Friday, November 17, 2017

Your nerdy love of sci fi could save the world! Announcing… TASAT

Here’s a Major Announcement of a project that's been in my thoughts for a long time. A way that you -- yes you -- can be part of an action team of science fiction readers who might someday use your powers of SF'nal story memory to help save the world!

Bear with me while I explain. 

Fretting about potential threats to civilization, members of the Protector Caste (intel agencies and all that) keep inviting authors of “hard” or realistic science fiction to offer big perspectives, or terrifying possibilities. “You sci fi guys think up the scariest things,” one official lauded. The same can be said for tech innovators and visionaries seeking insights into where we're heading. 

Yet, there's a frustration. When pondering some real or hypothetical scenario, I often think: hasn't some earlier author considered this, amid the vast number of past tales?

== A solution? TASAT (There’s a Story about That!) ==

Consider the vast library of science fictional thought-experiments published since Mary Shelley first wrote about how the creation of new kinds of life might be mishandled—a warning with new variants in Planet of the Apes, Jurassic Park, I Robot, and Ex Machina. 

Some are “self-preventing prophecies” like Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Soylent Green, Dr. Strangelove or Silent Spring. Other SF projections come true.

Alas, for every SF thought experiment that achieves renown, hundreds molder in back issues of Astounding or Galaxy, or some novel only recalled by a few dozen fans out there—tales about how the world might veer in unexpected directions. Shouldn’t those concepts be available, as a background library of worked-out scenarios, in case we ever face some sudden choice?

== Activate group memory! ==

Imagine some government or NGO must respond quickly to a First Contact situation, as in the film Arrival. In a hurry, they gather “experts” who leap to premature conclusions.

So they call on the TASAT hub—part of sci-fi fandom’s collectively sagacious Group Mind— to cite and provide stories published across the last century. Short tales, novels, movies, think-pieces and art that offer unusual scenarios, potential mistakes, or surprise twists, helping our leaders or emissaries to perceive a wider picture. 

Or take the developer of an augmented reality app, a spacecraft designer, or a company revolutionizing communication technology. Might even some outlandish tale help to inform the next wave of science fact? 

You can be part of this informal network. The only qualification? Having read a lot of stories! Watched a lot of flicks. Played bunches of realistic games. There may come a time when you — by pointing to some obscure tale — could help to save the world!

== Examples! ==

Suppose a company has developed a new bacterium that pulls Nitrogen out of the air faster and better than anything known, creating massively cheap fertilizer? What could go wrong? A TASAT alert on this prospect would likely cause someone to cite Hal Clement's novel The Nitrogen Fix, along with a warning to be careful.

Take the "Flynn Effect" ...where the last three generations of children in the West have had successively higher average IQ. Suppose it accelerates, suddenly and rapidly. While some might ponder the "Children of the Damned" flicks, or cite Poul Anderson's novel Brain Wave. Others might suggest Thomas Disch's Camp Concentration, wherein IQ-rise is triggered by a venereal disease. No one suggestion need ever be right! It could be enough that such examples cause the responsible parties to widen their horizons, and not leap to the first, logical theory.

Then there's the almost infinite supply of alien First Contact tales, with some even portraying a TASAT-like process. Take the Niven and Pournelle opus Footfall, in which the government wisely establishes both optimistic and pessimistic committees.  Another of you (under comments, below) cited Gordon Dickinson's "The Alien Way," in which the protagonist digs through library stacks to find a half-remembered scientific article about bear behavior that will help him to understand the instinctive underpinnings of  an alien race.

If ever we find ourselves in a possible contact situation, our very survival might depend on having available a wide variety of scenarios, suggesting: what's "obvious" ain't necessarily so.

== Sign up! ==

So browse the TASAT Site! Join the community to get TASAT alerts. Even pose one, now and then! 

This is not just another sci fi discussion/argument site, but a place to cite actual, accessible stories, perhaps even pertinent to hurried decision makers.

(Did I mention the TASAT Facebook site, as well?)

Harness your nerdiness for the good of civilization!

TASAT is affiliated with the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at the University of California, San Diego.  

So sign up for TASAT! Be part of the nerdy community that might save us all, someday, by chiming up with an obscure link, saying: 



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Postman Persists… and delivers…. (plus more SF news...)

