Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Optimism... as we approach the rise of the McVeighs...

I am travelling, so here is a thrown-together posting. I may have one last chance to put anything pre-election, over the coming weekend. But, then, you all don’t need any more “ostrich ammo.” Just a reminder, in case your favorite ostriches haven't seen this... show it to them! Then ask them what the heck they would have to complain about?

The only possible complaint would be “I don’t believe Obama means that.”

Right, like they didn’t believe Bush would turn out this way. An honest person eventually admits “I might be wrong.” Especially when there is no evidence at all that they were ever right.

Here’s my top observation, after this long campaign. I have been offering statistics, comparisons to Clinton, more statistics, and more. It OUGHT to be devastating stuff... if people were rational. Because all of statistics show with almost perfect clarity that democrats are better at steering the country than republicans, at all levels, at nearly all times, and in nearly all ways. Even (especially) by the standards of prudence and sober, managerial skill that Republicans are supposed to admire.

But, of course, the statistics don’t convince. They do not coax ostriches from their holes-of denial. Because psychological studies show that people cling desperately to their loyalties and rationalize reasons to do so.

Listen to your ostrich friends, and then point out to them that nearly all of their rationalizations are unprovable stories. Anecdotes, vague allegations and vivid, colorful rumors -- like Acorn flooding states with illegal voters or Obama not being native born, or Obama being a muslim or still guided by Rev Wright, or whatever... Sure, if any of them could be proved, they’d be chinks in his noble image. But, just as not a single crime of office was ever proved against a single Clinton official, ever, there comes a time when we have a right to demand ”prove something! Anything! Even ONE thing! Ever!”

One friend of mine -- a former Navy Admiral and a very bright medical doctor -- listened to all the statistics about how the dems are always better for the stock market, for fiscal responsibility, for fighting deficits, for managing national infrastructure or maintaining military readiness and a hundred other measures of national health. His answer?

“You parse things your way and I parse things mine.”

That is what is so pathetic about residual GOP loyalty. Not only pathetic, but deeply dangerous (see below). Sure “statistics can lie.” But statistics were invented, in the first place, in order to give people a chance to prove things -- to rise above subjective “parsing” --precisely when emotions are running high and sides are starkly drawn!

Moreover, when one side has ALL of the statistics on their side -- and the other side has none, whatsoever to show... only just-so stories and never proved anecdotes -- then something is very, very wrong.

No wonder the Democrats -- despite being the purported “party of the poor” -- now has a marked advantage in average education level over the GOP. The transition of the highly rational Party of Goldwater into an anti-intellectual club of Know-Nothings is now complete.

== Barry G isn’t the only fine Republican spinning, right now. ==

See: “Teddy Roosevelt, Pundit.” John McCain likes to claim that TR -- the only President who managed to be “great” despite living in good,times, rather than a crisis -- is his role model. But Edmund Morris imagines what he would say if he were alive today (with real quotations).

Some of the real words... "This is merely the plan, already tested and found wanting, of giving prosperity to the big men on top, and trusting to their mercy to let something leak through to the mass of their countrymen below — which, in effect, means that there shall be no attempt to regulate the ferocious scramble in which greed and cunning reap the largest rewards."

..."Great corporations exist only because they are created and safeguarded by our institutions; and it is therefore our right and duty to see that they work in harmony with these institutions."

..." These new conditions make it necessary to shackle cunning, as in the past we have shackled force. The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of the state and the nation toward the rules regulating the acquisition and untrammeled business use of property."

== What will replace “neo-capitalism? ==

I’ll have a lot more to say about this, after the election. But first....

---- The Globalist is discussing how severe the global economic meltdown appears, from a world perspective.

The age of Neocapitalism has come to an end. The perverse intellectual spawn of Milton Friedman and his acolytes at the University of Chicago, “Neocapitalism” was built on several pillars of common sense that have been twisted into a unique form of pretzel logic by unscrupulous politicians and naive political consumers around the world.

No, lowering taxes will not raise tax revenues — unless the tax rate is punitive. No, government deregulation does not breed market self-regulation. No, markets do not always make the right decisions and behave in a rational manner.

In the current crisis, “neocaps” have been stabbed in the back by their political soul-mates, the Neocons. As the “neocap” philosophy has come unhinged, a global backlash against it has been exacerbated by the unilateralism of America’s neocons. America has had few friends around the world through this crisis because of its recent neocon foreign policy. Accordingly, multilateral consensus on how to deal with the economic crisis has given way to an every-man-for-himself philosophy.

Now there is talk of a new world economic order -- a “New Bretton Woods” -- that could include strong international banking regulatory powers given to a new supra-national agency. ”Through this financial crisis, it has been convenient to simply blame Wall Street. But the bigger culprit has been the City of London. It is the city that has led in the proliferation of exotic instruments — and even more exotic derivatives... the freedoms allowed by the London regulators have put enormous pressure on regulators in other financial centers to remain competitive and keep pace. ...Sarbanes Oxley is a clear case-in-point here. The United States enacted strict regulatory guidelines for public companies. As a result, U.S. companies started to list on the London Stock Exchange, whose Alternative Investment Market segment provides only perfunctory oversight. Wall Street firms in turn went back to the U.S. Congress and demanded that Sarbanes Oxley be revised, lest New York lose ground in its financial center competition with London. This dynamic has been played out over and over again since the early 1980s — and it cannot continue.

“A World Financial Regulatory Authority would govern only global financial institutions. And its statement to the markets would be simple: If you want to play in the global markets, you play by these global rules.”

What rules? Well... you’ll hear a lot discussed. But I will have my own suggestions shortly.

== Miscellany ==

--- Alas for optimism... I don’t consider the recent news about a couple of dopey skinheads any reason to go into a tizzy. Still, I stand by my expectation that a Volcano of McVeighs will very soon make us wistful for when all we had to worry about was putzy “get lucky once” Al Qaeda. Indeed, I forecast that we’ll discover just how skin-deep is the “patriotism” of frenetic flag wavers who (history shows) will swap Old Glory for a Confederate battle banner at the drop of a snit -- or Alaskan independence logo, or what-have-you -- when they see hated “others” taking a turn at the nation’s helm. Even others who were legitimately elected with overwhelming proof of popular will. It is the dark side of the childishness that is worshipped so amusingly and endearingly on Engvald’s Country Fried Home Video show.

