Monday, April 02, 2012

From Brain Imaging to Parasite Infestations

After three political postings in a row, let’s take a break for a bit. I spent the last week of March back at my old alma mater - Caltech - serving on NASA’s NIAC board of advisors, helping judge which fantastic new proposals would get initial funding - possibly leading to the great space technologies of tomorrow.  I will tell you what I can, pretty soon.

Meanwhile, how about a potpourri about science, technology and changes in society?

==April Fools' Day Technology==

Google's April Fools' Day "product releases" are infamous, but this is one I sure hope they actually implement as an app. (Anyone care to try it?)  "Tap" is an implementation of two-thumb texting that would let you exchange messages truly eyes-free... via Morse Code!  (Hey, I even portrayed this in my new novel Existence (June release) without knowing of Tap in advance!) Check out the advance features they "promise"--  which I hope they will implement. Not mentioned?  Using a phone's vibrate mode to *receive* Morse  incoming messages.  Wouldn't it be a hoot if this restored Morse usage and took off?

Meanwhile, Google promised a self-driving car for NASCAR, Richard Branson "announced" his plan to take passengers to the center of the earth, and Sony lives up to its slogan -- "Make. Believe." -- with its April Fools' Day introduction of quarter-sized laptop  "with a gorgeous .75-inch by 1.25-inch high-definition display."

==Brain Science: Fiction, Memories and Parasites==

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated.  "Reading produces a vivid simulation of reality, one that “runs on the minds of readers just as computer simulations run on computers.” Read the article in The New York Times:

"Fiction — with its redolent details, imaginative metaphors and attentive descriptions of people and their actions — offers an especially rich replica... The novel, of course, is an unequaled medium for the exploration of human social and emotional life. And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters. ... Reading great literature, it has long been averred, enlarges and improves us as human beings. Brain science shows this claim is truer than we imagined."

* In a new MIT study, researchers used optogenetics to show that memories reside in very specific brain cells, and that simply activating a tiny fraction of brain cells can recall an entire memory.  If you read the article - the generality of the result may be overstated.  On the other hand, this suggests intracellular computation really does take place.  And if so, the Singularity may require a LOT more computing power than today’s transhumanists expect.

* High-resolution brain imaging from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicates an elegant simplicity in the brain’s wiring. “Far from being just a tangle of wires, the brain's connections turn out to be more like ribbon cables — folding 2D sheets of parallel neuronal fibers that cross paths at right angles, like the warp and weft of a fabric,” explained Dr. Van Wedeen of Massachusetts General Hospital -- a pervasive 3D grid structure with no diagonals.

* I have written before about the Toxoplasma gondii parasite that millions of humans get from close affiliation with cats. (It also features in my next novel, Existence.)  Rats who are infected with T-g develop unique neural and behavioral traits that make them easier for cats to catch.  Cats are the natural T-g hosts (where the protozoans breed). So what happens when humans are infected? (55% of French people and about 15% of Americans, for example.) T-g appears to cause many sex specific changes in personality. Compared with uninfected men, males who had the parasite were more introverted, suspicious, oblivious to other people’s opinions of them, and inclined to disregard rules. Infected women, on the other hand, presented in exactly the opposite way: they were more outgoing, trusting, image-conscious, and rule-abiding than uninfected women. Infected men tended to have fewer friends, while infected women tended to have more. Those who tested positive for the parasite were about two and a half times as likely to be in a traffic accident as their uninfected peers. Now, more findings associate infection with schizophrenia.

Read the fascinating article in The Atlantic: How Your Cat is Making You Crazy. T-g is just one of many parasites that are being discovered to alter their victims' behavior and even neurology, in ways that Greg Bear seems to have foreseen in his deeply disturbing novel Vitals.  It is a new frontier that makes us wonder, might some of the calamities of human behavior not always be our fault?  Might our civilization benefit simply from the right antibiotics?

==Shifting Online Empires==

Visual displays of the rise and fall of internet empires. If you track the histories of MySpace, AOL, Yahoo, and several others... Facebook may be riding for a fall.  Indeed, the interface is so bad, so cumbersome and lobotomizing, that some group with wonderfully new approaches to social media ought to eat FB's lunch.

On Star's Family Link now offers real-time tracking of your family's automobiles, enabling you to follow cars driven by teens and/or spouses, with updates sent to your PC or smartphone. On Star is advertising "peace of mind"...  Yipe.  Both creepy and inevitable.  We are SO going to have to be agile in this coming age.

Creepy... and shades of the movie Gattaca! Employers are now asking for Facebook log in information.  So they can prowl through your past postings for pecadillos, and evaluate the kinds of people you hang with?  Mind you this is inevitable, at some level. (As they portray in Gattaca.)  But where is the effective ability to look back?  The human resources folk who do this judging should somehow have to answer to the people they are nosing into. Facebook responds that users should not have to share their passwords "or do anything that might jeopardize the security of your account or violate the privacy of your friends."

Hackers are winning: The FBI’s top cyber cop offered a grim appraisal of the nation’s efforts to keep computer hackers from plundering corporate data networks: “We’re not winning,” and the current public and private approach to fending off hackers is “unsustainable. Senior officials say there is not a single, secure unclassified computer network in the United States.


If you haven't reached your full quota of depression and outrage yet, have a look at accumulating evidence that pesticides and plastics have saturated us with artificial hormones that are affecting the next generation in countless ways. e.g. the age of puberty in girls has been plummeting to around ten years old.  I do not know enough to be certain that the alarmists on this issue are right in the intensity of their warnings.  (In fact, I would bet good money they exaggerate by a lurid degree!) But suppose they exaggerate by even a factor of ten.  Even then, isn't it time to boost and unleash science, and not squelch it?


Take a gorgeous “street-view” voyage down the Amazon...

Three new studies of using aspirin to prevent cancer, led by researchers at Oxford University, raise the possibility that a daily low dose of the drug could be effective, not just as a preventative measure, but as an additional treatment for those with cancer. This follows the finding that aspirin can reduce the chances of tumors spreading.

You will find this entrancing & captivating:  500 years of female portraits.

Someone test SWIPE -- a new method to sift Wikipedia for more complex answers than a simple keyword search.  Report back to us!


bobsandiego said...

I've always been facinated by parascites that effect behavior of their hosts. The idea of a plague of behavior is so rich for mining from a story telling point of view.
"Might our civilization benefit simply from the right antibiotics?"
My thoughts inverted this at once. What is civilization, that glorious sudden invention of mankind, is the result of and to the benfit of a parasite?

