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.


David Brin said...

Here's that added stuff...

==== Politics?=====

Only a mild comment, here, or two, after Iowa.

1) Is there still a chance to watch Obama “season” in the Vice Presidency, for a while? So we could learn more about him? (My fantasy.) Oh, but the seasoner would have to be Hillary. And she’s fine, in her way. But oh, the culture war. And she touts her durability in that ongoing maelstrom as a GOOD thing!

2) Can anyone do any numeralogy on Huckabee’s name? Any chance it has overlapping traits with Nechemiah Scudder? One fellow suggested a fictional US Prexy called Alex V Aye. or LXVI Put a “DC” in front, for “District of Columbia” and you get DCLXVI or 666. Oog, I need sleep.


Here’s a depressing excerpt from a commentary by intelligencia impresario John Brockman: ”Given the well-documented challenges and issues we are facing as a nation, as a culture, how can it be that there are no science books (and hardly any books on ideas) on the New York Times 100 Notable Books of the Year list; no science category in the Economist Books of the Year 2007; only Oliver Sacks in the New Yorker's list of Books From Our Pages?

“Instead of having science and technology at the center of the intellectual world-of having a unity in which scholarship includes science and technology along with literature and art-the official culture has kicked them out. Science and technology appear as some sort of technical special product. Elite universities have nudged science out of the liberal arts undergraduate curriculum-and out of the minds of many young people, who, arriving at their desks at the establishment media, have so marginalized themselves that they are no longer within shouting distance of the action. Clueless, they don't even know that they don't know.

“But science today is changing our understanding of our universe and species, and scientific literacy is indispensable to dealing with some of the world's most pressing issues. Fortunately, we live in a time when third culture intellectuals-scientists, science journalists, and other science-minded writers-are among of our best nonfiction writers, and their many engaging books have brought scientific insight to a wide audience.”

Brockman, who is literary agent to some of my favorite humans, goes on to suggest the following book: LAWS OF NATURE, SOURCE UNKNOWN by Dennis Overbye


Here (hear?) is one for that contrarian debate team to try on. DEAF parents should be allowed to screen their embryos so they can pick a deaf child over one that has all its senses intact, according to the chief executive of the Royal National Institute for Deaf and Hard of Hearing People (RNID). Although the vast majority of deaf parents would want a child who has normal hearing, a small minority of couples would prefer to create a child who is effectively disabled, to fit in better with the family lifestyle. ...

Some comments: Allow this only if the parents involved first take treatment for self-righteousness addiction disease. ... Such parents should also be required to post a bond and sign a statement recognizing and accepting that the child upon whom they plan to inflict an intentional limitation shall have the perfect right to sue them, at any time, to break custody and/or to seize all of their assets, in compensation for this risky decision. If the parents truly believe that this is a matter of joyfully embracing a new cultural/ethnic group, then the parents should stand by this belief by staking their custody and property on being able to convince the child of this, in the old-fashioned way, through parental indoctrination. If they cannot, over the course of more than a decade, then a presumption should fall on the child's side, in any subsequent lawsuit. Indeed, the entire advocacy group, backing this measure, should post a bond to this effect.

In fact, though, should not technology offer an alternative? Let the child be born normal, so that neural pathways get laid down in the brain and normal speech/language tracks form. Then, at age four or so, install clamps inside the ears, imposing deafness in ways that appear to be most-reversible by later surgery. Ideally, this would be no worse than taking the kid with you to live with some jungle tribe... total immersion in another way of life, of speaking and learning and thinking. But with the same chance to leave, or change your mind.

David Brin said...

Of course there's lots more about Iowa. Remember, folks, Iowa and South Carolina are POLARIZED STATES, where the democrats are much more liberal and the republicans more fringe-lost, than in the country at large. Hence Huckabee - Obama.

New Hampshire, in contrast, is an American consensus, somewhat blue but essentially reasonable modernist state. The Republicans there deeply yearn for SOME way out of their party's madness, and hence will turn to McCain and... yes, Ron Paul. While the dems will be wide-open. With advantage Hillary.

Eric said...

The Toshiba nuclear reactor URL was missing a hyphen - here's a corrected URL.

NoOne said...

Umm, David, I think you meant John Baez and not Joan Baez.

As for the favorite scene from your Uplift novels, here are a few:

1. Streaker emerging from within the Thennanin ship shell Krondosfire and going to the transfer point with the "ETs" being taunted by Gillian. Lovely taunt, BTW.

2. And of course (from "Heaven's Reach" page 411),

"Can you see the symbols on the vessel's prow? Is it the familiar emblem of five spiral rays? Or has something else taken its place? Can you recognize the nature of our new shell?


Well? Can your minds resolve this anomaly? This dissonance? Is there an explanation?"

accompanied by the scene

"Emulated in apparently living flesh, the faintly amphibian humanoid now offered an enigmatic smile that broadened to uncanny width, conveying a touch of cruel empathy."

harry potter5 said...

Cg contest:

A submersible full of alien children having an "adventure."

The Fractal World

The Zang-mobile

Gubru Jerky.

Tony Fisk said...

- Startide Rising: Tandu detachment deploying in search (I had a nice idea for Tandu appearance, but Lucas pinched it in SWI with those uber- rolling mechs, AND he used it in the trailer! Cheeky devil!!))

- Earthsiege in Heaven's Reach

- Uplift ceremony in Uplift War

Will have more fun with this later (too hot...)

Anonymous said...

I agree with an earlier comment that Startide Rising would be the best first movie. Among its scenes I believe Tom Orley talking to the dying Thennanin in Chapter 63 would be the best trailer. It is the only true interaction between the fox and the hare and would give opportunity to show any of the following in detail... an alien close up, a beautiful war-torn landscape, other alien groups closing in on their Target Human.

Kelsey Gower said...

I also agree the Startide Rising should be the first movie, but it's hard for me to pick a scene from the book since I haven't read it in a few years and I don't have a copy on hand.

If someone could make a trailer that could show a detailed shots of Kithrup and its native species, a close-up of the preserved alien, the part where a dolphin is being chased by the orca (Sorry, I cannot remember their names), and the part where the Streaker is escaping from the aliens, that would be excellent. I would pay to see a movie like that.

Anonymous said...

Quote: "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."

The Russians are _this_ close to claiming the bridge collapsed due to the use of a gravity-laser (as in Brin's _Earth_).

Unknown said...

I found a short story proposing extremely amusing resolution to the Fermi Paradox:

On Digital Extremities

The other stories in the collection are also pretty good, but only tangentially related.

