Saturday, April 18, 2009

Irony #1: billionaire-subsidized "populists"

First off, a quick note: Last year, I was one of the main pundits on "Life After People," the top-rated show ever to run on the History Channel.  Now comes "Life After People: The Series"... starting 10pm this coming Tuesday... on History.  I’m in some of these episodes, too.

Also: one of you regulars (TwinBeam) offered the following, down in comments: 
“What should we call our economic crisis?
          1929 - 1933 : The Great Depression
          2008 - 20?? : The Lousy Depression
Just thought we should start thinking about a name for this dog, in case it sticks around...

T’would be funny, if it didn’t hurt.

And who could let this pass without comment? Texas' Republican Gov. Rick Perry's praise for his state's tea party protestors, accompanied by not-so-veiled references to a potential Lone Star State secession.

Um... weren’t these the super-patriot flag-wavers, just three months ago?  Isn’t this the very same thing we saw in 1861, when Jefferson Davis - who had only a few years before given a speech declaring undying, perpetual loyalty to the USA “right or wrong” - flounced away into treason, before Abraham Lincoln had a chance to perform even one official act? Without even giving Lincoln a chance to negotiate?  Small surprise, actually.  Scratch a redneck “patriot” and you’ll find a fellow who has fantasized, all his life, of riding with Nathan Bedford Forest.

But no, incredible, staggering hypocrisy is NOT the most astonishing thing.

After the rallies, Perry downplayed his secession comments, amending them ] in an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, to say: "I'm trying to make the Obama Administration pay attention to the Tenth Amendment." The so-called Tenth Amendment Movement, asserting the rights of the states to claim all powers not granted specifically to the federal government, has been grist for conservatives for more than a decade.

No, what is more mind-blowing is the inability of Democrats to even glance toward hypocrisy as the killer issue.  For example, by pointing out that “states rights” were stomped flat under Bush and that Obama has cut loose the federal handcuffs from many state initiatives....

... or, with Fox News running all these “anti-tax tea parties” how trivial it would be to point out that Fox is largely owned and controlled by two foreign billionaires, one of whom almost hand created Culture War while the other is a Saudi prince and fourth-richest man in the world?  The notion that such people could get away with using populist, anti-elite rhetoric and sentiments to herd tens of thousands of fools into the streets, in order to demand more tax cuts for the very same oligarchs who drove our economy into the tank... that would be positively weird.  But the fact that Democrats seem unable to grasp this nettle and find the right polemical tools to turn the resentful populists on their masters... that part is simply beyond all understanding.

One polemical antidote may be suggested by the wry satire of Stephen Colbert.  What if some people began showing up at these trumped-up “populist” rallies, offering  big posters with the following messages, held-high, perfectly straight-faced.





Any other suggested “Colbert-Style” signs to wave at Fox-run rallies?  Only remember to be prepared and thorough. Stay in character! Because stations other than Fox will zoom in to interview you!  So have some good Colbert-ish patter ready.  Like about how America has been going down the wrong road ever since those pathetic leftists, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine preached against aristocracy.  Decry the flat social structure of the 50s-70s as socialism. Poker faced, demand that we keep going down the road pushed by Fox -- toward feudalism.

Also in the news... In 2010, incumbent Rick Perry will face a challenge from Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, in what is likely to be a . Strains are showing between rural social conservatives, who back Perry, and big-city Republicans, whose concern about changing demographics have helped motivate their support for Hutchison.  In any event, one can hope this may lead to the Republicans staging their own “Miracle of 1947.

Oh, finally. Re those “tea parties” on tax day... Just a month after the birth of my first child, I made yearly a practice that I began back in the 1970s and that I recommend to all Americans, who both love their country and want to see the next generation less-burdened by the wastefulness of ours.  Beyond honestly and carefully paying whatever taxes that I owe, I also send a small and entirely separate donation to the U.S. Treasury, to be applied against the National Debt.  It isn’t much - a gesture - but it seems a good way to express not only faith and commitment, but also rejection of the Cult of Selfishness that got us into this mess.

If you feel as I do, then send your check (made out to US Treasury) to the Treasury Dept: Bureau of Public Debt, PO Box 2188, Parkersburg WV, 26106-2188. Send enough so that their time logging it and sending a thank you note isn’t a net loss to our kids, okay?  And feel free to use this, next time some ranting flag waver fool tries to “out-patriot” you.   It leaves the “tea-baggers” staring, slack-jawed.  Some of them even shamed. (Of course, tutoring at a homework club accomplishes much more...)

President Obama said he would seek a reform of the U.S. tax code, calling the current tax system is a "10,000-page monstrosity." But that promise has been made by others before.  Whenever somebody proposes tax simplification, we run up against the fact that every “simplification” would gore somebody’s ox.  The more code-trimming you do, the more people will scream.

In fact, I know a simple way the tax code could be trimmed by perhaps 70% or more, without much political pain or obstructionism! Because I designed the method to be mostly politically neutral.  It does not aim at some utopian fantasy (like the Flat Taxers rave about.)  It gores very few sacred cows, and would be cheap and easy to implement. And almost guaranteed to work! (Only accountants should hate it.  Yet, to the best of my knowledge it has never been tried, or even proposed! Alas.

NoLosersTAxHow? It is easy enough to create a program that would take the tax code and cybernetically experiment with zeroing-out dozens, hundreds of provisions while sliding others upward and then showing, on a spreadsheet, how these simplifications would affect, say, one-hundred representative types of taxpayers. The key innovation would be to program in boundary conditions to this experiment.  The top first condition would be “no losers.”  Let the program find the simplest version of a refined tax code that leaves all 100 taxpayer clades unhurt.  If one group loses a favorite tax dodge, the system would seek a rebalancing of others to compensate.  No human being could accomplish this, but I have been assured by experts that a computer could do this in a snap. If the iterative search finds a new, much simpler structure that leaves none of the 100 groups more than 5% worse off than they currently are, then who is going to scream?

Oh, cheaters will scream.  And of course, after simplification would come some genuine tax policy shifts that DO advantage some and disadvantage others.  Like all of you, I have my favorite injustices I’d love to see redressed, behaviors disincentivized, business ventures stimulate...

 But, by starting with “no-losers,” you can use politically neutral optimization routines to find a much simpler system, trimming and slimming the machinery to use the fewest moving parts, in order to achieve the same job it is doing right now.  The, and only then, will it make sense to argue about steering the vehicle in new directions.

Re a common theme of mine -- the fact that oligarchy has always been the worst enemy of freedom, whether it wears raiment of the left or right -- someone wrote in: “The deeper point here is that elites will tend to form in any society regardless of the economic model they follow or the political doctrine they ostensibly espouse. Those familiar with George Orwell's 1984 may recognize this if they recall that the "forbidden book" featured as criticizing the totalitarian regime of Big Brother was titled "The Theory of Oligarchical Collectivism." Note that Orwell, who to the end of his days considered himself a man of the left, placed oligarchy as a qualifier ahead of collectivism.

“The tragic experiences of the 30's and 40's taught Orwell that the economic determinism of the left was hopelessly flawed by its failure to come to grips with reality of the oligarchic impulse. Perhaps the last thirty years, culminating in the crisis of international Capital (ie, oligarchic corporatism), will teach us the same lesson regarding the economic determinism of the right.”

Vital stuff to remember.

Another matter: The US government is to increase security at the country's border with Mexico in an attempt to combat drug cartels, the White House has announced. Let me reiterate.  Democrats talk tolerance and promote it... but also put far more boots on the ground, at the border.  Clinton did it, Obama is doing it.  Bush savagely cut the Border Patrol.  Will any Democrat or liberal pundit, ever, stare this fact in the face and talk about it?

More reader comments: ”If a corporation is deemed “too large to fail,” then it may be necessary to incur the moral hazard and terrible public expense in order to save it.  On the other hand a clear price for saving it should be to break it up, into units small enough that later failures won’t threaten the public with grievous harm.  Breakup of near monopolies into smaller, more agile units should be a price of saving them.”

Another reader wrote in to comment on how I have been describing the abandonment of Adam Smith by the right. That icon and co-founder of modern capitalism is now an embarrassment to the oligarchs who control today’s conservatism, since Smith called oligarchy the very worst enemy of free enterprise.

So who has replaced Smith in the hagiography of the right?  Glenn Beck has been ranting lately about Thomas Paine. True, Paine railed against abuse of authority. But the truly heinous betrayal of Paine, by Beck & co., can be seen by actually reading Paine’s pamphlets, instead of turning him into a strawman.  In fact, Paine despised aristocratic oligarchy even more than Adam Smith did and far more radically.

