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Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies





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Which crisis will we face next?

David Brin


Contrary Brin


http://davidbrin.blogspot.ca/2017/03/which-crisis-will-we-face-next.html

March 29, 2017

All right, here is the danger I fear most right now. The heads of four world powers desperately fear democracy in their own nations. All four want to trigger war between the United States and Iran

A while back, I did a round-up regarding international affairs and their calamitous bungling, in recent weeks. But I left you with the impression that war with Iran might happen because of “stumbling,” as described here in The Atlantic. But in fact, things are far worse. It appears that a confluence of pivotal world leaders want  this to happen. 

Are these four nations all enemies of the U.S.? Heck no. One of them is an “ally” - Saudi Arabia. Another is best pals with our president - Russia’s Putin regime. The other two may shock you. They are the United States and Iran.
 
Both Donald Trump and the Iranian mullahs know that time is not on their side. Their people tire of them, daily. Hence, both of them try pumping up support through fear — of “terrorism” or “Satanic American meddling.” 

But eight years of almost-perfect safety, under Obama, has made paranoiac fear very hard to push, outside their fanatical base. Both Trump and the mullahs would benefit - domestically - from some kind of crisis — war, or a “Reichstag fire” — to reverse their slide.
 
The Saudi position is even simpler — and more shortsighted. They rightfully fear the rise of a Shia empire, arcing through Syria and Iraq and Iran to Bahrain and their own non-Sunni coast. But they believe rattling sabers and even hurling bombs will prevent this, even though such things have only strengthened the Ayatollahs, every single time. And in the event of a major conflict, the Persian regime will just cling for protection to their next door neighbor — nuclear armed Russia, sealing their nascent alliance.
 
Hence, of the four, the only one wanting an Iran-U.S. War for clever reasons is, of course, Vladimir Putin.  And well, we all know about his puppet strings to you-know-who.
 
Find all this implausible? Look at the foreign affairs team appointed by Trump, from Tillerson and Bannon on down. Every single one of them has called for confrontation with Iran, which would only undercut the democracy movements  among Tehran’s rising middle class. There are no exceptions. Every… single… one of Trump’s people have spoken glowingly of struggle with “Iran,” ignoring the fact that a majority of its people want to join the modern world.

Of course there is a final ingredient -- removing Iranian oil from world supply would instantly boost prices for... well, guess whom.
 
You can see this in the recent Travel Ban, which fiercely clamped on not just Iran (which - despite a lot of noise - has done us very little tangible harm, since 1980) but also our supposed best Shia ally — Iraq.  Moreover, there was word recently that the Trump Administration wanted to fire at an Iranian military skiff near Yemen, but was stopped by cooler heads. Only, what if the mullahs order more skiffs to charge ever closer? How long before we see some sort of Gulf of Tonkin incident, that serves the interest of both sets of rulers?

And no, forget this ramping up into something truly conflagration-level. Sure, Trump and Putin might like that, for their own reasons.  (Trump because he is a Republican, and Republicans like gaudy styles of war.

But that is where both the mullahs and the Saudi royals might balk. Certainly the Israelis, who know that Tehran already has a bomb. And they know where it's aimed.
 
== Which battle will Republicans choose? ==
 
A House committee voted on Tuesday to eliminate an independent election commission charged with helping states improve their voting systems as President Donald Trump erroneously claims widespread voter fraud cost him the popular vote. Let's be clear on this.  The EAC is the only force currently thwarting efforts to rig every voting machine in red states. (Blue states nearly all have paper ballot receipts that can be audited, limiting cheating.) 

There is no other conceivable reason to eliminate a voting-fraud-preventing agency that costs next to nothing, in a year when everyone is screaming about "voter fraud." The reason is simple.  The GOP intends to do even more election fraud.  It is a matter of survival.
 
Meanwhile, the president endorsed civil asset forfeiture, which lets police seize even innocent people’s property.  Hey libertarians!  Add this to the one hundredways that Republicans are vastly, vastly worse than democrats for freedom. And any libertarian who chooses the GOP as his "hold my nose" choice or lesser of two weevils, is an utter dunce and traitor to Adam Smith.

== AH, hate Obamacare much? ==
 
"For seven years, opponents of the Affordable Care Act vowed to make its repeal their top concern, warning that the law would turn America overnight into a socialist dystopia. Now these opponents have unfettered control of the government and they aren’t even talking about repealing," reports Dana Millbank in The Washington Post

Seriously? Seven years railing it was work of satan. (In fact Obama crafted it after Romney-care/Heritage Care and the GOP's own platform, hoping they'd react with gratitude.) Seven years screeching and demanding immediate cancelation and replacement. Seven years they could have offered an alternative! Seven years you dopes have swallowed this koolaid...
 
