Friday, October 23, 2015

Who would you trust with the nuclear codes?

Okay, when do you ever see some (rational) person take one of Donald Trump's wild, paranoid rants and declare "he didn't go anywhere near far enough"? 

Well, I am about to do that. He has lately taken flack for being the first prominent figure to (at long last) connect the dots and publicly lay at least partial blame for the 9/11 attacks at the feet of President George W. Bush, the man who was not only captain at the helm, but proximately responsible under any adult standard. Certainly, had the legitimately elected fellow - Al Gore - been in the White House, and the same tragedy occurred, we would never have heard the end of it!

To Trump's remark I grunted "amen, but let's plumb deeper!" For years I've been begging that someone with Washington access dig into FBI and Justice Dept records and see how many agents were re-assigned, after G.W. Bush's inauguration, to hunt for indictable offenses supposedly committed by Bill Clinton and his officials.

 We do know that the search for 'smoking guns' was fervid and intense… and ultimately fruitless, as the Clinton Administration -- long proclaimed by Fox to be the "most corrupt" -- in fact turned out to be the only one in U.S. history with ZERO high officials even indicted (let alone convicted) for malfeasance of office. Though not for lack of desperate GOP effort, during the first 8 months of 2001, using their complete control over all branches of government to seek anything they might pin on the Clintons, anything at all.

What I don't get is why not a single journalist has asked "what were those federal agents doing, before George Bush diverted them into that wild-goose witch hunt?"

If even one of them had been shifted from anti-terrorism duties, then suddenly Donald Trump's brash remark starts to take real substance. Might those diverted agents have uncovered the 9/11 plot in time to thwart it? Given how nearly the plotters were caught, several times, it certainly seems plausible. Especially by the standards of evidence that are currently deemed normal in Congressional committees "investigating" the death for four (as opposed to three thousand) Americans in Benghazi. 

(Note, if you tabulate aftermaths, the casualties from 9/11 might amount to forty thousand.)

The negligence of Congress to apply similar standards to a far worse failure - because it happened under a Republican president - is the most stunning of several hundred hypocrisies.

You think I am making this up, or even exaggerating? Richard A. Clarke, Bush's National Security Council counterterrorism czar and author of Against  All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror -- later testified that dire warnings were consistently not taken seriously: "This administration didn't either believe me that there was an urgent problem or was unprepared to act as though there was an urgent problem."

If you read this article, you will never again offer up the pablum that Bush bore no responsibility for 9/11… or that he "kept us safe."  That anyone would screech about Benghazi, while tacitly accepting the far greater coverup re 9/11, displays hypocrisy of truly volcanic dimensions.

== Competence with nuclear codes? ==

Only now the drama escalates! In a ramping up of the war of words between Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, Jeb has declared Trump too shallow and unstable to be trusteed with America's nuclear deterrent.  

But… but is this not - in effect -- a renunciation of the pledge that Bush himself helped corner Trump into signing? That vow to support the eventual GOP nominee, no matter whom?  Yipe, nasty stuff.

But then, which Republicans would YOU trust with the launch codes? Not wild-eyed and proudly-ignorant Carson, nor spittle-raving Cruz, nor bring-me-the-heart-of-Snow-White Fiorina. Not 
petulant Jindal… nor Mike Huckabee who actively calls for an end to the world.

See my earlier posting: When Does a Candidate's Religion Matter? where I posit that it should be relevant to voters if a particular candidate prays openly to hasten the day when all ambition and adventure and progress and democracy vanish, and the United States of America will come to a fiery end.

Given that every single major attributable statistical metric of US national health - including conservative ones like the economy, rate of change of deficits, business health and US military readiness - plunged across the span of both Bush administrations, could we survive another?  Which leaves Rubio -- who seems a nice fellow, though callow and utterly-utterly-utterly beholden to crazies and oligarchs.  

Sorry. By the very standard Jeb raised, we'd be insane to let any one of them have a burnt and doused match.


Anonymous said...

So, having read Beinart's article, one might well conclude that had President Clinton served a third term, the World Trade Center attack would almost certainly have never occurred. Clinton's people were totally on top of the danger, and they would have almost certainly discovered the hijackers before they could act.

SteveO said...

Just a little carry forward from the last on to Paul451.

Paul, literally no one in this discussion wants asteroid or other body mining to work more than me, our esteemed host included. My greatest long-term fear is that we humans squander our material resources here and then *can't* get to the other resources out there. But I don't see a path to *mining asteroids* for anything other than CHON, and that only when we inhabit space.

I acknowledge every time this comes up that some asteroids (and certainly the large ones, planets, and moons) may have had some sorting. Metallic meteorites obviously exist, though for other reasons they are not that valuable. But I have not seen one thing that shows folks working on this have any conception about any realistic aspect of what a mineral is versus an ore. *Every single paper* and every single "space entrepreneur" talks about how the *average* concentration of whatever is higher in asteroids so we should go mine them. That means very close to nothing and only demonstrates a (curable) level of ignorance about what exactly is involved in turning rocks into something useful. All the actual observational data we have on asteroids indicates that they are about as good for mining as the dirt in your backyard. *Let's get more data* for sure! But there is not even a theoretical basis for, e.g., RE concentration anywhere in the solar system but for Earth. (Maybe Titan or Europa? Not an asteroid anyway.) Now if we are speaking of magic, maybe someone invents a space elevator that changes the economics, or mining nanobots that eat up an asteroid and nicely package their poop as useful elements, but people are trying to make an economic case for mining asteroids with today's technology.

