Throughout history, bad times have inspired Great Art.

This is not one of those times.

Before the new $10m Martin Luther King statue was unveiled in Boston, Claretta Bellamy of NBC News reported:

“Five years in the making, the monument represents the love, heart and spirit of the couple, [the sculptor] said, while also highlighting the power of an iconic moment. .. In that picture, you can see the weight of him on her shoulders as they embrace,” he said. “And I realized that this was really a metaphor for his legacy — that she carried his legacy on her shoulders for several decades after he was assassinated.”

NBC News

Martin Luther King and Coretta King embrace

A fond remembrance was the plan. But when the 22-foot statue was unveiled in Boston, the question on most people’s lips was ‘where is his head?’

???

Those were the polite responses. People who felt no need to hold back, like Coretta King’s cousin Seneca Scott, said : “it looks more like a pair of hands hugging a beefy penis than a special moment shared by the iconic couple.”

Rasheed N. Walters, a columnist with the Boston Globe, said: “The famous photo should have been a FULL statue of the couple and their embrace. What a huge swing and miss in honoring the Dr & Mrs King.”

Social media labelled the statue “obscene” and “pornographic looking” and a reason to shut down modern art.

What inspired this formless, dehumanized representation of one of the world’s great leaders?

History shows that trying times can inspire great art. The sixteenth century’s cultural upheaval and plagues gave us Hieronymus Bosch.

From Hieronymus Bosch’s ‘Garden of Earthly Delights

The horrors of the Inquisition and the Napoleonic invasion gave us Goya’s unflinching, surrealist works.

More about ‘The Third of May’

The artists’ rejection of the civilization that inflicted the First World War on a generation gave us Surrealism.

Salvador Dali’s ‘Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man’

1950’s and 60’s commercialism gave us the intentional irony of Warhol & Lichtenstein –

‘In the Car’ by Roy Lichtenstein

Andy Warhol’s ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’

And there was also Madison Avenue’s dreamy, unintentional absurdity –

Trippy Shell Ad.

But all the ZeroCOVID era gave us was – Alegria.

Like the MLK statue, Alegria is all about giant sausage-ey arms and barely existent, expressionless heads. Like the First World War, it’s an example of civilizational decay that we’re all trying to turn away from.

Developed by the Brooklyn-based design firm, Buck, Alegria was created to cater to tech titans. Google, Airbnb and Facebook wanted a “consistent illustration system that signals positivity” — something that would be inclusive without being individualist while being simple, scaleable and most of all, cheap.

Something for a CEO championing “getting through these trying times together” while earning 200 times the salary of his average employee.

After a great deal of thought and Zoom calls, the tech industry heartily approved Alegria. Soon our online world was filled with interchangeable herds of colorful humanoids bounding about in their bland tech whitespace.

Bounding herds of humanoids

They are happy.

They are interchangeable.

They are safe.

Not surprisingly, Alegria has become the most hated art style on the planet. Some call it Globohomo (globohomoginized), but it’s not clear if even the Davos crowd likes it.

The Reddit crowd certainly doesn’t.

But in some way, the horrors of the ZeroCOVID era did bring creativity back, in its most absurd form — memes.

‘Saturn Devouring His Son’, done by Goya and Alegria

Vaccine ad parody

This meme was mistaken for the real thing.

Which one is real?

These absurdist memes are a rare sign of creative life, artists waging a valiant war against a future of de-humanized people and humanized mice.

Dali and Bosch would be proud.

The Myth of Overpopulation: A PsyOp to Kill the Future

We lost faith in human progress when we lost faith in humanity.

Is This Tomorrow? A 1940’s vision of the future

Grandma always liked to talk about that one fine day, back in 1929 …

It didn’t start out very well, she was doing a chore she hated, pumping water from the local well and carrying the heavy, unstable bucket back up a steep hill. Her home in suburban Ennis had indoor plumbing, why was their holiday cottage on the rugged Irish coast so far behind the times? She was grumbling to herself about this when she heard a motor.

Her heart skipped a beat – could it be one of those newfangled automobiles? She dumped the bucket and looked around, but she only saw cows and grassy fields. The sound wasn’t coming from the road. It was coming from the sky.

At the same time, Charles Lindbergh was sitting in a cramped position, holding his eyelids open with his fingers, struggling to stay awake, hoping against hope that he hadn’t flown The Spirit of St. Louis too far off-course. He was thrilled to see the craggy, west coast of Ireland. Despite his rudimentary navigation, he was ahead of schedule and only three miles off course.

He didn’t see Grandma, of course, but she saw him, and she knew what that plane meant. She was seeing the future — and it would be grand!

She was right. Despite events that threatened to end her world; the tragic civil war that followed the Irish War of Independence, leaving home to cross the Atlantic, WWII, dealing with nasty Bronx landlords, she stayed optimistic about the future, for herself, her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.

And she lived to see it all — medical advances extended her life and saved her eyesight. Her walkup apartment was warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And she had all the running water she could drink.

In the early twentieth century, most people thought technology would bring a better life. To capture that spirit of hope, Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists created postcard visions of life in the year 2000.

In those days, most people could only expect to live to be 50 or so. Economies were uncertain. Recessions were frequent. But they believed human ingenuity would make the future easier, faster and –fun.

