Saturday, June 29, 2019

Bait n' switch and distraction from the High Court. Don't be fooled.

 One man... one man... has chosen to send us on the path to civil war. And I’m asking those of you with some attention span to closely follow the reasoning... or rather rationalization... applied by Chief Justice John Roberts for allowing continued electoral cheating that even he called blatant. His rationale: that Federal courts may not interfere in the sovereign power of state legislatures even if those legislatures were outrageously, unfairly and illegitimately chosen by cheating. Cheating that then warps future elections so that cheating always wins

The Court has ruled that the people of such a state have no visible recourse to stop the cheating... not even by appealing to the Supreme Court of the United States of America. 

This is one of those moments when your grandchildren will ask: "Where were you when you heard...?" It ranks up there with Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, 9/11... and especially the firing on Ft. Sumter. This could be the day when hope died that our institutions weren't fatally suborned, as they had been in the 1850s. 

I knew it was coming, telegraphed in the oral hearings. It’s why I published my Minimal Overlap proposal which - unlike any other gerrymander-fix - is simple (three sentences), requires no complex "commissions," and grants state assemblies much of the leeway Roberts demanded... while decisively eliminating the fundamental injustice. (Yes, all that in three sentences. A senior federal appeals court judge called it interesting and plausible.) 

But I'm not here today to rail against that predictable decision, when John Roberts chose to be remembered in history alongside Roger Taney, as we'll now slog our way out of confederate treason, one muddy, cheating-biased battle after another.  

No, I want to point to other cases that supposedly show “balance,” as justices Roberts, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and even Thomas play a subtle game, each of them siding with the liberals on one or another side matter, in order to proclaim: “See? I am not a pure dogmatist tool!” 

Step back for the kind of perspective that (alas) you'll get nowhere else.

== The great pretense of ‘balance' ==

Look at the nuance and trickery here. Time and again the confederate cabal that used to be the Republican Party uses a method pioneered by Donald Trump across his life of ‘deals’ and Rupert Murdoch across his life of lies. 

Distract from your real aim by attacking something the other side cares about that seemed already settled. 
Hurt people, lots of people... 
... then agree to stop if they’ll give you everything you wanted (and more) from the original negotiation.

This method served Trump well in the world of slumlords, casinos and shivving construction contractors. He tried it with DACA and putting kids in cages and screeching at our allies and so far the method has 100% failed him. That is, till it proved effective on the Roberts Court.

 Having delivered on the only truly important matter - giving a free pass to gerrymander-cheating that will let the GOP retain power in 30 states even in the face of an anti-Trump electoral wave - Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Roberts and even Thomas get to be ‘swing votes’ and appear ‘judicious’ and evenhanded in decisions that mattered very little… like reiterating the right of federal agencies to interpret ambiguous rules. 

Or the silly uproar over citizenship questions on the census. 
Oh, you fell for that one?
As if that distraction ever mattered, or would have made a big difference in census compliance?
Or could not have been countered with a vigorous outreach campaign? 
Admit it, you fell for that one.  
As for DACA, that too was always intended to be a threat, a nasty hurting of innocents, followed by “concession,” once they got the real thing they want.

Stop giving in to distractions! The gerrymandering decision was McConnell’s goal, top to bottom, for the last four years. It was everything. And now we must pick up the only tool for citizen sovereignty that remains, once the US Supreme Court betrays the people.

(Late addendum! Aaaaand the Post fell for the trick, hook, line and sinker! "Data shows that Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh have disagreed more than any pair of new justices chosen by the same president in decades." Yep, they have the Post suckered and everyone else, giggling I presume.)

== Side note: does this help House subpoenas? ==

In bowing to state-level gerrymander-cheaters, Roberts declared the courts must defer to the sovereign authority of legislatures. Okay then, does that mean he'll support the right of committees in the U.S. House of Representatives to compel testimony and access records, while investigating Trumpist corruption? 

(For 25 years GOP-led committees asserted those powers in 'Clinton investigations' that found absolutely nothing, whatsoever.) 

No. Of course he won't. 
But it does suggest the writhe-maneuver Roberts will use -- side-stepping any ruling at all - claiming the Court cannot intervene in a tiff between the Legislative and Executive Branch. 

Malarkey? Yes. But It leaves Pelosi & co. having to enforce subpoenas with just the Capitol Police, while Trump and A.G. William Barr have every other big guy with a gun in D.C.

Or do they? There is a way around this. A clever approach that I will not relate here.

But let's get back to the main topic, the gerrymandering decision that appears to leave us with no recourse against treason-level cheating, other than revolution. Well... almost no recourse.

== One last option? ==

One of you, Erik Brandsberg, suggested a drastic measure that could work, short of violent revolution.  It is quite clear in the Constitution: "Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members. 

"The majority in the House of Representatives can set guidelines for electoral fairness, as long as they are not extreme, written to be impartial, providing for equal representation, etc. The rules should be clear and indisputable in their application... based on the fairness of the districts they were elected from. This is a power bestowed upon the house and senate individually that no other branch or chamber can dictate." 

A boldly aggressive move... but Mitch McConnell has declared this to be nothing less than a knife fight. He chuckles and brags about it. And so...

== And finally... ==

The well-reported outrage about Trump’s meeting (again) with his KGB-trained handler, Vladimir Putin, revolves around their jocular mocking of concern about Kremlin interference in U.S. elections, and the even creepier jests about “getting rid” of journalists. 

(See a vivid portrayal of just a hundred of the journalists killed or disappeared under the New Czar; and Trump then praised MBS, the journalist-killing Saudi prince.)

But there’s a more telling moment. It's when Trump agreed with Putin’s earlier statement the ‘liberalism’ was ‘obsolete.’ In fact, they meant two different things. Two Scoops referred to U.S. Democrats.

But Putin, in an interview with the Financial Times, meant a far broader definition of the term -- the entire experiment in “liberal” democracy, flat-fair markets, open accountability, free speech and all the other innovations pushed by Locke, Adam Smith and the U.S. founders. Its day is done, he declared, confidently.

To see where he intends this to take this planet instead, with Czarist instincts and KGB ferocity - but freed of any Marxist idealist incantations - I recommend you get a short but chilling, near-future science fiction novel by Vladimir Sorokin called DAY OF THE OPRICHNIK. Then two novels about the coming U.S. Civil War: TEARS OF ABRAHAM by Sean Smith and OUR WAR by Craig DiLouie (pre-order).

Our ancestors stood up. You may have to.


TheMadLibrarian said...

scidata: from your previous comment about insulin caravans, all I can do is quote what we said about then-president Bush, when we visited Europe during his tenure: "We wholeheartedly apologize for many of the things our president says and does. We do not approve of it, but are compelled to put up with it until the next election cycle."

scidata said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
scidata said...

Many (probably most) Canadians have American relatives. Both nations have proven their willingness to fight and die for each other throughout the 20th century. Love means never having to say you're sorry.

Phaedrusnailfile said...

I have wondered for a while if the only thing that will counter the electoral malfeasance of the red states is if enough people moved into them from stongly blue areas. My home state of Colorado is turning purple as a result of so many California and New York transplants. I grant that the average blue urbanite is highly skeptical as to the wisdom of moving to smaller communities without avacado toast. But my personal experience in this regard is that despite being politically very diiferent from the Trumpists in my new hometown i find it mostly pleasant and eminently affordable. Then again this may be a funtion of pigmentation more than i would like to admit.

Zepp Jamieson said...

Basically, Roberts has reinstated Nullification, the doctrine that actions by states can supercede not only federal law, but the constitution itself. Dressed up in the term 'states rights' its a doctrine by which the country is Balkanised into fifty little countries, many of which are malleable and easily controlled by dominant regional industries (mining in Montana, logging in Oregon, fishing in Maine), large multinationals looking to create a local version of Vietnam for manufacturing, and churches looking for vassel states for income.
It didn't work out the last time.