I acknowledge every time that volitiles will be useful *if* we have space-based settlements. And that if we have a Moon base or whatever, the economics for Moon-based mining change. That is not what these folks (including Dr. Brin) are talking about for the nonce. I *want* to send probes to asteroids to see, but folks saying that asteroids are going to be the source of mineral wealth just don't have anything supporting that position that I have seen, and a lot contrary to it. (CITOKATE)

I don't even bring up the different mining/refining techniques we will need - if there is an economic reason, we will figure that out. But we canna change the laws of chemistry.

(Side-note - Iron-based alloys on the Moon will shatter when they get cold. That is why nothing outside is made of steel on the North Slope or satellites. Aluminum would be good, it is a great cryogenic material, so we are going to have to invent a whole new way to refine aluminum on the Moon. Do-able, if not economic to send back to Earth.)

We need to keep talking about and exploring this, but I have seen no reason to think there is going to be an "asteroid rush."

SteveO said...

Back on topic...

I would trust not a one of the ones in the running for the GOP nom now.

There are Republicans I would trust, but not in that lot.

Also, damn scary hurricane. Expect less frequent but more powerful ones like this in our new climate.

David Brin said...

Anon, could not tell if you were sarcastic. But I never asserted 9/11 "would not have happened" had the legitimate President - Al Gore - taken office. I do know the odds would have been different and certainly better. But my main point is that had 9/11 happened under Gore the same Republicans who shrug aside ANY responsibility for GWB would have screeched till they were hoarse with super-duper-uber Bengahazi-style hearings till Judgement Day.


Steve O. You assume (1) that asteroidal volatiles will not be useful till we "occupy" space, leaving unclear the meaning of "useful" and "occupy." Clearly in-situ production of fuel, oxidizer, oxygen and water are key to making Mars manned missions feasible. And any technology to do all that on the Marian surface will work better if we've already done it on asteroids.

Especially since Phobos *is* an asteroid. Or even better, a dust-choked comet. If so, then Phobos is some of the most valuable real estate in the Solar System. Robotic mining, separation, refining facilities, using solar bag-n-vaporize methods, could store vast amounts of those things… which make up most of the mass that otherwise would have to be sent from Earth.

Bag-n-vaporize-n-collect certainly looks feasible. If it proves out then water-fuel-oxygen might become an economy in cis lunar space. WHat you are better supported in doubting is that we might ever get the mineral wealth in the rocks out there. But at a fundamental level, is there any energetic reason why giant mirrors cannot concentrate enough energy to melt pretty much anything?

Yes, melting is one thing, SEPARATING the melt components is another. There are ideas with cylindrical spinning collectors that might do that. But I wonder if it's necessary.

I envision the metal vapors from a solar-melted asteroid being collected on the inner surface of a giant balloon till you have a huge sphere of metals. Hollow. Send it down t Earth, with so much surface area it radiates heat as fast as rr-entry pours it in. If it survives, it bobs in the ocean till pickup...

Anonymous said...


Asteroids since they were formed have been crushed, burnt, frozen, melted and re-melted, slammed into other asteroids, ripped from bigger ones, impacted by asteroids of vastly different composition, rained with debris, swept by the Solar wind and who knows what else. To say with conviction that asteroids cannot contain minable concentrations of metal or anything else valuable is ludicrous. You claim that only the concentration mechanisms on Earth are the only way possible to concentrate metals and therefore we can mine only on Earth. Of course we have a water-bias here on Earth because most of the metal concentrations came about through the action of water in one way or the other but to say it cannot happen in space because space isn’t Earth is nonsensical. How can we know which chemical reactions have taken place on asteroids throughout their existence when all we know about them comes from only far-off observations. It’s like looking at a mountain from a hundred miles away and concluding that it contains nothing valuable. The only honest thing to say is that we don’t know. There are very few studies around that try to tackle the question of what could be possibly in them. If you have some reputable sources supporting your view the please share them with us. I would love to read them. Every space probe mankind has sent radioed back data that completely upset existing assumptions and expectations. Scientists had to throw out what they thought they knew and start over and I think the same thing will happen with asteroids.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Brin,

Your balloon idea is very good and I am envious. I wish I had thought of that. Wouldn’t you have to fill it with gas to keep it from being crushed by the air pressure as it comes down? How big would it have to be to survive the decent? Now you got me on an interesting train of thought. Thanks for the stimulation!

Doug said...

In regards to the whole idea that water is the only way useful minerals are concentrated, that's not even true on this planet. Some of the best heavy metal sources (nickel, copper, platinum, palladium, gold) are in the depths of old meteorite impact craters such as the Sudbury Basin. It's believed that the magma created by the energy of the strike allowed gravity to sort out by density some of the material, which would seem to be very applicable to the likelihood of asteroids having a similar density-based structure: less dense materials on the surface, heavier ores in the middle. Of course, we won't know until we go check out a few, but it's still promising.

Gator said...

Bush was horrible not only for ignoring warnings about 9/11... Maybe we could have stopped it, maybe not. (Certainly not the way he did it though.)