Seriously, read up about this.  Even those Founding Fathers who were aristocrats shared much of this radical attitude.  Today, every last one of them would be laughing at the teabaggers.


Read more: Economics, Past, Present, Future

or continue to: Why Obama is Upping the Border Patrol


Ilithi Dragon said...

First and foremost, on the "tea-bagger" movement:

As a gamer, and aspiring gaming professional, the term 'tea-bagger' and 'tea-bagging' has a special meaning to me. Anyone who's played or has any familiarity with FPS multiplayer games knows what I'm talking about: The act of 'tea-bagging', which is to run up to the not-yet-dematerialized body of a recent kill and repeatedly crouch, preferably over the helpless victim's head, creating the image of the killer humping or shoving his/her crotch into the face of the victim. As demonstrated here:

and here:

So just think of the act of tea-bagging every time you hear of the tea-baggers. It will bring a smile to your face every time. } ; = 8 )

Now, that said, DR. BRIN YOU HAVE EXCEEDED YOUR MONTHLY POSTING LIMIT!!!! We must now commence with the kicking of shins!

sociotard said...

I know. I said on another forum that, in a recession, cost is an important factor in planning protests. Teabagging promises to take a mere nibble out of the Republican coinpurse.

(bad puns, I know)

David Webb said...

Re: the Colbertisation of counter-protest. It has begun!

If this doesn't work - the picture I'm attempting to link to is:

a group of folks in evening attire (and one in a yachts captain's cap and sweater ensemble). Their banners read "A 3% tax hike for the 5% wealthiest is 100% tyranny" and "America was built on the backs of Poor People. Why stop now?"

Take a lookPart of the genius surrounding this whole protest thing comes from Talk Radio, which has been chuntering on about a Department of Homeland Security paper about the possible rise of right-wing activist groups. In what I understand to be typically vague Intelligence Prediction language, it talks about "single issue groups" as being part of the threat. There are some extreme anti-abortion groups out there that have attempted to kill doctors and/or bomb clinics, so these folks would count. Yet talk radio has been creating the impression that DoHS means the tea-party protesters. They've been claiming that the Liberal-Socialist Conspiracy will be sending ringers into the protests to collect names and addresses. They've been suggesting that the Government will come for rebels, in the night, in Black Bag operations, and cart folks off to Gitmo.

I've been smiling about this and reminding my paranoid Republican friends that it was the Patriot Act that made such things possible. They don't really want to hear that, in much the same way that they don't want to hear my gentle reminders that governments rarely put aside powers they've been granted. (UK income tax - a temporary measure to raise funds in order to fight Napoleon - is a fun anecdotal example). Oh well.

tacitus2 said...

I don't have a catchy name for our current economic difficulties, but if I might coin a phrase of lesser denomination...

Back in the great depression any form of meat on the table that was acquired, ahem, without regard to formal hunting regulations was referred to as "Hoover Chicken". It was of course an ironic ref. to the Chicken in every pot.

The current version might be called "Sub Prime Rib".

On the tea party issue, I am sure that none of my Progressive fellow citizens will wish in any way to discourage peaceful protest. Time will sort out those movements that are contrived as opposed to those which catch that elusive spark and become something significant.

Ironic counter protest? Sure, why not. I have a sense of humor. Lord knows it has landed me in trouble more than once. But in general the Colbertization of American politics troubles me. But that is another subject.


AJ said...

I have to question the presumed role of Fox news in "organizing" the tea party phenomenon. Certainly they've promoted them, but one can't pick one's supporters.

Anecdotally, the protests in my town have been notable in that we're known as an extremely left-leaning town (Santa Cruz, home of UCSC). Indeed, the vast majority of protesters I've encountered wouldn't be caught dead watching Fox news, and a number of the participants that I've spoken to are apparently long-time anti-corporate-welfare activists; decidedly non-conservative folks. The local protests, at least, are organized by well-known town figures, and show no signs of astroturfing, as far as I can see.

Anyway, I think it's a bit childish to offhandedly dismiss these protesters as "teabaggers," much the same way that I'd take exception to anti-war demonstrators being tarred in the media as "Smelly dope-smoking hippies".

No matter what your political or ideological persuasion, I can't imagine anyone being entirely comfortable with our government pouring hundreds of billions of our tax dollars into failed businesses; many of which are thus far doing precisely jack and squat to improve the credit market. When the hell did Democrats become so comfortable with massive, ill-supervised rivers of government money pouring into private corporations, anyway?

PS: No, I didn't participate in the protests. I'm a fairly optimistic, easy-going guy (read: lazy), and anyway, I'm too busy looking for a job - that is, when I'm not procrastinating by posting snarky comments to the blogs of my favorite scifi authors :P

David Brin said...

AJ you are welcome here.

AJ said...

Thank you kindly, Mr. Brin! I've only just come across your site, and I must say I'm impressed that you take the time from your schedule to converse with whomever comes a-callin' the way that you do. It's a cantankerous contrarian political geek/sci-fi nerd's dream come true!

AJ said...

llithi Dragon - Heh, that's what I love about Battlefield 4: there's always the possibility of that automatic last-second grenade to keep the teabaggers at bay :)

Shoot, you're going to make me fall off the wagon, now. And I've got over 3 months! *sob*

Anonymous said...

Found some Brin inspired artwork. Lunch Bag Art is one father's way of making his kids lunches fun.

David Brin said...

Wow some kids are lucky. My kids' dad just blathers a lot... psigh...

sociotard said...

I know better than to look to actors for political advice, but it still made me sad to hear Jackie Chan say this:
"I'm not sure if it's good to have freedom or not," Chan said at the Boao Forum. "If you're too free, you're like the way Hong Kong is now. It's very chaotic. Taiwan is also chaotic."

Chan added, "I'm gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we're not being controlled, we'll just do what we want."

Stefan Jones said...

I'm shocked . . . SHOCKED! Colbert and Stewart and Maddow have been MAKING FUN of earnest conservative protesters!

SHAME! SHAAAAME! Tsk! I say, Tsk!These people should be showing the Tea Baggers the same respect that conservative pundits and politicians showed to the millions of people who protested the Iraq War back in 2003.

Sure, the commentators on Fox News may have disagreed with the protesters, but they would never have called the idiots, or impugned their patriotism, or accused them of not supporting the troops.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Is that a need to be controlled, or an irresponsible cultural freedom binge after having it for the first time, much like young adults go on after moving out for the first time?

Amusingly, one of the people I interact with on another forum said, and I quote, "I dont enjoy democracy anymore to be honest" What's amusing about it is that democracy is the only form of government in which he would be able to voice such an opinion. The whole idea that 'man must be ruled' and all that. I strongly disagree with that whole concept, and find it inherently disgusting and abhorrent. However, putting that aside, even if it were true, that human beings need some sort of overlord telling them right from wrong, who would rule? More humans. The very creatures who need overlords to tell them what to do and right from wrong, are the only ones available to be the overlords. Kind of a 'fox guarding the hen house' situation, isn't it?

Unless you want to put me in charge, that is, but then, I don't think most people would believe a dragon who is stuck looking like a human for the time being... >.>

Also, one other thing to cover so that I can put off going to bed for just a little bit longer (ah, sleep, such a wonderful thing, but a damned inconvenience). Obviously, given our esteemed host's last two blog posts, we need to come up with a better deterrent than the virtual kicking of his shins. Any ideas that would give the dear doctor real motivation to not post? I think mailing an old, stinky shoe that he has to sign for every time he over-posts might work, though I find myself with a lack of old, stinky shoes at present... Anyone else have any ideas?

Anonymous said...

Actually, Brin, thoughtful and informed people -- I'm not seeing you among that number, alas -- have considered it likely that the South was quite right in its principles in 1861, or rather, in the principles they expressed in the dominance of American government from the time of Jefferson to the Civil War. The transformations wrought by the Civil War and the North's victory have been, for the most part, negative -- stifling of that very principle of liberty on which the Republic was founded, and tending over time to turn the United States back into the depressing moribund statist/imperialist shape of European states.

The tragedy is that the South chose to take its stand over slavery, and the moral wrong of slavery simply swamped the justice of the principle of limited government and individual liberty.

Arguably, had the price of cotton not soared in the 1850s, giving the slaveholders unprecedented and malignant power, and the arrogance to go with it, we would owe more to the principles of liberty and self-reliance espoused by the South, and less to the machine politics and inhuman industrialization of the North.

David Webb said...

Re: "But in general the Colbertization of American politics troubles me. But that is another subject."

