Monday, June 05, 2006

Various Political Updates

Been inactive politically but it sure is on my mind tonight. So here goes:

My final installment for the Movement to Reform Libertarianism has been posted at: As with the other parts, this one tries to take a modernist/pragmatic perspective while urging incrementalism instead of radicalism, in the pursuit of freedom. I don’t know how many other guys on the planet call themselves “militantly moderate” but I think it is about time! About time for millions of us to stand up... Maybe angrily, even a little (moderately) indignantly, to stand up for a way of life that has done a better job of delivering for humanity than all others put together.

** Later note: That site is now defunct, but you can find my collected essays on Libertarianism here.

In contrast to U.S. taxpayers, their counterparts in several European countries are experiencing a steady decline in income taxes. Their governments are lowering taxes on income and raising taxes on environmentally destructive activities — like burning gasoline or coal. Lester Brown explains the reasoning behind this tax shift. “he purpose of this tax shifting, as it is practiced in Europe, is to incorporate the environmental costs of products and services into the market price — and to help the market tell the environment truth. This rewards environmentally responsible behavior such as reducing energy use.” An article that’s concisely thought-provoking.

Snippets from Russ Daggatt: “Even thought W. still has almost 1000 days sitting in the most powerful position in the world, for all practical purposes his presidency is over. The Wall Street Journal reported this week his approval rating finally broke through the 30's to 29%. (This is down from 43% as recently as January. Congress's approval rating is even lower, at 18% -- Cheney territory. Only 25% think the country is headed in the right direction.) There have been a number of articles in the past couple of weeks saying that Rove's "strategy" for the mid-term elections (and, implicitly, the remainder of the Bush presidency) is to focus on a handful of the most divisive issues to "rally the base" and motivate disillusioned Republicans to turn out at the polls. This means one big negative campaign against the Democrats. "GOP leaders are gearing up to bring a number of issues on the Christian conservative agenda to the floor of the House and Senate in the next few weeks, including gay marriage, broadcast decency, the 10 Commandments Act, a cloning ban, and laws protecting "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance."

Jon Stewart had a great take on the nomination of General Michael Hayden to head the CIA: It ends by showing Bush endorsing Hayden by saying that he is the "right man" to head the CIA at this "critical moment in this nation's history." He then shows Bush saying the EXACT same thing when he nominated ousted-CIA head Porter Goss. Goss, of course, was a total disaster at the CIA. At this "critical moment in this nation's history", Goss caused the biggest brain drain in the agency's history, causing senior agency officials with a combined 300 years of experience to leave the agency.”

As I have said, I am much less offended by the NSA gathering the largest database in history, a record of every telephone number that has been dialed by any other telephone number, across a span of years, than I am by the mind set displayed by those defending this action... One that the same people would never have accepted from, say, Bill Clinton.

Self-referential hypocrisy and the will to rationalize evasion of accountability, these are deeply and inherently human qualities that we observe in every past human civilization. They are sometimes part and parcel of great evil. But even when the people involved are sincere and good, these traits always, always, always lead to bad decision-making and bad statecraft. The enemy here is not Gen. Hayden, or even those who appointed him. The enemy is human nature.

Ben Franklin, John Locke and Adam Smith showed us how to rise above these flaws in human nature. We need public officials who understand that methodology. Not only because it is “good” and right - and Constitutional - but because it is ultimately smart and the only way that our side can prevail.

Moving on, this from Tim O’Reilly’s influential online “Radar” column”
London 2006, Meet 1984 By tim on May 14, 2006

Slashdot reports this morning on disturbing news from the UK, the front lines of the surveillance society, under the title London 2006, Meet London 1984: "Shoreditch TV is an experiment[al] TV channel beaming live footage from the street into people's homes. According to the Telegraph, U.K. television will broadcast from 400 surveillance cameras on the streets, into peoples homes. For now they are only showing it to 22,000 homes, but next year they plan on going national with the 'show'. They fly under the flag 'fighting crime from the sofa'."

1984 indeed. I don't know whether to be horrified by the rise of the surveillance society, or excited by the headlong rush to a future long imagined by science-fiction. There's a part of me that always regards news from the future with excitement, whether its good or bad, because times of change are interesting times, times when we are called on to act. David Brin's book The Transparent Society and Simson Garfinkel's Database Nation are both appropriate re reads in the face of this trend.”

