Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Science Fiction: big picture perspectives - and potential nominees for YA fiction!

Diverting attention from rumors of war... and even Cool War scenarios predicted by our genre, (ignored by today's press), let's dive into aspects of the state of science fiction today.

First announcing: I am pleased to be a guest speaker and teacher at the 2022 Odyssey Writing Workshop for rising authors of science fiction and fantasy! Six scholarships available; application deadline is April 1. And I again I offer free advice for rising authors on my website.

And here are eight books about what it means to be human, including Sarah Galley's The Echo Wife, Mur Lafferty's Six Wakes, Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, as well as Kiln People: "The plot hits all the high points of a standard P.I. pulp novel in an entertaining way, but to me the fun part is the way Brin wrestles with the morality of creating armies of sentient creatures whose only hope in life is to live long enough to contribute a few memories back to their creators."

 == Does greater acceptance of SF threaten it? ==

Should we be both pleased and worried that science fiction is now in very good odor, in the literary-arty communities? 

Until very recently, the New Yorker and Harpers and The Atlantic would regularly run hit pieces dissing the genre! Now, hardly a month passes without them - and NPR - doing SF roundups or glowing reviews! (Such as this recent New Yorker one on K.S. Robinson.)  Is it related - or coincidence - that similar grand toutings of SF pour across media centered in Beijing?

I do not draw simplistic conclusions. There are many factors. I'll only posit that SF has always been the genre most-welcoming of diverse creators of impudently questioning art. Its continued work, pioneering that trend is a central feature and pride.

What I will do is announce to Worldcon voters that I have two series of YA or Young Adult novels that qualify for consideration for for the Hugo Awards. Nominations are now open, to be given at the much anticipated World Science Fiction Convention, Chicon,

These two optimistic and enthralling YA series are also eligible for SFWA members to consider for the Andre Norton Nebula Award for Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction!  

In the "Out of Time" series only teens can teleport through time and space! Dollops of fun, adventure... and optimism for a change! Out of Time novels so far have been written by SF legends Nancy Kress and Sheila Finch along with newcomers October Santerelli and Patrick Freivald, emphasizing diversity, progress, adventure, friendship, courage and hope.

In my more personal YA series...The Colony High series... aliens kidnap a California high school and come to regret it! 

SFWA members -- and Hugo nominator-members of Worldcon -- write to me and I will happily send over all five published novels in the Out of Time series. And more are in the queue, by a diversity of young talents!

== Getting serious! ==

"We need more parables of what’s possible.“ So begins a list of novels that portray humanity rising to meet ecological challenges, instead of just wringing hands in despair. An excellent compilation in Forbes! I feel in good company. Guess about-which book the following is said?

“A large cast of colourful and carefully outlined characters help us navigate a world where the planet’s days are numbered. An artificial black hole has fallen into the Earth’s core, prompting a story that addresses issues including endangered species, global warming, climate refugees and how we adapt and still find adventure. Woven into its pages are many predictions, many of which – tablet computers, sea level rise, eyeglass cameras – have already come true…” writes Solitaire Townsend of Earth.


Meanwhile, an interesting essay and reading list on The Strategy Bridge site appraises how useful and liberating science fiction can be to the strategic thinker. The authors touch upon several topics I explore in Vivid Tomorrows: Science Fiction and Hollywood, such as the role of dire warnings in helping prevent bad things (like nuclear apocalypse) but also the role SF can play in offering scenarios for hope and positive outcomes:


Reading science fiction nurtures hope that there is a better future. While conflict, catastrophe, and climate change feature in many of these novels and movies, much science fiction is highly optimistic in nature. Uplifting stories of positive futures—or of hope and agency in the face of dystopian futures—fill national security professionals with optimism that we can drive our services to make positive possibilities happen.


“… Science fiction permits individuals and organizations to nurture innovative thinking without running afoul of organizational cultures. Because it is fiction it does not interfere with current policies, providing a safe place for ideas that do not threaten current institutional rice bowls—but they might and should in the future.”

While I might have suggested some additions and changes to the suggested reading list, it is nevertheless a very good sign that leaders in so many sectors of life - including defense - now understand the importance of the literary genre that contemplates change.


== More sci fi news ==


In Mashable, Chris Taylor offers an exceptionally cogent comparison of the recent hit Station Eleven (based on the novel by Emily St. John Mandel) to The Postman and much else in the post-apocalypse genre. This Mashable review is interesting in its discussion of what it might take to bring down civilization with, say, a virus. And how our Covid Trauma was so vastly milder than any pandemic of science fiction. And even at worst, a mere plague seems unlikely to do the job, all by itself. I do quibble over one thing, though...

