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A Thought, Not Random But Possibly Not All That Consequential

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 01/15/2018 - 19:57
Which is: I went and got my teeth cleaned by the dentist today, and when I was done I got a jelly donut and snarfed it right down, at least partially, I think, as oppositional behavior. Is it just me who does these sort of (very) minor rebellions? I mean, I’m 48 now. I kinda […]

Sunset, 1/14/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 01/14/2018 - 19:01
Because sunsets are nice, and this was a nice sunset. Hope your weekend was lovely.

Times of change: male behavior, boomer crankiness

Contrary Brin - Sat, 01/13/2018 - 18:39
I’ve long held that Rebecca Solnit is one of the best essayists in the modern era. I’ve reviewed some of her books and deem A Paradise Built in Hell, to be of immense importance, touting it in almost every futurological speech especially to our “protector caste.” In her new missive, Solnit waxes both eloquent and actinically angry over the seemingly endless litany of crimes committed by patriarchy and – let’s face it – the male of the species. In “Let this flood of women’s stories never cease: on fighting foundational misogyny one story at a time.”
I am not at all inclined to ask her to stop! Indeed, I generally respond to most political jeremiads by asking for perspective on 6000 years of history. And across that time, countless women have suffered at the hands of males, in nearly all contexts and places and cultures.
So what is the solution? Those of you who've read The PostmanGlory SeasonEarth, and at least a dozen of my short stories know how many variations I’ve explored, dealing with the same core issue. What’s to be done about the one-quarter of human males who are clearly unsuitable for civilized company and should not be allowed anywhere near women and children? And another quarter who… well… badly need remedial help for better impulse control!
No, I'm not claiming to have explored these matters with the kind of chilling terror of Alice Sheldon’s “James Tiptree Jr.” stories, or Joanna Russ, or Margaret Atwood, or all the other women authors who convey the victim’s perspective so well. On the other hand, there truly is a side to all of this that gets missed, asking: why did this revolution never happen before? Sure, there were candles in the darkness! (The Postman is dedicated to Lysistrata!) Still, a powerful, civilization-changing movement awaited this very era we are living in.
Without taking anything away from the leaders and the brave millions of women who are vigorously demanding their human and adult rights, it is also clear that feminism benefited from millions of dads and brothers and husbands and sons who were – despite some doofus lapses – generally pretty decent fellows. Who encouraged their daughters and drove them to karate lessons and never lifted a finger to their wives, and groveled appropriately after raising their voices, or letting some Cro-Magnon reflex briefly take charge. Men who are cringing at these recent stories, as many of us did, upon reading The Screwfly Solution.Men who would – if summoned by a wise and truly sagacious Council of Women, show up and lay our swords at their feet.

There is an aspect to this that even a genius like Rebecca Solnit – in her well-deserved wrath – seldom see. I discuss it in The Postman. That we would go a long way toward a solution if the problem were parsed as choosing between good and bad men! This is not something that even has to be argued. Once you ponder it, you know it, in your brain and heart and gut.
Nor is this a surprise, biologically! Female mate choice propels the exaggerated traits of males in most species. And so, imagine if our daughters simply declared: “The exaggerated male traits that will be rewarded, from now on, will be copious kindness, capacious calm, reasonableness, respectful love and self-control. Predators will have no place in the coming gene pool.” 

Yes, this is more radical, by far, than any of today's near-term (and necessary) palliations. I do not offer it instead of our drive for legal and reputational responsibility, outing abusers and driving them out of positions of power! That near-term revolution is way overdue. Nothing should take away from the anger and righteousness of this too-long delayed revelatory revolution!  Bring it on! 

But we science fiction authors are always looking a bit farther ahead. I am only offering the ultimate weapon in this fight for justice and decency. The cure - over the long run - must come from a form of Darwinian selection.

==  Boomers trash the place on their way out ==
“The baby-boom generation, which has voted reliably Republican in recent years, has been the largest generation of eligible voters since 1978. But in 2018, for the first time, slightly more Millennials than baby boomers will be eligible to vote, according to forecasts from the Center for American Progress’s States of Change project. Higher turnout rates among baby boomers will preserve their advantage among actual voters for a while. But sometime around 2024, Millennials will likely surpass them. The post-Millennials, Americans born after 2000 who’ll enter the electorate starting in 2020, will widen the advantage.” - from The Atlantic by Ronald Brownstein.
Oh, and we’re cranky! White male boomers feel creaky. We thought youth was our thing! Damn kids! 
No wonder we went for the insanely rapacious, short-sighted and feudal Tax Bill.  No wonder we inflicted in the nation Donald Trump. And Fox News, where catheter and mobility scooters pay the advert bills.
Oh, but we had great music. The kids avow that openly. Moreover, while I am eager for the much nicer and more sensible next generations to take over our social and political lives, I will point out one thing: that we made them. 
For all our faults, we boomers appear to have been terrific parents.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

New Books and ARCs, 1/12/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 16:51
What a very fine stack of new books and ARCs we have going on here. Do you see anything that calls to you here? Tell us in the comments!