Tony Fisk said...

Behaviour changing parasites have been covered in Octavia Butler's 'Clay's Ark' (as a religious meme!)

Also the old film 'What's So Bad About Feeling Good?'

'Tap' struck me as interesting, although I quirked an eyebrow at the double input mode. What really threw me was that the article about it was published on Mar 31. #AprilFail

I would discard any employer who insisted on such personal intrusions as my Facebook password.

Paul451 said...

Re: Facebook passwords.

Yes, I can see the logic in only hiring people who are willing to violate a clearly stated computer security policy to a third party claiming authority.

Paul451 said...

Oh, and I'm surprised to see the US infection rate from T. gondii is only 15%. I was secretly kinda hoping the current madness might be medically caused...

Tony Fisk said...

T. Gondii isn't the only thing out there... (btw is there a standard test for it?)

Could be there's an enlightenment inducing pathogen as well. If so, is 'pathogen' the right term? Maybe we'd prefer 'apithogen'?

Maybe that's what *it* wants us to think?

Anonymous said...

First... I will quickly pass along this message from a guy I know proposing a mass movement to strike back at corporatism. In fact, I don't agree that things are quite this simple. But it indicates a DIRECTION in which things ought to head:

Limited liability for corporations creates an entity that behaves
pathologically - without regard to anyone/anything outside of itself.

That's why I created a petition to The United States House of
Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which

"Ending limited liability for corporations will result in reduction of
government regulation and consequent tax savings. Corporations would become
self-regulating - because the corporate officers and shareholders would be
open to lawsuits. A corporation would become a positive feedback entity (a
self-regulating one)."

Will you sign this petition? Click here:

From D Brin signing in from the USAF Academy

David Brin said...

Brin again (take my word for it?

Beneficent parasites are featured in John Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar and in my story "The Giving Plague."

In fact the whole notion of interstellar parasitism comes up pretty starkly in EXISTENCE....

RandyB said...


Continued from previous thread. (Sorry for dragging this out but you asked, I'm answering.)

"Except for the bit where he lied and distorted the facts and presented the issues (with a "skeptic" writing the case FOR action to address climate change) and then handpicked a panel of fellow "skeptics" to set the priorities."

Lomborg disputes an intent but it doesn't change my point either way. If he's wrong -- or a downright crook -- I'm sure others can use his ideas to find common ground with some of his supporters. One problem you'll have is that, if he's right, there will still be people calling him a liar. Another problem is that we still need fuel to run the world.

Yes, I see that you're right about the states having climate change strategy plans. This isn't a surprise to me. I know that President Bush also had initiatives on climate change. It's a left-wing cause but not a left-wing subject.

"What I'm betting you'll find is that in each case about 90% of the content is devoted to adaptation and to no-regrets measures (what David calls TWOTDA)."

That makes the problem more interesting. It sounds like you're saying we're already on track with TWOTDA. As I said before, not everyone agrees on which things those are.

Clearly, we are doing some of those TWODA. That's how we got Solyndra.

This is not to say that we should not expect a few failures, or even a lot, as the cost of green policies. But, thus far, we've got a long way to go.

A lot of this reminds me of the people who say, this is the 21st century, where's my flying car? Well, the technology isn't there yet. That goes for green energy, too.

"Finally, does it bother anyone that the people who are telling Locum and Randy that there's plenty of time to respond and that the threat of global warming may have been overstated are the same people who said that America had to invade Iraq because of the imminent threat of WMDs?"

Actually, it was John Edwards who called Iraq an "imminent threat." What President Bush said was that dictators aren't going to tell us when they become one.

In addition to Edwards, both Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton also voted for the Iraq war. It's hard to blame them. It was CIA Director George Tenet (a Democrat appointed by President Clinton) who told Bush this was a "slam dunk case."

Whether or not you'd trust Democrats on risk assessment is an interesting question.

RandyB said...


"So don't you even try to act all-reasonable here. Obama and the dems have come to the table offering everything under the sun, including market-based TWODAs and boosts in R&D."

It's not as though Republicans haven't gone along with the subject of global warming. As Ian pointed out, most states have global warming plans. That includes states run by Republicans.

Clearly, Republicans have gone along with some level of global warmingism. It's a matter of how much.

I doubt they held back on all boosts to R&D. Although the Bush administration rejected Solyndra, the funding that they eventually got from Obama came from a law signed by President Bush.

Bush pushed the "Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate" after dropping Kyoto.

"(The class action suits may go down as far as YOU RandyB. Think about it.)"

Indeed, I am thinking about it. Which is why...

"(I hope the Koch boys don't expect their heirs to actually own stuff, at this rate. Geez, show these guys 1789 France.)"

...the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel stands ready to ride again.

infanttyrone said...

Brunner also had a beneficent molecule dubbed V(iral) C(oefficient) in The Stone that Never Came Down.

Maybe Republicans, Randroids, and others have been affected by something malignant in their grits.

WRT comments on previous thread about Santorum running on a 3rd party basis: I know of one site that is urging (w/o much success so far) progressives to vote for Paul in Republican primaries. The idea is to demonstrate their disaffection with Obama and at the same time demonstrate to Paul that if *he* were to run on a 3rd party basis with a VP such as his friend Kucinich and a pre-announced cabinet containing a mix of progressives, libertarians, and independents there could be a surprising number of people willing to buy a lottery ticket for that experiment. I retired to Costa Rica 3 years ago and only visit once a year or so, but it seems like USA'ns are feeling more stretched, squeezed, and lied to than ever before and many of them would welcome a chance to vote *for* something. Any thoughts here ?

infanttyrone said...

Corporatists Edwards, Biden, and Clinton voted for the Iraq war along with scads of their colleagues and opponents ? Geepers, a cynic might suspect that manyof them were influenced by campaign donations from what Bucky Fuller termed the killingry industries.

Cueing up my Claude Rains voice module:
I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

I'm romantic enough to believe that the 3 Amigos you cite actually want to help the average working schmo in the US to have a better job, better working conditions, more pay, etc.
I'm cynical enough to believe that their kindheartedness is based on an assumed reciprocality, such that by having a far more prosperous nation they and their backers will enjoy even more power, adoration, and creature comforts than they enjoy now.

Hey, come's a business.

Well before they get to the Senate, I'm sure someone tells them what Al Pacino old Sean Penn in Carlito's Way:
Dave, you not a lawyer no more, you a gangster now.

