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kleinbl00  ·  2 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The War in Ukraine Was Provoked—and Why That Matters to Achieve Peace

The President of the Kyiv School of Economics weighs in:

kleinbl00  ·  2 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The War in Ukraine Was Provoked—and Why That Matters to Achieve Peace

Yeah I still follow some of those guys on Twitter. One of 'em even follows me back. In watching them process the past couple years tho I'm not so sure they're daring vagabonds so much as trolling tankies.

kleinbl00  ·  2 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The War in Ukraine Was Provoked—and Why That Matters to Achieve Peace

I have been on the ragged edge of doing a dual review: Bill Browder's Red Notice and Adam Curtis' Traumazone. The former is an investment banker's discovery of ethics as he transitions from corporate raider to political dissident; the latter is a skilled but heavy-handed documentarian's near-total removal of his influence over a subject told almost entirely through carefully selected BBC News B-roll of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Browder, notably, doesn't ever figure out that creating a kleptocratic paradise in the ashes of the world's largest state economy might end badly until he finds himself detained by the FSB... and doesn't really seem interested in doing anything about it until his lawyer Sergei Magnitsky is tortured to death. Curtis, on the other hand, rubs your fucking nose in the fact that we spent 10 years whistling past the graveyard, pretending that every warning sign we saw was a blazing red flag prophesying the return of the Tsars.

I think we made the same mistake we made with China: give every advantage of a free market to a market that isn't free and the cagiest and most sophisticated in the ecosystem will make out like bandits while the hoi polloi develops extremely-well-justified hatred for your entire way of life. Browder's book illustrates the Upton Sinclair maxim “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it" while Curtis points out just how complicit the rest of the world was in creating the modern failed state of Russia.

kleinbl00  ·  3 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The War in Ukraine Was Provoked—and Why That Matters to Achieve Peace

Sachs' principle concern is nuclear war and always has been. I wrote him a couple letters arguing with him when he was just a chin-stroking intellectual with a monthly column in Scientific American - at one point even excoriating him for a convenient but wrong interpretation of the Cuban Missile Crisis (which I happen to think was an American blunder in which the world was saved by the Americans backing down) where I was taking the side of the USSR. I think if you start from the viewpoint "Vladimir Putin will end the world on a whim" you end up a lot more sympathetic to Sachs' arguments.

I, on the other hand, doubt Russia has any nukes. They haven't tested anything since 1990 and their arsenal is maintained by the same conscript core that maintains their tires. yeah, they could probably light up their arsenal and get 20-30% non-duds but it took them the better part of 36 hours to be ready to go back when they knew what they were doing. That, combined with an insight into Russian command & control described by Thomas Rid as "exquisite" in reference to the Discord Leaks, lead me to believe that the American optimization on the Ukraine War is "keep them covered and watch them die."

Charitably - I suspect some of the fellow travelers would take an abrupt right turn if they weren't concerned with armageddon. If he were more worried about Ukrainian lives than his own we'd probably agree more.

And I will cheer you on vociferously and enthusiastically. I had five cars as a sixteen year old and at the age of 18, bought an assault rifle. I lived in LA full time for ten years and part-time for five; fifteen months of that were conducted 100% car free.

Living in a city without an automobile puts a real hitch in your getalong, but it can be done. Living in the country without an automobile is untenable. Living without a gun? I mean, I can't even make a joke about feral hogs or some shit. "Too many cars" is an American problem with solutions. "Too many guns" is a different American problem with different solutions and aside from both being problems, no useful parallels can be drawn. Oversimplification is the enemy of comprehension.

kleinbl00  ·  3 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: The War in Ukraine Was Provoked—and Why That Matters to Achieve Peace  ·  

    George Orwell wrote in 1984 that "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." Governments work relentlessly to distort public perceptions of the past.