David Brin said...

Phaedrusnailfile the classic is to encourage blacks from Alabama to move to Mississippi, or offering home exchange with poor whites, who could then get their whiter-south dream in Alabama. It might take only 100,000 in a few well-chosen sites to make one of them transformed into the dream of WEB Dubois.

S Carolina teeters also, demographically. Of course the classic happening now is Virginia, with N. Carolina starting to teeter.

But most important? Florida. Some zillionaire needs to step up and pay a bunch of felons' court fines so thousands can vote. Shift that crazy state.

Phaedrusnailfile said...

Dr. Brin thank you for the response. Lately i am wondering if UBI were to become a reality would a lot of stuggling urbanites make the same choice i did and move to the smaller communities where their money would go further and revitalize the economies of those areas.

Phaedrusnailfile said...

Maybe one of the zillionaires you mentioned might fund a pilot program in a few strategic congressional districts.

Treebeard said...

Putin was clearly singling out cultural liberalism, like the idea of allowing masses of immigrants who change your culture, redefining sexual norms, deprecating religious traditions, etc. I didn’t see anything about economics or Adam Smith.

One thing I’ve found with Putin is if you just listen to his words they are pretty common sense, reality-based and reasonable, but when they’re filtered through Western media, they’re regularly spun as something sinister. For example:

“Let everyone be happy, we have no problem with that. But this must not be allowed to overshadow the culture, traditions and traditional family values of millions of people making up the core population.”

This sounds reasonable to me, but here you are offering us comic book stories about the horrors of an intolerant Russia returning to its traditions. Binary thinking strikes again. I actually lived in Russia, and weirdo minorities are under no threat. The difference is that they understand they must bow to the majority culture, rather than the reverse, in the interest of social order, stability and sanity. And it looks to me like most of the world agrees with Putin, not Western cultural liberals. It would all be rather comical if it wasn’t for the fact that some of the latter insist that it’s “the universe, or nothing” (be Californicated or be evil), and that nuclear arsenals are involved.

duncan cairncross said...

The Florida Felons voting

Is that not a "Poll Tax"? - I thought that you had something that made Poll Taxes illegal?

David Brin said...

Yep. Treebeard, we knew you were a huge fan of the Kremlin and KGB, who have not changed an iota their aims to bring us low. But they discovered, after 50 years of disappointment trying to use the incantations and symbols of socialism, that it was impossible to turn the American left treasonous. Just a few years having dropped hammers and sickles in favor of mafia-oligarchy-orthodox-"tradition" symbolism and they have confederate rightwing USA jerks eating out of thei hands and doing tricks and licking their asses.

So you are right there. But absolutely ignorant and ill educated about the proper, internationally recognized meaning of "liberal."

Alfred Differ said...


Attacking cultural liberalism also hits economic liberalism. It is one big tangled thing... liberalism.

It's like 'freedom'. People talk about economic and religious freedom, but you can't hit one without striking the other. It's one big tangled thing... freedom.

As for Putin sounding reasonable, I'd point out that secret police sound pretty reasonable too if you listen to them without a 'freedom' context. "I'm not threatening you as long as you know your place." Very illiberal. If that sounds even slightly reasonable, you don't understand what liberalism is about at its core.

Freedom is a nice thing to have, but there is a point to recognizing it for each other that goes beyond morals. There is a social advantage for cultures that take this step and some trade-offs. On the whole, it is a net plus for increasing the wealth of the average person.

Alfred Differ said...


Jimmy Carter used 'illegitimate' the other day for you know who. He used it precisely to imply Two Scoops is not a legitimate President.

No choice for me anymore.
When a former President says that, we all can.

David Brin said...

Alas, it means it's too late to create a council of ex-presidents as American sages to rule on some thing like fact checkers. Bush Sr died (I'll not mourn the worst president of the 20th Century) and Jimmy C has spoken out. Three ex DemPrexes vs one gopper, who used to be the worst Prez of the 21st, till rescued by the new record holder.

Putin does indeed make a strong case... in his context. The context is that Russia deserves a huge buffer it can utterly control and NATO seemed to have promised one and reneged. And the actual wishes of the people in those buffer nations just don't come into it.

Larry Hart said...

@Alfred Differ,

"Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win."

Zepp Jamieson said...

"Putin was clearly singling out cultural liberalism"

No, he was talking about western democracies, the kind of liberalism that stemmed from the Enlightenment. Pissmop thought he was talking about the imaginary la-la image of California.
PUtin has absolutely no interest in human rights, freedoms, or sharing of sovereignty. He's racked up a fairly impressive body count fighting against such, which is why in most of the western world he is a hated despot.
Trump is a low thug whose dim understanding of political philosophy is limited to whatever garbage Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson shovel his way.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

And the actual wishes of the people in those buffer nations just don't come into it.

That's reminiscent of Hitler's attitude toward expansion into Eastern Europe. Germans needed lebensraum, so just too bad for the current inhabitants of those places, whose lives, fortunes, and sacred honor were subordinate to the needs of the aggressor.

Not too different either from Ann Coulter's provocative rhetorical question, "What's wrong with war for oil? We need oil!"

Do you remember the Holnist book that Colonel Bezoar has Gordon read in The Postman--the one that bemoans that America was betrayed away from the true vision of itself after the disgrace of Aaron Burr? I see something similar having happened, although my vision of America's true self is quite different from Nathan Holn's.

To me, America qua America stands for the notion that all human beings are to be accorded equal rights and dignity. And we don't just hold that truth to be self-evident within our political boundaries, but universally. No, we can't police the world or force other cultures as wholes to accept our ways if they reject them. What we can do, however, is to provide a living example of the ways life could be better to those who share our values in other places. And just as importantly, provide safe refuge to those individuals who manage to escape other cultures intolerant and dangerous to their well-being, whether that be the Jews in 1930s Europe, the climate refugees of today, or the escaped slave in the 1800s. That we as a nation have turned into a "The Hell with you, Jack--I've got mine!" society, concerned more with closing off access to our rights and protections than to treating our values as universal, I see as a fundamental betrayal of 1776.*

* For one example, Karl Rove's notion that torture at Guantanamo Bay doesn't violate the Eighth Amendment because the Constitution has no jurisdiction over Cuba. While strictly true in a court of law, there is something wrong with maligning Jefferson with, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, but only within our borders."

Treebeard said...

Zepp, and you got this information about Putin from where? Anglo media that spins everything to make Putin look like a villain? Have you talked to Putin or lived in Russia? I didn’t see anything in that article about his thoughts on democracy. Does being elected by wide margins several times make him a democracy-hater? I’d challenge you to go visit Russia and tell me about all the freedoms and human rights you lost when you crossed the border. Give me something empirical, not propaganda or assertions like “X is a thug, Y is a pissmop, Z is garbage, or I read comic book B where Putin is a supervillain”.

Larry Hart said...


Does being elected by wide margins several times make him a democracy-hater?

Saddam Hussein got 100% of the vote in his last "election". Now that we know that, what do we know?

Treebeard said...

Larry, I extend my challenge to you: instead of talking about Saddam Hussein, go visit Russia, talk directly to some Russians about Putin, take an informal poll, then get back to me. It's not a perfect methodology, but it's a lot more useful than watching American TV if you actually want to know what's going on in other parts of the world, and not just what your media masters want you to believe about them--wouldn't you agree?

David Brin said...

I was in Russia just last year. Even science fiction authors are carefully guarded and avoid anything like direct commentary on current events. Except the brilliant Vladimir Sorokin's DAY OF THE OPRICHNIK and he has men outside his home 24/7. The dominant sub genre is hundreds of wish fantasies that are Russian versions of THE TURNER DIARIES, with Spetznatz agents mowing down Americans by by the boatload, then spreading viruses the empty North America of all life.

