Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The likelihood of war

While nature flails at us - from hurricanes and quakes to solar flares - we all know that  we're in far greater danger from ourselves. (And, of course, we humans are responsible for some of nature's fury, too.)  So I feel compelled to use this soapbox yet again, drawing attention,  to the increasing likelihood of manmade hell, unleashed by an unbalanced leadership caste.

Elsewhere I discuss the deep-underlying syndrome of Republican Bipolar Disease -- generally a depressive determination to block every negotiation, obstruct all deliberation, ensure gridlock and castrate the mature, pragmatic society that the Greatest Generation built. For 20 of the last 22 years we've seen the laziest and least productive Congresses in history, holding fewer days in session, hearings or bills, while breaking records for fund-raisers. Indeed, Donald Trump himself - desperate for an accomplishment - has been attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose sole priority since 1995, along with Dennis (friend-to-boys) Hastert and Rupert (employer of perverts) Murdoch, has been to prevent the functioning of politics as a problem solving tool in the United States of America. In response, McConnell blames Trump's political inexperience that led to him setting "excessive expectations." 

Unintentionally, this reveals a clash of syndromes. While Donald Trump is in a perpetual state of narcissistic mania along with the alt-right media that support him, for most Republican voters and politicians the normal condition is a glowering stew of indolent depressive torpor. 

These lengthy depressive phases are crippling. But far worse are the inevitable-recurring manic phases, when Republicans turn their suddenly frenetic eyes to war.

== It's off to War we go ==

While the actual President of the United States of America spouts purple threats that exactly mirror those of Kim Jong Un, we tend to forget that there's a much more plausible way that war may come. 

Any attack on North Korea will be so precipitate and escalate so quickly that the likely consequences should daunt even a narcissist-solipsist. Even if every single nuke and missile is taken out -- and remember the N-Koreans have been digging, like mad, for 60 years -- there are still something like 10,000 artillery tubes in sunken, reverse slope revetments aimed straight at Seoul.  With or without nukes, the entire city will be crushed or in flames, within minutes of any order from Pyongyang.
 
Now mind you, there is a potential upside here. China has chortled and enjoyed its position in all this for a long time, knowing that the U.S. can't do much about it. But When Trump makes noises just like Kim, the subtext is: "Hey, I'm just crazy enough to do this!"

No, this is not the conflict that "Trump wingman" Steve Bannon and his ilk have been itching for. Elsewhere I’ve described how an unholy alliance is conspiring together to push for a hot war between the U.S. and Iran

Consider history. Republican presidents always seek a foreign crisis to distract from domestic troubles. And boy, does Donald Trump need a big distraction. The Saudis - who co-own the GOP - want Tomahawks pouring into Persia, as do the less-smart folks in Israel. Steve Bannon and the American Dominionists view this as their beloved, biblically-ordained crisis. 

The Iranian Mullahs themselves would love such a limited "war," giving them an excuse to crush their own fast-rising, educated and moderate citizenry, while knowing that Russia will step in to prevent any real (as opposed to symbolic) damage from U.S. strikes. Of course the biggest winner would be Vladimir Putin; getting Iran as a Russian dependency has been a dream going back to the Czars. Oh, and the Saudis and Russians would get higher oil prices. A win-win-win-win for the anti-democratic cabal.

The search for pretexts is in full swing. The Trump administration is demanding access to Iran's military bases, which satellite and radiation and traffic surveillance show zero sign of being involved in Uranium enrichment. (Can anyone spell "nonexistent WMDs?")  No sovereign power will let a likely adversary onto its bases without strong cause. But all Trump needs, to satisfy his core supporters... and Vladimir... is the sound of a saber rattling. And the mullahs, wanting the same outcome, are sure to supply just enough insults to ensure the desired outcome around Christmas or a bit after -- several hundred Tomahawk missiles going pippety-poppety, with lots of flash and little real effect.  Except to raise oil prices and give Putin his chance to "protect" the Iranian people.

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this scenario. Read here how a combination of Trump Administration adults — Mattis, McMaster, Tillerson, Kelly and the Joint Chiefs have managed — so far — to thwart a U.S.-Iran conflict.

Notice that it is our senior military officers who are foremost in striving to prevent war. Ditzty-romantic lefties who rave obsolete warnings about the “military industrial complex” miss the point. That’s not where today's war profiteers reside. Boeing and Lockheed benefit by building and upgrading deterrents. They don't benefit much, or at all, when the machinery is actually used. Indeed, money flows away from investment in new systems to logistics and support of casualties. It's Bush-Cheney family logistics-companies like Haliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater who raked in billions from the Iraq Wars, via secret, no-bid “emergency” contracts. But even they know the American people have no stomach for another ground war.

The American left needs to get over their reflex loathing of crewcuts. The women and men of the Officer Corps may be our salvation, when Washington has been seized by cranky-confederate toddlers.

On a related topic: I am no fan of Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul, but his recent efforts to get Congress to rescind the 2001 and 2002 War Powers acts deserve praise.  Joining him were Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who said it was "way past time" for a vote. (Note that Flake has been a top hate target of Donald Trump, lately.) 

Congress should never give the President such a blank check, to throw us into endless wars at the stroke of a pen. But the danger of reckless abuse is now far greater than ever, with that cranky toddler-in-chief in the Oval Office. Alas, the effort to rescind and replace this carte blanche license-to-attack-anybody in our name failed.

(To be clear: while this vote was not along party lines, blame clearly falls that way. Former President Barack Obama sent Congress a proposed a reduction in his own blanket war powers, in 2015, though neither the GOP controlled Senate nor the House voted on the measure.)

== Glancing back at Korea ==

In the Washington Post, David Von Drehle writes: regardless of what foreign leaders may think about Trump and his reckless rhetoric, the United States has its own track record in the Asian Pacific. While North Korea has necrotized under the Chinese protectorate, South Korea has flourished beyond any reasonable expectation. The contrast between Eastern and Western influence is as stark at the 38th Parallel as it was at the Berlin Wall, and countries pursuing their own interests will have no trouble choosing sides.”

It’s a very cogent and perceptive piece that you should read.

== Reiterating the point ==

This excellent reporting explores the three former officers Trump calls "my generals" -- Mattis, Kelly and McMaster -- who by any measure are the adults in this administration. Yes, they were from the moderate right wing of the US Military Officer Corps, politically.  But every sign (e.g their erudition, education, science friendliness and fact-using careers) suggests that the USMOC is our best hope for sanity to kick in, when it's needed most.

There are moderate and even liberal wings to the USMOC, though I expect that few are Bernie Bros. No matter. That is where I've long said the Democrats should recruit.  Not just candidates for swing congressional districts, but as many as 5000 retired officers to run in every deep-red state assembly district.

 And you can do your part, by pondering... "do I know such a retired officer I can arm-twist into serving, yet again?"

== Always do the opposite == 

There’s zero science behind the administration’s effort to dump the higher gas mileage rules called CAFÉ standards. Even the auto industry’s opposition to CAFÉ is tepid. The standards save consumers tens of billions at the pump, cleaned the air, and propelled American cars to the highest levels of quality we’ve ever seen.  Today’s vehicles are packed with spectacular amenities and comforts, are more efficient and last many years longer (saving additional tens of billions for consumers.) There are no reasons to do this except…

Except the one that motivates Donald Trump above anything else, other than narcissism. And that is reversing anything done by Barack Obama. European leaders even made a game of it!  They found that they could sway DT in one direction or another, dependent on their answers to just one question: “Did Obama favor this?” They found that Trump’s reflex was perfect. Always do the opposite.

He has succeeded in one way.  According to Gallup's historical data, the 44th president's approval rating stood at 56 percent this week in Obama's first term, while just 37 percent disapproved—in other words, almost exactly Trump's approval ratings, but reversed.

==  Take on the cult ==

The Climate Denialism Cult is not only stupid and treasonous, it hasn't worked well. Solar power has grown by 100 fold in the last 13 years, Ramez Naam says. It’s averaged around 35 to 40 percent annual growth over the last 20 years. Wind was a footnote in the energy mix 10 years ago, he says. Today, it makes 6% of all electricity in the US. In the sunniest parts of the world, unsubsidized solar is becoming the cheapest form of energy. Lately a deal in Dubai was signed for 2.4 cents a kWh—less than half US natural gas prices and lower than natural gas in the Middle East or Africa. See what my friend and colleague Ramez has to say about this. 

Storage and batteries are still key to making all this work with resilience and reliability, and they are often pointed to as the sticking point. The sun doesn’t always shine, even in sunny places. And for less-than-sunny places and at night, batteries are the vital link, storing away sunlight for later use.

But batteries, Naam says, are also improving faster than you might expect. “Over a 15-year slice of time, the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries tripled, and the energy cost per unit of energy you could store, dropped by a factor of 10,” he says. And there are a number of other more “exotic” battery technologies on the horizon.

(Side note: a “vaccine” against climate denialism?  No joke.)  

To be clear: 

(1) I do not diss climate SKEPTICS who challenge this or that part of the problem. My friend Freeman Dyson drew undeserved ire for poking at a number of studies and "premature conclusions" for technical or procedural or logical faults, as did Berkeley Prof. Richard Muller. I defended them, because science thrives on adversarial accountability. Despite Fox-slander that scientists are conformist lemmings, most are among the most competitive humans our species ever produced.  

