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An even bigger scandal: when the ringleader went to Jared

Contrary Brin - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 16:27
You need to read this post by my friend, tech-investor Russ Daggatt about possibly the biggest political scandal in U.S. history: 

"Last August, Jared Kushner, son-in-law and (not coincidentally) the senior White House official in charge of the Middle East, received over a billion dollars from a firm seeking to sell nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia. Then, the House Judiciary Committee got confirmation Jared uses WhatsApp to communicate with foreign leaders (in violation of US law), including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS known for ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi). 

"The Trump administration has kept secret seven authorizations for sharing of sensitive nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, despite the fact that the kingdom hasn't agreed to the anti-proliferation requirements of US law. (Oh, and Trump intervened to get his daughter Jared and Ivanka  and 23 others high-level security clearances when they were denied them through normal national security channels.)

Daggatt continues: 
“Let's go through this step-by-step (links below). In 2007, just before the collapse of the real estate bubble, Jared had the family company buy 666 Fifth Avenue in New York for $1.8 billion, financed by a $1.4 billion loan - the highest price ever paid for a building in New York, and is not among even the top 100 tallest buildings in the city. It was a disastrously overpriced acquisition, about 30% vacant, with its largest tenant saying it planned to leave. The loan was due in February. Jared had been scouring the planet - while serving in the White House - for possible investors to save his family from financial collapse. No rational investor would touch the thing.

But then, last August, a savior was found - Brookfield Asset Management - which took a 99-year lease on the building, paying the entire $1.1 billion in lease payments upfront (!) and allowing Kushner to retain ownership of the underlying land (the one thing of real value). Turns out, Brookfield also owns the nuclear services company Westinghouse (purchased out of bankruptcy last year), which is seeking to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia. (Trump's first National Security Advisor (and convicted felon) Michael Flynn, and Trump's buddy, campaign advisor, and the chairman of his Inaugural Committee, Tom Barrack, were also part of these efforts to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia. It gets complicated - among other things, Barrack was the guy who brought Paul Manafort in as Trump's campaign manager. This appears to be among the matters spun off from the Mueller investigation. But I digress.)

‘It was reported last October that Jared has been communicating with MBS, using his personal mobile phone, through the free encrypted messaging service WhatsApp, which conveniently does not store messages on its servers after they are delivered, leaving no record of the communications. (If only Hillary had used WhatsApp.) That appears to have been confirmed recently by the House Oversight Committee. Jared has also been bypassing the State Department and the US Embassy in Saudi Arabia in his direct dealings with MBS, excluding them from communications and meetings (much like Trump's direct dealings with Putin).'

(DB note: Then there's the stunning Qatari angle: they used US foreign policy to shake down the Qataris to help bail out 666 Fifth Avenue. Crum! They didn't even try to hide it behind a series of shell companies! It's almost in the open!)

We know Trump ordered John Kelly, to grant Jared and Ivanka security clearances, despite objections from the CIA and the White House counsel, among others. Trump and Ivanka had both previously stated publicly that Trump did not intervene in the granting of those security clearances after they had been held up for over a year. (What exactly is it that Ivanka does that requires a top security clearance? Getting personal trademarks from China?) Who knows what the hold up was. Maybe it was the 40 times Jared had to amend the paperwork for his security clearance, to disclose foreign government contacts he had previously omitted (in possible violation of law). Maybe it was his efforts during the transition to set up a secret back channel to the Kremlin through the Russian Embassy to evade US intelligence services (just one of those details omitted from his paperwork). Or maybe it was his global hunt for money. 

‘In any event, we have what looks like a possible billion dollar payoff to a senior White House official (and president's son-in-law) by a group seeking to sell nuclear technology to the world's major exporter of Islamist radicalism. And, at the same time, secret approvals of transfers of nuclear technology to that country. And I've really only touched on all permutations of this story. You'd think it would be getting more attention than it has.

‘Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: The National Enquirer, which Trump has used for decades to kill scandals, and (apparently) Saudi intelligence services may have teamed up for a hit on Washington Post owner (and Trump target) Jeff Bezos. No way the Saudis and the Enquirer would be doing that except at the direction (or at least, with the knowledge) of Trump. Saudis aren’t going to be going rogue on something like that. My take is that Trump seems to be using the Saudi intelligence services to do dirty work for him that the professional US intelligence services never would (just as he sought a back channel to the Kremlin through the Russian Embassy to evade US intelligence services).’

Thanks Russ. If even just one of you can wrestle a RASR to the ground and pin him long enough to hear you recite-aloud the above, and get him to WAGER whether ALL of the “Clinton Scandals” he clings to – if all of them together were proved (and none ever were) -- would amount to 1% of just this one aspect of the Confederate-GOP-Putinist treason.... 

Cornered by your demand that he put actual money on it, some RASRs have been known to declare that they now realize we’re ruled by a mafia gang. If you – yes you – can haul just one sinner back to the American Enlightenment, then this will be a good day for us all.


There is more blatant proof here - just lying in the open - than all of the "Clinton-Obama Scandals" that the mad right spent 25 years and half a billion of our dollars "investigating," finding zilch.

A picture is worth…

Lest we forget the most-telling image of them all (and what Hollywood director would have dared with such a wretched-obvious villain cliché?)

Show it again to your aunt and uncle, and ask them if they ever saw James Bond characters who didn't scream more villainy.

== It’s mobs. Everywhere mobs ==

This article offers (duh!) comparisons between the Trump Organization and organized crime. But I take it much further. There are no other models that better map what we're up against. Putin, Kim, MBS (the Saudi leader), Erdogan, Duterte, Assad and the PRC all order assassin hits on opponents around the world with impunity while Trump defends all of them and blocks our institutions from taking counter measures. Some are 'communist' or ex-KGB or Sunni or Shiite or Catholic or casino moguls or U.S. Nazis -- but all those surface rationalizations and incantations are distraction BS.

Fundamental: some human males will be insatiably rapacious, absent of accountability. After 6000 years of feudalism, mafia tactics come naturally, wherever the Western Enlightenment cannot shine its new inventions of light and accountability. And the top shared goal of all these mobs - loosely led by Putin - is utter demolition of those tools and this enlightenment.