So, maybe we should start a write-in campaign for Sir Percy:

Patricia Mathews said...

My furry masters want you to know that any parasite inducing one to love cats is a beneficial parasite. Just look at the beauties of ancient Egypt, which must have had a nearly 100% infection rate, judging by their best-known religious practice (after mummification).

Perhaps this *is* the parasite that causes civilizations to be created?

Jumper said...

The OnStar business was interesting. Obviously you could also locate your car if it were stolen. In the past, I believe they, and competitor LoJack (originally using different technology and police frequencies) discouraged the owners having the capability. Police feared owners going directly to the car thief and getting their own cars back, resulting in violent confrontations. Or something like that.

LarryHart said...


What [if] civilization, that glorious sudden invention of mankind, is the result of and to the benfit of a parasite?

Kurt Vonnegut had his fictional writer Kilgore Trout explore this very meme in the novel "Hocus Pocus".

The fictional Trout had written a book called "The Protocols of the Elders of Tralfamadore" in which an extraterrestrial race of microbes convince human beings to develop technology for fighting infections for the sole purpose of causing microbes to become strong enough and resilient enough for space travel.

LarryHart said...


Oh, and I'm surprised to see the US infection rate from T. gondii is only 15%. I was secretly kinda hoping the current madness might be medically caused...

But statistically, liberals are more likely than conservatives to have cats as pets. So maybe infection mitigates the problem, rather than causing it?

bobsandiego said...

Larryhart: I was talking about way back when we started working in larger and larger groups. As Dr. brin has mention in presentation our threat horizon keeps expanding, first we're conerned with family, then extneded family, then we became concenred with tribe, clan, nation, and so on. This is unlke other social animal that have boundires to the alturism. What if it is not an artifact of our self-awareness but the result of a microbe spreading itself far and wide. Then Dr. Brin's improved anti-biotics could destory civlization. (gee I'm a dark cuss.)
Of course others have notice that warfare seems to be contaigous... there's your flip-side.

LarryHart said...

Ok, I've just been reading the article on how cat toxin might make men more reckless in dangerous situations.

It puts a whole new spin on my previous "A man without hope is a man without fear" invocation. But I wonder. I didn't grow up with cats, but my wife did, and she's had cats longer than I've known her. I mention that in order to mention this...

During my teens and twenties, I generally didn't have much luck with the gender opposite, and when I found a girl attractive, I was INCREDIBLY jealous of her attention toward other guys, to the point where I would have labled "jealous type" as a defining characteristic of mine. From the start of my serious relationship with the woman I would marry, that jealousy of (then) 20 years or so vanished into vapor. I mean my entire personality changed.

I've always attributed that miracle to my wife's personality and our compatibility. But could it be that the change in personality type came about because that was when I first came in contact with her cats???

It also might explain how the coward I used to be seems to have lost the emotion of fear. I still know enough to avoid threatening situations, but the process is intellectual now rather than emotional. A threat is more likely to make me angry or desirous of revenge than it is to make me fearful. I used to think I had "exhausted my quota of fear" as Fred Saberhagen's version of Dracula claimed to have done by age 12. But again...maybe the cats did it.

locumranch said...

Brin's 'Giving Plague' was excellent. So was Brunner's 'Sheep look up' and anything by Murray Leinster.

Anyone remember the author/name of that scifi story where the protagonist, a talented doctor, cures his terminal disease only to be cured of his 'talent' as well?

Deus ex medicámentum:

As if all of our behavioral problems could be cured by either a medication or a disease.


locumranch said...

Perhaps the exalted human intellect is nothing more than the delirium caused by a disease state.

Acacia H. said...

Seems the Republican Meteorologist who blogged recently in support of Climate Science has written a follow-up blog in which he reaffirms his belief in his statement and also states that if he's a Republican In Name Only, then the Republican Party needs more RINOs. It's not as good an article as his first post on the topic but it's still worth a quick read. Actually, his blog has several posts worth reading for anyone who has the time....

Rob H.

madtom said...

Don't forget Hal Clement's Needle, a story of an intelligent and infectious alien symbiont whose host dies when their ship crashes, and who finds a new life (with)in an Earthling. (Astounding Science Fiction, May/June 1949)

SteveO said...

Hey now, I own an LLC and it isn't eeeeviiiilll.

An LLC (as far as I understand anyway) means that I can have some hope of my company not getting sued out of existence for trivialities, but does not absolve me from my individual behavior. So if I myself break the law, just as in a corporation, I can be charged, sued, whatever.

The problem (IMHO) comes about when corporations are given the rights of real humans without the responsibilities. It is not illegal to be a sociopath (person or corporation), but sociopathy is encouraged in business because of a very narrow definition of fiduciary responsibility.

This can be overcome, I believe, but we still need that protection from liability in order to enable small, innovative businesses the safety to start and develop. Otherwise the oligarchs would just sue baby competitors into the ground to preserve their position.

It is a tricky balancing act, though. Transparency is part of the answer, I believe.

LarryHart said...

Steve O

Hey now, I own an LLC and it isn't eeeeviiiilll.

I actually woudn't go so far as to say corporations are evil. But as has been pointed out before, they are sociopathic, not by accident but by design. They are unfeeling, immortal "beings" (legal entities) who not only act without conscience but are legally REQUIRED to act without conscience.

The act of chartering corporations in order to serve particular functions isn't evil. But the notion that these unfeeling, immortal, sociopathic "beings" somehow have all the rights accorded humans by the Constitution is certainly the root of a whole lot of evil.

One might as well ascribe rights to computer viruses or weather systems as to corporations. Heck, maybe the environment or the planet should be considered "persons" with Constitutional rights as well.

infanttyrone said...

I'll believe corporations chartered in Texas are people after Rick Perry executes one.

David Brin said...

In fact, corporations are executed far more readily than organic people. More evidence that thet are NOT people.

infanttyrone said...

OK, good point...should have specified the lethal injection process.
Which took me mentally to an injection of funds...
Which somehow also got me to the poison pill strategy...
Aka shareholder rights plan, which might be the only process that fulfills the promise of homeopathy, since the 'therapy' is more effective as the takeover bidder's position gets more diluted.

sociotard said...

A little citokate for American journalists

RandyB said...


Okay -- in the spirit of citokate -- I'll say what shouldn't need to be said:

Your cartoonist is an amoral, clueless moron. He is truly among the scum of the earth.

