Friday, May 15, 2009

Why Obama is Upping the Border Patrol

First - see me blather in the next “Life After People” - Tuesday on the History Channel. I offer some way-out speculations!

And now the political lamp is lit:  This item wasn’t at the top of the news, but it did make page one of the Times: Obama budget puts security first at the border - He'll ask Congress to help curb the flow of arms to Mexico before seeking any immigration reform.” 

This is a complex topic, with some strange twists.  But first, let me quote a forecast that I made, way back in December 08, in my “100 Suggestions for the Obama Administration.”  This one really deserves a spot in any Predictions Registry.

“If I seemed to lean a little "left" in some of my earlier missives criticizing a worldwide drift toward crony-aristocratism, and then to the right in supporting a repair of the U.S. military, and then left again by pushing the vital importance of citizen-level resilience... then prepare for another of my patented sudden veers! Because I believe the Obama Administration can, should... and will... act swiftly to regain control over the borders of the United States. In fact, I will lay heavy odds that he does it very soon.”

Although many sneered with doubt, alas, nobody had the guts to meet my bet (and offer of odds!) with real cash.  Too bad, because President Obama has given high priority -- and budgetary support -- to regaining control over the borders of the United States, exactly when and as I expected.  Let’s go back to my prediction:

”This may sound surprising, but it shouldn't, if you had been paying attention to one of the great ironies of the last 16 years -- one that lay in plain sight, largely unnoticed. As one of his first acts upon entering office, Bill Clinton doubled the number of field agents in the Border Patrol. And one of George W. Bush’s first endeavors was to savagely undercut that service.

“It sounds counter-intuitive, of course, and neither political party ever spoke up about it much. But the reasons are simple. Democrats like legal immigration, which results in lots of new voters and new union workers, while illegals drain resources, get embroiled (against their will) into crime, and prevent domestic programs from achieving full effectiveness. On the other hand, Republicans -- well, not your neighbors, but some influential people near the top of the party -- like access to pools of cheap, undocumented labor that won’t talk back. Only when border state citizens began getting riled did the GOP start talking tough about immigration. And talk, for the most part, is all they ever did.”

The correlation is now perfect.  Democrats boost border patrol and enforcement, but hate talking about it, because much of their base is made up of people for whom generosity is a zealous canon.  Hence, Obama needed an excuse, something to distract from his real reasons for regaining control at the border (reversing emphasis from illegal to legal immigration.)  He found his excuse with the ongoing drug gang violence in Mexico.  Blaming much of that chaos on U.S.-originating weaponry, he can claim that the new agents will be there foremost to stanch the southward flow of guns.

Now, the right wing punditocracy and blogosphere has been derisive -- and this time with some cause!  The purported “statistics,” proving that most Mexican gang-guns came from the U.S. ,  are very weak and show signs of being cludged.  Anyway, if the cash-rich mobs want guns, there are countless places to get them.  So it’s a rationalization, all right.

But while Dobbs and Limbaugh & co. eagerly pounced on this discrepancy with ridicule, they have to be very careful about is not letting their audiences dwell too long or think too deeply about any one matter.  They must keep up the rapid armwaving, pointing rapidly thither and yon, in order to distract Red America from connecting the dots.  For if rural or conservative whites ever realize which party is always pragmatically better at defending our borders... or maintaining military readiness, or strengthening alliances, or creating a good climate for small businesses, or nurturing a strong economy... then it will be all over for the neoconservative-GOP shell game.

Limbaugh et. al. have to keep it all about simplistic strawmen and ideological stereotypes (e.g. after the most corrupt and wastrel administration of all time pummeled US capitalism nearly flat, scream that the new one is “socialist!”)   Because, if the natural anti-authoritarianism of the people living in heartland “red” counties can ever turn away from reflex hatred of bureaucrats, long enough to rediscover Americans’ traditional distrust of fatcat aristocratic thieves, then... well... Rush Limbaugh will have to get a real job.

 Even  more important, genuine classic conservatives and libertarians will have a chance - at long last - to rescue their movement from the freakshow denizens who have hijacked it.

Also see my posting: Rejigger the Immigration Debate

==== MISCELLANY ====

On April 28 the Senate passed financial fraud legislation that would allow for the creation of an investigative panel modeled after the Depression-era Pecora Commission, which unearthed the crimes that led to the 1929 economic collapse. Some are calling on the House of Representatives to act on creating an independent, muscular probe into the roots of today's financial crisis.

 Comics writer Mark Sable was detained by TSA security guards at Los Angeles International Airport this past weekend because he was carrying a script for a new issue of his comic miniseries Unthinkable. Sable was detained while traveling to New York for a debut party at Jim Hanley's Universe today.  The comic series follows members of a government think tank that was tasked with coming up with 9/11-type "unthinkable" terrorist scenarios that now are coming true.

NOTE, I will add a lagniappe below, under comments -- an older item, pointing out that Adam Smith is not the only icon of freedom and liberal markets who has been abandoned by the far right.  Now they have latched onto Thomas Paine.  But they will soon drop him like a live grenade... and I’ll tell you why.


David Brin said...


I’ve been talking a lot about Adam Smith, and how the Silly Right has pretty much abandoned ever mentioning the first patron saint of capitalism, anymore... because they know that Smith despised an enemy of free markets that was far worse than socialism. Oligarchy.

Now we are hearing a lot about another of theose 18th Century heroes, Thomas Paine. Glenn Beck ranted about how Paine would be rabble-rousing “tea parties” and much more vigorous types of uprisings, were he to see the staggering oppression instituted so far, three months into the Obama Administration. Alas for Beck and his ilk, the image does not survive close inspection of the details. Paine-Was-a-Socialistk

In 1797, Paine wrote a pamphlet called "Agrarian Justice". It was his last great pamphlet and it was addressed to the French legislature, itself in the throes of revolution. While he addressed the pamphlet to the French legislature, he meant the plan in it to be universal, as he said in his accompanying letter:

Paine starts his proposal by discussing poverty. First of all, he says poverty is not natural: "Poverty, therefore, is a thing created by that which is called civilized life. It exists not in the natural state. On the other hand, the natural state is without those advantages which flow from agriculture, arts, science and manufactures."

Echoing today's liberals, he decries the separation between the rich and poor: "Civilization, therefore, or that which is so-called, has operated two ways: to make one part of society more affluent, and the other more wretched, than would have been the lot of either in a natural state."

He accepts as a basic principle that "the condition of every person born into the world, after a state of civilization commences, ought not to be worse than if he had been born before that period." Unfortunately, this was not the case in 18th century Europe, and is still not the case today. But how did this happen? Paine's explanation is hardly libertarian; one might even consider it socialist:

It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

And how do we solve this problem?

Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds; and it is from this ground-rent that the fund prod in this plan is to issue.

Paine, the libertarian hero, cleanly rejects the "natural right" of inheritance, and says that a just man would rejoice in its abolition.

A bit later, Paine covers what kind of "revolution" he would like to see. Beck should pay attention here: It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together. Though I care as little about riches as any man, I am a friend to riches because they are capable of good.
“The rich owe rent to those who do not own property for the privilege of cultivating the land, and taking away the natural ownership that all people have. This is a direct repudiation of the libertarian justification for private property, which conveniently ignores the fact that their justification leaves many people in a worse position than before land ownership.”

Anonymous said...

Roots of the financial crisis? Let's start here --

"Central banks flooded the market with money and easy credit, fuelling an asset bubble and sending false signals to business. They distorted risk assessment through their regulatory approach, leading financial institutions to create ever more complex derivatives. Governments and their agencies (like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) pushed lending to those at high risk of non-repayment, while their tax and regulatory regimes encouraged complex and opaque method."

learner said...

Fresh Air had a great interview on Thursday about the roots of the problem. see it here.

Anonymous said...

Regards the "statistics" on American origninating weapons causing havoc in Mexico. The numbers were not so much cooked, as irrelevant. A fairly high percentage of the guns that could be traced AND were sent to the US authorities to be investigated, turn out to have come from US sources. Of course, a handgun still bearing the sticker from Joe's Gun Barn was more likely to be sent than an AK47 with Hungarian factory markings. And that is even without supposing a sub-rosa understanding that the new admin would like to have the numbers turn out a certain way. So just send us American made weapons that still have serial numbers on them.

The most dangerous "assault" weapons most likely came from other sources, with the corrupt Mexican police and army being the most convenient.

So why would Obama, a man who is probably as smart as any of us, engage in this GIGO theater? Well, he has to look good to that segment of the Democratic Party to whom gun control is important. And wants to make a gesture in such a way that no American citizens (read voters in swing states) are inconvenienced.

So what's the outcome? Border security might be margainaly improved by, one assumes, searching vehicles leaving the US. This should actually be the primary function of Mexican authorities but the lure of "la mordida" is too great to trust them.

I might be tempted to take up David's bet, but I am not at all sure how the outcome would be determined. What statistic or factoid actually is a marker for more secure borders?

Even if some good ensues, and it might, the policy of going forth to do what you think is good in the world, and doing so under the guise of fake reasons, is a bad habit for presidents to acquire.

Regards immigration generally, I have to admit, it is not a hot issue where I live. I am roughly as far from the international border as Brin is, but over our border the unwelcome visitors are snowflakes (saw some sitting through an outdoor graduation today!).

But I would propose that conservatives are not outright opposed to immigrants who want to come here, work hard, pay taxes and contribute to society. There are some philosophical questions as to how quickly a coherent society can absorb large groups of outsiders and remain an intact entity with common goals and values. The difficulties France and England are having these days merit some attention.

But more to the point, to what extent can we absorb individuals who will not, at least in the short term, carry their own weight? Immigrants, legal and illegal, do pose an additional strain on health care and educational systems. And with the current enthusiasm for making comprehensive health coverage and access to higher education into "rights", it is fair to ask if we can stretch this to encompass some segment of the rest of the world when such benifices are not yet available to all of our current citizens.

Regardless of your political leanings, there is a general sense that economically our boat is leaking badly. The little lamented recent administration approached this problem by arming the boat to the gunnals and blasting away at anything that resembled a periscope. Friendly dolphin, indifferent seagull, even the occasional U boat was hit by the law of averages.

A liberal immigration policy in these challenging times is a different approach: Just invite lots more people into the boat. They will keep electing me captain until the boat dissapears beneath the waves.....

Contrarily yours,


Ilithi Dragon said...

Learner, that was a good interview (I listen to Fresh Air on my way home from work - they conveniently timed it to start when I leave work, and stop about when I'm getting home } : = 8 D ). They've had a few good interviews recently with excellent commentary on the current economic crisis.

Also, yesterday's interview was with a survivor of a stroke, a woman who is also a brain specialist. It was very interesting, and very reminiscent of the experiences of a certain engineer from a certain ship which we're all probably familiar with by now. From the sounds of it, I don't think Dr. Brin described the experience quite right, in terms of the shutdown of the left hemisphere of the brain, though the difference could easily be attributed to the difference in the nature and extent of the injuries.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I spent about 6 hours talking to a native born Jamaican man two weeks ago. He was helping me bulldoze my backyard.

