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David Brin
Works at Futurist, Scientist, Author: The Postman, Startide Rising, Earth, Existence
Attended California Institute of Technology
Lives in San Diego
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David Brin

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An amazingly cogent, entertaining and totally on-target dissection of one of the greatest motion pictures of all time – GHOSTBUSTERS – by Moviebob (Bob Chipman).  I only rarely see a critic cover every single point that I would have made about a work of art. But Moviebob gets down to it, mailing why this is one of the greatest accomplishments in the history and cinema, and Ghostbusters is more pertinent than ever to our times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPoILjs6BYI
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A couple of pictures from the Westercon 68 Science Fiction convention in San Diego: catching up with Vernor Vinge, and an intense discussion of transparency, accountability and privacy in this panel on The Transparent Society with Larry Niven, Henry Herz, Cody Goodfellow, David Ross and Karen Wilson.
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+vladislav Ivanov Not from those authors, perhaps - but plenty of other good ones working in the field!
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The key point here is not the one pushed by law enforcement or by its civil libertarian opponents, both of whom suffer from technological myopia and “tradeoff disease” – a mental ailment that causes sincere people to make statements like “we must sacrifice a little privacy for public safety” or – alternatively – “we must be brave enough to endure some danger in order to preserve freedom.”  It is the noxious notion of the zero-sum game. That we must choose between freedom and safety for our children.  A choice that I absolutely refuse to make. A choice put forward by simplistic morons.
 
Proof: No people in all of human history have ever been safer than we are right now… and no people have ever been as free. 
 
The tech-myopia comes in when federal agents act as if tools like Stingray can be kept secret over an extended period.  My Gosh, what kind of society do they think they are living in?  All they accomplish with blanket and frantic gag orders is to increase the frisson of suspicion aimed toward them by citizens who know that they must be aware of what civil servants are doing, lest freedom vanish.
 
Temporary and tactical secrecy are useful tools for the Professional Protector Caste (PPC).  But technology and society keep moving forward and gag orders will not prevent it. 
 
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-is-the-big-secret-surrounding-stingray-surveillance/?WT.mc_id=SA_WR_20150701
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There was a great quote last year from one of the CIA talking heads that said something like, and I paraphrase, wish I could put my finger on it, "If you don't know we are listening in, how have you really lost any privacy?" I personally reject this point of view , consider the stingray collection program the most loathsome of all similar intrusions, especially law enforcements attitude that anything they find illegal while purportedly looking for something else is "fair game."

I do think it is good to consider this other quote, way back in the last century, 1977, from the U.S. Privacy Study, quite prescient:

"The real danger is the gradual erosion of individual liberties through automation, integration and interconnection of many small separate record keeping systems, each of which alone may seem innocuous, even benevolent, and wholly justifiable."
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My mid-week posting is about Science Fiction: scenarios for the future, ranging from Cli-Fi to Post-human…
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2015/07/sci-fi-news.html
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Well personally I'm nothing if not arrogant. But I assume that this is not an ad hominem broadside and you think there's something arrogant in my idea that humans are bound to screw up whatever they touch in this issue so far above their skill level and pay grade. I remember reading about the chaotic implications of our putting the peanut gene in the particular food crop which caused a decimation of a commensurate moth species, we can't begin to grok the tertiary and sometimes subtle effects of our actions on the natural world. Things have been evolving just fine without our help. God save the animals.
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We are thinking less like citizens….more like sides in a war.
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A bit late to the party but felt i could add some value to this debate. One of the pillar arguments of the anarchists is the morality argument - does the govt have the right to "take" aka "tax" it's people, and whether they have the right to initiate force against those that don't. They believe they hold the higher moral ground.

Liberals need to neutralize this moral argument. I believe the anarchists not only hold a very "low" moral ground but also a very treacherous one at that - endangering our way of life to give way to something that resembles Zomia, Somalia or the Wild West - their best examples so far (& not to mention rare & unlivable) of libertarian society evolving (and surviving) in nature which are akin to unstable chemical substances that are waiting to gain some missing ingredient (like a functioning govt) to become stable.

I've been refuted on several occasions by anarchists that voluntary organizations are everywhere and they are the epitome of libertarian association. Let's work with the example of a country club brought forth by a few here already - an ideal voluntary organization. The fact is such voluntary organizations are run very much like a democracy. So i ask:

Is it immoral for a governing body to be elected by its members to run the affairs of the country club?