What these genuine skeptics have done is carefully distinguish themselves from the denialist cult's insanity, saying many of the things that I recommend hereIf YOU want to claim you are a genuine "skeptic" - not a cultist - then you need to read that piece and ask yourself some questions.

(2) Notably, genuine skeptics do not move their goalposts! Muller laid down a set of falsification tests that were clear and achievable.  Later, when those test goals were achieved, he proved his honesty by announcing: "Okay, I am now convinced that human-generated effluents are changing the climate in dangerous ways."

(3) Denialist Cultists do none of those things.  They see nothing hypocritical about spending one decade screaming "there's no warming! We're heading for an ice age! Glaciers are increasing!" Then the next jeering "there's been no net-overall warming since 1997!" using as their baseline the then-hottest year in human history. (Some of the worst are still spewing that outright, bald-faced lie, despite the fact that each of the last 5 years was hotter than all previous ones.)

Then it shifted to "All right, it's warming. But humans can't be causing it!" Only - despite efforts to sabotage satellites, fire scientists, slash research and ordeing NASA and NOAA to look away, counter-proof towered into a mountain, and so...

... and so now GOP senators are seriously pushing the line that human-generated Climate Change is real and huge... but a gooood thing! 

Often the same imbeciles and/or shills will bounce around among these varied incantation-riffs and back, in the same day. Occasionally the same speech. Now why would they do that?

Simple. They are not about the facts or science, they are about policy. Specifically, preventing science from affecting national policy. That is why Newt Gingrich banished the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). It's why Trump has appointed no science advisor and almost zeroed out the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)... and why Ryan and McConnell have their sights on the Congressional Budget Office. 

If facts are allowed to affect policy, then the interests of the GOP's owner-oligarchy will be threatened. And hence we understand the underlying reason for the Fox-Limbaugh-Jones-Breitbart campaign to turn the ire of ill-educated white males away from their class enemies and real oppressors, over to hating "smartypants." All the folks who know stuff. All of them. It worked when a million confederate white males marched to die for their oppression plantation lords. It seems to be working now.

But then:

 (4) they didn't count on real America fighting back. Along with the world, innovating and sending the price of sustainables plummeting. A little help from Clinton and Obama went a long way, giving solar, wind etc a momentum that's now unstoppable, offering real hope of saving the world... and now the Kochs' sunk costs in coal mines are vanishing, as if in smoke.

== The war on fact is a war on you ==

"In the battle between facts and fake news, facts are at a disadvantage. Researchers have found that facts alone rarely dislodge misperceptions, and in some cases even strengthen mistaken beliefs.” 

But there is hope. Research suggests that strategic inoculation with tools of critical thinking  could create a level of “herd immunity” and undercut the overall effects of fake news. When about 100 study participants were presented with the misinformation alone, their views did further polarize along political lines. But when another group of participants were first warned about a general strategy used in misinformation campaigns the polarizing effect of the misinformation was completely neutralized.

Read about the methods, because you — yes I mean you — are an important agent in this struggle to retain a scientific or at least rational civilization.

And be prepared to hold on tightly, as the Idiocrats try to foment war.

91 comments:

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | I think you might be missing David's point (discussed elsewhere) about locumranch. It is better for US that he is here so that we can see him and his arguments/opinions/preferences. Whether we win him over or not, we know he exists and learn to cope and adapt. We MIGHT figure out how to lure him over, but in the learning, we might learn how to lure over others who are less gone than he is.

I don't get angry at him or even all that perturbed anymore. I respond occasionally, but mostly as a way to learn how he sees things. I don't expect to win anything more than a refinement of what I know about him and his memes.

Tim H. said...

On Iran, didn't the late Jerry Pournelle express a desire that young Iranians have iPods? Subvert rather than explode.

donzelion said...

Paul SB (continued from this morning's post): "Don’t dismiss the role of culture and collective expectation so easily."
I hadn't meant to dismiss, so as to redirect for two reasons:

(1) Proactivity. Culture is freaking hard to alter; it may sometimes respond to policy, but it is far easier to collectively choose new policies than new cultural norms. Those policies may eventually influence culture (e.g., parliamentary Europeans offered nationalized health care because their political culture created a tournament to see which faction could provide better care to more people for less money; our political culture created a sequence of 'fortresses' in health care, to ensure certain rentiers get/stay rich). We can proactively alter certain policies, and maybe eventually influence culture as a byproduct (e.g., tax the very rich more heavily, transfer that wealth to health care - as with the ACA).
(2) Culture can explain absolutely everything and anything about any distinction - and as with most such universal explanations, offers minimal useful guidance on what to do.

"But I think there is more to it than just that wood is cheap and engineers don’t want to change their building standards."
I put very little blame on the engineers in this story. For a suburb/exurb/rural area, the value of the land one owns is tied to the purposes and costs for which it can be used. If a new standard adds a few thousand dollars in costs to each unit, a developer planning a 50-unit structure (and all their financiers) will have to revisit their plans - and the land value itself will be affected (market value probably won't change, but actual value will). All of the investors who calculated their $5 million pool of funds would create 50 units to sell at $150,000 (giving them an expected profit of up to $75k per unit) to a community where they calculate a 95% probability of total sales within 6 months at that price, will have to recalculate whether (1) the same units will sell as quickly at $200,000, (2) they need to raise additional capital to proceed with the development, among many other factors. Who would blame them for despising the new specs, and disputing the science behind them? (And who would ever expect them to honestly admit this?)

The engineers in this story will honor the specs either way (unless they are also bearing the risks from stalled projects). They're pretty good at selecting materials that are fit for purpose within the specs.

"It’s more that we see wooden homes everywhere, so our brains assume that this is “normal”"
Sometimes, 'normal' is normal for purely psychological reasons, but to my mind, expectations, like perceptions, usually respond to facts-on-the-ground.

One such fact-on-the-ground concerns energy companies: they have to build structures too, and pay close attention to global warming and other changes. While regularly dubbed 'climate change deniers' - they cannot possibly account for the extent of Republican (and Republican Churches) hostility to the science. The Koch empire, for one, earns much of its income through operations more typical of 'financial services' firms than, say, Exxon/Chevron...

"Business leaders get downright gleeful when they can fire someone,"
Most don't, BUT they do it anyway once they've calculated downsizing will move the needle positively for their shareholders. At the megacorp level, there's a lot more that goes into large scale hiring and firing than is public knowledge.

"the problem of doctors giving out Prozac like it was candy was being noted way back in the ‘80s."
Again, I look to the incentives behind that system, assuming culture will take care of itself. When medicine is controlled by salesmen, lots of strange incentives should be expected. We do not run our military as a sales vehicle (unlike most empires before us). We should not run health that way either.

donzelion said...

Jumper: "I really am in no position to even estimate costs of bringing in via dump truck say 10 yards of suitable fill (about a 2oth of a project which would at least marginally improve a small lot)"

Sorry, didn't mean to put you on the spot - was just looking for anyone who could tell me the numbers I'd heard and shared were bullshit. I'm quite confident about the process (developers amass a $5m pool to build 50 units at a target price of XXX - to begin work next year, with all the money allocated based on metrics that anticipated a profit of 100% within 3 years); not at all certain of the numbers (e.g., an extra 6" of foundation could result in a $5,000 increase in cost, and a $20k increase in asking price). Indeed, those who are certain of those numbers are probably doing the work now...

donzelion said...

"No, [N. Korea] is not the conflict that "Trump wingman" Steve Bannon and his ilk have been itching for."

Actually, Bannon (and his benefactors) probably was jockeying for an escalation with N. Korea, and in particular, CONTROLLABLE trade tensions with China.

Every time any words are spoken against N. Korea, as soon as media links them to China, dollars-yen-renminbi trades are set up WAAAY OFF the radar screens, all by computer in milliseconds. The more vitriol, the more trades. So long as actual war doesn't break out (wrecking all the trades), there's billions in profit to be made.

There's billions in profit to be made from war talk with Iran too - with insiders reaping the profits while outsiders stew with fear about what those crazy fools in charge may do.

"It's Bush-Cheney family logistics-companies like Haliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater who raked in billions from the Iraq Wars, via secret, no-bid “emergency” contracts."
We've addressed this before: unless Halliburton committed an Enron-scale fraud and lied completely on their financial statements (and every entrepreneurial Democratic-leaning lawyer neglected to take this one because they wanted to coddle Republicans and don't like earning money), they LOST money on those no-bid emergency contracts.

The ones who profited were Kochs - folks focused more on U.S. oil development. Halliburton proved that the Iraqi fields weren't gonna come back on line any time soon and glut the market, making U.S. energy holdings far more valuable.

"... and so now GOP senators are seriously pushing the line that human-generated Climate Change is real and huge... but a gooood thing!"
As the 'insiders' among their benefactors (regional developers and rich, esp. in rural/suburban areas) clear out projects planned 20+ years ago and amass their fortunes, they will gleefully take new positions betting against certain communities, even those they previously helped to build. Once enough of those communities have 'fallen,' they'll change their tune again and buy cheap. But this will take place slowly, over the course of decades...

David Brin said...