Of these postcards, ‘The Nature of the Beast’ says:

Here are some illustrations of what people in 1910 envisioned the year 2000 to be. These illustrations demonstrate a world where technology is an extension of the physical self, technology is used to enhance everyday life and people can do things easier and faster. I find this interesting as most visions of the future tend to focus on the concept of technology as a threat to humanity.

VNK, The Nature of the Beast

This is sad but true. Despite huge increases in the average lifespan, great advances in medicine, communications and transportation, many people nowadays think technology is a threat, not a benefit. Many have a dour view of humanity’s future with or without technical advances. Some see humanity as a virus that the world would be better off without.

When did our visions of a better future go from easy, fast and fun technology …


To apocalypse?

CGI still of the Chicago El Train collapsing after 100 years after people from History’s new series, “Life After People.”

The Great Depression gave us plenty to be pessimistic about, but during the 1930’s, our visions of the future remained sunny. The popular 1933-34 World’s Fair promised a happier not-too-distant future driven by innovation; automobiles, architecture and even cigarette-smoking robots. Most people just knew things would improve (even if those improvements might be kind of weird).

1930’s Ball Trailers

Totalitarian regimes lured followers with the promise of a better future. But even after those futuristic dreams failed and the world witnessed the horrors of WWII, people still believed in progress.

Soviet futuristic art

In the 1950s and ‘60s, people looked forward to a future of cheap, abundant energy provided by nuclear power; Isaac Asimov even predicted that by 2014, appliances “will have no electric cords, of course, for they will be powered by long-lived batteries running on radioisotopes.” A 1959 ad in the Los Angeles Times sponsored by a coalition of power companies referred to “tomorrow’s higher standard of living”—without explanation, as a matter of course—and illustrated the possibilities with a drawing of a flying car.

“We Need a New Philosophy of Progress” by Jason Crawford

In the 1950’s and early ’60s, we thought space would be our future. The government spent millions planning Project Horizon, a scientific/military based moon habitat. George Jetson had his flying car. Even the grimmest predictions of life in the twenty-first century assumed a human presence in space.

But things changed around the mid-60’s. That era was a “boom time” for nightmarish visions of our future.

In his NY Times article “The Unrealized Horrors of Population Explosion”, Clyde Haberman says:

In 1966, for example, a writer named Harry Harrison came out with a science fiction novel titled “Make Room! Make Room!” Sketching a dystopian world in which too many people scrambled for too few resources, the book became the basis for a 1973 film about a hellish future, “Soylent Green.” In 1969, the pop duo Zager and Evans reached the top of the charts with a number called “In the Year 2525,” which postulated that humans were on a clear path to doom.

The threat of nuclear war was not enough to cause widespread fear of our tech and our future. But this PsyOp, (defined as an operation to convey selected information and indicators to audiences to influence their emotions, motives, and objective reasoning, and ultimately the behavior) — did.

Hugh Moore, an advertising guru and founder of the Dixie Cup Company, became convinced that population growth would lead to the spread of communism. He believed the way to stop this was to convince communist leader that their population, their greatest strength, was their greatest weakness.

Salesmanship is the art of polishing a turd. Marketing expert Moore was inspired by another turd polisher, British Economist Thomas Robert Malthus.

In 1798, Malthus published  An Essay on the Principle of Population, which claimed that “population growth always outstrips our ability to supply the concurrent need for increased resources (especially food), resulting in inevitable cycles of overpopulation, rapid resource depletion, and extreme human suffering.”

Malthus saw humanity as a consumption machine, a dumb herd of animals that would strip one field bare, then move on to the next one. He believed it was better to prevent the overpopulation catastrophe proactively, by “permitting” higher mortality rates. Basically, catastrophic tyranny and deprivation would be necessary to prevent catastrophic tyranny and deprivation.

This circular reasoning led to the starvation of millions in India and Ireland during the late 1800’s. It went on to inspire the founder of eugenics, Sir Francis Galton . And, of course, it was the inspiration for Hitler’s atrocities.

After Hitler, Malthus and his Eugenics needed rebranding. Enter the turd-polisher, Moore.

As Robert Zubrin says in “The Population Control Holocaust”

Until the mid-1960s, American population control programs, both at home and abroad, were largely funded and implemented by private organizations such as the Population Council and Planned Parenthood — groups with deep roots in the eugenics movement. While disposing of millions of dollars provided to them by the Rockefeller, Ford, and Milbank Foundations, among others, the resources available to support their work were meager in comparison with their vast ambitions. This situation changed radically in the mid-1960s, when the U.S. Congress, responding to the agitation of overpopulation  ideologues, finally appropriated federal funds to underwrite first domestic and then foreign population control programs. Suddenly, instead of mere millions, there were hundreds of millions and eventually billions of dollars available to fund global campaigns of mass abortion and forced sterilization. The result would be human catastrophe on a worldwide scale…

President Lyndon Johnson was provided a fraudulent study by a RAND Corporation economist that used cooked calculations to “prove” that Third World children actually had negative economic value. Thus, by allowing excessive numbers of children to be born, Asian, African, and Latin American governments were deepening the poverty of their populations, while multiplying the masses of angry proletarians ready to be led against America by the organizers of the coming World Revolution.