Despite President Bush’s fall below 25% in job performance -- and Barack Obama’s current 22 point approval/disapproval disparity -- we mustn’t under-rate the stewing rancor of that residual 25%. Sure, Obama is winning over fair numbers of conservatives, and independents... but a 10/13 CBS poll shows that 70% or so of republicans refuse to credit Barack Obama with any positive qualities, at all. (Democrats, in contrast, seem much more willing to posit at least some positive or admirable qualities in John McCain.)

This tendency toward monocolor oversimplification should be well-familiar to us, by now. It indicates that, even if a vital battle is won in November, the road to healing the country will be a long one. As I said, this will merely be the equivalent of the Battle of Gettysburg, in phase III of the American Civil War. Culture War isn’t about to end, until the repudiation of this version of conservatism is complete, so overwhelming that decent republicans finally admit that their movement was hijacked by monsters. Then they might truly clean house and start recruiting honorable men and women from their ranks, worthy to carry the banner of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, Wendell Wilkie and Dwight Eisenhower.

== And even more random... ==

--- Nimble Books (publisher of my recent essay collection THROUGH STRANGER EYES) will be releasing a fleet of “Nimble” books beginning January 20, 2009 on the theme: {TOPIC} IN THE AGE OF OBAMA (or McCain). Hypothetical examples: IN THE AGE OF OBAMA, THREATS IN THE AGE OF OBAMA, CHRISTIAN CHALLENGES IN THE AGE OF OBAMA, THE U.S. NAVY IN THE AGE OF OBAMA, and so on … limited only by your ingenuity.

== Links: ===

--- Somebody wrote recently to say that they tried to follow my advice, and make a small donation every year, to apply against the National Debt. He said the IRS official said it was illegal! Ah well, never take any one bureaucrat’s word for anything! Here is where I've sent donations every march since 1992:

Bureau of Public Debt Department of the Treasury Box 2188 Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188

Nevertheless, that’s early, yet. For now, if you want to help guarantee change, this vehicle is more important even than donating to Obama (who has plenty.) Give where it may help pummel the GOP enough that our decent conservative neighbors are force to wake up and re evaluate what’s happened to their movement. http://www.democrats.org/page/contribute/cda?source=FNETCDA

... and now...

== Things that Palin comparison ==

Hockey Mama for Obama

== Coming soon... What would you suggest to the new president?...



David Brin said...

OH, these folks would like to appeal once again for you folks to take their political survey:


Acacia H. said...

So, is recent American military adventurism in Syria an attempt by the Shrub to "help" his buddies in the Republican party? Or do you think he's just poisoning the well for Obama when he gets in?

I must admit to some curiosity. Will Syrians, Iranians, Pakistanis, and others who have been trod upon by America under the Shrub Administration be willing to forgive (if not forget) what was done should Obama become President? Or will Obama walk into a quagmire from day one and have no allies left because the Republicans squandered them all?

For that matter, we have worsening relations between North and South Korea, which could result in an escalation of hostilities there. This seems to be an odd turn, considering that we recently had some diplomatic successes with North Korea. Part of me wants to suggest that North Korea is deliberately rattling sabers not to help John McCain but rather to allow a future President Obama to have an early diplomatic success... in exchange for an easing of restrictions against the communist nation (and perhaps more food shipments).

Here's an October Surprise in reverse... the Stevens Scandal rocks the GOP. Considering that Palin continues to support him, Alaskan Republicans are still urging voters to vote for him, and that the GOP is considered poorly by the general public anyway, I have to wonder if this latest scandal might not hurt Republicans in other parts of the country... especially John McCain. Indeed, CNN has an article suggesting that the Stevens conviction may help edge Democrats closer to that magical 60 Filibuster-proof majority.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I believe that the Republicans do have in place a mechanism to steal the election. However, this mechanism is only found in a few states: Florida, Ohio, and now Pennsylvania. This is why Obama's 50-state strategy is so important. If Hillary Clinton had won, the election would be a lot closer and more traditional... and the voter suppression and alteration methods would have defeated her. Obama is getting classically-Republican states to turn Blue.

If Obama loses... then the Republicans will "fix" this problem and we won't ever see another Democratic President. However, I believe that not only does Obama stand a significant chance at victory, but that he will be able to dismantle this vote-stealing mechanism and return the vote to the people.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

daveawayfromhome said...

I'm inclined to think that these incursions into Syria and Pakistan are the Bush Administration poking at Muslims with a sharp stick, hoping for a reaction, thus generating an issue for Republicans to look tough about.

JuhnDonn said...

David Brin said: What would you suggest to the new president?


Seriously, though, I'd approach the entire country and all the various problems from an ecological perspective. I'm not talking about the environment here but looking at the country in whole as a living organism, high lighting the various issues and problems and then looking at how they're all interconnected. Trying to approach things piecemeal will likely lead to reduced effectiveness. There's money, energy, food, jobs and foreign relations that have to be considered. I hope the next president is a good juggler and has some competent folks working for him.

Rob Perkins said...

Regarding McVeighs...

It occurs to me that the end of that road is a secession crisis. I'd say not to worry about penny-ante places like Alaska. It has no explicit right to secede. (And if it did, the Russian Army would be at its doorstep in five years or less, and I think the best of Alaskans know it.)

No, the worry is that *California*, *Texas* or one of the original 13 States would secede. The question was never explicitly resolved by the first Civil War. And both CA and TX were independent republics before joining the Union.

And in fact, googling "california secede" produces more crackpot voices than I thought were out there, for an idea that doesn't make any sense today.

20 years from now, if the factions aren't mollified? If the trajectory continues where it has?

Heinlein wrote about that, too, in Friday

Aric said...

There may still be an important way to influence ostriches for future elections. Get together and record all the Obama fears, all the terrible things they think will happen under an Obama administration (especially with the dreaded 60 senators). Write them down together. Then in 2 or 4 years when we go through this again take them out and show them to the ostrich and see how silly the fears look.

