Thursday, August 16, 2007

A strange scenario... Ostrich permanence... and start the open mike forum!

My webmaster, the wondrous Beverly Price, has posted a (semi) final version of the Ostrich Papers at It may be long, but tell people it’s a handbook of sorts, for explaining to the perplexed.

I am opening up the Comments Section (below) as an open forum. I do not know if I will be able to check in for a while, so have fun, argue away about anything. I may find some way to say hi, from time to time.

Oh... one very brief thought that I may elaborate upon later. About a really amazing kind of jiu jitsu surprise that the Bushites could pull on us, as we crest toward an election year when the American people will supposedly repudiate all they ever stood for.

The standard paranoid scenario asks this. “Why are they pushing so hard for expanded presidential powers that HILLARY might then inherit? Do they know something we don’t?”

The worry is about some ace in the hole. Some October (or much sooner) surprise. Some reason to expect they’ll get to use the powers, not a democrat. The two top thriller plots are:

(1) another terror attack (oh, how convenient) or
(2) a presidential-ordered Air Force “pippity” bombing, run sent to “intimidate the Iranians (who sacrificed a million men fighting Saddam and would follow us home to Laredo.)

Yes, yes, it’s scary either way. These are maniacs, monsters and traitors, so nothing is beyond them. We must be wary... and help awaken the one group of people who could save us all... the professionals.

And yet...

And yet, I have long pondered a real historical tragedy... how Condi Rice could have raised herself from Buchanan levels of future contemptibility all the way to Kissinger levels of historical significance - and effectiveness. As I’ve said before, she could have done this early in the administration, simply by putting her boss on a plane to Tehran.

Just like Kissinger performing a spectacular loop-de-loop that smote the KGB in the face and reconfigured everything, by sending Nixon to China.

Oh, what a fantasy that was, when I offered this scenario at CIA in 2002! Like Nixon to China, the effect of a well-orchestrated Bush to Tehran endeavor would likely stun the world, rattle adversaries (both foreign and domestic) boost the administration’s popularity and dramatically re-jigger the entire geopolitical landscape. If done then, it would also have toppled Saddam with nary a shot (ponder how) and put our real enemies over there on warning. As for the Ayatollahs? Ha! A love offensive could not have hurt! And it might have really given the students and people (and expatriates) the oomph they needed to get freedom and recover the ancient Iran-American friendship.

Well, well. Maybe. Maybe not. But it would have cost almost nothing, zilch, to try.

Oh, but forget 2002, when my audience at CIA thought I was crazy for suggesting this. (Well, I am paid to be interesting and think out of the box, hm?)

No, try an update of the scenario, Look at this NOT as clever international realpolitik... but as a stunner that could rock all of our domestic politics at a shot. Shoving the apple cart at a time when the Bushites really need it. Taking advantage of the power of presidential newsmaking initiative. Only NOT by sending a few dozen bombers to provoke a war with Iran, as so many fear. Right target. But wrong weapons!

Dang. It would re-set everything. Force praise even from those now spitting venom. And give W a sudden shot at an Iraq solution while avoiding the ignominy of passing Buchanan on the “worst president” list!

Oh, it’s just a thought experiment. Half wish and half hoping they don’t. But at least I got it down here, on record. I am paid to find the odd scenario. This won’t happen, of course. Because it presupposes they have three neurons to rub together.


Kelsey Gower said...

"“Why are they pushing so hard for expanded presidential powers that HILLARY might then inherit? Do they know something we don’t?” ... (1) another terror attack (oh, how convenient) or
(2) a presidential-ordered Air Force “pippity” bombing, run sent to “intimidate the Iranians (who sacrificed a million men fighting Saddam and would follow us home to Laredo.)"

(3)They want Hillary to win the presidency.

As you said, nothing is beyond them. It would be easier for the neoconservatives to lay low for awhile and gain power and support behind the scenes while Democrats are in charge than it would be for them to opt for an all-out war against transparency right now. It's not that they don't mind bloodshed, so long as they aren't doing the actual fighting. And they don't have the support to keep from getting their hands dirty yet.