An Office of Population was set up within USAID, and Dr. Reimert Thorolf Ravenholt was appointed its first director in 1966. He would hold the post until 1979, using it to create a global empire of interlocking population control organizations operating with billion-dollar budgets to suppress the existence of people considered undesirable by the U.S. Department of State.

Robert Zubrin

With the US government’s financial incentives in place, ‘Population Control’ became driving force.

In the late 1970’s, family planning became essential to “China’s socialist modernization.” Under their One Child Policy, all women with one child were ordered to have a stainless-steel IUD inserted. Removing it was crime. All parents with two or more children were to be sterilized. No pregnancies for anyone under 23. All unauthorized pregnancies were to be aborted through the ninth month of pregnancy. Many cried as they were being stabbed to death at the moment of birth. Women who fled to save their children were hunted. If they could not be caught, their houses were torn down and their parents thrown in prison. If those babies survived, they became “black children,” non-persons without any right to employment, public schooling, health care, or reproduction.

Dr. Ravenholt, an epidemiologist who apparently saw pregnancy as “a disease, to be eradicated in the same way one eliminates smallpox or yellow fever.” thought this was a success.

The leaders of the UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation also thought it was a success. But Planned Parenthood’s information officer, Penny Kane, worried that, if the news of this got out, the public-relations disaster could harm Planned Parenthood’s image in the USA.

Babies born in China in spite of the one-child policy are declared “black children” and have no right to food, health care, or education. If female, they are frequently killed, either at birth, or if apprehended later, at orphanages where they are gathered. Shown above is Mei Ming, a two-year-old girl tied to a chair in a “dying room.” The bucket below her is to catch her urine and feces as she dies over the next several days from starvation and neglect. The above photo was taken by a British TV crew during their filming of the 1995 documentary exposé The Dying Rooms. The Chinese government denies the existence of dying rooms.
— Courtesy Care of China’s Orphaned and Abandoned

The story did break out, but by that point, the Myth of Overpopulation had become so pervasive, it barely made a dent in the national consciousness. The inevitable blowback from Moore’s original PsyOp had arrived – the West fell for its own lies.

We’re still being fooled. One commenter on the article “The Unrealized Horrors of Population Explosion” praised China’s one child policy for “greatly reducing the current and future population surplus that China will have to provide for. And, given that China is by far the most populated country in the world, their contribution to the reduction in growth is the dominant one.”

In 2015, 27 people recommended a comment praising the slow starvation of thousands of babies.

In 1968, ecologist Paul Ehrlich published  “The Population Bomb”. He stole the title from an earlier pamphlet written by Moore, who was happy to lend his support. David Brower, executive director of the Sierra Club, supported “Bomb”, as well. He hoped it would influence the 1968 presidential election. 

The first sentence of Ehrlich’s book set the tone: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over… hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” Like Malthus, Ehrlich had no faith in humanity’s ability to adapt or innovate. Like sheep, we could do nothing to “prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” The only solution was to reduce our numbers or face “mass starvation” on “a dying planet.”



Like Malthus, Ehrlich’s predictions were consistently wrong  but like any cult leader, he kept moving the doomsday date back. And, like any salesman/turd polisher, he changed the label. The overpopulation crisis slowly morphed into a Climate crisis that, once again, would require us to reduce our numbers, destroy our food sources and cripple our economies . The option of using low-emission nuclear power to solve climate issues was dismissed by Ehrlich, who wrote that “giving cheap, abundant energy to humanity would be like ”giving an idiot child a machine gun”

Of course, Ehrlich and his followers did not think that they, themselves were ‘idiot children’. Those ICs were the unwashed masses who did not attend the right cocktail parties or appear on Johnny Carson. Of the racism and classism inherent in our ‘fight’ against overpopulation, Brittney Bush Bollay, Seattle Group Sierra Club Chair said:

“In fact, the very roots of the modern population control movement are racist. Commonly traced back to the 1968 book “The Population Bomb,” which opens its fear-mongering with a sensationalized account of traveling through Delhi, India. During a taxi ride, author Paul Erlich describes “People visiting, arguing and screaming. People thrusting their hands through the taxi window begging… Since that night I’ve known the feel of overpopulation.” What Erlich fails to mention, however, is that, while Delhi’s population was just shy of three million, both New York and Paris housed about eight million at the time. Erlich’s emphasis on an Indian city as the exemplification of overpopulation was part of a large and continuing pattern of focusing blame on the global south and the mostly non-white people who live there by affluent Western Europeans and Americans.

Sierra Club must reckon with its own role in this history. Our complicity is inescapable: the Club was heavily involved in the initial publishing of Erlich’s book, and for many years supported its ideas. As recently as 2004, xenophobic factions attempted to enact an anti-immigration agenda by trotting out the overpopulation bogeyman. Above all, we must understand that employing this type of rhetoric often leads to tragic consequences.”

Sir David Attenborough , who is generally rather than specifically racist, hating the whole human race, claims the world’s rising human population must be brought under control for the quality of life — of other animals. Speaking on BBC Radio 5 live’s Breakfast, he said: “There are areas of the world that are still unspoilt [by humans] .. but that may not be the case if in fact our numbers go on increasing at the present rate.””

It’s strange for a naturalist to be so clueless about nature. A successful species always tries to increase their numbers, to grow and thrive. An unsuccessful one doesn’t. Failure to grow is — failure. No species has ever collectively said, ‘hey, let’s take it down a few notches, let’s stop having kids and searching for new food sources.’