... and now the max they are talking about is (1) tweaking a few fixes the dems were eager to negotiate, and (2) changing a lot of the names of things! Renaming the program and its parts. And you dopes will swallow that. You'll swallow anything you're told.
 
BTW... see here why GOPpers actually think that names matter more than substance.

== Disturbing Miscellany ==
 
Hayley Miller reports that despite the Trump administration’s renewed focus onfossil fuels, a new Pew poll says two-thirds of Americans favor a path to a renewable energy future. Writing from Hong Kong, Li Jing reports that Chinese officials say they are prepared “to take a leadership role” in defending the Paris climate accord no matter what the new Trump administration decides to do.  
 
Combat readiness — I've long pointed out that it plummeted for the US military under both Bushes and raised up to almost 100% under Clinton and Obama. One member of this blog community reported: "There are elaborate systems that track readiness: SORTS and DRRS.  When I was reporting for my unit, it was on a classified system, and we would evaluate our ability to conduct our mission vs our 'Designed Operational Capability (DOC) statement'...usually we had minimum number of qualified and current personnel and mission capable equipment.  If we were good to go, we were "C1" if not, we might be marginal or some degradation "C2", but always tried to avoid not mission capable "C3" or worse C4."

 Definitions: Department of Defense Readiness Reporting System (DRRS), improved upon by Status of Resources and Training System (SORTS).
 
Candidate Donald Trump was a big fan of leaks, especially when they targeted Hillary Clinton and reports of her deleted emails.  "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said last July in Florida. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."  

Now in the White House less than a month, President Trump is far less enthusiastic about leaks in general, and those involving Russia in particular.
 
Is Ohio Governor John Kasich gearing up for a primary run against Donald Trump in 2020, as this article suggests?  Or is something more immediate and bold afoot?  Someone report here if you notice Kasich meeting with McCain, Murkowski, Portman, Collins, Graham and others.  It’s too soon. But something bigger may be back-burner simmering.
 
Evan McMullen tried, hard, to help the folk of Utah to spurn the recent collapse of American conservatism. Had they listened, they might have escaped direct, shared responsibility for this calamity, instead of lining up with the most opposite-to-Jesus set of leaders America has ever seen. Well, McMullen and his minority of followers continue to stand up. They might seed a new American conservatism – an adult kind – to rise from the coming ashes.
Trump makes false statements about U.S. murder rate to sheriffs’ group. The president claimed the country’s murder rate is the highest it’s been in 45 to 47 years. But the rate actually is almost at its lowest point, according to the FBI.  You who are complicit and making excuses for this.  You are flirting with madness and riding a rabid tiger.
 
Meanwhile (same day) -- Open-carry advocates walked into a police station with a loaded rifle. Officers were not amused. Seriously, after declaring open war on the US Military and Intelligence officer corps, now the alt-right is doing everything in its power to bully police.  Seriously? You had those conservative-by-personality clades safely republican, some years ago.  Now the cops & spooks and generals are fleeing, like every single other knowledge and fact-based profession.
 
‘“I’m a Leninist,” Bannon proudly proclaimed.’  So goes the anecdote told by Ronald Radosh on The Daily Beast, about President Donald Trump’s Rasputin. ‘“Lenin,” he answered, “wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Bannon was employing Lenin’s strategy for Tea Party populist goals. He included in that group the Republican and Democratic Parties, as well as the traditional conservative press.’
 
== North vs South ==
 
Having a blog community can be handy.  One of my commenters (and I have the best)  went and appraised how many cabinet members recent presidents have chosen from states on which side of the Civil War.
 
For comparison:
Obama's initial cabinet:      3 Westerners, 1 Confederate, 10 Unionists.
G.W. Bush's initial cabinet: 1 Westerner, 5 Confederate, 9 Unionists.
Clinton's initial cabinet:       2 Westerners, 6 Confederates, 6 Unionists.
Bush the Elder's cabinet:   3 Westerners, 4 Confederates, 7 Unionists.
Reagan's initial cabinet:    2 Westerners, 1 Confederate, 10 Unionists.
Carter's initial cabinet:      2 Westerners, 4 Confederates, 7 Unionists.
(skipping Ford as he inherited the cabinet of:)
Nixon's initial cabinet:      3 Westerners, 1 Confederate, 8 Unionists.
 
Reagan’s was the most tilted in favor of the Union, followed by Obama. 

Trump’s is by-far the most tilted toward former Confederate states.
 
