Sunday, February 25, 2007

News from the Edge...and Beyond

Heinlein-moonJuly 7th, 2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Heinlein. The Heinlein Society is planning on publishing a Centennial Reader made up of contributions from people who may have known or felt Heinlein’s influence in their personal or professional lives. “We are looking for stories, anecdotes, or scholarly essays on Heinlein's works.” Pass word along. Pay it forward.

Danone, one of the largest dairy food and water producers in the world, is forming a joint venture with Muhammad Yunus' Grameen Bank to form what Yunus calls a "social business enterprise." By truly marrying the interests of corporations with economic development, the model calls for corporations to "draw on microcredit-funded businesses to incorporate nonprofit models into their bottom-line operations, seeking not just revenue but social returns, and returning the profits to the communities where they operate."

Addiction, Lie Detection and Infection

addictionAn unusual study of people with brain damage, caused in most cases by a stroke, suggests the compulsion to light up might be driven by the same little studied brain region, the insula, that helps us make sense of hunger pangs, nervous twitches and all sorts of visceral body signals. If only some high level types would see the need to study addiction as a GENERAL TRAIT OF HUMAN NATURE. Alas.

Polygraph tests are notoriously unreliable, yet thousands of employers, attorneys, and law-enforcement officials use them routinely. Could an alternative system using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a technology that indirectly measures brain activity, better detect deceit? The U.S. government is certainly interested. "The great danger is that something like fMRI is adopted as a means of lie detection and becomes the standard before it has been scientifically evaluated for this purpose..."

I would add a second danger. That elites of government, commerce and wealth will gain access to such techniques before the masses can use them reciprocally.

The discovery, announced last week, that the H5N1 bird flu virus is widespread in cats in locations across Indonesia has refocused attention on the danger that the deadly virus could be mutating into a form that can infect humans far more readily.

And let me pass along some cool items collated by Ray Kurzweil...

EEStor claims that its system, a kind of battery-ultracapacitor hybrid based on barium-titanate powders, will dramatically outperform the best lithium ion batteries on the market in terms of energy density, price, charge time, and safety. Such a breakthrough would have the potential to radically transform the transportation sector

Neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran believes that "other awareness" may have evolved first and then, counterintutively, the same ability was exploited to model ones own mind--what one calls self awareness.

Space experts have worried that a speeding bit of orbital debris might one day smash a large spacecraft into hundreds of pieces and start a chain reaction, a slow cascade of collisions that would expand for centuries, spreading chaos through the heavens.

coverBio-era released “Genome Synthesis and Design Futures: Implications for the U.S. Economy”. The report 1) examines the present state of biological technologies and places them in the context of technological revolutions from the past 100 years, 2) examines economic and market impacts of biological technologies in three sectors important to the U.S. economy, biofuels, vaccines, and chemicals, and 3) develops four scenarios exploring the consequences of certain technological developments and of governmental policy.

Researchers at MIT have designed a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that assembles itself out of microscopic materials. This could lead to ultrasmall power sources for sensors and micromachines the size of the head of a pin. It could also make it possible to pack battery materials in unused space inside electronic devices.

Blinkx's technology allows users to search more than seven million hours of Internet video to find exactly the clip they want. It employs speech recognition, neural networks, and machine learning to create transcripts, allowing for the words spoken in the videos to be searched.

Then there are some ruminations on interstellar travel.

An article about the eerie tendency of human beings to “recognize” faces almost anywhere.

On the Edge

51YZboJF+cL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_And now, from “RU Serious”... a new book True Mutations: Interviews on the Edge of Science, Technology, and Consciousness with contributions from luminaries like Jaron Lanier, Cory Doctorow, Jamais Cascio, John Markhoff etc.

The volume “looks at the wild changes that may be coming to the human species during the 21st Century. In a series of interviews, author/host RU Sirius explores a series of (r)evolutions in disciplines ranging from the evolution of clean energy to the possibilities of endless neurological ecstasy; from open-source free access to nearly everything under the sun to self-directed biotechnological evolution; from psychedelic culture mash-ups to the possibilities of a technological singularity that alters not only humanity but the entire universe. In 2007, True Mutations takes up where his earlier book (with Rudy Rucker) Mondo 2000: A User’s Guide to the New Edge left off. I hope these playful, informative, occasionally skeptical, frequently trippy, and sometimes funny conversations turn you on to new ways of thinking about these sometimes scary and definitely wiggy times and inspire new forms of creative work and play among those who read it.”

And Beyond...

And now to the ridiculous: I recently received, by old fashioned US post, a bit of junk mail for an organization selling books and promoting "geocentricity." Their wares supposedly reveal "what scientists haven't been telling you for four centuries" -- naughty scientists! - that "written evidence and ancient witnesses around the world record a time when an unusually long span of daylight or night occurred. But scientists cannot explain why this event did not cause massive earthquakes or coastal flooding."

In case you can think of an explanation, Mr. Scientist, heed the words of the website that whenever astronomy and the Bible differ, "it is always astronomy ... that is wrong."



Anonymous said...

On orbital debris "pollution" I once read that there existed a proposal to clean up such by orbiting very large very low pressure "balloons" in a counter rotational orbit (since most craft are orbited in the same direction of earth's rotation) to clean up such debris.

The impact would rob most debris of sufficient energy that it would de-orbit and burn, but the balloon itself having a large area and little need of structural strength would continue for hundreds of orbits sweeping thousands of pieces of dust, loose nuts, tools, and small broken parts before itself returning and burning in the atmosphere.

Of course there are logistics problems with making sure they don't impact active satellites, and the orbital mechanics of such a structure and the engineering of maneuvering could be "interesting", but I have no reason to see why such a sweep operation would not work.

Is there some reason such a "sweeper" program wouldn't work? Wouldn't it make more sense to prepare such a cleanup than bemoan the possibility of disaster?

-- TWZ

Anonymous said...

I was waiting for a new entry to come up before blogging this.

The "Conservapedia" is an alternative to Wikipedia designed for conservatives and christians upset by British spelling, the use of "C.E." in dates, anti-Americanism, and liberal bias.

Some choice entries:

"World War I consisted mostly of trench warfare. This method of waging war was very slow and messy. Soldiers might wait in their trenches for weeks, only to advance a few feet and wait in a new trench. It is not hard to guess why trench warfare has not been used since World War I."

"The majority opinion holds that Newton was a unitarian (one God) and an Arian (Jesus was divine but did not exist eternally and was created by God at some point before coming to Earth). Both are commonly regarded by conservative Christians as the foulest of heresies, and Newton's adoption of them illustrates the folly of adopting personal religious beliefs rather than submitting to lawful authority."

"Jean Baptiste Lamarck was the first scientist to come up with the idea of evolution (though a different version than Darwin's). Lamarck suggested that giraffes got long necks by stretching to reach trees, when clearly they got long necks because God wanted them to be long. Lamarck is now an object of derision amongst scientists, much like Darwin will be in a year or two."

From the entry on the Moon:

"2. The Moon presents the same side to Earth at all times, even though the Moon revolves around the Earth. That requires the rotation of the Moon to be timed precisely to offset the separate effects of the revolution around Earth. This has an awesome artistic or design effect without any plausible physical reason.

5. Our solar system is one of the few that has only one sun. Only one sun and only one moon: this uniqueness may reflect the existence of only one God."

But you can learn about wonderful things, like the Pacific Northwest Arboreal Octopus.

"Reality has a well known liberal bias."
--Stephen Colbert

David Brin said...

An excellent post, Stefan. But did you notice the sneak-inconsistency? The entry about Isaac Newton called "one god" belief (as opposed to trinitarianism) a foul heresy. While the Astronomy/moon entry repeats the very same foul heresy.

Turnabout is fair play. The neocons used to diss the dems because so many of their supporters were the poor who were educationally-disadvantaged due to circumstance. Shall we not ponder the fitness of a party that elects a large fraction of its leaders based on support from folks who are educationally-disadvantaged as a matter of deliberate choice?

jbmoore said...

There was a paper in Science about 1-2 years ago. A cat that ate a bird that was infected with bird flu and had even died from the illness would contract the virus. It was reproducible. So, it's not really news that cats are contracting the illness since one of their prey items is birds.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the conservapedia site:

I think this is a cas of a "false flag", which is to say some liberals are doing the Colbert Report thing and mocking conservatives. Why do I think this?

Well, just check out the Bill Clinton entry, and look for this precious little snippet: Bill Clinton managed to serve two terms without botching the prosecution of two wars, manipulating intelligence, engaging in a systematic program of torture, or mishandling the federal response to flooding of a major American city. Obviously, he is the devil incarnate.

David Brin said...

I have no doubt that the Conservapedia has been thoroughly gamed and hacked and meddled.

But is the shell itself a ruse. A satire? Interesting. Let's keep an eye. Someone report.

Woozle said...

Note that Conservapedia is closed to editing; you have to log in to edit, and the log-in page has no way to create an account. Perhaps this is a recent development, however. If the vandalism theory is true, then perhaps the lockdown was in response to said vandalism. If it's all a Colbert-esque parody, then who knows. Wikipedia's entry on Conservapedia is tentatively supported by a whois on; can anyone confirm either Andrew Schlafly's relationship to Phyllis, or whether the address matches that of Eagle Forum?

If vandalism is the cause of the weird entries, we should start seeing those articles get fixed. (Note: the article on Intelligent Design, although short, seemed quite accurate and non-religiously-based... but perhaps that was part of the vandalism?) On the other hand, some of the weirdness may be due to the authorship, many of whom are apparently grade-school age. (See "About Conservapedia" at the bottom.)

The Arboreal Octopus is a hoax, according to Wikipedia -- which of course proves nothing, but the text for the Conservapedia article thereof seems to be lifted wholesale from here.

I'm going to refrain from saying what I think about Conservapedia claiming to be an alternative to Wikipedia despite being closed to editing. Maybe it's a temporary situation. Yeah. Temporary.

False Data said...

I would add a second danger. That elites of government, commerce and wealth will gain access to such techniques before the masses can use them reciprocally.

It seems to me that this danger is likely to be the norm, rather than the exception, with any new technology. New technologies tend to be expensive, with prices that drop over time, so those with lots of money tend to be able to afford them first.

If this is how the world tends to work, then any transition to a transparent society's going to need legal support. If you try to rely on technical progress alone, there will often be a gap when prices keep surveillance tools from being available for sousveillance--in other words, reciprocity might break. How badly it breaks will depend on the details of the technology and how long it takes to commercialize it. The only way I can see around this problem is by artificially restricting either the availability of the technology or the ability of people to use it. Today, we do that through laws that fall somewhere in the privacy family, like restrictions on searches and seizures and trade secret protection. It might be useful to give some thought to what those laws would look like in a transparent society.

By the way, I'm playing around with ideas for community building and group decision-making. If anyone's curious, I'd love to have comments from people who are used to "thinking speculatively" (for lack of a better way to describe it).

sociotard said...

I'm trying to see how civilians would use MRI lie detectors. I'm all for reciprocal transparency, I'm just having a hard time seeing the connection here.

After all, how many people buy or build polygraph tests? (flawed though they are) Even corporations don't seem to use them much, just the feds.

And, if I may be permited a moment of cynicism regarding the effectiveness of the new lie detector, "If you build a better liar trap, nature will create a better liar."

sociotard said...

Oh, let me append that last post. I could see this being used by civilians all the time if they could be made to detect lies at range, instead of sticking a guys head in a big donut. But then, I doubt it could opperate on the same principles. otherwise you'd have "I'm sorry, officer. If I'd known the politician had a steel pin in his arm I never would have used my lie detector to rip it out."

Now, what I'm really curious about is this "social business enterprise" concept. First, let me say that I really respect for Mr. Yunus.

However, I'm having a hard time seeing how they're going to put the "Social Dividends" in the stockholder report? Lets take their examples.

How many children did a food company rescue from malnutrition?
Er, I don't think you can measure that. I mean, not everybody who doesn't eat Dannon yoghurt will starve. They could take the difference in number of starved children from before Dannon started the program and the year after, but then you have to try to normalize for all other factors (economy, famine, war), and in the end it gets kind of close to guesswork.

How many lives did a pharmaceutical company's drug save in a given quarter? Well, this is a little easier. If I have pneumonia and I don't get antibiotics and steroids I'll likely die, and they can measure how many people take the drugs and live. Still, this doesn't take into account that, had the drugs not come from company A, they would have come from company B. And sometimes people who don't get the drugs still recover, just as some people who do get the drugs don't. Once again, we'll just have to guesstimate.