Governments are not the only ones, of course, but they are certainly the greatest practitioners. The term of art is "active measures", a direct translation of the term used by the Cheka. The first active measures campaign was The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a badly transliterated version of a diatribe against Napoleon III riven through with blood libel in order to gin up support for the pogroms.

Put a pin in that for a minute. I am 1/4 Belarusian Jew. My ancestors had means and had emigrated from The Pale to Moscow so experienced most of the second pogrom second hand, in the accounts and losses of their friends and relatives to antisemitic terrorism and genocide. They decamped for Boston in 1891 because they saw the proverbial writing on the wall; thanks to the work of the Okhrana, the active measures of the Cheka had a circulation of 900,000 a week thanks to Henry Ford. As a consequence, this discussion is academic to me? But also not academic. There are no more Belarusian jews. Prior to the pogroms, Jews were 15% of the population. There are now fewer than 20,000. American antisemitism and its propagation delayed American entry into WWII and objectively made the Holocaust worse.

There's a term coined and used by the Bolsheviks that is relevant to this discussion: fellow travelers, or those with similar goals but no formal alignment with the Communist Party. And there's a term coined and used against the Bolsheviks that is relevant to this discussion: useful idiots, or those who lack the intelligence to not serve the purposes of adversarial political forces. Donald Trump is a useful idiot. Jeffrey Sachs is a fellow traveler.

Thomas Rid, in his seminal work Active Measures, catalogs the distortions of public perceptions of the past and future from the Renaissance (when it wasn't practiced) through the 2016 election (where it was practiced extensively). Aside from one Japanese example (a false Soviet battle plan between wars) and two American examples (a CIA-published fashion and lifestyle magazine distributed in East Berlin and material support for an underground Ukrainian independence movement through 1991), all catalogued examples of active measures have been practiced by Russia under the Okrana, the Cheka, the nKVD, the KGB and the FSB. Rid goes one further by pointing out that democratic governments have a poor risk/reward ratio with active measures because if they are discovered, the democratically-elected government loses credibility and, therefore, power. Totalitarian governments suffer no such misfortune as their actions are not constrained by popular will. A democratic government operates with the permission of the populace and Watergate breaks the government. A totalitarian government can spread the rumor that AIDS was genetically engineered against the Africans to cover up systematic Soviet poisoning of Afghan wells to cripple the Mujahideen without experiencing a single hit to its agency.

Now that we've set the scene, let's continue:

    Regarding the Ukraine War, the Biden administration has repeatedly and falsely claimed that the Ukraine War started with an unprovoked attack by Russia on Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

This is more a diplomatic measure by the United States than anything else because if they call it February 2014 then the wholesale slaughter of hundreds of Dutch tourists would arguably have triggered Article 5 and led to continental war. If you examine the conflict as a whole, the Russio-Ukrainian War is generally accepted to have commenced with the Russian invasion of Crimea In response to the Maidan on February 20, 2014.

    In fact, the war was provoked by the U.S. in ways that leading U.S. diplomats anticipated for decades in the lead-up to the war, meaning that the war could have been avoided and should now be stopped through negotiations.

"Provocation" was the justification for the Munich Agreement, whereby Britain opted not to "provoke" Nazi Germany by defending Czechoslovakia against invasion. This was the basis for Nevill Chamberlain's "Peace for our time" speech, now widely considered to be the greatest diplomatic failure of the 20th century. The Tory government bargained that Hitler would be satisfied with annexation of Czechoslovakia and thus would not jeopardize the West-leaning Polish Republic. Poland, of course, was invaded less than a year later.

As outlined in The Gates of Europe, a history of Ukraine from the Scythians to the Maidan, "provocation" has been the fundamental justification of war in Ukraine, Poland and Belarus since the dawn of empire. The plain between the Urals and the Alps has always been considered a "buffer state" for whomever is more civilized at the time against whoever is less civilized and in general, the stretch of land between Armenia and Sweden is the first to betrayed and the first to get overrun. Despite this extensively bloody history, the only polity to routinely practice genocide against the Cossacks, Slavs and Tatars are the Russians, first under Ivan the Terrible, then under the First Pogroms, then under the Second Pogroms, then under the Russian Civil War, then under the Holodomor, then under the Deportation of the Crimean Tartars..