... that in The Postman the fall was not ONLY due to nuclear war. That calamity merely slays 70% or so. But it does wreck our deeply competent institutions, so we become vulnerable to a triple whammy of following blows - disease and climate chaos... and finally onslaught by waves of ultra right-wing militias, bent on recreating feudalism... what the worst males always have done, in rocky times.

That it would take all four to blast everything down was a key point to my story, because I always deemed 'single failure' apocalypse tales to be simplistic, under-rating our civilization's inherent resilience.


And so, in a way, I suppose I agree with Mr. Taylor. We are much, much tougher than the romantic extremes of far left or entire right say we are. At least... we had better be.


== Repeating an appeal ==


We already have plenty... but if you are both a video game player and a reader of fine SF novels, it would be a favor to write to me with any specific overlaps you spot between The Postman and the hugely lucrative game Death Stranding. Specifics in the details, please. We already have a pile, plus dozens of published reviews commenting on the overlaps of themes and plots.


== SF Miscellany ==


Advance order this short story collection: The Best of Harry TurtledoveIt’s coming out in April from Subterranean Press. Sub press is on a roll! I'll post about this. Six months ago they did The Best of David Brin stories... my best stuff! 


A pretty good list of “the 20 best apocalypse novels.” Though with some inaccuracies. Like 1997 was the year of the Postman movie, not the 1986 novel. Still, you can do worse in picking beautifully depressing (or in a couple of cases inspiring/elevating) winter reading.

Tales From The Bridge: All Things Sci-Fi: Episode 23: A Conversation with David Brin. A pretty good recent interview about SF trends and SETI and METI and the future and whether we're going to save the worlds ourselves.


At times I get to announce fine new authors who get overlooked by the righteously narrowly-focused SF community and media leaders of this decade. I was pleased to praise Sue Burke’s Semiosis, a few years back, which boldly used a sequence of varied character-novellas to trace centuries of human adaptation to a planet whose top, intelligent life forms are plants. 


Last year I praised The Last Human, by Zack Jordan, set after our species terrified the galaxy and went deservedly extinct, as an indomitable girl and her unlikely foster mother navigate a hugely diverse civilization seemingly determined to finish the job.


Now another – Run Lab Rat – impressed me with the sheer vigor of its extrapolation of human augmentation, a topic I’ve been talking a lot about lately to fretful leaders in industry, defense and governments.  Shawn Butler’s novel has a dystopian premise… that our children give up on the 250 year notion of inherent equality. But this sets up a better-than-hunger-games plot for its perseverant heroine to overcome.


Oh, another. The thing about Howard Hendrix’s short fiction collection The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, the writing is first rate! But yeah, sure. These truly are sense-a-wonder Analog Stories!


84 comments:

David Brin said...

Apparently it's started.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

Apparently it's started.


But...Treebeard assured us it was all just American hysteria.

That one won't go down in the predictions registry.

David Brin said...

But it will go down in the micro annals of outright treason-by-traitor-assholes.

john fremont said...

Timely tweet


Kurt Eichenwald (@kurteichenwald) Tweeted:
Don't forget: AFTER he lost election, Trump unilaterally withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty, giving Putin cover to withdraw too. Ukraine begged us not to, because it would rob the west of the best surveillance should Putin invade. Now we dont have it. Another gift from Trump. https://twitter.com/kurteichenwald/status/1496546909728739335?s=20&t=5EWRamIT0TOPlJLJJO3ruQ

Evrei said...

On my commute there's a coffee shop owned by someone who has a reason to post a sign "we won't serve you if you like Putin."

Gonna go there tomorrow and get the fanciest damnned latte they make.

Alan Brooks said...

Putin = Hitler 2.0

Unknown said...

Make Room! Make Room! Should be in the list of apocalypse novels.

Unknown said...

One balloon gone up - shelling across the lines. I used to play dice-and-paper wargames about this sort of thing..."cardboard doesn't bleed". Then I started leaving counters on the Gettysburg hex map where regiments had taken casualties during a game, and realized that was why the battlefield dead were described as lying in 'windrows'. Not so much fun.

The Former Guy was exulting just yesterday that Putin was "very smart" and had moved "peacekeeper" tanks into the troubled eastern part of Ukraine, as he would have liked to move "peacekeeper" tanks into Mexico. If Putin tries to seize Kyiv and/or Lvov (which I think is the temp seat of government), anyone can see that civilian casualties will be huge. How far into Ukraine will Russian armored columns go? It's the obvious next step - they've almost certainly seized control of Ukraine airspace by now.