In the end, I suppose it will come down to writing a "warm fuzzy" on all the quarterly reports. That's not bad. I'd be more accepting of a company that averaged 3% interest instead of 6% interest if they made me feel good about myself. Heck, maybe the positive sum game will work out, and I'll still see my retirement portfolio grow at 6%.

However, when I go shopping for stocks, it's a lot easier to compare companies by charting stock worth over long periods of time than by reading a thousand "warm fuzzies" and deciding which one was warmest and which one was fuzziest. Should I invest in the shoe company that refuses to use child labor or the automotive factory that operates under Gore-level environmental awareness?

False Data said...

Zechariah, I think you've answered the question when it comes to civilian use of the lie detector system. Give it 61 years, and civilians may eventually use it in pretty much the same way civilians today use what was once a room-sized, vacuum-tube-based, computer.

Anonymous said...

The fMRI technology cited by Dr. Brin appears to undercut its own credibility.

From the article:
"The brain-activity patterns measured during fMRI are not specific to deception, making it challenging to identify a brain pattern that definitively identifies a lie."

That would appear to eliminate the fMRI as a foolproof or even highly credible lie detector and seems to make the fMRI as fatally dependent on data interpretation as the long-debunked polygraph. As Bob Park has pointed out, the NAS report on polygraphs in 2003 concluded that the polygraph did not meet the Daubert standard and was unreliable. In fact, polygraphs average no better than a coin flip.

Brain fingerprinting offers a better option than fMRI because instead of trying to pinpoint deception, the p300 evoked potential merely indicates the presence of information in the brain. The p300 does appear to be unique, unlike the glucose metabolism associated with
deception but also other brain activities and detected by the fMRI:

However, even brain fingerprinting has serious problems. To take a hypothetical example: suppose police put a suspect under
an EEG machine and show him a photo of a blood crime scene. The suspect registers a P300, indicating that he has seen the crime scene before. The poilce arrest the suspect and charge him with the murder.

Suppose, however, that the suspect watched a crime show the previous night containing a scene of a murder coincidentally similar to the crime photo? We've now got a false positive. Many other scenarios come to mind -- a tramp might burgle a house for food and stumble across the crime scene but deny it to avoid getting arrested for B&E. The tramp shows a p300 under brain fingerprintting when prsented with a photo of the crime scene and thus he gets charged with the murder.

Neither fMRI nor brain fingerprinting offer anything like the reliable "truth detector" Dr. Brin seems to be talking about.

Bruce sterling has some remarks about polygraphs and brain fingerprinting here. He calls it "one of the top ten technologies that needs to die":

The ultimate problem with all truth detectors, aside from the tendency of sociopaths to believe their own lies and maintain a total lack of affect while telling 'em, is that as humans we tend to discount the likelihood of coincidence. The classic experimental example of this all-too-human trait is the well-known Birthday Paradox.

Or, as Isaac Asimov put it, "People are far too disbelieving of coincidence":

Coincidences are likely to produce multitudinous false positives and false negatives in fMRI scans and brain fingerprinting. Viz., an innocent person might incorrectly think s/he recognizes a crime scene when they're actually remembering something they saw in a movie or a book, or even in a dream, or perhaps as a child -- or a guilty person might not recognize a crime scene because of the harsh lighting in the photograph, the angle of the body, etc. (Or a guilty person could at least credibly doubt that this is indeed the same crime scene, allowing him to truthfully answer "No" to the question "Do you recognize this scene?") An innocent person could be asked "Did you commit this murder?" but believes himself responsible for (say) his wife's death by neglecting her, says "No," yet the fMRI lights up with consciousness of deception. Suspects gets falsely charged. And so on.

Like trying to beat the stock market with chaos theory, these clever techno-fixes never work to produce a genuinely reliable system. Nature and human society prove far too complicated for such simple fixes. Or, as Bacon put it in Novum Organum, "the subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of argument."

Francis said...

One thing I've been wondering for a while (although this should probably go on the previous post): Could some conservative please explain to me why any conservative (as opposed to kleptocrat, member of the "religious right" or person who believes that American liberty is based on the right to bear arms, would vote Republican for any purpose other than causing gridlock?

It can't be anything to do with economics - since WWII the economy consistently has improved more under the Democratic party than the Republican party, the Democratic party increases spending year on year (both military and non-military) by less than the Republican party, and the worst Democratic president has been about as good at balancing the budget as the best Republican president. It can't be anything to do with corruption - a cursory look at the antics of both parties should show that. It can't be the military - I'm trying to think of a successful war the Republican party has prosecuted since the Civil War and the Democratic party is generally nicer to the enlisted (even if you ignore Iraq) whereas the Republicans tend to be nicer to the industrialists. And (and the crucial point) it can't be fear of change. The single most radical President within my lifetime has been Reagan - the genuine conservative view would have been to accept Nixon's assertion that "We are all Keynseans now"* and not have any truck with voodoo economics. And as for the religion issue, the US is explicetly not a Christian country.

That leaves ... um. Gay Marriage? And going back further to the time when the left was genuinely radical, the Civil Rights movement. As for the former, it's gay marriage vs corruption, severe changes in economics, and religious faffing. And the latter, well... Does anyone now admit to supporting Jim Crow?

Could some conservative explain things to me please?

* My belief is that this was the nail in the coffin of Keynseanism - but I'm not a conservative.

Don Quijote said...

Could some conservative explain things to me please?

I am not a conservative, but I'll give you my take on it.

Lawyers, Guns and Monet - Worst American Birthdays, vol. IV

It's my belief that there is substantial portion of the white population that, to put it crudely, would rather eat shit than give the n***ers a plugged wooden nickel and that group is the southern base of the republican party.

sociotard said...

Hmm, why do I vote for republican candidates?

Well, I always vote in the republican primaries. I'm from Idaho, and, with few exceptions, Democrats don't do well in Idaho. The republican primary is my best chance to help choose my leaders.

But your question was about why go with the party as a matter of philosophy, not political reality. What follows is a list of republican platforms that I stick with.

Guest Worker Programs I don't think that illegal immigrants should all just be rounded up and deported, a cursory glance at the economy of any border state (and several other states) reveals that would be foolish. I would, however, like it to be done legally. If that means easing the bottleneck to get into the country, so be it. This is one of President Bushes programs that I supported (though most republicans I met hated it). Incidentally, I think this is why Bush didn't maintain as strict border patrols as Clinton: he hoped to turn the immigrants into party members.

Abortion I am a moderate on this issue. While I think any abortion outside of the three exceptions is wrong, I think that women should get to choose to do it for any reason within the first trimester, and for the three exceptions thereafter. That puts me outside both the republican (neverever) and democratic (anything, even partial birth abortions, clear up to just before delivery) extremes. If our society must err, I would rather it err on the republican side. Meanwhile I write my representatives advocating my moderate viewpoint.

Wolf Reintroduction I hate wolves. I can understand when they're introduced to game preserves where humans can't hunt anyway. But everywhere else? Our elk herds have been really hurt. The wolves don't operate on seasons. They don't buy the tags that help fund the agencies that run the woods. They kill calves and cows (elk, not bovine). They frighten cattle so they don't fatten as easily. I know, small beans to you city bred democrats, but it matters to us.

Right to Bear Arms Yeah, I know, you told me it was off limits. I do support restrictions on firearms (waiting periods, background checks, licenses yadda yadda). I actually think that Dr. Brin had some excellent suggestions in his "Jefferson Rifle" section. But I don't want a Giuliani style gun grab(I know, he pretends to be a Republican, don't remind me) or even a great-britain style outlawing. Again, if our society must err, let it be on the side of the republicans.

There's a list of republican issues I part with as well, but we'll save that for later. Oh, and I never voted for Bush.

Anonymous said...

Well, I've been pretty good converting an "Ostrich" over to even re-registering as Libertarian and to stop supporting the Republican Party, but I fear this may be a loosing battle around here.

I heard on the radio this morning about a petition sent to Washington by a thousand service-members requesting an end to the war in Iraq. That same radio station (a very popular, although generally conservative, talk-radio station in the New Orleans area) put up the following poll, and I've included the results so far:


The Few, The Proud, the Outspoken?
Over 1,000 GI's and reserve members of the U.S. military petitioned Congress to end the war in Iraq.

NO 55%
YES 45%

I heard one caller this morning, an ex-Marine who served in Vietnam, proclaim quite loudly that those who have taken the oath to "server God and Country" do NOT have the right to "question orders", and as such he felt they had no right to speak out.

The very question presupposes either that GIs don't have such a right or such a right should be removed if they have it now. To me this just boggles the mind! Joining the military certainly submits one to greater rules and restrictions that the general populace need never submit to, but it never simply removes your right to an opinion, let alone your absolute right to notify your elected representatives of your opinion on ANY matter. And bringing this in as a matter of questioning or refusing an order is beyond me. I've served in the military as well and it was always made perfectly clear (at least in the Air Force) that it was not only your right to question orders, it was your DUTY to do so. Not in terms of simply refusing orders by rote, but to internally question if an order you've be told to follow is a lawful one, one that does not require you to break that very oath you took to protect the Constitution of this country.

Service members can, and have been, prosecuted for following unlawful orders. The poll, and the current results on it so far this morning just blows me away. These folks aren't ostriches, they've buried even common sense into the sand!


Anonymous said...

Maybe we could figure out how to couple the lithium ion nanobots with some polysilicon nanobots and turn our garbage dumps into solar piles.

There will be millions of old cellphones and billions of old computers in them by the time we perfect the bots. I hope they don't become sentient, but if they do, maybe we can convince them we left them dinner. :-)

Francis said...

I'm ... intrigued by your list.

Re: guest workers, yes, Bush has gone that way - against a large and very vocal section of his party.

Re: abortion, from what I can tell the mainstream Democratic position on abortion would be close to that of Bill Clinton: "Safe, Legal, and Rare." I know of no pro-abortion Democrats who do not support minimising the number of abortions that take place by providing free access to contraception and early access to abortion - meaning that they are trying to remove the last-minute abortions by providing better alternatives rather than banning them. Thinking much the way you do on this, I favour the democratic position.

Re: Wolves, surely that's a local issue? If not, it's one I've never heard of and a minor (but irritating) issue. (And what sort of twit reintroduces dangerous predators to ecosystems in which they've been eliminated? See: cane toad or rabbit (and never mind the danger)).

Re: the right to arm bears, it's a matter of talking past each other - the rural gun lobby is normally talking about hunting rifles and the urban anti-gun lobby is talking about handguns used by gangs.

Lenny: I can just about see the point. Soldiers arguing orders can be lethal. But then I take a Thoreauian attitude to civil disobedience which says that the weight of the law should be thrown at people undertaking disobedience and that this makes a far stronger statement than no consequences.

Anonymous said...

"[E]ndless neurological ecstasy"? Where can I sign up?

TheRadicalModerate said...

On H5N1 in cats, Kurzweil only linked the first New Scientist article. The second one, "Pandemic flu may be only two mutations away", was considerably more interesting.

David Brin said...

sociotard, that was a very calm and cogent presentation of your “residual republican issues.”

Comments: Re immigration, this is one that Francis should add to his list. Bush is trying to use noise to overcome the fact that he crippled the Border Patrol while Bill Clinton doubled it. We have discussed before the weird irony that Democrats ACT to reduce illegal immigration (while keeping it almost secret) but boost legal immigration beyond all bounds. Meanwhile, the GOP opens the borders to illegals (while chest-thumping the opposite) and clamp down on legals so that companies can no longer import skilled workers they desperately need. I cannot imagine a way to get these conter-intuitive ironies before the public. Not one radio talk jock would ever touch them.

I have made clear my eagerness to compromise on gun control and abortion. Moderates could work out deals, but these are issues controlled by un-moderates.

In any event, since the GOP controlled ALL levers of power for 6 years and did not decrease the number of abortions by even 1%, I would say that guns are among their very few “residual-sane” issues. Certainly not enough to counter-balance the destruction of Pax Americana.

re lie detectors, see SUNDIVER (1980) for what is STILL a far better method than fMRI for getting a window into personalities and lies. ANd it can be done from 5,000 miles away.

Anonymous said...

The Socially Responsible Business question is a good one. How would shareholders learn what they wanted about the various warm fuzzies?

I could have equally useful arguments about the Pharmaceutical companies being evil - they spend time and research on non-critical but lucrative "lifestyle" drugs and treatments and spend a lot of money advertising a product whose dispensation rates should be controlled by trained professionals. However, you could also argue pretty easily that they have saved many lives. For example, I may one day have to create a foundation on behalf an allergy drug that I am particularly depend on. Most would call it a lifestyle thing, but it has kept me out of ER many times.

