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Gloom and doom scenarios

 

Gloom and doom scenarios

Courtesy of David Brin 

[David Brin is an astrophysicist, technology consultant, and best-selling author who speaks, writes, and advises on a range of topics including national defense, creativity, and space exploration. He’s also a very influential futurist (e.g., “World’s Best Futurists”). Visit David's website and blog for the latest books, thoughts and posts. In case you missed our interview with David, go here. And read David's new post: The downside of political amnesia.]

We've entered a new phase… Generally, I prepare these things in spurts, as much as a few weeks in advance. But events are moving so fast that I must use a new style. These postings will henceforth be in two parts [Exit strategies Part II: Surprising aspects of the 25th Amendment]. The well-written and deeply pondered stuff is below…

…but we'll lead with something from the latest news.

And no, I cannot even catch up on the firing of Steve Bannon! I'll link you to my earlier attempts to decrypt this bizarre figure… and the dangerous "triumph of the will" ethos he embodies.  Though in fact, his fall may have come more because he wanted the U.S. to finally stand up for itself in international trade. His one sensible policy may have got him fired.

Everyone's raving about end games

Oh calm down already! All right, you desperately want to envision a way out of this torment. Then ponder four scenarios: 

(1) Impeachment is extremely unlikely, unless Robert Mueller finds smoking guns, big ones. In which case idiot Democrats will call a mob and Ryan will rub his hands with glee, letting them clean up the GOP's mess while riling the confeds to volcanic fury. He'll become VP and we'll tumble into hot civil war. Don't fall for it.

(2) The 25th Amendment. Trump and Pence would send "letters" back and forth at an ever-accelerating rate until the email servers melt. Congressional Republicans will dither, covering their ears to the blatant psychological melt-down of the man-with-nukes.  Till the Supreme Court has to step in with some kind of non-Constitutional arbiter. Insane amounts of damage. (More on the 25th in part 2.)

Yes, Congress could appoint a commission of sages that could have real power for good, under the 25th. I comment on this, below. If the right people were on it, our nation could ease out of civil war.  And the chances McConnell and Ryan would do this are nil.

(3) Donald Trump is pressured to resign. Um right. That would require something on the order of the Pee Tape. Nothing less and probably much more. You got hopes.

A hybrid seems possible.  DT takes a 'stress break.' A vacation with no electronics of any kind. Dems should insist they get to see him, daily.

(4) Status quo. The circus goes on and on. We depend utterly on the sane adults of the civil service, intel community, law professionals and the U.S. military officer corps to keep us safe, while Donald Trump adds fuel to phase 8 of the Civil War, destroying the Republican brand and riling up the Union to truly take up the fight…. ideally winning overwhelming victory at the ballot box. (Though that will also require dems wising up on tactics.)

#4 doesn't mean passivity! Congress must rescind the 2001 War Powers Act now!  And set up a commission of sages that can (if unanimous) allow the military to pause a presidential command. That commission could be explicitly granted 25th Amendment powers giving it real muscle. (If it is partisan, then we're entering Venezuela territory.  So start with all the ex-presidents, ex-Vice Presidents and ex Supreme Court Justices. Throw in every U.S. Nobel laureate?) 

The fact that DT has made such thoughts necessary – and forced the Joint Chiefs to (just yesterday) issue statements contradicting a presidential statement – is the worst symptom of this disease.  Though remember. Fox is the disease. Donald Trump is only a symptom.

Any "fifth option" I can think of is too horrific for words and I denounce it, in advance.

My advice, especially to Democratic politicians, remains not to fall for traps laid by Paul Ryan and Rupert Murdoch, as I put it here. Though yes!  I still pray for a dem smart and courageous enough to do this.

Above all, you guys need to calm down. Ponder that DT's White House leaks like a sieve, rendering it somewhat harmless… but  Mike Pence – if he gets in – would fill the place with tightly-disciplined Dominionists who will sincerely strive every day to bring about the Book of Revelation's end-of-days. 

We're supposed to be the smart people. We have all of the fact-user professions, right? Use that. Think.

And if that wasn't cheery enough for you…

Dire Warnings

David Wallace-Wells has stirred angst galore, via an article in New York Magazine crying out “Alas, Babylon!” – that all hope is lost. In “The Uninhabitable Earth Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think,” Wallace-Wells cites doomsday scenarios of exintinction level events, such as heat death, drought, food shortages, and climate plagues.
 
