Saturday, January 26, 2008

The New Republican Flip

Do you ever tire of hearing me say: “you heard it here, first”? Take the growing realization, across the board, that the plight of the US military ought to be a top issue in this election cycle. That Democrats should reach out to the crewcut members of the horrible abused US Officer Corps... arguably the Bushites’ biggest victims. Finally, a few liberals and moderates have started to take up this crisis -- the destruction of our Army and military readiness -- as a matter of simple patriotism. (The REAL kind, not that flag-waving fakery.) For a lengthy article relating the latest in this vital story, see “The US Military Breaking the Ranks.”

And yes, you heard it here first. Find one person who raised this issue before I did, in 2004.

Only now, let’s talk about something else you are sure to hear more about. But no earlier than here. A growing phenomenon among “ostrich republicans” as they start, ever-so reluctantly, to waken from a torpor of denial.

In fact, many old-style Goldwater-Dole conservatives of my acquaintance, some as notable as author Jerry Pournelle, have begun expressing actinic fury over Bushite imperialism, deceit, mismanagement and outright criminality, which has done America devastating harm. They admit that their movement has been hijacked by either morons or monsters... and that the Pax Americana which once seemed to tower so high and bright has been demolished...

...moreover, they can see a world community that till-recently admired us, now reviles us.

They admit (and more like them will soon admit) that we are no safer because of arrogant, pushy attempts at thug-like international bullying and so-called “nation-building.” They avow that every decent principle espoused by Barry Goldwater has been systematically reversed, turning conservatism into a caricature of its old self.

And yet...

And yet... are they ready to shake hands with us and join forces so we all -- liberals, moderates and decent conservatives -- might purge the monsters together, forming a coalition of national salvation and sending the GOP back to the drawing board?

Far from it! These are human beings, after all. Like us, they are supreme rationalizers. And so, you’ll find very few willing to own-up that the whole American right spent the first part of the Twenty-first Century stark, jibbering crazy.

No, emerging from one hypnotic, incantatory trance-of-denial does not mean that a person won’t plunge, just as swiftly, into yet another! (Witness the number of neoconservative putz-intellectuals who were formerly Trotskyites or Maoists; till they “saw the light” of their next transfixing dogma, sponsored by Fox and the Heritage Foundation.) Personality trumps reason, every time.

No, these wakened ostriches may be mad at Bush, Cheney and the neocons... but they are NOT about to turn around and take our offered hands. They have their own ideas about what America needs. And here’s the news, boys and girls, it means going back to some of the less-wise and disproved earlier versions of conservatism.

Political Bipolar Disease and The Return of Isolationism.

Yes, like sufferers of a bipolar ailment, the reaction of many half-wakening ostriches to the devastation wrought by the manic, imperialist/interventionist debacle of the Bush/Cheney clan... to swing totally the other way! To go utterly depressive and demand that Americans withdraw inside our borders!

Consider how this helps our half-wakened ostrich deal with the quandary of plummeting American popularity, around the world. No, they don’t try to deny it. The figures and signs are too blatant and overwhelming. Sure, they admit that this unpopularity shatters alliances, recruits enemies and pulverizes our role (so high under Bill Clinton) of unipolar leadership in the world. Nevertheless, in conversations with many of my smart-conservative friends, I have been stunned by their answer.

”So? Who needs to lead the world, anyway? F$#@! the world!"

To these fellows, our stunning international unpopularity is not proof that we've disappointed our allies, behaved like imbecilles, squandered our good will and need to offer better leadership. To them it is proof that the world is un-leadable and we should take our marbles home.

Never mind that this traditional conservative fallback position was espoused by GOP leaders in the 1930s against FDR standing up to fascists and nazis... and by those of the late forties against Truman and Marshall, when Vandenberg et. al. tried to thwart them from creating NATO and crafting the ultimately successful policy of containing Soviet aggression. Never mind that Bill Clinton’s Pax Americana was incredibly popular, creating an acceptance of unipolar leadership that was effective, efficient, productive and boded well for a world community increasingly based on Enlightenment values.

Never mind all that. When you are dealing with Political Bipolar Disease, the swing from manic to depressive phase is virtually unstoppable.

And it offers these guys one more important benefit. By repudiating the Bushites, yet clinging to an older conservative value, they do not have to say to any moderate or damned liberal “I guess you folks were right.” They can hate Bush and call him an “aberration” while maintaining their fierce loathing of - say - Hillary Clinton. Above all, they can sulk and refuse to meet our offered hand. Or join a coalition of national salvation. Instead, they can drag themselves to the polls in order to vote for some other GOP shill of the same corrupt interests. Telling themselves “surely this one is telling the truth” and “she’d be even worse.”

(Want irony? The core icon of this older conservatism, Barry Goldwater, not only presciently rejected the neoconservatie jerks, seeing clearly where they were headed, but, before he died, Goldwater urged his fellow conservatives to negotiate with Bill Clinton and work with him, calling him “a very good president.”)

If I am right about this trend -- of surly, foul-tempered “ostriches who only half-waken” -- then watch the GOP candidates as their platforms and talking points evolve. Even if it’s war-fighter, stay-in-Iraq McCain, there will be hints and asides, suggesting that a return to isolationism just might be in the cards. JUST enough hints and hopes to let these demoralized, half-wakened, smart-conservatives stay in second stage denial, hypnotized by a desperate need to believe that America’s moderates and liberals can’t have been right again. No, no.

Denying to themselves that they need ever shake our offered hand.


Sorry about two blogs in a row. Off to Europe....

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ostriches, Huckabee, Colin Powell... and the "new Republican flip"

Serving once more as a talkinghead futurist pundit, I opened and closed the recent History Channel show "Life After People" - which became the network's best-watched telecast ever, with 5.4 million viewers. Somewhat better than my earlier show for HC - “the ArchiTechs.”

For a listing of other appearances, for example on Nova and Discovery Channel shows, and click over to Speaking or Podcasts.

Oh. Re-runs! I hear they’ll be running "Life After People" again Feb 2nd, 5 7pm on the History Channel.

And now, back onto the topic of the year...

... which is hunting (and awakening) "ostriches...

... plus something about Huckabee and Powell...

... before making a prediction about what will surely be the next (surprising!) Republican trial balloon.

