Friday, December 30, 2022

The Destiny of Russia at war

 War tends to shake or shatter assumptions, each day making the previous day's speculations obsolete. Still, I will finish this quick post with some ruminations about what may come next.

 But first, let's go back - way back - 6 weeks or so to this posting from the Institute for the Study of War November 12, just after Russian forces performed their humiliating retreat from Kherson. 

"Russia’s withdrawal from Kherson City is igniting an ideological fracture between pro-war figures and Russian President Vladimir Putin, eroding confidence in Putin’s commitment and ability to deliver his war promises. A pro-war Russian ideologist, Alexander Dugin, openly criticized Putin—whom he referred to as the autocrat—for failing to uphold Russian ideology by surrendering Kherson City on November 12.[1] Dugin said this Russian ideology defines Russia’s responsibility to defend “Russian cities” such as Kherson, Belgorod, Kursk, Donetsk, and Simferopol. Dugin noted that an autocrat has a responsibility to save his nation all by himself or face the fate of “king of the rains,” a reference to Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough in which a king was killed because he was unable to deliver rain amidst a drought. Dugin also downplayed the role of Putin’s advisors in failing to protect the Russian world and noted that the commander of Russian Forces in Ukraine, Army General Sergey Surovikin was not responsible for the political decision to withdraw from Kherson City. Dugin noted that the autocrat cannot repair this deviation from ideology merely with public appearances, noting that “the authorities in Russia cannot surrender anything else” and that “the limit has been reached."

The entire Russian Nationalism ideology pushed by A. Dugin and so many of the bombastic elements now threatening Putin's right is an assertion that Ukrainians are just Russians who have been suckered into a delusion of nationhood and who will be much happier once they snap out of it, after being forcefully brought back into the embrace of the czar. 

Well, first it was never true, Second, even the extreme russo-chauvinist (and earlier courageous anti Stalinist) Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote in THE FIRST CIRCLE that the goal of establishing Ukrainian sense-of-russianess will never be achieved 'forcefully.' Indeed any attempt at force will drive Ukrainians further away.

Indeed, pragmatically, if Ukrainian sense of nationhood was at all weak before this war, this war has cemented their sense of identity like nothing else could. Even if RF forces plowed all the way way to the Polish border, all they would win for themselves is the agony of an endless partisan war of liberation and hate that would last until the invaders were ejected and reparations paid. After which, the ill will would take many decades to subside.

The PRAGMATIC EFFECTS are as important as any of Dugin's et. al. ideological incantations. Those effects so far are making every Putin pretext for war (mostly lies beforehand) more real, not less, every day. 

These effects include a vast strengthening of NATO, a weakening of Moscow's western sock-puppets, a radical invigoration of America's defender caste...

...and the absolute determination of a now unified Ukrainian people to never again be ruled by Moscow, even if it means marching there to insist. 

These (and others cited below) are not the outcomes wrought by a 'chessmaster' who Donald Trump called 'very smart.' They are the outcomes of a gambling addict ruled by wishful thinking. And especially by the recurring fantasy that "rich Americans and Westerners are decadent softies, easily intimidated" and that citizens or Kharkiv and Kyiv lack the spine to outlast a little bit of cold.

Those delusions are being disproved, once again.

But what would be the best possible outcome for the world and human destiny?

That will be if some FSB(KGB) guy calculates the value of the blackmail files they are using to control 100+ orgy-party traitors in DC, (as alluded by Madison Cawthorne) and offers those files (maybe to Soros) in exchange for a private island somewhere... or else JoBee takes my advice and breaks up the ring at our end, with clemency offers. See Political Blackmail: The Hidden Danger to Public Servants.

== Other Putin Self-fulfilling prohecies ==

We have some pretty good leaders, now… though dunces at the art of polemic. I wrote POLEMICAL JUDO because the battlefield of memes and facts may be one of the most important in this struggle to save and advance enlightenment civilization. So let me offer some riffs regarding Ukraine that might resonate as pithy and memorable … and that you have likely never heard said as clearly, by any of our paladins out there. I couch them as TAUNTS aimed at the god-emperor of the Foxite right, Vladimir Putin. (And yes, taunts are what get through to MAGAS, like it or not.):