Among the many responses out there, one that is brief cogent, well-written – by Jim O’Donnell – first summarizes the reactions, then gets on to important points. Jim doesn’t weigh how wrong or right Wallace-Well’s assertions might be (I found many of them to be exaggerated, if pointing in needful directions), but focuses instead on the fire and brimstone pulpit slamming preachiness of Wallace-Wells, whose ethos is clearly “we’re all doomed, so get up off your butts! Because, did I mention that we’re all doomed, no matter what anyone does?”
 
I have long inveighed that reflexive gloom is being pounded into citizens for a variety of reasons:
 
1. Would be oligarchs, pushing for a return to 6000 years of feudalism, know that fear was always feudalism's foundation and fearful personalities are more likely to seek what George Lakoff calls the "strong father."
 
2. Reformers at the other end of the (lobotomizing/simplistic) "left-right spectrum" push gloom for reasons of puritan righteousness. They believe you can get folks to invest heavily in planet-saving or tolerance-spreading endeavors by screaming jeremiads. Hence, it is on the left that immense rage boiled against Stephen Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," and against Peter Diamandis's "Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think" — books that laid down long lists of things that have gone very well and portend more good things, to come.
 
The underlying reason for hatred of Pinker and Diamandis and others is not based on their actual positions and recommendations — both of them urge vigorous action and doubling-down on liberal efforts to save the world — but on their message that these efforts will go better if pursued by a confident people, whose can-do spirit is grounded in past accomplishments.
 
Their sales pitch — that modernist, scientific, liberal society has achieved miracles and hence should feel encouraged and propelled to do more — is anathema to those stoked on indignat joys of denunciation. (See this counter-productive – and often deeply sick – sanctimony addiction explicated in my article on self-righteousness.)
 
3. Another driver has been our shared mythologies — especially Hollywood films, but also my own realm of novels and stories.  Fiction often conveys positive values: e.g. Suspicion of Authority (SoA), tolerance, diversity, and appreciation of eccentricity. (Almost all protagonists exhibit some eccentric trait, which helps bond with the audience.) But two other messages are almost always purveyed, out of a laziness that makes plotting easier, but that spreads a poison:
 
-  No institution is ever to be trusted.
-  Your neighbors are all useless, clueless, cowardly sheep.
 
These are blatantly untrue, yet purveyed in a firehose of myths and memes. I explain the basic reason in my article The Idiot Plot. 
 
Now add in a distrust of smartypants know-it-alls, which the right has exploited and converted into all-out memic war against science, journalism, teaching, universities, medical doctors and every other clade of fact-users, now including even the FBI, Intel communities and military officer corps. (All of the latter are now "deep state" conspirators.)
 
Jim speaks of how "societies which fared best are those able and willing to adapt."  This reiterates the conclusion reached by one of the world's greatest historians, Arnold Toynbee, who found that societies collapsed when they failed to invest in a liberal diversity of "creative minorities" who could respond to challenges with fresh solutions.  (Jared Diamond's more recent book, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, made the same point, but focused narrowly on environmental (often man-made) challenges.)
 
The long and short of it is that liberals and leftists are allies, for now, but psychologically very different.  While the latter are steeped in radical, angry, sanctimonious and zero-sum thinking – you either follow the party line or the world dies! – the former tend toward positive sum belief in a balance between dire warnings and willingness to at least glance at how far we've come, perhaps even accepting that progress has happened. Indeed, that is the best reason to believe that we can accomplish more.

Coda: Papa Heinlein would want you to use him right now. Use him! 

I will keep going back to The Master. 

You out there who make excuses for today's madness on the right? You badly need to look again at Robert Heinlein, who tore into the potential for an alliance of oligarchs and pulpit pounders taking over America… a cabal that would --

"promise a material heaven here on earth, add a dash of anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Negrosim, and a good large dose of anti-“furriners” in general and anti-intellectuals here at home, and the result might be something quite frightening – particularly when one recalls that our voting system is such that a minority distributed as pluralities in enough states can constitute a working majority in Washington."

Read more of Heinlein's spectacular insights into our problem. In this linked blog I gave the podium over to RAH, from his afterword to REVOLT IN 2100. And he offers no comfort, no shelter, no justification to those who called him a member of the crazy right. Oh, sure, he hated commies too! But there's no ambiguity which side he'd be on in this phase — in any phase — of the American Civil War.

Oh, you Catholics? Don't imagine you'll be exempt. Not when it hits the fan. Or Methodists or Mormons or Israelis etc, either. Listen to Papa Heinlein. Snap out of it.

[Originally posted on Aug. 19, 2017.]


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