Monday, July 28, 2008


Completely short on time, I can only satisfy my weekly blog hit by simply posting what I have here... Sorry folks. But some of it is pretty interesting, starting with some good misc political links.

(BTW that was some lively discussion session, after the last one!)

Barack Obama drains 3-point jumper on first try in Kuwait. Wow. (I am hoping also to get some grapevine buzz over how commanders felt, after meeting him. I hope he works as hard as Clinton did, to meet and understand the Officer Corps. It would do him no harm to quietly invite a senior officer with him on the plane, every other day. And listen.)

-- Senior aides to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales broke the law by using politics to guide their hiring decisions for a wide range of important department positions, slowing the hiring process at critical times and damaging the department’s credibility and independence, an internal report concluded Monday.

-- Another tedious reminder... I have long said don’t forget local races. Booting the paleocons out of a dozen statehouses will do as much for America as anything else could. Indeed, nothing else could more devastatingly show the GOP that they must re-invent themselves from the ground up. Find the nearest state assembly or senate or congressional race that is “competitive.” That is where a little volunteer time could make the biggest leverage-effect... and where you’ll have more personal fun... than just helping the national campaign. If there are no such local races, or you live in California or New York, where it doesn’t matter, then look farther afield. If just five Texas Assembly seats change hands, this year, that state will experience an earthquake-level flip, reversing the horrible deLay Gerrymandering. This will not only doubly punish the cheaters, but (I predict) cause the GOP to “discover virtue” and suddenly become the party that opposes gerrymandering! (If so... 2010, some of us may even start listening to conservatives again! But they’ll have a ways to go, to re-earn any trust.)

-- Stuff from Russ Daggatt:
Turns out, McCain is WAY out in front for the most votes missed by any Senator: He has missed 62.6% of all votes – the only other Senator to miss a majority of votes was Tim Johnson of South Dakota who, as you may recall, suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage and spent several months recovering. Even then, Johnson only missed 50.3% of Senate votes. Apparently a senator would have to die to have a worse voting record than McCain. (So now you are probably asking, what about Obama? Despite a much longer primary campaign than McCain, Obama only missed 43.7% of the Senates votes – casting 50% more votes than McCain.)

Oh, and despite being the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain attended ZERO of his own committee’s six hearings on Afghanistan – not important, I guess. And now McCain is running attack ads against Obama asserting that as chairman of the European Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Obama failed to hold a single hearing on Afghanistan . I bet you didn’t know Afghanistan was in Europe , did you? But, see, according to McCain, since we have NATO allies in Afghanistan , the war there falls under Obama’s subcommittee jurisdiction (even though Committee chairman Biden thinks otherwise).

Identifying Who Survives Disasters — And Why -- "Since 9/11 the U.S. government has sent over $23 billion to states and cities in the name of homeland security. Almost none of that money has gone toward intelligently enrolling regular people like you and me in the cause."

More Worries about McCain Mother Jones co-founder Jeffrey Klein is hardly impartial. Still, he’s a respected journalist and the facts in his recent scathing article about John McCain speak for themselves. Some snippets:”All of the (accusations) that the New York Times published a flattering lie about McCain's (naval) career on its front page are easy for John McCain to refute. All he needs to do is sign Standard Form 180, which authorizes the Navy to send an undeleted copy of McCain's naval file to news organizations. ... There's no reason McCain's full file shouldn't be released immediately. In June 2005, seven months after he lost his bid for president, Senator John Kerry signed the 180 waiver, authorizing the release of his complete military service record ... Unlike Kerry, McCain shouldn't wait until after the election to do so....

“Some of the unreleased pages in McCain's Navy file may not reflect well upon his qualifications for the presidency. From day one in the Navy, McCain screwed-up again and again, only to be forgiven because his father and grandfather were four-star admirals. McCain's sense of entitlement to privileged treatment bears an eerie resemblance to George W. Bush's.Despite graduating in the bottom 1 percent of his Annapolis class, McCain was offered the most sought-after Navy assignment -- to become an aircraft carrier pilot.... (even so) instead of the sleek and newer Phantoms and Crusaders, McCain flew the dependable Douglas A-4 Skyhawk in an attack, not a fighter squadron. He was thus on the lower end of the flying totem pole."

In training exercises, he crashed four expensive jets... not a major indictment in itself, but Klein describes a devil may-care and flippant, fly-boy attitude that bears uncanny resemblance to that of Air National Guard pilot George W Bush, who similarly got his wings under strong aromas of favoritism.


'A study funded by the US government has concluded that conservatism can be explained psychologically as a set of neuroses rooted in "fear and aggression, dogmatism and the intolerance of ambiguity".' .

Well... for the sake of credibility, let’s be fair: as we've seen, there are countless leftists who exhibit precisely the same neurotic failings. Indeed, these are traits far more typical of romanticism - of left or right - than conservatism, per se. And romanticism, as a deep, memic imperative, most definitely is deeply opposed to the entire Enlightenment project.

Certainly, it seems quite valid to make a distinction between most "liberals"-- who tend to be non-dogmatic, adaptable, and sensitive to nuance -- and the "leftists" who fixate on dogmas, litmus-tests and nonsensical political correctness. The latter are classic romantics and can be as anger-drenched as anyone on the right. Only with one major distinction...the loony lefties do not - and never have - control a major American political party, while the loony right has seized total control over theirs.

Are conservatives statistically more likely, en masse, to be romantics than liberals are? I think that can be argued with a great deal of confidence. Still, I am frankly disgusted with "psychological researchers" who are so blind to the common threads that link the far right and left, rather than dividing them.

Vastly more interesting is the work of Jonathan Haidt, who found a liberal-conservative distinction that seems to have far more generality, correlation and explanatory power. Haidt found five general drivers of moral opinion and fervor:

1 ingroup/loyalty,
2 authority/respect,
3 purity/sanctity,
4 harm/care
5 fairness/reciprocity.

Cultural conservatives work hard to cultivate moral virtues based on all five of these... in keeping with the patterns that are seen in nearly all predecessor cultures.

Liberals are the ones who are historically anomalous -- raised in a modern society with high degrees of personal safety, predictability, comfort, physical and social mobility and education, they tend to pick only the latter pair of fundamental moral drivers -- (4) who is being harmed/neglected and (5) whether a situation seems fair. Hence unusual marriage patterns and/or recreational drugs seem less threatening, lacking any victims. Indeed, Haidt’s research reveals a very powerful point -- one of the things that has driven the decline of liberalism has been its refusal to credit any validity to the other three moral drivers, even though all five were potent in every known, prior human culture.

In fact, liberalism’s refusal to grant any honor or dignity to the “older” three drivers would have to qualify as a form of... well... bigotry. Let’s admit it, and try to listen better, so we can fight for the future more effectively. (Oh, and consider the many ways in which liberals, especially of the left, actually carry dogmatic passions of “sanctity and purity and authority” themselves! What is political correctness, then?)

More from Daggatt: Asked by Diane Sawyer whether the situation in Afghanistan in precarious and urgent," McCain responded: "I think it's serious. . . . It's a serious situation, but there's a lot of things we need to do. We have a lot of work to do and I'm afraid it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border."

But as ABC's Rick Klein noted: " Iraq and Pakistan do not share a border. Afghanistan and Pakistan do."

Okay, maybe you’ve heard that one. But just last week, McCain repeatedly referred to Czechoslovakia, a country that hasn't existed since 1993. And, of course, there was his confusion of “Shiites” and “Sunnis” in Iraq . Not just once. But at least twice.

And finally... I just learned how much of the world's investment capital is held by pension funds and similar workers' retirement plans. THIRTY TRILLION DOLLARS. That is more than a third of the amount currently invested in available investment equities, including the stock of nearly all corporations. In other words, the workers already own the means of production. Wrap your heads around that one... then discuss why they aren't using that ownership power.

Got to run.


Woozle said...

Haidt's theory has always bothered me (though I very much applaud when science studies this sort of thing, so he gets full marks for that).

As I understand it, the theory basically says that liberals differ from conservatives in that they have relatively little concern for the first three items on the list:

1 ingroup/loyalty,
2 authority/respect,
3 purity/sanctity,

My experience is that this is not at all the case, though perhaps Haidt means those words in very particular ways which don't apply -- because the ways in which liberals apply those concepts do seem different from the way conservatives do.

