Saturday, December 22, 2007

Your Little Holiday Assignment: Convert an Ostrich

As folks prepare for coming days of joyful and (full-bellied) reunion with family members from across the continent, another tradition looms -- old-fashioned encounters between loving relatives who happen to despise each others’ political views.

Yes, many families wisely ban talking politics during holidays... or at the dinner table. By all means, keep peace in the clan.

Yet, there’s another side to all this. The election of 2008 is crucial. It must not be a squeaker - which only guarantees more “culture war.” Only a landslide will do. And, for that to happen, we need millions of basically decent “ostrich” conservatives.

We need them to wake up and get mad at the crooks who’ve hijacked their party. Decent conservatives like that sweet uncle of yours, who stays glued to Fox, desperately keeping head-in sand to ignore what’s happened to the GOP. To America.

The holidays are your chance to say to that uncle or aunt:

”This country that we both love is in trouble. If I’m right, then a lot more trouble than you realize. For America’s sake... and out of respect for me... would you come with me on a long walk? Away from the house? (We’ll drop all political talk, after we get back.)

“There are some facts I want to show you. About how our nation has been betrayed.”

What can you say, to convince an ostrich who is in frantic denial? Well, for starters, not all “nice conservatives” are ostriches. Many will cling fanatically to party and cult loyalties, countering with catechisms from Rush Limbaugh. But others might be roused. And if you rouse just one, to get angry at the gang of thieves who hijacked the GOP, then he or she may spread that anger to others.

ostrichpapersIt seems worth a try. Firmly, though also with tact and love. Difficult, but still...
For more on this, see my “The Ostrich Papers: How it will take ALL Decent Americans to Restore Decency to America”

And if you decide to proceed, here’s a whole tsunami of challenges you might print out to confront him or her with.

And a smaller-capsule “A Cheat Sheet for Ostrich Hunters.”
(A suggestion. These are more effective read aloud! Asking an ostrich to read such a list inevitably lets them skim and dismiss.) Make him or her see that the list is composed entirely of conservative issues! Thus, by their very own standards, decent conservatives should help rid us of these awful people. And the, rebuild their movement into one they can again be proud of.

Here is the super-condensed version.

Which president would be the logical choice for a patriotic and logical "decent conservative?"

* One balanced budgets...
...and the other bankrupted us.

* One enhanced government efficiency (according to neutral auditing companies) by increasing competitive bidding for contracts...
...while the other gave $300+ billions in no-bid contracts directly to friends, while losing more than ten billions in raw cash, then appointed known crooks to be the inspectors and auditors.

* One oversaw the nation’s greatest boom in small business creation...
...and the other a surge of monopolies, while small businesses floundered.

* One cut government secrecy way down, even while being investigated...
...while the other sent secrecy rocketing to levels never seen even in the Cold War.

* One worked with governors to enhance experimentation at the state level...
...and the other asserted federal authority more than any other president in history, bringing states’ rights to a new low.

* One helped all society to prosper spectacularly...
...and the other helped only aristocrats.

Which president would be a "strong" commander in chief, in the eyes of any "decent conservative"?

* One earned respect from the U.S. Officer Corps...
...and the other one betrayed the military at every turn, driving officers to flee the service at a rate never before seen.

* One maintained military readiness, including thirty fully ready combat brigades...
...and the other stripped us bare, exhausting our brave troops and leaving us with at most two ready brigades.

* One handled his war with fierce, surgical precision and blazing speed, costing no American lives and transforming an entire continent for the better, while boosting our popularity and alliances...
...and the other president drove away nearly all of our allies, made us more hated than ever, left our states defenseless, and devastated our state of readiness, while accomplishing almost nothing at all.

* One doubles the Border Patrol ...
...and the other shatters it.

Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, was a core hero of conservatism for thirty years. So --

* Which president does Greenspan praise as the smartest, most openminded, most focused on long term economic health and best for the economy?
...vs the next one, who scores the “very worst” on every count, including basic honesty?

Which president was the "sleaze" subjected to a $2 billion witch hunt?

* The one who left office without a single administration appointee indicted for official duties? (Not one. Not even one.) ...
...or the next president, who (despite bullying the FBI) loses comrades to jail or ignominy almost every week.

Oh, I give up. There is no way to summarize in such a small space. Because ostriches will squirm and struggle to keep their heads in the sand. Brevity is no virtue when isolated points can be deflected with glib Fox-sophomorisms.

No, it must be relentless and overwhelming, like an intervention with an alcoholic.

The only way to do this is to go to those pages I cite above and go through the whole thing (or at least this page) with your chosen victim... er, I mean ostrich.

Over and over again, aloud, until the hypnotic neocon spell shatters and the slumbering ones -- our beloved cousins and neighbors and fellow citizens -- finally wake up.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and God bless -- America, civilization, us all.