There are no other applicable models. (Well, the Chinese are a bit more complex, but the Kremlin has been the same, from the Czarist Okrhana to the Stalinist KGB to the post-communist-but-still-Stalinist oligarchy-mafia. And that one point should be shoved up your mad uncle's MAGA nose.) 

My father infiltrated the 1930s Nazi-Bund. As a gangland reporter he covered Capone. The Greatest Generation came to recognize this perennial threat to our flickering freedom, that strives above all to divide us and staunch our faith in facts and negotiation and a hope for reasonableness. 

And if you haven't yet, at my urging, watched the Costa-Gravas film "Z" then please do so ASAP.

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

Meanwhile in London

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 04/25/2019 - 11:31
There are massive skeletons floating over crowds of humans while Charles Darwin looks on approvingly. As he would. Also, I have an event tonight at Forbidden Planet here in London at 6pm which you should come to if you happen to be in the area. That is all. Tomorrow in Budapest!

The Big Idea: Meg Elison

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 04/24/2019 - 10:56
Today in The Big Idea, author Meg Elison delves into her latest novel The Book of Flora, and radical power of a single, very short, word. MEG ELISON: It’s impossible to talk about the third and final book in a series without talking about the whole thing. The big idea of the third book rests […]

View From a Hotel Window, 4/23/19: London

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 04/23/2019 - 06:59
We’ve moved into town and are staying at the hotel we were at for our 20th anniversary, and which also happens to be reasonably well located for the meetings and meet-ups I have planned over the next couple of days. Ytterbium, this year’s Eastercon, was lovely and everyone involved was also lovely, and we could […]

Mueller Fundamentals

Contrary Brin - Sat, 04/20/2019 - 15:29
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There’s so much Mueller analysis out there. But you know I offer angles you'll not get elsewhere. Here are digest-fundamentals that shine through Attorney General William Barr's sycophant spin. 

1. The importance of specific intent. Our rule of law is rightfully biased against prosecution, especially near the borders of free expression. Hence, in each instance of collusion or obstruction, there must be simultaneous actions and specified types of intent.

2. The Report details many acts that were clear obstruction, but Barr several times said illegal intent was missing because D. Trump was enraged and unaware of implications, while uninterested in cogent legal advice. This defense doesn’t work for assault or murder, but several times Barr leaned explicitly into this Rage and Stupidity Defense.

3. Other acts of blatant obstruction DT did knowingly order, in order to obstruct. But he gets off some of those because underlings refused to carry them out! So, we had intent, but without the fully-completed act. See: “Don McGahn may have single-handedly saved Donald Trump's presidency.”

4. As for Collusion, Mueller does not exonerate. He only says “not decisively-proved” regarding specifically 2016 Trump campaign conspiracy with the Russians. 

Nothing to do with Putin-conniving after Trump became president, which has been passed to other investigations. Events in 2017 and 2018 are still on our doorstep, and the paper bag is aflame.
As for 2016 collusion, Mueller reports that the Trumpists:
(a) both openly and privately encouraged crimes and acts of war against us by hostile foreign powers. (Mueller separately indicted 16 Russian nationals, many of them oligarchs with blatant-smelly ties to Trump.)
(b) openly expressed gladness to benefit from those crimes and acts of war, and
(c) maintained highly suspicious contacts both during and after, and
(d) did virtually nothing to ensure these acts of war won’t be repeated
You or I would call that a closed loop of treason. But Mueller's team - guided by prim U.S. definitions - needed a fact (e) that clearly was there, but they could not prove.

See it explained in an appraisal from Lawfare
    "This report shows that the Trump campaign was reasonably aware of the Russian efforts, at least on the hacking side. They were aware the Russians sought to help them win. They welcomed that assistance. Instead of warning the American public, they devised a public relations and campaign strategy that sought to capitalize on Russia’s illicit assistance. In other words, the Russians and the Trump campaign shared a common goal, and each side worked to achieve that goal with basic knowledge of the other side’s intention. They just didn’t (provably) agree to work toward that goal together."
Wow, isn’t western jurisprudence… well… prudent? You or I would call all that a huge pile of smoking guns. But our rule of law – gleefully used by enemies against us – requires rock solid proof of coordination during 2016

Hey, while we all know that coordination happened, this is not Russia, and hence what “we all know” doesn’t convict. The state must prove things beyond doubt. (Again, coordination with the Kremlin after 2016 is the treason that’s absolutely blatant in front of everyone’s eyes. It has been passed to other investigations. But the most blatant treason of all is the way that Fox and every single Fox watcher makes writhing excuses for all this.)

5. Can a sitting president be indicted? Mueller cites the infamous Justice Dept. Office of Legal Counsel's (OLC) opinion paper – not a law, regulation, ruling or precedent, just an opinion -- that indictment would unduly constrain a president's ability to govern, and hence can’t be allowed.
This is insane. It gives any president who has a McConnell in the Senate carte blanche to proclaim himself above the law. Sure, frivolous court actions could harass a constitutional chief executive – it’s what Trump tried doing to Obama with ‘birther’ lawsuits. 

In fact, the same protection could be afforded by "slow indictments" that are constrained so that -- audited by a court -- the president only spends say a maximum of ten hours a week on legal defense. Oh, sure, that too could be abused in stall tactics. But at least the principle is defensible. Depositions and due process could grind forward. And stalling can be fought. A never-indict precedent can’t be.
(Applying the OLC opinion to a president who spends almost no time governing is amazing.)

6. The Mueller report left clear that this is not over. There are at least a dozen ongoing federal investigations. Moreover, New York State will – Madison willing -- ensure that justice still prevails over many of Trump’s eventual pardons.

7. The power of removal. Mueller also added a searing paragraph making clear that Congress can constitutionally correct this travesty… though elsewhere I’ve given many reasons why I oppose impeachment. For now. Hey, I like Elizabeth Warren and the dems should have attack dogs shaking this bone. But McConnell.   

8. Poison fruit.  You need to watch Fox and listen to the crap pouring out of Kremlin basements. What is now their top rationalization repeated by Two Scoops?

It is that the original Steele Dossier - plus a few FBI agents - was biased against Trump. Hence the entire investigation and the resulting long scroll of revelations, indictments, convictions and lies should be tossed. 

