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The Joy of Being a Nerd: What Real Genius Reminds Us About Geek Culture

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Real Genius, 1985

It’s interesting to me that Revenge of the Nerds, while still full up of the nostalgia that the 80s lends us, is lately being repositioned in the zeitgeist. What was viewed for many years as a bit of harmless fun that waved the banner for nerds everywhere is finally being called out for exactly what it is; an Us vs Them revenge fest that never lets go of racism or misogyny, and damages the image of geek culture more than it applauds for it. That shouldn’t be surprising—RotN was always just a frat house comedy with a thin nerdy gloss applied to it. And that’s fine with me, because that was never my go-to movie for feeling the geeky solidarity.

No, my friends. That movie was Real Genius.

Real Genius was loosely (very very very loosely) inspired by actual events that took place when university students were working to crack laser technology. But in Real Genius, this is being done on the fictional Pacific Tech campus, where the students are unknowingly creating that laser for the CIA to use in government sanctioned hits from space. They don’t know this because their odious professor, Dr. Hathaway (played to a tee by William Atherton), obviously isn’t letting them in on the secret. He’s too busy skimming off the funds that the government is providing to the project, so he can renovate his house.

Real Genius, Mitch Taylor

Our protagonist is fifteen-year-old Mitch Taylor (Gabriel Jarrett), who is accepted early to Pacific Tech because, well, he’s a genius. He’s assigned to the laser project, working with his new roommate Chris Knight (Val Kilmer), a senior at the school who appears to have given up on taking college all that seriously. So… burnt out upper classman plus eager-to-please, impressionable freshman? We’re already set up for some prime Odd Couple shenanigans. We’re introduced to a guy named Kent and his cronies, who are also working on the laser project. Unlike Chris, Kent is the ultimate sycophant and only too happy to throw other students under the bus provided he gets to be top dog. So now we have a rivalry. Mitch meets a lot of strange people at Pacific Tech, one of them being Jordan, one of the campus’ few women who happens to size Mitch up and make him a sweater the day after meeting him, which she excitedly presents to him in men’s room while he’s peeing. So now we have a love story.

And… that’s pretty much where the comparisons to most college flicks and Real Genius ends. Because the film is about a lot more than that, for all it is a very 80s campus comedy. For one, the movie is better at portraying geeks in ways that don’t just melt down to old tropes of pocket protectors and bow ties and awkwardness. It communicates that having an outrageous IQ can be isolating, but doesn’t make all smart people out to be socially undeveloped shut-ins. It also shows us how being driven toward answers can blind even the most optimistic, well-meaning folks into making terrible mistakes. And it communicates what it’s like to study for finals more realistically than any film I’ve ever seen, which is an accomplishment and a half.

Real Genius, Chris Knight, Val Kilmer

No really, there’s a scene where everyone is gathered around a communal table to cram for the exam, and one guy just gets up and starts screaming at everyone before running from the building. Everyone else is unresponsive and some other dude sitting on the room’s perimeter moves into his vacated seat without comment. That’s basically the experience distilled into its purest form.

Also, did I mention that it ends on a Tears For Fears song? Because that should be enough to recommend it right there.

Real Genius, 1985

Another great thing about this film is how it doesn’t couch itself in the “nerd versus jock” dynamic. It’s a boring cliche that rarely bothers to examine the realities of persecution due to differences. Instead, it herds people into group stereotypes and activity negates character complexity. Real Genius knows this, and most of the rivalry here is geek-on-geek. We watch the very real dynamic of people in the same social circle trying to one-up each other to gain status, stroke their own egos, or flat out cause trouble for fun. When we reach the “party with hot girls” part of the film that so many college movies unthinkingly provide, the narrative beelines away from any form of non-consensual action; the party is full of student beauticians who are keen to meet some boys, and when the guys from Pacific Tech balk at having to talk to them, Chris Knight points out that they might try using their brains to impress them. The most uncomfortable person at the party is not any of the female attendants, but Mitch… understandable because he’s fifteen and this is probably the highest concentration of bikinis he’s ever witnessed. He finally starts having fun when he realizes that Jordan is there, testing scuba equipment in the pool.

The virtually opposing approaches to life that Mitch and Chris represent is the focal point of the tale, the paragon of straight-laced nerd-dom juxtaposed with the free-wheeling, frenetic creativity that Knight gears his mind toward. Mitch is distraught by the fact that a student he’d previously idolized appears to be nothing more than another party-hard slacker who doesn’t seem to care one bit about their work they’re doing. It’s not until later that he finds out this attitude is new; Chris was once just like Mitch, but he relaxed into this new mindset when he followed a man into their dorm room closet. (I swear that’s not a metaphor.) That man—Lazlo Hollyfeld—was a big shot student at Pacific Tech in the decade previous, who went a little out of his mind when he found out that his inventions were being used to harm others. Seeing this, Chris realized that spending his life focused on work for work’s sake was a mistake.

Real Genius, Dr. Hathaway, William Atherton

Unfortunately, Knight’s new groove is making it harder for Dr. Hathaway to meet his laser deadline, so the professor decides to spitefully ruin Chris’ life—giving Kent the post-school job he was already promised and flunking him out of the Pacific Tech program, preventing him from graduating. With a little pep talk from Mitch, Chris throws himself back into their project and makes real headway on the laser just to prove Hathaway wrong. It’s only after they deliver it to Hathaway that Lazlo leaves the steam tunnels below their closet and points out that what they created was likely intended for a very specific purpose—to kill people. From space. From that point on, the crew is on the clock to ruin the laser’s presentation for the military and CIA and to get even with Dr. Hathaway for using them. (Also to prank Kent because he kind of deserves it for being a lapdog and generally horrible to Mitch just because the kid is younger and smarter than he is.)

The film makes it a mission to prove that what geeks and geniuses are best at isn’t memorizing math formulas and elements off the periodic table; it’s their ability to be creative and in doing so, change the world around us. The students do get even with Dr. Hathaway, but they do it in an inspired way that essentially harms no one except him—they redirect the laser so it goes off at his home, where they’ve situated a giant ball of unpopped popcorn. Ka-blooey. Essentially, they destroy the thing that Hathaway was siphoning money off of the laser program to gain, his fancy house. It makes the project seem like a bust, effectively ruins Hathaway, and punishes him for being dishonest. As revenge schemes go, it’s a remarkably fair-minded one that’s fun to boot. And it’s not about proving their superiority over another group, but instead about taking back control over what they’ve created.