Trump is a Racist. Stop Pretending Otherwise.

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 14:15
Here in January of 2018, this is the deal: I’m gonna judge you if you can’t admit openly and without reservation that Donald Trump is a racist. Not just racist, which is to say, he has some defense in the idea that we live in a racist society so we all participate its racism whether […]

My Wacky Video Game Mouse/Keyboard Control Scheme

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 14:51
I mentioned on Twitter that when it comes to PC-based video games, I have a keyboard/mouse control scheme that horrifies and mystifies everyone who learns about it, because it is so far deviant from the traditional “WASD” setup that people don’t know what to think about it. This of course meant I was immediately asked […]

The Big Idea: Michael Moreci

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 01/11/2018 - 11:57
Today on the Big Idea: Author Michael Moreci, with his novel Black Star Renegades, shows you how to write a media tie-in that’s not a media tie-in and in fact becomes something else entirely in the telling. MICHAEL MORECI: A lot of writers will probably hate me for this, but the idea for Black Star […]

Our - controversial - future in space

Contrary Brin - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 18:03
This one will be a mix, mostly about space. Some riffs about a U.S. "return to the moon," plus news about SETI... some interesting snippets! And a wee observation on politics.

Okay for starters, I suppose this counts as “space news.” President Trump announced his intention to send NASA back to the moon!
NASA funding, ForbesAlas, as Ethan Siegel shows in Forbes, it simply isn’t going to happen: As a percentage of the federal budget, investment in NASA is at a 58 year low, and Trump shows no sign of changing this.  

Oh, there is one way an American will step on the moon in say a decade or so, without much increase in NASA budgets, and I’ll tell you how, below.
Of course, this return-to-the-moon fetish - a GOP obsession - is a debacle that will only do us harm. With this decision to squander NASA resources on the same dumb goal sought by every wannabe Apollo-imitator -- China, Russia, Europeans, Indians and various billionaires -- Trump sabotages our chance to do what none of those others - only we - can do. 

Only the U.S. has the capability to go where the real riches are. Asteroids & Phobos… which also happen to be the route to Mars. That path is not helped an iota by landings on the Moon. Only the utterly delusional think that our path to becoming a spacefaring species passes through that dusty, sterile gravity well.
Sure, a lunar orbital station is valuable for many reasons! Scientific, developing deep space capabilities, and defense, among others. Such an orbital station would be ideal to bring back robotically retrieved asteroidal materials for study and processing, to see if estimates are true... that there are hundreds of trillions worth of resources to be easily accessed out there.
Also, such a lunar orbital station could sell services to all those wannabe groups desperate to plant dusty footprints on the (for now) useless moon! How's that for savvy? Us making a buck or two out of others' obsessive rush to imitate our past glories, repeating Apollo? The Russians can't complain, having charged us vampire rates to launch our astronauts to the space station.

But another U.S. Apollo landing?  Yawn! Go ahead. Name any benefits for the U.S. joining the symbolism craze! Say what? Helium Three? Yippee, let's base space policy on cheap sci fi flicks! But zero facts. (Care to show us this magical substance in samples of lunar regolith, in “ore” concentrations? Show us how to collect it or refine it? Um, care to point out a real life customer who will buy it?)
What? You want to do this out of pride? All that repeating Apollo does is make us part of the pack! 

And now it is prediction time: dig what will happen. As costs mount, Trump will declare a diplomatic breakthrough! Turning the US moon landing effort into a wonderful "international cooperation" like the ISS! A new detente! And suckers will fall for it, kvelling as we subsidize Russian and Chinese footprints and they get access to every scrap of U.S. space technology. A lose-lose-lose for good old USA.

The fact that our political civil war has become dominant even in choosing space destinations is a pathetic sign of our times. Alas.
Just like the coming Iran War, the winners in all of this are the same… those who rake in billions by controlling down-Earth resources in energy and minerals want to divert us from new, sustainable technologies and access to the true riches out there. And as an added bonus, disappointment in the utter uselessness of this boondoggle is sure to associate NASA with both money-wasting and Trumpism, undermining overall support among the US citizenry. Spaceba tovarisch!

== The gold in them thar rocks... ==
The Planetary Resources site can show you a lot of cool stuff about the advantages of asteroids. Many are easier (robotically) to reach than the moon's surface. And the "fractionation of ores" can be a million or a billion times better than we see on the moon.

