Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Blowback" from progress -- and more science

First: now up on kindle: Four essays, also found in my collection, Through Stranger Eyes.

--The Dark Side: Star Wars Mythology and Ingratitude
--The Matrix: Tomorrow may be different
--George Orwell and the Self-fulfilling prophecy: Why 1984 didn't happen
--Lord of the Rings: J.R.R. Tolkien vs the Modern Age

Amateurs have always played a significant role in scientific discovery, particularly in earlier phases, in astronomy and the natural sciences. During the last century, we've seen an increasing trend toward professionalization of all aspects of society; however I have forecast a counter-trend toward an Age of Amateurs.  Indeed, the sheer number and complexity of our challenges will demand a wider proliferation of skills than just one-per-person. For many reasons, we may be returning to a greater emphasis on citizen involvement, even in areas like national defense and self-reliance. In one case -- the scope of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence -- will be enhanced by thousands of amateur dishes scanning the skies, sharing their results through the internet.  Now I talk about this in a newly posted video that may open your eyes to a fascinating trend.

== Possible “blowback” repercussions of War Technology ==

See a very interesting article and panel, about the possible privacy and liberty and existential repercussions -- or "blowback" -- of rapidly advancing military technologies.  Alas, the very smart panelists did miss several points.

(1) The very thing that (they fret) most threatens privacy is the same thing that can protect privacy... at least a small but sufficient amount of it.  Likewise freedom.  Omni-veillance is true to the spirit of the Enlightenment.  Only an onmi-empowered citizenry will have a chance of protecting either.

(2) No military technology ever had side effects greater than the H-Bomb, which altered us at the very deepest psychological level.  Every male of my age owes his life to Saint Bomb, because the regular schedule of human warmaking would have sent us to some horrid, all-consuming, conventional World War III, some time in the seventies or eighties.

(3) Emphasis on fantastically computerized and miniaturized AI and robotics and "telepathics" in the future will come fraught with a basic danger... that all our potential enemies are working hard to develop technologies that might universally degrade computers and radio on some future battlefield.  The theory is that such a degradation will harm the most hackable and tech-dependent combatants, most of all.  This is a potential failure mode similar to one that struck the laste Roman Empire. See more on this in my article Forgetting Our American Tradition: The Folly of Relying Exclusively on a Protector Caste.

I could go on and on.  There are dozens of ramifications... some of which were discussed in enlightening ways by this panel... and many of which they never touched upon.

=== Science and Coolstuff ==

Can bacteria make you smarter? Wait a minute, I thought eating dirt wasn't so smart a thing to do!

Fascinating stuff! Do high incentives lead to poor performance? 

Stefan reports: “Totally awesome: A lander concept that can not only take off and land in earth's gravity well, but can do a motor shutdown and restart in mid air!”

Speaking of levitation... The Magnetic Suspension Device – for all your home levitation needs.

HP Thinks Sensors Will Lead to The Next Big Wave of Computing. The Internet of Interconnected Things

Is Optical technology coming of age?

“Empirical evidence suggests that events taking place in periods of positive social mood are of a dramatically different character from events you can expect when the mood is negative -- thus the importance of mood as an early-warning indicator for extreme events in human society.”  I agree in general, that depressing a civilization’s confidence is the surest way to prepare it to fail.


Dave Rickey said...

I literally cannot get my children to grasp why my generation, "GenX", the Baby Bust, those of us who came of age in the 80's, were so nihilistic. After all, the end of the 80's saw sanity break out all over the world and ushered in the Golden Age that was the 90's (and don't we wish we had seen it for what it was at the time?).

But we grew up in the shadow of the H-Bomb, of MAD, of TAPPS and nuclear winter. It was *when* the missles flew and the bombs fell and the whole world turned into a radioactive hellscape, for anyone who was paying attention it was obviously only a matter of when and not "If".

Get stoned, get laid, get whatever came easiest, and why not? Even AIDS couldn't stop the party, just one more contender in the race for whatever was going to kill us all.

And then, suddenly, it wasn't. Soviet Union broke up, the Berlin Wall fell and Germany reunified, former soviet puppet strongmen had life expectancies measured in months. Even South Africa dropped Apartheid without turning into a genocidal clusterfuck.

I don't think either our elders, or our children, will ever understand the generation that walked through that psychedelic existential blender.


Tim H. said...

One good thing about being in the Kansas City area during the cold war, there were so many military targets one wouldn't have suffered much. I do remember reading that if we attacked the USSR in 1962 and caught them flat-footed, so no U. S. targets were hit, the fallout from their destruction would have been disastrous for us.

Pat Mathews said...

Aww, Mister Brin, what if you have a Sony 505?

And please ban "mili8951" from your blog; spam is not good for us.

Dave Rickey: as Silent Generation myself and the mother of two Xers, I have absolutely no problem with why you all think the way you do, and totally sympathize. As for the Millies not understanding, I can suggest two informative books for them to read, both by William Strauss and Neil Howe: "Generations" and "Fourth Turning." They called it on the nose back in the 90s - as did David Brin in other areas.

Carl M. said...

Why mandate three months national training? Just offer it! Make it a low paid but rather more interesting than flipping burgers summer jobs program.

Another idea: add some war games to the menu of high school sports.

Add some military science -- taught by a vet -- to the core curriculum.

My insistence on volunteerism has less to do with rights -- three months, big whoop -- and way more to do with disciplining the trainers. If the trainees can opt out, it cuts down on the abuse and the useless boring drills.

History shows that military establishments waste soldiers when they are allowed to draft.

David Brin said...

all excellent points.

Lorraine said...

What you call omniveillance is called equiveillance. I like 'omniveillance' as it captures the idea of information flowing in all directions, but I like even more 'equiveillance' as it suggests a level playing field, and its predecessor 'sousveillance' for its subversive implications.

Other Dave:

Nice to hear from Generation X. Someday I'll be 70-something (and so will you) and the hit TV show will be called '80-something.'

Anonymous said...

The Masten test flight closely resembles another rocket takeoff that looked like old sci-fi illustrations. Anyone here remember the old early 90s Delta Clipper rocket? It was one of the first engines to take off and land vertically and hover. The Clipper got canned after a catastrophic test flight that crashed, but it was still similarly ground breaking.


aesses: plural evaluations or tests

JuhnDonn said...

As a SAC crew chief, back in the 80's, yeah, every time the horn went off and the crews sprinted to their planes (B-52 bombers and KC-135 tankers), it was pretty scary. Sometimes, they'd just do a power up of engines, other times, they'd start taxing to the runway before the drill was announced and finished up and sometimes, they'd all take off and be heading north west past eye sight. Those were the worst ones. Usually, they'd circle out and be back down within a few hours but one time, they kept flying and did refuels before returning, over 12 hours later. Us ground troops, we knew we were all primary targets and you had to wonder just what was going on.

My Dad was stationed at a North Carolina AFB back in the 60's and has a picture of all the B-52's lined up, ready to launch during the Cuban Missile Crises.

For what we grew up with, another good book is Alas, Babylon.

Unknown said...

It looks like they're remaking Red Dawn this year as a movie about Chinese rather than Soviet invasion.

The original was a more influential movie than it should have been. It inspired me and all my childhood friends to learn how to somersault and throw a knife at a cardboard Russian. So we'd be prepared, you know.

David Brin said...

I wrote the preface for the recent reprint of Alas Babylon

Hey! Tomorrow June 2 I give a TED-style talk at TEDx Del Mar.... some time after noon Pacific Time.

live feed of the event will be broadcast to this page:

I hope to be entertaining....

Kim McDodge said...

Dave Rickey might be interested in an interesting take on history:

He may find that the Unraveling that his gen has been thru is part of 100 year cycles of Highs, Awakenings, Unravelings and Crises that repeat in America every 100 years or so.

Gives a perspective that is non linear and much more non zero than his blindered current view.

Kim McD said...

Opps. Pat Mathews has it, too.

Dave X said...

During the first part of the "high incentives" I thought it was a reiteration of Galton's regression towards the mean -- If a the task involves an element of randomness, then if you base rewards on performance, then the highly rewarded tend to do worse in the future, while the negatively rewarded tend to do better -- All because the random factor won't sustain. You'll see it in stock performance, management, sports underdogs and superstars, poverty/wealth demographics, etc....

Part way through the video, it seemed like the research was about offering different rewards prior to performance, which is interesting psychologically. Still for long-term sustained performance in domains with repeated events, the regression towards the mean is an important factor to consider.

Ian said...

Shizimu Corporation wants to turn the moon into a giant solar power plant.

It may be less far-fetched than it sounds - the Japanese government wants to put a robot base on the moon by 2020.

Tim H. said...

Didn't Larry Niven have lunar solar power in "Destiny's Road? I'd find a shadow on the moon preferable to burning coal.

TwinBeam said...

Finally someone willing to put robots on the moon - though as unrealistic as their scheme probably is, I suspect it'll never happen.

But if you look at the images: Death Star! Shooting Laser Beams at Earth!

Acacia H. said...

I must admit some amazement that we've not heard conspiracy theories crop up stating that the Obama administration sabotaged the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to force his anti-oil policy down the throats of Republicans. Okay, this may just be cynical of me to state this, but let's be honest: considering just how bad this situation has become, and how it's only going to get worse before we finally cap that thing (especially if a couple hurricanes go through the region), we're not going to see a resumption of off-shore drilling until the oil companies come up with viable methods of stopping this scenario. Which will cost a lot of money to produce, and which oil cos will balk at.

If Republicans attempt to reduce new regulations against off-shore drilling in the future, then they are damning themselves. Democrats will point out the ongoing disaster and state that Republicans have no problem with destroying the livelihoods of fishermen, the tourist trade of the Gulf Coast region, and people who just live in the area. In short, it's the "perfect disaster" to force a "crippling environmental bill" down the throats of Republicans.

So where's the cries of conspiracy? I swear, the Reactionary Right is starting to let me down here. =^-^=

Robert A. Howard, Tangents Reviews

Tacitus2 said...

The Reactionary Right does not visit here often. Perhaps I can help a bit. (I feel a bit like Mullah Tacitus here, not a member of the GOPiban, but I know how to get in touch with them).
Look, everyone knows that the oil rig blowing up is no more Obama's fault that the course of a hurricane was Bush's doing. The disturbing parallel is the apparent blase approach in the early phases of the disaster, and the apparent inability to do useful things with the mighty power of the Federal Gov. thereafter.

Press coverage is a bit unfair in each instance, more jarringly so since the current Pres. has been given a pass on almost everything for his entire career.

Near as I can tell, the local (state) response has been more focused this time. Jindal is a goofy looking guy, and not (2010) presidential timber, but he knows how to head for the beach for something other than a vacation.

Long term some good at least will come of it. "Drill, baby drill" was too simplistic a slogan for our shamefull energy woes, and even in Conservastan we do see a role for the Feds in prudently regulating things like this.

Its also good to see somebody get fired for messes like this. The Energy Dept undersec who got canned was another apparently well qualified Harvard Law grad. Whether she was asleep at the switch or not, she and "Brownie" can now spend long leisurly mornings over coffee and the New York Times crosswords.


Rocky Persaud said...


the Delta Clipper technology (or at least the engineers that worked on it) have been scooped up by Jeff Bezos for his launch company Blue Origin. They are making a DC-X like vehicle called New Shepherd. This was supposed to be for suborbital flight, and were focused on tourist flights by 2010-2012, but apparently they are working on additional stages / designs for orbital, so I wonder if that might slow them down on the suborbital side. They recently were awarded a Commercial Crew Development contract by NASA to work on concepts to support future human spaceflight, and apparently have an innovative Launch Abort System.

LarryHart said...


I must admit some amazement that we've not heard conspiracy theories crop up stating that the Obama administration sabotaged the Deepwater Horizon oil rig to force his anti-oil policy down the throats of Republicans...

On day 1, Rush Limbaugh was "speculating" that environmentalist extremists might well have caused the problem for just the reason you mention.

And just yesterday, I heard Thom Hartmann mention on his radio show that some righty-talker (I forget which one) claimed that the Obama administration might have set BP up to fail in order to discredit offshore drilling.

The right isn't letting you down. Well, not in the way you said, anyway.

