Sunday, July 20, 2008

Win Over Those Conservatives Who Still Think

One of my frequent themes is how easy it is to show that the Republican Party has not only betrayed America, our children and civilization... but also any decent interpretation of conservatism. Gradually, skilled propagandists (with some inadvertent help from intemperate liberals) have drawn our conservative neighbors to redefine their movement --

-- away from prudence to utter recklessness
-- away from fiscal responsibility toward the full suite of gamblers' rationalization.
-- from waste-not belief in efficiency to wastrel slovenliness
-- from home-first skepticism to international meddlesomeness and adventurism
-- from belief in the rational and palpable to mystical arm-waving
-- from a grounding in science and pragmatism to utter disdain for fact driven reason

And so on....

We know that many of our neighbors are uncomfortable with the outcomes. While the GOP core circles the wagons, they are losing many citizens who still retain a glimmer of rationality and fealty to a Goldwater style of conservative values. These people need to be our focus. Because Their overall influence will be far greater than any other converts. Only, in order to "convert" them back into Americans, we must learn to speak to them from the perspective of the older conservatism. One still worthy of some respect. An opposing viewpoint worth arguing-with. Even listening-to.

==Bring them back==

ostrichpapersDrag folks - especially ostriches - to watch Obama’s big recent foreign policy speech. Watch it yourself. He talks about how Marshall, Acheson, Truman etc created an over arching strategy to save the world, out of the hopeless nadir of World War II. Unlike almost anybody else, Obama actually notices that the “Marshall Plan” was only a narrow part of this grand strategy. This speech went a long way toward closing my own small “gap” re Obama. This man has a grasp of the important basics.

If your ostrich claims to be too busy, start them off with this handy chart. Invite them to guess how things also fall out regarding other measurements of a country’s actual success. Do Americans start more small businesses under Republicans or Democrats? Get better return on their retirement funds? File for more patents? What about inflation? Crime rates? In fact, invite them to find more than one criterion under which we are better ruled by the GOP... except tax rates for the rich and CEO compensation rates for monopolies.

Of course the grand-daddy ostrich site -- for anyone truly dedicated to transforming a decent conservative Republican back into a decent (still somewhat )American -- remains my own Ostrich Manifesto.

One of the best articles I have seen, aiming some light into the deeper drives of Barack Obama, would be “Barack by the books,” by Laura Miller, which appeared recently on Salon. The article dives into Obama’s memoir, "Dreams From My Father," focusing not only on his complex journey, raised in mostly-white society by white grandparents, but impelled to explore also the culture and needs of America’s other half. What Miller does, instead, is inspect the list of authors who Obama claims as influences, during his period of intellectual growth at Occidental College, Columbia and Harvard, and while working to organize communities in Illinois.

==Improving Society==

MoralManAmong the books about the process of improving society that influenced Obama were Reinhold Niebuhr's "Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study in Ethics." Both Niebhur and another author, Saul Alinsky, were men who practiced the art of self criticism and self-reinvention. Both preached wariness toward what I have called the drug high of self-righteous romanticism, and instead emphasized the power of pragmatic incrementalism... the very thing that Barack Obama appears to represent and iconify, wherever he stands and speaks.

”Alinsky was a self-described radical and Niebuhr was a devout Christian but neither man was an idealist. Both tended to see morality as a kind of cover story used by groups who, in Niebuhr's words, "take for themselves whatever their power can command." That doesn't mean that these two men believed that nobody had the ability or will to change the world for the better. However, anyone who attempts to do so better be ready to get his hands dirty. So when we turn to the book Obama has most recently cited as a major influence, Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln," it's not the Lincoln of popular American myth -- the secular saint and martyr -- we find praised there. It's Lincoln the wily politician, who was not above carefully hedging his public positions and who prided himself on cajoling his opponents to his side.”

AudacityHopeIn "The Audacity of Hope," Obama states: "I think my party can be smug, detached and dogmatic at times. I believe in the free market, competition and entrepreneurship, and think no small number of government programs don't work as advertised ... I think America has more often been a force for good than for ill in the world; I carry few illusions about our enemies, and revere the courage and competence of our military. I reject a politics that is based solely on racial identity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or victimhood generally. I think much of what ails the inner city involves a breakdown in culture that will not be cured by money alone, and that our values and spiritual life matter at least as much as our GDP."

Dare an ostrich to call the author of that paragraph their enemy. Above all, even if that was packaged FOR conservatives, doesn’t it mean something that he would know how? Or think it worth the effort?

==The Audacity of Listening==

Another article I found both enlightening and mature was from Gail Collins, a new and promising columnist for the New York Times. “The Audacity of Listening” talks about how Obama the Pragmatist may infuriate purists, by actually meaning by what he said about moving past the outdated politics of left-vs-right. But that is precisely the sort of person he has always claimed to be.

On the other hand, Russ Daggatt says: ”Last week, Max Bergmann had a piece on The Huffington Post entitled, “.The Week That Should Have Ended McCain’s Hopes ” It listed just a week’s worth of examples of the train wreck that the McCain campaign has become. Of course, the media has a financial interest in the campaign being a “dead-heat” or a “real horserace” – that is much better for ratings. It seems impossible for McCain to commit a “gaffe” no matter what manner of erroneous or contradictory nonsense comes out of his mouth (because a “gaffe”, by definition, is something that the media pundits pounce upon – which cannot happen to McCain).

“Back in February, McCain said he would balance the budget in his first term. Then, in April when he proposed a series of costly tax cuts for corporations and high earners, he abandoned that pledge and said he would balance the budget by the end of his second term (assuming he can live that long). Then, on , the McCain campaign reversed itself again and reaffirmed that he would, indeed, balance the budget in his first term. That was followed by an immediate “clarification” from McCain’s top economic advisor saying the commitment was to balance the budget by the end of a second McCain term. This is all absurd. McCain has proposed to extend all of Bush’s tax cuts and add a bunch of other tax cuts for the rich, like lowering the maximum corporate tax rate from 35% to 25%. According to the non-partisan , McCain’s tax cuts would add $4 TRILLION dollars to the federal deficit over 10 years. And that’s not including McCain’s proposed spending increases.

“The McCain campaign has not explained how it would balance the budget while subtracting $4 TRILLION in revenue. As a means of balancing the budget, McCain has said he would veto all Congressional “earmarks”. But in the current fiscal year all Congressional “earmarks” total only $18 Billion (down 23% since Republicans lost control of Congress).”

A final pair of ostrich slugs... about how the divide is not so much “Red vs Blue” but a struggle between those who feel that we need smart leaders and those who feel it is cute and smart to be dumb.

And... repeat over and over again. Halliburton has moved its headquarters and re-registered itself as a company based and owned in Dubai... (repeat)...

==On Global Competitiveness==

The DLC has issued a major paper on US Global Competitiveness. As one might expect, it rejects lefty anti-globalization sentiment, supporting instead aggressive programs to boost the competitiveness of America and Americans. Among its recommendations:

• Create 250 Science/Technology Charter Schools. At present count, American universities graduate 60,000 engineers annually, while China produces 200,000 and India 100,000.

• Universal Broadband by 2012. The United States has fallen behind South Korea, Japan and several European nations in household connection to the Internet.

• Health Insurance for All Dislocated Workers and Portable Pensions. 46% of workers who lose their jobs also lose their health insurance. Congress has created a labyrinth of provisions meant to spur savings by maintaining 16 separate incentives.

• Revive Trade Enforcement and Open Markets. While the Clinton administration filed 66 cases with the World Trade Organization to defend American jobs against unfair trading practices, the Bush administration has filed only 19, even as foreign nations have filed 46 cases against the United States.

• Global Environmental Organization. Environmental policy is the gap in the world's international institutions. Especially with a climate-change agreement on the horizon, the world needs an institution comparable to the UN, World Trade Organization, International Labor Organization, IMF and World Bank capable of serving as the central venue for negotiating and implementing international environmental agreements.

  Another way to help US competitiveness -- AND help poor people overseas -- will be to push hard for labor-exploiting nations to adopt and enforce laws that meet international standards regarding child labor, unionization, health and safety and environmental protection.

==Worried Capitalists==

I do not hold it against my dear friend, the brilliant economic analyst and investment consultant John Mauldin, that he defends some members of the present U.S. administration. After all, loyalty, gratitude and friendship are among the highest of all human traits. Nevertheless, there comes a time to realize that a disaster is in the works, and that the hands presently at the tiller are proving, well, less than capable of steering a 21st Century ship of state. Moreover, John has shown that he is no ostrich, burying his head. Recently, he cited the following passage from HCM Market Letter, by Michael E. Lewitt, and I’d like to share it with you:

“At this point, the domestic economic picture can only be described as ominous. Energy prices have risen from dangerously high to prohibitively high. Housing prices are continuing to drop at alarming rates in many sections of the country. Banks remain reluctant to lend either to individuals or corporations for virtually any type of transaction. And our political and business elites remain a prosper of Hollow Men who continue to whistle past the graveyard as their limousines chauffeur them home each night to their gated mansions.... (P)olicy failures led us into our current difficulties. Inadequate financial regulation allowed unfettered securitization and leverage to push the system to the brink of collapse. A complete failure to fashion a responsible energy policy has led to skyrocketing gasoline prices. The damage inflicted on investors, consumers and businesses by these failures were avoidable. Instead, the political and financial elite placed their own short-term interests ahead of the long-term interests of everybody else, and the results are plain to see: burgeoning inflation, choked credit markets, and a deteriorating physical, moral and cultural climate. The only way to improve things is to identify what ails us and then initiate systemic reform. But systems cannot change unless the individuals who manage and participate in them are willing to change.”

What does all of the above show? That there definitely are some capitalists who have noticed how much things have gone awry. We need to drop our stereotypes and create a new coalition of the decent and the smart and the accountable. And that can include fellows in Brooks Brothers suits.


Anonymous said...

Good grief, Dr. Brin. I rss'ed your blog because I'm following up on your work opposing the active SETI people, which I first noticed on the center-right Instapundit blog.

I'm taken aback that you seem to be a strident member of the "Anyone who disagrees with me politically is an utter idiot who must be fixed" movement, which is all too widespread.

I'm a lifelong Democrat who votes Republican for the past four years. I didn't make this transition idly. And I did pay a price for it in terms of communities and friendship. I had always thought liberals were more tolerant and open-minded about disagreement, but "not so much" as Leo on West Wing used to say.

How well does this work -- approaching conservatives as though they generally can't think and trying to persuade them?

Anonymous said...

Anyway, today I read through your 1983 essay, "Xenology: The Science of Asking Who's Out There" as well as your more recent appeal, "Shall We Shout Into the Cosmos?"

I thought both were great. Thanks.

Tony Fisk said...

Hello, Huxley.

I think you do David a disservice by assuming he thinks in terms of "Anyone who disagrees with me politically is an utter idiot who must be fixed". Dig a little deeper, and I think you'll find his opinions have a firm base. Nor is he anything like as intolerant as you infer. However, I can see how you might get that impression from recent excerpts of a conversation that's been in full swing for a while now.

I'm a little dubious of the ostrich approach myself (very easy to rub 'em the wrong way if you're not careful!), but I'd like to hear how you decided to switch to Republican in recent times.

David Brin said...

Yes, I know about symmetrcal rashes and they make sense. What I cannot find is answers (also asked by others) to the simple question of why NORMAL bites, often seem to appear in separate symmetrical locales, day after day, each locale different than the day before. These aren't rashes, though they itch a bit. We can't find any signs of the bugs responsible. It's just a couple per day. But the real issue is the symmetry. It's bizarre.

Huxley, who exactly are you talking past? I say past because none of what you said ssems to apply to me.

Indeed, I am the one telling liberals to pay attention to the better side of conservatism, so that they can address those decent conservatives and show them that the GOP has betrayerd everything they could possibly want, from a CONSERVATIVE point of view.

That doesn't sound like I am being contemptuous.

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...

If you disagree with those FACTS, then I am interested. I stand ready to hear how the destruction of the United States Army, our reserves and all of our alliances has made us stronger. How the first generation of rich SOBs refused to help pay for a war "for good reason." How being led by people who despise science and claim to want to see THE WORLD END is a basis for confidence.

Please... I ask you this as a fellow registered republican... answer this... and expect a list a hundred lines long.

Oh hell, let's turn it around. Name one thing they have done RIGHT.

Dig it, Huxley. I am not saying conservatives don't have some valid complaints about liberalism, especially the left wing of liberalism.

But their ability to crediby take part in the national conversation has been severely compromised, perhaps ruined, by aiding and abetting and excusing a band of outrageous kleptocrats and outright traitors who have taken over the GOP -- lock stock and barrel-- and plunged this great nation from its very heights toward a spiral of impoverishment and despair.

I do not exaggerate.

Anonymous said...

McCain's right - we should cut corporate taxes. Eliminate them in fact. All corporate profits should be credited to the stockholders, and taxed at their marginal rates.

That'd force corporations to distribute at least enough to cover the taxes of their largest shareholders - typically at the highest marginal rates.

But if you're a retiree living on a modest fixed income, you'd likely get more dividend income from your stocks, and pay less taxes than the corporation has to pay under the current system.

Of course, I doubt that's what McCain has in mind...

NoOne said...

Sorry to report that the latest ostrich dialog was an utter disaster. I'm in Florida and your average person is a "right of center" person clinging to his gun and religion. A recent conversation where I attempted to separate genuine conservatives from the current crop of Republicans blew up in my face due to one simple reason. I lost my temper.

What David does not mention (or perhaps not often enough) is that talking to ostriches is bad for your blood pressure and that you must maintain composure at all times. These are very difficult to do because of the radical difference in perspective - especially now that "Iraq has turned the corner and was a good idea, poorly executed."

I scoured the net for examples of people maintaining their composure in the face of true ostrich lunacy. The best example is a debate between Krugman and O'Reilly moderated by Russert. Watch how Krugman keeps his cool.

B. Dewhirst said...

I think you do David a disservice by assuming he thinks in terms of "Anyone who disagrees with me politically is an utter idiot who must be fixed"


Anonymous said...

There's just one problem with all of this: Obama voted "yes" to the terrible telecom immunity bill and sold the fourth amendment up the river.

"Do Americans start more small businesses under Republicans or Democrats? Get better return on their retirement funds? File for more patents?"

Filing for more patents is indicative of nothing, or even is a negative. Read more at and practically every day at ...

Anonymous said...

David and all -- Look, I just got here and I'll hang in and collect more data, as it were.

Nonetheless, the belittling title "Win Over Those Conservatives Who Still Think" is basically the flip-side, blue-state version of an Ann Coulter title like "How to Talk to a Liberal If You Must." Ann is convinced of her opinions too and she backs them up.

Throw in absolute, over-the-top language like:

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...

If you disagree with those FACTS...

And frankly I feel like I'm listening to a crank or ... CRANK.

David Brin said...

Huxley, look in the mirror.

I may use language you don't like. But I raised topics: e.g. the destruction of the US Army, reserves, and our alliances.

Whil you compared me to ANNe Coulter (amusing and a good shot!) ... and sneered at my use of ALL CAPS (an insipid tactic)...

...but did nothing else. You did not even remotely address the assertion that I put on the table, that America has been deeply, deeply, outrageously harmed by a fantastically and unprecedentedly horrific criminal gang.

Yes, my assertion is very strongly stated! And yes, it is intended to be very very confrontational and forceful. But that forcefulness is backed up by the sheer magnitude of what's been done to America.

By all means, prove me wrong. Start by showing me that our military, our alliances, our moral leadership in the world, our popularity, our technological leadership, finances, economy etc are consistent with what conservatives claim they want -- a powerful and respected Pax Americana.

Under Clinton, we had a "unipolar world" . American leadership was absolutely unquestioned. Today, our reputation is shot, gone, dead. Prove me wrong. I am listening.

Cliff said...

I keep seeing Dr. Brin ragging on "the left" (as opposed to liberals), saying it's opposed to engineering, saying it deserves criticism from the right, saying that America threw the leftist monsters out back in the 1930's (I believe that's the time frame he referred to).

No doubt the reasons for all this are located in previous posts, but can I get a refresher on what's so bad about the "left"? And what distinguishes it from liberalism?

JuhnDonn said...

Cliff said ...can I get a refresher on what's so bad about the "left"?

I think he refers to the fact that a lot of leftists saw no good in the current social setup and seemed to want to burn down the barn to get rid of the rats, rather than work on constructive solutions. Or, as H. Beam Piper put it: The physical
scientist works _with_ physical forces, even when he is trying, as in
the case of contragravity, to nullify them. The social scientist works
_against_ social forces."

Is kinda' a rough look at leftist liberals from a staunch conservative but illustrates the point.

Oh yeah, I may totally have misspoken for Dr. Brin. Just my take on things.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Symmetrical rashes? Are you referring to the tendency of bugs to bite your arms one day, and your legs the next -- or an immune response that follows patterns?

I'm not familiar, but I would probably research the bug preference towards what their preference is. Tissues in the human body go through cycles of higher and lower concentrations of fluid, basically by an ebb and flow of electrical potential. Food absorbed by the body -- like electrolytes, have to in general be negatively charged to be absorbed. The net positive potential of the cells maintained by potassium (K), is orchestrated to repair and send nutrients (swelling), and to push out toxins and starve parasitic invaders (contracting). So, with the infra-red and sometimes the ultraviolet perspective of bugs, perhaps the human body looks like a buffet table. There is probably a good map for them of where to get the steak and potatoes, and avoid the peas and carrots at any given time.

Hence, based upon symmetrical changes in electrolyte balance, humans probably have "tasty" and not so tasty zones to bite. Sorry if I got to this statement in an obtuse manner.

>> If there is a pattern to rashes. Then perhaps the immune response is merely broadcasting "swell and push away foreign invader" in more of a broadcast manner. Homeobox genes, means that there is repetition of genetic structures, that are easily turned on and off -- like how a complete, extra finger can grow on a hand, or an baby can have four hands to replace the feet. Complex structures that are simple to turn on and off. So, perhaps, a signal to form a rash may be broadcast like; 3rd segment of tissue type 3, increase absorption 100%. And this would form a pattern where the body would get the right spot, but also produce a rash in about 3 times more places then it needed to. The point is, how much immune response overkill can a body tolerate? If it doesn't kill a person to itch like crazy on both the left and right arm, and 3 different places when it was only one place that got bit -- then perhaps, the simple broadcast mechanism is sufficient to be passed on genetically.

I think a lot of the quirks of biology are based upon "good enough for government" responses.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

anonymous said...
There's just one problem with all of this: Obama voted "yes" to the terrible telecom immunity bill and sold the fourth amendment up the river.

I only pray that he is rolling in the mud like a pig in order to be accepted into the Hog House.

This horrible FISA "compromise" which means; no criminals will be punished, while we treat all citizens like criminals. May be inevitable if it is what the MEDIA WANTS.

I always remember that Howard Dean spoke about the problems that needed to be fixed with the FTC and that news agencies were so often reflecting the corporate interests of the companies that owned the broadcast stations. The next day -- the very next morning. The message was "Howard Dean is crazy." Or more accurately; "Is Howard Dean Crazy?" Then about a week later that "YEEHAW" was copied on every news channel about two thousand times -- as if it were the first time anyone got excited at a rally.

I think the system is rigged, and the Media picks the person who will best defend their status quo interests from the available selection. So you cannot rock the boat too much in order to become the captain of state (sorry for the heavy use of metaphors). Kucinich was a crazy, extreme liberal, even though he had a track record of making the correct choice and good decisions and showing that he is a person of integrity. While candidates with poor decisions who waffle, get the stamp of approval of being "reasonable."

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> As to the challenge that Huxley has brought up; I'd have to say, that, if you don't have disdain for Republicans, you aren't paying attention. You keep talking about this Left Right thing as if it were a debate about philosophy. The Republican party, as controlled by NeoCons, is a Kelptocracy -- a scam, that tries to shroud itself in "support the troops" while it outsources benefits for Veterans without oversight. You could debate privatized vs. nationalized health care for vets all day -- and then you would be ignoring massive corruption.

It don't matter what tune the person is playing at the concert if someone is picking your pocket. You seem to be too worried about whether you are at an opera or a rap concert and we are trying to tell you to grab your wallet.

Does that make sense?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

gilmoure said...
Cliff said ...can I get a refresher on what's so bad about the "left"?

What is so bad about the left? Well, sometimes they are corrupt -- but that isn't a judgement about what LEFT values -- that is a statement that sometimes people in power line their own pockets.

I'd say the worst thing about the left, is what they MIGHT do, rather than any real examples of what they have done.

I remember getting a call around 2004 from Republican Survey Group, which I suppose was trying to inform me as they get my response. So on the phone they say; "Did you know, that Democrats plan to increase spending?"

Me: "No, I didn't. Are you saying that Democrats are going to spend EVEN MORE than the Republicans who broke all records in 2002?"

"Well they are."

Me: "So I should be worried about what Democrats might do, rather than what the Republicans have already done?"

Without missing a beat; "Yes. They plan to spend a lot more. Without Republican oversight, this could reach record levels."

Me: "We already have record levels. So, are the Democrats going to spend this on social programs that might help me, or on the military?"

"The Democrats will spend this money on wasteful social programs."

Me: "Like what?"

"Medicare, welfare, education..."

Me: "-- prisons, police, hippy sniffing dogs?"

Apparently jumping to another script point: "Democrats may raise your taxes and have unprotected sex in the White House."

Me: "If everyone pays the same taxes -- even if they increase, isn't it really just a net wash and the cost of business? And isn't it true that if you have deficit spending, the government has to print the money to make up that shortfall and it ends up costing more with interest and inefficiency than if they just took it out of your taxes in the first place? And doesn't ALL spending, distort and socially engineer our society, so we might as well waste money on Domestic Programs rather than bomb things in other countries?"

", .... in order to prevent these increase in taxes, would you be interested in sending money to the Republican Party?"

Me: "Sure. What is your bank account number so I can wire this to you?"

David Brin said...

William, again, I am not talking about rashes. Symmetrical rashes would be understandable since there are glands all over the body in symmetrical arrangements. What I do not get is how two different insects (I still haven't a clue what they are) would bit identical sites on two different legs, one night. Then two different but identical sites another night, and so on.

These are normal-seeming bites. No rash response at all. I see others asking about this, online... but they never seem to get any answers.


left-vs-liberal goes far beyond the viciously narrowminded, anti-future, anti-freespeech, anti-sciencefiction, anti-enlightenment, catechism drenched, crypto-Marxist, intolerant, quasi-religious, incurious and uncritically dogmatic denizens of so many university English, lit, and humanities departments, who have spent the last 40 years spouting PC drivel that has only served as grist for right-wing hate squads.

No, it is deeper. LIBERALS are the fundamental defenders of the Enlightenment. They seek out injustices to correct, not ONLY because injustice is wrong, but because injustice is inefficient. Sexism and racism were wrong in large part because they wasted human talent and potential, that could instead be fed into the Enlightenment's cornucopia engines -- markets, science, democracy and law.

Adam Smith and John Locke were the first liberals and they would have hated both the dogmatic right - for its defense of cheating aristocrats and monopolists - AND the dogmatic left, for preaching that human nature is vile when it is competitive.

The left preaches at us to cooperate... though always in ways that wind up being guided by THEIR chosen elites (instead of the elites they happen to hate.) When they took over some countries, this resulted in the savagely repressive state nomenklatura that were not aberrations of leftism at all. They were reifications of leftism.

Yes, humans can be cooperative. But we are also fundamentally COMPETITIVE beings and the Enlightenment's brilliant breakthrough was to put that all in the open, under transparent rules and with regulation to break up cheating concentrations of power. It is LIBERALS who hate all monopolies. The right and left only argue over which kind.

Dig it. The cant of the far right (e.g. George F Will) is that "liberals want equality of outcome for all people." What total bullshit! That is a sickness of the left. What liberals want -- and the reason for equal rights, for fighting sexism and racism etc -- is to enable all children to grow up healthy, educated and vigorously free, so that they can compete well! Liberals don't mind people getting rich, selling innovative goods and services.

What we mind - a lot - is heirs born with silver spoons, doing nothing useful or competitive, just parasiting and ensuring that nobody, no matter how brilliant, can ever compete with them. That is aristocratism, the very thing our revolution fought. The stupidity of 6,000 years.

Oh, and so long as libertarians ignore that threat, they are NOT part of defending markets or freedom. They are part of the problem.

Cliff said...

I'd say the worst thing about the left, is what they MIGHT do, rather than any real examples of what they have done.

I agree with you, william_shatner, but I'm curious as to why our host feels the way he does about leftism.
Brin does a damn fine job of skewering the right, but many times there's that caveat, of "the left is also bad, they're just not currently in power."
I'm trying to figure out what this left is, that's so bad that it deserves consistent mention right next to the worst Administration in memory.

gilmoure: That's a reasonable guess, it goes along with Brin's responses to B. DeWhirst.

Cliff said...

Whoops! Sorry, I posted before I saw your explanation.

Tony Fisk said...

noone has a point about losing your temper with someone of a different stripe. (The problem has resulted in at least two songs that I can think of!) I suspect it might result from the perception that any conversation of this sort is an attack on the person's values rather than how they seek to maintain them (which, if you look closely, is how David phrases his arguments about why the GOP is so awful... for conservative values)

Another problem is that *any* perceived slight or snarky comment is going to be seized on first. I don't think this is necessarily a deliberate ploy to cherry pick the argument: more an unconscious bit of prioritisation to respond to attacks. Unless you're like Zorgon, other points then are left unanswered

Witness the way Huxley has responded, not by answering my question, but by grumbling about cranks instead. (no offence taken, H, but take a hint!)

... before I get called out on this: nice one, bd!
But, please recall *why* you got put in the sin bin. It wasn't for your political opinions...


David, point taken about rashes v bites, but what do you mean by 'normal' bites? Can you describe their appearance? Where/when they occur?

Cliff said...

David Brin said: left-vs-liberal goes far beyond the viciously narrowminded, anti-future, anti-freespeech, anti-sciencefiction, anti-enlightenment, catechism drenched, crypto-Marxist, intolerant, quasi-religious, incurious and uncritically dogmatic denizens of so many university English, lit, and humanities departments, who have spent the last 40 years spouting PC drivel that has only served as grist for right-wing hate squads.

I feel like there's some sort of context that I'm missing here. I'm aware of the picture you've painted as caricatures spread by the right; where do they exist in real life?
And I'm not trying to be disingenuous - I honestly haven't run across anyone so extreme as you describe.

Also, when you say that the left took over some countries, are you talking about places like Cambodia?

B. Dewhirst said...

Cliff, he isn't kidding.

That is his opinion of what a 'leftist' is.

My $0.02:

Sacco and Vanzetti were leftists.

So were the Rosenburgs.

So were/are most of the people investigated by CoIntelPro.

Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky are leftists, as am I.

Liberals include Ted Kennedy, Lawrence Lessig. While I disagree, many would call Barack Obama and the Clintons liberals.

The key differences?

Leftists are more critical of capitalism/corporations and established structures. They also question the right of the United States to use unilateral military force.

Anonymous said...

Progressive wasn't a dirty word when Teddy ran under the banner almost a hundred years ago, and it's not now.

Progressive wasn't a dirty word when self-named Progressives pushed through public referendum and recall legislation in dozens of states, brought us directly elected Senators, rammed health codes down the clenched throats of business, forced the parties to start accepting primaries and caucuses, forced cities to expand modern sewers even into the slums, achieved an all too temporary busting of the oil and rail monopolies, ended child factory labor, won the vote for women, stamped out typhus and cholera, massively expanded public Secondary School access, brought meaningful food inspection into being, established huge swaths of protected lands for recreation...sorry, post is running too long.

Liberalism is a philosophy, Progressivism was a movement that asked one question at time and united virtually everyone with the same answer to fight for it - when we review the period between 1890-1920, we find that Anarchists, Catholic Priests, Socialists, Secular Humanists, Factory Workers, Farmers, Miners, Roughnecks, Doctors, school teachers - the broadest genuine political coalition in our nations history - fundamentally altered both the Social Contract and the nature of Government to a greater degree than in any other such period of time in our history barring only 1766-1796.

This was the generation that created the America in which "the greatest Generation" was raised. This generation was, in a very real sense, just as responsible for our winning WWII as the generation that fought it, by seeing to it that their kids were among the best educated, fittest, healthiest, most selfless, and bravest large group of human beings ever to walk the face of this earth.

That Generation didn't hatch from untended eggs somewhere.

Liberalism is a philosophy understood in several hundred different ways, but which still has value as a Philosophical term.

Not that I'm not interested, or don't find many of it's tenets interesting depending on who is doing the defining today, but as a political term it has essentially lost whatever coherent meaning it once had among the general public.

Not to knock arguments about what Liberalism really is, or what Conservativism really is in it's 20th century context, but rather to point out that both of them are really just - today - post-it labels that can be slapped on to just about anything as far as the vast majority of the public is concerned.

Trying to nail down what they "really" mean, or "ought" to mean, isn't going to sway any votes or get our Elected Officials back to working for their Employers.