====    ====    ====

PS...Some others are also on this trail! For example, William Frey, M.D. has a website titled Repentant Republicans. Here's one of his first essays, reprinted at Consortium News.
And another.

David Brin
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David McCabe said...

I have seen even this entire list shattered by asking what lying leftist blog it came from. So far it doesn't seem to work, for me at least.

David Brin said...

Money based wagers can corner your conservative friend. They appreciate the value of money.

Say this:

"If these accusations are right, then ignoring them would be an act of treason. I am willing to put down money that at least 2/3 can be backed up, solidly. YOU think I can't, so why not take my money?!

"If you are so sure that the nation is safe from these things being true... then you should be willing to put your own money on the table, in confident expectation of being able to take mine."

Woozle said...

My ostrich is out of town for the hols, so I'm off the hook for now ;-) Nonetheless, I've been posting occasional comments on a the blog of a local right-wing foundation. Mostly, they seem to be ignoring me... In case anyone's interested:

Barbarians: author tries to serve up The Enemy's barbarism as justification for our own less-than-civilized demeanor; I reply in satirical mode.

To the Left, “power grab” means “reform”: author gives the BBC a hard time for describing the Venezuelan referendum in excessively neutral language; I agree and point out that we have the same problem here. Author dodges and says I missed his point; I try again.

Walter Cronkite: author is harsh on a Cronkite co-authored piece condemning Bush; I try to get clarity on whether this is a case of the author (a) being tired of having his nose rubbed in Bush's badness or (b) being still in denial -- while hopefully driving the point home that it really *should* be the former.

Talk about scary times, these ain’t it: author accuses the left of being "scaremongers". Some dialogue ensues, during which the author says "I don’t agree that things are so nuanced and complicated. Life has always been pretty much black and white, good and bad." Perhaps this is the problem? This is probably the best one to read, if you feel inclined to read any of them.

For David McCabe: smells like ad hominem to me. Your next question should be "but is it wrong?" Ignore the attempts to discredit and stick to the content -- at least, that's the strategy I try to follow in such situations.

David Brin said...

The fear-mongering attack is the one that we should pounce-upon most fiercely. It is totally and deeply evilly insane.

These are the people who have been screeching at us about "terror" for more than 6 years, using fear as an excuse to decalre a permanent state of "emergency" and "war"... that thieves can get crony contracts without competitive bidding, amounting to HUNDREDS of billions of dollars destroying American finances and putting our kids in debt. Stoking levels of fear we never experienced during the Cold War, when 10,000 soviet nukes were aimed down our throats.

And they DARE to say WE are "fearmongering"?

Here is an excerpt from my piece about "what if Clinton had..." at:

Only, dig this: it was “blue America”... people living in the nation’s cities... who responded with courage and fortitude, both on 9/11 and every day since. Who fought back (aboard Boston originated flight UA93). Who stood atop rubble in New York, shouting at the terrorists “Is that all you got?

Urbanites already pay the most taxes, getting least in return. Yet, led into war, they say “Tax us, not our grandchildren, so we can support the troops and get on with winning... or else get us out of that crazy quagmire!”

Above all, they have said: “Fear? What fear? An ‘endless emergency’ only gives in to terror and lets crooks bypass the law! We demand that you let America get back to normal law. Normal rights and progress. Accountability. And stop using us as an excuse to grab power.

“Yes, urban America is in the crosshairs. When more bad things happen, we will take the hits. But we’ll face whatever comes, with courage, refusing to let it daunt or change us. Can you say the same?”


Our country won’t be panicked into becoming the United Security States of America.

Red America can’t have it both ways, despising cityfolk while using New Yorkers as martyrs. Yammering fear of terror, while loathing their fellow citizens who actually live in the crosshairs. Demanding the benefits of a continental republic, while waging Culture War against half its populace.

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon the Chronically Disheartened)

Building bridges and forging alliances with conservatives won't do a thing to end the culture wars. On the contrary: this kind of activity will worsen the culture wars. We build bridges, they build bridges. We forge alliances, they forge alliances. This time, we win an election and push them time, they win an election and push back even harder. The cycle escalates. Eventually, a voice on the radio commands loyal conservatives to pick up their machetes and slaughter all the liberals -- and they do it. Welcome to Rwanda.

This is why Dr. Brin's "solution" to the culture war is so terminally naive. Culture wars don't end when one side wins an overwhelming election victory. That just makes the culture war worse. Culture wars end when the basic issues that motivate the culture warriors lose their power.

The culture war twixt Soviet communism and capitalism didn't end because the West won some tremendous triumph... It ended because the Russians lost interest in the basic ideals of communism.

This means that the current culture war will only end when the issues the excite and enliven the far right lose their power to excite and enliven them. When the far right stops caring about abortion and stops worrying about Islamofascism and stops being concerned about street crime and stops obsessing over gay sex, the culture wars will end. When will that happen? I don't know, but it will eventually occur.