Great Ostrich Ammo

I keep repeating the same refrain. With national - and possibly human - salvation at stake, we need to be assertive, even aggressive, and not simply count on a shift in undecided voters to bring America back toward common sense and reality. Instead of being satisfied with a narrow plurality in November, a coalition of citizens of goodwill and reason must shatter the neocons’ Big Tent by drawing appreciable support from the other side of the so-called left-right divide.

I’ve offered a tsunami of arguments to lay before these "Ostrich Republicans" in order to find those few (in their millions) who can lift their heads out of a pit of denial, at least enough to see what’s been done by the monsters who hijacked their party. Still, my lengthy list of arguments may be daunting.

So here’s a single page of terrific “ostrich-ammo.” This chart shows how GWB's seven years in office have affected the U.S., offering comparison vs eight years under President Clinton.

A Side Note About Getting It Settled, Here and Now

He may be fading, but I’m still ‘hankering for Huckabee.’ Because, I believe it is time to have it out, over the issue of which America we want. There may be other versions and aspects of conservatism and libertarianism with whom compromise is possible. I have long preached a spirit of negotiation and eclectic problem-solving. But the deep-red Confedarcy that Huckabee represents has long spurned any such path, going so far as to call millions of us inherently evil and damned souls.

I want to have this out. Huckabee - with a certain amount of admirable openness - would lay it down and make the choice blatant.

Yes, he may be fading. Still. Keep this article in your pocket, in case Huckabee-comes the GOP nominee. And read it anyway, in order to understand what’s at stake. To grasp the ferocity and depth of purpose that burns in the hearts of those who hate our Great Experiment and the entire Enlightenment. Who yearn for a fiery end to the United States and Planet Earth and all of creation, according to a manic prophecy. And who deeply believe that we - their fellow citizens - are evil creatures who will - and should - burn in hell forever.

The Missing Man

And here’s another item to tuck away. A sign that the parts of the news media may finally be ready to look at how thoroughly we have been lied-to.

Which makes me think of one tragic archetype in all this. Colin Powell. He is the ghost at the banquet. The figure in this struggle who is represented by an empty chair.

Where is Powell? Will he ever speak up? Oh, sure, he slunk away, shamed by the lies that Cheney et. al. crammed into his mouth, getting him to front for perfidious jerks in front of the entire international community -- and yet, it’s hard to feel much pity, since he thoroughly let us down. Colin Powell was supposed to be the adult in the room! He owes us, for having allowed maniacs and liars to divert a great nation down these horrid paths, leading to the near-destruction of (among other things) Powell’s beloved US Army.

Moreover, he knows plenty. He could, if he came forward, end the neocon era, shatter Rove's Big Tent, and help us clean house, helping ensure a transition to better days. If there has ever been a time for a man of honor and patriotism to step forward, this is it. Only, here’s the crux. I would wager that Powell is still letting himself be “handled.”

Can anyone doubt what’s going on, preventing him from doing the one great service he can still perform for his nation? Surely Powell has “friends” who hover nearby, assigned to advise him relentlessly to “keep your dignity and to stay aloof, remote. By no means get involved! No, don’t release a tell-all book! That will only make you look petty, like a whiner making excuses.”

You don’t have to be there to guess - with high plausibility - the advice he is given. And this smart man never pauses to think: “isn’t this exactly what the SOBs who ruined my career -- who reversed every ‘Powell Doctrine’ and made me a figure of shame -- would want me to do? Stay silent?”

The people who robbed us of a middling-good public servant -- performing a colinectomy on us, so to speak -- now are the ones benefiting most from his silence. And we -- the American people he let down -- are the ones who will benefit, if he ever finds the guts to shrug aside these handlers, who are assigned to stifling him. His “friends.”

If only he would pay us back for all the goodness and trust that we heaped upon him, across a long and richly-favored life. By standing up.

Next.... the next Republican gambit...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Tune into “LIFE AFTER PEOPLE” Monday at 9pm!

Let me start with a reminder that my latest involvement in a TV show, a 2 hour special for The History Channel, is: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE, which premieres Monday, January 21st at 9pm/8pm central. Yes, I am just one of many talking heads in this one. But they give me first and last word.

(Actually, the producers seem to have chosen a particular frame of reference. for example, that humans didn’t make artifacts deliberately durable for extended time. A few such monuments already exist, however. And more are planned. Nevertheless, the show is way fun/cool. Tell your friends.)

(Want more depth on this topic? In his recent book, The World Without Us, Alan Weisman offers a pretty thorough look at how our civilization’s traces would erode and finally vanish, once no one is around to perform maintenance, by doing all those “dirty jobs.”)

More Scientific and Technological Wonders

See an amazing and cogent review of our energy and climate situation, by Dr. Steven Koonin, chief scientist of BP and my former Caltech classmate. I cannot over-emphasize how useful and important Koonin is! Here you have one of the smartest guys anywhwere, chief scientist for a major oil company, laying it all out and demolishing the "let's ignore climate change" mantra of the right. Perfect "ostrich ammo." He's done an even better presentation that I'll link-to, when it's available online.

Stefan Jones cited a recent article by Steven Pinker in the New York Times Magazine, about “The Moral Instinct” which covers much of the same area of interest as my longtime speculation about addictive indignation. As usual, Pinker is a compelling and informative read.

Bandit suggests: “A lot has changed since PC Magazine launched in 1982; after all, 25 years is an eternity in the tech world. With that in mind, here's what 14 industry leaders and PC Mag staffers see in store for the next 25.

The past year has seen plenty of new technologies and inventions unveiled, some to make life easier, some with the potential to save lives, and some that might even help rescue the planet. Then there were a few odd ones as well, for example a new mechanical nose that used a healthy helping of artificial snot to sniff out odors and a leech-like robot crawled around the chest cavities of live pigs to perform surgery.... see especially the cool three-legged walker! ... See an interesting debate over whether we should continue efforts in manned spaceflight.

Predictions registry alert! Somebody put this on that Brin Predictions wiki!! Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes -- visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go. The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the UW have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

As 2007 drew to a close, it was also shaping up to be the hottest year on record in the Northern Hemisphere. U.S. weather stations broke or tied 263 all-time high temperature records, according to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. weather data. England had the warmest April in 348 years of record-keeping there, shattering the record set in 1865 by more than 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit. It wasn't just the temperature. There were other oddball weather events. A tornado struck New York City in August, inspiring the tabloid headline: "This ain't Kansas!" Meanwhile, the insurance industry faced $75 billion of losses from natural catastrophes during 2007, up 50% from last year despite a lack of "megacatastrophes,"

Solar cells, LCDs, and some other devices, must have transparent electrodes in parts of their designs to let light in or out. These electrodes are usually made from indium tin oxide (ITO) but experts calculate that there is only 10 years' worth of indium left on the planet, with LCD panels consuming the majority of existing stocks. Transparent electrodes created from atom-thick carbon sheets could make solar cells and LCDs without depleting precious mineral resources, say researchers in Germany.