Hey Vlad, you have truly changed the world in your image. We spoke (above) about your effect on Ukrainian national self-identity. But that's not all you have accomplished!
1. Justifying your buildup to war, you lied about NATO gathering forces against Russia. In fact, the alliance had been badly shredded by Trump. Only now? You MADE IT TRUE, as NATO grows and girds itself into a truly mighty force. You made the real world become more like the fake image you yowled! That (I admit) is power.
2. Back in 2021, your forces, at your borders, looked formidable and, despite your cries of imminent invasion by enemies, no one on Earth wanted to fight them. Now you’ve stripped every Russian border to the west and south and east. What’s left is a potemkin farce. The world knows a pack of Polish cub scouts could march to Minsk, collecting disgruntled Belarus soldiers along the way, and then march onward. Stripping those borders proves you never feared NATO invasion at all. And you still don’t! Because we have things called laws, that protect you, so far. But you are going out of your way to tempt us with thoughts we never had before.
You made the real world become more like the fake image you bemoaned!
3. You feared Europe would free itself of your oil and gas. You are making your fear come true.
You wanted the Dnieper gas fields for Russia, not Ukraine. Now they will burgeon for Ukraine.
4. You raved about ‘nazis.’ Now everything your oligarchy does is fascist, while Ukrainian confidence in their mature, democratic institutions grows daily. Especially, the corruption that Zelensky was elected to eliminate is almost gone from Ukraine as they fight for their lives. You do see fascism amid a sewer of corruption... in the mirror.

==The one way out of this mess ==

There is only one way out. To waken the mesmerized Russian citizenry, whose stolid reflex is to rally behind and believe their Strong Man. So, let's invite 1000 of them - chosen at random from old utility bills in all provinces - to come investigate claims of Ukrainian 'nazis' and to ask citizens of blasted Ukrainian cities if they will ever view themselves as "russian." Have them join commissioners from Ukraine and developing nations, tallying war crimes and interviewing front line troops at random locations on both sides. 

Don't fret the expense! Because - in fact - Putin won't allow this to actually happen. He can't.

And THAT is the way out. Cornering and showing VP unwilling to trust his own people with in-person truth seeking. THAT fact will be one he cannot hide. And it will be his undoing.

Otherwise, the Russian populace with their tradition of out-suffering their enemies, will slog after him and his pet milbloggers straight into hell.

== a final speculation ==

Shall we believe ISW? 

"Ukraine's Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Chief Kyrylo Budanov stated that fighting in Ukraine is in a deadlock on December 29. In an interview with BBC, Budanov stated that “the situation is just stuck” and that both Russian and Ukrainian troops lack the resources or ability to move forward." 

Sorry, I don't believe it. This armchair general thinks (or rather speculates) otherwise. 

Instead I expect both sides are right now awaiting frozen rivers, which will enhance mobility...

... and dense fog, in order to blind the other side's drones and sensors and vision. 

One side likely thinks that general obscurity will blind spy satellites, drones and manpads, thus enabling a massive tank-and-foot groping-forward assault, like in the December 1944 Ardennes Offensive. 

The other may believe they can see through fog. Especially with systems provided by allies. In which case, we may see a particular tool-of-rapid-maneuver employed meaningfully for the first time in this struggle.

I guess we'll see if I'm just waving a sci fi what-if. As if my speculations matter an iota in a world whose future is being forged by villains and heroes.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Science fictional scenarios - From recent news to GATTACA and much more!


I try to vary my postings among several main topic areas. Yeah, a fair amount of (maybe too much) politics and international stuff and war... And big Science News dumps! About space and astronomy, most often. but also postings about biology and such, that lead to fascinating discussions in the CONTRARY BRIN comments community! (See below.)

Then there's science fiction. Let's do that, this time. Down below I'll talk about projects to build future scenario models of the Earth! But first...

== General cool sci fi stuff ==

Folks have written in to say they found useful my writing advice on the recent "Writing Excuses" podcast. “I just wanted to tell you that I thought you were fantastic, and provided a lot of useful insight," someone wrote. Well thanks! See also “Advice to rising writers posted on my website.

The ‘Godfather of modern sustainability’, John Elkington, interviews me for the renowned TOPIA site. Topics range from environmental SF to Kim Stanley Robinson and Dr. Strangelove and Sputnik and Vernor Vinge and Afro-Futurism all the way to today's cults who share a central spite toward all the skilled or fact-loving professions. A side riff rails (as you'd expect) at the nastiest character in all of human mythology - Yoda! But only briefly. Mostly it's about reasons (even now) for optimism.

Here is an interesting YouTubed dissection of my Uplift Universe diving into the races, planets and underlying basis of Uplift. 20 minutes in, the author describes some aspects of colony worlds that I seem to have forgotten! The computer voice takes some tolerance, but it’s a fun and very detailed examination.  

A cool survey of a dozen novels that qualify as 'mind-blowing'... !