At a time when the Kleptocrats are trying to jump over the falling body of the New Deal and start planting their knives in the Square Deal, I think it's more appropriate to hoist that Progressive flag again instead of trying to agree on a design for the Liberal Banner, which most will confuse with that ugly rag flying from an ivory tower way off to stage left.

Sorry for the ramble. Got on a tear. At least I don't do it frequently.

Unknown said...

This guy "huxley" came here from the instapundit website, which clearly disqualifies him as a thinking conservative -- that is, someone who responds to facts and logic. As just one example of Glenn Reynolds' (instapundit's) "thinking," consider his assertion that "we need to invade the Saudis and force them to pump more oil."

Instapundit (AKA Glenn Reynolds) is not "center-right." He's a neocon fringe lunatic. Instapundit is so ignorant and so incompetent as a scholar and so insulated from reality that he doesn't realize the problem is that the Saudis and all the other oil producers are already pumping all the oil they can. Peak Oil isn't being caused by evil towelheads deliberately witholding their precious oil from the rest of the world -- it's being caused by all the major oilfields in the world running out of oil.

In order to deny this, you have to deny the facts and detailed data of the world's most knowledgeable petroleum experts. The crackpots and kooks who worship at the feet of instapundit have no problem doing that, just as they have no problem denying evolution and denying global warming -- but out here in the real world, denying documented facts doesn't get you very far. You have to provide hard evidence and bulletproof logic together with multiple references from peer-reviewed journal articles in the scientific literature if you want to deny the claims of experts.

Instapundit's faulty claims and contrafactual assertions and garbled logic and scrambled reasoning have been debunked so many times it's hardly worth bothering referring to Glenn Reynolds (AKA Instapundit) as a thoroughly discredited crank, but I'll do it anyway just to dot the i's and cross the t's.

Talking to someone like huxley who deludes himself into fantasizing that a crackpot like Instapundit is a credible source of information, is pretty much like trying to convince a ufologist that whatever those lights in the sky may be, they're highly unlikely to be aliens in spaceships. The ufologists will just vomit back J. Allen Hynek and the Shaver Mythos and Adamski's books. Anyone who comes to this forum from instapundit or red state or powerline or Jerry Pournelle's Chaos Manor site is basically a lost cause. We're talking serious crackpot here, major wacko, a fringe lunatic as far gone as a member of the Unarius flying saucer cult.

Brin's choice of the term "left" and "leftist" to characterize the people he describes seems most unwise. Brin is talking about a definable type of True Believer on the radical Marxist edge of the political spectrum, but they're hardly typical "lefties." The folks Brin describes reside on the extreme outer fringe of the far left, somewhere around the Maoists. Such people do exist in America, but nobody I know except fringe lunatic rightwing crazies like Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh or Michelle Malkin or Glenn Reynolds (instapundit) calls these extreme fringe types "leftists." Most people I know calls the extreme fringe left "Marxists" or "Maoists" or "cultural Marxists" or "radical anti-technologists" or some such.

Here are some concrete examples of the people Brin unjustifiably calls "leftists" (they're really radical Marxist luddite anti-technologists):

[1] Unreconstructed foes of nuclear power even in the face of Peak Oil and global warming. Today's nuclear reactors use entirely new designs, including pebble-bed designs for which a meltdown is physically impossible unless you change the basic laws of physics. Even if all the coolant leaks out of a pebble-bed reactor, it can't melt down. The nuclear reaction will simply slow down and eventually stop. Yet a small fringe of the far left still opposes nuclear power in any form. However, contrary to Brin's implication, the vast majority of the genuine left (not the lunatic fringe Brin misdescribes as "leftists") support nuclear power. For example, Stewart Brand, the lefties at Wired Magazine, and most other members of the genuine left now all now support nuclear power.

[2] Anti-technology "greens." These are the people whose mantra is "technology is not the answer to the world's problems." There is a very small group of people on the extreme ultra-Marxist left who believe that using any technology at all is evil, and that we need a massive die-off (around 90% or more of the human race) to get back in balance with nature. (Google for "Voluntary Human Extinction Movement" to see more of this crackpot gibberish.) Of course, these people never include themselves among the billions of people who need to be culled to restore "the balance of nature."

These people represent a very tiny lunatic fringe of the far left, and they're basically pure Luddites. They think technology is inherently evil. This mindset seems an outgrowth of the Calvinist strain of European pessimism that led or Edmund Burke's theories about society and human nature. In this view, humans are inherently evil and the world would be better off without us. The factual and logical problems with this worldview are that evolutionary biology tells us nature isn't inherently "good" (as the icneumon wasp's lifecycle assures us), and it also tells us that humans are just another kind of animal, part of nature like every other living organism. Biology does not reveal any evidence that humans are either especially good or especially evil compared to other mammals.

If you want the modern bible of the anti-technology green environmentalist movement, try The Skeptical Environmentalist, a truly fringe crackpot tome that has been deservedly shredded by scientists and skeptics alike.

[3] The cultural Marxist censors in higher education who have gone over the edge and now flunk college students for crazy reasons -- i.e., uttering conservative opinions is "hate speech," writing "women" instead of "womyn" in term papers, and so on. This is all so trivial it would be silly if the antics of these far-left cultural Marxist professors weren't so bizarre.

As Brin has pointed out, these cultural Marxist professors on campus have so little actual power and they gain so little visibility in the real world that talking about their antics is beside the point. The real problems in American society are being caused by the neocons and theocons -- after all, ask yourself: how many millions of Iraqis has political correctness on campus killed? How many trillions of dollars have far-left English and sociology professors looted from the economy? Radical cultural Marxist profs do exist on campus and do indulge in asome truly absurd behavior, but they're trival compared to the dangers posed by the extreme right today.

If you want a detailed guide to the craziness of cultural Marxism on campus, read Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrles With Science.

None of these groups is in any way representive of the vast majority of the actual left in American politics today. If you look at representative types of the American left, you'll find a supermajority of people who support nuclear power, support technology, believe in technology, believe in progress, and espouse most of the basic values of the Enlightenment.

B. Dewhirst is quite right in slamming Brin for incorrectly identifying as "left" these three fringe lunatic types of extreme radical Marxists. When he does this kind of thing, Brin plays into the hands of the crackpot neocons who gave us such outlandish claims as "RE-DEFEAT COMMUNISM: VOTE AGAINST HILLARY 2008." Hillary Clinton is a lot of a things...but a communist? Please.

The entire Republican Party has been taken over by lunatics who are now running around making nutty claims -- viz., Barack Obama is "an afro-Leninist." Obama can be described in many ways...but a Leninist? Come on.

Brin really plays into the hands of the crackpots who've taken over the conservative movement in American today when he misidentifies the "left" as the microsopic fringe group of Marxist cranks he describes. Such people do exist, and you can find their websites if you search hard enough (as I show above with various links), but, c'mon, Brin! Get real. These people are no more "the left" than astrologers are "the astronomical community."

Anonymous said...

David -- Look in the mirror, indeed.

It is up to those who make claims to support them, not those who are skeptical. Again:

...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...

Please show the cites and reasoning that make the above claims to be facts, or FACTS as the case may be. Take particular care for definitions and proofs of terms like "betray", "every strength," "sucked", and "without reason."

These claims are all much more related to your worldview, standards, and emotions than objective facts.

I understand that you have passionate convictions about these matters. Me too. But politics is not an exact science. At some point one must accept that intelligent, informed citizens of good faith may yet disagree.

And if you are truly concerned about how to win over thinking conservatives, I suggest approaching those of us to your right with more respect and fewer polemics. What you are doing is certainly not working with me.

Anonymous said...

This guy "huxley" came here from the instapundit website, which clearly disqualifies him as a thinking conservative.

Zorgon -- I'm not really a conservative, nor is Instapundit from what I can tell. But we are both farther to the right than most people reading this blog from what I can tell.


Anders Brink said...

I am not from America. Throughout my whole life, I have lived in a cosmopolitan city that has newspapers from all over the world - New York, LA, London, Australia.
I went to and attended graduate school in the US, and lived as Americans did for 6 years.

Now, whenever I look at Americans debate politics, it is very easy for me to identify the kooks, the insane, and the extremists. Who are they? Currently they belong to the Republican party.

Now before republicans get all angry and flustered, let me say I mean you no harm. It really is that way. Most Asians (the part of the world I come from) do not identify with your crazy party. Looking back in history, they might have identified with the conservatives, but those conservatives are not of the current republican party.

Those are the hard facts from someone outside looking in. It closely mirrors what Dr Brin has been saying - your party has been hijacked by extremists. The so called conservatives you are in bed with cannot be called "conservative " in a different country. That is the best indicator that your party has lost your way.

B. Dewhirst said...

Of course, there is the small matter of all of the democrats who went along with those neoconservatives...

Unknown said...

Once agains B. Dewhirst makes a crucial point. The reason why Huxley doesn't identify himself or his kook idol Glenn Reynolds as a "conservative" or a member of the "right" is that the Overton Window has been shifted so far off-kilter, toward the crazy reactionary edge, that to people like Huxley, the only true conservatives are guys like Pat Robertson or Newt Gingrich.

Let's be clear here: Pat Robertson is not "conservative." He's batshit insane. This is a guy who claimed in public, repeatedly, that 9/11 was caused by gay sex.

Check the link. Look up the sources. I'm not making this up. He said it.

Newt Gingrich is not "conservative." He's out of his goddamn mind. This is guy who proclaimed publicly that the Littleton Colorado shootings were caused by teaching evolution in public schools.

Once again, check the sources. I'm not putting words in his mouth. He said it.

Dr. Brin has, I think, been a victim of the shift of the Overton Window here. Like the mainstream media, Brin seems to have accepted the bizarre fantasy that Glenn Reynolds (instapundit) and people like huxley are now "the center." They're not. They're crazy-ass reactionaries spouting nutty gibberish.

You can't reason with people like huxley. I've provided hard evidence that instapundit is a crank who spouts consistently contrafctual nonsense, and it just bounces right off the guy. Huxley thinks kooks like Rush Limbaugh and instapundit are rational knowledgeable authorities, instead of the crackpots they really are. What can you do with a guy like huxley? How can you reach him?

It's like trying to convince an astrology fan that their horoscope is crap. You can't do it. You're dealing with hardcore self-delusion and massive irrationality. Facts and logic bounce right off these people like spitballs off the side of a battleship.

If huxley wants evidence that everything Brin says about the contemporary Republican party and the people who today call themselves "conservatives" is true, I urge him to read the following books by conservative authors with impeccable conservative credentials:

[1] Invasion of the Party Snatchers by Victor Gold, a long-time dyed-in-the-wool conservative.

[2] Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean.

[3] The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy by Patrick Buchanan.

[4] Heroic Conservatism: Why Republicans Need to Embrace America's Ideals (And Why They Deserve to Fail If They Don't) by Michael Gerson.

These guys are not hippy dippy body-pierced patchouli long-haired freaks. These people are rock solid conservatives, and they're all saying the same thing -- the modern conservative movement has been hijacked by lunatic criminals.

Prediction: huxley will claim that all these rock-ribbed Republican ultraconservatives are "not real conservatives." He'll claim they're "pseudoliberals" who are "traitors" engaged in an effort to "subvert and destroy America from within."

Hey. I tried. But you just can't reason with the lunatic fringe.

Tony Fisk said...

Zorgon, I never knew that the political taxonomy was so detailed and precisely defined!

Huxley, we're not all quite as 'zealous' as Z here. I agree that 'decent' conservatives need to be approached with respect. No one likes being screeched at and told they're wrong in their outlook. (and it's counterproductive: the emotive screeches are what people respond to, and the bits of reasoned argument get neglected, and their neglect is translated as wilful, and the resulting frustration leads to screechings and... around we go! Which is fine, *if* you're happy with the status quo!)

(*MY* prediction is that no one will give this little entry a second glance: too few capitals! Maybe I should re-christen myself 'Schrodinger's Cat'?)

I earlier referred to two rather clever songs that capture this sorry state of rhetoric. They are:
It's On - Don Henderson
We Can Work It Out - McCartney /Lennon

Indeed, our host has consistently bemoaned the state of 'conversation' on the internet, and has proposed ways of improving the tools, but that's another tale.

Now, Huxley, with all that said, I believe the challenge David presented to you was this:

"By all means, prove me wrong. Start by showing me that our military, our alliances, our moral leadership in the world, our popularity, our technological leadership, finances, economy etc are consistent with what conservatives claim they want -- a powerful and respected Pax Americana.

Under Clinton, we had a "unipolar world" . American leadership was absolutely unquestioned. Today, our reputation is shot, gone, dead. Prove me wrong. I am listening.

The shot is yours, sir. Care to take aim?

Anonymous said...

A bit of respectful dissent.

David you have made your ostrich argument repeatedly. I doubt you have won many over, and yes, your tone does get counterproductive at times. But hey, its your show and I give you the benefit of the doubt. You must just be passionate on the topic.

The problem is that you can't convince people who do not share some of your basic assumptions.

I for instance do not share your view of the Dems as "the last great hope" (if I misquote you slightly, my apols) or the Repubs as "monsters". I think our crisis of leadership is systemic, and not tied to the fortunes or follies of either party.

We as Americans have become short term thinkers. It is the only possible (imho) explanation for our reglect of long term issues such as Medicare viability, pension funding, infrastructure both conventional and energy policy. We are tied to the 2 year Congressional election cycle or the Mayfly life span of the latest fad issue.

The GOP has done a crap job of addressing these issues when they could. The DFL shows me no sign of improving matters.

You are fond of posing questions and challenging folks to take a shot at them. Here ya go:

Given the breadth of promises that the Democrats have on the table (health care reform, alt energy, infrastructure, educational reforms) and the reality that the Obama '12 committee will begin operations the day after the inaugeration, to whom will the new Administration say no?

There will not be enough money for everything currently promised and enough left over for long term. (in a moment of charity I might give you some best case scenario cash from leaving Iraq, but don't claim you can fund the whole show with it).


NoOne said...

Tony (Fisk) opined "Huxley, we're not all quite as 'zealous' as Z here. I agree that 'decent' conservatives need to be approached with respect. No one likes being screeched at and told they're wrong in their outlook." Hey Tony, see someone (albeit noone) did read your entry :-)

I wonder if we're going about this the wrong way. Perhaps in talking to ostrich conservatives, we should present ourselves as (American) libertarians first, rail against daily kos, moveon and standard liberals and then completely take off on Limbaugh, Coulter, O'Reilly and the like. So, the approach boils down to:

1. Start from a libertarian perspective. This relaxes the ostrich.

2. Completely freak out on standard "throw money around" big govt. spending.

3. Then, after having lulled the ostrich, lambast the Republicans for abandoning small (and efficient) govt. principles and for being pro-oligarchy.

4. When the ostrich tries to label you a kooky libertarian, make all the usual points that you want an updated Goldwater-style libertarianism.

5. When the ostrich suspects that you may have liberal leanings, go full bore populist and attack the corporate oligarchy, the ACLU, govt. bureaucrats, and powerful special interest groups. In other words, be consistently anti-authoritarian.

6. Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

A consistent populist libertarian perspective can be pushed in this manner and could help convince the ostrich.

Now, you may not in fact be a populist libertarian, but by temporarily adopting this perspective, you have a greater chance of reaching out and touching an ostrich.

Anonymous said...

David Brin wrote:
left-vs-liberal goes far beyond the viciously *snip* anti-sciencefiction, *snip* crypto-Marxist, *snip* incurious and uncritically dogmatic denizens of so many university English, lit, and humanities departments,

Maybe it's because I'm not American (and more or less, lukewarm, lots of ifs and buts, Marxist)... but I don't recognize neither myself nor my oldtime university (sorry for the nasty word) comrades... we were curious, critical, and the guys in the Italian dept. of Anglo-American lit. who made sci-fi into a respectable academic subjects were Marxists and leftist (some arenow IIRQ teaching comparative lt. at NY State, now). I could add bibliographies.
The world is always a bit more complex that the schemes. Heck, a freind of mine still defines himself as "Communist" and he's a fan not just even of U.K. LeGuin, but of Niven & Pournelle...and I was reading at the same time Lenin and Poul Anderson (I suppose the latter was a long time ago, in another country and the wench is dead, as the line goes)

Unknown said...

Tony Fisk, everything you have to say is worth paying attention to. So it's not clear why anyone would ignore your comments.

However, both you and Tacitus2 seem to believe that [1] if you use facts and logic on a debating opponent, they'll be forced to concede your point as long as you're respectful; and [2] all debating opponents are worthy of respect.

Experience shows that the fringe far right today simply relabel facts as "insults," logical arguments as "vicious attacks," historical evidence as "liberal bias," and common sense as "godless secular humanism." The response to a statement of documented facts about post-Goldwater conservatives, therefore is predictable -- and not what you expect. When you point out...

Documented fact: Since 1964 two attorney generals have been indicted for felonies, both Republicans, while no Democratic attorney generals have been indicted;

Documented fact: Historical evidence shows that the economy and U.S. both do significantly better under Democratic presidents than under Republicanpresidents;

Documented fact: During the last 4 Republican presidencies, more officials have been indicted for major crimes, or resigned to avoid indictment, than in all previous administrations in American history. 53 indictments or resignations during the Nixon administration, 114 indictments or resignations during the Reagan administration, and so far in excess of 112 resignations under accusations of corruption or gross incompetence during the current administration. Compare with 2 indictments during Kennedy's & Lyndon Johnson's adminstrations (Billy Sol Estes, Bobby Baker), 2 indictments under Jimmy Carter (Bert Lance, Hamilton Jordan), and zero indictments under Bill Clinton -- despite 6 years of investigation into Whitewater and the so-called "travelgate" affair, both of which never uncovered a single crime.

Documented fact: Under the Nixon, Reagan and current administrations, more corporate crime has looted more money from the public treasury and private financial institutions than in the rest of American history. The numbers are staggering: Halliburton, 60 billion in incompetently executed no-bid contracts; Enron, 1 billion in outright theft; Blackwater, 50 billion for violating every Irawi and American law on the books; virtually all the major brokerages on Wall Street sanctioned for insider trading; IndyMac, the largest bank failure in U.S. history due to corrupt options deals and dishonest manipulation of motrgage-backed securities; the subprime meltdown, which may eventually reach 4 trillion in losses because of lies and insider trading and self-dealing... The list goes on and on.

Documented fact: the last 4 Republican presidencies have violated every single provision of the Bill of Rights except the requirement for religious freedom. Nixon: violation of the st amendment (unconstitutional roundup of antiwar demonstrators in 1970 and 1971 and detetion without charges by the national guard); 2nd amendment (forcible disarming of citizens during martial law in the Watts and other riots); 4th amendement (Watergate burglaries, burgalry of Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office); 5th amendement (Plan Gemstone and Plan Sedan chair by G. Gordon Liddy, which included kindapping and use of prostitutes; also the dirty tricks squad whose tactics included breakins, wiretapping, impersonation of government officials, etc.); 6th amendement (1968 police riot in Chicago, 1970 Kent State massacre); 8th amendement (ditto); 9th and 10th amendements (suppression of local police during martial law in the 1970 Jefferson Memorial demonstratins, illegal use of national guard to round up civilians antiwar demonstrators without charges, etc.). The violations of the constitution by the Reagan and current administrations are so numerous there's no need to reiterate them.

...What's the response from someone who today identifies himself as a "conservative"?

"These are insults -- I demand an apology!"

BTW, we already heard this one from Huxley. I've heard it many times when I cite documented facts to far right crackpots -- they simply claim "You're insulting [x]!" and storm away. Cite the fact that under Clinton we had twice as many border patrol agents, and far-right kooks respond "You're insulting the border patrol!" Cite the fact that under Reagan, there were more officials indicted for corruption than in all previous administration put together, and the right-wing kook responds "You're insulting Ronald Reagan!" Cite the fact that the current administration has systematically suppressed scientific findings it doesn't like in NASA and NOAA and the right-wing crank resopnds, "You're insulting NASA and the NOAA!"

You can't debate with someone like that. Logic and facts are useless. You can usefully debate with ostriches...but an ostrich is not someone who misrepresents documented facts as "insults" and logical arguments as "vicious attacks."

This leads to the second issue: not everyone who presumes to debate with you is worthy of respect. When someone persistently lies and misrepresents facts as "insults" and logic as "vicious insults," such a person is not behaving in a way that's worthy of respect. You have to treat a person like that the way you'd treat any crackpot: label him as such and challenge him to stop spouting gibberish or shut up and go away.

Here's the complete list on modern-day "conservative" debating maneuvers, in case you're interested...



Facts = "insults"

Logic = "vicious attacks"

evidence = "liberal bias"

Evidence of
corruption = "proof all politicians are corrupt"

Evidence of
business fraud
under Republican
deregulation = "under liberals it would've been worse"

Evidence of
officials = "a left-wing conspiracy against conservatives"

No evidence
of wrongdoing
from the
investigation = "proof the Clintons covered up all their crimes"

Evidence of
violations of
the constitution
conservatives = "it's better to damage the constitution
than let libruls destory the country"

Evidence that
the stock market
and U.S. GDP growth
does better under
Democrats than
Republicans = "proof that all stock market and GDP gains
were actually due to Republicans,
because there's a multi-year delay between
wonderful policies like supply-side tax
cuts and the resulting economic benefits"

No Democratic
generals indicted
since WW II, 2
Republican attorney
generals indicted = "proof that libruls hide all their crimes"

3 different
Republican presidents
flagrantly violated
the constitution
(Nixon with Watergate
break-ins and election
fraud and witness tampering,
Reagan with Iran-Contra
illegal arms for hostages
deals, Bush 43 with torture
and extraordinary rendition
and warrantless wiretapping
and abolition of habeas
corpus = "evidence that Republican presidents are strong
enough to stand up and defend democracy, while
Democratic presidents are too weak and snivelling
to do what it takes to protect America"

2 disastrous lost
wars presided over
by Republican presidents
(Viet Nam, Iraq 2) = "it was all the libruls' fault for betraying
America's brave fighting men just when victory
was within our grasp!"

Number of homeless
people and malnourished
children and people
without health insurance
skyrocketed under
Republican presidents = "proof that lazy shiftless people get what
they deserve because they don't want to work
for a living"

Violence increases
in Iraq = "proof we must keep U.S. troops in Iraq"

violence decreases
in Iraq = "proof we must keep U.S. troops in Iraq"

crime increases in
America = "proof we need to get rid of annoying librul
fetishes like habeas corpus and jury trials"

crime decreases in
America = "proof we need to get rid of annoying librul
fetishes like habeas corpus and jury trials"

Evidence that Rush
LImbaugh is a drug
addict, Bob Bennett
is a compulsive gambling
addict, Newt Gingrich
is an adulterer and
G. W. Bush is a drunk
and a cocaine addict = "a vast left-wing conspiracy to
subvert our government by destroying our
faith in our best people!"

All predictions made
by conservatives about
the Iraq war turned out
to be wrong = "proof that libruls have stabbed us in the
back and snatched defeat in Iraq from the
jaws of victory"

Suggestions by Ann
Coulter that "liberals
need to be executed" and
supreme court judges she
doesn't like should be
fed rat poison = "wise political advice from a conservative sage"

Suggestions by Dennis
Kucinich that the current
administration has violated
the constitution and
committed war crimes = "hate speech by twisted sickos who despise America"

Claims by conservatives
that all liberals are
"traitors" who "need to
be executed" = "the normal to-and-fro of partisan politics"

Claims by liberals that
the Republican party has
been taken over by
sociopathic liars and
thieves = "wild out-of-control crazy talk by moonbats"

JuhnDonn said...

What I do not get is how two different insects (I still haven't a clue what they are) would bite identical sites on two different legs, one night. Then two different but identical sites another night, and so on.

Sounds like someone's lifting you up with pincers while you sleep. Someone checking for worthy specimens for their Earth Terrarium (kinda' redundant title, that).


Looks like Texas Oilman T. Boone. Pickens gets it.

The nation imports nearly 70% of its oil, Pickens said, spending $700 billion on those imports. Many of the countries supplying that oil are "not friendly" to the United States, he added.

"I am convinced that we are paying for both sides of the Iraqi war," Pickens testified.

Cliff said...

I didn't think Dr. Brin is kidding. From the sounds of it, there's a lot of anger there, and I'm not sure why.

tacitus2 said:
I think our crisis of leadership is systemic, and not tied to the fortunes or follies of either party.

I'm beginning to agree with this. I'm still a liberal, but even if Obama is everything he says he is (and he's not) he won't be able to solve the fundamental problems that plague us (ie, Americans becoming short term thinkers - I agree with that fully as well).

I worry that we are beginning to see or are about to see wide spread systemic failure (and I'll admit, Zorgon's many articles feed into this feeling).

David Brin said...

Fellows, I will post this one long response, typed rapidly, then opt out of comments again.

I note that Huxley did another cop-out. Dig it, H...the GAO and the US Army ITSELF have admitted that not a single brigade is ready to defend the US. Not one. (ALL were, under Clinton.) Most of the Guard and reserves are in ruins. We have little left in the way of allies. Our budget is tanked. The scientists and civil servants and US military officer corps are all on the verge of open sit-down revolt.... Tell me which of these things you dispute! The list is so long that you have to help us out here. Proof will be offered. But all you do is come in and sneer. So why should we bother?

Either pick an accusation or two you want backed-up, or speak up with something these monsters have done right. Anything. You pick. We'll let you choose the battleground.

Guys, I know I am loading the deck in my "leftist" definition. But go to the 99% of university lit departments that despise science fiction and you'll see what I mean. When you actually believe there are "eternal human verities" then you must believe in an elite who may rule on what those "verities" are. It is fundamental and ancient and dangerous. Also, they are the ones who hounded and drove Wolfowitz et al off campus, to take shelter in faux-academic "institutes" where they became the whores who wove the incantations of neoconservatism. If they hadn't been hounded off campus, they might have stayed anchored - a little - to reality. But, embittered and exiled from students and consigned to whoredom, the neocons became the bitter jerks who made excuses for the Bushite lords... the very same frat boys who used to give them wedgies. Sure, they get 90% of the blame for their choices. But campus lefties weren't innocent.

BD you and I do define "leftist" differently, though there is overlap. You chose to parse it according to the DEGREE that people share your passions. A person of the left who is too tepid at opposing foreign intervention is a "liberal"... even tho isolationism was for generations a conservative viewpoint and it was the left pushing for intervention against Hitler, Imperial Japan and so on.

Sorry, there is nothing systematic about your definition. Liberals are just tepid, wishy washy versions of your approved lefties? Bah. Not so. There is a fundamental difference at the level of personality and deep philosophy.

Yes, liberals like capitalism, while being deeply wary of its misuse as a vehicle toward restoring aristocracy. Too few people recall that open markets were THE thing that undermined and destroyed aristocratism WHILE spreading a cornucopia and the middle class and generating the taxes that both liberals and lefties are willing to spend.

No, my point isn't that its a matter of degree, but of fundamental temperament. Both left and right are deeply elitist. They believe in intellectual elites who know better than the masses. They prescribe patterns of thought. They try to overrule science instead of expressing eager curiosity about it. While the right claims to like competition, they undermine it at every turn while the left simply despises it.... even though well-regulated competition underlies almost every good thing of the last 300 years.

Above all, we liberals want reform and rights and goodness and help for the poor for PRACTICAL as well as moralistic reasons. In the long haul, that's a better guarantee of consistency. Moral passions get distracted. But once people see that it's just dumb to waste talent, the argument is over. Next problem. Oh, and liberals are willing to admit success, now and then. Lefties, never.

Jester, cool look at the Progressive era!

Z, I am playing into nobody's hands. I make clear who the true enemy is. Moreover, show me ONE word of mine that praised or excused Instapundit. One. Still, I refuse to do what "decent conservatives" did... and aim my wary eye only in one direction. We enlightenment loyalists and true liberals are surrounded, though the main battle is in one direction. Just because the lefty loons are pathetic right now doesn't mean I'll stop glancing at them, now and then, remembering Barcelona, the Gulags, Trotsky, and Angela Davis.

It is also a matter of basic credibility. We need - above all - to shatter Rove's Big Tent and scatter his coalition. If the more decent members of that coalition are hesitant to join us because they nurse exaggerated fears of some pathetic lefty-loons, then I am willing to say, aloud, "those loons ain't us."

Z, you usually document well. Please cite the stats on indictments? You are hot today.

But... oog, take Pat Buchanan off your recommended reading list!

Tacitus, you seem to claim that I am basing my black-vs-white view of today's politics on partisanship. But I repeatedly (to the irritation of BD and Z) show that's not true at all. Indeed, I feel that ONLY a reborn Republican party can save us from the gross cheat called gerrymandering... if they are first pounded flat and stop benefiting from it.

No, I base my volcanic anger at the GOP on a long list of facts, like the destruction of our military, diplomacy, economy, science, justice, confidence, reputation and Pax Americana leadership of the world. How can you claim the dems would be no better, when all of these things THRIVED under them?

I frankly do not know how all the budget pulls will be balanced under Obama. I do know that they WERE under Clinton. And the Great Klepto Tax Raid passed by Gingrich expires in 2010, when the rich will have to start paying taxes again. And half of our budgetary woes ought to go away simply by allowing civil servants to do their jobs and stop the vampire-suck of corruption.

