Tuesday, June 12, 2007

An Ego Splurge (with a little whimsey...)

after-bush-zakariaFirst an aside. If you get a chance, grab a copy of the June 11, edition of NEWSWEEK (or check it out online) just in order to read Fareed Zakaria’s After Bush: How to Restore America's Place in the World.

Look, I sometimes (almost always?) seem arrogant and egotistical. (See much of what’s written below!) But I have priorities. And two that are much higher than my ego are (1) civilization and (2) an eagerness for good ideas, clear thinking, and good writing. Zakaria exhibits all of those traits.

And yes, I grumbled, “how come HE gets to say all these things in such a worldwide forum, when I was saying some of them five years ago?” But it’s with a wry smile. Because at least somebody is getting to say it all. At last.

Go read Zakaria. He’s better than me. There are some adults.

==Self-righteous Indignation==

I bitch and moan and whine like a cranky child about lack of attention. But, well, I must be getting some traction somewhere. For example, one kind person wrote in to suggest people Google the phrase “self-righteous indignation”. Go ahead. I'll wait. Huh!

OpenLetterAddictionEven just “self-righteousness” puts me high on page 2. Oh, what pride.

But it gets better. Indignation is a topic that took a sudden surge when WIRED Science (online) posted a brief interview with me about “What science might do to help progress in the future.” My answer took a veer down unconventional avenues. For example:

“Given the daunting range of problems and opportunities that we face, I’d have to say that our most urgent scientific and technological need is to develop better methods for pragmatic problem-solving. Specifically, better tools for perceiving, for allocating scarce human attention, and for arguing usefully with one another, so that we can either compete creatively or reach effective consensus on measures to reach a better tomorrow.”

Well, well. This one certainly elicited a storm of nasty screeches in the comments section, calling my remarks “shite” and garbage and much worse.

No telling how many, though. One fellow was caught posting attacks under three different names... kind-of proving my point... which some others pointed out. Immature polemics are one reason the internet has remained noisy and noisome, almost bereft of actual discourse that can get anywhere...

...and yes, these kind people could be answered (as some did) with: “saying that my words just prove the author’s point is just another polemical trick!” That point is well taken.

Along with the suggestion that “Brin imbibes self-righteousness with the best of them.” Har! Anyone familiar with CONTRARY BRIN will recognize the wry wink that accompanies most of my postings, amid interactions with a lively and bright online community of skeptics. As for indignation addiction, well, I never denied being human.

But since my CORE push - pervading everything from EARTH to THE TRANSPARENT SOCIETY is for universal reciprocal accountability... and my aphorism-acronym is “Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error” .... I guess that makes accusing me of hypocrisy about as valid as calling any decent man an “inherent rapist,” simply because he's male and has some hardwired (but never implemented) stone-age impulses, now and then.

Oh, sure, there's a level at which the accusation may have some philosophical validity. But it’s a level that is pretty dumb.

DisputationArenasArrowCoverGenerally-speaking, the level of behavior over at the WIRED site was pretty dismal, compared to you folks, here. If I am proud of anything in my online life, it is having fostered a few places where the discourse - if not as well organized and goal-oriented as I would like (see my article on Disputation Arenas ) - at least feels eclectic and intelligent, with a shared theme of - above all else - a willingness (eagerness?) to entertain new ideas.

And the privacy wars continue...

------- OTHER NEWS! -----

Webscriptions style downloadable files for Jim Baen's Universe are now available. PDF's will be delayed for a while, but if you've been waiting to download to your PDA or laptop or e-book reader. Consider starting with my serialized novel!

For the latest from the “Age of Amateurs”. (You heard it here first.)

As for another of my catch phrases, see a fascinating article about the use of satellite imagery to monitor the tragic and continuing genocidal crimes in Darfur. "What this satellite technology does, it makes it possible to break down those walls of secrecy. Not only to get information, but to get information in a way that's irrefutable," says Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA."

One person writing in (Andre Love) says: “The methodology is very much from The Transparent Society playbook.”