In '92 I remember hearing a lot of doom and gloom if Clinton were elected. Do those people remember that they once believed that? Let's not let them forget this time around.

David Brin said...

Aw heck.... we were doomed to communism if Pelosi became speaker. Those guys are immune.

Acacia H. said...

If statistics don't work on these hardcore believers, then we need to work on the emotional aspect. Start talking about how Obama will inspire young blacks to start trying harder in schools and on the job, that it'll encourage more black men to stay with their families and support the children they father. Comment on the role model he'll become and on the amount of crime that will be reduced because more black kids will say "I want to be President when I grow up" and instead of getting into trouble, will work to improve themselves.

Say that it'll inspire minorities to do their best and not get into trouble because they too could try to achieve this high office if they just worked hard enough.

Emphasize the inspiration and the hard work. Hammer it home. There is no proof. There is no way of proving it. But it's an emotional argument, and it helps undercut the underlying arguments about minorities.

I'm sure other people can think of better emotional arguments to turn these people against the Republicans. Heck, for gun owners, mention that they can work to elect gun-friendly Democrats to protect their right to bear arms. Mention how the Republicans are corrupt and mention the multiple scandals... and say that it's obvious the party is bad to the core and that new blood is needed... and that since enough people are voting Democrat anyway to get new Democrats elected into office, that they should try to get their Democrats elected. People who support and believe in them.

Yes, this risks more Reagan Democrats. But it also eliminates the powerbase of the Republicans, and would leave it the party of the loons and religious fanatics... without sufficient power or numbers to do anything with the very limited power they have.

Rob H.

Aric said...

I thought you would be with me on this one. It's like a mini prediction registry after all. They can't ALL be immune. Have they ever been forced to compare what they believed to what actually happened?

Unrelated but I can't help myself. I heard a caller to a radio show yesterday say evolution couldn't be right because the big bang is an explosion which would produce heat, and vegetation can't survive heat... Apparently he thinks the big bang/evolution means a bunch of living things were somewhere, exploded all over the universe, and ended up here. I'd never heard one that bad before.

Jumper said...

For volcano of McVeighs, I'll just call it a Plague of Pythons.

As for what to ask Obama, I would like a roadmap towards deficit reduction. I'm aware that moderate deficit spending is not provably harmful, and that it's probably necessary in economic downturns, and I don't have a problem on those terms but it's out of hand now and in the forseeable future.

Meme of the day: "road-rage Republican"

Acacia H. said...

@Jumper: So if we get these people popping up in the Midwest, then would we call it snakes in the plains? ^^

Alex Tolley said...

David, I think your point about statistics and your military friend sums up the problem very nicely. People not only have intense emotionally based belief systems, but those with a conservative bent tend not to like left brain approaches to thinking. This is so reminiscent of religious beliefs that tend to be immune to rational refutation (Aric's anecdote about the radio caller being a good example of the results of this).

I'm not optimistic at all about returning this country to a more secular, less culturally divided state. Left on its own, it will take generations before we might have a more rational population, and I don't think the educational trends are in its favor. Anything faster will take some external event or shock. Unfortunately our response to the last shock, 9/11, has been anything but rational, nor has the response of the population been in the direction I would have hoped. Instead we seem to be steadily making this nation into a totalitarian state (not just the US, of course, other western nations have followed us into this pit).

It really is time a good SciFi writer show us how we get from here to a more rational future, in a plausible way.

gmknobl said...

Here's my prediction:

Someone will make an attempt on Obama's life, mush as like happened to Reagan.

By the way - I never did read what you though a tsunami was - >= 100? I assumed this. For some reason I don't think Leonard Peltier will be one of them.

gmknobl said...

(This system need to include editing your own comments post fact.)

Alex, note that Rove bases much of his methodology on emotional bias over-ruling rational thinking.

As has been noted here (I think), there needs to be an emotional appeal as well as a logical one but it has to be just as strong as the horrid neanderthal (sorry, cavemen) attacks we've seen from the "right" for the last decades.

Yes, Dr. Brin, I know I shouldn't use "right" here but that's why I have it in quotes! 8^>

Aric said...

Alex, I think one way to work towards "returning this country to a more secular, less culturally divided state" is to avoid comments like: "those with a conservative bent tend not to like left brain approaches to thinking."

I bet the exact same comment has been said about liberals on conservative message boards. Emotionally held beliefs are a part of human nature, but conservative nature. There are plenty of examples of scientists (the uber-left-brainers) coming to emotionally biased conclusions.

I think what is needed to make a more rational country is for us to find more in common with other rational people who hold different beliefs than with people who have the same beliefs as us but do not have good reasons for holding those beliefs. The crazies are either side provide the fuel for the culture war.

Matt DeBlass said...

@ Democrats and gun control

My brother, an avid target shooter and non-political type in general, said that there have been a lot of t-shirts reading "Gun-toting Liberal" at his shooting club.

I have, in exasperation at some of the gun lovers who swear that 1. The NRA says Obama will take their guns away and 2. Voting Republican is the only away to protect your Second Amendment rights, taken to blurting out "do you really think the people who brought you warrantless wiretapping and the suspension of habeus corpus are really interested in protecting your right to bear arms?"

Anonymous said...

From gregpalast.com


David Iglesias of New Mexico was one of seven U.S. Attorneys fired by the White House for their refusal to bring voter fraud prosecutions. "We took over 100 complaints," from the GOP, he told us, "We investigated for almost 2 years, I didn't find one prosecutable voter fraud case in the entire state of New Mexico."

Iglesias, a McCain supporter, has, for the first time, leveled a new and serious charge: Despite finding none of the 200 voters guilty, he says the White House nevertheless ordered him to illegally prosecute baseless cases against innocent citizens, just to gin up voter fraud publicity. His refusal, he says, cost him his job. "They were looking for politicized -- for improperly politicized US attorneys to file bogus voter fraud cases."


Did you notice: "the White House nevertheless ordered him to illegally prosecute baseless cases against innocent citizens" ?

Iglesias may be a prime whistleblower.

Alex Tolley said...

Aric, I could have phrased that better. What I was referring to was David's point about the ignoring of statistics. This type of response has been recently characterized by neural studies of "liberal" vs "conservative" thinkers, which shows the difference in thinking styles.