Let me add that people wanting to explore this issue further should also google the phrase “smart mobs” and have a glance at www.e-sheep/spiders/ I am not, and never have been, a “nakedness radical.” I am perfectly aware how dangerous it may be to replace one Big Brother with six billion “little brothers.” However, as I look at failure modes of the past, I can only say that Big Brother had his chance to deliver human happiness, and has ALWAYS failed.

It is time to give “us” a chance to do better.

From Russ Daggatt:
“Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.” - John Fitzgerald Kennedy

"We don't have anything to say to Iran until they give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons." - John Bolton

Let's review the recent history of the relationship between the US and Iran. And because, as the Bush gang says, "everything changed on 9/11", let's start there. In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Iranians were cooperating with us to vanquish the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. But that all stopped a few months later when Bush in January of 2002 declared that Iran, together with Iraq and North Korea, were part of an "Axis of Evil". Then the US proceeded to take out militarily Iran's two hostile neighbors, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam in Iraq. We got rid of Iran's biggest rivals without extracting a single benefit in return from Iran. Wow. It's amazing what Bush was able to accomplish by refusing to talk with the Iranians. As a tactic, it proved almost as effective as refusing to talk with North Korea.

Meanwhile, this week Bush normalized relations with the main Islamic evil-doer of the Reagan years, Ghaddafi. The guy who blew up an American 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Remember, Libya?

"Libya is still regularly listed by human rights groups as having one of the world's most repressive governments. A recent survey by Freedom House, a U.S.-based organization that promotes democracy worldwide, placed Libya in the bottom five countries in terms of the free flow of information."
But Ghaddafi has oil and is eager to sell it. Cheney loves oil. Deal done. 

"The administration is pointing to [normalizing relations with Libya] as a success story and potential model, except there's a small catch. "You need to have substantive talks for this type of tactic to work," former Secretary of State Colin Powell's one-time chief of staff told the Wall Street Journal. "But we have absolutely nothing going with Iran or North Korea." "

Finally, tomorrow folks in my district go to the polls and have a chance to send a message by electing a democrat from a solidly GOP district. The GOP candidate is a carptbagger professional lobbyist. Oh, if only....


fpoole said...

I'm no full-on socialist or anything, but I am slightly insulted at the highly generalized way you used the term "socialism" in your essay... Norway might call itself socialist, but it's hardly some pseudoaristocratic command economy. I think there is room for multiple solutions to the quandary of sustained, egalitarian human welfare, and to deny this seems to be a characteristic of an extremist, a pariah, an ideologue.

You also mentioned you're no advocate of nakedness. While I do believe progression to full informational transparency will see our problems dissolve (over a course of generations), even now I don't think we should fear sharing some simple aspects of our lives with those around us. A true nut will get at the data they need to harm you anyway, data mining for amateurs isn't difficult.

David Brin said...

If I were paid to write a "comment" that talked right past me, at strawmen having nothing to do with what I just wrote, I could not possibly have written one as perfect as this last post.

Fella, did you write several posts offline and put the wrong one here? Cause nothing you say is even remotely relevant to things that I said.

Anonymous said...

Oooh snap! Hehe.

Dr Brin,

A few comments on your libertarian paper:

1. The industries you cite as benefitting from deregulation (banking, telecommunications, airlines, trucking) aren't exactly thriving today.

The S&L crisis that occured due to deregulation cost U.S. taxpayers hundreds of billions to clean up. The airline and trucking industries are pretty much bankrupt.

2. Legacies are four times as likely to get admitted to Ivy League schools as regular folks.

3. I think you are being too hard on Marx.

Sure, hate was was done in his name, but it's hard to seperate out his teachings from the past success of American income distribution (unions played their part). China isn't doing too bad today, either.

I think many people read the Maifesto before they get any experience in the job world. It is worth a re-read by anyone who hasn't read it since college:

A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.

To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.

I think you'll find he was quite a futurist himself

4. I agree with everything you said about Bush and his cronies, but I think their greed doesn't affect income distribution as much as globalism does.

People who have things to sell gain income as their markets grow.

People who have to compete for work lose income as cheaper labor becomes available in world labor markets...

Anonymous said...

Regarding approval ratings:

There appears to be large swaths of the populace that seem to be in agreement that this administration, this current government, has turned into some kind of a self-parody. Unfortunately, I think they couldn't be less in agreement. Half of the people who disagree with the state of the current government are people like you and me who detest the lies and the general lack of principles. The other half are those folks who are pissed that the government hasn't stood up to us and passed those anti-homosexual, anti-choice laws.

