Thursday, November 12, 2009

Name The Decade (of miserable whiners)?

Any NY Times readers, out there?  Let me know when an article appears, about naming the decade that’s about to end.  I was just interviewed for it, suggesting that the “Noughty Oughts” might signify what a zero-time it was, with America, especially, giving in to every bad habit of self-righteous, dogmatic whining - from both ends of the political spectrum - rather than facing the future with eager, ambitious level-headed, good-natured devotion to our problem-solving heritage. 
 Note the spelling distinction vs “Naughty Oughts” -- which would at least imply we had some fun being bad.  (Of course, using the simpler “Zeroes” to name this decade would imply the same thing.)

And yes, sure, one end of the spectrum was worse than the other, doing us calamitous damage with Culture War.  So?  Big deal. There’s been plenty of whiny grouchitude from all sides. Look at all the bummer movies from lefty Hollywood, preaching that civilization can’t do anything right.  Ever!  No, the neocons were merely the worst... not the only... loony curmudgeons in a Nothing Decade when the Baby Boomer generation proved to be a bunch of near useless indignation junkies. Except for the scientists.  At least they kept pushing forward, against all odds.

Are better times ahead, with the end of this misbegotten decade?  Maybe the Gen Xers - typified by Obama - will be a more cheerfully pragmatic bunch. Less dogmatic.  Less obsessed with their own know-it-all rage.  Perhaps they will defeat Culture War the only way it can be... by defying their sniveling, grudge-ridden parents and returning us to the spirit of Ben Franklin.

If they do, America may once again be a light into the future, for the world.

Proof that we’ve been crazy troglodytes...

Want to see how previous generations had a much more positive slant on the future?  Reported from the Sigma site: There is a site called that is a joy to visit. It has news clippings, postcards, etc. of how the future was seen at different times, and you can access them by decade. For example: a series of cards that came in boxes of chocolate and which date from 1900s and 1910s (There was a French series and a German one, and it is interesting to compare what scenes each thought interesting. ) But beyond the flying cars and transatlantic dirigibles and the moving sidewalks that they foresaw for the year 2000 or 2010 is the fascinating spectacle that the people wearing the motorized roller skates or stopping their aerodyne at a rooftop restaurant are clearly people of the Edwardian/Ragtime era acting as they have always acted. One of the cards shows a home television -- but naturally it is relaying an opera live performance and naturally the people who are sitting around viewing the image are wearing their opera clothes. "

 Humorous? Sure. But compare these visions to the universally dismal projections you see nowadays, like SURROGATES  and 2012, or even WALL-E.  No wonder science fiction - the most forward looking literature, is in a steep nadir. (In America; it is thriving in places that have lifted their eyes, like China.)

It just goes to show that no previous decade ever hated tomorrow as much as the Oughts did!

Dang, I am looking forward to the Terrific Teens.

Even though there ARE still good ideas....

Did I mention that science does march on?  Even during the neocon madness of the Noughty Oughts, the brightest kept forging ahead, revealing insights that our pragmatic kids may yet turn into wonders.  So, as I always do, I’ll list some examples:

Are Black Hole Starships Possible? ”A SBH (small Black Hole) capable of driving a starship produces Hawking radiation which ultimately gives rise to gamma rays, neutrinos, antineutrinos, electrons, positrons, protons, and antiprotons [5]. Gamma ray telescopes are already in use and thereby one might think that a careful search through the gamma ray sky could conceivably turn up evidence of an extraterrestrial starship (cf. [18]). However, gamma rays produced by a SBH in a distant starship might be extremely difficult to detect if the starship is very energy-efficient and has well-collimated exhaust jets. A BH starship using the technology we are proposing would emit gravitational radiation at nuclear frequencies. Current gravitational radiation detection experiments are optimized for much lower frequencies, and would not detect it. We propose building gravity wave detection devices of a different design.”

(Query: Can anyone cite a sci fi novel in which starships use artificially generated black holes to channel the resulting Hawking radiation as thrust?  No magical space-warpings, please.)

Sabine Kubesch at the University of Ulm in Germany and her team found that executive function - the ability to focus and avoid distraction improved after 30 minutes of aerobic endurance exercise. "Physical education should be scheduled before important subjects like mathematics and be offered before the first lesson, not at the end of the school day, as is often the case," says Kubesch.

