Monday, May 05, 2008

Signs of Life Still in the Enlightenment

Time for another scan across news and links that show a society still in motion... reminding us that we can keep the Great Experiment going, whether or not the politicians step in to save us...

Still, let's start with a glimpse of what the other side has in mind for us.

Stefan Jones saw the “comedian” Ben Stein, whose humor-schtick is to act as tediously dull as possible, promoting his sick new “documentary” Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. From the interview on Trinity Broadcasting:

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Crouch: Good word, good word.

To which I gotta respond -- monstrous. Monstrous.

Here’s Stefan’s reaction:

“That's . . . disgusting. And f@#$ing lie. Does Stein believe that humanity never indulged in massacres and murder before The Origin of Species was published? Or that religion was never used to justify pogroms, extermination of native peoples, forced conversion, and slavery? I am ashamed to live in a country where the media treats this jerk (among others) as a trusted commentator.”

Oh, I don’t go that far. After all, Stein earned his fame and cred, fair and square, as the guy who droned the word “Bueller” over and over again, while gape-mouth teenagers drooled in boredom. Still, if we cannot return this nation to a path where such people -- and media -- are seen as marginalized loons, then we really are in big trouble.

Dig it, I lost as many relatives to those gas chanbers as Stein did, only:

(1) I didn’t turn my back on my people, as he has,

(2) Percapita, it was the scientists of Germany who fought Hitler hardest and then left, rather than serve him. Certainly at a higher ratio than churchmen! Goebbels railed against physics, modern astronomy, genetics and (yes) evolution as “Jewish and decadent sciences.” Especially against evolution.

(3) Hitler was waging war foremost against the Western Enlightenment (as well as Jews and communists). Though he despised Christianity in principle, he was fine with co-opting it and incorporating it in propaganda. There were christian chaplains serving the SS at every hellish camp. But you’d find NO exemplars of the “priests” of the Enlightenment -- questioning scientists, questioning lawyers and writers, questioning citizens -- except inside the wire.

I could go on with about fifty more reasons that Stein and his promoters are personifications of everything that caused Auschwitz. But suffice it to say that we owe him a debt of gratitude. The pretense is over. He has said it openly. Till, now, the fundies have been claiming that they respect science but only want it opened up a bit. Now the real party line has been drawn. It is the fundies against science. Not fighting for openness in classrooms. Not seeking equal time. But hating the very thing that made our Great Experiment possible. Sons and daughter of Ben Franklin, stand up.


As you know, I have long been involved in the debates over extraterrestrial intelligence. I am helping to organize what I hope will be the first eclectic international conference to discuss the merits (or faults) of METI or “message to ETI” -- which you can read about here. For almost thirty years, I’ve been trying to lay out the range of possible explanations for what I coined “The Great Silence” -- the quandary of why the cosmos appears to not only have no other (blatant) voices nearby, but shows no (as-yet blatant) sings of ever having been crisscrossed by advanced civilizations.

Now, “Mr. Existential Catastrophe, Oxford’s Nick Bostrum, has weighed in with a vastly entertaining - if worrisome - view that any discovery of past or present life on Mars or Europa would have to be viewed as very bad new. Read Nick Bostrom's  “Where are they? Why I hope the search for extraterrestrial life finds nothing“ in MIT's Technology Review.

Alas, nobody seems interested in looking at this problem from a truly comprehensive approach. If you’d like to see the one time it was tries, see my article: “The Great Silence: The Controversy Concerning Extraterrestrial Intelligent Life.” Still, Bostrum’s popularized article lays down the challenge that we face -- to grow up past our present dangers and get mature enough to be worthy to be the helpers of others, out there. In fact, my new novel is about these "existential threats.


Tru-Vu goggles anyone?

Finally saw last year’s sci fi film Sunshine. Terrible title and the film had many flaws. But I recommend it as refreshingly different, totally non-Hollywood and non-formulaic in its style and story-arc.

Inside The World's First Billion-Dollar Home. And these people actually expect to keep this place? History is never read by those who need most to understand it.

Here's a real cute web site for science/math lovers

Attention all uplifters... A Harvard researcher discusses humaniqueness,” the factors that make human cognition special. Recently, scientists have found that some animals think in ways that were once considered unique to humans: For example, some animals have episodic memory, or non-linguistic mathematical ability, or the capacity to navigate using landmarks. However, despite these apparent similarities, a cognitive gulf remains between humans and animals. Hauser presents four distinguishing ingredients of human cognition, and shows how these capacities make human thought unique: the ability to combine and recombine different types of information and knowledge in order to gain new understanding; to apply the same “rule” or solution to one problem to a different and new situation; to create and easily understand symbolic representations of computation and sensory input; and to detach modes of thought from raw sensory and perceptual input. (I’ll bet exceptions will be found, as were, for every other criterion.)

The Secret China-U.S. Hacking War.

Autism may be linked to a diminished sense of self. Watching brain activity during a quid-pro-quo game, scientists found that high-functioning autistics tended to treat the “other” player the way most people do, when playing vs a computer. (So, are we creating a world that is more suitable to them?)

Meanwhile, as expected (you saw it here) there has arisen an autistic rights movement, demanding that the condition not be considered a deficiency at all, but simply another part of human diversity.

Retina implant receives signals, energy wirelessly.

DARPA wants to develop Vulture... a robot plane that could stay aloft for up to 5 years...


This popular, much viraled video seems too good to be true. It cannot be a complete hoax (see the number of other YouTubed views of the same creature, available right next to this one.) Oh, of course the creature was carefully trained, as part of a money-making scheme. And yet, there can be no doubt that it knows what it is doing, and ratchets up our respect, by doing it. And now fans are demanding that I "uplift" elephants. I have! in a recent story...

...and finally...


Sociotard contributed: “Did you see PETA's new prize for test tube meat? One Million to anybody who can make chicken tissue grow without inconveniencing a chicken.” Great stuff! Note that science fiction novels were talking about tissue cultured meat 50 or 60 years ago. Pohl, Kornbluth etc. If it results in far greater food efficiency, I can think of few innovations that would go farther to improve the world. (Beef too!)

Note, also, that this reflects the new mood of liberalism... a turn toward pragmatic problem solving that includes a renewed willingness to negotiate over nuclear power. (Anyone out there willing to sift around and get us some links on that?) If liberalism does fiercely take up a can do, pro-technology, problem-solving ethos, it will complete the trouncing of troglodytic neoconservatism and truly win America’s Civil War Part III.

Nancy Pelosi? Are you listening? Restore Congress’s scientific advisory commissions!

No single act would better show that you are part of this new wave.


David Brin said...

Orangutan attempts to hunt fish with spear

David Brin said...

Friedman is having one of his good days:

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin: do you have any thoughts on the "DC Madam", Deborah Pelfrey? It seems awfully suspicious that she swore she wouldn't kill herself and her black book was due to be unsealed next week.

Anonymous said...

Or the mass media's use of hand-picked employees of the Pentagon as "military analysts"? The news blackout on that seems to be continuing.

Matt DeBlass said...

Re: Science vs. Religion

I've often gently argued, when the topic came up, that scientists are doing exactly what God wanted us to do. Science is the Task of Adam.

In Genesis, Adam is given a job: name all the animals.
We still haven't finished that one!

I figure we can extrapolate that into a divine decree to learn and explore.

Woozle said...

Forbes link has apparently changed; it's here now.

David Brin said...

Of course it's suspicious, like a thiller novel/movie and there certainly will be some that spin off this.

But note also that there are other, less garish but very plausible psychological scenarios. Swearing not to suicide, then doing so, in ORDER to shake up the world.

A key point. If she were that obsessive about seeing the truth come out, there'd be a dozen copies of her records, now spinning out across the web. She could have posted the images in some web corner, needing only a friend to release a URL, upon her death.

David Brin said...

Name the beasts is a frequent riff I use, Matt. In exactly the way you describe.

The most deeply offensive thing about fundies - even more than their nasty streak of intolerance and will-to-repress - is their unwillingness to recognize that, if there is a close-involved God, then science IS revelation. Its vast implications are theological to an extreme-degree and overwhelm all previous revelations, by far. Vague testimony from millennia ago? A billion sermons emerge from laboratories, every day.

And now, guys, I must sign off from commentary. Till next time!

Midford said...

The link to the story about Marc Hauser's four unique features of human cognition was broken. I found it here.

David McCabe said...

Damn, I just watched the trailer for Sunshine and they told me the entire plot. I recommend not doing that.