"Provocation", then, has historically meant "letting authoritarianism do what it wants when it wants where it wants" and any act that defies the authoritarian is seen as justification of authoritarian behavior. By the authoriarians, anyway. And the fellow travelers and useful idiots.

    A far better approach for Russia might have been to step up diplomacy with Europe and with the non-Western world to explain and oppose U.S. militarism and unilateralism.

Note the careful use of the words "might have been" here - speculative passive voice. It's never worked before, but maybe this time would have been different.

    The Biden team uses the word “unprovoked” incessantly, most recently in Biden’s major speech on the first-year anniversary of the war, in a recent NATO statement, and in the most recent G7 statement.

In no small part because the FSB has flooded the zone with the word "provoked."

    There were in fact two main U.S. provocations. The first was the U.S. intention to expand NATO to Ukraine and Georgia in order to surround Russia in the Black Sea region by NATO countries (Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia, in counterclockwise order).

Worthy of note: Russia was participating in NATO at the time.

    The second was the U.S. role in installing a Russophobic regime in Ukraine by the violent overthrow of Ukraine’s pro-Russian President, Viktor Yanukovych, in February 2014.

Right - the same Yanukovich who defied his own parliament and shot hundreds of the 800,000 protesters that demanded his resignation? Speaking as an American, "free elections and the defeat of tyranny" are big on my list of core values. If the price of freedom is "provoking" Putin, gimme the stick.

    Biden and his foreign policy team refuse to discuss these roots of the war. To recognize them would undermine the administration in three ways. First, it would expose the fact that the war could have been avoided, or stopped early, sparing Ukraine its current devastation and the U.S. more than $100 billion in outlays to date.

(By allowing a pro-Putin despot to take over a nascent European democracy)

    Second, it would expose President Biden’s personal role in the war as a participant in the overthrow of Yanukovych, and before that as a staunch backer of the military-industrial complex and very early advocate of NATO enlargement.

Just so we're clear: the argument here is that if the US had allowed the FSB to overthrow Ukraine unimpeded, there'd be no war in Europe. Let's not look away from that.

    Third, it would push Biden to the negotiating table, undermining the administration’s continued push for NATO expansion.

And just so we're crystal clear: It is my firmly held opinion, as an avid scholar of The Deep State, that the 2016 election cemented and prioritized the destruction of Russia by Western intelligence services. An uneasy detente has existed between Russia and the USA since Yeltsin but the benefits of this relationship have diminished yearly while maintaining the fiction of diplomatic alignment has grown ever costlier. Once the Russians attempted to provoke the collapse of American democracy, American operatives dusted off their operational plans and set about to negate Putin. The CIA holds a grudge. The Iranian regime will never be allowed to thrive until the CIA feels satisfied that justice has been served for the barracks bombing and Bill Buckley. There is a straight, bright line between Vladimir Putin and January 6 and whenever Russian mouthpieces talk about American plans for the destruction of Russia, the only thing I can say is "damn right."

But that's not about Ukraine. That's about a criminal organization that thinks nothing of murder, torture and genocide.

    The archives show irrefutably that the U.S. and German governments repeatedly promised to Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move “one inch eastward” when the Soviet Union disbanded the Warsaw Pact military alliance.

Yeah and they show a mutual defense pact between Ukraine and Russia in exchange for Ukraine giving up their nuclear weapons, too. That didn't exactly work out.

    The great US scholar-statesman George Kennan called NATO enlargement a “fateful error,” writing in the New York Times that, “Such a decision may be expected to inflame the nationalistic, anti-Western and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion; to have an adverse effect on the development of Russian democracy; to restore the atmosphere of the cold war to East-West relations, and to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”

Worthy of note: Kennan basically established The Cold War by arguing that The Russians were too crazy to be reasoned with. Furthermore, Ukraine in 1997 sure as shit wasn't Ukraine after two Democratic revolutions. Kennan is two decades dead; considering how he felt about democracy I suspect his opinion would be different but Sachs doesn't get into that.