I suppose that's just a little bit of a rant, but I was hoping to hear your take on the approval ratings. I fully believe that it's not really this great portent that we'll have any kind of meaningful change.

Anonymous said...

Regarding polling: I think everyone should take a look at this recent Rolling Stone article titled "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" Pretty damning, I say, and especially so to someone who knows his statistics. -Anon.

Anonymous said...

Re: Rovian Base Rallying

There's one thing I wonder about this. Okay, so Congress is going to take up pointless amendments like anti-gay marriage, flag burning, and so on in an attempt to get their base fired up.

But they're going to fail, too. When the Republicans control all of the branches of government and can't pass the bigotry they've been promising their "base" for years, how is that failure supposed to mobilize their base? If anything, wouldn't it discourage them, because it shows even the Republicans really don't care about those issues enough to get them passed? Leaving aside the fact they're mind-numbingly stupid issues.

David Brin said...

Monkyboy, you stretch real, real hard but it does not work. Nearly all of the rationalizations that you offer do not fly, even isolated, by themselves.

Dig this. I have proved that I am as clear-eyed worried about the attempted coup by neo-feudalists as anybody on this planet. MORE clear-eyed than anyone on the left, in fact, because of the simpleminded, addlepated notion that this coup has anything to do with capitalism. These neo-feudalists are the worst ENEMIES of capitalism. Only dopes don't realize that. Adam Smith sure knew it.

But recognizing the foremost enemy and fighting them does not mean I have to accept my allies' loony rhetoric. Anti-globalization is cloud cuckoo insane nonsense. A complete pile of cacka drivel.

Again, take just one plain and simple fact. The more tied an economy is, via globalization, to the US economy, the better its people are doing. The more they are escaping VASTLY WORSE oppression by their ancient, traditional and local bullies (who kept them in serfdom for 100 generations) into the far less onerous AND TEMPORARY serfdom of Addidas factories.

Compare Burma and Cong with Japan. ANd yes, the Addidas factories WERE in Japan, in the 50s and 60s. Then, because of RISING WAGES (!!!!) the textile mills moved to Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan Korea...

...followed by electronic fabs, while the textile mills moved on to Malaysia and Thailand.

Leaving Burma and Congo still wallowing in misery, because local elites know they cannot allow globalization and stay local bully rapists.

This trend is right there in front of your eyes, and yet you are ACTUALLY ABLE to write down incantations like you just did, about wage competition? ???????????

THAT is the evil of Marxism. Not that Marx himself was evil. Hey he even advanced economic theory prodigiously, when he stayed off historical mysticism and classism and kept to the process of capital formation (in the limited context of his time.)

No, the evil was that his incantatory methodology became a mantric system of just-so storification that grew ever-more detached from any need to cross check against reality. It became a methodology for self-hypnosis, giving leverage to exploiters who turned well-meaning intellects into their willing puppets.

The same is true on the right! Th Cato libertarian types who see the benefits of markets... then rationalize that neofeudalists are actually defenders of free market enterprise? Oh, the power of myth.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

I didn't say I was against globalism. I see it as inevitable (as did Marx). I also see it as a good thing for U.S. the long run

But, I think it will (and has) caused a lot of short-term wage depression in the U.S.

First among realatively unskilled laborers, next among skilled workers whose jobs can be done elsewhere.

By short-term, I mean the next 20-40 years.

Overlooking the short-term seems to be an occupational hazard among futurists...

David Brin said...

I apologize to you and fpoole for abruptness. I can even squint and see part of his message that made a valid point. And in yours I wasn't aware you were talking about America.

But look, it is not America's job to super-benefit from globalization - though we are getting shitloads of extremely cheap stuff.

No, it is our job to BUY shitloads of sheap crap. Ever since 1945, we have bought many trillions of dollars worth of crap that we never needed, from demolished Europe and Japan, then HK & Taiwan, then.... you know. This is the process by WHICH THE WORLD HAS BEEN SAVED!

It vastly outweighs all other forms of foreign aid, combined, by at least two orders of magnitude.

It isn't goody-twoshoes. It was never done with serene and hifalutin generosity. There were inefficiencies and outrageous injustices along the way. Sensible people would have spent far less and did less environmental damage in order to build the same 3rd world factories and roads and harbors and electricity grids and schools and modern farms and infrastructure and universities. Maybe we SHOULD have done it with a pure heart and an open hand.