He was an interesting mix of sage and prejudice. He was proud of his white family on his mother's side, and disgusted with the "lazy ethic of blacks" in this country -- his words. He liked Obama and understood needs for justice, but was also a mix of Conservative authoritarianism.

Listening to him, I'd hear a stream of thoughtfulness, punctuated by rants against the diseases of lose women. I didn't bother mentioning the disease of lose men. I hope to be one one day -- sans the diseases.

When he talked about poverty in Jamaica -- he said; nobody is really poor. You could walk along the street and grab fruit, or help a man in his garden. You can sleep outside under the stars.

The "Urbanization" looked to by industrialists of the USA as progress, also creates the desperation and NEED TO WORK in all these would-be paradises along the equator. The ultimate dependable welfare, is an environment, rich in food and lacking in fences. As we've taken these natural rights away, we've replaced them with a Need to work. I don't see what is wrong with people not wanting to work, and to idle away their lives. If George Bush had done so, as so many trust fund babies, the world would be a better place.

People who are happy and well adjusted don't start wars.

>> Of course Obama was going to close the borders -- the main reason is forcing business to pay people who need jobs in this country.

Conservatives were against child labor laws, ending slavery, minimum wage -- all for the same reason. It doesn't matter that our country got MORE productive after ending slavery and employee abuses. It doesn't matter that the rise of unions echoed the greatest consistent growth in our country. Economics is just an excuse for the real goal.

I have come to the opinion, that deep down, a lot of these industrialists, don't really care about the money as much as the principles. And the main principle-- is that they be incredibly wealthy and decide the fate of the desperate poor. They don't want people with less money, or fractions, they want them with no options and doing what they are told.

That people can hold their head up without fear and look you in the eye, and all people are made equal in the eyes of justice -- THAT is what is intolerable to them and why they liked Bush so much.

The people behind Rush Limbaugh actually don't want just Obama to fail -- but Democracy. The CIA has been instrumental in destroying Democracies around the world.

>> The real problem with Mexico is actually easy to solve -- theoretically. But the problem is, the people with real influence don't want it solved. If it continues on its present course -- Mexico will become to the US like Palestine. The problems in Israel are nothing more than a labor issue; Israel won't really close the border to the rebels, because Palestinians do the jobs they don't want to do.

The Likud party doesn't want Palestinian doctors and people who hold their head up high -- they want a serf class. Their idea of peace, is for the Palestinians to be house broken and accept their position as serfs.

>> We also don't have a healthcare problem in the US. We have a greedy useless elite problem -- same problem as the Mexican border issue. If Medicaid were extended to everyone in the single payer plan, we'd spend LESS than we do now with everyone covered. The Dutch spend 8% of GDP and we spend 14%. Likely with our larger size and costs savings, it would be 7% GDP. Over $400 Billion in waste is just dealing with insurance company headaches.

>> A mexico that goes to war would be the Military Industrial Complex's wet dream. The "patriots" protecting the border, fill the purpose of militarizing people and making them angry.

There need be no specific plan; just get people scared and dogmatic and you can lead them. It doesn't matter what religion or what fear, ultimately. The more scared and dogmatic, the more people focus on a strong leader and one leader is a lot easier to control than thousands of followers. Educated, secure, proud people are a pain the ass for the Economic Royalists.

I no longer think that the past 40 years in this country is an accident. If you stretch out policies of Corporatists and anti-Union movements, all the moves seem to be around economic insecurity (labelled as personal responsibility) and removing protections for consumers and workers.

The truly great problems in this world, are all created so that someone can make a profit over the back of someone else.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Thomase Paine was a great man. A great thinker.

It is kind of funny, that as I come to realize that the world is both simpler and more complex than I once thought -- that all of a sudden, what these great writers were saying, makes so much more sense.

Glen Beck is useful.

NPR and our "Liberal" broadcasting on Public Radio, are neutered. When the Republicans forced them no to get "socialist funding" they sent them into the arms of advertisers. Their expose on Archer Daniels Midland, DuPon, and Monsanto cost those companies dearly. Since they are now major supporters -- you won't get much real controversy anymore.

So Dragon, Fresh Air is great for the interviews but it won't accidentally push any boundaries.

There is a movement in our media called; "Goldilocks syndrome." And it explains why discredited flim flam men like Newt Gingrich, get to have the microphone, and be treated as reasonable alternatives to people who showed ethics, were right and don't sell out to Rupert Murdoch on $4 Million book deals like Al Gore.

Sean Hannity helped Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich helped Rupert Murdoch. A whole string of marginally intelligent people who rose not on merit, because they do favors. Such people, tend to gravitate towards notions of "Kingly rule." Because a meritocracy actually scares them. As much as all these right wing pundits may talk about self made men, they all got where they are by Country Club Affirmative action.

Now, all these mouth breathers and the CIA are outraged -- outraged! About Pelosi. Her crime is not taking away the matches from the Bush administration -- though it appears that investigating arson is off the table.

Out of 40 briefings with Congress, Pelosi was in 1 of them. The absolute least her position required. Do I believe the same people who helped manufacture lies to get us into the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- or do I believe Pelosi that she was deceived? I don't need to believe Pelosi herself -- there is no possible way that BushCo shills and the faction of the CIA that they adopted would risk Trillions in loot, unfettered action and a game plan they had worked so hard on, on one little lady. Of course they lied to her.

I'm sure the conversation came up, that if she were to impeach Bush -- they'd just use the authority and respect that they have with the people and accuse her of being a part of it.

So the NeoCon phone tree lights up, and Hannity and Beck and Gingrich and Fox News and the CIA and maybe a few of those Generals they used in the previous war campaigning get out the word to "get Pelosi."

You see, they have to make an example of her. Her real sin with me is that she is a coward. Tom Daschle go the message with the Anthrax, and no longer stood in opposition to launching the war on Iraq. Will other Democrats get the Pelosi message? Likely.

>> And again, I have to go back to the strategy of how to deal with bullies. You can never crawl low enough, or bend over backwards enough to make them happy.

Obama may be deferential and accommodating to Republicans, but I think this is only to draw out their nature -- they are bullies. And they respond to niceness as some admonition of weakness.

Hopefully, he will move of the offensive soon. Because these NeoCons need to be defending themselves in court, rather than finding new ways to make examples of people who would challenge them.

sociotard said...

WS, have you lived in a tropical country? I have. I think your friend is a little off (despite his being from a tropical country).

For starters, no, you can't just grab fruit off a tree. Fences or no, the locals get mad when you jump up there. Besides, the other poor people beat you to it and there isn't much left. Which is why the guy with the bare mango tree in his yard is mad.

Continuing, are you forgetting the infrastructure blessings that come with industrialization done well? The roads? The clean running water? You don't get those with just a resource-heavy environment.

Also, I don't want to "sleep under the stars" during one of those Dominican cloudbursts. I had never seen it rain so hard before in my life. even the tin-and-cardboard houses of the poorest would be better than that.

David McCabe said...

Good to see somebody putting tabletop displays to good use.If you want to build your own tabletop computer, the ReacTable hardware is quite affordable, and the software is open-source. I had the pleasure of using a ReacTable at SIGGRAPH 06.

Steps along the way to high resolution, low-friction human-computer interfaces.

Tony Fisk said...

I hadn't heard of Paine's ideas before.

I once wrote a rather turgid little essay called 'The Growth Habit' which tried to get to the bottom of why there was this imperative for continual growth, something that seems linked with a 'need to work'.

I speculated that it arose from a need for security: small fish tend to be at the bottom of the corporate food pyramid, or caught in a Dominican cloudburst. However, by the time your organisation has grown to the point where it can look after itself, it has grown a tail, and the need for security has become ingrained.

I don't think I ever got around to proposing an alternative (the open source movement may be one).

Acacia H. said...

And in science news, the efforts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope have gone off quite successfully. While there have been several problems with stripped bolts and the like, and I believe one of the repairs was only partially successful, I believe that just about every primary objective has been completed, with the only unfinished primary objective being the installation of three more new batteries.

Added into this are such spectacular imagery as this image of the Space Shuttle eclipsing the sun (there is a second image of the shuttle and the Hubble Space Telescope, but it's not as detailed as that picture) and the filming of the repairs... I believe this mission has done a lot to revitalize interest in NASA and the space program.

The construction of the International Space Station never caught such attention. In fact, in some ways the ISS is reminiscent of the lead-in to Apollo 13, where the news networks dropped a televised transmission because they felt Apollo was uninteresting (until of course the catastrophic failure that caught our attention... reminiscent of Columbus, which makes me wonder if the military had taken pictures of the shuttle like NASA had requested, would we have had a "rescue mission" reminiscent of Apollo 13? We'll never know... and hopefully Atlantis won't have any problems with debris impacts).

This sort of mission, repairing (at risk!) a beloved telescope that has brought us so many images that have captures the imagination of many people, is what NASA needs. With luck, funding for NASA will be increased... and the Orion project will lead to our return to the moon.

(As a side note: I believe that much like the ISS, Orion should be an international program. This would not only increase funding for the missions, it would help lessen the competitiveness that is starting to arise concerning the moon, with China, Russia, the U.S., and other nations all vying to return to the moon. My fears is that this competition could turn ugly... while working together would allow for sharing of discoveries and of resources to not only return to the moon... but perhaps even to stay.)

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Anonymous said...

Ilithi: Was the lady you heard Jill Bolte Taylor? If so her TED talk can be seen here. And even if it isn't it is still worth a look.

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

Stay ambitious in space, yes.

Return to the moon? No!

A completely useless moondoggle, one of dozens of Bushite attempts to divert America from success and to geld our every strength. They put us in a position where we'll fritter away our last expertise accomplishing nothing and falling behind.

When is anybody else going to realize that the perfection of their wrong decisions record cannot simply have resulted from stupidity and dogmatism and corruption. Something far more basic must have been involved, and it has very little to do with genuine conservatism.

Anders Brink said...

Hmmm ... why not return to the Moon?

Is it because it is considered to be a dead end, compared to a Mars colony?

Acacia H. said...

Considering the resources available on the moon and on the potential benefits of creating bases on the moon (including possible industries based on the moon using lunar materials and then sent to either the ISS or returned to the Earth), I'm not sure why you consider the moon to be pointless.

It is closer to us than most asteroids, we already know a lot about it, and it gives us a base from which to leapfrog into the solar system as a whole. If we're able to mine resources from the moon, those resources can be used to design and build a new generation of spacecraft that can be used to send manned missions to Mars, Jupiter, and the asteroids.

And considering everything that can go wrong with remote spacecraft, having humans in the region to repair or troubleshoot these systems is a definite bonus.

I honestly don't know why everyone wants to "go to Mars" so badly. What is on Mars that is so great? Even if we decide eventually to colonize Mars, it would take considerable work to send a large enough ship to Mars to set up such a colony... and there, having an infrastructure established on the moon and having troubleshooted the potential problems behind building a colony makes a lunar colony that much more viable.