    President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense William Perry considered resigning in protest against NATO enlargement. In reminiscing about this crucial moment in the mid-1990s, Perry said the following in 2016: “Our first action that really set us off in a bad direction was when NATO started to expand, bringing in eastern European nations, some of them bordering Russia. At that time, we were working closely with Russia and they were beginning to get used to the idea that NATO could be a friend rather than an enemy ... but they were very uncomfortable about having NATO right up on their border and they made a strong appeal for us not to go ahead with that.”

He's still saying it. His primary concern, however, is Russia's nukes:

    The bitterness that emerged from dismissing Russia as irrelevant created a climate ripe for the rise of an autocratic leader who would instead demand respect and power through force. And there is no force greater than possessing a nuclear arsenal capable of bringing about the end of humanity. For those who had asked, “what could this defeated nation do to us?” the newly installed President Vladimir Putin would soon have an answer.

Perry, of course, has exactly fuckall to say about his engineering of the Budapest Memorandum which saw Ukraine disarmed, or about the fact that a document he wrote obligates the United States to defend Ukraine against Russia ("Seek immediate Security Council action to provide assistance to the signatory if they "should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used").

    Former Zelensky advisor Oleksiy Arestovych declared in a 2019 interview “that our price for joining NATO is a big war with Russia.”

Arestoyvich was merely parroting Wallerstein, Kaplan, Zeihan, John McCain and others. For reasons of demography, the geopolitical rationalists have been predicting a Russian invasion of Ukraine before 2025 since the early 2000s.

    During 2010-2013, Yanukovych pushed neutrality, in line with Ukrainian public opinion.

During 2010-2013, Yanukovich acted as an agent of Russia and suppressed anti-Putin dissent. This is why 800,000 protesters took to the streets to depose him.

    After Yanukovych’s overthrow, the war broke out in the Donbas, while Russia claimed Crimea.

"The war broke out." Not "Russian special forces stripped of insignia or flags invaded Donbas in order to kidnap and murder elected Ukrainian officials in furtherance of the future annexation of a sovereign nation."

    The new Ukrainian government appealed for NATO membership, and the U.S. armed and helped restructure the Ukrainian army to make it interoperable with NATO.

Under the terms of the Budapest Memorandum - see above.

    Russia’s leaders put NATO enlargement as the cause of war in Russia’s National Security Council meeting on February 21, 2022.

It's worth watching that meeting:

...and it's worth watching the template for that meeting:

    Historian Geoffrey Roberts recently wrote: “Could war have been prevented by a Russian-Western deal that halted NATO expansion and neutralised Ukraine in return for solid guarantees of Ukrainian independence and sovereignty? Quite possibly.”

"Peace for our time" where "our time" turned out to be exactly 334 days.

    By recognizing that the question of NATO enlargement is at the center of this war, we understand why U.S. weaponry will not end this war.

This is historically inaccurate. For over two thousand years, peace in the geographic area we call "Ukraine" has occurred only after the destruction of the invading empire. As a territorial buffer between regions more easily defended, the invasion of Ukraine has been the first step in over a dozen wars of territorial expansion. For over a hundred years, peace in Ukraine has come at the cost of genocide. There will be no peace in Ukraine until Putin is out of power and Russia is under a new regime. Full stop.


The above is two hours I didn't have to spend. If you were not a friend, I would have responded with a simple "lol eat shit tankie." As it is, I see you neither as a "useful idiot" nor as a "fellow traveler."

So I implore you to think a little, investigate easily disproved allegations and exercise caution before putting the words of fellow travelers on your lips.

