Jared Kushner question

How Could Modern Orthodox Judaism Produce Jared Kushner?

In our annual progression through the Torah, we are now deep into slavery in Egypt. And each year, around this time, as I read the first Torah portions in Exodus, the same thought occurs to me: Why is all this necessary? By the end of Jacob’s life, he’s back in the Land of Israel, the land God has given him and his progeny. Why must the Jews leave, become slaves in Egypt, wander through the wilderness, and fight their way back to the place where, at the end of Genesis, they already reside? Why the big detour?

Obviously, there are many answers. It is in Egypt that Jews evolve from a family into a nation. It is in Egypt that God displays to that nation his awesome power. It is in the wilderness that God gives the Torah.

But in their Haggadah, “Go Forth and Learn,” Rabbi David Silber and Rachel Furst offer another reason. They suggest that “one purpose of the Egypt experience was to sensitize the People of Israel to the suffering of others, to teach them what it means to be alienated and oppressed, so that when they set up their own society, they will be sure not to impose such suffering on others.”
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One person’s opinion of German vs American highways

Why are there so few car wrecks on the German autobahn?

Franklin Veaux

Franklin Veaux, Small business owner, serial entrepreneur

 I once asked this question of a civil engineer I knew who had worked on American civil engineering projects after having studied in Europe. Her answer was enlightening:

In Germany, if the authorities notice a significant number of accidents on a certain portion of roadway, they call in an engineer to fix the problem. They redesign the curve, they re-grade the road, whatever it takes.

In the US, if the authorities notice a significant number of accidents on a certain portion of roadway, they start issuing lots of traffic tickets on that portion of the road, and it becomes a steady source of revenue for the city.

That answer is a bit pat, of course, but there is a kernel of truth to it: Americans and Germans have different attitudes. That includes different attitudes about driving, but it also includes different attitudes about design and engineering. The US has a culture of the Rugged Individualist: we make the road however we make it, and as the driver it’s your responsibility to drive safely. It’s your fault if there’s a crash. Germany has a culture that it is the responsibility of the engineer to think carefully about the project, anticipate how things can go wrong, and create a design that is logical, consistent, and makes sense in everyday use.

Trekkie’s Choice Award: DS9 Season 9, Episode 19

The show is called: “In the Pale Moonlight”

Season 9, Episode 19


Stultus fires acting AG

Future prospects for Mexico – Jan. 2017

Serina Kurahashi

Serina Kurahashi, lives in Querétaro, Mexico

Already things are unsettling.

Now that I live south of the border, it’s amazing (and by amazing I mean terrifying) just how much the U.S.A. can actually affect the daily lives of normal citizens here.

A Trump presidency can mean many things for Mexico – being forced to pay for a wall they don’t want, a decrease in Mexicans immigrating legally or illegally, and increased economic and political instability – but I’m going to base my answer off my area of experience – the automotive industry and manufacturing jobs.

Continue reading Future prospects for Mexico – Jan. 2017

For Cherokee County & Georgia Citizens

Why Some Americans Deny Science Explained

Evolution, Climate and Vaccines: Why Americans Deny Science

Credit: Khakimullin Aleksandr/Shutterstock.com

The U.S. has a science problem. Around half of the country’s citizens reject the facts of evolution; fewer than a third agree there is a scientific consensus on human-caused climate change, and the number who accept the importance of vaccines is ticking downward.

Those numbers, all gleaned from recent Pew and Gallup research polls, might suggest that Americans are an anti-science bunch. But yet, Americans love science. Even as many in the U.S. reject certain scientific conclusions, National Science Foundation surveys have found that public support of science is high, with more than 75 percent of Americans saying they are in favor of taxpayer-funded basic research.

“The whole discussion around scientific denial has become very, very simplified,” said Troy Campbell, a psychologist at the University of Oregon. [6 Politicians Who Got the Science Wrong]

Campbell and other psychologists are presenting findings from polls and other research that they say reveal Americans’ complex relationship with science. The presentations are occurring today (Jan. 21) at the annual meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) in San Antonio.

Science denial — whether it comes in the form of dismissing fact-based evidence as being untrue or in accepting notions that are not factual as being true — is not typically rooted in blanket anti-science attitudes, the research showed. But the facts aren’t always paramount, either. Often, people’s denial of scientific evidence is based on motivations other than finding truth, such as protecting their social identity, the research said.

