Twenty Years Into the Future

Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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23 Responses

  1. Chip Daniels
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    says:

    Last night on Hulu I watched Notturno, a documentary by Gianfranco Rosi.

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7945450/

    It was filmed over three years across the borders of Syria, Kurdistan, Iraq and Lebanon and presents without comment the lives of several people navigating that tortured land.

    It’s a hard watch, showing the ground level effects on various people- A mother visiting the jail cell where her son was tortured and killed; Children matter of factly describing ISIS forces torturing other children; Or people just going about their lives without reliable water or electricity.

    These scenes form the “other” 9-11 reminiscences, the ones from the reaction to it and what was unleashed and continues to this day.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Chip Daniels
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      says:

      If you can track down The Dreams of Sparrows, I would recommend it- the documentary was shot by contributing local directors on the ground in 2003 and 2004.Report

      • Chip Daniels in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        Thank you, I will.
        I also watched recently The Painted Bird, which is an even more painful watch, about an orphaned boy finding his way alone across the landscape of WWII Eastern Europe.

        Both films make me think of how we political types like to chatter on about wars in grand ideological terms of good and evil, while at the ground level from the perspectives of the innocents swept up in it, those terms become obscene abstractions.Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Chip Daniels
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          I think there is a type of person that got a good university education and went into policy work right afterwards, for whom 9/11 was confirmation of all the philosophy they had read in university. It gave them a sense of purpose. All I can say is, were I in the military, I imagine I would regard them and their directives with great suspicion.Report

  2. Jaybird
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    says:

    They’re talking about bringing the television show “24” back. Rebooting it.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird
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      says:

      In 2051, there will be an Emmy Awards ceremony in which the television industry will pat themselves on the back for how they fostered peace and understanding in the heated, jingoistic years after 9/11, and how they are now fostering steely resolve in this season’s existential battle for America’s survival against Iceland.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        Not to be a downer, but in 2051 everyone is going to look at the rapidly growing consequences of climate change and say, “What were we thinking?”Report

        • Rufus F. in reply to Michael Cain
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          says:

          This is very likely. What freaks me out aren’t the climate change denialists, because mendacious assholes aren’t exactly a rare type; it’s the people I know who are currently: 1. Very upset with their neighors who won’t wear masks and get vaxxed in the face of a crisis because these are simple things, 2. Very upset about the consequences of climate change, 3. Unable to make even the slightest changes to their way of life as a result. It freaks me out because, how can you think you’re free, if nothing in your life can change?Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Michael Cain
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          says:

          2001 me: In twenty years, if there is another catastrophic event, like a plague that wipes out a million Americans, we will use the lessons learned to come together and battle a common foe.

          2021 me: *weeping, then laughing, then weeping some more*Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain
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          says:

          “Nuclear power, for some reason, was deemed ‘unfashionable’. Documents show that this was tied to the oil industry.”Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            All sorts of things happened at different times. At the same time that the federal government was initially making a big push for nuclear power in the eastern part of the country — the vast majority of nuclear plants in the US are east of the Great Plains — in the Southwest they were pushing a string of very large coal-burners situated in places to provide mining and power station jobs for the Indian tribes.Report

          • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird
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            says:

            Ah, I don’t really buy this argument, even though many people do, and I get that.

            But my suspicion is the hypothetical crusty old dudes with cigars in darkened back rooms who are trying to decide if they’re going to build a nuclear power plant are thinking way less about what Susan Sarandon will think of them, and way more about the very high capital expenditure costs to build a nuclear power plant and that ongoing capital costs for nuclear power are also generally higher than coal or gas-fired energy.

            If the costs were to come way down (especially on the construction end), I suspect nuclear would become more fashionable all of a sudden.Report

            • CJColucci in reply to Rufus F.
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              says:

              I remember a once-famous pundit who, responding to something Jane Fonda said against nuclear power, “argued” that Jane Fonda favored big government but opposed nuclear power, which could not exist as an industry without big government. Checkmate, Jane.
              Maybe you find that reasoning puzzling. Don’t blame me; I’m just reporting what he wrote.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to CJColucci
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                says:

                It makes no difference to me really. I’d like to see more nuclear power and can’t remember the last time I thought of Jane Fonda.

