Monday, November 30, 2020

Agile Moves that Democrats might make, right now.

(Yes, some of these were posted, already. But they are so important that I had a stab at re-phrasing and adding proposals. Maybe this time someone will read the list who just might act…)

With each new administration — Democrat or Republican — I always publish my own list of impudent suggestions for possible actions that would step around the typically lobotomizing “left-right axis,” scoring immediate points by doing some non-partisan good. Despite my purported “fame and influence,” none of these proposals has ever been acted upon, or even widely discussed, perhaps for the very reason that they are off-axis, without established constituencies. Though I am also grownup enough to admit another possibility — that these ideas are only compelling to own self-important delusions!   

Still, I’ll do it yet again, offering maneuvers especially to skirt the utter determination of this generation of Republican Congressional leaders — stated openly by Dennis Hastert, all the way to Mitch McConnell — that the American federal legislature should do nothing meaningful at all, ever again.

Some notions won’t wait!  They’d be effective if undertaken before the inauguration or convening the 117th Congress.

1) An Inaugural Twist. Planning for a ‘minimalist inauguration,’ as announced by appointed White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, would be a terrible mistake! 

Yes, Joe Biden must set a healthy example for the nation, on his first day in office. But tens or hundreds of thousands will come anyway. Nothing will stop them. So what’s needed is a way to get them to spread out, safely masked. Besides, why deny America’s enthusiastic majority their day? 

Oh, and given the vast number and seriousness of threats, shouldn't Kamala and Joe  stay apart?

There is a simple solution! Have the new Vice-President - Kamala Harris - take her oath at the far-opposite end of the Mall, on the hallowed steps of the Lincoln Memorial. 

Symbolically, it'd be a huge way to say - with both Lincoln and MLK gazing down - 'we've come a long way, baby!' And the swearing-in by Sonia Sotomayor would be a good offset to John Roberts. Picture Harris giving her speech, then waving down the long Mall at the Capitol, calling "Over to you, Joe... I mean Mister President!" past a vast crowd that now has plenty of room to spread out!  

Pass out a bazillion flags and flag masks and say "Use the flag to make a social distance circle. Let  America's flag protect us, as we mean to protect and reclaim the flag!"

The images would be spectacular, denying Trump or the fox-o-sphere any "crowd size” yammers. It would establish Kamala as a star and a voice of her own, not just a warmup act. … And then there's that added, paranoid reason. Keep her away from Joe. Especially that day.

2) If Pelosi pushes these quick mini-bills, they might achieve wonders… even if blocked!

While much attention goes to Biden’s appointment picks, until inauguration, actual action is in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's hands. She must and can put forward right away a few short bills that might even pass the Senate, even over objections by Mitch McConnell! 

How could that be, now that today's GOP is the most tightly disciplined political force in the history of the republic? Easy. Trap them into publicly opposing extremely simple things that would be wildly popular with voters! Ideally, you can do this with some 'no-brainer' bills taking up one sentence!

- Shall we start with new, moderate and consensus limits on the powers of the new president? Incredible failure modes were revealed by a madman predecessor, flaws that Republicans defended… only now would likely be delighted to fix. Start with those Biden won't oppose! Like reasonable limits on war powers, or establishing procedures to rule on emoluments violations.


- How about a one-sentence bill making clear that Secret Service agents aren't personal servants! A constituency that’d be delighted with this change. And the implied rebuke to Trump needn't even be said aloud!

- Another demanding that the Air Force be paid for for political or private use of Air Force One in advance. A huge implied dig, again in just one sentence! And they wouldn't dare oppose.

- Or passing rules that end forever the travesty of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel 'advising' that sitting presidents cannot be sued or indicted or even investigated! Instead, ensure that Presidents can be "slow-indicted" or "slow-sued" without destroying their ability to perform vital functions. A short bill establishing above all that they are not totally immune? Would GOP senators dare not to defect, break ranks, to hem in Joe Biden with such rules? 


And with Biden consenting to them, won't this wind up making dems look like non-partisan reformers? 

And would that also not put those two GA senators seeking re-election — Loeffler and Perdue — on the spot, at just the most inopportune moment?