See also their planned spacecraft, which was to be a partner in NASA's own effort re asteroids, a business-public partnership that Republicans claim they want to see. 

I reiterate. There are zero aspects to this ‘back to the Moon” announcement that serve long term U.S. interests. Indeed, every outcome will favor foreign rivals and legacy mining interests down here, who want us never to access the real riches in space.  

Yes, doggie. Gooood doggie.
== Star Wars defense ==
I was critical of 1980s "star wars" space weapon fantasies – if supportive of the technological research. But this "historical" article is lefty-biased, tendentious and throws out babies with bathwater. 

There was plenty to diss about the Pournelle-led “Citizens’ Advisory Council on Space.” It was too rightwing to see clearly, and would have demolished the one thing (reciprocal deterrence) that kept us alive through the Cold War. We now know most of the required tech was not achievable then or now… though some core goals were! (In a weird way that I won’t talk about.) Fortunately, Isaac Asimov had the whole thing sussed. It was in fact an economic and psychological weapon to shatter the Soviets’ budget and morale. And you can’t argue with such success. (Though one can argue with how Bush Sr. completely blew the ensuing peace, consigning us back into another, even more vicious “cool war.”)
Alas, this essayist also attempts to discredit the “sci fi” notions of space resources and industry, needlessly welding that admirable and achievable ambition to the far-right. And thus the article proves that the left also contains its own shortsighted jerks.
In contrast, some Strategic Clarity: Exponential industrialization of space is more important than combat lasers and hypersonic fighters. This authortakes the same position as the Air University Space Horizons faculty, that investing in "take-off" industries in space could secure strategic and economic leadership and safety for generations to come.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Luuuuurrrgh

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 01/10/2018 - 17:33
One of those days where my brain is aggressively stuck in neutral, probably brought on by bad sleep, early errands, more bad sleep and possibly on the road to becoming ill. Add it all up: No deep thoughts today, kids, sorry. How are you? Are you one of the 90% or so of all humans […]

Four Views of the Same Short Story

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 18:03
I had a short story come out today: “Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Era of Humans for the First Time,” as part of the Robots Vs. Fairies anthology. And here’s something I would like to show you, regarding the story: Four takes on “Three Robots,” from four different Goodreads reviews of RvF, each […]

Robots Vs. Fairies is Here!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 15:00
Reminder to all and sundry that Robots Vs. Fairies, an anthology of eighteen stories featuring robots and/or fairies, is out today. I have a story in it, entitled “Three Robots Experience Objects Left Behind From the Era of Humans for the First Time,” in which, well, three robots experience objects left behind from the era […]

The Big Idea: Marieke Nijkamp

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 11:58
We’re back with Big Ideas for 2018! And to kick us off, author Marieke Nijkamp talks to us of her new novel Before I Let Go, and takes us below the cold surface of a community that holds its secrets close. MARIEKE NIJKAMP: “Lost has created new legends since you left. It’s such a human […]

Scamperfight!

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sun, 01/07/2018 - 15:27
As with much of North America, around here it’s been single digits (Fahrenheit) and below for several days, which means the cats are spending almost all of their time indoors. As the days have ground on they’ve started getting crankier with each other, and so we have more-than-usual moments like this, where they tussle with […]

War on Facts and Reason... and vs Iran...

Contrary Brin - Sat, 01/06/2018 - 22:27
The predicted run-up to a U.S. Iran War is experiencing a hiccup, as massive street demonstrations in two dozen cities raise a slim possibility that theocracy might give way to a modern, moderate and reasonable-modern state. Slim, because the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is large, rich, and highly motivated to keep their gravy train in motion. So what would be the best approach for a sensible, grownup and pragmatically enlightened U.S. policy?

Tweet-storms.  From a 'genius,' no less.

"In an interview, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic who now lives in exile outside Paris… warns that U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements in support of the revolt will be counterproductive. 'If the fear of outside intervention by the Trump administration and those allied with him who advocate the disintegration of Iran — namely Saudi Arabia and Israel — becomes strong enough, it will prevent a majority from sympathizing and joining the protests. In this sense, Trump’s tweets only serve to deflate the movement.” ...

Donald Trump and his cabal are very aware of this. Their worst nightmare is that a moderate revolution in Iran would erase all justification for a US-Iran War -- their goal for years, but now propelled by the urgency of getting a distraction from Mueller and all that. Compare U.N. Ambassador Nikki Hayley's recent harangue listing provocations by Iran -- none of which bear up under scrutiny -- and compare it to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 speech explaining the Bush administration’s rationale for going to war with Iraq - a pretext that all now know (and even Donald Trump admits) to have been based on lies and fabrications.
This article does a good job, but goes nowhere near far enough, tying together the cords that tauten tighter, every day, dragging us toward pre-planned disaster. Read it… then see far more detail here… and later here… where I describe how many factions would benefit, including the Iranian mullahs. And of course, the real master of the White House.
Even if you credit nothing else I say about this, remember that every Republican president after Eisenhower has rushed gleefully into war. Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Junior, and now the Trumpists... and you don't see a pattern of concocted war? Every single one. (Except Ford, who oversaw our final defeat in Vietnam.) 