My conservative buddy (it's getting past the point where I can refer to my "honest conservative" buddy) who blogs anti-Obama rants any chance he can ("Offering Sestak a job was a FELONY"; "Obama's presidency is already a failed one"; etc.) now insists that it's ridiculous to blame past administrations for the Gulf disaster when Obama took campaign money from the oil industry. Now I understand (and can almost agree with) the assertion that President Obama failed to protect the country from a disaster. But for conservatives to work for decades to weaken government to the point of ineffectiveness, and then to blame the Democrat who happens to be president when that ineffectiveness becomes evident is the height of hypocricy.

The "freedom" of a corporation to despoil an entire continent with no regulation and very limited liability is the culmination of thirty years of Republican policy. To turn around and blame the "socialist" president whom Rand Paul just recently accused of stomping a jackboot on poor BP's upturned throat...well, words fail me.

I'm sorry, what were you talking about again? ;)

rewinn said...

The Obama Administration's response to the Gulf Oil disaster has been far too obsequious to BP & company.

NOAA echoes BP's lines about "no oil plumes"; the Coasties help BP enforce the suppression of photos and flyovers; the Administration refuses to force BP to use less-toxic dispersants (it prefers the more-toxic, less-effective "Correxit" for reasons it has not deigned to explain, and so on and so on ...

...I've been a big Obama fan as anobvious improvement on "Drill Baby Drill" or "Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran", but his performance here looks like just more corporate hackery. I'm not betting on his appointee Holder to turn on the very oil companies that paid for Holder's nice suits in private practice or on Salazar to put the lid on the carbon industry that birthed him.

On the plus side, can you imagine where we'd be with no internet reporting ... no expectation that we have the right to see actual photos uncensored by GP or government?

LarryHart said...


...I've been a big Obama fan as anobvious improvement on "Drill Baby Drill" or "Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran", but his performance here looks like just more corporate hackery.

Oh, I see plenty to criticize the Obama administration for. The problem I have with the conservatives I generally argue with is that THEIR criticism seems to make no sense. In the gulf disaster, the legitmate anti-Obama observations would all have been a hundred times worse under a Republican administration. They all add up to "Obama isn't doing enough to NOT be like Bush." Which is something that makes sense for ME to complain about, but not so much for Republicans to complain about.

It reminds me of that Simpsons episode where the voters are supposed to be so outraged that Mayor Quimby was so dispicable as to let Sideshow Bob out of prison that they'll vote him out of office--and vote for Sideshow Bob instead!

David Brin said...

Robert, the paranoia mongers have been quiet because:

1) Obama had JUST spoken (genuinely) for cautious expansion of drilling. Indeed, if you want to focus on who actually *benefitted* from this blowout, why was your reflex to point at liberals? How on Earth do THEY benefit from any of this? It's like Crichton crying that "Global Warming is a conspiracy for scientists to get research grants!"

Follow the money. Those who benefit from this tragedy are our masters in the Middle East, who do not want to see US energy independence. Ah, but Fox will never point a finger in that direction. (I wonder why?)

2) The sequence of events leading to the calamity involved an unexpected surge in methane pressure that was exacerbated by a series of bad on-site decisions, plus rotten hardware supplied earlier by Halliburton. It was far more complex and unpredicatable a scenario than a simple sabotage act could possibly be. Since any act of competence, along the way, would have prevented the explosion.

3) No, we need to look to what prevented competence. And there the blame lies squarely on the Bushite neocons who stuffed the Minerals Management Agency full of industry retirees and revolving door cronies who whored and sniffed cocaine with the "bud" they were supposed to be regulating. That criminality, bordering on treason, is what caused all this and it was utterly typical of the Bushite war against the civil service.

Look there for your smoking gun.

JuhnDonn said...

Oops, looks like push back against transparency.

Are Cameras the New Guns?

David Brin said...

I know of not a single case where "wiretapping" charges against a person for filming police misbehavior was ultimately upheld.

What I like about this is that it moves the civil liberties fight into the arena where I want it fought.

Far too long, the ACLU and etc have thought their duty was to limit what the police or state can see. That is futile and stupid. Now it is about expanding our ability to LOOK BACK. That is where the fight is absolutely crucial.

Acacia H. said...

My comments were whimsical in nature; I was sure there were some anti-Obama comments linking him to the oil rig, but it's nothing like a number of the outcries against him. I almost have to wonder if the anti-Obama conspiracy advocates are starting to run out of steam (right now they're trying to revamp his "Chicago-style politics" and claim he tried to bribe someone else - what is it about Republicans and wanting to impeach Democratic presidents anyway? Can't they just live with the fact that they lost and wait until 2012 to try to get him out?).


On a non-political note, here's a few fun science stories:

It appears that sea atoll islands are actually growing in the wake of Global Warming. Scientists did warn however that with the increased acidification of the oceans that this is only going to last for so long and then they'll start dissolving instead. Or something to that effect. ;)

Next, we have another trial run to see how astronauts would cope with going to Mars over a two-year period of time. Though I'm not sure if that's one way, or both ways. Personally, I think that developing a decent ion drive system and having a rapid trip to Mars (say a month or so) would work far better. But hey, it also is a useful experiment to see how people cope with being locked up for a couple years... hmm. Why not offer this for six prison inmates? Let them know that if they can make it through without killing each other, that it might help them cut down on their prison term... hey, they're already in there. Why not make use of them? ;)

Third, SpaceX is off to test its new Falcon 9 rocket, though they admit there's only a 70% chance of it working properly. Still, if everything does work out, then in a couple test flights they think they might start doing space station supply runs.

Considering we have a decent body of rockets already developed by NASA... why not open source some of the older rockets and allow new companies to build off of this older technology, perhaps improving on them? Or is that already being done?

Finally, it's believed that an early Earth may have had a Titan-like atmosphere with nitrogen hazes that helped shield ammonia from UV radiation. This would compensate for the dimness of Sol when she was a young star, and would also allow for ammonia to be present in helping spark early amino acid production and the like.

Take care! :)

Rob H.

rewinn said...

A little whimsey can improve most discussions, particularly in politics (... I don't know about engineering ...) but sometimes it's hard to tell when a particular argument is made in jest or for reals. Especially now that Bobby Jindal is calling for more deepwater drilling immediatelyon the grounds that deepwater drilling creates jobs ... although whether it is through pumping or through cleanup Jindal doesn't specify.

Jest? or Reality?


Public official who don't want to be video'd while performing their public duties may have reasons, but it's never good ones. It might be helpful to tape a copy of the 1st Amendment to your cellphone camera, and even more helpful to reach out to your local police find out what they think the law may be. Here in Seattle we're hiring a new top cop and I'm grateful this issue's come up in time to ask the finalists about it.

Ian Gould said...

"The disturbing parallel is the apparent blase approach in the early phases of the disaster, and the apparent inability to do useful things with the mighty power of the Federal Gov. thereafter."

- Tacitus

But there were fairly obviously things the FEderal government could have doen during Katrina which they failed to do - like sending more troops and more aid and getting the emergency housing avaialble sooner.

I'm not sure what Obama has failed to do in the current situation that would have doen any good.

rewinn said...

"...I'm not sure what Obama has failed to do in the current situation that would have doen any good"

He could have started by being much more sceptical of BP's claims. Letting the wrongdoer at the scene of a major crime (11 counts of negligent manslaughter to say the least) dictate the terms of information flow is a big, big error.

Had complete openness been required from the very beginning, there is no physical act that BP would have been prohibited from doing, but some of the things it did that worsened the situation (notably poisoning the water column with dispersants, and summoning absurdly inadequate spill control facilities) would have been observed earlier and a different course of action could have been taken.

With the knowledge that the spillrate was much larger than reported, the Administration should have ordered more skimmers to pick up the oil before it left the scene of the crime - and if the existing skimmer fleet is inaqueate, to construct or import more (the Dutch offered some in the 1st week of May 4 but they weren't accepted until June). And it says something aweful about our degraded manufacturing capability if, in an emergency and unlimited budget, we cannot retrofit a supertanker into a superoilsucker within a week or two.

Knowledge that the flow was greater than reported might also have change the use of dispersants. It appears that dispersants might be o.k. for small spills when biological processes can digest the dispersed oil, but in this case the very high outflow has overwhelmed biodigestion and the oil's spread throughout the water column makes booms less effective.

On another front, the Administration should also have ordered the use of respirators for workers exposed to toxic raw petroleum and dispersants, instead of accepting BP's "no problem"!

I say this in the full knowledge that McCain would have been much worse, but we need a higher standard. I'm sure Obama is a good man and highly intelligent, but he's locked into a consensual style that ill-suits this emergency. It's well and good publicly to reserve judgment until all the facts are in, as he has done quite wisely in other emergencies, but it is another to let a party at interest decide when if ever the facts will come in. Had it not been for an insistent Congress, we might still not have video of the outflow and BP might still be lying.

Marino said...

about transparency and cameras being the new guns and all:
news from the borders of the empire, Italy, going fast to cease to be a Western democracy:

a new law whose current draft is debated in parliament will make recording anything without consent of the recorded person a felony,
even whe the person is recording a criminal action (like a mob racketeer asking for protection money, or a politician requiring a bribe for contracting a public work).
At the same time the law will put strict limitations on legal use of wiretapping by police and courts.


Ian Gould said...

An odd throwaway thought: carbon dioxide dissolves more easily in seawater than the other principal atmospheric gases.

While the atmosphere is 0.03% carbon dioxide, sea water is almost 1% carbon dioxide by mass.

Rather than trying to sequester carbon directly from the atmosphere, would it be easier to sequester it from sea water?

Since water's ability to dissolve carbon dioxide decreases with temperature, heating water in a container would be a relatively easy way of producing a carbon dioxide enriched air.

Alternately, you could react sea water with Calcium Oxide to produce calcium carbonate, then heat the calcium carbonate to release a concenrated CO2 stream.

Ian Gould said...

Actually, forget that. 90 milligrams per kilogram is 0.01% not 0.1%.

Acacia H. said...

Just to play devil's advocate here, are we sure that McCain and Palin would have been worse leaders in this situation? It could be that they would have risen to the occasion and surprised us all. I don't trust Palin further than I could throw her after breaking both of my arms and both legs, but she does theoretically have experience with oil companies and the like, and may have realized immediately how big the problem was... and immediately urged the Federal government to step in.

In all likelihood, she and McCain would have made this a disaster of unmitigated proportion (moreso than it is now), but we shouldn't be so sure to cast stones at these two. That allows our own prejudices to come to the forefront. At this juncture? We should listen to advice from all corners. Even from those we would consider enemies.

Rob H.

Tacitus2 said...

My take on the response of the McCain administration:
President McCain is in no doubt about whether the director of MMA is fired, has resigned, or whatever. He announces with considerable relish that said individual has been demoted to bird scrubber 3rd class, and goes on to describe in detail which end of the pelican he/she gets to scrub. He then mobilizes the entire Atlantic fleet and personally takes command as they reach over the side of their ships to dip oil.
Of course, whether this would accomplish more than President Obama's stern jaw clenching is debatable. At least McCain could call up his predecessors, who knew a little about oil, if perhaps not much more.
But it would not matter much.
You could easily make a split screen continuous view of the gushing oil and what the current President has been up to of late....playing golf, jetting to a SanFran fundraiser with the well heeled, inviting Seinfeld over to the WH to yuk a bit. Maybe stepping out for a few stress puffs..
It would be true, but unhelpful. I would decry it.
But under the McCain admin, we would have a continuous split screen feed of gushing oil and Palin chanting drill, baby, drill.
Equally unhelpful, but many here would applaud.
Right now I want competence, and I want the leak stopped. Let the political considerations wait.
Gotta run, working...

Acacia H. said...

Actually, Tacticus, it appears that BP has managed to put a cap on top of the leak, and assuming that something bad doesn't happen yet again, should be able to capture up to 90% of the oil leaking out of it. This will significantly lessen the problem and give BP time to drill those other wells to permanently cap this mess.

Assuming of course a bunch of hurricanes don't go through the region, chase out the oil tankers collecting the oil, and forcing them to let it leak full force once again (or even worse, destroy the two rigs currently drilling to cap this well).

Rob H.

rewinn said...

It is, as noted by others, irrelevant but the proposition that "Drill Baby Drill" and "Bomb Bomb Iran" would be any less subserviant to BP is utterly lacking in factual support whatsoever. It is always possible that a leopard will change its spots, what with quantum uncertainty and all, and indeed the race is not always to the swift nor the contest to the strong; however, that is where the smart put their money.

Acacia H. said...