But then he doubled down on horrible by invading Afghanistan, but letting OBL escape. Then invading Iraq.
Then letting Iraq turn into chaos through sheer incompetence.

That's like horrible^4?

Anonymous said...

After the shitshow performance by the Republicans and the cool response from Sec. Clinton, I have little doubt who our next president will be. I am a Post-scarcity cyber-Marxist to the core, so Bernie has my vote for the primary, but I will be more than willing to help elect Sec. Clinton. Especially if she picks a good VP; Bernie, one (or both!?) of the Castro brothers, or even Rep. Elijah Cummings. None of the reactionary nutjobs from the Grande Olde Confederate Party will get more than 200 electoral votes, not even a Bushite Reptilian. I have no doubt they will try to cheat their way in, but the numbers will not be close enough to the margins for them to get away with it.


LarryHart said...


but I will be more than willing to help elect Sec. Clinton. Especially if she picks a good VP; Bernie, one (or both!?) of the Castro brothers

They weren't born in the US, and one of them is dead.

(I know, you didn't mean those Castro brothers)

And I had to swing at the easy one, but seriously, I agree with your sentiment in full.

locumranch said...

George W was "at least partially to blame for the 9/11 attacks" ?

And we can trust those US Democrats (who use AOL to transport national secrets) with Nuclear Launch Codes?

It is to laugh. As if anyone can assume that either party is trustworthy, especially after FDR & his Democratic Party cronies suppressed advance warnings about an impending Japanese Pearl Harbor 'surprise' attack on December 7, 1941, which is a matter of public record, documented by British double agent Dusko Popov in his 1974 autobiography (Spy Counterspy), later confirmed by the release of a declassified US government memo about 70 years later. None of the US political candidates are even as half as worthy as the reclusive Mr. Popov was (who, then & now, had absolutely no reason to lie about this event, either in his book or when I met him back in the mid 70s).

It is fascinating, really, that anyone (who possesses a basic knowledge of history & human behaviour) can trust an oligarchy-approved political process that routinely (1) lies to its own citizens, (2) manipulates public policy for personal (and oligarchic) enrichment and (3) uses 'democracy' to marginalise & demonise up to 50% of its voting polity, leaving us only a false choice between 'lies, damn lies and statistics'.


Anonymous said...


Which secrets were sent over AOL by a Democrat, and which secret?

Nothing Sec Clinton sent on her private email server was classified, despite GOP claims to the contrary. In addition the server she set up was legal. Sec Powell had a similar setup, but he deleted 100% of the email on it rather than just the personal email Sec Clinton deleted


David Brin said...

Is my month of ignoring him over yet? Skimming, I saw the FDR & Pearl Harbor thing and chuckled. Nothing is a better IQ test.

The narrative is that FDR wanted Japan to commit a casus belli because the American people were ALMOST ready for war - primarily against the Nazis - but needed a bit more of a jolt-reason. That far, it seems plausible. American sailors were already dying at sea fighting U boats, but that was too gradual to do the dramatic shift in public sentiment.

So… might FDR have downplayed our official alert status, in order to encourage the Japanese to attack? Sure. Only…

… only the drooling gibbering morons who promote the full conspiracy theory - that he knew of the actual PH raid and squelched a warning - neglect one fact. FDR wanted one thing far more than an immediate casus belli. He wanted to WIN! And destruction of the Pacific fleet doesn't quite do that. (In fact, taking some damage at Pearl did delay us from implementing Plan Orange which would have been a disaster. But losing all the battleships did not help achieve victory at any level.)

If he knew about the attack, he would have had Halsey with Enterprise and Saratoga perched ready to attack the Japanese carriers. Submarines would lie along the Japanese routes home. Our planes would have been in the air, hovering east and in the sun, ready to pounce, the instant Japanese bombers crossed the 12 mile limit, committing the overt act of war. The Battleships would have had torpedo nets up and would be burning smoke to mask themselves from bombers and they would be on alert, under steam.

In other words, it would have been a trap. Why didn't it happen? Stupidity I guess. Of the normal kind. Kimmel had been on alert the previous two weekends and felt ridiculous. Everyone expected the hammer to fall on the Phillipines. (It did, yet MacArthur was caught flat-footed. Abnormal, humongous stupidity.

Now, some conspiracy theories ring with a little truth, and some may even be plausible. But The FDR Pearl Harbor one is a concoction of staggering inanity, credited only by outright fools.

Anonymous said...

There is enough blame to spread around on all sides for 9/11 and finger-pointing on something that happened 14 years ago is a waste of time at this point. We were taken by surprise and that is it. We dropped the ball collectively and that is the truth. The intelligence agencies, the military, the Congress and a couple past presidents either saw the evidence and didn’t act or didn’t see it or the good intelligence didn’t get into the right hands. Let’s not mention the people on the ground that let them board the airplanes with cutters. To say if so-and-so had been in power it wouldn’t have happened belongs to alternate history science fiction. What is important is what we do now and not what might have happened. This is starting to sound like the who lost China and who lost Eastern Europe debate of 60 years ago. It’s useless speculation and a waste of time.

locumranch said...

The human capacity for self-deception is near infinite.

FDR's advance warning re Pearl Harbor is a matter of historical record rather than a conspiracy 'theory':

(2) 'Spy Counterspy', by Dusko Popov (aka 'Tricycle; the 'real' James Bond), now available on pdf.