1. Liberals have very strong ingroups, but those groups are formed by criteria having more to do with personal liking and empathy than with power and resource-sharing.

2. Liberals can display enormous respect for those they hold in authority, but they tend to choose those authorities themselves. Their criteria for choosing are much like the criteria they use for choosing their ingroups -- and their "respect" takes a rather different form. (I'm thinking specifically of SF/comic fandom here.)

3. Liberals care a great deal about these things when it comes to the environment and what substances they consume or allow to come into contact with their bodies. (By liberal standards, conservatives are the ones who don't care about this factor! I'm guessing that conservatives care about it more with respect to family and church relationships -- pure blood, pureness of ideology?)

I find the "authoritarian" spectra to be much more illuminating. Both left and right can be "authoritarian", but authoritarians tend to be attracted to where the power is -- so you'll find them much more heavily on the Right, which currently pwns most of the US, and only in niche power-structures on the Left where they have found small ponds in which to be big fish.


In other news, I've started development on my Cat Herding Tool, if anyone feels like a little reading material. (Still many months away from anything to show; comments and suggestions are welcome as always.)

Anonymous said...

The pension fund question is a good one. Japan has used its pension funds to support its version of state run capitalism so that pension funds run by the government own controlling shares of the major corporations. It looks like the rest of the world is following this model, and getting better economic results than the USA.

Even Russia re-collectivizing its industry under government control using this method.

Anders Brink said...

About the pension funds. It just does not work that way. Just because workers have pooled funds that amount to $30 trillion doesn't mean they get a vote or bargaining power. In fact, what this means is that the money gets deposited into the pension funds, and the fund manager gets to play with the money. This fund manager probably has little to interest in the workers life and can probably even vote against his interests (as long as he doesn't touch the money in the pension fund.)

Dr. John Maszka said...

My comment is on America's foreign policy. I think the best arrangement would be for the US to respect all other states' sovereignty and allow them to work out their own domestic politics. The US has played God so many times in other state's domestic affairs, and it has almost always come back to bite us.

We need to adopt a foreign policy that respects all other states' sovereignty, and allows for specific bilateral arrangements as needed without offsetting our overall multilateral commitments. This way, America can be the country that everyone else trusts. We can be the country that the world looks to for humanitarian assistant, economic assistant, technological assistance, and democratic leadership; rather than what we are today, feared and hated by the international community. How long can any state continue in such a way?

What if we were spending $500 billion/year feeding, educating and healing our own citizens, and repairing our own infrastructure? It wouldn’t be long before we could start extending those benefits to the rest of the world. Who would hate us for that? No state would want to be at war with such a country.

What other realistic choice do we have? As it stands, unless we intend to use nukes, or fight solely from the air, we can’t stand against nations such as Pakistan (or Iran) in traditional, boots on the ground combat; our military is far too small. Waging such a battle in a prolonged war against countless non-state actors is nothing short of insane, foolish and arrogant.

The most intelligent option we have is to adopt a new foreign policy that will ensure the all the current states of the world that the US no longer intends to encroach on their sovereignty (something the greater majority certainly do not believe today). That doesn't sound like Obama or McCain.

Consider Senator Obama. He’s just returned from a world tour, in which he proclaimed his intention to continue the military war on terror, and to take it to the soil of one of America’s own allies. It's ironic that Senator Obama has publicly proclaimed a unilateral policy of preemptive war, yet we still tend to associate Senator McCain with President Bush.

Now consider Senator McCain. He’s proclaiming the need to continue the military war on terrorism as well. How long will it be before either of these candidates has the United States in direct opposition to the greater Muslim world? Both candidates are blindly assisting the efforts to radicalize moderates against the United States. In this great political campaign, what we need is a candidate that understands that the hearts and minds of over a billion Muslim people hang in the balance; not between Obama and McCain, but between moderate and radical. And US foreign policy can tip the scales. What we need is a candidate that can wage war where it can be won, at the negotiating table.

Anonymous said...

In Australia the superannuation funds that consistently provide the best returns to their members are the co-op industry-union managed funds. The workers(through their union reps) really have a say in how their retirement savings are spent.

Rob Perkins said...

Let's come to a bit of sanity about McCain.

What do sailors call the man who graduates bottom of his class at Annapolis?

I believe the word is "sir", while asking how high on the way up when told to jump.

Graduates of the Naval Academy are not, repeat not, repeat *not*, dunderheads. Favoritism might get you into Navy Flight School, but only competence can get you out of it on the other side with wings.

This relativism is also unpleasant when considering that being assigned to the low end of the carrier aviation food chain is *still being assigned to carrier aviation*.

He wasn't the best of the best. OK. But, man, you and I couldn't ever have even gotten into Annapolis, let alone out of it at the bottom of the class!

And, not to put this too pointedly, but all military fliers are flippant, devil-may-care, and "fly-boy." The latter is definitional, the former two come close. I knew military fliers in my college days.

Critics. Oy. So much on the ground to tag McCain with. His temper and those missed votes are valid, to be sure, though the former is far, far more relevant than the latter. I'd much rather have "sweetness-and-hope" in the White House than "bomb-bomb-Iran", to be sure, but some of these criticisms target only one's own feet.

sociotard said...

Does Annapolis have stricter rules than Yale, where Bush graduated? (I remind myself of that Ivy League alumnus every time somebody puts down my University of Idaho degree)

Travc said...

So much to cover...

On local races...
The 'conservative movement' came to power with basically a two point plan.
1) Run for local offices
2) Participate in party meetings
Both of these allow a small (or marginal) group to get a lot of power because of low levels of general participation (or even public knowledge).

McCain's career as a Navy pilot is more of a 'strike against' being qualified for president than otherwise. The skills and personal qualities needed to be a fighter (or attack) pilot are pretty much orthogonal to those needed to be a good leader... Some people may well have both, but they are very rare.

A very interesting post/perspective
Nobody asks the C-130 Drivers

Also notable, one vet posted in another forum (sorry, can't find link) that being a Navy pilot in the Vietnam era was *not* a generally desired job. Working on the new nuclear subs was what most of the grads were shooting for.
Apparently, the Navy jets sucked and were very dangerous. McCain's total of 5 training crashes wasn't typical, but wasn't unheard of after all.

PS: I could have gone to Annapolis, and my oldest brother almost did... and we didn't come from any sort of Navy tradition. I probably couldn't have survived Annapolis, but that is because my tolerance for BS is very low.
Being an Annapolis grad really isn't that huge a deal, though I'm not scoffing at it.

PPS: On point for McCain's Navy pilot qualification. He knows how to use a slide-ruler ;)

On surviving disasters... I remember hearing a good while back about a study which found people with military training were statistically significantly more likely to survive a major airliner crash. IIRC, the study also looked at other big disasters where common intuition was that 'luck' was the only deciding factor. Turns out, luck is the biggest factor, but not the only one.

The sociology is interesting... I'm not completely convinced because Haidt's scales are not very general or well verified. There may be something to it though.

On authoritarianism... yeah, there are leftist authoritarians. But authoritarians are much more likely to have conservative tendencies.
Also, something like 25% of the population are authoritarian (Altemyer's scale)... wonder what the overlap is with proportion of that 27% who still support Bush ;)

The really relevant angle, IMO, is this:
Imagine you are an amoral bastard who wants to gain power. You would be much better off mouthing conservative tribal identifiers than leftist ones... there are just more authoritarian suckers on the conservative side to exploit.

Finally, on pensions owning lots of stocks...
CalPERS is not exactly managed just for maximum return. Perhaps a good example to use.

More generally, I am a bit mystified why there are not more businesses run as non-profits. I could go off on this topic for a really long time... but I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader.

Travc said...

As you well know, the program/major matters much more than the school. Ivy League schools all have plenty of crappy programs to go along with the good ones.

I'd trust an engineer from U of Iowa over a Yale MBA any day of the week. Did I ever mention that MBAs annoy the hell out of me... and they tend to have very nice facilities to study BS (though most are there just to 'network' anyway.)