I think satire is healthy, possibly vital, to a sane approach to politics. It's a way in which politics as a whole can be held to account.

In an ideal world, broadcasters and politicians alike would pause before each decision or broadcast and ask themselves "how much material am I about to give The Daily Show? Or Colbert?", and if the answer is "quite a bit" they might rethink.

ToddR said...

Brin, I like your blog posts and the fascinating commenets they elicit.

But ...


Ilithi Dragon said...

Actually, Todd, that's two OVER THE LIMIT for this month! The virtual kicking of shins isn't working. We need harsher methods of posting discouragement for our esteemed host.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Anonymous said...
Actually, Brin, thoughtful and informed people -- I'm not seeing you among that number, alas -- have considered it likely that the South was quite right in its principles in 1861, or rather, in the principles they expressed in the dominance of American government from the time of Jefferson to the Civil War.
I'm of two minds on the issue of "The War of Northern Aggression."

While there were myriad economic issues that precipitated the war, I think that it came down to trade on a big part.

In one way, you could say, that the South was right, because they wanted to buy from the English and not subsidize the north with higher prices.

But then again, it's really not so much about COSTS if you look at an economy rationally. By finding cheaper goods and not honoring tariffs and buying AMERICAN, the South perpetuated the economic supports for slavery. It's like buying from a sweat shop. YES, you can find cheaper prices -- but what is the price to pay for exploitation, and commonly with that -- ruination of the land, water and air?

>> Our current call for separatists, isn't about any principles. It COULD have been, about being in thrall to special interests and having the Fed print money, and making us in thrall to banks. No. It's really about racism, or whatever stupid reactionary annoyance got all these people upset YEARS after the attacks on the Constitution had been committed.

The new guy walks in to clean up the mess, and then we get "states rights."

Lot's of people promoting disharmony. It serves the interests of the robber barons to stir up any bees nest they come across that isn't actually serving them honey. The US has been looted and it's time to make it useful. The big players have moved to China and Dubai.

AIG, Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac were heavily invested in by China.

The bees getting stirred up are chumps.

When I get more time, I'll say something more thoughtful.

Just look at the Koch oil family and this Tea Party, and once again, you have to realize that these things aren't an accident. Fox News wasn't reporting as much as they were promoting. They exaggerated crowds by a factor of 10, like they dismissed and ignored war protests by a factor of 10.

tacitus2 said...

David (Webb)

Politicians thinking before speaking would be a fine thing, but would not reduce fodder for Jon Stewart that much. So much is in the editing.

I once did a bit for ESPN, where roughly 60 minutes of filming was trimmed down to 3 min. of screentime and another couple minutes of voiceover.

Damn I looked and sounded good.

The converse could just as easily have been arranged.

I think this is part the dysfunction of our current political system....TV is more effective at creating images and emotions, true or false, than print or actually hearing an old fashioned stump speech. Yet TV images are ever so much more prone to manipulation and mutability.

This is why those who lambaste the media for bias do so with passion.

And per Capn' Shatner, you do not need to be a conservative to see media bias.

But it does make it much easier!


ps, I enjoy satire more than most people. But much of it is cheap and lazy and some of it descends to dishonest.

Carl M. said...

Um, it's not tea-baggers, it's Tea Partiers!!

And note the size of the crowd -- in a town of about 60K, a very liberal town at that.

While some Republican mainstreamers have jumped in front of the parade, methinks the roots are the same populist elements that put Andrew Jackson in the Whitehouse and nearly put in Perot: blue collar outsiders who distrust big government and the banking system. Some of them got behind Ron Paul this last cycle.

Clue: the big trigger was not a tax raise but a giant raise in the national debt.

And here is a video of Steve Gordon protesting the coopting of the Tea Party movement by mainline republicans -- on Rachael Maddow.

Stefan Jones said...

Anonymous, I believe you are greatly romanticizing the antebellum South.

If you blur your eyes as selectively looking at the present day as your did old Dixie, you could claim that "individual liberty and limited government" are flourishing right now in Somalia and other hell-holes.

You know, slavery wasn't an accident, or a temporary convenience. Southern culture was built on it. The moral rot and spiritual corruption extended from the faux-aristocrats on top down to the disenfranchised poor white trash who took pride in the fact that they were at least not n-----.

Libertarians who glorify and romanticize that regime . . . well, they make me feel justified in my feelings toward libertarians.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

CSM said...
Um, it's not tea-baggers, it's Tea Partiers!!
If this is former Ross Perot folks (like I was), then it is a pointless protest anyway (as so many are today).

The media has spun this to be about Obama's stimulus package.

I think MOST of these people are there because they are uneasy about the chicken's coming home to roost, are distressed over being forced to notice that Globalization means EVERYBODY works for less, and somehow, are more upset about Bush's policies now that its all "ethnic."

Yeah, sure, in a few areas, maybe it's just disaffection. But, as in all things, it has been co-opted for the purpose of hindering Obama from solving the problems.

>> I think I'm still right about Obama being very cautious but supporting the "ability" for the Bush crime family to go to trial. Why release the legal justifications AND use language to support the torturers that was defeated at Nuremberg? I think Obama knows quite well that saying; "it was OK because it was legal" is the flimsiest excuse -- and then is "forced" to release their documents after taking heat.

If Obama were suddenly an advocate for the populace, and got rid of William Gates, Rom Emmanuel and Geitner, to name just a few of the rat bastards Obama put on his administration -- he wouldn't make it to the 2012 elections.

I'm not religious at all -- I'm pretty much not a fan of the whole shebang, since you've got people like Pat Robertson making the world a LESS decent place with his brand of morality that doesn't preclude using church donations to buy gold mines and line "God's" (represented in this case by Pat Robertson) pockets. But I find myself quietly praying for Obama to not come to harm, and that he could actually NOT be a Corporatist -- in about equal measures.

But he is just one guy. You think any one person could suddenly stand against the military, secret services, big pharma, big energy, big banking and that isn't a complete list? Those who profited from the USA's expense under Bush, are all going to take it on the nose when and if Obama gets us back a judicial system and the Constitution -- much less a health care system that wasn't a complete scam.

>> If congress want's to go after Bush for War Crimes, they have all the probable cause they need. The dems are cowards and the Republicans are only afraid to pull the swastikas out of the closet -- it isn't going to happen unless things get dire.

Anonymous said...

Hey David..News on Greg Bear! :)))
Hugs...Betty :)))

Greg Bear:

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> I think, rather than try to beat up Mr. Brin about blogging, when we all need to be involved in this world's affairs.

I can understand the frustration. If you care about art, science fiction, landscaping -- or whatever, but you feel like you are on the Titanic, and you need to be talking about floatation devices... well, it's hard to pursue the FUN STUFF, when you should be getting a bit more serious.

So, instead of nagging him -- we should be pitching ideas on how to MONETIZE his blogging.

I always have ideas to make money -- but I'm not the guy to do the paperwork and accounting. I'd suggest that David Brin not fight what he wants to do, but somehow shape it to his needs.

He can at least post story ideas and Macintosh problems. I find that when I am writing, it's sometimes hard to get in the mind of a character that is alien to my thinking--it's hard to NOT BE AWARE of certain things in the plot, or to dance around coming to your own conclusion. Give someone else a situation and a motivation, and they don't need to know what you are thinking to further the plot. So, he might request one of us bloggers, try to post some dialogue of a character that we kind of match up with.

We would all agree then, to not press charges later. In exchange, we'd be listed in the appendix where nobody but English teachers ever dare tread.

No offense, but for obvious reasons, the aliens, of course, need to be played by Conservatives.

If you need some super rationale beings, or perhaps a dog -- I'm your man.

Stefan Jones said...

Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 46, "Enchantments and Enchanters""Then comes Sir Walter Scott with his enchantments, and by his single might checks this wave of progress, and even turns it back; sets the world in love with dreams and phantoms; with decayed and swinish forms of religion; with decayed and degraded systems of government; with the sillinesses and emptinesses, sham grandeurs, sham gauds, and sham chivalries of a brainless and worthless long-vanished society. He did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote. Most of the world has now outlived good part of these harms, though by no means all of them; but in our South they flourish pretty forcefully still. Not so forcefully as half a generation ago, perhaps, but still forcefully. There, the genuine and wholesome civilization of the nineteenth century is curiously confused and commingled with the Walter Scott Middle-Age sham civilization; and so you have practical, common-sense, progressive ideas, and progressive works; mixed up with the duel, the inflated speech, and the jejune romanticism of an absurd past that is dead, and out of charity ought to be buried. But for the Sir Walter disease, the character of the s Southerner -- or Southron, according to Sir Walter's starchier way of phrasing it-- would be wholly modern, in place of modern and medieval mixed, and the South would be fully a generation further advanced than it is. It was Sir Walter that made every gentleman in the South a Major or a Colonel, or a General or a Judge, before the war; and it was he, also, that made these gentlemen value these bogus decorations. For it was he that created rank and caste down there, and also reverence for rank and caste, and pride and pleasure in them. Enough is laid on slavery, without fathering upon it these creations and contributions of Sir Walter."