Off on a semi-political note, I have to wonder as news and videos of the Israeli boarding action becomes more widely viewed whether there will be a change in tone concerning Israel's actions. While I feel the loss of life in this action was tragic... it is sounding very much like if the Israeli commandos didn't act, they would have had several of their number killed and more taken prisoner. Undoubtedly these prisoners would have been given to Hamas and been held hostage along with the Israeli soldier who was captured years ago and is used as an excuse for the embargo.

The video footage alone shows that the Israelis were set upon as soon as they boarded the vessel. Their actions are very likely in self-defense. And while the Israelis may have stepped into this trap, this doesn't lessen the fact that members of the IHH launched an attack on the Israelis, took several guns, and started shooting the Israelis with their own weapons.

Best case scenario? Both sides should apologize to each other. We won't see that happen. The IHH is painting themselves as martyrs and all but calling for a jihad against Israel. The Israelis are refusing to admit they did anything wrong in turn, even though by bending a tiny bit (even to apologize for the loss of life, if not for the boarding action) they would look less like the villains in international eyes.


And here are a couple more articles on the impending launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket (currently on hold at T-15).

Meanwhile, an amateur astronomer detected another fireball impact on Jupiter. I have to wonder if the impacter had been picked up by one of the IR space telescopes that scanned the solar system for asteroids and other dim bodies.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Marino, the Italian law against involuntary recording should be accompanied by a whistleblower provision, giving half of the property of the recorder to anyone who shows that someone broke that law.

Seriously, the purpose of such laws is to ensure that only the mighty can see, but little people cannot. When the mighty can be betrayed by their greedy henchmen, for breaking such a law, watch how quickly it will get rescinded!

Rob, given that McCain never once promised to "maverick" abandon the GOP establishment's utterly corrupt processes revealed in the Bush years, not its dedication to "capture" -- installing corporate stooges into regulatory agencies -- exactly what are you fantacizing they would have done right? Our present horror happened precisely because the Minerals Management Agency was captured, during the Bush years.

What has me fuming is the fact that Holder hasn't appointed a special prosecutor yet... for ANYTHING done in the Bush years. I smell a deal.

Tacitus2 said...

I have done a quick bio scan of the various upper and middle management folks at MMA...are you sure they are coke snortin' neocon petroshills?
How 'bout some evidence?

Acacia H. said...

Falcon 9 has achieved Earth orbit. Though I suspect pro-ARES legislative members will dismiss the launch as "lucky" or the like and insist that ARES is the only path to the stars, instead of Obama's vision of using commercial spacecraft to get to LEO and use NASA to move beyond that venue.

Rob H.

Joel said...

>I thought eating dirt wasn't so smart a thing to do!

I guess under the Gaia hypothesis, this might be a mechanism of (literally) making us smarter when we do stupid things. ;-)

I might enjoy that video on motivation, but I'm also in the process of reading Punished by Rewards, by Alfie Kohn. It's really an amazing idea. The more I read stuff like that, the more I think programs like Open Court will do more to keep the people away from books than the operant conditioning in Brave New World would have in real life.

David Brin said...

Tacitus, simply google the key words Mineral Management Cocaine...

BTW these names would have come up if th Bushites had answered requests for FOIA info on its early meetings and appointments, instead of stonewalling for executive privilege

soc said...

The version of events you give is certainly the one put forward by the Israelis, but it isn't the only way to see things.

It's unfair to assume that everyone on the flotilla was a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer. There were plenty of people just trying to alleviate the suffering in Gaza, that doesn't make them a terrorist, does it? There were European politicians, writers even an ex-US Colonel and a member of the Israeli Knesset. The salient point here is whether Israel had the right to land commandos, in the middle of the night, on humanitarian vessels in
international waters?

Turkey doesn't think so and has accused the Israelis of piracy. I'm not an expert on Maritime Law, but doesn't Turkey have a point?

Tacitus2 said...

Well......that does sound rather inappropriate! Thanks. It looks like the story goes back to 2008, and no doubt was brought up again recently. I missed it the second time around, being overseas at the time.
Naughty, naughty indeed.

Dances With Cages said...

I just noticed the piece about the EcoMotors engine on David's previous post, another highly interesting variant of the intermittent combustion engine is the Crower Six Stroke engine. The Crower engine combines a four stroke IC cycle with two strokes of a steam engine in the same cylinder(s) and converts a considerable amount of the heat energy that is normally wasted in an Otto cycle IC engine to mechanical energy, so much that a six stroke engine would likely not need a cooling system as such.

Acacia H. said...

Piracy? I'm sorry. When I think piracy I think of a group of idiots off the African coast boarding vessels and holding them captive until they're paid millions of dollars. What Israel did was divert ships from going to a region without an effective dock or harbor and which is harboring a group of individuals who have sworn the utter destruction of the nation in question (Israel), no matter how many attempts by other nations were made to get them (Hamas) to take a softer line there and admit that Israel has a right to exist.

If the more radical elements of Hamas had its way, they would slaughter every single Jewish man, woman, and child in Israel. Then they'd go after Europe and the United States for daring to offer the Jews sanctuary and assistance to Israel. They refuse to see that they are killing their own brothers and sisters there (for the Palestinians and Israelites are brethren, especially when you consider the number of former Samaritans that lived in the Palestine region who had converted to Islam so not to be put to death - with Samaritans being an offshoot of Jews that were disowned partly because they intermarried with other cultures).

When you listen to what some of the non-combatants on the boarded vessel have to say about the incident, you learn that while a number of them did not want the Israeli commandos hurt, there were a core of men there that were ready to kill. Do you think the captured commandos would have lived if someone hadn't spoken up and said "don't hurt them"? If no one had tried to be a voice of moderation below the decks... then the Israelis dragged there would have died.

The ones on deck with stolen guns to the heads of other commandos? They didn't have that voice of reason there. They confronted the commandos with violence in mind. And they were met with violence in return. They died because of that. But they are just as much to blame for their deaths as the Israeli commandos are.

Both sides are to blame. As such? Both sides need to apologize. And sadly? Neither side will. I suspect that when the final verdict from an impartial outside source speaks on the incident? They will state that "both sides acted poorly and escalated a dangerous situation until people died." Or in other words, both Israel and the IHH share guilt over the incident. And both sides? Will cry loudly stating "this investigation is flawed and is prejudiced against us!"

Sadly, Israel will end up looking like the villains here. Because they've been assholes of late and need to get over themselves. But not this way. Not through a deliberate attempt at martyrdom by a bunch of hateful activists who would have likely butchered half of those commandos and given the rest to Hamas if they had gained the upper hand.

Rob H.

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

Another total change of subject: just how small could you make a manned launch vehicle?

Could you simply plunk someone in a space suit inside a heat shield, no instrumentation, no onboard life support?

Rocky Persaud said...

Look up Armadillo Aerospace, they seem to be aiming for a pilotless launch vehicle with a bit of extra room in a transparent bubble that is the crew cabin for the tourist passenger to experience zero-g in a suborbital flight and have fun floating around in a spacesuit. They'll probably use this platform for space diving too -- up on a suborbital trajectory, and then jump away from the craft to dive back to Earth in just the spacesuit.

Ilithi Dragon said...

The thing is, Rob, Israel IS the villain here, in a lot of ways, and they have been and have been acting the asshole since at least the '60s. And they've been getting a free pass for just about everything from us.

Much of their Hamas problems are caused by or exacerbated by Israel's own actions, much like our actions in Iraq and Afghanistan under the Bush administration only magnified the militant Islamic terrorist problem and created MORE hostility and contempt towards the U.S. in the Muslim world. And just as the more extreme people in Hamas would see Israel, all Jews, and western civilization wiped off the map if they had the chance, there are equally extreme people on the Israeli side of the coin, who would cheerfully nuke every Muslim in the middle-east into oblivion if given the chance.

By legal definition, the Israeli boarding of the aid ships could easily be considered piracy (there is the possibility of escaping through a legal loophole as the formal definition of piracy under international law refers to private vessels, though). Those aid ships were detained and boarded by commando raids in international waters, though. They were not in Israeli territorial waters, and they had not yet attempted to run the blockade (and for the record, the blockade alone technically violates the Geneva Conventions, not to mention everything else Israel has done to the Palestinian population).

Now, I'm not justifying what Hamas has done, but I can certainly understand much of the Palestinian hostility towards Israel today and over the past few decades, given the Israeli occupations and reported war crimes and crimes against humanity, but I suspect that Israel's problems are at least as much their own fault from their own policies and actions (or a combination of theirs and ours) as it is anything else.

Yes, many of the activists on that ship were wrong in their actions, but they were being boarded by Israeli commandos in international waters, and were already harboring strong resentment towards Israel and Israel's blockade, occupation and oppression of Gaza, interdiction of humanitarian aid and supplies to Gaza, and reported war crimes and worse committed by Israel. They were highly-motivated people who felt strongly enough for their cause to risk running a naval blockade, and they were undoubtedly angry.

Now, this does not justify their actions, they were wrong (and stupid), especially taking the guns of the commandos and turning them back on their owners, but from a sociological perspective, they are certainly understandable.

soc said...

Most of your post is a rant about how evil Hamas is. Well, there's no debate there. If you find Hamas' rhetoric shocking, feel free to peruse the stuff coming out of the right-wing settler parties or even Israel's current foreign minister, who is an open fascist.

The problem here is the settlement policy that Israel insists on following. Israel bulldozes Palestinian homes, neighbourhoods, and villages, arrests or shoots anyone who resists, then builds homes for Jews in their place. Palestinians are being violently driven off land they've lived on for centuries, so that it can be handed over to Jews flown in from Brooklyn.

Many observers believe that a two-state solution is virtually impossible because there's hardly any Palestine left to build a viable state on. There's a term for what Israel is doing: Colonization. Oh, there's another term as well: Ethnic Cleansing. That's where you remove an ethnic group, by force, from a particular geographic space. That's precisely what's happening here.

Ahmedinejade talks about wiping Israel off the map. Israel doesn't just talk about wiping Palestine off the map, it's actually going ahead and doing it.

Tim H. said...

On the Crower 6 stroke, some 30 years ago someone modified a small Ford by reducing combustion chamber volume, a high overlap cam and a continuous water or water/alcohol spray netting 25% + fuel efficiency and the EPA refused to certify the technology on the grounds that owners would forget to fill the water/alcohol tank and emissions would increase. But that was around the same time EPA moved to kill GM's hybrid technology on the grounds it was too good to be true.

rewinn said...

Every killing has a background. Frequently omitted from discussions of the latest highly-publicized killings in the Middle East:

Gandhi won freedom for his people, Arafat failed. If the Palestinians' had taken Gandhi's route, they'd be better off today.
Of course, that's with the benefit of hindsight. And it works the other way around too: If Israel withdrew from the Occupied Territories and stopped attacking foreign-flagged vessels on the high seas (technically acts of war, not piracy, since they have state sanction), it'd be better off than it is today. The rocket attacks may be painful and deadly but are less damaging to the nation than has been Israel's reaction, especially since, in without the continuous reminders of Israel's continued occupation and similar activities (see Highway 422) the violent A-holes among Palestinian leadership would gradually lose to their accomodationist rivals.

Always ask: Cui bono? Who benefits from a continuous state of violence?

Continous violence leads to the elevation of violent A-holes on both sides, as peace-advocating alternatives get shunted aside for being unable to deliver (or sometimes assassinated). Is it possible that ambitious A-holes would push for more violence for the sake of domestic political power?

The Irish fought the English for 700 years, even though the English did things to the Irish that the Israelis have refused to do to the Palestinians.

Before the creation of Israel, Jews were as a general rule safer in "Muslim" countries than in "Christian" counties.

After WW2, anti-semites in the victorious West were happy to see Jews leave Europe; after the fall of the USSR, anti-semites there were happy to see Jews leave there too. And all parties to any agreements to the creation of Israel more-or-less assumed that the Palestinians would go along.

The Brits governing Palestine post WW2 got understandably tired of Irgun terrorism, and those same terrorists became respected political leaders when the nation of Israel was formed.

The 1956 war of agression by Israel, France and Britain against Eqypt is frequently omitted from these discussions.

Israel & its neighbors are nations; Judaism & Islam are a religion. Nations and religions have different purposes and interests; confusing the two concepts is helpful to particular political factions but not to a search for a peaceful resolution.

A lot of these discussions are going on in Israel itself by Jews themselves, so I don't think it's especially anti-semetic to bring them up ... but it's helpful to the violent A-holes on both sides to confuse the above with anti-semetism.

David Brin said...