On the other hand, many business types talk about "monetization" of non-tangibles like good will, past business history (which is why you see such jackbooted interpretations of copyright coming out lately) and so forth. Good CEOs are trying to find credit for something other than stock prices in order to support their long-term initiatives all the time.

It's a tricky problem, likely part education (short-term money isn't everything) and part implementation (like that monetization thing). Because if the benefits of Social Responsibility can't be demonstrated, then it's only a matter of time before those business laders touting it are sacked for their more rapacious counterparts.

And don't underestimate the customer in this - Wal-Mart censors media all the time in order to satisfy the delicate sensabilities of a vocal purchasing bloc.

Anonymous said...

Two items I thought others might find interesting

Iran launches its own sputnik. It's 1957 all over again.

Sinkhole opens in Guatamala You've gotta see the images. The mole man lives!

Anonymous said...

PS. Also note that as a major water bottler, the Dannon company has another major opportunity do something good (but may destroy its profits in the process):

The above I would actually count as a market/social failure. The ridiculousness of the situation is where clean water can be cheaply provided to people as a public resource (as utilities do here) - but even in this country people spend on bottled rather than the tap.,1,5856161.story?coll=chi-site-nav

In other words, advertising and the desire to be "upscale" shakes down the consumer in this country.

In corrupt governments like Latin America, municipal services are neglected or intentionally degraded for multinationals.

RandomSequence said...

sociotard and david,

Abortion is a non-negotiable between the sides. As much as you'd like a reasonable compromise, so that we can go on to more important things, a compromise is impossible. Unlike most questions which have a million shades of gray, this one is logically black-and-white. Either a blastocyst == an adult human being, or it does not (in terms of status as a full contractee in society).

If you advance that the potential in a set of genes embedded in stem cells is deserving of full consideration as a citizen, then obviously any compromise can only be temporary. You're trying to stop mass murder.

If you accept that a blastocyst is a bunch of stem cells, basically indistinguishable from a pancreatic totipotent cell, which happens to be in a uterus, then obviously choices regarding its treatment must be primarily a medical and moral issue at the level of family and local medical establishment. Negotiation can only occur at the far end – at which developmental point we declare the fetus a citizen. The burden is on society then to be minimally invasive, so somewhere around birth is reasonable (some societies put it a few months before, some historically a few moments after); definitely before full myelinization, but after the CNS begins functioning (accepting sensory input, controlling motor functions).

How can you hope to compromise between these two viewpoints? There is no common definitions to argue over – we're talking about basic definitions of personhood, the very basis of the social contract. And it can't be dismissed as a minor issue, less important and thereby sidelined; anyone who has every been involved in such a decision considers it much more important than such "minor" decisions like freely choosing a job, or place to live – essential human freedoms.

Unknown said...

The mention of lie detectors reminded me of Voice Stress Analysis which I haven't heard about since sometime in the mid-90s, when the Israeli Defense Force was reported to be using it in field interrogations. So I did a quick google and discovered that:

1. It's still around. There are now American companies selling it, as well as Israeli ones.

2. There's a huge controversy over whether it works or not, complete with purpose-built websites and dueling expert publications. On superficial observation, it looks like the con side is anchored by the professional association of polygraph operators, whose motive may be to keep their jobs. The pro side seems to consist of DOD agencies and individual police forces, whose motive may be to get anything new that might help them to get confessions, real or otherwise.

3. It's very simple to do these days; it's all software that runs on a laptop. This probably means that even if it is effective that its large-scale deployment will be impeded by large-scale intellectual property barratry.

If the technique is ever deployed and accepted as legally admissable in court, we've got a situation where your veracity can be verified at a distance and without your knowledge using cheap and highly portable equipment. Puts any sort of MRI technique in the shade.

Of course, if it were deployed, how would we know whether it had high proportions of true to false positives and true to false negatives? Could we believe anything anybody said about it? Would it matter for purposes of deployment, or would people use it, just as they use polygraphs, not caring that they don't work very well?

Or are those all rhetorical questions?

Unknown said...

Unlike most questions which have a million shades of gray, this one is logically black-and-white. Either a blastocyst == an adult human being, or it does not (in terms of status as a full contractee in society).
I don't agree that the question is necessarily black-and-white, but I do agree that the two sides in the US will always agree on just one thing: that it is black-and-white.

If the issue were not primarily religious on one side and a reaction to that religious issue on the other, then the disagreement could be framed in other terms.

As proof I offer that Europe has arrived (in general) at a compromise position that holds abortion to be undesirable in some but not all, circumstances. but that in most cases the decision should be left to the woman.

Unknown said...

Unlike most questions which have a million shades of gray, this one is logically black-and-white. Either a blastocyst == an adult human being, or it does not (in terms of status as a full contractee in society).
I don't agree that the question is necessarily black-and-white, but I do agree that the two sides in the US will always agree on just one thing: that it is black-and-white.

If the issue were not primarily religious on one side and a reaction to that religious issue on the other, then the disagreement could be framed in other terms.

As proof I offer that Europe has arrived (in general) at a compromise position that holds abortion to be undesirable in some but not all, circumstances. but that in most cases the decision should be left to the woman.

TheRadicalModerate said...


I agree with your assertion that the abortion issue is "logically black and white," but there is a construction that could move the debate forward.

First, I should note that I'm pro-abortion but not "pro-choice." Making any progress on this issue requires that we clear away as much obfuscation and marketing jingoism as possible. I belive that the issue is serious enough to warrant codifying into law, rather than leaving it as a matter for personal ethics, as it is now. For similar reasons, I don't support a "burglar's right to choose."

I suspect that almost nobody would object to defining a blastocyst as human if there weren't a compelling reason to terminate pregnancies. Unfortunately, there is such a compelling reason: The human and social costs in parents' and children's lives ruined from being forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term is very high. Again, I suspect that very few people would deny this cost.

The piece of (dishonest) mental jujitsu that everybody has to perform lies in reconciling these two relatively self-evident propositions. If you think the social cost outweighs the destruction of human life, you redefine the life to be non-human. If you can't live with that, then clearly abortion must be socially undesirable.

So, how about this construction:

1) We stipulate that abortion is the taking of human life, but:

2) We then engage in a debate about whether the taking of human life prior to xx weeks gestation constitutes a justifiable homicide on the public policy grounds that society should be protected from the negative moral, social, and/or economic effects caused by unwanted children.

Gruesome though this is, it at least has the advantage of being logically consistent and avoids the is-not-is-so argument about when human life begins. You still have the debate, but now you're debating the real issue. Mind you, I'm not holding my breath...

RandomSequence said...


The question is not the desirability of abortion, but of the availability. The solution of leaving it, in most cases, in the hands of the woman in question already assumes that you've accepted the proposition that the blastocyst/embryo/fetus is not an autonomous human being with full civil rights (unlike a child).

That position is not only antithetical to the (deep) anti-abortion crowd, but almost unimaginable. They believe that a blastocyst must legally be indistinguishable from a child. If you believe that abortion is murder, compromise is only acceptable as a temporary holding action.

The position that you are saying is the "gray" area, isn't really the gray area; it just belongs to the large zone of pro-choice. The morally consistent anti-abortion position is a bit more constrained.

Blake Stacey said...

I discovered a few days ago that the Conservapedia article on judicial activism had been written by a parodist. This bloke, going by the 'nym of "DrShaffopolis", said the following:

There are two major types of judicial activism practiced in the United States' court system:
1. Liberal judges striking down laws that uphold core conservative American values
2. Liberal judges refusing to strike down laws that subvert core conservative American values
The most famous example of this is Roe v. Wade

He then confessed at Pharyngula. "Earwig" added the following text, including references to FOX News:

Other examples include Brown v Board of Education which stripped state powers of control over education and put them in the hands of the federal government, McCreary County v. ACLU in which judges stripped free speech and religious freedom from McCreary County and Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in which the Supreme Court sided with terrorists over the protection of the United States of America.

"Conservinator" then added a blurb at the end, "and that case where the judge decided to murder poor Terry Schiavo, just because she was in a wheelchair." The project's Fearless Leader, Andrew Schlafly, then reverted the article to its previous state, keeping all the additions of DrShaffopolis and Earwig.

Not too surprisingly, the joke article soon got uncritically accepted by a blogger looking for material to laugh about. Conservapedia was so hammered by traffic (thanks to its publicity at that it took me ten minutes to load the page revision history and see what had really happened.

Neither the person who wanted to make fun of it nor the man being mocked could tell they were falling for a parody! The satire has become the object of ridicule; the map is now the territory.

B.C. said...

Lie detectors don't have to be court-admissable for people to feel threatened by them. Jerry Pournelle speaks from experience:

[quote] However, I do want to emphasize that it takes a skilled and talented interrogator who is familiar with what the various measures mean, and a much better polygraph than the usual kit available to most police. It needs among other things face and hand temperature measurements (separate) with fast response times, as well as GSR, heart rate, and breathing pattern (not just breath rate). But given good measurements and someone skilled, you can play "20 questions" with considerable accuracy despite determined resistance by the subject. "Did you bury the body north of the river? Ah, south, then. Near the river? Ah, how near? What do you think is near? Is a mile near? Half a mile? Less than half a mile. Let's see, you live less than half a mile from the river, did you bury that body east or west of your house..." [end quote]


David Brin said...

I have, on occasion, posted here my own crackpot theory as to what deeply undelies the Great Big Abortion Struggle.

After all, if it were over an abstraction like the moment that human life begins, you would expect believers in both views to exist on both sides of the left-right divide. The fact that believers in the neocon movement's economic and social agenda also just happen to believe that humanity ensues upon conception -- with such utter consistency -- suggests that something else may be going on.

I have spoke elsewhere of the "Jesus Effect" as my own half-baked theory as to why things have fallen into place the way they did. I pondered re-posting the theory here, and even expanded/rewrote it. Then reconsidered. In some ways it is the most inflamatory thing I've suggested...

...even though I in the end come down very hard upon the left, for their stunning lack of curiosity and compassion and understanding of their enemy.

Anonymous said...

On the subject of lie detector tests, an anecdote.

A good friend, a shipmate who I have known 20 years, upon his military retirement decided that a job with the local Police Force was what he wanted to do. After taking various tests of physical and mental ability, he was given a lie detector test.
He failed.
Specifically, he failed (was caught lying) when he said he hadn't used illegal drugs in the past five years.
Now, my friend spent the last five years guarding naval WEAPONS. People who work near such weapons are tested, regularly and often, for drugs. A possibility of a positive test will get you thrown off the program, an actual positive test will get you Dishonorably Discharged... not for the mere use of illegal drugs, but for using them while stationed where such WEAPONS are stored.

So, no, he hadn't used drugs, the test was wrong.

He was refused employment with the police force, not for using drugs, but for lying about it.

Then he found he couldn't get a job with any other police force. Because they all ask "have you ever been refused employment in law enforcement and for what reason?"

So, he's gone on to other work, because a polygraph operator declared him to be a liar.

Anonymous said...

Anecdotal evidence of the worthlessness of polygraphs abounds. As just one example, Aldrich Ames, the traitor who stole vast amounts of classified info from the CIA and sold it to the Russians over a period of 12 years, underwent regular polygraph examination. He passed every single polygraph exam with flying colors.

As for abortion, not only is there a compromise, but there's a quick and easy technical fix -- once we get the technology.
Artificial wombs.
A woman doesn't want to carry an embryo to term? Remove it and implant it in an artificial womb. Problem solved.