- Another one-sentence bill? One that simply ends the ban on refinancing student debt. It is insane that folks are forbidden from doing what anyone with a mortgage can do, taking advantage of low interest rates to re-adjust their debt burden. (Those who established that rule were inarguably vile people, truly evil, whatever their formal ideology.) Key to this one is that it could be achieved with a bill that amounted to ONE SENTENCE!  Making it harder to bottle in committee.

(Again, this is not the student debt forgiveness that so many want. That’s for later. But allowing student loans to be refinanced - or discharged in bankruptcy - would be a huge advance. It would not be available to high earners and carries some negative financial consequences which would eliminate the moral hazard objections. And it might be done in a very brief bill.)

A COVID relief bill? Sure, try that. Though I doubt Mitch would face defections there. And others on this list will be more effective - in the very short term - because they can be utterly simple! A few sentences. 


- How about a bill immediately giving medicare coverage to all CHILDREN, a move so guaranteed of parental enthusiasm that anyone opposing it would face toasting. It's a win-win, if we demand those Georgia senators decide now, risking ire from either those parents or else Mitch. And no, that increment will NOT eliminate the desire for more. Grow up.

Oh there are many of these reforms that don't have to wait for inauguration! Because they'll either get Senate defections to pass and else get Trump's grudging assent... or else that refusal make them look very, very bad and Democrats very good.

3) Get the states moving!  I've said it before. For lack of a functioning federal government, regional and national governors' associations should have stepped up to coordinate covid response and other big priorities. To some small extent, they have, even as Jared Kushner and other administration clowns egged on states to bid against each other for desperately needed supplies, but governor associations can do so much more. (I actually urged this three years ago.) In fact it's not too late! Especially now that GOP governors like Ducey and Kemp, who had been fervent Trumpists, are now fuming over betrayals and insults by the 'leader' they had slavishly flattered-so.

This could be done now. It could have happened yesterday.

4) Again with the blackmail warning. Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but I promise you, Putin's agents are all over DC, right now, setting up hotel rooms with one way mirrors, just like in the Borat movie!

In fact, is it possible that the greatest thing Sacha Baron Cohen ever did will be that scene where even Cohen’s crude methods lured Rudy Giuliani into embarrassing and compromised behavior?  For decades I have inveighed that blackmail traps  — executed far more skillfully by Russian agents whose traditions go back to the czarist Okrahna — await almost every male who rises to any sort of power in the USA… and females too! Especially those with careless male relatives. 

(Seriously, can’t you name a dozen recent political figures — senators and administration officials — whose behavior could not be explained by greed or ideology alone, only absolute obedience to masters who can coerce them insatiably, because blackmail — unlike money and ideology — has no limits.)

Unpersuaded? Well, I made the argument here, long ago and nothing has changed. It is especially vital that incoming legislators and officials be warned about this kind of thing and armed by our security services with tools to turn the tables.  And thank you, Borat!

Even more important is…

5) Get the light flowing! There is nothing Joe Biden could do, across the entire coming administration, that will upend and transform U.S. politics more than establishing a Truth & Reconciliation Commission that brings in America’s greatest sages … and randomly nominated citizens from all parties and all walks of life… charging them with drawing into the open all crimes against the Republic.

Of course there must be carrots and sticks. Like a promise to follow recommendations for trading clemency for truth… with extra points for those who bravely come forward first!  And yes: “I know this will wind up shedding uncomfortable light on some Democrats and allies too! And who knows how close it will come to me? But the nation needs this, desperately!”

Get some friendly zillionaire to offer cash prizes and legal expenses! 

This could be done immediately, even before inauguration. And nothing is more likely to nudge the current national mood of fact-distrusting paranoia more toward a consensus that the time for shadows is over.

Accompany this soon with bills limiting the power to enforce NDAs! (Non-disclosure agreements.) Or putting sunset time limits on them! And let the nation judge for itself which party’s partisans howl louder!

Oh, there’s more, much more! But I’ll set aside those that can wait for January. 

The ones offered here have urgency of timeliness! Though, alas, I know I will get the same results as last time… or when I published Polemical Judo… or the time before that….


Russ Abbott said...

Excellent ideas! Why are they never taken up by anyone who can act on them? What's your explanation?

gerold said...

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be a great way to shed some much-needed light on past misdeeds and prevent them in the future. But I'd be willing to settle for unbiased trials starting with El Trumpo.

Not as an act of political retribution mind you. No vendetta or witch hunt. Just simple impartial blind justice. Do the crime, serve your time.