Ilithi, you are mistaken in several ways.

First a blckade of one warring nation by another is legal, so long as it is enforced. Ironically, if it is NOT enforced, that is when half-hearted enforcement becomes illegal, according to international law. Moreover, Hamas has made it clear that a state of to-the-death war is precisely the condition between them and Israel.

Second, have you ever asked yourself why the major arab powers have given almost no oil riches to the Palestinians. Indeed, why they have forbidden any Palestinians to emigrate from Gaza or the camps to live in other Arab countries? At the beginning, there were precisely as many empty homes in countries like Morocco as there were refugee families, all of them emptied by Jewish families who migrated to Israel. Virtually no Palestinian families were invited or allowed to occupy those empty homes.

The Palestinians have had it rough. Indeed, they have become the most "Jewish" of Arab peoples, urbanized, highly educated, toughened by suffering. But to call the Israelis the only persecutors is disingenuous. The Palestinians have been pawns of the radical Wahhabis for four generations. With the sole purpose of getting folks like you to feel the way you do.

Are the Israelis starting to turn hard and unreasonable? Yes. Peace would have been easier 30 years ago, when Israeli politics was dominated by Europe-born socialists and Kibbutz-raised leftists. Now, many Israelis are nativist and much harsher in the opinion that peace is utterly impossible. It is making them increasingly foolish. They are playing into the Wahhabis' hands.

Ian Gould said...

"First a blckade of one warring nation by another is legal, so long as it is enforced. Ironically, if it is NOT enforced, that is when half-hearted enforcement becomes illegal, according to international law. Moreover, Hamas has made it clear that a state of to-the-death war is precisely the condition between them and Israel."

My sole comment on this topic here:

1. Israel specifically denies that a state of war exists with HAMAS (Or Gaza or Palestine or whatever terminology you choose to use).

They choose to do so because if they admit they are fighting a war, they have to comply with the Geneva Conventions.

You can't invoke the rights of belligerence then refuse to accept the accompanying responsibilities.

2. If Israel and HAMAS are at war, then HAMAS rocket attacks on southern Israel an entirely legal form of warfare on par with the allied bombing campaigns of World War II.

Israel's tactic of denying basic food and medicine to the civilian population is not. (The "aid" Israel allows through amounts to roughly 2 grams per person per day.)

Corey said...

Ian's Right.

I don't necessarily think it's as black and white as Ilithi suggests, even if I'm usually the last person to disagree with him on most topics.

That said, Israel can't have it both ways, either. They want the freedom of action of wartime, while wanting their enemies to follow the restraints of peace, and they try to play a political game to that end that they aren't very successful at (probably because it's just downright ridiculous?), and then wonder why they always end up looking like the bad guys.

Because Israel doesn't want to be bound to the same restraint that they demand in their neighbors, they end up with what are seen by the world as wildly over-reacting policies. In many ways, this reminds me of their strikes against Lebanon a few years back; they ended up coming out as the bad guys in the eyes of the world then too. I'm certainly sympathetic to their difficult, if not impossible geopolitical situation, but if one thing is clear, it's that whatever their overarching strategy to dealing with it is: it's not working very well.

Corey said...

This also puts the US in a very difficult situation, because we not only are Israel's biggest political backers, but we supply the military with which they operate as well.

If I lend my anger-prone neighbor a handgun, and he shoots a mall up with it the next day, it doesn't look particularly good for me. I know, there's all sorts of legal reasons as to why that's a terrible analogy, but it's more or less what happens with the US and Israel.

Corey said...

Also, not to bring up an old topic on this comment page, but Bob Herbert wrote what I thought was a good column for the NY Times today, regarding the Gulf spill, where he reflected on the even worse damage wreaked by Oil company Texaco in the Amazon, citing it as further evidence that oil is just a ubiquitously destructive resource to harvest, especially when you combine it with American priorities for oil: cheap, fast, and in large quantities, without much concern for the particulars of how that gets achieved.

Acacia H. said...

My point concerning the "aid ships" remains. If all that happened when the Commandos boarded was that they were diverted to an Israeli port, then 90% of that aid would have reached Gaza and the people on the ship would have not suffered any significant harm. Do you honestly think Israel went into this thinking "oh, they're going to attack us, this is the perfect chance to kill them and prove our might!" and all that?

Israelis are pissed because they saw it was a trap... and yet it was sprung and Israel was bloodied and looks bad as a result. If this had happened under Bush, no doubt it would have come to nothing. But Obama is President now... and Obama wants to leave his mark on the world by stopping some of this idiocy. Thus Israel managed to leave a sour taste in the mouth of the man in charge of their biggest ally, a man who has looked and realized that being Israel's ally is becoming a detriment to our country.

Or to put it bluntly? Israel chose poorly.

Despite this. Despite the fact that Israel fucked up. Despite the fact that the innocents in Gaza have suffered under both Hamas and under the Israeli blockade (which, mind you, could be ended just by releasing a single man! Don't you just love pride and avarice?), it was the fault of the people on the "relief ships" that nine people died and more were hurt.

It is most likely that several men on that ship boarded that ship hoping and praying to their God that the Israelis would board them and try to stop them... so that they could either martyr themselves or even better, manage to capture several Israeli commandos to give to Hamas. These men are now (most likely) dead. But because of their actions, there is a lot of grief in that region of the world... and a lot of ill will toward Israel.

Something smells. And in this case? I don't think it's the Israelis. (Mind you, the Israelis should end their blockade, set up dozens of anti-missile batteries around Gaza, and smack down missiles and mortars as they're launched. They can even send a bill to Hamas for each missile they are forced to shoot down. Perhaps send it through the United Nations. And in essence emasculate Hamas by letting them know they are mosquitoes that are barely worth the time of day to deal with.

And as Israel perfects anti-missile technology (preferably energy-based so that costs can be reduced), they can build factories and start selling it to other nations. Thus not only showing Hamas they're no longer worth bothering with... but that Israel will profit by Hamas rocket attacks.

But then, I'm not a nice person.

Rob H.

Dances With Cages said...

Tim H:

I don't understand the point of having a high overlap cam in an engine designed for high fuel mileage, high overlap is a feature of engines designed for maximum horsepower. The rest of the system makes reasonable sense though, I had a Holley water injection unit back in the early 70's on a 350 ci 350 horse Corvette engine and it really did help keep detonation down at full throttle and high load.

soc said...

An interesting read from an Israeli Prof who now works in England. The Deadly Closing of the Israeli Mind


"If all that happened when the Commandos boarded was that they were diverted to an Israeli port, then 90% of that aid would have reached Gaza and the people on the ship would have not suffered any significant harm"

How do you figure that? If Israel has no problem with this stuff getting in, why have a blockade in the first place. As things stand, Israel only lets one fourth of the aid needed into Gaza.

Also, the version of events you relate in your posts is the version offered by Israel. All the video footage we've seen on TV so far is edited video provided by the Israelis. It leaves a lot out.

There were plenty of journalists on these ships whose videos we haven't seen, because they were confiscated. Needless to say, the account offered by the activists differs significantly from the one offered by the Israelis.

My point is, why accept the Israeli version hook, line and sinker? Why not hear out the other side, as well? This piece in the Independent offers a good look into the conflicting accounts offered by both sides: The Hijacking of the Truth

Acacia H. said...

Actually, the account I'm utilizing is based off of one of the female activists on the ship who talked about a captured Israeli commando being stripped to his underwear (while being held down), his gun confiscated, and the guy who snagged the gun running off toward where the commandos were coming in. And I am also not stating that the Israelis were right in their actions. What I am stating is that the IHH shares guilt and blame equally with Israel in what happened.

When you add in another factor, the stink aspect rises tremendously: the current anti-secular Turkish government sold the freighter to the IHH for a loss. They sold it for under a million dollars. I'm fairly certain that this vessel is worth a bit more than that.

Why does this stink? What is the very first thing that Turkey does when this goes down? All but sever ties with Israel. In fact, some of the ties severed? Military. Hmm. Isn't Turkey's military fairly secular in nature, and weren't they responsible for overthrowing several Turkish governments that drifted off the secular wagon? And didn't this government recently do everything in its power to disenfranchise its military leaders and accuse them of plotting to overthrow the government?

When Turkey stated they were breaking ties with Israel, Palestine asked them not to. They see Turkey as a useful in-between, a mediator that is friends to Israel and to the Middle East. The current government doesn't want this. They want to be the leader of the Islamic world... and being friends with Israel is a major strike against them.

The cynic in me? Sees this as a collaborative work between the Turkish and Israeli governments. The conservative Israeli government does not want peace. They want people to be afraid and to keep them in power as the only force willing to stand up to the Muslims. The Turkish government wants to become the head of the Islamic world and to ensure its power-base in Turkey by disenfranchising any and all pro-Israeli elements (who tend to be more secular in nature). Furthermore, by having Turkish citizens gunned down by the "evil Israelis" the Turkish people are riled up... and are less likely to vote for secular peacemongers who would "appease" the West.

Though that's conspiracy-speak, and I don't particularly care for conspiracies... as I feel large groups of people (and adversaries in particular) are unable to effectively create and keep secret conspiracies.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

It would be helpful for the USA, or some other party that both sides still trust, to volunteer to be trusted inspectors of ships entering Gaza's water.

Assuming, as seems likely, that the flotilla had 100% harmless supplies, the nation of Israel has some actual concern about unrestricted shipments into Gaza leading eventually to weapons shipments. While Israel's actions are illegal as well as self-defeating, the practical issue of weapons is real.

@David Brin
"...why the major arab powers have given almost no oil riches to the Palestinians..."

1. If Israel isn't allowing in sufficient calories, or material to build a working sewer system, or the opportunity for the average Palestinian to work for a living ... all the money in the world would be little practical use.

Some petrodollars are going to Gaza. Hamas won elections in large part due to its civilian relief efforts, funded in large part by Iran. Should Iran send Hamas more money to further cement its hold?

2. Why should the entire Arab world be considered a political unit equally responsible for solving the problems created by ... for the most part ... the nations that won WW2 redrawing the map of the Middle East? We might with equal justice ask the USA, Britain, France and Israel to supply the Palestinians, since it was the actions of those nations (through the UN which we dominated) that put the Palestinians where they are today. At the very least, why doesn't the United States accept as immigrants the entire population of Gaza ... or for that matter of Israel ... do we not have plenty of empty houses in Michigan?

3. The suggestion that Palestinians thrown out of their homes in Jerusalem should have resettled in Morocco is remarkable. There very least that can be said is that many of the Palestinians may have had difficulty believing that they would not be allowed to return to their homes in a reasonable amount of time, since Israel proclaimed itself to be a freedom-loving democracy. What state founded in law does not permit a man to return to his home?

4. For the minority that care about law, there is also the point that forced relocation of civilian populations by a conqueror is explicitly forbidden under the Geneva Conventions.


Israel appears to be taking the tack that it and it alone has the right to determine what Palestine gets. It is analoguous to the US-led blockage of Saddam's Iraq, during which you could not take in even an aspirin or antibiotics, ostentibly because they might be diverted to hostile purpose but also because the point of the blocade was to inflict pain on the civilian population.

The underlying theory to both the American government then and the Israeli government now is that inflicting pain on the civilian population would lead to political change. Violence for the purpose of political change is called "terrorism", except when it's done by people in suits or in uniforms.

The nation of Israel was founded by survivors of tremendously traumatic episodes, who drove out the British Mandate by violence, and has been ever since systematically importing people on the basis of their belief in their right to keep the land in the face of competing claims by non-Israelis. We must feel compassion for two peoples who seems to be systematically driving themselves homocidally insane. Analogous to the case of India, the root problem is not of the making of the people who are suffering the most, but the colonists (or, "settlers" as the Israelis prefer) cannot cure themselves; the solution must come from both sides.

rewinn said...

@Rob - IMO you don't need elaborate conspiracies when you have common interests. Tense international relations often work to the domestic political advantage of authoritarian political parties.

Turk/Israeli diplomatic relations have been deteriorating for some time, e.g. Turkey's reaction to Israel's "Cast Lead" attacks resulted in cancelling joint war games.

It might be helpful if Turkey, Israel and whoever's governing Gaza were to agree to let Turkey supervise offloading supplies in a Gaza port without Israeli interference. That should ally Israel's legit fears of weapons smuggling while relieving Gaza of the illegal blocade of civilian supplies. It's probably too reasonable to happen.

Duncan Cairncross said...