The issues that seemed worth staking the lives of previous generations (tridentine transubstantiation for the 17th century War of the Roses, for example) have completely lost their power today. Today, nobody cares whether you believe in a tridentine 3-in-1 Christian trinity, or a single Christian god. Nobody asks, no church pastor thunders that tridentine transubstantiationists are pawns of satan and must be destroyed. Nobody cares.

At one time, believing in a 3-1in-1 Christian god made up of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit was deemed heresy and worthy of death. WHole vilalges were depopulated by mass slaughter over this burning issue. Today, nobody even notices whether you believe in a tridentine Christian god. That happens to all issues eventually. People just stop caring.

When will this happen with the issues that enliven and excite the far right today? I don't know. What I do know is that building bridges and forging alliances with conservatives won't help end the cutlure war. The only way the culture war will end is if readers stop buying Ann Coulter's books and listeners stop tuning in to Rush Limbaugh's radio show and viewers turn off Bil O'Reilly's TV program.

When people stop watching and reading that stuff because they're just no longer interested, that's when the culture war will end. Winning elections and building supermajorities is pointless, it'll only force the true believers of the far right into bunker mentality where they'll hole up and get even more savage and more fanatical, as they did after Watergate, and come back stronger than ever (as they did with Reagan et al.), and the cutlure wars will get worse and worse and worse.

And now, an even more depressing piece of news:

Orwell was an optimist. Dr. Brin's transparent society is a nightmare from hell.

The Chinese "lifetime dossier" is now upon us. Very soon, all your life choices will be constrained by your lifetime dossier, and all our best minds and most talented people will be flushed away like waste.

When America has a future Einstein, his potential employers will look at his lifetime dossier and see that he failed to get into graduate school and he currently works as a patent clerk, and he will be denied any possibility of advancement. Adieu to the future Einsteins.

When we have a future equivalent of the Manhattan Project, the best guy to lead it will have his lifetime dossier opened and it will be discovered that he once belonged to communist front organizations and his girlfriend is a communist. Say goodbye to the future Manhattan Project.

Future Craig Venters will be turned down flat and forced to make a living as janitors because their lifetime dossiers just don't have the right stuff.

Meanwhile, the Condoleeza Rices of the world will rise and rise. People with superb resumes who are grotesquely incompetent will take over the world. Welcome to a class system more rigid than the one Emperor Diocletian imposed on Rome in the second century A.D.

The "transparent society" is a nightmare from hell and the end of our civilization, and it will soon be here.

Anonymous said...

"Being afraid of large monolithic organizations especially because they have computers is like being afraid of large angry gorillas especially because they are on fire."

-- Bruce Sterling

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon ready to slit my own throat)

Police begin fingerprinting on traffic stops.
Keep telling us how there's nothing to be afraid of. It's getting much worse much faster than I ever thought possible.

Anonymous said...

Zorgon, I think you're missing the point about Brin's Transparent Society.

Brin wasn't arguing that organizational surveillance* was good—he was arguing that it was inevitable. (And I think recent events demonstrates he was correct.)

The thesis of his book was that the only effective counter was to open up large organizations in the same way that we are open. Our lives are already open books, to those with the money and resources to dig out what they want. It is only be making their activities equally open that we have a chance of preserving freedom.

*Whether governmental or other.

David Brin said...

Zorgon contends we should just wait for Culture War to go away, when hot-button issues no longer "enliven" the far right. Um when has that ever happened?

In contrast, McCarthyism was defeated by PRECISELY the methodology I describe. Persuading enough decent conservatives to recognize that part of their movement was jibbering mad, and to make temporary alliance with moderates

If enough of today's decent ostriches wake up, and the neocons are pummeled, there will then be a fight inside of conservatism over how to recover. Sure, the Roves and Falwells will go off into the wilderness to lick their wounds and plot a roaring return.

That is where phase two comes in. Persuading some of the rich backers of the neocon putsch to bet on a civil society that works and can protect them, rather than pushing for feudalism. AGAIN, cynics will accuse me of naivete... except...again... it is PRECISELY what happened when the FDR landslides showed the old robber barons the writing on the wall. Enough of the smart one decided to come along so that the hides of ALL the rich were saved.

"Orwell was an optimist. Dr. Brin's transparent society is a nightmare from hell."

Proving decisively that you have not even a scintilla of a clue what my argument is, haven't read the book, and are shouting at a strawman in your own mind, not anything related to real ideas.

There is no way on Earth to prevent the kinds of massive databases that are described in the FBI article. Anyone who thinks they can rail and complain, maybe pass a "law" or two and prevent that tsunami ought to join Canute, ordering back the tide. Now THAT is naive.

Transparency is about making accountability reciprocal, two way, looking BACK at the mighty, so that they use these databases only the way we want them to. Look up "sousveillance."

