AI in the Trenches — Generative vs Creative

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

April 2nd, 2024

Peter Cawdron is one of the most prolific writers around. Since 2011, he’s written 27 novels with the common theme of First Contact, and with two exceptions, all are stand-alone works, each with its own world, cast of characters, and aliens. Quite often the premise is based on the outline of a science fiction classic (“Ghosts,” the exploration of a seemingly dormant extrastellar object, borrows the premise from Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rendezvous with Rama” but, like all of Cawdron’s novels, is a wholly original take.) He also has at least 12 other novels, plus several compilations of short fiction, and has edited several anthologies. By any metric, it’s an extraordinarily prodigious output. In a review of his next-to-latest offering, “The Artifact” I remarked that he made Stephen King look like George RR Martin.

You might think that with a production load like that, Cawdron is just another by-the-numbers potboiler hack. You couldn’t be more wrong.

His latest is a novel that gives a nod to “Anatomy of Courage: The Classic WWI Study of the Psychological Effects of War” written by Winston S. Churchill’s personal doctor, Sir Charles Watson, Lord Moran. Cawdron’s novel depicts the brutality, ugliness and futility of trench warfare. I’ll be reviewing it on later this week for anyone interested. Like his previous half-dozen books, this one is superior.

Cawdron always has an afterword to his novels which is worth reading. He’ll discuss the scientific theory underlying that particular story, explain how it was influenced by a classic work of hard SF, and discuss the political and social elements. He’ll often assert a personal note about his own thoughts and feelings as he wrote the story. They make for engaging sequelae.

In his “Anatomy of Courage,” he noted that based on the quality of his past half dozen novels, all written in a year, some people were gossiping online that he was using AI – artificial intelligence – to write the books, that he couldn’t have possibly done all that quality work by himself.

Well, it’s the internet. People talk shit. But any self-respecting writer would be at the very least irritated by that. Cawdron noted that he had written several really good books in an amazingly short time, and with most people I would take his umbrage as a humblebrag. (“Please don’t hate me because I’m beautiful”). But he HAS done exactly that. He does go on to explain the recent boost in his output, but that’s his story to tell, and if you want to know it, then buy the book. It’s on Amazon and Goodreads.

The allegations are utter crap, and I’ll tell you why I’m convinced of that.

I’ve written a lot in my time. Two novels, a couple of dozen short stories, about 1500 eclectic columns, and about 300 reviews. Writing the novels in particular gives me a certain insight into the writing process of another writer. I’m pretty good, I think, at spotting moments where, usually in the first draft, a writer is struck by a stray thought, leans back, considers, and then with a grin, starts writing or revising. First drafts tend to have a lot of those. (There’s a dictum: write the first draft for yourself, the second for your readers, and hope what remains survives the copy editors.)

I’ll give you an example of how it works. Your character, and let’s risk a lawsuit from Neal Stephenson and call him “Hiro Protagonist,” is standing in a park. What kind of park? Well, a city park. Does it have grass? Trees? A lake? Is there a breeze? Does the sun shine, turning ripples into a disco ball? Are there kids playing? Two old farts playing chess in a pagoda? What else?

Well, pigeons. Don’t most parks have pigeons?

I have a picture my dad took of me when I was seven. I was standing in Trafalgar Square in London, attired in my prep school uniform, and I have my right arm out in front of me, bent at the elbow. On my forearm is a big, well fed pigeon who is eyeing a piece of bread in my left hand with proprietary interest. The expression on my face (“He’s rather … large … isn’t he?”) is a mixture of fascination and intimidation. Presumably I gave the bird the bread without losing any fingers and we both flew away peacefully.

That infuses a vision of what a couple of pigeons are doing in my park. They’re squabbling over a bit of popcorn.

That process leads to a throwaway line in the story. “Near the end of the bench, a pair of pigeons had a lively debate over a kernel of popcorn. The larger one flicked his head lightning fast and flew off with his meal, leaving the other to squall in frustration and give Hiro an appealing, appraising glance.”

That little bit of color is something no AI can manage. Tell an AI to write a scene about a man standing in a park waiting for someone, and the AI might mention the park bench, the trees, the grass, maybe something about the other people. Depends how good at plagiarism it is.

But that bit about the pigeons is something no AI can do. It might mention pigeons if it’s exceptionally well trained, but that little drama about the popcorn, the slight hint of aggression and menace between the birds, that comes from a human mind sharing a human experience.

If you write a lot, you come to be very familiar with that process, and you learn to spot it in the writings of others, especially those whose writing you want to learn from. Cawdron’s books, backed by meticulous research, affinity for solid detail and depending from a vivid imagination, are replete with such.

AI can do a lot, for better or for worse, but the deterministic chaos of the human mind, with its emotion, volition, confusion and empathy, cannot be duplicated in code. AI might be good enough to confuse a casual reader, but it will rarely fool a constant reader, let alone a writer who can guess what went into seemingly unimportant passages that provide color and tone and humanity to a story, making a decent story great.

They may make AIs generative. But they can’t make them mimic human creativity.

It won’t hurt to learn to look for the trade secrets behind the words. You’ll appreciate the works of someone like Cawdron more, and it will make you a bit better, intellectually and in the ability to discern what is human…and what is not.

GOP is Trumped — Disintegration is snowballing

GOP is Trumped

Disintegration is snowballing

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

March 24th, 2024

There’s a “train-crash” fascination to the on-going destruction of the Republican party. The other day the House caved on the latest appropriations $1.1T bill, and Armpits Maggie promptly filed a motion to vacate, the GOP rule that allows the party to dump their own speaker at any time and for any reason. Should the vote occur, then religious nutbag Mike Johnson and his “head-of-lettuce” tenure will go the way of Kevin McCarthy. And of course, even with a unanimous party-line vote, the GOP doesn’t have enough seats to refill the position. Two hundred and eighteen votes are required from the full House, and they only have 217 seats. That will drop to 216 in April.

That’s assuming the vote is even held. However, there is a procedure called “motion to table” which allows the House to decide if a motion should reach the floor for a vote in the first place. Yes, it’s repetitive and redundant, which makes it perfect for fans of repetitive redundancy.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), who likes Mike Johnson about as much as he likes toe fungus, has an idea. A handful of Dems could vote for the motion to table, along with the large majority of Republicans, and that only needs a majority of the quorum, so at most 216 votes to pass. Mind you, they won’t be voting FOR Mike Johnson. They would simply be voting not to vote at all.

But Mike Johnson would have to make a deal. First on the agenda would be for Republicans to step aside and permit the $95b aid package to Ukraine to go through. Second would be to permit a full floor vote on the border bill that Trump scuttled a couple of weeks ago. And if it were up to me, I would add a third stipulation: shut down the Biden impeachment inquiry. Lev Parnas blew the inquiry, already a bad joke, sky-high. Johnson might actually see that as a favor, since it’s reached the point where the only people being damaged by it are Republicans. But it would mean that the House would actually have to do real work, like voting on legislation and formulating plans to move the country forward. So maybe it would not be such a gain for the GOP, unless of course they decide they need to distract from Trump rather than serve him.