Finally... the Russians and China are intent on going to the moon. Undoubtedly they will establish bases of their own. This is high ground... and as Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress should remind us, this high ground can be used against us, should things turn sour. An international colony on the moon would help encourage peaceful relations and keep the moon from becoming a source of international tensions.

Rob H.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

I have to disagree on the "return to the moon."

One big problem we have in our "space business" is anyone still alive who was part of getting their is out of practice.

We need a moon base, to launch the heavy material via a rail gun -- and also the fuel. 1/10th G gravity means a LOT LESS cost to launch. The other great benefit is, we don't have to worry about environmental damage. The most efficient batteries for a while are going to be radioactive -- and we can even use small atomic bombs as propulsion -- it would be a great way to repurpose our nuclear arsenal as we get rid of it.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Also, to bolster what Robert said; waterless concrete can be created from that moon dust. It's perfect cement with a little heat.

A mission to Mars, to me, would be an extravagant waste. Of course, pure science and getting there, is always useful -- but for the money, I'd rather go to Venus. Dropping down the gravity well to Venus would be cheaper and a shorter mission (I think), you can use a solar wing to air-break (or solar wind break) the entire trip.

We have the materials science to produce about a 1/2 mile sail with reflective aluminum sputtered surface.

Venus would be hugely useful for future science and even for the materials. As much as I would like the idea of keeping human mitts off the other planets until every last thing was studied -- we are going to hit a resource crunch soon.

I don't like the odds of being on one planet. The Universe is a bit more busy and chaotic over time than we seem to have indoctrinated into our internal risk measurements.

Why do we have an inverse relationship with spending and benefits, and security and risk? It goes back to my belief that conflicts are mostly a sham, and that big problems in this world are about profits.

Take for instance the Swine Flu -- it might have been a lab experiment that escaped -- or a spontaneous creation of having half a million pigs cooped up in a disease infested hot-house in Mexico. But like the swine flu before it, the cries of epidemic seem to reverberate well before it hits even the common flu danger level. Wake me up when the swine flu even approaches 15,000 -- which is the year to date death toll of the flu.

We spent a few trillion dollars now, on the "terrorism" issue. It was a complete waste and made us less safe -- but let's table that discussion. 3,000 people died as a direct result. More seniors die from slipping and falling during this time.

Our eyes were diverted to the risk of a few ill-equipped people taking over an airplane, who could have been defeated by a good door lock on the pilot's cabin. What are the risks of being hit by a large asteroid, or losing our security because our economy will collapse wasting the two trillion dollars we spent? Actually, electing good leadership, is the best spent money -- so why don't we finance elections instead of having Big Health companies put people like Bill Frist in office?

We get back 6 times what we spend on education, so why don't we pay people to go to a University like Norway does?


Because someone isn't making a profit. I was watching Sicko the other day from Michael Moore, and he played back Nixon's audio tape where they are discussing allowing HMO's to form. Nixon didn't like it until he was told that it was a "private market deal" -- that the whole point of Health Insurance companies is that they made profits by limiting care.

The next day Nixon was telling the people how we wanted the very best health for Americans and that health insurance was the way to achieve it.

The whole thing was a scam to begin with. We don't have enough money for science, for people, for education -- but we have enough to waste on things that don't really make us safe, brought to us by fear mongers. It really is that simple.

Nixon didn't like health care until he realized that it would restrict health care and build private industry profits. Ponder on that when you wonder some time what some of these elections are about.

Acacia H. said...

And it's done. Atlantis' astronauts have completed everything they set out to do, including replacing insulation on the craft. While one sensor is not functioning (from what I understand), the new sensors and detectors will likely more than compensate for that one problem.

Let's hope that the Hubble mission helps not only inspire added funding and attention to NASA, but also highlights another growing problem: space debris, and our need to find some way of cleaning up the low Earth orbit of this debris that threatens so many satellites and the astronauts who go into space.

Rob H.

Carl M. said...

I've seen the Paine quote before. Geolibertarians quote it frequently. (Do a web search on "geolibertarian" and you'll find many similar thoughts.) Geolibertarianism is rather different from either the big government liberalism of Obama or the mercantilism of the neocons.

It is good of you to point out the contradictions of the Right. These things need to be said. But the modern left has its contradictions as well, so I join in the "wake the ostrich" game. For example, see this light-hearted piece:

Obama Unveils Massive New Subsidies for the Rich. Just as the Right is less free market than claimed, the Left is less egalitarian than claimed.

David Brin said...

Claims for the moon are often based upon arm-waved sci fi scenarios about it being a "stepping tone" or access to lunar resources. All baloney, I'm afraid. Except for possible ice in a south pole crater (predicted by my old grad school advisor) there is little or nothing there we'd want, in the near term.

Sure, once you've got self-reproducing, solar-powered, regolith melting robots, you can unleash them and make great stuff there. But our first objective should be someplace useful... and it aint' Mars, either.

There are scores of near-Earth crossing asteroids that can be reached with less energy than the surface of the moon. Many of them likely have volatiles under their surfaces that are
(1) scientifically interesting and possible life-precursors

(2) possibly useful sources of Oxygen, hydrogen, carbon and rocket fuel,

(3) good for experience working with such small bodies, herding, smashing, melting them. They are CHOCk fulla great stuff, some of it even worth bringing back to Earth.

(4) good for practice going to one of the most valuable places... Phobos. Once we have a base there, mining and refining volatiles like water, then Mars becomes do-able. Till Phobos is occupied and used, Mars is a useless death trap.

David Brin said...

Again, the moon sucks. Heading back there has no rational purpose except to fritter away our money, energies, and ensure America gets nowhere in space.

Acacia H. said...

So you're advocating unleashing a Grey Goo scenario on the Moon? I'm sorry, but I don't trust aspects of the technological singularity enough to let it run wild without human intervention. And self-replication robots carving up our nearest neighbor is dangerous, especially if the organisms end up evolving and eyeing the Earth as a viable source of ingredients that should be gotten before us carbon-based organisms try to do something.

I understand your view on visiting asteroids and the like. It has merit. However, it has problems. The moon? It's local to us. It's fairly close and stays fairly close. Asteroids tend to drift. Unless we find a couple in the Lagrange points, then any asteroid we decide to harvest is going to have the twin problems of being on a trajectory that will take it some distance from the Earth and being significantly further from Earth than the moon, which means needing more resources to reach these objects.

Further, if you are correct and we find lots of volatiles under the surface of an asteroid... well, the asteroids in question may very well be dormant comets. Merely by landing on it and starting to mine it, you risk outgassing of those volatiles and turning that asteroid back into a comet. This is probably something we should avoid doing until we know our way around outer space a bit better.

Rob H.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Brin said;
There are scores of near-Earth crossing asteroids that can be reached with less energy than the surface of the moon. Many of them likely have volatiles under their surfaces that are
(1) scientifically interesting and possible life-precursors
OK. Point taken. Asteroids are closer, and have a denser distribution of useful volatiles. But I'm not advocating the moon for the "arm waving sci-fi" -- it's basically for all the points you are mentioned.

Phobos is a better fit -- maybe. But your near-earth Asteroids already cover every benefit of Phobos and are closer. Right?

The problem is going to earth-crossing Asteroids just doesn't get people excited. 50% of this is about getting people excited. The bigger the budget, the more PR required.

The 1/10th G gravity well of the moon isn't too bad for launches. I'm just wondering that under the SHORT TERM scenario -- which we are both talking about, is that maybe you want a LITTLE gravity. The 1/10th G with exercise could allow astronauts to stay there for longer tours.

You can mine the asteroids and extract things, or turn one into a space base -- but I think that we need a real construction base, where people can operate in a dome in their shirt sleeves and apply elbow grease to projects. The only thing you need to ship up from earth is some of the electronics.

The Ice at the South Pole was something I was counting on as well (probably from meteorite impacts or left-over cheese). That's the most important resource for having humans involved; water.

So, some terraforming -- but under a dome, on the moon, to support the construction. Tours would be about 9 months on, 16 months off.

[ The self-replicating robot danger is not here yet -- so protestations of some for that issue is a bit premature. Nor are robots that good yet except for assembling things that are already well defined.]

Note that humans repaired Hubble.

I don't know if the trade off with the distance to the moon and having some but not too much gravity is a good one or not.

I'd just add to your good list for criteria be two more items:
5) You may want SOME gravity for conventional construction and assembly (with humans).
6) Needs to capture the imagination.

Likely it would make sense to have an Asteroid and Moon base. Use the Asteroid to fuel the ships that go to the moon. Reduce any lifting from earth. Most of the cost of a moon trip, is lifting everything you need out of the earth gravity well -- I think much of the moon trip was coasting (have to ask Rocket scientist friends that question, however).

If your plan is to travel to other planets -- then the moon is good practice.

The construction projects I'm talking about is creating very large arrays (like solar reflectors), collectors, sails, and ship bodies. Things that don't require much volatiles beyond what you have in water. All you want for that is moon dust and water. Ultimately, it's a cost/benefit analysis of getting to the moon and how long humans can comfortably work in 1/10th G.

How about this invention for moon dust fabrication: Using the same technology that allows ink-jets to build up layers of color in printers all around the world, ionized moon dust is fixed into position and builds up layers of dust-ink. Home fabrication devices use similar techniques. Makes the idea of miles of homogenous fine powder very exciting. It's a vast reservoir of dry ink cartridges just waiting -- no need to grind.

I was also thinking, that for more delicate structures and people, you can use centripetal force to "swing" them off the moon. 1G force spinning on carbon fiber pipe should allow a rocket carrier to gain most of its speed and just use jets for attitude control.

>> I see creating the environment for humans to work in, is equivalent to the travel expense from earth orbit to the moon. Both are big ticket items. Over time, the cost of the Moon base will reduce more than the cost of the lift off from earth. I don't see Robots being practical for most of the work yet -- except for array assembly from simple parts. Asteroids for the science, volatiles and launch-pad, the moon for assembly and construction requiring lots of humans.

For the asteroids, I was thinking that ice could be used to create some large reflectors for telescopes and solar collectors. Zero-G should be great for slowly releasing water and spinning it into the desired shape -- it would be kind of like air-brushing by sputtering on very fine layers of ice. Spray it on layer by layer and then a few quick bursts of laser to smooth off the surface, followed by a spray of aluminum. How big could you make such a mirror in space? I'm sure your major limitation would be a supply of water.

>> Another option is towing something really large into an earth orbit as a launch-pad for the rest of the solar system. You'd probably want to do that with a solar sail because fuel to move such a thing is the biggest issue. Making sure you can convince everyone it would fall into earth's gravity well would be a bit difficult.

Tony Fisk said...

My fundamental take on space exploration is this: if you've spent a large amount of time, expertise and effort extracting yourself from one gravitational boghole, why would you want to plant yourself in another?

(Well, yes, 'boghole' implies water. There are certainly reasons for wanting to explore large gravitational mases, but they'd better be good ones!)

Meantime, there are the, high hanging fruit called, ironically, NEO asteroids.

The *manned* exploration issue has a lot of pros and cons. Personally, I'm for it so long as it doesn't impact on unmanned exploration, which is a proven benefit.