The whole game is in this statement right here:

    Bard seems to have improved considerably over an array of answers in the four weeks since I first tried it.

My own most recent dabbles with AI illustrate quite clearly that there's a look-up table full of "the whole answer space" with localities entirely papered over by lawyers and piecework. Whenever there's controversy, a lawyer pops up. In other words, whenever you need an actual answer, an actual human cuts the AI right the fuck out and gives you the "move along" hand signal.

kleinbl00  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: China is calling in loans to dozens of countries from Pakistan to Kenya

- I think the overwhelming majority of geopolitics right now are driven by scarcity. The Syrian civil war was the modern world's first water war. Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a demographic issue. China's wolf warrior politics are an outcome of their exit from "developing market" status - there's a reason Apple is decamping for India. There are ample practical reasons to presume we hit Peak Oil in 2000 or so - fracking simply isn't a thing at $35/bbl. Scarcity causes war.

- Armed conflict in the current political climate is more unpredictable than it's been for generations for the simple fact that the Russians are assed out. I mean, just yesterday Armenia said they'd give up Karabakh in exchange for Azerbaijan not kicking their ass... and that whole dynamic only went kinetic because the Russians are no longer in the picture.

- The Chinese are likely loath to switch from "theoretical threat" to "practical threat" because uncertainty is a lot of their cachet right now. I guarantee you that Belgorod is in play for the simple reason that Khinzals are utterly ineffective against Patriots and Russia has shown themselves to be strategically and tactically incompetent. Ukraine is about to get a bunch of F-16s for the simple fact that Russia sucks. Should China be shown to suck - as they invariably are - their influence in the world will again diminish.

Don't tell Josh 'cuz he's a good friend of mine but I think it's ugly AF.

Here's the thing tho - back when he was in Culver operating by himself out of his back yard, I went and visited (we have a mutual friend). I bought him lunch, he showed me his first watch, tried to sell me some machine tools. He's a really nice guy. I like him a lot. And at the time, he was spending 40 hours on the dial, then putting it in a German case with a German movement. I asked him what he was looking to get for it and he said "what do you mean? I've sold eight."

That was about 100 watches ago at around $20-$30k ea. he's no longer a high school principal. He's got five employees. I'm rebuilding this crazy CNC machine? he just up and bought one. Paid to have it herfed out of the 5th floor workshop of a university in Iowa, schlepped across the ocean to be rebuilt and schlepped back. He's operating at a whole 'nuther level and he is kicking ass at it.

So it doesn't really matter what I think? I mean, I think it's substantially prettier than anything Jacob & Co make and they also sell bajillions of dollars worth of watches.

Some douchebag paid $3.2m for a Patek Nautilus because it was green. Rich people riching is a thing and if he's already got sales at $70k I think he's ahead of Murphy, who has had that tourbillon at like $150k for ten years. But what do I know. I didn't think Josh would sell his more downtempo watches for $30k and he sold eight. Maybe Murphy has sold dozens of his $150k tourbillons.

This has come up before - I can't find it, but five years later and Tom Scocca wrote another article entitled "Google’s Algorithm Is Lying To You About Onions And Blaming Me For It."

kleinbl00  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: China is calling in loans to dozens of countries from Pakistan to Kenya

I'm of two minds on this.

ON THE ONE HAND this is exactly what you would expect from a country failing to escape the middle income trap, a nation staring down crashing demographics and a standard of living rising above their ability to employ themselves as the workshop of the world, a nation turning away from market reform and back towards the familiar totalitarianism that recognizes Han Chinese as humans, other Chinese as less-than-humans and non-Chinese as animals. A country that has a two thousand year history of "pay us tribute so that all may know our place in the heavens" and a steadfast, monastic refusal to embrace the market reforms its global counterparts presumed it would eventually adopt through pure osmosis. One Belt One Road was obviously and completely a trap, a bad economic deal intended to foreclose on the farmland and ports of the developing world.