Focus now. This is a bastard version of the “fruit of a tainted tree” doctrine that prevents cops from ignoring our fourth and fifth amendment rights. It means evidence derived from a blatantly illegal search is “tainted fruit.” We’ve all seen this in cop shows, though legal folks are starting to realize there are now better ways to curb bad police behavior than letting felons go free on a technicality.

First irony: Republicans have long howled against the tainted fruit doctrine! 

Second: there is nodoctrine against police evaluating biasedtips that came to them through no outright illegality of their own. Nor are cops forbidden to have opinions, or to open investigations based on hunches. (They are forbidden from lazy-ass prejudice and profiling.) It is juries and judges and courts who need to eliminate all biases. In our adversarial justice system, prosecutors and law officers are allowed to say: “I think this jerk is guilty and I will follow where the evidence leads.”

Third: The whole harpy screech of Hannity and Pirro and their ilk has been "stop looking!" Stop Mueller, stop SDNY and New York. Stop Congressional hearings! Despite their own Clinton-Obama investigations that found less crime - total after  25 years and half a billion dollars - than we're finding in the GOP daily

What do innocent people say, vs criminals when investigation looms? The Clintons, despite their endless dramatic eye-rolling - never cried "stop looking." 

I could go on with this thread for pages. But suffice it to say, you need to have an answer, when your confederate uncle trots out this Putin-Fox talking point about FISA warrants and Steele Dossiers and biased FBI agents. It's all Kremlin basement stuff and they should be ashamed.  

9. The likely reason why so many are betraying their country and our future. Okay, it’s my job to point at aspects that you’ll see nowhere else. Is it because I think outside the box? Because I am mad? 

Either way, to me the most striking-bizarre aspect of this whole frenzied “Mueller Month” has been the behavior of Attorney General William Barr.
Oh, Barr was a partisan attack dog going back many decades, and a hypocrite, applying opposite standards to Democrats vs. Republicans. Still, he always seemed to stand on just this side of law, honor and prudence. But that’s not what we’ve been seeing lately. Indeed, stop and think. There’s no way that Donald Trump -- after his experience with Sessions, Rosenstein, McGanh etc. -- would appoint anyone without a very taut leash. 

Now admit it… what we just saw from William Barr is a fellow who is very well at-heel.

This is not the only case of someone displaying bizarre obedience to those who are stage managing our national calamity. Am I the only one to smell something funny in the abrupt resignation of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy? 

I've hollered for twenty years about what I deem to be the greatest weapon used by our enemies against us, a beloved tool of the KGB all the way back to the czarist Okrahna.
And all it would take is one true hero – just one - to bring it crashing down.  If you haven’t read this, you need to.

MUELLER CONCLUSIONS (for now): I am in no position to dissect the Report in detail. There are skilled men and women out there doing their jobs. Moreover, the newly liberated and assertively constitutionalist House of Representatives is back at work on our behalf. (Oh, the advantages of a parliamentary system!) 

But what’s already clear is that the answer must eventually be political.

== Trump’s best defense: polarization and civil war ==
What hope have we for resolution, if the Law is so prim that herds of Trump’s hapless aides get nailed, but never him? When his own microcephalic obduracy and rage is his best defense?
And our own stupid  inability to use the weapons he gives us? Take the fact that he’s been “betrayed” by more appointees than all other presidents combined! It shows at-minimum that he’s a terrible judge of character – no Foxism can evade that polemical knife.
Alas, Robert Mueller, consummate professional has appropriately punted this to us. As posited above, the way to punish all this is politically.
But as investment guru Russ Daggatt recently put it: the biggest development over the past two years was Trump’s success in rallying his party behind him and making the investigation, led by a lifelong Republican who was probably the most highly respected law enforcement official in the country, yet another matter of partisan polarization.
“Trump spent two years attacking Mueller and his team, seeking to discredit the investigation, calling it a “Witch Hunt” over 170 times. Just today, he called the investigation an “Illegally Started Hoax that never should have happened”  (see point #8), with the “Crazy Mueller Report ... written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters” containing “total bullshit”.  Sadly, it worked. By the time the (redacted) Report was made public yesterday, Republicans were fully invested in defending him from anything it might contain. Leading that defense is Attorney General Barr.” (See point #9.)
Daggatt refers back to March 22, 2017, when Mueller was appointed special counsel to oversee an investigation into allegations of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“Mueller’s (redacted) Report quotes Trump saying at that time, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.”  (Needless to say, not the reaction of an innocent person.)… Trump had repeatedly insisted there had been no contacts between Russia and his campaign. He had told the American people he had no business dealings in Russia. Trump even refused to acknowledge that Russia interfered in the election to benefit his campaign (“It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, ok?”). That was the starting point of Mueller’s investigation, which initially had strong bipartisan support.”
He continues: “Two years later, there is no doubt whatsoever of the role Russia played in the campaign. As Mueller states, “The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.” And there has been documented over 140 contacts between Trump and at least 18 of his associates with Russian nationals and WikiLeaks, or their intermediaries, during the 2016 campaign and presidential transition. Their scope is staggering.” 
Daggatt asserts that across the last two years, while the Republican voter base has shrunk, what remains has rallied every-more volcanically behind Trump, till almost no Republican will dare say a word amid a giant Nuremberg rally of outthrust salutes. (My metaphor, not Russ’s.)

== Stark jibbering… ==  Red-Fox America’s reflexive excuse-making for this tsunami of treason – along with all-out war against every fact-using profession -- can only end at the ballot box, and that repudiation must be overwhelming, or Putin and Murdoch will then turn to their last resort: spurring a more violent phase of civil war.
Each of us knows RASRs – Residually Adult-Sane Republicans – who are writhing unhappily, wallowing in “whatabout” rationalizations and “I know my side’s gone nuts, but democrats are just as bad” incantations. If just half a million of these at-core-decent neighbors get cornered, forced to face the full monstrosity of it all, and peeled away from the Putin-Fox coalition, then a Big Tent can welcome them. A tent of national and world salvation that’s broad enough to offer safety and a voice to Eisenhower… and yes, even Reagan… conservatives. If only they will help.

