Monday, October 20, 2014

An Unstable World? Part One: Russia

Some folks have lately asked why I seem so calm, when every week brings news of yet another brewing disaster, with the world apparently spinning into chaos.  So much for Francis Fukayama's famous line - around 1990 - that the rapid and unstoppable spread of liberal democracy would soon bring an "end of history."

unstable-worldA few years earlier, I had made a different prediction. That the Cold War and the communist empire would soon shatter... (few believed it even remotely possible)... but that our struggles would thereupon move on to strife between a rising world-liberal culture... and one branch or another of machismo... traditionally male dominated cultures upset over the prospect of seeing their women become like ours.

At the time, I could not say which it would be... Latin, Hindi or Muslim machismo, though I guessed the lattermost of these. With the saving grace that - thereupon - the other two would swing our way.
But never mind that. Lately I've heard a lot of: "Brin, you warned us, way back a year ago, that 2014 could be world-shaking! You said the last three centuries began in their fourteenth year! Aren't these ructions around the planet signs that you're right?"
Well... yes... perhaps.  But here's how to tell when someone really is in the future biz.  He doesn't wed his ego to any one forecast! Or any twenty! I am in the line of posing possibilities to explore. Being proved right? I'll leave that for others to judge.
In fact, looking at the crises of the moment, I have not yet broken a sweat. Maybe I'll tell you why, later in this series.  But first, some specific trouble zones.
== What's up with Russia? ==
ukraine-rebelsFascinating! The pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk and Luhansk (eastern Ukraine) are resurrecting Soviet symbols, incantations and methods, even collective farms -- and (as described in this article) the same thing was happening in other disputed territories like South Ossetia and Abkhazia. 
We already know that Russian President Vladimir Putin -- a former official in the very-communist KGB -- called the breakup of the USSR "History's greatest tragedy." But... but... he's also supervised the most spectacular rise in oligarchic-moneyed inequality since the days of Ivan the Terrible. So... what gives?
I have to tell you that I lay 30% odds that Vladimir may turn out to be something that almost no one on Earth suspects. Sincere. And faithful (deep down) to the memes of his youth.
I may be alone in thinking that is possible -- on a "minority" or three-to-one wager. But lonely observations are what I do.

(Another example. Why does no one even consider what I deem a 20% possibility: that the absolutely uniform chain of destructive-to-America outcomes from the GW Bush presidency might have been deliberate or "manchurian"? I only give the possibility 1:5 odds, despite it being the only explanation that fits all facts. Indeed, it does parsimoniously fit all Bush Administration outcomes, far better than the standard theories: dogmatism, venality and stupidity. But the truly curious thing is that absolutely no one will discuss a lesser-odds option, even just to have it on a corner of the table.  But... back to Putin.)
What do I mean by sincere? Ah, well, if you ever actually read Karl Marx (which I assume no member of my generation has ever done), you'd realize how easily the present situation in Russia is "adaptable" in Marxist-Leninist terms. So, a couple of hundred oligarchs have consolidated all wealth, capital and power in a few hands? That is actually a well-described Marxist phase. The penultimate pre-revolutionary phase. When the time comes... 

...but I will leave that as a what-if hint. Remember, I only laid a 30% on this one. But it fits.

Of course, there are other Russia-related items, like the effects of plummeting oil prices. But the most important from our perspective is... our perspective.

== We talk ourselves into idiocy ==

Take the utter love fest for Vladimir Putin that surges across America's right wing media, especially Beck, Limbaugh and Fox.  "If only we had strong and savvy leadership like that!" The fellow is shown shirtless on Fox more often than a Playboy centerfold.

To listen to our media... both right and left... Putin is a master player who has won round after round against the feckless democratic leaders of the West, especially Barack Obama.  After all, he grabbed Crimea, only suffering some sanctions as a result.  And now he has nibbled off portions of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions as quasi-Marxist-Russian enclaves with considerable autonomy from Kiev.  Spectacular gamesmanship!

Except... um... am I the only one who's noticed that, in the last year, Putin ... lost Ukraine?  What had been an almost wholly-owned satrapy of over forty million skilled people, with vast resources, turned decisively westward. Does that fact weigh on anyone's scales?

To be clear, Putin himself kvetched that this revolution was the direct result of western/european/american scheming. So why do his admirers in US media not take him at his word?

If european/american governments, led by Barack Obama did scheme/support/facilitate the westward swing of 90% of Ukraine, it was a geopolitical coup of stunning aggressiveness and effectiveness, about which the Kremlin could do little more than whine a bit, and nibble-back a few crusts where the population was overwhelmingly Russian in background, and clearly preferred Putin's land.

And... your complaint about all this... is? 

It is like the mad-right proclaiming hatred of the "socialist George Soros, who is so scary he toppled 8 foreign governments!" Never mentioning which foreign governments the Fox/Beck/Limbaugh nuremberg rally credits the lefty Soros with toppling.   

Likewise, amid what seems a huge victory for the west (if you insist on viewing a simple act of self-determination by Ukrainians in such primitive terms), all these propagandists and their cretinous viewers can do is focus on a few nibble-back "defeats."

Truly, we live awash in silliness.
Oh, one last item.  Look up this fellow: Fyodor Dmitrievich Berezin is a Ukrainian science fiction writer. In the Ukraine Civil War he currently serves as the deputy Defense Minister  of the People's Republic of Donetsk.  His sci fi always features virtuous Russian or revived Soviet forces destroying decadent-smug American hegemons.  Wowzer.
== So where's the optimism? ==
ISIS-CRISIS-SYRIASorry, not this time. You'll have to wait for me to plumb the "ISIS-Crisis." And the endless disappointments between Israel and Palestine. And Ebola! 

And so many other modern ructions that make it seem that I was right about the "fourteenth year."
Well, sure... I might be right.  Or I might be crazy.
But I am starting to perk up a bit, imagining that... I might be wrong.  

== Continue to Part II: China


DP said...

Forget about Russia. As nations go, its a dead man walking. Demographics killed it:

David Brin said...

An effectively infinite supply of nukes means I'll not follow DD's advice, for now. Moreover, clearly he did not bother reading my actual post. If oligarchy spurs a counter radicalism, my "sincere" hypothesis could come true, with a vengeance.

Adriana11 said...

I think that Russia is reverting to type - that is to czarist style autocracy.

The problem is that people face their problems according to what they know, and there are not enough people who KNOW how to run a democracy. That was the problem after World War 1 when Austria was chopped up into a lot of republics, which in a few years had devolved into dictatorship, fascists or otherewise. You might want to check on Norman L. Stamps "When Democracies fail" Democracy, like a lot of machinery, depends on having people who know how to run it, and how to maintain it..

Fredrik Dunge said...

You are assuming that the soviet of Putin's youth was communist when it in fact was very close to what we have today, a few high party members 'owning' everything. Sure after the fall they became businessmen instead but they are still the same people.

Alfred Differ said...

I like the 'sincerity' angle, but I don't think he is sincere with respect to Marxism. He is sincere with respect to a much older Russian notion and that is the geopolitical reality of the Russian nation (Old Muscovy). Historically they've been invaded from practically every direction and there are hard lessons they've learned and employed as a result. The Czars worked them out long ago. Putin is doing what a good Russian feudal lord should be doing.

The collapse of the USSR led to the loss of a huge buffer zone along the northern plains of Europe previously used to defend against Napoleon and Hitler AND a loss of control over regions where previous civil wars and rebellions got started. These losses ARE tragic from a Russian perspective as it puts their nation in the same kind of position they faced after WWI. History has taught them to fight back to regain control or expect to get invaded from up close next time. They don’t have a history of rolling over and submitting, so the ‘end of history’ nonsense should have been dismissed by anyone who knows them.

I don’t give much credit to the US gov’t for the change that occurred with Ukraine. I suspect we would have preferred the Russians stay relatively calm and focused on re-establishing their local sphere of influence. They were making progress at this task and it soaked up a considerable amount of resources doing it making it less likely they could act elsewhere. What I suspect happened is US (and others) NGO’s acted in Ukraine and the Russians made their historical mistake of assuming US presence implies US government support. If you grow up in a feudal culture, it is a natural mistake to make, but it is a big mistake to make when it comes to Americans. Anyone who studies our history can see how the US acquired territory during the 19th century. The evidence for NGO activity is old. Texas was taken from Mexico before the US annexed it. California was set to go the same way as a republic first that would then ask to be annexed. Polk’s timing of events changed the schedule. Hawaii became a US territory how? Heh. What probably happened in Ukraine was a number of us were teaching them about democracy, liberty, and all that stuff a feudal overlord cannot tolerate. We didn’t even have to be there physically. The internet is there. When Putin complained about western influence, I think he was telling the truth, but the influence was from NGO’s. I also suspect the NGO’s did not grok Russian geopolitics. A good Russian leader simply can’t tolerate losing Ukraine to the West. That would put access to Caspian oil at risk. Remember where Hitler should have gone… if he had been a better military leader? A hostile Ukraine puts Old Muscovy in mortal danger of being cut off from the world. At best they might survive as a small entity name Muscovistan or something like that.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

On your 20% chance that the policies of GW Bush were intended to have the horrible consequences they had, I would tend to suspect that the Law of Unintended Consequences would be a more likely explanation.