Pappenheimer

Alfred Differ said...

Time to exercise those soft power muscles. Should be an interesting day.

David Brin said...

Re Open Skies: I howled over this the day it happened. Thye Open Skies Treaty was the dream of Eisenhower and everyone else who wanted peace. It was THE top example of Trump doing things that ONLY Putin would want. .

I do NOT think Putin aims for Kyiv or Lviv. He wants to make the Dnieper the new border which would leave the rump Ukraine castrated. I predict he WILL go after Kharkiv, which Soviet forces liberated almost exactly 79 years ago and you can spit at from the border.

David Brin said...

For your vocabulary! Know these words!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gleiwitz_incident

Jon S. said...

Well, Kyiv is being hit with missiles as I type, and Putin is claiming that the Ukranian government (whose elected president is Jewish) is in fact Nazi, so I don't know that he's willing to stop and the Dnieper after all...

I don't know how much I'll sleep tonight. This old Cold War vet is starting to get the next best thing to flashbacks.

gerold said...

@Larry Hart (rollover from previous blog post):

I agree (almost) completely with your points about conformity; it's all a matter of degree. But saying that following all rules isn't necessarily a bad thing? Unfortunately every human culture has some noxious rules, remnants of an ossified status quo intended to preserve the privileges of the privileged or simply prevent change. Blindly following such rules is bad for the individual and society as a whole.

For a free people to keep their freedom they need to question authority and make an independent determination of which rules are still appropriate. Bad rules need to be broken.

Der Oger said...

I do NOT think Putin aims for Kyiv or Lviv. He wants to make the Dnieper the new border which would leave the rump Ukraine castrated. I predict he WILL go after Kharkiv, which Soviet forces liberated almost exactly 79 years ago and you can spit at from the border.

Putin mentioned "the complete demilitarization and denazification(!)" as his primary goal in his war declaration. That may be a bluff, but then again, he could very well do what he says.

gerold said...

DB: what did you have in mind regarding a pro-SF message coming from Beijing? That does sound interesting.

I read The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin with interest - though not enough interest to read the second and third volumes. I was a little surprised at how negatively the cultural revolution was portrayed; surprised but also heartened to see that level of social criticism of the Helmsman.

China is a country that could use a lot more speculative fiction to imagine a way forward to a better future.

gerold said...

I've never cared for sociopath dictators but this guy Putler is a total asshole. I feel sorry for the Russian people but they've brought it on themselves.

DP said...

Was it me or did the normally stolid Mr. Putin look scared during his speech yesterday (body language, facial expression, etc.)?

Surely he must know that this will not end well for Russia, and he could end up being strung from a lamppost like Mussolini.

DP said...

"treason-by-traitor-assholes"

Does that include Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo?

Larry Hart said...

Alan Brooks:

Putin = Hitler 2.0


Listening to Putin's comments, that became more and more self-evident.

Unknown said...

Dr. Brin,

If there has been an actual attempt to seize the Kyiv airport, then the city is an objective. You don't waste special or airborne units by putting them in where they can't be relieved. And yes, Kharkiv is a gateway, which is why it was reduced to rubble in the 40's (I keep having to update my spelling - it was Kharkov back then).

This is farce as history, with dead piled up. Damn Putin.

Pappenheimer

Larry Hart said...

Putin's argument that he's defending against Ukrainian belligerence reminds me of Kyle Rittenhouse's assertion that he shot people in self-defense because they otherwise might have disarmed him and used his own gun against him.

Larry Hart said...

https://www.electoral-vote.com/evp2022/Senate/Maps/Feb24.html#item-1

Until Donald Trump came on the scene and became Putin's lapdog, Republicans hated Russia and its Godless Communism. As in, hated with the fury of 1,000 white-hot suns. But they also hate Democrats. Now those two visceral hatreds are in direct conflict. Joe Biden and the Democrats hate Russia, leaving Republicans to decide whether they hate Russia more than they hate Democrats (and by extension, America, since Biden happens to be president). It's a tough call.


It's been like that at least since the time a Muslim gunman shot up a gay bar in Florida. Which do Republicans root for?

Larry Hart said...

gerold:

But saying that following all rules isn't necessarily a bad thing?


No, what I said (or meant to, anyway) is that any following of rules isn't necessarily a bad thing. I was putting daylight between the concepts of "non-conformist" and "good".

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

Putin mentioned "the complete demilitarization and denazification(!)" as his primary goal in his war declaration.


That's especially ironic considering how much his speech yesterday channeled Hitler.

Larry Hart said...