The first global map of the solar system reveals that its edge is nothing like what had been predicted. Neutral atoms, which are the only way to image the fringes of the solar system, are densely packed into a narrow ribbon rather than evenly distributed  - a new insight on the interaction between the heliosphere — the vast bubble in which the solar system resides — and surrounding space.  Hinting at my story "The Crystal Spheres?"

The Voyager 1 craft in 2004 and the Voyager 2 craft in 2007 journeyed to opposite sides of this fringe region of the solar system and crossed the termination shock — where the solar wind encounters a shock that precedes the influx of particles drifting into the solar system from interstellar space. Both craft recorded the density of particles and the strength of the magnetic fields.  Both Voyager 1 and 2 missed seeing the newly found ribbon because it spans a region between their flight paths. 

Spread the word to your female writer friends about Write-em Cowgirls!  A helpful site and newsletter by Sharon Cousins.

Terrific riff on Augmented Reality (though you heard most of it here, first! ;-) -- Filtered Reality by Jamais Cascio, in a venue not formerly known for tech friendliness -- The Atlantic.

Ah, but next time some news from the “War on Science"...


Anonymous said...

Arthur C Clarke, in "Imperial Earth", used a man-made microscopic black hole to power spaceships. From a physics standpoint, it was plausible. It can convert a truly substantial portion of the m into E.

daveawayfromhome said...

Since the last decade contained so many elements of the Eighties (like Reagonomics and "Greed Is Good"), either repeating them or carrying them to their bitter end, how about simply calling them the "Oughties".

Duncan Cairncross said...

Charles Sheffield used interplanetary ships using black holes spun up to a very high speed

I think he was using the black hole to energize a feed of normal matter
Which then provides the reaction drive

The Compleat McAndrew

reason said...

I'm not too keen on generationalism, any more than I am on sexism or racism.

reason said...

As regards the excercise - isn't the problem the need for showers and a change of clothes? We should also make it easier for people to cycle to work for that matter.

Acacia H. said...

While it doesn't use black holes as propulsion devices (well, except with the potential use of harnessing the power of the central black hole in the Milky Way Galaxy to prevent it from eventually colliding with the Andromeda Galaxy), the science fiction webcomic Schlock Mercenary does use Neutronium as the power source of everything from weapons to starships. And the use of gravity weapons to attack other ships (and hostile Dark Matter Entities).

The Homeworld fanfic "Naggarok's Children" also made extensive use of gravity-based weapons in its storyline, and gravity-assisted propulsion.

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

Skimmed the SBH propulsion essay last night, calls for gamma ray lasers of a scale that should alarm any neo-luddites, I have doubts that any such proposal would survive.

Acacia H. said...

On a tangential note, considering the difficulty in getting to print and the relative ease in starting up a webcomic (relative in that you do need to either acquire an artist or know how to draw, and also have enough technical skills to do basic website design and operate a scanner and an art program such as GIMP), it may be that the "decline" in webcomics has been due to people shifting their efforts onto the online media.

Wikipedia lists 36 comics that it designates as science fiction webcomics. I disagree with them concerning some of the comics on that list, but the thing to note is that these are just webcomics considered of note for Wikipedia, which has had a tendency to delete webcomics listed on the wiki because certain editors feel webcomics are not worth talking about in Wikipedia.

So. We have at least 20 comics that I would consider science fiction listed on Wikipedia. This does not count the dozens of other smaller comics that utilize a scifi theme that are not considered of merit by Wikipedia.

Science fiction is not in decline in the United States. Science fiction publishing is in decline because the publishers are not publishing a significant amount of scifi, undoubtedly because the publishers feel it's not going to sell.

The next thing to consider is this: how many science fiction fan-writing sites are out there on the internet? How many amateur scifi writers are out there, writing story after story, that will never see print (except with a vanity press) and are ignored by the majority of people? (Part of this is the difficulty in sifting through the dross to find the gems. It's doable. But it's not something many people want to do.)

So. Is science fiction dead? No. It's not even dying. But what it has done is shift into a new venue which is ironically suited for it, even if financially there is little reward.

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Webcomic Reviews

Ilithi Dragon said...

From whatever coincidence of selection, very few of the science fiction novels I've read have actually used gravitational singularities as sources of power or propulsion. The only one that I can actually even think of off-hand used black holes outside of a star system to create a wormhole that actually sent the ship back in time by roughly the amount of time it took to cross from one system to the next at sublight. I can't even remember the title of the story or the author now...