Let me remind you that my post before this one - about looming clouds of war -- remains pertinent and important. The best way to prevent it from coming true is by making as many as possible aware of how many of the world's despots want this. These things tend to shrivel when everyone is looking! I'd rather prove wrong and a "Cassandra" than right, looking out my window at ruins.

== Speaking of "posts" amid the ruins... ==

From fiction to reality… a lot of people emailed me about this! The Postman delivers....

Drone captures eerie footage of USPS truck delivering mail to still standing mailboxes on the street in a devastated Santa Rosa neighborhood burned down by fire.” - with footage by drone operator Douglas Thron.

And while we’re on the subject… I’m putting out a call! If any of you know genius cinematographer Stephen F. Windon, or genius cinematic composer James Newton Howard, I’m hoping to invite them to a special, 20th anniversary screening of The Postman at UCSD's Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. Whatever its faults, the film is musically and visually one of the dozen or so most gorgeous films ever made. (With a small but growing cult following.) 

I’d invite Kevin Costner – who certainly gets some credit for that beauty - and screenwriter Brian Helgeland too - (or any of the younger Costners in the film) because I think the flick had more heart that any other from that era. Alas, no method I've researched seems to penetrate the Hollywood protective barriers, not even for Mr. Windon. And Tom Petty is now beyond reach, alack.

If you'd like to delve into the novel again, my website has a Reading Group discussion guide with questions to ponder.

== Will we transform? Bring some thought to it ==

A French journalist recently asked me: - "As a futurist, do you think transhumanism describes a future bound to happen, especially the Singularity? Does humanity really have the need to enhance itself to fight the exponential development of AI?" 

My reply starts with perspective: there have always been human beings who were dissatisfied with the ‘hand we’re dealt’ in life, who preached that we can get a better deal. For most of history and pre-history, these transcendental mystics proclaimed that the method for achieving this better deal would be through incantations of magic or faith, because words and thoughts were the only means they had, to effect change among the most powerful beings around them — the lords and kings and priests.

Scroll forward to the 19th Century and the same mystical thinking focused on sociology. The notion that a better society might be achieved through revolution, or through a “natural” progression of class struggle. Then Freud unveiled the sub-conscious and the locus of transformation shifted, again.

In the 1980s, many of the same personality types were obsessed with space colonies. Then came the computer-internet age, and artificial intelligence seemed more plausible. And Vernor Vinge coined “the Singularity” to stand for a transformation that we might soon achieve through science and technology.

I do not say all of this to deny the possibility of a coming transformation. Indeed, one form or another of “singularity” is clearly coming. Whether it will be a “hard-landing” arrival of super-AI, with organic humanity left behind or crushed…or a “soft-landing” in which we get enhanced and can come along as transformed beings, or something else… is another story that I explore in these videos:

(1) The “Neo” Project aims to create a vividly beautiful film, combining science and art with optimism. They feature my blather about peering into the future. Vivid imagery and remarkable sound editing. 

(2) Video of my talk on the future of A.I. to a packed house at IBM's World of Watson congress in Las Vegas, October 2016. A punchy tour of big perspectives on Intelligence, as well as both artificial and human augmentation. 

But in this Q&A I focused on the fact that we have heard such promises before. The personality type that propels such promises has always been there, with only the details of transcendence changing, from one generation to the next.

== Speaking of pertinent media ==

You podcast viewers should see these guys! John Michael Godier and Isaac Arthur.  Their casts are great, very detailed, fascinating, logical and comprehensive, regarding all sorts of mind-expanding topics from spaceflight to the Fermi Paradox. In this collaboration, Arthur does part one of an extensive appraisal of the concept of Uplift, and Godier concludes in part 2. Of course, I kept coming up with quibbles… half of which they answered before each episode ended. An admirable score!

Want a show with brains? You might enjoy “Novum,” the science fiction podcast produced by Ari Brin. 

Stephen Spielberg is reviving his ‘80s anthology series Amazing Stories for Apple. The deal is for 10 episodes at a budget of more than $5 million per episode.    

Terrific Sci Fi Short by Andrew FinchThe lone survivor of the first mission to Mars uses his last moments to pass the torch of inspiration. 

