Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Has Western Civilization been rescued by - (of all people) - the People?

Has a crucial corner been turned? Out of what has been (so far) a dismal-retro 21st Century, have we begun to regain some 20th Century confidence and belief in our capacity for progress?

All right, that’s pretty florid talk for what was only a mid term election. Let’s keep perspective. The greatest enemy of the Enlightenment in general, and the American Experiment in particular, has always been human nature. Our propensity for indignant self-delusion... especially when the mighty convince themselves that they are all-wise and justified to squelch criticism.

That's a BIG enemy. Let's reprise that wisdom from Jefferson:

“A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles."
-- Thomas Jefferson in 1798, after the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

Scan history, and you’ll see that the most tediously predictable trend, arising every generation, is an attempted takeover by some conspiring clique - often pretending to be “for the people.” Though no living American can recall an attempted putsch as tenacious and nasty as the one that’s still underway, still eager, vampiric and unsatiated. Still desperately in need of a stake through its heart.

Well, keep your spirits up. Other generations managed to achieve the miracle, resisting the pull of our feudal past. Renewing instead our unique covenant --

America’s ever-optimistic pact with tomorrow.

So now what?

This important little victory will be meaningless if it’s botched, or implemented tepidly, without imagination. Or with a mean spirit that plays into the hands of those who want perpetual “culture war.”

So, if I may, I’d like to offer a few suggestions. A short list of items that I would like to see the new, Democratic Congress accomplish, in coming months. (It will take several postings.) The proposals will fall into two major groups:

(A) What can the House of Representatives do, all by itself, even if legislation is blocked or stymied?


(B) What legislative endeavors (actual bills and laws) might Democrats pursue, beyond the obvious? (e.g. raising the minimum wage and all those announced good intentions.)

Why divide things up this way? Yes, there is news that the US Senate will soon join the House on the side of progress and light. Still, even if they do pass a raft of mature and needed laws, they may be stymied by obstinate presidential vetoes.

So, before considering bills and legislation, we’ll talk (next time) about things that the U.S. House of Representatives could do, all by itself, to set a new tone in America.


David Brin said...


Let me add one more note: I apologize for often using "we" as if all of the web, or the modernist community, or western civilization, or the Enlightenment, were American.

I know that many of you out there are British or Aussie or Singaporean or Swedish... After all, this fight is about vastly more than some self-centered Yankee angst, choosing between various versions of creepy nostalgia that are raging against a dynamic future.

Thank heavens!

Yes, I deeply believe that Pax Americana is a better way to get across the transition to a sane and decent WCN (Whatever Comes Next) than any other possibility. The 20th Century ended vastly better than it began, because the Last Empire was better than any of those that came before,

STILL, it is always possible (history shows) for the Athenians to totally blow it. (Ah, Alcibiades!)

Perhaps last night's victory of reason will be a mere false-blip on our march toward Nehemia Scudder... or worse.

We need the rest of you. America can only lead if, first, it re-learns that fundamental lesson.

Anonymous said...

The GOP deserved their spanking. But the shift of power is likely to accelerate the timetable on a chain of unfortunate developments set in motion by the invasion.

That chain could be broken if the Bush administration suddenly starts acting a lot smarter than they have - but what are the odds on that?

Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm Swedish, and I was a whole lot more worried about this election than the recent Swedish one.
Then again, Swedes are capable of ousting polititians for buying a piece of chocolate on their government account, so we have less to be worried about.

Anonymous said...

And ....

(C) What Bills and Laws might Democrats target for destruction?

One of many interesting ideas from R.A.H., from The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, is a legislative committee whos sole mandate is to repeal existing laws. This just makes so much sense. Without some dedicated mechanism for pruning the mass of bills and laws that are constantly being created, many for the most asinine reasons, we run the risk of exceeding some cosmic limit of mass and torturous complexity, and then collapsing into a singularity and disappearing from this universe for ever.

Anonymous said...

You know, Darrel, at first I thought you were talking about Robert E. Howard, not Heinlein. Tsk, I swear, I'm going to have to choose a different name and different initials to publish under when I finally get published. *chuckle*

David, after once again seeing how Democrats continue to sneer at Moderates and for those who are not die-hard Liberals, and seeing the dangers of a two-party system for graft, corruption, and its tendency to fall under the control of one party or the next, I have to once again advocate the creation of a Moderate political party.


Simple. We need a 3-party system in order to allow for the best of both viewpoints (liberal and conservative (not neo-conservative, mind you, I mean true conservativism)) without either party getting control. Imagine, if you will, a third party that is not necessarily numerous but still holds a dozen or so seats in the House and several seats in the Senate, with the ability to bring a vote to a majority if they support one group or the other (Democrat or Republican).

A decent-strength minority party being the fulcrum between the two "sides" of government is what's needed to help keep our government in balance. Without it, we risk going too far with the pendulum swing of politics. We go too far each time to the right and then to the left. But with a little push here and there from the center of the line, we can adjust the path of the pendulum and keep it from going too far one way or the other.