Real Genius, popcorn house

The film doesn’t showcase as many women as we might hope for (and the Pacific Tech campus is also blindingly white overall, though Chris’ friend Ikagami is present and happily avoids most of your average Asian stereotypes aside from smartness), but the way it treats the majority of those women is impressive, particularly for this era in filmmaking… no doubt largely due to the movie’s female director, Martha Coolidge. There are few instances of pure objectification just for the sake of it in Real Genius; even though the co-ed party shows plenty of girls in swimsuits, the shots that reveal them are often at a distance, never lingering. While Knight is blunt in his sexual overtures to women, the ones he encounters are more than capable of tackling his advances and throwing them back in his face when he’s not up to snuff. His directness gives him no power, which is extremely important because it indicates that not every woman is automatically going to swoon over that kind of come-on. (Which, in turn, suggests that women are real, unique individuals with different preferences.) And when they aren’t interested, Chris is never entitled or angry about it—he simply moves on.

I really can’t talk about women in this film without focusing up on Jordan Cochran. While she does occupy a typically female place in the plot (Mitch’s love interest), her portrayal by Michelle Meyrink is nothing short of revelatory when it comes to broadening the variety of women that we should expect in fiction. To start, Jordan is not a conventionally attractive girl, certainly not in a California/feature film sense. She has a weird haircut and a child-like cadence to her voice, and she’s not particularly fashionable. It’s also entirely possible for this character to read somewhere on the autistic spectrum, though by way of a Hollywoodified lens; she is uncertain of common boundaries (visiting Mitch in the bathroom and being perturbed by his inability to pee in front of her), she has severe insomnia (it’s suggested that she drove her roommate to a nervous breakdown by never ever sleeping), she misunderstands the social cues of others (she frequently assumes the ends of Mitch’s sentences incorrectly), and her idea of what constitutes an everyday activity would hardly pass for your average citizen (Mitch finds her sanding her dorm room floor late one night and she uses the beautician party as an excuse to test a rebreather she designed herself). It’s not the fact that she might be on the spectrum itself that’s remarkable, but the fact that the film never suggests that Jordan should be viewed differently because of it. It doesn’t make her “special” in a manic pixie dream way, but it doesn’t make her pitiable either. She’s simply who she is, and that person is still portrayed as desirable and engaging and brilliant.

Real Genius, Jordan Cochran

It helps that she’s very much her own kind of genius. Jordan makes most of her own equipment, clearly comfortable with a variety of tools and practical materials. She isn’t involved in the laser project whatsoever—in fact, we’re never told what Jordan is at Pacific Tech to do aside from being some sort of eclectic savant who cares about sled velocity on ice and the smoothness of her floors. She comes off as a kind of mad scientist, probably the sort of person to invent a few hundred incredibly useful patents throughout the course of her life and hopefully retire rich with a giant lab/workshop in her basement where she can create gorgeous metalwork in peace. Prior to Real Genius, Meyrink appeared in Revenge of the Nerds as one of the members of Omega Mu, the nerd girl sorority. In that movie, she and her Greek sisters were figures to be laughed at. Here, she is an odd force to be reckoned with. There is simply no comparison; one of these characters is inspirational to young women, and the other is decidedly not. In the end, Jordan’s status as Mitch’s girlfriend has very little to do with her place in the story (outside of letting her meet these characters and form friendships with them), an effective 180 from her position as Gilbert’s love interest in Revenge of the Nerds. Jordan is a heroic character in Real Genius, whereas Judy is largely a trophy for the (male) hero in RotN.

What’s also impressive about Real Genius is that it allows its focal character, Mitch Taylor, to be as young as he is, with all the embarrassment and strangeness that being fifteen entails. Mitch calls his parents crying because college isn’t working out the way he’d prefer, and he begs to come home. Mitch is cornered alone by an older, more experienced woman who clearly wants to teach him “the ways of the world,” but he runs from the scenario, owning up to his discomfort and knowing that he’d rather be with Jordan.  The film never makes fun of Mitch for being less advanced than his peers or a perceived “square,” never sniggers at him for being the straight-laced one who cares about his work. It’s never suggested that he should simply play along, act older, learn to enjoy things that don’t interest him. Chris Knight has to convince him to loosen up by presenting real, hard data on why sticking too hard to the work might hurt him in the long run. And even then, Mitch doesn’t become a mini version of his mentor—he simply takes Knight’s advice to heart and figures out what his own version of relaxed is.

Real Genius, Mitch Taylor, Chris Knight

Rather than placing geeks on someone else’s playground, forcing them into an opposing socially-constructed box and proving that they can “play the game” better than everyone else by virtue of being smarter, Real Genius shows that nerds have their own games. They don’t need to run faster or get more pledges or give themselves makeovers to have fun and prove their worth. Mitch wakes up to a hall full of ice one morning; Ikagami has somehow created a gas that turns into the slippery stuff, and then back into a gas after a few hours. Chris hails the accomplishment as “Pacific Tech’s: Smart People on Ice!” The walls of the dorms are covered in strange graffiti, people shuffle back and forth between common areas and rooms in their weird-looking pajamas and towels. Knight has appointed himself as the dorm resident in charge of fun, trying to get people away from their books with “Mutant Hamster Races” and “Madame Curie Lookalike Contests.” In short, it’s like any other college campus, complete with overworked students. Nerds are not a rare and exotic breed of people, but they do make some awesome stuff, and that’s why they make for good movie plots.

It also helps that Real Genius might be one of the most quotable films on the planet. Even Joss Whedon would cry at how snappy the dialogue is, which is recommendation enough over most college movies where dialogue can be horrifically contrived. Chris Knight is the primary conduit of said snappiness, and you have to wonder how many of Kilmer’s lines are ad-libbed, because it seems like it might be a lot of them. It’s encouraging to have a character who at the start appears to be such a parody of himself—the super-smart-guy-who-can-also-be-a-jerk-because-he’s-good-looking-and-snarky—turn out to be a genuinely decent person who cares about people. And he proves that by changing his tactics with others; when he realizes that Mitch is not responding to devil-may-care antics, he quits the act and explains his reasons for exhibiting rather extreme senioritis. It comes clear very quickly that his primary reason for asking Dr. Hathaway to make Mitch his roommate is to make certain that Mitch doesn’t make his (or Lazlo’s) mistakes. Without realizing that they’re already being lured into the same gambit that snagged Lazlo years ago, Chris is already trying to provide Mitch with the tools he needs to avoid the scenario. He may be a cynic, as he says, but he’s inciting campus rowdiness to protect everyone’s health and expand their horizons, not to encourage them to blow their educations.