As for why people continue to vote Repub, I think the answer boils down to social issues. A lot of people are deeply uncomfortable with many social developments nowadays. Let's take some examples: sex. As a society, we have pretty much given up on trying to filter the internet. Yes, yes, we've got some half-hearted Net Nanny software, which any teenager who knows the words "proxy server" can bypass with ease. A technical fix for preventing under-18 children from accessing sexual content on the net is not practical. Realistically speaking, all under-18 kids know far more than their parents about computers and the net, so any attempt to keep kids from seeing sexual content on the net is bound to fail.
What this means, as a practical matter, is that every child by the age of 7 or 8 has seen every possible sex act that can be performed between human beings. Group sex, bestiality, gay sex, lesbian sex, latex, bdsm, peeing, scat, fisting, DP, threesomes, foursomes, trains, daisy chains, pedicadio, frottage, you name it.
I probably fall somewhere on the liberal-anarchist-libertarian dege of the political spectrum socially speaking, but I confess that I'm deeply uncomfortable with the idea of exposing 8-year-old kids to the kind of nasty pornography that abounds on the web. For consenting adults? Fine, no problem. But you know that kids are going to dare each other to watch this stuff, and the dares will just get more and more outrageous. It's how children behave. "I dare you to eat that frog." And of course soon enough the kids wind up playing truth or dare using the sex acts they see on the net. This gets us into a very uncomfortable area.
Too, there's the breakdown of the family. No conservative I -- but still, I have to admit that the sheer number of struggling single women with kids who've been abandoned by delinquent dads enrages me. Something should be done. And not just alimony. It seems fundamentally unhealthy for a society to be awash with dirt-poor financially strapped single women struggling to raise a kid while holding down two jobs.
Then there's the total irresponsibility parents seem to exhibit toward their children. This one mainly results from the insane hours couples must work today to make a decent living. That in turn means that children get left alone between the hours of 3 pm and 6 or 7 pm, when the parents come home -- so of course kids get into all sort of trouble between those hours. Essentially, our society has decided that it's just fine to leave kids alone to create their own "Lord of the flies" primeval society where they can drink themselves into a stupor or have group sex or experiment with huffing scotchgard or whatever between the hours of 3 and 7 pm every day. Zero adult supervision. Zero guidance. Zero inspiration from adults. Zero immersion in the real world of adults, just a kid-created "Lord of the flies" world where anything goes, and pre-teens now get taken to the E.R. for dialysis when drinking contests go wrong.
Add to that the incredibly sociopathic videogames like Grand Theft Auto, and you wind up with a social environment for kids that borders on the psychologically toxic.
Mind you, I'm not saying that any of these social or technological developments is necessarily bad in and of itself. But the sum of the parts seems to me to add up to something unhealthy. You get kids afflicted with anomie, kids with no sense of self-worth, kids with no goals, kids who have no concept of the real adult world of challenges and excitement as a child would have if, say, they helped out in a family store, or strove to do something real like creating their own web 2.0 company. Instead, we see kids behaving in weird and abberrant ways, daring one another to do meaningless and self-destructive things, kids engaging in group sex even though they're bored with it and hate it, just to get a sense of connection to another human being or to awaken themselves from the sensation that they're dead inside.
Above all, the fact that we've turned schools into prisons complete with drug sniffing dogs and armed cops brandishing weapons has so disgusted children that many of 'em feel completely alienated from our society. Consequently, they feel no empathy or remorse when hijacking a car or raping a pregantn woman, or doing some of the other unbelivably sociopathic things we see younger and younger children doing nowadays.
I don't know what the solution is. Banning violent video games isn't it. Censoring the net won't work.
What I do see is skyrocketing rates of teen suicide, incredible rises in teen acoholism, sharply rising incidence of group sex among shockingly young kids, and it just looks unhealthy. It seems like a toxic social enviornment for young people to grow up in.
Above all, today's society for kids is incredibly more dangerous than it used to be. I'm not talking about physical danger, but psychological danger. Here's an example. A girl in a middle school fell in love with a boy and so she sent him a camera phone video of herself masturbating while telling him how much she loved him. Being a typical adolescent, he of course showed the video to his friends. Then he made a mistake: he sent the video as an attachment to some friends. They in turn sent it to their friends. Soon complete strangers were watching the video in the same class the girl was taking. Then some idiot uploaded it to the internet.
The girl's parents had to pull her out of the school. You can imagine the kind of embarrassmnet and humiliation she underwent.
Now, this sort of thing used to be a non-issue because 30 years ago, these kinds of incidents involved love notes. The boy might show his friend the love note, there might be some emabarrassment...but you can see that the stakes have been greatly upped by advances in technology and the changes in society. Today, cyberbullying is getting to be such a huge problem that adults are contmplating laws to intervene. That won't work. But the issue is that it's much more dangerous to be a kid today than it used to be. When I was in middle school, if a bully hated you, you might get beaten up. Now, you risk getting defamed for life with some fake website and slander that can make its way onto google and become immortal. Imagine googling your name and, for the next 40 yeasr, the top result is some inflammatory lie posted by someone who hated you in middle school!
I think this is the main reason why people vote Repub. This is why so many Americans fear and despise science -- they see these kind of technological dangers all around their kids, they incorrectly identify science with technology (science is just a neutral means, while tech is a socially determined end), and people think that by voting Repub they can somehow stuff the genie back into the bottle and eliminate all these dangerous changes threatening their kids.

TheRadicalModerate said...


Please do repost on all crackpot abortion theories.

Personally, I actually think it's easier to believe that life begins at conception if one is atheistic/agnostic than if one is some flavor of religious. If there's no issue of a soul, then the continuum from zygote to baby is unmarred by anything except the emergent property of self-awareness, which must be happening pretty late in the game.

I have a six-week-old granddaughter. She's awfully cute, but self-awareness doesn't appear to be one of her strong suits. Currently, her interactions with me are considerably less sophisticated than those of our cocker spaniel. That's all going to change some time in the next 3 to 6 months, but right now the only thing that really makes her different than she was in utero is the fact that her lungs and digestive system work.

(Quick exercise for all of you with access to a baby: Try touching his hands together above his head. This will give you a quick idea of how different a baby is from an adult. Is a blastocyst that much different from a baby?)

Is my granddaughter human? Of course. Is she a person? I'd argue that she isn't yet. So what makes her different than she was in utero? What makes her different from when she was a couple of eye buds and an open notochord? From when she was a gastrula?

Nothing but size and differentiation. If you're going to use the onset of differentiation as the start of humanity, you're back almost to pre-implantation.

David Brin said...

What you don't mention is the good stuff.

There's actually heaps and heaps. IQ scores are rising. My kids have never been physically bullied, not even once, or even witnessed it! And verbal bullying is totally wimpyness compared to... hell I was in one fight a month from ages 8 to 16.

I could go on, but I'd miss your point which is about romantic nostalgia and perception. Blue America is easily as moral as red. But both feel a deep need to pick issues to focus on that let them despise the other.

In fact, I don't think it's very hard to understand the grotesque underlying hatred of all things blue-urban-"liberal". All these things are seen as snooty and snide and superior and the shame of having been WRONG about civil rights and womens' rights and Vietnam and Watergate and science and all that is simply too much to bear.

Try proving another person wrong again and again. 70% odds they won't convert to your side. They will hate. And gather together to rationalize and justify more hatred.

Human anture. And liberals (actually lefty flakes) helped make it happen with equal immaturity.

And if we defeat the bastards, shaming them by proving the kleptos WERE monsters... do you expect that movement to die? Fat chance.

The reason we need the ostriches is double. To save america, and then to forge a better conservative tent for red america to rally under. Or we are heading into a hell that only another Sherman would finally (for a century) quench.

We can do better than that.

B.C. said...

ColonelZen wrote: "Is there some reason such a 'sweeper' program wouldn't work? Wouldn't it make more sense to prepare such a cleanup than bemoan the possibility of disaster?"

If I had to guess, I'd say the main obstacle to a sweeper program like that is launch costs. You're going to be launching large quantities of balloon in a counter rotational orbit, which increases the difficulty of launching. It might very well turn out to be uneconomical to do unless or until launch costs can be drastically decreased. Keep your fingers crossed for Blue Origin's project; if they can make space tourism work cheaply a number of other space projects may become economical as well.

I wish I had enough data to run the numbers for you. Sorry.


Francis said...

Re: abortion, there's one thing I don't understand. I can understand an opposition to abortion - but why the hell are many of the people who claim to be opposing abortion to prevent the deaths of foetuses also trying to oppose contraception (or supporting "abstenance only sex-education" rather than trying to make sure that every person has easy access to reliable contraception?

As for why people continue to vote Repub, I think the answer boils down to social issues. A lot of people are deeply uncomfortable with many social developments nowadays. Let's take some examples: sex.

You mean that thing which the Democratic party suggests using sex-education methods which work and the Republican party is putting money towards a system of education that is not only shown not to work (abstinance only) but actively promotes lies about the subject.* And never mind the divorce rates and Republican sex scandals...

Then there's the total irresponsibility parents seem to exhibit toward their children. This one mainly results from the insane hours couples must work today to make a decent living.

So why on earth does that lead to votes for the party that doesn't want to increase the minimum wage or improve working conditions for the poor so that the hours do not have to be so insane? I'm still confused, I'm afraid.

David, there is one way I think that quality of life for the young has plummeted - there isn't as much scope for kids to have fun these days. I see it particularly in Britain where the open spaces are decreasing in towns, kids are being driven out of places for loitering, and there's a period between the ages of about 12 and 20 where there is almost no purpose for the kid to be - school won't get them anywhere, there are no challenges and no rewards really worth having for about 90% of the population. I'm told it's the same in America.

* There's worse than that - IIRC the report the exam was based on is linked - but I'm googling from at work.

Don Quijote said...

Re: abortion, there's one thing I don't understand. I can understand an opposition to abortion - but why the hell are many of the people who claim to be opposing abortion to prevent the deaths of foetuses also trying to oppose contraception (or supporting "abstenance only sex-education" rather than trying to make sure that every person has easy access to reliable contraception?

Simple, they want the sluts who open their legs to suffer for their impudence.

USA Today - Abstinence message goes beyond teens

Long live the Patriarchy...

Francis said...

Don, stay out of this one please. I could probably produce most of the list of accusations you can - but I am genuinely interested in why people support the Republican party given that most of the stated reasons don't make much sense when you follow the numbers and the money rather than the claims. But few people are villains in their own mind and I'm not interested in villanising them and thereby further closing off discourse.

Anonymous said...


Authoritarian Personality accounts for a lot of it. I'm going to pimp Altemeyer again just for the shear number of cognitive defects he documents.

As I've also seen in the evolutionary debates, lies take ten seconds to utter and ten hours to rebut convincingly.

One useful thing that Altemeyer suggests (good old fashioned politics with some scientific backing) is to get conservatives out into the world. A living example:

Authoritarianism can be weakened with regular exposures to reality. That's why the first thing cultists do is tell the followers to shun the outsiders.

TheRadicalModerate said...

You guys are focusing on all the extreme reasons why conservatives vote Republican without taking into account the obvious things:

1) Conservatives think that free trade is the most liberating force on the planet and coincidentally makes lots of money for the US. (Being greedy pigs, we of course think very little about income distribution...) Democratic candidates almost always have to pander to the union money on their left flank and therefore make us nervous with vaguely protectionist statements. Note: Republican congressmen have gone soft on free trade recently, which is one of the reasons they're getting their clocks cleaned.

2) Every story about bills of attainder being placed on Walmart, or other similar "big business is evil" rants, cause conservatives to break out in hives. This stuff always comes from the Democrats. Republicans, for all their faults, never claim that business is evil.

1) Many conservatives are deeply suspicious of pacifism. (OK, the isolationists don't care about this--I don't think there are very many of them.) Democratic candidates more often than not have to provide some sort of pacifist sop to their left wing to get through their primaries.

GDP growth, deficits, anti-gun control, social conservatism--yeah, that stuff's important to various species of conservative. But the three I mention above are the things that most conservatives have in common.

TheRadicalModerate said...

PS to Odin--

I think I might have Authoritarian Personality Disorder! Please, please help me! Is there a pill I can take? A re-education camp I can go to?

Oh, wait--I scored an 89 out of 200 on the test in that link you sent out, where 90 was the mean. Does this mean I'm cured????

RandomSequence said...


You miss my point if you think its about "when life begins." That particular phrase is nonsense! Life is continual to at least 4 billion years back. There is no "beginning of human life," even though there is a very clear end.

No, the question is about what a human being is. In debates like this, it seems abstract, but in practice it's not. It's very concrete. Is a human being some kind of foreign entity to the universe, a "soul" outside of scientific access, or are we minds, made of matter, not essentially different from the other great apes?

RM makes the clear point of the psychological and emotional difficulties of the "no soul" position. Basically, until a child is 3-6 months, no myelinization, therefore no mind. From which follows, something can look perfectly human, like a newborn yet not be one, and something less human-looking like a chimpanzee, could actually be more human.

This is a deep psychological divide. It's not amenable to logically discussion, only conversion. Everything else hinges on this, the nature of law, the nature of life, what we should do about coal powered plants, etc...

Abortion steps right into the middle of your platonist/enlightenment separation. It's the last thing to deal with.

Anonymous said...

I prefer sex ed that teaches that abstinence is a better idea but still covers the other methods, simply because the other methods don't always work. I know that's what I got when I was in Rigby, Idaho. The counterargument I hear to explaining that condoms can and do rupture and sometimes the pill work is that the kids walk out of the classroom saying "why bother with birth control, since it might not work anyway?" I'm not sure how to deal with that.

One thing I do always find amusing is the way the arguments flip so perfectly when the situation is not Republicans objecting to Sex Ed, but Democrats objecting to firearms safety classes. If we say that every child should learn how to put a condom on a banana because most people have sex before marriage, should we not also say that all children should be required to learn how to safely handle a gun (including hands on experience), since one in three americans owns a gun.