An unintended consequence I noticed when I was taking ethnology is that small-scale "savage" societies have extremely low birth rates, in spite of both a lack of clothing and the absence of religions which teach them to be ashamed of their reproductive instincts. Civilizations, on the contrary, have high birth rates, yet are constantly trying to shame their citizens for ordinary and necessary reproductive behaviors. It looks like these doctrines of shame have had the opposite of their intended effect.

You opened the conversation with a discussion of machismo cultures, which is clearly a huge factor in the Middle East, with terrorists bombing girls' schools and shooting or kidnapping school girls. But machismo is probably an element in all human societies, our own included (as evidenced by politicians who can say "legitimate rape" with a straight face). I wonder if you have noticed any unintended consequences in the war between bullyocracy and equality with regard to machismo culture.

David Brin said...

Yes Paul, I get that stupidity-venality-dogmatism is the combo that most smart people use, to explain the Bush presidency's perfect record of horrific outcomes. But in that case, the "unexpected outcomes" should have included some that were positive... just by accident!

I do not claim that the Manchiurian explanation is the correct one. What I claim is that it is some kind of bizarre psychosis that no one will EVER even remotely pause to briefly consider it as a possibility, despite it actually fitting all facts better than stupidity-venality-dogmatism.

It is that absolute refusal to even contemplate a plausible possibility that disturbs me. Contract this to the ease with which the entire-mad-right will credit any weird conspiracy theory about Obama! Or indeed a loony-fringe-left.

I am disturbed by this because there are offices in the intelligence community who should have been sniffing with suspicion as the coincidences kept piling up. Subornation of the leader caste has happened many times in history. Our protectors are supposed to have protocols for this.

Of course... it's possible that they have! And applied them! After all, there was the Gates-Mullen miracle, when pressure from the Officer Corps forced Rumsfeld to resign, after which basically W's hands were OFF of our military (and I sighed in relief.)

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin:

There are some things no respectable commentator will say out loud or attach his name to, lest he be labled a "truther" and demonized as the likes of Michael Moore.

That does not mean they don't consider the possibility.

For my own part, ever since I first saw you mention the "Who wins besides Saudi Arabia and Iran?" question, I've considered that explanation not only to be plausible, but so plausible that any other requires the burden of proof.

locumranch said...

As evidenced by the nomenclature, all hierarchies and most forms of collectivism (including oligarchy, feudalism & federalism) are Pack Structures.

At the top are the 'dominants' (aka the 'leaders', 'elites', 'elders', 'lords' and 'alphas') who arrogate authority as right (entitlement) and maintain order (aka 'stability', 'class', rank', 'status' & 'caste') through a system of Operant Conditioning (aka 'carrot & stick', 'caresses & cuffs' and 'reward & forfeit').

Next come the 'middle' (aka the 'bourgoisie', 'middle class', 'merchants' & 'betas') who possess some dominant characteristics but accept some punishment in exchange for reward and remain undeterred, even though it rankles, often turning criticism into incentive (aka 'CITROCATE') in the (mistaken) belief that pack dominance can be earned by either unending self-improvement (CQI) or relentless beta-style subservience.

Next are the 'lowers' (aka the 'plebs', 'peasants','workers', 'serf' & 'gammas') who lack in hierarchical ambition, endure social punishment as either just or inevitable, accept their lot in life (aka 'caste', 'class', 'purpose' & 'place') and, like the abused spouse or beaten dog, return loyalty for punishment.

And, last are the 'deviants' (aka the 'criminals', 'malcontents' & 'rogues') who refuse to accept their lot in life, resent and reject all forms of discipline & punishment, equate dominance with violence, and are either marginalised (aka 'expelled', 'shunned' or 'imprisoned') or executed to protect pack stability.

Continuing the canine metaphor:

Vladamir Putin is the classic Alpha dog (which is why he is so admired by 'Fox & Friends'); Alexander Hamilton (the creator of US Federalism), who said "Leave it to the wise, rich & the well-born" to govern because "the people they are a rabble", is an Alpha in waiting; David Brin is a typical Beta who aspires to alpha status but confuses dominance with subservience (and/or self-improvement); the uncomplaining Gamma (as described by Aldous Huxley) is the ideal worker and/or end product of Scientific Management; and our rogues (mostly male) either populate our jails & prisons or nip at our flanks.

In contrast, the Jacksonian Libertarian is an entirely different animal. He is a cat: He is social, standoffish and non-territorial; he refuses Operant Conditioning (appreciating reward but not punishment); he does not return loyalty for abuse, prefers flight (conflict avoidance) to fight, but will fight if necessary; and, unlike the dog, he considers all social participation to be voluntary rather than obligatory.

The cat is also playful and a little perverse. Never 'dogmatic'. So don't expect him to embrace your doggish virtues.

Just deal with it.


reason said...

I think the Ukraine transition was badly botched from both sides. I am fairly certain they could have acchieved a negotiated settlement. Why would the Ukrainians want a solid voting block of disenchanted Russians destabilising their democracy? Their resistance doesn't come from a rational analysis of their interests, but from a emotional reaction to losing face. The Americans should be pointing this out, and looking for a solution that saves face (and lives) from both sides.

reason said...

I prefer to be treated as a human, if you see yourself just as an animal, you are welcome to a bone.

Laurent Weppe said...

"We already know that Russian President Vladimir Putin -- a former official in the very-communist KGB -- called the breakup of the USSR "History's greatest tragedy." But... but... he's also supervised the most spectacular rise in oligarchic-moneyed inequality since the days of Ivan the Terrible."

You know what: Putin is the living proof that George RR Martin may be an unwitting political genius:
After all, leninist-flavored oriental-despotism and feudal oligarchies are so closely related that one should expect that mixing these two system would produce an incestuous offspring as messed up as a Lanister boy.
And here, ladies and gentlemen, let me present you Vladimir Joffrey Barateputin, fourth of his name, King of the Rus and the First Slavs, Lord of the Nine Federal Districts and Protector of the Realm.


"To listen to our media... both right and left... Putin is a master player who has won round after round against the feckless democratic leaders of the West"

And while the pundits spew idiocies, the UE is slowly and silently bankrupting Russia: my great hope is that no Putin fanboy (or fangirl) will manage to throw a wench in it, because it will make a fine demonstration of the value of soft power, and it will allow me to shamelessly plagiarize Iain M Banks:
"You might call us soft, because we're oh so very reluctant to fully mobilize our armies, and I agree with you, but we are soft the way the ocean is soft: now go and ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be"

Midboss said...

Strange. This is the first discussion about Ukraine I've seen in months not flooded by Putin bots.

Anyhoo, there is however another consequence to the Ukraine mess that David has not mentioned here: Russia is once again becoming the boogeyman who's existence ill intentioned authorities will use to justify all sorts of highly questionable measures. Before the whole Ukraine mess started, we were in the midst of the Snowden scandal which was causing people to rightfully question the US administration's actions, especially, their apparent belief they have a license to spy on whoever they want and that this was normal because we live in a big bad evil world and only the biggest baddest evilest can win.
All of a sudden now, people aren't talking so much about the NSA's actions anymore. Heck, even most EU countries affected by said spying who were questioning their relation to the US are no longer speaking up.

DP said...

I read your post, Dr. Brin. And while oligarchy may spur radicalism, military intelligence assessments include both intentions and capabilities. They can intend to restore Russia to its former glory.

They just don't have the capabilities.

Their economy is a basket case. Essentially its a just a gas station (classic case of a country suffering from the "resource curse") without worthwhile industry or decent technology. The recent collapse of oil prices (caused directly by a deliberate increase in Saudi production and indirectly by advances in American fracking technology creating a massive new source of fossil fuels) has crippled its economy.

Corruption is endemic. Its essentially a mafia state where criminals runs most of the major economic enterprises.

It is the only industrial country where life expectancy has actually fallen. This is due to pandemic alcoholism, rampant drug addiction, and sub-Saharan levels of AIDS infection.

Birth rates have plummeted as death rates have risen. By mid century there will be 50 million fewer Russians. What is left will be top heavy with aged retirees, creating a massive negative dependency ration further strangling its economy.

All in all, Putin's Russia is a Potemkin village.

Fredrik Dunge said...

Well Putin bots don't read David Brin. As for the discussion on who caused the collapse of Ukraine, i think you are overlooking a fundamental alternative. It wasn't the US not even through NGO's (though I imagine those helped) it was simply the fact that several soviet states and soviet satellite states joined the EU. And how much better life has become in those places. Ideas are contagious, and working ideas are more viral than pretty much anything else.
But it doesn't matter who caused it, the question is where do we go from here. What happens in russia right now proves that the most powerful weapon on earth is not the hydrogen bomb but the economy, we must continue to use that power and also start viewing it as go to solution in future conflicts.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

Dr. Brin,
I probably just don't know enough about US - Russia relations to have a qualified opinion on your Manchurian hypothesis. If you suggested a Machiavellian hypothesis, though, I could believe that. It was widely perceived that the second invasion of Iraq was largely done for the purpose of raising the value of Haliburton stock. But then, it was also widely perceive that Bush Sr. had botched the first invasion - and invasion is the manliest of all manly-man pursuits. So Iraq round 2 may have been in some sense an unintended consequence of machismo culture.