The recent boom in video monitoring—by both the state and businesses—means we're all being watched. It's like something out of George Orwell's 1984. Except that, unlike Orwell's protagonist Winston Smith, we can watch back—and plenty of people are doing just that. Which makes a difference. However, government officials and big corporations often want to watch us, but they don't want to be watched in return. Shopping malls are full of security cameras, but many have signs at the entrance telling customers that no photography or video recording is allowed. Police cars have dashboard cameras, cities and counties are posting red-light and speed-limit cameras. But try shooting photos or video of police or other public officials as they go about their business and you might find yourself in wrist restraints. In recent months such cases have been piling up.

Of course, this is the "privacy war" I've long forecaste, from EARTH to The Transparent Society.

For US Army soldiers entering basic training at Fort Jackson Army base in Columbia, South Carolina, accepting Jesus Christ as their personal savior appears to be as much a part of the nine-week regimen as the vigorous physical and mental exercises the troops must endure. That's the message directed at Fort Jackson soldiers, some of whom appear in photographs in government issued fatigues, holding rifles in one hand, and Bibles in their other hand. Frank Bussey, director of Military Ministry at Fort Jackson, has been telling soldiers at Fort Jackson that "government authorities, police and the military = God's Ministers." Military Ministry says its staffers are responsible for "working with Chaplains and Military personnel to bring lost soldiers closer to Christ, build them in their faith and send them out into the world as Government paid missionaries" - which appears to be a clear-cut violation of federal law governing the separation of church and state.

In an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the top food and agriculture official of the United Nations warned. The changes created "a very serious risk that fewer people will be able to get food," particularly in the developing world, said Jacques Diouf, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The agency's food price index rose by more than 40% this year, compared with 9% the year before. New figures show that the total cost of foodstuffs imported by the neediest countries rose 25%, to $107 million, in 2007.

A look into the future that never was. This is a delightful website that will let you browse through future predictions of the past. Pick a decade in the late nineteenth or twentieth century, click on it and read what someone thought the future would be. Some predictions are spot on: in 1910, Thomas Edison predicted, "The clothes of the future will be so cheap that every young woman will be able to follow the fashions promptly, and there will be plenty of fashions.” Some predictions are way off. And some are hilarious.

Signing off. In a week I’ll be in Liechtenstein. Store word-usage cues and other before-after comparisons, in case I am pod-personed. Meanwhile, tune in to “Life After People” and watch that Koonin video!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

CRACKPOT POLITICAL RANTS: Enter at your own risk

I thought I’d drink some koolaid for this weekend’s posting. Some off-the-wall stuff to ponder and either call brilliant or way silly. But in any event, different than you’ll get elsewhere.

Starting with...

Dateline WASHINGTON - A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.

I’m sorry, but will somebody, somewhere, please connect the dots? Across the last fifty years, please find me the names of any infamous American traitors, who unambiguously sold out their country to its enemies in ways that did it grievous harm...

...who weren’t dedicated, lifelong Republicans?

Seriously, make your own list.

Aldrich Ames. Robert Hanssen, The Walkers, the Moscow Embassy Marine guards, Bernard Kerrick (oops, that one is for later revelations and history to decide). And now, Mark Deli Siljander. Yes, I know this causes cognitive dissonance. Ostrich Republicans can hypnotize themselves into ignoring such patterns, while liberals and moderates consider it demeaning to tar whole groups with the sins of the few. And yes, that’s right. It is more honorable and noble and fair not to go there, since the percentages are still so small as to be insignificant...

Except, that is, in a situation where we moderate Americans keep getting hammered, year after year, by holier-than-thou super patriotism, mouthed by folks who are really good at flag-waving, but darned lousy at recognizing clear patterns. Patterns that are harming the country they are supposed to love.

If there’s any treason going on, it ain’t on the side that’s accused of “allowing flag burning.” Go tend your own house, and examine your own side of the culture war. A war you folks started, by the way.

Want to hear a dream?

California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the nation's most popular Republicans, will almost certainly get to make a speech at the Republican National Convention. They have no choice. To refuse him will be impo,ssible, even knowing that he'll likely ream the neocons.. Oh, he’ll also attack Democrats and liberals, for the sake of balance and to retain GOP cred. Fine. If the Republican mainstream still did that kind of talk, it would be called “politics” and not “culture war.”.

Still, that speech is the tip of the iceberg, compared to other things Arnold could do. Things to make up for his being forbidden the presidency.

Here's what I wish Schwarzenegger would do.

Call a meeting of all 50 states.

Yes, there's an annual National Governors' Conference. A tepid and emasculated thing. I propose that Schwarzenegger could take advantage of his potential as a bridge-builder and problem solver, at a time when the federal government is proving ever more irrelevant at solving the problems of America and its people. In fact, the Governors’ conference could be just the place to try something radical.

If I were him - knowing this would be my one chance to change things on a truly national level - I would insist that the governors bring their top legislative colleagues, from both parties, and I would drop in their laps a pile of ten urgent things that the states could decide to do themselves, bypassing our crippled federal government.

Do you think states can’t act nationwide, or are hampered by federal supremacy? Guess again. There are plenty of precedents. For example, most states use the Uniform Business Code, which was negotiated among the states and adopted by sovereign treaty(!) many years ago. There are few laws more important to the daily regulation of commercial and corporate matters, affecting all our lives.

Look, most Americans - of both parties - have no longer any hope vested in the federal govenrment, to pragmatically address today’s domestic problems. We can blame the opposing party... and indeed, I do! Still, the fact is that paralyzed rigor mortis has set in. Even if the democrats win by a landslide, come November, the rump GOP will set about making life a living hell for the next President and Congressional leadership. Culture War ensures that no large endeavor can be undertaken, without it becoming a matter for bilious hatred, suspicion and total blockage

State officials - in contrast - are often more pragmatically oriented, no matter which party they come from. They have firm budgets to balance and schools and roads to maintain. There are matters the people want attended-to. Would it hurt to try to bypass the mess in Washington?

(Note, none of the following items requirtes a Constitutional Amendment. Indeed, the meeting should be gin with a vow to leave Constitutional matters alone.)

