Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Modernists! Progressives! Buy a book and change the world.

All right, you fellow modernists. It’s time to put your money (and action) where your mouth is. There is an emblematic moment in the fight-back against romantic cynicism, and it is coming even before the election!

I’m talking about your chance to help boost Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century onto the Amazon bestseller lists.

Yes, it’s another massive volume that I’ve contributed-to. My section in this one is small (and unpaid) but I’m proud to be part of a volume that’s so much in the spirit of the epochal Whole Earth Catalogs that Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly and that band of merry-modernist pranksters put out, back in the sixties. (Volumes that are rightly called “the earliest harbingers of the spirit of the Internet.”)

You’ve heard me tout Worldchanging before. A central locus of the rebellion against tyrannical cynics (of BOTH right and left) who have been bullying us can-do girls and boys for a generation, telling us that active problem solving (with some technological ambition) is a futile undertaking. Fie on them!

Here is what one Amazon purchaser wrote about this book after reading it: “If Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" moved you, then Steffen's "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century" will move you to action. This is a beautifully crafted book that should be cherished - so full of resourceful ideas from around the world on how to live a more eco-friendly, sustainable life - without having to turn your back on the comforts of the 21st century. It's the ultimate feel-good book that lets you know there's hope for the planet if you're willing to make changes here and there in your daily life that really aren't all that inconvenient. Don't worry - the book doesn't lecture. It just INSPIRES.”

Get this gorgeous, slipcased volume that’s chock fulla eagerness to set things right. Share it. Buy copies as holiday presents! And...

...the folks at Worldchanging are also asking... if possible... could you do this on Wednesday November 1st? (Sweeps on Amazon.) In fact, they want us all to do it at 11:11 am Pacific time.

Well... this kinda gamesmanship has its place I guess. But I am more interested in making this a best seller the old fashioned way. By spreading the word and making this a milestone in our march to take back the Enlightenment!

Nu? Did anyone like the Nova show?
(I guess I make good comic relief, sigh.)

Time is short... hence I will follow that apolitical (though socially militant) appear with a brief re-lighting of the political lamp...

First: this from: November Surprise? ( The Nation) By Tom Engelhardt: -- “The US-backed special tribunal in Baghdad signalled Monday that it will likely delay a verdict in the first trial of Saddam Hussein to November 5. Why hasn't the mainstream media connected the dots between the Saddam's judgment day and the midterm elections?...A possible death-sentence for Saddam and his top lieutenants on November 5? ... "When you look at polling figures," Horton said," there have been three significant spike points. One was the date on which Saddam was captured. The second was the purple fingers election. The third was Zarqawi being killed. Based on those three, it's easy to project that they will get a mild bump out of this.”

In any event it is clear what the Iraqi's want us to do. A recent poll conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes the University of Maryland found that 78 percent of Iraqis believe that the American military presence causes more conflict than it prevents and 71% thought American troops should be withdrawn within a year. (The poll also found that 61% approved of attacks on American troops.)

One more of those rare “must” see articles from Truthout: William Fisher says that, "... this president has presided over arguably the most secretive government in US history," and finds it interesting that just before the mid-term elections, Bush praised open government at a signing ceremony for the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which will establish a searchable online database of federal grants and contracts.

...which, if enforced earlier, would have put most of his friends in jail (my own rant) though of course with his pardon in late 2008, as a get out free card. Oh, but the signing statement nullifies legislation, anyway.

Fareed Zakaria is one of the few bright lights at Newsweek. No dove, he was an early supporter of the war. Now see the Oct. 16, 2006 issue Iraq's Dark Day of Reckoning

-”When Iraq's current government was formed last April, after four months of bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis, many voices in America and in Iraq said the next six months would be the crucial testing period. That was a fair expectation. It has now been almost six months, and what we have seen are bitter disputes, wrangling and paralysis. Meanwhile, the violence has gotten worse, sectarian tensions have risen steeply and ethnic cleansing is now in full swing. There is really no functioning government south of Kurdistan, only power vacuums that have been filled by factions, militias and strongmen. It is time to call an end to the tests, the six-month trials, the waiting and watching, and to recognize that the Iraqi government has failed. It is also time to face the terrible reality that America's mission in Iraq has substantially failed.