A young, pre-Trek William Shatner stars in that weird film INCUBUS, with dialogue entirely in Esperanto. Now available on YouTube! 

== Science Fiction Miscellany ==

My novel Kiln People made ComputerWorld, in an article about future mobility and many ways that we might become bigger and greater than we are.   

The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University is seeking submissions for its second climate fiction contest. First prize: $1,000 | Deadline: February 28, 2018. Judged by science fiction legend Kim Stanley Robinson  

What if the pandemic you thought would kill you made you more intelligent instead? In David Walton's The Genius Plague, a fungal infection grants astonishing powers of communication, memory, and intellect. But is the human race the master in this symbiotic relationship, or are we becoming the pawns of a subtly dominating and utterly alien species? Read an excerpt here

In order to read this printing of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, you have to heat the pages to guess what temperature?

Let Go is a web comic that earnestly takes us to a darker Jetsons’ future. Not a dystopia, as such, but a family groping their way forward through technological unemployment, video addiction and dominance by social scoring. A sincere effort to peer ahead a few years. Here’s the sampler & kickstarter

Adam: The Mirror: a gorgeous – if clichéd – robotic morality tale intro to Neill (District 9) Blomkamp’s new science fiction film.

== Women propel sci fi! ==

Amazon has made Linda Nagata’s new book THE LAST GOOD MAN - a very near-future, high-tech thriller with a military theme - a “monthly deal” in the US and Canada. Science Fiction was poorer when Linda tapered her career and we’re richer now that she’s back in such a big way. 

Romania has always been crazy for science fiction. At the recent Sci+Fi Fest in Bucharest, Ona Frantz won top honors for the translation of my novel Existence. Congratulations! 

Farah Mendelsohn’s new critical new book, a study of the work of Robert A. Heinlein, will be published by Unbound, in 2018. E-book £12; Hardback + e-book, £35.  Pre-order at

Oh, a quirky thought. I propose we nominate - for the short subject media Hugo - this fun tribute to the indomitable and remarkable Mrs. Emma Peel. In her day, no concept was more science fictional than a woman protagonist who was fully equal to the hero (and then some!) in all ways, and who could both solve mysteries and utterly kick-ass. The true fore-runner of Gal Gadot. And the quality of this video, down to the last nugget and musical riff and snip of editing, is terrific. 

And now back to our weird - (I hope it's a simulation) - world.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

War Clouds Gather -- track all the signs.

Today we’ll update you on the many puzzle pieces that (surely) some in our military and intel services are putting together, about our looming War With Iran. These pieces include Donald Trump's recent swerve away from confrontation with North Korea and China... along with Jared Kushner's Riyadh visit to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, followed immediately by the latter’s Saudi power putsch. 

Here I’ll lay out the implications of Vladimir Putin’s recent trip to Tehran, followed by Putin’s personal tete-a-tete today with Donald Trump, much of it beyond the reach of cameras, in a communist dictatorship next to the Gulf of Tonkin. And now the Saudis are ordering all their citizens out of Lebanon, and several other places, as well.

More on all of this below.  But first…

Are you frustrated seeing neighbors — and yourself — trapped in tired ideological rifts and fixations? I've revised my famed questionnaire to probe beneath clichés like "left-vs-right," illuminating why you feel as you do about modern issues... and why other smart humans weirdly disagree. 

Take the survey. Have your friends and crazy uncles take it! Like Socrates, I hope questions will provoke new thoughts.

== Turmoil and consolidation among our Saudi masters… while our Kremlin masters prepare for the next phase ==

Is it disturbing that Jared Kushner was in Riyadh, consulting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, just days before the latter staged a major power putsch? Or that Donald Trump’s praise of that coup was instantaneous? Is this just another example of Trumpist collusion with a foreign power who long meddled in U.S. political affairs?

Or is it about finalizing a long-planned war vs. Iran? See my earlier list of how many forces want this, from the Saudis and Trump/Breitbart to Putin and the Iranian mullahs. But like one of Glen Beck’s conspiracy corkboards, I keep finding threads to connect -- only with blatant facts, not innuendos. For example…

Not covered by the U.S. news services: Russian President Vladimir Putin, visited Tehran on November 1.  That proves nothing, but it is consistent with the scenario we’re building here, and it leads to an important test, which we’ll get to, in a moment.