If they did, no trace of them remains.

I love the Sierra Club’s gorgeous calendars, and I love Attenborough’s nature shows. But I know those cute cartoons and pretty pictures are coercing consent for genuinely harmful policies that are based on a profound fear of natural adaptation and change.

This fear of change is perfectly expressed in the dream of ‘Spaceship Earth’, the Utopian belief that Earth can be managed at an optimum homeostasis  (planetary equilibrium), perfect and unchanging, like a terrarium in a jar .

Still going strong: Pensioner David Latimer from Cranleigh, Surrey, with his bottle garden that was first planted 53 years ago and has not been watered since 1972 – yet continues to thrive in its sealed environment. — The Daily Mail

Unfortunately, this Utopian experiment was already tried. It failed, miserably.

In 1947, Baltimore biologist John Calhoun was studying the behavior of the Norway rats who plagued his city. He built a quarter-acre rat Utopia behind his house, filled it with breeding pairs and constantly catered to all their needs. He hoped to house 5,000 rats there, but the population never exceeded 150. At that point, his pampered rats fell into a weird and then alarming orgy of self-destruction.

Calhoun couldn’t figure out why his rats, who had everything they needed, failed to thrive, while wild and free rats were taking over Baltimore.

So he built another, slightly bigger Utopia. It failed. He built another and another. They all failed. In the same way. So he gave up on trying to understand wild rats via his rat Utopia and began to frame his work in terms of population: How many individuals could a rodent city hold without losing its collective mind? The National Institute of Mental Health gave him more money for more “rodentopias.”

All of the Utopias collapsed, each according to the same pattern:

  • Early success: pups are born. The population doubled every two months—20 rodents, then 40, then 80. Families became dynasties, holding down the best real estate.
  • Plateau – When more young survived to maturity than were necessary to replace the dying or senescent, the downfall began. New generations couldn’t find enough mates & a places in the social order. Males who failed withdrew physically and psychologically; they weren’t attacked by territorial males, but they attacked each other. Withdrawn females also isolated. Solitary males & females preened themselves, becoming the “beautiful ones”.
  • Downfall – Aggressive mice attacked others for no real motivation or gain. Rape and cannibalism became rampant. Overextended parents moved nests constantly to avoid the gangs and took their stress out on their babies, kicking them out of the nest too early and losing them during moves. Infant mortality in some territories of the utopia reached 90 percent.
  • Behavioral sink – The mice who managed to survive this enclosed utopia never learned how to be — mice. Adolescents literally forgot how to mate. The violent males became more powerful. The combination of mad violence and senescence led to the inevitable apocalypse, despite the fact that their basic needs were still being met.

In 1972, Calhoun wrote about his biggest failed Utopia, Universe 25. At first, he blamed overpopulation for the failure. In the late sixties and early seventies, this made the story of Universe 25 an instant hit. Senators quoted him, creators of doom and gloom sci-fi stories were inspired. Here was proof that the Malthusians were right.

But they missed the point of Calhoun’s research. His original goal was to understand why rodents thrived in the hard-knock streets and sewers of Baltimore but failed miserably in his enclosed Utopia.

That question was answered when he wrote.

“In the normal course of events in a natural ecological setting somewhat more young survive to maturity than are necessary to replace their dying or senescent established associates. The excess that find no social niches emigrate.”

The “excess” could not move on to find new horizons because there was nowhere else to go. His Utopia didn’t prove that population growth and change would lead to our destruction, it proved the opposite. The wild rats and mice were his control group. They survived and thrived because they kept adapting, expanding and growing. His pampered mice died because they could not leave their enclosed ‘paradise’.

As the Malthusians are so fond of pointing out, humans are just another animal. Freedom, exploration and growth are not a luxury for animals, they’re like food and air, essential to survival. Nature abhors a Utopia in the same way it abhors a vacuum.

If the dream of ‘Spaceship Earth’ came true, it would be our tomb.

Evidence has never been on the Malthusians side. History shows that freedom leads to a world of innovation and prosperity that Grandma never dreamed of.

But it’s hard to reason people out of something they were never reasoned into. Like Calhoun’s rodents, Malthusians are perpetually trapped in their closed mindspace, their contempt for progress, humanity, art and ‘freedumbs’.

Even John Lennon couldn’t convince them when he said, back in 1971 “I think it’s really a joke .. they way people have made this over-population thing is a myth, I don’t really believe it. I think whatever happens will balance itself out…It’s alright for us all living to say, ‘Well, there’s enough of us [people] so we won’t have any more…I think we have enough food and money to feed everyone .. and some can go to the moon ..”

He went on to say it was a myth, meant to distract the world from Vietnam and Ireland & important things like that. Dick Cavett said. “I think you’re wrong about that.”

And Lennon said “Oh, well I don’t care.”

John Lennon & Yoko Ono

Lennon was right. The Malthusians’ myth is corrosive to our belief in ourselves and our future. There is no reason to vote for them or to care about their advice. They clearly do not have our best interests at heart.

ZeroCOVID kills

“The fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang: the last screams of the residents who were burned to death, other residents could only stand by the window to watch, because everyone was locked at home.”