Robert had posted something that works here. It's a link to a Republican meteorologist who believes global warming is a serious threat. The meteorologist says, "Do me a favor and keep track of who the (professional/persistent) deniers are today. Let's come back in a few years and see what they have to say - what excuses they have for ignoring the science and putting our kids at risk. That should be interesting."

That also works for the war. Everyone who supports fascism (as your cartoonist seems to be doing) will also be remembered in the years to come.

You need to climb out of that hole.

Acacia H. said...

Dude. Don't cast stones at people. You can insult the art or insult the message, but don't insult the person behind it. Seriously. I've seen this far too often with other webcomic reviewers, who use reviewing as a cheap method of insulting the creators behind the comics. The cartoon linked above does fail to properly consider various factors including the fact there are numerous media sources out there and if you look you can find those that give that topic a more thorough examination. But that doesn't mean the cartoonist himself or herself is "amoral" or "scum of the earth."

Rob H., Tangents Webcomic Reviews

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

What I find interesting in that cartoon is if you swap what is written, it still works. Perhaps better (in context). /s
- Robert L

Lextem nlyzecti - species of intestinal parasites, creates cravings for eastern Eurpoean cuisine and literature.

sociotard said...

Fascism? Anyone who points out that American troops get more excuses than Afghan insurgents in the US media when either group kills civilians . . . is supporting fascism?

sociotard said...

For a little optimism, read an article about how peacekeepkers from the African Union have accomplished in Somalia what US troops could not.

Hmmm, many have speculated what nation or alliance will take the place of Pax Americana now that our empire is on the wane. Pax Europa, Pax Sinica, and Pax Brasilia. Perhaps we should welcome the coming military might of Pax Africana?

Acacia H. said...

Once again I must protest claims that the "American Empire" is on the wane. We are not. America continues to grow as a military power, economic power, and social power. Our growth has slowed perhaps but this is due in part to OTHER nations growing as well. Most of the world's nations are being Uplifted. Just because the U.S. is not head, shoulders, chest, and waist-above everyone else does NOT mean we're in decline. It means the world itself is growing... which is a good thing.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

The Marshallian intention was for Pax Americana to be the LAST "Pax" followed by some vague but Good-Just- Modern-Lawful order that I call WCN... Whatever Comes Next...

...Because American hate to actually think about WCN. A very b ad flaw since they should use their remaining time atop to heavily influence the design of WCN.

sociotard said...

I do hope everyone is following HP:MoR now that it is updating regularly again. It looks as if Harry may have to make good on a certain heavily-conditioned pact he made in chapter 47.

The American empire is on decline. Power is a relative thing. England is a more prosperous, more pleasant country now than it was in the Victorian era at the height of Pax Britanica. Its Empire has declined, however, in that it no longer has as much influence as it used to. The US? Likewise. We seem to have peaked in the 90s. Our influence will wane.

yes, this is because our neighbors are doing better (a good thing), but again, power is a relative thing. If your neighbors are all so prosperous that you can't afford any of them to mow your lawn, you aren't all that rich anymore. Same issue.

Interesting observation re:WCN

sociotard said...

And someone needs to petition Blogger to accept spoiler tags. They're useful.

Acacia H. said...

And again, sociotard, I disagree. You do not say that you are on a decline when you are traveling uphill. Even if you are approaching the peak of a mountain and it has mostly leveled off, if you are still going uphill then you are not in the decline. You haven't reached the top.

Likewise, America is still growing. We have more wealth than ever (despite a bad recession and an iffy economy). We're more powerful militarily than in the past. And if we can't strong arm everyone diplomatically? Um... we weren't able to when the Soviets were around. And when the USSR collapsed we STILL didn't. When we tried, it never quite worked out.

Thus America is NOT in decline. Claiming we are is flat-out wrong, be it from the liberal or conservative side of the political spectrum. And let's be honest: slowed growth is a good thing. Take human growth spurts: we're awkward and ungainly after one. But with more gradual growth we are able to adjust more easily to small changes.

So please, stop fear-mongering with talk of "American decline." I consider it foolishness when Republicans claim it. And I consider it foolishness when Non-Republicans claim it.

Or to put it another way, it's like claiming that a billionaire is now poor because despite having increased his or her asset value, someone else grew faster than them and thus they are one step below on the "richest people on the Earth" list.

Rob H.

sociotard said...

It isn't fearmongering I want to live in that world. I would rather live in modern England than poorer-but-more-influential Victorian England. I would rather live in a more-prosperous-but-less-influential US in the future.

So, our Hegemony would be gone, and as someone opposed to military-interventionism, I say that is a good thing. A decline in influence, not lifestyle, is a good thing.

Acacia H. said...

And once more you speak of decline. I see no need for America to decline in order to bring about equality in the world. You are thinking in terms of a Zero-Sum Game. The world is a Positive-Sum game. American can continue to rise, continue to grow more prosperous and influential while at the same time other nations also are uplifted to join America in prosperity. And yes, that means other nations will also be able to influence America. I do not see why influence should not flow in multiple directions, especially as the concept of the Melting Pot allows for cultures to influence the mainstream culture within the U.S. (and has done so).

Rob H., who sees the cup not as half-full or half-empty, but rather as full of both air and liquid.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Robert

America HAS declined
30 years ago a working man could;
Save for retirement
Send his kids to college
Pay for healthcare
Enjoy a "Middle Class Life"

Now - none of the above

Acacia H. said...

And yet 30 years ago if that man was diagnosed with cancer, it was likely he would die. Automobiles were fuel-guzzlers and just starting to utilize computerized technologies. Computers were clunky slow contraptions that were just starting to find a place in the home. The Internet was a text-oriented information service that had a handful of users.

You look at individual things. You don't look at the whole. Sure, specific trees are not doing well, but the forest itself, the forest that is American skill, knowledge, industry, people, beliefs... continues to grow.

And if educational attainment isn't as good as we want, that is because we continue to raise the bar and insist each new generation do better than the last. Compared to 100 years ago, our children are well educated, our poor are able to afford luxuries that would seem nearly magical to a centenarian as a child, and we flourish despite adversities.

Rob H.

RandyB said...


As "art is the window to man's soul" I thought I could gauge this person's soul (or, in this case, his soullessness) by his art. I suppose it's possible that his art isn't good enough to gauge his soul. Or, I should allow that we've all said things we regret. Maybe one of those is the case here. But probably not.

