For the Week of April 4, 2005
Science is the political issue of our time.
It will surprise many to hear it's controversial. But to those with an historical perspective it's no surprise at all.
Every conflict in American history has caused many Americans, and initially most Americans, to take on the coloration of the enemy. We assume unnatural power in our adversaries, and subconsciously become like them, before learning once again that it's our differences with our enemies that gives us power.
- During the Cold War, the McCarthy movement took on the coloration of Communists in the name of Anti-Communism. One result was the Domino Theory, which so dominated our thinking during Vietnam we lost 58,000 soldiers, and the war.
- During the two World Wars, we discriminated against Germans (in World War I), then Japanese (in World War II) in an attempt to defeat them.
- During the Civil War many northerners became racists, as seen during the 1863 Draft Riot brought to the screen by the movie "Gangs of New York."
We've had smaller outbreaks of this over the years. Whether you're talking about the Palmer Raids of the 1920s, the brutal genocide against America's Indians in the 1880s, or our prejudices against Mexicans, Chinese, and Catholics over the decades, it's all a reflection of our fear that the other side may in fact be stronger, and of our desire to harness what we see as their worst instincts in order to defeat them.
Since 2001 most Americans have seen themselves engaged in a life-and-death struggle against a religious fanaticism, exemplified by Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. Thus, millions of American Christians have themselves become religious bigots, fighting (and winning) their war against what they perceive as the secularization of American life.
They've been fortunate in that the Bush Administration shares, channels, and even promotes these prejudices. Whether it's through a "culture of life" that seeks to ban abortion and maintain life after someone has become a vegetable, the nonsense of "intelligent design," religious subsidies or a refusal to consider global warming, it's all of a piece.
The target of modern McCarthyism is, simply, the scientific method. Faith-based government reflects the idea that something about Muslim Fanaticism rings true, and only an equal Christian Fanaticism is adequate to confront it.
Of course, that's not the real struggle of our time. We are fighting the wrong war.
This was true in the Cold War as well. We fought over territory in Korea and Vietnam, ignoring the fact that the real battles were economic, cultural, and political.
Today we fight fire with fire against Al Qaeda and ignore the fact that the real threat is an economic one, and that it comes from East Asia, not the Middle East.
My own son is part of this. I think he should be learning Chinese. He has chosen to learn Arabic. It's short-term thinking.
But to even begin the struggle against our real enemy, a struggle both sides can actually win, we first need to battle against our inner demons, against a religious fanaticism that is the new McCarthyism.
The right political weapon is science.
Science is the issue that links all our political struggles, but Democrats fear to grasp it.
That's OK, because young people increasingly "get it." My generation will not define the future any more than the New Deal defined the Nixon era.
But it is important to see what we can do to teach our children well so that they might overthrow the present irrelevance and create a new order that works for them.
We have many such tools, in the media and in the culture. The robot challenges of Dean Kamen and USFirst.org are a powerful weapon against ignorance. TV shows like Mythbusters, which teach the scientific method, are another weapon.
Most kids today are either being taught science or finding they wish they knew more about it. Anything you can do, in your community, to nurture this feeling will help.
This newsletter, my blog, and thousands more publications like them, are bricks in that wall of science that will, in time, wall off the ignorance of the present day and confine it to the past.
You can't see that future now, any more than the victims of the McCarthy-era blacklist could see the 1960s and 1970s. Underneath all the conformity of our time, our media, and our towns a rage is building, one that will rip away Bush-era conservativism like a veil when its internal contradictions become obvious.
That is in the process of happening. Be ready when it does.
I'm now helping to produce a special blog on Open Source for ZDNet.
I work as a freelance writer in Atlanta, and am on the development team for EgoScout, a new kind of mediator for mobile phone users.
My last non-fiction book, "The Blankenhorn Effect" won the Computer/Internet category in the 2003 Independent Publisher (IPPY) awards. Write me for a PDF copy of my latest novel, "Baptists are for Dunking."
On my Mooreslore blog I've written a new novel, "The Chinese Century." It's a story told in real-time, with real characters, but entirely fictional, dealing with the consequences of the falling dollar. I'm beginning a sequal, "American Diaspora," exploring the themes of the first book but with more fictional characters. It's a true alternate history, but set in the present day.
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Best of the Week
In all the arguments over copyright and patents the interests of the middle class creator are constantly invoked, then discarded.
Some accuse me of not caring about copyright or patent rights. This is neither. It's a trade secrets case. But this is a righteous bust.
The big news in blogging today is not the FEC, but a concerted effort by media companies to kill it by co-opting it.
The cure for the Digital Divide is the mobile phone, and the results are so obvious no big subsidies or taxes are needed to make the change happen.
Mobile 365 offers what it calls an operator charging gateway, which means it can handle the billing on data transfers between networks. The result is called MMS interoperability, but it comes at a price set by operators.
Web hosts are finding themselves in the position of restauranteurs.
Few people understand this yet, but there is a thread tieing together most public issues in our time. That thread is science, the issue represented best by comedian Bill Nye, the Science Guy.
Microsoft got a patent in 1998 on technology that is eerily similar to IPv6. Even Moglen, who now runs the Software Freedom Law Center in New York, says IPv6 represents prior art not disclosed in Microsoft's patent application, meaning the patent should be invalidated.
The Gibson Safety Dance, named for sci-fi author William Gibson, involves companies changing their software simply to keep other programs from accessing it.
In practice it's nothing more than a subsidy for the Bells, who had the law written in such a way so that they got the money automatically unless they refused it for some reason.
At the same time NTT DoCoMo is closing down its Personal Handyphone System, moving customers to more advanced forms of mobile telephony, it's growing like topsy in China, and Atheros is rolling out a new PHS chip.
But $1.85 billion for an outfit with trailing year sales of $261 million? That's over 7 times sales, about 40 times earnings. Sorry, Barry, you finally drank the Kool-Aid.
The problem with the world doesn't lie just in its tyrants. It lies in those with a tyrannical attitude. It lies in intolerance, which is the right of every man and woman, but which is antithetical to any notion of real democracy.
found myself troubled in reading this definition of terrorism today from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
After spending billions of dollars and five years fighting the inevitable, AOL has succumbed.
Its new strategy, as the LA Times story notes, is to try and get AOL stuff out to as wide a Web audience as possible.
When a currency becomes overvalued it gets tossed like confetti. This is what happened in the late 1990s, and it's happening again.
The war against 802.11 hotspots, which I predicted last week, has already begun. I don't expect free access to survive it.
As we reported over the weekend Agence France-Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million. We reported that Agence France-Presse doesn't know how to write a robots.txt file. We were wrong on that. Carl Malamud (no picture, sorry -- he's shy) found a reference to a robots.txt file on the Agence France-Presse site at http://www.afp.com/robots.txt
Just because it's silly doesn't mean it can't be won.
The American Diaspora
ZDNet Open Source
Clued-in is Carl Malamud, who found the robots.txt file used by Agence France-Presse after I reported (incorrectly) they didn't have one.
Clueless is Google News . In a company that made its fortune through open source and transparency, the editorial judgements of this unit remain opaque, making the whole company subject to legal challenge.
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