The arguments flip perfectly! Republicans argue that learning about sex will make kids want to have sex, while democrats (at least one I talked to) seem to think that learning about guns will make kids confident enough to touch them and get into trouble.

David Brin said...

RM you are very cogent and well-spoken, but the rationalizations that you present are too-easily dealt with.

1) free trade is, indeed, a vital component of liberal economics and the creation of the most productive of the four "accountability arenas" ( I am a defender of competitive markets and maximizing opportunities for new players to take part. Hence, civil right, womens' rights and universal education were all "liberal" in the sense that Adam Smith would have very much appreciated.

He would have been wary of unions - recognizing them as having the potential to become self-protecting guilds - but he would also have seen their importance as bargaining tools that equalize a playing field that inherently favors the ones he REALLY feared... the owners and cronies of the king.

In any event, the real landscape on globalization is very complex and dems have easily done as much to open flows as the Gop ever did. Above all, fixation on "powerful unions" has become pretty pathetic, of late. The biggest union does not have the influence of the smallest golf-buddy billionaire.

2) "Business is evil" is a strawman. If a few lefty flakes screech this, so? The difference is that they do NOT control the democratic party or the liberal agenda. Whereas the screeching flakes of the right DO control their party. It is all the difference in the world. (Me, I would let business be business and the rich be rich. But strip them naked so that they must do all that they do in the open, as Adam Smith wanted.)

3) Pacifism, schmasifism. Clinton used force fiercely and effectively in the Balkans... though AFTER attending to diplomacy with patient and excruciating detail. The Afghanistan intervention was PLANNED BY HIM AND CLARK.

The Cold War policy of containment that Reagan gets all the credit for was planned by Acheson & Marshall. FDR led us to destroy the world's worst evil. And that brilliant moron JFK was not shy about taking this principle and making a huge mistake, committing us to a land war of attrition in Asia.

Dig it. The rant at Clinton was that dems believed in the "failed and discredited utopian notion of so-called nation building." And what, exactly, are we supposedly pouring our treasure and lives and credibility and popularity into doing, now? In the place on Earth where nationbuilding is LEAST likely to succeed? No the hypocrisy is utter.

Random, well said. Abortion is actually a tough nut and the far left has its own looniness. The one wise thing I saw was that "God created an ambiguous and analog world, in which "digital" laws make little sense."

Anonymous, you hit it on the head. Take my Questionnaire at:

Romantic dogmatists of right AND left believe in the "frailty" model of human meme infection. Each believe that a core group should protect the masses from bad influences. Postmodernist political correctness or fundie theocracy. The argument over whether gayness is PERFECTLY genetic or perfectly chosen is one of the stupidest dichotomies possible, and has likely harmed many lives. And that is just one example.

David Brin said...

Is anyone still adding predictions at:

They keep coming in. One fellow kindly wrote just today:

"Repredictions in Earth that have come true, and I thought I'd help add another one to your list.

You mention at one point that Daisy McClennon's income comes from digital restorations of old movies, and also editing some old "languid classics like The Terminator or Delieverence" into shorter films to fit the time spans of the modern person. So imagine my surprise when I found "The 10 Minute Theater" and its version of The Terminator.


While I am at it. Here are three more that folks wrote in with, that I don't think ever made it onto that wiki. If anyone would care to...

Earth mentions "Trillion Trees" reforestation project... Now a "Billion Trees" project has been announced:

UK Officers Wear Brin's Tru-Vu Lenses.


EARTH portrays a character grabbing a file folder and pulling out a data sheet and feeding it into a "sheet reader"... a much more convenient for of storage than a spinning disk. Now see:

Store 256GB on an A4 sheet Techworld Nov. 24, 2006 - New "rainbow technology" allows
data to be encoded into colored geometric shapes and stored in patterns on paper or or plastic sheets at a density of 2.7GB per square inch and and then played back through a computer with a special scanner attached....

Sorry about the self-plug, but "prediction markets" are suddenly hot and it'd be nice to have a place to point folks to!

In fact, "Other (non-EARTH) predictive hits" would be a great fannish thing for someone to do! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Today in the New York Times:

Stewart Brand on Environmental Heresies

Stewart Brand has become a heretic to environmentalism, a movement he helped found, but he doesn’t plan to be isolated for long. He expects that environmentalists will soon share his affection for nuclear power. They’ll lose their fear of population growth and start appreciating sprawling megacities. They’ll stop worrying about “frankenfoods” and embrace genetic engineering.

He predicts that all this will happen in the next decade, which sounds rather improbable — or at least it would if anyone else had made the prediction. But when it comes to anticipating the zeitgeist, never underestimate Stewart Brand.

He divides environmentalists into romantics and scientists, the two cultures he’s been straddling and blending since the 1960s. He was with the Merry Pranksters and the Grateful Dead at their famous Trips Festival in San Francisco, directing a multimedia show called “America Needs Indians.” That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of romantic.

Anonymous said...

I think I might have Authoritarian Personality Disorder! Please, please help me! Is there a pill I can take? A re-education camp I can go to?

By saying conservatism has a "lot" to do with Authoritarian Disorder is more on numbers. A healthy percent of conservatives (around Bush's 25-30% core support group) probably fall under this rubric.

Another cognitive weakness that almost everyone has is the tendancy to gather data until a point is proven, rather than gather all the data. A subset of available data can often be twisted to make anything look good. It's explaining away all those nasty outliers and inconvenient truths that is the sticky wicket.

There are also a lot of intelligent conservatives out that just believe that other people's problems aren't theirs.

I'm an engineer - I can't abide unsolved problems. Puzzles are my catnip.

TheRadicalModerate said...


Some responses:

1) From James Webb's Democratic response to the SOTU address:

"In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace." (Emphasis mine.)

Leaving the "two Americas" argument for another day, it's hard not to infer that "dealt with fairly in the international marketplace" isn't a nod and a broad wink to protectionism.

2) "Business is evil" should be a strawman, but it's hardly a strawman when the Maryland legislature passes a bill of attainder against a single company and then receives widespread support from the Democratic side of the aisle in the federal Congress.

3) Surely you're not suggesting that the Democrats in Congress are not currently beholden to the anti-war left after the election? Surely, if they were not so beholden, they'd at least be trying to find a way to soft-land the whole mess rather than embarking upon a strategy designed to make the administration's prosecution of the war so untenable as to force a precipitate withdrawl?

David, I'm happy to give Clinton big props for the Balkans and for letting the DoD work up war plans for Afghanistan. And I give him huge props for ramming NAFTA over the goal line--over protectionist howls from his own party--after Bush the Elder negotiated the treaty.

That doesn't obviate the fact that the Democratic DNA still has active pacifist, protectionist, and anti-business alleles that are quite healthy. There have been some welcome mutations, but not enough for conservatives to be comfortable.

Mind you, your agenda, mod several notable pieces of paranoia, stands a good chance of further mutating those alleles into an even more benign form. If that agenda is adopted, the Democrats will get a favorable reception from me. It'll be an interesting two years.

Don Quijote said...

1) Conservatives think that free trade is the most liberating force on the planet and coincidentally makes lots of money for the US. (Being greedy pigs, we of course think very little about income distribution...) Democratic candidates almost always have to pander to the union money on their left flank and therefore make us nervous with vaguely protectionist statements. Note: Republican congressmen have gone soft on free trade recently, which is one of the reasons they're getting their clocks cleaned.

What free trade? NAFTA? WTO? there is no such thing.
If you want free trade, just open the border between Mexico and the US and let people and goods move thru it in the same way that goods and people move between NY and NJ, and we'll see how long it takes before the conservatives discover the virtues of protectionism & mercantalism.

2) Every story about bills of attainder being placed on Walmart, or other similar "big business is evil" rants, cause conservatives to break out in hives. This stuff always comes from the Democrats. Republicans, for all their faults, never claim that business is evil.

A) Big Business is amoral, I would not trust it any further than I could throw an elephant.
B) Big Business is at best a series of Oligopolies, how many record companies are there in the world? 4 maybe 5, how many car companies are there in the world? 9 maybe 10 ( GM, Toyota, Ford, Chrisler-Daimler, Renault-Nissan, Honda, VW, BMW, PSA), pick any mature industry and you will only find a handful of competitors (and I am using that term very loosely) in it.
C) bills of attainder are unconstitional and accord to Wikipedia, up until 2002, only five acts of Congress had ever been overturned on bill of attainder grounds, not exactly a major issue.

3) Many conservatives are deeply suspicious of pacifism. (OK, the isolationists don't care about this--I don't think there are very many of them.) Democratic candidates more often than not have to provide some sort of pacifist sop to their left wing to get through their primaries.

Unless they have to go out and fight the wars that they supported. As we can see this administration and their supporters are full of brave war heroes.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Don Q--

I think you've made my point for me. I won't deny the legitimacy of your arguments; they are certainly worth debate. But if you want to know why conservatives tend to vote Republican (Francis's original question), look no further than your post.


BTW, in the "cool stuff" category, it's nice to see the NYT paying attention to alternative fusion approaches, including the Bussard thing that somebody posted a while back.

RandomSequence said...


You might be interested in this post over at Kos: Ask a Libertarian, Part II: The Constitution as Libertarian Myth.

It's an attempt to explain libertarianism by a democrat/lib hybrid to progressives, and it has some good examples of dogmatism on both sides. I find it frustrating (see my comments on why not everything good is a market, and visa-versa).

Blake Stacey said...

Wow, we certainly did a good job of "taking a break from politics"!


David Brin said...

“Democrat DNA”... gurggle... They prosecuted every successful war in this century, yet they are pacifist by DNA. (And, through excess mach aggressiveness, made our biggest mistake, committing to a land war of attrition in Asia.)

They WERE attacked for excess internationalist activism and “nationbuilding”. Now they are isolationist... by DNA.

Waving you arm at “protectionist DNA” in very general terms -- when international commerce ALWAYS increases more rapidly under dems than gops (as does the stock market and small business startups) is really, really disingenuous.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with demanding that the new international business order include provisions for relentless improvement in environmental and labor laws in other lands, as part of the price of globalization. Likewise, it is not “class warfare” or the “politics of envy” to worry that a new inherited aristocracy might do what such clades have ALWAYS DONE IN THE PAST, act to reduce competitive openness, rather than foster it.

RM, You (and the deeply different Limbaugh) will always turn and point at the lefty fringe as a reason to say that you must endure the righty fringe.

But Let me reiterate that the righty fringe controls an entire political party and almost every lever of government. The left fringe is a pathetic little bunch of loudmouths who do not know how much harm they do, politically, but have absolutely no record or prospect of controlling the Democratic Party.

RandomSequence said...


You come down too hard on the lefty fringe. As long as they're a fringe, they act to develop new ideas, as an incubator. As long as they're kept out of power, they're usually the source of new ideas, after filtering out the bad.

Remember, it was the anarchists that brought us the forty hour work week. Almost all the main stream thought today about labor relations today came out of radical, fringy anarchist discussions. Of course, if they had actually directly gained hands on the levers of power, we'd most likely be in a mess today, as some anarchists also had some awful, impractical ideas.

The right today, on the other hand, seems to be very bad at keeping their fringe in its proper place. Maybe a department of fundamentalist studies is needed at the universities? Give them a sinecure, an office and a journal, and keep them away from public office?

Don Quijote said...

Democrat DNA”... gurggle... They prosecuted every successful war in this century, yet they are pacifist by DNA.

Damn those Democrats are really good, They haven't been in the White House in this century but somehow manage to prosecute every single successful war this century.

Which war would that be?

The left fringe is a pathetic little bunch of loudmouths who do not know how much harm they do, politically, but have absolutely no record or prospect of controlling the Democratic Party.

Just Remember what happened the last time the Democrats decided that they could ignore the left and go to the right, the right didn't vote for them and the left voted for someone else. So just keep pissing us off and dismissing us as a pathetic little bunch of loudmouths and we'll end up voting for Nader in 2008.

Anonymous said...

The Democrats have prosecuted EVERY successful war in this century? Do you mean the 21st? Well we are only 7 years into it. Or the last 100 years?
People tend to forget korea too soon, and at their peril. There are some nasty parallels with respect to poor intel., muddy strategic thinking, sometimes unreliable allies, domestic unpopularity, etc.
Here's a quote and a challenge from this era. It was with respect to President Truman (D) sending Americans into combat without an act of Congress.

"If the incident is permitted to go by without protest, at least from this body, we would have finally terminated for all time the right of Congress to declare war, which is granted ton Congress alone by the Constitution of the United States"

identify the speaker and his party.