Origin Story: Also noteworthy is this article, by Sabrina Dahlan, about the range of sci fi authors who had origin stories at UCSD (the University of California, San Diego campus) ranging from Kim Stanley Robinson and Gregory Benford to Vernor Vinge and me, Nancy Holder, Aimee Bender and the lively Cat Valente... all the way to... many upcoming young authors!

A nice online review of both my graphic novel The Life Eaters and the Hugo runner-up novella it was based upon: 'Thor Meets Captain America' - from my collection The River of Time. Also in The Best of David Brin stories... my best stuff! 

And another podcast review of the Uplift Universe by Sci Fi Snob.

== Short Stories ==

I’ve always liked super short stories. Rob Sawyer beat my entry to the Village Voice  super short contest, decades ago with a great 250 worder!  My own was almost as good. I’ve since done several more. Some call these ‘drabbles.’ And now there is a magazine devoted to them – though only at the 100 word length.

I did win WIRED Magazine’s competition for 6-word stories. Well-known is Hemingway’s classic about ‘baby shoes.’  Poignant and effective. But almost always these ultra shorts only set an ironic situation. There’s no action, conversation or plot twists etc. Not possible at that length?

My own six-worder - that won the contest - had (has) three separate scenes. Cosmic setting. Action. Conversation. Poignant feelings... 

,,,all in six words. I have others here.

==Great Podcasts! ==

A while back, I gave an extensive list of science podcasts, so much good listening you can access while driving or puttering around.  Now more!

Vinton Cerf offers fascinating insights into the origins of the Internet and the Web. Vint is so entertaining! 

UFOs again. My friend, economics Prof. Robin Hanson, goes into “Bayseian appraisal of possible explanations fir UAPs.” Though I think there's a much simpler, plausible explanation for most of those few UAPs that aren't demonstrably optical illusions. And it requires no violation of any laws of physics!

In Episode 19 of The Futurists, David Brin expounds on the interplay between scientific research and storytelling in shaping society’s future. 

== Down with all the kings ==

Did that diss on UFO-stuff rile some of you, even beyond my wrath at Yoda?

 Well, now let's make many of you even angrier! 

The insidious pro-monarchy messages of Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings can be found everywhere, especially in the archetype paean to monarchy - The Lion King. Sure, as in Tolkien, you root for the banished prince who dines with the troops and share’s jokes with common folk, in preference over the nasty, sadistic usurper, fine. If that's the only, binary choice, then sure, I'll fight for Aragorn over Sauron, Ender over simplistically genocidal fools, John Snow over Cercei, Mufasa over Skar.

Only will we always be suckers for the implicit lesson? That binary is our only choice? Toward terrible or less-terrible versions of autarchy? It still winds up dumping us into the same horrid system that made a hellscape of the last 6000 years. 

Moreover, guess what? Justifying monarchy or autarchy or 'noble' rule with comparison to Nature is an utter lie!

 Dig it, folks. Despite all the romantic propaganda from nostalgia junkies like Tolkien and Lucas etc., there is no lion king!  

Let me reiterate, monarchy is an artificial human invention and there is no lion king in Nature. 

Even predator species at the top of the food chain lead tense lives. And when lions get too numerous, they (especially the cubs) are hunted down and killed by gangs of young male cape buffalo – the Jacobins of the veldt! And my new favorite land animal.

I don't expect Hollywood to lose its obsession, of course, urging the beneficiary citizens of a mighty, enlightenment Revolution to wallow back into a wretchedly failed and deeply unjust tradition. But do lift your head, now and then, and grasp why real science fiction is the rebel genre! 

And kings suck.

== Prophetic stuff ==

Here are ten books that ‘accidentally showed us our future'. Well. In the case of Earth (#4 on the list), it was no accident!  Kinda creepy though.

A fun rumination on the plausibility of the post-scarcity, utopian society portrayed in Star Trek.

Want some guarded optimism? My older essay about the onrushing future is getting more relevant with each passing day... “Singularities & Nightmares”…

== Miscellany ==

Here’s a lovely article paying tribute to a great film’s 25th anniversary… to GATTACA. And while I agree it is a truly first rank motion picture - among the best - alas, I feel hardly anyone even remotely understands it. 

Was that (typically) arrogant to say? Sure! But ranking GATTACA as a ‘dystopia’ does not do it justice. 

