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The likelihood of war
David Brin   Oct 24, 2017   Contrary Brin  

While nature flails at us - from hurricanes and quakes to solar flares - we all know that we’re in far greater danger from ourselves. (And, of course, we humans are responsible for some of nature’s fury, too.)  So I feel compelled to use this soapbox yet again, drawing attention,  to the increasing likelihood of manmade hell, unleashed by an unbalanced leadership caste.

Elsewhere I discuss the deep-underlying syndrome of Republican Bipolar Disease -- generally a depressive determination to block every negotiation, obstruct all deliberation, ensure gridlock and castrate the mature, pragmatic society that the Greatest Generation built. For 20 of the last 22 years we've seen the laziest and least productive Congresses in history, holding fewer days in session, hearings or bills, while breaking records for fund-raisers. Indeed, Donald Trump himself - desperate for an accomplishment - has been attacking Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose sole priority since 1995, along with Dennis (friend-to-boys) Hastert and Rupert (employer of perverts) Murdoch, has been to prevent the functioning of politics as a problem solving tool in the United States of America. In response, McConnell blames Trump's political inexperience that led to him setting "excessive expectations." 

Unintentionally, this reveals a clash of syndromes. While Donald Trump is in a perpetual state of narcissistic mania along with the alt-right media that support him, for most Republican voters and politicians the normal condition is a glowering stew of indolent depressive torpor. 

These lengthy depressive phases are crippling. But far worse are the inevitable-recurring manic phases, when Republicans turn their suddenly frenetic eyes to war.

== It's off to War we go ==
While the actual President of the United States of America spouts purple threats that exactly mirror those of Kim Jong Un, we tend to forget that there's a much more plausible way that war may come. 

Any attack on North Korea will be so precipitate and escalate so quickly that the likely consequences should daunt even a narcissist-solipsist. Even if every single nuke and missile is taken out -- and remember the N-Koreans have been digging, like mad, for 60 years -- there are still something like 10,000 artillery tubes in sunken, reverse slope revetments aimed straight at Seoul.  With or without nukes, the entire city will be crushed or in flames, within minutes of any order from Pyongyang.
Now mind you, there is a potential upside here. China has chortled and enjoyed its position in all this for a long time, knowing that the U.S. can't do much about it. But When Trump makes noises just like Kim, the subtext is: "Hey, I'm just crazy enough to do this!"
No, this is not the conflict that "Trump wingman" Steve Bannon and his ilk have been itching for. Elsewhere I’ve described how an unholy alliance is conspiring together to push for a hot war between the U.S. and Iran

Consider history. Republican presidents always seek a foreign crisis to distract from domestic troubles. And boy, does Donald Trump need a big distraction. The Saudis - who co-own the GOP - want Tomahawks pouring into Persia, as do the less-smart folks in Israel. Steve Bannon and the American Dominionists view this as their beloved, biblically-ordained crisis. 

The Iranian Mullahs themselves would love such a limited "war," giving them an excuse to crush their own fast-rising, educated and moderate citizenry, while knowing that Russia will step in to prevent any real (as opposed to symbolic) damage from U.S. strikes. Of course the biggest winner would be Vladimir Putin; getting Iran as a Russian dependency has been a dream going back to the Czars. Oh, and the Saudis and Russians would get higher oil prices. A win-win-win-win for the anti-democratic cabal.

The search for pretexts is in full swing. The Trump administration is demanding access to Iran's military bases, which satellite and radiation and traffic surveillance show zero sign of being involved in Uranium enrichment. (Can anyone spell "nonexistent WMDs?")  No sovereign power will let a likely adversary onto its bases without strong cause. But all Trump needs, to satisfy his core supporters... and Vladimir... is the sound of a saber rattling. And the mullahs, wanting the same outcome, are sure to supply just enough insults to ensure the desired outcome around Christmas or a bit after -- several hundred Tomahawk missiles going pippety-poppety, with lots of flash and little real effect.  Except to raise oil prices and give Putin his chance to "protect" the Iranian people.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed this scenario. Read here how a combination of Trump Administration adults — Mattis, McMaster, Tillerson, Kelly and the Joint Chiefs have managed — so far — to thwart a U.S.-Iran conflict.