Of course, the other thing we truly need to do is pass either a law or constitutional amendment ensuring that each Bill is passed or denied on its own merits, instead of because of riders added onto the Bill. How many decent and intelligent laws are passed with these little lampreys sucking the blood out of it in the name of "special interests"? This practice especially needs to come to an end, for the sake of our country and the people within it. By denying this power to special interests, the power of lobbyists and special interests will be lessened and the will of the People will be followed instead of the will of Big Business and Special Interests.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

Anonymous said...

As an aside, I figure some of you might find this little political cartoon amusing:

Let's hope that both the Democrats and the American People don't fall into the same trap that the Shrug used back in 2000. He kept preaching "putting aside partisan differences" which meant the Democrats needed to stop pushing their own agenda while he could say and do what he wanted without caring about what the Democrats wanted.

Rob H.

gmknobl said...

I'd like to point out that the new nominated Sec. of Defense has a bad past. He likely knew of and helped the Iran-Contra plot, he's deliberately suppressed intelligence that didn't support his view while exaggerating intelligence that did. He's been nominated and rejected before for good reason, then got in when the neocons/neolibs started gaining control of government. Now he's back again. Maybe his nomination was on purpose since if he passes, Bush gets someone he likes and if he doesn't Bush can call Democrats obstructionist.

RAH, have to say I don't like your view that Democrats are sneering at moderates. I don't think that's true and I think we need to be much further over on the what people think is the liberal side of things than where Clinton was.

That said, yes, a not so violently moving pendulum would be nice and I am supportive of the idea of a government that works well with others in the world to help bring others like Saddam to justice, even militarily, IF the majority of powers int he world can sit down and find a way to do so together. But that takes careful planning and cooperation. Something that is totally lacking in the selfish BushCo's world.

It would be nice if we can get beyond the liberal/conservative dichotomy but yelling at liberals or Democrats for sneering at moderates is not the way to accomplish it. Remember, "liberals" have many view points that are at the soul of what I think of as modernist philosophy.

Even though many of you may not be Christian, I am one and consider the philosophy promoted by Jesus to be the heart of what *should be* liberal ideology. This philosophy guides me but does not rule me. And the philosophy is generally stated in the golden rule. This does not mean leave my brain at the door though as I believe we are meant to think our way towards enlightenment at the same time. God, Jesus, et. al. did not want us to be non-thinking followers but rather glory in our increasing knowledge in what we don't and do know and use that to help other and civilization advance. To do anything else is truly distructive.

Sorry about that soapbox moment but your rant against liberals upset me and I wanted to show you that you can't make such generalizations about what people call "liberals" for most view me as one. And besides, I think you've eaten too much FOX cake on that score.

gmknobl said...

Oh gee... so many misspellings and bad grammar in my post above, it makes me look like a Bush level doofus! Apologies. I'm afraid this is a problem in blogging and with not reviewing what I write before clicking the publish button.

Woozle said...

I have to second Darrel's comment about the Legislation Removal Committee; I've thought that it was an excellent idea ever since I first read TMIaHM mumble-mumble years ago.

Also, how about a law that all legislation must be understandable by laypeople? (Also suggested by Heinlein.)

And of course if we're going to break the two-party system, the first thing which must change is the voting system; under the current system, any third party is doomed to be a non-contender 99% of the time.

And... perhaps now is the time to introduce this site, since we finally have broken the monolith and now need to decide What We Want as opposed to How To Stop Them From Ruining Everything... IssueGroups is a wiki where anyone can make a suggestion for a change, work with others to refine and strengthen their argument, and (potentially) collect support for it. There's more explanation in the how it works section.

Suggestions and feedback are very much invited...

Anonymous said...

Hi David, long time reader (including Transparent Society), first time commenter.

I was wondering if you have ever heard of Simon Rosenberg, founder of the New Politics Institute. Yesterday he posted a very powerful piece on dailykos, which seemed to be very much in line with your critique of progressives' inability to tout their successes as well as the need to embrace technology in order to move forward and leave behind the rhetoric of guilt and defeatism. Here's a quote that I think you would appreciate:

This next American era will not be one dominated by these two exhausted ideologies of the past, but will be a battle for the mastery of a new, as yet unarticulated 21st century governing approach suited to the challenges we face today and built around the media and people of our time. The core direction of this battle is not the left-right one fought at the end of the last century, but will be more about forward and backward. Meaning that the way we will have to measure progress from now on is to look at how a party or ideological movement captures the three main dimensions of this emergent, post-liberal/conservative politics of our day - a new governing agenda capable of tackling the challenges of our time, and new political arrangements built around the emergent media and people of the 21st century.

I would strongly urge you to check out It seems to me that your concerns about 21st century politics are very much in line with what Rosenberg and others at NPI are discussing.

Anonymous said...


Great question... here are my desires (now that the Senate has also been turned over):

1. Either: A) Submit bills that are one issue in length or B) Give the President line-item veto authority.

This is a nice gift to the President, that has the added benefit of putting in place regulatory discipline. And, over time, forces the President & Congress to focus on specific issues instead of ducking responsibility & their constituents.