Talking of exploration, the Planetary Society has justed posted an interesting summary of the next couple of years in space.

Kepler has started work, as well.

ressesse: playtime for serpents.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I am with David on this,
A moon manufacturing base could be a good idea but I think we would end up with a showcase not something useful.

An asteroid rendezvous and orbital change could be sold as
"practise for disaster" as well as resource acquisition.

I really don't see the point of a Mars mission (yet)

Tony Fisk said...

The problem is going to earth-crossing Asteroids just doesn't get people excited. 50% of this is about getting people excited. The bigger the budget, the more PR required.
Getting people excited is about the level of 'show and tell'.

Personally, I've spent far more time watching the Rovers and Cassini than I have either the ISS or the shuttle missions.

One of the other factors in this is the level of public participation that is allowed. Data is made available to everyone as it is received. Certainly, JPL and research scientists perform their own high powered massaging and analysis of that data, but amateurs are quite welcome to stitch photographs from Huygens as it descended to Titan's surface, and form their own mosaics. They are more than welcome to scan the images from HiRes looking for the Beagle 2 crash site.

David Brin said...

Near earth crossers are better than Phobos only because they are more accessible. We can learn from them and maybe gather really valuable materials. In theory, so much of value that it could pay for the whole space program! (As for re awakening comets, what do you think my doctoral thesis was about? The entire modern view of cometary nuclei came from that thesis!) But Phobos has some advantages. It is more romantic. It leverages a palpable and stirring goal (landing on Mars), and it is always where you're looking for it. If there are volatiles available, it could be the most valuable real estate in the system.

Again, except possibly at the pole (which is much harder to land on) or if we leap ahead 80 years to robot harvesters - the moon is worthless. Pretty much. (And the gravity is 1./6)

Oh, the self-replicvating robots would need several chips that only we can provide. Small but utterly needed, so we control the population. But when the massive bulk of each can be made on-site... THEN the moon will be valuable. Could cover 1/4 of it in solar collectors.

Get shirt sleeves gravity the old-fashioned way./ By spinning the habitat.

Fake_William_Shatner said...


I agree. Phobos is a better choice than the moon.

Yes of course, spinning can simulate gravity -- but for long term periods -- you need a LARGE area spinning, because that difference between the axis from the head to foot can create vertigo.

1/6 G -- I forgot. But that isn't a HUGE bog hole.

>> I've also heard no comment on how useful moon dust really is. ;-)

The cheapest solution for interstellar space travel, is just give me a few million dollars to develop a gravity lens and magnetic propulsion system.

I'd say the moons of Jupiter and Saturn are going to make Phobos look like a Piker's moon. But yeah, start with the low-hanging fruit.

>> I think we all agree that Mars is an expensive waste of time. Without a true magnetosphere, it can never be permanently given an atmosphere.

So does everyone agree that Venus is the best planet to visit in the next 50 years?

Ilithi Dragon said...

Brendan: Yes, it was Jill Taylor. I don't know much about her beyond the Fresh Air piece, but her story is definitely very interesting.

WS: I'd noticed that about Fresh Air. It's usually very informative and interesting, but they tend to dance around the hard questions, which I always find annoying.

Ilithi Dragon said...

Gah, I hate it when I forgot to finish writing a post...

On Mars/Venus/etc. I can't really say I'm an expert, but doesn't Venus have its own unique challenges to establishing a base that would be cost-prohibitive? I've heard a lot of talk about floating habitats like in Sara Zettel's "The Quiet Invasion", but how feasible and cost-effective would that really be, compared to, say, a ground base on Mars using local materials for largely concrete structures and dug-outs?

I also think WS's lunar dust idea sounds interesting. What benefits does going to Venus offer that can't be found here on Earth, or other worlds in the system? Aside from resource harvesting, that is, which I don't think will be very cost-effective for inter-planetary harvesting with our current technology (though correct me if I'm wrong on that, by all means).

Anonymous said...

What type of orbit are we looking at for a NEO asteroid? I don't know all the ephemera off the top of my head, but are there any really short period ones that would be worth exploring? If the one you choose has a 1 week window of reasonable accessibility, then is in the far part of its orbit for 6 months, that's going to be a long tour of duty with no backup from Earth. One benefit of the Moonbase is that you can easily get there within a week no matter what, as long as you have a vehicle ready.

David Brin said...

Can anyone hunt up that discount code I offered for Universe Magazine, a while back? My latest story is up and it's fun & I want to offer you guys another chance...

Fake_William_Shatner said...

If the returning Vets don't provide the McVeighs that Brin is concerned about -- maybe these kids will grow into a suitable replacement LINK.But really, the way to get a snake is to grab it just below the head; Dick Cheney still not under arrest.

Seymore Hirsch is getting the Dan Rather treatment. It appears that the media is abuse of his accusations that JSOC (Cheney's private hit squad) was ordered to kill Benasir Bhuto because she revealed Bin Laden has been assassinated in December of 2001. This was reported in The Nation -- not the US edition, another foreign one that perhaps prints disinfo emailed from Dick Cheney.

The JSOC is real. The mentioning that Bin Laden had already been assassinated definitely something that Bhuto did before her assassination.

But this is how Rove and Cheney burn the press. They take people like Hrisch or stories that are true, and dangle an smoking gun in front of the press. The press jumps all over it -- and find out the gun is a toy, and that they look like fools. The press afterwards -- being the cowards that they are who are only interested in selling shampoo and can do that just as well talking about Brad and Jennifer's lover's quarrel -- well, they won't touch the story again.

And Again I say, NOT going after the torture crimes is a huge mistake. And by the time Obama and some folks around here realize that, witnesses will conveniently die, the few investigative journalists in America will be discredited, and whistleblowers will be punished. Meanwhile, people like Pelosi and Obama will get undermined, and have the fingers pointing at them.

If the economy collapses, or some other dire emergency that Cheney warns us of occurs, they will be happy to have Glenn Beck and their 10,000 McVeighs stampede after the closest target they point to.

Either Cheney is stuck in court -- or he is going to be burning anyone who can do him damage.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

Sorry about my grammar on the previous post.

>> Dragon. I'd think around Venus you'd want to float above the dense atmosphere and use a space elevator to send down probes.

Yes it is a harsh environment, but I think that our materials science is up for the challenge now.

We've already found a lot there -- but the whole point of going is that you never know what you are going to find.

I think that Venus is terra-formable. It would be good practice to see how to manipulate environments. I'm all for preserving things -- but if there is no life on Venus, I say that we go for it.

Whether or not we have an immanent problem on earth that becomes dire, I think the preservation of life -- and of gaining a foothold on another planet, supersedes the preservation of interesting topography and stalactites on Venus.

I'm very concerned about genetic manipulations that are being done to animals and the pesticides grown into crops -- but I'm not against such science being done on a far off planet. It's not science I fear -- but science driven by profit motives, unleashed upon an environment that is already sustaining everything we know and love.

>> ON a related note; I rarely see a flying insect anymore and it is almost summer. This is the third year I've seen this die-off and it's even more noticeable that where once we had clouds of bugs -- now there is nothing but the occasional mosquito bite.

I consider it very pragmatic to getting our space exploration humming again. We waste billions and billions on war machines, on the remote chance that some country would risk a going up against 10,000 ICBMs.

Doug S. said...

More evidence in favor of the treason theory: Rumsfeld directly responsible for fucking a lot of things up.

Tony Fisk said...

search blog: coupon.

Answer: EE329517B2

(Who is this Wolfram guy, anyway?)

However, I recently tried using it to renew my subscription, but it had expired.

I'm sure someone can think of a use for moondust, but all I've heard is negative (intrusive and abrasive)

re: Rumsfeld. I wonder whether any briefs on NASA got prefaced by biblical references to the Tower of Babel?

6 And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
7 Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech.
- Genesis 11: 6-7

(Hmmm, with passages like that...)

rediero: the Bruce Willis types ready to dash to a hapless arenaut's rescue at a moment's notice. (despite speaking in tongues like 'yeehaw!')

Mortise Tortoise said...

Wasn't it Bucky Fuller who suggested solar panels on the moon and a power/laser beam to transfer energy to the earth? Maybe it was Tesla?

David Brin said...

Venus is just about the LEAST terraformable place in the entire solar system. There's not a speck of water at all and not even a microspeck of hydrogen to make it from.

Anonymous said...

Ya know, I really try not to rant. It is hardly becoming in most instances. But I am only human...

Today the DFL controlled Congress, presumably at the behest of their Leader, voted down funding to close Gitmo. A measly 80 mil. if the reports can be believed. A money issue? Nah, that's less than an asterix in the current budget carnival.
Its another example of justifying a dubious policy with fake info.
"Sorry, I know I promised to close Gitmo, but hey, what can I do?".

President McCain, who also felt it should be closed, would have diverted Airforce One from its photo op over the Statue of Liberty, loaded these shifty characters into the cargo hull and dumped them somewhere.

And the Progressive braintrust of Contrary Brin natters on about the evil neocons....

Look, the current administration owns the White House, controls the US House by a commanding margain. They will soon have a 60 vote unstoppable Senate margain. Also, most of the governorships of populous states, and to boot, the Fourth Estate, ferocious watchdogs of our Libery, are essentially pliant catamites of the Democratic Party.

err, just what power do you think Cheney and Limbaugh actually have?

Obama talks a good game. He sometimes puts up a reasonable idea, like taxing health insurance benefits (not like he did not barbecue McCain over this very notion). But when are we, collectively, going to insist that the leadership of this country actually be accountable for their promises, and for responsible, forward looking leadership.

Somehow I think they might listen to you Progressives more than us, oh, Regressives.

End of Rant.


JuhnDonn said...

Tacitus2 said... Today the DFL controlled Congress...I thought Al Franken hadn't been seated yet, much less put in charge of the Senate. Or is there another meaning to DFL?

tacitus2 said...

Franken's seating is a fait accomple, just a matter of time. DFL has a substantial majority in the Senate, and enough public support to ride out a fillibuster on any but the most ill chosen question. Oh, and chairmanship of the committees and final say on rules.
Controlled today, dominated in a few weeks. Semantics.
In fairness, as I tally up the states in which Dem. governors hold sway, Texas, Calif and Fla. all have GOP gov.s, albeit many would debate Arnold's membership in that club.
That's the trouble with ranting, a tendency to hammer the keys a bit too hard.

Fake_William_Shatner said...


Hydrogen on Venus is locked up in Hyrdogen Sulfide Gas. There is a lot of energy in the chemical reactions and a lot of heat due to green house gases. So any changes you make could actually happen much more quickly, than say an ice-bound planet -- the next-best terraformable planet I'd say was Europa. or maybe TitanHydrogen-sulfide loving bacteria from our deep sea vents and they'd find a very happy home on Venus. That alone might change the chemistry very quickly.

Rather than trying to figure out everything -- dump a lot of hardy organisms and let Life create the ecosystem. As you see what happens, you can learn enough to tweak it. The main point is to get something to grow. Over time, it will create a foothold for other organisms. Even if you take your time and a hundred years -- you are probably not going to be able to know exactly WHAT will be the result -- so don't try at first.

