Sunday, April 26, 2009

Walking a Tightrope on torture...

=== lighting the political lamp ===

New York Times Columnist - and fellow Asimov fan Paul Krugman - has my respect at many levels.   But he can sometimes miss the big picture.  Recently, Krugman inveighed against President Obama’s purported lack of courageous leadership on the “torture front.” While Obama has moved toward ending shameful practices, shedding light on the past transgressions, restoring the trust of our allies and setting up procedures to prevent repetition, critics maintain that all of this will remain hollow and hypocritical without vigorous prosecuton and punishment of those who either commanded or else executed the travesties.

“What about the argument that investigating the Bush administration’s abuses will impede efforts to deal with the crises of today? Even if that were true — even if truth and justice came at a high price — that would arguably be a price we must pay.”

Here I beg to differ, appealing to folks like Krugman that they should look at every angle.  Look, I too twinge over letting people have immunity for "following orders." In order to avoid bad precedents, this process should at minimum be confessional, as in South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation process. Bushite immunity doctrines have to be savagely rejected.

But is it possible that Obama is not simply wussing out for political reasons?  Might he have priorities that rank higher than punishing the monsters who despoiled America’s honor, for the last decade?  And no, I am not talking about focusing his efforts on fixing the economy -- even that is less important than Barack Obama’s true, historic purpose...

Culture-War-quote...which is to end the foul betrayal known as Culture War.  The trumped-up pitting of region vs region, rural vs urban, red vs blue, know-nothings vs science, the future assailed by a mythologized past, and the reflex measuring of all matters  against an insanely simplistic “left-right axis” that no longer even maps onto any sane definitions of “liberal” or “conservative,” anymore.

 This twenty-year campaign to divide America has effectively lobotomized the world’s greatest nation, leaving it bereft of foresight or ability to mobilize its most famous trait -- pragmatism -- toward the solution of a myriad 21st Century problems.  A sensible willingness to innovate and negotiate, shrugging aside dogma in favor of progress, based upon incremental problem-solving that is both hard-headed and good-hearted.  That has been the American genius, for several centuries.  While pragmatic incrementalism has never been easy or smooth, it has ultimately paid off, almost every time.  Moreover, it has never, ever been about faux European silliness like “left vs right.”

 And it has never been more needed than now.

Who would even want to thwart such a magnificent trait?  Only those who find the Western Enlightenment -- and America, its foremost champion -- loathesome.  Heck, I won’t even blame the retro-troglodytes of the fundamentalist/creationist awakening, whose hatred of the Enlightenment is visceral  and deeply psychological. They are adversaries, but sincere ones.  No, let’s go straight to the source -- the oligarchs who have financed culture war via agitprop agencies like Fox News. Those are the real beneficiaries of the Bush/neocon era.  And they are the ones who stand most to be thwarted, if Culture War ends and the nation can get back to business.

Seriously, do you see any other winners, including fundamentalists? Certainly markets, democracy, freedom, even capitalism and the Pax Americana that the neocons claim to love, all of these things have suffered terribly under Bushite misrule.  Only a narrow clade -- a small subset of billionaires -- stand to benefit from a continuation of our national illness.  But they have made it clear, they want culture war to go on.

And that is why Barack Obama must pick his battles.  Think! Any drive to indict and prosecute the “torture memo” writers would be counter-productive in many ways.

1) Obama is trying to rebuild the confidence of a US Civil Service, including our defense and intelligence agencies, who were deliberately savaged during the Bush years.  Having those people continue to think of themselves as Bush Era victims is extremely valuable. No single step is more needed, but it would be rocked back by such a campaign.

2) Attacking right now on the torture front would fall into a trap, allowing Fox & friends to portray it as a “liberal witch hunt” at the very moment when the base of the crazy right is crumbling, with millions of sincere, conservative Americans starting to drift away.

Look, even if we’re talking about some heinous stuff, there is precedent. When The US Government pardoned Jefferson Davis, after the Civil War, this action ran against a massive current of popular passion for vengeance. But the pardon has a practical aim.  Davis had planned to use his trial as a soapbox in which to establish that secession had been legal.  The victorious Union wanted the de facto rejection of that principle to  be accepted as a perpetual assumption, trampling the notion of state supremacy under the boots of half a million parading victors.

Parallels to this era?  Walking a tightrope, President Obama trying to find ways to permanently reject the  horrific moral lapses of the Bush Administration and to shine cleansing light upon them, without going to court trials that would further divide the nation and give rant-platforms to neocons, letting them bask in their favored drug of self-righteous indignation at public expense.  In any event, there are bigger and better fish to fry!

The key point is this:  Why should Obama spend political capital to go after one set of Bush -era crimes, when there ought to be others, just as easy to prosecute, that would bear and supply fresh political capital instead?  I am talking about crimes of direct malfeasance, corruptions and betrayal of trust, e.g. in the vetting of “emergency” government contracts to buddies.  Send up a few dozen on explicitly clear evidence of stuff like this and the shrill cries of “witch hunt” will only rile a fringe, while millions of decent American conservatives continue their veer of revulsion, away from a Republican Party that long ago abandoned any genetic connection to Lincoln, Eisenhower or Teddy Roosevelt.

Those are the crimes we and Obama should be going after, right now. Crimes that demonstrate venality, betrayal, outright criminality and complicity with a program of theft that helped hurt average Americans' livelihoods. That is where indictments will get consensus backing, helping anchor-in Obama's -- and our -- uprising against unreason.

Oh, go hunt down and read this one -- "The GOP: divorced from reality: The Republican base is behaving like a guy who just got dumped by his wife.” By Bill Maher (LA Times OPINIONApril 24, 2009)  A bit extra-partisan, but worth it for the 2nd-to-last paragraph.

*(PS...Someone tell Krugman about FOUNDATION’S TRIUMPH.)

==Self-righteousness & Robustness==

Self-righteousness redux...  Clay Shirky addresses one of my major themes in discussing his own recent outrage over a “crime” purportedly committed by (one having to do with bias against gays, the details of which do not matter here)... one that Amazon actually did not commit.  ”In 1987, a teenage girl in suburban New York was discovered dazed and wrapped in a garbage bag, smeared with feces, with racial epithets scrawled on her torso. She had been attacked by half a dozen white men, then left in that state on the grounds of an apartment building. As the court case against her accused assailants proceeded, it became clear that she’d actually faked the attack, in order not to be punished for running away from home. Though the event initially triggered enormous moral outrage, evidence that it didn’t actually happen didn’t quell that outrage. Moral judgment is harder to reverse than other, less emotional forms; when an event precipitates the cleansing anger of righteousness, admitting you were mistaken feels dirty. As a result, there can be an enormous premium put on finding rationales for continuing to feel aggrieved, should the initial rationale disappear. Call it ‘conservation of outrage.’”

Of course, this has resonance with my own notion, supported by growing evidence, that self-righteous indignation actually triggers many of the same neural-reinforcement processes that underlie addiction. This was already known about rage and gambling. But since indignation poisons inter-human discourse in almost every field — spoiling our natural, pragmatic, problem negotiating skills — this “addiction” may do vastly more damage than all others, put together.

A noteworthy non-anniversary? --  A fan with the wonderful name Francesca Flynn wrote in, pointing out that May 2009 was the date on the mimeographed circulars printed by Godon, the Postman, in his lie-that-became the-truth.  Funny thing; his potemkin “National Recovery Act” had a similar name to a bill now before Congress.  Let’s hope and pray things never get that serious in our real world.

Toward robustness -- I have long complained about trends toward increased brittlness in our civilization.  Surely the “war on terror” should have focused attention upon potential point failure modes that could have devastating consequences?  Back during the Cold War, when “thinking about the unthinkable” became a topic of passionate debate, there was talk of “Fail-Safe” -- a design methodology aiming to ensure that crucial systems, if and when they do fail, would fall back into a safe mode that prevents the very worst outcomes. (e.g accidental nuclear war.)  This meant that, should any of our systems controlling nuclear weapons degrade, malfunction or fall into the wrong hands, those systems would at worst do no harm.  But this doctrine has long ago been set aside, sacrificed on the altar of efficiency and so-called “success-oriented planning.”

This trend - as we’ve seen - can prove terribly dangerous when a Black Swan arrive... the unforeseen event that hits unexpected.  After 9/11 and Katrina, one would think the lesson would be learned.  But the trend continues to be toward ever-greater reliance upon the perfect performance of a caste of expert first responders, with very little allowance for the possibility of massive first-line casualties, or big surprises, or even a nod toward the wisdom of redundancy.  Examples of this growing worry can be seen in the excess-emphasis on professionalism in the military, the over-reliance on zero-inventory “just-in-time” industrial practices... and in the newest hot trend, Cloud Computing -- which offers a long list of advantages, plus some very plausible dangers, should we rush into a system that puts all our information eggs into very few baskets

=====     =====     =====

Also......See a diverting essay by Rudy Rucker about Stephen Wolfram's 'mazing views of artificial intelligence.  "Wolfram|Alpha looks like a search engine, in that there’s a one-line box where you type in a question.  The output appears a second or two later, as a page of text and graphics below the box.  What's happening behind the scenes? Rather than looking up the answer to your question, Wolfram|Alpha figures out what your question means, looks up the necessary data to answer your question, computes an answer, designs a page to present the answer in a pleasing way, and sends the page back to your computer."

Publicity stunt?  San Francisco-based Pacific Gas & Electric said it was seeking approval from state regulators for an agreement to purchase power over a 15-year period from Solaren Corp., an 8-year-old company based in Manhattan Beach, Calif. The agreement was first reported in a posting to Next100.  Solaren would generate the power using solar panels in Earth orbit and convert it to radio-frequency transmissions that would be beamed down to a receiving station in Fresno, PG&E said. From there, the energy would be converted into electricity and fed into PG&E's power grid.

==And more Cool Stuff==

7EkCP9i3Plwt70d9QAdY4vfQo1_500Then, some lighter stuff -- Derek Benson, the lunchbagdude, draws fantastic lunch bags for his son, every day.  See this one inspired by Startide Rising.  How lucky is that kid!

Sci fi author Greg Bear to feed Halo fans hungry for details.

See Peter Norvig’s terrific “What if Abraham Lincoln had used Power Point at Gettysburg?

Best thing I ever saw come from Microsoft.  It's a peek at how they expect the world to work, 10-15 years from now.  How do YOU think they are on-target or off-base?


Anonymous said...

As a Computer Engineer I felt that I might pick up some of the defense for the term "Cloud Computing", because while there is right to be skeptical, whenever people bandy about the term, as an Engineering concept robustness is a core component.

Forgive me if I cover anything you already know, your mention in this article was quite brief.

First of all, I have never heard of the consulting firm that you linked to, and the article in question seems very limited in facts and possibly a key component towards some sort of upsell to their consulting services. Forgive me if I have the wrong impression, but the article seemed very much a Fear-driven tool for advertising. It had nice pretty blimp graphics, though.

Anyway, it is unfortunately necessary to draw the line between mentions of "the cloud" and the term "Cloud Computing" used as Engineering jargon. The article happily conflates the two only to confuse the difference between them both. "The Cloud" is a very pretty metaphor for the internet and for internet services. This is actually a somewhat old metaphor, and can be traced back to many old networking diagrams where it is common to give large networks (including the internet as we think of it today) as a cloud shape. The jargon term "Cloud Computing" comes from the metaphor, so certainly there is fault to blame in using a metaphor as a building block for a term of jargon.

As Engineering jargon, "Cloud Computing" does have specific connotations, however. Even if at least one quote has poor Larry Ellison waxing poetic about not understanding what it means to reporters. (As an Engineer I can't help but note Oracle's defending entrenched positions in the opposite camp to "Cloud Computing".)

"Cloud Computing" as jargon happens to be about using the inter-connectedness of computing devices to drive down costs of computing resources to near Utility costs. The absolute essential ingredient to do so is redundancy. To get faster, smarter calculations it makes sense to use as many different computers in as many different parts of the world that you can. Some will take a bit longer than others and some will even fail in the process, but as long as things are sufficiently redundant things are working as they are supposed.

Comparisons to a Utility are perhaps the most apt when it comes to "Cloud Computing". Certainly there needs to be large "central" Computing Utilities that have to exist to take advantage of the economies of scale of having many servers spread across the globe. But that doesn't imply that only Big Corporations will run the Utilities. Just as with other Utilities there already exist "Co-ops" of interested individuals. (SETI@Home and Folding@Home certainly being the largest collective Co-Ops in this sense, but certainly not the only ones. There are some subtle differences between the currently vogue "Cloud Computing" term and the older "Distributed Computing" term, but for most usages the distinction is unimportant. Then there's "Mesh Computing", which isn't that far removed from this conversation either. In Computers there are certainly times where everything old is new again.)

Certainly there are still some "walled gardens" of non-interoperability that are being worked on. There are many of us Computer Engineers and Scientists debating what sorts of interoperability standards should exist that are not in place.

At the end of the day, optimistically, just as "power" is "power" no matter the source, for the most part so too are "computing resources" mere "computing resources". Even when there are not high-level standards to adapt work units between walled gardens, more often than not the various utility clouds all use the same building blocks. It's not necessarily "trivial" to convert, but often its in that realm of "almost trivial" that we Computer Engineers and Scientists love to convert into a "trivial" tool/algorithm given time.

So, quick recap, yes there are things to be wary about "storing in the Cloud" or "computing in the Cloud", but these are merely metaphors at best. Yes there are still (boring) things to be concerned about "Cloud Computing", but to those doing it right, robustness is a key understood value (if not critical cornerstone).

Arun said...

But Obama doesn't have to actually **do** anything. He just has to let the DOJ be its historical independent self, and let the lawyers there figure it out first investigating and then deciding whether or not to prosecute.

If there is a furore, it is because the President is being obstructionist. He is entitled to his opinion, but he should say, the DOJ is independent, and a DOJ that prosecutes or does not prosecute based on the say-so of the President rather than the law and the facts of the case, is not something that America wants.

Mickey said...

Regarding WorldMaker's comment: I'm not one of the authors but I do work at MAYA.

I don't think this is any way that we'd get business for our consultancy (too easy for flamewars).

This is part of our research agenda (with mixed funding from ourselves and others and not in need of any further funding for years to come), we're only 5 years into the current agenda and its a 20 year agenda.

One of our founders was on the team at PARC that built the Alto so we're not just newbies to this party and we have made this our life's work. We take it very seriously.

Our goal is to make sure that when the true computing age arrives (pervasive computing) our world is ready for it. Its going to happen the question is, will we do it well or poorly.

I don't think we doubt the engineers who get the idea of redundancy and as we said there is hope for the cloud.

What worries us is the business side. Take a high percentage of fortune 1000 companies (as a start, not to mention all the mid and small level companies) and convince them all to go to "the cloud," now all the redundancy of those thousand having computing, storage, and people who know how to run those systems (not to mention the information) is gone. At least until there is a real cloud that nobody owns (like the original Internet).

We also know that there will always be engineers that are excited about gluing these disparate things together. We're just not sure there will be enough of them when we get to a trillion nodes or more. Who will the geek squad call when they need a geek squad?

A trillion is a big number (count back a million seconds and its about a week and a half, but count back a trillion and its over 30,000 years ago). The future will frankly need blue-collar techs just due the shear size of the challenge of a trillion nodes. We shouldn't plan on a world where we fix things more than we use them. When plumbing was rare a few gifted people figured out how to get water from here to there, safely. But when it was in every town and home you couldn't have possibly had that many engineers. Enter communities of practice and rules of thumb. The plumbing code is a wonderful example. Plumbers (blue-collar, and I'm not making any claims that being blue-collar is a bad thing, my father was a mechanic and inspired me immensely) know, as if it came down from the good book, that you should never put a faucet lower than the level of the sink. Not because they envision the creation of a sump that could pull waste water into a town's water supply, but because the code says so. Little towns probably died to force that into the code. But now we all have fairly safe water in our homes, every one of us.

We applaud projects like SETI@Home, we are truly in fear (no hype here because we also know that there are always innovators to help us shift to the next orthodoxy) of the marketing hype and blind rush towards putting all that stuff into the control of 5-10 companies. Who may have internal redundancy but that doesn't help much for global redundancy and resilience.

Those 5-10 companies, engineering aside, have shareholders to answer to and if the business moves on and their strategies change, we're all out of luck (or worse yet someone kidnaps the family of the founders or some other ne'er do well scheme). This sort of leverage used to be in the province of heads of state, but trust me they have far better security than Sergey or Bezos.

Our conflation of terms is at best a shot across the bow at all the marketeers who are in fact combining, spindling, and mutilating the terms for short term gain.

Frankly we released this bit of one of our forthcoming books in abbreviated form (and apologize for the blimp graphics if they distract from the point, we believe deeply in the idea that visualization is important and our interdisciplinary nature exerts itself occasionally) mostly to stir this sort of dialogue and to help us make sure that we do have things right and to foster contrary views so that by the time the book comes out it is well vetted.

I think if you were to dig deeper into our agenda, especially as a computer engineer, you'd find it exciting, intriguing, and worth thinking about. I appreciate the comment, I wish there were more of the engineering community out there fact checking the marketeers.

Woozle said...

Indignation: I think that adds a second item to my list of courses which should be taught to schoolkids in the 21st century. The list is now:

* Rhetoric: identifying logical fallacies and rhetorical deceptions; how to tell a bogus argument from a good one (hint: does the argument make factual assertions which can be checked? does it try to make you feel good/bad about a particular conclusion?); open-mindedness versus credulity, and intolerance versus honest criticism;...

* Emotion: overcoming bias; how to contain unjustified moral outrage in yourself and others; when is outrage justified? Ideological protectionism (why is it so popular?); how emotion is used to keep us fighting each other on irrelevant issues while ignoring the real issues (which are then quietly decided for us)... etc.


Wolfram Alpha: I've been predicting for the past couple of years that we would soon see something like this -- i.e. AI which is capable of answering conversational questions regarding things it knows about and is able to integrate new information given conversationally -- but I thought for sure it would be some outgrowth of Cyc. Looks like Wolfram's approach may be similar in some ways, but he apparently did not investigate Cyc before starting with his project. (Unfortunately both Cyc's parser engine and Alpha are proprietary, though at least Cyc's ontology is freely downloadable.)

It will be very interesting indeed to see whether Alpha is as good as it sounds.


Politics: I've also been saying (at least since the election) that Obama's plan for dealing with the manifold sins of Bushco would be to essentially stand back, grease the rails of proper government functioning as much as possible, and let it become clear that prosecutions must happen before taking any action. That way he won't be seen as the "bad guy" to Red America.

An article I read recently seemed to be saying that it wasn't even Obama's job to do anything about it, but that of the judicial branch (I may have that detail wrong... Update: yeah, what Arun said), and that legal opinion was already crystallizing around the idea that prosecutions were legally required, given the weight of evidence.

What I want to know is: why aren't the Dems selling this to Red America as a necessity so Bushco can "clear their good names once and for all?" Well, okay, Red America probably questions the idea that there's any clearing to be done... but I'm sure this could be spun right: "Do you want liberals hounding our nation's former leaders endlessly and without cause? Then let's settle this, and show them how justice is done!"

The fact that this isn't happening strikes me as confirmation of the theory that the puppeteers running Big Media (the oligarchs you mention) are still very much in cahoots with the neocons and their ideology... which means we may be in for some nasty surprises in 2012 or before. (I'm not paranoid; it's just that there's a government-run conspiracy to convince everyone that I am.)

As long as Obama keeps greasing those rails and doesn't do anything to stop prosecutions, I'll be patient with him; he has earned it.

Here is a copy of the Maher article.

"Denounce your radicals. ...either you’re with them or you’re embarrassed by them." Something I've often said to conservative and religious moderates.

P.S. not playing nice with Firefox on Kubuntu; anyone else having problems? contact me if you can't post.

Tony Fisk said...

As a software engineer myself, I'm not *too* concerned about the prospect of cloud computing. The internet architecture is designed to be (literally!) bomb-proof (although there has been a recent trend to relatively few hub servers in recent years). There is a nicely balanced counter-balance in that terabyte storage is now available off the shelf. Why not mirror essential backups locally?

As to brittleness, New Scientist recently had a chilling report on the charming effects a large coronal mass ejection would have on an industrialised nation's power grid.

Try replacing several hundred power transformers in under a year, while tens of millions across half a continent are without power, transport, distribution services, food, water ... with a likelihood of ~1% pa (based on the Carrington event having occurred 150 years ago), who needs to get paranoid about asteroid strikes or Iran and N. Korea lobbing EMP producing nukes into the upper atmosphere?