2. No more unfunded mandates, at least for a while...

3. Campaign finance reform: A) All spending for a given campaign must run through the candidate's election org (e.g. no more ads by any third parties, including that of the candidate's party). This would force all campaigns to live within the giving limits; B) Businesses can no longer give money to any campaigns; C) All candidates are issued X minutes of TV ad time, Y minutes of Radio ad time for the campaign (not certain what to do about web-based ads...) and that's it.

4. Pass a nation-wide tax on gasoline usage at the pump, proceeds to fund altertative energy solutions including delivery mechanisms. Let's make it a $1 - $2 a gallon.

5. Institute nation-wide health coverage/insurance. Time to get U.S. businesses out of the business of health care for the nation.

6. Revise the law on funding for stem-cell research, allowing U.S. Gov't funding for all stem-cell research.

7. Military: Fund a larger Army. Decrease funds to the Air Force & Navy. Specifically, cut the Raptor program, any work on a bomber beyond the B-2, funding for more C-17s, the 'stealth' ship, and any more aircraft carriers.

8. Oversight: All those whistleblowers GW's team got rid of in the various military & procurement offices get re-hired, and put in roles where they are overseeing audits of performance.

ocpearson said...

Okay, total aside, but:

gmknobl: Upgrade your browser to Firefox 2.0 ( It has spell check in forms (such as blogging) that's really helpful!

A note on the new SecDef: As one commentator put it, he is a pragmatist rather than an idealogue. While he is still not a great guy, at least it is a step in the right direction (and possibly the best we can expect from this administration). Heck, if Cheney isn't happy about it then it can't be all bad, can it?

Anonymous said...

Democrats sneering at moderates? As a liberal, I get a lot more sneering than any moderates.

And hell, the Democrats elected Jim Webb for Senate, who was Reagan's secretary of the Navy! We've got the Democrats who range from liberal to conservative, and the Republicans who range from conservative to completely insane.

Also, here's the Democratic agenda for the new congress:

6 for '06 and Pelosi's First 100 hours plan.

I'm really less worried about the Democrats going too far than I am about far enough. I hope the ones who've learned reflexes like kowtowing to Bush and not fighting stupid wars because they're afraid of being called "weak on defense" or similar learn better, and quick. Because no matter what they do, the Republicans are gonna try and attack them using the same attacks they always do, so might as well go on the offense and put the Republicans into the awkward positions of explaining and defending and being against positions the public likes.

Catfish 'n Cod said...


"Trillion Trees" pilot project... "Billion Trees" project announced!

Mark Brown said...

Hi David:

I am thrilled.

And Listening to Brian Lehrer on WNYC this Morning

I heard of Nancy Pelosi had a "first hundred hours" agenda including
a new minimum wage, health care, etc...

My personal opinion on what to do

Congratulations to ALL of us CITIZENS who have FINALLY gotten through to the PRESIDENT's ear!!!

Markb in nj

David Brin said...

Let me join in touting Simon Rosenberg’s posting at Daily Kos:

Naturally, I agree with Rosenberg at many levels, especially in posing the coming 21st Century dilemma as “future vs past,” and no longer “left vs right.”

Of course, despite George Will’s writhing essay in today’s press, Rosenberg is right in his overall diagnosis. There can be no question that conservatism has proved to be pathetically incompetent as a general governing philosophy. The sheer fact that the last Congress did not even try to legislate, proves that they had no agenda other than spending money.

I also believe Rosenberg is correct that the collapse of conservatism as a workable governing philosophy does not mean that conservatism was wrong to critique the tiredness and growing irrelevance of 20th Century progressivism. Indeed, most of George Will’s examples of “relevant” conservatism had to do with that critique, rather than any useful, assertive ideas of its own.

Indeed, the version of progressivism that voters rejected in 1994 had become trapped in a unique and ironic way, by its own astounding success! Success at transforming dozens of profound social injustices that had long wasted so much human opportunity and talent. (Let conservatives crow when they can point to successes that mattered or improved human life anywhere near as much as Civil and Womens’ Rights.) Alas, any movement can get stuck in a rut, and progressivism had fallen into a deep one.

(The worst symptom of this trap was the refusal of so many liberals ever to admit that success had even occurred. How can you move on to new innovations, if you will never avow that your earlier ones worked?)

What I refuse to do is reject the word “progressivism” altogether. After their time in the wilderness -- and having reluctantly accepted the one conservative success in social policy, the 1996 Welfare Reform Act -- “true” liberals are at last, I believe ready to look deeper into the roots of their own movement (even to the “first liberal” Adam Smith) and acknowledge that the future is what matters, not dogmatic formulas.

Exile can do that to you.

Summarizing: Rosenberg doesn’t make clear that the failures of 20th Century progressivism and turn-of-the-century conservatism were two very different phenomena. The former was caused by arrogant rigidity after earlier successes at governance. The latter collapse resulted from a failure to govern at all.