And for today's reminder that I'm an uber-Trekkie, the Romulan D'Deridex class warbirds are powered by artificial singularities. They don't use them for direct thrust like a fusion torch or chemical rocket, but instead use them to create high-energy plasma, which powers their various systems, including gravity-based propulsion (and the D'Deridex also appears to have a purely gravity-based sublight propulsion system, which is an unusual characteristic for most non-special ships encountered in Trek, due to its lack of engine exhaust ports of any kind). I haven't read many of the Trek novels, though, so I couldn't point you to any that deal with Romulan artificial singularities.

rewinn said...

My NTD suggestion:
"The Oh-Oh Decade"

So much happened that made us all go "Ohoh, that's gonna leave a bruise!"

Tim H. said...

rewinn, you are so civilized. There's just so much that calls out for expletives. Call it the "seven words" decade, so we can remember them from an expert.

David Brin said...

As for Obama, I am using the boundaries set by Howe in his FOURTH TURNING book, which ends the boomers at 1960. Anyway, BHO DOES fit the GenX profile.... brought up almost rootless by a hippie/boomer mom and Hero Generation grandparents.

Even if he's a boomer by DATE, he's a genexer by life experience.

Some folks characterize Boomers by their love of social justice.... well... we Boomers DID a lot for social and eco justice. My novel EARTH was a sincere (and widely credited) effort. So was THE POSTMAN.

But social justice does not define us. What defines us is utterly self-centered transcendentalist self-righteous fury. Whatever our beliefs, we tend to be ABSOLUTELY SURE that our side is wonderful and right, and of the demonic tendencies of our opponents.

We are determined to save the world... and that trait DID help to bring on many good things....

... But don't forget that Bush and the Neocons were also boomers, absolutely convinced that they were saving America and the world from lefty zealots. Red America's "culture war" against the urban/university/progressive half could not have been fomented by Fox, except for this personality trait.

Howe says, "the last two baby boomers will be tearing and screming at each other from their deathbeds.

My Millennial kids and their friends seem VASTLY more reasonable.

Tacitus2 said...

As a very low level do it yourself car mechanic I can sympathize with the future technicians assigned to work on the Black Hole Drive. Open the access panel and there will be a big ol' manifold with the lettering:



Ilithi Dragon said...

@ Tacitus2: LOL Yes! See also this warning label:

May cause serious injury, dismemberment, paralysis, death, or destruction of the universe.

TwinBeam said...

"The Double Zeroes".

It just has the right feel - sort of "a wasted decade, yielding little of value".

And it doesn't rely on the mostly obsolete (in the US) "nought".

Nymebons : made-up names that are particularly apt.

Acacia H. said...

So. NASA has found significant amounts of water on the Moon. Thoughts on the possibility of building some sort of base there to harvest the water in preparation for a mission to Mars? (I know, Dr. Brin... "they should harvest it from an asteroid instead" (though then they have to FIND it in the asteroid, where they already know where it is (for the most part) on the Moon...)

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

working ER, so little time for surf-n-post. but regards current, past and upcoming generations...

just admitted a lady who was weak and had fallen. her hubby, 88, seemed pretty hale. we got to chatting. he was a crewman on a destroyer off Guadalcanal. The Japanese navy came along and "wanted that ship more than I did". he swam ashore as the ship sank...and got handed a rifle, spending the next year as a Marine!

those are damn big boots to try and fill.


sociotard said...

Not all that significant or insightful, but I thought transparency aficionados might like this bit from Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams:

This got me thinking about privacy issues in general. Most people reflexively believe privacy is a good thing, and a lack of privacy is a bad thing. But what if privacy creates more problems than it solves?

Let's say you have a secret carnal desire for broccoli. In our current world, where privacy is still somewhat attainable, you hide your dirty little broccoli secret. If anyone were to find out, you'd be ostracized and mocked. So you carry your little secret around like a bag of shame, sneaking trips to the grocery store to get a fix.

Now imagine a world where no one has any privacy and your inappropriate desire for broccoli becomes common knowledge. Suddenly all the other broccoli lovers know you are one of them. You start hanging out together, sharing your broccoli stories. You make new friends. You are understood. It's a relief in many ways.