On that subject, I was thinking of the current love affair between conservative pundits and Putin. When Arnie was governor of California he used to admonish Democrats for being "girly-men" - something that is none too surprising coming from the mouth of a high T male.

Democracy is not a particularly "manly" pursuit, with its demands for fairness and compromise. It is little surprise that Rush Limburgher and his ilk admire Putin. What is unexpected is that they are stupid enough to say it in public, clearly betraying the ideals of American (or anybody else's) democracy. Unintended consequences of machismo culture.

Tim H. said...

Vlad needs a more fitting title, how about "Neo-Czar Vladimir the 1st"? BTW, seems to me that the bolsheviks could have saved a lot of trouble by keeping the Romanovs as figureheads.

Adriana11 said...

Tim H, the problem with the Romanovs as figureheads were that they were to soft for what the bolsheviqs wanted.

I have to go back to my favorite historian, John Lukacs, when he pokes fun at a commentator who said about the futility of seeing the Communists as a continuator of the czar "They were, but not of bumbling, well meaning Nicholas II but Ivan Grozny (the Terrible)"

Gotta love Lukacs, if nothing else for noting that in the US you can be a pundit, even if your predictions turn out consistently wrong.

Adriana11 said...

Dr. Brin, I do not mean to rain of your parade, but the idea of Latin machos, or Latin anything siding with the US is a forlorn home.

In Latin America, the thinking about these matters is "Who have we received evil from?" And the answer is, too often the US.

So, no matter how liberal, democratic, egalitarian, the Latims might be, they still DO NOT TRUST the US and will avoid helping.

Same as Ireland in World War II. They just could not believe in a moral crusade carried out by England.

(By the way, a tidbit about Ireland. Sincn Obama has Irish ancestors, they he has slaves in his family tree, since in colonial times the Irish were brought as slaves - which were more abundant and cheaper than black slaves.)

By the way, you should learn about some of the formidable women south of the border...

Adriana11 said...

The problem with "macho" culture is that the numbers go against you.

The ideal is to be the bull of the herd, the cock of flock, a male attended by several females.

And it is attractive until you realize that the sexes break 50/50 at birth. And that only one of those gets the coveted position. The rest? In a farm, castrated and slaughtered for meat, as they are surplus.

In the wild? Well, according to calculatins on walruses 5% of the males get 85% of the action. The other 95% get to share the remaining 15%.

Which means that the natural state for males in the wild is to die a virgin.

Midboss said...

Actually, the sad thing is the macho culture will argue that it is by guarantying patriarchy that they avoid only a select small number of males getting all the girls.
After all, they say that if given the choice, women will all fall for the same bad boys/gangtas/rich people while the rest of the honest folk get the few leftovers who are out of their peak.
Anyone who wants to know more about this stupid outlook on life should look up some of the quotes on Fundies Say the Darnedest Things.
Disclaimer: warning, reading too many quotes on FSTDT will cause you to lose your faith in humanity.

TJR said...

Agree with you entirely about Ukraine, the westward drift of eastern europe towards EU and NATO has been a major triumph for both the west and the east europeans themselves, and the clear break with Russia, made by most of Ukraine, caps it off. The Russian-speaking bits were never likely to join them so Putin is just trying to scrabble back the bits he can.

I can't resist some pedantry, so will point out that that 20% probability is 1:4 odds (i.e. 4 to 1 against) not 1:5. One chance it occurs, 4 chances it doesn't, so probability is 1 in 5 or 1/5 or 20%.

Not sure about Bush jr being manchurian, as he seemed to be looking after his class interest pretty well, but I've always thought that Arthur Scargill was manchurian.

Adriana11 said...


What they forget is that no amount of patriarchy can keep a higher ranking male from taking your wife if he feels like it.

There are versions of this all through the world, but I think that the most blatant is in India, when if a low caste man find shoes outside his house, it means that a high caste man is using his wife, and all he can do about it is wait patiently, grin, and feel honored that a hight caste man is there...

Duncan Cairncross said...

I've always thought that Arthur Scargill was manchurian.

I listened to him once - was very impressed

The problem was he was the best person for his "job" - but then he was assassinated by the press

At that point he probably should have stood down

His replacement would have been less effective in an unbiased world - but probably more effective in this world with the thoroughly biased press

Alex Tolley said...

Why does no one even consider what I deem a 20% possibility: that the absolutely uniform chain of destructive-to-America outcomes from the GW Bush presidency might have been deliberate or "manchurian"?

Someone did?

Alfred Differ said...

"Which means that the natural state for males in the wild is to die a virgin."

Yah. A number of us know this and take it to heart. As a result, we jealously guard our access to the one woman who seems interested in us. I suspect this to be at the root of the concept of 'wife as property' and part of why it can be so deadly when one man challenges another who uses this mating strategy.

Patriarchy as a feudal method has its problems with respect to the liberty of its people, but as a social strategy for keeping most of the males relatively alive and breeding, it is wildly successful. It limits the number of alpha males by creating established roles for them causing them to compete with each other for those roles. It also establishes the expectation that the betas will become deviants if pushed too hard into becoming gammas, thus there is a risk to the alphas who try to change the rules too much.

We can do better, but we shouldn't ignore historical facts about our traditions. We aren't wild. We are social and skilled at finding solutions without planning to find them. We partially solved our alpha male problem through a tradition that evolved enough to create some risks for them and make them compete with each other. On top of that beta males DO kill alphas occasionally by banding together.

It is important to remember that the Russian people haven’t passed through the Enlightenment Gate yet. The Russian nation is still essentially what it has been for centuries. It is an orthodox patriarchy. Those who want something else leave.

It is also important to remember that Ukraine isn’t all that different. There is a different patriarchy in control there and they are corrupt bastards like their neighbors. The people in western Ukraine witness other options due to their proximity to EU nations. They are the next source of risk for all of the patriarchs. There is nothing new in this, though. History rhymes.

David Brin said...

Adriana, I never claimed that latin machismo would LIKE us. What I claimed is that they would side with us against the muslim branch of machismo. Which they do. In fact, I consider Latin Machismo to be much less oppressive or nasty than the other two major branches. Paternalistic patronizing sexist pigs… who genuinely adore their womenfolk… actually LIKE them. Yes, they classify and pigeonhole women, but they also respect women who demand a place at the adult table.

You would like my paper on evolution by human sexual selection

Actually, the one fellow who nailed the Bush Cheny “manchurian” scenario was Tom Tomorrow. Someone offer up the link please?

I would point out that locum’s latest attempt to do cladistics on political types is (yawn: yet again) zero sum in fundamental thinking. But I don’t want to discourage episodes like this one, in which, despite being unable to grasp even remotely any positive sum concepts, he is certainly being cogent, at least.

Midboss, there was never any chance that any Snowden revelations would reduce actual surveillance, especially as tepid as were Snowden’s actual revelations. Our chance is to apply reciprocal sousveillance. Glacially, some people are understanding this. Alas… so… slowly.

LarryHart said...


Next come the 'middle' (aka the 'bourgoisie', 'middle class', 'merchants' & 'betas') who possess some dominant characteristics but accept some punishment in exchange for reward and remain undeterred, even though it rankles, often turning criticism into incentive (aka 'CITROCATE') in the (mistaken) belief that pack dominance can be earned by either unending self-improvement (CQI) or relentless beta-style subservience.

I want to agree with your assessment (I especially like the "cat" thing later on), but I think you are misrepresenting the motivation here. The 'CITOKATE' reference is an obvious dig at our host, which you later make explicit, and I can't speak for him, but I think I fit the "beta" profile more than anything else in your hierarchy (except the cat, of course), and for my own part, I don't expect to earn alpha status by submitting to suggestions for self-improvement. Rather, what I used to hope (but have pretty much given up on) was, through demonstrated competence and usefulness, to earn the privilege of being left alone by the alphas. My suspicion is that this description more closely describes Dr Brin than yours does.

Not everybody wants to be an alpha. In a society that only allows alphas to have sex or to live in comfort or that sort of thing, many others may envy the perks of the alpha, but that's not exactly the same thing. The Enlightenment solution to that state of affairs is to spread the wealth and comfort to more of the population, not to insist that only the ones who wrest it away from everybody else gets any of the good stuff at all.

I suppose it's time to drag out my Kurt Vonnegut quote from "God Bless You, Mr Rosewater" again.

From Kurt Vonnegut's novel "God Bless You Mr. Rosewater" published in 1964:

When the United States of America, which was meant to be a Utopia for all, was less than a century old, Noah Rosewater and a few men like him demonstrated the folly of the Founding Fathers in one respect: those sadly recent ancestors had not made it the law of the Utopia that the wealth of each citizen should be limited. This oversight was engendered by a weak-kneed sympathy for those who loved expensive things, and by the feeling that the continent was so vast and valuable, and the population so thin and enterprising, that no thief, no matter how fast he stole, could more than mildly inconvenience anyone.

Noah, and a few like him perceived that the continent was in fact finite, and that venal office-holders, legislators in particular, could be persuaded to toss great hunks of it up for grabs, and to toss them in such a way as to have them land where Noah and his kind were standing.

Thus did a handful of rapacious citizens come to control all that was worth controlling in America. Thus was the savage and stupid and entirely unnecessary and humorless American class system created. Honest, industrious, peaceful citizens were classed as bloodsuckers, if they asked to be paid a living wage. And they saw that praise was reserved henceforth for those who devised means of getting paid enormously for committing crimes against which no laws had been passed. Thus, the American dream turned belly up, turned green, bobbed to the scummy surface of cupidity unlimited, filled with gas, went bang in the noonday sun.