W. Bush's foreknowledge of 9/11 & subsequent inaction and FDR's foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor & subsequent inaction are 'same-same' (morally indistinguishable), the only difference offered by our host is that FDR's responsibility for the 'War in the Pacific' was justified by his (good) desire to incite the US public & "WIN!" a (good) war, whereas W's responsibility for Afghanistan & Iraq was (not) justified by his (bad) desire to incite the US public & (fail to) win a (bad) war.

To Arizsun, I point out the obvious that things best kept 'secret' in the age of 'transparency' are neither synonyms for 'classified' nor internet appropriate in regards to national security, much in the same way that NSA cellphone surveillance of Merkel & other EU leaders (as whistle-blown by Citizenfour) was neither 'secret' nor the (alleged) immoral 'violation of trust' (hence phrases like 'plausible deniability', 'open secret' and 'better left unsaid').

TED has some basic intros to 'self-deception' (IE 'Honest Liars', C Warren; 'Patterns behind ...', M Shermer; etc) as self-deception is the 'enlightened' glue that holds our non-transparent global culture together.

Our most cherished beliefs are like sausages: We prefer not to consider how they were made.


Tacitus said...

This thread and the last one demonstrate why Contrary Brin keeps getting booted off and put back onto my Bookmarks every few months!


Alfred Differ said...

My father was just old enough to remember Pearl Harbor. I mentioned once in his later years the conspiracy theory involving FDR letting it happen and he gave me such a look. It was a mix of 'That is real stupid' with 'People forget the most basic stuff' and 'I sure hope you do not believe that.' The explanation he gave afterward was that people who didn't live through FDR's time could imagine him being a different person than he really was. Anyone who knew him better would have dismissed the theory immediately, but those who did were dying off. Stupidity could be considered now.

Basically, the conspiracy theory requires the usual out-of-character response. Just because something could happen doesn't make it plausible.

TheMadLibrarian said...

Some asteroids are already differentiated; ask any meteorite collector about the variety of samples that have rained down on the Earth, including planetary bits of Mars, Luna, and possibly others. Some were part of larger bodies that were big enough to have separated the same way the Earth separated into core, mantle, and crust, but cooled solid and were smacked apart by millennia of the meat grinder that is the asteroid belt.

Before we go out full-tilt-boogie to mine the asteroids, it would behoove us to sort the wheat from the chaff. We already have data on whole 'families' of asteroids that are genetically related. Many of them are not very useful, being rocky lumps only, but there are a few that are the valuable carbonaceous chondrites or iron-nickel. First, analyze the years of data we have gathered on hundreds of candidates, and find the likely ones. This is where robotic probes would be useful. Send out several hundred to squirt from asteroid to asteroid, or even a dozen to inspect the most attractive asteroids, and when they find a good'un, have them park on it, lay out a couple square meters of solar cell, and start beeping! Then we can decide if it is worthwhile to send a mining expedition, robotic or otherwise.


David Brin said...

Appealing to (crackpot) "authorities is no answer. Note that he makes not the slightest effort to reply the the deeply fundamental LOGICAL flaw in the insane theory. Feh. I wrote that reply for the rest of you, so you can be armed against that drooling nonsense.

Tacituse… which DIRECTION did the last two send you? ;-)

Tacitus said...

Well I guess both were about looking for infinitesimal bits of value in a grim and unpromising universe....


locumranch said...

As far as I can tell, the "deeply fundamental LOGICAL flaw in the insane (Pearl Harbor as a FDR pro-war fundraiser) theory" is the denouement from Phillip K Dick's 'Man in High Castle' wherein the narrator denies the reality of the same alternative history by describing how the US military 'hid the entire Pacific fleet' from Imperial Japan in 1941, much in the same way that David postulated above as 'proof' of a lack of US foreknowledge about an impending attack.

NPR tells a different story, however, about "Angry Days" which describe an increasingly Isolationist 'America First' movement opposed to US entry into WW2 (JFK, Gerald Ford & Kurt Vonnegut to name a few), an extremely active German-American Bund supportive of the (fascist; anti-communist) NAZI agenda AND a large number of famous pro-German US industrialists, technocrats & politicians (William Randolph Hearst, Joseph Kennedy, John Rockefeller, Andrew Mellon, Prescott BUSH, Charles Lindbergh) & Industries (DuPont, General Motors, Ford, Standard Oil, ITT, General Electric).

That's right, folks. Many of the most prominent US political families (Kennedy. Bush, Ford, Rockefeller) were fascists & NAZI sympathizers once-was, but lucky for them that most US progressives have the memory span of a squirrel.

Like I said: An accurate memory is an evil bitch when it comes to (either) remembering our history or making sausages.


Tony Fisk said...

Who do I trust with nuclear codes? Ultimately, no one.

I think that is also the opinion of certain members of the Armed Services. Those guys who 'misheard' a command from a drug-addled and paranoid President to open fire on anti-war demonstrators. Or, even more pertinently, Stanislaw Petrov who held off on the USSR doctrine of instant massive retaliation, until a missile launch alert turned out to be a false alarm.

David Brin said...


Jumper said...'s_razor
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity...

Paul451 said...

LR loves to distort what people say. Brin did not suggest that FDR would have "hid the entire Pacific fleet", he suggested that if FDR had a specific threat (*), he would not merely sacrifice his ships, he would have set a trap.