Joel said...

I think the tiny reactors might eventually be used to extract oil from sand and/or shale, if it becomes expensive enough.

Joel said...

As to gravity lasers: I can imagine that a bridge would produce some low-frequency waves as it fell down. Can you say "correlation is not causation"?

Thermoacoustic amplifiers are the closest thing I've seen to an acoustic laser, but they need to be high-frequency to have a reasonable power density.

Perhaps supercritical water would be the best working medium for a lower-frequency, weaponized amplifier.

sociotard said...

I don't have too much of a problem with selecting for a child with deafness, so long as it is never allowed to claim social security or welfare because of it.

Honestly, we don't presently punish people with genetic disease for having children. This is the same thing, just with better (worse) odds.

Anyway, at least this way there will be a little more genetic diversity in the coming "Gattacca" style future.

Anonymous said...

As the Diamond crashes back into a Pyramid, those of us right at the mid-point have the best view of the ground rushing up to meet us, being able to see over the edge, but not having our vision obscured by the shadow that prevails beneath the underhang.

Hilary intends to use healthcare as a means to finalize the crushing of the working poor and to insure that they don't make it topside by forcing them to pay insurance bills or fines that she thinks they can afford.

That loss of disposable income is going to make it impossible for millions of young Americans to save for their first home, their start-up business, their education.

There is a reason Murdoch raised funds for her (and it's not because he's anything like Warren Buffet), there is a reason she's the second largest recepient of Pharma funds in the Senate (and it's not because she's going to cost them profits) and there is a reason she is the candidate of the DLC.

There is a name for a system in which a Government penalizes it's Citizens for not purchasing goods or services from a given corporation or approved list of corporations.

It starts with an F, and it sometimes ends with 12 million dead in camps.

Obama has, in four short years on the national stage, done more to end the Culture Wars Hillary promises to win than any other political figure in recent history.

If one believes that the end of the Red/Blue artificial divisions is the key to regaining our future, and I do, the choice of candidates is just as clear as it was to mythical "Liberal Extremists" in Iowa.

I've lived in the Mid-West, one State north of Iowa, and I know what it means that Obama and Edwards each tied Hilary in rural counties, areas where most of the Democrats remember when they cast their vote for JFK.

These are not the Left Wing of the party, they are Democrats - pragmatic people who want a responsive and accountable government run by ordinary folks like them who done good. Folks who understand their concerns, who care more about their well-being than about maintaining Hegemony.

You want to understand them? Head to your local Wal-Mart and pick up Mellencamps "Scarecrow" album. Listen to the title track fifty times.

These are people who, through 40 years of culture war, never gave up on the vision FDR and JFK showed them, who hand down stories of The Grange from generation to generation.

Most of whom believe Abortion is wrong in most cases, but would never want to force a rape victim to bear her attackers child. Most of whom believe that no one needs a machine gun, but who would die before they gave up their Daddies .30-ought.

Most of whom don't even realize that they aren't New Deal Democrats, but Jeffersonian Democrats.

Over 65% of rural Iowan Democrats voted for candidates that the media and the DLC have tried to tell us all are "too far left" for the American Mainstream.

If they aren't the American Mainstream, what is?

A return to Clinton, when the rate of farm failures merely slowed a bit from the horrible nightmare that was Reagan Bush, won't do it. Underfunded job training programs that promised them a job at half the pay to replace the work shipped overseas won't do it.

They see their own interest, and they vote it. I know that might seem a bit extremist, but after all, these are people at the same time pragmatic and idealistic enough to have remained Democrats in a very Red State, getting along with their neighbors most of the time even through the worst of the Bush nightmare.

The Empress has no crown.

Anonymous said...

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

Actually, I've studied genetics, and moving mitochondrial genes shouldn't be impossible.
(After all, the making of most mitochondrial proteins have already been outsourced to the nucleus during evolution, which suggests that it's possible AND beneficial.)

No, what REALLY raises my eyebrow is "WILT": de Gray's proposal to kill off all reproduction capability of the body's cells, and then have doctors inject you with modified "cancer-proof" stemcells every few years.
To me, that sounds suspiciously like the setup of a SciFi apocalypse story; even if it's possible, theres just sooo many ways it can be exploited/go wrong/be sabotaged...

Tony Fisk said...

It sounds like the premise for a last man on Earth with zombies movie!

Anonymous said...

My copy of those books are in storage (oh, tiny NYC apartments), so I can't give specific cites.

What leaped to mind for me was [wossname] and Alaclena riding the giant leaf-things down the hill to his eventual broken arm.

David Brin said...

Andrew, that story "on Digital Extremities" was fun, though not especially skilled in execution. Much better-written, I though, was the"Power of Two" story. Told in a very skilled manner by someone who writes action well. Could you go online at that site and say I said so?

Zechariah, I keep recommending Heinlein's best of all novels... though the 1st half sucks BEYOND THIS HORIZON, which talks about maintaining genetic diversity when people can choose children who are better.

Anonymous is back, trying to spin tales about how the diamond shaped social structure is under attack from the left. And *I* am supposedly the sci fi fantasy author?

All right, he gets more interesting as he calms down. Look, Hillary is not my favorite, for a dozen reasons. I don't like dynasties and I think it is no accident that fate has given us mostly senators (yuk) on the dem side while the goppers are all governors. (Can anybody look at #$%#@# HISTORY?)

Interesting thoughts on Iow dems.. and it matters, practically? When Iowa and Indiana and Ohio remember which side they fought on, during Civil War Part I, then I'll listen to their prescriptions on how to deal with CW Part III.

Tony Fisk said...

I'm thinking that Sundiver is the logical starting point. But I do like the suggestion of using the conversation in ST between Orley and a dying Thenannin pilot interspersed with action clips to sketch the plot background. A similar thing could be done with Demwa's(?) conversation with Fagin: (the aliens all hate us... no, some of us do care a great deal)

Now here's an interesting variation on the old debate on FIBM vs GAR... applied to the market of street usage.

"Shared Space" Traffic Calming: Counterintuitive, But It Works"

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to say that what I've learned about Obama has impressed me. Now it is an unfortunate fact that our first past the post system forces us to consider making a strategic choice instead of our first choice. (I have long been in favor of IRV, but don't know how to encourage it into law)

Though I still like Richardson's resume and pragmatism (and hope that he at least gets a veep nod or cabinet post to balance out any one of the three low-experience front runners), if the choice comes between Obama and two highly divisive individuals (Clinton and Edwards), Obama ends up with my vote.