You are waving at vague campaign promises and comparing them to the REAL evisceration of our guts by a bona fide criminal gang. Remember, the economy, stock market, and budget ALWAYS do better under dems. Always. Can I repeat that? Always. But sure, I'll welcome your skepticism, when we have again a government that responds to checks and balances.

Marino, I am glad the Italian lit departments like SF. There are some signs of change in AMerica. But our lit depts have been mostly refuges for utter reactionaries whose marxism is superficial and less confident than most European leftists. Hence I think they overcompensate.

Genius said...

I find instapundit (G reynolds) to be fairly reasonable - conservative on balance but he is anti-pork and most stuff I read involved focusing on the unbalanced left that tends to put so many people off anyway.

Also I don't see David as the unbalanced left. He uses emotive language but he isn't trying to convert republicans directly in this post (or probably in this blog).

Anyway, politics is something you might legitimately get worked up about - because it is important, as long as one is wiling to change ones basic assumptions based on the facts.

Cliff said...

All right, so from what I gather DB feels "the left" is composed of ivory tower intellectual elites that apparently exist on certain campuses.

Which could be why that slipped past my radar, I have almost no connection to that world. Not a lot of Trotskyites/Bolsheviks running around the streets of Phoenix, really.

The contempt that mainstream critics have for science fiction and fantastic literature in general really grinds my gears though.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Sorry if I didn't glean the animal bite issue you are talking about.

This reminds me, however, of an old Saturday Night skit about "spot bleeding." Turns out that the person forgot to remove the pins from their shirt.

So, this might be some actual staples in your bed, and you catch them in the night as you roll over.

>> But you'll have to describe the "symmetry" a bit more. That's a broad topic.

I was once "bit" by a SouthEastern centipede. I figured it out after the fact from the "track" marks it left -- like a wide spaced zipper. Felt like a branding iron and swelled up my arm to 3x size. I was in a clinic for 10 days from that one -- I never knew that those spidery-looking centipedes were dangerous.

>> About that "left-right" issue. I'm aware of the impossibility of making any sort of sensible statement without some historical context of what it means to be Liberal or Conservative. It is a lot easier to just invent a new word and ascribe meaning to it. Your use of Ostrich seems to work fine for a behavior -- which is perhaps a better thing to discuss. It doesn't have any overtones of "Southern" or who your daddy voted for -- it's about how a person reacts to the world around them.

But there is a certain, immature, war-mongering varmint that says; "let's bomb 'em all." That is all too prevalent amongst people who actually earn money. They also seem to be all over the blogs. The admire whoever seems the most powerful, and kind of fit the mythology to whatever the man makes up. We need to find an animal for THAT kind of thinking -- because I think they are more of the problem than the Ostrich.

And I'd think the herd at the water cooler, that basically goes with becoming "Green" as quickly as they were against the idea a few years before. Those have to be Water Buffalo. Because they stampede. This is why people who would otherwise want to give thoughtful speeches need to jump in the mud puddle with the rest and yell loudly. Because if the Water Buffalo don't think the herd is going your way -- they are likely to trample you.

This is why the illusion of winning, that the Clinton's perfected in the 90's worked so well to help them Win. Obama seemed to learn this and turned it against Hillary. The vast majority of voters are Water Buffalo and not Ostrichs. Water Buffalo at least think they are informed.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

cliff said...
I agree with you, william_shatner, but I'm curious as to why our host feels the way he does about leftism.
Brin does a damn fine job of skewering the right, but many times there's that caveat, of "the left is also bad, they're just not currently in power."
I'm trying to figure out what this left is, that's so bad that it deserves consistent mention right next to the worst Administration in memory.

>> Cliff, I think David has a tougher job than those of us who come here from time to time to rant. IF I were running this blog, I'd be trying to be just as equivalent as he. What you say kind of follows you -- and someone could pull a quote in the Wayback machine from a few years ago and say; "SEE!"

I admire what David is trying to do, and you can't do that spouting your mouth off. Credibility is also a slightly different process than being a truth-teller and is also more effective. If I'm to lead you out of the whole you are stuck in -- I have to gain your confidence. His concept of Liberalism is that was seeks to improve and move us forward. Ideally -- a Libertarian IS a liberal -- just not one that coddles and forces people but strives for efficiencies. If it were merely a debate about what is efficient -- it would be easier. But everyone gets all religious about it.

Another metaphor. Yeah -- religion works better. If a Buddhist comes up and says; "Your philosophy is wack -- why don't you start acting better." Someone won't get over the critique. If a person says; "I admire this person Jesus, and I think he was trying to get people to err on the side of peace." That effects change on a person.

A person who has been a Conservative or Republican for years has a lot invested. It takes time to realize; "Hey, this isn't about my philosophy -- this is about crooks who have usurped our party and mouth sound bites to our philosophy." That works better. Brin is trying to remind Conservatives about what was good about their philosophy before it was corrupted. Nothing helps that credibility more than saying; "Democrats scare me." They nod at your propitious sensibilities. Then you can get them thinking over a single malt 50-year-old scotch.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Please show the cites and reasoning that make the above claims to be facts, or FACTS as the case may be. Take particular care for definitions and proofs of terms like "betray", "every strength," "sucked", and "without reason."

While you're at it, could you please also chew for Huxley, since all he needs to do is sit on his butt and require spoon feeding.

Betray is a charged word. But when you have politicians getting money from Saudis, and invested heavily in Carlysle, Haliburton and other corporations that have failed to meet requirements and have moved to Dubai, and even have a mail drop in the Caymans so that the don't pay employment taxes....

... I don't think anyone has all day. The $2 Trillion LOST to this war is easy to justify if you consider ONLY the medical payments for the returning troops. A downside of better armor is that it masks the psychological damage: troops doing a job that they learn is for nothing. And we have a much higher percentage of troops that have engaged in combat returning than in any war in the past hundred years. 3 and 4 tours of duty. So, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome is going to be a serious issue -- that is just one example of how the "emergency" price tag that is not on our budget list is going to be a lot larger than what we are told.

Maybe you can take some time and read a few prior blogs here from perhaps a year ago, and see how incrementally David and others have built up this argument of how America has been betrayed. THEN, you can come back and refer to some stat or something concrete.

Nobody can prove anything to you, so ask a concrete question. You complain about a vague word like betrayal -- but I think we can all agree that reducing the fighting ability of our troops, and ruining our economy to benefit a few friends is a betrayal.

I'm hoping you are trying for a serious discussion and not just throwing rocks.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Zorgon, you rock. I don't seem to have the patience to footnote all the points I make. I just sometimes expect that people will see my brilliance and just humble themselves before me. So far, it only works on my two sons.

tacitus2 said...
A bit of respectful dissent.
I for instance do not share your view of the Dems as "the last great hope" (if I misquote you slightly, my apols) or the Repubs as "monsters". I think our crisis of leadership is systemic, and not tied to the fortunes or follies of either party.

As lame as the Democrats seem sometime -- I don't see any other way to change this system short of revolution.

I think you don't give enough credit to the Dems we have and step back and see the larger issue of politics in this country.

If ANYONE were to rebuke the Media, and claim that it was venial and used the political debates as a rating's grab, and removed candidates who challenged the status quo -- that person would be labelled a kook. How Kucinich has lasted so long is perhaps the exception that defines the rule. If there weren't someone speaking his truth to power I'd probably go crazy.

Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

More than likely there was Domestic spying. More than likely BOTH the Republican and Democratic contenders have lots of corporate money -- that is THE SYSTEM we have. Sometimes, you have to parlay Big Pharma against Big Oil, and give a wink to Big War. Then, perhaps in a year or two, correct the problems with Big Pharma and buy a few Submarines for the Pentagon.

It stinks. But when you have Socialism for the Wealthy and Capitalism for the Poor like we do in America -- you have to get the wolves to eat each other and that means you have to get friendly with wolves.

>> DB, sorry for putting words in your mouth about "what a Liberal is" -- I'm saying that this is my interpretation of what you are saying. Without the grammar errors of course.

Tony Fisk said...

Z, I am well aware that logic alone isn't going to sway an ostrich (or anyone who has a passion about something). I've said before that logic is a shield.

My quip about noone paying attention to my comments (noOne did!;-) was just to underscore hat some of the more heated commentators were not in the mood to listen to a reasonable(?) response. I'm easy on it.

David talks about tactics for handling ostriches here, but this blog isn't the forum for actually doing the handling!! It's hardly surprising that the conservative types who turn up here soon depart nursing their bruises!

BTW is Huxley still here? Despite Zorgon and BJ's opinions from instapundit, he seemed OK.

Tony Fisk said...

PS Terry Dowling is an Australian SF author (often compared with Vance and Ballard).

According to his website: 'Terry is also a fully qualified teacher with thirty years of tertiary teaching experience. He currently tutors in Business Communications and in English at the June Dally-Watkins Business Finishing College in Sydney.'

Mind you, I wouldn't call his stuff 'hard' SF (but very imaginative)

Tony Fisk said...

..that last was wrt SF in Lit. departments, if you hadn't realised!

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin asked for documentation of my claim that the Reagan administration had more officials indicted or resigned to avoid indictment than all other previous administrations in American history.

First, my number of 114 Reagan administration officials indicted or resigned to avoid indictment was incorrect. I apologize for my mistake, and I freely admit I was wrong. The correct number turns out to be 138 Reagan administration officials convicted, indicted, or the subject of official investigations for official misconduct and/or criminal violations.

Here is a link to the detailed breakdown of all the corrupt cronies and thieves in Reagan's maladministration. This list does name names, by the way, and give specific charges for each official indicted.

In terms of officials indicted, the Reagan administration still wins as the overall most corrupt in American history. A grand total of 61 Reagan appointees were eventually indicted, including the attorney general Ed Meese, who was convicted and served time.

Many people are shocked when I cite the stats showing that the Reagan administration was the most corrupt in U.S. history, because people typically remember the Nixon administration as especially corrupt. The Nixon administration did excel in taking bribes in paper bags into the White House, and Spiro Agnew did continue to receive cash payoffs from Maryland contractors in the vice president's office -- but the total number of Nixon crooks indicted was not as large as the total number of Reagan crooks indicted. This often surprises people.

Unfortunately I have no documentation to back up my claim that not a single member of the Clinton administration was ever indicted, because you can't prove a negative. I don't believe there was ever a headline proclaiming "NO CLINTON APPOINTEE INDICTED IN THE LAST 8 YEARS." Clinton simply ran an exceptionally clean administration and there were no indictments. I recall noting that fact, but no one else seemed to pay attention to it, and unfortunately I can't point to a single source showing that there were no indictments in the Clinton administration. That's the problem with doing your job well -- Bill Clinton did a great job of running a clean non-corrupt administration, but because he did, no one paid attention. If you do your job well, everybody yawns. The headlines only start flying when the president does his job incompetently and huge numbers of indictments start raining down.

I still need to provide hard numbers on the indictments and/or resignations in the Nixon administration and the current maladministration. I do know from adding up the overall figures that the Reagan administration still wins running away for the most people indicted, resigned to avoid indictment, or investigated for corruption, of any administration in U.S. history, bar none.

Anonymous said...

Zorg - I checked those links on Gingrich and Robertson fairly carefully, and they don't support your position.

I think you probably confused Tom DeLay with Newt Gingrich on the "evolution caused Columbine" point. Newt accused "the elite news media,the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite" of creating a climate that led to the shootings.

You may not agree with him on that, but I don't think that qualifies for "out of his mind". Perhaps you have a different link to back up that claim?

You're a bit more on target with Robertson - though he just listed "gays" along with half a dozen other groups he considers to be leading America down the wrong path.

But really he's simply out of date - 50 years back, he'd have been perfectly mainstream. Were the majority of Americans "bat shit insane" 50 years ago, or simply wrong, perhaps fearful and ignorant, perhaps thinking in a religious mental framework that shapes their every perception?

Anonymous said...

David Brin and all -- With the exception of tony fisk, to me this still looks like a blue-state meeting of the "Anyone who disagrees with me politically is an utter idiot who must be fixed" club.

"Ostrich conservatives" and "Win Over Those Conservatives Who Still Think" are obviously snarky frames for undermining a conservative before he or she says a single thing.

I haven't said much because I want to see if we can meet as equals without a lot of emotional noise. So far I'm not encouraged.

David throws in big "Republicans are responsible for everything conceivably bad in 2008 America and that's a FACT" claims and expects me to sign off or prove him wrong, when I'm not even sure what he is specifically saying. Then it's a "cop-out", if I ask him for specifics to support his grandiose claims.

Slow down, calm down, show some respect. I disagree with you and others, yet I'm trying to engage.

The disagreements here go pretty deep. My impression is that people on the blue-red divide are arguing at the top levels when the real problems are farther down.

Anonymous said...

"By all means, prove me wrong. Start by showing me that our military, our alliances, our moral leadership in the world, our popularity, our technological leadership, finances, economy etc are consistent with what conservatives claim they want -- a powerful and respected Pax Americana.

We are dealing with human history and politics, not Plato's Cave of Ideals or Euclid's Elements.

I support the Iraq War. We have overthrown a horrible dictator, safeguarded the Kurds and Shia in Iraq who have consistently supported the invasion of their own country by substantial majorities, defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq, shattered its hierarchy and standing in the Muslim world, and planted the seeds for democracy in the heart of the Middle East.

These are substantial wins. Do they prove the Iraq War was the correct thing to do. No. Was the Iraq War conducted without serious mistakes. No, but then no wars are. Was it worth it? Again, that's a question for history. Could it still go wrong? Sure. Is there proof? Dream on.

Welcome to living in history.

Anonymous said...

Just to be clear -- I'm only good for a few posts a day here. I have other things to do, and I like time to ponder what I say and not get into rapid response fire fights.

Please consider the following as a possiblity:

Intelligent, informed citizens of good faith may disagree on political issues.

Anonymous said...

One tiny last thing -- I should have said "Plato's Ideals" not "Plato's Cave of Ideals."


David McCabe said...

Huxley, let me agree with you that even I have been a bit shocked by the vitriol today, especially Zorgon's. You do deserve better than to be written off as a foaming Colterite.

However, in your last last post you dodged the question, and you should know better.

Even if the occupation of Iraq has done good -- which I am far from allowing -- that has nothing to do with the point Brin raised, which is that, by traditional conservative measures, the war, and other actions by this administration, have been disastrous.

"Planting the seed of democracy", even if it isn't wishful thinking, hardly makes up for the ruination of our military, of our currency, of our alliances, and of our reputation. And it has nothing at all to do with the billion-Benjamin theft that is being alleged here, nor with any other thing in question here.

Conservatives would not have us look away from corruption and theft, while conjuring cloudy visions of fantastic nations built.

Conservatives would not insist that we are beating al Queda in Iraq while the Joint Chiefs of Staff insist we need more troops to beat them in Afghanistan. They would not ignore this ... FACT...

David McCabe said...

(Race condition: By "your last post" I meant the first of your three last posts.)

Tony Fisk said...

Thanks for the response, Huxley. If I may answer your points on why you support the Iraq war:

We have overthrown a horrible dictator
(No argument there)

safeguarded the Kurds and Shia in Iraq who have consistently supported the invasion of their own country by substantial majorities
(OK, having left them hanging in 1991. However, the Iraq war also forced a factionally driven civil war on a formerly secular, tribal society who got on fairly well (inter-marriage was common)
(Also, behaviour in Abu-Ghraib and Fallujeh dissipated any goodwill felt toward the liberators)

defeated al-Qaeda in Iraq,
(Except that, prior to 2003, Al-Qaedda was not in Iraq! Saddam's form of nastiness was distinctly secular, and he would have nothing to do with Bin Laden & co.

shattered its hierarchy and standing in the Muslim world,
(Very questionable. But see Afghanistan)

planted the seeds for democracy in the heart of the Middle East.
(Again questionable. Recent developments may hold promise but, as you say, we are living in history.)

Now, answer this:
- do you recall the reason we (since Howard sent Oz in as well) went to war in Iraq? Was it justified?
- are you aware that Cheney/Rumsfeld were looking to use 9/11 as a pretext for invasion from the outset?
- Why did Rumsfeld resign?

- Afghanistan was a much better waged campaign. One might be excused for thinking that it had been planned by a different group of people. Indeed, one might say that, if Al-Qaedda was 'broken' by military action. it was there.

- Point on limited time for postings. Same here plus a 17 hour time difference on west coast US. On that note...

Genius said...

As a person who has some of the traditional conservative intuitions - I tentatively supported the Iraq War. Partly based on the dodgy intel but I'm a Hawk so I'm ok with the other reasons. But I dont see how the occupation is anything other than stupidity.

There is no point the US winning the war in Iraq if it costs you all your money, all your influence and all your military power (I'm exaggerating - but only a little).

If in 30 years the US is 20 trillion in debt, the economy is on it's knees, the military is completely over streached and redesigned for occupation, the world is united in it's hatred for the US and it has an Iraq that looks like Switzerland to show for it - then the US has still lost. a pyrrhic victory as they say. Actually the US is halfway there - except for the Iraq being Switzerland bit.

BTW Zorgon,
I check a few of your links on Glen Reynolds and they if anything proved the opposite of your point.

Unknown said...

Revising my count of people who were investigated for corruption, resigned because of corruption, or who were indicted during Richard Nixon's administration:

31 people total. My original statement of 52 was incorrect.
Here are the specifics on each person involved with Watergate.

People indicted or investigated or who resigned to avoid indictment in Watergate:

5 watergate burglars (indicted):

Virgilia Martinez
Bernard Barker
James W. McCord Jr.
Eugenio Martinez
Frank Sturgis

Heads of the plumbers squad (indicted)

E. Howard HUnt
G. Gordon Liddy

Others indicted or investigated or resigned:

John Dean (indicted)
John Ehrlichman (indicted)
H. R. Haldeman (indicted)
Jeb Magruder (indicted)
Charles Colson (indicted)
John Mitchell (indicted, but died before trial)
Mary Mitchell (investigated because she took over handling of the slush funds for CREEP after her husband died)
Egil Krogh (investigated)
Maurice Stans (investigated, died before he could be indicted)
Hugh Sloan (investigated)
Donald Segretti (investigated)
Kenneth Dahlberg (investigated, wrote checks for slush fund used to pay the "plumber's squad")
Dwayne Andreas (investigated, funded the plumber's squad but claimed he didn't know what was going on)
Rose Mary Woods (investigated, claimed to erase Watergate tape)
Alexander Butterfield (investigated, came forward before he could be indicted for obstruction of justice)
Henry Kissinger (investigated: started Watergate by raging aginst "leaks" in the White House, forced Nixon to start "plumber's squad")
Roger Stone (investigated)
Fred LaRue (investigated)
Fred Malek (investigated, vice chairman of CREEP)
Richard Nixon (obvious)
John Paisley ("campaign operative" -- committed crimes for Nixon re-election dirty tricks squad but couldn't be nailed)
David Young ("campaign operative" -- claimed "at night I engage in the black arts" admitted dirty tricks and crimes during re-election campaign but was never indicted)
Spiro Agnew (indicted for bribery, unrelated to Watergate)
Karl Rove ("campaign operative" -- never indicted)

Whether we're talking 31 or 52, the Nixon administration had a lot of criminals, many never indicted because in some cases they were too smart (Malek, Dahlberg, Rove, Segretti) to leave enough evidence of felonies while committing their campaign "dirty tricks" to indict them.

David Brin said...

Oy, I am giving up on Huxley. I have repeatedly invited him to challenge any of the deepest fundamentals. Has the US Army been devastated or not? (ALL brigades "ready" under Clinton and zero ready now.) Have our reserves been misused and abused? (Ask any reservist.) Do we still have reliable allies who like us? The Officer Corps and Civil Service despise this administration as no other was ever despised. Our finances have tanked, putting our children in debt while - for the first time in all of US history, the Rickh have refused to help pay for a war fought by other peoples' sons.

Dispute any of that and we can talk. We can compare our evidence for these assertions against your evidence against. But all you do is whine about vague rhetorical misbehaviors that I and others here have most definitely not committed.

Finally, you picked a topic, "victory" in Iraq. After Bush reversed decades of deep GOP cant about despising "nation building"... after Bush himself railed at Clinton for entering the Balkans "without an exit strategy or plan for the "... after the same crew of Cheney-Rumsfeld etc were photographed kissing and smiling with Osama and with Saddam, praising them and supplying them for years... after Bush Senior had Saddam in the palm of his hand in 92, when the Iraqi people really would have welcomed us with flowers, and Cheney et al instead left that monster with his boot on their necks for 12 more years....then we go back in based upon relentless lies...

oooog. What hypocrisy. What ever happened to thinking of America first? Now, after thre TRILLION dollars, we are being booted out of Iraq by a government that may wind up having a few democratic trappings, but will be controlled by hostile Shiite theocrats, another Iran. And this was worth driving off all our allies, wrecking our military, torching our economy, putting our kids in debt.

Hypocrisy. What would you have said if Bill Clinton sent twelve billion dollars in raw cash into a war zone under the slimmest guard... only for about half of it to simply disappear? A billion of it in raw cash, by the side of an Iraqi road? You, who raged over the Clintons losing $80,000 in a failed land deal?

Have you ever done a line by line comparison of the Balkan and Iraqi wars?

Never mind. I promised my wife I'd stop arguing with stone walls.

Just know this, I never felt this way about Reagan, or even Nixon. Hell, I defended a lot of aspects of Reagan, even though 138 of his guys were shown to be corrupt thieves while not ONE of Clinton's ever was. Not... one. Ever.

No, this is not about normal partisanship. (Hell, I'm more a libertarian than a democrat, in many ways.)

No, this is about a criminal gang who have sold us. Find one way in which they haven't

Anonymous said...

A few links on destruction of US Military Readiness

- National Guard Recruiting woes
- Gear shortage could last years after Iraq war
- An increasing shortfall in the number of junior officers, particularly captains
- A Shortage Of Troops in Afghanistan. Iraq War Limits U.S. Options, Says Chairman of Joint Chiefs

Anonymous said...

Huxley :

I know you're probably feeling pretty dog-piled here, but this needs addressing.

I've never, ever, after a hell of a lot of reading from a lot of different sources on the subject, seen a poll that showed Iraqi Shia were glad we invaded.

Not one.

Violence is down in Iraq for a very simple reason. They're hopefull that we'll go home soon.

They get Al-Arabia, Al-Jazeera, and the BBC World News. They know we're probably going to elect a President and Congress who intend to pull out.

Put it this way - if Parties endorsed by Biet Shalom and supported by Neturei Karta were polling as 75% likely to take two thirds of the Knesset, Hamas would have a REALLY hard time with recruitment ;)

Were American minutemen rushing out to attack British forts AFTER Yorktown? Were they felling trees to slow the Redcoat withdrawl to Canada in last months before the signing of the treaty of Paris?

In Iraq, the ethnic cleansing is accomplished, we finally allowed the Al-Anbar Shieks to whup the foriegn a-hole terrorists they always hated, and we're leaving. Of course there's less "will to fight".

They're getting what they wanted. Us gone.

Don't worry to much about those bragging about how "well" Afgahnistan went and how we did what no other Empire could do by invading it, though.

It's easy to invade Afgahnistan. Everybody and his brother in the region did it at least once. It's impossible to HOLD, as we're starting to learn.

David McCabe said...

I think we can all appreciate this XKCD.

Anonymous said...

David Brin wrote
Marino, I am glad the Italian lit departments like SF.

direct experience:
A friend of mine, one Paola C. who teaches Documentation (I work at a library and archival science school), but with a background in American lit. and cultural studies, too, gave a graduation paper to a student of hers, tentatively on portrayal of information retrieval technology in sci-fi.
So I suggested everything from the "Hollerith machines and punched cards" in Clarke's Rescue party to the Babbage machines of the steampunk novels, and to the Galactic Library in Uplift.
The paper subject then became the similarities beween V. Bush's Memex and the fictional speakwrite Winston Smith uses to erase knowledge and change past in Orwell's 1984.
The girl graduated cum laude.

Unknown said...

You say I support the Iraq War, huxley, and described yourself as "center-right."

IRAQ WAR STRETCHING U.S. ARMY TO BREAKING POINT (From "The Intellectual Conservative" website, no less)


"As The Army Approaches A Breaking Point"

"Study: Army Streched To Breaking Point"

"A U.S. Army `At Its Breaking Point' Considers Foreign Recruits"

"Destroying the National Guard"

"Our Broken National Guard and Army Reserve"

"In Iraq, No CLear Finish Line" "It's a race against time because by the end of this coming summer we can no longer sustain the presence we have now," said retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who visited Iraq most recently in June and briefed Cheney, Rice and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "This thing, the wheels are coming off it." -- Lt. Gen Barry McCaffrey (ret.), 2005

"Field Commanders Tell Pentagon Iraq War Is `Lost'" (2006)

"Retired Generals Rise Up Against Iraq War" (2006)

"Generals Opposing Iraq War Break With Military Tradition" (2007)

"Retired Generals Slam Bush's Iraq Plan, Troop Buildup Called `A Fool's Errand'" (2007)

Yet essentially the entire general staff of the Pentagon regards the Iraq occupation as a dismal failure that's breaking the United States Army and thinks we need to get out pronto. Virtually without exception, all our military
experts concur that the Iraq war is a strategic as well as a tactical disaster and must be ended ASAP.

At the same time, the poll numbers clearly show that 62% of the American people think the Iraq occupation is going "poorly" or "very poorly."

Meanwhile, all the most esteemed experts on strategy and military history condemn the Iraq occupation.

"For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins." -- Marvin van Creveld (2005)

"More Troops Into A Lost War?" -- William S. Lind, author of the UMCS's 3GW field manual

"Most senior military officers now believe the war in Iraq has turned into a disaster in an unprecedented scale."

So clearly, huxley, you're completely out of touch with the vast majority of American people, the officer corps of our armed forces, and essentially all living military experts on the issue of the Iraq occupation, which they all describe as a "disaster" and a "failure" and "a huge debacle" and "America's greatest military blunder," yet which you describe as a "a substantial win."

Explain to me, huxley: how does going against the judgment of the American people, the entire U.S. military officer corps, all the American enlisted men, and all living military experts put you in the "center" of the political spectrum?

We have overthrown a horrible dictator -- huxley

That's factual.

...[We have] safeguarded the Kurds - huxley

That statement contradicts observed reality.

Turkey Threatens Kurds Over Independent State (2007)

"Kurdish Conflict THreatens U.S. War Effort (2007)

"Turkish PM Threatens to Invade Northern Iraq (2007)

Clearly many times more Kurds would be killed in a Turkish invasion than ever died under Saddam, so once again we see you're simply denying the objective reality of the situation on the ground in Iraq. The U.S. occupation of Iraq has greatest endangered the Kurds, it hasn't safeguarded them.

[We have]...safeguarded...[the] Shia in Iraq who have consistently supported the invasion of their own country by substantial majorities... -- huxley

That statement contradicts obsered reality. More than one million Iraqis have died in the bloodshed since the U.S. occupation: Iraqis consistently say "the violence is worse than under Saddam."

"U.S. Media ignores estimate of one million Iraqis dead"

"One Million Iraqis Dead In War, Study Finds"

"More than one million Iraqis have died as a result of the conflict in their country since the US-led invasion in 2003..."

And most of the Iraqis dying are, of course, children, killed both as "collateral damage" in the U.S. bombings, and as a result of "ethnic cleansing" by the Sunni and Shia militias conducting their civil war inside Iraq.

"Iraqi Children Killed In U.S. Strikes"

"U.S. Torture, Murder At Iraqi Juvenile Prison"

"Worse than the adult prisons...Iraqi children had been killed with chains, knives, and power drills..."

"IRAQI DEATH SQUADS" [The bodies] have usually been dreadfully tortured. Acid and electric drills are the favorite methods..." -- 2006

"60 Torture Victims Found In Iraq"

Police in Iraq say that they have discovered the bodies of 60 people, most of whom had been bound, tortured and shot before being dumped in and around Baghdad. (..)
The 60 bodies found in Baghdad were bound and bore signs of having been tortured before they were shot in the head, according to officials. Such killings bear the hallmarks of militant death squads, operated by both Sunni and Shia militias, who kidnap people, often torturing them with power drills or beating them badly before shooting them.
-- 2006

Tortured with acid and power drills, then murdered and dumped in the streets? This is keeping the Shia "safe"?

...[We have] defeated Al-Qaeda in Iraq, shattered its hierarchy and standing in the Muslim world... -- huxley

That statement contradicts observed reality.
"Iraq War Swells Al Qaeda's Ranks"

"Iraq War Helped Boost Al Qaeda"

"Iraq A Big Money-Maker For Al Qaeda"

"Iraq War `Helped al-qaeda Recruit'"

"Al Qaeda Expanding Recruitment of Children, Security Officials"

"Al Qaeda Draws More Recruits To Afghan War"

Indiscriminate U.S. aerial bombardment of insurgents kills innocent civilians, creating even more recruits for Al Qaeda and the other fundamenalist Islamic jihadists:

"Does U.S. Airpower Create Insurgents?"