First, back to that secret meeting between Jared Kushner and Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The image of an orthodox Jew dickering with the Saudi leader... might a silver lining to all this be an Arab-Israeli rapprochement? Discussions have been going on since early in the Obama Administration. Strategically, it makes sense for the Sunnis to make peace with Israel, though any deal will go nowhere without a real Palestinian solution. 

Indeed, one alternative or supplement to an Iran war would be such a peace deal, giving Trump a victory to crow about. And I'd be the first to cheer... if that's all it were.

But consider Saudi Arabia’s Great Big Purge, which toppled foremost Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest men. Media reports cite him as a major investor in CitiBank and other western institutions. Alas, few mention the holding that mattered most. Long before the Russians or Chinese or gambling lords or even Wall Street meddled on behalf of the GOP, there was Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News empire could never have grown so, or survived several crises, without the reliably endless backing of Murdoch’s #1 partner — Alwaleed bin Talal. Not even Vladimir Putin played a greater role in the deliberate destruction of American political process.

Alwaleed recently made the mistake of insulting Trump, tweeting “I bailed you out twice,” but now calling DT mentally ill. Big Mistake. 

I have one knowledgable friend who claims that bin Salman is the liberalizer -- who propelled the Yemen war that's killed half a million civilians, so far but who is now ousting Wahhabbist fanatics and backers of terrorism. Another friend proclaims Alwaleed the liberal modernist! (Despite his links to Rupert Murdoch.) What seems clear is that the grandsons of ibnSaud are charming, persuasive... and dangerous... fellows.

So should we celebrate? Frankly, I don’t care about their internal power struggles.  What I fear is they are clearing the decks - eliminating all Saudi elements who might resist war.

== All God’s chillen want this ===

“They got guns; we got guns; all God’s chillen got guns!” – The Marx Brothers

When judging a conspiracy theory, one should always (1) beware of concocting a scenario you want to be true, (2) start with all the facts and see if they are consistent, and (3) be open to alternatives. And I will offer up an alternative, toward the end.

Alas, though, the facts seem compelling. No one in the media or politics seems able or willing to list the powers who will benefit from a US-Iran War. I did, in an earlier posting.  But summarizing - all the world's despots and fanatics are salivating for this:

The Saudis want the Iranian military hit, but above all seek high oil prices, which will skyrocket when the straits are closed.

The Breitbart-Fox-Trumpists have been openly slathering for war with Iran for years, and it would distract from Trump's domestic political troubles. Remember GW Bush's "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq? Expect some kind of pretext event. Perhaps finalized today, in that meeting by the shores of the Tonkin Gulf.

Some of the dumber factions in Israel want it.

...And the Iranian Mullahs, themselves! They won't be harmed by a hundred tomahawks going pippety-poppety in a few places. It will give them an excuse to crush modernists and young people all across Iran, who are the real threat to their theocratic power.  And if the Army is badly wounded, leaving the Republican Guard comparatively stronger? That's well and good, too.

Anyway, what I’ve seen no one point out is that the Tomahawks will stop the very instant that the mullahs call on Putin to step in and protect them! That is the thing our own crazy GOP warmongers never consider. Russia is right next door. They can stop such a “war” any time they like.  All it would take is positioning Russian diplomats and aid workers and observers at every likely target site.

Above all, Vladimir Putin wants a U.S.-Iran War. The resulting high oil prices will save his regime. And Russia will gain a new, Persian dependency under Kremlin "protection" -- the warm water satrapy they've always wanted, going back to the Czars. And if the Iranian military is wounded, and Iran becomes more dependent on Russian protection, all the better. (That simple fact is so blatant, I used it to get several officers to flip on this issue.)

Let’s return to that November 1, visit to Tehran by Vladimir Putin. And this is a key telltale! If Putin’s aim were to prevent war, he would have announced the Russian umbrella for Tehran now. In advance.

“We will protect our dear neighbor, Iran.”

With that declaration, the Tomahawks would be deterred. U.S. missiles simply would not fly. 