In a world with no privacy, no one will seem like a freak because so many people will appear to be one type of deviant or another. In that world, the biggest losers would be the people who have totally uninteresting flaws and passions. They would seem boring.

Like it or not, that world is probably coming.

David Brin said...

As usual, Adams is on target but kinda shallow.

The process of tolerance-thru-outing seems to work EXCEPT in a few areas. Harm-doing is the biggest. If you are involved in hateful or harmful things, then the more people learn about you the LESS you are tolerated. Indeed, that correlation is one of the beiggest reasons for optimism about The Transparent Society

Tacitus, they were great, sure, but much was demanded of them. I doubt they were at-core any better than us. And they never complained about grotesque racial/gender etc injustices that they took for granted.

Still, you hear those stories and you go "now there's a man..."

dves said...

water on the moon. it's impossible. i don't believe on it.

Tim H. said...

Liquid water would be, ice at -360℉ is. Spectroscopic evidence should be much harder to finesse than some that has been in the news, so believe it. Enough to be useful for a human presence, remains to be seen.

Pat Mathews said...

I think the common usage for the decade is "The oh-ohs." That's a good enough description in my view.

BeowuflS said...

I don’t usually post when I read this blog but, I thought I’d give it a try.
This site called tales of future past is a very funny and interesting site in a similar vein to paleofuture that focuses on science fiction from the late Victorian era to the early seventies.
The site TV tropes provides a very in-depth list of science fiction web comics here :
I read many of them but would particularly suggest the relatively hard science A Miracle Of Science and Schlock Mercenary along with the gaslamp fantasy(steam punk), Girl Genius.

Acacia H. said...

Sadly you forgot the obligatory warning: TV Tropes is a time-sink that may very well destroy hours of your day as you click link-after-link-after-link. ^_^

I mean, it's getting to the point that getting a TV Tropes link is like being RickRolled. Except far more fun. =^-^=

Rob H.

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David Brin said...

What an asshole.

He manages to offer us a posting that actually sounds sane and reasonable... and I commend that fact, concluding that it must have been written by a non-asshole "anonymous"...

Then he comes in here screeching: "You see!!!??? You can't tell!!!"

No, silly fellow. The logical thing to conclude is that sometimes.... when your hormone balance isn't screwed up... you can actually sound like an intelligent adult.

The world is filled with tragic might have beens. A jerk who could have been a man? That's one.

Folks, you have a couple of hours to peruse these three rants, just above, in case there are some paragraphs that contain cogency amid the capering, whirling-dervish spittle. If you can stomach it. But I'm not bothering.

After that time expires, he is SO outta here.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rob Perkins said...

Times like this that I wish this particular blog required everyone to at least set up a sock puppet, rather than posting anonymously.

Pat Mathews said...

My comment on "Anonymous"?

"Here endeth the sermon."


"We will now pass the offering plate."

Duncan Cairncross said...

As a foreigner and citizen of an ex-world empire I find something that resonates in - Anonymous's - low key rant

I strongly disagree with his comments about Dr Brin who I agree with 90% of the time

The image of America as the world's policeman doesn't gel - it won't work,

American exceptionalism also grates

America has done a huge amount of good
But so have most western democracies
As the biggest western democracy I would expect the most good, the biggest contribution

I think America has done that
Biggest, YES in regard to her size,- ??
Biggest to deserve the term - Exceptional -not sure - probably not

Falls a bit short


I left America after working there for four years,
One of the reasons was Liberty
I believe I have more freedom here in New Zealand than I had in America

In one of Heinlein's books he talks about a radical American political party in the 30's that was killed by the factory owners saying that if they won the gates would close.

The freedom of the individuals was overridden by the freedom and power of the rich

I left America because (amongst other reasons) my liberty was too constrained by the liberty! of the rich and powerful

I have wandered away from the point but I agree with -Anonymous-
the -Meme- of America fighting for other peoples Liberties is dangerous

There will be times when it is a good idea -
but lots of other times when it is a very bad idea

David Brin said...

Interesting comments, Dincan and probably meritorious. I can well see how America has seemed to be more bragadaccio than substance, especially in recent year.

Indeed, of the three or four ways that America has profoundly saved the world, the biggest -- lifting Europe, Japan, East and SE Asia and China and now even India, partly or largely out of poverty -- is a feat that merits little moral credit, since it was done by the simple method of BUYING trillions of $ worth of crap we never needed.