One key thing to understand about people who engage in science denial is that very few people deny science as a whole, according to research by Yale University psychologist Dan Kahan, also presenting at SPSP on Saturday. For example, the more liberal a person is, the more likely he or she is to agree that humans are causing global warming; a conservative is far more likely to blame natural climate variation or say scientists are making the whole thing up. [Wishful Thinking: 6 ‘Magic Bullet’ Cures That Don’t Exist]

But that same conservative may be just fine with the evidence for the efficacy of vaccines, and there is virtually no partisan split on issues like the safety of nanotechnology, the use of artificial sweeteners in drinks or the health impacts of living near high-voltage power lines, Kahan wrote in a book chapter soon to be published in the “Oxford Handbook on the Science of Science Communication.”

Kahan’s research has also shown that the more science-literate people are, the more strongly they hold to their beliefs — even if those beliefs are totally wrong.

In other words, it’s not about hating science or misunderstanding the facts. It’s about motivation.

“Beliefs are difficult to budge, because people don’t act like scientists, weighing up evidence in an even-handed way,” Matthew Hornsey, a psychologist at the University of Queensland, wrote in an email to Live Science. “When someone wants to believe something, then they act more like lawyers trying to prosecute what they already want to be true. And they cherry-pick the evidence to be able to do that.”
Continue reading Why Some Americans Deny Science Explained

Doomsday prep

Some of the wealthiest people in America—in Silicon Valley, New York, and beyond—are getting ready for the crackup of civilization.
via The New Yorker – by Evan Osnos – JANUARY 30, 2017 ISSUE

An armed guard stands at the entrance of the Survival Condo Project, a former missile silo north of Wichita, Kansas, that has been converted into luxury apartments for people worried about the crackup of civilization.Photograph by Dan Winters for The New Yorker

Steve Huffman, the thirty-three-year-old co-founder and C.E.O. of Reddit, which is valued at six hundred million dollars, was nearsighted until November, 2015, when he arranged to have laser eye surgery. He underwent the procedure not for the sake of convenience or appearance but, rather, for a reason he doesn’t usually talk much about: he hopes that it will improve his odds of surviving a disaster, whether natural or man-made. “If the world ends—and not even if the world ends, but if we have trouble—getting contacts or glasses is going to be a huge pain in the ass,” he told me recently. “Without them, I’m fucked.”

Huffman, who lives in San Francisco, has large blue eyes, thick, sandy hair, and an air of restless curiosity; at the University of Virginia, he was a competitive ballroom dancer, who hacked his roommate’s Web site as a prank. He is less focussed on a specific threat—a quake on the San Andreas, a pandemic, a dirty bomb—than he is on the aftermath, “the temporary collapse of our government and structures,” as he puts it. “I own a couple of motorcycles. I have a bunch of guns and ammo. Food. I figure that, with that, I can hole up in my house for some amount of time.”

Survivalism, the practice of preparing for a crackup of civilization, tends to evoke a certain picture: the woodsman in the tinfoil hat, the hysteric with the hoard of beans, the religious doomsayer. But in recent years survivalism has expanded to more affluent quarters, taking root in Silicon Valley and New York City, among technology executives, hedge-fund managers, and others in their economic cohort.

Last spring, as the Presidential campaign exposed increasingly toxic divisions in America, Antonio García Martínez, a forty-year-old former Facebook product manager living in San Francisco, bought five wooded acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest and brought in generators, solar panels, and thousands of rounds of ammunition. “When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” he told me. The author of “Chaos Monkeys,” an acerbic Silicon Valley memoir, García Martínez wanted a refuge that would be far from cities but not entirely isolated. “All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.” Once he started telling peers in the Bay Area about his “little island project,” they came “out of the woodwork” to describe their own preparations, he said. “I think people who are particularly attuned to the levers by which society actually works understand that we are skating on really thin cultural ice right now.”

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Ethnic cleansing Israeli style

At a seminar a student wrote a paper – from a troubling perspective

I asked my student why he voted for Trump. The answer was thoughtful, smart, and terrifying.
JAN/FEB 2017 ISSUE of Mother Jones

This past October, I taught a week-long seminar on the history of conservatism to honors students from around the state of Oklahoma. In five long days, my nine very engaged students and I got to know each other fairly well. Six were African American women. Then there was a middle-aged white single mother, a white kid who looked like any other corn-fed Oklahoma boy and identified himself as “queer,” and the one straight white male. I’ll call him Peter.