Has the phrase "blood libel against civilization" been mentioned here, regarding Stein?

Man, I wish I could get worked up about fundies anymore, but I've heard this and more before.

Tony Fisk said...

Signing off?

And just as I was going to ask what the ETA on the novel was!

(I guess the answer is 'sooner if you don't answer!')

Anonymous said...

Speaking of viral videos (I realize it's a bit late - but amusing nonetheless). I got this in on the tail end of a thread a few weeks back and felt the need to share it again. (besides, what's the worst that could happen? Being criticized, or ignored?) I'll take my chances as I wish to try and contribute in spreading productive memes.

First off, your request for someone to do a viral video of bush Clinton Clinton Bush.

I found one. very corny, but also rather catchy, and it brings the point of a dynasty home in a slightly creepy way (like a bad nightmare after cold pizza)

Second, a little dated (after only two weeks) how Hillary can still win. Quite clever in both pointing out the delegate math, as well as some of her more 'destructive' behaviors.

On the current topic, I think that Stein is an example (similar to the neocons) of someone who can be very bright, and yet have massive blind spots in knowledge (for which CITOKATE is the most potent antidote). That or he's a sell-out (which IMO, might at least be a hair more respectable)

candace said...

I've actually done a lot of research on the topic of science during the Third Reich, and at the risk of being labeled a fundie like Stein (although I am actually atheist, and a big supported of the scientific community), science was used for evil at that time -- and I'm not even talking about Cyclon B.

It's been a while since I've written on the topic, but there are a few points that I remember well. For one, and probably most importantly, Hitler tried to use science to legitimize his vendetta against the Jews. During his reign, subjects involving heredity and genetics actually became very popular at universities, with the main lesson of most classes such as these being that certain peoples were genetically inferior to others.

Hitler and the Nazis truly believed in their ideology, so they were sure that science would eventually prove them right. So, during the Holocaust, they performed countless (and horribly cruel) experiments on people, in the name of science.

Then, aside from trying to prove that the people send to camps were genetically inferior, many experiments were performed to test human limits. Pressure experiments were done to see what altitudes German pilots could fly at before dying, and some prisoners were thrown outside naked in the cold to see how long the human body could sustain itself in extreme conditions.

Now, I'm not saying what Stein said was valid, because I completely disagree with his point. But, I don't think your quote about scientists should be interpreted as the scientific community rallying against Hitler, because it didn't.

sociotard said...

For those who believe in omens:

Just days ago, Sen. Hillary Clinton asked volunteers in Louisville, KY to "bet on the filly" in the Kentucky Derby. At a later event in Indiana that day, Clinton told the audience that she asked Chelsea, who attended the derby, to put a bit of money on Eight Belles, the only filly in the race.

Sadly -- after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby yesterday -- Eight Belles broke her front ankles in the race and was euthanized shortly thereafter.

Incidentally, the winner of the race was named Big Brown

I don't believe in omens, really. I just find it amusing. (except for the part about the animal dying)

Anonymous said...

On Autism: it is clearly important, but not as important as why more people are diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum disorder? One reason is better diagnoses, another the criteria. But what if there was a cultural component? Structure and predictability are important to many autistics, so were previous societs, say pre-1914, more structured (socially) and predictable? Present society is highly unpredictable and unstructured. I don't mean that diagnoses are wrong or unjustified, I just find the rising number of people with Asperger's, PDD-NOS odd.

Would curing Autism be like uplifting?

B. Dewhirst said...

I'm very glad to see that Stein has gone too far for your militant moderation. We've got a ways to go until we're to the point where the religious are leaving the irreligious alone to an extent where the irreligious can afford to live and let live.

JuhnDonn said...

Uplifted Elephants? Kinda' cranky, though. Still, there can be humorous moments.

Anonymous said...

There is a very good argument saying that farmers just had less to worry about, and thus didn't see autism as much. Loners, and just a less stressful life.

For the last few millenia, we have been creating societies at a rate far faster than most evolutionary pressures. It should come as no surprise that new societies reveal new psychological weaknesses.

Methinks Ben Stein deserves a haunting.

There were decent science experiments conducted in the death camps. Mengele's were not decent. That said, any 'scientist' who could work under such conditions has abandoned his humanity.

Alex Tolley said...

Good post.

1. Stein. normally I would say, just ignore him and let his silly movie die from lack of interest and exposure. However, I think it has gone too far in this case and needs serious debunking. Alas, scientists are not the ones to do this, as it just creates more of teh atmosphere of "them against us". We really need some religious folks to stand up and denounce this movie and explain why it is wrong. That this is not apparently happening seems to support Sam Harris's contention about religious moderates essentially supporting the extremists by not saying anything.

2. METI. While I doubt that there is likely much harm that can come from deliberately signaling our presence, I do agree that there should be some substantial agreement about taking those actions. It may well be that the Fermi paradox is a result of a failure of our imaginations to understand what advanced aliens would be like. The SETI program is much like primitive tribesmen beating drums and assuming that other people will do the same to communicate. Are there any drums banking in the developed nations offering signals to New Guinean tribes to hear? So more power to you in getting this discussion held, and ensure the SF writers are involved to offer imaginative scenarios for why the FP seems to exist. On this note, I found Bostrum's arguments unimaginative and flawed, hardly worth the attention they got.

3. Cultured meat. About time. When perfected that would be a boon. But expect the fundies to denounce it as "unnatural" and against "God's will".

David Brin said...

Got to step back in on this one.

Yes, Candace, the Nazis claimed to use science to back up their romantic dogmas. So did the Communists. Both of them parroted rhythmic, polysyllabic sounds that squawked in patterns that tried to sound scientific-ish...

...and both were packs of utter imbecilles. Sure, some science happened anyway, after the Nazis drove their best scientists away and the soviets sent theirs to camps or into dogma-driven "institutes." But that was in inverse correlation to the degree the party meddled.

The "heredity research" under the nazis was doggie doodoo and had far more in common with fanatical religion than science. Tendentious is too soft a word.

No the scientists did not rally against hitler in an organized way. But they wrote against him while they could, and then left, in droves. Leaving that bright dope Heisenberg to run their physics/nuclear programs, so foolishly that the OSS operative sent to assassinate him decided to let him live and keep harming their progress.

BD, Stein's remarks were so aggressive and deliberately intolerant that your remark is stunningly bizarre. We have a right to defend ourselves.

In fact atolley, I expect most fundies to roll with the punch when cultured meat appears. Conservatives are FAR more adaptable than liberals. (e.g. their ability to forget every past occasion when they were wrong, e.g. civil rights -- just watch how they'll deny they ever doubted global warming!)

In contrast, lefties are often sullen, intransigent, puritan, purist and unable to shift in the face of evidence. I hope this nuke thing proves me wrong. (And thus proves me non-intransigent! ;-)

But cattle raisers and corn-feed growers, they will rail against tissue cultured meat.

And now I really gotta stop.

ERic said...

Cultured meat.

Then there's the difficulty of defining organic cultured meat.


Anonymous said...

Soylent Green is... oh well. Everyone knows.

Alex Tolley said...

David Brin: "Conservatives are FAR more adaptable than liberals." and "lefties are often sullen, intransigent, puritan, purist and unable to shift in the face of evidence".

Are we confusing liberalism and left-wingism? I appreciate that it is used synonymously in the US, but we should be careful about its use. Liberalism is generally associated with a willingness to consider all ideas and change opinions in regard to changing data. Left wingers are more about political ideas associated with socialism and communism - the traditional left wing of the political spectrum. Experience tells me that these people tend towards ideology and are indeed unlikely to change.

True liberals, OTOH, will change their opinions. Thus as regards the nuclear issue, liberals will start to embrace it, albeit with a healthy skepticism due to mining and processing waste disposal, while ideological "greenies" will never accept it, even as they freeze.

I consider myself a liberal, in the classic sense. I will consider all ideas, choosing those that are best supported by data and I will, like Keynes, change my mind if the data changes. That is what the Enlightenment is about, may it continue indefinitely.

B. Dewhirst said...

BD, Stein's remarks were so aggressive and deliberately intolerant that your remark is stunningly bizarre. We have a right to defend ourselves.

You've of course a right to interpret anything you wish as overly aggressive and deliberately intolerant, however my conception of what constitutes deliberately offensive statements, of what constitutes aggression, do not necessarily match your own, and I feel yours is an untenably subjective definition to go by. From my point of view, you do an awful lot of 'shelling your own side' in defending religious moderates as 'sensible.' You regularly call for an end to the culture war... which, from my perspective, is a bit like you scolding a small child and a bully both for scrapping, while the bully pounds the child's face in.