I do have one other cavil with Rosenberg. The failure of conservatism (beyond its useful critique of the left) was not only one of incompetence, laziness and lack of imagination. He fails to note that the conservative movement also collapsed because it was thoroughly suborned by ruthless kleptocrats, who turned it into a vehicle for insatiable, vampiric theft.

As a dogma, conservatism proved to have no reflexes - none whatsoever - to resist predators that arose within its own domain. Well-placed wolves who wore appropriate raiment and uttered the right sounds -- and could spread largesse -- were vouchsafed protection from scrutiny and given reign to dine freely at the Republic’s torn-open arteries. Indeed, the typical reaction of apologists like George Will resembles that of a prey animal, turning to present its throat repeatedly toward a parasite’s jaw. This reflex-failure, alone, disqualifies the movement from any trust or right to rule.

(In contrast, mainstream Democrats were always wary -- to varying degrees -- toward the predatory nature of, say communism.)

Clearly, it is time for a new progressivism to take its turn on stage, but one that’s ready to govern in 21st Century terms, no longer nostalgically yearning for the days of Martin Luther King. Those olden-time victories are (as MLK would have wanted) the foundation upon which totally new things (not mimicries) will be built.

“Left and right” have nothing to offer that is useful in era of ever-enhancing citizen knowledge, empowerment and autonomy.

A progressivism that dedicates itself to providing tool sets for this new age of the citizen... and ensuring that nobody is unfairly left out of the fun... will have much less to do with socialistic government meddling and much more to do with seeing to it that the arenas of democracy and education and markets and science all work efficiently and well.

So well that parasites and predators will have to give up vampirism and actually go back to working for a living, just like the rest of us.

(beedee, could you pass this on for me? I like the NPI... but am so desperately swamped.)

Kevin Crady said...

I'm glad the Democrats won. However, I would be rejoicing a lot more if, when asked what they would do, they had announced as their first order of business, that they would, post haste, repeal the &%@*#! Military Commissions Act in the first ten minutes of the new Congress.

Instead, all I've seen is them promising a hike in the minimum wage, a better health care plan and other assorted goodies.

Those would all be perfectly legitimate proposals, if this was 1996. We've all gone on and on here about how the Republic is in danger, between the wars, the rampant corruption, but most of all, the Executive Branch power-grabs. If the Dems aren't going to roll those back, they're not serious about saving the Enlightenment.

It just seems to me that while the good ship United States has been sailing through dangerous waters the last few years, and the lookouts are shouting, "ICEBERG, DEAD AHEAD!" Capt. Pelosi is calmly saying, "Helm, 10 degrees to port and steady as she goes."

Anonymous said...

Having more than two parties in Congress would be possible antidote to corruption. If no party has complete power...

Getting there is difficult. The most sure fire way to do so would be to change the voting system. Approval voting or range voting should do the job. Instant run-off probably wouldn't.

I highly recommend looking at the Wikipedia entries for these and other voting systems. See also

Michael C. Rush said...

The messes need to be cleaned up. What has been damaged needs to be repaired. And then the issues can be addressed which pre-dated this administration (or which have come into existence on its watch--the world marches on).

But before all of that, and alongside all of that, there must be accountability. The criminals, those who violated their oaths of office and abused the trust of their constituents, those who sold America to the lobbyists and the war machine, those who played ANY ROLE in attacking the Constitution--they must all be held accountable. Now. Not just a few token scapegoats, but EACH and EVERY one of them, to the fullest extent of the law. Without law, and the enforcement of law, and the belief that law will provide justice, everything falls apart. Investigate, fire, prosecute, convict. Nothing else will ever mean anything if we cannot come to believe in the system again.

Anonymous said...

I used to think that the plan of two-year terms in the House of Representatives was a little wasteful, causing too much time to be spent on elections and not enough on legislation.

Now I am grateful that the Founding Fathers had the foresight to create a body with such frequent potential turnover.

David Brin said...

Darrell, alas, the “pruning” of old laws may work if those laws are like the limbs of trees. Alas, a better parallel is human body fat. Yes, many old laws have grown fatty and absurd. But LOPPING them off, after they have become integrated in a complex body of law may not be as effective as you’d like.

Liposuction only works if done carefully..

Robert, I have seen absolutely ZERO “sneering at moderates” in the recent Democratic victory. Indeed, the utter opposite.

1) Anyone can see that (as I hoped and prayed) this turnaround was LED and propelled by moderate democrats winning in relatively conservative districts.

(I am hopeful this will influence the party in my area to STOP nominating sappy, Santa Monica 60s liberals to run in Gop-gerried districts and instead pick pro market (true liberal) military vets who happen also to be decent and progressive and pro-science.)

2) Even the left wing of the party has UTTERLY DROPPED such losing issues as gun control or repeal of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act. You’ll not find those old scarecrows anywhere. Nor is perfect line-toeing on abortion required (at last!)