Top of the list?

1) Cure gerrymandering. Seriously, it can only be done on a multi state basis. Anyone who proposes doing “fair redistricting” one state at a time is just a lying political hack who wants to cripple his opponents in a state that they control, without ever touching states run by his own party. Again, anyone proposing to fix re districting in just one state is a lying hypocrite who should be run out of office. Flat-out. No exceptions.

But across the board? Or if California agreed to do it, in exchange for neutral districts in, say, Texas plus Florida? Then the overall party numbers would not change much. No single party or mass of Americans gets is side’s ox gored. Partisan self-interest fades. An this monstrous injustice can be dealt with at last.


3) Push environmental needs, bypassing the (currently) corrupt feds, the way leaders like California have done. Only forge a united front in favor of states’ rights - especially the right to experiment.

4) End bidding wars between states, for factories, sports teams etc. The taxpayer always loses! Time for the states to come up with an agreement to stop falling for this trap.

5) Stand up to the neocons over the National Guard! Take back our state militias, in time to get our citizen soldiers back to their families and jobs and training to actually protect and defend us. If our nation must fight a protracted war overseas, let the federal government come to the people and ask for money. Ask for a bigger regular army!

6) Threaten to fix health care, if Congress won't. (Just the theat of states doing this, in a group-organized manner, would make the HMOs and insurance companies sweat so much, they might be be more willing to cut a deal on the national level.)

7) .Work out a sane approach to Native Tribal gambling. One that helps tribes far from cities, ensures fair distribution and services and supervision. And one that lets the nation re-evaluate the whole deal again, top-to bottom, in 20 years, after a whole generation of this weird wealth-rebalancing has had a chance to redress old wrongs..

8-10) These are just the ones off the top of my head. Do you have your own suggestions?

Key point. It would let Arnold do some Presidential-level things and - in fact - BE our president, in a small way, without necessitating any Constitutional changes or the stress of actually running for the office. How cool.

And how weird it is, that we have turned around so that liberals and moderates are the ones pushing for “states rights”! Just one of dozens of reversals that the democrats should point out, hammer and exploit, this year.

That is... if they only had a brain.

Final political note

Again, I got no beef against Hillary. She’s smart and would appoint great people... especially promoting them from the ranks of the much-abused civil service and officer corps, ending the brutal war that has been waged against our professionals, by the Bushite cabal.

Still, consider how many millions of demoralized Republicans will drag themselves out of a resigned stupor, and slog through sleet and hurricanes, to the polls, if she’s the democratic nominee. Let’s not energize them. Let em sit home and sulk. Frankly, they deserve it.

Also, recite the chant: BUSH BUSH BUSH CLINTON CLINTON BUSH BUSH CLINTON CLINTON. And that just takes us from 1980 to 2012! Do we really want the world to see us as a nation of dynasties? The Romans went down that road. Please.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Disparities of taxation and wealth? Time to choose between ideology and civilization

The never-ending tide of troglodytic microcephaly from Republican candidates has the older, mainstream conservative intelligencia wringing its hands in near-despair. What kind of Twilight Zone do we live in, when GOP icon Alan Greenspan gives his highest presidential rating to Bill Clinton and by-far lowest rating ever to George W. Bush?

A veritable flood of former Republican standard bearers, like Paul Craig Roberts (the “father of Reaganomics”) have deserted, along with large swathes of the professional caste, from intelligence and military officers to scientists. Heck, rumors have it that the state of Arizona draws half its power from coils placed around the spinning in Barry Goldwater's grave.

Now, Bush family friend and renowned economic forecaster John Mauldin has weighed in.

"Far too many in both parties tell a frustrated America what it wants to hear, rather than the economic reality. The Republicans have some of the worst offenders."

John goes on with a riff about Mike Huckabee's "Fair Tax". Here's an excerpt:

"Fair Tax proponents want a 23% sales tax to replace every type of government tax. No more income, corporate, social security, or Medicare taxes. And everyone gets a $5,000 or so "prebate" which covers the taxes up to the poverty level. What could be simpler or more fair?

"First of all, the 23% they talk about is really 30%. Under the proposal, if an item sells for $100, then $23 of that would go to the government (said to be tax-inclusive). That means the item really costs $77 and the tax is an additional $23 or about 30% (said to be the tax-exclusive rate). Add an average 7% for state sales tax and we are now up to 37%. But wait, it gets worse.”

Bruce Bartlett writes this week in the Wall Street Journal: "A 2000 estimate by Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation found the tax inclusive rate would have to be 36% and the tax-exclusive rate would be 57%. In 2005, the U.S. Treasury Department calculated that a tax exclusive rate of 34% would be needed just to replace the income tax, leaving the payroll tax in place. But if evasion were high then the rate might have to rise to 49%. If the Fair Tax were only able to cover the limited sales tax base of a typical state, then a rate of 64% would be required (89% with high evasion)."

Mauldin: "Further, this is a tax hike on the middle class. If you make less than $15,000 you win. If you make more than $200,000 you win, because you actually save more and spend less of your income. This is a nice populist proposal which sounds good but is economically challenged. It only works on someone who has not read about the problems. Let me give you two links if you want to read more. One is to Bartlett's article and the other is to the people at Fact

"The call by Huckabee and others to deport 12,000,000 illegal immigrants is simply economic suicide. It would create a depression (not just a minor recession) in short order. Let's reduce productivity by 10 15%. Let's reduce consumer spending by 7-8%. Shut down hundreds of thousands of businesses who could not get workers they need. Who will pick the crops? Or do any of a hundred jobs that Americans don't want to do? It would drive up labor costs and create inflation. It would be a disaster of Biblical proportions. Now, I am all for controlling the border. I want to know who is coming in. But we have to deal with reality, and the reality is that we need those workers who are here. The economy simply will not function without them."


Why am I quoting all this from John Mauldin? Because it is vital for us to remember that not all of our conservative neighbors have gone stark, jibbering mad. Some are merely in a deep state of denial. Able to criticize bits and pieces of what has happened to their movement - as John does, above - though without (alas) allowing themselves to see the big picture. How the neocons, who hijacked conservatism, have relentlessly and deliberately reversed nearly every prudent principle that it used to stand for.