[They would still get the same pro-War PR effect ("cowardly attack", "US declares war") with the added bonus of dribbling out USA-Rulez stories about the attack over the subsequent months ("see how our brave boys turned the attack around and destroyed half of the Jap fleet.") And unlike the conspiracy theory, if anything leaked (even so much as a rumour) about the prior warning, setting a trap would have looked like strategic brilliance, rather than a cowardly betrayal of his own men. I think FDR is the sort of person who would have intuitively seen that.]

* the memo was a general warning, not a specific pointer at Pearl Harbor: "In anticipation of possible open conflict with this country, Japan is vigorously utilizing every available agency to secure military, naval and commercial information, paying particular attention to the West Coast, the Panama Canal and the Territory of Hawaii." Hardly a specific threat.

Laurent Weppe said...

*"Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity..."

Hanlon's razor isn't very sharp, given that faking stupidity is an old authoritarian trick: "I don't want the establishment of a dictatorship where people like Me will be the new aristocrats, I'm just saying that we need to take tough decisions to deal with [insert Jewish/Communist/Islamist/Ecologist/Planned-Parenthood/Clitonian/Whatever conspiracy here]": better look like the village idiot who believes harebrained conspiracy theories than like a would-be manor-lord: your neighbors are more likely to tolerate your presence instead of banding together against you.

I for one adhere to the opposite: Humans being clever and very good at inventing excuses to justify selfish deeds, if something can be caused either by malice or by stupidity, assume it's malice

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Paul451

Re Pearl harbor
The Brits had done a number on the Italians at Taranto a year before,
21 old biplanes had sunk half the Italian fleet.

I don't believe in any type of conspiracy BUT some of those US Admirals should have been shot for total incompetence.
Bit like Bush - they had lots of warnings but were asleep at the switch

Jumper said...
The code breaker and his theory.

Anonymous said...


If you are going to use something as a reference at least use a source with some weight. You gave a link to a short obituary citing a book and a couple of comments. Surely you can find a better source to defend your conspiracy argument than that.

Jumper said...

That was just a reminder of his name and book. It was useful to me and I assumed others. I supposed anyone interested had heard of that man but might have forgotten some of the details. And I routinely assume folks here have the internet and can Google the names. I found the comment on the obituary agreed with Brin, and lacking much more than the code-breaker's theory, I have no conspiracy theory.

David Brin said...

Duncan Adm Kimmel's career was ruined by Pearl Harbor and rightfully so. He accepted assurances that PH was far shallower than Tarranto and hence did not need torpedo nets. He did not order dawn patrols along the most likely approaches. And they assumed any attack would be just 50-80 planes, not 300. The biggest assumption was that Hawaii was just too far and that the hammer would strike MacArthur. Under-estimating your enemy is the great mistake made by 90% of warriors.

In fact, we were luckier than we deserved. Had the Japanese only his the Philippines and Indonesia, the fleet at Pearl would have sailed forth with the first Marine Division and all of it would have gone to the bottom, somewhere near Saipan. As it was, things were touch and go, till our forces built up to snuff. And half the battlewagons that sank into shallow mud at Pearl got their revenge at the battle of Surgaio Straits, near Leyte.

Tacitus said...

A couple of things to consider. I think it is reasonable to assume based on their long and frank correspondence that Churchill and FDR both wanted and expected the US to enter the war against Germany. You could in fact argue that by Pearl Harbor we were about 80% there anyway. We pretty much gave the Royal Navy 50 destroyers and were in a shooting war with the U boats on our half of the Atlantic. Unofficial help no doubt went much farther.

But FDR presumably expected a gradual but continual increase in US involvement similar to what happened in WWI and based on the situation in the Atlantic. Recall that he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy during WWI. Near as I can figure the Assistant Sec really ran things back then.

We regarded the Japanese with dismissive contempt. They were felt to be buck toothed, subservient and near sighted. The notion that this inferior race would dare attack us was difficult to grasp, and what thought was given to it seems to have been centered on the expectation that they might try to grab British possessions in the far East. Or at most maybe attack the Philippines, which we accordingly reinforced with pretty much every bit of modern military kit we had in 1941.

I seldom go for Conspiracy stuff and think the FDR nonsense is just that.


David Brin said...

The old saw to never ascribe to evil what can be explained by stupidity is foolish. Yes, it works for immediate reactions to dumb actions in daily life! It keeps you calmer and less likely to exacerbate a situation with rash accusations.

But over time, when patterns emerge, you can tell the difference. And the worst application is the myriad folks who still think the Bush Calamities were merely wrought by stupidity. It fails when the "decider" always just happens to make decisions that favor ONLY his patrons -- the Cheney and Saudi families - and when the chain of decisions never once actually benefits the United States of America.

As Goldfinger said to James Bond…. "once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action."

For the Bushites, it is far more than three times. And ANY republican candidate -- except Trump -- would bring into office with him the entire Bushite Corps. Most may be stupid. But some - I promise - are malevolent traitors.

Jumper said...

I see you are saying Adm. Kimmel WAS stupid rather than malevolent, so my mentioning that old saw was not entirely off base!
My ow suspicion of Bush was that he and his people had a "bring it on!" attitude towards the warnings pre-9/11, thinking they'd get "everything they wanted" in the case. Which they did. I have no idea if that suspicion is true, I have no way of knowing. I can suspend belief as easily as disbelief.