Now, to be sure, there is a followup report stating that systems can be adapted to detect an incoming CME with enough time to damp the grid down before it hits. Still, it's a salutary lesson that there are things out there that could break us, and which aren't all that hypothetical.

calityri: an alien squid

C. Keith Ray said...

That microsoft video reminds me of the 1992 "Starfire" video that Sun produced, also trying to predict the future of computing.

The video and other materials are at:

David Brin said...

Thanks Worldmaker, for an excellent and eloquent description of the advantages of the Cloud. But I do believe you miss my point. Your perspective is similar to that behind "just in time" inventory practices... optimization and efficiency pursued avidly, with many good outcomes...

...but also under an assumption that danger does not lurk. That all will go well. That redundancy need only have the dimension of Baran dispersal, with not need for the other kind, the kind that lets systems continue to function in isolation.

Metaphor... we are like Cambrian era proto-organisms, with the cool idea of making BIG creatures, like whales and men, by learning how to stack things together into circulatory systems and nervous systems.... Brilliant! But we are bound to run into really, really big mistakes. Like super viruses or systemic breakdowns. WE ARE EARLY AT THIS STUFF!

Me, I don't think dumping all our eggs in one basket is so smart, when we're still so primitive.

I have no time to get into a wrangle here. I am flying off to DC (and hence will only post, if at all, as anonymous. No, not THAT anonymous, who I wish would go away....)

netsettler said...

On your meta-point I agree: The mere fact that a thing is a problem is not clearly license to stop everything. In this regard, you might enjoy my only-half-serious post at Open Salon (from last November) Diplomatic Immunity for our own Presidents?Absent such immunity, while I agree there's a range of discretion Obama can have, the most succinct observations I can make as counterpoint to what you've said are these:

(1) We are presently beholden, as a debtor nation, to other countries. We rely on their good graces daily to have operating capital. Many are offended by the torture thing, and pursuing those that did these things help to mend fences with those upon whom we need to continue to rely. Even when we cannot provide cash money to pay our debts, what many in the world look to us for is moral leadership, and so slacking in that department loses some of our value at a time when we can least afford it.

(2) A point underscored in my Saturday morning post at Open Salon, Hypocrisy and High-Collar Crimes is that we're at some risk of social uprising. Yes, some can come of division between red and blue states. But some can come due to people perceiving that laws exist only to bind the poor and never the rich or powerful. It's critical that the nation believe that Rule of Law is not just a catch phrase but an actual truth. We're told Rule of Law is so important we must not go after people who've made billions at the expense of others because "they did it legally" but we're told Rule of Law is not important in this other case... there's a mixed message that seems to never favor the ordinary citizen and only to favor the elite.

So I don't totally discount your "bigger fish to fry" theory, and in fact I wholly endorse your "we need to be pragmatic"/"we need to pick our battles" theory. But even when one is picking battles, this could be one of them.

I especially did not agree with your remarks that went "... allowing Fox & friends to portray it as ..." Bush made similar arguments about how terrorists abroad might use this or that thing that happened in the US as recruiting material. But in both cases propaganda is involved and in both cases the target audiences are probably not cross-checking incoming news against other sources of enlightenment. So it's going to get twisted no matter what, and while it's true that it's possible to look at the text of it later and think "wow, if I hadn't done X, they'd not have been able to say Y" the truth is that if you hadn't done X, they would have just justified Y some different way. That's the nature of propaganda. So yes, Fox News will probably use it. But no, failing to do this thing will not leave Fox News with nothing to say.

David McCabe said...

The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching Out Corrupts Within by Edward Tufte, an essay which incorporates Norvig's Gettysburg slides, plus an analysis of PowerPoint pitches made during the last flight of Columbia. Thoughtful and deliciously witty.

Jester said...

Dr. Brin,

I'm sorry you don't realize what the real stakes are.

Think about this. The FBI pulled all its agents and refused to cooperate with torture...because they feared that cooperating with and justifying torture might open their agents up for future prosecution.

So, the next time we get a Bush/Nixon (and there will be a next time) what argument will the FBI use to refuse cooperation, knowing that last time everyone got a walk?

We are a Nation of Laws, or we are not. We allow this Precedent to stand, or we do not.

Every comment we hear from The Cheneys and other defenders of torture refers to how "Releasing this information jeapordizes us by allowing our enemies to train to resist these tactics".

Why would that matter....except if they intend to return to using these tactics if they ever get back into power?

Nearly everyone involved in Operation Pheonix (in which 60,000 Vietnamese, nearly all civilians, were the targets of politically motivated assasinations) got a Walk.

Many of those same people turned to "advising" Pinochette and other Latin American dictators in the 70's, then moved on to train Central American Death Squads in the 80's.

We know well what they've been up to for the last 6 years.

Allowing the perpetrators of War Crimes to go unpunished in order to avoid irritating 1/3rd of a party which represents 1/3rd of American Voters isn't pragmatic, it's cowardly.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, we could do which would go farther toward restoring our credibility on the international stage.

The primary reason given by Jihadists who traveled to Iraq to fight us?


Number two was our killing of women and children.

Well, few people trust the guy who claims to have stopped beating his wife, but is still fleeing his arrest warrant for doing so. Internationally, that's the position our Nation is in.

You've now sunk to not only condoning, but PRAISING our President for interfering with our Justice Department in order to protect War Criminals, and you are expressly stating that you think he should do this for purely political reasons.

Sounds a hell of a lot like rationalization to me, and it is a stunning 180 degree turn from your previous views on the subject.

Few people did more, or gave more of the means they had, to get Obama elected than I did. I made over 10,000 phone calls. I gave much more than I could afford. I traveled to three different States. I annoyed the hell out of science fiction authors on the internet ;).

I like the guy, and recognize his political brilliance, but there is much more at stake here than the next couple of elections.

Appeasment isn't the way out of this Culture War.

The Clinton Justice Department did nothing, absolutely nothing, to pursue those who had funded, organized, and trained the Death Squads. How did that work for him on the Culture War Front?

Carter did nothing to prosecute those Responsible for Operation Pheonix, and other War Cimes perpetrated in Vietnam. How did that work out for him on the Culture War front?

Lastly, concerning your Civil War references -

Had Nathan Bedford Forest served a reasonable sentence for his Treason, The Klan would have lacked a charasmatic figure to rally around in its early days. Without former Confederate Officers serving in Elected Office, Reconstruction may not have been an abject failure resulting in 80 years of Jim Crow.

Most importantly, there was one prominant Confederate officer we DID prosecute.

The Commendant of Andersonville prison.

Because there are some things we, as Americans, simply are not willing to tolerate, or allow to go unpunished.

One of those things is the willfull abuse of defenseless prisoners.

David McCabe said...

Microsoft: IN A WORLD where modernist furniture is in high demand, office workers spend their days poking at beautifully designed models of business processes...

Please, show me how future technology is going to help me write an essay.

Anonymous said...

A program on MBAs

MBA: Mostly bloody awful

Fake_William_Shatner said...

You've got to check out the end of Bill Mahr's April 24, 2009 episode of "Real Time."
>> The New Rules aren't posted yet.

The last quote kind of summed up his view of the collapse of the Republicans and the Tea Bagger phenomena. A poorly remembered synopsis; "The Republican party is like an jilted and overweight divorcee, who once openly cried about how much he loved his spouse, but now is saying; 'if I can't have her, nobody can.' And can't deal with the reality that she ran off with a black man."
>> Nailed it. Too much invested in the lies and self delusions.

It's not moral outrage that is the problem here -- it's the low self-esteem and identity. You lived a life of denial to think that the relationship worked. But she left you behind in the 20th century.

>> And what we've done to our country and environment looks a lot like a wife-beater, who is frustrated that his affections aren't returned after years of insults and neglect.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Brin said...
Toward robustness -- I have long complained about trends toward increased brittlness in our civilization. Surely the “war on terror” should have focused attention upon potential point failure modes that could have devastating consequences?
Well, the "masters of the universe" stand in your way. Our GDP and Growth is the only thing that matters paradigm, needs a good catastrophe to grease the skids. Imagine all the gentrification and spending that would not had happened, had swamps been restored and levies patched in New Orleans.

On 9/11, Because Barney Feif fell asleep at guard duty, he is therefore given a sub machine gun after the place gets robbed -- rather than being fired. Fires getting out of Control in California? A perfect opportunity to blame environmentalists for interfering with logging. No caps on speculation or regulation of energy trading? A great time to blame restrictions on drilling. Those profits really hurt the oil industry -- did anyone notice how the price of fuel immediately went down when the banks ran out of speculation money? Eh? Did we stop using so much fuel, or did the refineries start working past 85% capacity? No. Oil speculators didn't have the money to create a disaster anymore.

>> I don't think I'm addicted to moral outrage. I think I've got a hangover after a party I didn't want to attend, and I just got drunk because the host was such a bore. The "stop thinking" impulse isn't "moral outrage" it's just plain rage. The same reason people chant slogans at rallies or that news feeds now have crawls on every corner -- just in case you took a moment to digest what is entering your brain -- nope, here is more sipping from the fire hydrant.

Funny, they repeat important things like "OMG there is a deadly swine flu that is almost as bad as the regular flu!" a million times a day. They could stretch things out a bit more if they didn't also repeat it on the ticker tapes, the side-bars, and the pop-ups. You'd think with the paucity of real content, that it wouldn't need to be ever-present. But it is the same reason that Mexican restaurants have 118 items on the menu but it's all "beans, meat and cheese." THAT is brilliant marketing.

The less you have, the more you package it.

The Gang that wants to end FDR's reforms, and rid itself of the middle class, WANTS a brittle system, because it proves that government doesn't work, and it allows opportunities for the Patriot Act: Guns are still free, but the people that own them aren't.

>> Not to be a morally outraged sad sack, I think I have a lot of good news.
Obama is releasing information. He still has little leeway and needs to force this into better hands. He can't have congress do it, or even the Senate, because, well, Turns out Nancy Pelosi was informed of the torture program in 2002. Perhaps it was just vague dribbling of moisture or caterpillars back then, but she certainly was in full CYA mode when she stated that they weren't going to impeach Mr. Bush.

See what torture does? Useless for information. Good for confessions. Even better for compromising the people involved. I've been saying for some time that this government is run by the Mob. Senator Pelosi, didn't know until the news headlines the next day, that she had been involved in a drive by. She wasn't a "made man" but, spreading the dirt and/or hiring fools who could never get that paycheck any other way (Scooter Libby) -- well, that works too.

While we have nuclear subs, and a Trillion invested in sniffing shoes at the airport, we go into debt for sending tanks to a State that STILL has nothing to do with 9/11. Even the "alleged" bad guys were mostly Saudi. China owns us. We protected the store with a bazooka, but we have to sell the fricken's store because we went in debt on the bazooka. There are no adults who understand what real SECURITY means.

I really don't care if Donald Rumsfeld is a blinded uber patriot or a calculating fascist. We accept collateral damage in Iraq, which should not have been invaded, we should at least accept that we don't really need to know WHY someone screwed the country. Deterrence of incompetence might mean that some damn fool will think twice before taking office. We have this accountability at the lower rungs -- why not the top?

>> Oh yeah, good news.
Scientists now think they know WHY there is suddenly more CO2 AFTER a ice age ends (as apposed to preceding the end). Apparently, when tracking volcano releases, they noticed that there is up to 6 times MORE volcanos active immediately after an ice age. The thick ice weighs down on the mantel according to theory -- but my own theory (which of course makes sense to me because its mine), is that it's more about "flattening out" the crust and creating horizontal pressure to "lock up" the seams. To my mind, whether its ice or water in the ocean it's the same amount of water and the crust covers the earth--take it off of land, and you have less holding down volcanoes in the ocean, right? By placing the ice on top of mountains (where it freezes first and starts the glaciers), you are more evenly distributing pressure--mountain ranges are on the peaks of continental uplifts and magma domes--so putting pressure there is like a finger in the Dike. It's the uneven strength and pressure of the crust and not necessarily the pressure on the crust that I think shuts down volcanoes. Taking ice off a mountain may be like pulling up on the edge off a tupperware container.

OK, that means also "bad news" we are likely to get more vulcanism as Global Warming takes hold. In 15 years, the ice feeding Southeaster Asia fresh water will dry up.

Global Warming is getting more obvious....
... why is this good news?

Because the Conservatives, who have been the contrary voice to sanity are being laid bare as the Clown Party. That there is a pro and con to "survival of humans on earth" is a pretty hard stance to take. They've put this yoke around their neck of being the "not happening" party in respects to Global Warming, and it won't be possible to ignore it pretty soon.

And for those saying that volcanoes are so much more than human influence (e.g. Rush Limbaugh). According to the "This Week in Science" program, volcanoes spew .3 Gigatons of greenhouse gases, while all human activity is putting out 30 gigatons a year. So, it means that the ball is in our court and humans CAN influence the weather.

>> Another story about the "handedness of molecules." Left-handed monomers lead to Right-handed proteins in our Solar System. Apparently, physicists and biologists looking at the issue have a theory that the type of light from a star, leads to a preference to left-handed molecules (I suppose it's kind of like the egg rolling off a roof peak scenario; if the wind is slightly blowing one direction, in a lot of reactions where there is no other energy forcing a bond to go one way or the other, polarized light is going to set up a little preference -- multiply those reactions a billion times as chemicals form and re-form, and over time, you get one type, and of course, end up with scrambled eggs on one side of the roof). So the previous news story I was talking about with a "scanning for polarized light to find life" -- may also be something common with larger stars (smaller blue stars don't seem to create the left-handed molecules, and right-handed life). But perhaps, the precursors to life a so common, that finding the polarization whether caused by the star or by life is kind of moot.

>> Where this comes back to Global Warming, I think. Is that the REASON we leave situations where the planet heats up and creates greenhouse gases, and we leave ice ages is because of Life. Without life, weather patterns on most planets probably move to an extreme; a Venus or a Mars. The snow and ice may reflect heat, which would produce even more freezing, but the cold also reduces plant life, which means nothing feeding in most of the greenhouse gases anymore. When the planet heats up, more plants and more oxygen.

Why would we expect that MOST life-bearing planets would use Oxygen? Well, Oxygen allowed for a 10x increase in energy conversion for plants and animals. When we eat food, we in a sense "burn" sugar in the ATP cycle (kudos to the Mitochondria). So I suspect, that most life used oxygen, would outproduce any life using the hydrogen cyanide or Ammonia gas that was prevalent in primordial earth. As soon as an organism produces oxygen, it poisons other competing organisms - but more than that, it is burning high octane fuel, while the rest are slugging along on the slow stuff.

The most high-energy organisms will outcompete. Of course, low energy chemical processes, which account for 10 of the 20 amino acids that all life we know uses are probably the other side of that. Life will likely use the same amino acids that our life does, because it uses less energy than other artificially created amino acids in the lab.

So life is going to produce a temperate planet (my theory), that balances the highest energy conversion rate. Ice planets and hot planets, are not good, because the first does not allow the reactions to take place, and the second has an environment that would outcompete for the energy. All that great oxygen fuel gets used up by the environment if things are too warm -- and of course, that would make the planet keep heating up and remove the oxygen (like Venus).

>> So, this may lead us to the obvious solution to our crisis; anything that promotes life, is going to help us. Creating more swamps, reducing pollution, greening our rooftops (I mean, actually planting things up there).

But there has to be a built-in regulator in life on earth that can overcome even the planets propensity to be extremely cold or hot. It seems to me, that most non-life planets will eventually have a process that causes things to go to one extreme or the other. If it gets too cold -- carbon dioxide freezes and you lose any greenhouse gas that might warm things (over and above what the star is doing).

>> So in summary; It may not be that there is no life on Mars and Venus because they had the wrong environment - but life has the right environment on earth because life got a large enough foothold. That actually might give us some really good news if we can find the feedback mechanism. My "instinct" gives me the feeling that we should find it in very simple, very ubiquitous organisms. Things like Algae and Mitochondria. It doesn't matter if there are too many lions and not enough sheep -- it's got to be something fundamental. And the "survival" triggers should cause certain organisms to start behaving differently everywhere. I would be looking for this, or perhaps, creating a few "hot spot" environments to find out what it is. Take a jungle area and a frozen tundra, put a plastic bag over it, and pump in the CO2 and making it hotter. Some organism that is dormant will start growing, or some common organism will change behavior.

What we would want, is to make this "moderating reaction" occur at a temperature or saturation level that is BELOW some critical point that is going to do us real damage. There is also the issue that human activity might already be interfering with natural processes. The other issue is that we might need to accelerate these reactions, because we don't have aeons to wait to get a summer day below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. We might survive -- but it sure won't be fun.

Right now, all the feedback mechanisms seem to be accelerating the warming beyond any of the "conservative" estimates of a few years ago.

>> By the way, half of that is some science I heard this week, and the rest is pure speculation on my part.

Rob Perkins said...

Yup. The Republicans are still mad at FDR and want to reverse the New Deal. So they dump some teabags in the river.

Whatever; I didn't go. If they can't see the benefit of funding the household of a woman made blind by a disastrous childbirth event (very rare, but very real, for my neighbors down the street) then there's no point in raging at them at all. People see the silly for the silly it is.

And, now the Democrats are still mad at GHW Bush and too many don't appear to be willing to let go of stupid, fruitless, and useless acts of revenge, including impeaching people, instead of spending time formulating solid changes to the law that will prevent the mistakes of the past from reifying again.

(So ironic, that the calls for impeachment seem the same to me this year, as they did in 1997.)

Go right ahead and rage if you want, fake-William-Shatner, but don't expect me to equate it with much more than dumping a bag of tea in the river.

Honestly: The benefit of seeing that global warming is real is that people will take adaptive and preventative action, not that "my enemies the Evil Ones will finally be exposed for the evilish evil they've been evilling on us all."

Those people are Americans. Fellow travelers with the same ostensible goal. If we want to end culture war it would be wisest to remember that first before wading into the river with our own bags of tea.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I'll put my 2 cents in on Cloud Computing debate.

It looks like the old "the network is the computer discussion." We used to have terminals which were cheap, coupled to mainframes. Each session, parsed computing time to give people a virtual experience.

When equipment got cheaper, and perhaps, charging people for individual software made more money -- well, we got personal computers.

It's the difference between Communism and Capitalism. The well managed mainframe dictates to some extent what I can have. The personal computer, reproduces a lot of the more efficient functions that have economies of scale, but give me the ability to "install" -- where I don't have a cookie cutter approach then the difference is only in price -- the CLOUD can be cheaper.

It's all about the cost of computing power vs. the COST of networking it. Adoption has a lot to do with how "personal" you can make it.

If the documents are stored in some way that is universal, and the "Cloud" moves towards more virtual services, such that it acts like a computer I can install "my stuff on" then there is no difference on utility.

It comes down to whether having the processing power is expensive and limited vs. the speed of the network. Because you have to move this data around. There are also issues of privacy and whether you get to KEEP your data.

All things being equal, I'd rather have control over my data -- I just don't want to lose it, and I want parts of it to be available to others on demand.

So, it's going to be BOTH places. When I look at an iPhone, that's really giving me more access and less hassle, than calling up a user account on a computer somewhere. I can back up my iPhone to some storage on the cloud -- but its ultimately not managed, controlled or accessed there except for backup and other purposes.

I see these things becoming more intertwined. But I think, most people are going to NOT want to give up control, given a choice between the two. What happens when you trust government or Business too much? It takes advantage.

Trust, but verify. And most people, inherently understand that. A business is not going to farm out processing power, unless there is compensation. But the first time that the processing power or shared cloud space compromises their data integrity -- EVEN if it has been grabbed by thieves a dozen times in the past -- Down will come the Cloud connection.

Cloud Computing has more potential in the consumer and social networking space. But hey, if you could store my medical records on my body -- why do I need it to stay at Blue Cross/ Blue Shield? I'm the one that needs the repair and my body is everywhere where such things are going to take place. If THAT data got lost, you lost my body anyway. Giving it up to some big corporation, means more opportunities for exploiting me.

>> So, once again, human nature is going to be about convenience and then running like hell away if they don't feel secure.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Jester said...
Appeasment isn't the way out of this Culture War.

The Clinton Justice Department did nothing, absolutely nothing, to pursue those who had funded, organized, and trained the Death Squads. How did that work for him on the Culture War Front?
Too true. The Reich Wing will go ape sh1t no matter what Obama does. It's a pointless punishment to avoid. They will never be satisfied or happy, their agenda is to merely see how far they can push. When one fat cat on Wall Street made $1 Million, they had to make more when the next cat made $2 Million.