Treebeard is frantic. Putin runs a state that invades neighbors and kills hundreds (!) of journalists and wages war on our institutions... that is run by him and by a few hundred ex-commissars! Nearly every powerful person there was a high-level communist official schooled from birth in Marxist doctrine and trained in KGB tactics. But as soon as they drop the hammer-sickle symbols, imbeciles on the US right howl and paw in desperate eagerness for a pat on the head and a chance to lick their asses.

I used to call the ent "kibble." But he's being a good doggie, right now. Fetch!

Treebeard said...

I’m hardly frantic. I just learned long ago that the picture of reality most Americans get from their media is massively distorted and full of propaganda—Russia being the most obvious case since I lived there. I also find it endlessly hilarious that Anglo-Americans, with their bizarre sense of exceptionalism, universalism and imperialism and rich history of wars, invasions and foreign meddling, think they are in a position to moralize when other nations decide to forcefully say no to their empires. I seem to recall the USA invading and bombing multiple countries in recent years and racking up a large death toll, with several more countries in line for similar treatment (Syria, Venezuela, Iran). Putin played a non-trivial role in preventing those operations, as well as crushing ISIS, so on balance he’s probably saved a lot more lives than he’s taken. In general, I think history will regard Putin as the great man of this era, who revived his nation at its low point and regained its respect, while the USA will be seen as an increasingly senile rogue state that thrashes around making messes and moralizing about “axes of evil” and transgender rights while the rest of the world slowly backs away and looks for saner friends.

Larry Hart said...


I would no sooner put myself in the hands of Russian authorities than I would of Nazi Germany, so your challenge is a non-starter. That aside, what information is to be gained from interviewing people whose first expectation is that the person they're talking to is testing their loyalty?

"Instead of talking about Saddam Hussein..."? Well, you're the one who referred to a high election margin as proof of popular support. I offered an example which throws doubt upon that thesis and which demonstrates a way in which an authoritarian dictator can pretend to be beloved by the people. I notice you don't refute that argument--you just try to portray it as irrelevant. I may be liberal, but I'm not stupid.

My media maters support Trump and therefore Putin these days. My POV is as popular in media as Phil Donohue's and Bill Maher's were on corporate tv in the early 2000s when they were thrown off the air. So don't try to pretend that I'm mouthing platitudes fed by the likes of what little tv I actually watch.

The reasons your own side give for admiring Putin have to do with his championing of white nationalism and bullying liberals. Donald Trump is openly envious that he (Trump) isn't yet allowed to execute troublesome journalists the way Putin can.So it's hard for you to get away with pretending he's all about liberty and justice for all. If he was all you say he is, then you'd be again' him, not fer him.

David Brin said...

"I think history will regard Putin as the great man of this era..." Gooooood doggie! Kremlin kibble. Oh and traitor hound.

TCB said...

The ent has a point, but it is not the one he thinks he is making.

Soft power.

I explained this to somebody before, soft power is misunderstood by most people, and yet anyone can recognize it when they see it.

Military power, every idiot understands military power. So you're the President of Unistat, the most powerful nation in the history of Sol III. Country X is doing something you don't want them to do, or failing to do something you demand they do. You, as commander in chief of the armed forces, can send airplanes with bombs, ships, troops, tanks, and other instruments of pain to rain fire and death on Country X until, per Clausewitz, you impose your will upon them.

Everybody seems to understand economic power too. A rich nation, with lots of people and industry, and therefore lots of money, Unistat can simply pay Country X to cooperate with Unistat's national objectives, whether by trade or assistance, giving them weapons, whatev. Or, Unistat can pay other nations or groups to rain fire and death on Country X. That's economic power.

But... soft power? What IS soft power?

Let's say you're the guy in town who, everyone knows, has a good head on his shoulders, thinks things through, and has a strong personal ethic. Everybody knows you try to tell the truth even if it's not in your interest. Everybody knows you're not out to cheat them, you're a win-win sort of person. Everyone knows your advice is worth following because it will not be stupid or dishonest. You're not always right, but who is? People trust you. You're Atticus Finch. You're Honest Abe. You're George Bailey, or maybe Oprah or Walter Cronkite or Martin Luther King. You have soft power.

And, until recently, the United States had a magical combination of all three! Military power without any parallel, economic power without any parallel, and so much power that we and some friends could start a thing called the United Nations, base it in one of OUR great cities, and have everyone - even our mortal enemies! - think they HAD to join it! We put a man on the moon! We won wars and did NOT torture prisoners. Some of them moved here, when they could.

Think any German POWs captured by the Soviets wanted to stay in the USSR when (if) they lived long enough to be released?

We Americans were the superpower people trusted. Mostly, anyway. If we promised reward, we usually delivered reward. If we promised pain, we usually delivered that. We had it all: expertise, honesty, efficiency, prestige. We had... soft power.

Need I point out how completely the Bushes and Trump and all their scurvy friends have destroyed American soft power? Nobody trusts us now, except... dictators. Nobody thinks our advice is worth a shit. Nobody thinks our promises are worth a bucket of spit. Will the Americans torture me if I surrender? Maybe! Will they honor an agreement to reduce carbon emissions or nuclear weapons? Doubt it! Will I, an Iraqi or a Pole or a Thai or even a Canadian, stop a bullet for the Yanks now? Gee... better not. Can't trust them now. Are the Yanks even sane any more?

scidata said...

It is well-known that the friend of a conqueror is but the last victim.
- Isaac Asimov

Larry Hart said...


Thanks. I couldn't have said that better if I lived to be a million.

Treebeard said...

LOL @ Larry being afraid of Russian authorities. I assure you dude, you have nothing to be afraid of, we’re not living in your comic book world. Again, a visit to Russia would do you good, to realize how distorted your view of the world is. My challenge is to get out of this media fantasyland you are in and test reality directly, scientifically and democratically. Your response is more fantasy about Nazi Germany. Oh well, I tried.

This stuff about KGB, kibble and doggies is juvenile. Russia is not an evangelical global empire like the Soviet Union (or the USA). It may be an alternative civilizational model to the liberal West, but no one is forcing it down your throat. Maybe that’s a problem for people who insist the world's civilizations must unite in a global Federation, but that’s just more fantasyland.

Larry Hart said...


It [Russia] may be an alternative civilizational model to the liberal West, but no one is forcing it down your throat.

You are technically correct because I don't live in Ukraine. Or Georgia. And I'm not planning to live in Lithuania, Latvia, or Estonia any time soon.

Again, a visit to Russia would do you good, to realize how distorted your view of the world is.

Well, a visit to Chicago, or Los Angeles, or Seattle would do you good for the same reason. And you don't even need a passport or a foreign language to do so. But I'm sure you know all you need to know about such places from your media masters.

I’d challenge you to go visit Russia and tell me about all the freedoms and human rights you lost when you crossed the border. Give me something empirical, not propaganda or assertions like “X is a thug, Y is a pissmop, Z is garbage, or I read comic book B where Putin is a supervillain”.

So wait, NOW you're all about facts and data instead of myth and poetry that speaks to a higher human spirit? I can't keep all your s*** straight.

David Brin said...

Bored with doggie's evasions.

Again, the VERY SAME men he feared and loathed, when they cloaked their schemes in symbolic idealism, are now his heroes when they -- the very same men! -- use all the same methods and buildings and America-hating goals, only now laid bare as mafiosi 'traditionalists.'

The doggie is also a stunning hypocrite.

DP said...

"Some zillionaire needs to step up and pay a bunch of felons' court fines so thousands can vote."

How about some zillionaire start a business in Florida, 100,000s of Puerto Ricans, have them work in Florida long enough to establish legal residence and get registered to vote.

They are Americans after all.

Unknown said...

Bernie has apparently proposed a possible way to deal with the packed Supreme Court. On another blog someone said it maybe be one of the approaches outlined here:

I first heard about it on

So will it work? Time to get to work on the Senate!