Trump himself is disintegrating rapidly. His latest stunt was to boast that he had the cash to cover the real estate fraud judgment against him while at the same time insisting that he doesn’t have the assets or the ability to have the judgment underwritten. We’ll find out tomorrow how that is going to turn out. It’s not impossible that Trump could face criminal counts of fraud and perjury from this going forward.

The latest was the merger between Truth Social and Digital World Acquisition Corporation. The media are loudly braying that this merger would give Trump an on-paper valuation of three billion dollars, but in reality it will do nothing of the sort. Truth Social is a toy social network, with active membership around 850,000 and dropping. DWAC is pure smoke and mirrors, selling only memes, with their entire valuation based on the number of mouse clicks they get. Does that sound like something worth three billion dollars to you?

But Trump can’t cash out his shares for six months after the deal goes into affect. And lenders aren’t going to look at the initial IPO price and assume Trump has three billion in stock; they’re going to look six months ahead, to when Trump would have to repay their loan with interest, and see if the stock has retained even 1/6th of its value.

And it won’t. Neither company has anything tangible to offer, and I predict the IPO will be one of the most disastrous in market history—and it won’t recover. Why should it? It could lose 80% in its first day of trading, and I wouldn’t care to bet it even had penny stock status by mid October.

The latest with Trump is that his handlers are trying to keep him out of the public eye as his mental and intellectual deterioration continues to snowball. Instead, they’re releasing videos of speeches and rallies he held in 2020 and even 2016, and hoping the media won’t notice. Even American corporate media would have to take note of that, especially since the speeches would be referring to “Crooked Hillary” or talking about getting out of Afghanistan.

Further, handling Trump, even in his dotage, is a challenge. Compos Mentis or not, he’ll want to babble to live cameras about how smart he is and how everyone loves him and will vote for him to kick that wicked President “Gangly” Lincoln out of office once and for all. So he’ll be appearing on OANN and Newsmax, and posting all-caps messages on Truth Social, and Democrats will be gleefully recording and using all of them. Trump has already come out in favor of slashing Social Security and Medicare, and wants a nation-wide 15 week abortion ban, which is political suicide.

Trump wrapped up the delegates needed for this summer’s convention, making him the nominee. (Biden did the same, only much more quietly and in a more orderly fashion, and didn’t threaten to kick anyone who didn’t support him out of the party, because Biden has a functioning brain.)

But between his legal and medical problems, I’m only offering one in four odds that by election day, Trump will still be the candidate of the GOP. The party itself, to all intents and purposes, may have ceased to exist by then.

If three Republicans in the House quit or change their designation and leave the caucus, Hakeem Jeffries might well be Speaker and Democrats may control the House before they have to certify the election results, and there’s now a very good chance that may happen as the lunatic right, led by Trump, cause sane conservatives to desert the party in drove.

Say what you will, but it’s not going to be boring. Or routine. Or normal. Or even particularly sane.

And SOTU Speak…– Republican chaos makes for entertaining night

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

March 9th 2024

After last year’s State of the Union address, you might think the Republicans would have dusted the Biden boot marks off their collective asses and learned a lesson. Don’t try to heckle Biden. He’ll eat you for lunch. Did they learn?


Empty “Armpits” Greene (R-Trash) once again led the Charge of the Dim Brigade, “Half a brain, half a brain, half a brain downward!”. She showed up in full MAGA regalia, including the tacky red gimme cap. Someday I hope to figure out how acting like a nekulturny imbecile “owns the libs.” It doesn’t hold up well in my experience. The fastest way to wipe the shit eating grin off a MAGAt’s face is to point out that looking and acting like a fool doesn’t own me.

She stuffed a button in Biden’s hand that read, “Say her name, Laken Riley.” This referred to a 22 year old woman murdered by a Venezuelan national in the US without documents. Biden referred to “Lincoln Riley” in his speech, committing the gaffe of calling her accused murderer “an illegal,” a term much beloved by bigots and hatemongers. But Greene’s crusade was gaffy in and of itself: the presence of the Venezuelan wasn’t because of any Biden policy; the assailant was in the country as a result of a last-day-in-office move by Trump. Per Politico ( ) “President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced he will offer Venezuelan exiles protection from deportation, a move he has considered for years but refused to do until his last full day in office. Trump is using the little-known Deferred Enforced Departure program, or DED, to offer temporary legal status to Venezuelans fleeing the humanitarian crisis brought on by Nicolás Maduro’s regime. DED, similar to Temporary Protected Status or TPS, protects recipients from deportation and allows them to get work permits. However, it is granted directly by the president instead of the Department of Homeland Security.”

It wasn’t the only time during the speech where the right exploited a grieving parent to blame Biden for something Trump did. Florida Rep. Brian Mast hit on the bright idea of inviting Steven K. Nikoui, the Gold Star father of Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, who was killed in August of 2021 by a suicide bomb during the chaotic evacuation of Americans from Kabul Airport. However, it was Trump who agreed to withdraw all troops by May 1st 2021 (he originally wanted to do it in just two weeks, by March 2020, but backed off over vociferous Pentagon objections). By the time Biden took office, 5,000 Talibani prisoners were released, and US presence reduced from 13,000 to 2,500, who were supposed to oversee the removal of all US equipment somehow. The government of Afghanistan was given no say in any of this, of course. Biden was able to get an additional three months, but it was going to be a mess anyway.

The Republicans even managed to duplicate one of last years’ missteps, booing loudly when Biden described their tax policy as “giving trillions to the rich.” Biden leaned on one elbow, grinned, and asked, “You’re saying you don’t want to do that now?”

Speaker Mike Johnson, sitting behind Biden alongside Vice President Kamela Harris, was a silent comedy show all to himself with a variety of strained smirks, purse-lipped headshakes, eye-rolls and open indecision over whether he should approve or disapprove of something Biden said. You could almost see a giant translucent Trump head, glaring orange at him, daring him to disobey any transitory whim Trump felt during the speech. Johnson looked like a bible literalist forced to audit a scientific convention on evolution. In case he felt even a moment of comfort, the clown show caucus was there to embarrass him.

How honest was Biden’s speech itself? By SOTU standards, which always involves a lot of presidential congratulatory self-back-slapping, it was really good. He shaded the truth some in some areas, but unlike his predecessor, didn’t say any flat-out lies. You can read the Politifact review here.

Oh, and George Santos showed up. There’s a loophole in Congressional rules that allows expelled and disgraced members of Congress to get seats at the SOTU. No, really. He was there. Maybe he wanted a MAGA franchise for Trump’s $400 gold sneaks. He was a good addition to GOP gravitas.

