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Dave Cohen
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Denial is not just a river in Egypt.
Interests: evolution, energy, the economy, climate, astrobiology, music, paleontology, culture
Recent Activity
I will quote from Rolling Stone's Trump's Presidency Is Shaping Up to Be an American Tragedy— Add it all up, and what do you see? A child who reacts to the slightest perceived attack with vicious vitriol. A vengeful president who is willing to violate basic rights. A government run by incompetents, racists, bullies and conspiracy-mongers. It's a formula for tragedy. No one can predict the future – we learned that lesson the hard way a month ago. But if you were to imagine what impending American fascism would look like, you couldn't place the pieces on the board any... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at Decline of the Empire
Remember, I do not make this stuff up. This is a brief follow-up to Are We In The "Post-Truth" Era? OK, let's work through this. Here are two Flatland premises. In important realms like politics and economics, humans are inveterate bullshitters. They can't help it. Bullshit is the default case. Facts don't matter, or matter only in so far as they can't be used as weapons to push some largely unconscious agenda. In so far as fundamental behavioral changes are impossible for humans, they characteristically assume that technology solves all problems. In Flatland, applying technology to everything is a feature,... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at Decline of the Empire
This is a reprint of my 2011 post The Authoritarian Personality (under the fold). This is one of the few times I wrote about reptiles on this blog. The context was the media reaction to the inept Occupy protests—remember them? The context is clearly dated, and even looks quaint in retrospect. However, now that reptiles are in charge, it is a good time to review this material. You can also see the roots of the present in the past (5 years ago). Ah, the good ol' days ... I'm already feeling nostalgic It has been interesting to watch the reactions... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at Decline of the Empire
I haven't mentioned the proverbial frog since the second flatland essay, which I wrote in 2014 (and see here and here). Now is an excellent time to do it again in the context of America's irreversible fall from grace. I'll quote from those essays. It doesn't matter that real frogs don't sit in the gradually heated water until they are boiled alive. What matters is that human beings do. That's what makes it useful as a metaphor. The American Empire has been in decline for almost 30 years now. Yet it is only in the last few years—specifically, since the... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at Decline of the Empire
I'm trying to rouse myself from this stupor I've been in lately. It's not easy. I see that foreclosure king and former Goldman banker Steve Mnuchin is going to be our next Treasury Secretary. My personal view is that Mnuchin, like so many others taking positions of "responsibility" in our government, is a reptile. I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned this "person" doesn't belong the same species as I do. Reptilian humanoid? I've looked at research which indicates that reptiles have certain traits which distinguish them from others, but I'm not sure I'm buying it.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
We are well past the point of no return here in the United States. To understand this, we needn't look beyond the bullshit du jour, which is that Russia determines what happens in the U.S. (and see here). Understanding Flatland requires a capacity to discover and posit plausible unconscious motivations underlying surface events (like "Russia did it"). I'm throwing you a softball today in the hopes you can hit a home run. Ask yourself this simple question— For those who lost the recent election, why would the Russia hacking story be plausible and appealing? Keywords or phrases to keep in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
Humans in the general case require babysitting. Otherwise there is a tendency to shit the bed or make a mess of things. You know, get careless in the sandbox, get sand all over everything outside it. Food fights. High School. What a mess. Now, I could do what Morris Berman does at Dark Ages America. As Jim suggested to me privately, Morris (among others) has a better business model than I do. He's selling himself. Indeed, my "problem" is that I have no business model at all. At Berman's blog, his readers, who he calls "wafers" (Why America Failed-ers), must... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
I was reading through Idiot Brain by neuroscientist Dean Burnett. In the last chapter, on page 301, the next to last page of the book, Burnett said an interesting thing. Pay attention. This is important. (I added the links.) Our brains determine what's real or not based on our experiences, and if we grow up in a context where objectively impossible things are seen as normal, then our brains conclude they are normal, and judge everything else accordingly. Even people not brought up in [a] more extreme belief system are susceptible—the "just world" bias described in Chapter 7 is incredibly... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
As the terrifying Trump transition continues, with dimwitted humans demonstrating every day that there's no bottom in Flatland, it's hard to get excited about the holiday. In the public sphere, this is the single worst year I've seen in my 63 years on Earth. 2017 promises to be worse. Next year we may long for the good 'ole days of 2016. All the evils of this world are loose. This will not end well. The only thing that might save us, at least for a while, is inertia. To all those story-telling social animals who invest this empty world with... Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
Why did Trump win? Well, there was 35 years of elite corruption, neglect and malfeasance. And finally, after all that, there was The Bubble. This great fake ad from SNL tells you everything you need to know in a little over 2 minutes. The video portrays the "progressive" bubble, but remember, most Americans live in one bubble or another. "...a planned community of like-minded free thinkers—and no one else" Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
Hmm... Wasn't going to mention it because there's nothing to see here, folks... ...but parts of the Arctic are 36°F and 20°C above normal right now. That purple area is an equally anomalous cold spot in Siberia. Looks like that wavy persistent Jet Stream is to blame ... and it's polar night now. Move on, move on, move on... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
It's time for some plain talk. Humans have no natural affinity for truth (reality) and therefore can not have a deteriorating relationship with truth (reality) now. Therefore, we are not in some new "post-truth" era (and here). Humans are not truth-seekers, and never were. For our purposes here, humans are story-telling social animals. There is no relationship between telling stories and having an affinity for "objective" truth in so far was we can determine it. Story-telling is subjective by definition. By the way, I have no evolutionary "just-so" story to tell which purports to explain why humans are story-telling social... Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