Craig Comments said...

The one question I didn't hear asked of Goodling, was: Who told you to do this? This being political tests for career employees. I find it difficult to believe that she would have come up with policy by herself.

Anonymous said...


You're right, us sailors always called officers 'sir'... to thier faces. Everywhere else, it depended on the officer. And Academy Grads (ringknockers) were always (ALWAYS) assumed to be idiots until they proved otherwise. Because the qualifications for the Naval Academy seem to be knowing a congressman or a admiral, not common sense or intelligence.

But you are right, there are many things to hit McCain on, his position graduating barely makes the list. I oppose his policies far more than his status as 'airedale'.

SM1(SW) USN, ret.

Anonymous said...

Certainly, it seems quite valid to make a distinction between most "liberals"-- who tend to be non-dogmatic, adaptable, and sensitive to nuance -- and the "leftists" who fixate on dogmas, litmus-tests and nonsensical political correctness. The latter are classic romantics and can be as anger-drenched as anyone on the right.

Dr. Brin -- Which assumes that "anger-drenched" is the default position on the right.

So where do you stand on this, Dr. Brin? In the previous topic you came after me like an angry intellectual thug. No attempt to find any common ground, express any friendliness or show good faith attempts to hear my claims or answer my questions. Just dismissiveness, derision, and shrill ALL CAPS GENERALITIES.

Your posts reminded me quite a bit of the encounters I had with the campus revolutionaries of the early 1970s. Dig it?

Anonymous said...

Both sides do a certain amount of psychologizing of the other, at best with a headshaking curiousity: "What makes them so crazy?"

I like the blog <neo-neocon by a New England psychotherapist who switched from Democrat to neocon after 9-11. She's almost always thoughtful and insightful. Though she's got her convictions, she keeps a good tone.

I'm skeptical of the psychologizing enterprise from either side, even for researchers, since it's hard not to let one's biases intrude, and it easily becomes a reductive way of dismissing what the Other has to say without dealing with it.

When I switched from the left to center-right, psychologizing me was the first place my leftist friends went.

Cliff said...

Dr. Brin -- Which assumes that "anger-drenched" is the default position on the right.

Maybe not the default position, but it certainly seems to be present and far out of proportion to what is causing the anger.

Witness the nutbag Jim Adkisson that went and shot up that church this past weekend:

How often does that occur going the other direction? Liberals shooting up conservatives?

sociotard said...

I know Dr. Brin tries to be fair, but sometimes this blog feels a little bit antagonistic towards the red-staters. That's why it's so nice to trump things that red states do better than blue states, when such things happen: (but I think it will require registration and so forth, so I'll just post the relevant bits)

Seven banks have folded this year, including two on Friday and one with a branch in Idaho Falls.

The country's top banker told Congress that many banks remain "under considerable stress."

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. says almost 90 banks are on its "watchlist."

The International Monetary Fund describes the situation as a crisis, the likes of which our nation hasn't seen since the Great Depression, and the host of the cable TV show "Mad Money" recently said "almost every major bank is in trouble."

You get the picture: Gloom and doom abounds.

Not in Idaho, though.

For the first quarter of the year, banks here reported higher levels of capital, higher profitability and fewer bad loans than those across the country.

"All the measures we look at as regulators for overall financial condition, we're doing much better than the national average," said Gavin Gee, head of the Idaho Department of Finance.

Assets and deposits at banks headquartered in Idaho hit record highs in the first quarter, with $7.7 billion and $5.7 billion, respectively.

Delinquent mortgages were down slightly in the first quarter, too, to 3.62 percent of all mortgages from 3.86 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

I don't know if that trend holds in all or most red states, but it is nice to know that my state still knows what "conservative" is supposed to mean with regard to finances.

Rob Perkins said...

@sociotard -- It isn't really fair to claim that David is unfair towards red-staters. My impression has always been that he'll use a popular taxonomy without believing in it himself, in order to deliver a more salient point to its believers.

(Besides which, we hardly ever discuss whether or not subsidies to the "red states" is actually a good idea. It suppresses most of our hinterland rebellions to make the people there a tad more dependent upon federal largesse, for one thing.)

@Hawker -- Whether or not a ringknocker is a jerk has little to do with the fact that graduating Annapolis at any class ranking is still an achievement which takes considerable work. There are jerks and useless people out of every program of education. I doubt the most unpleasant officers always came from the bottom of the class.

Besides which, and again, it's just more grist for the sophistries from the "right" which claim anti-patriotism for democratic candidates.

Travc said...

Huxley... you seem to have a bit of a reading comprehension problem.

DB said: The latter are classic romantics and can be as anger-drenched as anyone on the right.

To which Huxley replies: Dr. Brin -- Which assumes that "anger-drenched" is the default position on the right.

"anyone" != "default position"

Extremists and ideologues on the left and the right are both prone to being "anger-drenched".

However, a huge factor separates the left from the right just now...
Extremists and ideologues hold power on the right. The majority center-left views the far-left as loonies; the center-right has been following far-right loonies like faithful sheep.

As for Huxley's fixation on civility... Dr Brin doesn't have the best online manners. But Huxley's fixation on it is just fucking moronic. Just stop whining you wanker.

Finally, a psychotherapist is not a sociologist. I really shouldn't have to spell it out, but apparently I do.

A psychotherapist deals with a small number of patients (far from a random sample) and may engage in some mental masturbation by "psychologizing" based on anecdotal evidence from them. (That is why Freud is generally just BS.)

A sociologist studies large groups of people empirically. Primarily by carefully crafting or using standardized 'scales' (basically questionnaires) and correlating the results of those scales against objective data and each other. Some sociologists also do experiments (when sometimes get a good deal of press) putting people in controlled situations... of course a half-decent sociologist includes a sufficiently large sample size, tries to corrects for biases in sample selection, and includes controls.

Sociologists don't do "psychologizing".

Travc said...

Sociotard... I wouldn't exactly classify Idaho as a 'red-state' in the same way Alabama is.

There is a nice long tradition of 'Western Independents'... IMO, it is a temporary accident of history that they have been allied with 'movement conservatives' and social conservatives in recent decades.

Anyways, folks who see themselves as economic conservatives and socially libertarian have been kind of homeless. Only kind of, since the majority of Democrats have been aligned with them policy wise for at least 20 years... but they haven't actually noticed it. (And the Dems have done a piss-poor job courting them.)

The recent economic mess may well make many economic conservatives a bit less ideological on the deregulation thing, which may help realign the West. There certainly can be too much regulation, but there can also be too little... and it seems like too little can lead to pretty severe problems. Alas, short memories seem to rule... except when it comes to party identification.

Anyways, just my thoughts for what they are worth.

NoOne said...

@huxley: You said "No attempt to find any common ground, express any friendliness or show good faith attempts to hear my claims or answer my questions. Just dismissiveness, derision, and shrill ALL CAPS GENERALITIES."

I went back and looked at the previous blog entry and noticed that you never really responded with facts to David's claim that "Yes, I have a point of view. That the GOP has betrayed America with a relentlessness that has undermined every strength we had and sucked almost two TRILLION dollars out of our national life while fomenting a culture war that is tearing us apart without reason..." Instead of responding to this charge, you said "And frankly I feel like I'm listening to a crank or ... CRANK."

This is how you responded in one of your first set of responses (this one might be from your third or fourth one) - by calling David a CRANK (your caps).

I don't see how this is being reasonable. And the conversation went downhill from there. How could you not expect that after you call the bloghost a "CRANK"? Perhaps you can calmly address David's point of view above?

Tony Fisk said...

I think Huxley's use of capitals was to illustrate the point by example. It would appear he succeeded better than anticipated! He certainly seems to have pressed a few buttons. Not sure why folk are so (case) sensitive.

I won't belabour the issue further (it's been done to death already!), other than refer to an earlier defence of his conduct here

Anonymous said...