I agree with David on the Israeli thing
After the end of WW2 there were millions in refugee camps in Europe, some of their countries had ceased to exist
In five years - None!!

The people who fled Palestine in 1948 (and their descendants) are still in camps in their supposedly fellow Arab countries

rewinn said...

@Duncan - the refugees in European camps went to their homes.

The Palestinians, on the evidence, want to do the same.

Who is keeping them?

rewinn said...

On final comment, for the Libertarians left among us:

Just Governments Respect Property Rights. Even When They Conquer Nations.

When nation A conquers nation B and incorporates its land, it is supposed to maintain the land distribution quo ante. The only exception is imminent military necessity, and that doesn't mean taking Farm X from prior owner Y just so you can give it to your buddy. That would be theft.

Anonymous said...

This is a potential failure mode similar to one that struck the laste Roman Empire. See more on this.

And after following the link I find that your recommendation is ...

... sentence all teenagers to three months of community service and boot camp??! Rather than wait for them to break some windows, tag a public structure, total Daddy's car, or get into a barroom brawl, just convict them for the heinous crime of being old enough to vote?

Yikes. If defending the country means giving up the right to self-determination, to a fair trial before sentences like that are imposed, and to not get shot at, maybe we shouldn't. We'll have lost the country anyway.

Death statistics from the military show that few US soldiers die from enemy action. The vast majority die in "accidents", primarily in training exercises that are not 100% non-hazardous. More die in internal violence or by suicide than from enemy action -- really, the surprise is that when you give a bunch of angry, angsty young teens automatic assault rifles and teach them to use them the number of homicides and suicides subsequently occurring among them is that low.

Force training upon the full population within that age range and if these population statistics are to be believed roughly 11 million men will be subjected to it in the first year, followed by another 2 million annually. Wikipedia says that currently there are about 200,000 enlistments a year, I presume mostly men. So the subjected-to-military-training rate would rise by a factor of 10 long term after a brief spike to over 50x the present rate. Assuming safety and the like remained constant (and with a big increase in recruits, and the inevitable reluctance to raise budgets -- and with them taxes -- by nearly as large a factor, safety would actually get worse), the death rates from non-enemy-action causes could be expected to jump by the same factors.

You'd be condemning roughly 5000 people to accidental training deaths in the first year, and a thousand each year thereafter, as well as indirectly causing 1500 homicides the first year and a few hundred every subsequent year.

Is killing the population of a medium-sized town every year -- all of them young, healthy, and with life's opportunities still ahead of them -- really the best way to go about improving resilience? Somehow I have my doubts, even if the increased resilience would actually save the 2000 or more lives a year on average that would be needed to not be a net negative expenditure of lives, and I doubt it would.

At the very least you'd have to create a Boot Camp Lite with a much higher safety margin (perhaps no live weapons usage among other things). If you didn't, there'd be a major balk at the death rate it would cause (sadly, probably not until after it was passed and we experienced that first year of horrendous casualties -- more than died in 9/11, in all likelihood, and selectively, tragically, hitting people just starting out in adult life). There'd also be a balk at forcing women, particularly, into such a hazard, non-PC though that is (and if it was men only, that would get it shot down as sexist, whereas if it was all young men and women, all those death tolls I mentioned would double and the chivalrously-minded would balk extra).

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, Boot Camp Lite would have to be expensive to be safe enough. Taxes would have to be raised to cover its costs, at the same time you took 22 million people (assuming coed service) out of the workforce and thus the taxbase for three months every year, equivalent to permanently reducing the tax base by 5.5 million people. Oh, and those missing 5.5 million people are missing from the low end of the service industry that currently pays college students. Who's gonna flip your burgers at Mickey Dees? Those jobs probably actually currently generate more tax revenue, direct and indirect, than the bigshot bankers whose cashflows are so large they warp space, time, lobbyists, and tax policy around them and disappear behind tax-haven event horizons. The burger flipper pays income tax, the customer pays sales tax, the burger joint probably pays a bunch of payroll taxes and licenses, and so on up the supply chain to the beef wholesaler, the farm, the feed producer, another farm, a fertilizer factory, and half a dozen other industries, and yes eventually a horde of bankers issuing loans to start all these businesses up and commercial paper to keep them all running smoothly. And the customer will want fries with that. And then pay to have his cholesterol checked and maybe buy a treadmill. And so on.

More taxes, fewer taxpayers ... it's not hard to see where this goes. Into a vicious spiral of raising taxes even further, triggering waves of bankruptcies and unemployment, further shrinking the tax base. There's a limit to sustainable taxation levels and Boot Camp Lite could well push things over the edge, particularly if it came hard on the heels of the present financial crisis.

And aside from that little feasibility problem, and the horrendous casualty rates if you just used Boot Camp Regular (and making Boot Camp Regular 10x bigger would still cost a pretty penny), there's still the nagging little matter of the constitutional right not to be subjected to either punishment without due process of law or the draft in peacetime.

Duncan Cairncross said...


You did not read my comment,
Yes millions of European refugees went home
Millions more went to new homes in new countries

If they had waited to "Go Home" they would still be there

European countries took in refugees

The Arabs did not!!

Tim H. said...

Dances with cages, the high overlap was needed to keep the trapped compression within reason with the pistons they used. If Hot Rod or Car Craft had done the coverage instead of 60 minutes, it would have been explained better. To think what was done that long ago on a 1st gen Ford Fiesta, there's room for improvement, impact standards may have tobe relaxed to get vehicle weights down.

Acacia H. said...

While the libertarian in me hates the idea of forced community service for teenagers... remarks on the "death count" of a teen boot camp are flawed. Let's turn it around. Let's keep things at the status quo. How many teenagers die because of gang violence every single year? How many die from accidents driving to and from work, or getting off from their job and getting smashed and then driving afterward? How many teens kill themselves because of the stresses of an impending adult life, school, and all of that?

Well over 5,000 I'd say.

These teenagers are going to die anyway. The nation as a whole is diseased, and the disease has a simple name: overpopulation. Stuff enough humans into a small enough area, and our mindsets get screwy, we start abusing our children, we start abusing ourselves, and we start killing one another. This was shown with experiments in overpopulation with rats, and showed something scary: overpopulated rats begin acting very human-like... or at least, as human-like as 20th century humans have been acting.

I say, let's have this teenaged boot camp. Let's train teenagers how to respect firearms, how to act together in teams, and how to make a positive impact on the communities around them. If you keep an eye on them, you'll catch more of the fragile teens who were going to die anyway due to the nature of our society, and perhaps keep some of them from killing themselves (and others).

And by giving teens something to live for, something to give them a sense of purpose and of believing they actually can make a difference, you may find that the suicides and the like go down. Because it's hopelessness and a lack of purpose which often leads to suicide attempts (many of which are a cry for help... thus putting them under supervision may in fact give those cries a chance to be heard).

As to how to pay for it? Tax break. Social workers, psychologists, industries that contribute to these "teen boot camps" pay less in taxes as a result. It's a most Republican ideal - tax breaks to pay for government programs. ^^

Rob H.

Tony Fisk said...

Why is it that 'community service' is automatically assumed to involve the use of bang-sticks and other anti-social devices?

They also served who cleaned the loos.

Of course, the term has come to be associated with punishment, so it's hardly surprising that anon. has reservations. Such a program would need to be packaged more positively. Something like 'how it works: the civilisation'

Oh, on the transparency front: it's Google vs the Australian government

Round 1: Google criticises the proposed internet filter. (btw while opinion polls are to be taken with a large grain of salt, when the sentiment runs at 9:1 against, it might be time to stop flogging a dead horse!)

Round 2: police told to investigate Google for privacy breaches after their 'streetview' project picked up personal data from unencrypted domestic wifi terminals). Interestingly, the polls are much more approving of officialdom in this case.

Sure, investigate the transgression. Don't try to beat it up as proof that Google is being hypocritical.

One final note: wikileaks appears to be back in business.

inhype: popular spin techniques.

Tacitus2 said...

To be fair, Japanese (humans) seem to do better than lab rats at being at close quarters with a minimum of social friction. So we can be more than the product of our population pressure...

Boot camp.

This has been done, sometimes better than others. During the Real Great Depression you had the American version (CCC) and the German version (Arbeitsdienst). Both did a good job on public works projects, and both probably helped turn out more competent future soldiers.

Of course these were not primary goals, except to the Wehrmacht. The real thing to do was get idle, unemployed, potentially disaffected young men off the street corner (or strasse-ecken) and keep them occupied during times of no jobs.

Recent European experience with mandatory mil. service also served to lower unemployment, or alternatively to protect existing jobs by keeping new laborers off the market a while. I do not think any major nations are still doing this, are they?

I can certainly see the potential benefits, but am a skeptic. Left and right would both be suspicious, and I think we are not the nation we were in the 1930s. Our young are softer, fatter, less disciplined, more litigenous. Probably lazier.

Gosh, I sound like an old geeze...


Acacia H. said...

*hands Tacticus2 a cane*

Pull up a comfy chair beside me, and we can shout at the darn kids to keep off our lawns. =^-^=

Tacitus2 said...

Dern Kids...grumble, grumble.

But to be fair, they are also probably less prejudiced than my (our?) generation. In some ways they might be more imaginative too, once they get past the stage where hormones and peer pressure render them witless. They have been tenderly raised to occupy a happy world with broad horizons stretching to the heavens....


Acacia H. said...

By the way, since Jupiter has just recently been struck by yet another asteroid in recent days, has its status as a planet been put into question? After all, it's clear that Jupiter has not cleared out its orbital path of debris since it's still suffering from frequent impacts. ^^

Rob H.

soc said...

As far as I can tell, there are two big obstacles to any peace settlement. Hamas, on the Palestinian side, and the settler parties on the Israeli side. Due to the nature of Israeli politics, every government is a coalition government. The pro-settler parties are often part of these coalitions regardless of whether they are led by Labour or Likud.

Even if an Israeli PM wanted to cut a deal, he would have to pull back on the settlements and then promptly see his government collapse as the settler parties withdraw from the coalition.

There's much talk in the mainstream about addressing the Hamas problem, but comparatively little talk on dealing with the settler problem.

How would you deal with the settler problem?

Tony Fisk said...

*hands Tacticus2 a cane*

... and the sunglasses. Preferably wrap-around.

Jovial grumbles: Darn' comets messin' up my orbit! Kids today: they just got no respect!

Duncan Cairncross said...


Where do you get this idea that the States is overpopulated??

Monaco - 43,800,000 / square mile
UK 659 / square mile
USA 83 / square mile

And where do you get the idea that 20th century people are acting weird

Although I suppose historically they are - much lower death/war/murder rate than the preceding centuries

David McCabe said...

You want mandatory community service for youths? Fine. Just make it retroactive. All citizens who have not previously served in the military, Peace Corp, etc., must submit to mandatory community service. The state will assign you to a phase during the next ten years.

Sounds fair and just now, right?

Jason Block said...

It could be that the 'localization' movement is already over. Just because it's a favorite philosophy of the baby boomer generation who wanted to rebel against the global visions of their WWII era parents does not mean it will be a dominant trend. The nationalism that localization implies might be in the process of flaming out on the fringes of the distant right. Younger generations or generations to come may take for granted a balance between the opposing forces of globalization and localization, and focused on other paradigms altogether.

Anyway, the reality of 'globalization' is hardly cut and dry. For instance, as private oil companies became international conglomerates, most of the world's oil was nationalized in direct response, or 'localized'.

Ian said...

"How would you deal with the settler problem?"

Cut off their hand-outs from the American taxpayer via the Israeli state and see how many of them stick it out.

Acacia H. said...

Easier said than done. The Republicans won't do it because they're anti-Arab. And the Democrats won't do it because it would drive the Jewish vote over to the Republicans.

Rob H.

Acacia H. said...

Here's some more news links for the interested:

BP is planning improvements to its current oil cap efforts. The Wall Street Journal article mentions that "A second planned addition is meant to provide a more permanent containment cap by directing the oil and gas to a new free-floating riser ending about 300 feet below sea level. A flexible hose then will be attached to a containment vessel."

"This long-term containment option is designed to permit more effective disconnection and reconnection of the riser to provide the greatest flexibility for operations during a hurricane," BP said.

This is in addition to the relief wells being drilled to cap the leak.

Meanwhile on the political front, a CNN article is suggesting that Obama needs to back off of his anti-Washington rhetoric and compares his current presidency to the Carter Administration (big surprise!). No doubt the CNN reports will eventually suggest Obama switch his slogan from "Change you can belief in" to "I am not a crook." But that might be the cynic in me having fun.

