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So the House of Saud has finally revealed themselves to be the autocratic scumbags we’ve always suspected they are, and public pressure is mounting on the Trump administration to sever ties.

Except that that statement, while entirely true, misses out on the fact that we’ve known the Saudis were murderous thugs for a long, long time.  Funny how many of the people now calling for a freeze on arms sales and sanctions and god knows what else against Saudi Arabia were utterly silent during the Obama years, when some $94 billion worth of arms sales went down… along with quite a few political prisoners.

But what are a few beheadings between friends?

The previous paragraphs serve as an example of “whataboutism”, that familiar phenomenon where Person A complains about something, and then Person B (played by yours truly) replies with some variation of “Well, what about THIS?!?”

The funny thing about whataboutism is that… when you get right down to it, while it’s usually employed as a means to derail a particular conversation down an endless rabbit hole of successive “what abouts”, there’s fundamentally nothing wrong with it.

At its heart, whataboutism is educational.  At least assuming the person doing it isn’t being selective with the truth, a.k.a. lying out of their ass.  The fact remains that yes, a great deal of the current outcry surrounding Trump and the Saudis exists solely because it’s TRUMP and the Saudis, and not someone else, like, say, Obama.  Or George W. Bush.  Or Bill Clinton.  Or every other damned president who sacrificed the honor of the United States on the altar of realpolitik.

Because while the House of Saud are, indeed, murderous thugs, they’re stable murderous thugs, who don’t rule with quite the same level of repressive authority that so many other countries in the region have been known to indulge in.  Sure, they execute political prisoners on a regular basis, and religious prisoners, and just people they plain don’t like, and often in relatively gruesome ways.  But at least they’re not actively antagonistic towards the West.

In short, they’re our murderous thugs.

I mean, they’re gonna let women drive!  Regular beacon of enlightenment, they are.

So yeah.  I’m not exactly opposed to the idea cutting ties with the Saudis.  I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned a few times that I’d support “the Green Agenda” whether I thought anthropogenic global warming was a thing or not, simply because I would deeply love to see autocratic petrostates reduced to utter irrelevance in my lifetime.

Ironically, the Saudis would probably suffer the least in this scenario, since they’re also reasonably forward thinking murderous thugs and they’ve been trying to diversify their economy for a while now.  But still.

Fuck ’em.

“But what about the rise of the cobaltstate/lithiumstate/rare-earthstate/whatever essential geographically limited resource is set to rise to dominance after the fall of petroleum?!?”

Yes, I’m aware that China is manipulating the rare-earth markets, and that cobalt is mined in the Congo.  Fortunately Chile is a major producer of lithium and they seem like nice folks, so one out of three isn’t too bad in this case I suppose.  Plus there’s always the possibility that we’ll find more cobalt elsewhere once people actually start looking for it, assuming that it retains its current relevance in the coming decade, which is far from guaranteed.

After all, almost half the cobalt currently mined goes into batteries, so if the industry finds something better… Suffice to say that that while that market won’t exactly collapse, it will decline rather sharply.

And they did find that underwater mountain of tellurium not so long ago, so as has been the case with oil for the past century, once people start looking for things, they tend to find them.

Besides, there’s always the slim chance that the glass battery actually works and John Goodenough isn’t running a scam on the scientific community.  I mean, the man basically invented the lithium-ion battery as it currently exists, so it seems… unlikely that he’d be outright lying, but there have been enough wonder-batteries and ultra-capacitors that have come a cropper in the last decade to make me skeptical of anyone who says they’ve come up with something that is vastly superior to the current state of the art.  He may have the credentials, after all, but he’s also 96 years old and its always possible that he’s being used precisely for his credibility.

Seriously though, three times the energy density, charge in minutes rather than hours, significantly higher life cycle, functional to -20 Celsius (sorry Canada, no electric cars for you)…  Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, and so far I’ve not seen any.  And even something that works just fine in the micro scale in a lab can prove sufficiently difficult to mass produce as to make it functionally worthless.

But I digress.  From my digression.

Sue me.

We can’t know what the future holds.  We do know that a downright disturbing percentage of petrostates have gone down a very dark road, which isn’t exactly surprising when the bulk of your economy rests on a single commodity.  I’m willing to roll the dice and hope that the next essential material for global energy needs is either available from a sufficient number of sources, or will result in something other than the sort of crap we’ve seen with petroleum.

And now, back to the point.

The best way to handle whataboutism?  Educate yourself on the topic you’re discussing.  As broadly as possible.  As deeply as you feel it merits.  And yeah, that tends to result in a broad, shallow sea of knowledge, but when you get right down to it, anyone employing whataboutism is often doing so because they don’t know all that much about the topic of discussion and are looking to derail the conversation entirely.

And trust me, the look on their faces when you don’t let them…

Priceless.