WWVB : What Would Vannevar Blog?

January 21, 2022

Trump's 2022 Nobel Prize Peace in Ukraine

Long time, no post. But consider if you will:

Pure Speculation

Donald Trump's legal team keeps prosecutors and congressional investigators away from most of the meaty substance until March. In the meantime, Russia's Putin wants nothing so much as Trump back in the White House.

Putin invades a long, narrow column into Ukraine. 50 meters wide, 3 kilometers long. People quibble about significance. NATO stutters. In their 50-meter wide corridor, eventually bordered with fences and razor wire, Russians dig trenches along both sides of the narrow space.

In the center of the narrow 50 metres, supply vehicles shuttle comestibles and rotate new and used porta-potties in and out.

Stalemate persists. Strong words are exchanged among NATO. A major Russian presence outside of Ukraine exists to support the tiny intrustion. Cold warfare, trench warfare persist. Putin makes no statements. American soft power isn't effective. President Biden realizes the US people and the US Congress will not go to war over essentially a 5K track.

In May 2022, Donald Trump and his family (Don, Doofus, and Ivanka) surprise the world by appearing in Ukraine and driving in a cortege of EF-150's to the fenced perimeter. An Ilyshin has brought the electric trucks over. Chairs are produced by the Russians. Donald speaks through the fence with a senior Russian officer. They shake hands through the fence, and Trump drives away.

All Congressional and Attorney General (state and federal) demands for testimony and evidence are now blunted by Trump's assertion that he and his family are performing vital work in the national interest that can not be interrupted or disclosed at this time.

Every Friday, the Trump Family returns to the fenceline. Several Russians wearing uniforms but no insignia are waiting to talk with them. Photos are taken. In late May, Trump brings a dozen pizzas and delivers them to the Russians. In the future, Trump brings pizza every Friday. It's a NY sign of respect, he explains.

In June 2022, Trump and his family are brought inside the fenceline. The same unmarked uniforms great them. After a half hour, toasts are exchanged and the Trump Team departs. These face-to-face meetings continue every Friday. Trump has nothing to say to the press. To his base, on the subscription-only newletter, Trump says: We're working on things. I think it's going to be all right. I'm a guy who gets things done.

Next Friday, Trump brings every Russian staffing the trenches a new pillow from his friend Mike Lyndell.

Biden and the Administration are impotent. They can't get NATO to agree on military action, or even a blockade isolating the thin strip of land. Putin will not speak to Biden. Newspapers and investigators clamor for Trump to come home and face the music, but they have no effect.

In late July 2022, as the Pappilion variation of the COVID-19 virus is sweeping Europe, Trump promises to bring American vaccines and boosters to both the Russian troops inside the fence and also to the Ukrainian people living near the no-mans-land.

The vaccine effort is very successful. The No-Mans-Land and the surrounding towns are the safest places to be in Europe. Trump provides high-speed wifi at his own expense so soldiers on both sides can stay in touch with their families.

On the Friday before the Labor Day weekend, Trump and Family bring pizzas and walk inside the wire. The young Trumps walk further inside of the trench and step within a canvas cover. Donald and a senior Russian officer come to the wire, signal to TV crews, and DT says: "I'm going to spend the weekend here along with my family. They have always been my advisors. I think you're going to like, well let me say that I hope we'll have a good announcement soon".

On Sunday, after attending Russian Orthodox Services, Trump comes out of the wire. Reading from a prepared text, he says "I've enjoyed the hospitality of our hosts quite a bit, they're very generous and friendly, which is also my impression of the Russian people. They've shared everything they have with us.

Tomorrow you will see trucks, vehicles, personnel carriers moving in and out of this so-called No Man's Land. The Russian troops will withdraw to previous boundaries. When they are all gone, the Russian senior officer and I will talk the trenches and be sure that every single soldier is evacuated. By Tuesday, this crisis that some so-called leaders found insurmountable will have passed peacefully.

I want to thank Premier Putin and all his generals for their help in bring the world back from the edge of war. God bless all of them. God bless the United States. I will not take any questions at this sensitive time."