It is certainly true that emotional decision making is done by all people. However, when emotions are used to overrule facts regularly, I think there is a problem. Essentially that is a form of denial of reality.

We cannot find consistency between many different beliefs, but we can do so if we adhere to the same facts and use rational thought to make decisions on those facts. Interpretations may differ, but we can iterate based on results. This is not possible when facts are discarded or false ones made up. I may be biased, but I see more of this behavior from the conservative pundits than I do from the liberals.

Unknown said...

We're all anticipating a pardon tsunami, but might Bush have already covered his butt with the War Crimes Detainee bill?

(Of course many are guilty of more than violating Geneva.)

Anonymous said...

/Some issues with Conservatism, from outside

first, re: wave of McVeighs: I was appalled when a person I know on one list joked that "for someone McVeigh was a patriot". She being a new mother and in the Army, and McVeigh blasted a Federal building with babies inside.
(Being Italian and having lived thru our "lead years", including one year spent commuting weekly Bologna to Rome and having to wait for the train in the waiting hall where the bomb blew up, with a floor-to-wall crack sealed with glass and left as memento makes me overly sensitive)

Second, a reporter for the Italian newspaper La Repubblica (by and at large our NYT, they even publish a weekly English-language abstract of NYT), interviewed the leader of Stormfront and his son:
http://www.repubblica.it/2008/10/speciale/altri/2008elezioniusa/nuovo-klan/nuovo-klan.html ; or http://tinyurl.com/55qdln
He says: "we're the new Klan. I never would say it to an American journalist, but it's true";
his son has been elected in a local GOP organization and he says "we shouldn't attempt to build a third party whose fate would be to be marginalized, but we must run for GOP primaries and create a white lobby inside it"
Personal note: they say that they accepted to be interviewed by an Italian newspapper because we Italians "have reacted and shown that don't accept to be ruled by immigrants", with reference to the xenophobic, fearmongering parties in our current (Rovean, kako/kleptocratic) rightwing government.
The dumb guys didn't assume that they were giving the interview to the wrong newspaper, and that some Italian readers have also internet access and are fluent in English. My heart bleeds for them, really...

third, I kindly disagree with the "conservatism hijacked by monsters" line.
They're not monsters, there is a technical term for them: fascists. Or proto- or pseudo-f.
as some are busily reusing and revamping themes from the pre WWOne European nationalism: activism, anti-intellectualism, blood & soil, Spengler (a fave of O'Reilly)
Look at those links

a series of long (old but good, 2004) posts on the "rise of pseudo-Fascism"
Each one has links to the next.

and http://www.cursor.org/stories/fascismintroduction.php

and, from all things, American Conservative, a review showing how the neocon ideologue Michael Ledeen spread fascist themes in the Conservative milieu:


"On the antiwar Right, it has been customary to attack the warmongering neoconservative clique for its Trotskyite origins... But there is at least one neoconservative commentator whose personal political odyssey began with a fascination not with Trotskyism, but instead with another famous political movement that grew up in the early decades of the 20th century: fascism. I refer to Michael Ledeen, leading neocon theoretician, expert on Machiavelli, holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute, regular columnist for National Review—and the principal cheerleader today for an extension of the war on terror to include regime change in Iran...This is not the first time Ledeen has written eloquently on his love for “the democratic revolution” and “creative destruction.”

Ledeen’s conviction that the Right is as revolutionary as the Left derives from his youthful interest in Italian fascism. In 1975, Ledeen published an interview, in book form, with the Italian historian Renzo de Felice, a man he greatly admires. It caused a great controversy in Italy. Ledeen later made clear that he relished the ire of the left-wing establishment precisely because “De Felice was challenging the conventional wisdom of Italian Marxist historiography, which had always insisted that fascism was a reactionary movement.” What de Felice showed, by contrast, was that Italian fascism was both right-wing and revolutionary. Ledeen had himself argued this very point in his book, Universal Fascism, published in 1972"

Yours truly here graduated with De Felice in those years.
Well, in the leftist group I belonged there was an half-amused suggestion to write a letter to "CIA HQ, Langley. To whom it may concern" exposing him as a stereotypical CIA agent according to the '70s leftist mythos.
Well, it seem that us paranoids did met a real enemy, once.

Acacia H. said...

I thought I'd share a quote by Christopher Hitchens concerning Sarah Palin (and it's a bit of a scorcher!):

This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity.


I think this is not just a good summary of Sarah Palin... but of what the Republican party has become and what it threatens to focus primarily on. This anti-intellectualism movement is perhaps one of the greatest threats to American ascendancy in the world and if anything could be considered "anti-American" then it's the sentiments that are being espoused by Palin and the anti-intellectuals who follow her.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

brother doug here posting not working.

David I suspect your intelligent admiral friend is parsing his stats this way: His admiral buddies have got great jobs working for military contractors. So the people really important to him are doing well and to H#*L with everyone else.

The problem is that he is looking out for his class’s short term interests.

According to Rolling Stone magazine McCain is more of a spoiled third generation admiral from an old southern plantation family than a maverick.


I just finished a book on conservatism that made me doubt very much the wisdom of Goldwater and the whole conservative movement of the last 50 years. According to him Conservatives refusal to compromise puts all the United States in danger of nuclear attack.


Cliff said...

What would you suggest to the new president?...

If it's McCain, my advice would be to get rid of Palin as fast as you can.

If it's Obama, my advice would be to kill as many rats as you can. Don't let too many crimes sit. (Of course, this is what I want to happen anyway, so my advice is subjective and therefore suspect.)

Is Zorgon perma-banned? I seem to recall an offer of de-banning if he apologized, but I don't know if it got reconsidered.
And of course, he didn't strike me as the kind of person to apologize easily.

matthew said...

76 Nobel-prize-winning Americans endorse Obama.
Support for science the big reason.


Anonymous said...

Cut and paste this link

It is a test for Right brain / Left brain dominance.
It shows a spinning dancer, and when I look at it directly she is spinning clockwise, which means I am Left brain dominate (that is surprising to me I always thought I was right brain dominate)

If I look out of the corner of my eye while reading something the direction can change to counter clockwise, but if i start to focus on the image she changes back to clockwise. It is really kind of freaky.