But the fun didn’t end when Biden finished the speech. He made a classic Biden open-mike gaffe on the way out, telling Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado “I told Bibi (Netanyahu), don’t repeat this, you and I are going to have a ‘come to Jesus’ meeting.” Even that gaffe couldn’t help the GOP, since Biden said exactly what a large and increasing number of Americans, upset by the ongoing slaughter in Gaza, have wanted to hear him say.

Then there was the Response from the kitchen of Alabama Senator Katie Britt. By the time she was done, a lot of people were expecting to hear a sudden voice over: “From New York, it’s Saturday Night Live!” I won’t go into how weird and bad the speech was—thousands of others have already done that, and the video is around. Watch it. Really. It’s a comedy gem. But she misplayed the same “blame Biden” game. She spoke of a 12 year old girl who was made a sexual prisoner and gang-raped for months on end. She said, “We wouldn’t be OK with this in some third world country. This is the United States of America.” She blamed Biden border policies, of course.

Except it didn’t happen in America. It happened in Mexico. And Biden wasn’t president during any of that; Trump was.

Well, at least she knows what country she’s in. Maybe?

CORRECTION:  The Washington Post has this to say about the rape allegations by Katie Britt:

If you were watching Britt’s speech on Thursday night, you likely would have thought she was talking about a recent victim of sex trafficking who was abused in the United States and suffered because of President Biden’s policies.

If you did, you would have been wrong. Sean Ross, Britt’s communications director, confirmed that she was talking about Karla Jacinto Romero — who has testified before Congress about being forced to work in Mexican brothels from 2004 to 2008. (A viral TikTok by journalist Jonathan Katz first revealed that Britt was speaking about Romero.) In a phone conversation and a statement, Ross disputed that Britt’s language was misleading.

Trump himself had a Truth Social meltdown. He suggested that Biden was using performance-enhancing drugs to come across as not-senile, a curious suggestion from a man often suspected to taking Adderall, especially in light of the mushrooming Trump White House drug scandal under “Doctor” Ronnie Jackson, which gave the impression of Animal House with Doonesbury’s “Uncle Duke” running the show.

Trump didn’t like Biden’s stridency, writing, “THIS IS LIKE A SHOUTING MATCH, EVERY LINE IS BEING SHOUTED.” Yes, he was complaining about someone shouting in all caps. Only Trump, am I right?

But Trump got some good news: Someone put up the $92 million surety certain to be lost when Trump makes his doomed appeal of the defamation case he lost (twice, now) to E. Jean Carroll.

Trump’s bond was guaranteed by the Federal Insurance Company — a New York-based subsidiary of the company Chubb Group LLC, which is headquartered in Switzerland. According to Elana Sulakshana at RainForest Action Network, “Chubb insures fossil fuel infrastructure in Russia that is bankrolling Putin’s war on Ukraine, oil and gas extraction off the coast of Brazil, exploratory drilling in the Arctic, and other fossil fuel projects globally.” CEO Evan Greenberg likes to talk a good environmental stance, but it’s greenwashing. He underwrites some of the filthiest fuel projects for some of the filthiest regimes. And now, apparently, he’s underwriting Trump. At least he’s only taking a small step down, right?

GOP, have faith in George Santos. You are all part of his plan. Or maybe you’re part of Putin’s Plan.

Either way, you’re screwed.

Goodbye, Super Tuesday — Who Could Hang a Game on You?

Goodbye, Super Tuesday

Who Could Hang a Game on You?

(apologies to Mick Jagger)

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

March 7th 2024

The most pointless primary season since primaries began has ground to an effective end, and oh, my gosh, can you believe this? Biden and Trump will be their respective party’s nominees! Whoa! Did you see that coming?

Well, of course you did. You’re not an idiot.

Cable channels devoted hours to covering this non-story, with on-air journalists declaring solemnly that with the polls closed just two minutes earlier, the results were “too close to call.” It was a bit like watching Walter Cronkite narrate a Popeye cartoon and pretend feverishly that Bluto was by far the leading candidate in the race, but it wasn’t over yet! It was pretty sad. Speaking of cartoons, I switched off MSNBC and watched cartoons instead. Even Steve Kornacki couldn’t wring any drama out of the vote count. The only upsets were in DC and Vermont, where Trump managed to lose to Haley. Which showed that in two corners of the country, the majority of Republicans still hold three-digit IQs.

They were glaring exceptions. Most of the polling showed that the former political party known as the Republicans have been fully subsumed by the Nutzis and Nazis. In North Carolina, Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson was selected to run for governor of the state. He’s a holocaust denier, a 9/11 truther, quotes Hitler, and wants to strip gays and other gendered people of all rights. And like most of what’s left of his party, he believes humanity begins at conception and ends at birth. He’s a raving nut, not to put too fine a point on it. In Alabama, they chose “justice” Sarah Stewart on Tuesday as their nominee to lead the state Supreme Court. She was one of the judges who ruled that frozen embryos were persons. In California, Steve Garvey, who played first base for the Dodgers for many years up until about forty years ago, came in second in the Senate primary in the state’s free-for-all vote where the top two vote getters are the nominees, even if they are both from the same party—as often happens in a state where the GOP is moribund. Garvey came in second, partly from name recognition (he was a good ball player) and party because Adam Schiff and other Democrats actually PROMOTED Garvey’s campaign, reasoning that he would be easier to beat in the General than Katie Porter or Barbara Lee would be. While he only beat Garvey by a percentage point, it’s important to note that nearly all of the 34% who voted for someone else are Democrats, and probably as much as a third of Garvey’s vote came from Democrats as well. This was probably a kind of a high-water mark for the GOP, since Garvey at least is sane and not a full-blown fascist. By GOP standards, that makes him a fairly respectable candidate.

So now the real fight begins, and despite the on-going dissolution of Donald Trump, it is a serious fight, with the fate of the country at risk.

Trump, in and of himself, is a fading risk. He clearly is suffering from dementia. He only occasionally remembers who the president is, and one of the times he got it right, he wound up endorsing him instead of himself.

But there are a lot of bad actors about, and they are very willing to lie, cheat, steal and commit any fraudulent acts possible to win. The Heritage Foundation (i.e., The National Association of Zealots and Ideologues) openly flaunts its “Project 2025” which starts by eliminating civil service laws to protect Americans from the spoils system, and allows Trump to fire and replace all federal employees with his own loyalists. An Ayn Rand nightmare, it would eliminate the Departments of Commerce and Education, nearly all environmental laws, and “deploy the military for domestic law enforcement and directing the DOJ to pursue Trump adversaries.” A fascist coup, in other words.

They also promote in full the demands of the vile anti-American zealots that call themselves “Christian Nationalists,” eliminating rights to abortion or contraception, the right to be gay or other-gendered, and eliminating separation of church and state, eliminating rights for all but a small percentage of Christians.