Real Genius, Chris Knight, why do I bother gif

In that way, Real Genius occupies an interesting middle ground in how it portrays education for a film that’s all about brainy, bookish people. It’s not suggesting that going to college should be one long non-stop alcohol-fueled party haze, but it’s also not suggesting that what you learn at a higher education facility is the only valuable knowledge you will ever absorb. Life experience is shown to be equally (or even more) valuable. And while it can be easier to retreat into books when you’re a certain kind of person, the tale cautions that it’s important to stay aware of the world around you–otherwise you might miss when you’re being taken advantage of. For a film that’s already 30 years old, the wisdom it displays is universal; value your emotional development as much as your intellectual development; use your abilities to improve the world; question authority; definitely don’t make dangerous weapons for your college professors.

So you can keep Revenge of the Nerds, if that’s your thing, and all the other films of its ilk. They do a fairly poor job of committing the experience of social outsiders to memory. For a film that offers a chance to laugh with people rather than at them, to appreciate what college truly teaches most of us, to embrace what’s really fun about being an unabashed geek, I’d recommend Real Genius every single time.

Gif from Panda Whale.

Emily Asher-Perrin was thinking of the immortal words of Socrates, who said: “…I drank what?” You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

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Universal Basic Income Accelerates Innovation by Reducing Our Fear of Failure

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By Scott Santens

Almost two centuries ago an idea was born with such explanatory power that it created shock waves across all of human society and whose aftershocks we’re still feeling to this day. It’s so simple and yet so powerful, that after all these years, it remains capable of making people question their very faith.

The idea of which I speak is that through random mutation and natural selection, every living thing around us was created through millions and even billions of years of what is effectively trial and error, not designed by some intelligent creator. It is the process of evolution through natural selection.

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It’s almost impossible for many people to accept that everything around us, including our own lives, could ever be the result of trial and error, but that’s what the scientific method has revealed. Mutations happen. Some of them work better than others depending on the environment. A longer beak here and a longer neck there can be the difference between life and death. Successful mutations are passed on. Iterations continue generation after generation. Discovering this process of evolution was one of the great accomplishments of our species. It’s also possibly the most powerful reason to support another world-changing idea — an unconditional basic income.

Let me explain.

Markets as Environments

Our economy is a complex adaptive system. Much like how nature works, markets work. No one central planner is deciding what natural resources to mine, what to make with them, how much to make, where to ship everything to, who to give it to, etc. These decisions are the result of a massively decentralized widely distributed system called “the market,” and it’s all made possible with a tool we call “money” being exchanged between those who want something (demand) and those who provide that something (supply).

Money is more than a decentralized tool of calculation however. It’s also like energy. It powers the entire process like the eating of food powers our own bodies and the sun powers plants. Without food, we starve, and without money, markets starve. A sufficient amount of money for all market participants is absolutely key to the market system for it to work properly.

If you’ve ever played Monopoly this should be apparent. The game would not work if all players started the game with nothing. Some wouldn’t even make it once around the board. Additionally, if no one received $200 for then passing Go, the game would end a lot sooner. Ultimately the game always grinds to a halt once everyone but one person is all out of money, which is inevitable. No money, no purchases, no market, no game. Game over.

Supply and Demand as Trial and Error

With sufficient money however, markets adapt and evolve based on trial and error. Someone thinks of something to create or do. If people like it, it does well. If people don’t like it, it goes away. What does well is modified. If people like the modified version, it does well. If they don’t, it goes away. If they like it enough, the original version goes away. Survival of the fittest we call it. This is the evolution of goods and services, which runs on supply and demand, which both in turn run on money and one other thing — the willingness to take risks.

Risks as Genetic Mutation

Taking risks is equivalent to random genetic mutation in this biological analogy. A new product or service introduced into the market can result in success or failure. The outcome is entirely unknown until it’s tried. What succeeds can make someone rich and what fails can bankrupt someone. That’s a big risk. We traditionally like to think of these risk-takers as a special kind of person, but really they’re mostly just those who are economically secure enough to feel failure isn’t scarier than the potential for success.

As a prime example, Elon Musk is one of today’s most well-known and highly successful risk takers. Back in his college years he challenged himself to live on $1 a day for a month. Why did he do that? He figured that if he could successfully survive with very little money, he could survive any failure. With that knowledge gained, the risk of failure in his mind was reduced enough to not prevent him from risking everything to succeed.

This isn’t just anecdotal evidence either. Studies have shown that the very existence of food stamps — just knowing they are there as an option in case of failure — increases rates of entrepreneurship. A study of a reform to the French unemployment insurance system that allowed workers to remain eligible for benefits if they started a business found that the reform resulted in more entrepreneurs starting their own businesses. In Canada, a reform was made to their maternity leave policy, where new mothers were guaranteed a job after a year of leave. A study of the results of this policy change showed a 35% increase in entrepreneurship due to women basically asking themselves, “What have I got to lose? If I fail, I’m guaranteed my paycheck back anyway.”

Meanwhile, entrepreneurship is currently on a downward trend. Businesses that were less than five years old used to comprise half of all businesses three decades ago. Now they comprise about one-third. Businesses are also closing their doors faster than new businesses are opening them. Until recently, this had never previously been true here in the US for as long as such data had been recorded. Startup rates are falling. Why? Risk aversion due to rising insecurity.

Growing Insecurity

For decades now our economy has been going through some very significant changes thanks to advancements in technology, and we have simultaneously been actively eroding the institutions that pooled risk like trade unions and our public safety net. Incomes adjusted for inflation have not budged for decades, and the jobs providing those incomes have gone from secure careers to insecure jobs, part-time and contract work, and now recently even gig labor in the sharing economy.

Decreasing economic security means a population decreasingly likely to take risks. Looking at it this way, of course startups have been on the decline. How can you take the leap of faith required for a startup when you’re more and more worried about just being able to pay the rent?

None of this should be surprising. The entire insurance industry exists to reduce risk. When someone is able to insure something, they are more willing to take risks. Would there be as many restaurants if there was no insurance in case of fire? Of course not. The corporation itself exists to reduce personal risk. Entrepreneurship and risk are inextricably linked.Reducing risk aversion is paramount to innovation.

Failure as Evolution

So the question becomes, how do we reduce the risks of failure so that more people take more risks? Better yet, how do we increase the rate of failure? It may sound counter-intuitive, but failure is not something to avoid. It’s only through failure that we learn what doesn’t work and what might work instead. This is basically the scientific method in a nutshell. It’s designed to rule out what isn’t true, not to determine what is true. There is a very important difference between the two.