Mine is an assertive, aggressive, militant position that's American as apple pie, for the people to look fiercely at their government, as if we own it. In order for that to happen, light must flow.

As for your dossier, scenario,
(1) everybody in Einstein's day knew everything about him, your example is insipid and wrong.

2) Try reading up first. Watch the movie GATTACA, which worries over your scenario... then watch it a second time and realize that the self-centered hero is really part of a whole society that's wrestling with these issues. And gradually learning the lesson that will solve all this. (My favorite aspect of an excellent film. I doubt most folks notice this meta aspect.)

As I point out in The Transparent Society, we have to become more tolerant of each others' minor skeletons and be a civilization that offers second, third, fourth chances...exactly as has been the american experience and ethos, all along. The frontier did that, offering second chances till it became a habit. Then Hollywood films touting tolerance. Now kids on MySpace are putting themselves in position where they later will HAVE to be forgiving of others, because others will have access to all the silly rants and pictures.

If I am right (and you had better hope I am) then a proud, independent, tolerant and empowered people will keep some privacy because humans want it, and because they can enforce it themselves.

And before you call that naive, try reading and understanding a topic that you clearly know veritably nothing about. Or else, prove you know what transparency means, by paraphrasing. That is the challenge that lets anyone say "I am not strawmanning you, I know what I am attacking."

Stefan, that quote is marvelously Sterling. It makes its point well... and even starts to make sense... till you go... huh?

Guy said...

"Easier said than done" is an old saw but in the cases I know of it's perfectly valid.

Overlooking human nature won't affect the ostriches I know at all. You want us to discuss your (disputable) points of betrayal with the conservatives we know. But here's the rub: what alternative shall we point them too? The liberals? You are overlooking what that means to most conservatives:
baby killing, dope smoking homosexuals.

I know, I know! that is a tiny minority of the liberal crowd. But it the one most visible to conservatives.

Provide an alternative that doesn't include those three issues and conservatives will flock to it.

Until then, save your breath and keyboards.

Anonymous said...

My issue with the Transparent Society:

Perfectly transparent society is magically established - govt can see all we do, we can see all govt does. Works wonderfully, we all live happily ever af - OOPS! An enemy just attacked us! We have to shut down the cameras and info taps into government activities so the enemy can't use them to see how we're planning to respond! But we have to keep all the cameras and info taps on citizens running so we can catch 5th columnists and traitors!

Oh, and it looks like this "War on X" will last indefinitely, and we're going to have to let a few non-competitive-bid contracts - but trust us we're doing this to protect our free and open society.

You say you don't think this is a good idea? You must not be a patriot - maybe you want the country to be destroyed? Let me just add you to our "watch list". What? No, sorry, you can't see the list - it's classified.

sociotard said...

An old Time article I just read (I was stuck in a waiting room) talked about an interesting facet of the "Age of Amateurs": Hobby Farmers.,9171,1670527,00.html

David Brin said...

TwinBeam of course describes precisely the situation we're in. With an important caution or two.

1) Some people swallow the lie, others do not. Since transparency helps to uncover lies, it is hard to see how this is an argument against transparency.

2) Attempts like this are bound to happen. It behooves us to look back even more fiercely... and to encourage those in the civil service to remember who they are loyal to.

Anonymous said...

David -

Yes, that is where we're at, though clearly we're not coming to it from a golden age of transparency.

And I'd think that arguing that bi-directional transparency is easy to throw out after you've allowed the government to peer into every aspect of your life *is* a pretty strong argument against it.

Unknown said...

Ah, but Twinbeam ...

... how would we ever really know if they're watching us or not?

David Brin said...

Actually, Twinbeam, the truth is diametrically opposite to what you say.

1) You show cluelessness over how we got the freedom that we currently have. The entile enlightenment experiment has been about opening up what had been closed and making flat what had been hierarchical.

We do not have the version of transparency in EARTH. So? We've all grown up with vastly more than our ancestors had. That is WHY the Bushites are trying to close everything down.. And it is why that effort has most educated people angry.

The issue is whether we can and will use the remaining look-back capability to fight back.... precisely as people in a super-transparency world would have to do, when the attempt is made against THEIR freedoms.

An empowered people will have the tools to fight back. A disempowered people won't. But guts and determination are still part of it.

But what's your alternative? To keep govt blind? Ha! Good luck with that.

David Brin said...

Ben Goertzel, a rising star in artificial intelligence theory, expressed skepticism, on the Lifeboat Foundation list, that we could keep maintaining a "modern large-scale capitalist representative democracy cum welfare state cum corporate oligopoly" for much longer.

You folks might find interesting my reply:
modern large-scale capitalist representativ

Ben, Ben : Today’s “modern large-scale capitalist representative democracy cum welfare state cum corporate oligopoly” works largely because the systems envisioned by John Locke and Adam Smith produce synergies in highly nonlinear, positive-sum ways that Karl Marx never imagined. That neither Marx nor the ruling castes of prior cultures even could imagine.