They are spending billions through their vast propaganda network, backed by the pack of Australian Nazis who run Fox News.

Bad actors abound. The Republicans, at Trump’s behest, deliberately scrapped the immigration bill that they themselves wrote, in order to try to keep “the border crisis” a campaign issue. Fox and other minutes are having five-minutes-of-hate sessions every half hour to keep the haters and bigots stirred up.

The House Republicans have nearly all co-sponsored HR 431, which declares that personhood begins at conception and thus abortion and birth control are murder.

Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia plan to slash oil production, hoping to drive up prices which the public, at the behest of the extreme right, will blame Biden for. They already have senile stooges like Trump and Chuck Grassley declaring that Biden “slashed oil production” and so prices will rise. The fact is US domestic oil production is the highest it has been in history. Meanwhile, does anybody believe Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russian want Trump because “he will stand tall for America.” Or do they just want a moronic and treasonous dupe? Which makes more sense to you? Viktor Orbán has become a major figure in GOP circles, and I’m sure he does it because he just loves America, right?

But Republicans are liars. Remember that. What ever it is, they will lie about it. Immigrants have lower crime rates, less gun violence, and add a net $40 billion to the economy. The liars on Fox News say otherwise, of course.

It’s going to get ugly, and fast. They already busted a string of websites yesterday purporting to be local news outlets that were actually run by Russia to interfere in election coverage. That happened yesterday. Google “Florida Observer” for details.

Remember: Republicans lie, and a vote for Trump is a vote for Treason.

Daniel in the Liars’ Den — The assault on science and sanity continues

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

February 17th, 2024

The Guardian on February 14th had a story by Aliya Uteuova with this lede: “Nearly 15% of Americans don’t believe climate change is real, study finds.” The University of Michigan poll continued, “Denialism highest in central and southern US, with Republican voters less likely to believe in climate science.”

My first thought was that this was actually kind of reassuring. Thirty percent of Americans don’t know the Earth revolves around the sun. Forty percent believe in angels. This poll showed that only one in seven respondents were total idiots who couldn’t see irrefutable evidence even as it was biting them on the ass.

It’s been quite a while since I stopped assuming climate denialists—the remaining ones—were acting in any sort of good faith. The ones remaining are getting more strident, perhaps reflecting the more intense propaganda emanating from the filthy fuels industries and the rightwing thinktanks. Certainly I am encountering more in social media, and seeing peripheral effects from the constant attacks on people acknowledging climate change.

Some are easy to ignore. The moment someone starts babbling about how climate change can’t exist because god swill and puny humans can’t change the divine plan, I just block them. They are at best delusional and at worst total morons, and no amount of logic or persuasion is going to convince them that I’m anything other than hellbound, along with Taylor Swift and Joe Biden.

Some parrot the same talking points we’ve been hearing for the past forty years. Climate change isn’t because of volcanoes, sunspots, Milanković cycles, end of an ice age, orbital perturbations, yada yada yada.

If I’m not busy, I’ll stick around to politely and firmly refute the points made. Even if I’m not feeling particularly charitable, I know this approach is by far the most effective. Usually they just run away. Being polite and earnest stymies trolls and confuses the more strident ones who think they can annoy the opposition into making silly mistakes.

Lately, I’ve seen more blatant lies. For instance one claim I saw was that CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere dropped by 20% during the pandemic-related shutdown.

Well, that would be lovely. Having the concentrations drop to 340ppm would ensure a habitable Earth 50 years from now. Unfortunately, it isn’t true. The rate of increase dropped by 20% in 2019, but that meant concentrations only increased from 417ppm to 419ppm.

Another claim was that the Harvard Climatology Department had PROVED that the only reason Earth was warming was because we were coming out of an ice age. Needless to say, nobody at Harvard has made any such claim, and the records indicate that, if anything, we probably would be going into an ice age about now.

However, with greenhouse gases at their current levels, no ice ages are in the offing, no matter what they might do for Ray Romano’s career.

But it’s the residual ripple effects of the propaganda that can be the most pernicious. The public at large has a mistrust of scientists, one carefully fostered by fundamentalists, oil-industry flacks, and the National Association of Zealots and Ideologues, ie, the galaxy of think tanks, radio show hosts, big churches, and Faux news and its clones, and the poison blogosphere.

The other day, just as a reminder that their standard tactics of smearing and lying have become more expensive, climate scientist Michael Mann won a million-dollar defamation suit against conservative bloggers who accused him of falsifying data and once compared him to a convicted child abuser.

A few days ago, I passed along a link to an article that Stanford Magazine did about Dr. Daniel Swain to some friends. It was a good article, and Swain’s expertise would be useful for that group.

But I got one response that caused my jaw to drop. “He’s a media whore,” my friend wrote.

Now, my friend has been a bit tetchy ever since the Dodgers signed Ohtani and Yamamoto. And while the article itself was well done, the magazine cover was, to put it mildly, a bit over the top. It portrayed a colossal Daniel Swain a good half a mile tall, striding through heavily-forested foothills, his head well above the clouds. I could see where someone might detect a slightly fawning note from Stanford, based on that cover. And from that, it could be inferred that it suggested the sort of treatment Swain might be expecting from the press.

Except I’ve been a regular on his blog,, for most of a decade. I was familiar with his style and approach from before he became famous. (The way he became famous was unlikely in the extreme. In trying to describe a persistent blocking high in the Gulf of Alaska that was causing a massive drought in California, he coined the phrase “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge.” It caught the popular imagination. Now, only Swain knows if he ever actually sought fame, but I seriously doubt he sat up in bed one restless night and shouted, “I know! I’ll coin an awkwardly alliterative analogy! Eureka!”)

Swain does appreciate the opportunity to convey his expertise to the world. He puts in long hours doing just that—not just interviews, but in serious scholastic research and considerable effort in keeping his relatively small audience on his blog well informed, and encourages others of similar expertise to contribute freely.

I know a couple of people who are well known and who are media whores. They constantly self-promote, resent anything resembling competition, and pretend they have the answers. They’re depressingly easy to spot. I find them annoying.

But Swain is not one of them.

Indeed, the same day I had that email exchange, he did one of his “office hours” on YouTube. Anyone watching those quickly realizes that this is not a man basking in the effusive glow of public acclaim. As he often does, he was fielding questions from the chat thread, and he got one about Rossby waves. Those are defined as a “large horizontal atmospheric undulation that is associated with the polar-front jet stream and separates cold polar air from warm tropical air.” per Brittanica. There’s a hypothesis that decreasing ice cover in the Arctic Ocean and subsequent warming has caused the waves to increase in amplitude and decrease in frequency, allowing polar air to sweep into the middle latitudes. It caught the media’s fancy, since it was a handy explanation of big cold snaps in the midst of a warming climate. I admit I’ve based arguments on that myself.