I think he has a lot of potential, and if he has the sense to surround himself with good advisor's including a few contrarians to avoid the groupthink which plagued the early Kennedy years as well a just about all of GWB's foreign policy - things may work out just fine. Or at least better than they could be with most of the other leading choices..

Plus, experience only counts if you've learned the right lessons from experience. In his book, the audacity of hope, Obama considers how easy it is to take corporate money, to rationalize to oneself that even though they are generally supportive of your positions, that you won't adjust your positions just for their benefit. Yet reciprocation is a part of human nature and you have to take that into account in order to remember to keep a close eye on the wants and needs of those who aren't writing the big checks. *In Short* (too late perhaps - verbosity is a vice of mine) he is a believer in CITOKATE, even if he doesn't call it by that name.

Anonymous said...

"The latest CNN/WMUR New Hampshire Primary Tracking Poll shows Obama leading Clinton a decisive 39 to 29 percent.",25197,23016419-2703,00.html

You were saying something about New Hampshire being less liberal?

Anonymous said...

Senator Obama won in Iowa in part to cross party voting. There are two modes of thought on this: Bad News, the Republicans are voting for the candidate they think they can beat or Good News, the Republicans are voting for the person seen as reaching out to them.
And Sen. Obama is seen as reaching out (Or as the Loony Left puts it, selling out). In the great left/right debate (which as our Illustrious Host knows is over simplified) Sen. Clinton is seen as appealing to the corporate right, while Sen. Obama appeals to the populist right. Who wins the nomination will depend on which group controls the primary process: The People, or the Corporation.
I watch this with cheese on my tongue...

Rob Perkins said...

@David, I have lived in and around Liechtenstein. Contact me offline (reply email to the one I sent you) and I'll advise. Bottom line seems to me to be that the skiing is expensive, but not to be missed.

Watch out for the souvinier shops in Vaduz. The clock I bought there was actually made in Duesseldorf. Collecting stamps would be safer, but I think they're all Swiss...

I think people miss a pile of nuance from just watching the news.

Obama didn't really "Take Iowa". He garnered two more delegates than Clinton and three more than Edwards. That's a three-way-tie, more or less. And Clinton is still "winning" so far, because of her pledged superdelegates.

(And the irony shouldn't be lost, that the Republicans used a direct-vote method in Iowa, where the Democrats did not, and both disenfranchised all the poor working types who couldn't make the caucuses because of job or family priorities. Washington State Dems have the same problem.)

*Romney* didn't "lose Iowa". With his Wyoming win he's actually ahead in delegates right now, over Huckabee, going into NH strong.

Ron Paul has two delegates pledged, but alas, I think NH is a first-past-the-post contest, which means his supporters won't matter after Tuesday, there. (ICBW)

I would rather have an Obama-Romney contest, than a Clinton-Huckabee contest. With the latter, we simply relive the last three general elections, which I don't think would be good.

Which would you rather have, a relatively moderate Republican debating a Dem, with ideas, or yet another Southern quasi-preacher, failing to debate with more than missive and premise?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if anyone here visits Justin Raimondo put up a pretty disturbing article about America's nuclear secrets being leaked to foreign powers with the collusion of top US officials.

Michael Apfelbeck said...

So I just found something, google is getting into the prediction market game(sorry, I don't know how to make links):

Xactiphyn said...

Delegates don't matter yet. In fact, Iowa and NH hardly matter at all from any "real" analysis. What matters is how this all plays out in the media and the minds and hearts of future voters.

Obama is exactly the candidate David has been asking for, at least in terms of rhetoric. Even the specific issues he pushes the hardest (at least in contrast to the others) are ones of openness. Experience is an issue, as a are a few other things, but in real world you only get the choices set in front of you and none of them are perfect.

Good "teaching moments" only occur occasionally and the U.S. is in one right now. Gotta take advantage of the moment.

David Brin said...

Cit.James makes many great points. The fact that Obama would surround himself with smart people ... and promote many skilled people from within the civil service, intelligence communities and officer corps... makes one feel about 90% better about his comfort factor. Yes, he shows every likelihood of being able to neutralize the Rovean "culture war" attacks that would eviscerate Edwards or Clinton. (For one thing, the neocons would be terrified of any move that seems outright racist.

Though let us not forget that there are residual parts of America who WILL make race a factor. Still, we can all be proud of how small that portion appears (appears!) to be and anyway, it largely overlaps with the deep-reds we'll never get anyway. Anyway, here's a guy we should have had 8 years to get to know better, while he seasoned in the Vice Presidency.

Still... I retain that lingering 10% of sadness that we have come to this... that Democrats are so impulsive that we must choose between three accomplishment-free senators who got here via either dynasty-touting, content-poor populism or faddish charisma-following. All three are fine people! But a record of accomplishment ought to matter, too. Well, Richardson is still in there. Oh for a mashup of these folks!

Hawker points out one big advantage. Obama would keep the loony left quiet. They would not dare stab him.

Rob, I agree that normally, an Obama type vs a Romney type might give us the kind of decent and civil argument over ideas we saw under Clinton vs Dole. But alas, we've sunk too low for that metaphor to apply. The ONLY hope for America is to utterly crush the neocon "revolution" and send Republicans into a serious re-evaluation, amid the ashes of a rout. Huckabee may help make that happen. Dunno. Too scary to risk?

I'll tell you what's scary. The Rove-ists know they cannot make the GOP palatable enough to win a fair fight. So they have this potential they are exploring, to hurl Bloomberg into the mix as a spoiler. Oh, how clever. But oh, how weird it could get... if all three parties nominated NewYorkers?

trixem said...

Regarding the Methuselah Foundation, I happened to just watch a Google tech talk on YouTube with Aubrey de Grey describing the details of moving mitochondrial genes into the nucleus (among other things); very interesting talk.

Anonymous said...

Hillary = The Left?

No wonder you're such a great science fiction writer ;)

You do make a lot more sense as you've calmed down, though.

Somehow or another, one of us is bound to get through to you eventually on what "buy your own" mandatory insurance means for the people in the lower middle class.

Obama, Clinton, and Edwards all have the advisors to know exactly what it means in terms of upward mobility, and only Obama made the right choice.

If we're not going single-payer for basic care, which makes the most sense but isn't politically feasible right now, we cannot mandate insurance and then force people to pay for their own so long as they can still keep body and sole together.