On Tuesday, the Russians have evacuated, Trump and the General make their walkthrough, and the previous border is re-established. Complete peace is restored by Sept.10th, although Russian forces still sit amassed along the Ukranian frontier.

Trump is not seen for days. Mid-September, Trump is seen touring his hotel properties in Europe. "A private citizen, just another American businessman in Europe" he shouts to the press.

Trump and his family are nominated to share the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize for prying the world away from WW3. And they win it.

Trump's command of the Republican party is cemented prior to the 2022 elections. The Republicans take the House. Republicans sweep the Senate. Joe Biden, once a president commanding the House and a tied Senate, becomes the whipping boy for 2023 and 2024.

Trump does not return to the United States until Nov.20th, to conduct a series of lightning rallies across the country. After election day, he decamps to the French Rivera to rest and spend time with his family. All attempts to hold him accountable, and to render him unelectable, have failed.

He is a hero with his Nobel prize.

What story have you got that does a better job of explaining the observed world?

May 30, 2021

Categories, Transgender Athletes and Cognitive Dissonance

(This is a copy of a facebook response I made, in response to Eryn Hughes' question about transgender athletes). Categories are an interest of mine. These are strictly My Thoughts Only, and I have no credentials.

It seems to me that at one time, rapid categorization probably conferred an evolutionary advantage. Assessing creatures and objects and categorizing them as dangerous, as unimportant, or as food was crucial to success.

It may be that over time, we are bred to be makers and users of categories. We may be both creators and victims of categories.

As opposed to the time of saber-toothed tigers when people were generalists, in today's world so many people are specialists and survive within an economy that rewards niche categorizations.

We project our categorizations upon others. We seek categories for ourselves, aspirationally. We install categories into our children.

The habit of categorization may have served us well once, but it may not serve "us" well any more. There's a lot of habits our species have left behind. The admixture of categories, competition, and capitalism distort our culture and the playing field.

Whole industries are based on categorization. Money and power flows to the competitors and corporations that thrive within our socially accepted categories. Money ignores the people that don't fit into our categories -- or even worse, power punishes people who challenge our established categories. See Colin Kaepernick.

Our categories are not mere suggestions; we enforce them, and we (socially and economically) punish people who don’t fit into the categories.

I would offer Caster Semenya as an example, (or Mokgadi Caster Semenya OIB as she is known at home). Her performance and even her existence challenge our categories, and so we banish her from organized sport, or insist that she take performance-degrading drugs in the name of sportsmanship. What a contrast to our white Euro cyclists with their performance-enhancing drugs.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caster_Semenya

At least some solo sports initially present themselves as harmless categories where it's simply the human vs. the clock as in running, swimming, etc. There are still huge economic implications: sponsorship, scholarships, support.

Our categories are social constructs with major capitalist implications, and then we project them onto our children. Children's team sports, which rely on organization and cooperation to get a quorum on the field, mirror adult (corporate, economic) team sports.

Our school system schedules Black and Gold days, and non-participant children are criticized and peer-pressured into the local category which can approach fetishism.

Athletic children have to pick a category and then cast themselves into their category’s lifestyle. Football or baseball? Offense or defense? Short or long distance?

Righty or Lefty? Few will choose switch-hitting. Fewer still will choose switch-pitching, which we don’t have an accepted term for. See baseball’s arcane Pat Venditte Rules for Ambidextrous Pitchers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Venditte

https://www.athleticsnation.com/2015/6/5/8735407/the-pat-venditte-rule-what-happens-when-a-switch-pitcher-faces-a

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2015/official_baseball_rules.pdf See, Ambidextrous Pitchers.

To Be Certain, our enforcement of categories and baseball’s tremendous complexity in handling category switchers mirrors our inability to deal with category-bending regarding our most primal impulses, and certainly reflects the issues about transgender athletes.

We don't like to mix/match our categories. Why isn't Serena Williams seen as America's greatest athlete, let alone best tennis pro? Or Simone Biles? And why isn’t the world’s most successful soccer team (the US Women’s Team) paid as well as the American men’s soccer team?