But first they must be hammered. Grabbed by the lapel. Read-to aloud. As with this article: “Here's the 1 thing the Mueller report proves beyond a shadow of a doubt.” Its most telling excerpt is about White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who, in May 2017, said this in the wake of the firing of FBI Director Comey:
"The President, over the last several months, lost confidence in Director Comey. The DOJ [Department of Justice] lost confidence in Director Comey. Bipartisan members of Congress made it clear that they had lost confidence in Director Comey. And most importantly, the rank and file of the FBI had lost confidence in their director."
Pressed by reporters on that that last comment -- about the "rank and file" losing confidence in Comey -- suggesting that the rank and file were supportive of Comey, Sanders responded this way: "We've heard from countless members of the FBI that say very different things."
Ah, but here's what Mueller wrote about the episode: "Sanders told this Office that her reference to hearing from 'countless members of the FBI' was a 'slip of the tongue.' She also recalled that her statement in a separate press interview that rank-and-file FBI agents had lost confidence in Comey was a comment she made 'in the heat of the moment' that was not founded on anything."
When your RASR shrugs over things like this, counter with WODI: “What If Obama Did It?”
(Someone out there! Take a dozen damning Mueller Report passages and change the names from Trump etc. to Obama/Clinton, with appropriate-minima tweaks. Offer it to us: Benghazi! We can show to our RASRs so they’ll be enraged at that a democratic president did such things! Then spring the trap: “Oops, that wasn’t Obama, after all. Why weren’t you enraged that a GOP president actually did this?”  All right, that’s too-clever, by half. So then stick with facts… and wagers (they always run.)
You need to be part of this.  Yes, you.
If “all Heaven rejoices over a repentant sinner,” then all of America, civilization and all future generations depend on the RASRs we peel off. Them… plus the non-voters, who are actually worse in their smug, dullard-cynicism.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

New Books and ARCs, 4/19/19

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 04/19/2019 - 10:53
I may be in London right now but that doesn’t mean I can’t still show off the new books and ARCs that came to the Scalzi Compound this week! Here they are. What here intrigues you? Tell us all in the comments.

Happy Birthday, Kristine

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 12:39
This fabulous person who also happens to be my wife is celebrating a birthday today, and in the UK, no less. If you wished to convey your birthday felicitations to her, I would not look askance upon it. She’s the best person I know.

View From a Hotel Window, 4/18/19: Heathrow

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 04/18/2019 - 05:35
It’s a parking lot, not only in an entirely different country, but in an entirely different continent! And Heathrow Airport is in the background, which is actually cooler than it sounds. I’m here for Ytterbium, this year’s Eastercon, where I am a Guest of Honor, and everything is lovely so far. The convention begins properly […]

Accusations of socialism

Contrary Brin - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 17:06
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Okay so Bill Weld is going to primary Trump, giving some RASRs (Residually Adult-Sane Republicans) a potential path off the plague ship. But will it matter? While total numbers of self-described Republicans keeps plummeting – especially hemorrhaging members of every fact-using profession – Trump’s percentage support among the remaining GOP masses remains 90% while his organization is frenetically busy enforcing Trumpist purity in every Republican state or county committee. (This isn't new; name one top Republican between Reagan and Ryan who was touted at the 2016 GOP convention? Just Newt, who had frantically toed the line. No other Republican leaders - even presidents - were even mentioned. What can that mean?)
Will folks in the Republican outlier state – Utah, clean and sober – finally come to grips with their wretched quandary? Either stick with a Kremlin-led party of mafiosi, gambling, addiction and sexual perversion, or follow Evan McMullin or Gutless Mitt offstage…  
…or else (shudder) start flirting with the party of socialism?   

== They plan to scream “socialism!” ==
Among liberals’ biggest mistakes: getting lured into expressions of hostility to the markets, enterprises and small/startups that generate the wealth we then use to make things better for all children. The Putin-Fox Party plans to use “socialism” against democrats, despite the GOP now being wholly owned by communist and “ex”-communist foreign despots. 

There are two forceful answers:
1) The Greatest Generation (GG) that endured Depression, crushed Hitler, contained Stalinism and made the world’s greatest middle class adored one living human, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The GGs “made America Great." So why not force our red neighbors to choose: either attack the GGs or accept that they were right?
Only one democrat has edged closer to using this powerful meme. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with her terminology “Green New Deal.” But even she doesn’t seem to quite get the power of a true judo move.
2) Across 6000 years, far more open-flat-fair-competitive-creative enterprise systems were wrecked by oligarchy than were ever harmed by moderate, democratic socialism (e.g. Canada or Sweden.) Oligarchy by uber-rich cheaters must be denounced as the enemy of enterprise. Dems Should claim Adam Smith as one of their own. (If you actually read him, you’ll understand.)
See the point made here. Counter the "socialism!" accusation with the Greatest Generation's love of FDR, then follow through with the favorite Americans of the 1950s, Jonas Salk, who saved a generation of children, and Dwight Eisenhower, who made AOC's socialism seem tame. Here's the info about Ike you can use to shred Fox nostrums into confetti.

== A flawed hero is better than a traitor villain ==

In comments below, watch how the Kremlin-generated meme machine is already in gear with hate-blips aimed at FDR's faults.  And yet, the only sane way to judge men is by the context of their times and their net effects for good. Roosevelt's flaws were real and lamentable; I lost some cousins because of his waffling. But there is a reason why Philip K. Dick set the Nazi-dominated hell of "The Man in the High Castle" in a world where FDR had been killed.
Yes, by our current standards, FDR was bigoted and made some howling-awful decisions. The same could be said of LBJ. And you honestly think they would not have led the way in recanting those mistakes? 

Anyone condemning them, while ignoring all their good, should read Frederick Douglas's eulogy of Abraham Lincoln. Especially the last paragraph of this excerpt:
"I have said that President Lincoln was a white man, and shared the prejudices common to his countrymen towards the colored race. Looking back to his times and to the condition of his country, we are compelled to admit that this unfriendly feeling on his part may be safely set down as one element of his wonderful success in organizing the loyal American people for the tremendous conflict before them, and bringing them safely through that conflict. His great mission was to accomplish two things: first, to save his country from dismemberment and ruin; and, second, to free his country from the great crime of slavery. To do one or the other, or both, he must have the earnest sympathy and the powerful cooperation of his loyal fellow-countrymen.
"Without this primary and essential condition to success his efforts must have been vain and utterly fruitless.[...]
"Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined."
Likewise, our own mad wing of lefty purists uses genuine tragic history to make true criticisms... and draw utterly useless/counterproductive conclusions, as in this example from earlier threads: 

“Eisenhower is a bad example he toppled democratic nations in South American for taking care of their citizens like “communists” and put brutal dictators in charge. He doesn’t deserve even a small measure of good will.”
To which I answer: try reading the history of empires across 6000 years. Name one that tried harder for a better ratio of good deeds to bad, or did as well when tempted by great power. Go on, please, offer your examples in comments, below.
Oh… and Harry Truman had some insightful thoughts on socialism:

"Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people."             -Harry S. Truman 10/10/1952

Whatever your armchair quarterback/hindsight views of Truman, note that red-boomers still recall how their GG parents admired the man. Use him -- and FDR and Salk and Ike -- against the confederate-putinist-foxite madness.  