You can claim Korea as a draw if you like, or a qualified success, but the seeds of Tonkin were planted right there, and in some sense the Korean war is not over yet.


Anonymous said...

As long as we're "taking a break from politics"...

From "US Funds Terror Groups...", an interesting tid-bit:

"The US has also moved six heavy bombers from a British base on the Pacific island of Diego Garcia to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which could allow them to carry out strikes on Iran without seeking permission from Downing Street."

Getting ready...

The rest of the article may be true, or simply echoing Iranian counter-propaganda to the US assertions of Iranian weapons in Iraq. Impossible to say for sure.

Tony Fisk said...

The Earth wiki has been languishing for a while (been a bit too busy).

However, the 'key is under the mat' if anyone else cares to add to the list. It would be worthwhile even if you just dump a reference on the front page (rather than just mentioning it down here where it will eventually be buried with the rest of the sedimentary 'dross')

I've noted it before, that people don't seem to grok this collaborative authoring idea, as yet. The feeling that some document or other is 'owned' by someone and shouldn't be tampered with is a strong one.

If the thought of using arcane wiki markup formats is a problem, I gather that pbwiki claim to have a WYSIWYG editor now, although I haven't tried it yet.

(FWIW, I have made backups of the Earthwiki, so don't feel you're going to be vandalising anything beyond repair ;-)

And now, a little disputation experiment for RadicalModerate:

David just said:

But Let me reiterate that the righty fringe controls an entire political party and almost every lever of government. The left fringe is a pathetic little bunch of loudmouths who do not know how much harm they do, politically, but have absolutely no record or prospect of controlling the Democratic Party.

RM: is there anything in that statement with which you do not agree?

B.C. said...

"RM: is there anything in that statement with which you do not agree?"

Speaking for myself, I take some issue with calling the righties in control a "fringe" in the sense that neocons are in many ways closer to liberals than to paleoconservatives (belief in nation-building), and "fringe" has a connotation of the far end of a spectrum. I agree that the leftie fringe (to the extent that's a meaningful term since political views aren't a one-dimensional spectrum) has no prospect of "controlling" the party, but would disagree if you had said "no record or prospect of [influencing] the Democratic Party." The minimum-wage kerfluffle is a good example of what I'd expect from a Democratic administration.

I voted for Bush in 2004, got what I wanted out of him, and voted for a Democratic senator in 2006 because I was really unhappy with the Republican abandonment of conservative principles (and I favor a divided government). If you're bitter about conservatives apparently giving Bush a pass on actions they would have screamed about under Clinton--well, just because they're not vocal doesn't mean they're happy, and the 2006 elections pretty well proved that from what I can tell.


TheRadicalModerate said...

Tony, don't poke that conservative with the stick, it's not nice!

Well, let's see now:

Condi Rice appears to be going back to good ol' blocking and tackling at State, which certainly wasn't "purged."

Robert Gates is the old Bush the Elder and early Clinton DCI, and is certainly from the "realist" school.

While Porter Goss and his henchmen (who were collectively referred to inside CIA as "the goslings") tried to purge CIA, they mostly failed. (This could have been because Goss routinely fell asleep at 4:00 PM--I kid you not. That one was scary.) And Mike Hayden is certainly a career spook of extremely high caliber.

Henry Paulson is hardly a lunatic righty, nor is Ben Bernanke.

The Congress is in Democratic hands.

The two most popular Republican candidates for prez are hardly lunatic-fringe righties.

So, no, I'd have to disagree that "the righty fringe controls an entire political party and almost every lever of government." Some levers, yes. More importantly, though, fewer and fewer levers as time goes on. It's almost as if--nah, that can't be it!--they've learned something and are adapting.

Now, I'm not incredibly worried about the NutRoots left and agree with David that they're not important except for their entertainment value. (Interesting that they've muzzled Dean, though...) I am worried about the--what'll I call them?--the Institutional Left. The money guys. They're an interesting mix: some union money, some Hollywood money, a veritable smorgasbord of 527s, including, George Soros, etc..

I will not pretend to have figures on how much Democratic Party funding and soft money those groups represent. I'd be surprised if it's under 33%. Anybody got any figures?

Meanwhile, you've got every Dem presidential candidate reciting "we can't be in the middle of a civil war, withdraw real soon now" like it's a catechism--even Biden, who had some genuinely constructive ideas before he had to go off and raise money. Mind you, they may all be right, but I sure would feel better if they'd acknowledge that "if we just leave the Iraqis will figure it out" is as much an article of faith as the GOP's "if we leave without stabilizing then all hell will break loose" position.

Seems to me that there must be some reason why nobody is willing to act like a grownup and fundraising is the only thing I can think of.

I have no evidence that the Dem presidential candidates have gone protectionist or anti-biz yet, but it's still kinda early. I'm hoping that Richardson, especially, will avoid that. I kinda like him.

So yeah, I guess there are a few things in that statement with which I disagree.

Tony, get your fingers out of that cage right now--didn't your mother teach you anything?

Anonymous said...

Max Wilson:

"I voted for Bush in 2004, got what I wanted out of him"

Max, what did you want?

David Brin said...

First, of course by “in this century” I meant in the last 100 years. And I do include Korea. It was better than a draw because it erased all fruits of aggression and showed a sense of genuine commitment to a collabortative Pax Americana. True, we then fell for a trap of fighting an insurgency war in Asia. But Korea was actually a genuine success.

Max, while a few of the actual pure neocon intellectuals like Perle were no-doubt sincere in their transcendentalist and spasmodically loony swing to “nation building,” I actually do not think it credible at all that the klepto masters of the GOP actually went into this situation with much intent or expectation of planting a vibrant, multicultural democracy in the rockiest ground possible.

I mean, if they really wanted to “plant democracy in the Middle East”, how about (for 3% of the cost) helping Lebanon get past its crises and achieve its potential? By far the friendliest soil, but we’re snubbing them. Or Jordan? For a few billion we could have made that country a pearl and an example, instead of poouring a trillion into a ready-made hell.

No, “nation-building” in Iraq is totally insincere! Remember, that reason was NEVER MENTIONED in justifying our sudden and precipitate crisis-mode surge to invade that place! It is a fall-back rationalization, after WMDs and Saddam Osama failed. There is simply no comparison with “liberal” nation building.

Alas, Max, the 06 elections proved only a bit of what you say. The repudiation of Bush was not enough to quash culture war. We are still rapidly dividing, more every year. All that really happened was that blue America finally got mad.

RM, sorry. State has been purged along with every other high level corps of proficiency and expertise. And while there are some preliminary hopeful signs from Gates and the CIA, it is way too soon to assume that grownup patriots are back in charge.

Congress is BARELY in dem hands. By a sliver and we’ll see. As for McCain, he’s about 60% admirable and about 30% as loony as a jaybird on speed. Which is fine in the Senate. That’s exactly the place for guys like that./

Re Iraq, only one plan can work. Divide it into three countries, stabilize the borders and get ... out.

TheRadicalModerate said...
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TheRadicalModerate said...
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TheRadicalModerate said...

Interesting article in Technology Review on fission reactor designs for the developing world and non-proliferation:

(Blogger appears to have lost its minds wrt embedded anchors.)

You guys'll love it: It spanks Bushco for losing all nonproliferation credibility. Good summary of the various fuel cycle proposals, though.


David, oddly enough, I agree with your solution for Iraq. The only problem with it is that it requires that "ethnic cleansing" (possibly the most evil euphemism of the 20th century) is allowed to run its course, especially in Baghdad. Of course, this is what allowed Bosnia to stabilize...

I assume, since you only beat up on McCain, that you think Giuliani is a grownup?

Tony Fisk said...

RM: the local colloquillism for 'poking a stick' is 'stirring the possum' (or plain 'stirring')

From over here, I can't comment on the folk you mention, but it got you out of the cage.

(as for fingers... well, I used to own a budgerigar, so re-enacting the opening scene from 'Jurassic Park' holds little fear for me!)

The only problem with it is that it requires that "ethnic cleansing" (possibly the most evil euphemism of the 20th century) is allowed to run its course, especially in Baghdad. Of course, this is what allowed Bosnia to stabilize...

Do not confuse the situation in the Balkans with Iraq. The latter is not and never has been a sectarian society (tribal, yes, but the tribes intermarry freely), and everyday Iraqis are as appalled and shocked at what their country has turned into as the onlookers.

What's happening in Iraq is not an outpouring of long suppressed mutual loathing of one section of the populace with another. It's being organised from above, and the average Iraqi is being frogmarched into it.

Jenya said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
B.C. said...

I think Bush has been focused on nation-building in Iraq the whole time. Human beings are complex, and wanting to atone for Bush I's abandonment of Iraqi rebels after Gulf War I probably factored in, but if pumping oil had been the top priority, the pipelines would have been better protected even if it cost us goodwill. (And Bush is extremely concerned about Iraqi goodwill. He really does seem to believe that a desire for democracy beats in all hearts of all men, everywhere. I think that's untrue but he's sincere.) And if WMD had been the top priority, we could have just destroyed Saddam's army, declared a new ruler of Iraq (probably a Baathist), and left, with a warning (and preferably a monument) to the effect that we'd come back and take him out too if he even *looked* like he was trying for nuclear weapons. Anyway, we didn't do that.

It was pretty obvious to me once we got in there that Bush was trying to implement "the Pentagon's new map" in Iraq. Build democracy in trouble spots, shrinking "the Gap" of countries that are disconnected from global commerce and thus subject to pathological incentives. It hasn't been very competently managed and may have been a lost cause to begin with, but it isn't insincere.


B.C. said...

Oh, bother. Looks like my reply to Tony disappeared. Short version:

Abortion is a morally complex issue, and I think it was wrong to impose an answer uniformly at the federal level. If two Republican appointees from a Republican Senate can't reverse the decision, it can't be done. South Dakota's little experiment has me satisfied that abortion control is now back in the hands of the states. I'm not happy with the erosion of civil liberties under Bush, and I'm even less happy with the state of the budget, but moral freedom is important enough to me that it's worth the trade-off.


Anonymous said...

McCain I would hardly call reasonable now. He's been pandering as hard as he can to the extreme religious right, and he's even more for war than the Bush administration.

On the subject of money, I think I remember seeing statistics that last presidential election, John Kerry raise a record chunk from individual donors, mostly over the Internet. Here's a Washington Post article from the election (gosh, Wall Street gives lots of money to candidates. Because they have lots of money. See also lawyers.) Which isn't to say big donors don't have a lot of influence or give lots of money, because they do. This paper has more, but it looks like about a third or more from donors giving less than $200. Plus the influence of Dean's mostly raising funds online. Hopefully things can grow from there.

Raising the minimum wage is "fringe" now? Funny, it seems like it's gone pretty mainstream. What with the minimum wage having not changed in a decade. Well, the real value's changed, it's dropped, thanks to inflation and everything.

There's a theory in parts of Left Blogistan that I think explains some. Basically, there's a bunch of people who can't make themselves agree with or vote for Dirty F-ing Hippies, so run hard the other way. You can see this in the whole Iraq war runup and fiasco, where a lot of rationalizations boil down to "Yeah, it was a bad idea, but if we said so, we'd be agreeing with the Dirty Hippies!" "Bush may be incompetent and criminal, but at least he's not a Dirty Hippie!" Etc. It's not about the rightness or wrongness of positions, it's about not admitting those Dirty Hippies were ever right about anything. It's cultural signs instead of positions. Not that it's the only thing people decide based on, but I can see it here even.

For instance, how opposing the Iraq war or opposing having our troops stay there doing nothing but inflaming tensions and getting killed is equated with pacifism, and pacifism being instantly bad.

But being skeptical of "pacifism" and ready to reflexively support war makes one "serious", while being skeptical of war makes one a flake. Which is how we got into this fiasco in Iraq in the first place.

Blake Stacey said...

Quoth David Brin: ". . . he’s about 60% admirable and about 30% as loony as a jaybird on speed."

That, sir, is a line. :-)

David Brin said...

Max, thank you for a marvelous example of the contortions that we will have to deal, in discussing these matters with ostriches.

Dig it, I do believe that the Bush family and its courtiers did need to atone for the Betrayal of 1991... the worst stain on our honor in a century, when Bush/Cheney/Powell/Rummy invited the Shiites of Southern Iraq to rebel, then stood back while they were slaughtered. But I honestly want to see the slightest scintilla of evidence that any one of them even remotely ever expressed chagrin or regret over that horrific act of treachery. An act that should have disqualified them from being even remotely qualified to make such decisions in the future.

I mean, how many of these blow-its do you need before admitting that AT BEST they are stunningly incompetent boobs, who should have the matches and gasoline taken away from them, once and for all?