Geo. marshall's brilliant design, implemented by two generations of greedy possession grubbing frenzy. Huh.

Nevertheless, and even if you found one or two worthwhile thoughts in that morass (above), The issue is that we have no shortage here, of bright guys with interesting insights. They are all over the place. So plentiful that we do not have to suffer a jerk who is 90% asshole, just for an occasional viewpoint.

Whining and wailing about how badly he's been treated, when his exile was entirely and unambiguously his doing, for behaving in scurrilous, scabrous ways that ... he is VERY lucky he was not within arm's reach.

Each year I ponder putting this blog on sign-in-only access. You netizens reinforce my view that I can leave things open a while longer. But I suppose a time will come.

Meanwhile... ejected.

David Brin said...

Ooops... I mean DUNCAN... eek. Forgive me.

Acacia H. said...

It's perhaps ironic that there has been talk about a "civil war" in the Republican Party... and yet we're seeing the Democratic Party suffering its own civil war that threatens to fracture it in two: the conflict about abortion rights. I can almost hear Republican leaders laughing among themselves as they watch one of their key points being used among Democrats in the latest war against Health Insurance Reform (and ultimately, this isn't about abortion, it's about health care reform and control of it).

As someone who can see both sides of the debate, I don't see what the problem is with just stating the Public Option doesn't fund abortion but that women could get private insurance concerning procedures not covered under the public option. Sadly, the amendment passed in the House version seems to state (if I'm getting the language right) that private insurance subsidies aren't allowed to fund abortion either. (And I have to wonder about the Constitutionality of that provision. If that portion won't pass muster in the Supreme Court, let the Court kill that amendment.)

The truly sad thing is, this is a matter of small steps once again. Obama wants to use alternative methods to lessen abortions. By helping increase adoptions, effective birth control for women, and other viable alternatives to abortion, the number of abortions will lessen. The problem is, this gives women more power, and certain more reactionary people in power see this as a threat to their own power (or at the very least a lessening of the subservience of women, which may be the same thing).

This is ultimately another test for President Obama, and this is something he needs to talk about, much as he talked about Race during his run for the Presidency. I hope he does speak of this... and manages to reach the people and get people to realize that we need to act together and reach an accord... that mutual negotiation is the route to success here. Both sides need to give a little.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

Annoy-nimus seemed to be advocating an isolationist foreign policy. That's actually a subject worthy of discussion, and certainly has been a "conservative" theme in the past. But I fear the world economy is too complex to pull it off today, we need too many things from other places. Or at least want them, its not the same.

Conservatism really never has been about trying to push back the hands of time and return to an earlier era. It is about slowing the rate of necessary change; about not charging off and doing foolish things just for the sake of doing new things.

As to whether Obama really cares about abortion, who knows. It appears he cares about social engineering and getting re-elected. More than that I can't say. You may recall and rue my pre election evaluation of him as "a great vacuous Dyson sphere", whose contents, if any, were unknown.


Tim H. said...

The naming the decade article is up, find it here -

Would "double ought" convey the toxicity of the decade and maintain some propriety?

daveawayfromhome said...

James P Hogan used a singularity drive in "The Gentle Giants of Ganymede" (and sequels). I believe the method was to create a singularity in front of the ship and perpetually "fall" into it (maybe, it's been while and details fail me).

Word Verification: "pretro" - to create a "retro" design of something that has not yet been fashionable (word will come more into use after time travel is invented).

sociotard said...

Annoy-nimus seemed to be advocating an isolationist foreign policy. That's actually a subject worthy of discussion, and certainly has been a "conservative" theme in the past. But I fear the world economy is too complex to pull it off today, we need too many things from other places. Or at least want them, its not the same.

We can want and get things from other places without sending troops. (except Pirate Alley). He wasn't advocating an end to trade or discourse. He was advocating we let the hellish places be hellish and focus on making a nice place for ourselves.

David Brin said...

Rob, I may turn this into a main posting, because I got carried away.

While there may superficially seem to be similar "civil wars" in both parties, the situations could not be more different. True, in both cases the parties are riven by tiffs between idealists and pragmatists. But, in the case of the dems it is a matter of coming to terms with the fact that they ARE the legislature of the United States of America.