How about the rest of you folks?

Matt DeBlass said...

See Matthew, Obama is supported by them there elites.
After all, what do these folks have to offer Real Americans except for longer, healthier lives, a better environment, energy, food, security, military dominance in war, technological dominance in peace and hope for a future that extends beyond our grandchildren's lifetime?

Seriously, though, all our best and brightest (or at least a critical majority of them), seem to say Barack Obama is the better choice, for many different reasons.

On a complete tangent, I'd love to see a viral campaign that plays on BHO's middle initial. Something along the lines of "You've heard a lot about what the 'H' in Barack H. Obama's name means to some people. But for some of us it stands for Honor, History, a Helping Hand, Health Care and above all, Hope."

Anonymous said...

I wrote that backwards, if you see the dancer spinning clockwise you are right brain dominate.

If you see her spinning counter clockwise you are left brain dominate.

Tony Fisk said...

Sounds like there is a cerebral hemispheric coup in progress.

We've heard about Osama's name (relatively little about the ticket... Osama - Biden... who's going to provide the third name??)

Acacia H. said...

Well, after watching Obama's 30-minute political commercial, I think he hit it out of the park here. By focusing on the American people and telling their stories, and how his policies can help them, I think it allows people to connect to Obama. And I think that McCain is going to be very hard pressed to find any way of negating what Obama said, without sounding extremely petty.

Rob H.

Rob Perkins said...

@Rob H.

At this point I can't actually imagine McCain not coming off petty. I predict a Dukakis-level electoral failure, but mostly because I just finished listening to This American Life tonight...

Cliff said...

How about the rest of you folks?

It starts off counterclockwise for me, but if I concentrate I can get it to go clockwise. It's hard to get it to revert back, however.

Anonymous said...

just visiting here! happy day!

matthew said...

Try as I may, I cannot get the dancer to move other than clockwise(= right brain). And here I am, an engineer that's very, very good in math. Go figure.

Tony Fisk said...

The dancer appears to spin clockwise to me also. I can get her to spin anti-clockwise, but it's an effort to get her to change spin (maybe that's my subconscious adherence to conservation of momentum rules! ;-).

Anonymous said...

I think the oldies are the best.

Hold both hand out stretched in front of you creating a circular gap in the middle. Frame a distant object inside the gap and keeping both eyes open draw your hands back to your face keeping the focused object within the gap.

You will end with the gap around your dominant eye, which should be opposite the dominant hemisphere of your brain.

Go low tech!

Anonymous said...

occam - a subtle bit - if you view her as having a shadow, she spins one way - if you view it as a reflection of her, she spins the other way.

And if you get really good at it, you can get her swaying back and forth instead of spinning... :-)

matthew said...

For NASA's 50th birthday, a folio of the 50 most influential pictures from their archives.


Unknown said...

I have no idea how that dancer illusion, an example of multistable perception got promoted to a test of so-called "hemispheric dominance," but it is almost certainly pop-psychology pseudoscience.

It is generally accepted that several different types of brain functions (arithmetic, language, emotions, spatial-relationships, etc.) end up concentrated in different hemispheres (lateralization), though activity is still usually bilateral, and the particular side may even be different for different people.

I can't fathom what this particular illusion has do do with that, though. The usual tests for lateralized function require injected anesthetics, FMRI machines, or the accidental nail through the skull.

In any case, there is a history of pseudscientific exaggeration of the lateralization of brain function.


tintinaus, the test you refer to (called the Miles Test) does indeed indicate ocular dominance, but this doesn't transfer to hemispheric dominance. Visual information is lateralized depending on whether it pertains to your left or right visual field, not your left or right eye. For example, information from the left half of both retinas ends up in the left half of our visual cortex (from light on our right sides, since retinal images are reversed due to the light focusing). See figure 2 here for a clear picture of how the information is divided.

Rob Perkins said...


Your description of visual function is consistent with the results of a stroke my mother in law suffered a few years before she died. The stroke affected one area of her brain, and resulted in the loss of sight in the right hand visual field in both eyes.

This is a long winded way of saying I think you're correct.

Unknown said...

If anyone is interested in this stuff, the excellent book by Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat is a very engaging introduction.

Another example of a one-sided processing disorder there is the patient who could only eat the food on one side of his plate. Interestingly, the patient could then give the plate a turn and continue eating...

Golem said...

"Still, I stand by my expectation that a Volcano of McVeighs will very soon make us wistful for when all we had to worry about was putzy “get lucky once” Al Qaeda."

Are you serious, Dr. Brin? You can't be.

Anonymous said...

David might be. One particular avenue it would manifest in would be increasing attacks on abortion clinics and the like. Such events aren't often heard about.

One particular event would be the attempted clinic bombing that commemorated September 11th, 2006.

With a dozen such events since the year 2000 recorded on Wikipedia alone it is already a very active front, if you can call it such.

Golem said...


I'm aware of attacks on abortion clinics. It's evil.

What is your point? I happen to be pro-life. Does that automatically mean that I have a Paul Hill poster in my bedroom?

Jhartek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jhartek said...

This is... illuminating:


Last-ditch ostrich ammo, perhaps?

Apologies if it's already been linked somewhere!

Anonymous said...


To me, all I offered was idle speculation - I didn't know your sensibility before hand, and certainly wasn't aiming for them in a more general sense, either. It's just the best example I can think to illustrate the issue at hand.

All value judgement aside, it does really seem like the country has polarized over the last few years. At this moment, the two sides are (arguably) in balance. The election, however, very well could deliver the congress, senate, and presidency to the democratic party. Some years that can work out just fine, but this isn't one of them.

If the democratic party becomes thusly empowered, it changes the nature of things. For the extreme pro-life individuals, the situation stops being a gaining situation where a practice they find inexcusable could eventually be outlawed again and driven underground. Instead their legal progress is entirely blocked, and they potentially could see an expansion of legal abortion endorsement.

What used to be an affront now becomes a threat. And it's an issue often taken very personally. When someone is personally threatened, the range of behavior they can self-rationalize grows, usually leading to activism, possibly extending all the way to violence.