NoLosersTAx(In fact, I agree with John that IRS rules should be slashed and simplified. The problem is that every interest group lays down a ferocious veto, whenever their favorite offsets are under threat. There IS a solution! It is called "No Losers"... in which the tax code is slimmed by computer algorithm, seeking the minimum number of rules, under special, pre-set boundary conditions that follow a simple rule. For the 100 most common or representative tax profiles, the simplification algorithm makes no change in NET tax paid.

(Thus, everybody winds up paying the same, even if their favorite deduction goes away. It sounds magical, but, believe it or not, this really can be done! At very low expense, this experiment could at least present a proposed reform under which nobody’s ox is gored and the number of rules shrinks. Well, tax accountants would hate it. But that's for another time.)

In fairness, let's hear John out when he criticizes one of the catechisms of the left... that the rich aren't paying their fair share, since the Bush tax cuts. "They want to "tax the rich" and make more for middle class tax cuts. Sounds nice, but let's look at the facts. The bottom half of taxpayers only pay 3% of the total income taxes collected, which is 1% less than before the Bush tax cuts. 44% of the US population, or 122 million people, pays no income tax at all.

"The richest 1% of the country pay 39% of all taxes ($365,000 income and up), which is 3% more than before the Bush tax cuts, under the Clinton tax policy. The top 5% ($145,000) pay 60% of all taxes (up 5% from 1999); and the top 25%, with income over $62,000, pays paid 86% of all taxes. It seems to me that the rich are paying their fair share. Every category is paying more now than under Clinton, except the bottom 75%."

SavingCapitalismNeofeudalismThis notion that the rich are paying more nowadays - even after receiving fantastic tax cutes (during time of war) - sounds odd...

...and it turns out that it is. I hate to say it, but John is being just a bit disingenuous here. The middle class is paying less tax and the rich are paying more... because of a vast swing in actual wealth -- including income-generating property -- from the middle to the top.

This flow has accelerated so fast that the super-rich are, indeed, paying more net taxes, despite their low tax rates.


Another way to put this would be to ask “How much tax is paid on the top 1% (by accumulated dollar value) of wealth, rather than the top 1% (by population) of wealth owners. That tax has inarguably gone down. Way down. Resulting in yet further wealth transfer in that same direction, so that more percentage points of overall wealth are owned by that top 1% of owners.

Thus, John manages to make a truly terrifying vicious spiral -- threatening a new age of feudal style aristocratism -- sound benign. He should know better.

In other words, the very same facts that he uses to deflect criticism of the Bush Tax Cuts actually show just how far those cuts have skewed the system in favor of those who are raking it in. Without comparing these stats of gross tax payments to the growing disparity in actual wealth, they are deeply misleading. In fact, if you seek the one common thread, among every Republican candidate’s tax proposals, it is this. All of them seek ways to accelerate further transfer of wealth percentage shares into the hands of the top 1% of individual owners.

Yes, some of the dems’ suggested means of reversing this trend are questionable, in their own right. I am far less interested in solutions that are confiscatory than those aimed at regulating and counterbalancing activities that are - in themselves - criminally stupid, market-warping acts of collusion by a narrow clade of golf buddies. Simply prevent outrageous thievery and re-introduce market forces at the top! That ought to solve the problem. Certainly defenders of idealised markets tell us so!

For example, try breaking up interlocking directorates (Republican Teddy Roosevelt could have told you that!) Or adjusting the rules of compensation for CEOs, directors, etc, so that their rewards come largely from ten-year company stock options! That would reshape the playing field so that managers’ best interests coincided with society’s. Oh, and those who run a company into the ground would not flutter away with 8-figure buyouts. The market for managerial talent would remain flat and fair. It would just remove the incentive for 10,000 golf buddies to conspire together to rob us all.

GuidedAllocation(Does nobody ever examine the fundamental premise-assumption underlying these godawful CEO compensation deals? The capitalist premise is that such vast payouts should attract brilliant people from other fields, until competition drives the pay levels back down!

(In effect, the golf buddies are telling us that they are mutant-level talents, like top basketball stars, worth any price, so the rules of supply/demand will never apply to them! Funny thing though. Their system to decide all this is a classic circle-jerk.)

We need to ponder whether it actually "defends market capitalism" when these wealth flows so severely alter our social structure that they threaten to entrench a quasi-feudal aristocracy. Don't forget who Adam Smith called the true and worst enemies of markets! In his day, socialism and bureaucratic regulation were FAR from the top enemies of market enterprise! Indeed, throughout human history, market enterprise had one major enemy. Conspiratorial oligarchy.

Those who style themselves as defenders of liberty and markets need to step back. They need to remember that the masters of Guided Allocation of Resources (GAR) are enemies of freedom, of every kind. We don’t need their clique to guide us. Or any clique. What we need is our Enlightenment back.

=== More political misc ====

See a bitter, but illuminating, ex-insider’s view of what’s become of TV news by veteran reporter/producer John Hockenberry, in MIT Technology Review. Especially depressing is the part where he tells of tryig to interview members of the bin Laden family, only to be thwarted from above.

Have I been crazy to suggest that there’s a lot more going on in the R’oil Desert Kingdom than the Bush Administration wants us to learn? You really, really need to read “Confessions Of A Terrorist,” which exposes one of the biggest smoking guns ever. Or at least, since scores of potential material witnesses, from the home country of most of the 9/11 hijackers, were whisked out of the US on luxury charters, without ever being questioned, on the same day that Americans were forbidden to fly.

WhyAmericaSleptFollowing up this article, I’d be interested if anybody has read Gerald Posner’s Why America Slept (Random House), is a lean, lucid retelling of how the CIA, FBI and U.S. leaders missed a decade's worth of clues and opportunities that if heeded, Posner argues, might have forestalled the 9/11 terrorist attacks. My interest is very narrow and specific, whether Posner mentions anything about FBI agents or others being re-assigned away from counter-terror duties, during the first eight months of the Bush Administration, in order to go skeleton hunting for dirt about the Clintons. So far, my sources on this are anecdotal, not statistical. If the numbers were as high as I suspect, it could be the biggest scandal of this entire, sordid period.

Finally, here are a few more points to add at the addendum following my main article: Ostrich Papers: How It Will Take All Decent Americans to Restore Decency to America...

* What if, in the middle of a declared state of dire emergency and an ongoing war -- one that was using up all American ground forces and devastating the budget -- a Democratic President (say, FDR) were to regularly walk away from his job and take more days off than any other in history? Even exceeding the earlier record set by Ronald Reagan? And setting this milestone with a whole year left before his term ran out? Would you Have let Bill Clinton get away with hurling our forces into harm’s way, then turning away to kick back with cronies for weeks at a stretch, on their new, mega-ranches?