See insightful comments by David Stephenson of Stephenson Strategies, re amateur action and the potential for a resilient citizenry: By contrast, Brin said that things were worsened during Katrina "...by a professional protector caste ....whose sole ambition appeared to be to staunch any citizen-organized activity" ...and that communication technology failed the public. An example of the potential: Douglas Brinkley detailed in The Great Deluge how one Richard Zushlag, of Acadia Ambulance, was a one-man technology emergency provider, via his company's own tower and his many satellite phones..)....

Now, if only we can start getting some leverage. _-- Anybody have suggestions what I should say when I speak at Qualcomm, next month? Beyond suggesting they incorporate self-healing mesh networks for text, beneath the cell-tower mediated main level?

Another item for the prediction registry. (Is anyone collecting these for me? A simple file will do, till we have a place to post em, along with other sci fi forecasts that came true).

giving-plagueDavid Melikoff writes: ”I just read your story “The Giving Plague” on your website. What struck me was that there is a real-world aspect of it: some people actually do feel a lot better after donating blood, and as a consequence they may tend to donate blood periodically.

“You may be aware of the hereditary disease that causes this: hemochromotosis. Apparently it is the result of a mutation during the plague years in Europe a few centuries ago. It causes iron from food to be horded in certain parts of the body, but not in the white blood cells. As a result, when the white blood cells attack plague bacteria, the immune system works far better than usually, as the plague bacteria do not get access to iron. The downside is that too much iron tends to collect within the body, and such people over time gradually feel ill from the extra iron, the only real symptomatic relief is achieved by removing blood from the body.

“I guess the real question is: do people with hemochromotosis, who give blood frequently (as it makes them feel good), tend to become altruistic, as in your story?”

Huh! I didn’t know of this. When did science learn about hemochromotosis?

Enough for now! That is... except for a final miscbit:

Last October, scientists at Duke demonstrated a working cloaking device, hiding whatever was placed inside, although it worked only for microwaves.

In the experiment, a beam of microwave light split in two as it flowed around a specially designed cylinder and then almost seamlessly merged back together on the other side. That meant that an object placed inside the cylinder was effectively invisible. No light waves bounced off the object, and someone looking at it would have seen only what was behind it.


Anonymous said...

Your interview on Wired was intelligent and well thought out. I continue to be impressed by your insights. Keep up the discourse!

Unknown said...

Eh, when you're a prominent thinker that churns out a lot of written material, there's no shortage of critics and naysayers… …whether it's warranted or unwarranted (as is in this case)…

Mark Brown said...

Dr. Brin:

As usual, you are way above the bar.

I googled as you said, “self-righteous indignation”,
and MY results showed you were TOP of the list at #1!

Oh, and for your viewing/singing pleasure, I present, President Bush-ki"

sung to the tune of Officer Krupke, from West Side Story...

lightning said...

Summary of Wired comments, for those who haven't read them: "Phhhtt" No criticism; just a rude noise.

The key to an open forum is moderation. The fondly remembered days when Usenet was a "working anarchy" are long gone; any forum that isn't controlled promptly turns into a sewer.

A moderator has to walk a fine line -- let too much in and you offend people you don't want to; keep too much out and you lose good ideas. Teresa Nielsen Hayden is the Internet Champion Moderator. Making Light is one of the top blog communities for a very good reason.

As expected, the Dead Tree publishers have yet to figure this out. After ten years at least, they're still bleating about the Great Unwashed saying mean things to them ...

yamahaeleven said...

Hemochromotosis, never heard of it before, but it does seem to explain why I really like to donate blood as frequently as it is allowed.

Unknown said...

So does this mean all those old "doctors" who would give a bloodletting at the drop of a hat weren't actually quacks?

David Brin said...

Then read my story "The Giving Plague"!

BTW... David Melinkoff’s name should have been spelled MELINKOFF. Sorry David. Bright guy.

Anonymous said...

lightning said:
Summary of Wired comments, for those who haven't read them: "Phhhtt" No criticism; just a rude noise.