“We’ll be greeted with kisses and flowers.”

“There are WMDs that pose an immedient and urgent threat to the Homeland.”

Saddam was linked to Al Qaeda”

“DIsband the Iraqi Army.”

“We’ll pay for it all out of Iraqi oil.”

“Mission Accomplished.”

When will guys like you admit that these are AT BEST drooling morons?

Ah, but now it is “nationbuilding”... after screeching disdain at that very practice when it was done (well) under Clinton, we are pouring our nation’s treasury, lives, credibility, reputation, popularity etc into the rockiest soil for democracy imaginable... and now you say that was the goal, all along? When 1% as much effort could have made LEBANON stable? or 5% as much effort could have boosted Jordan? Or 10% as much could have at least stood a chance in Syria? AT BEST these guys are reckless gamblers.

You say “if pumping oil had been the top priority, the pipelines would have been better protected “

Yup. This is where standard lefty cant just does not work. They think that everything is about grabbing oil. Michael Moore, feh. ELIMINATING Iraqi production was just as useful to the real masters of all this. To the two nations who have benefitted most. Name them!

What has happened has nothing to do with “The Pentagon’s New Map” - I know the author, Thomas P.M. Barnett, and I can tell you that this war has destroyed any chance we had of gaining the kind of leverage and agility he and others called for. Right now, our readiness is around our ankles, we have no land-war defenses at all.... though the Navy is still strong. The only issue right now is how Buscho will destroy that capability, too.

I personally believe that Nate has it nailed. Maybe the word "hippies" isn't used. Worse, it is "liberals" and thus demonizing half of America and ignoring that "liberalism" was right, at least twice as often as it was wrong... especially if you simply count the number of GOP leaders who have prominent pictures of Martin Luther King on their walls.

Don Quijote said...

Yup. This is where standard lefty cant just does not work. They think that everything is about grabbing oil. Michael Moore, feh.

The Independent - Future of Iraq: The spoils of war - How the West will make a killing on Iraqi oil riches

Iraq's massive oil reserves, the third-largest in the world, are about to be thrown open for large-scale exploitation by Western oil companies under a controversial law which is expected to come before the Iraqi parliament within days.

The US government has been involved in drawing up the law, a draft of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday. It would give big oil companies such as BP, Shell and Exxon 30-year contracts to extract Iraqi crude and allow the first large-scale operation of foreign oil interests in the country since the industry was nationalised in 1972.

Market Watch - Western companies may get 75% of Iraqi oil profits

Time - Troubles for the Iraq Oil Deal

Under the new law, agreed on Monday by Iraq's cabinet, foreign oil companies will be allowed to cut long-term exploration and development deals with the government for 20 years, renewable for a further five years. Companies willing to operate in a country with high physical risks — insurgents regularly blow up pipelines and kill contractors — will be allowed to export their oil after paying the government a minimum 12.5% royalty, although there are usually also cash signing bonuses to the government, and most "profit oil," extracted after operating costs are met, would likely go to Baghdad.

Back to the Future? The Exploitation of Iraq's Oil

At a time when Iraqis are dying by the dozens every day from terrorist attacks and U.S. and British troops continue to fight multi-faceted guerrilla attacks from various quarters, the British newspaper, The Observer, has published an important story in its Sunday, February 25th. It concerns the pressure being put on Iraq's government to enact legislation which will give transnational oil companies the “right” through “exploration contracts” to exploit Iraq's oil, the second largest reserves of all on earth, for the next 30 years, while retaining the fa├žade that the oil is still publicly owned.

The Observer received a leaked draft of the new law which, if it is passed, will do exactly that. In Britain, antiwar activists and dissident members of the Labour Party have denounced these maneuvers by the Blair government and British oil companies. (One would be surprised if the Bush administration and Texas-based U.S. oil companies are not similarly involved.)

Asia Times - US's Iraq oil grab is a done deal

The law represents no less than institutionalized raping and pillaging of Iraq's oil wealth. It represents the death knell of nationalized (from 1972 to 1975) Iraqi resources, now replaced by production sharing agreements (PSAs) - which translate into savage privatization and monster profit rates of up to 75% for (basically US) Big Oil. Sixty-five of Iraq's roughly 80 oilfields already known will be offered for Big Oil to exploit. As if this were not enough, the law reduces in practice the role of Baghdad to a minimum. Oil wealth, in theory, will be distributed directly to Kurds in the north, Shi'ites in the south and Sunnis in the center. For all practical purposes, Iraq will be partitioned into three statelets. Most of the country's reserves are in the Shi'ite-dominated south, while the Kurdish north holds the best prospects for future drilling.

Yeah, Moore and all those lefties are clueless idiots,the US would never start a war over something as minor as a measly 115 billion barrels of oil.

B.C. said...

Dr. Brin:

"When will guys like you admit that these are AT BEST drooling morons?" While I wouldn't use that sort of language about anyone, I'm not going to defend Bush & co. from the charge.

"[A]fter screeching disdain at that very practice when it was done (well) under Clinton... now you say that was the goal, all along?" 1.) I don't screech. 2.) I didn't say it was *my* goal. Nobody ever claimed the neocons were coherent anyway.

About TPNM: the quickest thing for me to do is admit that my knowledge of TPNM is cursory. If you can show that our strategy in Iraq did not reflect either the goals or the means advocated in TPNM I'll listen and then read up on it. If you can only show that the means didn't match Barnett's ideas I'll be less interested.

The key point is that you've called Bush a liar and a traitor where you haven't proven he's anything more than incompetent and close-minded. Hey, feel free to impeach him if you like--incompetence in a President is no small sin--but I'm not buying the traitor argument without more compelling evidence than has been presented, any more than I believe my Republican friends who like to rant about the evilness of Hilary Clinton.


Joel said...

"...polysilicon nano..."

This phrase is about as meaningful as "dreadlock buzzcut". "Polycrystalline" means made up of several crystallites, each of which is generally larger than a true nanotech device. One of the great strengths of nanotechnology is that it might make single-crystal devices much more practical, since it eliminates the care needed to make gigantic single crystals: the whole device is the size of crystals that form naturally.

I can remember a high school teacher (at a public school, which Pete Wilson systematically underfunded) telling the class "I'm a Republican because I don't like to pay taxes." With a straight face. I'm sure, aside from Radical Moderate's very good reasons, many Republicans simply think they're in a higher tax bracket than they really are. After all, at least 15% of Americans think they're in the top 2% of income.

RE: civil rights, let's not forget all the closet cases. Dan Savage makes a good case that all this openness is making it hard to trust illicit gay partners.

David: "The only issue right now is how Buscho will destroy [the Navy's readiness]."

Uh...three carrier groups crammed into the Gulf, in range of Iranian missiles, maybe?

David Brin said...

Max, forgive me. I am angry about what has been done to what was supposed to be "my" century. (In a sense.) As well as to my civilization.

Hence, even though I am one of the most prominent and outspoken proponents of distinguyishing between "good" and "bad" conservatives... I can fail to make it clear at times, and my ire toward the latter can spill onto the former.

Which is not to say that I have no anger toward you good conservatives! I do not at all retract the "ostrich" metaphor. And I will taunt you mercilessly over what I believe to be acts of rationalizing denial. Still, my chief point is to get you to face how unlike you are the horrors who have taken over your movement.


I admit that it is less likely than the alternative, that we are led by towering, anencephalic, grabby, insatiable, sadistic, dogmatic, delusional, kleptocratic, hate-drenched, moronic, neo-feudal frat-boy hypocrites. So? Is there not a point where it ceases to matter?

Nevertheless, the sheer absence ANYWHERE ELSE of menion of the Manchurian scenario justifies my mentioning it here. Because -- and let this sink in -- it fits Occam's Razor much better! Because moronic frat boys would have by now, at least once, have done something in the positive interest of the United States of America, if only by accident.

Either way - and with the credibility of a "libertarian-democrat" who has spoken well of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham -- there is no way I will withdraw the central monicker that I apply to these horrors.


sociotard said...

Dangit, by post got lost. Okay, shipping it back out there.

Nate mentioned the subject of the minimum wage, a pet peeve of mine. My problem with the minimum wage debate is not that a minimum wage is unnecessary, but that it should never be a NATIONAL minimum wage.

I'm a college student living in Moscow, Idaho and working at McDonalds. To make ends meet I have a food budget of $10 per week. My rent is $189 per month. Is there even a slim chance that someone in, say, New Jersey could do the same?

No freaking way.

Why then should I have the same minimum wage living here that someone in New Jersey should have? States can and do set their own minimum wages. Washington has a much higher one that Idaho, for example. Ideally, it would be set by County (because Boise is not the same as Moscow), but State at least isn't as moronic as National.

TheRadicalModerate said...


"...hate-drenched, moronic, neo-feudal frat-boy hypocrites. So? Is there not a point where it ceases to matter?

No, there is no such point, because one is a simple (albeit large) screwup and one is a concerted, conspiratorial attempt to degrade the system. I never bet against stupid.

On our old buddy Occam and the Manchurian Candidate Delusion: Nonsense! Even if I were to grant you the number of screwups that you allege (I don't--quite), you'd still have to construct this elaborate conspiratorial apparatus around the Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight to get anything close to getting the scenario to fit the known facts. Occam debrides that stuff away pretty efficiently.


BTW, Nate: I looked at your cited Wapo article on the 2004 election, then started digging into the campaign finance stats. There's all sorts of stuff available on but the data are...weird. My main conclusion is that there are still lots of ways to game the FEC transparency regs. Bottom line, though: I retract any attempt to characterize Kerry's financing at this time. David, you can certainly make a case that this is yet another vast right-wing conspiracy; I suspect it's more likely that the FEC system is still a bit green, having been in place for only a couple of election cycles.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Anybody else having trouble embedding links? Everything looks fine in preview mode, then Blogger excises the text between the anchor tags and runs the hotspot all the way to the end of the post. It's happened to me twice now.

(The link above is to, BTW.)

Anonymous said...

RM: Well, from the numbers I've seen, about a third of the donations or so came from small donors, and about a third for bundlers, so that means about a third came from other things. I think Bush's broke down quite a bit more toward the bundlers, but he still had a noticeable amount of small donations. So it's a definite good start, if those trends continue. I don't know if anybody's compiled stuff from the 2006 Congressional races, that would be interesting. Still a long way to go, though.

TheRadicalModerate said...


Yeah, but the problem is that the bundlers and PACs effectively launder the sources of the money, as far as FEC stats are concerned. However, I'm sure that that information is being provided to the candidates out-of-band by the bundlers/PACs.

Internet donations <$200 don't require disclosures, so you can't tell what the motivation of the donor is. Maybe that means, by definition, that there is no motivation, other than wanting the candidate to win.

Which brings up an interesting question: Does this hooray-for-our-side money really affect the candidate, other than the obvious enhancement to his campaign treasury? Should it affect the candidate? Industries clearly arbitrage their contributions to both sides to ensure access. Ideology-driven PACs and 527s bet big in one direction in the hopes of advancing their agenda. So both of these groups attach value to their ideas by putting a price tag on them.

Individuals really don't get to impart value to their agenda that way. I suspect that that means that, as long as two thirds of the money consists of these "monetized ideas," candidates completely ignore the individual donations. But look what would happen without the ability to monetize the ideas (as some of the more rabid finance-reform evangelists would advocate): the only source elected officials would have for clean ideas would be opinion polls. Personally, I'll take a cogent expression of interest by a lobbyist over a poll any day.

RandomSequence said...

Max & RM,

I too leaned toward the stupidity scenario for this administration. In most cases, that is the correct interpretation of monumental screw-ups. But, we have to assume that not all the cabinet is stupid - if that were so, they could not have stayed in power - someone has to mind the store.

But now, I've become more conspiratorial. That's not a dirty word - any review of history shows that many events are conspiracies. Any one who has run a business has either been involved in, or seen, a conspiracy, such as kickbacks to vendors, undermining of businesses by subordinates in league with competitors, etc. If you haven't seen it, rest assured that somebody is ripping you off. And there's no reason to believe that top level politicians are less conspiratorial - no, one would expect more.

In recent American history we have evidence of shocking attempts at conspiracy - Operation Northwoods in the JFK administration, where plans were developed to bomb an American civilian airliner and blame Cuba, Nixon's deal with Vietnam against LBJ, Reagan's possible deal with Iran against Carter, Reagan's definite Iran-Contra crimes, etc, and so on.