#TheGreatTranslationMovement

Originally tweeted by The Great Translation Movement 大翻译运动官方推号 (@TGTM_Official) on November 25, 2022.

According to state reports, 10 people were killed, and 9 were injured in a fire in the capitol city of China’s Uyghur region, Xinjiang.

Most of Xinjiang and its capitol city Ürümqi , has been under lockdown for more than 100 days. Victims likely spent their last 3 months largely confined to that building

Videos show lockdown measures delayed firefighters from getting to the victims screaming for help. Testing facilities blocked firefighters’ access.

Urumqi city authorities claim apartment residents were free to enter and leave, and that there were no barricades blocking the exits.

Urumqi’s fire chief blamed residents instead, saying “Some residents’ ability to rescue themselves was too weak”

Protests erupted throughout China, some demanding the Xi step down. Most of the protesters were Han Chinese – the Uyghurs fear being sent to the prison camps.

Congratulations Firefly Aerospace!

Alpha Flight 2 launch

The commercial space company Firefly‘s ‘Alpha Flight 2: To The Black’ was successfully launched from Vandenberg space force base this morning at one minute past midnight.

This was the second attempt. Alpha Flight 1 was launched last September, but didn’t manage to reach orbit because one of the four first-stage engines shut down prematurely. The rocket kept going on three engines and managed to reach supersonic, but then tumbled out of control. It was intentionally destroyed by an explosive flight termination system.

According to Firefly, the problem was an electrical issue. But on the bright side, the rocket generated useful data during its 2 1/2 minutes of flight.

This year Firefly attempted to launch Alpha Flight 2 on Sept. 11, but controllers halted the countdown a minute before schedule due to a drop in the supply of the helium that was used to pressurize tanks. They ultimately scrubbed the launch.

Firefly then had to wait for the weather to get better before making a third attempt. On Sept. 30. The engines briefly ignited as the countdown reached zero, but the rocket went into “auto abort” at engine ignition.

Today Alpha launched smoothly and hit its marks as planned. The rocket’s two stages separated about 2.5 minutes after liftoff. The upper stage was inserted into an elliptical transfer orbit targeted to be 190 miles (300 kilometers) above Earth.

From Firefly.com’s Alpha Flight 2 to the Black page

According to Tim Dodd of EverydayAstronaut.com , three payloads were deployed. All three payloads are tiny, each about the size of a loaf of bread.

Serenity, from the nonprofit organization Teachers in Space, was designed to collect a variety of data which will be shared with the educational community.

TechEdSat-15 (TES-15) is owned by NASA in coordination with San Jose State University in California. It features an “exo-brake” designed to help satellites leave their orbital perches more smoothly when their work is done.

Libre Space Foundation’s PicoBus will deploy 6 picosatellites into space to test the world’s first “fully free and open source telecommunications constellation.”

In November 2018 Firefly was selected by NASA for a Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) contract to “acquire end-to-end commercial payload services between the Earth and the lunar surface for NASA Headquarters’ Science, Human Exploration and Operations, and Space Technology Mission Directorates (SMD, HEOMD, and STMD).”

NASA also added Firefly to the VADR contract, “citing the need for a provider capable of launching payloads between 500 and 1,000 kilograms. “Firefly is the only launch vehicle provider in this grouping that has completed development and conducted its first test launch of their Alpha Launch Vehicle,” NASA stated in the procurement filing.”

Firefly hopes to be a player in the small-satellite launch industry that includes  Rocket Lab ,  Virgin Orbit and SpaceX .

The more the merrier!

[Also posted on my SubStack Site, Future So Bright ]

Rushdie the latest victim of oil-rich billionaires at war

Novelist Salman Rushdie

According to the BBC:

Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator and unable to speak after being stabbed on stage in the US, his agent says.

Andrew Wylie said that the author, 75, may lose one eye after the attack at an event in New York state.

Mr Rushdie went into hiding with police protection in the UK in 1988 after Iran’s top leader called for his murder over his novel, The Satanic Verses, which some Muslims deemed blasphemous.

Police detained a suspect named as Hadi Matar, 24, from Fairview, New Jersey.

New York State Police said the suspect ran onto the stage and attacked Mr Rushdie and an interviewer at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York state.

Mr Rushdie was stabbed at least once in the neck and in the abdomen, authorities said. He was taken to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, by helicopter.

“Salman will likely lose one eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged,” his agent said.

No motive or charges have yet been confirmed by police, who are in the process of obtaining search warrants to examine a backpack and electronic devices found at the centre.

Police told a news conference that staff and audience members had pinned the attacker to the ground where he was arrested. A doctor in the audience gave Mr Rushdie first aid.

Some information about the alleged assassin, Hadi Matar: he is linked to Iranian extremism, born in the US of Lebanese descent and was living in NJ.

He had a fake ID in the name of Hassan Mughniyah. Mughniyah was killed by a car bomb in Damascus in 2008.

Mughniyah was a close ally of Qasem Soleimani, who commanded the Quds force, a sub-branch of the Iranian revolutionary Guard. Soleimani was killed by a US drone in Iraq in 2020 on orders from then US President Donald Trump. Investigators found photos showing Qasem Soleimani on Hadi Matar’s mobile phone.