David Brin said...

Anon, that is total BS.

The SOuth had no decent principles. They broke their oaths the very instant they lost "their" presidency and had to let the other side have innings. Lincoln had not even done a thing. The continental congress sent pleas and negotiators to George III. The south sent nobody and nothing. They were oath-breaking traitors from the very first instant.

Moreover, it was not about trade or Slavery. It was about the South turning feudal and realizing that their baronial, slave-owning, plantation owning lordly caste would be in very big trouble, once the free and immigrant based prospering North got much bigger.

So they sent a few hundred thousand poor white farmers to die for their privileges, fooling them exactly the way Fox and Murdoch are fooling poor southern whites, all over again.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> One other point. I notice that when Mr. Brin is not blogging with us, the conversation tends to languish. Admit it, he is the Group Councilor or school teacher we are all trying to impress.

I've never received one congratulation from David Brin for "nice dirty joke." But one can keep hoping.

>> Great article here, showing just HOW manipulated the news is at Fox. Like the Bush justice department, they start with the conclusion or result they want, then find the right people who will push the arguments that way.

Smerconish busts Fox News producers for the hacks they are and paints an ugly picture of cable "news">> Yes, fomenting separatism is Quite Real. Georgia recently had a ruling that would set Burny Maddoff and the Unabomber free -- discounting the Federal Governments jurisdiction to convict people.

A bit of an interesting exchange, Chris Mathews talking about the Texas sessionist talks (though I'm never going to trust Chris Mathews again, at least he is entertaining) Texans have a "special" feeling about what it means to be an American.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

David Brin said...
Anon, that is total BS.

The SOuth had no decent principles. They broke their oaths the very instant they lost "their" presidency and had to let the other side have innings. Lincoln had not even done a thing. The continental congress sent pleas and negotiators to George III. The south sent nobody and nothing. They were oath-breaking traitors from the very first instant.

Moreover, it was not about trade or Slavery. It was about the South turning feudal and realizing that their baronial, slave-owning, plantation owning lordly caste would be in very big trouble, once the free and immigrant based prospering North got much bigger.

So they sent a few hundred thousand poor white farmers to die for their privileges, fooling them exactly the way Fox and Murdoch are fooling poor southern whites, all over again.
>> Wow. How many times is my world view going to change?

I thought for a while that the South had a real trade issue. It's kind of hard to establish what the "honorable thing" is, because ideals change so much. Both sides could have good intentions, and both sides could have opportunistic robber barons bamboozling the public at the same time.

The North was also busy abusing the immigrant population, and were spending less on the Irish and Chinese than the South was spending on their captive servants (from what I've learned). It's a lot easier just to make people poor and starving to make them show up to work than to keep guards.

I could be wrong--I defer to better students of history. I've always thought the issue was interesting, because even today, it is still spun. Most of the Southern legend, seems based upon ideas that people are currently pushing, and the Norther position is kind of silent, because, few people up North actually really care about this issue. When I transferred from New York to a Southern State, I was like; "What's a Yankee?" I was a bit miffed to learn later, that New York was neutral and sold weapons to both sides (like a good capitalist). However, I was even more miffed when I learned that Yankee derives from slang for English Gay bars. That feather in the cap is used to help a man with the Clap -- and I'm not making that up. The "Macaroni" I think was a name for the Marconi bar or some such nonsense.

Anyway, as well all know who have studied at the Contrarian site, many wars are just disguises for Castle Building. USUALLY, it's the robber barons tricking the public into fighting for their status, wealth and power -- and if you don't find that is the reason, you usually haven't gotten the full story. You should be working your hardest to prove it isn't castle building before you embark on war -- and nobody should profit from it.

We got that right Exaclty TWICE in the entire history of America. Once when we kicked out the British, and maybe the second time in WW II. Other than that -- they were ALL a racket. OK, maybe when the Canadians burnt down Washington, that wasn't the US robber barons trying to make a nickel. Though I haven't looked into it yet.

But what you are talking about in the South is what is going on today. It makes sense, since Paulson and Republicans worked so hard to mimic what happened in the Great Depression.

>> I kind of look at the US as the German's before WW I. We haven't been starved and humiliated enough yet for that next step.

The real players behind the scenes, used the Nazis later as useful fools. They were NOT much different from our NeoCons, except they weren't such huge cowards.

Most of these shills on Fox news would wet their pants in a real crisis.

>> What are you going to do, eh? The people taking initiative, are half the time helping the people stirring up ants nests for profit.

Carl M. said...

Another thought: are billionaire-subsidized populists more ironic and billionaire democrats? Heinz ketchup anyone? Goes good with open society. And wasn't there this guy named Buffet among Obama's advisors? I head said he's pretty rich...

David Brin said...

I never said all rich folks suck. I know six billionaires on a first name basis... (though that plus $3.75 will get me a small latte at Starbucks)...

...and all six got rich by innovating and/or delivering better services or use of capital. And all six love science and all six have expressed various degrees of contempt for the parasite wing of the aristocracy.

A majority of them have made it clear they intend to leave their heirs with comfort, safety and some investment startup capital, but NOT billions, which "my kids ought to be able to earn for themselves."

In other words, the distinction is whether they are loyal to the civilization that made them. To us. Or whether they are conspiring to cheat and to undermine the first society to somewhat escape the evils of oligarchy.

THAT is the sort of nuanced distinction that can still be made. Now. But history tells a balefull story, if real class warfare ever returns.


Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi W Shatner,
I think you count of "Just Wars" is out by one
I read somewhere that the main reason for the rebellion was that King George had wickedly prevented the settlers from moving in on more Indian lands and that Washington personally ended up owning a lot of land that the King had specified as Indian.

Not that you rebelled against the King anyway - George was a figurehead, you guys rebelled against a democratically elected Parliament
Voting was limited to land owners but then so was your replacement

David Brin said...

What baloney, Duncan!

Our delegates asked, repeatedly, for Philadelphia - then perhaps the 15th biggest town in the British Empire, to get an MP... and for all the colonies to get one Every reasonable proposal was spurned, with copious insults.

George III was no figurehead. The whigs needed big victories and margins to force him to back down.

The Appalachian Act was important, yes. But also largely ignored as the Scots-Irish (NOT Washington) plunged into Kentucky long before the war.

I have encountered cynicism chic before. Just take a proud moment of history and seek ways to reverse everything. Indeed, sometimes revision and re-appraisal are called for. I'm all for it.

But can still be a fetish-thing, and one learns to recognize when it is. Oh, BTW... there was not a single person alive who did not rock back in surprise, when Washington refused power THREE different times. It was pure. Almost unprecedented. And one of maybe 200 facts about that decade of miracles that you cannot sully.

Marino said...

Anon wrote:

we would owe more to the principles of liberty and self-reliance espoused by the South, and less to the machine politics and inhuman industrialization of the North.

self reliance and liberty don't mix well with slavery, period.
Google "Hegel" and "master/servant" for a philosophical treatment.

"Inhuman industrialization and machine politics", i.e. the modern world (factories, science, mass parties, universal franchise, unions and labor rights...) that has managed unrivalled plenty and freedom for the common people ROFLMAO. How much more humanizing it would be, raping the darkie girls ad libitum...

David Brin wrote:

Anon, that is total BS.

The SOuth had no decent principles. _snip_

Moreover, it was not about trade or Slavery. It was about the South turning feudal and realizing that their baronial, slave-owning, plantation owning lordly caste

Marino: the same class that oppose radically democracy, see Barrington Moore in name of "organic/patriarchal values"

would be in very big trouble, once the free and immigrant based prospering North got much bigger.

No, it's even worse: the debate wether slavery was economically effective or not ("Time on the Cross", Eugene Genovese...) is still unresolved, but it's easy to envision what the CSA would become after mantaining independence (I'm a big AH fan...).
They managed the first successful total economic mobilitation before WWI and Germany under Rathenau, aka "state capitalism"; they would have a "Yankee encirclement" meme like the "capitalist encirclement" of the late USSR, so it's easy to imagine them turning onto a garrison state, with forced industrialization for military prurpose financed by the agricultural sector (cotton exports) in a way Trockij first and Stalin later would have recognized and approved. Add racialist suprematism, shake well. A political laboratory to develop TwenCent totalitarianism forty years in advance... Go, Sherman, go...