E. pluribis unum was surely an ironic motto to inscribe on the currency of this Utopia gone bust, for every grotesquely rich American represents property, privileges, and pleasures that have been deined the many. An even more instructive motto, in the light of history made by the Noah Rosewaters might be: Grab much too much, or you'll get nothing at all.

David Brin said...

Yipe I had forgotten that passage from a deeply under-rated novel.

Tacitus said...


In the spirit of bipartisanship I will acknowledge a 5% probability of Bush-Manchurian scenario.


Unknown said...

Really interesting to the point of being point to from Phi Beta Iota the Public Intelligence Blog in the morning. You might find Anthony Judge's post today interesting, here is the title: Anthony Judge: Systemic Equivalences between Ebola, Alien Invasion and Dissidence – Strategic implications of seemingly disparate forms of terrorism.

LarryHart said...


In the spirit of bipartisanship I will acknowledge a 5% probability of Bush-Manchurian scenario

The Manchurian Candidate scenario revolved around the killer operating while in a hypnotic trance so that he didn't remember doing anything bad, hence avoiding dealing with the effects of conscience and remorse.

Bush, and especially Cheney, seemed to be able to do so without the hypnosis part.

When I say I find the Manchruian scenario to be plausible, I mean I find it plausible that Bush and Cheney were taking orders from the Saudis, not that I think they was actually operating under hypnosis.

However, that they acted without regard for conscience would seem (to me) to be beyond dispute. The dispute is over whether or not that is an admirable quality in a leader.

locumranch said...

Not quite sure how my canine v. feline analogy is 'zero sum', my point being that hierarchical (Hamiltonian) collectivism represents a canine-based pack structure and, as pack structures are replete with institutional inequalities, that it is insane to expect a different outcome from a near identical pattern, especially when I went as far as to offer up a proven, non-hierarchical, Prewar Economy (Jacksonian) alternative that is roughly feline-based.

Perhaps those who insist that 'humans are not animals' (our new friend 'reason', for one) could then enlighten us as to what humans ARE if not 'reasoning animals' (and/or mammals), in order to explain why human society is not immune to either natural law or pack mentality, even though the very existence of Machismo argues otherwise.

Dogs are most praised for possessing the virtues of Love, Obedience, Loyalty, Discipline, Selflessness, Endurance & Purpose which (ironically?) are the same qualities most extolled by Christianity & our current PC form of Federalism.

Given that, I and any self-respecting scientist would much rather self-identify as a Cat whose virtues are most often described as Curiosity, Inquisitiveness, Independence, Self-reliance, Tolerance, Bravery & Chutzpah.

Could this explain, in part, why Hamiltonian Federalism is so Anti-Science, Anti-Freedom, Anti-Feminist & Anti-Semitic ??

It definitely explains the existence of the Security-Industrial Complex, among other things.


Adriana11 said...

LarryHart: The problem with alphas and betas is that many betas overcalculate their chances to become alphas, and thus fail to make necessary alliances with other betas.

It is the lottery fallacy. Why work or invest if you are going to strike it rich playing lotto? Yes, someone will win the big prize. But the chances of it being you is pitifully small. If people were realistic about their chances to become alphas they would be more willing to fight against alpha privileges.

Adriana11 said...

Dr. Brin: Yes, Latins might end up making common cause. How long it will take and what prices will have to be paid for their cooperation is to be seen.

As for myself, as a born Argentinian, if my cooperation is requested I will ask for Henry Kissinger's head on a platter first.

Ideas do not happen in vacuums. They are held by people who have issues. And when the issues are "You killed my brother" "You killed my sister" "you killed my parents" well, it will take some work to get around them.

David Brin said...

Adriana. Whether the era's imperium "pax" power throws its weight around is a given. That it sometimes does so rashly, in ways that are ill-considered (and therefore serve narrow interests) or out of reflex... or even sometimes evil...? Yes, that always happens when there is a pax power. with two saving graces:

1) non-pax eras are generally far, far more violent and far worse.

2) Pax Americana tried, hard, on occasions to show its better side. Far more than any other nation that was tempted by such power. (Shall we compare PA to... colonial Spain?)

Should we acknowledge awful crimes, like Allende? Absolutely! Should such events, which were almost always 95% the doing of local forces... (except Teddy Roosevelt's grab of Panama)... be excuses to blame the US for Latin America's failure to develop a self-generated enlightenment? I'm not so sure of that.

David Brin said...

So, one of the two people on this planet to acknowledge the POSSIBILITY that Bush was manchurian... is our local and much admired republican? ;-)

The Saudi connection is what makes it start to sound really plausible.

Robert Steele said...

Bush-Cheney began with Al Gore choosing to take the bribe offer delivered by Warren Christopher -- Gore is worth over 100 million today because he agreed to ignore Greg Palast's breaking the story three months in advance of the Jeb Bush disenfranchisement of 50,000 pro-Gore voters. After that it was a piece of cake for Cheney to take over. My summary review of VICE: The Hijacking of the American Presidency, lists over 20 of the impeachable acts Cheney committed while de facto president.

LarryHart said...

@Dr Brin,

I'm not sure if you saw my earlier comment on the Manchurian thing, but in any case...

Could you please explain in a bit more detail just what aspect of "The Manchurian Candidate" you are referring to when you say that? Because I'm thinking everyone brings their own assumptions to the term.

For example, when you consider the possibility that Bush was a "Manchurian", do you mean that he took orders from a foreign power? Or do you mean that he literally acted under hypnosis and didn't even realize he was following orders? Or do you mean that he and Cheney were devoid of conscience? Or something else that didn't even yet occur to me to ask?

Tacitus said...

" our local and much admired republican."

I Sir, am a conservative. You, for whatever stars you steer by, are the Registered Republican.

I also for the record consider it a 5% possibility that the Chicago Cubs winning the National League Pennant will trigger Armageddon.

So there is that.


David Brin said...

LarryHart I did note your earlier comments. I am not speaking of hypnosis, since it is clear that at least Cheney and probably rumsfeld would have been part of it. No, I believe it possible that a combination of lavish rewards, ideology and pictures of W "with a goat" from his wild days partying with his Saudi "cousins" could create a situation in which the highest offices in the land might have been occupied by traitors who -- even if they rationalized they weren't EXACTLY traitors, almost certainly operated relentlessly in to best interests of masters (many of them foreign) other than the citizens of the United States.

Adriana11 said...

Dr. Brin, so you, and the rest of the US enjoy the Pax you created.

Don't forget who paid for it.

David Brin said...

Adriana your inability to put things in historical perspective - though typical - is unfortunate.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Brin: Historical perspective? Tell that to my nieces and nephew who still do not know where the body of their father is.

You can afford to have historical perspective. It was no one you know after all.

And by the way, your complain about Latin America not producing an enlightment is ludicrous. What do you think that happens to institutional development when governments are undermined and overthrown because they may be bad for American businesses? You think that you can get any continuity, much less the required time to develop a theory to your liking?

When the US invades Mexico because the President does not like who they elected, do you think that it produces no wounds in the body politic? When the US commands the Colombian Army to put down, with blood, a strike againt the United Fruit, telling Colombia that if it did not do it, it would invade, do you think that such actions promote enlightment values? Do you blame people for not wanting to listen to the philosophy of their murderers?

Next thing we will hear from an abusive husband blaming his wife for not standing up for herself.

Adriana11 said...

Historical perspective? Maybe you can have it. After all, it was no one you knew or cared about.

It was my family. And if historical perspective means saying "there, there, there" you meant well and I love you anyway" it ain't gonna happen

Adriana11 said...

As for Latin America getting its own Enlightment, we'd be happy just to have institutional stability, that allowed for evolution and peaceful change.

When governments are undermined and overthrown for not being of the liking of the US there is no institutional stability, and many deep wounds in the body politic. The actuation of brutal dictatorships backed by the US inflicts deeper wounds yet.

And then there are episodes like the "Banana Massacre" when workers went on strike against the United Fruit. The US government told the Colombian government to put it down or it would invade Colombia. So the Colombian army massacred the strikers.

Great example of enlightment values in action. And you wonder why the Latin American body politic is still recovering from such wounds.?

But, we never got Englightened, so we deserve anything we get.

Paul Shen-Brown said...

What you said here points out a major aspect of US culture.
"It is the lottery fallacy. Why work or invest if you are going to strike it rich playing lotto? Yes, someone will win the big prize. But the chances of it being you is pitifully small. If people were realistic about their chances to become alphas they would be more willing to fight against alpha privileges."

The powerful are able to maintain their power precisely because of America's charter myth, that anyone can become rich and powerful if they are smart enough and work hard enough. As long as the betas & gammas think they have a good shot at becoming alphas, they won't unite against people in their own category. Of course, once in awhile a beta does manage to claw his way to the top, and when it happens it gets a whole lot of press, but the numbers don't add up.