3) I once lived in a country that has a moderate center party. The U.K. When I dwelled there, I knew very few resident Americans who would NOT have voted for the Liberal-Dems... as opposed to either Labour or the Tories (which struck all but the most dogmatic yanks as absurdly extremist). Of course that was the 1980s and Americans had not yet polarized as much. Still... the point is this : that “moderate centrist” party was and remains a complete, ineffectual joke.

4) Your proposal to separate legislation into actual and logical components is a prime agenda item of the Democrats (and stay tuned for this series I am running.)

Generally speaking, I find it very hard to grasp how difficult it is for so many people to grasp how clear the situation is.

You folks know me and you know that I am not shy about criticizing “the left.” And yet (Thank God) there remains a big difference between “the Left” and the Democratic Party!

If you go down the list of ACTUAL PROPOSALS by the Democratic Party, you would be hard pressed to find EVEN ONE that is not sane, moderate, modernist and desperately needed.

Seriously, please. I am interested. Find even one.

For now... till they are corrupted... this IS the “moderate party” that you’ve been looking for. Live with it. Better yet, help fight to keep it that way.

Woozle said “Also, how about a law that all legislation must be understandable by laypeople? (Also suggested by Heinlein.)”

Stay tuned, I will get to that.

Anyone see that happy Howard Dean on Daily Show, last night? All right. I take it back. Most (most) of what I said about Dean. He was right about some things (the 50 state strategy.) I also liked the moderate tone. E.g. starting down the road to health insurance the way Hillary should have, incrementally, by taking care of children first.

We’ll see.

Anonymous said...

There is considerable fear among some concerning Democrats. Of course, I speak as an Independant with Libertarian leanings (and indeed, I was a libertarian until the lunacy of one Libertarian candidate running against Ted Kennedy for the Senate who had the audacity to claim Kennedy was responsible for killing the sailors on the U.S.S. Cole (the sailors killed when the Cole was attacked by terrorists). I refuse to be associated with a party that allows primary political candidates to say and do such stupid things, which is why I've been Unenrolled ever since)... er, sorry. Tangented there.

Anyway, I grew up in Taxachusetts, land of the greed and home of the depraved (well, not quite depraved, but I was trying to match rhymes). I grew up with Independents and Republicans who worked hard to try and keep Massachusetts Democrats from running hogwild. I've seen what happens when any political party runs unopposed. I am against the Democratic party as it exists in Massachusetts, and against the Republican Neocons who until this latest election held a stranglehold on Washington.

I have thus seen both sides of the political parties at their ugliest and most corrupt. I trust neither Democrat nor Republican. In my eyes, it's best to have a diverse selection of political parties, each with a voice and an idea of their own, to work together to bring about a cause or to oppose one. The problem with two-party rule is that both parties can become corrupt, and if one seizes control of the government it can become cancerous.

Without viable opposition, there is corruption. Without a voice to speak out and the will and ability to stand up to the Powers that Be, there is tyranny.

We will see in the next two years if the Democrats have learned from the failures of the Neocons and work to rectify them... or if they decide to emulate their opponents and continue to slice into the heart of American freedoms and liberty, resulting in a corpse where once a grand nation stood. I hope for the best. But the cynic in me who has seen the corruption of Beacon Hill in MA and the criminality of the Neocons in Washington suspects the rot has grown too far, and surgery is the only option.

Fortunately, I feel that much can be saved. There are some cynics who feel it's already too late, that our nation is dead and the liberties within it gone.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

As a moderate (Hint: you aren't a moderate if your support almost always goes to one party, with the only exceptions being when you vote for a more radically liberal or conservative party) I want to warn the liberals here who see their "victory" as license to go back to their old agenda:

No. That was not the mandate you were given by the voters.

Power was taken away from the Republicans, largely by the independent voters - mostly moderates - picking the lesser of two evils:

Should we stay the horribly mistaken course in Iraq and continue seeing the foundations of our freedoms destroyed in the name of fighting terrorism?

Or risk voting for the party that thinks everyone needs a government nanny controlling their every thought and action, and that all outcomes must be made equal by force?

The choice was clear - vote to send a strong message to Republican leadership that they need to drastically re-assess what they've been doing and allowing the Bush administration to do. Take a chance that the Democrats will be smart enough to recognize their real mandate.

The immediate departure of Rumsfeld seems to indicate that the GOP heard that they've been sent a message, but probably think it was simply "Get us out of Iraq". It's up to the Democrats to clarify the message - or in 2008 we'll opt for gridlock as the lesser evil.

Start by "suspending the license" of the Military Commissions, until you can work out a plan that protects the innocent, without letting monsters go free.

It'd be nice to avoid all torture, but if we believe someone knows where a nuke has been planted in New York, we might need to re-think that. Require that the President personally authorize (if time allows) or explicitly decide whether to pardon, any use of torture. Have Congress review his decisions.

And yes, you need to be putting some of the GOP on the stand - but not for "Who knew what when and what did you do" in the Foley case. That's stupid - the GOP were hypocrits, but you've already won the election, so a show trial to embarass Republicans would be more pointless even than Monica-gate. All it'll do is fan partisan hatreds - and you may still need some Republican votes to override vetoes.

