RL455 - The Birds Aren’t Real Party

This week, Merlin and John talk about:

  • John following the war in Ukraine via indirect social media post sent to him by his friend (Military)
  • John being interested in war technology (Military)
  • The military being mostly a logistical operation (Military)
  • Exporting democracy (Military)
  • How capitalism is now fighting the war on behalf of the West (Military)
  • Did we make any changes after the pandemic? Will me make any changes during this war? (Military)

The Problem: The Bang Bang Machine brought some friends, referring to the construction outside of Merlin’s office.

The show title refers to the problem that there are a lot of dumb people in a democracy that also have to get to vote.

The audio starts with 10 seconds of construction noise outside of Merlin’s office. As they start to talk there is a beeping noise from trucks backing up in the background. They are using the big loader to slam long steel beams into the ground, and Merlin decided he is into it because when will he be able to prove himself this way again. It is testing him and it is testing their listeners for sure. The 50 listeners who routinely complain about the sound quality should have kept their powder dry! Merlin is not trying to mute this because there is just no way.

Merlin and his kid love Portlandia which is so God-damn funny and it is a shame they never had John on, where they used the Hanna-Barbera library of sound effects and Merlin got a giant set of those off the back of a truck.

They decide to continue doing the show and not try to mute this although Merlin has a foot switch for that, because all their listeners from New Zealand who have not heard a piece of machinery or even a car in weeks are surely enjoying this. Merlin loves New Zealand, they have good bacon there!

Nobody is going to complain about John’s mouth noises now!

Raw notes
The segments below are raw notes that have not been edited for language, structure, references, or readability. Please do not quote these texts directly without applying your own editing first! These notes were not planned to be released in this form, but time constraints have caused a shift in priorities and have delayed editing draft-quality versions to a later point.

John following the war in Ukraine via indirect social media post sent to him by his friend (RL455)

All the world is watching Ukraine and we are all wanting to do our part in our way. John tried to follow it on the news, and he had a lot to say about social media in the last year, but there is one thing that it is amazing at, which is breaking news from the front lines. The mainstream media is still going to tell you that the Russians have invaded Ukraine while on Twitter there are people posting from out in the foxholes.

John already followed a lot of Western journalists working in Russia and Ukraine back in 2014 during the annexation of Crimea and John is already fascinated by the East Block people, and those journalists are still out there, writing long think pieces, but John really wants to see short videos of farmers stealing tanks. Merlin’s Twitter list is good for that.

John’s friend Trevor has taken it upon himself to take all the good tweets about Ukraine and text them to him. He initially texted John, apologizing for spamming his Twitter feed with all those amazing videos, but John explained to him that he is not on social media anymore and Trevor was blowing up a ghost.

Trevor used to retweet things to John like: ”Watch this Japanese dude jump off the side of a mountain on skis!” There are a lot of extreme skiers in the world and both Trevor and John are very interested in that. Merlin became very attracted to the Slovenian girls doing the big jumps at the Olympics, they were fucking amazing! How do you jump 100 feet and land on skis and not break something?

Another crazy thing about social media is that a lot of people, including Trevor, actually have John’s phone number, and Trevor texted John to apologize for tweeting, and John suggested that he could just text all that stuff to him. The problem is that they are not screen captures, but John has to click on them and go to Twitter, and now he is back on Twitter and he clicked on his home button to see what is going on with the people he used to follow, which is like going back to elementary school. He saw all the thirsty comedians and all the engagement hustling, and most of it was not about Ukraine, and John unfollowed a lot of people that he had been following since 2009, a thing he hasn’t done for a long time.

Merlin says there is a hot member of parliament who really likes being photographed with a rifle.

Merlin is not trying to make this an entertainment event, but he does want to know what is going on and he is feeling uneasy and anxious an impotent about what to do. He wants to know if there is any chance this might be over soon.

John being interested in war technology (RL455)

John grew up playing war in the woods and for most of his childhood they played World War II while they were in the middle of the Vietnam war, but he never played war against the Vietnamese, it was always against one of their two World War II enemies. But around 1978 John switched over to being a cold warrior. It was the Soldier of Fortune Magazine years where he became aware that there were all the proxy wars in Rhodesia and in Central America.

John started reading Jane’s Military Magazine and it was an era where Reagan was rebuilding the military and weapon systems that had been devised during the Vietnam war came online during the 1980s, like the F15 or the F14, the M1 tank, the A10 Warthog (?), the Minuteman III (?), Star Wars, it was a time when military hardware was blowing up literally and figuratively. There was scenarios like the movie Wargames, basically, and as a kid John was into this stuff like kids are into trucks. He was living in Alaska where a lot of that military technology would fly over your head. John was in the Civil Air Patrol and his dad had access to the Air Force base and they were there all the time.