A steep burden of proof falls on those who assert that Bush-Cheney companies who got huge, no-bid cost-plus logistics contracts " LOST money on those no-bid emergency contracts"

Heck, they cannot even refute the more-than-rumor that $12 BILLION was flown into Baghdad as RAW Cash that promptly vanished.

Paul451 said...

Trivial aside:

"CAFÉ standards"

Not sure whether it's just the result of an overenthusiastic auto-correct, but that E in CAFE stands for Economy, so a cute diacritic is not necessary.

LarryHart said...

@Paul451,

The accent mark makes sense only in the sense of indicating that the acronym is to be pronounced that way.

LarryHart said...

Would you believe this is Thomas Friedman?

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/13/opinion/trump-climate-north-korea.html


...
Trump has recently fired various knuckle-headed aides whose behavior was causing him short-term embarrassment. The person he needs to fire is Scott Pruitt. Pruitt is going to cause Trump long-term embarrassment. But instead, together they are authoring a new national security doctrine — one that says when faced with a low-probability, high-impact event like North Korea, the U.S. should spend any amount of money, and if the threat doesn’t materialize, well, we’ll have a lot of Army surplus and scrap metal.

But when faced with an actually high-probability, high-impact threat called climate change, we should do nothing and poke both our eyes out, even though if the impact is less severe — and we prepare for it anyway — we will be left healthier, stronger, more productive, more resilient and more respected around the world.

That is the Pruitt-Trump Doctrine — soon to be known as “Trump’s Folly.”

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "A steep burden of proof falls on those who assert that Bush-Cheney companies who got huge, no-bid cost-plus logistics contracts " LOST money on those no-bid emergency contracts"

Hmmm...ok, I'll accept your burden of proof, though normally claims of guilt place the burden on the prosecutor, rather than the defense. Halliburton's financial performance is a matter of public record. While journalists certainly suggested improprieties, if they found any of them, one would expect litigation - lots of lawyers were hungry to pounce on that company and make a buck, and quite a few of their employees (dozens, if not hundreds) turned down a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make hundreds of millions, if not billions, through whistle-blower/qui tam actions.

Until 2007 when they sold it, Halliburton's subsidiary, KBR, handled the bulk of their work in Iraq. It's filings are also matters of public record. There WERE claims against KBR - the largest I know of was a $400m settlement with the DoJ reached in 2009 (if I recall correctly) (involving bribery in Nigeria). It could be that Obama was cowed by Halliburton, and gave them a sweetheart arrangement. More likely...there's not much more there.

"Heck, they cannot even refute the more-than-rumor that $12 BILLION was flown into Baghdad as RAW Cash that promptly vanished."
I cannot refute a claim that extra-terrestrials have invaded America and secretly control Congress either (even if it would explain an awful lot about Congress). Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And $12 bn is a LOT of Benjamins. Flowing through secret, rock solid channels - far more secretive than any drug cartel...

'No bid contracts' are inherently improper, and there's good reason standard government contracting rules do not permit them. That goes double when the company concerned is so intimately linked to a president. But one should strive to deal with proven facts, and here, what has been proven doesn't really exonerate Halliburton or support the decision to award them no-bid contracts, but it doesn't show massive patterns of fraud or profits either (and you can bet that Obama's Justice Department investigated further...).

Zepp Jamieson said...

I got annoyed enough at right wingers who tried to dismiss the two storms (The Mayor of Tampa Bay called it "a big nothingburger") that I came out of semi-retirement and wrote an essay on it. Those curious can find it here: http://readersupportednews.org/pm-section/27-27/45751-bigger-stronger-storms-take-it-to-the-bank

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Would you believe this is Thomas Friedman?"

Friedman, who tends to be wrong on a lot of things, has a solid record dating back to the 1990s on advocating action to prevent climate change. He's one of the strongest voices, along with Al Gore Junior and Arnold Schwarzenegger. For the much-praised "Years of Living Dangerously" documentary series, he went into Syria, at considerable personal risk (Friedman is Jewish) and came out with a wonderful piece showing how the core of the Syrian civil war began, not from political strife, but for a battle for drinking water, made scare by a climate-change exacerbated drought.

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, a perspective on climate debate I haven't often heard is how the climate deniers would bind the nation to energy tech that's passed it's sell by date. Progress will happen somewhere, I think it'd be advantageous for The United States if a lot of it happened here.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Tim H wrote: the climate deniers would bind the nation to energy tech that's passed it's sell by date.


News just came out today that Mike Flynn, the former NSC advisor and apparent agent of numerous foreign nations, tried to broker a deal to sell the Saudis 16 nuclear power plants. It's not immediately apparent why Saudi Arabia would NEED 16 nuclear power plants--they have sunshine and wind in abundance, and are rumoured to have some small amounts of oil. Now, if Flynn was doing this deal on behalf of Trump associates, that would be pretty skeezy and possibly illegal. But he was doing it on behalf of the Russians.

There's a boatload of implications, but I mention it because the Trump administration still admires power sources that, as you say, are "past their sell-by date."

David Brin said...

“and you can bet that Obama's Justice Department investigated further”

Actually, that’s diametrically opposite to true. What is ALWAYS true is that GOP administrations seek desperately for dirt on their DP predecessors… and find nothing. And Clinton and Obama strove hard to calm troubled waters and make nice and not be seen acting for partisan interest. The most recent example being BHO’s ridiculous reticence about slamming Russian election interference.

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

Are we sure that this new information is not part of a campaign to make Flynn the patsy for other people in the Grope Administration? It was just one bad actor and the rest of us are sneaky clean?

And as far as "past their sell-by date" goes, that's just what you would expect of a power that always works in favor of already vested interest, isn't it?

Dr. Brin,

Does that mean we will never see Bush behind bars for all the death caused, making up stories about WMD because he was itching for a rematch with Iraq? We will be paying for that one with blood for decades to come.

Donzelion,

Culture is not a universal explanation for everything - which would make it universally useless as an explanation for anything. Culture has a lot to do with why any individual makes the choices they make, but culture cannot explain why it is the way it is. That would be tautological. You might deduce that a person from Bolivia would choose differently than a person from Austria by knowing how those cultures differ, but why do they differ in the first place? The other part of that is that culture does not universally constrain actors, it sets up constraints by defining what are and are not options. Food choices are an easy example to work with. Native Australians include any number of insect larva on their menus, but most Americans would cringe at the sight, and if they managed to choke one down would be very likely to eject them from their stomachs anyway. There are a few people here who talk about insects as a source of food, but they are the exception. Of course, if we continue to flat-line the ecosystem at Sixth Extinction rates, future generations might not have a choice in the matter. In that case we have a reason why the culture would change. And cultures do change - usually slowly, but a hell of a lot faster than biology. That's the whole point behind encephalization. Wen aren't going to make Alfred's H. angelicas happen by changing the gene pool by much in under a quarter million years, but by creating institutions and expectations we can change actual behavior.

Paul SB said...

Paul 451,

Trivial reply:

My mother always referred to coffee as "high octane" so maybe your spell check is thinking like she is.

Alfred,

Our host has made his point clear often enough. My point is that he never actually says anything new or unique, so practicing on him is no better than listening to some duckweed talk radio guru and dismissing every word they say. But this forum pays so much attention to his scatological claims that he ends up sucking up all the oxygen. There are people here who actually have interesting things to say and contribute, but as soon as that guy starts spewing his crap everybody wants to jump down his throat and forget about discussing interesting/useful things. Like anything else you feed, feeding trolls makes them stronger and gives them more power over you (and that's /you/ plural - meaning this blog).

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

And be prepared to hold on tightly, as the Idiocrats try to foment war.


One unforeseen favor I think Bush/Cheney did was to sour Americans on getting into more wars. Trump supporters are big on bluster, but not on actual international entanglements. I don't see the public getting all ginned up to go into yet another theater of war they way they did in 2003, in large part because the Iraq war was such a fiasco, and the Afghanistan war, while necessary at the time, just keeps on going and going.

LarryHart said...

Tim H:

...climate deniers would bind the nation to energy tech that's passed it's sell by date. Progress will happen somewhere, I think it'd be advantageous for The United States if a lot of it happened here.


I think that's because a lot has changed since the Gilded Age. It might have been true back then that "What's good for General Motors is good for the USA, and what's good for the USA is good for General Motors." But the same cannot be said of Exxon Mobil, much less to non-American oil giants like BP and Shell.

Progress here would benefit America, but would cut into profits for the financial powers behind climate denialism.

LarryHart said...

Dr Brin:

Clinton and Obama strove hard to calm troubled waters and make nice and not be seen acting for partisan interest. The most recent example being BHO’s ridiculous reticence about slamming Russian election interference.


While I agree with you viscerally with hindsight, I think we have to remember the mood of the time way back in 2016. Everyone knew Hillary would beat Trump and steal his lunch. President Obama didn't want to give more fuel to the fire that there was something suspect about the electoral process and that Hillary's election was illegitimate.

Knowing what we know now, I wish he had acted differently, but knowing what we know now, I wish Joe Biden had been the nominee, or failing that, Bernie Sanders. Until we discover a way to take up residence in an alternate history, none of that helps much.

Tim H. said...

LarryHart, exactly so, the goals of profit maximization are diverging from that which will reinforce the nation's capacity for independent action, given the current and possible future denizens of the White House, we are distracted...