Kal Kallevig

TCB said...

@ Larry Hart, Thank you. And please live to a million.

David Brin said...

Bernie's plan is dangerous. Do-able in extremis. But I'd rather catch the blackmailers who have dirst on many judges and officials and CEOs. Catch them and their files, and at-minimum bunches of the corrupt will "retire." Some might even screw up enough courage to be patriots.

Tacitus said...


I'm not sure that the types of Power are so clear cut these days.
Military power has so few definitive uses. In the nuclear age there is - thankfully - a near zero chance of a war with another nuclear power. Wars with their many client states are also rare and fraught with peril. Even if you fight in Korea or Vietnam there will always be a degree of logistic support that you can't touch. Sure, there is the occasional lightweight opponent such as Grenada or Panama, but increasingly we are not even fighting nation states but bandits driven by ideologies. Gunboat diplomacy ain't what it used to be.

Economic warfare likewise is less powerful than it once was. It's the information age. A rigorous embargo that might actually hurt the elites would far sooner generate tragic graphics of starving children. Real images, fabricated ones, who knows. And to touch on an ominously buzzing third rail, adverse economics anywhere in our much "smaller" world just leads to waves of economic migrants we are not supposed to turn away.

Soft power is indeed a nebulous concept. Nations do have reputations, good or ill. But does soft power as you define it, a surety that promised good or threatened ill will be along directly, actually mean as much if the military and economic legs of the triad are ineffective?

Not a criticism, just musings on how the world has changed in the post Hiroshima, information age. Other than perhaps Oprah none of the Solons you mention have lived in it. I wonder what Abe would make of it all.


David Brin said...

Tim, it's easy to shrug off the powers that Pax Americana used to create the greatest human lifespan of all time, 70+ years during which unleashed science discovered 99% of what we now know, when the percentage of kids in school worldwide skyrocketed from maybe 20% to roughly 90%, when nine out of ten nations got to spend perhaps 5% of their GDPs on military, instead of the historically normal 50%. When, despite a continuing litany of horrors, only maybe 5% of living humans have seen war or famine with their own eyes.

A pax during which several mad cults - Nazism and Japanese imperialism, were quelled in ways that earned those peoples' eternal gratitude. When another mad cult was held in check, despite its attractive incantations, till the world got over the Leninist scam. And we did that while struggling with our own bad/horrid habits, that our parents took for granted.

It's not that we and our pax were hugely popular. But we have been (till Trumpism) by far the least-hated empire. And the soft power of Hollywood has utterly remade world moral systems so that individualism and the basic notion of positive sum systems has spread to far corners, taking on more traditional reflexes of machismo and/or tribalism and/or revenge, that fill almost every myth or fairy tale from the Campbellian past.

Alas, those reflexes - machismo and/or tribalism and/or revenge - are fighting back, deployed by feudal hierarchy via new media and old, in order to poison us here, in the very heart of the Great Experiment.

And your cynical shrugs are not helping in the fight to save and strengthen the experiment that the Founders and Lincoln's heroes and the Greatest Generation all fought for.

Can you take a minute -- right now -- to read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and envision that he is talking to you, right now, about us, right now? Because it is shockingly pertinent. "Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure."

He is talking to you, and every word is true, right now. And I mean right now. We are struggling against real enemies of this experiment, to ensure " that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom."

And make no mistake. The aim of our enemies is the same that it has always been -- as Putin made clear when he laughed and told his puppet that the great "liberal experiment" was obsolete. He doesn't even mince words, as his axis of Kremlin-KGB agents, oligarchs, Saudi princes, casino moguls, carbon barons, mafiosi, Wall Street cheaters and inheritance brats plan to ensure that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall perish from the earth.

duncan cairncross said...

Hi Dr Brin
IMHO the US Empire did do exactly what you said - thank you

But only after shafting the British Empire that was doing the same - but with a smaller dose of hypocrisy

If the USA had been the Dominion of North America we would have had the same results only sooner with less hypocrisy

But that is all "might have beens" - in this world it WAS the USA that Did that!

TCB said...

Tim Wolter wrote: In the nuclear age there is - thankfully - a near zero chance of a war with another nuclear power.

I think the odds are much less reassuring than that, and that we got lucky not once but several times already, in 1962 and 1983 notably, and a few other times perhaps. What I am saing is that we are likeliest to have a nuclear war by ACCIDENT.

It could happen today, right after lunch.

And of course, OF COURSE, Trump has made the matter worse. He did it by pulling out of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

"The treaty, signed by then-President Reagan and Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, was widely credited with helping bring the Cold War to an end. It bans nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 kilometers."

Trump's excuse is that the Russians were deploying a missile that violates the treay anyway, but pulling out of the INF doesn't hurt Putin. It merely lets Russia and the United States go back to building destabilizing missiles. At present, the White House gets about ten minutes to decide whether to fire back at a (possibly false) alarm.

With shorter range missiles, Putin could hit, say, Paris, with something closer to two minutes of warning. Does the US fire back if something like that is detected?

Does this incentivize France and Britain to deploy instant-reaction nuke forces? How about Germany?

The chances of an accidental nuclear war are going up, up, up. Do we feel lucky about another fifty years of cold war? Well? Do we?

Tacitus said...


I am merely speculating that the world has changed, and in ways that are still befuddling those whose mindset is endearingly conservative in the sense that "what has been ever shall be".

I don't ask that principles change as well, but do you honestly think the tools available today are the same as in our father's time? Could you do, say, a Berlin Airlift today? Do you expect the inaptly named United Nations to take decisive action against the Assads of the world?

And TCB I am all too aware of the danger of accidental nuclear war. And the more modern and higher probability of a terrorist with a dirty bomb or God forbid some stray soviet era nuke. I said near zero in the context of our actually declaring war and heading off to conquer Russia, China......even North Korea. Iran understands this.

I suppose I should mention as we have new voices here that I did not vote for Trump and consider him an exemplar of much that is disturbing in our times. Reality TV, Twitter, serial infidelity and divorce, huckster capitalism. But from that common point we seem to have gone in different Progressive friends here largely assume he cheated and/or was installed by comic book villainy. I ponder how the world has changed, and not only here but in Brazil, UK, Italy, Australia.

The Information/Post Modern/Post Trinity landscape is a weird and disturbing vista.


TCB said...

Not many people know why and when the United Nations was really created.

The hidden history of the United Nations

It was created, not after World War 2, but when the US entered it, as the brainchild of FDR and Churchill. For the specific purpose of defeating fascism.

jim said...

Over the weekend I was thinking about elected republican presidents over the last 50 years and I came to the surprising conclusion that Trump is the least bad elected republican president in the last 50 years.

Worst- Bush II and Nixon – war and torture – war and overthrowing democracies

Next – Bush I – war

Next Regan – effectively killed/ co-opted the counter culture and insured that massive ecological destruction and much greater inequality were baked in for at least the next 30 years.

Trump – corrupt and creepy

(Trump has also done some things that I think are good, effectively ending the movement towards globalization and beneath the bluster it looks like he has been slightly successful in pulling the American empire back a little bit and he has made the democrats realize if they want working class votes they have to do things to make their lives better not just talk.)

I am starting to think a very large part of the Trump hate is just for the man himself and a bit less from how objectively bad his policies are. (although they are bad just not torture and war bad)

Larry Hart said...


Part of it is how badly his personal characteristics reflect on the presidency and on the country.

But another part is his destruction of alliances and tearing down the norms of civilized governing. That damage might be more long-lasting than those of the other presidents you mentioned.

Zepp Jamieson said...