And they don't have to worry about Democrats having presidential powers. The presidential powers that Hillary Clinton might inherit will blow up in her face if she actually tries to use them. Remember saying "If Clinton had done this..."?

By your own logic, if Clinton decides to continue with the wiretapping program we'll have our next civil war.

She would end up having to change or remove most or all of the terrorism-related programs the Bush administration has started. Just as well, her base wouldn't want her to have all that unchecked power either.

However, by getting rid of all these programs the neocons can continue to paint Clinton as soft on terror for the next four years. Really a lose-lose situation for her. Her approval rating would sink, and Jeb Bush gets a good shot at running for president in 2012. Hmm, deja vu...

If Jeb Bush does end up being president I could imagine him doing such a poor job that the public will once again be clamoring for another Clinton era.

But perhaps it wouldn't be such a lose-lose situation for Clinton after all if that were the case.

Anonymous said...

Forget the political scenarios and look at Wall Street. It's happing on Dubya's watch. He won't survive a stock market crash, not politically, let alone the panic you could see developing yesterday. He will be Hoovered out of office and into infamy on that alone.

Anonymous said...

Three? You are so kind.

Anonymous said...

Random stuff time?

Who here likes cats?

Anonymous said...

Oh, we can do better than that. Let's take sore loser Andrew Keen, who was just on Stephen Colbert:

Mr. Keen has decided that the Age of Amateurs is evil and will immediately lead to the end of civilization. I wish that was an exaggeration, but it's not. His thesis is the exact opposite of Dr. Brin's: that, given freedom of the press, freedom of creativity, and unlimited ability to choose... people will lie incessantly, steal without limit, never pay for anything, and (this is most important) never bother to catch each other doing it.

And what is Mr. Keen's prescription for this rampant mediocrity? Why, elitism, of course! Regulation! Rule by a wiser, superior, and (this is the critical part) self-selected group, who will then impose the costs of civilization on unwashed masses, and all for the good of everyone. Anything else is just postmodernism, existentialism, and/or communism in a new disguise...

Kelsey Gower said...

I was hoping someone would mention Andrew Keen's interview. Here's a debate between him and Emily Bell. He really takes a beating in this one.


daveawayfromhome said...

Keen sounded just like a middle-man, worrying that he's being cut out of a deal. Which is what is actually going on.

Anonymous said...

(From Zorgon the Malevolent. Still unable to log in as that username, who knows why.)

Backlash of the professionals escalates:

Anonymous said...

If you really want to reach a conservative, you'll find it much easier if you compare Bush to past conservatives.

For example, why handicap your effort by trying to convince them that Clinton was a great president, just so you can compare Bush to Clinton?

Surely you can find worthy examples of past conservatives with whom to compare Bush - or if you are so dead set on hating all conservatives that you can't find any, your cause is doomed in any case, because you're basing your attempt on a lie - you don't want to "reach" conservatives, you want to *convert* them - and it simply isn't very likely to happen.

Joel said...

Why the hiatus? Mulling over that buyout offer?

Anonymous said...

"Why the hiatus?"

Dr. Brin is on a family trip to China and Japan. He's the Guest of Honor at Worldcon in Tokyo.

Joel said...

Oops...I knew that. Sorry.

I did want to share that joke, though...

Anonymous said...

RE: if Clinton had done it. Domestic spying.

Not that long ago, the 'free republic' was complaining about Clinton spying on Americans with the approval of the 'rubber stamp' fisa court. No doubt if they had consistency they would be beyond livid at Bush's all out bypassing the court. (and what, pray tell would he need to spy on which might not get the approval of a court which approved almost all requests? A Nixonian enemies list? Watergate style political sabotage with better burglars? Ensuring the loyalties of his own partisans? it boggles the mind.)

I got this link via a blog entry sent to me by a former ostrich who has seen the light.