You might as well give them something to cry about, because they are going to cry. We don't deal with 4-year-olds by giving them more candy, and expecting this will keep them from wanting candy in the future.

A better strategy is to keep them busy with hiring lawyers, than funding think tanks and having the Dick Cheney slam the new President tour.

And then we have to deal with these guys in another 10 years when they crawl out from under the rocks with even more funding. Newt Gingrich isn't any less of a cad, heal, mental light weight, and jock sniffer than he was with his contract for America in the 90's. Yet here he is again, pretending to be some sage person who has something important to say... based upon what? Anyone want to read what he was proposing and what the effects of all of those policies were?

And Newt isn't even the one doing the really nasty stuff. The higher food chain scum bags like Rove and Cheney are a real threat to national security. They have no allegiance and honor above or outside their own insider groups.

At some point, there has to be a downside for ripping off the nation, treason and disgracing our national honor. Something beyond the penalties of robbing a Convenience Store since it impacts more people.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Rob said...
And, now the Democrats are still mad at GHW Bush and too many don't appear to be willing to let go of stupid, fruitless, and useless acts of revenge, including impeaching people, instead of spending time formulating solid changes to the law that will prevent the mistakes of the past from reifying again.
Is all justice Revenge? Get Back at George? If I could have PREVENTED GEORGE I would have.

All crimes are in the past, so therefore by your logic, we shouldn't prosecute anyone for wrongdoing. Shoot them in the act or just say "bygones!"

Fake_William_Shatner said...


It is remarkable -- at least from my perspective, how we seem to think along the same lines. I just didn't read your last paragraph;
Oh, go hunt down and read this one -- ”The GOP: divorced from reality: The Republican base is behaving like a guy who just got dumped by his wife.” By Bill Maher (LATimesOPINIONApril 24, 2009) A bit extra-partisan, but worth it for the 2nd-to-last paragraph.
Yeah, I thought that was the "best of the week" for comments too.

I realize that we have to bend over backwards to be "credible" and to be thoughtful and to attract more flies with sugar or something.

But seriously, does there come a point when you just have to say to the Republicans; "Jump back in your clown car and drive back into the crazy tent."

I haven't heard anything particularly useful on any issue from a Republican in many months. The last was from Murtha, and THAT's only because he was opposed to complete insanity.

What we have to maintain this huge nuclear arsenal for when it can destroy the planet many times over -- well, Murtha like a stopped watch can be right twice a day. The Republicans are self-censoring themselves for sanity.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

This is definitely good news. In order to preserve whatever semblance of integrity that they have left, to those who apparently, couldn't be torn away from their bed sheets for 8 years. The Republicans are getting out in front and declaring they are leading the parade -- it's really, just running faster than the stampede.

But this should be enjoyed as a watershed moment. As long as nobody attempts bipartisanship and allows them to steer the investigation. I remember the Outing of a CIA operative investigation (really, destruction of an entire operation), that ended up in a wrist slap but allowed a good year of "our policy is to not discuss an ongoing investigation. If it weren't, we'd tell you how innocent we are and how these wild tin-foil-hat rumors get spread on the internet."


Rob Perkins said...

@Shatner -- There isn't a crime to prosecute; only the disgust people feel that a legal justification could be found for acts those people thought were torture.

Congress could be working on revisions to FISA or the War Powers Act to prevent an Administration from acting the way Bush and his loyalists did. Maybe part of that work is already done.

Instead, they're calling, "Impeach Bybee!" who himself did no torturing, except perhaps to make some rhetoric suffer. Word is he regrets that, and Congress is within his rights to impeach and convict him...

...but of course, that won't actually *solve* the problem... unless they also (or instead!) change the laws!

The former is effective. The latter is a distraction from the former. What do you really want?

I think you want all branches of the government clearly and unambiguously instructed, by "the People", to interpret "cruel and unusual punishments" to match your sense of things. Well, so do I.

But they're not finishing *that* job. And your activism is well-and-truly sidelined by a witch hunt in the press and the comic stylings of a truly ridiculous man.

Jester said...

Rob -

No one is buying that bullshit.

We had all the laws on the books we needed to outlaw torture.

Those laws were ignored. Blatantly ignored.

You're buying a "I didn't know robbing liqour stores was illegal" argument, and trying to claim that changes in legislation could somehow have prevented these abuses.

Changing laws will have no effect on those who willfully ignore the law.

The FBI knew it was torture. They had no doubts.

That's their stated reason for not going along with it.

Are we really supposed to believe that the FBI was not considered a credible source on what was or was not torture?

Fake_William_Shatner said...


I seriously think you need to backpedal on the Torture is not a Crime -- a premeditated, willful, despicable crime with no justification.

Should any country that engages this be the "good guy" that we root for winning?

People regret having mullets, tattoos and facebook pages showing their drunken frat boy antics. That's NOTHING like being the guy in Germany saying; "You know, these Brown Shirt guys really make the city safer."

The only difference between the Bush Boys and those that ran Germany into the ground is spine and success.

>> For me, Obama dealing with the economy takes a back seat to dealing with our broken judicial system. WE need to fix the media and the election process as well. UNTIL that time, we don't have a Democracy.

The torture started before the legal excuses were sent out. And Bybee is now backpedaling -- not even he supports his own writings.

The spying started before the alleged 9/11 provocation.

If you have Domestic spying, you can crush the Bloggovich's who dare to support Unions. You can get Nancy Pelosi to rubber stamp your treason and after that, she has to cover up your crimes to CYA.

The CIA was backing Bush, merely for self-preservation because he involved them. And while I detest that Obama said that they wouldn't be prosecuted -- I understand that for practical reasons, he needs to make them think he won't -- it really isn't his call, he is the "executive branch" if we ever go back to the separation of powers.

All you know about torture is what was leaked out. The only people prosecuted were the only ones photographed. We have not had investigations and we cannot know how bad it is until that happens (and if like the 9/11 Commission, probably never).

Likely a lot of information got destroyed.

So we have corruption all the way to the top.
A concerted effort to fix facts, that we know of from the After Downing Street memos, the Lincoln Group and Australian press, and from Curveball.

We have methods that were adapted from SERE, which was based upon surviving Chinese tactics used to illicit false confessions. Everyone involved said this wouldn't give intel. So there is no clear excuse that this was EVER for national security.

People died and were tortured to cover the asses of Bush administration officials -- and even that didn't work. But it allowed them to use the Patriot Act to destroy the Constitution and give free reign to the Banks.

Is there any positive result from their actions to even justify it from a cynical point of view? No.

This is like being the last anti-global warming believer when the tides are coming in 3 miles from the former coast.

Rob Perkins said...

So quickly into profanity and sophistry. No surprise from some of this crowd (host and moderator excepted, for obvious reasons...)

Of course it was torture. Duh. But I want the law tightened out of the ambiguities those lawyers used to confuse the issue.

Then, if there's still will for it, impeach away. Whatever; that's politics, I guess. Andrew Johnson got no better treatment. If the Dems want to do it, it's in their power.

'Cause that will get things changed. Not.

Here's a relatively decent interpretation of Bybee's impeachment and conviction chances. Kaimi Wenger is a Mormon kind of like me; not apparently fussed at the idea of gay households or progressive politics, and nauseated by the mess created by the Iraq incursions and the fallout there.

(Bybee is a Mormon, but politically not at all like me, except perhaps for the desire for great care when changing the implicit social contract).

(I was far more in favor of *very* indirect and secret action. Not battalions the way we actually did it, but rather efforts to surprise and lull the enemy, thwarting him at every possible turn, all while appearing to do nothing huge, except a big public grimace and the statement, "Oh, our very best people are all over it."

We'd probably have Bin Laden by now...)

Do it your way and you'll keep 'em full of animus towards *you*, and on that basis they'll never, ever listen. Think about it! Do you want stuff fixed, or just to keep pounding on the cro-magnon-Republicans until *our side* makes another slip up and the pendulum swings?

There's been 25 years of *that*. Let's do something else than choir-preaching to a blog of fellow travelers.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Rob said...
Do it your way and you'll keep 'em full of animus towards *you*, and on that basis they'll never, ever listen. Think about it! Do you want stuff fixed, or just to keep pounding on the cro-magnon-Republicans until *our side* makes another slip up and the pendulum swings?
Sophistry? How about the sin of navel gazing? I think we've done it your way the past 50 years. We "tightened" banking rules without going after crooks and greed after the S&L crisis. We "studied" all the things that can go wrong with Iran/Contra but did anyone NEED to spell out that starting illegal wars was wrong? The school of the Americas trained people to kill and torture.

Negroponte, Kissinger and others in the Bush admin, actually helped Chile's fascist overthrow of a Democratic government.

Justice has been denied too long.

Did we need to invade Cambodia? What was accomplished in invading Central America to "arrest" the Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and kill 2000 people in the process? Was it because he was corrupt or because he didn't want to ship drugs for the CIA anymore? I certainly don't know the truth.

I could list a dozen and more "unexplained" and horrible things our country has been involved in. We never got the truth. The guilty weren't punished. We LET Bush steal the 2000 election and instead of looking at the 80,000 votes thrown out, and the millions of frauds around the nation -- we "moved on" and let that rat into office.

And all so that he could "become confused" over torture. Any DECENT person, would be offended at the typical conditions in a US prison.

I'm really offended, that it's that difficult for you and Bybee to know what it is to mistreat a detainee. Name, Rank and Serial Number is all you are entitled to know. 3 meals a day, time to sleep, time to be active. The use of loud music, stress positions and cold temperature without adequate clothing -- that is abuse. That is non-productive. That is the LEAST we are talking about here.

It is extremely easy for me to know what improper treatment is; if you had someone who turned out to be innocent, and you had to talk to their family about how they were treated in your care at the dinner table. If you have problems with that -- you are doing something wrong.

>> But this intellectualization -- there goes Dr. Mengele. I'm not using epithets for effect. Moral relativists like yourself deeply offend my love for the IDEA of America -- and a pox on the people who think the nation supersedes the principles.

Am I supposed to be calm, when I have to sip tea and discuss the weather with people who so easily can dismiss principles that makes this nation great because it is good? People died for the idea of America -- not for weasels to hide behind probable deniability and flag waving.

I'm sure I'm overstepping the normal etiquette here -- but it makes me sick that this is up for debate. If you want American servicemen and journalists and missionaries to undergo what we did to our "suspected" al Qaeda detainees -- then you deliver them into the hands of tyrants.

I'm willing to calmly discuss all kinds of reasonable things. But it isn't hair splitting to drown someone repeatedly. There is no Left-and-Right debate on that -- it's just wrong.

Sure, there are plenty of times when our country has done horrible things in our past. And you know what? They were all wrong and they didn't help us advance the world for the average citizen. They were expedient and usually for ignorance, greed and fear.

I'm not a Christian but I have a lot more faith in the power of setting examples and doing unto others as you would have done unto you. It isn't up to debate in my book. What good is any religion if it doesn't at least make people more ethical?

Rob Perkins said...

Shatner, you honestly think I'm allied with Bybee?

You really aren't actually reading what I wrote, are you? He won't be tried. He won't be impeached, and even if impeached, he won't be convicted. And it doesn't matter what *I* think about it; because the realpolitik is in play here and the Congress won't do it.We should apply political energy elsewhere. To do otherwise merely serves to re-elect Chuck Schumer, accomplishing nothing else.

Don't you get that? The only way to constrain the next Republican President is to hedge the law *now*, while the iron is hot, if you will, to make the excuses into crimes.

(There will be a next Republican President. Don't kid yourself.)

But now that I've suggested an alternate way to win (for you to win, sir!) , the fact that it doesn't match your exact desire for vengeance along with a better America, well, I must be Bybee's ally, because I think that no matter what I do (and bear in mind that my own Rep and Senators are already Democrats) he won't stand at trial for writing those memos.

That's the sophistry.

So I'm going to repeat myself, only one more time: Of course it was torture. DUH. I'm not your enemy, not even politically!

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Then apologies.

You are talking tactics -- not excuses. Sorry.

It just really mimics the crap and diversions from the right.

Sorry again to confuse you with that.

>> That said -- we've been down this road before. You can NEVER describe the bad stuff enough so that the Economic Royalists and fascists can't weasel through it. Was Sarbanes Oxley a replacement for Glass Stegal? A lot of very tight rules and reporting.

The problem, isn't the interpretations of the law. Bush re-interpreted everything meant to say NO, to give some crony excuse to do YES. We have privatized banking for crying out loud -- which Thomas Jefferson wrote would be the downfall of our Democracy. He was right.

This is ALL about law enforcement. To 'reinterpret' more clearly the rules, would be a total failure and to admit defeat. The Bush cronies would LOVE for Democrats to go back and reflect on their navels on the best way to get wonky on policy for another 8 years. The SAME PEOPLE will be back in 8 years, to be clever and re-interpret some other loop hole, this is just a pleasure and a challenge to evil, clever people.

Obama needs to get a clear message that we won't accept another Warren Commission, another Iran/Contra investigation. If the Spanish Courts take down our war criminals, it will mean that America has failed justice in the eyes of the world.

We have the Geneva Conventions -- among many other treaties. Every tin-horn dictator will skirt them, and then when caught, will drag out some policy wonks to write out pretty little bureaucratic memos. Unless you prosecute the perpetrators, future perpetrators will see no harm in trying to get away with the same thing again.

The Benefits to the Bush Crime Family have far outweighed the Risks. I'm talking about Prescott Bush, trading with the enemy and hiding Nazis funds. The Pappy Bush making bank on the CIA and selling drugs to fund weapons to sell to the factions in Iran that were anti US. And then all the banking scandals connecting that family with BCCI, and the billions in fraudulent federal notes that went down with the court case at the WTC. Dick Cheney has had 4 major criminal careers so far without so much as a slap on the wrist.

It is truly sickening. Why should I care about following the law? If I manage to steal enough and get enough power, I can sit back and chuckle over the policies that get written up to close that loop hole.

It's not as if we haven't done EXACTLY what you are suggesting since I've been on this earth. I'm kind of sick of it, and I could care less if Obama is successful if he doesn't get this right. I don't care anymore about this country, or the half-assed people in it if we can't honor human rights.

I don't care if it is you, or 99% of all the Liberals saying that this is impractical. My entire life so far, has been practical, and since Reagan, this country has been slipping away. We have people who managed to battle for the rights of a cluster of human blastocysts. Is that practical? It seems to me, that the Right Wing has never been practical but they've been damn successful securing their nonsense and rights for guns no people. Their spending of half our wealth on war and a pittance for the poor.

Practical doesn't cut it, because we've slowly slipped into the deep end of low expectations.

Not one more inch.

If John McCain had won the election, I swore I was leaving the country. If Obama compromises on this -- he will be another "reasonable" Bill Clinton in my mind who gave us NAFTA and paved the road for Democrats to be only a slightly better option than Republicans.

If Obama caves on this -- we will have to constantly defend the "strategy" of the Democrats, rather than hold up their principles.

The Road to Hell has been paved with the compromises and we are almost past the gates in my mind.

>> I have been urging a "wait for the strategy" caution on this point for a while. And I am patient that Obama has to PRETEND to not allow for the investigations because he doesn't have a functioning justice department, a federal prosecutor, nor a Congress that would do anything but CYA.

But I'd want him to know, that on this, I will give him or anyone else just enough rope to hang himself. If Bush and Cheney are not hauled up in court by the end of his term, I'd put money on the next prosecutor to try Obama, Cheney and Bush as co-conspirators.

And the next president as well.

It has got to stop sometime. And if the Repugs, can get their troops enraged over the fate of a few cells and NOT support health care for poor kids -- wow, at least we can learn from their example of being a bit more unreasonable.

Jester said...

There will be another Republican in the White House.

You're right.

L. Paul Bremer the third, the man who personally destabilized Iraq by shutting down all State Industry (20% of Iraqi Employment), "Laying Off" the Iraqi Army (nearly 10% of Iraqi Employment) and "De-Bathification" of Government Offices (another 10%, mostly high paying) took these notes at a meeting with Kissinger in late December 1975, while castigating State Department employees for leaving a paper trail proving that he had encouraged Suharto to invade and annex East Timor.

"I know what the law is, but how can it be in the US National interest to kick the Indonesians in the teeth"?

Close to a million people have died in the Genocide that occured as a result of that invasion, one conducted almost entirely with US Supplied weapons.

Are you seeing the links in this chain, yet?

This is not about "vengance". This about breaking a chain of law-breaking that has destroyed our reputation and made us less safe.

This is about restoring some accountability to the Executive, and destroying forever the argument that "It's not illegal if the President orders it".

I know you're the product of a fringe sub-culture, but understand that grown-ups use language like "bullshit" for emphasis in conversation in our larger society.

Most Americans value honesty and decency above politeness. I do realize that those are not the values on which you were raised, but getting huffy isn't likely to change the rest of us.

Anonymous said...

Brin here from dc:

Sadly, Shat (please don't monopolize so much guy!) and others miss my point. I want people to go to jail and I ant the FBI honored for having refused to cooperate with that travesty...

But with so many potential felons, I'd rather go after those whose pursuit will ADD strength to the fight against culture war, not subtract from it. Establishing transparency is net. I would love to see Yoo hang his head in repentance before a Truth Commission...

But I got priorities and I aain't in the biz of pumping Limbaugh's ratings.


Just sent this to Alex Steffen in reply to his latest at Worldchanging....


> Alex, to my mind, the issue isn't whether or not geoengineering belongs on the table. It does. Some proposals do seem intrinsically more sane while others appear outrageously lunatic. For example, if, instead of dumping iron, we simply stirred the ocean bottom in a few locations, we would imitate nature's precise method for creating vast fisheries, creating food while sucking carbon out of the air... something inherently less risky than starting up volcanoes. (I illustrate this in EARTH (1989).)
> But no, the isue at hand is not the merits of any indvidual geoenginering scheme. It is instead the need to finally diagnose genuine, bona fide insanity when we see it. The climate change denier movement stands esposed for what it has always been, a frenzied quasi-religious cult, bereft of even marginal logic.
> In desperate, successive phases, the members of this cult first sneeringly dismissed the notion that warming is occurring at all, as a secular trend.
> Then, when forced to admit that it is so, they denied that human-generated activities could possibly affect Earth's climate.
> Then, when science came in overwhelmingly against that position, their gambit was to minimize likely effects.
> Then, when the US Navy announced plans to deal with an ice-free Arctic, they began promulgating the notion that it all will turn out to be beneficial(!), and/or that "anyway, it's already too late, so don't bother." Many people have unblinkingly gone from one position to the next, without even glancing in the dictionary, under "inconsitency" or "hypocrisy" or "credibility."
> Now comes geoengineering, under which they admit that their earlier positions were absolutely and completely wrong in every possible way, and yet continue to insist on their right to sneer at the other side, which proved right on every single count! Such gall! Such Chutzpah!
> Why are these jerks doing this? It does not really map on to "conservatism" which used to preach wisdom like "waste not" and "a penny saved" and "cleanliness is next to godliness" and which used to adore efficincy. That THIS is "conservatism would send everyone from Cotton Mather to Barry Goldwater to even Richrd Nixon spinning in their graves. (A possible new energy source?)
> Is it really at the behest of a few carbon fuel moguls, the same way that shills also ranted distractions for so long, on behlf of Big Tobacco? Can it really be as simple as that?
> I suspect deeper psychology is involved, e.g the trumped-up treason that is called "culture war" - whose effect has been to oversimplify all complex issues and effectively lobotomize the greates problem-solving nation in history. The same reflex that made this same clade oppose civil rights and every other reform of the last 75 years. In the end, it has nothing to do with "left vs right". (I happen to be a big fan of Adam Smith0 Rather, it is about biliously hatred of "smartypants." And anything at all proposed by wiseguys.
> There is asolution. Let a consortium be formed with one aim, to collect names and public statements, with an openly stated goal:
> "These people clearly have followed a pattern of obstructing humanity's efforts to come to grips, to innovate and to solve a desperate threat to our nation, world, children and planetary survival. Their eagerness to jump from one failed rationalization to another has only one common theme -- a relentless eagerness to block civilization's efforts to become more energy efficient.
> "Since there are NO other commen elements to their positions, we shall operate under the assujmption that blocking energy efficiency is their central goal."
> This consortium should go on to make a simple declartion:
> "From this moment on, we serve notice. All evidence gathered will go toward building a case for civil lawuits, to be filed in future years, holding these people financially responsible for tort damages done to our nation, people, children, civilization and planet, by a conspiracy whose sole aim was to prevent the amelioration of a deadly threat to public health and public welfare. Based upon the utter consistency of their behavior -- similar to that of the tobacco companies, during their own denial and obstruction epoch -- we plan to reduce some of the pain and damages that this conspiracy will have caused, by seeking civil damages plus major punitive penalties.
> "Individuals have perfect freedom of speech. But when lies are spread with malicious and selfish intent that results in palpable harm to others, the victims (we and our posterity) do have recourse in court. Participants in this conspiracy are served notice. They should step back and view their relentless campaign against energy efficiency in this light."
> david brin
> sent from Washington DC

Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sociotard said...