Swain said that while he generally accepted the thinking behind the hypothesis, there just wasn’t any solid evidence that it was happening at this time. It was a very ‘Daniel’ sort of answer. If there isn’t a solid, concrete answer, he won’t hesitate to say so, and go on to discuss the elements that prevent a hard-and-fast answer. It’s exactly the sort of response a responsible scientist would give.

Certainty in the face of randomness and complexity is the mark of a charlatan.

But it’s not an answer a media whore—or any whore—should give. Don’t tell the marks what they need to know; tell them what they want to hear! It’s rule number one. If I was Swain’s unscrupulous agent, I would draw him aside and say, “Son, you’re doing it all wrong. I say, I say, son, you don’t get the return business if you’re saying things to the John like ‘You call that loving, mister? You sound like a Yugo with a flat tire!’ or ‘Oh, come on. That thing looks like the ghost of a poison mushroom. Can’t you at least paint it orange like the original?’ Nah, you gotta make them happy. Make ‘em feel big, y’know? Now, let’s hear your ecstatic moan.”

OK, he wouldn’t benefit from having me as an agent. Or as he might put it, I would be a “piss poor pimp.”

So why does a guy who normally is responsible, reasonably liberal, and scientifically literate declare a scientist who is the antithesis of a publicity hound a “media whore?”

Inculcation. Propaganda. The public at large is inclined to assume the worst of any responsible figure who challenges the present public gestalt.

That current gestalt is very toxic indeed. It’s pervasive, and manages to be both blatant and subtle at the same time. People honestly believe George Soros is giving scientists billions of dollars to push us all back to the stone age by destroying technology. And people don’t realize the people promoting such ideas are spending billions in order to protect trillions in profits made at our expense. It has to stop.

There’s no quick cure to it. It will take time. The parties dumping the poison into public discourse have to be called out, again and again, their lies shown for what they are, and the vacuity of their attacks exposed.

George Orwell once said, “In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” He also said, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” It is not the freedom to say two plus two make five.

Be a revolutionary. Tell the truth, no matter how much people don’t want to hear it. Be like Dr. Daniel Swain.

In America, the number of people accepting the truth of climate change has climbed to 85%. Keep telling the truth, and truth will prevail.

Lay Down Lay Down — The power of song lives on

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

January 26th 2024

The 1970s pop star Melanie passed away a few days ago, and while most of her songs were simple pop songs (“I’ve got a brand new key”) there was one she sang that hit me, and many other people, with a deep emotional impact.

In my case, it was because I completely misunderstood what the lyrics were about. She was singing about the Woodstock Festival. She sang,

Lay down, lay down

Lay it all down

Let your white birds smile up

At the ones who stand and frown

We were so close, there was no room

We bled inside each other’s wounds

We all had caught the same disease

And we all sang the songs of peace

Some came to sing, some came to pray

Some came to keep the dark away

So raise the candles high

Cause if you don’t we could stay black against the sky

Oh, raise them higher again

And if you do we could stay dry against the rain

My take on it was something much darker, much more tragic. In our schools, they taught about the Great Plagues that afflicted Europe in the middle ages. They taught about how the populace, frightened and horrified by the disease that killed members of nearly every family, felling them by the millions, saw the mysterious curse as something sent by Satan. When the waves of death arrived, packed faithful flocked by the dozens, by the hundreds, by the thousands, in every chapel, church and cathedral. Inevitably, people who were infected but asymptomatic were in their numbers, and they created what today we call “super-spreader events.” Fleeing to the church “to keep the dark away” they “raised their candles high” beseeching God to protect them. And they died in the millions.

Read the lyrics above. Reflect on the mass deaths and privation that was a part of our history. My mistake wasn’t an unreasonable one. Melanie was singing about a peace festival. I was listening to a tale dark and tragic, expressed in tones of love and hope.

It made for an amazing song, one of those rarities that, when you hear it for the first time, decades later you remember exactly when and where you were when you heard it. Perhaps unwittingly, Melanie created a masterpiece.

Her death came only a few days after the passing of the creator of another such song, one just as powerful and memorable. Les McCann, however, knew exactly what he was doing when, together with Eddie Harris, he recorded what I consider the finest improv session piece ever. “Compared to What.”

Just the beginning rivets your attention:

I love the lie and lie the love

A-hangin’ on, we push and shove

Possession is the motivation

That is hangin’ up the God-damn nation

Looks like we always end up in a rut

Tryin’ to make it real, compared to what?

It was a protest song, one of pure genius. It came out as Vietnam drew to its bloody and futile close, and captured the disaffection and despair Americans felt. “Have one doubt, they call it treason.”

(As usual, I’m listening to music as I write, and Greg Lake just asked me, “How did God lose six million Jews?”)

Protest songs have a way of staying in your memory in a way others can’t. I could talk about Bob Dylan, but that would make this piece at least three times as long. So I’ll mention just two others of extraordinary power: James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore.” And Barry McGuire’s “Eve of Destruction.”

McMurtry’s country-tinged song is about the misery and loss the middle class and the poor have suffered in the bloody wake of “supply side economics” which translates to “Give the national wealth to the rich so they can afford to laugh at you.”

In the wake of the Dobbs decision by the vicious zealots of the Supreme Court, this stanza has a particular poignancy:

High school girl with a bourgeois dream

Just like the pictures in the magazine

She found on the floor of the laundromat

A woman with kids can forget all that

If she comes up pregnant what’ll she do

Forget the career, forget about school

Can she live on faith? live on hope?

High on Jesus or hooked on dope

When it’s way too late to just say no

You can’t make it here anymore

In the 14 states that have outlawed abortion, there were 68,000 pregnancies that resulted from rape. Fuck your morals, Supreme Court, and fuck the god you worship.

Eve of Destruction is nearly 60 years old, and after that vast span, remains amazingly timely. Unfortunately.

Think of all the hate there is in Red China

Then take a look around to Selma, Alabama

Ah, you may leave here, for four days in space

But when you return, it’s the same old place

The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace

You can bury your dead, but don’t leave a trace

Hate your next-door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace

Substitute all the fascist dictatorships in Russia, in Hungary, in Turkey, even in Israel, for “Red China” and you’ve got today’s headlines. “Even the Jordan River has bodies floatin’.”

On a less gloomy note, there’s one song that is on my list of unforgettably powerful pieces for no other reason than that it is an absolutely beautiful song, soaring and inspiring. “Bratya” by Michiru Oshima, and performed (in Russian) by the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. It comes from, of all places, a Japanese anime from the turn of the century: Full Metal Alchemist. The song was written specifically for the anime, and the English translation perfectly captures the profound tragedy of the youthful Edward and Alfonse Elric, crippled and unnatural due to their breaking the first law of alchemy and attempting to bring their dead mother back to life. It’s a dark and diabolical premise that makes this show one of the best animes made. And any anime where Oshima appears in the credits pretty much guarantees it will be something special. Soundtracks, even incidental music, can have powerful effects. This is, quite simply, a lovely song telling a story of tragedy and hope.

