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It’s not left-vs-right, stupid. It is symbolism.
David Brin   Nov 1, 2017   Contrary Brin  

After a formal and erudite posting, let’s relax and let our hairy opinions down to talk about lots of things… starting with symbolism.

Ah symbolism. It has always been of central importance to Republicans, who do very little else when in power. Take their obsession with the naming of Aircraft Carriers. (The other thing they do, of course, is hand over the nation's wealth to oligarchs. Hence their 21st Century affinity with Putin.) How ironic then, that U.S. conservatives style themselves as the hard-nosed, pragmatic bunch vs. wooly-headed, liberal idealism.

So what about all those Confederate statues that Donald Trump calls "beautiful"? New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu offers intelligent perspectives on the difference between remembering and revering historical figures.

What bugs me is the simplistic nature of all this. Hey, I am willing to parse a spectrum of confederate monuments, and Robert E Lee is way at the near end -- yes a rebel-traitor who owned slaves and tried to help dismember his country... but also representative of the one genuinely admirable virtue that the otherwise-horrifically-evil Confederacy could claim. Those virtues being (mostly) honorable battlefield courage and martial resilience. 

Those virtues were also displayed by Stonewall Jackson and Nathan Bedford Forrest. Except for the "honorable" part. Unlike Lee, those two were pure sons-of-bitches, evil right down to their cores, and proved it repeatedly. 

Lee, in contrast, tried to control his army in ways that followed the letter and spirit of then-current codes of war. Moreover, he acted vigorously - in 1865 - to accept the offer of lenience made by Lincoln, and reciprocated by calling on all Southerners to "be good citizens" of the United States. That last bit -- staunching all calls for a guerrilla rising -- served the nation well enough to merit leaving a few effigies standing. A few street names in place.

(A side note: I've always thought Lee was over-rated as a general. He had one trick that he used - brilliantly and successfully - over and over... pounce on the flanks of a befuddled, lumbering, larger invading army. Aggressive, predatory defense. Yes, he was very good at that. But it did him zero good in his doomed-from-the-start Antietem and Gettysburg Campaigns. Moreover, when a general came along who shrugged that method off (Grant), Lee realized that he was doomed.)

If Forrest and Jackson had mostly yin, but a little positive martial yang, there's no justification for any hagiography of Jefferson Davis, whose image should be trampled far worse than Benedict Arnold (who actually saved the Revolution four times, before proving incompetent as a traitor.)

My conclusion? R.E. Lee could remain in statuary at public places if balanced by great heroes of progress and tolerance. The SOBs Jackson and Forrest should be sent to battlefields or parks run by the dizzy daughters of the confederacy, places where the topic is generalcy and no one interested in other things will have to deal with them. As for Davis's representations and most other confed monuments, that were erected in the 1920s and 1960s in order to scream white power? They should be chiseled to dust. And I include Stone Mountain. 

But thanks guys. This is rousing the Union, at last. 
 
== Farewell White House Science Office ==
 
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy was one of our jewels. Normally, OSTP had about 60 staffers, to help assist WH personnel in creating fact-grounded policy. President Obama expanded it well past 100, bringing in loads of question-asking consultants and speakers… like yours truly (twice in 2016 alone). “The size of the office under the Obama administration reflected Mr. Obama's "strong belief in science, the growing intersection of science and technology—” reports CBS News.
 
Beyond advising the President on scientific discoveries and their implications for national policy, OSTP was involved in encouraging breakthroughs in STEM education and re-igniting a generation of skilled programmers. Heading OSTP was the Presidential Science Adviser, a position generally filled by some of humanity’s sharpest minds.
 
All of that is over. President Trump has attrited the Science Office of OSTP to zero… that’s zero staff to consult with West Wing policy makers over anything scientific or related to science. OSTP as a whole is down to a couple of dozen placeholders.
 
Elsewhere, I wrote about David Gelernter, who seemed a front runner for the Science Adviser post, under Trump. A bizarre and polemically-driven person, Gelernter apparently would have been far too scientific for this White House. Perhaps they sensed that he would be capable - in extremis - of saying the hated phrase: “um… sir... that’s not exactly true.”
 
That, after all, was the criminal offense of the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) which was banished by Newt Gingrich in 1995 for giving honest answers. And the fate now apparently destined for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), for similar treasons against dogma.
 
It is this fevered spite against all fact-users that makes our current civil war completely unrelated to the old-hoary-lobotomizing “left-right” political “axis.” When all outcomes and metrics of U.S. health and yes, economics and capitalism do vastly better under democrats, fact users become Enemy #1.  And that’s all fact-users, now including even the FBI, the Intelligence Community and the U.S. Military Officer Corps. (Look up the term “deep state” to see how the mad right is justifying attacking even them!)
 

Fans of the movie “Idiocracy” - and die hard confederates - may openly avow wishing for this rise of the know-nothings.  But your conservative aunt might be swayed to pull away from this madness, if you dare her to name one profession of folks who actually know stuff that is not under open attack by her crazy husband and his ilk.

 
She knows she will need skilled people, from time to time.  Even if he convinces himself that fact-people are all satanic.

== Why didn’t Obama speak out? ==
 
The ability of our confederate neighbors to concoct excuses for the plantation lords seems to have no limits. Now that it’s openly admitted and proved that the Trump family, the Trump campaign manager and the GOP leadership all actively salivated over and sought Russian help, the new Fox line is “why didn’t Obama speak up?”
 