Personally, the meme I've been tossing around is one you seem to have been hinting at - and may well have more than just a grain of truth to it. The past six years could well have been more 'conservative' under Al Gore. Even in 2000 one of Bush's biggest complaints is that Clinton/Gore had not been radical enough. That they had 'wasted their shot' to make huge sweeping changes and only been content with peace and prosperity. That they had, in essence, been more conservative than he was.

Looking at many of the traditional definitions of conservative (tending to maintain the status quo, individual rights and responsibilities,smaller governments, avoiding deficits, etc.. Well, you yourself have already made solid arguments for all of these. All that remained (IMHO) was to connect the dots.

Oh, and have a nice trip. :0)

Anonymous said...

You want to see the professional classes start to kick over the traces? Here it is.

Very brave men indeed, it is too bad what is likely to happen to them. And note that these are career NCOs, not a bunch of guys given to complaining or politicking.

Anonymous said...

Oops, the link got cut. Here it is in two lines.

Xactiphyn said...

"“Why are they pushing so hard for expanded presidential powers that HILLARY might then inherit? Do they know something we don’t?” ...

Sometimes we get so stuck in the various political meta-debate, we forget to just look at the face value possibility. I believe conservatives innately believe more in executive power than they do legislative or judicial power. Liberals believe the opposite.

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned that the "October surprise" might be global pandemic flu. Think about it--we're already being prepared that it's on the way. There are flyers in local newspapers telling us how to prepare. Most scenarios conveniently predict that there will be at least three weeks of complete shut-down of our country. And all it takes is an executive order on advice from the CDC to activate pandemic precautions. We don't even have to see or know of anyone actually getting sick--we just have to be told it's happening. Scary thought.

Anonymous said...

An "October surprise" is inevitable. Just like amazing performance of NORAD on 9/11. disappearing Osama or anthrax attacks just in time for the Putriot Act, this game is not played straight.

Anonymous said...

"The cameras are coming! The cameras are coming!"

Dr. Brin's answer would of course be transparency: make the spy results public domain and freely accessible, so that you KNOW what the government is seeing. But how would it work? If we post spy satellite results, everyone can work out what the spysat capabilities are. And how do we know that every spysat picture taken of US soil is being deposited? And yet if we do not demand transparency, further use of spysats for nefarious purposes is inevitable. How can we untangle this web?

Enterik said...

Back again and having not bothered to read through the comments already posted, I'm just going to jump in with my thoughts on the "Ostrich Papers" over at Dr. Brin's dkos diary.

My conclusion is that you are basically constructing a copper tipped antler to knap paleo[con] lithic flakes away from the idealogical core of the Republican voter base. A sort of intellectual pressure flaking meant to shift the balance of power away from the neanderthal neocon agenda.

Your technique seems best applied to pragmatic conservatives who will discard idealogy to obtain a working solution and to so-called biconceptuals who cleave to the neocon agenda in the foreign policy arena. Additionally, there are likely to be a few self-described moderates and centrists who will support an agenda responsive to underlying systemic causation.

However, I sense from my own anecdotal experience that the largest susceptible group are those I will term "idealogically weak" conservatives. Most of my high school circle of freinds went into the military for socioeconomic reasons which means basically all the benefits but with little desire to kill. While serving their patriotism and worldview were altered to polite non-reflective jingoism and a tendency to prefer strict father morality. Yet indoctrinated in the machismo culture of retribution as they are, my friends have not been stripped of their pragmatic or logical tendencies. Rather, they have developed a studied ignorance of the facts and a taste for reactionary emotionalism.

I can still reach these people with the tools you have developed, basically a conservative arguement against strategic ineptitude and social idealogy. I know that they wil be thoroughly disenchanted when the ugly lights are turned on but they know I am a "liberal elitist" with an sissified agenda even if I am their longest and most loyal friend. The end result will likely be to attribute failure not to the neoconservative worldview which they share as part of their identity but to those charged with executing it. Come November 2008 they will most likely vote for a candidate who can better execute their wordlvision and shares their received identity (Fred Thompson perhaps) or they will not vote. They will not vote for a so-called "triangulating centrist such as Hilary Clinton or an effete bleeding heart metrosexual like John Edwards. The notion that a Liberal/Progressive/Democrat could do such neocon job properly is unthinkable by either species.