Re: pension funds and "workers owning the means of productions"...sorry, no.
A pension fund collects money from perspective and actual retirees and its aim is to get the highest return on their behalf, it has no role on investment decisions and such (if any,probably they'll be very short-termist, as they need a constant inflow of money to pay the pensions). And they couldn't act as venture capitalists financing innovation, it would be quite outside their "mission envelope". If they lose money, retirees pay for it.
The best we can hope is where unions manage or oversee pension funds, but the best they can do could be enforcing some ethical guidelines inspired to the solidarity value of labor (no financing for companies that pollute, bust unions, use child labor, support corrupt repressive regimes, build stuff like land mines and such)
A progress, but not a form of "socialism by pension funds" or "worker's power".

NoOne said...

@Tony. You said "I won't belabour the issue further (it's been done to death already!), other than refer to an earlier defence of his conduct"

I agree that huxley was quite reasonable overall (which you pointed out) and I also agree that David and zorg went over the top (esp. zorg) in trying to browbeat huxley. However, in David's defense, he's bound to be upset when some unknown guy calls him a crank (in his third or fourth posting) when David expresses some undeniable facts about the GOP.

Unknown said...

Folks, wake up. The kook fixates on "civility" because it's a classic Republican scam of framing the discourse in such a way as to marginalize anyone who states documented facts or uses inconvenient logic.

Here's how it works:

FAR-RIGHT KOOK: "We must be civil."

CENTRIST: "Okay, let's be civil. Now, how do you respond to the fact that the current administration has overseen more corruption and theft than any other administration in history?"

FAR-RIGHT KOOK: "That's rude! I demand an apology!"

CENTRIST: "Well, the facts show that Halliburton has stolen more than 60 billion--"

FAR-RIGHT KOOK: "Rude! Rude! Oh, how uncivil! How terribly impolite! I'm feeling faint! I've got the vapors! Oh, heavens, I'm having heart palpitations..."

CENTRIST: "Okay, well, let's switch to another topic -- isn't it true that far-right Republicans now habitually call liberals `traitors' and call for them to be executed?"

FAR-RIGHT KOOK: "Oh, that's just the normal to-and-fro of politics. And by the way, they're not `far-right,' they're center-right."


The kook castigates you because you're guilty of "No attempt to find any common ground"...yet the kook never attempts to find any common ground, systematically ignoring everyone and everything that threatens to his crackpot delusions. The kook has never answered Brin's questions, never countered Brin's arguments, never responded in any way. How is that "attempting to find common ground"?

The kook claims you fail to "express any friendliness or show good faith attempts to hear my claims or answer my questions" -- yet the kook has told non-stop lies and never shown any good faith attempts to hear our claims or answer our questions.

Turnabout's fair play. Why should anyone be friendy to a pathological liar? Why should anyone answer the questions of a person who systematically refuses to answer any questions himself?

Lastly, the kook told one of his usual lies by claiming that he has received "just dismissiveness, derision, and shrill ALL CAPS GENERALITIES."

Not only is that an obvious lie, it's a stupid lie. Many people here, including myself, answered the kook's claims with specific facts and detailed citations. The kook simply ignored them.

This is classic far-right deluional behavior. Ignore all arguments, then whimper and whine that those who debate you are not engaging with you when they get tired of arguing with a brick wall and walk away.

This kook obviously thinks you're even dumber and more gullible than his insultingly crude con job of trying to slant the debate by never answering questions or responding to arguments and then sucker you into giving him undue credibility would imply. This clown isn't just pissing in your faces, he's telling you it's raining -- and he expects you to believe it.

Fake_William_Shatner said...


The middle-ground today for a "reasonable" Liberal is to be half-corrupt and half-crazy, as if the right were debating ideals. We have to pretend all this poison has some health benefit.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

DB -- Kudos once again. Your take on Romanticism being the driving force behind Dogmatic Left and Right has been formative of my world view. Who knew, at 43 years old, I'd still could change my world view?

But I'm having a lot of de ja vu on this topic.

You've discussed this before. I think it is important to point out, and I'm pretty sure you wouldn't disagree, is that those Dogmatic people are the "bedrock" of society. Those of us who can keep an open mind, are less resolute. We need to be inspired, rather than doggedly continue on a path to 'victory' despite any success. So we must always win these people to the good cause -- because they will not find it on their own, and because, they will be the driving force of any movement.

My in-laws are such people. They used to be kind of split and voting Republican -- resolutely, but they weren't really sure why. Even though we think that we never get anything across, the mere act of speaking out publicly, often and loudly, tends to orient the consensus of these folks. My In-laws are Democrats but they aren't sure why, other than they have a vague sense that Republicans are corrupt. But my father-in-law doesn't trust Obama because he doesn't think "other people" will vote for him, and because of those Muslim smears.


I asked him how O B could be both a Muslim, and influenced by a Radical, Christian -- it would appear that one smear cancels the other.

But we need to learn from Karl Rove; elections are not won by the reasonable people. We have to get down in the dirt and be obnoxious. The best thing we can do is ridicule people with bad ideas. I know it goes against what David Brin is talking about here with winning over Conservatives. We occasionally get a person who "used to be a Democrat" saying they left Dems because they were so strident. Really? When did such a person leave the Democrats -- during the Reagan era? Is that a way of admitting that you were a NeoCon and are having second thoughts.

The Democrats lost most of their support when they were being panty-waisted wimps. Talking complex ideals over tea. The Conservatives thumped their chest and said; "we will defeat the enemy." And the Romantics said; "Hell yeah!" and then "we have an enemy?" and then "Damn those evil guys!"

Obama is doing the right thing by just looking the part and going after McCain's alleged strengths in the military. He can make mistakes here and there -- but as long as he doesn't back down, he wins. The Bush administration may or may not be capable of admitting error (they can as a defense in court, I'm sure), but they've stayed away for looking weak.

This theory of the "power of herds" explains the reason for all the obnoxious NeoCon trolls I've had to deal with for years now. Why do they act this way? Who are they convincing? They aren't convincing the "open-minded" people who want facts, they are convincing the people who "avoid being unpopular" and who need to know who the good guys and bad guys are.

Rush Limbaugh and his like, appealed to the vanity of the herd and pointed the blame at someone not them. When they talk about Liberals hating America -- they are saying; "The Liberals are trying to say something is wrong with YOU." America to them is the Loyalists in the trenches, firing at anyone in the wrong uniform.

We have to separate identity of this crowd, from the people who associate with them, in order to manipulate them and rob from them. The best way to do that, without being the same corrupt propagandists, is to merely point out the crimes of the leadership -- and not of Americans in general. Always talk about "crimes against America." Which is not incorrect at all. Also, never back down to a NeoCon. No matter how annoying or stupid the conversation descends. Try and not be a fool, but never quit.

The NeoCon's are losing the culture war right now. But they've gained too much power to just be thrown out.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I thought I'd pass on the next link, because if there is one key point of contention between myself and David Brin, it is that; I lean more towards some plot to bring the US to its knees than he does....plot vs corruption vs incompetence seem to be what everyone wonders. And secondly, that Mr. Brin, thinks "the good guys" in the military and professionals in the bureaucracy can intercede and save us. I think the crooks know a bit too much about how to compartmentalize and confuse the heros.

Well, read this article, and see what if you think; "accident" or "just about money" or "holy crap!"
I'd want a few more sources before I took this as gospel, and a little more background on J. Michael Springmann. But he was a high-level bureaucrat with security credentials -- not something a person throws away to spout nonsense. Seems he has written some books as well,.. but I don't consider someone upset and shouting an indication that they are a crackpot.

For me, this paragraph was the clincher;
"Over the years, I wrote ever more pointed letters to Congressmen dealing with the intelligence services: to John D. Rockefeller IV, then Vice Chairman, U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence; to Jane Harman, then Ranking Member, U.S. House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; and to Nancy Pelosi, then Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives.  I also wrote to Tom Davis, now Ranking Republican on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives, who was opposing legislation to protect national security whistle-blowers.    
    In those missives, I named the intelligence officers who ran the Visas for Terrorists Program and instructed the Congressmen on how to contact them.  But, no action was ever taken, no question was ever raised, giving rise to my view that they knew all about the matter.  And chose to ignore it.

Anonymous said...

RAND Corporation suggests the way to win the "war on terror" is to stop treating it as a war.

Another "Well, DUH, we were saying that six years ago!" moment.

Anonymous said...