Madness. And you are complicit, if you don't at least read up on this looming debacle, and speak up.
== Okay so you got your Big Tax Cut Grab; what now? ==
Brad deLong asks the same question posed in a few chapters of my novel, Existence - whether those in the oligarchy, who are pushing so hard for a return to feudalism, are being smart... or very shortsighted. 

In Existence, I portray savvy trillionaires holding conferences to appraise how a new aristocracy might rule not-stupidly (for the first time, ever.) Here, deLong makes crystal clear the alternative:
"In the America the politicians you support are building, it may well become the case that one day your grandchildren are in the center of a web of political influence, and the next day they will find themselves not: Some of them will be involuntary guests at the Wichita Ritz-Carlton" - (referring to the hotel in Riyadh where some of the world's richest princes are now held, by a state they thought they had controlled) - "The rest will try to make a run for it in the Learjet, or in the rubber boat.
"So is it really wisdom on your part to want to win this round?
"To be blunt: a social democratic middle-class society is much better society in which to have a large stock of entrepreneurial, inherited, or rent-derived wealth than is a communist society. But it is also a much friendlier society to the wealthy than is a fascist society. And social democracy and fascism—hard or, if you are lucky, soft—are the only options the future will allow: tertium non datur."
Interrupting, let's be clear: the leaders of the anti-west alliance know this. They are not rebuilding idealistic-if-bloody communism, but a fascism in which oligarchs may amass billions and live lavishly, but the state can expropriate and cut throats at any moment. (The Nazis did it to the Prussian junkers caste and to the industrialists, whenever they liked. It now happens annually in Russia.) Those who believe that strong socialism or traditional aristocratic feudalism are possible alternatives are dreaming. It's either true-liberal middle class Transparent Democracy or fascism, as deLong continues explaining to today's shortsighted American plutocrats:
"The political descendants of the politicians today you support who lead chants of “lock her up“ will be the greatest threat to the liberty, the wealth, and perhaps even the lives of those of your grandchildren and great grandchildren who are plutocrats. Look ahead into the future a little bit. Do not focus on the pile of moolah under your nose."
Looking beyond their nose is what I portray some "trillies" doing, in Existence. (Have a look at the amazing video preview-trailer, with incredible art by Patrick Farley!)
Alas, it seems increasingly clear that the intelligent aristocratism I depicted there is simply not an option. Nowadays, those zillionaires who are smart - whose wealth derived from creating new goods and services - are also Democrats (with a few libertarians). In contrast, the oligarchs backing today's putsch are mostly squatting atop piles that derived from rentier-inactivity (hence favored treatment for passive income in the tax bill), or golgafrincham finance parasitism, or inheritance or crony market manipulation. They have feral cleverness, but no sapient sense of history. Trying to show them the big picture, deLong is wasting his breath.
Do read deLong's whole short essay. Alas, these foxes now run the hen house. The confederacy has conquered Washington. And their stupidity can be lethal all around.

== The War on Facts and Reason: the Entire Right… and chunks of the Far-Left, too! ==
The Right Side’s war on science gets utterly open and explicit, with Donald Trump openly declaring the Bannonite meme of a "deep state," declaring war not just on science and scientists, but all the civil servants, law professionals, intel agencies and military officers who avow that they believe in facts.

 You've seen reports on the Trump Administration muzzling researchers, cancelling peer reviewed reports they dislike, Accusing (without any evidence) scientists of engaging in vast, conspiratorial hoaxes... and now this Orwellian policing of speech. But buried in this article is the real howler!
Instead of the forbidden words, "analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of 'science-based' or ­'evidence-based,' the suggested phrase is, 'CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes..."
Truly, the horror is now clear. Always obsessed with symbolism and incantations, the confederates are now reaching out to the other group who seeks to police science on the basis of "community standards" -- the far, postmodernist left.
Make no mistake. This notion of "community standards of truth" is a roar against objective reality itself. And while it pervades the length and breadth and all heights of the confederate madness that has hijacked American Conservatism, there is a far-fringe on the "left" that is gleeful, eager for the radicalization, the resurrection of symbol-based catechisms that George Orwell described in Homage to Catalonia.
The oligarchs who are funding all of this think they will win the Prize - a return to obligate inherited feudal lordship, as I depict in EXISTENCE. But they are stirring something monstrous at the other end of the spectrum. And if they succeed at rousing a True Left from its slumber, then they will inherit the wind.
As for the left:  
Repeatedly some of you demand that I “name one example of the left being crazy or anti science or anti-western”… and each time I stare, boggled that the Union side in this civil war must be hobbled by such ignorant people. Jiminy, ask anyone from Poland, Hungary and so on, how bad the left has been – or read Orwell!