This is also how evolution works, through failure after failure. Nature isn’t determining the winner. Nature is simply determining all the losers, and those who don’t lose, win the game of evolution by default. So, the higher the rate of mutation, the more mutations can fail or not fail, and therefore the quicker an organism can adapt to a changing environment. In the same way, the higher the rate of failure in a market economy, the quicker the economy can evolve.

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There’s also something else very important to understand about failure and success. One success can outweigh 100,000 failures. Venture capitalist Paul Graham of Y Combinator has described this as Black Swan Farming. When it comes to truly transformative ideas, they aren’t obviously great ideas, or else they’d already be more than just an idea, and when it comes to taking a risk on investing in a startup, the question is not so much if it will succeed, but if it will succeed BIG. What’s so interesting is that the biggest ideas tend to be seen as the least likely to succeed.

Now translate that to people themselves. What if the people most likely to massively change the world for the better, the Einsteins so to speak — the Black Swans, are oftentimes those least likely to be seen as deserving social investment? In that case, the smart approach would be to cast an extremely large net of social investment, in full recognition that even at such great cost, the ROI from the innovation of the Black Swans would far surpass the cost.

This happens to be exactly what Buckminster Fuller was thinking when he said, “We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest.” That is a fact, and it then begs the question, “How do we make sure we invest in every single one of those people such that all of society maximizes its collective ROI?”

What if our insistence on making people earn their living is preventing those one in ten thousand from making incredible achievements that would benefit all the rest of us in ways we can’t even imagine? What if our fears of each other being fully free to pursue whatever most interests us, including nothing, is an obstacle to an explosion of entrepreneurship and truly huge innovations the likes of which have never been seen?

Fear as Death

What it all comes down to is fear. FDR was absolutely right when he said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Fear prevents risk-taking, which prevents failure, which prevents innovation. If the great fears are of hunger and homelessness, and they prevent many people from taking risks who would otherwise take risks, then the answer is to simply take hunger and homelessness off the table. Don’t just hope some people are unafraid enough. Eliminate what people fear so they are no longer afraid.

If everyone received as an absolute minimum, a sufficient amount of money each month to cover their basic needs for that month no matter what — an unconditional basic income — then the fear of hunger and homelessness is eliminated. It’s gone. And with it, the risks of failure considered too steep to take a chance on something.

But the effects of basic income don’t stop with a reduction of risk. Basic income is also basic capital. It enables more people to actually afford to create a new product or service instead of just think about it, and even better, it enables people to be the consumers who purchase those new products and services, and in so doing decide what succeeds and what fails through an even more widely distributed and further decentralized free market system.

Such market effects have even been observed in universal basic income experiments in Namibia and India where local markets flourished thanks to a tripling of entrepreneurs and the enabling of everyone to be a consumer with a minimum amount of buying power.

Basic income would even help power the sharing economy. For example, imagine how much an unconditional monthly income would enable people within the Open Source Software (OSS) and free software movements (FSM) to do the unpaid work that is essentially the foundation of the internet itself.

Markets as Democracies

Markets work best when everyone can vote with their dollars, and have enough dollars to vote for products and services. The iPhone exists today not simply because Steve Jobs had the resources to make it into reality. The iPhone exists to this day because millions of people have voted on it with their dollars. Had they not had those dollars, we would not have the iPhone, or really anything else for that matter. Voting matters. Dollars matter.

Evolution teaches us that failure is important in order to reveal what doesn’t fail through the unfathomably powerful process of trial and error. We should apply this to the way we self-organize our societies and leverage the potential for universal basic income to dramatically reduce the fear of failure, and in so doing, increase the amount of risks taken to accelerate innovation to new heights.

Failure is not an option. Failure is the goal. And fear of failure is the enemy.

It’s time we evolve.

Originally published at Scott Santen’s Medium blog here.

2017 February 12

The post Universal Basic Income Accelerates Innovation by Reducing Our Fear of Failure appeared first on Evonomics.

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Some notes on the worst-case scenario

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Confession time: I'm an optimist, especially about the ideas of social progress that emerged in Europe at the end of the middle ages and became mainstream in western politics in the early 20th century. I called the outcome of the Brexit referendum wrong (by underestimating the number of racist bigots and Little Englanders in the UK population: Brexit is a proxy for English nationalism, which is absolutely not the same as British nationalism), and I called the US presidential election wrong (underestimating the extent of gerrymandering and micro-targeted black propaganda driven by data mining in the campaign).

Since January 20th we've seen a degree and type of activity emanating from the new US administration that is markedly different from anything in my politically aware lifetime (loosely: since Reagan). Blanket bans on entry to the USA by anyone associated with certain nationalities, mass firings at the State Department, a president railing against a "so-called judge", the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff being booted off the National Security Council and replaced by a white nationalist ideologue, and a former CEO of Exxon in the Cabinet: what's going on?

Let me pull on my pessimist's hat and advance the most scary hypothesis I can imagine that explains the current situation.

Please note that the following scenario assumes that what we are witnessing is deliberate and planned and that the people in Trump's inner circle actually have a coherent objective they are working towards. (I desperately hope that I'm wrong on all counts.)

Here's the thing: we are looking at an administration that is very clearly being operated on behalf of carbon extraction industries. Trump's cabinet picks are almost all climate change deniers. While there are some questionable exceptions--Tillerson has apparently conceded some human link with climate change--even those who are "soft" on climate change existing at all stand to benefit from interests in the coal and oil industries.

There is a huge asset bubble tied up in uncombustable fossil fuels--the carbon bubble. In addition, there is a base of approximately $70Tn ($70,000 billion--let that sink in for a moment) of installed infrastructure for processing fossil fuels and petrochemicals (with plastic and composite manufacturing being relatively small compared to packaging, shipping, and burning the stuff for energy).

Meanwhile, rival power industries are coming on stream rapidly. Solar power and electric cars could halt growth in fossil fuel demand as soon as 2020. The cost of solar has fallen by 85% in the past 7 years: by 2035 electric vehicles could make up 35% of the road transport fleet, and two-thirds by 2050. These estimates are conservative, based on the assumption that breakthrough technologies will not emerge to permit photovoltaic cells and battery capacities vastly better (or cheaper) than today.

It follows logically that if you have heavily invested in fossil fuels, time is running out to realize a return on your investment. Buying a US administration tailored to maximize ROI while fighting a rear-guard action against action on climate change and roll-out of a new, rival energy infrastructure is therefore rational (in business terms).