And you're right, Pelosi could go a long way toward helping down in Georgia by making it clear how Repubs are preventing us from getting anything done. If we get those two seats everything will get better.

gerold said...

Just saw your comment in Brightness Reef about IE grammar as error-correction for verbal communication. I had been wondering about why nouns are gendered ever since learning German, but reading Shannon and parity bits it made sense. Brightness Reef is the only other place I've seen mention of it.

Tacitus said...

I read this morning that Ben Bova has passed. His style was not really my cuppa tea, but with his first published works being in the late 1950's it is another link lost to the Golden Age of Sci Fi. There can't be many left.

Did you know the man David?


Lorraine said...

A Capital idea. A cradle-and-grave health care system might be a logical step toward cradle-to-grave social democracy. Plus, it would add additional weight to eighteenth birthdays as the expiration date of "your free trial of being alive," sort of like the various health and economic crises arising from kids "aging out" of foster care, only now featuring middle class kids that people care about.

Larry Hart said...

Paul Krugman continues to agree with me:

At a fundamental level — and completely separate from the Trump factor — today’s G.O.P. doesn’t believe that Democrats ever have the right to govern, no matter how many votes they receive.

Larry Hart said...

Seen on Stonekettle's Twitter feed. It took me a while to get the significance of the number, but eventually it made sense:


Alfred Differ said...


I encourage you to take a peek at episode #8 of "The Day the Universe Changed" by James Burke. It's the one titled "Fit to Rule" and contains the 'Social Darwinism' concept.

It's not so much that Hitler was copying an American idea. There were three distinct approaches to Social Darwinism in the early 20th century and all three were locked in feedback loops with each other. American, Russian, German.

Social Darwinism is alive today though many of us wish it were not. It is a mistake to think any particular nation invented it, though. A more accurate accounting would discover it among the work of philosophers who likely report our cultural barbarism rather than invent the idea. We've believed that some are better than others for a LONG time and invent all sorts of supporting rationalizations.

Darwin's idea was simply adapted to the battle like all others before it. EVERYONE who thinks they can socially engineer on a large scale has probably adopted one of these ideas. We have a rich supply of them all transformed in ways their originators would probably find offensive. Evolution -> Social Darwinism. Jesus -> Inquisition. Family/Tribal resource planning -> Communism.

It's very human to believe our individual theories are better, but there is no danger in it until we choose to coerce others into our choice. Diversity of these theories is hugely beneficial because there is something rather special that they do. They evolve. Diverse beliefs are equivalent to Darwin's variations. Persuasive copying is equivalent to sex. Success/Failure AT persuasive copying is equivalent to selection. Even coercion can be modeled this way. It is equivalent to rape intended to produce offspring. Evolution at this level is altering our civilization.

It think it a mistake to focus too much on details that motivated Hitler's choices. The issue is more broadly named by our inclination to coerce each other. In this regard, Americans are practically on the path to sainthood*. Sure. We ARE barbarians and demonstrate it now and then. Often, though, we choose NOT to coerce and only get in a barbaric snit when others do not choose the same path. Many of us are inclined to coerce the coercers, but let others be. Well… large numbers of them anyway.

*(Obviously I'd believe that? Well... No. Many Americans don't.)

Acacia H. said...

Continued from the previous post? Dr. Brin, a simple Google Search would show my argument to be valid. But seeing you don't have time to do that and insist that the burden of proof be mine seeing I was verifying another person's comments? Fine.

Here's an article on what the Nazis learned from U.S. Indian removal.

Another article on how U.S. Indian laws and policy influenced Nazi Germany's Jewish policy.

"Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law" by James Q. Whitman, available for viewing online free through that link.

I honestly don't think I need to continue with links. Three sources should be enough, especially as one is an actual publication.


David Brin said...

Russ Abbott said... "Excellent ideas! Why are they never taken up by anyone who can act on them? What's your explanation?”

I have no idea. I know some folks. Others have said they know of me. It never, ever translates into becoming anyone’s ‘advisor’ even at arm’s length. Perhaps I am off-putting. More likely there is an intense ‘not invented here’ mind set among both politicals and the pundit-o-sphere. Had 10% of Polemical Judo been implemented, all would be different now.

gerold, yeah, the connection of Indo-European and other language groups’ rigid redundancy to Shannon Coding is one I’ve never seen. But I assume that’s because I’m not a scholar in the field. How weird if it was first made in a sci fi novel! (And of course was thus ignored.)