Hey, you’re all about diversity, right? Not the dogmatic uniformity we see among confederates? Then why can’t you admit your side has a wide spectrum? And some parts of that spectrum are just plain nuts?

This is one of the most cogent brief articles I’ve read in some time, dissecting the logical lunacy of far-leftist postmodernism and how it collaborates – in a sly alliance – with the much larger insanity on today’s entire-right. No, it doesn’t go into an analysis of Derridan Semiotics or Sokal Hoaxes and all that. Just the core conceit that everything is subjective – there’s no objective reality - and science is an evil white-male-elitist plot!
Read this! As we’ve seen with Trump and his Geppetto, you don’t need an explicit plan and a handshake, for different enemies of the West to collaborate toward our demise. Yes, 99% of our attention needs to go to stopping the reinstatement of feudalism… which would end us all.
In contrast, the postmodernist, far-left loons are – for now – a minor, 1% irritation, who damage our fight primarily by giving Sean Hannity anecdotes to shriek-at. BFD. We can shrug them off.  For now.
But never lose your ability to swivel your head, alert for danger in all directions. Don’t just stare at the velociraptor in front of you! Trump’s extravagant theater has many purposes and one of them is to resurrect the crazy left. Young people have sent Google searches on “Karl Marx” skyrocketing, recently -- a zombie we thought safely buried. Steve Bannon giggles happily, rubbing his hands as it shambles from the grave.
Another way to look at it:
Sure, today’s mad ENTIRE right CONSISTS of troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality on you.  

But the FAR left CONTAINS troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality on you.

FAR is not the same as ENTIRE. And CONTAINS is nowhere near as bad as CONSISTS. So?
Take note of a tactical advantage: when you avow that your side does have a far-loony fringe that hates science, and say “we’re aware of our side’s few loonies… why can’t you conservatives do the same?”… that increases your credibility!
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

War on Facts and Reason

Contrary Brin - Sat, 01/06/2018 - 22:27
The predicted run-up to a U.S. Iran War is experiencing a hiccup, as massive street demonstrations in two dozen cities raise a slim possibility that theocracy might give way to a modern, moderate and reasonable-modern state. Slim, because the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is large, rich, and highly motivated to keep their gravy train in motion. So what would be the best approach for a sensible, grownup and pragmatically enlightened U.S. policy?

Tweet-storms.  From a 'genius,' no less.

"In an interview, Abolhassan Bani-Sadr, the first president of the Islamic Republic who now lives in exile outside Paris… warns that U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements in support of the revolt will be counterproductive. 'If the fear of outside intervention by the Trump administration and those allied with him who advocate the disintegration of Iran — namely Saudi Arabia and Israel — becomes strong enough, it will prevent a majority from sympathizing and joining the protests. In this sense, Trump’s tweets only serve to deflate the movement.” ...

Donald Trump and his cabal are very aware of this. Their worst nightmare is that a moderate revolution in Iran, would erase all justification for the US-Iran War -- their goal for years, but now propelled by the urgency of getting a distraction from Mueller and all that. Compare U.N. Ambassador Nikki Hayley's recent harangue listing provocations by Iran -- none of which bear up under scrutiny -- and compare it to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s 2003 speech explaining the Bush administration’s rationale for going to war with Iraq - a pretext that all now know (and even Donald Trump admits) to have been based on lies and fabrications.
This article does a good job, but goes nowhere near far enough, tying together the cords that tauten tighter, every day, dragging us toward pre-planned disaster. Read it… then see far more detail here… and later here… where I describe how many factions would benefit, including the Iranian mullahs. And of course, the real master of the White House.
Even if you credit nothing else I say about this, remember that every Republican president after Eisenhower has rushed gleefully into war. Reagan, Bush Sr., Bush Junior, and now the Trumpists... and you don't see a pattern of concocted war? Every single one. (Except Ford, who oversaw our final defeat in Vietnam.) 

Madness. And you are complicit, if you don't at least read up on this looming debacle, and speak up.
== Okay so you got your Big Tax Cut Grab; what now? ==
Brad deLong asks the same question posed in a few chapters of my novel, Existence - whether those in the oligarchy, who are pushing so hard for a return to feudalism, are being smart... or very shortsighted. 