Steve Earle has written some of the most stunning songs around. You could call him a protest singer but only if you stipulate that his anger is more existential and less political. He challenges reality.

A long time ago before the ice and the snow

Giants walked this land each step they took

The mighty mountains shook and the trees took

A knee and the seas rolled in

Then one day they say the sky gave way

And death rained down, and made a terrible sound

There was fire everywhere and nothing was spared

That walked on the land or flew through the air

When all was over the slate wiped clean with a touch

There God stood and He saw it was good

And He said, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust”

Just his album “Jerusalem” is one of the greatest gems around.

Obviously this list is personal, and I’m sure some of you are thinking, “That idiot. That song was dumb.” I could list a dozen others, including, yes, some songs that are dumb. Knew they were dumb when I first heard them, but they had a certain something…

As for whether I’m an idiot, well, be kind.

In any event, farewell, Melanie, and farewell, Les McCann. And thank you. You gifted us, not just with delightful songs, but cherished memories.

Links to the full lyrics are below, and all of the songs mentioned can be found on YouTube.




Atomic Batteries — Mass Production is at hand

Atomic Batteries

Mass Production is at hand

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

January 23rd, 2024

Betavolt, a Chinese battery company, this week announced it was beginning mass production of a battery about the size of a microdisk and about 3 mm thicker that can produce 100 microWatts at three Volts—for 50 years.

While the concept behind the battery isn’t new—the US was making ‘atomic batteries’ in the early 1960s—it is the first to meet Chinese health and safety regulations, such as they are, for mass production.

This particular battery uses an isotope of nickel, Ni-63, encased in a proprietary wafer of diamond dust as a semiconductor. According to Betavolt, the unit won’t leak radiation even if punctured or gunshot. Preliminary tests indicate that the units, intact, are at normal background levels.

The units can be run in groups, either serial or parallel configurations. So, according to Betavolt, they can be used for such things as “aerospace, AI devices, medical, MEMS systems, intelligent sensors, small drones, and robots – and may eventually mean manufacturers can sell smartphones that never need charging.” Betavolt intends to have a much beefier model available in 2025 that can produce a full watt at 3 volts.

This is a breakthrough and has a strong potential to be what the tech bros like to call “disruptive.” It packs an energy density ten times that of lithium batteries, and isn’t affected by temperatures. “Unlike traditional batteries, this nuclear battery operates safely under extreme conditions, from temperatures of 120 to minus 60 degrees Celsius (248 to minus 76 Fahrenheit), and is resistant to punctures and gunfire without catching fire or exploding,” according to Science and Technology Daily. Tesla owners in the northeast will probably be interested to hear that.

The building blocks are plentiful. Ni-63 is easy to make from Ni-62, which is very plentiful, and there’s no shortage of diamond dust, which can be found naturally or synthetically. So mass production is feasible. Ni-63 has a half-life of 100.1 years, so the 50-year lifespan of the battery assumes about a 20% loss of power over that time period. Ni-63 decays into copper.

Of course, there is a downside. While considered a “low-level” contaminant by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and thus safe for near-surface disposal, it is Class C, which is the highest level of that overall designation. The NRC adds, “Class C waste is waste that not only must meet more rigorous requirements on waste form to ensure stability but also requires additional measures at the disposal facility to protect against inadvertent intrusion. The physical form and characteristics of Class C waste must meet both the minimum and stability requirements set forth in § 61.56.”

Physical Characteristics

  • Half-life: 100.1 years
  • Emissions: Beta particles with a maximum energy of 66 keV and an average energy of 17 keV
  • Maximum Range: 5 cm in air; < 0.01 cm in tissue

Dose Rate and Shielding

  • Dose rate to the skin at 10 cm: negligible (for an unshielded point source)
  • Dose rate to epidermal basal cells from skin contamination of 1 µCi/cm2: negligible
  • Shielding: None needed.
  • Annual Limit on Intake (ALI): 9000 microcuries via ingestion and 2000 microcuries via inhalation. The ingestion of one ALI will produce a dose of 5 rem.


A wipe survey using liquid scintillation counting is the preferred method for detecting Ni-63. G-M detectors will not detect Ni-63 contamination.


Ni-63 contamination cannot be detected with a G-M meter, and special precautions are needed to keep the work environment clean. The regular use of wipe testing, using a liquid scintillation counter, is the only way to insure that your work space does not contain low-level removable contamination.

Radiation Monitoring Requirements: Radiation monitoring badges are not required for Ni-63 users, since the monitoring badges will not detect Ni-63.

Waste Disposal:

  • Solid Wastes/Liquid Scintillation Wastes: through the Off-Site Radioactive Waste Disposal Program
  • Liquid Wastes: through the Sewer Disposal Program. The laboratory disposal limit for Ni-63 is 3 mCi per month.


A paper by Chinese physicists (Effective separation and recovery of valuable metals from waste Ni-based batteries: A comprehensive review by ie Wang, Yingyi Zhang, Laihao You, Kunkun Cui, Tao Fu and Haobo Mao and curated by The School of Metallurgical Engineering, Anhui University of Technology, Maanshan, 243002, Anhui Province, China, and School of Civil Engineering and Architecture, Anhui University of Technology, Maanshan, 243002, Anhui, China) states flatly, “On the one hand, waste Ni-based batteries cause serious harm to the environment and human health. On the other hand, they contain many valuable metals such as Ni, Co, Mn, Zn, and rare earth elements (REEs). These valuable metals and REEs have very high strategic value and are widely used in high-temperature structural materials to improve their mechanical properties and oxidation resistance.”

The paper goes on to detail several methods of disposal/recycling that can be used to mitigate what otherwise would be a significant environmental and safety hazard. These vary in both cost and effectiveness.

So while this is a significant step forward, it isn’t without challenges and drawbacks. Yes, the batteries as units seem safe and effective, but in mass production present major possible problems.

Expect to be hearing much more about this.


Princeton Environmental Health ^ Safety

The David Fallacy — Why (some) zealots support Trump

The David Fallacy

Why (some) zealots support Trump

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

January 16th, 2024

They held the Iowa caucuses yesterday, and I don’t regard the results as being of any particular importance, given how unrepresentative they are of the country as a whole. (Mike Huckabee won in 2008, Rick Santorum won in 2012, and Ted Cruz in 2016.) The only reason Trump won in 2020 was that he ran unopposed, about the only way he can actually win an election.

He essentially ran unopposed this time, since the only other significant candidates were a pair of “me-too” clingers who ran as Trump-lite: Ron DeSantis and Nicki Haley. Those two dead-enders managed to get 40% of the Republican vote, which shows just how weak Trump really is.