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Duncan Cairncross said...Not every theory has equal weight.
I've also heard that we never actually got out from under the British rule and we have to send the weight of the king in Gold each year.

I think the Rothchilds are the real power in Britain and the US has a valuable dollar because we have nukes. I'm stickin' to that theory until I get one that is more exciting

>> The outlandish claims of Barack Obama for "Sovereign Immunity unless the Government willfully reveals it" seems to me a poison pill. If the Republicans and Democrats swallow that -- they might as well have a coronation ceremony.

Obama is no dummy. It's a win-win for him. If they let it go and allow Obama to keep Bush's crimes secret -- well then, he will actually have the power to find out all the dirty little secrets without NeoCon interference. If they DO stop him, then it's their pen that strikes away Bush's protections and lays the secrets bare.

I imagine this is leaving a lot of dirty dogs twisting in the wind.

>> AT least this is my fantasy. Either that, or Obama is more of the SOS.

He will force me to activate "Plan B." Where i ridicule him on the blogoshere impotently.

tacitus2 said...

Regards the impolitic comments of the Texas governor regarding "seccesion". If I have it right, the Constitution of 1845, by which the Republic of Texas joined the United States, has a one time option for Texas to split into four, or by some accounts, five states....each with their own governor, Reps, and most relevantly, Senators.

I doubt it would ever actually be done, but the profound (yet Constitutional) threat to the political status quo, would not be Secession, but Fission.

Just imagine the political firestorm touched off by the sudden appearance of 8 open US Senate seats and 4 governerships in a state that has been reliably Republican (albeit less so in the last electoral cycle). The mind boggles.


Stefan Jones said...

Of course, the four-or-five states of Texas would have to be hideously Gerrymandered to actually be reliably Republican. Otherwise you might end up with a couple of Republican states -- some poor as dirt and reliant on subsidies -- and two or three that would do all they can to rejoin Mexico.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hmmm... Converting completely to electric cars by 2020? What do you guys think?

Fake_William_Shatner said...

This is interesting;
It looks like some physicists found a "third type of Quantum tunneling;"

I'm just waiting for them to give up this super string nonsense and accept that there is an ether, and that Einstein was right about 99% of the things he said, but wrong on displacing this theory.

This would be a hit on what I called a "transparent state of matter." There are three things that are possible as I see it;

>> Which I wrote out quickly, realized it was going to be TOO LONG here, and really, nobody wants to bother reading such things that sound like the rantings of people on park benches (or Glenn Beck, of course). Read the article, and ignore the really brief outline of my own rantings to follow:::::

The short description of my prediction: At very small distances, matter is not "Opaque" much the way a crystal is clear due to it's structure NOT interfering in the transmission of light. All objects would be transparent to light if they could be organized by some "carrier" frequency affecting the structure.

So quarks TUNNEL -- not because they are popping through matter, but because, the matter isn't a barrier to a quark, unless it has a random and not "tuned" frequency in the aether -- but that is NORMALLY the case, so things don't just tunnel all the time.

If the quark and the matter are in the same "tune" they can pass through each other. Normally, this happens very briefly.

Unfortunately, current physics theories hold with the idea of particles and NO aether. But then, how do they explain matter, that has a proton and electron as far apart as Jupiter is from the Sun (and the same relative size to distance ratio), not being able to pass right through each other? Well, I suppose that's where they got the strong and weak nuclear forces.

I'm saying it's the "frequency" of the movement of the SPACE (aka Aether) between the particles (best to think of them that way then what they actually are) that is actually causing the resistance that gives us the illusion of solid matter.

If you froze matter near absolute zero, and "tuned it" with a laser, you could pass other matter through it. That's a difficult state to achieve however. Small enough things in very brief moments can achieve resonant states that are transparent.

Now, if the hop is shorter than the frequency of the movement of the Aether, then there is no barrier at all.

Tony Fisk said...

Ilithi, electric cars will help.

You might also want to read Brad Templeton on the subject of Robo-cars (together with Jamais Cascio's review...unfortunately, it is *cars* that are the main problem: contributing, as they do to urban sprawl and the attendant need to stretch and maintain infrastructures such as roads, electricity, water, sewage, phone lines ... train lines , bike lanes...

Check out Alex Steffen's thought provoking essay: My Other Car is a Bright Green City (not achievable IMHO, but certainly a lot of food for thought there)


WS: when speaking of the wave nature of matter, discussion usually concentrates on the wavelength, but seldom on the 'phase' (or coherence). I have often wondered whether phase is the key to predicting just when a particular radioactive nucleus will decay, for instance.

This sounds similar to what you mean by 'tuning'

It is unsurprising that matter would be transparent to 'light' at small distances: there is little interaction with object less than the light's wavelength. Most of the optical qualities in everyday matter arise from interactions with larger scale structures than atoms: molecular bonds and crystalline lattices.

In the spirit of way out conjectures, with no backing justification (grow now, prune later!) here's my hunch bag:

- the speed of light is dependent on the curvature of the space through which it moves (flatter = faster)

- gravitational attraction arises from the time dilation that accompanies the curvature of space around a massive object.

- a parabolic mirror (Schmidt-Cassegrain arrangement) could be used as a 'maxwell demon' to preferentially transfer particles/photons from one compartment to another, increase pressure, and allow energy to be extracted (NB: this is *not* perpetual motion but something nearly as heretical: an entropy reducer)

tholint: the accumulation that occurs in minds that spend long periods idly contemplating belly buttons.

TwinBeam said...

Dragon -

Not sure if you intended it, but the ending of that video clip tied nicely back into the slavery discussion...

Since Agassi is looking for "islands" initially, the obvious place to start is cities - requiring all electric taxis. Swapping batteries several times a day will just be part of the job - so they don't need the robo-swapper, just multiple swap-able battery units.

Ilithi Dragon said...

@TwinBeam: No, I hadn't, I was just sharing an interesting link that had been shared with me. Though, I am sleep deprived right now, and strange things tend to occur when I am, so maybe some hyper-conscious part of my subconsciousness recognized the connection. Or maybe I should just get to bed, because I have no idea what I'm talking about.
} : = 8 )

Cousim: The family-centric latest edition to Will Wright's Sims franchise.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Ilithi,
I think that all electric cars by 2030 is doable.
2020 is a tad too soon for a big country like the USA.
I am working on my own car with an old forklift motor
(As a Scot I hate spending money)
I hope that by the time I need them Lithium batteries will be a bit cheaper.

Not sure if the replaceable battery system will be needed,
If a battery pack can deliver
~150 Kw (Tesla) then it can probably be charged at a similar rate, this would recharge a
30Kwhour pack in 12 minutes,
When I am on a long drive a fuel stop is normally 30+ minutes by the time the family has visited the toilets and bought more munchies,
The recharge station would probably require its own batteries in order to deliver power at that rate

I did not mean to pique your ire with my comments about the revolutionary war, I suspect that like all such endeavours there were good men on both sides
The winners write the history

My main quibble is that it was a few years too late it would have been better if you guys had rebelled in 1745
Could have made a difference in another rebellion.

TwinBeam said...

David Brin

While the South was morally wrong, they were *legally* in the right about states rights, including the right to secede.

You can certainly despise their slaveholding, but to claim they were without any decent principles is simply foolish demonization. As human beings, they were able to be fully self-deceived on the morality of slavery, while holding firmly to decent principles of states rights, property rights, etc.

As to their "oaths" - as has often been noted, the Constitution is not a suicide pact. The end of the slave/free balance in the territories would soon lead to a majority of free states, and thence to abolition. They were not wrong in that, but wrongly believed they would be ruined if they lost the institution of slavery that had enriched them.

Lincoln recognized the right of secession, much as he despised the South's use of threat of secession as a weapon to maintain slavery in the Union. He certainly did not lack the minimal foresight needed to anticipate Southern secession upon his election. I doubt he was at all expecting the South to wait for him to take office - which seems a rather irrelevant point, on the whole. Waiting would have changed nothing, unless you are believe Lincoln was going to compromise his principles.

In fact, I suspect Lincoln further realized that a separated South would soon claim rights to the western territories, inevitably leading to war with the North in any case. Desipte that, he made the hard choice that the authors of the Constitution, and every American government from that time until his own, were not willing to make. He chose to offer no compromise with the South that might further delay the conflict.

The closing line of his "Cooper Union Address":

"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT."

David Brin said...