Soleimani’s death was a significant loss for Iran and for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

Lebanon has been at the forefront of a very long running war between the Wahhabi monarchy of Saudi Arabia and Shi’ite revolutionary Iran. Both states want to impose their version of Islamic Sharia law on Muslims and everyone else on the planet. They fight this war via their official and unofficial militias. In Lebanon, Saudi supports Sunni militias (mostly) in Tripoli. Iran supports Hezbollah and is allied with Syrian Alawites.

Saudi has long tried to weaken Iran-backed Hezbollah. This led to an odd incident where Saudi royals sort-of-kidnapped long-time Saudi ally Lebanese Prime minister Saad Hariri in order to pressure Hariri to oust Hezbollah from Lebanon. This was followed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE calling its citizens to withdraw themselves and their money from Lebanon.

Despite Saudi support of 9/11 and their links to many terrorist attacks around the world, our government and diplomatic corps believe that we & the KSA are allies. Iran believes this too.

Our assassination of a Saudi/Al Qaida militia leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was a signal to Iran that there’s trouble in the US / Saudi alliance. They would see this as a good time to strike against us.

That’s NOT to say that the assassination of Ayman al-Zawahiri or Soleimani was a bad thing. A show of weakness invites more attacks, not fewer. The fact that we did not name Saudi as being responsible for the 9/11 attacks or punish them in any way left American allies vulnerable to Saudi-funded Salafist attacks for decades.

But when we do strike back, we need to acknowledge that there will be a response. The horrific attack against Rushdie is proof — we should have been paying more attention to protecting possible targets in this long-running war between oil-rich billionaires.

Why don’t people want to work?

Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape”

According to Reuters, “U.S. worker productivity in the second quarter fell at its steepest pace on an annual basis since 1948 when the Labor Department began tracking it” Growth in unit labor costs have accelerated, which means wage pressures will keep inflation going. Nonfarm productivity (the hourly output per worker) has been on a fast downward slide.

Employers are having real difficulty filling open positions. This is unprecedented, something that’s never happened coming out of a recession. The GOP-allied media blames Biden. And the welfare state.

The incentives that we’ve constructed in this country over a long period of time, to be fair, but accelerating recently have a very specific effect. Those policies reward people who don’t want a job and they punish people who do want a job. What they do is they degrade work. They strip it of its inherent meaning. And that’s a problem in a country that is running out of things that have inherent meaning. They’re telling you that your religion means nothing. Your patriotism means nothing. Your family means nothing. Now they’re telling you your work means nothing? What does mean anything? And how long can a society continue that doesn’t have meaning and that doesn’t revere work?

Tucker Carlson, Fox News

The Democrat-allied media, replacing the word “lockdowns” with “the pandemic”, blames employers and work in general:

The pandemic changed the way people view work. Many are rethinking what work means and how they spend their time … Employers are reporting difficulty filling open positions, something that’s never happened coming out of a recession. Many blame the extra $300 a week in unemployment insurance included in federal COVID-19 relief bills. More than two dozen states, including Arizona, agree and declined the extra money.

Statistics and anecdotal evidence, however, suggest more is at play. Americans are less interested in holding any job. They want a quality job.

Like the worldwide lockdowns, this employment situation is unprecedented. So, it makes sense to believe that one unprecedented event (lockdowns) would lead to many others.

In prisons and POW camps, lockdowns and social distancing were used to intimate prisoners and torture them into submission. The goal was to make them cooperative and institutionalized. In March 2020, in the name of ‘fighting COVID’, our governments created a worldwide POW camp. When the whole world becomes a prison, there is no Great Escape. Unless you wanted to swim to Sweden.

Previously productive cities like NYC ground to a halt. Bustling streets were emptied for months. Small businesses were destroyed. The people who owned them and worked for them were told that they were ‘non-essential’ — like prisoners, a burden to the taxpayer. When these cities finally ‘opened up’, restrictions still remained. Many couldn’t work or enter certain areas without showing their vaccine ‘papers’.

Mid-afternoon in Midtown, NYC (April 27, 2020)

The point of prison lockdowns is to enforce compliance. That was also the point of the government / media’s fear campaigns. Compliance.

Shuttered, ruined businesses, NYC (April 27, 2020)


… the state may actively want to instill fear in the population, thereby contributing to the making of mass hysteria. Illustrating this point is the leakage of an internal paper of the German Department of the Interior during the first weeks of the COVID-19 crisis. In the paper, the state experts recommended that the government should instill fear in the German population.

In order to spread fear, the paper endorsed three communication strategies. First, the state authorities should stress the breathing problems of COVID-19 patients because human beings have a primordial fear of death by suffocation, which can easily trigger panic.

Second, the experts emphasized that fear should also be instilled in children, even though there is next to no risk to children´s own health. However, children could get easily infected by meeting and playing with other children. According to the report, children should be told that when they infect their parents and grandparents in turn, they could suffer a distressful death at home. This communication advice intended to invoke anxiety and feelings of guilt. Instilling guilt is another measure used by governments to make the population more supportive. The recommended message instills fear of being responsible for infecting others who die a distressful death.

Third, the German government was advised to mention the possibility of unknown long-term irreversible health damage caused by a SARS-CoV-2 infection and the possibility of a sudden and unexpected death of people who were infected.