The key to an open forum is moderation. The fondly remembered days when Usenet was a "working anarchy" are long gone; any forum that isn't controlled promptly turns into a sewer.

But this one isn't moderated and it does very well discouraging trolls

David Brin said...

Well, I have purged postings. Twince, I think. And threatened to one other time. That's about it.

No, I just think that those personality types see little to gain by coming here to shriek. What's the payoff? For your three lines of insults to (at best, if not purged) vanish amid much longer posts that commit the sin of actually being interesting?

It doesn't surprise me that this is an island of civil discussion among people who actually want to learn new things and experience new thought.

sociotard said...

This isn't moderated? Can't Dr. Brin delete whatever he does so choose?

By the way, for all those my age who were inspired by the man, Mr. Wizard has died


Anonymous said...

"Wired" isn't exactly Amish Weekly or Fratboy News and World Report.

So who were those people in the forums? What a bunch of internet anti-everything jerks. If you'll pardon my saying, that suxxxored. I feel so pwned.

Anonymous said...

The latest Reason Online has a link to a story about a kid facing a long prison sentence for wiretapping. What was he doing? Recording an arrest - recording the conduct of his local police. Oh, shock and horror - what's the world coming to when citizens usurp the privileges of Homeland Security? Gaaah - every once in a while I remember why I'm a member of the ACLU despite some of their sillier campaigns.

TheRadicalModerate said...

While we'd all love to feel morally superior about our hifalutin discourse here, size does matter. Wired is huge, while this blog is... not quite as large?

Not quite as large is a good thing. I can actually read all the posts here and have some degree of understanding of the arguments being made. When you pass some critical number of comments, you can't do that any more. As a commenter, that means you no longer have the same stake in the discussion that you had before. That in turn encourages cheap shots and/or flippancy.

I continue to think that there are some really straightforward system dynamics at work here that we don't yet quite understand. I don't think we're going to be successful in engineering an open disputation forum until we figure this out.

Having said that, I wasn't surprised by anything said in the Wired interview, but I Am a Loyal If Cranky Reader of This Blog. The sound-bite version of the ideas in Wired is a little hard to follow. Hey, ya writes to yer word-count and ya takes yer chances.

Unknown said...

Fareed Zakaria has a hellacious lot of nerve to presume to advise us on foreign policy after all his fumbling and bumbling and stumbling and bungling, his seemingly endless incorrect predictions and incessant false claims and idiotic conclusions and hysterical warnings about Iraq that never came true over the last 3 years.

Remember, folks! Zakaria was one of the biggest cheerleaders for this disatrous Iraq debacle, right along with Tom Friedman.

Both Zakaria and Friedman urged the invasion, lectured us in tones of punitive hysteria that "we cannot afford to lose this war" and "this is the greatest struggle of our time," Zakaria and Friedman both assured us "the next 6 months are critical" and "we can still win this war" year after year after year, long after even a brain-damaged three-year-old realized the war was lost.

Zakaria spouted gibberish and made broken promise after broken promise about what would happen in Iraq, and this fool apparently has no shame. None at all. And every time anyone pointed out Zakaraia's near-perfect track record of being WRONG, he simply ignored all his past errors and his ignorantly foolish failed predictions, and kept on making incorrect claims.

Zakaria told us we were fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq. (Wrong, it's a civil war, everyone in Iraq is fighting everyone else, it's Shia against Sunni against Kurds.) Zakaria kept implying that "if we don't fight them over there, we'll have to fight them over here." (Wrong.) Zakaria kept assuring us that Iraq was winnable. (Wrong.) Zakaria kept telling us that Iraq would soon transform the entire mideast with a wave of democracy. (Wrong.) Zakaria constantly assured us that "this war is worth it." (Wrong.)

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, a perfect track record of being 100% UTTERLY TOTALLY DEAD WRONG.