Daniel Duffy:

"treason-by-traitor-assholes"

Does that include Mr. Trump and Mr. Pompeo?


It starts with them.

Paradoctor said...

I used to think that Putin would be content with Crimea and a secured corridor through eastern Ukraine. Now I think he wants Eastern Europe.

If my Backfire Theory is correct, then expect to see weird disruptive events.

I note with amazement Putin's televised meeting with his advisors. All of them nervous, all sitting in a circle 10 meters out from him, like he doesn't want them within knife-distance of him, and they don't want to be close to where the lightning will strike. Putin berated unwilling agreement out of them. You don't say "no" to Polonium Putin.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger (revisited) :

Putin mentioned "the complete demilitarization and denazification(!)" as his primary goal in his war declaration.


It's also ironic in that the Americans who support Putin tend also to wave Nazi flags, or at least to cohabit rallies where Nazi flags are being waved.

Larry Hart said...

One thing I don't get is Poland. Are they a part of NATO? Would they be on the side of NATO against Russia? Up until recently, I'd have expected them to fear a Russian invasion, but lately, they seem to be like American Republicans, more on Putin's side than America's.

Robert said...

An a science-related note, this is cool: a 2cm long bacteria!

https://www.science.org/content/article/largest-bacterium-ever-discovered-has-unexpectedly-complex-cells

Robert said...

I don't know that he's willing to stop and the Dnieper after all...

"This Is the Last Territorial Demand I Have to Make in Europe"?

Tony Fisk said...

re: GOP attitudes to Russia v Democrats. Civil wars are savage for a reason.

Meanwhile, Russians are already protesting. Can vee pee keep a lid on everyone he aspires to dominate?

Larry Hart said...

Without further comment (emphasis mine) :

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/world/europe/putin-russia-ukraine.html

“It’s so strange that Russia could attack anyone,” a 60-year-old pensioner said on Thursday as she walked through the breathtaking Moscow park, Zaryadye, that international architects designed ahead of the soccer World Cup Russia hosted in 2018. “This has never happened before in history.”

David Brin said...

In civil disobedience (Gandhi/MLK etc) you HONOR law by disobeying it. You go to jail without self-pity. A decent civilization has graduated scales of deterrence and the level applied to say, sit ins, is deliberately just enough jail to make sure it isn’t done casually or on whim. A despot applies fierce pain to such low level protests.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin:

A despot applies fierce pain to such low level protests.


"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

Paradoctor said...

Larry Hart and gerold:
non-conformist + good = Chaotic Good.
For instance, America's goddess, Miss Liberty.
Deducing the other three alignments, and instances, is an exercise for the reader.

matthew said...

In a move that should surprise no one, China supports Russia invading Ukraine and will not move to enforce western sanctions. Chinese spokesperson blames US for Russian aggression.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-24/china-refuses-to-condemn-russian-attack-deflects-blame-to-u-s

China also repeatedly violated Taiwan's airspace today.
https://www.independent.co.uk/asia/east-asia/taiwan-china-planes-ukraine-invasion-b2022419.html

This could get interesting really quickly.

So far the main lesson from this is that every nation needs a nuclear arsenal. Expect a lot of movement in proliferation circles, starting yesterday.

Der Oger said...

@Larry Hart
One thing I don't get is Poland. Are they a part of NATO? Would they be on the side of NATO against Russia? Up until recently, I'd have expected them to fear a Russian invasion, but lately, they seem to be like American Republicans, more on Putin's side than America's.

They hate (and fear) Russia more than they hate Germany, LGBT people, independent judges, muslim refugees and abortions. And they love the EU subsidies so they can build up and finance their version of an arch-catholic autocratic welfare state.

Historical reasons, I assume: the Polish divisions in the 18th century are as much a source for their animosity, as well as the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty and the massacre of Katyn. 45 years of domination by the USSR. Oh, and Jaroslav Kaszynski, the true leader of the Law & Justice party, accuses Putin of having killed his brother Lech when the presidential plane went down after a visit.

Victor Orban is much more cozier to Putin, or at least, has been.

scidata said...

As I said in the last topic, history textbooks don't tell the whole story. All this is emanating from a single mind, abetted by several others, a few of which have been gone for almost a century. It's quite FOUNDATION-esque.

Der Oger said...

@Tony Fisk:
Meanwhile, Russians are already protesting. Can vee pee keep a lid on everyone he aspires to dominate?

I think it depends on how high the death toll on the Russian side will become, how long and protracted and bloody the war and occupation become, and how hard the sanctions hit the common people as well as the oligarchs.