Is it immoral for the governing body to define rules under which the country club members must operate?

Is it immoral for the governing body to enforce it's rules upon its members with threat of membership termination?

Is it immoral to terminate members that do not pay its fees?

Is it immoral for the governing body to forcibly remove rule breakers from its premises?

Does a member have the moral ground to defy the rules set by the country club while still operating within the premises of the club?

Does a member have the moral ground to lay claim to the green upon which they are allowed to play exclusively (because they paid for such exclusivity) without the ongoing consent of the governing body?

Now a govt can't just expel a member for not paying its fees - because a stateless person will not be accepted into any other country and will be forced to return, so such members can only be detained (in prison). Ideally. such non-paying members would be allowed a choice to exit the premises (i.e country) to their country club of choice (Zomia or Somalia or anywhere else they would be accepted;-)
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Support the next generation of writers... with the Clarion Write-a-Thon. http://clarionwriteathon.org
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Thank you for the heads up +David Brin .
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David Brin

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Boeing's new Compact Laser Weapon System (LWS) is capable of generating an energy beam of up to 10 kilowatts that can, depending on the power level, be used to acquire, track, and identify a target -- or even destroy it -- at ranges of at least 22 miles. The weapon is designed specifically to track and attack moving aerial targets such as incoming artillery rounds, and low-flying aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.  Combine this with the new radars’ ability to track-back shells to pinpoint their origin, and we may be witnessing the end of Napoleon’s dictum that artillery is Queen of the Battlefield.  Of course the ones paying closest attention to all this?  Not Boeing’s customers or potential adversaries…. But sci fi authors.  
Could this be the invention that helps to revive Boeing's defense business?
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+Dan Zlotnikov if you say so ☺ 
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My weekend posting is an older article that has never appeared anywhere online till now. It won the best fact article prize from Analog Magazine in 1984 -- "The Deadly Thing at 2.4 Kiloparsecs!" It covers one postulate or hypothesis to explain the apparently cyclical nature of past extinction events on Planet Earth.  (That is, till the cycle got pushed ahead by our own actions in the Anthropocene.) Come have a look at the craziest-yet-plausible theory you've seen yet!

http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2015/07/the-deadly-thing-at-24-kiloparsecs-are.html
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Like the proposed firewall for black holes, something would probably make it impossible to pass information, including matter back in time and create logical contradiction. To pass information forward in time however should be OK. We do it every day. Just write your will, and someone else will see. 😇 P. S. I don't believe in multiverses. 😈
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David Brin

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Here’s a cute rumination. You are offered eight different – mutually exclusive – superpower pills. 
. Seen on Tumblr, along with associated discussion: Yellow: People's minds are heartbreaking. Not because people are so bad, but because they're so good. Nobody is the villain of their own life sto...
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It turns out that red makes you immortal, in the story, but that's not obvious from the description. There's all kinds of ways rapid regeneration can kill you.
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"Amazon is changing its ratings system. The company will  assign more weight to recent reviews, as well as reviews that have been written by verified purchasers of a particular product. (Naturally, it's probably best to hear about a person's experiences with something when you know, for sure, that they have actually used it.) Amazon will also weigh reviews that have been deemed helpful by other Amazon users" The latter reform has been needed for a long time. And #2 seems reasonable, but will tend to have side effects, e.g. that authors like me will be motivated to want loyal fans to buy via Amazon, so they can also review.  Clever, Jeff.http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2486445,00.asp
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BTW might I suggest some of you might go now and leave 5 stars where they will do the most good?  Ahem... you know where?
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The Supreme Court in June allowed to stand the independent redistricting commission that the voters in Arizona established, to take rabid partisanship out of the drawing of state and federal districts.  But Republicans who control the legislature say the Constitution gives them the right to draw congressional districts, and they cannot be cut out of the power.  California is the only other state that has diminished the legislature’s role similar to Arizona, but 11 other states have created commissions that have some sort of say about reapportionment.
 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/courts_law/justices-rule-5-4-that-independent-panels-can-draw-election-district-lines/2015/06/29/c91269aa-1ae6-11e5-ab92-c75ae6ab94b5_story.html
 
I have long railed against gerrymandering, which is only the most blatant of a dozen ways that modern political parties have found to cheat the voters.  Nothing more spectacularly proved the stunning dogmatic partisanship of justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito more than they way they have blocked (till now) any serious judicial review of these hijackings of sovereign citizen will.
 