In Existence, I portray savvy trillionaires holding conferences to appraise how a new aristocracy might rule not-stupidly (for the first time, ever.) Here, deLong makes crystal clear the alternative:
"In the America the politicians you support are building, it may well become the case that one day your grandchildren are in the center of a web of political influence, and the next day they will find themselves not: Some of them will be involuntary guests at the Wichita Ritz-Carlton" - (referring to the hotel in Riyadh where some of the world's richest princes are now held, by a state they thought they had controlled) - "The rest will try to make a run for it in the Learjet, or in the rubber boat.
"So is it really wisdom on your part to want to win this round?
"To be blunt: a social democratic middle-class society is much better society in which to have a large stock of entrepreneurial, inherited, or rent-derived wealth than is a communist society. But it is also a much friendlier society to the wealthy than is a fascist society. And social democracy and fascism—hard or, if you are lucky, soft—are the only options the future will allow: tertium non datur."
Interrupting, let's be clear: the leaders of the anti-west alliance know this. They are not rebuilding idealistic-if-bloody communism, but a fascism in which oligarchs may amass billions and live lavishly, but the state can expropriate and cut throats at any moment. (The Nazis did it to the Prussian junkers caste and to the industrialists, whenever they liked. It now happens annually in Russia.) Those who believe that strong socialism or traditional aristocratic feudalism are possible alternatives are dreaming. It's either true-liberal middle class Transparent Democracy or fascism, as deLong continues explaining to today's shortsighted American plutocrats:
"The political descendants of the politicians today you support who lead chants of “lock her up“ will be the greatest threat to the liberty, the wealth, and perhaps even the lives of those of your grandchildren and great grandchildren who are plutocrats. Look ahead into the future a little bit. Do not focus on the pile of moolah under your nose."
Looking beyond their nose is what I portray some "trillies" doing, in Existence. (Have a look at the amazing video preview-trailer, with incredible art by Patrick Farley!)
Alas, it seems increasingly clear that the intelligent aristocratism I depicted there is simply not an option. Nowadays, those zillionaires who are smart - whose wealth derived from creating new goods and services - are also Democrats (with a few libertarians). In contrast, the oligarchs backing today's putsch are mostly squatting atop piles that derived from rentier-inactivity (hence favored treatment for passive income in the tax bill), or golgafrincham finance parasitism, or inheritance or crony market manipulation. They have feral cleverness, but no sapient sense of history. Trying to show them the big picture, deLong is wasting his breath.
Do read deLong's whole short essay. Alas, these foxes now run the hen house. The confederacy has conquered Washington. And their stupidity can be lethal all around.

== The War on Facts and Reason: the Entire Right… and chunks of the Far-Left, too! ==
The Right Side’s war on science gets utterly open and explicit, with Donald Trump openly declaring the Bannonite meme of a "deep state," declaring war not just on science and scientists, but all the civil servants, law professionals, intel agencies and military officers who avow that they believe in facts.

 You've seen reports on the Trump Administration muzzling researchers, cancelling peer reviewed reports they dislike, Accusing (without any evidence) scientists of engaging in vast, conspiratorial hoaxes... and now this Orwellian policing of speech. But buried in this article is the real howler!
Instead of the forbidden words, "analysts were given alternative phrases. Instead of 'science-based' or ­'evidence-based,' the suggested phrase is, 'CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes..."
Truly, the horror is now clear. Always obsessed with symbolism and incantations, the confederates are now reaching out to the other group who seeks to police science on the basis of "community standards" -- the far, postmodernist left.
Make no mistake. This notion of "community standards of truth" is a roar against objective reality itself. And while it pervades the length and breadth and all heights of the confederate madness that has hijacked American Conservatism, there is a far-fringe on the "left" that is gleeful, eager for the radicalization, the resurrection of symbol-based catechisms that George Orwell described in Homage to Catalonia.
The oligarchs who are funding all of this think they will win the Prize - a return to obligate inherited feudal lordship, as I depict in EXISTENCE. But they are stirring something monstrous at the other end of the spectrum. And if they succeed at rousing a True Left from its slumber, then they will inherit the wind.
As for the left:  
Repeatedly some of you demand that I “name one example of the left being crazy or anti science or anti-western”… and each time I stare, boggled that the Union side in this civil war must be hobbled by such ignorant people. Jiminy, ask anyone from Poland, Hungary and so on, how bad the left has been – or read Orwell!

Hey, you’re all about diversity, right? Not the dogmatic uniformity we see among confederates? Then why can’t you admit your side has a wide spectrum? And some parts of that spectrum are just plain nuts?