ON THE OTHER HAND it's exactly what the World Bank has been doing since 1944.

    Countries in AP’s analysis had as much as 50% of their foreign loans from China and most were devoting more than a third of government revenue to paying off foreign debt.

lol who the fuck do you think owns the rest of it

Ferreal this is the grinder the West has been stuffing everyone else into since the Dutch East India Company and pretending otherwise is shameless potkettling. "No no you can't genocide the indigenous people anymore we're done with it." "No no you can't poison the atmosphere anymore we're done with it." "No no you can't economically enshackle the developing world we're... well, not done with it so much as better at it than you." You can't even google "world bank debt" or "world bank debt ownership" or "who owes how much to the world bank" without seeing a bunch of shit about China. The Whataboutism on this one is strong, and I say that as a direct beneficiary of it. I mean, which VC firm basically made Argentina bankrupt because they could? Fuckin' Elliott Capital. At least when the Chinese do it they are ostensibly doing it as a country rather than a bunch of rich dipshits with predatory spreadsheets.

kleinbl00  ·  5 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: What watching my daughter play ‘The Legend of Zelda’ taught me

Lenore Skenazy's main point in Free Range Kids is the modern world is so much safer than it was in the 70s or 80s but because of Jon Walsh and the WhiteWomanInPeril ABC Sunday Night Movie we're all a bunch of paranoid fucks.

kleinbl00  ·  6 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: What watching my daughter play ‘The Legend of Zelda’ taught me

I dunno, man, at the age of 6 my daughter decided to get up early one Saturday morning and go wander to the forest half a mile away. When she got back we set the ground rules (1) no leaving the house without telling us where you're going (2) no crossing streets with traffic lights without a grownup around (this limits her to about a 3 block radius). When COVID hit and she ended up at home ALL THE TIME I bought a pair of shitty walkie talkies so she could stomp around with the neighbor kids without me needing to keep an eye on her.

I have used "if I was good to do it, she's good to do it" as my operating principle since (1) the world is hella safer (2) she has a much better safety net than I ever did. I think a lot of today's child-rearing problems come from visible hypocrisy.

kleinbl00  ·  6 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: What watching my daughter play ‘The Legend of Zelda’ taught me

Video games of any kind were verboten in my house. I managed to sneak Jet and Castle Wolfenstein onto the computer every now and then because it had no hard drive to install anything on. I want you to imagine a 1983 vector-rendered flight simulator on an 80x16 LCD. Eventually my father relented somewhat; I was actually allowed to purchase Wizardry IV with my own money and, wonder of wonders, was eventually gifted a copy of Falcon A.T. at the age of fourteen but by and large, notional flight simulators were my whole gaming experience until seventeen or eighteen or so when I'd head over to a friend's house and play Pilotwings or EVO until dawn on weekends.

This is probably why I hate Dark Souls - I dealt with futility early and often and no thanks. And you'd think I'd love the escapism of Zelda but the original Zelda struck me as a crappy version of Gauntlet and Gauntlet was a quarter-munching monstrosity. I didn't even really notice video games again until my wife and I were inexplicably gifted a Wii by her parents and I got her a copy of Skyward Sword. Which was super-fun. Except for the lack of damage bars. And the lazy fact that you had to kill bosses two, three and four times for some fucking reason (like Nintendo cheaping out on boss battles).

I recognize the puzzles of Zelda as substantially better for my kid than, say, Roblox or Pokemon. She's picked up Pokemon Violet and I hate it, but she's got a friend who plays so at least it's collaborative. But I also recognize Zelda as substantially worse than Minecraft, wherein she's actively learning coding through Redstone. Would I rather my kid play Zelda than Warcraft? Mos Def. Zelda over Starcraft? mmmm....