Peter is 21 and comes from a town of about 3,000 souls. It’s 85 percent white, according to the 2010 census, and 1.2 percent African American—which would make for about 34 black folks. “Most people live around the poverty line,” Peter told the class, and hunting is as much a sport as a way to put food on the table.

Peter was one of the brightest students in the class, and certainly the sweetest. He liked to wear overalls to school—and on the last day, in a gentle tweak of the instructor, a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap. A devout evangelical, he’d preferred former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at the start of the primary season, but was now behind Donald Trump.

One day the students spent three hours drafting essays about the themes we’d talked about in class. I invited them to continue writing that night so the next morning we could discuss one of their pieces in detail. I picked Peter’s because it was extraordinary. In only eight hours he’d churned out eight pages, eloquent and sharp.

When I asked him if I could discuss his essay in this article, he replied, “That sounds fine with me. If any of my work can be used to help the country with its political turmoil, I say go for it!” Then he sent me a new version with typos corrected and a postelection postscript: “My wishful hope is that my compatriots will have their tempers settled by Trump’s election, and that maybe both sides can learn from the Obama and Trump administrations in order to understand how both sides feel. Then maybe we can start electing more moderate people, like John Kasich and Jim Webb, who can find reasonable commonality on both sides and make government work.” Did I mention he was sweet?

When he read the piece aloud in class that afternoon in October, the class was riveted. Several of the black women said it was the first time they’d heard a Trump supporter clearly set forth what he believed and why. (Though, defying stereotypes, one of these women—an aspiring cop—was also planning to vote for Trump.)

Peter’s essay took off from the main class reading, Corey Robin’s The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin. Its central argument is that conservative movements across history are united in their devotion to the maintenance of received social hierarchy. Peter, whose essay was titled “Plight of the Redneck,” had a hard time seeing how that applied to the people he knew.
Continue reading At a seminar a student wrote a paper – from a troubling perspective

A second look at a prescient book by Richard Rorty

Three days after the presidential election, an astute law professor tweeted a picture of three paragraphs, very slightly condensed, from Richard Rorty’s “Achieving Our Country,” published in 1998. It was retweeted thousands of times, generating a run on the book — its ranking soared on Amazon and by day’s end it was no longer available. (Harvard University Press is reprinting the book for the first time since 2010, a spokeswoman for the publisher said.)

It’s worth rereading those tweeted paragraphs:

[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Mr. Rorty, an American pragmatist philosopher, died in 2007. Were he still alive, he’d likely be deluged with phone calls from strangers, begging him to pick their stocks.

When “Achieving Our Country” came out, it received a mixed critical reception. Writing for this newspaper, the critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt called the book “philosophically rigorous” but took umbrage at Mr. Rorty’s warnings about the country’s vulnerability to the charms of a strongman, calling this prophesy “a form of intellectual bullying.”

Donald J. Trump enthusiasts might dispute the word strongman. But the essence of Mr. Rorty’s argument holds up surprisingly well. Where others saw positive trends — say, a full-throated dawn chorus praising the nation’s diversity — Mr. Rorty saw dead canaries in a coal mine.

Continue reading A second look at a prescient book by Richard Rorty

A Date that will live in infamy

A Date That Will Live in Infamy
By Charles Bayer – Jan. 20, 2017


A date that will live in infamy. That is how President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described the events of Dec. 7, 1941. Sept. 11, 2001 was second date which deserved that designation. Both of these dates resulted from America being attacked by hostile powers from beyond our shores. Jan. 20, 2017 may well qualify as the third infamous date. The attack in this event, came, however, not from some malignant foreign source, but from our own nation’s seat of power, the office of president of the United States.

This column was first drafted the evening of the Inauguration. While I did not and could not watch the sacred tradition in which this new president took the oath of office, I did later watch a recording of his speech. It left me speechless! The overarching theme was that America has been a desperately worthless, weak nation, devoid of any decency, and ruled by small ineffective people. But now a savior has arrived, and America is going to be great again, pulled out of the malaise that has over the recent years been created by our leaders who filled the swamp and poisoned it.