Discretionary income isn't just what people blow on new big screen T.V.s or spend wisely on good sci-fi novels, it's also the means by which people manage to get through night school, or start their own business.

Further, while Bill was the best President we've had since Ike, most of his people are still wallowing in the Culture Wars, and Hill is tied into his network and has favors to pay back and personal loyalties to weigh - Obama can choose from among the best of the Clinton team while still going after the best from outside it.

When Rupert Murdoch raises millions for her, it's pretty clear to me that she's not going to make a peep about media consolidation. When she receives millions from big Pharma, it's clear to me that she's not going to hurt their bottom line.

She voted for the Patriot act, and she voted to renew it. I don't know how that comes out "Left".

Given the breakdown and chaos we've seen since her Iowa set-back, I'm even more glad that she doesn't look likely to win. I'm not talking about the slight voice waver people are calling "sobbing", but rather her change of tactics and flailing attempts to attack Obama.

If her staff can go into this kind of total ungreased cluster---- after comming in two delegates behind, what could we have expected from her Presidency?

Edwards has cleary switched sides, and oddly enough, I think we may be looking at the next AG.

I wish McCain had a real shot - McCain V Obama would be the cleanest race in living memory.

Anonymous said...

Angry Ron Paul groupies harass Sean Hannity.

Man, I wish more Faux News personalities had partisans chase them through the streets.

sociotard said...

I'm not sure about Romney. I think he has superb administrative talents, so he could run the various bureaucracies and agencies well. He also seems to be able to interact with Democrats, or at least he could when he was governor and not running for president.

Nevertheless, he takes "pragmatism" to a terrible level. They ask under what conditions he would do a first strike. He says he would have to consult with lawyers and generals. They ask about torture. He says he has to discuss the matter with intelligence services to decide what level of 'advanced interogation technique' is acceptable.

It makes me angry! We need some basic principles that we will stick to, and some evil ideas that are completely off the table. We need some positions over which we will not negotiate, debate, or deliberate. Example? We should never torture captives, be they US citizens or foreign enemies. Come death or hell, we should do the honorable thing and not regret it.

David Brin said...

Look, Obama is ahead on most polemical or policy points, fine. And he may (may!) be less blackmailed and/or sold out. All terrific. I am STILL anxious about a guy who has DONE nothing for us whatsoever, has never governed a thing...

...and whose names are like big, blaring clues that we MUST live in a simulation, because things like that - obvious authorial self-indulgences - just don’t happen in real life!

Oh, I may very well vote for him. Probably will. But I’m not handwringing over ANY of this! Because a democrat who is a yellow dog would be better than any of the monsters. Any of them at all.

Oh, poor Barry G.

As for health care, come on. It’s clear the American people will have to be eased into it. Hence half-measures. I just HATE the way Hill et al are trying to do it!

Instead of partially socialized/insurance-based system for everybody, we should leave adults completely out of it for the time being... and do a completely socialist system for children. All kids, flat-out till they are 25. A pure entitlement, like free education. Americans are VASTLY more “socialistic” when it comes to kids than for adults (where we still feel we’re in the wild west.) We could have single payer for youths! Then the country could watch and see and get used to it and get the kinks out.

It’s what hillary shoulda done in 94. And Gingrich would’v stayed harmless.

For AG I want NY guv Eliot Spitzer. He was our sole source of corporate accountability when he was NY state AG and when Bush’s SEC became whores.

McCain would do one great thing. He’d force Obama to choose Wesley Clarke as VP. The choice Kerry should have made. The only choice, once Obama is no longer available to be VP. A wise old general. The last Marshallian diplomat-Statesman-general who actually won us a war.

I’ll give Z one point. Romney is the one gopper who the next dem should offer a cabinet appointment.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "Cool Challenges", it looks like we might not need to worry about the polar bears much longer, CO2 reductions or not.

Regarding health insurance, and setting aside for the moment the question of universal health insurance, something I've wondered about :

Since, upon switching health care insurance providers, they can deny claims based on "Pre-existing Conditions", shouldn't the law hold those same companies responsible to pay for "Continuing Conditions" of anyone who switches away from them?

Anonymous said...

TwinBeam, take a look at the "About Us" of the site you linked to.

It looks like the work of one guy with a pet theory. It's also kind of suspect that he has a "products" page. He seems to be in the business of providing F.U.D. for greenhouse skeptics.

Of course, he might be right. Heck, it would be easier to deal with cooling than warming. But he might also be a lone wackadoo who is only getting attention because his message is useful noise.

* * *

Cute quip from Bruce Sterling:

'To me, “sustainability” means a situation in which your descendants are able to confront their own problems, rather than the ones you exported to them. If people a hundred years from now are soberly engaged with phenomena we have no nouns and verbs for, I think that’s a victory condition.

On the other hand, if they’re thumbing through 1960s Small World paperbacks and saying “thank goodness we’ve finally managed to pare our lives back exclusively to soybeans and bamboo,” well, that’s not the end of the world, but it’s about as appealing as a future global takeover by the Amish.'

Anonymous said...

The importance of 'seasoning' comes to the fore only when you're dealing with a non-coalition candidate.

Huckabee is an Evangelical Candidate -- exactly the sort most likely to blow the Republican Coalition apart. Evangelicals were never supposed to win, only bring votes.

So, actually, I'd love to see him win the republican nomination. It would waste a lot of Wall Street money, and that's all to the good as well. Plus, the Wall Street crowd would have to find other votes to bring their corrupt message to the fore.

If McCain were to win the Republican Nomination, you would see a tattered alliance stumbling toward the general.

I would have a hard time picking between Clinton and Obama -- they have both embraced the Money, and not the People (despite Obama's viral marketing efforts, his record shows otherwise).

So how to pick, when both candidates support wall street? Well, one of the differentiations will be Vice President -- should either name Wesley Clark, I would probably give them the nod. Particularly Obama, as the odds of needing the Veep suddenly would be higher.

Tony Fisk said...

I agree that Obama is a bit green (as is our present leader, Kevin Rudd, although he's certainly tracking... so far)

Huckabee reminds me a bit of John Howard. I think I find him OK as a person, but he represents a set of values that aren't my set of values. (*especially* when it comes to patriarchal mindsets. View any politician with a 'we'll take care of you, don't you worry about that' attitude with suspicion)

Then again, there's 'vertical politics'...