The downside is that Putin will know this, too, and might choose the nuclear option as a last effort to bring the west to his knees. He already has uttered his confidence that Russia will be okay after a nuclear war, and might even win it.

A domestic group that is under surveillance and pressure, but still somewhat influential, is the Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia.

gerold said...

LH: Poland has been very supportive of Ukraine and is accepting many refugees.

I'm very disappointed in Germany however; time for them to wake up. I guess they have a lot of investment in Russia, and for a time we could hope that financial entanglement would ease Russia in a peaceful direction but that ship has sailed.

It was a nice thought but that cost is sunk.

Alan Brooks said...

Broken, mournful Ukraine slides into darkness.

Larry Hart said...

Dr Brin in the main post:

.. that in The Postman the fall was not ONLY due to nuclear war. That calamity merely slays 70% or so. But it does wreck our deeply competent institutions, so we become vulnerable to a triple whammy of following blows - disease and climate chaos... and finally onslaught by waves of ultra right-wing militias, bent on recreating feudalism...


Uh, oh.

Larry Hart said...

On the lighter side, Marjorie Taylor Greene's "Gazpacho Police" sounds like it would be something Putin would command.

The actor who played the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld weighs in on the comment.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/feb/11/marjorie-taylor-green-gazpacho-police-soup-nazi

Could the Soup Nazi have secretly been a member of the gazpacho police? We asked Larry Thomas, who played the character, for his take on the moment as soups and Nazis march back into the headlines.

Thomas, no fan of Greene or the ex-president she claims won re-election, says he was floored by the comments. “How in the world can a grown person, who grew up in the 20th century, not know what the word Gestapo is?” he asks. “They say ‘You can’t write this shit.’ It’s beyond you can’t write this shit.”

When he heard Greene’s remarks, he knew he’d be dragged into the picture. “If she got the word wrong with a nonsensical word, it would be one thing, but I knew as soon as she actually used the name of a soup that I was in trouble,” Thomas says.

Larry Hart said...

Vladimir Putin lies worthy of locumranch. In the sense of "but, not the way you meant it," he lays out a good argument for the need to opposing him.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/world/europe/putin-ukraine-speech.html

"What next, what are we to expect? If history is any guide, we know that in 1940 and early 1941 the Soviet Union went to great lengths to prevent war or at least delay its outbreak. … The attempt to appease the aggressor ahead of the Great Patriotic War proved to be a mistake which came at a high cost for our people. … We will not make this mistake the second time. We have no right to do so."

David Brin said...

"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."
One more way that Obiwan lied. In the SW cosmos, millions of systems simply knuckled under. The Republic wasn’t just pathetic. It simply did not exist.

Larry Hart said...

matthew:

In a move that should surprise no one, China supports Russia invading Ukraine and will not move to enforce western sanctions. Chinese spokesperson blames US for Russian aggression.

China also repeatedly violated Taiwan's airspace today.


So Ukraine for Taiwan. Sounds like a version of Molotov-Ribbentrop.

With all the angst last century over WWIII, who knew it would actually be WWII.1 ?



Larry Hart said...

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/24/world/europe/ukraine-invasion-russia-putin-nuclear-war-nato.html

...
In the end, Mr. Putin appears to have had no hesitation in ordering Russia into Ukraine. He accused the authorities in Kyiv — all neo-Nazi usurpers, in his view — of aspiring to “acquire nuclear weapons” for an inevitable “showdown” with Russia.

He appeared to have forgotten that Ukraine once had a vast nuclear arsenal before it gave it up in 1994 under an agreement known as the Budapest Memorandum. Russia was one of the countries that signed the accord, promising in exchange that it would never use force or threats against Ukraine and would respect its sovereignty and existing borders.

So much for that.

Jon S. said...

"This Is the Last Territorial Demand I Have to Make in Europe"?

Pretty much, yeah. And the Republicans seem to want to play Chamberlain here.

Robert said...

Russia was one of the countries that signed the accord, promising in exchange that it would never use force or threats against Ukraine and would respect its sovereignty and existing borders.

So much for that.


That was a generation ago. I think it's fairly obvious from history that treaties between non-equal powers don't last terribly long. It might be interesting for a poli-sci type to determine what statistical pattern the lifetime has — I'd guess a modified Poisson distribution, but my stats training was two generations ago and never very deep…

Certainly my Indigenous friends have a rather jaundiced view of the willingness of politicians to consider themselves bound by treaties.

Larry Hart said...