Pachdermis 2 yes I knew Ben Bova. The truest of true always-hard SF writers.


David Brin said...

Acacia et. al. Were less-powerful peoples exploited and pushed by more powerful ones... almost everywhere? Can you find me a historical example when that did NOT happen, when opportunity arose? Look at a map and show me a region and era and make the case. Analysis of blood types and genes show that later newcomer peoples to North America pounded and drove southward descendants of earlier migrant waves, driving the earliest down to Argentina. Native American legends tell of tribes driven from earlier homelands and in turn driving out those they found in the new places. Even Australian aboriginal tribes have such tales and genetic evidence.

I await citation of any large scale exceptions.

I do not say that in order to diminish Anglo-American crimes! Sure, there’s plenty for “America” to feel guilty about and learn from! But if you tally up the similarities and differences, the biggest unique aspect of the American expansion — and especially New Zealand, the most recent — was the relentlessly repetition of half-heartedly and often ineffectively enforced attempts to do the right thing… and morality tales that guilt tripped this failure, starting farther back than you might imagine.

Look at your OWN reaction to what I just wrote… with outrage that I would dare to try to diminish that guilt! When of course, that’s not what I am doing, even in the slightest. Your REACTION typifies that very zeitgeist I just described! There is no similar historical-guilt reaction (I’d wager) among Bantu folk over their expulsions of Xhosa etc. peoples, or Russians toward those driven before their own expansions.

I am not diminishing this reflex, but extolling and praising it! It is one of the things that has made our experiment noble despite all the mistakes and crimes.

Anonymous said...

The thing is that Mitch McConnell rarely "opposes" anything. He's not a firebrand or particularly vitriolic (for a Republican). As long as he's majority leader such bills from Pelosi or Biden will just go into a drawer somewhere and quietly die. Get referred to the subcommittee on wherewithalls & terminologies that only meets on the third wednesday of months with a "c" in them. And if you try and fight that, well its a boring old procedural fight that captures no attention so you look like a nerd, and pretty soon you realize you're fighting a tar baby...

I think thats pretty much why Pelosi hasn't been sending such bills along for the last two years.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Sure, there’s plenty for “America” to feel guilty about and learn from! But if you tally up the similarities and differences, the biggest unique aspect of the American expansion — and especially New Zealand, the most recent — was the relentlessly repetition of half-heartedly and often ineffectively enforced attempts to do the right thing… and morality tales that guilt tripped this failure, starting farther back than you might imagine.

This is one of the things I most hate the Trumpists and other "Blood and soil!" right-wing Americans for--their attempt to erase that aspect of America that tries to leave all that Old World stuff behind and make something better. They really insist that by not being an ethno-state, America is weakening itself, and that "admitting" we are a nation of White Christians ("No others need apply") is Making America Great Again.

In the early days of his administration, Trump talked about deporting those who "don't share our value." They literally can't understand that tolerance and justice and equality before the law are American values (which they don't share). I can't forgive them for that.

Tacitus said...

I've mentioned in the past my views on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission idea. Maybe 10% - the real True Believers - would love to see this happen. A much, much larger portion of the populace would see it as an idea abhorrent to our ideals and would exact electoral revenge on any pol foolish enough to vote for it. But hey, its a free country.

I've also opined that I'm not agitated over the current political landscape. Honestly, I wonder how badly the Dems even want to sweep the Georgia Senate seats. Think about it. A 50-50 tie puts Joe Manchin squarely on the spot. And worse, far worse really, would force Harris to cast controversial votes.

With Biden already showing his age...broken bones before he's even inaugurated! - there will have to be a serious charm and gravitas offensive regards Harris. Divisive votes Do Not Help. And anyway, remaking her into a seasoned statesperson, worthy successor and steady Commander in Chief....that's a pretty steep hill to climb under any circumstances.

You can be sure that the 2022 election is already being strategized. Good chance for the Dems to take the Senate majority then, what with way more Repub seats being defended. But oooh, that narrow House majority. It's a delicate thing that won't survive excessive heat.


duncan cairncross said...