You *should* be looking into baldly corrupt assignment of contracts in Iraq, and total failure to require completion of those contracts or assess penalties.

And it wouldn't hurt to put to rest some of David's nightmare scenario fears about whether there was any sort of conspiracy to steal power. Maybe even a committee to quietly dig through the claims of the 9-11 conspiracy nuts - if we always ignore such theories, we grant license to engage in such conspiracies.

Anonymous said...

As a generally moderate voter, I want to say to the liberals who see "their" victory as a mandate to jump-start their old agenda: No. That was not the mandate you were given. We voted to take power away from the Republicans for rank incompetence and corruption, and for working so hard to destroy the foundations of our freedoms.

The departure of Rumsfeld seems to indicate that the GOP heard that they've been sent a message, but probably think it was simply "Get us out of Iraq". It's up to the Democrats to clarify the message - or in 2008 we'll opt for gridlock as the lesser evil.

Start by "suspending the license" of the Military Commissions, until you can work out a plan that protects the innocent, without letting monsters go free.

It'd be nice to avoid all torture, but if we believe someone knows where a nuke has been planted in New York, we might need to re-think that. Require that the President personally authorize (if time allows) or explicitly decide whether to pardon, any use of torture. Congress should review his decisions, keeping secret important investigations - but not wrong-doing.

Yes, you need to put some of the GOP on the witness stand - but not for "Who knew what when and what did you do" in the Foley case. That's stupid - the GOP were hypocrits, but you've already won the election, so a show trial to embarrass Republicans would be more pointless even than Monica-gate. All it'll do is waste time and fan partisan hatreds - and you may need some cooperative Republicans to override vetoes.

You *should* be looking into baldly corrupt assignment of contracts in Iraq, and failure to require completion of those contracts or assess penalties.

You *should* be looking into how incompetent - and mostly pointless - the TSA is.

Offer reasonable immigration reform. Current border controls might be adequate, if there weren't a flood of illegal immigrantion. But amnesty won't stem that flood - it'd just temporarily erase the statistical evidence. Guest worker cards, issued *only* in the worker's nation of origin, good for six months, *only* for the workers, not their families. Clear, reasonable rules for employers. A bounty program rich enough to make potential cheats fear hiring illegals. Leave citizenship rules for immigrants alone for now.

It would be smart to start doing something effective about assuring reasonably clean energy independence - though I doubt that loomed large in most people's minds on election day, thanks to the mysteriously rapid drop in gas prices in the months prior to election day. (Something else you might want to look into - gas prices bottomed out 2 weeks before the election, and were already up 4 cents here the day after the election. Coincidence? Or a subtle new form of campaign donation to the GOP?)

David Brin said...

RobH, go to to see the latest (and now apparently suspended) effort to yank the Libertarian movement out of the hands of goggle-eyed lapel-grabbing bozos, who claim to be modernist but are as romantic and impractical as Keats or Shelley.

Buried a bit at that site is a FOUR PART essay by yours truly, discussing detailed philosophical implications of liberty that I promise you have not seen before.

Having said that, let me add that the difference betwen the democrats and republicans is not Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. That is an outright delusion and overwhelming hysterical falsehood!

And this goes out to you, too, twinBeam.

The Democrats often propose misguided and overly statist-oriented solutions to perceived problems. I do see that fault. And I yearn for a day when a practical and wise Libertarian Party will be the opposition party, offering ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS TO THE SAME PROBLEMS. Solutions that emphasize market forces.

(See my libertarian essays for more about how this could be achieved.)

That world, of two approaches to problem solving, endlessly competing, sounds great to me. And it is, at core, deeply libertarian!

But dig this. The Republican Party DOES NOT FIT INTO THIS SPECTRUM. In fact, it is not a political party at all. Not by the standard I just set, of a diverse gathering of sincere minds trying to come up with solutions to problems.

The closest analog to the Republican Party is a HOUSE OF LORDS. They are a melange of privileged, grumbling interests, all of them snarling at those would-be problem solvers. Without ANY of the great accomplishments of the 20th Century to their credit, they writhe and rationalize and demean the FIFTY or so magnificent American accomplishments of that period, ranging from moon landings to civil rights to winning BOTH the war against fascism and the Cold War, all of which originated with “liberalism”!

Crotchety and selfish lords, who never come up with an idea of their own.

No, that USED TO BE the analogy for the GOP, back when at least they were sincere patriots, like Bob Dole.

Now it is something else -- a band of conspiring thieves.

Dig it. There... is... no... comparison. If you add up the sins of Bill Clinton and Tip O’Niel and so on, they amount to ONE DAY’s worth of the klepto raid we have been enduring.

Give me crooked politicians who are satiable, and having dined on a little graft, then want a dessert of problem solving. That’s NORMAL politics. We should fight it with the weapon of transparency. But it’s normal.