Of course, patriotism is a virtue rightly ingrained in our national psyches. But a national chauvinism that positions us against every other nation or entity and pledges that we will produce the military firepower able to get and keep their attention, and provide safety at home and peace in the world, is just silly.

I know it may not be considered in good taste to invoke what Adolph Hitler promised the German people, but this evening I have been listening to and watching a recording of his first speech as chancellor in 1933. Hitler began by decimating the reputations of the leaders before him who he regarded as having demoralized and debauched the nation. He then promised to make Germany great again — he actually used the exact German equivalent words! He said that this powerful rebirth of Germany’s world role must be brought about by the Volk — the German peasants and workers — the people. They must stand without equivocation, putting Germany first: first in their lives and first in the world. There must be trust in no other nation, and Germany must form no alliances in order to safeguard the Volk. And it will be done because it is the will of God!
Continue reading A Date that will live in infamy

The Fourteen Signs of Fascism as displayed

Clear As Day: How Donald Trump’s Incoming Administration Represents Modern-Day Fascism

Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

In the spring of 2003, Dr. Lawrence Britt wrote an article for Free Inquiry Magazine titled “Fascism Anyone?” in which the author identified 14 traits of fascism based on the regimes of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Francisco Franco, Suharto, and Augusto Pinochet. At the time, the piece seemed odd, given the fact that the people studied were no longer in power and that all the combatants of World War II believed the true threat of fascism to have been eradicated once the war ended. In the year 2003, the major worldwide threat was the terrorist group Al Qaeda who was a rogue group working across borders rather than a nation-state with an autocratic dictator. Britt’s article, although fascinating to read, seemed to have little to no practical implications at the time.

Flash forward thirteen years.

Britt’s piece is now terrifying in its scope, given the rise of ultra-nationalist, far-right groups across the globe. Aided by the worst refugee crisis since World War II, the Great Recession of 2008, and terrorist organizations working across international borders, we now have seen a number of these groups slowly and gradually adopt fascist traits to take power under the guise of patriotism and nationalism. Initially, these groups were limited to overseas where the refugee crisis was most prevalent. However, as we saw with the initial rise of fascism, it is an ideology that can easily cross both borders and oceans. Now, in December of 2016, we have a clean and present danger of fascism right here in the United States of America.
Continue reading The Fourteen Signs of Fascism as displayed

Revisiting the VA Issue

When It Comes To Veterans Care, Hillary, Bernie, and Rachel Get It

 ·  Jon Soltz, Huffinton Post   ·   Link to Article

Last evening’s Democratic debate was full of fireworks. But, if you managed to stay tuned all the way to the end, you got to see Rachel Maddow ask the question that hasn’t been asked in any Democratic debate, or Republican debate. But, that question cuts right to the core of the difference in vision between progressives and the Koch Brothers.

Here’s Rachel:

If either one of you is nominated as the Democratic Party’s nominee, you will likely face a Republican opponent in the general election who wants to privatize or even abolish big parts of the V.A. It’s a newly popular idea in conservative politics.

How will you win the argument on that issue given the problems that have been exposed at the V.A. in the last few years? What’s your argument that the V.A. should still exist and should not be privatized?


Rachel is no newcomer to this issue. If you’ve watched her show, you know that she is really the only television host out there who has been focused on the burgeoning campaign to close down the VA, and throw veterans into the private, for-profit system.

Further, she acutely understands the implications of privatizing the VA. If we can privatize one of the most sacred promises we make in this nation – the guarantee of care of our veterans, when they come home from war – and leave veterans to figure out their own care, with just a voucher and a pat on the back, then privatization of anything else is on the table. Anything.

The responses of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders showed a real awareness of what was is going on, and who is behind it.

Here is Hillary Clinton:

Well, first of all, I’m absolutely against privatizing the V.A. And I am going do everything I can to build on the reforms that Senator Sanders and others in Congress have passed to try to fix what’s wrong with the V.A.

There are a lot of issues about wait times and services that have to be fixed because our veterans deserve nothing but the best.

But you’re absolutely right, you know, Rachel, this is another part of the Koch brothers agenda. They’ve actually formed an organization to try to begin to convince Americans we should no longer have guaranteed health care, specialized care for our veterans.

I will fight that as hard as I can. I think there’s where we can enlist the veterans service organizations, the veterans of America, because, yes, let’s fix the V.A., but we will never let it be privatized, and that is a promise.