And a recent long-term study of the children of lesbian couples actually are better off psychologically and academically than traditional-sex parents. Naturally, since several LGBT groups provided funding for the research, religious groups are decrying to study and claiming it is biased and prejudiced against traditional-sex parents. The author of the study was surprised by the findings as well, expecting only that the statistical analysis would find the children to be as well as the normative sample rather than better.

Here's one for Dr. Brin (I'm interested as to what his response would be) concerning the arrest of a U.S. Intelligence Analyst who leaked combat video and a number of classified State Department records to Wikileaks. The former hacker who turned him in stated that he turned Manning in because he felt lives were in danger as a result of the data sent to Wikileaks. And while I'm all for transparency in government... I have to wonder how badly the U.S. diplomatic corp would be damaged if some of these secret documents are as damning as Manning felt they were.

(to be continued)

Acacia H. said...

And last, here's a couple more articles on SpaceX and the Falcon 9 launch. First, the Wall Street Journal tears into SpaceX and the Falcon 9 emphasizing the risks of privatization even as it reports on the launch. I've mixed feelings toward this article as it does give some important history on SpaceX and its financial background, but the tone is rather negative in my perspective and I almost get the feeling the WSJ writer was offended that Falcon 9 didn't blow up on the pad.

Next, Politico looks into some of the political responses to the Falcon 9 launch, with several senators downplaying the launch and calling it a replication of what "NASA accomplished in 1964." Though I think NASA spent a lot more money to do the same thing, didn't they? And didn't they have a number of rockets blow up before they succeeded? It's amusing that Republicans (and Democrats!) are so against letting private industry handle LEO and shuttling of astronauts, especially considering that the Falcon 9 is remarkably further along in development than the ARES rocket system.

Finally, The Space Review has a lengthy and in-depth article on the Falcon 9, including information on the delays for the launch, responses by NASA and Comgress, comments by SpaceX CEO and CTO Elon Musk, future flights planned for the Falcon 9 (including the development of a super-heavy lift" version of the Falcon that could launch from the Launch Compex 39), and how the success of the Falcon 9 launch may be bringing in new customers that will help SpaceX with finances to fund further development of its rockets.

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...

First, it wasn't my intention to paint Israel as the sole antagonists of the mess over there, I should have expressed that more clearly (or just expressed it at all...). I have a tendency to forget that people can't pull clarifying details out of my head, or to forget that thinking something doesn't always mean that I've actually typed or said it, even if it goes hand-in-hand with something else you're already typing or saying (another reason why I'm looking forward to the day we can have super-PDAs in our heads and send packets of image-concept-language connections to each other; I suffer a lot of data loss with the current verbal and textual communications methods...).

I was also fed-up with "OMG ANY criticism of Israel of ANY kind at all, EVER is evil antisemitism, racism, and threatens a second holocaust!!1!" rhetoric at the time I wrote my previous post.

Anyway, to get back to the point, yes, Hamas has done a lot of bad things, and Palestinian terrorism against Israel is wrong. If they were focused on military targets, they could conceivably be justified as partisan resistance to a military occupation (declared/admitted or otherwise) and the confiscation of their property and forced relocation, but they're not, the attacks are launched at civilian targets, and there is no justification for the terrorist attacks that they are.

That said, Hamas is NOT the sole antagonist, either; Israel is far from the innocent victim acting in self-defense it tries to paint itself as, and hasn't been since day one. I also think that Israel has done more damage to itself and done more to increase its enemies numbers and motivation than its enemies have done themselves, for much the same reasons that many of our actions in Afghanistan and especially Iraq have created more terrorism and anti-US hatred instead of suppressing it. You're not going to stop terrorism by destroying a people's neighborhood, their homes, trampling over them and their friends and family, reducing their living conditions to abject poverty, and taking away from them any reason they have to live for. That just makes them hate you more and gives them fewer reasons to avoid the risk of attacking you.

Israel has also gotten a lot of free passes from the U.S. especially but also the rest of the world. Even now, any open criticism of Israel is quick to see a storm of cries of antisemitism, racism, etc. Israel has also been in the process of conducting an ethnic cleansing of the region for decades. It has been a slow process, but the forced relocation of the Arabic Palestinians DOES fit the international legal definition for ethnic cleansing.

To reiterate, I don't agree with Hamas or their terrorist actions, but I can understand the anger and hostility of the Palestinians, especially in Gaza. They certainly have a lot to be angry about. I won't shy from criticizing them when they act in the wrong, but they have no shortage of critics, and they're not the ones with the modern military, nukes, and backing and financial support of the most powerful nation in the world. Their mistakes and crimes are already well-criticized and well-highlighted.

Ilithi Dragon said...


Yes, the X9 is awesome, definitely glad to see it's success. I look forward to future successes, and hope we can resume pushing for the stars in the near future.

How long do you think it will be before they start offering ticket sales to the rich?

Thanks for the lesbian kids article. I wish it came out a few weeks ago, because I really could have used this for my final project for my speech class...

Acacia H. said...

And on the "Oh wow!" scale of potential discoveries, scientists are speculating that missing hydrogen in Titan is due to a methane-based lifeform. So heck with Mars. What we need to do is develop the propulsion technology to send a manned expedition to Saturn and use telepresence drones to explore Titan's surface... and see if there truly is life on that frigid world.

Rob H.

rewinn said...

If there were an easy and painless solution to the Israel/Palestinian mess, it wouldn've been found and implemented already.

I propose that there is serious osmosis-like pressure in favor of extremism. People who don't believe in "settling" Arab lands tend not to emigrate to Israel. There might be a similar pressure among Palestinians encouraging the retention of people who think they will ever get their land back, but since no nation seems will to accept a significant number of them, I guess we'll never know. (sorry @Duncan Cairncross but I *did* read your entire note. Why not answer the question why Morrocco should feel any duty at all to accept refugees created by the Europeans? Why not instead require Europe and the United States to accept Palestinian refugees ... or require that Russia accept Palestinians in proportion to the number of Russians that go to Israel? We have plenty of empty houses in Michigan and Russia could use some teetotalers to keep their economy afloat.)

There is something about the Middle East that makes otherwise reasonable people refrain from pointing out the obvious: the idea that a Bronze-Age deity in actual, factual fact did award a particular plot of land to a particular Bronze Age tribe would be comical if the results were not so tragic.


About X9 - I am no rocket scientist but I do think it's kinda cool that space travel may have evolved to the point at which it need not be a state enterprise. So long as there is a properly competitive market and proper safety regulation (and there may be endless debate about what "properly" means) well why not? Imagine if air travel had been restricted the Air Force.

rewinn said...

About deaths in the military, the situation is complicated by changes in force composition. With the transition to an all-volunteer army comes also an increase in the number of servicemembers with spouses and kids to worry about while on deployment. The increased use of psychotropic drugs (other than self-medication with alcohol ... which for all its faults is relatively well understood) may have blowback. The services do what they can to discharge the worst cases, with the result that they end up suiciding as civilians rather than military. The Reserve and Guard forces are enduring unprecedented deployment tempos, which are extremely disruptive of life and not at all what anyone had in mind when they were formed. Add that to a "suck it up soldier!" mentality and you may indeed have a deadly brew.

One other ingrediant? studies indicate that a large fraction of the million-plus troops rotated through Iraq/Afghanistan are likely to have a combat-induced psychopathology, see 1. As you can imagine, mental health and associated family health issues are the object of a lot of study (a few of many many studies: 1, 2, 3) as our services try to solve the problem (I believe they are sincere), but so long as WE CIVILIANS keep sending the uniforms to fight land wars in Asia, they can only salute and obey.

soc said...

"And the Democrats won't do it because it would drive the Jewish vote over to the Republicans."

Are American Jews really that devoted to the settler cause?

David Brin said...

Republican VOTERS are anti-Arab. The GOP top tier are owned and operated by certain arab groups. There is no contradiction.

As for the incredible double standard toward Israel it is delusional. While some Palestinians were "driven out" in 1948, it is well documented that most left at the behest of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem whoo said "get out of the way so we can kill everything in sight." He said almost exactly that.

Rewinn, you picked on the "home swap" suggestion and utterly ignored the main point... that ALL other refugee groups were encouraged to consider building new lives, except the Palestinians.

When 30 MILLION hindus and muslims swapped from Inida and Pakistan, at roughly the same time they went on to build new lives! There are no vast, teeming camps on either side of that border. The grandchildren of the refugees are simply now Indians or Pakistanis.

It is towering hypocrisy not to notice how the Arab leaders deliberately thwarted ALL efforts by Palestinians to ever solve their own plight through emigration or improving the camps into decent cities. Arab govt documents are OPEN in declaring that ongoing suffering is the paramount core aim and any attempts to lessen that suffering must be DELIBERATELY thwarted.

Given that every textbook and TV show in that language preaches genocide... genuine annihilation... for the Israelis, and Arab determination has been proved by their callous treatment of four generations of Palestinians, are you really so confident that the situation is black and white? Really?

Ah well.

Acacia H. said...

So let's offer them some land. Let's offer to repatriate every single Palestinian who wants to and move them to Alaska. There is plenty of land up there up for grabs. We build some housing up there for them, maybe drill them a couple small oil wells and a small refinery so they can refine their own heating oil, and ask for their promise that they won't attack people in the United States. We even can allow them to become citizens in ten years if they don't cause mischief (on an individual Palestinian basis).

The Alaskan communities would be far enough away that people aren't going to just go out and cause trouble for kicks and giggles. And it would significantly increase the population of Alaska, giving it a greater say in the House of Representatives. And best of all? The Great Satan, the United States, did what all of the Muslim nations would not: offer the Palestinians a home where they would not be persecuted (at least, not compared to what they're currently suffering from). And sure, the winters will be hell... but the summers up there are pretty toasty so they'll feel at home for three months of every year. ;)

Rob H.

Tim H. said...

Dr. Brin, thanks for pointing out the uniqueness of palestinian refugees. And wasn't the Grand Mufti in 1948 the same one who wished a camp and ovens of his own from Hitler earlier? To waste 4 generations, in the hope of fulfilling an antisemitic dream, that's hate the KKK might be proud of. How to fix it? I wish I knew, the mideast deserves the term "Charlie Foxtrot" as much or more than any other "F"ed up thing in the world.

rewinn said...

Dr. Brin --

With the phrase "towering hypocrisy" we together descend into the black hole that is the Palestinian/Israeli Black Hole: absorbing everything, emitting no light but only heat.

"... are you really so confident that the situation is black and white? Really?

I don't know who YOU are writing about, but any fair reading of my remarks would show it is clearly not me.

Perhaps the difficulty is in distinguishing between what is legal, what is moral, and what is wise.

It is black-and-white that Israel's blockade is illegal; there is no state of war here and even in a state of war, the Occupying Power has the duty to ensure the Occupied Persons have decent food and other necessities. If Israel wishes to declare war, fine: go ahead and play by those rules. If it doesn't, then many of its actions are illegal.

Whether the blockade is wise is a greyer matter; as I have noted in this very thread, Israel has a reasonable suspicion of weapons smuggling if not in the 6-ship flotilla, then in later shipments that would surely come were it not stopped.

Balanced against that is the high likelihood that their current policy will fail in the long run; history shows few examples of this sort of thing succeeding. The Irish did indeed fight the British for 700 years and, as I noted in my non-black-and-white analysis, they did things that the Israelis will not - not CAN not but WILL not.

As for the wisdom of the Palestinian course since 1948, as I stated before and I urge everyone to ponder: Gandhi succeeded, Arafat failed.

Did anyone notice?

"Arab leaders deliberately thwarted ALL efforts by Palestinians to ever solve their own plight through emigration"

Once again there is confusion between "Palestinian" and "Arab" as if it were somehow the duty of Morocco to solve the problems created by Britain, France and the UK. Why don't you with equal rage denounce France, the USA and above all Britain, home of the Balfour Plan, who refuse to take in the Palestinians?

What is it about being Arab that requires Arabs solve the problems that Westerners created?

India/Pakistan might be relevant if Pakistan were comprised for the most part of Muslim refugees from Europe. They weren't and it isn't. India/Pakistan divided because of an existing mixture of populations that for whatever reason decided they couldn't live together. BTW in the process of Partition far more died in a few short years than in the decades of the Israeli/Palestinian fight. Is that really a good model?