But what matters is that we DID do it. We did it in our own weirdly immature and inefficient and overwhelmingly adolescent way. Only a few geniuses like George Marshall (who designed the anti-mercantilist post WWI trade regime) probably even were aware of it as an intentional design.

Yet it's worked. It is the one biggest reason that hope is growing in most places across the Earth. It is liberalism... in the older meaning of the term. The meaning that liberals ought to reclaim, instead of giving in to leftist incantations that are almost as stupidly retro and troglodytic and the rationalizations of neocon neo-feudalists.

A plague on both their houses.

Though especially the neo-feudalists. Cheryl & I voted today. The polls just closed. I am hoping that the people of this district gave a gift to the nation.

Anonymous said...

The ever-scholarly Patrick Farley wrote a letter to the White House, pointing out a Biblical reason to oppose a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a one-man / one-woman kind of thing:

Andrew Smith said...

"I am hoping that the people of this district gave a gift to the nation."

As of 75% reporting, it looks like it's time for the nation to re-gift...

Over the past 2 weeks I got no fewer than 20 phone messages asking me to vote Bilbray (three of them today), and none from Busby, who apparently knows that I don't even live in the right district!

David Ivory said...

Closer to home than England...

Texas has decided to put video cameras along its border and allow people to play little brother.

Texas Video Rangers - Yahoo

Virtual Patrols - ABC News

Anonymous said...

I posted that in the last discussion!

Anonymous said...

Big government and low taxes are hard to run against, Andrew.

Dr. Brin envisions a great future, but I think most Americans view it as a rug to sweep all of our problems under...

David Brin said...

Two items. First one to give you all a pain-soaked laugh... and to re-establish (as I must, constantly) my credentials as a person in dedicated opposition to monsters.

Bush Press Conference
George Bush goes to a primary school to talk to the kids and score some points with parents. After his talk, he offers question time. One little boy puts up his hand and George asks him his name. "Stanley," responds the little boy.

"And what is your question, Stanley?"

"I have 4 questions. First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN? Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes? Third, whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden? Fourth, why are we so worried about gay-marriage when half of all Americans don't have health insurance?"

Just then, the bell rings for recess. George Bush informs the kiddies that they will continue after recess. When they resume, George says, "OK, where were we? Oh, that's right, question time. Who has a question?"

Another little boy puts up his hand. George points him out and asks him his name.

"Steve," he responds. "And what is your question, Steve?" "Actually, I have 6 questions.
First, why did the USA invade Iraq without the support of the UN?
Second, why are you President when Al Gore got more votes?
Third, whatever happened to Osama Bin Laden?
Fourth, why are we so worried about gay-marriage when half of all Americans don't have health insurance?
Fifth, why did the recess bell go off 20 minutes early?
And sixth, what happened to Stanley?"

The second item is a link that I am sure many of you have already had sent to you by friends. It is to the latest internet craze -- the second incarnation of “Loose Change”...or what might be called the Latest Vast Paranoid Conspiracy Theory About 9/11.

Well, I watched it last night, feeling the same GENERAL emotions felt by many thousands of other people who have watched it, shaking my head with growing anger, muttering "monstrous...monstrous..."

Except that there is, I believe, one SLIGHT, nuanced difference in what I meant by the word, and what angered me most. Watch the show and see if you can guess. I'll be posting about it tonight.

Don Quijote said...

Eichmann's hideout kept secret by CIA

The United States was aware of the hiding place and alias of Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi war criminal and architect of the "Final Solution" to exterminate the Jews, but did nothing to pursue him, according to CIA documents.


Anonymous said...

Off topic, but DB, would this be an example of the transparent society at work?:

Tony Fisk said...

On matters political, worldchanger Nicole-Ann Boyer has posted an interesting essay on what ought to be the future of politics (Good and Bad Power).

Anonymous said...

Blogger "Kos," discussing Libertarian Democrats, sounds awfully Brinnish:

"The problem with [traditional] libertarianism is that it assumes that only two forces can infringe on liberty -- the government and other individuals.

The Libertarian Democrat understands that there is a third danger to personal liberty -- the corporation. The Libertarian Dem understands that corporations, left unchecked, can be huge dangers to our personal liberties.

Libertarian Dems are not hostile to government like traditional libertarians. But unlike the liberal Democrats of old times (now all but extinct), the Libertarian Dem doesn't believe government is the solution for everything. But it sure as heck is effective in checking the power of corporations.

In other words, government can protect our liberties from those who would infringe upon them -- corporations and other individuals."