TB said, "Zepp, and you got this information about Putin from where?"
Well, all over. Just common sense will tell you that nobody transitions from being a low-level KGB spy under Brezhnev to head of the world's biggest kleptocracy without a sizeable body trail.
But there are endless documentaries ( chronicling this man's tear through history to become the greatest threat to freedom the world has ever seen.
If you believe they are all lies, then you are just a bloody cultist, and there is nothing to be done for that sort of intellectual abdication.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Tim Wolter wrote: In the nuclear age there is - thankfully - a near zero chance of a war with another nuclear power.

This is the most absurd and dangerous statement that anyone has ever made on Contrary Brin. It strongly propagates a belief that could result in millions of deaths in a single day. Few other statements could have such an adverse impact.

Even though Tim Wolter subsequently said that's not what he meant, after TCB pointed out the enormity of the mistake, this statement deserves a thorough refutation and Tim should apologize and completely withdraw such an absurd statement.

I will make my own counter-statement: In the nuclear age there is - regretfully - a near 100 percent chance of an accidental war with another nuclear power.

Major wars in the past, most notably World War I, have started with relatively trivial events. The Vietnam War was dramatically escalated because of a made-up event.

On January 25, 1995, the Cheget (the Russian nuclear briefcase) was opened in front of Boris Yeltsin and activated as Russian military leaders urgently implored him to immediately authorize a nuclear attack against the United States. The response was to a very real missile launched between the north magnetic pole and Moscow, matching one of the scenarios that the Russian military planners believed would indicate the beginning of a nuclear attack against Russia.

Fortunately, Yeltsin was sober and lucid, and he hesitated for a few minutes. It was long enough for the missile to fall harmlessly back to earth. Otherwise, most of the people reading this today would be dead.

What if such an event would have occurred with Putin in charge? Would he have hesitated for as many minutes? What if an inverse scenario had happened? Would Trump have been as cautious? Would a President Pence consider such an event a divine signal from his god to trigger his beloved end-times?

The Norwegian Rocket Incident, and other events like it, were very real events. The fact that we are still alive today is a highly-improbable condition.

Tacitus said...


That I did not say something clearly enough for you is fair, and my subsequent words were an attempt at clarification. It is not in your province to rule on what I meant to say. And demands that I apologize and withdraw my words are getting a bit Maoist self-denunciation.

My comments were in the discussion of how nations choose to project power. Not the ways they screw up. The unimaginable consequences of a nuclear exchange are exactly why military solutions don't have the viability that they did, so tragically, in 1914.

Point made in advance that of course the Great Powers blundered right into that abattoir. How we avoid that is another discussion.


Jon S. said...

I may be able to offer a bit of insight here, as I spent much of the Reagan administration as a nuclear-war planner (HQ SAC/XOXPC, dually assigned JSTPS/JPPPC, Force Timing and Deconfliction).

I assure you, gentle sirs, madams, and others, that during the Cold War phase of the Pax Americana the chances of nuclear war were decidedly non-zero; in fact, most of us in the Mole Hole, like most of the world at the time, thought it was probably inevitable. We hoped and prayed that we were wrong, but things looked pretty bleak from an insider's perspective. One of the problems was (and, as far as I can tell, continues to be) that older men on both sides never understood the increased consequences of the use of nukes, thinking of them as just bigger, better bombs. (If JFK had listened to his brother Bobby, nukes would have been used to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis - by turning into World War Three. During Vietnam, there were both politicians and generals urging the use of nuclear weapons on the peninsula. And while we don't have specifics of Soviet doctrine in such regards, we do know that they had armed submarines with nuclear-tipped torpedoes in 1962, as that's exactly what Vasili Arkhipov prevented submarine B-59 from firing at the US ships blockading Cuba.)

I'm not talking about "accidental war", except insofar as decisions had to be made quickly and might be based on faulty information; I'm talking about a world where the ability to utterly wipe out all of Earth's major life forms was held in check primarily by those few decision-makers who were willing to calmly check out what was going on.

Now, let's take a look at Trump's decision-making process, such as it is. Every single choice that he has made internationally has been based on one of two questions: Will I look "tough" if I do this? Will it make (insert bloody-handed dictator here) happy with me? The man was prepared to attack multiple targets in Iran in retaliation for losing a drone, thinking that was "tough", and stopped only because, according to reports, he "liked the decisiveness" of calling off the attack at the last moment. He thinks it's a giant TV show, and everything will be okay by the beginning of the next episode. This, in my somewhat-educated opinion, makes nuclear war more likely, not less - more than it would have been even if RFK had lived to become President, if what Dr. Brin tells us about dominionists in the higher echelons of the Air Force is accurate.

How this nation has chosen to project power in the past has generally been calmly - despite the rhetoric, everyone was aware that the US wasn't going to strike first in any given conflict. This notion was shaken with that stupid "shock and awe" thing in Iraq, a nation which we had no cause to attack, but we were later able to reel back some of that, to begin regaining our reputation as a stabilizing force. That's how Hollywood, our propaganda arm, was able to begin infecting the world with our own particular memetic virii about equality and peace and freedom and how machismo isn't all it's cracked up to be.

And in just two and a half years, the Republican Party has, between Donnie's wild impulsiveness and McConnell's vicious determination to take and wield power as ruthlessly as possible, shredded that rep. Internationally, we're now regarded as somewhere between that redneck down the street who owns far too many guns and drinks far too much PBR, and the antagonist from the video game Hello, Neighbor! Whoever succeeds Trump, assuming he doesn't try to start a nuclear war out of pique when he loses, is going to have a yeoman's job trying to salvage this mess.

Jerry Emanuelson said...

Tim, I know that you didn't mean what you said in the way that your words appeared on the page.

The problem is simply that any mention of nuclear weapons and nuclear war as being improbable makes no sense without the explicit statement that you are discussing only intentional nuclear war. (Although even intentional nuclear war is more probable than you seem to believe.)

I retract my request for an apology. I don't care whether you apologize or not. An apology will make absolutely no difference to anyone at this point.

I only want to make it clear that your original literal statement was completely and dangerously wrong. I don't know how to get us out of our current situation with nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert. I only know that we will never get out of this situation unless it is commonly recognized as a problem by virtually everyone who bothers to mention nuclear weapons.

A.F. Rey said...

There is one hope I have that might make gerrymandering fail.

As I understand it, gerrymandering works by concentrating most of the opposition party into a small number of districts, then designing all the other districts to have just a few percentage more of party loyalists than the opposition. This way, the minority wins the majority of districts.

But what happens when the percentage of loyalists drops? Since they are only a small percentage more than the opposition, not only do the districts fall, but they all fall together, since the percentage is always slim.

So what needs to happen is that the gerrymandering party does something(s) so repulsive, so despicable, so horrendous that a small percentage of loyalists across the board desert, even for one or two elections. Then the whole house of cards falls, and the opposition has overwhelming control.

It is at that point they must move to end gerrymandering, in as permanent a manner as they can (unless they want to take the same chances as the defeated party took).

Perhaps the Trump Administration is our best chance of ending Republican gerrymandering. Now that the Supreme Court let us down. :(

Larry Hart said...

A.F. Rey:

As I understand it, gerrymandering works by concentrating most of the opposition party into a small number of districts, then designing all the other districts to have just a few percentage more of party loyalists than the opposition. This way, the minority wins the majority of districts.

But what happens when the percentage of loyalists drops? Since they are only a small percentage more than the opposition, not only do the districts fall, but they all fall together, since the percentage is always slim.

You understand correctly. I've heard that the optimum is to make as many districts as possible close to 55% (your side) to 45% (other side), with then only a few districts absorbing most of the other side's voters. If something turns a small percentage of voters, your "safe" districts are all in play.

David Brin said...

Duncan, no one during Pax Brittanica (PB) ever held meetings - like George Marshall did — with the topic: “We’re about to be an empire. What Big Mistakes did other empires make? PB was inarguably the least-bad and most productive empire to that date… as evidenced by the low levels of grudge by former colonies. But Marshall et al designed something very different.

jim, you make an interesting point. And you ignore Trump’s real charge, which is to demolish every institutional US strength, from our alliances and sciences to courts and civil discourse.