The society portrayed in GATTACA is NOT a tyrannical regime or dystopic nightmare! In fact, the script takes great pains to show that the kind of discrimination suffered by Ethan Hawke’s character is illegal! That there is major public debate going on, over how to solve the problem that employers are using genetic testing anyway, despite prejudice being against the law. A law that has failed Hawke’s character, in his campaign to achieve supremely ambitious dreams.

Hence it is a far more complicated story than just a lone hero vs. simplistic oppression. And that’s a good thing! Because that fact makes the tale more pertinent to our modern struggles, not less.

In fact, what’s tasty is to realize that the protagonist is not – in fact – right to do what he’s done. And now for a SPOILER that explains my point.

Sure, it’s spectacularly brave and perseverant and ingenious of him to inveigle his way through every test, into a deep space mission. But in fact, he does have a genetic heart defect! He is endangering his crewmates and billions of taxpayer dollars by tricking his way onto that crew. 

It’s still admirable! And when he returns home, he will thus help to shatter the lazy/unjust reliance on genetic proclivities. That end might justify his means… and risks. That is, if he succeeds. 

He’s still an arrogant, self-centered jerk… but when have we seen that in a movie, before? And rooted for the hero-jerk to prevail over mistakes or villainy?

As I said, GATTACA is complicated! It makes some folk think. It is a truly wonderful film.  One of the best.

== And finally... ==

An interesting, highly-opinionated, intelligent and sometimes strange series of rants - by Bookpiled - about a wide range of SF novels by a fellow just now taking a deep dive into classics (and some not) of science fiction. Way fun... though I only had time to watch a few. Generally above-average tastes and recommendations

And... way cool cars that never were. These were AI generated...

...and some that almost happened.

And yes, now... at last... finally...

Speaking of cars. In 2006 my graphic novel TINKERERS I made many on-target (and some not) predictions. But the top bullseye goes to this image that accurately forecast a new product within a single future year!

And yes, that is the exact year when the iCar is expected (as of now) to appear.

So there.


Okay, here's another loving tribute to my bro and fellow Killer B... the late -great Greg Bear. I posted my own reminiscences here.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Lifting our gaze to... the Moon? And beyond?

 I have some way cool space news to report below. But first a familiar rant. While I disagree with this White House white paper on USA efforts to colonize the Moon, I understand the reasons for issuing this statement.

 “It’s very clear that this (the Artemis mission to rush US astronauts to a footprint ritual on Luna) is not just about the research and the science, but it’s also going to be about the economic prospects from the moon,” explained Namrata Goswami, an independent space policy analyst. “Until now, the US has been very reticent to so clearly engage in a manufacturing use of lunar resources.”

Except for one problem - there are no 'lunar resources' accessible in the near future except some deposits of polar ice. And lots of poison dust.

Well well, let me qualify that. I am all in favor of US active leadership in lunar science and robotics!

At NASA's Innovative & Advanced Concepts program - (NIAC) - we have issued grants to begin studying all sorts of lunar possibilities! Like far-side radio telescopes and nuclear power units, and using regolith to lay bricks for structures and exploring the 'skylight' caves that are presumably lava tubes. (These could offer likely the best sites for future human habitats.) And robotically accessing some of that polar ice. 

(Please don't talk to me about 'lunar resources' like titanium and 'helium three.' It only reveals utterly clueless ignorance. Stop using incantations to substitute for facts.)

So sure, lunar science and robotics, great! And yet, someone has to be the grouch who continues pointing out that there is no real utility to the US/NASA repeating Apollo, planting symbolism footprints on a pretty much useless plain of poison dust.

 HUMANITY is going to do that, as Chinese, Indian, billionaire and other tourist Apollo-wannabes rush for their national rites-of-passage - or bar-moonzvahs. And don't they deserve their own moment without the elder sibling stealing the moment? Like the scene grabbing older sister of a bride? WHY should we race to snatch away their moment, only stirring resentment?

What we should NOT do is get suckered into a symbolism-drenched "joint mission' with Earthly rivals, that would only mean transferring a lot of western technologies to those rivals. 

FAR better? Go go ahead with earlier plans to and make a laboratory + hotel orbiting the moon! Rent out hostel rooms and landers for the tourists. We can then help advance lunar stuff while making a profit off the sightseers! Heck, if they rent our landers, we can keep one ready to rescue the tourists, if needed! Welcome honored guests. Welcome to our moon.

If actual self-interest and progress were the goal, instead of frippy symbolism, we'd lift our sights to farther horizons, where the wealth and resources and true opportunities await, like at 10,000 asteroids that are vastly richer and easier to get to, robotically, than the useless lunar plain

YOU may be complicit in this mistake, cheering on the insanely expensive and obsolete Space Launch System, a series of billion-dollar throw-away dinosaurs in an era of re-usable rockets, whose whole real purpose has been to feed old Shuttle contractor-parasites. Recognize a scam when it is so blatant.