The point of mentioning the previous decade's record of violence is to simply show one thing: radical anti-abortion individuals did not need the added threat of liberal ascendancy. Should Obama become president, many more will feel threatened and be pushed into a place of radical desperation, even if the threat is imagined. (Similar to the 1% doctrine of Bush/Cheney.)

There will be other groups who feel added threat, as well - I just don't know anything much about them. Any groups organized around racism could literally explode from the same threatened, disgusted feeling. Indeed, those people already are. Fortunately the first examples we've seen have been ineffective.

I think there is a curious underside to this. There's a very strong sense of expectation on the liberal side. That is to say, we feel like it's our turn. And if we don't get it, something's very wrong - and something may have to be done about it.

Already, there is enough fuel in the voting discrepancies / disagreements to start a major fight November 5th, regardless of who is declared elected, if such a conclusion even happens... (I'm kind of surprised I said that, actually.)

Anyway, that's my case-study on the abortion violence. I'd also like to apologize in advance if it seems like I'm talking down to you... I've erred on the side of over explaining for precision's sake.

Larry C. Lyons said...

An interesting set of comments. One thing I have noticed with some amusement in this election is the amount of accusations of "liberal" media bias on the part of the Republicans, especially the most partisan ones. I found this study that may help to explain such:

Why Partisans See Mass Media as Biased.
Kathleen M. Schmitt, Albert C. Gunther & Janice L. Liebhart
Communication Research, Vol. 31, No. 6, 623-641 (2004).

Partisan groups, highly important actors in public discourse and the democratic process, appear to see mass media content as biased against their own point of view.

Although this hostile media effect has been well documented in recent research, little is understood about the mechanisms that might explain it. Three processes have been proposed:
(a) selective recall, in which partisans preferentially remember aspects of content hostile to their own side;
(b) selective categorization, in which opposing partisans assign different valences to the same content; and
(c) different standards, in which opposing partisans agree on content but see information favoring the other side as invalid or irrelevant.

Using new field-experiment tests with groups of partisans who either supported (n = 87) or opposed (n = 63) the use of genetically modified foods, we found evidence of selective categorization and different standards generally. However, only selective categorization appeared to explain the hostile media effect.

Anonymous said...

Really, a huge part of it is "The evil media won't spend all it's time talking about Obamas secret Muslim communist terrorist radical Christian liberation theologist background"

Or -

"The media refuses to condemn McCain for dropping bombs on civilians, or spend six weeks talking about Cindys pill problems, or blame him for the Forestal Fire, or talk about all the Planes he crashed, or his friendships with animals like Liddy and his role in funding nun-raping death squads in Central America."

'Cause...only a biased media would spend any time talking about policies and polls instead of serving as a mouth piece for partisan talking points....

Anonymous said...

You said: One friend of mine -- a former Navy Admiral and a very bright medical doctor -- listened to all the statistics about how the dems are always better for the stock market, for fiscal responsibility, for fighting deficits, for managing national infrastructure or maintaining military readiness and a hundred other measures of national health. His answer? “You parse things your way and I parse things mine.”

I find his use of the word "parse" interesting. It implies he breaks information down to its parts and then accepts the parts he agrees with. You might respond by commenting on the inherent flaw in "parsing" -- namely that if he were to parse a patient's symptoms, for example, he might discount important information and misdiagnose, even kill, the patient. In the same way, his "parsing" method means he is ignoring important political information in order to reach incorrect conclusions.

Sometimes it helps to challenge a person's perception filter ("I don't see it" "it makes no sense") in order to break through.

Still, you are only one voice, and he's probably "parsing" conflicting voices from his life.

Carl M. said...

Sarbanes-Oxley did a great job of stablizing financial markets...NOT!

Message to liberals: burdensome complicated regulations cause concentrations of corporate power. Overhead = economies of scale. Sarbox is way to complicated.

Clinton became a great president after getting spanked in the middle of his first term.

Gridlock is great.

Here's to negative coattails to whoever wins the presidency.

Anonymous said...

Bad News:

Studs Turkel is dead. Normally I wouldn't be too sad that a guy who lived to the ripe old age of 96 years and who had a brilliant writing career died, but man, I wish that Studs made it until Tuesday night, so he could go out watching the map turn blue.

Good News:

Patrick Farley isn't dead! He wrote a chapter of another's ongoing comic. And says Electric Sheep will be up in time for Obama's inaugural.

Farley's Blog

Anonymous said...

Studs will be missed. Anyone who hasn't read Hard Times, BTW, really ought too.

It seems that a Lawyer by the name of Berg has gotten the U.S. Supreme Court to agree to hear his appeal of a law suit to disqualify Barack Obama as a Presidential Candidate. This suit was already dismissed as "frivolous" by a Republican Appointed Federal Judge.

He is asking the Court for an injunction to delay the election.

The Supreme Court is not reviewing the facts of the case, they are hearing his appeal as to whether or not he has the standing to bring the suit. If they rule that he does, it will be kicked back down.

He's trying to get an injunction to delay the friggin the election untill after the case can be concluded in the lower court.

This is the same Court that said a State didn't have the right to complete a recount because it would deny george W bush "his birth right". Well, arguably a worse Court. We'll see.

We very well may need to be ready for an Orange Revolution within days. Possibly. I'm worried, not making predictions on this one.

daveawayfromhome said...

Call it a "Blue Revolution". That's what it'll be. Be the first on your block to use the term.

Acacia H. said...

Here's a question for you, Dr. Brin. What scenario do you envision happening if McCain should suddenly and mysteriously manage to win through a Bush-2000 scenario (loses the popular vote but manages to squeak by with Electoral votes because of possible fraud)?

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

Rob H,
I think that you have described the worst case scenario for America. A McCain win under dubious circumstances would not sit well with at least 1/2 of the country and probably 1/4 - 1/3 of the country would consider the president to be illegitimate and actively work to undermine (impeach? overthrow?) the McCain administration. The reaction from the rest of the world could be devastating to the USA. (Think incredible drop in foreign investment in the US, US firms over seas being attacked, sales of US goods overseas plummet, no cooperation on anything the US wants to do)

And considering how nasty the McCain campaign has been violence is likely and could spin out of control. The culture war could turn hot, think: riots, mass arrest, assassinations, and neighbor against neighbor. The recession we have entered would become a new great depression. The US we know and love would come to an end.