Sorry to sound so harsh but the worm deserves it. There's a big difference between intentionally killing innocents and having them die in the fortunes of war -- particularly in a war where the enemy is encouraged to mingle among civilians.

Regardless, I do agree with you that it's generally a good thing that the rest of the world is becoming more prosperous.

sociotard said...

There's a big difference between intentionally killing innocents and having them die in the fortunes of war -- particularly in a war where the enemy is encouraged to mingle among civilians

The excuses on the "American" side of the chart were the ones applied when American troops or "private security contractors" shoot at civilians, not when a missile does collateral damage.


The artist really did compare apples to apples.

RandyB said...


It's a matter of intent.

The critics of the war have had over ten years to ask their friends to separate civilians from combatants. It is they who freely chose not to care about innocent civilians. It's a little late to be pretending that they ever felt otherwise.

Did you ever see them ask their friends to wear uniforms, or otherwise work to separate combatants from civilians? It doesn't happen. They don't care. At all. It's been over ten years.

And they're certainly not the ones who can judge the intent of any soldier.

Hypnos said...

Damn, the intellectual contortions RandyB is able to achieve, blaming a resistance movement for the civilian victims caused by the invading army they are fighting against (and claiming the anti-war movement somehow holds sway over the Taliban, really??).

Anti-Soviet mujahideen never wore uniforms so that excuses all the civilian victims of the invasion.

"Fortunes of war". And you wonder why half of the world hates you.

Acacia H. said...

Okay. Take a step back. Now another. And a third? Okay. Look at that time period there? It's called the 20st Century. Now we'll ignore the events from 1990 on and consider the first 90 years. And what do we see? Significant civilian casualties and not exactly the biggest outcry against it. (In fact, I would be willing to say that the big outcry against civilian casualties evolved from the Holocaust and guilt from not having stopped it.)

There were plenty of incidents during the Vietnam War, Korean War, and both World Wars where soldiers would go buggy in the head, go off, shoot a bunch of civilians, and then often either be shipped off... or allowed to die on the battlefield. (Well, not so much during the Vietnam War, but that was when it started being reported big-time by American media.)

The events in Libya, Afghanistan, and other regions in the world are sad. They should be prevented at all costs. But America is not a great villain because things like this happen. It shows that our boys and girls in uniform ARE HUMAN and that we need to take extra care to watch for warning signs... and maybe even not send them into combat as often so to prevent situations like this happening.

And let's face it: the Taliban have done far worse to the people of Afghanistan EVEN AFTER the American invasion than every single incident by NATO, combined and multiplied by three. And this is why the Afghani people aren't protesting to the extent that they did over the accidental burning of the Koran. They know that we've done our best to try and keep civilian casualties down. They accept that sometimes in war, people die. And their way of life allows for blood price - giving monetary recompensation for the loss of life.

On the other hand we have Syria... and the fact two nations are allowing the wholesale slaughter of a protest movement as a message to their own people "you may be next and there's no one who will protect you if you try for a "Arab Spring" in this nation." And that's the real reason why Syria is being protected by China and Russia.

Rob H.

infanttyrone said...

- particularly in a war where the enemy is encouraged to mingle among civilians.

If mingling among civilians is a tactic employed only by an amoral, scum of the earth adversary, consider the possibility that you have a time machine in your basement and that you are a Tory.

Two solutions:
1) Migrate geographically to contemporary England, where you will be accepted by some.
2) Migrate back to the 1770's or so and see if you can defeat those pesky, amoral colonial rebels. Word of advice: avoid Georgia in 1780-1781...the Swamp Fox there recognizes no obligation to proceed symmetrically.

The critics of the war have had over ten years to ask their friends to separate civilians from combatants.
Just for starters, Ron Paul and the bulk of his supporters are "critics of the war". This makes them friends of Al Qaeda and/or the Taliban ? That is sophistry at its least sophisticated and lamest level. Please stop this sort of silliness.

Anonymous said...

@RandyB -
"The critics of the war have had over ten years to ask their friends to separate civilians from combatants.
So, being against the war makes me support the insurgency? Really? Really?
Killing is killing. While I thought that the invasion of Afghanistan may have been somewhat justified, the invasion of Iraq was not. But to link anyone who criticizes the war as being for the insurgents?
That's just sad.
- RL

Ian Gould said...

"I doubt they held back on all boosts to R&D. Although the Bush administration rejected Solyndra, the funding that they eventually got from Obama came from a law signed by President Bush."


The Solyndra loan guarantee was applied for under the Bush administration but was not rejected by them.

It was still being processed when Obama was elected.

Ian Gould said...

While we're on solyndra:

"The solar-panel maker listed about $854.1 million in assets and about $867.1 million in debt in court papers filed Oct. 31."

Since the loan [b]guarantee[/b] only covers that part of the loan not satisfied by the liquidation of the company, the total loss to the Federal government is likely to be far lower than the total guaranteed.

If the guaranteed loan was secured senior debt, as is likely, then it may be repaid in full in which case the loss to the Federal government will be zero.

(Given that this is a bankruptcy sale, the realized value of nonfinancial assets is likely to be at a discount to the book value but there's no way of knowing at this point how big that discount will be.)

Ian Gould said...

"infanttyrone said...
I'll believe corporations chartered in Texas are people after Rick Perry executes one."

How could he?

Corporatiosn have no race.

There are no black or Hispanic corporations.

Ian Gould said...

"Sorry to sound so harsh but the worm deserves it. There's a big difference between intentionally killing innocents and having them die in the fortunes of war -- particularly in a war where the enemy is encouraged to mingle among civilians."

The cartoon is clearly referencing the Bales case.

Is having your door kicked in in the middle of the night and your family shot in their beds part of "the fortunes of war"?

How about being kidnapped at random off the street and hunted for sport?

Ian Gould said...

Re WCN: most of us have grown up since World WAr II.

We take for granted a bipolar world: allies versus axis or Eastern Bloc Vs. Western Bloc.

In fact, if we go back to before World War I, we have a multipolar world with no single dominant power or pair of competing hegemons.

The British Empire may have been the largest in the world but Britain's standing army was tiny, the French and lesser powers challenged Britain's colonial ambitions and the British has very little power in the western hemisphere outside of Canada.

In trying to imagine a post-Pax Americana world, we tend to assume it will be uni-polar or bi-polar because that's what we've known.

In fact it's much more likely to be multi-polar.