For example, you're no doubt aware of the Pew studies which show Americans are exceedingly intollerant of atheism-- over half of Americans report they wouldn't vote for an atheist for President.

As for Stein's comments being extreme, similar scientic polls show 44% of Americans believe Jesus will be returning in their lifetimes, roughly half don't believe in evolution, etc.

So long as you allow the poles of Overton windows to define your worldview, though, (by repeatedly praising the virute of moderate positions for their own sake) you'll be wrong every time the true answer lies at an extreme.

That you dogmatically believe correct answers will almost always lie between two extremes, and the remarks this moves you to make, can easily be construed by those with differing views as overly aggressive and deliberately offensive. (I'm aware you belive you have evidence to support the case that this has historically been true. I believe you're suffering from confirmation bias, and are ignoring counterfactual evidence.)

This remark on this subject, from my perspective, is a departure from your longstanding policy of trying to see the good in both sides... of course, this time, the blow is aimed squarely at your own chin. I seem to recall reading something about outrage being a drug from a certain author, commentator, and blogger...

Of course, I praised your remarks because I agreed with them, but it seems you don't have a very rigorous foundation for why you've departed from this both-sides stance-- unless, of course, you've allowed yourself a special excemption to the advice you give to others.

B. Dewhirst said...

shorter dewhirst:

If you want to come out of your tent and fight the culture war, then fine, come out of your tent... but don't apologise for it, and don't immediately stick your head back under it!

Golem said...

Mr. Brin,

First. I cannot sufficiently express my disappointment and outrage in Ben Stein. I feel that he has indulged in intellectual dishonesty.

Second. I would like to ask you about this comment:

"I didn’t turn my back on my people, as he has"

How did Ben Stein turn his back on his people?

Travc said...

Asimov had a good idea regarding the 'silence' problem/paradox (mentioned in The Martian Way if my memory serves). Omni-directional transmission is horribly inefficient, and civilizations typically progress through that stage of communications technology (to using highly directional transmissions) over a very very short time frame.

I find that to be generally a good point. Omni transmission has benefits, but mostly at lowish power. Beyond maybe 100km, it is just much more effective to use a directional antenna (even if it is swept thought a plain). These lowish power omni signals just get lost in the background noise over interstellar distances.

Of course, there another angle to the 'silence' problem. Perhaps (and I find this fairly compelling) the vast majority of intelligences are not expansionary like us humans are at the moment. If it is typical for intelligent species to adopt a 'sustainable' ethic, then large interstellar civilizations could be exceedingly rare.

JuhnDonn said...

F.B.I Raids Office of Special Counsel

Looks like the F.B.I.'s checking in to the computers/files of Scott Bloch; appointed by Bush in 2003, to 'enable and protect' whistle blowers and government employees from politicization of their jobs.

The office of the official responsible for protecting federal workers from political interference was raided by F.B.I. agents on Tuesday as part of an investigation into whether he himself mixed politics with official business.

The raid took place at the office of Scott J. Bloch, the head of the Office of Special Counsel. Computers and documents were seized by agents trying to determine whether Mr. Bloch obstructed justice by hiring an outside company to “scrub” his computer files, The Associated Press reported. Investigators were also said to be obtaining a subpoena to search Mr. Bloch’s home.
-N.Y. Times

Anonymous said...

So, the agency designated to root out corruption and protect whistleblowers is run by another Republican crook?

Wow, I'm so surprised!

I really, really hope this all comes to a head soon. I want to see every Republican up for reelection have to run with the Bush administration's monstrous legacy hanging over is or her head. I want to see opposition ads featuring pictures of them buddying around with Bush. I want them totally humiliated and defeated for what they let happen to this country.

And if the Democrats pull the same crap, they deserve the same. Accountability and transparency need to be a campaign issue.

Golem said...

"I want them totally humiliated and defeated for what they let happen to this country."

What exactly did they let happen to this country?

"And if the Democrats pull the same crap, they deserve the same."

What makes you think the Democrats wouldn't pull "the same crap" (whatever that is)?

Anonymous said...

"If you gotta ask, you ain't ever gonna know."

sociotard said...

Cracked Magazine (a comedy magazine) did a piece on "the five psychological experiments that prove that humanity is doomed."

Cracked is, again, only a humor website and I've seen more than a few errors in their lists, but they are always good for laughs, and sometimes they start fascinating voyages of discovery. I'm certainly going to look up those experiments to see which aren't as bad as they seem.

Golem said...

Anonymous said...

"If you gotta ask, you ain't ever gonna know."

Thank you for a most enlightening comment.

Anonymous said...

I want them totally humiliated and defeated for what they let happen to this country.

The republican Party and it's financial backers did not let anything happen to this country, they made it happen.

It has been their goal to roll back the new deal and the progressive era for the last fifty years and they have used every tool available to them to do this and are on the edge of success.

Golem said...

sillyperson, your comments make as much sense as those of Stein and his supporters.

Anonymous said...

Re: the "silence" problem:

I've said before, I really find amusement in the possibility that one day the physicists who are heads-down over the quantum entanglement experiments will eventually find a way to send usable amounts of information through whatever medium within which it occurs...

...only to find the bandwidth quite thoroughly occupied...

Anonymous said...

sillyperson, your comments make as much sense as those of Stein and his supporters.

Wages, Wealth and Politics

he New Gilded Age, 1980-?: Big gains at the very top, stagnation below. Between 1980 and 2004, real wages in manufacturing fell 1 percent, while the real income of the richest 1 percent — people with incomes of more than $277,000 in 2004 — rose 135 percent.

What’s noticeable is that except during stagflation, when virtually all Americans were hurt by a tenfold increase in oil prices, what happened in each era was what the dominant political tendency of that era wanted to happen.

Franklin Roosevelt favored the interests of workers while declaring of plutocrats who considered him a class traitor, “I welcome their hatred.” Sure enough, under the New Deal wages surged while the rich lost ground.

What followed was an era of bipartisanship and political moderation; Dwight Eisenhower said of those who wanted to roll back the New Deal, “Their number is negligible, and they are stupid.” Sure enough, it was also an era of equable growth.

Finally, since 1980 the U.S. political scene has been dominated by a conservative movement firmly committed to the view that what’s good for the rich is good for America. Sure enough, the rich have seen their incomes soar, while working Americans have seen few if any gains.

Gap in Wealth In U.S. Called Widest in West

Economic inequality has been rising in the United States since the 1970's. Since 1992, when Bill Clinton charged that Republican tax cuts in the 1980's had broadened the gap between the rich and the middle class, it has become more sharply focused as a political issue.

Many of the new studies are based on the data available then, but provide new analyses that coincide with a vigorous debate in Congress over provisions in the Republican Contract With America.

Indeed, the drive by Republicans to reduce Federal welfare programs and cut taxes is expected, at least in the short term, to widen disparities between rich and poor.

Federal Reserve figures from 1989, the most recent available, show that the richest 1 percent of American households -- with net worth of at least $2.3 million each -- have nearly 40 percent of the nation's wealth. By contrast, the richest 1 percent of the British population has about 18 percent of the wealth there -- down from 59 percent in the early 1920's.

By the Numbers

The top one percent of households received 21.8 percent of all pre-tax income in 2005, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s. (The top one percent's share of total income bottomed out at 8.9 percent in 1976.) This is the greatest concentration of income since 1928, when 23.9 percent of all income went to the richest one percent. (Piketty and Saez)

The above figures include capital gains, which are strongly affected by the ups and downs of the financial markets. Excluding capital gains, the richest one percent claimed 17.4 percent of all pre-tax income in 2005, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s. (It bottomed out at 7.8 percent in 1973.) This is the greatest concentration of income since 1936, when the richest one percent received 17.6 percent of total income. (Piketty and Saez)

Between 1979 and 2005, the top five percent of American families saw their real incomes increase 81 percent. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth saw their real incomes decline 1 percent. (Census Bureau)

In 1979, the average income of the top 5 percent of families was 11.4 times as large as the average income of the bottom 20 percent. In 2005, the ratio was 20.9 times. (EPI, State of Working America 2006-07, Figure 1J)

All of the income gains in 2005 went to the top 10 percent of households, while the bottom 90 percent of households saw income declines. (EPI Snapshot, March 28, 2007)

Unprecedented levels of capital income are fueling inequality in the current business cycle. In the third quarter of 2006, the share of corporate income going to capital (profits and interest) hit an all-time high of 23 percent, with the remaining 77 percent going to employee compensation. Since capital income disproportionately goes to the top of the income scale, this shift towards capital income increases the income gap. (EPI Snapshot, Jan. 17, 2007)

And if you think that this change in the distribution of wealth and income that has occurred over the last thirty years is not the result of republican policies I have a bridge to sell you...