Russia and the Putin angle is best understood as part of this; oil and gas exports accounted for 68% of Russia's export revenues in 2013. The possibility that Trump is personally heavily invested in Rosneft via shell proxies while being at loggerheads with Merkel might be an inversion of the normal state of affairs in international relations for the past 70 years but is entirely consistent with the big money picture: Germany is trying to push (heavily) for renewable power (as well as generally being welcoming to refugees--see below).

It isn't possible for a US administration to make a ban on solar power and electric vehicles to stick globally. By its nature, solar will work well in equatorial regions, and these are where economic growth is currently focussed (China, India, and Africa all having huge population bases and demand for rapid roll out of infrastructure). Because PV is local, the need for capital-intensive centralized power stations and distribution grids is avoided: this will make it easier for Africa to catch up, just as the large-scale roll-out of telephony is sub-Saharan Africa has largely leap-frogged fixed wires and gone straight to cellular. Late adopters get better infrastructure.

Looking ahead, the carbon barons have to know that in 10-20 years time the USA will be stuck with obsolescent infrastructure and a loss of relative advantage if they pursue this course (although they, individually, will be a whole lot richer). What is to be done?

Let's consider the other strand of the Trump administration: white nationalist revanchism.

Without derailing into a close examination of the creed of this movement, I'm going to generalize by saying that the alt-right are overtly anti-muslim, anti-semitic from the grass roots up, and Steve Bannon is effectively setting foreign policy. Bannon believes in an existential war between Christendom and Islam; he doesn't believe in international institutions like the UN, NATO, or the EU (even though these were in most cases created by US foreign policy during the era of containment. What alliances the Bannon administration is building overseas are being made with extremists and neo-fascists. Trump appears to be attempting to destabilize Australian PM Turnbull, who is vulnerable to a back-bench challenge and is "soft" on immigration policy compared to such lunatics as Tony Abbott (his predecessor) or Pauline Hanson (and Australian immigration policy is an international disgrace). Trump seems to be happy to deal in France with Marine Le Pen, a court-confirmed fascist (she lost a libel case against a journalist who described her as such), or UKIP's former leader Nigel Farage (whose school habits included researching and singing old Hitler Youth drinking songs). And the authoritarian, homophobic strand in Russian politics is just another piece of the jigsaw.

To talk in terms of a white supremacist neo-fascist international doesn't seem extreme at this point. The fourteen signs of fascism are politically convenient to the carbon entrepreneurs. Fascism's disdain for facts plays well with climate change denial. It's elevation of nationalism above all other virtues helps anyone whose goal is to play divide-and-conquer, profiting by arbitrage of commodities trafficked across international borders (such as coal and oil and gas). And so, fascism is promoted and prospers under a carbon bubble bust-out regime.

But there's a more dangerous end-game on the horizon, once the oil men have packed their bags and retired to enjoy their riches.

Note that climate change denialism is a flag of convenience for the folks at the top. It's a loyalty oath and a touchstone: they don't necessarily believe it, but it's very convenient to fervently preach it in public if you want to continue to turn a profit.

If you believe in anthropogenic climate change but dare not admit it, you cannot be seen to do anything obvious to remediate it. But there is one remediation tactic you can deploy deniably: genocide.

We are on course to hit 10 billion people by the end of the 21st century, and although the second derivative of the curve of population increase is flat, our peak population won't begin to decline at this rate until well into the 22nd century. Estimates for the Earth's human carrying capacity vary and may be ideologically biased to support various conclusions; Malthusian ideas persist despite constant upward revision of the peak population. One thing is sure, for decades now other folks' population has been a political football. Thanks to the Green Revolution in agronomy we're well past the previously posited breakdown points of the 1960s.

I am going to posit that a foreign policy set by white supremacists in support of a carbon extraction regime is going to cleave to certain pseudo-scientific ideas, notably Social Darwinism (which isn't Darwinian, isn't social, and is fundamentally flawed as bad science) and Malthusianism (which has been used in the past as an excuse for tactics ranging from the innocuous--improving access to family planning and birth control--to the monstrous--conquest and genocide. And that last point brings us neatly round to Hitlerism.

While the gas chambers and extermination camps of the Final Solution get the most attention, people tend to forget that a large chunk of Hitler's plan for conquest, Generalplan Ost, relied in the short term on the Hunger Plan--to kill 20-30 million people in Eastern Europe and Russia by systematically stealing their food (to feed the Reich's own armies and slave workers who would be engaged in the enterprise of conquest)--and in the long term (post-war) on the systematic "removal" of 45 million more persons, nominally by exile into Siberia, but in practice probably by an extension of the already operating death camp system.

But the Neo-Nazi International won't need death camps in the 2020s to 2030s if their goal is to cut the world population by, say, 50%. Climate change and a clampdown on international travel will do the job for them.

Consider Bangladesh, and the Bay of Bengal fisheries collapse, not to mention the giant anoxic dead zone spreading in the By of Bengal (which means those fisheries won't be coming back for a very long time). There are nearly 170 million people there, mostly living on alluvial flood plains feeding into the gradually rising ocean. If the sea level rises by just one meter, 10% of the land area will be flooded; most of the country is less than 12M above sea level. It's a primarily agricultural economy (it's one of the main rice and wheat producing nations), heavily dependent on fisheries for protein to supplement the diet of its citizens.

Bangladesh can't survive the 21st century on this basis. It's vulnerable to devastating tropical cyclones bringing storm surges, and as the atmosphere heats, these are going to become more energetic. The loss of fisheries may cripple its ability to feed its population, even if temperature rises don't kill off the wheat and rice crops. Flood, famine, and storm look as if they will inevitably render a large part of the country uninhabitable within 50 years.

I see three possible responses:

  • A rational and humane response to this would involve attempts to: promote GM crops with increased heat resistance and increased bioavailable protein and micronutrient contents to repace the dying fisheries: promote female literacy, education, and access to healthcare (demographic transition correlates strongly with female education and emancipation): redeploy human capital to urban center construction in the northern highlands: invest in survival infrastructure (flood/weather shelters), and so on.

  • An unplanned, current-day response to this would be to provide ad-hoc famine relief and aid on demand, to wring hands when millions die in heat emergencies or super-cyclone storm surges, to prevent mass emigration by criminalization rather than by trying to make Bangladesh a more attractive place to stay, and so on. You know this scenario because we're living it today.

  • A white supremacist response to this would be to build a wall around Bangladesh--probably a "virtual" one patrolled by killer robots--and starve the inmates to death so they don't pump any more carbon into the atmosphere. After all, the residual carbon content of a dead foreigner is measured in single-digit litres.