Anonymous said...


My apologies.

The codes are already given. They are in the computers that manage the nuclear forces which leads me to wonder if AI can arise without our knowing or recognizing that it is now intelligent. I know it sounds like Terminator but machine intelligence might be so different from ours that its rise might go unrecognizable. I kind of doubt that it would pop up and say "Hey guys, I'm intelligent!". In the last post Dr. Brin talked a bit on how our brains are multi-agent systems all participating in the complexity of consciousness to use his exact words. Doesn't this sound like a vast interconnected web of computers we have today? Who's to say that AI doesn't exist already? Perhaps Hawkings and others were thinking about that when they pointed out the danger of AI; that it would arise not from a supercomputer in some building but rather in the diffuse network of computing power that covers the globe. In that case it is not anybody that ultimately controls the codes but the machines who already knows the codes.

locumranch said...

I never meant to imply that FDR was a BAD man. In fact, I believe that both FDR and GW Bush are largely GOOD men, especially if you subscribe to the Cult of Good Intentions (Intentionalism) which various idealists have used throughout history, from Mao Zedong to Stalin, to justify the most atrocious actions & horrendous outcomes.

Though not a saint, FDR was definitely a good man (if you choose to define an opportunistic, privileged, womanizing aristocrat in this sense). He was, however, a student of the 'Age of Psychological Manipulation', one ushered in by the likes of Freud, Bernays, Lippman & Goebbels and, as such, he would have been a fool not to utilise the new 'science' of Mass Psychology to forward GOOD public intentions, create a uniform national consensus [see 'Those Angry Years' again] & guarantee US entry into WW2 through whatever means necessary, even if it meant 'sacrifice' in terms of a few peacetime sailors & an outmoded WW1-era pacific fleet.

And what a success this tactic was: PROGRESS through mass manipulation!!

Of course, 9/11 was no such pre-arranged puppet conspiracy. Otherwise, W would have leap to his feet, stripped off his (boring) suit to reveal a giant 'S' on his chest & charged into battle, instead of demonstrating indecisive weakness by finishing the children's book he was reading at the time of the attack, meaning that 9/11 was just a 'fortuitous occurrence' from W's perspective.

And FDR's homey fireside chats?? Intentionally executed government propaganda, indistinguishable from a commercial selling soap, Chiquita-brand bananas or Bernay's artfully executed overthrow of Guatemala at the request of the United Fruit Company (aka 'Chiquita Brands International')

Jumper said...

" opportunistic, privileged, womanizing aristocrat"
These words have more propaganda in them than most of FDR's lifetime of speeches.. if meant to be negative. In that opportunistic means quick-thinking, and privilege and aristocrat seem to be blaming him for his own birth circumstance. As far as womanizer, really? Is it rude to say "grow up?"

David Brin said...

Jumper thanks, those who overcome their personal and class interests in order to fight for the people and the Great Experiment deserve more respect, not less.

Alfred Differ said...

Womanizing? Pfft.

Eleanor didn't provide the particular emotional support he wanted. She was fabulous in other ways, but did not provide the unquestioning love his mother gave him. In hind sight, the outcome was obvious. He needed to replace Eleanor with someone who could do it all or take a second wife. Effectively, he chose the second option and Eleanor coped.

That's not the behavior of a womanizer. It's not the behavior of a loyal husband either, but only if one tries to adopt a Platonic Ideal for what husbands are expected to do. Such an adoption is stupid, though. People are people. What he DID do was a different kind of loyalty.

This really is a squirrel moment, though.
No man belongs on a pedestal.
We only set ourselves up for disappointment when we do that to them.

Alfred Differ said...

If AI emerges from our computers, I suspect it will be the kind David fears in the financial markets. It will be Focused to the point of being inhuman in its motivations.

I seriously doubt that will happen, though. I'd want a huge payoff to risk any bet on it. The IA version strikes me as much more likely as we augment ourselves. Such an entity will be human in its parts. I doubt it will step up and announce itself, though. I suspect it will gradually emerge and only in hindsight will we slap our foreheads and recognize it for what it is.

LarryHart said...


We regarded the Japanese with dismissive contempt. They were felt to be buck toothed, subservient and near sighted. The notion that this inferior race would dare attack us was difficult to grasp,

As Mr Burns from "The Simpsons" had it:

The Japanese? Those sandal-wearing goldfish tenders? Pshaw!

Jumper said...

The kind of AI to fear would be one that learned how to kill key people and so affect the market, betting appropriately beforehand.

duncan cairncross said...

The buck toothed, subservient and near sighted Japanese that had annihilated the Russian Navy some 40 years before

I don't think the RN took them lightly

Alfred Differ said...

The Russians were cocky at the time.
So were we in the lead up to WWII.

The simplest explanation for Pearl Harbor is our repeated inclination to ignore external threats until they force us to pay attention. After the shock, we pay too much attention and the pendulum swings through another cycle. (We do this a lot.)

Paul SB said...