New Zealand!
The Europeans were much much more circumspect in their treatment of the "natives" than anywhere else
Not because they were nicer or more civilized but because the Maori were simply more capable

The Maori came from a group of marooned Polynesians in about 1100 AD
They changed from a culture adapted to small tropical islands
To an expansion phase with abundant food
To an agricultural culture
They were just changing to the warrior culture when the Europeans arrived and they changed again
Effectively five different cultures in about 700 years
They were and are a formidable people

The European reaction was to work with the Maori and outbreed them
The Empire's response to a group of Maori that repeatedly drew them into costly attacks on defended "Pa" followed by the Maori melting away into the bush was to
"Declare Victory and leave"

David Brin said...

Not one thing “anonymous” said is true. Pelosi has been sending plenty of bills. And the whole purpose of the one-sentence no-brainer bills is to force GOPpers into backing Mitch’s motions-to-table against such simply blatantly obviously needful things.

But then, I doubt anon has actually read the blog or the examples.

I've mentioned in the past my views on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission idea. Maybe 10% - the real True Believers - would love to see this happen. A much, much larger portion of the populace would see it as an idea abhorrent to our ideals and would exact electoral revenge on any pol foolish enough to vote for it. But hey, its a free country.”

I am pleased to say that I cannot think of anything anyone has written here in weeks that is more wrong.

“Honestly, I wonder how badly the Dems even want to sweep the Georgia Senate seats. Think about it. A 50-50 tie puts Joe Manchin squarely on the spot. And worse, far worse really, would force Harris to cast controversial votes.”

WTF??? Seriously? Manchin would vote with all dems on committee chair positions and committee appointments! And on most confirmations. Those alone would make spectacular difference, as well as ending Mitch’s power to table bills.

Even if Manchin plays to red-souled constituents pretty often, frustrating AOC into accepting increments, it is still VASTLY better! Jeeez try to actually understand the landscape before you charge.

The key point re the Maori is that they were confronted LATEST, after several generations of increasing western guilt trips.

David Brin said...

I do not see the remark by Acacia that I appoved so it might have gone to the last posting. But I'll answer:

Seriously? YOU made a grand declaration that the Nazis copied America in doing the Holocaust, a HUGE accusation! Then, when I ask you to support it, you throw the burden of proof OF A NEGATIVE on ME!?????

You made a grand declaration and called it factual and proved. I am within my rights to ask for some of the proof. I have made clear that I do not thereby whitewash the sufferings of America's native peoples! I am addressing that exaggerated specific. And given that I have no 3rd or 4th or 5th cousins because of that event, I am qualified to be curious.

Exaggerations are not necessary. We are already writhing in apropos guilt, which is propelling us toward what really matters, becoming better people.

Larry Hart said...

@Dr Brin,

Acacia's post ended up in these comments, but way up above. I have no idea how blogger works, but I've seen some of my posts end up above others that I've already read as well. Caveat emptor.

I will only say this about the argument between you two--that you're each having two distinct conversations. He's stating the apparent fact that Hitler and the Nazis found inspiration in specific American laws. You're asserting that America isn't evil. Both things can be true.

A former regular on this blog used to look at the same country that I do and declare authoritatively that the distinguishing characteristic of America--rather than fairness and justice and equality--is the promise that Americans are free to defraud and pillage as much as they can get away with. It bothers me that someone can look at the country I love and come away with that as the message, but I can acknowledge that he does think that without conceding that he must be right.

David Brin said...

Thanks LH but I disagreed with Acacia's specific accusation that the Nazis MODELED their horrid deliberate-genocides that slaughtered 20+ millions in just 3 years SPECIFICALLY after the truly disastrous, but largely negligent US government policies that allowed 200 years of highly complex interactions in which deadly aftermaths nearly always undermined and reversed many acts of goodwill. I do not minimize the generally catastrophing - if grinding - outcomes of that despicable negligence. But it was a different thing and human history is rife-to-overflowing with far more similar examples for the Nazis to have followed.

gerold said...

Regarding the debate about Nazis, the US and holocausts: the Nazis did not model their holocaust on what happened in the US. The genocide of American Indians was an old-fashioned holocaust akin to many previous, amplified by disease and a very large technological/industrial advantage.