I don't know, I kind of like being refered to as part of a fringe sub-culture. It makes me feel special.

Anyway, I don't think Jester was saying that our people do not value honesty, but that he thinks we place a greater emphasis on proper language. The difference may be subtle, but it is there.

Of course, I don't think even that statement is actually true. I know a lot of people in my ward have a secret admiration for J. Golden Kimball.

(I find swearing counter productive myself, but I'm fairly tolerant of others using it)

Rob Perkins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
thinkahol said...

"It just cannot be said enough that our political elites truly do believe that "law" is only for the dirty, filthy masses -- but not for them. It really is that explicit. Joan Walsh was on Howie Kurtz's CNN show yesterday and the other guests -- The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and former Bush speechwriter David Frum -- responded to her like she was from Neptune all because she repeatedly made one point -- torture is against the law and therefore those who ordered it, by definition, committed crimes. This is a point they literally could not comprehend. That's because they reject the necessary premise in which this simple proposition is grounded: that political leaders are bound by what we call "law." The reason we have become the country we've become is because we've fallen all the way down to Jon Meacham and David Broder from what, at least in principle, used to guide us -- the Hard Leftist, vengeful idea of Thomas Paine:

But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America the law is King. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.

Or the Hard Leftist idea of John Adams: " the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men. . . . that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of law, is the best of republics."

Or that of Hard Left partisan Teddy Roosevelt: "No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor."

If one surveys the wreckage that has become our political class, this explains much of it: we've gone from Paine ("so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is King") and Adams ("an empire of laws, and not of men") and Roosevelt ("No man is above the law") to Newsweek and Jon Meacham ("That is not to say presidents and vice presidents are always above the law") and David Broder (holding leaders accountable for lawbreaking is ugly, destructive, populist vengeance except when it involves a sex scandal).

It's difficult to imagine how nauseated (though perhaps not surprised) people like Paine and Adams would be if they would have known that, a mere 230 years later, we'd have as opinion-making elites people like David Broder and Jon Meacham declaring that "presidents and vice presidents are [not] always above the law" -- this is the American President we're talking about; criminal prosecutions are inappropriate for his crimes-- as though that theoretical concession represents the reasonable, centrist, responsible view rather than the authoritarian, lawless, establishment-revering, deeply un-American tripe that it is."

i stole that from Gleen Greenwald. I hope the formatting didn't get too off. Google him or look for him at salon.

Rob Perkins said...

I got too prickly at Jester, gave his words an uncharitable reading (the most uncharitable reading possible, it now appears), forgot to be moderate my own comments, and regretted it in the morning. So, they're deleted with my apologies to you all.

And now there's a hole in the thread's continuity. Sorry about that as well.

Jester said...

I could have worded it a lot better, Rob.

How about -

I know you value politeness, and I understand that's one of your culture values, but in society at large blunt honesty and "straight talk", cuss words included, have a value - a value which is even greater when they are used by people like Fake William Shatner, Myself, or even Dr. Brin - people who use then only occasionaly and when really stressing something.

I understand that it bothers you, because you've been enculturated to view the use of such words as inherently rude, rather than as a forcefull way of making a point.

Please don't get distressed or take the use of such words personally unless someone starts directly insulting you. If anyone calls YOU an asshole, feel free to get in just a big a huff as you want. ;)

Clearer, I hope.

Captchca: Freda - the movie which proved that there is exactly one woman alive I would sleep with even if she doesn't groom her unibrow.

TwinBeam said...

I don't agree that Obama has any such high minded goal in mind - he just wants to avoid the massive distraction it would cause.

But if you believe that he does have such a goal in mind, then he should follow the Jefferson Davis model as you yourself pointed out.

We didn't say "Let's pretend the Civil War never happened and turn the page". That approach grants the wrong-doers moral equivalence, by default.

Obama should officially pardon Bush and Cheney and everyone down the chain of command who took their orders to torture and wrongfully imprison people.

"They were wrong, but did not understand - perhaps still do not understand - how wrong they were. We must stand above petty vengeance and allow the wounds they dealt this nation to heal."

Rob Perkins said...

Ah no, I don't mean that I took offense at profanity. I mean that it was a distraction and not germane to the point.

I know all those people did all those things. But since I have no power to change what they've done, it follows that there is no point in doing things which will distract from economic recovery, restoration of diplomatic parity, reconstruction of military readiness, etc.

And it occurs to me that TwinBeam's suggestion could be marvelous political jiu-jitsu.

They're going to get away with having done it all anyway. Nobody doubts that. Ranting about it might make you feel righteous but it won't bring justice.

But if Obama *pardons* them, then the implication becomes clear: they committed a crime. Will you be electable if the campaign ad says, "John Doe for Governor? In 2009, Doe was pardoned for the crimes of torturing prisoners of war. What will he do to the budgets of our social programs? Torture them into oblivion? John Doe. Torturer. Wrong for the highest office in the State."

One can dream. There's certainly a law and a process hedging pardons and who gets them, so maybe not...

Ilithi Dragon said...

Interesting idea, Rob, though of course, if Obama did that, everyone Right-Winged pundit, talking head, ranter, politician, town cryer, etc. would suddenly become vehemently opposed to torture, and would rail against Obama and the left for pardoning everyone who was involved in it, and calling it his tacit support of torture, etc.

Kelsey Gower said...

Hey David, look at this:

Obama praises FBI, says country counting on it

Rob Perkins said...

Yup, Ilithi. In other words, either way, we win.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Sorry, I'm not trying to monopolize the conversation. But I'm kind of bothered that if the intelligent people here don't get why trying the Bush crime family for torture isn't the most important issue -- then I don't know where I can talk sense. I'll try to take a break after the next 2(two) rants.
Rob said...
Go right ahead and rage if you want, fake-William-Shatner, but don't expect me to equate it with much more than dumping a bag of tea in the river. 

Honestly: The benefit of seeing that global warming is real is that people will take adaptive and preventative action, not that "my enemies the Evil Ones will finally be exposed for the evilish evil they've been evilling on us all."
The Tea-baggers may be silly. But these are the same fools who got rights for Blastocysts. Being loud, un-deterred, and foolishly believing you cannot be stopped is the best way I know to win.
... Sorry to belabor this point, but there is a disease in the thinking of people in this country. You don't seem to be infected, but you are a carrier. It's "low expectations" -- once upon a time, Americans had the foolish idea that we were great because we were good, that we could do anything, and the world's problems can be solved.

I have to skip to the point here and not bother with my pages of proof;
The conversations we have about the "singularity" need to be re-read. There are two paths to go on and the fork in the road is right up ahead. Either we have a resource wars and a dystopia, that uses technology to subjugate the population to protect them from a phantom menace, or we have an enlightened society of empowered citizens and transparency.

Just as the 20'th century brought us the atom bomb where one person could destroy a city -- the modern 21st century is creating a situation where one crooked person can pollute as much as a city.

Our corruption and lack of a voice for people is echoed by our pollution. Population reduction tracks women's rights -- and reducing the population should also be a goal. Unravelling the thread of the Bush Crime Family and torture will lead to all the other crimes against America. The Global Warming denial is intertwined with the drug trade, war profiteering, the Fed/Bank fraud, and atrocities in Latin America. Involved in all of that is the Bush family.

>> And just like the press the FBI has missed all the really important crimes this past decade. Obama seems to be just trying to re-assure all the compromised agencies that he won't rock the boat. This is a smart strategy if he is going to try and separate the Bush Crime Family from all the people just trying to CYA.

Cliff said...

Interesting. I see Brin rail against oligarchy with every breath, and then when we get clear evidence of torture - favored tactic of oligarchies everywhere - he suggests holding off.

I can somewhat understand his rationale - let Obama focus on 'more productive efforts' - but for two things:
1) I don't see it being a significant expenditure of political capital. Encourage Eric Holder to begin independent investigations. That's all it would take.
2) If there is a battle to be fought over America's character, why not make it this one? This touches on the rule of law and America's moral standing in the world. Is there a better place to take a stand?

Here's another idea, look at it from a jujitsu angle - proceed with the investigations. Let the right scream and howl over it. While they expend their energy there, take care of other important things without their obstruction.

Another note: recent polls find 20% of Americans self-identify as Republicans. That group is shrinking. How much longer do we have to gain their approval on every single common-sense action that we wish to take?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Here is a great fear I have-- that the following comment is correct;
TwinBeam said...
I don't agree that Obama has any such high minded goal in mind - he just wants to avoid the massive distraction it would cause.
If I thought Obama was thinking that way, I'd totally write him off as part of the solution. Justice cannot be a "distraction" -- there is nothing good that can be done in this country without it. The Environment will not be helped unless we are in a Democracy. Every dang tyranny on earth, treats the earth with contempt. The Economy cannot be helped because the Banksters are too entrenched and can influence too many people. Those people are compromised and only a court can remove them.

"Not Distracting us from what is important..." There is nothing more important than upholding the Constitution. Without that, there isn't anything else that is going to be fixable, because you can't deal with the corruption. We couldn't be distracted by impeaching Bush -- I'm guessing if we had re-counted the votes in Florida in 2000, we wouldn't have had the Derivatives and Bank explosion.

>> If Obama isn't being sneaky about releasing information so that he can go after BushCo -- if he really thinks he can get through to 2010 without prosecutions, he is going to fail in a big way.
The Masters of the Universe, are going to do everything to undermine him. They've looted billions of dollars and they have the means. They are not happy with their fall from grace and they will try and get control of more media, and more mercenaries, and more monopolies. The Republicans are going to wail no matter what is done. They just need to find an excuse.
Exposing more of the torture will pull the rug out from under them. Decency is not a left-right issue, and forcing the Thugs to justify the Rendition is going to expose NeoCon leaders for what they are.

>> The OTHER SHOE has yet to drop. The banks are not out of the woods -- merely cooking the books. The BushCo cabal will do almost anything to destabilize the country now -- and I'd feel a lot safer if they had the spotlight of a court trial.
Because from a "practical standpoint" as Rob likes to put it -- if you knew right now that there was going to be outrage and pitchforks in the street before the year was out, then you must realize it must be directed. Either you let Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, and William Kristol direct where it goes, or you do it by having hearings.

Hopefully, Obama is aware that having Congress or some stooge like Allen Specter involved, will get as much done as the 9/11 Commission.

Jester said...

Hearings are pointless, and seriously undermine the purpose of our Constitution.

Give them all a fair trial...and I'd challenge anyone here to make a sound case that any single one of our Founding Fathers would have seen it differently.

I've got a lot more sympathy for the Enlisted men and women, and lower ranking officers, who participated in this, just to be honest and clear.

Unlike "Civilian Contractors" and CIA employees, they weren't free to just quit. They had to face to specter of an insane administration demanding they be prosecuted for disobeying orders, or being sent on far more dangerous duty, or spending a couple years on their CO's "shit list".

The Resignations of Senior Officers are almost always accepted, which is why I tend to view them same way as Civilian Contractors and the CIA.

I'm not a Loon, I know damned well we'll never see Bush or Cheney serve a day for this crap, and that the Odds against Rice, Yoo, Rummy, Bybee, ect. serving any time are extraordinarily long.

It will be nice when a Spanish Court convicts them in Absentia, for what it's worth, but they ain't going to jail.

Just in the interest of general interest, it turns out the Reagan Justice Department threw a Southern Sherrif in the pokey for ten years for ordering Waterboarding, back in '83.

No wonder Specter switched parties, and Snowe is seriously considering it.

TwinBeam said...

Possible sign of sanity returning?

Jester said...

Conyers, Nadler Formally Request DOJ Appoint Torture Special Prosecutor

"In a five-page letter sent to Holder Tuesday, Conyers and Nadler, who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and 14 of their Democratic colleagues, said the release of four Bush administration “torture” memos, a Senate Armed Services Committee report on detainee abuse, and a report prepared by the International Red Cross on the treatment of 14 “high-value” detainees in U.S. custody, which the agency concluded "constituted torture," “highlight the need for such an appointment.” "

The address is really long and I'm too stupid to link properly. Google works :)

FDR once said "I agree with you, now make me do it".

Here's hoping Obama is playing the same game.

ToddR said...

Elizabeth de la Vega argues that appointing a special prosecutor right now would virtually guarantee that no convictions would result at:

Acacia H. said...

And the Democrats come one seat closer to 60 in the Senate.

I have to admit, I think that the Republicans are shooting themselves with Coleman. There is no way Coleman could ever win at this juncture. If he did get a redo for the election, there is sufficient bad will against him that he would lose. And even if every single remaining ballot was counted, would it be enough to help him?

What's more, the Republican brand is being destroyed as a result of this. Forget Coleman. Could ANY Republican win a Senate Seat in that state now, with this long court case that won't go away?

Arlen Specter's decision to join the Democrats is quite damaging, but the damage isn't yet done. The natural reaction of the Conservatives is to snap at Specter. But there are two other moderate Republicans who likewise have been threatened, not only by Steele and the party (threats of no funding and the like) but also by conservative opposition running against them.

With the Conservative Backlash against Specter and the moderate Republicans... how long before one of the last two moderates bail? Either to go Independent or joining the Democrats as well?

The Conservative movement is collapsing in on itself like a degenerate dwarf star. In time, it may collapse under its own weight and die. And it is blind to this fate.

Fortunately, the Democrats themselves are fairly fragmented. If the Republican party fails... we will likely see a new political party formed, comprised of moderate conservatives and conservative liberals. We may even have three parties for a bit, with the remnants of the Republican Party continuing to sputter along in the South, before they finally succumb to changing demographics and immigration.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Tony Fisk said...

Robert, did you see Twinbeam's link to the reformed Whigs? (are they a force to be reckoned with, or are they a bunch of 'wollies' (sic)?)

It isn't conservatism that's dying, its 'selfservatism' (and good riddance to bad rubbish!)

Jester said...

It's extremely unlikely that we'll see any third party.

They prefer to play label and Caucus game, and I've had people tell me quite proudly that their Congressman "Ain't a Democrat, he's a Blue Dog".

We've had two National parties for 148 years, and that's not really likely to change.

Yes, Coleman is a tool funded by tools. I had nothing against the guy making use of all his legal options before the ECC, and letting justice run its course, and making sure every legal vote was counted.

That was done, and he's now appealing on ridiculous Equal Protection Arguments. He's literally down to arguing that Poll Workers in different precincts might have different inherent biases that might have led them to be offputting in their "general demeanor" toward some voters...wish I was joking.

He's stalling and asking for weeks to prepare briefs that should have been done days after the Ruling. It's transparent.

All that said, the delays were all warranted until the end of last month. A panel of Republican judges gave a fair hearing, and he lost.

However, on the Classy Republican front, Tedisco up in New York bowed out once Murphys lead kept growing, instead of tying it up and denying his district representation.

The writing was on the wall, and he did the honorable thing. I might think his political views are wrongheaded, but Fair Play to him.

Specter is promising to vote the way he always has, and to keep trying to block the Democratic Agenda and Obamas Nominees.

It's not a net gain, except maybe in some Meta sense.

Ilithi Dragon said...

A little off topic, but I've been wondering recently why Republicans/Conservatives seem to hate Nancy Pelosi so much. I hadn't paid much attention to the anti-Pelosi comments and such before, just brushing it off as the topical 'they're from the other side' stuff, but a conversation with a co-worker today made me really wonder, what it is about Nancy Pelosi in particular that seems to set Republicans/Conservatives off so much? Is it just because she's Speaker and on 'the other side', or is there some other reason why the name 'Pelosi' is a curse-word in many Republican/Conservative homes?

On Specter, I'm both glad and disappointed that he's switching. It's another blow to the Republican party and another prime example of key Republican moderates abandoning the party, but it's also another blow to the Republican party, and the GOP needs MORE moderate influence right now instead of less. I have a lot of respect for conservatism and the basic principles of the movement, so it's disappointing to see the party representing that movement literally shaking itself to pieces, and much as I agree with democrats on a lot of issues, I don't completely agree, and don't want to see the Democrats become the sole significant party - we'd probably have a few good years where a lot of progress was made, but the complacency would set in sooner or later, and the domination of a single, strong party would not be a good thing. Personally, I think we should do away with them all together, but that's not something I'll probably see in this lifetime.

Anonymous said...

I never said I didn't want SOBs to go to jail.

I want them to go t jail through proper execution of the functions of our justice institutions - augmented by rich whistle blower rewards (a missing element). And I'd prefer the issues at trial be such blatant and politically neutral crimes that the result is a populist wave of revulsion AGAINST culture war and Fox etc...

I want it all, in other words. And the current leftist obsession with "dealing with torture first!!" is ill considered. It has stopped, so it can wait a little bit. Get the thieves first because then we all winn.

THINK! why is Fox making this big fight over the torture revelations. They WANT that to be the battleground. Rather than the rape-theft of America by their bosses. Use jiu jitsu. Fight where they don't want to fight.


Jester said...

If you, probably fake DB, think mere politics are more important than restoring the Rule of Law...

Johnsons knew what he was doing when he signed the Civil Rights Act. It was worth it.

Now, with only 20% of Americans currently self-identifying as Republicans, any possible cost of Torture Prosecutions is probably going to be far, far, less.

A rush to Prosecute the day Obama took office would certainly have been seen as a politically motivated by some, but waiting too long will be seen the same way.

"Oh, he's just trying to run down the Republicans before the Mid-Terms."

Congress can have its commisions when trials are over. For two long, we've failed to respect the basic structure of a Government set up by rather wise men.

Let the Courts do their Job.

The flip side is avoiding doing what Clinton did - throwing away the Force Multipliers.

Without his Triangulation Policies, the 50 thousand attacked by the cops in Seattle could well have been 50 thousand volunteers for Gore.

Instead, most of a generation became entirely politicaly apathetic, and still votes at very low levels (so-called Gen X), while the rest of that Generation became Radicalized.

We can't afford to have that happen with the Millenials who elected Obama.

I wish I knew how to jolt people out of a 90's mentality. The country has changed.

NOT disillusioning the kids I phone banked with and knocked doors with is more important than agitating some dunderheads who are going to be pissed at That One no matter what he does.

Anonymous said...

Fine, but what's wrong with nailing unambiguous corrupt -thieves FIRST?


Anonymous said...

What's wrong with it is that going after torturers and murderers is more important than going after thieves.

What's wrong with it is that if we want to tell the world "America is back" this is the most important issue involved (except perhaps the deception of going to war. They're both about accountability.)

Whats wrong with it is that every day we delay adds strength to the "it's in the past, get over, move forward" fallacy the conservatives try to popularize.

What's wrong with it is that it takes time and focus away from an issue that demands our time and focus.

What's wrong with it, is that, now and forever, torture is unamerican and refusing the defendants the right to a speedy trial doubly so.

What's wrong with it is that justice delayed is justice denied, and our country has never really recovered from Nixon and Kissinger escaping their day in court. Delaying action compounds this, and tells the world (and history) that we don't really care about the fundamental American value of accountability, and the most important ideal of democracy that we've inherited through the ages all the way from the ancient Greeks: that no one "especially" the self-appointed kings are above the law. Otherwise America doesn't really mean anything.

And I'd prefer the issues at trial be such blatant and politically NON-neutral crimes that the result is that history forever shows that the conservatives, Fox news and other Father Coughlin wannabees were on the unequivocally wrong side of morality, history, legality, and simple humanity. As wrong as the original Father Coughlin was on WW2, antisemitism, and the like. As wrong as the opponents of desegregation (and as wrong as the opponents of gay marriage rights will one day be known.)

You won't end culture war by letting your fear of Limbaugh blather control your gameplan. (By that argument you shouldn't put Charles Manson trial because it gives him a platform to call for race war and the like.) You'll end it (if at all possible) by winning it definitively on a basic moral and pragmatic issue. We've got the law on our side, and we've got the army interrogators on our side ( who will tell that torture kills Americans, and destroys any foundation we have as a country.

And it disgusts me that the author of "The Transparant Society" could applaud delaying trials that would drag this disgusting filth kicking and screaming into the sunlight. Exactly when and where we need it most.