“More waiting is unlikely to turn things around, nor will more troops. I understand the impulse of those who want to send in more forces to secure the country. I urged just such a policy from the first week of the occupation. But today we are where we are. Over the past three years the violence has spread and is now franchised down to neighborhoods with local gangs in control. In many areas, local militias are not even controlled by their supposed political masters in Baghdad. In this kind of decentralized street fighting, 10,000 or 20,000 more troops in Baghdad will not have more than a temporary effect. Nor will new American policies help.”

Again. If you can. Ponder becoming a poll watcher.
Or find a competitive state assembly race nearby (where your efforts (or some cash) could really make a % difference) and volunteer.
Or put up a sign.
Or tell those sincere conservatives to wake up and save their own #%$#$! movement*... or to at least stay home.

At least vote and get your lazy pals to vote. Against monsters.


See: America's Declining State of Readiness 


Anonymous said...

First, saw the Nova episode on Black Holes. Fascinating stuff! Especially about the inner "light horizon" and other little details. I didn't catch your comments, but I missed the first ten minutes of the episode. Still, definitely one I'll read again, as I'm fascinated by black holes (and astronomy in general).

Second, I'm curious as to your opinion on the recent bruhaha going on with Senator Kerry's ill-advised "joke" about soldiers being uneducated and his adament refusal to apologize for his idiotic comments (I'm equal opportunity here - yes, I hate the Shrub, but I also hate Kerry, especially as I was "represented" by this waste of breath when I lived in Massachusetts).

Personally, I think that if Kerry had just pulled his head out of his behind for a moment and apologized promptly, that none of this would have amounted to anything. Instead, it's damaging the Democratic party and could be an inadvertant "October Surprise" to benefit the Republicans.

Though at least one bit of good came of this... there's no way in hell Kerry will win a Democratic nomination in 2008 for President. As horrible as the Shrub is, I fear what damage Kerry would have done in the White House.

Rob H., Tangents Reviews

Anonymous said...


I blew it.

I ordered my copies of Worldchanging too early . . . last week in fact. I hope that still counts...

I bought eight copies, costing a trifle more than what I think I'll be getting paid for the piece on City Transportation I contributed. They're my Christmas presents this year.

* * *

I went to the Portland stop of the Worldchanging book tour. Alex Steffan's talk was good, with well selected slides.

The crew had set out on the book-sale table a copy of the massive, funky The Last Whole Earth Catalog (1971) which I remember pouring through as a little kid. If you see a copy of this massive work at a thrift shop, buy it. It's stunning.

"We're generally down on Utopian thinking around here, holding to a more evolutionary fiasco-by-fiasco approach to perfection." -- Stewart Brand

Anonymous said...

I just hauled a massive Amazon box out of my trunk.

Eight copies of Worldchanging = big, heavy, box. It ripped open somewhere along the way, and had to be taped shut.

This is one heck of a big book. Thick, dense, smartly produced.

David Brin's essays ("DB") begin on page 481. Mine ("SJ") on 262.

Rob Perkins said...


Saddam's verdict can't change my vote. I mailed the ballot today.

Anonymous said...

A couple of comments, first about something Dr. Brin said, but not directed just at him.

"Fareed Zakaria is one of the few bright lights at Newsweek. No dove, he was an early supporter of the war."

I've seen this same kind of sentiment all over the blogosphere, and the "real media" too. And frankly, it's stupid. This idea that the only way people can be "serious" is if they were for the Iraq war. As if opposing the war (or, apparently, any war) makes you some kind of radical pie-in-the-sky hippie or something. No. If anything, it should work the other way. Because the people who supported the Iraq war were wrong. They were wrong about Bush, they were wrong about how the war'd turn out, wrong about the competence of the people involved, wrong about how likely it was to work, wrong about the WMD or whichever justification for the war is being waved around today. They were wrong all the way down, and the people who opposed the war were right.

I opposed the war before it started, I drove in to DC for a couple of the marches, along with many many thousands of other people. I opposed the war because I didn't trust Bush to be competent, I didn't trust the reasons we were being given, not when the UN inspectors were still there and going everywhere we told them and finding nothing. There were many reasons to oppose the war.