I am not alone in protesting the scam. My NIAC compatriot Edgar Zapata reviews the recent memoir, “Escaping Gravity: My quest to transform NASA and launch a new space age,” by former Deputy NASA Administrator Lori Garver, who fought (and about half succeeded) to shift NASA away from expensive and futile trough for fat contractors  into a leaner and more vigorous agency that stimulates innovative endeavors in spaceflight and science, starting with buying launch services at competitive prices, instead of living to serve cost-plus dinosaurs. An interesting and well-written read. 

Don't let any of that be a bummer!  We still should aim high and go. We just need to lift our gaze even higher!

== Addenda! More space Distractions? ==

Here's amazing footage by Mars Express of the little moon Deimos passing in front of Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede, followed by Jupiter, and Io and Callisto. Um talk about depth of field!

One of the coolest recent projects we’ve funded at NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program – (NIAC) … drawing oxygen from the thin Marian atmosphere through a simple, efficient cycle of adsorption and release. It looks like it'll work!

The Federal Communications Commission has a plan to minimize space junk by requiring low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites to be disposed no more than five years after being taken out of service. About time.

After a journey of five months, the first tiny cubesat to fly and operate at the moon has successfully arrived, orbiting within 3,000 km of the lunar surface. 

Just as the Bush Administration blocked satellites to study atmospheric CO2, the Trumpists did everything possible to protect super-polluters of methane. Now, finally, we are getting to see who is responsible for one of the foulest crimes in the history of our species. Methane ‘Super-Emitters’ Mapped by NASA’s New Earth Space Mission.

Relative to carbon dioxide, methane makes up a fraction of human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, but it’s estimated to be 80 times more effective, ton for ton, at trapping heat in the atmosphere in the 20 years after release. Moreover, where carbon dioxide lingers for centuries, methane persists for about a decade, meaning that if emissions are reduced, the atmosphere will respond in a similar timeframe, leading to slower near-term warming. 

Want the real future? An online discussion group is dedicated to discussing asteroid mining and related subjects. 


Is human hibernation possible? We all recall how Kubrick and Clarke solved the problem in 2001: A Space Odyssey, with ‘sleep pods.’ Here in this article authors describe the current state of hopes for human hibernation, which could, in theory, truly open up the solar system and beyond.  


At NIAC, we did issue a phase one study of the ‘logistics of torpor in crewed missions,’ or how to support/care for astronauts who have been chilled/sedated into the range that medicine now thinks remotely plausible, well short of what’s done routinely by bears and arctic squirrels, each winter. The study was not encouraging. But the researchers persevere.

== And not space... but spaced-out! ==

Lagniappe. Seriously, the very next day after Donald Trump's astonishingly/howlingly self-satirical "NFT trading cards" announcement, came... came this really weirdmovie trailer.  Oh, look at it. Or better yet don't. Oy.

And hence, in the name of my late colleagues Greg Bear and Octavia Butler and especially Arthur Clarke, I have to ask the managers of this simulated reality... 

...seriously? Are you even trying, anymore?

Sunday, December 11, 2022

The competent professionals who save the world daily, slandered by erudite Kremlin shills

In an essay in Claremont Review, one Michael Anton offers a view of history that conveniently rewrites the record, on behalf of right wing mania. And while there is certainly some erudition and fact-citing in the article: what a stunning pile of dreck! Let's sample:

"The worst element of the present crisis, at least from our side, isn’t the virulent Russophobia emitting from the same people who scoffed at standing up to the Kremlin when it was controlled by zealots hell-bent on worldwide Communist revolution—by conquest if necessary. It’s not even the newfound war fever of former pacifists who once denounced military preparedness as reckless provocation. It’s the casual insouciance with which elites now speak of nuclear exchanges as an acceptable price to pay for stopping Russia and, really, not all that bad. Exhibit A is Anne Applebaum’s recent Atlantic column entitled “Fear of Nuclear War Has Warped the West’s Ukraine Strategy.” The West is not doing enough to escalate the conflict, she argues, because “[w]e feel relieved, somehow, that people will die because they have frozen in unheated apartments or drowned in an artificial flood, and not from nuclear fallout.” And, hey, what’s the difference?

"Seriously, the survival of the free world wasn’t grave enough to risk nuclear confrontation, but who controls the Donbass is? When MSNBC and CNN talking heads start making Curtis LeMay sound circumspect, the world has turned upside down."