Sure, the 40 Republicans in the Senate and the 200 or so GOP representatives in the House appear to be there. They inhale and exhale and make speeches. But to what effect? To a man, they have submitted themselves, almost 100%, to pure and absolute party discipline - marching in lockstep and never, ever negotiating as individuals. This means that their existence, in either chamber, is simply a matter of standing up, whenever their party Whip calls, and saying "Nay!" when ordered to. Then perhaps staging an irate public statement before going off for an early weekend.

Let's make it plain; on the Republican side, there is no bargaining, dickering, haggling, persuading, pleading-to-conscience, intercession, arbitration, mediation, or efforts to come up with incremental steps toward the Good. These "delegates" do not serve their constituents or the future. They are party men, first and last.

This means that all actual negotiation over legislation -- such as finance reform or healthcare or budget allocations, must take place within the Democratic majority caucus... and that whatever bills result must be the result of excruciating care in order for that caucus to achieve unanimity.

Let me reiterate that point. In essence, we have a new and completely modified legislative structure in the U.S., called the Democratic Caucus, and a new legislative bar to pass laws -- unanimity.

No wonder things get so excruciating! We have sixty senators - with sixty fractious and varied viewpoints - who must come to complete consensus (with some possible murkiness regarding Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snowe) in order to get by a Republican filibuster that is now seen as automatic, reflexive, implacably inevitable, and impervious to any effort to placate, mollify or apply reason. In fact, the GOP senators might as well just go fishing, under the new quasi-Constitutional tenet -- "when the dems are unanimous, it passes. If not, it doesn't."

The situation is very similar in the House, with a teensy amount more slack.

A side note: Republicans take this situation to be as natural as breathing, and alas, Democrats aren't making propaganda points over it. But, in fact, the dems never behaved this way. Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush Sr. and Bush Jr. all found democratic senators and House members willing to work with them and negotiate compromises, in furthering the nation's business. Indeed, some of those compromises we now regret. Stiil the main point is -- count the number of serious Democratic filibuster threats, across your lifetime. You'll still have fingers left over.


David Brin said...

It sounds pretty polemical, so am I describing the situation accurately? Just look at the firestorm that has fallen upon every Republican legislator who dares to negotiate in good faith with the current Congressional majority party. Movement Conservatives have made these men and women the targets of bilious unseating campaigns aimed at replacing them with more reliable members of a dogma-driven, lockstep team.

In contrast, today's tiffs between liberal and "blue dog" democrats must be seen in a completely different light. These constitute something that Americans have forgotten for so long that the name for it has faded almost beyond memory.

It is called "deliberation."

If a Blue Dog represents a district that is a bit more conservative in temperament than Boston or Santa Monica, isn't it only natural that he or she will express the district's bent, and ask for some modifications, in exchange for support. Do they have extra leverage, since the resulting legislation must be passed unanimously? (In the real legislature: the Democratic Caucus.) Sure they do!

Live with it. There is nothing wrong with a somewhat conservative district being represented by a somewhat conservative -- but realistic and sincerely progressive -- person. All reasonable views should be voiced in the "real legislature" of the United States. And the tradeoffs made in the Democratic Caucus help to ensure that deliberation is still going on, where it matters most.

Liberals need to get over themselves and work with the Blue Dogs. Learn to accept incremental change. Indeed, their top agenda item should be to help more Blue Dogs win in contested districts! Recruit decent, progressive, if sometimes a bit too-crewcut ex military men and women to run against the loony culture warriors, everywhere possible. Help the GOP to continue along in its long campaign path, to marginalize itself into the New Know Nothings, and thus finally put the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower out of its long and grinding terminal illness.

And, if the eventual result is to thereupon split the Democratic Party in two? Into a Liberal party (mostly free of loony lefties) and a Decent Conservative Party (free of monstrously crazy neocons)?

What? You cannot see that as possibly the best of all possible worlds for the nation of Washington and Franklin? A nation that desperately needs to rediscover the grace and power and effectiveness that arises from the adult practice of reason.

Rob Perkins said...

David, if your claim is accurate, then it stands to reason (with some allowances) that the Constitution is hanging by a thread.

As CITOKATE, let's agree that even though it isn't crazy-town in the Dem caucus *this* Congress, the potential is soooo there. Brian Baird (D-Washington 3rd) took flak from Party bosses for his conscientious "no" vote on health care reform. It represented the consensus of his district.

Acacia H. said...

I would love to see that outcome. I am just too cynical to believe it will come about. At least, not without some significant effort by multiple people to bring it about.