 But Putin wants a wave of U.S. Tomahawks to fly, and so do the Ayatollahs!  Just one round, going bing-bing-bing, raising oil prices and unleashing the mullahs to crush their own democrats, while doing little lasting damage. Oh, and it will let Kremlin observers measure our missiles’ parameters… 

Then Vlad steps in, announcing the umbrella, acting as peacemaker and protector while America fumes and waffles, falling back in toddler rage and impotence. 

Indeed, Iranian President Rouhani could short circuit this whole cycle and stymie the warmongers by simply announcing the Russian protection agreement. Just announce it! All these schemes would be hampered, if not foiled.

Let me couch this as a challenge. Name one way that we - our open and democratic/scientific civilization - can even conceivably benefit from an Iranian War. Name one way that despots won’t see asuch a debacle as their win-win. But especially Putin, who calls the shots in U.S. foreign policy. And who just met with President Donald Trump, with private exchanges, in communist Vietnam.

Who doesn't want a Iran war?  Not the sane/sober members of the U.S. military who would be sent to fight it. 

Others will benefit! Enemies of our civilization. But not us. 

== Vlad our impaler ==

Lest you dismiss me as a Glen Beck–Alex Jones style conspiracy nut, let me commend your attention to an important report by the Defense Intelligence Agency on the rising Russian military and its new, highly aggressive doctrines. Take this excerpt from the section on Cyber and Propaganda Warfare:

“Information confrontation,” or IPb (informatsionnoye protivoborstvo), is the Russian government’s term for conflict in the information sphere. IPb includes diplomatic, economic, military, political, cultural, social, and religious information arenas, and encompasses two measures for influence: informational-technical effect and informational-psychological effect.

 • Informational-technical effect is roughly analogous to computer network operations, including computer-network defense, attack, and exploitation.

 • Informational-psychological effect refers to attempts to change people’s behavior or beliefs in favor of Russian governmental objectives.

 IPb is designed to shape perceptions and manipulate the behavior of target audiences. Information countermeasures are activities taken in advance of an event that could be either offensive (such as activities to discredit the key communicator) or defensive (such as measures to secure Internet websites) designed to prevent an attack.

… The variety of techniques for disseminating Russian propaganda include pro-Kremlin “news” websites and TV and radio channels such as Russia Today and Sputnik News, bots and trolls on social media, search engine optimization, and paid journalists in Western and other foreign media…

Trolls. Russia employs a troll army of paid online commentators who manipulate or try to change the narrative of a given story in Russia’s favor.

Bots. Another way Russia manipulates the information space is through automated pushers of content on social media. These bots can continuously push content or imitate real life patterns

== The DIA report continues… ==

Major themes of Russian propaganda include:

The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.

The West demonizes Russia, which is only trying to defend its interests and sovereignty and act as an indispensable nation in world affairs.

The United States is determined to interfere with and overthrow sovereign governments around the world.

Now mind you, as many on today’s Confederate right will point out, there are certain angles and degrees to which we must admit some truth to these accusations! 

The expansion of NATO, the earlier memic-meddlings funded by George Soros, that helped shatter the old USSR – and especially the way Obama and Clinton helped democracy activists in the Ukraine get free elections, ripping that nation out of the Kremlin’s orbit – plus frustration over the rise in secular individualism all over the world – these re-ignited Russian traditions of paranoia and commitment to feudal hierarchy.

Hence, I don’t call Putin evil, per se. He is a savvy warrior for the ancient human mode of governance. He cleverly arranged an anti-western alliance stretching from Ankara and Minsk and Moscow across the great steppes all the way to Manila, and now including millions of nostalgist-romantics in North America, all of them aiming at the destruction of our Great Experiment and a return to 6000 years of feudalism. 

He's quite open about it. Moreover, from Putin's perspective, there are real grievances! Take this from Vladimir Putin’s address to the Russian Federal Assembly following the referendum on annexation of Crimea, 18 March, 2014:

“The USA prefers to follow the rule of the strongest and not by the international law. They are convinced that they have been chosen and they are exceptional, that they are allowed to shape the destiny of the world, that it is only them that can be right. They act as they please. Here and there they use force against sovereign states, set up coalitions in accordance with the principle: who is not with us is against us.”