I came into this conversation as an admirer of Dr. Brin's Uplift books, The Postman and two of his ETI essays, and I complimented him on those ETI essays in my second post.

However, Brin led straight off in response to me with a lot of wild-ass, unsupported, strawman assertions about Republicans with the delicious invite: "If you don't agree with these FACTS..." Now, to me that sort of construction is crank-talk, pure and simple. It is especially incongruous in a topic about winning over conservatives.

Brin escalated to the point of calling the Bush adminstration and its supporters traitors, monsters, and victims of psychopathology. When I finished reading his posts, I felt the need for a tissue to wipe the spittle of my eyeglass lenses

I can't tell whether Brin and others here are just venting with these polemics or whether they truly believe them. In either case, what exactly should be my response--aside from submitting myself for re-education?

I'd like think we could discuss our differences as equal, rational citizens. A few commenters are willing to take that approach, but overall, and especially with Dr. Brin and Zorgon, this doesn't seem to be on the menu.

Anonymous said...

Believe me, I get passionate about this stuff too, and when I get worked up, it seems all too obvious that Democrats are traitors selling the US and Western civilization completely down the river.

But then I remember that for thirty years I was a progressive Democrat, marching on the Federal Building at regular intervals, lighting candles and writing letters, and feeling horrified by Republicans.

These days I assume that, for the most part, people on both sides want what is best for America but they come from such different worldviews and attend to such different sets of facts that the current disagreements are inevitable.

So how do we talk to each other?

Boot said...

So, I'm currently working on a web Tax program which will allow people evaluate our spending for themselves.

It will involve slider bars for each spending area in a given data set (White House hist, BEA, etc) as a percentage. In effect allowing people to choose to spend 120% in areas that need attention (Education is popular) to 20% in areas that we spend too much (Zorgon and myself on Defense).

The Range will be 0-200% spending. I'm planning to have it calculate the total money saved and ones own resulting slice of the pie if it were dividing evenly amongst Americans. (Impossible I know.) The point isn't to give people the idea that they can get money back. Rather I want people to know the areas where they want to reduce spending.

The idea of "Lowering Taxes" is impossible imo. The idea of collectively reducing spending in areas which can cause lower taxes isn't.

I'd like to get ideas on features that people would be interested in.

Cliff said...

For what it's worth, you have supported your arguments to a certain extent (far more than Zorgon gives you credit for). And B. DeWhirst can tell you all about how difficult it is to argue with Brin.

But the evidence is overwhelming, with regards to the sheer calumny of the Bush Administration. From what I've observed, you've submitted links to a few polls, but beyond that have offered only weak rebuttals against the long list of accusations people here have levied against the government.

If you could provide a more thorough and substantive argument, people here would be willing to debate (not Zorgon, I think he may be past the point of listening to you).

Anonymous said...

Cliff -- Thanks for a polite response. Actually I've provided more than links to a few polls and that's more than Dr. Brin deigned to provide in his responses to me.

However, I don't see how I can rebut statements like "But the evidence is overwhelming, with regards to the sheer calumny of the Bush Administration" or Dr. Brin's absurd list blaming Republicans for the destruction of everything short of the space-time continuum.

Also, I do see the primary responsibility resting on those making claims to support those claims, rather than demanding that those claims be accepted unless others can pose rebuttals to the satisfaction of the claimant.

Darwin didn't just say "Evolution is a FACT unless someone can rebut it."

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, in the area of politics and current event, much of what we are dealing with boils down to fallible opinions.

For instance, was the Iraq War a good or a bad choice? It depends. I can see both sides of that one; however I don't see how any human can claim certainty on the Iraq War unless they are judging by an absolute standard like pacificism.

Travc said...

Boot... clever idea on the spending/tax 'tweaker'. With so many very large numbers involved, visualizing the marginal effects of small changes may well give one a much better sense than comparing base figures.

I'm curious about your data source and how items are classified. If you can take all the numbers from an official source that will strengthen your case a lot. Even better if you can scrape the data in an automated manner, since then it can remain up-to-date and be even more trustworthy (removing the opportunity to muck with the numbers to get a desired result... not that I'm accusing you, but others may.)

I'd also suggest, if possible, having each item belong to a list of categories and subcategories. That way it is possible to dig into each category and see where the money is going.

I'd also encourage you to try and be objective as possible (automated as possible helps). Maybe mention your stance that military spending is way too high, but as an aside not as the 'point'. Take the tone of "here is my view and why I thought this would be useful, but the project itself is very general and 'just the facts'".

Sounds like a lot of work. Also sounds like something that you should get a grant for doing... public interest and all that ;)

Travc said...

Marino, re pension funds... You should look at CalPERS. It is a huge pension fund for California public employees. They do take a pretty 'active investor' role and put a good portion of their portfolio behind 'ethical investments'.

Not quite socialism through pension funds, I agree. But not nothing.

Travc said...

Huxley says:
Believe me, I get passionate about this stuff too, and when I get worked up, it seems all too obvious that Democrats are traitors selling the US and Western civilization completely down the river.

And exactly what evidence do you see supporting this? You seem to again be comparing apples to pink unicorns. Dr Brin's (and many other's) assessment that BushCo and the GOP more generally is dominated by incompetents and crooks is not in the same class as your admittedly 'worked up' opinion.

Let me make another analogy...
There are two 'conspiracy theories' about 9/11.

One is that a group of radical Muslims (and doubtless some amoral people exploiting them for personal gain and glory) put together a plot that involved taking control of 4 airline flights, two of which were flown into the WTC, one into the pentagon, and one targeted someplace else we aren't sure of.
The structural damage resulting from the planes hitting the WTC towers and the massive fires following caused failure of the buildings leading to total collapse.

Another theory is that the government or a international cabal of Jews radio-controlled empty airplanes into the towers and then triggered a bunch of explosives strategically placed for a controlled demolition.

Both are conspiracy theories... just one of them has any evidence.

BTW: Huxley, here is something I'd like to hear your view on...

There is now extensive evidence that AG Gonzales and several other high placed people in the Dept of Justice hired people for non-partisan professional positions for partisan political reasons. Other than being clearly against the law, this placed party loyalty and ideology above competence, and has led to several very questionable prosecutions and investigations at least one of which has been summarily overturned for utter lack of merit. There is also strong (though mainly circumstantial at this point) evidence that the chief political operative in the WH (who was actually given an official policy position, outrageous in itself) had a role in these actions.

Dr Brin, I, and many others think this is not just a political scandal, it is a real threat to our government's legitimacy and ability for our society to function as an open society (aka real democracy). Attempting to turn the Dept of Justice into an arm of a political party should reek of totalitarianism to most anyone.

PS: If you don't know the term 'open society', you really should familiarize yourself "Open Society and Its Enemies". If the neo-cons had any sort of memory and focused their 'concern' on the real enemies to our way of life, we would be in a much better state of affairs just now.

PPS: (Apologies in advance for assuming your views here.. but I'm going off of what I've seen so far.)
Just to hopefully twist your misconceptions a bit more... George Soros's big endeavor is called "The Open Society Institute", and has been much more success promoting freedom and democracy around the world than BushCo and the neo-cons have. Soros's book "The Age of Fallibility" is almost certainly not what you think it is. Did you know that Soros studied under Karl Popper and based his (highly successful) economic views on the philosophy of science?

Tony Fisk said...

Zorgon, I am aware that 'civility', like any tool of discourse, can be used as a tactic (as can 'throttling' the discussion to a little piece at a time- fillibusters!). Trust me, your warning is noted. I know how to play chess.

However, I will not automatically assume that any chance-met person whose views are not in accord with mine is a right wing kook! You may know Huxley from elsewhere. I have not and, so far, have not found his responses to fall into the pattern you have predicted. Indeed, I found it quite instructive to actually *look* at the source of the poll he quoted (via an admittedly rather slanted source) on whether Iraqis thought the war was worthwhile. It revealed a complex picture that did *not* back up the notion that they thought it was all for the best (trust me, the original is worth a look, and I suspect Huxley may(?) have found it an eye-opener as well)

Now, if you don't agree with my assessment of Huxley, then let us agree to disagree! We have made our points, and one of the outcomes we want to avoid is for all discourse to degenerate into 'he's a kook! No, you are.. am not are too'

(Which is *precisely* what a kook as you describe would want, and so I am throttling right back on the issue as of now! I invite you all to do the same!)