Over the past few months, two of the most high-profile inspectors general in government have faced public firing squads. As the Washington Post on its front page on Friday, Stuart Bowen, the inspector general tasked with investigating Iraq reconstruction, now faces an investigation himself. Several government agencies are examining charges that his office was involved in massive mismanagement and waste, the very sins he had been tasked with uncovering in Iraq. Most puzzlingly, over twenty-five of his employees earned more than General David Petraeus did last year. This article in the New Republic is naturally tilted-against the Bush Administration. But then, so are the facts.

Who was speaking about inspectors general two years ago? See my article: Free the Inspectors General. Amazing that such a simple and blatantly sensible suggestion gets no notice, alas.

--See more on the Economy: Past, Present and Future

David Brin

Friday, January 11, 2008


------ First a brief political riff then science and stuff -----

As some of you know, I have given up wishing for somebody ideal and decided to choose from the menu being offered.

And while I hold some respect and hopes for Hillary Clinton, and will support her if she is the nominee of Enlightenment America (not just the Democratic Party) -- that's just the point. She won't be viewed that way. As the candidate of America vs the enemies (domestic) who have seized control of the GOP and distorted it into a tool to ruin our country from within.

Alas, Hillary's biggest negative is huge. The pure & simple fact that she'd energize a demoralized opposition and draw ten million extra Republicans to the polls. That more than decides me -- I have to back Obama.

There are other reasons, of course. Have a look at this brief interview in the Globalist. Anybody who says the following simply gets it.

"The disappointment that so many around the world feel toward America right now is only a testament to the high expectations they hold for us."

Darn tootin. He also hints, with words like “competence” at what ought to be the main - and killer - issue of this campaign. The Bushite war against the apolitical but highly skilled men and women of the civil service, the intelligence and law communities, the US Officer Corps, science and every variety of professionalism.

I retain a simmering worry about how little we know about Obama. He can reassure people like me - if he’s nominated - by showing us the calibre of folks he’ll surround himself with. Especially in choosing a running mate. My bias toward General Clarke is a small matter. Our need to see the best up there. That’s crucial.

Even his chief drawback... being so new... suggests that he may also be clean. One hopes.

Still... there’s his name ... or names... so MANY ways that his name(s) just scream no writer would dare make up this stuff!

On the Republican side? I’ll send a little $ to Ron Paul, for the sake of the 30% of him that’s right and brave and sane. Huckabee’s got about that same 30% that’s honest and personable and sincere. Too bad they are both 70% stark, jibbering crazy.

As for all the rest of em? I drowzily dream of our Governator showing up at the GOP convention dressed and equipped like in some of his movies. Well, it’s a fantasy. Like in the movie, “If.” BTW I don’t really mean that. But then there’s another dream, one in which the ghosts of Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Barry Goldwater come back and exorcise today’s infected, were-elephant, driving out the gang of demons and monsters, like Gandalf striking Saruman out of Theoden....


I know that some of you are deeply involved in Wikis. Blake Stacey suggested that I post a few dozen of the long- simmering chapters of my (huge) dormant nonfiction book online, as wikis. I like the idea of posting several dozen Wiki pages, each consisting of one of my proposed chapters, and letting all sorts of folks comment, suggest inserts, offer corrections. Alas, the problems are:

1) Where and who/how to set it up
2) How to limit/authorize changes
3) finding the time to manage it all and gradually take a final shape.

I have long believed that wikis are a subset of "collaborationware" which should offer a general suite of host-option tools, letting contributors append comments or post-its or actual changes, depending upon their authorization/reputation level. With all sorts
of color-coding and other options. (In fact, my Holocene patent would seem highly applicable... but enough of that.)


Bandit wrote in with ”I know a few fans/geeks who might seriously "swing" this way. I saw a picture of a Japanese Sex doll recently (doing research :^) and it took a close look to realize it was a doll.” Love and Sex with Robots: The Evolution of Human-Robot Relationships, by David Levy.

Comment: This is how aliens will eliminate humanity. First this... then holodecks. No male human will ever be seen again.

Something both cool and hot: Small, decentralized water treatment plants with an autonomous power supply transform salty seawater or brackish water into pure drinking water

Josh D sent in the wowzer of a paradigm breaker: ”A researcher in Vienna, Austria, trained dogs to sort photographs into two categories: pictures of other dogs and pictures of landscapes. This is big news because it means that dogs not only recognize what's happening in symbolic visual representations (photos) but can also figure out how to translate an abstract concept ("dog") into a category of pictures. Previously, nobody thought dogs could categorize photographs or even abstract concepts other than "food" and "enemy." (Fascinating! But note, this news is from a personal blog, unattributed and unverified. The reference to my Uplift series is appreciated. But one ponders that HG Wells and Boule and Cordwainer Smith showed uplifted creatures enslaved. Just to be different, I do not. ;-)

... Intrade is The Prediction Market where members can buy and sell "shares" in financial, political, weather and other important subjects. You can trade using real US$ and you can learn to trade using virtual Intrade I$. Intrade and the predictive information generated by our members have been featured on CNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox, Fortune & others. Alas, PMs did very badly re the New Hampshire primary. A topic of much discussion. I’ve long had my own perspective on Predictions Registries.

See how the latest Mars probe lost its launch window because of bureaucratic conflict of interest. All right, part of the War on Science and the War on Competence may be due to moronic ineptitude. But please keep on your second shelf the other blatantly consistent possibility. That all of this is according to plan. ...

 ... In a laboratory in Switzerland, a group of neuroscientists is developing a mammalian brain - in silicon. The researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), in collaboration with IBM, have just completed the first phase of an ambitious project to reproduce a fully functioning brain on a supercomputer. By strange coincidence, their lab happens to lie on the same shores of Lake Geneva where Mary Shelley dreamt up her creation, Dr Frankenstein. The neocortical column is the most recently evolved part of our brain and is responsible for such things as reasoning and self-awareness. It was a quantum leap in evolution. The human brain contains a thousand times more neocortical columns than a rat's brain, but there is very little difference, biologically speaking, between a rat's brain and our own. Build one column, and you can effectively build the entire neocortex - if you have the computational power. Although a neocortical column is only 2 millimetres long and half a millimetre in diameter, it contains 10,000 neurons and 30m synapses. The machine that simulates this column is an IBM Blue Gene/L supercomputer is capable of speeds of 18.7 trillion calculations per second. It has 8,000 processors and is one of the most powerful supercomputers in the world.