Jonathan Roth

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Obama is asserting that "the torture was a mistake."

Big oopsies put 2 million Americans in prison. I'm sure this is a flimsy legal argument.

However, Cheney is steaming ahead looking for 2 CIA documents to prove that torture works -- but there is no proof that other means wouldn't have worked as well.

I'm guessing the documents will never see the light of day. The 9th Appeals court that Cheney would be going to is covered by .... drumroll please; Judge Bybee.

In the Bush Crime Family, the people tasked with oversight, are the people who have been involved in it.

>> But the really nasty thing here is, Cheney is going to trash the Geneva Conventions, decades of US prestige and precedent, to save his lilly white @ss. Now torture will be a matter of debate.

If the BCF didn't think it was illegal, they wouldn't have had their lapdogs try and find legal excuses a year after using it and after removing the warnings; "Not effective for gathering intelligence." Because it was intended to justify the war.

There isn't anything more a violation of Constitution, human rights, international treaties, effecting our status and the rule of law.

Obama may THINK that the economy, and other financial crimes are more important -- but they aren't. All of those things are connected to the torture -- because the Iraq war leads to Cheney's Energy Task Force meeting where he divided up the country amongst campaign contributors like Exxon, prior to the invasion.

Torture is non-partisan, it's something that no decent person would debate... the fact that we are shows how far down the rabbit hole we are.

>> Who knows what an investigation would find. There are usually layers to the onions at BushCo, which is gifted at misdirection. IN fact, anyway they are pointing is usually NOT the place to be looking. Like the firing of Prosecutors was a distraction from WHY certain prosecutors were kept.

Maybe I've touched on these points before. The larger point is; that going after Torture is an easier path. Financial Records can be fixed -- but not people. I'm thinking in the back of my head that SOMEBODY has a record of who was rendered and where--if NOT, a policy of not keeping records would show a guilty conscience. IF this guy is some Al Qaeda mastermind -- why don't you know who he is and where he went? If they cannot produce the body -- it means that people were killed to cover it up. Why would the go to the expense of rendering? Maybe things worse than Waterboarding,... but I think the techniques they were using would turn most people into compliant vegetables in a few months, so I think people were rendered when they were inconvenient. You know, like nosey Journalists, people who made Bush's angry list, maybe people from Brewster Jennings. I've always suspected that Valerie Plame was just the excuse to reveal the agency. I don't know if it was Cheney or McCain or who -- but I think they distinctly ADDED the agency to talks with the press, when defending the notion of outing Valerie.

Look at what the CIA brass plate operation was doing; Monitoring actual oil production of Arab Nations and going under cover to track and disrupt Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Didn't we always wonder WHY we never found WMDs in Iraq -- why didn't they just plant a few hundred gallons of VX nerve gas and dangle it in front of our intrepid media? Possibly because Brewster Jennings did their job and stopped the shipment.>> If you had a lot of enemies because the Bush administration had implicated them in their crimes. The BEST thing you could do, is to reassure them that they are not your target. You should be defending Bush -- but with arguments that can't hold up in court. The NEXT best thing, is to bring up how that administration attacked them.

Obama has to tread carefully however, because he has to replace Judge Bybee and get a lot more appointments in place -- otherwise BushCo gets judged by BushCo, or you have Congressmen who have dirty hands, blustering with outrage, and then not putting people under oath. A nice little show hearing -- as Iran/Contra was.

If OBAMA is NOT doing this -- he is going to fail miserably. There is too much money and too much to lose in the hands of NeoCons. Take a trip down memory lane -- you need to realize that the NeoCons would do anything.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Oh sorry, I meant to add the next thing.

In regards to Turkey, Siebel Edmunds, under great duress as a translator and then whistle-blower, said that she uncovered Turkish transmissions that lead her to believe that the Bush administration was hindering efforts at non-proliferation, and was actively SELLING nuclear secrets to nations that THEY had listed as our enemies; Iraq, Iran, and I think Syria.

LINKThis is so broad and annoyingly complex that we tend to throw all these crimes into little boxes. Bush or Cheney or this conspiracy theory or that, can't possibly be true. But when you look at the timelines, look at the preponderance of smoke, you realize that there is a fire somewhere.

Or maybe if we keep digging in this manure, we will find a nice pony. Who knows?
The hubbub and rumors of our Government's behind the scenes support of A Q Kahn helps support that.

Waynester said...

David, in examining who profits from the culture war, I noticed that you focused solely on factions native to the United States. (Though Mr. Murdoch is from Australia, I believe.)

Would you please write a short follow-up as to whether you think any foreign powers or organizations might have worked, overtly or covertly, to assist the culture war?

After all, the less that the USA can make up its mind, the less it could effectively intervene in other countries, militarily, economically, intelligence-work (CIA) and so forth.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Obama should learn a lesson from Bush and not waste a good catastrophe.

Whether the Swine Flu is a mutating created virus that targets healthy people with quasi-conscious malevolence, or it's just an example of Viruses trading notes to produce better viruses -- I"m not sure.

I've had a theory about viruses, that they are Genetic instructors that the body uses to "broadcast" changes in the body. Organisms can have SOME evolution occur that does not require offspring -- or at least, express genes that were dormant in their repertoire (all the so called "junk genes"), and I think this is done in a mechanism very much like Viruses. The body is actively creating retroviruses all the time.

If your mom and dad have a lot of physical activity -- then your genes will express a need to build muscle, rather than some other expression. Some proof of this theory, is that it only takes a generation or two for people at high altitudes to get blue eyes as they did in the Andes. Not sure if Sherpas at the Himalayas have blue eyes -- but maybe they didn't have that particular "blue eyed gene" waiting in the wings to be switched on. The point is, there is a "fast track" mechanism for evolution that doesn't require survival of the fittest. Environmental factors switch them on -- and I believe, the immune system broadcasts the changes in what would be considered a virus if it didn't have a kill switch built in. Perhaps something like "Only copy and transmit 10 times." There is an efficiency to having all the sells produce copies of the message, rather than having the immune system start a "phone tree."

99.99% of the time, this goes off without a hitch. The retro-viral programming, has a kill switch -- much like the Telomeres on our genes that function has a handle, and a way to track how many times the gene has been copied. Each time, a telomere sequence is snipped off. I'm betting that Viruses may have had this, and either it malfunctioned, or they have a rogue snippet that keeps adding the telomeres back. Viruses could not function in our bodies, if our bodies weren't actively reproducing them -- they are inert bits of data, not really alive at all.

I suspect, if we get a "handle" on this mechanism, then Virus infections could be a thing of the past. Around half of the cancers are also viral.

>> But, what I'm getting to with Obama and "Disaster Capitalism" is that the FEAR of this outbreak, and how if it were a really bad contagion, we don't have enough Tamaflu (which has no proof of working actually, is banned in Japan for children, and heck, doesn't have antibodies for this particular flu -- just a general immune booster), and if the outbreak required that everyone see a doctor for a check-up, well, a good portion of the country is outside the privileged set that can get health care.

We spent Trillions on "Security" with the Pentagon and our Industrial War Machine. Whether on purpose or through incompetence, 19 guys with box cutters managed to defeat that expensive system. We didn't get a refund, did we? But REAL security, is just as much financial and medical.

Conservatives seem to be kind of deaf to the idea of giving "FREE" immunizations to illegal alien workers or migrant farmers. This sort of Socialism is a handout. Never mind that when someone gets dysentery, that's the guy who picked your spinach. The illegal alien with highly contagious Tuberculosis is creating a great launching pad for an outbreak, because she can pass it to other people who don't see doctors, and it can get out of control.

It's really expensive sometimes to NOT give things away to people who can't afford it -- but actually, compassion and fairness are the best economic strategies -- just runs counter to philosophies that want a ruling elite. With super wealthy -- you can't really have support for the Common Good. It doesn't have to be that way -- it just is.

>> BUT, if you could ramp of fears of an immunological attack, or financial attack, and shift these costs to the military,... ahhh. Yes, Universal healthcare and checkups could be the first line of defense against a super elite squad of Al Qaeda trained in the making of Islamo-fascist Flu viruses. For once, we could stampede the idiots towards the light.

Did you know that Welfare competes inside the NASA budget? If the Conservatives get to make us trade science for helping the poor -- then I think Obama can return the favor and make the war machine pay for basic health services in order to prevent outbreaks. The military at least can repurpose a lot of deployment and hasmat equipment.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Listening to Mike Malloy. He is suggesting that we not call this Swine Flu, but to call it the NAFTA Flu.

Seems that a Hog farm from Virginia, called Smithfield Farms, which was given perhaps the largest lawsuit judgement against it in hog farming history. Moved to a less regulated environment and continued to sell us the bacon, thanks to NAFTA.
LINKIn Mexico, I'm sure it's hard to tell cause of death from flu, with cause of death due to effluents, pollution and whatever falls between the grates on an overcrowded hog farm.

I stopped eating pork years ago, based on two factors:
1) Pigs are smart animals, and they know what is happening to them. I don't eat chimps or Octopus either -- nor anything smarter than a Dog. Not sure if I haven't eaten a cat or two at some cheap restaurants in Savannah, Georgia however.
2) I'm guessing, that the usual lobbying efforts have made any oversight on research into organ transfers with pigs, about as non-existant as possible. Human anti-bodies are put into hogs, so that their organs can then be put in humans without rejection. Yeah, think about the disease transfer on that for a moment.

But really, #3 now, should be the huge environmental damage that Hog farms produce. While cows may be kings of destroying forests and using up water, pigs are the kings of pollution.

And if you are a few hours from a meal either way, try reading up on what a hog farm is like.

>> Waynester,
I would say, that we are infiltrated by other countries at the highest level. Israel seems to have the lions share of these country partisans. But overall, the biggest influence has to just be Multinationals corporations, or I should say Extra-National Corporations, because they supersede most countries in authority. I think what is happening, is that the corps use the governments of each country against the others. We owe China, but our companies are trying to own them, while moving GM and Ford plants there. One day, their people will notice that things get outsourced, to wherever the people will endure more smog and lower wages.

Al Gore is calling out the corporate shills that engineered the anti-Global Warming propaganda. These energy companies are NOT allies of the USA or any other country.Hopefully, I will be able to take off the "theory" on another Conspiracy I've been irked about.

I read another article on Slashdot, that Internet Service Providers were hacking the cities attempts to provide internet services to the poor after not wanting to do it themselves. We have a pandemic of greed and profits above decency and what a company should owe to the people who allow it to exist in the first place.

>> I'll try to keep it to 2 posts a day. But it seems that other people have been too distracted to blog here for a while. Just tell me if what I'm saying is just too obvious.

David Brin said...

BAck home now, with little time.

Sorry to "disgust" Jonathan. I suggest he have a look at:
WHich I just discussed with interested parties at the National Institute on Drug Addiction

I'd resent (if I had the time/energy for indignation right now) your holier than thou insistence that I am lesser - morally - because I am less interested in vengeance than practicality in winning the bigger war against the very same enemy. The torture has stopped and been declared vile. That gives us spce to pick which battles come 1st. And my goal is an end to Culture War. Only then do we win permanently.

Shat, please lessen the monopolizing rants. Concise, please?


On this rare occasion, I naturally agree with Justice Scalia. And yet, this supposedly "sharp legal mind" still utterly misses the point.

Yes, freedom of speech and freedom to know trump privacy in general -- though not in many pragmatically-determined specific kinds of cases. But Scalia's blithe willingness to simply allow pictures of his grandchildren to be circulated as some kind of "price of freedom" is both absurd and stupidly short-sighted. What he appears to be blind to is the fundamental notion of reciprocality. If others have a right to research his grandchildren (with the implicit threat to their safety that this allows), he has a perfectly reasonable right to know about those who have made such queries, or who publish such private information about non-public figure.

In other words, ALL sides in the article are both dense and wrongheaded. No Euro-style "privacy laws" will (or should, or can possibly) promise blanket protection of private data. Small islands of protection, perhaps. Medical records. Attorney privilege. But not much more. Information leaks! It always has and always will.

The solution is empowering people to look back.

CeceS said...

Bill Maher's article made me laugh out loud. The wounded husband is not so much upset that he is single as he is upset that he was divorced (how dare she) and for someone he thought was a loser or possibly worse only recently descended from the apes (if you can even buy that homo sapiens were descended from the apes which many Republican fundamentalists have a problem with but I hypothesize those same people might be able to buy the argument for evolution better for black people than of whites. Nothing makes our dopamine receptors grow like beating a guy to a girl and I would hypothesize nothing shrinks our dopamine supply and sets us up for indignation like having our status swiped from out from under us.

David McCabe said...

Shatner, the notion of viruses as carriers is explored in Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear.

Tony Fisk said...

Being able to look back is only part of the solution.

The unrepentant, self-serving attitude of governments like Zimbabwe and Burma, even in the glaring spotlight of publicity, demonstrates that some people are totally devoid of shame.

In discussing the police action at a climate protest last summer, Cory Doctorow has this to say about relying on transparency alone:

"Transparency on its own is nothing more than spectacle: it's just another season of Big Brother in which all the contestants are revealed, over and over again, as thugs. Transparency on its own robs as much hope as it delivers, because transparency without justice is a perennial reminder that the game is rigged and that those in power govern for power's sake, not for justice."No, transparency is only a means of seeing whether or not justice is being done. Of itself, however, transparency will not guarantee that justice *is* done. That requires, not only eyes to see, but hands to act: to take the hook and drag the bad actor off the stage.

At the highest level, those hands have been tied by 'bad actors'. By way of example, Doctorow refers to an awful law that makes it an offence to photograph British bobbies. I would ask why shouldn't one celebrate civil servants in the performance of their duty? But no, it's an act of terrorism... and a source of moral outrage. Yet, it's the law; put in place by those very people we wish to hold to account.

Similarly, Obama appears constrained from prosecuting torturers because that is what their appointed task was, however repugnant it may seem to folk who are desparate for some moral accountability in government.

The dilemma is an old one, expressed beautifully by our old friend More from 'A Man For All Seasons':

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
We, all of us, can see that letting torturers and 'renditioners' go unpunished is morally unacceptable. To say 'arrest the bastards!' is to act as Will Roper would to 'get after the devil', and would likely have the same effect.

It's a game that makes chess look like snakes and ladders. As someone said recently of the economic models, it's very complexity is a counter to transparency. No wonder it's an idignohol still.

(BTW, David, how were your theories received?)

boordo: the guy in westerns, whose job it is to sit back on the verandah with his feet propping up the hitching post to observe when the stranger rides into town.

sociotard said...

So another campaign promise falls by the wayside, Gitmo gets an extension, and there will be no real trials for the prisoners there. This is really sad. In November the torture and civil rights abuses were what set me over the edge to vote for Obama, and now the only one I have to curse is myself. there's something in the White House water that turns well intentioned men into whatever the Powers What Really Are wants them to be.

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

I don't think Doctorow was aiming anything at anyone in particular. He was just making the point that transparency isn't enough on its own.

(For the record, references to Burma, Zimbabwe etc. were mine. Doctorow stuck to the UK)

David Brin said...

I should not have over-reacted, especially at such length. Corey is a smart fellow. And yes, transparency is necessary. It isn't sufficient. Though enough of it can almost be.

Nicholas MacDonald said...

I'm disappointed in your response to the Tea Party protests, Dr. Brin. Rather than look on in mockery like that little partisan imp Maher (a character I've grown increasingly sick of- no one offends me more than a person who claims to be a defender of reason yet refuses to use it), why don't you look at the real grievances that the protesters have- all 700,000+ of them.

(By contrast, the Iraq war protests in the US were, at their largest, only in the 400,000 range [though they reached much larger numbers outside the US]. Likewise, they were not grassroots- they were sponsored by the international ANSWER coalition, a group with deep Stalinist roots.)

Here are two articles I recommend about the protests as counters to the Maher article, from two sources. The first, from my old friend Jay Reding:

Money quote:
"The Tea Party movement is not a partisan movement. There is great anger at the GOP for not leading on the issues of our time and allowing government to grow out of control during their tenure in office. This is a protest based on principles: in fact, it is a protest based on the classically republican principles that the United States should have a limited federal government of enumerated powers.

Maher, like many, think that just because Obama won an election, that means his policies are 1) popular and 2) right for the country. Neither are true. Winning an election doesn’t vindicate your policy prescriptions now any more than it did in 2004. Obama’s ham-handed handling of the economy, his Quixotic campaign against the Bush Administration on torture, and his constant prostrations before America’s enemies from Iran to Venezuela all demonstrate how radical he truly is. His popularity is being supported by a fawning media and a public that is hardly paying attention. Obama’s gotten the same honeymoon that most new Presidents get. But in time, his star will fade, as all Presidents do."

Note that he points out that it is more than a partisan attack on the Democratic Party (just as I attended war protests and met Republicans- especially Catholic Republicans- who were opposed to the war). Reding also points out the difference between Bush's massive deficit spending- an obscene $420 billion in 2008 alone- and Obama's- $1.85 TRILLION- over FOUR TIMES Bush's already outrageous sum.

The frog was already boiling. Obama's just turned up the heat and pulled out the knob.

And the second, at, from Matt Kibbe:

There are serious grievances here- writing them off with "Where were they when Bush was doing the same! Waah!" isn't an excuse. Better late than never, opportunistic or not. (Likewise, let me promote a "New Rule", Bill Maher style- no more using hypocrisy or moral standing as a counter argument. As John C. Wright recently put it in his blog (, is Pythagoras is a pedophile, that doesn't change the truth of the Pythagorean Theorem. Likewise, even if it's politically opportunistic, that doesn't make it wrong. Chang Kai-Shek was a monstrous war criminal, a thug, a gangster- but overthrowing him in favor of Mao led China down a far darker path. Let's not do the same in America, okay?)

Jester said...

Apparently, your "New Rule" is "No more facts".

Even piggy-backing on the anti-tax protests that happen every April 15th and normally draw 100,000 nationwide, and being massively promoted by a major Cable News Network weeks in advance, and being pushed on a dozen nationally syndicated radio shows, The vaunted Tea Parties drew 250,000 to 600,00, NationWide.


Even the extremely right-wing Pajamasmedia (An organization which considered Joe the Plumber a "Reporter") cited 600,000 (which is like asking ANSWER to count one of their own protests), 100,000 less than your claim.

The biggest anti-war protests occured before the attack on Iraq (Feburary 15th, 2003), and drew 1.5 to 3 Million people all over America. 400,000 to 1 million was the largest single gathering in a single city, not the Nationwide total.



(Far from complete listing, doesn't mention scores of protests in the 5-15,000 attendance range)

The Free Press in advance of that protest ammounted to a San Francisco Chronicle article, and a few mentions on Pacifica stations.

For further comparison, to protest one immigration bill, 650,000 people in Los Angeles joined by an equal number around the country turned out in 2006, with nothing more than a weeks encouragement from a dozen local spanish-language DJ's.

There were actually 800,000 at the Million Man March.

The Weds after Prop 8 Passed, 100,000 took to the streets of Californias major Cities, in a protest "organized" in one afternoon and not funded by, well, anyone.

There just wasn't anything notable about the Tea Parties, historically.

Salt Lake City saw more Anti-Prop 8 Protestors back in November than it saw at its Tea Party April 15th.

Salt. Lake. City.

Astroturf = Fail.

Nicholas MacDonald said...


Nope, afraid not. Pajamas Media says that the overall attendance was 935,000.

Anyway, the fact that the turnout was so light is lamentable; I'd have been at one if I didn't live in Shanghai (where there generally aren't protests of any sort, for obvious reasons). We're letting our government sell us into the poorhouse. WHEN WILL THE FROG JUMP?

Jester said...

Funny, that's not what their estimate was in the days immediately after the event. The numer cited by Christian Science Monitor is the one Pajamasmedia supplied them.

Now, let's get to a few other facts.

Obama hasn't passed a budget yet. Hence, he doesn't have a deficit.

Might be higher or lower than the projection you quote(most likely higher), but he hasn't got one.

Second, Bush liked to play "off budget". He racked up 5.5 trillion in 8 years, giving him an average yearly shortfall of nearly 700 billion. War suplementals, and what not.

Third, and most importantly, deficits actually *don't* matter - if we get a return on the investment.

Not ALL government spending is hand-outs to no-bid contractors to build bases in Iraq where our soldiers get electrocuted trying to take a shower.

Given current interest rates, there's never been a better time to take on debt. The cost of financing it is at rock bottom.

The question isn't how much debt we run up - WWII left us 120% of GDP in debt. It's what we get for it.