Neither does the logic. Some of what we call racism results from this same charter myth. If this is the golden land of opportunity, then why have some groups remained so persistently impoverished for generations? The assumption that many people here make is that they must be dumb and lazy by nature. The idea that freeing slaves into abject poverty could seriously limit not only their opportunities but also their descendants' simply does not occur to many people here. I have simply seen enough examples of smart, hard-working people who are just screwed by their circumstances to believe the conservative assumption (though I have also seen some truly dumb and lazy people - some of those, however, were quite wealthy).

However, the whole conversation seems to be based on a model of animal behavior that is true of some members of Kingdom Animalia, but not others. There are quite a few species out there (the Golden Tamarin, for instance) in which there is very little sexual dimorphism, equal division of labor, and nothing that could be called patriarchy. The majority find a single mate and stick with them for life, and you can barely tell the make & female apart without rudely lifting up their tails.

Much of our discussions of power and politics are molded by our evolutionary history - to take a much longer perspective than mere history. Currently male humans average about 20% more body mass than female humans, similar to the common chimpanzee. Go back in time 2 million years and it was more like 40%, go back another 2 million years it was closer to 60%. So over time we have been becoming less like gorillas with their alpha male/harem pattern and more like golden tamarins, with very little sexual dimorphism.

Another 2 million years would be a long time to wait for justice. However, the current crop of hominids has another feature that gives some hope here. The frontal lobes, which give us the potential to overcome instinct to some degree, is quite a bit beyond the rest of the primate order. If we can take the time to talk about it, study it and learn from each other, those ancient patterns of dominance do not have to be inevitable. Cultural evolution can act much more quickly than biological evolution. The problem is that too many people know too little about how we actually work, relying on simple reasoning based on false assumptions about our "caveman" heritage and what that does or does not mean for us today.

We have a long way to go, but the more we discuss and debate, the more progress we are likely to make.

Rob said...

David, I believe Adriana has a point. A friend of mine returned a few months ago from rural Guatemala, where a North American company's gold mining equipment was forced past a village that will suffer arsenic poison to its water supply while the Norteamericanos take the gold and leave the mess. Not pretty. Still going on, if not at the levels of the past.

David Brin said...

Adriana I am sorry for your suffering. But this blog is specifically a place that is about “historical perspective.” And while I am glad we were and are edified by yours (and I hope we will be again, in future) your refusal to admit that perspective matters is depressing.

Please tell us how the conquistadors treated many of your ancestors, during their own “pax,” and what fraction of their crimes were deliberate and relentless policy… or the caudillos that ruled, hardly ever opposed, for centuries. Except in Mexico, where the democratic revolutionaries could count on assistance from Yankees, next door, for their successive revolutions.

Yes, OTHER Yankees helped Diaz and Huerta. But it was no accident that the boldest revolutions against caudillos happened next door to the United States.

Did it alternate? Sure. One moment we’d be helping Marti in Cuba, the next minute, jerks in United Fruit and the Mafia would get our government to help Batista. Has the embargo against Cuba LONG passed all sense of utility? Yes! Shall I list the many crimes of the American pax?

But that pax also ensured the greatest peace the world ever knew. And Latin America has been the most peaceful region on Earth, as far as interstate war, with the lowest fraction of wealth going to armies, ever. Why is that?

So you sneer that NONE of the caudillo era was the fault of local failures? It was all the USA? We’ve got a problem, then.

Please dig this well. I have been fighting - via The Transparent Society and other means - to show WHICH FACTORS appear to generate the good behaviors and which generate the bad ones. Heroes like Hernando de Soto in Peru are showing that innovation in transparency is sometimes led by geniuses who speak Spanish. We all have much to learn.

We will not learn it while mired in oversimplifying resentment. My family has crimes to recount too. The nation that committed those crimes is in this world now, contributing, and I will not deny them the right to be my present day ally.

reason said...

I never said humans aren't animals. But I will not be reduced to merely an "instinct" driven animal.
Ideas and culture are as much a part of me as emotion is.

reason said...

P.S. I also resent the either/or categorisation as collectivist or individualist. I, and almost any human I know, are one or the other in different circumstances. You may have been making an obersimplified analogy, but it stinks and is demeaning.

Laurent Weppe said...

"I believe it possible that a combination of lavish rewards, ideology and pictures of W "with a goat" from his wild days partying with his Saudi "cousins" could create a situation in which the highest offices in the land might have been occupied by traitors

Apart from the decidedly conspiracy-mindedness of your pet hypothesis, it would assume that the (perceived) interests of the corrupt Saudi aristocrats and the (perceived) interests of the corrupt American upperclassmen are so widely different that a member of the Bush clan would have to be coerced in doing their bidding.


"So you sneer that NONE of the caudillo era was the fault of local failures? It was all the USA? We’ve got a problem, then."

Frankly, debating about south american "local problems" during the US-backed juntas era feels like academic abstract mind game to me. Not that I don't like academic abstract mind game, but the fact is that these satrapies would never have lasted that long without a foreign power subsidizing them, and this effectively neutralized for decades most if not all the forms of organic growth that should have happened.

The same could be said on the other side of the pond: the Assad dynasty would never have lasted that long if it had not been artificially kept afloat by Russia, and without the petromonarchies' cash, Daesh would still be a few dozen of immature manchildren with masturbatory fantasies involving a dominion where they're the one owning the mansions, the servants and the harems.

Midboss said...

Now that I think about it, a tragic cold war parallel can be seen here:
the US's position towards Latin and South America can be pretty much compared to USSR's policy towards its neighbors.
For South America, the US was the sinister foreign power that imposed itself on them and set up despots. Meanwhile, the USSR appeared to be the liberators that would free them from this tyranny.
For Europe, it was the other way round. The USSR was the sinister foreign power that forced its policy on its neighbors while setting up its despots and squashing dissent. On the other side, the US were the liberators that would free them from this.

The point of this is that, even with the cold war over, these nations all remember who helped them and who screwed them over and quite a few hold a grudge either way. In Eastern Europe, we're seeing this all to well with Poland and the Baltic nations being very worried about Russia's latest tendencies. They remember the bad old days all too well.

In South America, it's mostly the other way round. A lot of people have bad memories of the US's actions, something I may add that hasn't been helped by the recent spying revelations. A lot of people there hold a grudge and one should not underestimate how much this sort of thing can put a damper on good relations.

The next part may sound harsh but I feel needs saying: I sometimes feel that you, David Brin, underestimate the damage done by the cold war "Realpolitik" practiced by the US and its allies. Please note I do not mean you underestimate the crimes themselves (you have made quite clear you are aware of the ugly side of US politics), I am rather referring to the damaging effects of those actions beyond the immediate consequences. By posting themselves as champions of Democracy and the Enlightenment, every one of their actions reflects on those two memes as well and all the bad ones are giving them a bad name. It is thanks to those that China, Russia, unfriendly middle eastern powers and so forth have all the ammunition they need to discredit any democratic movement.
This is the same effect that Stalin and Mao had a socialism itself. They damaged the brand through their brutal actions and many, even decades after their deaths, associate socialism with gulags and purges and ignore the positive sides of the message thus why socialist is so often used as an insult in the US to this day.
I fear it will take many decades to repair the damage done by these actions, even assuming western leaders stopped doing this sort of thing now.

Tim H. said...

Adrianna11, by "figurehead" I mean ornament, something as integral to performance as the hood ornament was to a '55 Chevy. The Czar would need only look photogenic and say variations on "Harsh measures are needed for the duration of the crisis.".
Tacitus, if the Royals take the World series and the Chiefs the Superbowl, the stars may indeed be right for apocalypse.

Adriana11 said...

Dr. Brin: Midboss has it right. It has to do with grudges, and we carry a lot of them.

Now you can imagine yourself in a future when we have evolved enough that grudges can resolved through rational analysis, but you are not there yet. You have to learn to deal with them, and truly you have shown a very inept way of doing so.

Maybe you should read more on those champion grudge carriers, the Irish (Irish Azelheimer: you forget everything but your grudges), to see that it takes more than rational argument to defuse anger. A show of humility, and sincere regret would not help. And assuming that you will receive assistance from those you harmed becasude, this time, your cause is just, is a no-no.

Orson Scott Card knows more about this. Read "Kingsmeat" to have an inkling of what dark passions are like.

Of course, you do not like writing about dark passions, so you assume they don't exist.

Adriana11 said...

Dr. Brin: Of course, institutional weakness is a feature of Latin American nations.

That's why it is uncounsciounable criminal when some sort of institutional stability seemed on the brink of being achieved, to have it toppled down by a US backed coup.

To excuse such criminality on the basis of the institutional weakness is the the same as defending infecting someone because "their immune system is weak, so they will catch something sooner or later"

So, in Latin America we tally what we could have achieved if the US had not screwed us up.

And you want help against islamists?????? And you think that you are owed that help?????

locumranch said...

Like US foreign policy, reason is a double-edged sword, promoting enlightenment when used to override and/or delineate our baser instincts, but leading into darkness when used to justify and/or rationalise them.

I'm sorry if our friend 'reason' feels belittled or demeaned by my 'obersimplified' (and unpopular) assessment of human nature, but he should known that I find the human tendency to whitewash and/or trivialise our baser motivations to be equally distressing.

David's assertion that the USA (with its Pax Americana, disproportionate influence and enlightenment values) has been the 'Greatest Country' of the modern era is beyond repute. It is at least as 'Great' as David says, in truth, as long as we remember the distinction between 'goodness' and 'greatness' made by Henry Fielding in 'Jonathan Wilde':

"No two Things can possibly be more distinct from each other. For Greatness consists in bringing all Manner of Mischief on Mankind, and Goodness in removing it from them".

