "aristocratic tax cuts" better. I think your constructive criticism would have been better received had you not made the assertion that David was calling regular people aristocrats. At least, that's the way I initially perceived your comment. And, come on, you know David isn't espousing the traditional liberal "tax and spend" canard.

Yes, he was wrong to call you a moron and not address the substance of your criticism. But, minus the moron (point in your favor) isn't that what you've done with his main post? You've ignored his major point about tyranny to focus on a poor choice of language regarding the Bush tax cuts, and then expanded that to claim that David is against tax cuts for the middle class. Isn't that a bit of a leap? In previous exchanges, you've seen that David is rather impulsive, even rude, when responding to comments on his blog. He's got limited resources, and sometimes he'll overract to statements that on further consideration can be interpretted less hostilely. But haven't we all done that sometimes? I also realize that it seems like pretty hypocritical behavior for the guy who coined CITOKATE to insult you rather than address your criticisms. I'm not defending that. But rather than trying to resolve his misunderstandings of your position, you've added fuel to the fire by holding on to your own misunderstandings of his position regarding "aristocratic tax cuts."


... So does any of this make sense? Do you think maybe you both are overreacting to perceived insults? I realize that this is maybe too late since the real insults have already started flying on both sides, but I thought it was worth a shot to try and make peace. Maybe the "indignation high" has worn off?

I'm reminded of the Simpsons episode "Two Bad Neighbors" in which George H.W. Bush moves into a house across the street from the Simpsons. Homer and Mr. Bush immediately dislike each other, much to the chagrin of their wives. When Marge invites Mrs. Bush over for tea, they discuss their husbands' behavior:

Barbara: I really feel awful about your lawn, Marge. George can be so stubborn when he thinks he's right.
Marge: Well, Homer, too. They're so much alike.
Barbara: Too bad they got off on the wrong foot. It's just like the Noriega thing. Now, he and George are the best of friends.

There is much wisdom in the Simpsons. :)


Big C said...

Well, I guess I should have clicked reload to look at recent comments before I posted my comment. Whiskey1, I applaud your last comment. I think it was a stand up thing to do. I hope David will respond in kind.


Anonymous said...

Francis, please note that your criticism manifested as an expression of your personal impression that I am sometimes closeminded or repressive of differing opinions. What I want to address is not the opinion itself -- which I could dispute by pointing to hundreds of lively give and take exchanges here -- but rather to the fact that you were expressing an opinion.

And I could produce a pile of examples for you of your own words. Believe it or not, there are some sane post-modernists out there (and the early post-modernists were reacting to the insanity of an unchallenged Modernism which lead to an effective lack of criticism).

Besides, you talk about closed-mindedness. In my experience, few people think themselves to be closed-minded. They just have a range of opinions they consider sane and sensible, a range they consider acceptable, a range they consider crazy or stupid, and a range they consider abhorrent. Everything I've seen indicates that you are no different from anyone else I've ever met here.

The person in question was not doing that. He was shoving words and beliefs into my mouth, in a screeching tone of bitter accusation, no less.

My reading of his initial post is that he was not. What he was pointing out was that you appeared to be making an insulting generalisation and one that was contrary to reality as he perceived it and at that point anyone in his situation who knew you less well would tune out what you were saying.

There is a world of difference between making a strawman argument about someone and pointing out that what they appear to be saying is not what they intend to say - and that what they appear to be saying is somewhat counterproductive to their goals. (Something that Whiskey was guilty of even as he pointed it out to you).

At that point, you misread him as badly as he says you could have been misread - and things spiralled out of control.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I think I would be delighted to be in a position to even consider being invited to a $100-dollar-a-plate dinner (I'd never go, even if I could afford to, but it would be nice to be invited). However, my finances are such that even a dinner out at Denny's strains my budget to the breaking point, and sometimes beyond.

Bush's tax cuts were indeed aristocratic, in that they were aimed primarily at an economic aristocracy. That some small part of that happened to splash into the upper echelons of the middle class was strictly accidental, and I personally suspect that were Bush's handlers able to avoid that, they would have. (I don't credit Bush himself with being particularly malicious - I don't think he's bright enough to be malicious.)

Whiskey John, I appreciate your apology, but some of your supporters here seem to have missed the fact that you flew off the handle over a misunderstanding of one three-word phrase that didn't even pertain to the topic at hand. David is within his rights to ask you to back off in the confines of his own blog, of course.

Dr. Brin, I understand your annoyance at the perceived attack on you and your beliefs, an attack which, if truly believed, would be at such variance with the available facts as to stagger the imagination. However, responding at the sniping level more than once, while fun, really doesn't advance the dialogue any...

Now, you two, sit down, shake hands, and have a beer. That's an order. Don't make me turn this Internet around, 'cause I'll do it, believe you me, mister! :-)

Sarabeth said...

Can both Brin and Whiskey calm down regarding this sword fighting, please?

Tony Fisk said...

I guess, by now, one more comment won't make the damage caused by this little spat any worse.

Damage? Why, yes. A posting with an important message (what was it again?), and look at how much it has been discussed. Go on, scroll back and see. A few pertinent remarks drowned out by an increasingly shrill rantfest (the noise level not assisted by the cries of 'hey, fellas!')

Do you want to try persuading republican friends to stand up with a variant on Peter Seller's Irish Band sketch?

Karl Rove &co. would be whooping fit to bust if they knew!

The best thing to do is to consider this an object lesson in why we should *all* learn moderation in our responses.