Yes, I sound like some of the boosters of FIBM or Faith In Blind Markets... among whom you'll find the very same neocons and conspiratorial kleptocrats who I accuse of ruining markets! That is because their lip service incantations hide an underlying determination to FOIL markets and to cheat, at every turn.

The problem is that we human beings will tend to slip off of this cycle of enlightenment synergy, any chance we get. Not even the wisest of us could avoid this, let alone the dismal types who display every trait that Karl Marx attributed to shortsighted bourgeois "exploiters." Moreover, if the human behavior traits described by Marx ever DO take hold in big ways...and they are always threatening to do so... then so might some of the scenarios that he descibed!

Let there be no mistake. We did not escape those scenarios simply through laissez-faire indolence. Because history shows that is not how we avoided age-old traps.

We are all descended from rapacious, insatiable cheaters and (far worse) rationalizers. Every generation of aristocrats (by whatever surface definition you use, including soviet nomenklatura, theocrats, royalty or top CEOs) will come up with marvelous excuses for why they should be allowed to go back to oligarchic rule-by-cabal and “guided allocation of resources” (GAR), instead of allowing open competition/cooperation to put their high status under threat.

What's been forgotten, since the fall of communism, is that the USSR's 'experiment' was never even remotely "Marxism." Indeed, old Karl's books are still very, very interesting reading. He was only 50% a deluded loon -- a pretty good ratio, actually. (I cannot prove that I'm any better!)

The other half was brilliant (ask any economist) and still a powerful caution. In particular, it is the most natural thing in the world for capital owners and GAR-masters to behave in the way that Marx modeled. And for his forecast path of an ever-narrowing oligarchy -- followed ultimately by revolution -- to play out.

What prevented it from happening - and the phenomenon that would have boggled poor old KM - was for large numbers of elites and commonfolk to weigh alternatives, to SEE these natural human failure modes, and to act intelligently against them. He never envisioned a smart society, setting up institutions that would break entirely from his model, by keeping things open, dynamic, competitive, and reciprocally accountable, allowing the nonlinear fecundity of markets and science and democracy to do their positive-sum thing.

In his contempt for human reasoning ability (except for his own), Marx neglected to consider that smart men and women would actually read his books and decide to remodel society, so that his scenario would not happen. So revolution, when it came, would be gradual, ongoing, moderate, lawful, and generally non-confiscatory, especially since the positive sum game lets the pie grow, while giving bigger slices to all.

In fact, I think the last ninety years may be partly modeled according to how societies responded to the Marxian meme. First, in 1917, with the outrageously stupid Soviet experiment, which simply replaced Czarist monsters with another clade of oppressors, that mouthed different slogans. Then the fascist response, which was a deadly counter-fever, fostered by even more-stupid European elites. Things were looking pretty bleak.

Only then this amazing thing that happened - especially in America - where a subset of wealthy people, like FDR, actually read Marx, saw the potential pathway into spirals of crude capital formation, monopolization, oppression and revolution... and decided to do something about it, by reforming the whole scenario away! By following Henry Ford's maxim and giving all classes a stake -- which also meant a share of power.

Those elites who called FDR a “traitor to his class” were fools. The smart ones knew that he saved their class, and enabled them to enjoy wealth in a society that would be vastly more successful, vibrant, fun, fair, stable, safe and fantastically more interesting.

I believe we can now see the recent attempted putsch by a neocon-kleptocrat aristocratic cabal in a broad but simple context. We now have a generation of wealthy elites who (for the most part) have never read Marx! Who haven’t a clue how chillingly plausible his scenarios might be if enlightenment systems did not provide an alternative to revolution. And who blithely assume that they are in no danger, whatsoever, of those scenarios playing out.

Shortsightedly free from any thought or worry about the thing that fretted other aristocracies -- revolution -- they feel no compunction or deterrence from trying to do the old/boring thing... giving in to the old habit... using influence and power to gather MORE influence and power, at the expense of regular people, all with the aim of diminishing the threat of competition from below..

What we would call “cheating,” they rationalize as preserving and enhancing a natural social order. Rule by those best suited for the high calling of rulership. Those born to it. Or Platonic philosopher kings. Or believers in the right set of incantations.

Whatever the rationalizations, it boils down to the same old pyramid that failed the test of governance in 100% of previous civilizations, always and invariably stifling creativity while guiding societies to delusion and ruin. Of course, it also means a return to zero-sum logic, zero-sum economics, zero-sum leadership thinking, a quashing of nonlinear synergies... the death of the Enlightenment.

Mind you! I am describing only a fraction of today’s aristocracy of wealth or corporate power. I know half a dozen billionaires, personally, and I’d wager none of them are in on this klepto-raid thing. They are lively, energetic, modernistic, competitive and fizzing with enthusiasm for a progressive and dynamic civilization that’s (after all) been very good to them!