If true, this is big news. “The Atlanta-based independent inventor of the Super Soaker squirt gun (a true technological milestone) says he can achieve a conversion efficiency rate that tops 60 percent with a new solid-state heat engine. It represents a breakthrough new way to turn heat into power. “

==== AND MORE MISC! ===

Time gives its “Top 10 for 2007” in 50 categories.

Professor Andrew White, from UQ's Centre for Quantum Computer Technology together with colleagues from the University of Toronto in Canada, said by manipulating quantum mechanically entangled photons – the fundamental particles of light – the prime factors of the number 15 were calculated. ...

A Japanese company has unveiled a new device that will allow people "speak" through their ear so they can use their mobile telephones in noisy places. The device - named "e-Mimi-kun" (good ear boy) - doubles as an earphone and a microphone by detecting air vibrations inside the ear, developer NS-ELEX Co. said. The earpiece and an accompanying device can be connected to a mobile phone, or wirelessly to a Bluetooth handset, so that users no longer have to cover their mouths when speaking in a loud environment, the company said. ...

This is a hypothetical news clip from 2017 which suggests one of the directions in which the internet may grow – by inventing a method whereby the Internet could take advantage of the same processes that the human mind employs during sleep (and while awake) to process and organize the experiences of the day into memory hierarchies. ...

Toshiba Corp.'s Super Charge ion Battery, or SCiB, can recharge to 90 percent of its full capacity in less than five minutes and has a life cycle of more than 10 years.

“Whitehouse Sharply Criticizes Bush Administration's Assertion of Executive Power” – (Senator Whitehouse press release – December 7, Say What? Read the headline a couple of times. This senator is gonna cause a LOT of confusing moments. 2007)

"Solar minimum is upon us," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center. Many forecasters believe Solar Cycle 24 will be big and intense. Peaking in 2011 or 2012, the cycle to come could have significant impacts on telecommunications, air traffic, power grids and GPS systems. Aha! Just in time for the 2012 “millennium madness” that seems to be scheduled, according to everything from Mayan calendars to Heinlein’s future history...

Someone report on this? I do not vouch for it! John Lenard Walson has discovered a new way to extend the capabilities of small telescopes and has been able to achieve optical resolutions - at almost the diffraction limit - not commonly achievable. With this new-found ability, he has proceeded to videotape, night and day, many strange and heretofore unseen objects in earth orbit. The resulting astrophotographic video footage has revealed a raft of machines, hardware, satellites, spacecraft and possibly space ships which otherwise appear as 'stars'...if they appear at all. There are, indeed, hundreds of satellites in Earth orbit. However, the images he has captured are clearly of large and sizeable machines which have not been seen before.

The Economist's food price index is higher today than at any time since it was created in 1845. Even in real terms, prices have jumped by 75% since 2005. That is because “agflation” is underpinned by long-running changes in diet that accompany the growing wealth of emerging economies. But the rise in prices is also the self-inflicted result of America's reckless ethanol subsidies. This year biofuels will take a third of America's (record) maize harvest.

Factoid: The world's longest operating ships are six "PS-Class" container ships. Built at Denmark's Odense Steel Shipyards and launched by Maersk Shipping Lines between 2006 and 2007, these are Emma Maersk and its slightly younger sisters Evelyn, Eleanora, Estelle, Ebba and Elly Maersk. Each is 397 by 56 meters, or 1302 feet long by 185 wide. For perspective, this is about twice as wide and 60 percent longer than the unlucky Titanic, and almost 200 feet longer than any supertanker, aircraft carrier, or ocean liner now on the water. They require a crew of only 13 people, and can accommodate only 30 crew and other passengers in total. The six can carry up to 14,500 TEUs of cargo. (A TEU is a "twenty-foot equivalent unit," referring to a single metal container 20 feet long, eight feet wide and 8.5 feet high.) Maersk advertises this capacity as the amount of goods that would be carried on a 71-kilometer freight train. Too wide to fit through the Panama Canal until its re-digging is complete, the six travel between Asia and Europe.

A fascinating article in the New Yorker explores what we know about bonobos:

“Where, at the end of the twentieth century, could an optimist turn for reassurance about the foundations of human nature? The sixties were over. Goodall’s chimpanzees had gone to war. Scholars such as Lawrence Keeley, the author of “War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage” (1996), were excavating the role of warfare in our prehistoric past. And, as Wrangham and Peterson noted in “Demonic Males,” various nonindustrialized societies that were once seen as intrinsically peaceful had come to disappoint. Margaret Mead’s 1928 account of a South Pacific idyll, “Coming of Age in Samoa,” had been largely debunked by Derek Freeman, in 1983. The people identified as “the Gentle Tasaday”—the Philippine forest-dwellers made famous, in part, by Charles Lindbergh—had been redrawn as a small, odd community rather than as an isolated ancient tribe whose mores were illustrative. “The Harmless People,” as Elizabeth Marshall Thomas referred to the (!Kung bushmen) hunter-gatherers she studied in southern Africa, had turned out to have a murder rate higher than any American city. Although the picture was by no means accepted universally, it had become possible to see a clear line of thuggery from ape ancestry to human prehistory and on to Srebrenica. But, if de Waal’s findings were true, there was at least a hint of respite from the idea of ineluctable human aggression. If chimpanzees are from Hobbes, bonobos must be from Rousseau.”

nuff for now.

==Reminder that my latest involvement in a TV show, a 2 hour special for The History Channel, is: LIFE AFTER PEOPLE, which premieres Monday, JAN 21st at 9pm/8pm central.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Cool challenges, possibilities and dangers.

You are cordially invited to look in on the latest Computer Graphics Challenge! This one - focused on “strange behavior” - offers some funny and vivid looks into the top methods now available to groups of amateurs. There are super prizes and much publicity. A couple of challenges ago, half a dozen entries featured fabulous movie trailers for Greg Bear’s epochal SF novel - EON.

I will likely be providing grist for one of the next challenges. They want to do something with my Uplift Universe. Perhaps a trailer for a movie-yet-to-be. Or else some fully-rendered individual scenes from such a movie.