The American ascendancy was based on one simple fact: it was the only major industrial power not to be invaded or extensively bombed during World War II.

That's why American industrial output peaked at around 50% of world output in 1945 or 1946 and why its share has been declining almost continuously ever since.

Currently, three economies: The EU, China and the US each account for between 15 & 20% of world output at Purchasing Power Parity.

Those figures are likely to shift around a little but barring another catastrophe on par with World War II. no single power is likely to approach the post-war dominance of the US.

(To return to my question about how you define "The West": the US and EU combined remain the dominant economic force in the world even before you start asking whether countries like Japan and South Korea and are part of "The West".

The EU alone, even if something catastrophic happened to the US. would ensure that "The West" remains one of the most powerful groupings in the world, if not THE most powerful.

Ian Gould said...

One final note on the topic of parasites.

A recent New Scientist article reported on a species of frog which is immune to the infection decimating other species of amphibian and which is expanding its populations and range as its competitors are wiped out.

The article describes this species as a carrier and the infection as a pathogen but wouldn't it be more accurate to describe the relationship as symbiotic?

Maybe homo Sapiens wiped out the Neanderthals, Denisovans etc by giving them colds?

Paul451 said...

"The critics of the war have had over ten years to ask their friends to separate civilians from combatants."
"Ron Paul and the bulk of his supporters are "critics of the war". This makes them friends of Al Qaeda and/or the Taliban ?"

Nonono, only the left. RandyB saw a photo once of a protest, where some of the Arabs were supporters of Muqtadā al-Ṣadr, the Iraqi Shiite leader. Therefore... errr... Taliban... something...

infanttyrone said...


Ah, right you are.
Corporations are the color of paper, not of ink.


Thanks for filling in the backstory.
So, our comrade is not afflicted with the dreaded syndrome of bilateral symmetry.

Paul451 said...

Re: Parasitic driver of civilisation.

That idea scares the crap out of me. Has everyone heard of the Hygiene Hypothesis of Autoimmune Disease? That the rise in hay-fever, food allergies, Asthma, and more severe auto-immune disorders (and leukaemia) is due to a lack of exposure to bugs, such as parasitic worms in our gut. We got rid of parasites and bugs thinking we'd be "healthier" as a consequence, but triggered a different set of illnesses.

What if we clean up an infection like T. gondii and effectively destroy civilisation. Not immediately, not "take a pill and become inhuman", because we're still social animals (and because that would be picked up in testing.) But what if we become more insular, territorial, fearful/angry, as Larry (I think) speculated the opposite happened to him due to exposure to T gondii (or by getting laid.) What if we lose the ability to be "more than ourselves"?

... by mistake.

Stefan Jones said...

Science Fiction Authors Invade Small Town

Nice photo-essay about a writer's conference in Portoles.

RandyB said...


I didn't say they hold sway over the Taliban. I said they're friends, which they are, and they would have asked forcefully if they'd cared. Like everyone else, insurgents want some sympathetic publicity, too. They need fundraising and recruiting.

As for calling us an "invading Army," yes we are, but do I need to remind you that most Afghans wanted us to be there? They still did in the last poll. Only a small minority of Afghans wants the Taliban back.

They've had U.N.-monitored elections since 2004. If they wanted the Taliban back, they'd vote them in.


In a war with muskets, mingling among civilians is very different than in a war with AK-47s and RPGs. But I was referring to Sociotard's point about who's to blame when civilians are killed. Off hand, other than the Boston Massacre (when the troops were acquitted), I'm not that sure about the temperment of the colonists wrt civilians on the firing line.

By "critics of the war," I meant the far left ones. There are always a few others, such as isolationists on the right, who have other ideas.


Actually, there was something of an outcry against civilian casualties during WWII. One prominent name was Vera Brittain, whose organization published a report on civilian casualties taken from German sources. She was a genuine pacifist.


No, not everyone who opposes the war supports the enemy. But many of these organized "anti-war" movements do have such alliances, and everyone who supports them is, in fact, supporting the enemy. I've linked to one a few pages back -- several times. There are many, many more.

If the "anti-war" movement wanted to talk about civilians being protected, they'd know who to call.


Okay, I stand corrected on Solyndra. But I think I've been fair on that one, and it doesn't change my point. The Bush administration did pursue energy options.

"The cartoon is clearly referencing the Bales case."

The cartoonist is referencing the Bales case, which is a criminal incident, and he's putting it beside an ordinary terrorist as though they're comparable. They're not.

It is "the fortunes of war" when soldiers have good reason to kick someone's doors in. It's murder if they do as Bales did.


I linked one set of pictures of the far left with supporters of Al-Sadr. I also said there were many other examples. The far left has been rallying with radical Islamists since 9/11 -- if not sooner.

I didn't bother with the other examples because it didn't matter.

infanttyrone said...

The far left has been rallying with radical Islamists since 9/11 -- if not sooner.

If you were old enough to vote in 1980, did you vote for Saint Reagan, who did some hard-core 'rallying with radical Islamists', or did you vote for his opponent on the left ?
And in 1984 ?
1988 ?

Stefan Jones said...

AAARRrrrrgghhhh . . .

I'm watching the George Lucas episode of "Prophets of Science Fiction."

This series is so shallow. They pick and choose a few aspects of a book / movie and then make connections -- sometimes pretty iffy -- to some technology-in-progress. Very little insight into the authors / creators.

In the case of Lucas they really have to make a stretch . . . and his imaginings were so derivative!

There was nothing about THX-1138.

RandyB said...


If you mean our support for the insurgents against the Soviets, that was started by President Carter.

Sometimes we just have to pick the lesser of two evils. The U.S. supported the Soviets during WWII while Stalin was in power. That was a choice between two monstrous evils.

As for who I voted for over the years, when I voted, you can guess. But I didn't vote in 1980. I don't think I was even in the country on election day.

Ian Gould said...

Apologies if this has been mentioned but to continue the speculation about parasites:

Modern humans evolved around 30,000 years ago, then seemingly, not much happened for about 20,000 years.

Then around 10-12,000 years ago you get the neolithic revolution, one of aspect of this is the emergence of cities and relatively large concentrations of humans.

(I posted here a month or two back about research that suggested Neanderthals lived in social groups of fewer than a dozen.)

Now the usual theory is that we developed agriculture and improved hunting and food storage technologies and this made it possible for us to support large populations.

But let's imagine for a second that a virus made its bearers more sociable, more gregarious - and therefore improved the chances of their transmitting the virus to others.