And here is Bernie Sanders:

Secretary Clinton is absolutely right, there are people, Koch brothers among others, who have a group called Concerned Veterans of America, funded by the Koch brothers. The Koch brothers, by the way, want to destroy Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, every governmental program passed since the 1930s. Yes, there are people out there who want to privatize it.

The last point that I’d make. I had a hearing. I had all of the veterans groups in front of me. And I said to them, tell me when a veteran gets in to the V.A., understanding there are waiting lines and real problems, when a veteran gets into the system, is the quality of care good?

Without exception, what they said, good, excellent, very good. We’ve got to strengthen the V.A. We do not privatize the V.A.


Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders both hit the nail on the head.

Late last year, VoteVets.org released a report on the Koch-Brothers-funded Concerned Veterans for America. The group’s founder, Pete Hegseth (who has since left) said that the Kochs “literally created” the group. And, the group stands entirely apart and alone from every major veterans service organization – the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Disabled American Veterans, and more – when it comes to privatizing the VA.

And, it isn’t just the veterans groups. The Vet Voice Foundation commissioned a Democratic pollster and Republican pollster, to conduct a poll of veterans in America, on the issue of privatization. The findings?

    • Veterans oppose a proposal in Congress that would have the real effect of leading to privatized VA hospitals. Sixty-four percent oppose, and only 29% support.
    • Overall, 57% of veterans would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supported privatizing the VA health care system. Even a majority of Republicans indicate they would be more likely to vote against a candidate who supported privatization. This opposition extends across parties: 67% of Democratic, 57% of Independent/don’t know, and 53% of Republican veterans say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate for high-elected office if they supported privatization of the VA health care system.
    • Fifty-nine percent of veterans rate their impression of VA hospitals as favorable. When only asked about VA hospitals in their area, 61% of veterans rate their impression as favorable.
    • In comparison, only 25% of veterans when asked if they have a favorable impression of for-profit health insurance corporations. And only 12 percent believe that VA hospitals should be run more like private hospitals.
  • So what do veterans want? Although veterans think that changes need to be made to the VA hospitals, their biggest want is more doctors. Forty-two percent of veterans think that “needs more doctors” describes VA hospitals in their area very well. That is the most frequently-given prescription for helping the VA perform more efficiently.

Veterans realize the VA has its issues – but they also realize that these issues are fixable, and understand that privatizing the VA only makes things worse. Knowing that, what did the Kochs do? They bought their own veterans group.

Yet, until last night, the issue hadn’t been raised, and the candidates weren’t asked to address where they stand. Thank God Rachel Maddow brought it up, and gave the entire country a chance to see why veterans need progressives to rally against privatization of the veterans health system.

Couple of images for bullshit



National Greatness defined

A Nigerian Nobel Winner Exits Trump’s America

A Nigerian Nobel Winner Exits Trump’s America

“Trump’s wall is already under construction,” Wole Soyinka says. “Walls are built in the mind.”

Wole Soyinka at home in Abeokuta, Nigeria Akintunde Akinleye / Reuters
via The Atlantic by URI FRIEDMAN – Jan. 17, 2017
Wole Soyinka, the first African writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, once fled to the United States from Nigeria. Now the fickle winds of politics are pushing him in the opposite direction.
Back in the 1960s, jailed for alleged associations with rebels amid the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War, Soyinka composed protest poems on toilet paper in solitary confinement. “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny,” Soyinka wrote in the collection of prison notes he later published. In the 1990s, the Nigerian strongman Sani Abacha confiscated Soyinka’s passport after the playwright urged Nigerians to stop paying taxes in defiance of military rule in the country. Soyinka managed to sneak out of his homeland and take refuge in the United States—a period he described to me as his “political sabbatical, because I never accepted, really, that I was in exile.” Abacha sentenced Soyinka to death in absentia. Soyinka’s crime was said to be treason.

Soyinka is now 82 years old, and his latest flash of activism involves Donald Trump.