Me, well, I'm as pissed as can be about this Administration (and the last one) paying blackmail to Financial Institutions. It's far from wise spending.

If they ran up similar debt improving our roads and providing us with green energy? Educating our young people?

That would be an investment, and would more than pay itself off in a few years.

David Brin said...

Nick, why do I dismiss the tea parties as mere political provocation? Um...where shall I start?

e.g. the fact that they were stoked, in a clearly coordinated way, by precisely the same media organs that have stirred Culture War for fifteen or more years, in precisely the usual manner? And a desperate need for continuing Culture War is exactly what those vampires want... not serious discussion about tax policy.

Or the fact that the right is utterly hypocritical to jump on this issue, since every single metric of economic, fiscal, and financial and legal management not only flunks their tenure in office, but offers prima facie cause to assume corruption on a scale not seen since the dawn of the republic?

Or the fact that the only ones with tax increases are the very top clades who control the GOP, doing what they have always done, waging class warfare against everybody else, insisting that they don't have to pay for a nation that they owe absolutely everything.

Or the fact that the mantra was always "tax breaks for the rich" when times were good and "tax breaks for the rich" when times were rough. "tax breaks for the rich" in war and "tax breaks for the rich" in peace. "tax breaks for the rich" under every conceivable circumstance and every conceivable condition. Always and forever "tax breaks for the rich"

Look, I am willing to have an informed, pragmatic discussion of tax policy. Like how we can all show some patriotism, at last, and dig in and get our kids out of debt. But a steep burden of proof falls on folks who want to trust the wisdom of a crowd that proved themselves to be at best utterly inept at running an economy... and at-worst the biggest thieves in our nation's history.

Dig it again... overall, (and even in SPECIFIC if you exclude just a few years under Eisenhower and reagan)... the economy, small businesses, competition, stocks, capitalism, wealth-generation and a continuing litany of all the things YOU ought to like... all do better under democrats.

That is nearly always. But I have given up hoping folks would even look past matras, at the facts.


Does anybody know any online resources and youtubes that are informative and interesting about the WORLD WATER CRISIS?

I need citations and links -- ideally to resources that are apolitical, and filled with useful information about both future projected problems and innovative solutions.


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

Here's some stuff from Sandia Lab:

Energy Demands on Water Resources 2006

Sandia National Lab Water Portal: A Collaborative Water Monitoring, Modeling and Management Environment
by Karl Horak — last modified 01-19-2009 10:43
The purpose of this portal is to provide a web-based, interactive environment for collaborative regional and international water monitoring, modeling and management. This venue allows multiple scientists, policy makers, water managers and stakeholders at multiple institutions around the globe to work together on water issues in real time. It also provides public access highlighting different regional and international projects.

Note: There is public and restricted information on this site. You may view all public information without logging in. A user ID and password is required for access to restricted information.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I wrote a really brilliant comment about the subjects at hand. I spent about 30 minutes trying to cull it down and make it concise. Decided it wasn't concise enough.

I got it even more concise -- which is a lot less words to the layman. But the grammar and prose were horrendous. And, I was sure that any comments would be directed at the least important aspect of what I was saying -- as has happened when I was putting out some ideas about how the Universe really works and someone writes back; "that was long."

I fixed that, and realized I had too much emotional passion in the text. That was too much like ranting. Even though people make decisions emotionally and justify them with facts, we can't go about actually caring about things like the Constitution -- we have to move on. We are in a big hurry to get to somewhere but we can't plan this in detail.

So I removed the emotion, and went with hard facts -- which made it lengthy again. Also anything funny had to be scrubbed -- because that is just dilly dallying. Short + Boob jokes = high scores on social media site. Long - Boob jokes = Ranting. Get the formula; live it, learn it, like it.

Long story short; at least I enjoyed reading it and I saved it to my hard drive--so the effort wasn't a complete waste. I do believe, it was the best blog post ever. I'll put it in a time capsule, and maybe when people have evolved enough to balance emotions with intellectualism, and have the ability to scroll past comments, they may unearth my genius. On the bright side, I will probably die poor from syphilis, but I will have gained a feeling of sharing with a rich collection of intellectuals in the afterlife -- so I've got THAT going for me.

OK, here is an outline of that blog;

Where money and power pool, you should tax more and require more transparency.
OK, a few things are really messed up towards that goal. CEO compensation goes up as pay to workers goes down. I managed to convey that this was not efficient without using the word "evil."

Tea-Baggers: Is this is a new form of performance art where people stomp in unison and everybody has ten pairs of boots on to give it that "army feeling?" A Tea-bagger Timeline to grow from seed, to sprawling plastic grass.David McCabe said...
Shatner, the notion of viruses as carriers is explored in Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear.
Bear is double-plus good. Almost Brin-like. 1990 this human construct predicted that first incidence of "sex" from single-celled organisms was adaptation to parasitic organisms trying to inject DNA. ... allowing offspring to be both infectors, and carriers of the hosts DNA -- parasitic symbiosis!
Sorry no link for authenticity. That was another gem on my hard drive -- an Atari I think.

I went on for one or two more paragraphs, as I explained how to circumvent unwanted Viral propagation -- but I didn't want to bore anybody with such self-indulgent drivel.

Well ... that was just a tribute to the best blog post ever.

Ilithi Dragon said...

@ Nicholas MacDonald: "Deep Stalinist roots?" I always question comments like this when thrown around as a 'reason you should be against something', because of the extreme negative association with communism and socialism (which Stalinism pretended to be) here in the U.S., and how often they have been applied to things to make them seem negative, bad or evil. All too often, something is labeled 'communist' or 'socialist' or 'Stalinist' when it really isn't, either because of misunderstanding or faulty information, or deliberate slander and propaganda.

In short, "OMG they're evil commie bastards!" isn't quite good enough for me. If you could provide some references to these purported 'deep Stalinist roots', I would be much appreciative.

On the Tea-Partiers/Baggers: Dr. Brin, WS, thank you for the informative analysis and link, they have provided me with a much better grasp of the movement. Jester, thanks for the protest statistics, very informative. You wouldn't happen to have the sources for them handy, would you? I can look them up, of course, but if you have them handy, it will save me a search.
} : = 8 )

WS, I would be interested in reading the unabridged version of your blog post. If you feel like sharing, my email is

On parasitic symbiosis: I've been speculating about that possibility for the last couple years, myself. It makes sense, though I'm no biology major. Interesting concept, though I'm afraid it's yet another topic to add to my list of "Things I Wish I Had the Time to Study" (speaking of which, does anyone happen to have a spare Flux Capacitor? I cannibalized the last one I had for parts a few months ago, and haven't found a replacement...).

And just so I feel like I'm actually contributing something to the discussion beyond "Thanks for the info!" (and because it's worth seeing), I strongly recommend watching the recently-released-to-theaters "Battle for Terra." It's a fairly short movie (not much more than an hour and a half long), but it is a very good movie, and a very moving story. It's one of the best movies of the year, I think (and this is a very good year for movies). If you haven't heard of it, the basic premise is that humans have squandered our resources, and destroyed Earth and our colonies on Mars and Venus in war, forcing the survivors to set off for the nearest habitable world in a sort of ark. The only problem is that this world, Terra, is inhabited by an intelligent species, and they can't breath our air, nor we theirs. Conflict arises, and I won't spoil the rest. It's a great and moving story, with powerful social commentary. And it looks really cool in 3D.
} : = 8 D

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Tony Fisk said...

Apart from access to the delete button, I think David is well equipped to handle indignoholic twits like the above author.

Still, why should he have to?

Yes, there are bigger fish to fry than torture.... mainly because the torture fish has been lightly poached and put aside to cool. (ie it's been acknowledged, and it won't be happening again on this watch... or, if it does, then we better see some court action, eh? Movin' on...)

And I think that's about as much response an anonymous blast deserves.

Ilithi Dragon said...

And then you have to consider that there are undoubtedly ties between the people who authorized and rationalized torture, etc. and the people involved in the massive corruption of our financial sector. Remember where a lot of those people came from? Wallstreet. Remember where much of their political funding came from (the money they used to lobby, bribe, blackmail, advertise, and generally get into office and get friends in office, or everyone else to go along)? Remember where that came from? Wallstreet.

I've never seen anyone on here, our esteemed host included, actually support torture, etc. What gives Dr. Brin the appearance of not objecting to torture is that he recognizes that the pragmatic approach, the one that is the most effective, doesn't always run along the tempers and wrath of outraged idealism. We can't fight every battle at once, and we can't always win every battle all the time. We have to pick and choose our fights, and choose the ones that we can win that will have the most effect.

Also, the whole "toadies will come to his defense" thing is just a variation of saying, "People will point out the flaws in my argument, but because I said people would point out the flaws in my argument from the start, that makes me right and my argument unflawed." Or, "I'm right, and if you question me, you're with the evil guy and wrong." Or in its simplest form, "I'm right, and if you don't agree with me, you're wrong, no matter what." And yes, I've dealt with that argument often enough elsewhere to be seriously peeved by it.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Anonymous said...
Throughout history, the oligarch reveals himself by his contempt for bottom 98% of the population.
There is a danger, that we tend to identify the people who butter our bread.

It's kind of Rude to go after Brin in this way. But a person who is right with themselves can take it. If he were the kind of person you accuse him of being, he would just delete the comment and ban you.

I totally agree with your sentiments -- just not the circular firing squad.

In my "best blog post ever" I talked about how 1 Quaker is worth 10 navel-gazing Einsteins. You sir, are a Quaker. Quit talking and start "doing."

The other part of the equation of "influencing people" is to invite them to join a party, not to be pummeled in your gauntlet.

The problem with people who have had success, and rubbed elbows with the uber wealthy, is that they get the idea that there is a ladder somewhere that allows people of merit to climb up it.

Full disclosure: I work at a financial services company. I tried at one time to work with some people starting an international trading system that would not require currency and would have forced all trades to be of balanced value-- of course it could never work, because the Multinationals we presented it to already do this trick and don't LIKE balanced trade.... I know two billionaires and a few millionaires. Most of them were Conservatives because it was convenient and they tolerate me kind of like a lucky mascot -- or maybe like a court jester.

I am probably ungrateful, but I do see that I'm a cog in this big wheel. A well fed cog.

My brother makes quite a bit more money than $200,000 -- that's only really equivalent to Upper Middle Class these days -- though we've redefined what that is since Americans have been getting steadily Poorer. My bro keeps the water cooler talk to a reasonable level. Everything I tell him is a foolish conspiracy theory, and then in two years he accepts it as truth. It never helps my credibility in the present, however, which is strange.

We speak with passion when we are not heard and nothing changes. I absolutely get what you are saying. Torture and our Constitution have to be fixed first, and these people will NEVER stop being a problem if we don't deal with them now. The past 40 years has been an unbroken chain of the same crooks who plagued us in the Nixon Administration -- and America keeps getting closer to fascism and failing as a Democracy.

Yes it matters.Corruption and war will continue. Monsanto will be engineering pesticides into vegetables and then selling our kids the anti-allergens to deal with the symptoms. We will lurch on, and hopefully some of us will be smart enough to get above the curve. Me, I'm getting too dang tired all the time to drag myself to self improvement. You cannot convince anyone of anything, and you are only going to wear yourself out. Find like-minded people, and annoy some sponsors of Fox News until they capitulate. That's how the world works -- it gets annoyed into changing, never convinced. If someone makes a buck off of environmentalism -- then all of a sudden THEY BELIEVE its important.

We are all a bunch of intellectualizing apologists, who conform our belief systems to our situation and consider ourselves decent, or we just go crazy. The guy recruiting kids for the Rebel causes in the Congo chopping off the hands of kids who refuse to rape their mothers -- well that guy realizes that the Rebel war must be won, and on balance, there are bigger fish to fry. Because you see, there is this goal that we have to get to, and we have to be practical about things.

>> However, "transparency" isn't about divulging personal finance information. If someone were to be a Media Mogul, divulging conflicts of interest should be required.

I'm only criticizing on tactics. Likely, you won't have an audience here, as this is a mire of analytical humbuggery. Use this as an outlet for scientific and geeky things.

A good outlet for outrage is -- feel free to throw food at the screen when you get to a really outrageous video.

David Brin said...

Folks, in bemoaning his marvelous lost blog-rant, Shat was referring to where Jack Black sings about The best Song in the World (not the actual song but a Tribute - a song about how great the greatest song was! If only we got to hear it.)

Ilithi, there are times when "Stalinist" is simply a cigar. The dogma that aliens must be automatically altruistic and socialist was dictated directly by Stalin himself.

As for the screeching-maniacal sputum fest by cowardly you-know-who, I don't think any of you will blame me for having left his fece-strew up for a couple of days, then consigning it to the sewer where it belongs.

Oh, Shat? He's no quaker. He's an ahole and every political wing has them. The left has spurted forth its own oligarchs a-plenty, Hitler and Stalin killed more hope than all the right wing demons combined, and both called themselves "socialists."

... and like his hereos, this guy would shoot us all, in stages, if history gave him a chance.

David Brin said...

I need to add one more thing. That silly person's emotional need to rage because he was (totally appropriately) rejected and banished earlier, is so blatant that it's like in some Adam Sandler movie. (Like the way you must feel right now, Shat, for having been left out of the new Star Trek flick? ;-)

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


Well, Shat, if you *are* feeling left out, then you'll be pleased to know that Jon Lebkowsky is offering a consolation prize (well, a 'no prize', actually)

To win a no-prize, just describe a credible system for overall environmental sustainability and stability within the Starship Enterprise. Send your description to contest //at// Send no later than May 11, 2009. We'll post the winner by May 22.Speaking of which, blur-weave cloaking devices are now available in the near infra-red. Yes, your standard home alarm systems are no longer a deterrent to clandestine (romul) ants.

David Brin said...

All right, I have to say this. Whenever I am curious enough, I can find out the identity of any of you guys. I have contacts who are that good. (In fact, it is pathetically easy, which is one reason I lobby for these powers to shine both ways.)

I have only used this ability a few times, and only once in this blogunity, in order to feel confident that I can hold accountable someone who I feel may be unbalanced beyond mere verbal derangement. Whether regarding my personal safety, or threats to wage a slanderous assault upon my livelihood, I will use this information in whatever legal way I deem necessary. My attorney stands ready to defend me and seek punitive redress, should such slander rise above the level of pathetic snail-snipings in dank and fetid corners. Fortunately for all concerned, I doubt they'll ever manifest as more than a faint, and easily shrugged-off stink. Still, let's be clear. I grew up in a tough neighborhood. I know when and how to protect myself from loons.

Rob Perkins said...

David is correct, of course: Google "private investigator" and get an eyeful; it's all available for a fee, and even amateurs can get very close without that fee.

Personally, I just use my name when I blog, in part since the obscurity is false.

Anonymous said...


I object to your stance on torture indictments for many reasons, but also because I think it runs counter to your stated goals.
"But with so many potential felons, I'd rather go after those whose pursuit will ADD strength to the fight against culture war, not subtract from it. Establishing transparency is net. I would love to see Yoo hang his head in repentance before a Truth Commission..."Not me. In regards to clear (and in the case of Cheney proudly admitted to) criminal wrongdoing I could care less about culture war for three reasons:

1. It doesn't matter. There will be self-parodying culture warriors who will call anything - even truth commissions - culture war and an affront to their right to do whatever they want. The small percentage of dead-ender folks who would not be swayed by months of evidence presented in open court against public and private miscreants will not be swayed - ever. They are starting from a position of such inherent dishonesty or are so incapable of honest assessment of the facts that there is no hope of reasoning them out of the positions they did not reason themselves into.

2. The problem is inherent in the system. It is simply punting to have truth commissions or any other process that takes off the table complete and fully public accounting, jail time for criminal activity, AND a bar on ever holding any other elected or appointed office and from ever being in a position to lobby any elected or appointed government official, agent, or officer. Otherwise the criminals, of both parties and in industry, will find it all too easy to worm their way back into positions of power, influence, and respect having learned nothing but how to better commit their crimes next time. Exactly as the Nixon and Iran/Contra criminals did. Their protégés and other potential criminals simply learn that the results of their massive wrong-doing is a slap on the wrist and a half-hearted mea culpa while they laugh all the way to the bank knowing they can try again in a few years.

We keep trying this and we keep getting the same results... the pop-culture definition of insanity. An indication of why anything less than a full legal accounting will merely be a continuation of this particular insanity is that our inability to cut out this cancer has only made each iteration of the condition progressively more malignant. Not only that but the criminals grow bolder! Even the traditional half-hearted mea culpa and temporary exile are becoming passé, so emboldened are our official criminals. Cheney and many of his cohort proudly brag of their actions without any fear of accountability. Frankly, and I truly don’t intend to lump you in here, these guys count on their media allies to steer debate towards “Pragmatic” solutions and away from “unserious” things like applying the law to government officials who break it. And guess who defines “pragmatic” and “unserious”? The very people who commit the crimes and their cohort. No one would imagine applying anything short of a full criminal investigation and trial for criminal wrong doing among the peons… errr, I mean “citizens”.

No other segment of society is afforded such status for their law breaking! No rational person would accept the argument that we can’t punish an arsonist, rapist, murder, bank robber, extortionist, etc. because to do so would be partisan. Or that to do so would harm our other long-term goals in deterring crime. Or accept such arguments from the criminals themselves! But for some reason nearly our entire political and media elite tout this concept as if it were patently obvious on its face, that any other action would be unfair, and that advocating something as basic as equal accountability under the laws of the land is an extremist position supported only by lunatics! This is how broken the system is and commissions ain’t gonna fix it.

Finally, and this is where I think your goals and strategy/tactics are misaligned…
3. You treat culture war as if it is the problem and if only that could be set aside things would improve - Pragmatic adults would have room to work and we’d get stuff done. Culture war isn’t the problem that afflicts us and prevents functional government. It is a mere symptom of the malignancy. Treating the symptom might make us feel better but it doesn’t cure the disease any more than “pragmatically” treating a fever can cure the underlying cancer. Culture war is a propaganda weapon employed by the people who are the problem: Those elites for whom power and wealth are the ends and the means. The culture war is a theatrical diversion that there are two groups of warring elites serving to check each others’ worse excesses rather than the one group which continuously pulls the nifty trick of getting us to scream at each other while they horde all the wealth and steal our rights. As the last 20 years has amply demonstrated they don’t even hold any particular ideals or principals but one - Power. Their ideals are whatever gets them into power. Their principals are whatever keeps them there and they change as rapidly as daily if necessary.

It is the purpose of culture war to deter accountability. Giving up the fight for accountability or against legitimate injustice and criminality for fear of appearing partisan is what they count on. Such retreat encourages them to build the fire higher and hotter to make culture war worse so to better deter others from actually asking any real questions or pursuing any real justice.

Remember the outcry from conservatives when Katie Couric asked actual questions of Sarah Palin? It was beyond the pale! How could you expect a politician to answer a question about how she stays informed about the news of the day? Even other “journalists” conceded the secondary complaint that it was patently unfair to ask follow-up questions to outrageous answers or typical non-response responses. These interviews supposedly demonstrated Couric’s deeply partisan nature and thus made Palin’s ridiculous performance entirely forgivable to the pols. This is the desired end result of the culture warriors - to make any question, no matter how legitimate or justified, appear to be deeply unfair and to de-legitimize attempts to hold elites accountable for their actions and positions. Seeking to not throw fuel onto the culture war fire by forfeiting accountability and giving up on legitimate grievances reinforces that the tactic works and serves to further the culture war not end it.The only way to defeat these people, short the ancient ways of mass violence (which I am sure most of us repudiate), is to engage them with the one weapon a free people truly possess - Law. A republic cannot stand for long without equal application of the law. We have laws because people will cheat, but elites who find they need not be afraid of the law will be emboldened to cheat more. The less they feel they have to fear accountability the more they will be emboldened. Elites who then find that they not only does the law not apply to them but that they are able to apply it to whomever they choose will begin to decide that "the law" is whatever they decide it is, means whatever they decide it means, and can be applied to whomever they decide it should for any reason they desire. Because they ARE the Law. The resulting situation is by definition tyranny and is remarkably close to where we in the U.S. find ourselves today. Memos released back in Jan and Feb 2009 show that administration officials believed the executive could write laws in secret, enforce them in secret, and decide by fiat what rights even U.S. citizens on U.S. soil possessed. How is this any different from an absolute monarchy or dictatorship except that no one has yet decided that he or she is not subject to election results? Is a series of temporary despots any better than a lifelong one?