Dahr Jamail on Life under the Bombs in Iraq (2005)

Icarus (Armed With Vipers) Over Iraq (2005)

Michael Schwartz On Iraq As A Killing Ground (2006)

Air, War, Barbarity, and the Middle East" (2006)

Nick Turse On the Secret Air War In Iraq (2007)

Nick Turse: The Air War In Iraq Uncovered" (2007)

"Bombs Away Over Iraq" (2008)

At the same time, America's funding of local militias in Iraq has intensified ethnic hatred and cranked up the civil war in Iraq to white-hot intensity:

"America-Backed Militias Strut Across Iraq" For Shi’ites such as Kahiriya Musa, however, a Sunni militia represents another potential source of terror in a country where millions have been traumatised by ethnic cleansing. A 50% cut in car and roadside bombs, shootings and rocket and mortar attacks since June has brought hope that some of the 5m Iraqis driven from home may soon be able to go back. Yet many - Kahiriya Musa among them - are too frightened of the new militias and the ethnic cleansers in their ranks to risk moving. (2007)

Most importantly of all, getting mired in Iraq has led the United States to ignore Al Qaeda's continually strengthening position in Pakistan, where the rich prize of nuclear weaponry awaits them once they overthrow Musharraf's weak military dictatorship and establish a fundamentalist Islamist theocracy.

"Bin Laden Hunt Finds Al Qaeda Influx in Pakistan"

...[We have] planted the seeds for democracy in the heart of the Middle East. -- huxley

Once again, this statement contadicts observed reality.

"How Bush Created A Theocracy In Iraq"

"Making Iraq Safe For Fundamentalist Islam"

"Rise Of Extremism, Fundamentalist Law Threaten Iraqi Women"

"Anti-democratic Developments Roil Iraq, Gaza"

"A democracy in Iraq is quite unlikely for now or anytime soon..."

U.S. Stages Elections In Iraq -- Results Pose New Problems and Dangers (2005) The rise of Islamic theocratic forces, especially in the Shiite south, and the arrangements the U.S. occupiers have worked out with these forces and their militias has meant that in growing parts of Iraq, the people are now subject to the harsh theocratic rules of armed fundamentalists. This has meant intensified oppression of women. And it has mean the growth of merciless and deadly attacks on people who do not share their religion -- which are sometimes carried out through fundamentalist militia and sometimes by the U.S.-armed Iraqi army. -- op. cit.

These are substantial wins. -- huxley

Let's summarize:

A broken U.S. national guard, an American military at the breaking point, essentially all current U.S. military hardware used up or worn out; 1 million Iraqis dead, tortured, mutilated, bombed, power-drilled, killed slowly with acid, or shot to death; an estimated cost of three trillion dollars; a collapse in oil flowing out of Iraq to less than 1/3 of what it was during the embargoes under Saddam; Iraq Oil Exports: Global Guerilla Target; oil at $147 per barrel and still rising; loss of basic electricity, sewage and water utilities throughout Iraq; creation of a militant anti-democratic Shia theocracy which hates America and everything it stands for as the new rulers of Iraq; escalation of tensions and violence between the Kurds and the Turks; recruitment of millions of new jihadis eager to fight the Americans in Iraq, and the strengthening of AL Qaeda at every level, from recruitment, to the development of new terror tactics effective against U.S. humvees, tanks, and troops; and above all, a Pakistan ruled by a newly invigorated and much larger and more determined Al Qaeda armed with nuclear weapons.

This is a "substantial win"?

Blogger Fabius Maximum explains this bizarre mindset in his classic post "The Oddity Of Reports About the Iraq War".

Why such fervor by the war’s supporters to convince others that we are winning in Iraq? These are smart people, obviously patriots, and usually with no vested or career interest in the war. Moving deeper into speculative terrain, perhaps our failure in Iraq has created a mental conflict among believers in the efficacy of our military apparatus — and more generally, believers in the power of America.

Our inability to “pacify” a small weak nation challenges these views. Rather than modify these beliefs, we get evolving goals for Iraq, the ever-visible but never reached victory conditions (always 6 months away), the shifting definitions of our enemy, and the gap between the picture of Iraq painted by the war’s supporters and the less-appealing reality (e.g., the high levels of violence, almost powerless central government, fragmenting polity, ethnic cleansing).
- Fabius Maximus, op. cit.

The final words goes to Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken and Stanley Schachter:

A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.

We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction, especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks.

But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it; finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view.

… But whatever explanation is made it is still by itself not sufficient. The dissonance is too important and though they may try to hide it, even from themselves, the believers still know that the prediction was false and all their preparations were in vain. The dissonance cannot be eliminated completely by denying or rationalizing the disconfirmation.

But there is a way in which the remaining dissonance can be reduced. If more and more people can be persuaded that the system of belief is correct, then clearly it must, after all, be correct. Consider the extreme case: if everyone in the whole world believed something there would be no question at all as to the validity of this belief. It is for this reason that we observe the increase in proselytizing following disconfirmation. If the proselytizing proves successful, then by gathering more adherents and effectively surrounding himself with supporters, the believer reduces dissonance to the point where he can live with it.

--- When Prophecy Fails, Leon Festinger, Henry W. Riecken and Stanley Schachter, 1956, pg. 5

Anonymous said...

It's one thing to drink someones milkshake's another to do it by ramming a tube downs his nose after he's already consumed it.

Nice post. Good links.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to agree that Huxley has a point here in this discussion, but perhaps not articulating it well.

David has stated repeatedly on this site about how the GOP is responsible for all of the problems he rightfully describes. I don't dispute the problems -- I dispute the attribution of the blame.

The GOP is not a monolithic block. The GOP consists of a huge variety of people, interest groups, politicians, party hacks, etc. David, you commented that you're a registered Republican -- that means YOU are part of the GOP, plain and simple. If the GOP is responsible for all those problems, then by definition, so are you.

Fortunately, the problems you describe aren't there because the entire GOP is responsible -- in recent times, the GOP has been dominated by Bush, Rove and their ilk. *That* sub-group, I do indeed blame for many of the problems you attribute to the GOP. I've been personally trying to work against them since the 2000 primaries. But they're not the GOP. They're just part of it.

Nor, in fact, are they the dominant sub-group in the party anymore. No sub-group can maintain control of a political party for very long, any more than any one political party can maintain control of Congress or the Oval Office for very long. Things change. People get tired of those in control and look for a different approach.

If they were still in control, you certainly wouldn't have seen John McCain win the primary -- you would have seen a Huckabee or a Brownback instead. If they were still in control, you wouldn't be hearing people discussing potential VP picks like Pawlenty or Ridge. None of those people fit the mold of Bush and Co.

So, IMHO, Huxley *does* have a point here. Asserting that the GOP is responsible for all of this, and not allowing for any possiblity that the GOP may change directions (or has already done so...), is over the top rhetoric and not at all factual. If you truly believe this, David, then perhaps we not only need to be trying to open the eyes of "Ostrich Republicans", but also "Ostrich Republican-Blamers"...

Meanwhile, I'll continue to vote the way I always have -- based on my educated opinion of each individual candidate (regardless of party), and continue to work for improvement *within* the GOP, because as a Registered Republican myself, that's where I can do so.

David Brin said...

Steve, I sympathize. I do.

But show me the insurrection, within the GOP, against these monsters. Ron Paul, that's it. Plus a few dozen brave individuals writing books. The gravy train of corruption has been lavish and the gorging has been good.

Earnest men like you may gain leverage to save the GOP, but only if it is pounded flat. Pray it happens. Because then there may be hope.

Or... time to bring back the Whigs?

Boot said...

The authoritarian tendencies of GOPers when compared to the chaotic DEMs allow us to consider them relatively monolithic. Those GOPers that are screaming against the status quo are the only ones that will get my respect.

As Zorgon showed there is nothing “recent” about the problems with the GOP. A true fiscal or national power conservative has no home. If you choose to ignore rampant corruption for a moment, Republicans have been growing the size of the National government far more than Democrats in the last 3 decades. Bush and Co simply have blatant disregard for America if stands in the way of their america. If they truly don’t represent the GOP anymore, what does it say about the institution that will not reign them in? Why aren’t the GOP senators leading the charge on the abuses of constitution and power? (Or at least not resisting.) Why has John McCain been traveling towards Bush rather than away?

You are completely missing the point if you believe that this forum isn’t actively advocating for the GOP to change directions. Voting “Regardless of party” is just naïve. Working for improvement is heroic in proportion to you ability to affect change.

JuhnDonn said...

david brin said...

Or... time to bring back the Whigs?

Bull Moose anyone? A trust buster or two would be mighty welcome about now.

Cliff said...

William Shatner said:
I admire what David is trying to do, and you can't do that spouting your mouth off.

I get what you're saying, but I've noticed that Dr. Brin has a certain tendency towards unequivocal statements. (And before you come gunning for me, DB, I realize you're a busy man and have explained many of these things before, and I appreciate the time you took to explain your views on the left).

Huxley: These are very vocal people that post here, but they are very intelligent people. If you come in with guns blazing about how awesome the Iraq War is...well, you've seen the reaction it provokes.

zorgon: Holy #$%! That article on the murders at the juvenile prison was from this month!

I need to go drink now.

Anonymous said...

Even if the occupation of Iraq has done good -- which I am far from allowing -- that has nothing to do with the point Brin raised, which is that, by traditional conservative measures, the war, and other actions by this administration, have been disastrous.

David McCabe -- Thank you for a civil response and a rational attempt to engage.

First, I'm not a conservative. I am simply further to the right than most people who post in this blog. I'm still a registered Democrat. I attend a a very liberal Episcopal church. I voted for Hillary in the primary. Otherwise I vote Republican in most ways these days. I feel more affinity for center-right pundits, bloggers, magazines etc. But too far over, e.g. Ann Coulter, I get nervous.

I say all this to be clear that I don't speak for conservatives. If I must define myself, I call myself a "classic liberal" -- individual freedom, limited government, civil liberties, free markets, the values of the Enlightenment, etc. These days my position maps better to conservative than liberal.

I'm not entirely sure what you or David mean by "traditional conservative." To be honest, I don't trust either of you to speak for those conservatives.

To respond to your point (finally!) I disagree that the Iraq War or other actions by this administration have been "disastrous." I look around and see a country and a world functioning rather well, considering the dotcom bust, 9-11, the challenge of radical Islam, the continuing dissolution of the Cold War framework of international relations, the red-blue divide in the United States, the rise of globalism, and so forth.

It seems to me that those who oppose the Bush administration focus exclusively on negative consequences and those that don't match their own desired political goals.

I think that focus works well as a propaganda technique, but is not realistic. Everything has a cost. Everything humans do includes mistakes

The question the Bush administration faces is whether the benefits exceed the costs and risks in the context of what is possible. My bet is that the Bush will be vindicated, just as Truman was. Truman's approval was ten points lower than Bush's when Truman left office.

That's a long conversation and we can continue it. Take care, David.

Tony Fisk said...

You are, at least, courteous in your answers, Huxley. A refreshing change!

In looking at your responses however, I confess I am astonished that you can list the things you value as a 'classic liberal', and then indicate that the Bush administration has been effective at maintaining them. Let's see now:

- individual freedom: do you know what 'the writ of Habeus Corpus' is, and what it's omission portends? It's been in the body of law for nearly a thousand years, for good reason! (see also civil liberties)

- limited government: a reduction in taxes is fine if: 1. it is fair to all wage earners and 2. basic services are maintained. But there is a responsible reduction in government, and there is an abrogation of responsibility.
Infrastructures in America are in dire straits. The US army is impoverished (don't be fooled by the budget: most of that goes to no-bid contractors. Look, instead, at US soldiers buying their own body armour, and having to endure squalid conditions in veteran hospitals). Katrina, and the breaking of the Mississippi levees was a disaster that was foreseen by many people, despite Bush's protestations to the contrary. (And where was the National Guard? Overseas!)

- civil liberties: have you flown recently? Are you aware of what happened in New York during the 2004 election campaign?
And over all, the void that used to be filled by Habeus Corpus.

- free markets: coming back to Iraq, how many construction companies were invited to bid?
(David often quotes the reduction in border patrols as Bush's first act. I recall the abrupt departure of the US government from the Microsoft anti-trust case, suggesting anything but a pro-free market stance)

- the values of the Enlightenment: which of these do you value? I don't value the ones who put gentlefolk like George Deutsch in charge of the NASA publicity department (and his deliberate gagging of reports supporting global warming is not an isolated incident.)

And finally, to answer the question I posed to you. The US government ordered the invasion of Iraq on the pretext of preventing the use of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'. And yet, the existence of these weapons was a fabrication. There was no clear evidence for them. As the Downing Street memos show, the Bush administration had resolved to invade long before terrorising tales of 'Weapons of Mass Destruction' were mentioned.

Do you truly believe that 'the values of the enlightenment' are furthered by a government that lies to its people on such trivial matters as going to war?

Anonymous said...

[Tony already slipped by with a response. My post below is to what he said last night. I'm never going to catch up!]

Tony Fisk -- Thank you too for a courteous, collegial response! Although we differ, you strike me as a kindred spirit.

Our disagreements largely hinge upon facts and the interpretations of facts.

In addition to my impression that the conflicts between red-blue folks are often about disagreements deeper down (for instance, most blue folks disagree that we are in a serious war with radical Islam), it also seems true that the red-blue disagree about the basic facts informing the discussion.

Also, behaviour in Abu-Ghraib and Fallujeh dissipated any goodwill felt toward the liberators.

How do you know this? To be sure, Abu Ghraib was recycled almost everyday in Western media for more than a month to great effect, but the effect on Iraqis was not necessarily the same.

Tonight I can't find the quote from an Iraqi blooger, but I recall him saying that it wasn't a big deal in Iraq. They were impressed the US publicized the abuses and punished the abusers. Iraqis understood the genuine horrors that had previously gone on in Abu Ghraib--not psychodrama but torture resulting in real rape, maiming and death. See "The torture at Abu Ghraib prison".

I stand with Christopher Hitchens who took this bull by the horns:

"Let me begin with a simple sentence that, even as I write it, appears less than Swiftian in the modesty of its proposal: "Prison conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved markedly and dramatically since the arrival of Coalition troops in Baghdad." "A War to Be Proud Of."

And that's just my response to one of your objections. This is a very long conversation. We can continue. Be well, Tony.

Cliff said...

Huxley said:
I look around and see a country and a world functioning rather well

The Middle East
Global warming
The rest of the environment
Diminishing supplies of natural resources such as copper

Maybe read a newspaper once in a while.

Oh, and it takes a special kind of person to look at Abu Ghraib (to name one of many atrocities) and say, "Heyyyyyyy, mistakes were made! Don't sweat the details! We're all buddies here!"

Tony Fisk said...

Huxley, while you are searching for that Iraqi blogger you mentioned, let me quote another one (river, commenting in Feb, last year on 'the Rape of Sabrine'):

"And yet, as the situation continues to deteriorate both for Iraqis inside and outside of Iraq, and for Americans inside Iraq, Americans in America are still debating on the state of the war and occupation- are they winning or losing? Is it better or worse.

Let me clear it up for any moron with lingering doubts: It’s worse. It’s over. You lost. You lost the day your tanks rolled into Baghdad to the cheers of your imported, American-trained monkeys. You lost every single family whose home your soldiers violated. You lost every sane, red-blooded Iraqi when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and verified your atrocities behind prison walls as well as the ones we see in our streets. You lost when you brought murderers, looters, gangsters and militia heads to power and hailed them as Iraq’s first democratic government. You lost when a gruesome execution was dubbed your biggest accomplishment. You lost the respect and reputation you once had. You lost more than 3000 troops. That is what you lost America. I hope the oil, at least, made it worthwhile.

(emphasis mine)

Does she consider Abu Ghraib as 'no big deal'? I think not.

I would still like to hear your source, of course.

Anonymous said...

I know you're probably feeling pretty dog-piled here, but this needs addressing.

I've never, ever, after a hell of a lot of reading from a lot of different sources on the subject, seen a poll that showed Iraqi Shia were glad we invaded.

Jester -- Thanks for another reasonable, collegial response! Yes, I am feeling a bit dog-piled but more tired. It's after midnight, I spent far too much time looking up web pages I vaguely remembered, and I need to get to bed.

Try reading Back Talk by a college professor who describes himself as "a registered Democrat, a liberal by some measures, but a radical conservative relative to the large majority of my colleagues." Prof. Engram (his nom de web) does the best statisical analysis on Iraq bar none. He is an astonishg resource for those who care about facts. Engram is a national treasure.

Here's a link, Was Ousting Hussein Worth It, from December 2006 that breaks that poll question down among Iraqi groups and shows Kurds at 75% and Shiites at 81% saying the ouster of Hussein (i.e. the invasion) was worth it.

I've been following this angle since 2003 and the overall numbers are consistently 55% - 65% (the Sunnis, Hussein's ethnic group, bring the number down). The Pew Poll stopped asking the question, seemingly because the answer wasn't the desired result. I'm sure the numbers today are even higher, now that Iraq has become much more stable and the war essentially a success. I don't think even Obama, should he become president, can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

It's an astonishing thing for the majority of a country's citizens to consider the invasion of their own country to be desirable. I can think of only one comparable case in recent history -- Cambodia during Pol Pot.

Take care.

Anonymous said...

That's it for tonight. I apologize to those kind enough to address me but to whom I have not responded.

As I say, I only have so much time and I ponder and research my responses. If you wish me to respond, please be specific, please be civil, and even friendly if you can manage it, and I will get back to you. It may take a while...

THOMAS NACKID art + design said...

Huxley seems to do a lot of hand waving and complaining about how insulted he is by Mr. Brin's comments, but so far he has NOT ACTUALLY SAID ANYTHING TO SUPPORT HIS CLAIM THAT BRIN IS BEING UNREASONABLE! Am I the only one who has noticed that? Its the typical crank response. "How dare you. I refuse to even respond to your allegations."

Stop the whining and actually TELL US SOMETHING that supports your view. "Conservatives who still think" is not a snarky insult as you state. Its simply acknowledging the fact that in ANY group there are those who define the agenda and those who follow mindlessly. Democrats have a chance to win over those Republicans who truly believe in conservative values and feel betrayed by where the party is going (has gone!). He has said many time that there are liberals who think and those who don't think as well ,and that the Democratic party has to disassociate itself from the mindless liberals that woould cut of the country's nose to spite its face.

So get off your high horse. I don't buy the "I don't have anything to prove to the likes of you." argument. You've got nothing and you know it.

JuhnDonn said...

Huxley said: Our disagreements largely hinge upon facts...

Facts are for suckers. It's a post modern world and if, in your interpretation/view/experience, things are great, then they really are great. Anyone who brings up facts showing otherwise are just a bunch of CRANKS.

For myself, I'm looking forward seeing a return of rule of law, with no one above the law.

B. Dewhirst said...

Things are looking up for the kind of education DB apparently wants our nations future leaders to be getting.

I'm sure that nasty leftist won't be causing any more trouble.

Unknown said...

As you can see, huxley qualifies as a classic kook. As I pointed out when he first arrived, this type of crank deals with facts and logic he doesn't by simply ignoring them.

Why doesn't huxley answer any of Brin's questions?

Because they're inconvenient, so huxley treats them as though they don't exist.

Why doesn't huxley try to rebut any of the facts I've adduced to disprove all his claims?

Because he can't -- so he simply ignores everything I've said.

The rest of you guys can waste your time trying to talk to this crackpot, but you'll soon discover that he's running the oldest scam in the world, a scam beloved of crackpots the world round: whatever you try to talk about, he ignores everything but the isolated facts and few little tidbits of logic he wants to talk about. This makes it easy to prove anything you want to prove. For example, using huxley's scam, you can prove that all integers are prime. 1 is prime, 2 is prime, 3 is prime, what about 4? Ignore it. 5 is prime. What about 6? Ignore it. 7 is prime...and so on. See? All integers are prime!

Eventually even the most patient of you will tire of the con game huxley's running on you. At some point you'll all realize that when you're dealing with a kook who refuses to acknowledge inconvenient facts and ignores all questions and objections and all logic that prove damaging to his belief system, you're wasting your time.

But, for the time being, I encourage everyone to continue to try to debate with this crank. Because (despite his best efforts) huxley constantly lets slip evidence that his claims are simply completely unhinged. For example, huxley's assertion that we should base our foreign policy in Iraq on polls of the Iraqi people. This is flat-out nuts.

Think about it for a minute. Huxley is telling us we should ignore the opinion of the American people (62% in favor of getting out of Iraq), we should ignore the opinions of our top military officers (overwhelmingly in favor of withdrawal from Iraq), we should ignore the judgment of all the most respected military analysts like Martin van Creveld and retired generals like Barry McCaffrey and military historians like William S. Lind, all of whom without exception judge the Iraq occupation a disaster without parallel in American military history.

Instead, huxley is telling us, we should disregard the judgment of all Americans, both military and civilian, and base on foreign policy in Iraq on whatever the Iraqi people want us to do.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to realize how crazy that idea is. If America (or any other country) based its foreign policy solely on what the population of another country wanted it to do and ceased to pay any attention to the judgment of its own population and its own military experts...well, that's a recipe for national collapse.

The tried-and-true method for dealing with crackpots with huxley, who ignore every fact and every point of logic and every question you throw at 'em and talk about only what they want to talk about, is to ignore them in return and keep hammering away, asking them, "Why aren't you answering my questions? Why haven't you rebutted any of the facts I've cited? Why aren't you trying to counter any of the logical arguments I've used to debunk your claims?"

Each time a kook like huxley asks you a question or makes a statement, ignore it -- until he answers each and every one of the facts and logical syllogisms and pieces of evidence Dr. Brin and I and everyone else has asked huxley first.

Nota bene: In case you're not paying attention, this "ignore every question and fact and point of logic except your own talking points" scam is the selfsame con job used by right-wingers on talk shows, CNN interviews, "meet the press" TV shows, and press conferences for the last 28 years.

This scam dates back to the maladministration of the senile criminal Ronald Reagan. When reporters asked him about his latest gaffe, where he claimed "forest fires have created more pollution than all the factories in America," Reagan just ignored the question and kept talking about whatever he wanted to talk about. Works like a charm...if your audiences is gullible and passive enough to let the far-right crackpot get away with it.

So, from now on, like Dr. Brin, I'm going to treat huxley as though he doesn't exist...exactly the way huxley treats every fact and every logical argument and every question he doesn't like as though it doesn't exist.

The rest of you guys, have at it. I'll be discussing serious issues and engaging with people who don't sit around like 5-year-olds with their fingers stuck in their ears, yelling "NYAH NYAH NYAH, I CAN'T HEAR YOU!" whenever they encounter a fact or logical argument they dislike.

Unknown said...

Now, now, B. nice.

For every example of crass upper-crust privilege, there's an equally crass example of hick closed-minded willful ignorance like this in our educational system.

Besides, I think you're being mean and just plain unfair to Dr. Brin. I've never heard Brin suggest that we should do anything other than reward merit, especially in higher education. Brin himself won his place at Caltech on pure merit -- I certainly wouldn't qualify for entry to that institution because I don't have the math chops and, frankly, I'm just too stupid. So let's disagree with one another, but with civility, shan't we?

B. Dewhirst said...

As you pointed out, his twisted (and obscurist, and equivocating) description of the left was out of hand.

You've at least cited one example of these "leftist professors," which is one more example than he has provided.

If he was prepared to engage with Noam Chomsky's critiques, rather than beating an English department strawman, then I might be prepared to respond more civilly.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks the Iraq war was a success should see No End in Sight, which is as far as you can get from Michael Moore's style of documentary. They talk with administration and former administration figures, and actual military folk.

Lives wasted. Billions of dollars wasted. Billions of dollars sucked into the pockets of insurgents, corrupt politicians, and corrupt contractors.

David Brin said...

The best we can hope for out of Iraq is a somewhat fractured coalition of three ministates who live mostly at peace with each other and the world and hold elections enough to roughly match Iran in democracy and moderation. While keeping the anti-west and hate-Israel venom and terrorist-supplying down to a level that is bearable.

That is the very best anybody hopes for. And we could have had it back in 1991, without bankrupting America and driving away all our allies and destroying our military.

Even if Iraq becomes a paradise... there is the matter of who we should trust as leaders. The guys who kissed Saddam for 30 years and subsidized Osama bin Laden are not credible.

Unknown said...

No, B. Dewhirst, I disagreed with some of the people Dr. Brin characterized as "the left," but agreed with much else. This is a matter of emphasis.

Really, I think you and DB are much closer in your opinions that you think. DB and BD...palindromes. I think DB dislikes some of the tone of your opinions, while you dislike some of his language. But you're really both saying very similar things.

For example, DB talks about the dangers of the aristocrats and how they've historically tried to control society by robbing it blind and creating a pyramid-shaped wealth distribution...while you talk about the dangers of unrestrained capitalism. But isn't that really very close to the same thing?

You tend to slam away at capitalism and the market itself, as a concept, while DB slams away at current warped distortions of predatory crony capitalism and kleptocratic rigged markets. This is really a matter of emphasis. You're both very close to agreement.

As far as Chomsky's critique of consent manufactured by elites by staffing the agencies of opinion with conveniently like-minded people, once again, Brin's critique of the current situation is quite similar to Chomsky's. Brin decries the phony "white papers" and junk science spewed out by elites to bamboozle the public.

The real differences twixt Chomsky's and Brin's critiques seem to me [1] Chomsky offers a much more refined and exacting analysis of the mechanisms by which consent for elite mantras gets manufactured; [2] Brin brings up an important objection which Chomsky consistently ignores -- namely, that we have witnessed quite a bit of historical progress. Chomsky's analysis excels in detailing how the control is accomplished by elites, but starts to fall down (I think) when it turns into a more-or-less simplistic "conspiracy theory" in which all the elites collude, all the middle class and underclass are powerless, and history never changes.

Well...but history does change, things do improve, some elites war with other elites, and the bottom 99% have a great deal of power to push back because of the way Western society is organized. Look at tne netroots! Just look at the 2006 midterm election, and this one! Chomsky seems to overlook that, or at least, minimize its significance.

One big logical problem with Chomsky's analysis (which I agree is generally excellent) is that Chomsky's logic leads inevitably to despair and nihilistic passivity. The elites control all the levers of power and all he mechanisms for shaping opinion, the bottom 99% of society are powerless, and so on. When you listen to Chomsky speak, you constantly hear him use phrases like "As is always the case, popular opinion has no effect on foreign policy," or "Elites pay no attention to the desires of the mass of the people, as usual," or one of his favorites, "As always, inconvenient facts must not be allowed to intrude." This leads to despair and stasis.

But that contradicts what we see even in the very recent historical past. Inconvenient facts do intrude in the popular consciousness, and increasingly often as technology advances. Look at how the internet has energized a huge resistance movement to the kleptocrats in the White House right now, today.

I think Chomsky overlooks the huge magnitude of social improvement just within our lifetime, perhaps because we've gotten used to it and now take it for granted. But think... Black people used to be savagely oppressed when Chomsky was a small boy, but today a black guy is running for president -- and will probably win. Slavery was accepted as absolutely natural and inevitable for thousands of years...yet today no one, not even mafia dons or the most hardened robber baron, would dream of trying to defend slavery as a valid economic system.

The 8-hour workday was in the 1910s considered an absurd fantasy propounded by wild-eyed IWW communists which would destroy industrial capitalism; today, the 8-hour workday is accepted without question. Child labor was once de rigeur, to the point where, in the 1820s, 12-year-old girls in England got hitched to coal carts to haul them out of mines, because when the 12-year-old girls died from overwork, it was much cheaper to replace them with horses. Today, not even the most sadistically greedy American CEO would dream of trying to reinstitute chid labor in the U.S., and child labor in 3rd world countries is coming under increasing attack.

Things have gotten better historically just in my and your lifetime, and certainly in Chomsky's. Chomsky's analysis can't explain that, except as a very unsatisfactory mysterious "outpouring of popular resistance" to the elites. (Why'd we have that outpouring in 1776, and no 1476, or 1076?) Brin provides what seems to me to be a better explanation: the elites do control he levers of power and do manipulate the organs that shape opinion in society, but the industrial revolution and the Enlightenment changed that, and created a set of social systems in which the bottom 99% can push back effectively because the Enlightenment harnesses in the service of social mobility and social melioration the very mechanisms of selfishness that the Elites use to make money and oppress the bottom 99% by feeding them bogus factoids and mind candy.

Morevoer, as technology advances, the pushback of the 99% gets increasingly effective. We had big improvements in 1776 not because of some magical "outpouring of popular resistance" but because the industrial revolution unleashed the middle class, and Locke and Hume and the other intellectual godfathers of the Enlightenment inspired that middle class to create a system that benefited everyone by using selfishness against itself (checks nad balances in government, markets with regulation in the economy).

Capitalism as it currently exists has a lot of problems. I've pointed that out, so have you -- but so has Dr. Brin. The real difference here is one of emphasis, not basic values, I think.

David Brin said...

Thanks Z. Excellent stuff.

Except that I believe the difference IS fundamental. Chomsky and I have many of the same enemies and see many of the same dark trends. But I believe progress has happened and can, and also that the people are not fundamentally and by-nature stupid -- a basic tenet of all romantics, left or right.