On earth, we used to have all the Oxygen bound in chemical reactions and the air was full of Ammonia. The very early atmosphere had a lot more in common with Venus.

The biggest problem with Venus is the 2 month night and day cycle. Since it's likely that you'd want to build a solar shield anyway, use that to reflect light to the night side whenever shielding the day side. This would also be key to organizing the convection currents. Stop some upwelling or channel it, and you break down the sulfuric acid cloud making -- which could be stopped in about a year - or maybe 20. It would take a chemical engineer to figure that out. Just using a dredge and lifting soil from the bottom of the ocean and stirring it with the surface. It would create a huge bloom of bacteria. I think by just redirecting and controlling light -- you can "dredge" the atmosphere.

Conversely, Heating up Mars would require a really massive solar reflector and lots of anaerobic bacteria helping to create an atmosphere. I think it's easier to divert energy, than it is to add it. Anything further out than Mars isn't practical yet -- so we should work where we can. Venus doesn't have a magnetosphere either, but being so close to the sun, it likely picks up more gases than it loses in the upper atmosphere.

WE can make the terraforming process USEFUL for earth needs -- but that might not mean being able to live there for a 100 years. But we could create a great place to grow organics and live in the clouds. Enough gravity and organics where humans can survive that isn't on earth.

I have a simple design for a device that converts heat into light. So simple in fact, that I think that mentioning much about the process would make any Physics teacher slap their head and realize how obvious it is. A little invention like that should make HEAT a very minor issue for a spacecraft or habitat. It may or may not work -- but when I told my dad about ideas for noise canceling at the age of 10 -- turns out my idea was exactly right. Of course the plans required a signal processor that could invert the sound wave and reproduce it faster than the sound could travel--such specifics were not my specialty, but I think I have a good instinct for the possible--likely others had this idea and the invention waited for a good DSP chip from Texas Instruments. Know any good materials and optics engineers willing to sign an NDA?

>> But overall, I'd think you would have a settlement in the clouds with reflective blimps that never dipped below 1 earth atmosphere of pressure. I'm thinking a bit outside the box. Some good ideas.You might dump water by dumping icy bodies from the Kuyper Belt -- but my guess is that water can be formed by redirecting the sulfuric acid cloud-making process. Which is highly reactive and takes lots of energy to keep going.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

When I think of the "Two Americas" I'm not thinking about Rich or Poor, or even True Conservative vs. Captured in the Wild Liberal. A Guy like Jesse Ventura -- who I like, even though I can't stand professional wrestling nor much agree with Libertarian economics -- but I'd have no problem hanging out with him or having a beer after a fist fight (you know, bonding). I'll drink the scotch (single malt), but I won't inhale the cigar. Jesse is a human, with a mind that sits on his shoulders and is above room temperature. He has strong opinions and so do I.

I think that if we discussed the finer points of a few issues, he might convince me of the sound thinking of a strong military presence and I might convince him that for the most part, our intelligence agencies work against US interests in regards to the people who live here.

Then I look at the people who are home schooled, or raised in the equivalent of a Maddrassa -- only it's one that is approved of by the Sean Hannity crowd. These are people you cannot engage in debate. They KNOW the world is 6000 years old because they've never heard a convincing argument to the contrary -- because, they will walk out of the room if you start up a convincing argument to the contrary.

Enter Elizabeth Hasselbeck. I'm sure as long as she didn't know I was a heathen Unitarian, she'd fix my wounds and get me warm milk and cookies. If she found out how I voted, she'd smother me with a pillow in the night. I challenge anyone, to listen to this lady and figure out how she diverges from the mother of a Gestapo trainee.

Elizabeth is the salt of the earth kind of lady, who brings 3 items to the pot luck and her kitchen is spotless. She is disciplined and brushes her teeth twice a day. But she is the hidden curse of America and that she is not a rare anomaly has frightened me every day since 2000 when I first discovered that such beings lived amongst us.

I'm now leaning towards those crazy ideas that Sunday School is child abuse. Poor in the young brain, fill it with nonsense -- doesn't matter if it's Santa or magical zombies, and then you have someone who can be convinced to do anything and will not diverge from that task as long as you speak the correct combination of magical phrases.

>> Tell me I'm wrong.

Fake_William_Shatner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ilithi Dragon said...

Only got time for a quick response (they only give me an hour for lunch, and it's almost up... =/ ), but I just wanted to note that I was homeschooled for almost the entirety of my education. I went to public school one year in 7th Grade, and attended cyberschool the last 2.5 years of highschool, but the rest of it my mom taught me (or mom gave me the books and a general set of objectives for each day or week, and I did the rest, more often than not). Mom even ordered many of my course materials from a Christian homeschool program for primary school (though it was for the fairly structured lesson plans and convenience they offered, not the religious tones). The focus was on learning, though, with no real religious undertones (mom only got the bible study course once, and didn't get it again after I complained about it's nonsensicalness, for example, and we switched to more traditional textbooks for science and math after the basics, around third grade, at which point they started to get hokey). The regular text books were also cheaper.

I also watched a lot of PBS shows, including the kids shows that were always encouraging learning and asking questions about things.

I doubt you were referring to all homeschooling in general, but I'm a Trekkie, so I nitpick. ;P

Melayu Boleh said...

Obama decision as like bush

Melayu Boleh

Mortise Tortoise said...

My two daughters have been un-schooled for the past twelve years and are about to enter public school at their request. It should be interesting for both child and parent. I'm not one to judge, I mostly just observe and then go about my business.


sociotard said...

Transparency Watch24-hour surveillance coming to Federal Way

Over the last year, 25 cameras have been installed in the downtown core for testing and evaluation, but now the system is ready to be put to use full time.

A live feed from each camera is piped back into a room inside police headquarters where officers and citizen volunteers watch all day and all night.

"These are high tech cameras. They can pan, tilt and zoom," says Schrock, adding that the video is also recorded.
The article does mention volunteers, but no word on online access for true transparency.

David Brin said...

Earth's hydrogen sulfide-loving bacteria love something else a lot more... water.

Life processes, by their very nature, rely upon aqueaous style chemistry. Not necessarily water. In theory the hydrocarbon seas to Titan could do it. But liquid is necessary. And you'll only get any on venus if you pummel it with a hundred million comets.

Tacitus, you are always welcome to rant here!

Still, you have the wrong model. You see the dems as being "a political party" and thus showing lack of discipline. Wrong. The dems are the problem-solving lower house of parliament, while the GOP is the House of Lords.

Dems span a huge spectrum and most of them are what Europeans would call "center right." (It's no accident that small business, markets, fiscal responsibility, budgets and etc all do better under dem prexies. If you like capitalism, not oligarchy, be a dem.) Sure, there are leftists. And cowboys and hunters. And every other type that's NOT either plutocrat or neocon or the redculture warriors who do their bidding.

You are surprised the dems act disorganized? Look, they have to wrangle compromises among themselves... AS A PARLIAMENT or countless diverse interests... and then cram them down the throat of the utterly uniform, disciplined and lockstep house of Lords. That ain't easy. I'm suprised Obama has herded the cats as well as he has.

Shouldn't the Lords scare you more? They recite the latest Fox Catechism SO swiftly and in such perfect unison, they are clearly taking DIRECT ORDERS from Rupert Murdoch. Tacitus, that's SCARY!

Like the mantra that Obama is "socialist" because we now own a lot of banks and much of the auto companies. What crock.

1) The gross mismanagement that made those companies beg for rescue happened under republican executives and a GOP administration.

2) Ford and Wells Fargo aren't nationalized. Gee I wonder why?

3) Whence the assumption that we plan to hold onto those companies? What would be the SMART BUSINESS MOVE, across the next 3-4 years, for the federal govt?

To buy low and then later sell high!Oh, how I want to challenge Gingrich and that lot! Give me odds that the govt will still own those companies by 2012! Suppose Obama sells them after recovery and makes us all a fat profit, while returning them to private hands. What screeching rant will Fox order them to spout then?

Oh, suddenly, all parties, including Detroit, are behind the new mileage standards. Then... um... why did the GOP spend 15 years (since Gingrich) blocking ANY effort to wean us off foreign oil dependance, while crying that the sky would fall? Millions and millions of barrels we would not have bought from...

... oh, yeah, Right. I get it. Never mind.

Anonymous said...

Detroit's going along with mileage standards because they have no choice. This may even work this time, since the Saudis might not have the excess capacity to force prices down and punish the infidels that wish freedom from foreign oil. Tim.

Rich said...

> Sociotard said...

WS, have you lived in a tropical country? I have. I think your friend is a little off (despite his being from a tropical country).

For starters, no, you can't just grab fruit off a tree. Fences or no, the locals get mad when you jump up there. Besides, the other poor people beat you to it and there isn't much left. Which is why the guy with the bare mango tree in his yard is mad.

You have to remember that "William_Shatner" spouts 99% drivel.

His characterization of the Israel-Palestinian conflict are nonsensical blatant Israel bashing, stated without a shred of evidence and ignoring facts to the contrary, such as that when Israel restricts Palestinians from entering its the Palestinians and their supporters/apologists that complain, that Israel doesn't have any sort of labor shortage and can and has gotten manual laborers from elsewhere who don't try to murder its own people.

Fundamentally, the Palestinians think Israel shouldn't exist and a sizable number are willing to attack it. Israel's concern is safety - why would the conservative Begin wanted Egypt to take back Gaza in the Camp David negotiations if the wanted supposed Palestinian serf labor.

And the analogizing with the US and Mexico is idiotic on so many levels.

Rich said...

As far as the original post goes, it makes several incorrect assumptions and statements.

1) Border security is NOT the most important ingredient to halting illegal immigration, interior enforcement is. Some will always get through, and about half the illegal aliens entered legally as tourists, students, temp workers, etc. The key to interior enforcement is blocking government benefits and more importantly employment. There's a system called E-Verify that allows employer to verify employment eligibility very quickly, but the Democrats have been playing games with it - the latest reuathorization was for only 6 months at Reid's insistence, and will probably be used as leverage for another massive amnesty. This amnesty, like every other amnesty, will only increase illegal immigration.

2) The Democrats have a vested interest in illegal immigration because they too get money from the greedy unscrupulous businessmen who back it. More importantly, many of these illegal immigrants do get legal eventually, and their kids born here are given citizenship, so they get votes that way. Plus, these days immigrants, both legal and illegal, are poorer than the average American (a change from the mid-20th century when our immigration was small and skilled). More poor people means more clients for the government plantation, and government employees are one of the biggest constituencies of the Democratic Party.

In point of fact, the US doesn't need mass immigration. From 1948-1970, the US experienced its greatest increase in real standard of living even as the percentage of residents that were foreign born reached all time lows. We grew a food surplus, did all necessary cleaning and lawn care without floods of people crossing our borders. Internationally, all the Asian states that improved their economies - Japan, S Korea, and now China and India - did so without immigrants. Meanwhile, countries like Mexico and Brazil that were very open to immigration for decades have been economic basketcases.