I agree with Stefan: that 'Space and Science' article doesn't pass the smell test. The writing style doesn't strike me as all that professional, and news like this would have have been picked by other sources if it really was an official NASA release (and there's nothing on the NASA site about the sun going through major changes leading to a cooling. I'd have thought George Deutsch's successors would have been pretty quick to air *that* news, if it was news).

Anonymous said...

I think it would be much more accurate to say that Obamas odds of *realizing* he needed the Veep would be much higher.

Wes Clark can be Obamas terrorism/defense point man and VP without stepping on toes.

I keep harping on the healthcare thing in large part because it highlights the fact that he's listening to what the people want - and it leads me to believe he's going to be a little more open to listening to good advisors.

That's what his entire Presidency is going to hinge on - his ability to listen, and to make sound judgement.

While Edwards is far from my first choice as AG, I can certainly see him pulling an RFK going after the Mob when it comes to Corrupted Capitalism and recovery of a fraction of the WoT related looting!

sociotard said...

Hey, did anybody see the Wired article about Orexin A? It almost sounds like the "Liquid Sleep" from Dr. Brin's novel.

Anonymous said...

Which scene from one of your Uplift books is the best in a cinematic trailer sense? Not to toot your horn for you, but we're kind of spoiled for choice. However!

If I had to pick my PERSONAL favorite cinematic scene? Fiben and Sylvie escaping the psi-fence in The Uplift War, during the lightning storm. I think it'd be great because you could encapsulate all the salient elements of the novel in one movie teaser length trailer:
-A futuristic but strangely familiar looking city on Garth...
-Looming Gubru ships over the bay, casting down searchlights and hovering oppressively...
-Neo-Chimps, obviously...
-A sense of entrapment by the fence, and the struggle of the chimps to break it down, echoing Earthclan's struggles against the Eatees, pitting pure grit and determination against thousands of years of technology and tradition...
-And the thunderstorm, representing the natural laws of the universe that ultimately all sophonts are in awe of and must pay heed to.

Of course, if I can toss in my own two cents, I'd also like a trailer for "Piecework", centered around Perseph and Io travelling through the barren arctic night on the train. I'm biased, though, since that story is one my favorite pieces of writing of any kind.

David Brin said...

Dang, Adrael. What cool thoughts and moving ones. You inspire me to try and be a writer again. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Andrew, that story "on Digital Extremities" was fun, though not especially skilled in execution. Much better-written, I though, was the"Power of Two" story. Told in a very skilled manner by someone who writes action well. Could you go online at that site and say I said so?

Sure, and I agree. That storyline has a fun comic-book appeal.

Blake Stacey said...

There's some interesting stuff being said about the failures of prediction markets, with regard to the New Hampshire primary. Suspected modernist Joel Achenbach writes, "In retrospect, I regret posting that item about Obama turning water to wine."

Edward Ott said...

Mr. Brin i would love to see you launch an official contest for say a movie poster and another for a movie trailer of one of your books. that would be grat fun for all your fans and i do believ you would get a kick out of it to.

David Brin said...

To see the CG Society's past "SF Trailers Contest" go to:

or go directly to:

I will probably provide the grist for one of these. It's why I am asking about "favorite scenes."

Anonymous said...

My favorite scene from your books is from startide rising. Its been almost two decades since I read it but I still remember the scene where the Wazoon scout ship makes its suicide run to get the message to the crew of the seeker in spite of there Timbrini masters concern for their safety. To me it reflects the independence and maturity of a client race taking its own destiny into its own hands, and the fight for transparency and truth. I think of it every time I listen to a song on Enya’s newest album.

Tony Fisk said...

Sundiver is the logical start. The trouble is, to provide context, you have to show the brewing 'wolfling' issue with alien factions waiting to pounce on this race of upstarts, *and* the Sundiver mystery. (and it's been a long time since I read it and certain scenes have slipped my mind: I'd forgotten the Danikenites, although they feature in the second trilogy.)

Startide Rising offers more scope for visual drama. (eg Orley? looking up at a Tandu battlecruiser hovering overhead.) But haven't we seen enough space battles?

There's a scene from 'Brightness Reef' that would pose an interesting vignette, and an animation challenge. This is where there is a boat journey on a river and the crew and passengers (of several races) are having a jam session on deck. Can't remember the chapter but it's around where Emerson discovers that he can still sing.

Anonymous said...

"My son is getting bigger and stronger than me and he wants another novel from me before he finishes high school."

Why did I miss that before?

The time for gentle encouragement is over, folks. We need to work with young Master Brin and toughen him up for the job of keeping his dad's nose to the grindstone. Do we buy him a set of weights, or just smuggle him steroids? :-)

sociotard said...

*Sad music plays*

Richardson to End 2008 Presidential Bid,,-7212862,00.html

Oh well, you don't go to war with the army you want . . .

I don't know what my favorite line from Uplift would be, but I know my favorite line was when you described the Jophur priest as "Ranting and Reeking madly". That had me laughing for a good 20 minutes at least.

sociotard said...

I meant "I don't know what my favorite scene from uplift would be."

Anonymous said...

Turnaround is fair play, doctor... The fact that I now work as a professional writer (albeit in the gaming industry) is a direct result of your own work as a novelist and essayist. In fact, I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say a lot of us in the gaming industry are big, big fans of your work.

Case in point, the recent XBox 360 game "Mass Effect." I recently finished the game and was positively astounded by the similarities between it and the Uplift series. If you or any immediate family members have it laying around, check it out for a scene or two. You may get a chuckle out of it.

David Brin said...

adarael... thanks for the tip. We just bought a 360. Is Mass Effect appropriate for kids who have played Halo?

I wasn't looking to dump MORE $ on games, but...

Some years ago, the legendary Michel Kripalani of Presto Games (Journeyman Project etc) worked up a terrific proposal (approx 50 pages in great color with illos) for a dynamite game of KILN PEOPLE. The great thing about a KP game would have been many salutary effects on narrative & game play.

1) For the first time, having "multiple lives" actually makes sense. But you only get ahead if you get the head back!

2) The law still matters. Kill a (non-enemy) ditto and you might pay a fine. If you even inconvenience a Real Person, you could go to jail.

3) Infinite variety in available body types.

A perfect game! Ah well. I have others.

Anyone ever try ECCO THE DOLPHIN on Dreamcast? I wrote the lyrical intro for that one. Way cool... but typical luck.