"... or improving the camps into decent cities ..."

Dr. Brin, have you paid any attention at all to what has happened to the sewers of Gaza? How on earth could any government build with materials that Israel forbid be imported?

What fraction of the decrepitude of Gaza may be laid at the feet of frequent bombardment?

Do you know what fraction of Gaza's population is currently employed? What industry would invest in a city under seige? Are you, personally, willing to invest in Gaza today?

Many Israelis are clearsighted and honest enough to note that their Government's blockade of Gaza have forced Gazans even deeper into the arms of Hamas, which for all its many faults at least has the ability to smuggle food and other items. Thus the blockade is not only illegal and cruel, it is stupid and counter-productive. However, it does have the value of ratcheting up the fear and violence, thus maintaining the power of Israel's rightwing coalition which includes overtly racist government.

Under these circumstances, I really think there is no shortage of "hypocrisy" to go around and I welcome you, sir, to my campfire.

...CONT ...

rewinn said...


@Tim H - By "Grand Mufti" may I assume you are referring to the puppet installed by the British in rigged elections (prior to that time, there was no title of "Grand Mufti")? Displeased with his patrons and/or losing in his murderous intertribal disputes, he switched sides and fled to the Nazis. Somehow the Allies never got around to trying him for his war crimes but freed him to go stir up trouble again. So ...

... nasty bugger as he was, how does his homicidal ambitions justify collective punishment of the entiure Palestinian people, many of whom he tried to slaughter himself? Do YOU think you should be punished for Jefferson Davis' crimes against humanity?

As for "four generations" ... first, how can you blame the Palestinians for continuing to be alive when no other nation, including yours and mine, will not take them? Since our nation won't take them, should the Palestinians simply evaporate?

Second, few people in 1948 figured that this situation would go on 60 years. I mean, let's be honest on that point at least.

And as for "hate", let me ask you what the appropriate emotion is to the people who lock you in prison city for no crime except that your parents were of the wrong religion? Surely Palestinian children would be better off if their parents had taught them Stoicism or Gandhism, but would you submit meekly to what they endure?


I understand passion on this subject, but I would hope a modicum of civility to others on this board would be in order.

And, if that is not possible, do try at least to admit the plain fact that Israel's claim to the territory rests upon a Bronze Age falsehood plus modern military force.

The resulting contradictions appears to be driving both Israel and Palestinian insane, as many in Israel have observed, and it would be a pity if Americans followed suit.

rewinn said...

@Rob H.

Your suggestion is too rational to occur in reality --- and if the carbon poisoning of our atmosphere is not dealt with soon, the never-to-be Palestinians-Alaskans may have discovered their new home to be more of a Paradise than their old.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Rewinn
What is it about being Arab that requires Arabs solve the problems that Westerners created?

Surely the problem of the Palestinians with no homelands were created by the "Arab" Nations that tried to exterminate the Jews in 1948?

I see no contradiction in expecting those to cure the problem they caused

Tim H. said...

Rewinn, are you suggesting that arabs are incapable of meeting a higher standard? That racism is okay, as long as non-westerners practice it?

Acacia H. said...

I have a suggestion. Let's drop this line of discussion. It is evident that people are misunderstanding and misconstruing what one another is saying. And as a result, people are getting defensive and upset, which is leading to further misunderstandings. I apologize for bringing up this line of discussion to begin with; I should have realized it was a sensitive topic and one that could blow up out of control (ironically much like the situation in the Middle East; no wonder they are in the midst of such tragedy when merely discussing it brings out snarls and lamentations).

Along the lines of toothy discussions, here's a news story about salt water crocodiles and research into how they travel large distances (and maintain genetic purity among the varied islands - we don't have a dozen different croc variants, each living on different islands, but instead one large population that avoids inbreeding and evolving into new sub-species). So. I guess Jaws isn't what you really have to worry about in the middle of the ocean. Or at least, not shark jaws. ;)

Rob H.

Ilithi Dragon said...


I hadn't noticed tempers getting particularly hot... Passions rising, sure, and some comments lean towards the offensive line, but I haven't seen anything that I would call hostility, and there is, too, the thick skin we promote around here.

That said, a reminder to focus more on saying "You're wrong because X, Y, Z" instead of "You're wrong because R is stupid" never hurt any discussion.

Tacitus2 said...

This topic brings to mind a conversation I had in Egypt with our guide, a very bright, open minded individual. He would not say much when our guard was around (this guy packed a small machine pistol and was officially there to protect us from terrorists, but also to discourage any discussion critical to the Mubarak regime).
Anyway, Ali said that all the aid money the US sent Egypt was wasted, and worse. It went into the pockets of corrupt military/government officials and did nothing to preserve peace or help the common man. He felt it would be a favor to cut it off entirely. A radical notion.
But since Egypt and Isreal are two of the biggest recipients of our largesse, I think its fair to ask if the world might not be a better place if we cut military aid to both of them, and demanded accountability for every cent we send for non military aid.
Maybe they would have to go back to threatening each other with
19th century technology.

Seems a slight improvement to me anyway.


Tim H. said...

No more foreign aid to the mideast? They might have to develop their own tech base? Saudi money currently going to missionary efforts might have to be put into development? Is there a downside, aside from lost sales to "Death, inc." and Americans becoming persona non grata in the mideast?
BTW, Robert, just a case of "Sauce for the gander, etc."

Ilithi Dragon said...

On an unrelated note, PSTD as been linked with Dementia, though whether PSTD increases the chances of dementia, or if it is a symptom of higher chances for dementia is unclear.

Acacia H. said...

Part of the reason I've been so adamant in my comments about getting off of oil and away from an oil-based economy (I don't quite see algae-based oils as an oil-based economy, at least not as it currently stands) is because I want to stop U.S. dollars from going to certain nations. I suspect that China is doing the same (developing technologies to wean itself from oil), but for a different reason: they have an even greater dependence on oil than the U.S. because they don't have much in the way of sizable oil reserves in China. Hopefully the EU would follow suit if and when the U.S. gets off the oil wagon.

Without oil money, several regions would very likely destabilize. These include much of the Middle East (with the exceptions of Israel and probably Jordan), several corrupt governments in Africa, and Russia. Due to its natural gas reserves (which Europe needs for heating), Russia may survive long enough to shift its economy (and maybe even develop its industry). By destabilize, I mean that their governments would no longer have the massive amounts of money they currently have to live corrupt lifestyles and indulge in military expenditures and the like. We may even see uprisings as the people start revolting against a weakened government.

Terrorist organizations would see their own financing dry up. Some would shift to selling drugs to make money (and some already do this, as they see the writing on the wall and realize that the hand that feeds them money one day may withdraw it the next). Others will wither on the vine.

Oil itself has financed much in the way of violence in the world. Getting off of it will result in an increase in violence for the short term... and then see it decline as weapon supplies start to dwindle and "freedom fighters" drift away to better paying (and safer!) professions.

The ironic thing is, in the short term after the U.S. kicks its oil habit we may become a net exporter of oil. But that would depend on third world nation purchases of oil and gas... and if more and more automobile manufacturers switch to electric or other non-oil formats, we would see those market likewise dry up.

Hmm. I wonder if I should include something like that starting in the scifi stories I've plotted out... originally I was going to have sections of the Middle East a radioactive wasteland after a war between Israel and Iran, but this might make for a more interesting variation.

Rob H.

soc said...

Of the five Arab armies that attacked the nascent Jewish state in 1948, only two were actually committed to putting an end to its' existence. The Egyptians were interested only in taking Gaza and the Jordanians wanted the West Bank. The Iraqis were under Jordanian command and followed their objectives. The Lebanese and Syrians came in with the explicit intention of stopping the formation of any Jewish state.

In any case, the Jewish Haganah actually outnumbered the five Arab armies combined and succeeded in holding on to the land given to them by the UN.

Another point, the Jews who began to immigrate into Ottoman Palestine starting at the end of the 19th century were Europeans. They had European mannerisms, dress, habits and spoke European languages. They had a European way of looking at the world and had nothing but contempt for the local "orientals." A contempt they extended to middle eastern Jews as well.

Worryingly, they spoke of building their own country in Palestine. Now, Europe had conquered most of the world at this time and, of course, the Ottomans would succumb to it in WWI. These people weren't seen simply as foreign Jews, but significantly, as European colonizers, at a time when European colonization was the great fear. Consequently, Israel is seen to this day as a foreign, colonial, settler state.

None of this is meant to justify contemporary Arab attitudes towards Israel. However, it's worth keeping this in the background. While Jews see Israel as their homeland and a place to be safe from persecution, the Arabs see it through the eyes of colonialism. This permits both sides to see themselves as the underdogs and the victims. Israel sees itself surrounded by a sea of anti-semitic Arabs itching to wipe it out. The Arabs see a military goliath, backed by the greatest superpower the world has ever known, at whose hands they've tasted defeat and humiliatian from the moment the country was founded.

Israel needs to check its fear and paranoia. It needs to realize that militarily it's the top dog and has the unconditional backing of the US. The Arabs need to swallow their pride and let bygones be bygones. They got beat, accept it and build something better for their kids. The Arab League proposals they put together a few years back offering to recognize Israel in exchange for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state and, the ever controversial. "right of return," was a good start. Even Iran endorsed the proposal.

Pity it didn't get anywhere. Israel dismissed it out of hand, if I recall correctly. Olmert was the PM at the time, I think.

David Brin said...

“What is it about being Arab that requires Arabs solve the problems that Westerners created?”

Sorry, I don’t get it. It is HUMAN to want to solve problems. You have a situation. Whining about colonialism is a sickness that modern tyrants in the developing world use to excuse their own ineptitude or corrupt failure to rule wisely. In re the Arab world, were the British worse than the Turks had been? In every conceivable way they were better.

Moreover, the Hashemites led by Feisel (played by Alec Guiness in Lawrence of Arabia) were modernists who wanted progress, education, social mobility, a modicum of democracy and science. Tellignly, Feisel wanted to invite the Jews of Europe to “come home.” There was plenty of land and he wanted his fellow semites -- fellow “sons of Abraham” to return with investment capital and their advanced knowledge to set up universities all over the Middle East, in exchange for a principality of their own, roughly where Israel is today. The Hashemites weren’t perfect... there is only one left, in Jordan... but they showed how differently things might have gone, had leadership in that area not shifted over to bona fide nazis.

I do not favor the present blockade of Gaza. I believe the Israelis are being shortsighted. I believe the long range strategy of the arab reactionaries is bearing fruit - pushing the Israelis into becoming yet another middle eastern pit of anger and stubbornness.

But your stubborn refusal to answer questions continues. Can you name another refugee population that was not allowed to build new lives elsewhere? Lacking a peace accord, were the Israelis simply to solve the crisis alone? You see NO fault in the cynical regimes that deliberately sabotaged every chance of the Palestinians to better themselves... or simply MOVE elsewhere?
Btw... Rewinn, in case you perceive insult... there is none intended. I am being snippish but (in my eye) no more than normal here. You are valued.

But so long as textbooks in the region preach annihilation... along with eventual collapse of Western Civilization... and as long as strong evidence points to deliberate manipulation aimed at destruction of OUR nation, I see little choice in maintaining (with criticism) the alliance we've got.

Acacia H. said...

There is a solution to the Arab/Palestine problem. It is a subtle solution, and it is slowly working its way through Arabic society even as we speak. Unfortunately, Israeli hard-nose antics only helps to poison this well water that brought down the Iron Curtain: the dissemination of knowledge.

Instead of barricading Gaza, Israel should be putting up electrical wire and transmission towers and offer the Gazans free internet and the electricity needed to run it. Then they should smuggle in cheap laptops with Wifi, smart phones, and other such devices, and let the Gazans (and the West Bank for that matter) peruse the Internet and learn. And when someone fires a rocket or a grenade at them? Ignore it. Accept it as childishness by a core of fanatics who can't help but hate.

By refusing to react to violence by Hamas and by offering free information access to the Palestinians, you spike the well from which future fanatics breed. You stop getting suicide bombers, because once manpower is scarce the terrorist organizations will stop sending men in to die. And as even the terrorists gain in knowledge, they start valuing their own lives... and will alter their game plan so that if they do commit a terrorist act, it's from a distance to try and keep from losing their own lives.

If you let Gazans live, you will see the hate fade. Hell, acknowledge Hamas and ask them to accept Israel in return, knowing full well that Hamas will refuse but that you extended a hand in friendship and the world will see that it was slapped down. (To really rub it in, do this once a year. Offer that hand in friendship several times, so that the irrationality of Hamas is exposed to the world.)