And I'm not just trying for an "I told you so" moment here, because I would have rather been wrong about the disaster waiting in the Iraq war. But now we're there, and the war's turned out to be a disaster, and all the reasons we were fed to attack have turned out to be lies. So WHY, in the name of happy fluffy bunnies, is anybody still treating any of the people involved in selling this war as if they're serious, respectable, or trustworthy? And why is it still being treated as almost treasonous to have opposed the war, when opposing the war turns out to have been the right thing to do?

I suppose I shouldn't be quite so hard on all the war's supporters, since there were quite a few people who were foolish enough to trust the Bush administration, or whatever, and then realized how badly everything has turned out, and turn against the war. Good for them. I will gladly welcome them, but I won't let them treat me like I'm some kind of wild-eyed looney because I reached the same conclusion about the war before they did.

And as for the pundits and politicians stilly trying to sell us the war, and pretend everything's going well? The ones who haven't changed their minds, haven't apologized for being wrong and sending our soldiers and Iraqis into chaos and war and death? Fuck them. Seriously, they were wrong, and they're still wrong and refuse to look at the facts in front of them. Why should we give any creedence to anything else they say?

Okay, wow, that turned into a rant. Sorry Dr. Brin, it's not aimed entirely at you, it's just the cumulative effect of seeing the same thing said over and over again and then there was the straw there. It just seems like there's this trend in US politics where you have to be for each and every war, even the stupid unnecessary and flat out bad ones, to get anybody to listen to you. Which is stupid.

On a more positive note, I plan to buy a copy of Worldchanging for myself, plus copies for several relatives for birthday and Christmas presents. I'm going to be archaic and buy them at a physical store, though. Employee discount ho!

And on the subject of voting, I got a flyer today from the GOP, with scary black and white pictures of Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, and Nancy Pelosi on it, saying "Tax and Spend Liberals have a message for YOU! STAY HOME THIS ELECTION!" It'd be funny except I expect there's people who'll actually believe it. I should scan it and post it online.

And Tangent, I really can't fathom what you see in Kerry that makes you fear he could have done more damage to the country than Bush has and continues to do. But I think we've had this conversation before.

Anonymous said...

Nate: I trust my intuition. Kerry might not have been any worse than the Shrub is as a president, but it would have tremendously increased the chaos of the situation. I don't think Kerry would have handled the added chaos very well. I don't think Bush could either... but fortunately Bush the Lesser was continuing to do things already established. It's only recent events that have truly worried me.

RE: Journalists aren't "serious" unless they supported the war - Back after the Afganistan conflict (a second "Vietnam" of sorts for us, and one that is turning sour though not as fast as Iraq has) Bush had a lot of momentum. It was the rare person who would stand up to him, especially on an issue where on one level he was right.

Saddam Hussein is a monster. He needed to be taken down. Bush came up with lies for his reason to go in... but that doesn't lessen the fact that Hussein was harming his own people on a regular basis.

The problem is, of course, many leaders of nations are monsters of some sort. Bush is, else we wouldn't be so worried about what he's going to do next.

From an education viewpoint, journalists and others admitting they were wrong to support the war is not a bad thing. We learn through our mistakes more than through our successes. Well, chalk this up to one big learning experience for Americans. ;)

Rob H., Tangents

David Brin said...

I have little truck with people re-living the Sixties, who wallow in self-righteous purity, denouncing in borad generality that which deserves thorough denunciation in specific.

We could have made MORE progress against these monsters, if we had portrayed the US military as the #1 VICTIM in this insane adventure.

If we had made clear that we are NOT against all applications of US power in a dangerous world. Bill Clinton's surgically competent and utterly effective Balkans Intervention should have been held up as a DIAMETRIC OPPOSITE to this Mess-o-potamia.

See http://www.davidbrin.com/neocons.html

If we had ridiculed these neo-feudalist monsters for hypocrisy, having deliberately saddled the people of Iraq with TWELVE unnecessary extra years of boot-heel tyranny by Saddam, in the grotesque Betrayal of 1991... and thus, what credibility do they have?