I think the author is correct in assessing Zelda as a real turning point in games. Bruce Sterling makes the point in Islands in the Net that Reagan-era video gaming is a bleak and apocalyptic existence in which you struggle against extinction until you are overbalanced and annihilated, no exceptions. But this part troubles me:

    I adored the original “Legend of Zelda” because it made the rural Midwestern world I grew up in feel enigmatic, even mildly dangerous. My daughter is growing up in Los Angeles, in the Hollywood Hills, otherwise known as the Land Without Yards and Sidewalks. She can’t walk outside our front door to play without putting herself immediately in the path of some Porsche Cayenne doing 40 in a 15. Games such as “Breath of the Wild” and “Tears of the Kingdom” might be the closest approximation she has for the sort of unstructured play I took for granted as a kid. I’m not here to lionize the era I grew up in, much less the region, but there’s something to be said for an impossibly elaborate sandbox world that’s filled with peril and secrets but also doubles as a place for a kid like my daughter to be a goal-less weirdo and goof.

I think it's great that "physics" is making a return in play but I also worry that "real physics" is turning into a privilege thing. We signed my kid up for a week of running around in the woods making fire with sticks and pretending to hunt with a bow and arrow. It's $110 a day.

Ahh but the thing of it is? eBikes aren't that much faster. They just require less effort. I never found the effort to matter that much; what kept me out of an eBike is the inability to charge one up easily. My LA commute, round trip, was roughly 1.5x the comfortable battery range of anything under $6k. They were also, at the time, illegal on bike paths and bike paths are the only way you can survive LA long-term. Sure- might not be an issue in Cypress Park. But you ride through Santa Monica and you would encounter law enforcement. The only reason Rad Power Bikes limits their stuff to 20mph is to skirt that nasty Class 3 category, and the only reason anyone skirts Class 3 is because of municipalities like LA, where anything capable of going over 20mph assisted is still illegal on bike lanes.

You're right, I hadn't heard of Carmel, Indiana. Looking at it? It's a suburb of Indianapolis. I have nothing bad to say about its walkability, bikeability or general pedestrian-friendly vibe, but I will point out that a not-insignificant portion of its inhabitants definitely researched "how long will it take me to get to work in Indianapolis" before they moved there. And I hate to tell ya - I tried three different addresses in Carmel and three different addresses in Indianapolis and not a single combo had public transit options between them. Not on Saturday, not on Monday. There are a number of municipalities in America that look like that right now - Redmond, WA comes to mind, as does Burbank, CA. Call 'em "housewife friendly." It is a trend I support and one I hope more communities embrace. It does not, however, greatly impact the adoption of mass transit. Mostly? It encourages you to park in a big free parking lot and walk around shopping all afternoon with Olivia and the girls. I mean, there are three wine bars between us and the cars, it's a sign.

    The iron-clad laws behind urban geography is that speed and travel time dictates how far away people will live from each other, and that transit only makes sense when said transit is faster than driving.

So look.

1) The largest single asset most white people will ever own is their house. This is a big reason why there's a tax credit for homeownership - it helps keep minorities poor.

2) Homeownership within walking distance of your job is not only entirely out of reach for nearly everyone, it doesn't make much sense in an environment where jobs change every four to ten years.

3) As the largest single asset most white people will ever own, banks recommend that a third of someone's income be spent on paying for homeownership.

4) And no. People don't need to own houses. The rest of the world doesn't do it this way. But the US does. And because the US does, rent is equally expensive, if not more so, because it does not build wealth.

5) And the further you live from your likely job, the more likely you are to need to drive to it.

It's a rare state or county that requires the development of commute options in tandem with the development of property. In general? You throw up McMansions because everything's cheaper in the country and whatever bus line you put in? no one would ride it. Light rail is going to open down the street from me next year, a mere 75 years after the Post Office. The Seattle area has two international airports now and if we're lucky, you'll be able to ride rail between them in another fifteen years or so. Fundamentally? The United States was settled by automobile. As a consequence, automobiles remain crucial to transiting it. This is not the future I want. I would like to see it change.

But the causes are a lot less flippant than people want to believe. It's an intractable problem due to logistics, not culture.