I check in at Real Climate once and awhile, but most of the posts there are of little interest to me. However, David Archer just posted Trump carbon and the Paris agreement, which backs up everything I've said recently (and here) on about the trivial effect of Trump's election on the climate outlook. David is too polite to say "fucked", so he says "fracked." The recent US election has prompted cries that the decision on Earth’s climate has now been irrevocably made, that the US has unilaterally decided to scrap the peak warming target from the Paris agreement of 1.5... Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
You all know who Sarah Palin is, so let's skip that. She's been among the names floated for Secretary of the Interior. But this post is not about Sarah Palin per se. She is merely a stand-in for lots of primitive humans who will be put in powerful positions when real things start to happen in the coming months and years. For example, Steven Mnuchin, "a 17-year-veteran of Goldman Sachs who now works as the chairman and chief executive of the private investment firm, Dune Capital Management," is a candidate for Secretary of the Treasury. He may not be as... Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
It is with great pleasure that I reprint in full the text of Paul Watson's Why Fighting Donald Trump On Climate Change Is A Waste Of Time. Watson is the founder of The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. It is astonishing to think that many of the things Watson says here have appeared only on this blog during the entire time I've written it. That part is like a breath of fresh air. But as you will see, after getting real about what humans will do about climate change, Watson gives us the hope which made it possible for this article... Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
Feel free to post your Trump Era thoughts here. It's all too much for me today. The excrement has hit the air conditioner. It's a veritable shit storm. Stanley Kubrick anticipated all this in 1964. I hope you will see the connection between where we are now and these two astonishing clips from Dr. Strangelove. It was a different time, but the psychological gist is exactly the same. As always, my advice is duck and cover. And laugh while you still can. Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
Dave Roberts put his 2 cents in about Trump and climate change at Vox. The story is called Trump’s election marks the end of any serious hope of limiting climate change to 2 degrees. For all its troubles, the US is an indispensable leader of the free world. Its official posture is now going to be hostile to climate action. Under those circumstances, the story about the world unifying to take bold, dramatic action on climate change, beyond what was pledged in Paris, has gone from unlikely to utter fantasy. The best climate activists can hope for is that Trump... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
This week's capper came when Leonard Cohen died. We're having some fun now! Marianne Ihlen, Leonard Cohen and friends in Greece, 1960 "I'm leaving the table, I'm out of the game" — Leonard Cohen Climate scientist Michael Mann says the election of Donald Trump "might be game over for the climate." Kevin Trenberth told The Guardian "this is an unmitigated disaster for the planet." Fuck you, Michael, and fuck you, too, Kevin. I don't want to hear your Flatland bullshit today, or anybody else's bullshit. This is Homo sapiens we're talking about here. What you see is what you get.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
The climate stories started right after the result was in. Here's the key projection from Lux Research. Should we believe this? Don't know. The economy would have to be growing for emissions to rise that much, even if there is a small resurgence in coal burning. Also, natural gas competes with coal and will remain competitive price-wise. We have no reason to believe that Trump's policies will lead to a more robust U.S. economy. In fact, we have plenty of reason to believe the opposite. Regardless, Elizabeth Kolbert is alarmed and so is Brad Plumer, though Brad invents some reasons... Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
I've been consistent over the years I've published this blog. My message, not about Flatland per se but about America, was summed up in my semi-sardonic post It's Official — The United States Has Turned To Shit. I meant that. Just last week I wrote this paragraph— If America is on the brink of political catastrophe sooner (next week) rather than later, it is because our political and economic elites (of both parties) screwed so many Americans for so long that they made Donald Trump possible. I am not going to document today their corruption, malfeasance and negligence as I... Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
I told you there is no bottom, and now we know that's true. I erred on the side of optimism, such as that goes. I was wrong about Hillary winning. So much for Obama's Legacy. More later. -- Dave Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
This post is dedicated to every human being who has ever walked the Earth and every one yet to be born. As we sit here 38 hours away from the end of one of the most absurd and disgusting episodes in human history, and knowing full well that there are many absurd and disgusting episodes to come, it behooves us to remember that human life on this planet is a game which each of us is compelled to play. We need to remember that the disgraceful and embarrassing behavior we've witnessed over the last year is merely another example of... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
The rule of thump for Mars goes like this— The worse things get on Earth, the more appeal the Mars escape fantasy has. So here we go, brought to you by National Geographic and Hollywood's Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, a Global Miniseries Event, a Scripted Drama From the Future. The year is 2033, and mankind's first manned mission to Mars is about to become reality. This is the story of how we make Mars home, told by the pioneers making it possible. With Insight From Today's Brightest Minds. Look for that phrase in the trailer below. Look who comes... Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
America's clueless, self-interested elites are terrified. Today on the Diane Rehm Show they're talking about What Constitutes Dangerous Political Speech And How It Can Incite Violence. Of course they have Donald Trump in mind. They're worried that Trump won't accept the election results if he loses. They're scared of what The Donald might say and do next Tuesday night. Let's be clear about one thing—Donald Trump will not go gently into the night if he loses. He will not disappear like Mitt Romney did in 2012. Every single thing we know about Trump tells us that he will do everything... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2016 at Decline of the Empire
In the last week I've written posts called Flatland Douchebags and It's Official, The United States Has Turned To Shit. I assume you agree with this view or are sympathetic to it. Otherwise, you wouldn't be reading here. So there's not a lot more to do along those lines and there's no need to repeat myself. Let's get a little more abstract. The Flatland model, by definition, says that humans are run by unconscious motivations. In so far as those motivations are hidden from them, broadly speaking, humans don't know what they're doing or why they're doing it. As I... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2016 at Decline of the Empire