Oh where to begin on this pile of Kremlin-sourced agitptop? Perhaps by offering Mr. Anton a $$$ wager whether 'military readiness' was on average better at the completion of Democratic administrations or Republican ones? I stand ready with stakes, if he dares try to support that all-out lie. But to his key points:

1. The ignoramus actually asserts that Post WWII Republicans were the principal force for containment of Soviet expansionism. Bull. Until Reagan, a majority of Republicans favored return to pre 1941 isolationism. The aggressive containment policy (that alas also led to us being reflexively lured into a draining land war in Asia) was pushed ever since 1947 by the US labor movement and the AFL-CIO! Those Teamsters and factory workers never changed their volcanic hatred of Leninism/Stalinism, even after they shifted their party allegiance to the GOP (propelled by school busing and other lefty mistakes). That shift of party identity brought anti-Soviet fervor with them, leading to Reaganism. And a 'Pundit' who ignores that should have his "P" credential shredded.

In fact, the post WWII US left was NEVER (except for a few Angela Davis types), pro Kremlin! Ever. And that's ever. In fact, more recent Foxite rages against George Soros cite him as "a fearsome manipulator" for having "toppled 8 foreign governments!" with his NGO meddling. Alas, none of the dittohead addicts watching Hannity ever asks him to NAME those "8 foreign governments toppled by George Soros!" (It's true. He did! Can YOU name them? Michael Anton probably could. But his masters won't let him.)

2. As for Mr. Anton's assertion of today's lefty "russophobia"? It's a term used now by Putinist shills to undermine support for a current strategy in support of Ukraine that has proved correct in every respect, first by firming up and strengthening the NATO Alliance that Trumpists tried (at KGB orders) to destroy.

Comparatively inexpensively, we are resisting the most unambiguous evil we've see in a generation, effectively destroying what everyone had deemed a major threat - the Russian military - a potemkin husk, we now see, but horrifically dangerous, nonetheless. Till now. 

Going almost entirely unmentioned is how we are thereby testing our own weapons systems in perfect field trials. Results that have surely daunted a major rising power to the southeast against even considering any aggressive move for a decade. Western weapons and doctrines have proved spectacularly correct and effective and these field trials will keep them that way...

3. ...while helping a brave, underdog nation stand up to its goliath bully and planting seeds of doubt in a Russian public that may (at last) outgrow 2000 years of obeisance to brutal "strongman" czars.

4. Above all, garbage like this spew by Mr. Anton helps to unveil what the thoroughly corrupted GOP has become, essentially a mouthpiece for the worldwide campaign against Democracies and enlightenment values. An attempted putsch that's subsidized by every oligarchy on the planet, from casino-owner mafiosi (all of them donors to the Republican Party that made one of them president) to petro-boyars, murder-sheiks, and drug cartels resisting legalization, all the way to hedge lords and inheritance brats, all of them united at targeting - especially - the professionals who stand between them and a return to feudal power. 

The nerdy fact professions, from science and civil service to law, medicine, teaching and journalism to the FBI/Intel/military and diplomatic corps who won the Cold War and the War on Terror! All of the professionals who Tucker Carlson derides as "snobs" almost every evening and who a confederate senator just last month denounced as "high IQ stupid people."

Our dedicated, brilliant and perseverant professionals, who now are displaying the kind of immense COMPETENCE that we pay them for, and for which the public almost never gives credit.

It is that dazzling competence we are seeing on display, right now, almost daily in the current crisis. Professional competence... and not Mr. Anton's armchair heckling of "russophobia"... is what's helping immensely brave Ukrainians to defeat injustice and evil. 

And that competence - by those dedicated men and women whom we hire to be competent - plus political leaders who are smart and patriotic enough to use that competence wisely - is what we must count on, foremost, to navigate a path through the minefield of this decade. 

A decade when history might at last (one way or the other) come to an 'end.'

Friday, December 09, 2022

Fixing class & political disparities without (much) revolution

All right the US midterms weren't so bad... unless you count the distressingly large number of places across America where 48% of our neighbors are frantically imbibing Kremlin agitprop and pro-oligarchy koolaid...

...or the desperate dumbness of our friends and allies on the left, for refusing even to talk to Hispanics (especially males) to find out why that essential part of the coalition is drifting away.

Gosh, even amid guardedly good news, the topic always has so many under-examined angles. Perspectives that you never see in the pathetically unimaginative, 2-D punditry, even on the Union side of this phase 8 of the American Civil War. 