Unlike guns.

You're gliding over motive, which does your stance no favors.

Compare and contrast: To the knowledgeable user of the handgun, the handgun is perfectly safe. In order to be injured while using a gun you must (A) point the gun at yourself (B) fail to follow basic procedures, like tucking your eye right up against a rifle scope or put the weapon to the wrong shoulder and hit yourself in the face with the cartridge or (C) have the weapon taken from you in conflict and cease to be the user. On the other hand, GM sold 800,000 vehicles that could kill you if your keychain was too heavy.

Trucks are definitely getting more dangerous to pedestrians and other drivers. That said, the immediate, proximate harm from automobiles - setting aside externalities like pollution - is from misuse, not use. The harm from firearms comes directly from their intended use. They are designed to do what they do. AR-15s are the chosen weapon of mass shooters because they are exceptionally good at mass shootings. The US Army instituted the .223/5.56N for the explicit purpose of bypassing Geneva Convention rules on flechettes; the thinking was that a weapon that produced mass casualty was of greater battlefield utility than a weapon that produced lethality because injuries are more of a logistics drain than fatalities.

You're right: suburbs were very much colonized based on racism. You don't need a Berkeley article for that, Zinn will do. But there's a chicken/egg problem here: White flight relied on the already-prevalent automobile, and it was largely into extant communities unreachable by mass transit. The automobile aided and abetted white flight, it didn't cause it. For every Levittown you point to I'll show you a hundred San Fernando Valleys.

And it matters because "you drive a car, therefore you are racist" is not a compelling argument. You will not convince anyone that their need for four wheels is based on their hatred of other races. In general, American distaste for public transit is utilitarian: "I don't use it so why should I pay for it or be inconvenienced by it." There are definitely malignant strains of cars equal freedom but for anyone of low or moderate income, the lack of a car is rightfully seen as an impediment to success.

Cars are a byproduct of the American experiment. Many nefarious actors have profited from them, and many nefarious actors have made the situation worse. America would benefit from less cars, presuming viable solutions were available; I think you'll find that where a viable solution is available, people use cars less. I'm hopeful that this trend will continue with GenZ's wholesale abandonment of cars. They certainly aren't getting cheaper, and they certainly aren't getting more essential. And really, what's a bus but a big, cheap rideshare?

But no matter how you slice it, they aren't guns. Cars serve a (too) necessary function in American society and their harms are externalized. Guns serve a MUCH less necessary function in American society and their harms are a direct consequence of their intended function.

On the one hand, 80% of the population of the United States is urban. On the other hand, 95% of the population of the United States considers themselves to be a high plains drifter, roaming with the tumbleweeds from one lone outpost of humanity to another, vast fields of buffalo grass beneath their feet for weeks at a time as the sun-drenched FREEEEEDUMMMMMMMM of it all surrounds them like their godhood.

And I'm gonna be honest. I grew up in a town of 20,000 people, half an hour from a town of 15,000 people, an hour from a town of 50,000 people and two hours from a town of 400,000 people and I'm here to tell ya - there wasn't a single fuckin' bus in a hundred mile radius until I went off to college.

I'm a big booster of public transit. It makes so much more sense than the alternatives. I love rail, I love carpool lanes, I love vanpools, I love all of it. But for one in five Americans it is simply not an option. Not in any way shape or form.

And whenever the five percent say "I can haz bike lanez" the ninety five percent point at the one-in-five guys and go WHY DO YOU HATE FREEDOM

My LA biking radius was 9 miles. If I needed to go less than 9 miles, it was quicker to take a bicycle just because of parking and traffic. If the sun was out, pedal power was quicker to get more than halfway across the urban core. And LA? Let's be honest, LA is the place where people will pay more on car payments than they will on rent because you're never going to invite anyone over to meet your six roommates.

Maybe things will change. Slowly. I guess this month is the first time the median new car payment is out of reach of the median American family.