Thanks guys, for fave scenes.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how much "seasoning" we want any candidates to get in the current toxic environment of corruption and lies, Dr. Brin. On the other hand, I'm not confident in the "end the culture war" rhetoric. Wars don't end until both sides stop, and the right wing noise machine has shown no sign of stopping. I'm still leaning toward Edwards, personally, since I think he's better on the issues.

Politics aside, I just saw this: Super Soaker Inventor Cuts Solar Power Costs over on /. There's a little more more technical details here. I'm not entirely clear on how this works. Somehow the heat oxidizes hydrogen, which circulates through a membrane where it gets reduced and heads to the other end of the stack to repeat the process? If it works though, I wonder if it will get commercialized in time to matter.

sociotard said...

Er, Dr. Brin? I think you would be morally offended to have a copy of "Mass Effect" in your home.

The problem is not blood and gore. Its no worse than Halo in that regard. There is one sex scene, but its PG-13 so that isn't the problem either.

The problem is that main character is a law enforcement agent with no accountability. None. Once the galactic government makes you a Specter you answer to nobody.

Not exactly the stuff we want the next generation of the Neo West to think is cool, is it?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that main character is a law enforcement agent with no accountability. None. Once the galactic government makes you a Specter you answer to nobody.

Hence, the villain also being a Specter. ;)

Also, one could file this under Acceptable Breaks From Reality so you can play as an evil bastard without being arrested/assassinated by the people traveling with you.

(I still haven't played the game, though.)

Tony Fisk said...

Is this 'Mass Effect' character's name Kinnison, perchance?

Speaking of no accountability, it would appear that a bit of 'pushback' is occurring wrt that incident in the Straits of Hormuz the other day.

US doubts over Iran boat 'threat'

So who did issue the threat?

David Brin said...

That new solar power system sounds terrific! If only it works. (Thanks. I’ll post this at top level, soon.)

Seems I'll be the guy interviewed a lot about the 1/21 Life After People show. Just saw it. Pretty good!

All right, here's the news. My wife has convinced me. We're going to back Obama.

Yes, you've heard my reservations. He's done nothing to prove himself and his rapid rise reeks of faddishness. And his names are screaming hints that we live in a simulation...

...none of which matters as much as:

1) He's had little opportunity to become dirty, and hence may actually be clean.

2) He is actually speaking to many of the things I have been saying. Like abandoning left-right vs forward-back. So, duh, I oughta back the guy I agree with.

3) He won't spur ten million demoralized republicans to slog to the polls through sleet and hail, the way Hillary will.

4) Instead of looking like a two-bit caudillo state, with two alternately ruling dynastic families, we'll look sleek and modern and with-it progressive!

5) With his physique, Obama will HAVE to choose some broad-shouldered, ex-military he-man as veep. I'll finally get Wes Clarke somewhere near where he belongs.

6) Except for several thousand dangerous wing nuts (boost the Secret Service!) most GOPAmericans won't dare use mud on him. At least for a while.

7) Bill Clinton will actually get to do more, with a longer leash, that Hillary would allow.

I could go on. But it seems good enough for me. Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

What I've heard from Edwards suggests he'd be a better fit policy-wise, but I would have no problem with Obama, for the reasons you specify. Especially 4). It would be deeply symbolic that we're past the whitey-patrician thing.

His candidacy and presidency would bring the mouth-breathing racist freaks out of their cabins and mothers' basements, though. I guess a side-benefit of that is that their unending vitriol might be to shame the GOP a bit toward the center, to better distance themselves from the whack-jobs.

Tony Fisk said...

Viewed from a distance, Obama reminds me of Kevin Rudd, who also had questions about his lack of experience raised during the Oz election campaign. (He still does, although so far, so good. My take on the choice Australians had to make is here).

Winds of change are blowing... but I agree that, while it's hard to think of a worse place than we are now, it would be nice to know where these winds are taking us!

Wandering back to sf gaming for a moment, has anyone heard of an Australian author called Terry Dowling? Apart from writing (and recently concluding) the intriguing and elusive Rynnosseros series, he's also been involved in a few adventure style games (eg Schizm, Mysterious Journey, the Sentinel).

The relevant bit of trivia being that he recently completed a PhD in creative writing whose dissertation component was titled: “The Interactive Landscape: New Modes of Narrative in Science Fiction”, which (from his site blurb) 'examines the computer adventure game as an important new area of storytelling'.

David Brin said...

Oh, you guys have GOT to see this:

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow. "I lol'd", as the phrase goes. That was great.

To defend Mass Effect for a moment, there's nothing inherently reprehensible in creating a game wherein a character is without accountability - the character's actions are morally blank, able to be determined completely by the player. The game is very careful to make certain that the moral decisions available belong to the player, and aren't somehow externally suggested as 'correct' as was the case with the Light Side and the Dark Side in KOTOR. I mean, what are your actions as a puppeter reflecting on, the game or your own modes of problem solving?

If your issue is with the fact that Spectres have no accountability, well...that's a judgement on a fundamentally flawed form of law enforcement, isn't it? Something many of the humans in the game express great concern over, and not without visible reasons for having them.

Insisting that a game force players into viewing right and wrong through the lens of the developers and writers prejudices would be a gross step backwards for gaming narrative, IMO. It's like the old dungeons and dragons rule (before AD&D) that you 'can't play evil characters'.

Well, why should my experience be limited by the designers' concept of evil? What makes their beliefs about morality more correct or refined than my own?

Anyway. I'll switch off my talky mode now, but I felt kind of compelled to stand in defense of what I felt to be a good design decision.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm ...

Always wondered who wrote the dialog for "Pulp Fiction".

Thanks, David!

sociotard said...

More sad news, Sir Edmund Hillary (as in the guy who climbed Everest) has died.

WRT "Mass Effect", I didn't have a problem with people choosing to play a more merciless, lawless character, though I prefered playing as Paragon myself. My problem was with allowing the illusion that having no accountability was ever a good thing. Token grumbling that it might kinda be bad was not good enough.

Larry C. Lyons said...

Just a quick comment about the Toshiba's small nuclear reactors. IT sounds like something Canada's NRC developed over 20 years ago for arctic communities. They called it a Nuclear Battery. It sounds like the Toshiba devices have the same dimensions as well.

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon the Malevolent here. Logon seems permanently dead)

Dr. Brin remarked:
"Look, Obama is ahead on most polemical or policy points, fine. And he may (may!) be less blackmailed and/or sold out. All terrific. I am STILL anxious about a guy who has DONE nothing for us whatsoever, has never governed a thing..."