So in my eyes the most likely outcome of this strategyis limited and transient victory. Don't get me wrong, I think that someone needs to knap away at the outer edges of conservative identity, I just think that the style of engagement you are promoting reenforces the neocon meme as it tries to invalidate it. Still I see your efforts as a positive contribution towards saner policies.

Personally, I think Conservatives need to be encouraged to look beyond direct individual causation and towards an appreciation of systemic causation. The entire fate of Iraq did not rest on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein and not every bad decision is directly attributable to Bush. There are other large geopolitical factors contributing to the current state of things that many supporters of the indefinite occupation just don't seem to appreciate.


matthew said...

More on Bush appointees deliberately, criminally weakening scientific oversight. This time on allowable lead toxicity standards.

Not bad ostrich ammo, IMO.

Anonymous said...

On Hunting Ostriches

True ostriches are no trouble, with their heads in the sand , knocking them off is a no muss no fuss occupation. Politically speaking that is.

But what many of the correspondents here on this blog fail to realize is that any conservative who is open enough to be convinced will never go with a democratic viewpoint.

your only 'victory' will be in getting them motivated to oppose the standard interventionist we know what is good for you, 'pragmatic' liberal. Pragmatism being the ignoring of law when it doesn't suit your purposes.

Let us look at all of the democratic front runners, candidates which the majority of you believe have a chance of winning.

NONE of them is for liberty. None of them want to repeal the various 'patriot' acts, none want to repeal the Real(bad) ID . They want to keep these instruments of control, or tyranny.

Most of them still believe that we should be intervening in other countries.

now talking about accountability and transparency we come to the acknowledged front runner Clinton.

She has a track record of heading a committee that was very secret in it's deliberations on reforming Health Care policy.

My point is that decent conservatives are already against the neo cons, and if not will not take much to convince them, but to expect them to shift their viewpoints on social welfare issues ,the scope of government, and on liberty is a futile belief.

I applaud the part where you remove the blinkers but laugh at the part were you think they will vote for a democratic candidate.

Tony Fisk said...

The ranks break...
Top Republican urges Iraq pullout
-BBC News

Meanwhile, if you would like some refutation of the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam drawn by mad King George, read 'The Age' article: History, By George

(some added spice for ostriches: Fraser was a *conservative* PM!)

The most telling observation of all comes at the end:

A last word comes from a New York Times report in which David C. Hendrickson, a specialist on the history of American foreign policy at Colorado College, says it is undoubtedly true that America's failure in Vietnam led to catastrophic consequences in the region, especially in Cambodia.

"But there are a couple of further points that need weighing," he added. "One is that the Khmer Rouge would never have come to power in the absence of the war in Vietnam - this dark force arose out of the circumstances of the war, was in a deep sense created by the war. The same thing has happened in the Middle East today. Foreign occupation of Iraq has created far more terrorists than it has deterred."

SpaceGhoti said...

I was shown a link that demonstrates why the Professional Class is not willing to stand up in defiance of our ruling elite.

It seems that when people try it, they're labeled "enemy combatants" or "security detainee" and subjected to the "interrogation methods" that our Glorious Leader insists are not torture methods.

I'm sorry Dr. Brin, but it looks like we're going to have to find another way.

JuhnDonn said...

Here's what one upstanding citizen faced, when she blew the whistle on the KBR fuel rip off ($61,000,000.00).