The people would be the moderate conservatives who are in the process of either abandoning the Republican party or are being forced out by the Loony Right, along with Blue Dog Democrats who are aligned with the Democrats because they realize the Republicans are a lost cause... and even those liberals who feel it is better to create a new conservative party from the seeds of the Democratic party than to allow some new noxious weed to bloom from the rotting carcass of the Republican party.

There are two major roadblocks in this approach: first, the Republican party leadership will not go down easily and will do everything in their power to destroy the Democrats and their growing conservative base, and the backers of the Republicans who are empowered by the neocon movement and do not want to renegotiate their power under a new conservative movement. (This is also why the Tea Party movement is fragmenting - the neocon backers realized that the Tea Party movement was beginning to target their powerbase, and worked to fragment the funding and power structures of the Tea Party to destroy its power. What's more, they seem to be succeeding in this effort.)

Whether Democrats and Blue Dog Democrats can survive the combined efforts of the Republican backers and religious efforts concerning abortion and health care reform remains to be seen. I'm taking the more cynical approach and expecting to see the Neocons regain significant power, and continue to damage this country significantly for the next decade at least. I'm hoping (and likely voting) for the opposite.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Rob, I agree that the outcome is unlikely. It would require sensible thought by the liberals, for them to realize that the lefties are problematic allies, to be treated warily, at best. How can they do this, when even THEY often conflate the two terms?

It would take recognition that ALL conservatism isn't vile, when that term covers only a part of the picture and retains the older meanings -- such as "waste not" and cleanliness is next to godliness".

In any event, Blue Dogs aren't ONLY (old style) conservative! I know several of them. They tend to be quite willing to be democrats over moderate efforts to bring about a generally level playing field and to help bring all children to the staring line.

Where they differ from classic liberals -- over a strong military, balancing budgets, and an eagerness to support small business -- they are FAR more different from neocons than they are from liberals!

Yes, they display some demureness over hot-button PC social issues. But even there, they can be negotiated with!

To me, that character trait is vastly more important, right now, than any specifics of policy.

David Brin said...

Rob, the dems didn't threaten Baird with unseating. In fact, that tiff may have been choreographed to help him at home, since the bill passed with a suspiciously convenient narrow margin.

I don't believe the Constitution is "hanging by a thread"... so long as things don't go back to where they were pre-06. But it IS my job to point out weird things no one else points out.

In this case the fact that for all PRACTICAL purposes, we are operating under a completely different, parallel, shadow constitutional process, in which the word "deliberation" only applies within one party's caucus...

... and the nation relies upon that deliberative process to result in near absolutely unanimous consensus among all the delegates involved.

I don't think I've ever seen anything like it, either in my lifetime or in the history books. One party's absolute immaturity results in the other party absolutely having to show near-perfect sobriety and maturity, in its internal negotiations.

Dang, I didn't realize, until I had finished typing that sentence? Do I REALLY mean that? Even metaphorically? But it seems to fall right out of the facts.

And it gives me the heebie jeebies.

Tony Fisk said...

The No Nothings

Another contender for 'name that decade'!?

estskew: a broth made from Spooner's esk lizard, whose flesh contains a mild dyslexia-inducing narcotic. A favoured delicacy during filibuster sessions.

rewinn said...

"Relying on the sobriety of the Democratic Party" is a punchline all by itself.

But, in practical terms, the Democratic Caucus spans nearly all of Rational Political Space, neatly bracketed by its "Independent"members - from Joe Lieberman, the Senator from CIGNA HealthCare and General Dynamics, to Bernie Saunders, a forthright Socialist. Since a significant fraction of the leaders of a Republican Party feel it necessary to deny evolution, it's hard to see what the GOP has to contribute to any reality-based discussion, other than POVs that the Blue Dogs represent already.

In Constitutional terms, our Constitution is silent on the party question; I don't see how negotiating things in caucus and then voting in the Chambers violates the Constitutional order,
although it is unseemly. Since the problem arises from the free choice of the "Party of No", I can't fault the Dems for finding a way around it.

Honestly, I don't LIKE this situation; I would much PREFER that the Dems be more disciplined and push through the stuff that got Obama victory. After all, I am *convinced* that I am right; no further discussion in needed! Regrettably, reality mocks my wishes, thus I must be practical and accept incremental change, although I stand on my right to be grumpy about it.