Oh yes, and remember to check out this Friday's Long Now discussion on nuclear energy (for the promise of an exercise in paraphrasing, if nothing else)

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin:

You haven't mistreated me on this blog as of yet. I don't think you're a big meanie, obviously, and your work has had more effect on my views than you might realize.
(Still, even after reading "The Transparent Society" and enjoying it immensely, I prefer some shroud of anonymity when posting to open fora on the internet. Others maintain a far stronger ability to look at me than I have to look back at them, particularly if I provide my full name and they don't even post here. Selective anonymity in different fora, then, is my only recourse.)

While whiskey's response was way over the top, I understood why he balked at the classification of Bush's tax cut as "aristocratic."

(For example: if the tax cuts were aimed at aristocrats, so much moreso are the taxes themselves! While loopholes desperately need to be closed, and tax evasion often lets certain wealthy organizations and individuals off the hook, the rich still pay way, way more than the lower-middle class. Much of the country that ends up as zero-filers -- that is, people who don't even pay federal taxes when all is said and done -- still received "refund" checks. And many people who are not wealthy at all -- I included -- received a welcome check that was quite reasonable considering how little we pay in taxes. If whiskey is being honest, as I suspect he is, then he enjoyed the same treatment.)

I also didn't think that his response, however unpleasant, justified an ad hominem attack. The easiest way to carry the high ground in a debate is to stay calm (and get others on your side to do the same) and let your opponents lose their head (and thus their credibility) by being irrational and emotional and angry. It's also frequently the best way to remain honest.

It is quite possible that I simply missed the not-unpleasant, vigorous disagreements here over the last year. Other times, I have been quite certain that the prevailing attitudes here drove away fairly respectful dissent. Far better to remain civil to someone who is initially uncivil and welcome him to real, civil debate. Some intelligent people who have much to bring to the conversation nevertheless start off a bit militantly with an unfamiliar crowd, especially when they misunderstand their opponents. Many a time, I have found it easy to clarify my position and simply invite my opponent to debate civilly.

David Brin said...

This post is simply to say that I read all of you. It's absorbed. Though I think some of it unfair.

I quasi apologized for "moron" several times and was told that it had been shrugged off... AND that it had been repaid by worse statements elsewhere, up at the posting (and not comment) level. Since Even my initial response was somewhat justified, all of this, in my opinion, makes my ad hominem sin minor.

I am done with this. I have long warned you all that a thick skin is needed, down here at the comments level. Rob has one, and earned my respect, standing up for himself when I got testy... and paraphrasing when necessary.

But I have no pity for whiners who first accuse me of things I never said, then get all martyr without a scintilla of real justification.

Since you all want me to, I withdraw the "go away." Whiskey has had intelligent things to say in the past and I will try to shrug this as flowing from finals pressure.

I am not visiting this layer again.

M. Simon said...

If the rich pay the most in taxes they will own the government.

Well the rich pay the most and do own the government.

You want citizen government?

The citizens are going to have to pay for it. i.e. lower taxes on the rich raise them on every one else.

Not very popular is it?

BTW about 80% of the soldiers in Iraq support the mission.

Surprisingly about 80% of Afghanis are favorable to the USA.

BTW what is your solution to the Iranian problem - you know the bit about starting an atomic war to destroy Israel.

I note that Iraq is fairly close to Iran. As is Afghanistan.

Of course all this could be the ravings of mad men. No more important than the 1924 ravings of a certain German (well Austrian actually) mad man.

BTW jihadism is a figment of our imaginations and Bush is paying those guys to increase his personal power.

I blame Clinton for the '93 WTC attack. He engineered it to increase his power.

In fact Thomas Jefferson got us started on the whole anti-jihadi business. He should have been nicer to them instead of making war on them.

Islam is a religion of peace - they do promise peace as soon as they control the whole world. We ought to give peace a chance.

Lots of people live under sharia. We could too.

M. Simon said...

Read about our officialn policy of ending tyranny in the world.

Don Quijote said...

CNS News - Murtha's War Hero Status Called Into Question

A Cybercast News Service investigation also reveals that one of Murtha's former Democratic congressional colleagues and a fellow decorated Vietnam veteran, Don Bailey of Pennsylvania, alleges that Murtha admitted during an emotional conversation on the floor of the U.S. House in the early 1980s that he did not deserve his Purple Hearts.

"[Murtha] is putting himself forward as some combat veteran with serious wounds and he's using that and it's dishonest and it's wrong," Bailey told Cybercast News Service on Jan. 9. Murtha served in the Marines on active duty and in the reserves from 1952 until his retirement as a colonel in 1990. He volunteered for service in Vietnam and was a First Marine Regiment intelligence officer in 1966 and 1967.

CNS News - Murtha's Anti-War Stance Overshadows Abscam Past

Members of the press have given extensive and glowing coverage to Rep. John Murtha's criticism of the war in Iraq, but have overlooked a number of other controversies the Pennsylvania Democrat has experienced over the past 25 years. This includes his reported role as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Abscam bribery scandal of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Murtha has denied any wrongdoing, but Cybercast News Service has learned that one of Murtha's former allies, a Democratic congressman who served on the House Ethics Committee in 1981 and says he lobbied colleagues not to censure Murtha, now believes Murtha lied to him about his role in Abscam.

The swiftboating of Murtha has begun, I 'll be eagerly waiting to see who will stand by him and come to his defense.