And if you think those policies sprung out of thin air, I would suggest that you read Rick Perlstein's "Before the storm", it took lots of time and money to shape public opinion against the new deal.

Tony Fisk said...

Golem, sillyperson's last comment (but one) is a fairly concise summary of what Brin has been saying for at least the last four years. You appear to be new here so, rather than restate the case, you might like to start with 'The Clinton Gambit'

Anonymous said...

>billion dollar home
Link changed.

Found via the search at the root:

Travc said...

praxcelis, unfortunately it appears that entanglement will never allow transmission of info FTL. The EPR paradox makes it seem like it is possible, but the 'information' does not exist until the observer and the sender get together via a classical channel and compare notes... in retrospect they can say that the sender changed the state of the entangled particle, but only in retrospect. It all actually makes sense since there is such a thing as negative information (and negative entropy).

As an aside, it is provable (at least at the blackboard physics level) that the entropy of the universe is actually constant, which we might as well set to 0 (being as good an arbitrary constant as any).

I do love the notion of finding some great new medium for communications and discovering it is chock full of messages already. Though my favorite scenario is a time-machine (photon loop) where the experimenters send a photon (or particle even) back through time... I imagine that such is built and tested, but only noise is ever read from it regardless of what is sent in (afterwards)... Of course, it could work perfectly yet be receiving messages from all possible futures (which would be indistinguishable from noise).

Of course an alternative scenario for such a device would be, once it is turned on, masses of time travelers from the future start popping up.

Acacia H. said...

It's three in the morning! The phone rings! Who's on the other end? It's Indiana...and they voted for Obama.

This is too close to call. I made a prediction on Daily Kos that it would end up 50.01/49.99 with Obama squeaking a win... and it's starting to look like I was being prophetic. No doubt we won't know the true winner for ten more days... when the provincial votes are counted.

Rob H.

Travc said...

Rob... not quite. Looks like Clinton won in Indiana by >2% (22.5k votes out of 1254k) with 99% precincts reporting.

Of course, considering she got trounced in NC by >230k votes... yeah, she has really really lost. Yeah, she will win WV and a couple more of the remaining contests, but there is nothing which can be a 'game changer' for her now (aside from some sort of Obama implosion or assassination).

Oh, and there is the GOP meddling operation 'chaos' effect (sounds like something Butters from South Park would come up with). Some people are floating that the effect there may be as big as 7% (though I don't buy their methodology)... certainly it is conceivable that >23k of her votes came from Repugs who have no intention of voting Dem in the fall.

Note: I have absolutely nothing against (hopefully former) Republicans voting in the Dem primary, so long as they actually prefer the candidate they are voting for over the GOP nominee. Otherwise, it is reprehensible and quite possible illegal in some states.

Anonymous said...

The illegality has to do with loyalty oaths, which is a stupid thing for parties to be doing in the first place...

If someone chooses Obama over Hillary, they should at least like Obama better than Hillary. That's kinda basic. I'm willing to let someone start there, and consider Obama versus McCain next.

Then again, there's a bit of psychology going on there -- if you have a personal stake (voting, contributing, volunteering) you're more likely to be swayed by someone's arguments.

Anonymous said...

Look at Huckabee's continuing support.


Anonymous said...

FYI, "First Time In World History, Killer Whales Filmed Hunting Dolphins"

DrGaellon said...

But you’d find NO exemplars of the “priests” of the Enlightenment -- questioning scientists, questioning lawyers and writers, questioning citizens -- except inside the wire.

No, sorry, I have to disagree with you. Josef Mengele and his ilk were "scientists."

Travc said...

DrGaellon, how long did it take the scientific (and medical) community to denounce what Mengele did? What sorts of protections against such abuses in the future have scientists and doctors adopted as a result?

Now ask the same thing about the Church?

This kind of reminds me of Eddie Izzard's bit on 'Executive Transvestite'. Mengele was a doctor yes, a fucking immoral doctor.
EDDIE IZZARD-weirdo or executive transvestite??

B. Dewhirst said...

If he was a scientist... which peer-reviewed journal did he publish in?

Cliff said...

Michael Gerson of the Washington Post responds to accusations of a Republican War on Science:

(Please note that I don't really buy his message, I'm just curious to see what sort of rebuttals people might come up with.)

Also, Sunshine was a damn fine film. I'm not sure what flaws Dr. Brin is talking about, unless it's the scientific ones - and I'll forgive those because the movie is better than 90% of SF flicks. Also, it has a good commentary track by an astrophysicist who helped out on the film.

David Brin said...

Dipping in as an astronomer.

The premise of "Sunshine"... "re-starting" the sun, is that same as "The Core"... to use a big bomb to re-ignite a process that is so vastly bigger than any conceivable bomb that we could ever make, short of turning the moon into pure antimatter...

...and then it would not get INTO the core of the sun, but blow a hole in one edge.

And you wouldn't cruise down near the surface (a la a certain book called ahem SUNDIVER) but rather, you'd loop around Jupiter to get distance and any angle that you need... then plunge in at high speed!

A ship that size has enough air for four people for months or years, just in the halls and rooms. And so on. And the lack of a redundant backup computer... still there was vastly more to like than dislike. A very non-Hollywood film and worthwhile.


Lt. General Richard Sanchez was on NPR, touting his new book about his years in command of US forces in Iraq. The good news: he rips into the moronic administration’s history of mismanagement and stupidity. The bad news: his limits his criticism to areas involving blame-shifting, from his own shoulders to Rumsefeld etc. Sure, that’s probably justified, but I heard nothing about the bigger picture, such as the neocon/GOP systematic campaign to demolish, destroy and eviscerate the US Army and Reserves.

(Anybody volunteer to go read his book and see if he gets around to those “minor” topics?)

That, by the way, is the short answer to "Golem".

In the 90s, the magazines around the world talked about "a second American Century." A unipolar world led by a towering Pax Americana. Every US brigade was at full readiness and our alliances were firm. Our budget and resources and science unmatchable.

In every possible way, all of these things have been reversed and all the talk is about America's plummet toward bankruptcy and irrelevance. In science we have become the silly people. And in politics.

Golem, there are two amazing things... that half our country has done this to us... and that that half still cannot see what they have done.

Really? Such myopia is... weird to a science fictional degree.

Cliff said...

Okay, fine, the MAJOR scientific flaws with Sunshine (artificial gravity, people freezing to death in a matter of seconds in space, the payload somehow not getting vaporized in a fraction of a second).

Although the astrophysicist commentor postulates (probably for his own peace of mind) that a lump of strange matter got stuck orbiting the sun's core, disrupting the energy production. Hence the giant bomb is to knock said strange matter out of orbit.

Kenneth said...

On improving your Alexa ranking:

Ask your regular readers to download the alexa toolbar. Without the toolbar, your readers aren't telling Alexa about their patronage. With the toolbar, they're telling Alexa about all their surfing, but I'd expect them to be transparent society fans, and unfazed by this.

Anonymous said...

there are two amazing things... that half our country has done this to us... and that that half still cannot see what they have done.

Not a surprise, there is an entire industry whose sole purpose is to either distract ( Missing white girls , Britney & Paris)or misinform the public( Iraq has WMDs, McCain is a Maverick, Eurabia is around the corner). This industry is pro-republican, pro big business and pro-war and they like things just fine the way they are.

Travc said...

In some unrelated good news for the enlightenment (probably old news to some of you): Google is promoting plug-in hybrid cars... converting part of its fleet and instrumenting them to see exactly how well they work. Check it out:

While your at it.. you can always visit cal-cars for more plug-in hybrid goodness.

Joshua O'Madadhain said...

Re: Alexa ranking...someone above already mentioned how you could increase it, but it's not obvious why you would care. It just measures how many people visit your site (that use the Alexa toolbar). I'd hazard a guess that Amazon uses this information in their A9 search engine--so a higher Alexa ranking might mean a higher search ranking--but as A9 is not a particularly common search engine, again, not sure if there's anything in that for you.

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin asked Anyone know how we can increase the “Alexa” score of this blog and/or of ?