Sorry TwinBeam. It does not fly.
ALL civilizations hold that oaths are important. some supplement or replace oath-keeping with accountability to law and you show this bias, most modern Americans do. But most earlier societies considered the oath to be far, far more important.

Indeed, the critical moment in the history of Germany was when the Army's general staff allowed Hitler to make all the soldiers swear an oath to him, as an individual, ejecting their previous oaths to the constitution.

As for the 1861 secession movement? You have not read the Southern press of that time, which BTW excluded all comments, entreaties etc from Northern sources. The few papers that tried printing them were burned. The foremost issue was "Can we break our sworn oaths?" The prevailing argument revolved around the Jeffersonian texts in the Declaration of Independence, especially the preamble "When, in the course of human events,,,"

Read it! Jefferson lays down the limitations and excuses permissible, that allow the breaking of an oath of loyalty, e.g. when the sovereign has thoroughly betrayed its end of the bargain, and when all recourses have been tried, to no avail. This preamble was cited endlessly, through 1860 and 1861...

...but few voices raised a timid hand, as in Monty Python, to ask "um... er... what betrayal?" Or "What recourses have we tried?" WHat negotiations? WHat offers? What discussions?

This is not so much a matter of states' rights... since states-rights are just as artificial a construct as any other level of structure. Almost half of the COUNTIES of the south voted AGAINST secession, some of them vehemently, and they should have also had a right not to be dragged into foolishness or war against their countrymen. You can take the legalistic route to justify secession only if you also excuse repression of other rights. (Some southern counties rebelled from the rebellion and kept the Confederacy out, flying the starts and stripes till 1865.) If Lincoln's right to suppress secession had iffy legal grounds, so did the process of secession itself, and far more so.

No, that's bullshit. The issues are oath-breaking - underwhich by their OWN standards the secessionists were outright, flagrant and utterly despicable, pure-and-simple traitors...

...or else it was about slavery... and anyone who says it wasn't is a fool. Even Ted Turner's south-loving series of movies admitted that...

...or else it was about class warfare, the frantic effort of a new baronial caste to maintain their rural/feudal/romantic/Sirfrancisscottish social order, by distracting hundreds of thousands of eager, poor whites and sending them to die, defending the privileges of the few (can you say "culture war"?)...

...or else (and this is the big one) it was something more fundamental. An outrageous betrayal of the pragmatic potential that a new, continental nation, based upon general Enlightenment principles, and that would generally TRY to create government by, of and for people, might break some of the old habits and patterns, and actually make a crucial difference in the development of humankind.

The potential was there. Bright people saw it. They were talking about it, endlessly. It is the core thing discusses in the Gettysburg Address. A potential that many felt they OWED to future generations.

For all its flaws, the fact that America has kept trying to take on self-improvement, each generation trying to fix some earlier error, while welcoming 95% of the world's immigrants, while being DIFFERENT in so many ways that you cannot even begin to count...

...that fact is proof that the South had to lose. Because it would not have happened, had North America dissolved into another petty Europe. Moreover, it was the dream of PRECISELY that continental, world-changing, well-meaning, clumsy-but-bent-on-improving giant that motivated far more love and willingness to die for the Union than most moderns can begin to realize.

It is a dream that still motivates those of us who are driven far less by left-right nonsense, and far more by eagerness to continue that self-improvement campaign. For the good of all humanity and all posterity.

And that is why the would-be feudal lords who dominate the South had to lose. And THAT is why today's "culture war" is nothing less than oath-breaking and utter treason.

Jester said...

"The Constitution is not a Suicide Pact"

The Decleration of Independence IS, and is explicitly so.

There is a reason Lincoln referenced it so often.

Stefan Jones said...

Huh. I don't see anything about suicide in there:

What's upsetting you, Jester? "That all men are created equal?"The recent election is bringing all sorts of crazies out of their shotgun shacks. How did Stewart put it? "They equate losing an election with tyranny?"

David Brin said...

Jester refers to the notions that "we must all hang together" and "to this we (unanimously) pledge our lives and sacred honor."

Jester was pointing out that it was a GOOD suicide pact! ;-)

Hawker Hurricane said...

For interesting reading about the reasons the Confederacy declared independence, one could peruse the Declaration of Independence of South Carolina at

It's quite clear: the reason for the declaration was that The Northern States have united to elect a Man Hostile to The Institution of Slavery. Not about taxes. Or property (outside of slaves). Not because of anything he did in office (indeed, he hadn't assumed office yet!). Signed and approved on the 24th of December of 1860, not even two months after the election, and a full three before he assumed the office.

The other state's declarations are also interesting, if not so blatant.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Hmmm... I was thinking yesterday about how the CCC and WPA were crucial factors in pulling America out of the last Great Depression, and how they would never be accepted today, because they're too 'socialist' and all, even though they're really what we need, especially with rising unemployment.

And I was thinking, if only there were a way for something like the WPA to be accepted today, and not shot down by Republican/Conservative anti-socialists on a field day. It occurred to me that we already have people 'on the dole' through Unemployment Compensation. The government is already paying people wages, they're just not working. That could be the selling point. The government is already paying people who are laid off and not working, so instead of just paying them to not work, since we're already paying them anyway, why don't we just find something constructive to do for their wage? Increase the UC benefits to minimum wage, or a little above minimum wage (high enough to live off of, but low enough for people to seek other, better-paying jobs), and extend them indefinitely, but assign people work. Much of it would be make-work projects, a lot of little things, just so we get something constructive in return for the tax money invested in their wage, but with unemployment the way it is, there would probably be enough people together to do some not-so-little things. Stress the importance of doing a good, quality job, whether or not it goes fast. Even today, there are plenty of make-work projects that people could do, even real lazy people who can't hold down a regular job, both little stuff, and not-so-little stuff, and I'm sure we can even find the present-day equivalent of building outhouses.

The budget for UC would have to be scaled up, and some new departments and positions added (which adds jobs), so there would be more money spent, but the increase in return would be much, much greater. Instead of just paying people to not work, we'd be paying them a little more (plus added costs of infrastructure, equipment and supplies), to actually do work, produce goods and services.

What do you guys think? I'm sure it could use some polishing and refinement, but it makes good sense, and it should be an easy sell.

TwinBeam said...

Jester: Yes, it's a suicide pact - but not particularly relevant.
Hawker - I agree - secession was about slavery. For the South, the war was about half preserving slavery (and the economic and ego benefits associated with it), half battle for independence. The North had much more mixed reasons, but that certainly included abolition.

Interestingly, Georgia's statement points to rent-seeking northern businessmen glomming onto abolition as a political tool, to regain power and privilege. Remind you of anything you've heard around here?

Two sides to every story, even if one side is clearly more egregiously wrong when examined from a distant perspective. No purely evil demons - just humans, with all the good and bad that implies.

Viv Verlin said...

Hello !
a better cup of tea in economics (and some inspiration to broad your insights) might be the lecture of Simon Johnson´s daily essays published in The Atlantic.
See you in Cardiff by the Sea, maybe..
Viviana Martinez Tosar
Berlin, Germany

Jester said...

Dragon -

A new CCC is something that could be passed with little obstruction.

Obama already added a couple hundred thousand Americorps postitions recently, and got a couple dozen Republican votes in the Senate for it.

You put young people to hard honest work, pay them a living wage, give them some discipline and schooling...Americans eat it up with a spoon and ask for more.

Americorps, though, cannot do what the Civilian Conservation Corps did. Having served in the California Conservation Corps, I talked to a lot of original CCC old-timers and had similar experiences myself.

Americorp postions rarely include housing, and pay little more than minimum wage. Obviously, not a solution for young people without a support network.

Jobs that don't pay the rent aren't measurably better than no jobs.

Now, we do have hundreds of thousands of young people who do have a support network, and who benefit from Americorp. It's a great program, or rather, set of programs.

What it can't do is take a Homeless 18 year old kid with little verifiable job experience, minor leauge drug issues, and no diploma, and plop him out in the woods miles from nowhere with three hots, a cot, and health care for two years.

A CCC program can. I know. I was that kid. I was in that situation during the worst of the First Bush Recession, which hit San Diego County like a ton of bricks.

Jerry Brown is, literally, the reason I didn't wind up dead or in prison.

The original CCC was the most popular government program in the history of the country. More popular than Social Security, believe it or not.

It was the only New Deal program to get support from a majority of Republicans.

You ask any Republican if they would rather see a Hundred Billion go to Bailouts, or to paying millions of young men and women to plant trees, clear streams, build parks, fight fires, provide disaster relief, ect. while improving their education and learning job skills in a disciplined work enviornment.