In that case, the means to support large concentrations of people are really a epiphenomenon of a strategy to maximize the virus' transmission chances.

sociotard said...

Sometimes we just have to pick the lesser of two evils. The U.S. supported the Soviets during WWII while Stalin was in power. That was a choice between two monstrous evils.

And I still say the right choice was to let those evils just duke it out in their own little part of the world. Build up a strong defensive navy, of course, lest either get the idea of bringing their war over here, but stay out of it. Choose peace.

I'm very much enjoying The Emergency State right now. Chapter 2 is absolutely scathing.

[Roosevelt]began to exercise some of the expanded military and political powers of a war president without first seeking the constitutional authority to do so.

Disguising and denying his real intentions, Roosevelt the politician stroked, tested, and reassured public opinion, while Roosevelt the chief executive used the diplomatic powers of the presidency and the military authority of the commander in chief to draw American forces steadily closer to armed protection of British cargoes and undeclared naval war against Germany in the open Atlantic.

His failure to consult with Congress or keep it accurately informed of his actions on the long road from statutory neutrality to active belligerency set a pernicious precedent for his postwar successors. Congress's constutional authority to declare war becomes meaningless when presidents can commit American prestige and troops before the House and Senate have a chance for informed debate.

History has vindicated Roosevelt's miltary judgement. . . But it has not vindicated Roosevelt's methods. IN a constitutional democracy, the ends do not justify the means, especially when thos means turn out to have long-lasting consequences. The Constitutional-bending shortcuts Roosevelt pioneered in these months have been expanded upon by peacetime successors from both parties, with very costly results for America's constitutional democracy and national security.

Ian Gould said...

"And I still say the right choice was to let those evils just duke it out in their own little part of the world. Build up a strong defensive navy, of course, lest either get the idea of bringing their war over here, but stay out of it. Choose peace."

Yeah, what a few million more dead yids matter?

sociotard said...

Please don't pretend that the Holocaust had anything to do with US involvement in the war. It was all about money. Roosevelt knew Hitler wanted to impose a closed, German-centered economy on Europe. That would've been bad news for US farmers and manufacturers, who would've lost important buyers.

Money. That's the only reason the US ever got involved in the war.

Ian Gould said...

Please don't pretend that if not for US intervention the Holocaust wouldn't have been much worse.

Intent is really irrelevant to that.

Of course, compared to the tens of millions of additional Russian and Chinese deaths (not to mention the likely genocide of essentially the entire population of Australia and New Zealand), the extermination of most Europe's surviving Jews hardly matters.

Hypnos said...

Rob H., I want to make myself clear here, I am not arguing for super-villain status for America.

My entire point is about rejecting American exceptionalism in either direction. America is not different from the imperial nations than preceded it, and that is all.
I do find the idea that American soldiers who commit these atrocities must somehow be “deranged” to be a bit clueless. The soldier who killed those 16 Afghans (presuming he worked alone, which the relatives of the victims do not believe) was not having a psychotic breakdown, otherwise he would have murdered other soldiers in the base. He walked over to an Afghan village and murdered 16 villagers because that is exactly what he wanted to do – it was premeditated. It was revenge for the death and maiming of his friends. He equated the enemy with the whole of the Afghan people, and acted on it.

That attitude is more widespread in the US military than is let on, and that is why to call that soldier deranged is to make a dangerous mistake. It is to avoid recognizing that you are losing the hearts and minds of your own troops. Here is a good article summarizing this viewpoint:

As for the Afghans acceptance of American reasons for invasion, and acceptance of it, I think you are a bit too immersed in the American version of American imperialism – which is, America is not an imperial nation at all.

That is not how America is perceived in the countries that have been on the receiving end of its intervention. How do you think the history of US foreign policy is taught in Latin America, Africa and Asia? What do you think Chilean history books say about 9/11 1973? What do you think Indonesian history books say about Suharto’s rise to power? What do you think Pilipino history books say about their war of independence?

You have been taught history from the American point of view, and as such you see America as fundamentally different. It is a weird form of cognitive dissonance, for the greatest imperial nation of history not to recognize the existence of its empire at all. But most of the rest of the world sees things for what they are, and that is what colours their perception of American interventions.

Same goes for Syria. You have a splintered protest movement with the support of a majority of the population, and a government with the support of a substantial minority that rightfully fears extermination if the protesters win. And you have, so far, about 8,000 casualties, as opposed to 30,000 in Libya after the intervention. In Libya there also are 7,000 political prisoners being subjected to daily torture, and several low level insurgencies with daily killings, often degenerating into pitched battles, with the simmering possibility of a major war between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. Meanwhile, thousands of heavily armed Tuareg militants have flooded the northern Sahel. The Malian government, for 20 years one of the few truly free democracies in Africa, is the first victim so far.

All of this, based on the faulty premise that massacre in Benghazi would have been inevitable without Western intervention, something that is simply not supported by the facts.

We have no idea what the consequences of intervention in Syria would be. And we have no idea what the consequences of intervention in Libya will be. What if it turns into another Somalia? The potential is there.

It is not for the West to decide who rules in other countries. The Age of Empire is over.

As for RandyB, I’m not sure if I should laugh or cringe at your arguments. The anti-war movement as a Taliban stooge. The Afghan insurgency as being completely lacking in popular support, and yet able to bog down 150,000 NATO soldiers for years on end. And the Afghan elections as having any legitimacy whatsoever. That’s your argument. I think there couldn’t be a better refutation of the entirety of your position on the Afghan war than what you yourself say about it.

Ian Gould said...

On a different note: people should keep an eye on developments in China over the next year or so.

Wen Jiabao was once seen as a reformer - he was an aide to Zhao Ziyang, who was purged after the Tien An Mien Massacre for trying to get the CPC to adopt democratic reform.

For the last couple of years, he's been making speeches about the need for democratic reform - but mostly he's done it while overseas and his remarks have generally not been reported in china.

A couple of weeks ago he made his boldest speech yet - on live national TV in front of the National People's Congress. (He was standing at the time in the Great Hall of the People a few hundred metres from where he and Zhao net with protesters during the Tien An protests and he alluded pretty directly to the protest in talking about the need to avoid "social turmoil".)

He's also led the attacks on Bo Xilai, the leading conservative who was considered a certainty to be promoted to the Politburo until he got involved in a corruption scandal which led to him beign sacked from al lhis party and state posts.