Put up pictures of naked women. Lots and lots of naked women.

Also, links to YouTube videos of waterskiing squirrels. And dogs on skateboards.

Golem asked "How did Ben Stein turn his back on his people?"

I think I can answer that. If you look at the scientists inside the Third Reich, a disproportionate number of whom were Jewish, they almost uniformly and quite courageously stood up against the superstition and anti-intellectualism of Germany in the 1930s. As a result, almost all of 'em became persona non grata and either had to flee Germany, or wound up getting thrown in concentration camps. Their deovtion to rationality and the test of reality was remarkable and for the most part unswerving.

Ben Stein has pissed away this noble heritage by pandering to the lowest form of superstition. He spouts the crudest kind of ultra-Romantic 19th century pap -- Stein is really just deliverying those old canards There are some things man was not meant to know in an updated 21st century form. Stein is just spouting that old cancard to feel is better than to think updated for a slicker digital video era. His message boils down to the pre-Enlightenment message summed up by the Japanese proverb the nail that stands up must be hammered down. No skeptical critical thinking. No test of evidence. Just ueber-romantic hatred of rationality and a mindless backlash against facts and logic. Worst of all, Ben Stein -- who was trained as a economist! -- slides into a grotesquely dogmatic adoration of religious obscurantism and an invidious idolization of the pyramid-shaped totalitarian hierarchy of organized religion. Wait a minute... I thought economists were supposed to look at the evidence and compare with their models and draw logical conclusions. Now Ben Stein the economist is telling us to forget all that and just have faith? That's how we're supposed to run a modern economy, faith?

It's worth remembering, folks, what organized religion leads to when it rules the entire society: you get Aztec human sacrifices. You get the Grand Inquisition. Pardon me, but can anyone point out evolutionists who organize witch hunts to burn creationists at the stake? Can anyone cite all the instances of mobs of wild-eyed cosmologists who've hunted down and torn apart people who denied the Big Bang, the way a mob of Christians hunted down the Greek scientist Hypatia, flung her from her chariot, and scraped the flesh from her bones with sharpened oyster shells?

I don't see scientists doing that. During the 20th century a few dictatorships have used pseudoscientific lingo to try to wrap themselves in the golden prestige associated with genuine science, as in the case of the Marxist-Leninists, but when you look at their spokesmen, like Trofim Lysenko, they weren't scientists. They were buffoons spouting gibberish, like "weeds evolve from wheat crops, so we should plant the rows of wheat closer together" ot make them cold-resistant, like peasant shuddling together for warmth. Lysenko spouted crap, his claims failed 100% of the time, and he was no scientist. You don't find real scientists leading or supporting suprstitious cabals like the Nazis or the Communists. The scientists are always the guys thrown into prison by these regimes, they're the people forced into internal exile, like Andrei Sakharov.

Ben Stein's credulous adoration of organized religion and temporal power is exactly the opposite of the attitude you found among the scientists who fled Germany in the 30s, an outsized percentage of whom were Jews. Those people had no patience with the kind of bully-worshipping genuflection to obscurantism that Ben Stein promotes.

Josef Mengele was no scientist. As Brin points out, the kooks and cranks who called themselves "Nazi scientists" for the most part fumbled and stumbled and bumbled around doing pseudoscience -- weird and meaningless "experiments" like injecting Jewish victims' eyes with dye to see if they could turn 'em blue. Where's the null hypothesis? Where's the control group? There isn't any. It's bullshit. That's not science.

The Ahnenerbe had German troops digging up Bavaria find relics of Atlantis, because that's where the so-called Nazi "scientists" thought the Aryan race originated. That's not science, it's dementia and self-delusion. Mengele's freezing twins and electrocuting mothers and children wasn't science, it was just sadism under the cloak of peudoscience. Mengele and his sick crew got off on torture but they didn't want to admit it, so they claimed they were doing "science." It was bullshit. They were just torturing innocent victims because their enjoyed torturing innocent victims.


I'd like to take a moment to defend Hillary and Bill Clinton, if I may. Everyone seems to have this irrational hate-on for Hillary right now, and it's been leaking over to Bill. It's unjustfied, and it's unfair.

To follow up on what Dr. Brin pointed out a while back, the Clintons were among the most dirt-poor people ever to step into the White House. I think this explains a lot of the animus against Bill and Hillary during the 90s and even today. There is a very real sense among the elite of this country that Bill Clinton (and Hillary) "rose above their station," that they were upstarts, and, to put it bluntly, trailer trash who didn't deserve to sully the White House with their muddy Arkansas footprints.

Well, guess what? Bill Clinton was trailer trash. He was born dirt-poor and rose by sheer dint of his intelligence and his determination and his extraordinary people skills. There are a lot of people in America who hated Bill Clinton for that. We don't like to talk about it, but America does have a class system -- in fact, our class system is as rigid as the one Diocletian imposed on Rome in the 2nd century A.D. To get a glimpse of America's class sytems, ask yourself: how many non-millionaires are there in the Senate? Then ask yourself: how many non-Protestants have occupied the White House since the late 19th century?

Answer #1: there are no non-millionaires in the Senate. Zero. Not one. It's a millionare's club.

Answer #2: there has been a grand total of one (1) non-Protestant president since the 1880s: JFK.

Sort of makes you think about that claim that "any American can, with enough hard work, rise to become President" doesn't it?

What really rankles the elites about Bill Clinton is that, in his case, that old saw turned out to be true.. And the Bill Kristols and George Gilders of this world, the Richard Perles and Grover Norquists and William Buckley Jrs. just went mad with hate when they realized that some pissant dirt-poor Arkansas shlub was actually going to worm his way into the White House. The Kristols and Broders and the other pundits who make up the beltway elite all come from the same class -- these guys are all well-to-do Protestant northeasterners who were born to privilege and educated in the most elite colleges, and when Bill Clinton whipped their Exeter Academy buddy George Bush 41 in 1992, they reacted as though someone had smeared feces on the bust of George Washington.

The same goes for Hillary Clinton, only a little less so. Hillary wasn't born poor, but her family wasn't comparable to the Roosevelts or the Rockefellers. Hillary never got picked up in a chauffered limousine the way George Bush 41 did when he was in elementary school. So both Bill and Hillary were a couple of backwoods hicks in a backwater state, and by sheer hard work and people skills and clever political strategizing and unbelievable amounts of hard work, they both wound up in the White House, and I don't think the northeastern Groton Academy Washington beltway elite ever forgave them for that.

Much the same reaction was visited on Jimmy Carter by the same pundit class. The attitude in both cases was "How dare these backwoods Southern yokels come into our elegant Georgetown parlor and dare to question the way we've been doing things?" Jimmy Carter was greeted with real fury when he proposed his comprehensive energy bill -- legislation which, incidentally, if Congress had passed it back in 1976 instead of throwing a hissy fit like a spoiled three-year-old, wold have saved us from our dependence on Middle Eastern oil today.

But no, Carter was a Southern hick who had risen above his station and presumed to dictate policy to the beltway elite, and he had to be Taught A Lesson. The beltway hated Carter (and even more, they loathed his brother) because those eastern establishment elites had the attitude then (as now) that in the Democratic party southerners were to be seen, but not heard. Southern hicks had traditionally proved useful to the Democrats as bloc voters, and as committee chairman (because they so reliably go re-elected and thus attained senriority) but as for a Southern Demo in the Oval Office, dictating foreign policy...shivers of horror tickled down the spine of the northeastern beltway elite at the thought of that eventuality.

And the thing that really seriously ticked off the northeastersn Exeter Academy beltway elite that runs Washington was that every time they tried to trip Bill Clinton up, he outfoxed them. This was absolutely intolerable. Not only was this guy dirt poor, not only was he a hick from a nowhere state, not only did he come out of a backwater like Little Rock...but Bill Clinton had the infernal gall to be so smart and so adept at politics and so goddamn good at what he did, that he triangulated above the northeastern beltway liberal elite and left them standing there in warm puddles, along with the fanatical lunatic right, whenever they tried to get in his way.

I don't think the northeastern beltway Exeter Academy elite has ever forgiven Bill Clinton for that. They've tried to spin Bill's people skills and genius at politics as his alleged "lack of principles" -- well, riddle me this, Batman...if Bill Clinton had so damn few principles, why'd he intervene in Somalia? And why'd he bomb Kosovo? And why, today, has he set up the William Jefferson Clinton foundation, oneof the most efficient and remarkably effective humanitarian foundations ever established by any ex-President?