 == As the Mueller turns… ==
Given how many Trumpists and Republican operatives have been convicted by juries of their peers – compared to almost nil among Clinton-Obama folks – the Fox-Putin machine has turned to Whatabouts. But the standard “what about Hillary’s emails?” has collapsed now that we find the same regulations against using private servers were violated far worse by both Bushes, Cheney, Colin Powell, Ivanka, Kushner and half of Trump’s aides (not to go into DT’s own unsecure phone and unvetted meetings with dictators.)  
The new whatabout is the word “collusion.” The only thing that matters is direct proof of specific conspiracy between Donald Trump himself and Russia’s spy agency during the 2016 election. (That is the only "exoneration.") 

Anything else, from conniving with Putin-pal oligarchs to vast loans from Russia via Deutsche Bank, is “circumstantial,” while Fox etc. shout “don’t look!” at the tax returns and other document troves that might get to the core. 

Above all, they scream that Russian interference on behalf of Trump and the Republican Party is irrelevant, a non-issue, a trivial matter.
But in fact, it’s the core matter.  HereThis cogent summary in the Los Angeles Times cogently summarizes where the Mueller investigation seems to stand, at-present, and you need to read it, in order to have ready the stunning tsunami of facts, showing we have been attacked in what are clearly, open acts of war.
And yet, of course, the inferno is not what the Kremlin did on behalf of Trump and Fox and the GOP. It is the hellscape that these three have made of every American strength, from our alliances and world standing to the smoking ruin of U.S. science, to betrayal of the tens of thousands of skilled men and women who saved us from Hitler, Stalin, Mao and bin Laden, and who are now derided – (by genuine traitors) – as a so-called conspiratorial “deep state,” just because they believe in the things that Fox hates most and that could defeat Vladimir Putin and gird us for the challenges ahead.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Big Idea: Lara Elena Donnelly

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 08:48
When, as a writer, you find yourself caught between two tropes, what do you do? And is it a bad thing that you’re confronting two separate writing tropes in the first place? In her series that began with the book Amberlough and continues now in Amnesty, the third book, author Lara Elena Donnelly confronts her […]

Sunset, 4/16/19

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 20:18
Enjoy it because it’s the last one I’ll probably post for a bit — I’m traveling for a couple of weeks to places where buildings get in the way of sunsets. But this is a pretty one at least. It should hold you.

The Big Idea: Ashok K. Banker

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 09:45
For this Big Idea, Ashok K. Banker writes an epistolary essay to someone who is not me, about his new novel, Upon a Burning Throne. Who is the recipient of this letter, and why is sent to them? Read on. ASHOK K. BANKER: Hey there, Effie. We’ve known each other a while, you and I. […]

Science updates!

Contrary Brin - Sun, 04/14/2019 - 01:01
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It's hard to evade politics, even in a weekend science update. for example when a top Republican factotum declares: “Science is a Democrat thing.” 

Um. They say it proudly! Yes, science, but also every single fact-based profession. Including medicine, law, teaching, journalism and the "deep state" enemies of the Intel/FBI/military officer corps who know that fact and science and climate change are real.

== Long ago at least they had an excuse for ignorance... ==
As we re-examine our distant past...
We’re finding numerous past eras when the male population in a region was winnowed to a narrow gene pool or else replaced by newcomers. One massive swing happened about 12,000 years ago, about the same time that two technologies might have exacerbated male death rates: agricultural kingdoms and the availability of plentiful beer. (This is actually my own theory, based upon traveller reports from Polynesia and other places that told of kings ordering the instant death of offending louts. It would help explain human resistance to addiction, which though terribly imperfect is greater than in most species.)
Now comes evidence that a mass migration of males transformed the genetic make-up of people in Spain during the Bronze Age. It remains unclear whether there was a violent invasion or whether a male-centric social structure played an important role.” Interesting article!  And yet, in my “contrarian gadfly” role, I must point out that while dominance by top king-chief-patriarchs seems the most likely explanation, there IS another way that a Y chromosome winnowing could have occurred. 
Female dominance. There have been a few cases of matriarchy in which women councils exerted strong control over which males were allowed to breed. It is quite conceivable (get it?) for such councils to enforce hypergamy – preference to share those males who meet strict standards, rather than “settle” for average. 