Also, Chomsky actually believes all his models ARE the territory, like Marx did. I consider all models (even my own) to be 2D flimsy shadows of an objective reality that I cannot boss around and order what to do. Hence, my dance from one perspective angle to another to another, offering lots of tentative models., none of which is ever more than 90% true.

Like Plato, Chomsky thinks you can if-then yourself from point A all the way to a tendentiously desired Point Z. This is a matter of deep and fundamental underlying worldview and personality, overwhelming objective reality through force of words and will and forcing it to fit his beloved subjective models. I know because I was born a magician, too...

...and I hate it. That way of thinking is exactly the way the priests always oppressed us. It is the enemy, at a far deeper level than all the superficial ways that we agree.

JuhnDonn said...

david brin said...

I know because I was born a magician, too...

...and I hate it. That way of thinking is exactly the way the priests always oppressed us. It is the enemy, at a far deeper level than all the superficial ways that we agree.


This stuff is starting to make my head hurt, but I think I'm getting it. Would love to see an X-Y plot of thinking styles now.

Never really thought about how one looks at the world much, other than the fact that I'm a tinkerer/mechanic/problem solver (aircraft mechanic/EMT/computer tech). In each case, I have to approach things from a system stand point, in order to get an idea of how things should be happening, and then, from the symptoms, figure out what's out of whack. 20+ years of this and I know that, even in the tech support community (current livelihood), not everyone thinks this way.

Haven't really run into many tech folks who have tried to force computers (or herd cats) into doing what they want instead of how they can do things. As a plumber friend of mine said once, after repairing a home enthusiast's attempts at plumbing addition; poop flows down hill. Once you accept that, everything else works much better.

Boot said...


I have the following questions about your approval chart.

Who conducted the survey and what methodology did they use? Did they use phones or knock on doors? If they used phones they would have missed the poor . If they knocked on doors, did they travel into hostile areas? What was the sample size?

Did it include any of the 2 million Iraqis which have fled the country? This is roughly 7% of the population which I doubt would approve.

B. Dewhirst said...

Chomsky's analysis frequently mentions improvements like the ones you cite, but emphasizes that they are not brought about by the ballot box... afterwards, they are -ratified- by elected governments... for rather the same reason that fire fighters fighting forest fires set smaller fires to preclude larger consumption. He doesn't talk much about how you organize, in part, I suspect, because he isn't asked that very often.

Chomsky is no romantic, and certainly does not feel that people are stupid, DB's comments to the contrary. Actually, that he would even suggest as much suggests to me that he hasn't ever read Chomsky.

I've certainly heard Chomsky say "I don't know" far more often than DB...

DB, in fact, is the one forcing his 2D model of 'leftist romantics' onto Chomsky...

As you say, the IWW got the 8 hour day... but not by asking nicely, and not from top-down.

Suppose you're a pacifist, opposed to foreign wars all together... tell me... who do you vote for? You can't get that "change" by voting.

Attacking Leftists as DB has done is about like using Lyndon LaRouche as an exemplar democrat. "Some obscure english teacher once did this bad thing!" Bah. So what? It is just a strawman, unless those leftists represent the strongest arguments for their position.

Anonymous said...

David, you may not see the change in the GOP, because you've pinned your hopes for change elsewhere. (I wish I could share your optimism in Obama, but the more I get to know him, the less I like him - he's got charisma, says lots of pretty words and makes vague promises, but scratch the veneer and it's politics as usual...)

But the change in the GOP *has* been there. Slowly, bit by bit, the party has been turning away from the policies of Bush & Co. And it's going to take a lot of time and patience to make it where we want it to be. But it simply cannot happen overnight, because political parties have a huge inertia. They cannot change direction on a dime.

You commented:
Earnest men like you may gain leverage to save the GOP, but only if it is pounded flat. Pray it happens. Because then there may be hope.

Again I'm forced to disagree. Yes, that might have helped in 2004 -- had the GOP been pounded flat then, the more reasonable groups within the GOP would have seized their chance, because it would have been a clear rejection of the policies of Bush and Co, who had a stranglehold on the party at the time. But that didn't happen, much as I would have preferred it to.

2006 was indeed a chink in the armor. It's what has let the more moderate groups in the party push *just* enough to change our direction, with the result that we didn't get a Bush clone (or worse) as our candidate this time around. McCain isn't perfect, but he's easily an order of magnitude better than Bush.

But here's the rub -- It may indeed be possible to pound the GOP flat this year. (Unlikely, but possible) But the results won't be to make the party any more reasonable -- quite the opposite, in fact. The people behind Bush and Co. will look at that result, and blame every moderate influence in the party for it.

They'll hunker down, squeeze out the moderate influences, and when they come back (as they eventually will -- as I said before, *no* political party can maintain control for very long), you'll end up with people just as bad as Bush if not worse.

No, I maintain that the way to shift the GOP where it *needs* to go isn't by blindly supporting Democrats in a futile attempt to teach the GOP a lesson. That will backfire. The way to shift it is to get the reasonable, thinking conservatives and moderates in the party to actively support better candidates in the primaries, all the way from the local level up.

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin remarks that his disagreements with Chomsky are fundamental, and from his perspective perhaps they are -- but consider: there's a sizable 27% of people in America who believe that the Iraq war is peachy-keen, the current looting of Wall Street by kleptocrats is just wonderful, that the U.S. economy is doing great, and the drunk-driving C student in is "a man of vision, like unto genius," in the words of John HInderaker.

Permit me to demur, Dr. Brin. That is a fundamental disagreement. Compared with that kind of disagreement, you and Noam Chomsky are really just squabbling about details.

Let me also agree with you, though, that your disagreements with Chomsky are important. They just pale by comparison with the differences between you and, say, Charles Krauthammer, or Chomsky and William Kristol. And the Krauthammers and the Kristols are the guys who've been running things since 1994.

B. Dewhirst, you mention that "Chomsky...emphasizes that [improvements] are not brought about by the ballot box..."

This points up another crucial difference twixt DB and Chomsky -- Chomsky doesn't believe in democracy, whereas DB does. So do I. And I think you do too, DB.

Narrowing the definition of participative democracy down to casting a vote seems a fatal flaw in Chomsky's conception of democracy. There exist countless ways of participating in a democracy so as to change it, ranging from setting up NGOs to writing letters to the editor to boycotting products of advertisers who support Faux News propagandists, to pressuring shills like Howell Raines at the NY Times when they approve slanted coverage of the Iraq war, to phoning our representatives to demand investigations of all the scandals and thievery, right up to non-violent direct action like chaining ourselves to the front gates of senators' mansions.

Chomsky does strike me as a romantic. He doesn't offer any blueprint for changing things, other than inexplicable romantic "outpourings of popular resistance" by the people. That's a fundamentally romantic solution to a problem. Chomsky constantly cites the uprising of the Algerian people during their war for independence and the mass democracy movements in South America today...but Chomsky never talks about the rational skeptical process of organizing, the nitty-gritty details of how western europeans overthrew much more sadistically brutal communist oppression. For example, a bunch of Czech hippy playwrights armed with nothing more than typewriters and xerox machines overthrew communist torturers and murderers who are a lot scarier than any of the people in the American White House right now.

This didn't happen by magic. And it didn't happen with a romantic outpouring of "mass resistance" either. It happened by a rational process of organizing, using transparency to focus world attention on the crimes of the government, it happened by non-violent direct action, mass protests, and all the kinds of participatory democratic activities Brin talks about. Shining a light on the cockroaches tends to make 'em scuttle away. Brin has talked about that at length. It worked for MLK, it worked in brining down the Boethe apartheid government in South Africa, it worked to end the Viet Nam war and it's working right now to end the second Iraq occupation.

I don't think it's accurate to say DB Is forcing a 2D model of "leftist romantic" on Chomsky, but Chomsky seems clearly to be a romantic and he is clearly on the left. Brin has been outspoken about the inadequacy of "left" and "right" as useful political axes -- but that's nothing new. Murray Rothbard was saying in 1968 exactly what Brin is saying about the inadequancy of current political categories today.

You asked who you vote for if you're a pacifist opposed to foreign wars. In 1968, you voted for Humphrey, in 1972 you voted for McGovern, in 2004 you voted for Kerry. Then, after voting, you don't just throw up your hands in organize. Join the netroots, phone, e-mail your congressman, attend demonstrations, boycott Faux News, and on and on. Eventually you and millions like you will succeed in changing the minds of the majority of Americans, and you're where we are today -- with 62% of the American people opposed to the Iraq war, and the war about to end.

Incidentally, there's real cause for optimism. It took 5 years for the American public to have serious doubts about the Viet Nam war, and 8 years for mass opposition to crystallize. In the current Iraq occupation it took just 3 years for the American public to have serious doubts, and only 4 years for a solid majority consensus to emerge against the war.

Morever, this time, we're not seeing pitched battles in the streets twixt pro- and anti-war demonstators, we're not seeing national guard shooting down protestors, we're not seeing mass police riots like the '68 Chicago convention, etc. This time the opposition to an illegal immoral war emerged more swiftly, crystallized faster, and yet the level of violence both against protestors and by the left against the right (remember the weatherman bombings in the 60s) has been vastly lower than during the Viet Nam war.

Brin's criticisms of the left are, if anything, too mild. Brin identifies the leftie po-mo deconstructionist academics as primary villains, but I think he's wrong -- the big villains on the left are the green anti-nuclear and especially the anti-technology contingent. The po-mo leftie academics haven't been able to exert much influence on the general population, but the anti-nuclear greens have bamboozled the entire American population into hating and fearing not just nuclear power (which is crucial if we want to avoid both a Peak Oil collapse and global warming), but also GM foods, gene therapy, and so on, all of which look to be the definining green technologies of the 21st century.

Just imagine Freeman Dyson's GM plants extracting and refining fuel from the soil (without pollution!), or animal organs genetically "switched" into compatible human-transplantable organs (which we're on the verge of being able to do right now), and you'll see how counterproductive and crazy it is for the green anti-tech left to oppose gene modifications in plants and animals. The big weakness of the current extreme left is that they secretly hate and fear technology, science and the Enlightenment in general, just as the extreme right does.

The po-mo leftie academics Brin criticizes threaten the Enlightenment, but the green anti-tech and anti-nuclear kooks I criticize threaten the survival of the human race.

I've criticized the left a lot more than Brin has, but you don't seem to be slamming me for it. I think it's because of the milder tone I use when doing so, that's all. It's crucial to hold both right and left accountable and demand sensible policy positions with clearly stated failure conditions from both ends of the political spectrum. I also agree with Murray Rothbard (and with Brin) that limiting the political map to 1 dimension (left-right) is inadequate nowadays.

Boot said...

Steve, would a pushing out of the moderates hurt the GOP as they become less and less able to pull 'independents' and 'moderates' to vote for them? I see a possibility of Obama winning and getting 'Carter'ed; leading to another GOP win in 4-8 years despite merit. However unless they get a lot better, it would be a death nail in their coffin if we go through another Bush period.

B. Dewhirst said...

Chomsky is every bit as detailed as Brin about how to bring about his intended changes, if not moreso. He was a part of those Vietnam protests, as you probably know.

He is precisely a romantic because he isn't doing what you're suggesting-- he isn't printing out a little four page manifesto telling people "go do this, and all your problems will be solved." He doesn't have pat answers-- but he does feel that many people trying many things is productive. Where did you get the idea he is against writing letters to the editor, or protests, or direct action? "Go find a group in your area" is a very rational suggestion.

Strangely enough, the anarchist isn't telling other people what to do.

He doesn't expect things to change swiftly, but does see slow progress being made. Now... if he thought "organize, and then we'll win, one generation then peace and freedom!"-- Yeah, then he'd be a romantic.

Instead, he has a realistic estimate of what can be achieved.

B. Dewhirst said...

isn't a romantic, rather...

Anonymous said...


I have the following questions about your approval chart.

Who conducted the survey and what methodology did they use? Did they use phones or knock on doors? If they used phones they would have missed the poor . If they knocked on doors, did they travel into hostile areas? What was the sample size?

Did it include any of the 2 million Iraqis which have fled the country? This is roughly 7% of the population which I doubt would approve.

Boot - If you follow the link to the poll itself, you will find this notice:

The poll was fielded by KA Research Limited/D3 Systems, Inc. Polling was conducted January 2-5 with a nationwide sample of 1,150, which included an oversample of 150 Arab Sunnis (bringing the total of Sunnis to 421). Respondents from all of Iraq’s 18 governorates were interviewed for the sample.

I would be surprised if the pollsters interviewed Iraqis outside of Iraq. However, I would not assume that their opinions would necessarily be that much different from Iraqis in Iraq. Some o

Again, contrary to the belief of most anti-Iraq War proponents, the majority of Iraqis have consistently polled that the coalition's invasion of their country worth it to oust Hussein. I have yet to meet an anti-Iraq War person who will really take that information in.

Here are a few more data points from different polls:

Gallup 2003 Baghdad

Q: Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the U.S.-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it?

Yes - 62%
No - 30%

Gallup 2004 Iraq

Q: Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the U.S.-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it?

Yes - 61%
No - 28%

World Public Opinion Jan 2006

Iraqis overall have a positive view of the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Asked, “Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US-Britain invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?”

Yes - 77%
No - 22%

Anonymous said...

You are, at least, courteous in your answers, Huxley. A refreshing change!

In looking at your responses however, I confess I am astonished that you can list the things you value as a 'classic liberal', and then indicate that the Bush administration has been effective at maintaining them. Let's see now:

Tony -- You're a nice guy and all but that's quite a laundry list and I feel more like I'm being cross-examined than having a conversation.

Yes, I still consider myself a "classic liberal" No, I'm not concerned whether that amazes others or not. Yes, I know what Habeus Corpus is.

And no, I don't think the Bush administration is perfect. However, I find the shrieking from the anti-Bush wing about how he is shredding the Constitution and destroying the country to be way overblown.

The lines between individual rights and collective security shift according to circumstances. Think back to the Civil War and WWII.

We are now in a time of war. Not surprisingly, those lines have shifted. As has often been said the Constitution is not a suicide pact. There is a vigorous discussion about these things and I consider that healthy.

Genius said...

1) there is also the question
is the US presence a good thing

which would seem to be the more relevant one.
2) your talking like the US is some sort of Iraqi charity organization - i.e. the success of a project is measured mainly by if the Iraqis approve of it. As David is trying to emphasise that is not a very traditional conservative position.

3) I think your poll asks the wrong question - here is the one you probably want answered

"THE U.S. – Views of the United States, while still broadly negative, have moderated in some respects. Just shy of half, 49 percent, now say it was right for the U.S.-led coalition to have invaded, up by 12 points from August; the previous high was 48 percent in the first ABC News poll in Iraq in February 2004."

49. .not bad but not great - and the best it has been. again a few trillion and they still by 1% wish you'd stayed at home.

sociotard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tony Fisk said...


My astonishment is, as you say, not your concern. I regret it if you felt swamped by the points I raised.

Nevertheless, they are compelling to me, and I don't apologise for raising them. It is, as you say, a long conversation. I will try to be a little less full on in future.

To answer your point about 'The lines between individual rights and collective security shift[ing] according to circumstances.' :

A state does have to consider issues of security, and I see that the Habeus writ has been suspended in the past in the US during times of civil war and insurrection. I am unsure that it was for the best.

It has also been suspended in Australia, for no good reason.

While I may not currently be in fear of being summarily 'renditioned' at any moment, I do have the uncomfortable feeling that the lock on the back door has been removed.

So, from that perspective, I am surprised you don't find it's suspension a concern, if you do value personal freedoms.

That's all for now. I will wait for you to catch up. (There is quite a list accumulated, from me and others)

Travc said...

On the Obama vote for the FISA capitulation... there was one angle I didn't appreciate before.

The old FISA law did actually make it legally precarious to capture foreign-to-foreign communications routed through the US. The Dems put forth all sorts of simple fixes for this (short stand alone bills and amendments), but the GOP shot them all down... insisting on more 'comprehensive' FISA legislation which would include immunity and who knows what else.

That put BO in an a bit of a spot... if he were to become president he would inherit a program he thinks is probably illegal (for good reason) but also thinks at least portions of are a very good thing to be doing.

Needless to say, there are other things which could have been done. However, everything I can think of runs a real risk of leaving a president Obama with the choice of either breaking the law or shutting down capture of messages routed through the US... at least for a while.

I don't agree with the choice. Quite simply I don't think the problematic wiretapping is generally that important security wise. But at least the other side of the argument makes some sort of sense.

Travc said...


I caught Gore on one of the Sunday interview shows, and he made an interesting point about Pickens.

Pickens wants the US to stop depending on foreign oil for economic and security reasons (which are intertwined really). This contrasts with Gore who is all about reducing CO2 emissions (combating climate change).

When someone finally 'gets it' IMO will be when they promote a plan to do both to address all the above reasons. I'm working (slowly) on a bit of an essay on this.

Depending on a single resource for energy is not a wise move... and with regard to transportation fuel, that is exactly what we are doing. Really, everything depends on gaining some real flexibility in how we produce fuel.

JuhnDonn said...

Travic: Getting It

For Pickens, what I meant was, here's an ostrich, who'd popped his head out (of where, I won't say). I mean, he was a prominent supporter of Bush (funded SwiftBoat for gorsh sakes!), part of the oilman cartel that's running a Number 6 on America, but he sees how far gone BushCo is and is doing that he thinks will protect his interests in things. The oil guys must know that their particular gravy train is running out of steam. Some, like BushCo are just grabbing a butt load of dollars and heading for Dubai, but guys like this, he's trying to figure out a way to stay on top. In this case, switching to alternative energy sources (that he can control) is his plan. Sure, it's all for security and such, but he wants to stay in the saddle.

Does he get it, that society and progress is opened ended? Hell no! He still sees things as Us vs Them and Winners and Losers. But even a rampaging horse can head in the right direction sometimes. I'm not going to complain if he does put his money where his mouth is. Now, if there was a way to form some kind of group of such individuals, and slowly lead them on to really doing good for the world and not just themselves, with the rest of us benefiting from the crumbs dropped, yeah, I'll finish that fairy tale later.

THOMAS NACKID art + design said...

Huxley said:

We are now in a time of war. Not surprisingly, those lines have shifted. As has often been said the Constitution is not a suicide pact. There is a vigorous discussion about these things and I consider that healthy.


Ok, this kind of thinking really pi$$es me off!!! Who are we at war with??? The "war on terror"? Please. Does Alqueda have a navy? An air force? An infantry? Can they invade and occupy US soil or US interests? In a real war we would be experiencing 9/11 on a daily basis--just ask those who lived in London or Berlin during a real war. Alqueda and their ilk is a criminal gang not a military threat to the US. In fact fighting terrorists with conventional troops plays right into their hands! A nice big, showy convoy or army base makes a tempting target. Geez I remember when we had real enemies to fear. Guys with nuclear weapons and missiles actually aimed at US cities! Guys running around in the desert with 30 year old AK47s and box cutters are just pathetic.

The war with Iraq was a farce that was over almost before it started. The "war on terror" is a sham to rob us of the last vestiges of the bill or rights--all except the 2nd amendment of course--leave that alone and you can throw out the rest and most of America won't give a dam. BTW I've always wanted to start a campaign to get rid of the idiot "Pledge of Allegiance" (which was originally a children's poem--and didn't even have the words "under god" in it!)and have school children instead recite the Bill of Rights every morning. But I guess such lofty language and ideas could tax the ability of many of our schools.

Unknown said...

More good news & cool stuff:

Seven Reasons Why People Hate Reason from The New Scientist:

From religious fundamentalism to pseudoscience, it seems that forces are attacking the Enlightenment world view – characterised by rational, scientific thinking – from all sides. The debate seems black and white: you’re either with reason, or you’re against it. But is it so simple? In a series of special essays, our contributors look more carefully at some of the most provocative charges against reason.

This next one isn't so much good news, really, as just really cool:

Unknown insects found in 110-million-year-old amber in Spain.

Harvard Researchers Create Computer Language That Can Penetrate the "Mind" of a Cell"


Naama Elefant, a PhD student from the Hebrew University, was named one of this year's winners of the Barenholz Prizes for Creativity and Originality in Applied Computer Science and Computational Biology for the discovery of a new mechanism by which viruses evade the immune system. This discovery may help develop techniques to fight cancer, viral infections, and autoimmune diseases.

Affordable modification for a bike that allows it carry lots of cargo and/or people.

Democrats call for new hearings in 2009 into historical abuses of power modeled after Church committee hearings of 70s
The last time a can of worms like this got opened up in public, MK/ULTRA and CIA-sponsored assassinations of foreign leaders came tumbling out. What'll these new hearings reveal, if they're held?

Zimbawean 100 billion dollar shortages as collectors snap 'em up on eBay for $80 each.

Good news, in a sense, since it suggests that when get to that point we'll at least be able to raise some funds by selling our worthless currency on eBay.
What am I offered for this brand spanking new Condi Rice trillion dollar bill? Bidding starts at 5 pounds sterling.

GOP Insider Eviscerates Bush and Party: Just "Phenomenal Arrogance"

"Taking Stock" by Robert Reich.

What worries me is the complete lack of accountability by Fannie's and Freddie's executives, as well as Wall Street investment bankers also now being insured by taxpayers. We've created the worst form of socialized capitalism—private gains combined with public losses. These executives and bankers are among the best paid in all of corporate America. Their organizations are treated as if they're giant investor-driven private sector entities as long as they're healthy. But when they start to go down the tubes they become public entities with public responsibilities, and the rest of us have to bail them out.

Good news to the extent that at least someone is talking about the problem, instead of just ignoring it.

Navy Scraps Plans to Build $2.6 billion Zumwalt Class Stealth Destroyers.

Economic Realities are Killing Our Era Of Fantasy Politics

Travc asked a while back "How will the Demos have the backbone to disempower enough constituencies to change course and put us back on fiscal track?" (Or words to that effect.)

Put the last 3 articles together and you get the answer. The U.S. military budget has to go away, but it won't get downsized in a huge public battle: instead, slow inexorable pressure from people who can't afford to heat their homes in the winter and giant banks that are facing bankruptcy because of financial thievery will force a series of incremental changes that will eventually shut down our military adventures abroad and our crazy military-terror-industrial complex at home. We just can't afford it.

A smaller version of the same reversal is now going on in California. You don't hear anything about it, and it's not a big public policy battle. No politicians are running on a platform to downsize the California prison system or stop jailing minor drug offenders. But quietly, inexorably, CA is now letting many thousands of non-violent drug offenders out of prison early, while an initiative to legalize marijuana is now on the ballot for November.

These kinds of big reversals tend to happen stealthily, under the radar. They occur when the entire society shifts its priorities. At that point, bureacracies change their procedures, small unnoticed ballot measures get passed, and incrementally the entire policy gets dismantled and goes away. That's what will happen with our out-of-control military spending. It won't be a series of huge cutbacks announced with a big press conference. Our giant military will just slowly dwindle down until it leaks away and largely disappears, because the American people (given a choice between heating their homes in the winter, or getting treatments for their cancer, and building a fleet of new Zumwalt-class stealth destroyers) will choose staying warming in the winter instead of a new flotilla of useless stealth destroyers designed to fight a Soviet Union that no longer exists.

"David Brin is a technological determinist. He thinks that we understand the trend and we need to hop on it. I don't have any such illusions." -- Bruce Sterling

B. Dewhirst said...

To follow up on that list of links, and tie it into our earlier discussion:

Richard Seymore (Lenin of Lenin's Tomb) has written the following:

In it, he suggests you're all... (fascist) romantics.

We are told there is a discrete entity called "the west", whose ascent is, as the historian Eric Wolf sardonically put it, a "moral success story" in which the peerless west defeats all-comers by virtue of certain "values" that often prove to be the credenda of neocon servatism. The counterpart to such Spenglerian mysticism is the strident celebration of capitalism and the colonial system through which it spread.


Travc said...

twinbeam said:
Newt accused "the elite news media,the liberal academic elite, the liberal political elite" of creating a climate that led to the shootings.

Just gotta point out, this is a philosophically 'leftist' assertion IMO. The idea that people are largely products of societal factors controlled by 'elites' is an underlying assumption of leftists which liberals strongly disagree with.

If you buy that assumption, I suppose a modern day leftist would advocate for using that power to make everyone better people... while a good number of so-called conservative argues mostly that leftists have to be kept for using that power (which I suppose they believe belongs in the hands of the clergy).

Anyways, that quote just struck me.

As for the bigger point about Ostriches and such... There are many authoritarian sheep amoung the ranks of so-called conservatives. Different animal entirely.

Travc said...

Ooh... I'd like to chime in a bit on Chomsky. This is second hand, but the source is a friend/colleague and I have no reason to doubt his assessment.

Chomsky is very smart, but also very good at the 'snowjob' as my friend put it. He will take a position and defend it to the hilt (good)... but if he is confronted with counter evidence he will simply keep on piling on more (and increasingly irrelevant) facts instead of actually addressing the evidence or (god forbid) admitting his initial position may be incorrect. Ask him a question he doesn't know the answer to, and 9 times out of 10 he will just bury you under mounds of (often brilliant) stuff which doesn't actually answer the question.

What makes my friend's analysis even more credible, politics was not even remotely on our minds... we were talking about computational linguistics and learning systems. He had met with Chomsky several times... and IIRC taken a seminar course from him as well.

The other folks I know who have had interactions with Chomsky haven't disputed this analysis... though some are more deferential to his authority.

Anyways, I wouldn't assume Chomsky holds beliefs as dogmatic as his argument style (books and articles included) would seem to indicate. I know several people who have a sort of 'no back down, to the hilt' argument style that can come across very arrogant and extreme... but actually are much more open to the possibility of being wrong than you would think. They approach argument/debate a bit like a lawyer arguing a case... you don't back down on anything until the arguments are concluded.

Travc said...

Zorg, you are correct about the anti-tech left being downright dangerous to human progress and the survival of civilization... but tread carefully in how you word it. I don't think we have commonly accepted terms to distinguish between the mainstream 'greens' (who think that environmental consideration and due diligence is a good idea) and the fundamentally different eco-Luddites.

Gilmore re: Pickens... Ok, I see what you are saying. All true. I'd love to get off on a big alternative energy / transportation fuels discussion... though I'll avoid that derail just now ;)

BTW: On nuclear power... just watched The China Syndrome a couple of nights back. Good flick, and not really anti-nuclear. Thinking about it, at this moment I am 'anti-nuclear power'! No way in hell I'm going to trust the regulators considering what BushCo (et al) have done with the rest of the professional civil-service. (I hope that changes in January.)

JuhnDonn said...

Travic: China Syndrome...

I always thought China Syndrome was just a riff off of H. Beam Piper's Day of the Moron. Yeah, it's a warning, but doesn't mean you stop trying. Spaceship Earth's sending up some warning lights, lately.

Unknown said...

travc remarked:
On nuclear power... just watched The China Syndrome a couple of nights back. Good flick, and not really anti-nuclear. Thinking about it, at this moment I am 'anti-nuclear power'! No way in hell I'm going to trust the regulators considering what BushCo (et al) have done with the rest of the professional civil-service. (I hope that changes in January.)

Suppose I told you that a technology exists which makes it physically impossible for a nuclear reactor to melt down unless we change the basic laws of physics.

Suppose I told you that all of current operating U.S. nuclear reactors use an old outdated unsafe design dreamed up during the Cold War, when we needed plutonium bomb material fast and we didn't give much of a damn about safety.

Suppose I told you that this new design of nuclear reactor is called a pebble bed HTGC design, and it's here, now, it's tested, it cannot melt down because if all the coolant leaks out the reactor simply shuts off, and China is building 300 of these pebble bed nuclear reactors right now.

Suppose I told you that with these new type of pebble bed nuclear reactors, even if all the regulators goofed off, even if terrorists blew up the reactor's cooling pipes, even if every technician operating the nuclear reactor did a Homer Simpson and starting pushing buttons at random, the worst that could possibly happen is that the reactor would turn itself off. No meltdown, no release of radiation, nothing. Just a quiet shutdown of the nuclear reaction inside the reactor core.

Would you still oppose nuclear power?

Anonymous said...

1) there is also the question
is the US presence a good thing
which would seem to be the more relevant one.
2) your talking like the US is some sort of Iraqi charity organization - i.e. the success of a project is measured mainly by if the Iraqis approve of it. As David is trying to emphasise that is not a very traditional conservative position.

3) I think your poll asks the wrong question - here is the one you probably want answered

"THE U.S. – Views of the United States, while still broadly negative, have moderated in some respects. Just shy of half, 49 percent, now say it was right for the U.S.-led coalition to have invaded, up by 12 points from August; the previous high was 48 percent in the first ABC News poll in Iraq in February 2004."

49. .not bad but not great - and the best it has been. again a few trillion and they still by 1% wish you'd stayed at home.

genius -- Those aren't my polls or my questions, it's not my position that the US is an Iraqi charity organization, and you don't know what questions I want answered. Try again, if you wish, but without the mindreading and snark. If you can't be cordial, I would prefer impersonal.

tony fisk (see below) does a good job of taking issue with my positions in a respectful manner.