"A few weeks before the Iraq War started, Greenhouse was asked to sign off on the contract to restore Iraqi oil. The deal, she noticed, was suspicious on a number of fronts. For one thing, the company that had designed the project, KBR, was the same company that was being awarded the contract -- a highly unusual and improper situation. For another, the corps wanted to award a massive "emergency" contract to KBR with no competition for up to five years, which Greenhouse thought was crazy. Who ever heard of a five-year emergency? After auditing the deal, the Pentagon found that KBR had overcharged the government $61 million for fuel. "The abuse related to contracts awarded to KBR," Greenhouse testified before the Senate, "represents the most blatant and improper contract abuse I have witnessed during the course of my professional career."

And how did her superiors in the Pentagon respond to the wrongdoing highlighted by their own chief procurement officer? First they gave KBR a waiver for the overbilling, blaming the problem on an Iraqi subcontractor. Then they dealt with Greenhouse by demoting her and cutting her salary, citing a negative performance review. The retaliation sent a clear message to any would-be whistle-blowers. "It puts a chill on you," Greenhouse says. "People are scared stiff."

They were scared stiff in Iraq, too, and for good reason. When civilian employees complained about looting or other improprieties, contractors sometimes threatened to throw them outside the gates of their bases -- a life-threatening situation for any American. Robert Isakson, a former FBI agent who worked for Custer Battles, says that when he refused to go along with one scam involving a dummy company in Lebanon, he was detained by company security guards, who seized his ID badge and barred him from the base in Baghdad. He eventually had to make a hazardous, Papillon-esque journey across hostile Iraq to Jordan just to survive. (Custer Battles denies the charge.)"

From Rolling Stone article The Great Iraq Swindle

Anonymous said...

Government Training Clergy to "quell dissent."

'A KSLA-TV news report from Louisiana has confirmed the story that Clergy Response Teams are being trained by the federal government to "quell dissent" and pacify citizens to obey the government in the event of a declaration of martial law.

The report confirms the existence of a nationwide Homeland Security program which is training pastors and other religious representatives to teach their congregations to "obey the government" in preparation for a declaration of martial law.

A whistleblower who attended one of the training sessions reports that the feds were recruiting religious leaders to help implement government Homeland Security directives in anticipation of a terrorist attack or a nationally declared emergency.'

The first directive was for pastors to preach to their congregations Romans 13, the often taken out of context bible passage that was used by Hitler to hoodwink Christians into supporting him, in order to teach them to "obey the government" when martial law is declared.

It was stressed that the pastors needed to preach subservience to the authorities ahead of time in preparation for the round-ups and to make it clear to the congregation that "this is for their own good."

Tony Fisk said...

spaceghoti said:
I'm sorry Dr. Brin, but it looks like we're going to have to find another way.

No one ever claimed the lot of a whistleblower was easy. With stakes as big as these, it's hardly a surprise if some KBR 'appropriations committee' has invested in a few rat catchers to keep the squeaks in a well-oiled machine to a minimum.

Greenhouses' fate also highlights why David has been so strident about establishing an *independent* office of Inspector-General. Irregularities are taken less personally when they're reported to someone who *isn't* in a position to shoot the messenger.

Take heart, though: the very fact that these incidents are now being reported should be cause for some optimism.

...Then again, looking at USPD51 and the pastor report, what possible event would require the imposition of martial law in the US?

Unknown said...

Here is an absolutely fascinating article linking thoughts of one's mortality to nationalism and negative views of other cultures.

It is motivated by the observation that the threat of terrorism is often cited by rural voters (i.e. unlikely potential victims) as a major reason for having voted for Bush in 2004.

Tony Fisk said...

Exit Gonzales

SpaceGhoti said...

Tony Fisk said:
No one ever claimed the lot of a whistleblower was easy.

Tony, under these conditions whistleblowing is only going to be performed by the very brave and patriotic. The message has been delivered loud and clear: blow the whistle and you'll be lucky to get out alive. Given the enticing bonuses of cooperation in comparison to the consequences of dissenting, we now have a climate of fear that many have observed as "chilling."

The professionals Dr. Brin are calling to defy this administration are simply not going to be willing to do so. They risk becoming active targets, and I will be sincerely surprised if they stage any sort of defiance en masse.