Remember "The Bulwark"? The anti-Trump Republicans who ran scorching ads in 2018 and 2020?

https://www.thebulwark.com/u-s-and-allied-sanctions-are-the-first-pushback-against-putin-ukraine/

...
Putin has ended the post-Cold War paradigm. We now enter the age of democracy against autocracy. The first steps by the democratic camp have been late and somewhat tentative, but nonetheless reassuring.

Unknown said...

Why does this website not have an SSL certificate?

David Brin said...

"Ukrainian woman offering Russian soldier sunflower seeds becomes face of resistance." Dedicated to brave Ukraine are this year's seedlings of giant sunflowers. Sometimes they tower almost 3 meters! Presently just centimeters, but they'll grow and grow.

May sunflowers of freedom bloom across that victim country!...
...as will our resistance to homegrown, fifth column, foxite quislings.

https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2022/2/25/2082310/-Video-of-Ukrainian-woman-offering-armed-Russian-soldier-sunflower-seeds-becomes-face-of-resistance

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

And the Republicans seem to want to play Chamberlain here.


Which makes Lindsey Graham's complaint that we need more Churchills and fewer Chamberlains* bizarre.

* He meant that Biden was playing Chamberlain, I guess because we didn't go to war for Ukraine. Doubtless had we done so, he'd be berating Biden for that.

Larry Hart said...

Robert:

"Russia was one of the countries that signed the accord, promising in exchange that it would never use force or threats against Ukraine and would respect its sovereignty and existing borders.

So much for that."

That was a generation ago. I think it's fairly obvious from history that treaties between non-equal powers don't last terribly long


In hindsight, we should have agreed with Putin's demand that Ukraine would never, ever be allowed to join NATO. Later, we could have kept our word as much as Putin or Hitler ever do (pardon the redundancy). Or we could claim our fingers were crossed at the time.

Larry Hart said...

To no one's surprise, Mitch McConnell, who ushered Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation through in five seconds, thinks we need a "rigorous investigation for this lifetime appointment" for Biden's nomination.

So a Republican president gets his nomination confirmed without delay by a Republican Senate, but a Democratic Senate's confirmation of a Democratic president's nomination somehow needs to be dragged out endlessly, lest a horrible mistake be made.

Alan Brooks said...

It’s pretty clear what a main tactic of the Right will be: linking the war against Ukraine with last year’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. “Biden emboldened Putin by pulling us out of Afghanistan”, will be repeated over n’ over, building up to the midterms.
Lord Haw Haw Trump will be leading the chant.

Larry Hart said...

@Alan Brooks,

Well, they're already saying that Russia didn't invade during Trump's tenure because they respected his strength so much.

As usual, they're asserting two contradictory views at the same time--that Biden is too reckless, provoking Russia, and that Russia is emboldened because Biden is Neville Chamberlain.

Der Oger said...

LH: Poland has been very supportive of Ukraine and is accepting many refugees.

I'm very disappointed in Germany however; time for them to wake up. I guess they have a lot of investment in Russia, and for a time we could hope that financial entanglement would ease Russia in a peaceful direction but that ship has sailed.

It was a nice thought but that cost is sunk.


Germany, among others, poured billions upon billions into Ukraine to stabilize the economy against Russia's depredations. We were the second largest payer (after the US).

Another point: The weapons (if we had any to spare, that is a whole different problem) would not have made a difference, the Russian numbers are simply too large.

And finally: If Russia stops the gas delivery (and the oil delivery to the US), the lights might go out. Literally. Also in Italy and a number of other EU countries. I believe they excluded SWIFT from the sanction package for exact that situation; if Putin escalates the sanctions, he will get the blame for the SWIFT exclusion as a reaction.

Of what I have heard in the last hours: There is quite an uncommon unity between the major parties, and all - even the pacifistic Greens and the Libertarians - agree on increased defense spending (which won't solve the problem much, but as I said, this is a whole different story). Perception shifts, and quite fast; politicians concede errors and suddenly loose all diplomatic language.

On Polands altruism: While I applaud that they finally find a refugee crisis not to be everyone else's problem, I can see some ulterior motives.

First, a sizable portion of Polish migrants have wandered westward in search for better financial possibilities or personal freedom in a country that becomes more and more nationalistic and oppressive; certain sectors in Poland are already heavily suffering from brain drain.

Second, it helps to construct that narrative of the lonesome Poland defending Europe from the depredations of the uncivilized east, a modern retelling of the Battle of Tannenberg, perhaps. Be careful what you wish for.

Third, Ukrainians are already a large accepted minority (must have to do something with the fact that their skins aren't too dark and they worship roughly the same God).