Anonymous said...

Ok, this kind of thinking really pi$$es me off!!! Who are we at war with??? The "war on terror"? Please. ... The war with Iraq was a farce that was over almost before it started. The "war on terror" is a sham to rob us of the last vestiges of the bill or rights
thomas nackid - Your post is a good example of my earlier points that those who oppose the Iraq War largely disagree that we are at war, and that they often overreach with emotional, exaggerated generalizations.

Anonymous said...


My astonishment is, as you say, not your concern. I regret it if you felt swamped by the points I raised.

Nevertheless, they are compelling to me, and I don't apologise for raising them. It is, as you say, a long conversation. I will try to be a little less full on in future.

To answer your point about 'The lines between individual rights and collective security shift[ing] according to circumstances.' :

A state does have to consider issues of security, and I see that the Habeus writ has been suspended in the past in the US during times of civil war and insurrection. I am unsure that it was for the best.

It has also been suspended in Australia, for no good reason.

While I may not currently be in fear of being summarily 'renditioned' at any moment, I do have the uncomfortable feeling that the lock on the back door has been removed.

So, from that perspective, I am surprised you don't find it's suspension a concern, if you do value personal freedoms.

That's all for now. I will wait for you to catch up. (There is quite a list accumulated, from me and others)

Tony - I understand that your concern is compelling to you. I'm not without concern myself. As I said, I consider it healthy that there is a vigorous discussion on the subject. I just believe that concern must be balanced with the concern for security, and I draw the line between rights and security differently than those who oppose the war. I also beleve that the US is in no danger of going fascist or becoming a police state--phrases which some who disagree with the Bush administration carelessly throw about.

European nations draw those lines more severely against individual rights. Freedom of speech, as we know it in America, does not exist in Europe. The UK has been systematically profiling Irish males from from 16-40 for decades, and passed laws allowing suspects to be detained indefinitely (See I haven't followed up to see where those laws stand today--now that "the troubles" are mostly over--but they certainly were used during that time. I have an Irish friend who tells me that the use of those laws had more to do with ending IRA terrorism than all the feel-good diplomacy that made the front pages.

Those who oppose the Bush administration often seem to compare the United States, as it currently is, to some utopian ideal, not to other nations or history or what might be reasonably expected. I'm an engineer: outside of mathematics, everything is a matter of trade-offs.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to tag onto the very end of a long thread, soon to be overtaken. But I have been busy. And you challenged me on a large question. i.e. that the economy invariably does better under Democratic stewardship. Your specific triad were economy, stock market, budgets.
This is actually not such an easy thing to track.
If you look at the Dow there was in effect a Bear market from 64 to early 82. So, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and early Carter. Then a Bull market from 82 to 2000, covering Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and stopping abruptly right around inaugaration of Bush II.
The Nasdaq is a trickier thing, it shows a swell run up roughly corresponding to the Clinton second term, and an implosion in early 2000. This of course is the .com bubble. So, do we give noogies to G.W.Bush because the bottom fell out early on his watch, or to Clinton for shoddy regulatory work on his?

I have seen theories that claim DFL or GOP benefits to the stock market, and tend to believe the notion that there is no correlation in the modern era.

Deficit spending and budgets decidedly are a mark of shame on the GOP record. I suppose in a real macro sense you could argue that Reagan era military spending led to the "peace dividend" of the Clinton years, but looking at recent history there is no defensible excuse.

Looking ahead, my questions about how Obama would fund promised and needed projects seems highly germane. And I accept your "I don't know answer". David, you can be dogmatic and repetitive, but you are fundamentally honest.


Unknown said...

Ladies and gents...

...Boys and girls...

Dyin' time's here!

Yes, it's time for--


A complete list of the many innocent people unfortunate enough to stumble across the sinister secret of the bisexual cokefiend jihadist evil genius ninja super villain Barack Hussein Obama, who covertly funded the 9/11 hijackers, and then MURDERED all these innocent bystanders to cover up the horrible truth.

Don't read it!


...YOU'RE NEXT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


From the Clinton Death List:

#11: Gandy Baugh - attorney for Dan Lasater in a financial misconduct case. Supposedly jumped out the window of a tall building to commit suicide.

From the Obama Death List:

GANDY BAUGH - Attorney for Obama friend Antonin Rezko died by falling out an eightieth story window of the Hancock Tower, January, 2003. His client was a convicted Chinese spy.

I bet you think this proves that the Obama Death List is a fake, right? How could the same Gandy Baugh appear on both the Clinton Death List and the Obama Death List, both Gandy Baughs are attorneys, both with a shady client, both dying by a fall out of a tall building. Must be proof the Obama Death List is a crock!

Hah! It's easy to explain. Gandy Baugh was kidnapped by Bill Clinton and his death was faked -- hard to identify someone when they hit the pavement after falling out an eighth storey window, isn't it?

Then Bill Clinton spirited the real Gandy Baugh away to a secret torture chamber under Hillary Clinton's house in upstate New York, where Clinton tried to torture Gandy Baugh into telling how he'd found out the sinister secret of Barack Obama's double life. But Baugh wouldn't talk!

In fact, he escaped from the torture chamber hidden beneath Hillary's New York house, and made his way to the Hancock Tower to contact a reporter from the New York Times with evidence of Obama's double life as a coked-out jihadist ninja spy -- but Bill Clinton intercepted Gandy Baugh before he could get to the New York Times reporter, and threw Baugh out of the eighth storey of the Hancock Building with his own hands. Then Bill Clinton greeted Obama with his secret Islamic jihadist handshake and they both celebrated by sacrificing a goat to Allah.


It all makes sense!

B. Dewhirst said...

The Clinton death list:

I seem to recall a half-million Iraqi children, and a number of genocidal acts in Eastern Europe following bombing campaigns he authorized, and Operation Storm in that same conflict...

And many of the relevant advisors are now Obama advisors.

The list may well be longer for Bush, Bush, and Reagan, but a war criminal is a war criminal, whether he kills a hundred or a million.

Anonymous said...

"Those who oppose the Bush administration often seem to compare the United States, as it currently is, to some utopian ideal, not to other nations or history or what might be reasonably expected."

Here is a comparison of the United States as it currently is to other nations in history:

THOMAS NACKID art + design said...

Yeah, Huxley, don't yah hate "over generalizations" like "All men are created equal". "Give me liberty or give me death." How dare we base something as pragmatic as a nation on the vague ideals. Times are tough.We are at war--I'm not sure with whom, you still haven't told me who is a military threat to the US, but its war anyway We don't have time for these namby-pamby "rights". The Roman Empire, The Third Riech, the Islamic Republics--they all know practical ways to deal with malcontents and get on with business.

JuhnDonn said...

Desert Shield/Storm was Bush Sr. I was a medic on the ground, taking care of Iraqi POW's after the shooting stopped. The folks we were treating were peasant farmers, rounded up by Saddam and pushed up to the front lines (Kuwait/Saudia Arabia boarder). There were parked is trenches, with razor wire and mine fields, both in front and behind, so they couldn't retreat. For the most part, they were armed with old bolt action rifles. These were the same guys who surrendered to a CNN camera crew.

Part of a med-evac unit, just behind the Marines pushing north into Kuwait, we got the job of picking up the parts (most survivors of our bombing were missing limbs). Even so, these guys were glad to be out from under Saddam and were just waiting for us to keep heading North and finishing the job. The psy-ops guys had been letting them know we were taking out Saddam and they should rise up with us.

We then stopped, just north of Kuwait border. Sure, I was glad, going home early, and not having to see too many of our own guys hurt but felt bad for all those peasant guys being crippled for nothing.

As for the No fly zone, that Clinton continued, as part of the U.N. settlement, that helped the Kurds consolidate their territory and stopped the gassing that had been going on before then.

Anonymous said...

Huxley I seriously doubt that is true and I think your arguments are seriously lacking. To me its obvious that the troubles ended because outsiders after september 11 stopped supporting the IRA and the UK realized that they could never stop all IRA IED’s made out of fertilizer and fuel oil no mater what they did. The lesion we have yet to learn. Million dollar MRAP vrs 100 dollar IED and the IED is the winner.

Brother Doug

Genius said...

sorry huxley,
no snark was intended

my point is all the surveys could be correct. And that that would provide us with information regarding what iraqis think.

your survey answered the question if overthrowing sadam was a good thing so we have some sadam supporters and some sadam haters.
My first survey answers the current question that would face a president (should you stay or go home), my second survey answers the question "was it a good thing for the US to have invaded"
the first and third sound similar but it would seem there are people who are saying something like "yes we wanted to get rid of sadam - but there was another way and we could have waited.
I'm assuming the people are rational of course

my point 2 relates to how david B wants to talk to conservative values. I probably should have left it out.

I'm afraid I rely upon charitable interpretations of my language at times.

Genius said...

BTW the question seemed to be if iraqis

"consistently supported the invasion of their own country by substantial majorities"

I took the question I mentioned to answer that more directly, although I am open to arguments that it doesn't do that. You could also argue that that the Sadam question is more appropriate which goes to your suggestion regarding why that question was dropped.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Folks...

The cease-fire with the Provisional IRA was signed almost three years before 9/11. The Provisionals honored it, although it was violated both by Para's and splinter groups like "The REAL IRA".

The Maze Prison was already empty for a year when 9/11 happened.

The British had stopped throwing Irishmen into prison for years without charges in '96. They had also dropped their more...controversial tactics of questioning.

That, combined with the lack of Martyrs rotting in British Prisons, alongside the actions of concerned Irish citizens of all three major faiths who had grown tired of the killing, is what ended it.

Priests and Reverends at the pulpit, grieving mothers in the street, and reformed terrorists from both sides begging others not to repeat their mistakes, are what ended it.

'effin memory holes.

Anders Brink said...


You are right that the disagreement is about whether the US is at war or not.

So as an outsider, I would like to know who you are at war with. I have with me an example: The IRA. Was a war declared on the IRA, even though they were terrorists? Can you compare the US response to terrorism with the British response to terrorism and tell me that EVERYTHING YOU DID SINCE was justified? Even the no-bid contracts of Haliburton?

Anonymous said...

Here is a comparison of the United States as it currently is to other nations in history:

Anonymous -- I didn't say that those who oppose the Bush administration never compare the US to other nations in history; I said that they often compare the US to an utopian ideal to which it necessarily falls short. For example, Barack Obama the other day:

People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.

I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.

As to your link, The Guardian is a left-wing paper and the left has been predicting the slippery-slope slide of the US into fascism since Upton Sinclair in 1935. As I said, I don't believe that possibility. Here's a lovely anecdote from Tom Wolfe about Gunter Grass, the German novelist, addressing Americans concerned about fascism coming to America.

"For the past hour, I have my eyes fixed on the doors here," he said. "You talk about fascism and police repression. In Germany when I was a student, they come through those doors long ago. Here they must be very slow."

Grass was enjoying himself for the first time all evening. He was not simply saying, "You really don't have so much to worry about." He was indulging his sense of the absurd. He was saying: "You American intellectuals — you want so desperately to feel besieged and persecuted!"

He sounded like Jean-François Revel, a French socialist writer who talks about one of the great unexplained phenomena of modern astronomy: namely, that the dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.

Anonymous said...

Brother Doug & Jester,

I don't have a strong opinion about how the IRA troubles were resolved in Ireland. I was pointing out the simple fact that Europe has taken stringent measures curtailing civil liberties when combating terrorism and civil unrest that make the current brouhahas over Guantanamo and FISA look like weak tea.

I did report that my Irish friend's opinion that the internment laws were more important than the feel-good diplomacy in ending that terrorism. That's his opinion and I understand that your opinions are different. However, my friend is by far the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to history and politics. He is Irish but I would not debate US history with him, much less Irish history.

Anonymous said...

sorry huxley,
no snark was intended

my point is all the surveys could be correct. And that that would provide us with information regarding what iraqis think.

your survey answered the question if overthrowing sadam was a good thing so we have some sadam supporters and some sadam haters.
My first survey answers the current question that would face a president (should you stay or go home), my second survey answers the question "was it a good thing for the US to have invaded"
the first and third sound similar but it would seem there are people who are saying something like "yes we wanted to get rid of sadam - but there was another way and we could have waited.
I'm assuming the people are rational of course

my point 2 relates to how david B wants to talk to conservative values. I probably should have left it out.

I'm afraid I rely upon charitable interpretations of my language at times.

genius -- Thanks for the reply and explanation. No harm done.

I think the polls are reasonably accurate views of Iraqi responses to their situation over the years since the beginning of the Iraq War. Their responses are, like most things in this conflict, complex. If one follows the links and reads the full results, they don't follow a simple narrative. Overall Iraqis believe that the ousting Hussein was a good thing and worth it, but they are ambivalent about the US.

As I recall from reading through those polls, less than 10% believed that Hussein could have been removed otherwise. I apologize for not being able to cite that properly. However, Hussein was supremely effective at remaining in power, and he had two psychopathic sons ready to take over from him afterward. At the end of the Gulf War, the US encouraged Iraqis to overthrow Hussein. They tried and many thousands were massacred.It's a wonder that they trust the US at all.

Anonymous said...


You are right that the disagreement is about whether the US is at war or not.

So as an outsider, I would like to know who you are at war with. I have with me an example: The IRA. Was a war declared on the IRA, even though they were terrorists? Can you compare the US response to terrorism with the British response to terrorism and tell me that EVERYTHING YOU DID SINCE was justified? Even the no-bid contracts of Haliburton?

Anders -- In my view the United Stattes is at war with Islamic terrorism and what remains of Hussein's regime. I don't really understand how this is mysterious or controversial.

Whether EVERYTHING I DID SINCE was justified--probably not, since my country and I are human and imperfect.

David Brin said...

Huxley said: "Anders -- In my view the United Stattes is at war with Islamic terrorism and what remains of Hussein's regime. I don't really understand how this is mysterious or controversial."

Yes, it is clear that you do not understand. Which puzzles us, of course, since this "war" is a vague, vaporware incantation contrived out of mist and paranoia.

All other wars had enemies. This one did, also, the Taliban national government of Afghanistan, a regime which we promptly and swiftly destroyed, striking terror into the hearts of would be enemies and driving bin Laden into a wilderness from which we should simply have bribed our way into taking his head. (A billion$ ought to do it, no? Two?)

At that point we were popular, loved, respected and our reputation for invincibility was unparalleled

Three TRILLION dollars later, our alliances ruined, our military in tatters, society riven, rights up-ended, reputation (both moral and for effectiveness) shattered, budget wrecked... we are still yammered-at about a "war" that is a classic case of the Emperor wearing no clothes at all, just a frothing excuse to keep us in a state of "emergency" that has allowed mammoth corruption.

Dig it, I am through with Huxley. We have been educated about the top right wing tactic. Never look at the big picture. Pick a particular point of minutiuae -- e.g. a public opinion poll among Iraqis who happen to cooperate with some corrupt pollsters -- and worry that narrow topic to death...

...while ignoring the major points we raise over and over.

The destruction of our military.
The destruction of our reserves.
The destruction of our economy.
The destruction of our alliances.
The destruction of our moral leadership.
The destruction of our reputation for invincibility.
The destruction of our budget.
The destruction of our planet.
The destruction of our civil service and US officer corps.
The destruction of our lawful systems for honest government...

...and so on, a list so calamitous and long and huge and glaring that it truly takes psychopathology to keep performing these mental trick we've observed

Dig it, I HOPE that Iraq turns out okay. After we spent so many lives and tore apart our military and economy, all the fantastic and ingenious and passionate effort put in by our skilled men and women over there -- despite being relentlessly betrayed by meddling and corrupt politicians -- HAD to eventually make a difference.
I pray that a somewhat improved and quasi-democratic federation emerges, that merely hates us tepidly, arising from this gigantic (though corrupt) exercise in "nation building."

But while guys like H avoid ever looking at the cost -- the total destruction of Pax Americana -- they also deserve NO praise for Iraq, a mess their beloved leaders personally made in the 1st place. Because Saddam was made by the bush family and Cheney- et al. He was their creation and their boy.

Again, tally ALL of the "corruption" that rightwingers claim, in their wildest fantasies happened during 8 years of Bill Clinton. Now double it. Double it again.
..... That figure (never proved) does not add up to ONE WEEK'S WORTH of persistent and relentless Bushite corruption that is plain before everyone's face.

People who stand up for such monsters share the blame. They are complicit in treason.

Anonymous said...

You are kind of ranting here. It is not productive. And by proclaiming yourself "through" with those whose views you emphatically do not share you are overlooking the possibility that either now, or at some time in the future you might actually learn something from them. If nothing else, an insight or two that you could use in sincere efforts to change things.

Struthio Liberalis?


David Brin said...

Tacitus, you are fine at criticizing my "meta" style.

Now please stop illustrating my point (about conservatives zeroing in on minutiae) take seriously the challenge itself. Yes, I seem to rant, because the list if important topics is so long.

Take your choice, the destruction of... ANY of those things that I assert have been near-destroyed (above).

If any one of them has happened, then we've been led by fools who merit no credibility. If any two have happened, then it's corrupt horrors. If it is the complete pattern, then no amount of minutiae can eliminate the logical conclusion of treason.

Dig it, your side hurled exactly such language at Clinton, based on nothing whatsoever!

And my last point stands. Add up the maximum amount of corruption fantacized by the wildest radio shock jock in the nineties and multiply it. That wholly imaginary figure pales like a flea to an elephant, next to corruption that is already proved for any given week under these guys.

When is enough enough for you?


For the rest of you, here's a cogent if partisan essay in the Wall Street Journal:

Anonymous said...

Now David,
I did take a poke or two at your contention that Republicans are inevitably bad for the markets, just look back a post or three.
I think several of the other points you emphatically propose are also debatable. I may need a day or two.

Anonymous said...

Long time reader, occasional poster (usually late - as is the case again)

I think part of the problem is that ostriches are more difficult to spot than Troglodytes. That doesn't mean that the trogs are more common, just that they stand out much more clearly.

Some ostriches are, as have been mentioned before authoritarians Altemey's suggestions (second half of chapter 7) are a bit different than yours in some ways, and similar in others. He suggests against using pure logic and debate, but to focus on reassuring them. A lot of the authoritarian mindset comes from conformity and fear. A combative attitude is more likely to simply push forward an ingroup/outgroup perspective and force their heads underground again - rather than seeking common ground. But pointing out that most people think that nature is important and needs to be protected, or the religious meme of being "good stewards to God's creation" I think are more likely to open some eyes.

I'm not sure how many non-authoritarian/non-trog ostriches are left in the wild though. Being a former Republican (though admittedly of the Rockefeller variety) I converted way back in 2000. It had been coming for a while - I had been gaining more compassion for those who faced hardship due to circumstances beyond their control (and losing my belief in the Just world fallacy ), I was dismayed at the religious right's increasing influence over the party, the impeachment of Clinton was absurd, Clinton's budget balancing appealed to my inner deficit hawk, and the party somehow chose the worst possible candidate (based, as far as I can tell, on concepts of leadership being genetic - something our founders rallied against), all contributed to this change as well.

I think what is important to remember is that the ostriches (wherever you can find them) are basically good, decent people. They may have some unusual misconceptions, or be afraid to go against (what they perceive as) the grain, but they mean well and are not beyond hope.

We need to make sure we don't just judge them as being the same as the various troglodytes and trolls who scream their irrational positions to the high heavens, with the honest ostriches who do their best despite living in a world with imperfect information and emotional reasoning.

(side note on that. All people have an emotional dimension to their decision making. Studies of people who have lost a conscious connection with their emotional state find it nearly impossible to make decisions. At the very least, our 'feelings' help us choose what we consider our priorities. In my opinion - based on on limited personal observation - many people who claim to be purely logical seem to be the most prone to self-deception, as they work to justify their feelings rather than take their own biases into account.)

Anders Brink said...

The US is at war with Islamic terrorism. How does one wage war against terrorists? Who do you bomb? What territories do you conquer? When can you declare a war over?

And not just that. George Bush himself declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq long ago. So the war is over, logically. Yet you maintain we are still at war, using this to justify the corruption of the GOP. (What do you call the no-bid contracts of Haliburton?)

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin,'re just feeding the troll. Everybody has been over the same solid sensible points you've made. It's useless. When you're dealing with a kook who ignores all your facts and disregards all your logic and refuses to answer any of your questions and simply continues to deny objective reality over and over and over's pointless to try to discuss anything with that kind of troll.

Dig it, Brin: the fact that B. Dewhirst is willing to engage with facts and logical arguments made here, while the right-wing troll is not, offers a clear indication of the massive difference between the extreme right and the extreme left right now. As much as you might disagree with members of the extreme left today, you can at least engage them in rational debate. But as we've seen it's impossible to engage with members of the extreme right today. They merely repeat their mindless contrafactual mantras, for the most part scripted talking points from Faux News: "The U.S. is at war with global terrorism." "Better to fight them over there than fight them over here." "Dems hate America." "The constitution doesn't matter if we're all dead." "The next 6 months is the crucial period in Iraq." (Every 6 months since 2003 has always been "the crucial period" in Iraq according to the fringe lunatic neocons.)

This kind of robotic scripted non-response to inappropriate logic (the meme "we are at war with global terror" is actually a radical liberal error, the doctrine of America as interventionist globocop to make the world safe for democracy, first enunciated by Woodrow Wilson: it directly contradicts the most basic conservative values, enunciated by George Washington as "We must avoid entangling alliances") and inconvenient facts (America has lost every war we've ever fought against insurgents or guerillas or whatever you want to call 'em, and so has ever other major power, with the posshible exception of the British against Malay guerillas in the 50s, so regardless whether any modern first-world power wants to act as globocop against guerillas, the facts of post-WW II military history clearly show that first-world imperial powers always lose such battles, so they're an exercise in futility: moreover, they have been pointless and foredoomed ever since the Afghans wiped out an entire British Imperial army in the Battle of Maiwand on 27 July 1880 and left only one British soldier alive so he could carry the story back to the British Empire)...well, when a far-right kook responds to these kinds of factual and logical arguments with robotically scripted Faux News talking points, that's an indication that your just shouting into a dry well. It's pointless.

Robotic scripted talking points like "America is at war with global terror" are the kind of insultingly trollish behavior that just wastes your valuable time. Dr. Brin. Trolls who vomit out that those kind of scripted rote talking points while ignoring all your facts and logic are just taking their cues from the Rush Limbaughs and Sean Hannitys and Bill O'Reillys of the world. They add nothing to this discussion, and only serve to distract you from offering novel insights.

Which, I presume, is their intent. If far-right trolls can bait you into endlessly repeating well-worn facts and arguments you've offered many times in the past, while never enaging in a serious discussion with you, they've effectively shut you down. As long as you waste your time being a broken record (note: records were black vinyl things played with needles, and when defective these black vinyl things would get stuck in a loop and repeat forever), the trolls have effectively prevented you from covering any new ground. That's a valuable win for a troll.

Tacitus2: you offered some extremely vague arguments about Dr. Brin's and my claims that the economy does better under Demos than under Repubs. Dr. Brin's and my claims are not vague. They're based on hard evidence.

[1] Here are hard numbers for job creation under Demos compared to Repubs. These numbers are not vague and do not involve hand-waving; they're documented historically. If you have some hard evidence to rebut these historical numbers, Tactitus2, please provide both the numbers and their historical source. AFAICT the job creation numbers seal the deal on Brin's claim that Demos are better for job creation than Repubs since 1929.

[2] This historical graph of the DJIA shows that, even after correcting for slightly high inflations under Demos, annualized stock market returns under Demo administrations since WW II beat returns under Repubs: 2.5% annualized return per year for Demo admins vs. 1.5% per year for Repubs. Once again, Tactitus2, if you have hard numbers to counter these documented facts, please provide both these numbers and the source. This graph seems to foreclose debate about whether the stock market does better under Demos or Repubs since WWW II. Winner: Demos, always.

[3] The Repubs aren't even good for the rich -- a point I've been making repeatedly, since the evidence overwhelmingly shows that extreme income inequality is
bad for the growth of business and U.S. GDP as a whole
, so under Repubs the rich actually lose ground comparatively speaking. That is to say, the standard of living of the rich increases less fast under Repubs than under Demos even though the rich keep a larger proportion of their income under Repubs than under Demos. This is the parable of killing the goose that lays the golden egg, which I keep repeating. By removing regulation and allowing corruption in business, the Repubs actually damage the growth rate of the economy -- because investors lose confidence, especially foreign investors. The stats show that since 1969, under all the Repub administrations, the richest 5 perecent of households actually lost $444 per year corrected for inflation.

This is a fairly subtle point. It boils down to the fact that compounded annual gains will always trump absolute percentage increases in net income. In other words, under the Repubs, the rich get to keep X% more of their income per year -- but under Repubs, the U.S. GDP drops by an annualized percentage as compared to Demos. Compounded interest is much more powerful than simple linear income increases. Take an example: would you be smarter to accept a lifetime 50% reduction in your income tax with a concomitant 1% reduction in your annualized return on investiment -- or to accept a lifetime 10% increase in your income tax rate with a concomitant 1% increase in your annualized return on investment? It's a sucker bet, Tacitus2, because simple back-of-the-envelope math shows us that door #2 is a much better deal. Let's assume the current tax rate on the rich is 15% (that's the current rate for capital gains held more than 18 months) and the typical current annualized rate of return is 4% above the rate of inflation. A 1% increase in annualized return (from 4$ to 5%) drops the doubling time on your net assets from 18 years to 15.5 years, while a 1% decrease in your annualized return (from 4% to 3%) increases the doubling time on your net assets from 18 years to 24 years. Jacking up your income tax rate by an additional 10% only changes that number by 1/7, so you get a cumulative doubling time on your net assets of about 17.3 years all told for door #2 (10% higher income tax but 1% higher annualized rate of return), but a cumulative doubling time on your net assets of about 21 years for door #1 (10% lower income tax but 1% lower annualized rate of return).

The gap twixt GDP growth, which the stock market tends to track, is as mentioned 1% -- 2.5% per annum under Demos, 1.5% per annum under Repubs. So you can see that this point, while subtle, is real, and has very real implications for everyone under Repub administrations, including the rich.

So why do the rich vote for Repubs? Short answer: the rich are as prone to foolish short-term thinking as everyone else. Many a rich guy has rushed to grab pennies while ignoring the bars of gold bullion he could pick up with a little patience. The best historical example remains the great 1907 bank panic. J. P. Morgan was asked to bail out the
Knickerbocker Trust Company when its unwise speculations led it into huge losses after the 9/11 of that era, the great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. Morgan initially refused to pump 10 million into the Knickerbocker Trust Company to prop it up, which led to a domino-style series of financial collapses that eventually cost Morgan and a group of other investors 35 million as the price of averting systemic meltdown in the U.S. economy. (Does any of this sound familiar?)

Morgan cost himself a bunch of money due to short-term thinking, although he eventually came around and rescued the U.S. financial system from total collapse. This kind of short-termism remains a chronic issue with CEOs, so it's not surprising that the rich vote against their own interests by backing Repubs over Demos. It's a classic cognitive illusion (demonstrated by Kahneman and Tversky) to go for short-term gain at the expense of longer-term but much higher benefits. The human brain tends to inaccurately deal with geometrically compounded long-term rates of return. Geometrically increasing long-term GDP growth represents an incredibly powerful source of win-win positive-sum economic game. It's a virtuous cycle that benefits everyone, but short-term thinking is blind to that sort of huge dump in personal wealth.

B. Dewhirst: as for the number of global deaths for which Clinton can be held reponsible, by far the largest death count involves the Rwanda genocide. That's half a million dead. I notice you didn't include that in your total.

Unfortunately, the Rwanda genocide represents not just a failure on Clinton's part, but on both sides of the aisle in congress -- and in the U.N. The U.N. did mobilize against the Somalia mass killings and it did mobilize against the Kosovo genocide and ethnic cleansing: but the U.N. did nothing about the Rwanda genocide.

Given that fact, it seems clear that the moral and humanitarian failure to deal with the Rwanda genocide was not just Bill Clinton's, it was a worldwide lapse.

Too, I'd like to know what you suggest the U.S. could've done about the Rwanda genocide. Given the total U.S. failure to stop mass murder in Somalia in 1993, and the current total U.S. failure to stop mass murder twixt Shia and Sunni in Iraq today in 2008, what exactly was Clinton supposed to have done in 1994 to prevent or ameliorate the Rwanda genocide?

It's nice to imagine that America can act as globocop and fix all the problems in the world. The reality remains that the U.S. army is not good for very much when it comes to humanitarian crises. The U.S. army, like all armies, is great at blowing sh*t up, but as I've pointed out repeatedly, AK-47-armed 15-year-old kids chewing khat tend not surrender to F18s flying at 20,000 feet, and JDAMs aren't effective against Rwandans who are chopping off their neighbors' heads with machetes.

As Martin van Creveld and William S. Lind and countless other military thinkers have pointed out, the U.S. army is optimized for fighting 2GW wars, while in the 21st century we now find ourselves faced with 4GW warfare.