LarryHart said...

@Tim H. ,

Back in the 1980s, Marvel did a comic miniseries called "The One" whose premise was that a billionaire defense contractor engineered a situation in which the US and USSR went to the brink of nuclear war. He had positioned himself financially to benefit from the crisis. When the (fictitious) American president pointed out that he (the bad guy) would also die horribly in a nuclear exchange, the bad guy pointed out that it was up to the governments to pull back from the brink. Essentially, "That's your problem, but I know you'll do it because you have no other choice."

That seems to be the real-life attitude of today's profiteers. Either they don't think a functioning United States matters to them, or they expect that the United States will continue to function no matter what they do.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul: Mueller seems to be working on a case that Flynn was acting at Trump's behest. Other parts of his investigation focus on Flynn's role as go-between with Putin.

A.F. Rey said...

Actually being on topic once (we'll see how long that lasts), NPR did a story yesterday on Democrats recruiting veterans for the 2018 House races.

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/08/549172533/with-an-eye-on-the-house-democrats-turn-to-veterans-for-2018-races

It's happening enough for the media to notice. Of course, there are some caveats:

Democrats have tried this before [recruiting ex-military to run for office, including the 2006 recruitment effort by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that produced the so-called "Fighting Dems."

While military veterans performed well in Democratic primaries, only a handful won in the general election...

Teigen says recruiting veterans as candidates won't be a panacea to other challenges facing Democrats, such as deeply conservative districts or a party platform that fails to resonate with voters. He says veterans can provide a small advantage, but that edge only matters in tight races...

"If you're a Democrat running in a really, really Republican district this time, even if you have been a military hero and have no legislative record, you're still going to get tagged as a liberal who wants Nancy Pelosi to be House Speaker," Wasserman said.


We should expect to see Republicans doubling-down on the MINO (Military in Name Only) meme. :)

David Brin said...

What kind of man doesn't even offer good words to a neighbor in desperate need? "Mexico had initially offered to send food, generators and medical aid to victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, despite Donald Trump's offensive comments about the country. Trump notably did not offer his sympathies, condolences, or any aid to Mexico after either disaster, once again breaking with tradition in his interactions with other countries."

https://www.bustle.com/p/will-hurricane-max-hit-acapulco-mexico-is-bracing-itself-2353073

Jumper said...

There seems to be a record typhoon in the East China Sea right now.
https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/wind/surface/level/orthographic=-220.83,43.41,347

Zepp Jamieson said...

There's Doksuri, which is moving toward Hanoi. It's only a Cat 3, though, and unlikely to get more intense. Another Cat 2 job is on course to rake the north west coasts of Japan.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "Actually, that’s diametrically opposite to true [my claim that Dems investigated 'Republican-aligned corporations']... What is ALWAYS true is that GOP administrations seek desperately for dirt on their DP predecessors… and find nothing. And Clinton and Obama strove hard to calm troubled waters and make nice and not be seen acting for partisan interest."

You're incorrect about the second portion of that paragraph, and there are ample cases to prove it. One of the more public such claims concerned Obama's IRS/Justice Dept. investigating 'nonprofit organizations' that acted as political fronts (in violation of their tax exempt status) vigorously (also investigated some religious groups, albeit a little less vigorously). Just so happens 90%+ of those were right wing groups. There are actually many such examples, not all as public.

As for specific investigations of KBR, Halliburton, and others conducted by Justice, that goes under the category of, "If I knew more, I couldn't speak freely, or even imply that I knew more."

Those of Obama's people I knew were extremely effective professionals. They did their jobs. Bharara (not exactly one of Obama's people, but...) vigorously prosecuted criminals, including financiers behind the Crash. They never coddled the right for the sake of appearances. The absence of convictions some people wanted to see is not the same as the lack of effort and certainly doesn't amount to 'making nice for appearance's sake.'

"The most recent example being BHO’s ridiculous reticence about slamming Russian election interference."
The Russians may not hesitate to kill assets, operatives, or others who are outed by BHO; they will certainly shut down those sources of insight into the world's second largest nuclear power. Meanwhile, anything BHO says will be dismissed by a large portion (majorities?) of Americans as 'politics as usual' (bear in mind how many of them still think he's a Muslim). When the benefits of speaking are uncertain, the harms and risks clear - reticence may be a prudent course. Not necessarily a preferred course, and perhaps not YOUR course, but I respect his judgment.

He certainly hasn't hesitated to speak out on matters not intimately linked to intelligence (DACA).

LarryHart said...

donzelion:

One of the more public such claims concerned Obama's IRS/Justice Dept. investigating 'nonprofit organizations' that acted as political fronts (in violation of their tax exempt status) vigorously (also investigated some religious groups, albeit a little less vigorously). Just so happens 90%+ of those were right wing groups.


To me, that says more about how right-wing groups operate than about the investigators. If right-wing groups masquerade as "non-political" for tax benefits they don't deserve, they should be called on it. The ones who call them on it aren't behaving badly unless they are letting similar cheating by left-wing groups go.

The public understanding that the Obama administration unfairly targeted Tea Party organizations who claimed they were non-political rests upon an assumption that there must have been an equal number of Democratic-leaning groups cheating the same way, and the administration gave them a pass. I think that assumption is false.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: "we will never see Bush behind bars for all the death caused, making up stories about WMD because he was itching for a rematch with Iraq?"

No, we won't. Nice fantasy, but we really don't want judges to wield that kind of power over the president anyway...

But we can understand HOW Iraq made some Americans richer, and disregard the less crucial stories as distractions. Iraq was a cash grab, but not a cash grab operated through federal payoffs to political cronies. That's a sideshow distraction. The real story is how a vast number of Americans, esp. property owners in certain rural territories, saw the value of their land explode once it was utterly clear Iraqi oil would not glut the market for at least 10 years and those other energy sources would become valuable.

"Culture is not a universal explanation for everything - which would make it universally useless as an explanation for anything."
When you discuss it, it is not a universal explanation for everything; you've done your homework and are able to consider it without applying such reductive thoughts. But when many discuss it, it certainly can be.

I would say culture 'evolves' - but not in an evolutionary sense: it adapts to its inputs (diet, sure, policy as well, and as many other inputs are there are people). My hope is that by routinizing mental health within the ACA as a mandatory component of insurance policies (our original context), stigma will decline - as will the 'pill-popping' remedies, and something more effective displace that, which actually helps those in need. It's hard for me to think what to do about the stigma (look at all these awesome people who are awesome despite, or in some cases, because of, their various mental struggles!) - but dealing with incentives that are easily missed...that I can do.

donzelion said...

LarryHart: re the Obama era investigations into nonprofits

"To me, that says more about how right-wing groups operate than about the investigators."
True, though this was probably a temporary tactic, during the period of McCain-Feingold (2002) through Citizens United (2010), so it could be 'how right-wing groups operateD.'

"If right-wing groups masquerade as "non-political" for tax benefits they don't deserve, they should be called on it."
Absolutely. BUT it does say that Obama's people weren't afraid of a fight.

There is this strange perception of Obama as 'Mr. Nice Guy' - he won the Nobel, he talked civilly, he even cried when children got slaughtered with guns! But he also authorized bombing the heck out of enemies, killing the leader of the group that had made the most devastating attack on America in generations, deporting millions of immigrants...and investigating lawbreakers (including Democrats). Which is what professionals ought to do.

"The public understanding that the Obama administration unfairly targeted Tea Party organizations who claimed they were non-political rests upon an assumption that there must have been an equal number of Democratic-leaning groups cheating the same way, and the administration gave them a pass. I think that assumption is false."
The best facts we have available agree with your view. But the ACORN situation clouded the perceptions at the time. Which again, tells us a great deal about right-wing groups and the power of fringe news: the fraudulent claims about ACORN helping set up brothels, and Planned Parenthood selling dead babies for spare parts had tremendous effect. Legitimate law enforcement, by contrast, is far more important, far less dramatic, and seldom telegenic - and a far harder tool with which to score conclusive political points.

Alfred Differ said...

@Paul SB | My point is that he never actually says anything new or unique...

Not quite true from the way I see it. There are times when I'm in partial agreement with him regarding what is going on while disagreeing as to why or what to do about it. He responds to that occasionally and then I see something different from him.

Given your views of his views, though, I think it would make perfect sense for you to filter his contributions and rarely ever look at them. If I name him directly at the top of one of my posts, you can safely filter that too. While I agree with David that it is useful to have locumranch around now and then, I don't think it is wise for us all to respond to his every post... especially the more emotional ones. We WILL overload him and short circuit the learning process. As long as he is reading us and a few respond to him, that would probably be for the best.

David wants to do his fatherly duty. All we have to do (at a minimum) is not get in the way too much. If we can figure out how to help, that's gravy.

are people here who actually have interesting things to say and contribute, but as soon as that guy starts spewing his crap everybody wants to jump down his throat and forget about discussing interesting/useful things.

See? That's where his presence can actually serve us. There is no way we are going toward a future where we are NOT going to have to learn how to deal with this. In the 'small community' world in which we were born, someone had to physically walk onto a commons in front of us if they wanted to whip it out and piss on the ground in front of us. Intentional insults required work and risk. Now they can do it remotely and we've even expanded the language to describe some of the instances. Trolls, Drive-By's, anonymous cowards, SEO spam, etc. The cost to those who would do it is so very, very low that WE are going to have to figure out how to filter. There are easy ways, of course. Just block out the people who annoy you. The easiest ones, however, are mostly bad for our mental health.