So let's just let our hair down this time, while I take you through some off-axis ruminations... much of it about looming class war.

== Better late than never… ==

In The Atlantic, Francis Fukuyama defends the basic premise of his “End of History” notion that liberal democracies, science-based fact-checking, fair argument and reciprocal tolerance will win, in the end. 

“Over the years, we have seen huge setbacks to the progress of liberal and democratic institutions, with the rise of fascism and communism in the 1930s, or the military coups and oil crises of the 1960s and ’70s. And yet, liberal democracy has endured and come back repeatedly, because the alternatives are so bad. People across varied cultures do not like living under dictatorship, and they value their individual freedom. No authoritarian government presents a society that is, in the long term, more attractive than liberal democracy, and could therefore be considered the goal or endpoint of historical progress. The millions of people voting with their feet—leaving poor, corrupt, or violent countries for life not in Russia, China, or Iran but in the liberal, democratic West—amply demonstrate this.”

Fukuyama used to be a Republican Party court intellectual. But he is also brilliant and in regular contact with all of the fact-using professions who have become the bĂȘtes noirs of the Foxite risen-confederacy. And hence, like nearly all of the US military officer corps, he has severed those ties.

“The big question mark remains, unfortunately, the United States. Some 30 to 35 percent of its voters continue to believe the false narrative that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, and the Republican Party has been taken over by Donald Trump’s MAGA followers, who are doing their best to put election deniers in positions of power around the country. This group does not represent a majority of the country but (because of their own cheats like gerrymandering) is likely to regain control of at least the House of Representatives this November, and possibly the presidency in 2024.”

Francis Fukuyama writes, “Liberal democracy will not make a comeback unless people are willing to struggle on its behalf. The problem is that many who grow up living in peaceful, prosperous liberal democracies begin to take their form of government for granted.”

Well, well. I would add that the non-confederate Union side of this civil war has another problem. So many of its 'generals' are so emotionally wedded to their favorite sanctimony-drug TACTICS that they cannot allow them to be questioned, even when it harms our shared, longterm, strategic goals.

== The ongoing Great Cheat ==

Re the recent midterm election and the influence of gerrymandering, Republicans really have been far more aggressive than Democrats. As the political analyst David Wasserman recently wrote for NBC News: 

"Thanks to reforms passed by voters, many heavily blue states employed bipartisan redistricting commissions that produced neutral or only marginally Democratic-leaning political maps — including in California, Colorado, New Jersey, Virginia and Washington. And state courts in Maryland and New York struck down Democratic legislatures’ attempted gerrymanders.

“By contrast, Republicans were able to manipulate congressional maps in their favor in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas, among others, and the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court blocked lower court orders to draw new Black majority districts in Alabama and Louisiana. In Florida alone, Gov. Ron DeSantis overpowered his own Legislature to pass a map that adds an additional four G.O.P. seats.”

And much in the news (but not discussed here today) is the name given by the Mad Right for the Roberts Doctrine, using the illicitly ratified majority of the Supreme Court to support the 'Independent State Legislature' theory. That State Assemblies are the fundamental and final arbiters of electoral sovereignty, even when assembly GOP majorities are won and maintained through outright and flagrant cheating. I've discussed it elsewhere, along with ways to possibly corner John Roberts. Ways that I've seen no one even try.

Another example of political cheating....Under Bush and then under Trump, the U.S. helium reserve was given away - at steep discount - to Republican Party donors… and now we don’t have enough to run medical equipment. 

In contrast, Biden (and Clinton) sold oil from the strategic reserve when prices were at maximum and used those profits to buy and refill the reserve, when prices plummeted. It’s called ‘buy low and sell high” and supposed market enthusiasts should approve! That and deficits that always go DOWN under democrats.  Care to wager on that?

== The ??? who would be king? ==


"Arise! You are born of noble blood!" From SMBC, the fantasy of every neo-feudalist, neo-monarchist twit. 

I'm sure you've heard about this pathetic "Prince Heinrich XIII" who preened at the center of Germany's equally pathetic, QAnon-inspired, January-6th-wannabe, abortive beer hall putsch to restore both feudalism and Nazism.  


1. The "prince's" supposed line of male succession is pretty minor stuff. The nutter neo-Nazis weren't able to recruit a Prussian-Hohenzollern heir, or Habsburg, or Saxon or even Bavarian. Unlike Vladimir Putin, who has been kissing the ring of the Romanov heir to the very same vile czars whom Vlad ritualistically chanted curses at, across the first half of his life. Now, as an "ex"-commissar who is using Soviet methods to rebuild Olde Russia, Putin waves czarist imperial escutcheons and erects statues to Nicholas II, the imbecile who first crushed all reformers and workers and then - with his equally idiotic cousin the Kaiser - plunged the hopeful beginnings of the 20th Century into hell and nightmare.  