However the Nazis did receive inspiration for some of their white supremacy ideology from America. The US was unique among Western countries in having a large population of non-white ex-slaves living inside the border of the nation. In addition we had the toxic remnants of the former confederacy making every effort to justify slavery and the continuation of white supremacy. This ideology has been very attractive to some, including the German Nazis.

When Madison Grant wrote "The Passing of the Great Race" in 1916 such views were pretty mainstream.

Der Oger said...

A little known fact is that the Nazi ideology actually saw the Native American people as a "race of noble savages", on the same level than "Aryans" and the Japanese. This was, in part, rooted in the writings of Karl May. There were plans to give the land back to the Native Americans once they would have defeated the US, and supported Elrood Towner and the American Indian Federation.

On the other hand, Hitler regretted the loss of the confederacy during the civil war. He claimed that the US were "one-half black, one-half jewish", and thus would be inferior militarily.

There are many different roots of the holocaust. I'd also point out the Herero massacre and the dawning of technologies that made it easier to spread hate and develop large-scale, industrial methods of killing. Also, widespread collaboration of the civilian population in the occupied territories (because of the underlying antisemitism that always was there in the first place) made it easier for the Nazis to find their victims.

Tacitus said...

For what it's worth Hitler was a huge fan boy of Karl May, a writer whose main works were set in the American West. May was pretty sympathetic to Native Americans, one of his main characters was an Apache named Winnetou.

In recent decades there has been considerable fascination in Germany regards the Old West generally and the Native American culture specifically.

I think a discussion of the origins of the Holocaust has to look primarily at the long history of anti Jewish pogroms. This covers many centuries and many countries, with perhaps a weighting towards the eastern half of Europe.

I think the situations differ in that the Jews were usually seen as an enemy within the community. Indigenous peoples are more often "just in the way" or were seen as external enemies.


George Carty said...

How likely do people here think it is that western values in generally will be severely discredited by the miserable failure of Western countries (Australia and New Zealand excepted) to contain Covid-19?

Just as Kemal Atatürk believed that Western civilization was superior to Islamic civilization, and thus decided that Turkey needed to be Westernized at gunpoint, might a future dictator arise in a Western country who believes that it needs to be East-Asianized at gunpoint?

Tim H. said...

Found an interesting link @charlie's diary:

The sharp focus of GOP administrations on the desires of the .001% must work wonders for their self esteem, but it comes with the danger of a "Drumph!-a-like" riding into power on the backs of a neglected 99.99%, and the next one might have more competence. I would suggest legislation that improves quality of life for the majority, if possible, without providing gist for the propaganda mills. Restoring deductibility for consumer loan interest might be helpful to many, and I suspect American finance could survive the resultant congressional scrutiny easier than American manufacturing survived (Semi) free trade.

Tim H. said...

This starts out entertaining:

Short fiction, P.Z. Myers beginning, other bloggers @ finishing, part two is already up:


David Brin said...

Huh, yes the German massacres in Namibia were almost at a scale of the Belgian ones in Leopold's Congo, and perhaps lesser in scale only because the overall population levels were lower. And yes, both events -- along with eastern European pogroms -- were POLICY exterminations and were much more proximate influences on Nazis than the complex and drawn-out and guilt-ridden grind of the North American Amerinds into dismal reservations and despair. The latter is not excused! It was, however, a different thing.

Someone like Jim Thorpe would never happen in Germany or Poland:

David Brin said...

GC: "might a future dictator arise in a Western country who believes that it needs to be East-Asianized at gunpoint?"

That is wholly typical... a descent into standard human pyramidal power mode. I'd PREFER the East Asian version of feudalism because at least there's some meritocracy! But we all still lose and some other race will have to get out into the galaxy.

Der Oger said...

"Someone like Jim Thorpe would never happen in Germany or Poland."

Eighty million Federal Coaches would like to point out that one-third of THE TEAM are people of colour and have immigration roots.

Özil could have been that guy. He might have made the rather controversial decision to make a photo OP with Erdogan, but he, in his retreat from the team and the resulting backlash, helped to relieve us of Reinhard Grindel.

David Brin said...

Today's Germany is not that Germany.

Alfred Differ said...

A descent into an east-asian feudalism is the most likely alt-path for us, but for now I don't think there are enough guns in the US for anyone to force that upon us... even from within.

Maybe after we grow out of our barbaric childhood in a few generations? Maybe. I'd guess the main risk is about three generations away. We will be interplanetary by then.