Yes. From his perspective, Obama and Hillary Clinton were very aggressive, pushing western values of liberty, democracy, freedom, individualism etc., e.g. in stealing the Ukraine from the Russian Sphere. Hence his devotion to defeating her and putting in his own puppet. Again, from the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency on their open war against us via cyber and propaganda and sabotage:

“Major themes of Russian propaganda include: The West’s liberal world order is bankrupt and should be replaced by a Eurasian neo-conservative post-liberal world order, which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty.”

== Not the hero of this story ==

You can tell a lot by what your adversary says, in order to make himself out to be the hero. According to the Putin Doctrine:

“The West demonizes Russia, which is only trying to defend its interests and sovereignty and act as an indispensable nation in world affairs. The United States is determined to interfere with and overthrow sovereign governments around the world.”

And yes! We should squint to see how they see themselves as heroes and the injured party!  Well. Except that:

1) Their complaint boils down to growling that we have interfered in their traditional right to repress others. Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and so on. All the former Warsaw Pact subject nations desperately wanted NATO to move in. They applied every lever to arm-twist Obama’s reluctant consent.  What Putin leaves out is that the subject peoples that we “stole” from his realm do not want a Russian boot on their necks, anymore.

To reiterate, it was never U.S. policy to expand NATO. It was invited - even demanded - by people living in desperate fear.

2) Blatantly, the U.S. could have destroyed the USSR and then Russia at any point across 70 years, especially the last 20. We… did… not. That bald fact is the overwhelming refutation of Russian reflexive paranoia. But that's not all. It's also clear that they would not have been so restrained, were the role ever reversed. Ask the Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles and so on. If the Putinists lose this struggle, they will lose only their current political model - rule by mafiosi-oligarchy - in favor of democracy. 

If they ever get the upper hand, we will lose all freedom. Possibly all our lives.

3) The system they want the world to return to – “traditionalism” and top-down command hierarchy -- was tried for 6000 years and utterly failed. Governance in every such society ranged from crappy to horrendous and progress was negligible. The Periclean-democratic experiment was spectacularly successful – if unstable – way back in 500 BCE. At its second trial run, democracy has been even more successful at delivering every single metric of human success, for 250 years in America and for all of those who followed our lead. More successful at every measure than all feudal hierarchies, across 60 centuries. All of them, combined. 

That comparison puts a steep burden of proof on Traditionalists.

4) Were he to allow his people a consistently fair and open choice, VP knows they would drift our way.

5) His use of "international law" is ironic. The one thing all despots fear is transparent application of the rule of law. Every time I am invited to speak at a Washington DC "alphabet agency," I focus on what should be the one topmost fact of international strategy: 

All our adversaries are lethally allergic to light. 

Western institutions are not; they generally improve under light. Hence, while we do still need tactical secrecy in order for our intel and military services to function, our only long-term victory condition is a world awash in vastly pervasive transparency and lawful accountability.

If/when that happens, the result can be summed up in two words.

We win.

== The fundamental refutation of Putin’s accusation ==

But the ultimate answer to Kremlin rationalizations - and to our own re-ignited Confederacy - can be found in human history. Across time, wherever there were urban and agricultural societies, there existed one of two conditions:

(1) An imperial power or “pax” enforced peace, though often at a cost of oppression.

(2) Ceaseless chaos and war between petty nations.

Past empires – Pax Romana, Pax Sinica (China), Pax Brittanica and so on – featured countless crimes by the dominant power! Crimes that fostered resentment, then hatred and finally the regime’s fall. But along the way, most people were able to get on with their lives, doing business and raising their families in peace. 

Wherever situation #2 reigned, cities burned. Brutally and often.

When it became clear that the USA was about to become the pax power for the second half of the 20th Century, some real geniuses – George Marshall, Acheson, Dulles, Truman, Eisenhower – put serious thought to doing things differently. The empire gets to set the trade rules, for example. And so, instead of the usual imperial mercantilism that cheats the periphery in favor of the capital, Marshall & co. broke with every past empire to set up a counter-mercantilist trade pattern that favored industrial production in less developed nations. The incredible result was that the US consumer has uplifted almost every nation in the world!