Finally: They, IMHO, will lean towards their benefactor, the Law & Justice party in future elections. (Oh, and guess who will pay for it via EU subsidies? Exactly. The much maligned western EU states.)

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

certain sectors in Poland are already heavily suffering from brain drain.


Don't give us straight lines like that. :)

Sorry, a bit of gallows humor.

DP said...

Are the Ukrainians holding and slowing the Russians down?

It's only 150 km (93 miles) from Kyiv to the Belarus border.

The Russian advance isn't exactly a blitzkrieg.

Larry Hart said...

40% or so of my fellow Americans suck pond water:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/technology/pro-russia-pro-putin-sentiment-spreads-online.html

When reached for comment, Mr. Oltmann, the conservative podcaster, said, “You really have no idea about Ukraine. People support Russia because you did not do the right thing when it came to the fraud and corruption of Biden. I pray for the people in Ukraine but equally pray the people who facilitated the evil communist agenda in the U.S. are held accountable.”


So Biden, not Putin, is an "evil communist". A communist who, I suppose, supports the Nazi regime in Ukraine? This is getting more farcical by the moment.

Tony Fisk said...

The story of the sunflower seeds gives me a deeper appreciation of the Ukraine flag

duncan cairncross said...

The real answer to Putin (and Saudi) would be for Europe and the USA to launch a "warlike" drive for renewable energy

The resources that went to build tens of thousands of Spitfires and Sherman tanks would make converting to 90% renewables a piece of cake

Destroying Russia's (and Saudi's) economic leverage

scidata said...

I hugged a Ukrainian today (old friend). Felt good. I felt more useful than I have in a long time.

David Brin said...

Not just renewables. We must face that methane sent to Europe helps the overall civilization fight in the short term, as a stopgap.

Jon S. said...

Alan Brooks said:
"Broken, mournful Ukraine slides into darkness."

The Snake Island 13 would seem to indicate otherwise. As would the unnamed grandmother with her sunflower seeds, or Vitaliy Volodymyrovych Skakun (who blew up a bridge while still on it in order to stop a Russian tank brigade), or Yaryna Arieva and Sviatoslav Fursin (who paused on their way to collect their weapons for combat in order to get married first), or...

Tony Fisk said...

Opportunity for a renewables push has been noted by several.
Gas infrastructure leaks. Atmospheric methane is ~1850 ppb and rising fast. Its greenhouse contribution equates to 120ppm CO2 by my (admittedly simple*) calculations.

* multiply by 70. That's the larger, short term factor, which I justify by said increase (ie it isn't going away)

David Brin said...

The drawbacks of temporary methane use in saving Europe will be more than compensated if Biden can seize and cap leaking wells and pursue the bankrupt former owners.

Alfred Differ said...

Duncan,

launch a "warlike" drive for renewable energy

That happens if we get into a shooting war with the Russians where our armies need a shorter/protected 'fuel' supply line.

Not yet, but certainly possible.

Der Oger,

Oh, and guess who will pay for it via EU subsidies? Exactly. The much maligned western EU states.

Yah. That's how it was designed from the start. That's why an EU concept got US support. The money MUST come from you since you'd like it MUCH less if it came from us.

Robert said...

certain sectors in Poland are already heavily suffering from brain drain

Couple of years ago I met a Polish couple while on holiday. We chatted a bit about politics like Brexit, and I mentioned that my English friends talked about hard-working Polish plumbers. He said that all the hard-working plumbers went to the UK to make money, so back in Poland they have only the incompetent and lazy.

Tony Fisk said...

Day dawns on Kiev, still under Ukrainian control.

Zelensky agrees to talks, but is negotiating a location other than Belarus.
What can it all mean?

If Ukraine's figures are to believed, 2800 Russian casualties, 80 tanks, and several hundred APCs destroyed. Plus sundry aircraft, including two paratroop carriers.
Hardly a dent in the overall strength, but if a third of the 100,000 forces mobilised were committed, that's close to a decimation.

Call me a complete Pollyanna, but I think somebody's arse might be a POW.

Alan Brooks said...

Jon S:
we know that Ukraine is not sliding into the Big Rock Candy Mountain. It’s going to be a very bad situation for Ukrainians—not dissimilar from what Czechs experienced in WW2.

Der Oger said...