If we had done these things, at least another million middle-road voters would have been in our camp right now. And yammering twitters about "soft-peacenik dems" would be hilariously dismissed. And the rebellion of the US Officer Corps would be TWICE as visible as it is now.

So don't you DARE to pull this obscene splitter bullshit on us! A million Cindy Sheehans haven't done as much good as two score veterans, running for office as "fighting democrats." And we can only pray that they lead the way to victory SO clearly that their wing is strengthened for years to come.

I am tired of liberals falling for every Karl Rove trap. WE WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR EVERY GOOD MOVE OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. From civil and womens' rights to the grand strategy of containment that won the Cold War against a genuinely-evil Soviet empire.

It isn't about peace-n-flowers versus guns. It is about being led by genuinely decent and honest people who are willing to use ferocious power as a last resort, in order to help make a better world. But preferring prudent consensus and alliances and winning the ONLY way that America can win, over the long, long run.

The way we HAVE won most of our fights in a worldwide "culture war."

By becoming so damned popular and loved that all of our cultural enemies simply roll over and give up.

David Brin said...

I apologize for excessive (dramatic) language above. A personality flaw. Allow me to rephrase.

Consider that America had just finished performing TWO almost perfect uses of military power to surgically achieve useful ends. The Balkans intervention (planned and executed by Clinton/Clark) and the Afghanistan campaign to topple the Taliban (planned by Clinton/Clark with Go! shouted by Bush).

Both interventions were totally justified and unbelievably effective. In the first case, alliances were strengthened, relations with the muslim world IMPROVED, tyranny was toppled, and the European continent was given a across its intire length, for the 1st time in 4,000 years, all at the cost of ZERO US personel lost. Zero.

After those two surgical/competent/necessary interventions, it was perfectly reasonable for some moderate and decent people to listen respectfully to the President of the United States when he (and his then-respected Secretary of State) pleaded an urgent case for another quick-efficient action.

Especially since many of us felt very deeply the stain upon our honor that had been committed in 1991, when the names Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Powell had been signed beneath documents and broadcasts, urging Iraq's Shiites and Kurds to "rise up" against Saddam... promising that "we're on our way!"

Frankly, I WANTED to off Saddam! I felt we owed it to the Iraqi people and I am completely unashamed of that. Moreover, anyone who takes THAT to mean that I support THIS horrendous bleeding wound of an utter-incompetent (except at destroying America) so-called exercise in "nation building" is simply a dogmatist, and an unimaginative one, at that.

For one percent of what we have spent in this mess, we could have simply put a price on his head and he'd have been dead in a year.

Still, it is simply monstrous to paint in blac vs white that every single person who "should have known better" deserves endless blame for believing some of the lies that Bushco spewed in 2003. None of us, even remembering Nixon, ever had previous experience with such a scale of outright fibbing. With Balkans and Afghanistan recent memories, it is understandable that some people quashed their misgivings and said okay.

Mind you, I did not. I despised from the start the way Rumsfeld abused the Third Infantry Division, making them do the work of an entire armored Corps, going without sleep for an entire month, defeating a vastly larger enemy army by sheer force of professionalism, after having been betrayed by their own top political leaders. They saved Rummy's hash... and he got to crow about how right he had been all along.

There are NO levels or ways that this war is not a travesty, spilling half a trillion dollars onto unfertile ground in AT BEST a vain and futile exercise in "the discredited utopian fallacy of so-called nation building."

(Those derisive words from official GOP position papers, before 2002... ironic since they then spent more in infertile Iraq than ALL prior nation building efforts in history, combined.)

No, I am not among those who supported this war, ever. But I proudly stand with those who say there is still a place in the world for assertive application of Pax Americana power, until the transition era passes into genuine world civilization. Ask the peopke pof Bosnia and Hungary and Estonia, before you call me misguided.

In fact, possibly the Worst CRIME of this administration has been to so thoroughly undermine and demolish American influence in the world, pissin on our allies, scandalizing world opinion, offending nearly all muslims, destroying our military readiness and budget and internal social cohesion.

Make THAT your issue and you'd win a million moderates and make this a rout.

But the left won't do that because they HATE those moderates. And so, we are here, begging for what should be obvious. After Halloween... to rip the masks off monsters and send them back into shadows, where they belong.