Zakaria is an ignorant incompetent fool who seems to have no knowledge of history, no understanding of the fact that the Balfour Declaration is the single most important stake through the heart of Mesopotamia, no recognition that the modern Iraq is a phony pseudo-country confected when Clemneceau and Lloyd George and Woodrow Wilson sat around drawing lines on a map in a Versailles conference room in 1919, forcing disparate ethnic groups together in an artificial nation guaranteed to eventually collapse back into civil war. (And all to assure British access to oil in the 1920s. Ever wonder why Iraq is diamond-shaped in the middle? It's to include those oil fields in the West and South, which the Brits coveted.)

Fareed Zakaria is the Condoleeza Rice of journalism, the Wrong-Way Corrigan of geopolitics, the Tyhoid Mary of pundits. Ignorant of history, uninformed about geopolitcs, clueless about military history, and profoundly incompetent as a journalist and a scholar and a commentator on realpolitik, Fareed Zakaria long since destroyed his credibility and made a complete fool of himself by gibbering non-stop drivel about Iraq and global terrorism and the alleged importance of this "greatest struggle of our generation," all complete hogwash.

If you want a pundit who's been consistently correct about Iraq and the middle east, try William S. Lind. Or Martin Van Creveld. They have a nearly 100% accurate track record of predictions.

Everything this so-called "expert" on foreign policy has said about Iraq and Islam and global terrorism and the mideast over the past 3 years is 100% totally completely utterly wrong. Why on earth would someone as smart and as knoweldgeable as Dr. Brin suggest that we read word one from this discredited dunce?

Incompetent ignorami like Zakaria and Friedman should not be featured prominently on the covers of major newsmagazines offering further (bad) advice to us on how to conduct our future foreign policy.

Come on, people! Wake up! If this guy were a helmsman, he would've been the guy who steered the Titanic into an iceberg! And now NEWSWEEK gives him another shot at the steering wheel?!?!?!?!

Grossly incompetent ignorami like Fareed Zakaria and Tom Friedman should be clamped into stocks in a public square for the parents of U.S. aoldiers meaninglessly murdered in Iraq to toss rotten food at them. Indeed, considering hte trillion dollars and thousands of lives these arrogant inept fools have cost America with their rotten advice and smug smirkingly wrong predictions, that public humiliation falls far short of what they both deserve.

Whatever Fareed Zakaria has to say, judging by his disastrous foolish and catastrophically error-ridden track record, should be the exact opposite of America's future foreign policy. America's leaders should consider Zakaria's words carefully as a guide to what NOT to do in the future.

The same, of course, is true of Tom "lives in an 11,000-square-foot mansion and married into the one of the 25 wealthiest billionare families on the planet" Friedman. Methinks we detect just a smidgen of conflict of interest with Mr. Friedmen, eh? Married to a billionaire...lives ina mansion with servants feeding him delicacies every day...and he just coincidentally happens to favor a warped twisted distortion of captialism misnamed "globalization" whose main function is to impoverish and enrich the richest 0.1% on the planet..? Gee, what a strange coincidence.

Don't take my word for it, read the Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz's appraisal of the dysfunctions and depravities of globalization:

How superbly ironic that neocons like Michael Ledeen and Richard Perle and Wolfowitz and the rest of that pack of jackals have come in for well-deserved ignominy over the past year...while the real cheerleaders for this monstrous debalce in Iraq, the populist pundits Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria, have gotten away scot-free.

For my money, the real culprits in getting America involved in the most disastrous foreign policy debacle in the last 25 years were the opinion-makers, the disingenuously silver-tongued persuaders, the public doubletalkers with prestigious opinion columns who ran interference for the outright liars like Richard Perle and Don Rumsfeld, the smooth velvet-glove salesmen for the whole disaster -- the vile trio of Judith MIller, Tom Friedman and Fareed Zakaria.

Doesn't anyone else find it bizarre beyond description that while the nocons have been deservedly lambasted and verbally pummeled and roundly crticized on all sides (as they should be), these three wretched slubberdegullions Zakaria and Friedman and Miller have somehow managed to avoid having their reputations ruined and their livelihoods taken away?