See Trump’s cabinet, with C for confederate state, U for union state, W for western state (not admitted in 1865):
 
C: TX (SecState)
U: NY (SecTreas)
W: WA (SecDef)
C: AL (AttyGen)
W: MT (SecInt)
C: GA (SecAg)
C: FL (SecComm)
C: TN (SecLabor)
C: GA (SecHHS)
C: FL (SecHUD)
C: KY (SecTrans)
C: TX (SecEnergy)
U: MI (SecEd)
U: PA (SecVA)
U: MA (SecHS)
 
3 Westerners (states not admitted during the War)
4 Union
9 Confederate States
 
2016 estimates (Census Bureau):
Current population of today’s Confederacy: 113 million
Current population of the West: 33.5 million
Current population of the Union: 177 million
Total population of the United States: 323.5 million
 
Probability that a randomly chosen Cabinet member would be from:
* the Union: (177/323.5) = 54.7%
* the Confederacy: (113/323.5) = 34.9%
* the West: (33.5/323.5) = 10.3%
 
Probability that a randomly chosen Cabinet would contain:
4 or fewer Union denizens: CDF(binomial, 15, 0.547, 4) = 2.7%
9 or more Confederate denizens: 1 - CDF(binomial, 15, 0.349, 9) = 1.2%
 
Conclusion: There is a statistically significant bias against the Union and in favor of the Confederacy in choices for Cabinet members. 
 
Of course there are quibbles.  Indiana long ago stopped being for the Union and Virginia is ditching Dixie. Many Western states are confederate hotbeds.  Still….

== Ask... Demand ... they define when America was Great! ==
 
The struggle for our civilization will be a long and complicated one, especially as our greatest weapons – facts – have been undermined with clever - though ancient - appeals to tribalism. It appears we shall have to slog through refutation after refutation. 
 
Ironically, you can refute the current “everybody knows that” poisons with even stronger things that “everybody knows.”
 
Take the nostrum: “Make America Great Again.” I do not recall even a single Democratic pol, or sage pundit, or reporter ever asking – even once – “WHEN was America’s iconic moment of greatness?”
 
Of course one reflexive answer is obvious – the halcyon 1950s of “Happy Days.” Only notice that it’s never actually said, in order to avoid the unfavorable comparisons that I make here:  Was 1957 America Better Than Today?  
 
In fact, you get nowhere by denigrating the 1950s.  

What’s vastly more effective is to lead these nostalgic folks out onto a limb, getting them to express admiration for the “Greatest Generation” that endured a depression, crushed Hitler, contained Stalinism, went to the Moon, spanned the continent with infrastructure and universities, and built a market economy so strong and rich that we could then afford to take on a myriad old sins, like poverty, racism, sexism and planetary neglect.
 
Do the Greatest Generationers deserve our gratitude and respect? Sure! Might they have been better and greater than their boomer children? Well, sure… maybe… though that insults them as having been poor parents.  Still, yes, those men and women of the Greatest Generation truly were great! 
 
Only, didn’t they achieve all those mighty things at high tax rates on the rich? And with fierce regulation of banks and monopolies?
 
Weren’t all those mighty accomplishments of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s achieved with strong labor unions? With intense national respect for teachers and scientists? Wasn’t that when the most trusted American was a journalist (Edward R. Murrow, followed by Walter Cronkite), the most admired was a scientist (Jonas Salk), and the most beloved – by far – was Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
 
Given that not a single promise ever made by Supply Side Economics ever once came true, is the prescription for making America Great again truly to reverse every single thing that the Greatest generation did and believed in? 
 
Hey, just askin’
 
 == Wrapping up...==
 
Okay, some tactics should be beneath us. Still, one can get a chuckle out of this site that will connect you by phone to some Trump business venture, around the world, so you can do what foreign leaders and oligarchs already can do… talk policy through the back door of DT’s businesses.  
 
According to a classified FBI counterterrorism policy guide obtained by The Intercept, “white supremacists and other domestic extremists” have been joining law enforcement agencies across the United States.
 
Counter-factual drivel abounds: "Unlike his predecessors, Trump is serious about winning. To do so, he is even willing to take the radical step of accepting Israel as an ally." See where I long ago discussed how Republicans and Democrats wage war.
 
The Turkish Parliament passed constitutional amendments last weekend that could allow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to amass unprecedented power. 
 
“Let me tell you what is coming. After the sacrifice of countless millions of treasure and hundreds of thousands of lives, you may win Southern independence if God be not against you, but I doubt it. I tell you that, while I believe with you in the doctrine of states rights, the North is determined to preserve this Union. They are not a fiery, impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates. But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche; and what I fear is, they will overwhelm the South." 
 
-- Sam Houston, denouncing the Texas convention’s decision to secede, in 1861.

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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