(Fascists seem to quite love royal figureheads. Mussolini, Franco, Tojo... and Hitler's on-off flirtation with the Prussian noble castes who had conspired to raise him from nothing.)


2. Thuringia is the minor 'principality' of that doofus, Heinrich XIII. The region is of interest to some sci fi fans because it is the setting of the Ring of Fire Series of the late (and lamented!) Eric Flint, that Eric gorgeously expanded with many co-authors into fun alternate universe wherein a West Virginia coal town from the year 2000 gets plopped into Thuringia in the year 1632. In that series, the Wettin ancestors of poor Heinrich are portrayed as having  some brains. Alas, a balrog must've got into the wood pile.


3. And yes, this neo-monarchist crap is reviving all over, subsidized by petro-boyars, oil-sheiks, preppers and all sorts of inheritance brats, who bribe 'journalists' to publish articles about jibbering-loco court apologists.   I describe this 'movement' of nasty, microcephalic poseurs here. And here's more on this Mencius Moldbug monster I have eviscerated several times, whose incel-hatred of the entire Enlightenment Experiment is totally bald-faced. See my article: Neo-Reactionaries drop all pretense - in their efforts to bring back rule by lords.  


The good news is that the oligarchs pushing this nonsense truly do seem to have crap-for-brains and they hire dopes and flatterers, while the enlightenment can call upon modernity's finest.  The bad news is that these would-be putschists are getting desperate, especially as one of the ring-leaders - Old Vlad - is shown to be no super-KGB chessmaster, after all. And any day now he may lose it, and spasm the world down paths that the preppers, despite all their fantasies, are nowhere near ready for. And that won't be anywhere near as fun as they imagine.

== More evidence of pico-cephalic 'lords' == 

It was Ronald S. Lauder, the Estee Lauder cosmetics billionaire who tried talking Trump into buying Greenland. The moronically narcissistic reasons are obvious. But could they really have been so stoopid about execution? 

Even given the goal of adding to the U.S. the world's biggest island (massively inflated on the most-used flat map projections), anyone even remotely sane in this century would have started with a cash and charm campaign at the native Greenlander indigenous community, instead of a coterie of Danish lords. 

Not all billionaires are morons. But I’m realizing they DO constitute - clearly - a majority.

And while we're on the topic… “Climate activists block private jet take-offs at Schiphol Airport…”  

If there's any type of radicalism that must spread round the globe, it is this one! Not just because under-taxed private jets are polluting parasites, symbolic of wealth disparities skyrocketing near French Revolution levels. But also because all forms of transport deteriorate when the rich abandon them

And so, the radicalism I want to see is mobs descending on those private jet terminals with pitchforks shouting: 

"All you lords and rich folk and celebrities, get BACK into 1st Class! 

"Sip mimosas in seats only 2x as big as ours! 

"Share our airport pain and flight delays and the rest! And if that upsets you... FIX it!"

That level of 'radicalism' might waken some of the insipid proto-feudalists to look up words like 'tumbrel' and decide NOT to tempt a revival of that kind of ride. 

== Where are today's Joe Kennedys? ==

See "Class War and the Lessons of History." And yeah, I didn't even once (till now) in a discussion of Class Conflict, invoke the name Karl Marx. Oh, there's plenty to discuss!  Like how old Karl never imagined that a scion of wealth - FDR - would be smart enough to buy off the workers by leveling the field and inviting them to share in a strong Middle Class. Big mistake. Glaring error! And for a while, Marx seemed consigned to the dustbin...

Only now his tomes are flying off the shelves on almost every university on the planet. Why?

 Because our insipid world aristocracy is largely made up of buffoons and 'preppers' and inheritance brats unable to read and argue over the historical lessons of class taught by 6000 years of history. Show me one with the brains of that smart crook Joseph Kennedy, who supported FDR for one reason:

"I'd rather be taxed half my wealth so the poor and workers are calm and happy than lose it all to revolution."

Any aristo who actually, actually thinks the R word is not on the table, amid his caste's all out war agains increasingly fed-up nerd professions, is truly too smug, dumb and incurious to ever care what 'tumbrel' means, until he is riding in one. But it's a cart that can find you, even deep in your Patagonian prepper fortress.

Though for a good fee, I'll tell you how to avoid that conveyance!