The answer is that our categories include the same racial, gender, and tribal flaws as our culture. Who can say that sport as-we-know-it is pure? Or even only slightly corrupt?

The competition in our organized sports is so fierce that only small differences set the top competitors apart from the merely world-class. Tiny biological differences matter: height or weight in some sports, VO2-Max in others, and the tiniest natural nuances are financially lucrative if they fall within our categories. Otherwise, you’re Caster Semanya.

In the end we seize upon our most vulnerable people to maintain our precious categories. Rachel McKinnon, PhD was the focus of rage and hate as the transgender cyclist who confounded our categories. She became the focus of then-President Trump’s tweets. The notoriety was so great they changed their name to Veronica Ivy.

https://www.bicycling.com/culture/a25736012/transgender-world-champion-track-cycling-race/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veronica_Ivy

Can there be any doubt that our generally accepted categories in sport are social constructs? Are we amazed that Caster Semanya, Colin Kaepernick, Serena Williams, Simone Biles, and Veronica Ivy are minorities?

Just as we see in the social / political realm, we ignore the people that confound our comfortably acceptable categories.

We assuage our hurt feelings by demonizing the vulnerable non-conformers and by granting victim status to grievants who would maintain the legacy categories, the status quo.

Allan Bakke felt they were kept out of medical school because of a new categorization. Dr. Jennifer Wagner felt that losing to a cross-category competitor was unfair. Society has supported them.

https://twitter.com/jkwagnermd

Further, consider the effect of language upon our categories. Benjamin Whorf suggests that we can only think about and communicate about topics that we have words for. We don’t have easy words for Caster Semenya, or Elliot Page, or Pat Venditte, and we’d rather support our comfort than actual people.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benjamin_Lee_Whorf

At a very basic level, our categories helped; tigers vs chickens, flight or fight, etc. In the face of complexity our categories no longer serve us well; we incentivize ourselves to reject individuals rather than reject a counter-productive social construct, and we revert from enlightenment to tribalism in defense of our precious categories.

I've recently read "Sorted" by Jackson Bird, and I'm currently reading “Sorting Things Out” by Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star, and I’d recommend either to anybody interested in categorization and language.

I'd appreciate feedback/ critique as readers see fit.

April 05, 2021

Tape is the New Spray Paint

Upper West Side of Manhattan: A street artist with a supply of construction tape has been putting exhortations in fences around the neighborhood.

Stay Where You Grow"

stay where you grow : UWS graffiti

Focus on You

focus on you
October 13, 2020

Too Tense During Sukkot

Sukkot is a Jewish festival called the Feast of Tabernacles or sometimes call the Festival of Shelters. During this time, little booths or shelters called sukkah are built according to traditional rules. It's all very nice.

At CMU there's a bicycle-towed Sukkah so people can make their observance on campus. In NYC I've seen rental pickup trucks with a Sukkah on the back, double-parked to make the facility available.

In New York City this summer, restaurants have been permitted to establish open-air dining (streateries) in one lane of the street, sometimes displacing parking and sometimes displacing a lane for moving traffic. Some of the structures resemble Sukkah's quite a bit to me.

On another street, there's a bike lane. So the restaurant row goes outside the bike lane. Then the trucks making deliveries double-park and the actual flow on the street is like a blocked artery.

As the season progresses and it gets colder, and sometimes it rains, the shelters become more elaborate and become even more like Sukkahs. I wonder when this is no longer outside dining. There are heaters and electricity in these things.

New York is increasingly becoming a tent city, to a limited degree. None of those businesses in tents is paying any tax on the public space their using for private business.

I do not eat in these tents; I think there's insufficient protection. I do order takeout from local restaurants; I order over the phone, and not through the App, so the restaurant doesn't have to share the money with the App service.

Imagine if people (rather than businesses) set up tents and made their residence in the street like that. The authorities would clear them out on the first day. But businesses?

July 25, 2019

A Perspective on Caucasian-Eating Bacteria

As a society, as a culture, as an economy, America didn't really care about Sickle Cell Anemia, which mostly affects African-Americans. America didn't really care about HIV-AIDS, which mostly affects homosexuals and the poor virtuous hemophiliacs.