                Just as a practical matter, the cost to build a new plant used to be around $8 bil. but that was over a decade ago. The last project I read about was budgeted around $14 bil. but halfway through, they realized it was going to come out to about $23 bil. and had to decide whether or not to continue forward.

                I just have a feeling it’s about that point where everyone starts saying, “What is this going to do to the poor coal miners?”Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                The Russians say they can build a new nuke for Finland for $8B per GW, ten-year schedule. In the US, the South Carolina PSC abandoned a pair of half-built nukes because it was cheaper to abandon and buy electricity elsewhere than to finish. The Georgia PSC is more stubborn, and is determined to finish a pair, now estimated at $12B per GW and 12 years construction time. Note that the Georgia project got lots of support from the Obama administration and faced minimal legal issues. The problem was repeated f-ups by the companies building them.

                There is a project to do a plant based on SMRs at the Idaho National Lab. DOE is putting up a bunch of the money. It’s to be built on federal land because no state was willing to issue a business license. The cooling water will come from the Snake River because the feds can ignore state water law. The project size was halved a couple of months ago because the utilities putting up the private sector money are running scared of the price in the long term.Report

              • Rufus F. in reply to Michael Cain
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                says:

                I’m going to avoid making a dumb joke about whether you’d really want the Russians building your nuclear plant…

                But, yeah, I’ve heard $8 bil. is a reasonable price to aim for, and I can definitely see how, in certain hands, it can go much higher.

                Our city is currently working on a (obviously not nuclear-powered) light rail transit system that was estimated to cost $1 bil. and that was about $4 bil. ago!

                I think it must be possible to innovate and reduce the costs, or at least avoid overruns, but it’s definitely above my paygrade.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                I sometimes wonder if Russian engineers make jokes about the Vogtle 3 and 4 construction problems.

                Most recently, the NRC conducted a special inspection of Vogtle 3 in June and found serious problems in some of the safety systems’ electrical cabling. A couple of weeks ago they announced no fueling would be allowed until all of that was ripped out and redone to spec.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Rufus F.
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                says:

                The dumb joke about Chernobyl, or the dumb joke about how they’ll build in fatal flaws and use them as ransomware?Report

  3. greginak
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    says:

    Americans , as a generalization, haven’t had to come to grips with giant tragedies often. 9/11 was handled well in the short term by people coming together but most of our other major losses were on foreign ground and the blood spilled in WW2 was distant for most. We, again solely as a crude generalization, dont’ seem to conceive of how other peoples have had just as big or worse losses. That twisted cultures and hardens hearts and turns otherwise calm minds towards violent foreign policies. It happened here and we were right to need some action to make us safer. Every place we get ourselves enmeshed has had analogous pain , sometimes even caused by us, but so few Americans know what to do with that knowledge if even they can start to understand it.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to greginak
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      says:

      One of the interesting things I’ve read about disasters and catastrophic events is what happens in the movies- everyone panics and chaos takes over and makes everything much worse- almost *never* happens. What happens is people come together and improvise and get through it. BUT the people who very often panic are government officials and other elites, and often by trying to keep a lid on things. THAT’S what usually makes things much worse.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Rufus F.
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        says:

        In a random group, the person who knows what to do can probably convince enough people to be effective at a small scale.

        At a larger scale, we don’t select our leaders for being good in a crisis, or even for knowing what to do.Report

  4. Dark Matter
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    says:

    a legal case could be made that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to… to non-state actors such as Al Qaeda.

    We still have the problem of how to get Geneva to work with Al Qaeda. Geneva says armies should do “X”, AQ doesn’t do that, they’re clearly illegal.

    After that we either have a gap in Geneva where it’s undefined what we’re supposed to do, or (if you want to argue there is no gap), supposedly Al Qaeda is a group of normal criminals and thus be tried in civilian courts.

    These civilian courts are bound by laws which assume the police have control over the situation and are laughably inappropriate if we’re talking about a battlefield in a foreign country where the army was needed to capture the “criminals”.

    Obama’s solution to this was to not take captives and just kill people on the battlefield. That prevents Geneva from being a problem but might cause other issues.Report

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