Can we find a way to cope with them all? Nah. It's not worth trying. However, it IS worth trying to cope with some of them. Locumranch isn't all that bad when it comes to trolls. He thinks he is insightful. Most trolls I've seen just trawl for emotional flames. He isn't even if some of us deliver them anyway.

donzelion said...

A.F. Rey: "...NPR did a story yesterday on Democrats recruiting veterans for the 2018 House races."

Ah, I'd love to see Wesley Clark make a go of it...

"We should expect to see Republicans doubling-down on the MINO (Military in Name Only) meme. :)"

What is the appropriate 'frown and nod in unhappy agreement' emoji?

donzelion said...

LarryHart: Just saw this..."Back in the 1980s, Marvel did a comic miniseries called "The One"...That seems to be the real-life attitude of today's profiteers. Either they don't think a functioning United States matters to them, or they expect that the United States will continue to function no matter what they do."

Insightful author; wonder who did it?

One thing though: this is how government did tend to operate before Pax Americana. The British Empire was all about commercial exploitation of colonies and territories - and with a healthy 19th century stock market, one could often profit MORE from going to the brink of war (gunboat diplomacy) than actual war, and then turn around and take just a little bit more, a little piece of China here, of Africa there...

Duncan (I think?) once noted that some of the profiteers have been eyeing safe harbors in New Zealand. They're eyeing plots EVERYWHERE. That is ultimately the most powerful response to Alfred's regular suggestion that 'if things go too far, the pitchforks will be raised.' They just may. But if they are, they'll be raised at that one poor sucker who didn't own a helicopter to get to his private jet to fly to his yacht to migrate to his secret lair on Scaramanga's Island (Man with the Golden Gun) (or Manhattan or London).

Anonymous said...

"While the actual President of the United States of America spouts purple threats that exactly mirror those of Kim Jong Un, we tend to forget that there's a much more plausible way that war may come.

Any attack on North Korea will be so precipitate and escalate so quickly that the likely consequences should daunt even a narcissist-solipsist. Even if every single nuke and missile is taken out -- and remember the N-Koreans have been digging, like mad, for 60 years -- there are still something like 10,000 artillery tubes in sunken, reverse slope revetments aimed straight at Seoul. With or without nukes, the entire city will be crushed or in flames, within minutes of any order from Pyongyang.

Now mind you, there is a potential upside here. China has chortled and enjoyed its position in all this for a long time, knowing that the U.S. can't do much about it. But When Trump makes noises just like Kim, the subtext is: "Hey, I'm just crazy enough to do this!""

My fear is Donald Trump is both so stupid and crazy, he could start World War 3 just by himself. The power of the Presidency was greatly expanded during the Cold War, in response to the fear of a Soviet nuclear attack. The Secretary of Defense, the rest of the Military Officer Corps, do not have the power to delay or prevent an insane President who wanted to impulsively press the button. I am more afraid now about the end of human civilization than during the Cold War. Pushing the would distract people from the Russia investigation. This makes me want an impeachment so soon.

Anonymous said...

Great article on climate sceptic vs deniers - I recommend it highly. Especially the idea that we ought to be doing environmentally clean programs just because they are a good idea regardless of AGW

Paul SB said...

Zepp,

I like your scenario better. I suspect the Grope Admin. will try to play the bad apple card. Hopefully Mueller will both get to the bottom of it and do it publicly enough that nothing is being swept under the rug.

Alfred,

I grew up surrounded by people just like this guy, and nothing he says is anything new. He might twist things into slightly different logical pretzels than most of his ilk, but there is really nothing new or unfamiliar there. Perhaps you have been on the Left Coast a bit long. It's not that he pisses me off any more than about 1/3rd of the country does. I often come across as incendiary when you only know me from my writing, but people who know the 3d version say I am remarkably calm. What's distressing is that this community is so easily hijacked. I have seen threads here where fully half the entries were outraged responses to the crap he flings. People here are mostly better than this, and he sits back and laughs because we have such easy buttons to push (and I am guilty as charged, here, too, but I am joining Flinch Anonymous and trying to overcome this shortcoming. It starts with admission.). You are right about how the Electronic Age makes such behavior so much easier, but the appropriate response is no response at all.

donzelion said...

Paul SB: My view on him is that occasionally, when I need an outlet to vent against for things that frustrate me - Locum generously agrees to step up to the plate. He may mock softy humanitarianism, but the service he renders by volunteering to be the butt of ridicule is...well, worth the price of a 'hijacked' thread. Since most of us note, nod, and move on in discussions from our host's posts, we're all 'thread hijackers' of a sort; I cannot judge him worse than myself.

I find remarkable satisfaction and reassurance from intelligent posts from people I generally agree with, but occasionally dissent from (one must keep one's contrarian chops in order, after all).

"the appropriate response is no response at all."
Probably. But whatever else, Locum is one of 'us,' no? And comparing his... offerings...with the likes you'll find on so many comment boards, you'll see he is often quite superior to the 'idiocrats.' He probably is in real life as well, but just needs to vent from time to time himself.

Oh, speaking of idiocrats, I googled it to determine if I was misusing a term with a real meaning, as opposed to the 'Idiocracy' version. Turns out, there's interesting history there: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/internets-favorite-words/idiocracy

I suppose America has had our 'Know Nothing' party before...and survived them.

Paul SB said...

Donzelion,

As usual, you have a lot of insight into the corrupt workings I know very little about. I am always interested in what you have to say on many subjects. The idea that one motivation behind the iraq Lie was to remove Iraqi oil from the market, raising the value of oil-bearing land in the US does make sense, though the fracking boom changed the character of it from an oil boom to a methane boom.

"When you discuss it, it is not a universal explanation for everything; you've done your homework and are able to consider it without applying such reductive thoughts."
- It would be pretty embarrassing if I hadn't done my homework, wouldn't it? :-] (Hey, I have a nose now!)

Remember that /evolve/ only means to change. Cultural evolution is analogous to the evolution of gene pools in some ways, but it has a lot of features you don't get with DNA (though the current revolution in epigenetics is showing more parallels than we thought. You know about the Dutch Hunger Winter? My mother was 1 year old, which might explain some things...) It looks to me as if the stigmatization is lifting a bit, at least in the younger generations. I've seen adolescents who think that being bipolar or schizophrenic is somehow unique and therefore "cool." In another 10 years they will probably be going, "Meh!" because it's old and out of fashion, but even then, it moves the needle a little. I think a lot of the stigma relates to concepts of manliness, in that manliness is largely about pretense to strength. Having any illness is admitting to weakness, though it is easier to accept when you can see something physically wrong with someone, like coming back from a war without legs.

Come to think of it, we are kind of seeing how the needle can shift. Since the Iraq War there has been a lot of attention to PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. Since the people getting these things are heroes risking their lives for the nation, it is becoming more acceptable. Now if we can get people to understand that growing up in the ghetto is not cool, it causes PTSD, we might just get some movement on policy. Sometimes what you think is the horse is actually the cart, and sometimes they trade places.

Jumper said...

David's link to his previous essay paid off big time.
http://www.davidbrin.com/nonfiction/climatechange2.html
I recommend selling it now. It's fresh yet. For 2010 it covers the bases very well and for 2017 also.
When does weather become climate? I read one opinion that when the butterfly effect becomes irrelevant, that's the division. The butterfly effect implies that no weather event will ever be absolutely attributed to AGW, so let it go. However, concentrating on costs is still a good idea. Here's a trillion dollar baby:
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/business/article173114701.html

Jumper said...

"manliness is largely about pretense to strength." Is that a European thing, or is it from somewhere else?
I don't think it's Martian..

Zepp Jamieson said...

Paul SB wrote: "I suspect the Grope Admin. will try to play the bad apple card. Hopefully Mueller will both get to the bottom of it and do it publicly enough that nothing is being swept under the rug."

What scares me is that as Mueller closes in (and that may be measured in weeks now) Trump will stage something: a Reichenstag Fire, a 9/11, war with NK. Just talking tough at Kin Jung Un gave him a four point bounce in the polls.

Of course a significant number of voters are idiots. I'm not surprised to see his number go up because he's pretending to be working with the Dems on DACA--a problem he created himself. He knows how to manipulate, and many Americans are historically illiterate (people are shocked to learn that Hitler was hugely popular in Germany all the way to 1943) and lack the critical thinking skills needed to sidestep the more blatant attempts to manipulate.

Watching Clinton on Rachel Maddow right now. Her description of how insular and ineffective the State Department is right now is terrifying.

matthew said...

Trump just called antifa "the other side." From the mouth of a fool...

David Brin said...

donzel the so-called “investigations of conservative nonprofits” was a molehill, a brief downgrading of the process of granting EXEMPTIONS from normal procedures, as readily as was done for other groups. It was wrong. It was stopped and those responsible fired.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
"the so-called “investigations of conservative nonprofits” was a molehill, a brief downgrading of the process of granting EXEMPTIONS from normal procedures, as readily as was done for other groups. It was wrong. It was stopped and those responsible fired."