While watching Ukraine now, you can see in a lot of the videos the Ukrainian soldiers having the same kind of giddiness about the technology of the gear, also in the comments there are a lot of the Jane’s types who are in their corn (?) right now and they are now as happy as can be, it would be like all of a sudden John would be called upon to identify Les Pauls. Normally John would hate all those ”Um, actually” military hardware dudes…

When there was the mass shooting in Las Vegas John was still on 4Chan and at the time Twitter was about breaking news while 4Chan had the ability to be spooky, which is where Qanon initially came from because people would say something and 5 hours later it would turn out to be true, and there was a guy on 4Chan who before the police had even broached the room was saying that it was not the fire of automatic weapons, but it was a bump stock of a certain caliber, which was spooky because it was still happening.

It is a fact of war that a lot of war-making is just train sets, people buying cool stuff that is really expensive that does blow up, which is one of the major critics of the military since 1920s: This is just a game with toys that produce death, and we don’t think about if that is a good thing, but we will think about that in a different meeting. It is like a big chess board where you move the knight and you don’t worry about it doing something you didn’t expect, and you don’t worry about the human factor.

The military being mostly a logistical operation (RL455)

When John went to Africa with his friend Matt Martin (see John’s USO tour) and he was just really good in explaining the basic truth about the military to John, which is that it is all logistics and that the number of people who are ever actually going to fire a bullet is very small compared to the number of people who are moving crates of water.

Merlin finds it very strange that you have a single file with 40 miles of trucks, and all it takes would be making three big holes in the road of the first 1/8th of that convoy, they would be pretty fucked. All it takes is for somebody to throw a Molotov Cocktail at the first of 5 trucks. They have people sitting in trucks right now running the engine because it is so cold out, and how are you going to refill all of those? Never invade Russia in the winter, and never be Russia in the winter, invading anything else!

In Iraq the United States got stuck in a logistics gyre (?) because they did have their logistics worked out which made the Army command think that that was success in war. Nobody in Aleppo loves the Americans, they are not calling for democracy, but if you ask the Russian Army how they were doing in Aleppo they had it all buttoned down according to their metrics. Matt Martin was an officer in the Air Force in Iraq during periods where by all accounts the American military had it completely buckled, they just couldn’t account for the fact that there were bombings every night and why as soon as they left an area it immediately…

Exporting democracy (RL455)

As a middle-aged Liberal guy you don’t want to say that the guns, tanks, and airplanes are cool because you sound like a dope or a gun nut, but John is getting something else out of it: One month ago it seemed to a lot of us emotionally like we had become a divided world where the United States was no longer a leader and could no longer lecture the world from any moral high ground, there was no longer any confidence that democracy was even working in the United States, let alone anything that could be advocated and exported.

In a lot of cases it seemed like social media had perverted the idea of democracy to the point that nobody even was really sure if that was ever what we wanted. We had been pushing hard to make democracy universal because to not do that would be to not be democratic. We can’t even agree on fact patterns, we can’t agree what happened on January 6th after a brief moment where it seemed like people were coming together, but now we are back to the mean where we have to ask if anybody can be trusted with democracy.

There are a lot of stupids, and it is not even a Today problem. If we had universal suffrage in 1901, would the people have been capable? It is a terrible opening to conversation because from the standpoint of the Left universal franchise is a core value, and to advocate for anything less makes it not a true democracy because you have exclusive groups or elites controlling the government and that will end up perpetuating unfair institutions. But if you lay out one person one vote, there are a lot of dumbs and there is no amount of information, even if the funnel only had truth in it, one of them will say: ”I don’t know! Birds are not real!” and then you lose 10 dumbs to the Birds Aren’t Real Party.

Even a month ago John didn’t know at what side to come down on, while 3 years ago he was online arguing vociferously in favor of the idea of America and democracy and he knew those things would survive at all, while now… In the last 3 years, the argument that Both Sides was a contemptible thing for a person to entertain, to say: ”…, but on the other hand…” The Charlottesville Both Sides is: ”Obviously Donald Trump is a contemptible dumb!”, but to say that that somehow delegitimizes any argument other than the agreed upon party line was ludicrous, it is too dumb to even consider, but John was getting 10 tweets a day going: ”Both sides, boomer!”

Now we are seeing the UFO factor. There was always an argument against the idea that revealing UFOs to the world was going to cause mass chaos because if we understood that there were UFOs it would bring the entire world together and we would either have a common enemy… the experience that the early astronauts had looking down at the Earth and going: ”Wow, whatever my politics were before…” That first color photograph of the globe from space had a profound political impact globally because everybody looked at it globally and went: ”Wow, we are on Spaceship Earth!”

How capitalism is now fighting the war on behalf of the West (RL455)

Within a couple of weeks Russia invading Ukraine and failing has brought not just schadenfreude, but a recognition that there are profound differences in the way we conduct our political life, and the United States and Western Europe and the nations of the world believe in the 20th century version of collective action, free access to the media, and human rights. Merlin also says that peace benefits economics more than not.