Whether anything will come of this is hard to tell but it looks like Wen is trying to prepare the way for his chosen successor Xi Jinping who is also believed to be a liberal.

Acacia H. said...

I believe that if we had not intervened in Libya that what we are now seeing in Syria would have happened there. Yes, what is happening now in Libya is sad... but what is the solution? To sit back and let petty tyrants slaughter their people on a whim to stay in power? To deny our basic humanity to want to protect one another, to deny that democracy deserves a shot everywhere, not just in a few White Northern Hemisphere Countries?

Sometimes you have to stand up and say "enough." And if people die? It is sad. You try to reduce the number of deaths and you try to stop the paybacks afterward... but you still try. Because it is far better to try to bring peace and fail than to sit back and watch the world burn.

Rob H.

LarryHart said...


Has everyone heard of the Hygiene Hypothesis of Autoimmune Disease? That the rise in hay-fever, food allergies, Asthma, and more severe auto-immune disorders (and leukaemia) is due to a lack of exposure to bugs, such as parasitic worms in our gut. We got rid of parasites and bugs thinking we'd be "healthier" as a consequence, but triggered a different set of illnesses.

I have heard that the polio epidemics of the mid-20th Century may have come about because of widespead use of disinfectants and an emphasis on cleanliness. Whereas most humans had been routinely exposed to trace amounts of pathogens (and therefore developed at least limited immunity to their effects), suddenly people were growing up with NO such exposure until encountering a bug that got them really, REALLY sick.

That model seems plausible to me. And if so, it's really scary how inundated our society has become with "antibacterial" everything.

LarryHart said...


By "critics of the war," I meant the far left ones. There are always a few others, such as isolationists on the right, who have other ideas.

That's exactly what people were (correctly) calling you on. You tar anyone who criticizes the war as friends of the Taliban, but when cornered on the subject, you admit that SOME "critics of the war" have different motivations. So are you sole judge of which "critics of the war" pass muster and which do not? Our own personal version of the House Un-American Activities Committee?

The far left has been rallying with radical Islamists since 9/11 -- if not sooner.

This makes as little sense as accusing President Obama of being a Muslim AND a devotee of his Christian preacher at the same time.

You right-wing dittoheads usually complain that the far left is too feminist. Feminists, radical or otherwise, are not typically supporters of the Taliban. Try getting your story straight.

LarryHart said...

If you mean our support for the insurgents against the Soviets, that was started by President Carter.

And in your opinion, what were those who protested that war? Were they conservatives because they were protesting against Carter? Or were they lefty-pinkos who were "friends" of the Soviets?

Sometimes we just have to pick the lesser of two evils.

The U.S. supported the Soviets during WWII while Stalin was in power. That was a choice between two monstrous evils.

Jesus Christ on a pogo-stick! Everyone else is trying to convince YOU that sometimes motivations are complex and not so easily pigeonholed, and you're having none of it. Where do you get off preaching nuance at this late date?

As for who I voted for over the years, when I voted, you can guess. But I didn't vote in 1980. I don't think I was even in the country on election day.

Which doesn't negate the point that President Reagan traded arms to Iran and therefore cozied up with radical Muslims. You don't seem to have a problem with that concept if it's being done for right-wing reasons.

David Brin said...

"RandyB said: "The Bush administration did pursue energy options."

Show us this! Top to bottom, their priority was (1) sabotage energy research (and all research in general) and (2) take the remaining "research money and shovel it to friends who would do nothing useful with it.

"Gasohol" from corn and "hydrogen power" were the top Bush energy initiatives.

Gasohol uses more petroleum to make it than it replaces! It has been a calamity to world food production, and all the money went to big agribusiness buddies of Bush.

"Hydrogen power" is utterly impossible with today's materials technology. H2 cannot be piped, stored or delivered to customers in meaningful ways. Yet the billions spent on it went to Bush family friends... and if we ever do get H2 power, it will be distributed along petroleum infrastructure owned by ... wait for it.... Bush family cronies.

You think this is an exception? Name ANY aspect of the Bush administration and the story was identical. The wars? Excuses to channel one hundred billion dollars via no-bid contracts directly... DIRECTLY... into the pockets of Blackwater, Haliburton and other Cheney cronies.

Randy, this is not "spare change" conspiracy rumor-mongering. The sums are too big for that. It is all public record. Nor does the GOP even care! Because they have guys like you locked in. No facts will sway you, and they know it.

Proof? You guys watch Bush walk hand in hand with Saudi Royals and openly avow Prince Bandar "helped raise me"... and ignore the fact that Bush flew every Saudi national away from the reach of the FBI on 9/12 - in taxpayer paid luxury, on the day Americans weren't allowed to fly.

And the fact that Rupert Murdoch's top partner at Fox is a Saudi prince.

Do on... march to their tune... hands outstretched ... moan... left foot forward... right foot... "braaaaaaaains"...

Ian, we were anatomically human more like 200,000 years ago but 30,000 years ago we had a major cultural leap. Cave art, bone sewing needles, burial rituals, genocide of the Neanderthals, slavery. You know, Progress. But yep, we need to be careful about wiping out all parasites.

See "The Giving Plague."

Acacia H. said...

Ah, Dr. Brin, you were doing so well. And then you went in with the personal insult by claiming he's a mindless zombie. Dude. Relax. Attack the position. Don't attack the person. When you attack the person they will never listen to you. Did you attack me concerning my views of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and of the Clinton Presidency? No. And what happened? You got me eventually to realize that my views were knee-jerk and not based on reality.

I changed.

But if you had called me a mindless zombie for my views on the Clintons then I'd had brushed you off and never listened. Look, I know small steps often seem to never make progress... but they do. It's gradual. But it works. But when you insult someone there's no steps at all, just a digging in of heels.

Rob H.

David Brin said...

Fair enough Rob. Mea culpa and apologies to RandyB.

Tho I still think it is pure puppetry....

David Brin said...


sociotard said...

Dr. Brin, I was just rereading your bit on the Inspector General.

"Wouldn't it make sense to appoint, train, and pay our inspectors through a channel that is completely separate from each department's political chain of command? Indeed, a system that is detached and safe from pressure by the legislative, executive and judicial branches?"

How would you establish checks and balances with this branch of government? How would they get appointed?

Just curious. I reread it and imagined FDR appointing J. Edgar Hoover as IGUS and I shuddered a little at the possible abuses, or even the rise of praetorianism.