David Brin said...

Tim, alas, appears to be a lost cause. Seriously. Any excuse for cynical sighs of resignation. Though I’ll try again.

Today we have tools our ancestors never imagined. Like vast array of NGOs that helped end the Cold War and liberate hundreds of millions, for example. The innovation that most riles Putin and terrifies the China CP. Eviscerating NGOs is an even higher priority than sabotaging all US institutions.

(What NGOs have you joined, to help save the world?)

That empowering movement allows citizens around the world to bypass talking societies like the UN. Just as Hollywood aggressively bypasses 6000 years of local hate-mythologies, teaching generations around the world moral lessons about diversity, tolerance eccentricity and suspicion of authority.

But why do I bother? You are mired in a tar pit of cynical dolor and I should be satisfied with the miracle that you still show up here.

PS, did you actually go - as asked - and read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, as if every word and sentence were about today and directed right at you? Right now? Try it.

TCB said...

I'd like to add a line or two about soft power. It occurred to me that the old Andy Griffith show, which a lot of us grew up watching, is almost an encyclopedia of soft power. Sheriff Andy is a zen master who genially defuses one fiasco after another with wit, forbearance and calm. And when he's wrong, he admits it. Soft power can look like weakness; fools insist it is; but soft power is credibility. If Sheriff Andy tells people the bridge is out, they believe it.

The amount of soft power the US had before 2000 was almost off the charts. To cite just one example, if the United States had pushed for reduction of greenhouse gases and transition to renewable energy, in a really strong way, any time before 2000, it seems likely that whatever goals the US advocated would have been achievable.

Unfortunately, the US had Republicans and energy companies Wormtongue-ing its resolve from within...

Larry Hart said...

The New York Times makes plain what is already painfully obvious:

A number of observers, myself included, have written pieces in recent years arguing that the Republican Party is no longer simply trying to compete with and defeat the Democratic Party on a level playing field. Today, rather than simply playing the game, the Republicans are simultaneously trying to rig the game’s rules so that they never lose.

The aggressive gerrymandering, which the Supreme Court just declared to be a matter beyond its purview; the voter suppression schemes; the dubious proposals that haven’t gone anywhere — yet — like trying to award presidential electoral votes by congressional district rather than by state, a scheme that Republicans in five states considered after the 2012 election and that is still discussed: These are not ideas aimed at invigorating democracy. They are hatched and executed for the express purpose of essentially fixing elections.


What defines competitive authoritarian states? They are “civilian regimes in which formal democratic institutions exist and are widely viewed as the primary means of gaining power, but in which incumbents’ abuse of the state places them at a significant advantage vis-à-vis their opponents.” Sound like anyone you know?


Alfred Differ said...

If anyone wants to take up Treebeard's challenge of using non-media sources, there is an alternative to placing one's body and property at risk. Just check out some of the security/analysis companies and their products. Stick to ones that don't make money by selling eyeballs to advertisers as they tend to be less frantic about grabbing and holding your attention... in other words... sensationalizing things.

Personally, I'd be inclined to use both types of sources because you need to know what the sensationalizers and provocateurs are are doing to get a feel for the mood of the public. Walking around a Russian city and asking people won't give you enough evidence. It takes a lot of people walking around checking out everything to see what actually goes on. It takes a lot of people with different motivations and assumptions walking around...

I tend to rely on Stratfor for the non-media content I fold into the mix, but you can get your own sources. What Stratfor tends to say about Putin is that he is sticking pretty close to Russia's geopolitical objectives. That is enough to be a concern for American citizens.

Alfred Differ said...

Tim Wolter,

The probability of an intentional nuclear war is not near zero if you include the real risk of another Pakistan - India war. After the end of the Cold War, many of us recognized that the odds of a US - Russia conflict had diminished leaving other scenarios largely unaffected.

As for weakening hard and economic power in the US, I think you aren't thinking about this clearly. The US has immense hard power options that do not involve nukes and most of the world knows that. Look at what happened in the first Iraq war and what Iraq actually had arrayed in the field. They were a regional power... and got absolutely crushed. A few years later we used hard power over Kosovo and embarrassed the Serbs with how easy we made it look to push them around. We invaded the land where empires go to die after 2001... and we haven't died. Even against Russia directly, our options need not involve nukes. That is fully understood by Putin and his analysts and is no doubt a big part of why they didn't want Clinton as President. Whatever you think of her, she isn't stupid. She has experience with US hard power and economic power. Russia needed someone more clueless at our helm to meet their intermediate objectives.

What gets neglected regarding economic and other softer powers is that much of our power is NOT wielded through the US federal government. Corporations, US States, and NGO's play their role too. I strongly suspect that some of Russia's miscalculation in Ukraine was their inability to distinguish between at least one of our pro-democracy NGO's and Obama's administration. I strongly suspect Obama's people would have preferred that a particular NGO had not done precisely what they did because of the possible complications. NGO's don't work for the feds, though, so there was no stopping motivated US citizens from doing what they damn well pleased. Now Crimea has been annexed as a counter-response.

Softer forms of power are less than obvious unless you are involved in wielding them. The media does not report them well because they are hard to report about. Who do you interview? NGO executive directors? Actors in the field? How do you know who to believe since many US private citizens are somewhat delusional about the impact they have on the world? Some DO have an impact, though. I know some folks who tried to privatize the Mir space station and actually had the Russians interested back when it was still in orbit. That got a very interesting US federal government response which caused the Russians to change their minds. Ever seen that reported in the media? Probably not. Who would reporters question? Who would they believe? Don't they need to report more than one side to a story? I assure you some of the story tellers would tell of a conspiracy. Others would speak of little people not knowing their place. Still more would point out that there was more money in one option and the conspiracy folks would point out that money was about corruption... on both sides. 8)

Don't discount any of the three types of power. The US has oodles of each.

Treebeard said...

Alfred, I don’t know much about Stratfor, but I’ve never been impressed with think tanks or academics doing high level, quantitative analysis of societies. Are they ever right about anything? Removing human will, culture, and values when trying to understand other societies must be one of the dumber ideas of all time. You get people like Daniel Duffy here, predicting the inevitable demise of nations based on 15 year old graphs, who is totally ignorant of the human and cultural factors that effect the movement of those graphs. Psychohistory is a geek fantasy, guys.

Looking at a map, I don’t see how Russia pursuing its national geopolitical objectives (or China, or anyone else on distant continents) is any great concern to Americans. Are they planning to invade Alaska? Does the USA claim dominion over the whole globe? Those days are over, man. Eurasia is probably going to be pushing Pax Americana out in the near future and creating a “new world order”, and there’s not a lot you can do about it short of blowing up the world.

DP said...


Russia Population Growth
After 15 years of declining growth, Russia finally recorded population growth for the first time again in 2009, and in 2013, Russia had a total fertility rate of 1.7 children per woman, which is the highest in Eastern Europe.

Contrary to popular opinion in the West, Russia's population is actually growing, not shrinking, although its growth is very, very small. While the population was shrinking in the 1990s and early 2000s, at the moment it is slowly growing. Despite this, it's likely that the population will shrink again between now and the next ten or twenty years, as the country's very small growth is completely driven by immigration, not natural growth.

While projections into the future of Russia are very difficult, it's estimated that Russia will fall from the 9th most populous country to 17th by 2050. Russian Prime Minister Vladmir Putin has announced that he plans to boost Russia's dwindling population by encouraging immigration and higher birth rates, but estimates show that Russia's population will drop from 2014's 142 million to only 128 million by 2050.

DP said...


And nobody want to immigrate to Putin's Russia:

State statistics that were presented by researchers of the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration show that in 2018 the inflow of migrants decreased almost two-fold for the first nine months of the year compared with the previous year (which, according to the OECD, also witnessed a 19 percent drop in the number of migrants). At a recent gathering of experts at the Gaidar Forum in Moscow, the overall number of migrants to Russia in 2018 was estimated at 120-125,000.