Acacia H. said...

And now for something science-based...

Chlorophyll Organic Batteries. Seems while they have half the power of conventional batteries, they can use any liquid to recharge, and are non-toxic.

You know... once they put out the next-generation laptops that use far less power (because of the use of nanowires), I could so see these being used in that field. ^^

Rob H.

David Brin said...

I am back from giving a talk at the MIT Media Lab about the future of "discourse" and online technologies. Also held meetings at IBM and with some small companies. Sorry to have been incommunicado.

Marino, thanks for the fascinating Italian-tinted perspectives. Wow. Very interesting. Of course, we know how our former --- and future -- allies feel about this election. The world is "blue" and America knows it. We hope not to let you all down.

The poet-chanter Leonard Cohen is pretty amazing. Have a look at his own contribution to the YouTube social-political-commentary extravaganza. Provocative but very moving.

Illustratingthe fervor of a new generation

Anonymous you could not be more wrong about the generals and admirals. In fact, your posting, while perhaps well-intended - shows you haven't been paying attention here. This republic was saved, a couple of years ago, by those same flag officers, whi quietly but forcefully pried George W Bush's hands off the tiller at the Defense Department, removed his choke hold over the Officer Corps and said No Way to a war with Iran.

So long as the Left has a reflex attitude toward these men and women.... the 3rd best-educated clade in American life and BY FAR the most dedicated, then we'll know that the Left continues to be part of the problem, not part of the solution. And this is why Obama thinks it so important to show he's no leftist. We don't have time, resources or patience anymore, for Left/Right baloney. It is the decade of pragmatism, or we're in deep yoghurt.

Cliff, the fellow to whom you refer made clear his priorities. He may be smart and he may have had interesting things to say. But this site is in a sense my "home" and you all are guests. I have very liberal rules and you all can put your feet up on the coffee table and raid the fridge and even cuss me out (a little.) But my family is off limits.

Matt, what saddens me is that a few bright guys have failed to join the flood of folks -- virtually every American with more education than four years at an aggie state college - who have fled the GOP's blatant, know-nothing anti-intellectualism orgy. I know some - like Jerry Pournelle - who I figured would HAVE to ultimately see that every statistic is on one side now, and all that's left is a steaming pile of unproven just-so stories on the other side.

Sure, driven by the blatant facts, they are willing to rage at Bush himself... while ignoring the fact that McCain is surrounded by the same crowd of Bushite "usual suspects." (Indeed, the thing that has puzzled me most about Obama's otherwise incredibly sagacious campaign, has been his failure to run a Rogue's Gallery of Bushites surrounding McCain.)

What's most pathetic is the continuing effort to couch things in archaic "left-right" terms - to pin on Obama absurd non-correlations - and to keep claiming that in some way Bill Clinton was "almost as bad."


This is not a time for "divided government". The GOP had both divided govt and total control of govt, across the last 14 years, and behaved so atrociously in BOTH situations that there is absolutely no justification. They have proved that they will wage total culture war and obstructionism, if it happens again. Our problems are so severe that we need an actual government, for a change. One that can act and then be help unambiguously accountable for the results and outcomes. Also, the GOP needs to be spanked so severely that it seeks fresh blood, replacing most of the corrupt jerks who have turned to party of Lincoln and Eisenhower into a brothel. When that happens, I will be all in favor of second chances.

Robert, one thing I think you'd see - in addition to some of the rage Occam spoke of - would be a major national conference of states, summoned by some blue governor, that will have an ambitious agenda to negotiate interstate treaties to bypass a completely non-functional federal government.

Acacia H. said...

Unfortunately, Dr. Brin, it appears the Republican party has failed to learn the lessons on this election. They are embracing Sarah Palin as the savior of the Republican Party and in 2012 will be either behind her or someone who embodies her beliefs.

In short, rather than embrace the Goldwater Republican ethics that we both desperately want the Republicans to go to, they are instead taking refuge in religious thinking and fully embracing the Religious Right.

We can already see some signs of this with Elizabeth Dole's religious attack on her opponent, with her first commercial all-but-stating "my Democratic opponent hates God and is Atheist!" and her latter ad (having been caught and spanked for her nasty little attack) now claiming "it doesn't matter what my opponent's religion is, she took money from Atheists who want to take 'God' out of the Pledge of Allegiance!"

In short... the Republican Party is becoming the Party of the Religious Right. This is perhaps worse in some ways than when it was controlled by the Neocons (who were in it for greed). Should the Religious Right get into power... well, at the very least we'd see numerous rights struck down. At worse... we have someone who wants to see the End Times begin.

The problem? I have no idea how we can convince the Republican leadership that they're once again going down the wrong path, and to instead embrace the ideals we want them to embrace: smaller government, reduced spending, civil liberties. Goldwater Republicanism, in other words.

Rob H.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Brin said....
Anonymous you could not be more wrong about the generals and admirals. In fact, your posting, while perhaps well-intended - shows you haven't been paying attention here. This republic was saved, a couple of years ago, by those same flag officers, whi quietly but forcefully pried George W Bush's hands off the tiller at the Defense Department, removed his choke hold over the Officer Corps and said No Way to a war with Iran.

Well that explains things. I never thought the invasion was stopped because of the NeoCons being struck by an attack of sanity. Don't blame the Liberals for not KNOWING about the behind the scenes actions -- sometimes these need to be more public. It would be strategically a GOOD IDEA to be pro-military all the time, but then again, everyone is falling all over themselves going "hoo-rah!" that the rest of the world gets the impression we are war loving fools. Star Wars was a trillion-dollar boondoggle for contractors, and so was this war. Granted, there are some Generals who keep us deployed in other countries and stuffed with Atomic Subs to hunt people in the desert because it makes them bank and there are Generals who are looking out for troops.

Are there Generals who care about civilian budgets?