Huxley, having discussed one point about liberal views, you might like to do as travc suggests, and lay out why you sometimes find 'it seems all too obvious that Democrats are traitors selling the US and Western civilization completely down the river' (and why this is only obvious when you're worked up? ;-)

I'll agree this forum isn't the place to lay these points out systematically (It's not the attitudes, it's the format, and we've groaned about this several times. Shall we create a wiki for the purpose?), and certainly *not* where you bring 'decent conservatives' to have their heads pulled out of the sand (nor is that it's purpose!) Still, it stretches the brain.

Cliff said...

Fair enough, my statement on overwhelming evidence is a vast summary of the things I've observed.

So I'll focus on a tiny piece of the Administration's corruption: its interference with the EPA.

The administration has forced Mary Gade, the top environmental regulator in the Midwest, to quit after she got in a fuss with Dow:,0,601716.story

Senator Whitehouse has called on Administrator Johnson to resign:

(Thinkprogress is a very liberal site, but it links to its sources rigorously and the speech from Whitehouse is comprehensive.)

The EPA has ordered its staff not to cooperate with the GAO or other inquiries:

The White House has asserted executive privilege to block Rep. Waxman's investigation:

That PEER site has a whole list of EPA abuses:

Everything points to extensive meddling by the Bush Administration through the Office of Management and Budget - interference with science, with civil servants carrying out their jobs, with keeping policy free from undue corporate influence.

This is criminal. People's lives are at stake with these matters, as well as our health and the health of our planet.
And this is only one small part of what the Bush Administration has done. Witness how California's proposed emissions regulations were blocked. Witness the ongoing scandal in the Department of Justice.

Cliff said...

And Tony Fisk:
I looked at that poll. My impression was that the favorable view the Iraqis had of ousting Saddam Hussein was the single silver lining in the study. Everything else indicated that they dislike us and want us to leave. Is that a reasonable assessment?

And also, the study is from 2006. Seems like so much has changed since then that it is hardly relevant.

Tony Fisk said...

@Cliff: You got it!

Also note that the 'silver lining' dropped from 77% to 61% between January and September, 2006.

Anonymous said...

And the fun just doesn't stop:

For White House, Hiring Is Political

Published: July 31, 2008

WASHINGTON — On May 17, 2005, the White House’s political affairs office sent an e-mail message to agencies throughout the executive branch directing them to find jobs for 108 people on a list of “priority candidates” who had “loyally served the president.”

“We simply want to place as many of our Bush loyalists as possible,” the White House emphasized in a follow-up message, according to a little-noticed passage of a Justice Department report released Monday about politicization in the department’s hiring of civil-service prosecutors and immigration officials.

The report, the subject of a Senate oversight hearing Wednesday, provided a window into how the administration sought to install politically like-minded officials in positions of government responsibility, and how the efforts at times crossed customary or legal limits.'

This is how incompetent shmucks like "Brownie" and George Deutch got hired.

Anonymous said...

And exactly what evidence do you see supporting this? You seem to again be comparing apples to pink unicorns. Dr Brin's (and many other's) assessment that BushCo and the GOP more generally is dominated by incompetents and crooks is not in the same class as your admittedly 'worked up' opinion.

travc -- So you say. You and Dr. Brin are welcome to your beliefs and opinions, as am I. When either of you work up an incontrovertible QED proof and lay it out for others to criticize, let me know.

As I assess the current situation, we are in an existential war with radical Islam. You do not agree and I acknowledge your disagreement. However, if one accepts that premise and notes that Democrats are largely undermining, blocking, and subverting that war, then, although you will not agree, you should have a sense of my claim.

As to the rest, yes I know of Popper's Open Society--just finished reading Wittgenstein's Poker last week, and Open Society is now on my list. Yes, I know Soros studied under Popper but I don't see that as a guarantee of anything. Yes, I know of that people who oppose Bush make a big deal about Gonzalez and other issues which at worst IMO seem like politics as usual.

The right-wing goes on and on about all the nefarious abuses of the Clinton administration, and maybe I should work up a good mouthful of spittle and come back at you with those, but I don't take that stuff seriously either.

Just to hopefully twist your misconceptions a bit more...

No, I will not continue to debate you if you keep poisoning my well this way. We speak respectfully to each other as equals or not at all.

Anonymous said...

Also note that the 'silver lining' dropped from 77% to 61% between January and September, 2006.

Cliff, Tony -- Thanks for continued reasonable responses, and thanks for reading the material I linked to. I'm surprised how often people assume that a link means what the linker says and how often the link undermines what the linker said. You guys think for yourselves. Salut!

Yes, the results are mixed, as I did acknowledge in the previous thread. Nonetheless, what you may not have noticed, is that al-Qaeda's bombing of the Golden Mosque--one of the most holy Shia sites in the world--occurred in April, 2006.

As planned, the destruction of that mosque ignited horrific sectarian violence between the Shia and Sunni and basically tripled Iraqi casualties for the next 18 months. No wonder approval for ousting Hussein dropped! That it stayed at a big majority of 61% is remarkable in itself.

Of course, now that the surge has worked and Iraq is on its way to becoming as peaceful or more peaceful than South Africa, we can assume the polling on that question would go back up, in fact way up. However, the polling organizations no longer ask that question.

But look me straight in the eye and tell me that the Iraqis are not better off now than under Hussein. Then tell me that their future is not even brighter still.

Of course, that still doesn't justify the Iraq War. But it's a data point.

Anonymous said...

And so to bed.

Dr. Brin -- I've just started The Anthropic Cosmological Principle by Barrow and Tipler. Fascinating stuff. I'd love to read more of what you have to say along those lines.

Tony Fisk said...


Do I take it, then, that your notion that the democrats are selling the US down the river is based on the hypothesis that 'we are in an existential war with radical Islam.' (and that dems will not acknowledge that)?

(I ask that just to clarify the terms before I respond. Meanwhile, you may be amused by David's r'oil conspiracy theory which, I think, he raises more because he thinks it *ought* to be raised rather than because he believes in it. Nevertheless, he gets it to connect enough dots to raise a few hairs)

Just to respond to one point, though:
However, the polling organizations no longer ask that question. (about whether Iraqis thought the Iraq war was worth it)

We-e-ll, I don't think there is a reluctance to ask the question. There is an ongoing Gallup poll that asks the question 'Do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq?' whose last sampling was in April, 2008 (63% yes, 36% no). (Admittedly, this is a sampling of Americans, rather than Iraqis. Like you, I would like to see more recent results from that region)

The point about the mosque bombing is fair. Another factor mentioned in the poll report to explain the initial high reading was the euphoria following on from the elections (and Hussein's execution)

But, on the whole, it would appear that Iraqis still want the US occupation to end, as Dr Stephen Kull said recently:

In closing, it is clear that the Iraqi people are quite eager for the US to lighten its military footprint in Iraq. More importantly it appears that they are eager to regain their sense of sovereignty. As long as they do not have this sense, they are likely to continue to have a fundamentally hostile attitude toward all aspects of the US presence in Iraq. However, as Iraqis gradually regain this sense that their country belongs to them, they will likely move toward wanting some ongoing relationship with the US, both economic and military, to help them find their way out of this troubled period of their long history.

As I said earlier, that would be a delightful outcome (but, oh, the means!)

Happy reading, BTW.

Unknown said...

I... so far, have not found [the kook's] responses to fall into the pattern you have predicted. -- Tony Fisk

Democrats are traitors selling the US and Western civilization completely down the river. -- huxley

Unknown said...

More cool stuff:

Colonizing Venus with cloud cities. At 50 kilometers, temperatures and pressures in Venus' atmosphere are remarkably earthlike.
In fact, the scientist who proposes these cloud cities points out that at that altitude, Venus boasts the most earthlike environment in the solar system.

Scientists decipher ancient Greek mechanical computer
"After a closer examination of a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology known as the Antikythera Mechanism, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games.
The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism’s concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, on Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with Archimedes."