The same could be said about most of our best American presidents. What government positions did Thomas Jefferson hold before he became president? He was a chronically in-debt slaveowner who screwed one of his slaves in a long-time sexually
abusive relationship. Regardless, Jefferson remains one of our better presidents. George Washington was a failed British army officer who got turned down for promotion. What did he ever govern before he became one of our best presidents?

Oh, and then there's Harry Truman, whose main claim to fame involved his failed haberdashery business. That's a huge recommendation -- try to run a business selling hats, and fail. Yet Truman was one of out best presidents. And how about
Teddy Roosevelt? True, he was governor of New York -- but at that time it was a sinecure post totally beholden to the Tweed political machine, which actually ran the city. T.R.'s greatest claim to fame
before he became president was his insubordinate decision to order the U.S. Navy into Manila in 1898 to sink the Spanish fleet while his boss, the Secretary of the Navy, was off on vacation. In the military that's a court-martial offense.
Yet T.R. was obviously one of our best presidents.

I'm intensely skeptical of the notion that any job can ever prepare a person to be president of the United States. It's just too complicatred and demanding, with too many unpredictable challenges -- there is no possible form of "training" for the presidency, so Obama's alleged "lack of experience" proves meaningless. Bill Clinton was a pretty good president, all things considered, and what was his "training?" He putzed around in a half-assed dirt-poor state run by the Tyson chicken combine. Not much of a reocmmendation for facing a decision whether to bomb Kosovo, is it? But Bill Clinton came through with flying colors on that one, as he did in the economy and so much else, including promoting science and making govenrment more transparent.

Much more worrisome: Obama's idealism and his lack of concrete proposals. Has anyone seen any detailed specifics about Obama's policy proposals? Does he even have any? For example, what about reinstating national usuary laws so predatory loan companies can't legally charge 400% interest, as it's legal to do today? What about forcing U.S. corporations to pay 30% of their corporate profits to theri workers the way Sarkozy is proposing in France, or forcing U.S. conglomerates to make 1 out of 5 of their board of directors a union representative, as is required by law in Germany? Or how about imposing a national job training system like the one in Singapore, where if a worker wants to learn a skill, the emplpoyer pays to train hi/r but then gets a contractual guarantee to use the worker at a negotiated payment rate for 10 years thereafter (at which point the now-skilled employee becomes a free agent, able to set his own wage scale)?

Of course Dr. Brin will likely chime in with canards about "socialism, ignoring the docuemnted fact (as Paul Krugman points out in his current nytimes op ed piece):

...I’d like to talk about a much-derided contender making a surprising comeback, a comeback that calls into question much of the conventional wisdom of American politics. I'm talking about...the European economy, which many Americans assume is tired and spent but has lately been showing surprising vitality.
Why should Americans care about Europe’s economy? Well, for one thing, it’s big. The G.D.P. of the European Union is roughly comparable to that of the United States; the euro is almost as important a global currency as the dollar; and the governance of the world financial system is, for practical purposes, equally shared by the European Central Bank and the Federal Reserve.
But there’s another thing: it’s important to get the facts about Europe’s economy right because the alleged woes of that economy play an important role in American political discourse, usually as an excuse for the insecurities and injustices of our own society.
...Are top U.S. executives grossly overpaid? According to a Times report, Michael Jensen, a professor emeritus at Harvard’s Graduate School of Business whose theories helped pave the way for gigantic paychecks, considers executive excess “an acceptable price to pay for an American economy that he believes has outstripped Japan and Europe in growth and prosperity.”
In fact, however, tales of a moribund Europe are greatly exaggerated. (..) Since 2000, employment has actually grown a bit faster in Europe than in the United States — and since Europe has a lower rate of population growth, this has translated into a substantial rise in the percentage of working-age Europeans with jobs, even as America’s employment-population ratio has declined.
In particular, in the prime working years, from 25 to 54, the big gap between European and U.S. employment rates that existed a decade ago has been largely eliminated. If you think Europe is a place where lots of able-bodied adults just sit at home collecting welfare checks, think again.
Meanwhile...the number of broadband connections per 100 people in the 15 countries that were members of the European Union before it was enlarged in 2004, is slightly higher than in the U.S. — and Europe’s connections are both substantially faster and substantially cheaper than ours.

Paul Krugman, The Comeback Continent, nytimes op ed page, 11 January 2008

Obviously, imitating Europe and actually implemented some rational social policies or common sense is considered "too extreme" and a "wild crazy idea" by people like Dr. Brin, who have drunk the von Mises-Hayek economic Kool Aid of the giant Ponzi scheme misnamed "globalized free trade" (AKA sneak thief scamming the rest of the world into poverty, along with the bottom 80% of Americans, for the enrichment of the top 20% of Americans.) So assuming European-style social justice and rational economic policies are out of the quesiton, how about something simpler? Say, like simply forcing all hospitals in America to use simple checklists when treating ICU patients, an innovation that has been proven to drop ICU mortality rates by 90% or more, yet which hospitals and doctors have systematically rejected?
Or how about ordering the FCC to reinstate the fairness doctrine and shut down Fox News, just put it out of business, and about about the FTC just breaking up the 4 giant monopolies that control all the TV shows and all the music CDs and all the books that are produced in America for obvious and flagrant violation of the anti-trust laws? And why doesn't Obama come out with a simple straightforward proposal to indict the Walton family for crimes against humanity, break up Wal-Mart for grotesque antitrust violations and human trafficking with their slave-labor sweatshops in the third world, and take the 90 billion dollars the Walton family has amassed through corruption and thievery and union-busting and illegal monopsony power, and use that 90 billion dollars (which is more than the net worth of the bottom 40% of the American population, greater than the total life saving of the bottom 120 MILLION Americans) and use to fund national healthcare?
Or how about just putting the Glass-Steagal act back in place and making it illegal for banks to get into the brokerage business and brokerages to get into the banking business, the way Merrill Lynch has with its flagrantly illegal CMA accounts?

These are basic, simple policy proposals that would remedy incredibly abusive chronic lawbreaking. Yet nobody seems to talk about 'em. Where corporations are concerned, apparently the fundamental idea of placing a cap on interest rates, which has been basic through human civilization since the beginning of time, is considered some kind of "commie socialist propaganda." What's up with that? Why isn't Obama interested in publicly requiring giant corporations to obey the law?

We have now reached the point where people who suggest that the president of the United States or the U.S. military or the biggest U.S. corporations should obey the law is publicly denounced from all sides as a "fringe radical" and "crazy" and "in need of therapy" and "a loose cannon" spouting "wild and crazy ideas."