While spending Thanksgiving with his family in the United States, Soyinka says, he followed through on a pledge he made shortly before the U.S. election: to destroy his U.S. permanent-resident card, or Green Card, if Trump won the presidency. Soyinka has been based in Nigeria for some time—ever “since our dearly beloved dictator Sani Abacha kindly took his leave of us” (translation: died of a heart attack) in 1998, Soyinka told me by phone from the Nigerian city of Lagos. But over the years, he’s left Nigeria for stretches to teach at universities in the United States and around the world, most recently at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He said he obtained his Green Card during his “political sabbatical” at Emory University in the ’90s, with the help of former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.Soyinka told me that he has now rendered his Green Card “inoperable,” without going into further detail. “I don’t have strong enough fingers to tear up a Green Card,” he added. “As long as Trump is in charge, if I absolutely have to visit the United States, I prefer to go in the queue for a regular visa with others,” he said. “I’m no longer part of the society, not even as a resident.”
Continue reading A Nigerian Nobel Winner Exits Trump’s America

Asshats are wrong again…

Wingnut Conservatives think they’ve caught Paul Krugman in an act of hypocrisy. They haven’t.

via Wonk Blog –   – January 13th, 2017
There’s nothing more predictable than people being in favor of deficits when their preferred political party is in power, and against them when it’s not.Republicans, as you might recall, have spent the past eight years warning that President Obama’s deficits would turn us into Greece to the point of actively trying to force us to default on the debt supposedly as a way to keep us from doing so tomorrow, only to turn around and get ready to add $9 trillion of red ink now that they’re in charge. Debt hysteria, you see, is reserved for Democratic presidents.It’s the same sort of thing conservatives think they’ve caught Paul Krugman doing. Back in August, when it looked as though Hillary Clinton was going to win the White House, he wrote that it was still “Time to Borrow.” But now that Donald Trump is getting ready for the most elegant, most tremendous inauguration ever, Krugman has said that “Deficits Matter Again.” Now, this might seem like a pretty straightforward gotcha, but only if you don’t read past the headlines. There’s actually no contradiction here.

Continue reading Asshats are wrong again…

Considering a colony on Mars


I grew up on space colonization stuff and fully expected a Moon base, then a Moon colony, then a Mars base, then a Mars Colony by…well, now. Look at all the space hardware that was expected for 2001, along with a Jupiter probe. None of that movie struck 1969 audiences as implausible, given the previous 32 years of technological development, which spanned the Graf Zepplin to the Concorde, 747, and Apollo 11.

Charlie Stross kind of hammered in the coffin nails for me with his essay about the impossibility of space colonies, which referenced Bruce Sterling’s shorter essay summarized as “Call me about Mars when the Gobi Desert is full”:


…it’s not about the technological possibility of getting enough mass to Mars to make living space there and solving those problems (I loved The Martian), it’s about whether it would pay anything. You can do exploration at a loss, but colonization has to pay for itself, and it just can’t.

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Is this the beginning of the end for Western-style liberal democracies?

Maybe This Is How Democracy Ends

The frightening rise of authoritarian populism in the West is a very real, clear and present danger.

The election of Donald Trump has triggered as much wonderment abroad as it has in the United States. David Runciman, a professor of politics at the University of Cambridge, has written in the London Review of Books a provocative reflection on the nature of democracy in the age of Trump: “Is this how democracy ends?” There is much to praise in his essay, including his heavy qualification that we really don’t know for sure if what we are seeing is the end phase of mature Western democracies since we do not have the appropriate historical precedents to be certain.

Runciman is correct; as an admirer of Karl Popper, I believe that there is no such thing as historical determinism, either in the form of the Marxist dialectical process, or in the guise of its mirror image, the invisible hand of laissez-faire. Accordingly there is no surefire way to tell in advance whether Trump, Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders would spell the end of democracy as we have known it. History, as Popper would tell us, is an open system, full of contingency. Waterloo, the Battle of Britain and Stalingrad were all close-run things.

That said, Runciman may in fact be too optimistic. He makes much of the evidence that post-election violence in America was scattered and relatively minor. There were no pitched battles in the streets on the scale of Berlin in 1932, no tanks on the Washington Mall and no generals appearing on television to announce a curfew or to say that order has been restored. But that establishes an awfully easy test for Trump to prove he is harmless, especially as he had not even assumed office at the time of the author’s writing. We do not know what the next four years have to offer, particularly when Trump begins to dismantle government programs on which people rely for subsistence, or when he ignites a trade war with China and downscale consumers, the archetypal Walmart customers, suddenly discover either that the shelves are empty or that their cost of living has increased by 45 percent.
Continue reading Is this the beginning of the end for Western-style liberal democracies?