All the pieces of the neo-Nazi solution to climate change already exist. Walls: look to the West Bank barrier or the Mexico-United States barrier for examples. Drones for border patrol are already a thing. The global crack-down on immigration by the developed world should need no introduction; there are loopholes (so called "Investor Visas") for anyone with six or seven digits in cash who wants to move freely, but these are generally out of the reach of even the western middle classes. (Free movement of labour as well as capital would defeat the core principle of arbitrage upon which economic imperialism depends.)

So here's what I expect to see if the alt-right get their way globally:

  • The obvious stuff (the agenda dictated by the fourteen signs of fascism) is a distraction
  • The real plan, in the short term, is to maximize the liquidation of capital investments in the carbon bubble on behalf of the principal shareholders
  • Once the carbon bubble has deflated, the angry and impoverished citizens of the first world will be pointed at a convenient scapegoat--foreigners overseas
  • A clampdown/shutdown on most international travel will ensue (hint: there's a reason Bannon et al hate the EU, and it's not economic: it's all to do with the bit about freedom of movement)
  • Tighter controls on "immigration", enforced out of sight by killer drones, will replace relatively permeable frontiers with exclusion zones enforced by bullets and bombs
  • Climate-change induced famine will replicate the intent of Hitler's "hunger plan", without the need for hands-on involvement by Western soldiers who might be traumatized by the requirement to shoot the surviving "living skeletons"
  • A systematic genocide of the Middle East and the Islamic world (hint: that's where the eliminationist rhetoric of the islamphobes leads if you follow it to its logical conclusion) will reduce Earth's human population by up to 30%: other culls elsewhere will be enforced by containment of would-be migrants and the primary tool of murder will be famine and lethal heat waves.
  • This will be presented to the citizens of the west as a "solution" to anthropogenic climate change for which they should be grateful, and framed as defending us from hordes of dark-skinned alien terrorists and asylum seekers who want to come to our lands and out-breed us and convert us to their weird and scary way of life and enslave our women (and you know the rest of this dismal litany of racism already, so I'll stop here).

Never say Nazis don't learn the lessons of history. This time round, the Final Solution to Anthropogenic Climate change will be entirely deniable! There are no gas chambers or Einsatzgruppen involved: any bullets will be fired by autonomous robots, without a human finger on the trigger, and will be an automatic reaction to an attempted border crossing, so not the fault of the perpetrators. The victims will have only themselves to blame, for being born in the wrong place, in the wrong century, and for failing to adapt, and for starving themselves, and for inviting the attention of the border patrol drones. It will be a slow-motion atrocity on a scale that dwarfs the Holocaust. And it is the logical conclusion of the policies our new fascist international overlords appear to be working towards implementing.

Please can you explain to me why I'm wrong to fear this outcome?

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14 days ago
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4 public comments
13 days ago
Charlie's really at his best when he lets his paranoia fly.
14 days ago
Takes too much coordinating to work but oy, that's a scary throughline.
Philadelphia, PA, USA
14 days ago
The only way this could all happen is if the rest of us keep bickering about how my political views being better than yours and we let them take away America away while we're busy arguing with each other. Come on everyone. Stop the us vs them mentality, and question the media when they present it in that manner.
14 days ago
Look at how much work Charlie had to go to to be scarier than reading the news…
Washington, DC
14 days ago
(Intentionally) over the top but good stuff regardless.

Trumpcare, in its majesty

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The NYT on the artful language of Republicans looking to repeal Obamacare.

Before Mr. Trump stepped into the debate with his call for “insurance for everybody,” Republicans were choosing their words with utmost caution: Their goal in replacing the health law was to guarantee “universal access,” they said, not necessarily universal coverage.

“We will give everyone access to affordable health care coverage,” Mr. Ryan said in early December when asked if Republicans had a plan to cover everyone.

… “No one who has coverage because of Obamacare today will lose that coverage,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said on Jan. 10. … The congresswoman “didn’t deliver her remarks exactly as prepared,” the spokeswoman said. In the prepared remarks, Ms. McMorris Rodgers included an important qualification: “No one who has coverage because of Obamacare today will lose that coverage the day it’s repealed” — in the transition to a new market-oriented health care system.

… We’re all concerned, but it ain’t going to happen,” Mr. Cornyn said. He amplified the point, adding: “Nobody’s going to lose coverage. Obviously, people covered today will continue to be covered. And the hope is we’ll expand access. Right now 30 million people are not covered under Obamacare.” A spokesman for Mr. Cornyn said he “meant no one will lose access to coverage.”

It hardly bears mentioning that the Republican party is trying to pull off the reverse triple Anatole:

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets or steal bread.

Republicans are pushing for a scheme that will provide both the very rich and the extremely poor with perfectly equal “access” to healthcare markets, just as they have equal access to Cartier jewelry, haut couture fashion houses and hopping on a plane for an overnight trip to get measured for bespoke shirts at Charvet’s. The small difference being, of course, that people’s lives and deaths don’t depend on whether they have nicely fitting shirts in their wardrobes. Similarly, those with perfect health and those with serious pre-existing conditions can rejoice in the knowledge that they will enjoy exactly the same principled equal right to purchase healthcare, even if the outcomes might differ very slightly, depending on the specifics of the cases.

The reason that some of the Republican rank-and-file are getting nervous is that their leadership is trying to sell a con, and a pretty obvious one. Still, some of them aren’t nearly nervous enough – the stakes are very high for very large numbers of people who would lose coverage, and can be expected to mobilize. It will be particularly interesting to see what happens in red states like Kentucky which have opted for some version of Obamacare. I started blogging in the run up to the Iraq war, when it sometimes seemed as if only a small minority of Americans had any understanding of the craziness that was being unleashed, and where critics and demonstrators had great difficulty tapping into large scale media. The political situation is in many ways far worse now, but the potential for large scale mobilization – and sustained media attention to it – is similarly far greater.

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23 days ago
Ha ha.
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How Gardeners Save a Small Piece of the World

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Beatrix Potter

Please enjoy this encore post on gardening and history, originally published April 2016 as part of And Related Subjects.

When people think of gardeners, many of them tend to picture little old ladies in straw hats with bright green gloves, pottering among the roses.

When people think of gardeners who are also children’s book authors, they go straight to Beatrix Potter and assume that not only are these little old ladies in straw hats pottering among the roses, but they are also greeting the friendly woodland creatures by name—“Hello, Mister Robin! You’re looking very feathery today!” “Why, Missus Tiggywinkle, how have you been?” “Oh dear, that naughty little cottontail has been at my lettuces again!”