Hence my request for feedback. I’d like to know which individual scene from one of my books strikes you as the most vivid and exciting in a movie sense, WHILE giving characters some good lines that shed at least a little insight into the plot? And, of course, offering rich opportunities for CG rendering. One that comes to mind is when Toshio and Akki see a starship shot down and the tsunami drives them ashore. Something with Fiben and Athaclena in THE UPLIFT WAR? Or Jacab and Helene aboard the sunship in SUNDIVER? Please pipe in with your favorites! Especially with chapter or page number.

Or else, if you’d like to pick a DOZEN favorite moments, and splice them together into the perfect TRAILER... DOn’t forget those bits of plot teasing dialogue! Have fun. And of course, if you know any CG people who’d like to get involved...

Here are the short films (scroll down!) the animations. And The illustrations.


John Brockman’s The Edge online intellectual site is hosting another “world question center” - this time on the issue of “WHAT HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR MIND ABOUT? AND WHY? I am part of the group ranging from Alan Alda and Joan Baez to Stephen Pinker, George Dyson, Alan Kay and Paul Saffo. Give it a look for a wide spectrum of perspectives on change.

The History Channel has announced a SALE on DVDs. Here’s your chance to own a copy of “The Architechs”! And help make it a viral must-see!

Reminder to set aside (and spread the word) about my January 21st History Channel show “Life Without People.”

Over at Facebook’s discussion groups, one of them - the political compass - is reviving one of the dumber and more tendentious “alternative political spectra” . Yes, I despise the old left-right." My own proposal is more nuanced.

Anybody with some advice for a guy heading to Liechtenstein, via Zurich, in winter?

===== A Whole Load of Cool and Frightening and Boggling Stuff ====

Okay. Time for a data dump. And yes, I’ll get gripes for not having hot linked all these. Sorry. I just can’t. My son is getting bigger and stronger than me and he wants another novel from me before he finishes high school.

Enjoy. And fight for civilization.

... When ancient retroviruses slipped bits of their DNA into the primate genome millions of years ago, they successfully preserved their own genetic legacy. Today an estimated 8 percent of the human genetic code consists of endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) -- the DNA remnants from these so-called "selfish parasites."

... Electrodes have been implanted in the brain of Eric Ramsay, who has been "locked in" -- conscious but paralysed -- since a car crash eight years ago. These have been recording pulses in areas of the brain involved in speech and plan to use the signals he generates to drive speech software. One wonders if he could at least eye-blink "yes-no" I would imagine that'd make a gigantic difference.

... Many a mother has said, with a sigh, “If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?” The answer, for cockroaches at least, may well be yes. Researchers using robotic roaches were able to persuade real cockroaches to do things that their instincts told them were not the best idea.

... Oh, see Sergey describe the new Google Phone phormat... "android"...

... E-mail is looking obsolete. According to a 2005 Pew study, almost half of Web using teenagers prefer to chat with friends via instant messaging rather than e-mail. Last year, comScore reported that teen e-mail use was down 8 percent, compared with a 6 percent increase in e-mailing for users of all ages. As mobile phones and sites like Twitter and Facebook have become more popular, those old Yahoo! and Hotmail accounts increasingly lie dormant. Ah but... shall I act as a grouch? Just as email dumbed down written discourse by eliminating the chance to edit and reconsider intemperate flashes, before licking that stamp... The move to texting/Im and all that now will continue the trend of SHORTENING exchanges down to the 1 sentence or grunt-sniglet level. An effect abetted by "places" like Second Life. But you all have heard me gripe about all that before.

... Among my many connections with the extropian/transhumanist communities -- where I often find myself drifting into my usual role, as contrarian gadfly -- the Methuselah Foundation ("repair and reverse the damage of aging") is right out there, combining research that is bona fide exciting with some other stuff that strikes me and completely bizarre... often on the same page or report or posting! They certainly are drawing funds -- no surprise, as some super-enriched boomers find a limit to what money can buy. Can YOU guess which projects are way-cool and which should creep you out? (Hint, solve mitochondrial aging by moving mito-genes onto the chromosomes? And... you expect that Still, well worth tracking.

... Toshiba has developed a new class of micro size Nuclear Reactors that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks. The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by 6 feet, could change everything for small remote communities, small businesses or even a group of neighbors who are fed up with the power companies and want more control over their energy needs.

... For as little as $1,000 and a saliva sample, customers will be able to learn what is known so far about how the billions of bits in their DNA shape who they are and what their health risks may be. Three companies have already announced plans to market such services. When I was last at Google, Sergey made me spit in a jar. His wife runs one of these companies. But I have heard no results. Am I a "brin"? Stay tuned.

Might be interested in the Nobel speech by Doris Lessing, this year's winner for Literature, and the first Guest of Honor at a World Science Fiction Convention ever to become a Laureate. Yes, her Canopus books tended to be dense, tendentious and ignorant of advances made elsewhere in SF. On the other hand, Lessing was unafraid of labels and quite aware of the limitations that narrowminded cretins haver tried to impose upon literature, by constraining the range and realm of authorial exploration. She’s gutsy...

... and cantankerous! Get past the sniping at the Internet-- though one sided, it does make a good point. The important point, from my perspective, was that the world needs saving. But, also, writers gotta write.

Paranoia time? I was sent this: Reports from Russia that their Siberian Solar Radio Telescope detected a ˜massive ultra low frequency (ULF) ˜blast emanating from Latitude: 45Â˚ 00' North Longitude: 93Â˚ 15' West at the ˜exact moment, and location, of a catastrophic collapse of a nearly 2,000 foot long bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota. And now let’s ease (flip) into gonzo land... Russian Military reports state that the total collapse of such a massive bridge, and in the absence of evidence linking its destruction to terrorist activity, could only have been accomplished by an acoustic weapon, of which the United States Military is known to possess.

... Sam Harris is best known for his barn-burning 2004 attack on religion, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, which spent 33 weeks on the New York Times best-seller List. The book's sequel, Letter to a Christian Nation also came out in editions totaling hundreds of thousands. Last Monday, however, the combative Californian produced a shorter (seven pages) and seemingly calmer publication that will be a hit if it reaches 10,000 readers: "Functional Neuroimaging of Belief, Disbelief and Uncertainty." It appears in the respected journal Annals of Neurology. And Harris, 40, claims it has little if any connection to his two popular books. I wonder about uses, like lie detection... and how we can make this window look in enough directions that it cannot be used against us all.


I Have a huge amount of stuff stored up here, and, naturally, some of it’s political. Plus Deaf Activism and lots of science. In order not to swamp you all, I will append some of it as a first comment, down below.

Here’s wishing you all a great new year. And for us all.