Dr. Brin, after I dropped my son off at a friend's house today I caught the tail end of the TED Radio Hour. I thought you might find it interesting. They were talking to a fellow who started a literal treasure hunt, for which he needed an ROV, but did not have the 10's of thousands of dollars they cost. He and a biddy tried to make one themselves, and with huge amounts of help from random people on the internet, including the very engineers who build them, he managed to make a functional ROV from items you can get at a hardware store, and is now selling kits, which has opened up ocean exploration to amateurs. The subject of the talk is how open-source is changing the world. It gave me the impression that the troglodytes of distrust are going to find themselves on the endangered species list as more people find that they can fulfill their dreams with the help of people around the world who they are unlikely to ever actually meet. I reminded me of the smart mobs in "Existence." The other talks in the series look interesting, too, but I don't have time to check them out.

duncan cairncross said...

Re - Open Source
My Icon is "Duncan's Dubious Device" my homemade electric car,
The controller (the main piece of electronics in an EV) is an "Open Source" device
A guy called Paul decided he wanted a controller for his car project and effectively designed it using the web
This is his thread - it's very interesting but 708 pages long!

Effectively it was developed with a number of other people giving advice and testing things

Paul went on to sell kits - I bought one and on a "monkey see monkey do" basis I was able to build myself a nice controller

There are people developing all sorts of things - one guy is making a "brain board" that will operate any controller - so that he can fit a Tesla motor/inverter in his car

Paul451 said...

Off-topic aside that feels on-topic when discussing conspiracy theories vs merely assuming stupidity...

IIRC, one of Tacitus2's conspiracy theories was the IRS review of PACs and associated funds. There was a right-wing meme that it was a partisan attempt to suppress free speech by punishing right-wing or Conservative political groups.

Of course, it turned out that the IRS was actually bipartisan in their interest in possible fraudulent political "charities". However, they shouldn't have been. Fraud actually is more common amongst right-wing PACs and funds.

For example, the Tea Party Leadership Fund spends just 14% of donations on actually supporting/opposing candidates. The other 86% is given to organisers and their own consultancies. In other words, many right wing "charities" are pure money making scams., via Krugman.

Krugman also links to this older article,, which suggests that gullibility is now baked deeply into the Conservative psyche, and milking believers is baked deeply into the psyche of the right-wing elites.

So, stupidity or malice? {Shrug} "Why not both?"

Laurent Weppe said...

"In other words, many right wing "charities" are pure money making scams."

I'd say it's rather obvious that the far-right being at its very root an affinity scam, using tribalistic identification to despoil its marks and allow its leaders to enjoy the lavish lifestyle of the upper-class while doing as little effort as possible to earn it.

Jeff B. said...

The Pearl Harbor conspiracy theory has been debunked, and debunked, and debunked again. But one thing the theorists seem to neglect is the simple question of "what could we have done had we known?"

And the answer is, "not much." While Dr. Brin postulates laying a trap, we simply did not have the resources, or the technology, to counter the attack, or the deal with the attacking fleet before or afterward. Our aircraft were out of date; a handful of modern B17s had no training in bombing maritime targets, and the only modern fighters (the F4F Wildcats and P40s) were outmatched and greatly outnumbered. The modern planes that turned the tide (like the P38s,F4Us, F6Fs, P51s, and B29s) would not come on line for another 1-2 years. And we had very few submarines available at that time, and only two fleet carriers.

And there is the overlooked matter of locating an enemy fleet in the tens of thousands of square miles of the Pacific to search, no easy task at all.

Japanese spies gave the attack force up to date details of the location and disposition of the American fleet; although they apparently did not get the message about the absence of the American carriers, they knew that the anchorage at Maui was mostly empty, and Pearl was full.

So, had we evacuated the Harbor, we would have almost definitely been overwhelmed in the air, and the irreplaceable resources of the harbor- the shipyard, and vast fuel stores, and dry docks- would have been devastated, preventing any action in the Pacific for at least another year. And our two carriers trying to ambush their six would have been quickly found and destroyed (they were the primary target). We could have started the Pacific War in much, much worse shape.

Paul SB said...

Hi Other Paul,

When you wrote: "...which suggests that gullibility is now baked deeply into the Conservative psyche, and milking believers is baked deeply into the psyche of the right-wing elites.

So, stupidity or malice? {Shrug} "Why not both?"

I thought that this is politics in general. I know left-leaning people who seem equally brain washed, but the right seems to be taking this to an extreme that is much less evident than the left. I suspect it has to do with an adjective that often goes with "Right" in American politics - "Religious". I have been to enough churches in the Bible Belt to be very familiar with the kind of mentality they tend to engender in their congregations - one of absolute conformity and absolute conviction of their own perfection. They are taught to think that they are 100% right about everything, and anyone who disagrees with them in even the most trivial of matters is a fool, a dupe, a sheep or - as the gun lobby likes to say - a sitting duck. Liberals tend to be religious, too, but the sermons I have heard in those churches tend to be more of the "peace and love" variety, less of the "Hellfire and brimstone" variety.

When you wrote: "I'd say it's rather obvious that the far-right being at its very root an affinity scam, using tribalistic identification to despoil its marks and allow its leaders to enjoy the lavish lifestyle of the upper-class while doing as little effort as possible to earn it."

I thought it was pretty obvious as well, especially considering their entire platform centers around promoting unregulated capitalism, thus the emphasis on limiting government regulation of business, "states rights" as code for allowing local corruption, and their overuse of "Big Brother" scare tactics. However, there is an extent to which the left does the same thing, though not nearly to the same degree (by several orders of magnitude). A major difference is that the right is more blatant about it. The left has a lot of moral outrage, so their leaders have to be more careful to avoid getting caught in immoral acts. The right simply redefines morality to mean self interest, thus by their definition no act that satisfies their self interest at the expense of the public is corrupt. Remember the fungal meningitis outbreak of 2012?

locumranch said...