They may not have read Marx (in this generation, who has?) But guys like Bezos and Musk and Page etc share the basic values of an Enlightenment, in which some child from a poor family may out-compete the children of the rich, by delivering better goods, innovations or services. And that is fine by them! Terrific.

When the chips come down, these better billionaires may wind up on our side, weighing the balance just the way FDR and his smart-elite friends did, in the 1930s.

But till then, the goodguy (or, at least with-it) billionaires are distracted, busy doing cool things, while the more old-fashioned kind -- the would-be lords -- are clustering together in tight cricles, obeying 4,000 years of ingrained instinct, whispering and pulling strings, appointing each other to directorships and awarding golden parachutes and meddling in national policy...

...doing the same boring thing that human beings will always do -- what you and I would be tempted to do -- whenever you mix un-curbed ego with unaccountable privilege, plus a deficit of brains.

panzerjensen said...

>>Proving decisively that you have not even a scintilla of a clue what my argument is ... your example is insipid and wrong ... that you clearly know veritably nothing about ... You show cluelessness over how we got<<

You know, watching you Libertarians tear into each other is so very entertaining. No wonder no one takes you seriously. And I can't believe the outrageous egomania of someone who would have us ruin our family Christmas dinner, just for the satisfaction of knowing someone became sycophants for his hate-filled venom and Clinton ass-kissing. What a control freak. And the hypocrisy: Bitterly complained about being censored, after proudly engaging in the very practice himself. Stoking this with, "all authoritarian regimes are now working to censor the Internet" all the while unabashedly puckering up to the buttchecks of a person like Hillary Clinton. Then there's the shameless hypocrisy of the outcasts crawling back to the politcal party who cast them out.

No doubt he'll censor this too, then go on to complain some more about it happening to him. And wonder why members of the right avoid posting among what could easily be seen as the lunatic fringe.

Woozle said...

(I got a copy of "A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900" for xmas from my ostrich -- any takes on that book? Is it slanted, does it have an agenda?)

I went back and posted a follow-up to the "fearmongering" blog entry; I've reposted it here. Hope that's ok, and hope you like it... except for panzerjensen, of course. :D

Okay, this has been bothering me, sorry if this is re-hashing what you’ve already heard.

On the subject of fearmongering:

Where were you when the Military Commissions Act was passed, in the midst of a frenzy of Bush administration fearmongering?

How is it that the terrorists are the big scary threat (and we’re all supposed to check the Homeland Insecurity fear-o-meter before traveling) when (a) in order for the planes to have sufficient time to reach their targets, it took a deliberate hobbling of our military air interception abilities *and* persistent sidetracking of the many, many leads giving details of the upcoming attack, and (b) there have been no further attacks, despite Bush’s subsequent decimation of top-level professionals and his continuing focus on the war in Iraq (a country *not* involved in 9/11 and *not* a threat to us, despite all the made-up evidence) and the potential attack/war on Iran (a country which benefited greatly from the Iraq invasion) rather than on defending the US, which now does not have the military capability to handle even *one* significant new threat or crisis?

Terrorism is a threat, yes — but it has always been a threat. We used to know how to handle it. What has changed?

During the Cold War, we didn’t panic and revoke people’s civil rights because they might agree with some of the ideas behind communism (though goodness knows McCarthy and his ilk gave it a good shot) and therefore were of course traitors working for the Soviets, who actually *did* have WMDs hundreds of times worse than anything the terrorists could possibly get hold of. During the War on Drugs — more scaremongering — the legal abuse only went so far as taking away rights if actual evidence was found (RICO). When booze-running Mafia warlords were a domestic terror threat during that *other* war on drugs (Prohiibition), we didn’t torture people and intern them without due legal process just because they looked Italian and therefore must be planning to machine-gun someone down at the next opportunity. The one time we did revoke civil rights of a group of citizens because they “might” be enemy sympathizers — the Japanese-American internments in WWII — it was a stain on our national honor which must never be repeated. (Oops, too late.)

As you say, most things are pretty clearly right or wrong, when you strip off the equivocation and ulterior motives.

This so-called war on terror is just plain wrong. If the enemy is a loose collection of groups with “a common goal of ushering in totalitarian rule” with an “ideology of oppression, violence, and hate” (all quotes from the White House’s “National Strategy for Combating Terrorism”), we are doing exactly what they want — oppressing our own people, teaching our soldiers to hate all middle easterners, and allowing our president to gradually take totalitarian control of our government. We — the United States of America, the bastion of democracy, peace, and freedom throughout the world — are becoming like them.

I’m not sure how much more plainly wrong this could get.

So don’t talk to me about liberal fearmongering. The way the neocons have been manipulating us all through fear is on a different scale altogether. I’ll give the liberals a little wet-noodle lashing next time I see ‘em; what we’re going to do about the neocons and their pet “opposition” in Congress, I don’t know.