In order to counterbalance the current demographic losses this figure should be much higher. The country needs at least 500,000 more migrants each year, estimates Rosstat, the state body responsible for statistical data. The difference is huge. Is it realistic to expect four-fold more migrants coming to Russia than currently, or is the country doomed to oblivion in just the time span of several generations?

DP said...


A huge number of Russians, especially young people, would love to leave if they could:

A record one-fifth of Russians would like to leave the country if they could, a threefold increase from five years ago, the Gallup pollster said Thursday.

Public polling inside Russia has indicated in recent years that between 17 and 20 percent of Russians were willing to migrate. Official data, which has been criticized for downplaying immigration figures, says Russia’s emigration numbers have reached a six-year record.

In Gallup's 2018 poll, 20 percent of Russian respondents said they would like to leave Russia if they could.

The share of Russians seeking to move permanently to another country had never passed Gallup’s 17-percent high in 2007, the U.S. pollster’s results say. However, this number has grown steadily over the past five years, tripling from 7 percent in 2014 to 20 percent in 2018.

An “unprecedented” 44 percent of young Russians between ages 15 and 29 voiced the desire to leave.

DP said...


The Russian Cross is back:

Russia’s population is shrinking again
In 2017, 1.69 million children were born in Russia which was down by 203,000 compared to 2016 and equal to the number of births in Russia in 2007. It is the third consecutive year that Rosstat has registered a decline in Russia’s birthrate.

In 2016, Russia had 1,893,237 births and 1,887,907 deaths, for a natural population increase of just 5,330 people, not counting immigration. There were about 1,824,340 (12.4/1,000) deaths in 2017. Russia’s population reduced about 131,000 in 2017 from more deaths than births. Russia did have some immigration, Russia population did grow in 2016 by 257,700 people, while in 2017, population growth amounted to only 77,400.

Russia has 782,000 births in the first half of 2018. This is tracking to about 1.55 million births for 2018. Assuming deaths stay level to 2017, then this would be a reduction of about 260,000 people in 2018.

The amount of births in Russia will likely remain low as an echo of the baby bust from 1992-2010.

Russians living in poverty increased from 15.5 million in 2013 to 19.8 million in 2016.

The number of children born in Russia in 2014 was officially reported as 1.9 million, but that figure included children born in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula that Moscow seized that year.

Russia’s population peaked at more than 148 million in 1992, the year after the Soviet Union collapsed. Russia’s population was claimed to be 144.3 million in 2016.

There are no official population statistics for 2016. Rosstat, the official Government statistics agency, suggested that the population of Russia in 2011 was 141.8 million, and the CIA estimated that the population was even lower: 138.7 million.

Former finance minister Aleksey Kudrin forecasts a decline of 10 million people of working-age in Russians by 2033.

Russia would have had a very high ratio of old people in its populations, except there was a surge in people dying from alcohol and other issues.

Russia stabilized its longevity and increased life expectancy from 64 in 1994 back to 72.

Russia’s population could shrink to about 110 million in 2050. Although the UN projects a population fo about 132 million in 2050.

DP said...


Putin's Russia is a dead man walking.

duncan cairncross said...

Putin's Russia is a dead man walking.

As a counterpoint

I've been out of the USA for nearly 20 years - is Chris Ladd as accurate as I fear?

DP said...

Duncan - he's not wrong.

But he neglects a serious demographic component of Trump support: the fact that by 2040 America will be a white minority country. Scratch the surface of even the religious end times beliefs and you find this fear as their primary motive force.

David Brin said...

Alfred I know George F who helped found Stratfor (and has moved on). While Realpolitik and hedgemonic self-interest are factors in Putinism, They miss the bigger picture, a worldwide effort to shatter what threatens every oligarchy… the development of a world culture of accountability, transparency and rule of law. ALL of them are lethally threatened by that, and hence their odd-looking alliance, of  of Kremlin-KGB agents, oligarchs, Saudi princes, casino moguls, carbon barons, mafiosi, Wall Street cheaters, Fox liars and inheritance brats.

As for the 1st Iraq War, Saddan could not have chosen a worse year. Two years earlier there was still sort of a Warsaw Pact. Two years later and most of our European Army would have been dispersed and sent home. He chose exactly when we had a top notch, trained and fueled field army just a few hundred klicks away, with nothing to do. An amazing fact I’ve seen no one comment on.

Putin hated Bill Clinton and Obama but desperately loathed Hillary, whom he directly blamed for loss of the Ukraine. Then she stupidly failed to brag about that, in the campaign.

Treebeard is right. (choke!) Oh, not in his blithering nonsense hatred of experts etc. But sometimes amateurs get a hit. Like Lyndon LaRouche predicting the mid 90s would be a maelstrom caused by the breakup of Yugoslavia. A jibbering loony. But strange minds sometimes spot things. Um, look who’s talking right now?

Russia's population is actually growing…? Well, a lot of Chinese are moving into Siberia.

DP said...

Recent Russian population growth was a blip, they are back to having more deaths than births (aka the Russian Cross). Population decline is back on track. See the chart in:

DP said...

"ALL of them are lethally threatened by that, and hence their odd-looking alliance, of of Kremlin-KGB agents, oligarchs, Saudi princes, casino moguls, carbon barons, mafiosi, Wall Street cheaters, Fox liars and inheritance brats."

You can now divide the world into the Green Alliance and the Carbon Axis (Trump's America and Brexit Britain divided in two, Germany is Green, Putin's Russia is Carbon, etc.).

For insight into the threat the Carbon Axis faces from the Carbon Bubble, see "Trump, Putin and the Pipelines to Nowhere" and the threat

At the same time, the innovations we need to create zero-carbon prosperity are already here. From plummeting costs for solar, wind, electric vehicles and green buildings to better approaches to urban planning, agriculture and forestry, we already have the tools we need to start building a much more prosperous world, producing hosts of new companies and millions of jobs. Indeed, a giant building boom is what successful climate action looks like.

Because we have no real choice but to act — and, in fact, climate action will make most people not only safer, but better off — big changes are coming, far sooner than most Americans understand.

But some people totally understand: the ones who stand to lose money from these changes.

Here’s the blunt reality: the pressure to cut emissions and respond to a changing climate are going to alter what we do and don’t see as valuable. Climate action will trigger an enormous shift in the way we value things.

If we can’t burn oil, it’s not worth very much. If we can’t defend coastal real estate from rising seas (or even insure it, for that matter), it’s not worth very much. If the industrial process a company owns exposes them to future climate litigation, it’s not worth very much. The value of those assets is going to plummet, inevitably… and likely, soon.

Currently, though, these assets are valued very highly. Oil is seen as hugely valuable, coastal real estate is seen as hugely valuable, industrial patents are seen as hugely valuable.

When there’s a large difference between how markets think assets should be valued and what they are (or will) actually be worth, we call it a “bubble.”

Experts now call the differences between valuations and worth in fossil fuel corporations, climate-harmful industries and vulnerable physical assets the “Carbon Bubble.” It is still growing.

And here’s the thing about bubbles: they always pop.

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Scary and informative.

Of the entire long rant, I think this sentence and its surrounding paragraph summed it up best:

The evangelical death cult is why we can’t have nice things.

In 1984, Orwell explains how authoritarian governments use a bloated military to keep economic activity going into making useless weapons instead of benefiting the public. The evangelical cult serves the same function in the political realm.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

You can now divide the world into the Green Alliance and the Carbon Axis (Trump's America and Brexit Britain divided in two, Germany is Green, Putin's Russia is Carbon, etc.).

It's like the sides in WWII, but how did we become the bad guys?

scidata said...

Larry Hart: how did we become the bad guys?