Robert said...

Any thoughts on Flynn's call for suspension of the constitution and use of the military to rerun the vote, all in the interest of protecting the constitution?

George Carty said...

David Brin,

I think you're right that the German genocide in Namibia was a far more likely inspiration for Generalplan Ost than either the American Indian Wars or Leopold's atrocities in Congo (the former because they were not systematic extermination, and the latter because they weren't aimed at clearing land for settlement).

The disappointingly low food yields which the Germans experienced during the 1918 occupation of Ukraine may also have had an impact, by convincing the Nazis that the only way they could get a reasonable food surplus out of Ukraine would after its existing population was destroyed.

Disagree about the Jewish Holocaust though, as there was very little correlation between the thoroughness of Nazi Judeocide in a territory and the the pre-war level of antisemitism there.

France had lots of antisemitism (the Dreyfus affair for one thing!) but about half of French Jews survived World War II, while the Baltic states had little pre-war antisemitism, but almost no Jewish survivors.

The Holocaust actually began the Baltic states, and the Nazis enlisted the locals to help them kill Jews not by appealing to prewar antisemitic traditions (which weren't strong there) bur instead by framing the Jews for the very real Soviet atrocities which took place in 1940 and 1941.

In addition, the Nazis didn't justify their Jew-killing (to themselves, as opposed to in their propaganda) in the terms of traditional antisemitism. Rather they were fundamentalist Social Darwinists who believed that all ideologies that saw human life as intrinsically valuable (including Christianity, liberalism and communism) as being Jewish inventions designed to undermine the only truly important solidarity: that between members of a race.

The Nazis actually valued their own German race less than they valued race war itself, and the infamous Nero Order of March 1945 was the result of that belief.

On the subject of East Asian success against Covid, I'm surprised (given that both China and South Korea succeeded in part thanks to an extremely intrusive surveillance state) that you haven't tied this in with your own transparency agenda!

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Someone like Jim Thorpe would never happen in Germany or Poland

Someone like Jackie Owens did, though. :)

And to Der Oger--I understood the above statement to refer to 1930s Germany. To misuse a favorite (of mine) Orwell quote: "You're talking about modern Germany, but that's a different thing, in fact the opposite thing."

Der Oger said...

"Any thoughts on Flynn's call for suspension of the constitution and use of the military to rerun the vote, all in the interest of protecting the constitution?"

I'd call that a military coup.
I'd say that the criminal justice system has not necessarily rehabilitated this man.
I'd also like to point out that Mr. Flynn's pardon does not cover future charges of sedition and terrorism.

Which brings me to an interesting question: If a person just openly called for an attack on constitutional processes, wouldn't that count as a form of terrorism (with regard to using the Patriot Act's provisions)?

Whats good for an Afghan shepherd must be good for a LTG (Ret.), too.

David Brin said...

There is a purpose to this thing pushed by Flynn... to drive a wedge between Democrats and the military. The officer corps would never support this idiotic notion.

Also to nurse an impression among MAGAs that the officer corps does NOT hate their cult.

Der Oger said...

"Disagree about the Jewish Holocaust though, as there was very little correlation between the thoroughness of Nazi Judeocide in a territory and the the pre-war level of antisemitism there."

Poland had (and, sadly, still has) a high level of antisemitism; prior to WWII, Jews made up 10% of the population, and they were already under severe constraints not unlike those the Jews in Germany had to suffer in the years leading up to the November Progromes. Tens of thousands of Poles willingly served as collaborators in policing as well as in the concentration camps. (BTW, the current governing Law & Justice party has made stating these facts a crime.)

duncan cairncross said...

Here is a new mega scandal

Selling pardons - and the Justice Department has known about it for months

duncan cairncross said...

The bribes for pardons was also in the Guardian

Larry Hart said...

duncan cairncross:

Here is a new mega scandal


Selling pardons - and the Justice Department has known about it for months

Sadly, neither the fact that Trump would expect/extort bribes for pardons nor the fact that the Trump/Barr justice department condones such a thing is surprising. I'd have been much more surprised (and would require a high level of proof) to find out that those things weren't happening.

Larry Hart said...

Just started re-reading Vonnegut's Mother Night. It's a quick read. Even I, who took over a month to read The Postman and over a year to read Psychohistorical Crisis can finish it in a long weekend.