Haley’s birth-name was Nimarata Nikki Randhawa, and MSNBC actually showed one voter opining that it wouldn’t be right for a “Hin-doo” to be president. Despite that, Haley was mad because MSNBC was “dividing us by race” for simply pointing out that country white evangelicals aren’t going to strongly support Haley because of her skin color. Haley, MSNBC didn’t create those bigoted clowns. And trust me, they weren’t watching Joy Reid anyway. She’s not one of the ‘good ones’ in their books.

DeSantis was already a bad joke, between his elevator clown boots and picking a fight with a cartoon mouse and losing. He wasn’t as big on god-flogging as Trump, so wasn’t seen as sufficiently godly.

So Trump fetched up with 51% of the vote. I was expecting him to get 60% or more, between the high number of fools in the GOP and the weak field arrayed against him. So even if the ratings-driving media is trying to hype his chances, the results show his fundamental weakness.

MSNBC devoted five full hours to this non-story, and I managed to miss most of it so I could play Solitaire and watch an animated movie. (I would point out that while I didn’t do so good playing Solitaire, the movie, Maboroshi, on Netflix, was pretty damned good).

But I did catch one gem that made MSNBC’s entire wasted night worth a glance. Barely able to contain their laughter, Joy and Rachel Maddow explained “The King David Hypothesis.”

King David lived around 1,000 BCE, and yes, there is evidence that he actually did exist, although outside of notoriously unreliable holy writ, little is known about him.

But the religious accounts are satisfyingly florid. A simple shepherd, he killed the giant Goliath with a slingshot, and got noticed by the reigning king, Saul. Saul took him in to the palace, but then expelled him when he decided David was plotting to kill him and steal his throne. But before then, Saul has made David rich for killing the giant, and among other marriages, David marries Saul’s younger daughter, Michael. The dowery is 100 Philistinian heads, although accounts differ as to whether that was cranial-type heads or the other kind, foreskins. Either way, it made a lot of Philistines very unhappy. He’s also got about eight other wives and unknown numbers of concubines of varying gender, something that’s always fun to point out to bigoted morons who want America to observe “biblical marriage” only.

Jehovah gets annoyed at Saul for failing to commit genocide (the Amalekites, look it up) and sends the angel Samuel to name David king. After various intrigues and production of a family lineage that makes it apt as well as physically likely that he was the father of the Abrahamic religions, he becomes King, and is sufficiently murderous and Machiavellian enough to keep even Jehovah happy. Between the smiting and the slutting, David made Trump look restrained and faithful.

All right, so intellectually, morally, and romantically, David was a hot mess. (For his wives and concubines, “consent” was not an option.) But he’s “beloved by God” and the father of the true religions, all 15,000 of them that we know about. What to do, what to do? Zealots hate ethical quandaries.

Thus was born the King David Hypothesis. God chose David because he was flawed, and the fact that he was flawed showed that God could make David have a good heart and be a great king despite all the murdering and raping and conniving. Because of God, David was great because God made him so and his flaws just showed how good God was at his job.

Thus and so, the reasoning goes, even though Trump is flawed (the polite way of saying “a hot mess”), God has chosen him to be Der Leader to show that God can take even the vilest spittoon of a person and make him great. So even though Trump is about as Christian as a rabid pig, Christians are duty bound to support him because God wants him to be great.

Ah, the religious mind! The wonder of it all!

Meanwhile, the portion of America that isn’t religiously insane continue to watch Trump slide. He went on to claim this was his third, and greatest win in Iowa (neither statement was true), and his main lawyers in the trials about tax fraud and defamation of E. Jean Carroll, Joe Tacopina and his two partners, Chad Seigel and Matthew DeOreo, up and quit the same day of the caucuses, showing his continued inability to keep lawyers for any length of time. Even lawyers have standards, even if the standard is only “Fuck you, pay me.”

Meanwhile, Trump continues his mastery of the religiously gullible. The morning after his win in the caucuses, he posted “President Trump: Suspend my campaign?” The grift is if he doesn’t get a million donations, he’ll drop out of the race.

Fortunately, the religiously insane are actually a small part of the population. Even amongst the GOP ultra-committed who turned out in -30F wind chills to caucus, he only managed half the vote against a nothing field.

So don’t let these nuts alarm you. He’s going down.


Hunter’s Point — Game Set Match

Hunter’s Point

Game Set Match

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

January 10th 2024

Hunter Biden probably doesn’t have a personal theme song. Mostly that’s limited to politicians and /or megalomaniacs. Bill Clinton had “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow.” Calvin of cartoon strip fame usually made his up on the spot, and it was, of course, about him. All six year olds are megalomaniacal.

Since Hunter isn’t a politician and there’s no evidence to suggest he’s a megalomaniac, he may be one of those rare individuals who does something so outstanding and the public assigns a song to him.

After yesterday’s brutal fiasco of a open committee meeting where he did nothing worse than show up with lawyers, sit quietly except to note he wished to testify publicly, and then quietly left when Marjorie-Taylor Greene stood to assault and defame him.

The chaos this simple act caused was riveting, and if you ignore the fact that the Republican bozos are amongst the highest elected officials in the land, hilarious.

Nancy Mace fumed that Biden was taking advantage of ‘white privilege.’ “You are the epitome of white privilege coming into the Oversight Committee, spitting in our face, ignoring a Congressional subpoena to be deposed,” Mace told the president’s son. She had to ignore the fact that he was there offering to be deposed to testify in public.

When called out for such an asinine claim, (and I’m not making this up) Mace said, “I come from a district where rich and poor is literally Black and white, Black versus white on most days. My largest jail in my district, which is the largest jail in the state of South Carolina, has had seven or eight deaths in the last two years. I was there with our Black and African American council members trying to get the right thing done. And I’ve stood with those Black families because I know the differences that they see day to day in their life. And I try to do the best that I can.”

Yes, Nancy, you take real good care of your darkies. It’s just like they’re part of the family. But that doesn’t really explain how Hunter Biden was exercising white privilege, especially in front of Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor-Greene.

Speaking of which, Armpit Maggie wasn’t amused by Biden’s snub. Ranting like a high school mean girl, she yelled at the departing Biden, “Excuse me Hunter! Apparently you’re afraid of my words! Wow, that’s too bad!” Mags, I don’t think that one is going to be included in “Great Speeches of the Twenty-First Century.” Biden didn’t explain the timing, but it’s known that Greene displayed a couple of dick pics, supposedly of Hunter, that were stolen from his laptop. It’s what you expect from Armpit Maggie.

Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D-FL) noted the deep Republican hypocrisy behind Biden refusing to testify in private: “Here is the subpoena to Scott Perry, who didn’t comply. Here is the subpoena for Mark Meadows… he did not comply. Here is the subpoena to Jim Jordan, who did not comply.” Moscowitz also showed subpoenas for former GOP Reps. Mo Brooks (R-AL), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), and Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). He added he would vote to hold Hunter Biden in contempt if the same was done for every Republican he listed. Oddly enough, no Republican took him up on that.