Paul451 and Laurent are right to suggest that "gullibility is now baked deeply into the Conservative psyche (because) many right wing "charities" are pure money making scams", or are they just random pots calling other kettles black?

Bernie Madoff is yesterday's news, I guess, but that's okay because all those widows, pensioners & progressive charities he cheated where just 'upper-class far right elitist conservatives' who deserved it.

No worries, though. I sure all those socially-responsible investments you made in the 'Kids Wish Network', Solyndra, the Chicago Carbon Exchange & the Chevy 'Volt' will pay off for you some day.

The sad truth is that anyone who 'believes' in anything, cares about 'caring' or desires to 'make a difference' is potentially (by definition) 'gullible' and 'credulous', because any unsupported, unsupportable & unjustified belief in damn-near everything meets swindle, scam or 'confidence game' criteria.


LarryHart said...


Liberals tend to be religious, too, but the sermons I have heard in those churches tend to be more of the "peace and love" variety, less of the "Hellfire and brimstone" variety.

In the 1960s, liberals were more likely to resonate with the Golden Rule and the Sermon On The Mount. Conservatives would have considered that sort of thing equivalent to fairy dust and unicorns, and saw their authoritarian, pro-business stances as being the only realistic ways of dealing with the world.

Somehow, religion was co-opted by the Right in the 1980s. And yet, for people who insist on the meme of America as a Christian nation, it's the Old Testament they prefer to inflict upon our secular courthouses and city halls. No one ever tries to get the Sermon on the Mount posted at the courthouse door.

LarryHart said...


The sad truth is that anyone who 'believes' in anything, cares about 'caring' or desires to 'make a difference' is potentially (by definition) 'gullible' and 'credulous', because any unsupported, unsupportable & unjustified belief in damn-near everything meets swindle, scam or 'confidence game' criteria.

So we shouldn't be credulous of you then? Thanks for the warning.

duncan cairncross said...

Jeff B

Re Pearl Harbor
A counter stroke would have been difficult
Torpedo nets
AA Amunition ready for use
Patrols to get early warning
Barrage fire from the big guns
All could have (should have) been set up in advance
Would it have stopped the attack dead? - probably not BUT it would have made it much much less effective

That level of preparation a year after Taranto should have been obvious
How effective would it have been??

I don't know of any major attacks after the first one woke the defenders up,
The RN did not repeat Taranto or the Japanese Pearl Harbour

Jeff B. said...


Agreed, the Army and Navy would've been more prepared. But:

The fleet would have been ordered to sea (at least by any admiral worth his salt- not sure about Kimmel). This would've had a huge impact on the course of battle. If there was no way for Japanese spies to report fleet movement at late date and assuming the pair of scouts would've been shot down or turned around, the first wave would've found a training ship or two and 3-4 destroyers/light cruisers in dry dock. the vast majority of the AA would be gone, leaving the priceless fuel stores and shipyard protected only by outdated fighters. Sure, we would've brought down far more than the six we did, but that would not have stopped the first (and maybe the second) wave.

The primary target was of course the fleet, so if fleet command did get warning of the evacuation, it's possible Pearl might've only suffered one wave or even none as the Japanese would have immediately shifted to ship-hunting. The fate of Britain's battleships 3-4 days later shows what the likely outcome would've been. Even had they somehow joined up with the US carriers- only one of which I think was even close enough to the area- they would've been smashed with heavy damages. Unlike in Pearl, this would've been in deep water, so the six US battleships that were refloated and repaired would've gone done with heavy loss of life. And the carrier if found might've been removed from action permanently, too, half of the US carrier roster.

And of course, while I don't recall if the Japanese had an Army contingent with the fleet or not, but several fleet officers argued strongly for immediate occupation. Had they the force with them Hawai'i could have been lost.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Jeff

It took 88 aircraft to sink the Prince of Wales and the Repulse, and the POW took a really unlikely hit on the first wave - a really unlucky hit
A modern battleship was a difficult target
(Repulse was a battlecruiser (less armor) from WW1)

The US fleet was attacked by in total about 350 planes - four times as many but there were a lot more than four times as many ships in that fleet

If the US fleet had been attacked at sea they would have had a much greater chance of getting away with it

The POW was completely uncovered - an attack on the US fleet near Pearl should have had fighter cover from the air base in minutes
Unless the Japanese had split their forces and attacked both - but then they would not have been as effective at either

Not sure if ordering the fleet to sea would have been the best option, but not taking any precautions at all has got to be the worst

Jeff B. said...


No arguments about how tough the battleships were. The two nearby carriers were much more vulnerable, though, and if drawn into defense of Pearl, or a mistaken assault on withdrawing Japanese units, would've been mauled, perhaps irreparably. And the fighter cover from Oahu was mostly of outdated P36s and outclassed F2; there would've been a price but the available planes that could match the Zekes would not have sufficed.

Of course, if the first wave had discovered Pearl's berths empty, if they didn't attack the naval yard and fuel stores then they might have scrapped the assault entirely, fearing the missing carriers.