By all rights, Fareed Zakaria should be fired for his rotten advice. He should be canned for his foolishly false predictions. His hysterical predictions of dire doom if America fails to "stay the course" should have made Zakaria unemployable as a journalist.

In fact, if there was justice in the world, Zakaria would be stripped of his press crednetials, thrown out on the street, and forced to clean toilets for a living with his bare hands. Likewise, Tom Friedman would be expelled from his billionaress wife's mansion, thrown off the nytimes, made a paraiah, and forced to find work in one of the third world sweatshops he glorifies so dishonestly.

Let Tom Friedman go blind stitching Calvin Klein jeans 18 hours a day while locked into a corrugated-tin sweatshop and forced to piss in his pants where he sits because he gets refused any bathroom breaks. See how thrilled he is with the current form of globalization then.

What has gone wrong with America? Why are we listening to these ignorant incompetent fools with bated breath and falling to our knees to genuflect whenever these jerkoffs open their mouths to utter yet another foolishly false canard? (Like Friedman's perennial idiotic "The next six months are the most critical period..." For the LAST THREE YEARS!!!)

And if you think I'm being too extreme, bear in mind that THIS is what we're up again:




TheRadicalModerate said...

FWIW, I posted something over on my blog about how one might engineer an open comment thread that could be large but still able to provide high-quality discourse. It's here, if anybody's interested.

Anonymous said...

Gee, Zorgon, it's not good to suppress your emotions like that. How do you really feel about this Zakaria fellow?

On a more serious note, I can't really lay the fault for the Iraq debacle at the feet of opinion columnists, no matter how influential they'd like to think they are. Decisions made by Congress, the President, and the Department of Defense should not be heavily influenced by newspaper columns. The fact that they seem to be so influenced merely indicates that we need a far more massive turnout in the next Presidential election than has become traditional in this country, to (with luck) remind the government that we, the electorate, can revoke their authority to rule much of anything any time we get sufficiently pissed off.

Oh, and FWIW, I've never heard of this Zakaria guy - I don't think his column gets published anywhere on the West Coast. (If it's one of those things where his columns are exclusive to the NY Times or something, relax - the NYT isn't quite as big an opinion-maker as its publishers would like to think.)

David Brin said...

Did I not say that I was saying the same wise things that Zakaria says in this article... LONG before he said them?

I praised the ARTICLE... not so much the man. It is a deeply important article in its own right. And NEWSWEEK is available everywhere. (Someone got the URL for it? It thin it was in last week's issue, anyway.)

BTW, Tom Friedman can infuriate me, too. But count your blessings. These guys are smart and actually ask the right questions, sometimes.

And I won't begrudge TF living with and underthe protection of a billionaire. Those soon may be the only voices ABLE to speak up for the Enlightenment.

Still, for someone who is right at a much deeper level... drop in at:

Anonymous said...

There are still some usenet groups that are livable -- mostly medium-traffic groups outside "alt". Many of them are unmoderated. It's amazing what having a) branching threaded discussion and b) killfiles can do...

Also, a link in the top-level blog post is broken. The one about "privacy wars". I presume it's supposed to display something of interest to us. It instead displays a content-free login page of some sort. So either Brin's accidentally linked us to some kind of members-only page, or there's a typo of some kind...

Unknown said...

Haven't read enough of Zakaria to formulate a judgment, but have ingested enough of Friedman to aware of what an out of touch, brain dead elitist he is.

He writes of affairs in the Middle East, yet is tragically ignorant of pertinent history and subscribes totally to official statecraft prescribed revisionist fare. Not questioning the existence of divergent views, but first, one must acknowledge them and not duck them…

He writes of "free trade", yet proudly proclaims he just hears the words "free" and "trade" and auto-magically computes that to be a good thing, and never inquires of the details that comprise such arrangements that are tagged "free" only as an Orwellian scheme…

He writes of technology and economics, yet has not a clue of the industry or science that powers it, instead, he regurgitates and reamplifies corporatist brochure copy, and doesn't even take simple steps of following up on the bits of disinformation and misinformation he's serving up to a better informed public, that now in the "Age of the Amateur", can quickly click in and see for themselves the crap he is peddling…

An elitist, completely detached from the cares and concerns of working Americans, yet is trotted out to provide window dressing for a deceptive globalist and corporatist bent.