Merry Christmas, peace on earth, and goodwill towards all mankind.

David Brin said...

I got no reason to censor a person who censors himself, by screeching "look at what a jerk I am!"

But let's turn the cheek and wish panzer a Merry Christmas, happy holidays, sanity, and a better years ahead. For all of us.

Woozle, as far as fearmongering is concerned, there are many levels. Sure, we can talk about how much more dangerous the Cold War was. We can cite how much less secure we now are, after horrid, spendthrift leadership that has left us with no money, few troops and no allies...

...but the (admittedly) immature and angry answer is actually the most cogent and decisive, spearing to the heart of things. You've all heard it before.

Urban Americans, who live in the crosshairs and who were the "heroes of 9/11," utterly reject the climate of fear. They want their non-emergency lives back and are willing to mix assertive-but-reasonable security with demands that the government serve, not rule.

The supposedly libertarian, states-rights, laissez-faire, fiscally conservative, pro-responsibility and morals, pro-defense and internationally prudent "red America" has betrayed every single one of those values, while screaming fear from the safety of the countryside. And while sucking a net flow of taxes directly from the teat of our cities.

Yes, I want to end culture war and welcome Red America back into the nation, our forward-looking culture, and 21st Century. But that doesn't mean I must shrug aside this travesty.

Oh, but in the spirit of the season... sure... Never mind. Be pleasant.

May both God and reason move their hearts. And move US to do some re-examination, as well.

panzerjensen said...

It's every American's God given right to shoot his or her mouth off. Happy Honica.

David Brin said...

Apparently it is also his right to barge into other peoples' sits, stomp around screeching offensively, then get all huffy over being asked to either be polite or get out.

I am not the one, here, following the other guy around, lurking and brooding and snarking.

While there's not much sign yet of the New Masters trying to shut down the right of individuals to shout, ineffectually. The consolidation of mass media into the hands of half a dozen likeminded tycoons ought to bother any decent person. Whether the cabal were dem or gop.

As should the skyrocketing of secrecy and party-speak makes our yelling ineffectual, uninformed and stupid. And therefore completely impotent.

As Panzer demonstrates so well. Thanks for coming back with that handy object lesson! Do return and show us a bad bad example another time.

Woozle said...

Has anyone brought this to your attention already? - Lawyers stepping up: "Over one thousand lawyers – including former Governor Mario Cuomo and former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein – have signed onto [a statement] demanding wide-ranging investigative hearings into unconstitutional and potentially criminal activity by the Bush administration."

What I want to know is, what if Congress just says "no, sorry, that's off the table" again. What do we do next?

On fearmongering... (I hope it was clear that the main part of my comment was reposted from (and addressed to) the Right Angles blog, not Contrary Brin...)

I was trying to go easy on them and argue on their turf, conceding as many of their "given"s as possible (whether or not I agree with them -- if I don't need to disagree with a point in order to make *my* point, I try to leave it alone or at least concede that it's a valid point of view).

And as it happens, the idea that Dubya is scarier than Osama is one of the points my own ostrich and his crowd like to lampoon.

This particular blogger was talking about how we used to handle things calmly -- he even mentions the Cold War specifically -- so it seemed particularly apt to point out what we also didn't do during those (arguably much harsher) times of crisis, so why are we doing it now? Et cetera. (I also thought his argument nicely echoed some of your thoughts about how we should be handling things in a more adult/professional way, so perhaps some common ground could be built there... but he either dodged or completely missed my point.)

Even so, I felt like I was coming on a bit harder than I usually like to... note the opening salvo: Where were you when the Military Commissions Act was passed? Or when Iraq was invaded? What did you do about stopping the fearmongering *then*, when it was really important?

I'm kind of winding up to the idea (of which urban America's rejection of terrorphobia is a significant component) that "we shouldn't be afraid of the terrorists" because I don't think they're ready for it yet. It's one of those truths that are damnably difficult to get across when someone unquestioningly believes the opposite. "Hey, did you hear about those crazy liberals? They're trying so hard to hate Bush, they're more afraid of him than of Osama! [cue laughter]" It's an easy way to get classified as "wacko" and not worth listening to.

...So... are you saying we should abandon the idea of bringing "Red America" into our Big Tent? Or are they different from the bunch you've been trying to win over?

The main difference I see is whether or not the individual in question has knowingly sold her/his opinion to the highest bidder. If not, then there is hope.

David Brin said...

Hey, any of you guys filmography experts?

My listing on IMDb is pretty scanty. It used to be just The Postman.

Only, now there's a second listing under "David Brin" called "Played," a very low budget thing with 3 minutes of Val Kilmer in it. Any one seen it?

I'd say it's clearly another guy. But just follow the links, and they always come back to... Costner and The Postman!

Who IS this guy?