All these communication recommendations were intended to increase fear in the population. Fear, at the end, is an important foundation of a government’s power. As Henry H. Mencken put it: “the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” The overreaction of government to a perceived threat then fosters anxiety.

It lies in the interests of a government to emphasize citizens’ vulnerability to external and internal threats, because the state´s legitimacy and power rest on the narrative that it protects its citizens against such dangers.

from ‘COVID-19 and the Political Economy of Mass Hysteria’

It worked. But now we’re facing the unintended consequences of centralized, authoritarian actions.

The Democrats and the GOP were both responsible for the destruction these policies wrought on America. It’s not surprising that they’re looking to deflect the blame. But that won’t solve the problem. People are doing what they were forced to do. Complying. Expecting them to respond to their own needs and wants is too much to ask. They aren’t going back to work or being productive because no one has given them specific orders to do so. They’re waiting for their wardens to tell them what to do.

If governments want this compliant population to act in a certain way, they’re going to have to spell it out. Or mandate it.

Is anyone out there?

The Webb telescope shows us ever-more remote places, but there's no sign that anyone is looking back at us.   
SMACS 0723: Red arcs in the image trace light from galaxies in the very early Universe

Webb’s First Deep Field image shows us the thousands of galaxies that exist in a tiny, faraway sliver of the universe. Our own Milky Way Galaxy has an estimated 200–400 billion stars, with billions more planets circling them. That tiny, faraway sliver must also hold billions of planets. But there’s no sign that anyone is looking back at us.

Where are they?

The Fermi paradox has been asking this since the mid-1950’s. The scale of the universe and simple probability seem to indicate that intelligent life should be common. But, as far as we can tell, it’s not.

All life seeks to expand. We did this by colonizing new habitats on Earth. Many of us hope that in the future, we’ll go on to colonize our own galaxy, and, subsequently, the surrounding star system. Using technology that’s is almost within our reach, it would probably take us about five to fifty million years to colonize this galaxy. That seems kind of slow, but it’s a short time on the cosmological scale. If we could do it, why isn’t there evidence that someone else did it too?

Using ourselves as an example we should also note that we got to the moon and then, inexplicably, stopped and went back home. If other civilizations stalled in similar ways, they might not have travelled far. But at least we’ve sent probes out, like Voyagers 1 & 2. The least adventurous forms of intelligent life out there would also have left some evidence of their existence.

We might be Evolution’s side gig

One problem with our expectations is projection. We expect intelligent life to be like us in size, in chemical composition, communication methods. We expect them to be what we would like to be in the future. Maybe like the super-intelligent beings in Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series, beings who look like us but are so much cooler, building powerful structures, ruling galaxies and all that. Unfortunately, our current bodies, ambitions and dreams might just be a short pit stop in the long road trip of evolution.

As Carl Sagan said: “We are the product of 4.5 billion years of fortuitous, slow biological evolution. There is no reason to think that the evolutionary process has stopped. Man is a transitional animal. He is not the climax of creation.”

Meat’s Dream

In his short story (and film, below) “They’re Made out of Meat”, Terry Bisson answers Fermi’s Paradox with a short fictional story about aliens who are looking to make First Contact with Earth.

Their constant probing reveals that humans are sentient meat. Since these aliens are machines, they’re horrified by this discovery. All-meat beings do not exist anywhere else in their Quadrant. And Sentient Meat is unheard of.

Officially, they’re required to welcome all sentient beings & multibeings to their fold, but they just can’t bear to deal with Sentient Meat. Fortunately, they know that meat can’t travel far.

“They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can’t live on them. And being meat, they only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact.”

They decide to erase all records of contact and forget the whole thing.

Bisson is evasive about what type of machines these are, but since interstellar travel is their thing, they could be probably be on the level of the beings in Asimov’s Foundations, creating huge megastructures that can power ships that blast past the speed of light. They’d be Type II or III on the Kardashev scale, a method of measuring a civilization’s level of technological advancement based on the amount of energy it is able to use.

According to this scale, a Type III civilization possesses “energy at the scale of its own galaxy.” Type II is capable of harnessing the energy radiated by its own star, perhaps with a ginormous, sun-covering mega-structure like a Dyson sphere.

And, last and least, there’s the Type I civilization, which is the closest to our level. But we haven’t even reached that mark yet. We’re about four orders of magnitude below the cut. And it’s not clear how much progress we’ll make. The type of civilization that will bring its entire economy and social structure to a screeching halt because it’s afraid of a virus is not very bold. But, strangely enough, our COVID disaster offers some hope.

From the very large to the very small

While we haven’t gotten very far at building large scale projects in space, we have learned a lot about very small scale things like nuclear fission, nanotech and genetics.

There is an alternative to the Kardashev scale — John Barrow’s “Microdimensional mastery” reverse classification, from Type I-minus to Type Omega-minus:

  • Type I-minus is capable of manipulating objects over the scale of themselves: building structures, mining, joining and breaking solids;
  • Type II-minus is capable of manipulating genes and altering the development of living things, transplanting or replacing parts of themselves, reading and engineering their genetic code;
  • Type III-minus is capable of manipulating molecules and molecular bonds, creating new materials;
  • Type IV-minus is capable of manipulating individual atoms, creating nanotechnologies on the atomic scale, and creating complex forms of artificial life;
  • Type V-minus is capable of manipulating the atomic nucleus and engineering the nucleons that compose it;
  • Type VI-minus is capable of manipulating the most elementary particles of matter (quarks and leptons) to create organized complexity among populations of elementary particles; culminating in:
  • Type Omega-minus is capable of manipulating the basic structure of space and time.