Part of the gloating that is happening right now is the recognition that because there were VISA cards in Russia and VISA could turn that off with a switch, that was a way for us to connect with the 30 year old who was shopping in Russia and going: ”What do you mean, my VISA doesn’t work?” This global capitalist web feels powerful to us right now to be able to remind the world that this is located in London and New York, and it never was completely decentralized and it never belonged to you, it is a tool that we have a switch to.

In the aftermath of this China and Russia are now going to try and build a global economic counter order, recognizing an existing vacuum in the banking universe, and they are going to start their own global banking. It is a bit like Trump’s social media. But to divide the world into two banking systems is basically the cold war again in a different way because after China and Russia’s banking system it is going to take a long time to rebuild a global network.

A lot of the global distrust,… among nations that are now all banding together, like Hungary and Turkey were really trending the wrong way in terms of being part of a network of friends of America, but they were headed toward being military dictatorships and there is a lot of work to do before they are reintegrated into a liberal NATO universe, but now they sided with the West, and that is galvanizing. The way we chose to run the whole run-up, which was very unique, giving all the intelligence to everybody, seems so smart now because by the time the invasion happened, not only were we not surprised, but we were already unified and before the first bullet was firing we already agreed what was true, which was super-cool!

It preempted any kind of Charlottsville both-sidesing, we just eliminated that possibility so that the Fox News talking heads couldn’t say that the Ukrainians did bomb an orphanage, but all that was agreed upon ahead of time, which was a novel way of using the intelligence community. All through the Cold War John was wondering why that stuff was secret. Revealing it doesn’t hurt us! Tell us every Russian agent you find! All of that secrecy piles up around your ears until you lose the ability to tell what is really important and what isn’t. There are buildings full of Top Secret classified material that if it was all released it wouldn’t matter, but you are guarding it and putting more and more stuff on top of it, while the stuff that we really need to keep secret is a small little nut of stuff.

John isn’t even worried about the Alex Jones types, but about the legitimately intelligent college-educated leftist intellectuals who believe that the entire world is controlled by a conspiracy of underground bankers and committees, the consensus on both the left and right that what we see is not real and all these nations are actually controlled by General Dynamics and the board of directors of Shell Oil that live under the North Pole.

Right now global capitalism feels almost like it has the moral imperative, fighting the war on behalf of the West. Good job, stock market guys! We are changing the way the banks are propping up the Ruble, but at the same time global capitalism is terrified of what is happening. Already gas-prices are up in the $4.50 and that is just the beginning! Talk about global supply chain problems!

Did we make any changes after the pandemic? Will me make any changes during this war? (RL455)

Two years ago at the start of the pandemic a lot of us, including Merlin, really believed that this was a reset and why don’t we not get into our cars ever again? Why don’t we not all rush back Downtown and cough on each other? There were statistics showing pollution dropping off a cliff, even in Manhattan over a period of weeks it was pretty wild. Someone posted a picture today of people returning to work and the lobby of the office building has all these ridiculously dispiriting signs, like: ”But your dog misses you!” or ”At least you are out of your jammies now!” The other day Merlin referred to blue jeans as hard pants because he is lifestyle sweatpants now.

Did we actually make some profound changes during the pandemic that now we just accept as a new normal and so we can’t celebrate them because celebrating our victories is not in our nature, or can we only look at how bad things are and how we went back from the pandemic and are causing the same old problems? We are talked about all the tremendous opportunities in choosing how we might want to live differently and about what causes all the God-damn extroverts to want to run around and breathe on each other? We were on the cusp of a handful of pretty interesting changes and how we choose to conduct ourselves rather than go back to what money white people call normal.

In any war there is going to be a lot of focus on the destruction and on the pain and suffering of the people, but wars are diplomacy by other means and the longer this goes on, the more it potentially represents an opportunity for a reset of a lot of things. No matter how it ends, it will not be a simple matter of: ”Okay, let’s start buying Russian oil again!” and the longer it lasts, the more the West starts to compensate for the lack of Russian oil. Is there a chance we could find ways to using less oil? After the embargo in 1972/74 the cost of oil certainly had an impact in getting people to at least consider the idea that they didn’t need to have a 2-door Chrysler New Yorker to go pick up milk. Compare that to the 1980 Chrysler K-Car!

John read an article this morning about the International Space Station and the fact that the tension is now in the space station with the question if the Russians are now going to detach, but more importantly, the motors of every rockets we use including Space X and Amazon are all made in Russia. We do have a certain stockpile in warehouses that will allow us going to space for a certain amount of time, but we have stopped making our own rocket motors, which is a great idea if you believe in a global economy where when it comes to space we are putting our differences aside, but what are we going to do when we run out of Russian rocket motors? Maybe those Saturn car factories in Tennessee could be repurposed to be rocket factories? Maybe the band Superdrag could start performing again?

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