Well, I am a gardener and a children’s book author. I am also under forty, tattooed, and the owner of a mostly black wardrobe, and when I greet a happy woodland creature by name, there is an excellent chance that the sentence will end with “touch that and I will end you.”

Also, I wear men’s mechanic gloves, because the crappy little green ones they sell for women shred the instant you try to root out blackberry brambles with them.

Also, while we’re on the topic, Beatrix Potter was hardcore. She was a botanical illustrator and she started doing children’s books after nobody would take a woman seriously as a scientific authority on mushroom taxonomy.

You see, the gardening world is not nice. Glorious and strange, full of explorers, heroes, villains, histories dark and terrible, grim invasions and brave last stands—but rarely nice.

When I got into heirloom vegetables, I had no idea that I was finding not just a meal, but a whole new way to experience history.

Take, for example, the I’itoi onion. This little shallot was brought to North America from Spain by Jesuit missionaries in 1699. You can’t grow it from seeds very easily, so it is propagated by dividing bulbs. The Jesuits brought it to the Tohono O’odham people, who named it after the god I’itoi, Elder Brother, the Man in the Maze, a creator god who brings enlightenment—and also onions.

When I dig my hands into the dirt and divide the bulbs, I am the latest in a long unbroken chain of hands belonging to O’odham gardeners, Jesuit priests, and Spanish monks, stretching back more than three hundred years. These bulbs are clones of the same bulbs that survived desert heat and shipboard journeys. They have seen things.

But lest we begin to feel that this is overly… well… nice, I grow them in the same bed as a small black bean called Trail of Tears. It was brought by the Cherokee people when they were dragged along that terrible road over the Smokey Mountains in 1838. It grows in Oklahoma and in North Carolina and I believe it would probably grow on the surface of Mars as well. It is as sturdy a plant as I have ever grown.

This is the thing about heirloom vegetables. They have history. They are stories, in seed form. And often the history is not a kind one. It is a story of seeds brought from homelands by people who never expect to see those homelands again. It is a story of immigrants and refugees, who brought with them the greatest wealth that someone can have—the power to feed themselves in an unknown land.

When I grow the Sea Island Red Pea, I am growing a cowpea that came from Africa with the slave trade, that became part of the Gullah culture in the South Carolina low country—a plant that nearly vanished, as farmers left their plots of land.

This is the other thing about heirloom vegetables. It is a story of quiet heroics. It is a story of things saved from the brink. Some of these plants exist today because a single person saved them. Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills drove around the back country of South Carolina until he found a stand of Carolina Gourdseed corn in a bootlegger’s field and managed to raise a field of his own. The Noble Bean was saved from a bag of water-damaged seeds handed down by somebody’s grand-uncle, of which a single bean sprouted … and the gardener harvested a hundred seeds, handed them out to fellow experts and the woman who had provided the bag of seeds to begin with, and single handedly brought it back from extinction.

These are stories of discovery. In the great age of exploration, when people took off out of Europe to newly acknowledged continents, plants were worth more than gold. I have never known why these plant hunters were so neglected in fantasy and alternate history—it seems like a natural! People slogged over mountains and sweated through malaria to find rare plants. When they say that traders set sail in search of spices, those spices did not come in little bottles from McCormick!

And then there’s the potato.

Oh, the potato.

As a writer and illustrator, I get invited to conventions fairly regularly, and I happened to be out at a convention in Denver as an artist GoH. I was on a panel called “Guest of Honor Remarks.”

I asked one of the concom about it, and she said “You have to talk for ten minutes about something you’re passionate about.” It could be anything, she went on to say—politics, books, anything, but I had to talk for at least ten minutes, because the artist GoH had a bad habit of saying “I’ve had a great time, thanks!” and then saying nothing for the rest of the panel, so they’d instituted a minimum.

I panicked a little. But then I thought about something I was passionate about, something which I could talk about with the fire and brimstone enthusiasm of a old time preacher… and that, dear reader, is how I did ten minute speech about Incan potato varieties, while all the other GoHs talked about what fandom meant to them. (Except Kevin Hearne, who kept talking to me about potatoes, and setting me off again. Kevin Hearne is a bad man, and you should read his books.)

So the ancient Incas had something like 4000 varieties of potato. They had potatoes for every possible climate and growing condition, potatoes of a thousand colors and flavors. They even had a method of freeze-drying potatoes that predates anything in the West by a good seven centuries. (How cool is that?!)

Sadly, many of those varieties are lost. From 4000 we’ve got… oh, maybe twenty or thirty that you can find easily. Maybe a hundred or two if you really hunt. Now we spend all our time drugging dirt into submission so that it’ll grow the Russet Burbank, which can be turned into a perfect McDonald’s French fry and has no other merit. (I have lots of Thoughts about this, but space is limited. Also, buy me a drink at a con and ask me about the Irish Potato Famine and monoculture and you’ll hear it all anyway.)

So what does all this mean, for a writer? Well, it may not be holding the bridge at Thermopylae, but I keep coming back to how many gardeners end up saving a small piece of the world. Whether it’s a food from a lost homeland or a cultivar that is about to vanish from the earth, so often it comes down to one person who kept something small but important from being lost forever.

And I find myself writing more and more books where the heroes are saving one small but important thing.

The world is maybe too large for any one person to save, but a seed… or a small, rundown castle… or a hydra egg… or a friend… this is the scale of things I can comprehend. When I am out in the garden in the morning, before writing, with my hands full of weeds, these are the stakes I understand the best.

Top image by Beatrix Potter.

Ursula Vernon is a full-time author and illustrator whose work has won a Hugo Award and been nominated for an Eisner. She is the author of the hit series Dragonbreath, the critically-acclaimed series Hamster Princess, and the standalone novel Castle Hangnail. She loves birding, gardening, and spunky heroines, and thinks she would make a terrible princess. Ursula lives with her husband in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Follow her on Twitter at @UrsulaV.

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34 days ago
#gardening FTW!
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The End Of America The Free, America The Brave [Greg Laden's Blog]

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Putin probably owns Trump. In the past, Trump has spent enough high profile time traveling in and out of Russia, that any smart intelligence agency would have long ago gotten the goods on such a sloppy self absorbed person. Assume there are movies. Young girls. Whatever. Putin probably owns Trump. The ex KGB officer probably owns a lot of people, a lot of foreign rich or influential individuals. That’s how these things work.

Trump is a man that relies on the image of great personal wealth. But, if he has great personal wealth it is a mere couple of billion or so. Alternatively, he may have mostly debt and a few hundred million handy. Nobody knows, and he’s not releasing that information. The point is, he views himself as righteously rich, but he may not be as rich as he considered his right. There are a lot of hungry people in this world, and he is not one of them. But he probably thinks he is.