We can fight culture war by demanding that the laws which elites so unmercifully apply to we the people, such an unforgiving hand that we have 25% of the world's prison population, be applied to them as well. Then we can slowly peel away the layers of graft and corruption that have accumulated on our ship of state and which are threatening to capsize her. A culture warrior fairly tried and convicted for any criminal acts he’s committed will find it difficult for his mud to stick from behind bars. I think we may even find his compatriots will, eventually, begin to shrink under the withering fire of accountability. Because, though (mostly) smart these people are cowards and they eschew any “fair” fight. They stack their arguments with lies and misinformation so that one can hardly debate them there are so many falsehoods to refute and work or subvert the refs as much as possible and only perform in front of those refs they know will give them a favorable platform and not call foul on their b.s., and pose as victims unceasingly even though they have a virtual monopoly on power and are free to act however they choose - all because (so I believe) they are deeply, deeply afraid that the whole scheme is about to crash down around them..

Application of the Law is the process by which we can pry the republic back from the oligarchs and culture warriors and hopefully put culture war to rest for a while. The culture warriors cry the loudest about the actual application of the law because they know their own crimes or complicity may be uncovered, that the accountability threatens their position. We need to fight through the worries about appearing partisan with the knowledge that the loudest culture warriors are likely to be the most corrupt and among the first to go, while going after those criminals on “our” side with equal vigor. These people fear accountability the most and so decry it the most vociferously as “partisan” and impractical and unserious. Even large numbers of Democratic office holders, who have everything to gain from full-fledged investigations that further discredit Republican politicians and who have large enough majorities to override any objects to congressional investigative process, oppose this kind of accountability – because many know they or their friends are complicit and fear for their own necks or party. Good, let them fear, but let them have cause to fear. Honestly, how could the state of affairs get to be any worse inside of the Beltway if we really do start throwing the bums out? A massive house cleaning is exactly what is needed to get an effective government back and to serve as notice to the corrupt and corruptible of the future about what may well happen to them should they decide to collude to take away our hard-won liberties and hoard all the of benefits of the economic system for themselves while passing all the risk to the rest of us.

The first step in fighting an infection is identifying it. The next step is to expose it to light and apply the best medicines to it. A free republic has no better light that transparency and accountability and no better medicine against the infection of "official" crime and corruption than the antiseptic of equal application of the law for even the most powerful wrongdoers. To ignore this infection, this cancer, any longer or to merely treat the symptoms is to doom the patient to even worse recurrences in the future. I don’t see how we, or our children, can afford “worse”.

David, I truly feel that despite the wretchedness of the last decade this is an enormous opportunity. The crimes are so large and the criminals so prominent that an entire nation might be forced to examine itself and decide to be adults, to be sovereigns citizens in our own right again, and to take responsibility for governing ourselves. For this, and the reasons I stated above, truth commissions or any other process less than full public accounting before the law will be a waste. A waste of an opportunity to grow up and become closer to what we actually can be, to come closer to finding a place where we might meet the potential of our ideals.

I do apologize for the length of my response or if it delved into rant at any point. I'm privately working on some things directly related to this topic and have rarely posted my own thoughts on them anywhere online. Sometimes this leads to a bit of unrestrained enthusiasm for typing on my part when I do stop lurking.

- Rich

Anonymous said...

Wow, couple of my paragraphs didn't break properly when I copied and pasted. Sorry about that big one near the bottom.


TwinBeam said...

Evidence that the big money financial types have learned a lesson from the collapse and bail-out.Except it's not the lesson one might have hoped they'd learn.

Rather they've learned the obvious message of the bail-out: "Go ahead and play risky games - the government will bail you out if things go ever wrong."

Sad, really, when there were much better ways to handle the crisis.

JuhnDonn said...

As far as findability goes, feel free to google gilmoure. I've been online since early 90's and I don't play guitar with Pink Floyd.

matthew said...

Amen, Rich.
Rant on brother

Rob Perkins said...

Gilmoure, you're missing the point. You leave an IP address here every time you blog. So does anyone, and anonymizers aren't that secure. PI's don't stop at a Google search; that anonymous rant (not Rich's, the one that got erased) is enough to show cause.

JuhnDonn said...

Oh, I'm not saying I'm anonymous, quite the opposite in fact. I am all over the net for an easy look up. In other words, nothing to hide here. I just use Gilmoure as I've been using it in one form or another, since the late 70's, when I got in to D&D and Tolkien.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

David Brin said...
Folks, in bemoaning his marvelous lost blog-rant, Shat was referring to where Jack Black sings about The best Song in the World (not the actual song but a Tribute - a song about how great the greatest song was! If only we got to hear it.)
>> You see, that's why I put up with you folks,... getting these obscure references!

I was whining with Allegory -- a noble and well tested pursuit of Writers throughout history, who had to keep their heads with Kings and Editors alike! I'm probably going to ruin my Concise record today....

>> Anonymous truly does go way over the top. He is "displacing" his anger towards Torture, on another person, as if this father figure (as played by Brin) who appears to have some power (a blog) is responsible. Folks, this is a life lesson: the true problem with going out to take revenge, is not that you must dig two graves -- but that the person lying in that other grave is usually going to be an innocent bystander because enraged revenge seekers are not the people who do homework and earn a good living, such that they feel so dang cranky in the first place. If I could get that quote shorter, it might catch on.

Anyone visiting Brin's site is leaving both an IP address when accessing the server and has a backtrack through If you make a threat -- that means that all the information the blog host has on you becomes available, if you don't make threats, then you MIGHT have a little privacy in that regard. David Brin, the author, has not had a major movie deal yet that puts him in the celebrity category, so Defamation still applies--the Universe is not a meritocracy or fair, otherwise Michael Crichton would be running this Blog, and I'd be throwing food at the screen -- I doubt he'd get the Jack Black references either. I don't think that Anon's boycott presents a clear and present danger, Dr. Brin, so I'm pretty sure this has all the impact of Bill O'Reilly's threats to boycott France -- it resulted in a 50% increase in trade over the two years he waged it.

You can save some money by using a company called "" which is a joint venture between Information America and that competitor to Lexus/Nexus. Anyway, it's what Lawyers spend thousands of dollars on yearly, to dig up any and all public records, court docs (made public), licenses, and references in press and published articles of a person. I should know, I used to work there and they used to use my logo I designed (way better than what they are using now *sigh*). It's a tip that can make you a Private Eye on the cheap. Now, it won't get you those Social Security numbers that the Private Eye's can, but they are doing something quasi illegal for that -- which is they have a medical or police contact or are buying it from some collector of SS #'s.

We tested it out on a few politicians. Seems that Newt Gingrich had his house and other stuff in his wife's name, and a boat registered at a lake in Georgia -- which must have hurt deeply when he traded her in for that other lady. Not sure if he's traded in the other woman #3 or not yet. What day of the week is it?

Though I need more street cred, don't mess with me either -- I grew up in a comfortable middle class house -- I don't know the meaning of the word "fear."

Oh, Shat? He's no quaker. He's an ahole and every political wing has them. The left has spurted forth its own oligarchs a-plenty, Hitler and Stalin killed more hope than all the right wing demons combined, and both called themselves "socialists."I think the spectrum of human thought needs more than two dimensions. The "LEFT" that I'm thinking of, likes fairness, puppy dogs, Tariffs, and long walks on beaches clear of litter. Totalitarian, absolutists, fricking crazy -- those words come to mind for me when I think of Stalin -- otherwise he was frog-marching puppy-dogs on beaches and taxing them, which makes no sense at all....

I was saying he was a Quaker as in; "true believer." These people have been the bulwark pushing the peace movements. Like it or not, reasonable people don't push some bureaucrat in office who is getting about $1.4 Million from the Banksters to make oversight go away. Likely, our letters and phone calls don't matter either. It's big bucks or tea-baggers.

>> Give Anonymous the benefit of the doubt. I think his "boycott" idea was rhetorical.

>>> Shat, for having been left out of the new Star Trek flick?When I acquired the nom de plume of Shatner, for a low, low price, I didn't realize it would be abbreviated in such a way. I understand that Star Trek wanted to go in a new direction --- like having nothing to do with Gene Roddenberry's ideas of a better human race and just make an action flick "called" Star Trek. So it's just as well that all those other hacks got face time, as they'd be doing commercials if they had my star power. I will go see this movie, with a bag of ripe tomatoes -- for fun.

I also used the identity of "Big Giant Head" on an email address. My clients don't get the reference to the TV Show "Third Rock from the Sun" -- they think I'm bragging about something and giggle. I'm kind of stuck with that address and you'd think I'd be a bit more thoughtful about such choices.

>> @ Tony Fisk;
What do you mean by Environmental Sustainability?
I've got a lot of ideas for a working society. When I was trying to write a book back in college, I wrote of a group of scientists based on Mars and the Moon who break off from earth after political squabbles ask them to conduct espionage on each other. I wrote of the economy they used, with no taxes but three forms of currency based upon micropayments and what I called "merit links" which was kind of like Hypertext and Wikipedia on the web, based on a micropayment system for transparent copyright and patent compensation (pre-dating, of course, all these things in the real world). The whole society was based upon sustainability of resources because going back to earth was perilous. The story got bogged down, because I was spending as much time inventing how people ate, and moved around, as I was moving the plot. I still think my idea for suspended animation would work today -- which uses high pressures (about 100 atmospheres) in a mixture of water, graphite, organic antifreeze and petroleum jelly, to freeze people without ice damage. The thawing out, requires restricting Oxygen and keeping the pressure up until AFTER the body is warmed. There is a new technique discovered that allows people who have drowned to be "brought back" many hours later. What they found is that the sudden Oxygen influx is what causes cell death,.. check it out. I think heart doctors have known about this for over a decade, but oxygen deprivation wasn't a standard practice due to the worry about lawsuits. A lot of what we think of as "death" is "meat" that goes into a anabolic state (without oxygen). It's really hard to tell when things are dead -- there is brain death and decay, other than that, the cells in a raw steak, or a person who just "died" of heart attack are still viable.

-- do you see why I can't finish anything? It always leads to something else.

>>I think I need to make an index of my replies...

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> I just listened to an account of a United Arab Emirates wealthy businessman who got a two hour tour of one of the US "enhanced interrogation technique" centers.

HE got to torture about 25 people. There is a 45 minute tape on the web, with the worst bits removed. Reading the transcript of using electricity to the reproductive organs, hearing the man beg as he rolled over him in an SUV a few times,... it goes on.

If you've injured yourself by seeing some torture movie like "Hostel" -- then you will get what appears to be the gist; SOME of the torture going on, maybe with the renditioned prisoners, maybe even the ones in US custody, was for thrills. Either as a reward or for money.

>> That's only a peek at what was done in our name.
I find it hard to let this go.

We let the Bush family go with the Silverado Savings and Loans, and the investigations stopped when it made connections with BCCI -- a United Arab Emirates bank. It's worth doing a google search on that. That was part of the larger S&L Crisis --which was not addressed and led us to the even bigger ticket item we have today.

So some of these banks got almost no tax, writing off expenses for subsidiaries that had post office addresses in the Cayman Islands. Banksters paid almost nothing to borrow money from the fed. Paid almost nothing to people with deposits, charged Usurious fees on credit cards and were able to leverage deposits over ten times.

Almost ANY fool could make a fortune that way. Where did the money go? If they didn't lose it all Gambling in derivatives, then we have another fraud.

>> I'm really sick of putting a band aid on the corruption and moving on. These are the same groups of people over and over again.

These Wall Street crooks tried and failed to depose FDR, by trying to convince General Smedley Butler to raise an army. And FDR was too busy dealing with an economy and two wars, to try them for treason.

Now we are dealing with their descendants, and it's hard for me not to think the banking crisis was the same thing -- only threatening financial meltdown in order to run things rather than using an army.

>> I suspect, however, that Obama MAY have some sense. And that his moves to cut off tax cheats putting PO Boxes offshore, is only the start of this. Cuting off the flow of blood before he cuts out the cancer.

JuhnDonn said...

William Shatner said... I also used the identity of "Big Giant Head" on an email address...Best bit of sit com TV was when BGH (William 'effing Shatner) arrived in Ohio and talked about his flight with Dick (John Lithgow). Turns out they'd both had a similar experience flying. Really cool dual meta references there.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Regarding some Drama here recently, this might be of interest:

The proposal by Rep. Linda Sanchez, D-Los Angeles, would never pass First Amendment muster, unless the U.S. Constitution was altered without us knowing. So Sanchez, and the 14 other lawmakers who signed on to the proposal, are grandstanding to show the public they care about children and are opposed to cyberbullying.
The meaasure, H.R. 1966, is labeled the Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act. It’s designed to target the behavior that led to last year’s suicide of the 13-year-old Meier.
>> OK, we can't MAKE the world be a nice place. This to me is a band aid that is a law that will only be abused. If kids are getting bullied on the web, the parents need to step in and get them to step away from the computer.

Normal harassment laws should be able to take care of the Cyber equivalent. Something like; following a specific individual on the web, to defame them in more than one venue should be considered stalking, and the stalker can be barred from accessing any and all forums and venues of the "stalkee."

I prefer adapting with a few tweaks existing law, rather than trying to treat electronic communications as something separate.

The other problem with "cyber bullying" rather than calling it defamation or harassment, is that it Bullying is a physical act. The Hyperbole that allows the RIAA to treat music pirates as if they were real pirates, or cyber bullies like the ones who take your lunch money, doesn't help the victims or the web. A company or someone of power could easily use the law as a club against legitimate criticism or the courts could get bogged down in frivolous cases.

MOST rudeness on the web needs to be dealt with by a quick banishment. For the most part, it is a Democratic competition of ideas, and having to bring lawyers into it will just ruin the experience -- it would also be used as a club by powerful entities that wish to curb free speech.

>> AS regards to such a law needing to re-write the Constitution -- well the Patriot Act already did that without so much as ratification by the states. That whole entire piece of drivel should be thrown into the dustbin of history.

lc said...

I recently read "Earth," and now I've come across Peter Ward's new book, "The Medea Hypothesis."

David -- Any thoughts on life being its own worst enemy?

David Brin said...

I find that people either "get" what I am talking about, in aggressively attacking culture war as a mental illness that is ruining the country... or they don't get it. While Rich was passionately eloquent, he simply does not get it.

We are in Civil War Part III. It will end (and so will the Republican Party) when rural middle class whites realize they have been had. All the elements are there. We just need to put a few dozen outrageous thieves into prison and the simmering populist resentment can be retargeted at the Oligarchic caste, terrifying them into backing off from their attempted class-putsch.

What I deeply resent is accusations that I am tepid or less eager than others to win this fight. I have waged this fight as hard as anybody you can find. I will not be berated by people eager to burn the puppets, when I am after the puppet masters.

But I'll not bother trying further.

Fake_William_Shatner said...


I recognize you as a champion of the Cause. The cause is mounting a counterattack in the assault on reason. We all want to get the PuppetMasters.

>>OK, that's just my way of looking at it.

I'm only ever going to argue tactics with you. Seeing as how the PuppetMasters just crawl under a rock and then come back with new tactics. I look at Jeb Bush's "Listening Tour" and the hutzpah that people can go from committing the crime to acting like it was 50 years ago. They seem to be bypassing the 10 year dormant phase that Newt Gingrich wasted time with. I was actually arguing FOR looking at other ways to go after the Puppet Masters along similar lines as you just two days before I went on a 180. It was just a review of how many times these same people have done the same thing.

Silverado's Michael Wise jumps from parking garage. One thing I've learned about human psychology; people who commit suicide tend to be self-critical and shy or know too much about the puppet masters, like the D.C. Madam.

If you go after banking, it's a big target, lots of money, and they burn the economy and blame you for it.

Maybe it's going to take attacking all the soft points. But the Bush family seems to have time on its hands to make mischief.

>> Regardless of anything we do or say here, the changes are happening in the culture, and the only thing we may influence is the "consciousness of society" via the watercooler. Does a Million people saying; "Move on" or saying "WE must prosecute war crimes" make a difference? When it's usually down to someone like this lady in a position of oversight."It's like a giant game of wack-a-mole, going after the know-nothings and crooks employed by the Svengali.

Anon's arguments were mostly lucid, but the rage misdirected. It's kind of like a Convict in prison coming out after 8 years; sure, he might be a good man for some lady, but you don't want to be the FIRST lady. That's a bit too much pent-up demand to take all at once. Embrace the emotion, and redirect the passion. Preferably with a professional who can ride a horse for ten days straight.

Not only has the rural Middle class been suckered -- but so have you... into blogging like crazy the past few days. But heck, this site is no fun without someone riding herd on the cats. I always appreciate it, and admire people who can form cogent arguments -- even if I have to be the 4th Grader asking Condi Rice the embarrassing questions. Give that kid a press pass!

>> Tomorrow I will go on a diet of pure science.

Cliff said...

Anonymous truly does go way over the top.
Was it really that bad? And that's not rhetorical - I didn't check in on this blog while the post was up.

And I am leaning towards Rich's POV on this one - Culture War is a symptom, rather than the cause. Although Rich and David Brin both seem to acknowledge that oligarchs are the source of the problem.

I will not be berated by people eager to burn the puppets, when I am after the puppet masters.
Is this the problem? Do you think that me and Jester and Shatner are pushing for Obama to squander all his political capital going after the low men on the totem pole?

I want to see the puppetmasters get punished as well - all the guys clear at the top that set the torture regime in motion.
And I think Shatner pointed it out - we're really talking about the same group of people here. Cheney and Cato and Halliburton and AEI and the Saudis - the moneyed elites.

But as I think about it, it may be easier to get these guys by following the financial crimes. Al Capone was put away on tax violations, after all.

Tony Fisk said...

You'll have to ask Lebkowsky that.

@ Cliff:
Because he was not interested in (just) going after the puppets, anonymous started accusing David of siding with the oligarchs, and calling for a boycott on his books. It was a bit foam flecked, and I don't blame David for 'executing administrative privileges'.

Still, your puzzlement highlights a problem with troll-slaying in general: were they trolls or were they just an 'inconvenient opinion'? Is the blogger censoring or sanitizing the content? After the fact, one can only gauge this from other comments (in this case, it was definitely the former)

To sidestep this issue, it would be a nice blog feature to be able to suppress comments that were considered undesirable but not outright untenable. Readers could then choose to skip the tag to the offending item, or expand it to satisfy their curiosity.

+ This comment was suppressed by a blog adminstrator. Click to view

Cliff said...

Tony Fisk: I'm confident that Brin isn't sanitizing the blog comments. He obviously allows dissenting viewpoints, and this particular anonymous has definitely earned his wrath.

But yeah, it would be nice to see some more flexibility on viewing comments from blogger. I've seen some commenting systems that use a scoring system, and any comment that gets too many negative votes gets blanked.

But of course, DB has expressed frustration with Blogger before.

ovitu - ceremonial bow practiced by an alien, avian race

David Brin said...

"But as I think about it, it may be easier to get these guys by following the financial crimes. Al Capone was put away on tax violations, after all."

Exactly. No one will defend such men as "crucified for doing their duty."

Also, anyone who thinks Bush/Cheney were the real puppet masters is naive. Follow the money.

Anonymous said...


As a long-time fan of your fiction and admirer of your non-fiction, a heavily book-marked copy of The Transparent Society sits on my living room bookshelf, I’m legitimately tickled that you found my post “passionately eloquent”. But, in a bit of CITOKATE, I gotta tell you that the “get it” line comes across as a cop-out. It’s an easily tossed-off rebuttal that fails to address any of the points I made or opinions I expressed. I could just as easily say, “I find that people either ‘get’ what I am talking about, in aggressively attacking culture war as an artifact and weapon of a larger problem that is ruining the country… or they don’t get it. While David was [insert compliment here], he simply does not ‘get it’.” I offer just as much rational criticism of any point you made or failed to make by slightly adjusting the wording.

I think that you and I are in very close agreement here. We even, as Cliff pointed out, seem to agree on the cause of the problem - the enemy as it were. Where we differ is that you argue that we should strive to avoid accusations of culture war so to more effectively combat the enemy and I argue that this is exactly what the enemy wants you to do. By trying to go around culture war, a flank I think you will find is without end, you fight the battle on the enemy’s terms. Not to go all Sun Tzu on you, but you have to ask yourself why your enemy wants you to fight in a certain way, or in a specific place and at a specific time. You can bet that when your foe picks the terrain and also finds a way to get you to allow him to pick the allowed weapons and dictate the allowable tactics that it will not be because it isn’t to his advantage or more specifically to your disadvantage.