Anonymous said...

With all due respect, Dr. Brin, you prove the point I was trying to make. I'll go into more detail when I get home, but your argument, even the more reasoned second one, are exactly what I was talking about. It's possible to oppose a particular war and still see a use for the US in the world, even with force. Just ask all the liberals who've been pushing to do something about Darfur (not that we can, with our military tied up in Iraq). And I think you know this, since your second post talks about being against the Iraq war, and then you say "But I proudly stand with those who say there is still a place in the world for assertive application of Pax Americana power, until the transition era passes into genuine world civilization."

But your first post is a total strawman, aimed at things I never said. Which is exactly what still happens. Even though it's been obvious the war was a mistake and bungled from the beginning, anybody who opposed it is attacked as a "peacenick" and "peace n flowers versus guns" or other similar hyperbole. While the unrepentant loonies who think Iraq's doing dandy are still on all the media programs. And honestly, the "peacenicks" are a lot less likely to cause problems than the loonies who want to rush into any war.

And I, like many other liberals, really really really wish the Democrats would attack Bush on the grounds of how he's fucked up our military, our alliances, and so on and so forth. You'd have to ask them why they don't, because I don't know. The perception of being "strong on terror" is Bush's only strength, and it's an illusion, which makes it the best place to hit them. But they haven't.

David Brin said...

I honestly cannot fathom what you want from me. I did not attack "peaceniks"... though I do despise the way many of them have tried to OWN opposition to these monsters, e.g. by howling at recent converts who once supported the war and who now do not.

They DO have a right to say "I told you so"... that I admit. And yet, there are ways in which Fareed and Hillary are STILL more right than they are. They learned that the war goals were all lies, and that the war is a corrupt scam and a disaster for America and the world.

But if the goals of the war had NOT been lies, and if it had been run by competent, honest men, then they might have stayed in agreement with it. Whereas others find that notion a howler.

This is a gap between tow camps of allies. The difference, is that some on one side feel it necessary to screech across this divide.


Russ Daggatt offers this:

Chertoff Raises Threat Level on Reports of Imminent Election

Calls Threat of November 7 Vote 'Credible'

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff today raised the national threat level to red after intelligence reports indicated that a national election could be imminent.

Speaking at a Washington press conference, Mr. Chertoff said that his department made the difficult decision to ratchet the nation's terror alert system up to the highest level after being assured by intelligence officials that the threat of an impending election was "credible."

"We do not know exactly when the election will take place, but we have credible information suggesting it will happen on or around November 7," Mr. Chertoff said.

The homeland security secretary said that intelligence sources believe that the al-Qaeda terror network might be implementing a plot to booby-trap voting machines, causing the machines to explode if a voter pulls a lever for a Democratic candidate.

"My advice to all voters who were thinking of voting for Democrats is to stay at home until this current threat passes," Mr. Chertoff said. "In this business, it's better to be safe than sorry."

The warning from the Department of Homeland Security drew a harsh rebuke from Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who said that the timing of the Homeland Security Department's move "doesn't pass the smell test."

But Mr. Chertoff remained unfazed by Mr. Dean's criticism, arguing, "Who are the American people going to believe -- someone who is politically motivated, or the Department of Homeland Security?"

Woozle said...

I haven't had time to take it apart, but Orson Scott Card has written a piece which eerily mirrors Our Esteemed Host's call to Republicans to break loyalty with the corrupt regime and vote Democratic to restore accountability – OSC urges Democrats (of which party he claims to belong) to break loyalty with their party in order to prevent a weakening of resolve over the War On Terror:

The Only Issue This Election Day

I won't try to analyze where the differences lie, as I haven't had time to take apart his essay and see what makes it tick... but I thought folks here might want to know about it. (And no, overall I do not agree with OSC on this one; I don't know exactly why accountability has suddenly gone out the window, and I don't know if a Democratic congress can restore it, but a little opposition would definitely be a step in that direction, and seems like the best hope at this point.)

Anonymous said...