...Then again, looking at USPD51 and the pastor report, what possible event would require the imposition of martial law in the US?

Given the vague wording of the various Executive Orders with regard to "national security," just about any event can be used to justify martial law, including simple mass protest against the government. Dr. King would probably have been disappeared as an "enemy combatant" in today's climate.

Anonymous said...

This is David Brin, reporting in from Japan. (Don't entirely take my word for it, of course. But then, who, other than me, would say that? ;)

As expected, China blocked my blogger access while I was there. Still, we had a great/exhausting timeboth promoting science fiction and schlepping 3 american kids around Asia. (We saw NO other examples of such insanity. Truly loony.) I'll say more later.

Now in Tokyo. Far more expensive. Far better toilets... and yet China did impress, in many ways.

On to Worldcon in Yokohama.

Oh, I agree that disease does seem a very plausible pre-October surprise. It spreads panic and acceptance of authority, it selectively strikes blue cities, and it can be triggered with minimal numbers of in-country conspiraors.... though many are needed within some hostile foraign power.

Professionals... are you there? Have you the guts to stand upto a few hundred Bob Jones University grads and some Manchurian plants, and activate the protocols that you are supposed to use, when the agency and government have been suborned from the top down?

Anonymous said...

The disease-as-coup-trigger meme was used in movie (and presumably the graphic novel) V for Vendetta.

("V" is a GREAT, underappreciated movie. A romantic hack and slash revenge drama crossed with brilliantly arch commentary on authoritarian government. Watching it in the spring of '06, before voters showed their disgust with the GOP, felt vaguely subversive.)

Xactiphyn said...

As expected, China blocked my blogger access while I was there.

That wasn't true a couple years ago. I had no trouble blogging on blogspot back in 2005. (Most of this was written in China.) They must have tighten the rules recently. Or, perhaps, it depends on where you are -- my hotel where I blogged was one geared towards Americans in Shanghai.

Anonymous said...

Note to Stephan, the graphic novel V for vendetta was written back in the 1980's the premise (if i remeber right) was that britain had dearmed and then been less damaged by the nuclear war betweenthe US and Russia, (civilisation still fell though) the fascists come to power in the aftermath of the war - they had to find a new premise for the movie obviously, however it does lead to the massive plot hole that the camp takes place BEFORE the incident that supposedly brought about the rise of the fascists.

to Mark, blogger has been blocked in china everytime I've tried to use it

Anonymous said...

Maybe so… but for the same reason that the Teheran expedition is not on the radar, why should we expect anything would come from W’s journey into the mouth of the cave? Would he peer in, screech and flee in Christian-shrouded horror? Or on the other extreme of sensibility, would he not unwittingly draw a line in the sand that would force us into a chaotic dimension?

I think the posse in charge is way over its head, evidenced by so many inverse Midas outcomes. We risk too much by suggesting they do anything, regardless of probable outcomes, with so much baggage being dragged around.

Our best hope is to elect a new posse… but not the usual suspects. We need vision ad leadership to make things happen, in all branches of government. Are there options out there? If so, then let’s subsist during the lame duck months. Changing the gatekeepers may give us a chance to build a pathway to peace and world harmony.

The flip side is more of the same… just different faces and genders. It would be time for us to flee into the hills and watch Gore’s global warming from afar.

Tony Fisk said...

More steaming piles to heap around the ostriches (but then, where have they got their heads buried?):
US senator in lewd conduct furore

Even a 'disgusted' Mitt Romney makes the comparison with Clinton! (imagine the disgust if *Clinton* had been found with his shoe under the neighbouring cubicle?)

Meanwhile, with Bush increasingly itching for distractions and excuses, US 'seizes Iranian group in Iraq'.

It reminds me of the spot of bovver called the Gleiwitz Incident. If so, then we find out tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

I don't think the Craig case is of too much use as "Ostrich Ammunition."

The kind of conservatives you want to reach out too aren't the blowhard moralists.

I'd concentrate on the financial, ethical, and insane-foreign-policy blunders of the Bush administration proper.