Disagree IMHO it was not "Wrong" it was completely correct - when looking for wrongdoing it is entirely appropriate to have a longer look at the people who loudly claim that they want to do wrong
And being fired for doing your job properly is not a good way to encourage the others to do a good job

If I was in charge of the IRS I would commission a study about comparing resources expended to the amount of underpaid taxes and then go for the groups that the study showed would give the most bang for the buck
Which is exactly what I used to do when improving a manufacturing process

David Brin said...

Anonymous, the best way to control for a suddenly insane presidential spasm is for Congress to establish the “other body” commission of sages who can, at the request of the Vice President, rule the president to be incapacitated. There’s nothing in the Constitution that forbids it from being a standing committee of American sages. Possible implications for good are immense… as well as some scenarios for conceivable misuse. But such a commission would give the VP almost instant ability to act, if officers came to him saying “He just ordered us to end the world.”

“Especially the idea that we ought to be doing environmentally clean programs just because they are a good idea regardless of AGW”

It’s called TWODA. Things We Ought To Do Anyway.

Zepp: “What scares me is that as Mueller closes in (and that may be measured in weeks now) Trump will stage something: a Reichenstag Fire, a 9/11, war with NK. Just talking tough at Kin Jung Un gave him a four point bounce in the polls.”

Interesting swing, With Queen Bitch herself now using the impeachment word, re DT’s ‘betrayal’ actually talking to democrats. And Trump finding he can do business with them. Watch out. He may wind up surrounded by… adults.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Dr Brin said, "re DT’s ‘betrayal’ actually talking to democrats. And Trump finding he can do business with them. Watch out. He may wind up surrounded by… adults."

I'm deeply suspicious of Trump's 'betrayal'. He may be trying to set up the Dems for a massive screwing over that will make them look foolish. Remember, this is the man whose OWN LAWYERS meet with him only with two or more present at once, since he is so apt to double-cross them and lie about whatever he told them at the meeting.

Had to think about "Queen Bitch" for a moment before realizing you meant Ann Coulter. Hillary used the word in her interview with Rachel Maddow (although stopped short of suggesting it), but I did finally puzzle out who you meant.

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greg byshenk said...

I found it hard to let this pass by:

Teigen says recruiting veterans as candidates won't be a panacea to other challenges facing Democrats, such as deeply conservative districts or a party platform that fails to resonate with voters. He says veterans can provide a small advantage, but that edge only matters in tight races...

Because, if I remember my reading correctly, pretty much all research indicates the the Democratic party platform in fact "resonate"s quite well with a significant majority of voters. The (a?) problem is that many voters don't actually vote on the basis of party platform.

Paul SB said...

Jumper,

"I don't think it's Martian..."
- Ya Grok? :-]

Paul SB said...

Matthew,

From Grope's perspective, Antifa is the 'other side' because they are against the right-wing nazis who voted for him. But from the viewpoint of the actual 'other side' Antifa is a different animal altogether - anarchists, not liberals at all. But it is in Grope's political interests to tar liberals with the same brush, to maintain that false equivalency claim that makes his detractors look as bad as his supporters. He is not being idiotic, he is being manipulative. The people who are idiotic are his supporters, who apparently aren't smart enough to see through it. But then, these are people who deluded themselves into thinking that a businessman would be more honest than a politician, so what can we expect?

Jumper said...

Esse quam videri "To be, rather than to seem." That's the Martian motto.

raito said...

donzelion,

Culture is easy to change. Look around you -- it's changing all the time. What's hard is to tailor that change. And even there, I'm pretty sure there's been a ton of money thrown into researching just that, and probably goes on without our being conscious of it. And the changes are hard to predict.

Unfortunately, the people figuring this out aren't the ones I agree with.

Paul SB,

What we really want is to remove the stigma without either the pendulum swinging the other way into 'coolness' or ceasing to identify something as a problem merely because its effect can be contained. And that applies to a lot of culture, policy, and politics.

Dr. Brin,

On the subject og granting exemptions, I'd love to here what my fellow WI citizen thinks about the Foxconn deal here. Wherein there is contemplated an attempt to bind the courts to certain procedures. To wit, if any judgement does against Foxconn, and its appealed, it's automatically stayed pending being heard by the state SC. Such hubris! Not only attempting to control another branch of government, but saying that one entity is inherently superior under the law. They're not even pretending to hide this stuff any more. And that's just the tip of the iceberg in that deal.

matthew said...

SCOTUS just signaled that they intend to uphold a permanent Republican control of government through gerrymandering. The biggest news of the year - Kennedy thinks that racial gerrymandering is legal.

It will be war in the US. Time to leave or fight.

The worst news of the year.

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/09/the_supreme_court_s_conservatives_just_ensured_that_latino_votes_still_won.html

LarryHart said...

matthew:

It will be war in the US. Time to leave or fight.


Unfortunately, after each new outrage, the response seems to echo "Monty Python's Life of Brian"


This calls for immediate...discussion!

LarryHart said...

@raito,

The Republicans seem to have figured out the magic formula for implementing blatantly unfair voting rules in a democracy. In theory, as the electoral college and various gerrymandering schemes and voter-id schemes become more and more obviously partisan and unfair, more and more voters would rise up with indignation against such schemes.

The problem is that too many beneficiaries of such unfair policies make the corrupt decision not to oppose cheating that benefits themselves. A vicious cycle ensues in which legal cheating gives outsized power to those whose agenda includes legalizing the cheating. Disenfranchised blacks and Latinos can't rise up against the unfairness of the system because the whole nature of the unfairness is to shut them out of the process.

As long as rural White-State Confederates who get the unfairness are ok with unfairness in their own favor, the system won't fix itself. It's looking as if Dr Brin's "Earth" scenario is coming true, the reasonable deal-makers are being bought off or threatened or removed so that only extra-systemic solutions are possible. Alexander has to cut the Gordian Knot. Siwenna has to revolt from outside the Inclosure. Roosevelt and Stalin have to join forces. Otherwise, we're headed either for "The Iron Heel" or the guillotine.

A.F. Rey said...

On a side note, FiveThirtyEight has an interesting article on the Rotten Tomatoes' score for Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Sequel. The score is almost evenly divided between 1's and 10's, making a severe "U" shape. And more than half the ratings were submitted before the movie was in general release.

An interesting example of the problems with crowd ratings.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/al-gores-new-movie-exposes-the-big-flaw-in-online-movie-ratings/

locumranch said...


I spent a fair part of yesterday listening to the BBC discuss & approve of the 'Global New Deal' (their terminology) which they described as a centrally-governed global pro-diversity socialist utopia uniformly dedicated to socioeconomic equalism & the prevention of climate change.

Composed of earnest men & women of noble intent, this expert panel kept using the word 'consensus' (over & over) in order to demonstrate the intellectual inevitability of this benevolent Global New Deal and simultaneously justify the ENFORCEMENT of this so-called 'consensus' by singular world government.

Of course, the irony of this 'Global New Deal' (the Communist Manifesto repackaged) was entirely lost on these earnest but historically ignorant experts, as was the irony inherent in their borderline insane presumption of 'intellectual inevitability', 'enforced consensus' and 'uniform diversity' (below):

(1) A consensus ENFORCED upon others cannot be considered 'consensual'; (2) 'intellectual inevitability' based on shared preferences, prejudices & presumptions (which always lead lock-step to the same 'begged' conclusions) equals anti-intellectualism; and (3) uniformity, representing the singular, is the antithesis of the diverse multiplicity.

That said, let's talk about Free Trade & Globalism for the moment:

On either the national or international scale, can 'Free Trade' really be said to be 'Free' (in the sense of being 'consensual' and 'not compelled') if it's absence leads to adverse consequence & conflict and Globalism's peace requires it's presence?

No, no and no again because 'that which is required & MANDATED can neither be free nor consensual', and this truth applies to all circumstances & localities, including any & all relationships that mandate certain behaviors in order to avoid adversity & conflict.

Ergo, Humanity is, has always been & will always be at war with itself IF WE ASSUME either freedom or diversity, even though we self-delude and tell ourselves otherwise in the sense of 'War is Peace', 'Freedom is Slavery', 'Uniformity is Diversity' and 'Ignorance is Strength'.

It goes without saying that Climate Change Consensus believers are 'at war' with those Climate Change Denier heretics because the very existence of a consensus denier belies the existence of any such 'consensus', whereas those who disavow 'consensus' have no reason to wage war on the 'consensus believer' until such time that the believer attacks, and this holds true in matters of trade internationale and domestic red-v-blue.

This absurd false dichotomy of Peace & War -- in which our culture indulges -- assumes that a state of Peace exists between those who are COMPELLED to trade with each other but a state of War exists when no such compunction exists because 'consensus' (as conceived) is an 'either-or' assumption that invalidates the non-dichotomous.

Can any of you even conceive of the non-dichotomous options in which consensus is OPTIONAL, trade is actually FREE & diversity exists in a non-uniform fashion?

War is INEVITABLE if you cannot.


Best

Jumper said...

You keep talking about "war." Are you fixing to freak completely and go flippo?

LarryHart said...

loumranch:

Can any of you even conceive of the non-dichotomous options in which consensus is OPTIONAL, trade is actually FREE & diversity exists in a non-uniform fashion?