(While we're at it... who is this?: )

Anonymous said...

Maybe not worth mentioning, but Hanukkah was over on the 12th.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and, HAH, now we know, Glen ;)

panzerjensen said...

>>Apparently it is also his right to barge into other peoples' sits, stomp around screeching offensively, then get all ...<<

Apparently it is also your right as an enabling yes man for the government to barge into the lives of my family, and take away our privacy. And being as this is a very public site, I figured I'd come by in the same warm spirit of the Transparency Society, with a hug and a kiss. I'm contrarian after all.

David Brin said...

Accusations bounce off, that are loony, stupid and diametrically opposite to truth. I'll leave this one up, too, as an example of execrable behavior by a rude maroon. But the next time he shows up, he will simply be erased. Not as censorship, but the way one flicks a bug.

panzerjensen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Eodark said...

You know David, scorn isn't really an attractive stance. I come to this blog to learn, but you seem to use scorn towards those who interact with you all too often. Is this how you feel towards others in general or simply a pattern you've switched to for blog communication?

Panzer, I'd be wary of justifying anything as a God given right. Free Will (Humanity's Right to do anything) gives you the right to Murder Babies. Its the Devil that drives people to do things they shouldn't.

Ridicule isn't a good thing no matter how good you 'think' your reasons are.

Seeker said...

Dear David,

I have been reading your blog regularly but this is the next time I'm commenting on it. Reading your blog has been a ritual for me and I want to thank you for all the happiness you've given to me.

At this time, I want to take the opportunity to give you my heartfelt wishes for Christmas and wish you a great New Year ahead.

May all your dreams come true :-)

My Positivity Blog

Rob Perkins said...

I haven't picked an ostrich and taken him aside this season. He doesn't arrive until Thursday and because his visit is on the occasion of a high religious ordinance I doubt I will.

Except to mention that I'll be caucusing with the Democrats in February next, and to ask which of them he'd pick. Ha!

sociotard said...

I don't know how many of you have a Wii in the house (I don't) but this guy has a cool trick to do with it:

He uses the remote to make a PC screen into a VR window. If he moves his head, the video display changes accordingly, so it's like looking through a window instead of at a screen. Check it out!

David Brin said...

Cool Wii stuff! Thanks Z.

Anonymous said...

"Clueless"? You seem to have gotten so enamored with thinking that you've figured out history, that you ignore the basics.

Was Caesar murdered for keeping secrets? Did the barons force King John (or rather, his son Henry) to accept the Magna Carta in order to establish "openness in Monarchy"? Did the framers of the Constitution spend vast amounts of time and effort debating how to best make government "transparent"?

No - each of those cases were focused on the heart of the matter. Not your silly strawman of "keeping government blind". But rather on tying down the power of government, limiting it, turning it against itself to keep it relatively weak - and equally focused on deciding just how much they would tolerate from government before rebelling.

Openness is just one among many tools aimed at binding government. A ruler with absolute power can be perfectly open in his oppression - the only reason openness has been an effective tool in democracies, is that the rulers must fear what the public might do if they push too far.

Sadly, you and others that - like you - want to "use government as a tool" don't realize you're re-creating absolutism - putting all power in one place, ready to crystalize around some "savior" in a time of crisis. I just hope that crisis doesn't "happen" to come before the next election.

Woozle said...

TwinBeam: "Using government as a tool" is not synonymous with "giving government more power".

Part of using government as a tool (for our ends, anyway, rather than those of kleptocrats or other powermongers) requires that it not be abused, which in turn requires carefully limiting its power.

(The rest of your argument wasn't clear to me, but this may be because I can't seem to find what was being said about Caesar, though I do remember reading it.)

Anonymous said...


Whenever someone says "government is just a tool", it's almost always in the context of them wishing to extend government power - not merely utilize existing power.

As to the rest - it's regarding Brin apparently thinking of openness as the well-spring of freedom, when in fact openness is merely one more "tool" in our arsenal for keeping government limited, and a relatively recent one at that.

At the crudest, most fundamental level, governments are limited by the willingness of their subjects to resist it, and sometimes destroy it, when it goes too far.

Woozle said...

TwinBeam: whether or not this is true in general, I don't see how you could possibly draw that conclusion in this case, given the actual ways in which Dr.B has been discussing government-as-tool. Just because many people misuse a tool doesn't mean that it has no proper uses or even that it can't be more beneficial than harmful.

Depending on how you define "government", I'd challenge you to come up with any system under which freedom can be indefinitely maintained without some kind of system of governance.

Keeping government limited, though, strikes me as being necessary for maintaining freedom (as long as you can also limit the power of well-heeled private individuals and organizations), so I'm not sure I understand the distinction you're attempting to draw. The willingness of most citizens to resist their government can always be broken by a sufficiently powerful government, hence limiting government's power is the first priority for maintaining freedom.

Am I wrong here?