Anonymous said...

On Brin's goggle-faces:

This guy actually caught someone who tried to rob him! Another prediction from Earth come true!

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

That revolt by the professionals you ordered ... well, it isn't quite here, but the natives are getting mighty restless. It seems that the generals, GAO and intelligence community are trying their best to hand as many loaded guns to the Dems as possible for Special September on Iraq:

Who knows who pulls the trigger ATM, though.

Anonymous said...

"President Bush will be viewed as a far-sighted leader who confronted the key test of the 21st century." -- Karl Rove

Wow. We're about 8% of the way into the 21st century and Bush has already figured out and confronted the key test!

I can imagine Rove's great-great-grandchild saying the same thing about Bush's great-great-grandchild after he signs a law banning cybersex between uplifted coyotes and plasma creatures living in the Sun's chromosphere.

Tony Fisk said...

The 'key test', as in 'could he unlock the front door to the century?'

Was he so farsighted that, with eyes fixed on the cookie jar in the kitchen, he tripped over the doormat?

Note that Rove doesn't say whether or not he passed.

Meanwhile, I must quell an irrational urge to go knock a wall down.

Tony Fisk said...

'Spot the porky' time:

On the breakup of the Iraqi army after the US invasion, Bush was quoted in a recent book 'Dead Certain':
"The policy was to keep the army intact; didn't happen".

According to Bremer, after proposing the breakup in May 2003, Bush responded:
"Your leadership is apparent. You have quickly made a positive and significant impact. You have my full support and confidence."

More details here

And even more, at The Independent:

"How was it then, Draper asks, that his then administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, was allowed, in May 2003, to disband the Iraqi army without pay?

Mr Bush is stumped, suggesting that maybe the answer lies somewhere in the notes of the National Security Advisor, Stephen Hadley. "Yeah, I can't remember; I'm sure I said, 'This is the policy, what happened?'" Mr Bush said, adding: "Again, Hadley's got notes on all this stuff.""

This is beginning to feel like shooting fish in a barrel.

psychegram said...

Consider me one ostrich, bagged and tagged. I've been sitting on the bench for a while, but the more I thought about it ... yeah, there's something truly rotten going on at the heart of the US government, and it's getting critical.

Talking with (a less charitable person might say 'being cheerfully harangued by) Dr. Brin at Nippon 2007 sort of tipped me over the edge. (I was the guy in the Kaffee Klatsch who came in a few minutes late, red t-shirt, shaved head and a beard, and too bashful to say that you've been one of my favorite writers since I was a teenager ... when my family drove across Canada Startide Rising transported me to a world far more interesting than the prairies. Also, you're very different in person from the mild-mannered scribbler I'd imagined.)

If anyone here hasn't heard of Year Zero (the new Ninch Inch Nails album), I suggest they check it out. It's a concept album, with it's plot released on the internet through a masterful alternate reality game. If you go to the wiki, you can get the cole's notes version. This isn't just some musicians half-assed attempt at bad scifi; this is a collaboration between a number of very smart, very talented people, who have put some real thought into the kind of nightmare state that might evolve from what we're seeing now.

psychegram said...

ps for anyone interested in a quick rundown on year zero, i've written up a quick post on at at my blog.

psychegram said...

on it.

damn typos.

ok. 3 am and time for bed....

Anonymous said...

I read the following and became so incredibly depressed I had to share:
"If you think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will end with this US presidency, think again. These wars will likely outlast the next several Presidents. The old Vietnam era formulas don't apply anymore. The reason is that the moral weaknesses that have traditionally limited the state's ability to fight long guerrilla wars have dissipated, and modern states may now have the ability and the desire to wage this type of war indefinitely. Here's what changed:

A radical improvement in marketing war. The US military learned from Vietnam that it needed to be much better at marketing wars to domestic audiences in order to prevent moral collapse. It has gotten better at this, and that information operations/strategic communications capability has reached a new level of effectiveness with General Petraeus. Despite this improvement, the military and its civilian leadership still don't have the ability to garner wide domestic support for guerrilla wars beyond the initial phases. However, they do have the ability to maintain support within a small but vocal base -- as seen in the use of weblogs to generate grass roots support for war -- and the capability to trump those that call for withdrawal (by keeping the faintest glimmer of potential success alive and using fear/uncertainty/doubt FUD to magnify the consequences of defeat). In our factional political system, that is sufficient to prevent withdrawal.