It's officially a no brainer.

brian wang said...

Tea Party protests started before the Fox News coverage. Early coverage was by Pajamas TV and Instapundit and other bloggers. But it was not initiated without Fox News involvement for many months

Ilithi Dragon said...

@ Jester: I figured it would be an easy sell. But that's what's curious about this. It should be a VERY easy sell, and it makes good, solid sense, so why don't we have this already?

Stefan Jones said...

I'd be all for a new CCC. I'm trying to think of how it would be sold . . . and defended against cranks who weave stories about concentration camps or indoctrination camps. ("They're teaching them ghetto kids how to use an axe. It's a fascist martial art they'll use to raise our taxes!")

I hiked through an old CCC camp a few weekends ago. Really just the foundations were left, but they had a map of the camp and lots of pictures.

sociotard said...

For fun, check out the robot penguins.

Jester1137 said...

The only people who believe such gibberish are the 1/3rd fringe extremists of a Party which only claims 1/3rd of Americans as members.

Basically, you don't push back. You just mock them once in a while.

Tony Fisk said...

Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?

No! It's... a flying robot penguin!!?

Which makes Jester's last remark look ... interesting! (Think 'March of..')

Anonymous said...

Where I live, we could easily absorb a couple hundred unskilled laborers picking up trash, removing pest plants, policing beaches, parks and campgrounds, or any of half a dozen other jobs that require minimal skills. Make a requirement of a minimum of two hours training every day in one of a dozen different employable skill sets, and you're on! You could even hire an unemployed teacher or two to do the training, while you're at it.

I still find a number of WPA projects tagged around where I work, including a rock wall with an inset concrete plaque. Remarkably they have survived over the last 75 years quite well.

Anonymous said...

"Obama DOJ seeks to restrict defendents' right to a lawyer during questioning"

The Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court to overrule Michigan v. Jackson, the 1986 Supreme Court decision that held that police may not interrogate a defendant after the right to counsel has attached, if the defendant has a lawyer or has requested a lawyer.

Change you can believe in!

"Obama DOJ seeks 5-year federal prison term for CA medical pot dispenser Charles Lynch"

Mr. Lynch, who ran a small dispensary in the surfing hamlet of Morro Bay, has become a symbol for the medical marijuana movement since his shop was raided in 2007. A registered business owner, Mr. Lynch has the support of the city’s mayor, city attorney, and the local chamber of commerce. Medical marijuana advocates see the case as a test of the Obama administration’s policy of non-interference on state marijuana laws. California is one of 13 states that allow the cultivation and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Change you can believe in!!

…on Thursday President Obama will be giving the keynote speech at the 2009 National Holocaust Remembrance Commemoration at the US Capitol. The event is sponsored by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the theme of the event is “Never Again: What You Do Matters.” Here’s where the speechwriter’s problem comes in. As the museum’s press release says, `The notion that the Holocaust was the result of the actions of one man or a handful of leaders is false,’ says Museum Director Sara J. Bloomfield. `The ability to carry out the genocide depended upon the participation of tens of thousands and the acquiescence of millions. This year, as we remember the victims of Nazi Germany and its collaborators, let us reflect on our own responsibilities in a world of rising antisemitism and continuing genocide.' So, one week after the DOJ releases memos that made torture the legal policy of the United States of America, and shortly after Obama announced that those who carried out this policy would not face prosecution, the speechwriter has to craft a speech for a Holocaust remembrance event. Good luck with that, WH Speechwriter.

Change you can believe in!!!

Anonymous said...

I don't know who TwinBeam is, but the contortions of his twisted reasoning revealed in his failed effort to justify the South's secession on a legalistic basis qualify him as a veritable human corkscrew. Seldom have I witnessed such a craven example of self-serving rationalization in the defense of indefensible greed, depravity, and retrogression.

Let's take TwinBeam's points one at a time, shall we?

First, TwinBeam claims While the South was morally wrong, they were *legally* in the right about states rights, including the right to secede.Where is your legal basis for making that claim? Are you a lawyer? What legal precedents have you cited to bolster that vacuous claim?

I see none. As far as I can tell, you have no precedents. That forces us to fall back on legal reasoning eo ipso.

As David Brin points out, the South constantly referred to the Declaration of Independence in an attempt to legally justify their secession, but if you examine the text itself, such justification is entirely unclear:

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. The declaration speaks of one people, not "some people" or "a few random guys" or "a collection of bystanders."

It is by no means clear from a legal viewpoint that "one people" refers to a collection of disparate states. On the contrary, the most straightforward reading of the declaration would appear to entirely rule out any such interpretation.

Moreover, we must consider the effects of the ninth and tenth amendments of the constitution on the legality of secession. It is quite true that the ninth amendment states "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."And, at first glance, this would superficially appear to provide some legalistic justification for secession. But, in fact, a simple reading of the preamble to the constitution makes it pellucidly clear that secession flagrantly conflicts with the stated purpose of the constitution of the united states:

We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.Clearly, secession would destroy "a more perfect union," it would disrupt "domestic tranquility," and it would damage "the general welfare." Note well the legalistic chicanery the South tried with this thinly veiled ploy: by using amendment nine of the bill of rights (which merely states that by enumerating one explicit right the constitution cannot abolish another tacit right) the Southerners tried to claim that they could use one part of the constitution to abolish another part of the constitution. No, that doesn't fly. You can't re-interpret or misread or twist the words of one part of the constitution to delete other parts. If you want to delete or change part of the constitution, you must amend it. If the South had been serious about legally justifying their effort to secede, they would have mounted an effort to amend the constitution to allow secession. Of course, the South never did that, because they knew quite well that they wouldn't have succeeded. Amending the constitution requires a supermajority of state legislatures, and the South never had a chance of getting that kind of plurality for secession.

Next, the South tried to use the tenth amendment as a ploy to legally justify secession, but once again this fails the straight face test. The tenth amendment states "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."At first glance this might seem an even more powerful legal argument for secession, but only if you have no familiarity with legal reasoning. One of the principle powers invested by the constitution in the federal government is the purpose of creating a more perfect union. This is stated right up front, in the very first sentence of the constitution. To claim that this fundamental power can be whisked out of existence by the magic wand of the tenth amendement amounts to a sophistry so transparent that even a first-year law student would be too embarrassed to trot this whopper in front of his law professor.

So TwinBeam's claim that the South had any sort of credible legal justification for secession is mere hot air and moonshine. It's embarrassing, frankly, on the level of John Yoo's convoluted rationalizations in defense of violating the eighth amendment of the constitution (which prohibits torture) and violating the fifth amendment of the constitution (the first part of which mandates due process, meaning arrest, charges, and a trial).

Moving on, we come to TwinBeam's even more incredible assertion "You can certainly despise [the south's] slaveholding, but to claim they were without any decent principles is simply foolish demonization."

In defense of this remarkable assertion, TwinBeam cites "As human beings, they were ... holding firmly to decent principles of states [sic] rights, property rights, etc."This is almost too bizarre to discuss seriously. TwinBeam is here defining as "decent principles of property rights" the right to own another human being.In what sense, sir, is that a "decent principle"? How can owning another human being possibly be morally justified?

I warn you that if you attempt to buttress this absurd redefinition of "decent principles" by recourse to mere historical continuity, as for instnace a reference to the Bible's approval of slavery, you have sunk yourself deep into a moral quicksand, sir. For I would immediately be obliged to cite the equally ancient historical practice of rape and pillage and I should then find myself obliged to defend a home invader who breaks down your door and abducts and rapes your wife as a person who holds "to decent principles of droit de signeur." We could continue down this path quite a ways, citing the Aztec practice of child human sacrifice to justify your atrocious redefinition of "decent principles" to the point where our hands dripped with blood.

No, sir, it will not stand. Owning another human being remains an abomination. This is no "decent principle," it is not "property right," it is an atrocity and an offense against the fundament of common human decency.

Have done, sir. You are embarrassing yourself. No legal chicancery can support the south's secession, and no twisted moral sophistry can justify treason in defense of human slavery. Your arguments are null and void, your efforts to redefine commonly-undestood terms like "decent principles" to encompass crass crimes like human slavery fall flat, and your unctious solecisms in defense of the South's treason stinks of a particularly oily effort to rewrite a notably ugly piece of history.

Have done, sir, you are covering yourself with shame here.

The plain fact of the matter is that the South stood firmly on the side of feudalism and regression into a barbaric past, when men owned other men and tortured or murdered them at whim, while the North stood for the cause of modernity and science and knowledge. We need know nothing more than that the South made it a serious crime to teach some of its citizens to read and write to recognize in which direction the South faced on the long road of history. The South faced backwards, and tried to march backwards into barbarism. The United States of America would not have it, and it well that we did not, for today we would be burning witches in the public square if we had faltered on this point.