Knowledge is power. But by spreading knowledge around, you empower the people so that maybe they will make choices not based on passion and hate... but out of logic and reason.

Rob H., who truly is a dreamer. ^^;;

JuhnDonn said...

Couple interesting stories:

Your Brain on Computers; how multi-tasking information overload effects synapse development in adults


Military Chatrooms from California to Afghanistan; how IM generation is monitoring battlefield intel and redirecting it to troops on the ground in near real-time.

As someone in front of four monitors with 3 OS's running all day long, half-dozen web pages open and 4-8 chat sessions at any one time, yeah, can feel a bit fractured at times. I really relate to the old Mac Co-operative Multitasking form of working. I am really skipping from task, to task, to task, all day long and feel physically drained at the end of the day.

I wonder how long the 'kids' they have doing the same thing for soldiers on the ground will last. The stress there has to be really extreme.

David Brin said...

Robert I have long held that our best way of dealing with tyrannical regimes is offering all citizens of those nations free internet by satellite and peer-to-peer cell phones dropped in by the millions.

It would NOT guarantee friendship. Nor does democracy. But it is a big step.

What guarantees victory for western civilization is the emancipation and education of women. And way back in 1984 I was on record predicting:

1) that the Berlin Wall would fall soon (among the only people saying that)... and...

2) Our early 21st century adversary would be some branch of "machismo" that deeply dreaded female emancipation. I thought muslim machismo the likely version. But there were other possibles.

Woozle said...

This is off-topic, but I saw this post and immediately thought of the whole "incompetence vs. malice" debate which came up frequently during the latter Bush years (emphasis mine):

The Volokh Conspiracy recalls a list of tactics promulgated by the OSS for use by allied agents in positions of responsibility inside Nazi Germany — the name of the game, apparently, was to maximize damage while maintaining your cover, by using feigned incompetence and stalling to generate the kinds of failures that are equally attributable to either malice, or just forgivable incompetence.

Clever, but these tactics should all strike a more familiar and menacing chord. They might as well be copied out of the playbook of the Republican opposition, the one they’ve been running day in and day out since January 20, 2009. Examples:...

I don't know why he thinks it began only when Obama took office. Off the top of my head, I can think of evidence going back to even before Bush assumed office (remember those misplaced papers from his governorship?).

All that remains to determine is the motive. My theory is that the goal is personal power and wealth. Secret alliances with foreign families are neither precluded nor required, but there certainly would be no loyalty once it was no longer expedient. (Of course, a powerful entity can often find ways to make continued loyalty expedient, using the stick when the carrot is all gone.)

Republican leadership is defined by the most ruthlessly self-interested, and Republican followership is defined by whoever can be most easily manipulated.

David Brin said...

Woozle, you leave out my hypothesis , under which "loyalty" to the foreign power is only secondary.

The principal method, that can be arranged by any group that is hostile, smart and endowed with unlimited funds, is blackmail. Especially when the target has a very checkered past and a limited history of self-control.

David McCabe said...

1) that the Berlin Wall would fall soon (among the only people saying that)... and...

2) Our early 21st century adversary would be some branch of "machismo" that deeply dreaded female emancipation. I thought muslim machismo the likely version. But there were other possibles.

What led you to think so, if I may ask?

wayerr: shoddy GPS brand.

sociotard said...

A nice piece about how the real Regan was different from the the figure conservatives have built on his name:

Tim H. said...

Interesting stuff here:
Steps in the right direction are to be treasured.
"alinit", alien hair infestation.

David Brin said...

2) Our early 21st century adversary would be some branch of "machismo" that deeply dreaded female emancipation. I thought muslim machismo the likely version. But there were other possibles.

>>What led you to think so, if I may ask?

I take a Big Picture view of historical forces. Basic themes recur and drive nations/movements. The biggest is tribalism, with the diameter of the tribal circle of inclusion proportional to several basic things... power, geography, but above all cultural values of satiability and levels of actual satiation (two very different things that CAN combine to create sympathy and otherness.)

Another huge driver is conspiratorial oligarchy. 98% of historical societies were ruled by groups of thugs + owners + priests who vigorously repressed competition from anyone else, especially the peasants.

In "egalitarian" communist countries, the Nomenklatura party caste quickly became a feudal aristocracy. The only difference was that the priests murmured unctuous slogans about worker paradise on Earth, instead of heaven.

Both of these drivers are inherently deeply inimical to the Enlightenment, with its notion of unleashing the maximum number of empowered, knowledgeable and creative competitors.

In particular, once communism fell, it was clear that the Enlightenment would deeply threaten tribalists, and macho tribalists especially. Unleashing 50% of the human race (women) to compete openly is deeply loathsome to many on this planet. And there will be no compromise.

Acacia H. said...

And what's your prediction for the next foe of progress once the tribal threat is diminished? Because I see two major and probably unstoppable cancers growing in tribalism that will bring about its death: the spread of technology and the spread of information through that technology. The only way to stop this spread is to eschew technology itself... at which point the tribal group becomes a minor threat at best.

What we are seeing with Al Qaida and the Taliban and similar groups is the death-rattle of tribalism. This death is going to take decades and the twitching body of tribalism will harm many as it dies, but it will die or find itself powerless (at which point there is no need to worry about it as it will have been defanged).

There is a question whether Authoritarian Capitalist societies are viable over the long term. While China is giving it a good try, history (Germany going into World War II) suggests that Authoritarian governments are unable to remain viable over the long term. Iran is an excellent example of this; there is little doubt that ultimately the current regime in Iran will fall. The only question is how big a bloodbath will occur once the regime dies; the spread of information has proven cancerous for the current regime... and that knowledge cannot be unlearned no matter how hard the current regime tries to force its people to ignore it.

This is also why Iran is such a threat when it comes to the Bomb. If Iran gets the Bomb, it will use it. The question is, will it use it on Saudi Arabia... or on Israel. The Saudis are closer and have hated Americans based there... but Israel has been used as the boogieman for the longest time, and the Israelis are dehumanized in the eyes of many Iranians.

The reason for this upcoming conflict is that Iran needs to unite its people behind a common foe. This can be the Saudis (who aren't following the "true" faith) or the Israelis (who repress other Arabs and aren't Muslim). This is similar to what the Germans did with the Jews, Russians, and anyone else who could be safely hated by German propagandists. The question is, will the Bomb be used as a means of keeping the U.S. (and the world) out of the fight, holding everyone hostage lest they launch nukes at Europe... or if they plan on destroying a Jewish city and wipe out millions in one blow. I suspect it's the former, as Iran knows they can't stand against the U.S. alone... and are unlikely to have many allies if they end up having to fight the U.S.

Rob H.

Naum said...

A thought experiment — what if Hamas Had Attacked Humanitarian Ships in International Waters?. Say they hijacked, in the same fashion, an unarmed flotilla involving dozens of countries headed to Israel with relief supplies.

yamahaeleven said...

Transparency has little chance in this administration:

David Brin said...

I have never swallowed the Iran-Sauudi hatred thing. I see plenty of signs they share common cause and hype up their "enmity" in order to keep the west lulled.

As for "next foe" after macho? Well, what I never figured was a rage war waged by our OWN macho types, against the very same America they claim to love. That's my big worry, not Islamist radicals.

But if we get past this, it will boil down to East-vs- West, of course. I hope by then it will be simply a peaceful competition of worldviews. But one will rule humanity for centuries.

They think - with some evidence - that the West is insane.

But I look at the Fermi paradox and I see their method as one that has obviously been tried a million times out there -- because it is obvious and was the default system on Earth. And thus, it should NOT be what we try, because the silence suggests all have failed, out there!

The Western Enlightenment is different, unusual, darwinistically bizarre, yet filled with emergent properties and positive sum games. It is not likely to have appeared very often, out there, though its potential MAY be unlimited (if we aren't crazy).

That is a logical argument for hoping the West "wins"... in the sense that the world capital will be in China, and we'll all speak Chinese... but we'll also be rambunctious individualists and joyfully argumentative.

rewinn said...

"Btw... Rewinn, in case you perceive insult... there is none intended. I am being snippish but (in my eye) no more than normal here. You are valued."

I over-reacted.

If I believed in the supernatural, I would believe that there is something about the Middle East that makes people crazy.

soc said...

"I have never swallowed the Iran-Sauudi hatred thing. I see plenty of signs they share common cause and hype up their "enmity" in order to keep the west lulled."

A guy I briefly met at University once told us about an older friend of his who was in the Pakistani army. In the 1980s, (atleast I think it was in the 80s) this friend was sent to Saudi Arabia with a small contingent as an advisor. The whole time the Pakistanis were there, they were under the impression that all the weapons the Saudis were planning to buy were intended for Israel. It was with this enemy in mind that the Pakistanis offered their advice. However, they discovered that they were mistaken when one of the Saudis asked a question about the best way to attack Tehran. It turned out the Saudis couldn't care less about Israel. It was Ayatollah Khomeini’s ambition to spread the Islamic Revolution throughout the Muslim world that had the Saudis panicked.

In fact, the American invasion of Iraq brought great consternation to the Sunni Arab leaders because it would remove Sunni Saddam and unleash the Shia. If the Iraqi Shia escape Saddam's yoke then the Shia minorities in other Arab countries might receive encouragment of a kind that would be most inconvenient to their Sunni rulers.

There really is a struggle going on in the Muslim world. In many of the big Muslim cities you'll find women covered head to toe and women in tank tops; you'll find pious men with beards who spend most of their time in mosques and westernized types who drink and go clubbing. You'll find this sort of thing in Pakistan too, by the way, the place where the Taliban are spreading day by day.

Over the last couple of decades two groups have grown rapidly:

Political Islam types. These guys want to build something called the "Islamic State." It's not clear precisely what is meant by this. Every Tom, Dick and Harry..pardon me..every Abdul, Ibrahim, and Muhammad has his own definition. They range from authoritarian to slightly less authoritarian. Often the proponents of these are young, naive and ignorant. I suspect we wouldn't have to worry about half of these guys if they were allowed alcohol and girlfriends.

There are also those who advocate something called Islamic Democracy. Some of these people are bald faced liars as the ideas they describe aren't democratic at all and they know it.

Then there are those who are genuine. These people are reasonable and sincere. Once you explain to them why the idea of an Islamic democracy doesn't really make a lot of sense, they'll either concede the point or have a troubled, confused look on their face. What you realize is that while they are attracted to many Western ideas they still want to maintain their Islamic identity. They don't want to turn their backs on Islamic culture, history, or civilization. If a Muslim country becomes liberal, secular, and democratic, can it still, in any sense, be considered Islamic? If not, is it now Western? If not, what exactly is it?


soc said...

Secular Westernized types. These guys are happy to embrace the West with varying degrees of enthusiasm. They will often refer to themselves as progressives or modernists. They often have an understanding of Islam completely outside the clerical and scholarly mainstream. Others may be atheists/agnostics and may drink alcohol and have boyfriends/girlfriends. In any case, they have less consternation about embracing Western ideas and aren’t too hung up about whether something is sufficiently “Islamic” or not. These categories are not boxes, of course. There's a spectrum and people fall along it.

The debates that these groups have with each other are often civil, such as over dinner tables and at parties, and often not, such as suicide bombings, fatwas, beheadings etc.

The point I'm making is that there is a real fight going on, it's practically a royal rumble. Sunni vs Shia. Shia vs. Wahhabi. Wahhabi vs. Sunni. Traditionalist vs Progressives. Conservative vs Modernists. Religious vs Secular. Old vs Young. Authoritarian vs Democratic. And on and on and on..

My post has gone much longer than I had planned but when you read the papers in the West, you get no inkling of what's really going on there. The Islamic world is not a monolith. You're talking about over fifty countries, comprising a plethora of languages, cultures, histories and races over three continents. There are far too many generalizations being made and I think it's a bit unfair.

David Brin said...

Good stuff soc & Rewinn.

now onward!

Woozle said...

Dr.B said "Woozle, you leave out my hypothesis , under which "loyalty" to the foreign power is only secondary."

My bad -- I was typing in a hurry, but your blackmail hypothesis is very much what I had in mind when I said "a powerful entity can often find ways to make continued loyalty expedient, using the stick when the carrot is all gone".

I've been wondering for some time now if that is what has happened to Obama, although there is no shortage of less-sinister explanations.