A mild version of this practice was seen among the Cherokee and Iroquois, for example.  Yes, our sad litany of nasty and oppressive patriarchies was far more common. But it’s wrong simply to assume that Y chromosome winnowing happened because of inter-male strife. It might have been female selection, which is actually the great driver of evolution in many non-human species.
== More evidence from the past ==
And the Denisovan story gets even more complicated and strange: our Denisovan cousins may have mated with modern humans as recently as 15,000 years ago.
A fossil discovery in North Dakota is strongly believed to be a fish that was blasted and killed precisely the very day that the Cretaceous ended with the Chicxulub meteorite impact, 66 million years ago, the most incredible (and precise) paleontological discovery of the century, so far. If this story is even 5% Just wow.
Meanwhile a new fossil trove in China - the Qingjiang biota - has yielded thousands of Cambrian period specimens, with dozens of new species, yet to be named.
Gabonionta are the earliest multicellular macroscopic organisms discovered so far, vastly older –by almost 4x ! – than previous evidence for complex life. Known only from their fossilized mucous trails in black shale from Gabon. Likely something like colonial amoebae or slime molds, they seem to have appeared almost right after Earth finally got appreciable oxygen in its atmosphere. Good science reporting.
My old Caltech housemate Joe Kirschvink has done it again, proving (with colleagues) that humans have a small but verified sensitivity to magnetic fields. 
== Tech updates ==
Via Peter Diamandis: Researchers at Boston University have mathematically designed a 3D acoustic metamaterial that can block up to 94 percent of noise flowing through it. Most dramatically, however, the 3D-printed structure reflects noise-producing vibrations without impeding the passage of light or airflow itself.
GauGAN, from NVIDIA, may be the “MS Paint for the AI age.” Using a generative adversarial network (GAN) trained on 1 million Flickr images, GauGAN can create photorealistic images from just a few lines drawn by a user. As an example, a user could click on “tree,” draw a line, and GauGAN will create an image of a tree trunk.
And “Google has successfully shrunk its speech algorithm storage demands down to 80MB, rendering its speech recognizer small enough to fit on your smartphone, and work offline.”
A world game-changer would be to wean billions off cattle or other inefficient and eco-damaging meats, either with vegetable substitutes like the (yummy) Beyond Burger or else real-meat by tissue culture. Latest: “Memphis Meats, for example, recently filed a patent describing a method to create real chicken and beef tissue using CRISPR.”
Goodyear unveiled its new concept Aero tire, designed to run on roads and double as a propulsion system for flying vehicles.  Yes, the tires become rotors capable of downward thrust and lift. Yipe. Amazing tech.
Optical interferometry has long promised to help us parse distant planets from their hugely brighter nearby stars. Now a group claims to have done it. But then, a few weeks later, we got that image of a real black hole(!) via a method very similar.
 == short takes ==
Methane is so good at trapping heat that one ton of the gas causes 32 times as much warming as one ton of CO2. And Methane is spiking. The possible sources are worrisome. The GOP blocked Obama efforts to fund more inspectors to prevent venting from oil fields. But Trump savagely cut them further and progress toward an international treaty have foundered. 

Even worse are signs that methane is bubbling forth from permafrost and undersea hydrate ices, threatening the “blurp” cascade that would truly make it all deadly, making Earth an almost literal hell. These people are outright enemies of your children.
Slime molds’ ability to reconfigure their volume while fleeing from spots of light has enabled scientists to use these biological computers to solve complex mathematical  conundrums like the Traveling Salesman Problem.
Our opportunity to save ourselves includes ideas like the “Circular Economy.” Watch the video. Then re-read Earth?
An article on Vox discusses the latest silly-wrongheaded attempt by zealots to shout “messages” into the cosmos without ever doing risk analysis or talking it over with the rest of humanity, or allowing their assumptions to be examined. The saddest part is their dislike of science fiction, since SF explores a wide horizon of possibilities, and their religious fanaticism allows for only one.
Wallace’s bee, the size of your thumb and thought extinct, rediscovered!
Evidence that the huge Deccan Traps volcanic eruptions started just before the Yucatan asteroid impact, and hence may have severely weakened the dinosaurs and other species… but then got even worse after the impact, possibly tightening the noose. “The researchers' dates are also consistent with a major shift in the properties of the erupted rock occurring at the same time as the impact. This supports the idea that the impact's seismic effects reached across the entire planet.”
Wired ran a story on Valentine’s Day about OpenAI, the nonprofit institute founded by Elon Musk and Y Combinator founder Sam Altman, which has apparently designed a system that can learn natural language patterns better than any previous attempt so far after feeding it eight million web pages to train it. What is newsworthy to me about this is what they did next: they stopped to consider the implications.  “It could be that someone who has malicious intent would be able to generate high-quality fake news,” an OAI vice president told Wired.

We are a glorious, scientific civilization. Pictures of black holes! SpaceX triple landings! New disease cures! Meat substitutes! And if the enemies of all this want to make this partisan, then let's go.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

View From a Hotel Window, 4/12/19: Los Angeles

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Fri, 04/12/2019 - 21:39
Los Angeles is looking a little noir today.  And I had an adventure getting here; my connecting flight from Chicago was diverted to Denver when it was discovered that the toilets on the plane wouldn’t flush. I mean, fair call, and probably the right decision, but I had a meeting this afternoon I needed to […]

The Big Idea: Michael Moreci

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Thu, 04/11/2019 - 09:17
If you’re a writer, is it better to be the proverbial tortoise or the proverbial hare? And does either matter as long as you’re still running the race? Michael Moreci considers this topic today in his Big Idea, and how it relates to his newly released novel, We Are Mayhem. MICHAEL MORECI: Selling books is […]

North Korea, China and other concerns

Contrary Brin - Wed, 04/10/2019 - 21:22
Before turning to Asia, let me remind you that efforts to spark a US-Iran war continue apace, with the (squeaker) re-election if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump's saber rattling at the Persian militias. There are so many reasons for certain forces to want this distraction, whose only conceivable net-winner would be ring-master Vladimir Putin. Again, I urge folks to be familiar with the terms "Tonkin Incident," "Gleiwitz Incident," and Reichstag Fire." Know them, even if you figure I am a kook.

==  The North Korean Potemkin façade ==
Having waited a while after the absurd sham-meeting between a .U.S. president with a murderous communist tyrant, in another communist state -- a debriefing without a single U.S. official present -- before launching into this "emperor has no clothes" jeremiad.

I find it astonishing almost everyone accepts the potemkin farce-facade of North Korean autonomy from China, without ever pondering - even briefly, in passing - the obvious alternative. Well, it’s my job to consider “unconventional plausibilities” so mull over this one.
As recently as 1958, China had half a million troops on the Korean peninsula. Kim Il Sung was entirely their creature. So, bBy what logic does everyone assume they'd let go of such control, even when most troops were withdrawn? History shows innumerable ways that a ruthless empire can keep reins on a puppet regime, right next door. How does this alternative not merit primacy, under Occam's Razor?
Now consider the elephant question. How could North Korea develop – simultaneously – compact H-Bombs and triggers plus ICBM delivery systems, while its people starve and luxury goods pout into the Pyongyang elites? Do not yatter about Iranian complicity or ex-Soviet techies-for-hire. Not only is it all implausible, but it takes a special kind of delusion to imagine the PRC leaders would let it happen, a crazed, murderous clan stockpiling nukes practically next door to Beijing, without some pretty tight nooses and leashes.
Suppose – just as a mind-teaser – that I’m right and the conventional notion of NK autonomy is a put-up job. From Beijing's perspective, there are no disadvantages to this farce. They get a finger puppet who can be used to poke us in the eye at any time, or serve as "bad cop," while the PRC maintains "who me?" deniability. A few NK-delivered EMP pulses over North America could cripple our economy, while our fierce retaliation would be limited to an expendable peninsula downwind from anything Beijing cares about, but upwind from Japan and California. And note that deniability war is exactly what Putin expertly wages against Georgia, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Poland and the entire west. 
Okay, I may be crazy. But I am paid to poke at the edges of pat assumptions. Moreover, for this scenario not to be at least on your horizon, considered as a plausibility, is far crazier.