The threat that justifies the state and the perpetual war that codifies it. The ongoing threat of terrorism has become the primary justification for the existence of a strong nation-state (and its greatest instrument of power, the military) at the very moment it finds itself in decline due to globalization (or more accurately: irrelevance). The militarization of "the war against terrorism" reverses this process of dissipation, since it can be used to make the case for the acquisition of new powers, money, and legitimacy (regardless of party affiliation) -- for example, everything from increases in conventional military spending to the application of technical reconnaissance on domestic targets. Of course, this desire for war at the political level is complimented by the huge number of contractors (and their phalanxes of lobbyists) attracted by the potential of Midas level profits from the privatization of warfare. The current degree of corporate participation in warfare makes the old "military industrial complex" look tame in comparison.

The privatization of conflict. This is likely the critical factor that makes perpetual warfare possible. For all intents and purposes, the US isn't at war. The use of a professional military in combination with corporate partners has pushed warfare to the margins of political/social life. A war's initiation and continuation is now merely a function of our willingness/ability to finance it. Further, since privatization mutes moral opposition to war (i.e. "our son isn't forced to go to war to die") the real damage at the ballot box is more likely to impact those that wish to end its financing. To wit: every major presidential candidate in the field today now gives his/her full support to the continuation of these wars."

That was from John Rob's blog Global Guerrillas, i became depressed because i think he is right.

Tony Fisk said...

In case anyone's interested, River (Baghdad Burning) has reported in safe from the Syrian border.

Anonymous said...

I see what you're trying to do, but most ostriches I know are not well informed enough for this to work, and are too cynical anyway.

I've been working on two ostriches, but their reflexive answer to just about anything is to say that all politicians are full of it, and that the democrats are even worse.

At that point, I'm left arguing that 1) yes, the dems are pretty bad, but 2) the current administration has been uniquely bad. It's not a strong position, especially if you're dealing with someone who has no idea of, say, the deficit numbers, or who thinks that the Guantanamo prisoners are all guilty, or that WMDs have been found in Iraq.

I should probably find better ostriches, but I live in Idaho, and the people I've just described are the most reasonable people available. It's not hard at all to find people who think we should simply kill all the Muslims.

Tony Fisk said...


It sounds to me like you're allowing yourself to be 'framed'. (a tricky little debating tactic that seeks to lead and lock you into a limited area of discussion. See here for more details)

It's a very easy trap to walk into, especially in a verbal exchange. (Indeed, this is why leading questions are frowned on in a cross-examination) Here, we can dissect it in a more leisurely fashion.

In this case, the opening gambit is 'all pols are full of it, but the dems are worse'. This sentence (if that is how your ostriches expressed it) contains two premises which aren't necessarily connected. By casually and sympathetically agreeing to one, you appear to be implicitly accepting the other, and end up sounding weak when you try to refute it.

A better ploy might be to avoid responding to such double-edged assertions altogether. Try responding with another question: eg: 'What makes you say the democrats are worse?'.

Not knowing the people you refer to, I can only guess at their response to that : something along the lines of 'where do I start?/do I have to spell it out the obvious?' and other pungent but vague expressions of indignation.

Don't be put off by their exasperation with you for not accepting the obvious. This is the point where you do *not* accept the obvious and 'do not let go' until you extract one or two fundamental justifications for them saying 'the dems are worse'. A justification that is then open to repudiation (or verification: which you should always accept as a possibility)

Oh, and if you do make a point, leave it to the ostrich to reassess where to move their head.

Hope that helps.