The cheating is not balanced and equally distributed.  While yes, there a blue states where gerrymandering creates contorted, illogical and nasty district boundaries – Maryland and Illinois rise almost to the level of creativity of Texas and Georgia – it should be noted that it is in blue states that mostly democratic-leaning populations have rebelled against the practice. Of the 13 states where voters have pushed back against gerrymandering, twelve are blue.
 
“The Supreme Court has largely stayed out of partisan gerrymandering cases, unable to agree on a test that would allow the court to discern when expected political maneuvering rises to the level of being unconstitutional.”
 
But it does not have to get embroiled!  Nor is there even a need for impartial redistricting commissions!  All that is needed is one simple rule, that can be expressed in a single sentence. This one rule would not completely end gerrymandering… but it would render it moot and useless as a rampant method for stealing sovereignty and choice from American voters.
 
http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-simple-trick-allowing-citizens-to.html
 
THE RULE: District boundaries shall be drawn in such a way that (1) minimizes the ratio of perimeter to area and (2) minimizes OVERLAP between the districts for the state assembly, the state senate and the U.S. Congress.   
 
What this means is that the state legislature can Gerry assembly districts to benefit the majority party… but all this will do is ensure that the boundaries for state senate and Congress are not optimized for partisanship.  Your state senator will have to consider different sets of neighborhoods and needs and alliances than the assemblywoman, making democracy more thoughtful and prone to negotiation.
 
Above all, this reform does not require a grinding process of establishing one “commission” after another, or “agreeing on a test that would allow the court to discern when expected political maneuvering rises to the level of being unconstitutional.” 
 
Above all, though.  NOTICE which party cheats far more than the other.  Ask yourselves why it’s been arranged that all the companies that make VOTING machines are controlled by rabid GOP partisans.  And why is it that – in red states – there usually is no provision for those voting machines to leave an independent record that can be precinct-audited.  Sure, there are corrupt democrats.  But they have not turned cheating into a passionately-dedicated matter of party principle, policy and disciplined practice.
 
The case arose after Arizona voters opposed to congressional gerrymandering had taken the power away from state legislators.
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An online friend, +Brian Olson​​, is doing amazing work in algorithmically determining voting districts. Check out http://bdistricting.com/2010/ 
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One flag goes down; another goes up. So goes progress...
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Wade R.
 
+Alan Lovejoy

Since you are probably of the TL:DR generation, I'll sum up: You are right, many of the things you've cited are bad. Most of them have already been settled, however, and even of the ones that haven't, they are being discussed. Regardless, none of them change the original point: the Confederate flag stood for the defense of slavery as an institution.

Now, on to your original points, if you are still with us:

"The US flag is the symbol of a traitorous group of colonies who rebelled (successfully!) against the lawful authority of the British Crown, and against Britain's Constitutionally and democratically elected Parliament."

First, Britain has never had a single written constitution, but has a variety of laws and statutes instead. Second, Britain ratified the rebellion as legal by the 1783 Treaty of Paris when it recognized U.S. independence. This matter has been settled. (Edit: And part of the entire argument was that the American colonies did not have representation in that Parliament, unlike the Southern states, which did have representation in Congress).

"It's also the flag of a nation that kept slaves for hundreds of years,"

Nation established on July 4, 1776 (and even later if you prefer dating by the Constitution rather than the Declaration of Independence). Emancipation Proclamation signed into law on January 1, 1863. So slavery was legal for 86 years and change, not "hundreds of years." Before that it was part of the British Empire after all, as you've already pointed out.

"...has killed millions of people all over the world, kept Blacks segregated from the rest of the population for almost 100 years,"

Is it up to millions now? I'd be interested in a breakdown of that, if it isn't simply hyperbole. But yes, the United States has killed a lot of people, some on purpose, some by accident, some by negligence. We do not deny it, and we do try to learn from our mistakes. We are hardly alone in this. Every single large country in existence today (and most of the small ones) have such issues. It does not make us in any way unique.

As for segregation, yes, that arose out of the Jim Crow laws. De jure segregation was ended in stages, but began in 1954 with the Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education. It was also largely limited to those states that were part of the Confederacy in the Civil War.