I would add that many Americans still abhor modernity, still fear the future, still cringe in terror at science and knowledge. Just look at the convulsive constant efforts to ban the teaching of evolution in favor of creationism, the incessant eruptions of superstitious twaddle like the so-called "Creation Museum," and the never-ending effort by some Americans to rewrite the laws of nature and erase the consensus of the scientific community whenever it becomes politically expedient to do so (I am here referring to global warming denial, but I could just as well have referenced the Scopes Trial, or the dismissal of findings by the army and navy and intelligence community that torture fails to produce reliable intelligence).

David Brin said...

Anonymous is being a jerk again. TWinBeam did not deserve the nastiness and if TB gives me the slightest nod (even offline) I will trash Anon's ravings.

Even though I agree overall with Anon's view that the Confederacy was a distillation of specious rationalizations, schoolyard-romantic immaturity and outright, oath-breaking, unjustified treason --

-- I will not claim in any blanket way that the southern states had no right to secede. Prima facie, it would seem logical that they did. A marriage that had earlier been based upon free and cautious consent would seem to be disoluble on a similar basis.

When The US Government pardoned Jefferson Davis, after the Civil War, it ran against a massive current of popular sentiment, but with 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.

Back to secession, I often ask a thought experiment. If Puerto Ricans voted tomorrow, by 60%, to become a state, it is unlikely anyone would stand in their way. Only then, suppose 20 years later they voted by 55% to secede.... would anyone dare try to stop them?

That is why I am unalterably opposed to admitting PR unless they ask by 90% or more to be let in, and that their ballot proposition contain language making it clear that they are committing their children to a solemn and permanent marriage.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

On the Civil War issue:
I'll be the tie-breaker and decide for all time the actual blame that should acrue.

The South was wrong. Not for declairing their separation, but for failing to have a good faith effort to work within the system.

Just as the Protestant Reformation reformed the Catholic church more than the actual splinter groups. So to did the North bend over for the South.

I think Brin's talk about the slave holders makes sense. It's the same damn thing throughout history. We often look at the "battle of ideas" and look at Spain vs. France. But that is the rationale. The TRUTH is, that it is always about King Phillip, and wether king Phillip thinks he is richer than the King of England -- and if that pisses him off. The Southern Slaveholders, pushed the resentments and the middle class (such as it was) bearing a bit more cost from Northern goods, and turned that into a civilization destroying conflict.

Either the North is going to let us shop at WalMart (buying chinese goods), or we go to war! The ten cent on the dollar difference that could make employees of WalMart taxpayers not on the government dole is too much to bear! You can put a lot of window dressing on that, but its fundamentally what they are getting incensed about.

The Tea-baggers, are upset that Obama is spending $1.5 Trillion, on projects that will create jobs, or at least invest in things that will allow businesses to stay open (think about the restaurant on the path of the new high speed rail,f or instance -- they can now get a loan -- this happens BEFORE the money is spent in anticipation of it, so just SAYING THE GOV will spend has a huge effect -- I know my Financial Services company thinks about it). This money, vs. the $750 Billion in Tax Cuts and the $500 Billion a year spent on the Iraq/Afghan War (and Gas Pipeline to India). OK, so they want to go to war for a difference of $250 Billion that isn't pissed away overseas.

The best we can say is these are well-meaning dupes. You could make a case to reduce government spending while our Economy is OK -- but not during a severe recession/depression.

>> Enough said. The Fake William Shatner has spoken. Send your complaints to the Gods of history, because when I grok something, it is well and truly understood.

Oh, and put some raspberry sorbet in a Margarita to take the edge off -- yum! I have to go out to the beach right now and watch my Chica play volleyball. I am seriously blessed with about 12 really hot babes who somehow find me charming. I'll try to maintain my charming condition with equal measures of tequila and sun screen. If there is some way I can embed photos -- I would, for purely educational reasons.

I suppose I get grandiose with alcohol. It quite the demons of self-recrimination and angels of non-indulgence.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I love Elegant and Brilliant The idea is to use the "handedness of light" (polarization I suppose) to detect for life on other planets.

Earth life is decidedly "right handed" while the sugars are left. Don't' say that standards don't make sense fundamentally, because our solar system worked this out perhaps when it was a gas cloud.

So instead of analyzing the spectra off the planet, and looking for bands of light in this or that wavelength (using of course, something like a very expensive hair comb to band the light), you just see if the average light coming off of a planet is polarized one way or another -- because if life is prevalent, it will LIKELY, have a standard in its proteins and that means that reflected light gets polarized.

>> Cool!

>> And I think if we were serious about it, we could electrify the nation in 4 years. Israel has a three year plan. I don't think the Size of the use makes it more difficult -- industry is always supposed to do better with economies of scale. If we did a water-catalysis procedure, or even just batter swapping, we can do it cheaper than Israel -- ALL THINGS BEING EQUAL, of course it could cost more, but for each person (per capita) it is cheaper.

Notions to the contrary, is just left over brainwashing from all the can't-do crap from the current Plantation Owners of our century, who want the status quo to stay the same until they can get a percentage on the Sun. We went to the moon in less tim than we have debated Global Warming. If we had started in 2001, there is absolutely no reason we couldn't all be in electric cars right now. Of course you faze them in, and the Government sets up the recharge centers at all the gas stations by mandate and pays for it. The gas stations pay back the government over time. You have to create a ubiquitous infrastructure.

The only reason we aren't is the same reason we are still in Iraq longer than it took us to win WW II.

There is no debate on this issue -- there is no left and right. Not every damn thing in this world, requires years of debate and navel gazing. The US could be off of OIl in 4 years, and the reason we don't do that, is because it makes money for a few companies with lobbyists. End of story.

Jester said...


Heck, this is what Newt Gingrich said..

"There is no place for torture and arbitrary detention. There is no place for forced confessions. There is no place for intolerance of dissent." ..." "I -- and the rest of the Republican leadership -- will continue to take whatever action we, can to help move ... down the path of freedom, democracy, and liberty. As Americans, as political leaders, as free individuals, it is our obligation to do what we can to extend these basic human rights and religious liberties to the rest of the world."
-- House Speaker Newt Gingrich

Of course, he said it in 1997, and all the redacted parts are references to China.

We let the Criminals go after Watergate. We saw half of them again under Reagan, Bush, and Bush.

We let the Criminals go after Iran Contra, and the associated organization of nun-raping death squads in Central America.

We got to see them spend the last 7 years playing the same games.

"Accountability Going Forward" is a phrase Ford could of coined.

We hand out free passes again, and we will see worse come to pass in the not-to-distant future.

20 years ago, the School of the Americas was teaching foreign forces "techniques" like waterboarding, sensory deprivation, sexual humiliation,...and some stuff even CheneyBush wouldn't officialy (to our current knowledge) condone.

Of course, we were all told it was just to fight the commies, and none of OUR forces would ever do such things...

Now, 20 years later, we're told not worry our pretty little heads because, like Clinton, Obama won't endorse such acts being comitted by our forces (although he's still down with rendering suspects to Egyptian prisons where they will be forcibly dogs.)

The Taguba report included evidence that a detainee had a broken chem-light rammed into his rectum.

Do we leave the people who did it free to watch the sunrise?

It's not Obamas job to prosecute, or NOT prosecute. The AG is supposed to be an independent office.

It's Obamas job to declassify absolutely everything he can, and get the hell out of the way. He seems to be on track on part one of that equation.

Of course that doesn't mean we hang every E-3 who obeyed an illegal order to lock a detainee in a box for 12 hours. At least, as long as they are fully forthcoming.

That's my standard. Anyone not guilty of murder or rape (including rape with a foreign object) who is either Enlisted or below the Rank of Major gets a walk in return for a free and complete confession.

Every "Civilian Contractor" who did this crap for fun and profit, we throw the book at.

The CIA ought to be getting the roughest housecleaning of all.

Anders Brink said...


Although you could in principle use the handedness of light to detect life, what you seem to miss is that most chemicals produced are mixed, not pure substances. Thus the light that bounces off them comes out looking like every other thing, making detection very difficult.

raaron said...

A group in 2004 called "Billionaires for Bush" engaged in the kind of politics Colbert is describing, but they raised it to an art form with "No Billionaire Left Behind." Check them out at

Anonymous said...

On Brin's theme of "brittleness" due to lack of excess capacity, here's an article on the potential impact of a flu pandemic on rail shipping.