Now we know why. Because Obama did try to negotiate with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan on a joint statement deploring any foreign meddling, in compromise language that would be non-partisan. It was the president’s job to be cautious and judicious and not leap to yell. (Remember those days?) What was their response?
 
McConnell threatened Obama that if he even mentioned the “Russia Thing” in public, the GOP leadership would accuse Obama of election meddling. No matter how much FBI and CIA evidence was presented to those two, the response was the same. In other words, outright, deliberate, partisan treason.
 
From Scout: "James Clapper, Former Director of U.S. National Intelligence, and John Brennan, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer at the Aspen Security Forum about Trump, Russian hacking, and national security. The entire hour-long conversation is a must-watch, remarkable for the candor and urgency expressed by two world-class intelligence minds.
 
Said Clapper: “One of the things I’ve recommended to the Senate Intelligence Committee is that maybe there should be a requirement in the future that before all presidential and congressional elections, 120 days before, the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the FBI should say what’s the state of cyber intrusions that are designed to compromise the integrity of the electoral system,” Clapper suggested.
 
Clapper, of course, was referencing the tension the Obama administration faced between sharing what it knew about Russian interference with U.S. citizens and being perceived as trying to throw the election for Hillary. But while the U.S. may have been the most prominent example of international hacking designed to skew the outcome of its election, it certainly will not be the last.
 
Oh, but more and more grows clear. I have wondered for some time where’s been the reporting on Donald Trump’s mob connections. What? You are shocked? Shocked that a casino owner and slumlord, involved in international money laundering might have been in business with shady characters? Let’s be clear about this.  The sanctions against Russia that Putin and his Kremlin are angriest about are the ones specifically targeting money launderers. See Trump's Russian Laundromat, from The New Republic.

== Count the vote honestly ==
 
California officials have gone to the big Defcon hacker convention challenging the best to test security of votingsystems and ensure fair elections. You’ll find no representatives from red states. The top qualification to be the Republican Secretary of State is how eagerly and effectively you support gerrymandering, voter denial, rigged voting machines, plus “losing” thousands of registrations just before every single election.  Your Republican neighbors won’t even deny this, anymore.  They are proud of it, the confederates.
 
Which leaves the democrats as honest… but stupid.  The response to Trump’s “Voter Fraud Commission” should not be “there’s no voter fraud!”
 
It should be: “There have been almost no examples of fraudulent voting, but plenty of cheating by red state officials.  So here’s the deal. We’ll go along with your ‘investigation…’ plus gradually ramping up voter ID… in exchange for —
 
 
— a full appraisal of the nation’s voting machines.
 
— an end to the blatantly criminal and treasonous cheat called gerrymandering. See my proposed 3-sentence solution.
 
Make it an offer of a fair deal. "We'll address your concerns - like undocumented voters or dead people shambling to the polls - if you'll help stop the treasonous cheats of your side.
 
For the Dems to fail to express their objections in this positive and assertive way is just dumb.

So, sure, one side is more honest, caring and fact-based. But it’s still hell-bent on Idiocracy.
 
== Newsletters vs blogs == 
 
The world of “newsletters” is kind of elitist, in that they cost subscription fees - often paid by your employer - if you are high enough in the company to extort it. I have been urged to shift from blog mode to a newsletter, that could then help pay college bills!  But the tradeoffs are harsh:
 
1. Subscriptions to their newsletters can keep very smart people in business, doing their research, preparing solid reports. (Full disclosure: I get many of my newsletter subscriptions for free.)
 
2. But subscriptions limit the number of readers — and hence your immediate influence in changing things. Though you may be zeroing in on an elite.
 
Among the best and most important newsletters would be Mark Anderson’s Strategic News Service. Mark is a brilliant forecaster with one of the best, big picture views of how technological change sweeps through our certainties in business, science and the real world. SNS also runs the annual Future in Review (FiRe) conference.  If I time this posting right, it will come out while I am at this year's FiRe!
 
Among many other things, Mark has been the most powerful voice denouncing and revealing the devastating effects of tech-spying and IP theft, which are destroying the ability of Americans to keep paying for the trade deficits that have uplifted the entire developing world. This shortsightedly rapacious predation of western (especially Californian) creativity proves that the mercantilist powers are not as smart as they think they are.
 
Here’s a link to the opening of an SNS newsletter — a 2-parter written by one of Mark’s top Asian analysts — and I hope some of you will talk your company into purchasing you access.  Because this could be among the most important series that you read, when it comes to international affairs and trade.
 
Indeed, it reveals how extremely aggressive things have become, as we (via cheap WalMart imports) finance cultural and commercial and conceptual war against our very societal underpinnings.
 
(Often there are side routes to peeking in at these newsletters. Take this important example on Chinese business practices.  And this YouTube of a Mark Anderson talk on the problem, one of the biggest that our civilization faces.)
 
My newsletter subscriptions range from the Institute for Ethics in Emerging Technologies to the Lifeboat Foundation to John Mauldin’s investment letter to George Friedman’s strategic overview.  In all such cases, ranging from left to right, I have a reputation as a challenging gadfly… hey, it’s my role in life!
David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."



COMMENTS

Thanks for this David. I always enjoy your insights. And Lee was stupid for fighting an offensive war. If he had fought a strictly defensive war from the beginning the north might have lost their will.

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