Obama's idealism combined with his lack of concrete policy specifics worries me. JFK, like Obama, was a wonderful writer and an inspiring speaker -- but JFK was a rotten president. JFK foolishly agreed to install short-range nuclear ICBMS in Turkey, a dangerous provocation which led directly to the Cuban Missile Crisis and which Eisenhower wisely refused. Even worse, JFK got us into Viet Nam. If you listen to Kennedy's speeches, they sound wonderful...until you think about them for a second: "We will pay any price, bear any burden, in defense of liberty." Sounds like a justification for the current Iraq debacle, doesn't it?

I am not a big fan of JFK as a president even though as a speaker and as a person, he was incredibly inspriting. I worry about young politicians full of idealism...and Obama fits that bill.

More disturbingly, Dr. Brin enjoins us to look forward to the new year with "optimism," a diktat which seems either a cynical joke or a symptom of dementia, given what's going on in this country.

We should be "optimistic" because Europeans are now taller than Americans because of the American poverty and malnutrition and chronic lack of healthcare among U.S. children:

Yes, let's be "optimistic" about that beautiful new beautiful tomorrow where Europeans have higher social mobility than Americans:

Let's look foward to 2008 with buoyant delight, as America leads the world is preventable deaths from treatable diseases, while Europe has the lowest world death rate from preventable deaths for treatable diseases:

Yes, indeedy, 2008 promises boons aplenty for Americans, especially since Britain's standard of living has now risen above America's for the first time in a century:

We need to greet the marvellous new year with joyous optimism, since the Countrywide Savings CEO gets 110 million dollar severance package for helping create the subprime mortgage meltdown mess. Naturally, no criminal charges are filed.

Wake up, shout with joy and rush outside into the street in this grand glorious new year, where the supreme court just ruled that Guantanamo torture victims can't sue their torturers because the torture was "incidental" to their illegal imprisonment without charges and without a trial:

And remember -- our military are the best of American society, the "highest-educated clade" according to Dr. Brin, in which that missing pregnant female marine who claimed she was raped by senior officers found dead in shallow grave:

Yes sirree, that highly-educated clade running the U.S. Army studied history and legal precedents and made the wise deicsion to throw out the court martial conviction of the Abu Ghraib commander, assuring that not a single person in the U.S. military will be held responsible for the Abu Ghraib torture -- certainly cause for all of us to shotu with joyful optimism:,,2239142,00.html

If the police force were run the way the U.S. army is, random people on the street would be shot on sight or tortured to death, and the police would never be held accountable. Oh, wait -- that's already

(SWAT team serving drug warrant shoots mother and one-year-old child to death. Ho-hum. Just another
day in the police state.)

Let's march forward with optimism into the great glorious future! It's going to be a great big beautiful torture-filled corruption-riddled police-murdering-innocent-bystanders military-officers-raping-and-murdering-junior-officers tomorrow, filled with corrupt CEOs and malnourished U.S. children!

David Brin said...

Z, please! “What government positions did Thomas Jefferson hold before he became president?”
Whaaaaa? Um... Twice Governor of Virginia - during wartime? Founder of the University of Virginia? Secretary of State AND Vice President? The man was the best prepared EVER!

Um... George Washington ran the entire Continental Army, won our independence and proved himself a master delegator, saving the republic twice from military coups.

Harry Truman, before he became President was... um... VICE president? After being a vastly more dynamic and effective senator than any of those running today.
Um Teddy Roosevelt? He was given the Vice Presidency in order to ease him OUT of the powerful position of NY Governor, where he was giving trusts a helluva time, just like Elliot Spitzer today.

Zorgon, you are a bright guy, but you score FAR below zero, this time... screamingly and diametrically wrong on every count. Sorry, but you have GOT to start out better, if you want people to keep reading a lengthy screed.

Xactiphyn said...

While I'm fairly excited about Obama, I completely agree that his inexperience is an issue.

But I don't understand all the complaints about lack of detail. In today's internet age all the candidates have lots of detail; at least all the Democrats do.

Go to and drill down to your heart's content. In reality, this level of detail means little once the real legislative process begins, but it is good to see what the candidate would prefer.

Should he go into more policy details on the campaign trail? Perhaps. But this is a strategic choice, not lack of content or detail.

Anonymous said...

Zorgon: The only candidate who's said anything along those lines has been John Edwards. Hillary Clinton's certainly not going to be the candidate who fights corporate power.

The most hopeful thing for me is how Obama and Clinton have started cribbing from Edwards' positions on a bunch of things, because he's made it conceivable to take those positions. If his candidacy has accomplished nothing else, he's definitely pushed the Overton window.

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon the Malevolent again.)

Thanks for the corrections. On reflection, I must agree -- Dr. Brin in 100% right and I'm completely dead wrong about Obama. I would now have to agree with concerns about Obama's lack of experience, and this has actually made me change my mind about the issues. While I still favor Edwards, I have to see Obama is no longer my second choice.

They say debate never changes anyone's mind, but that's not true. Facts and logic will do it. I concede to Dr. Brin's facts.

By the way, it seems clear that criticisms against Hillary's alleged lack of experience won't fly. She was clearly deeply involved in policy in the Clinton presidency, and of course she spearheaded the health care initiative.

As for Obama's poiicy positions...the problem with reading all that stuff on the website is that it's very hard to be sure that it actually connects with Obama himself. Does anyone think any of the candidates actually wrote all those position papers on their websites? It's virtually certain that some anonymous wonk staffer pounded that stuff out, and I'm by no means certain that Obama (or any of the other candidates) have even read that stuff.

This is why it seems so important to me that candidates talk about their policy positions on the stump, instead of wallowing in vague generalities. If a candidate can explain and defend a specific policy, that goes some way toward assuring us that the candidate actually owns those positions, instead of just vaguely pointing to some white paper banged out by a nameless staffer.

I'd have to go back and study news coverage, but didn't the drunk-driving C student who currently infests ths Oval Office put up a bunch of superficially impressive white papers on his website that were actually written by anonymous staffers back inn the year 2000? And didn't he then throw all of that overboard the instant he got into office? In retrospect the warning sign is that he wouldn't talk about his specific positions...because he didn't believe 'em. He just fed us pabulum about "compassionate conservatism" and "a humble nation that will not engage in nation-building." To me, it's a big red danger signal when a candidate refuses to talk about policy specifics. It suggests all the position papers are a pack of lies.