BTW, Tom Friedman can infuriate me, too. But count your blessings. These guys are smart and actually ask the right questions, sometimes.

And I won't begrudge TF living with and underthe protection of a billionaire. Those soon may be the only voices ABLE to speak up for the Enlightenment.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the Newsweek article yet, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Unknown said...

Wikipedia on Zakaria's war support:

While Zakaria initially supported using military force against Iraq, he argued for a United Nations-sanctioned operation and occupation with a much larger force (approximately 400,000 troops). He wrote a Newsweek cover-essay the week the Iraq war began titled "The Arrogant Empire", which detailed the failures of the Bush foreign policy in the run-up to the war. He was an early and aggressive critic of the occupation, arguing against the disbanding of the army and the bureaucracy, which the administration accomplished under the guise of "Debaathification". He predicted that accelerating the buildup of the Iraqi military would create a Shia and Kurdish army that would exacerbate the sectarian tensions in the country. Four months into the occupation, his columns bore such titles as "Iraq Policy is broken", and in September of 2003 he wrote a cover story for Newsweek entitled "So What's Plan B?" In February of 2005, the week before Iraq's elections, he wrote "no matter how the voting turns out, the prospects for genuine democracy in Iraq are increasingly grim." In his October 2006 Newsweek cover essay, Zakaria called for a reduction in American troops in Iraq to 60,000 by end of 2007.

Anonymous said...

Zakaria's article can be read on http://msnbc.msn.com/id/19001200/site/newsweek/

All those words all that dross for one sentence .
Openness is good.(Paraphrasing here)

This is a man who believes a patently nontransparent non open law (current senate immigration law) is a good thing.

1) We have plenty of laws on the books and they are not being faithfully executed. This is a problem for the both the Congress and the President.
2)The law is way too long nearly 400 pages for it to be "transparent" to anyone as to its effects or its efficacy .If a reasonably intelligent and literate person cannot understand it then it should not be a law.
3) It was a back room deal done in secret. Definition of nontransparent.
4) A prime reason why most people distrust government is tendency to use secrecy.

The other major transparency problem we have is the secrecy used in economic negotiations.

What is so difficult with real free trade.

Two countries put their economic subsidies ( tax incentives and direct subsidies) and their tariffs on the table. Thats it.

You may talk about internal barriers to trade but that is not the business of another country.
This is a sovereignty issue. Some of these laws may be direct barriers but most are what the people of that country may feel are important safety or purity issues relating to products or food or drugs. They have a right to have these laws.

The place for these issues (internal law)to be decided are in open agreements arrived at openly in diplomatic negotiations and ratified by treaty.

No fast tracking agreements between the president and congress. Anti openness!
This is a case where the Congress must fulfill its responsibilities not abrogate them to the executive.

What these "managed" trade agreements do is take the openness of debate and put it into a Trade organization committee or court which does its thing in secret. Then they tell the countries (USA) that they must change the supreme law of their (our) land which is
only legal when done by Congress to some arbitrarily and secretly decided formulation.

We fought a war about laws without representation. Another George was at the root of that one.

Anonymous said...

Your comment that one of your critics was caught posting 3 times with different names on the WIRED article is factually incorrect. If you actually read the comments it was your "strongest" supporter, Bill Earnohazy, that was busted for reposting with multiple names.

In any discourse facts should matter.

Julia said...

Hemochromatosis - the Wikipedia entry indicates it was first described in 1865. Figuring out just what it was probably took a little longer.

Hemochromatosis is rare enough that bloodletting in many cases probably wasn't such a good idea, but for any sufferer of the condition, it was probably helpful. Actually donating blood that can be used by another is a win/win situation. :)

(My mother and one of her brothers both have it -- the brother more severely. So that's something I'm going to be needing to watch out for in the next 10-20 years.)