No - I oppose impeachment proceedings because it plays up culture war. And I want to end culture war. So I favor getting the monsters to tell all, strip down... and then go free.

Anonymous said...

David: the effort has not been suspended. Activity on the site has slowed down a bit as I am rearchitecturing it to have a better voting system/organization. (Will probably switch from approval voting to range voting for the platform planks.)

Also, there is quite a bit of activity on the associated yahoo group where the very active are crafting an ultra short platform, hopefully one which moderates and platonists alike can run under.

Don Quijote said...

A short list of items that I would like to see the new, Democratic Congress accomplish, in coming months.


Michael C. Rush said...

>>No - I oppose impeachment proceedings because it plays up culture war. And I want to end culture war. So I favor getting the monsters to tell all, strip down... and then go free.

Thus reinforcing the currently widespread belief (and not just among the public, which is certainly bad enough, but among those who will actually ACT on it) that you can commit any outrage, any crime, while in office and then hide behind the banner of partisanship and get off scot-free. Even as a tactic, I think that's a poor one, but beyond that, it's profoundly immoral and contributes tremendously to the culture of corruption--and, even worse, the culture of ACCEPTANCE of corruption--that we see all around us today.

Without accountability, without enforcement, without *consequence*, we are granting permission to everyone to rape and pillage us at will.

If the term "culture war" and the divisiveness it creates gives you gas (and I don't disagree there), fine, but it is a simple fact that there ARE substantial and significant differences in cultural values and cultural beliefs in this country. To deny that, or to dismiss it, would be as grievous an error as it is to dismiss the bases of the cultural conflicts between the West and most Muslim societies.

In neither case will the other side relinquish the field, and for us to do so is to embrace defeat.

Anonymous said...

The most important thing that Democrats will do is to simply do their duty as representatives and deliberators when it comes to appointments. In other words, not be a rubber stamp.

The Bush team's overwhelming sense of entitlement seemed to cast a spell on his party mates up on Capital Hill. They didn't do their duty, and we've been suffering for it.

Katrina would still have struck New Orleans if Michael Brown wasn't FEMA director . . . but we might have been a bit better prepared if that mediocre hack's nomination had been rejected.

Alberto Gonzales, Bush family loyalist, as attorney general / constitutional shredding specialist? A Democratic senate might have been a bit more pointed in their questioning.

* * *


It shouldn't be a goal of the new congress. That would indeed be petty and divisive.

But there are a lot of unanswered serious questions out there. The deserve looking into.

In many cases these investigations might only result in policy changes. For example, if a thorough look into Cheney's energy task force reveals that it was an exercise in legislation for sale, then the resulting energy policy should be revised and any resulting tax cuts and subsidies revoked.

However, if further investigation showed that, for example, Cheney told his oil industry friends about plans for an invasion of Iraq and took bids for oil field development rights . . . impeachment might be called for.

Anonymous said...

David Brin said:

"Still, even if they do pass a raft of mature and needed laws, they may be stymied by obstinate presidential vetoes."

Congress merely needs to carefully mention "hearings" during negotiations with Bush to help lubricate his pen on important legislation. I could suggest the current congress has this President "by the balls," should they act shrewdly and carefully. We, and the Congress, know there are many skeletons in Bush's closet to dig up whenever needed.

Anonymous said...

Glenn Greenwald has a pretty good post up about Crushing the Developing Myths about the last election. His #5 is a bit dodgy, because he seems to be dismissing all fears about voting machines/diebold/Rove's Arsenal of Dirty Tricks as "conspiracy theories." The thing about conspiracy theories is, sometimes conspiracies DO actually happen. Like unethical men conspiring to attack their opponents with completely made up stuff.

And many of the Democrats elected Tuesday are bona fide liberals, replacing "moderate" Republicans all throughout the Northeast and a decent chunk of the West. And for the moderates, great! More power to them. Moderate doesn't mean "partway between the two parties", though. One of the key things all the Democrats ran on, from the most liberal to the most conservative, was opposing Bush and his administration and agenda. They need to stick to that, and not fall into the trap of "Oh, well we have to be nice now and compromise to be bipartisan" or whatever. The Bush admin and Republican leadership have already shown what they think of compromise.

And I really really hope the Democrats have the guts and the sense to get the torture commissions overturned, at the very least.

Tony Fisk said...

While just repealing 'silly old laws' isn't a good idea in general, I would make an exception of the anti-terror bill. It has only just been enacted and has no embedded side effects as yet. I suggest it offers no benefit that good police work couldn't provide, and a lot of ominous possibilities in the future.

And I'd want my Habeus Corpus back!

There probably is room for improvement in the wording of legal documents. However, as a lawyer, my wife has a perennial grumble about plainspeak legislation that has sacrificed precision for simplicity.

Impeachment hearings need not play up the culture wars, so long as they are seen as a consequence of due process, rather than a goal (Unlike the 'Starr chamber' of Monicagate).