“...which is to end the foul betrayal known as Culture War. The trumped-up pitting of region vs region, rural vs urban, red vs blue, know-nothings vs science, the future assailed by a mythologized past, and the reflex measuring of all matters against an insanely simplistic “left-right axis” that no longer even maps onto any sane definitions of “liberal” or “conservative,” anymore.” As I stated earlier, I do not believe this to be the problem. The problem is the people who foment culture war as a deliberate strategy to de-legitimize criticism and accountability. By driving debate to extremes and by dividing the answer to every question into binary format they ensure that any argument can be lumped to one extreme side or the other. It doesn’t even matter which political party we are talking about here; for many democrats there are two answers to every question “our” answer and “their” (or the wrong) answer. Republicans pull the same stunt. Nuance and grey areas are automatically disallowed, and as you have often found result in one side calling your argument unhinged on Monday and the other side saying you must be a nutcase on Tuesday for the same argument. As an individual who has largely identified with “liberal” causes the truth to this has only been underscored by the last few months when many democrats suddenly were quite accepting of actions and rationales from “their” President which they flatly rejected from the previous one and suddenly actions that republicans found wholly justified by “their” President are downright treason from the current one. This is not the effect of culture war, it is the purpose of culture war.

This difference is somewhat analogous to the differing views on terrorism. There are those (by I mean most of our gov’t officials, military officers, and political elites) who focus on combating terrorism itself as “the enemy”, hence the ridiculously named “Global War on Terror”. When it is no such thing. Terrorism is a tactic. Tactics can’t be “the enemy”. Try as you might to combat a tactic you will never win. Sure counter-tactics and mitigation might make any particular tactic less deadly, but you can’t drop a bomb on a tactic. You can’t put an embargo on a tactic and starve it out. Nor can you invade a tactic’s capital and force it to surrender. Focusing on the tactic fights the battle by the enemy’s rules, it allows him to dictate the terms and always keep you reacting rather than acting. The way to combat such an enemy is to not fight on his terms. To identify those things which provide your enemy the ability to employ his chosen tactics.

“Obama is trying to rebuild the confidence of a US Civil Service, including our defense and intelligence agencies, who were deliberately savaged during the Bush years. Having those people continue to think of themselves as Bush Era victims is extremely valuable. No single step is more needed, but it would be rocked back by such a campaign.” Here I see the strategic opportunity to achieve two goals at once. Continue to drive a wedge between those dedicated public servants and the miscreant criminals and get their co-workers who helped the miscreants out as well. Public servants who refused to go along and who fought silently against the criminals in the last administration AND among their co-workers will feel all the more vindicated… and we get a more professional corps of public… erm professionals.

“Attacking right now on the torture front would fall into a trap, allowing Fox & friends to portray it as a “liberal witch hunt” at the very moment when the base of the crazy right is crumbling, with millions of sincere, conservative Americans starting to drift away.” This is the attitude I believe the culture war is intended to foster, by polarizing every opinion, question, or action no matter how legitimate and to ensure that accountability is left in the dust. The best way to combat the tactic is to use the opportunity granted us to attack past the tactic to those who employ it.

The beauty of culture war is that the enemy has grown extremely confident and proud of their tactic. They know their tactic can’t ever be out flanked, because they are easily able to turn anything into partisan sounding bits and pieces they can term dangerous and lunatic and hack away with relative safety. Like so many things, their greatest strength has become their greatest weakness. Because they have grown overly confident, lazy, and complacent and allowed their best tactic to become their only tactic! They have opened themselves up to a direct frontal assault – a charge right past their bluster and into their center. Their lazy overconfidence has resulted in them believing that they can commit multiple serious and brazenly open betrayals of the public trust and their sworn oaths to protect and defend the Constitution and to uphold the laws of the land. This makes them extremely vulnerable to both public opinion and prosecution. Now we just have to have the guts to mount up and charge in there, right at their center (I swear no pun was intended as I originally wrote that.) and expose that weakness for all to see. By being bold we might actually have a chance to not just keep them on the defensive, but to literally crush them.

Systematic prosecution of the most obvious and blatant criminals of both political parties paves the way ultimately to the “puppet masters”. By stripping away the layers of protection the “true” enemy demands from loyal peons in government we can get at the oligarchs who threaten our great experiment in enlightenment. I don’t think we can skip that part any more than we can avoid the hue and cry of culture war. To get at the big bad guys we gotta take out (through prosecution of criminal wrongdoing) our elected and appointed officials who are in their pockets and who refuse to take any action against them. Replace those toadies with true servants of the public and make sure that all our elected and appointed officials are equally and justifiably afraid of the repercussions of betraying the public trust and see how long the oligarchs’ ability to pillage lasts.

They have given us this chance. Perhaps the best chance to crush these monsters we’ve seen in a generation or may yet see for another generation or two. “Our” side, the side of the enlightenment, transparency, and accountability needs to exploit the opening they have given us in their arrogance. We have the chance to take the initiative from them and dictate the time and place of battle, and the weapons with which we will fight them. The time and place are now and the weapons are the Constitution of the United States and the Laws created by those Congresses derived from its authority and passed by them by assent of the sovereign citizens of our nation.

Finally, “What I deeply resent is accusations that I am tepid or less eager than others to win this fight. I have waged this fight as hard as anybody you can find. I will not be berated by people eager to burn the puppets, when I am after the puppet masters.”Man I know you have been out front on this stuff for a long time. And credit where it is due! Frankly, reading you over the years has helped me formulate a lot of my own thinking on these matters. Don’t mistake an honest criticism of your proposed tactics for a personal attack. We’ve got the same goals. I just think focusing on culture war to be a mistake, one that our enemy has repeatedly shown they prefer we make. And the desire to outflank culture war, though noble, is ultimately an impossible goal to achieve.

I think the only way to assault the oligarchs is to exploit the opportunity arrogance and overconfidence have given us thereby opening up that flank to rollback the army of peons protecting them. This has the added benefit of cleansing the majority of the culture warriors from the scene and marginalizing the rest. Kind of hard to make a case, even a false one, for yourself and your parties when they are exposed as a lot of crooks and liars. Going straight for the oligarchs while leaving their henchman in place has little chance of success, since it is those henchmen who foment culture war and whom we rely on as the agents to attack the big fish. It’s the henchmen, the loyal “elected” peons in our government who prevent us from going after the oligarchs in the first place! So, let’s start to peel them away!

- Rich

Anonymous said...

Brief addendum to last night's post...

The goal of removing these crooks has to supercede nearly everything else. Any amount of political capital spent will be worth it to cleanse ourselves of these people. Every other goal we may have in terms of a liberal, progressive, enlightenment agenda - whatever you choose to call it - will only be further by aggressively persuing a course of action that exposes and removes this cancer from our society.

These enemies of the enlightenment are the ones blocking every effort at truly pragmatic long-term approaches on the economy, education, science, etc. Getting rid of them in favor of real public servants may automatically advance all of our other goals. The only area of concern that I would personally place on equal footing or slightly ahead would be the environment with respect to global warming. Just as advancing all those other causes won't amount to squat if we continue to live in a system where a few elites get to pillage the rest of society, removing those folks and feeling triumphant in the return of a truly enlightenment republic won't be worth a hill of beans if we allow the environment to get so bad it threatens hundreds of millions of lives worldwide. But even on this topic, I think the best short-term goal for advancing that cause will be getting rid of the stooges and going after the anti-enlightenment elites.

I'm not saying give ground anywhere else. We should just consider being content with holding our ground everwhere else, for now, while we attack and exploit this salient which the enemy has created in his arrogance.

- Rich

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I honestly don't know WHO are the "Puppet Masters."

If we "follow the money" -- which money? The Paulson/Bernanke fiasco that deals with over a Quadrillion on the Derivatives market? Or some other of the 101 Bank scandals and offshore accounts.

If we went after AIG -- we'd have to also say; "goodbye" to China's purchasing of our debt, because they are a major backer. A lot of the TARP is political convenience.

Do we help Saudi Arabia by selling them weapons, or do they help military contractors by buying them?

How far can we "push a string" to the Svengali?

When I talk about the Bush Crime Family, I'm talking about major players in IMPLEMENTING the Puppet Masters desires. Without them, the Masters have less teeth.

If we knew who the heck Al Capone was, then sure -- follow the money. But it's more convoluted and changing hands on countries far more than any simple bootlegger's corruption.

You are talking major banks, countries, exchanges, offshore accounts, military countries, allies and supposed enemies.

If you go after the torture, then you get a handful of lawyers and cronies for Bush. You squeeze them. Then you go after the people who gave them orders. We don't include China, Super-Mega-Bucks-Corp, or national security -- because nobody has a good argument outside of a comic book for that.

>> I mean, you MIGHT say it was Rothschilds or Illuminati or the Berger-meister-whatever group pulling strings. But you can't get there from here.

The Bush family, has gone beyond simple enablers to major players. They've been running the bank, weapons dealers, and political scams for decades that have put America in the forefront of exporting terrorism and destroying Democracies--not just in Latin America but in the USA. China and Russia don't call us out, because they are all in the same game. You nailed it a few months ago when you talked about "Castle Building." The kings don't hate each other, they are having a friendly game of chess. They only fear their peons ultimately. I suppose this changed with Napoleon upsetting the friendly rivalries -- but that's another conversation.

I'd say that Russia, is likely NOT controlled by the same groups. But how to be sure? Is China and the UAE taking over America with AIPAC compromising everyone else -- or are they just doing to us the wet-work that we are doing in their countries and ultimately leads to some Multinational conspiracy that is about power and profit and goes beyond countries?

>> I am seriously at a loss to even know HOW or WHO you would go after to Follow the Money to the Puppet Masters. I promised to talk science -- but that is a question that boggles my mind far more than the nature of Gravity and Gluons. If you are the genius who can finally answer that in a way I can understand -- then bless you.

With the torture, there are maybe at most a hundred conspirators, most of them cronies. With the finance, well that's a lot bigger bite to chew and I'd think Universal Healthcare and Education in America could happen before that, and World Peace thrown in on top.

David Brin said...

Eloquent and well-written and often on-target, Rich.

And you are right that "you don't get it" can be a cop-out. Nevertheless, I haven't time for long exegeses, right now and so must simply reiterate.

Expose multi-billion$ thievery and you steer populism onto paths that Fox simply can no longer control or spin. Expose fat cats stealing FROM the troops and you propel the ongoing re-registration of military men and women as democrats.

Expose enough of this ##$@! and Jeb will get a real earful on his "listening tour" and fleefor the glades.

Anonymous said...

"Expose multi-billion$ thievery and you steer populism onto paths that Fox simply can no longer control or spin. Expose fat cats stealing FROM the troops and you propel the ongoing re-registration of military men and women as democrats."On that we are in 100% agreement. Speaking as a veteran this point is one that has really stuck in my craw and which has been so hard to pull sustained attention to even among my friends who are veterans or still actively serving... maybe because the major media outlets are mostly owned by companies that profit immensely from such activity or, at the very least, are in complicit partnership with those companies that do.

These particular "fat cats" are indeed excellent co-targets because they are so completely un-pitiable. (Is that even a word?) Attacks against them have the added benefit of granting very real cover from culture war by truly supporting the troops against the individuals who would enrich themselves at their expense.

Anonymous said...


">> I am seriously at a loss to even know HOW or WHO you would go after to Follow the Money to the Puppet Masters. I promised to talk science -- but that is a question that boggles my mind far more than the nature of Gravity and Gluons. If you are the genius who can finally answer that in a way I can understand -- then bless you."I think I know how to point us in the right direction. We just have to look at who benefits from these activities, who gets rich while 99% of the rest of us get poorer, and who funds the politicians, PACs, and think-tanks (an oxymoron if there ever was one) that day-in day-out screech culture war and divert attention while furthering the ability of the pillagers to well - pillage.

Now, I'm no conspiracy theorist. I don't necessarily think that any of these people get up in the morning and say, "How can I roll back the enlightenment and incrimentally enslave my fellow humans today?" There may be a few that think that way, but most of the bad actors simply go about persuing naked self-interest at all cost... well so long as they don't bear the cost anyway. I don't think most of these people break the law with malice aforethought or intentionally create economic schemes that crush whole sectors of the economy. They do these things because they can, because to do otherwise would be inconvenient. These actions are justified when they do them anyway. They simply are smarter and wiser than everyone else and should be able to do as they please, for our own good, and don't ask too many questions. Their own wealth and power are all the justification they feel they need. In many ways they share the aspects of sociopaths or extreme narcissits who either are completely incapable of independently judging their own actions from the perspective of others or truly believe that whatever is good for them must also be good for everyone. From the top schemers to the corrupt politicians and functionaries narrow self-interest rules the day.

Follow that self-interest from the guys writing memos and breaking the laws at the low levels to make their bosses happy and just keep going up. Why write those memos, who is the immediate boss you make happy by doing so? Who interests are served when votes to eviscerate the 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments are passed by wide margins? And then who is that keeps the campaign coffers flush in reward for such activities and who reaps the most economic rewards when such votes pass?

I don't discount deliberate and planned malice entirely, I'm sure there are characters who are truly malignant - more than just Dick Cheney, aka the Cancer that Just Keeps Growing on You. It just seems that narrowly selfish, short-sighted, and arrogantly persued self interest better explain the vast majority of the corruption and law breaking than does the concept of a secretive cabal of "evil-doers" pulling all the strings from the top.

As you can see, I'm more apt to believe that the whole artifice of scheming and cheating, cronyism and criminality are basically naturally created webs of corruption that arise out of simple human greed organically, but which are happily manipulated by a few spiders who position themselves to pluck the strings just so to get almost anything they could want. But either way, pulling the strings from the edges and seeing where they go is the best way to unravel the whole construction and catch a few spiders. [Insert wicked grin here.] The only way to supress such webs is to create laws and regulations designed to prevent them and vigorously enforce those laws. A good house cleaning never hurt either.

As you can see, I'm a big fan of analogies... drives the wife bonkers some times.

- Rich

P.S. Don't want to wear out my welcome, so I think that with this comment I'll retire on this point for this thread. If I pontificate again, it will be on one of the other topics.

P.P.S. David, I really am tickled at your previous compliment. I don't think anyone took my response as snark, but you never can be sure when folks aren't familiar with your style or when you tend to resort to snark and sarcasm. But, truly as a long-time fan and admirer who's been prompted many times by your work to look at assumptions from a different angle or re-examine long held positions it's a real compliment. Thanks.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Brin said...
Expose multi-billion$ thievery and you steer populism onto paths that Fox simply can no longer control or spin. Expose fat cats stealing FROM the troops and you propel the ongoing re-registration of military men and women as democrats. >> Well, we've BEEN doing that. Every dang progressive blog has been doing that for at least 8 years.

Maybe we are starting to see the cracks.

But really, nothing happened after it was revealed that Haliburton didn't pay taxes but re-signs its employees out of a post office box in the Caymans. It overcharges cost plus.

Nothing much happened after the pattern was shown where someone giving Bush's campaign $250,000 got an ambassadorship or won the right to set up a new stock market for Iraq. It was a meritocracy.


>> Anonymous, your description of "THEM" is kind of describing about every other high paid executive in the country. Sure we can back-track who paid BushCo to get what. You can get the list on K-Street. You'd also be going after 2000 of the wealthiest and most powerful Americans. What we NEED is an actionable list of people to make miserable -- preferably a dozen or so, that are the easiest to pick off from the herd.

Here is the problem;Democrat Jane Harman is corrupt. She was one of the people saying; "Impeachment was off the table" in concerns to Bush. She traded getting two AIPAC agents off of a conspiracy charge for being chairman of some intelligence board. Likely, she'd be doing favors for AIPAC forever. The only thing keeping her from such largess, is that a bigger pig at the trough got their first. He is sold out to somebody, maybe AIPAC so they don't need her, or maybe someone else.

The only fights are for which piggy gets the most -- not for "principles." Principles are things for us fools out here....

THEN, we have the Wall Street Journal using the only example of espionage, of Sandy Berger putting secret documents in his pants. They were classified documents concerning Clinton's assessments of his performance. But it's just more partisanship, and it's WSJ missing the story.

Jane isn't the exception -- she is the rule. The ONLY reason people didn't want to prosecute Bush, is because he had something on them, had a something they wanted, or they just can't stand the idea that any of the elite are subject to the rule of law. They will compete in the club, but not fight in front of the servants.

I've seen people in worse trouble for traffic tickets. Bloggo from Chicago got in trouble for helping out a Union -- NOT for attempting to sell the Senate sea--I'm sure the wiretap started after he stopped the Union busting at Republic Windows and Doors. The corporatists on both sides have decided that they cannot

>>HEADLINE: Protesters disrupt Senate health care hearingWhat they don't say was that these were an organized group of healthcare professionals, wanting

Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has said that a so-called single-payer system - one that's run by the government - is not on the table. Many liberals favor that approach but Baucus and others say it's not practical or politically feasible. He actually laughed at the protestors and said; "We need more police!" Yes, how dare actual citizens interrupt your negotiations with lobbyists and fat cats getting rich on your rigged system. Only healthy people need apply for healthcare -- what a great concept.

Yes, You have to eat what is being served, option A or option B because someone else owns your representative. Justice in America is only to be meted out to the peons. It does not apply to the rulers. The table scraps of symbolic punishments meted out to the Bernie Maddoffs who ripped off the wrong people.

ALL YOU CAN GET IS THE UNDERLINGS. The BEST we can do is get the Ollie North's and the Alberto Gonzales's -- we cannot get the Hank Paulsons of the world. Not until we defang the puppet masters by cutting the strings.

As in all successful underdogs in asymmetrical warfare, David did not beat Goliath by going after his strengths. Here is an absolutely brilliant article about how to Win being unconventional. Lawrence of Arabia attacked everywhere BUT, where the enemy was concentrated.

I'm not saying JUST torture should be prosecuted. But if we want single-payer health care reform -- we CANNOT get it by saying pretty please in the Senate or at the HMO's doorstep.

We have to cut off the supply route.

My priorities are: fix the justice system, try to make lobbying illegal and get elections funded by taxpayers, go after the cronies and the enforcers.

If it doesn't PAY to be a Harriet Myers or a judge Bybee, then you've gotten rid of some of the tools of oppression. These people should be sued for every transgression, in every area. It should be a thousand cuts.

If we can't get the courts back, or try people for espionage, treason, torture -- the stuff that has no defense -- then we really have ZERO POWER. You are being given a bone, and something to chew on. It was lots of fun talking about the guy in the airport bathroom -- but THAT is something for us to play with, to think we have control. A pacifier for housebroken dogs.

The BIG targets to me, should be politicians who tell us what is off the table. THOSE are enablers.

Also, the New Yorker has better writing than the WSJ. There, I said it.

>> But seriously, if real justice isn't forthcoming, it may be time to just be disruptive. Protesting is too dangerous, and not a viable option for someone who wants to keep a job. If the Media likes your issue, you get multiplied by ten, if they don't like it, your protest numbers are divided. Maybe slowly and surely, things are turning around -- but it just seems like the same old con job until some new disaster comes around to distract us.

David Brin said...

You guys want a fact-filled blog about the whole torture thing?

I am isolated...and Russ is smart and so are you guys.

Still, I'm right.

Tony Fisk said...

I've heard that nine days sleep deprivation can result in long-term brain damage.

Still, after listing the litany of 'techniques' (and noting that one major political party is now almost unanimously in favour of torture), Daggett concludes the same as Brin: that prosecuting would be seen as partisan and be counter-productive.

opotooc: a word not found in the army field manual.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Besides BushCo business conglomerate Carlysle Group and the UAE, if I have a candidate for "Puppet Master" it's Goldman Sachs. This is a very interesting read about the revolving door between their old boy financial network and our government's (and other country's) financial oversight.

JuhnDonn said...

William_Shatner said...I honestly don't know WHO are the "Puppet Masters."Look for a bald man in a smoking jacket with a white fuzzy cat?

Rob Perkins said...

I have no specific reason to doubt Daggett on the matter. The things he lists there are appalling.

TwinBeam said...

Set up an "Enchanced Interrogation Demonstration Institute", with experienced government torturers, just for those who deny that the US has been using torture.

Waterboarding isn't torture? Come get semi-drowned and put your lungs where your mouth is. Long term sleep deprivation is OK? Come on in.

Too chicken to show up? Your name will be kept on a web listing of "lying cowards" until you do, and eventually published in all major newspapers.

Of course, they're already saying "It's OK to torture" - but if anyone says "No, torture is un-American", they quickly hide behind "Well, but this isn't *really* torture".

This would let their challenger say - "Yeah? Then how come your name is still on the Lying Cowards list?"