Because psychohistory is much more than TB's 'geek fantasy'. Newton's laws, pendulums, evolution, computation, etc, etc, etc, etc. Just because a thing is vastly complicated, doesn't mean that it can be thrown in the trash bin with a capricious yawn. Thus my attentive reading of this blog.

Larry Hart said...

Someone who isn't me finally noticed that Trump's meddling with the census is blatantly illegal and unconstitutional. Not that Republicans care or anything, but remember this the next time they have the balls to refer to themselves as "constitutionalist" :

That brings us back to the citizenship question, which—far from being an attempt to protect the rights of minority voters—is actually just an alternative way to reduce Democratic power. As we have noted many times, the administration knows full well that asking a citizenship question will cause many non-citizens to avoid responding to the census. That, in turn, will cause them to be undercounted, and thus will cost areas with sizable undocumented populations (most of which are blue) billions in federal dollars as well as seats in the House of Representatives, and consequently electoral votes. Trump knows this, and he badly wants this result. The courts have handed him multiple defeats, but the Supreme Court has not made a final determination, so the President is holding out hope that his administration will ultimately prevail. And while he waits, he very much to delay the census. He said so when SCOTUS first ruled against him, and he reiterated it even more forcefully yesterday.

Note that there is much going on here that is illegal. First, the Constitution requires that all residents of the country be counted, not just those that have citizenship and/or legal status. Any steps taken with the knowledge that they will produce undercounting are thus inherently unconstitutional. Meanwhile, the Constitution does not specify a start date for the next census, but federal law does (April 1, 2020). It's true that Congress could change the law, and thus the start date, but that won't be happening as long as Nancy Pelosi is running the House. So, if Trump does delay, he will be violating federal law. That said, we all know at this point how enthusiastic the Justice Dept. and the Senate are about holding the President accountable, so it is unlikely that he's going to let a little something like 13 USC 141 bother him.

Larry Hart said...

Pretty funny parody pics of Ivanka, Forrest Gump-like inserted into historical images:

jim said...

Industrial civilization exist because of the carbon bubble.

A bit more than 80% of the energy currently used by industrial civilization comes from fossil fuels, if they are eliminated that means (eventually) your wealth and income must go down by ~80% as well.

(some sort of civilization could be built on solar power, but it would have to be very different from our current "only growth matters" economy.)

Larry Hart said...


Industrial civilization exist because of the carbon bubble.

I think you're misunderstanding Daniel's point.

The relevant sentence is this:

When there’s a large difference between how markets think assets should be valued and what they are (or will) actually be worth, we call it a “bubble.”

When all of civilization is running on fossil fuels, then they aren't overvalued. They really are worth a lot. What he calls a "bubble" is when fossil fuels are no longer coveted as they have been in the past, and so the monetary value of owning them disappears. That happens after civilization decides it can get by without fossil fuels (or with much less).

David Brin said...

"It's like the sides in WWII, but how did we become the bad guys?"

We CONTAIN bad guys. With foreign help they never got in the 1860s, the Confederacy took Washington, this time.

"As we have noted many times, the administration knows full well that asking a citizenship question will cause many non-citizens to avoid responding to the census."

Sorry, here I take a break from liberal doctrine. I never believed this hysteria over the citizen question, which I doubt would make much difference. Not if liberal groups made major efforts to audit confidentiality processes and to reassure target populations, many of whom won't answer anyway. This was a bloated "issue." In abstract - yes abstract -- such a question would be totally legitimate, as it'd be legit to demand voter ID at polling stations. It's compliance assistance that proves Republican utter malignancy and turpitude.

The Unwanted Ivanks meme is so totally welcome.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

"It's like the sides in WWII, but how did we become the bad guys?"

We CONTAIN bad guys.

We as a nation, in a community of nations, ACT as one of the bad guys right now. And I know that's a simplistic statement. It is kinda chilling, though, to see the US, Britain, and Russia vs Germany and Japan again while rooting for the other side.

Sorry, here I take a break from liberal doctrine. I never believed this hysteria over the citizen question, which I doubt would make much difference.

It's just the fact that they're trying something that is obviously illegal and unconstitutional (purposely undercounting) whether the particular scheme is effective or not. At some point, they'll just throw census questionaires from certain zip codes or with certain names into the trash bin. I mean, if they're going to cheat, why not go all the way? I'm not so much focused on the individual cheating schemes as on the fact that blatant cheating doesn't cause them negative consequences, in fact, their base votes FOR them because they like the cheating.

David Brin said...

Aaaaand the magical incantation is back: "A bit more than 80% of the energy currently used by industrial civilization comes from fossil fuels, if they are eliminated that means (eventually) your wealth and income must go down by ~80% as well."

Proving that the attack on positive-sum thinking spans all spectra. It's dominant on the mad right. But it infests the left.

David Brin said...

"It's just the fact that they're trying something that is obviously illegal and unconstitutional (purposely undercounting) whether the particular scheme is effective or not."

Bah. It gave Roberts an excuse to be seen being 'balanced' when the only thing that mattered was the gerrymandering decision.

David Smelser said...

In 2016, the supreme court decided that Texas could not draw districts based on eligible voters instead of total population. With the new make up of the court and a new census, I can certainly see other states try this again. Putting the citizenship question in the census would make a much easier to draw districts based on regions of equal number of voting age citizens.

The other thing we should see in an increase in states wanting to distribute electoral votes based on how their congressional districts voted. When the house districts are gerrymandered, this makes it even easier for candidates to win the electoral vote and lose the popular vote.

David Brin said...

"Putting the citizenship question in the census would make a much easier to draw districts based on regions of equal number of voting age citizens." So? In a world without cheating that'd be arguably right.

#2 is another reason to fight. But think. It's a narrow class of states that'd want that. Only states where the statewide vote will go democratic... in which case they might likely get a democratic governor... that ALSO have a cheating-like-mad GOP legislature.

David Brin said...

BTW DS's point #1 would motivate states to get immigrants to be citizens.

scidata said...

The 19th century was rife with chiselers, four-flushers, coin-clippers, and grifters running a plethora of cons. They were so impotent and short-lived to be almost charming. Technology and bureaucracy squeezed them out, requiring ever greater guile and ingenuity -- thinning their ranks and even adding some of the cleverest ones (or their offspring) to the good side. Several Dem titans come to mind. I don't see these traits in the 'Confederacy'. More like brash and blatant bullying. Perhaps the 'Union' should focus on science and simply out-pace them.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

"Putting the citizenship question in the census would make a much easier to draw districts based on regions of equal number of voting age citizens." So? In a world without cheating that'd be arguably right.

The Constitution specifies "Whole number of persons". Since that self-evidently includes women and children, neither of whom could be eligible voters in 1789, there's no way to interpret that phrase as meaning only those who could vote. If that's not enough, there's the infamous 3/5ths clause counting slaves as 3/5 of a person without giving them 3/5 of a vote.

#2 is another reason to fight. But think. It's a narrow class of states that'd want that. Only states where the statewide vote will go democratic... in which case they might likely get a democratic governor... that ALSO have a cheating-like-mad GOP legislature.

That's not as rare as it sounds. Just off the top of my head--Wisconsin and North Carolina who de-powered their governorships after a Democrat did win but the legislatures are solidly Republican. I believe Virginia is in danger too. And Michigan. And possibly Pennsylvania.

BTW DS's point #1 would motivate states to get immigrants to be citizens

To get more Electoral Votes and federal dollars, yes. But to keep the state in Republican hands, no. So it depends which goal wins out. I'd expect it would be the latter. What profit the cheating Republicans to gain more Electoral Votes if those votes are going to go to a Democrat?

David Brin said...

LH all good points. I am refuted.

David Brin said...


David Brin said...

yeah onward. Happy 4th you Union lovers. And for the rest of you, have a great weekend and tomorrow.