"put its Japanese citizens in concentration camps for the crime of being Japanese,"

Yes, and after investigation and finding by the Carter Administration that this was a product of racism, the Reagan Administration signed a law that authorized restitution to survivors of the internment, with about $1.6 billion in payouts. The U.S. government also officially apologized for it. Short of inventing a time machine, what more would you like to see happen?

"currently imprisons more people per-capita than any other nation in the history of the world (most of whom are in prison for make-believe "crimes" that violated no one's rights,)"

The crimes are not make believe, as they are violations of duly passed federal, state, and local laws, mostly having to do with drugs. I agree that the punishments, however, are severely out of line with the harm done. This is an issue that is of national debate, including the fact that much of this has fallen disproportionately on minorities, and is yet to be resolved. The drug laws are starting to change (legalization of recreational marijuana in Washington and Colorado), and this page of history is being written even now.

"used to imprison people for the "crime" of engaging in homosexual activity,"

Yes, used to, but has not done so for quite some time, and has obviously made large steps to fix that problem in recent years.

"used nuclear weapons against civilians -- not just once, but twice,"

Oh, this again. Yes, we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki (70 years ago!), killing 150k-230k people by acute effects in up to 4 months after the bombing. In an age of "total war" (you should look that up) cities with industrial production were legitimate military targets...or do you insist that the United States should have eschewed their use and invaded in person at the cost of even more lives? Bottom line: war sucks for everyone and it usually means someone is going to die. (Edit: All the people who made this decision are dead, BTW, so what do you think should happen now?)

I find it strange that everyone points to these two episodes as some of the most heinous war crimes ever to take place, and yet they always ignore acts that actually killed more people and required a greater focus of bloody-mindedness, such as how few German soldiers came home from Russian POW camps in the same war (381k to 1 million died in NKVD camps) or the Rape of Nanking (40k-300k Chinese civilians murdered)...or for that matter the U.S. firebombing of Dresden (up to 135k dead) and Tokyo (75k-200k), to name just a few.

And if you were going to bring up potential atrocities, you should really have brought up our conquest of the Native Americans. That started before the country was even officially founded, and ended possibly only in about 1924. When the first European settlers arrived, there were around 10-20 million Native Americans. Now there are only 3-5 million, depending on how you count and how they self-identify, and that's with about 90 years of relative peace for them to repopulate.

"and whose police routinely brutalize, and even kill, a large number of minorities on a very regular basis."

Routinely? Interesting...this would indicate that it happens more often than does not. Care to cite your source? I doubt you will.

Has the United States made mistakes? Absolutely. Will it make more? You bet. Does it learn from its mistakes? Most of the time. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we follow, sometimes we do some really goofy crap. But if you believe that these things make America forever tainted and irredeemable, name me any other large country in the world, and I will show you that they too have made mistakes. Nobody gets out unscathed. We can only hope to learn and do better...and I think we're doing that even now.

So continue with your screed. I find it mostly wrong, irrelevant, hyperbole, or simply fake outrage so you can push some sort of (indecipherable) agenda. It really doesn't matter, nor does it change anything, but if it makes you feel better, then good for you! Have a nice day.
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  • Futurist, Scientist, Author: The Postman, Startide Rising, Earth, Existence
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Futurist, Science Fiction Author, Scientist. Advocate for a Transparent Society.
Introduction

Scientist, Author, Futurist, Public speaker: David Brin’s novels have been translated into more than twenty languages, including NY Times Best-sellers that have won Hugo and Nebula awards. His latest, Existence, looks at the threats facing us forty years in the future. His 1989 thriller, Earth, foreshadowed cyber-warfare, the Web, and global warming. A 1998 Kevin Costner film was loosely adapted from the post-apocalyptic novel, The Postman. The Uplift novels, including Startide Rising, and The Uplift War consider a future where humans raise animals to sentient levels. Foundation's Triumph brought a grand finale to Isaac Asimov's famed Foundation Universe. 

Brin is also a scientist and futurist who appears frequently on television ("Life After People," "The Universe," "the Architechs") discussing topics as diverse as surveillance technology, astronomy, SETI, nanotechnology and national defense. His non-fiction book -- The Transparent Society: Will Technology Make Us Choose Between Freedom and Privacy? -- won the 2000 Freedom of Speech Award of the American Library Association

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Hugo, Nebula award winner
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  • California Institute of Technology
    Physics, 1969 - 1973
  • University of California, San Diego
    Space Physics, 1975 - 1981
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David Brin's +1's are the things they like, agree with, or want to recommend.
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