Marino said...

Anonymous wrote :

President McCain, who also felt it should be closed, would have diverted Airforce One from its photo op over the Statue of Liberty, loaded these shifty characters into the cargo hull and dumped them somewhere.
Something similar was done by the Argie junta, not exactly a model for democracy and human rights.
So, President MCCain would have stepped down to the level of a South American dictatorship.
Given that the same Argie junta ended up with the Falkland War, what would McCain or Palin have deliverd us, a WW3?

tacitus2 said...


Given his own experiences as a POW to suggest the McCain would toss the Gitmo inmates out the hatch of Airforce One is laughable. No, by "dump somewhere" I had rather imagined leaving them at an abandoned radar station on the edge of the Arctic circle. Where they could be fed, clothed and attended to according to the Geneva Convention. During the six months of continuous daylight they could watch the caribou wander about.

Our views of the political system are fundamentally different, to the extent that further debate is likely unproductive. I do see the Democrats as a political party, and one facing the same challenges as the Republican party ironically. Each is trying to adapt the political framework of an 18th century, expansive agrarian nation to a post industrial 21st century in a crowded world. Each has to contend with the new realities of Hiroshima, and of an unprecedented two generations of outrageous if unevenly distributed prosperity. Each has a worthy self image, a mythos, that animates it. For the DFL it is the New Deal of FDR and the various marchers for black, women's and gay rights. For the GOP it is the quaint Norman Rockwell world of industrious Main Streets, intact families, shared or at least compatable values.

Neither mythos does at all well when it encounters K Street.

I do not believe in monsters and dark conspiracies. That is why I refuse to regard Dem/Progressive types as enemies. Mostly sincere, misguided good people. Of their leadership I am less approving.

But time will tell. If the new era indeed is one of transformational politics for the common good I will not be displeased. If the current cabal turns out to be a bunch of slick flim-flam men and women I retain my faith in the institutions of Democracy. We can always toss them out and try something else.


Carl M. said...

OK David, two can play the myth game. For all your talk of Republicans being House of Lords, is there any evidence that Republican governance is all that regressive? Take a look at the Gini coefficients state by state. Does being a Red State mean having a higher wealth gap?

Sarah Palin governed the third most egalitarian state in the nation. Hillary Clinton represented the most inegalitarian state in the nation. As for the most egalitarian? It's UTAH! Wow, those radical socialist Mormons...

South Carolina, that uber red state and the home of the slave trade, has just about the same Gini coefficient as California -- slightly lower, actually.

Meanwhile, Obama gives record subsidies to the rich.

JuhnDonn said...

What does DFL stand for? About the only thing I can find is Minnesota's Democrat-Farmer-Labor party and Daryl's Football League. Not sure if Tacitus2 is referring to either of these in his posts.

Working in tech support, I like to know what acronyms mean when used so freely.

tacitus2 said...

DFL in the Minnesota sense. I am a MN expat living in WI just now.

Rob Perkins said...

You know... for all the talk, the funny thing about Utah is that it has a robust child and elderly welfare program, a "three legged stool" taxation system, very solid balance (all things considered) in environmental preservation vs. land use priorities, I could go on...

Aside from a pile of bellowing Republicans and a tendency, born in the 1850's due to an invading American army, to knee-jerk against federal controls over state matters, and a rash reaction to what people there think is an overactive social "progress" agenda (mitigated with great finesse this year by Jon Huntsman, of all people, simply asking why gay people *shouldn't* have the same rights as everyone else...), the place seems better managed, fiscally, than the state of Washington!

I love the idea of pioneering NEO asteroids. Let's go do that!

JuhnDonn said...

Rob said... I love the idea of pioneering NEO asteroids. Let's go do that!Is there a way to determine if there's any high metal NEO's coming near us? Or do we have a good candidate already located?

Anonymous said...

CSM you and Tacitus posted thoughtful words and they are meaningful... and not inconsistent with my view. I do not claim all conservatives are crooks. Their core values have much to inform and guide us.

But the machinery of their movement have been hijacked... and to cleaim this hijacking is over, or irrelevant, now that a majority of the people are waking up.. that's a terrible mistake.

The job of conservatism, now, is ferocious internal housecleaning... or separation from the Limbaughs-becks. I will be among those EAGER to sit at a table with libertarians who admit that oligarchy is dangerous and with conservative who admit that crony thieves are no better than welfare queens.

Brin, from a conference

lc said...

Latest GOP attempt to be relevant: 20090522/pl_politico/22832

Excerpts from the article:

When the clock strikes midnight on Dec. 31, 2009, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) hopes you’ll be ringing in “the Year of the Bible.”

“Republican lawmakers with apparently too much time on their hands and no solutions to offer the country are pushing a resolution that will not address the nation’s problems or advance prosperity or even untangle their previous governing mistakes,” blogged the Progressive Puppy.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> @ Rich, sorry you feel that way. My point about the Jamaican's claim of "pulling fruit off the trees" is not that I agreed with him--but he told me he would trade some labor in exchange for not getting shot by farmers. It's that industrialization created a situation where rural people HAD TO WORK OR STARVE -- with no benefits or giving back to the society. In Niger, the people are being shot when the protest the billions of dollars of oil being pumped out of the ground, and not being able to even drink their or fish their own water -- their only recourse is to take up arms.

My dad ran a company in Venezuela during the first Communist attempt to take that country over. He told me that "without order, companies cannot create jobs that keep people fed." Now that I'm older, I realize that everyone was being fed before the companies -- after the companies arrived, some lucky few get fed more.

>>Palestinians think Israel shouldn't exist -- so? They've been an occupied ghetto for years. Are they supposed to have a "We Enjoy the Occupation" party -- maybe on Cinqo de Mayo? The Likud party has the "Clean Slate" proposal -- tell me how that is any different? Mexico will be our version of Palestine in a few years if we don't immediately stop treating the border as a military problem. Hey Bush's concern about Terrorism was "only to protect us" and it was a 1000% increase in profits for contractors and we have oil and gas pipelines in two countries. None of which addresses the crime of 9/11 -- even remotely.

Of course it is a security issue for many people -- I agree with you. But what was once a Labor issue with Mexico will eventually become a security issue as well. People either get opportunity and justice, or then we all of a sudden take notice of the Somali pirates who hate us for our extra serving of fish sandwiches at McDonalds.

For example, the 4 men caught recently trying to blow up a Synagog by the FBI. One of whom is an Afghani man, who wanted retribution for the US occupation of his homeland. On 9/11, none of the alleged hijackers was an Afghani. I'm sure if they had carried out their plot, none of the guilty would be punished in their despicable act. However, the guilty would surely capitalize on the atrocity which would require a lot more contracts for Tow Missiles and body bags.

Decent people who want a resolution, can easily be led into wanting to crush the enemy with enough fear. Israel is well on its way to becoming more militaristic and reaching for a "Final Solution." Hey, I can relate, I've been in the USA all my life and we gave up justice and freedom for what amounts to a bad month in traffic. I'm not trying to be a scholar on Mid-east relations, I'm just calling it how I see it. I could be wrong. Don't take it so personal. I'm not the only person who doesn't have the same opinion that we get shoved down our throats from AIPAC. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood and, well, some of my best friends are Jewish. Also Indian. And of course Peruvian. Chinese. And a token Republican who of course likes smoking weed.

You are indeed correct that 99% of what I say is nonsense. And since the world makes no sense -- I'm right 99% of the time -- what a coincidence!

As far at the Mexico/US issue. The only way this can be solved is if we return to labor rights and fair trade. Grinding their people into the ground is profitable. So it will continue unless we force corporations to do otherwise. It wouldn't hurt to decriminalize drugs. We have THC and Opiate receptors in our brains -- so it's likely that humans have been well adapted to life with narcotics even longer than we've been drinking beer.

Fake_William_Shatner said...

>> Dragon, apologies if you think I'm saying "Home schooling = ignorance" -- nothing of the sort. I'm talking about home schooling when a parent isn't looking for better education, but trying to avoid "evil information."

If I had more energy or money, I'd like to homeschool my kids -- mainly to help them see how to figure things out that isn't typical. If everyone is really good at doing everything that everybody else does -- it makes people redundant. Rather than a cookie-cutter monolithic approach to education, I favor trying everything out and letting the best model win. Really, we want people specializing and being really good at stuff -- not a lot of mediocre generalists.

So it isn't my point to go after spiritual people or home schooling. It's just that I'm reacting to some anger towards a lot of pin-heads that have a profile.

The schools in America are teaching to the test. While our jobs are being outsourced to be done for less money by people with less education? The Left and the Right have been fighting over the kids; one to keep Unions, the other to remove them, and the tactics have left the child split in two. Meanwhile, we get people without education backgrounds on school boards and this guy.>> A revelation; Abuse in Irish Catholic schools.And again, this was covered up rather than dealt with.

The Catholic church didn't always have a pro-hibitiion against their Priests being married. It was in the 11th Century that the practice first started. So the story that this is a religious doctrine is not exactly true -- it was realized that, when a Priest died (as often happened in those days), the Church could save a lot more money if there weren't a wife and kids about to support.

When people are naughty -- and you know it. They are easier to control. You have to wonder at motivations. I don't think it's natural to deny a human intimacy. And in it's place, we find willful abuse.

Overall, I'm offended by the CULTURE of Religion in this country, because it doesn't HAVE TO, make people stop thinking. But it often requires it.

Rumsfeld, peppered his briefings on to George Bush with biblical references, to appeal to his "Crusade" mentality. That such a thing worked on Bush to spur him forward and not to use his better judgement (assuming he has any) -- well. There you go.

Most of the lawyers that helped Bush get his legal justifications for torture were devout Mormons.

So I guess as I get older, I'm less tolerant of the superstitions as they seem to be at the scene of so many crimes.

sociotard said...

Irritating news about Obama:

Obama proposes Indefinite Preventive Detention without trial

Obama is proposing we keep people locked up not for the crimes they have committed and we prove they committed in a court of law, but on the chance that they might commit crimes in the future. There will be no trial, for no crime exists to be charged. There is only the nebulous threat of "future acts" to justify depriving people of their liberty potentially indefinitelyYes We Can! We just won't.

sociotard said...

I swear, blogspot intentionally screws up formatting.

TomC said...

Moon vs NEOs - either might work to help start bootstrapping a space-staying civilization, if material resources were the only concern.

But there's one huge difference, that greatly favors the moon, despite its other disadvantages: NEOs don't *stay* "near Earth" very long.

The moon could be explored and industrial infrastructure built with remote controlled robots - the 3 second lag isn't that big a problem. Vastly cheaper than human colonization, and it would also be real training for colonizing Phobos and sending robots down to pave the way on Mars (unlike the bogus Moon and Mars fantasy).

But NEOs travel too far away - so we would likely HAVE to send humans there for very long periods of time, at vastly greater expense, not to mention risk.

If we find a NEO that actually stays 'near Earth', that could change matters - but I'm not optimistic we'll find anything of much value in the Lagrange points, or in some distant Earth-Moon orbit.