Meaning, in other words, that one can be merely base or merely good, 'great' without being 'good', base AND 'great' (most common), 'great' AND 'good' (most rare), or any combination of the three.

So, cut the man some slack as he is no more personally responsible for US policy in Central & South America than Adriana11 is for Argentina's Pro-NAZI immigration policy following WW2.


A.F. Rey said...

And you want help against islamists?????? And you think that you are owed that help?????

I don't think Dr. Brin believes we are "owed" help against the radical Islamists so much as he believes that we are the lesser of two evils.

Compared to what the radical Islamists intend, the U.S. is the more benign tyrrany.

Or, to use the trite expression, "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." Even if that "friend" has also once been the enemy.

David Brin said...

Laurent said: “Apart from the decidedly conspiracy-mindedness of your pet hypothesis, it would assume that the (perceived) interests of the corrupt Saudi aristocrats and the (perceived) interests of the corrupt American upperclassmen are so widely different that a member of the Bush clan would have to be coerced in doing their bidding.”

Yes there are overlaps. But seriously, are you kidding? The scenario is to explain why ALL large scale outcomes from both Bush Administrations were deleterious to the US. Not just wealth disparities and Haliburton thefts. A greedy American oligarch would part company over some of the devastations that (perhaps) were ordered by a petro-prince family who wanted to become caliphs.

To claim that all S.American caudillos were kept afloat by a cynical American empire, without local phenomena being vastly more responsible, is to ignore all of human history in favor of a convenient story.

David Brin said...

Adriana, your reply was more forthcoming than I expected… thanks. Still, I would not call THE POSTMAN ignorant of darkness. Nor would I call anyone who seeks wisdom from Orson Scott Card anything but a damned fool.

“To excuse such criminality on the basis of the institutional weakness is the the same as defending infecting someone because "their immune system is weak, so they will catch something sooner or later" So, in Latin America we tally what we could have achieved if the US had not screwed us up.”

Sorry, but you are being tendentious. “Would have achieved” is a convenient sci fi story. There were VAST tracts of time in each nation when there was no US meddling.

Indeed, you ignore my point that the latin nation that had the most vigorous revolts against caudillos was Mexico, with vast aid flowing to the rebels. That fact is very, very inconvenient to the narrative.

Again, do not for an instant claim that my confronting you over polemical oversimplification is denial of past US crimes! But if I can deal with Germany and acknowledge its good point, you can rise above wroth too.

David Brin said...

Tim H you forget the third leg — that Kansas City (which I just visited last week!) will host the World Sci Fi convention in 2016!


Now I am moving on to the next posting.


Adriana11 said...

David: I do not have to like Card that much to recognize how in "Kingsmeat" he nailed when it comes to certain passions. Oh, you are more sunshine and hope and all that, but there are days when sunshine and hope are just one big lie..

I wonder if on The Postman the Squire's refusal to help had less to do with his willingness to take it easy, but because he carries an ancestral grudge against those who come for help, and enjoys watching them sweat. How would you solve it? You should at least try to provide a resolution, and understand, as Bill Shakespeare did, that when you bargain with someone with a grudge against you, you should be willing to offer a pound of flesh.

Your well thought, calm, reasoned arguments are NOT a pound of flesh.

So, because it is an "Iffy" question, you think that it is OK to infect someone with low immune response, saying that you have no way of knowing that the person would be healthy otherwise?

At least, the chances of the person to be healthy would be a lot better.

And you talk about XIX centuries caudillos as if that excused the innumerable times that the US intervened for the worst in the Southern hemisphere.

Face it, from you we learned that "DemocracyY' means a military junta and that "Freedom" means a torture chamber. That's what we know.

#locumranch: I refuse to feel guilty about the Nazi inmigration to Argeina, as I remember who welcomed Wehrner von Braun and other "scientists" not to mention "anticommunist experts" from Germany. The US and USSR shared on the Nazi harvest, and Argentina got some leftovers.

David Brin said...

We got Von Braun and scientists of questionable character. You got Barbie and Eichmann. That is a very very bad argument to make. It disqualifies you from making any moral arguments at all. Indeed, it makes clear why you read OS Card.

Adriana11 said...

Dr. Brin:

Just to let you know that I being fed up with your arrogance. I tell you that I have received evil from US, and have grievances, some quite serious about them.

Not even once you said "I am sorry" or "I apologize" All you say is "You should not feel that way". Sorry, You cannot tell me how to feel, not to chastise me for feeling as I do. You want to convice me that it is OK that me and my family were hurt, because a) it could be worse or b) there was a greater good.

Well, as consolations, those suck. I am not interested in the hope you peddle, as it is based on belittling those whose feelings are not what you think they should be.

I would have appreciated some acknowledgment of the harm caused, but no, you seem to be incapable of it. If someone complains about your beautiful schemes your berate them as stupid or evil Because DR. BRIN IS ALWAYS RIGHT and we should be thankful that he passess on his wisdom.

Nice to have known you.

David Brin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Brin said...

1) I have openly and repeatedly acknowledged the harms and many mistakes and outright evils that have been done, either as occasional US policy or through careless reflex. You lie when you say that I did not.

Let me reiterate... you liue.

2) I am not personally culpable and your demand for an "apology" from me is specious.

3) we are here to argue. If I were talking to a US chauvinist, I would point to those past crimes. Talking to a person who is obsessed ONLY with those grievances, I will point out the oversimplification.

4) you made a huge mistake. A huge one. By trying to excuse the sheltering of Eichmann and Borman and Barbie and hundreds of SS genocides... by weaseling about Von Braun, you threw away and destroyed ALL moral high ground.

My family suffered vastly worse than yours ever did. Do you have third and fourth cousins? I do not. Not one on this planet. ALL of them and all of THEIR cousins were murdered by the people YOUR country sheltered. And you make excuses.

I did not want to follow you into a fit of horrid sanctimony. YOU forced this. And you can go straight to hell.

David Brin said...

ADDENDUM: When I am shown another nation in history that tried harder NOT to abuse its imperial power, I might listen to such yammerings.

Pax Espania was by far the most brutal and deliberately murderous imperium the world has ever seen, responsible for centuries of relentlessly deliberate genocide.

I do not excuse the crimes of Pax Americana... I want to learn from them and do much better! But there comes a point when historical perspective is vital. And those who prefer raging sanctimony over perspective are perfect readers for Orson Scott Card.

Anonymous said...

I do not with to further argue with someone so willing to twist facts. Just because I read Card book in the eighties and remembered a particular story for the emotional charge (and had to Google for the title) does NOT make a Card admirer nor habitual reader. But that's the kind of jumping to conclusions that I have to expect to be part of this community

Anonymous said...

One thing I do with to talk is my cavalier dismissal (or what looked like it) of the presence of Nazis in Argentina. This was a cause of shame for me for too long, until I finally did some research.

Try reading "Operation Paperclip" which is the record of the massive recruitment of Nazi engineers, scientists, and technician, which while massive, can still be defended.

But not after reading "Blowback:..." by Christopher Simpson, where the CIA accepted the help of notorious war criminals in exchange for intelligence - and training in interrogation techiques.

After learning this I will never let an American shame me for Argentina's fugitive Nazis.

So, Dr. Brin, if you want to direct your anger at those who made life easier for the murderers of your family, take a look at the CIA before you point in my direction.

Anonymous said...

And another thing, it would be laughable to talk about "Genocidal Spanish Empire" if you were to take a census of the population with American Indian ancestry in South America, with that of the US. YEs, the Spanish were brutal and exploitive. But genocide was the North American game.

Anthony Alfidi said...

David, consider Russia's strategic actions in the context of its elite's financial interests. Using both state militaries and non-state irregular forces puts control of Ukraine's natural resources into play. The deep state elites of the West respond in kind:

David Brin said...

This is a deeply sick person, folks and I will not come back here to deal with her filth anymore.

To compare Adolf Eichmann to Werner Von Braun is sick enough. To ignore the role America had just played in destroying the worst evil humanity ever knew... while Argentina sat aside and raked in swiss-washed nazi gold is another.

Operation Paperclip did whitewash a few borderline Nazis like Von Braun who deserved an outer circle of hell. But it also handed over for trial just as many who were above certain criteria of criminality.

Yes, there was hard nosed calculation involved - after facing down one evil empire, we had to face down another in a forty five year cold war that would have killed us all on the planet, if the US did not show technological superiority every single year.

Ingrates are alive today because of that. Latin nations spent the lowest per capita % of their national incomes on arms of ANY region, at ay time in the history of the world, while the US spent trillions staying strong enough to deter the world war of conquest that ex soviet generals now admit was alwayscoiled to strike.

I will not come back here. That awful person is welcome to post a remise here to her heart's content. I have one of the oldest and most mature communities on the web and it is unmoderated.

But MY final word to her is "get help." You are a small-minded person, wallowing in sanctimony. Your raising of the Nazi issue was not only deeply sick but stupid and it lost you the argument, by any living standard of decency.

Unready to broaden any horizons, go away and enjoy your hatred. We are busy here studying failure modes and how not to repeat them.

Anonymous said...