Scientists say they've found the first direct evidence of liquid hydrocarbons on the surface of Titan, one of Saturn's moons. With temperatures of -139 degrees Celsius, it's not exactly a vacation resort, however.

A leading advisor to the U.S. military, the Rand Corporation, just released a new study called "How Terrorist Groups End: Lessons for Countering al Qa'ida".
The report confirms... that the war on terror is a hoax which is actually weakening national security.

And now, the best news yet: current round of WTO talks collapses. Yay! What the kids dressed in dolphin suits couldn't do in Seattle and Genoa, the greed and corruption of the mafia-like giant global corporations has accomplished.
Now that the shameful global protection racket run by corporate gangsters for the purpose of robbing from the world's poor to enrich the wealthiest 1% on the planet (and misnamed "globalized free trade") has proven too extortionate to be tolerated by the 80% of the world's economies outside the U.S. and Europe/Japan, let's hope this hideous NAFTA/CAFTA/WTO monstrosity dies for good so it can be replaced by a genuine global free market.

Tony Fisk said...

*chuckle* Brevity is the soul of wit and, yes, I see your point, Zorgon!

But note that H has since expanded on why he thinks that, rather than just leave it hanging as a bit of inflammatory nonsense (which is what I think would happen if the pattern was being followed)

...hmm! I guess, on Venus, life would be simpler: you really could drop miscreants and unbelievers into the sulphurous inferno that lay below!

(haven't got around to reading those "Reason" essays in NS yet. Any good?)

Cliff said...

Huxley said:
But look me straight in the eye and tell me that the Iraqis are not better off now than under Hussein. Then tell me that their future is not even brighter still.

Fair enough. I don't know about "better off," but they appear to have a brighter future. And I say 'appear to' for the same reason the conservatives keep saying we have to stay there - because things could still unravel into full-blown civil war.

But consider, this was achieved at the low low cost of:
4100+ American soldiers dead
30,000+ American soldiers wounded
A severely weakened military
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead
Millions of Iraqis displaced
The loss of American prestige across the globe
Billions of dollars (spent legitimately)
Billions more lost to corruption and incompetence
Osama Bin Laden still alive
The Taliban flourishing in Pakistan

And about the WMDs which were ostensibly the reason for going in there, consider this:
We can't fight a ground war with Iran. Or at least, we don't want to. So, if we really want to prevent Iran from getting nukes, we'll have to rely on airstrikes.

Why didn't we do that with Iraq? We have a history of such actions. Why not just bomb the hell out of any facilities that looked suspicious, and left Hussein alone? He'd have died eventually, it would have been cheaper, AND we could have focused on Bin Laden.

Now, back to the EPA: Was your "which at worst IMO seem like politics as usual" directed at my post as well as travc's? Or were you going to give a more substantive response?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

zorgon the malevolent said...
I... so far, have not found [the kook's] responses to fall into the pattern you have predicted. -- Tony Fisk

Democrats are traitors selling the US and Western civilization completely down the river. -- huxley

Just because half the posts on this thread, after the previous thread got hijacked, and are either Huxley complaining about being attacked, or getting thoughtful strokes for his bruising, and we are having to re-defend statements that have a least 100 pages of thoughtful prose backing them up -- doesn't mean that this is the typical pattern of someone who hijacks blogs.


50% of the conversation gives me deja vu to 50% of last weeks conversation. It used to be, that I had to put up with NeoCons saying; "We won the election, America is with us -- you are a loon, get over it." And now I have to put up with; "I used to be a Democrat, but now I've become a NeoCon, because you guys are mean."

Oh, wow, I predicted this before seeing more here; I like the blog; neo-neocon by a New England psychotherapist who switched from Democrat to neocon after 9-11. She's almost always thoughtful and insightful. Though she's got her convictions, she keeps a good tone.

Can we please get an IGNORE button? One day, a discussion will be over, when someone goes so far as to accuse someone of being a NeoCon, just like today when we accuse someone of being a Nazis. Just because I'm pretty aware of how things will be, or reality, doesn't mean I should be penalized. Here I am, wasting more pixels on the web, on this nonsense. I've spent two much of my life "discussing" things with people who are trying to turn a scam into the appearance of a debate of philosophy. If I find a burglar in my house, I will call the cops -- I won't be discussing Voltaire with him.

Travc said...

Zorg... the WTO isn't *all* bad, as I think you acknowledge. Though how folks looked at GATT (arguably more good than bad), saw flaws, and then came up with the WTO greatly magnifying those flaws... well corrupt or incompetent seems to be a common question these days?

As for Huxley... I wrote a long post last night that got eaten by an invalid key problem (damn dhcp address reset on the DSL modem). But in retrospect, no great loss.

The claim that the politicization of the DoJ is 'politics as usual' is absurd on its face. It is not only verboten by tradition, it is explicitly illegal!

Turing a blind eye on the long list of upper echelon GOP pols and power-brokers who are criminals is simply dishonest or delusional. And those criminals are merely the tip of the iceberg.

Quite simply, saying the shit the GOP has been pulling over the last decade is just 'politics as usual'... well that is like saying the mafia and a prostitute are the same thing. The K Street Project is the gold-standard example of organized political corruption.

I think I'm pretty much done with the Hux-ster, at least on politics and world affairs. Occasionally he says something potentially interesting, but SNR is very low.

Oh, and the whining is fucking annoying. It is *more respectful* to be straight and blunt than merely polite.

Tony Fisk said...

WS: I second the call for an ignore button, and have been having thoughts on that topic for a while. Still, your comment has prompted me to action!

I quite understand that some people feel the 'neocon kooks' issue has been re-heated so many times as to be a public health hazard, and just want to move on. However, I might point out that the bulk of the clogged bandwidth it generates comes from people hotly contesting H and his principles. In medical terms, the situation is akin to cytotoxic shock resulting from an over-reactive immune system.

matthew said...

Tony Blair escapes prosecution by the SFO for intervening to help Prince Bandar.

The court ruling today, written by Lord Thomas Bingham, described how Blair himself and Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Britain's ambassador to Saudi Arabia, used Saudi threats of new terror attacks in Britain to get the SFO to shut down the bribes investigation. According to the ruling, Blair personally sent a "personal minute" about the matter to the U.K. Attorney General, who oversees SFO operations. Blair warned of "a real and immediate risk of a collapse in UK/Saudi security, intelligence and diplomatic cooperation," and included attachments based on information from Britain's secret intelligence agencies, M.I.5 and M.I.6.

In three meetings with the head of the Serious Fraud Office, Ambassador Cowper-Coles conveyed increasingly dire warnings about possible new terror attacks on British soil, the ruling states. "At the first meeting the ambassador had described the threats to national and international security as very grave indeed and had said that British lives on British streets would be at risk," according to Lord Bingham's ruling, summarizing the evidence presented to the court. "At the second meeting, he had again said that lives would be at risk. At the third he had spoken of a real threat to British lives."

One assistant SFO director concluded following these warnings that if the Saudis carried out their threats to withdraw counterterrorism cooperation, it could lead to "another 7/7."

Though the U.K. government declined to explicitly confirm the incident to the courts, last year London's Sunday Times reported that in a meeting with one of Blair's top advisers, Bandar personally threatened that the Saudis' "intelligence and diplomatic relations" with Britain would be curtailed unless the SFO's investigations related to Bandar were shut down.

Rocky Persaud said...

DB, any interest in moving to a different blog system, like Scoop (the one DKos uses)?

Or if you´re willing to put a bit of money into it, IP.Blog plugs right into IP.Board, so that you can write a blog entry, and it gets repeated as the first post in a forum topic of the same name, and side conversations can go on in their own threads.

I´m even willing to host it for you on a server I have some free space on.

Tony Fisk said...

Further snippets from that Newsweek article that Matthew point out:

Today's ruling is not likely to end the controversy over the BAE payments, however. The U.S. Justice Department is conducting its own investigation into whether BAE, which operates widely in the United States and has a growing portfolio of Pentagon contracts, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in making payments to Bandar and other Saudi officials.

That would be interesting 'fly on the wall' time!