While, anyone on the ground who works with these people, might appreciate great heros and all that -- from the 1000 foot view, it just looks like a lot of chest-beating and damn the expenses.

If you went with any profession, the general masses react the same way, we don't all know the travails of Doctors, Teachers, people who build roads, and sanitation inspectors. So please forgive the Liberals for being a bit peeved at the general state of Generals, because the mass seems to be promoted by how much they make Presidents happy and little else. They are in need of some restraint.

Collin Powell seems to be the rule -- not the exception. A lot of people give him the benefit of the doubt about being "tricked" into showing his sketches and vial of white powder before the UN -- but to me, that kind of fit his career; a great public speaker, but a lackey. Look at his son who was in charge of the FTC -- the man did nothing but help Media Consolidation and use profanity rules as a club against non-corporate media.

>> Part of the problem may well be the media -- which did little to highlight the generals who resigned in protest. But this also left a power vacuum with more Yes-Men staying at the helm. It must really be a tough road to follow to serve both the military and the Commander in Chief without being able to comment publicly. But I also don't see a benefit to not being more critical of the military -- it might give the nay-sayer's more cover.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

csm said...
Sarbanes-Oxley did a great job of stablizing financial markets...NOT!

Message to liberals: burdensome complicated regulations cause concentrations of corporate power. Overhead = economies of scale. Sarbox is way to complicated.

Clinton became a great president after getting spanked in the middle of his first term.

Gridlock is great.

Here's to negative coattails to whoever wins the presidency.

Oxley-Sarbanes may be a great example of what the lobbying of large multi-national corporations are aiming for; MORE REGULATION. This was not GOOD regulation -- it was a bandaid to make it look like the S&L crisis was a mistake of regulation and not corruption. Did MORE reporting of mundane data do anything to stop this financial crisis? No. They were unregulated -- no spotlight at all. Just create a new exchange, and call it something else. Just as GitMo seems to be a place where the US doesn't look at the Constitution.

Big companies are the principle lobbyists behind some of these horrible pieces of regulation -- NOT Liberals, though I'm sure they hire a few to spearhead it. It creates a barrier to entry for small startups -- only very large corporations can endure the burden of so much paperwork that does not help move product.

I don't think anyone at my company thinks it does a dang thing to prevent corruption -- just bury the world in paper.

David Brin said...

This one is painful and I am not one to approve this kind of tactics. Frankly, I cringed. It is not the contents that are so bothersome... the pranksters come across as worse than Palin... but rather Palin's utter stupidity to fall for such a thing, let alone her long, long gullibility.

Oh my.


Acacia H. said...

That was indeed cringeworthy. I already read about it on Huffington Post and to be honest felt a bit bad for Governor Palin. And it definitely didn't make those two yahoos sound very mature.

The only slightly positive note on this was at least it was Canadians pulling this prank, rather than American shock jocks. It would be difficult for McCain to claim that Obama was behind this. Though no doubt he'd try.

Rob H.

matthew said...

I have found (via Boing Boing) the holiday gift of the year!

A make-your-own universe kit for $20!


My family will LOVE these. They start on sale on 11/20 at Modernism Gallery of San Fransisco.

Anonymous said...

Palin pranked

Just to state the obtusely obvious, I'm absolutely sure that there are protocols for heads of state and people of high position to communicate and know that they are talking to the right person. (I've never been in such situation, but now really, think about it).

It's a sad reflection on a certain mavericky quality of "readiness" that Palin and her staff haven't thought of such themselves, and obviously haven't been briefed on such standard protocols which must be in place.

-- TWZ

Larry C. Lyons said...

Regarding Ms. Palin on the receiving end of a prank call. This is an old joke in Canada - anyone remembering Bush and Prime Minister Poutine? Or Ronald Reagan and the "King of Canada"? Basically its b or c grade Canadian comedians taking advantage of the insularity of most Americans and their ignorance of the world outside of the US.

JuhnDonn said...

Rober said: I have no idea how we can convince the Republican leadership that they're once again going down the wrong path, and to instead embrace the ideals we want them to embrace: smaller government, reduced spending, civil liberties. Goldwater Republicanism, in other words.

There's already been a flood of conservatives running from the party, and even endorsing Obama. I have a feeling there's going to be at first, a fight for control of the party, spearheaded by those against 'yahooism' and, if they don't succeed, a complete abandonment, with a new party coalescing around a nucleus of George Will and Charles Freed, with a responsible general or admiral or two.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Palin; "It's fun to be underestimated so that you have the opportunity to prove the pundits wrong..."

Palin reminds me of the "nice church talk" that passes for conversation with some folks. I'd rather silence in the office then to spend any more time with these conversations.

I'm sure that Palin has had the same conversations with a hundred other people -- not needing to know much about who she is talking to, just replacing the same banter.

There are a few cringeworthy aspects to this - but the big concern is; She doesn't know one world leader from another, and two, she isn't impressing anyone who is even slightly worldly and that is going to reflect poorly on the USA.

Her only qualification is "someone I'd like to have a beer with." She is Bush with Lipstick. Forget the badgers, pigs, wolverines or other livestock -- this is a train wreck.

Anonymous said...

I was going to wait until after the results were in to start commenting on blogs again, but I read this entry this morning, and had to go "say what?!?"

First, regarding your comment about statistics. David, surely you realize that 95% of all statistics are worthless? (Including that one... :-) Statistics aren't going to convert *anyone* who can actually think for themselves. Besides, "Past performance is no indicator of future results..."

The other thing that I absolutely cannot agree on is the difference between the party and the individual running for office. The party is nothing - the individual is what actually counts. I vote for individuals, not parties. I base that vote on the individual's record, not the party's. I strongly believe the results we will get have *much* more to do with which individual wins over which party.

Obama is not Clinton and will not perform remotely the same way as Clinton did, any more than Clinton did the same as Carter. (Thank goodness...) McCain is not Bush and will not perform remotely the same as Bush did, any more than Bush did the same as his daddy or Reagan before him.

And if there's one thing I can point to as my biggest single regret about this election cycle, it's that the highly successful primary meme of the Democratic campaign (McCain == Bush == all Republicans) does little more than reinforce partisan politics. Like we needed any more of *that*.