The Case of Nazis in the CIA

The Gehlen Org: From OSS to CIA

During World War II, the OSS had infiltrated nearly two hundred agents into the Third Reich--almost three times as many as had been sent by Britain. Its operatives were inserted into almost every militarily significant city from Vienna to Berlin, Munich to Bremen. In all, over 70 cities had been salted with OSS spy teams by war's end.

The casualties had been heavy, but not exorbitant. Of the total number of agents that worked behind German lines, only thirty-six had been killed or captured. And of these, the majority were lost in the waning days of the war in the vicinity of the Last Redoubt of Bavaria. It was at this time that almost every civilian found on the road by the Gestapo was detained and questioned as to why they were not in uniform for the Fatherland, or at least under arms in a home defense unit. Even the best cover stories provided to the young OSS agents might fail such a test. Many did.

Still, the organization as a whole was remarkable in its conception, implementation and execution. The bravery of the field teams was beyond question. They were a necessary entity, brought about by drastic circumstances. But after Germany surrendered, the need for specially trained spy-commandos was considered by the White House to be nil. In fact, Truman considered the OSS a peacetime liability.

Anonymous said...

promptly took steps to abolish the service, dividing the few necessary peacetime functions between the State Department and the War Department.


Anonymous said...

On April 1, 1945, a convoy of eleven trucks wound its way through Bavaria, traveling south from Berlin, away from the advancing Red Army who was at that moment conducting their own blitzkrieg through eastern Germany. Aboard the trucks were hand-picked German intelligence officers who guarded a very special cargo. Inside crates that had been carefully stacked and hidden under the canvas tops of the trucks were the most valued prizes of the head of German military intelligence: the files on Russia.

The purpose of the convoy was not to transport the documents to the Last Redoubt, but to remove them from harm's way altogether for use as future bargaining chips with the advancing Allies. For the files, which were the fruit of five years of intensive intelligence gathering on Russia, were now the personal property of a youthful 40 year-old general named Reinhard Gehlen. And with them, he planned on bargaining his way to a very special arrangement--with the Americans.

Reinhard Gehlen, known as Hitler's spy master, had overseen a huge organization of more than 3500 spies scattered throughout both Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. His top officers, Nazi zealots who had committed some of the most atrocious crimes of the war, had proven very effective in their efforts to extract information from prisoners and insert agents into Russia. The spies that were sent into the Soviet Union infiltrated not only the Red Army, but even the Soviet General Staff. The records Gehlen had amassed over the previous four years would be invaluable to the Allies--especially a select group of very interested Americans. Now it was only a question of saving the files and making the proper contacts on the American side. Gehlen was confident a suitable arrangement could be made for not only himself, but his organization.

Jumper said...

Adriana11 is angry. I for one understand why. Unconstructive? Probably. Understandable. Definitely. Filthy? No.

On dominance in humanity, a long time ago there was a parody song lampooning "Leader of the Pack" called "Leader of the Laundromat." It's funny, and ever since then I find "leaders of the laundromat" all sorts of places: big fish in small ponds is the other way to say it. It's a human thing, and rather silly, but there are obviously a lot of ways to be "alpha" without really being much of anything. Let those dogs have their biscuits, but make sure they don't bully the others too much. That's life.

Anonymous said...

Gehlen had been planning this move for months. He noted in his memoirs that, "Early in 1944 I told my more intimate colleagues that I considered the war lost and we must begin thinking of the future...and plan for the approaching catastrophe."[i]

And prepare they did. Within the crates were documents that detailed roads, bridges, factories, military installations, airfields, water supplies, communications sites and virtually every item of interest inside Russia and the satellite countries to a military planner. But of more interest were the hundreds of files he had amassed on the personnel at the top of the Soviet military machine including the Soviet High Command. Much of this information was derived by interrogation, torture and starvation of selected officers and soldiers of some four million prisoners taken on the Eastern Front. Those who did not cooperate were summarily executed. Those that did were often executed afterwards when they were deemed of no further value. It was for these reasons that Gehlen and his officers were adamant about being captured by American forces. If they were taken by the Russians, they knew what would happen to them.

Two months before Germany surrendered, Gehlen made his move. Along with a group of his most trusted senior officers, he microfilmed the vast horde of documents and had them sealed in water-tight metal drums. These drums were covertly removed from army headquarters in Berlin and transported to secret cache sites throughout the Austrian Alps. It was well for Gehlen that this effort was made. For when the convoy of trucks transporting the hard copies of the files reached central Germany, the convoy was spotted by Soviet planes and bombed. Five of the eleven trucks were destroyed, and with them, the files they carried.

Anonymous said...

Gehlen and his officers, after abandoning Berlin to make their way toward Switzerland and the Americans, were--according to official history--indeed fortunate. When they finally found an American unit to surrender to, instead of running into a by-the-book American officer who might have offered them up to the Russians in accordance with the Yalta agreements, they encountered Captain John Bokor. Boker, who was described as a pragmatist who regarded the Soviets as the next potential enemy, impressed Gehlen as a person who, "...had no illusions about the way political events were turning. We became close friends."

Bokor, according to Gehlen's memoirs, ignored official policy. When he found out about the secret caches of records, he allegedly decided on his own to keep the matter confidential and quietly work to hand Gehlen, the records and the men of Gehlen's spy network over intact to the OSS. Then, according to Gehlen, Bokor quietly went around removing the names of Gehlen's men from the rosters of war criminals. Once this was accomplished, Gehlen turned part of his records over to Bokor who promptly spirited them away from the interrogation center without even Military Intelligence knowing of their existence. Within ninety days Boker had direct liaisonCand the personal support of--General Walter Bedell Smith, Chief of Staff of the Allied Supreme Command (who later headed the CIA), and General Edwin Sibert, the highest ranking military intelligence officer in Europe. Quite a feat for a mere captain.

At the same time, Gehlen's existence in Allied hands quite coincidentally became known to General "Wild Bill" Donovan, head of the OSS, and his station chief in Europe, Allen Dulles. In August, Gehlen and three assistants were covertly flown to Washington and secreted away at Camp David for interviews with both Military Intelligence and the OSS. Apparently the OSS offered the best deal, for within a eighteen months the Gehlen Org, resurrected from the original Nazi spy network, had been installed in West Germany to act as the eyes and ears of the newly-created CIA.

Anonymous said...

The story that Captain Bokor, using great foresight and planning, managed all of these feats of clandestine operations on his own is too incredible to be true. It is not probable that a company-grade officer would risk his career to protect a Nazi war criminal, or put himself personally in jeopardy by wantonly violating international agreements. In any normal case, such activity would earn him a courts martial. It is even more improbable that Gehlen would stumble into the one American in a thousand that would quickly see the value in what Gehlen purported to offer and immediately begin work to protect not only Gehlen, but his officers.

What is more believable is that Gehlen had made these arrangements far in advance. By using certain trusted contacts within the German High Command who had both pre-war and current business dealings across national boundaries, Gehlen had coordinated a deal with a specified contact within the American intelligence community. Namely Allen Dulles.

Dulles knew Gehlen was coming. In April, one month before the war ended, and forty-five days before Gehlen surrendered to Bokor, Dulles ordered an aide to begin talks with the German general through intermediaries in Berlin.

While the Paperclip scientists were setting up shop in the U.S., Reinhard Gehlen began reestablishing his presence in West Germany. His organization, the Gehlen Org, quickly regained control of the majority of his former agents inside the Iron Curtain, and with the help of many of his former staff, put them back to work. Though he agreed not to hire any former Gestapo, SS or SD members, he sought them out and put them on the payroll--the CIA's payrollCregardless of his promise. And the CIA did not stop him.

Among his recruits were Dr. Franz Six and Emil Augsburg. Six and Augsburg had been members of an SS mobile Death's Head killing squad that hunted down and killed Soviet Jews, intellectuals and partisans wherever they could be found. Six was known as a Streber, or Eager Beaver, for the enthusiastic manner in which he pursued his job. Gehlen also recruited the former Gestapo chiefs of Paris, France, and Kiel, Germany. Then, that not being enough, he hired Willi Krichbaum, the former senior Gestapo leader for southeastern Europe.

Anonymous said...

Gehlen was pleasantly surprised by what happened next. His new employer, the OSS, not only encouraged but financed an escape mechanism set up by Gehlen for former Nazis. The Gehlen Org established, with OSS help, "rat lines" to provide an underground escape network to be used by former war criminals to escape prosecution by German war crimes tribunals. By way of this organization, over 5,000 Nazis secretly made their way out of Europe to relocate around the globe.

Most went to South and Central America. The countries of choice were **Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua and El Salvador.** Within a few years after their arrival in these particular countries, the infamous right-wing government "death squads" made their first appearances. Of note in the expatriate community were such characters as Dr. Joseph Mengele, who specialized in crude genetic experiments on Jewish concentration camp inmates, and mass murderer Klaus Barbie, the infamous "Butcher of Lyons."

According to some sources, former OSS officer James Jesus Angleton, who later became CIA Chief of Intelligence, was the man responsible for providing the Nazis with new identities before their departure from the detainment camps. Angleton worked directly for Dulles.[ii]

To satisfy his new employers, Gehlen realized that he had to produce information that was of value to Washington. He also realized that for an intelligence organization to be of value, and to justify a large budget, it had to have an entity that was considered a deadly threat to spy on. He knew that the Americans had little knowledge concerning both the Russians as a military machine, and what activities were transpiring behind the Iron Curtain. The Red Menace would fit the requirement of the ominous threat nicely. All Gehlen had to do was paint as bleak a picture of the situation as he could, and continue creating reports that indicated that the scenario was continually deteriorating. The more bad news he gave Washington, the more money he would have to work with. He knew that in peacetime, the only way to justify a large intelligence organization was to make sure there was always "an enemy at the gates.