The ruling is also likely to fuel criticism that the Saudi government—which portrays itself as a key ally of the United States and Great Britain in the War on Terror—is far less cooperative than it publicly claims. "This shows how the Saudis can get foreign governments to disregard their own justice system," said Ali Al-Ahmed, the director of the Gulf Institute, a Washington-based think tank that is critical of the Saudi government. "Terrorism is being used to blackmail the West. You watch, it is only a matter of time before they do this in the U.S."

...or, perhaps, find that they already have.

(Actually, I would define the struggle to be against tyranny rather than terror which is, after all, merely a herding tool: generally more effective on governments than the populace)

matthew said...

Researcher at MIT publishes a simple method for artificial photosynthesis.

From the MIT press release:

Inspired by the photosynthesis performed by plants, Nocera and Matthew Kanan, a postdoctoral fellow in Nocera's lab, have developed an unprecedented process that will allow the sun's energy to be used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. Later, the oxygen and hydrogen may be recombined inside a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity to power your house or your electric car, day or night.

The key component in Nocera and Kanan's new process is a new catalyst that produces oxygen gas from water; another catalyst produces valuable hydrogen gas. The new catalyst consists of cobalt metal, phosphate and an electrode, placed in water. When electricity -- whether from a photovoltaic cell, a wind turbine or any other source -- runs through the electrode, the cobalt and phosphate form a thin film on the electrode, and oxygen gas is produced.

Combined with another catalyst, such as platinum, that can produce hydrogen gas from water, the system can duplicate the water splitting reaction that occurs during photosynthesis.

The new catalyst works at room temperature, in neutral pH water, and it's easy to set up, Nocera said. "That's why I know this is going to work. It's so easy to implement," he said.

MIT press release here:

The full paper is in the brand new issue of Science - I don't subscribe, so I can't give a report on the technical aspects.

Anonymous said...

Somewhat off topic.

Some time ago you noted that the Libertarian candidate for president was less than wonderful. I heard him answer some questions on NPR the other day. The term “fool” is one description that came to mind. He clearly has no concept of the complexity of the world in which we all live.

You are certainly right.

Gavin Craig

Unknown said...

More detail about the new solar catalytic process for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen here.

Several hurdles at present. The process right now requires platinum, which is rare and expensive. It's possible that researchers might be able to substitute another more common element or compound for platinum, but they'll need to research to see.

Second, you need photovoltaics to supply the electricity and the amount of oxygen + hydrogen produced will be proportional to the electric current. However, since the PV doesn't need to generate electricity directly, super-high efficiency probably isn't as important as it would be in a standard PV cell. So perhaps amorphous crystalline solar cells with lower efficiency (but costing much less, and with no need for rare elements like indium) would work.

Third, a lot of engineering needs to be done to turn this into a practical commercial energy-generating device. You're talking about storing hydrogen gas, which has atoms so small they tend to diffuse right through solid metal under pressure. So practical engines generating electricity from this process are probably still 20 to 30 years away.

Anonymous said...

Barack Obama drains 3-point jumper on first try in Kuwait.

In English, please. "Drains 3-point jumper"? (And no, I am not going to follow a link to Youtube and burn Christ alone knows how much bandwidth and money watching Christ alone knows how long a video before MAYBE the answer is somehow revealed. What, you didn't realize some people might catch up on your blog on their mobie, where every megabyte costs money?)

And finally... I just learned how much of the world's investment capital is held by pension funds and similar workers' retirement plans. THIRTY TRILLION DOLLARS. That is more than a third of the amount currently invested in available investment equities, including the stock of nearly all corporations. In other words, the workers already own the means of production. Wrap your heads around that one... then discuss why they aren't using that ownership power.

Oh, that one's easy. Because these retirement funds are administered on their behalf by banks, where the money does and doesn't get invested is decided by the banks, and the banks are run by the bourgeoisie of the bourgeoisie, the richest of the rich...


JuhnDonn said...

You're talking about storing hydrogen gas, which has atoms so small they tend to diffuse right through solid metal under pressure.

Along with diffusing through metal, hydrogen also weakens the metal, making it brittle and more prone to failure. Is something they're working on at my workplace. Still, the amount of infrastructure that would have to be built for a hydrogen based vehicle fuel is one reason why I think it won't take off nationwide.

The electrical grid, in as poor a shape as it is, is a much better way to distribute vehicle energy. Power production (wind/solar/nuclear/coal) can then be handled on a regional basis.

Cliff said...

No further comment from Huxley. Interesting. Maybe Zorgon was right.

Unknown said...


New computer simulations from Japanese cosmologists suggest that the earliest stars appeared remarkably soon after the Big Bang, only 300 million years or so. They were also apparently giants, up to 10,000 times as large as the sun, asd consequently they burned for only a million years. Since the faster a star burns, the more heavy elements it produces when it blows up, this implies that the early universe built up heavy elements by nucleosynthesis much faster than heretofore suspected.

This would suggest that the heavy elements necessary for carbon-based life must have appeared much earlier in the universe's history than previously thought. If so, this raises the likelihood that intelligent life -- and thus technological civilizations -- arose as much as 10 billion years ago. That would make the oldest civilizations in the universe somewhere around 10 billion years (!) older than ours.

I must confess I find it quite impossible to imagine the technology or mentality of a civilization 10 billion years older than ours.

Travc said...

Zorg, nifty astrophysics/cosmology news... thanks for the link.

I've always really enjoyed SF that speculates about really alien intelligences. Most writers don't seem to even try and lose the anthropomorphic perspective. 10 billion years is more than enough time for a civilization like the aliens from 2001 to actually develop... Who know what the hell they are thinking, or even if they think in a sense we would recognize.

Also gets my mind running on entities that operate on much longer timescales (and potentially spatial scales). Maybe Asimov's idea of the very very long wavelength radio telescope isn't such a bad idea.

David Brin said...

Guys, just let Huxley do his thing. He comes on, wails and gnashes his teeth, hurls names and moans about how he’s been treated, then does it again, and again, and never notices that that is how he started here! It’s all one note -- a concerto of self-pity -- and bears no relationship to anything that ever actually happened. We’re dealing with pathology.

Proof that the strawman he is moaning at bears no relationship to me couldn’t be simpler. The proof is this community, filled with the most independent-minded and diverse group I’ve seen in the blogosphere. Libertarians, left-wingers, Goldwater Republicans... true a majority are techno-liberals, but we snap and rattle at each other -- and stay willing to learn (Note that BD and Zorgon are still here, eh guys? ;-)

Tell me if H’s ankle-biting starts getting to you and I’ll banish the VERY ill-named troll. But I’ve only really had to do that once. (Ironically, to a leftist!) Alas, he’ll head off and storm elsewhere about being bullied by me, here, staining the rep of a man who put up with plenty. Still, I will never, ever, have anything to say to this person. Just skim past, guys. We have things to discuss.

Rocky, I have long pondered trying a better blogging system. Hell, anything would be better than blogger, which is demented and lobotoimizing. Indeed, I was one of the very first participants in a modern, web-formated blog-dicussion forum, the Caltech HyperforumUnfortunately,

I just don’t have the time to invest in upgrading. My family is after me to quit this whole thing, cold turkey! Only the feeling that I might be helping in our time of crisis, with a sliver of an idea here and there... plus the fact that I like you guys and hear stimulating stuff... keeps me at it.

Anonymous said...

I just thought of a better, more accurate description of "The Surge."

I should be called:

"The number of troops that were required to do the job right in the first place, four years late."

So, yeah, of course it "worked." We finally sent the number of guys and equipment to do the job . . . four years late.

* * *

DB, you should be writing, SFnalish, about the NEXT crisis.

Tony Fisk said...

I thought DB was.

My last word on the Huxley discussion comes via 'Sluggy Freelance' title='You need to be able to laugh at yourself, lest others do it for you!'.

(Well, I thought it amusing. OK, movin' on now...)

Genius said...

"However, the polling organizations no longer ask that question."

I presume that was because people were using it out of context to give completely misleading impressions of public opinion in Iraq. (as we demonstrated)

For example the link that huxley linked to originally while there were survey questions giving the opposite impression that more directly resembles the question it seemed he was trying to answer.

Sorry to keep going back to that but it goes to the heart of honest debate - if you see evidence from the other side don't dispute it and yet proceed to act as if it didn't exist.