Yeah, I'd say most of us can.

Also, it's not the mere existence of a dissenting opinion that puts us at war with climate deniers. It's the harmful policies that you implement in order to establish your denier bona-fides.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart quoteth the Snakes: This calls for immediate...discussion!

We must all learn to think for ourselves!

AF Ray: Similar thing on Amazon, where thousands of alleged reviews of Clinton's book "What Happened" on the day of its release, giving either best or worst ratings with no middle ground.

People like to point to the Sixties as an example of a polarised society, but I would say now is far worse.

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "the so-called “investigations of conservative nonprofits” was a molehill, a brief downgrading of the process of granting EXEMPTIONS from normal procedures, as readily as was done for other groups. It was wrong. It was stopped and those responsible fired."

(1) That was the IRS portion of it, yes. The Justice portion was to start enforcement proceedings against the worst offenders for fraud; investigations that take years to start and finish. Citizens United closed that off.
(2) While never 'oppressive' (as the other side claimed), it was certainly 'in your face' challenge to them. You asserted Obama's team tried to 'make nice' with the other side and let them off the hook; that this incident even happened shows otherwise. There's a host of other illustrations (EPA, tax, and most other government agencies). His hounds were after the lawbreakers, they were exceptionally good hounds, but they didn't always catch the prey the public wanted them to catch.
(3) "Those responsible fired" - do you mean the IRS investigators? I actually know one or two lawyers in the tax enforcement division who were ousted (not fired, but gently nudged into the private sector). Their motives were always, 'enforce all the laws, against anyone who breaks them.' Again, Citizens United did more to reset their agenda - change of law, change of priorities.

Indeed, Citizens United more than anything accounts for McConnell's tactics on the Garland/Gorsuch court seat. Last thing he wanted in 2016 was the possibility that the entire Republican funder network would need to be tweaked before an election.

Obama's team was (in general) quite vigorous: they didn't let Halliburton, or anyone else, slide, not out of fear, nor out of 'making nice.' They went for the jugular, sometimes came close, sometimes missed, but doing just what they were hired to do. His rhetoric was 'Mr. Nice Guy' - his administration, however, was coolly pragmatic. That annoyed the most strident among the Left who yearned for 'Conan the Executive' to smite evildoers - and annoyed nearly all of the Right, who yearned for another 'Mr. Magoo.'

donzelion said...

Further to LarryHart: "it's not the mere existence of a dissenting opinion that puts us at war with climate deniers. It's the harmful policies that you implement in order to establish your denier bona-fides."

I'm not even necessarily all that bothered by the harmful policies - OK, so the federal government won't charge extra for heavy pollution emitters by enacting, say, a vigorous 'cap'n'trade' program? Alright...can we at least stop subsidizing them?

Perhaps raise dividends tax rate to equal ordinary income? The bigger players set up a fairly simple structure (master-limited partnership pays out taxable income to a corporation, which in turn pays out dividends to its shareholders, thereby reducing their tax hit). For Americans with under $1m invested, the savings from the dividend discount is trivial. For the wealthy, it results in a very lucrative way to play 'high polluting' activities for substantial, tax-efficient yield. Of course they despise 'climate change' discussions: if enough people paid attention to those conversations, their piggy banks would be raided.

donzelion said...

Duncan: "If I was in charge of the IRS I would commission a study about comparing resources expended to the amount of underpaid taxes and then go for the groups that the study showed would give the most bang for the buck"

Which is precisely how it NORMALLY works, when professionals are in charge - that's the default posture.

However, they're also responsive to other considerations. Can/should tax law be used to protect other fundamental rights, like electoral integrity? Can/should it be used to stop certain criminal behavior, like organized gangs? Congress issues a lot of laws; they don't say, "this one is more important than that one" - but rather, the president sets the groundwork, the AG and Treasury work out priorities based on that, their folks get back to them with budget requests, and Congress ultimately approves or disapproves. After 2010, Congress vehemently disapproved of that particular project.

Even by 2010, the GOP was reverting to their old financial modes of funding 'anonymous attack squads' to hit local Dems (hoping Citizens United would come down as it did, and why not? 5 of 9 on the Court hinted clearly as to their preferred view in 2007...). The only time the Dems overcame that funding machine since 1994 was when the entire economy was in disarray.

donzelion said...

Locum: "Humanity is, has always been & will always be at war with itself IF WE ASSUME either freedom or diversity,"

On some level, perhaps. But equally, we've always been & always will be at peace with ourselves, we've been in love with others, we've built much to be proud of - freedom and diversity are the basis for both good and ill. We might as well blame oxygen (but for the oxygen, there never would have been any war on earth!).

"War is INEVITABLE if you cannot."
One of the saddest aspects of depression is a fixed belief in 'inevitability,' a binding, blinding conviction that others in different mental states just don't get. Much of the time, what we construe as inevitable is actually a projection of our own inner state (but not always: I'm convinced humans will inevitably need oxygen, and probably freedom too).

Tony Fisk said...

@donzelion: "The One" appears to have been a personal project of Rick Veitch (Swamp Thing). That's all I've found from a quick search. The comic aficionados could probably tell you more.

David Brin said...

Locum weaves a marvelous incantation of resentment toward a persecution by loony-angry intellectual elite liberals, and my what an incantation! I envision a whole movie floating above his head! Marvelous, oh the villainy! Except there’s one problem.

Not a single thing that he says is even remotely true. Jeez, I looked a second time at each paragraph… and it’s all drooling nonsense! Jesu… not even a single one that even touches glancingly on fact! Wow.

Alfred Differ said...

@Zepp | People like to point to the Sixties as an example of a polarised society, but I would say now is far worse.

I'm not convinced. We aren't burning cities, most of the marches are relatively peaceful, and we aren't assassinating our politicians yet.

I think it is easier to see the polarization now than it was then.

locumranch said...


Donzelion is quite right in regards to depression -- or optimism, globalism, social progress & climate change for that matter -- insomuch as ANY preconceived set of assumptions can lead almost any intellect to the same 'inevitable' conclusion, just as the Global New Deal mindset leads to the recapitulation of Stalinism.

Yet, even though 'incentivize' and 'disincentivize' are euphemisms for compulsion, LH & Donzelion continue to argue that THEIR use of force is justifiable in order to achieve & maintain consensus (as in the case of the majority rule that they desire), while they often condemn enforced majority rule (quite rightly, I might add) on the grounds that it may disguise unjust, immoral & undesired discrimination against minority opinion & action.

It follows that LH & D do NOT object to compulsion per se, as they reserve THEIR right to compel others, they would merely deny the 'right to compel' to those others who would use it against their more (?) enlightened (?) personal (!!) interests & desires.

Well, screw that! "Those who compel will be compelled", I always say.

Let's call this Newton's Third Law of Social Interaction or, on second thought, 'The Chicago Way', courtesy of President Obama channeling Sean Connery:

"Here's how you get him. He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way!"


Best

Paul SB said...

Raito,

"What we really want is to remove the stigma without either the pendulum swinging the other way into 'coolness' or ceasing to identify something as a problem merely because its effect can be contained. And that applies to a lot of culture, policy, and politics."
- That's what we usually get, a pendulum that swings, but over time, if the pendulum doesn't break, it eventually comes to rest somewhere in the middle. While cultural institutions change much faster than biology, the process can seem maddeningly slow to those who are paying attention to it, and to those whose lives are lessened because of it.

Jumper,

There are a few humans who grok the Martian motto. The fact that you are bringing it up is suggestive ...

Zepp,
The Beckett Manœuvre has been around for a long, long time. There are plenty of people around who are aware of it, but as we saw between 9/11 and the Invasion, most people will plug their ears and start with the patriotism litmus tests. Michael Moore got booed off the stage when he pointed out the obvious about Bush's obsession with invading Iraq. If Grope picks a fight with North Korea, or Iran or even Liechtenstein, he will get the support of most of the people. Segmentary Opposition once again.

locumranch said...


Assuming that global Free Trade is literally 'free' (as in 'consensual' and 'not compelled'), than the USA could stop trading with China as Trump suggests without significant consequence, even though a consensus of experts & Chinese ministers imply that this will lead to catastrophic conflict between the US & China (and world-wide economic collapse), a conclusion that belies our initial assumption about the 'free' (rather than mandatory) nature of global trade, much in the same way that the very same decision (as in 'the suspension of disadvantageous trade') was once made by Imperial China, leading to its destruction in the Opium Wars.

As in the dissolution of civil marriage, each & every divorce is analogous to a declaration of war, so much so that even the most enlightened kepi-wearing Unionist would gleefully slaughter each & every Red Rural Confederate who tried to either suspend the so-called FREE transfer of red rural resources to their blue-bellied overlords or renegotiate (as in 'renege') on this rather one-sided & urban favourable economic relationship, leaving us a devil's choice between either a belligerent peace or polite warfare. A choice that is NOT a choice, as in the case of our recent election year choice between a turd sandwich & a giant douche.

Said Gozer the Gozerian: "Choose. Choose the form of the Destructor", followed by "The choice is made" wherein the probability of WAR approaches certainty, excepting the possibility of unilateral surrender.

Best

Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch

Incentives are not euphemistic representations of compulsions.

Employees are not slaves either. (No matter how much Taleb thinks they are.)