(much more sinister than Paperclip, right?"

Anonymous said...

He began by feeding information to Dulles--and consequently to Truman--that appeared to show that the Russians were poised to attack the West. He reported that the Soviet forces in eastern Europe were comprised of 208 crack assault divisions, most of which were high-speed capable motorized rifle and tank divisions. Such figures showed that the Communists outnumbered the Western forces by a ratio of ten-to-one.

Then, in early 1947, he reported to the fledgling CIA that his agents had noted subtle changes in Soviet billeting and leave policies, and that troops were being recalled for some unspecified reason. He alluded that this could be the beginning of a preparation phase for the suspected invasion.

This was followed by Gehlen's prediction that the Russians would move quickly once all troops and equipment had been activated and put into position for attack. It wouldn't be long until there was a Soviet blitzkrieg.

In actual fact, Gehlen's information could not have been further from the truth. By 1946, the Red Army was an over-extended, under-equipped, and exhausted force of combat-riddled units. Many of the battalions that had reached Berlin had done so on foot. There was not even sufficient motor transport to move one entire division without depriving another of its motorized assets. Almost half of the Red Army's transport was horse drawn. In addition to this, U.S. Army Intelligence had established that the majority of Soviet forces in Eastern Europe was bogged down in rebuilding the eastern zones, reorganizing security structures, and performing governmental administrative functions. According to the intelligence estimate, the Soviet ground and air forces would not be combat effective against the Western powers for at least the next decade.

The 10:1 Russian superiority figure that Gehlen referred to was unrealistic from the beginning. Gehlen well knew, as did Dulles and the other veteran OSS agents, that the Soviet divisional structure was far less in numerical manpower than its U.S. equivalent. A Soviet division was typically one third as strong as an American division. And its leadership was far less effective. Instead of being able to function in combat with flexibility by making on-the-spot field expedient decisions, the Soviet officers had to wait for orders from upper echelon before reacting to a change in the flow of battle. This fact in itself often caused the Soviets grievous losses, and even defeats, during land battles. The U.S. forces, on the other hand, encouraged battlefield decisions during the heat of conflict to be made at the lowest levels

Anonymous said...

Still, the OSS--and the follow-on CIG (Centrel Intelligence Group which replaced the OSS)Cchose to conveniently believe Gehlen. Over 70% of the reports submitted to Washington on CIA stationary were simply Gehlen's words. According to a former CIA officer, "Gehlen's reports and analyses were sometimes simply retyped onto CIA stationary and presented to President Truman without further comment."[iii]

The results of such activities were exactly what the intelligence communityCand the militaryCwanted. Truman ceased cutting the military budget; increased spending for weapons research, military equipment, aircraft and the space program; ordered an increase in the development and construction of nuclear weapons; and most importantly to the young CIA, began pumping millions of dollars into the "black" budget for covert operations. In the ten years that followed the war, the CIA consumed over $200 million dollars of funds that did not have to be accounted for.

According to Victor Marchetti, former chief analyst on Soviet military capabilities and author of The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, "The agency loved Gehlen because he fed us what we wanted to hear. We used his stuff constantly, and we fed it to everybody else: the Pentagon; the White House; the newspapers. They loved it." Marchetti further explained, "Gehlen had to make his money by creating a threat that we were afraid of, so we would give him more money to tell us about it. In my opinion, the Gehlen organization provided nothing worthwhile for understanding or estimating Soviet military or political capabilities in Eastern Europe or anywhere else."

The final result of all these cloak-and-dagger exercises was a reputed Cold War that lasted for almost half a century, and cost American taxpayers alone over $8 trillion dollars.

Peacetime intelligence gathering had become big business--profitable to not only the growing intelligence organizations, but to the defense industry and the investors who financed both it and the government.

Excerpted from The Medusa File

[i]. Covert Action, Fall 1990.

[ii]. Covert Action, Winter 1986.

[iii]. Blowback; America's Recruitment of Nazis and Its Effect on the Cold War, by Christopher Simpson, (Weidenfeld & Nicolson), 1988.


Anonymous said...

Note those protected Nazi criminals were unleashed on new populatins in the name of "containing communism" If is bad to provide war criminals with a cozy retirement, how much worse is it to let them try again on other people?

If you think that it is OK because of the benefits of Pax Americana, never mention your murdered family again, out of decency

Anonymous said...

As for gratefulness, since the US treated those countries as subjects (or as property) to the point of threatening a supposedly sovereign nation with invasion if it did not murder strikers against a US company, gratitude is out of the question. No one is owed gratitude just for defending one's property.

David Brin said...

I have no interest in reading what this sicko says and I have not done so.

She is welcome to rant here to her heart's content.


Anonymous said...

Funny, I thought that rational discussion and scientific method is to conduct research, find data, and submit them for perusal.

Silly me. It seems that it consists of refusing to accept data you don't like and call names to whoever offers it.

At least that's what the great scientist Dr. Brin does, and he should know.

Anonymous said...

And since you descended to name calling, and my vocabulary is better than yours I will call you a doctrinaire with an egregious callous disregard for any collateral damage you might create, and that I am glad you are not in power nor setting policy.

David Brin said...

A silly, rationalizing dolt. I would never have realized how drooling-awful if she had not raised the Nazi issue. Like most Americans, my reflex was self-critical and willing to discuss past crimes committed by the American pax, despite it having, in fact, behaved far better, with fewer deliberate crimes, than ANY previous people who were ever tempted by great power. (For example, Pax Hispania) perpetrated relentlessly deliberate genocidal crimes as central policies for 350 years.)

Still, I was willing to discuss these tradeoffs and expressed sympathy for hurts that the US might have contributed to... till she raised the Nazi thing, tryin (actually!) to compare Argentina's cowardly complicity cooperation with the Swiss in washing Nazi gold with America's courageous struggle to rid the world of its worst cancer, ever.

And then... the fact that we made use of some borderline cases, like Von Braun, in order to perform yet another herculean task... saving the world from another murderous (Soviet) empire... she said that that cancels out her nation's deliberate sheltering of Eichmann and Bormann and Barbie and scores of other monsters, the worst than our species ever produced, who hd murdered ALL of my fourth and third cousins, and all of THEIR cousins... and I had enough.

Add to that deliberate, hysterical-screeching LYING about our previous conversation, at every level and about every aspect... and I realized this is a deeply, deeply sick individual.

I came back here in order to say it for the record, in case she cites this page. Not, all, that this is a disturbed and nasty person whose grudges blind her to a very dark soul.

Anonymous said...

Nice of you to forget data such as

a) Eichmann, Borman, Mengele et al got to LA with the approval of the CIA in exchange for anti-communist intelligence. NOt just Argentina. Chile too. Uruguay too. El Salvador too. But since Argentina had Peron it was easy to single her out.

b) The CIA USED Klaus Barbie to hunt down the Che in Bolivia, which meant unleashing him on the native population, with whichever methods he chose.

I do not know about you, but in my book, unleashing Nazis to do their worst on new populations is MUCH worse than giving them refuge.

You know, arguing with you, makes me understand why so many cheered when someone dropped Coke on your head....

David Brin said...

This is a jibbering insane person.

Realizing that makes me much calmer and far, far less offended.

Her obsession with cyber-stalking me is kind of pathetic. But it reminds me that I get so very much less of it than other celebrities. Indeed, my peers are shocked when I tell them how little.

I guess an occasional bubble burping from the cesspool is something I can shrug off....

David Brin said...

Oh. "cheered when a coke was dumped"? I have no memory of any such event. I guess the delusions just keep coming....

Anonymous said...
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David Brin said...

A liar who endlessly lies, especially to herself. And a stalker.

What a grotesquerie.

Susan Watson said...

The 'Manchurian' puppet theory is compelling, but "Who wins besides Saudi Arabia and Iran?" does have another answer.

This seems very far-fetched, but I do know born-again Christians who were hoping that chaos in the middle-east would trigger the 'return' of Christ around the year 2000 +/- margin-of-error.

Maybe the Bush morning prayer sessions were sincere.

The rise of the bogey-man ISIS is certainly energizing the Christian fanatics 'over here'. Just consider the 'glory' of being able to use your automatic weapons to defend Christianity. Wheee-haw!

David Brin said...

Susan it is only by chance that I found your comment under this old posting. Yes, the sincerity of fundamentalists is terrifying to modern minds. As is the fact that Americans might actually vote for a person who prays daily for events to happen which would fill the world with blood, slaughter 2/3 of Americans (maybe 99%) and send them to hell, and end forever both democracy and the United States of America.

David Brin said...

Susan it is only by chance that I found your comment under this old posting. Yes, the sincerity of fundamentalists is terrifying to modern minds. As is the fact that Americans might actually vote for a person who prays daily for events to happen which would fill the world with blood, slaughter 2/3 of Americans (maybe 99%) and send them to hell, and end forever both democracy and the United States of America.