The Republicans looked so stupid that Charlie Kirk wondered if they were secretly leftists.

Which brings me back to having a theme song for Hunter Biden. After all, you rarely see a fiasco like yesterday’s meeting where the instigator did nothing more than show up as demanded and politely offer to testify in public.

So theme song for Hunter: “Send in the Clowns.” Here’s a partial list of the lyrics: “Isn’t it rich? Are we a pair? Me here at last on the ground, You in mid-air. Send in the clowns. Isn’t it bliss? Don’t you approve? One who keeps tearing around, One who can’t move. Where are the clowns? Send in the clowns?…Where are the clowns? There ought to be clowns. Well, maybe next year…” [Credit: Frank Sinatra, Written by: Stephen Sondheim, Album: Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back] Sondheim couldn’t have possibly imagined the state of the 2024 Republican party, but he sure got their theme, didn’t he?

Which leads me to a second item As the Constitution stipulated, Congress must invite the President to give an annual State of the Union Address each year. Normally, the invitation is for some time around early-to-mid February. And separation of powers, don’t you know? The president can only do so at the invite of Congress. This year, the invite is for mid-March. Why such a late date? Speaker MAGA Mike Johnson remembers how Joe Biden flat-out owned the Republicans in the last year’s address. It was embarrassing. And he knows Biden openly calls Trump a threat to democracy. So he has scheduled the speech to occur AFTER the “Super Tuesday” primaries, thus assuring that Trump will be the nominee of the GOP, whether he has the legal right or not. It’s the sort of sneaky dishonesty you expect from zealots and fascists.

But the Constitution doesn’t say the president has to show up in person to deliver the speech. Thomas Jefferson, who had a terrible stutter and, not surprisingly, hated public speaking, delivered his speech by mail. Most Presidents in this media age love the almost always beneficial exposure they get from the speech. So people think it’s automatic.

But the president can, quite literally, mail it in. …Or they can have someone give the speech for them.

I think it would be kinda fun if Joe Biden decided not to address Congress, but sent, in his stead, Hunter Biden.

Wouldn’t that be FUN? There ought to be clowns…

Welcome to 2024 — Yeah, it’s one of those years…

Welcome to 2024

Yeah, it’s one of those years…

Bryan Zepp Jamieson

January 1st 2024

It was a year for the books. Worldwide we saw the rise of climate dislocation, with more floods, more droughts, more storms and yes, even more blizzards. This, in turn, sparked economic dislocation, higher rates of disease, and increasing rates of migration. Humanity is rising to the occasion with fascism on the rise worldwide, including the most unlikely places on Earth—Israel and the United States. There is no philosophical system of government more poorly suited to deal with a global climate crisis. As a rule, such regimes resort to war, invasion, and mass incarceration as ways of dealing with poor crops and panicked populations. And fascists promise they alone can fix it. They’re lying, of course.

With a super El Niño blossoming, expect wild weather to continue at least into summer. Chances are decent that you’ll be one of the lucky ones and the weather will remain reasonably tranquil. But you’ll be reading about a lot of strange events.

2023 closed with something of a bang, with Japan recording a 7.6 earthquake on her western shore last night, which resulted in tsunamis as high as three meters. Too early to know about casualties, but there are reports of moderate damage. And the sun popped off with an X5 flare, the strongest of this eleven-year solar cycle. Fortunately, the resultant Coronal Mass Ejection isn’t aimed at us. It could have caused some problems otherwise. Neither have anything to do with climate change, but it was nature’s way of saying, “Hey, heads up, assholes!”

Oh, it’s going to be an election year! Oh, happy happy, joy joy! Not just here, either. The Conservatives in the United Kingdom have to call an election by December whether they want to or not, since even a super-majority Parliament has to have one at least every five years. The Tories don’t want to, of course, but the population has finally realized what an utter catastrophe Brexit has proven to be, and all the plutocratic and Putin propaganda in the world can’t unring that bell. And since even Tories have enough sense not to bah humbug the voters with an election at Yule Time, and summers are a rotten time for such, they’ll call it either in late spring or early autumn. If Labour can manage not to shoot themselves in the foot (and that is something they are true marvels at) then they should win back Parliament. How desperate are the Tories? They’re talking about bringing back Boris Johnson, or even Liz Truss! They’d be better off digging up Winston Churchill and running HIM.

In the US, things are a bit more problematic. Trump cannot possibly win an election legitimately. But he and the Republicans are liars, cheats and thieves, and knowing that this is their last best chance to consolidate power and establish a fascistic forever rule in America, they are going to pull out all the stops.

Fox News has learned that telling really blatant lies can be very expensive—three quarters of a billion dollars and counting. But more indirect lies that don’t smear individuals are still safe. The other day, they raised the question: Will it affect Trump if he’s indicted? Of course, he already HAS been indicted. Four times, 91 counts. But they’re trying to pretend that didn’t actually happen and Trump is the victim of a smear campaign to make him out like some sort of criminal. Fox learned to be cautious. They didn’t learn to be honest.

You’re going to see some of the nastiest, most vile tactics America has seen since the 1930s, and for similar reasons. The soul, even the very existence of the nation is at state. Republicans know if they don’t steal this one, they are done as a viable political movement for at least a generation. Democrats will have to fight back with everything they have. They can’t bring polite petitions and debate skills to a gunfight. They don’t have to fight dirty, but they have to fight fucking HARD. Republicans will steal your country out from under you and essentially make a slave of you. Never forget that.

Social media will continue to evolve, or in the case of Ex-Twitter, devolve. Between massive propaganda operations and AI deep fakery, expect a lot of misinformation and disinformation. Because the National Association of Zealots and Ideologues have spent billions trying to dismantle America’s educational system and turn it over to the zealots, Americans under the age of about 50 fare very poorly when it comes to critical thinking skills. Conspiracy theories are rife, and such types are the most gullible people on Earth. You can sell anyone even the most absurd nonsense if you dress it up as secret knowledge the authorities are trying to hide from you. And smears will be rife. Already are rife. There’s no evidence to impeach Biden. The “liberal media” barely exists at all. Trump is not a victim. The Democrats are not out to rape children or take away your guns. The fact that they haven’t should tell you that.

People, stop believing bullshit. They aren’t telling you these things for your benefit. Quite the opposite. They need gullible and stupid people until they don’t. Then your value will drop to roughly that of a used condom.

It’s going to be a rough year, and it will sicken and depress many of you. You’re in a fight not of your choosing or making. If you win, you stand to get back the free and wealthy world you grew up in. Lose, and you find yourself powerless and captive, and in the camps if you protest.

Get ready. It’s going to be a bitch-kitty of a year.