Notice that it is our senior military officers who are foremost in striving to prevent war. Ditzty-romantic lefties who rave obsolete warnings about the “military industrial complex” miss the point. That’s not where today's war profiteers reside. Boeing and Lockheed benefit by building and upgrading deterrents. They don't benefit much, or at all, when the machinery is actually used. Indeed, money flows away from investment in new systems to logistics and support of casualties. It's Bush-Cheney family logistics-companies like Haliburton, Bechtel and Blackwater who raked in billions from the Iraq Wars, via secret, no-bid “emergency” contracts. But even they know the American people have no stomach for another ground war.
The American left needs to get over their reflex loathing of crewcuts. The women and men of the Officer Corps may be our salvation, when Washington has been seized by cranky-confederate toddlers.

On a related topic: I am no fan of Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul, but his recent efforts to get Congress to rescind the 2001 and 2002 War Powers acts deserve praise.  Joining him were Virginia Democrat Tim Kaine and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who said it was "way past time" for a vote. (Note that Flake has been a top hate target of Donald Trump, lately.) 

Congress should never give the President such a blank check, to throw us into endless wars at the stroke of a pen. But the danger of reckless abuse is now far greater than ever, with that cranky toddler-in-chief in the Oval Office. Alas, the effort to rescind and replace this carte blanche license-to-attack-anybody in our name failed.

(To be clear: while this vote was not along party lines, blame clearly falls that way. Former President Barack Obama sent Congress a proposed a reduction in his own blanket war powers, in 2015, though neither the GOP controlled Senate nor the House voted on the measure.)

== Glancing back at Korea ==
In the Washington Post, David Von Drehle writes: “regardless of what foreign leaders may think about Trump and his reckless rhetoric, the United States has its own track record in the Asian Pacific. While North Korea has necrotized under the Chinese protectorate, South Korea has flourished beyond any reasonable expectation. The contrast between Eastern and Western influence is as stark at the 38th Parallel as it was at the Berlin Wall, and countries pursuing their own interests will have no trouble choosing sides.”
It’s a very cogent and perceptive piece that you should read.
== Reiterating the point ==
This excellent reporting explores the three former officers Trump calls "my generals" -- Mattis, Kelly and McMaster -- who by any measure are the adults in this administration. Yes, they were from the moderate right wing of the US Military Officer Corps, politically.  But every sign (e.g their erudition, education, science friendliness and fact-using careers) suggests that the USMOC is our best hope for sanity to kick in, when it's needed most.
There are moderate and even liberal wings to the USMOC, though I expect that few are Bernie Bros. No matter. That is where I've long said the Democrats should recruit.  Not just candidates for swing congressional districts, but as many as 5000 retired officers to run in every deep-red state assembly district.

 And you can do your part, by pondering... "do I know such a retired officer I can arm-twist into serving, yet again?"
== Always do the opposite == 
There’s zero science behind the administration’s effort to dump the higher gas mileage rules called CAFÉ standards. Even the auto industry’s opposition to CAFÉ is tepid. The standards save consumers tens of billions at the pump, cleaned the air, and propelled American cars to the highest levels of quality we’ve ever seen.  Today’s vehicles are packed with spectacular amenities and comforts, are more efficient and last many years longer (saving additional tens of billions for consumers.) There are no reasons to do this except…
Except the one that motivates Donald Trump above anything else, other than narcissism. And that is reversing anything done by Barack Obama. European leaders even made a game of it!  They found that they could sway DT in one direction or another, dependent on their answers to just one question: “Did Obama favor this?” They found that Trump’s reflex was perfect. Always do the opposite.
He has succeeded in one way.  According to Gallup's historical data, the 44th president's approval rating stood at 56 percent this week in Obama's first term, while just 37 percent disapproved—in other words, almost exactly Trump's approval ratings, but reversed.
==  Take on the cult ==
The Climate Denialism Cult is not only stupid and treasonous, it hasn't worked well. Solar power has grown by 100 fold in the last 13 years, Ramez Naam says. It’s averaged around 35 to 40 percent annual growth over the last 20 years. Wind was a footnote in the energy mix 10 years ago, he says. Today, it makes 6% of all electricity in the US. In the sunniest parts of the world, unsubsidized solar is becoming the cheapest form of energy. Lately a deal in Dubai was signed for 2.4 cents a kWh—less than half US natural gas prices and lower than natural gas in the Middle East or Africa. See what my friend and colleague Ramez has to say about this. 
Storage and batteries are still key to making all this work with resilience and reliability, and they are often pointed to as the sticking point. The sun doesn’t always shine, even in sunny places. And for less-than-sunny places and at night, batteries are the vital link, storing away sunlight for later use.
But batteries, Naam says, are also improving faster than you might expect. “Over a 15-year slice of time, the energy capacity of lithium-ion batteries tripled, and the energy cost per unit of energy you could store, dropped by a factor of 10,” he says. And there are a number of other more “exotic” battery technologies on the horizon.
(Side note: a “vaccine” against climate denialism?  No joke.)  
To be clear: 