But we really do care about Necrotizing Fasciitis, (NF), the term used when people's interiors are invaded by flesh-eating microbes. This is a severe disease of sudden onset that spreads rapidly. The most commonly affected areas are the limbs and perineum (ewww).

Let's examine the nomenclature, the name-calling. Carnivores (people like me) are flesh-eaters. President Trump is a flesh-eater. Lots of animals and fish are flesh-eaters - for instance, sharks, a species we make movies and TV shows about. We're usually not finicky about flesh-eaters. In fact, a lot of us think that people who are non-flesh-eating are kind of a pain in the ass.

Old-school flesh-eaters have always respected the Hierarchy of Life: Rats eat bunnies. Cats eat rats. Coyotes eat cats. Wolves eat coyotes. Lions and tigers eat wolves, oh my. Humans that own corporations kill lions and tigers for status. Sigh. The pecking order points down.

Except these new flesh eaters don't know their place; they aim high and eat Humans. If you have a fear of zombies or cannibals, this is the obsession for you. These are human-eating little critters, so we convey special umbrage in our response.

Unfortunately this is a situation where critters are eating mostly white people. Do a Google search on flesh eating bacteria and click Images; mostly the results are white people, people who have the time and money to go to the beach. You might say that the disease disproportionately affects Caucasians along social-economic class lines. Also: NF affects Electoral College swing states.

This is our own fault. We've sprayed the planet with DDT, phosphates, carcinogens, plastic, fuel exhaust, and enough Axe body spray to kill all the easy critters. Darwin said the result would be a winnowing out of the ecosystem; only the hardy surviving critters would procreate, resulting in new critter strains that would be stronger than the DDT/Axe combo.

And now they're eating Us. This is like every drive-in sci-fi movie ever made, except it's real and it's here and now, not sometime off in the very distant future like 2025 when we expect Miami to be underwater.

This is classic Niemoeller: first the diseases came for the black people, and I didn't care. Then they came for the gay people and hemophiliacs, and I didn't care. Now they're coming for white people in coastal swing states HELP THEY'RE EATING US.

We know how this movie ends, right? Some new religious figure will declare the problem to be God's judgement for rejecting the Founding Fathers; True Believers will move to Utah place and foreswear the coasts; People magazine will run stories on disabled veterans who survived combat only to be killed by a hot tub.

We did this. Well, we've done a lot of things, but this is affecting white people and summer vacations.

December 23, 2018

One Pgh : On Thin Ice

If you want change, it takes money. If you're a mayor who wants change, it usually takes a new packaged funding stream. In the hands of the right mayor with a good arrangement, it can be effective. Otherwise it can be a slush fund.

WESA lays out a sloppy start with their reporting, Peduto’s OnePGH Aims To Address Pittsburgh's Problems. So Far It Hasn’t Solved Its Own.

I think "thin ice" is the perfect visual for OnePgh. All the beneficiaries of the status quo - the Foundations, Private Sector, Developers and Non-Profits (CMU, Pitt, UPMC) are represented. They don't seem to know much about it, and haven't condescended to any funding. None of the challengers to the status-quo are represented.

Peduto's program does seem to conflate "resilience" with unity and social justice. There's a lot of marketplace talk in the program, and not much social justice. They talk about workforce but not about population.

It's probably not coincidental that this initiative surfaces after the Mayor and Council have implemented a scheme of approving some citizen orgs and disapproving others; you have to be on the right list to deserve attention. OnePgh is a power play, a money play, and a control play for Peduto's next wave.

The Payments-In-Lieu-Of scheme is difficult but can be a mayor's fantasy if the money appears. Usually, a mayor with a Program writes up the proposal and the budget and submits it to City Council. It's fairly transparent and the people's representatives get a voice. But with OnePgh, there is no accountability or transparency; there's no legislative review or approval. It's just a bag of money coming in and going out.

Finally, we note the program name, One Pgh, seems like a response to the critique of there being Two Pittsburghs. I don't see much in this new program that's going to heal Pittsburgh. Maybe that would be a better name for a better program: Heal Pittsburgh.