And you shouldn't discount the value of gravity, not just for keeping humans healthy, but also for industrial processes. Replacing gravity with rotation could work, but storing a lot of energy that way creates another dimension of risks. Drop a rock on the moon - it drops and stops. Drop a rock near your rotating base, and it might collide at high relative velocities.

TwinBeam said...

Oh but Sociotard - Don't you understand? When Obama says something that seems wrong, he's really trying to do the opposite thing.

He says he's trying to keep guns out of Mexico? Really he's trying to strengthen the borders to control illegal immigration, despite explicitly saying he's putting off dealing with illegal immigration.

He says he's trying to keep prisoners indefinitely? Really he's trying to get Congress to force him to just let them go.

Setting that silliness aside - prisoners of war can, so far as I know, be held until the end of the war (or exchanged for our prisoners) - it's pretty much up to the Commander in Chief).

The problem with that theory is that we've WON the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, long long ago, by conventional standards, and a lot of these prisoners were taken after that.

Now we're an occupying power. As such, I believe we are morally required to establish rule of law, and treat terrorists/resistance-fighters as criminals, not as prisoners of war.

We are faced with a wrenching decision though - we've got prisoners who in all probability ARE criminals by those standards - but we can't prove it because they were falsely treated as prisoners of war. Do we just let them go? Do we hold them indefinitely?

I think we do neither - HAVE the trial, present whatever evidence we have, and let a jury decide. Pull the jury at random from literally all over the world - no interviewing them to see if they may or may not be biased. Just random.

Tell them the accusations and the proposed penalties for each crime. Let them decide guilt or innocence on the charges, with no instruction on "the law" by the judge, since "the law" doesn't exist for this case.

Tony Fisk said...

Moon vs NEO.

While I'm inclined to NEO, it's timely to point out that the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing is coming up, on July 20.

nulit: the act of killing an argument by non sequitor.

Jester said...

Reading the Geneva Conventions, all four of them, is really worth the time.

We're not obligated, as an Occupying Power, to try Criminals if we cannot "make the case".

Think WWII - we capture some SS officer, and have third hand reports that he engaged in massacres. We have no eye witnesses, no forensic evidence, no paper trail.

Well, he's a PoW.

Despite some rather disgusting behavior by the CIA, in Vietnam we generally accorded PoW status to Viet Cong we caught engaged in Terrorism.

The War in Afghanistan is not over. We are still Beligerants in an Armed Conflict with the Taliban and have every right to hold as PoWs those who fought on behalf of the Taliban.

Al Queda has declared itself the Governing Body of a New Caliphate. Whether it is or not, we are within our rights to treat those who fight on behalf of AQ, who have joined in that Decleration of War by behaving as Beligerants, as PoWs.

The only question that remains is whether not the Obama Administration intends to treat PoWs as required by Geneva, rather than offering Rumsfeldian "Sorta-Pow-Like Treatement".

In this case, Obama is doing exactly what I spent 7 years saying Bush should have been doing. I've despaired over the man showing any back-bone time and again, from FISA to "everyone at the CIA gets a Pass", to bailing out AIG while shutting out discussion about a Modern CCC that would have cost one tenth the price.

He's dead right on this one, and completely within the law.

Accused War Criminals are subject to Military Tribunals under Geneva. This is appropriate.

Those accused of Crimes under US rather than International Law are subject to trial in our Courts. This is appropriate.

Those accused of no "crime", but who are fighting on behalf of a Foreign Power (even if we don't recognize that Foreign Power as a legitimate Government) are Prisoners of War. This term misleads some - Geneva doesn't differentiate between declared and undeclared Wars, it just recognizes Armed Conflict, Combatants, and Hostilities.

Fighting the US is not, in and of itself, a Crime. To argue that anyone who does so ought to be tried in a US Court or set loose is to buy into a warped view as disgusting as that of the most vile Neo-Con; That no one may legally resist us by force. That America is such an exceptional country that to resist us by Force of Arms should be illegal, and to claim that have the Right to enforce our Domestic laws world-wide.

I'm holding my breath and waiting for details. If we treat Pows as Pows, rather than throwing them in solitary and denying the ICRC access....that is a huge move toward a return to the Rule of Law (domestic and international).

I admit freely to spending two days caught up in a "ZOMG Indefinate Detention sell-out, Obama haz gone Crazzzzzy" frenzy before re-reading the transcript repeatedly.

He says Prisoners of War. Very Clearly. He better mean it, Status Reviews and ICRC access and Clergy Access and Recreation Time and all.

Jester said...

Now, I'm forced to consider just exactly who over at the White House is reading Contrary Brin (or at least has a copy of Transparent Society under their bed).

And so, whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions - by Congress or by the courts...

... Because in our system of checks and balances, someone must always watch over the watchers - especially when it comes to sensitive information.

Along those same lines, my Administration is also confronting challenges to what is known as the "State Secrets" privilege... while this principle is absolutely necessary to protect national security, I am concerned that it has been over-used. We must not protect information merely because it reveals the violation of a law or embarrasses the government. That is why my Administration is nearing completion of a thorough review of this practice.

We plan to embrace several principles for reform. We will apply a stricter legal test to material that can be protected under the State Secrets privilege. We will not assert the privilege in court without first following a formal process, including review by a Justice Department committee and the personal approval of the Attorney General. Finally, each year we will voluntarily report to Congress when we have invoked the privilege and why, because there must be proper oversight of our actions. - Barack Obama

Dr. Brin, are you writing his Speeches? ;)

Lastly (Warning - Israel Palestine Related Discussion)


Rich, Fake William Shatner is dead on the money when he describes the Likud Vision of What Israel Should Be (tm).

That's not "The Israeli Vision". There has never been and probably never will be a single vision of Israel that agrees on more than this "Israel must BE". Very like us, in that way.

The Likud represents the continuation of one strain of Zionist thought, and a rather nasty strain. The "vision" that well educated Jews will be the political and social leaders of an Israel (From the Litani to Eliat, from the Coast to the River) in which greatfull Arabs do all the grunt work and are supposed to be so thrilled to be "given" clean drinking water and relative peace in return that they won't mind being Helots.

That is not what Zionism is, that is not what Israel is, that is one noxious view which about 20% of Israelis adhere to. This view never was a majority vision.

The Likud Platform calls for the West Bank to be annexed, for Settlers to continue siezing the best land and nearly all the water, for Palestinians to remain a non-citizen work force with a very limited degree of autonomy, only permitted to decide how they organize day to day life in their own villages.

Yes, the Likud envisions Israel to be a Modern Sparta, and desires that Palestinain Arabs become Modern Helots, unable to have any say in the Government which decides where they may live, what taxes they pay, what services they recieve, or what foreign policies their taxes will support, reliant on that Government for the Right to Work and subject to blacklisting at a whim.

This is not hyperbole, this is the Likud Party Platform. They entirely reject both a Two-State solution and an actual One-State solution, and call for an "economic answer" which, boiled down, is what I describe above.

It is ugly, it is Racist, and defending the Right of the People of Israel to have a secure and viable State (something worth defending) does not require accepting or defending it.


Sorry to run on, haven't been by for a while.

nesh said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment.Great post, concise and easy to understand. I like this post..
I found out that this blog is very interesting and informative.
Best of luck to you!

Professional Golf Swings;
Top Fishing Games

tacitus2 said...

Well, if you really want to get picky, the Allied treatment of POWs in World War Two was actually not compliant with the Geneva Convention in one significant and relavent fashion. Many were not released at the end of hostilities.

In the case of US and Great Britain it was a case of hanging onto higher profile characters for a while. Some to reduce the odds of them fueling a neo Nazi resistance, some to help us build jets and rockets, some who might later be charged with war crimes. And there was the practical matter of how they would be able to function in a bombed out, hungry Germany, so the rank and filers were released in dribs and drabs.

The French simply hung on to large numbers of Germans to help rebuild their country. Mining coal and so forth. Many were poorly treated. Lots died.

At least prisoners held by the West got home, albeit in many cases several years after the end of hostilities.

A high percentage of the POWs held by the Russians are buried there. Slave labor in the gulags. But Russia was not signatory to the Conventions at that point, so they were answerable only to standards of human decency, which were in short supply at that point in history.

I think it is fair to say that if the first group of former SS POWs released had a significant percentage who went into an armed "Werewolf" sort of underground and started bombing Allied targets, that the release of subsequent drafts would be problematic.

I see the Gitmo question as one of pragmatism at this point.


Doug S. said...

From the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949:

Article 37.-Prohibition of perfidy

1. It is prohibited to kill, injure or capture an adversary by resort to perfidy. Acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, with intent to betray that confidence, shall constitute perfidy. The following acts are examples of perfidy:
(a) The feigning of an intent to negotiate under a flag of truce or of a surrender;
(b) The feigning of an incapacitation by wounds or sickness;
(c) The feigning of civilian, non-combatant status; and
(d) The feigning of protected status by the use of signs, emblems or uniforms of the United Nations or of neutral or other States not Parties to the conflict.
2. Ruses of war are not prohibited. Such ruses are acts which are intended to mislead an adversary or to induce him to act recklessly but which infringe no rule of international law applicable in armed conflict and which are not perfidious because they do not invite the confidence of an adversary with respect to protection under that law. The following are examples of such ruses: the use of camouflage, decoys, mock operations and misinformation.
Many insurgents probably violate one or more of these... is the appropriate procedure, under international law, to capture them as POWs and try them in a military court?

Doug S. said...

Cory Doctorow: Transparency means nothing without justice

David Brin said...

Jester is in Prime form today. Several clean bullseyes in a row.

The POW aspect is stunningly obvious. I hope it gets to the White House, somehow.

In fact, I think I'll blogaboutit.

OhTacitus, holding onto German war criminals at the end of WWII was reasonable. And by some tokens, the entire Wehrmacht was part of a criminal gang. The SS was only different by degree.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Keeping state secrets,
I am not sure of the law on this but I think we need some two way accountability.
If something can be
"made secret"
so that it is an offence to reveal it then there should be an offence of
"making something secret that should not be secret"
Which should carry similar penalties to revealing a state secret
Then all that is required is the "Inspector General" to perform audits.

This would stop the perception that most secrets are
"Cover your ass"

Anonymous said...

The Quarter Million Dollar Man (AKA Tacitus 2) said: I see the Gitmo question as one of pragmatism at this point.Wrong.

It is a matter of the razor-thin dividing line which separates Americans from civilized society on the one side, and barbarism on the other.

What is it about people like the Quarter Million Dollar Man who make so much money that their brains seems to turn to mush?

The paramount issue in Obama's recent insane "preventive detention" scheme could not be more clear: Shall we Americans as a people abide by the most ancient principles which underly Western civilization, or shall we abandon them?

For thousands of years, every person accused of a crime has been recognized to have the right to be charged and brought to trial, where he can see the evidence against him and be judged by a trial of his peers.

Various commentators in our media now yammer on about how this most ancient of all principles underlying Western civilization must be wiped away because "we're facing terrorists," and the Quarter Million Dollar Man chimes in to assure us that the issue is "one of pragmatism."