"Worldchanging", the big fat book. I went up to the nearest bookstore to have a look. Worthwhile for someone young and energetic with the desire to do a lot of these things, but since I'm not up to making my own biodiesel or even (without a whole lot of pushing) growing my own tomatoes, it struck me as "good - for others."

My nephew might like it, but he lives in a high-rise apartment.

So - advise for us urbanites? Or is it in there and I didn't give the book enough of a look-through to spot it?

Anonymous said...

I don't want anything particular from you Dr. Brin, since we mostly agree on things. Which is probably part of what makes some of the differences so aggravating.

It's not about being able to say "I told you so." It's about at least giving creedence in the future to the people who were right in the past. Not jusxt handwaving away the "Cindy Sheehans and Michael Moores" who "haven't done any good", because if they hadn't been out there saying the war was wrong and based on lies and going badly, who would have been?

"But if the goals of the war had NOT been lies, and if it had been run by competent, honest men, then they might have stayed in agreement with it. Whereas others find that notion a howler."

I'm not sure if I find it a "howler", but I'm not sure that matters. For one, if the war had been sold on an honest premise, it probably wouldn't have happened. Without Bush and Cheney and the rest accusing anyone who opposed them of supporting terrorists, more people would have spoken up. Many of the Republicans who voted for the war probably wouldn't have, same with the Democrats. And the American people probably wouldn't have bought an elective war while we still had Afghanistan to finish.

And even if the Iraq war had been run well, by competent and honest generals and politicians, I'm not sure it would have ended up well. It probably wouldn't be the disaster it is now, but I suspect a lot of the problems that the war's oppnents pointed out before the war would still matter. The factionalism, the regional conflicts, and just the sheer numbers of troops required to police Iraq, troops we don't have, with duties our troops aren't really trained for. We'd have been better off concentrating on building Afghanistan back up and ensuring it would become all the things the Republicans promised Iraq would be. Except in Afghanistan, more of them were true. We were generally greeted as liberators and welcomed. Al-Queda and the Taliban weren't liked. And if we'd stayed the course there, instead of sucking our troops and attention into Iraq, we could have done a lot of good. And now Afghanistan's sliding backwards too, because we don't have the troops or money or attention.

No one wanted to listen to people who said this in the runup to Iraq. And even now, most of the people who opposed the invasion in the first place, millions of Americans, are dismissed. Even though they were right, and the things they warned about happened.

And on another subject, I'm not sure why Orson Scott Card claims to be a Democrat any more. In the past couple years, he's attacked gay people and global warming, defended "intelligent design", and now he's attacking the entire Democratic party as surrender-monkeys to the ebil terrorist threat. And spouting outright lies, like "In Iraq and Afghanistan -- but especially Iraq -- President Bush is behaving according to America's best and most honorable tradition." or "Critics of Bush love to cite the many "mistakes" his administration has made. Most of these "mistakes" are arguable -- are they mistakes at all? -- and when you sum up the others, with any kind of rational understanding of military history, the only possible conclusion is that this is the best-run war in history, with the fewest mistakes."

That's exactly the kind of thing I was talking about, somebody can say things completely unrelated to reality, and get people to take him seriously, because he's talking "tough". Even when what he's reccomended has been a disaster already and he makes no sign of recognizing that fact.

Anonymous said...

Accountability. That's the word I was looking for. Nobody's been held accountable for advocating stupid wars in years. Not one pro-war pundit or blogger or public offical who bought the whole line or helped sell the war in Iraq has suffered for advocating something so wrong and stupid. None have lost their jobs or their positions of influence.

wkwillis said...

Yeah, Clinton planned the attack on Afghanistan. He also shipped weapons and aid to Massoud to keep the killing going on in Afghanistan for all eight years of his presidency.
Even after the Taliban shut down all the poppy production in the part of Afghanistan they controlled, even after they refrained from finishing off Massoud (so he could, with our support, grow all the poppies being produced in Afghanistan after the Taliban shut down their production), they still stayed away from attacking us until after we put bases in the 'stans to make it more convenient for the attack that Clinton and Clark were planning.
That was why the Taliban signed on with Bin Laden, promising protection in return for his whacking Massoud. Which he did, and which protection in turn the Taliban delivered after 9/11.
No wonder Bush blaims Clinton for 9/11.