In view of that fact, I'd like to know what Clinton was supposed to have done about the Rwanda genocide. For that matter, we've got a contemporary counterpart of Rwanda going on in Darfur today. I don't know what America is supposed to do about that. One thing I can tell you for damn sure: if the U.S. army invadess and occupies Darfur, it won't help any more than it did when we sent that godforsaken expeditionary force into Somalia in 1993. As a practical matter, the U.S. army just isn't the instrument that can solve these kinds of global problems.

BTW, that feeds into my larger ongoing point that the entire U.S. military-industrial complex has been finely tuned to deal with the Soviet Union, and we find ourselves in a new world today. The U.S. military-industrial complex is useless, for the most part, in today's world.

Humans are very aggressive and scrappy, and go to war at the drop of a hat. However, a standard land war is no longer going to work as it is no longer technically possible. -- Bruce Sterling

We've now moved into a different era of warfare characterized by "the troubles" or "skirmishes" or "atrocities," as described in Martin Van Creveld's book The Transformation Of War and by Thomas P. N. Barnett's book The Pentagon's New Map.

U.S. military leaders are not blind to this: every 4-star today has discussed in detail the fact that future U.S. military operation will involve OOTW -- "Operations Other Than War." What U.S. military leaders don't want to discuss, because it threatens their fiefdoms, is the fact that OOTW logically require OOTAA (Operations Other Than War require Organizations Other Than An Army).

It's comforting to think that American military power is unlimited and we're the masters of the world and blah-blah yadda yadda, but the reality on the ground in the early 21st century is that there are very sharp limits to U.S. military power, we're getting more impotent and more ineffectual by the day (and will continue to grow more impotent until we give up trying to use a 2GW army to fight 4GW 21st century wars), and in this new 21st century world, soft power and economic sanctions and behind-the-scenes actions by massed NGOs prove at least as effective as traditional land wars in solving global conflicts, and probably much more so as time goes on. Compare the effective solution of the Boethe's South African apartheid reign of terror over its black population to the failed "solution" of Saddam's reign of terror over Iraqis. The first solution involved lots of global economic pressure and diffuse actions by many different NGOs, and it worked; the second "solution" involved a honking big military operation by a classical first-world army, which promptly sank into a military and political tarpit.

That's a pretty heavy burden to lay on one guy's shoulders, B. Dewhirst. It seems unfair to blame Bill Clinton for a sea-change in geopolitcal power and a fundamental transformation in the nature of warfare, especially when both tectonic upheavals in the geopolitical landscape have been going on since the Battle of Maiwand in 1880 and the Boer War in the 1890s, which properly represented the start of modern 4GW later perfected by Mao in 1949.

Tony Fisk said...

Huxley, the statistic quoted by Engram is derived from this report:

The Iraqi Public on the US Presence and the
Future of Iraq

- by the Program on International Policy Attitudes

Published in September 2006, it paints a very complex situation, and is well worth a look:

eg: that 7 in 10 Iraqis wanted US led forces withdrawn in a year. 6 in 10 approved of attacks on US-led forces. 6 in 10 supported Iraqi security forces. 9 in 10 disapproved of Al-Qaedda.

And, yes, that 77% of Iraqis thought that ousting Saddam had been worth the hardships they had endured... as of January 2006. Just after his execution, and just after the December 2005 elections.
(I doubt there are many who do lament Saddam's removal. But the method of doing so is another matter entirely...)

What Engram neglected to point out (in what I thought was a rather snarky essay about Kofi Annan's reaction to the Iraqi situation) was that this value had reduced sharply to 61% by September, 2006.

Still a majority who thought it worthwhile, but it's a downward trend. I don't have anything more recent, but the overall Gallup poll on whether it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq suggests that trend to be ongoing.

(And I haven't forgotten the Lancet survey that shows that, at 650,000, the death toll following the invasion eclipses the toll prior to it. But then, if they can be suppressed and ignored, how many of those Iraqis will know of such figures? And after all, what is a life worth?)

Oh, cynic mode over! Maybe it will come good in the end! After all, the Iraqis polled did at least feel they had common cause: the divisions rending their society were external and that they could pull together, if allowed. Maybe they can. I think David, and everyone else, would be delighted if that particular prediction of his proved false. We shall see.

Anonymous said...

David Brin -- Personally I don't find it effective to insult my opponent's intelligence or character in a debate--assuming I wish to persuade him or her. However, that seems to be part of your standard practice here. As I asked earlier -- how's that working? Have you won over any conservatives with this approach?

As Tacitus2 notes, you are ranting here. It's not productive. It's not persuasive beyond validating my impression that you are indeed of the "Anyone who disagrees with me politcally is an utter idiot who must be fixed" movement except now it's clear that you consider those of us who support Bush to be war criminals or close to it.

You and I disagree. Please know that I have a passionate conviction for my side too. However, if you are so sure of your position, it seems to me that you could make your case with sweet facts and reason, not polemical lists enumerating the destruction of everything. That's really not a rational argument; it is a statement of your conviction -- which I can respect as such.

Anonymous said...

David Brin -- In any event you seem to be objecting to my claim that "the United States is at war with Islamic terrorism and what remains of Hussein's regime." I support my claim thus:

...we issue the following fatwa to all Muslims:

The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it...

--Bin Laden et al. (1998)

Sounds like a declaration of war to me. On 9-11 we experienced a horrific demonstration of the seriousness of that declaration when ~3000 people, mostly American citizens, were murdered on a sunny day in New York City. That was an act of war.

In other religions and nations, Bin Laden's actions would have been almost universally condemned. In the Muslim world he was met with enthusiasm.. Even four years after 9-11:

Confidence in Bin Laden as a World Leader (2005):

Jordan 60%
Pakistan 51%
Indonesia 35%
Morocco 26%
Turkey 7%
Lebanon 2%

I consider this a serious problem. Fortunately, with the success of Iraqi and Coalition forces over al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda has lost support in the Muslim world. No thanks to those, like Obama and his supporters, demanding that we pull out our forces last year and hang the consequences, even if they be genocide in Iraq and a huge victory for al-Qaeda.

As to the war with Hussein's remaining forces -- here's the full official listing of why we went to war. I'm tempted to print out the full list because it seems to me that those who oppose the Iraq War have replaced these 23 specifics counts authorizing military force with the simplistic and false narrative, "Bush lied; people died."

Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq

David -- I assure you I don't overlook the big picture. However, there are limits to this mediuim, my time and the time of others. To reckon fully with my position on the Iraq War I could easily write a few hundred pages. But no one read my post if I chunked 200 pages worth of text into a comment in this thread and I wouldn't blame them. So I take things a point at a time and say, as I've said several times now: it's a long conversation.

Genius said...

recently Condy Rice was in our country - she mentioned the word ally while talking about New Zealand.

this is quite a big thing because New Zealand has been "on the outer" since we started an anti nuclear policy that effectively banned US war ships from our ports. back in those days it was considered a sort of punishment.

The interesting thing for this discussion was that not only did our version of the "democratic party" quickly highlight that it was 'ally with a small a" but so too did our version of the republican party. It's just not cool for any party to be a friend of the USA anymore.

that wasn't true during any other presidency since shortly after the American rebellion.

the same sort of thing is probably true in almost every other country in the world. I think this has a great cost to your ability to spread your ideals including things like democracy and capitalism - as too is your apparent economic collapse in comparison to the success of more pragmatic governments or more Scandinavian style democracies.

Tony Fisk said...

Huxley, a year later (2006), we find Large and Growing Numbers of Muslims Reject Terrorism, Bin Laden.

"Less support for terrorist attacks and less confidence in Osama bin Laden, however, has not translated into a more positive view of the United States and its policies. Majorities in all five predominantly Muslim countries surveyed by Pew express unfavorable opinions about the United States."

Interestingly, the WPO article mentions that, while muslims in the Middle East have a very negative attitude toward Westerners in general, those attitudes are found to be far more moderate in muslims in western countries.

Maybe a little communication helps. But it isn't easy when you think you are at war.

Anonymous said...

All we actually had to do to drive AQI from Al-Anbar was what we *enventually * did -

Allow the Sheiks to reclaim their authority over their tribes, and allow them to go after the assholes that were destroying their lands, kidnapping and raping their daughters, killing them for cooperating with Bahgdad, stealing their homes, and executing their sons for having a little palm wine.

It was pretty hard for them to defend themselves when were siezing all their weapons and opening fire if we spotted them with guns.

AQI would have been driven out either way, by the guys who actually drove them out. Sunni Arabs.

It probably would have happened faster if we've gone home the day Saddam swung.

Travc said...

Zorg, yeah I know a bit about pebble-bed reactors... and I am not anti-nuclear power in general. But you miss my point a bit.

I am skeptical that current regulatory powers-that-be would even require new reactors to be built to state-of-the-art designs. If it is cheaper to build a 70s design, or if it is bureaucratically simpler to just approve plans that have been sitting around for decades... a 'fast-track' approach to building new nuclear power plants could well lead to exactly that happening.

A competent professional bureaucracy and sunlight in the process would greatly alleviate my concerns. We could insist on modern much safer designs being used, and have some reasonable confidence that the design is actually what is built.

BTW: The problem of nuclear waste is still a big one. Not a show stopper, but it is a very bad sign that we can't manage to actually solve it.

PS: Nuclear power is not cheap, at least when properly accounting. That is ok with me too... but nuclear isn't a silver bullet. We should insist on assessing the costs accurately, because if we don't we won't end up with the best mix of power generation tech.

Travc said...

Huxley, there are two links I keep annoying people with by posting them over and over ;) Since I assume you haven't read them, here they are one more time.

The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer
Altemeyer is an empirical sociologist (uses lots and lots of surveys) who studies authoritarianism. The roots of the research go back to just after WWII when people were asking "could it happen here" with respect to the rise of Fascism. The results are very enlightening in many many ways.

This actual document was prompted by John Dean. Altemeyer helped Dean on "Conservatives without Conscious" (good book IMO), and Dean pushed Altemeyer to write up his research for a general audience. It is also interesting to note the "Conservatives without Conscious" was itself prompted by Barry Goldwater.

The Separate Realities of Bush and Kerry Supporters (short pdf) reports some polling results from Oct 2004. This was extremely eye-opening for me... and pretty disturbing. The simple fact is that the majority of Bush supporters didn't know what the hell was actually going on in the world, or even what Bush's publicly stated position on major issues were. The cross tab relating to what news source people watch is also pretty telling. It isn't long, so do give it a read.

Genius said...


The relevant issue for Islamic counties is probably not how long after 911 but how long after the invasion of Iraq which they would contend cost orders of magnitude more lives. Regardless of if that is true or not that is naturally what they think so it is hard to address the issue without considering that.

As to withdrawing from Iraq being a victory for Al Quaeda - that is largely because it has been defined it as a victory for them... together with so many other things including fuzzy stuff like "not setting up democracy". By having such convoluted (and easy to deny) goals you almost guarantee them a victory even if they are only partly responsible for it.

NoOne said...

David and zorgon, your ultra-shrill approach in talking to huxley is counter-productive. When talking to people who come from a radically different perspective, it does not help to recite a bunch of facts since that's all irrelevant.

Instead why don't you agree with huxley! Agree that we are at war with Islamo-fascism. (Always, always, lull your opponent into lowering their defenses.) After agreeing with huxley, turn around and claim that the invasion of Iraq was the single worst thing the US could have done. Instead, after the successful invasion of Afghanistan, the US could have

1. Lead a world coalition in cooperation with Pakistan and gone after the terrorists in Pakistan's northwest frontier province.

2. Made an alliance with Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and other moderate Islamic countries and put pressure on Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan and Sudan to address their internal problems with Islamo-fascists.

3. Infiltrated the student movement in Iran to destabilize the mullahs there. Start a public relations campaign for the need for an Islamic enlightenment.

4. Simultaneously offered Saddam incentives to further his secular Sunni campaign. Casually mention to him that he would be assassinated whenever we felt like it.

5. Carrot and stick with Syria to pull it away from Iran's orbit. Cut off supply chain to Hezbollah.

6. Forced Israel to actually accept two state solution.

Even huxley would be forced to admit that even if a few of these ideas worked to some extent, the world would be in a far far better state than it is right now. Instead it's in shambles thanks to King George.

Anonymous said...

The problems with comparing D/R economic conditions are several. I did not look back past the late 70's. Certainly the economic policy of at least the GOP has radically changed in recent years. That leaves too few data points on the DFL side. Carter's tenure had, ahem, more than a few economic issues. Clinton's term was a time of genuine prosperity with the overlay of the .com bubble. See my previous comments as to whether he deserves kudo or noogies for that. I do recall much vaporous talk about the new economy where the internet would change everything. There is also the psychology aspect of markets. Clinton and even more so Obama, will get some market bounce from optimism alone.

Regards the "at war" question. I find myself mostly agreeing with you. Very few large powers have prevailed over insurgencies in the modern era. For the US I think the last clear cut case was a century ago in the Phillipines.

Unless I am seriously forgetting something, there has not been a Declaration of War since 1941. And it is unlikely that we will see another in our lifetimes. Open conflict between defined States has become a thing of the past.

Our "war" with militant Islam is somewhat akin to the "war" with militant communism from roughly 1917 to the fall of the Berlin wall. No declaration of war, but lots of lives lost. Hot and cold phases, different states being the standard bearer for the communist cause, numerous foolish missteps. (anybody remember Western intervention in the Russian Civil war?). But similar, a conflict with an idea set that in militant form is, or seems to be, incompatable with ours.


Unknown said...

tacitus2 averred:
David. You are kind of ranting here. It is not productive.

This characterization of Dr. Brin's remarks contradicts observed reality.

A "rant" is generally recognized as an emotional outburst devoid of facts and logic, often tinged with overtones of hysteria. That is the opposite of what Dr. Brin was doing.

At that point we were popular, loved, respected and our reputation for invincibility was unparalleled -- David Brin

Global opinion polls taken shortly after 9/11 showed in excess of 80% support for America worldwide. Global opinion polls taken today show a majority lack of support for America worldwide.

Three TRILLION dollars later (..) -- David Brin

Nobel-prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, former head of the IMF, gives specific figures to back up his estimate of the total cost of the Iraq occupation as three trillion dollars.

...Our alliances ruined (..) -- David Brin

Current support for America's Iraq policy has dwindled to a mere handful of countries. Compare with near-universal global support for America immediately post-9/11.

...Our military in tatters (..) -- David Brin
The United States currently has zero combat brigades in a state of readiness for other conflicts. Prior to the Iraq occupation, 100% of all U.S. comabt brigades were in a state of readiness.

...Society riven (..) -- David Brin
Anti-War Protests End With Dozens Of Arrests

Millions Join Global Anti-War Protests

Police beat anti-war protestors in San Francisco in 2003 with truncheons and batons

...Rights up-ended (..) -- David Brin
Contrary to claims by far-right kooks, nothing like this is happening in Europe

Or this

Or this.

...Reputation (both moral and for effectiveness) shattered (..) -- David Brin
Strategic survey assesses America's loss of reputation and prestige

"Abuse at Abu Ghraib will forever stain America's reputation"

...Budget wrecked... -- David Brin
The Bush Deficit Death Spiral

...We are still yammered-at about a "war" that is a classic case of the Emperor wearing no clothes at all, just a frothing excuse to keep us in a state of "emergency" that has allowed mammoth corruption. -- David Brin
Gingrich Calls War On Terror "Phony"

BTW, you describe yourself as a conservative, Tacitus2, so Newt Gingrich's remark would appear to be a "statement against interest" and thus especially credible.

As for the "yammering" part, consider Hatch says Demo win could help terrorists.

As I have proven, Dr. Brin stated documented facts. How is a statement of documented facts "kind of a rant"?

Why is stating documented facts "not productive"?

Now, if Dr. Brin had said something like, The neocons are crawling venomous insects and they must be exterminated by violence if necessary in order to save the Enlightenment, that would be "a rant."
But Dr. Brin didn't say that. He confined himself to describing well-documented facts.

Tacitus2 went on claim:
And by proclaiming yourself "through" with those whose views you emphatically do not share you are overlooking the possibility that either now, or at some time in the future you might actually learn something from them. If nothing else, an insight or two that you could use in sincere efforts to change things.

That claim again contradicts observed reality. Dr. Brin did not declare himself "through" with everyone whose view he "emphatically [does] not share." Brin instead specifically singled out one particular troll to refuse to feed. The troll in question consistently refuses to engage in a conversation, since a conversation requires two sides.

The troll in question has never responded to any of Brin's facts or arguments. Continuing to engage with that kind of kook represents a waste of time, since it's not a conversation or a debate, but a monologue of scripted far-right talking points by a right-wing crank.

The Democratic Party refused to debate on Fox News for the same reason. When reasonable people find themselves faced with the 27 percenters (the far-right kooks who deny observed reality and never address facts or logic inconvenient to their scripted talking points) the evidence shows that it's futile to engage in sham "debates" with these far-right kooks. It merely increases their perceived legitimacy -- which is of course what they want. The far right 27 percenters want to be seen as reasonable credible sincere people, instead of the ignorant fanatical closed-minded crackpots they really are. The evidence on this point is clear, as Anders has pointed out. Polls of the far-right 27 percenters show that they are statistically far more likely than any other population cohort to be pervasively ignorant of basic facts about Republican policies, the war in Iraq, and the alleged "war on terror."
More evidence Fox News watchers are ignorant

Conservatives typically deride these statistical facts as "insulting," which is beside the point. If you dislike the facts, provide hard statistical evidence to rebut them. Shooting the messenger fails as an effective debate strategy.

And so, as we have seen, Tacitus2's claims about Dr. Brin's remarks systematically contradict observed reality. The one criticism Tacitus2 could have made about Dr. Brin's remarks is that Brin failed to specifically back up his claims with individual citations.

However, Brin has so often provided specific citations to back up the same claims he made above, that it is unreasonable to require him to continue to do so. Brin is a scientist, and one of the scientist's basic mindsets is that once an hypothesis has been disconfirmed by facts and logic, it is unnecessary to continue to continually disconfirm that failed hypothesis. Doubters typically get referred to the peer-reviewed scientific literature to examine the published evidence. The same applies to long-debunked claims on this forum. Once a claim has been disproven a sufficient number of times, it should not be required that all the evidence against the faulty claim be cited in detail yet again, for the umpteenth time.

Those who crave specific citations backing up Brin's assertions on these points can refer to Brin's past posts on the subject. Brin has exhaustively documented his claims in the past. It is unreasonable to demand that he do so over and over again, ad infinitum.

Tacitus2 went on to remark:
Our "war" with militant Islam is somewhat akin to the "war" with militant communism from roughly 1917 to the fall of the Berlin wall.

Well, except for the Russians having 3500 nuclear warheads able to annihilate us at the touch of a button part. Oh, and except for the Russians stationing 31 armored divisions on the borders of the Warsaw Pact countries, ready to sweep into Western Europe part. And except for the Soviet Union having a dozen nuclear subs armed with ballistic nuclear warheads and a nuclear-powered navy armed with aircraft carriers and cruisers and missile-equipped destroyers. But except for that, yeah, a handful of Arab guys with boxcutters skulking in a cave in Waziristan prove eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

I think tacitus2's analogy proves revealing. Conservatives yearn for another Cold War because it gave unifying direction and purpose to their lives. A multipolar world without the prospect of big WW II-style land wars or a Manichean titanic struggle twixt the forces of light and the forces of darkness leaves today's conservatives adrift and discomfited. So today's conservatives desperately try to confect a new Cold War out of the evidence at hand, despite that the available facts disprove their analogy.

Actually it seems to me that the evidence about the fundamentalist wahabi jihadists who attacked us on 9/11 has now become altogether clear. Their worldview is being destroyed by Western modernism, it's being crushed by modern science and technology, annihilated by women's lib, ground into hamburger by secular rational humanism, and mulched by the growth of a rising middle around the world. Wahabist jihadism represents a desperate last gasp, not the onset of a bold new global conflict. They had to strike in 2001 because, from now on, fundamentalist Islam gets progressively weaker and soon they'll vanish into the same political-social limbo that swallowed the Physiocrats and the Roundheads.

If we really want to destroy the Islamic fundamentalists, we'll beam satellite TV porn into their countries, import Western-style universities into their cities, shower their societies with lush consumer goods, and drench the entire middle east with irresistably seductive western music and romance novels and popular Western movies. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what we're doing. Game over.

Incidentally, I particularly like noone's regurgitation of the Faux News lie that stating documented facts is "shrill." I love that kind of attack because it's the weakest possible kind of debating tactic, the ad hominem argument.

Please provide hard evidence to back up the contrafactual claim that stating documented facts is "shrill," noone, or stand revealed as someone who is now resorting to ad hominem attacks because you have no facts or logic to support your position.

NoOne said...

zorg, zorg, please relax. I'm on your side remember :-)

There are ways and then there are ways of engaging in an argument. Your approach comes across as "shrill" despite having the facts on your side. I was merely suggesting that we agree that we're in a kind of a "war" with militant Islam because that approach doesn't weaken our position. It makes us appear to have more in common with the ostriches thereby making them more amenable to listening to our arguments. Believe me, I've tried your approach and it doesn't work.

B. Dewhirst said...

Given that you're the one who brought up Rwanda, Zorgon, I don't feel obliged to respond to your related question(s). I was blaming Clinton for what he was actively behind (albeit, not alone): Kosovo and Operation Storm, and the consequences of the sanctions his state department pushed for in Iraq.

I don't believe the United States Military is used in a humanitarian capacity, although this is often trotted out as a cassus belli, and sometimes might even be a side-effect.

The U.N. did mobilize against ... the Kosovo genocide and ethnic cleansing: but the U.N. did nothing about the Rwanda genocide.

NATO acted without UN approval. Why aren't they before a (the) war crimes tribunal? If there is some justification for violating Article VI of the UN charter, let them make it in court. (Also relevant is the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution.)

I'm not suggesting the US caused deaths by failing to act as a globocop, as you put it... I'm suggesting the US under Clinton undertook actions for its own benefit which constitute war crimes and resulted in substantial loss of life. (Obviously, I think Bush and Cheney should be on the inside of a war crimes tribunal as well, as should Bush Sr., Reagan... I'm not aware of many exceptions as far back as William McKinley, though of course the US wasn't a signatory of the UN Charter that far back.)

B. Dewhirst said...

A clarification/exception:

I should have said "military force" not just "the US military."

When the armed forces are used as a ready supply of organized healthy young people to distribute aid supplies, sandbag in the case of flooding, etc... yes, that is humanitarian aid being performed by the military.

Hopefully, the obvious difference between freely offered and freely accepted grunt work in the event of disaster and the military interventions I was referring to are clear.

Anonymous said...


Watch it, Zorgon will very shortly be defining shrill in a manner that makes you a neocon troll or some such.

Generally I can get past most of this to the interesting parts of what Zorgon has to say.

Yessiree, them Russkis sure have some dangerous toys. And how many did they have in 1917? None. Could a far sighted persone back then project out 90 years to what things would look like? Maybe, and they would have found it scary.

Could even someone with sub-Brin imagination look forward 90 years from now and envision a nuclear armed Caliphate? Sure. Likely? Nope.

7th century Islamic puritanism is going to have a really tough time facing the modern world. I guess the only ace in the hole they have, and that Lenin lacked, was the promise that ardent service in this life would lead to lavish rewards in the next.

I had been doing a little thinking on the state of our military question. Could anybody do me the courtesy of a link to the combat readiness of our brigades? How is it determined, how often re-evalulated, what gradations of readiness are there? It does not seem to be a readily available bit of data, and it is a somewhat politicized topic.

On the general issue of polite discourse, I always err on the side of courtesy. If I did not find some interesting ideas from time to time it is hard to see why I would keep wandering in here.

But all should be careful about characterizing individuals you only know from imperfect, focused communications like web postings.


B. Dewhirst said...

And what is a better defense against a nuclear caliphate, Tacitus... 89 years of supporting brutal dictators and bombing campaigns, or 89 years of dialog and respect?

Suppose, in 1900, the Ottoman Empire invaded the US. It flattened half of Washington DC, killed 1 in 30 people (ref: Lancet study), drove 1 in 15 to Canada or Mexico, detained Americans without charge and subjected them to torture...

How would red-blooded Americans react?

Now then... given the cultural differences you allude to... do you expect them to behave -more- or -less- reasonably to a bombing campaign? How long do you expect them to hold a grudge?

You can't bomb someone into loving you, and you can't effectively communicate with someone while you're bombing them.

If we wanted democratic and secular regimes in the Middle East, we shouldn't have promoted the Taliban, supported Saddam, overthrown democracy in Iran, beaten down every secular organization that raised their head, etc.

Same mistake the Romans made in the region... supporting the religious crazies over the (then) neo-Grecian moderates.

(Also, I think you've got a very compelling argument for a preemptive nuclear strike against France right there... after all, how do we know they'll -always- be our allies?)

Anonymous said...

Late to the party here-- but as a longtime fan of Gail Collins' editorials, I'd like to point out that she's truly not a "new and promising columnist for the NYT."

From the NYT Op-Ed pages:
Gail Collins joined the New York Times in 1995 as a member of the editorial board and later as an op-ed columnist. In 2001 she became the first woman ever appointed editor of the Times editorial page.... She returned to The Times as a columnist in July 2007.

Just giving credit where due...Sorry if OT but this sort of thing happens all too often to women...

Anonymous said...

The French get a free pass from me. I enjoy a good red wine too much to hold any grudges!

I am not, please note, suggesting that the invasion of Iraq was a wise thing to do. I even wish the Taliban had kept a tidier house so that we had no need to go there.

My preferred stance to this part of the world collectively is to develop hydrogen fuel cell technology yesterday so we can leave the various factions there to their own devices.

But you can't turn back time (drat) and undo previous folly. And if you could, how far back to go? Halt the invasion of Iraq? Be more clear with Saddam prior to his invasion of Kuwait? Stay studiously neutral in the Iran/Iraq war? Dump the Shah earlier? Let France and England occupy the Suez canal? Cancel the Balfour agreement? Bribe the Ottomans to stay out of WWI?

I could go back to roman times, but its such a long, sad story.

It does seem more productive to look ahead.

Sadly, it is hard to imagine that one or more countries in the middle east will not soon be nuclear armed and bearing a grudge. Maybe our current friends, maybe our current enemies. This this does not fill me with some kind of twisted neocon glee.


B. Dewhirst said...

Getting us into this mess disqualifies you from trying to get us out of it.

Having seen the consequences of past actions, insisting we proceed along the same lines in the present is... insane.

Or do you think we're currently supporting zero brutal dictators in our present war on terror?

Anonymous said...


I should have stated my point more clearly.

I think international communism in 1919 and militant Islam in 2001 have similarities.

I would very much hope we could learn from our many errors in the first case, and use them to improve our response to the second.

If current pollsters are to be believed the DFL/Progressive branch of American political thought will have their change to solve things next. If that is what the electorate decides then the conservative response is to become the Loyal Opposition.

Unless you think Progressives will be immaculate and free from error...


B. Dewhirst said...

I think the 'progressives' you're talking about are, instead, the representatives of the other faction of what is essentially a one-party state with two factions... both factions of business interests. (Hence my parallel discussion with Zorgon about Clinton.)

Define your terms, though... what do you mean by "Militant Islam"?

Who are they? How many of them? What are their goals?

Joel said...

>Both left and right are deeply elitist. They believe in intellectual elites who know better than the masses.

Reminds me a lot of what Bob Altemeyer says in "The Authoritarians".

It offers lots of tips for dealing with the neocon base, btw.

>time to bring back the Whigs?

Now we're talking. Jon Stewart has already taken the reins of the we just need some horses and a wagon to go with.

>scratch [Obama's] veneer and it's politics as usual.

Erm...his funding structure is much different than usual. I think that will be increasingly and overwhelmingly important over the course of four or eight years.

>develop hydrogen fuel cell technology yesterday

As an engineer who's worked on automotive energy sources, I say solid oxide fuel cells are a much better bet. They're basically omnivorous.

Anonymous said...


Your parallel question is an interesting one as well. But I will steer clear for the moment.

Militant Islam.

Over time the attitude of Islam towards non believers has varied a great deal. There has been peaceful coexistance at times. There has been taxation for non believers at other times, i.e. discrimination. There has been violence against non believers at other times, sanctioned by the state/religion. (and one issue of note is the lack of seperation)

Militant Islam is that variety that justifies violence against others because of their non belief. 911 for instance. I can see the perspective of those who regard attacks against Americans in Iraq as another matter. Not necessarily agree, but see it. Bombing funerals and religious pilgrimages would be decidedly over the Militant line in my book too.

How many? Don't know. I would guess less than 10% of Muslims would support it. Where? No specific geographic location. If anything there is an edge of prosperity to a good number of the jihadis, or maybe just to those who amount to enough that we hear about them. Their goals? I am guessing a bit, but I imagine it to be the hope that the current economic windfall of the Arab world will allow a sort of "Disneyland" where the real world can be ignored. They can live according to some pure moral code (misogynist, racist, anti scientific). The upper classes of the Persian Gulf already live in a kind of unreal state like this.

Only time for a quick answer, sorry


B. Dewhirst said...

So, let us suppose that there are 1000 rabid anti-curling terrorists in Northern Maine.