Now, the reason that I'm now more open to conspiratorial possibilities is the offer by Iran in 2003 via the Swiss to agree to most of our term in a private offer at normalizing relations. It was received and given to Condi, someone who is obviously not a moron. Whether the offer was in good faith or not, at minimum we should have opened immediate negotiations while we were assured an upper hand. Condi lied to Congress that she had never seen the offer; now she claim to "not remember" the offer.

How do you explain this? I find it hard to believe that it is monumental incompetence on Condi's part. At minimum, she is involved in a conspiracy to cover up a screw-up of historic proportions by the rest of the cabinet. At worst, we're looking at an intentional attempt to provoke war with Iran. Such a war would clearly not be in our national interest, or even most business interests. Yet we continue to hear the drumbeat of war, we continue to send warships into Persian Gulf, our soldier continue to die in the externally funded internecine war.

Iran is our natural ally against Al-Qaeda. They almost invaded Afghanistan in 99 (I believe that's the year) in an attempt to dislodge the Taliban. On the other hand, Pakistan's secret services has been known to fund the Taliban going back a decade, and to have been part of the interchange in funding the original set up of the Al-Qaeda predecessor by the US. Iran may produce a low-yield nuke in the next 10 years; Pakistan is known to have multiple nukes, and been part of an international mafia for nuclear proliferation, including to North Korea. Pakistan currently has a cease fire with the Taliban in Waziristan, from which they attack our soldiers in Afghanistan. And who are we threatening war against? Iran, who actually was instrumental in garnering agreement to the Afghani constitution, in alliance with the US. We returned that failure by labeling them part of the Axis of Evil™ (a suggestion by who? Condi Rice!)

So, mind-boggling incompetence, or conspiracy? The non-conspiracy argument doesn't have to be just incompetence, but a level of incompetence almost never seen by a government that manages to stay in power for an extended term. An incompetence that even Mugabe would find breath-taking. An incompetence that requires us to believe that our system is deeply broken, if such incompetence can continue for two administrations without redress.

We will see: a summit is finally occurring including all major players in the region surrounding Iraq. If a major agreement is reached, then obviously I must be wrong, or the major players have changed and the conspiracy is collapsed (making the point moot). But if this appears to just be cover for another intensification against Iran, I think incompetence is very difficult to assert.

David Brin said...

The relentless consistency of Condi's saber-rattling... always timed perfectly to help the mullahs keep control and to minimize any possibility of encouraging liberalization in Iran, is well-documented and far too perfect not to be intentional.

Indeed, the alternative approach of a "Nixon to China" was one that I suggested as long ago as 2001, in which Bush could have AT ONCE undermined all three of our middle eastern eanemies...

...the iranian mullahs, but overwhelming the Iranian people with kisses...

...a certain "house" ...

...and Saddam. By promising Iran to help free the southern shiites and the shiite holy sites, we'd have effective bottled Saddam into a narrow sunni heartland and would then be able to accepot defections from his generals... until one of them shot him.

All right, I admit that towering imbecility combined with doctrinaire monomania might explain how Condi turned her back on "Nixon-to-China." But please. Ponder how few men really have to be blackmail-suborned and flattered that they are part of a new world order of masters. As few as a dozen.

What is "convoluted" about deliberately repeating the only major mistake that America made, in 100 years? Diving into a motiveless land war of attrition in Asia?

RandomSequence said...

I admit that towering imbecility combined with doctrinaire monomania might explain how Condi turned her back on "Nixon-to-China."

I won't admit that. Condi is not an imbecile. She may be a monomaniac, or a megalomaniac, but not an imbecile. She managed to work her way through academic politics to be provost at Yale (I believe that's the proper title there?). An imbecile can't do that; there's way too many high-quality (but often insane) brains in competition.

For the presidency, you can have a "brain" behind the figure-head, but I've never seen an example of that in academia - you have to at least be average among the faculty, or they'll revolt. Too many hurt egos if a moron is placed above them; they at least need to be able to believe that the boss is smart.

On the other hand, I was quite surprised to find a Russian radio interview with Condi - she took the questions in Russian but answered in English. One would expect that a top-ranking Sovietologist would speak a near-native Russian, wouldn't one?

B.C. said...


You've got a very good point about conspiracies actually happening. "Condi lied to Congress that she had never seen the offer; now she claim to 'not remember' the offer." I wasn't aware of this. That's beyond despicable, that's perjury and she ought to be impeached for it. Also, it's not explicable as stupidity.

I think conspiracies _surrounding_ a President have more plausibility in many cases than conspiracies _implicating_ a President, simply because the President has direct access to the reins of power and doesn't require secret manipulations to accomplish many goals. Anyway, keep making the case for Iran as you find new data. I'll be listening.


RandomSequence said...


Recent Reuter's story:
Ex-aide says Rice misled Congress on Iran

She claims to not "recollect" the document in question, wherein Iran offers to stop supporting "anti-Israeli militants" and "accept Israel's right to exist."

Just slipped her mind, an offer to end 50 years of hostility. Yup, I believe it.

And for all the anti-semites (no one on this board, but fairly common among conspiracy buffs) who want to believe this is all a "PNAC" conspiracy or whatever, it's clear that it ain't Israel's interest that are being advanced.

RandomSequence said...


Regarding conspiracies around the president, vs by the president: I'd agree the former is more likely. But the latter does happen, as evinced by Iran-Contra. Reagan was never caught, but I have never figured that he was a moron. The latter occurs because the President (as of yet) doesn't have his hands on all the levers of power, so some playing with the truth and a bit of secrecy works.

Kissinger might have been the brains behind Nixon, but Nixon was still involved with such beauties as the the secret wars in SE Asia (bombing Cambodia, etc - not classic conspiracies, but still secret and illegal). And we have the Gulf of Tonkin - now that was a classic conspiracy.

Of course, if there is a conspiracy now, all those guys were just amateurs in comparison.

TheRadicalModerate said...

Folks, please don't confuse bad judgment with a conspiracy. Rejecting a back-channel diplomatic overture may or may not be stupid but its rejection hardly constitutes conspiracy. Furthermore, denying the existence of a back-channel overture is pretty much diplomatic SOP, in that it can be embarassing not only for you but for the government making the overture.

BTW, this site claims to have a copy of the text:

RandomSequence said...


I'm sorry. That was a big offer. Rejecting it is not SOP. And denying it after it has been revealed in no way protects those channels - they've already been revealed!

That rejection is unexplainable as simple bad judgment. To not begin negotiations on something of that scale goes well beyond simple bad judgment. Another NSC member took it seriously, forwarded it to both Powell and Rice. Powell rejected it as a non-starter with the Cabinet, and Rice swallowed it, and is lying about it after it's been revealed (not just before). One that, by itself, justifies an impeachment for incompetence.

What you're claiming is that Condi does not have the minimal judgment of a small businessman in negotiations. For that to be true, she'd have to be massively, colossally politically incompetent, yet still have risen to provost at Yale (and everyone knows what academic politics is like), still have fought her way into the Cabinet, still have managed to keep an exalted place in our political pantheon. Ockam's razor cuts both ways, you know.

I'm not claiming that this proves a conspiracy to bomb Iran; but it does suggest, at minimum, an attempt to cover up a colossal blunder by the boy-king and his advisors.

Additionally, we have to remember who Condi's mentor was: none other than Kissinger. So, a Nixon-to-China moment comes up, and Condi doesn't pass this by her old buddy, who happens to be also a presidential advisor? And he doesn't recognize the value of this? So, Kissinger is also a moron (and not solely evil)?

The incompetence explanation is looking awfully thin.

Don Quijote said...

Haaretz - U.S. takes harder line on talks Between Jerusalem, Damascus

The United States demanded that Israel desist from even exploratory contacts with Syria, of the sort that would test whether Damascus is serious in its declared intentions to hold peace talks with Israel.

In meetings with Israeli officials recently, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was forceful in expressing Washington's view on the matter.

The American argument is that even "exploratory talks" would be considered a prize in Damascus, whose policy and actions continue to undermine Lebanon's sovereignty and the functioning of its government, while it also continues to stir unrest in Iraq, to the detriment of the U.S. presence there.

Jerusalem News Wire - US says 'NO' to Israel-Syria peace talks

Israeli officials say that when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited this week, she forcefully demanded that Israel refrain from talking peace with Syria.

War, what's it good for?


Don Quijote said...

Belfast Telegraph - CIA blunder 'prompted Korean nuclear race'

he United States appears to have made a major intelligence blunder over North Korea's nuclear weapons programme, one that may have exacerbated tensions with Pyongyang over the past four years and goaded Kim Jong-Il into pressing ahead with last October's live nuclear test, intelligence and Bush administration officials have said.

Impeach G W Bush now, before his screw ups start World War III.

RandomSequence said...

DQ last post: that was a report to Congress, that mis-reported the rate of NK development of nukes, leading to the cut-off of negotiations that then actually lead to NK speeding up their nuke development.

Incompetence and Ockam's razor again. So do we believe in conspiracy, or a fundamentally broken system? Cause a system that risks blundering into nuclear exchange is fundamentally broken. Maybe it's just my optimism that inclines me toward conspiracy!

Don Quijote said...

Incompetence and Ockam's razor again. So do we believe in conspiracy, or a fundamentally broken system? Cause a system that risks blundering into nuclear exchange is fundamentally broken. Maybe it's just my optimism that inclines me toward conspiracy!

Incompetence!!! And a broken system.
The system has been broken for quite a while now.

The mass media has been completely captured by the corporate right and the information isn't making it's way down to the population at large, and when it does, it's incomplete or inaccurate. We live in a propaganda state.

Our elections are a joke, the candidates are forced to raise a fortune that they then spend on TV commercials which then strengthen the stronghold the Mass Media has on the populace.

Why are Hillary, Obama or Edwards considered viable candidates, because they can raise the hundreds of million necessary to run for office, not because of their track records (3 one term senators), their ideas ( I eagerly wait to hear them), or their vision for the future. Now I pick on the Democratic candidates, but the same can be said about the Republican candidates, of most Senatorial and Congressional Candidates with a handful of exceptions( Ron Paul, Kucinich, Sanders, Feingold).

I won't discuss the fact that quite a few States have a massive over representation in the Senate, or that the fact that the number of people every congressman represents goes up every year, by now I am pretty sure that there are Congressman who represent more people than some Senators.

RandomSequence said...

According to Wes Clarke, the Iran war was planned by 9/20/01, according to an internal memo leaked to him: 7 War Memo.

They seem to have had to skip right to the end, due to unforeseen difficulties!

RandomSequence said...

Here's the original transcript from Democracy Now: Wesley Clark

Anonymous said...

There are probably plans for an invasion of France in some filing cabinet or other in the Pentagon. Military people make lots of plans for even ridiculous situations, expecting that they will never be looked at again. The existence of plans to do something militarily does not mean that those plans were ever intended to be put into action/

Anonymous said...

Doug S. is correct.
Look up "Rainbow War Plans", which covers the period between 1916 and December 7 1941. The plans were color coded (Hence the name 'Rainbow') and covered everything from the invasion of Canada (Crimson), a attack on the Carabean by Germany (Black), a civil war in the U.S. (White), invading the Azores (Grey) and the most famous, a war over the Phillipines with Japan (Orange).
I know that there is a office in the Pentagon whose entire existance is dedicated to maintaining war plans for anything that anyone can think of. The existance of the plan doesn't worry me, the part where people are dusting them off and updating them does.

Don Q...
There are a couple of states with only one congressman, and (of course) two Senators.
(quick google search: Alaska, Montana, North and South Dakota, Wyoming, and Vermont)
So, in those six states, each congresscritter represents more people than thier senators (so to speak).

RandomSequence said...

Doug S.,

Read the transcript. My impression was that this wasn't being shown to Clark as an off-hand, "oh by the way we have a backup", but as a "fuck, these nut-cases really are going to do this thing, and I'm slipping you this to try to derail the whole-goddamn-thing."

Of course, Wes Clark might be nuts, or have other interests, but if you take him at his word, the interpretation is clear - this administration has had a vigorous plan to extend the war-machine over the entire ME. As I said, read the transcript, then comment as to it's veracity and meaning. Just a bit more info.

RandomSequence said...

Here's the relevant text.

Wesley Clark to Amy Goodman:
I knew why, because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” -- meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office -- “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

Now, that doesn't sound like the anonymous General was informing Clark about a backup plan, in case things went wrong. If it occurred that way, the most obvious explanation is that Anon. believed that the plan was plan A - an intentional, primary target of the listed countries in the short term.

Don Quijote said...

So, in those six states, each congresscritter represents more people than thier senators (so to speak).

I was thinking of my congresscritter in NY who represents nearly a million Constituents as opposed to some of the fine rightwing nuts in the Senate who barely represent quarter million constituents and can block legislation at will.