The other ex-Presidents (except for Jimmy Carter) have all just chowed down at the feeding trough, but Bill Clinton, he's doing humanitarian work worldwide with his superbly-adminstered foundation, and that pisses off the beltway elite worse than anything. The guy isn't even president anymore, and he's still making them look pathetic.

I think a lot of this hatred and resentment toward Bill Clinton as someone who "rose above his station" and "dared to presume too much" by not only entering the White House, but doing a damn good job during his 8 years despite not having the "proper" credentials and despite never having come out of Exeter Academy, has leaked over onto Hillary.

Also, there's the issue of personality. Bill Clinton is a seducer. That would be more acceptable in Italian politics or French politics than in puritanical stoic America. Bill Clinton has an ability to sweet-talk people and charm them and inveigle them into doing things they wouldn't ordinarily do that makes Americans (with their puritan Protestant work ethic show-no-emotion heritage) very nervous. When Bill told people "I feel your pain," that gave some Americans the willies. It's not sufficiently reserved, it's just not Protestant and severe enough. Bill Clinton is absolutely scintillating, a real charmer, but we're not used to that in American politics, and I think that constantly throws a lot of people off who, if they looked objectively at what he accomlpished, would be enthusiastic supporters.

If you scrape away the "American Idol" personality crap and look at Bill Clinton's and Hillary Clinton's accomplishments, they're impressive. Bill single-handedly cleaned out that senile sociopath Ronald Reagan's fiscal Augean stable, turning a gigantic Himalayan deficit into a big surplus (remember that in the late 80s and early 90s people were talking about "the collapse of America" because of the insane Reagan deificts, which promised to bankrupt us stretching as far as the eye could see); Bill Clinton radically increased transparency in government; relations with our allies were better than at any time in 20 years under Clinton; Bill Clinton had the best and most active vice president in history, Al Gore (and since then, what with the Nobel prize, we've seen Al Gore's true stature grow to match Bill's); Bill Clinton had the best-run West Wing with the most careful bureaucratic oversight in modern history, with nary a hint of financial scandal; under Clinton, basic research flourished, the military became incredibly effective and well-led, and Clinton took an active hand in promoting the arts as few presidents since JFK ahve done. His welfare reform substantially improved HUD. Just about everything Bill Clinton touched turned to gold. The only real blots of Clinton's presidency were his failure to deal with the Rawnda scandal (for which everyone in Washington must be held guilty, not just him) and thje debacle in Somalia, which he inherited from Bush 41 and which Bill wisely got out of ASAP as soon as it turned bad. The health care catastrophe I lay at the feet of Gringrich and the far-right psychos. No one could've made any headway against that kind of psychotic opposition.

If you look at Hillary's legislative record since she became a senator, it's also excellent. She isn't the charmer Bill is, so some people are put off by Hillary's coldness and aloofness, but just take a look at he record. She has consistently introduced bills to help kids, to help the poor, and this in a congress which seems hell-bent on enriching the rich and securing the rent-seeking of giant monopolistic corporations. For Hillary Clinton to do what she's done is nothing short of heroic. She swam against the tide in the Senate. She deserves a lot of credit for that.

This idea that somehow Hillary should just go away and give up gracefully to Obama is, I think, insulting. She didn't get where she is by being a shrinking violet. She's had to fight like a wild animal for everything she ever had, from her days in the Rose law firm in Little Rock, through the incredible persecution of Bill CLitnon in that insane impeachment travesty, all the way through the rabid right-wing attacks up to today. Hillary's a fighter. She's going to keep on fighting for the Democratic nomination with her last breath. That's fine. I don't see a problem with that.

Most of you people would have folded twenty years ago under the kind of spine-crushing pressure and sadistic hysterical organized attacks from the far right that Bill and HIllary have had to deal with ever since Reagan's Reign of Error in the early 80s. Read The Hunting of the President: The Ten-Year Campaign To Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton by Joe Conason if you want to get a gut-churning look at the level of psychotic mania involved in the frenzied attacks against Bill and Hillary since the early 80s.

It's been nearly 30s years that Bill and HIllary have had to defend themselves against insane lies (like "they murdered Vince Foster" and "Bill killed Arkansas state troopers to cover up his multiple rapes while Governor" and, perhaps most demented of all, the claim that there was some kind of mysterious evil conspiracy involved in Bill Clinton's presidential christmas card list! His Christmas card list!!!)

If you people had had to withstand this level of psychotically paranoid personal attack for nearly 30 years, I think you'd be tough as nails too. And none of you would take it very kindly if someone asked you to just meekly step down and go away and stop fighting for the nomination because this Obama guy, well, he's areally a wonderful person.

Based on Hillary's legislative recordin the Senate, I'd be proud to vote for her as president. I think it's clear that she's not going to get the nomination, but I don't think there's any evidence that she's out to destroy the Democratic party. All this conspiracy talk about how she wants McCain to win so she can run in 2012 is just more of the same crap like "Bill Clinton murdered Arkansas troopers." It's garbage.

Some people have been running around moaning and whining and comparing 2008 to 1968, when the Demos destroyed themselves and let Nixon stroll into office. Listen, kiddies, I was alive in 1968, and I saw what went on first-hand. Yeah, I was only a little kid, but I knew what was going on, and it had nothing to do with what's happening today.

First, in 1968 the entire country was horribly divided over Viet Nam. About 60% of America loved the Viet Nam war, they thought it was great, they supported it whole-hog. (Sounds incredible, but that's the way it was. If you doubt this, remember the huge box office done by the idiotic and in today's view ridiculous 1968 pro-Viet-Nam war film The Green Berets. That film was one of the biggest hits of 68. Audiences loved it. They ate it up. They thought Viet Nam was Korea all over again, and most people wholeheartedly supported the war. Americans only turned against the way en masse around 1970, when Nixon widened the war into Cambodia.

Compare with today, with around 70% of America sick of the Iraq war. 58% of Americans polled say they want our soldiers out now, today, no delay. No comparison with 1968.

The Demo party was deeply divided in 68. That's why there were riots at the 1968 convention, not because of some evil Repub plot, it was because 60% of the Democratic party hated the guts of the other 40% of the Democratic party. Today, we've got a united Democratic party. Hillary promises that if she wins, we're out of Iraq inside 60 days; same deal with Obama. The positions of all the Demo candidates are just abotu indistiguishable, which is why Hillary has had to get personal against Obama -- she just doesn't disagree with him about anything susbtantive. No comarison to 1968, where Muskie advocated withdrawal from Viet Nam as did RFK, but Humphrey supported the war.

Then, in 1968 we had a seemingly competent Repub pol who ran and absolutely superb compaign (read "The Selling of the President" for details -- Nixon ran the first modern campaign in 68, it was really slick). Compare with McCain's fumbling blundering campaign today.

Last, but far from least, the Demo nominee Hubert Humphrey was fatally crippled by his steadfast support for the war. Enough Demo voters were violently opposed that this opened a huge wedge that Nixon could exploit with his Southern Strategy (AKA "appeal to Southern racism using code words.") Today, it's exactly reversed, with the deep south ripping apart and falling away from the Republican party as they recoil in disgust from the massive overspending, the intrusion of Republican Big Government into their lives in the form of the hated TSA, the DHS, out-of-control warrantless wiretapping, etc. Add to that the disaffection of the religious fundamentalists, who have watched all the promises they were made back in 2000 get systematically broken by this maladministration, on top of the massive corruption and venality and incompetence, and the entire deep south is in revolt against the Republican party. Repub party identification among likely voters is at an all-time low. Once again, no comparison at all to 1968.

In short, the claim that somehow Hillary is going to destroy the Democratic party and hand the 2008 election to McCain because she's the Hubert Humphrey of the late 2000s is ridiculous. The situation is not even remotely comparable to 1968. Back then, the long lock of liberal Democratic machine candidates on power in Washington was starting to get to people, and the Repub party was in its ascendancy because the average guy in the street got disgusted by the sex 'n drugs 'n rock and roll of the hippies and the whole country had started to move toward the right as a reaction against pics of kids fornicating in the mud at Woodstock. Today, it's just the opposite, with the average guy in the street disgusted by the overlong lock the far-right has had on power in Washington, and a hunger for change and a move toward the left as a reaction against the corrupt incompetence and warmongering of the far right. Again, precisely the opposite of 1968 in every possible way.