It would be a mistake if impeachment were to be the first item of business in the new congress. Still, there's plenty of other bits of spring cleaning that will be needed.
If a clear pattern starts to form... then start talking of impeachment.

I will applaud Bush for the conciliatory tone he has adopted in the last few days. Yes indeed, George, you won't achieve much if you let past bitterness affect your dealings.

Whether this is the cowed tone of a bullying mentality who feels he is about to be on the receiving end, or whether it's a pointed remark directed at another 'trusted' advisor and culture war architect, or even whether it's the result of a belated revelation, only time will tell.

For now, I suggest the democrats act magnanimously and in good faith in their dealings with the White House.

... and watch their backs.

Kelsey Gower said...

David, I'm going to have to call you out for saying that human nature is the enemy of the Enlightenment. I'm as tired of you saying that now as I was when you said it back in July.

I bring this up again because continuing to declare human nature as an enemy leads down a dangerous road. It takes real self-delusion to say human nature did not support and help the American Experiment. You attack it as a whole and ignore the fact that it took the finer parts of human nature to even make the Enlightenment possible in the first place.

Human nature is far from perfect, but it's not totally depraved. The positive aspects of our humanity can cancel out our negative aspects if we use them right. And if you start treating human nature as an opponent rather than an enemy, then you can start working with it instead of constantly fighting it.

David Brin said...

fhydra, please contemplate the possibility that you are wallowing in a false dichotomy.

You believe that, because I say that human nature keeps drawing us into feudal-predatory modes and self-delusion, that I am calling human nature evil.

Baloney! These traits emerged out of environments when they were adaptive and appropriate... more than 4,000 years ago.

They do NOT, however, mesh well with our notions of how we and our societies OUGHT to be. Or with any potential for growing into more sophisticated and competent people.

And yet, clearly, the Enlightenment DID happen. It was incredibly unlikely, but it did. HOW did the accountability arenas described at:
happen to develop JUST the right methodologies to compensate for the human propensity to cheat?

Look up "emergent properties." When you grasp the concept fully, then paraphrase me, to be sure that you DO.

Till then, don't assume that I am automatically wrongheaded, hm.

Contemplate the possibility that it's you.

Time for the next posting.

reason said...

Not being an expert on the US political system, I have a question:
if the Democratic congress repealed the anti-terror bill couldn't Bush just veto the repeal?

If this is the case (and given that this issue is not a populist one - as against important for us intellectual types) doesn't it make sense to first do things that are effective. It may make more sense to replace the anti-terror bill (after proper deliberation, debate and compromise) than to repeal it as it gives the Republicans less of a political weapon.

Anonymous said...

Mark Schmitt has a good piece over on Tapped about the liberalness or conservativeness of the newly elected Democrats. (To whit, it doesn't much matter.)

The Republicans might get some satisfaction out of claiming that these new Dems are more conservative, but what do they gain from that? The fact is that they are Dems for a reason, and the reason is not the old "Daddy was a Dem, Grandpappy was a Dem" of the past, but the simple fact that even fairly conservative people cannot tolerate what the Republican Party has become. That's their shame, not something for them to brag about!"


"The underlying story of this election, and one that the press will eventually understand, is that there are now two parties in this country: A constructive majority party of the center-left on one side, and on the other, a regionally based faction of the far-right party, now stripped of its last moderates, a remnant that is probably the most ideologically extreme minority party since the New Deal."

Anonymous said...

I think you need proportional representation - to weaken the adversarial (but internationally perceived as coke vs pepsi) sort of system.

Also some sort of organization for holding politicians to account would be good but I'm concerned with your current system there would be no way to stop it just being a witch hunt system as long as politicians control it (unless you can get third parties involved).

I think dave has two key ideas with

A) Submit bills that are one issue in length
B) Campaign finance reform:

Regarding Military I suggest

Be very clear on what you want to do.

If you want peacekeeping and nation building get a peacekeeping/nation building army
If you want to fight china (btw please don’t) you need a china fighting army.
If you want MAD you just need your nukes and researching to the next planet breaking device.
If you want to fight Afghanistan you need a slightly different one.

Then slash spending on all the other strategies.

Kelsey Gower said...

Alright then, I'll try to stay away from such blantant assumptions next time.

However, I'll still ask you to reconsider your wording. Why do you consider human nature an enemy? That's like considering gravity to be an enemy, or thermodynamics, or radiation. They're all just forces that should be understood.

Anonymous said...

'reason' asked "if the Democratic congress repealed the anti-terror bill couldn't Bush just veto the repeal?"

Yep - and Dems don't have enough votes on their own for an override.

But if changes to the Military Commissions Act, for example, are embedded into a bill that Bush really wants - say appropriation of funds for Iraq - and if the changes made aren't too much for him to accept, they may get through.

reason said...

sounds like we basically agree.

But this game of packing unrelated things in bills and then pointing the finger and saying he voted against a (na, na, na...) when in fact he voted against against b that was in the same bill needs to be ended. I'm not sure how that can be acchieved, but what you are suggesting sounds like it is making things worse in that respect.