How the War is going for Putin:

-Military advances stalling, mostly due to the formidable and ferocious fighting spirit of the defenders;
-the Propaganda battle on the loosing slide, due to more and more bizarre TV appearances of Putin, the inspiring videos of Selensky, Russian state media cut off from Facebook and Twitter, the sheer heroism of the defenders;
-the economy tanked - Russian Stock index down to 50%, credit rating at the lowest possible level, more and more businesses cutting their ties even if not being forced to do it;
-the own population, despite the propaganda, shocked and divided about the war - not a good place to start when the sanctions start to affect the population; already thousands of protesters (which are rare to start with) are in jail; authoritarian measures increasing also will increase both dissent and lethargy;
-Russia excluded from various international sports and media events;
-Supposed ally China not vetoing the latest UN security council resolution and being isolated internationally for the exception of rulers in his pocket like Syria.

I would not call that "Winning the War".

Tony Fisk said...

Hearing reports that many Russian soldiers still think they are on exercise in Russian territories. If true, I wouldn't like to be the guy in charge when they find out they're not!

Larry Hart said...

Jon S:

The Snake Island 13 would seem to indicate otherwise...


How can a rag-tag volunteer army in need of a shower
Go on to beat a global superpower?


Der Oger said...

The Anonymous Collective has declared a cyberwar on Russia. Several governmental websites like those of the President, National Security Council, Defense Ministry are down. TV channels seem also have been attacked, playing Ukrainian songs now. Military communication channels are jammed.

Unknown said...

I'd like to think that the unspoken agreement that has held since 1945 will still hold - the main nuclear powers shall not engage in direct conventional warfare (or shall not admit it if it's happening, like Russian MIG pilots in North Korea or Chinese AA missile crews in North Viet Nam - there may have been* equivalent US personnel in Afghanistan during the USSR's occupation/"benevolent guidance"). Even India and Pakistan have had only limited wars since they both got the Bomb. The chances and consequences of escalation must scared the stuffing out of all relevant high commands. The UN ought to be given enough power to be able to stop this kind of edge-skating, but it wasn't set up to resolve anything that the Great Powers didn't agree on already.

That is not to say that NATO will not continue to provide support for Ukraine's military, even if it becomes an insurgency.

(Dr.) Bret Devereaux's Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry has a nice overview of the situation. He does include a link to his review of Thucydides on the decisions that started the Peloponnesian War, because of course he does.

*there almost certainly were, I just haven't read about the details

PS if the old lady giving sunflower seeds to the soldier is an good example of Ukrainian attitudes, this won't be over quickly - "here, put some of these in your pocket so that when you die here, a flower will grow".

PPS Not really relevant here, but I am rereading a good history of the Battle of Midway, which makes use of the available Japanese records to provide a clearer view of IJN naval air doctrine and operations than the prior US popular histories. It's not just "Dauntless ex machina".

Unknown said...

The above assumes that Putin is not crazy enough to attack NATO directly, and that the Russian High Command has enough sense to ignore orders to do so if he IS crazy enough. Thank all the Gods that never were, Trump isn't in charge here, so we don't have "Dueling Crazies".

Larry Hart said...

Tony Fisk:

Zelensky agrees to talks, but is negotiating a location other than Belarus.
What can it all mean?


Because Zelensky walking into Belarus would end something like the way it did when Jamal Khashoggi walked into the Saudi embassy in Turkey.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

-Military advances stalling, mostly due to the formidable and ferocious fighting spirit of the [Ukrainian] defenders;


On Hal Sparks's radio show, he described a Russian fighter pilot who landed in Kyiv and surrendered. He said that he had not been told that he was being ordered into Kyiv. He had been told that he was defending Russians in the Donbass region. When he came to understand his true mission, he essentially defected.

An anecdote, sure, but he's probably not the only one.

Larry Hart said...

Der Oger:

The Anonymous Collective has declared a cyberwar on Russia. Several governmental websites like those of the President, National Security Council, Defense Ministry are down.


Can they do FOX next?

Larry Hart said...

Needing some comic relief in these trying times...

Dr Brin:

"The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

One more way that Obiwan lied.


Heh. That was Princess Leia.


In the SW cosmos, millions of systems simply knuckled under. The Republic wasn’t just pathetic. It simply did not exist.


Can't argue with that, though.

The glimpses we saw of the "good" Old Republic in the prequels bore no resemblance to the mental images one came up hearing it referred to the original movie.

TheMadLibrarian said...

My personal favorite (even though it proved to be a cunning ruse) was/is the 'ghost of Kyiv'. Someone with an old MiG Fulcrum has been flying cap over Kyiv and challenging all Russian comers to a dogfight; so far they have downed 7 (more?) Russian planes. They've been refueling and reloading in fields around the city, then going back up immediately, wash rinse repeat. Turns out that it was actually half a dozen different people with the same transponder codes trading places, but it was a huge moral boost and cheering point.

David Brin said...

onward

onward