So I don't buy this portrayal of Bill & Hillary as the Svengali & Trilby of Washington leading liberals to destruction. I think once again it's a case of a lot of people who feel entitled to their places at the elite table in Washington and New York boiling with resentment at Hillary and Bill for a variety of not very palatable reasons -- the Clintons came out of nowhere, they weren't born into the proper northeastern upper crust to aspire to political power, they rose above their station in life, they were presumtuous, they were too [fill in the blank: too glib, too charming, too adept at schmoozing people, too wonkish, too charismatic, too slick, too quick on their feet], they didn't display the kind of Boston-Washington lese majeste expected by the Bill Kristols of the world, and worst of all, Bill and Hillary just wouldn't give up.

Long after Newsweek and all the other major outlets for elite opinion declared Bill Clinton's candidacy "dead and buried" in 1992, he kept on fighting...and he won. Nothing enraged the punditocracy like being proven wrong. And when the beltway elites declared Bill Clinton's presidency "dead" again after Monica-gate, he kept on fighting even though they assured everyone he had no choice but to resign...and he won again.

Hell hath no fury like pundits proven foolish not just once, but many times in a row.

I think we need to give Bill and Hillary a break. This will all work out. Once she gets forced out of the running I have no doubt she'll turn around and work hard for Obama. The Hillary supporters may talk trash about Obama now, but that's just normal heat-of-the-moment bare-knuckle politics. In fact it's a good thing, becuase it shows people are engaged, Demos care about politics. No one is challenging McCain because on the Repub side, no one gives a damn, he life has gone out of their movement.

Do you truly honestly think feminist Hillary supporters will even consider voting for "repeal Roe v. Wade" McCain in November? You really think all those single moms who wave HILLARY '08 banners today will vote for "I have no problem with staying in Iraq for 100 years" McCain?

Please. Compared to the gutter knife-fights I've seen in past Demo nomination processes. this one looks like a tea party in a women's auxiliary meeting. It's mild. Let's calm down, folks, support Obama when he beocmes the nominee and support Hillary when she goes back to being a solid progressive senator from New York. We're all in this thing together. Let's remember the big picture, and stick together.

B. Dewhirst said...

The Clintons would have made excellent Republicans, but they're the right wing of the Democratic Party.

Would you care to explain what they've done to earn 110 million dollars in the past 8 years?

Would you explain to me how someone who was 'poor white trash when they entered the whitehouse' had been on the board of Walmart roughly a decade earlier?

Your mythologizing rings false-- he spent eight years defending the elites of this nation, and they rewarded him for it.

B. Dewhirst said...

And don't you fucking dare call her a progressive.

Acacia H. said...

I think a lot of people here might enjoy this DKos diary that compares Senators Obama and Clinton to Presidents Reagan and Nixon. Both positive and negative aspects are given. It's absolutely fascinating, and quite in-depth.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Zorgon... the year before Senator Tester of Montana got elected, he made under 30k.

Around here, we call that poverty level.

Yes, he may own a million dollars worth of land (haven't checked), but ... sometimes how much one owns is different from how much one can spend.

Anonymous said...

And, Zorgon, Hillary is known for being warm, friendly and charmingly witty in person.

She comes across like crap on the TV.

I do not think she can hand the presidency to McCain. I think Her Backers and her Campaign Team would rather see that happen, than lose the influence they have in washington.

Remember, every dollar Obama has, fifty cents or more came from folks like you and me -- the kind who don't extract fatal promises, who ask for their leadership to do the responsible thing.

Clinton's current Wealthy supporters don't want to see their influence decrease.

Travc said...

Interesting post Zorgon. Others have picked at some of the points I disagree with.

Anyway, Bill Clinton was a damn good prez. The DLC and 'triangulation' worked fairly well for the time... but that time is not now.

I'd go so far as to say that Thatcher (and her lesser clone Reagan) made a critical positive move towards economic liberalization which averted a collapse in Britain and more systemic economic problems in the US (possibly another round of stagflation). At the time, moving hard towards liberalization was needed... though I despise both of them for other reasons and because they went way too far with false ideological justifications (as opposed to pragmatic moderation).

My point is quite simple. What is politically good is contingent on the times. For example, triangulation would be a horrible strategy now, since half way to bat-shit insane extreme right-wing is still extreme right-wing. Pragmatism (real world based, not political 'middle of the road') is what is needed at this point.


It is interesting to note how effective the Clinton foundation is. Maybe we should make the argument that we need to elect more Dem presidents because they make such great ex-presidents ;)

B. Dewhirst said...

Travk, you probably ought to pick up a copy of Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang.

Neoclassical liberal free trade (neoliberalism) is garbage.

Nothing makes me wretch faster than "There Is No Alternative." -- another fine example of what I find aggressive and deliberately intollerant which those to the right of me might not find so offensive.

Anonymous said...

Candace wrote:
"... Hitler tried to use science to legitimize his vendetta against the Jews."

Well, he tried to use everything he could get his hands on, even religion.

And Ben Stein admits he has only a "little pea brain."

B. Dewhirst said...

Thats worth at least a thousand words right there.

Or, for that matter (on the subject of Southern politicians...)

Travc said...

B. Dewhirst, that is a book which I have on my 'to read' list (unfortunately a very long list).

Don't get me wrong, I don't buy 'free market uberalis' ideology. I know too much economic theory for that.

However, many people don't remember or realize just how bad the economic situation in the UK was in the mid 70s. When the government has to implement wide-spread price controls, things have gone so far off the rails that there is only 'least bad' solutions.

That said, Thatcher was a idealouge (following a false ideology to boot) and very close to a authoritarian nationalist and corporatist. The 'reasoning' behind her lurch towards economic liberalization may have been BS, but so far history (and theory as far as we understand it) says that it was needed (though not to such an extreme extent).

B. Dewhirst said...

If Scotland manages to seceed, it'll be because of Margaret Thatcher. Even if you're right, she burned the villiage to save it.

Fascism is never the solution.

Travc said...

No argument there... and I really enjoyed V for Vendetta ;)

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget Ben Stein's finest moment... his performance in this episode of Animaniacs, where Stein plays the Most Boring Man In Hollywood, who won't leave the Warner Brothers (and sister) alone, continually droning and droning...
He was more convincing in that than he appears to be in Expelled.

David Brin said...

Zorgon, man u write lots-fast. Thanks for the backup viz Mengele etc. There were no Nazi scientists. Just as there were very few truly communist ones.

But while I agree with your direction re: Bill & Hillary, I gotta say "whoa, easy there hoss."

You say that Congress is a "millionaire's club" but dang, that word is meaningless, now. Any American family with two college-salaried wage earners will eventually rise above a million in net assets. And a Congressman can probably reach two or three without meaningful corruption.

Yes, we are headed for class war. But still, the American millionaire class is more than 75% self-made, and half of those seem to have been self-made the right way, through fair delivery of quality goods, services, or innovations. The TRENDS are very very very bad. But the "millionaire demographics" aren't Yet.

You oversimplify. The Exeter-beltway repubs were DADDY Bush's people. Junior's folk are a far more rapacious breed, without any trace of noblesse oblige.

BTW, just because I have always liked/defended Clinton (see: and viral it!) that doesn't mean I don't have a perfect right to be sick of his bloated ass at any given moment! Just as a guy can be sick of his own beloved brother and want him to GO HOME and sleep off a drunken-boorish binge, instead of ruining the party. You are completely off base to say that's because of class prejudice. The Clintons are acting like our government is some inherited sinecure. When they have been properly chastised, I have confidence they'll go back to being useful folks.

Still, I am glad you spoke up for Hillary. I haven't seen that happen much among educated Americans or anybody under 60. Now, if she'll take her 1,000 patronage slots, accept our admiring cheers, and NOT give in to the temptation to play Tonya Harding....

BD... it is trivial to earn 110$million the way Bill has. He is insanely popular around the world. He charges $50,000 MINIMUM to give a speech. There are thousands of conferences and gathering s around the world who shell out sums like that easily, to get a top-draw speaker. Do the math. As for your line about them not being progressive, well, you are entitled to your opinion. But read Zakaria's THE RISE OF THE REST. Capitalism is good and it has saved the world.

Oh, listen to the lefties howl! But dig this. THE BIGGEST CRIME OF THE CHENEY KLEPTOS IS THAT THEY HATE FREE ENTERPRISE. If he were alive today, Adam Smith would stab them in the heart with a wooden stake. In a million ways, liberalism needs to rediscover its roots. It's real roots in liberating all humans to not only cooperate, but to compete fairly. But leftiness clings to it like a bad stink.