Anyway, I just stumbled across a line that I often refer to here as a metaphor, but probably no one else knows what I'm talking about. The setting is the late 1950s. A character called "The Black Fuherer of Harlem," a black man who had been a Japanese agent during WWII, is explaining why, though in an alliance with the Nazis, the Japanese were not entirely on the same side.

"I was on the colored folks' side," he said. "I was with the Japanese."

"Uh huh," I said.

"We needed you, and you needed us--" he said, speaking of the alliance between Germany and Japan in the Second World War, "Only there were a lot of things we couldn't what you'd call agree upon."


"The colored people gonna have hydrogen bombs all their own," he said. "They working on it right now. Pretty soon gonna be Japan's turn to drop one. The rest of the colored folks gonna give them the honor of dropping the first one."

"Where are they going to drop it?" I said.

"China, most likely," he said.

"On other colored people?" I said.

He looked at me pityingly. "Who ever told you a Chinaman was a colored man?" he said.

David Brin said...

Mother Night was a truly amazing book. I referred to it recently re: someone who is an agent for good by infiltrating and helping the very, very bad, and has no idea if he is damned or saved.

Larry Hart said...

"Do you still think you can control them?"

“At best, Wood-Powell are distracting from the G.O.P. message in the races, and at worst, they are convincing persuadable Georgians that it is the Republican Party that needs to be checked, not Joe Biden,” wrote Rich Lowry in Politico. At worst! Republicans would almost certainly be fine with Wood and Powell eroding confidence in American democracy if it didn’t threaten members of their party.

“The Republican establishment, and also the conservative establishment, has always made this bet that it could open Pandora’s box and close it on command,” Rick Perlstein, a historian of American conservatism, told me. They could activate tribalism to achieve power, while maintaining a modicum of respectability. They could create an alternative reality but keep people enclosed within it. But with Trump “having pried Pandora’s box open, that becomes impossible,” Perlstein said.

Republicans helped Trump unleash countless civic evils. They shouldn’t be surprised when those evils don’t spare them.

scidata said...

Just a thought on SpaceX. I've noticed that whenever the next Starship milestone is imminent, and so is the next Dragon launch, Starship gets pushed back. Possible reasons:
- they're having hiring/scaling problems
- the Pandemic is a strong headwind
- their focus is on missions affecting crews (either onboard Dragon or ISS)
- Seneca's "difficult because we do not dare"

If it's fear of ridicule from trogs for a failure, it's wasted anxiety -- trogs will always jeer others' efforts to reach the stars. Enterprise scares them.

David Brin said...

Scidata, Elon is smart enough to protect the money flow and the potential human casualties, so the other stuff can happen with financial and public support.

TCB said...

Ben Bova edited Omni Magazine during the early years. It was one of my Favorite Things in those years, and even when I was poor as a church mouse I bought every issue during its run.

Jon S. said...

I'd guess the Starship tests get pushed back because initial examination of the craft indicates they're not quite ready for the next step after all, at least in part because, as Scidata notes, "Pandemic is a strong headwind" - it's hard to get an "all hands on deck" preparatory push when you also have to distance and mask. I would guess further that progress will accelerate again when vaccines are readily available, as it will be safer to have large numbers of people getting hands-on with the equipment.

Musk isn't a prophet or a savior, but he's easily smart enough not to endanger his investments by killing people if it can be avoided. There's a reason why so many Dragon cargo ships launched before the first Crew Dragon.

Der Oger said...

@TCB: I'll add an additional possibility: From what I have heard out of the engineering industry, Elon Musk has the reputation of being a hard and demanding boss, and while he may pay good, people end up exhausted and burned out. Eventually, this will also become a "hiring" problem as they opt for jobs that may pay less, but actually allow for a life to be had.

@Bova: I did not read much of Bova - Mars, Jupiter and the Orion-based short stories published in Dragon Magazine - but what I read I found inspiring.

Especially Jupiter, which puts a desperate bunch of scientists on a space station into conflict with their government, who are dominated by religious groups like the "New Morality" in North America. In a way, these scientists become radicals themselves.

(It is interesting how our host, and authors like Bova, Heinlein, Atwood and even Herbert all presented works depicting religious-authoritarian-fascist rulers/policies in the future.)

David Brin said...