We’re is somewhere between Type III-minus and Types IV-minus according to this classification. Hooray us!

Now for something completely different

Since we chose the small-scale route, I’d guess that other civilizations might also have taken it. The imagined machine-beings in Bisson’s story might not have been Kardashev powerhouses. They could have been a self-replicating Utility fog, a hypothetical collection of tiny nanobots that can assemble themselves into any large-scale machine or shape. Bisson’s aliens might even have evolved from (or been created by) — meat.

As small scale, self-assembling beings, they would not be restricted to speed of light travel. The fastest way to get from point A to point B in space is through a wormhole or black hole. That’s not tenable for anything but data, but fortunately, we are working on putting data in very tiny places. A strand of DNA can archive a huge amount of information in a very small place. Fiber cables can move data at 99.73 percent the speed lightRoses can conduct electricity. Somehow, these new discoveries could be honed and combined to create (or evolve) an organic Utility Fog, a self-assembling being.

We may not be at the point where we can reduce ourselves to data and re-assemble into our regular meaty forms, but we have imagined that possibility. Star-Trek’s under-appreciated Transporter did just that. I always wondered why the Enterprise crew didn’t take advantage of that all-purpose tech. It could fix any health problem by returning people to their default, stored info. They could use it to re-assemble and bring everyone who died back to life. But I guess that would have wrecked a lot of plot lines.

A super-small, self-assembling form of intelligent life might might be faster and lighter than we can perceive. They might not live on the surface of planets, they might live within planets or ice moons. They could be the stuff we see swirling around Jupiter, they might travel on waves of sound. They could be like viruses, trillions of imperceptibly small proto-beings falling from the sky.

They could be silicon-based, cyborgs or carbon units. Like a Utility Fog, they could quickly assemble from small-scale to large scale. If this form of life mastered faster than speed of light travel through space and time, mimicking us would be a piece of cake.

He/she/they/it could sitting next to you on the bus. Just a slob like one of us, trying to make his way home.

Starfire

My short story, “Starfire”, about Eve Arnold, a disabled but determined farmer/aerospace engineer taking on the challenges of warfare in 2030, was a finalist in the US Army’s MadScientist speculative fiction contest. It was just published here by the Modern War Institute at West Point.

“The task : “Write about the following scenario – On March 17th, 2030, the country of Donovia, after months of strained relations and covert hostilities, invades neighboring country Otso. Donovia is a wealthy nation that is a near-peer competitor to the United States. Like the United States, Donovia has invested heavily in disruptive technologies such as robotics, AI, autonomy, quantum information sciences, bio enhancements and gene editing, space-based weapons and communications, drones, nanotechnology, and directed energy weapons. The United States is a close ally of Otso and is compelled to intervene due to treaty obligations and historical ties. The United States is about to engage Donovia in its first battle with a near-peer competitor in over 80 years…”

Skyhigh | Willpower Photo

A short clip from the story:

January 10, 2030

It was a slow day at the Sunnyside Diner so they turned on the news, which was far from sunny. Eve Arnold slouched as she listened, and when she did, the thin edges of her exoskeletal support brace pressed against her ribs. The AI embedded in the brace sent an auto-nag to her phone. “Stop slouching.” She ignored it and finished the dregs of her coffee as Oklahoma Today discussed America’s slow march towards war.”

So happy to be a part of such a creative project !

D.R.A.S.T.I.C. Research

Exposed!

How EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology Collaborated on a Dangerous Bat Coronavirus Project

“The DARPA DEFUSE Project”

DRASTIC was recently made aware of documents provided by a whistleblower, which show that EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) in concert wIth the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) attempted to carry out advanced and dangerous human pathogenicity Bat Coronavirus research that would clearly qualify as Gain of Function (GoF), in a grant proposal submitted to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in 2018.

Document 1. A brief DRASTIC Analysis of the EcoHealth Alliance DEFUSE Proposal

Document 2: The Reasons why the DEFUSE Proposal was Rejected by DARPA

Peter Daszak and the EcoHealth Alliance (EHA) proposed injecting deadly chimeric bat coronaviruses collected by the Wuhan Institute of Virology into humanised and “batified” mice.

The EHA / WIV proposal (named ‘DEFUSE’)…

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Donald Trump and Saudi money, explained – Vox

Saudi Arabia does not have a formal treaty of alliance with the United States — meaning there is no piece of paper obligating the US to do anything whatsoever in response to an attack against Saudi Arabia. And while the US has been intimately involved in the Saudi oil industry going back to the 1930s, nobody has ever claimed there is a deep connection grounded in values between our two countries.

But the Saudi royal family does seem to have a special relationship with Trump, who has repeatedly bucked bipartisan congressional majorities to back the Kingdom on topics ranging from its disastrous war in Yemen to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

It’s a fishy situation that naturally raises questions about Trump’s personal financial relationships with Persian Gulf monarchies — questions he and his allies in Congress have been successfully stonewalling for years.

via Donald Trump and Saudi money, explained – Vox