This is one of the most cogent brief articles I’ve read in some time, dissecting the logical lunacy of far-leftist postmodernism and how it collaborates – in a sly alliance – with the much larger insanity on today’s entire-right. No, it doesn’t go into an analysis of Derridan Semiotics or Sokal Hoaxes and all that. Just the core conceit that everything is subjective – there’s no objective reality - and science is an evil white-male-elitist plot!
Read this! As we’ve seen with Trump and his Geppetto, you don’t need an explicit plan and a handshake, for different enemies of the West to collaborate toward our demise. Yes, 99% of our attention needs to go to stopping the reinstatement of feudalism… which would end us all.
In contrast, the postmodernist, far-left loons are – for now – a minor, 1% irritation, who damage our fight primarily by giving Sean Hannity anecdotes to shriek-at. BFD. We can shrug them off.  For now.
But never lose your ability to swivel your head, alert for danger in all directions. Don’t just stare at the velociraptor in front of you! Trump’s extravagant theater has many purposes and one of them is to resurrect the crazy left. Young people have sent Google searches on “Karl Marx” skyrocketing, recently -- a zombie we thought safely buried. Steve Bannon giggles happily, rubbing his hands as it shambles from the grave.
Another way to look at it:
Sure, today’s mad ENTIRE right CONSISTS of troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality on you.  

But the FAR left CONTAINS troglodyte-screeching dogmatists who wage war on science and hate the American tradition of steady, pragmatic reform, and who would impose their prescribed morality on you.

FAR is not the same as ENTIRE. And CONTAINS is nowhere near as bad as CONSISTS. So?
Take note of a tactical advantage: when you avow that your side does have a far-loony fringe that hates science, and say “we’re aware of our side’s few loonies… why can’t you conservatives do the same?”… that increases your credibility!
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Obnoxious Twits and Conventions

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Sat, 01/06/2018 - 14:54
I wrote this tweet the other day about a minor dustup in the science fiction community: So a convention pulled an obnoxious twit's attending membership and as a result a bunch of other obnoxious twits are boycotting the convention, and now I think every convention has an easy template for ridding itself of obnoxious twits. […]

New Books and ARCs, 1/5/18

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 17:32
A new year, a new stack of books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound. Which of these works would you like to be one of your first reads of 2018? Tell us in the comments!

Thoughts on My 30th High School Reunion

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 15:07
This last October I went to my 30th reunion at my high school, and had a very lovely time of it; I did a reading for my former classmates and others, hung around with old friends and generally enjoyed the company of people I had known for decades now. My school asked me to write […]

Strange visitors from beyond...

Contrary Brin - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 15:05
Oumuamua surprises! The first confirmed and clearly observed visitor from interstellar space has everyone agog. Instruments like ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile show that this unique object - traveling through space for millions of years - appears to be a dark, reddish, highly-elongated rocky or high-metal content object. It varies dramatically in brightness by a factor of ten as it spins on its axis every 7.3 hours. About ten times as long as it is wide, Oumuamua exhibits a complex, convoluted shape... So let me guide you through some aspects of this new scientific wonder.
1) Breakthrough Listen used the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia to aim SETI instruments at Oumuamua, the interstellar asteroid visitor that - (sorry) shows every sign of being just a rock.  And so, despite its weird - even spaceship-like elongated (cigar-ish) profile - is probably not a giant space-probe, like Arthur C. Clarke (who turned 100 December 17) depicted in Rendezvous With Rama. Or Greg Bear’s even more spectacular Thistledown, from Eon.
Still, I have to wonder… have the SETI guys aimed their scopes also at the direction Oumuamua came from? And where (after a hyperbolic swing past our sun) it’s now going? Might our sun have been a swing-by course correction?
2) Note that this won’t be the last! Our instrumentalities have improved so much that we should be spotting more such interstellar visitors from now on, perhaps yearly!  And yes, you are a member of a great, scientific civilization that does stuff like this!
3) At first, astronomers were shocked to see no signs of a comet-like tail from outgassing, as Oumuamua swung past the sun. Theory suggests that the vast majority of small objects flung from planetary systems should be icy.
But the latest findings suggest water might be trapped under a thick, carbon-rich coating on its surface. The way that 'Oumuamua reflects sunlight and found it similar to icy objects from our own Solar System that are covered with a dry crust. Perhaps carbon rich molecules fused by long exposure to interstellar ultraviolet.
Saving ego for last, let me point out that this model - icy small bodies accumulating layers of insulating dust that choke off outgassing over time, happens to be - in the words of a Monty Python character - “mine.”
My own doctoral work at UCSD, way back in 1981, first laid down the theory and simulations of accumulated dust layers or mantles on comets and other bodies, eventually putting them to 'sleep.'
My scientific work has been sparse, as I pursued a wide variety of careers. But a few of my hits might merit remembering.
== More space news ==
My friend William Schopf of UCLA found what he claimed to be the oldest known example of life on Earth, dated back 3.5 billion years. Some doubted the objects, were found in 1982 at the Apex Chert, a rock formation in Western Australia, were actually bacteria and microbes. Since then, technology has improved. Schopf and his colleague were able to connect specific carbon-isotope ratios to specific fossil shapes—essentially, enabling them to identify a handful of different ancient living beings. After analyzing the microfossils individually, they identified five species, concluding that two were photosynthesizers, two were methane-consuming organisms, and one produced methane. Wow.
Robert Lawrence Kuhn, host of the TV series “Closer To Truth” gets to ask deep questions of some pretty deep minds. I was privileged to be interviewed for: How should we approach the question of 'are we alone?' "David Brin walks through the logic, along with Jill Tarter, Frank Drake, Francisco Ayala, Ray Kurzweil, Nick Bostrum and others. "
The Planetary Society (I'm on the Advisory Board) is running a contest for Haikus About Space! Here's one - translated from the original dolphin-Trinary:

Oceans everywhere!Ice roof sheltered, life……may fill the cosmos.
A newly discovered pair of massive black holes, orbiting each other very closely in just 80 or so days, has been discovered in the neighboring Andromeda galaxy. Preliminary estimates suggest the pair will collide and merge into one black hole “in as little as 350 years or as much as 360,000 years.” When that happens, the show (especially in gravitational radiation) should be very impressive.   (Hm, well, on more careful reading…  we’re seeing them through Andromeda. They may be 2.6 billion light-years behind (1000 times farther away than the Andromeda Galaxy! Still a great show... but somewhat less dazzling.)
A “zombie” star that appears to have gone supernova… and survived.  Perhaps even several times. Really weird.
A new planet in the neighborhood! In 71,000 years, it will become our closest neighbor, and Ross 128 will be the closest temperate planet.
Meanwhile… preliminary evidence for a second planet orbiting Proxima Centauri. I’m a little doubtful.
In 1975, the USSR actually fired a cannon from an orbiting space station. Forty years later, we finally get a good look at this gun
Cosmic-ray muon radiography allows us to visualize the interiors of large, stony objects. Researchers report using it to study the known and potentially unknown voids in the Great Pyramid in a non-invasive way. They report the discovery of a large void (with a cross section similar to the Grand Gallery and a length of 30 m minimum) above the Grand Gallery, which constitutes the first major inner structure found in the Great Pyramid since the 19th century. At NASA NIAC we funded a study to use this method to map the interiors of asteroids. Wow. 
The first and only cat sent into space – Felicette – was sent up by France in 1963. 
A cool new telescope company has a Kickstarter. Skip the expensive and complex secondary optics and use the prime focus to do images digitally.  Alas,  in fact, their imitation of Newtonian optics for viewing is silly. Skip to a VR goggles method. Contact me, I know exactly how to do it and who can implement!
Another player!  Spaceflight startup Vector — which specializes in micro-rockets — plans to launch its first orbit-bound vehicles from Virginia in mid-2018.  The Vector-R is a four-story-high vehicle that can loft satellites weighing up to 145 pounds into lower Earth orbit. The other vehicle is the Vector-H, which is larger, and capable of carrying 350 pounds to LEO.  They hope for hundreds of launches per year.


== Nukes in Space ==
Interesting developments in space nuclear power: “NASA is developing reactors for spacecraft propulsion and for a planetary power source, with the goal of having both available for a crewed mission to Mars sometime in the 2030s. But although the agency is advancing a reactor technology that uses low-enriched uranium (LEU), containing less than 20% of 235U for propulsion, its planetary power source, known as Kilopower, utilizes weapons-grade uranium enriched to 90% or more 235U.
“Nonproliferation advocacy organizations have objected to the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU, material containing 20% or more 235U); they say an LEU design, although it would require more time to develop, would be feasible and consistent with US policy.”
Solar energy’s attractiveness is reduced on the Red Planet  because the solar flux reaching Mars is much less than Earth’s and varies greatly depending on the season and geographic position. In addition, Martian dust storms can last for months. Although solar flux on the Moon is comparable to that received on Earth, nonpolar missions would experience a long lunar night period of half a month, which would require massive energy storage.

There is also testing of a nuclear rocket.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/ (site feed URL: http://davidbrin.blogspot.com/atom.xml)

Hey, You Know What’s Fun?

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 01/04/2018 - 12:17
Reading a TV script based on something you wrote and thinking, “that’s a bit of all right, that is.” Can’t tell you more at the moment, I’m afraid. But I think you’re going to enjoy it one day. Enjoy your Thursday!
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