If I want something from you and lure you into doing it, I am not compelling you to do it.

If you can't see this, we need to send you in for some deprogramming... except that WOULD be compulsion.

Alfred Differ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfred Differ said...

@locumranch | Assuming that global Free Trade is literally 'free' (as in 'consensual' and 'not compelled'), than the USA could stop trading with China as Trump suggests without significant consequence...

Get thee to an Econ 101 class.

We would probably slip into a recession, people would pay more for stuff for a while, and then we'd recover. China would be slammed and would then recover over time. All of this would be the result of a monumentally stupid decision, though. Both traders benefit if they aren't compelled. By definition. Why the hell would we NOT trade? With anyone?

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

Why the hell would we NOT trade? With anyone?


Well, you might not want to sell them the rope they hang you with.

David Brin said...

“Well, screw that! "Those who compel will be compelled", I always say.”

Har! he tries to guilt trip us with our own enlightenment values. Under his preferred 6000 years of feudalism, he so desperately wants to return-to, no one would cast aspersions for someone else wanting to “compel. It was always a fight over who could kill or cheat more and get to do the compelling.

It is ONLY under an enlightenment that you get positive sum values and serious attempts to limit cheating and compulsion! Though with many ironies, like having to compel bullies and cheaters to stop it! To Locum, that’s hypocrisy! Zero summers think that way.

hat his “Chicago Way” banter makes clear is that the enlightenment’s defender - the Union, America - is going have to get ironic all over their confederate asses to stop them from spoiling it.

Here’s the real difference. When we win, it’s all generosity, forgiveness, “charity for all,” and eager welcoming them back into a great and loosely individualistic forward momentum. If they win they will kill most of us, crush the rest and consign our children to serfdom.

He had a cogent sentence about China. We do need to recognize that they - like our confeds - are zero-summers, who must be prevented from killing the goose that lays their golden eggs. Beyond that… more hallucinating drivel.

LarryHart said...

locumranch slanders:

LH & Donzelion continue to argue that THEIR use of force is justifiable in order to achieve & maintain consensus


On this one, I can't even tell what you think you heard me say. I don't think I've ever advocated the use of force by anyone, with an exception for the Allied Forces in WWII.

To make a wild-ass guess at what you think I said (with a lower confidence level than I usually have about such guesses), I wonder if you interpret the assertion that human actions might make the planet uninhabitable to the human race as a justification for (say) rounding up climate-deniers into concentration camps. In fact, the opposite thing is true.
I'm at the point now where I'm willing to accept the deniers' own horrific and miserable deaths by their own (in)actions as sufficient comeuppance. I have wet dreams about you and your ilk gasping "That showed those urban progressives!" as you gasp your terminal breath of nitric oxide.

LarryHart said...

locumranch:

"Those who compel will be compelled", I always say.


That you always say it is a comfort, since that virtually guarantees the assertion to be false.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Larry Hart: "Well, you might not want to sell them the rope they hang you with."

History shows they buyers are more likely to hang themselves. On that, Lenin was right.

Really cogent piece in today's Gaund about why we should smash the DRNK with trade. Simon Jenkins, one of the brightest people over there.
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/sep/15/bombard-north-korea-capitalism-kim-jong-un

David Brin said...

Mark nderson's Newsletter contains the following food for thought:

China's state-run media said: "China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral. If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korean regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so." (Global Times, August 10, 2017)

An alternate view from former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon (The American Prospect, August 16, 2017):

There's no military solution [to North Korea's nuclear threats], forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don't die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don't know what you're talking about, there's no military solution here, they got us….

We're at economic war with China. It's in all their literature. They're not shy about saying what they're doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it's gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they're just tapping us along. It's just a sideshow.

Mr. Bannon's first comment is probably accurate. His second comment is right regarding the relative seriousness of the two problems, but wrong about North Korea being a sideshow. The two problems are related, but they are different problems. North Korea is not part of, and not a tool of, and both a buffer state and a major headache for, China. The underlying issue is Korean independence - including independence from China, which has annexed historically Korean territory and interfered in North Korean politics.

My comment: (1) Bannon doesn't want a no-win Korean War. He wants a trade war with China and a theatrical set piece with Tehran that will end with Russia stepping in and collecting all the marbles. (2) Korea is surrogate to its Big neighbor. We need to to make sure that neighbor knows that neutrality under those circumstances is not an option.

LarryHart said...

Alfred Differ:

History shows they buyers are more likely to hang themselves. On that, Lenin was right.


But that's not what he said, is it?

Really cogent piece in today's Gaund about why we should smash the DRNK with trade


It occurred to me yesterday that we should air-drop millions of I-Phones into Pyongyang with dedicated "pen pals" from South Korea ready to talk to them.

locumranch said...


Alfred poses the 64 dollar question when he asks "Why the hell would we NOT trade?", the answer being that trade is a bad idea when the trade is either one-sided (unfair) or more than one of the participants is compelled to trade by unpleasant socioeconomic realities, as in the case of an Imperial China that once tried (and failed) to shut down international & foreign trade because it was literally trading itself to death through the importation of British Opium, leading to its destruction.

That's enough, for the time being, to draw some unpleasant parallels between fallen Imperial China & the failing US Imperium...

As to the likelihood of US Civil War Part Deux -- one of David's faves -- I'd like to draw your attention to Bill Maher's latest episode so I can say I told you so as Maher brags about California's open repudiation of US federalism as it defies federal edict & openly negotiates with foreign powers.

I predicted & wrote this particular 'comedy routine' almost 2 years ago on this very site, but I won't sue Bill for copyright infringement because it's so much funnier when he says it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPvveyM0RHQ

Unfortunately for General Bill & his Blue State Regiments, the final 'punchline' has yet to be delivered, soon to be supplied by conservative-led US Federal forces who will 'shock & awe' by ENDORSING Blue State Secession, also in the name of 'State's Rights', and thereby accomplish the goal of the Civil War Part 1 & the Old Confederacy without firing a shot, before the US heartland falls to the same type of demographic replacement that has already claimed most of California & Europe.


Best

locumranch said...


Here's a better Bill Maher link for you:

http://deadline.com/2017/09/real-time-bill-maher-states-rights-1202170831/

matthew said...

Locum shows his racist side with his last comment about "demographic replacement." Notice that he did not feel safe to spout white nationalist crap like that before this year. That's how America is changing - the misogynists and racists no longer feel embarrassed to reveal how they really feel.

What he doesn't understand is that Blue America knows that it is fight or die against his tribe. There is no compromise with Nazis. No middle ground. Win or die.

Yet his tribe can just say that they promise not be assholes to 75% of humanity and they would be welcomed back into the American fold. It's easier for the Reds to surrender than the Blues. Thus, the Reds will not win. We will all bleed because of assholes like locum. But the Reds will bleed much, much more.

America is waking up to the traitors in our midst. Slow to anger but famous for our overwhelming response to threats. How do you think this is going to end, locum?

David Brin said...

Hey man, who the hell cares about Bill Maher? He lies far less than Fox and has far less sway. There are lefty Limbaughs but they have minuscule followings. You mewl about leftists as if they control something. Only natural, since YOU crazies do control your movement. Only an idiot points to extreme exceptions and yatters "They prove ALL liberals are like that!"

BTW... if you watch just FIVE of Rachel Maddow's shows (ideally her best-of) with an actual open mind, your confed-ism would not survive.

I tested this on Hannity and could not manage because every single minute was a disprovable lie.

You cannot do that with Maddow. Period. Hence... hate facts!

onward

onward

donzelion said...

Dr. Brin: "(1) Bannon doesn't want a no-win Korean War. He wants a trade war with China and a theatrical set piece with Tehran that will end with Russia stepping in and collecting all the marbles."

The part in bold is problematic: Bannon probably doesn't want Russia to collect all the marbles, though it is a fair interpretation of sentence as worded. I take your meaning as, 'he wants X, and then Y will happen because X is stupid.' I suspect what he really wants is to make his name and brand meaningful, rather than serving as a hired voice for a few oligarchs; that may include some Russian help, but mostly, his financial backing comes from the U.S. (Been a while since I browsed his nasty channel, but who is advertising there now?)

His backers probably prefer TALK of a trade war with China, another set of (extremely lucrative) theater.

The goal is more along the lines of good ole 19th century profiteering, using 21st century mechanisms. The 'threat of war' is imminently tradeable information, as it was 200 years ago. A hotel complex, a casino, certain other investments can transmit nearly all the useful data that once required colonial possessions - at a tiny fraction of the cost.

David Brin said...

onward

David Brin said...

donzelion in fact I mean it as stated. Given Russia's demographic collapse, Moscow cannot conquer the world. It WILL be either English or Chinese spoken world wide by 2100 and I believe Bannon wants it to be English.

But Putin Triumphant NOW serves every single Bannon purpose.

- Putin leads the anti- enlightenment, traditionalist-feudalist alliance. It's current focus is anti-American, but that's shallow. If America goes confed-feudalist, then the Putinists will accept US leadership of the world to come... so long as Russian influence is hige and disproportionate.

-2 - Such a triumph might save Russia's hold on Siberia... or at least some of it.

- 3 - come on... Putin is funneling funds into Bannon's world.

David Brin said...

onward

onward

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