B. Dewhirst said...

You're suggesting he has given a speech every day for six years straight at 50k a pop, or some other combination-- three years straight at an average of 100k a pop.

Your assumptions wrt millionaires don't match my own-- those "fairly provided goods and services" weren't-- they are a product of resource extraction under duress (from friendly dictators we put there) in the third world, from similarly retarded wages as a consequence of World Bank policies, etc. Money earned on the stock market is not fairly earned. Success in the market comes as a consequence of diplomacy by other means. "United Fruit Company" ought to ring a few bells, and the modern Petro-giants are of the same kind. You're right, of course, that a couple million dollars of -assets- is small potatoes in the United States... but an annual income of ten million dollars is not.

Hillary "lobbyists are real people" Clinton ought not be defended by anyone over 60 either. She voted with the precedent of branding another nation's armed forces a terrorist organization while bombs she eagerly authorized fall on women and children in an illegally occupied country. I’ll inherit the world she has helped to piss off just as our military is waning in strength, and I’ll do it without healthcare because she decided to sell out.

As for Capitalism being good and saving the world… Mercantilism was better than feudalism. Slavery is (perhaps) better than starvation. But neither mercantilism, feudalism, nor slavery were ‘good.’ Neither is capitalism. In fact, it has a great deal in common with slavery and serfdom—with the serfs conveniently out of sight. When a system does well by victors, they praise it—this isn’t a surprise.

I believe comparing me to Dick Cheney is what is known as an “ad hominem” if not a “red herring.” If he were alive today, Adam Smith would be decrying what has been done in his name, and you know it. Cheney has lined his pockets with state capitalism— Halliburton has done very well by “really existing capitalism.” Capitalism concentrates power in elites, and those elites quickly gain the ability to exclude those who aren’t one of their 10,000 golf buddies from real power—and when those few, bright minds come along they are cooped into the elite.

Try addressing one of the –modern- commentators critical of capitalism, rather than Marx and Lenin— newsflash: just about everyone who has been dead for over 50 years looks a bit dated. When you’ve got a criticism of Michael Albert’s Parecon, or Chang’s Bad Samaritans, let us hear it. (And, while you’re addressing living critics of capitalism… “Most of the world is capitalistic. Most of the world is poor. Most capitalist countries are not democratic.”) Pretending that, at any given time, there are only two diametrically opposed alternatives (Russian Communism and American Capitalism, for instance) is just the sort of mystic, Marxist (or Hegelian) dialectic materialism you claim to abhor. The critique of capitalism is much more vital than you pretend, and the alternatives much more varied than you let on.

Last time I checked, I couldn’t fairly compete with GE, or GM, or Alcan. IBM has a patent-hammer big enough to drive any mythical single inventor under, but can shake hands with their peers to not suffer the same blows in return. Conditions for fair competition against the corporations that Adam Smith hated do not exist. Can not exist. Look at the way golden rice has turned out as a consequence.

B. Dewhirst said...

Much shorter me:

Include the international poor in your graph, and you've again got a pyramid. Foreign exploitation is still exploitation, and your model is wrong-- it is pyramids all the way down for now.

Travc said...

dewhirst, I don't think anyone here is claiming the dialectic frame you rail against. You are addressing a generally intelligent and sympathetic audience in a manner/tone as if they were strident opponent and/or idiots. Not exactly the best approach to say the least.

One thing that perennially bugs me... Capitalism is conflated with a generally market-based economic approach. This may have fit 200 years ago, but the modern instantiation of capital and financial markets are more of a (somewhat malignant) growth on top of a more general market-based economic approach. Pathological as they are, I feel 'markets' isn't really a proper term even.

B. Dewhirst said...

"Capitalism beat Communism, ha-ha-hah" seems pretty dialectical from over here.

As far as I'm concerned, "Capitalism is good" is about equivalent to "slavery is good."

Dr. Brin, for all of his many fine qualities, thinks There Is No Alternative, and wishes to compare a theoretical model of capitalism to an actual model of communism. Lenin was no saint, but there is a world of difference between democratic centralism and Stalinistic purges.

Further, if anyone suggested that Russia in 1900 would be competing with all of the west put together by 1985, with the west deathly afraid they'd win, they'd have been laughed off as a madman.

Acacia H. said...

You'll be amused, Dr. Brin, to see I actually defended Senator Clinton's actions today with my first Diary over at Daily Kos.

I don't know, I think you rubbed off on me for a moment. Not that that's a bad thing. ;)

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Let's get something straight.

Pretending the DLC doesn't exist, or that it embraces true big-D Democratic principles, is like pretending PNAC doesn't exist, or that it represents true big R Republican principles.

Every DLC affiliated Democratic Senator voted for the Iraq war. Almost all of them participated in assuming the Presidential power of pardons and letting tele-coms off the hook for illegal spying.

I don't claim to know Hillary Clintons heart. I don't know to what extent she has saddled this two-legged Donkey, and to what extent she's assumed the role of Catharine the Great.

What I do know is that if you are not aware that Bill just cashed out 20 million dollars worth of a "partnership" in Yuciapa, a firm heavily invested in the sub-prime mortage market and mid-east oil and construction projects, you are not capable of reaching any intelligent judgement about the Clintons.

Half a million bucks for one speech, and the check was signed by the Sultan of Dubai. How far is a partisan bias supposed to stretch? Is there any doubt that every remotely liberal or Liberal commentator would do at least one article on this if it was Laura Bush pulling that cash in, from that source?

It's not the Clintons that need to be destroyed, though, it's the DLC. If Hillary can let her atachment to them go rather than letting them drag her under with them, I'd love to see her as Senate Majority Leader.

John Kerry and John Edwards and Al Gore have all broken with the DLC for a reason. Howard Dean attacked them in 2003 for a reason.

Wellstone fought the bastards untill the day his plane went down for a reason.

In 2003, Barack Obama was listed as the DLC's "New Democrat of the Week". He publicly rejected their endorsement, and demanded his name be removed from their web-site.

In 2004, this skinny kid with a funny name who no one had heard of and who was a shoe-in for his Senate seat anyway thanks to his opponent imploding, was given the key-note at the National Convention at the instance of John Kerry.

There is a war on for the control of the Democratic Party. No fondness for Bill's "poor boy made good" story changes that reality.

Mark Penns firm was in charge of Blackwater USAs Public Relations.

Howard Wolfson, Clintons Communications Director, is a partner in the Glover Park Group, for which several former employees of Bills adminstration work. Do a little research, and see who their clients are.

Senator Clinton stood on the Senate Floor denouncing the Dubai Ports World deal, while President Clinton advised the Sultan personaly on how to save the deal. That's reality.

That's actual fact. It checks out and everything. That's the difference between actual fact, and absolute horse-excrement about Bill being a serial rapist, or importing coke to Arkansas, and killing people to cover it up.

The existance of one does not negate the existance of the other.

B. Dewhirst said...

Thanks, Jester.

That is why you ought to wash your mouth out with soap if you speak of Senator Clinton being a progressive.

sociotard said...

Some hackers can be just . . . vile. If they are caught I hope it gets prosecuted as assault.
Hackers' posts on epilepsy forum cause migraines, seizures;_ylt=AvI4u5SMcxyJuNs7vNAypj6s0NUE

Anonymous said...

I was just turned 18 when I first voted for Bill Clinton.

Between work/school/partying/youthfull adventures, politics wasn't a huge concern over the next 8 years.

I am starting to understand the generation gap, and how people a decade or more older than me have developed...rather closed minds on the issue Clinton flaws, having been much more aware of, invested in, and personally affected by the War Against the Clintons.

Better than Reagan? Better than either Bush? Stipulated.

That doesn't make slowing down the pace of the destruction of the New Deal "Progressive", or change the fact that continued triangulation only serves to move the center rightward.

Travc said...

Bravo Jester...

I think we now have a somewhat realistic view of Bill Clinton in this thread, both good and bad.

The DLC is easier to hate than Bill... faceless non-entity and all that. But there was (maybe still is, but I'm skeptical) good to the DLC too. A lot of the positive that can be said about Bill can be said of the DLC. Fairly brilliant at gaining power. Amazingly resilient. ect ect. Though less than Bill on pretty much all positive counts.

Jester's negative critique is spot on IMO.


Dday over at Hullabaloo has put together a very good and interesting post about what Obama appears to be doing to remake (take over?) the Democratic party. This is relevant to the DLC discussion, but important way beyond that.

Please give it a read
The Obama Party