(1) I do not diss climate SKEPTICS who challenge this or that part of the problem. My friend Freeman Dyson drew undeserved ire for poking at a number of studies and "premature conclusions" for technical or procedural or logical faults, as did Berkeley Prof. Richard Muller. I defended them, because science thrives on adversarial accountability. Despite Fox-slander that scientists are conformist lemmings, most are among the most competitive humans our species ever produced.  
What these genuine skeptics have done is carefully distinguish themselves from the denialist cult's insanity, saying many of the things that I recommend here. If YOU want to claim you are a genuine "skeptic" - not a cultist - then you need to read that piece and ask yourself some questions.
(2) Notably, genuine skeptics do not move their goalposts! Muller laid down a set of falsification tests that were clear and achievable.  Later, when those test goals were achieved, he proved his honesty by announcing: "Okay, I am now convinced that human-generated effluents are changing the climate in dangerous ways."
(3) Denialist Cultists do none of those things.  They see nothing hypocritical about spending one decade screaming "there's no warming! We're heading for an ice age! Glaciers are increasing!" Then the next jeering "there's been no net-overall warming since 1997!" using as their baseline the then-hottest year in human history. (Some of the worst are still spewing that outright, bald-faced lie, despite the fact that each of the last 5 years was hotter than all previous ones.)
Then it shifted to "All right, it's warming. But humans can't be causing it!" Only - despite efforts to sabotage satellites, fire scientists, slash research and ordeing NASA and NOAA to look away, counter-proof towered into a mountain, and so...

... and so now GOP senators are seriously pushing the line that human-generated Climate Change is real and huge... but a gooood thing! 

Often the same imbeciles and/or shills will bounce around among these varied incantation-riffs and back, in the same day. Occasionally the same speech. Now why would they do that?
Simple. They are not about the facts or science, they are about policy. Specifically, preventing science from affecting national policy. That is why Newt Gingrich banished the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). It's why Trump has appointed no science advisor and almost zeroed out the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)... and why Ryan and McConnell have their sights on the Congressional Budget Office. 
If facts are allowed to affect policy, then the interests of the GOP's owner-oligarchy will be threatened. And hence we understand the underlying reason for the Fox-Limbaugh-Jones-Breitbart campaign to turn the ire of ill-educated white males away from their class enemies and real oppressors, over to hating "smartypants." All the folks who know stuff. All of them. It worked when a million confederate white males marched to die for their oppression plantation lords. It seems to be working now.
But then:

 (4) they didn't count on real America fighting back. Along with the world, innovating and sending the price of sustainables plummeting. A little help from Clinton and Obama went a long way, giving solar, wind etc a momentum that's now unstoppable, offering real hope of saving the world... and now the Kochs' sunk costs in coal mines are vanishing, as if in smoke.

== The war on fact is a war on you ==
"In the battle between facts and fake news, facts are at a disadvantage. Researchers have found that facts alone rarely dislodge misperceptions, and in some cases even strengthen mistaken beliefs.” 

But there is hope. Research suggests that strategic inoculation with tools of critical thinking  could create a level of “herd immunity” and undercut the overall effects of fake news. When about 100 study participants were presented with the misinformation alone, their views did further polarize along political lines. But when another group of participants were first warned about a general strategy used in misinformation campaigns the polarizing effect of the misinformation was completely neutralized.
Read about the methods, because you — yes I mean you — are an important agent in this struggle to retain a scientific or at least rational civilization.

And be prepared to hold on tightly, as the Idiocrats try to foment war.
David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."

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