Our core "imperial" project has been to shout at the world: "We'll buy trillions of dollars worth of crap from you! Your factories will hum and your kids will get electricity and schooling. And you can't stop us!"

Under Pax Americana, most nations’ expenditures on defense plummeted from a historic norm of 50% of budget to 5% or less freeing up vast funds for development…. while the U.S. continued at roughly a 50% level, maintaining the pax, or peace. And please, before you howl, just ask any thoughtful European – especially in the east – whether they resent that, or feel deeply grateful. Ask the Japanese, or Koreans.

Do all empires commit crimes? Excesses and over-reactions? Abuses of power? Every single time a nation or people was tempted by great power, they did such things! We're human! There's much to atone for, e.g. in Chile, Nicaragua, Iran, and especially Southeast Asia. But still, compare to any and every other empire. The ratio of good to bad deeds was never anywhere near as high as under Pax Americana. 

Ask folks in Vietnam or Chile if they hold a grudge, or instead want to come to California, to visit or to live. Yes, there are special cases -- they shriek “Death to America” in Iran and Iraq. But for the most part, we are the least hated empire in history and even mostly liked! Find one other people who were ever tempted by imperial power, who did better. One. Find one. Just one ever.

Even one.

 Does that let us off the hook for crimes of empire? For brashly stomping around all holier than thou? No. But we are the first paramount nation to raise generations of its own kids to be self-critical. Critical of their own country, the way you are, right now! Simmering and seething at my words, eager to point out mistakes and crimes made by your own empire. 

If anything proves we are above average, it's you. Because criticism is the only known antidote to error. And we train our best and brightest to criticize.

Should we come to an era when there are no empires? When a calm and mature humanity rules itself fairly, without need for order to be imposed from above? Absolutely! That dream – portrayed in Star Trek (and undermined in StarWars) – is one that we have pushed through our national propaganda system called Hollywood. And again, you are an example. 

Only dig it, there has never been such rapid progress toward that goal, as under Pax Americana, the “empire” that dreams of an era without empires.  For 70 years, poverty has plummeted, science has skyrocketed. Per capita, there is less violence than ever (though islands of horror persist). Technologies offering abundance loom. We are learning the secrets of the brain-mind and sanity. And never before have so many cared so deeply about learning the art of planetary management and care.

If all of this is too-little, too-late, then it will be barely. And if we squeak by, to a better future, it will be because of the overall plan enacted by George Marshall and the other geniuses. And because we Americans prevailed over another recurrence of confederate madness in this phase eight of the American civil war, and came out able to lead for a few more decades, till a "pax" is no longer needed.

Look back on those accusations issued by Vladimir Putin! Notice that they are couched in terms that we taught the world. But they boil down to “under Pax Americana we don’t get to oppress others!”

Violins of pity and sorrow, Vlad.

== Yes, there are other possibilities  ==

In due diligence, let me point you to an Al Jazeera article that claims the drumbeat for an Iran War is just for show.

It’s possible!  Unlike most conspiracy theorists, (1) I have real world evidence and (2) I pray to be proved wrong! And there are agencies of our civilization who are fighting, right now, to make the insanely stupid scenario not happen.

There is a scenario I briefly alluded to, before... that also fits the facts I've listed here. Putin may have gone to Tehran to get the mullahs to agree to peace. Kushner's Riyadh visit might have been about an Arab-Israeli settlement, followed by bin Salman toppling all the hardliner's who would block it. Perhaps followed by an alliance against Hezbollah.

What a glorious victory for Trump to announce, reversing his fortunes! I mention it as an alternative hypothesis that fits many of the observed facts... but that does not fit any of the personalities of the secretive, viciously aggressive players. Nor does it satisfy any of the needs of Vladimir Putin.

Still. Never think for a moment that Putin and Murdoch and the Kochs are the only masters of today’s GOP. There’s one that’s pulled the strings for decades.

Now is the time to be wary, fellow citizens of the renaissance. Watch for that pretext. Gunboats in the Gulf of Tonkin... I mean Hormuz. Or a Reichstag Fire. Better fretfully watchful than sorry.


This article in Rolling Stone looks at some of the same events, drawing conclusions in the same general direction, but leaving out all Russian/Putin/Iranian motives.