Putin is the richest person on the planet now or ever. He beats second place Bill Gates by several billion. Putin has gotten this rich by exploiting his position as the permanent leader of Russia (despite a democracy there).

Did I mention that Putin probably owns Trump?

Trump is going to separate his business interests from his activities as president using the following procedure:

1) Put the offspring in charge of the business.

2) Place the offspring in the room at all important presidential meetings.

3) Claim that he is keeping his business holdings and his job as president separate.

Did I mention that Putin probably owns Trump? And that Trump wants to garner great wealth?

Dots, connect thyselves:

Trump is driven to become more wealthy than he is. This is his personality, and it may even be financially necessary for him. Putin has owned Trump for a long time. One question we have now is this: How long ago did Putin approach Trump with the idea that, with Russian help, Trump could become president, piles of money could flow into the Trump coffers, and all Trump had to do is to allow Putin carry out certain geopolitical acts that, after all, might even be good for business?

Do American intelligence agencies have a record of Trump-Putin communication, direct or indirect, over a long period of time? Have they been talking? For how long? About what?

It would make sense to Trump to help Putin carry out one of Russia’s greatest long term goals, a goal held since the 17th century, assuming Trump comes out of the deal rich, not in debt. Russia has always had a landlocked problem. Sure, Russia has vast coastal regions but they are mostly in the Arctic or nearly so. Russia has always lusted for a route to the Indian Ocean, a route to the Mediterranean, and a better route to the Atlantic. And, breadbaskets and buffer zones and mining resources and all of that. What has kept Russia from doing this?

Well, initially, not much, and that is why the Soviet Union was so big. But the expansion of the Soviet Union was hampered by the Americans who, for example, carried out a proxy war with the USSR in Afghanistan. NATO has kept Russia from re-expanding its direct influence across Europe. Various coalitions have kept Russia from invading West Asian territories such as Iran, Iraq, and Syria. The United States is a, if not the, prime mover behind all of that.

And where I say “is” I think we will soon be saying “was.” Why?

Did I mention that Putin probably owns Trump?

With Trump in Putin’s pocket, Russia will take territory in the Middle East and Europe. Russia and the United States together, under Putin and Trump, will try to destabilize the sleeping dragon, China. We may be looking at new places to have proxy wars, but the proxy wars will not be between the US and Russia. They will be between Russia and NATO or others, with the US interfering on Russia’s behalf, maybe pulling out of Nato, and maybe even joining Russian troops in places like the Middle East or Africa. Perhaps they will be between the US as a Russian proxy and China in Africa where China has been exerting influence for a long time now, or Russia and various European forces in West Asia, or between Russia and some combination of powerful South Asian countries in Afghanistan.

(Note to Trump: Do pull out of Afghanistan as soon as possible so Vlad can get in there. Thanks.)

In January the United States is going to be taken over by a coalition of two oligarchs: Putin and Trump (but Putin probably owns Trump).

So, that’s the America the Free part gone. What about the America the Brave part?

Starting in a few days, we will be led by a coalition of cowards and morons. They are known collectively as the Republicans.

The Republican Party has spent the last few decades training itself to be the most ignorant group of know nothings that ever held power anywhere, beyond the level that could be parodied by the most extreme Monty Python script.

The American GOP will be the ironic hobgoblin of the Russian Patriarch, after decades of consolidating power as the “national security” party. The Party of Reagan will be the Party of Putin. We are already seeing Putin love among Republicans in polls. Republicans like Putin more than they like members of the Democratic Party.

This will be achieved mainly because the core of that party consists of angry anti-intellectual anti-liberal anti-environment hippie punchers, and as long as hippies are being punched, and gays bashed, and people of color intimidated through regular state sponsored or allowed executions, they’re fine with this.

America the Brave is now America the Spiteful Idiot.

Monday, the Electors meet. Is it possible that every single one of the Trump Republican Electors is a blind Trump supporter? No. Many electors were actually elevated to that position earlier in the process, and were supporters of other Republican candidates. It it the case that every single Republican is a Putin Pushing no know-nothing? No, not all of them. Just a large majority of them. Among the Electors there must be some who are not. There must be some Republicans among the electors who understand that Russia is a nice country and all, and that we love the Russian people and all, but that the Putin government is not our friend.

Today, Friday, the Obama administration will do what it should have done months ago, but elected not to for what seemed like good reasons at the time. The President will, essentially, give that CIA briefing that some people got on Friday, to the rest of the country, about Putin’s involvement in the US election.

There will be people who become outraged, a lot of them. Some of them may be influential Republicans. A friend of mine pointed out the ideal scenario: One or more members of the presumed Trump cadre of Cabinet appointees walks off the job, forsakes the Trump administration, in outrage. Imagine Marine General James Mattis publicly noting that he has sworn an oath to protect the United States from all enemies domestic and foreign. Indeed, General Mattis has to do this. He is known to be a very smart guy, one of the more intellectual generals. At the same time, he is known to be fiercely patriotic. He must have figured this out by now. He must have figured out by now that he will be dumping his career of patriotic service to America right into the crapper if he serves in the Trump administration. I assume that he initially figured he should be in there doing what needs to be done with competence. But hopefully he will now, and maybe others proposed for the cabinet as well, realize that this day, this weekend, is the only opportunity to ask the electors to not vote for Trump, to do anything but vote for Trump, in order to stop a Russian takeover of the United States.

Only about 10% of the electors have to do this.

If Trump is not elected, and if the highly unlikely event of the electors simply electing Clinton does not happen, then the US House has a shot at deciding who will be President of the United States. They must choose among the top vote getting three names that the Electors consider. Thusly, the Electors can hand the US house a list of three people, including Clinton, Trump, and one other person, probably a Republicans, for them to chose among.

If that third name is a reasonable individual (for a Republican) or, at least, an established Republican, then perhaps the House will have the bravery, and the love of freedom, to chose that person as the next president.

Half this country is ready to go to the mat to keep Trump, and thus the Russians and who knows who or what else, in power. The other half of this country is willing to go to the mat to stop Trump from doing all that he has promised to do for months. The third half seems to have no interest in any of this. No matter what happens, there is going to be a fight.

People in the middle and on the left are brave, and ready to take on whatever happens. People on the Right are Putin loving Russia-symps who just want to punch some hippies and piss in the lake. And now, we get to find out which of those themes best represents our country. Now, this weekend, Monday.

Holy crap America, what have you done?

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65 days ago
Nice rant. #tweeted
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