However, we should ALL be concerned that in the long run, this situation may be unstable for reasons unrelated to anything discussed herein. While the Republican Party systematically alienates the youth and other growing segments of the human population, it courts a mightier political voice. If Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission completes the investiture of personhood upon corporations, including the right to influence elections with money and to make in-kind contributions, (e.g. search engine results), then we mere humans may be overwhelmed in the political process.

Now THAT would be a crisis!

Acacia H. said...

The thing is, if a corporation is given personhood, then it is subject to the laws that govern people. As such, if a corporation then violates the law, it is subject as a person to jail-time.

Seeing that the Board of Directors is the closest thing that a corporation has to a physical manifestation of a body of personhood, then the Board of Directors, President, and CEO are all liable to jail-time for each and every single violation that the corporation inflicts. Further, corporations would be forced to either become American Citizens (and be liable to being taxed as American Citizens) or be Alien Residents (and thus lack some of the rights that Citizens possess).

In short, by achieving Personhood, corporations shoot themselves in the head because the people with the most power become responsible for the power of the corporation. Much like parents are responsible for the actions of their children. And thus you would see the senior executives doing their absolute best to ensure their corporations are running under the law... or else they themselves risk jail-time. And sure, they could try and use lawsuits to keep themselves safe, but then that risks undoing the Personhood of the corporation and negating all that power that they gained.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Oh, if only.

But they are set up to both have their cake and eat it.

David Brin said...

On to the next post...

Rob Perkins said...

I'll allow that it helped Baird at home, but I don't believe it was orchestrated. I think the Party boss was ticked off.

But Baird is always doing stuff like that. It's what keeps a marginally Republican district like ours voting for him, I think.

oryin: oryang?

TCB said...

I've been away for a few days, so I missed Anonymous Jerk's postings. I'd like to throw out a few things that were on my mind while reading the comments:

My opinion, the decade should have been called the Zippies. I've thought that for about 11 years.

Tacitus2 said Obama seems to care about social engineering. While I understand the impulse many people have to reach for this phrase whenever confronted with public-policy novelties they find distasteful or intrusive, I reject the term itself. There is no such thing as an un-engineered society! All religious codes are attempts to engineer society. All legal codes are attempts to engineer society. And so on. We don't see them that way because this "engineering" was done by long-dead men in woolen cloaks or powdered wigs instead of lab coats, but so what? It's at root the same thing. In any case, I'd rather see social research and psychology used by educators and lawmakers et al to create societal structures that actually work better based on new knowledge. As it is, this research is more likely to be used by advertisers and psy-ops spooks. And unlike the school board, the people selling soda pop and wars don't actually want you to know about their engineering projects.

That should bug you more, methinks.

Duncan's right about America's problem. Aristocracies, like clutter, seem to form as soon as one neglects housekeeping. The corporation as legal person is simply the latest vehicle for the creation of baronies. Corporations have their uses: Thom Hartmann puts it like this: "Unions are how labor organizes itself, corporations are how capital organizes itself." Sadly, corporations have exploited certain key victories to grow like a cancer while unions have withered, upsetting what ought to be something like parity. Politically we have one party, the Republicans, who in addition to their immaturity are wholly the creature of the corporate aristocracy, and the mostly sane party unable to do its duty to the people because it too is more than half captured by corporate money.

And it's dawned on me that a two-party state is only one more than a one-party state. I think now that we'd be better off if, like so many European countries, we had a dozen smaller squabbling parties endlessly forming and breaking coalitions, no party strong enough to rule alone.

newscaper said...

Blachk hole-like technology for spaceships is used in Alan Dean Foster's Flinx series' Humanx Commonwealth universe.

David, I must say, as a right-leaning libertarian-conservative (classical liberal?), that for a guy encouraging moderation, you seem to indulge in a lot of name-calling and very broad-brush caricaturization of those to your right.

I do applaud your intellectual honesty in calling out the reflexive America-bashing (and underlying Westerne Civ loathing) part of the US Left, but I'm afraid the phenomenon extends both deeper and more widely than you think.

For a take on the same subject -- the historical net goodness of America -- you might like this article from the other side of the fence:

Unknown said...

This past decade could properly be called the TwentiOs. There is a facebook fan page for the name, and a logo. The logo is a Cheerio. The naming convention will also work in previous and future centuries if you read the info on the page. Search on Facebook for TwentiOs.