== And on to China ==
China published a report on the United States that “exposes human rights violations.” As reported by Bill Bishop at Sinocism, these include: severe infringement on citizens' civil rights, the prevalence of money politics, rising income inequality, worsening racial discrimination, and growing threats against children, women and immigrants, as well as rights violations caused by unilateral America First policies." At surface, it is a blatant propaganda response to Congressionally mandated (since Jimmy Carter) U.S. reports on human rights violations around the world. And while it’s ludicrous to compare, it certainly is our way to welcome the corrective influence of criticism. Zero sum minds cannot comprehend that positive-sum strength.
This matter is actually fantastically important on a practical level. We need to recall that agents in Col. Vladimir Putin’s KGB had advantages in attempting to undermine America, e.g. being able to operate and move freely about our open society. During the overtly Marxist era, they also tried to use western self-critical guilt-trip mentalities to suborn the U.S. left into assisting them - something that absolutely never worked on any large or middle scale. 
In fact the U.S. labor movement, while “socialist” in a Canadian sort of way, was also the most vigorously anti-communist force in American life. This relentless failure to win via the left forced the Kremlin to consider alternatives. They always had good fortune with western plutocratic families like the Kochs and Trumps. An idea began to simmer.
Consider their problem. The KGB etc. had damn good spycraft, but it was always hampered by a fatal flaw… defections.  On occasion a major agent or official would jump the fence, bringing along troves of information that devastated Kremlin plans. Putin and others studied this flaw, and realized it was based upon three conditions, the West’s ability to offer:
1. Safety - often via new identities in a secure relocation program.
2. Good prospects - new employment and a chance to live the dream.
3. The moral high ground. A sense that, for all our faults, we were at least trying to keep a higher ratio of good to bad actions than past empires. A reputation for correcting flaws and moving forward, amid some degree of good intentions.
Now consider carefully. All three of these defection lures have been systematically wrecked by Putin’s New KGB, as defectors are systematically hunted down and killed, without much interference.

Moreover you can see the context for China’s human rights report, now. Though it does far less to rob our moral high ground than any single day or hour of the Trump Administration.
All of it — China’s assertive diplomacy, Putin’s machinations and Trump’s spectacularly deliberate demolition of American alliances and prestige — have had effects. As Bishop points out: The U.S. approval rating for 2018 stands at 31%, only a 1% increase from the "new record low" seen during the first year of Donald Trump's presidency, per Gallup. 2018 also marks the first time that the global approval rating of Russia — currently at 30% — has been on equal ground with the U.S.
At long last, look at how this all fits with what has happened since we supposedly “won the Cold War.” All communist or socialist symbols and creeds have been dropped and Soviet state companies were converted into zaibatsus owned by cartels of oligarchs — most of them Lenin-raised former commissars(!) — who now schmooze with billionaires in the west. The KGB has converted to mafia styles, allowing it to adapt western criminal practices to evade our accountability systems and laws. Putin is resurrecting czarist symbolism and protocols and thus winning over royal tyrants like the Saudis.
Where western socialists had been almost impossible to suborn, the same cannot be said of world billionaires, despots and organized crime (e.g. casino moguls), all of whom now share the very same agenda — to wreck enlightenment accountability systems.

Did anyone see BLAST FROM THE PAST? At the end, Christopher Walken's character shakes his head, upon hearing the "Politburo just gave up one day.” 

He sighs and comments only: "You've got to hand it to them.

Never was a film more prophetic!

==  Don’t Eat, Don ==
We’ve all seen reasons to oppose any further Trump private meetings with communist or ex-communist or mafia foreign leaders. First, nothing good ever came of it — at all, even slightly — and they stink of being blatant de-briefing sessions, issuing fresh orders to Putin’s agent. Indeed, the House should present the Senate with a simple bill requiring any such meetings to be in the presence of State and Intel officials, and dare Mitch McConnell to oppose it! 

But there’s an added reason now, why Two Scoops should give up this filthy habit. Self-preservation.
He still views himself (delusionally) as a mighty Adonis. But Putin sees damaged goods and an asset turning into a liability, serving to unify the Union side of this civil war that Vlad cleverly helped Rupert to re-ignite. There comes a point where the mafia dons start thinking of cement overshoes… about how much more useful their raving “asset” would be, as a martyr

Close your eyes and think about it. The field day that silky-smooth President Pence would have, both reassuring and luring-back some of the officer corps, while riling 33% of Americans into confederate fury over martyred dear-leader Trump.
Fer crying out loud Donald, when you are alone with these tyrant pals DON’T EAT ANYTHING! Yes, you imagine it is only liberals and western-civilization types and smartypants who have it in for you, and that the despots are your pals. But remember how rapacious you were, in business, and consider that you may have outlasted your usefulness to your best pals.

 (God bless the U.S. Secret Service! Which -- noteworthy in recent news, is suffering morale problems for... reasons.)
Now consider how stupid this plausible scenario actually makes Don AND the dons. He won’t be careful, thinking he’s still valuable to them. And they won’t consider the long range, lethal consequences. One fact in particular should worry any sane, thoughtful person who cares for future generations...

... that there is nothing Mike Pence prays for, daily, more fervently than - absolutely literally - the End of the World.
. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:

The Springing of Spring, 2019

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Tue, 04/09/2019 - 16:46
It’s a nice spring day here at the Scalzi Compound. I even went for a walk. How is it where you are?