No, the issue is whether we shall abide by the rule of law, or descend into the jungle and become a tyranny.

And before you natter on about alleged "terrorists" at Guantanamo, think again. For there is no evidence that many of the people held at Guantanamo Bay are terrorists, or ever committed a violent act. A number of the people held at Guantanamo Bay were innocent bystanders fraudlently sold to the U.S. army by corrupt Afghan warlords looking for a quick payoff by lying to get reward money.

Others held at Guantanamo Bay were innocent people like the cab driver Dilawar, who was simply driving at the wrong place in the wrong time. Even his interrogators came to believe Dilawar was innocent.

But Dilawar and Maher Arar are not the only innocent bystanders who were swept up, hurled into pirosn without charges or trial, and locked away for years.

Many detainees locked up in Guantanamo Bay were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants, a former Bush administration official said Thursday."There are still innocent people there," Republican Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to then-secretary of state Colin Powell, told the Associated Press. "Some have been there six or seven years."Wilkerson, who first made the assertions in an internet posting on Tuesday, told the AP he learned from briefings and by communicating with military commanders that the U.S. soon realized many detainees held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were innocent but nevertheless held them in hopes they could provide information for a "mosaic" of intelligence.Most Guantanamo detainess are innocent: Ex-Bush official

Anonymous said...

THE DEGRADATION OF THE QUARTER MILLION DOLLAR MAN - CONTINUEDEver since the Magna Carta in 1215, the fundamental basis of Western law has been recognized to be the right of everyone accused of a crime to face his accuser, he charged with a crime when arrested, and be tried by a jury of hi/r peers.

But the requirement that a person accused of a crime must be charged and face his accuser and be put on trial goes back much farther than merely 800 years, it is the very foundation and cornerstone of Western civilization. At the end of the Orestes Trilogy, Aeschylus describes how the endless cycle of revenge killings that began when Clytemnestra murdered Agamemnon finally ended, when Apollo created the jury trial to decide guilt or innocence.

The Supreme Court decision Coffin v. United States, 156 U.S. 432; 15 S. Ct. 394, contains a thorough history of the ancient principle that an accused be charged when arrested, and be allowed a trial:

Greenleaf traces this presumption to Deuteronomy, and quotes Mascardus De Probationibus to show that it was substantially embodied in the laws of Sparta and Athens. Greenl. Ev. part 5, section 29, note. Whether Greenleaf is correct or not in this view, there can be no question that the Roman law was pervaded with the results of this maxim of criminal administration, as the following extracts show:"Let all accusers understand that they are not to prefer charges unless they can be proven by proper witnesses or by conclusive documents, or by circumstantial evidence which amounts to indubitable proof and is clearer than day." Code, L. IV, T. XX, 1, 1. 25.The noble (bivus) Trajan wrote to Julius Frontonus that no man should be condemned on a criminal charge in his absence, because it was better to let the crime of a guilty person go unpunished than to condemn the innocent." Dig. L. XLVIII, Tit. 19, 1. 5.(..)

Ammianus Marcellinus relates an anecdote of the Emperor Julian which illustrates the enforcement of this principle in the Roman law. Numerius, the governor of Narbonensis, was on trial before the Emperor, and, contrary to the usage in criminal cases, the trial was public. Numerius contented himself with denying his guilt, and there was not sufficient proof against him. His adversary, Delphidius, "a passionate man," seeing that the failure of the accusation was inevitable, could not restrain himself, and exclaimed, "Oh, illustrious Caesar! if it is sufficient to deny, what hereafter will become of the guilty?" to which Julian replied, "If it suffices to accuse, what will become of the innocent?" Rerum Gestarum, L. XVIII, c. 1. The rule thus found in the Roman law was, along with many other fundamental and humane maxims of that system, preserved for mankind by the canon law. Decretum Gratiani de Presumptionibus, L. II, T. XXIII, c. 14, A.D. 1198; Corpus Juris Canonici Hispani et Indici, R.P. Murillo Velarde, Tom. 1, L. II, n. 140. (..) Fortescue says: "Who, then, in England can be put to death unjustly for any crime? since he is allowed so many pleas and privileges in favor of life; none but his neighbors, men of honest and good repute, against whom he can have no probable cause of exception, can find the person accused guilty. Indeed, one would much rather that twenty guilty persons should escape the punishment of death than that one innocent person should be condemned and suffer capitally." De Laudibus Legum Angliae, Amos' translation, Cambridge, 1825.

Anonymous said...

THE DEGRADATION OF THE QUARTER MILLION DOLLAR MAN - PART 3Lord Hale (1678) says: "In some cases presumptive evidence goes far to prove a person guilty, though there be no express proof of the fact to be committed by him, but then it must be very warily pressed, for it is better five guilty persons should escape unpunished than one innocent person should die." 2 Hale P.C. 290. He further observes: "And thus the reasons stand on both sides, and though these seem to be stronger than the former, yet in a case of this moment it is safest to hold that in practice, which hath least doubt and danger, quod dubitas, ne faceris." 1 Hale P.C. 24.Blackstone (1753-1765) maintains that "the law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." 2 Bl. Com. c. 27, margin page 358, ad finem. To abandon this most ancient of all fundamental rights, the right of the accused to be charged and stand trial, is worse than barbarism: it is savagery, it is lawlessness, it is the most despicable kind of tyranny known to man.

For 200 years America has successfully dealt with every crime, every heinous act, every violent attack by using Western common law: whenever someone gets arrested, we charge that person with a crime, hold a trial, present evidence, and let a jury decide.

No crime has ever been so hideous that it required America to abandon the rule of law, not for 200 years: rape, murder, torture, secession, rebellion, treason, presidential assassination, serial killers, Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald... In every single case, America successfully dealt with criminals by staying within the rule of law laid down 800 years ago in the Magna Carta.

Now all of a sudden, because 3 jets were hijacked on 9/11, Obama with his crazy "preventive detention " scheme proposes we're going to abandon the rule of law that has formed the basis of Western civilization for 800 years, and kidnap people and hold them in prison without charges and without access to a lawyer and without trial, forever, on the mere unubstantiated accusation that they did something bad.


America faced a million hardened Nazi troops in WW II, we faced the German Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe and the Imperial Japanese Navy and hundreds of U-boats and thousands of dive bombers and Messerschmidt fighters and the Imperial Japanese Army, and we didn't find it necessary to kidnap German soldiers and hold them in prison without charges or a trial. Why now?

During the Cold War, America faced 3000 nuclear warheads and 60 Soviet tank divisions and three million soldiers in the Russian Red Army, and we didn't find it necessary to kidnap people and hold them without charges in a secret prison without lawyers and without a trial. Why now?

Think about it. In WW II we faced the entire Third Reich and the Empire of Japan, millinos of men bent on America's destruction, fleets of thousands of planes, hundreds of enemy ships, hundreds of U-boats and Japanese submarines, yet America never abandoned the rule of law.

During the Cold War we were threatened by thousands of nuclear weapons and millions of Red Army soldiers and thousands of tanks and bombers and dozens of Soviet nuclear subs. Yet we still didn't throw away the rule of law.

But now, faced with 19 guys armed with box cutters, America is going to abandon the fundamental basis of Western law for the last 800 years and start kidnapping suspects and throw 'em in prison without charges, without trial, with a lawyer?

This is insane.

I can't believe anyone is even debating this.

"Pragmatism"???? This is not an issue of pragmatism, it is a question of whether America will lose its soul. It is a question of whether we as Americans are civilized people, or wild animals.

Anonymous said...

THE DEGRADATION OF THE QUARTER MILLION DOLLAR MAN - PART 4This is no question of "pragmatism," it is a battle for conscience and the soul of American civilization. "Preventive detention" is not some mere procedural quirk, it is a violation of everything Western civilizations stands for, going back thousands of years -- as Rachel Maddow points out:

YouTube video of Maddow on Obama's plans for "preventive detention"This is not "preventive detention" nor is it "pragmatism." This is lawlessness. This is barbarism.

The instant you throw away due process, you have headed down a very dark road:

Wife: Arrest him!More: For what?Wife: He's dangerous!Roper: For all we know he's a spy!Daughter: Father, that man's bad!More: There's no law against that!Roper: There is, God's law!More: Then let God arrest him!Wife: While you talk he's gone!More: And go he should, if he were the Devil himself, until he broke the law!Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!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![A Man For All Seasons, Robert Bolt, 1960]

If anyone truly thinks that abandoning due process and throwing out 2500 years of an accuser's right to know the charges against him and face his accusers and hear the evidence against him in a trial by a jury of his peers, going all the way back to Athens and Rome, is a good idea, I tell you what:

Emigrate to North Korea.

They don't have due process there. Someone accuses of something, regardless whether you actually did it, you get kidnapped and thrown into prison without charges and without trial. And you may rot there. You may die there.

You really love the idea of abandoning due process and the right of trial by jury? You really think it's just a mere matter of "pragmatism," pedestrian question of mechanics and procedural details?

Your paradise awaits in Pyongyang. Get moving.

David Brin said...

WHile these anonymous rants showed some of the signs, I will leave them up because they appear to be content rich and low in vituperation (though not in self-righteousness.) If, however, this ratio changes... or if I see any trace that indicates with higher probability that it is a banished person, I shall trash them all, forthwith.

Some of the content is actually quite good... while utterly ignoring Jester's excellent point -- that Prisoners of War may be held AS SUCH without charges having to be pressed at all. Their TREATMENT must be utterly different than Guantanamo. But there is absolutely no requirement to indict or go to trial, so long as they are self-described members of a hostile violent force that considers itself at war with us.

This does NOT apply to hapless taxi drivers who denied ever being with the Taliban.

David Brin said...

Someone keep an eye on this thread, please? In case anon comes back here to rant and have the last word?

In fact, I appeal for volunteers to occasionally trawl old postings to see if trolls have deposited sputum eggs in the comments sections months, or years later.Yes, at one level, it doesn't matter. Still, it is a deliberate violation, akin to unwelcome touching, and we need systems that address this particular nasty act.

tacitus2 said...

Gee, I wonder how unhappy Anon. would have been with me if I did not concur that Gitmo should be closed....


Jester said...

No matter what else you might think needs to be done with the prisoners held there, Tacticus, Senator McCain was right.

GITMO needs to close. For the same reason we had to close Abu Ghraib, for the same reason the Brits had to close the Maze prison.

Its continued existence is a recruitment tool.

TL Winslow said...

The age-old pesky U.S.-Mexico border problem has taxed the resources of both countries, led to long lists of injustices, and appears to be heading only for worse troubles in the future. Guess what? The border problem can never be solved. Why? Because the border IS the problem! It's time for a paradigm change.

Never fear, a satisfying, comprehensive solution is within reach: the Megamerge Dissolution Solution. Simply dissolve the border along with the failed Mexican government, and megamerge the two countries under U.S. law, with mass free 2-way migration eventually equalizing the development and opportunities permanently, with justice and without racism, and without threatening U.S. sovereignty or basic principles.

To read more about the solution, Google "Megamerge Dissolution Solution", or click url.