Canada invades, bombs roads and bridges, inflicts a great many civilian casualties, displaces

And kills the 1000 rabid anti-curlers.

How many bloodthirsty anti-Canadians do you suppose are in Maine, to say nothing of New Hampshire, Vermont, etc, after that point?

Zero, because you killed the 1000?


Returning to your example, Militant Islam...

How many Islamic militants do you believe live in Saudi Arabia, our ally, and what do you suppose would happen if we bombed the nation holding the most holy sight of one of the world's largest religions?

Would that move the majority of Muslims -closer- to enlightenment values, or further from them?

How many Islamic militants do you believe live in Pakistan, our ally? How about Afghanistan, circa 2000, our then-ally?

Why do -these- terrorists bother you more than the terrorists the United States is presently funding? How about the one's we're harboring? The one's we've trained?

If 10% of Muslims support this, why haven't there been more attacks? (Even allowing that only one in a thousand people is sufficiently radicalized to do something.)

What fraction of Americans justifies the use of violence against Iraq, or what fraction justified violence against South Vietnam?

I -agree- that the 9/11 terrorists believed they were waging a war on infidels for religious reasons.

Where I very strongly disagree is the motivation of a lot of the other groups, and many of those groups have vaguely rational gripes.

(Bear in mind I'm an atheist of the Sam Harris/ Richard Dawkins school... I just differ as to the tactics which should be used.)

Anonymous said...

Guess we are just hoggin' the forum!
OK, anti curling radicals is cute. Lets assume they have actually bombed a few curling rinks in Canada and killed some people. Canada tells the US to round 'em up and ship em over. And as a civilized nation we do so. When we asked the Taliban to hand over Bin Laden they basically said, "who?". Not a fair comparison really, never mind that Bin and Co. were substantial financial supporters of that government.
I have already said that Iraq was a most unwise thing to do. If you like I can keep saying it.
Bombing Saudi would also be very unwise, which is probably why we have not done so. Or at least part of why. It may be that the selection of 911 hijackers was done partly with the intent of provoking this. We do not fall for every stupid trap out there...
Could you clarify which terrorist we are currently harboring and supporting?
There are a few Free Cuba types kicking around and any number of shifty exiles whose talk to action ratio approaches infinity. And overseas I guess we have connections with various warlords in Somalia among other places. I do want to understand your points as fully as possible.
I agree that quite a few violent groups have an amalgam of religious and political motivation. Usually one or the other is a flag of convenience.
That there have been relatively few Madrids, 911, Bali, London underground outrages is probably due to the fairly small numbers of jihadis with both motive and means to take violent action, and to the efforts of Western counterterrorism, which is probably more effective than it is generally being credited.

We really need a better world. One where religions universally ban killing for faith reasons, and where there is a functioning international organization that can arbitrate and intervene for the common good. Hey, its a SciFi site, I can dream....


Travc said...

BD... I really don't understand the outrage by some ostensibly left-leaning people about the bombing of Serbia and Kosovo intervention. Accusing Clinton (or NATO more generally) of 'genocide' is utterly ridiculous. Just look up the definition of the word please.

The Kosovo intervention was certainly arguable. Relying on a bombing campaign (intrinsically not limited to military targets) is ethically and legally highly questionable. The precedent of NATO attacking another country without UN approval is also potentially a very bad one. But it wasn't in any sense genocidal.

My personal opinion in the war crime aspect is that NATO should have pressed the UN harder. Failing to get approval, they could have gone ahead with a clear stance of 'we feel this must be done'. Afterward (and during), NATO should have continued to engage with the UN, and in a sense 'thrown itself on the mercy of the court'.

In a way, it is a bit like the sane stance on torture... Torture should always be illegal, but in the highly improbable (but possible) event that someone determines they must engage in torture to prevent a much larger harm, they should do so. Afterward, they should also be tried, convicted, and (if their ethical assessment is shared by others) *not* punished.

IMO, The members of NATO did indeed violate their agreements with the UN. However, they have a strong case that it was indeed the right thing to do. At least a reasonable person (or state) could have come to the same conclusion... which is the standard after all.

I guess "law rules supreme", except when it doesn't. However, the law should always be respected, even when broken for good cause.

Travc said...

The "war on terror" is much more like the "war on drugs" than the Cold War.

The 'other side' in both is really international criminal syndicates. Pretending otherwise is profoundly counterproductive.

Travc said...

Huh, the Caliphate. Not going to be coming back. Do you really think the governments of all Islamic (or even Arab) countries are going to give up their power and bow to a single king?

I could imagine a modernized version of the Caliphate arising, where the Caliph is more like the modern Pope than a king. But that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing at all.

Anyways, it is a bit like Sharia Law... Some fundies imagine it as return to the good old dark-ages, but it means something completely different to general populace. Even in the middle-ages, Sharia Law modernized and evolved in much the same way as common law does... because that is what the general populace demands (the only way laws actually work).

Funny how the right-wing views things through the same lens as the Islamist fundies. Gotta have a bogyman I suppose.

Anonymous said...

tacitus2 I can think of the child slavery in Ivory coast and racism toward outsiders and Muslims and how their leader publicly blesses Bush and how we fail to condemn his regime.

I book I just read about it shows a depravity worse than Sandams that we are silent about.

Carol Off, Bitter Chocolate:Investigating the Dark Side of the World's Most Seductive Sweet. Random House Canada (2006), 336 pages, hardcover. ISBN 978-0-679-31319-9 (0-679-31319-2)

By the way Jester I generally agree with what you said. I was just seeing how far the troll would go to defend an unsupportable position and did not have time to put all that background into my post.

Unknown said...

None mentioned:
There are ways and then there are ways of engaging in an argument.

Thank you for making my point for me. The troll refuses to engage in argument because he never responds to any of Brin's or my facts or arguments. Instead, he simply monotonously continues to repeat scripted neocon talking points.

That's not an "argument." It's a fanatic hijacking this forum as a soap box for a far-right monologue.

B. Dewhirst suggested:

NATO acted without UN approval. Why aren't they before a (the) war crimes tribunal?

Here's why:

Paramilitaries loyal to Arkan, the Serbian ultranationalist later indicted for crimes against humanity, came to the home Jasmina shared with her husband and extended family to search for valuables and weapons. When they found no guns they started beating her husband, said Jasmina who asked CNN not to use her last name to protect her children.
"Then they started torturing me. I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was totally naked and covered in blood, and my sister-in-law was also naked and covered in blood. ... I knew I had been raped, and my sister-in-law, too." In a corner, she saw her mother-in-law, holding her children and crying. (..)
"Every day we were raped. Not only in the house -- they would also take us to the front line for the soldiers to torture us. Then again in the house, in front of the children," Jasmina said through a translator, remembering the 10 other women who were brutalized with her.
"I was in such a bad condition that sometimes I couldn't even recognize my own children. Even though I was in a very bad physical condition they had no mercy at all. They raped me every day. They took me to the soldiers and back to that house.
"The only conversation we had was when I was begging them to kill me. That's when they laughed. Their response was 'we don't need you dead.' "
Once at the front line, there were female soldiers who tortured her with a bottle and then slashed at her throat and wrist when it broke. Then the troops cut one of her breasts with a bayonet, said Jasmina, now looking older than her 35 years.
"It lasted for a year. Every day. ... Not all the women survived."


Clinton's bombing in Kosovo put a stop to this. Common sense suggests you don't indict people for stopping mass rape and torture and mass murder.

Criticizing Clinton's military actions in the Balkans puts you in the position of having to defend mass rape and torture, B. Dewhirst. Are you absolutely sure you want to go there?

B. Dewhirst went on to aver:

I don't believe [U.S. military force] is used in a humanitarian capacity, although this is often trotted out as a casus belli, and sometimes might even be a side-effect.

U.S. military force was used in an attempt to support humanitarian aid in Somalia. The attempt failed because it proved impossible to safeguard humanitarian workers in Somalia. Shipments of food and medicine were getting hijacked by Somali warlord Mohammed Adid and sold on the black market. Reagan used military force to rescue hostages in Grenada and Carter used military force to try to rescue the hostages in the American embassy.

As far as the use of U.S. military force in our other conflicts, you're right, though. Although the 27 percenters now try to trot out claims of "humanitarian aid" as justification for the Iraq invasion in 2003, the fact remains that prior to and during the invasion, no one raised humanitarian assistance as a reason for invading Iraq. I was there: I remember what people were saying. I remember what the media was reporting. It was all WMDs, WMDs, WMDs. Only when the WMDs turned out not to exist did the 27 percenters start talking about humanitarian assistance to Saddam's victims.

B. Dewhirst remarked:

Suppose, in 1900, the Ottoman Empire invaded the US. It flattened half of Washington DC, killed 1 in 30 people (ref: Lancet study), drove 1 in 15 to Canada or Mexico, detained Americans without charge and subjected them to torture...
How would red-blooded Americans react?

Current figures show that 8 percent of the prewar population has fled Iraq, not 7 percent. Also, one in 5 Iraqis who've fled to Syria has been tortured.

That equates to 1 out of 12 Americans fleeing to Canada, but 1 out of 5 of those who flee get tortured by the Canadians.

Also, to accurately reflect current conditions on the ground in Iraq, we'd have to posit that the Ottoman empire set up random checkpoints throughout occupied America and then shot entire American families to death for no discernible at those checkpoints. Also, Ottoman troops would kick in the doors of American homes every night and drag out family members to be tortured and killed. When the family members turned out to be innocent, which is often the case, the Ottoman troops would toss a handful of Ottoman currency at the family and walk away. At the same time, the Ottomans would hand out weapons to American Protestants and tell them to go murder Catholic families in their bed, and then, when the Protestants get too politically influential, the Ottoman troops would hand out weapons to American Catholics and urge them to start torturing Protestant children with acid and power drills.

So we should back up and ask how red-blooded Americans would react to that kind of treatment. That's a more accurate description of what America would be going through if we want a close parallel to what's going on in Iraq.

Tacitus2 remarked:
I think international communism in 1919 and militant Islam in 2001 have similarities.

This seems like a faulty analogy for several reasons.

The Qur'an is a mishmash of mutually contradictory garbled ancient texts, all assembled centuries after the death of the alleged prophet Mohammed. Consequently, in order to make any sense of the Qur'an at all, a great deal of interpretation is required.

By contrast, Marx's Das Kapital is entirely straightforward. Little interpretation is required to discern Marx's meaning. He is specific about the inevitability to the collapse of capitalism, etc.

Because Islamic beliefs depend so completely on interpretations of garbled mutually contradictory ancient religious texts, Islam's attitude toward nonbelievers has changed drastically throughout history. Thus, as others have pointed out, Islam has often coexisted peacefully with nonbelievers in the past. Islamic caliphates have also renounced efforts to conquer and forcibly convert other countries to Islam, depending on the historical period. At other times, Islamic Caliphates have pursued expansionist polices and murdered or tortured nonbelievers who refused to convert.

So the behavior of even the most radical Islamists differs wildly according to the historical period. A militant Moslem in the 10th century was a moslem who believed they should tax unbelievers, whereas a radical moslem in the 18th century was a moslem who believed he needed to lay siege to Vienna in the army of the Grand Turk. In Cordova from the 10th to the 11th centuries, for example, Jewish and Christian scholars were welcomed alongside Islamic scholars, and were not subject to onerous restrictions or fines. At other historical periods, Jews and Christians were tortured or murdered by expansionist Islam. It's not a "one size fits all" situation, so you can't talk about militant Islam as a single monolithic entity that behaved the same way throughout history.

However, you can talk about Marxist Leninists in Russia as a monolithic entity. They never renounced their avowed aim of global revolution until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. There was never any point between 1919 and 1989 when Russian Marxist-Leninists permitted freedom or religion or freedom of assembly or any of others freedoms Islamic Caliphates allowed nonbelievers during various historical periods.

Last but far from least, Islam is a religion, while Marxism is a wholly secular belief system. History shows that secular conflicts tend to get resolved more readily than religious conflicts, mainly because religious beliefs involve claims that can't be tested. I.e., how do you disprove that 72 virgins await you in heaven if you blow yourself up with a suicide bomb in an Israeli pizza parlor?

On the other hand, you can test the predictions of secular belief systems like Marxism, and the predictions turned out to be uniformly disconfirmed by observed reality. This makes it easy to point out that Marxism fails to describe reality. Whereas it's not easy to prove that Islam fails to describe reality, since we would need access to things that in principle are impossible to observe -- viz., god, heaven, etc.

Too, militant Islam represents even today only a small percentage of overall Islam, while revolutionary Marxism has always been a core belief of Russian communism.

These differences seem more significant than the similarities, and consequently the analogy twixt Russian communism and militant Islam seems faulty.

On the point that Russian communists had no nuclear weapons in 1919, that's a rhetorical evasion. Russian communists have always had access to the most lethal weapons available at that era. In 1919, Russian communists had access to poison gas, the ultimate terror weapon of mass destruction of WW I.

Talk about an Islamic caliphate armed with nuclear weapons puts quite a few carts before quite a few horses.

First, in order to create an Islamic caliphate, Islam would have to unite quite a few diverse branches of its faith and conquer quite a number of countries. For instance, the Saudis would have to conquer the Shia in Iraq and Iran and they'd also have to conquer the secular moslems in Turkey before they could reconstitute a new caliphate.

Second, militant Islamists would have to wipe out the borders and submerge the cultures of a lot of modern nation-states including Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iraq and so on in order to form a modern-day caliphate with supremacy over local middle eastern governments.

Third, a militant Islamic caliphate would need the technological and scientific expertise to assemble and then maintain nuclear weapons. (Nuclear weapons become non-functional if you don't maintain 'em. All nuclear warheads today use tritium as a trigger, and the tritium decays over time, so nuclear warheads must be subjected to constant hi-tech supervision and overhaul in order to keep working.) This seems like a Catch-22, because any Islamic caliphate scientifically and technologically adept enough to build and maintain nuclear warhead would be marinated in so much secular humanistic rational scientific worldview that it wouldn't be a caliphate and certainly couldn't stay militantly Islamic.

The rise of the modern nation-state in the mid to late 19th century forced the collapse of the Ottoman Empire because the Islamic caliphate as a political organizing principle predates modern nationalism and is much weaker than nationalism as a method of social organization. Religion as a political unifying principle has gotten trumped by nationalism for the last 150 years because societies organized around religion rather than secular nationalism tend to be inimical to science, while nation-states are hospitabale to science. Science yields technology, which generates military and industrial power. Thus, nation-states tend to overpower socities organized around religion over the last 150 years.

Globally, the trend worldwide is toward secular humanism and away from fundamentalist religion. This puts militant Islam on the wrong side of history. Given that secular nationalism has so greatly trumped religious militancy as a political organizing principle over the last 150 years, it's hard to discern how in an increasing more secular humanist world, a militant Islamic caliphate could re-form itself.

Last but far from least, if we did get a resurgent militant Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Iran across a dozen national borders and armed with nuclear weapons, it seems overwhelmingly likely that the first (and probably only) use of those nuclear weapons would be by Shia against Sunnis and Sunnis against Shia. We have so much precedent for this in Western history, where the main victims of violence by religious states in Europe were dissenting sects of Christianity, and in Iraq, where prominent targets of armed Iraqi militias are other Iraqis of the dissenting sects of Islam, that it seems all but certain that a nuclear-armed militant Islamic caliphate would wind up nuking other moslems for religious dissent. That would leave a militant Islam in radioactive ruins and no threat to the West.

Tony Fisk said...

I think it might be CITOKATE time:

At a certain level, I am finding the current discussion rather hilarious.

After several hundred kilobytes, Zorgon makes this observation:
The troll refuses to engage in argument because he never responds to any of Brin's or my facts or arguments. Instead, he simply monotonously continues to repeat scripted neocon talking points.

That's not an "argument." It's a fanatic hijacking this forum as a soap box for a far-right monologue.

Actually, I find the 'troll' in question has, so far, conducted himself with civility and restraint. Furthermore, he *has* responded to a few questions. We may have a *lot* more questions than he is prepared to answer in a given time frame. You might think this time frame excuse is a 'typical tactic' to concentrate on the minutiae. You may not agree with the answers he does give, and that's fine: I don't necessarily, either. Unlike you, however, I have not been ignoring his points, and I think you'll find I have been refuting them as I can.

He probably hasn't answered because he doesn't see the need to respond to 'soap box for a far-left monologue.'

I don't know what the problem is, Perhaps eight years of neocon ascendency have made you a bit hyper-sensitive? Come on, guys, you're smarter than this.

Think of it this way: you have beliefs you hold to passionately. So does Huxley. Neither of you are going to persuade the other. The best you can do is lay out your respective arguments: answer them as you can, point out where arguments are evaded (ie defaulted on) and leave it for other readers to decide.

... and I see the front has moved on...

B. Dewhirst said...


A 1999 invasion cannot prevent rapes in 1992, nor liberate a prisoner who escaped in 1993, which took place in a country which didn't exist by 1999-- thus making them difficult to invade.

Do you have any better evidence that Clinton et al. were invading to stop -present- crimes?

When a police officer is involved in a shooting where civilians are killed, it is quite reasonable to insist they be investigated and perhaps tried... even if circumstances suggest they may have had cause.


When we asked the Taliban to hand over Bin Laden they basically said, "who?"

When we asked the Taliban to hand over Bin Laden they said "We would like to see some evidence, please."

I imagine the US would do much the same before handing over hypothetical curling terrorists.

Could you clarify which terrorist we are currently harboring and supporting?

Bush asked Congress for 400 Million to, in part, fund terrorists in Iran... organizations that the US State Dept has branded as terrorist organizations have received funds. Some work with al Qaeda.

We're harboring Luis Posada Carriles.

Travc: If you don't understand it, that doesn't mean it is baseless. Look up Operation Storm, for a start. Even if 'genocide' is uncalled for, 'ethnic cleansing' is. These folk you don't understand don't believe in the benign intent you suggest.

Given your torture analogy, we seem to be agreed Clinton et al. should stand trial.

B. Dewhirst said...


Above, I implied Yugoslavia broke up between '94 and '96. Oops.

Anonymous said...

... and I see the front has moved on...

tony fisk -- Thanks for the response to Zorg and thanks in general. It was brave of you to do so.

I get the impression that the front has moved on too. You brought up good points and good questions. In a less scattered, contentious forum, I would like to have pursued them with you.


Travc said...

This is probably a dead thread now, but I feel it is the proper place to respond to BD anyway. Hopefully he is still checking in.

Kosovo was a very messy situation. I do actually remember what was going on. Bosnia in many ways was even more complicated, largely because intervention came so late and in such a peicemeal fashion.

The 'ethnic cleaning' you are so fixated on is stretching the meaning of the term very far. Yes, population division did happen... but the international forces mitigated it to a much greater extent than the exacerbated it.

For the NATO intervention in Kosovo, keeping the kosovar-albanian forces in check was a major difficulty, but remarkably successfully accomplished.

I think you need to detox a bit from the slant (propaganda) you've been reading on the topic. There really is a whole 'other side' to it. Even some of the major players (Clark and Albright come to mind) have spoken and written quite candidly about some of the complications and even some of the outright mistakes.

As for the war crimes angle...
I do not think Clinton or Clark should actually stand trial. I do think that an investigation (a sort of grand jury) would be called for under the auspices of the UN. Unless there are some really big facts I'm unaware of, the results of this investigation would conclude that the NATO did violate UN obligations, but did so under reasonable cause.

BTW: At least with respect to Kosovo, it is every country of NATO which acted.

B. Dewhirst said...

Every nation in NATO is also in the UN, I believe... and all are obligated to uphold article VI.

From where I sit, you're the one who has bought partisan propaganda from Clinton et al.

The United States will not always be a world power. Even if you believe our international conduct to be saintly, and that of NATO to be likewise... are you so sure that the next unilateral world power will be so as well?

Allowing large states and coalitions to unilaterally decide when to violate the UN Charter is not the sort of thing you want around when the next Nazi Germany emerges.

It is also worth considering how we would have responded to the USSR if it had acted in such a unilateral fashion, for instance, to intervene after we started bombing South Vietnam.

We (the United States and the UN) made it very clear after WWII that when one instigates aggression against another state, and "bad things happen" as a result... the outside aggressor is responsible for those subsequent consequences.

By the Nuremburg principle, Clinton and Clark would be before a firing squad. A trial is the -least- they should face. (I happen to be opposed to capital punishment.)

Unless of course we're just hypocrites with nuclear weapons. In which case, there is precious little to suggest to Iran (say) that they shouldn't obtain their own nukes as soon as possible for defensive purposes.

Anonymous said...

Pick a particular point of minutiuae -- e.g. a public opinion poll among Iraqis who happen to cooperate with some corrupt pollsters -- and worry that narrow topic to death...

Dr. Brin -- Actually I cited four polls with links from 2003 - 2006, if you had bothered to read my posts carefully before dismissing them.

Two of these polls were from Gallup. It is intellectual dishonesty, and nothing less, on your part to claim that all such poll results must be the result of corruption if they contradict your narrative for Iraq.

I'm not surprised. I have encountered this dishonesty, dismissiveness, incivility, derision, and SHOUTING DOWN (you really need to disable your caps-lock key) repeatedly from my former comrades on the left and it is no small part of why I left the left.

You will never win over conservatives in this manner--assuming that's your intention.

Genius said...

its a bit late but this gem from scott adams blog highlights my point (thanks rick in china)

"Imagine this:

Billy thinks David is telling lies about him in class. Billy goes over to David's house when David is alone, and beats David up. While he's beating David, who doesn't put up much of a struggle, his friend phones him and says "You should really leave, David's parents (ie, the world pointing fingers) may come home soon." Billy, being smart, decides he has punished David enough for the lies he thought David had told about him in class. So Billy picks up his backpack, accepts the scratches on his arm from pummeling David and making sure he can never really walk again, and goes home.

It's not surrendering, Dave, it's pulling out. "Winning" -- well, was there ever any doubt there would be a loss? It's won. Saddam is dead. How many more Americans do you think need to die before a clear "victory" is reached, and what do you consider a clear victory? Americans like you stick the country in a bad position, geopolitically, and give internationalized Americans a bad rep for being supporters of warmongering. Uh huh, brilliant."

Genius said...


still I think tony and I have highlighted the picture that the sum of the poll questions portray and it carries a different image than the one you are suggesting David address. Otherwise we already know what david would say - something to the effect of

"yes that study does indeed support my opinion"

although probably in harsher words.

Unknown said...

Tony Fisk, you're kidding yourself if you think you're going to learn anything by playing a ventriloquist's dummy for a crackpot.

What have we "learned" from a far-right kook?

We're learned that far-right kooks deny documented facts, that they lie, and that they avoid answering questions or countering logical arguments which debunk their contrafactual claims.

Guess what? We already knew that. That's been standard operating procedure for the kooks who've been running this country into the ground from the last 14 years.

Letting a kook deny facts and ignore your arguments and not calling him on it because it would be "impolite" just gives the kook a superficial appearance of legitimacy -- which is what the kook wants. You've been duped, Tony. Wake up and smell the latte.

Unknown said...

Dewhirst: nobody claimed Clinton's military action in Kosovo would prevent rapes that already happened. They did prevent rapes that would have happened if nobody had done anything.

As for proving that Clinton used military action to prevent more rapes and murders...get real. Some conclusions are so obvious you make a fool of yourself by trying to deny 'em.

Prove America entered WW II to stop Nazi atrocities. Oh, you don't have proof (because it's so flaming obvious only a fool would even question it)? Whoops! Looks like the Allies are guilty of war crimes for invading Germany in June 1994!

Dewhirst, you're just making yourself look ridiculous when you spout this kind of crap. You make some good points, but you're now going off the deep end trying to paint the NATO military excursion that stopped rape and torture and put an end to those concentration camps on the cover of NEWSWEEK as some kind of cockamamey "crime against humanity."

Wake up, Dewhirst. There are real crimes against humanity going on. Darfur, anyone? Use of white phosophorus against Iraq civilians?

We don't have to confect bizarre imaginary nonexistent war crimes to accuse Bill Clinton of, the current crew in the White House have committed plenty of war crimes. Let's get our priorities straight here: we need to run the sociopaths in control of the White House and the Senate out of politics, out of Washington, and out of control of the media. Then we need to start working about hauling the lunatics currently in the White House and their enablers into the world court in The Hague for crimes against humanity.

That's what we should be worrying about right now. Not some wacky conspiracy theory centering on Bill Clinton's humanitarian military action in Kosovo.

Anonymous said...

"Criticizing Clinton's military actions in the Balkans puts you in the position of having to defend mass rape and torture, B. Dewhirst. Are you absolutely sure you want to go there?"

False dichotomy, and beneath you, Zorgon. This statement is akin to saying that anyone who didn't support busting in the front the Waco Branch Davidian compound with a tank and filling it with flamable tear gas must support child molestors.

That said - Clinton made a choice to minimize American NATO casualities in Kosovo by using tactics which greatly increased "collateral damage". You might think that was the right choice. I am somewhat ambivelant.

The idea that we entered WWII to to prevent attrocities is laughable. Hitler declared war on us, not the other way around.

Our response to the massive atrocities of the Japanese, untill they attacked us, was the Flying Tigers. One Squadron.

GuyStewart said...

"If your ostrich claims to be too busy, start them off with this handy chart."

I guess my main objection would be that it's difficult to imagine that one thing -- a party in power for 8 years -- could so profoundly affect so many things everywhere on Earth. Are there no other factors involved? What if you added "massive terrorist attacks" to the column: would 9/11/01 be the sole responsibility of the GOP? Did depletion of resources have nothing to do with the price of gasoline? The current collapse of the housing industry and mortgage crisis must also be the fault of Republican mismanagement as well.

Was the Democratic party so effectively muzzled by the Republicans that they were able to do NOTHING to stave off the collapse of America?

Seeing that one party has so much power to affect growth and decay, I will clearly vote a straight Democratic ticket this November.

Then everything will get fixed up the way it was eight years ago.

B. Dewhirst said...

I'll be addressing your remarks later, Z... busy at work.

Very short one-liner for now:

So, you're willing to completely accept the testimony of Croats and completely unwilling to accept the testimony of Serbs, and unwilling to provide evidence to substantiate your position? And I'm the one who has been propagandized and is subscribing to a conspiracy theory?

B. Dewhirst said...

Dewhirst: nobody claimed Clinton's military action in Kosovo would prevent rapes that already happened. They did prevent rapes that would have happened if nobody had done anything.

My contention is that it caused rapes that wouldn't have happened. As you feel no need to present evidence in support of your contention, I feel no need to present evidence in support of mine.

As for proving that Clinton used military action to prevent more rapes and murders...get real. Some conclusions are so obvious you make a fool of yourself by trying to deny 'em.

As for providing evidence that this military action was a war crime, I've already presented evidence of this fact. It is immediately apparent that when one wages a war, one causes unnecessary deaths. As others have indicated, the actions of coalition forces are at best "ambiguous" based on the admissions of those directly involved.

Others have addressed your remark wrt WWII-- while this may be why soldiers fought, things such as Operation Gladio suggest alternate motivations for our leaders. We entered WWII because Japan bombed our airbase and Germany declared war against us. I'm attempting to focus on a single conflict, and so may decline to respond to further questioning along this line.

Dewhirst, you're just making yourself look ridiculous when you spout this kind of crap.

Zorgon, you're making yourself look less credible. Standards of law and evidence apply to everyone. If anything, you're making yourself sound like a racist-- why consider only Croat claims of harm? Mustn't both the Croat and Serbian populations be comprised of both soldiers and civilians?

Even if Clinton had had the saintliest intentions in the above, surely you will admit that the public was presented a massaged account-- the media information you absorbed included or constituted partisan propaganda. Your derision for alternate sources suggests you haven't even pursued them-- which is a part of my motivation in not doing a lengthy search to find you some. They're out there.

Here is what you're missing:

I don't have to be for Serbians to stand up for international military courts, any more than the ACLU has to be for Nazis to protect their rights to freedom of speech.

Nobody needs to protect the freedom of speech of things everyone agrees with... similarly, laws of warfare need to apply to victorious superpowers acting in supposed humanitarian capacities.

We don't have to confect bizarre imaginary nonexistent war crimes to accuse Bill Clinton of, the current crew in the White House have committed plenty of war crimes. Let's get our priorities straight here: we need to run the sociopaths in control of the White House and the Senate out of politics, out of Washington, and out of control of the media. Then we need to start working about hauling the lunatics currently in the White House and their enablers into the world court in The Hague for crimes against humanity.

That's what we should be worrying about right now. Not some wacky conspiracy theory centering on Bill Clinton's humanitarian military action in Kosovo.

What we need are moral standards and standards of evidence. The Kosovo intervention is a -precedent- for the 'sociopaths' humanitarian intervention.

Every US President does this-- current trends continuing, every -future- US President will do this. (Especially when they select Albright as their adviser.)

Treating the Bush administration as exceptional -protects- these monsters in the future... "Surely McCain wouldn't be that bad... surely -Clinton- never did such a thing..."

Bush is really bad, worse, yes... but it is a continuum, and he sticks out more for his callous disregard for -covering his ass- more than for just what he has done.