How Not to Congratulate Someone

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 04/08/2019 - 15:32
I wrote this on Twitter today, and am posting it here both for archival purposes and also because, hey, it’s applicable in this medium as well. A general statement because it’s happened to me more than once here on Twitter and elsewhere: So, hey, if I’m noting a good thing happening in my career and […]

Top of the Heap, For a Bit

Whatever (John Scalzi) - Mon, 04/08/2019 - 01:45
For a bit of time Sunday night and Monday morning, I was Amazon’s #1 author — not just for science fiction, or for science fiction and fantasy, but for all books. JK Rowling was number two, James Patterson was number six, and Stephen King was number ten. So, that’s nice for me. I’ve been in […]

Looking up and out

Contrary Brin - Sun, 04/07/2019 - 17:03
Last month, Cheryl and I and our daughter I had dinner with Rusty Schweickart, at the San Diego Air and Space Museum, at a gala celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 9 mission that tested every technology needed for the first lunar landing, just four months later. (David Scott and Jim McDivitt had their own entourages at other tables. Only two Apollo missions still have all three members alive and these guys are as sharp as lasers.) Rusty was the "token liberal" on that mission, who became advisor to California governor Jerry Brown, along with Stewart Brand and other techno-hippies... who have always favored step-by-step advances in both sustainables and cautious nuclear power.
Many thanks to the folks at the B612 Foundation (which strives to develop ways to defend us all from killer asteroids) for hosting Rusty’s table at this way-fun event, and special thanks to our B612 hostess Hillary Aiken.
And the White House proposes cutting NASA's budget by half a billion dollars while diverting remaining resources to a copycat/useless stunt on the Moon (see below). Please pledge support for The Planetary Society's support for space exploration.
== Danger! Danger from above! ==
Detected by a US satellite, a space rock exploded with 10 times the energy released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb - 40% the energy release of Chelyabinsk - over the Bering Sea, off Russia's Kamchatka Peninsula. A  fireball this big is only expected about two or three times every century. To help us understand and deal with possible dangers from above, join the B612 Foundation! (Wait, wasn't Tunguska nearby? Who is pot-shotting Russia?)
An extreme form of solar storm, known as a solar proton event (SPE), struck our planet 2,679 years ago — 660 BCE — according to new research published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If an event of such magnitude were to strike head-on today, it would likely wreak havoc on our technological infrastructure, including communications and navigation.
It’s now the third massive SPE known to scientists, with others occurring 1,245 and 1,025 years ago. This latest discovery means solar storms of this variety are likely hitting Earth's bullseye more frequently than we thought—perhaps once every 1,000 years—but more data is required to create more reliable estimates.
In fact we know the Sun spews such things much more often than that, because they nearly all miss Earth! But a couple that missed us have taken out space probes. It’s simply inexcusable that we haven’t been spending reasonable R&D on EMP protection for 70 years. Alas, the Putinist-Trumpists want to slash R&D of all kinds. The last thing Vlad wants is for us to be EMP resistant.
Oh, BTW, 660BCE does correlate pretty well with the dawn of the new classical era, especially in Greece, so maybe the mutation rate…
A magnetar comes back to life! If it happens to a much closer neutron star, aimed just right…
But the biggest likely threat is our own sun, as we stifle our planet in a cozy greenhouse blanket that prevents Earth losing heat as fast as it comes in.
== We choose to go to the moon... because... ==
Vice President Pence Gives NASA Five Years to Put Americans Back on the Moon—or Else.” If any of you think you can defend this terrible thing, at any level and in any way, from its justifications to feasibility to blatant political motivation, all the way to the harm it intends, devastating any possibility of US breakaway leadership in space... please. Knock yourself out. Come defend this drivel below, in comments. 

It is unalloyedly indefensible and one more in a long list of depredations of our future.
Dig it again: HUMANITY is going back to the dusty, useless lunar surface, because it’s a close, easy sandbox for kindergarteners to learn to walk. To strut around and declare: “Today I am a man!” There are almost no resources down that gravity well and no wealth or near term benefits. But sure, I might be wrong! So let the Chinese, Russians, Indians, Euros, billionaire tourists and other Apollo wannabes romp around “exploring” down there. "Happy bar moonsvah!” Let us know if you find anything surprising or valuable and we grownups will drop in for a look.
Meanwhile, there are much harder things for the U.S. and Japanese to do out there. Vast wealth and huge accomplishments that only we can do. Because they are vastly more worthwhile. And because they are hard.
== A better idea, at last? ==
Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin rocket company has studied repurposing upper stages of its future New Glenn launch vehicle to serve as habitats or for other applications. Decades ago I led a similar study at the California Space Institute, exploring ways to utilize the Space Shuttle’s capacious External Tanks (ET) in orbit. We configured a strawman design that - with just three shuttle launches - could have produced a station with vastly more usable volume than the current ISS.  Yes, with just three launches, and more capable, too.
At the time, NASA officials had an allergic aversion to even discussing possible ET use, so we kept dive bombing them (at net-energy cost) into the Indian Ocean. The only practical outcome of our studies became my short story “Tank Fam Dynamo” about not only a vast station using ETs, but also electrodynamic tethers and brewing beer in space!
The story is available (ironically?) on Amazon Kindle. … and in my collection The River of Time.

== Short takes ==
Agh! XKCD on spaceships vs airplanes.

This recent webcomic from XKCD: Light Pollution and the Disappearing Night Sky appears to reference my (Hugo winning) short story The Crystal Spheres, published 35 years ago, from my anthology The River of Time.
Another reference in the choice of terminology for this end state of the sun in the far future, reminiscent (perhaps slyly?) of The Crystal Spheres?

Register for the Future In Review conference, returning to California, October 8-11, 2019, at The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla. 2019 speakers and moderators include: 

George Church, Professor of Genetics, Harvard Medical School; and Director, Personal GenomicsKim Stanley Robinson, Hugo-winning Author of Science FictionGeorge Dyson, Technology Historian & Nonfiction AuthorLarry Smarr, Director, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) and Harry Gruber Professor of Engineering, UCSDDon Norman, Author and Founder, The Design Lab, Calit2Ed Butler, Senior Correspondent, BBCDavid Brin, Founder, Futures Unlimited; and Sci-fi Author and Physicist

. . ...a collaborative contrarian product of David Brin, Enlightenment Civilization, obstinate human nature... and (site feed URL:
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